The gash on Ardivan's arm was very deep. It seemed to have cut a vessel, and not a minor one at that. Blood gushed out of it and the muscles in his arm spasmed, unable to hold onto any strength it still had.
Facing three Dark Elf Assassins from The Death Hand was a difficult task for him even at his best, let alone without the use of an arm.
Ardivan had already made up his mind to fight to the death when the three of them came at him.
"I've already killed one. I've covered my losses. Anymore are bonuses!"
He went all out, attacking viciously without caring for his wounds.
The Dark Elf Assassins, frightened by his savage way of fighting, exchanged just a few blows before one of them managed to make a cut across Ardivan's waist. But the Dark Elf Assassin didn't get away unscathed. Ardivan's dagger sliced deep into his arm. The dagger had teeth. When Ardivan pulled it back, the Dark Elf's arm was a bloody mess.
"Retreat! Let him bleed out!"
The three Dark Elf Assassins sprang back, leaving Ardivan gasping and heaving against the wall. Fighting on his own against three opponents, he had already done better than he had expected. At the same time, however, he had also used up a lot of his strength. The blood from his arm flowed more freely, and the cut on his waist also bled, soaking his underclothes in a warm red.
It hurt. Very much. He could feel his resolve trickling away with each drop he lost, but with his three opponents still keeping a close eye on him, he had no time to bandage his wounds.
Ardivan laughed wryly to himself. "I wonder how the Commander and the rest of them are now?"
Even before the Dark Elves had ambushed Gladstone City, the MI3 and the Death Hand had been covertly warring under their peaceful facade, more so than ever before. The situation had been intense.
The Death Hand had suddenly dispatched more operatives, leaving the MI3 outpost at Gladstone short-handed. In a moment of negligence, their scouts outside the city had been rooted out, sealing off all their communications with the outside world.
The MI3 and the city guards' homing pigeon lofts had been closed off or destroyed by the Dark Elves, leaving them useless. Only the secret pigeon loft in the marketplace held a possibility of being unharmed.
Under the cover of their Commander, the Assassins most skilled in the art of stealth broke past the Dark Elves. Ardivan was one of them. He had done his best to get to the market, had found the homing pigeons and had sent out news of what happened in Gladstone City.
The homing pigeons had all been sprayed with a special scent. They wouldn't get attacked by the Blood-eyed Owls. As long as nothing unfortunate happened, the news would reach the Black Iron Garrison in the South within an hour.
The Black Iron Garrison was the Norton Kingdom's first major stronghold to the north of Gladstone. The Kingdom's Iron Crusade Corps were stationed there. As long as the news reached them safely, the Army Marshal, Master Swordsman Allonse, would dispatch his troops to aid them immediately, ultimately saving Gladstone from ruin.
All that Gladstone City needed now was time.
I wonder who destroyed the academy's Portal Tower. It really was a blessing from God, Ardivan thought. He rejoiced.
Without receiving a detailed report from the Portal Tower, the Dark Elf Army in the North wouldn't dare to act rashly. To ensure that it arrived safely, the Dark Elf Assassins would have to send the report on foot. That would buy the troops from the Black Iron Garrison more time.
Too bad I won't live to see it. Ardivan sighed regretfully. He understood his opponents' plan; they wanted him to bleed out.
But he wouldn't just wait for death. Clenching his teeth, he roused himself and charged at his opponents, swinging his dagger.
So long as he still had the strength, he would fight back with everything he had!
Naturally, the Dark Elf Assassins didn't back down at the challenge either. They too rushed back out towards Ardivan.
Right now, the Dark Elves and Ardivan only had each other in their sights. No one noticed what was going on behind them.
At a spot less than 100 feet away, a dark, hazy patch of shadow inched closer to the fight. It hid behind a pile of cartons.
100 feet. That was the furthest Link's Fireball could reach.
As Ardivan and the Assassins clashed once more, a dark figure darted out from the shadows, bearing flickers of magic.
As the shadowy figure revealed itself, so did three scorching fireballs. They shot out towards the Assassins' ears, traveling in a straight path, spitting and hissing as they flew.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Three explosions rang out through the air. All three of the Assassins were hit; they were completely caught off guard.
Although the fireballs weren't powerful, the explosions next to the elves' heads sent smoking air currents and flames into their ears, destroying important internal structures.
The Dark Elves felt sharp stabbing pain within their eardrums and their heads began to ring, leaving their senses muddled.
The inner ear was an organ that helped to maintain the body's equilibrium and stability. Whenever the ear is affected, humans too would become unstable. The anatomy and physiology of Dark Elves' ears were similar to that of humans', and so the elves were affected as well.
The Assassins' movements changed drastically. They stumbled around, unable to maintain their balance.
Ardivan felt his spirits lift. Taking advantage of the situation, he slashed the throats of one of the Dark Elf Assassins. In a flash, he buried his dagger into the chest of the second. Finally, crouching down to duck from the useless attack of the last remaining Assassin, Ardivan leapt back up to thrust his dagger from below into the Assassin's left side.
Ardivan moved so quickly; this all happened in an instant. The three Dark Elf Assassins lay on the ground and only Ardivan alone was left standing, the final victor.
He pulled out his first-aid kit immediately. Taking a bandage from it, he wrapped his wounds, but he did not forget the Magician who had helped him.
He looked up towards the mouth of the alley. A young man in normal, gray robes walked towards him. There was nothing remarkable about his features. He held a magic wand in his hand and a magic bangle glistened on his wrist.
By the God of Light! It's my own kind, and a Magician at that! It couldn't get any better. Ardivan rejoiced within himself.
Magicians weren't particularly good at combat, but that wasn't their strong point! They excelled due to their wisdom and the various spells with myriads of uses that they had control over!
There were a lot of things that neither Assassins nor Warriors could do but that Magicians could achieve easily. Take flying for example. Any Level-3 Magician could fly. That alone was enough for them to leave the other classes in the dust, figuratively or not.
Now, Gladstone City was in extreme danger. If Ardivan had the help of a Magician, he would have a higher chance of delaying the Dark Elf Army's arrival.
The MI3 had originally thought of seeking aid from the Magic Academy, but by the time he had broken out of the throngs of Dark Elf Assassins, the entire academy had been wiped out.
Yet, he had managed to find a Magician in the marketplace. And from the Magician's spellcasting speed and his intuition in battle, he was obviously a Battle Mage.
There could be nothing better.
Quickly bandaging his wounds, Ardivan pulled out a Quick Healing Potion and chugged it down. Then he stood up and went over to the Magician. "Your honor, Sir Magician, my thanks for saving me. I am Ardivan, of the Military Intelligence, Section 3."
Afraid that the Magician wouldn't believe him, Ardivan pulled out a ring as proof. There were runes embedded all over the band, a lion embossing the signet. Behind the lion, a blade stretched out into a circle, forming the background. The lion represented the Norton Kingdom and the blade represented the MI3.
Link looked at the ring in Ardivan's hand. The magic flowing within the runes told him that it was probably a Level-1 Magic Ring. It was enchanted with the Level-1 Spell, Concealment.
Being the owner of such an enchanted ring meant that Ardivan was of considerable rank within the MI3.
At this point, Link had already completed his mission to save the human Assassin. As a result, he had received 10 Omni Points. In addition to that, he already had 20 Omni Points from the survival mission and an added 10 Points from his mission to destroy the Portal Tower. He now had at his disposal a total of 40 Omni Points, 26 Mana Points, seven Level-0 Spells and two Level-1 Spells.
Link's confidence grew with the resources he held.
Perhaps I really can change history and save Gladstone. The thought flickered through his mind but was struck down right away. I'll just take one step at a time. I'm facing the Dark Elf Army. I'll die a tragic death if I try to take on more than I can.
He was anxious to find out more about the situation in Gladstone. What he had to do now though, was to build some rapport and trust with the Assassin called Ardivan.
He saluted Ardivan with a Mage's salute and introduced himself. "I am Link Morani, third son of Viscount Hamilton Morani. I am also a Magician from The Lower Magic Academy of Flemmings. I just narrowly escaped from the academy."
"I destroyed the academy's Portal Tower before escaping." He threw that in as a bargaining chip.
At this, Ardivan's eyes lit up. He thanked Link from the bottom of his heart.
"Your Honor, Mr. Link, you have truly done us a great favor. But Gladstone City is still in danger. I beg you-"
Before he even finished, Link waved a hand in dismissal. "Time is of the essence. I know that the Dark Elf Army has troops waiting outside the city. No need for the formalities. Just say it, Assassin. What can I do for you?"
The destruction of the Portal Tower would definitely delay the arrival of the Dark Elf Army. In his last life, they had attacked the city at 1:30 pm. This time, they would be delayed by at least an hour. It was now 11:55 pm. He had a two-hour window of safety.
Within this time, earning some Omni Points by giving the MI3 a helping hand seemed like a good idea.
Not expecting Link to agree to his pleas so quickly, Ardivan paused. He was overjoyed. At such a perilous time, Link was exactly what they needed-decisive and brave in the face of danger.
His praise for Link was sincere and he meant it from the bottom of his heart. "Your honor, you truly are an upstanding Magician!"
Link was embarrassed. He waved a hand. "Stop all this nonsense."
Ardivan got down to business. "The outpost Commander distracted most of the Dark Elf Assassins in order for me to break free from their attacks. He's in grave danger right now. We have to help him and the rest of the troops!"
Ardivan looked at Link nervously. He wanted them to help, but there were only two of them. Anyone could see that this would be an extremely dangerous mission. Going to help the others was more likely going to result in their deaths.
Just as Ardivan finished talking, a notification appeared in Link's mind.
New mission triggered.
Mission: Help the MI3.
1. Save and ensure the survival of Annie Abel, the commander of the MI3. (Main objective)
2. Save the remaining members of the MI3.
Mission Reward: 25 Omni Points.
The name was remarkably familiar to Link. She had been a famous character in the game. Her father was a duke of the Norton Kingdom, the younger brother of the King. He was a strong-willed man, also known as the Iron Duke. He held a very high status within the Kingdom.
Annie was his only daughter. She should have been a pampered princess, but instead, she became an Assassin, working from within the shadows. She worked her way up from the very bottom of the organization, making countless contributions. Ten years later, she became a Legendary Assassin, one of the three main decision makers within the MI3.
In the game, there had been another mission concerning her, but only a year later. The mission had been to rescue her from the Black Waters Prison in the Black Forest.
Yes, Annie Abel had not died in the massacre of Gladstone, instead, she had been captured. She received inhumane torture during her imprisonment.
In the game, when Link and his teammates had seen her in the Black Waters Prison, one of her eyes had been blinded for life. Her beautiful face was covered in a web of scars. And that had only been on the surface. Link didn't dare to imagine what else could have happened to her.
According to the latest news Link had before coming to the World of Firuman, Annie had become the first Assassin of the Norton Kingdom. She held great power, but ensnared by a demon, she grew more and more radical. In the end, she became a tool of darkness, killing King Leon and causing the ruin of the Norton Kingdom.
Link imagined that it had something to do with the inhumane torture she had received in the Black Water Prison.
But now, he had a chance to stop all that. To top it off, he would also receive Omni Points if he succeeded. How could he refuse?
Under Ardivan's hopeful gaze, Link nodded. "Show the way, Assassin!"
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