Chapter 91 – Despair
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As quickly as the roots came, they returned, the roots that had warped and curved through the air reversing through the exact same path it had traversed and disappearing into the robes of the archlich.

The holes then mended, and all that was left as evidence of the murder that had just occurred was bulging tendrils squirming and wiggling under the flowing robes of the archlich.

Draven and Lirael were horrified. They cast their gazes over to a different mage beside them that had been pierced to find that they were well and truly dead.

Under the effects of the locked space and former casting of Spatial Levitation, the corpses did not fall and simply continued to levitate in place. The only evidence of their deaths were their lifeless eyes and blood pouring out of the left sides of their chests.

In just moments, twenty mages were reduced to eight. As they recovered from their horror, the two archmages immediately barked out the same order, casting a spell on themselves as they did.

“Defense!”

“Defense!”

‘Ninth Circle - Expansion to Infinity!’

‘Ninth Circle - Expansion to Infinity!’

At the same time as their warning, more tendrils rocketed out of the robes.

The mages, who had been in joy over their successful attacks on the archlich, were trained professionals. Quickly connecting the dots in their heads, they responded without excessive panic. Their responses, however, varied.

Some of these mages had been right next to the victims when they were struck and were able to roughly gauge of the power behind the sharp tendrils as thick as a man’s forearm. With this information considered, they understood that no defensive spells below the fifth circle could defend against it. The urgency in the warning of the archmages forced these mages, who had witnessed the deaths of their comrades beside them, to up the strength of their defensive spell as they reacted, and did so with spells between the fifth and eighth circle.

Another group of mages were those who did not clearly see the strike, only the octopus-like form of the archlich when the tendrils shot out of it, causing them to underestimate the power behind the strike. Some in this group, however, did feel a sense of danger from the urgent tone of the archmages and elevated the strength of their defensive spell. This group reacted with spells between the second and fifth circle.

Their reactions were as follows:.

‘Second Circle - Earth Wall!’

Two mages.

‘Third Circle - Mana Wall!’

One mage.

‘Fifth Circle - Structured Barrier!’

Two mages.

‘Seventh Circle - Isolatio-!’

Two mages.

‘Eighth Circle - Spatial Harde-!’

One mage.

The tendrils traveled far too quickly for those who attempted to cast spells above the fifth circle to complete them in time.

And for those who cast defensive spells below the fifth circle, their barriers did not hold. 

Aside from the archmages, all those who had cast anything but fifth circle barriers perished.

When the tendrils that had struck like a coiled serpent retracted into the archlich, another six corpses littered the space. The archmages that had cast their defensive spells of the highest tier in time gritted their teeth. They watched as the black leafless tree, indifferent to their emotions, grew, wrapping and curling around the archlich as it did, feeding off the lives it had just reaped.

The last attack of the Mother Tree of Rot had attacked eleven. Yet, only six perished. What the mage unit did not know was that the death that was used to nourish the tree was necessarily amplified. If it was unable to do so...

The tree suddenly stopped growing. It wriggled, as if confused as to why further growth was not possible, then stopped in what looked eerily like understanding of the cause of its plight.

A moment of still silence passed.

The next second, a shrill, piercing scream occupied the space, one that even affected Seraphina. The isolation barrier dimmed for a moment as her concentration was unexpectedly broken before she quickly regained her bearings.

The shrill scream continued to even vibrate the air in its volume and suddenly stopped, a contrasting silence stifling the space. All the tendrils of the tree that had been wriggling under the robes of the archlich burst open and bloomed apart several meters like a fractal snowflake. To the four mages, it seemed as if the entirety of the top hemisphere was covered in the black scythe of the grim reaper. 

And on every single individual tendril, of which at least had sprung into existence, a blackened eye with pitch black sclera and milky-white pupils opened. Buds proceeded to sprout right below each and every eye. It was evident that each of these buds would sprout more tendrils, tendrils that were primed to launch in their direction.

What came next was a brutal blow to the psyches of the four final members of the initial twenty-two of the mage unit.

They watched as the robes of the archlich that had been painstakingly reduced to half its size, somehow completely regenerate in a blink of an eye, then began to slowly expansd.

For an archlich to take damage was for its spirit to be destabilized, losing mana in the process and manifesting its effects as a shortening of its robes. So what did it mean for an expansion of its robes? 

Its mana capacity was expanding.

The effects of the initially cast Blessed of the World, which had not seen much use so far due to a continuous large rate of mana use in spatial locking of the entire space in the barrier, Cocytus, and so on, began to show their full might now that the archlich had some breathing room.

The faces of the four mages who looked up at the pitch-black eldritch monstrosity dotted with horrific eyes covering the sky above them were dyed in despair.

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