Chapter 215: Two Versus An Army
I watched as the hole that had been formed from Sylvie’s attack slowly disappeared—covered by the sea of mana beasts steadily marching toward the Wall.
Despite the devastation the blast had caused, any signs of the damage had soon become swept away.
Sylvie released another blast of mana, but this time several shields compounded upon one another, taking the brunt of the attack before shattering layer by layer.
Looks like we won’t be able to comfortably just rain spells down on them, I mused.
‘We would run out of mana long before even making a dent anyway,’ Sylvie responded.
‘After you,’ she transmitted, giving me a toothy grin.
Try to keep up, I sent back.
Falling head-first from several thousand feet in the air into an army of magical beasts should’ve normally caused some sort of fear or anxiety, but that wasn’t the case. My heart beat against my ribcage not out of fear, but excitement.
As if feeding off my emotions, mana flooded out into my body as I continued my plunge. Wind gathered around me, swirling and condensing as I collided into the center of the beast horde.
The layers of wind surrounding me burst into an explosion of gales, shredding and pushing away the hundreds of beasts caught in the blast.
I stood up in the center of the crater I had created as thousands of monstrous eyes glared down at me from above.
There was a breath of silence as I waited with Dawn’s Ballad in my hand. Mana surged around me, itching to let loose.
That’s when the first battle cry was unleashed. It came from a bipedal canine that appeared at least three times my height with claws and fangs that glowed menacingly.
It let loose a howl that spurred the others surrounding me, as if waking them up from their stupor. The zombie-like mana beasts that seemed almost drugged all spurred to life in a concert of cries, roars, and jarring screeches.
But piercing through the cries of the corrupted mana beasts was the thunderous roar of my bond as she landed. She immediately ripped out the bipedal canine’s throat with her fangs and slammed four other mana beasts with a swipe of her tail.
‘Try to keep up,’ Sylvie mocked as she continued tearing her way through the ocean of beasts.
With a chortle, I leaped out of the crater and on top of a reptilian mana beast with three tails. Before the beast could even make a sound, its head was already cleanly separated from its body and I was onto the next beast.
Disoriented and furious at our arrival, the mana beasts clumped together as they all tried to get their claws, talons, or paws on me. I constantly used wind magic to create space for me to swing my sword.
For some time, I limited my mana, using my battle prowess accumulated through my two lifetimes and Dawn’s Ballad to cut down the enemies that never ended. Killing one beast meant that two or three replaced it, but we had prepared for this. After all, this wasn’t a battle I was supposed to win; this was a battle of attrition.
In the chaos of battle where dozens of razor-sharp fangs and talons swiped at you from all directions, there was no time to communicate with each other. Sylvie and I relied on reading each other’s mental state in case one of us needed help.
Time crawled—or was it that time was flying by? It was impossible to tell as the debris from the battle had long since covered the sky. Swallowing my impatience, I limited mana usage to body strengthening and weapon augmentation as Dawn’s Ballad drew crescents of teal in debris-filled land.
A pack of wolves, each the size of Boo, carefully circled around me. Other mana beasts cleared the way, obviously fearful of the creatures clad in lightning.
These ones seem to have some brains, I thought. It was obvious by their murky black pelts that the wolves had been corrupted, but unlike the other beasts that had marched mindlessly toward the Wall, these ones remained alert and kept their formation.
The one leading the pack—a larger wolf with a spikier mane and horn—let out a bark and instantly, the twelve others pounced at me with crackling thunder glowing their surroundings.
Rather than waste energy dodging and killing them one by one, I cast twelve spikes of earth from the ground with the stomp of my feet. The thunder wolves were skewered mid-leap, giving me the leisure to go after the leader that had managed to dodge my spell.
Baring its teeth as tendrils of electricity gathered around him, the leader attacked. I dodged its mid-air slash, but the lightning surrounding its claws struck me in the shoulder.
More annoyed than in pain, I shrugged off the wound that had been mostly blocked by my aura and stabbed the wolf.
However, the tip of my teal sword had long since been broken, and was unable to pierce through the wolf’s thick mana-imbued fur.
Imbuing mana into Dawn’s Ballad and condensing it into a sharp point, I dashed forward and struck again. Blood was drawn this time and the thunder wolf struggled to get back up, but there was no time to celebrate my little victory.
Almost immediately, a flock of bat-winged birds swooped down with their sharp metal beaks homed in on me.
Putting Dawn’s Ballad back into my ring, I spread a blast of lightning into the air. The metal beaks dropped like flies, their wings still spasming from the shock as I quickly moved onto my next list of neverending targets in sight.
Despite our competitive banter earlier, Sylvie remained close as she continued to fight the onslaught of mana beasts. She fought with her wings tucked in, a flurry of claws and fangs as she dyed the ground in crimson.
Sylvie’s voice rang in my mind. ‘Arthur. These beasts seem off. Most of them aren’t even retaliating and just keep marching toward the Wall. Only some of the stronger ones and their packs are actually putting up a fight.’
I feel it too. I’m not sure what the Alacryans did. They must be controlling the beasts to get to the Wall no matter what, I replied, continuing to kill as many mana beasts as I could.
Giving my limbs—heavy from slashing through the tough hides and exoskeletons of the mana beasts—some reprieve, I began casting more spells. Spheres of fire, water and lightning orbited around me, burning, slashing and electrocuting beasts that came close enough while I cast spell after spell.
The terrain had become a domain of all elements; some parts of the ground had become scorched, with corpses still in flames, while other parts of the ground had become a garden of stone and ice spikes.
The metallic odor of fresh blood alongside the smell of burning fur and flesh mingled in the air, causing the devastated landscape to be even more unbearable to endure.
Navigating around the remains of my own spells and the corpses of fallen mana beasts—some of which were about the size of a small house—had become another challenge.
However, the turning point was when the S-class mana beasts began coming. The first one was a humanoid feline just twice my height made of pure muscle, fur, and claws.
Its speed and agility was on par with Kordri, my martial arts master from Epheotus. However, its major flaw was that it relied on only its speed, its attacks leaving it wide open.
“Come on!” I barked, dodging its clawed kick while nicking its neck. Blood rushed to my head, drowning out everything other than the opponent in front of me. The beast that had the ability to kill its victims long before they could even fear it hissed and dashed toward me. Its muscular hind legs left imprints on the hard ground, its body barely visible, but its attacks were linear.
“Thunderclap Impulse,” I murmured as the sensation of electricity coursing through my body left me even more focused. Withdrawing my teal sword once more marked the beginning of our second round.
The world around us blurred as I relished the battle. Each swipe of its mana-infused claws left deep gashes in the earth and oftentimes mana beasts nearby. Each failed attack of the S-class feline was a successful attack of mine as Dawn’s Ballad left its mark on the beast’s elegantly striped fur.
I had almost forgotten my objective as I dominated the S-class mana beast even without relying on Realmheart Physique. My legs ached from old wounds and the scratches left by the S class beast stung, but I was in much better shape than the panting oversized cat.
Heaving for breath and blood matting down its fur, the S-class beast warily backed away. It didn’t even manage to take four steps before I caught up and slashed its neck.
Picking the dead S-class beast by the scruff of its neck, I let out a roar. The mana beasts around me, no matter how deranged and feral they had become due to the Alacryans corrupting them, began to tremble in fear.
It would be easy to say that this is what war did to everyone. Part of it was true—fighting countless beasts slowly turned me into a beast myself. However, another part of it was that I enjoyed it.
Being surrounded by death, yet never being able to kill freely myself might have had something to do with it. The countless duels I had fought in my previous life had all been supervised and restricted by rules and laws. Here, it was different.
‘Arthur. Don’t lose yourself. Remember that this is a battle to protect, not a battle to kill.’
Sylvie’s words were like water splashed to my face. I had indeed lost myself, high on the freedom to wreak havoc. I had acted like a wild beast let loose from its cage.
Finally sober, I could feel the aches and wounds I hadn’t even realized existed began to take their toll.
That’s when I felt the next one. Before I could even see or hear it, I felt it. Even amongst the drone of countless mana beasts marching, the footsteps of the particular mana beast shook the earth.
It didn’t take long for me to see the towering monstrosity that trampled other its fellow corrupted beasts like they were insects.
Even as it stood on four legs, it was about three stories tall and every inch of its body was covered in a metallic hide. Spikes sprouted along its spine and at the end of its trunk-like snout was a dented metal orb the size of Sylvie’s head.
‘Do you need help?’ Sylvie asked, sensing my fear as I watched the colossal beast advance.
Not yet, I conveyed, putting Dawn’s Ballad back into my ring.
I threw out an arc of lightning at the beast but it didn’t even flinch as it continued making its way toward me. It swung its snout like a flail, bludgeoning mana beasts left and right. The mana beasts fortunate enough to evade its snout were soon trampled by its thick hooves as it charged at me. That’s when I saw him—a human.
The Alacryan mage, who had been riding between two of the spikes on the S-class beast’s back, was desperately holding on for his life. At this distance, it was easy to tell that this was not part of the plan.
That’s when it clicked. The weaker mana beasts appearing almost sedated and mostly ignoring Sylvie and I even as we killed them, the higher-tiered mana beasts seemingly possessing their own will even against the Alacryan’s struggles.
A plan began to bloom in my head as I watched Alacryan mage struggle with what appeared to be a black stone in his hand.
I cast a ball of fire at the towering beast, hitting its face. The flaming sphere splashed across its metallic hide without so much as a mark, but it did its job.
The beast bellowed and raised its front legs in anger. The Alacryan mage was barely able to hold on but the mammoth beast didn’t stop there. Making it its life goal to flatten me with its flail-like snout, the beast charged relentlessly. I, on the other hand, continued throwing spells just barely strong enough to annoy it while flying through the beast horde.
The mammoth beast created a path paved in decimation and crushed corpses as it continued to chase me. I used every creative method my brain could think of in order to get the beast as furious as possible while slowly whittling it down. I drove earthen spikes into its hooves, I layered the ground in ice so that it’d slip, but my half-assed spells weren’t doing anything.
Fire seemed to work best in annoying the beast, but when I shot another spell at it, a translucent shield flickered in its path, blocking my spell before it could hit.
I need your help now, Sylvie, I sent leisurely as I led the beast to where I could sense Sylvie was fighting.
‘Wow, how did you make it so angry?’ she replied, leaping into the air with a beat of her wings.
Pin the beast down for as long as you can, I instructed.
With a mental confirmation, Sylvie flew up into the sky before dropping back down in a nose-dive.
‘Keep it steady!’ she transmitted, showing the general range she’d be able to land.
Clearing the beasts around me with a gust of wind, I waited as the mammoth beast rushed toward me. Taking a deep breath, I waited for the moment just when the beast’s front legs were about to touch the ground as it charged. Precision, timing, and distance compounded made the spell that much harder, but as a white core mage, it felt natural, as if I was shaping clay.
At my behest, the ground just below the beast’s front feet splintered, sending the beast crashing on the ground. However, with the speed it had built up, its momentum continued to carry the beast and the mage riding on its back toward me.
Pummelling through every earthen wall I had conjured in its path until it was only a few yards away, I cursed in frustration.
Damn it, no choice.
Preparing my mind and body for the toll about to come, I waited until just before the beast was close enough before I activated Static Void.
With my control over both aether and mana making leaps and bounds during my ascent into the white core stage, I confined the time-pausing mana art into just the beast and the mage.
Even with the reduced range, the sheer size of the beast made my mana core protest. However, I persisted, biding time right up until Sylvie was about to crash into the beast.
‘Now!’ she screamed mentally.
I immediately released Static Void and leaped out of the way, almost crashing into the open jaw of a reptilian mana beast.
The force of Sylvie’s descent onto the beast sent a shockwave of wind and debris all around them. If I hadn’t erected a stone wall from the ground, I would’ve gotten blown away along with all the other beasts in the vicinity.
With no time to rest, I dashed toward the mammoth beast that was dazed but still alive and struggling to get out of Sylvie’s grasp.
Don’t kill it yet, I said to my bond.
‘I’m not confident I even can. Its hide isn’t as strong as my scales but it’s a lot thicker.’
Leaping up on top of the beast’s back, I picked up the unconscious mage and threw him on the ground.
The oblong black stone fell from his grasp. After picking it up, I formed an ice spike in my hand and drove it into the mage’s thigh.
The Alacryan, surprised at first to be awake and seeing me, quickly succumbed to the searing pain radiating out of his bleeding thigh.
Before he could even get the chance to speak, I held the black stone to his face. “Does this control the mana beasts?”
His eyes widened and he made a desperate swipe at the stone.
I conjured a stone nail, impaling his hand to the ground.
He let out another scream, and the mana beasts that smelled the blood of prey began drawing closer.
‘Hurry. I can’t keep him still for much longer,’ Sylvie conveyed.
I was about to ask again, when I realized that the mage was about to bite off his own tongue. Quickly, I held down his tongue, burning and searing his wound.
The mage let out another muffled wail before I froze his mouth shut.
“What is up with you Alacryans and killing yourself,” I sighed. “Well, if you won’t tell me, I might as well find out myself.”
The oblong stone wouldn’t react with any type of mana or even aether, so I did the only other thing I knew. I crushed it in my hand.