'Strange, they seem to have vanished into thin air.'
Izroth and his party were currently traveling on the swirling mountain path. Up until a few moments ago, Izroth could still sense the multiple presences that observed him and his party from a safe distance.
However, not too long after starting their journey up the mountain, not only did the presences from behind them disappear but also the ones that were up ahead before they started their climb.
The most unusual thing about the mountain was the level of calmness. When they first stepped onto the mountain path, everyone noticed that the blizzard appeared to curve around the mountain itself.
In other words, it was as if the entire mountain was surrounded by an invisible sphere that protected it from the blizzard. But, what bothered Izroth the most was the level of silence in the surroundings.
Besides the movements of his own party, Izroth did not perceive any other sound or motion. This was highly unusual given his current level of perception.
The Isolation Compass within his hands continued to lead Izroth and his party up the mountain. But, all of a sudden, the Isolation Compass pointed down towards the snow beneath their feet.
Izroth halted his steps and carefully examined the snow beneath his feet and the nearby areas. However, he frowned inwardly when it came up empty-handed.
The Isolation Compass instructed them to go down, but when he attempted to walk back from the way they originally came from, the item directed them back to their previous location.
"What's wrong?" Luna asked when she saw that Izroth kept moving back and forth.
Izroth walked back over to the spot where the Isolation Compass pointed down as he said, "The Isolation Compass points down from here, however, judging from our current position and the lack of means to travel underground, we seem to be at an impasse."
"Down? Are you sure that thing isn't broken?" Guan Yu asked.
"Unlikely." Izroth responded. Although Izroth was unable to see any information about the item, he understood that it was not easy to come by. Usually, items like that were not easy to break and was quite durable and long-lived.
While it was not impossible, it was highly improbable that they were given a defective item by the voice.
"From what I can guess, there are two possibilities. One is that we've arrived at our destination but remain unclear on how to proceed. The other is that the Isolation Compass really is broken. After all, it does not seem to be in the best of shape." Zi Yi said.
She then continued, "Also, we are still uncertain of how things work within the Undying Maelstrom. It's possible that some unknown force is behind the malfunction that we have no idea exist. In the end, this place is still a part of the Chaotic Dogma Realm."
Everyone believed that what Zi Yi said made sense. There were still too many unknown variables that they were unaware of about the Undying Maelstrom. However, none of this changed the fact that they were currently at an impasse.
"If there truly is something in the atmosphere, it's not anything my Eyes of Magic is able to perceive. I suggest that we-" As Valentine was speaking, Izroth suddenly dashed over in his direction and swung his Blade of Lightning towards Valentine.
This alarmed Valentine and the others as they were caught off guard by Izroth's sudden attack. The attack happened too fast and so Valentine was not able to respond to it and could only bring his arms up to try and block the strike.
However, Izroth's Blade of Lightning swept right past Valentine and just barely missed him.
The sound of something metallic crashing into Izroth's sword rang out from behind Valentine.
Izroth did not waste any time and immediately dashed towards the direction behind Valentine where the object came from, however, there was nothing or no one there.
"A little heads up next time would be nice you know?" Valentine said as he calmed down. Anyone would be uncomfortable after having a sword casually swung at them, even if they were not the intended target.
"What's going on?" Halls asked still confused by the events that just occurred.
"This," Izroth held up a small metallic object that was the shape of a dart. The edges were jagged and there was a substance that resembled sticky tree sap that coated the edges. It looked harmless at first glance, but it was definitely some kind of poison.
Just like with the Isolation Compass, the system did not display any information about the dart. Like before, Izroth did not sense the attack until it was already in motion. Thankfully he did not lower his guard even after he felt the presences disappearance.
"Where did it come from?" Zi Yi studied the dart.
"Wherever it came from, who or whatever attacked us is no longer there. But, it seems we have a more pressing matter to worry about." Izroth said as he redirected everyone's attention to the mountain area above them.
Izroth could feel faint tremors and noticed that the snow on the mountain path moved slightly every few moments. Rolling down the side of the mountain were large chunks of ice the size of a boulder headed straight towards them.
The pathway was too narrow for Izroth and his party to move to a safe distance, as the large chunks of ice rolled down across the entire mountain path.
"Position yourselves in between the falling ice." Izroth said after seeing that there was no other way for them to avoid it. While the ice chunks did cover the entire mountain path, there were still small spaces that stopped them for making contact with one another. Izroth decided that it was their best shot at not being crushed to death.
Everyone acted swiftly and positioned themselves properly so that the ice chunks would just miss them. The last to move was Izroth after making sure that everyone stood in the correct spot. After all, the opening was extremely narrow and being off by even half a meter may have a disastrous outcome given how fast the ice was traveling.
However, just as Izroth was getting ready to adjust his own position, his leg became stuck in the snow. When he looked down, Izroth saw two icy blue hands covered in fur wrapped around his ankle.
'This presence... It's the same as the ones who disappeared earlier.'
"Got human leader! Wish death!" The Fal'Jika creature said as it held tightly onto Izroth's ankle which prevented him from moving.
When the others saw that Izroth was not moving, they were about to warn him about the incoming ice. But, before they even got that chance, the large chunk of ice crashed down on the location Izroth stood at.
As the ice chunk continued to roll down, there was nothing left in the spot Izroth stood in just moments ago.
"Brother!" Halls and Guan Yu shouted at the same time. They rushed forward and looked down the mountain as the ice chunk made its way down. Unfortunately, they did not see any sign of Izroth.
Everyone was shocked. How was it possible that someone with Izroth's speed was unable to move in time? They were unable to see or hear the Fal'Jika creature that grabbed Izroth and prevented his movement.
Luna had a look of disbelief on her face. She felt her heart sank when she failed to see a single trace of Izroth.
Just as silence filled the air, everyone heart a familiar voice come from above them.
"It would seem that we have some unwelcome company." The voice said.
Immediately after everyone heard this voice, they turned to look upward and instantly felt a sense of relief.
"Brother! You're alright!" Halls said in an excited manner.
"Ahahaha! Did you doubt for a second that our brother would be alright?" Guan Yu said.
Luna let out a deep sigh of relief when she saw that Izroth was alright. However, she soon found the feeling to be strange and foreign to her. She froze when she believed that Izroth may have experienced an existence wipe.
The only thing going through her mind at that moment was if Izroth would blame them and never want to speak again. Luna was startled by the fact that she had such selfish thoughts cross her mind as she had never encountered it before. Therefore, she did not know how to feel about it.
At the moment, Izroth's Blade of Lightning was pierced into the side of the mountain as he held onto its hilt. A few moments before the ice reached him, Izroth used Serpent's Bite with the foot that the Fal'Jika creature held onto in order to free himself from its grasp.
However, given how close the ice chunks were to his location, Izroth was unable to move in between a gap as the others did. So instead, Izroth used his skill Shadow Movement in order to enter into a shadow form and traveled up the side of the mountain, just narrowly avoiding the falling ice chunk that was about to crush him.
Izroth canceled his early Shadow Movement skill when he reached a safe position. However, that was to warn his party members about the incoming dangers.
Zi Yi, who was also relieved to see that Izroth was unharmed, picked up on the words Izroth spoke. "Unwelcomed company?"
It did not take a genius to connect the dots. The dart aimed at them, the presences that disappeared earlier, and now large chunks of ice falling down at them. It was obvious that someone or something did not want them to succeed.
"Careful everyone, it may still be around us!" Zi Yi warned.
"What? What may still be around us?" Guan Yu asked. But right after those words left his mouth, he felt both of his legs being grabbed and pulled down into the snow. It was as if he was in some type of quicksand.
"This one strong too! Must wish death! The leader survive! Survive!" One of the Fal'Jika who held onto one of Guan Yu's legs spoke.
This time everyone could clearly see the icy blue creatures with white fur and beady black eyes. One of the creatures held a dagger in their hand and used it to stab Guan Yu in the leg.
〈Battle Alert: Player Guan Yu has been affected by the «Fal'Jika's Poison» for 20 seconds!〉
"You- Scram!" Guan Yu slammed his guandao onto the ground beneath him which caused the Fal'Jika to make a hasty retreat. However, the damage was already done and Guan Yu was losing 250 HP every second. That meant he would lose a total of 5,000 HP from a single attack! What a terrifying poison!
But thankfully, Luna was able to keep up with the damage as she used Healing Essence and well-timed Cure's to counteract the effects of the Fal'Jika poison.
Izroth pulled his Blade of Lightning out of the side of the mountain and slid down to meet back up with the others.
"What the heck are those things?!" Guan Yu said in a slightly frustrated manner. He did not manage to see or sense them when they were so close to him.
"Poison, surprise attacks, traps, and trying to eliminate the strongest in the group first... From their tactics and actions alone, it would be safe to assume that they are a type of hunter." Zi Yi deduced.
"Hunters? You mean we're being hunted down like some wild animals?!" Halls said in an angered manner. That voice failed to warn them about any hunters within the Undying Maelstrom. In fact, it was possible that the voice was the one who controlled them in the first place.
"Sometimes, misfortune carries along with it a gift. It should be somewhere around here." Izroth said as he noticed something while he was in his shadow form a few seconds ago. He walked over a couple of steps and stabbed his Blade of Lightning into the ground.
A few moments later, a hole appeared on the side of the mountain that led down. However, one was unable to see the bottom.
"At the moment, we have no way of tracking the movements of whatever those creatures may be. It's too risky to stay out in the open. The Isolation Compass is also pointing us downward." Izroth explained. But one thing still continued to bother him.
'Odd, why was this hole not here before?'