230 Pinched to Death


 There were two types of white color in the area between the northern polar fields of the Black Forest, each distinct from the other. One was the bright and clear white, a color of purity. This was found in the snow of the North. The other was the dull white color that came with a touch of blood, like that found in bones. And the Skeletal Fort was fortress made up purely of piles of bones.

Whose bones?

Well, the great leader would tell you that as a tribute to the Lady of Darkness, the Skeletal Fort contained the bones of at least 20,000 souls. These souls were all burned to release an infinite amount of power. Their bones and skeletons were then preserved and used to build a white fortress with the length and width of 160 feet and the height of 160 feet as well.

And at the top of the fort was a bony, white hall.

At the head of the hall was the Skeletal Throne made of ivory, mammoth's tusks. Whenever there had been any major events, there a shadowy figure would appear on the throne enshrouded in a black flame.

And right now, it was one of those times where an important event had occurred.

On the Skeletal Throne sat a graceful shadowy figure, and at the same time, a sweet and pleasant voice floated in the hall.

"There's a big mouse in the forest," said the voice, "and I don't like it at all. Right now, the mouse has brought its friends too close to the fortress, yet none of my cats could catch them yet. Bruttan, Maule, will both of you be willing to catch these mice for me?"

Bruttan, a Level-7 demon was more than 13 feet tall, and his skin was black and thorny with a dagger-shaped horn on his head. He wielded a pair of giant swords each about ten feet long. He used to be a Warrior guarding the Magician Aymon's fortress. After the god-level device, Dark Serpent came to this world, he became the Warrior guarding the Skeletal Fort by Aymon's command.

Maule, a Black Dragon Warrior with Level-7 strength, possessed amazing stature and was no less powerful than a demon. His swordsmanship was almost perfect, and he was the Skeletal Fort's main Swordsman.

Upon hearing the order, both of them bowed respectfully at the throne and said, "As you wish, Messenger of Darkness!"

Just as they spoke, there came a sudden loud scream from outside the hall.

"Ah! Aaaah! Kill me! Just kill me!!!!"

The voice carried a great amount of strength behind it, enough to shake the entire Skeletal Fort. Even Bruttan and Maule's faces showed a trace of uneasiness.

The source of the scream that rattled the fortress was the top human Warrior, the Dawn Swordsman Karnose who had just been captured and brought into the Skeletal Fort.

Only the dark shadowy figure on the Skeletal Throne remained unaffected.

"Oh, it seems that dear Karnose is not happy," said the figure. "I must go down there and comfort him. Both of you may leave now."

Then, the shadowy figure stood up, and her slender waist twisted like a snake as the figure walked slowly and casually down to the dungeons under the Skeletal Fort.

Bruttan and Maule looked at each other for a moment then turned around and left the hall. When both of them reached outside the Skeletal Fortress, there were 40 ghouls behind them, along with more than 200 scouts from Death's Hand and close to 3000 soldiers.

"Maule, we'll get half of the soldiers each," said Bruttan. "Let's see who catches those mice first."

"Hahaha, alright," replied Maule, "but what would the winner get?" in his eyes, Bruttan was nothing but a brute. Without his strength, he was basically useless. It'd be fun to see such an idiot lose to him.

"Well, let's see..." answered Bruttan, squinting at the Dragon Warrior as he considered the matter. To be honest, he'd never liked the bastard. "If you win, then I'll always obey you from then on. But if I win, you don't have to obey me; I just want to give you a big old slap in the face."

"Good! It's a deal!"

The two then divided the soldiers among themselves equally and parted ways.

...

Just a mile outside the Skeletal Fort, there was a slightly elevated mound in the forest where its peak was covered completely with snow. Link, the Red Dragon Warrior Felina, Annie, and the rest of the scouts all huddled together inside a makeshift igloo made of snow. They poked a hole through the snow and observed the movements in the Skeletal Fortress from there.

"So many bones! And so many guards!" exclaimed Annie, hardly able to contain her shock. The actual sight and scale of the Skeletal Fort had totally exceeded her imagination.

The surrounding area around Skeletal Fort was very flat, and there, one could clearly see more than 10,000 soldiers spread across the plains. Although each soldier was only comparable to a Level-1 Warrior, once their number reached 10,000, they were nevertheless a fearsome force.

"These soldiers won't leave," whispered a scout. "We can't possibly sneak into the fort."

There were just too many of them. And the closer they got to the Skeletal Fort the more heavily guarded the area was. Even if they used an invisibility spell to sneak into the place, they might still bump into a soldier who would then expose their presence.

At the moment, Bruttan and Maule stepped out of the fort in front of everyone.

"Link," Felina whispered. "They must've sensed that we're here and sent a team out for us. We could soon be discovered here."

There were just too many people on their side. There was no need for any fancy searching techniques al all with that many people. All they needed to do was search every inch of the land, and there would be no way for Link and the rest to stay hidden.

They'd been staying in the same place for more than half an hour now. Link had mostly been silent all this while. Then, suddenly, he spoke up.

"Karnose still maintains his conscience," he whispered. "He hasn't been completely transformed by the occult yet. He can still be saved, but we must rescue him soon."

"But how?" asked Annie.

Felina only shook her head.

"Things have gotten to a more frightening point than I'd expected, Link," she said. "I don't think we can save him."

Link pretended he didn't hear it. He knew that it wasn't that the Red Dragon Warrior was unwilling to rescue Karnose, she merely didn't believe that they would succeed. If he could show her a plan that might work, he was sure that she would join in.

"We'll use the old plan," said Link. "I'll attract the Skeletal Fort's attention, and you'll sneak into the Skeletal Fortress and rescue the man. Felina, you must go too, but you're too strong so they might slow you down. You should act alone."

Felina bit her lips and furrowed her brows in doubt.

"This plan is too risky," Felina said. "There's still that ghoul leader in the fort. If we don't tempt the leader out, we'll have no chance at all."

"I know," answered Link. "But this is the only feasible plan we have. Well, we don't have much time, the Black Dragon Warrior will soon get here. All of you, get ready to sneak into the fortress. I'm leaving now!"

"Link.... Be careful!" Annie urged.

"Wait!" Felina stopped him. "They've got too many people with them!"

Link ignored her. He jumped out of the snow igloo without a single hesitation and walked away without hiding his own Mana. He first cast the Cheetah's Agility spell then another spell to make his weight as light as a feather. And so, he almost flew all his way down from the mound.

On his way, a red glowing aura surrounded his body, followed by the Flame Controller's robe and his Burning Wraths wand.

He would be facing countless strong enemies soon, so he must utilize all his powers and all the help he had.

Right now, he had 300 Omni Points and a 6100-point maximum Mana limit. His Mana recovery rate could be as high as 220 points per second. With the aid from the Flame Controller's robe, the Burning Wraths of the Heavens wand, the Light Rune Stone, the Red Dragon Queen's Blessings, the Dimensional Scroll and the Prophetic White Stone-he had enough tricks up his sleeve to perform a symphony of magic!

The Black Dragon Warrior Maule could sense Link's presence immediately. He erupted into a big laugh.

Well, look at that, he thought. I've found the mouse first. Get ready to be my slave, Bruttan!

He then unleashed his Battle Aura in an explosion and charged towards the target at full speed.

There was only one target, and his Mana showed that he was just a Level-6 Magician. Maule was sure that he could easily cut this mouse up into pieces alone without anyone's help!

"Hahahaha! Prepare to get a taste of my swords!"

The swords in Maule's hands began to be enshrouded in a black flame. It was his inexhaustible Black Dragon Warrior's power. The invincible body of the Dragon People gave him the supernatural strength that allowed him to squash all his enemies in battles.

Link didn't have a single thought of retreating. Instead, he sped up even more, and the distance between him and the Black Dragon Warrior closed in ever more quickly.

On the peak of the mound, everyone else was covered in a cold sweat, especially Felina. She knew very well how powerful that Dragon Warrior was. He was a full level higher than Link, and he was followed by countless ghouls, Assassins, and soldiers right behind him.

This was like one single man facing off with an entire army. There was no doubt in Felina's mind that Link would soon be dead.

In the blink of an eye, the distance between Link and the Black Dragon Warrior was already less than 300 feet.

The black flame on the Black Dragon Warrior intensified. The moment the distance between them reached 200 feet, Maule would unleash a burst of his Battle Aura instantly. It didn't matter whether it would hit the target or not, he just wanted to interfere with the Magician's spellcasting. His Battle Aura was inexhaustible anyway, so he didn't have to worry about wasting it.

Unbeknownst to him, Link had already outpaced him.

At the distance of 300 feet, he'd done two things. Firstly, he'd activated the Clear Thoughts effect from the Flame Controller's robe. With Clear Thoughts, in five minutes he would recover about 2000 Mana points, which would then allow him to cast spells at their full power. Secondly, he'd activated a special effect from his wand, the Burning Wraths of the Heavens, that was the Flame Torrents! The Flame Torrents consumed 1500 points of Mana, and it allowed instantaneous spellcasting of any fire elemental spells below Level-7, while also increasing the spell's power by 300%. To recharge it, he must cast spells of Level-5 and above at least ten times.

But Link's wand was already charged at the moment, so he could instantly activate the first Flame Torrents now to boost his first spell.

Boom!

A giant hand appeared in the air, and each finger was about three feet thick and 15 feet long while the whole hand was about 30 feet long!

This Titan's Hand was boosted by the Flame Torrents, and its power was 300% higher than usual. It was also enhanced by the Burning Wraths wand's effect and had a further 150% boost from there. In total, the Titan's Hand was 450% more powerful than usual.

When a Level-6 spell's power was increased 4.5 times its normal strength, it would be comparable to a Level-7 spell. This made the flames of the giant hand turn blue, but because Link had controlled its power to prevent it from exploding, the brightness of the Titan's Hand's flame was not that intense. In fact, it now merely had the sheen of metal.

The fire elements in the spell now looked like they were made of metal elements. This showed just how compacted the spell was!

The moment it appeared, it transformed into the shape of a fist immediately. Its surface now emanated a blue light so bright that you couldn't look at it directly. Then, in the blink of an eye, it traveled across 300 feet and crashed into Maule.

Wow, what fast spellcasting speed! Maule thought in amazement as his Battle Aura burst was unleashed.

Bang!

The Titan's Hand was slightly impeded by Maule's burst of Battle Aura, but the fiery hand did not collapse at all because the burst of Battle Aura had hit the part of the fist where its structure was most stable and solid. Furthermore, the Titan's Hand's own power was equivalent to that of a Level-7 spell, so it was impossible for Maule's Battle Aura which was also at Level-7 to destroy it in one move.

And thus, Maule's only chance at defeating Link had come to pass.

In the next moment, he was hit by the Titan's Fist squarely. There was a loud boom as he was hit by the brunt of the impact. Maule only had time to explode his Battle Aura to protect himself, but it was completely insufficient as he was sent flying a few feet backwards.

In that process, Maule's Battle Aura received crucial damage and was momentarily at its weakest point.

And that was when Link hit him again with an even more powerful attack. He took the chance when Maule was still in mid-air and changed the Titan's Fist back into the Titan's Hand and caught up with Maule immediately. The giant hand now held Maule in its palm and increased its temperature to its highest extreme.

This was Link's signature attack, and no one had ever been able to survive it!

"Ah...Gah...How...How did..." Maule couldn't even finish his sentence before his whole body was turned to ashes by the Titan's Hand's scorching temperature.

Everyone else watched in awe at the scene that just unfolded.

It was as if Maule had only been pinched gently by the fiery hand. But in no time at all, the proud Warrior's life was pinched out of his throat and turned instantly to ashes.

Could he be that powerful? Felina stared at the scene in a daze. She knew that there was a disparity of power between Link and herself, but she never expected the gap to be so big-even though she was the Dragon Clan's most talented Warrior!

There on the mound, a powerful opponent was killed within seconds. Link couldn't help but burst out laughing. He watched the ghouls, Dark Elves, and skeleton soldiers rush up the hill towards him. He kept the strengthened version of Titan's Hand under his complete control and rushed forward without the slightest hesitation.

This Black Dragon Warrior was only his appetizer!

Now, let the real battle begin!