Author’s note: Ending the arc is a pain in the ass so I assume that chap 33 will come out on Thursday. I’ve overcome the writing block and came with something better than I had planned.
The tides were shifting. When the news of northern and eastern gates getting flooded by lizardmen reinforcements spread, participating players were forced to adapt, discarding their previous plan.
“Throw the toxins now!” Curtis screamed to the Rogues beside him.
Soon after the shout faded, small vials filled with black liquid exploded on the ground, releasing fumes of black smoke.
[Sable toxin] was a unique skill available only to Rogues. The required concotion could be purchased from the Class Trainer, up to 50 vials at a time. Lasting a staggering 10 seconds, this 40 seconds cooldown skill was a great tool to distract the enemies during the assassinations or to secure the safe retreat.
With their vision blocked, lizardmen roared to vaguely estimate their positions. However, this pitiful emergency measure couldn’t help them much. A few player teams strictly made of Paladins and Warriors charged right at the lone reptiles, hacking them to pieces.
This is the solution players came up with after a brief discussion. They formed teams made up of people of the same class to make the teamwork easier. Every group had a different task, but it all came down to one thing – retaking the western mountain area. Once the players accomplished that, all they needed to do was stabilize their western gate foothold and then slowly whittle down the numbers of lizardmen.
Curtis organized a group of Rogues to split the battlefield, distracting some lizardmen and at the same time letting more players focus on one side of the battlefield.
Blending with the shadows, Curtis and the other Rogues scurried towards the western mountain area. Their footsteps were light, almost soundless. Over 50 Rogues approached the leftover of the elite lizardmen archer squad and unleashed their most powerful skill – [Twin Dance].
[Twin Dance] was a combo skill that required two daggers to be used. There were countless variations to it, but at the very least three moves had to be used in succession for the 250% damage amplifier to trigger.
As for the moves used, most Rogues utilized reverse grip horizontal cuts, cross cuts, upward and downward double slashes and various stab variations. There were a few Rogues who mixed throwing daggers inbetween the moves, adding an extra bit of damage.
With elite lizardmen archers taken out of equation, Earth Mages had their time to shine. They made a row of earth walls, hiding archers and mercenary crossbowmen behind the obstacles. As Archers and Crossbowmen positioned themselves on the now fortified western mountain, quivers were quickly emptied as the arrows flew towards the distracted lizardmen, riddling them full of holes.
On the other hand, crossbowmen fired their bolts more sparingly. However, each bolt shot, if accurate, dealt heavy damage to the lizardmen and their heavy armor.
Nonetheless, if it was only this much, the dire situation of the western gate wouldn’t be resolved so quickly.
Low level Mages stormed out of the western gate, their hands wielding polished, shiny swords. This bizarre sight made many players furrow their brows in confusion. How could low level players afford such swords? There could be one or two lucky ones, but all of them? Only a second later did they realize who those individuals were.
One after the other, water bubbles encased the lizardmen, lifting them up in the air. With the lizardmen frontline severely incapacitated, surrounding players’ spirits lifted as they fiercely counterattacked.
“Round them up with [Rock fists]!” one of the Earth Mages roared, signaling the rest of his team to gather the lizardmen in one spot.
As the black puffs of smoke from [Sable toxins] started disappearing, lizardmen were knocked around by grey stone fists rising from the soil. As soon as a group of at least 10 reptiles gathered, [Lesser Fireballs], [Flame Spheres] and [Wind Blades] bombarded the reptiles, leaving them severely wounded or dead on the spot.
Wind Mages moved alongside Fire Mages, decimating the lizardmen numbers. They stopped at places where lizardmen were quite numerous, saving every bit of mana they had.
Meanwhile, Lightning Mages acted as a hit and run unit, closing in with [Lightning Rush] only to release [Lightning bolts] with devastating force and disappear as quickly as they appeared.
Heavy armored lizardmen roared as their skin became charred. Although it was visibly healing because of their race characteristics, under the focused fire of players who finally acted as a team, their attempts were futile.
Half an hour later, the western side was taken over by the players. Swordsmen and Mercenaries could be seen wandering through the burnt, rugged area, stabbing the corpses that for some reason didn’t disintegrate.
“Go restock right now! We have to help the other gates if we want to finish this event in time!” Zunix yelled at the top of his lungs, heavily panting afterwards.
“So that’s why you took us to the western side.” Darkk wiped the remaining water off her mouth, pocketing the canteen into her inventory.
“I told you, it’s for Puyo and Tiana to have the best environment for their bet.” Santi slyly answered.
“He hee, I’m sure you didn’t know anything about those Rogues showing up.” Darkk laughed cheekily.
“The benefit of having a lot of friends.” Santi smiled faintly. “The Water Mages showing up were a surprise though.”
Turning his head to the heavy panting duo, Santi asked, “How many contribution points have you scored?”
“137.” Puyo answered as he looked over his inventory, checking the number of arrows left.
“182.” Tiana drawled out, smirking. She looked at Puyo with superiority, as if she already saw him carrying her bags like a personal lapdog. Then her gaze focused on the inventory and the quickly lessening number of mana potions she had bought.
Puyo glanced at Tiana and saw her cheeky smirk. His right hand gripped the yew longbow tightly.
“Haha, you’re really getting it on.” Santi chuckled. “Once Tiana’s mana supplies become exhausted, it will be your turn to counterattack, Puyo.”
Puyo nodded appreciatively. He was about to return the smirk to Tiana when…
“Don’t look at me like you’ve already won. Even if you were given the Sagittarius’s bow itself, it wouldn’t help you one least bit.” Tiana snorted, walking away while playing with her long, black hair.
“Whichever of them loses, we’re going to have a fun time watching. Spending 60 gold compared to that is nothing much.” Frett chuckled at the side.
As the players were continuously shuttling between the town and the battlefield, a group of lizardmen scouts were sent to the western battlefield. What they saw astounded them. Not one of their brethren was left alive! Blowing the horn, they alerted the two leaders of the gruesome situation!
The time was ticking. Around two hours have passed since the event had started. The situation near the gates was constantly changing. Western gate that was recently retaken by the players was the busiest of them all. Players scurried through its entrance, rushing to flank the northern side.
At the same time, eastern gate’s lizardmen forces split, leaving 60% of the original lineup in the eastern gate, while sending the rest to reinforce the northern side.
The Blue Lizardmen Cave’s walls were painted red. Streaks of red viscous liquid dripped off the once grey walls, merging into gruesome images. It seemed as if a lone swordsman had entered the cave and was attacked by a horde of enemies who he unceasingly cut down, splattering their blood all over the walls.
Icicle stood in the middle of the fallen reptiles, heavily panting. His disheveled hair gave him a wild, barbarian look. Bits and pieces of his leather armor laid on the ground, an undeniable proof of his life and death battles.
After gaining some basic understanding of how mana vibrates, Icicle was able to pierce the tough scales of the lizardmen with more ease. However, the formidable tails of the reptiles were a force to be reckoned with. Getting hit once could result in one’s death, as the lizardmen were quick on their feet. With their aggresive, merciless disposition, lagging behind for even a second was a death sentence. Icicle had to rely on [Soundless Fear] many times to get out of a bind.
As Icicle continued killing one reptile after the other, his original plan of incapacitating the lizardmen by cutting their tendons turned to be redundant. It was much easier and much faster to cut their throats, letting the blood spill. Use [Water prison] on the ranged lizardmen, cut the throats of the melee ones, then proceed with the killing as the situation demands. This was Icicle’s current way of dealing with the obnoxious reptiles.
After dealing with the surrounding rooms, Icicle found himself in front of the giant room entrance. Two sturdy looking lizardmen blocked the front. They were slightly taller than elite lizardmen Icicle had met before. He couldn’t see their level either, so they were most likely the boss’s guardians. In other words, the scrub killers. If you can’t get past those underlings, don’t even think of fighting the boss itself.
Icicle was glad he stumbled upon those two, as the efficacy of the explosive potions he made could finally be tested. Throwing two health potions at both lizardmen, Icicle followed up with [Nasty burn], setting the already screeching lizardmen on fire.
As the effect of the seething flame was fading, Icicle encased one of the guards in [Water prison], hacking the other one. He followed with [Soundless Fear], chaining the crowd control perfectly.
Icicle’s feet moved with unique nimbleness. At least compared to other beginners’. Compared to adept people like Vilenne, he was but a toddler in the world of mana. To lizardmen, however, he was a death incarnate.
All of this was possible thanks to hundreds of bouts with lizardmen, during which Icicle learned their attacking patterns. If you know that the strike is coming, it’s not as deadly anymore.
Dispatching the two elites, Icicle noticed that only four gold coins laid on the ground, two from each guard. Just as he thought, those monsters were only there to show the potential level of the boss.
Icicle wasn’t so sure about finishing the quest anymore. If the boss was really a pain in the ass to deal with, he might have to level up some, then equip the Direwolf set he has yet to pick up and then deal with the reptile.
After resting for a bit, Icicle stood up and firmly stepped into the room. He had moved the potions to the front of his inventory, ready to throw them at any time.
The room he had entered was much more spacious than the rest of the cave. In fact, it could be a cave of itself. The ceiling reached as high as 10m while the room itself was at least a kilometre in circumference. Glistening white crystals drooped over from the top of the cave, reflecting sparkling beams of sunlight.
Icicle focused his gaze on the greyish floor. Huge cracks covered the ground, as if it was parched by the sun. Following the cracking pattern, Icicle’s amber irises drifted to the source at the back of the spacious room.
Calm snores echoed throughout the room as the belly of a giant creature rose up and down. Its entire body was covered with black, spiky scales. The top of its head had three comb-like horns, resembling ears. The closed eyelids of the reptile laid on its curled up tail.
Icicle’s eyes wandered over the giant lizard’s body, looking for any possible weak spots. He couldn’t find anything useful in the area, thus he decided to look for something on the giant’s body. Maybe the devs would leave an old wound or a scar that has yet to fully heal.
Unfortunately, this was all Icicle’s wishful thinking. Before he had the time to get any relevant information, the tightly closed eyes of a sleeping reptile opened, locking down on him.
“Look at that, a human dared to enter my lair.” Rekk’s voice rang out through the cave as he slowly stood up from his sleeping position. He exited the cave, slowly walking towards Icicle.
Icicle’s pupils constricted as he heard the human tongue. So far only lizardmen managed to drawl out words like “humans”. Other than that, every other screech and howl had to be translated to him by Blackie.
As the giant lizard stood up, Icicle noticed that its body didn’t have any deficiencies. No scars, no bleeding wounds, nothing to be exploited. Except the slow raising speed, there really was nothing he could spot. But what could he do with the fact that the lizard was old? He won’t stand a chance either way.
“Heheh, human, you seem to be surprised I can speak your tongue.” Rekk’s raucous laughter made the ground shake. Its yellowish-orange reptile eyes swept over Icicle with amusement.
“So, what did you come here for, human?” Rekk asked lazily.
Icicle noticed an orange-red flower behind Rekk, growing exactly where the lizard had slept. His eyes locked onto the lizard as he realized what’s the catch in this quest. “That lizard is intelligent. He most likely thinks his intelligence is better than human’s, that’s why he’s asking me why I’ve come here, to determine if there are others who are about to enter his lair. Heh, what a shame you’ve met me, little guy.” Icicle thought cheekily, but his expression clearly said otherwise. A bright, obsequious smile plastered itself on his face.
“It’s an honor to see you, Your Highness.” Icicle bowed deeply.
“Your Highness?” Rekk’s ground-shaking laughter rang out again. “You humans always knew how to flatter. Tell me human, why have you come here?”
“Your Highness, this little human’s name is Icicle. Compared to almighty Rekk, it really sounds crude.” Icicle let out a self-deprecating laugh.
“Hahaha! It sure does!” Rekk’s huge snout opened and revealed a giant maw riddled with razor sharp teeth. “Wait, how do you know my name, human?”
“Legends of almighty Rekk are circulated amongst human circles, Your Highness. They call you the strongest wingless dragon that had once inhabited these regions.” Icicle said respectfully.
“You humans compare me to a dragon? Hahaha!” Rekk laughed out proudly, making the ground shake yet again. Icicle decided to use this opportune moment to lose his balance, appearing feeble and weak. He fell on his butt and covered his head with his hands.
Rekk looked at Icicle with open superiority. Snorting through his large nostrils, he asked, “Tell me human, what brought you here?”
Icicle stood up and shyly looked around. His head was hanging low and he didn’t dare to raise his eyes.
“Almighty Rekk is magnanimous, no need to be shy human.” Rekk encouraged. But this was only on the surface. Inside, he sneered at himself for lowering his head to talk to the human. How relevant could a little human’s information really be? There was something that was tugging at him though. How did this weak human manage to traverse the cave without being killed?
“Your Highness, to be frank, I came here out of greed. Back in Vilen Town, there was a middle-aged woman promising a list of great rewards for finding a special type of flower. I was blinded by the promised riches and agreed to look for it. If I had known that Almighty Rekk guarded this precious plant, I would have never dared…” Icicle’s weak voice died out at the end.
Rekk’s nostrils let out a huge puff of stale air. He revealed two rows of sharp teeth as he spoke, “I see. Tell me, how did you enter my lair, human?”
“I am an… an Alchemist, Your Highness. My teacher gave me a couple of sleeping powder vials in case I was ever in trouble while gathering herbs. On my way here, I found a dead lizardman, so I covered myself with its blood to avoid suspicion while nearing the cave entrance. Then I spread some of the sleeping powder and waited for it to take effect. I stopped every few rooms to do the same. Your minions were put to sleep, while I safely managed to reach this room, Your Highness.” Icicle recited.
“I see.” Rekk thought for a while, dispersing his doubts. He had a hunch that the puny human would be unable to kill his little servants, but there was a thick stench of their blood coming from the human. With the human’s explanation, Rekk found it possible to reach his lair by using such unconventional means. As for a few lizardmen dying, humans always clashed with them, losing a few wasn’t a problem.
“You came for that flower then?” Rekk’s head turned to his lair.
Icicle looked at the swaying orange-red flower as surprise painted itself on his face. He looked at Rekk and weakly nodded a few times.
“So that’s how it is. I kept that flower only for decoration. It looks pretty, doesn’t it?” Rekk said smugly.
“It does, Your Highness.” Icicle nodded.
“You said you were an Alchemist. So you can create various concoctions, can’t you?” Rekk tentatively asked.
Icicle immediately realized this is where the quest had led him. He had to make something for the giant lizard so that he could get the flower. Of course that didn’t mean Rekk would spare him after the concoction was made.
“Heh, little lizard. I may be at the top of the food chain in my world, but I remember it clearly when I was but a bug to be crushed under one’s foot. I had to claw my way to the top. If you think you can pull one on me, you’re gravely mistaken.” Icicle sneered inwardly, yet his expression didn’t fluctuate one bit.
“I can indeed make a concoction, Your Highness. Is there something that you require?” Icicle asked weakly.
“There is indeed. No matter how strong you are, there is one thing you can never stop. Time. Even I cannot defy that primordial rule. I don’t expect to gain years to live, but if I could regain my strength, even for a short time, I could go out with style.” Rekk narrated as he looked at the white sparkling crystals hanging from the ceiling.
Icicle hang his head low as he muttered weakly, “I can indeed make such a concoction for Your Highness, but the ingredients… I’m afraid I can’t affo-
“I have the main ingredient ready. All you need to do is perform your magic on it and it should suffice.” Rekk interrupted Icicle. As if he would ask for ingredients from a human.
“If Your Higness says so. Please show me the ingredient and I’ll see what I can do.” Icicle lifted his head a bit.
“Outside the cave grows a blood red lotus flower I prepared for this occassion. I’ll order my subordinates to bring it for you.” Rekk magnanimously opened. He was reluctant to waste such an igredient, not knowing the real skill of the human, but he was at the end of his life. Giving himself a chance was the right choice.
“About that…” Icicle muttered weakly.
“What is it?” Rekk asked with displeasure.
“Is it this one?” Icicle fished out a [Bloody Prime Red Lotus] he had collected earlier from his inventory.
“How did you get it?” Rekk’s gaze sharpened, drilling a hole in Icicle.
“There were no underlings you spoke of outside, Your Highness. I saw a rare flower swaying in the wind so I plucked it…” Icicle muttered under his nose.
Rekk only half believed the human’s explanation. He roared, alarming a few lizardmen in the rooms far away who immediately rushed to the spacious lair.
After conversing for a while in animal language, Rekk turned to Icicle, his gaze indifferent. “Those hot-blooded youngsters marched out to kill some obnoxious humans. Hmph. It seems you were right, little one.”
Icicle nodded. Apparently the lizardmen didn’t notice the lack of two guards at the entrance. They could leave with the others after all. Icicle inwardly heaved a sigh of relief and walked towards the lair.
“What are you doing, human?” Rekk glowered Icicle with his gaze.
“I need to check if what Your Highness is offering in exchange is the flower I need.” Icicle bowed and stepped into the lair.
As soon as he did, stale air violently attacked his nostrils, making him cough.
“So it’s really the one I was looking for. A shame it only works for this quest, I could earn a fortune off it otherwise.” Icicle sighed inwardly, turning to Rekk.
“It is indeed the flower I was tasked to find. I’ll make the concoction ready right away, Your Highness.” Icicle sat at the greyish stones and brought out his equipment.
“Why there?” Rekk asked discontentedly. This was his lair! Couldn’t the human do it somewhere else?
“If I stay here, Your Highness won’t have to worry about me escaping.” Icicle smiled faintly, opening his Alchemist compendium. He hasn’t used the item yet, so it was still in the form of a book. This saved him the trouble of Rekk suspecting him of being an adventurer. If he heard of those.
Rekk looked at the human who cautiously studied the book with lots of plant pictures and human tongue explanations next to them. After looking for a while, Rekk laid down in front of his lair, waiting for the results.
“Umm, Your Highness?” Icicle asked weakly.
“What is it?”
“Could you… move? You’re blocking the light from entering and I can’t see anything.” Icicle smiled self-deprecatingly.
“Alright.” Rekk didn’t apologize, because superior beings never do that. Even if they’re in the wrong. He snorted, thinking how useless humans were to not even see in the dark.
As Icicle saw Rekk moving into the middle of the room, he gratefully nodded. Inside, however, he was sneering. “You little birdbrain, this quest wouldn’t require me to waste such a good lotus flower to merely receive some hidden Tailor subclass. There’s definitely something much more valuable hidden in your lair. I wouldn’t be so sure if this concerned expression of yours hadn’t betrayed you.”
Icicle ground the red lotus flower with a few other lotuses but his thoughts were focused on the lair. He scanned the ground with [Sense presence] and felt something hidden behind him, right beneath the soil.
“That sneaky lizard actually buried something in the soil. Heh, you may think you’re smart because a bunch of rocks surround it, but I can feel its texture is different from this grey stone’s. If I remove the slab of stone covering it, I can snatch whatever it is!” Icicle focused on the task, expectantly looking at the exit of the room from time to time.
“Lizardmen patrols should stumble upon the rooms I cleared out in the next 15 minutes or so. Once they do, they’ll probably try reporting it to Rhan. After finding out he is missing, they should report it directly to Rekk. Then I’ll act scared and ask Rekk to guard the entrance from the human invaders, while I snatch his prized possession!” Icicle made mental preparations.
Icicle grounded the [Bloody Prime Red Lotus] to a pulp. He didn’t know the [Extract essence] skill, so he could only do this manually. Fortunately, the method of making the revitalizing potion recorded in the compendium didn’t require [Extract essence] skill either.
As the lotuses were ground to a pulp, Icicle fished out a half-filled medium health potion vial, pouring the lotus pulp into it cautiosly. After that, he shook the vial gently to let the ingredients mix then turned to Rekk, “Your Highness, I need something from you.”
“What is it this time, human?” Rekk asked discontentedly. Humans always wanted something. Does this human really not realize the situation he’s in? And here Rekk thought that the human might be smart for a second.
“This great concoction you ordered me to make requires a dozen drops of blood from a great being. Otherwise, its revitalizing properties won’t be as strong. It’s best if they come from the being who wishes to drink it.” Icicle said weakly.
“Hmph, a few drops of blood. It’s nothing.” Rekk pompously walked towards Icicle, cutting one of its giant limbs with the other. Icicle outstretched the mortar filled with the remnants of the medicinal pulp to collect the spilling blood.
Seeing the dirty mortar, Rekk glared at Icicle, making him hurriedly explain. “If Your Highness’s blood fuses with the ingredients right now, it won’t as violent when poured into the concoction.”
Rekk filled the bowl to the brim and then walked away. The wound on his leg quickly closed, displaying the regenerative abilities of the lizards.
Icicle poured two droplets of blood into the vial, filling a couple of medium sized vials with the rest of the blood. Rekk noticed his actions and glared at him.
“Your Highness, you have to repeat the process of letting out fresh blood 5 more times. I can only add two droplets of your potent blood at a time, otherwise, your blood will devour the medicinal ingredients’ properties instead of fusing with them. As for the rest of the blood, I didn’t want to waste such a-
“Hmph, you humans never change. You’re as cheap as you were back in the day. You can keep it.” Rekk didn’t concern himself with a couple drops of blood. He figured that if the human was a crook, he might as well devour the human later, leaving him with nothing.
Learning from Icicle’s words, Rekk made only a little scratch on his limb for the rest of the process, letting out the required few drops of blood.
As the 12 drops of blood were poured into the vial, Icicle told Rekk he needs to wait 30 minutes for the ingredients in the vial to fuse properly, after which he needs to boil the liquid over fire for some time to solidify the fusion.
Rekk laid down on the ground, waiting patiently, as a few elite lizardmen charged into the lair.
“What? My underlings in the surrounding rooms were wiped out?” Rekk asked incredulously in human tongue. The reporting lizardmen shuddered, quickly explaining what had happened.
Rekk looked towards Icicle, seeing the human shudder.
“T-That… those might be the people who followed me. Like I told you, Your Highness, there were many people enticed by the middle-aged woman’s generous offer.” Icicle mumbled out.
“Hmph. Strong humans? What a joke! I’ll watch over the entrance, you finish the potion, human.” Rekk snorted, barking out orders to the trembling lizardmen. What Rekk didn’t see was that in the moment he was distracted, Icicle’s mana-infused hand lifted the stone slab behind him and deftly grabbed an angular shaped object. As soon as it did, the angular object disappeared into Icicle’s inventory.