The first five guilds to step foot into the hidden dungeon (Atrocity, Lapis, Iron Mace, etc.) had nothing to show for it. If they had prepared thoroughly, and had fought Amanda in tip-top shape, then the results might've been different.
However, the intermediate guilds weren't powerful enough to make it through the perilous, thorny path and defeat Amanda.
The same fate befell the smaller, minor guilds, and individual players. No, in their case, most of them didn't even encounter Amanda. They would die before they even made it far into the underground labyrinth.
"It's regrettable, but we're giving up on Ecle Palace," Lapis said to his guild members. "Instead... we're attacking Atrocity!"
The Lapis Guild had been backstabbed by the Atrocity Guild. They would definitely repay the favor!
"Yes!" the victims yelled.
"Hmph, let them come!" Atrocity, who'd gotten their declaration of war, snorted.
Thus, a guild war broke out between the two. They weren't alone. Even now, the underground labyrinth was filled with death, and those killed bore a grudge against their killers.
As a result, guild wars and PKs occurred all across the continent.
"Let's work together and seize the palace."
The Iron Mace Guild, which had entered with Atrocity and Lapis, formed an alliance in order to seize Ecle Palace. Several intermediate guilds, including the Dolphin and Red Hammer Guilds, fought under their banner.
However, they weren't the only ones. Having realized that their individual strength wouldn't be enough, the other guilds formed alliances too. Ultimately, these alliances resulted in even larger battles in Ecle Palace and the underground labyrinth.
"The Hellmut Guild will take the right flank! Mr. Agrado, I need you and your guild members to take the center! I'll take care of the left flank!"
"Get into formation and follow orders!"
"We're piercing through the middle!"
It wasn't a battle involving dozens. It was a battle that involved hundreds, or even thousands of people.
Not one of them became the victor.
* * *
Even though they formed alliances, the guilds still didn't have anything to show for it. After all, they would get in each other's way.
Ultimately, they only had two paths available to them: give up and go home, or gather even more power.
Most of them dropped out of the race. If they continued, their guilds would disintegrate.
Those that persisted were guilds with alliances. More specifically, they were guilds that had taken too many losses to back down now. They had to recoup their losses in whatever way they could. Ultimately, they only had one choice.
"Please help us!" The Iron Mace Guildmaster bowed his head before the Jairus Guild.
While it wasn't one of the 5 great guilds, the Jairus Guild was still part of the top twenty. Their guildmaster, Jairus, was called Testron's Swordsman, and was a high ranker that had once been part of the Numbers.
"Hmm. The Ecles Palace, huh." Jairus stroked his chin. The mysterious scroll! If it truly existed, then it was truly a mouth-watering proposition.
"Please help us. We promise that the Iron Mace Alliance will fight under your banner."
"But if we move, the other large guilds will follow."
Tall trees catch much wind. If they moved recklessly, then they'd just become a target. Thus, the large guilds were content with watching and waiting.
"Some of the other large guilds have already mobilized. The situation has gotten out of hand. So we have to act before it's too late," the Iron Mace Guildmaster said quickly.
"No. The other large guilds won't be able to act. The 5 great guilds are watching down from above. If we move first, then they'll take us down. Now's not the time to act. We should just watch and wait for now. It'd be a different story if the 5 great guilds were unable to act, but... Anyhow, I cannot accept your request."
Jairus's decision was correct and also rational.
"You'll have to find another guild. If the other guilds aren't stupid, then they'll answer the same way I did. Then, goodbye."
The Iron Mace Guildmaster left the Jairus Guild and sought out the other large guilds. However, they too declined.
He thought about asking the 5 great guilds too. However, there was no way they'd need him or his alliance.
No, even if they did accept them, him, his guild members, and his alliance would just be used as human shields or be sacrificed in some other way.
"Hoo, I guess it can't be helped."
With no other options, the Iron Mace Guildmaster decided to give up. However, something happened that poured oil over the fire.
"We have urgent news. At 12:00, the Arabas Kingdom engaged in a civil war. This is..."
"The Empire Guild has entered the war! Five of their squads have already gone to war, but soon..."
"Apparently, the Empire Guild has joined forces with Arabas's 2nd in line, Prince Kanduak!"
The strongest guild, Empire!
They had joined the Arabas Kingdom's civil war! In other words, the Empire Guild didn't care about Ecle Palace or the mysterious scroll. The most powerful competitor had disappeared.
After hearing the news, the Jairus Guild mobilized immediately.
"Fight under my banner."
"Thank you very much!"
Jairus offered Iron Mace's Guildmaster his hand. Countless alliances consisting of intermediate guilds rallied under his banner.
Two large guilds, Black Sword and White Lion, joined forces with him as well. With this, they had a strong enough force that could even contest the 5 great guilds.
However, their organization was like individual grains of sand. They weren't truly unified.
"We are the Cerberus Alliance," Jairus proclaimed.
The Cerberus was a three-headed dog that guarded the gates of hell. It was a clear indication that the three large guilds, Jairus, Black Sword, and White Lion, controlled the rest of the alliance.
"Our goal is to seize Ecle Palace, obtain the mysterious scroll, and maintain control over it for a long time. We'll be able to distribute the rewards fairly."
He wrapped it up in a pretty little bow, but ultimately, everything would go to Jairus, Black Sword, and White Lion.
"We're advancing towards Ecle Palace!"
Jairus moved extremely quickly. Once he heard that the Empire Guild had other arrangements, he formed the Cerberus Alliance, and headed straight for Ecle Palace.
The other large guilds, or even the 5 great guilds, were unable to respond in time, so no one could stop them.
No, there was one. The guardian of the underground labyrinth, Steel Princess, Amanda!
She had a special ability called Infinite Swords. The amount of swords she could summon varied based on how many opponents she was up against.
The Cerberus Alliance allowed her to summon dozens of swords. She was the very definition of strong.
Her swords, which glinted with silver light, got into formation and flew through the air. It was as if the milky way was right in front of them.
Ecle Style Swordsmanship!
She used one powerful skill after the other.
However, it wasn't enough to overcome the Cerberus Alliance, which included the forces of three large guilds and countless intermediate guilds.
Jairus's Guildmaster, Jairus!
Black Sword's Guildmaster, Lee Tan!
White Lion's Guildmaster, Lion Heart!
Their elites attacked Amanda from three sides.
Ultimately, Amanda fell to her knees.
"I admit defeat. You're worthy of becoming the master of Ecle Palace."
A soul stone popped out of her body. Wings made up of swords were engraved on the front of the triangular stone.
"Ooh, this is the soul stone!"
"He's saying that's the soul stone!"
People widened their eyes in awe.
Jairus approached the soul stone. They decided that Jairus would be the dungeon's master. In exchange, they had signed a Sabra's Contract that stated that they'd evenly divide the rewards amongst the three of them. Thus, he couldn't take all the rewards for himself.
Anyhow, Jairus slowly extended his hand. Once he grabbed the stone, it began to radiate intense light.
[You have grabbed a soul stone that already has an owner.]
[A Sacred Duel will now begin to decide the dungeon's master.]
[The victor can only be determined in a one-on-one fight. No one else can help you.]
[Summoning Ecle Palace's master.]
"It already has an owner?" Jairus widened his eyes.
Although so many people had tried to claim Ecle Palace, no one had shown up to stop them, so he had assumed it was ownerless.
"It already has an owner? Then are you going to fight in the Sacred Duel?" Black Sword's guildmaster, Lee Tan, said.
"Don't worry. I'm Jairus. I won't lose, no matter who shows up."
"Haha, I know how skilled you are," White Lion's guildmaster, Lion Heart, said.
[The soul dungeon's master has appeared!]
A pillar of light surged into the air.
Someone slowly made their way out of the pillar. At the same time, a giant ring of light appeared on the ground.
Those within the ring were pushed out by some mysterious force. Only the dungeon's master and the challenger, Jairus, remained inside the ring.
[The Sacred Duel has begun.]
[If your opponent's HP reaches 0 or they surrender, then you win.]
[You have one hour to complete the fight. If you cannot kill the dungeon's master within an hour, then it will end in your defeat.]
[All skill, spell, and item effect cooldowns have been reset. They are only reset during the Sacred Duel. They will go back on cooldown once the Sacred Duel ends.]
The dungeon's master pushed up their glasses. Their red hair gently fluttered in the air.
"Mm!" Jairus, who'd been so confident before, stiffened.
"Helena!" an individual that'd been pushed out of the ring yelled.
"The Witch of Annihilation?"
The master of this soul dungeon was Numbers rank 5, Helena! She was known as the Witch of Annihilation and the Blood Witch. Plus, she was the most powerful Mage player in the game.
She expressionlessly raised her staff.
A complex magic circle appeared above her, which shined down on her like moonlight.
The ground shook, and blue lightning flew at Jairus.
However, Jairus had once been part of the Numbers too! He responded immediately.
"Chaaht!" Jairus swung his sword horizontally.
Great White Shark!
A bluish, giant shark shaped aura shot out, moving as though it were actually swimming through water.
The two energies collided, resulting in an explosion.
Jairus kicked off the floor, and rushed forward. He was a Swordsman. To defeat a Mage like Helena, he would need to get in close.
On the other hand, Helena had to prevent him from getting close.
A mighty stream of water and fierce winds flew towards Jairus, acting as a wall between him and Helena.
Jairus gritted his teeth. He'd fought in countless battles. Thus, he had experience fighting against mages before.
Golden wings of light protruded from his back.
He transformed into a stream of light, cutting through the water and reappearing right in front of Helena.
'I got her!' Jairus thrust his sword.
Once his sword pierced her throat, the battle would be in his favor.
'I did it!' Jairus's lips curled upwards. However, his smile soon disappeared, replaced by a scowl.
'Helena' swayed, and disappeared like a mirage.
'An afterimage? No, an illusion?' Jairus turned his head, and looked for the real Helena.
At that moment...
Helena mysteriously reappeared like paint floating on water. Giant flames surged from her staff.
The massive flames devoured Jairus.
Jairus's ring shined. Then, the flames were sucked into his ring.
Maora's Mysterious Ring!
It was an S-rank ring, which had the ability to absorb a skill or spell at the discretion of its user.
Jairus kicked off the floor, and rushed at Helena.
The Witch of Annihilation, Helena!
Testron's Swordsman, Jairus!
Their battle had only just begun.Previous Chapter Next Chapter