Having rolled off the bed after the recoil from reading Yalin’s journal, Rainer sat on the ground.
“So, you are okay then?” Kara asked, making sure once more.
“Yes, Rainer, more than okay.” She interrupted him. Sharing a glance for a moment, she mumbled, “If you were more than okay, what did you wake me up for…” before returning her head to the pillow.
Giving a dry laugh, Rainer stood up. Far too awake to head directly to sleep, he decided to see if Gunthar had yet to pick a class. He walked to the bed and scratched Kara’s ears a few times before heading out. He heard a quiet “apology accepted” as he left the room.
Gunthar and Theodore stood across from one another in the hall.
“Rainer, did we wake you?” Theodore asked.
“No, just couldn’t sleep.”
“You came at a good time; Gunthar had just selected his class.”
Before Rainer could use [Appraisal], Gunthar walked over and shared the class information. Even without a facial expression, Gunthar’s excitement was palpable.
[Arcane Reaper: A being of Death and Arcane. The end of life and origin of magic. A beginning and an end merged into a single power. The Power of Arcane-Death wielded. Can reap and store souls of the slain as one’s own power. 100% General Improvement to Arcane and Death Skills, 25% General Improvement to all skills. +1 Arcane-Death Aura Attunement, +1 Arcane-Death Aura Control, +1 Intelligence, +2 Strength, +1 Dexterity per level after 1.]
“Your Aura changed as well? And this soul thing…”
“I have never felt such power from my Aura,” Gunthar excitedly exclaimed. He had always had Death Aura as an undead. However, the power of death was not at his command. It was only a slightly empowered Aura.
“At first, I thought it no different,” Gunthar said cladding himself in a black and violet Aura, “but soon I realized, that if I wished, I could use the power of Death.”
The aura on Gunthar’s hand suddenly changed, and Rainer could feel a presence almost no different than his [Arcane-Death Manipulation]. Gunthar quickly reverted it.
“All my Aura skills have changed to be of Arcane-Death. Such a large class bonus, and then the additional class bonus…” Gunthar looked over to his father to explain.
“I have heard of such a skill, though I am not sure it was a class bonus. A certain tribe of Demons could absorb the souls of those they killed and empower themselves. They could store them for use in the future. The strongest among them could even use them as Wraiths to attack. He was a fearsome one. It is possible…that the skill I created that allows me and Gunthar, to be as we are now, is part of the reason for the [Reaper] class. For our souls have grown much in strength. And then your magic creates the [Arcane Reaper].”
“I will go test my Aura Blade, and see the changes,” Gunthar went down the hall, lest his practice affect Rainer. The spring in his step was not hard to see.
“Gunthar was always passionate in his training…” Theodore said.
“So why do you want to leave so badly?” Rainer asked. It had been the first time it was only him and Theodore since Nalmar.
“It is hard…at times your acceptance despite our forms, your liveness it is infectious. At other times, it is…
“Exactly. How long has it been since I’ve felt the sun on my skin? The breath in my lungs. The beating of my heart and flow of my blood… The touch of woman…” Theodore coughed. A bit embarrassed at the last phrase.
“I need some time alone. And if that time alone can work towards a solution to my problem, is it not ideal? I have faith in you, Rainer, as does my son that one way or another you will help us. Until then…”
“And Gunthar?” Rainer asked a bit worried.
“I don’t know if I have seen Gunthar happier. He has friends; he has all the time and energy as an undead to train. For him, I cannot imagine a better group of people to spend his time with. He has a purpose. He told me of your plans. Perhaps I might join you as well. It is a fantasy for ones such as us is it not? A place to study magic outside of the politics of Mage towers and guilds.”
“It is,” To Rainer who had at the time that was most exciting for most other teenagers, locked himself away from the world. Studying restlessly for a year creating what he now knows as [Void-walking]. Creating a proper place to study magic was important to him as well.
He knew he wasn’t perfect by a long shot. He did not believe he could pursue the depth of magic unassisted. He would create a place to gather for the eccentrics and the geniuses.
Those tired of politics. Those, whose ideas were bogged down by a lack of information or the necessity to keep them secret. Those foresworn by Mage Guilds due to a lack of Talent.
But power was not everything. Rainer created what he now considers the most advanced Magic he’s ever seen with but a pittance of Mana. Who’s to say that even his Chef-in-training can’t accomplish a similar feat?
The two stood in thought, as Gunthar a distance away from them, swung his Aura Blade. The powerful Arcane-Death Aura covered his sword. Even from afar, one could sense the dangerous potential of it, the eerie power permeating it.
“Theodore, without the threat of becoming undead so nearby, I’d like to learn that soul skill.”
“We shall make time before we are to separate.”
“Agreed. Good night Theodore,” Rainer said. His mind calmed enough to fall asleep on his own.
“And to you,” Theodore responded, still looking out toward Gunthar’s practice.
Rainer returned to his room. In part filled with happiness in part melancholy. He gave a final glance toward the wall, in truth, toward the north, before heading to sleep.
The white void of [Sleep Learning] opened before him. Many thoughts, tasks, goals swirled in his mind. But for now, he’d finish what he started in Nalmar. Out of everything else, he saw this as the only route that could increase his level.
He replicated the tome on the darkness spell, [Absorb Light]. His intelligence reached 400 as he used [Arcane Awakening]. His mind raced as he repeatedly looked over the formula, modifying it.
Sitting in place, he cast the spell, each time it failed, each failure consuming a decent amount of Mana. In here it mattered not.
[Spell Gained: Absorb Light lvl 1/10]
The spell formed, along with a new spellbook. Rainer could feel a thin film of magic around his body. Shaking away his disappointment at not gaining a title after learning a spell of every known school, at least by Nalmar’s standards, he focused on the Manipulation skill.
Infusing his Mana into the shadow spell it became thicker. Rainer focused and spread it to different parts of his body. Seeing no manipulation skill gain as of yet, he grew distracted and created a mirror. He played around causing several of his teeth to appear missing in the blackness of shadow magic.
This playful control unexpectedly pushed him toward the manipulation skill. And with a laugh a new skill emerged.
[Skill Gained: Darkness Manipulation lvl 1/10.]
So Ice and Time, maybe Life…? Perhaps Void…
Rainer thought to himself. Out of all the Manipulation skills, he missed these two or perhaps more. At least, of all the ones known and free of mixes. With Arcane alone, it doubled the manipulation skill count. If the other elements were capable of being mixed amongst themselves, something Rainer currently only knew as possible in spells themselves, the possibilities were endless.
In Yalin’s journal, he mentioned having both [Spatial Manipulation] and [Light Manipulation]. Each skill individually was rare, something only the greatest or most talented of mages had. But combined? Rainer found no such mentions.
Rainer formed an [Ice Spike] in his hand. By using [Mana Manipulation] he could increase its size, but that could hardly be called a manipulation of ice. Rainer instead shrunk the spike. Trying a different approached, as he remembered his previous failure.
He placed a finger underneath, feeling the icy touch. More mana left the [Ice Spike], leaving it no thicker than a finger. He now focusing on bending the ice, used his finger as a base. In a similar fashion to the start of Body Enchantment, he controlled Mana into his finger.
The ice bent ever so slightly before shattering in two. Rainer repeated the action, until the [Ice Spike] bend and reformed around his finger like a ring.
[Skill Gained: Ice Manipulation lvl 1/10]
Rainer immediately refreshed his body, getting rid of the discomfort on his previously chilled hand.
When first mastering [Arcane-Death Manipulation] Rainer tried to get back the life he lost manually, to no result. He guessed he needed a spell relating to life energy before he could truly do such a thing. The runes to give him understanding, the spell to give him a means of practice, he believed he needed such things.
But amongst all from Nalmar, he found no spell relating to life. And so temporarily, his search for Manipulation skills halted.
Having gained these two Manipulation skills and no title, Rainer instead went to gaining skill points rather than mixing these skills with Arcane.
Before entering Auto-pilot Rainer wanted to see if he could level his least complicated Tier 4 spell, [Arcane-Wind’s Ascent].
He Auto-piloted it in the past to Level 3 but guessed it wouldn’t be so easy the rest of the way.
A swirling vortex of Arcane-Wind formed around him. After a few seconds, the sphere was completed. He flew into the air. He thought over the usual difference between a level 1 and level 10 spell.
Control, Efficiency, Casting Time and Power.
Four simple factors that always improved. If he couldn’t improve them by just casting the spell repeatedly then, he’d do it with intention.
Perhaps for [Spatial Domain] and other tier 4 spells, he thought they had other factors beyond these four. But he believed [Arcane-Wind’s Ascent] was close enough to the threshold between tier 3 and 4, that this may be enough. Rainer canceled the spell.
He cast it again, this time using [Arcane Sight] and finishing the spell as slow as possible. He watched the intricacies of the spell, and next time he’d use his [Arcane-Wind Manipulation] to accelerate it.
He watched how it filtered the wind and accelerated his speed. He saw how the swirling Arcane-Wind formed into a sphere.
He took note of everything and repeated it ceaselessly into the night. Soaring amidst the White Void of [Sleep Learning].
Yulia’s glistening green eyes stared off at her empty throne room. A strand of her emerald hair twisted on her finger. The white stone and wooden throne made by the World Tree gave it a feeling of elegance and nature. An elegance interrupted by the swirling winds. Bursts of power erupted, occasionally cracking the stone, only for it to fuse back together.
Maya had stealthily followed Elru from quite a distance. Far out of the range of any detection abilities. And gave Yulia an unexpected report.
She saw only two possibilities how the Archon had this level. One, he was skilled enough in [Appraisal] to give false information. Something a vast majority of Fae were incapable of. The second was that he truly leveled 10 times.
Both seemed impossible to her, and made Yulia start seeing the [Archon] as more legend than man. She would need help, but it would cost her dearly.
Yulia knew her going herself may no longer be an option as well. Even if she managed to kill him, she might be too weak to fight her way back to the safety of her palace.
She would pay for a bounty, a bounty for the Dark Mage Circles.
Her contacts with them were how she managed to create Luna, and then finally the Sacred Faerie Fire. She had come across a gathering of Dark Mages trying to create an artificial Fairy they could then extract dust from.
Little did they know, they had been working with a Fairy for years. And their problem could likely only be solved with what they wanted to gain in the first place, Fairy Dust.
Dark Mages were labeled as such by the official Mage Guilds; they were no more evil than any other mage. Though, in desperation, they often practiced magic that rightfully gave some of them the label.
Yulia left the throne room after calming herself down. She would send her agent with a proper reward. And soon all Circles of Dark Mages would hunt the [Archon] and retrieve the Fairy she wanted. No mage would resist trading a single Fairy for numerous dust and a Fruit of the World, Yulia thought.
And none of them would know his true power beyond being a mage of the second tier.
Waking up from [Sleep Learning], Rainer had yet to decide which skill he’d purchase first and instead left it for later. He looked over the recent messages he received.
[Arcane Wind’s Ascent has reached level 10]
[Reached the maximum proficiency of a Tier 4 spell for the first time: Rewarding 60 skill points.]
The massive boost in skill points revealed the difficulty of a level tier 4 spell. Without [Sleep Learning], Rainer couldn’t even imagine how long it would take. But with [Arcane-Wind’s Ascent] he had circumvented the difficulty to a degree.
He guessed the addition of Arcane had pushed the spell to tier 4, without making it fall under the same complexities as other tier 4 spells. After reaching level 10 with [Arcane-Wind’s Ascent], he had spent the rest of the night on auto-pilot. With his increases in attributes and [Arcane Awakening], his ability to level spells increased significantly.
[Arcane Lance has reached level 10]
[Reached the maximum proficiency of a Tier 2 spell: Rewarding 2 skill points.]
[Arcane Lance Armament has reached level 10]
[Reached the maximum proficiency of a Tier 2 spell: Rewarding 2 skill points.]
[Arcane-Fire Lance has reached level 10]
[Reached the maximum proficiency of a Tier 2 spell: Rewarding 2 skill points.]
[Arcane-Fire Lance Armament has reached level 10]
[Reached the maximum proficiency of a Tier 2 spell: Rewarding 2 skill points.]
[Arcane-Wind Burst has reached level 10]
[Reached the maximum proficiency of a Tier 2 spell: Rewarding 2 skill points.]
Rainer opened his Arcane spellbook. He knew he'd have to create new spells soon.
[Tier One: Arcane Bolt lvl 10/10, Arcane Bolt Armament lvl 10/10, Arcane Candle Flame lvl 10/10, Arcane-Light Orb lvl 10/10, Beam of Arcane-Light lvl 10/10]
[Tier Two: Cone of Arcane-Fire lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fire Bolt lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fire Bolt Armament lvl 10/10, Arcane-Light Bolt lvl 10/10, Arcane-Light Bolt Armament lvl 10/10, Spear of Arcane lvl 10/10, Arcane Lance lvl 10/10, Arcane Lance Armament lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fire Lance lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fire Lance Armament lvl 10/10, Arcane-Light Lance lvl 1/10, Arcane-Light Lance Armament lvl 1/10, Arcane-Lightning Bolt lvl 10/10, Arcane-Wind Burst lvl 10/10]
[Tier Three: Spear of Holy Arcane-Light lvl 10/10, Spear of Arcane-Fire lvl 10/10, Arcane Combustion lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fireball lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fire Whip lvl 10/10, Arcane-Fire Breath lvl 10/10, Arcane Blade lvl 10/14, Arcane Bolt of Death lvl 10/10, Arcane-Death Runic Skeleton Raising lvl 1/10]
[Tier Four: Pillar of Arcane-Fire lvl 2/10, Arcane-Wind's Ascent lvl 10/10, Arcane-Lightning Channeling lvl 1/10, Arcane-Deathbolt lvl 4/10, Arcane Spear of Holy Judgement lvl 1/10]
He saw Kara already awake but meditating. He smiled, seeing she still remembered their past conversation. Gently nudging her, she joined him in heading to speak with Charles.
Charles’ office was still in the process of being cleaned. Rainer found Charles in the dining room of the mansion, sitting alone. He had some papers in front of him and noticing the numbers from afar, Rainer assumed it was tax related.
“Charles, good morning,” Rainer said walking into the room.
“Good Morning, Lord Magus,” Charles responded, noting the guards in the room.
“Charles I was hoping you could do me a favor,” Rainer asked.
Before Charles said anything, he pointed towards one of the guards and waved him away. The others understood, and all left the room.
“Of course, Rainer, how may I be of aid?”
“Erik of the Winter’s Guardians. Deceased. I’d like to find his family and give them some money. Enough for them to live the rest of their lives comfortably. If they are in this town, make a note, and have guards make sure people no not to trouble them. Use this,” Rainer said flicking one of his extra [Rings of the Nalmar Knighthood] to Charles, “as payment on my part.”
He didn’t wish to meet them personally. Had Erik not saved Rainer, he may very well have instead been killed by him later.
Rainer didn’t regret his decision. After understanding the difficulty of a dungeon, he knew the group had taken advantage of him, and perhaps Kara for that matter. Were they not as unique, they would have all died together. Leaf understated the difficulty of a dungeon to the naïve Rainer.
“Rainer this…” Charles said after slipping it on and checking its effects, “Is a bit too much for such a favor.”
“It’s fine, consider it another gift then.”
“I shall do my utmost to accomplish this. You should note your future Chef is doing quite well. ” Charles said. After now believing Rainer’s spatial rings were truly from a Dungeon he imagined such a ring was not even in his view. While still grateful, he did not argue further.
Constitution was an interesting attribute for many. How often people die because of an arrow going an inch too deep or live from the alternative. And so, a single point of Constitution could mean the difference of life and death. To an [Archon], a single point of Constitution was just the result of a level.
And this ring which gave 2, along with Vitality and Endurance, was far more valuable than Rainer imagined.
They separated after their goodbyes. Rainer headed back to his room to study some of the information he had yet to read from Nalmar’s Mage Towers.
Elru returned as Rainer, and the party came back to his room. He noted a slightly panicked expression. She had, before him falling asleep for the first time, already left to see if she could find the supposed main force of Goblins.
“You’ve found something?”
“You should come as well; I will lead and explain on the way.”
Rainer nodded and with no disagreement from the rest of the party followed Elru. She kept quiet until they left the earshot of others and into Rainer’s room.
“I believe Kara’s summation was correct. A massive gathering of goblin, orc, and monster….No given their size padding may have only been a side goal. A few groups of Yeti would not be enough to gather a worthy experience gain for this group.”
“Let’s inform Charles and head there ourselves. At worst, I can fly us away. At best, Gunthar’s and Luna’s low levels will no longer be an issue. But…”
Rainer paused. There was a chance upon reporting this news; actions might be taken to collapse the tunnel. In his guess, such a plan already existed. To be enacted for any circumstance. Long before evacuations could be completed, his own included. He knew he could head through the Arachne tunnels, but given their last encounter, he wasn’t sure how much he could trust the previously given warm welcome.
“No, we should see the horde ourselves, first. Causing unnecessary panic may lead to the Kingdom of Mier collapsing the sole safe route south. How far is the horde?”
“By walking, I would take it as a week’s distance. In flight, we can reach there before dark depending how much speed you can hold.”
“Plenty of time for us to see the situation before informing Charles. Let’s go now.”
“Sorcerer, what of the townspeople. If they know ahead of time, then…” Gunthar asked.
“Then someone might panic and close the route early. And Charles is clearly loyal to his country. He rejected two better offers, offers that could save his life in favor his nationality. He’s lucky one offer was free of strings attached,” Rainer sighed, “I don’t know what choice he’ll make. To inform Mier first, or to see the townspeople safe first. Perhaps he even believes the country wouldn’t be willing to abandon any of its people…and by getting the news to Mier he was helping them.”
“The tunnel…” Elru spoke. She had traveled it before, “Is not so easy to collapse. They would have to prepare ahead of time to make sure the goblins couldn’t get through later. Which means they may start collapsing it as soon as the news is confirmed.”
Rainer was a bit confused but soon had some understanding. He remembered how quickly the dungeon town sprung up, and how well built it was. He imagined that the city of Nalmar was not unique as he once thought. It's enchanted strength may have been unique, but not its actual construction. He would only know for sure upon visiting the capital of Mier and the tunnel.
With no more argument, the group followed Elru’s lead, flying directly from the Baron’s mansion. At level 10 now, Rainer easily maintained the flight spell, and if he desired could overtake Elru. The swirling Arcane-Wind far calmer, yet within this calmness the violet wind contained a latent power.
They flew off into the north.
Elru entered Rainer’s flight spell at his direction. No longer did the rushing wind prevent conversation.
“So how many were there?”
“Thousands…however their leader may be the greatest issue. He is like Yulia; his mana is touched by fire, however. It is clear he leads them. But…you will see for yourself. Once we are close enough, I can cover you with a Glamour and you may inspect him.”
“Thank you,” Rainer said. Underneath his calm was a growing excitement. He did not discount the possibility of this goblin being the one he learned the magic from. The [Goblin Mage]s spoke of the notes as an inheritance, but that did not mean he was necessarily dead.
The [Arch-Lich] was a Necromancer. No different than a general, that the long past battle of Nalmar and then Rainer stripped of his troops. And once more with Arcane-Death, prevented his artillery, Death Magic. So, this Goblin could be the true first mage of power he faced.
“Tell me when we are only a few miles away, I’ll recover and we’ll walk the rest of the way.”
Hours passed. All but Rainer and Elru sat in meditation, with Luna practicing her new Glamour. Occasionally poking out her head to see if there was anything of interest before returning.
“How did you meet, if you do not mind me asking?” Elru asked a smile on her face seeing the little fairy and her antics.
“She was captured by a group of goblins…They wanted dust. So I killed them,” When lying, Rainer preferred as much truth as possible. And here, there was no reason to lie in this case.
“I’m glad you came in time. Should you ever wish to visit our city, I would be happy to guide you. There is a Fairy Ring not too far from here. It is how I imagine Yulia’s agents reached you in the past,” It was a rare offer. An offer only given due to Rainer’s answers about Luna’s dust.
“I would like that.”
Looking at her earnest expression, Rainer felt slightly bad about mistrusting as much as he did. But such feelings were incomparable with his desire to keep Luna safe.
After a few more minutes of travel, Elru spoke again.
“Here should be good.”
Rainer nodded, descending from the sky. Hearing her, the rest left meditation and prepared to land. Rainer’s mana was at about half capacity. Which, given Gunthar’s new drain on his Mana pool, it would only take around 45 minutes to recover the lost 60 Mana.
This far north the trees seemed to grow in height the farther they went. Rainer noted these reached 4 stories and blocked the view forward. A gentle rise was present as they walked forward, Elru at front.
“From here we can get a good vantage point. They are amassed in a valley at the edge of this forest.”
“What do you plan to do once we are there, Rainer?” Kara asked.
“We’ll gather the information we need. Depending on their forces, I’ll bombard them from afar.”
Kara had already rejoined the party, only Elru was not included. Gunthar was able to keep Luna’s translation skill through Luna using Rainer’s connection to him. She couldn’t change or set the shared skill, but it did not disappear.
Rainer, looking at the shield like symbol faded into his hand, recalled the other methods of forming a party. One was to have a Mage learn the spell from a World Tree Branch; another was the Hunter’s Guild plates.
“The spell from the World Tree, can It share the experience as well?” Rainer asked.
“No,” Elru answered.
Rainer knew how useful to anyone a Fairy would be, even without dust. He couldn’t help but feel it was a shame greed prevented any relationship with Fae for most. Even without the Mana factor, 10 years of life was quite the motivator.
The party was silent as they trudged forward.
After several miles, Elru suddenly turned around.
“From here I’ll cover you in a Glamour,”
“Alright, let’s go.”
Elru reached out and grabbed Rainer’s arm. As they moved forward, they both shimmered and blended into the forest around them. He remained on guard, [Arcane Sight], activated since the start. [Void Detection] in preparation as well lest he needed to make an escape.
Reaching the end of the forest, they both overlooked a small cliff. Rainer saw just what Elru considered massive.
[Jotin, Male, Young Yeti lvl 17]
Hundreds of Yeti roamed. Thousands of wolves dotted the valley and the continued forest in the distance.
[Lupin, Male, Frost Wolf lvl 16]
Large wolves, teeming with a strange Icy Aura lead dozens of the packs.
[Lupin, Male, Ice Wolf Alpha lvl 7]
A monster could not be judged solely on its level, as Rainer experience before. Their classes often took various spots between or above the tiers. With the [Scaled Wyvern] at level 1 being just below the second tier.
In the center, near a large tent, a Goblin and a Wolf stood out the most.
[Lupin, Female, Ice Wolf Queen lvl 9]
[Flame-touched Goblin, Male, [Fire Sage(2nd)lvl 22, Druid(2nd) lvl 9]
Rainer carefully inspected the Goblin with [Arcane Sight] before taking a glance at himself. Just faintly he could see his Arcane-laden Mana within his flesh and blood. But, the Goblin was as if a creature of fire. His entire body intertwined with Magic.
“Breathtaking…” Rainer whispered in amazement. As of now, he had no plans to attack the horde. To fight such a Mage, he knew his current self might not be enough.
Elru was unsure of his meaning. But before she could ask, the atmosphere changed. The [Fire Sage] stared at Rainer, meeting his gaze.
The Goblin grinned in excitement, and erupted in fire, soaring to the sky at an unimaginable speed. [Arcane Sight] showed Rainer the Goblin had seemed to become fire itself.
“Protect them,” Rainer shouted as he shoved Elru back. She nodded and immediately flew toward the group. He would have to trust her in this moment.
Rainer ran to his left, steering clear of his party. As they were now, facing such a mage was not ideal. Without Kara being able to shift into her demon form, he’d rather she stay by Theodore and Elru. And Gunthar had recently switched classes.
“Luna, only heal me when Elru can’t see,” He spoke running through the forest, at the edge of the valley. Several wolves howled seeing his figure. Immediately, [Arcane Awakening] rose to 100%. Violet Runic lines shined across his body and face. His [Overcoat of Arcane Constitution] shined in tandem. Its power increased with Rainer’s now doubled Arcane Attunement.
Suddenly a ball of fire descended in front of him. He jumped back and cast an [Arcane Bolt] immediately into the explosion.
The fire erupted outwards, but Rainer was already beyond its reach. In its center was an unharmed [Fire Sage].
“A fellow Mage, I was looking for some entertainment,” An aged voice spoke. He wore only a simple crimson and black robe. Undisturbed by the icy winds. The hood hid most of his face, but two orange eyes glowed in the darkness, the sun just setting on the horizon.
Rainer looked at him. Based on his own mana, he guessed the Goblin’s mana exceeded 500. The [Arcane Bolt] and its effects were nowhere to be found.
He wasted no time, his Arcane Power draining every second. [Spatial Domain] opened and Rainer leaped forward under a decreased gravity. An [Arcane Lance] formed in his hand.
“Cutting with the formalities then!” The [Fire Sage] turned back to flame again and met Rainer’s charge. A lance of Arcane rang out, charged with power. It passed through the Fire, only weakening slightly and then continuing.
Rainer cast another lance, only to be met with a gout of Fire erupting from the mouth of a now reformed Goblin. He canceled the lance and returned with his own [Arcane-Fire Breath]. It quickly overtook the Goblin’s flame.
A cackle could be heard as the [Fire Sage], once more a ball of Fire, soared into the sky.
Rainer looked up and used [Mana Detection] once more on the floating Goblin.
He felt that Goblin had lost that much. Rainer grinned, it was not the action of becoming Fire that cost that much Mana; It was using the Fire not to be damaged by his Magic. [Arcane Sight] showed him as such.
He understood partly too, how knowing the counter to such an ability, an ability he assumed the Fae Queen shared, would be a significant advantage. But such thoughts were left for later.
Rainer’s legs tensed as the gravity around him decreased. His Strength under [Arcane Awakening] exceeded even most melee combatants below the 2nd Tier.
His [Arcane Sight] caught a burst a mana he knew quite well. One that felled him hundreds of times in [Sleep Learning]. His legs erupted with power as he leaped skyward. A combustion of air exploded behind him.
A hilt came to his hand. The [Fire Sage] had but a moment to become fire once more. An [Arcane Blade] formed. Rainer soared past the ball of fire, his blade seemingly splitting space itself. A wretched scream rang out, as an arm flew downward.
The Goblin roared out in a tongue Rainer's skill could not translate.
Just as Rainer began to descend, large icicles flew at him after a series of wolf howls. A whip of fire tore through the air. Immediately he activated [Arcane Awakening: Shield Mode]. The whip broke against it, and the icicles shattered. Yet the force they carried sent Rainer flying into the forest.
Just as he recovered to slow his descent. A massive surge of Magic erupted out.
The [Fire Sage]’s Mana depleted to nearly half of its original. Rainer had no time to take advantage.
A ball of fire, glowing crimson as a devilish sun formed in front of the Goblin. At the expense of Mana, it had been cast at an extraordinary speed as Rainer fell from the sky.
Rainer momentarily thought over whether to retreat or advance. His [Void Detection] not reaching the Goblin made the decision for him. He Void-Walked sideways, just as the powerful flame spell exploded in his previous location.
The fire erupted outward, causing Rainer to Void-Walk a second and then a third time. With the earlier uses of [Spatial Domain] and recharging his Arcane power Rainer was left at 34 Mana. He could hear the howling of wolves and decided if he were to continue his fight it would have to be elsewhere.
Those Icicles had caused a small crack on his Shield Mode. He knew the [Ice Wolf Alpha] and [Ice Wolf Queen] were not to be underestimated.
The forest did not even have time to burn, the entire area around where the spell landed had turned to ash.
Rainer cast [Arcane-Wind’s Ascent] and flew back toward his party. He picked them up in the sphere, Elru included, and surged away. He operated [Spatial Domain] to increase the flight speed, before stopping.
Seeing the [Fire Sage] had not pursued him, he waited a moment before landing.
“I’ll explain later, let’s run,” Rainer spoke. Having gained some distance, he’d run and regain Mana lest the [Fire Sage] send a chase party.
In the distance, the injured [Fire Sage] grimaced. He then turned to flame once more, before at a large cost of Mana turning his detached arm to flame as well. His body rejoined and he flew back to his mount.
His plans would need altering and his game for entertainment had nearly turned into his death. He would not let such a thing happen again.
Rainer’s worries were unfounded. Once he recovered his Mana, he returned to the skies. Within the Sphere, Elru spoke first.
“That skill he used…it is the same as Yulia’s, but you…” Elru spoke in surprise. She had seen Rainer cut off the [Fire Sage]’s arm even when he had been in his elemental form. As far as she knew even using a countering element would at most just increase the Mana cost to maintain the form.
It is good I calmed myself…
Elru thought. Seeing too how quickly he used the spell, she now knew, at their meeting, how much danger there was.
“We need to warn the Baron. Those wolves…they might be an even bigger issue given their number. They have a strong Ice Aura. I imagine each [Ice Wolf Alpha] to be at least equivalent to a low second tier person. And [Ice Wolf Queen]…”
He guessed the icicle fired by the Queen was the one that cracked his shield mode. His shield mode’s weakness was not its power but its cost. For the Queen to damage it, was significant. Rainer immediately made his priority to level it within [Sleep Learning].
They flew non-stop. Rainer focused on the spell, to move as fast as possible. He knew with his Arcane Power, and level 10 flight spell they were unlikely to be caught even if the [Fire Sage] chased them alone.
And with Goblin’s depleted Mana, that would be a boon for Rainer, now mostly recovered.
It was an hour before dawn when they returned. Rainer’s sought first to speak with the Baron and then enter [Sleep Learning]. No longer would he too, put off learning Arcane-Ice or Arcane-Water.
As they entered the city, Theodore whispered to Rainer.
“Demons. I detect three.”
Rainer’s eyes opened wide as he used [Soul Detection] as well.
“Let’s head to the Baron’s mansion to not be suspicious and then immediately leave the city. We’ll lure them out…perhaps…if any are weak enough take them alive, before they have a chance to transform. Theodore, wait in the city as soon as they follow, trail them from a safe distance. Don’t let them escape,” Rainer spoke quietly as well, familiar with Kara’s hearing abilities and taking no chances.
“This may be our only chance before the situation changes,” Kara added. Even in her whisper, the anger in her voice was not difficult to discern.
“It’ll be done,” Theodore spoke.
Elru had many questions on her mind but decided to leave them until they had solved the problem in front of them.
Wearing a hood over his head, a man stood behind a building. Blue serpentine eyes and a small amount of scales on his face denoted him as of the Lizards race. Anyone with a modicum of skill in [Aura Detection] would discover a far different truth were they to inspect him closely.
He had just spotted his target entering the city. Immediately he memorized her Aura, noting its strength. At level 3 of the second tier, he was more than confident at dealing with her alone. But those around her gave him pause. Most specifically, one of those traveling with her, had an Aura that he only recalled the higher level of the second tier having.
He followed them to the Baron’s mansion, keeping a careful distance. 10 minutes passed, and the group left the mansion. They departed without the strongest of them. Now he assumed the strongest was related to the kingdom of Mier rather than the party.
Varren, couldn’t help but grin. He knew they might no longer need to wait for aid and could claim the reward alone. His agents were nearby and were at level 25 of their first class. Quickly, he went to their hiding location. At this time of night, they were all there.
“They are leaving the city,” Varren said, “Without the strongest of them. We’ll do a final check. Kill the Mage first, and capture the Wolfkin alive. The other Aura user can be dealt with after. Avoid him. Take the servant woman as a hostage, don’t kill her. She might have uses.”
They rushed out of the city, Varren was careful, however. He watched from afar as the group entered the forest, bags on their back.
The Mage’s Mana only denoted him as the peak of the first tier. Varren believed his strength as a demon would be more than enough. In his haste, he did not question why a mage would be traveling on foot in such a poor manner.
Enchanters were rare among Demons. However, those of high status often kept slaves. The Demon Prince that Varren served was known for the enchanters he kept. Different from other Demons, he treated them extremely well. And it showed results in their skills. They were able to customize enchanted equipment fit for a Demon.
But, enchanting was time-consuming and expensive. Such a prize could only be given for a proper feat.
All involved in the Wolfkin’s capture would be properly rewarded. And of course, the less involved, the less he had to share. None of his group would be leaving with him, so he planned.
The group of 5 demons rushed forward, leaping over the wall, carefully avoiding detection. Their white cloaks blended with the snow and were hard to see in the darkness.
He followed the group for nearly an hour.
“Circle around,” He whispered to his men. Taking no chance for their target to escape.
Varren waited a distance back, as his men got into position.
They all charged forward, their first goal, the mage.
But Varren could only defend himself as his target with traces of lightning across her body, slammed her fist into him.
Kara yelled out as her Aura clad fist slammed into the blocking demon. His disguise fell as he mobilized his Demonic Aura. He had decided not to rush a transformation.
It would be the last decision he ever made.
Kara gripped his hand and now visible horn. She torn it from his head, eliciting a visceral scream.
Her hand covered in an Aura Blade stabbed into his heart, and then her hand ripped it from his chest. In her anger, she did not even pause to try and take him alive.
Even with her Demonic Aura currently unusable, her attributes from both her classes combined, far surpassed the recently advanced Varren.
Elru, still in her Glamour, ran toward one of the demons, pretending to flee from another. The moment she reached him, her palm hit the back of his neck, leaving him unconscious. Seeing the strange situation, the remaining three demons instantly transformed.
One took the appearance of a fearsome minotaur that soon lacked any life as an [Arcane Lance] pierced through his Aura, and his head. Seeing Elru capturing one, the party took no quarter.
Theodore’s Aura clad Sword, took the head of another, one who attempted to flee. His headless form was a horned goat, black in fur. Large muscles bulged in the now lifeless body.
A second [Arcane Lance] stabbed through the last fleeing demon, a large scaled man, with a lizard’s jaw.
Gunthar’s Aura Blade cleaved through his neck. Yet lacking his original strength, the blade got stuck halfway, only for the Arcane-Death unleashed to finish him off. Gunthar’s eyes erupted in a violet flame before simmering down, a soul absorbed.
Messages flew by Rainer as he walked over to the unconscious Demon. The Demon's disguise faltered and revealed a single horn in the center of his head. A lion’s tail stuck out of his cloak.
“Theodore, do you know of any way to seal his Aura?”
Rainer asked as he drained the demon beneath him. The skill had been gained easily enough. With the combination of his other drain skills and his [Archon] class, it took only a few minutes of experimentation.
[Skill Gained: Aura Drain lvl 1/10]
He let the Aura fade away, as he had no way to absorb the Demonic Aura.
Elru, who was about to ask what was going on, felt Rainer draining Aura and found her words jumbled, “Demon why are there you after? Why demons there are after you?" Why are there Demons after you!?" Elru finally yelled out, getting it correct.
Everyone laughed, even Kara who was tense from the Demon’s attack joined in. But not Gunthar. He approached her solemnly, placing a hand on her shoulder before speaking, “It’s alright. You’ll get used to it. Eventually, the next surprise is just a matter of course.”
He understood she had been shocked not by the demons attacking them, but by Rainer casually draining Aura.
Elru blushed slightly as she rubbed her forehead.
“For demons to come after you, even in Mage Guild lands…” Elru spoke.
“Why exactly is it a big deal for them to be in Mage Guild lands?” Rainer had heard this before from Kara, as the reason she ran here. She never explained it.
Elru frowned for a brief moment. The reasons were all too similar to why it was unsafe for a Fae. The only difference was the Fae were not hated.
“Various parts of a Demon are quite valuable. For rituals, Magic, enchantments, points…and Demons heal quickly…”
“And they are easy to find. Anyone with level 1 in [Aura Detection] can closely inspect a Demon and see through their disguises,” Kara added.
He now understood why Kara was safer here than anywhere else. She couldn’t be seen through so easily, whereas her pursuers could. Hiding in an enemy territory was exactly where she needed to be.
Rainer recalled the Vampyr needed in the immortal body ritual as well. Vampyr were considered Demons by the system, as Rainer learned in Wyvern’s Roost. He looked down, his draining of Aura and Stamina complete for now.
[Demon, Male, Demonic Leo lvl 25]
“I have some thoughts for sealing his Aura and Stamina, but for now we should have a sleeping spell cast on him.”
“I’ll do it,” Elru responded, “So long as you drain his…stamina…occasionally,” Elru noted it wasn’t just Aura being drained, “It should last for a few days if not until his death, even on a Demon. It naturally reduces stamina recovery rates. With repeated castings of the sleep spell combined with draining, he may never awaken.”
“Can you teach that to Luna as well, her sleeping spell is nowhere near as strong.”
Elru nodded as she began casting it on the Demon.
His eyes beneath the lids moved around before the tension in his body disappeared. Theodore picked up his nearly 7-foot-tall body. Elru created a magically constructed blanket to cover the Demon.
“I’ll cover him with my Aura, so his demonic nature isn’t noticed.”
The party headed back to the city. Theodore and Elru went to Rainer’s room to secure the demon as Rainer went to speak with the Baron on what he saw.
A guard let Rainer through as he then knocked on Charles’ bedroom door. Even if the Lord Magus turned hostile, all the guards were instructed by Charles not to act. He knew they would be of no threat even to Rainer alone given how he killed the Yeti a while ago.
“Charles, it’s important,” Rainer yelled.
Charles came out wearing a simple brown tunic and pants. With his gray hair were it not for his Aura, he’d appear no different than any old man.
“It’s best we talk alone.”
“Come in,” Charles said while opening the door. He closed it behind them. Gunthar and Kara accompanied Rainer.
“It’s related to the Yeti. It’s not exactly padding…”
“Then they are isolated incidents?”
“No. I mean padding may still be the goal, but those groups of Yeti were nowhere near enough to call the reinforcements needed.”
Charles immediately understood.
“Thousands of monsters. Led by a powerful Tier 2 Fire Mage. Far stronger than George. We fought for a moment, but with the aid of some Wolves capable of firing Ice Aura attacks, I retreated. I imagine there are several dozens of monsters within the horde capable of posing at least a threat to those of the 2nd Tier.”
“Evacuation, I’ll order evacuation immediately. And a messenger, I will send him on my Nightmare to the capital,”
Just as Charles was about to leave Rainer stopped him.
“Charles. If your King or higher ups learn about this, what would they prioritize? Blocking the tunnel on their end, or seeing the evacuation completed?”
Charles frowned, but he knew it was not either.
“They would not give up their gateway to the north so easily. I can not speak more than that I’m afraid.”
“Then send your messenger. We’ll be staying in town,” Rainer was curious what exactly was so important here. Judging from his conversation with George, he didn’t think it was the forbidden lands in far North. That seemed too personal.
“Thank you,” Charles said while bowing his head.
Charles rushed out the room, and Rainer walked behind him. He knew he might have to kill the Demon before any Mages got here, which meant completing his experiments before then. The first tests would be in [Sleep Learning] on himself. In the outside world, he’d only be able to perform the experiment a few times before either the Demon was too injured or he ran low on blood.
He needed only to prove its safety on the Demon for Kara.
Rainer’s priorities changed again. Now he knew Mier wasn’t likely to give up this northern city; his goal was to use this Demon before anyone capable of detecting him arrived.
Theodore took the demon to another room and would keep guard with Gunthar. His [Soul Detection] was still enough to cover the party. Gunthar would use [Magic Detection], as always, with special care given their recent threat.
Rainer, exhausted from a day of flying and fighting, collapsed onto the bed.
With Elru no longer in the room, Luna used her fire on Both Rainer and Kara as they talked, removing a day of soreness.
“I’m sorry,” Kara spoke.
“I lost myself, and I killed the one who was likely their leader,” Kara felt the differences in strength. Even untransformed, she thought the one she killed was the strongest.
“Lost yourself fighting people who chased you from your home? We still captured one. Don’t worry Kara.”
He appraised Luna and Kara before looking at his messages.
[Wolfkin, Female, Blade Dancer lvl 24]
He was surprised by the increase but realized that Kara killed a 2nd Tier Demon entirely on her own. It wasn’t uncalled for. He, of course, immediately appraised the Demon she charged toward in case he was stronger than [Aura Detection] had shown. She had in the past, killed a 2nd Tier Fae, but he had been preoccupied with Rainer.
Rainer received a bonus back when he killed the [Lich] that exceeded his level by 10, he imagined a similar bonus for killing one tier above.
[Fairy, Female, Holder of the Faerie Arcane-Fire lvl 7]
He then looked at the two levels he had gained from killing the Demons. The experience gained for [Archon] was negligible.
[Voidwalker has been leveled up to Lvl 3/25. Standard Attributes have been distributed. 1 Attribute and skill point have been rewarded]
[Voidwalker has been leveled up to Lvl 4/25. Standard Attributes have been distributed. 1 Attribute and skill point have been rewarded]
“Hehe, Rainer is appraising Luna,” The fairy twisted and turned, causing a smile to appear on the previously sullen Kara.
Rainer glanced at Kara before closing his eyes. His thoughts drifted between the Demons after Kara and the Fae Queen.
In the end, they’ll be the ones worrying every night. Checking for danger in every corner, every hour of the day. And then one day...they'll be no more...
Such were his final thoughts before the night took him.