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96 Division By Zero

"You?" Petrovich stared at Mikhail in amazement. He could've easily been pretending, but his reaction seemed sincere. For some reason, Petrovich didn't grace the second guest with a reaction at all.

I didn't know what surprised me more, the sudden arrival of Innokenty accompanied by Major or an equally unexpected reaction of this world to my trick. My emotional outburst, which I almost immediately considered useless and even dangerous, sprang an unexpected surprise in the form of deception points. Apparently, my shenanigans appeared so spectacular that as the skill gained two levels.

"You're the last person who I expected to see here!" pointing at Major, Fox suddenly burst out laughing.
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His face contorted in anger for a moment, but he quickly pulled himself together.

"I didn't expect to see you either, Lera," he said quietly.

"Innokenty, aren't you afraid that this adventure may be your last one?" I said, frantically thinking about what I could do, affirming my "not the sharpest tool in the shed" image.

"I'm glad to see you too, Cat," Innokenty grinned in response. "You believed in that nonsense with my tombstone? Really? I thought you were smarter than this dumbass with a lance..."

"You're crossing the line, boy," Petrovich scolded. Scolded; he was neither angry nor violent. He even seemed pleased with these two joining us.

"Come on, Valentin Petrovich," the Chaosite laughed. "Everything is within the bounds of reason. Do you sincerely expect that the man who you were going to kick out is going to respect you?"

"I should have gotten the job done," the lancer said through gritted teeth.

"Petrovich, what are we waiting for?" Vlada asked, deliberately being loud, and looked at me with a slight grin.

"Vlada, are you also naive enough to believe that you can leave this place alive?" Innokenty asked sarcastically.

"Geez, it's high time to finish you off," she muttered in response.

"Take care of them," the lancer nodded in affirmation. "I'll deal with Cat and Lera. It seems that I'm going to have to get my hands dirty. That's a shame."

He swung his lance, lunging in our direction. What happened next was unimaginable.

A thin, black thread, thrown by Fox, darted toward Petrovich like an arrow. This strange substance wrapped itself around the shaft of his. The girl pulled her arm aside and changed the course of his blow.

"Get out of the way!" she shouted. But I had already jumped aside, falling onto a stone.

Petrovich tried to free his lance, but the girl released another thread from her left hand, turning his weapon into a twitching black cocoon. Not much of a leader now, are you…?

In the meantime, having turned her body into a real whirlwind of blades, Vlada approached Innokenty and Major, ready to cut off their limbs. Innokenty screamed and started to grow in size, tearing his clothes. A moment later, a huge muscle mountain in rags punched the swordswoman. Without making a sound, she was thrown fifteen feet back and hit a tree trunk.

Innokenty Burmistrov

Level: 16

Advanced Mark of the Chaos

Level 1


- +200% to all attributes

- Combat Form of the Neophyte

Interestingly enough, I could see the Mark's description after it was activated even if it was an advanced version, which explained how Innokenty managed to turn himself into an incredibly ugly creature with a small head and disproportionately huge arms and torso. Major also activated the Combat Form of the Neophyte, taking advantage of the brief pause. Hissing like a snake, he began to shrink in size. What the hell is that?!

In a few seconds, a bluish lizard took Major's place. His clothes hung on him like on a poorly chosen hanger. The monster's paws were noticeably longer than the Major's or any human being's hands, and ended in crooked claws. The Neophyte's mouth was slightly open, and thick slime was dripping from its sharp, yellow teeth. Vlada would have a bad time with her ordinary Mark against these two monsters, for sure. What was she counting on?

"Watch out!" Fox shouted, and I hardly dodged Petrovich's blow.

The ground trembled as before and cracked, spewing soil and stone. This time, the final impact of his blow was slightly different though. Apparently, Petrovich focused all of his power into a single spot directly underneath my feet. Had I not avoided it, he would've probably made mincemeat out of me.

Spitting and cursing, Petrovich raised his lance with ease, as if it weighed no more than a feather. Spinning it with all his might, he knocked the girl down.

"You shouldn't have messed with me, Lera," he said, breathing heavily. "If you don't interfere, I'll forgive you and let you serve me. And you, Cat…"

He didn't manage to finish as Fox jumped up and instantly hit his feet. He cried out in pain but withstood the hit. Having turned around, he tried to stab the girl with the edge of his lance.

"Watch your ego, Valentin Petrovich," she warned with a smile.

The next second, she vanished into thin air and emerged right behind Petrovich, keeping him at a distance. The lancer seemed to be ready to put all of his strength into the next blow. Gripping the lance with both hands, he swung and plunged it into the ground with all his might. Instead of the explosion and chunks of rock being scattered everywhere, a glowing rift formed at the point of impact. Petrovich pulled the lance out of this hollow, dragging the dirt and debris along with it, widening the jagged-edge hole. I had a bad feeling about this...

A small, earth-colored hand emerged from the hole followed by a horde of similar hands. One after another, the strange, waist tall creatures came out onto the surface. Their heads resembled that of a hammerhead shark, and their legs were short and crooked. Their awkward appearance might've seemed ridiculous, but not in this situation. Petrovich probably called for reinforcements, taking advantage of our proximity to the Forbidden City, where the Abyss reigned. Apparently, Vlada and he counted on that from the very beginning.

The Abyss Envoy

Level: 10

These creatures don't like to be disturbed and especially to be called on. They hate the inhabitants of the surface with all of their dark souls and seek to destroy them at the earliest opportunity.

Fox dealt a blow, and a couple of Envoys immediately fell head first onto the ground. One of them rushed toward me, shrieking angrily, but tripped over the Stone Spikes. My ability to cast them had already been demonstrated, so all I needed to do was to not forget to stick my scythe into the ground. The monster's pierced leg was firmly stuck. It was twitching, trying to escape, but all its attempts were in vain. In the end, it was finished off in a few blows. Another Envoy was angrily writhing in pain. However, there were too many of them. Petrovich ignored Fox's attacks and clearly intended to deal with me. By the look on his face, I wasn't sure that I would respawn near my tombstone if I were to die here. Maybe he found my refuge in the swamp and made sure that someone would meet me there. Given these people's powers, magical insects weren't an insurmountable defense anymore. I had to give it my all. It was time to find out what I was capable of: not in a fight against monsters or ordinary players but against those who found a way to stand out and become stronger.

Arcobaleno, level 2.

"Idiot!" Fox yelled.

I swung my scythe at Petrovich, aiming for his head. Time seemed to slow down. The lancer's face distorted. A moment later, I saw myself; not like in a dream, but plainly and clearly. Petrovich's lance thrust into my chest. My ribs broke with a crunch. Convulsing, I bent backwards...and fell over dead. Petrovich kicked my corpse, grinning triumphantly. However, I was still alive. Not bad. As everyone considered me unable to survive, Arcobaleno immediately adjusted to that. I now had twenty-five seconds to take advantage of this situation; unless my opponent, like Fox, could see through my deception. The girl looked at me with a faint smile.

Not at my faked corpse, but at me.

As for Petrovich, he tried to hit the girl so he didn't see me at all. I wondered if she really was that strong or if she just believed in me unlike everyone else.

I nodded to her while she was still looking at me. A second later, she dodged the lancer's strike, once again trying to stop him with her threads. They were on equal footing, making it was impossible to predict the winner. Starting to genuinely root for Fox, I wondered if our reunion had really been an accident. She's a follower of the Abyss, why didn't she kill me? She definitely wasn't being driven by good intentions or sympathy. For some reason, I was sure that there wasn't any sympathy left in her at all. Apparently, she needed something from me; she or her mysterious master.

I turned around and looked at the battle that was raging between Vlada and the Chaosites. Major was able to fight only with his right hand, as a bloody stump remained of the left. Innokenty was making craters with each blow as Vlada deftly dodged his attacks, constantly trying to cut off his limbs. She seized the initiative with the help of the Abyss Envoys that joined her. She would probably kill Major and Innokenty soon enough. Major attacked her unsuccessfully and lost his right hand. His shrill cry was heard all over the battlefield. Vlada rushed over and kicked him in the chest with all her might. He fell on its back, unable to get up, barely moving the stumps and his crooked legs. The latter seemed to be damaged because he didn't even try to get up.

17 seconds... 16 seconds...

I had to urgently decide what to do next. The only thing that came to my mind was to leave; not only Fox would see that I had actually survived if I remained. Honestly, I wanted to stay and help her somehow. Even though she was a Reaper's apprentice, she couldn't stand against Vlada and Petrovich all on her own, especially not in this place. The keyword was "somehow" though, as I had no idea how to help her. Except that I could die together with her.

12 seconds... 11 seconds...

Innokenty raised his fist, clearly intending to pummel Vlada into the ground. This was his mistake. The swordswoman easily dodged his blow and plunged the first blade into his chest, and the second one into his neck. He gurgled, a stream of black blood trickled down his chin. Vlada enthusiastically twisted both of the blades and pulled them out, jumping to the side in order to avoid him attacking in a blind rage. Innokenty rushed at her with whatever strength he had left but was knocked down with just one hit of the blade in his knee. The following blow to his neck sent him to respawn. Before his death, he returned to his human form. Vlada wiped the blood from her blades and stepped over the dead body. After that, she methodically plunged one of the swords into Major's chest. He twitched and returned to his human form too.

7 seconds... 6 seconds...

"I expected something different," I heard a familiar voice. "But that's not bad either."

Having turned in the direction of the speaker, I wasn't surprised to see Baldy for some reason. He was standing near a tree and enjoying the show.