Light Novel – Zectas – Volume 04 – Chapter 03

Author: John Nest
Editor: Timaeus

Note:  For easy character reference please refer to: Characters

WARNING: This chapter is currently still being (heavily) proofread. Tim is locked in the basement and working on it around the clock. Proceed with caution if you can’t stand grammatical errors.

To Heed a Warning


A bright sunny morning greeted Sherry’s neighbors, who were preparing to go to work or drop off their kids to school. It was time for them to start a new day.

However, in her house, it was time to get some sleep. It was night time in Zectas, at least for the next three hours in the real world. A red game pod opened and she grabbed tight onto the ergonomically-designed armrests. She stepped out with her eyebrows raised and lip curled.

“Argh! Why does he do always do this to me? One minute he’s all sweet and charming, the next he’s flying off somewhere,” she said, voicing out her frustration.

She had just logged out of Zectas as her character was safely riding on Gandiva’s war carriage. Flustered, she unfurled her ponytail and let loose her curly red hair. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and tried to get a hold of her emotions.

Sherry knew that Nash’s decision to immediately head to the three villages was the right one, but she was still upset about how little time they got to spend together.

‘Is he doing this on purpose?’ she thought to herself.

After another deep breath, she stopped trying to clear her mind and stormed out of her room. Her footsteps echoed loudly as she headed for the kitchen.

There, Sherry prepared the ingredients for her latest Zectas-inspired dish: her own version of the ancient bison stew. She stretched her hands out and cracked her knuckles.

She poured a cup of water and some cooking oil into a large pressure cooker. While waiting for the water to boil, she started chopping garlic, onions and tomatoes.

‘When he gets back, I’m definitely going to—ouch!’

Sherry stared at the blood flowing down her finger.

A year ago, she would have made a commotion over a cut like this, but after diving into the world of Zectas, she got used to seeing blood and gore. She rinsed her finger over running water and waited for the bleeding to stop, after which she continued cooking.

She sauteed the chopped ingredients in a pan and left them to cool down. She then added a whole ear of corn into the pressure cooker, along with salt, pepper and parsley. For the final ingredient, she added a whole beef shank.

Sherry excitedly sealed the pressure cooker and left it alone, as the stew needed an hour to cook. After putting a Band-Aid on her finger, she thought about doing some light yoga exercises, but opted to read posts on the Zectas forum instead.

A thread entitled “Sonstwelters and Zectians” had received a lot of attention lately. It was written by someone named ProfessorXectas and described how the NPCs in Zectas refer to themselves as ‘Zectians’, while calling the players ‘Sonstwelters’.

Sherry thought it was foolish to openly share such information. It must have required a high level of Intimacy for him to obtain it, and he just shared it with everyone else without a second thought.

Next, she clicked on Nash’s latest video, which displayed a total of six million views. She took a look at the comment section to see what the viewers thought of it.

CrazyKillaZ: I used to like Smoke. Like, he used to fight tons of bandits by himself, but now he’s just being rescued by his guild members. Has your guild weakened you, Smoke?

ProfessorXectas: I don’t know. I mean, have you ever faced a monster with that much HP? My level is in the high 80s, but I don’t think I could last even a minute against that Witch.

PurrFex: Meow!

Hilot: Be that as it may, I think Smoke and his guild did okay in the battle against that monster. If he had managed to defeat it by himself at his level, I would have seriously sent a letter to the Moderators, asking them to inspect if he has a hack enabled or something.

CatatonicKing: I’ve got no problem with him. I like the two Lioumereans that are in his private army. Prrr!

DetectiveRonan: I don’t think we should judge him based on the ending of the video alone. Crucibelle’s life was already significantly damaged before the rest of his guild arrived.

UrLogicSux: Can’t say I’m all for this fight as well. Smoke, bring back your deep video tutorials. It’s been awhile since you released one of those.

Madara: Meh. He has better videos than this one. Right now, I think Amahan’s videos are the best. He’s only one piece away from completing his djinn. Though, I could honestly say that even this is better than Tristan’s videos. That guy just delivers the finishing blows and does barely anything else.

SmoKING: I know, right? I even heard talk that the city of Tonaci is about to be taken away from him. He’s been in Grand Malodorant Dragonis for so long that his own city is about to disown him. LOL!

TriTank: @Madara and @SmoKING Clearly, you two don’t know what you’re talking about. The only reason Smoke was able to fight that Witch was because he had a perlite weapon. Where in the world could he have gotten that?! If it wasn’t for that weapon, I bet he would have been fried. And FYI, Tristan’s city still belongs to him. Those are just rumors being spread by those who envy him.

After reading the comments, she made a mental note to talk to Nash about the type of videos he makes. Looking at the clock in the corner of the screen, she found that she still had forty-five minutes to kill.

Sherry snuggled into her bed and set the alarm clock for forty-five minutes. Her being constantly in Zectas has altered her sleeping pattern. Unlike Nash, who had done research on sleeping patterns, she discovered on her own to take as many naps as she can and to sleep whenever there was nothing to do in the virtual reality world.

BWEEP BEEP BWEEP BEEP BWEEP BEEP

Her hand searched for the source of the annoying sound and finally pressed the clock’s button.
Groggily, Sherry went to the kitchen to check her experimental dish. She took a teaspoon out of a drawer and tasted the stew. She cringed at its bitter taste.

‘What the…did I put too much garlic?’ she wondered to herself. She slumped down on a chair and contemplated on a way to save the dish.

Sherry breathed out a heavy sigh and laid her head on the kitchen table. She was hoping to add another dish to her menu and take a step forward towards her dream of a Zectas-themed restaurant, but now it felt like had taken two steps back instead.

In Zectas, she was the Lady of Verbrannt, a respected owner of an entire village who could command dozens of Werewolves with a snap of her finger. However, in the real world, she was a college dropout whose dream was far from becoming a reality. That was her life at the moment.

She stared hopefully at her phone. Nash rarely called or texted. The only time they talked was inside Zectas. Her uncle was out of town again, looking into a supposed business opportunity, but she knew that he had only away with his girlfriend.

BZZZT BZZZT BZZZT BZZZT

Suddenly, her phone glowed and vibrated, as it was in silent mode.

Swiping the screen, she excitedly read the digits of an unfamiliar phone number from which she received a message. “Argh! Not another scammercial!” she said out loud and lightly threw her phone across the kitchen table.

She shook her head and proceeded to add more spices to her experimental dish. While doing so, she thought about how her life was going.

‘Should I go back to college?’ she asked herself. Unlike Nash, she wasn’t earning anything from playing Zectas. Even though she could live off the money her mother left her, Sherry still felt the need to earn her own.

Then, she remembered something her mother used to say to her.

“Remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes hard work, tenacity and courage. The path to your goal will never be easy, but that’s exactly what makes the things hardest to obtain the most precious.”

She looked out the window and gazed at the fluffy white clouds drifting across the blue sky. She put her hair in a ponytail again and took out more ingredients from the pantry. After adding the new spices, she took a teaspoon and tasted the stew. Her lips curled into a smile.

“Thanks, Mom,” said Sherry and took another sip.

Happily, she tidied things up in the kitchen and headed back to her room. She had time to get another power nap before logging back into her realm of inspiration.


* * * * * *  

Dazzling rays of the rising sun greeted another day in Zectas. The returning Vigilantez were sleeping under the cool cover of trees.

Sierra opened her eyes and saw the back of Gandiva’s carriage. She was joined by half of the rescued children, among which was one of the eldest—a Lioumerean girl.

Out of curiosity, Sierra observed her and found her to be very brave. She guessed she was probably still in her mid-teens, even though she acted mature for her age. While the other children still quivered in fear, the pantheress Lioumerean covered them with blankets.

Sierra wanted to stay with the children and show them that she was friendly. She had some success in talking to the older ones, but the really young children were clearly still terrified by her cursed form. The red werebear grabbed the other blankets on the side and followed the girl’s lead.

“It’s very sweet of you to take care of them,” said an inspired Sierra to the young pantheress.

The girl did not answer and only stared back at her. Five seconds passed and the girl just kept staring. Sierra felt uneasy and tried to change the subject.

“Have you eaten yet? I’m sure you’re famished,” said Sierra with a smile and tapped on a sleeping Gandiva’s shoulder.

The tigress Lioumerean strained her neck to look behind her carriage. “Hey…welcome back, Sierra, good morning,” replied Gandiva groggily.

“Morning. Has someone prepared breakfast yet? I think the kids could use some pick-me-up,” said Sierra with a smile. “And how’s Tulin doing?”

“He’s getting better. If taken care of, the antlers should grow back in about two months,” Gandiva said in a troubled voice.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Sierra. “You two are the best at taking care of a stag moose. I bet their antlers will grow back in no time.”

Gandiva nodded and replied, “You don’t have to worry about breakfast. I think Adder and his team took care of it. At least, they said they would before I switched lookout with Laernea.”

“That’s great,” replied Sierra energetically. “I’ll let the men know that it’s time to eat. Can you tell the children that the food is ready?”

“Sure, will do,” answered Gandiva.

As Sierra was about to leave carriage, she drew closer to Gandiva and whispered in her ear, “By the way, who’s the pantheress Lioumerean?”

“Oh, that’s Vrai,” Gandiva responded all knowingly. “She reminds me of myself when I was younger. Apparently, she’s like the their mother, and the children also have a father-like figure as well,” she said as she pointed to a young cheetah Lioumerean over on Laernea’s carriage.

“Thanks, I think I’ll talk to those two during breakfast,” replied Sierra as she left to investigate their encampment.

Werewolves were scouting the area, while the Tikbalangs scattered to specific positions around the central camp. The Vigilantez made a circular formation and kept the rescued children and goblins inside the inner circle.

Together with Adder, Laernea and Gandiva; Sierra only had ninety-six Tikbalangs, sixty-two Werewolves, thirty Centaur Rangers and fifteen Condortlian Warriors with her. They were tasked to protect two-hundred-twelve Gobble Goblins and twenty rescued children of different races back to Verbrannt.

Although there were many goblins, Sierra did not count on them to fight. Aside from the fact that she didn’t have any Intimacy with them, she also felt uneasy around them.

All in all she only depended on the Vigilantez members alone. With these numbers, Sierra felt confident that they could fight off a werewolf pack or two. If escape wasn’t a viable option. 

As Sierra walked around the encampment, two large werewolves, almost three meters tall, appeared before her. “Phen, Rear, how’s everything?” she asked.

Phen, the gray werewolf only grunted and bowed. Whereas Rear, the black werewolf, was the only who spoke to their alpha. “The area’s secure…but I have some troubling news,” she reported flatly.

Sierra raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”

“Even though their HP is almost on par with our weakest clansman, it seems that the new werewolves who joined our pack are significantly weaker when compared to our original pack members,” replied Rear respectfully.

“Maybe that’s because they haven’t undergone our training methods?” answered Sierra dismissively.

“Perhaps, but my instinct tells me something else is wrong with them,” replied Rear.

Sierra nodded and acknowledged her black werewolf. “Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind, but for now just continue to observe them. As long as they don’t pose any danger, then I’m okay even if they are weaker.”

Phen and Rear bowed down before their alpha and left towards the outer area of their encampment.

She then proceeded to where Adder and his team were. They were busy finishing their meal preparations.

“Good morning, Adder,” she said with a warm smile.

“Morning, Sierra,” replied Adder and stopped what he was doing as he walked over to her and pulled her away from the rest of his team.

“Sierra, one of the children asked me if we’re gonna take them home,” stated Adder flatly. “Of course, I told her the truth, that they’re going to live with us now,” he paused and looked uncomfortable.

“And? What seems to be the problem?” asked Sierra as she sensed Adder’s unease.

“Well, I promised them that they’d have a house especially for themselves. I thought that it might be awkward for them to join with anybody else,” explained Adder.

It took a few seconds for Sierra to realize what Adder was actually saying. “I see. You promised them a house, but you don’t know which house to put them in once we’re in Verbrannt?”

A wordless Adder silently nodded.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll have Thyrsus prepare a beautiful, relaxing house for them.” said Sierra as she patted Adder’s shoulder. “Also, I think Smoke has already contacted someone to take care of them, and should be arriving in Verbrannt the same time as us.”

“Really? Who’s that?” asked Adder curiously.

“Don’t know. He just said that it’s a person who has a lot of experience in dealing with troubled children,” retorted Sierra.

After their conversation, everyone was gathered and ate the meal Adder and his men prepared. For the goblins, who liked raw food, they gave them slightly grilled ancient bison meat. As for the children, they skewered onions, potatoes, bell peppers and tomatoes into a kebab. Adder thought that the children shouldn’t have any meat, as one of them explained that they had a gag reflex towards it.

While they were eating, Sierra resumed her observation on the two Lioumereans the children looked up to. She watched them feed the young ones and made sure that the rest who could feed themselves were eating properly.

Inasmuch as she didn’t have any luck with the pantheress before, Sierra tried talking with the cheetah Lioumerean instead. She walked over to him while he was filling up his plate to feed the children.

“Excuse me. My name is Sierra, and I’d just like to tell you that you’re doing a really good job,” she said sincerely.

The boy faced her and bowed respectfully. “Thank you for rescuing us from that wretched place.”

“Don’t mention it. No one should undergo…” Sierra stopped talking as the boy immediately left her hanging and went back to feeding the youngsters.

The red werebear crossed her arms and shook her head in disapproval.

‘Looks like I have to teach these kids some manners,’ she thought to herself.

Before she could walk over to the young cheetah Lioumerean, a pantheress stepped in front of her.

“Please forgive our rude behavior,” said Vrai humbly and lowered her head until it almost touched the ground.

“No, you don’t have to do that,” said Sierra hurriedly and helped her up. “I just wanted to get to know you guys better.”

“I understand, but I don’t think anyone of us is ready for that just yet,” retorted Vrai. “I’d also like to apologize in Ardu’s behalf as well.”

“Ardu? Oh, the boy earlier. It’s fine.” said Sierra pleasantly and waved her claws in dismissal. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll stay out of your hair from now on.”

Vrai bowed again and went back to the children. 

Sierra shrugged her shoulders and decided to respect Vrai’s request. She let the children be and ordered for everyone to break camp and resume their journey back to Verbrannt.




* * * * * *  

Sitting beside Gandiva, Sierra watched the stretch of trees before them. They continued on the covered route and avoid detection from traveling through the plains. In exchange, they were moving at a much slower pace.

Only the rescued children were in Lioumereans’ carriages. Due to the Gobble Goblins high numbers, they were forced to travel on foot. Fortunately, their kind was more than suitable enough to endure such a long and arduous march.

They encountered monsters such as stone deers and once met a family of hell boars once. But the monster that plagued them the most in these forests were the epicyon, a one and a half meter long wild dog. They moved slower than the aardwolves, but they made up for it in brute strength. These wild dogs would form groups of three and knock down medium-sized trees by simply pouncing on them.

Whenever such monsters appeared, the Gobble Goblins displayed their nimbleness as they quickly huddled within near the Lioumereans carriage. They patiently waited for the Werewolves and Tikbalangs to finish off the monsters before continuing to move forward.

They traveled for the rest of the day without much incident. It was getting dark and Sierra decided that it was time for them to break camp. At the rate they were going, they still had four days left before they could reach Verbrannt.

As Sierra was about to give the order to make camp, she felt multiple cold eyes staring at her back. She turned around, but could sense nothing with her Animal Instinct.

Abruptly, she heard werewolves howling.

AWWWOOO AWWWW AWWWW AWWWWOOOOOO

It wouldn’t have bothered her normally, but Sierra gave her werewolves strict orders not to make a sound. As her eyes searched from beyond the trees, she saw them. Werewolves that didn’t belong to her pack surrounded them.

Instantly, the Gobble Goblins ran next to Sierra and the Lioumereans’ carriage. The elderly goblin who could speak Lacerta ran next to Sierra and asked. “You can fight them off, right?” he asked, shaking with fear.

Sierra didn’t answer and only kept her eyes on the enemies encircling them.

As the enemy werewolves moved in closer, her werewolf pack slowly backed away towards her and made their circular formation smaller and smaller.

Two black werebears appeared in front of them and stepped in front of the werewolves. Sierra then observed some movement from their rear and glanced towards them. Two more brown werebears appeared in the back of their formation.

Aside from the four werebears, Sierra estimated the enemy werewolves to number almost four hundred. Almost twice the maximum limit she set for their current battle strength.

Given the dire situation, Sierra tapped the elderly goblin and said. “I’m sorry to do this, but I need you to fight with us.”

Still trembling, the elderly goblin shook his head strongly. “No! There’s no way we’ll fight. You can’t make us,” he replied with finality.

As Sierra was about to argue the obvious, she heard the black werebears’ loud voice.

“Red Scamp, we’ve come to take back what you’ve stolen!” said the male black werebear in a grim voice.

Sierra surmised that he was talking about her, considering she was the only thing red in the forest.

“Walk away, and your lives will be spared,” replied Sierra in a calm but loud voice. “Threaten us one more time, and I swear to hunt all of you down!” she bluffed boldly.

“Bold words for someone about to die,” snapped a female voice. It came from the brown werebear behind Sierra.

“No, we shouldn’t kill her,” added the male brown werebear. “We need her alive, and don’t kill any of the goblins or the children as well!”

Sierra didn’t understand what the werebears were saying, but one thing was clear to her, she needed to think of something fast if she wants to survive.

She caught Adder glance at her. His eyes darted to the right side, an area without the werebears. She nodded, as she understood that he wanted to clear a path to the side and escape into the plains right next to the forest.

Even though Bilis and Tulin were still recovering, their top speed is still beyond a Werewolf’s. Adder’s plan assured the safety of the children, but it would mean risking the lives of all the Vigilantez in the group.

While Sierra was still contemplating on following Adder’s suggestion, the enemy werewolves were steadily drawing in closer to them.

“Phen, Rear!” Sierra called out her trusted werewolves and pointed them to Adder. The black and gray werewolves bowed in acknowledgement of her orders.

She then spoke with the elderly goblin. “We will need to make a run for it. Be sure to keep up.”

The elderly goblin nodded in response and began spreading the word to his kin.

As their space was rapidly decreasing, Sierra gave Adder the go ahead and watched him and his team make a dauntless charge towards the side. Werewolves and Tikbalangs alike charged after Adder and protected them from their flanks.

“Gandiva, Laernea, follow Adder’s lead,” ordered Sierra softly so that only the Lioumerean Pathfinders could hear.

At once, their stag moose steamed after Adder. The children held on tightly as the carriage greatly wobbled through the forest.

As they were escaping, Sierra noticed that the goblins were running towards the opposite direction. She jumped off Gandiva’s carriage and grabbed the elderly goblin with her claws before he could run away from her.

“What are you doing?” she asked angrily.

“Let me go! These monsters are after you. It’s best we survive on our own,” he said hurriedly and bit her hand, forcing her to release him.

Sierra watched the goblins flee to the left side of the forest.

She then noticed that both brown werebears and their werewolves ran after the Gobble Goblins to capture them. Sierra shook her head and barreled back to Gandiva’s carriage. The goblins may have deserted her, but at least they split the enemies in half.

While she stormed towards the carriage, dozens of enemy werewolves broke through the Vigilantez defensive line and targeted the children.

For the moment, Sierra forgot not to harm the enemy werewolves and clawed right through them. She quickly knocked them back to the sides. Regardless if they could be potential allies, they still posed a clear and present danger to the children.

Unexpectedly, she reached Gandiva’s carriage sooner than she estimated. She hurriedly climbed it and checked on the children. looked in front and found that Adder’s advance was blocked by two black werebears.

Laernea and Gandiva stopped their carriages right next to each other. The two Pathfinders stood up and fired their poison arrows at all enemy werewolves. They changed focus to the front as soon as Sierra arrived and left the back of the carriages for her to defend.

From on top of Gandiva’s carriage she observed Adder take on the male black werebear by himself. Despite being smaller, Adder clearly overpowered the black werebear with his BlitzSturm and Condortlian Shield.

Sierra wanted to run to the front and help him, but she couldn’t leave the children unprotected. “Adder, watch out!” she cried out from afar as she saw the female werebear launch a back attack at her friend.

Fortunately, Phen and Rear arrived in time and blocked the female werebear’s back attack. Due to Sierra watching Adder’s battle closely, she failed to notice that one of the children had been taken by a brown werewolf.

“Sierra, help!” cried out Vrai. The pantheress leapt from the carriage onto the back of the werewolf. She choked it with her arms as she desperately cling on to the beast. Her desperate attack made the werewolf momentarily stopped on its tracks.

Sierra immediately scampered after them, but not before Ardu arrived and struggled with the werewolf to release the little girl in its claws.

The girl scurried back towards the carriages and climbed back safely.

With the girl released, the werewolf had more mobility. It grabbed Vrai by its claws and freed itself from her.

The pantheress was forcibly thrown off, but Ardu caught her safely before hitting the hard forest ground. The enraged werewolf forgot its orders not to harm the children. It was about to attack them when a red werebear stepped in front of them and blocked its claws with her arms.

“Are you guys okay?” she asked while blocking the continuous onslaught of claws. Ideally, she would have liked to convert this werewolf, but considering its alphas were still alive she couldn’t. She hardened her resolve and withstood the werewolf’s attacks, as long as she could confirm that the two of them were safe.

With each attack of the werewolf, Sierra’s blood splattered everywhere. Vrai and Ardu who stood behind her were covered in it.

“Oh, no. Did you get clawed?” asked a concern Sierra as she saw them covered with blood.

“No, we’re fine. This is your blood…” Vrai stopped talking as the two of them unexpectedly fell to the ground. Both of them instantly started convulsing.

Sierra didn’t understand what was happening. She used Double Slash on the werewolf and knocked the beast away from them.

“Vrai, Ardu, what’s happening?” she asked worriedly.

The two Lioumereans’ bodies and limbs twisted and contorted into painful positions. Sierra had to turn away from them as she noticed six more werewolves heading towards them.

“Laernea, Gandiva, we’ve got incoming!” she shouted to the two Pathfinders and asked for their help.

“Sorry, but we’ve got our hands full at the moment as well,” replied Laernea as she fired her arrows at four werewolves heading towards them from the front. Due to their injured stag moose, the Pathfinders’ attack power was almost halved.

Sierra glanced towards the front of the carriage and understood what Laernea meant. 

‘Six werewolves against one werebear. I still got the upper hand,’ she thought and psyched herself up.

ROOAAAAAARRR

ROOOOOOAARRR

Suddenly, two distinct roars came from behind Sierra. She turned around and almost fell down as she saw a black werebear and a brown werebear.

‘How did they sneak up on me?’ she wondered to herself and instinctively curled up into a defensive stance.

She knew she had to push them away from the carriage where the children were kept. Yet, she also had to face six more werewolves about to pounce on her.

Shaking her head out of frustration, she was about to lunge an attack on the two werebears when they rushed past her and each took on two enemy werewolves.

Sierra was completely astonished at what was happening, but she didn’t have the time to question it. She focused on the two remaining werewolves and grabbed each one of them by the neck and slammed them hard to the ground.

After she killed the two werewolves, she looked at the brown and black werebear in front of her and stared at their names and life bars; Vrai (394,250/400,000 HP) and Ardu (389,000/400,000 HP).

“Sierra, what happened?” asked a confused Vrai, looking at her cursed black werebear form.

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure this out,” she answered sympathetically. She then heard Ardu’s voice.

“Are you alright?” Ardu asked Vrai and placed his brown werebear claws on her shoulders. Vrai strongly shook her head in response.

“Vrai, Ardu, I know you’re confused right now, but this isn’t the time for that. Right now, it’s time to survive.” stated Sierra and helped them back into the carriages.

Instantly, the children backed away when they saw the two werebears that wasn’t Sierra, but she quickly explained that the two of them were Ardu and Vrai.

The newly transformed werebears expected the children to be afraid of them. Yet, in spite of their cursed forms, the children rushed towards them and hugged them dearly.

Then, Laernea turned around and faced them. “Alright, time to go. Hold on…” she paused and looked at three werebears behind them. “Sierra? Those two are allies, right?”

“Yeah.” replied Sierra flatly. “Well, let’s go you two.” she said and pointed forward.

It was all thanks to the efforts of Adder, Phen and Rear. They were not able to kill the two black werebears, but they did manage to critically wound them and drive them off.

Due to this, Sierra and the rest of the Vigilantez were able to escape out of the forest and sprinted across the plains.

She watched the enemy werewolves flee with their alphas. She smiled and let out a deep sigh of relief, but then her eyes went to Ardu and Vrai. Instantly, her smile faded and her eyes moistened with tears. She hoped Smoke would arrive in time to evacuate those three villages. No one else should fall to Horrabelle’s curse.


* * * * * *  

Smoke squinted his eyes as the wind speed was extremely strong when gliding at his top speed. He glanced over his shoulders at Igniz and Ledur and scowled as the two of them seem to be unaffected.

Smoke had a wide view of the landscape below him. He could clearly see the mountains, valleys, forests and plains of Wysteria. As they were still far from their destination, he ordered his group to descend and take a quick break. They needed to satisfy their primal need and fill up their satiety bars.

They landed safely on the outskirt of a forest patch. Ledur expertly created a table, chairs and a fire pit with his Earth Manipulation. Igniz then lit up the fire pit. They got a campfire up and running in no time at all.  

While Smoke was cooking a grilled veal, his Cunning of the Dire Fox picked up the creatures from inside the trees. This was not new to him as his ability’s range had greatly increased, but the notification window that came afterward was.

+ Ability Advanced: Cunning of the Dire Fox
    (Passive)
    Level: Master Level 1
    Experience: (0/100,000,000)

    You’ve reached the Master zone of this ability.

    Effect: Detects enemy presence from 500 meters away.

  + Learned: Cunning of the Dire Fox II – Extra Sensory
    (Active)
    Effect: Detects things beyond the physical realm within half a meter of caster.
    Notes:
    > Consumes 100,000 MP per use and additional 10,000 MP per second after activation
    > Range will increase as ability level increases
    > MP consumption will decrease as ability level increases

“Whoa!” exclaimed Smoke. He was taken by surprise at the newly gained active ability.

“What’s the matter?” asked a startled Ledur as he searched around their area for any potential danger. “Are we being attacked?”

Igniz hurriedly flew higher and orbited around their campfire, looking for their enemies.

“No, no. My ability just reached master level. Sorry, for worrying you guys,” replied Smoke excitedly. He didn’t think about anything else but trying out the new ability.

It took so long to increase this ability from Advance to Master that Smoke stopped paying attention to its experience bar.

Posthaste, Smoke stood up and used Extra Sensory. At the same time, Igniz returned and circled around him. At once, his eyes turned golden and became that of a dire fox’s. For the first time, he could see the energy flowing out of Igniz and Ledur.

Igniz’s dark purple flames left a trail of where he had flown through. He could also see the energy used on Ledur’s
Earth Manipulated tables and chairs.

Smoke smiled. The visual effects of the ability were quite impressive, but he had a feeling that this ability had something else to offer.

However, he temporarily set the idea aside and checked on the other two hidden abilities that he first acquired in Zectas.

His smile grew even wider when he saw that his Agility of the Horned Rabbit was almost at Master Level 1 as well. He then checked his Armor Break of the Armored Armadillo. His smile faded as he found that it was still at Advance Level 3, but that didn’t keep him down long.

His excitement to discover the Master Level of his Agility of the Horned Rabbit’s was the only thing in his mind right now.

“Ledur, Igniz, I’ll be right back.” said Smoke eagerly and headed for the forest patch.

The winged Tikbalang stepped in front of him and asked. “Wait, where are you going? I thought there were no enemies?”

“Yup, I’m just gonna train a bit,” answered Smoke with anticipation. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.”

After he tried out his Extra Sensory ability, his MP was halved, but that didn’t matter as he wasn’t going to need it.

His Cunning of the Dire Fox picked multiple monsters hiding behind the trees. However, this forest patch only had low level creatures. Monsters such as stone deers, iron owls, rabid racoons and poisonous skunks.

Despite this, Smoke still wanted to train his Agility of the Horned Rabbit. He chose a nearby pack of rabid raccoons. There were ten of them altogether. Given these many opponents, he thought that it should result in some significant experience.

He grabbed two fallen branches from the ground and sneaked up on the rabid racoons. Dual wielding the two branches, he struck each one of the rabid racoons, but made sure not to kill them.

Aggravated, all of the rabid beasts came at him at once. Their claws came at him from all directions. He braved the pain as some of the attacks scratched his flesh. While dodging most of the monsters’ attacks, he delivered eight swift strikes to one of the rabid racoons and accidentally killed it.

His mouth twinge after killing the monster. The experience bar of his target ability practically didn’t move at all. He wished he had books to hold onto instead, but he had acquired the knowledge of all his books.

Ten minutes into his training session and the experience bar still did not budge at all. Smoke sighed and realized that this was pointless. He switched to his weighted chain and sickle and instantly killed the remaining nine rabid racoons.

He only wanted to gauge how much longer it would take him to raise the Agility of the Horned Rabbit to Master Level, but clearly the rabid raccoons were not the monsters capable of doing that.

“You should have said that you just wanted to practice dodging.” Ledur’s voice came out of nowhere.

Startled, Smoke looked up and searched for his friend. He found him standing on one of the tree branches behind him.

“You know, I know of a more efficient method to train your dodging ability.” stated Ledur.

“Really? How?” asked an intrigued Smoke.

“Follow me,” replied Ledur and flew out of the forest back to their encampment.

Igniz greeted Smoke warmly and orbited around him when he returned. “Calm down, bud. I wasn’t gone that long.” As his symbiote flew around him, he then realized that his dark ember sprite was only closing the claw marks of the rabid racoons.

Smoke patted his dark ember sprite. “Thanks, bud, but I’ve got some real training to do.” He stared at Ledur who stood some distance away from them.

He walked over to the winged Tikbalang cautiously. After all, he had no idea what Ledur’s efficient training method was.

Ledur stared intensely at Smoke. All of a sudden, the winged Tikbalang spoke out. “Due to our constant battles, I never got to properly thank you for saving my fellow Pferdians,” he said gratefully. “Now, you even rescued the captured children.”

“Think nothing of it. I was only doing what I know is right.” replied Smoke sincerely.

Ledur’s bat-like wings expanded to its full size and he then bent his body slightly, giving Smoke a bow. “Allow me to thank you now, by helping you out with some light training.”

“Yeah, about that, what exactly do…” Smoke stopped talking as multiple earth spikes came at him from the ground. While he dodged six of them, four earth spikes grazed his back and damaged him for a total of 2,400 points.

In that one attack, Smoke received more damage than when he fought ten rabid raccoons. It took all of his focus to dodge more earth spikes coming his way.

Smoke was reminded of how large their gap was with the mastery of the earth. Ledur’s attacks were swift, unpredictable, but calculated.

He bobbed, weaved, twisted his body body in all directions in order to avoid Ledur’s powerful attacks. Sensing thirty spikes aimed at him, Smoke leapt up and glided farther away.

‘My earth spikes are no where this fast. I wonder if Crucibelle could have dodged Ledur’s earth spikes,’ he wondered to himself as he tried to catch his breath.

Unexpectedly, an earth pillar rammed into his back and sent him flying back to where Ledur was.

“Time out!” Smoke cried out as he breathed heavily.

Ledur’s attacks instantly ceased.

Smoke eagerly checked the experience bar for the Agility of the Horned Rabbit, and found that it increased by 0.1%, he smiled as he ultimately found some progress. Their fight lasted less than fifteen minutes, but he could already see the result.

“You’re right. That was more effective. I finally got some experience points, but we don’t have time for it now,” explained Smoke as he did some rough calculations and realized it would take more than a day of such practice to fill the remaining 10% to Master level.

“Let’s finish eating and head for those villages afterwards,” said Smoke with conviction. “My ability can wait. Those people are far more important.”

Ledur nodded and flew towards the campfire. Smoke winced as he watched his body covered in multiple cuts and bruises.

‘And he didn’t even use his full power,’ he thought to himself as he praised how strong Ledur was.

While eating, his thoughts were disturbed by the one he was thinking of, Ledur abruptly spoke out. “Smoke, about the other three villages. I think it’s best if lie low. We wouldn’t want to scare them with my cursed appearance.”

Smoke strongly shook his head in disagreement. “No way is that going to happen. They’ll eventually meet you and other Tikbalangs in Verbrannt anyway. So, it’s better for them to deal with it now than later.”

“Very well.” Ledur dropped the topic and continued eating.

In less than ten minutes later, Smoke, Igniz and Ledur were back in the skies. With their satiety bars filled, they were on a direct flight to the three villages.


* * * * * *  


Airborne for more than an hour, Smoke was determined to reach the villages before the end of the day. Yet, his plans were foiled by nature itself as storm clouds gathered and poured heavy rain on Smoke, Igniz and Ledur.

“Igniz, inside,” called out Smoke to his symbiote as he pointed to orb chamber on his chest. The dark ember sprite instantly disappeared and positioned himself comfortably within the metallic orb.

“Ledur, I can’t continue in this weather. The rain’s too strong,” stated Smoke flaty.

Without a word, the winged Tikbalang nodded and started to descend.

As their journey was stalled due to their tempestuous weather, Ledur created a small shelter with Earth Manipulation which protected them from the heavy downpour.

While waiting out the storm, Smoke finally received a call he had been waiting for almost a day now. In the middle of Espion’s original mission to meet Incitant, Smoke sent him to investigate Braucht Hilfe village and confirm whether there was a trap waiting for them there. That was the last time he had spoken to the young Spy.

Smoke answered Espion’s call.

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” spoke the young Spy in a hushed voice.

He heard Espion take in a deep breath which assured him of a lengthy explanation. “I found Horrabelle in Braucht Hilfe village. She’s gathered twenty Werebears and almost two thousand Werewolves. Now, she’s just waiting for the remaining eight thousand Brandals of the supplier legion to reassemble and join her.” Espion confirmed Smoke’s suspicion of a trap. “But since you didn’t continue to Braucht Hilfe. I heard that they were now headed to Pinagsama village. Once all of them are gathered, they should reach the village within two days.”

Smoke sighed and allowed the troubling information to sink in. “Alright, what’s the good news?”

“That was the good news,” replied Espion. “The bad news is Incitant and his alliance aren’t what we thought they were.”

“What do you mean?” asked an alarmed Smoke.

“In my earlier report, I said that Incitant’s alliance has over thirty-thousand Sonstwelters,” stated Espion. “However, I was misinformed of their actual levels. As it turns out, the alliance has less than a thousand members who are above Level 100.”

Smoke’s eyebrows met. “And the rest of them?”

“All below Level 80. Ten thousand of them are above Level 50, while the rest of them are barely Level 30,” responded Espion.

“Level 30? But’s that a level you can gain in less than a week!” Smoke raised his voice out of frustration.

“Sierra ordered me to meet with Incitant, hoping that his alliance could launch a strike of their own.” Espion described why he was originally sent to Centzo. “But I don’t see that happening any time soon. Apparently, none of the Sonstwelters below level 50 ever came back.”

“So how many men does Incitant actually have?” asked Smoke while shaking his head.

“A little over seven thousand,” answered Espion somberly. “But they can’t leave or else the city will be undefended as well.”

“Incitant is just playing defense?” Smoke asked in disbelief. “That man has to do something!”

BAROOOM BAROOOM BROOOM BROM

The loud thunder and torrential rain dampened his mood even more.

“What about the mayor of Centzo? What does he have to say?” asked Smoke.

“I wasn’t able to meet him,” responded Espion quickly. “He was injured from the last Brandal attack and is still recovering. I’ll check on him again and see if I could meet him.”

Smoke took a deep breath and decided on the new orders to give his Spy. “Alright, keep your eyes on Horrabelle for now and tell me the moment she leaves for the villages.”

He wanted to make sure the exact time they had left before Horrabelle reaches them, but before dropping the call he had to remind his friend of their most important rule in Smoke’s private army. “Espion, remember to stay as far away as you can. Your life is more important than any information.”

“Got it,” answered Espion with complete understanding.

Huddled in the small earth shelter, Smoke shook his head in disappointment and stared angrily at the blustery clouds overhead.

‘I’ve got to reach those villages soon!’ thought a frustrated Smoke. 


* * * * * *  


After almost twenty hours; Smoke, Igniz and Ledur finally reached the three villages. All three places were situated inside a deep, expansive valley. The tall mountains encircling it looked volcanic, as such he guess the land was blessed with rich fertile soil. 

Due to their high aerial view, Smoke found that the mighty Murray river had been forcibly redirected towards a colossal dam of architectural marvel, creating a massive man-made lake. A towering earth-dam smack in the middle of the three villages. He estimated that it must have stretched for almost three-kilometers and was at least ninety-meters tall.

+ Entered Gitna Dam

    Located in the middle of the three villages of Tatlong, iugar and Pinagsama. It is Wysteria Continent’s largest dam. No one knows how old it is, but everyone agrees that it is an ancient wonder. It is currently being shared by the three villages and is the reason for their great agriculture success.

Smoke assumed that the ancestors of all three villages must have worked together to create such an outstanding spectacle. He thought that it was another proof of how well these three villages cooperated with each other, and now wondered whether they weren’t originally just one big village.

The three villages situated on lower grounds than the dam relied on the large waterwheel carrying the river waters into irrigation canals and redistributed them into their expansive farmlands. He could tell that the three villages were highly invested in agriculture.

With his Telefax Vision, Smoke followed the flow of the irrigation canals and found multiple smaller waterwheels along it.

Smoke could only let out a whistle as he was at a loss of words in their technological advancement. He envied them and was now more invested in having them move to Verbrannt, hoping that this technology could be transferred there.

He intended to visit Pinagsama first as it was nearest to the east side, where Horrabelle was coming from. The three villages were small and really close to each other. So small that even with all three of them combined, Verbrannt would still be larger.

Flying directly over Pinagsama, he assessed that the village walls were well made, but he instantly noticed something missing. They were lacking Archer towers in the entire village.

Even though they could land inside the village, Smoke and Ledur landed outside of the village’s main gates with Igniz still hidden in his metallic orb. He did this in order to show them proper respect and steadily increase their Intimacy.

+ Entered Pinagsama Village

    One of the villages sharing Gitna Dam. Purely an agricultural village. Its residents were forced to take up arms due to the recent Brandal attacks. The current population is 1,206.

Two men and two women in their late twenties immediately rushed towards them. All of them had black hair and were clothed in hard leather armor. They pointed their three-pronged iron-spears, they were carrying at Smoke and Ledur.

Smoke was hoping for a more pleasant greeting, but settled with the fact that they weren’t being attacked.

“Easy now,” he said calmly and raised his hands in the air. “My name is Smoke and this is my friend Ledur.” he said with a smile and pointed to the winged Tikbalang.”

Ledur shook his head and gave him a knowing look, which he understood as an ‘I told you so.’

“We’re not here to make trouble. In fact, we’re here to prevent it,” said Smoke strongly with his hands still raised.

The four villagers looked at each other and quickly turned back their attention at Smoke. “That is exactly what a Spy would say,” shot back one of the men.

Abruptly, one of the female villagers asked out loud. “But would a Spy wear such shabby clothes? He doesn’t look like he’s had anything to eat in days.”

Upon hearing this, Smoke thanked his ragged appearance for once. Seeing as there were four of them, he gambled on using his Beggary. He observed the girl and could see the pity in her eyes. He had a feeling that the girl would be susceptible to his ability.

“Just hear me out. I just want to talk to your village chief. Horrabelle is coming with a legion of Brandals and all of you must evacuate,” pleaded Smoke imploringly.

“You can even tie us up if that will make you feel better,” said Smoke and lowered his hands and crossed them over to each other, offering it to the girl who spoke out earlier.

BEGGARY ABILITY SUCCEEDED!
  > You have convinced this person to take pity on you. Your intimacy with her has temporarily increased to 80%.
  Note: Intimacy levels will only last for 24 hours.

The girl turned to her companions and said. “Let’s just tie them up and take them to the elder. How could they possibly fight us? I mean, we got them outnumbered.”

The three villagers started whispering to each other and eventually agreed with her suggestion. They tied up Smoke’s and Ledur’s hands in chains and led them to the home of their village elder.

“My name is Dalaga, and I’m on the line if you two cause any problems,” she said glaringly and pointed at Smoke.

He raised his chained up hands in surrender. “Of course. We won’t do anything like that.”

As they walked through the village, Smoke trained himself to scrutinize everything he could find. Be it as a hero or a captive, every time he was paraded through a village, he could already gather vital information. There were some children playing outside of their homes, but only one or two.

Their homes were made out of light material. Bamboo for the walls and floors, and thatched up hay for their roofs. Basing from the colossal dam and the several watermills, he expected more advance houses, but he concluded that they must have focused all their efforts on agricultural architecture rather than their housing.

Despite their less impressive residences, Smoke found them very dependable. All of the adults were clothed in the same hard leather armor. Men and women alike appeared to be battle ready at a moment’s notice.

As they were still heading for the elder’s home, they passed through one of the farmlands. There, he found the villagers stacking up piles of hay, using their three-pronged spears as pitch forks.

‘Even though they’re only farming, they’re still prepared for any attacks,’ thought an inspired Smoke. ‘The residents in Verbrannt should be like this as well.’

While still heading for the village elder, Smoke received his anticipated call from Espion.

“Excuse me,” he said while tapping the young girl with his chained up hands. “I’ve got to take this. It won’t be long.”

Dalaga nodded and allowed him to take it. They stopped. Dalaga and the villagers surrounded Smoke and Ledur.

“Smoke, they’ve left. You’ve got exactly forty-eight hours before Horrabelle gets to those villages,” reported Espion hurriedly. “I’m going to head back to Centzo and see if their mayor has healed.”

“Thanks, Espion, and be safe,” replied Smoke before their call ended.

He hurriedly opened a customized window and created a countdown timer.

> Horrabelle’s Arrival: 47H:59M:00S

He minimized the window and pushed it to the side of his peripheral vision.

“Dalaga, I’m good to go,” stated Smoke hurriedly. “Now, let’s hurry up and meet your elder.”

He was almost pushing the villagers to walk faster as every second now literally counts.

Despite their hastened pace, it still took them ten more minutes of walking until they eventually reached the elder’s house.

“Wait here, while I’ll call the elder,” said the girl who was influenced by his Beggary.

Seconds later, she came out with an old man in his early seventies. Smoke thought that he looked friendly and was hopeful that his conversation with him would go smoothly.

“Good day! I’m Smoke,” he said with a Smile but in a hurried manner. “I’d offer my hand, but I’m currently tied up at the moment.” He then made a strong gesture with his bounded up hands.

The old man looked to the two men next to Smoke and said. “Dagdag, Labis, remove their chains. Those things won’t be necessary.”

The two villagers immediately followed his orders and freed Smoke and Ledur.

“Thank you so much,” he said gratefully and rubbed his wrists where the chains had been. He then extended his hand to the village elder. “Nice to meet you…”

“Utusan. My name is Utusan,” replied the old man cheerfully and shook Smoke’s hand back.

“My granddaughter tells me that you’ve come to warn us about an invasion?” asked Utusan while patting the young girl whom Smoke managed to convince.

“Yes!” responded Smoke eagerly. “Horrabelle has joined with the Brandals and are coming to wipe out your village and the other two villages near here.”

Utusan stared at him blankly. “I’m aware of the Brandals cruelty,” he spoke out of personal experience. “But who is this Horrabelle person?”

Smoke stared back at him in disbelief. “You don’t know Horrabelle? Have you heard about the Witches of Wysteria?”

Utusan shook his head in response.

‘I thought they were well known throughout the entire continent?’ he wondered to himself.

“Anyway, she’s a very bad person and her powers are even worse,” Smoke proceeded to describe how horrible Horrabelle was, in hopes of convincing Utusan and his entire village to leave with him.

“…So, that’s why I’m urging you to migrate with us to Verbrannt. We’ve already migrated dozens of villages and Verbrannt can more than accommodate all three of the villages here.”

Utusan was mumbling and scratched his chin while he was pondering. “Horrabelle does indeed sound terrifying, but I’m afraid I’m not the one you have to convince.”

Smoke’s eyebrows met with confusion. “What do you mean? Aren’t you the village elder of Pinagsama?”

“Village elder, yes. But I take my orders from someone above me,” explained Utusan. “And the village elders of Tatlong and Lugar will only tell you the same thing as well.”

He took in a deep breath and asked with a hint of frustration. “So, who do I have to talk to in order to save your lives?”

“You have to speak with Guro,” retorted Utusan. “Guro lives in a small house on top of Gitna dam.”

“Alright, any significant markings on Guro’s house? Or do I just ask around?” asked a somewhat annoyed Smoke.

Utusan waved his hand in dismissal. “It should be easy to spot. Guro is the only one who lives on top of the dam.”

Smoke shook Utusan’s hand and thanked him for the information about Guro. He turned to Ledur and gave him a nod. The winged Tikbalang spread out his black bat-like wings and soared to the sky. He then saluted Utusan and the rest of the villagers gathered and leapt up, spreading his hooded cloak and gliding towards Guro’s house.


* * * * * *  

Posthaste, Smoke and Ledur soared to Guro’s house on top of Gitna Dam. He used his Telefax Vision to search the dam’s surface until he finally spotted the house he was looking for. It was right in the middle of the dam.

It was a small brown house made out of thick lumber, large stones and a tiled roof. The house’s materials blended well with the earth dam and slightly camouflaged it. One would have needed to know the house’s location in order to find it.

Both Smoke and Ledur landed softly in front of the house.

“Hello? Anyone home?” asked Smoke loudly.

He tried walking around the house and shouted Guro’s name, but there was still no response.

Smoke scratched his head and wondered whether Guro was sleeping. “Should we go in?” he asked Ledur.

From out of the blue, his Cunning of the Dire Fox sensed a large monster heading his way. He looked up and saw a three-meter-lengthed bull shark crashing down from the sky. Its horns would have scratched him if he didn’t dodge it in time.

Smoke took out his weighted chain and sickle and prepared himself to fight the large lake monster, but then he saw that its life bar (1,163/300,000 HP). It was steadily going down.

“Who are you and what are you doing near my home?” asked a stern female voice.

Quickly turning around, he spotted a middle-age lioness Lioumerean carrying the a three-pronged golden-spear. She stepped out of a rowboat from the man made lake and easily pulled it to rest next to three other rowboats placed on top of the dam.

Upon closer inspection, Smoke realized that the water in the dam was filled with creatures belonging to the expansive Murray river. This horned bull shark may have been smaller than the ones he met in Saruras, but it was clearly no pushover either.

He paused as he was surprised to see a Lioumerean. “Hello,” greeted Smoke and waved at her pleasantly. “You must be Guro. Utusan told me to talk to you.”

Smoke stepped back as Guro suddenly threw her spear pierced the head of the bull shark, depleting it of its final HP.

“I don’t normally entertain strangers, but something about you seems familiar,” she said with an intrigued voice and walked over to the body of the bull shark. As the monster’s body started to disappear, Guro knelt down and picked an odd looking knife in the shape of the bull shark’s tooth.

“So…talk,” retorted Guro haughtily. “I don’t have all day,” she added while she collected the other items dropped by horned shark.

“Right, my friend and I came here to warn you about Horrabelle’s incoming attack. She’s got two thousand Therianthropes and eight thousand Brandals with her….” Smoke began to describe what atrocities Horrabelle has in mind for the three villages if she reaches them.

After a few minutes of Smoke’s winded explanation, Guro stopped him from talking any further.

“I’ve heard about Horrabelle and I know about the Brandals, but I don’t know anything about you,” she stated plainly.

“Why should I listen to you?” she asked inquisitively. “Did you expect me to uproot three villages just because you told me?”

Smoke thought about using his Beggary ability on her, but decided not to. He didn’t want to risk the chance it would fail and lose his chance of convincing her completely. He smiles at her, but had his arms crossed while still thinking about what to do next.

Then, Guro stood up and walked over to her house. “Follow me,” she commanded airily. “And you can let out that ember sprite in your chest there,” added Guro as she pointed to the metallic orb on his chest.

Smoke looked at Ledur with a raised eyebrow. He then opened up Igniz’s compartment and signaled both of them to follow her.

She opened the door to her house and left it open for Smoke and Ledur to enter. Once inside, she got a pitcher of black gooey beverage and helped herself to a glass.

“If Horrabelle’s army is indeed that many, then Tatlong, Lugar and Pinagsama has no chance of surviving,” she said and clicked her tongue loudly.

She then looked at Igniz and said. “Dark ember sprites are rare. This is the only the second dark ember sprite I’ve seen.”

Guro then sat down at the kitchen table while Smoke and Ledur remained standing. “At least you’ve got enough manners not to sit on your own,” she said and pointed to the two of them to have a seat at the table.

Only Smoke sat down with her while Ledur stood in his place.

“Did you know that those three villages used to be in shambles,” she said while clicking her tongue once more. “They were victims to the Brandals long before they started their invasion on Centzo city.”

Guro took a deep breath. “It wasn’t until I gathered all of them and trained them to be Ranseurs that they were able to get back their normal lives. They’re safe within their walls, near the Gitna Dam, which their ancestors built. And they’ve done fairly well until today…”

“A Ranseur? Is that an Advanced variation of the Warrior Job?” Smoke asked as he was eager to learn a new Job.

“Ha!” Guro exclaimed mockingly. “A Ranseur isn’t a Warrior. A Ranseur is a variation of a Gladiatrix who specializes in using three-pronged spears,” she explained proudly.

“Gladiatrix? Is that a female version of a Gladiator?” he asked innocently.

Unbeknownst to him that he opened a sensitive topic.

“No! You have it backwards!” Guro suddenly shouted for no apparent reason. “Gladiators are male versions of Gladiatrix!”

She glared at Smoke and pointed her finger at him. “Do you understand?”

“Of course I was just trying to…” he stopped mid sentence as he could feel Ledur’s eye glaring at him.

The winged Tikbalang gave Smoke a look that meant to wrap things up, as Horrabelle was going to arrive in less than two days.

Smoke nodded and tried convincing Guro once again. “Sorry, I digress. Like I said, Horrabelle will be here soon. So, please, let’s all migrate to Verbrannt. We’ve got more than enough land there to build another Gitna Dam.”

“Even if you did have the space, none of the current villagers knows how to make a dam. I heard that it was from the time of the Lizardites’ rule. Their ancestors were enslaved and instructed to build it.”

“Alright, can you just tell me how I can help you save their lives?” asked an exasperated Smoke.

Guro took a sip out of her black gooey drink and stared at him intently. “Let’s say I do believe you. We move to this…Verbrannt, and what then? What’s to stop Horrabelle from attacking us there?”

Smoke was about to slam his fist on the Guro’s table, but forced himself to stop and touched it lightly instead.

“Verbrannt has me and my private army protecting it. Everyday it’s defenses are being strengthened and more people arrive to band together against the Brandals,” he paused as and took a deep breath to compose himself. “If these three villages join us, you won’t only be saving them, but you’ll be helping us defend the other villagers that we’ve already migrated.”

“Hm, but I don’t know how dependable you are.” Guro took another sip out of her cup.

The boss of this dam has been constantly plaguing the villages by its discharges. Legend says that only a true leader can conquer Aral. If you manage to slay it, then maybe I’ll consider it.”

As expected, a quest window appeared in front of him.

+ Quest: Slay the Dam Boss
    Monster Hunting Quest
    Level: B

    Guro, the secret leader of all three villages, requested that you eliminate Aral and prove your worth.

    Accept the Quest? [YES/NO]


“Consider it dead,” stated Smoke confidently.

Before walking away, Smoke’s assertive voice became meek. “Mm. Any clues on what type of monster this Aral creature is?” he asked Guro.

“Now that won’t be much of a quest if I help,” she scoffed.

“Was just wondering, that’s all,” he said in positively.”Then how about if we borrowed one of your rowboats? Would that be alright?”

Guro shrugged and nodded dismissively. “Just get it back in one piece. Now, go, I’ve got a lot of things to do.”

Smoke, Igniz and Ledur bade her farewell and left the lioness Lioumerean’s house. Smoke then checked the countdown timer.

> Horrabelle’s Arrival: 46H:10M:03S


‘Still plenty of time left,’ he thought, as he forced himself to think positively.



* * * * * *  

Before they left, Smoke sharpened his weapons against his electro stone and enchanted them with Lightning property for the next ten hours. 

Rowing expertly in Guro’s rowboat, Smoke rowed farther away from her house towards the central portion of the dam. Meanwhile, Igniz orbited five meters away the boat searching for the monster.

After thirty minutes of rowing, Guro’s house looked like a dollhouse. Yet there was still no sign of Gitna Dam’s Boss.

“Smoke, why did you borrow the boat? When we can easily look for the monster from above?” asked Ledur flying directly over him.

“I wanted to get this Aral business done and over with. That’s why I thought it would be faster if I used myself as bait. But I guess I was wrong,” explained Smoke while looking into the murky blue waters of Gitna Dam.

All of a sudden, his Cunning of the Dire Fox picked up six monsters coming fast towards him. He looked in the direction of the monsters and found the water in the dam boiling with a dark yellow glow. With his chain and sickle ready, Smoke waited for the monsters to come out of the water.

SWOOSH

A three-meter long elongated eel with amber stripes, pointed snout and underslung mouth leapt at him. It was long, but incredibly thin as its body’s girth was less than half a meter. As it soared through the air like an arrow, fire came out of its stripes, increasing its girth to three times its original size.

Confident of his high Fire resistance, Smoke thought to test the monster out and blocked the eel’s attack with his left arm while his sickle was poised to strike on the right.

The monster opened its mouth wide and revealed four sharp teeth. It took a bite out of the DarkElf’s arm and damaged him for 300 points. It then tried to burn him with fire blazing out of its markings, but Smoke took zero damage from its fire attack.

As the monster finished its attack, Smoke slashed his sickle across the eel’s elongated body and revealed its life bar and name, fire eel (67,500/80,000 HP).

SWOOSH SWOOSH SWOOSH SWOOSH SWOOSH

He was about to do another attack on the fire eel, but five more were heading his way. He leapt up and attacked with his sickle. It sliced across the monsters’ bodies as he swirled it around rapidly.

With his Lightning enhanced weighted chain and sickle, all six fire eels dove back in the water with 84% left on their life bars. The rowboat rocked wildly as Smoke landed. He instantly threw his sickle in the water after them and damaged three more before they dove in deeper.

‘A water monster with Fire attribute. Now, that’s something you don’t see everyday,’ he let out an amused smirked.

Smoke noticed Igniz attacked the fire eels with his fireballs, but it had no effect on them at all. “Don’t worry about it, bud.”

He also realized that Ledur who was flying above him, could not to attack as the fire eels were out and into the water in less than a few seconds. This time, Ledur was preparing to dive in, and waited for the fire eels to come out again.

However, Smoke had another idea. “Ledur, can you and Igniz fly farther away? I’d like to try something out.”

Boiling water surrounded his rowboat as the fire eels encircled around it. He placed his feet firmly on the rowboat and activated Cyclone of Slaughter. Sixteen afterimages of sickles and iron balls encircled around him. He pointed the blurring chain and sickle into the water. A flurry of water erupted and ripped out chunks of the fire eels flew up along side it.

‘Wonder what these fire eels taste taste like,’ he thought to himself while smirking.

He could see the life bars of the fire eels rapidly decreasing to below 40% in less than three seconds. The fire eels tried to swim away but his weapon’s ability created a strong vortex, pulling the monsters closer to the rowboat and prevented them from escaping.

As the fire eels were constantly being damaged by the sickle and iron ball, they instinctively found refuge directly under Smoke’s rowboat.

Cornered, the fire eels started attacking the bottom of his rowboat. Smoke almost went overboard due to the fierce rocking motion. Any more violent movement, and his Cyclone of Slaughter would have been canceled. Despite this, Smoke continued attacking anything in the water. However, the fire eels refused to go down without a fight. The monsters jumped out to the sides of his rowboat and scorched the dry wood of his boat by scraping their flaming bodies against it.

The rowboat caught on fire. He would have started taking Fire damage if it weren’t for his high resistance to it.

Smoke focused on the jumping monsters and slaughtered all of them in pairs. In no time at all, the fire eels were no more, but so was his borrowed vessel.

“Now what do I tell Guro?” he asked himself while placing his palm on his face.

Even though he set out on her quest to increase Intimacy with her, he went and got her rowboat destroyed instead.

Ledur patted Smoke’s shoulder as soon as the DarkElf glided to shore. “Don’t worry about it. As long as we get that Aral monster, I’m sure she won’t mind the missing boat.”

“Right.” said Smoke and nodded positively. “But what are we gonna for bait now?”

Smoke scratched his head while thinking of a solution. 

Abruptly, Ledur zoomed towards the central portion of the man-made lake.

“What are you doing?” Smoke shouted out to him.

“Looking for the Dam Boss,” stated Ledur flatly.

Before Smoke could talk him out of it, the winged Tikbalang was already back in the middle of the lake, flying closely above the water, randomly tapping it with his hooves to lure the monsters from deep within.

It wasn’t even five minutes, and a horned bull shark launched out of the water. Ledur easily dodged the attack and struck the two-meter monster with his hoof before it plunged back into the water.

Lightning enchanted arrows sailed through the air as Smoke could only attack with his power chainsaw bow from the shore.

Eight arrows struck the bull shark, but its life bar still displayed (227,420/250,000 HP).

“Igniz, fly out there and light up that shark,” he ordered his symbiote.

Posthaste, the dark ember sprite flew straight and gave Ledur cover fire.

Together, they spent the next ten minutes dealing with the bull shark before ending its final HP.

Smoke then angrily called Ledur back to the shore. “Don’t pull a stunt like that again,” he said strongly. “You could have been killed.”

“I was only luring a monster, and I only  followed what you were doing earlier. Besides, we don’t have time to spare,” argued Ledur back at him.

Smoke knew Ledur was right and conceded. “Alright, but we’ve got to do it together.”

Ledur nodded in agreement. With Smoke, Igniz and Ledur in concurrence, the three of them set out and flew over the man-made lake. The winged Tikbalang still flew near the water’s surface,  whereas Smoke readied his chain and sickle to strike at a moment’s notice.

Ten hours went by and the sun had already set, but they still didn’t see any signs of Aral. They’ve already killed over three hundred fire eels and a dozen bull sharks. They only fought against those two creatures, due to the fact that the other monsters in the dam were too afraid to go near them.

Since it was a moonless night, Smoke ordered them to take a break and created a small campfire near the shore. The fire was only there as a source of light as the meat of the fire eels they collected were already good enough to eat raw. Their meat was always warm as if freshly baked out of the oven.

After eating, he thought to get some rest and was about to log out of Zectas for a proper sleep. He had already skipped the scheduled power nap four hours ago.

“I’ll be back. I think I’ll be a while,” he said to Ledur while stretching his arms and yawning. “Don’t do anything reckless while I’m away, you hear?” he said to Ledur.

Smoke stood up and prepared to logout, but before leaving, he checked his customized countdown timer.

> Horrabelle’s Arrival: 35H:58M:59S


‘I have to get back soon. Time is running out,’ he thought to himself and disappeared from the virtual reality world.



* * * * * *  

Smoke groggily opened his eyes. He only slept two hours in the real world as eight hours had already passed here in Zectas.

However, his sleepiness instantly disappeared after he saw Ledur’s severely wounded body lying down near their encampment. Igniz was helplessly orbiting around him with a worried expression.

At once, Smoke ran to him and checked the damage on his winged friend. Ledur’s life bar displayed (50,212/403,992 HP).

He helped Ledur sit up and quickly assessed his situation. ‘Good. His life bar isn’t going down.’

“What happened?” asked Smoke while inspecting his friend. He then found a large cauterized wound behind Ledur’s black wings. He presumed that it was Igniz’s handiwork. He feared that Ledur was inflicted with Bleeding.

“I found it…” said Ledur in agony. “Aral came out at exactly midnight.”

Smoke nodded guiltily. ‘I should have considered Aral was a nocturnal creature. I knew I should have slept for just an hour.’

“It came out from the middle of the lake,” he said while trying to raise his hand but could only muster the strength to point with his index finger.

“What kind of monster was Aral?” Smoke asked as he wanted to know what they were up against.

Ledur could only blink as he didn’t have enough strength to move most of his muscles.

“It was an olm…but I’ve never seen one that large.” Ledur had a difficult time talking.

“What’s an olm?” asked Smoke as he had never read about them in the monster books he acquired.

“They’re…dragons…but…” said Ledur as he tried to explain, but it was clear that each word he uttered was painful.

Smoke could no longer watch him suffering. “No, it’s alright. Just rest now.”

Ledur blinked twice and closed his eyes to sleep. Smoke then placed medicinal herbs the Lioumereans gave him. He hoped that it would help recover Ledur’s lost HP.

He walked away from Ledur and called the person he could always turn to when he was in trouble.

“Hey, how are you,” said Smoke pleasantly. “I didn’t catch you at a bad time, I hope.”

“It’s okay. I’m fine. Everyone’s fine. Now, what can I help you with?” replied Darius, the legendary Beggar Legati.

Smoke was taken aback. Darius was usually friendly no matter what time he called.

“Are you alright? Is there a problem in Nanahuatl?” asked a worried Smoke.

“Like I said, everything’s fine. We’re not in any imminent danger. So, just get on with what you want!” he stated strongly.

Smoke couldn’t understand what was wrong with Darius, but decided that learning about the olm was more important at the moment.

“I was hoping you could tell me what an olm is?” said Smoke bluntly.

“An olm? Is a subspecies of a dragon,” Darius voice slowly became calm as he started explaining about Smoke’s unknown monster. “It’s really interesting because although it is classified as a water dragon, it is also a lightning dragon. It has two black metal rods coming out of its ears that can fire lightning bolts.”

“Really?” he said with clear interest. Smoke decided to ask his follow up questions while Darius was in a good mood. “How big do these olms usually get?”

“Olms grow to a size of about one meter, but I’ve seen one reach up to two meters,” explained Darius.

“Interestingly enough, olms become the strongest monsters in a lake because their lightning bolt ability easily subdues the rest of the creatures.” described the old Beggar whose love for sharing knowledge overcame his irritability. “Instead of having 100% Affinity to Water, they have 75% Affinity to both Water and Lightning.”

Smoke listened to him intently as he too loved hearing Darius talk about his extensive knowledge in Zectas.

However, Darius voice instantly changed after he finished talking about the olm. “I assume that’s all you need from me?” he asked in an annoyed tone.

Given Darius’ temperament, Smoke decided it was best to cut their call short. “Yes. I think that’s it for now…”

CLICK

“…Thank you for your help,” said Smoke but his last sentence wasn’t heard as Darius had already dropped their call.

‘I wonder what’s wrong with him? I better visit Nanahuatl when I have some free time.’ he thought to himself and made a mental note to do so.

Thinking back on the task at hand, Smoke couldn’t imagine how a two meter water dragon with lightning ability could injure Ledur to that extent.

‘He did say he had never seen an olm that big before. So I guess it’s bigger than two meters.’ thought Smoke to himself while deciding on what to do before midnight.

Smoke checked the time. He still had seventeen hours before Aral was suppose to come out, but then he checked the his customized countdown timer.

> Horrabelle’s Arrival: 27H:58M:59S


If he waited for midnight to kill Aral, he would only have ten hours left before Horrabelle’s army storms down on the three villages.

He shook his head strongly and decided that killing Aral was not the answer.

“Watch over him, bud,” he said to Igniz. “I’ve got to go back to Guro’s house and reason with her.”

Smoke leapt up and hurriedly glided back to the house on top of the dam, in front of the man-made lake filled with powerful monsters.

In less than thirty-minutes, Smoke reached Guro’s house. He landed softly and knocked on the door, but no one answered. He called out her name, but not a living sound came out from the house.

Due to Aral’s expected arrival set for seventeen hours from now, he changed his mind and thought to risk it. However, with Guro missing, his plan to use Beggary on her was now out of the drain.

While standing outside of Guro’s house, he found ten torches laid against the wall. Since Aral was supposed to come out at midnight, he decided to “borrow” the torches as they could at least help increase their visibility of the area.

Smoke returned to where Ledur and Igniz was. As he had no idea how to set a trap for a creature with unknown size, he planned to meet it with brute force.

In preparation for Aral’s arrival, he used his Earth Manipulation on the grounds near the shoreline. He started constructing two earth towers. He planned on them having a height of twenty meters, a width and thickness of seven meters.

Hours went by and he had finished his first tower. This tower was a standard square tower, but with one eye-catching twist. On top, it had a ramp pointing down towards the lake. He then started creating one meter boulders and with his Earth Manipulation lifted them to the top of the tower.

While doing so, he found Ledur and Igniz standing behind him. His dark ember sprite was orbiting around Ledur as if trying to help him walk. The winged Tikbalang was limping a little and tried to sit down against a tree.

Smoke found that Ledur’s life bar was already fully healed and that his motor skills were almost back to 100%.

“What are you doing?” asked Ledur as he pointed to Smoke’s earth-based structure.

“It’s our secret weapon against Aral,” he said proudly with a wide smile. “Are you feeling better?”

“I am. Thanks to you and Igniz.” Ledur smiled gratefully at the two of them.

“Do you think you’re up to telling me exactly what kind of olm this Aral is?” asked Smoke eagerly.

“Sure…” replied Ledur. The winged Tikbalang proceeded to describe his fight with the olm boss of this dam.

After Ledur’s detailed retelling, Smoke realized that setting a trap for Aral was out of the question. Meeting it head on was their only course of action.

Given the new information on Aral, Smoke updated Ledur on his battle plan for their midnight battle. Smoke then whipped up a quick and easy fire eel meal and ate with his friends. After filling their satiety bars, Ledur was fully recovered.

Together, the two Earth Manipulators built Smoke’s second tower in no time at all. The towers were spaced ten meters apart. They’ve loaded each tower with at least twenty boulders.

After which, he told Ledur that he would leave for a while and get some rest in his other world. Smoke wanted to be fully charged before facing Aral.



* * * * * *  



Ten minutes before midnight, Smoke was sitting on top of an earth tower. He was busily coating his weighted chain and sickle with poison.

Ledur was standing next to him, watching the man-made lake.

“I think the paralysis I got from being shocked by its lightning attack lasted for more than ten seconds,” stated the winged Tikbalang as his hoof scratched his chin.

“Yeah, but that was a direct attack.” Smoke nodded as they continued on reviewing their battle plans. “Besides, you said its whole body lights up before it uses it. We should easily be able to…”

BZZT BZZT BZZT BZZT BZZT BZZT

He stopped talking as the alarm he set went off. “It’s time!” declared Smoke. Ledur, Igniz and himself all flew towards the center of the man-made lake.

Before reaching the center Smoke, Igniz and Ledur broke off into different directions. Ledur went slightly right, Igniz went slightly left and Smoke descended.

All of them started making loud noises on the surface of the water. Igniz used his fireballs and created loud splashes as it hit the water surface. Ledur flew lower and used his hooves as he did before, tapping on the water surface. Whereas, Smoke used his white metallic staff and strongly smacked the lake with it.

Two minutes till Aral’s arrival; Ledur flew back to the two towers in preparation for the next phase of their plan while Smoke and Igniz remained soaring above the center of the lake. Their vigorous disturbance on the lake’s surface brought the monsters deep within to its surface and they searched for the culprit who perturbed them.

Thirty fire eels emerged and created an uneven circular formation of fiery glow on the lake. Four horned bull sharks joined them shortly after.

Smoke had hoped for more monsters, but this was still better than nothing. The monsters were getting restless and started to dive back into the lake’s depths. Hurriedly, Smoke used his poison arrows and Igniz his fireballs to aggravate the monsters once more.

As they were harassing the lake monsters below, a light bluish glow started to rise from the center of the lake. It rose rapidly and leapt out of the water. Aral’s serpent-like body had a length over twenty meters and a girth of two meters. Its bluish-white scales gave it an eerie glow and greatly illuminated the entire lake. It had four dragon-like limbs that looked like it would have trouble holding up the massive water dragon.

As it was falling back into the lake, its one meter head attached with the two black metal rods, stared directly at Smoke before it dove back down.

SPLASH

A colossal column of water rose up and lightly reached Smoke as Aral’s massive body made contact with the lake’s surface. The Boss of the lake remained swimming on the surface, while the other monsters started to dive down.

However, before the other monsters could flee, Smoke used his Berserker’s Ring of Flames on top of the water and created an upside-down red casting circle on it, catching Aral and the rest of the lake monsters.

Instantly, the lake monsters started to take a red color as they were inflicted with Berserk, but Aral’s bluish-white scales remained unsullied.

‘What? Is Aral immune to my ring’s Berserk?’ Smoke couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Despite Aral’s immunity, the rest of the monsters still performed as he planned. All of them caught in his casting circle attacked the mightiest monster and went after the blue glowing monster.

SHRIEK

Aral let out a loud, high-pitched piercing sound as all of the monsters attacked it. The fire eels and bull sharks lost all their sense of fear and flung themselves towards Aral, taking out chunks of its bluish scales. Whereas the horned bull sharks charged their horns deep into Aral’s elongated body.

Nine seconds passed, and Smoke canceled his casting circle. Even though he could have kept it up to fifteen seconds, he didn’t use all of his mana as a precautionary measure.

The monsters’ were freed from their Berserk status and dazily swam around the giant olm.Yet despite their joint efforts they only dented Aral’s life bar as it displayed (742,150/800,000 HP).

On the other hand, Aral glared directly at the DarkElf gliding above the water. Its entire body started to glow even brighter.

Smoke knew that it was time for them to leave. He signalled Igniz, and together they hurriedly soared away. While gliding away, his eyes were focused on Aral and saw two lightning bolts aimed directly at him.

Fortunately, he evaded the two lightning bolts and was steadily nearing the two earth towers he had built.

A constantly glowing Aral remained near the center of the lake as it began electrocuting the monsters that attacked it earlier.

Smoke stopped midway towards the tower and ordered Igniz to fly back with him. He equipped his power chainsaw bow and released a barrage of poison arrows at once, while ordering Igniz to attack Aral with his fireballs. Yet, their ranged attacks could not go beyond 200 points of damage.

Despite their low output, they still kept attacking Aral with their ranged attacks. The gigantic olm glared back at him. It charged another lightning attack and its body glowed once more. It launched two more lightning bolts at Smoke. He quickly closed his cloak and instantly plummeted, only to open it up again and glide upward.

As Smoke was able to avoid its lightning bolts twice now, Aral left him alone and resumed attacking the groggy monsters. These targets barely moved as they had not fully recovered from the after effects of Smoke’s Berserk.

BOOSH

In under ten minutes, Aral devoured all of the monsters on the surface of the lake. Whereas an ignored Smoke and Igniz inflicted a total of 54,820 damage points.

Smoke smirked as he watched Aral’s life bar display a value of 86%.

Aral’s body glowed once more and attacked him with the same set of lightning bolts. As he had seen this attack for many times now, he was easily able to dodge it using the same trick of closing his cloak and gliding back up.

‘Maybe I overestimated this monster,’ thought Smoke smugly and released eight poison arrows as a counterattack.

Aral remained persistent and charged for another lightning bolt attack, and again Smoke closed his cloak. Yet, this time was different.

The gigantic olm dipped its long tail into the lake and flipped up a torrential column of water. Smoke got blasted out of the sky and was plummeting straight down the lake.

The lake Boss then charged for another attack and released its lightning bolts when Ledur came out of nowhere and scooped the falling Smoke out of harm’s way.

Igniz hurriedly flew to the soaring winged Tikbalang who landed Smoke safely on top of their earth tower.

“Thanks, Ledur. That was close,” he said, smiling as adrenaline was pumping hard inside him.

“Now, what was that line you always say about being reckless, again?” sarcastically asked Ledur.

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s just proceed with phase two,” said Smoke sheepishly.

Smoke hurriedly placed the torches he borrowed from Guro’s house, on the sides of the downward ramp facing the lake.

Aral swam skillfully on the lake’s surface after them. It followed Smoke near the shore of their towers. Enticed by the torches that looked like fire eels, the giant olm lunged out of the water. It tried to grab the torches on the tower to the left, only to be met with a rolling boulder, smashing directly into its head.

THUD

Ledur pushed the boulder with his Earth Manipulation and made a loud dull sound upon impact with Aral’s head. It wobbled and swayed as its body was falling into the water.

SPLASH

The water dragon sunk back into the lake and received a damage of 1,000 points.

Five seconds later, it went up again for another attack. Yet this time Ledur threw off five boulders, but as it came rolling down, Aral easily avoided all of them. Or so it thought.

Ledur’s boulders may have initially missed Aral, but the winged Tikbalang used his Earth Manipulation on the falling boulders and broke them into four equal pieces. He then transformed them into earth javelins and tried to plunge them into the giant olm’s body. Each spike only did 1,500 points of damage as it did not fully penetrate Aral’s blue scales.

The boulders turned into sharp earth javelins managed a total damage of 30,000 points.

Surprised by the sudden earth attack, Aral retreated deep into the lake.

Smoke would have wanted to use his Earth Manipulation and helped Ledur, but his mana was still at (5,884/255,034 MP). His only contribution to the battle now was a steady bombardment of poison arrows, but even that was taken away from him the moment Aral submerged.

Still deep within the lake, Aral did two more lightning bolt attacks, but it was neutralized by the earth tower and dispersed into the ground.

Then, the blue glowing inside the lake disappeared.

“Did it give up?” asked Smoke.

“I doubt it,” replied Ledur flatly.

All of a sudden, a large column of water blasted out from the lake and destroyed a large portion of Ledur’s tower. Immediately after, more water blasts launched out from the lake as Aral’s tail flipped large columns of water.

Piece by piece, Ledur’s tower was being torn down by Aral’s water blasts.

Smoke switched to his white metallic staff and stepped in front of the torrential attacks. With his palm facing the lake and his staff planted firmly on the tower, he created a purple concave Manatl which was three meters in diameter.

SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD

Sounds of the Manatl successfully blocking the attacks echoed, but the barrier wasn’t big enough to block it completely. Smoke got drenched with water as some of it sprayed out of his Manatl. Fortunately, the water had lost most of its force and he received no damage.

Five minutes into Aral’s repetitive water blasts, it stopped attacking and its head came up to inspect Smoke’s barrier. It looked at it intensely and dove back into the water. It then resumed its repeated water blasts as if it was on to something.

SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD SCHILD

“My Manatl won’t hold much longer,” said Smoke to Igniz and Ledur. “Fall back!”

Ledur and Igniz flew off the earth tower and landed on the ground below it.

In the brief moment that Aral stopped attacking, he canceled his Manatl and transferred the gathered energy to his white metallic staff.

He leapt off and was about to glide down when a water blast came straight at him. He came crashing to the ground and tumbled hard, smack into a tree. He only received one clean shot, but was already substantially damage. His life bar was now at 65%.

Presently, farther away from the lake, Smoke’s party had no way of damaging Aral. Yet the same thing could be said for the the gigantic olm as well.

Ledur and Igniz speedily ran to where Smoke was, but before they could do anything, a blue glow shone above them. They all looked up and found Aral glaring over them from on top of Smoke’s earth tower. Its body glowed a shimmering blue as it coiled itself around the tower. Two more lightning bolts launched out of the black metal rods coming out of its head.

Seconds before Aral’s attack could reach them, Ledur created an earth wall in front of them and dissipated the lightning to the ground.

Two minutes had passed and Aral still kept firing its lightning bolts.

“Looks like it has an endless supply of that attack,” he thought out loud. “We’ve got to get closer!” said Smoke strongly and pointed towards the tower.

Ledur than manipulated the wall to slowly move forward. It would stop and take Aral’s lightning bolt attacks and move again afterward.

Aral kept on assailing them with its lightning bolts until Ledur’s earth wall stopped. It had only moved forward for twenty meters.

The gigantic olm stopped attacking as it noticed a hole on the ground behind the earth wall. It  stretched its entire body to get a better view, but then felt something leap up from behind it. Aral turned around only to see Smoke’s energized staff, smashing into its face.

WHAAM

Smoke’s charged strike dealt 260,000 points of damage and left Aral with 49% on its life bar. He had Ledur use the Digger’s Wand and create a tunnel for him to take Aral by surprise.

An injured Aral was about to dive back into the lake when suddenly, the earth tower collapsed on its body.

Ledur used his Earth Manipulation and trapped the gigantic olm. Shortly after, he collapsed the other one and turned all the tower pieces into a hundred earth javelins. The hard, sharp javelins stabbed Aral’s elongated body in several places. The winged Tikbalang severely mangled the giant olm for 150,000 points of damage.

Aral was ensnared under the rubble of the earth towers, while multiple earth javelins protruded out of its body. It was left with (247,000/800,000 HP) on its life bar.

Ledur than manipulated the rubble two interlock with the ground, creating a mesh-like net over Aral. Smoke, Igniz and Ledur joined in on battering the last HP out of Aral’s body.

Yet, its shiny blue scales proved to be harder than expected as Smoke’s sickle could not cut deep into it.  Still; Smoke, Ledur and Igniz persisted and kept on attacking the helpless monster. Its life bar quickly dwindled to less than 8%.

In the midst of hacking the monster, his weighted chain and sickle glowed. This indicated that he had enough mana to activate the Cyclone of Slaughter. Coincidentally, Aral’s tail broke free due to its persistent struggle.

Before he could activate his ability, Aral’s tail whip came out of nowhere and flung him upward, directly in front Aral’s two black metallic rods, charging for an ultimate lightning attack.

Smoke thought about gliding away, but he knew that his gliding ability wasn’t fast enough to dodge this. He switched to his white metallic staff and created a Manatl. He finished his purple barrier, but knew it couldn’t withstand the attack.

Finally, a lightning bolt the size of three meters came at him.

He closed his eyes and braced himself for the impact.

BOOSH

Smoke heard the loud impact, but felt nothing. He opened his eyes and found himself undamaged by Aral’s final attack. He quickly looked down and saw a crisped Ledur with a life bar of (3,992/403,992 HP). He immediately dove down after his friend as the high fall would surely kill him.

As soon as he caught Ledur’s body, he scowled at Aral’s eyes directly below him.

At the same time, the giant olm’s body glowed brightly with an electrifying blue color. It was preparing for another one of its ultimate lightning attacks.

While carrying a half-dead Ledur, Smoke was diving fast towards Aral.

“Igniz!” he suddenly shouted and his dark ember sprite instinctively knew what Smoke meant.

The dark ember sprite zoomed to the falling Smoke and orbited around him rapidly. He was covered in a great ball of flames.

CRASH

Smoke stomped on Aral’s skull as he used his Comet Crush ability on the giant olm. With Aral stunned, he placed Ledur safely away from Aral.

He then walked back and stood over the stunned monster’s head. He waited for Aral to open its eyes. As soon as it did, Smoke used his Cyclone of Slaughter and shredded its head apart. Chunks and pieces of the giant olm flew everywhere.

+ Your party has dealt a fatal blow to the giant olm: Aral.
+ Your party killed the giant olm: Aral.
+ Your party gained 2,000,000 experience points.


Smoke dismissed the window and swiftly collected the item dropped by Aral.


+ Acquired legendary dual rods: Aral’s Lightning Rods


He stared at the black metal rod and recognized it as the ones protruding out of Aral’s head. He didn’t bother examining the newly acquired weapon. Right now, he needed to see Ledur.

Smoke hurriedly applied medicinal herbs on his half-dead friend. “We should have a penalty for being reckless,” he said as he applied first aid to him. “That way we at least get rich whenever this happens,” he said jokingly as he tried to brighten up the mood.

Ledur managed a smile, but closed his eyes soon after as Paralysis took over his body.

He shook his head despairingly. They may have fulfilled Guro’s quest, but he almost had no time left. He maximized the countdown timer and stared at it blankly.

> Horrabelle’s Arrival: 10H:02M:11S


<<< PrevNext >>>

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s