Chapter 936: The Storyteller

Lifre let out a huff when she had completely switched the blood for the last of the infected Maxers. She knew that Rowan was dead, so there was no rush to take care of things, but these people couldn’t help but be anxious. After all, they were dealing with a power that was able to make even beings who had long since transcended their mortal bodies feel the threat of such a mundane death.

“What’s gotten into people lately?” She muttered to herself, shaking her head and stretching her arms out to the side. “Well, at least this is dealt with. Though…”

Lifre cast her gaze downwards, letting out a long sigh as she began rolling her shoulders. Projecting World Sight had become a habit for her, primarily as a way to train this new energy. When she looked down, she could see the squirming masses hidden beneath the surface. “I guess you guys are about done preparing your big move, aren’t you?”

Deep beneath the surface, there was a pit of ravenous insects, all directing vicious gazes towards the surface. These creatures had first been drawn over due to the sound of construction, but even more so when the first to arrive had perished. Now, a wide array of species had gathered, some of which typically preyed on one another, and yet their enmity was all directed at the surface.

Lifre couldn’t understand the ecosystem of this floor, but she knew that the Maxers here would be doomed if she allowed these bugs to surface. Success would have been debatable at best before Rowan’s interference, but now that they had to worry about their blood supply, defeat was almost a certainty.

“Since that’s the case…” Lifre closed her eyes, extending her hand out to the side. “Grant me what I require.” As she muttered under her breath, golden ripples spread in the air around her finger. When she closed her hand, these ripples formed into a sheet of paper. Lifre opened her eyes curiously, bringing the paper over to look at it.

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On the paper was a map… leading about twenty meters behind herself. “Really? You want me to evacuate? Quit joking around and give me what I really require already.” She huffed, focusing her divinity. This was her first divine artifact, so there were some… peculiarities to it, but it had never really failed her before.

The piece of paper shimmered in response to her words, forming a suit of golden armor that stuck to her body. “Now that’s more like it.” Lifre grinned, sensing the enchantments on the armor. “Acid resistance, gravity reduction, and slashing resistance? Guess there shouldn’t be anything too bad from them.”

As Lifre spoke, her hands reached out once again. “Come, the sword of challenge.” She called out, surprising those nearby as a greatsword appeared in her thin arms. The nearby workers could tell that she was preparing for battle, so of course the Maxers noticed as well, everyone nervous due to their current state.

Lifre clicked her tongue at that, holding her sword high. Ever since she had cultivated her divine circuits, she knew that she didn’t have to perform any sort of chant to activate her divine power. Despite this, she felt that the dramatic flare of doing so was necessary to build momentum. That and she just liked how it felt. “Come forth, tales of distant legends!”

The sky above darkened as a circular library manifested high above Lifre, releasing a resplendent golden light that covered the area. “Arise, unsung heroes. Those who pave the foundation of a mighty kingdom. Every god needs a temple, and every hero needs a home.”

Golden, ghostly figures began to jump from the archway of the floating palace, landing heavily all around Lifre. Perhaps because of the energy she was releasing, but Lifre could sense that the beasts beneath the surface were growing more and more agitated. However, there was still one artifact she had yet to trigger, kept hidden within her library.

“Enter, the wicked army, those who serve as the goal of heroes. Without a villain, no story may be complete.” The library’s light grew brighter as the final artifact activated, a book hidden within its depths flying open.

There was a bestial roar, seven figures flying from the palace. These were seven massive lions, the one in front having a mane of fire. When Lifre saw this, a grin spread over her lips. “I greet the king of beasts.” She spoke in a cordial tone, the previous figures she had summoned all moving to hasten the construction efforts.

The leading lion let out a deep growl, its voice echoing in the air. “What have you summoned us for, storyteller?

Lifre spread her arms out wide, gesturing to the land around her. “This is a land where beasts cannot roam, where your kingdom has been usurped by mere insects. Those who crawl beneath the surface have dared to threaten your sovereignty, great ruler. When I saw such a sight, I felt it my duty to summon the lord of all that walks the land.”

Of course, these words were merely improvised on the spot. Lifre had no control over which monster she summoned from the villainous army. So long as it was an antagonist that she had written within its pages, it could be summoned at random.

As for why she used such a precious treasure to summon villains rather than heroes? First of all, it was more exciting! Even a villain could perform a righteous deed if it crossed their bottom line. And as the ‘storyteller’, Lifre knew the minds of every villain she wrote, and had a measure of authority over them.

Sure enough, the king of beasts let out a furious growl at Lifre’s words. The thought that its kingdom was stolen by pests was something that it could not tolerate. In its story, it was meant to be a mighty ruler that led an army of beasts to roam the world, fighting against the heroes of man.

Its eyes glanced towards the nearby people building the city. “You wish to use me to protect these mongrels?

“Of course not, great king.” Lifre shook her head. “These fellows behind me wish to construct a place of worship, where they may revel in your glory.”

The flaming lion scoffed, its eyes turning towards the ground. “Whether you speak true or not, these pests cannot be tolerated. As you are the storyteller, I shall grant you this request.

Seele, open the way!” The king roared, one of the lions behind it letting out a joyous cry. In response to the cry, the ground split open, a black crevice extending endlessly below the budding city. “Crete, lead the hunt!

Another of the lions lunged forward, its body carried by the wind and flying down into the crack, the other five following. This left only the king together with Lifre, who bowed politely. “Allow me to join you on your crusade. It would be the greatest of insults if I were to summon one such as yourself to fight a battle I dare not wish to partake in myself.”

The king seemed pleased by her words. “Indeed… very well, storyteller. Show me the power that shapes worlds!

As it spoke, it followed its pack, jumping down into the abyss below. Lifre’s lips spread into a wide grin, holding her sword over her shoulder as she followed. Thankfully, the King of Beasts had a simple mindset. If she had called the Phantom Blade, the Cackling Demon, or the Gluttonous Lord, it would have taken a great deal more convincing. Of course, while he was simple, this also meant that his power was near the lower end of the monsters she controlled.

That didn’t matter so much to Lifre, though. Regardless of where he lay within the scale of power, this was still the aid of seven gods, while those on the surface were held at bay by the fear of death. 

The King of Beasts lit the way for Lifre, the group soon reaching the massive cave that she had sensed before. The six leading lions had already begun their brawl, their bodies littered with scratches from the swarms that sought to devour them. Seeing this, the king was enraged, the flames on his body sweeping out to envelop the insects below. “You dare?!

There was a chorus of screeching voices, Lifre diving straight into the fray. With a thought, she activated her adventure, buffing herself and her allies while casting a wide area debuff on the enemies. Were it not for the presence of the king, she would have happily chanted the effects. However, she knew that she had an image to maintain.

Her body moved like a shadow, sweeping through dozens of insectoid monsters in a single slice. With her divine sword in hand, she was not concerned with the hard shells of these creatures.

Unfortunately, while she could sweep through dozens in a single move, and the king of beasts could burn thousands, that number was insignificant compared to the sheer size of the insectoid army. Within moments, Lifre’s body was buried beneath a chitinous tide, her sword flailing and trying to split apart as many enemies as she could.

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Lifre was becoming more and more frustrated as time went on. Not because she was being overpowered, but because her energy was being drained to maintain so many artifacts! It wasn’t often that Lifre had to consume her divinity on such a large scale, and she felt like it would take hours before they managed to clear out this swarm. And that was assuming that the seven divine lions managed to survive that long.

Just as she was thinking that, she heard a voice from up above. “Chain arrow.” After that soft voice sounded, a silver light flashed by Lifre’s body, striking the head of one of the insects attacking her. Immediately afterwards, two lights left the insect, striking two others near it. From each of those, two more lights appeared.

Arrows? Lifre blinked, looking upwards. There, she could see two halfling gods standing within the path carved by the lions. “The Grids!”

Theon offered a small nod, keeping his eyes focused. “This is too unbalanced of a fight. We need to even out the numbers a bit.” He said, the silver lines amplifying even faster. Next to him, Thessa was already drawing her next arrow.

This arrow seemed… dangerous. Even Lifre had a feeling of crisis when looking at the arrow, the halfling Goddess keeping her eyes calm. “Reaping arrow.” She muttered, letting it loose. The arrow struck the forehead of a particularly bulky beetle, piercing clean through it and striking the ground behind it. When it did so, a dark wave spread out, every insect within a hundred meters simply collapsing.

It’s so much easier having proper combat gods on our side… Life muttered inwardly, though she didn’t fail to notice the wary look that flashed over the face of the king of beasts. “Oh great king, the hunters of man have come to aid us in our battle!” She called out, mentally communicating to the two halflings to play along.

The lion looked at the duo, only receiving a small nod from Thessa before letting out a rumbling snort. “As if I would require the aid of man!? Everyone, attack in full! Show these hunters that we are not to be pitied!

The six other lions roared, lifting their damaged bodies and once more pouncing towards the remaining swarm. This battle was far from over, but at least the immediate crisis was resolved. How did you two get here, anyways?

Thessa was the one to answer, nocking another reaping arrow on her bow. Theon’s a priest of Aurivy. We have been visiting all of the major development sites as a patrol. When we got here, someone told us that there was trouble down here.

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