As the voices got closer and closer, the three of them relied on Vance's Traceless spell to hide silently in the shadows of the hall entrance, patiently waiting. At this moment, they were like hunters lurking in the shadows, ready to lunge and attack the prey at the right moment. After a few seconds, the voices became much clearer. One of them was deep and dark sounding, laced with a hint of anger.
"Get your ass out of here!" said the voice. "Go back and tell your master that unless I die, there is no way he'll get anything from me!"
"That's the bastard Necromancer swordsman that took over my underground palace," whispered Vance. "His name is Dorians, and he's a typical cheapskate!"
The other voice then emerged. This one sounded cold and eerily calm, clearly none too pleased by the other's words.
"Dorians, you must understand," said the other voice, "this isn't a request but an order. If you disobey this order, then you will face the master's wrath! There would be no use for regret then!"
"Your master is nothing but a bandit!" roared Dorians. "Let him come then! I've got so many sturdy Warriors under me; I've got armed beasts, and I've got axe-wielding Warriors! In this underground palace, no one's a master but me!"
The other voice went silent after this outburst by Dorians. Now their footsteps approached Link, and the other two got closer and closer. After about ten seconds, two figures emerged from the entrance.
One of them was very tall-about 7 feet tall. He was wearing a dark purplish-red war armor, and through the faceplate, sat a pair of eyes that were glowing in bluish white light. They were glowing so bright that they seemed to be emitting a five-inch-long light column. His weapon was an extraordinary giant sword, of which the hilt was made into a shape of a demonic goat's head. The goat's eyes were made up of two black crystals which emitted a strong Mana fluctuation.
The other figure was wearing a luxurious black robe, covered by a large hooded cloak. This was the standard attire of a Magician. The figure was also holding an oddly-shaped wand in his hand-its main body was a pure black rod while at the tip of the wand was a small skeleton. A pair of greenish flames were burned in the eye sockets of this small skeleton.
"That Warrior is Dorians," whispered Vance. "He's got a strength of a Level-6 Warrior, and that sword of his was my precious treasure. I called it the Giant Sword of Gloom. Not only is it an impressive slashing weapon, but it's also a magic wand. Its core contains compressed Mana where I stored two spells: one was the Level-5 offensive spell, Soul's Attack, and the other was the Level-4 defensive spell, Crystal Shield."
Vance stared at the Magician in silence for a while to try to identify him.
"I know the other bastard as well," said Vance. "He's called Morestern; he's a Level-7 Voodoo Magician who escaped from the Azura Tower as well. I didn't think he'd find a master so quickly, hahaha."
Link didn't pay much interest in those words but was instead staring keenly at the Magician's skeleton wand. This wand had looked so familiar to him. Link was sure that he'd seen it in the game before, although it might look slightly different from the one in the game. Link had no way of confirming his suspicions, but he knew that there must be something significant about the wand.
"Vance," said Link, "do you recognize the wand in Morestern's hand?"
"The wand?" replied Vance. "Let me see..." Vance then diverted his flaming eyes from the swordsman towards the Magician. After scrutinizing it for about ten seconds, Vance seemed to jump in shock suddenly.
"Link," said the Lich in a perturbed voice, "I'm afraid there's no way we can win this fight today. We should go back for now."
"What do you mean?" Celine asked the exact question in Link's mind.
"I've been too rash!" said Vance as he slapped his head in annoyance. "Morestern has a very powerful wand in his hand. Its full name is the Night's Stare, the Dark Arbiter's Wand. Among all epic-quality wands associated with dark magic, it is definitely one of the top three most powerful wands. Its biggest strength is that it allows the wand holder to instantaneously cast one Level-7 spell per day."
Instantaneous spellcasting? And a Level-7 spell at that?!
Link and Celine stared at each other. They both realized that this meant the opponent could attack and instantly kill at least one of them with only a single move. And if the opponent used Dorians' underlings to trap them in the middle and cast a wide-range attacking spell on them, then Link was sure not even his Dimensional Jump could save them then.
Furthermore, such a small battle wouldn't warrant the use of the highly invaluable White Prophetic Stone. All in all, this powerful opponent was just too much of a hassle to fight, and the best thing they should do now is to escape. They all saw how the two figures were now only about 100 feet away from where they hid; it was their last chance to run.
"Let's hide out in the cave for a while," whispered Link. "Once the Magician's gone, we'll come back and deal with the Swordsman."
"That's the only choice we have," said Vance nodding.
They then started to furtively escape.
But they'd only taken three steps when they noticed the Voodoo Magician stopped dead in his tracks as though he sensed something. He then directed his eyes straight towards the spot where Link and the other two were hiding.
"What's wrong?" asked Dorians impatiently. He hadn't sensed anything yet.
"It's probably nothing," said Morestern. "But I feel as if something is awry." He withdrew his gaze in Link's direction and continued to walk forward.
Only the gods knew how soaked Link and Celine were in cold sweat. They looked into each other's eyes and could clearly see the gratefulness to their luck. Even Vance was so frightened that they could hear his teeth chattering.
The three of them then continued to make for their escape under the cover of Traceless. They moved as fast as possible, even faster than Dorians and Morestern.
Dorians walked Morestern to the entrance of a hall, and they both stopped there.
"Go back and tell your master," said Dorian, "that everything in this cave belongs to me. He's got no claim on this place. There's no need to send any more messengers here. From now on, we are enemies."
"You'll regret this, Dorians," answered Morestern in a flat tone that showed no trace of emotion at all.
"Ha! Yes, I do regret ever letting you into my underground palace!" retorted Dorians with a cold jeering tone. He then turned around and walked out of view.
Morestern then continued to walk out of the place very slowly, not posing any threat to Link and the rest in their escape. By the time he'd reached the entrance, all three of them had safely hidden behind a giant boulder in a cave almost 200 feet away.
Link, Celine, and Vance had been hiding in the cave for five seconds when Morestern walked out of the entrance and cast a flying spell without any pause or suspicion and flew out towards the sea. Flying spells weren't safe to be used above land where someone might spot you, and so Morestern's direction was quite a normal decision that a Magician would make.
"We're safe now," said Vance. "He's gone. We should go back into the underground palace and deal with Dorians now."
Link had no objections to that, of course. He had no concerns about Dorians now that he'd seen the man. Right now, with the Voodoo Magician gone, Link was certain that the three of them could easily take down the Necromancer and his underlings and reclaim the underground palace.
Still, he felt there was something wrong with the Voodoo Magician. He thought it wouldn't be too great an idea to barge into the underground palace now while Morestern had just been gone a few minutes ago.
"We will eliminate Dorians for sure," said Link. "But I think we should wait for another half an hour, just to be on the safe side. We should wait here and see if there are any more changes next before going in."
Celine agreed with this suggestion. Her gaze was still locked on the direction the Voodoo Magician had flown in.
"To be honest," she said, "I was sure the Voodoo Magician had seen us. That man scares me for some reason."
"Let's wait, then," said Vance with a nod. He didn't actually feel the way Celine did, but he didn't mind waiting. Patience was one of the things you came to possess once you'd lived for a thousand years.
The three of them then waited patiently by the sea. After about ten minutes, Celine saw the figure of a man flying in the sky.
"Someone's up there!" she said pointing upwards. "He's back!"
Link looked up and saw a vague black spot in the sky. The spot quickly approached them, and the outline of the figure was soon clear to his eyes. It was indeed Morestern who had returned after seemingly flying away.
"Tsk tsk, what a sinister fellow!" remarked Vance. "He must've discovered us just now but pretended that he didn't." Vance was counting his luck as he realized that he almost fell into the sly bastard's trap. Had they stormed into the underground palace just now they would've been cornered from the inside of the palace and the outside as well. There was a high chance that all three of them would be dead then.
Soon afterwards, Morestern dropped down at about 300 feet away from the underground palace secret entrance. Link and the other two all noticed how they couldn't detect the slightest Mana fluctuations from Morestern's body. The cunning Magician must've used a camouflage spell or magical gear to mask his own aura and Mana in order to sneak up on them from behind!
Morestern landed on the surface of the sea and walked on the water all the way to the entrance of the underground palace without any stutter in his steps.
Behind the boulder, Vance was thinking of how exciting today had been. Think about it; they are ambushing an ambusher! He felt alive and exhilarated for the first time in literal eons.
"What do we do now?" Vance asked Link. "Do we follow the bastard underground?" He'd now acknowledged Link's extraordinary brains.
"There's no need for that," answered Link, shaking his head. "That man could instantaneously cast a Level-7 spell; if we follow him now, it'd be too risky for us. All we need to do now is to ignite a little fire."
"Ignite a little fire?" asked Vance confusedly.
Celine instantly understood Link's intentions, and this made her grin.
"Dorians and Morestern didn't seem to like each other very much just now," she said. "Dorians didn't lift a finger out of respect for the master, but if he were to see Merstern sneaking back into his underground palace after having seen him off, what do you think he'd do?"
Once Celine put it this way, Vance began to understand what Link meant. He rubbed his smooth skull and sighed.
"Oh, how I feel old," he lamented. "It seems my brain has rusted after such a long dormancy. I don't think I can catch up with you young people!"
Then after considering the matter for a while, Vance suddenly laughed and made a suggestion.
"I'm also a dark Magician like that Morestern, you know," he said. "And my skills and power are on par with him as well. Obviously, I'm the best person among us three to ignite this little fire. You just watch me, kids!"
After speaking, Vance then stealthily sneaked into the underground palace that he had built himself a long, long time ago.
- Against the Gods
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- Ancient Cultivator in Modern World
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