Counterattack of Trio #2 (End of Book 2)
The combination of three individuals, also known as a three-man cell, proved to be highly effective in small-scale engagements. In the Meltor Kingdom, tactics involving two mages and a warrior or two warriors and a mage were quite prevalent. There were numerous proven combinations, leaving no doubt about their usefulness. Theodore’s group agreed with this theory.
The Impressive Trio
In front of the party, Randolph’s two swords flashed with blinding light. With the use of his aura, the deadly blades swiftly cut through the ghouls. The whips-like swing of his blades mercilessly dispatched five orc ghouls. Just before the undead could strike Randolph, magic was employed.
“Resist the cold,” Theodore chanted.
“Frost Wave,” Sylvia cast her spell.
Theo’s resistance spell shielded Randolph from Sylvia’s frigid blast. As a result, the living creatures and undead alike were frozen solid. However, since Randolph possessed cold resistance, he wasted no time in shattering the frozen undead. The intermediate-ranked undead ghouls were taken down like trash.
Amazed, Randolph clicked his tongue in admiration at the precision of his strikes. ‘Wow, incredible. My boss and the girl are synchronizing their spells with my movements. He isn’t just all talk. That’s why he planned this counterattack.’
While the three-man combination was excellent, it would be ineffective if the members’ hands and feet didn’t work in harmony. Poor teamwork could hinder their allies’ movements and, in the worst-case scenario, even aid the enemy in killing each other. So, Randolph had to appreciate the seamless teamwork of this three-man combination.
“Randolph, jump!” Theodore commanded abruptly, with no sign of panic.
“Wind Cutter!” Randolph followed the command without any hesitation. A razor-sharp wind blade materialized under his feet as he leaped. It moved several times faster than an ordinary wind cutter. One ghoul’s ankles were severed, causing it to collapse. Randolph’s sword finished it off.
With the coordinated movements of the three individuals, the passage was filled with the remains of the undead.
“Hoooo… Let me catch my breath for a moment.” Theodore regained his breath after the third battle and looked at Randolph. Despite having to continuously swing both falchions, Randolph’s breathing remained calm. It was evidence that he still had plenty of energy to spare.
“It’s reassuring to have someone as powerful as Randolph here,” Theodore thought to himself. Just as Randolph admired Theodore’s skills, Theodore was equally amazed by Randolph’s swordsmanship. Randolph’s relentless swordplay left no room for the ghoul orcs to defend themselves.
Theo was relieved that Randolph was on their side, but he also recognized the need to improve his close combat skills. If Theodore had to fight Randolph right now, he wouldn’t last more than 10 seconds. There were combat tactics that utilized both magic and close-quarters martial arts, such as the ones Blundell employed. After finishing this job, Theo planned to find a way to learn them.
With his thoughts sorted out, Theodore glanced around and asked, “Sylvia, how is your magical power holding up?”
“About 80%? I still have plenty left,” Sylvia replied.
“I’m the same. I can keep fighting at this pace,” Randolph reassured them.
Theodore checked their status and once again turned his attention to the path shrouded in darkness. After three assaults and eliminating almost 100 ghouls, all that remained was silence in the darkness. “Or am I just imagining it?” Theodore wondered. If he didn’t hurry, it seemed like an uncontrollable situation awaited them in the dark.
“…Let’s move forward.”
As the two light spells illuminated the way, Theodore once again stepped into the darkness.
How long had they been moving through the darkness? Theodore felt a sense of incongruity and stopped for a moment. According to the report, the cave’s depth was only a few hundred meters, so they should have reached the end by now. However, the path hadn’t ended, and there was no sign of the artifact-containing room. A possible hypothesis formed in Theo’s mind.
“Randolph,” Theodore called.
“Huh?” Randolph responded.
“Carve into the cave wall with your sword. If you can, infuse your aura into it.”
“I’ll give it a try.” Randolph was confused but followed Theo’s order without question. Thanks to his previous experience with Theo, Randolph knew better than to ask questions. He gripped the handle of his left sword, holding it at an angle while focusing his aura.
He attacked. A blue flash burst forth, breaking through the cave wall. The regular wall couldn’t withstand the power of the aura-infused blade. However, Randolph’s eyes widened shortly after. “No…?”
The cracked wall closed up again right before his eyes. As an experienced swordsman, Randolph didn’t know what was happening, but Theodore and Sylvia’s faces grew serious as they realized the situation. A dark mana oozed from the wall like entrails emerging from a living creature. Almost simultaneously, both of them murmured, recalling a certain spell.
It was a powerful 6th Circle dark magic spell that turned a certain area into the user’s domain. The time and resources consumed were immense, but if the magic was completed, the dungeon master’s power would increase significantly. Whether it was due to a grimoire or the wizard already reaching this level, it was an undoubtedly dire situation.
The wizard had turned this cave into a dungeon and could freely shape its structure. At that moment, a chilling sound echoed in their ears.
Theodore’s spine tingled with a shiver. The physiological aversion was three or four times stronger due to the sound waves reverberating in the cave. The group instinctively activated their auras and magical powers as the source of the cold emerged. Transparent figures floated in the air.
“Damn, I don’t have holy water…”
The group frowned at the specters. Unlike regular undead, specters didn’t have physical forms. They were collections of grudges bound together. They attacked by possessing living bodies or draining their vitality. As they existed as spiritual beings, physical attacks were ineffective against them, and holy magic was essential. Trying to cut them with a sword was like trying to chop water with a frying pan. For Randolph, they were particularly tricky opponents since he didn’t have any holy water.
Shortly after, the specters discovered their presence and aggressively advanced towards them.
“We have no choice, let’s give it a try!” Theodore said.
Though it was unfavorable, the two mages would be in danger if Randolph turned back at this point. Being at the vanguard meant blocking the enemy’s attack first, then becoming a shield. Thus, aura fiercely enveloped Randolph’s blades. He would stop the specters, even if he had to use up his aura excessively.
However, Theodore suddenly gave an order that hadn’t been considered.
“Randolph, stay back!”
Though confused, Randolph didn’t disappoint Theo. With a slight delay, he stepped back in accordance with the order. As soon as Randolph retreated, Theodore stepped forward fearlessly.
Why was Theo not afraid of them? The specters cackled wildly as they flew towards him. It was an assault meant to drain the vitality from Theodore’s body.
While Sylvia and Randolph prepared to intervene, the specters reached Theo.
This wasn’t his voice. It was the instinct of Gluttony, which slumbered in his left hand. The unfamiliar hunger was the reason Theodore laughed in the face of the specters and advanced without hesitation. He felt Gluttony’s tongue emerging from the hole in his left palm. There was a saying, “There is no predator that fears its prey.”
Then the feast began.
In the presence of the original predator, the specters lost their minds. Even if all their resentments and despair tried to escape, Gluttony had already grasped hold of them. Their screams filled with pain, horror, and fear were heard as they were sucked into the palm of Theodore’s hand. They were different from regular undead like ghouls and zombies. Specters were born from black magic and made of magic, so they fulfilled the conditions that Gluttony perceived as ‘food’.
[The ghost of the goblin shaman has been consumed.]
[The ghost of the orc warrior has been consumed.]
[The ghost of a foolish troll has been consumed.]
[The user has not yet unlocked this function.]
Theodore’s consumption of the specters resulted in an unfamiliar sensation filling his body. It was different from devouring artifacts or magic books. It was an abstract representation, but Theo felt as if his “bowl” was being filled.
Theo opened his eyes, savoring the sensation of satisfaction. At this point, all the specters that had occupied the corridor had disappeared. They had either been devoured or the rest had fled. Either way, their original goal of stopping the specters had been achieved.
However, the other two were a different story.
“What just happened? You raised your left hand, and the specters were sucked in…”
“Theo, teach me that! What did you do? Is it a draining system? Or a modified version of sealing magic?”
Fortunately, Sylvia and Randolph were positioned behind him. They couldn’t see the hole in his hand or the tongue moving within it. That was enough for Theo to vaguely evade the questions. He had planned to make up an excuse, saying it was a skill from a pendant he had obtained.
However, before he could say anything, the space around them began to tremble.
“Wah! What’s happening?”
“It’s getting wider…?”
This was the expansion of the dimension!
Suddenly, the area where the three of them stood widened from a narrow corridor to an enormous room. Theodore quickly regained his composure. Passing through a narrow corridor into a vast room was surprising, but was just one of the wizard’s tricks within the dungeon.
Unsurprisingly, an ornately decorated door stood before them.
As the doorknob turned on its own, the door swung open, revealing a figure dressed in black. Instead of walking out like a person, the figure slowly appeared in mid-air. Then a voice emerged from within the black robes, [Well… you’ve disrupted my creations.]
It was a loud and terrifying voice that resounded throughout the cave. The figure inside the robes didn’t appear physically strong, but the three could sense the sinister and immense power emanating from it.
Darkness, unseen yet palpable, enveloped the robe, and the malevolent voice sounded as if it were singing. [You may kill my creations, but you can’t kill me. If you were here a day, not even half a day before, you would have prevented me from completing it. But now, the fate you’ll suffer is death!]
As the voice grew louder, the magical power expanded. The black robes billowed. Unable to withstand the pressure, the robes burst like a popped bubble. The two mages paled at the nightmare revealed amidst the tattered fabric.
[Behold the image of death itself! The grandeur of one who surpasses the limits of a mere mortal!]
It was a skeletal remains without any flesh, and blue light appeared in the hollow sockets where eyes should have been. Dark magic gathered there so deeply that even non-mages would be able to see it whirling like mist, while the ground touched by the magic of death decayed and the bodies lying on the ground rose.
This was an upper-tier undead created by a corrupted mage. Even the magical towers would be startled. Its name was the Elder Lich.
Unlike a lich that avoided death by keeping its soul bound, a mage had to extract their own soul from their body and seal it. The elder lich would be immortal unless its Life Vessel was destroyed.
A monster that the magical tower would deem as a level 3 difficulty had appeared before Theodore’s party.
Bones floated naturally in the air. [In the beginning, I wanted to kill all of you and turn your bodies into my servants, but…]
In front of the three nervous individuals, the elder lich raised its bony index finger. Then it pointed directly at Theodore in the middle of the party.
[Your body will make for an interesting experiment. I will take you alive.]