Falcinean frowned as he lost track of Azalea's presence. Although one would not be able to tell from the way he fought, Falcinean was actually blind! As a result, he had no choice but to sharp his other senses and relied on them as his primary source of "seeing" his surroundings. It was also the main reason as to why he was capable of tracking Azalea's movements despite her distinct speed advantage.
That was when out of nowhere, Falcinean heard the soft sound of a sharp object cutting through the air and carried a clear hostile intent. However, unlike the previous attacks he experienced, this particular attack felt extremely sharp by comparison.
"Below!" Falcinean quickly rotated his body as he waved his crimson scimitars down towards the ground!
Falcinean knocked away a dagger covered in a milky white aura that was being held by an arm made from shadows. But, before he could follow up, he sensed two attacks similar to the one he had just experienced being aimed at him. However, each attack was approaching from a different angle!
Falcinean lowered his stance and spun in a full circle as he swept outward with his crimson scimitars, successfully parrying the two incoming strikes.
But, it did not stop there. What followed after was three strikes, then four strikes—there was no sign of the attacks slowing down! Every time a new group of shadow arms erupted from the darkness, there would always be one more shadow arm than last time that accompanied it.
After the barrage reached five strikes, Falcinean could no longer parry every blow. Six strikes... Nine strikes... Twelve strikes...!
"It's getting faster." Falcinean's facial expression darkened as he was being cut and stabbed in multiple sections of his body! Besides the speed of the attacks, the biggest issue was the milky white aura that encompassed the daggers. That aura sliced through Falcinean's defenses as if they were not even there!
At this point, Falcinean had abandoned the idea of parrying every attack and simply focused on protecting his vital points. The attacks persisted until the final bombardment of fifteen strikes, and by the time it ended, Falcinean was attacked 120 times in less than ten seconds! Needless to say, the damage he received was not light.
[Falcinean HP Remaining: 71.63%]
Azalea slowly emerged from the darkness a few meters away from Falcinean. When she reappeared, the darkness retracted into her shadow, and the milky white aura that encompassed the daggers in her hands had vanished.
Azalea inwardly furrowed her brows. She knew that an epic NPC's HP could not be compared to that of a rare NPC's HP; however, she never anticipated that the difference would be so immense! She had fought against a few rare NPCs before, and none of them were as sturdy as Falcinean.
In terms of pure potential damage output, Dance of Fusillades was Azalea's strongest attack! The fact that she had not managed to deal more damage to Falcinean despite ignoring his defenses caused Azalea to rethink her initial strategy.
There was only a handful of seconds remaining on her main movement skill, Dance of Phantoms. Once that skill ended, Azalea understood that Falcinean would become a lot tougher to face head-on. After all, she was uncertain before, but after using Dance of Fusillades, Azalea knew that she was not mistaken. Falcinean was beginning to slowly adapt to her fighting-style!
This meant that the longer the fight went on, the more complicated it would be. However, Azalea predicted that it would be this way. Given that Falcinean was an epic NPC, it was not surprising that he was able to adapt during the middle of a battle—a trait that most NPCs and monsters lacked.
"I take back my previous statement. It would seem that I have disrespected you as a warrior. You are indeed worthy of dying under my blades." Falcinean stated as a light gust of wind started to blow around him. At the same time, countless tiny grains of sand could be seen forming in the atmosphere!
Azalea's gaze sharpened as she sensed the shift in Falcinean's attitude. The aura around him had become filled with an overwhelming amount of killing intent, and the pressure generated by it would cause most players with low willpower to cower in fear.
"S-" Just as Falcinean was about to make his move, a voice cried out in pain.
"Ahhhhh!" The scream immediately caught the attention of both Azalea and Falcinean. When the two looked over, they were greeted by the sight of a motionless adult Trephasia and a small child Trephasia crying on the ground next to them. The adult Trephasia had been killed!
〈System Alert: 10/13 Trephasia Villager Deaths.〉
There was a look of surprise on Azalea's face when she realized that one of the Trephasias had been slain. She knew that there were four intruders due to the quest information, and so, she had remained vigilant just in case the remaining three were hiding nearby. But, what she never expected was that the three of them could hide so well—she had been careless!
"Sorry, sorry, Controller Falcinean. I know you said not to interfere, but you seemed to be struggling with that little girl there. How can I sit back and watch? If I did, I am afraid that your Great Duke would blame me if anything were to happen to you." This voice came from one of the three individuals who stood over the body of the slain Trephasia. He was the squad leader of the Sandstorm Walkers that the Great Duke ordered to assist Falcinean. He, along with the other Sandstorm Walkers, wore thick and tattered clothing that was the color of the Pzenium desert sands.
NPC Name: (Sandstorm Walker Squad Leader)???(Rare)
NPC Level: ???
NPC HP: ??? (100%)
NPC Name: (Sandstorm Walker)???(Elite)
NPC Level: ???
NPC HP: ??? (100%)
NPC Name: (Sandstorm Walker)???(Elite)
NPC Level: ???
NPC HP: ??? (100%)
What Azalea did not know was that she had not been careless. The Sandstorm Walkers possessed a unique skill that allowed them to move freely through virtually any terrain undetected! However, since Pzenium battles always took place in the desert that was filled with sand, those who mastered the skill were named Sandstorm Walkers.
"What is the meaning of this? I gave you specific orders, and you dared to defy them?" Falcinean said as his voice turned cold.
"That's a scary look you have there. However, you won't dare kill me without permission from your Great Duke. By that time, heh, I will already have the results he wants. I am sure you know that your Great Duke views nothing but results. Your way of doing things has gotten us nowhere, and these villagers refuse to talk. Therefore, I will do things my way and start killing them one by one until they reveal where they are hiding the criminal. Though you are welcome to keep playing around with that brat over there." The Sandstorm Walker Leader stated condescendingly. Even though Falcinean held a higher rank than him, the Sandstorm Walker Leader belonged to a separate power in Pzenium. Therefore, he was not fearful of Falcinean's threats.
Right then and there, Falcinean wanted to remove that guy's head from his body. However, the words he spoke were valid. Even someone like the Great Duke could not afford to have the Sandstorm Walkers as enemies without proper preparation. They were an organization that was deeply rooted in the Pzenium kingdom and held an alliance with only one thing—gold. The fact that the Great Duke was willing to hire the Sandstorm Walkers for this matter meant that he was dead set on killing the person who had murdered his son!
"Still, who would have thought that a bunch of rats was hiding in the deserts of our Pzenium. They even have an entire oasis to themselves—how arrogant. Well, it won't remain this way for long. Once others know of this location, they will all be slaughtered anyway." The Sandstorm Walker Leader said as a look of frustration appeared on his face as the child at his feet had not stopped crying!
"Don't worry, brat. You will join them soon." The Sandstorm Walker Leader reached towards the child, but just before he could grab ahold of them, a ghost-like figure rushed past him! By the time he looked down, the child had disappeared!
"Oh, now, what's this? You actually care for these rats? To expose such a fatal weakness, how foolish." The Sandstorm Walker Leader stated with a grin.
More than twenty meters away, Azalea stood with a Trephasia child in her arms. She placed them down next to a group of Trephasias who all seemed shocked when she appeared. What was she doing here? Why did that human just save a member of their village?
Azalea's narrowed her eyes as her thoughts raced. Her worst fears had come to pass. Now that her intent to protect the villagers had been exposed, if the intruders started to target the villagers, there was no way that she would be able to protect them while fighting. If Falcinean were not here, then it may have been possible. However, how could she ignore Falcinean's existence? The situation had quickly become increasingly troublesome!
Azalea had not forgotten Izroth's words to prioritize her own safety. Given these circumstances, the correct move would be to retreat and wait for reinforcements. Nevertheless, she could not help but think of what her teacher would do when faced with a similar situation. Would he withdraw just because the odds were not in his favor? The answer to that question was obvious!
"Get away from here." Azalea said. Her words were directed to the villagers who were still in a state of shock.
"W-why should we trust a human? Is it not one of your kind who is threatening to destroy our village? Why should we trust you?" One of the Trephasias asked.
"Only a fool would trust a stranger. I am not asking you to trust me; I am telling you to get out of my way. You are an eyesore." Azalea said in a cold tone as she released a killing intent towards the Trephasias.
Azalea's killing intent caused the Trephasias to tremble in fear as they reluctantly started to retreat. They felt that if they had stayed there a moment longer, their lives would have been lost!
Of course, Azalea had no intention of killing any of the Trephasia villagers. After all, her quest was to protect them. However, she understood that merely talking to them would do her no good, and so, she decided to use a more forceful approach.
"Do you think it will be that easy?" The Sandstorm Walker Leader scoffed.
He then ordered the two next to him, "Don't let the villagers escape. If anyone resists—kill them."