Instead of opening the door, a female form glided right through it.

Her skin was a snowy white mist which billowed a soft glow into the air around her, and her steps were soundless. She had no nametag above her head, nor any indication as to what level she might be if she was an enemy.

As she approached the corpse, she rose one hand to her chest and gasped as if worried. Her long, straight black hair flared lightly over her shoulders. After a moment's hesitation, she approached it, paying no attention to the group of players beside it. Her placid black eyes widened, tiredly lifting her drooping, slightly violet eyelids, and she stared compassionately at the corpse.

This ghostly female leant down and draped herself over the corpse, lighting it with a halo of pale white mist. She pressed the front of her body against it tightly, and began to kiss its unresponsive lips, which moved heavily as she parted them with her own. She placed her hands lightly on its shoulders to stabilise herself, and seemed to ignore the group of players nearby. As she became more absorbed in the kiss, she began to raise her left hand to the corpse's cheek and stroke it gently, while her body lined up against it almost exactly.

"She's treating it like it's alive. Strange," Grisier whispered uncertainly.

"Perhaps this is why they say that love never dies," Crucis responded in deadpan.

The female kept leaning further into the corpse until her movement was almost synchronised with it, and occasionally lowered her right hand to stroke its groin. She seemed to be familiar with the corpse's body, and so she could typically do this without looking.

As the group hesitated, uncertain whether to attack or retreat, Franciscus took advantage of the tension and surged forwards. His leash snapped out of DicingDevil's hands, but Akshel adjusted quickly by stepping nimbly forwards to keep his sword pressed to the back of Franciscus' neck, forcing the tied-up player to stumble awkwardly forwards towards the corpse and woman.

Although Franciscus strained backwards to avoid colliding with the corpse, he interrupted the female's passionate kiss with his loud footsteps. She finally glanced upwards, with an air of nonchalance, and saw the tied-up Franciscus defiantly standing his ground with one eye at the woman and one at the group behind him. As Akshel lunged for him, he carefully swayed out of the way and stepped backwards, with the sword only grazing his armour. Akshel prepared to follow up, but the female calmly raised her right palm, and Akshel's sword fell softly backwards. It slipped out of his grasp and clattered to the ground, where he quickly crouched down to pick it up.

As the group prepared to fight, the female seemed to ignore them, and instead rose delicately towards Franciscus until she was pressing supply against his body. She ushered him towards the right side of the room, where his back pressed up against a wooden cupboard. With razor-like nails, she slashed open his muzzle, and began to kiss him while aggressively lining her lower body against his. He reciprocated this kiss indulgently, and relaxed as her hands perched on his shoulders.

"Be careful, we don't know what this ghostie can do," DicingDevil said, as the group cautiously surrounded the cupboard. "We should hold her off and wait for the others."

The female still ignored them, and briefly opened her eyes to stare into Franciscus', before propping her leg against the side of his midriff and leaning forwards to kiss him more passionately. He leaned backwards and tried to keep his back straight, struggling to keep up with her frantic movements as he moved stiffly after the long period as a captive.

Fluttering her eyebrows, the female let her left hand drift towards Franciscus' pants, while her right hand caressed his neck. She held him firmly in place as they kissed. After a few seconds, the violet gem on her necklace began to glow faintly, lighting up the room slightly. She used her right hand to press his neck backwards at a sharp angle, and then disengaged from the kiss as she stepped back slightly. Franciscus' lifeless body fell to the ground, with a thick, white vapour billowing out of his mouth.

She then turned towards the group behind her, with a slightly aggressive stare in her watery, black eyes. The gem on her necklace began to glow again.

"She's going to fight us. Let's go!" Dionarcy declared, and he rushed forwards with his sword raised. He was used to leading the group into fights, and felt a sense of responsibility now that it was clear that this female could be dangerous.

"Be careful," DicingDevil called out with an air of futility.

The female lunged forwards to grab Dionarcy by the collar, then revealed a locket in her left hand. She pressed it against his chest, and he fell instantly to the ground. She flicked the locket open to reveal a miniature painting, which closely resembled the features of the corpse. As she knelt over him, with one hand over his throat to throttle him, DicingDevil and Akshel surged forwards to slash at the back of her head until she flinched back. She darted around one corner of the cupboard, and a faint green light appeared from her hand. A ray of white gas rushed from her palm towards Dionarcy's neck, and he gagged and rolled painedly across the floor. He only had 40% HP remaining.

"The info tab says she's level 64," Dionarcy informed the group, collecting himself slightly. "She did a lot more damage than most enemies at that level, though."

"It must be the locket. Akshel, we should keep her from using it," DicingDevil said. He began to carefully approach the female.

"She's the same level as the corpse," Starfighter noted.

"And she's been so fixated on it that she barely noticed us," Crucis said. "She's clearly tied to the corpse in some way, and treats it as if it was alive."

She held out her right hand, and Franciscus' bow glided into it, carried by a small cloud of the white gas flowing from the dead player's mouth. The bow was glowing green. However, as she attempted to wield it, she found that its string had been cut. DicingDevil surged in and slashed at her face, but she fended off the strike with the bow. Adapting, he feinted another strike at the head, but instead used a firm [Slash] to her right hand and followed this up with [Thrash], striking fiercely at the hand until he drew deep red blood. She yelped quietly and let the bow fall to the floor.

As she prepared to face Akshel and DicingDevil, who had cornered her against the cupboard, she seemed suddenly distracted and gazed at something behind them. Crucis had knelt down by the corpse of Graceus, whose face was seen in the locket painting, and was using [The Ripper] to slice methodically across the corpse's face and neck. He severed the head, and slashed its face into a bloody, unrecognisable mess. He also grabbed the rusty sword in its scabbard, since he had noticed her eyeing it and guessed that she was planning to summon it just as she had done with Franciscus' weapon.

As she was distracted, Akshel used [Agile Step] to place a [Chokehold], holding her in place as DicingDevil used a harsh [Overhead slash] across her face. He then leaned forwards to angle his sword down into her upper neck, above Akshel's arm. He pressed the sword fiercely through her neck, leaning forwards and forcing the wound deeper. She let out a slight cry, but then tried to raise her left hand with the locket once more grasped in it. However, Akshel was prepared and interrupted this by grabbing her hand firmly from behind, and then kicking out her leg until she fell forwards onto DicingDevil's sword. She was now down to 61% HP, and had been inflicted with Bleeding.

However, as she reached 60% HP, a faint green glow appeared around her body, and she seemed to dissolve into white smoke, which snaked out of Akshel's grasp and materialised back into human form near Crucis. He was still patiently slicing up the corpse.

"Don't disturb my beloved," she growled, with a slightly gruff, masculine tone entering her practiced, gentle voice.

As she lunged towards him with her sharp nails outstretched, he calmly rose and used [Stealth Cloak] to circle around her, then stabbed the back of her left shoulder with [Stunning Dagger]. He looked to the right, where Starfighter was standing, and on cue Starfighter smashed the right of the female's head with a firm [Mordhau]. The female collapsed to the ground, as a loud cracking noise resonated through the room.

Crucis dropped behind her, and used [The Ripper] to slice across the wound in the front of her neck. She screeched out in a high-pitched voice, in a way that almost resembled a squeak, and dropped the locket. Crucis snatched it, and used it to collect some of the blood pooled on the floor where he had sliced up the corpse. She squirmed violently and managed to get a hand to Crucis' chest, but without the locket she could only scratch at it until he stabbed her neck with his dagger and pinned her to the ground. She seemed to be continually reaching for the locket, but as she pushed towards it Crucis found it easy to impale her neck against his dagger. He held the locket out of reach to lure her into the dagger as he stabbed, creating deep neck wounds.

Starfighter also knelt over her with his haladie, pressing one blade against the back of her neck in order to keep her down and using the other to fend off her arms.

As black mist swirled around Crucis' blade, he began to appear more akin to a black, hooded cobra. He sunk the dagger firmly into the back of the female's neck with a [Panoramic Strike], then followed up with [Dagger Twist].

By this point, Grisier and Danemy had made their way over to the room, and DicingDevil was frantically typing out instructions to them in party chat. As the female began to glow green again, Grisier cast [Breath of Ice] and slowed the female's attempts to escape. Starfighter stabbed firmly at her wounded neck, and kept her down. However, she managed to catch him with a sharp stab of her nails, which had grown into silvery claws. As she tried to wrestle Crucis away, taking stabs to her neck in the process, Dionarcy lumbered over and prepared to help. However, her eyes began to glow violet, and she whispered to Dionarcy, "You are brave." As she spoke, white smoke fluttered from her mouth and pierced Dionarcy's chest where she had earlier held the locket. He fell to the ground clutching his chest, and she scrambled her way free from Crucis' grip to crouch over the wounded Dionarcy.

Her claws pressed against Dionarcy's chest until blood was pouring from it, and Dionarcy's blood flowed towards her hands as if drawn by magnetism. She darted away as Akshel charged towards her. However, she was intercepted by a firm [Mordhau] by Danemy, who had been hovering nearby to catch her out if she escaped from Akshel. She fell to the ground, where Danemy dropped effortlessly and placed his sword across the front of her neck. As she raised her head, he forced it harshly down with his knee at a slight angle, slicing her throat against the sword.

Blood poured across the ground, and she was at only 20% HP now. Her neck seemed to be crooked by now, and hung forwards slightly. While she managed to shove the lower-level Danemy away and tried to rise, DicingDevil used the [Drive] skill to force her to crawl backwards with his sword against her neck, then grabbed her across the face and forced her to the ground. Grisier had been charging a [Mana Sphere], and this struck her firmly until she was flattened against the ground. As she reached 10% HP, there was a small explosion of green light around her, and DicingDevil flew backwards. She scrambled to her feet with difficulty, and looked around, but due to her bloodied head leaning forwards she was looking downwards across the floor.

However, behind her, Crucis had scrambled on top of a table on one side of the room. He launched himself from there as she rose, and grabbed her in a [Chokehold] in mid-air, dragging her back towards the ground as he leant across her upper back. As she tried to resist her unseen assailant, he pressed his dagger fiercely into the wounds at the back of her throat, and Starfighter knelt down beside her to [Slash] at her feet. She collapsed in a heap, and Crucis felt her flesh pressed against his dagger on the floor. He used a firm [The Ripper], which slowly and precisely cut across her neck. The whiplash of the fall had caused her neck to tear slightly, and Crucis found that his dagger passed right through it.

After a few seconds, he stood up, holding the female's disembodied head. "These violent delights have violent ends," he smiled, then tossed the head away towards the male corpse.

"Anyway," he continued, "Any signs of a key?"

"No, we didn't find anything," Grisier replied. "What was up with her locket?"

"No keys? I see. As for the locket, as I said she seemed to be tied to the corpse of Graceus: she was fixated on it, had the same level by default, etc. The locket had a painting of Graceus, it was her personal memento of the tie between them. That might be why it was important to her. And she kept acting like the corpse was alive, as you said. She seemed to have been trying to revive some sort of romance, a life for these two which never transpired. Perhaps this idealised tie is what keeps animating the ghost. Anyway, I have a couple of spare keys, let's try the door downstairs."

Crucis hadn't found any keys here, but from what he had seen the key necessary here might already be in his inventory.


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