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384 Curse

 Since Blue Oasis would be the one leading the raid, Niflheim had already informed Izroth that he would not have to worry about purchasing any health or mana potions for the raid as it would be provided to them. As for any additional preparation he wanted to make, it would have to be with his own funds.

However, there were only two things Izroth needed to do before the raid. The first was to try his hand at increasing the rank of his Boundless Emperor Void Perfection skill and the other had something to do with his Source.

Izroth had heard numerous times from different individuals that his Source was still in its infancy stage. He believed that this had to do with the trait level of his Soul Essence. After unlocking Perfect Source Compatibility, Izroth's Essence overflowed throughout his body and it was almost as if a great flood of water had burst through a dam. At first, the changes were barely noticeable. However, as time went on, Izroth started to feel the Essence in his body increasing at a rapid pace.

At the moment, Izroth's trait level for his Soul Essence was at 19.99. This was only 0.01 away from the level 20 mark which was supposed to be the point where he unlocks an additional effect for his Soul Essence. But now, his Soul Essence was halted at a trait level of 19.99 and his Perfect Source Compatibility appeared to be at a sudden roadblock.

After he discovered that point, Izroth attempted to perform the Source Chant. Although it was extremely slow, at the very least, it should be able to grant him that last 0.01 that he needed to proceed to the level 20 trait level. However, after trying for nearly two hours straight with no results, Izroth started to realize that something was wrong.

'It shouldn't take this long to gain a mere 0.01 for my Soul Essence's trait level. Not to mention, my Perfect Source Compatibility also stopped functioning which can't be a coincidence. Is there a specific method I have to use in order to reach the level 20 mark? Or is it something that just naturally takes more time?'

This part was not mentioned anywhere in the book he received from Orion back in the Amaharpe palace library, therefore, Izroth was uncertain of the next steps he should take in regard to this matter.

'Every Source is different and acts as a direct reflection of the user. If that's true, then given my current set of circumstances, how will this Source reflect me? Is this a question only I know the answer to? Maybe I'm simply overthinking it. I should take a step back and view it from a broader perspective. Only then can I be certain of the path that I have to take.'

...

Sometime the next day...

'Even after spending nearly 40 hours in-game, I've only managed to increase my Boundless Emperor Void Perfection from E- to E. It's a bit more challenging than I thought it would be...'

Izroth shook his head as he released a small sigh inwardly. Without the power of the Law of Void to act as a catalyst, the progress rate of his skill was too slow! If it took 40 hours just to get from E- to E, then Izroth estimated that it would take nearly 100 hours to raise it from E to E+! This was being generous on his estimations. In truth, it may even take up to 150 hours! As for stepping into the D ranks... This would be even more of a nightmare for Izroth at his current pace.

'Though it seems that I've underestimated its growth rate. Originally, I thought that its power wouldn't be on par with an A-rank skill until it became D- in rank, however, even at E rank its already a bit stronger than the average A-ranked skill. Still, to spend 40 hours and produce such mediocre results... This method of training is just as mind-numbing as I remember.'

Even though it was unbearably slow, Izroth had no other choice but to tread along this path. Until he acquired the Law of Void, this was the sole way to improve the strength of his Boundless Emperor Void Perfection skill.

'First my Soul Essence and now the Boundless Emperor Void Perfection skill... There are roadblocks at every turn, however, this much isn't enough to discourage me. I'll deal with this one step at a time. If I rush too much to improve, then I may end up overlooking some important details. At this point, patience is key.'

With powerful and unknown enemies lurking around every corner, Izroth knew that he had been somewhat impatient as of late when it came to increasing his strength and this was not necessarily a good thing. If one lacked solid foundations, no matter what it was in, then it was only a matter of time before things started to collapse.

Right now, he believed his main focus should be on perfecting what was already at his disposal instead of dwelling on things he had little to no control over. This would reap the most results and benefits in the long run.

Izroth closed his eyes and took a brief moment to meditate, as well as, to organize his thoughts. Once he opened his eyes, there was a look of clarity that was visible and there no longer existed a shred of clouded thoughts that drifted through his mind.

Izroth stepped outside of a dark cave and was greeted by a lush and verdant forest and the bright rays of the sunlight peeking through the densely packed trees in the surroundings. The mana in this area was extremely dense. That was because Izroth was at one of the locations found on a map he looked at in the Treasure Room of the Sky Palace on the 1st floor. It was a hidden cave located in Proximus and was believed to have the power to connect those inside to the natural elements of the world.

This cave also had the ability to increase the size of an individual's mana pool. Although this was true, the effects were minimal when it came to connecting one to the power of the natural elements. At the very least, the Law of Void was either scarce or nonexistent among the natural elements present in the cave.

'It should be about time to meet up with the others. But first, I should take care of that matter.'

...

Around one hour later...

Izroth arrived at Kryxelsia's estate that was located in the magic capital city. The guards there had already been informed of his arrival, therefore, they let him through without any issues. Of course, Izroth was here to keep the promise he made to Kryxelsia.

'How long has he been inside this room?'

At the moment, Izroth stood before the door to the room that Valentine had been shut away inside of for who knows how long. While he was aware of Valentine's obsession with magic, he did not think that it would reach a point where he became a complete shut-in.

Izroth knocked on the door a few times, however, there was no answer. After receiving no answer, he placed his hand on the doorknob and felt that it was unlocked. Since no one was answering, he decided to open the door and take a look inside the room.

"I'm entering." Izroth announced as he opened the door and stepped into the room. The first thing that caught his eye were the countless magic sequences and strange symbols drawn all over the ceiling, floor, and walls of the room. There were numerous papers, books, and scrolls scattered around the room and stacked up on a small desk in the corner.

The room was not very bright and was lit by a handful of light green flames that appeared to be built into the room itself. It was easy to see that Valentine had been quite busy over the past few days.

'Hm? This magic sequence is...'

Just as one of the magic sequences drawn on the wall caught Izroth's attention, he heard the sound of movement come from a pile of books in the corner. When he looked over, he noticed an arm sticking out from the pile of books. A few seconds later, the books were brushed aside as a disheveled individual stood up to their feet.

When Izroth saw this disheveled individual he shook his head as he said, "When I told you to get some rest for tomorrow, this isn't what I meant, Valentine."

The disheveled individual with a tired expression on their face was, of course, Valentine. Although there were no visible bags under his eyes, if this were the real world, they would be there without a doubt from the obvious lack of sleep and pulling all-nighters.

Valentine covered his mouth as he yawned before scratching the back of his head. He appeared to still be half-asleep as one of his eyes was closed and the other was only partially opened.

"Hm? Izroth? We weren't supposed to meet up until tomorrow..." Valentine said in a drowsy manner.

"Almost 13 hours have passed since I first contacted you; 39 hours if you go by in-game time. Just what day do you think it is?" Izroth stated.

"13 hours...? 13... Did you say 13 hours?!" Valentine had snapped out of it and was now wide awake after realizing just how much time had actually passed. Had he really been asleep for nearly 13 hours in-game?!

He had been in this room for almost 3 days of real world time. His body felt weak and frail, his throat parched, and he barely had the strength in his body to stand straight. To go almost 3 days without food or water, it was no wonder he felt so out of it! Did he actually faint from fatigue? Luckily, his vital signs were still stable and he woke up before things got too out of control, otherwise, it would have been too late to regret once the VR headset emergency protocol was triggered.

Once that happened, not only would the nearest emergency center be automatically contacted, but the player in question would be locked out of the game for a full week before being allowed back online for their own safety.

When Izroth saw the state Valentine was in, he released a small sigh as he said, "You should go offline and take care of yourself. If the emergency protocol is triggered due to your negligence, then you can forget about anything magic-related for the next week. If you're still unwell when the time of the raid approaches, then don't worry too much about it."

He then continued, "You must remember not to get too lost in the excitement. It's not always good for one to be too consumed by something, despite how appealing it may be."

Valentine let out a deep sigh as he responded, "You're correct. I was too careless and got a bit lost in the moment. I'll do well to remember this in the future. I'll go offline now, but since I've already promised to be there for the raid, then you can count on me. I just need to regain some energy and I'll be good to go. Besides, how else am I supposed to use what I've learned over these past few days?" A weary smile appeared on Valentine's face as he spoke.

After chatting for a couple of minutes, Valentine went offline. Soon after, Izroth took his leave from Kryxelsia's estate.

'I might as well head to the rendezvous point ahead of schedule.'

The plan was to meet up with the other members of his party at a village located near the outskirts of Proximus. This location was not chosen by random as Niflheim gave Izroth a general location for him and his party members to stay around before the raid began. This was so that he would not be too far away when it was actually time, and to protect the location of the raid until the very last moment.

Izroth left the magic capital city and started to make his way towards the rendezvous point. However, not too long after leaving the gates of the magic capital city, Izroth sensed that he was being followed.

'It's not that guy... Then, could it be that person is acting soon than expected?'

Izroth was sure that the person following him was not Aru. After all, since Izroth already knew of his existence, there was no longer any reason for him to hide. Not to mention, there was a hostile intent being released which was something that Aru would never due given the restrictions placed upon the members of his race. Therefore, the first thing that came to Izroth's mind were the words of Zouren back in the Treasure Room. However, if it was him who sent this attacker, wasn't this a bit too fast?

As the unknown entity drew closer, Izroth felt that the aura being released was familiar to one he had come across before. It had a strong stench of death that lingered about.

'This feeling... Isn't it-'

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However, before Izroth could finish his thought, a dark shadow sped across the ground before a hand almost as thin as bone shot out from the shadow directly towards his head!

Swoosh!

Izroth pushed off his back foot and accelerated forward as he successfully avoided the attack.

"He dodged... This one will be a fun toy. I must thank the master for assigning me this task." An eerie voice came from the dark shadow as a boney and thin figure emerged from the ground. This figure had glowing red eyes, gray-colored skin, razor-sharp teeth, and long sharp nails that resembled talons. However, what stood out the most was their incredibly thin and frail figure that looked as if a random gust of wind could blow them over.

'I see, so it's not him. To think I had nearly forgotten about this. It seems that this curse isn't so idle after all.'

"Human, you have offended someone who could not be offended. You can erase any thoughts about having another peaceful day as long as you walk living in this world. But, don't worry... You won't have to worry about this for long." The boney figure said in a raspy and eerie voice.

Name: Dark Bones Nekynigos(Rare Elite)

Level: 50

HP: 85,000 (100%)

'Rare elite? This is a first...'

It was at the same time Nekynigos appeared that Izroth received an alert from the system.

〈System Alert: Due to the passive «Curse of the Netherworld», you have received the quest «Hunted By A Creature of the Netherworld»! This quest cannot be declined and has been automatically accepted!〉