Chapter 16:



Around 30 minutes later, as Leo and his party walks down the road, Claudius suddenly really needs to take a crap. He ran off into the forest to find a place to take a dump. They all agreed to meet at the road marker as the other 4 waited for him.

“ALEXANDRIA”- The sign said, pointing to the left.

“Looks like the capital is in that direction, I reckon we should be able to get there in a few days.”- Sophia said.

As they were standing there waiting, another party can be seen further down the road walking the opposite way towards them. Leo's group just stood there and waited as they walked by, with no issues as Amber was still in her “disguise”. They just quickly exchanged some greetings and went on their ways.

“Are you Amber Zauberei?”- One of the members asked, stopping everyone in their tracks.

Amber freezes momentarily, only to give a response after that:

“No, I’m sure you got the wrong person. I get that a lot from…”- She said before she was interrupted.

“Name’s Doppel, leader of the Alias United. Would you mind removing your cloak’s hood for a moment please? I just want to get a closer look. That should be no problem right?”- The man said, looking right at Amber.

Tension rises as the two groups are at a stand still, looking at Doppel and Amber.

“She has a very bad complexion about her hair. I’m sure you’re enough of a gentleman to not demand the lady like that.”- Natalie said, breaking the silence.

“Absolutely! Since I’m a gentleman I respect every lady out there regardless of how she looks. You know the saying ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ I’m sure this nice lady here has beautiful hair, it would be a shame if it’s hidden under an ugly hood. Would you mind letting my eyes feast on such a wonderful endeavor?”- Doppel asks.

“I would love to, but our group is in a hurry here. We would like to make it to the capital as soon as possible.”- Amber said, turning her back away from Doppel and walking towards her group.

“I know that.”- Doppel states in a sinister tone.

Leo braces himself, looking directly at Amber’s face. She had a very concerned look on her face, signaling trouble to come.

“You think you can trick me with such childish deception, Amber Zauberei?!”- Doppel asks.

“Um… yes.”- Amber replies unexpectedly, leaving everyone dumbfounded.

Taking a deep breath, Amber prepares herself.

“RUN!”- She shouts.

Seconds right after she said that, Doppel disappeared. Leo couldn’t believe his eyes as he looked around checking for Doppel. He jumps directly behind Amber, kicking her back and pinning her on the ground. Amber’s hood fell to the side, revealing the bright red hair that she tied up in a bun.

“Shit.”- Leo whispers as he charges at Doppel.

Right as Leo gets closer to Doppel, one of the males from Doppel’s party runs at Leo. He pulls out his sword, keeping it sheathed, and strikes Leo right on his left shoulder.

“You idiot.”- Natalie said as she cast Fireball.

The flaming ball flies towards the man that struck Leo, only to be stopped by an opposing fireball. It was casted by Doppel’s Mage, the girl standing some small distance behind him. The guy then immediately pulls Amber up, holding her in one of his arms. As Amber struggles to break free, Doppel once again blinks from his location, appearing right in front of Natalie.

“Not on my watch!”- Sophia said as she cast Rock Throw.

Sounds of stone clanging can be heard as a big rock forms, shooting at Doppel. To their surprise, Doppel immediately backflips from his location, dodging the attack.

“Grant me your blessing, goddess Sylvia. Gentle Wind!”- Natalie wastes no time at all, casting the spell.

A gust of wind forms from her staff, pushing Doppel some distance away from her. As Leo begins to get up from being struck, he immediately casts Fireball, trying to take advantage of the fact that Doppel is still in the air.

“BARRIER!”- A female voice can be heard next to the mage.

A light barrier materializes in the air behind Doppel, blocking Leo’s attack. The man holding Amber took no time and cast Warrior’s Slam. Arching his back forward, the man’s muscles tense up and he charges at Leo. With his shoulder, he slams right into Leo, sending him flying off the road and into the forest.

“We don’t want to make this difficult and painful for you guys. I suggest you all stop resisting.”- Doppel said in a confident tone.

The situation is quite dire, it’s clear to both sides that Doppel’s party has way more combat experience and a real working plan. Leo’s party, on the other hand, is missing a member and is very uncoordinated due to the lack of a plan. Even worse, they are all mages so their attacks are very telegraphed. Amber is still struggling to break free from the hold, but she doesn't have enough strength to do so.

“Would you still be willing to let Amber go if we ask nicely?”- Natalie jokes.

“If you guys can provide an amount of money that is the same as her bounty, then I’m willing to reconsider.”- Doppel cheekily replies.

“Ah, that’s a shame since we are all broke adventurers. It was worth a try… GENTLE RAIN!”- Natalie interrupts by casting her spell.

The light rain drizzles down onto the road, confusing Doppel and his party.

“What kind of party trick is this?”- Doppel inquires.

“HAIL STORM.”- Leo shouts, running back out into the open from the forest.

The light rain instantly freezes, forming into hundreds of icicles that rain down onto the opposing force. The two girls in the back quickly casted Barrier to protect themselves, with the man jumping back inside the barrier. Doppel, in a display of skill casts Shadow Steps, swiftly hopping around and quickly dodging all of the hail. An injured Leo can be seen running up onto the road next to Natalie and Sophia, regrouping with them. Sophia casts Minor Heal in order to reduce his pain.

“Oww oww oww.”- Leo grunts.

“The timing is terrible, most of us haven’t recovered from the fight in the cave yesterday night. We only have enough mana left for a few spells.”- Sophia said.

“What’s the plan?”- Natalie asks.

Leo is at a loss for words as he doesn't have a solution for the predicament they are in right now. They are clearly outclassed by their enemy, not even landing a single hit on Doppel yet. As he looks directly at Doppel, creepily smiling, Leo stands up and prepares himself to charge in again like an idiot.. Taking a deep breath, he sprints at them, but stops within 3 steps because of an unexpected sound.

“MAN, that was quite a heavy crap. I really outdid myself over there, sorry for taking so long guys.”- Claudius said, walking out from the forest on the other side of the road.

Everyone stood silently in surprise, looking at the unknown void creature standing right in between the two parties.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING?!?!?”- The mage girl screams in terror.

Sophia wastes no time at all and casts Guiding Light, the magic she used back in the cave to form a light source. But this time, it’s different as she poured all of her mana in it, creating a bright light that’s almost blinding. This would only be a bad move if everyone was facing the light, but only Doppel’s party were the ones that faced in her direction. With his back already turned against Sophia, Leo sprints right past Doppel and grabs Amber’s staff on the ground. Claudius casts Abyssal Blast, landing a direct hit on the blinded Doppel. With his last bit of mana, Leo casts Ionus, sending a small stone wall up from the ground, hitting the man right on the chest. Amber fell out to the side, breaking free from his grip but is also still blinded by the bright light. Leo rushes to Amber, grabbing her and returning the staff to its original owner. As the blinding effect slowly wears off, Doppel stands back up, looking extremely angry.

“NOW YOU’VE DONE IT!”- He shouts.

“This is our chance!”- Natalie said as she cast Gentle Wind.

The gust of wind heads towards Doppel’s location, attempting to push him back to allow Leo to run by him.

“You think I’ll fall for the same trick twice?!?”- Doppel said.

He tries to jump to the side to dodge the gust of wind, but to his surprise he is weighted down by the effects of Abyssal magic. With that, the gust of wind sends him flying towards his party, only to be stopped when the warrior catches him. Leo took the opportunity to run back to Natalie and Sophia after a successful rescue mission, joined by Claudius.

“That void creature wasn’t in the party’s description. If I remember correctly, there was supposed to be another male that accompanied them. It would be safe to assume that the void creature has a connection with him somehow.”- Doppel thought to himself.

“Well done holding on for this long, you all have impressed me. However, I will no longer be nice so I suggest you all surrender quickly.”- Doppel said in a serious tone.

“Um, I don’t know what’s going on here so can someone catch me up?”- Claudius asks.

“I’ll explain later. You think we can win?”- Amber asks, looking at Leo.

“OF COURSE! WE’LL USE OUR TRUMP CARD RIGHT NOW.”- Leo confidently shouts.

Doppel was taken back by that comment, so he and his party prepared themselves for the attack.

“RUN”- Leo said.

“WHAT?”- Amber shouts.

“Huh?”- A surprised Claudius said.

“WHAT?”- Doppel and the cleric girl in his party also said.

Everyone in Leo’s party turns around and makes a beeline down the path. Within moments, Doppel’s party started chasing after them. The element of surprise gave Leo a good head start, as his whole party is very much used to running. Doppel himself is usually very fast, but he is unable to catch up due to the slowing effect of the Abyssal Blast. The group quickly made a sharp left turn into the forest, followed closely by Doppel’s party. But as more time passes, Leo’s plan seems to work as the girls from Doppel’s party can no longer run. There are only 2 enemies left behind them.

“WHAT KIND OF MAGES ARE THEY?!?! HOW CAN THEY RUN FOR SO LONG?!?”- The man frustratingly asks.

“That doesn’t matter. Once this stupid effect wears off, catching them won’t be a problem for me. They’re all clearly out of mana, they won’t be able to fight.”- Doppel calmly states.

As they all get closer to the edge of the forest, Doppel is the only one remaining on the chase. At last, the slow effect finally wore off, Doppel immediately blinked closer and closer. The distance is starting to shrink rapidly, the group is now in trouble once more.

“I need to shake him off, Claudius.”- Amber said as she prepared to attack.

“Gotcha.”- Claudius answers.

Extending two of his six arms, Claudius grabs onto Amber, lifting her off the ground Lion King style. Closing her eyes and concentrating, Amber chants:

“O great holy mother, please grant me your blessing of fire. COME, FIREBALL!”

Heat emits from her staff, as the flames form into a large fireball, stronger than an average one. Amber launches the spell at Doppel’s location.

“Her accuracy is terrible, she will miss it, I'm sure of it. I don’t need to dodge the attack.”-Doppel affirms himself.

Just as he predicted, Amber’s attack swerved to the side, going off course. Doppel smirks, jumps off the side of a tree towards Amber. Suddenly, the fireball hits a tree close to him, breaking its base. The tree collapses right on top of Doppel, causing him to backflip off the air to prevent it from hitting him.

“You moron! I don’t have to always hit my targets to achieve my goal!”- Amber laughs.

“Hey guys, is it just me or the area in front of us kinda bright?”- Claudius asks.

Leo was somewhat confused about what Claudius meant until he squinted his eyes, seeing that there was really bright light.

“OH SHIT!”- Leo panics, stopping and pulling Sophia, along with Natalie back.

A shriek of light from the sky beams down in an area, glowing and eventually blasting a giant whole in front of them. It was the spell Holy Light, casted by Doppel’s party Cleric. It was a super close call as it would have ended the chase instantly, leaving them all injured. The shockwave from the spell sends them falling to the side. They rolled down the hill, exiting the forest. Laying on a path, the five grunt in pain as they try to regain balance.

“Ughhh, no time to waste. He’ll catch up soon.”- Leo said, struggling to stand up.

“Well, well. What do we have here? I told you that taking a detour isn’t a bad idea.”- A mysterious woman said.

“Stand back my lady. Who are you people? State your business.”- Another woman's voice asks.

The five look up in confusion, they see a tall and beautiful blond woman accompanied by a female dwarf who is just as tall. It was Vera and Garnet, coincidentally stumbling upon them. Before they got a chance to say anything, Doppel caught up, leaping out of the forest at them. His attack was swiftly stopped by Saura, who leaped from the ground, breaking her invisibility. As they both jump back down to the ground, Doppel looks up and realizes his situation.

“Oh ho ho. Doppel is chasing someone with red hair. I see what’s going on now. Didn’t expect you to actually take the deal by Lorcan.”- Vera said.

“Stay out of my business, this is my prey. You Sanc Gladius people should have no problem about this.”- Doppel said in anger.

“Did he just say Sanc Gladius? THE SANC GLADIUS?!?”-Leo shouts internally.

“Well, actually now that everyone is here. I’m kind of interested now.”- Vera said.

She steps forward closer to Amber.

“Amber Zauberei?”- Vera asks.

“Sigh, yes I’m Amber.”- she answers in a defeated tone, not even attempting to lie.

Vera looks up with a smile, looking at Doppel.

“You don’t want to do this.”- Doppel states.

“Actually, I do.”- Vera said.

“Then this means war. I’ll give you time to rethink your decision. I’m assuming you’ll be in the capital, so you better have your answer in 3 days. A word of advice for you, don’t mess with us.”- Doppel said.

“Can’t wait to see your beautiful face again.”- Vera waves at him.

With an angry look at Leo’s party, Doppel turns around and disappears. The group can now breathe a sigh of relief, they have managed to escape their pursuers.

“Thanks for telling him off.”- Natalie says.

“No problem. He won’t be able to lay a finger on you guys as long as you are still under Sanc Gladius’s protection.”- Vera confidently states.

“Come on, we can’t really talk out here. Let’s head to the capital, where the Garden is.”- Vera adds.

“That’s great. We were also on our way there too!”- Claudius said.

Leo’s party has now gained an unexpected protection, a strong one at that. Still with plenty of decisions to be made, they head to the capital together.