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A bright light glowed through Edward’s closed eyelids, stinging them and reddening his vision. Then he opened them.

The blue light vanished from Wickancis’ palms. He covered his face with his hands, rubbed his eyes, groaned, and stumbled across the stone tiles. The rest of the goblins in the room did the same. They snapped their eyes shut, covered their faces, and stumbled aimlessly. But not for long.

A fiery and fuzzy feeling filled Edward’s body when he activated his ‘Marathoner’ ability. Energy frothed throughout every fibre of muscle.

He grimaced and squeezed his thumbs against his palms until he could hear a crack. Groaning, he felt the sharp sting, but didn’t let the pain freeze him. Yanking his hands out of the cuffs, he snatched the wrist of the goblin to his right. He strangled it and ripped the green hand off of his bicep. Turning to his left, he snatched the other goblin’s arm and tore the hand off of his elbow.

The cuffs fell, banged, rattled, and jingled on the floor. The goblins bristled and flailed their axes at Edward, but he ducked under and slithered past their clumsy swings. He zoomed through the hall and at Richard and Charlotte.

She already yanked her hands out of her cuffs and turned to run out of the hall, beckoning him to follow her. But he didn’t. He slid across the stone and crouched in front of Richard. He continued to writhe on the ground from Charlotte’s beatings.

“Crack your thumbs!” Edward hastily shouted. At any moment, the goblins would open their eyes, so he had to be quick.

“I’m trying!” Richard whimpered. Edward looked at Richard’s hands and saw that he was squeezing his thumb, but his hand shuddered. He was probably afraid of the pain.

“Just ignore him!” Charlotte slowed down, turned to Edward, and glared at him. “He’s too slow to follow us, anyway!”

Rising to a stand, Edward was about to nod. Especially when he saw the goblins pull their hands away from their faces and flutter their lashes.

But Edward shook his head and ignored her. He couldn’t abandon him. Quickly glancing at the other ten human people who stood and stumbled with their eyes closed, he already felt bad about abandoning them. But he couldn’t do anything about it. So he did the best he could.

Gripping both of Richard’s hands, he squeezed them. He cracked his thumbs. Richard screamed and rolled on the stone, writhing in agony.

“Get up, damn it!” Edward snapped. He snatched Richard’s wrist and yanked him to his feet. Scooping his feet into the air, and lifting him up in both arms, Edward ran through the hall, following Charlotte.

They zig-zagged past staggering goblin soldiers, ducked under flailing axes, and rushed towards the archway. A goblin in front of Edward opened her eyes. She scowled at him, strangled the shaft of her axe, and swung it at his nec-

Edward ducked, pulled Richard’s wriggling body against his chest, somersaulted across the stone tiles, and let the axe’s blade shave the top of his hair as he passed. Leaping to his feet, he zoomed through the doorway.

“Chase him!” Wickancis screeched.

1 minute and 30 seconds remained of Edward’s ‘Marathoner’ ability.

Sprinting onto the floor of a hallway, the slamming of steel against stone boomed behind Edward. Glancing backwards, he could see that none of them could match their speed. But amidst that rippling mass of chain mail, a hulking figure in bronze blurred and burst past them. It was Unnalt, sprinting six metres away from Edward’s back.

Edward dashed to the hallway wall and glanced out of one of the many windows that covered it. He hoped to jump out of the window to escape, but the distance of the drop convinced him otherwise. So he continued to follow Charlotte down the long hallway.

At the end, there appeared to be a spiralling staircase. If they got to a low enough floor, it would be possible to jump out of a window. So Edward swerved past and banged into scared goblin servants and maids, toppling mops, buckets of soapy water, and trays covered with pottage and ale.

Leaping over a crouching goblin servant as he picked up a bread basket that Charlotte knocked to the floor, Edward smiled as they reached the halfway point of the hallway. So he glanced backwards.

Unnalt continued zooming towards them, only four metres away from his back. The rest of the goblins jogged much further behind him. Their axes swung by their belts. Their hands gripped bows and knocked arrows to strings.

“Make sure to dodge them!” Charlotte shouted over her shoulder. “Given their strength stats, they’ll only need to hit us twice to kill us!”

Edward nodded at her and gulped, making sure to periodically glance over his shoulder whilst rushing down the hallway. He somersaulted under the raised tray that a goblin servant held, wobbling bowls of pottage, and finally, three quarters of the hallway was behind them. Then he heard the strumming of strings and turned to see arrows devour his vision.

He dashed to the left. An arrow smashed into the stone half a metre next to his right foot. He dashed to the right. The whooshing gust of an arrow scratched the side of his left thigh. He kept zig-zagging down the hallway, and Charlotte did as well. Their agility stats were too high for them, but not for long.

Their arrows passed their skin closer and closer. They couldn’t keep dodging forever.

“What’re you waiting for!” Charlotte turned and glared at Richard whilst he wriggled in Edward’s arms. “Blind them already!”

Confusion rumbled the contents of Edward’s mind in response. Surely, the ‘Spark’ spell was still on cooldown? But then he remembered Richard’s Special Ability, and Edward glared down at Richard after an arrow zoomed a few centimetres past Edward’s shoulder.

Richard bristled at the sight, still rubbing his broken hand. “O-oh! I’m sorry!”

Edward rolled his eyes and watched his palms, waiting for the flicker. Charlotte kept turning and glancing back for it as well.

Then it happened. Richard spat on the ground and swung his arms into the air and over Edward’s shoulder.

He slammed his eyes shut just when light smothered the room.

When he opened his eyes again, arrows fumbled everywhere. Some crashed against walls, some spun up against the ceiling, and some smashed through windows. Even Unnalt stumbled around like a drunkard.

So Edward smiled when they burst past blinded goblin servants and maids, and entered the stairwell.

1 minute remained of his ‘Marathoner’ ability.

They rushed down the stairs, leaping down five to eight steps at a time. Before Edward could glance backwards, he could already hear Unnalt behind him. Except the booming of his steps didn’t fill him with fear this time, because the booming was slower. Whispering over the top of that tumult, Edward could hear panting. Finally, glancing back at Unnalt, sweat stampeded down his face and glistened across his bronze armour. His stamina was decreasing. Edward grinned.

But his grin dropped when he looked down and Charlotte gradually slowed to a run beside him. She gasped for breath, flicked beads of sweat off her reddening face, and her legs shivered with exhaustion.

“I’ll beat the shit out of you if you even think of carrying me as well,” she snapped at him after noticing him looking at her a bit too much. He chuckled and kept leaping down the staircase. She could handle herself.

After jumping down two floors, Edward peeked out of the window. The drop was still too steep. So they kept rushing down the staircase. Once they leapt down a third floor, arrows zoomed down around them. Looking up, the rest of the goblins appeared to have caught up with them as well. With zig-zagging motions, and ducking behind the cover of bannisters, they could dodge most of them. Richard spat on the ground, swung his hands over Edward’s shoulder, and a light flickered in his pa-

“No!” Edward said after slapping Richard’s hands away, cancelling the spell. “We only have one left! Let’s not waste it on a staircase where we can much more easily dodge them!”

“But what if they hit us!” Richard whimpered, swinging his arms up over his shoulder again. “I don’t wanna die!”

Edward was about to slap Richard’s’ hands away again, but an arrow shot at him, blurring in his peripheral vision. So he pulled his arm down and ducked behind the spiralling staircase bannister. The arrow head clanged against the iron railing, bounced off it, and flipped down to the bottom of the stairwell.

A light flickered in Richard’s palms. Fright frothed in Edward’s stomach. “Stop it!” he shouted in Richard’s face, rushing to his feet and leaping down another set of stairs. He tried to pull his hand up to swipe Richard’s hands to the side, but he was too lat-

Charlotte dashed over to him and flung her fist at Richard’s face. Blood and teeth splattered out of his mouth, smeared, and rattled across the stone tiles behind them. She dropped his HP down to 35%. “What the fuck is wrong with you!?” Charlotte roared at Richard. “Are you trying to kill us!?”

Richard mumbled something as he rocked in Edward’s arms in a daze, blood dribbling out of his mouth. Edward cringed at the sight. She didn’t need to hit him so hard. But he shrugged and leapt down another set of stairs. It got the job done, at least.

Edward somersaulted as he landed on the ground of a fifth floor. He peeked out of a window. Then he nodded at Charlotte. She nodded back. The drop wasn’t too steep.

They could escape. So they rushed towards the staircase window but-

Charlotte froze. “That skill…” she muttered as she flung her arm in front of Edward’s chest and stepped away from the window. Edward followed her lead. He was glad he did because Unnalt’s eyes flashed crimson. His body turned into a bronze blur and then vanished as he zoomed ten metres down the steps in half a second.

Edward and Charlotte bristled at the sight and leapt backwards, out of the stairwell and stepping onto the carpet of a hallway. Unnalt slashed his axe at the air in front of the window, and without even touching it, glass exploded across the stairwell, and without touching the opposite stone wall, chunks of rock popped out of the wall and sprinkled on the ground.

Edward wondered why he didn’t use that ability earlier. He then quickly realized that back in the hallway, when he was much closer, Charlotte was much further ahead. In that situation, he wouldn’t have been able to slash all three of them in one stroke. When they ran down the staircase, he wouldn’t be able to catch them in a straight line because of the spiralling shape of the stairwell.

But the space in front of that window was a predictable location to be grouped up in. Luckily, Charlotte had the forethought to predict Unnalt’s movements because of her ‘Inspection’ ability, allowing her to read his stats and abilities beforehand.

So Edward turned to Charlotte, smiled at her, and thanked her. Whilst they both turned and sprinted down the hallway, she flicked her face at him, nodded, and smiled back at him. But it was only for a second. They needed to focus. They snapped their eyes back into the hallway.

None of the walls had any windows - only wooden doors. The only wall that had a window was the one at the end of the hallway, so they rushed towards it.

30 seconds remained of his ‘Marathoner' ability.

Waking up Richard from his daze, an arrow zoomed a few centimetres away from his skull. He yelled and wriggled and shot his hands up and over Edward’s shoulder again. But he turned to glance at Unnalt hiding behind the wall of the stairwell, saw Charlotte do the same, and whacked Richard’s wrists before a light could even flicker in his palms.

“W-what are you doing!?” Richard screeched in Edward’s face, spraying his cheeks with spit and snot that somehow made its way into his mouth. “We’re so close to escaping! If not now, then when!?”

“Unnalt is hiding behind the stairwell wall in order to avoid getting hit with another ‘Spark’,” Edward said, swerving around another goblin servant. “We need to wait until he appears.”

“What if we get shot down and killed before then!?”

“We won’t.” Seeing that they were halfway through the hallway, confidence in that statement grew. But then he glanced at Charlotte and his confidence dropped. Sweat smothered her and gushed onto the floor. Her legs shook. Her arms flailed. She violently gasped for breath. Her running slowed, she occasionally stumbled, and she ran behind him despite being far ahead of him before.

His confidence vanished when he saw the rest of the goblins knocking more arrows to bowstrings. Arrows showered them, but Edward could dodge them as he sprinted. Flicking his eyes at Charlotte, he chewed the inside of his mouth as he anxiously hoped that she would be able to as well. An arrow shot at her arm-

She dashed to the side, and the arrow zoomed past her. An arrow zoomed at her bac-

Somersaulting across the stone, she let the arrow plunge through her flapping hair. An arrow shot at her shoulde-

Charlotte screeched. She fell to the stone. Blood burst out of her arm. The arrow plunged through the back of her shoulder and the arrowhead poked out of the front. Her HP dropped to 8%.

Panic grumbled in Edward’s stomach whilst he watched her bleeding and crawling on the stone. So he slowed down.

“Keep running!” Richard shouted up at Edward. “Ignore her! She’s useless now!”

“You’re being carried” Edward glared down at Richard and dug his nails into his ankle. He slowed down even more and turned towards her.

“Do as he says,” Charlotte croaked as she crawled across the floor. “Leave me here and run!”

Fright roared up in Edward’s chest when he saw a Level 6 goblin catch up to Charlotte. He loomed over her. His shadow devoured her bloody figure. He rose his axe up to the ceiling. His muscles rippled whilst he swung the axe down at he-

Edward shook his head, spun, dumped Richard on the floor, and rushed towards Charlotte. The goblin’s axe crunched into skin and splattered blood and pieces of red flesh on the walls.

But it wasn’t Charlotte’s.

Edward shrieked as the axe’s blade sunk into his left arm. But despite that, he grimaced and flung his right fist up at the goblin’s chin. He staggered backwards, his helmet wobbled, and blood splashed up to the ceiling.

Whilst the goblin did that, Edward gasped at seeing his HP drop to 20%. He ignored it and scooped Charlotte up and off the floor with his un-injured arm. Just after he lifted her off the floor, an arrow smashed into a tiny puddle of blood that his bloody arm formed. Turning and leaping towards Richard, an arrow plunged into the ground a few centimetres away from his heel.

He wrinkled and strained the skin of his face with an agonizing grimace, growled, and ground his teeth together when he scooped Richard off the floor with his injured arm. Letting pain ravage his entire body, he rattled the hallway with a screech, and kept sprinting down it, ducking under and dashing to the side of arrows with Charlotte and Richard in his arms.

The window at the end of the hallway appeared bigger and bigger. The goblin’s arrows shot closer and closer to his zig-zagging body. Sweat smothered him. The boiling pain in his injured arm squealed throughout his body.

Passing a slightly ajar door, a glacial breeze shivered Edward, and hit against the door, shuddering it. The rancid stench of piss and shit filled his nose. That door must lead to a latrine. But after reaching the three-quarter point of the hallway, a fiery joy and hope smothered him, letting him temporarily forget the icy breeze that shook him, the rancid stench of the latrine, and the pain that blazed across his body.

He could actually survive thi-

A silhouetted form dropped behind the window. It fell, but then burst forwards - towards the window. Smashing through, it splashed glass into the hallway and brought in a gust of wind along with it. It somersaulted on the glass smothered stone. After fluttering his lashes, Edward gasped when he saw who it was.

It was Wickancis.

He rushed to his feet, flicked his palm up at Edward, and a bright green light flickered in front of his palm. It grew into a swiftly swirling white and green sphere. It shot towards Edward and he ducked, but there was no need. The green and glowing ball shot far beside Edward, zoomed behind him, and plunged down the hallway. Edward wondered what Wickancis was aiming at and glanced backwards to see. Whilst he turned, the quick and repeated ringing of metal bashing stone boomed behind him.

It was Unnalt, rushing down the hallway. A pale green aura covered Unnalt and Edward wondered what it was. But he didn't ponder it much because he was panting, flailing his sweat smothered limbs, and jogging. He was around 20 metres behind him, behind the rest of the goblins. So Edward didn’t consider him a threat.

But then the ethereal sphere hit Unnalt. The stark green light enveloped his body like a gravity defying sheet of water. His eyes flashed the colour of emeralds and his panting ceased. The dripping of his sweat slowed. His body moved swiftly and precisely.

Unnalt slithered past the rest of the goblins and sprinted towards Edward. He was 10 metres away. 8 metres. 6 metres. He was faster than Edward.

He turned back to Wickancis to see a bright orange light glowing and pulsing in front of his palm. Flame crackled and swirled around the spherical light. It grew into a blazing ball of flame. It smothered the entire hallway with a golden light and covered Edward’s body with a skin tingling heat.

Unnalt boomed along the stone 4 metres behind Edward.

His 'Marathoner' ability ran out.

“Watch out!” Charlotte croaked as she wobbled in his arms. She coughed and then cleared her throat. “It just came off cooldown!”

Fear burst up his stomach and exploded in his chest. His heart rumbled and ravaged his ruined sternum. His rampaging heart grew in speed and ferocity when he turned and saw Unnalt’s eyes flash red.

“Do it now!” Edward said, pinching Richard as he wriggled in his grasp.

“F-finally!” Richard spluttered, spitting tears, sweat, snot and blood onto the stone as they rushed down the hallway. He flicked his hands up into the air and over Edward’s shoulder. Richard spat on the ground. A bright light flickered in his palm.

Whilst the room glowed in its golden light, Unnalt’s hulking form morphed into a bronze blur. He vanished. A eight foot tall ball of stone-melting flame pulsed and rippled in front of Wickancis’ palm. He scowled, roared, and thrust his arm at Edward.

He slammed his eyes shut.

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Jonsoon

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