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A note from MelasDelta

Hope y'all's New Year have been going swell :)

Mine has been going decently. Writing has been going pretty good. 

Deon the Virtuous Guard thought himself to be a rather proper man. He had been brought up with a noble upbringing— the son of a lord in the rural parts of the Astrad Kingdom. He was taught class and manners. He was given a thorough education not just on history, but on the social aspect of life as well.

This was an education that most adventurers were severely lacking. It wasn’t a critique of their characters— Deon’s partner, Skye the Silver Shade, was a commoner who also lacked these skills he had— but rather, it was an observation. Because there were a multitude of times the Virtuous Guard had to stop his partner from acting brashly in a way that would ruin a potentially lucrative job, and he had seen a similar thing happen with plenty of other adventurers who squandered opportunities due to their behavior.

In short, Deon was a normally calm man with a cool head on his shoulder. He tried to think things through rationally, rather than go with a gut-feeling like his partner often did. He was the tactician of the pair. He was a polite and mild-mannered man who stood for what was right and just. He… was losing his mind right now.

Perhaps it was because he had spent weeks with little-to-no food or sleep in an ever-changing labyrinth where he had to constantly run for his life from a minotaur. Or maybe it was because this woman standing before him was completely and utterly insane.

She had randomly appeared with the mist when the walls of the labyrinth were changing, dragging him with it. Then she withstood one of his strongest Skills with ease— she quite literally just blocked it with the palm of her hand.

However, Deon could still rationalize her actions at that point. Perhaps she might’ve had some special ability that granted her a temporary invulnerability. He heard that S-ranks often gained such Skills the moment they reached their rank.

But then she picked him up and sprinted across the entire labyrinth a hundred times before he could even react. She found the exit, before slicing the minotaur guarding this Dungeon in half with one swing. And when the minotaur refused to die, she unleashed an onslaught of slashes that disintegrated the immortal beast.

Her swings were so fast, he hasn’t even been able to see the blades. All he saw was the minotaur’s bloodied body trying and failing to regenerate as it was shredded into a pulp— and she didn’t stop there. She continued cutting up the minotaur until nothing was left.

Nothing.

But that wasn’t the worst part. Despite all that, he was certain he wouldn’t be losing his mind right now if not for one simple fact.

He still didn’t know her name.

Deon couldn’t comprehend it. He saw all this, and he was almost certain he was hallucinating all of this. There was no reason for some random lady to pop up in the middle of the labyrinth to save him. He must’ve gone insane at some point while trapped down here over the last two weeks. He rocked back and forth as he tightly hugged himself.

“It’s a minotaur,” he muttered to himself. “It cannot be killed. It’s a minotaur. It cannot be killed. It’s a m—”

“Are you done?” the woman suddenly said, and he jolted.

The Virtuous Guard spun around, reaching for his halberd. She stood behind him and tilted her head. She gave him an expectant look, and his eyes grew wide. Looking past her, he saw the remains of the minotaur. And he couldn’t comprehend it. Because—

Nothing of the minotaur remained. Not even a droplet of blood. Not even a shred of hair. It was completely gone, reduced to nothingness.

He looked between the brown-haired woman and the lack of a minotaur corpse. “You’re… real, right?” he asked.

“No, I am a figment of your imagination,” she snorted. Deon blinked a few times, believing her for a moment, until she rolled her eyes. “I am real. And I’m in a rush. So get up. Let’s get out of here.”

She started off as he was left gaping where he stood.

 

—--

 

Honestly, if I wanted to, I could have killed the minotaur in a single hit. But I knew that if I wanted to completely obliterate it, I might accidentally bring this entire labyrinth down. Considering that Noele was still somewhere up there in the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep, I wasn’t going to do anything that could collapse the entire mountain. This was a more efficient method of killing the minotaur— by shredding it into atoms.

I shook my head as I walked past where the guardian of the labyrinth stood, entering the arched gateway to the other side. There was a large round chamber there. Ornate and gilded, I swept my gaze over the diamond-encrusted walls and looked at the elevated platform at the center of the room. A circular stairway decorated with rubies and sapphires rose like a pyramid with the platform, holding what seemed like a podium up top.

Walking up these steps, I glanced back to see Deon slowly trailing after me. He brought a hand out and sputtered.

“Wait—”

“I told you I’m in a rush,” I said flatly, not slowing.

“I haven’t even gotten your name!” he called out as he started up the stairs.

I came to a halt at the top of the elevated platform, narrowing my eyes.

“Amelia,” I replied, but my gaze was fixed on the podium.

There was a plaque there, right below what seemed to be a display case, but the glass was empty, holding nothing inside. I tried to read the words etched onto the golden surface of the plaque, but it was incomprehensible to me.

“What is this?” I frowned.

“That’s written in the old language,” Deon said as he approached me from behind. “I can decipher it. My parents made me take a class studying the old language when they forced me to go to Arcadia Academy.”

I raised a brow as he peered at the plaque. “Will this help us get out of here?”

“I’m not…” He hesitated. His eyes slowly widened as he read it aloud. “It says that… that… this is the Skull of Ar’elith the Lord of All Undeath, preserved just as it was at the time of his demise. I’m not sure—” He choked on his words.

I blinked, watching him stumble back. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s the First Lich King! The one from legend… from ten thousand years ago! They couldn’t destroy his corpse— they couldn’t find a way to permanently kill him! They had to separate each piece of his body to ensure he didn’t ever rise again!”

I paused. I raised my head as I recalled the first night I arrived in Vacuos. Didn’t I…? the thought crossed my mind.

“That’s why they buried this labyrinth so deep underground! That’s why they created a minotaur to guard this place! It was never meant to be discovered!” Raising a trembling finger, the A-rank adventurer pointed at the glass case. “But… but… it’s empty!”

“Yeah, and?” I asked, giving him a flat stare.

And he fell to his knees, heaving heavily. “If it’s empty, that means someone is gathering the pieces of the First Lich King— it means someone is trying to bring him back!”

I looked at Deon as he closed his eyes, gritting his teeth. He took a moment to steel himself. His hands balled into fists, and he forced himself to stand back up.

“We have to let the world know about this! Ar’elith cannot make a return! If he does, all of Vacuos will fall into chaos!” the A-rank adventurer exclaimed, facing me with a dire look.

I saw the resolution in his eyes. I watched the way he filled himself with determination. And I had no choice but to burst his bubble.

“You’re right, someone did collect all the pieces of Ar’elith.” I nodded, agreeing with Deon as he blinked. He stared at me as I continued. “And you’re also right, the Lich King Ar’elith did make a return.”

“He made a return…?” Deon tried to work his jaw. “What… are you saying?”

“I am saying that Ar’elith returned. And I killed him, so you don’t need to worry about him coming back again now. Let’s just focus on getting out of here, alright?” I said simply, meeting Deon’s gaze.

The A-rank adventurer froze. It looked like he was taking his time processing what I said. I pursed my lips, considering that I maybe shouldn’t have said a thing. Finally, his eyes bulged out of their sockets for a moment, then they rolled up into the back of his head.

Deon collapsed, passing out where he stood.

“I’m surprised that didn’t happen sooner.” I stared down at the unconscious adventurer and sighed. “Man, how the fuck am I going to get out of here?”

I picked him up and threw him over my shoulders. I glanced around, trying to find an exit, but there was no other door or gate leading anywhere else in this round chamber. It was just a luxuriously decorated room. There was nothing else to it. Nothing.

And that made me furrow my brows. I looked at the gold walls. I stared up at the glistening ceiling, filled with crystals of light. I didn’t see the same glinting runes in the rest of the labyrinth that threatened to collapse the entire mountain when destroyed, nor did I sense anything out of the ordinary here which caused a similar effect. It was just a room. A harmless room without traps.

So I shrugged. “I guess I found my way out.”

I took a step back, and leapt into the air in a single motion, burrowing through the ceiling, forcing my way back to the surface.

 

—--

 

Noele followed Saros down to the bottommost floor of the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. The blonde girl heard the roaring black fire behind her— she could still feel the heat from its flames in the previous room, even halfway down the stairway. That artifact, whatever it was, held the horde of undead back. But not for long.

“It’ll only last for the next five minutes!” Saros said as he heaved, leaping down the final flight of stairs. He landed with a roll as Noele caught up with him. “We have to find a place to hide before that happens!”

She pursed her lips, glancing back up. “Shouldn’t we just fight them? I think we can handle a few thousand skeleton warriors and skeleton archers just fine.”

“But we aren’t just up against those low-leveled undead, girl.” The Gnome Inventor shook his head before sweeping his gaze around the room.

The pair stood at the end of a long hallway that led out to a larger chamber at the end. His eyes narrowed as he caught sight of a gilded doorway at the other side. He ushered Noele forward, sprinting ahead.

“There are liches amongst the horde of undead. Dreadnought zombies and skeletal wraiths, too. They are B-ranked and A-ranked threats— I encountered too many of them on the way here. We can’t take them all even with the two of us working together. Not when we can’t use half our Skills or artifacts without collapsing this castle.”

“That’s… fair.” The Noble Spellsword nodded and hurried after the gnome. He turned a corner, reaching the large chamber as she eyed the double doors in the distance. “Do you think we should hide in the vault until Amelia—”

And right as Saros took another step forward, a blurred white object whipped out at him. Noele’s eyes widened as a white aura flickered out. The ring in the gnome’s finger flashed, only to dissipate, having been completely overwhelmed by that surprise strike.

“Saros—” she called out.

But he went flying, screaming in pain as blood poured out of his chest. Noele watched him crash against the wall and lay there, bleeding and gasping weakly. She spun around, and the white object lashed out at her at an incredibly fast speed.

She clicked her tongue. [Flash Step]. The blonde girl narrowly avoided this quick attack, teleporting to the center of the chamber. She bent over, raising her blade dangerously and looked on as the white object receded.

It wasn’t an object at all. It was a long serrated object, built like a spine, yet used as a whip. It was a… tail.

Noele frowned and saw a giant figure stepping forward. A creature that was over a hundred feet long, made out of bones. It had a pair of wings without the flesh, and a skull for a face that stared at her with hollow eyes. It let out a shriek, and a pair of burning green orbitals blazed into existence, filling those empty sockets.

“That’s…” Her eyes went round as she stared at the monster looming over her. The blonde girl spoke slowly as it huffed an icy breath. “A wyvern. An undead wyvern. And—”

The monster unleashed a blast of frost her way as she gritted her teeth. Her [Nobleflame Armor] blazed, even in the face of this cold attack.

“—the very same undead wyvern that my sister slayed.”

And an explosion of ice and brine engulfed where the Noble Spellsword stood.

 

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A note from MelasDelta

Remember Ar'elith?


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MelasDelta

  • February Schedule: Amelia, Salvos, Violet, and Thera ​March Schedule: Amelia, Salvos, and Violet ​April Schedule: Amelia, Salvos, and Violet
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