It took me a while to break through to the surface. I had leapt straight up from the center of the labyrinth— where the walls weren’t enchanted to crumble around me with the rest of the mountain— burrowing straight for the surface.
I could’ve made it out in a single bound, but I carried Deon at my back. Even if he was unconscious, he wouldn’t have survived that. Sure, he might not be screaming since he was passed out, but he still could die.
So I had to take it slowly and gently. I bore through the earth, making sure that Deon was protected, until finally, I burst out of the other side… all the way at the top of a mountain. I blinked as I landed, sweeping my gaze over the surroundings.
I had completely missed the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. I had emerged from the mountain above that Dungeon. I sighed, quite annoyed that I had overshot it by quite a bit. I opened my mouth to make an annoyed comment, only to pause when I saw the figures gathering far beneath the clouds.
At the base of the mountain, a horde of undead poured forth, swarming over the snow. They charged into the ruined castle below. They swarmed down the stairs, heading to where I had left Noele and Saros behind.
They couldn’t have handled all those skeletons and zombies. Well, I didn’t really care about Saros that much, but Noele was there…
I narrowed my eyes and moved. There was no more wasting time. I had to act before it was too late.
“Get to the vault!” Saros yelled as he reached into his Bag of Holding.
The outpouring of skeletons and ghouls didn’t falter. High-leveled undead and low-leveled undead alike charged for the pair of A-rank adventurers, bloodlust on their dead faces. Ready to tear the two of them apart. But the Gnome Inventor wasn’t going to let them. He pulled out a wand and pointed, unleashing a blast of green lightning into the sea of skeletons.
“Hurry!” he said, glancing back to Noele.
She stumbled back, one arm bleeding as she turned to face the gilded double doors at the back of the room. With one fell swoop, she crossed the distance to the vault using a [Flash Step]. It exacerbated her injuries. The blonde girl grunted and staggered. Steadying herself against the door, she pulled herself up with all her remaining strength and reached for the metal grip.
Heaving, Noele tried to pull the large double doors open— but the vault didn’t budge. She nearly fell back as she heard the clatter of undead behind her. Saros had tossed a little metal sphere into the center of the horde, and it exploded with a gust of wind, knocking the lower-leveled undead apart.
“What’s taking so long?” the gnome sputtered as he ran up to her.
“It’s… it’s not opening!” Noele exclaimed, wide-eyed in terror.
She tried to force the double doors open— the vault groaned. It quite literally rippled. But even with her [The Titan’s Strength], she couldn’t pry it apart. It was enchanted. Perhaps with magic that she could dismantle given enough time.
However, it was time that Noele and Saros both lacked.
They glanced back, staring at the undead encroaching on them. Their approach had been momentarily halted by that wind pulse. Plenty of skeleton knights were destroyed from that attack, but more took their place, and the higher-leveled undead arrived.
Liches that blazed with twisted green magic. Skeletal wraiths that walked with an ethereal azure aura. A group of dreadnought zombies marched forward— their fulsome flesh melting with each step they took, the droplets sizzling as it touched the stone ground.
There were too many of them— these undead would overwhelm the two A-ranks. Noele’s grip on her sword tightened. She tried to reach for her soul. She tried to conjure up another aura blade with an Elegant Noble Slash. But she was too exhausted.
And she heard a roar. A clamoring came from the back of the horde. Noele’s eyes widened as a juggernaut ghoul tore its way through the ranks of skeletons. Saros cursed as he eyed the barreling creature.
“Nephilim save me— another juggernaut ghoul? How are we going to deal with that?!” The Gnome Inventor pressed up against the vault door, frantically searching through his Bag of Holding.
Noele clenched her teeth. “I… I don’t—” she started.
But the blonde girl paused. Her eyes narrowed as she caught sight of a flicker beyond the converging undead. It was a subtle thing. In fact, she was certain what she saw wasn’t actually even from this floor. It was like a prefiguration of what was to come.
And Noele was right. She heard a crash coming from the floor above. She heard the muffled rattling of fallen bones rolling from the ceiling. Something was swiftly making its way through the thousands and thousands— maybe even tens of thousands— of undead pouring into the Dungeon.
It moved quickly. It was already making its way down the stairs before the charging juggernaut ghoul could take another step. The liches had yet to even unleash their magic. The dripping acidic skin of the dreadnought zombies had yet to touch the ground. The entire world moved in slow motion as Noele blinked.
And when she opened her eyes, the entire horde of undead was sliced apart.
Liches crumpled to the ground, their skulls falling from the rest of their bodies, and their magicks dissipating into the air. The retinue of dreadnought zombies splattered against the wall, while the skeletal wraiths rapidly faded to dust.
The skeleton knights and skeleton archers were turned into nothing but piles of bones littering the cold stone ground. Even the juggernaut ghoul didn’t survive this massacre. In fact, it suffered the worst death, having been shredded into dozens of little pieces, like cubed slices of meat at a [Butcher].
The Gnome Inventor’s eyes bulged as he saw this. His jaw nearly dropped to the floor, uncomprehending of what just occurred.
“W-w-w-what the fuck…?” He could barely even muster up any words. He was completely and utterly aghast. He clutched at his chest like he was having a heart attack and fell to his feet.
But unlike him, Noele didn’t react in such shock. She knew what happened. In fact, she expected this to happen.
A figure stood before the blonde girl, sheathing a sword.
“Amelia?” Noele raised her head.
“Sup,” her mentor said, smirking. “Sorry it took me so long to get here. I got a little lost along the way.”
The Noble Spellsword stared for a moment, while Saros just bobbed his mouth in complete awe. Closing her eyes, Noele sighed in relief and laughed.
“It’s a good thing we got a map then, right?”
The brown-haired woman blinked, then chuckled. “I told you— we should’ve gotten a second map.”
“By the way— who’s that?” Noele asked as I lowered hefted Deon off my shoulders
I laid him against the wall and shook my head. “He’s some adventurer or something. I found him in that labyrinth.”
“Labyrinth?” She raised a brow. “What labyrinth?”
“Oh, that teleportation field brought me to a labyrinth far below the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep,” I explained, dismissively waving a hand off. “It had a minotaur guarding the exit. I killed it, but there was no exit.”
Noele just nodded along, not even questioning what I was saying. “A minotaur, huh? I wish I could’ve seen it.”
“It wasn’t really anything special.” I shrugged in response. “You didn’t miss out on much.”
And as the both of us conversed, Saros just gaped. The gnome hadn’t even moved since I had defeated all the undead. He tried to work his jaw, until finally, he could speak again.
“Wait— what just happened?” he sputtered, pointing at me. “How did you kill all those undead just like that? Even S-ranks can’t just do that!”
“They can’t?” I tilted my head back at him. I thought about Jax— he had a Skill that could destroy a small city. “I’m pretty sure some of them can.”
“That’s… that’s not the damn point!” Saros exclaimed.
He stumbled to his feet and nearly tripled on Deon’s outstretched legs. Cursing, the gnome stepped back.
“Who is this human? What labyrinth are you talking about? How in the world could you kill a minotaur? And how did you do all that?”
Saros gestured emphatically at the dead undead. I crossed my arms, answering him slowly. “That’s Deon— or something. He’s an A-rank adventurer who was trapped in the labyrinth with me.”
“Deon? You mean Deon the Virtuous Guard?” Noele’s eyes grew wide.
“Yeah, him.” I nodded and turned back to Saros. I eyed him with an annoyed look. “And the labyrinth is where I ended up after you pocketed that book.”
“That’s—” He shrank back, paling.
“I killed the minotaur with this, Saros,” I said as I tapped the hilt of my sword. “So— tell me, what were you planning to do with that book?”
The gnome scrambled back, bobbing his mouth. But he couldn’t speak again. He was too gripped in fear.
“I-I-I…” He failed to speak.
But Noele stepped in. “He was just being an idiot, Amelia. We don’t need to threaten him— he’s not a [Necromancer] or anything like that.”
“Are you sure?” I asked as I frowned.
“Yes,” the blonde girl said, resolute. “Saros saved me many times earlier. He didn’t mean to trap you like that.”
My eyes flickered, still dubious, and she shook her head.
“Also— he said he’ll be giving us the payment for the job request now, after his screw up.”
“Oh.” I blinked. “Well, why didn’t you say so? I guess we have no choice but to believe him.”
Saros froze. He stared at me with wide eyes, more confused than ever. “What? Are you being serious? So you mean you aren’t going to…” He gulped as he eyed the broken undead.
But Noele moved to reassure him. “You’re fine, Saros. Amelia isn’t going to harm you. She’s very easily bribed.”
“I can hear you,” I said flatly.
The blonde girl just chuckled in response. She leant back against the wall, producing a healing potion. She drank from it as her most grievous injuries vanished, although she was still quite evidently hurt. Lowering the vial, she eyed the unconscious man at my feet.
“Why is Deon unconscious, anyway?” she asked with furrowed brows.
I answered simply, “He passed out when I told him I killed the Lich King Ar’elith.”
“Oh. That makes sense.”
“It really doesn’t,” Saros said, sighing. The gnome massaged his temples and got to his feet. He avoided my gaze, but focused his attention on Deon. “This man… he’s one of the A-ranks we’re looking for. If he was in the labyrinth, do you think that his partner and—”
“My parents!” Noele exclaimed, pushing herself off the wall. “Were they down there, Amelia? Did Deon say anything about them?”
“I didn’t see them in the labyrinth.” I shook my head. “He said he was separated from them the same way I was separated from you guys.”
“So that means they’re still up here…” Noele’s eyes grew wide as she realized something, and she glanced towards the vault at the back of the room. “Do you think they could be…?”
“Wanna check it out?” I stepped forward and reached for the doorway.
“Wait, it’s enchanted—” Saros started as he raised a hand.
And I ripped the vault’s doors open. The gnome blinked, and Noele rolled her eyes.
“You’ll get used to this, don’t worry,” she said.
“I… don’t think I want to.” Saros just lowered his hand.
I peered into the vault, tossing aside the large double doors. I narrowed my eyes as I saw the figures huddled inside before glancing back at Noele.
“I think you’ll be happy to see this.”
The blonde girl blinked. She hurried forward as the three figures in the vault shifted. They looked up as Noele came to halt by the broken doorway. Her eyes grew wide. She nearly dropped to her knees. Her lips quivered and two of the figures within stared back at her with round eyes.
“Mama… Papa…” Noele choked on her words. “I’m back.”
And she dashed forward to hug her parents, finally reunited after ten years.
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