With his notifications sorted out and a newly upgraded common tier Bear Trap skill in tow, Marcello joined the rest of the party as they descended the stairs into the grand entrance hall of the castle.
The castle was an absolute maze. After a brief scouting mission, Nolan reported that there were only two exits from the grand entrance hall, the right and the left hallways. The entrance door that led outside was bolted shut and sealed, and could not be opened by any means possible. And although you would expect there to be additional rooms on the second floor, the second floor area in the entrance hall where they originally came from was a decorative overhang. So really, the only two paths to take were the wing hallways on the first floor.
Both hallways led to more doors, making finding the exit a difficult challenge. After a brief discussion, the eight survivors decided to move together as a group through the right hallway. They would try to stick to the perimeter of the castle, only changing directions if the need arose. That way it would be easier to map out the castle and search in a more meaningful manner.
Currently they were onto their second room, where an active fire flickered in a fireplace area with seats and mantels nearby, lit candle holders to the side, and a shelf above the fire with several vases and trinkets. A giant tapestry hung from the wall depicting some kind of war scene with knights on horses fighting wyverns.
“Keep it down!” Troy whispered at Emma, who was tapping her finger against a vase. The latter showed no signs of stopping, although that was to be expected from Emma at this point.
An incredibly injured Alice leaned on Sarah for support, her shoulder injury no longer fatal after a health potion and Sarah’s dedicated healing, but it was still quite a nasty gash that left her feverish and sickly.
“I told you Alice, you have to read the enemy’s movements,” Marcello explained to the younger blonde healer, walking beside her and lending her some support. “Emma was right about one thing, everyone in this group is special. We all have great instincts, and the only person who didn’t, Zack, is already dead. That’s why we all ducked for cover when the banshee started that self destruction spell.”
“Yeah, I realized too late,” Alice replied. “Ow… I’ll try to just observe the next fight, and heal you guys up if you get in trouble.” A meek smile appeared on her face. “It’s kind of ironic that a healer needs healing, isn’t it… Thank god Sarah was here. If I was the only healer, we could’ve been in so much trouble…”
“And that’s why I appreciate you being here Alice. Being the only healer is really not easy. Did you know, in the last trial I got chased around the room three times by two goblins?” whispered Sarah laughingly.
The two healers spoke to each other and exchanged stories, bonding quite well. As two of the more normal members of the group, it was expected that they would gravitate to each other.
Meanwhile, the less normal members of the group were having quite a jolly time at each other’s throats. The eight person party scoured the entire room looking for an exit or useful items, before deciding to move on after finding nothing. Leaving behind the fireplace and tapestry, the group found themselves in a long hallway.
At the end of the hallway was a single door, the only path forward.
It was decided that Marcello and Nolan would scout ahead, both of them possessing sneak abilities. A fact that suddenly became a lot more relevant as they dove for cover the moment that they entered the next room, a large kitchen with a stove and several long counters.
He never should have gone through that black door. He’d been smart up to this point too. In the second area, he assembled the perfect party. Four warriors, three archers, a mage and two healers. Ten people, all level 2, which was the highest available level outside of those monsters Agnis and Daphne and their crew.
They managed to kill that banshee at the very beginning, but lost two of their members right off the bat, a warrior and a mage.
After that, they snuck past so many hallways and doors that it made their head spin. Two hours later, their party finally made it all the way to the throne room. And they were jubilant! The exit was right there, at the back of the throne room!
Everything seemed fine, until the door behind them opened by itself. Out came all the servants of the castle lord, one by one. One servant alone had caused the death of two of their party members, and now there were more than five. But that was not the worst part.
In their jubilation upon seeing the exit, neither he nor his party members paid attention to the suit of armor sitting atop the throne, unmoving. Once the servants all entered, they bowed to their lord.
Then the lord of the castle stood up, his sword in hand.
“Humans…” the lord thundered. “Show me what your race is capable of. Prove your worth, or die by my blade.”
The lord projected a killing aura so strong that Joshua could barely swallow. It was like the banshee’s wail projecting that paralyzing mental coil, except this time it wasn’t an ability. The aura was just pure, unadulterated evil, with a burning hatred so intense that it made Joshua fall to his knees. At that moment, each servant began to disintegrate, forming an evil imbued black mist that traveled towards their lord, their energies mixing with his.
That was when the lord attacked, its armor rattling as it ran forward with a longsword in hand. The lord was massive, standing at over ten feet tall, and its armor exuded a faint black aura that obscured the lord’s outline. Reaching the humans in a few bounds, the lord swung with his sword. Two of Joshua’s comrades fell immediately, while one of them made a mad dash for the door during that time. The dasher made it to the exit and survived.
That was when Joshua came to a realization. This trial was never designed to be won by everyone that entered, was it? Was that why the trial had a 20% survival rate? There was only one solution that he could see. Sacrifice team members, so that the others could slip by the lord and run to the exit.
Joshua tried to run to the exit, but the lord emitted a wave of evil aura so intense that he stopped in his tracks. The castle’s lord had now absorbed the auras of every single servant in the castle, magnifying its own mana to a degree that no human could face.
In the end, only the first dasher managed to make it to the exit. Everyone else was dead now, leaving Joshua as the last man standing. He screamed again, before his head was cleaved off by a single sword swing.
“Worthless,” the castle lord declared, sitting back onto his throne with a tinge of disappointment in his aura. Perhaps humanity was simply an inferior race.
Marcello and Nolan ducked behind a counter right after creaking the door open. To their horror, two entities with oppressive malevolent auras were standing in the kitchen. Another banshee in a white shroud, and a werewolf in a butler’s outfit standing on two legs. The monsters were talking to each other, their presences so strong that Nolan had a hard time breathing. Marcello felt the pressure on his chest but could still breath normally due to his exceptionally high presence stat.
“I was in the cellar during that time. Are you sure you heard it?” the werewolf asked the banshee.
“Of course I am sure! Do you think I cannot recognize my own sister’s wailing?” responded the banshee in a shrill voice.
The werewolf butler threw a rather distasteful look at the banshee, the woman’s shrillness clearly bothering him. “Best pray that you are right then. The lord will be displeased if we bother him for no reason.”
“And he will be thrilled if we bring him guests! Keep searching!” the banshee shrieked loudly, this time so loud that she infused a bit of her mana into the last two words.
Nolan let out a sharp gasp involuntarily as the wave of evil imbued mana echoed through the room. A gasp that was loud enough to alert the werewolf, whose ears twitched receptively. The werewolf’s nose began sniffing the air, looking around the room.
“Did you hear that?” asked the werewolf, baring its teeth as it began sniffing the air more intensely while walking towards Marcello and Nolan’s hiding spot.
“Yes I did,” the banshee replied in a somber voice. “But if they are here… then my sister must have… NO!!!!!!”
A crippling shriek that ripped directly at the soul came from the banshee’s mouth.
The wail was different this time. Intense sorrow coupled with profound anger resonated in the evil-imbued voice of the banshee that had finally sensed that her sister was killed. Black mist poured out of her body, swirling about with hatred searching for something to mutilate and take out its anger on.
Nolan bit down severely on his lower lip with intense force, jamming his fingers into his ears. Blood dripped down from the teeth marks, but he continued to bite down. He had anticipated and was trying to prevent the effects of the banshee’s wail through sheer willpower, but his hands and his head shook violently as the ear piercing scream only continued. Tears rolled down his face.
Eavesdropping through the door, Troy and Sarah fell through the door, unable to control their bodies from shock. The sudden banshee’s wail completely shook them to the core and made them drop like dominos past the door, revealing the rest of the group’s hiding spot. Sarah landed with a bang on the floor, her face making contact with the ground in a gruesome crack.
Marcello’s arms and legs shook violently like he was experiencing an epileptic attack. He realized that this mana-imbued auditory attack was at an entirely different caliber from the one earlier. He felt his heart palpitate and skip a beat, as a thin film of cold sweat formed across his entire body.
The nature of the magic was different. This time around it was fueled not by a desire to bind and control like the first sister tried, but by profound hatred from the second sister for those that had killed her sister.
But even in the face of such horrifying dark magic, there was one thing that would not bow its head. It came from within Marcello, from the core of his soul. It was his Inheritance.
His Inheritance was not supposed to defend against this kind of magic. Rather than just a mind affliction, this kind of vengeance seeking dark magic sought after the heart and soul of its victim, with the intent of crushing and tearing the spirit into shreds like a woman lamenting over the death of her child.
But protection against the mind affliction portion of the auditory attack was the key to victory here. Unlike any of his teammates, he was still able to control his body. Marcello brought his hands to his ears and cupped them, stifling the brunt of the banshee’s spell.
“They’re here,” the werewolf butler snarled, seeing the group of humans spill out from the door. It pounced onto the countertop, its pants ripping by the ankles in the process. But when his colleague began to channel one of the strongest Lamenting Wails that he had ever experienced in his life, even the werewolf was stunned. For her to be able to produce something so gut wrenchingly horrifying meant that the worst must have passed. The werewolf pitied these humans, to experience being on the receiving end of a Lamenting Song.
But just then, the unimaginable happened. The werewolf detected movement from behind one of the long kitchen counters. Out emerged a human man, with a sword in his hand. How could this be? Even he could not move an inch under the direct influence of the banshee’s most powerful ability, the Lamenting Song, and yet this human could not only move, but also sprint towards her?
The werewolf tried to warn his colleague but could not move a muscle. She had no idea that a human was coming towards her and would never be able to move away in time. She had lost herself in the song itself, and such a powerful piece of dark magic could only ever be powered with full concentration from the caster as well as the use of part of her own soul as fuel.
Impossible, he thought. A mere human, breaking through the effects of a Lamenting Song?
He could only watch as the human man slid his sword into the banshee’s chest, piercing her heart. As if time was allowed to move once again, the world reanimated.
Marcello knew that he had to kill her immediately after taking his hands off his ears. With an all-in attack, he charged at the banshee before her cursed ability could take hold of him again. He closed the distance as fast as he could, noticing that she seemed to have immobilized herself to channel whatever it was she was doing right now. He sank his shortsword into her body.
You have slain [Lvl 13 Banshee (Lord’s Servant)] - You are the sole contributor to this kill, and have received bonus tutorial points for the kill. Bonus experience awarded for solo contribution. Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy.
Ding! [Thief] class has leveled up to level 6. Agility has increased by 0.1.
Ding! [Human] race has leveled up to level 6. All stats have been increased by 0.1.
Ding! [Thief] class has leveled up to level 7. Agility has increased by 0.1.
Ding! [Human] race has leveled up to level 7. All stats have been increased by 0.1.
He gained two levels immediately after killing the banshee sister by himself. But that was not all.
Pangs of the banshee’s sorrow have infected your soul. Unfathomable hatred has found its way into the depths of your soul. Your soul now bears the curse of a grieving sister. -3 all stats.
Marcello felt a horrible sense of heaviness on the left side of his chest, and his entire body felt significantly weaker.
Your Inheritance has recognized an intruder within its domain.
A wave of unbearable searing pain struck his entire body like a mallet shattering a pane of glass, as he sank to his knees and his body slumped over.