Magnus: I'm sorry for the delay, but I got a lot of interruptions and was struck with writer's block for a week. This time we'll get to see Izuku dealing with the consequences of Aqua's short sightedness. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Due to the nature of this fic being just a test/prototype, I intended to cut it short at 20 chapters; with this unexpected success, I may have to think on adding more.
This chapter was Beta'ed by Vandenbz.
The first rescue mission
Aela thought that her new party leader couldn't bring more chaos to the table than he already did. She was absolutely sure that there had to be a limit to the absurdity of the Druid's illogical might. Kyouya was handsome, strong and wealthy, and he had his hands full with two ladies. It was natural for the young warrior to be so successful, and yet… this man…
"Let me join your party!" Yunyun, a recently arrived Crimson Demon, begged to the party leader.
A party leader, wanting to be surrounded by members of the opposite sex? Yeah, Aela had seen that before, in fact, it was a rather common sight. Powerful adventurers often fell into the temptation of creating a harem, but few managed to do so and properly manage it. That had been why Kyouya stopped at two… and most likely why he abandoned her…
"Personally, I don't have a problem, but…" Izuku replied, making it obvious that he was happy to have more people on his team, but a quick look at the petite Arch Wizard revealed that at least someone wasn't happy about this development, "Megumin, do you have any objections?"
Aela watched the petite girl's glaring eyes. She knew how she was feeling at the moment. Just after having declared the party leader as hers, a competitor had arrived. The new girl was pretty, had a more developed body, and a personality that seemed easier to handle. The little girl was right to fear the newcomer; her answer was obvious.
"Only personal ones…" Megumin's honest response surprised everyone, most of them expecting something far more dramatic, "I'm afraid she is only after my secrets, or worse, after my boyfriend."
Aela blinked in confusion, as she didn't expect such a levelheaded response. She certainly didn't act this mature when Kyouya took in the Thief.
"Megumin!" Yunyun called in distress, obviously trying to come up with some sort of excuse or explanation so that she could still join this party of humanoid monsters, "It is true I still seek your forbidden knowledge. But I'm not a home wrecker!"
At this point, Aela decided to tune out the conversation. It was too painful to watch romance bloom in this party, when hers had failed so miserably with the Swordsmaster.
Izuku, however, had no such luxury…
"Can you please not shout about that here, in the Guild Hall?" Izuku was mortified, to say the least.
He was not ashamed of his relationship with the petite Arch Wizard. He was overly self-conscious of the image he was gaining. It had never been his intention, but he had ended up surrounded by extremely beautiful girls. He really didn't need people to talk about his interactions with them, especially since half of the rumors about him sleeping with them all were somewhat true. Even if they stopped at sleeping in the same room… alright, cuddling too.
"Izuku is right." Darkness joined the argument, siding with the Arch Druid, "He is not treating us like we are his harem, no matter how much we may want it. He only wants Megumin."
Izuku had mixed feelings about that declaration.
"For my part, I have no problem with you joining our party." Darkness continued, pausing to take a sip of her beverage, "Even if you are just as useless as we were, I'm sure that Izuku will teach you how to be useful."
Megumin and Aela winced in unison. Megumin couldn't help but remember the days when her obsession with Explosion magic made her undesirable to everyone, and how Izuku turned her into probably the most famous Arch Wizard of this generation. Aela was still trying to get over the fact that, in only three days, her skills had gone from mediocre to acceptable; it was like she was becoming a better adventurer just by being in close proximity to the Arch Druid… or by being away from Kyouya.
"I see…" Izuku took a thinking pose, and then turned to his slaves, "Chika, Liza. Your opinion?"
Now it was Yunyun's turn to synchronize with the pinkette. Seeing the green-haired boy ask slaves their opinion was, well, shocking. They knew that slaves could have their own mind, but it was their duty to agree to their master's wishes no matter what, making their opinion unneeded.
"Chika doesn't mind a new friend…" The whispers of the Black Harpy still made everyone, sans Yunyun, feel uncomfortable, "As long as she doesn't try to hurt Master or Megumin, Chika is fine with her staying."
Watching Chika protectively surround the petite Arch Wizard with her wings was heartwarming, especially for Izuku.
Turning to look at the albino Gator-Girl, Izuku only got a grunt and a shrug. Liza had no proper opinion. If Izuku said it was ok for the newcomer to stay, or not, it wasn't her place to question him. Her only concern was to never again be late to protect her dear Master, to be quicker to rip the head of any aggressor that threatened the man she loved.
"I see, I see…" Izuku repeated as he squeezed Megumin's hand under the table, "Aela, your turn."
Aela was thrown for a loop. While she was technically part of the party, it was a temporary thing, and she was indebted to this boy by a ludicrous amount of money. In her position, had this been any other party, or party leader, her opinion would only not be asked, but she would have been forbidden from having one at all!
"Huh?!" Aela decided that staying quiet wouldn't help her, "Why are you asking me?!"
"Because you are part of the party." Izuku replied with an honest smile.
It took a lot of effort for the Ranger to control her fluttering heart. Not because she was falling for this boy, but because for the first time, she felt welcomed and wanted in a group. She also had to fight against the ugly thought of returning to Kyouya, especially after carefully thinking on everything she experience at his side.
"I… well…" Aela struggled for a moment, trying to think on what was best, on what kind of potential the Arch Druid wanted from those surrounding him.
The pink-haired Ranger took a moment to look at the assembled party. The Crusader who'd faced Beldia, a General of the Devil King's army, and fought on equal grounds. The Gator-Girl that had slaughtered a Nightmare barehanded. The petite Arch Wizard who actually vaporized said General. Even the Black Harpy was a danger with her harmful voice and sharp talons!
"Maybe…" Aela almost said something stupid, but quickly stopped herself from suggesting a competition on sheer power, "We should take a quest to test… compatibility? Teamwork?"
For a moment, Aela held the stares of the entire party. For a moment, she felt like she was going to be either dismissed, or reprimanded. Then, Izuku smiled at her.
"That is actually a great idea!" Izuku's answer seemed to shock the Ranger, "Darkness, would you kindly take Aela and Yunyun to the quest board?"
"Sure." Darkness replied with a smile, she really loved to be relied upon, "Let's go. I'm sure we can find something to serve as a proper test."
As the three girls moved to the board, Izuku and Megumin locked eyes with one another.
"You aren't going to reject her, are you?" Megumin asked with narrowed eyes.
"Only if you tell me right now if there is a good reason to do so." Izuku replied, keeping an expectant look on his face.
Megumin sighed, and then proceeded to scratch her head. She was, due to her underdeveloped body, reticent to allow Yunyun and her unreasonable big breasts near her boyfriend; however, Izuku had proven to be reliable and faithful. He had yet to even pay that kind of attention to the likes of Darkness, who actually had made advances on him, or the recently joined Aela, who had all the marks of a girl that would catch the attention of the Arch Druid.
Being honest with herself, Megumin found that the only dangers to her position were Chika and Liza, but they were girls she was ok with.
"Just remember that I'm your girlfriend…" Megumin finally conceded. Izuku gave her a head pat and fondly smiled at her; her pout was too cute to ignore.
"Fair enough." Izuku replied, assuring his girlfriend that she had nothing to worry about, "Now help me with this. I'm not making the same mistakes again."
With that Izuku finally revealed why he sent the other girls to fetch a quest.
From his bag, he took out Chika and Liza's slave cards. Immediately, Megumin noticed why she was needed.
Slaves did not get classes. That was for adventurers only. However, and due to the cards for both being made with the same spells, Chika and Liza's had unlocked the ability to select classes. No doubt the result of their meddling with the slave seals, and Izuku becoming a class that could easily dictate how nature worked.
Owning slaves with adventuring classes was heretical twice over. First because adventurers couldn't be slaves, and second, because slaves shouldn't have a class other than their lowly station in life.
"So…" There were a lot of possible questions about this situation, and Megumin didn't know where to start to tackle the mountain of problems that could derive from this, "What is your question?"
"What I need to know is…" Izuku drawled while laying the cards down for Megumin to clearly see, "What these classes do. My class selection was kind of an accident, and while I was able to adjust to it, I'd rather know all the bases for Chika and Liza's."
Megumin had to take a moment to process the situation and the request…
Of course her boyfriend wouldn't give a single fuck about repercussions and consequences. Of course he wouldn't mind earning the ire of the two major religions. Why would he? Considering his status as an outworlder that saw such institutions as barbaric and idiotic, why should he? His class of Arch Druid had no need to acknowledge the laws not set by nature herself.
"Alright, here is what these do…" Megumin started, but stopped to look at the demi-girls, "You better pay attention too; I have the feeling that Izuku is going to let the choice up to you…"
Ten minutes later…
They hadn't had too many options, but the ones they possessed were troublesome to consider, at least for those not part of Izuku's group. Chika had all the options available that were reliant on dexterity or intelligence, and even hybrid ones; that left her with Rogue classes, Mage classes, and hybrids of them. Liza, however, showed to have not only obscene amounts of strength and constitution, but also unusually high wisdom; this mixture gave her the options of the various Barbarian, Fighter, and even Ranger classes.
Izuku had to fight the urge to snort at the idea of Liza having more common sense than most adventurers…
"So…" Izuku started, looking intently at his demi-girls, "Which classes do you want to get?"
Megumin rolled her eyes. Of course the lovable idiot would give them the freedom to choose.
Both girls tilted their heads in apparent confusion. Neither could understand the question, because while they were technically free to choose their own path in life, they wanted nothing more than to be by their master's side.
"Ummm…" Chika hesitated for a moment, but quickly gathered the courage to speak, "What class would help Master more?"
Izuku face-palmed at that. He really wanted Chika and Liza to be free, independent and happy. However, he had to remember that after being slaves their whole lives, such a goal would require a lot of re-education and adaptation. It was foolish to expect them to be completely independent in such a short amount of time.
Megumin sniggering at his side wasn't helping his case either.
"Well…" Izuku hesitated for a moment.
Telling them what he needed was the easy way, but it hurt his feelings. Chika and Liza were people, real people, not characters in a game where he could just choose for them what was best for him. Even if he did choose for their own benefit, it made him feel horrible.
"Our party could use someone with lots of skills." Izuku started, noticing the hopeful eyes on the Black Harpy, "But other than that, you could choose something able to do anything you want to do."
Chika tilted her head for a moment, then smiled such a pure and bright smile that it was heartwarming to watch.
"Chika wants to use many skills for Master." Chika answered, then she leaned forward to lower her voice even more, "Is there a skill class that can use magic too? Chika would like… to use magic for Master too…"
Megumin froze. On one hand, allowing a Harpy to learn magic would mean being branded heretics by the church of Eris; on the other… it would be so cool that she almost failed to not push Izuku to search for such a class.
"Actually, there is!" Izuku answered, happy to see that Chika had desires of her own, "Here, the Trickster combines the heavy skill use of the Rogues with some spells from the Wizard class."
Chika gave couple of cute jumps in place, happy to see that her Master really intended on fulfilling her wishes.
"Then, if Master allows it…" Chika whispered with a big and cute smile, "Chika wants to be a Trickster!"
Izuku was more than happy to select that class for the avian girl, feeling great after finding some sort of desire to fulfill for her. Then he turned to look at Liza.
"Liza…" Izuku spoke softly; the albino Gator-girl was attentive, but it was hard to read her face, "Is there anything you want to be, to achieve?"
Contrary to what the books said, or the warnings many had given him, Liza had been surprisingly easy to deal with. The reptilian girl just wanted food and cuddles. But Izuku knew that she was a person too, and not an animal. She had to have her own desires and goals, things that she felt a need for, something…
"Stronger." Liza replied after just a few seconds, "Me… stronger… Master… Safe."
Izuku blinked a few times.
"You want…" Izuku did his best to transform those words into something that made sense to him, "To be stronger… so you can protect me?"
"The Lizardfolk have the natural instinct to protect what they love, or the things they feel attached to." Megumin began to explain, smiling in a clearly teasing way, "Gator-kin are even simpler; she feels she belongs to you, which makes you something irreplaceable. I don't think she needs to be that much stronger though."
Izuku gave an awkward smile to the petite Arch Wizard. Many had called on Liza's stupidly high power after seeing her tail and claws wreck brick walls, but Izuku knew that such things were nothing compared to her main weapon. Just like alligators, a Gator-kin's jaws were their strongest weapon. If Liza were to truly become stronger, to the extent that even reinforced Ironwood wouldn't stand a chance…
But who was he to deny the wishes of his beloved girls?
"Well…" Izuku started as he read some of the classes available to Liza, "Totem Warriors can become much stronger when they Rage…"
Totem Warriors, an advanced form of Barbarians, allowed the adventurer to gain traits of the chosen animal totem. These traits only took effect while activating their rage. In Izuku's mind, this meant that Liza would get a lot out of this class, as her race had a trait called Cold Rage, which made their violent impulses hard to read; he guessed that if they faced opponents that could read faces, they wouldn't know when Liza was in rage mode.
"Me… Stronger?" Liza's semblance turned bright, her waving tail betraying her happiness at the idea, "Me… Dragon?"
Izuku chuckled, finding the happiness of the reptilian girl adorable.
"Sure." Izuku replied, much to Megumin's growing distress, "If that's what you want to be, I'm sure you'll be able to reach that goal."
Megumin felt the sudden urge to warn the Arch Druid. Having a 'slave' that strong was going to raise some alarm bells on the royal guards and the Guild… but then again… the mere possibility of Liza getting that strong and be her bodyguard by proxy… it was too cool to pass on!
"Me Totem! Me Dragon!" Liza was very happy at the prospect of being even more capable of protecting her dear master.
With a sweep of a finger, Izuku selected the class. There was no need to select the totem; apparently, Liza's will and desires were enough for the magical card to understand what animal she had selected in her heart. In the card, the ominous word 'Dragon' appeared.
Chika's changes upon selecting her class were subtle; her feathers became less shiny, though not any less beautiful, and she could tell that her limbs felt nimbler, more dexterous. For Liza, however, the changes were more obvious; her scales became bigger, tougher, harder and heavier. Her reptilian hands and feet, already clawed, gained a much more menacing look with the increase in muscular mass and the length of the claws. Even her human-like skin looked thicker.
"At least you look happy…" Izuku nervously muttered, noticing how Liza waved her tail, and how Chika was jumpy.
"Good luck controlling them…" Megumin muttered too, knowing very well that she wasn't about to abandon her boyfriend, "Do you think they are going to take more time to get a quest?"
Izuku, grateful for a chance to distract his mind from obsessing about Liza's changes, turned to take a look at the still arguing girls at the quest board. Then, the doors of the Guild Hall opened violently.
Entering the Hall, panting and sweating, a young woman was looking everywhere. The teary eyes of the brunette were distraught, and it seemed like she was about to have a mental breakdown.
"Lean?" The muscled adventurer with a Mohawk asked to the now identified brunette, "What happened? Where are Dust, Keith and Taylor?"
Rumors started to be heard, some even throwing terms like TPK. Izuku didn't really know this party, but he was horrified to think that a group of young adventurers were now… gone.
Finally, the brunette turned to look at him, and just like that, she darted his way.
"IIIZZZUUUUKKUUUUU!" Lean cried in utter despair, falling to her knees in front of the Arch Druid, "YOU HAVE TO HELP THEM! PLEASE SAVE THEM!"
"Wh-what?!" Izuku wasn't ready to have people kneel before him for… anything, "What happened?!"
Izuku pushed his shock down once he realized what was being asked of him. Someone needed help, there was no time to feel awkwardness. Darkness, Aela and Yunyun dropped their search for a quest when they noticed that the young Wizard was begging for Izuku's help. Close behind them, Luna also approached to understand what was happening.
"My party! The guys…" Lean started, still freaking out.
Izuku placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, trying to reassure her, to calm her down so she could explain what was happening.
Adventurers, even entire parties, dying out in the field or inside dungeons was not only a reality of this world, it was a common occurrence. The Guild offered only the unlocking of the power and the chance to gain skills, but there was no guarantee of survival, no clause about being of enough value to warrant a search party if you went missing. In this world, you signed up for adventure on your own, so it was you who accepted all the risks involved.
"We took the yearly quest of exploring Keel's dungeon. We only intended to search the first floor for the re-spawning chests. It was just meant to be a quick cash grab… no more than taking down a zombie or two…" Lean began to explain, quickly starting to tear up.
Keel's dungeon was a weird structure of times past. Supposedly the final place of rest for a long gone Necromancer, one that didn't turn into a Lich due to his beloved dying before the rituals could be completed. At least, that's how the old stories described it. There were ten known levels to the dungeon, and every year, the chests would refill themselves; it wasn't a life-changing amount of gold, but it was good for low level adventurers, and often times, used as a sort of tutorial for adventurers about to leave the city to start a journey on their own.
It had, of course, its dangers. The dungeon had some low level undead monsters, and no shortage of large insects and other vermin; given that Lean's party wasn't exactly the weakest in town, they shouldn't have hit anything too dangerous.
"We found that the chests on the first level were empty already, so, we decided to take a peek at the first rooms of the second…" Lean continued, her voice trembling now.
In the back, Luna immediately suspected foul play.
The dungeon was free to enter for everyone, that was a given, but any adventurer that went without taking the quest was expected to at least report that they did so. The fee that the Guild took for entering the dungeon was diverted to maintain the seals at the entrance of the catacomb; if adventurers start entering to plunder the re-spawning chests, and they didn't divert a fraction of that money, the priests would stop renewing the seals, which would risk the undead getting outside, into the woods, and eventually threaten the city.
"We met… Keel…" Lean finally revealed, making the entire hall go silent at such a revelation, "He was angry. At us… At everyone. He was rambling about his beloved being sealed away…"
Luna and the other attendants quickly began to take note. This development needed to be reported immediately, as such news was terrible. If Keel was real, then he must be a Lich, a really powerful undead that was now lurking too close to the city of beginners.
"We were captured. He said we were going to be used to break the seal… Dust then convinced him that there was someone in town, someone so powerful that the seal would be undone in seconds…" Lean began to cry, and Izuku could already guess what had happened, "My party chose me to come for you, Izuku… Please… Save them. Before… before…"
Izuku interrupted her by standing up. His eyes were like steel and his face like stone.
The Arch Druid had no obligation whatsoever on this affair. Nothing was forcing him to step in and save this party. Izuku owed them nothing; he didn't even know them beyond the fact that they were adventurers too. They owed him nothing, meaning that he had nothing to lose by letting them face their fate. They didn't even have any riches or resources he needed or desired, meaning that he wouldn't get anything in return.
"Say no more." Izuku firmly stated, making every adventurer return their eyes to their plates and their ears to their own businesses.
Lean knew that there was not much else to do. Izuku, the Hero of Axel, had no obligation toward a team of adventurers that, at best, were barely acquaintances. Indeed, asking the Arch Druid to enter the dungeon and risk his life for absolutely nothing was perhaps the most foolish thing to do; perhaps her party members knew this beforehand, meaning that they only wanted her to survive.
She couldn't give up though. She and Dust still had to settle their situation. Taylor still had to declare his feelings for Luna. Keith had that archery competition in one month. She had to convince the Arch Druid to save her party. She steeled herself, preparing her heart and mind to offer her body as payment, to offer her…
Izuku slammed his staff on the floor. The impact, causing a sound almost supernatural, interrupted all noise and even the thoughts of everyone in the Guild Hall.
"Megumin, Liza, Chika, Darkness! We are going to save this party!" Izuku declared, loud and firm, "Aela, Yunyun, you are welcome to come, but you two are under no obligation to follow us."
With that, Izuku took the hand of the still kneeling Lean. She didn't need a command or further prompt to know it was her turn to guide the Hero of Axel to where he was needed.
"Izuku! Wait!" Luna attempted to intercept, knowing that placing Izuku in danger was a no-go if she wanted to ensure the prosperity of her hall, "That is not a sanctioned quest! There will be no…"
"I don't care!" Izuku interrupted, not slowing down, "I'm not going to stand still when there are people in danger!"
And with that, the Arch Druid left the building as his entire party followed him without hesitation. In fact, many would attest, every one of the girls was sporting a look of determination that would put most heroes to shame.
A couple of hours later…
Reaching the entrance to Keel's dungeon had been… educational… for Izuku.
The damnable thing hadn't been too far from the city. If the undead inside were to pass through the seals of the gate, they would reach the city within hours, blindside the scarce guards, and cause a lot of casualties before a proper defense could be organized. The priests of the two major religions were supposedly keeping the seals strong, but they were tackling this as a business. Izuku had to take a moment to rein in his anger, unable to believe that these religious imbeciles would focus on the money rather than the safety of the civilians.
"Two sentries." Aela reported, gripping the light crossbow in her hands for dear life. She was NOT ready for this… but if she didn't step up to the challenge, when would she ever be? "Undead, by the looks of it."
Aela knew that the information was unnecessary. The humanoid figures standing guard at the entrance of the dungeon looked like rotten corpses. Still, Izuku had asked for her input, because she had the skill Farsight, which allowed her to look at distant targets much more easily.
"These are not brainless zombies." Megumin supplied, doing her best to look at the distant targets, "They are holding their weapons like trained soldiers, and not like boneless animated corpses."
Izuku nodded at the new information. He quickly understood that these undead sentries were probably smart enough to know they needed to bring him to their leader. He now needed to know if they could be reasoned with.
"Wights." Yunyun added, surprising the group, "Look at the bright eyes. They have sentience."
"The magic girl is right." Chika added, perched on a tree branch and looking forward without needing to squint her eyes, "Chika can see that the deadies can think."
Aela didn't know what was worse, facing the fact that her skills seemed redundant yet again, or that the raspy whispers of the Black Harpy seemed to be even more harmful now.
"That's what I needed to know." Izuku muttered, and then turned to look as his rather large party, "Darkness, Aela, Chika, Lean, stay here and remain on guard. If we don't come back soon, get back to town to get a proper rescue team. The rest, come with me."
Grave nods followed the Arch Druid's orders. Darkness and Chika didn't like the plan at all, but they understood that this was necessary.
Izuku, Megumin, Yunyun and Liza stepped out of the bushes and into the clearing that marked the entrance of the dungeon. The undead sentries pointed their swords at the intruders, but otherwise didn't move.
"My name is Izuku Midoriya!" Izuku firmly stated, internally freaking out at the idea of addressing a pair of intelligent undead… other than Wiz, "I was asked to come here so a trio of adventurers may be released!"
The sentries exchanged glances for a brief moment, then nodded to each other.
"We weren't expecting you so soon." One of the Wights spoke; his accent was off, but still understandable, "Follow us. The Master awaits."
Several minutes later…
Izuku was not expecting this to be the lair of Keel the Necromancer… or rather… the Lich. It was dark and dusty as it was supposed to be, but the decorations were very human, and not centered on death and dark rituals. The final hallway was also quite the anticlimactic scene. Instead of leading to a grand hall or throne room, it led to a rather cozy bedroom.
Just outside said bedroom, Izuku could make out the form of a mummified corpse wearing mage robes. And inside the room, he could see the three adventurers… struggling to clean the floor?
"Do it carefully!" The Lich screamed to the struggling trio, "I don't care if it takes you a thousand years! I want that barrier gone and the ashes of my beloved undisturbed!"
The three adventurers inside the room winced, but otherwise didn't complain.
"Keel? The… Lich?" Izuku asked as he gave some shy steps toward the powerful and ancient undead.
Keel turned his head, looking at the new arrivals. He really wanted to keep shouting, to bring his wrath down on everything and everyone. But the boy before him had clear eyes that belonged to an angel… It melted his anger away. Seeing the other two girls shyly hide behind his back didn't help with the heartwarming feelings.
The reptilian girl was another case entirely.
"Yes…" Keel replied, trying to read the group before him, "I apologize for being so rude, but some scoundrels thought that destroying my beloved's remains and separating me from her was something fun to do."
Three spellcasters and one brute. This was an odd group. At least the boy resonated with strong magic.
"Am I to assume you are this powerful young man capable of undoing any seal?" Keel's question made Izuku grimace.
"It depends on the seal." Izuku replied with as much confidence as possible, and yet, not agreeing to anything. He had no idea how powerful this lich was, and endangering Megumin and Liza was something he really wanted to avoid.
"Of course. It would be inconsiderate on my part to believe you are almighty." Keel replied in a rather reasonable way, much to Izuku's relief, "This seems to be a holy barrier of an extremely high level variety. If it weren't etched in such a shoddy way, I would believe it was done by divine hands."
As Izuku followed the pointing hand of the lich, it became obvious to him that the symbols on the floor were drawn with… cheap chalk. It was like some useless idiot tried to vandalize the place. Why would anyone do something like this instead of purifying the place? Someone with such holy powers should have been able to see that sending all the undead to the afterlife was better than just sealing the area in the long run!
"That is chalk…" Izuku pointed the obvious, "Have you tried water?"
"That is impossible." Keel quickly answered, not faulting the adventurer for resorting to common sense, "That dust covering the place is actually the ashes of my beloved. The imbecile that attacked us destroyed her body, and I will not allow her ashes to be washed away. I would have cast a spell to rebuild her body, but I can't enter thanks to this horrible barrier."
Izuku felt pity for the lich. It was easy to imagine that this guy, undead as he was, only wanted to spend the rest of his unlife with his loved one.
"Guys!" Izuku called now to the trio, "Have you tried gathering the dispersed ashes first?"
It was something stupid to ask. It should have been the first thing these adventurers should have tried. There is no way…
"Are you crazy?!" Dust was the first to shout back.
"There is no way we are going to use a broom in here!" Keith seconded, "We'd be breathing the ashes if we used one!"
Izuku threw the guys a deadpan look. It took a lot of willpower not to call them idiots. However, before he could face-palm, an idea struck his mind.
"Megumin." Izuku's call was immediately answered by his girlfriend, who was already by his side, "Do you have Gust of Wind in your skill list?"
Megumin not only nodded, she quickly took out her Adventurer Card, and immediately went to slide her little finger along its surface.
"No way!" Yunyun called, unable to believe what she was seeing, "MEGUMIN! YOU CANNOT SPEND POINTS ON BASIC MAGIC!"
"You call it basic." Megumin retorted, smiling like a true devil as she finished learning the basic spell, "But my boyfriend will turn it into something crazy!"
Izuku gave a cute chuckle. He was already holding a piece of cloth, which was quickly folded into the shape of a pouch.
"I'm not sure if it is super crazy." Izuku stated, earning the attention of the lich and the other adventurers, "But this will solve our problem today."
Giving the bag to Megumin, Izuku shifted into a pose that his girlfriend recognized as his 'I'm going to explain something complex' stance.
"Gust of Wind allows the caster to manipulate the direction of the flow of air; this is something that can be used to push clouds, fog or lightweight things." Izuku started, earning nods of understanding from everyone present, "Megumin, I want you to place the focal point of the spell at the bottom of that pouch, make the air flow from inside and through the bottom, while pointing the opening of the pouch to the floor."
Yunyun watched how Megumin, the most stubborn of the Demon Clan members of their generation, obeyed without protest. It was surreal to see the petite girl who had never spent a single point on anything other than Explosion doing as she was told. It was already impossible to believe that the petite Arch Wizard wasted points in something so useless…
Yunyun and Keel watched in stunned silence as the effects of the spell took effect. The cloth pouch inflated, and air was being sucked inside… along with the ashes that were on the floor… the bed… and the walls. It was as if they were being commanded to gather in a single place, lured to the inside of the impromptu pouch. In only a couple of minutes, there were no more ashes to collect.
"That is a vacuum effect." Izuku explained to the still shocked spellcasters of the group, "By forcing the air out of the pouch, we force air from outside to go in; since the opening of the bag offers less resistance than the cloth that makes the pouch, the air goes through it, and since the opening is so small, the pressure differential makes the suction force stronger. This makes it easy to drag in small particles, like dust and ashes, which do not pass through the cloth at the bottom of the pouch."
Yunyun was… speechless. With a useless spell and a useless item, Megumin and her boyfriend had created a most useful technique. This innovation could reduce time when gathering resources, cleaning areas, or even hiding messes!
Keel was dumbstruck. Despite his wealth of knowledge and high intelligence, he would admit to never have thought on combining spells and items to create effects as useful as this!
"Here are the ashes." Megumin reported while handing the pouch to the lich, "It wasn't crazy, but it was effective."
The smug grin on Megumin's face was setting the nerves of the cute brunette on fire. She wanted to create crazy things too!
"Thank you…" Keel said while clutching the pouch with ashes close to his chest, "You don't know how happy this makes me…"
"Can we go now?" Dust asked, rudely interrupting the touching moment.
Keel turned to look at the trio of adventurers, his undead face easily passing as a deathly glare. Despite that, Izuku could see his kindness surfacing.
"A thousand gold if you mop that barrier away." Keel suddenly replied, sounding far more amicable now, "Each."
"YES SIR!" The three idiots replied, and quickly went to get buckets with water and mops to clean the chalk from the floor.
"As for you, my good man." Keel said now, turning to look at Izuku, "Is there a way to repay your kindness?"
Izuku just smiled. He already had his reward in knowing that everyone would return home today. A successful rescue, with a touch of kindness. On the other hand, something still bothered him.
"I need no material reward." Izuku replied, earning startled reactions from Yunyun and Keel himself, "But I'm curious. Why do you remain here as an undead? Your beloved feels purified; her soul is not shackled to this plane."
He was no priest, but he could feel the foul energies that tied Keel and his soldiers to this place, energies that were absent from the ashes in the pouch.
Keel sighed, but instead of refusing, he decided to explain everything to the kind Arch Druid.
It took an entire hour, but in that time, the lich had recounted his tale. The ancient kingdom, his escape with his beloved. The creation of the dungeon… how she passed away while he became an undead… that she was still waiting at the gates of heaven, waiting for him to be purified so they can cross the gates together…
"And that's why I'm still here…" Keel finished, feeling liberated after re-telling his story, warmth filling his being at seeing the teary eyes of the two wizards accompanying the Druid, "That's why I'll remain here, until a kind priest comes and finally purifies me."
"I see." Izuku said with a sad sigh, "I wish I could purify you. I really want you to be reunited with your beloved."
Keel smiled as much as he could, knowing that this boy was being honest.
"It is what it is." Keel replied, "You've already helped me enough. Asking for more, asking for the impossible, is simply rude."
"Keel…" Izuku called, earning the attention of the Lich, "I cannot purify you like a priest would. But… would you like to be reincarnated?"
It took a few seconds for the words to sink in, but when they did…
Magnus: Yes, I'm not following canon, deal with it. This is a pattern that will keep repeating itself until the story is finished.
Edit: The first chapters are Beta'ed now.
Omake – Aqua's road trip
The path to Alcanrentia was getting more difficult by the day. It wasn't that money was running low, or that there were constant battles along the way. It was that Aqua was getting less room to breathe.
"I DON'T NEED YOU IN MY BED!"
Aqua's scream had gotten a lot of attention, more than what the blond swordsmaster wanted.
"Lady Aqua!" Kyouya did his best to remain as silent as it was possible, "I didn't mean it like that!"
Aqua was pretty sure that she wasn't mistaken. When the guy had proposed the three of them shared a single room for the night, the ex-goddess' senses blared with all her internal alarms. His creepy attitude intensifying by the day wasn't helping.
"Really?" The Thief asked with a deadpan stare, "I thought you were finally going to include her tonight."
"See?!" Aqua kept screaming in outrage, making people in the inn look at the trio in disgust, "The harlot betrays your intentions!"
"Hey!" The Thief was outraged now, and thus, began to shout too, "How can you call me that when you wear that excuse of a skirt? You are basically begging to be fu…"
"Calm down!" Kyouya did his best to interrupt the starting fight, "There is no need to judge anyone's clothes."
"MY SKIRT IS ACTUALLY A SKIRT!" Aqua was not going to back down, why would she? Goddesses did not back down!
"This clothing gets me in the good graces of our valiant party leader." The Thief declared with pride, "If I dress like this, it is for him. Unlike you, who claims to not want him, and yet shows everything to everyone!"
"Seriously… please…" Kyouya could feel the stink eyes of those around him. He was being judged like a pervert.
"Hey, you three!" A group of ugly looking thugs approached their table; Kyouya was immediately gripping his sword, although he knew he couldn't strike first, "How much for a night of fun?"
The question was accompanied by a large pouch full of gold coins being placed on the table.
"We are in dire need of relief." Another of the thugs added, smiling at the girls in a horrifying way, "Don't worry, just normal stuff, nothing weird or harmful."
"I may get a little weird, but I'm paying extra." A third one joined, then the three began to let out perverted giggles.
"WE ARE NOT PROSTITUTES!" Aqua and the Thief screamed in horror.
"You aren't?" The leader of the thugs asked in honest surprise, "But the way you are dressed… we thought…"
"Leave…" Kyouya hissed, truly angry at how the situation turned, "Before I do something we all will regret…"
"Geez, calm down pretty boy!" One of the thugs replied, "We only made a mistake."
"Damn… I wanted the guy to suck me dry…" The last thug said as the group left to find their fun elsewhere.
"THIS IS YOUR FAULT!" The girls shouted at each other, making Kyouya drop his head in defeat. This wasn't going as he thought it would go.