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“This should be the safest way to go about it. Alice?”

“Ready when you are!”

Kayden was impressed that Ezekiel could come up with a plan under such stressful circumstances. Now that he had much fewer skeletons to deal with, he had the time to run simulations inside his head and agreed that Ezekiel’s plan would be incredibly effective.

‘I guess that’s what you’d expect from an adventurer with B-ranked Decision Making. Alright, I have to play my part too.’

With Aisha and Louis defending the exit head-on, it would be extremely difficult for him to squeeze in and do anything. Doing so would disrupt their efforts rather than support them and fortunately, he had ways of attacking from range.

Through the gaps between the two frontliners, Kayden threw knife after knife, accurately pinpointing the limbs of each skeleton in order to dismember them. The other members weren’t slacking either and did their best to support.

“Burn my foes with pinpoint accuracy. Let them feel the wrath of a blazing inferno!”

Streams of red light apparated in the air and gathered towards Alice’s staff, raising the surrounding temperature by a few degrees. A fiery serpent then burst forth from the staff, twisting and writhing in mid-air like a live dragon.

“Blazing Serpent!”

It shot forth with a force and heat that made Kayden’s hair stand on ends. As it flew by over their heads with a gust that blew their hair all over, Ezekiel yelled out directions and instructions.

“Straight ahead! …Turn left! Slow down…. STOP! Ah, you overshot it… Hey, I said stop!”

“Shut up! I know!”

Their coordination wasn’t as perfect as they would like, and Kayden guessed that panic must have settled in seeing how stressful the overall situation had been. This was a terrible time to panic, however.

“Guys! Focus!” Kayden yelled aloud.

“Argh! I know—"

“Now! Send it down now!” Ezekiel shouted.

“Okay!!!”

The stream of fire that had been awkwardly going back and forth in the air for a while now suddenly turned into a jet and shot downwards. Several bones were sent flying from the impact, and a muffled explosion could be heard a few moments later.

Ezekiel clenched his fist and got visibly excited.

“It hit! Now just another eight more to go!”

***

As it turns out, the bad feeling Ryan got was unfounded and things actually turned out smoothly for once. It was especially surprising since Brandon was the one that got them this far, something Ryan never would have expected in a million years.

There were currently negotiating with the man with the robes and long ponytail, who had introduced himself as Zhang Mingzhe, or Zhang, for short. Now Ryan was very sure that he was from the Eastern Continent from hearing the name alone.

The reasons for the negotiation right now had something to do with breaking into the dungeon, and at the forefront of the negotiation was Sevin, the D-ranked middle-aged man with the monocle. His choice of words held the most sway and his voice was persuasive, and despite being a D-rank, Ryan was now glad that he had been added to the party.

“So you’re saying that we should gather every adventurer to confront the Crimson Menace and demand compensation? I believe that the Adventurer’s Guild won’t take kindly to this.” Zhang warned.

“Ah. We won’t physically attack them! I might just be a lowly D rank, but I assure you that I can convince them. Of course, I would need big names or numbers on my side, to make my words more impactful.”

Zhang silently contemplated Devin’s words. Ryan could tell that he still wasn’t very convinced and added his own words to the negotiation.

“Like Sevin said, we’ll not resort to violence, so the Adventurer’s Guild should be fine with it. We can apply pressure on them by threatening their reputation. The stunt they pulled may not have been that serious if only the locals were involved, but considering that adventurers from all around Eden have been affected, their reputation across the lands could be severely affected.”

Zhang frowned and looked at both Ryan and Brandon.

“I agree that the chances of success are high, but there is one thing I do not get. Why do you need this ‘Kayden’ fellow? I doubt that they are willing to give up a party member for something like this, and it could lead to them rejecting our demands altogether.”

“Ah… that’s…” Ryan elbowed Brandon, signaling for him to take over and explain.

“Ah! Yes! That man is a cheat and a thief. We’ll actually be giving them a hand by taking him away.” Brandon hammered his chest as he spoke with great confidence.

“…Right. My sources tell me that you’ve fought this ‘Kayden’ fellow before, and lost.”

“That’s because he cheated!”

“I’m not so sure about that. A disciple of an A-ranked adventurer should be powerful, no matter the rank. But no matter. I’ll leave your vengeance for you to carry out. All I want is to secure the most resources out of everybody here, can I trust that you’ll help?” Zhang asked.

“Of course!”

“Then the deal is made. We’ll gather everyone to attack the barrier at once. There should be enough firepower around to forcefully break through those doors. Once the barrier is destroyed, we’ll raid the dungeon as fast as we can!”

That concludes the negotiation, and Zhang immediately left to round up the adventurers. From what little intel Ryan had gathered, he surmised that the barrier could have been destroyed if everyone had worked together from the beginning. However, none of the stronger adventurers wanted to start on an even playing field with the weaker ones, and so a stalemate was formed.

The weaker adventurers couldn’t destroy the barrier by themselves, and neither could the stronger ones. Yet they refused to cooperate because most of them believed that they could secure the advantage for themselves. This led to huge amounts of friction between both parties until a common enemy appeared in the form of the Crimson Menace. It was only now when it was too late did they get over themselves.

‘In the end, it is their greed that caused them to lose their advantage over her. Yet she herself would fall to them because she wanted to secure the advantages for herself. In other words, her greed. What an ironic situation.’

Ryan shook his head and followed Zhang to the barrier. Noticing his departure, both Sevin and Brandon followed suit.

It didn’t take them long to reach the barrier as the negotiations had only taken place a few tents away. There was a very large crowd of people gathered in long rows surrounding the barrier, with even more adventurers pouring in.

Zhang led the group from the very front, assigning various positions to the rowdy adventurers. They were now preparing for a combined offensive.

“Brandon, join the melee squad in the back rows. Ryan, your attacks aren’t very long-ranged, so go to the very front. Sevin… you and the other D-ranks should sit this one out.”

All three of them did as they were told. Brandon muttered something about how he could perform long-ranged attacks too, while Sevin gave a polite bow and headed off to join the other D-ranks. Ryan, who had been placed at the very front, went up to Zhang to ask a few questions.

“What happened to the other group? You know, the one that supports the Crimson Menace.”

“Ah, you mean Heather’s group? Look, she’s right there.” Zhang pointed at a lady who was part of the melee squad with Brandon. Even from his position, he could tell from her body language that she was upset at something. “They still need to enter the dungeon anyway, so they have no choice but to help.”

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to let her group join in? I feel like she’s going to try to stop us.” Ryan whispered.

“No need to worry too much. Her group is way too outnumbered to do much, so just go get ready. We’re about to start.” Zhang assured him.

Ryan still had a little doubt about this, as he preferred to have any problems nipped at the bud. Unfortunately, there was nothing much he could do now, and he silently got into position.

The adventurers were as rowdy as always with discussions, insults, and excitement all thrown about. There were still many adventurers upset about the trick Aisha had pulled on them, and so most of their conversations revolved around her.

Zhang looked over the eight long rows of adventurers and nodded in satisfaction. He was certain that with this much firepower, they should be able to break through the barrier. Without wasting any time, he began commanding the adventurers.

“Ranged attackers! Begin charging your strongest attacks!”

Immediately, various chants and incantations were spoken at once, echoing a loud, incoherent noise all across the valley. Colors of every spectrum began forming around them, shining a resplendent glow akin to that of a rainbow. Even the D-ranks with their pitiful mana-sensing abilities could feel an overwhelming power descend upon the valley.

Zhang gave them fifteen seconds to prepare. He estimated that the barrier had to take multiple blows before it could be destroyed, and he knew from his previous experience that the barrier would repair itself automatically over time. This meant that they could not give the barrier any time to rest, hence the short preparation time.

“Fire!”

The spells were released at the sound of the command, though some adventurers released theirs a little too early or too late. What could only be described as hell was unleashed upon the barrier, the force of their combined assault so great it blew away the adventurers at the front, causing the front rows to fall like dominoes. Smoke immediately began to form, and their reach extended to the very front rows of adventurers too. It clouded their vision and caused many of the more inexperienced adventurers to panic. It was a full-on pandemonium.

Zhang, who was standing at the very front, took the heaviest blow head-on and was pushed back several meters, both his feet leaving a trail of uneven rock as it dragged across the ground. Thankfully, he was uninjured, but the same could not be said for the ‘glass cannon’ types of adventurers. However, he had no choice but to continue.

“Ranged attackers! Fall back five meters and begin charging your attacks! Melee squad, advance!”

The adventurers at the very back advanced towards the barrier without delay. Being at the very back meant that they alone remained unaffected by the blast, which meant they could give it their best shot.

“CHARGE!!!”

No less than twenty adventurers disappeared into the smoke, the sounds of their battle cries vanishing along with them. A few seconds later, the sounds of weapons clashing against the barrier could be heard, followed by several muffled explosions. Zhang gave them ten seconds before giving them the order to retreat.

“Melee squad! Fall back to the sides! Ranged attackers! Attack on three!

In the short window of time that the melee squad had to attack the barrier, the smoke gradually dissipated, allowing them to see the fruits of their labor.

To put it bluntly, it was wholly ineffective. Several scratches could be seen on the barrier, and the physical attacks caused by the melee squad were widening them by a tiny bit. However, the barrier was recovering incredibly quickly, rendering their efforts nearly useless.

“Sh*t! We need to be quick! Fire!”

Another massive explosion followed, but this time, the front rows were merely pushed back a bit. Even Zhang himself stood rooted to his spot after having braced himself.

“Melee squad!”

The back rows once again charged forth, disappearing into the smoke. However, knowing how ineffective their attacks were last time, Zhang couldn’t help but curse inwardly.

‘Damn it! This is going to take forever, and mana reserves will be low by the time we finished. How on Eden did the Crimson Menace manage to break in?’

Zhang hadn’t been dead drunk during the party, and so he knew very well that the breathtaking explosion in the sky was meant to cover up the sounds of them breaking in. Loud noises were inevitable when it came to making use of brute force. However, this meant that their party must have managed to break in with just a single volley of attacks.

“Crap! Did the ‘Kayden’ fellow do this? The Crimson Menace only managed to break in when their parties merged together! I’m beginning to understand why Brandon called him a cheater…”

Since he had no idea how the Crimson Menace managed it, he could only take a guess at their methods. There was no way that he could get the secret of their way of entry, so he could only continue with his own plan.

“Ready? Fire!”

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Kageko

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