Chapter 35: Clean Sweep

The Orc Chief thundered out a riled roar, his clawed hand sweeping up to wallop a counterattack that sliced through the air and aimed for his opponent’s unprotected neck. Stephen huffed and spun around, easily skirting around the assault, before following up with a roundhouse kick that sent a shockwave through the monster’s back, cracking the ground underneath, right before the obese creature sailed up.

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“Orc Chief!!”

A chain of outraged screams cropped up, and Jadesin knew better than to let those warmongers get their inexistent wit together and gangbang Stephen. She whipped her head around and barked out an order, “What are you waiting for? Hold them back!” her words dusted up the lull between the two races. All of the lamias inaugurated the forthcoming slaughter with a resounding war cry as they snaked forth.

The Orcs weren’t lambing around either; they had already sniffed the breeding confrontation and thus started stomping forward. A cloud of dirt and pebbles quaked up and down as the two opposing forces met each other halfway. Thunders overlapped overhead, the rain finally pouring down from the bulk of shaded clouds.

Stephen inhaled the petrichor smell of the weather, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He bounce-stepped on the spot like a boxer before flickering out of position with an Encore Step.

The Orc Chief growled and shoved himself up through the blanket of smudge he had been plummeted in, his forearms crisscrossing to fend himself off of the approaching punch. The strike blasted onto his appendages, forcing him to skid back a couple of meters; a pair of furrows were left behind on the muddy soil. And apart from a minor bruise, the creature was still blooming with health.

“Damn you!” a golden aura flared up around the Orc, like gaseous tendrils of fire feeding off of the oxygen around him. “I’m not going down so easily!!”

“Bitch… please…” Stephen snorted a chuckle before he quick-drew his sword, a crescent wave of Encore Power seemingly leaving the holster and blasting forth at an incredible speed. The Chief Orc’s eyes splayed wide open as the crimson light engulfed his upper body and ripped it apart. Blood sprayed everywhere like a broken fountain.

Jadesin, who was dutifully chaperoning the battlefield, caught sight of the sudden spike in brightness and shifted her attention yonder, right in time to take in the sight of the Chief Orc’s huge lower body wobble down, his insides spewing out into a puddle of gore.

“What…?” her mouth hung open. Of course, she had seen how Stephen had manhandled the monster in two moves before, something that was clearly within her expectations considering his race. However, what had just happened was a bit beyond the charts…

“Orc Chief! Noo!!” the occurrence was not lost on the now-dead Orc’s footmen. Their advance came to a quick halt, and the lamias took on the opportunity to withdraw and do a casualty check. The clash was short-lived, nonetheless, the gaping difference in strength had been strangling the lamias’ defense, so the reprieve was gladly welcomed.

Naturally, their foes had their focus elsewhere.

Their leader had been slain; the very same leader whose shredded corpse now rested under the foot of his killer, merrily chuckling away. Stephen carefully peered at their rapidly changing expressions, knowing that the metaphorical fuse had been lit up. He hoped they would have given in without too much struggle at least.

“No! No! No! Nononono! NO!!” one of them – the bulkiest of the lot – furiously wagged its head as it continued spluttering a sequence of bleared profanities. Its body was prey to a paroxysm of seizure-like twitches, and Stephen knew that that kind of reaction would never bear positive outcomes. In fact, it stomped on the ground and snarled menacingly before making a beeline for him, the axe in its hand whistling through the air resistance, with all the eagerness to burst open his skull like a kid would have in front of a piñata.

Soon, a large chunk of the Orc army followed it as the rest stayed stationed behind, reluctant to jeopardize themselves despite vastly outnumbering him. Stephen quickly mentally cataloged those ones as the smartest of the tribe, and felt no need to spare the charging ones.

Of course, if they had all stood up against him, the situation might have taken a more dangerous turn, but with a battalion of lamias safeguarding him from every direction, he only needed to put on a flashy show.

He waved his hand about, and a mantle of flame – not unlike that hobgoblin trio’s one – sprung up from the terrain in front of him and sliced the two fronts in a perfect line. The unexpected magic spell startled them into a momentary stop to avoid the flame’s beckoning limbs, and Stephen used that opportunity to conjure a bevy of small fireballs all around him, before they rained down upon the amalgamated and panicked horde of Orcs.

It was easy… too easy. Stephen watched as the inferno raged on, swallowing everything while belching out ripples of thick smoke. The bolstering rain, however, doused off the fire quick enough, and the surviving Orcs powered through their injuries and resumed their bushwhack.

How foolish.

Their charred skin should have curbed their will to move, but it might have been their revenge-driven impetus that ferried them on, probably accrued from their unwise loyalty that stung with the same intensity his flames had been. On a side note, his attack filtered out the weakest ones, and a quick scan revealed them all to be Rank 1 or Rank 2, truly something not scoff at, especially the bulldozing Orcs at the forefront.

Now, if he had an unlimited supply of Encore Power, he would have breezed through them easy-peasy, but tackling off against dozens of them with his current strength fell in the category of stupid ideas, especially if he got himself surrounded once his Encore Pool drained. Thankfully the lamias lanced into action and spared him the thoughts of doing anything remotely dangerous.

And it was only when Jadesin officially joined the fight that the Orcs lost any likelihood of getting out of there alive. Stephen’s nose curled up at the delicious whiff of blood that tickled it, his stomach gurgling out in protest. All of the opposing Orcs had finally been put down, so the sight of minced meat dipped in their own juices was like smoky hands waving him closer. Jadesin quietly approached him, her obsidian hair matted in the likewise source that triggered his hunger.

“Aahh… it was easier than I thought.” she raked a handful of hair behind her ear “I didn’t expect you to be this… dominating.” there was a shadow of something more in her smile, but he shrugged it off with a half-hearted chuckle.

“Don’t say that or you’ll make me blush.”

“No kidding, your power has already gone beyond that of a Rank 3… well, that might be the perks of having such a precious bloodline.”

“Jealous?”

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“Heeh, yes… actually I really envy you, but at the same time I’m happy that I won’t ever reach that top, where everything will change. No, I do believe that sometimes living in your own little world while gazing up at the stars without being one of them is pretty cozy.”

“Says the one who’s aiming to take control over quite a few races.”

Jadesin rolled her eyes, or at least that was what it looked like – her completely black eyes with no irises made it hard to tell the difference, “I’m doing it to ensure our survival, there is no ulterior motive behind it.”

“Of course… yes, yes. Jadesin, do remember that a person’s character and worldview slowly changes when they are put in a position of power. The more you have, the more you want. Right now, you’re a little tribe leader, a humble and powerless lamia that is barely scraping by with what she has. But if our little conquest journey turns out successful you might become something more… I don’t know, a queen, perhaps?” he said zealously, “Ah… don’t mind it, I’m just messing with you. Yes, sometimes living like that is nice too… sometimes.”

Stephen smiled enigmatically and headed for the leftovers Orc that had wisely refused to partake in the last fall out. Meanwhile, she was rooted there with a weird expression playing out across her features.

His words went on a broken replay inside her head, repeating over and over and over… and she came to a sort of inner realization, something that may have always been there but was too shy to grow, like a little child afraid of going out only to be disappointed that the world was not quite like what it had imagined. Her expression morphed and shifted as she chewed on her thoughts. Jadesin’s heart skipped a beat as the ambitious seed sank deeper, quenching its thirst with the noble blood pumping through it.

It was a matter of time before it blossomed into a beautiful tree.

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