The Earth Shifter slammed its powerful tail against the ground and used the momentum granted by that action to instantly accelerate itself towards Izroth. Its movements were incredibly precise and exact, almost to a fault. When something was too perfect, it eventually would become easy to read the next course of action.
Izroth leaned slightly to the right side while maintaining his sword stance. He successfully dodged the Earth Shifter's attack. At almost the same instance as the Earth Shifter's deadly claw missed Izroth, he shifted his sword 90-degrees clockwise and quickly sliced down through the air and struck the body of the Earth Shifter ruthlessly.
As soon as his attack connected, Izroth immediately resumed his previous stance. During that entire sequence of movements, Izroth's left hand remained rested upon his right wrist.
The effects of his Hellfire Rampage passive made it so that his agility would raise with each successful attack. However, in order to maintain this boost, he had to attack again successfully within three seconds. The agility boosted granted by the Hellfire Rampage would make it easier to respond to the Earth Shifter's actions.
Thanks to the lifesteal effect attached to his Adaptation Cape, Izroth regained some of his lost HP simply from dealing damage to the Earth Shifter. Although three percent did not seem like a large amount at first, in the end, all the attacks would add up. This was even more so for a player with the type of speed and power based playstyle that Izroth possessed.
Less than a second after Izroth's attack successfully landed, Zi Yi's arrow exited the void and pierced through the body of the Earth Shifter.
After the Earth Shifter was struck by Zi Yi's arrow, it instantly burrowed into the ground. A few moments later, the ground beneath everyone's feet began to vibrate slightly.
When everyone felt that slight vibration, they knew that it could not be a good sign.
Izroth, Luna, and Zi Yi swiftly moved from the spot beneath them that was vibrating and around two seconds later, the ground that the three of them just stood on moments ago had collapsed into itself. If they had stayed there, they would have sunk into the earth and been at the mercy of the Earth Shifter.
The Earth Shifter once again appeared above ground in front of Izroth and lashed out with its claws.
Every attack that the Earth Shifter performed grew closer and closer to striking Izroth as the battle went on. However, just when it seemed as though the monster's attack was going to cut Izroth into little pieces, he would always avoid it by using the bare minimum of movement.
That was not all that happened, every time the Earth Shifter failed its attack Izroth punished it for being defenseless right after the moment it missed. His Blade of Lightning shifted 135-degrees to the right and cut into the body of the Earth Shifter.
But, Izroth's assault did not stop there as he became more comfortable with his new stance. Behind his Blade of Lightning lurked two phantoms of its edge. He instantly spun rapidly as all three strikes brutally connected to the Earth Shifter. Izroth executed the skill Phantom Strike empowered by the effect of his First Sword Form: Converging Paths.
〈Battle Alert: Earth Shifter has been affected by Player Izroth's «Blood Stigma»〉
Izroth received an unexpected surprise, which was the fact that his Blood Stigma skill had activated against the Earth Shifter. Now, it would take 10% of his attack damage that ignored all defenses, as damage every one second for a grand total of ten seconds!
That meant he would deal a total of 610 damage over ten seconds without even having to lift a single finger.
In only a few seconds, Izroth had managed to shave off nearly 10% of the Earth Shifter's HP alone.
He took up his previous sword stance once again and skillfully managed the incoming attacks of the Earth Shifter. Izroth swapped between sword stances depending on the opportunities that presented itself.
Needless to say, Luna and Zi Yi were not just sitting back idly enjoying the show. Since Izroth was capable of holding aggro against this monster, and any damage the Earth Shifter dealt to him was healed back thanks to the lifesteal passive he recently acquired, Luna simply focused on damage. She used Holy Smite whenever it was off cooldown, which was every two seconds.
Although it only did 40% of her magic as damage, unlike Superior Holy Smite which did 100% of her magic as damage, it was still enough for her to contribute something towards the fight. She felt as though Izroth and Zi Yi were more than capable of dishing out enough damage, therefore, she did not feel the need to go all out and waste mana using a higher level skill.
Zi Yi sent another two arrows through the void, one of which pierced directly into the head of the Earth Shifter.
The HP of the Earth Shifter dropped rapidly as the group pressed on with their assault.
The attack patterns of the Earth Shifter were too predictable. It followed the same exact approach to its attack every single time, which made dealing with it much easier than the other elite monsters within the Chaotic Dogma Realm.
The only skill Izroth and his party had to watch out for was the vibrating earth beneath their feet. It appeared as though the more times it used the skill, the faster it formed. Besides that, there were no other major changes.
Izroth's Blade of Lightning cut through the air many times faster than any of his previous attempts, however, there was a small restriction placed upon his movements. This was the system purposely limiting his actions due to one reason at a time like this, it had finally recognized Izroth's movements as the execution of a skill.
〈System Alert: Congratulations, you have learned a new skill. Would you like to name the skill?〉
Thanks to the Earth Shifter's quick attack speed, Izroth was able to learn the second sword form much faster than he originally anticipated. It appeared that creating skills below the S-ranked level truly had no effect on the skill that was currently still processing.
This made Izroth even more determined to learn all ten sword forms as quickly as possible. If he managed to master all ten sword forms, there would be no player within all of RML who could even dream of facing him in a close range fight.
"Name the skill Second Sword Form: Returning Wave." Izroth said in response to the system alert.
Skill Name: Second Sword Form: Returning Wave
Skill Creator: Izroth
Skill Level: 1/4
Skill Rank: B
Requirements: Sword Equipped
Passive: After you successfully evade an attack, your next sword strike gains the temporary ability «Sword Counter» and «Sword Return».
Sword Counter(Active): Immediately launches an instant counter attack with the user's sword at the opponent dealing 150% of the user's attack as damage and ignoring all the opponent's physical defenses.
Sword Return(Active): Counter the next attack or skill used against you with your sword and redirect it towards a target of your choice. This skill cannot return attacks that are too far above the user's total attack damage. The cooldown on this skill is doubled if this skill is used.
Special Note: This skill can also be leveled up through repeated usage and proper execution.
Cooldown: 3 minutes
The system did not let Izroth down. It provided him with a skill that was incredibly close to the actual sword form itself. He was once again impressed with the precision and capability of the system within RML.
The Second Sword Form: Returning Wave was all about waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike one's opponent. Until that moment, one waited with endless patience. However, when that moment arrived it would be a move that was enough to change the entire outcome of a battle with one swing of the sword.
An arrow appeared from within void and penetrated through the body of the Earth Shifter without so much as a single bit of resistance in the process.
With that arrow, the Earth Shifter released a small bestial sound before ultimately falling over in defeat.
〈System Alert: Congratulations, you have defeated Earth Shifter〉
〈System Alert: You have been awarded 8,295 EXP〉
Surprisingly, there was no loot drop from the Earth Shifter. However, the amount of experience it gave was quite generous. Since only three of them fought against the monster, the experience was somewhat more than usual compared to if they were in a full group of six players.
Izroth sheathed his Blade of Lightning. As if playing on Izroth's timing, as soon his sword entered into its sheath, the earth began to shift once more, changing the entire layout of the maze.
It appeared that defeating the Earth Shifter had no effect whatsoever on the nature of this maze. It may just be that this was a normal area within the Chaotic Dogma Realm that the Earth Shifter lived in. At least, that would explain why its name and skills matched its environment.
"How are we supposed to leave this place if it changes every few moments?" Zi Yi frowned. If the maze kept constantly changing, then it did not matter where they went inside of the maze, it would always trap them. The only way to escape seemed to be by relying on pure luck.
Either way, Zi Yi was not the type to leave everything up to luck and hope that things eventually work out for the best.
"It may only have changed because we have just defeated the Earth Shifter. If that's the case, then we would not have to endure any more sudden changes in the maze's layout. As long as we do not run into any other monsters." Luna said, giving her opinion on the matter.
However, while those two were having a conversation about the maze, Izroth's attention was focused on a specific tunnel area located around thirty meters away from them. It was very faint, but Izroth could feel a familiar presence within that tunnel.
It may be due to the black specks having less interference within this small cave, but Izroth's range of perception had improved considerably ever since they entered inside. But, he was only able to pick up this presence after the maze shifted.
When Luna and Zi Yi noticed Izroth's silence, as well as, his gaze set onto a specific tunnel, they wondered what he had discovered this time.
"Did you find a clue on how to escape from this maze?" Zi Yi asked.
Izroth shook his head, "No, but I may have found one of our party members."
Luna and Zi Yi were startled by Izroth's words. However, if he truly did manage to locate one of the guys while inside of this maze, his sense of perception was even more frightening than they originally anticipated.
"We'll go and take a look." Izroth said as he started to head in the direction of the tunnel he felt the familiar presence in. Of course, Luna and Zi Yi followed after him.
A few moments later, the group had already walked for around thirty seconds and arrived deeper into the tunnel. All of a sudden, they heard a frustrated voice spewing all kind of insults directed at the maze.
"You- Maze, you are now my sworn enemy for life! We are blood enemies and can never reconcile our differences! You have gone too far this time! We cannot exist in this world together!" The voice said as if the maze itself was an actual person to file a grievance against.
'This voice, it belongs to Halls.'
Izroth immediately recognized the voice when they closed in on its position. However, when he heard the words Halls spoke, he could not help but to inwardly shake his head. Claiming that a lifeless place was your blood enemy was a little much, even for Halls.
But, Halls did not think that this was the case at all. When he had finally managed to reach the end of the maze after so much painstaking effort, it suddenly shifted and denied him the goal right in front of his eyes! Just mere meters away from leaving this place after being trapped all this time, how could he not be angered to this point?