|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
Was it a coincidence that the advance team just happened to clash with Orlog mere minutes after that mana beast made its presence known while hunting, or was something more sinister at play.
Was Orlog smarter than she accounted for and specifically attacked the advance team so that Pavlor would attract the beast’s attention?
Perhaps being a secluded archpriest meant that Pavlor didn’t understand the severity of attracting the attention of a mana beast, but Arvel was there too. What she knew, Arvel knew too, and what she didn’t know, Arvel knew anyways. Shouldn’t Arvel have warned him?
It was a terrible idea to fight mana beasts without first scouting out their capabilities and creating a plan.
Or perhaps she was overthinking it and it really was just luck…
Anyhow, she had to prevent the mana beast from reaching the team. If both the beast and Orlog attack at the same time, the team will be in trouble even with her and Kagriss’s help—not to mention she’ll have to reveal Kagriss’s undead nature before she is ready.
Better to just keep the two threats separate. Divide and conquer.
“Fine, let’s fight it, Kagriss,” she said. Do everything you can to draw its attention.”
Kagriss didn’t even bother hiding the excitement and curiosity in her voice as she stopped suppressing her undead mana and aura. It poured into her surroundings. Carmen mimicked her as well. Suddenly, two knight-class undeads appeared in the sky above the forest.
However, they were still too high up for the beast to sense them from just their aura. They had to do more.
Holy mana was faster and more precise than undead mana, so Carmen took the extra time to convert her mana into holy. Holding her hand above her, a ball of golden mana formed before she aimed toward a point where the stag will surely pass by.
A thin ray of light fired from that ball, piercing through the canopy harmlessly—at first. A few moments later, the leaves began shriveling from the heat of the holy beam. Ascertaining her aim, Carmen adjusted the beam slightly and then unleashed the rest of the spell’s power, just as the stag charged into the path of the initial ray of light.
A sudden torrent of holy power poured onto the mana beast from above, causing the stag to rear up in pain, his dark eyes flicking around searching for the source of its pain.
Another intruder in his forest, and one impudent enough to attack him directly at that!
Although Carmen couldn’t see it through the leaves, she confirmed through tracking its mana that the stag did indeed stop, backing out of the rays of holy light. There’s no way it didn’t know where she was now.
Hopefully this beast wasn’t that strong and she was being overly cautious.
Shortly after, Kagriss completed her spell, an oozy black spear in the air above her, floating in her hand. Instead of through it, she simply swung her hand toward the stag, and the spear shot forward by itself, leaving a smoky black trail behind it as it flew. The spear arced toward the deer, pierced through the leaves, leaving a rapidly corroding hole behind in the canopy cover.
At the last moment, the mana beast sprang to the side, neatly dodging the spear. But as the spear hit the ground next to it, Kagriss squeezed her fist.
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The dark spear exploded, an inky sphere engulfing stag in an instant.
If they didn’t have its attention before from Carmen’s attack, they definitely did now. On the plus side, disaster was averted and the mana beast didn’t attack the advance team. Unfortunately, now Carmen and Kagriss and to fight an unknown mana beast—emphasis on the unknown part.
Neither of them were particularly good at combat over long ranges so they descended. They watched intently as the inky sphere receded and faded, either way becoming smaller and smaller. Did that do anything to it?
Seeing how well something weathered a given attack was always a pretty decent gauge of the opponent’s strength…
Kagriss’s spell disappeared completely, revealing the stag standing in the center of a circle of death and decay. Where the inky sphere had covered, there was nothing left. Just outside the circle, the grass and leaves were yellow. The sickly color only continued to expand, consuming entire trees and patches of shrubbery and grasses until it finally stopped.
The effect of the spell looked devastating, but the mana beast looked fine…
Was what Carmen thought, until it stepped forward and staggered, dropping down to its knees, its flanks heaving. Insidious, weakening…that was the true worth of undead magic compared to holy magic. Rather than directly opening wounds on the opponent, undead magic slowly wore away their lives.
“Good work, Kagriss.” Relief filled Carmen now that she knew the stag wasn’t that powerful compared to the degree of power that she feared.
On the other hand, Kagriss looked slightly let down, although she shook her head. “Yes, Mistress.”
“Let’s go finish it off then. Cover me however you can.”
Neither bombardment nor long range fighting were her nor Kagriss’s specialties. She was a former templar, Kagriss was a controller mage. It’s easier to stick to what they were good at. Resolving to use her fists to speed things up and missing the range and power of her sword already, Carmen sped up, flying past Kagriss .
Although the stag had gotten hit by a spell from Kagriss, it was alive and fighting. On shaking but nonetheless muscular legs, it stood up, staring up at them with hatred in its eyes. As they got closer, the stag suddenly reared onto its hind legs.
Without needing any special commands from Carmen, the two of them split off from their original flight path, approaching the mana beast from two different directions. Despite Carmen’s impatience to end the fight earlier, she still needed to be cautious. Who knew what this beast was capable of?
“Now what will it be?” Carmen shouted, trying to catch the beast’s attention. She picked up her speed, so much that she lost control of her blood magic. The blood mana leaking from her wings left behind echoing red trails behind her. “Look at me!”
However, after looking at them both, the beast pointedly turned its head toward Kagriss as if Carmen wasn’t even worth thinking about. After all, it was that pest in red that had caused it the most pain.
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Chaotic and unpredictable, it made up the world. The stag’s cloven hooves sliced at the air as it blared a challenge to its intruders from deep in its chest. Standing almost twice as high as an ordinary stag, it made for an imposing figure visually.
But more terrifying was what wasn’t visible to the naked eye.
The raw mana of the deer’s surroundings, including the decayed mana from Kagriss’s spell spiraled toward the stag’s antlers, gathering in an invisible maelstrom that both Carmen and Kagriss clearly felt.
Clearly, the mana beast was about to do something—but what?
Instead of flying straight toward the beast, Kagriss began to fly sideways, trying to make herself a more difficult target to hit. But the stag’s eyes were trained on her, never letting her out of its sight.
The raw mana on its antlers grew to an unbearable intensity, and suddenly what the stag was trying to do became clear. As the raw mana poured through the spell structures naturally embedded in the stag’s horns, its nature changed. The raw mana turned into lightning mana.
Carmen cursed. “Creature of mana.”
These stupid beasts could use magic even without affinity, something no race could do. It was unfair, and was what made them so unpredictable, since every mana beast was unique in their capabilities with no restrictions.
Sparks jumped between the stag’s horns, crackling and flashing, yet the stag was not hurt, or even fazed by the bright lights and loud noises right above its head. By then, it reached a critical point in its charge. The beast stopped its gathering of raw mana and focused entirely on the conversion.
It would be a devastating attack befitting a mana beast’s fearsome reputation.
“Stop!” Carmen cried. She was still too far—she probably won’t get to the stag on time like this. She fired a ray of holy light from her hands, but it probably didn’t do anything other than cause the stag some minor discomfort.
She pushed her wings beyond its limits, the spell structures embedded in the flesh deteriorating as the bones and muscles tore under the stress of channeling so much uncontrolled blood mana.
Kagriss had given up evasion, instead deciding to oppose force with force by casting a shielding spell, but she had made the decision too late. Anything she casted in that short amount of time won’t be able to resist much damage before being broken through.
Despite the danger she was in, Kagriss still spared the attention to see how Carmen was doing. Her eyes widened at the bold trails of blood mana.
“Don’t worry about me, Mistress!” Kagriss cried. “Don’t do anything reckless!”
“Worry about yourself first!” Carmen snapped.
It was the breaking point. The stag no longer pawed at the air. Instead, it lowered its head, pointing its antlers in Kagriss’s direction. Its front hooves fell and Carmen knew that the moment that spell would be released was the moment all four feet of the stag landed, forming a stable platform.
A black sphere materialized around Kagriss. Her magic enclosed her completely in a deceptively weak barrier.
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The sound that the lightning sparking between the stag’s antlers had become a thin whine.
The seconds passed by, each as long as a lifetime.
Ignoring Kagriss’s cries for her to pull back, Carmen stretched out her hand, reaching toward the antlers.
Suddenly, a dense net of purple-blue lines shot out from a single point between the two antlers toward Kagriss. The net was huge and although the lines were thin, they were many, and even if Kagriss tried, she wouldn’t be able to avoid them all.
If…if Kagriss touched one of them, then the rest of the mana held back in the spell between the beast’s antlers will no doubt course through that connection toward her.
Somehow, she knew that it would be fatal.
Rather than Kagriss being hit by that spell, Carmen would rather herself be the one to take it, since she was sturdier. As a warrior, it was her job to protect the mage after all.
Diving in from behind the stag, Carmen slammed onto its back, throwing one arm around its neck to keep on. At the same time, her other hand touched the antler.
Before she could even process that she reached her goal, her arm that touched the antler exploded. Paralyzing lightning mana surged into her body, threatening to turn off her mind as she saw a net of sheer white light that did not come from her eyes.
She felt faint and lightheaded, as if she was floating…If her arm hadn’t exploded and all that mana flowed into her, she probably would have died. As it was, she felt like she was drifting away.
Luckily, her job was done. The delicate balance that the lightning spell maintained between the two antlers were broken. The power of the lightning spell rampaged, turning its wrath on its closest target—the stag. Its body was much bigger than Carmen’s and although some of the power of the spells hit her, it was nothing compared to what had hit the mana beast itself. Several lines of arcing purple-blue lightning slammed into flanks, stomach, legs, and head.
Even though it was a creature of mana and had evolved past its peers, the stag simply wasn’t built to withstand damage of that magnitude, especially since it had taken the time to charge up that spell to devastating levels of destruction.
As a living creature, it couldn’t survive the lightning scorching its flesh and boiling its blood.
Even as the stored spell power between the antler continued the rampage, the stag was already collapsing, throwing Carmen from its back. The lightning struck with impunity, and just as Carmen thought her luck had run out, a dark dome appeared over her, blocking the lightning strikes. Although it soon broke under the lightning’s terrible power, Kagriss never ceased recreating the barrier, protecting Carmen from the rogue spell.
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