V2Ch11 – Wind Farm
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Doors flew open, slamming against the walls with a thunderous echo as the bear charged through the hall, unmindful of the storm that brewed in his wake. Both as a metaphor, and in a more literal sense — from behind each open door a flurry of wind and office paraphernalia emerged, enraged at their disturbed slumber and seeking to end the one who had interrupted their rest.

Or perhaps not. With barely a mind to guide them, they had no need of rest and little in the way of emotions. More likely, they simply reacted to the presence of an intruder.

Uncaring of the tempest surrounding him, or indeed, physiologically unable to care, the bear sailed past the mahogany doors, picking up speed as it ran in a straight line to the other end of the corridor.

Not long after, it began to slow as the end of his route approached, and eventually came to a stop just before the hallway turned a sharp right. Had it the space to turn around without slowing, it would have — but the cramped corridor barely allowed the gargantuan bear to pass in the first place, and so it came to a halt.

It turned around, slowly shifting its massive bulk, and now stood facing the legion of angry elementals it had left behind in its mad dash to the end of the corridor. Then, with deliberate steps, it began running back to whence it came.

The bear advanced with the inevitability of death, picking up speed with every step, unconcerned with the mayhem that was heading his way. The elementals were mere obstacles in its path, and it had never let something as puny as an obstacle get in its way.

Some of the elementals froze on the spot when they realized the four-legged colossus was headed their way, and for a moment I wondered if perhaps their minds weren’t as rudimentary as I had thought. But that thought became unimportant when the bear bowled through the magical amalgams, displacing the very air around him as he ran, leaving them in the dust.

That must have been the elementals’ tipping point, for they followed in his wake like a swarm of angry bees coming to the defend their hive from the villain who’d had the gall to throw stones at it. A terrible buzzing rang through the corridor, of elementals converging on a mutual enemy, almost drowning out the rhythmical click of claws on marble.

But it was to no avail. A living bear would have been cut to ribbons by the raging tempest, but this was no living bear. It would stop at nothing, including the flimsy barricade we had constructed at our end of the corridor, and it was just in time that I sent it the signal to slow down and hold back the elementals. The bear came to a halt less than a foot from the barricade, whipping around as fast as his generous posterior allowed, and with a deafening roar, it challenged the elementals to prove their worth.

The buzzing sound’s endless crescendo left no question as to their answer.

“They’re angry, alright,” Alexis said in a low voice, barely audible over the noise. She nocked an arrow, raised her bow and pulled the string back. “Attack?”

“Not yet,” I said just as softly, using a tendril of mana to feel at the spells I had engraved in the floors and walls. “Just a little closer…”

Shiro tensed as he stood just behind the waist-high barricade. On the other side, Winnie waited patiently for the elementals to catch up — the perfect bait for this plan. A handful of seconds passed in dreadful silence until finally, the elementals were in position.

“Now,” I said, sending threads of mana to trigger the first round of traps. Beside me Cameron did the same, while Alexis let loose the spelled arrow, pulling another from her quiver in a swift motion.

As the traps around them went off, the some of the elementals found themselves stuck, panicking as the leeching field snapped into place around them — but they were legion, and the bursty, single-use nature of the traps meant that the majority of their number passed through unscathed, ignoring those who’d been immobilized.

The arrow Alexis had loosed pierced through the winds, the Soul magic attached to it homing in on the nearest elemental’s shrouded body.  The arrow flew true, embedding itself in the elemental’s core and releasing its payload, bringing the elemental to an explosive end as its nexus detonated. Bits and pieces of its nexus flew off like shrapnel, wounding the elementals who’d followed behind the first. Nothing fatal yet, but that was quickly rectified as a second arrow whizzed through the corridor — and then a second, and a third.

A rain of arrows descended upon the hapless elementals, soon followed by projectiles of pure force as Cameron worked to hold back the tide of angry wind monsters. I wove Soul, enhancing it with Origin, creating a vast array of leeching tendrils. They shot forward into the crowd of elementals, sapping at their strength as they fought to make it to the barricade.

One or two even succeeded, only to be mauled to death by several tons of undead bear. But none made it further than that, and I could see Shiro relax as the elementals died one by one. Meanwhile, David stood next to us, playing with his daggers — he was supposed to protect the backline in case any of the elementals managed to slip past our defenses.

But we’d woefully overestimated the threat the monsters posed. Notifications popped up before me, but I put them out of my mind, concentrating on the spell before me. The frequent beeps were distracting, but I knew better than to lose my concentration when working with something as volatile as Origin mana. After all, I didn’t have any spare bodies anywhere near, and the kids wouldn’t survive being separated from theirs.

But the elementals died, torn apart by exploding arrows or drained to death by invisible tendrils — and soon enough, silence descended upon the corridor.

#

#

You have leveled up!

 

You have leveled up!

 

You have leveled up!

 

You have leveled up!

Once the fighting ended, I turned my focus to the System notifications that were blinking happily at the edge of my vision — or, at least, I wanted to imagine they were happy. I certainly was.

7 levels in one go — I could scarcely believe it. Since landing on the island, the near endless fighting with the plant monsters and the gargoyles had only given me 3 levels. And now, with a single fight, I received more than double?

“What’s got you so excited, boss?” Sarah asked, raising a eyebrow as she looked up from the elemental remains she’d been searching through. I realized my face had been sporting a rather wide grin.

“Echm,” I said, composing myself, “merely appreciating the spoils of the fight. I got 7 levels in one go.”

Sarah’s eyebrows went up into her hairline. “Damn, lucky. I got nothing,” she said.

“3 here,” Alexis said.

“Same,” Cameron added. “Looks like it’s proportional to contribution? Though I didn’t think I did less than half compared to you,” he said, looking sullenly in my direction.

“You likely didn’t. I have a perk that doubles the experience I get.”

“The hell? That’s so broken,” David said.

“I know, right? At this rate he’s gonna catch up to us by the time we’re done here,” Shiro said.

“What are your levels, anyway? I don’t recall ever asking.”

“56 here,” Alexis piped up. “Cam should be about the same.”

The boy in question nodded.

“54,” David added. “The three of us are pretty even, most of the time. Except when I sit on the sidelines ‘cause you decided to just shoot the baddies from a distance,” he said, pouting exaggeratedly.

“That’s pretty interesting,” Sarah said, rising from the crouch. She rested her elbow on Shiro’s shoulder, leaning on the boy. “I’m at 57, and Shiro should be…”

“56,” he said, glaring playfully at her. “You keep stealing my kills.”

I brought up my status, giving it a long look before adding my own number to the pile.

 

Name

Julian Crane

Level

35

Class

Archmage

Species

Lich (Human)

Status

Health

100/100

Stamina

Willpower

100/100

Attributes

Strength

1

Dexterity

1

Intelligence

25

Constitution

1

Endurance

1

Will

1

Unassigned

11

Skills

Soul Magic

26

Mind Magic

24

Force Magic

35

Matter Magic

25

Fate Magic

23

Dimension Magic

23

Multi-disciplinarity

5

Perks

Arcane Savant

Paragon of Humanity

“35. But I only leveled once before docking here,” I said absentmindedly.

The kids began talking among themselves, and I heard some expressions of disbelief, but I tuned them out. Right now, the status screen was more interesting than their banter.

More specifically, my gaze was drawn to the skills section, whose numbers baffled me. I was fairly certain I hadn’t used any Fate and Dimension magic, and barely any Mind, so how had I managed to gain skill points there of all places?

The answer became immediately obvious when my eyes fell on the final skill on the list. Multi-disciplinarity, of course. I had empowered some of my spells with Origin, which would have counted as using all Aspects at once — which amused me, to some extent, as at this point the process of coalescing Origin came so naturally to me that I barely considered it a fusion of Aspects. But the System clearly did, and was rewarding me for it.

Soul had barely gone up, despite having used it extensively. It was pretty clear, at this point, that the System valued improvement over simple repetition, which was an inconvenience, at the very least. There was little I could do to improve my mastery of Soul and Magic.

Would the passive bonuses from the skill levels make my other Aspects more powerful than my specialty? I dreaded the idea — I had dedicated my life to the pursuit of Soul and Magic, and the thought that something as alien as the System could just make some numbers go up and make my life’s work obsolete… It irked. Badly.

I had gained a significant number of skill points in Force when I tutored Cameron on the subject. Perhaps, if I did the same with Soul, I could trick the System into raising my Soul Magic skill? It was worth an attempt — I just needed to convince the boy that Force and Matter weren’t the only useful Aspects of magic.

Truly, why did the young always focus on the flashy Aspects? Was it the love of explosions? The desire to throw a punch harder than a warrior? Though, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been guilty of the same obsession with Force myself. Perhaps a study on the topic was in order.

“The hell is this?” Sarah’s exclamation broke me out of my thoughts. “It’s like somebody came in with a broom and swept all the dust in a neat pile.”

“Don’t touch it!” I said, dismissing the Status screen and rushing along the corridor, trying to avoid stepping on the garbage on the ground. “It’s mana dust — elementals can drop it, sometimes.”

“Is it gonna explode?” Shiro asked, pulling Sarah back by her arm.

I finally arrived at the location and took a good look at the neatly arranged pile of red dust. “Possibly, but rarely on its own. I apologize for scaring you — it’s something most adventurers know to be wary of. If you were still alive, touching it would have been bad — the dust is highly carcinogenic. But it shouldn’t be too unsafe for a Revenant…”

“Yeah, ‘not too unsafe.’ I’m just gonna leave it there,” Sarah said.

“It is quite a find,” I said, eyes sparkling in excitement. “Mana dust is fairly rare, but it has plenty of applications when casting large-scale magic. This particular dust seems to be Force-aspected.”

“How can you tell? Did you use Soul?” Cameron asked.

“No, that’s how you make it explode,” I said, and the boy threw me a worried glance. “From the color, mostly. I’ll need to confirm, but Aspects tend to manifest in consistent colors.”

“Okay, so, careful with the doom dust,” Shiro summarized. “What now, then?”

“Now, we should see about clearing the rest of the dungeon. The dungeon anchor won’t find itself.”

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