Chapter 23

Reia finished her chant and the all too familiar sight of an intense ‘Fireball’ flew towards the monster’s camp, its’ heat was enough to make me sweat despite the brief moment it was near me. With the magical link between Reia and the ‘Fireball’, she could somewhat maneuver it although only slightly, and she guided the ‘Fireball’ as close to a group of Lizardmen as she could. We were much closer to the impact this time and the explosion shook the ground I was standing on. It was a powerful blast that sent earth, wood and flesh straight up into the dank air.

A gong began to chime throughout the Lizardmen base as the attack signal went off and they quickly organized with their commanders giving orders for the rank and file to form up into formation. There was some pandemonium, but they were much better organized than expected. Thankfully, I only saw light infantry among the monsters and there didn’t appear to be any heavy infantry. At least, they weren’t visible in the main camp.

Reia and I ran as hard as we could further east and then back around, heading towards the stairs to the fourth floor. Thanks to the chaos and the time it took for the Lizardmen Commanders to bring order to the base and have their warriors form up, we were able to get a good amount of distance from them before they started marching in our direction. Some arrows were fired at us, but none were able to hit us and we were soon out of range.

A second fireball explosion hit the Lizardmen base from the western side, where Nes and Allein were. Reia and I were too far at this point to see how the monsters had responded to the second attack but we felt certain they were most likely confused as to which direction the enemy was in. They would most likely send their forces in that direction too. Tris should be making her move now as well, so we have to hurry and get ready before she gets to the stairs with Lizardmen in tow.

Reia and I were the first to arrive at the fourth-floor stairs, “Reia begin preparing another fireball spell. If we time it correctly, it should be possible to hit any approaching monsters following Tris, which should throw them into disarray. Make sure not to hit Tris when you do it!”

“Of course, I know! Readying my spell now!”

It wasn’t long before Nes and Allein arrived.

“Mission Complete!”

She seemed to be enjoying this and even Nes had a look of excitement on his face. As a matter of fact, the only time I ever saw Nes happy was when he was killing something.

“Nes, you look happy, this might be a first!” I teased him, much to his annoyance.

“Shut up! I’m not happy at all.” Then why are you smiling you battle maniac?

“Tris should be here any moment now, you almost done Reia?”

“I might need more time, it might not be enough.”

She seemed worried she wouldn’t be able to pull it off in time since things were moving quicker than expected.

“Nes, can you try to delay anyone following Tris? Ask her to back you up.”

“Tch, I don’t need you to tell me!”

Nes ran straight down the main pathway which led directly to the enemy’s base from here, the path which Tris should be running down this very moment. I heard a loud yell nearby in the distance, it sounded like Nes had engaged the enemy. I wasn’t too concerned, he was an excellent fighter and he was smart enough to be careful.

“I’m almost ready, shouldn’t be long!”

Reia was still readying her magical power, she needed to draw in enough and then she could chant the spell. I finally saw the back of Tris, she was running towards us but stopped, turned and fired off an arrow at the now visible light infantry. Her arrows wouldn’t be much more than a distraction, but that would be enough. Nes was expertly spinning away while thrusting and parrying with his spear. It almost looked like a dance, his movements were quite nimble, and his lithe body made it difficult for the Lizardmen to hit him.

“Now NES!” I yelled as loud as I could.

Nes turned and ran as fast as he could towards us, a decently sized group of Lizardmen was now completely in view running towards where we were situated. They were moving quickly while attempting to maintain their ranks.

I was beginning to think we wouldn’t be able to get the spell off in time, but thankfully Reia had finished her chant and the ‘Fireball’ went screeching straight out towards the approaching column of Lizardmen. Nes had to quickly drop to the floor as the fireball flew right over him, it was extremely close. The column of light infantry exploded into hundreds of pieces of body parts as the column was decimated. Some Lizardmen from the rear had survived but they had been blown back and completely out of the formation.

“Let’s go! Now, get them before they can get up!”

Reia, Tris, Allein and I ran with our weapons at the ready straight towards the Lizardmen who were still alive. They were disoriented and in shock, most rolling around on the ground, but some were struggling to their feet. As I ran by Nes who was still on the ground, I reached my arm down towards him. He grabbed my hand and I pulled while he propelled himself off the ground and landed on his feet.

Those of us who could use magic, sent a barrage of spells towards the surviving lizardmen, downing several of them in a matter of seconds. My ‘Void Flames’ bore holes straight through the Lizardmen’s chests as Reia and Allein’s elemental spells cut through others.  

It was a slaughter with the five of us mopping up the remainder of the Lizardmen. The battle was over in mere minutes with all of the Lizardmen dead or dying. It was no time to rest, however, because there were still more groups of monsters approaching. We had no time to prepare another ‘Fireball’ attack and instead retreated to the stairs leading up to the fourth floor.

“We have to stop them here, run up to the top of the stairs and we will fight them as they leave the corridor!” I gave the orders and the five of us ran up the stairs leading to the fourth floor.

The Lizardmen would only be able to come up the stairs two at a time at most and archers would be useless. We waited for them right at the top of the stairs, the entrance to the fifth floor. As I predicted, the Lizardmen charged at us through the entrance of the stairway in order to overwhelm us, but it was difficult for them to avoid our attacks as they climbed up the stairs.  

I consecutively fired my ‘Void Flames’ barrelling through the Lizardmen climbing up the stairs while Allein and Reia did the same with their elemental magic. The bodies of the dead Lizardmen fell back, falling down the stairs and clogging up the entryway. This only made it more difficult for those behind them to attack us. Nes and Tris waited to the sides of the entryway, cutting down any that came into their reach. The stairway became a slaughterhouse and we massacred the Lizardmen with relative ease. My VP was high enough that I could fire dozens ‘Void Flames’ without exhausting myself.

It was then that we heard a loud roar that shook the corridor and sent the five of us to our knees. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but it seemed to be some kind of special skill since it left the five of us temporarily disoriented. The lizardmen had stopped climbing the stairs after who knows how many had been killed. I didn’t even want to imagine having to wade through the corpses to get back down to the fifth floor. I was the first to break the temporary paralysis that the roar had inflicted upon us. The sound was so loud that it could only have come from some enormous monster. I ran to the others to try to help them break the paralysis, thankfully it was only a short-term effect.

After the loud roar, there was a momentary silence as I helped the others get to their feet. The silence was broken by the sound of something clanging against metal and the sound of heavy feet on stone coming from the stairs leading to the fifth floor. We quickly got into position again, expecting to meet the enemy in the same way. We could hear shuffling as well coming from the entryway, it sounded like bodies were being moved to make way for something. Most of the corpses were either littering the ground around the entryway or had fallen back down the stairs. The clanging continued without fail and I had an eery feeling that sent chills down my spine.

The enemy was now fast approaching and when the Lizardmen came back into view, they were completely unlike the ones we had been fighting previously. These Lizardmen wore heavy armor and had large metal shields and sabers for weapons. Our magic attacks had no effect against the approaching heavy infantry due to their iron armor. These were clearly more powerful monsters than the ones we had fought and were most likely an elite guard.

Nes and I tried to stop them from breaking through the entryway, but we were forced back. We were having a difficult time hurting them because of the armor they were wearing. It didn’t cover every part of their body, but with the shields and the narrow corridor, we couldn’t hit any exposed flesh. We were forced to let them come up the stairs.

The five of us backed up, knowing we would have to fight them in a wider area in order to kill them. Thankfully, there were only ten that came through the entryway. What worried me more than them, however, was that the monster that had roared earlier didn’t seem to be present. I didn’t think any of these Lizardmen, despite their fierce appearance, could make a sound that powerful.

“They are stronger than the monsters we fought earlier. We need to be careful, but they aren’t invincible. Magically enhanced weapons are effective even if direct magic attacks are not! Time for us to get into our formation, quickly now!” I yelled encouragement to the rest of my companions and we quickly got into a loose arrow formation.

At my advice, Reia enhanced her blade with ‘Wind’ element and I enhanced mine with ‘Void’. Allein used her sharp claws for close combat fighting and could even enhance them with magic just like if they were a blade. Nes had his own techniques which also seemed to involve magic enhancement, but since he never discussed his abilities with me, I had no idea exactly what he was capable of. All I knew was that he had his own means of dealing with these kinds of circumstances. Only Tris didn’t have a proper counter to heavily armored enemies.

“Allein provide support magic, especially speed enhancement. Tris, do your best to distract the enemy if you can, but don’t get careless. Nes and Reia, you know what to do!” I quickly gave my orders and we began our attack.

The heavy infantry were equipped with sabers and not spears so thankfully they wouldn’t be able to make much use of a phalanx type formation, instead relying on individual prowess. Even though they were elites, they could not compete with our teamwork which had been honed after much practice. Our formation allowed for greater mobility and our formation could change as necessary depending on how the enemy moved.

The enemy was trying to surround us, but we could move much faster than they could due to their heavy armor and slow natural speed. If they tried to surround us, we would just move further back more quickly than they could approach us. While it seemed like a stalemate, we were intentionally baiting them further in, there was a spot I noticed when we came through this way not too far in. There, it would be difficult for them to use their numbers to surround and overwhelm us and we could hold them off.

“Keep them coming towards us Nes, they are slow so they won’t be able to surround us.”

This wasn’t exactly a glorious way to do things, but my goal was to make sure we all got out of this alive. As we were baiting them slowly in further, I heard another roar in the distance coming from the entryway to the stairs leading down. Luckily, we were too far from it to be affected, but I could tell whatever it was making that sound was coming up those stairs.

“We need to hurry this up. We don’t want to be stuck fighting these guys when whatever is making that sound gets here!” I yelled a warning to the others, but they were well aware, since they heard it too.

We soon reached the spot I had been thinking about and we quickly readied ourselves for a fierce battle. The floor was filled with nothing but ruins everywhere and this particular spot wasn’t wide enough for more than three to walk abreast as stone walls surrounded the perimeter with only one approach leading to us.

“Listen, Allein and Tris, I want you two to quickly circle around the lizardmen and attack them from the rear. The three of us will hold them off here! Allein, if you can, enhance Tris’s shortsword so she can hopefully do some damage.”

“Got it!” They both agreed quickly and ran south. If they kept going, they would eventually be able to circle around and hit the lizards from the rear.

“You guys ready?”

“Yes!”

“Here they come!” The elite Lizardmen warriors came marching towards us and we began our attack, rushing at them and trying to throw down their shields.

The fighting was intense and it took all we had to hold them off, but we were beginning to wear them down using our martial skills and techniques. My ‘Void’ enhanced sword was especially effective and could even pierce through their armor.

We had slain three of them when we finally heard the sounds of an attack from their rear. Tris and Allein had caught them by surprise and begun their attack. They were able to kill two of the monsters because of the surprise attack. The Lizardmen were focused on the front and failed to react quick enough when they were attacked from the rear. With the numbers now even, we increased the ferocity of our attacks from both sides and eventually overpowered them.

With the elite Lizardmen dead, we breathed a sigh of relief and started laughing, but then we were brought back to reality by the sound of another immense roar coming from the stairway.

“Oh god, does this never end?” I said breathing heavily from the fight just now.

Tris only shrugged and said, “This is exactly why people don’t come into dungeons!”

“Tris, that kind of talk doesn’t help us now, let’s focus on what’s coming.” Reia seemed to be the more level headed of the group right now.

With her words, we made our way back towards the stairway in time to see an enormous monster attempting to claw its way through the stairway. It appeared to be a giant version of those Lizardmen. The stairway was narrow, but the height was enough for the huge monster to get out of the entryway by crouching and squeezing its body the rest of the way. No wonder it had taken so long to get up the corridor, it was immense!

“What the hell is that?” I couldn’t help but say shocked.

“I don’t know, maybe it’s their king?” Nes also seemed shocked because he actually answered my question for once! Great, this really must mean we are about to die if Nes is answering me!

The giant lizard, or king lizard, or whatever it was, finally tore through the entryway with some bits of stone breaking loose off the wall. It stood up and stretched its arms, flexing its muscles and roared once more while looking up towards the ceiling.

“Look, I know this looks bad, but we have to finish that thing off quickly! We can’t have it chasing us all the way back to the first floor.”

The five of us charged the Lizard King. As we ran towards it, I noticed the Lizard King reach back into the entryway and it pulled out a giant club. Oh damn….

We soon reached the giant monsters and it swung its huge club down on us. The club looked more like a tree than a club, and we did our best to dodge its attack. Tris was firing arrows at the Lizard King, but they bounced off its hard scales. Reia and Allein didn’t seem to be doing any better with their magic which only seemed to be causing shallow wounds. Nes and I tried our best to get close, slashing at the Lizard’s legs and stomach. The Lizard King was probably about twelve feet tall and we were having quite a bit of trouble doing significant damage to it.

Every time the Lizard King swung its mighty club, it crashed into the ground sending debris everywhere. The swing was slow and we were able to evade without much damage, but every crash of the club caused the ground to quake. Nes and Reia were keeping him busy from the front as I circled around him unleashing a “Sword Whirlwind” attack on his rear ankles which caused him to stumble momentarily. It didn’t last long and he was back on his feet. We were visibly beginning to tire from the extended battle and I didn’t know how much longer we could keep this up.

Fire magic was somewhat effective and Allein sent barrages of ‘Flame Arrows’ at the Lizard King. They were able to hurt it, but it wasn’t doing enough to hurt it significantly. We weren’t taking much damage either since we were able to dodge most of its attacks. However, we were beginning to slow down, our fatigue becoming much more pronounced. The Lizard King definitely had more stamina than us since we had been fighting for a while now. Again, I tried to slash at the Lizard King’s exposed legs, but this time it sent me flying with a well-placed kick I couldn’t dodge.

The kick sent me hurtling through the air and I hit the ground bouncing several times before finally stopping. The pain was excruciating and I was barely remaining conscious. With just one hit, I had almost been wiped out. I could hear Reia screaming, fear evident in her voice. I struggled to lift myself off the ground, but it was an effort in futility. My body wouldn’t move the way I wanted it to, and noticing this, the Lizard King came thundering towards me. I was about to die and I couldn’t help but feel anything but regret.

My consciousness began to fade as I struggled to keep myself awake. If I got knocked out here, I knew I would die, and so would everyone else. I struggled against it with all my might, trying to force myself to get up. It wasn’t clear to me anymore  whether this was reality or a dream.

There was nothing I could do, but wait to be crushed by the Lizard King and the helplessness I felt at my fate was unbearable. At that moment, I heard a voice that said, “consume me.”  

The voice sounded disembodied and its presence was vague. I couldn’t be sure I really heard it or where the voice came from. Was it all in my head? An illusion, a fantasy? I couldn’t be sure, but then I heard the voice once again, “consume me.”

The voice continued to repeat itself, but I couldn’t bring myself to understand.

Reia and Nes were desperately attempting to halt the advance of the Lizard King and Reia recklessly jumped in front of it. No, Reia, what are you doing? I couldn’t speak the words but they resounded in my head. My voice wouldn’t work. I struggled, reaching out to her even though she was in the distance. The Lizard King grabbed her with his open hand and my body shook in fear. No words left my lips, but in my head I was screaming. I could only watch as the Lizard King bashed Reia against the ground and release her.

My mind went blank as I felt something tugging at me, “consume me, now!” The voice exploded in my mind and I reacted, without really knowing what it was I was doing.

Suddenly, I was filled with an immense energy as black mist swirled around me in a whirlwind. I felt myself stand, no longer on the cusp between life and death. The Lizard King roared triumphantly, believing itself victorious. Its roar sent my companions to their knees, paralyzing them, but I was not affected by the Lizard King’s ability.

Without fully understanding what I was doing, and still not sure whether I was dreaming or awake, my body moved by instinct faster than it had ever moved before. The black mist continued to swirl around me, propelling me forward. I ran and leaped, the black mist forming and hardening around my blade.

The power throbbing throughout my body hurled me straight through the chest of the Lizard King with an explosive movement. Where my body entered, and exited, was now a gaping hole, open for all to see. A mist of blood sprayed all over my body and the Lizard King’s innards plopped out from the gaping hole onto the ground. The Lizard King felt only momentary confusion before it dropped to the ground dead.

After landing, I was fully in control of my body again and I fell to my knees, exhausted. I struggled to get back up off my feet, Reia, I have to get to her…

I quickly looked around and saw her motionless near where the Lizard King body was now a corpse. I struggled to move my body and somehow plodded my way over to where she was. The others were just now shaking off the paralysis and were speechless at what they had just seen.

I fell on my knees next to Reia, looking down at her. Her body was battered, but somehow, she was still breathing. It was easy to see that her life was beginning to fade and she only had a few moments more before death would take her.

Looking down at her battered and bruised body, she looked so beautiful and peaceful lying there. Tears rapidly fell from my eyes as I held her in my arms and my heart was filled with fear.

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