Light Novel – Zectas – Volume 03 – Chapter 09

Author: John Nest
Proofreader: Vaanouney
Editor: Timaeus

Note:  For easy character reference please refer to: Characters

    Forged in Flames



    Jubilant sounds came from the great hall of Banal’s emergency shelter. Igniz illuminated the otherwise bleak room. Smoke and his men cheerfully chatted away as they sat at a long table made up of several smaller wooden tables joined together.

    Big chunks of roasted war elephant meat were placed all over table and served as the main dish.

    “Wow! You really pulled out all the stops on this one, Smoke.” exclaimed Ichaival as he took a big bite out of one of the slices.

    “No, no, this is all Ledur’s work. I just made the side dishes.” Smoke replied as he pointed to the mashed potatoes and fried crickets.

    The winged Tikbalang shook his head. “It wasn’t much. We were just fortunate enough to come across a stray war elephant on our way to Banal. The rampaging beast made such a ruckus that it practically called out to us.”

    Twenty Tikbalangs banged their hooves on the table as they laughed. Rasant and Stark matched the Tikbalangs laughter as loud as they could.

    The orange Maneator rapidly tapped his hoof on the floor while the red one banged it loudly with all his strength.

    Smoke could tell that the two Maneators didn’t have a clue as to why the Tikbalangs were laughing and were just playfully copying them.

    Weise, however, remained quiet. The gray Maneator merely observed the conversation that everyone was having.

    “Well, I’m sure the great god Cuezaltzin guided this war elephant to you.” added Adder as he joined in on their conversation.

    “Pfft. I doubt Cuezaltzin still cares for us. Look at us, we’re monsters now.” said Ledur bitterly.

    With the intention to console Ledur, Adder shared his past experience. “I used to feel the same way, but you just have to believe. The right time will come for you and your brothers.”

    “Stop preaching some hypocritical nonsense. You’re only saying that because you’ve already been freed from the Lizardites’ enslavement.” said Ledur aggressively.

    Smoke sensed that the joyful meal had quickly turned sour. He was about to intervene when his second-in-command spoke again.

    “You’re absolutely right, Ledur. I’m sorry, I was out of place.” said Adder sincerely.

    Before anyone else could talk, Ichaival suddenly spoke loud for the whole table to hear, “So, did you guys hear how Thyrsus and Vijaya’s little love adventure began?”

    The occupants of the long table replied with dead silence. Only Gandiva and Laernea’s fast-paced chewing and swallowing could be heard.

    “Everything was set in motion with their attempt to save Mitleid. Sierra had just assigned them to be our battalion’s Wing Commanders.” started Ichaival.

    Still, the long awkward silence remained.

    “Vijaya blamed herself for Mitleid’s death, saying that they didn’t act fast enough because she wasn’t used to her new role. So she turned to Thyrsus for some advice. Of course, our friendly Thyrsus gave her his undivided attention. Then, she invited him to her room and—”

    Before Ichaival could finish his sentence, six falcons came out of nowhere and pulled on his black hair with their talons.

    “Okay, okay, I give up. Call them off already, Vijaya!” Ichaival pleaded as everyone smiled at him and the blushing Huntress.

    Immediately afterwards, the mood at the table returned to its pleasant nature. Smoke stood up, walked over to Ichaival and patted the Hunter’s shoulder. He gave him a knowing nod, which Ichaival returned in kind.

    Smoke moved from one seat to another to hear how all of his close friends had been. He couldn’t have been prouder of leading such an amazing assembly of Zectians.

    His only regret was that most of them had seen better days, but this only fueled his resolve to help them. In a way, he understood both Adder and Ledur’s feelings.

    ‘I’ll make sure to remove the curses afflicting the Centaurs and Sierra.’

    Smoke’s train of thought was derailed when he heard Espion call out to the Lioumereans. “Hey, Gandiva and Laernea, you two are leisurely feasting here at the table while your stag moose outside haven’t eaten yet. I bet you haven’t even unloaded all the stuff in your carriages. Which reminds me, didn’t Smoke ask you to bring—”

    Espion couldn’t finish his sentence as the two Lioumereans grabbed a coil of rope lying on a barrel behind them and tied him up neatly. They gagged him with their napkins after they were done.

    “That should keep you from bothering us during our meal.” said Laernea.

    “He’s turning out to be even worse than Ichaival.” Gandiva scoffed as both Lioumereans returned to their seats and resumed stuffing their mouths with food.

                             
    * * * * * *    KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG!

    Before the break of dawn, loud noises of pounding metal filled the air of Banal village. Jinggu, the muscular OrkElf, stood beside Adder and ten other Condortlians in a makeshift blacksmith area that Smoke created.

    Without a furnace to be used to melt the iron ingots, Smoke asked his dark purple symbiote to help Adder and his men.

    Since Banal had no Blacksmiths, Smoke had to make anvils himself. He ordered Igniz to melt the iron ingots and some of the low-quality weapons they had gathered around Banal and pour the metal into casts he created with Earth Manipulation.

    Adder lifted a hammer with his regrown left arm and swung it down hard at a rough-looking anvil, masterfully shaping some of the iron ingots into horseshoes.

    Smoke had thought about this for a while. Horseshoes would be weapons to Tikbalangs, similar to an iron knuckle, and should increase their attack.

    KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG KLANG!

    Jinggu and the Condortlians were busy forging spearheads. Smoke gave them the near-impossible task of producing at least nine hundred spearheads.

    Adder, Jinggu and the Condortlians’ exceptional strength allowed them to wield basic hammers, usable by all Jobs. They used them in a manner similar to how a Blacksmith would use a Blacksmith’s hammer.

    Only the sound of clashing iron and hammers could be heard until  Adder spoke out.

    “How many left?” Adder asked Jinggu.

    “Still have six hundred more to do.” he answered without looking up.

    “Don’t worry, Jinggu, I’ll help out with the spearheads as soon as I finish fitting all twenty-one Tikbalangs.”

    The OrkElf gave a quick courteous nod and remained silent as he kept on reshaping the iron ingots on the anvil in front of him.

    * * * * * *   
    Ichaival entertained the Banalite volunteers with his crazy antics as he prepared them for Basic Archery training. Sadly, out of the sixty Banalite volunteers only twenty-seven were willing to participate in the battle.

    So, he taught the non-combatants how to make basic bows and arrows. Ichaival made several target dummies and placed them at a convenient distance of only five meters away.

    He had the Banalite Archers-in-training take their stance. They took offense at first, but they realized that five meters was not that close right after they tried using the basic bows.

    The black-haired Hunter struggled teaching the Banalites, but all of them persevered during the ten hours of intense training and ended up with the target dummies placed thirty meters away from them.

    “Whether you can or can’t, the answer’s up to you. As long as you’re determined, I know that you can do it.” Ichaival said as he congratulated them.

    Aside from Basic Archery, Ichaival also taught them the basics of first aid. Smoke often thought that Ichaival Jackal would have probably been better off as a Bard due to his flair for entertainment.

    Smoke had gotten to know Ichaival’s true nature and knew that he was serious about Sharanga. He also thought that Sharanga needed someone who could make her laugh, which was why he hoped that the two of them would have paired up already. However, it seems that Sharanga was immune to Ichaival’s charms.

    Subsequently, Smoke finished checking on the indoor preparations and proceeded to the rooftop of the emergency shelter. He stood in front of an earth tower ten meters high, with a floor area of twenty square meters.

    Smoke and Ledur created this towering structure on top of the emergency shelter in order to use it as their command center.

    Smoke planned to use three perimeter walls around the emergency shelter. The first wall was Banal’s original wall, which surrounded the village.

    It had two gates: the main iron gate at the village entrance and a small back gate on the opposite side. Given the limited amount of time before Crucibelle’s arrival, he decided to leave Banal’s original wall alone.

    He envisioned the second wall to serve mainly as a blockade, which was why he used the Digger’s Wand to create trenches at specific sections around the emergency shelter. The trenches were a hundred meters long, nine meters wide and ten meters deep.

    In order to save his and Ledur’s Mana, he ordered the Tikbalangs to use the dug-out dirt and shape it into a circular wall four meters high. Smoke divided the Tikbalangs into four groups and they were each given their assigned sections to work on. Their hooves smoothened out the sides of the wall with ease.

    As soon as Adder finished their horseshoes, the Tikbalangs were called back to the emergency shelter one by one. Equipped with their new tools, the Tikbalangs looked pleased.

    In order to complete this second line of defense, Smoke gave the three Maneators a demanding task of providing massive amounts of wood from the nearby forest.

    Stark chopped down the trees as he wielded two axes given to him by the Banalites, while Rasant and Weise delivered the wood back to the village. The twenty Condortlians who did not help with the smithing carved the wood into sharp spikes that would be placed along the bottom of the trenches.

    After the wooden spikes were in place, the Condortlians put tied-up branches and leaves gathered from the trees over the trenches. Then, Smoke and Ledur took turns in covering them with a paper-thin layer of earth, completely concealing their trap.

    Once the Condortlians were done with the spikes, they proceeded to make bases of throwing spears and attached the finished spearheads provided by Adder and the smithing unit to them.

    Next, Smoke and Ledur focused on the last line of defense—the third wall. They planned to create a hexagonal wall six meters high and two meters thick.

    Hours went by in a flash and each of the Earth Manipulators created three sides of the wall. It only dwarfed the surrounded emergency shelter by one floor. They also created platforms extending from the top of each corner of the wall.

    Some of the Banalites were tasked with the creation of disposable bridges made of wood and straw, meant for connecting the three perimeter walls. This provided some much-needed mobility to the defending forces and also allowed them to easily destroy a compromised bridge if necessary.

    As Smoke continued working on the third wall, he saw Vijaya’s silhouette with the tall T-shaped falcon perch protruding on her back.

    After helping Espion set up some of the traps earlier, she was tasked with checking the progress on the trenches. She did all of this from afar, while standing on top of the original village wall.

    Vijaya started to do practice shots from her position and used a random tree outside the village as her target. Although Smoke selected her for monitoring the trenches precisely because of her falcons’ scouting abilities, he still felt that she should personally inspect them from time to time.

    So he stopped working on the third wall and glided down to where Vijaya was. He flew a short distance and landed softly beside her.

    “Everything alright with the trenches?” asked Smoke.

    Vijaya stopped firing her arrows, turned around and answered, “Yeah, everything’s on track. I think there’s only 20% left to work on.”

    “Really? That’s good.” he said with a smile.

    “Keke keekekeeeek kekekekekek.”

    One of Vijaya’s falcons flew overhead and shrilled. “Make that 15% left.” said Vijaya as she threw a chunk of smoked horned rabbit meat at the passing bird.

    “And you don’t think you need to verify this yourself?” said Smoke as he crossed his arms. “Didn’t I tell you before not to rely on your falcons too much?”

    “Of course. I’ve learned my lesson, I was about to go there now.” Vijaya said as she cupped her hands around her mouth and used the Falcon Tongue ability. “Keeeeeekk keeeeeek kekekekekekekek kekek.”

    Six falcons swooped down and grabbed specific portions of her falcon perch. Then, in one fluid motion, all of the falcons flapped their wings in unison.

    Vijaya was lifted up by her falcons and was flying towards the latest finished portion of the trenches. Surprised, Smoke stood still and watched the astonishing sight before him.

    The WoodElf’s flight speed was slow to say the least, but it still gave her extra mobility.

    Smoke then realized that the finished portion of the trenches still needed to be covered by a thin layer of earth. He shouted to the flying Vijaya, “Vijaya, wait up! I’ll cover the finished portion.”

    “It’s okay, Vij said that Ledur already covered it.” Vijaya shouted back.

    Convinced that Vijaya was on top of her task, he leapt up and glided back towards the third wall.

    As Smoke descended, he saw a winged Tikbalang standing on top of their command center and landed next to him. “Those horseshoes look good on you, Ledur. Is Adder done fitting your brethren as well?”

    Ledur nodded and kept gazing at the auburn horizon. “Smoke, do you really think our curse will be lifted once all three Witches are dead?”

    Noticing the serious look in his eyes, Smoke took a moment to respond. “Honestly, I don’t know. Sierra told me that she could remove her curse if she acquires the blood of all three Witches of Wysteria. You and the others were cursed by the same Witches, so hopefully…” he answered with a straight face and stared at the orange sky.

    “Thank you for being straight with me. I have my doubts as well. I can understand your optimism, but I’m afraid that I don’t share it.” said Ledur before fully expanding his bat-like wings. “I’m going on a break for a couple of minutes.” he added and swiftly took to the skies.

    Smoke wished he could have comforted Ledur, but didn’t want to lie to him. He stood at the top of the earth tower, worriedly looking at the winged Tikbalang’s silhouette in the distance.

    The third wall was about 90% completed, but Smoke needed to recover his mana before working on the last 10%. Since he couldn’t finish the wall yet, he decided to call Espion and check how he was doing.

    The young Spy was placing early warning devices precisely three kilometers away from the village. The Lioumereans provided trip wires, snares and flares, which would help indicate the enemy’s arrival.

    Smoke gave specific instructions on where to place the traps and flares. Since the traps were to be set up in forest patches, they had Sharanga modify them to react only to the humanoid type of monsters. That way, only the incoming Gobble Goblins would trigger them.

    “Espion, is everything set?” asked Smoke.

    Espion answered energetically, “Yeah, I’m almost done thanks to Vijaya’s help earlier.”

    “Good work. Return to the emergency shelter immediately afterwards. I’ll be giving out battle assignments as soon as I finish up the third wall.”

    “Alright, I’ll be there as soon as I’m done. I think we still have about sixteen hours before they arrive.” Espion said before Smoke ended the call.

    As Smoke stood alone on top of the command center, he noticed that he still had a few more minutes to spare before his mana bar becomes full again.

    This made him decide to practise the new ability he learned from the book “You and your symbiote Volume II”. He rushed down from the command center to check on Adder and see if he could have his symbiote back.

    He opened the window of his newly-acquired ability.


      Ability: Symbiote Vision
           Active
          Level: Beginner Level 1
          Experience: (10/1,000)

          The second level of Mana Melding with your Symbiote.
          Effect: Projects the image of what your Symbiote sees into your mind.
          WARNING: While the ability is active, you are Blinded.


    Smoke grinned as he let Igniz soar around the emergency shelter. He knew that Symbiote Vision had a huge drawback, but right off the bat, he could already think of several scenarios where he could effectively use this ability.

    * * * * * *   
    After extensively discussing their battle strategy, Smoke still had ten hours left before Crucibelle’s supposed arrival. He ordered his troops to get some rest but stay on alert and near their designated positions.

    His private army members began to disperse from the great hall of the emergency shelter. Before they left the building, each Condortlian Warrior picked up thirty of the newly-crafted throwing spears.

    Smoke followed them outside and heard Adder asking them to do a couple of practice throws before the battle. As Smoke and the Condortlians walked out together, the Maneators decided to follow them.

    Ledur and twenty Tikbalangs joined them as well. Soon, all of Smoke’s private army members walked with him to watch the Condortlians.

    It was already very late when they gathered outside in the open area between the emergency shelter and the third wall. Igniz managed to light up the entire space with his luminance alone. Adder prepared six straw-goblins as targets in advance.

    “Men! Fall in!” Adder shouted. Instantly, thirty Condortlian Warriors formed a six-columned platoon and stood twenty meters away from the target.

    “Volley!” Adder commanded. The Warriors in the first row threw their spears and made direct contact with the targets. Most of the spears went straight through the target dummies as they could not sustain the spears’ weight.

    After throwing their spears, the Warriors retreated to the back of the columns. “Volley!” repeated Adder in a commanding voice. The Condortlian Warriors next in line attacked the targets with similar precision.

    Adder kept giving the same command until the Condortlians used up all thirty of their spears. Each of the Warriors hit their respective marks every single time.

    CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK.

    Ledur clapped his black hooves, producing an abnormal clapping sound. “Very good, Adder, but you haven’t seen a Gobble Goblin’s transformed state.”

    The winged Tikbalang raised his right hoof and indicated for the Condortlians to wait. He created six clay pillars in front of the straw targets.

    With the new targets in place, Ledur signaled for Adder and his men to continue. “Charge!” Adder commanded and the Warriors in the front row dashed straight for the pillars.

    This time, the Warriors were not equipped with throwing spears but round shields and long bastard swords. Each Warrior slashed the pillars hard and broke off large chunks of it.

    Smoke and everyone else looked very pleased. Ledur smiled, impressed by the Condortlians’ prowess. They all started to clap, but Adder raised both his hands and asked them to be quiet, as he wanted to resume the practice.

    Slowly, Smoke’s private army members started to walk towards their designated locations and left the Condortlians to their training. Smoke was the only one left watching them.

    After almost an hour of practice, Adder asked the Condortlian Warriors to take a break and head to their assigned positions.

    With just Smoke and Adder left, the Condortlian asked him to stay a bit longer. “I’d like to show you something.” Adder said as he took out his double-bladed BlitzSturm.

    Smoke instantly noticed the sword’s increased length and width. He tried to wield it, but it almost fell to the ground as soon as Adder handed it over to him.

    A notification window popped up soon afterwards.


    – Cannot use BlitzSturm with your current Strength.

    ‘Hmpf. Just like the Condortlian Emerald Shield.’ thought Smoke bitterly.

    Using his left arm, Adder lifted BlitzSturm with ease and went straight for the clay pillars.

    SMASH! SMASH! SMASH! SMASH! SMASH!

    With one swift strike after another, the pillars were reduced to rubble as Adder slashed his BlitzSturm through them.

    Smoke walked up to Adder and patted his back. “Nice! Looks like you’ll be a great help against the Gobble Goblins.”

    “Thanks, but that demonstration was to showcase the improvements made to BlitzSturm.” Adder held his double-bladed sword in front of Smoke.

    “Ah, I see. Well, great job on that as well.” Smoke said with a smile as he bent down to examine the BlitzSturm.

    “Maybe you want me to do something with your weighted chain and sickle?” asked Adder.

    Smoke shook his head. “Nah. I already tried using the Transmutation ability on it. It seems it’s made out of a very strong material called perlite. Apparently, it doesn’t melt easily, making it hard to forge or transmute the weapon.”

    Adder understood and stowed his BlitzSturm onto his back. “Well, that’s it for today. I’ll head to my station and rest there.”

    “Alright, Adder. Just remember what your top priority is. Your life is very important, don’t be reckless about it in battle.”

    Smoke watched his second-in-command nod before walking away. Since he still had some time before the battle, Smoke decided to log out of Zectas. It was time for him to eat a quick meal and take a power nap. He wanted to feel rested before facing off against Crucibelle and her army of Gobble Goblins.

    * * * * * *                    
    Numerous flares flew towards the heavens and the sky above Banal village turned emerald green. Smoke stood alone on top of the ten-meter command center and watched as Gobble Goblins tripped the early warning devices from all four directions.

    From this position, Smoke could use his Telefax Vision ability to observe the encounters near both the main and the back gate. He readied himself to glide down at a moment’s notice to support either side.

    The next round of flares went off. He expected one more round to follow shortly afterwards, but it didn’t end up being triggered. ‘Looks like the goblins aren’t that naive.’

    A group of thin goblins hurtled onto a clearing and was immediately attacked by a fearsome winged Tikbalang. Ledur swiftly swooped down, picked up two of the green monsters and lifted them up in the air.

    The two goblins struggled to break free as they were being carried towards the first wall of Banal. They tried scratching Ledur’s arms. However, the winged Tikbalang did not give them the opportunity to do any significant damage and briskly dropped them just a few meters away from the main gate.

    The damage from the fall killed the two goblins instantly. Seconds later, orange-colored flares went off. The incoming goblins no longer cared for the traps as they made a beeline for the bodies of their dead kin.

    ‘Hmm. Maybe they aren’t that smart after all.’ Smoke thought as he watched the start of the battle from the command center.

    The first group of goblins started to eat as soon as they reached the corpses, but as they did, Vijaya’s six falcons swooped down. Enhanced with the Steel Falcon ability, they relentlessly assaulted the feeding goblins with their talons.

    Fire arrows began piercing the goblins as Vijaya attacked from the top of the first wall. She fired her arrows as fast as she could.

    This combined attack killed four goblins very quickly , but the falcons were slowly being overwhelmed as more thin green monsters arrived.

    “Keeekk keeek kekekekek!” Vijaya ordered her falcons to retreat. Unfortunately, one of her falcons, Dakhana, was caught by a goblin.

    The other falcons were speedily soaring towards their owner and didn’t notice that their comrade was captured. Dakhana used its beak to damage its captor, but the goblin endured it and pulled the falcon towards it even harder.

    Thanks to Vijaya’s Steel Falcon ability, Dakhana received little damage after its legs were tightly squeezed by the green monster, but the situation looked grim. Desperate, Vijaya drew her Hunter’s bow back with more power and determination.

    Her fire arrow was joined by five spears as it flew below the five retreating falcons and pierced the goblin’s body. Greatly damaged by the spears, the goblin’s life bar showed only (5,321/50,000 HP). Near death, it released its hold on the falcon.

    Dakhana took advantage of this and plunged its talons into the goblin’s eyes. As the falcon gouged out both its eyes, a fire arrow struck the monster’s chest and killed it.

    The falcon hastily retreated before any other goblin could grab a hold of it, while Vijaya and twenty-two Condortlian Warriors slaughtered the goblins in front of the main gate.


    * * * * * *   
    Red flares went off and indicated that most of the goblins were only twenty meters away from the first wall. Smoke equally divided his Tikbalang corps into four division and assigned them to northwestern, northeastern, southwestern and southeastern sides of the first wall.

    Each division was fairly spread out. The Tikbalangs were reminded several times to be extremely cautious at this point, since they’d be separated from each other. They waited for some of the goblins to arrive within their reach and punched them with iron horseshoes before retreating.

    The hurt goblins were enraged and angrily chased after the fleeing Tikbalangs. The northeastern and southeastern divisions baited the goblins to follow them towards the main gate, while the northwestern and southwestern divisions led the goblins to the back gate.

    Equipped with their new horseshoes, the Tikbalangs had faster movement speed if they galloped on all fours, using their hooves as main support. This enabled them to easily outrun the goblins and made Smoke’s hit-and-run strategy effective.

    As the northwestern and southwestern divisions moved along the first wall, the eight Condortlian Warriors stationed there took careful aim with their spears and attacked the pursuing goblins.

    The Warriors made sure not to kill any of the goblins, only to reduce their life bars. All of Smoke’s men were given strict instructions on the specific locations where they should kill the goblins.

    As soon as the Tikbalangs reached the back gate, a rain of arrows fell from the sky and inflicted heavy damage to the goblin forces. Ichaival took charge of the back gate with eight Condortlian Warriors and twenty-seven Banalites on top of the wall with him. They kept attacking the goblins who were rushing to the ten Tikbalangs on the ground.

    The Tikbalangs bravely made their stand and started to fight off the damaged goblins. Most of the goblins who reached them had less than 50% of their life bars remaining, which lead to Tikbalangs killing them with only two blows to the head.

    The bodies of defeated goblins began piling up in front of the back gate. Eighty goblins were killed in a matter of minutes.

    However, against Crucibelle’s army of a thousand strong, the battle was far from over. As more goblins entered the fray, Ichaival and his men could no longer lower the life bars of all incoming goblins.

    The monsters started to throw their crude weapons at the Warriors and Banalites positioned on the wall, but both their accuracy and their damage with them was low.

    Each of the ten Tikbalangs on the ground had to deal with more than ten goblins at once. They were slowly being overpowered. The back gate remained shut until the Tikbalangs’ life bars dropped to 70%.

    “Open the gate!” shouted Ichaival.

    The Tikbalangs hurriedly ran inside. Although the majority of the green monsters stayed behind and feasted on their dead kin, more than a hundred of them ended up chasing after the Tikbalangs as they bolted towards the second wall.

    SMASH SPLAT!

    The goblins that entered through the gate turned around to see what caused the loud noise. Two barrels of wine had been dropped from the top of the wall and shattered on the ground in front of the gate.

    Smirking, Ichaival drew his bow back and released a fire arrow. The arrow landed where the barrels were dropped, igniting the spilled wine and scattered pieces of wood.

    The thin green monsters were terrified at the sight of fire and took a step back in unison, away from the flames that blocked the back gate.

    “RAAAAWRR!” “ROOAAAARRR!”

    The shocked monsters rattled even more when they heard two distinct roars coming from the direction of the second wall. An orange Maneator equipped with two whips dashed towards them, followed by an even larger red Maneator equipped with a long glaive.

    “AYIIIIII AYIIIII YIII YIII YIII!”

    Regaining their composure, the goblins gave out their own battle cry and charged at the two Maneators. None of them noticed Jinggu, who stood up from his hidden position on top of the second wall. He aimed his ballista at the charging monsters and groups of small goblins were blown backwards as large bolts landed right in front of them.

    Rasant moved swiftly and wildly swung his barbed whips. Apparently, Smoke thought that with his attack speed, Rasant could handle two of them at the same time and asked Darius to craft these whips specifically for him. The orange Maneator rapidly assaulted the monsters from their sides, slicing through their skin with ease.

    Meanwhile, Stark charged straight through the goblins. He kicked the ones that tried to grab a hold of his feet and knocked away three of them that tried to jump on him. The red Maneator blindly swung his Rzeka glaive and attacked anything that came within his range.

    With the goblins’ attention on the two of them, a gray Maneator stealthily appeared from a camouflaged hole. Weise carried a flamdius and Gora shield. He carefully planned his movements, weaving between groups of goblins and staying out of reach of Stark’s glaive.

    Weise slashed the goblins’ backs and dealt significant damage with his flamdius. Some of the goblins tried to intercept him and attacked from his left side, but he’d just bash them with his red shield.

    The three Maneators made short work of the thin monsters that were led into the first layer of Smoke’s trap.

    From the top of the first wall, Ichaival occasionally glanced at the fight occurring behind him. He was focused on attacking the Gobble Goblins locked out by the flames, most of which were either eating corpses or trying to make towers to scale the wall.

    As the flames blocking the gate were quickly dying out, ten transformed goblins prepared to enter.

    From the command center, Smoke observed that Ichaival still had the back gate relatively secured but was starting to show signs of struggling against the goblins. The front gate, on the other hand, had two of his best men guarding it. With his power chainsaw bow equipped, Smoke glided down towards Ichaival. His dark ember sprite came out of the metal orb on Smoke’s chest and attacked the goblins with a barrage of fireballs. Together, they targeted the monsters that came within range.

              
    * * * * * *   
    Minutes after Smoke left to help Ichaival, Banal’s main gate was forced open by twenty transformed goblins. The ten injured Tikbalangs that guarded the gate had been ordered to retreat to the third wall.

    As Vijaya was carried by six falcons, she issued the same order to the twenty-two Condortlian Warriors who were with her.

    With all the corpses consumed, the thin green monsters joined their transformed brothers and entered the area between the first and second wall.

    “AYIII AYIII YIIII YIII YIIII!”

    Dozens of goblins rampaged through the houses located on the outskirts of the village. Despite Smoke’s efforts to lay out a straight path towards the second wall, these monsters tore down the boarded-up windows and doors and went through the houses in search of Banalites.

    The goblins’ attention was drawn towards the second wall when a wide opening appeared in it. Behind the opening stood one man, holding a gigantic double-bladed sword, seemingly taunting them to come and challenge him.

    They shouted their battle cries at the top of their lungs as they ran towards the opening. The transformed dark-green goblins led the charge while hundreds of their shorter kin followed.

    About ten meters after they passed the second wall, the transformed goblins threw their hands in the air as they desperately tried to grab hold of something.

    The monsters fell down the deep trench as they ran into the second layer of Smoke’s trap. As they were charging through the opening in huge numbers, they had a hard time stopping. Dozens of goblins fell while others were pushed into the trench by the goblins behind them.

    The transformed goblins had bigger life bars and harder skin, which allowed them to survive the sharp wooden spikes planted on the bottom of the trench. However, the smaller goblins that followed had no such protection and were impaled on the spikes.

    The life bars of ones that somehow managed to survive the fall were slowly depleted as they tried to remove themselves from the spikes. The goblins received Bleeding status and suffered from blood loss

    The trench had smooth walls, making it almost impossible to climb out of. In order for them to escape, some of the transformed goblins started making a Gobble Goblin tower.

    The other goblins that remained above ground, in front of the trench, waited for the results of the tower.

    “Ayii. Ayyy ayayayyay.”

    Some of the smaller goblins seemed to discuss something among themselves and moved towards the long end of the trench. They started carefully tapping the ground next to it with their feet.

    Ecstatic to discover that the trench didn’t continue on, the goblins signaled for others to join them and rushed towards Adder with vengeful eyes. However, their advance was short-lived, as they fell into a different trench after taking a couple of steps.

    Seven goblins were impaled on the wooden spikes and near death. Discouraged, the goblins that were following behind them returned to the first trench and checked on the progress of the Gobble Goblin tower.

    Adder watched as the goblins across the trench started to shout and jump up and down. He interpreted it as a sign that the goblins were about to cross it.

    As the Condortlian sprinted towards the edge of the trench, a transformed goblin leapt out and reached out for his head.

    Adder expertly blocked the attack with the top blade of his BlitzSturm and countered it instantly with the bottom blade, severing the transformed goblin’s hands.

    The Gobble Goblin cried out in pain, but was quickly silenced as Adder decapitated it with two swings of his double-bladed sword.

    Two more Gobble Goblins emerged from the trench to attack Adder, but they proved to be no match for Smoke’s second-in-command.

    As the transformed goblins fought, the goblins on the other side of the trench began willingly leaping into it and tried their best to avoid the wooden spikes.

    Many were only gashed by the spikes, while a few were still impaled despite their efforts. The thin monsters that landed without being impaled immediately feasted on the corpses of the less fortunate ones.

    After Adder defeated eight transformed goblins, he was left with 82% of his life bar. He only got hit a few times when four of them jumped at him at the same time.

    Adder took out a chunk of smoked lemurcat meat and ate it snappily. As he chewed, he watched more than thirty transformed goblins emerge out of the trench.

    “Attack!” Adder yelled out, spewing chewed pieces of his meal.

    Espion and twenty-two Condortlian Warriors immediately came out of the third wall’s gate. He firmly held his green dual knives, while the Warriors were equipped with bastard swords and round shields.

    Six falcons swooped down from the sky and distracted the Gobble Goblins. Vijaya was running behind the Warriors with her bow in hand. As soon as she got in range, she took her stance and started shooting fire arrows into the bodies of dark-green monsters.

    Running past her, one by one, the ten Tikbalangs were returning to the front lines after receiving quick treatment.

    Adder, Espion, the Condortlian Warriors and the Tikbalangs were winning one-on-one fights against the transformed goblins, but many more were still coming out of the trench.

    A large intimidating shadow flew over the Gobble Goblins. Two of the dark-green monsters looked up, only to be knocked back into the trench and skewered by the wooden spikes.

    As Ledur flew directly above the trench, he noticed the Gobble Goblin tower the monsters were using to climb out of it. He used Earth Manipulation and abruptly tilted the bottom of the trench, knocking the stacked-up goblins off-balance.

    Ledur then flew towards Adder and pushed away a Gobble Goblin that was about to attack him from behind. The two leaders gave each other a quick nod and went their separate ways.

    In a matter of minutes, the transformed goblins were wiped out. Adder moved closer to the trench. There were still more than a hundred and fifty goblins left on the other side, while around eighty of the green monsters were stuck in the trench.

    “Any more goblins outside the wall, Vijaya?” Adder asked the brunette Huntress.

    “Kekekk keekkek.” Vijaya asked her falcons and all of them gave out the same shrill in reply. “No, all of the goblins are here.” she answered back with her bow at the ready.

    Adder looked at Ledur and gave him the signal. The winged Tikbalang closed off the opening in the second wall and created a bridge over the trench.

    The monsters were divided, as some of them panicked and tried to climb over the second wall, but they were easy targets for Vijaya’s arrows and Condortlians’ throwing spears.

    The main gate’s defending forces gathered in front of the bridge and waited for the Gobble Goblins to attack. The goblins snarled and growled at them, but held their ground.

    “Maybe they’re afraid you’ll destroy the bridge once they try to cross it?” Espion thought out loud.

    “Then let’s give them a reason to cross it.” said Ledur.

    Ledur flew closely to the restless goblins in front of the bridge. He proceeded to zoom over them several times, tauntingly tapping their heads with his hoof every time he did and evaded their claws all the while.

    Cornered, the Gobble Goblins gave in to their rage and two of them rushed towards Ledur. This started a chain reaction and soon enough, most of the goblins were charging across  the bridge.

    The bridge was only wide enough to allow up to eight goblins to cross it next to one another, preventing the monsters from using their overwhelming numbers to their advantage. The goblins tried to force their way through the line of Condortlian Warriors waiting for them on the other side, only to be slashed and sliced by their bastard swords.

    Vijaya kept shooting her fire arrows while her six falcons took turns diving in and attacking from the sides of the bridge. Espion stayed in the safe zone behind the Warriors’ shields and would only come out to deal the killing blow on damaged goblins.

    If one of the Warriors got injured, he would push back the monsters directly in front of him with his shield and quickly swap places with a Warrior from the second row. Meanwhile, the Tikbalangs took care of any goblins that managed to slip towards the side and tried to attack the Condortlians’ flank.

    The goblins couldn’t break through the defensive formation of Smoke’s private army and died trying to. Once the last of the charging goblins were on the bridge, Ledur calmly cancelled his Earth Manipulation and watched them fall into the trench.

    The small number of goblins that was too scared to attack remained on the other side of the trench and huddled together as they waited for their imminent death. Ledur took pity on these monsters and created a sturdy earth prison, locking them inside it.

    Swiftly, they started to kill off the trapped goblins. Ledur raised small portions of the trenches, which enabled Adder, Espion and the Tikbalangs to deal with the goblins on it.

    Vijaya led the Condortlian Warriors and positioned them along the full length of the trench. They targeted goblins that were eating fresh corpses, preventing as many as possible from transforming.

    Soon enough, all of the Gobble Goblins at the main gate were defeated.

    A purple flare was launched from the direction of the back gate. Adder and others smiled, as it indicated that Smoke had successfully defended the back gate as well.

    Moments later, they saw their leader gliding through the air as he descended towards them. 

    “Great job! I knew you guys could do it. Were there any casualties?” asked Smoke.

    “None. We were fortunate enough, but many have broken limbs and are in need of serious treatment.” answered Adder.

    “Well, at least you are all alive.” said Smoke with worried face. He was extremely impressed by his private army members.

    “What about the back gate?” asked Adder. “I hope there were no casualties there as well.”

    “A Banalite did fall down when Ichaival ordered them to retreat to the third wall.” said Smoke and heard Vijaya gasp, “Don’t worry, he’s alive. Ichaival managed to pull him back up using a rope.”

    Smoke’s voice became serious as he continued to recount the events at the back gate.

    “Weise and Stark’s life bars went down to less than 30%, but Rasant was the bravest on that battlefield. He only had 10% left on his life bar when he was retreating towards the third wall while being chased by two transformed Gobble Goblins.”

    Smoke could feel everyone hold their breath.

    “Luckily for us, Jinggu’s bolts finished off the goblins before they could catch up with Rasant.”

    “Praised be Cuezaltzin! I knew he would shine his light of protection upon us.” Adder said out loud as he formed a fist and raised it to the heavens.

    “Don’t count your blessings just yet, we still haven’t seen Crucibelle.” added Espion. “Still, Smoke is as impressive as ever.”

    Espion patted Smoke’s shoulders. “You’ve got a full life bar… and how in the world did you manage to deal with six hundred goblins?” asked Espion in an astonished voice.

    “I had to eat a lot of…huh? What do you mean, ‘six hundred goblins’?” said Smoke, confused by the question.

    Ledur explained, “We fought about four hundred goblins. So we figured that the larger force went to the back gate.”

    “No, we only encountered three hundred at most. That’s why I immediately came here.” Smoke replied as he frowned and clenched his fists.

    “Damn it! I thought we only had Crucibelle left. I’ll scout the area from the top of the command center. Espion, I need you to go out and search for the missing goblins.”

    Without a word, Espion nodded and left the village.

    “As for everyone else, gather the arrows and spears and return to the emergency shelter.” instructed Smoke as he was about to fly off, but a black hoof firmly held back his shoulder.

    “Smoke, I need to tell you something.” Ledur said as he pointed to the earth prison he had created.

    “What’s that?” Smoke asked the winged Tikbalang.

    “I captured a small group of goblins. They were frozen with fear and I couldn’t find it in my heart to kill them since they didn’t put up any kind of resistance.”

    Smoke promptly processed what Ledur told him. “Alright, just lock them up in one of the houses for now, but make sure there’s no way for them to escape.”

    Ledur nodded and immediately went to transport the captives.

    “I’ll send an update to everyone if there are any developments. For now, focus on recovering your health.” After Smoke gave his orders, he leapt up and glided towards the command center.

     
    * * * * * *    Smoke glided fast. From the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of something burning. Igniz moved out of the way as he turned around to look. He was surprised to see smoke coming from the direction of one of the forest clearings, some six kilometers away from the main gate.

    With the aid of his Telefax Vision, Smoke zoomed in on the site and saw that the missing goblins were all inside a large ring of fire.

    From what he had observed in the past, Gobble Goblins normally did not harm one another.
    However, the goblins inside this ring of fire were mercilessly killing each other. Some of them had rusted swords and axes while others only fought with their bare claws.

    A figure dressed in a bright red robe, similar to what Terrabelle wore, stood in front of the flaming circle. Smoke focused on the mysterious person and saw a woman with long curly red hair and dark-red skin. She had her left hand clenched into a fist and pointing towards the flames.

    ‘Is that Crucibelle?’ Smoke wondered to himself.

    As he watched the scene before him, he realized that this woman is the reason behind the goblins’ killing frenzy.

    Posthaste, Smoke glided towards the ring of fire carefully. He made sure to stay out of Crucibelle’s line of sight. Igniz instinctively lowered his luminance. Smoke landed softly on the ground, behind where the Witch was.

    He stealthily climbed a tree and hid in its thick leaves. He thought this was a perfect opportunity to use his newly-acquired symbiote ability.

    He signaled for Igniz to fly higher above the tree. Once he did so, Smoke activated the Symbiote Vision ability. It allowed him to see what Igniz sees.

    ‘This must be how Thyrsus feels when he uses his Falcon Vision.’ mused Smoke.

    Through Igniz’s eyes, he silently watched the goblins kill each other. Igniz focused on one particular goblin that carried a double-headed axe. As it cannibalized other goblins, Smoke couldn’t believe how fast it could gobble up an entire corpse.

    In less than twenty seconds, the goblin had eaten four of its fallen comrades. Its belly looked like it was about to burst open.

    The Gobble Goblin’s transformation process then began. Its oversized belly started to make a pumping motion. With each pump, the limbs of the goblin grew longer.

    After four pumps, the goblin’s skin turned dark green and its transformation process was complete. This was the first time Smoke had seen the entirety of the goblins’ transformation, since he was more focused on fighting them rather than observing them in the previous battles.

    Still hidden in the tree, Smoke called Espion and gave him the gist of the situation. He ordered the young Spy to return to the village and prepare his private army for another round of bloodshed.

    Since he only had Igniz with him, Smoke thought it best to stay hidden and just observe the goblins for now. He noticed that all of them had gone completely berserk.

    After five minutes, none of the small green monsters were left; only fifty transformed Gobble Goblins stood inside the ring of fire.

    ‘Fifty? We can easily handle that much.’ Smoke smirked.

    All of a sudden, the flames died out, leaving burn marks on the ground. The transformed goblins sluggishly moved around. Smoke thought that they look confused about what they had just done.

    Despite using Symbiote Vision, Smoke instinctively ducked when he saw Crucibelle move. It took him a second to realize that she couldn’t see him. As he focused on Crucibelle, Smoke found her curly red hair to be disturbingly attractive.

    “Now, let’s really heat things up!” she yelled.

    She raised her left hand once more and a burgundy casting circle appeared around the burn marks on the ground.

    A red progress bar whizzed right through as Crucibelle finished casting her spell in less than a second. The flames were ignited once again.

    The confused Gobble Goblins instantly went berserk. The unarmed goblins scrambled for weapons while the ones wielding them swung them with great force.

    Smoke saw several severed arms fly up in the air as the axe-wielding goblin they observed earlier chopped through its own kind.

    Unlike before, it made sure to only disable the goblins that came within its range.

    After seeing that no other Gobble Goblin was near it, the axe-wielding goblin stopped chopping off arms and legs. It dropped the axe to its side, got down on its knees and sunk its teeth into the flesh of its victim.

    It ate the other goblins alive! Smoke could hear their screams as the monster gobbled them up. Smoke canceled his ability, as he couldn’t watch such a horrendous scene any longer.

    While trying to breathe in some air, a question struck him. ‘Wait. If they’re still eating, does that mean…?’ He forced himself to activate Symbiote Vision again and watched the Gobble Goblin cannibalize its kin.

    It looked like the transformed goblins could eat more corpses than before. The axe-wielding monster’s stomach started to bulge only after it consumed eight bodies.

    It went after one more victim.

    Swinging the axe over its head, the monster made a clean cut in a screaming goblin’s chest, jammed its claws through the wound and took a still-beating heart out of the goblin’s chest before hungrily stuffing it in its mouth.

    Within ten seconds, the helpless goblin’s body was devoured. The axe-wielding goblin’s bulging stomach then forced it to lay down.

    Instead of just four, the bursting stomach made ten pumping motions. The Gobble Goblin’s entire physiology changed with each pump. Its head became enormous, its limbs grew longer and its muscles doubled in size.

    This transformation took longer to finish than the previous one. Slowly, a three-meter-tall Gobble Goblin with rough black skin stood up. It discarded its crude weapon as its bare hands could cause more damage.

    Igniz looked around the area inside the ring of fire and found the same thing happening in several other places.

    Without warning, the fire suddenly died out. Just then, Smoke and Igniz clearly saw five goblins in their new transformed state. These monsters were no longer Gobble Gobins; they were now called Gargantuan Goblins.

    Smoke gulped when he saw them. ‘They’re as big as Maneators, but even bulkier.’ he thought.

    The goblins staggered as they huddled together. Crucibelle called out to them.

    “Ayiii yiii yiii yaaa yii yiii…” said Crucibelle in Gobberish and went on to give a lengthy speech. Smoke grabbed this opportunity to call Adder. He cancelled his Symbiote Vision and warned his second-in-command of the incoming disaster.

    He helplessly watched as five Gargantuan Goblins charged in the direction of Banal’s main gate. A dreadful thought entered the his mind, ‘If they had 150,000 HP after the first transformation, I can’t imagine what their life bars are now.’

    Smoke was confused about what to do next. He needed more information on the monsters, but there was no way for him to find out without the risk of giving off his position.

    From his current location, he couldn’t glide back to Banal village because he would be directly in the line of sight of the Gargantuan Goblins and Crucibelle. He needed to take a longer detour to avoid being detected.

    After weighing the pros and cons, Smoke steeled his resolve and decided to risk it. With his power chainsaw bow at the ready, he waited for the goblins to pass the tree he was in.

    Once the Gargantuan Goblins were at a distance of more than a hundred meters away from him, he took a stance similar to the one he did when he practiced archery in the real world.

    On most occasions, whenever he thought about his lakeside experience, it was always the memory of kissing Sierra that would pop into his mind.

    However, this was not one of those occasions. Smoke controlled his breathing. Part of his arrow’s fletching grazed his right cheek as he pulled the string back as far as he could.

    He fluidly released all the tension in the string and his arrow flew straight with intent. It passed through the branches that obscured him from sight. It sailed through the air until it finally hit its mark.

    The arrow bounced off of the running monster’s shoulder. ‘What the…’ Smoke couldn’t believe it. He hoped it would cause more damage, but at least now the monster’s life bar appeared and displayed (449,700/450,000 HP).

    The Gargantuan Goblin stopped and scratched the place where it had been hit. After checking the small wound, it quickly hastened its pace and caught up with others.

    The second transformation tripled the monsters’ life bars and Smoke’s arrow inflicted only a fourth of its damage to the Gobble Goblin. He clutched his long white hair in frustration.

    Quickly, Smoke called Adder to inform him of the Gargantuan Goblin’s massive life and defense, but he mostly wanted to tell him to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

    “More bad news: these Gargantuan Goblins have 450,000 HP and high defense. They’re running on foot, so you should have about thirty minutes before…”

    BTOOOM!

    Smoke’s call was cut off as a huge fireball blasted him out of the tree and he fell hard on the ground. Surprisingly, he only received a damage of 1,965 points.

    He looked at the tree he was hiding in just a moment earlier and found that it had been burned out of existence. He then heard Crucibelle’s voice.

    “Well, well, well. What do we have here?” asked Crucibelle out loud, “A DarkElf? Could you be—”

    Igniz interrupted her by launching his own fireballs at Crucibelle, providing covering fire for Smoke. “What’s this? An ember sprite dares attack me with fireballs? Nyahahah nyak nyak nyak!” he heard the Witch laugh as she easily blocked all of his symbiote’s attacks.

    Smoke reflexively rolled over and attacked the red Witch with his power chainsaw bow.

    Each of his eight arrows did zero damage, as they were engulfed in small flames and burned away upon contact with Crucibelle’s skin. His arrows did, however, display her life bar: (900,000/900,000 HP).

    ‘What? She has more HP than Calamar!’

    “A DarkElf with a dark ember sprite! It is you! You’re the bastard who killed my sister Terrabelle!”

    Two huge fireballs came out of Crucibelle’s hands and flew fast towards Smoke. He easily evaded the attack with a sidestep and a jump, but then a third fireball came at him while he was still in mid-air. He twirled his body to avoid the attack, but despite his evasive maneuver, a part of his shoulder was hit.

    This time, he was damaged by 1,890 points. Smoke’s life bar displayed (172,395/176,250 HP). He looked at Igniz and smiled at his dark ember sprite.

    Smoke knew that it was his extremely high Fire resistance that lowered the damage this much. He also realized that he got hit because he wasn’t fully focused on the fight. He still worried about his private army members who had to face five Gargantuan Goblins.

    Since his arrows and Igniz’s fire attacks were useless against Crucibelle, he switched weapons and took out his deadly Chain and sickle of Dasende.

    Crucibelle mocked Smoke for taking out his weighted chain and sickle. “Nyak nyak nyak! I’m the Witch of Immolation, dearie. Regular weapons can’t harm me.”

    Smoke started a swirling motion with his sickle and increased the length of the chain in his hand with each rotation. With all his might, Smoke threw his sharp sickle at her.

    Crucibelle responded by stretching out her right hand and creating a Fire Shield in front of her.

    SLASH!

    His sickle went through the Fire Shield and wounded her. He watched her back away as she clasped her bleeding hand.

    As soon as he saw Crucibelle’s life bar display (899,001/900,000 HP), Smoke let out a deep sigh. His damage was under a thousand points, but at least he now knew he could hurt her



    * * * * * *    Adder led the strategy meeting of Smoke’s private army outside the emergency shelter. Smoke’s second-in-command disseminated the information he was given.

    “Smoke is coming here as soon as he can. Until then, we have to hold our own. He was cut off before he could finish giving me all the information, but I believe he already gave us enough.” stated Adder.

    “As you might already know, not all of us at are at 100%. That is why Ledur and I have decided to gamble on using him as bait. He’s already outside as we speak, preparing for the monsters’ arrival.”

    Espion raised his hand. “Should we start evacuating the Banalites now?”

    “No, not just yet, but that important task is assigned to you. If we fire a red flare, you’ll lead them away through the back gate. We’ve cleared out most of the dangerous monsters and beasts in the area around it.”

    Espion nodded and thought about how he would explain the situation to Banal’s village chief, Sot.

    “These five Gargantuan Goblins are expected to be even tougher than Mitleid, with life bars of 450,000 HP.” Adder said as calmly as possible, as to not aggravate certain members.

    Instantly, Rasant, Stark and Weise made loud noises. They clearly disagreed that a goblin could be stronger than the former King of Maneators.

    “Quiet, please!” Adder said in a raised voice.

    “Jinggu, Vijaya, Ichaival and the Banalite volunteers will take their positions on top of the third wall.” Adder pointed to the two Hunters and they nodded in acknowledgement.

    “The rest of us will wait for them in front of the third gate. We have less than twenty minutes left before the Gargantuan Goblins arrive. If there are no more questions, I’d like to remind you all of one more thing.” Adder’s voice trailed off as everyone present spoke in unison.

    “Your top priority is your own life.”

    Smoke’s private army members laughed as they repeated what Smoke would always tell them. Swiftly, everyone went towards their designated spots in an organized manner.

    As they got into position, Ichaival spoke out loudly. “450,000 HP? Ha! That’s just about the same as a war elephant; the Tikbalangs alone killed one of those. This’ll be a piece of cake.” he said cheerfully to brighten up the mood. Even though he had trouble convincing himself.

    In less than five minutes, Adder and everyone else got into their respective positions. They found Ledur collapsed outside the third wall.

    It appeared that he overworked himself while preparing for the incoming Gargantuan Goblins.

    “Looks like Ledur won’t wake up in time.” Adder said out loud, “Someone take him inside.” Two of the Tikbalangs carefully carried Ledur away.

    “So, what are we going to do about the bait?” asked Weise.

    Adder looked up to the brunette Huntress on the third wall. “Vijaya, could you come down here,  please?”

    Vijaya was briefly given a rundown of Adder and Ledur’s initial plan. Without hesitation, Vijaya agreed.

    The main gate was intentionally left open and there was once again a wide opening in the second wall. This established a straight line of sight from the main gate to the third wall.

    Forty meters away from the second wall’s opening, Vijaya stood alone, accompanied only by her six falcons perched on her customized staff.

    Adder and the rest of Smoke’s private army remained near the gate of the third wall, where the arrows of the Banalite volunteers could still reach.

    THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP!

    Thundering footsteps echoed throughout Banal as five bulky Gargantuan Goblins went through its main gate.

    All of the nearby houses along the path were vandalized by the three-meter-tall monsters. They smashed the Banalites’ homes with their fists. Shards of broken glass scattered, pieces of wood were all over the streets and chunks of stone foundations were littered everywhere.

    The five monsters continued with their rampage as they headed towards the second wall. As soon as the monsters came through it, Vijaya let loose her arrows and attacked the closest Gargantuan Goblin.

    Despite being told that these monsters had high defense, she still couldn’t believe that her fire arrows only dealt 970 damage points.

    The attack did nothing to slow down the monster’s charge. Another goblin ran beside it and both monsters were getting ready to pounce on Vijaya when the ground they stepped on suddenly started to collapse.

    “Ayyyyyyyyyyy!”

    Both Gargantuan Goblins started to fall into a trench that was eighteen meters deep and a hundred meters wide. Both monsters’ hands were flailing all over, desperately trying to grab hold of something.

    This was the only remaining trench that Gobble Goblins didn’t reach during their earlier attack. Hearing about the size of Gargantuan Goblins, Ledur had been working on increasing its depth from ten to twenty meters, but collapsed before he could finish.

    After she successfully lured the goblins into the trench, Vijaya’s six falcons instantly started flapping their wings in unison. With all their might, they carried her back to the top of the third wall.

    The three remaining Gargantuan Goblins that lagged behind jumped towards the edge of the trench. They slid down on their bellies and had their hands stretched out in an attempt to save their falling kin.

    Adder saw this and instantly ordered his Condortlian Warriors to aim for those Gargantuan Goblins. Each goblin received ten throwing spears, which distracted them from catching their two brothers.

    Each throwing spear’s damage was only 750 points. All three goblins displayed the same life bar of (442,500/450,000 HP).

    Meanwhile, the fallen Gargantuan Goblins received a damage of 41,000 points as they were pierced by the wooden spikes.

    The three Gargantuan Goblins quickly went around the trench. Two of them took the shorter route while the other one took the longer.

    Despite their bulky appearance, the Gargantuan Goblins showed bursts of speed as they were rapidly approaching Adder and his men in front of the third wall.

    Adder turned towards the Tikbalangs and pointed two fingers to the stray goblin. They gave him a nod and immediately dashed to intercept it.

    Next, he pointed to the leftmost of the other two gigantic monsters and the Condortlian Warriors readied themselves to engage it. Half of them were equipped with bastard swords and round shields while the other half had their throwing spears at the ready.

    “Weise, I leave the other one to you. Lead your brothers well!” shouted Adder as he focused on leading his Condortlian brethren.

    Weise, Stark and Rasant stared at their assigned monster. Even though the goblin was still a few meters away, it was clearly visible that Stark was slightly taller than it.

    As soon as the charging goblin came within range, Stark swung his Rzeka glaive wildly. He expected the goblin to be blasted away and couldn’t believe it when the goblin caught his attack with ease.

    Both of the goblin’s hands held onto Stark’s weapon firmly. The glaive was pried off from Stark’s hands and thrown over to the side. Stark locked hands with the Gargantuan Goblin and tried to force it down on its knees.

    However, a different scenario occurred when Stark was the one being forced down. “You are…stronger than Stark? Only King Mitleid…was stronger than Stark!” The red Maneator roared in disbelief.

    Rasant, the fastest of the Maneators, swiftly reached the Gargantuan Goblin’s back. In a single motion, he wrapped both of his barbed whips around the monster’s neck and pulled on them as hard as he could.

    The orange Maneator was surprised to see that the damage inflicted with his strangulation attack was only twenty points per second. “Weise, I thought you said my attack should deal at least a hundred points per second?”

    “It isn’t? Looks like we’ve got ourselves a real challenge here.” said Weise.

    The gray Maneator used this opportunity to get close to the goblin and started slashing the common critical areas of a humanoid-type monster. Smoke taught him to first slash the tendons that connected their limbs.

    “Rasant, move to the left. Stark, I need you to give it more power.” Weise instructed as he kept slashing the Gargantuan Goblin,”Brothers, remember Mitleid’s last words. We’ve got to spread the great Maneator name across the world and serve King Smoke until he conquers all of Zectas.”

    Despite Weise’s morale-boosting speech, his flamdius could only do 1,175 damage points to the Gargantuan Goblin, but he didn’t let this bother him.

    As he raised his right hand for another swing, he saw Stark suddenly being lifted from the ground and thrown over to where he was.

    Both Weise and Stark were blown away to the side. Rasant, who still had his two barbed whips around the goblin’s neck, went flying through the air as soon as the goblin turned around, grabbed the barbed whips and pulled him forward.

    Rasant could only watch the goblin’s fist coming closer and closer. He released both his whips and twisted his body around. Thanks to this, he managed to plant his hooves on the ground.

    Despite Rasant’s evasive action, the Gargantuan Goblin’s fist still reached his body and he was punched down to the ground. The monster then kicked Rasant and flipped his body over. Now that Rasant’s back was exposed, it started to clobber him with fists.

    “Ayiii ayiiii yiiii yiii yiii yiii.” said the Gargantuan Goblin in Gobberish. It lifted Rasant up and threw him towards his two brothers.

    After they caught Rasant safely, Weise checked their life bars. Weise’s life bar displayed (323,104/331,000 HP), while Stark’s showed (382,298/389,000 HP).

    It was Rasant’s life bar, which displayed (98,325/218,500 HP), that made the gray Maneator worry. Weise looked at the goblin in front of them and dreaded what he saw.

    Despite their coordinated attack, the Gargantuan Goblin still had (410,875/450,000 HP) left on its life bar.

    * * * * * *   
    Near the trench, twenty Tikbalangs bravely intercepted the rogue Gargantuan Goblin. The cursed Centaurs divided into three groups and intended to overwhelm it with their superior numbers.

    Six Tikbalangs went to the monster’s sides, while the other eight faced it head on. The Tikbalangs attacked using a buddy-system.

    The initiating Tikbalang duo saw the goblin cross its arms in defense as it charged towards them. A pair of hooves went past the monster’s defenses and imprinted on its chest. The Tikbalangs were shocked to see that even with their new weapons, they only managed to do 1,050 damage points per hit.

    The first pair of Tikbalangs moved to the side and gave the ones next in line their turn to attack. They were constantly moving, in preparation for the goblin’s counterattack.

    However, the Gargantuan Goblin did nothing but defend. Due to the goblin’s passive demeanor, the Tikbalangs kept using the same attack pattern.

    Then, as one of the Tikbalang duos finished their attack, their arms were interlocked with the goblin’s.

    “Aaargh!” cried out both of the caught Tikbalangs. They were in agonizing pain, with their elbow joints being bent the wrong way.

    The rest of the Tikbalangs instantly backed off. They still had the Gargantuan Goblin completely surrounded. Suddenly, the two captured Tikbalangs were lifted up from the ground and being slowly carried off in the direction of the trench.

    Five Tikbalangs stood in front of the monster and tried to stop its advance with their hoof strikes. The Gargantuan Goblin did not budge and only kept on walking.

    Seeing that their attacks were ineffective, the Tikbalangs in front of the goblin stopped attacking and resorted to forcefully pushing the monster, but they weren’t strong enough to do so.

    The rest of them fought in a frenzied state. They wanted to attack the monster at the same time, but there wasn’t enough room around it for all of them.

    Blow after the blow, the Tikbalangs wildly delivered their strongest attacks to the goblin’s back, sides and head, but they still couldn’t force it to release its grip on their two captured brothers.

    The caught Tikbalang duo fought back. They tried to do a headbutt, but they couldn’t reach the goblin’s head. They tried to bite its tough black skin, but their teeth could only do 10 damage per second.

    They even resorted to kicking the Gargantuan Goblin’s shins, which resulted in 50 damage points per hit. Despite the Tikbalangs’ low damage, their collective steady attacks slowly lowered the Gargantuan Goblin’s life bar to (389,400/450,000 HP).

    Hoof strikes to the head inflicted the most damage, reaching up to 1,550 points. With their relentless attacks continuing, the Gargantuan Goblin finally stopped walking a couple of meters away from the trench.

    Yet it was the Tikbalangs who felt that they were the ones being cornered. In one solid motion, the goblin performed a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree turn, knocking some of the Tikbalangs to the ground.

    The monster then took two steps forward and threw the Tikbalangs it held towards the trench which held two more Gargantuan Goblins. The Tikbalangs in front of it tried to catch their brothers, but they were all suddenly tackled by the goblin.

    The two Tikbalangs desperately screamed as they fell down the trench.

    * * * * * *   
    Fifteen Condortlian Warriors equipped with round shields and bastard swords, circled around their designated Gargantuan Goblin, but the monster did not cower in front of their formation.

    Instead, it pulled back its left fist and smashed it into one of the round shields. Its bearer was blasted away, tumbling down head first.

    Fortunately, the skull-helm and round shield gave the Warrior ample protection from the hard ground. Despite this, he still received a devastating damage of 14,000 points. The Warrior’s life bar revealed (110,750/124,750 HP).  

    The Warriors outside of the formation attacked with throwing spears. Shortly afterwards, a rain of arrows followed the spears.

    Ichaival lead the Banalite volunteers from the on top of the third wall. Although they’ve only just recently learned how to handle the bow, they were still able to hit their mark half of the time.

    The Banalites fired their arrows in long intervals ,as their attack speed was even slower than Jinggu’s ballista. Additionally, each of their attacks could only deal 30 points of damage to the Gargantuan Goblin.

    Ichaival ordered his falcon to carefully synchronize with the Banalites’ attacks, as it dove in whenever their arrows landed. Ichaival however, kept on attacking with his Phantom Arrows, which launched six arrows at once. With his pinpoint accuracy, he was sure to hit only the goblin.

    Each of Ichaival’s arrows could only do 840 damage points and his falcon’s talons could only do 80, but they still kept on with their puny attacks.

    Smoke inculcated two things to his private army. First was to always be cautious, especially when their lives are on the line. Second was that no matter what the circumstances are, they should always give it their all.

    Ichaival and the Banalites continued with their ranged attacks as the Gargantuan Goblin did nothing to defend against them nor did it try to avoid Ichaival’s diving falcon.

    The monster was solely focused on the shield-bearing Warriors.

    Whenever the goblin moved, so did the circle of Condortlian Warriors. After two minutes, the goblin’s life bar displayed (340,800/450,000 HP).

    Adder and his men were steadily reducing the goblin’s health. Unfortunately, the Gargantuan Goblin did not move as expected.

    It suddenly sprinted towards the third wall. The Warriors in front of the Gargantuan Goblin were forced to run backwards, while the Warriors behind it chased after the monster.

    Then, the goblin stopped in its tracks, turned around and ran straight for the Warriors chasing after it. It caught two of the shield-bearers off-guard and pushed them hard to the ground.

    Its fists relentlessly pummeled the fallen Warriors as it stood over them.

    The Warriors closest to them brandished their bastard swords and slashed the Gargantuan Goblin, but the monster simply responded with several jabs, knocking back back its attackers.

    Each of the goblin’s strikes to the pinned-down Condortlian Warriors dealt 20,000 damage points. They only had 20% of their life bars left. One more attack and the two of them would be done for.

    Adder leapt over the Condortlian Warriors. With both his hands on his double-bladed BlitzSturm, he pierced through the goblin’s black skin and plunged the sword deep into the Gargantuan Goblin’s shoulder.

    Adder inflicted the highest damage yet: 9,999 points. The monster cried out in pain as it reached out to grab its attacker.

    Adder forcibly removed his BlitzSturm and rolled away, as he couldn’t land properly after dodging the goblin’s attempt of catching him. The monster looked at Adder with pure anger.

    It raised its arms high in the air. Before Adder could return for another attack, the Gargantuan Goblin slammed both of its fists into the Warriors’ skulls, killing them.

              
    * * * * * *    Smoke only had Igniz by his side as he faced Crucibelle, the Witch of Immolation. Luckily for him, his weighted chain and sickle was made out of perlite. ‘Items from the Labyrinth sure are handy.’ he thought.

    Crucibelle raised her hands and with open palms aiming at Smoke, she unleashed a flurry of fireballs. Igniz flew upwards and tried to attack her with his own fireballs, but his attacks didn’t even make a scratch on her.

    Smoke tried his best to dodge her fireballs, but there were just too many of them. One of them blasted the ground to his right and propelled him into the air.

    Crucibelle swiftly formed a triangle with her hands and chanted, “Plus Gros Sinistre.” A fireball quadruple the size of the previous ones appeared above of the casting circle.

    Meteor Strike!” she screamed and launched the blazing attack at Smoke.

    With iron ball in his left and sharp sickle in his right hand, he placed his arms at his sides in an attempt to move through the air faster.

    Despite this, he still couldn’t escape Crucibelle’s fiery attack and it hit his left shoulder, sending him hurtling to the ground.

    Smoke received 3,790 points of damage. He quickly stood up as he saw more fireballs coming his way, but this time, Crucibelle was in range of his chain.

    He evaded the fireballs and threw his sickle towards her simultaneously. Crucibelle became wary of his weapon and dodged it instead of blocking it with her Fire Shield.

    As soon as Smoke saw the Witch take the bait, he rolled towards her side and tugged hard on the chain leading to the sickle. Crucibelle managed to avoid the returning sickle as well, but momentarily lost her balance.

    Smoke wouldn’t pass up this opportunity, as he swung the portion with the iron ball as hard as he could. Upon releasing it, the chain leading up to the iron ball extended and his weapon bludgeoned its intended mark. His surprise blow only dealt 750 damage points, but it was enough to make the Witch arch her back in agony.

    ‘Hmm. She has high defense and life, but she isn’t used to pain.’ observed Smoke.

    He quickly used this opportunity to throw his sickle over Crucibelle’s head, and then yanked it downwards with all his might.

    At the last second, Crucibelle saw the sickle and sidestepped it, but Smoke’s attack still managed to nick her left arm.

    “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” cried Crucibelle, “No-one has ever been this insolent to hit me!” She touched her gashed arm and cauterized the wounds.

    Through several battles, Smoke acquired a survival instinct, which now told him to run. He turned around and sprinted away from her. Crucibelle raised her hands and pointed them at him.

    Soon afterwards, multiple fireballs came his way. Smoke was careful not to be blasted away by the splash damage of the fireballs as they hit the ground.

    Running away from her proved to be a bad decision. His Cunning of the Dire Fox could not detect projectile attacks, but he wasn’t confident that he could dodge her fireballs from a close distance.

    Smoke looked over his shoulder to see how far he had gone from Crucibelle only to see her cast Meteor Strike directly behind him.

    BTOOOM!

    He tumbled five meters away and received 5,935 points of damage. He checked his life bar, which displayed (162,670/176,250 HP).

    Crucibelle’s life bar was barely damaged, while his was already missing almost 10%. More fireballs came his way, but he easily dodged all of them due to the large distance between him and the Witch.

    Unfortunately, he also couldn’t attack Crucibelle because she was out of his chain’s reach and she was immune to his arrows.

    ‘I’ve got to take some risk.’ he thought. Smoke switched to his white metallic staff and created a purple concave Manatl in front of him.

    The enraged Crucibelle quickly made a circular motion with her hands and created a red casting circle in front of her. She touched certain runes inside it and it lit up with flames.

    Their new abilities pitted against each other. She traced a triangle within the casting circle and yelled, “Inferno!”

    The DarkElf braced himself as innumerable fireballs were headed towards him. With both hands, he held his staff tightly in front of him. The onslaught of fireballs kept hitting Smoke’s Manatl.

    Ten seconds passed and his concave barrier began to show signs of degradation. Before he could gather the energy into his staff, a Meteor Strike shattered his Manatl and squarely smashed into his chest.

    This attack damaged him for 5,999 points and Smoke’s ego was also hit as he was blown away. He went into a rolling motion and hid in one of the bushes.

    Crucibelle created the same red casting circle, but this time eight of them at once! It took longer for the spell to complete, but she was ready to fire in all directions.

    Smoke switched strategies once more. He took out his Digger’s Wand and Armored Armadillo Shield. He quickly activated the shield’s Magical Armor ability and blocked the start of the torrential fireballs.

    He then pointed the Digger’s Wand to his feet and created a trench below him. He couldn’t risk jumping away; Crucibelle made it clear that she was a great shot in the air.

    With the aid of his Digger’s Wand, he started making trenches around Crucibelle. Unhinged, she unleashed her Inferno spell all around her.

    Every animal in the area ran away, while the unfortunate ones that couldn’t escape were burnt to a crisp along with the plants. In less than two minutes, she burned down two square kilometers of the forest.

    As Crucibelle rampaged above ground, Smoke completed a circular trench around her and dug tunnels that ran across it and connected it to his trench. An eerie silence loomed over their battlefield.

    From inside the trenches, he could sense Crucibelle’s location using Cunning of the Dire Fox, but he couldn’t tell which direction she was facing.

    Since he prefered his head still attached to his body, Smoke couldn’t risk sneaking a peek. He used Symbiote Vision and had Igniz fly directly above her.

    Crucibelle paid no mind to Igniz as she stayed in the center of the burnt-down forest patch. Smoke used his Earth Manipulation ability and launched an earth spike from behind Crucibelle. However, she expertly dodged it. He tried several more times, but his earth attacks couldn’t hit her at all.

    ‘Why can I hit her with the weighted chain and sickle but not with my earth attacks? Am I that slow?’ thought Smoke.

    “Nyak nyak nyak! Even my little sister Terrabelle couldn’t hit me with her earth attacks, what makes you think you can? Your poor imitation of her ability is laughable, to say the least.” Crucibelle let out her deranged laughter.

    SLASH!

    Smoke’s sickle cut Crucibelle’s back as she mocked him. His damage finally went over a thousand as he inflicted 1,495 points of damage. He quickly dove back into the trench to avoid her fireballs.

    Crucibelle instantly created a casting circle and her Meteor Strike destroyed the part of the trench which Smoke had leapt into a moment earlier.

    He suddenly appeared on Crucibelle’s left side and made a mad dash towards her. Before she could blast him away, Smoke activated his weapon’s deadliest ability, Cyclone of Slaughter.

    His movement and attack speed were increased tenfold. He spun and moved around at such extreme speed that his weighted chain and sickle created sixteen afterimages.

    Crucibelle created another casting circle and fired a flurry of fireballs at Smoke, but his chain deflected all of them. Her voice echoed while she got slashed and bashed by his weighted chain and sickle, as it enveloped her in a whirlwind of attacks. His weapon’s ability lasted ten seconds and Crucibelle’s life bar now displayed (849,510/900,000 HP).

    Smoke couldn’t believe that one of his strongest attacks only did that much damage. He quickly dove back into the trenches before the Witch could launch her counterattack.

    ‘The Manatl attack could’ve packed more punch if only it didn’t break.’ thought Smoke as he made a mental note to become more experienced in using that ability.

    As he hid inside a tunnel, he took out a piece of jerky and chewed on it voraciously. He watched his life bar regenerate while waiting for the cooldown of his weapon’s ability to finish.

    Suddenly, he felt really hot while leaning against the wall. Seconds later, molten rocks appeared at the tunnel’s entrance and steadily flowed towards him.

    Smoke turned around to check the other direction and found the same thing. He used his Earth Manipulation to quickly open a hole above him and leapt out with his shield in front of him.

    BTOOOM!

    A Meteor Strike struck his side as soon as he appeared above ground and blasted him upward. While Smoke was suspended in mid-air, Crucibelle unleashed her innumerable fireballs on him.

    Smoke twisted his body to turn the shield towards Crucibelle. He managed to block most of the fireballs before tumbling down to the ground. His life bar showed (141,344/176,250 HP).

    ‘Should I run for it? If I die here, those guys might fight to the death.’

    Even though Smoke had told himself earlier to focus on the battle at hand, he still couldn’t help but worry about his private army members. He held onto his shield tightly while pondering on his next move.

    ‘I should probably tell Igniz to get down from there.’ thought Smoke as he leaned to the idea of escaping.

    Crucibelle stopped her attacks and stared at him. “You’re not planning on running away, are you?” taunted the red Witch as she held two fireballs in her hands.

    Smoke wasn’t about to give in to her provocations, but then his Cunning of the Dire Fox picked up a sizeable group in the direction behind Crucibelle, heading fast towards them.

    He sensed sixty Sonstwelters and two hundred twenty-one Zectians. ‘Those can’t be Laernea and Gandiva. They’re all scattered, but they are moving too fast to be on foot. Sierra?’ Smoke wondered who was coming.

    “Oi, DarkElf, you’ve been quiet for quite some time now. Are you preparing another special ability? Nyak nyak nyak.” goaded Crucibelle.

    ‘She really is Terrabelle’s sister. She’s got the same annoying laugh.’ thought an irked Smoke.

    “Not much of a talker, huh? Very well. I’ll give you to the count of ten. Let’s have our strongest abilities fight it out, shall we?” said Crucibelle.

    She made a wide motion with her hands and a casting circle appeared in the sky, between Smoke and her. He looked up and saw the casting circle grow larger.

    “Igniz, fly away!” Smoke shouted as he was about to do the same.

    The circle reached almost fifty meters in diameter. Since Crucibelle was stuck casting her spell, Smoke instinctively leapt up and started to glide away.

    Before he could leave the spell’s area of effect, Smoke heard Crucibelle scream, “Meteor Shower!

    Meteor Strikes rained from the casting circle in the sky and obliterated the rest of the forest below it. Smoke couldn’t escape fast enough and was caught in the spell near the edge of its radius. He received ten Meteor Strikes to his back and plummeted down to the ground, receiving a total of 75,000 damage points.

    A one-meter-deep crater was created as a result of Crucibelle’s attack. She carefully went down it and walked towards Smoke. As she got closer to him, she started to gloat, “Hmm. Looks like I won. I thought you’d put up more of a fig—”

    She couldn’t finish her sentence as twenty glistening Aqueous Spikes pierced Crucibelle’s back and dealt 4,000 damage points each. She turned around and saw twenty mounted Aqua Knights jumping into the crater.

    Smoke opened his eyes and saw that it was Mamelon, the female Aqua Knight, who came to his rescue. Twenty-five more mounted Elemental Knights followed suit as they were lead by an Electro Knight and a Flame Knight.

    All of the Sonstwelter Knights had various mounts: from bronze jackals and dirus wolves to acinonyx cheetahs. They all rode swiftly towards Crucibelle.

    However, before any of them could reach her, they were all blown out of the crater by a barrage of fireballs.

    With the weakest resistance to Fire, ten Aero Knights instantly perished from Crucibelle’s massive attack, while the twenty Aqua Knights only lost 10% of their life bars.

    The five Flame Knights had the highest Fire Resistance and only lost 5%, whereas five Electro Knights and five Terra Knights lost roughly 50% of their life bars.

    “Wrraaaaaaahhhhhhh!” shouted Crucibelle.

    She kept contorting her back as she began to melt the Aqueous Spikes lodged into her. The javelin-sized ice spikes disappeared in no time.

    Mamelon and the Elemental Knights regained their composure and remained on the edge of the crater. A rain of more than two hundred arrows fell from the sky as the Bowed Fishermen unleashed their attacks.

    The mounted Bowed Fishermen riding on aardwolves came into sight, standing beside the Elemental Knights. They let loose another round of their arrows into the air. Two volleys of arrows poured down on Crucibelle.

    ‘That’s no use.’ thought Smoke as he watched the arrows being burned by Crucibelle’s fire, but surprisingly, half of the arrows did not disappear and pierced her skin.

    He squinted his eyes and scrutinized the arrows coming down from the sky. They glistened like the Aqua Knights’ Aqueous Spikes.

    He smiled as he realized what was going on. ‘They’re water arrows!’ Each arrow only did 80 damage points, but it was better than nothing.

    He turned his attention to Mamelon’s regiment. Aside from the Elemental Knights, Smoke saw that Mamelon brought fifteen Shamans, two hundred twenty Bowed Fishermen and a single Light Wizard named Baldaquin.

    The Shamans were already busy healing the Electro Knights and Terra Knights, as their life bars sustained the most damage.

    Smoke called out to the busty Aqua Knight, “Mamelon! Only Aqua Knights and Flame Knights are to engage her! The rest of you should stay out of her range—”

    BTOOOM!

    Smoke’s instructions were interrupted as a Meteor Strike came his way. He narrowly dodged it and only received the splash damage.

    Mamelon turned to her regiment and said, “You heard our Guild Master. Everyone, get to it!”

    The Shamans, Electro Knights and Terra Knights moved further back. Baldaquin, the Light Wizard, was already out of Crucibelle’s range before Smoke even gave the order.

    As the Bowed Fishermen released two more volleys of arrows, uncountable fireballs were fired towards them. The Aqua Knights and Flame Knights did their best to block the fireballs with their shields, but they still received some damage.

    Crucibelle created two casting circles, one above her and one aimed at Mamelon and her regiment. She relentlessly attacked them while countering some of the water arrows with her fireballs.

    Smoke decided not to participate in the battle and to lay low. He did his best to stay out of Crucibelle’s radar, so she would only focus on Mamelon and her regiment.

    Both sides kept using the same attacks. The life bars of both opposing forces were slowly dwindling, but Crucibelle still had the advantage of having more life and attack power.

    Mamelon and most of her regiment’s life bars were down to 30%, whereas Crucibelle’s life bar was at 40%. At that moment, Smoke knew that he had to do something.

    He thought of a way to signal a surprise attack and ordered Igniz to fly above Mamelon. The dark ember sprite obediently followed his order. Smoke then briskly called Mamelon and informed her of his plan.

    Igniz flew into position and waited for Smoke’s command. As soon as Igniz got directly in front of Crucibelle, Smoke gave him the signal to shine.

    The dark ember sprite released a blinding purple light aimed directly at Crucibelle. She received no damage, but it interrupted all her spells.

    Two volleys of two hundred twenty water arrows rained down on her and as she regained her vision and saw twenty Aqua Knights charging straight towards her.

    The Aqua Knights’ lances glowed and sharp ice spikes were fired from their tips. Crucibelle put both hands in front of her and evaporated the spikes. Little did she know that Smoke was running with all his might directly behind her.

    TANG!

    Smoke’s Armored Armadillo Shield smashed into the back of Crucibelle’s skull and stunned her for a full second. He quickly switched to his weighted chain and sickle and entangled her with it, immobilizing her.

    He held his perlite chains tightly as Mamelon and the rest of the Aqua Knights arrived. Each one of them stabbed their glistening lances into Crucibelle’s body and damaged her for 3,000 points.

    Once Crucibelle came to, she struggled to break free from Smoke’s chain but couldn’t break or melt it.

    She tried to create casting circles but was always interrupted, as multiple lances kept on piercing her body.

    On top of their aardwolves, the Bowed Fishermen moved closer and also attacked Crucibelle with their water arrows, although most of the arrows hit Smoke’s chain. Her life bar quickly started to drain away. Before they could finish her off, she created two black fireballs, holding one in each hand.

    “Careful! She still has some fight left in her.” said Smoke as he noticed the fireballs.

    “Now you will never escape our eldest sister’s wrath!” cried out Crucibelle.

    With her dying breath, she yelled, “Searing Brand!” and released the two black fireballs. One of them flew up high in the air while the other one went straight into Smoke’s chest.

    Smoke took the hit at close range, received a damage of 666 points and was blown ten meters away. The other fireball turned into a crow and flew out of sight.

    Mamelon quickly ran to the fallen Smoke and helped him up while the Shamans immediately started to heal him. He slowly got up and checked his chest. He found a black ‘X’ mark around where his heart should be.

    Suddenly, a window notification popped up.


    + Your party has dealt a fatal blow to the Witch of Wysteria: Crucibelle.
    + Your party killed the Witch of Wysteria: Crucibelle.
    + Your party gained 3,400,000 experience points.


    As the corpse of the red Witch started to fade, it left behind several items.


    + Acquired Quest Item for Immense Power of the Blood Moon:
    > Witch of Wysteria:Terrabelle blood vial (1/1)
    > Witch of Wysteria:Crucibelle blood vial (1/1)
    > Witch of Wysteria:Horrabelle blood vial (0/1)

    + Acquired rare hand accessory: Berserker’s Ring of Flame

    + Acquired ability tome: Translation – Gobberish

    + Acquired parchment:


    As he was still coming to terms with the burning feeling in his chest, Smoke couldn’t believe the items he got from Crucibelle. He wanted to examine all of them as soon as possible. He assumed that the parchment was written in Gobberish. He reached for the ability tome to consume it when he saw the trail of two flares linger in the air over Banal.

    A red and a purple flare slowly descended. In combination, those two colors meant only one thing—his private army suffered several casualties and needed his help.


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