Miria started clapping enthusiastically and Selene had a soft smile adorning her lips as Asterios made it back to the group standing on the side. Suanori couldn’t help but smile too, with her hands on her hips.
“Are you sure you are a Summoner and not a Spellsword or some other profession?”
“Honestly, at this point, I’m not sure about anything. Just Miria and Selene as my summons aren’t normal. But, it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s still Summoning in my eyes; the path that I care about and fell in love with.” Asterios shrugged his shoulders.
“Right. It’s good to see someone who isn’t relying on a single ability or skill type all the time. Those are a pain to deal with, but, of course, good for certain scenarios. Summoners were always considered quite diverse and flexible but you are bringing that to another level.”
“Thank you for the compliment. I’m just doing what I can. I didn’t really expect to one day almost die and suddenly start being able to use all the things I couldn’t even begin invoking for countless years. And who knows if it will stay that way.”
“Good thinking. I feel like we’ll have a great time working together. Alright. I guess it’s my turn now. Considering our team composition, I will most likely be focusing more on supporting, alongside you, allowing all three of your summons to take on the battlefield. But, I’m not completely defenseless either.”
Noticing another pack of Ghouls slowly making their way towards the source of the previous commotion, Suanori nodded at the group and began walking forward. As she traversed the short grass with graceful steps, she brought her right wrist to her mouth and started whispering something, what Asterios recognized as an elvish chant.
A wooden bracelet resembling intertwined tree branches that she was wearing glowed with a greenish light. The inconspicuous at first accessory started unraveling itself and gaining size. In a few moments, Suanori had a thick wooden staff in her hand with a curled top; a dark emerald gem embedded in the middle of the spiral.
Seeing that the enemies had recognized her as a threat, she hit the ground with the bottom end of her staff while closing her eyes. A faint pulse of mana traveled through the earth and Suanori’s eyes started glowing in green after she opened them again.
Now perfectly aware of the exact numbers and positions of the Ghouls, she also noticed a few Skeletons approaching from the side. A very useful ability in the hands of magicians specializing in Nature—Rumbling Survey. It allowed not only to perceive one’s surroundings in extreme detail but also to keep tracking marked points over time. It also worked in most dungeons.
Suanori could end the whole encounter with a single high-level spell, but since this brief expedition was just meant to serve as a simple showcase for the others, she decided against it and reached for a variety of spells.
With another hit of her staff into the ground, tens of thorny vines shot up from below the Ghouls and quickly restrained them all. It was a similar spell to Vine Snare that Asterios had used before, but with much more control on her side.
She moved her staff up and pointed it to the sky. Six spinning objects started materializing above it, quickly forming into thick needles of a fist’s size. With a simple swing, they were sent towards one of the Ghouls while whizzing faintly. The targeted enemy’s body was obliterated into pieces, hit in all four main joints, head and heart, as the powerful drills pierced it and dove into the earth behind it.
Four more struggling ghouls were left. To quickly reduce their numbers, even though they had no chance to escape her viny prison, Suanori pointed her staff towards the ground and traced a few glowing sigils with its tip, making a circle. Finished in a flash, she pushed her weapon into it and penetrated the earth.
Immediately afterward, a loud boom echoed through the forest. In the place where the Ghouls were located, stood now two huge blocks of hardened mud after they rose from their sides and slammed into each other, turning two of the remaining enemies into a paste.
Suanori’s long ear twitched and she let go of the staff that was still impaled in the ground and clasped her hands together. Greenish energy started surrounding her body and Ast’s group could notice a brown layer quickly covering the woman’s skin.
A moment later, a crude arrow flew at her back. It bounced from the steel-like bark protecting most of Suanori’s body now, making her look like she was wearing a tight suit from the tips of her toes to her very cheeks.
Condensing mana in her palm, she spun around and made a horizontal swing with it. A wide blade of wind surged forward and dove into the trees, cutting them in half. After a few trunks fell down, they revealed a pack of three skeletons—now actually one less as the archer got split in two by the attack too.
With the remaining Ghouls still restrained and pretty much harmless, Suanori turned her focus to the Skeletons. She snapped her fingers and broke into a run; the magical staff vibrated and surged from the ground, flying back into her hand.
Approaching the Skeletons wielding crude shields and rusted swords, she dug into the earth with the tip of her weapon while still running and made a powerful swing towards them. The small lump of mud that was sent flying due to that action, morphed in the air and formed a brown net that fell on the enemies, causing them to struggle to get it off.
As they were attempting to cut the now-hardened trap, she spun her staff a few times in front of her with its crystal glowing brightly and jumped into the air. A pillar of earth appeared under her feet and kept expanding diagonally, lifting Suanori higher and higher.
After reaching a satisfying point, she tapped her footing with the tip of her staff and jumped off the leaning tower, doing a somersault in the air. The weapon connected with the raised mud as its wooden branches expanded and dug into it, and a huge chunk of the pillar broke off, being taken with Suanori as she began falling.
With a gigantic hammer made out of stone-hard mud, she descended on the still struggling Skeletons and slammed them with the weapon, causing a huge impact as if a meteor had fallen, shaking the whole area hard enough for Asterios and his party to get knocked off their feet.
As the huge hammerhead crumbled into dust, only Suanori was left behind in a deep crater after her attack landed on the Skeletons, now most likely ground literally to dust. She took a deep breath and spun her staff again, calling forth a wave of gurgling earth to bring her back to the Ghouls, waiting for their turn.
If they weren’t undead brainless monsters, they would most likely be trying to flee after such a show of might. But, they could only follow the basic commands imprinted in their bodies, not even minds. And those were to attack anything unrelated to the dungeon on sight until their demise.
To wrap things up, Suanori started quietly chanting something and a few small sprouts peeked out of the ground around them, forming a glowing magical circle. When it flashed brightly, the Ghouls started wriggling even more, clearly in pain. On their type of undead, Healing Magic caused damage instead of its intended effect. And thus, the Ghouls’ bodies slowly fractured and broke into pieces.
Suanori invoked Rumbling Survey once more, to make sure that no enemies were drawn to the loud crash she had caused, and nodded to herself after not spotting anything in their closest vicinity. She was sure this should serve as a decent showcase, even though she didn’t bring out any of her aces. But, she was sure neither did Asterios and his team.
She came back to a round of applause from everyone and bowed courteously.
“That was amazing. Great versatility. Nature Magic might be partially suppressed in an undead dungeon, but it still should be plenty powerful. It’s kind of weird to have a full team of this size with members that all can pretty much fight for themselves if necessary. Above duos, the third one and up usually have at least one pure backliner,” Asterios said.
“That’s right,” Suanori agreed with his words. “At least in those teams that actually think about their performance. You would be surprised how many are there that just band up because they got to know each other in a pub or something, or are long-time friends. Well, it doesn’t matter that much for simple commissions and quests, but is certainly a problem at higher levels.”
“I can imagine.” Asterios nodded. “Now, shall we head back? I don’t think there’s a need to stay here any longer. You should rest a little and then we’ll get into some more practice together until the officials arrive.”
“Yes. That’s fine. Let me call—”
“Let me return the favor this time,” he interrupted her. “Have you ever rode on a big, Haste-boosted panther summon?”
Moments later, Suanori was holding onto her dear life—and Ast’s back—as they were speeding through the forest so fast she didn’t dare to even peek over his shoulders to not have her head instantly blown off. Her trusty hawk had never achieved such speeds, not even during the sharpest peaking.
She tied herself to Asterios with tight vines when their surroundings were reduced to nothing more than a brown-green smudge and her body started being subjected to immense force, pulling her in every direction as Miria made twists and turns around the trees.
They arrived back in Nebula in a flash and spooked the guards at the main gate when Miria suddenly popped into existence from the woods, creating long and deep trails with her paws as she decelerated perfectly to end up right in front of the tall and wide entrance.
“This… This was no Haste…” Suanori exclaimed with a shaky voice, still collecting herself. “You guys are monsters…”
Asterios chuckled after seeing her completely messed up hair and apologized sincerely. Fortunately, Suanori didn’t get angry at them after finally catching a breath. Instead, she was impressed, really impressed. Both by Miria’s speed and Ast’s ability to withstand it.
Selene helped Suanori fix her hair with her huge collection of combs and they escorted the Guildmaster back to Nebula’s branch. They agreed to meet tomorrow and parted their ways, with Suanori heading to oversee the inner workings of the guild.
Asterios and the girls returned to their inn and he focused on crafting more crystal sigils for the rest of the day. The cores they had gotten from the armies weren’t any better than just the common ones they could find in the beginning floors of dungeons, but they were good enough to prepare some safety spells.
Selene figured out to try getting rid of the leftover bits of the crystals or cores with the spiritual fire she could invoke and they learned that those caused even flashier reactions when met with it than when thrown in the normal fire. The colorful spectacle was extremely mesmerizing for the girls, almost making it difficult to concentrate even for Asterios.
In the span of the next few days, Asterios teamed up with Suanori to patrol the areas of the three dungeons and also take a few peeks inside them while they waited for the strategists and officials to arrive. And also for more adventurers, of course.
After a few initial fights together, they found their synergy fairly easy. Suanonri fit in their team composition nicely, often casting crowd-control spells to assist Miria and Selene, which were able to take a more direct approach with Umbra and her staying by Ast’s side.
All in all, they had no issues with the common monsters coming from the first floors of any of the three dungeons. Unfortunately, the one they would be tackling to the very Core was also the one where Umbra’s mind arts were the least effective due to the many of the undead not having a mind to affect or control, per se.
He could still use a plethora of abilities and magical spells, but a majority of those revolving around controlling or affecting the mind of his opponent were rendered useless. It slightly saddened Umbra and he only hoped that there would be stronger monsters deeper in the dungeon that weren’t just mindless Skeletons or Ghouls.
In another five days, many adventurers reached Nebula and reported their intentions on joining on the emergency quest. The port town started to become packed with people and it was getting increasingly harder to find a free spot at any of the inns. Some adventurers had to already agree on sharing.
The last of the people Suanori was waiting for also arrived after that period and the emergency meeting was going to finally be held. Naturally, Asterios was invited to participate too, not just because he was a crucial element of the plan but also because the whole thing came from him and Suanori didn’t even want to think about stealing that contribution.
Therefore, after a pleasant breakfast with Asterios, Miria and Selene returned to their realm to watch over him from the foxgirl’s house, leaving just Umbra wrapped around Ast’s body for some additional protection; he could make his presence disappear almost completely when not facing against some powerful entity.
As he had expected, the guild was packed with people to the brim, waiting for any information. It was almost impossible to push through the solid wall of adventurers and reach the counters, or the stairs leading up. Trying to shout over the incredibly loud mass didn’t feel like an option either.
Asterios sighed and decided to take a different approach since he was slightly in a hurry. He drew on his fiery mana and started releasing it into the air in the form of oppressive intent, boosted additionally by Umbra's magic that weakened the resistances of people present in the hall. A powerful force suddenly flared through the room.
In an instant, everyone fell silent and frantically turned around, taking a step or two backward by reflex. All eyes fell onto the white-haired and crimson-eyed man, staring into the crowd calmly. A few people recognized him, but the majority was new and not present here when he dealt with the guild.
As he started silently walking forward, the adventurers split to the sides, making a way for him to reach the counters while keeping at least a few meters of distance. Asterios nodded appreciatively and dispelled the energy before arriving in front of the receptionist he knew the best—Raziel.
She made a courteous bow as he came closer. “Welcome back. Guildmaster Suanori and the other officials are awaiting your arrival in the main meeting room. Shall I guide you there?”
“No need. Thank you, Raziel. I just need to get to the stairs somehow.”
Some rustling and shuffling took place and when Asterios glanced to his right, the path had already been cleared. He chuckled internally. Showing off wasn’t exactly his thing since he wouldn’t risk the additional attention, but it certainly didn’t feel bad.
“I’ll be off then. There should be some news regarding the situation soon.”
Raziel nodded and Asterios walked to the stairs in complete silence. Just like the last time, the moment he disappeared from their sight, everyone returned to their loud chatting, now a bit more dominated by the new arrivals asking who the hell had just walked in.
Asterios reached the meeting room without an issue and reached out to knock on the door. But, before he managed to do it, they flung open inside.
“—st ignore that. I’ll check it myse—woaaah there!”
A very short girl with dark brown hair woven into a very wide single braid almost walked into him due to not looking ahead, but she noticed the obstruction in time and stopped herself before slamming her head into Ast’s stomach.
The girl—clearly a dwarf—looked up at his face. “Would you kindly not stand in front of the door? Now, move aside because we have no time to waste. I need to check on that pressure from earlier.”
“Ah. I apologize. That was me. The main hall was really crowded so I released a bit of my mana to push through,” Asterios replied.
The dwarf girl snorted. “Yeah, right. Like some janitor could exude such aura. Move your ass or—”
Asterios flared his blazing mana once more, letting his appearance change for a brief moment. The dwarf’s eyes widened in shock as she fell onto her butt from the unexpected wave of spiritual energy that washed over her from up close.
They stared at each other for a brief moment and Asterios reverted back to his usual self, smiling at the dwarf girl softly.
“Was that enough to prove my words?”
She made a stiff nod with a pale expression. A hearty laugh exploded somewhere further in the room and Asterios located its source without an issue. A tall and quite muscular man in leather armor and with two huge curved swords behind his back was holding onto his stomach. Besides a short grey beard and mustache covering his face, he had no hair left on his head.
“Hahahahaha! Ey, Suanori, is that the guy you’ve been talking about? Hahahaha! I already like him! Not anyone can make Tishnera almost wet herself with just their aura alone! Hahahaha!”
Ast’s smile switched into a wry one as he swept his gaze over the meeting chamber. There were plenty of people inside, something around fifteen or more. Amongst them, he could easily discern two groups of people—adventurers and guild officials. And from both of these, five figures were sitting by the main table while the rest stood behind them or just somewhere in the back.
Before heading inside, Asterios reached out to the fallen dwarf girl. “Sorry about that. As you’ve said, we have no time to waste. I hope you won’t hold it against me.”
She clicked her tongue after getting a hold of herself and grabbed it. “I’ve brought that on myself alone. I just wish that oaf wasn’t here to witness it.”
“Hahahaha! I’m never going to forget this! Anyone has a memory sealing crystal?”
Tishnera rolled her eyes and groaned while Asterios helped her up. He closed the door and they walked back to the middle, with him stopping behind Suanori. With how everyone kept looking at him, Asterios wasn’t sure if it was due to his recent display or the Guildmaster’s words about him. Nevertheless, the meeting before the giant operation could finally proceed.