Chapter 32: Dire Tombs II
Through the other side of the door was a field of grass that reminded me of a masterfully painted piece of art. It was a couple of hundred meters wide and I couldn’t even see the other end of the cave.
“Let me guess, this field wasn’t here last time either?” Reginald mutters, his eyes never leaving the scene in front of him.
“N-no…” Brald takes a deep breath, astounded as well.
Reginald just mumbles something under his breath and takes a step through the door, where we all followed in after.
This didn’t resemble a cave at all, where even the brightness within was enough to make our eyes squint. The rows of stalactites high up on the ceiling of the cave were the only things that reaffirmed our doubts that this was actually an underground cavern.
“Wow! It’s so pretty!” Samantha couldn’t help be in awe at the serene meadow.
There were tall trees and plants dotted across the field. Even I couldn’t help want to just lay down and relax here but ever since we walked through the door, the hairs on my body have been standing on its end, as if my body wants me to stay wary.
Everyone’s guards were down but I noticed that Jasmine and even Elijah kept darting their eyes around, looking out for anything suspicious.
“Something’s off. Keep your guards up guys.” I stay vigilant with my shortsword out and my left hand on the grip of Dawn’s Ballad that was still sheathed to my waist.
“Are you sure? I don’t even hear anything, let alone see much besides the grass and trees.” Kriol is a bit doubtful but raises his shield and wills water affinity mana into it.
I study my surroundings to see what was making me feel so tense. The light seemed to come from the stalactites that glowed much brighter than the ones from the previous caves. There was a slight haze all over the field that seemed insignificant, but that was it. There was literally nothing else besides the plants and this mist.
What am I missing?
I notice the mist around us gradually get thicker, so I could only make out the shapes of everyone around me.
“Clara? Is that you? H-how are you alive?”
I spin my head to the direction of the voice. I see that Kriol dropped his gigantic shield. He’s holding his arms out looking at something in the distance.
“I knew you couldn’t be dead Clara! Stay there! I’m coming to get you!” Kriol bolts off, leaving his shield behind him.
“Stop! It’s dangerous!” I yell after him, but it’s too late as his figure fades out of sight.
Jasmine grabs my arm and sticks close. “I think the mist is an illusion.”
“I suspected that as well.” I nod in agreement. “Everyone! Stick together! This mist is playing tricks on our senses. Samantha, barrier!”
Huddling together, we face each other to discuss a plan inside the ball of water protecting us from the mist.
“Who’s Clara?” Samantha asks.
Reginald shakes his head. “I-it’s Kriol’s fiancée. But it’s impossible that she’s alive. I-I saw her get killed in a dungeon with my own two eyes. We buried her together!”
I could tell Reginald and Brald were both shaken up. The three have partied before a couple of times so the name Clara wasn’t news to them and hearing Kriol go after his dead fiancée wasn’t good news.
“What the hell is going on…” Lucas just mutters and I could tell by how hard he was gripping his staff that he was holding in the urge to blow this whole place up.
“Jasmine. Can you create a wind big enough to clear this mist around us?” I look towards my partner, hoping she could give me some good news. We didn’t have any wind attribute Conjurers here.
She looks down and answers. “Not big enough to clear it all away, but I can blow away a path.”
We give her a bit of space inside the ball of water as she starts emitting a green aura. The wind picks up as it swirls and gathers to form a small whirlwind around her arms. Her straight black hair lashes chaotically around her, as the mini tornadoes gathering in her arms get bigger and tears apart the water barrier.
While Augmenters’ biggest disadvantage compared to Conjurers are the usage of long ranged spells, after a certain level, Augmenters will be able to store and exert enough mana to use ranged techniques. Of course, however, the power and efficiency would be vastly inferior to a Conjurer of the same level.
The mist around us was getting thicker, limiting our field of vision to about a meter away from us. The once peaceful field of grass now has an ominous feel, almost as if this mist wants to swallow us whole.
The condensed whirlwinds swirling around Jasmine’s arms collide as she claps her hands together in front of her. The impact of the two tornadoes expands and bursts forward, shredding the mist into a clear path in front of us.
The once excited looks on everyone’s faces turn dim at the sight before us. The tornado revealed a path, but also uncovered something else.
There were tentacles of vines and branches that were making their way towards us.
“Enough of this!” Lucas points his tall staff towards the incoming wave of vines and mutters a spell.
“Crescent Ember!” Swinging his staff, the fire glowing on the tip of the staff shoots a large blade fire.
The slithering vines and branches flinch back from the flame but other than a dark mark where the spell hit, they were unfazed.
“Sh*t! What kind of trees isn’t afraid of fire?” Brald grits his teeth as he ignites his broadsword in a fiery tornado and charges into the wave of vines that were crawling our way.
“Samantha! Elijah! Lucas! Support us!” I command, willing mana into my body and sword as well.
Jasmine rushes next to me, both daggers unsheathed. The spell she just used obviously drained a lot of her mana, but it didn’t do much as the mist already refilled the path the tornado spell created.
Reginald stayed behind to protect our Conjurers as they’re casting spells.
“RAAAAAHHH!” Brald is hacking away at the endless wave of vines that seem to come out of nowhere.
The vines seem to be regenerating faster than Brald is cutting them though, as I see him getting buried deeper and deeper inside.
That idiot. Is he really an AA class Adventurer? He’s lost his cool and his ability to pay attention to what’s happening around him is nonexistent.
I augment my sword in fire as well, speeding up to support our one-armed companion.
“Flame Whip.” The fire around my sword grows larger as a whip of fire forms from the base of the blade.
Lashing my weapon at the vines shooting themselves at me, a pile of dismembered branches form around me.
I keep tabs on Jasmine to make sure she’s okay but she seemed to be fine on her own as her body was a cyclone of blades, mincing any vines that came her direction.
Brald was having a harder time as I notice various gashes on his face and body.
“Spread and burn! Liquid Fire!” Lucas finishes his spell first as he shoots a fiery spray of red liquid from his staff while Reginald was blocking the incoming vines shooting at our Conjurers.
The three of us jump back to stay out of the way of the spell. I had to hand it to the noble brat that he’s still thinking straight in this situation. The spell Liquid Fire wasn’t as powerful as the actual fire spells but it spreads quickly and if not doused, the fire would keep spreading.
The spell lands on the torrent of vines, but before the liquid fire is even able to spread, the mist that was around us all gathered towards where the spell hit the vine.
The spell didn’t even last two seconds as the liquid formed from the condensed mist doused it.
Lucas’s face pales as sweat drips down his neck. I think that last spell was as much as he could do for now.
Elijah’s brows furrow as he finishes his spell. The ground underneath the wave of vines crumbles and a hole a couple of meters deep deter the vines from reaching us for now.
Samantha crumbles to her knees as she releases the powerful spell.
Water drain was a scary spell that sucked the surrounding area the spell affected of its water. The only drawback of this spell was the amount of mana it used for the limited amount of space.
The rampant vines that were crawling out of the crater Elijah conjured were withering at a rapid pace as the moisture was sucked out of them.
Before the withering spread, the rest of the mist surrounding the cave swirled and gathered, sucked in by the vines. The dead brown vines were once again filled with vigor and seemed angrier, if that was even possible.
“N-no way…” Samantha’s drained face just slackens in shock.
The mist that once surrounded us was all absorbed into the huge wave of vines and our limited view was cleared.
As the mist was sucked into the vines, we all finally got to see what exactly it was we were up against.
Towering almost 20 meters above our heads was a gigantic mana beast. This mana beast looked humanoid to a certain degree, reminding me of a centaur. While it was made up completely of entangled vines and branches, the top half of its body was that of an armored man. The two green eyes that looked down at us were filled with pride and anger. Its two humanoid arms were holding unto a giant wooden lance that looked more like a drill. Its lower body was that of a horse, but instead of limbs, were an uncountable amount of vines.
For the last hour, the seven of us were literally battling against the feet of this mana beast.
“…I-I’ve read about that monster… That’s an S class mana beast named the E-Elderwood Guardian!” Samantha just stutters in horror as she just sinks in defeat.
“What’s an S class mana beast doing here? This is unheard of…” Reginald almost drops his giant hammer as he looks up at the Elderwood Guardian in horror.
An S class mana beast meant that he was on par with an SS class Adventurer or at least 10 S class Adventurers.
“I-Isn’t that Kriol?” Reginald points at the lifeless torso and legs sticking out of the body of the mana beast.
“W-we’re doomed…” Brald has a crazy look on his face as he’s smiling madly at the giant mana beast. He already lost his arm and he was worn out from the fighting. This was probably the last straw for the veteran Adventurer.
“We have to run.” Jasmine pulls my hand, gesturing me to leave the party here and run away.
“What about them?” I mutter out, my eyes never leaving the gaze of the Elderwood Guardian. Even if I wasn’t too close to any of them and I certainly wasn’t on close terms with Lucas, it wasn’t right to betray their trust as their leader like this.
She doesn’t respond as she tugs harder at me to move.
“BOOOOM!” The Elderwood Guardian thrusts his giant drill lance at us.
Elijah erects a flat wall of earth from the ground slanted, so the force of the drill is parried away from us.
Picking up his hammer, Reginald yells, “Impact Blast x10”
The giant hammer vibrates in his hands as it’s surrounded in a thick yellow aura.
As the hammer hits the lance, multiple lumps form on the mana beast’s weapon and explodes from the inside.
Just as he’s about to land on the ground, the broken vines that made up the lance whirl and surround him.
“GAAAH! HELPP!! NOOOO!” The tendrils that formed the giant lance flurry around to mold back into its original shape but entangle Reginald inside.
*CRUNCH* *CRUNCH* *SNAP*
I hear Samantha hurl from the sound of Reginald’s body being grinded up into pieces.
The lance is formed back into its original shape, with the addition of Reginald’s body and weapon inside it. The Elderwood Guardian doesn’t have a mouth but from the look in its eyes, I feel like it’s gloating at us, as if we’re just bugs to him.
I grab Samantha who was still in shock and lift her up on my shoulders. “Jasmine! Grab Brald and lets run! Lucas, Elijah! You have to try and block any incoming attacks until we get out of here!”
Jasmine picks up Brald who’s still laughing psychotically and we look back to see that the Elderwood Guardian was looking directly at us.
“We need to move!” Just as I will mana into my body…
“Fire bolts!” A blast of fire hits me square in the chest and I fly back, Samantha tumbling off to the side.
While the mana that was reinforced into my body and the fact that I had assimilated mana into my bones and muscles prevented me from sustaining serious injuries, my breath was still knocked out from the almost point-blank spell casted by Lucas. Furious and baffled by the sudden betrayal, I peel my eyes away from the blond brat and look for Jasmine. She was knocked back much farther from the spell and was unconscious, but she didn’t seem to be dead.
“What the hell are you doing?” I hear Elijah yell for the first time as he points his staff at Lucas who was already heading towards the entrance of the cave.
“Pfft! You think I’ll risk my life to help all of you escape? Be honored that you’ll be the valiant heroes that stalled the beast enough for me to escape! I’ll tell everyone all about your courageous deeds!” He looks back giving me an arrogant smirk before casting a smokescreen spell.
The ground splits around us as the Elderwood’s Lance pierces a hole where Lucas was in the smokescreen but he’s already gone.
“F*ck!” The stumbling Elijah curses while he straightens his glasses. The endless vines that make up the mana beast’s limbs manage to climb out of the crater left from Elijah’s spell and approach us.
“GRAAAAAAH!” The whole cave trembles as the gigantic mana beast’s beady green eyes turn bright red.
The Elderwood Guardian’s whole body disassembles into a tsunami of vines, destroying everything in its way as it’s almost upon us.
“HAHAHA!” I hear Brald’s maniacal laughter as he’s eaten up by the wave of vines.
Elijah’s brusque face pales and his legs are trembling while Jasmine is still in a daze from Lucas’s spell. It must’ve managed to catch her off guard before she had time to reinforce her body as I see some bleeding.
I start calculating the options I had left. Even if I were to use the first phase of my Beast’s Will, I can’t last long enough to save everyone and carry them out.
I don’t know how severe the recoil of this would be but I had no choice but to try.
I feel a surge of energy forming around my body and I’m surrounded by an aura of different colors.
“Phase Two. Dragon’s Awakening.”