A boulder-sized chunk of diseased flesh crashed on top of the Inquisition’s ranks. Though most of them managed to get away, a few were trapped underneath it. The others immediately surrounded the disgusting brown mass and showered it with purification magic, causing it to shrivel and wither away into harmless dust. The troops had only seconds to spare before the concentrated hunk of Blight claimed the lives of the soldiers it landed on and transformed them into fearsome Death Knights. It was therefore paramount that they not allow that to happen.
However, them bunching up like this was also precisely what the enemy had expected, as seen by how another profane projectile was about to strike almost the exact same spot. The Paladins and Priests hesitated for a split second, torn between the need to save their trapped allies and preserving their own skin. Thankfully that was a mistake they were spared from making when a massive shadow passed overhead.
“Fear not, friends!” the figure yelled down at them. “Björn is here for you!”
Two loud stomps, a cloud of dust and a wet thud later, they looked up to see what appeared to be a steel tower on legs that had leapt between them and the enemy.
“Hahaha! Going to need more than that!”
The three-meter-tall man laughed heartily as he shook the sticky meat-boulder from his equally gigantic tower shield. Clad head-to-toe in battered metal plating and with those decorative horns poking out of his helmet and shoulders, it was rather easy for the humans to mistake Björn for a fiend. However, even those demons had nothing on the height, girth, and overall size of this absolute unit of a man.
Then again, his dimensions were rather normal as far as Percepeia’s giants were concerned.
“Onward, friends!” he encouraged them. “Take heart and stand behind Björn!”
Those few simple words were all the Inquisition troops needed to turn their shock into vigor.
The soldiers piled behind the walking fortress as he pushed forward towards the undead ranks. Arrows, Spells, stones, bones and flesh clattered against the ridiculously heavy steel plate the giant called a shield like raindrops on a window. The regular-sized folk couldn’t help but thank their respective deities that Björn and his comrades were on their side. Not only was their immense strength deeply appreciated, but each of them seemed to radiate an aura of hope and positivity in spite of the dire situation.
A little further down the frontline was another giant who roared with laughter as he bowled over dozens of ghouls with every swing of his tree-sized totem. This one was mostly bare chested, allowing everyone to see the colorful shamanistic tattoos that covered his entire upper body. His thick brown hair, beard and moustache were styled in rope-like braids that swung around wildly whenever he moved. Which was practically all the time considering there seemed to be no end to these undead creatures.
Noticing a particularly dense group of foes approaching, he slammed his simplistic weapon into the barren soil in front of them.
The gnarled inscriptions along the totem’s length let out a dull green light as he channeled his magic through it. The ground groaned, heaved and cracked in response, then suddenly split open to swallow and bury his targets.
“Watch it, Gisli!” the gnomish woman riding his shoulder shouted. “You nearly got some of our guys caught up in that!”
“Apologies, tiny one!” he bellowed back. “The land is sick, it does not obey my commands that well!”
“Ugh, this is why I hate you naturalist types,” she grumbled. “You wouldn’t know mana control if it walked up to you and bit you on the nose.”
The little Pyromancer looked up to see another mass of rotting flesh about to hit the platoon behind Gisli. She decided to demonstrate some of that control she was always going on about by intercepting the projectile with a well-placed Fireball. Her Spell wasn’t powerful enough to incinerate it outright, but knocked it off course so that it landed between the Inquisition’s formations rather than on top of them. She turned her attention back to the ground, where a bunch of howling zombies were trying to run past Gisli’s legs.
“Hope your ass is fireproof!”
That was the only warning she gave her ‘mount’ before a wave of magical flames enveloped both the undead and the giant’s lower body. Gisli grit his teeth and powered through the pain, thankful that the pint-sized Pyromancer had warned him to wear fireproof pants the day before. He also had to admit, having this snarky flamethrower on his shoulder was a far more effective combat strategy than he thought it would be. Mostly because he didn’t expect the woman called Jinny Sparklight to be able to cling to him so securely with how much he moved around, let alone how terrifyingly accurate her Spells were.
But perhaps the thing he appreciated most was having someone around to watch his back at all times.
“Wahahaha!” he roared with laughter once again. “This must be how two-headed ogres feel!”
“Focus, Gisli! We have some of your former friends coming!”
“Yeah,” the man’s bright smile diminished. “I see them.”
It was the first time Jinny had ever seen anything put a damper on the giant’s mood, but she understood how he felt. The three lumbering figures that were running straight at them were a species of undead called jotun. These ancient giants had died in the frozen northern wastes of Percepeia, raised from their icy tombs by the Boneshaper’s vile magic. Not only were they formidable warriors, but they also commanded the same unforgiving cold that had claimed their lives centuries ago.
The thing that Gisli hated most about them, however, was the grim reminder of what had befallen the homeland he had never seen. It wasn’t some disembodied sense of patriotism that made him feel this way, though. No living thing wanted to see the twisted, shambling corpses of their own kind walking around, let alone trying to kill them. Still, he felt it was up to him to liberate the dead giants from the Blight’s wretched grasp, so he stepped forward to challenge the jotun trio despite Jinny’s protests.
For better or for worse, the Shaman was denied the chance of doing something unbelievably stupid when a streak of golden light flew overhead. She was an angel, draped in white and gold robes of purity and piety, with a golden halo over her hooded face and radiant wings sprouting from her back. The jotuns swung their frozen clubs upward, launching an avalanche of icy spikes at the holy woman that did nothing but shatter and disappear against the barrier created by her Aegis Spell.
“Symbol of Purity!”
The angelic priestess activated her Ultimate with a commanding shout, causing a flower-like sigil of golden light the size of a barn to appear behind her back. It lingered there for a moment before bursting into countless radiant petals that rained down on the undead beneath her, reducing all of them - the jotun included - to dust. Gisli and Jinny stared slack-jawed at the angel as she darted off to another part of the battlefield, no doubt seeking other particularly vile things to purge with extreme prejudice.
However, the giant-gnome duo hadn’t been the only one watching.
“Tsk. I don’t have many of those icy boys left.”
Observing all this transpire from several kilometers away was a certain man. He had chalk-gray skin, glowing purple eyes and ghostly white hair that was parted by a pair of elfin ears. A luxurious-looking coat the color of dried blood covered his otherwise bare torso, its rigid collar tall enough to conceal the lower half of his face. A matching skirt-like garment obscured his lower body completely, and his clawed fingers gripped a foul-looking staff of polished bone and preserved sinew.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter in the end,” he grumbled. “Those fools may win the fight, but they won’t win this war.”
This hadn’t been the first occasion where the Inquisition forces dispatched to Velos had clashed against his undead armies, nor would it be the last. As a Blight Lord, Aleister could easily raise an army or six in a matter of days, provided he was given enough raw material. And given how stubborn, virulent and viral life on this continent was, there was most assuredly no shortage of that. Unfortunately, he lacked the means to gather the critical mass necessary to produce another plague belcher after his failure with the orc warlord called Gutzstompa. Nor was he likely to get it anytime soon.
Though Aleister was by no means a match for the infamous Boneshaper, he shared many of the same ‘gifts’ as the original Blight Lord. As his species’ name suggested, he could conjure, control, and manipulate the undead plague with ease. He didn’t need to invest his MP into producing minions like a Necromancer, though he could certainly do so if he wanted to. It was just far more efficient to contaminate an area with Blight and then seize control of the monstrosities and aberrations that the disease spawned.
Unfortunately, living things tended to run from a Blighted area due to those bothersome survival instincts they all had. The disease also moved quite slowly after he ‘seeded’ an area with it, so only those caught in the initial wave of Blight would be of use to him. And since his Blight Dispersal Skill had a range of ‘only’ three hundred meters, getting tens of thousands of bodies caught up in that had proven to be stupidly difficult. Not to mention the quality of the carcasses normally left behind was rather poor since only the weaklings failed to escape the Blight cloud before they died. Though the Blight Lord could roam around and raise all the ghouls, specters, zombies and skeletons he wanted, producing high-class undead like jotun or plague belchers was currently impossible. This meant that the number of ‘icy boys’ he brought with him when he deserted the Blighted Lands was quite finite, so losing three of them in an instant like that was not good.
Still, though Aleister could only field a limited number of powerful units, the living were also similarly restricted in the number of holy warriors they could send against him. Sure, angelic enlightened could wipe out scores of undead by themselves, but no individual was powerful enough to win a war single-handedly. The rank and file soldiers were far more important in terms of overall military strength, but getting more of those took time, resources, and willing volunteers. The Blight Lord, on the other hand, had an entire continent worth of ‘recruits’ that he could ‘train’ with a wave of his hand. Even Inquisition troops that fell in combat could be added to his ranks. Such was the grim reality of the undead war machine.
In short, unless the head of this unholy incursion was removed, then the living had no chance of winning this conflict.
Which was why Aleister never once showed himself on anything that had been, was, or could become a battlefield. Having obtained and mastered the Lightbinder Job from his lengthy stay in the giants’ dead homeland, he was capable of both observing and directing his armies from afar. He also shrouded himself with layers of obfuscating illusory magic and defensive barriers while suppressing the copious amount of Blight his body normally emitted. He was a phantom that orchestrated one massacre after the next, always watching anonymously from the sidelines.
However, though Aleister was right in thinking himself nigh-impossible to track down, he had severely underestimated just how resourceful the gods’ chosen could be.
A Gate suddenly opened above and behind the Blight Lord, who failed to notice it since he was preoccupied remotely viewing the battle with clairvoyance magic. He did, however, notice when something smashed into his outermost defensive layer, cracking the invisible barrier in the process. Snapping his consciousness away from the distance and back to his surroundings, Aleister looked up to see none other than the embodiment of justice, the Hero of the Hammer and the Grand Inquisitor himself - Sigmund Law. A man whose sanctified holy armor, inscribed two-handed mace, radiant aura, furrowed brows and glinting scalp made it abundantly clear he was not here by chance or coincidence.
“Taste the goddess’s wrath, villain!” the Paladin declared. “Justice From Above!”
A torrent of divine energy fell upon the Blight Lord as a waterfall of white light, the overwhelming force of which instantly pierced through all of his magical defenses. The mastermind behind the largest orc uprising in history did not even get the chance to speak as his body was obliterated. When the effects of Sigmund’s most powerful Skill dissipated, the only thing left of Aleister was a crumbling statue of salt in his image and a rather interesting damage notification.
Your target has been thoroughly purified. Target HP -31,536.
Justice From Above grew in power in direct proportion to how evil and beyond redemption the Skill’s wielder deemed their target to be and how powerful that conviction was. Which, considering that Aleister was the most despicable, deceitful and blasphemous existence that Sigmund had ever known, meant it was only natural the ability would be devastating. It was straight up cheating, no matter how one looked at it. Yet the human Paladin did not relax his guard just yet, as his gut feeling told him this wasn’t going to end so easily.
These things never did.
His hunch was proven true before the proverbial dust had a chance to settle. Mere moments later, the elf-like statue of salt burst to reveal a perfectly unharmed Blight Lord. With the villain’s defenses down, Sigmund wasted no time in charging at him head-first, determined to put hammer to face in as expedient a manner as possible. He was not faster than Aleister’s next move, however.
“Grasp of the Undying!”
Thrusting his palm forward in a pushing motion, the undead commander caused a massive skeletal hand to burst from the withered soil at his feet. The Paladin swung his divinity-emanating weapon at the colossal limb before it could wrap its fingers around him. He succeed in shattering its hand, but the broken wrist still hit him in the chest like a battering ram, throwing him away from his target. He tumbled across the ground, somehow managing to rise to his feet and grind to a halt. When Sigmund turned his gaze back towards his opponent, he saw Aleister already escaping through the air. It seemed as though the Blight Lord would escape the ambush unharmed, as non-Ranker Paladins couldn’t fly and were rather limited in their long-ranged attack options.
However, Sigmund was just the vanguard.
An invisible wave of force crashed against the fleeing undead, sending him face-first into the dirt with so much force that the Hero of the Hammer felt the ground tremble beneath his feet.
“Took your sweet time getting here,” the bald man grumbled.
“Apologies, Gux needed time to tie his shoelaces.”
The Hero of Rain offered a rather questionable excuse as he descended from the still-open Gate Spell. He was clearly barefoot, so his words were rather suspect to say the least. However, Sigmund had no right to complain. It was through Gux’s Ultimate Skill that he even found Aleister to begin with, as the vile being’s illusions made him invisible to both sight and divination. Yet the Heroes knew he would be skulking about, as raptor scouts provided by the local government had found traces of a powerful undead being in the area surrounding their previous large-scale battles.
Granted, there was no guarantee that those tracks belonged to Aleister himself, or that he would show up to every war zone. Nor was Gux confident he could find the undead commander with his Wandering Mind even if he was lurking about. The sightless lizard had to roam around with his disembodied consciousness, hoping to ‘bump into’ the Blight Lord’s illusory command post. The fact that he managed to locate him a mere thirty minutes after the nearby skirmish started was nothing short of a miracle.
And, in a manner that the Goddess of Probability would most assuredly approve, the Heroes instantly leapt at the chance that presented itself.
Unfortunately, though Gux inflicted a horrendous amount of damage, the Blight Lord still rose to his feet without so much as a stagger, as if all the scaly Psionic had done was trip him over. Granted, the Kinetic Slam wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as the signature move of Teresa’s chosen, but the blind raptor was certain he heard bone-cracking noises when his target hit the ground.
“Be aware,” his words echoed through his psychic link. “Our foe possesses a powerful recovery ability.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Sigmund added. “He took nearly thirty thousand damage from me and hasn’t suffered a single scratch.”
“He cannot elude his destruction forever,” Orrin’s reassuring words followed. “We will not fail to stamp this evil out!”
The Hero of the Sun was the last one to pass through the open Gate before it was shut tight. The Blight Lord was an unknown quantity, though it was safe to assume he would chew up the rank and file soldiers like nothing. He would also likely not show himself if too many big names were missing from the battle. Hence why it was decided that a strike team of the three Heroes would be sent out to challenge Aleister while the rest dealt with his minions. Or at least that had been the intent, but it would appear someone else had made it through the collapsing gateway at the last second.
Someone short, armored, and constantly pissed off.
“Heads up, ye snivelin’ jessie gomerel!”
Those words were the only warning Hilda gave before she landed in front of the Blight Lord, her axe cleaving him top to bottom, right through the middle. It passed so effortlessly through him that the dwarf momentarily thought she was cleaving butter. However, when she looked back up, she saw he was completely unscathed and already preparing a counter-attack. His hand came down on her in a wide swiping motion while sheathed in a putrid-looking brown-green gas. The unexpected and ominous counter-strike would have definitely hit her if not for Gux, who managed to push Aleister away with a telekinetic burst.
Sigmund dashed past the hot-headed dwarf as he chased after his quarry. He took a swing at the undead, but it was deflected by a barrier of bone that rose up from the ground to surround Aleister. Orrin followed up by striking at the undead with a Holy Smite Spell, but it was negated by some kind of necrotic energy shield. Hilda pulled her axe from the ground just in time to have Gux place a hand on her helmet and ‘invite’ her into the Heroes’ telepathic channel.
“You are not authorized to be here!” Sigmund’s commanding voice entered her thick skull.
“I go where the fight is at, Baldie!” she responded immediately.
That really was her entire reason for being here. Hilda had done nothing but clean up fodder since she came to Velos. First it was the orcs, then the undead, and occasionally undead orcs, but it was all a dull and monotonous chore. Part of why she’d come to this continent was to hone her skills and shake off the rust in preparation for the Dragon Festival. Her intuition and insight told her something big was about to go down with the Heroes gearing up for battle, so she lurked around their area of the human command post. That was how she was able to follow them through that portal, the Inquisition officers at the other end finding themselves entirely incapable of stopping her.
“Your assistance is most appreciated, Hilda of the Raging Tempest,” Orrin greeted her. “This foe is proving to be far more durable than expected.”
“Yeah, ‘bout that.”
Hilda didn’t need to be told killing that guy would not be easy. Seeing him shrug off her full-forced blow like that had been disheartening, to say the least. She’d also noticed the giant beam of light that accompanied Sigmund’s Hero Skill just before she leapt through the Gate. Yet the man’s opponent was still kicking, which meant he either missed or it didn’t prove itself effective. And given the circumstances, the latter seemed far more likely than the former.
However, unlike Gux or Sigmund, she had gotten up close and personal with the Blight Lord to deliver her killing blow, which allowed her to see something beneath his coat. He had dozens of tiny dolls made from hair, bone and flesh hanging from the garment’s inner side, each suspended by a small chain. She didn’t get a good look at all of them, but two of them in particular caught her attention. One was turned into salt, and the other had been cut in half.
“He’s got some kinda effigies on him that are taking the damage in his stead!”
The dwarf proved her decades of adventuring hadn’t been just for show by delivering this crucial piece of information in as concise a manner as possible. Though neither she nor the Heroes had even heard of such magic existing, the unshakable confidence that accompanied her thoughts made it clear she was certain of it. This wasn’t a blind guess nor was it something based on previous experiences, but a stated fact that none of the others could deny.
The ability that let Aleister cheat death three times in a row was called Undying Effigy, and it did precisely what Hilda had surmised. The Skill allowed its wielder to escape death over and over, though preparing the effigies was a time consuming and arduous process. Though his enemies didn’t know that, it was safe to assume that magic powerful enough to overcome a Hero Skill was not something that could be invoked at a moment’s notice. This meant that, though the Blight Lord seemed to have quite a few ‘lives,’ they were ultimately a decidedly finite number.
Which, in turn, meant that all Sigmund, Gux, Orrin and Hilda had to do was keep killing Aleister until he stopped getting back up. His body seemed surprisingly more fragile than one might expect from a being in his position, so it wouldn’t take more than one or two solid hits to shave off an effigy. Landing said hits was easier said than done, however, as the Blight Lord constantly assaulted them with constructs of bone and beams of piercing light while hiding behind barriers and illusions. He also allowed the Blight he carried to spread out like a heavy cloud of death. Orrin did his best to cleanse the disease, but this strain of the plague was far more potent and resilient than any he’d encountered.
It soon became clear what Aleister’s game plan was. He was intending to keep the living busy while the Blight oozing from him seeped into his enemies’ lungs, muscles and bones. It seemed to be working, too. Despite Orrin and Gux’s combined efforts to ward off the disease through their respective Priest and Shaman Spells, it eventually started affecting them and their comrades. Their HP began to drain away at a constantly accelerating pace and their limbs grew heavier and heavier as their life force was sapped from their bodies. Even if the plague was cleansed, it would only take moments for it to start setting in again.
The fight had essentially turned into a race wherein the four enlightened tried to snuff out all of the undead creature’s lives while they still drew breath. They could retreat, of course, but Aleister would not give them another chance like this. He had already been giving them the run-around for months, and this had been the only time they’d managed to even see him, let alone attack him. If he escaped here, he would surely take measures to ensure this sort of situation never repeated itself. That was just how cunning and methodical he had proven himself to be.
Unfortunately, as the fight dragged on, it seemed like the Heroes’ side was losing the competition. With Gux and Orrin having to devote more and more energy towards warding off the Blight as best they could, they could not assist Sigmund and Hilda in getting as many clean hits on Aleister. This meant the fight would drag on, which was precisely the sort of thing the Blight Lord wanted. Reinforcements were also unlikely to show up any time soon, as the undead plague surrounding them was now thick enough to form an off-brown fog. The disease also empowered its master, making him even faster and harder to pin down than before.
“… Forgive me, Solus,” Orrin muttered under his breath. “It seems I will require your aid after all.”
Though he didn’t want to take away from what little precious divine power his patron deity had, the Hero of the Sun recognized he had no other option. He activated Celestial Avatar with a silent prayer, causing his massive body to turn into what could only be described as solidified sunlight. The warm, nurturing light he emanated rapidly dispersed the foul disease and filled his allies with unparalleled vigor. Aleister let out a pained hiss and raised a hand to shield his eyes from the golden radiance, his body already dissolving into streams of black smoke.
“Praise the sun, mortals!” Orrin’s voice boomed. “For it will deliver you from this creature’s vile machinations!”
The giant spread his luminescent arms out, prompting a swirling beam of sunlight to shoot from his chest. It enveloped Aleister in an instant, leaving him as little more than a shadow that danced in a sea of golden light. His body rapidly cycled between being reduced to bare bones and turning back to normal as the Celestial Avatar’s stream of concentrated energy tore through his stockpile of Undying Effigies like a hungry mimic through an orphanage.
However, though it seemed as though the Blight Lord was done for, the Heroes were forgetting one thing. The Boneshaper had no doubt faced a Hero of the Sun before, and as his lieutenant, Aleister was fully aware of how to handle the troublesome bright-eyes. The smog-like cloud of Blight surrounding the area began moving like it had a mind of its own. It rose up, rapidly converging overhead as it grew thicker and denser. The other Heroes and their vertically challenged ally were still blinded by Orrin’s radiance, so none of them were able to see what was going on before it was too late.
The burst of energy coming from the Celestial Avatar began to diminish and fade away, forcing Orrin to return to his far less flashy self. The giant fell to his hands and knees, feeling both drained and confused. He looked up to see that the Blight cloud had turned black as charcoal and had completely blocked out the sun’s rays. As powerful as the Celestial Avatar was, it had the caveat that it could not function without a direct line of sight to the source of power it drew upon.
And to make matters worse, Aleister was still standing. His regal coat had been burned off of him by the divine beam, along with all of the Undying Effigies it carried. This left his scrawny upper body completely bare, revealing a gaping hole on the left side of his chest that had been concealed by the magical garment. A ball of thorny vines was visible within the ancient wound, the mysterious organ pulsating within his chest like a makeshift heart.
Having spotted the now-obvious weak point, Sigmund and Hilda immediately moved forward to finish the job, but the Blight Lord had one more trick up his sleeve. He activated Blight Dispersal, causing a literal wall of the disease to spread out from his profane being. It crashed over the Berserker, the Paladin, the Psionic and the Priest, instantly infecting them to their cores. The enlightened choked, sputtered and coughed as the disease filled their lungs and robbed them of their strength, forcing them to collapse on the ground like stacks of bricks.
“That’s more like it!” Aleister declared triumphantly. “Took you long enough to blow your load, sunny-boy.”
The burst of energy that transformed a Hero of the Sun into the Celestial Avatar had the power to instantly disperse all sickness and corruption. It was the perfect counter to Aleister’s Blight Dispersal, which was without a doubt his strongest weapon. No living thing, no matter how powerful, would last long when the very air they breathed and the soil they stood on conspired to weaken them. Aleister, on the other hand, fed off of the Blight, using it to both restore and empower himself. His body grew several sizes larger as his previously scrawny torso bulged up into a muscular frame that put Sigmund’s to shame. Even the gaping hole on his chest was closed up, obscuring the mysterious organ within.
“Aw, what’s the matter, human?” he gloated as he loomed over Teresa’s chosen. “Where’s all that pep you had a second ago?!”
He then kicked the armored man, sending him crashing into Orrin’s heaving body.
“I will admit, you almost had me there,” he added in a mocking tone. “Too bad you were so pathetic that even your god-given gifts weren’t enough to carry your sorry asses.”
“I don’t need… no blimey god…” Hilda spoke as she rose to her shaky feet. “All I need… to squash a limey cunt like ye… is me own fists!”
The dwarf unleashed the indomitable wrath that only a Level 100 Berserker could muster. She let out a deafening war cry and charged at Aleister, ready to throw her life away if it meant she could take this insufferable twat-lord with her. The undead grinned under his face mask and spread his arms out as if to welcome her futile charge. He wasn’t going to let the dwarf touch him, of course. He was merely looking forward to seeing her wallow in despair when he swatted her away with minimal effort. And then, once she and her companions had perished, he would raise them to be his subordinates, just to spite the gods that turned their backs on him and his family oh-so-long ago.
Unfortunately for Aleister, there was one rogue variable on Velos that neither he nor the Inquisition had taken into account.
Hilda didn’t even see the thing that landed on the Blight Lord. The force of the impact was so great that the resulting winds and shockwaves made the earth quake and the Blight scatter, the thundering noise that followed moments later drowning out all other sounds. Though the dwarf managed to somehow stay on her feet, the only thing in her vision was the wave of dust and stone that battered her armor. It almost seemed as if the ‘limey cunt’ had spontaneously exploded. Which, while an amusing thought, was highly unlikely to say the least.
As the turbulent winds subsided and clean, cold air filled her lungs, Hilda was able to catch a glimpse of someone she never thought she’d be happy to see. A familiar black-haired woman with a neutral mask for a face and a lazy look in her inhumanly yellow eyes. The dwarf momentarily wondered if she had the wrong person, given that the one she was thinking of didn’t have feline ears, furry forearms or bird feet. She most definitely had wings though, even if they were markedly different from the ones in front of her.
However, no matter how impossible or nonsensical it seemed, there was nobody else that face could belong to.
“… Jen?” the dwarf mumbled in disbelief.
“Hilda?” the griffin-harpy answered unthinkingly.
“What in Goroth’s bawsack is going on?!”
A realization dawned on Jen. She was not supposed to reveal her new monstrous disposition to anyone. Yet here she was, with four very prominent people staring straight at her. She had no idea that her old frenemy and three entire Heroes would be in this cloud of Blight when she decided to ‘drop in’ on a random target within it. All she did was follow her Disciple of Chaos Skill as it guided her towards a powerful foe for her to vanquish. It led her to the nearby battlefield, but it was Orrin’s flashy Skill that drew her attention to this spot in particular. She just wanted to collect a shiny thing to present Boxxy with as a token of appreciation, so how did things turn out like this?
Worse still, she had no way of silencing these four short of killing them. Though the battle maniac part of her relished the challenge, her monstrously pragmatic side instantly recognized the idea as a very poor one. Though these four were clearly exhausted from their battle, the high-altitude supersonic Air Raid that Jen just pulled off had taken its toll on her. Though she hid it rather well, the ridiculous forces she had been playing around with had left her right leg broken in three places. She was in no condition to challenge four veteran fighters, not to mention that murdering three Heroes at once would no doubt cause far more trouble than she was already in.
On the upside, finishing off whoever it was she had stomped flat had given her a ridiculous amount of XP, enough to finally reach Level 25 of her Griffin and Harpy Jobs. She now had the ability to Rank Up, not only making her even stronger but also fulfilling the task that Boxxy had given her upon her initial transformation. Having her secret outed in such spectacular fashion seemed like a small price to pay for those dividends.
After mulling things over for a few tense moments, Jen threw her captive audience a cheeky ‘V’ sign with her fingers and darted off into the sky with Dustoff, her talons still wrapped around Aleister’s mangled remains.
“So… care to explain what that was about?” Orrin asked Hilda as he treated everyone’s injuries.
“It seemed to Gux as though the angry one knew our mysterious savior,” the Hero of Rain pointed out.
“I would also like to know what that wanted criminal is doing here,” Sigmund said sternly.
“I wish I knew what to tell ye, fellas,” Hilda scratched her helmet. “I’m just as confused as the rest of ye.”
“Well. I guess the Blight Lord has fallen, if nothing else,” the giant chuckled. “I say we focus on that and let the rest be.”
“You know what, Orrin?” Sigmund looked up at him. “That’s the best damn idea I’ve heard all day.”
Frankly speaking, the man had already had it with this blasted continent. The countless greenskins, man-eating plants and maddeningly humid climate were one thing. The Boneshaper wannabe and that incomprehensibly powerful demoness were another. But a wanted war criminal-turned-harpy bailing him out of a tight spot and then just leaving like it was no big deal?
“Fuck this place, I’m going home.”
That was where he drew the line.