“What’s going on back there?”
‘Why did the harpies yell like that? Did something happen to Numila and the others?’
As I was about to say something, Mimiya took to the air and from her vantage point, surveyed our backlines. “The gate closed.”
‘The gate closed? Sh*t, those shutters pulled a fast one over us…I knew this place couldn’t be that simple!’
Now that the shutters closed up, our surroundings began to change as well. The pitch black darkness started to fade and even though there was still no light source, the walls and ground regained their enamel coloring. It was then that I realized that we were in a huge rounded room. Looking around, I wouldn’t be surprised if this room was able to fit another 30 000 of us.
The innermost ring of the room was made of the same bone walls we saw previously. There were, however, three gigantic shutter gates evenly spaced apart…’this architecture style…it feels so familiar, an arena for beasts? Yes, it had to be an arena’
Soon after the shutter gate slammed shut behind us, a black whirlpool appeared roughly one hundred meters in front of us. It had an almost translucent quality to it that made it seem like an illusion. However, there was something decidedly real about it. A second after it appeared, a strange object surfaced from within the whirlpool.
It was a fist that could easily contain a child in its palm if it opened up. That black fist had no flesh at all but was instead made entirely out of bone that seemed to have metal infused within it.
‘Probably some undead we haven’t seen before.’
Because this entire situation seemed too strange, I decided to observe for now. Though the thought of attacking right away had crossed my mind, I restrained myself in the end as I was afraid something else might surface from the whirlpool before we could destroy it.
As the metallic bone arm pulled itself out of the whirlpool, its shoulders surfaced into view after which came its giant head. Peering into its eye sockets, I could clearly see the unusually active soul flame within it…
‘Damnit, how could there be such a huge undead…it’s a titan, isn’t it?!”
Even though only its arms and head had surfaced so far, the oppressive aura it exuded was enough of a warning for me already. ‘We mustn’t let it crawl out! It’s too dangerous!’
Eyes locked onto that black whirlpool floating in mid air, I promptly channelled my mana and fired off a dark red fireball.
Sizzling audibly as it hurtled through the air, the fireball quickly collided into the whirlpool but unfortunately, it caused no visible damage to the whirlpool. In fact, the moment it came into contact with it, the whirlpool seemed to absorb the fireball and grew even bigger. At the same time, the speed at which the skeleton titan crawled out seemed to speed up as well…
‘That whirlpool is able to convert the mana it absorbed into energy for itself!’
‘This is bad, it was already halfway free and from the looks of things, it had to be at least 10 meters tall…’
“My magic seemed to have an opposite effect on the whirlpool instead, do you know what is that creature?” I asked the more experienced Habona.
“I’m not sure as well, perhaps granddaddy might know.” Turning to her werewolf bodyguard, she said: “Have the elder come over…”
“There’s no need for that, I’m already here.” Just as we mentioned him, the elder appeared right on que; he probably started making his way here the moment he spotted that strangeness in front of us. Pushing through the relative safety of the backlines, he quickly walked up to our side and turned his attention to the skeleton titan which was almost done crawling out by now.
Mulling over it for a while, he finally spoke up: “That should be an undead formed out of a titan’s corpse. Furthermore, looking at its black metallic bones, it was probably a black iron titan in life…speaking of black iron titans, I remember hearing long ago that several titans were thrown into this prison.”
“They were a family and the weakest amongst them was three-stars while the strongest was six-stars. Back then, there was nothing that could stand in their way. One day however, they just vanished…some of us guessed that they left the Prison of the Dead…looks like they didn’t leave but were killed here instead…”
‘Weakest is three-stars and the strongest is six? I thought this prison was only able to confine creatures up to four-stars so how did a six-star…wait, I get it now…’
Right after that first titan made its way out of the whirlpool, a second closely followed behind it after which came a third and fourth as well. At the end, a total of nine titan skeletons crawled out of the whirlpool!
Just like the old werewolf mentioned, these titans varied in sizes. The largest was naturally that ten meter tall fellow that appeared right from the start and unless I was wrong for some strange reason, that fellow should be the six-star titan. The smallest amongst them was roughly five meters tall and according to the old werewolf, it should be a three-star.
Naturally, these titans weren’t content to just sit and stare at us while their brethren climbed out of the whirlpool. Right after the first titan appeared, it immediately tried to attack us but was stopped by a strange invisible wall. After that, it gave up on attacking and we ended up suffering nothing more than a little jump scare.
Soon after the ninth titan appeared, the black whirlpool closed up automatically. However, just before it disappeared, a strange psychic wave emanated from it and from this emanation, I received a chilling bit of news: between us and the titans, only one side could survive…
If we were able to defeat these titans, the giant gate in front of us would automatically open up and if we couldn’t, then it really didn’t matter what happened next.
“Habona, can you take care of that six-star fellow?”
A ten meter tall titan was no joke to fight. Putting it simply, all it had to do was roll around and a large portion of our army would get squashed to death. With that in mind, Habona was the safest bet we had against this titan. She was strong, that much was proven in all our battles. As for how strong she actually was, I wasn’t entirely sure but there was one thing I knew for certain, our strongest fighter right now wasn’t Numila and her Flametail but rather this female werewolf.
“Just because it was a six-star in life doesn’t mean that it’s a six-star now as well. There’s no way for an undead to retain its full power from life plus skeletons have their own unique points that can be exploited. They are faster than zombies but not by much and more importantly, they have no brains.” Perhaps it was because this situation was rather unique, she was noticeably chattier than usual. Having said all that, what she probably wanted to say was, leave it to her.
“Then I’ll leave the big fellow to you.”
Having settled the issue of that six-star, that didn’t mean there was nothing left to worry about. The remaining titans weren’t weaklings either. The two nine meter tall titans were both five-stars and the two eight meter tall titans were four-stars. The remaining five to seven meters tall titans were probably at the level of three-stars.
With regards to those two five-stars, my plan was to have Numila, Eugenia and Elena handle them. With their wings and magic, they clearly had an advantage over these towering skeletons. While I couldn’t guarantee that they would win, if it was just a matter of stalling them, there shouldn’t be any issue. As for the two four-star titans, I had Westley and Manasha handle them.
Because this battle wasn’t suited for fodder tactics –their attacks wouldn’t even scratch the titans—, the remaining titans were handed over to our elites. Should all else fail, I would then throw the rest of our army at them.
With that, our battle plan was pretty much set in stone. However, the ones who I worried about the most weren’t those three harpy witches but rather Habona. After all, she was facing off against a legendary six-star titan while she was just a four-star herself.
“About that, how about you hold onto this for now.” I took off Shadowfang and handed it over to her.
“I might not need it.” Though she said that, she didn’t reject my goodwill in the end and promptly secured Shadowfang to her back. She was probably aware as well that her claws alone weren’t enough to penetrate the defenses of a six-star.
Black Iron Skeleton Titan…just hearing that name alone was enough to conjure up images of an impregnable defense. Its black metallic sheen was almost a reminder to its opponents that it had a formidable defense.
Not long after our discussion, the titans finally couldn’t restrain themselves any longer and rushed at us. As they did so, their massive feet pounded the bony floor and the resultant impact actually made me mistake the quaking for a minor earthquake.
Of my forces, Habona was the first to enter battle with the titans. Fists raised, the six-star titan immediately punched out at the charging werewolf but it was nimbly avoided by a quick side step followed by a leap onto the titan’s knuckles while its fist was still slightly buried within the bony floor.
With nothing to interfere with her as she sprinted up its arm, she furiously attacked the bony exterior. However, she didn’t start out with Shadowfang but instead chose to test out her claws on the skeleton. In a frenzy of swipes, she wildly swung her claws in front of her without ever slowing down her climb. Unfortunately, the effects were as we had both expected: nil. She simply wasn’t able to penetrate its defenses. All her swipes accomplished were a spiderweb of faint claw marks on its otherwise unharmed exterior.
Now that she knew her claws were useless, she didn’t waste anymore time and drew out Shadowfang instead. Running up to its thick bony neck, she took up a quickdraw stance and readied herself for a powerful strike to finish the titan off in one strike.
Slicing through the air at a speed invisible to the naked eye, the blade swiftly impacted with the bony exterior and broke through its defenses, albeit with some difficulty. However, though she managed to cut through its bony exterior, the expected bifurcation didn’t happen.
‘To think even Shadowfang’s razor edge wasn’t enough to cut its neck in half…’
However, such an outcome wasn’t because Shadowfang was lacking but rather it was because Habona herself didn’t have the strength to slice through its chunky neck.
While the long dead titan couldn’t feel any pain at all, it wasn’t foolish enough to allow an opponent to run amok on its body. It immediately halted its charge and tried to swat at Habona with its giant bone palms. Thankfully, the moment Habona realized she wasn’t able to behead the titan, she decisively withdrew with Shadowfang. Kicking off with her powerful wolf feet, she leaped off the titan’s shoulders just as its palm descended and landed on the titan’s ribcage.
*Bang* The palm crashed into the shoulder with a resounding bang that sent violent tremors throughout the fleshless titan. Down below, Habona barely managed to prevent herself from falling off by hanging onto its thick chest bone.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.