Summoner Sovereign Book 1 Chapter 301
I didn't expect the Silver Wolves to send fresh reinforcements of mercenaries to the tomb site so soon. But there they were, disembarking from the newly arrived hovercraft that set down on the temporarily established landing field several hundred meters away from the site. As usual, the mercenaries spread out in a professional manner, sweeping the place for any monsters or enemies.
"About time!" Redfield grunted as he fought off a Swamp Orc. The nasty, huge beasts had emerged from the swamp just an hour ago, and was assaulting our position. I had joined the fight with my Constellation spirits, raining destruction down upon them with spells and arrows. Redfield incinerated the offending Swamp Orc with a fire spell. "If they came an hour later, our position would have been overrun!"
"You're exaggerating," Anastasia snapped as she flipped over a Swamp Orc's clumsy strike. Her dagger lashed out in a streak of silver, and then she was gone, leaving the lumbering Swamp Orc behind. The brute sought to chase her, but a few seconds later it fell flat on its face, boils erupting from its wound and its corpse going into convulsions.
As usual, Anastasia's poisons were deadly.
"We would have cleared the entire horde out within the hour even without reinforcements," the ex-Assassin continued. And then she shrugged after stabbing a Bog Goblin in the face. The creature squealed and toppled backward in a splash. Ignoring it, Anastasia searched for her next target, still speaking. "That said, I appreciate receiving reinforcements. It'll make our lives so much easier. Not to mention, I'm dying to rotate out of here. I pity the next batch who will be here for the next couple of weeks or so."
"Oh no, you don't." Brent's voice was dripping with amus.e.m.e.nt. "Anastasia, you won't be shipping out with most of the first batch. You'll be staying here. You're the one with the most experience and knowledge about the Black Underworld Swamp. We'll need you here."
"Eh?!" Anastasia complained. I felt sorry for her, but with the tournament looming in the near future, I couldn't stay with her. Not that I was obligated to stay with her in the first place. But you know how some women were.
Then she suddenly stiffened. For a moment I thought there was a new threat approaching and I whirled around, checking my glasses for any new arrivals. There were still nothing but Swamp Orcs, or at least nothing else that the suite of advanced sensors on my glasses could detect. But I suddenly understood Anastasia's reaction when a pillar of flames washed through the swamp, followed by a familiar roar.
A gigantic bear with a flaming mane barreled through the shriveled trees and smashed aside several Swamp Orcs, burning them into ash or blasting them apart from the sheer destructive force. Snarling, it rose on its hind legs, swatting aside another Swamp Orc stupid enough to rush it with nothing but its club.
"Lilith? What are you doing here?"
The astonished voice of Principal Porter filled the air. The old man had emerged from the tomb chamber to discuss something with Brent before the attack hit us. Something to do with a strange series of disappearances. From what I knew, Brent was also concerned over missing personnel, particularly several members of the security detail he assigned to guard the archaeological team.
"Grandpa!" the blond fire mage jogged toward her grandfather, beaming brightly. She caught sight of me and waved, but Anastasia deliberately strolled to block me out from the former's view, much to her puzzlement. However, she had more pressing concerns at the moment, and she turned her eyes back to Porter. "I'm here for a visit!"
"Visit, eh?" Porter raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were supposed to prepare for the national tournament?"
"Yeah. So I figured I'd get some combat experience when I come here. Also, Principal Violet requested me to make sure I bring Richard back. He was worried that you would either forget or renege on your promise."
I could literally see the steam rising from Anastasia's reddening face. That was not good. Especially since poor Anastasia wouldn't be returning with me. It was as if someone was twisting a knife in her gut after stabbing her.
Lilith didn't even seem to notice. She was smiling as she chatted with her grandfather, almost casually. Raising a hand, she launched a searing blast of fire at a nearby Swamp Orc that had burst out of the marsh to strike at the puny humans, reducing it to charred ash.
"Thanks." Porter didn't even bat an eyelid. He was probably used to such things at home. "He needn't have worried. Since when have I ever gone back on a promise?"
"Uh, well…sometimes you get carried away with your research, you know?" While Lilith spoke, her Hellfire Bear swiped at an approaching Swamp Orc, cleaving it in half. The blond fire mage shrugged before turning away. "Well, anyway, I'll go help them get rid of these disgusting monsters. We'll talk more later!"
"I'll be here," Porter agreed with a nod. He glanced at Brent. "I have to speak to the captain anyway."
"Yeah, let us finish up with this first, if you don't mind." The mercenary leader was grunting as he pummeled a Swamp Orc, obliterating its skull with his bare fist. With his other hand, he swung his staff and cracked the head of another, causing it to drop back into the bog.
"It's been a while, Richard!" Lilith waved as she approached me. Anastasia looked unhappy, but there wasn't exactly anything she could do. What, was she going to forcibly shove Lilith away or something?
Lilith must have noticed her with her woman's sixth sense, for she turned to look at the green-haired ex-Assassin curiously. Then a mischievous smile spread over her face.
"Oh? Is this your girlfriend, Richard?"
"No," I began, but I noted that Anastasia looked a lot happier than before. Bloody hell, I really don't understand women.
"Why aren't you beating the Swamp Orcs up with brute force? I thought you be pummeling then with your bare hands."
"Uh, you do know that I'm a summoner, right?" I tried not to roll my eyes at Lilith's utterly random question.
"So is Taichi from Isekai Cheat Magician."
"That guy is a God Mode Mary Sue…or Gary Stu. I ain't copying him. There's no way I can go around soloing entire armies." I sighed, wishing that she hadn't reminded me of that story. The visuals and character art designs were great, but the story and character development…not so much. And I swear, if those stupid characters use the word "cheat" one more time, I will personally break through the fourth wall and murder them. And no amount of "cheats" or God Mode that Taichi possessed would save him from my wrath. Great Spirit Queen? Hah! She was no match for the Celestial Guardians I had under my command!
While I idly engaged in banter, Capricorn, Aries and Taurus finished off the last of the Swamp Orcs, trampling over them and kicking or ramming them into the swamp. Monstrous piranha and other marsh denizens swam to eat away at the carcasses, and the mercenaries took care to avoid them. I had my Constellation spirits retreat too, just in case.
"That should be the last of them," Redfield remarked as he kicked a charred corpse back into the bog, sending a pile of ashes billowing upward. He dusted the soot off his hands and turned back toward us with a grin. "Time for a break!"
"Oh!" the mercenaries shouted, buoyed by our overwhelming victory. There were no casualties this time, much to everyone's relief.
Lilith had latched onto Anastasia, much to my bemus.e.m.e.nt. Probably because the two girls were so similar in age, and the Holy Maiden was curious about her relationship to her. No doubt she would be offering poor Ana love advice, ironically not knowing that the latter was already well trained in the arts of seduction.
"The battle's finally over." Porter breathed a sigh of relief, but he remained grim. "I hope I'm not spoiling the mood, but we still need to discuss the missing personnel, Captain."
"Of course. I concur. This cannot wait." Brent nodded grimly. He turned to the rest of us. "You guys, take a break, except for the sentries who are still supposed to be on shift. I'll be speaking to the professor."
However, before anyone could move, there was a whining screech that erupted into a thunderous roar. Mercenaries stumbled when a sudden earthquake shook the ground violently beneath their feet, throwing them off balance. I found myself falling over, desperately throwing my hands out to break my fall and roll to reduce the impact. Even then, I could feel the earth tremble powerfully underneath my sprawled body.
"What in the world…?!"
I watched in horror as the entire tomb site transformed into a sinkhole, the ancient buildings collapsing upon themselves and crumbling into dust. The ground simply ceased to exist, and I could see the temple underneath disintegrate from the sheer fury.
"What the hell is going on?!"
"The tomb…the tomb is…!"
"I don't know!"
Panicked shouts and shrieks bounded back and forth between fleeing mercenaries, most of whom had the sense to pick themselves up and run. I also just barely managed to get up, and after helping a few mercenaries nearby, I joined them in their escape. Needless to say, I checked on Anastasia and Lilith first, but the two girls were more than capable of handling themselves. At the very least, they were helping each other, so I decided to concentrate on the others instead.
With the ground collapsing and vanishing beneath us, we needed no encouragement to run. Even the monsters inhabiting the swamp were fleeing, swimming away from the rapidly expanding sinkhole. Brent had scooped up an indignantly protesting Porter, thrown him over his shoulder, and ran. Redfield was ensuring that none of the soldiers were left behind.
We probably lost all of our equipment, but that was fine. At least we were still alive.
"Grandpa!" Lilith yelled as she jogged acoss the damp earth. "What's going on? What happened to the tomb?"
"I don't know!" Porter shouted back as he struggled atop Brent's shoulder. "I have no clue! This has never happened before!"
…duh. Of course it hadn't, or we wouldn't have a tomb to study.
Fortunately, the ground stopped trembling before long, and we were finally able to come to a stop, pausing to catch our breath and take stock. As I suspected, we lost nobody to that sudden earthquake. Everyone had managed to escape.
However, I found myself gaping at the sight. The sinkhole was now revealing almost the entire temple…except that the entire temple had been destroyed. There was no longer any sign of murals, no sign of the tomb that once existed, no monuments, no pictures and altars, nothing.
Instead, it was complete darkness.
No, I was mistaken. Rather than darkness, the space inside the colossal crater was tinged red. I didn't know how, but I could somehow see a crimson haze rising…as if something from below was emanating it. A bloodthirsty red…a murderous aura.
Was it my imagination? I hoped it was, but when I turned around, I caught sight of other mercenaries staring into the blood-red space, almost spellbound.
"That's blood," one of them murmured.
"Everyone, back off!" Brent shouted, running along the lines and slapping soldiers back to submission. Having dumped poor Porter off somewhere, he was now reorganizing our ranks and was bent on restoring morale. "Don't look into the abyss! It's obvious that it's some sort of enemy attack! Everyone, ready your weapons!"
That brought everyone back to reality, and they began reloading, slapping magazines and power packs back to their las-rifles…except that they didn't really need to reload, considering that the magic rifles drew power from their mana. But the habitual action was comforting, something to anchor us to our reality, and occupy us with something to do in the present instead of staring blankly at the sinkhole like the poor professor.
"My team…my students…my colleagues," he was murmuring, mired in icy shock. "They were all down there."
"So were a good number of my soldiers!" Brent snapped. Then he took a deep breath. "Don't worry. We'll find them. There's still a chance that they might be alive down there…"
A hellish bellow cut him off, the deafening roar reverberating across the swamp and actually causing trees to sway.
"Ah…my lord! My lord!"
Levitated by a swirling vortex of blood-red energy, Liu and his surviving Blood Slaughter Sects were held aloft, rising to the surface. The old and young alike were all on their knees, spreading their hands in supplication. Expressions of ectasy stretched across their faces, their eyes wide in madness and joy.
"The Blood Slaughter Sect!"
"Liu, you bastard!" Brent bellowed. "What did you do to my men? Where's the archaeological team?! What have you done?!"
"Your…men? The archaeological team?" the elder turned to stare at him, his expression still dreamy. He then blinked, and then slowly returned to reality. Grinning, he shook his head. "Why, I've offered them up as sacrifices, of course."
Horror gripped my gut and chills ran down my spine. "You can't have…"
"Oh, but we have." Liu turned to smile mockingly at me. "We've summoned the Great One to this world. May he sate his rage and visit his wrath upon this pathetic dimension!"
"Blood for the Blood God!" his disciples cheered.
Even as they sang their praises, a gargantuan two-headed dragon reared upward from the abyss below. Snarling, it began climbing out of the sinkhole, dragging its almost hundred-meter tall body out from the dimensional rift to emerge in our world.