Good. Now Link had lured out Auselia, the guardian of the god-level device. Felina and the rest should have no problem-saving Karnose in the fortress.
Just as Auselia walked out of the Skeletal Fort, there was a notification on the interface.
Mission Completed: Sneak in or Storm in?
Player is rewarded with 100 Omni Points.
Player receives the Elemental Affinity Bloodline.
Fuse Bloodline now?
Link did not answer the gaming system at once, as he thought of the terrible experience he had with body transformation previously.
He watched the looming figure of Auselia.
"How long would the transformation take?" he asked the gaming system.
Half an hour.
"Not now, then," answered Link, as he began to retreat.
Right now, Auselia's strength was far beyond Link's current powers to fight, so he decided to run for now.
But of course, in order to ensure that Felina would successfully rescue the Dawn Swordsman, he must not run so fast that Auselia couldn't catch up to him...Well, forget that. It was clear as day to Link now how frighteningly fast Auselia was!
Link thought of an idea.
"Increase maximum Mana limit," he instructed the gaming system. "Use 200 Omni Points."
Not only that, but Link also took out the high-grade Mana potion and gulped it all down. Right now, his Mana had increased to 4135 points. Then, Link unhesitatingly activated the Dimensional Jump.
He'd now burned 1800 Mana points in one move. White light began to enshroud Link's body, and an instant later, he was half a mile away from where he stood.
He looked back and saw how Auselia's figure had shrunk to a barely visible dot in the vast white snowy field.
Without wasting a second, Link continued to run.
With the aid of these two spells, Link jumped down from the top of a snowy slope, and he then floated in the air like a feather. After drifting like that for about 100 feet, his body started to drop. But just before he landed, he gently tapped against the snowy ground and that gave him the momentum to float further. And that was how Link managed to flee without leaving a trace of his footsteps on the snow.
His speed was still quite fast at almost about 70 feet per second. Still, it was far from quick enough. From what he'd seen, Auselia was as fast as the Wind Tiger at about 650 feet per second. Compared to that, his speed was like that of a crawling turtle. She would catch up to him soon enough.
As expected, when Link finally reached the bottom of the slope which was about 650 feet away, ten seconds later, Auselia was already waiting for him there.
"Why are you running, Link?" she asked with her enchanting voice. "Don't be afraid of me. I won't hurt you."
Auselia's voice gave Link goosebumps all over.
In the game, although her real name was Auselia, no one called her by it. She was more popularly known as the Serpent Lady. It was said that there were many players who were charmed by her voice. Some even got turned just by listening to her speak, while others were enticed by the way she twisted her slender waist as she walked. Many players even created fan videos with lewd contents with titles like, "The Day the Serpent Lady and I F*cked."
But that was just the game players' craze which Link himself had never taken part in. Especially now, when the Serpent Lady was trying to drag him back to the fort to transform him into an occult being. The only sensation her voice triggered in him was dread and loathing. He wanted nothing more than to get as far away from this woman as he possibly could.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to run away from her now. Even if he summoned the Storm Eagle, he wouldn't be able to fly that far away since his Mana was running low.
But Link still had some tricks up his sleeve.
He watched Auselia slowly and casually walk down from the snowy slope. He then took out the light rune stone that Herrera gave him. This rune stone contained an immense force. Judging from its aura, Link estimated that it should have the same power as a Level-7 spell. However, even this was far from enough to injure Auselia. Without some cunning adjustments, it probably wasn't enough to even slow her down.
After taking out the rune stone, Link still didn't use it straight away. First, he cast another spell-Spatial Distortion!
About 0.1 seconds later, a spherical lens with a diameter of about 6.5 feet appeared near his body. It looked just like a giant transparent glass marble.
That was the first step in Link's strategy.
Then, Link activated the light rune stone.
The light energy that it contained was triggered, and a white light suddenly appeared on the surface of the rune stone. It expanded and then erupted, but just before the eruption occurred, Link quickly threw the rune stone into the giant distorted space beside him.
Once the rune stone reached the center of the sphere of distorted space, a bright explosion of light appeared. But what was strange was that the light was distorted and trapped inside the space, never escaping from the sphere. If the rays of light were conscious, they would think that they were traveling in a perfectly straight line, but to those observing from the outside, the light was actually just circling around in that closed sphere of distorted space.
The reason for this was simple-the space within that sphere had been bent into a ring!
At that moment, it seemed that the sphere was barely emitting any light, so it looked just as transparent as before and just as harmless.
On the snowy slope, Auselia kept on walking leisurely. She didn't think much of Link's actions as she thought that they were far too weak to pose any threat to her. In her eyes, right now it was just as if her little pet was playing with its toy. There was no reason for her to interfere with its games at all.
But soon enough, it didn't look so innocent to her anymore. The transparent ball near Link only gave off a faint light, and it looked harmless right now, but that was exactly why Auselia was stunned. Light energy was one the most difficult forces to control in the world. Once it was unleashed, there was no turning back, nor was there any way to control its path or behavior. But this Magician in front of her was using his dimensional spell to control the power of an immense source of light energy as deftly as a horseman would tame a wild horse with a bridle!
That just demonstrated astonishing wit and power!
"Ah...what an exquisite, beautiful, innocent and wise thing you are, Link," she said. "But, I'm afraid your playtime is over."
As she spoke, Auselia's speed suddenly accelerated to full speed and her outline suddenly become hazy. She then moved so fast that she seemed more like a streak of light as she rushed towards Link.
Link just stood there not moving at all. His eyes suddenly focused and turned extremely dark. He was now entering the spellcasting state.
At that moment, everything in the world seemed to move at a glacial speed, including Auselia, whose speed at the time was so fast that normal people wouldn't be able to see her clearly. But, she still wasn't the fastest opponent that Link had ever fought against. Auselia's speed was, in fact, only half as fast as Nana's.
Although this speed was still frighteningly fast, even Nana had never been able to launch a sneak attack on Link, so what chance did Auselia have?
Link's gaze was fixed on Auselia, and his spirits were calm. At the same time, he controlled the distorted space which helped him compress and control the light energy within it.
The process lasted for about half a second; Link knew that he'd reached the crucial point while Auselia was now only 100 feet away from him.
"Go!" shouted Link.
In that instant, the trapped light energy suddenly found a spot where it could escape the distorted space, and immediately, all the energy that was entombed inside now surged out through this small aperture.
In Auselia's eyes what she saw was this: Link held a wand in his hand, and in front of the wand was the giant crystal light ball. In the center of this ball, there was a purple light. When viewed from the side, this purple light didn't seem all that bright, but it did look compressed. Auselia had thought that this light didn't pose any threat at all because the power that she sensed from the light ball didn't feel that intense. But when this purple light hit her body, she could feel that it was extremely hot. She instinctively put up a Level-7 dark energy light shield.
She knew that this light wasn't bright because it was infinitely condensed and focused. When viewed from the side, it looked quite dim, but when viewed directly, it was bright enough to blind the observer's eyes. `
The ray of light penetrated through the Level-7 shield as if it was as thin and fragile as a soap bubble.
Auselia's forehead was directly struck by the ray of light, creating a fist-sized hole through her skull. Because of this, she lost her balance immediately and was flung out away from Link. When her body was still in mid-air, Link clearly saw a black film of light around her body which kept her protected. Link knew that even with a hole through her skull, Auselia would still not be dead. The forces from the god-level device still protected her. Auselia was the Dark Serpent's puppet now, so she wouldn't be defeated quite so easily. With Link's current strength, there was no way that he could destroy this layer of defense around Auselia's body. Link estimated that even the presence of another Legendary Magician wouldn't guarantee that they'd be able to defeat Auselia.
Through the black film around her body, Link could see that the hole in Auselia's skull was rapidly healing and growing into new pieces of brain, muscle, blood veins and so on. This great leader of the ghouls had ten times the recovery rate compared to normal ghouls. Even a hole through her skull was just a small injury because she was no longer an independent life form. She was now a slave to the god-level device's!
Nevertheless, Link's attack still had an effect on her. She would experience severe headaches and be in a confused daze for a while. Judging from the speed of her wound's healing, it would probably take Auselia a minute to regain her senses.
This was the golden opportunity to reactivate the teleportation spell.
A white light enveloped Link's body, and he vanished from the spot. A moment later, he reappeared, but he didn't escape further south. Instead, he was now at the Skeletal Fort's gates.
Auselia would soon regain her senses, so Link rushed into the fortress while killing off the Skeleton Warriors he met on the way.
"Felina!" he shouted. "Annie! Larson! Get Karnose and come out now!"
Three seconds later, Link saw Felina rush out from the great hall on the first floor. She led the way wielding her weapons which were two giant dragon claws, and behind her, Annie and the rest followed. Annie and the other scouts were supporting Karnose who seemed to be enshrouded in a layer of dark energy.
Karnose seemed to maintain a shred of consciousness, but his eyes were red, and his body twitched unnaturally from time to time. It seemed that he was in a terrible condition.
Seeing that, Link felt a foreboding sense of danger. But now, there was no time left to dilly-dally, so he cast a Flame Blast at the hundreds of Skeleton Warriors.
The Skeleton Warriors were all crushed to pieces, and Link rushed forward to join up with Felina and the rest.
Once he reached them, he immediately took out the Dimensional Scroll from Eleanor.
"Follow me, everyone," he whispered. "We must leave here through another realm!"
Realms could be understood in earth terms as dimensions. There were many dimensions in the universe, some expanded infinitely, some constricted themselves to form loops. Generally, humans could only survive in expanded dimensions, and those were the fundamental dimensions of our world.
A Magician, on the other hand, could enter looped dimensions as well, and these were known as the alternate realms.
In theory, there was an infinite number of alternate realms. Not all of these realms were suitable for life, though. In fact, only about ten of them were conducive to life.
But to enter an alternate realm, one would need a key.
The Dimensional Scroll that Eleanor gave Link was one such key. With it, one could then enter the realm of the soul. It could be very dangerous there, as you would see dead wandering souls, nightmarish creatures that devoured souls and so on. Nevertheless, right now this dangerous place was better than the real world where Auselia was pursuing them.
After all, entering the realm of the soul was the only way Link and the rest could escape from the Skeletal Fort and return to Icy Peak Fortress.
The rest of them who weren't Magicians didn't completely understand these concepts about alternate realms or dimensions, though. The scouts were completely flummoxed; Annie could understand parts of it, while Felina was completely familiar with it. She was the first person to respond to Link.
"Understood," she said with a nod. "Bring us in then!"
Link nodded then activated the Dimensional Scroll.
A soft whoosh followed, then the entire scene before them changed in an instant.
The rough terrain of the surrounding didn't change much, but there was no more Skeletal Fortress, no more cold wind, and no more snowy fields. The countless Skeleton Warriors had vanished as well, but everything was replaced by a huge city.
The city was full of people who looked like the Icefield Barbarians judging by their appearances and attire. Their expressions were very odd. They looked numb, their eyes were blank, and they walked around aimlessly. They even ignored Link and the rest when they walked past them.
The strange thing was that all their scalps were burnt or scalded.
"What kind of a ghostly place is this?" asked a scout.
"This is the Skeletal Fort in the realm of the soul," whispered Link. "These are the souls that hadn't been swallowed by the Dark Serpent yet. Let's move quickly now; we'll take a detour to the North. Be careful not to let yourself be seen by the Dark Serpent."
Auselia herself was not so frightening, what was frightening was the god-level device in her hands, whose attacks could easily pass through the barriers between different realms, so they must always be cautious.
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