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After taking a short break, Brandon, Ryan, and their group of D-ranks started moving towards the barrier. Only when they got close did they notice the huge commotion that seemed to be happening among the crowd of adventurers.

There was a large number of adventurer parties gathered around the staircase to the gate, and there was a heated argument of sorts. Two specific parties seemed to be at the forefront of the argument, with neither side willing to back down on something.

Ryan could immediately tell that something serious had happened, serious enough for nearly every adventuring group to gather around like this. Such a thing rarely occurred, so he could only assume the worse. To get a better understanding of the situation, they inched closer to listen.

“We can’t wait any longer. There’s no way they simply left! They must have already infiltrated the dungeon! If we want to have even the smallest portion of the treasure, we should all barge in there right now!” A bald, muscular man shouted out.

“Maybe they’re just out hunting! They did use up a lot of their food reserves when they threw a party for us. We shouldn’t assume the worst in people.” A tall woman wearing a black full-body suit made out of a rubbery material argued. She had silver armor pieces on various parts of her body, making her outfit complement her grey eyes and long black hair.

Ryan recognized this woman. She was one of the local B-ranked party leaders that he and Brandon had considered joining before they ultimately settled on the Crimson Menace’s party. If he remembered correctly, her name should be Heather, and her party consisted of only three members.

“Stand back, Sir Ronald. I’ll handle this.” A man with purple and black robes held the bald man back. From his outfit alone, one could tell that he wasn’t a local. If Ryan had to guess, he would say that the man was of Eastern descent, which would explain his weird hairstyle. Long ponytails are only ever seen on the Eastern Continent, and it was apparently some sort of fashion statement there. The man pointed an accusing finger at Heather.

“Everyone here knows how you cooperated with the Crimson Menace to try and drill a hole into the dungeon. There’s no point in us having this conversation. Would you all risk your chance for treasure on a bet that the Crimson Menace didn’t plan all this to get a head start?”

He directed the question to the rest of the adventurers, most of which agreed with him immediately. Only a small handful, most likely fans of the Crimson Menace, tried to defend her.

“There’s no way she’ll do this to us!” A particularly angry man asked.

“Well. She is called the Crimson Menace for a reason. I’m not that surprised if she did.” Another argued.

Ryan had heard enough. He already got a gist of the entire situation. The party that they were a part of before had played the adventurers like fools and managed to enter the dungeon first. If Brandon hadn’t gotten them kicked out, perhaps they would obtain this precious opportunity as well. Truly a wasted opportunity.

He looked over at the culprit for their current situation, expecting outrage, frustration, or regret, upon hearing of this missed opportunity, but it was neither. Instead, Brandon was rubbing his hands together like a greedy merchant with a wide grin on his face.

“What’s with you?”

“Hahahaha! Those D-ranks just brought me some interesting info. If this works out, we’re going to have an army!”

Ryan was confused. “How? And why?”

“Hah! You don’t have to do anything this time. Just leave it to me!”

Leaving behind these mysterious words, Brandon confidently strutted up to Heather and the man with a long ponytail. Whatever Brandon was going to do, Ryan immediately got a bad feeling.

***

Within a massive room of the dungeon, a battle of massive proportions was taking place. Wherever you look, there were skeletons, and the tide of undead never seemed to stop coming.

No one had any time to spare a thought for how and where these skeletons came from, all they knew was that if they didn’t fight, they could die.

Having nearly nothing left in his mana reserves, Kayden was forced to use nothing but his close-combat abilities. While these skeletons had no flesh to cut, nor any blood to bleed, their bones, especially their joints, were brittle, and with each swing of his knife, a limb or a skull would come flying off.

[User is using skill: Knife Combat C]

[User is using ability: Honed Instinct C]

The skeletons weren’t just standing around waiting to die either. With their sharp, bony claws that could rend through flash, they struck recklessly like a maddened beast, uncaring for the damage they took. This was a common trait that the undead shared due to their lack of basic survival instincts, something they lost after dying.

Of course, not a single attack landed on Kayden, though at this point, his cloak had been torn to shreds. His stamina was also steadily dropping, and he knew he couldn’t keep this up for long.

From a blind spot, one particularly feisty skeleton leaped off the skull of another and went straight for his head, claws out for a deadly strike. Kayden couldn’t react in time, but he didn’t need to, for his comrades had his back.

Boom!

The skull of the undead exploded into shards of bone, showering him and the other undead with pearly-white chips. Its body fell limp onto the ground, never to get up again.

[Skeleton (Basic) has been killed! You gain 250 EXP! (Assist)]

‘I get experience from assisting with kills too? Sweet!’

The man who had foiled the skeleton’s attack was Ezekiel, who had been making full use of his abilities to provide cover fire for the group. Whenever a skeleton got a little too close to someone, he would dispose of them. Currently, his main target to protect was Bell, the main healer of the two parties.

Both Aisha and Louis were doing their jobs well as the frontliners, though one person was noticeably more effective than the other. Aisha, who specialized in fire magic, set fire to anything that crossed paths with her blade.

Her body was swathed in crackling flames, ensuring that any attacker would find themselves burning away to ashes. It was more effective than any armor, and now Kayden knew why she dared to dress so skimpily. The fire was armor enough.

On the other hand, Louis was struggling a bit. With his greatsword in hand, he slashed the skeletons, cleaving off two to three heads with every swing. Occasionally, streams of water would form at his feet, allowing him to slide from one place to another like some kind of ice skater, drawing the attention of the skeletons onto himself.

Unfortunately, every attack of his gave the skeletons a chance to land two more, making it a full-on battle of attrition. Although he had a physically strong body, he was still taking severe damage, and it was only thanks to Bell that he could continue fighting.

Speaking of Bell, her abilities had been revealed to Kayden earlier in the main tent, but it was his first time seeing it in action. She had the Blessings of the Healer, a very boring ability that happened to be incredibly effective. One could tell that she had trained her healing ability to the extreme, an advantage only those with one spell to use could have.

Indeed, she could only use one spell. Yet, this spell was incredibly effective, and nobody had any complaints about it.

All she needed to do was point and say the word ‘Heal’, and it would do the trick. While it was nowhere near as effective as Cathy’s Damage Transfer spell, she could do it with no repercussions and at long range, making it far more effective during combat.

Lizza was the other person to have her abilities revealed to Kayden, and what he saw surprised him. He had expected her to be a mage due to her cloth armor and lightning element, but she was actually closer to that of a pugilist.

With the use of martial arts, she could unleash lightning bolts with her kicks and punches, smiting the enemies down with ease. If someone got too close, she would target the floor with her lightning, using the force of the blast to narrowly escape. Talk about blowing away his expectations.

The main support of the group was San, who made use of his beads with maximum efficiency. They levitated and swirled around him like live bees, gathering mana in them as they stayed in close proximity. These beads could transfer mana and energy to anyone they touched, providing tremendous support that allowed them to last this long.

One set of beads would charge up while another set would be sent out, forming a cycle of continuous replenishment. If they got too close, the beads could form a protective ring around him, and even strike back at the aggressors.

Unfortunately, good things did not last forever, and the loop got slower and slower as the time dragged on. Most likely, it was consuming his own mana and energy in order to restore it for others.

Next, both Conner and Cathy were in similar boats as Kayden. The three of them did not have much in the way of offensive abilities, and their utility-based spells had little to no use here.

Conner was only using close-combat skills like him, and Cathy occasionally tried shooting blasts of force that could dispel magical effects, but all they did was cause a skeleton to freeze for a few seconds.

But the crown for the queen of slaying undead had to be given to Alice. With one Blazing Serpent spell, it destroyed hundreds of skeletons in a short amount of time, and the victims only kept increasing. It was so effective that a thin layer of ash formed on the ground, a testament to just how many undead fell to her spell. She was by far the most key player here.

Even still, they couldn’t fight forever, and everyone was painfully aware. They had to come up with a plan, and the sooner the better.

“Those trapdoors! We have to block or destroy them somehow!” Ezekiel, always the observant one, shouted aloud. As long as they could block the source of these skeletons, they should be able to manage.

“On it!” Alice shouted back.

Manipulating the thick stream of flames, she carved a path through the hoard of skeletons and sent it hurling into one of the trapdoors. A muffled explosion could be heard a few seconds later, and it was plain for all to see that no more undead came from that same trapdoor.

“It worked! Everybody target the trapdoors!”

Of course, that was easier said than done. With a quick glance, Kayden could count ten trapdoors, five on each side of the room. A huge amount of finesse would be needed for them to work together to shut or destroy a trapdoor.

‘Is there no other way? Should I try to seal the trapdoors myself? I know I can do it, but…’

Kayden stared at the trapdoors with hesitation and uncertainty in his eyes. There was something that only he could do, but it would cost a lot. That moment of doubt, however, gave the skeletons a chance to strike.

Boom!

Another small explosion burst forth, obliterating the claws that were just about to rake him from behind. Ezekiel leaped from where he was standing and skidded to a halt next to Kayden.

“What are you doing? Don’t stop!” he shouted.

“Tsk! Ezekiel, it’s too difficult! There are too many of them! We should cut our losses and retreat!”

“Huh? What are you so worried about? Have you forgotten what we’re capable of?”

“What?” Kayden yelled back in confusion.

“Well, you’re about to see!” Ezekiel immediately turned tail and ran towards the exit, forsaking his allies completely.

‘What? You’re running? That’s the big plan?’

Of course, he should have known that that wasn’t possible, especially with Ezekiel’s strict mentality. With the loudest voice he could muster, he yelled orders to the other members.

“Everyone, get to the entrance! We can just fight whatever filters through!”

It was a sound plan and everyone acknowledged it. Without wasting a single second, both parties immediately shot toward the exit where only about four skeletons could fit side-to-side.

It took some work, especially from those with the best crowd control and offensive abilities, but they eventually got everyone through the entrance. Like Ezekiel had said, this drastically lessened the burden on the members, even the ones fending off the undead from the exits.

He pointed to Aisha and Louis, who took charge of blocking the doorway and preventing any skeletons from coming in.

“I’ll need both of you to hold out a little longer. The rest of you support them as best you can!” he then quickly pointed at Alice, “We’ll work together and take out the trapdoors from range! Just like we did for those goblins!”

 

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Kageko

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