Once it was time for the second preliminary round to begin, all representatives were asked to gather in the middle of the stone amphitheatre where they were teleported to their respective castles in the instance field. The girls found themselves standing on top of a square stone fortress around ten meters high with a silver statue of an angel standing on top of a mound in the middle of the roof. The castle was surrounded by thick trees, which did a good job of blocking the view of the castles belonging to other guilds.
The valkyrie flew high above the field and spoke in a voice loud enough for all players to hear. "The time now is 13:00. This challenge will end at 16:00, indicated by the sound of trumpets. Commence battle!"
Astrid and Luna nodded to each other and quickly left the castle to search for an enemy base to attack. It wasn't long before they ran into two opponents: a mage and a knight from a guild outside their alliance. Without wasting a single second, they made no hesitation to attack.
As the mage fired bolts at them, a stray bolt landed on a tree branch, cutting it free. This happened right above Luna, who was caught up in a fierce swordfight with the knight.
"Luna! Move!" Astrid shouted.
Once Luna obeyed the command, the branch fell on the knight and momentarily locked him in place. The lady knight charged forward to deliver a final blow, but her opponent was quick to send shockwaves through the ground and send everyone falling down.
As Astrid and Luna were busy with defeating the players they encountered in the forest, rival guilds were also quick to move into the Noctis Noir castle and cripple their defense.
Anna screamed once she noticed that a crusader and an assassin were attacking one of their towers. "We're under attack!"
"Amelie! Use Magic Missile!" Lyria commanded as she cast the offensive spell Heaven's Light on their attackers from the castle roof, piercing them with a white beam of light. The assassin used Invisibility to evade Lyria's attacks.
"I know! I know! I'm not stupid. I know what to do." Amelie hurled two missiles at their opponents. It was a direct hit, but not enough to kill them. The crusader quickly healed himself after taking in the attack.
Suddenly, a shower of bolts rained down from the sky, delivering damage to the three girls and all their towers. Someone had cast Crimson Rain. The unexpected interference gave their opponent an opening, which they used to finish off one tower. This left Noctis Noir with just three towers left.
Lyria spotted two more players right behind them, a mage and a knight. That mage was most probably the culprit behind the surprise Crimson Rain. "Four of them!?" Lyria's face went pale. They were outnumbered. Although the girls had a good chance of survival with Lyria and Anna having heal, they didn't have enough damage to fend off all their attackers. If Amelie's mana bank hit zero, they could only defend themselves and the statue from attacks without retaliating.
Anna continued playing her lute to put up a force field around them. "We're outnumbered. We might have to summon Astrid or Luna."
Amelie prepared to cast her strongest spell. "We don't have to summon them yet."
Lyria shook her head. "No, don't cast your ultimate attack! You'll run out of mana to fight off the next wave of attackers that could be coming."
"Stop telling me what to do!" Amelie refused to listen and proceeded with her spell. A large explosion engulfed the whole area, dealing damage to all four opponents. This successfully killed the mage and the knight, but the crusader and the assassin were still standing. Amelie tried firing Magic Missiles at them, but she ran out of mana.
Lyria shook her head in disbelief at Amelie's actions. "We have to call in Luna or Astrid before it's too late." The moment she turned around, an arrow hit her.
"Lyria!" Anna exclaimed and quickly healed her guildmate. "Where did that come from?"
"Over there!" Amelie pointed at a tree where an archer was perched.
"Not another one!"
"Everyone, duck! He's about to attack!" Lyria shouted as she got on the ground. She managed to pull Amelie down with her.
Anna activated her force field to keep them and the statue safe from the rain of arrows flying at them. "My mana is already below half. I don't know how long I can protect us with the shield."
"I'll summon Luna," Lyria said as she cast her teleportation spell, hoping Luna could make it in time before all their towers were destroyed.
With one last punch, Luna took out the last percentage of health left in the knight's health bar. This left them with just the mage as an opponent. Before Luna charged in to attack, a request for teleport suddenly popped up.
"Astrid, will you be ok on your own? Looks like Lyria and the others ran into trouble," said Luna with concern. She and Astrid ran through the forest, dodging the bolts from the mage that chased them.
"I'll be fine. You'd better hurry. Lyria only calls for back up when things are really starting to get serious."
"Good luck, Astrid."
"You too. Teleport me if it gets bad."
"Got it." With the press of a button, Luna disappeared from where she stood.
Astrid used her Invisibility skill to buy her some time to switch her weapon. She smiled with excitement. It's time to test this new katar out.
"Why are you running? Are you afraid to face me?" the mage attempted to provoke Astrid as he walked through the forest. "Whatever. My missiles will find you nevertheless." Before he could cast the spell, he was suddenly paralyzed.
"I love this new katar," Astrid said with a smile as she continuously attacked him with normal hits.
"My mana is draining?!" the mage was surprised.
"Mana absorb katar with the best stun cards I could find. Perfect for mages, don't you think? You get to be the first one to try it out."
After a critical strike, the mage was defeated. Astrid sighed in relief and decided to hurry back to their castle. She couldn't help but feel uneasy about what was happening back at their home castle.
"Heya Astrid!" Jasmine suddenly appeared out of thin air as she cancelled her Invisibility skill.
Sphinx followed. "Glad we bumped into you. Let's go destroy some towers."
"Jas! Sphinx!" Astrid was glad to see them. "Luna got teleported back to base. Something must be wrong, so I'm heading back to check on them."
"But they haven't teleported you back yet, right? Maybe things are fine for now."
"It's either that or Lyria's mana bank was drained from fighting."
Jasmine nodded. "Alright. Let's go check up on your base and then go out to destroy some towers."
"Thanks." Astrid smiled gratefully.
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