Noele sheared through the ranks of the undead. A wave of skeletons crashed into her, and she stood her ground, swinging her sword as their bones collapsed into dust. Those that drew closer burned to ash, incinerated by her [Nobleflame Armor]. She was an A-rank adventurer fighting amidst a horde of E-rank threats— it wasn’t a difficult battle at all for her.
It was just… tedious. There were so many of them. Everywhere she looked, arrows flew. Everywhere she turned, skeletons fell. A group of skeleton archers stood at the side of the stairway, loosing volley after volley at her, too far for her blade to reach.
Gritting her teeth, the blonde girl pointed as glistening projectiles appeared above her. “[Scintillating Arrowfell]!” she yelled.
The spell took down dozens of undead at once. The skeleton archers were ripped apart from the hail of magical bolts. Noele panted as she stepped back. How many had she killed at this point? Hundreds? Thousands?
She didn’t know. All she realized was that this onslaught of undead wasn’t going to be stopping anytime soon. The Noble Spellsword backed up as more skeleton knights rushed down the stairway, filling the brief hole she made in their horde.
“Saros!” she called out, glancing back. “We need to—”
And Noele blinked. Her eyes darted around the room, but she saw no one there. There was no gnome supporting her from behind. She was alone in this room, standing against this unending horde of skeletons.
She clicked her tongue. “You can’t be serious…”
But before the blonde girl fully process the gnome’s betrayal, she heard a terrible roar coming from the front stairway leading up the ruined castle. Her gaze snapped to the front as a creature bounded its way down the steps on all fours.
It was the size of a bear— no, larger. But it wasn’t covered it fur or hair, with the musculature of an ape. A hairless beast that had a massive maw and light blue skin. It tore through the skeletons in its way, huffing as it reached the front. It beat its long front arms on the ground as it swept its wispy blue gaze around the room.
Noele stared. “That’s… a juggernaut ghoul?”
It was the first time she’d ever seen one in person. It was an A-rank undead— one of the most powerful creatures a [Necromancer] could supposedly conjure up. The only type of undead that was feasibly more dangerous was a revenant, but even Lich Lords could hardly create them.
The Noble Spellsword backed up, wide-eyed. She heard its shriek. She saw it barreling her way. She raised her left hand instinctively, creating a ball of golden fire. But she caught herself, seeing the chamber tremble. She bit her lower lip and swung out with a glinting strike.
“[Noble Slash]—” Noele started as her sword was wreathed with a golden aura.
The attack struck the juggernaut ghoul, only to bounce off the undead’s blue skin, barely shaving off a small chunk of flesh. She blinked as it swiped a hand her way, knocking her to the side.
Noele went flying as her [Nobleflame Armor] took the brunt of the attack. But she still received some residual damage. She grunted as her back crashed into the wall, and the juggernaut ghoul recoiled as its arm was lit ablaze by the fiery aura.
It roared, charging forward at Noele once again as it burned. Noele scrambled to her feet, watching as the golden fire slowly froze over. A cold aura overcame the giant undead as it seemed to move faster.
Raising a hand, the blonde girl created a [Force Barrier] right in time to block a thudding blow. She backed up against the wall as the outpouring of undead converged on her. But each skeleton knight that drew close was knocked back by the juggernaut ghoul’s wild swings.
It unleashed a flurry of furious blows at the blue shield. Noele gritted her teeth. Of course [Noble Slash] wasn’t enough. Even though she was A-rank now, the Skill was only B-rank. It might have been the most effective attack she had at Level 45, but now it was weak compared to enemies her level.
Glorious Noble Slash, then. The idea crossed her mind as her barrier cracked. A thin layer of sleet blanketed the blue shield, and she took in a deep breath, gathering the golden aura at her blade.
But she paused. She remembered the damage the attack had done against Jax. And she recalled how unreliable it had been when she was training with Garron. Noele couldn’t control her Glorious Noble Slash— she knew it could be enough to defeat the juggernaut ghoul. But would it be just enough to not bring down the trembling castle?
Noele didn’t know. And that was the problem. She hesitated right as the juggernaut ghoul leapt back, crushing a group of skeleton archers. It brought its hands up as ice formed around its arms, creating something akin to a spiked mace. It charged forward as it swung at the [Force Barrier], and Noele flinched— her hesitation stopping her from fighting back.
She waited for the attack to land. She hoped her [Force Barrier] would hold up. But before the juggernaut ghoul could reach her, a splash of green liquid intercepted the undead. It hissed and flew back, crashing into the ground.
The nearby skeletons were caught in a spray of this liquid as well. And they instantly began to melt to the ground into a pool of white liquid. Noele narrowed her eyes, glancing over at the juggernaut ghoul. It writhed in the ground, beating at its face as its flesh continued to melt.
But there was nothing it could do to stop this green liquid from eating it away. It got to its feet for a moment, letting out a final road. Then its legs completely gave out under it. It collapsed, the last of its body melting away as skeleton knights ran over its corpse without care.
“Who did…?” Noele started. She spun around as a little voice replied.
“A Dagger of Acid Damage,” Saros said as he held up a crooked dagger in hand.
He walked out of the desk in the center of the room, shaking his head. Noele watched him leap off and kick a skeleton warrior to the ground. He swung out with the dagger, cutting down the nearby skeleton knights that rushed him. He eyed Noele as her barrier dissipated away.
“Normally a C-rank weapon at best. With each strike, it would deal a little bit of acid damage to its target. But I repurposed it so it would unleash all of its acid at once in a single compounded attack, exacerbating its effects more than tenfold. I call it a Disintegration Dagger. An A-rank weapon.” He pocketed the dagger and grinned at her. “Sorry I took so long, I was trying to figure out what was wrong with this damn thing.”
She just tried to work her jaw. “You… didn’t run away?”
The gnome frowned. “I just saved your life, and that’s how you repay me? Seraphim curse me. This is why I work alone.”
A skeleton knight stabbed at him, but the attack just bounced off as a ring in his finger flashed. He smirked, opening the little bag at his side.
“Burn,” he said with a grin.
And black flames filled the room. It burned like fire— actual fire. Not with an explosive power, but the roiling flames that incinerated the undead bones. And the attack didn’t stop. He dropped the bag as the black flames continued pouring out, and he closed his eyes.
“[Refill Artifact’s Mana].” He raised a hand, and a glow overcame the bag. He turned to Noele as she stumbled forward, avoiding the roaring black fire. “Come on, that should hold them off for a few minutes. There’s a working vault that’s still downstairs. We can hide away there until this damn skeleton army falls back to sleep.”
The Gnome Inventor started down the steps heading to the last floor as Noele stared. He frowned and eyed her.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s move!”
The blonde girl blinked. She gave chase after him, pausing only once to glance back at where Amelia had been standing.
“But Amelia—” Noele opened her mouth, then caught herself. She shook her head and proceeded down the steps. “Amelia will be fine. She’s my master, after all.”
Still, the blonde girl couldn’t help but worry, even as she reached the bottommost floor of the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep.
“SOMEONE SAVE ME! I’M GONNA DIEEEEEEEEEE—”
Deon screamed in my ear as I zipped around the labyrinth’s moving passages. I was already taking it slow just for him, but apparently, it wasn’t enough. I rolled my eyes, moving swiftly through room after room, passing hallways which I had been through a dozen times, before finally, I came to an unfamiliar hall.
I slowed, but the man didn’t stop screaming. I ignored him and dropped him as he landed at my feet, curled up into a ball. I eyed him and crossed my arms, while he continued to sob uncontrollably.
“I’m going to die— I don’t want to die… I don’t…” And he finally blinked, coming back to reality.
I gave him a flat stare. “Are you done?”
He looked around at our surroundings, eyes widening as he saw the circular chamber. A vast room that led to an arched gateway at the end. I watched as he quickly picked himself and dusted off his armor.
“It seems we’ve arrived,” he coughed and started forward. “What lies at the other side of this gate should bring us back to where we came from.”
I shrugged and walked after him. “It better. If not, I’m going to bring down this whole mountain if I have to.”
Deon bit his lower lip as he came to a halt. “T-that’s a joke, right?”
“Does it sound like a joke?” I glanced back at him as I reached the gate. I pulled the heavy gilded doors open as he opened his mouth.
“It…” he trailed off, before pausing. His eyes widened and he pointed past me. “Watch out!”
I cocked my head as a shadow loomed over me. “Watch what—”
And a giant axe fell against my back. Deon screamed as he dashed forward.
“NOOO— oh.” His footsteps slowed as he watched the axe explode into a thousand pieces.
I glanced back, watching the broken hilt of the polearm recede. A towering creature stood behind me, at the other side of the gate. It had the head of a bull, and the hind legs of a horse. Its upper body was that of a broad man’s chest. It stood over ten feet tall, staring down at its broken weapon, huffing.
“What’s this? A minotaur?” I raised a brow.
Deon backed up warily, gritting his teeth. He eyed me from afar as the minotaur dropped his broken weapon and raised a fist.
“That’s right,” he started. “It’s equal to an SS-rank—”
But I slashed up with my sword before he could finish. The minotaur split vertically in half in an instant as his eyes bulged out of its sockets. He gaped as the monster collapsed with a heavy thud, and I turned to him as I shook my head.
“Let’s keep a move on,” I casually called after him, lowering my blade. “Noele’s waiting for me upstairs.”
I waited for him, but he just stood there. His gaze darkened. His eyes shadowed over. He lowered his head as he spoke in a soft whisper.
“The minotaur is powerful, yes. But its strength is S-rank alone. Its greatest threat comes from its power to regenerate.” His eyes glinted, and he met my gaze.
I furrowed my brows. I turned slowly, hearing a wet sound behind me. My eyes grew wide as I watched the minotaur’s flesh knit together. Its sheared body mending, restoring it to its original form. Its shadow rose threateningly as the red light in its eyes returned, glaring down my way.
Deon clenched a fist as he spoke in a defeated voice. “There is a reason why a minotaur is so greatly feared— there is a reason why the magical arts used to create them was forbidden at some point in history. Because a minotaur cannot be killed—”
And I swung up again. The minotaur collapsed. Deon blinked. He opened his mouth, but I slashed out again, this time, horizontally. The monster collapsed into four parts as he tried to work his jaw.
“...what are you doing?” he asked, flummoxed.
I swung out again with two slashes as the minotaur’s body shifted, my attacks much faster than before.
“You said it can regenerate, right? That doesn’t mean it can’t be killed,” I said simply.
“But it cannot be killed!” he protested. “It will recover from any attack you—” And Deon winced as I slashed out five times in a single instant.
The minotaur’s body rippled— almost like it was made of water. It tried to stitch itself back together as I took a step back. I smirked at Deon.
“Sure, it can recover. But can it recover faster than I can kill it?”
“What…?” He blinked a few times, and I turned to face the regenerating minotaur.
It let out a roar, and I swung out with a flurry of strikes. My blade blurred as I struck the giant monster faster and faster. This time, I didn’t stop. I sliced apart the minotaur as it tried to regenerate. A storm of slashes. From afar, it almost looked like I had a thousand blades at once.
Deon watched this, before rubbing his eyes. He glanced at the rapidly disintegrating minotaur, then at me. He pinched his cheeks, then lightly slapped his face. When he didn’t get the response he wanted from his body, he just sat himself down against the stone floor, curled up into a ball, and rocked back and forth.
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