[Vol. 3 pt. 7]
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The blast from the burster was mostly blocked by the shields, but there was enough force there to damage the structural integrity of the crevice that they were hiding in. Not only that, but it helped us discover a weakness in the shields. While the shields were incredibly durable when it came to only a single point of impact against them, they struggled in cases where they were attacks from multiple directions at once. Given that an explosion was essentially applying even amounts of pressure to the entire shield rather than only in a single spot, each shield developed cracks throughout them that made it easy for the warriors to thrust their legs through, breaking through the shields.

My monsters not only had to deal with the roof and walls around them showing signs of a potential cave-in waiting to happen, but they had to deal with their shields no longer offering any worthwhile protection.

And then there was the ringing.

Corra, being right behind the obsidian constructs, couldn’t hear anything other than the ringing in her ears. The explosion kicked up a significant amount of dust and dirt as well, meaning that she could hardly see in addition to not being able to hear.

If it wasn’t for sight nor hearing being important to the constructs, they may not have lasted.

But they did.

The front two constructs, with their shields now full of holes, were eventually overrun. The ancients’ legs were not strong enough to deal significant amount of damage to the constructs’ bodies and found it easier to knock them over and swarm over top of them to get to the… fleshier monsters hiding behind them.

Without orders, the two constructs behind the first two who had their shields destroyed stepped up to become the new frontline. They pushed back the ancients swarming over their overwhelmed companions with their shields that were still in good condition and thrust their spears forward to kill the ancients directly in front of them. They managed to push the ancients back just enough to make room for Corra to help out the fallen constructs.

And now that she had cleared her eyes of dust and dirt, Corra looked down and saw the condition that the constructs were in.

After having their shields weakened, the legs that broke through the shields managed to reach their bodies. They had some scratches across their surfaces and chips of stone missing from their bodies, but they were in good condition otherwise. The only concerning injury was that one of the constructs had a large cut where its right eye would be. The constructs did not actually have eyes, though. They simply had eye slots. It was only when they became gnomes like Ahti, Dian, and Sidi that they would develop actual eyes.

“Good… you are both alright,” Corra said, holding onto each of the constructs. “Our lord would be disappointed if any of us were to perish here, so let us continue doing our best to survive.”

While her words were reassuring, each construct could tell that something was wrong.

Corra, the one always full of either passion or rage, was calm. There was hardly any emotion in her voice other than that of doubt.

She was afraid.

But no matter how afraid she was, she tried her best to act brave for both the constructs and the survivors behind her.

“Protect them,” Corra ordered the constructs while nodding her head in the direction of the survivors. “I will assist the front.”

While the shields of the first two constructs may have been destroyed, the other constructs now holding the ancients back still had shields that were in perfect condition.

And now they had Corra picking up one of the dropped spears from the first constructs to thrust it around the constructs and into the ancients trying to break through.

Her attacks were weak compared to the constructs’, though. Most of her physical strength came in the form of her tail. When it came to her arms, they were thin and lacked any muscle which was what was important for thrusting a spear. That did not stop her from trying her best to be helpful, though.

To be useful.

She refused to stay in the back any longer while the constructs fought for their survival. She was going to help them however she could.

But as the ceiling showed signs of imminent collapse, there was little she could do about that. It was something else where only physical strength would be able to help the situation.

Fortunately, there were two others capable of helping.

Each of the constructs now in the back of the group stood up and raised their arms against the ceiling to try and keep it held up. When the survivors behind them saw what they were doing, even the ones who were tall enough to help joined in.

Everybody tried their hardest to survive together. The two constructs at the front held the ancients back while Corra attacked from behind them with the spear. Then the remaining two constructs and survivors offered what strength they had to keep the ceiling held up for as long as possible.

Corra may have been calm before, but she could not remain calm when she saw just how hard everybody was working together.

“I am sorry, my lord, but I will need to take from your aether once more,” Corra said, tightly gripping the spear within her hands.

Her eyes looked forward with a fiery determination that would send shivers down the spines of even the most fearsome beasts.

Flames poured out from her hands and coiled around her spear.

While she was not strong enough to make good use of the spear on her own against the hard bodies of the ancients, a spear enhanced by her magic was more than capable of finishing the job.

The next time that she thrust the spear forward, the flames that surrounded it gave it just enough force to pierce the hard carapace of the ancient warrior it was thrust into. Even so, it was barely able to penetrate the thick carapace.

But it was enough for Corra.

The flames surrounding the spear travelled up along it into the hole left by the spear. The ancients may have been nearly invulnerable to her flames when they had their carapaces to shield them, but the insides of their bodies were just as vulnerable as anybody else to the fires fueled by my own aether.

Smoke seeped out through the ancient’s mouth as the fire spread out of control within its body. The raging fire within its body prevented it from properly fighting, instead causing it to go berserk and wildly swing at everything around it.

While it may have only been a single ancient acting out in such a way, it caused a distraction. It prevented the other ancients from getting close as they watched it to try and figure out what was happening. They had never seen one of their own act in such a way before. The ancients were simple creatures, but they were intelligent enough to tell that something was seriously wrong with one of their own.

The most important thing was that Corra bought time for their survival. The longer the ancients stayed distracted for, the fewer ancients there were to try and overwhelm the constructs.

Unfortunately, the flames around Corra’s spears only lasted for that one attack. If she were to do it again, it would drain even more aether from me, and she did not want to take too much from me. She knew that it would not be good if I ran out, and she had no idea just how much aether I had left, nor could she tell how much aether that attack of hers used.

But once the ancient flailing around finally dropped dead to the ground, the ancients resumed their attack and she had no choice but to hope that the distraction would work again.

“Please, my lord,” Corra said, tears forming at the corners of her eyes as she strengthened the grip on her spear again, “just one more—”

The ground shook as she heard something crash into it beyond the crevice.

The ancients were no longer trying to break through the constructs. Instead, they turned around to fight something else.

Corra watched from around the constructs as a stream of flames soared over the ancients. Unlike Corra’s fire, this fire was even hotter and stickier – it stuck to the surfaces of the ancients’ carapaces and heated up their internal temperatures even if the flames themselves were not hot enough to burn through the carapaces.

“Corra!” Crim’s voice shouted out.

The moment she heard his voice, Corra had to try her best to hold back her tears.

“Here! Over – over here!” Corra shouted.

A few moments later and a red slime oozed across the floor until it was right in front of the constructs. Once there, it regained its usual form to reveal that it was none other than Crim, and Crim could not have looked happier to see that they were alright. “Are any of you harmed?” As he asked that, he thrust his sword into the mouth of the ancient behind him.

“I’m alright! The – the two constructs behind me were hurt, but they are alive.”

“Our lord will not be happy to hear that there have been injuries. However, he will be happy to hear that all who are responsible for the injuries have been exterminated.” Crim turned around and raised extended a slimy arm into the air over the crowd of ancients. “Here, Dian!”

It took some moments, but Dian led the Obsidian Guard to push back the ancients until they were able to clear the entrance to the crevice. Now, Corra could see that Dian, Sidi, and the rest of the Obsidian Guard were there as well as the pyre emperor.

Everybody was there except for the kobolds and aurbolds who were on mining expeditions.

“If – if everyone is here,” Corra said, “who is with our lord?”

“The skeleton is still there,” Crim answered.

“Is that all?!”

“He sent everybody available to come to your rescue.”

“What about Ahti? Where is she?”

Crim looked over the ancients. “Somewhere in the middle of all of them. She ran faster than the rest of us to get here and jumped into the middle of the group.”

“Then, was that – the shaking we felt?”

“Probably. She made quite the impact.”

While Corra and Crim discussed the situation, Dian looked at the constructs still in the crevice and gave them a nod which they were happy to return.

“My lord… truly sent everybody for us?” Corra asked.

“Would you expect anything less of him?” Crim asked in response.

Corra shook her head as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “How did you get here so quickly?”

“We ran as fast as we could. More importantly, it turned out that the kobolds had a passage they were keeping secret from us that significantly reduced the time to get here. Given the situation, they realized it was a good time to let us know about it.”

As offensive as it might have been to learn that Deta’s people were keeping a secret from them, Corra was more concerned with their current situation. “You, in the back,” she said to the survivors, “get out while the ceiling is still held up.”

The survivors nodded and were quick to crawl and climb around those in front of them to get out.

The two obsidian constructs were already out as well, leaving only Corra and the injured constructs in the crevice.

“Crim, the ceiling isn’t going to last for much longer,” Corra said. “If they let go—”

“Allow me to handle it,” Crim said, spreading out his body so that his slime held the backs of the two constructs.

Corra stepped out of the crevice and watched to see what would happen.

“On three, let go and jump forward,” Crim ordered.

The constructs nodded.

“One… two… three!”

Each construct lunged forward at the same time, allowing the ceiling to finally drop down onto them. Or rather, it tried to drop onto them.

Crim’s slime pulled on them at the same time as they jumped forward, giving them just enough speed to make it out of the crevice without suffering any additional injuries.

A sigh of relief left Corra’s lips before she leaned over to help the constructs get up.

Meanwhile, the ancients were pushed back inch by inch by the rest of the Obsidian Guard. When they finally pushed the ancients back to the point where they reunited with Ahti, that saw her covered in the blood and guts of the ancients.

And as soon as Ahti saw Corra, she ran at her.

“Wa-wait, Ahti!” Corra shouted, but it was too late.

Ahti wrapped her arms around Corra and, in the process, smeared all of that which covered her onto Corra.

“Is Corra hurt?” Ahti asked.

Another sigh left Corra’s lips, though this one was more of a sad sigh as being covered in blood and guts was not something she wanted to partake in. “I am fine, Ahti.”

Ahti let go of Corra to properly look her body over. It was then that she saw a small scratch on one of Corra’s hands and just a tiny trickle of blood coming from it. “What’s that from?” Ahti asked and pointed at the cut.

“A-ah… I am not sure. I did not even notice it until now.”

“Did the ancients do it?”

“Perhaps? I – I am not sure—”

Ahti looked back at the crowd of ancients before jumping over the heads of the Obsidian Guard to land right back into the center of the group.

Not one of my monsters would tolerate injuries. Even the rest of the Obsidian Guard became much more fired up when they saw the light injuries of their companions who had their shields broken through.

The ancients were no match for the entire might of my monsters!

 

After roughly fifteen more minutes, the battle came to an end. The Obsidian Guard continued pushing the ancients back with their shields while thrusting their spears into any ancient unfortunate enough to be in front of them. My pyre emperor continued to spit flames at the ancients until she ran out of the combustible liquid stored in the sacs within her mouth. Ahti took on a much more physical approach. Rather than stab or burn the ancients, she would grab onto their legs and bend them until they broke off from those who they were attached to. She was a one-gnome army who flanked the ancients as the Obsidian Guard attacked them from the front.

Before long, the final ancient was killed, and it suffered the killing blow of Ahti bringing her foot crushing into its head after having several legs snapped off from its body.

My monsters were not without more injuries, especially in regard to Ahti who was now covered in cuts and bruises, but the battle was won.

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