The Clackers\' strategy was simple and effective.
After having surrounded their preys, they swarmed them in a one wave rush.
The ones on the ground tried to overpower them, while those on the trees threw spider webs the size of a tablecloth.
All the while those that kept hanging from their threads spat poison non-stop, aiming for their eyes.
Lith did his best, using water magic to turn his hands into razor-sharp blades and cutting off everything that came too close, but there were simply too many.
He wasn\'t used being ambushed, and never encountered such situations.
All the spells he had at hand, both true and fake magic ones, were aimed toward bigger single opponents, he had no idea how to manage a swarm of small enemies.
The girls were faring much better than him.
As soon as Phloria had seen the Clackers, her father\'s teachings had kicked in, and she had quickly conjured a tower shield made of white-hot rocks.
It served as both offense and defence, since her own magic could not harm her.
Spiderwebs would burst into flames like made of paper, the poison would just fizzle without any effect, while everything that touched the shield would lose its limbs if not its life.
From the moment she had recognized the nature of the enemy, Mirna had stuck her back against Phloria\'s, using her protection to put her War Mage specialization to use.
Mirna filled the space around them with ice shards as long and thick as an arm, raining down on the Clackers like they had a mind of their own, without missing a target.
She could freely cast a spell after the other, switching place with Phloria in case of attack while her magic exterminated dozens of enemies at a time.
Back at the White Griffon, Professor Vastor, who was in charge of surveillance for that area, contacted Scarlett demanding explanations.
What in the gods\' names are Clackers doing This is not part of our deal!
Of course not. Vastor went into a daze, seeing through the communicator amulet that the Scorpicore was sipping tea from a porcelain cup the size of a bucket.
Insects and arthropods have no respect for any hierarchy except for their own.
I do agree that they are spawning too fast, though.
A culling might be needed, but right now I have other business to attend.
If you need our help, you just have to ask.
Scarlett scoffed at his face, picking a cookie the size of a plate.
No, thanks! Vastor closed the call, cursing the monster and its arrogance for trying to copycat humans.
Thorman, get ready to retrieve three students. He said to a bulky middle-aged Professor, in charge of the Mage Knight specialization.
One of mine, one of yours plus one. Thorman laughed at his colleague\'s lack of manners, setting the coordinates for the pick-up spot in his ring.
He remembered his student, a talented girl that was allowing herself to get drowned in insecurity.
- Linjos was right, after all.
With the old rules, even someone like Phloria would have been eliminated before the hour mark.
The academy\'s system needed to be changed. - He was now regretting being one of Linjos\' fiercest opponents.
Lith\'s situation was getting worse by the second.
Despite his heightened senses and reflexes, there was only so much he could do.
The only reason he was still standing, was because he could use up to six first magic spells at a time.
Even so, he could only delay the inevitable.
The Clackers were now so close that even if he was at liberty of using true magic, he would not have the time.
No matter how many he killed, there were always more coming forward.
Help! I need help! Was the only thing he managed to scream from time to time.
Phloria, instead, was swept by euphoria.
The spiderlings normally lacked fear, but the fight had long turned into a massacre.
The flaming shield was impenetrable, and every time the sword flashed behind it, many would get mutilated or worse.
They had only two paths ahead, to retreat or die.
Mirna tried her best to keep up with her, but while casting she couldn\'t move very fast.
Phloria was becoming increasingly reckless with her attacks, pursuing the enemies fleeing in front of her, uncaring for the consequences.
What the heck are you doing Come back here! They were now several meters apart, enough for the spiders to surround Mirna again.
When Phloria realized her mistake, a Clacker hanging from a tree branch cut off its string, falling on top of Mirna and inflicting its venomous bite.
Before she could reach the ground, the Clackers swarmed over her.
The smaller spiders bit her unconscious, while the big ones were carrying her away with their threads.
Phloria was between a rock and a hard place, no matter her choice, someone was bound to die! Lith and Mirna were in opposite directions, there was no way of saving both.
She remained frozen on the spot, incapable of making a decision, until it was taken out of her hands.
Thorman appeared through a Warp Steps, right beside the cocoon containing Mirna.
His body was exuding a blue aura, whenever a spider closed in, it would me squashed by his war hammer.
Thorman slammed it on the ground, holding it with both hands.
The shockwave resulting turned all the nearby spiders into dust, while the cocoon at his feet suffered no damage.
Thorman loaded it on his shoulder, before looking at Phloria in the eyes with a stern look.
I\'m sorry for being such a cr*ppy teacher. And then he disappeared into another warp steps.
Phloria felt ashamed of herself.
Once again, she had disappointed her teacher, and this time she had managed to do it in front of all the academy staff, while also failing her teammate.
The arm holding the estoc fell alongside her body, the weapon almost slipping out of her fingers, already touching the ground.
What a poor excuse of a Mage Knight I am.
The Clackers noticed the opening and prepared to exploit it.
Sorry if I exist, but HELP! Lith yelled on the top of his lungs.
Between the previous ambush and Thorman attack, he was facing a far lesser number of spiderlings, so he took the chance to regroup with his companion.
Lith activated the tier one magic holding ring, generating a flash like another sun had appeared in front of him.
The spiderlings groaned and took a step back, while he jumped above them to escape the encirclement.
Sadly, the Clackers had a poor sight to begin with.
They sensed the outside world mainly through their bristles, capable of detecting the movement of their preys through the vibrations they created by moving.
Phloria could see a replay of what had just happened.
Another spider fell from above on Lith\'s back, biting him right below the neck.
Feeling his consciousness fading away, with his last coherent thought Lith unleashed Checkmate Spears on himself.
Being encircled, the ice spears would trample everything along the way, while being incapable of harming him.
As much as he hated it, he had to pin all his hopes on a perfect stranger, who Lith valued more or less like a used car salesman.
After that, he fell limp on the ground, the venom quickly reached his brain, disconnecting it from the rest of the body.
Just has he had predicted, the spears turned into toothpaste all the Clackers between them and their target, before passing through Lith\'s body like they were just an illusion.
The spell created a path between them, but it was only a matter of seconds before more enemies reinforced their ranks.
Cursing herself for her stupidity, Phloria threw away the self-pity finally realizing what Thorman\'s words actually meant.
Most Mage Knights\' spells had a short range, but they had the invaluable virtue that they needed only one hand to be cast.
In less then a second, she conjured the Full Guard spell, creating a spherical blue aura with a radius of 1.65 meters (5.41 feet) all around her.
The same Thorman used, with a radius slightly bigger than her estoc\'s range.
Thanks to Full Guard, she had no blind spots.
Whatever entered the sphere would be detected, Phloria was able to strike with surgical precision without looking.
It didn\'t matter if it was spit, webs or spiders, everything would be met by the shield or the sword.
Her estoc was the goodbye gift of her father, forged with a secret family technique.
The point stabbed like a spear, while the sword\'s single edge would cut like a katana.
She moved towards Lith\'s position, releasing small darkness bursts with each strike.
For so little creatures, the vital organs were closely packed to each other.
The flesh would rot as soon it was cut, making even suicidal attacks useless.
Each stab to the body or the head would mean instant death.
- So cool.
It\'s awesome. Lith feverish mind was still able the work, but barely.
The venom was impairing both his nervous system and mind.
I… we must look into that.
It\'s so… something.
Lith, are you okay Solus was really worried.
You sound a lot like in the memories where you were drunk and under the effects of mar*juana.
Your thoughts are incoherent and erratic.
Are you sure you are okay
If death hammer man saves me.
By my maker, you are getting worse! Move that a*s, sister! –
Phloria charged forwards, using her burning tower shield as a ram, reaching Lith\'s side.
She then used her free hand (NA: remember that the shield is conjured, she does not need to hold it, it floats by itself.) to cast the second spell Thorman reminded her of.
By planting her estoc in the ground, she activated Blast Guard.
It generated a small flaming sphere that affected everything in the surroundings except for the space within a meter (3.3 feet) from her body.
To avoid accidents, she crouched down, holding her fallen comrade as close as possible.
The spell had a short duration, but long enough for her to cast a tier three detoxifying spell.
Come on, come on! I can\'t screw up three times in a single day! Snap out of it, you are the healer, not me!
The spell was meant to neutralize the most common venoms and poisons, magical beasts\' secretions were a class of their own.
She realized how stupid she had been not purchasing any potions.
If she had them, maybe she could have saved both her team members, without having to rely on gambles and wishful thinking.
Like reading her mind, Lith started to cast the same spell he had used to save the Marchioness\' daughter.
Phloria spell served its purpose, giving him enough clarity to weave the spell and disguise it as a fake magic personal one.
A small orb of venom was expelled, preventing any further damage to his body, while he activated the second-tier healing spell in his ring, recovering a good chunk of his mind.
If I were you, I\'d start running. Lith said, chuckling like an idiot.
His pupils were still dilated.
Phloria sheathed the estoc before lifting Lith with a princess carry, activating the flight spell stored in one of her rings.
After what had happened earlier, she had prepared it in case she needed to escape again.
The tower shield moved on her back, preventing further assaults from above.
She took a roundabout path to lose the Cacklers before returning to the cave, activating Concealment again to hide their presence.
Lith would look at her stern face from time to time, giggling like a little girl.
Look, Solus, I got my knight in a shining armour to save me!
- Lith, you are still confused.
You are thinking out loud, please shut up! She mentally screamed.
Who\'s Solus Phloria asked when the situation seemed to have calmed down enough.
A good friend of mine.
We know each other from years.
By the way, isn\'t this the time when the hero tries to hit on his rescue Please, don\'t try to kiss me, I don\'t think I could stop you right now, I like living too much.
Phloria\'s cheeks reddened, Solus couldn\'t tell if from embarrassment, rage or both.
Why would I want to force me on you Who the f*ck do you think you are The rage sounded genuine.
Lith kept laughing.
So cute and naïve, getting embarrassed by stupid jokes.
You need to get out more, get a life!
Who are you calling a kid You are younger than me.
Want to bet Phloria was getting annoyed, he was clearly out of his mind.
Is Solus your girlfriend or just an ex If he was trying to embarrass her, it was a game that two could play.
She\'s a girl and a friend, but that\'s it.
We are both heartless and stone-cold, so we have a lot in common.
Also, it would be really difficult get in touch with her.
Get it Get in touch! Then he started cackling like it was the best joke ever.
She ignored him for the rest of the flight.
Lith was rambling nonsense, sometimes even speaking some sort of gibberish (AN: aka English).
Back at the cave, she could finally relax, and with the help of the other two, they kept healing Lith until he was clear headed again.
After cleansing his body from the last traces of venom, Lith shared a couple of freshly cooked blinkers.
I don\'t know you, but I had enough for today.
I\'m not stepping out of here until tomorrow.
The motion was unanimously approved.