Chapter 1006 Talent and Experience Part 2
Worst case scenario, he would have pinned the blame on her and taken credit for saving the mission. Phloria, however, had cut off all of his safe routes. As second in command, she had to step in only in the case he wasn't up to the task.
On top of that, Phloria had yet to give a single order, she only provided intel and suggestions, letting Kortus make all decisions. Yet with absolute power came the full responsibility.
Friya's mercenaries only made Kortus's situation worse by offering a benchmark. The more successful they would be, the more incompetent he would appear.
Before he could find a proper retort, Phloria and Friya walked out of the command tent and joined Quylla around the campfire.
"Do you really think there are undead here?" Friya cast Hush so often that no one glared at her anymore.
"Honestly? No. But checking the area just takes a bit of time whereas if I'm wrong, things could get out of hand quickly. I'm okay with this being my last mission as a Captain, not with it being the last thing I do." Phloria said.
The following day, Captain Kortus stuck to his plan and tasked the Prospectors with expanding the caves in the hope to be done with the mission as soon as possible.
If they kept not finding anything, the expedition could leave while if they located the crystal veins, the High Command would send reinforcements to secure the area, making Kortus's job foolproof.
Friya, instead, followed Phloria's advice and ordered the members of the Crystal Shield guild to report every five minutes, no matter if they found something or not. Undead attacked as fast and silently as magical beasts.
If someone disappeared, knowing their last known position would be of crucial importance.
Quylla had still a long way to go before becoming capable of fighting hand to hand, so she helped the Prospectors with her limited knowledge of arrays and her keen mana perception.
"There's something behind this wall." She said to Tlea Ormann, a plump woman in her late fifties with red hair and green eyes, who was the Prospector Foreman.
"Are you sure?" Tlea had spent more time inside crystal mines than at her own home, which gave her plenty of experience in the field. "I'm sorry, but according to my arrays, there is just more rock behind that rock."
"Do me a favor and humor me, please." Quylla was certain that the eerie feeling she had sensed since the day of their arrival came from there, along with a mana pressure so intense that made her eyes water.
'Whatever this is, I'm going to face it head-on.' She thought, tired of living in fear and second-guessing herself. 'All successful mages are confident, like Manohar. Scratch that, he's not confident, more like insane.'
"Everything for an Ernas." Tlea chuckled and gave Quylla a curtsy. "Just tell your father I'm still waiting for my staff."
Quylla felt embarrassed at the idea of having exploited her family name and was still stuttering an apology when the wall opened, revealing a second network of caves that went deeper underground.
"I take back everything I just said." Tlea used her communication amulet to call her colleagues. "You're wasted as a Healer. Are you sure you're not interested in becoming a Royal Prospector?"
Quylla stuttered some more until the pressure coming from the new caves was overshadowed by something worse. The ground in front of the two women rippled as if someone had thrown a pebble on the surface of a lake and a handsome man came out of it.
He looked to be around his mid-thirties and was about 1.8 meters (5'11") tall, with wheat-blonde air and grey eyes. The man was wearing a tailor-made white silk shirt and leather pants that emphasized his muscular built.
His goatee gave his delicate features a manly and wise appearance that almost made Quylla miss the fact that he was holding a sword in his right hand and a heart in his left.
"Noor, Do your thing." He said apparently to no one while he threw both items in the air and dived back into the ground.
"A Ghoul and a Mage Slayer!" Quylla yelled inside her amulet after recognizing them both from the description Lith had given her.
A Ghoul was an undead that was free to move during the day as long as it avoided sunlight. Contrary to the lore, their appearance was no different from that of a human, at least until they ate.
Ghouls needed to feed upon living flesh to sustain their existence and were capable of swimming through solid rock just like Nalrond. That coupled with regenerative abilities on par with trolls made them very hard to kill.
Both the sword and the heart stopped in mid-air, releasing an orange mist that quickly assumed the humanoid features and red eyes typical of a Mage Slayer. They were usually born from the dying body of a powerful swordsman.
In their new form, they would be unable to use fake magic, but their undead nature combined with their skills allowed them to channel the elemental energy into their swordplay.
Mage Slayers weren't true mages, but they were able to cast spells without any chant or hand signs. They just needed to perform a series of attacks to unleash all kinds of elemental attacks up to tier three.
On top of that, magic was their source of nourishment, making all kinds of direct spells useless against them, no matter their tier. Both fake and true mages had a hard time facing someone with infinite stamina that could use magic by simply swinging their blades in close combat.
It was the reason why Rezo the Ghoul didn't even bother attacking. Alone against so many mages, it was suicide for a Ghoul, but a feast for a Mage Slayer. The only weak points Noor had, were her heart and darkness magic.
The former held her blood core, but she could freely move it inside the orange mist, making it invisible, while the latter was too slow to be a threat to someone as nimble as her.
Quylla cursed her bad luck and Blinked away while grabbing Tlea. Noor's blade only hit the air, making the mist that comprised her body ripple in annoyance before she moved onto her next target.
A few Prospectors panicked and unleashed the spells stored in their rings, providing the Mage Slayer with the first decent meal in weeks. The orange mist absorbed the elemental energy while the heart within fed upon the mana and stored it inside the blood core.
Noor's body recovered part of its human features, allowing her to smile as a thank you while she lunged at the idiotic mages in the hope to receive seconds.
"Dimensional magic as well? You really are wasted as a Healer!" Tlea stared at Quylla in awe.
Despite the fact that they were far from being safe, all the Royal Prospector could think about was how to convince the young mage to switch careers. Tlea had studied at one of the six great academies as well, but she only obtained the Warden specialization.
She had never been capable of manipulating and fusing six elements at the same time, so dimensional magic was beyond her reach and with it most of the combat roles the Association had to offer.
Luckily, Tlea had succeeded in Crystalsmithing. That together with her Warden abilities had granted her a wealthy and comfortable life.