Merlin sprinted towards the orcs as his body faded from sight, he looked behind him for a second, only to see that the rangers were surprised at seeing him disappear suddenly. The rangers had stopped moving for a second while trying to register what happened, but they quickly regained their composure and started running into the fight as well.
His attention was quickly brought back to the front as he heard a pained grunt, it seemed that the knight that previously warned the group about the orc attack was being overpowered by one of the orcs, and his companions had their hands full trying to fend off the other two armoured orcs, so they couldn't lend him any assistance.
An arrow flew past Merlin's head and buried itself into the orc's hand as it was about to swing down its axe on the knight. This surprised the orc for just long enough for the knight to stumble out of the orc's immediate reach.
Merlin's eyes glanced at the orc's status bar, and he couldn't help but sigh when he saw that the orc was level thirteen, a little more than twice his own level.
'Well, at least they aren't as fast as hobgoblins.' He reassured himself while thinking back to the level nine hobgoblin he briefly struggled against while clearing out the goblin camp. 'As long as I don't get hit by the giant axe, I'll be fine.'
Merlin circled behind the orc that had just been attacked by the arrow, he saw a broad back that was protected by the breastplate that the monster was wearing.
Heavy armour was typically an issue for dexterous assassin builds, as their primary method of dealing damage was usually through several attacks in a short period of time, dealing damage that quickly added up, alongside any additional status effects such as poison or bleed.
This was often countered by full plate armour, as there wasn't usually any vulnerable skin to attack, and the daggers were too light to deal any substantial bludgeoning damage.
All of the orcs had their arms exposed, and two of the three were wearing severely dented helmets, while the orc without a helmet was brandishing a shield.
Fortunately, armour wasn't an issue for Merlin, courtesy of a dead assassin. While still cloaked, he readied his Ghostsaw blade and while chanting the skill name for heavy strike under his breath, he pounced at the orc who was now moving closer to the knight once more.
ãSkill âªHeavy Strikeâ« Activated, your next attack will do an extra 35% damage, and has a 15% chance to trigger the stagger effect.ã
The blade phased through the orc's breastplate as if it weren't even there, and Merlin quickly felt a small bit of resistance as the blade ripped straight through the orc's flesh as if it were butter.
As his blade touched the orc, the ghostly veil that was surrounding his body quickly vanished, and at that moment he was no longer invisible.
The orc suddenly let out a pained roar which startled the rangers and the knight, and had partially grabbed the attention of the other two orcs.
It seemed as though the use of heavy strike and backstab worked wonders together, as he did quite a significant amount of damage, what seemed to have also helped was that he effectively punctured the orc's heart, and the passive from his dagger slowed its healing even further.
The orc swung around desperately while swinging its axe, but as Merlin was already familiar with the creature's movements, the attack was telegraphed enough for him to dodge the strike with ease.
Now that he was face to face with the orc, he took the initiative to deal more damage as the monster was still trying to recover its balance after the wild attack.
Merlin thrust his dagger towards the orc's chest, but the monster didn't seem to think that the strike was worth dodging, as it focused all its power into preparing the next swing with its axe.
Much to the orc's surprise, the dagger phased right through the breastplate, piercing one of its lungs. Merlin received a notification that his passive had triggered.
ãPassive skill âªRending Strikeâ« has triggered, target is now suffering from severe bleeding.ã
The orc spat out a mouthful of blood, which Merlin failed to dodge, causing his white hair to once again be partially stained by blood.
"Why is it always the hair?" He quipped while ripping his dagger out of the orc's chest.
Merlin dodged another wide swing with the heavy axe before dealing several attacks in rapid succession.
The fight continued for a little less than two minutes, until the monster's health bar had eventually dropped to zero. The orc remained standing for a moment, before it dropped into the puddle of blood that had formed underneath its feet.
Merlin chanted the skill name for cleanse, causing the filth covering him and his equipment to peel off and vanish.
He took a second to look around at his surroundings, and he noticed that the rangers had just finished up with the other two orcs.
'Nobody decided to help me?' Merlin thought to himself. 'Fair enough, I guess they knew I had it covered?'
It seemed as though Callisto had dealt with one of the orcs alone, and it clearly lost in a battle of strength, as its limbs were contorted in very unnatural ways.
She seemed slightly angry, and he noticed a few moments after that one of the rangers had gotten wounded, then a theory of his clicked into place.
'Nobody messes with mama bear's cubs.' He thought to himself as he stared at the orc that clearly suffered a painful death. 'So it seems that her trigger is anger, that explains a few things.'
Merlin noticed that out of the large group of rangers, only a handful were standing around, and besides the knight that Merlin saved, the other knights had disappeared too.
Callisto informed him that they began spreading around while looking for any other orcs that may have tried entering the town.
"This group will be one of the few to move out into the wilderness with the sole intention of hunting down the warlord." Callisto began explaining to the group. But she pointed at the ranger who had been wounded, and ordered him to go back to the military barracks for medical treatment.
The ranger looked as though he was going to try and argue, but he quickly stopped himself after noticing that Callisto wasn't happy. He eventually accepted his orders and began marching back towards the military barracks.
"The rest of you, move out." She said before walking away from the town. The rest of the group, including the one knight, followed.
The group had marched in a north-western direction, and they quickly came upon a forested area, although it wasn't nearly as dense as the forests further east.
The knight acted mostly as a guide, directing the group towards the orc hot spots that was brought up in the briefing.
The group had put a special focus on moving around stealthily, especially when moving around areas where orcs had been seen. The last thing they wanted was to get into a fight with a horde of them, even if the numbers were equal, orcs were still more powerful than regular humans.
It was likely that even Callisto would suffer serious injuries if swarmed by several orcs, and that was reason enough to not test their fate.
The group had checked three locations so far, and although there were quite a few orcs gathered around, there was no sight of this black-veined orc warlord.
On their journey to the fourth location, they had encountered a group of four orcs wandering around. The group quickly hid behind an uprooted mound, as they didn't have anywhere else to run where they weren't going to be spotted. Unfortunately it seemed that the orcs just barely managed to spot the knight, and they started making their way over to the group.
"We're going to have to kill them quickly before they call for reinforcements." Callisto growled, while readying her bow.
"I'll initiate." Merlin said while reaching into his inventory.
He pulled out a handful of strange fluffy white flowers that were oddly reminiscent of moths. The flower's wings appeared to be flapping slowly as the faint wind blew past, causing small scales to escape into the air.
"Mothflower!" Callisto remarked with a surprised smile on her face. "Where did you get your hands on mothflower?"
"A nice old lady who runs a little herb store in Megalopolis." Merlin answered before activating phantom step once more.
His body suddenly faded away, and only the sounds of crunching leaves gave away that he had moved.
Now only a few meters in front of the orcs, he began crushing the flower petals in his hand before rolling them around with his fingers, he was trying to loosen as many of the scales as he could.
Although nobody could see him currently, an excited grin had formed on Merlin's face.