Gripping tightly on Kara’s fur and with Gunthar running alongside them the party left the horde well behind them. Gunthar gave general directions as they headed to the closest fort, The Shield.
They slowed down having gained significant distance and Kara shifted out of her werewolf form to keep up her stamina.
“Teacher.” Rainer called out towards Gunthar.
“I need to know how exactly such a powerful city fell. Beyond what you’ve told us.”
Gunthar remained silent for a moment before he finally spoke.
“I had mentioned before a necromancer infiltrated our ranks...I do not know how many years this had been in motion but said necromancer managed to get close enough to the Mana-Well and assisted his master to come directly there. By what magic, I cannot be sure.”
“There was always at least a single 2nd Class Guard in front of the Mana-well, sometimes two. It could be said to be more protected than kings. Yet this...became the start of our downfall.”
“The [Arch-Lich] somehow killed both of them and then using the Mana-Well raised them...contrary to all we knew about necromancy, they retained their power of 2nd Class.”
Rainer guessed how this was their end. He didn’t fully understand the power of a 2nd Class individual but if the [Arch-Lich] had two and could raise more with the Mana-Well then every single 2nd Class individual he killed with them afterward would be under his command. They stood no chance...
“How many years went into such a plan I cannot imagine. For him to use the Mana Well so adeptly. It did not take long for the city to fall after that. There was no limit in who or how many the [Arch-Lich] could raise.” Gunthar solemnly spoke.
They walked in silence as Rainer thought over the situation. The only reason he could think the [Arch-Lich] hadn’t sent over any 2nd Class undead to attack them is because for all he knows they are just a minor part of the true force. Under normal circumstances, someone who would be considered “worthy” by that dungeon could then use the ring of transference. From there they could likely get the strongest of any mage guild to cooperate with them for this Mana-Well. Or more likely they were already part of one or any such strong organizations. That someone who could pass such a dungeon needed powerful gear and backing. Kara's and Rainer's circumstances were too rare to replicate otherwise. If Kara and Rainer operated at full power with Luna's buffs from the very start it would have been almost simple. Kara had to waste most of her Demonic Aura to do an instant shift to werewolf form and they wouldn't have had to face any of their raised allies.
The [Arch-Lich] also couldn't know their levels, he may not even know how they were chosen to come here. The first [Lich] had called Rainer a servant of Origin and was surprised at how weak Rainer felt for such a thing.
Whatever servant of Origin even means...
Rainer had also already killed two high leveled [Lich]s by himself. They could estimate his strength at level 20+. If the [Arch-Lich] carelessly sent out his 2nd Class Undead he could be completely unprepared for any of Rainer's supposed allies.
He, of course, had no such intention of calling upon any mage guild. Just being around another mage was dangerous with Luna. Besides, the Mana-Well was crucial to his future plans.
For now, the ignorance of his enemy was his greatest advantage, such a thought filled his mind as he looked at the exp he gained from the [Lich] and all his guards.
[Total Experience Gained: 24%]
It was more than expected as he received 11% from killing the level 17 [Lich] at level 8. He hadn’t the chance to appraise the guards but perhaps the exp between a level 18 and level 17 [Lich] was significant? Though he just assumed the guards were of a higher level. The combination of the increased damage versus undead and as much time as he wanted to charge his spell with Arcane Power would be a difficult attack to block.
I need to reach level 25 and then use the ring to go complete the 2nd Class quest…
Rainer looked over at Gunthar. What he’s been told about undead so far is that levels will drop when they are raised, which is why ordinarily speaking raising a 2nd Class undead isn’t possible.
“Teacher...what level were you from...before?” Rainer asked knowing that these series of questions were not the best for Gunthar.
“Rainer…” Kara spoke out right after Luna translated it for her.
“It is fine little wolf. These questions are important to answer. I have had plenty of years to mourn…”
“I was a level 25 Paladin.” Gunthar said to the surprise of Rainer and Kara.
“I was to attempt the Trial of the Holy One prior to this...invasion.”
“I assume you wish to know of the level barriers so that you may plan out your quest completion?”
Rainer simply nodded.
“Every level after 20 gets significantly harder, level 10-20, however, is just a minor increase between each one. Though I can't imagine anyone other than you taking that gap lightly. I was at the age of 52 and considered one of the most talented paladins to ever grace the order. A lifetime of hunting evil and rigorous training combined with a powerful talent for Aura.”
So...I need to save 5 forts for once I’m level 20, but how can I get there? I need to find a way to gain more titles and fast.
Rainer feeling the mood coming from Gunthar decided not to ask any more of his past for now.
“What are you thinking about?” Kara asked him.
“The [Arch-Lich]. If he was truly capable of killing multiple 2nd Classers than to fight him without such strength ourselves is suicide. My spear may have a minor chance but the cast time combined with the full charging is too long. I may be dead long before I even have such a chance.”
Kara looked at him inexplicably. Speaking of reaching his 2nd Class within 6 months so naturally was practically an offense to all inhabitants of this world. Kara stopped moving for a moment in deep thought.
“Gunthar give us a second.” Rainer called out before walking over to her. They had gained a distance on the undead, but they couldn’t rest on their laurels in such a manner. The undead were tireless and It was dark. A long time before dawn.
“Whats wrong?” He asked.
“I had hoped for you to tell me on your own...but Rainer, are you a Hero?” Kara asked a bit nervously.
“No.” He answered simply. Even if it was requested of him he’d fight against it. Being a pawn to a higher power wasn't a fate he desired. Even now if he liberated this city it isn’t as if he was actually helping anyone, they are all gone. He just wanted levels and the Mana-Well, a mutual exchange for whoever sent him here. Though now he thought of giving Gunthar some closure. He still hadn’t asked him about what he would do after this, not having the heart to ask him to stay alive in such a form to help him with the school. He hoped Gunthar would be willing on his own after hearing the idea and that he accepted such a purpose. But Rainer himself isn't sure if he'd wish to live in such a state.
“It's..alright if you are, I will stand by you, we can deal with what comes later but…” Kara responded seemingly not believing him as she could otherwise not explain his insane power. Demons were often the very purpose Heroes existed, so this was important to her.
“I’m not. But I’m also not from here like a hero.” He said no longer seeing a reason to hide it.
“You...came from elsewhere but were not called?” Kara asked confused.
“Yeah, you could call it my own effort, though it was... an accident.” He said a bit embarrassingly flexing his jaw.
Completely against the serious mood, Kara began laughing. No, calling it just laughter would be an understatement. Not even able to stand and struggling to breathe Kara was on the ground laughing aloud.
Slightly red-faced Rainer looked back towards Gunthar who he didn’t particularly attempt to stop from hearing what was said. And soon an uncontrollable laughter broke out from him as well.
“Well, hell...” Rainer mumbled as he left the two to their enjoyment. Kara reached her hand out to apologize to him but lacked the willpower to stop laughing.
Several passed minutes as the group continued walking at a brisk pace.
“Come on Rainer don’t be like that. This was a bit too much compared to the usual. Who travels across worlds on accident?” Kara said as she had her hand around his waist and walked behind him.
“Can you imagine the legend of Rainer the Great Arch-Mage? Traveler of Worlds. With a little note that it was an accident. Though, it was an accident I am deeply grateful for.” Kara said still laughing a bit, though she ended it by giving him a light kiss on the neck.
“We’ll call it even for when you suggested your mate was fit to be a pack mule.” She said right after.
“Good point…” Rainer conceded. He wasn’t seriously unhappy in the first place, he was glad he came here, even if there were regrets about missing his family. Having already traveled across worlds once he also had some hope to eventually visit home.
Besides, hearing her point it out in such a manner it was hard not to laugh.
From the distance, they, once more, started to hear the clacking of bones.
“We should get a move on. It won’t be easy for them to break into The Shield, so long as we get in without causing too much damage.” Gunthar replied as Kara shifted into her werewolf form.
“Why is it called that in the first place?” Rainer couldn't help but wonder.
“All 9 towers were designed to form a massive barrier around the territory Nalmar encompassed. Here you see all forest but when we approach Nalmar you’ll notice the shift to farmland. The barrier itself could be considered one of the greater discoveries on using the Mana Well. Nalmar rose to fame in the first place due to how we defended against a powerful demon invasion with the combination of our barrier and powerful army.”
Why would they draw such attention to their barrier, though? Perhaps that was exactly the point, a show.
“Though in the end, such a method was rendered useless.” Gunthar finished with a self-deprecating sigh.
Rainer quickly jumped up on a kneeling Kara and gripping her fur they soon made a quick pace forward again. Gunthar keeping up through the use of his Aura.
Having some time Rainer went to take a look at the skill store.
He had received 20 points for reaching level 10 for the first time on a tier 3 spell. He thought of it as good a time as ever to purchase [Arcane Rage]. It left him with 14 skill points. He’d leave what he'd do with the rest for later. He didn’t know what options may or may not become available in the future. Rather it was likely no one else knew given how rare his [Arcanist] class may truly be.
[Arcane Rage lvl 1/10: Ignite the Arcane Power within one's self in order to significantly increase one's power. Receives improvements from [Arcane Attunement] and [Arcane Energy Manipulation]. Current Ratio = 1 Arcane Power = +5.51% Total Attribute Increase]
Rainer saw the skill itself as perfect for his current situation, though he had no idea what the actual effects of the Rage would be. It's quite possible using too much Arcane Power would have a severe impact. He’d save it until they reached The Shield and if he truly needed it. It may very well temporarily put him out of commission.
The ride was as smooth as such a type of travel could be. Luna, however, was still a welcome help with her flame in such a scenario where Rainer hadn’t even seen a horse in person let alone ever ridden anything similar prior to coming here.
The party continued traveling for several more hours. Now that they gained distance again they took another moment to take a break. Kara leaned against a tree as Luna’s flame healed some general discomfort but she couldn’t do anything about stamina loss.
Gunthar stood on watch whereas Rainer sat with his back at another tree across from Kara. After helping her, Luna flew back towards Rainer and following a sigh quietly sat on his leg.
He looked down at his little fairy. She had been working hard with little true complaint beyond her humor and yet he didn’t even consider that regardless of her attitude it hadn’t been that long since she found out her true origins and was tormented by her later captors.
Luna, like many young girls, wanted to be a princess, except not only did Luna have that but it was taken from her. No more than a cruel illusion.
Slowly a gentle humming filled the air as Rainer worked on a new creation with his [Arcane Weaving]. As a biology major he had used [Sleep Learning] on anatomy to the point where he knew a human perfectly, at least by common Earth standards. The moment he finally began using the knowledge he has of human anatomy did the system finally show his true expertise.
[Skill Gained: Human Anatomy lvl 7/10]
Well, it's true earth anatomy doesn’t cover magic or aura…Or how gaining experience improves a body. There are still mysteries within Earth's knowledge even if you discount the supernatural.
Such were his thoughts on the 3 missing levels.
He didn’t create all the fine parts, just planning enough muscles to look like it moved naturally, but slowly a figure just at 8 inches in height began taking form. First was a stick looking figure of Arcane Weave that Rainer tried to focus on making flexible. Then the muscles, though he lacked the skill level to truly make them accurate, and finally as best as he could manage, a suit. The figure looked like a smooth but dimly lit creation of Arcane. Beads of sweat rolled down Rainer’s face as he worked on creating and controlling this figure, with his low skill level making it cost a decent amount of Arcane Power. His skill with [Arcane Energy Manipulation] most certainly providing assistance.
Following two messages the humming grew in elegance causing both Kara and Gunthar to take pause and look. Though Luna still sat quietly on his leg.
[Skill Gained: Humming lvl 1/10]
[Skill Gained: Pitch Control lvl 1/10]
He hummed a bit louder, but deeper, finding the slow rhythm of the waltz he wanted. Himself decently versed in multiple pieces of music due to his skill in piano and guitar. He imagined he only needed an instrument to get those skills recognized by the system.
Luna finally looked over at what Rainer was making.
Rainer paused his hum for a moment and making a bow with the figure voiced out a request.
“I humbly request Lady Luna’s hand in a dance.” The bow was still a bit clunky but the faux muscles he created assisted in the movement. Numerous applications for [Arcane Weaving] flew through his head but for now he put them away.
“I would welcome such an honor.” A sweet but formal voice came out of Luna.
Rainer began humming again as Luna took the figures hand. He hadn’t known what for but his grandfather insisted quite heavily at Rainer taking some dance classes. Though he ended up not needing too many with the aid of [Sleep Learning] before his grandfather let him stop.
Rainer now could use [Arcane Energy Manipulation] to control the figure as they started moving to the rhythm. Luna gracefully followed the small figures lead as Rainer put all his focus on making the dance as smooth as possible.
[Skill Gained: Dancing lvl 3/10]
A gentle smile filled Luna’s face as the two danced to the rhythmic hum of a waltz. It did not take long for her to catch on. The dance went on and on, the faint Arcane lights and the ethereal beauty of Luna giving the scene an irresistible splendor. Slowly unmoving figures began being created by Rainer in the background creating a gathering reminiscent of a ball. Luna’s eyes lit up at the sight. The small figure twirled Luna as she took in what was around her. She seemed to enter her own world as she danced around the makeshift ballroom floor.
As Rainer expended his Arcane Power a strange occurrence happened and a new message appeared. Just a minor fraction of his Arcane Power became infused in his voice unbeknownst to him.
[Skill Gained: Arcane Sound Infusion lvl 1/10]
Luna, deeply entwined with the Arcane already, only subconsciously grew happier at the change not even really noticing it.
The observing Gunthar and Kara appeared amazed as they felt the power in the air. The world around them seemed to hum with the Arcane.
Kara, different from the awe and slight fear of his magic in the past, now filled with admiration at the raw power of it. Perhaps it was the change brought out from the change between them.
Slowly the song came to a close. The Arcane in the air died down. He, having not supplied it any Arcane Power since the beginning, watched as the weave slowly began to unravel. The energy dissipated in the air.
Luna gazed out quietly at the disappearing figures before she turned towards Rainer and had a truly genuine smile on her face with eyes slightly misty. She lightly kissed him on the cheek before going inside her favorite spot.
He himself smiled a brief moment before he looked over the strange skill received.
[Arcane Sound Infusion lvl 1/10: Infuse the power of the Arcane within sound. Varied effects]
Not much to go on, I wonder how…
He thought as Kara walked over and sat down leaning on him.
“Can you hum again, just like you did now?” She asked quietly.
“I can” Rainer spoke wondering what the varied effect was in this case. He infused the tiniest portion of Arcane Power he could manage before the hum of his voice once more encompassed the world around them.
Kara relaxed to the sound and feeling of his voice, his hand gently scratching her ears.
They were only able to rest for half an hour at most. Traveling once more, this time with slightly renewed spirits, they followed Gunthar's direction.
Eventually, they came about The Shield. Apart from a difference in construction of the tower, that was noticeably taller and had a strange design at its top, the fort looked almost exactly the same.
Yet there was, in fact, a huge difference. The gate was open.
Before they could even contemplate the situation they saw a large army making its way not from the direction they came but from deeper in the territory of Nalmar. The undead crossed over the former farmland Gunthar spoke of. They could hear sounds in every direction now, likely undead completely surrounded them. They had walked directly into a trap. Or was there truly any place free from the undead?
He looked over to his right at Kara. Fatigue visibly showed even in her werewolf form. She never got a full chance to recover ever since they started running. He guessed her maximum stamina was affected as well. Gunthar could try and carry them both but there was no way he’d make it through the new army that may as well be led by a [Lich] or multiple ones. He couldn’t just depend on the [Lich]s still being arrogant after two of their allies died.
Rainer stared down at the ring on his hand before he made a decisive choice.
“Let's go inside, if we can hold for just 10 minutes we can leave. “
He’d chance that anyone waiting for them had already either assumed they were dead or was off guard long enough they could just hide right at the entrance. He saw it as better than trying and going through this horde. If they could hide outside for the few hours till dawn not only would the horde weaken Rainer could once more open a hole in the sky making the classless and weak undead truly useless.
The group ran inside straight towards the tower. They entered before Gunthar by himself rushed up the stairs as Kara and Rainer put whatever they could in front of the door. Undead were already entering the fort. Rainer activated the ring starting the 10-minute countdown before they followed Gunthar upstairs to make sure the fort was as empty as it appeared.
The echoing of the undead drowning out even their own thoughts. Compared to the army before this was a true Horde.
They met with no resistance as they climbed. Eventually, Rainer and Kara met up with Gunthar who was waiting for them at the very top.
Gunthar moved his hand along a strange pedestal. The purpose likely had to do with the barrier. But, even Rainer never seeing it before saw that it was clearly broken. Looking around the large room Rainer noticed the pilling of dust that indicated this fort had never been used again. They were simply unlucky to meet a [Lich] within Sunlight’s Keeper. Though if Rainer considered the presence of Gunthar it could be understood as great luck. Currently, with the horde entering the fort, they didn’t get a quest completion for this place.
“How much longer?” Gunthar asked still staring at the pedestal.
“5 minutes.” Rainer answered. The timer had been set the moment he activated the ring. With [Magic Detection] he could feel a strange power building from within it.
Even at the top floor, they could hear the banging of the door at the bottom of the tower. Rainer quickly rushed to one of the Mage assault floors so that he could kill the strongest undead that may be leading the forefront.
Looking down he used [Appraisal] a few times but the density of the undead made it impossible to really tell. It was truly a frightening scene seeing the undead all piling in towards the door. Even the enchanted wood started to give way to the sheer force of such a mass of bodies. Slowly but surely they were pushing through.
Immediately Rainer began throwing down [Arcane-Fire Bolts], which with the addition of Arcane Power not only increased in strength but now took less mana than a cast of a normal [Arcane Bolt]. A normal [Arcane Bolt], however, no longer needed mana, just Arcane Power.
[Total Experience Gained 6%]
Most of the undead were classless but like he predicted the few stronger one were brought forward to open the door. Before he could continue a bolt of darkness launched towards him forcing Rainer to take cover.
Immediately he used [Mana detection] to get a general sense of where and how many [Lich]s there were. He sensed 4 distinct mana pools. 3 roughly equaled the [Lich]s he’s already faced and one decently larger. He had trouble getting an exact location given his low level of [Mana detection] and the distance so he could only retreat back with Kara and Gunthar. The [Lich]s, this time, did not have such a recognizable form amidst the horde.
Minutes passed and the undead began to pour into the tower just as the countdown was about to go off.
Gunthar himself looked out a window and growled out.
Rainer used [Appraisal] immediately on a few of the rider and wyvern pairs in the distance.
[Undead, Female, Ghoul Wyvern lvl 12]
[Undead, Male, Skeleton Beast Rider lvl 15]
[Undead, Male, Ghoul Wyvern lvl 7]
[Undead, Female, Skeleton Beast Rider lvl 11]
[Undead, Male, Ghoul Wyvern lvl 14]
[Undead, Male, Skeleton Beast Rider lvl 8]
Seeing their flying forms Rainer looked towards the timer and prepared himself for the other side.
“Huddle Together, it's about to go off!” He called out to Gunthar and Kara.
He felt a surge of magic....
but it did not come from the ring...
[Outside Interference, Transference Canceled]