AUTHOR’S NOTE: A random bonus chapter appears!
(Blog only, on RRL I will still upload only two chapters, that means, the blog will be 1 chapter ahead of RRL. Perhaps, even more in the future. Who knows? Well, enjoy reading)
Keep the farce going, don’t let your emotion show. That smile, that gaze. Don’t let them waver, do not show the emotions that run underneath.
It’s that simple, really. Instead of letting what you feel show, wear your lies like a mask.
Don’t let the opponent see that you’re afraid, that you might hesitate, even for a moment.
Especially against people that are two times stronger than you. If they know that you fear them, it’s your loss.
I repeat those words into my head, making them my own mantra as I smile, as I gaze my enemies.
Confuse them, make them think you’re stronger than they are.
If they see you act like this, even when they know your level is a third of their own, they will react in two ways.
First, they might take you for a fool. A cocky brat that does not know his place, and is in for a lesson.
And they will underestimate you, for that.
Or, they might see past your weakness, and think that you’re hiding something. They will be wary of your moves, and they will keep their guard high. And that’s the right time for you to strike, using guile instead of strenght. Confuse them, and it will be your win.
Well, it’s easier said than done. All my instinct are screaming at me, run away, and yet, here I am. Struggling against myself, showing a facade of strenght that I do not possess. The main concept here, is that my opponents do not know it.
One of them is already gone, gasping his last breath as blood flows from his severed jugular.
It’s as John said. Even if the opponent is two, or three times as strong as you are, they still are vulnerable if they cannot react fast enough.
Defense, no matter how high it is, is pointless if the blow overrides it. And, even a small amount of power can be devastating, if concentrated in a single spot.
The small knife I have in my hands still glows from the excessive mana I put into it, the blade cracked, falling apart. It served its purpose, and now it’s time to set it aside.
Confuse the enemy, use smarts instead of the strenght you lack.
I am alone against a group of eight people, all of them above level forty, the strongest having reached level fifty-two. A bit too much for this level, but they’ve been figthing here in order to power-level Leidus.
This level, it is a place where the monsters yield enough EXP to make one rapidly grow, without overcharging him with too much EXP.
In short, they’ve been doing the fights, using their higher stats and skills to easily kill the lower level monsters, while Leidus sat back and grew from level seventeen to forty-four.
Of the original nine members that accompanied him into this dungeon floor, only seven remeains. One fell to my surprise attack.
Another, it was Leidus who killed him. Something I did not account for, and that gave me a bigger advantage against the group. Perhaps, this Leidus guy is really nothing more than a mean idiot, after all.
Still, he took out one of his own men, and that plays to my favor. Eight people against one, the odds are definitely not in my favor.
A single hit, and I will be dead. Hell, why do I barge in these kind of situations?
Only, this time it’s not like the others. Since some time ago, I always fell into danger, swept by the flow of events and finding myself entangled in them, able only to react.
This time, it’s different.
I did not fell into danger. I sought it, I planned for it.
And I am well prepared.
As the enemies react to my first attack, jumping to my position with incredible speed, I ponder the next move.
They’re smart, trained to react to danger and act to achieve the best results. Four of them already jumped to my position, coming from different sides.
One, from the front, flamboyantly charging ahead. Of course, he does so to distract me from his three companions, two coming from the sides and one, cloaked and with a silent step, already closing in on my back, his dagger ready to strike.
I would like to see their face, when they realize I am no longer there.
Their blows strike the empty air. Another spell, using light to produce a mirage.
And, the next one is already activated, and it strikes.
Confuse the enemy, use guile instead of strenght. What would happen if they saw only one man attacking them, and suddenly, some arrows came flying from different directions? They would think it an ambush, of course.
As I said before, I came well prepared for this fight.
After blinking away before the four enemies managed to hit me, I left the mirage standing there. Then, I reappeared behind one of the rearguards, the three people that stood near Leidus during the attack.
I make it so my presence is felt, this time. As the three men turn around, I simultaneously strike with my weapon, and let my Inventory open up from three different positions.
Before coming here, I asked Levia’s master, Andria, to shoot some of her strongest arrows inside my Inventory.
As things are, items stored inside my Inventory store their properties, intact.
Like temperature, or freshness for when food is concerned. But, the skill has a much wider property. For example, things like inertia momentum, potential and kinetik energy also remain locked, without decaying or changing when the item crosses Inventory’s boundary and is stored in the “space” of the skill.
And, what would happen to an arrow, shot with incredible power, when it is stored into my Inventory? Of course, it would keep that power indefinitely, under the effect of a skill that defies the laws of physics.
There was a point, slightly after I came into this world. I remember making a small consideration, about my skill. I clearly said, that Inventory might have been my most overpowered skill.
Hell, I was right.
As I open Inventory in different places all around, the arrows stored in them are now free to resume their motion, following a straight path with their initial strenght and momentum.
Like they’ve just been released from a bow, by a number of strong archers hidden, surrounding the enemy party.
Of course, in the heat of battle, the enemies fail to perceive the minuscule flutter of mana that I need to spend to open or close my Inventory.
A quantity so negligible, that it becomes imperceptible, masked by the natural flow of mana that permeates each Dungeon floor.
Normally, any spell would have a definite trace, since the quantity of mana needed to both channel the structure and summon the concept of the spell would result in a turbulence in the natural flow, and skilled mage hunters or soldiers would train themselves to perceive even the slightest trace of said turbulence.
But, my spells are different. As I lack the need for complex structures, the quantity of mana I need to use for each spell is ridiculously low, as is the resulting turbulence.
Meaning, even a skilled mage hunter would not be able to be aware of the time or place of my spell’s activation.
The arrows fly from different directions. Even if they hold a considerable amount of power, the enemies manage to repel or avoid them.
The one I targeted also manages to avoid my blow, retaliating in a fraction of seconds.
Of course, that was also accounted for, since I already blinked away. It was a close call, but I managed.
And, now unrest is spreading among their ranks. The arrows had the effect of making my enemies aware of them, that someone else besides me might be in hiding, having surrounded the group and taking time to snipe at them from a distance.
What they thought before, seeing me waltz alone among their ranks, has been revealed to be a different situation in their eyes.
Instead of the reckless act of a lone, low level idiot, to them what is happening now appears to be a full fledged trap, laid down by a group rather than a single person.
In their vision, I was bait, to be sacrificed in order to take them down. At least, I hope they think it this way.
In short, they’re looking for people that are not there, imagining a number of enemies instead of a lone, low level guy.
With unrest it comes confusion, as they regroup and try to find a way to deal with the new danger.
This floor is nothing but a wide, open wasteland of scorching sands, with few hiding places and too many monsters.
Moreover, the position we’re fighting in is dangerously close to the central portion of the floor, near the nesting areas of Elite monsters, right on the edge of the Champion’s territory.
And I specifically chose to ambush them here.
Hiding in the subspace of my Inventory, I can still keep track of what is happening on the floor, using both Navi’s detection and the spell I cast on Leidus.
And the scent of blood has already spread, carried by the warm winds of this desert, to attract the attention of those things that lurk in this place.
Unsurprisingly, the Elite monsters are closing in on the group. Their numbers are twice those of Leidus’s group, but their levels are lower.
No matter, since they will serve as a distraction.
Another volley of arrows is released, missing its mark. This time, they come from completely different directions than before.
To increase the confusion, I am using arrows with different mana signatures. Ones that have been shot by Andria, Levia’s master. Ones that Levia herself shot. Even some carrying my mana, among with others without any mana on them.
This way, it’s like a number of people, each using different techniques is aiming for Leidus’s men.
And here come the monsters.
Large, black bodies that surpass four meters in length, their skin covered not in scales, but curved thorns, bent backwards. Their reptilian eyes have a bloodshot glint, and lines of mana flicker on their bodies.
Desert Scourge, the Elite monsters of this place. Their levels range from thirty-two to forty, the highest one being a larger lizard covered in scars.
With quick movements, they assault Leidus’s group.
Of course, for the soldiers these creatures are only small fries. But, even a group of small fries is a threath, after all.
Distracted by the group of monsters, the soldiers are trying their best to repel them while keeping wary of the surroundings.
Four of them, the ones that jumped on me earlier, are repelling the creatures. The remaining three, along with Leidus, are scanning the area, perhaps using some kind of detection skills.
Two of them are magicians, while one seems to deploy healing spells and skills, along with spells that increase his companion’s battle proficiency.
The two magicians alternate themselves to cast some sort of mana shield on their comrades. The only ones not being protected are Leidus, who is guarding from arrows with one of his skills, and the healer, who is protected by a higher-class mana shield of his own.
None of them is singled out, keeping thight formations without breaking ranks.
Their movements are good, forged after years of training and battle. Without any doubt, they’re experts, used to battle and well trained.
It will be difficult to kill them, and things might not go too smoothly for me.
I increase the number of arrows raining on the group, mixing in some spells I already prepared.
The occasional, low power fireball. The technique is the same as before, pre-made spells, locked in my Inventory and released at the moment.
This skill is terrifying, if used this way.
It almost makes me regret having relied too much on Black Fluid. If I think back to the battles I fought, I could have had a far easier time if I properly used all the weapons I had at my disposal.
Still, there’s no merit in wondering about “what if” scenarios.
Now, it’s time to strike.
I’ve not been idle during this time, using the distraction to prepare a spell myself.
Once again, I blink into the battlefield, unnoticed.
This spell that I am about to use requires quite the amount of mana. But, it’s worth every point spent.
Using the already hight temperature of this desertic floor, I convey my mana to the higher strates of air above. A cycle of cooling and heating, giving rise to an air current. Taking control of the flow, I make it spin in circles, giving rise to a self sustaining movement that gains speed, progressively.
The air spins, gaining velocity and giving rise to wind. It drags within thin particles of sand, first a handful of it, then more and more, until it becomes a sandstorm.
Well, its scale is not gigantic of course, roughly ten meters wide. Enough to be a nuisance, to impede vision, since it’s centered to be around Leidus and the three accompanying him, effectively cutting the line of sight between the group of four engaging the monsters and the others.
<<Fuck! Even this now?>>
One of them cusses, shouting imprecations as the winds howl around the small group. Still, I am quite pleased by the result of my little spell.
It’s making them more agitated, and the arrows raining on them are only aggravating their whole situation.
Agitated people make mistakes, and that’s what I am hoping. I am waiting, biding the time for when one of them singles himself out from the group.
The four melee attackers have already killed more than half of the elite monsters. One of them, however, has been wounded.
While he was striking the killing blow on one monster, he was caught by one of my arrows. Some of the arrows have a “piercing” mana added to them, allowing them to bypass shields.
Still the arrow lost much of its force when it came into contact with the mana shield, and, even if it went through, the impact when it hit its target had been decisively lessened.
The wound itself is not lethal, and it looks like the man has some kind of self-recovery skill.
Grunting, the soldier recomposes himself, yanking the arrow out of his left shoulder. The combination of his own healing skill, and the one used by their healer have already sealed the wound and stopped the bleeding.
But, the man stumbles on his feet. He’s swaying, struggling to raise his sword arm.
<<Hey, what is wrong with you? Get a hold of yourself>>
One of his companions grabs the man by his shoulders, shaking him in order to make him regain his senses. As an answer, his companion plunges his own sword in the man’s abdomen.
The confusing poison that I smeared on the arrowtips its showing its effects.
It was a gamble to use it, since I expected the group to have some kind of poison resistance skill, but, it seems I got a truly lucky hit here.
Well, one more down.
I hoped so, but the healer is doing work, here. The wounded man is immediately surrounded by a white light, his abdomen stops bleeding and regenerates, and the man is in fighting conditions once again. His companion, the one affected by the poison, he’s also being cured. He snaps out of confusion, a surprised look on his face.
<<Ohy! Drop the spells and increase those fuckin’ shields! I want double layers!>>
One of the soldiers shout, and the magician abide. Now, the barrier surrounding the melee fighters are two, shining around them every time they deflect a blow or incoming arrow.
Things will not go too smoothly, after all.
The small sandstorm subsides. It looks like the two magicians have used a combined spell, manipulating the air to disperse the swirling sands.
They stopped buffing their companions, switching to attack magic in order to deal with the rest of the elite monsters.
With the magician’s aide, the group of melee fighters eliminates the other monsters. Easily, if I must say so.
<<Is that all? Come on fucker, show your head and face us!>>
Leidus shouts, hoping to provoke me. The magicians are scanning the area around, I can feel their mana creep on the surroundings.
A low, bellowing roar claims the group’s attention.
Attracted by the noise and scent of blood, the final player of my little match decided to show its presence.
The sandstorm had its effect, distracting the group and forcing it to move, unaware of its surroundings.
One of them mutters, realizing that they’ve been led into the Champion’s territory.
The thing comes crashing into the group, using its large build to crush the soldiers.
Similiar to the Elite monsters, the Champion is almost double in size, and red in color.
A ridge of large spikes goes along its spine, running from its head to the tail that ends in a sharp blade.
Small crests of scaly skin adorn the sides of its head, and large fangs can be seen inside the thing’s mouth.
Red, level thirty-six. The Champion of this Dungeon’s thirty-fourth floor.
The lot of them are forced to direct their attention to the monster. Even if its level is lower than theirs, a blow from the gigantic lizard could easily spell their doom.
And that, is the moment for me to strike. The sandstorm did not only have the effect to cloud their vision. By making sand swirl in the wind, it would scrape on itself and the surroundings, and, causing attrition, produce static energy. Enough for me to accumulate, and use in the upcoming spell.
Concentrated into a single point, and amplified, the effect of it is that of a small taser gun. Once again, I blink into the fray.
This time, my target is the healer.
Dodging with a quick movement, the man quickly retaliates with a kick, sending me sprawling on the ground.
Leidus uses the moment to strike at me with my own skill.
It seems like I underestimated the healer too much. Since he had basically done nothing during the fight, I thought him a pure healer, but it looks like the man is an adept figther as well. Able to sense, dodge and retaliate in a split second.
That carelessness might have spelled my own doom, if Leidus used a skill that he was more adept in.
Instead, he chose to use my own skill against myself. Setting aside the fact that he already proved to be unable to use Black Fluid’s full potential, but…
I mean, I very well know how the skill works, its attack patterns and so on. Perhaps, he intended to mock me by killing me with my own skill. But, he did not account for the fact that I, being the original owner, know its patterns and movements with perfection.
He summons the skill from the right side. A tentacle of Black Fluid manifests. When used like this, it moves sweeping from right to left, the tip of the tentacle has a bladed part in this form.
Being one of Black Fluid’s most basic attacks, only the tip moves at high speed, and can cause harm. The base, closer to the user, moves slowly and has no mean to inflict harm. If used poorly, that is.
Knowing its pattern, it’s easy to avoid and retaliate
I’m slightly vexed that I need to use my spell to defend myself, but, oh well.
I avoid the blade of Black Fluid coming at me, dashing forward and reaching the base of the skill. As Leidus readies his own blade to slash at me, I touch the tentacle with my electricity-charged left hand.
Another thing I recently learnt, is that Black Fluid’s structure is particularly suited to conduct electricity.
The skill, it’s always connected physically to the user. In this instance, it “materialized” from Leidus’s right hand, and it’s connected to it.
Leidus shouts in pain, as the electric current travels along Black Fluid, reaching him and stunning the beast-man with a painful jolt.
My attack did nowhere enough damage to severely hurt Leidus, but it bought me time.
I use the small distraction to blink away, before Leidus’s companions manage to hit the spot where I stand. One of the spells unleashed by the magicians almost hits Leidus, sending him into a fit of rage.
I successfully avoided their retaliation, retreating once again into the space summoned by my Inventory skill. This time, however, I do not hide, appearing immediately behind one of the magicians.
He too avoids my attack, ready to discharge the spell he prepared on point-blank range. But, before he manages to do it…
The healer shouts, falling on the sand with an arrow sprouting from his neck. Still alive, he uses his skills and spells to try and stop the bleeding as he yanks the arrow from his neck. If it were a normal arrow that struck him, he would manage to save his own life. But, his efforts are vain.
My attack on the magician was a feint, in order to attract their attention on a different spot than the one I intended to strike. Otherwise, my attack on the healer could have been intercepted and nullified.
As the group focused its attention on me, turning around to strike me as I re-appeared among them, I opened my Inventory near the healer’s neck, releasing one of the “special” arrows I had in my arsenal.
To allow it to bypass the man’s own mana shield, I had to tamper with it using a spell of my own. I injected my own mana into several points of the shield, making it vibrate with the opposite frequence.
In short, a phenomenon of wave interference, that nullified the shield in a single spot without disrupting it completely. If I destroyed it, the caster would know, and immediately activate a second one.
But, by doing like this, he could not detect the “sabotage” of his own shield, and react accordingly. Thankfully, all the precise calculations needed to pull off something like this, they’re being made with Navi’s support.
Well, she’s basically the one doing the hard work behind my spells. I am only supplying mana, and deciding the effect I desire.
Most likely, the healer noticed my arrow suddenly appearing. However, he relied on his shield, failing to notice how it was tampered with. After all, the “hole” I caused in it was only two centimeters wide, and it lasted for a single second.
But, that was enough to let my “special arrow” through.
This one, it held no mana in it. Instead, the arrowtip was made with a Fire Crystal. I worked hard to produce it, even harder to stabilize the Fire Crystal for enough time to safely shoot the arrow and store it in my Inventory. It’ s a one-of-a-kind item, kind of an “ace” in my possession.
Having opened my Inventory with few centimeters of distance from the man’s throath, it was impossible for him to evade the arrow that suddenly popped out of nowhere.
Of course, I did so in order to maximize the chances of this arrow hitting its mark. But, that’s bot the only reason. Given that the arrowhead is a Fire Crystal, I needed to minimize its interaction with any form of mana during the time between the arrow’s release and when it would hit its mark.
So, having released the arrow with few centimeters of distance from its target, it had too little time to interact with mana that lingered in the air.
Now, the peculiar thing about Fire Crystals, is their reaction whenever they are exposed to mana perturbations of any kind. Like the one that is running through the healer’s body, as he franctically tries to use both skills and spells to heal himself.
With a disgusting sound, the healer’s head popped in a grizzly explosion. The crystal reacted to the mana flowing inside the man, overcharging itself and causing an explosion, wide enough to blow the man’s head off.
One more down.
Once again, I blink away. This time however, one of the magicians managed to graze me with his spell. I received a nasty burn on my back.
<<Shit, that hurts!>>
I return to the Inventory space, applying some healing magic on myself. I did not think to come out of this fight unscathed, that’s for sure. After all, some injuries are to be accounted for when dealing with people stronger than you are, even when you have cheat-like abilities at your disposal.
It’s a bit strange, how I am able to move, and even breathe, inside this space built by my skill.
This kind of thing that I am doing, it’s only possible thanks to the recent level up of the skill. It was, once again, thanks to John’s advice that I managed to make it reach this level.
To his words, a skill grows faster when used in unusual ways. And, by using Inventory as a battle skill, I managed to make it level up quite fast. Before, it was a green- ranked skill.
High, but not overpowered. Now, it has become blue-ranked, after I maxed it up during last week’s intensive training. Sadly, the skill itself cannot grow more than this. But, I mean, it is already become something ridiculous.
As I wait for the healing effect to do its job, I follow the battle between the soldiers and the Champion.
Since their healer fell, the group is now struggling against the Champion. The monster is the one having it worse, as expected, but the soldiers are being wounded by its attacks.
The two magicians are exerting their strenght by shielding their companions, and in several occasions they have been forced to resort to mana potions.
I am still pestering them with arrows, this time mixing in explosive and freezing arrows as well.
They’re nothing more than a nuisance, however. Bouncing off of their mana shield, without inflicting damage. I hoped that the group would consider the incoming arrows a greater threath, perhaps splitting their ranks to survey the territory and find their point of origin.
Instead, they chose to focus on the immediate threath, the one they could see, while relying on the two magicians to shield them from the arrows.
Perhaps, they found out with some detection skill that there are no other humans in this floor, and my strategy has been seen through.
Still, arrow after arrow, their shield is being shaved off. It’s only a matter of time before the magicians run out of mana. Even if they have mana potions with them, it’s not like they can use them infinitely.
Sooner or later, they will reach their limits.
I, on the other hand, have been using only a minuscule fraction of my own mana pool, steadily recovered by my own regeneration and with the help of some mana potions. I have still plenty at my disposal, and, unlike them, I am fighting by using dirty tricks and hiding myself.
Given how some of them already fell, I wonder why they still have not tried to retreat from this battle. It would be the smartest move on their part, but, perhaps they still think themselves to be able to win this battle.
Leidus is actively attacking the hulking monster, jumping into the fray and using Black Fluid while at long range, and his blade skill when he charges.
His swordsmanship is no joke, and he uses a similar technique to my Vorpal Edge to increase his weapon’s damage.
He’s even able to mix in some wind spells, but, it looks like he relies on this world’s knowledge, with long casting times and the large amount of mana wasted on the spell’s structure.
Thankfully, although he holds the same title as me, he’s not an otherworlder, and he lacks that absurd knowledge that comes from being one.
Otherwise, this battle would have been gone in a different way.
Well, I would have never strarted it, that’s for sure.
With a roar, the Champion jumps back from the soldiers. Mana gathers around it, as the “second phase” of the fight begins.
Sands swirls, surrounding the monster, fusing itself with its scaly skin and giving rise to an armor around the creature. Its wounds healed, and the thing appears to move even faster. It’s standing on its hind legs, clawing, biting, swiping its tail in the attempt to kill the soldiers attacking it.
More than a lizard, now it looks like a wingless dragon.
Still, its blows are evaded, or parried. Some of them manage to inflict grazing wounds, but, it’s not enough to bring down the soldiers. Leidus is at distance from the melee group, using Black Fluid to limit the thing’s movements.
It looks like he’s learning, and fast.
I need to end things, and quickly.
I move my arms, checking if my skin is healed enough. There is no pain in my back, signaling that the spell did a good job. I am relieved, since healing, and all the matters that involve biology, are the ones where I am most lacking.
Well, I will learn how to use them, with enough time. I shudder, as the memory of the time when John demonstrated a biological-based spell returns to my mind.
Truly, a terrifying sight, akin to the use of those prohibited biological weapons of that world that was never my own.
Using mana to modify viruses or bacteria, giving them the ability to infect and literally melt anything living. A spell like those, it could sweep an entire country in a matter of days, leaving all infrastructure intact. Perfect for taking a city, for example. And, as John said, most likely someone among Aldora’s ranks will use something similar.
Still, no time to let myself be distracted by those thoughts. Now, I need to focus on the next move.
One lucky blow from the hulking lizard sends one of the soldiers flying away, and I take the time to act.
He adjusts his trajectory to land, but…
I open Inventory right where he’s falling, snatching him away.
A curious look is ingrained in his face, a mixture of fear and surprise. His body is under Inventory’s effect. Which is, now that I can take a closer look at the phenomenon, to stop an object’s “time”.
The soldier, a level forty-two man, fourty-three years old, named Marcus. An impressive list of skills, all of them above purple grade, but none over green.
Navi displays his Status window, along with the information about my prisoner. I could easily kill him now, but…
There are two reasons to steady my hand, and leave him alive, imprisoned into this sub-space.
First, I want to check if the man is here, fighting of his own volition, or if somehow he’s being controlled, by Alvares or Leidus.
Well, all army members are, in a way, since the drugs and spells used by Alvares affected all of them.
But, that effect only makes them see Alvares as a faterly figure, in a way that it makes them not question his authority or decisions. Their morality is not altered, so, if the man he’s here by his own volition, partaking in murder of innocent adventurers along with Leidus, his end will come by my hands.
But, in the slightest chance that he’s being somehow coherced into coming here, I could try and dispell him. After all, a good fighter like him would be a great loss if we manage to reclaim Sendria’s army, and hell we will need all the able fighters that we manage to gather, to fight Aldora.
<<So, you’re just human scum, huh?>>
There is no spell cast on him, and I can see how the man himself actually liked what he did here. Even worse, this man is a rapist, who takes his pleasure by forcing himself on young female adventurers, killing them afterwards, and, sometimes, during.
This new spell I used, it’s something similar to Telesia’s skill, that allows me to “read” my target’s thoughts, and therefore, memories, projecting them on a screen similar to the Status screen.
I must admit, this one is not something I would have been able to come up with, not even in a million years. Once again, it was my almighty master that gifted me with this ability. He sat with me, teaching me the theory behind it and the exact mental process to use in making this spell.
It has not a direct battle use, but, if combined with illusory type skills or spells, it could have devastating effects. Like showing illusions of a loved one, only to strike your opponent from them.
And other nasty things.
The other reason that compels me not to kill this man, is the list of his skills. Two green skills he owns,both passives that require no mana for their use. One that raises physical attributes, and another that grants a regeneration ability.
And, now that I saw the nature of this soldier, I am a bit relieved. I will have no remorse, when I will absorb him with Black Fluid.
I know, I swore to myself to never use that thing on humans.
But, let’s say that I have changed a bit from that time. To use an euphemism.
Still, one less soldier to worry about.
The remaining three melee attackers are pushing the Champion, dealing some serious damage on it while the magicians and Leidus attack from a distance.
However, both the magic shield that guards each member of the group, and the attack spells of the duo are showing significantly lower effects than before.
Now, only one of the magicians is actively attacking, while the other is both keeping the shield and using buffs to support the party.
I wonder what would happen if I do something here.
The new idea was not part of the plan, let’s just say that it came from an instant of inspiration of some sorts.
Using my Mana Absorption skill, I drain my prisoner’s mana pool.
The stolen mana is being used by me, molded into a healing spell.
Normally, for a healing spell, one would need to perfectly calibrate the amount of mana to inject into each single cell, in order to stimulate division at a steady rate without consuming too much of the target’s own energy..
At the same time, a portion of the mana used would be needed to stimulate the target’s immune system, in order to get rid of any possible infective agents in the wound.
Then, it would be the turn to stimulate collagen production, guiding it to recreate the properties of damaged tissues, like skin and muscles. Bone fractures are even harder to heal, since the delicate action of osteoblasts and osteoclasts would need to be sinchronized and directed.
The bigger risk, would be not failing to heal the person by using too little mana, but the opposite. An excessive amount of mana would cause an unbalanced cell growth and division, leading to different kind of damage, some even lethal.
The least, it would be an excessive growth of the regenerated parts, leading to malformations. A higher quantity of mana could lead to unbalances in cell cycle, leading to possible oncogenesis in the tissue. Namely, the healed part would develop a tumor.
And, the worst grade, the worst failure of a healing spell, it would be an uncontrolled, explosive cell division. It would consume the target’s own energies, withering it.
Some skilled healers are able to use healing spells this way, turning them into powerful offensive magic. Turn the body against itself, so to speak.
But, a healing spell used for its intended purpose, it needs to be balanced, with failsafes and checks to prevent an excess of mana to cause one of those three failures.
If you plan to do a good job, that is. Cutting out those security systems, results in a more powerful, and riskier healing spell.
The one I am preparing, it would kill a human.
But, my target is not human.
Blinking out of my Inventory, I cast the spell on the Champion. For good measure, I even added a small buff.
Nothing that requires too much mana. Just to experiment a bit.
The healing spell runs through the Champion’s body. Its wounds close almost instantly, nullifying the damage done by Leidus’s group.
What I did, it can only be defined like a dick move. To be fair, this whole fight has been a collection of dirty tricks and cowardly tactics from my part.
Well, I am the one at disadvantage here, facing off a group of people several levels above my own. So, I will use as many dirty methods as I can think of.
Now healed, the Champion attacks the group with renewed vigor. The buff I cast on him does not seem to show any noticeable effect, but, oh well, I already achieved the intended purpose.
What is left, is to wait for a perfect opportunity to strike.
One of the magicians yells to his companions, telling them to group up. He’s gathering his mana, sending it into a small spherical object that lies in his right hand. In short, he’s about to use a Transfer Stone.
If he does, it will be bad.
Before he manages to do it, I need to think something.
Much to my surprise, a group of scorpion-like monsters emerge from the sand. Their presence here, it only means something.
John has decided to give me a small hand. The monsters were not here, since Leidus had basically cleared all monsters beside the elites and the Champion.
There were not even hiding under the sand, since Navi’s detection showed no signals in that position. They have been spawned, right here, right now.
<<So, you’re watching…well, hope you enjoy the show, Master!>>
As the monsters ambush the magicians, I take this opportunity to snatch them away. It’s risky, since they could, somehow, be able to move into my Inventory space.
First, the one about to use the Transfer stone. I blink behind him, as the others are shifting their attention to the monsters emerging from the sands.
It happens in a split second, and the magician does not even have the time to retaliate.
Inside my Inventory, he’s frozen in position. His right hand still holds the almost activated Transfer Stone, shining a blue light from the mana charge it received.
The magician’s left hand is directed towards me, traces of mana frozen in time gathered on it, as the magician was about to strike me with a quick spell.
Now, it’s time for me to deal with the other magician. Instead of popping out of the Inventory space, I wait for the right opportunity to open the space underneath him.
In order for him to not notice, I do it under some centimeters of sand. He senses it, jumping away from the spot. Only to be caught midair by another opening of my skill.
Truly, this thing is terrifying if used in battle.
Another “statue” is added to my collection, another face whose expression shows frozen surprise and fear.
They look like they could move any moment now.
But, they can’t, much to my relief.
Now, on the battlefield, only Leidus and the remaining melee fighters remain.
Without the magician’s support, they cannot guard from the combined attacks from the Champion, the monsters and the rain of arrows that I am launching at them.
This time, it’s Leidus who tries to use a Transfer orb.
He runs off from the group, alone.
Seriously, he intends to abandon them here? How rotten is this guy?
Well, he could not make a more stupid move, not even if he tried.
Blinking out of my Inventory, I lunge at him, sword in hands. Using a combination of buffs, my Swordsmanship skill and some spells, I manage to get a clean hit on his right hand, cutting it off.
The severed hand falls on the sand-covered floor, and Transfer Orb rolls away from it, its mana charge almost complete.
<<FUCK! Damn you! Damn you!>>
Leidus rolls on the sand, clutching his severed hand.
For good measure, I open Inventory where the Transfer Orb is, cutting away Leidus’s possible escape.
The hulking lizard, Champion of this level, is in a critical state, almost dead. It seems like those three are more competent than I anticipated.
Discarding regards for their safety, they lunged at the monster with their full power.
They received some wounds from it, none of them too serious. One of the three, it seems he possess a minor healing skill, and he’s already using it on his two comrades.
The Champion, with its last strenght, manages to crush one of the attackers with its paw. The blow does not kill the man, but it maimes his right leg.
I can see how the beast is almost dead. The two remaining men are closing in from both sides, aiming for the killing blow.
If they kill it, they will level up, making things worse for me.
So, even if John advised me to not get too much experience in a single fight, I have to do it.
I use my strongest spell. Combining both electric manipulation with the spell version of Inventory, I realize a long, narrow space. A metal projectile in it, and magnetic force to propel it along the space, accelerating it to impossible speed and momentum.
In short, a railgun.
I release the bullet, and as it impacts on the Champion’s large frame, it blows its head off.
Navi’s message informs me of the monster’s death, and experience flows into me.
In this world, experience goes to the party that strikes the last blow.
So, kill stealing is a thing.
I manage to retreat to Inventory space once again, before the after-effect of the sudden level-up catches me.
An intense pain, like my own head is about to burst from the inside. Having killed a monster whose level is almost twice my own, and a Champion monster nonetheles, the amount of experience is huge.
The level thirty-four Champion granted me eight levels, making my own jump from twenty-two to thirty.
I will not be able to use the newly gained stat points immediately. But, if the other group managed to kill the monsters, they would be the ones to level up.
Even if their level was above that of the Champion, a monster of that calibre would grant a huge amount of experience. Definitely, at least one of them would increase his level. Perhaps, and most likely, all of them would.
And that would mean a full heal, and increased stats for my opponents.
So, I had to steal the kill for myself.
Still the consequences are painful. Luckily, I managed to retreat into my Inventory space, somewhere that “exists” without me needing to actively feed mana into the skill. The only thing I need to do is open or close the gate in a precise spot, and that’s it.
The place itself, it is unperturbed by my conditions, being the perfect safe haven and hiding spot.
I scream, convulsing in pain as I franctically try to counter the devastating effect that the excessive EXP is causing on my body.
I spit blood, and vomit. My nerves fail, triggering painful muscular contractions all over my body, almost making me lose my own consciousness.
To use the healing spells on myself, I am relying on Navi.
It all lasts no more than a couple of seconds, but, to me, it seemed like hours. Navi’s calculations made it possible for the spell to perfectly counterbalance the damage on my nerves, muscles and bones.
Only a lingering taste of blood in my mouth, and a ringing noise in my ears. That’s what remains of the whole process.
It was reckless, but I survived it. I dismiss the Status message informing me of the new level up, only giving it a quick glance.
I am pleasantly surprised to see that I have gained the passive skill Pain Resistance from the process.
It seems my luck works in some weird ways.
Having recovered from the excessive level up, I open Inventory under the wounded soldier, the one who had his leg crushed beyond repair by the monster.
Now, Leidus and two men remain.
Leidus, wounded and bleeding, his hand still twitching over the sand, severed from his body. The other two, slightly wounded but still able to put up a fight. And they do, killing the scorpions before they manage to reach Leidus.
I smile, spying the scene. If he tried to use Black Fluid on one of the monsters, he would cure himself and have a better chance to kill me.
Hell, I bet the bastard would not hesitate to use the skill on his “comrades”, taking their skills for himself.
The three of them regroup, and one of the soldiers, the one with a healing skill, begins to use it on Leidus.
But, as they are now, they’re easy to pick off.
First one, then the other. The two soldiers are now inside my private space, frozen in time as they float in pure blackness with their other friends.
Now, Leidus is alone, shouting my name and several curse words.
I chug down another mana potion, waiting for its effect to start before heading out once again.
Immediately, Leidus attacks the spot where I stand.
Still, it is easy to guard from my own skill.
He may not be aware of it, but it’s rather easy to disrupt it. It takes only a slight amount of mana in the right place, and the whole thing falls apart.
<<So, did you enjoy my skill? I have to say, you did a rather pitiful work of it>>
I taunt him, forcing myself to keep a strong front.
The whole time, I had my knees shaking from fear, thinking and overthinking about all the things that could have gone wrong in this instance.
But, the thing is, I did not let myself to be influenced from those thoughts. And the results, are right in front of my eyes.
Leidus is cowering, struggling to get away from me.
He’s using all his mana to send spell after spell, having now stopped using Black Fluid against me, seeing how it has been useless against its original owner.
It would be easy to kill him right away, but, I still hesitate a bit. Not out of pity, or indecisiveness, but…
Will I be able to recover the skill immediately if I outright kill him? Or I risk losing Black Fluid forever, unless I take a specific action.
Navi does not answer, so, I avoid dealing a decisive blow. Instead, I try to immobilize Leidus.
Well, rather than restrain him, I am cutting his limbs off, one at the time.
First, his left hand, as he tried to lunge at me with his sword.
Using blink, I avoided his blow, reappearing in the same spot to deliver my own attack.
Next, it was the turn of Leidus’s right leg.
And, as he crawled away, his left leg parted from his body.
It might seem needless torture, but…as I spied him from some time, to gather informations, I had been testimony to the atrocities this man did.
What I am doing to him now, he did it to the adventurers that were unlucky enough to cross his path.
The difference is, I am not laughing like he did back then. No more than a day ago, when a party of exhausted adventurers, returning from their expedition on the thirty-fifth floor was forced to go back on foot, having lost their single Transfer stone to a monster’s maws, along with the party member that held it.
He and his group mercilessly ambushed the other party, and, as his companions enjoyed themselves in rape and murder, he spent his time torturing and tormenting the party leader.
He made him watch as his female comrades, one of which was his sister, were violated by Leidus’s own men. And only then, he began to hurt the man.
He gave him a weapon, since he wanted the man to fight.
<<First, it was the right hand. Then, when you cut off his left one. When he tried to crawl away, it was his right leg to go, and then, when he started to beg, his left one. And you left him that way, after taking his skills for your own. You left him, among his friends’ lifeless remains, as monsters began to crawl their way to the corpses. And, you watched, and laughed. Now, how does it feel, to be on the receiving hand?>>
He does not answer, already having lost almost all blood from his wounds. A sad end, for a sad man. From this, I learned two lessons. First, the definite proof, that, in this world, levels are only numbers.
No matter how high it is, no matter how many pretty points your stats have, a well placed, well timed blow will still sever your arm, or slice open your neck.
It works for enemies, and it will work on me if I fail to be careful.
And the most important lesson of them all, is that I learned what I am truly capable of.
I do not feel remorse for what I have done, now that I have. Before, I had some doubts about all this, thinking myself unable to do it.
Repulsed by the idea of violence, or at least, that’s how I thought I would feel.
Instead, and much to my own disgust, I feel satisfied by this.
I won, by myself, against a stronger enemy. Against all odds, for the first time being the one behind an event, and not the one to react to it.
Instead of guarding from an attack, I was the one attacking.
Sure, I use cowardly tactics, underhanded tricks. I cheated, so to speak.
But, the coward stands, the cheater wins. And the one who was laughing before, now he’s panting his dying breath.
I am almost tempted to leave him like this, but, I take once again my sword in hands, ready to deliver the final blow.
If I left him to suffer like this, I would be no better than him.
However, Leidus is denied a merciful end.
[Navi: Success! Enemy Candidate Demon Lord-Leidus has been incapacitated! Victory goes to Master! Yay! Begin Remote Absorption Routine]
He shouts, as Black Fluid emerges from his mutilated body. The skill has been activated by Navi, or perhaps even by Azathot, for what I know.
Without anyone controlling it, it does what its nature is. To consume, whatever its target is.
In this case, Leidus.
The scene of it is different from when I use it. Like the time when, back then, the Laughing Man used the same skill as me to counsume the soldiers in that small Aldoran fort.
Instead of enveloping the target whole, and consuming it slowly, mouths are being formed by the skill, and they laugh, and eat, until nothing is left of that sorry man named Leidus.
Only a shambling black, a quivering mass of eyes and mouths that cackle in insanity is left, crawling towards me.
I sit on the ground, letting it come to me. Like it did the first time I saw that form, after I fell from the waterfall fleeing from the slimes.
I was wounded, back then. Diying. And it crawled, slowly, as I could not move, both from fear and my wounds.
This time, I do not fear the shambling mass, no. I relish its sight, the insanity of it.
I let myself be enveloped, smile as a touch that should be repulsing crawl on my skin, fusing with it, until all that is left, is a man sitting alone in a desert, blood and sand around him.
Navi’s voice resounds once again, surmounting my thoughts in a flamboyant announcement.
[Navi: Success! Trial by Greed complete (Third Trial)! Obtained Blessing of Greed: +7 stat bonus awarded to all stats (permanent, 35 points total); +6 stat bonus to all registered party members awarded (permanent, 24 points total); Acquired: Crown Fragment (Sendria, awarded for Trial’s completion) 11/100 ; Acquired: Crown Fragment 9/100 (previous possession of Candidate Demon Lord- Leidus- rewarded for defeating the opponent) (30/100 total fragments possessed).
New Title Awarded- Merciless: +10 points in both STR and ACC stats (permanent)
New Title Awarded-Deceiptful:+ 15 points in INT stat (permanent), new STAT unlocked- Charisma: each point spent in INT or STR stat grants one point in CHR stat. Acts like persuasion, cohercion, deception are improved with each point in CHR stat (impossible to normally allocate points in CHR stat)
New Title Awarded- Against all Odds: +15 points to LCK stat (permanent), increase the effect of LCK stat on several actions; Mana pool now is calculated taking the LCK skill in account
Congratulations for this great success, Master!]
And, after the usual message for trial’s completion…
[Navi: New Skill Acquired- Black Hand. Detected two Black-series skills. Begin Integration process- Black Fluid+ Black Hand. Conditions to start special Integration pattern- 30/100 Crown Fragments- Success, conditions met- Process started successfully]
I feel a surge of mana from within, the kind I had never felt before. Not even from John, and he’s level 999, so that says it all…
[Navi: Special Integration Pattern- Success- Black Fluid+ Black Hand→ Shoggoth (Cosmic Series-Combines and enhances effect from Black Fluid and Black Hand, replacing the two skills- separate effects can still be used as before)
Reward for having been able to Integrate a Cosmic series skill: +20 free STAT points (allocate on level up screen)
It’s your first step on the true road to power!]
God, that seems a bit…excessive? Not that I am complaining about things, but, my head hurts as I think about all those points. No, wait, it really hurts, and…
My consciousness fades, as I fall on the soft sand, exhausted.
<<My, my. What a useless disciple I have. Well, you offered a wonderful show to me, Roshal. So, let me be your Deus ex machina, and transport you to safety. This time, you deserve it>>
I seem to hear John’s voice in the distance, but I cannot quite understand what he says. Around me I can sense monsters gathering.
Shit, this might be bad…