Big’ol welcome to our new Patron Pavante! Love you all so freaking much!
I want to note there will be no chapter this Sunday! I will be taking a week to hopefully edit the first book together.
Chapter 39: Force of Will
If I thought about it, the participants of this battle are more than just us that were teleported in. The real count includes the thousands of Laurent guards and the even more thousands of adventurers still on the cave floor.
Together we had all put in a massive effort when we were summoned into action. Of course, our diligence was due to the danger of being overrun by whatever the magma sacs would become since we didn’t know the Keeper needed them.
I am sure only Laurent and the ones on his level could have fought the Keeper if it had been successful in absorbing them.
I chucked at the thought of us meeting face to face with the completed version of the Keeper.
That’s would have greeted us the moment we teleported in. Still, the joint effort of us weaklings, when compared to those like Laurent, had us so close success.
We all almost made it out without the need for the bigshots.
An anger coursed through me thinking about the one that had ruined it all, Runter.
The moment he triggered whatever magic from the Keeper my world went dark and my body felt weakened.
More than just dark no sounds, no feelings, no control, no smell. I’d even lost connection to Eurval.
We were so close…
I clenched my fist a the indignity.
I clenched my fist!?
Seeing it was possible I put in an effort to regain control.
A droning turned louder and louder. It plunged itself deep into my ears signaling my hearing had come back.
My vision began to return too!
Like a mask had been lifted, the darkness disappeared. I could see everyone standing in the same position I last saw them before my senses where taken.
At the front, a river of blood drained out from the red eye of the Keeper as if howling a silent deathly scream, the eyeball shook within its socket on the palm of the pitch black hand.
The arm trembled as the eye shook. Obvious it was a reaction to the spell that kept us locked in place.
I clicked, well, I tried to click my tongue.
‘Ifs’ began to hit me now seeing our demise.
If Runter waited a bit I could have warned us to get away in time and dealt the finishing blow from an extreme distance. Wasting the Keeper’s last hoorah on the dusty air of the cavern instead of us.
If I could have denied Runter from joining this battle we could have won. If I had seen his attack on the final blazing egg as an indicator of his stupid need to be at the top above all else.
Sure, the battle might have been a little harder. Me taking a nice pelting from the shrapnel, but I think I could have managed with a scarred up body and face. Nothing magic couldn’t fix.
Better than losing. Heck, losing a limb would have been preferable.
The muscles of my eyes returned so I looked up to focus on the trembling arm.
Black streaks flowed out from each of us. I knew what these where I could feel what they were too. Our essence was being sucked out draining towards the hand.
Since we weren’t dead it wasn’t very easy, but seeing as we couldn’t move it had all the time in the world.
What a vicious trump card, making us watch ourselves lose.
I tried to jut my body forward in exasperation.
The feeling of being locked in concrete turned into the feeling of wet sand.
Its control weakened again!
[Lucid! Lucid! Lucid! Lucid! Lucid!]
[Lucid! Lucid! Lucid! Lucid! Lucid!]
Okay! I can hear you now. How long have you been screaming…
[Luc—, we lost contact 6 minutes and 14 seconds ago.]
A calmness came to me regaining my guiding voice.
But six minutes?
We’ve all been standing here for six minutes… That’s basically an eternity for a battle.
This really is its final trump card…
[Your eyes stayed open Lucid I’ve been watching. It seems the Keeper cannot move either.]
It can’t move?
No, it can move but not when channeling this magic.
While thinking I began to try and shake myself loose in a fury.
I wiggled my toes, my shoulders, my eyes too. The timer Eurval had running told me another fast five minutes passed.
“ARE any OF you CON-CIOUS?” A surprise took me hearing Eugene’s voice enter my head.
Although calm he sounded extremely strained.
“Yes, I can hear you,” I replied still trying to assert my will over my body.
“LUCID! A-are y-you able to MOVE?” He really was straining himself to talk.
“A little, I’ve gotten my hands, face, and toes back.”
“HA! OF course YOUR soul WOULD be the ONLY ONE strong ENOUGH to resist. I-I cannot MOVE, but I am CON-CIOUS. ONLY you REPLIED s-so far. I d-don’t think THEY w-will be ABLE to have the s-strength to use MENTAL c-communication.”
My neck felt as if it was about to break as I forced it to turn to look at Mei, Abigail, Runter, and Alra. Like me and Eugene they had their eyes still open, still pointed at the last thing they faced, the Keeper.
They weren’t blinking.
“LU-CID the KE-per is USING a SOUL based CURSE on a-anything the EYE can see. I think only youuuuu…”
“You?” Eugene had gone silent mid-sentence.
“WILL be able to SLAY it… before we DRAIN-ed into HUSKs.” Eugene’s voice fluctuated from loudly straining to trail off as if about to fall asleep.
I remembered my conversation with Pesca. Eugene must have come to some conclusion about my soul too from all the time he’s spent inside me.
Why my soul?
It’s not like I’ve trained in any defensive art to protect it.
I tensed my muscles and held my breath tightening my body to fight against the force stopping me from moving freely.
I tried to grunt but my jaw wasn’t mine so it stopped at my throat throwing a guttural sound.
Like a slow clock hand, little by little I raised Eurval to aim it at the massive eye of the Keeper.
No arrows!? But I still have mana.
The spell I could cast almost instantly, the spell I had created and used so many times with ease wouldn’t evoke!
“What a fucking joke.”
I tried again but this time with the intention of diagnosing what was wrong.
The mana in the air felt fine, but the moment I would send out my spell out into the world I could feel the bloody eye’s shaking gaze land on it causing my spell to fizzle out.
Damn it, I don’t think I’ll be able to move enough to actually take any steps.
I looked past the Keeper at the many tunnels that lead into this cavern hoping that someone else would come and help.
A moment passed, only the air moved in the foreground.
Not a single sign of someone coming to save us.
[The cowards won’t come Lucid.]
I nodded, well, I tried to nod my head. We’ll be long dead and the keeper long recovered before one of them even has the guts to come and see the results.
Judging by how the dust in the air moved so oddly anything out of the cursed eye’s line of sight was free to move, and since it couldn’t move while channeling anyone was free to kill it from behind with ease. But they won’t come.
Like their decisions at the start, they would rather die slowly than risk living.
I understood their view. They’re not confident in their abilities or made any type of plan so their chance of dying is real. At least I could separate my anger and give the legendaries a little respect.
[This is my speculation, but maybe its only magic phenomena being cast outside the body is affected, Lucid.]
Eurval once again tried something on its own.
Might as well give it a go, not much use is my mana right now anyway.
I took a breath and cast Rainer’s movement spell.
With the added assistance the wet sand turned into honey allowing me to press forward.
Each step used an astounding amount of mana as I continued to recharge the spell.
The Keeper looked shocked seeing me yell out as I closed distance towards it.
In response, its hand tensed. Each finger arced back as far as they could causing the eye to stretch open. The bloody eye bulged ready to pop out of its socket.
Another wave whatever soul based body controlling magic crashed into me, stronger this time.
My legs froze in place at this new wave causing me to press even more mana into the movement spell.
So it ended up being a battle of attrition in the end…
If the keeper stopped channeling this trump card to deal with me directly the rest would all be freed to swiftly kill it.
It went all-in on killing us this way.
But it never should’ve gotten to this point!
My blood seethed once more.
My steel greaves sunk into the searing lava moving me another step closer. I no longer had the option to choose where I stepped. The shortest path was the only path or I feared running out of mana.
I yelled out, unfortunately, regaining control over my skin’s sense of heat as it permeated through the little isolation it had. Maybe the pain direct stimulation helped as the control over my body increased even further.
The Keeper seemed frighted, trembling once again causing blood to squirt from the corners of the red-eye as more blood vessels popped. It sent an even more powerful wave of its soul-based magic.
“NO USE!” I yelled in rage as my steps followed after each other faster and faster.
This stronger wave of soul magic deflected off me. I was beating it! Maybe it was a spark of hope inside of me or the adrenaline now hitting me but I had a vague sense that my soul was winning!
“It’s, It’s releasing its focus off of us to focus on Lucid. I can sense it’s power over me lowering.” Eugene sent a mental message his voice clear.
Even with that none could move still.
“You all owe a massive favor…” I sent out mentally.
“Did you hear me!”
Can’t even finish a reply through a mental message…
I was still a tiny bit angry at Mei and Abigail. Although, they ditched me and made it harder than it needed to be they at least made up for it.
Runter, however, every time my eyes laid upon his body frozen the urge to kill him rose within me. His emerald sword lay on the ground and the porcelain one still in his hands. He was stuck at the end of the swing that ruined everything.
“Pathetic Runter, you caused this fucking mess and can’t even fix it! You damn bastard retard. Fix your stupid complex.”
I knew his family was powerful and offending him was a bad idea, but if I stopped the words from coming out I risked choking on my tongue.
“Agree to my oath, agree to it or I will let you die here.” A cold voice left me.
[Will you really let them die Lucid?]
Obviously not…maybe only Runter right now.
At my words, Eurval quickly drew up a contract. A simple one just asking them to fulfill one request, just one, for me in the future.
[Simple you say… The connotations with such an open contract are quite complicated Lucid.]
A grin covered my face.
I turned Eurval into its glaive form, digging one of the bladed ends into the soft hot rock to keep my balance as I continued to stride forward under the increasing pressure from the Keeper. Even with my control, just like the floor with the undead, my body was wasting.
But I was confident!
My natural strength and vitality is miles what it was back then.
“I-I’m a p-princesssss… I can’t just agree to s-something this v-vague! I d-demand b-better terms!” Abigail was the first to reply.
Her voice straining and trailing off like Eugene’s had as she fought for consciousness.
Fuck if I care right now.
“Shut the hell up! You’re 30 something in line fuck off with that, your princess status means jack shit. Do you want to live or not!”
“Y-youu…okay…” I was sure she wanted to argue but the situation was dire and I’m sure she didn’t intend to play chicken with her life.
“The strongest dictates, it is fine with me.” To my surprise, Mei answered and agreed quickly.
I thought she would have been the most stubborn.
“I…I a-apologize… I will agree.”
I was stunned by his admittance of fault.
I had so much to say…
I continued to near the Keeper each quickening stride causing the Keeper to quake. I zoomed by my Runter and then Alra picking up more and more speed.
The droning sound became louder and quicker! As even more energy was focused on me.
“DIE!” With two large lunges, I hefted the glaive high in the air with the burst of speed from the movement spell.
Like cutting open a thick rubbery water balloon the sharp edge slashed vertically cutting the shaking eye. A clear yellow liquid and a stream of blood splattered on me. The blade stopped at the thick skin of the lower eyelid on the palm.
The droning sound disappeared.
The control was gone too!
Freed, I instantly jumped back turning Eurval back into a bow while flying through the air and shooting a fat arrow of fire.
The hit landed squarely as the hand was staggered from the pain of having its eye slashed.
The arm dropped to the group twitched then stopped.
I shot another two fire arrows packed with mana. Runter and Alra had already stepped back the moment they regained control so I wasn’t worried about hurting them.
[I think its dead Lucid.]
“I just want to be sure…”
“Lucid… defeated the Tole Forest Dungeon’s Keeper…”
The ground shook as five bright white lights appeared in the air. Bright enough to light all the passageways allowing me to catch a glimpse of the group that ran away far far away.
They really were never going to come…
The five shining slowly dimmed as the five lights descended one light to each person here.
The largest shard of light that floated at the center stopped before me.
“What is this?”
“This is an ether shard. A pearl of mana that brought this entire dungeon into existence and grew alongside it.” Abigail replied in a low awed filled voice as she stared lovingly at the piece of white sun.
“But I’ve never seen a lesser ether shard be this large…” Mei responded to her voice much the same.
“This size… its bigger than major shards I’ve seen in books. I think we’re going to become the first set of peerless among our generation. And it is all thanks to Lucid.” Runter spoke.
“Lucid, thank you.”
“Thank you Lucid.”
“Lucid… thank you.”
Where was this attitude when I pleaded to you all to help me? Or when you left me to die?
Obviously, they weren’t the ones who said it, but they sure as heck didn’t say anything against it.
Only now when I helped them obtain something of this value that they show any sign of kindness. Disgusting.
I turned to the three.
“I just hope we can get along better when we go return to the academy. This truly marks the beginning of our new friendship.”
I held the light shard in my hand, its light illuminating my face from below as I sent them a beaming smile.
[They all agreed to the oath Lucid, that could be another reason as to why their friendliness towards you increased.]
That’s true too. Even if their gratefulness is genuine there was no way I could tell right now.
“What do I do with it?”
I held onto my shard. It was hard and cool to the touch like a piece of glass left in the cold. Its size was a little larger than my head but weighed absolutely nothing.
“During the final piety, this is used. With something like this on the first… I don’t think you understand how great a gift you’ve given us Lucid. I… I can’t tell you how much this means.” Eugene replied through mental communication.
Hearing Eugene’s words a bashfulness hit me.
Unlike the thanks from the three, Eugene’s made me feel a real warmness. I haven’t forgotten about his mother’s apparent harem of husbands and the power struggle with it. I really had nothing other than my body to help him, I hope with this I raised his standing or at least secured it.
I was starting to understand why Abigail and the rest were so enamored by this thing.
But Eugene was wrong about one thing.
“No, without you I wouldn’t have gained the strength I have now to have survived this far. We both did this together.”
We really did.
The lustrating materials he gave me allowed me to have the mana pool I needed, the babysitting allowed me to gain fighting experience and most of the essence for Alra, and his decision to stick with me at the end gave me the confidence to fight this last battle.
“D-did you beat it?” Voices broke out coming from the cave tunnel I had seen the rest of the adventurers when the light first appeared.
“Yes, we did.” I cut off Runter.
“W-what!” The look of shock and elation covered the dirtied faces of the adventurers that began to trickle into the cavern.
“Who? How?” They all looked for answers at the surprise.
“We all did. Us five.”
“I’m not asking you, I’m asking them.” It was the girl in the green robe.
I was surprised she lived she didn’t seem particularly strong.
“What’s wrong with him? Did Last lose it? No way he fought.” Alan and Chibin finally arrived.
The ground under us began to slowly dissipate. Unlike when a dungeon floor reforms it was now completely disappearing. We would end up standing somewhere near the entrance of the dungeon.
“Oh, crap.” I let out and walked towards the Keeper.
I searched the ground for a storage treasure there where tons scattered that survived thrown towards the edges of the cavern.
This one should be good. I bound it and felt it had roughly 30 or so cubic meters of free space.
It barely fit. Luckily most of the space was empty and the Keeper had lost a lot of its mass during the battle.
It was a shame I wouldn’t have time to loot them, I had felt it was a bad idea to do so wasting time and energy in the midst of figuring out how to live. Now, there was just no time.
“Hey what are you doing with that!” Chibin tried to grab me by the shoulder but I quickly moved out of the way.
Still slow due to his injury.
“I defeated this damn Keeper I have every right to it.”
“Haaa? You?” Alan stared at me.
“Stop Alan, it’s true.” Abigail let out in a cold tone.
Alan looked at me in disbelief but said nothing more.
I nodded my head at Abigail in thanks, but I scoffed inside. Where was that after hunting the magma sacs?
“That guy defeated it? He should have said something if he was that strong I would have helped fight…” Whispers spread out hearing Abigail’s claim.
As the dungeon continued to disappear somewhere actually grateful and offered each of us five thanks. Some even broke down in tears realizing it was all over.
I understood that. This whole experience was more than stressful.
“I wonder how the world outside has been fairing.” I was curious as the cavern faded out replaced with the shadow of trees.
“Let’s meet at the academy Lucid we should discuss what we will and won’t submit as contribution to the adventurer guild.”
I nodded my head as I looked at Eugene. I wanted to hug it out with someone with hard pats on the back to signify our ‘win’ but his lips curving a millimeter up for a smile was enough.
“Alra come!” Under the even more surprised eyes of the adventurers that came Alra disappeared once I touched it.
Soon after the entire cavern disappeared too.
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