47 Not The Same

Exile stared at the cave's entrance with a frown. So far, this place had no resemblance to Allevia's tomb. Clay was staring at him with an expectant expression. But Exile had nothing to say. How could he, when they had not even confirmed if they would face similar enemies yet?

"Right, lets have a look, shall we?" Clay rubbed his hands together before drawing his broadsword. "Un, you go first."

Old Un nodded in response before creeping forward. He gripped his bow tightly as he took the lead. Exile waited outside with the others for a few minutes before they followed him inside.

Exile could hear water dripping as his boots scuffed across the ground. The sounds echoed off the walls, making it appear as if the cave went on forever. Exile was paying close attention to the rocky walls packed with dirt. His experience at Allevia's tomb made him wary of an ambush.

The group pushed further into the cave, but nothing happened. They had still not caught sight of Un yet, which was a good sign, according to Clay. As the darkness of the cave stole their sight from them, Exile picked up on a soft indigo glow further ahead.

'Seems like we're about to reach the true start.' Exile did not feel the need to say anything just yet. It was better not to confirm that he already had experience with this sort of thing, even if the others already believed that he did.

"There's Un. Why's he just standing there?" Clay raised an eyebrow as he spotted his comrade crouched against the wall of the cave, while looking around a bend.

When Un heard them approaching, he raised a finger to his lips in a gesture for them to be quiet. Exile gripped his shield and tightly as his right hand hovered over the shaft of his sheathed axe. The entire party lowered into crouches of their own as they shuffled up next to Un.

"What is that?" Clay's voice was hard to hear as they all studied the sight before them.

Exile's eyes went wide as he recognised the sea of mobs. They were definitely Lost Souls! However, there was a difference. Each one of them was wearing armour and wielded a weapon. They stood in organised ranks before a giant indigo door.

"They're Lost Souls." Exile decided it was time to share something. "Their attacks base their damage on Authority. Or at least, they did."

"What do you mean?" Clay's eyes narrowed as he looked to Exile.

"I've come across them before. But they had no equipment. So I can't say for sure they're still Authority based mobs." Exile shrugged his shoulders to show that he had nothing else to offer.

"Boss, if they're authority based neither me nor Desa will last long if they attack us." Burri glanced at the mobs dubiously.

Clay hummed as he considered their options. Turning back without giving the tomb a go was out of the question. Bombarding the enemies from a distance would be the best plan. However, Clay raised an eyebrow as he glanced at Exile.

"What would you suggest?"

The sudden question took Exile by surprise, and the rest of the party frowned at Clay in response to his question. Exile rubbed his chin as he considered the scenario.

"When I came across them before, it was impossible to retreat. The only way to survive was to push forward. However, there were only two other people with me."

"This time, there's six of us. But our opponents' strength is unknown. Comparing them to what I've been through could lead to vital mistakes."

The party nodded at his explanation and felt reassured that he did not just advise them to rush in head first. However, it still left Clay with a problem. Exile's description of what he went through poked a hole in his plan.

If the scenarios were similar enough, then just sitting back and attacking from range would eventually get them killed. However, if they were different, then rushing for the door could lead to that fate instead.

Ten minutes later, Clay had finally reached a decision. "We'll form a square formation and move forward. Un and Desa will be in the centre. You two can focus on ranged attacks until we confirm their damage type. Exile and I will take the front facing corners. Burri and Leggy, you guys have the rear. Lets go."

There was some apprehension in the air as they took their designated positions. Burri was the most disgruntled since he felt that he should have been in the centre instead of Un. However, Clay had put Un in that position instead because he was capable of ranged attacks. Whereas Burri had none.

It would have been unfair to the other members to allow Burri to take cover and not provide any help. Although he would face more danger this way, it would spread the burden more evenly amongst everyone.

They moved forward as one, and the rear lines of the Lost Souls reacted to their presence. Their heads turned to face the intruders before they turned mechanically and stamped their feet at the same time. They gave Exile the impression of being a well-trained army that was on parade.

'This doesn't look good.' Exile's palms were sweaty as his eyes shifted from one mob to another in rapid succession. He could have sworn that he could hear the others' hearts pounding as they struggled to control their breathing.

No sudden charge occurred. The Lost Souls marched in unison to cover the distance between them. The delay was agonising as the gap between them lessened at a slow pace. Exile felt the need to charge forward recklessly. But that would leave the others undefended at his end.

They were so close now. Close enough to see the whites of their eyes. If they had any. Exile unsheathed his axe. When it was firmly in his grip, the golden runes on its shaft lit up. He banged the blade against his shield. As if challenging the Lost Souls…

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