45 Trouble brewing
The reason only a small number of warrior class guards were stationed at this critical juncture was to hold the enemy back rather than total annihilation. Many others were patrolling the area and guarding around the dungeon, a slight signal of distress was enough to have all hell break loose. This was their strategy for crowd control, sending reinforcement to pressure the assailants from both sides. As most adventurer groups protected their healer, mage, and archer in the back; attacking from the rear would expose their vulnerability.
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A small drop of sweat caused by the stress of confrontation fell from Dahlia's face.
Under normal circumstances, the guards would not act with such level of aggression, but the possibility of gain added to the confidence of the upper hand had made the commander irrational.
Alvin suddenly used the skill charge, attacking two opponents in front of him. In such short-range any armature archer could easily hit the target, let alone Betsy who was a professional; she aimed at their faces activated rapid shot and dead shot. In the meantime, Beryl had already brandished her swords and swung them with a mighty slash. Link summoned a protective shield for his group, protecting them from danger to a small extent. Dahlia vanished from her spot, cloaking herself in the dim light of dungeon, then reappeared behind the greedy commander to assassinate him.
Two assistants were observing this turn of events with dull expressions.
Then sudden at of aggression greatly surprised the chief, he could not believe this nameless group of bandits dared to offend them. As a strategically placed man in command, he regained his composure very fast, he was about to start his orders, which would utterly crush theses pests. However, he felt some movement behind him, without looking he was about to attack the assailant. Even if he could not drive the attacker away, the chief had trust in the teamwork and relation formed between the group, after many hours of training; they had his back.
For some strange reason he felt off; looking at the battlefield, he understood why. Every member of the opposing adventurers seemed incredibly fast; his eyes could hardly keep track of them. But the commander felt as if the air had turned into mud, holding onto movements, so even small gestures needed much more energy and were done at a slower pace.
Before he could speak another word, a sharp pain assaulted his mind, and everything turned black.
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Before long the last body fell on the ground.
Then as if everything had turned into normal, the 5 came out of their trance; looking at their handy work. The signs of brutal battle would baffle anyone without prior experience, yet that was not the reason that these people were stupefied. Dahlia looked at her hands, they were littered with blood, shaking in fear; she had just killed a member of the royal army. All of them will be hunted and decapacitated, giving a lesson to others, deterring them from acting rash.
Before they suffer from a mental breakdown, Rod from a corner looking at their pale face and shaky hands then commented:
"We can shape it like this was done by fanatics of Lunar domain, I have seen the bodies of guards killed by them. They attack this place sometimes, since it is close to their border, killing guards, to loot this place"
They were all dumbfounded for some time before Rod took Ginger with himself to move the bodies around in an attempt to frame believers of Mah the moon goddess. Then other members came out of their trance, started to help quietly, all worried for what tomorrow would bring. In the end, they made the symbol of Mah on the ground beside the corpses. However, this lousy setting would not fool the investigators who would come later, so going outside was out of the question. Their best course of action was to disappear deeper in this hell, so they would think that this adventuring party had been annihilated.
With anxious looks, Dahlia explained this logic to the dead silent members, then she led them passed the outpost. Even after giant mess, deep down they were all excited about the chance of going into the actual dungeon; the possibility of gains made the most cowardly mouse confront a lion.
From the beginning, until they walked past the prohibited area John was observing every detail of their encounter. He pondered on the events:
"Before I found the goblin villages, they were unharmed, so neither the soldiers nor the adventurers knew anything about such location. Otherwise, they would have already harvested them out fully; this indicates that the tunnel was hidden and probably a one-way street, similar to the boundary of the protected garden. That is very interesting, the master of this place seems to be unwilling to trust his higher echelon subordinates with this secret. He placed it somewhere close to weak monsters, who would get lost from time to time, yet are insignificant enough to not attract strong opponents, bringing disaster to this precious project"
Upon witnessing this outpost, John had found that the soldiers prohibited entry around sites with the possibility of high gains. Thus, the tunnel had either been hidden or deemed unworthy of attention. Since the kingdom was willing to let go of so many practice targets to go, they would have used it as a controlled battlefield. It showed that the tunnel had been hidden successfully, preventing intrusion of others, but it did not stop insiders from leaving, thus John had prevailed in his escape.
After analyzing the events of his departure, he looked at the newfound data from the battle with guards. He had subtly nudged the subconscious of the members to attack at the same time, not thinking of the consequences. As his vessels were weaker, if they did not gain the upper hand by surprising their enemies, the chances of victory would have been nil. John concluded:
"It was very interesting controlling these subjects, to act like puppets, by giving them light hints; I can cover my instruction as their muscle memory or subconscious. I tested the limits of my presence in this encounter, the results had me rather surprised. These specimens are too easy to manipulate, yet if I intervene too many times, it will decrease the authenticity of this test. At the same time, I had to slow the nervous system of the opposition, or this small party would have been slaughtered. Using my new skills and level of energy control, I was able to remotely affect their thought process and bodily functions"
John studied their behaviors some more:
"I used the short time before confrontation to do a thorough search in their bodies, checking for any imprints and powers that could restrict me. Found some weak marks, yet as my control was too overwhelming for them, they were not triggered. Thus, it can be concluded that there are some restrictions of sort for the powers similar to mine. Upon closer inspection, I found that their primary function to be anti possession, rather than protecting soul, they stick the body and spirit together similar to glue. Which sounds reasonable for soldiers stationed in special locations, as they are more susceptible to dangers of being taken advantage of"
Then a strange process began taking form while the anxious adventurers were standing there in shock of their actions. A negligible amount of force moved towards their bodies, which was immediately absorbed without their knowledge.
John had refrained from extracting any lifeforce of the targets this time, as he needed to observe the process in more spiritually aware races. The animals and plants would have simpler feelings towards their murderer, due to the primary place of survival laws in their genes. However, humans resented those who harmed them, so this was an important experiment. The flows digested by the 5 were invisible to every one of them, and even if they could see the process, not finding any issue would be normal. However, John had superb skills, so he found many problems immediately.
First, the amount was a very small fraction of the entire lifeforce within them, most of it would disperse and be absorbed by dungeon.
Second, this force carried the last resentment of its previous owner with itself, so essentially it was designed to harm the one who was unlucky enough to inhale this toxin.
Third, besides the malicious intent, it carried a mark that would identify the killer upon investigation.