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“Yeah, he’s in there. I got a feeling,” Marcello replied.

None of the party members even bothered to question Marcello’s intuition. He had been right so many times in the past that his gut feelings were taken as a matter-of-fact at this point. And plus he always backed up his gut feelings with perfectly logical explanations.

“If the boss is really in that room, we should strategize about our approach before we enter,” Michael said with a matter-of-fact tone. “I say we make a mad dash for the exit. I have no intention of fighting the lord of the castle. If you guys want to try your luck, be my guest, but I will make it clear now that I won’t be participating in a futile fight.”

Nolan nodded. “I second Michael’s plan. We really shouldn’t fight the lord. At best, we should launch an attack to confuse the lord so we can reach the exit more easily. There is no reason to risk more of our group members’ lives in a meaningless fight. All we need is a distraction, and we make a run for it.”

Emma laughed. “Distraction sounds right up my alley. I’ll just bend over a little bit, right? Give him a bit of a show? Then you guys can run right on through while he’s distracted!”

Even in the face of death, the girl just did not let up with her sadistic tendencies. Fucking crazy. Although… Marcello couldn’t really use that as an insult anymore now that he was developing some schizo tendencies himself, what with that weird voice in his head and all.

“I was thinking something more in the lines of busting the door open with our arrows and spells already pre-aimed and prepared, fire off a round as a distraction and then just deck it,” Nolan replied.

“Eh,” said Emma, biting her lower lip unamused. “Sounds a lot more boring that way, but okay.”

“It’s settled then. Let’s get in positions. On the count of three, we bust open the door and just run,” Marcello said.

All seven survivors got into their positions. Jason stood at the side of his door ready to open it with a push, while Emma, Michael, Nolan, Troy, and Marcello all had their spells and bows facing the door.

“Ready?” Jason asked, a question that was met by nods by the entire party.

“One…. two…… THREE!”

Big man Jason slammed the door open and ducked, as a slew of arrows and spells flew over his head.

They bursted into a large, imposing throne room with wrought-iron braziers illuminating the walkway and an elevated area at the back of the hall. A chandelier of fire dangled from above majestically, as rows upon rows of gargoyles flanked the sides of the throne room.

Two imposing war banners hung vertically from the ceiling, hugging the wall to the sides of the throne seat. The golden red embroidered throne seat was situated at the center of the elevated area, accessible by a set of rock slab stairs that extended the entire width of the room.

Sitting on the golden red throne engraved with numerous golden fantastical patterns was a single imposing suit of steel armor. With slit-hole eyes on its helmet, staggering steel shoulder plates, and the sigil of a white lion on a black kiteshield painted prominently on the suit of armor’s royal blue gambeson, the figure of the armor was both regal and blackened at the same time. Dark energies and a faint black mist oozed from the armor, as the exceptionally long sword with a wide and curved crossguard glowed faintly red, as if the blade hungered for blood.

An aura that could stifle all life extended from the large suit of steel. To the entire party’s horror, it began to move. The suit of armor stood up, revealing a regal knight of immense stature, standing ten feet tall.

“I am the Lord of this castle,” the knight lord thundered, its voice reverberating through the throne room and right into the souls of the battle fatigued party members. “It has come to my attention that you have met four of my loyal servants. All four have died by your hands. As much as I grieve their loss, I must recognize that slaying my servants is no easy feat.”

“Come, show me the power you used to kill my servants.” the lord said. “Show me what your race is capable of. Prove your worth, or die by my blade.”

A dark aura oozed from every inch of the lord’s armor, a tainted air spilling from his helmet’s eye-slits to the crevices of its gauntlets. The ten foot tall lord brandished his regal longsword, the lord’s weapon growing hot red as ancient mana coursed through its blade. The surge of mana through the blade awakened a thirst for blood within the sword that even the basest of lifeforms could feel.

Nolan’s plan was so damn simple– just shoot some spells and arrows and make a run for it. The premise was simple, the execution was simple, so how could it all go so wrong?

It was because nobody could anticipate that the lord of the castle’s very aura was enough to restrict movement. Actually, if Marcello thought about it, he should’ve seen the pattern that both banshees used a very similar movement restricting power and that he should have foreseen this, but even his sixth sense missed things at times.

All seven surviving members of the party struggled to move. They were not frozen like before, as the castle lord was not a banshee with a true movement constriction ability, but the sheer presence made it hard to breathe.

A quick use of Identify showed why.

[Lvl ? Castle Lord]

Its level was too high for anyone in the party to identify, including Marcello who currently was at level 9.

Nolan began to crawl towards the exit, sweat dripping down his forehead as he moved forward with great effort. The black exit door was just halfway down the room to the left, close enough that he could reach it with just twenty seconds of running. It was just a few yards away, and yet those few yards felt like an entire mile, as the castle lord began to descend the steps.

Clank!

Clank!

Both of Marcello’s traps were set off to his surprise. He had leapfrogged the traps to cover the party’s flank with each room that they cleared, and that included the entrance to the long hallway immediately preceding the throne room. As much as he was glad that his meticulous strategy ended up paying off, the implications of those two traps setting off were seriously bad for his survival.

Did that mean that more of the lord’s servants were coming to flank them? It wasn’t just Marcello who was concerned. Alice looked absolutely horrified after hearing the bear traps go off. She vividly remembered what happened the last time she got flanked by one of the lord’s servants…

Their only saving grace was that they could now move again. It seemed that the lord could not maintain its aura while walking himself. Almost as if… hm…

Maybe it was because the lord used mana to control the suit of armor he was currently in, and so when he moved the suit of armor his aura needed to retract to provide enough fuel for mobility?

It was possible. Either way, Nolan was already sprinting towards the black door.

Marcello physically winced when he saw that, fully expecting the short man to be killed before he reached the exit. That was the cliche after all. First person to reach the exit would be killed, making quite a bloody scene so that the others understood that they would be unable to get away. The lord was running straight for him, sword in hand.

From the bottom of his heart, he didn’t want to see Nolan die. Yeah, the guy was a coward and couldn’t keep his gaze away from the exit every time he entered a trial room, but Marcello developed a slight feeling of camaraderie from all the life and death situations they had triumphed over together. Most of all, Marcello respected the fact that Nolan was scared to death of the trials and still continued to press on with the hard trials, twice in a row. He had the chance to choose the easy trial in area two, and yet he didn’t. Marcello couldn’t even begin to imagine the reasons why such a timid guy would torture himself like that. He probably had his reasons.

Nolan threw his entire body at the black door and yanked it open. But the lord of unknown level had made it there, and his longsword thirsted for blood. A flash of steel cut towards him, cleaving off the entirety of Nolan’s fourth and fifth fingers. But the small man didn’t hesitate, diving straight into the portal through the door, leaving two severed fingers behind. The rest of his body disappeared through the portal, clearing the trial.

Ah, fuck. He was cheering for Nolan to live, but he forgot that now they were down to only six combatants with his departure.

“Shit, now what the fuck do we do?” Troy shouted. Their exit path was blocked by the ten foot tall armored lord of the castle. At the end of the day, Nolan’s strategy only worked for himself.

With the massive armored knight lord standing right in front the exit with his longsword brandished, the remaining six survivors circled around him warily, moving to the center of the throne room.

At that moment, two of the lord’s servants burst out from the room behind them. A half-snake, half-woman creature and a short red demon with wings appeared.

“My lord!” the half-snake half-woman Echidna screeched. “These wretched beings… they have slain the rest… the other four servants have fallen… Let us dispose of these intruders!”

“Yee heeeeheee!” laughed the red demon. “Humansss…. such delicate creatures! My lord, you must try their flesh, it is absolutely exquisite!”

The six surviving humans grouped into a circle, bracing their weapons against the inevitable.

“Prove to me your worth, servants, and I will reward you!” the lord thundered. “Kill these humans! Show them the strength of the Kith!”

“My pleasssureeee yee heeeeee!” guffawed the red winged demon, swooping up into the air before diving downwards with its miniature trident in hand.

Marcello drew his shortbow, nocking an arrow and shooting it at the goblin-like red winged demon nosediving towards them. He noticed that its health was already a bit chunked from the bear trap, which was slightly funny to him for some reason. It felt like he took a freebie swing at the demon already with the cheap shot that was his Bear Trap ability.

Arrows whistled up towards the demon, as it simply… dodged? Shit. What the demon lacked for constitution and strength, it clearly made up for in sky-high agility. It jabbed towards Alice’s face with its trident, but Alice was prepared with the spear that Marcello insisted that she bought.

The spear had longer range than the pint-sized red demon’s trident, and it connected with his leg somehow. As agile as it was, the demon couldn’t dodge four projectiles and a spear thrust at the same time.

“Yowwwchhhh!!” the demon shouted in pain, right as a hammer strike from Jason slammed down on its face.

You have slain [Lvl 10 Imp Demon (Lord’s Servant)] - Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.

Just a level ten bugger, in the end. Jason grinned, lifting his hammer up again right as he realized that the castle lord himself was thumping towards him, sword drawn.

Two arrows from Marcello and Troy whistled through the air and struck the large armored target, dealing so little damage that its health barely changed.

The arrows were followed by a mana bolt casted by Emma, and then another mana bolt from Michael who was slightly slower at casting than the girl. Both mana bolts did a significant amount of damage to the armored lord, with Emma’s dealing quite a bit more than Michael’s. Upon second look, the majority of the damage was dealt by Emma’s spell. The disparity between her and Michael seemed to grow with each level, and it wasn’t just a matter of stats. Her natural control was just that much better.

“Hehehahahahahaha!” Emma laughed, already readying another mana bolt. Her eyes flashed crazily, glowing red.

Thumping forward, the ten foot tall castle lord swung his cursed blade. Jason stepped forward to meet him, hammer in hand.

“Bring it on, bastard!” shouted the grizzled construction worker. He swung his hammer with vengeance, Sarah’s broken face still in his mind. He would smash all the monsters in the way until he could see his family, and nothing could stop him. Not even a lord.

*Ssshhhhk*

The knight lord’s longsword pierced right through Jason’s torso, blood spurting from the grizzled man’s mouth. The lord then twisted the sword, causing the warrior to cough up even more. Jason was done for.

At that moment, two wildly different things happened.

Marcello retrieved an item from his inventory, something he should have used a long time ago. The moment he saw Jason get pierced, he knew that this fight was over unless he took drastic measures. In his hand was a certain item that he saved for the most dire of situations, a moment just like this. It was his Scroll of Summon Ice Elemental, which he purchased from the tutorial store at the ludicrous price of eight thousand points and was the single most expensive item in the entire store. Without an ounce of hesitation, he activated the scroll. All of this occurred within two seconds since Jason was pierced.

Within those two seconds, something else had happened. Something well out of Marcello’s calculations.

All the muscles on Jason’s body began to swell, his arms bulging beyond belief as blood coursed through his veins. His expression was that of an anger beyond mortal comprehension, and he headbutted the knight lord so hard that the skin on his forehead began to peel away. The blow actually hurt the lord, dealing a significant amount of damage. It felt like Jason’s strength had increased exponentially, more than five times what it had been before.

But that was impossible. Jason was only level 7, and he could not possibly have received a berserker ability until at least level 10 if not later. No level 10 ability would have that kind of effect, either.

The explanation was a red tendril of mana coming from his back, linking him to Emma, whose eyes now shone blood red.

“Hahahahaha!” the lord laughed, black mist pouring out from the crevices of his armor as if in amusement. “A human with an Inheritance! Finally, this may be a fight worthy of my time.”

With that statement, the snake woman Echidna that was busy fighting Troy and Michael gasped for breath, her life force leaving her body, trailing towards her lord.

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A note from HereBeTreasure

Thank you Michael Weidenbacher, Mattias Klason, and Manowargs! 

Ratings made a huge comeback from 4.07 to 4.24!! Feels great! Possibly thanks to Sarah and Alice. 


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HereBeTreasure

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