In a radius of more than twenty meters the land had turned into a putrid swamp of death. Corrosive purple acid burned through the trees and wild life in the surroundings to an unfamiliar place.
Only a few moments ago Aldrich was still in a forest-like area where dense trees and wild grass grew everywhere. But in a matter of a few minutes the world seemed to have been turned upside down.
He could see the carcasses of some monsters that were taken out in the blast, he couldn't recognize any of them for only piles of mangled bones and distorted flesh was all that remained.
Even the Catoblepas was now surly dead as the majority of it's body had completely disintegrated.
The acidic swamp was releasing purplish fumes that rose to the sky and partially blocking out the rays of the sun.
The Crestmasters party had made it out of the blast range safely, except the woman in armor. She was the one who didn't contribute to the battle at all but she looked even more exhausted and worn out than all of them.
The others party members were checking on her but the cleric just kept shaking her head. Then the Glaive wielder pulled her up.
"She's hopeless, we need to check on Loyd. He might be in critical condition. How's your Ether?"
"I'm fine, I can still use Heal twice. Lets go."
They ran quickly not bothered by the remains of the acid beneath them. The Pyromancer was right behind the two of them.
They made their way to the center of the chaos, a crater. In that crater they saw the Knight penetrating the giant Hawk's head with his bone lance. The Hawk was flipped over and the lance went right through it and even stabbed into the ground under it.
The closer they got the better they could see the Knight's back.
"Loyd! Come down here, let me heal you quickly. You might have some problems later if we delay."
Called the cleric from behind, urging the Knight to come down.
The Knight reacted to the call, "oh, you guys sure took your sweet time coming here huh." He said half laughing.
"Healing? Well I wasn't hurt all that much but just to be perfectly sure."
However when the Knight turned to look at the rest of the party their feet froze in place and their faces paled in fright.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Asked the confused knight, "you look like you've seen a ghost!"
But even as the knight tried to lighten the atmosphere, the rest of the party looked at him with wide open eyes and fear along with shock lined their faces.
The knight didn't know what's going on anymore. Come to think of it, he was a little lightheaded since a while ago, and this blurriness on his left eye made it hard to see clearly.
"Loyd… you, don't you feel anything? Look, look at yourself!" Stammered the pyromancer in the back as she pointed at the knight.
"Look at…myself?" Muttered the knight, uncomprehending. Then he lowered his field of vision and took a look at himself.
He saw that the right side of his torso was missing from back to front and everything in between. Not even his bones remained, he only had one hand now.
His armor was mostly melted by the acid and it fused with his flesh giving him a horrifying look to behold.
The knight flopped downwards where he was quickly surrounded by the rest of the party and the cleric didn't waste anytime, quickly rays of pure white light covered the knight.
But unlike the last time, the healing powers seemed to not have any effects on the knight.
"Do it again! Heal me!"
Demanded the knight, he somehow had still retained his consciousness and could even talk.
Sobbed the cleric, and once again pure white light engulfed the knight. But alas, it was to no avail. The cleric's face was deathly pale as she but her lips.
"I'm out of Ether, I'm sorry!"
"What's going on?! I told you to heal me! Do it now!"
The knight yelled but as he talked more his voice got softer and softer. He tried to move but his hand had grown heavy at some point and he could only let out his last breath.
"No, no! This can't be true, I-I can't die here like this… that makes no sense."
The knight murmured something before his bronze colored crest shined on his forehead and a breaking noise echoed in the area.
Aldrich heard it clearly, it was like throwing a stone at glass window.
"Shit!" Gazeff cursed when he heard that noise and then he yelled at the top of his voice, "kill him now! Don't allow him to turn!"𝒊𝒏𝒏𝙧𝗲𝓪𝙙. c𝒐𝙢
The party of three were taken aback by the sudden turn of events! A moment later the glaive wielding man summoned his glaive and a blue light shined at the tip.
"Get away from him!"
He yelled at the cleric that blocked his way when he was about to decapitate the fallen knight.
"No! Leave him alone! Loyd is special he can control it!"
"Get out of my way! Have you lost your mind?!"
The woman payed the words no heed and instead charged at the knight and hugged him covering his body with hers.
The glaive that was about to split the knight in half stopped and wavered. That hesitation was enough as the previously hollowed insides of the knight began to recover with unbelievable speed.
But the flesh that grew was blue and gooey, where his right hand used to be, a blued slimy tentacle grew and flailed in the air.
The cleric witnessed these changes up close and she backed off.
"Loyd, are you fine now? You remember me right? Right—"
Before she could say any more the flailing tentacle flapped in the air and skewered her in one single motion.
Suspended in the air she looked at Loyd's face that had slackened into an expressionless look, and where his left eye used to be two completely blue horizontal eyes stared at her.
These eyes were devoid of any feeling but primal hunger and blood thirst alone.
The glaive that had hesitated before now struck with righteous wrath, but it was blocked by the dark blue tentacle.
An onlooker might have thought that the glaive would have torn the tentacle apart easily but it was not so. The knight or perhaps what was once a knight stepped back from the impact but that was all.
The monster and the weaponsmaster engaged in battle exchanging multiple attacks, but as time went on the monster was becoming stronger and it brushed off most injuries.
It looked like the end of the battle was already determined when suddenly the monster was struck by huge impact in the back of the head and another one almost in the exact same moment sending it face first into the acidic mud.
The monster's skull was half destroyed any grade one creature would have died but it was stubbornly trying yo get up.
"Let's go! This is our chance!" Gazeff shook Aldrich with his hand.
Aldrich wanted to watch the rest of the battle, this was the climax but he swallowed down his curiosity and joined Gazeff in running.
A minute later two metallic balls the size of a fist returned to Gazeff's hand. Aldrich was extremely envious. It was Gazeff who ambushed the monster in the last minute with these two balls.
And they even returned on their own to Gazeff. If this was not awesome then he didn't know what was.
"Are these….?" Aldrich left the question hanging.
Grade two wondrous item! No wonder. The pair was back in town and Aldrich was checking on his body carefully. Although he seemed fine his heart was still beating in a mixture of emotions: excitement, fear and longing.
This was the first time he had witnessed Crestmasters going at it. Finally he could put something real as a goal when he thought about his crest.
"So, you didn't tell me, are you in for the five week course or what?" Asked Gazeff.
"Yeah, yeah." Aldrich answered sheepishly. Are you kidding me? Gazeff was clearly a veteran, seasoned and tested through real battle he knew what he was doing.
Suddenly Aldrich spied a man and a woman in haggard states dragging themselves through the gate into the town and the woman noticed them.
"You! It's you two rats! You were the ones hiding there!"
She pointed at them and screeched loudly, the man besides her was startled and looked them. He was obviously the glaive wielding Crestmaster, and she was the pyromancer.
The only two surviving members of a party of five Crestmasters, now that he thought about it that was an extremely terrifying encounter.
On the other hand he felt that there was something wrong with the performance of the Crestmasters. Not that he didn't acknowledge their power but they seemed off somehow.
"You had the gall to hide and run while we were dying out there!" The woman marched over to them. This created a commotion that drew many peoples eyes.
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