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A note from Excalionar

Sorry for the long wait, but hey...

TWELVE THOUSAND WORDS should tide you over. Think I should make chapters shorter but more frequent? Let me know in the comments.

***

 

The next morning Peter went through the usual routine. Clothes, breakfast, then head down to the training courtyard. On his way, he decided to check his status to see what he was working with today.

 

|6:50 AM|| |Status| |Backlight: [Off]|
Name: Peter Valk Kastell Level: 0
Gender: Male Influence: 0
Race: Human Variant Fame: 0
Class: Arbiter Unspent points:  0
Stats
Health 150/150  Stamina 200/200
Vitality 15 Endurance 20
Strength 20 Perception 10
Dexterity 20 Processing 15
Karma -78 M. Resistance 10
Traits
[Powerful Soul: Rank X]
[Powerful Mind: Rank X]
Evolutions
[Enhanced Recovery] Grade: D+
Skills
[Auto Translate] Transcendent level 10 [Student of a God] Expert level 1
[Identify] Adept level 7 [Soul Drain] Novice level 1
[Evolve] Uses remaining: 1 [Exo-Skeleton] Novice level 1
[Momentum] Novice level 5 [Patience] Novice level 1
[Fervor] Novice level 10 [Toughness] Novice level 9

 

As expected, the [Light Wither] debuff had worn off long ago. The progress of [Enhanced Recovery] had only gone up to 3.10%. Peter assumed the difficulty of raising the grade would increase with each one. He would need a strong poison to wear away his [Stamina] and [Health] while he slept if he were to make any significant progress over night.

"Looks like a visit to Fredrick to order a custom poison is in order," He thought while smirking to himself. He'd decided that he liked the bitter old man.

Peter diligently identified everything and everyone he could while on his way to his training. His total range was 38 meters now, so he never had to move far to [Identify] something that caught his eye. It was amazing how much he could learn about the world with this skill, and not even have to ask any questions.

Once he arrived at the courtyard, Peter found that something was off. Kayel was there along with Jogun, but they were far from the 'buddy-buddy' duo that Peter remembered seeing when he first met Jogun. Kayel looked relieved to see him arrive though, so that's a plus.

"Good morning Peter. Thank goodness you came early. We debated coming to get you, but Jogun said you would be here soon. Looks like he's gotten to know you pretty well over the last two days," Kayel said with relief in his voice. He was obviously stressed.

"Morning Kayel, long time no see. What's going on? You guys look tense." Peter replied as he approached the fidgety men.

Jogun answered for Kayel, "Hah, that obvious eh? Well. Something foul seems to have happened last night. The temple has been put on lockdown until we figure out exactly what. We think it's safe, but that's not exactly a good thing either."

Peter looked at the two and narrowed his eyes, "Don't dance around with words. Tell me what happened. Is everyone here going to be okay?"

The two older men looked at each other, seemingly having an argument with their eyes. Kayel seemed on the defensive side of this 'silent argument', while Jogun was using hand gestures and tilting his head towards Peter.

"He is the Avatar after all. What purpose does hiding things from him serve?" Jogun finally let out.

Kayel let out a defeated sigh, "... fine. Tell him, but send him to Daalia as soon as you're done. I'll make sure the Queen is ready at the cage." He walked away, leaving the two alone in the center of the courtyard.

"Okay, he said you could tell me," Peter said impatiently.

Jogun let out a sigh that sounded similar to Kayel's, then said, "Okay, but this is sensitive information. Once I tell you, you will not mention it to anyone. You will not even bring it up to me. I will give you more details as I receive them. Understood?"

Peter nodded then thought to himself, "Who exactly would I tell anyways? I haven't had any time to make friends with all the training."

"Alright. Last night the priests woke us. They said.. er.. wrote that Mathus, our High Judge, left the Justicar." Jogun said solemnly.

"What? Why?" Peter inquired.

"There are only two possibilities that could cause Adrestia to deliver that information to the priests. The first is that Mathus was assassinated, and thus the position of High Priest opened up. That possibility is why the temple is on lockdown. We had guards set outside your room all night once we confirmed you were okay."

Peter's expression went dark, as he quietly said, "No.. that's... who? Who would kill him?"

Jogun crossed his arms and shrugged, "We don't know. We also can't find any blood, body, or even signs of a fight anywhere. Which leaves us with the second option: We've been betrayed."

Peter's eyes went wide, then narrow, "That makes no sense. What does he have to gain by leaving?"

"We don't know. Mathus was in the middle of a strange time of his life. He'd been struggling with a serious pride issue due to his repeated success in virtually every field he pursued. He was an incredible magical duelist, and that skill made him famous across Kurrenth. Near celebrity status had gone to his head in a major way," Jogun shook his head, "He had been so bad, we suspect Adrestia placed a temporary [Judgement] upon his soul. He wasn't even allowed to approach the altar that you were summoned from."

Peter nodded his head as he listened, "Ahh, so it is suspicious. Everything seems to point to him being unhappy, and embarrassed by his predicament. If he was hot headed and foolish then there's a good chance he defected."

"Precisely. Kayel can't believe it though. I personally think he is too close to the situation. He trained Mathus after all, so he's taking it rather personally."

"Understandable," Peter agreed, "In that case it's just as much a betrayal to Kayel as it is to Adrestia herself."

"Yes, and the complications that all of this caused made it necessary for us to move up our plans. Daalia was commissioned to finish your armour last night instead of this morning. She's quite tired, but she should be done by now," Jogun rested a hand on the hilt of his sword, "You need to have your armour, and begin leveling up even sooner now. We figure that if Mathus was petty enough to leave over some embarrassment, he might be petty enough to come back for revenge. Killing you would be his best target to enact that revenge."

"Alright. I'll head over to Daalia's right now then," Peter thought for a moment, "Once I've picked up my armour, where do I go?" He asked.

"Oh, right. Do you remember how to get to the armoury out by the target range?" Jogun asked.

"Yeah, I can recall the way from yesterday perfectly." Peter built a mental map to the armoury from memory. He really had no trouble recalling things like that due to his [Powerful Mind].

Jogun nodded, "Good, meet me there when you're outfitted. Head off right away. We don't have any time to waste."

"Yes sir."

Peter broke into a light jog down a corridor, and Jogun left for the armoury.

 

***

 

Daalia was waiting just outside in the hall when Peter arrived at the sewing room.

She greeted him then yelled inside, "He's here, get it all assembled and displayed!"

Peter smiled weakly at her when he saw the dark bags under her eyes, "I'm sorry you all had to work all night to do this for me. The horrible cause for this rushed work doesn't make it easier either," He empathized with her.

"Nonsense," She rebuked, "None of us have any issue working harder on this project for you. Also, don't even think for a second that because we worked on it all night that the quality is going to be lower. Late nights spent making equipment to fulfill orders isn't that uncommon here."

Peter fully smiled, "Thank you so much. I can't wait to see it!" He said eagerly, getting himself ready to use [Identify].

"Don't forget to say thanks to Chandi. This armour may look like it's a good portion leather, but there's a steel mesh woven into all of it to increase the strength, while not inhibiting mobility," She said proudly, "It's likely the finest set of leather armour you can have that is made by human hands."

Peter's eyes were sparkling. Not just because his irises glowed either. A small trail of drool was threatening to find the floor as he was pulled further into the room by an amused Daalia. She may be old, but she's no wimp. She had strong hands from all the leather work and sewing that made up her daily life.

Once Peter was inside, he saw an armour stand that was covered in a white sheet of cloth. He could only vaguely make out the shape of what was underneath. Daalia nodded her head to one of the tailors, who then pulled back the cloth.

Like an outlaw having a duel at high noon, Peter fired off [Identify] as soon as he saw the entire set.

 

Enhanced Armour of the Avatar (Medium Armour) - Quality: Exquisite
Enhanced Helm of the Avatar Defense +10 Vitality +5, Perception +5
Enhanced Leather Guard of the Avatar Defense +20 Vitality +10, Endurance +5, Strength +5
Enhanced Leather Gauntlets of the Avatar Defense +10 Vitality +5, Strength +5, Dexterity +5
Enhanced Leather Grieves of the Avatar Defense +5 Endurance +5, Dexterity +5
Full set bonus:  Defense +10 Vitality +5, Endurance +5, Strength +5

 

Peter's jaw nearly dropped to the floor. A total of 70 extra stat points meant he was raising his theoretical level by 14! To top it off, this armour wasn't even made with world energy. The [Exo-Skeleton] skill allowed for Peter to get extra stat points unique to the armour based on how high the quality was. World energy boosted that bonus by a massive degree, and usually gave an effect as well. This armour was made by regular hard work, but still had massive stats.

The armour itself was elegant, and crisp in nature. The headpiece was a beautifully crafted plate of metal that covered his cheeks and jawline, and was padded with cloth on the inside for comfort. The chest part was a beautiful steel plate that covered his chest and ribs, with chainmail that hung underneath that to cover his stomach area. On the left side of the chest was a lightly engraved set of scales, the symbol of Adrestia.

The gauntlets and grieves were also tasteful and functional. They were a mix of dark brown leather and steel. The fingers of the gauntlets were set up so when Peter formed a fist, small metal plates would come together to make a larger protective plate to hit things with. His punches were bound to hurt with these. The greaves covered up to the knees with tough looking leather. A thin steel plate accented the very front of the grieves all the way down to his toes. There was a break at the ankle so he could still have full range of motion. All of the armour was made with mobility in mind, but it was impossible to make it perfect. Some mobility was always lost.

The armour was clearly made for a massive man as well. He smiled, knowing this armour was likely only usable for him.

"C.. can I put it on?" He asked gingerly.

"No." Daalia said flatly, and looked at him with an unamused expression, "We really just wanted it to be a decorative piece."

Peter looked at her with a raised eyebrow before she grabbed him by the shoulder and nearly threw him at the armour stand.

"Get it on. Now," She said half laughing, half scolding.

Peter grabbed every part one by one and fit it over his clothing. The tailors showed him how to secure everything with the built in straps and buckles. It was a great fit, and accented the new clothing he was given yesterday very well. One of the tailors tied his medium length hair back behind his head to keep it out of his eyes after the helm went on.

The moment the final piece of armour went on, something very peculiar happened. All of the tailors took a quick step back, causing Peter a bit of confusion. They were acting like they were spooked by something.

Daalia, who was only observing and giving advice on how to properly adjust the armour, suddenly went wide eyed and stepped back just like the rest of the tailors.

Peter couldn't take it anymore, "Daalia, what's going on with all of you. Why are yo--" Peter stopped when he noticed something strange. Everywhere he looked there was a small viridian glow.

"Peter, your eyes. They're--" She gasped and took another step back.

Suddenly Peter realized what was going on. He felt the same euphoria that happened when he raised his stats, but it was overwhelmingly strong. His muscles bulged out slightly, his vision sharpened, his breathing became steadier, and he felt his bones change slightly. He couldn't tell how he knew, but he knew that his bones had become stronger and denser than before.

But that was just how he felt. Visually, Peter and the armour were undergoing a transformation. His eyes glowed so bright, that looking him in the eyes was like looking into a laser pointer. The armour had wrapped itself around him like it was a second layer of skin. The metal shifted, and the leather curved to work around his joints. The chainmail sections on the stomach, which were now shaped to his abdominal muscles, rose and fell with each breath he took. All of it seemed to take on his natural bone and muscle structure. Even the leather on his back seemed to mimic his shoulder blades, while the metal sectioned itself out across his spine.

Instead of feeling confined in the armour, Peter felt liberated. Every time he moved, the armour moved with him. It shifted as if it were alive. The scales that were etched into his chest softly glowed the same viridian his eyes did.

Every eye in the room was locked onto Peter. Every mouth was hanging open, and sweat covered everyone's foreheads. After the transformation seemed to finish, Peter's eyes dimmed down to their normal level of brightness.

Daalia finally spoke among the speechless people, -cough- "I'm going to assume that has something to do with you, cause we never had it enchanted to do that."

"I-I think this is a function of one of my skills," Peter said lacking confidence, "But I honestly had no idea it would happen. I've never worn a full set of armour before."

Peter grabbed onto his helm that had formed perfectly to his face. The metal that covered his chin and cheeks moved when he talked, but still retained their resilience when met with outside force. He pulled up on it, removing it from his face. Slowly the armour was beginning to transform back to it's original shape.

He quickly placed it back on his head, and the armour responded the same way it had the first time.

"Status," Peter said aloud, and immediately jerked his head back in annoyance.

The status was so long with all the skills, traits, bonuses, and the evolution that he couldn't view it all at the same time. Before he read anything, he edited his status to minimize skills and traits. He also made his equipment bonuses display in brackets beside his base stats.

 

|8:42 AM|| |Status| |Backlight: [Off]|
Name: Peter Valk Kastell Level: 0
Gender: Male Influence: 0
Race: Human Variant Fame: 0
Class: Arbiter Unspent points: 
Stats
Health 400/400  Stamina 350/350
Vitality 15 (25) Endurance 20 (15)
Strength 20 (15) Perception 10 (5)
Dexterity 20 (10) Processing 15
Karma -78 M. Resistance 10
Defense: 55
Evolutions
[Enhanced Recovery] Grade: D+
Traits [Tap to display]
Skills [Tap to display]

 

Peter couldn't help but whistle out loud. His stats were padded like crazy. At level 0 he was the equivalent of level 22 in terms of stats.

"I don't know what to say," Peter muttered, "A simple 'Thank you' seems so underwhelming compared to how I feel right now."

Daalia touched the armour on Peter's arm. Any parts of Peter's skin that the armour didn't quite cover when he moved his elbows was now covered.

"It looks like worrying about range of movement was pointless. What kind of skill allows for equipment to adapt itself to it's owner automatically?" She seemingly ignored his gratitude due to being entranced by the armour, "O-Oh, Peter you know you're not supposed to thank us. We appreciate it, but it's our sworn duty. We're just happy that it can serve you well."

He leaned down to give her a quick hug, "No matter how many times you say that, I'll never stop thanking people for hard work on my behalf." He pulled back from the hug, "I would stay and chat more, but I have to go. Kayel and Jogun are expecting me very soon."

"I know. Good luck today. If you're thankful to us then work hard. That's all we ask in return," She smiled wonderfully, in the way only an old lady could.

"I will!" Peter said, then dashed out of the room. His speed surprised himself as he almost smashed into the door frame of the sewing room.

The tailors laughed, and Peter felt pretty embarrassed, so He laughed it off as well. He called back saying, "The hard work starts when I get used to this I guess!" then took off towards the exit of the temple.

 

***

 

Jogun was sitting on the front of a horse drawn wagon. He had just finished helping the two guards, who usually stand in front of the armoury load up one of every kind of weapon they had inside. All he had to do now was wait for Peter, and they would be off.

He only had to wait for about 10 minutes before he saw a figure running towards him in the distance. He smiled and was about to call out to Peter, but something didn't feel right. The figure was moving way faster than Peter had ever moved before. He got down from the wagon and drew his sword. He didn't recognize the armour as the kind that Daalia had finished making that morning either.

Jogun got into a defensive stance, but then relaxed when he saw the person’s eyes. Unless someone ripped out Peter's eyes and used them now, that had to be him.

"Peter?" He called out, "What armour is that? Where is the set that... woah," He looked on in awe, "That is a really nice set of armour," he said with a tinge of envy.

Peter slid to a stop next to the cart. "This is the set that I got from Daalia. One of my skills allows me to fully adapt to armour. It basically becomes my skin and gives me a whole bunch of stats as a bonus," he rattled off while recovering from his run.

In about 3 minutes all the [Stamina] he used to run here at full speed would regenerate.

"Hm. You're just full of surprises aren't you. This almost beats your compulsive need to stab yourself in the leg," Jogun said with a chuckle.

Peter smirked, "Hah, only almost eh?"

Jogun looked him up and down one more time before saying, "Alright. Get in the back and decide what equipment you want to use when we get there. We have a small drive till the nest. Might as well not waste time."

"Nest? What exactly am I going to be fighting?" Peter asked.

Jogun smiled, "The queen's children of course. Now get in the back before I toss you in there."

The two got in the cart and started on their way. Peter pestered for more information on the monster, but Jogun wouldn't say anything else. He said it was because he wanted to see Peter's face. That did not make him feel any better.

Once he got tired of asking, Peter went and started looking at weapons. He wanted to start at the basics, so he grabbed a regular sword for weapon, and a shield for his other arm. He used [Identify] on them both.

 

Iron Short Sword Quality: Fine  Damage +8 Strength +2, Dexterity +4

 

Iron Heater Shield Quality: Fine  Defense +12 Vitality +4,  Endurance +4

 

The he extra [Health] and [Stamina] he received alone made the shield a good choice, never mind bringing his defense to 67. Neither the sword or the shield felt heavy due to all the extra [Strength] Peter was currently getting acustomed to.

While they were traveling, he went on an [Identify] spree through all the items in the back of the wagon. They made their way around the town's crater until they got to a large structure. The building was square, but had a very large cage attached to the side that doubled the overall size. The main bars were extremely thick, and were covered over in an even finer mesh that would keep all but the smallest bugs out. There also seemed to be some kind of red substance covering the cage from the inside.

Peter examined the whole building, and Identified the red string.

 

Blood Arachnid Webbing Durability: Medium Special effect: Sticks on contact. Enough contact can cause [Slow] status effect.

 

"Blood... Arachnid?" Peter said out loud.

Jogun turned back and looked at him in a flash, "What!? But... who told you?!"

Peter looked at him and shrugged, "I'm just reading what my [Identify] skill told me about that red gunk all over the cage. It said that it's called Blood Arachnid webbing."

Jogun shook his head, "Well there goes the surprise. I might as well tell you now then."

He began to fill Peter in on the details of the creature they captured. It was a Blood Arachnid Queen. The title of queen wasn't just for show either, as queen type monsters could absorb ambient world energy from the atmosphere to turn into small versions of themselves. They were basically monster generators, and thus were extremely valuable to organizations that had the means to take care of them. It meant that they had a controlled way to level up their members without having to send them into dangerous areas of the world.

They captured the queen by luring her into a trap just outside of her den. The den was made far too close to the temple for them to ignore. Jogun explained that there was a barrier around the whole town that Kayel had set up with his atmospheric magic which kept the place invisible to any outsiders. Occasionally some monsters would roam inside out of sheer bad luck, or curiosity. That is what the guards were needed for.

Lately the guards reported that a constant stream of blood coloured spiders were pouring inside the barrier. They weren't hard to defeat, but the guards never had a moment’s rest. An explorer team of Justicar guard forces were sent to investigate their origin. They found a section of the forest that was infested with them, and saw there was also a den which the queen occupied. The explorers reported their findings, and a trap was laid out to capture the queen. They set up an ambush point with an injured monster in the center, which spread out a smell of meat towards the Den.

First the spiderlings were sent by the queen to go capture the wounded creature for her to consume, but they were all killed by the guard. The queen, driven by the constant smell and hunger came out to investigate for herself. The guard sprung the trap, and transferred her to a new man-made den.

"Isn't it dangerous having her here?" Peter asked, "She can spawn monsters can't she? I can imagine a lot of scenarios where that could go very wrong."

Jogun looked confident as he said, "That cage was built specifically to contain her and anything she spawns. The bars have been reinforced with magic from Kayel and 3 other Justicar mages, and the queen has been contained in a full body prison. Bars which have been wrapped around her keep her from moving at all, and she is suspended over a spike trap so if she somehow gets out, she will fall to her death. The eggs she lays are taken right from her abdomen, to a nursery just behind the cage."

Jogun stopped the wagon right out in front of the building. Men came out and began unloading the back of the wagon. The two dismounted the wagon, and went inside unimpeded by the guards. All around Peter there were murmurs and voices. Peter overheard one of the conversations taking place about him.

'Holy crap, look at that armour. Who is that guy?'

'I heard there was a tall guy who Jogun was training, but that dude was supposed to be a weakling.'

'He doesn't look weak to me.'

'Well duh, that's why I said it seems weird. Just look at how perfect that armour is.'

'Adrestia's symbol on the front is glowing too. Is that armour enchanted?'

Peter had a cheeky grin on his face that he was working hard to suppress. His armour was making him feel incredible, and everyone around him was beginning to show him respect. It was time to earn that respect.

Several sets of doors, and a hallway later Jogun stopped in front of a barricaded set of doors. Guards surrounded the two and took out their weapons. Peter looked nervous, but realized the guards were all looking right at the door, not at either of them. This must be the door to the cage, and they're guarding it to make sure nothing escapes.

"This is as far as I go Peter. Kayel is downstairs setting up more safeguards to keep the queen from escaping, but we both agreed that you should gain battle experience on your own from here on out. It's important for your own growth that we don't coddle you anymore than we already are or you'll never spread your own wings," Jogun said as he placed a hand on his shoulder, "The monsters in there want to kill you. Show them no mercy. This is where your journey really begins, so do your best for all of us."

Peter furrowed his brows, and gave a determined nod, "Thanks for everything so far. I'll make sure I do well for you."

He turned to face the door, and lifted the barricade that locked the door. All the soldiers tensed up as Peter slid the door open, and walked through with his shield raised and sword ready.

The first things he saw was another gate. He was currently in a vestibule that could be locked from the inside. When he walked through the second gate, he saw barrels and barricades set up all over the huge 50 meter by 100 meter rectangle cage. There was also a wooden structure in the corner that looked to be a warehouse with one large storey. The roof sat just a meter or two below the cage's 14 meter high ceiling. It looked like the Justicar wanted to use this place to train soldiers with a realistic environment, and obstacles.

He noticed that one thing was similar about all of these random objects strewn about this 'arena' style cage. Everything was covered in a thin layer of red webbing.

Peter narrowed his eyes and bent down slightly, and heard the first gate lock behind him. It seemed like the guards couldn't do that fast enough. He held his shield in front of him, kept his eyes open, and slowly walked towards the center of the cage.

The sun shining through the webbing on the ceiling of the cage cast the entire arena in a reddish hue. It was eerie to say the least.

Peter himself seemed to be the only thing in the room that wasn't red. He walked forward looking for anything that even remotely looked like a spider, but couldn't see a thing. Peter tilted his head in confusion. When he did that, he realized there was a clicking sound coming from somewhere. He froze in place to listen.

The clicking wasn't consistent. It was soft, and muffled like snapping your fingers under water. Peter strained his ears to try and find the source, but couldn't seem to. He began to slowly spin in place, looking at everything to try and see where the arachnids were. Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move behind a barrel. He spun his head to look, but it was gone. So was the clicking sound.

Peter decided that he wasn't going to wait around to be attacked from behind. He made his way around the room to investigate. He passed one of the barrels and kicked it over, suddenly the clicking came back twice as loud as it was before. He finally noticed that a spider was there, less than 4 meters away from him. The outline of the spider was almost impossible to make out because they were the same colour as the webbing that covered the ground!

The spider had a thin and smooth carapace, with 8 long legs. It seemed to be about half a meter from the head to the back of its abdomen. The only part of its body that wasn't red were the thin black stripes on its back, the black fangs in its mandibles, and the 6 beady eyes on its face.

Peter struck out on impulse, covering the distance in half of a second, chopping at the spider with his sword. The spider was fast, but not as fast as him. It had tried to move just before it could be stabbed, but it only caused the sword miss the intended target. The spider’s 3 left legs were all chopped right off of its body, leaving only 3 stubs.

 

Warning: You have entered Combat.

 

The spider screeched, clicked, and crawled in circles helplessly. Greenish black goop leaked out of it's wounds. Peter decided Identifying the creature while it was disabled would be safe. He looked around him much more closely than before, seeing if any other spiders were nearby before he used [Identify].

 

Blood Arachnid Level: 3
Soldier Hatchling Highest Stat: Dexterity

 

"Wow, this thing is only level 3, and a hatchling at that. I wonder what other kinds of arachnids the queen can make."

He decided that it was time to put this thing out of it's misery. It was practically immobile, so it wasn't a difficult task. That's when Peter felt a small pressure on his left ankle.

He immediately twisted around to look, to see that another hatchling had bit him! It was struggling pathetically to pierce the armour on his leg. Peter almost felt bad, but he also felt that the fangs on these spiders were a little too gross for his comfort. He turned and stabbed the hatchling through the head, ending its life instantly. The only evidence it had been alive were the final twitches that the legs gave off before it ran out of steam.

Peter heard a strange sizzling from behind him, and turned around to see the first spider he killed had begun to fade away. It was almost as if invisible acid was eating it from the outside in. Once it was done sizzling, not even a drop of dark green goop was left on his sword from either kill. Peter suddenly felt strangely refreshed like he had just taken a big drink of water. Even the late morning hunger that usually struck him was dissipated.

Despite the strange feeling of refreshment, he was a little disturbed by how easily these things could sneak up on him. Clearly he needed to raise his [Perception] stat a lot more than he had. It was either that, or he just needed to train his eyes to notice what to look for and gain real life experience.

He walked around a little more looking for spiders. He found 3 more in a small pile behind a barrel. They seemed to look for dark and hidden corners of the room to stay in, or they wanted to camouflage themselves in plain sight with their webbing. 12 hatchlings later, Peter had finally cleared out the room.

A different sound rang out in the cage. Peter saw that it was a metal gate being opened. In the side of the room farthest from the door he came in, there was a gate to a dark hallway. He watched carefully as several much larger arachnids crawled into the room, then spread out all over. Some were red and thin like larger versions of the hatchlings, while others were huge, had more black colouring, and were slower like tarantulas.

The gate then closed behind them. Before the arachnids all disappeared, Peter got off an [Identify] on one.

 

Blood Arachnid Level: 12
Warrior Highest Stat: Vitality

 

"Oh crap baskets, these ones are way tougher. I can't let them sneak up on me this time."

The one he got the [Identify] on emerged from the far left side of the cage, and was coming right for him. It had a meter long, thick body and huge hairy legs that made it stand 4 feet in the air. It was slightly slow, but looked like it could hit like a truck. Its large fangs twitched seemingly with excitement at the idea of a meal.

Peter wanted to put his new [Strength] to the test, so he lowered his stance, held his shield out in front of him, and took off directly at the tarantula. He was much faster, so it took no time at all to smash his shield into the creature. It stopped the charge completely, but didn't really phase the creature. It immediately tried to wrench the shield out of his grasp, but Peter got his bearings and slashed with his sword.

He cut clean through one of the legs, which caused the arachnid to click furiously and retreat a step or two. That's all he needed to see to know he could beat this thing. His shield smashed into the spider’s face, then the sword came down again and chopped off a fanged mandible, followed by another shield bash, and then one final swing for the tarantula's head.

The shield hitting its head caused the tarantula a fair bit of confusion. It registered the pain, but didn't react in time to Peter's swings. It died not fully understanding what hit it.

Peter was feeling slightly tired by the end of that fight, but forced himself to stay focused on his surroundings. Real battle was much more tiring than training, and had brought his [Stamina] down by 45 points. He also wasn't used to battling with the extra weight of a shield and armour. [Strength] helps, but using the full extent of his [Strength] costs more [Stamina].

The new arachnids were much bigger, so they were easier to spot hiding around the room. He felt a lot safer knowing he couldn't be spooked like earlier.

That was until he felt a huge impact hit him from above. He was knocked flat on his face, then felt an extremely uncomfortable sensation on his thigh. He forced himself to fight against the spider that was sitting on him, and looked at what it was doing. It was one of the larger red spiders eating into his body. It's mandibles were crushing into the leather armour, and he was starting to bleed profusely.

 

Blood Arachnid Level: 14
Soldier Highest Stat: Dexterity

 

His trait [Powerful Mind], the adrenaline of being in his first real fight, and his fight or flight response all kicked into high gear. He twisted his body to flip himself around, and stabbed into the spider with his sword. It clicked and shrieked, but he buried the blade inside the arachnid all the way to the hilt, then twisted it as vigorously as he could.

"There's no way I'm dying here! Not to bugs!" He roared in his mind.

His leg wasn't obeying him like it should, but he forced himself to stand on his working leg, and killed off the creature.

Peter looked straight up at the ceiling to see where the heck this thing came from. The colour drained from his face as he saw the ceiling was crawling with the blood arachnids. They seemed to all be watching him, and stopped moving when they knew he had noticed them. They weren't making a move, so he started identifying them one by one. The highest level he could find was 18, and the lowest was 7.

"I need to get some kind of cover. NOW." Was his only thought.

He limped his way over to the makeshift wooden building in the corner of the cage. He briefly looked around himself to make sure no spiders were on the ground around him, then looked back up. All the arachnids had already begun moving around, and stopped again once they saw him looking.

Peter had a strong mind, but this was a bit much even for him. He was creeped out. He entered the building as fast as he could by chopping the webbing that covered the doorway, and was immediately attacked by a smaller level 9 spider. It tried to surprise him, but he entered the doorway with his shield raised. The spider seemed to give itself a concussion from the impact with the solid metal, which earned it a struggle free death by Peter's sword.

He checked the room he was in for any other spiders, and saw it was empty. Peter then found some scrap wood, and leaned it in front of the door he came in. He never expected that it would stop an arachnid, but it would alert him with the noise if one did try to get in.

Lightheadedness from his wound finally caught up to him as he leaned against a wall, and slid down to rest. His H.U.D. displayed his [Health] at 214/440, and his [Stamina] at 180/390, and slowly recovering. The bleeding from his leg slowed to a stop, and he sat there for a few minutes before he got a message from the system.

 

You have left Combat!
Notifications enabled.
You have risen to level 8!
Two skill slots unlocked for reaching level 5!
[Identify] has risen to Adept level 8!
[Patience] has risen to Novice level 9!
[Momentum] has risen to Novice level 6!
[Soul Drain] has risen to Novice level 5!
[Fervor] has risen to Adept level 1!
[Toughness] has risen to Novice level 10!
[Exo-Skeleton] has risen to Novice level 4!

 

Peter was a little overwhelmed with all these changes. He wanted to examine all of his skills, but felt weirdly sick to his stomach. He got the answer to why just a second later.

 


You have completed the necessary requirements for the Evolution: 'Enhanced Durability', and 'Enhanced Energy'.

Do you wish to implement these evolutions?

Y   /   N

Note: You will be incapacitated for up to 2 hours while the necessary changes are made to your cell structure. Please only accept once you get to a safe location.

 

"Of course. This feeling exactly like when I qualified for my first Evolution. Ugh. Did it have to happen right now?! I could easily die because of this."

Peter desperately brainstormed about how he could get back to the doorway, and out of this place. He felt angry at Jogun and Kayel for thinking this was a good idea in the first place. He also felt betrayed by his own modifier for bringing on this horrid feeling of nausea in the middle of a fight. He could probably make it out of here rather easily with a bit of rest if he hadn't gotten these Evolutions.

'Pitter patter' sounds of crawling spiders above him could be heard. They were coming from the roof, probably looking for another way inside the shabby wooden building. It wouldn't be long before they tried to get in and finish what their sibling started. Peter needed to be prepared for them as best as he could, so he opened his status to see what he could do. He tapped display on his skills list so he could see the advancements, and started deciding what he should put his points in.

Because he leveled up 8 times, and [Patience] took 1 point per level, he had 32 points to augment himself with. The first thing he did was increase his [Vitality] with 10 points because he needed to be able to survive the upcoming fight to get out. He also put 5 points into processing, and perception. It wouldn't do him any good to think too slow or miss something obvious that he could do to save himself. The last 12 points were needed for strength. He needed to hit hard if a spider got in his way. He would also move a lot faster with more leg strength.

Next were his skill slots. Peter opened his Dormant skill list, and picked [Fear Aura], and [Dash]. He saw that there were a few other skills available, but didn't want to take any more time figuring out what he was going to do. The spiders could smash their way in any second. He confirmed his skill choices and got a notification.

 

Alert: Due to your naturally intimidating feaures, and natural strength:
your [Fear Aura] and [Dash] will start at Novice level 4. 

 

He raised his eyebrow and thought, "Am I really that scary looking? Hmm."

It made him feel a little self-conscious, but this was really not the time to dwell on that kind of thing.

In the end, his status looked pretty darn impressive.

 

|12:31 PM|| |Status| |Backlight: [Off]|
Name: Peter Valk Kastell Level: 8
Gender: Male Influence: 3
Race: Human Variant Fame: 0
Class: Arbiter Unspent points:  0
Stats
Health 374/540  Stamina 240/390
Vitality 25 (29) Endurance 20 (19)
Strength 32 (17) Perception 15 (5)
Dexterity 20 (14) Processing 20
Karma -78 M. Resistance 10
Defense: 67
Evolutions
[Enhanced Recovery] Grade: D+
Traits [Tap to display]
Skills
[Auto Translate] Transcendent level 10 [Student of a God] Expert level 1
[Identify] Adept level 8 [Soul Drain] Novice level 5
[Evolve] Uses remaining: 1 [Exo-Skeleton] Novice level 4
[Momentum] Novice level 6 [Patience] Novice level 9
[Fervor] Adept level 1 [Toughness] Novice level 10
[Fear Aura] Novice level 4 [Dash] Novice level 4

 

Peter briefly thought about using [Evolve], but decided against it because of how he knew evolutions could incapacitate him for hours on end. If that happened now, there was a 0% chance of ever waking up. The spiders would have him as a meal before the skill was done giving him whatever bonuses it could.

He decided the best course of action would be to check his two new skills to see what they do at novice level 4. First was [Fear Aura]. It could be toggled and had a 3 meter base radius, although now it had a 5 meter radius. It likely gained 0.5 meters every novice level. [Dash] also seemed to gain 5% more damage for each novice level, because it was now at 150% weapon damage and nothing else had changed from when he first saw it in the Equilibrium Construct.

He closed his status, and was prompted with the window that asked if he wished to finalize these changes. He clicked yes, and was immediately flooded with warmth and power. His armour had to readjust itself just to fit his new bulk from how high his strength was. The bones in his body became stronger, his heartbeat got faster, his vision became clearer, and his mind sharpened.

"I'll never get used to this." Peter thought to himself in total bliss. Even through the nausea he was experiencing, the strength of his [Vitality] alone was making him far more capable of withstanding it. He also figured out that a lot of the nausea was not due to the Evolutions he unlocked, but by him being so low on [Health] and [Stamina]. It had been 12 minutes, and he had recovered 60 of each due to [Enhanced Recovery].

Feeling a lot more confident, he struggled to his feet, and held his shield up. He would wait in here for as long as he could, then he would make a break for the door to the vestibule. If he could get in there, and lock it, he would be safe. From there he could just yell until the guards opened the door.

With a plan in mind he toggled on his fear aura, and limped up to the doorway he blocked. The arachnids crawling on the building suddenly scurried off. They must have been spooked by the sudden effect of the skill, and Peter was very pleased. The small spiders would likely not approach him at all. That would be a huge help to him getting across the length of the cage.

He peaked between the boards of the barricade, and saw that the biggest arachnid was now on the ground. It was the one he saw that was level 18 earlier. He hadn't paid attention to what kind it was, so he decided to [Identify] it again.

 

Blood Arachnid Level: 18
Warrior (Elite) Highest Stat: Vitality

 

"... What in the heck is an 'Elite'? Is it a leader of some kind?" Peter pondered to himself. The warriors all seemed to be tarantula types, but the Elite warrior was over twice the size of the first one he fought though. The other arachnids seemed to stay out of its way.

"Why did it come down anyways?! Ugh. This is not my day."

Peter waited there for another 10 minutes to slowly regenerate his stats. Every minute he could hold off fighting, was another 5 chances for him to survive this whole ordeal. He was actually feeling a lot better than he expected to feel. The evolution nearly made it impossible to walk the first time. He theorized that how sick they made him feel had to do with how much [Vitality] he had. Right now he had over 3 and a half times as much as when that last evolution affected him.

He brought up the window that asked him if he wanted to implement the evolution, and now it said he would only need 1 hour of down time to change his cell structure.

"So that's how it works. Darn. I should have piled my points into [Vitality] until I had enough to add the evolutions without passing out at all." he thought, but hindsight was 20/20, "Oh well. I know better now."

5 minutes later he was less than a hundred points away from being full on [Health] and [Stamina]. Something else was happening as well. Peter felt the tender wound on his thigh, and realized he was actually almost fully healed. Something didn't quite add up until he also felt that the leather the spider bit through was also repairing itself!

"So that's how armour adds [Vitality] to me. The [Exo-Skeleton] skill must make armour I wear literally become a part of my biology. It figures in the material's durability to my total [Health] pool, and my stats represent that!" Peter thought in his eureka moment.

The happy moment didn't last long though. The first arachnid finally made it's move against him. It had broken through the ceiling, and fell towards the ground. It was a level 11 warrior type, so it was not agile at all. It hit the ground with a thud, and began to bleed a dark green out of one of its joints. It clicked softly in pain, but Peter took advantage of the situation and ran at the spider with everything he had. He made a flying leap, and smashed his shield into the head of the warrior.

 

Warning: You have entered Combat.

 

This time the spider didn't just get stunned, the whole head and part of the abdomen crushed in on itself. The spider died instantly. Peter got up somewhat surprised, and looked up towards the hole in the roof. He went wide eyed and immediately raised his shield, the impact of a level 8 soldier hit him a split second later.

There were two main differences between this time and the last time a spider dropped on him: One was the spider was 6 levels lower, and thus quite a bit smaller. The other was that Peter had 120% of a regular man's strength added to the strength he had before.

The spider hit his shield, but Peter also bashed upwards at the same time. The soldier arachnid didn't stand a chance. Between its own momentum, and the power put behind the shield, it completely splattered. It was enough to put a ring of dark green blood all around where Peter stood.

Peter smirked as he felt [Soul Drain] take effect, and refill his [Health] and [Stamina] by a small amount. He felt even better now than when the fight started with these two arachnids.

"Maybe I don't need to get out of here just yet."

He checked all around himself quickly to make sure he was safe, then pulled the barrier away from the doorway. He walked through to see the elite warrior, and two soldiers on either side of it blocking his path to the gate. He also looked to the ceiling, but the spiders there were not crawling around when he wasn't looking anymore.

"Hmm, they seem afraid. They must know that I'm stronger now. Maybe they have a skill of some kind that lets them see my level rose by 8."

Peter then began thinking of who he should take out first. The spiders on either side of the elite were level 14 and 15, so taking one of them out of the fight first would be the best move.

Peter lowered his stance into a runner’s pose.

"Time to make B67 proud."

Peter took a deep breath, then flew as fast as he could towards the level 15 soldier. The soldier noticed the attack coming and prematurely dodged to the side. Peter's enhanced processing was handy for this as he shifted his body to the new location of the arachnid, then activated his skill [Dash].

Suddenly Peter felt power shoot through his legs, and into the ground. He jolted to twice his running speed, and swung his sword as he was about to connect with the spider.

He passed right by the spider with his sword held out towards it. He felt the sword connect, and glide through the soldier's body. Peter accidentally overshot and slid right into a barrel, but the spider was sliced almost perfectly in half horizontally. If death hadn't already come, it was close by for that spider.

Peter shakily stood up, and patted himself off. He knew the spider was dead when he felt [Soul Drain] take effect once again. The 10 [Stamina] he used to activate dash was almost fully refunded by that kill.

"Seems like the higher the level of something I kill, the more [Soul Drain] can give back to me."

One of those level 3 hatchlings approached him, but once it was close it paused, turned around, and ran away. He almost laughed out loud at the scene, and thanked his past self for choosing [Fear Aura].

The elite and the other soldier were clicking and hissing furiously at Peter, but refused to approach. He must have spooked them with his speed, but they didn't realize that their hesitating was their downfall. [Dash] came off of its 15 second cooldown, and he started running again.

He aimed for the other soldier to make sure he could fight the elite without his guards interfering. This time the soldier waited until the last second to move, but Peter still cut off 4 of it's legs. It wasn't dead, but it was out of the fight. It crawled off to the only direction it's remaining legs could pull it, leaving 4 trails of green blood behind.

Peter had much better control this time, and slid to a stop without falling or hitting anything.

As he turned around though, the elite did something unexpected: It pointed it's abdomen at him.

Peter tilted his head to the side in confusion. 

The elite began to shake a little, before launching a glob of red string directly at him. Peter's reflexes went into full effect as he brought the shield up just in time to block the webbing attack.

"Heh, nice try you dumb piece of sh--"

Peter's thoughts were cut off as the shield was yanked away from him by the string that the warrior still held. The force of the shield being pulled off of his arm dragged him to the ground. His arm felt like it was almost dislocated because of the force, and he felt the loss of 4 [Vitality] and [Endurance]. This feeling was awful, and Peter dreaded the idea of taking off his armour later.

-cough- -cough- "Pride cometh before the fall I suppose," Peter said out loud.

It was time to act. Peter just had to kill this last threat. The only arachnids left were on the ceiling, and the highest of them was level 8. That may have been Peter's level right now, but he was far beyond that in terms of his abilities. They would be no threat to his life.

He fought off the nausea that was slowly going away again, and began to circle the warrior elite. He ran around the warrior clockwise, with his head turned towards it. The arachnid tried launching a few more strands of red webbing at him, but Peter wouldn't fall for that again. He easily dodged by slowing his perception of time with [Processing] every time it fired.

The warrior realized this wasn't going to work, so it began clicking loudly while looking towards the ceiling. Peter followed its gaze to see that the arachnids were moving to drop down on him. He smirked and thought, "Just try it. I dare you."

The first 3 low level arachnids dropped, but Peter stopped on a dime and jumped back. The spiders landed with a thud, and then were sliced into 6 separate pieces with a single [Dash]. More [Health] and [Stamina] flowed to him from those kills.

Peter kept running around, dodging the occasional falling spider and webbing shots. Sometimes both happened at the same time and he had to use a clever maneuver with [Dash] to keep himself safe, and kill any arachnids that dropped down.

Orders from the elite seemed to overshadow Peter's [Fear Aura]. That was likely because of how low level the skill was, but it still served him well.

During one of Peter's cycles around the elite, he killed off the level 14 soldier that had crawled away. No more spiders other than the elite remained in the room now. This hadn't been his plan, but the warrior had made it easier to clear out the whole cage by sending the spiders to him. With all the regenerating Peter was doing, and with the [Soul Drain] passive, Peter was nearly recovered. He stopped running around the Elite, and got down into his runners pose.

He kicked his toes into the ground a few times to give himself some extra traction, then looked up from his position directly at the elite.

"Here I come you freak."

Peter launched himself. He ran as fast as he could manage. The warrior clicked in anger and charged towards him as well. Suddenly he used [Dash], then leaned back until he was sliding across the ground on his back. Peter held his sword up in the air as he passed directly under the 5 foot tall tarantula, slicing it from its mandibles all the way to it's abdomen.

Before Peter slid out from underneath the warrior, one of it's 8 massive legs dropped down right on his sword arm, stopping him mid slide. A sickening crack came from his arm, and he lost about 100 [Health]. Peter grunted at the uncomfortable sensation of his arm breaking.

The warrior turned around and stood over him like an ominous symbol of his death. The fangs on its mandibles chattered together like some twisted type of laughter. The elite had a line of green blood leaking out of the underside of its carapace. Peter had done damage, but it wasn't nearly as deep of a wound as he thought.

"Oh crap."

The fangs came down for a killing blow, but Peter's reflexes were on point thanks to his [Processing]. He twisted his body with his good arm to put his legs under the body of the arachnid, and kicked straight up into the crack he had made with his sword. With his incredible strength, the damaged carapace, and the weight of the warrior combined: one of his legs broke through and impaled the monster, who screamed and shuddered under the pain.

Peter smirked and twisted his buried foot around to every angle he could. The tarantula squirmed, and fought, and bled profusely all over him. Every time it tried to go in for a killing blow with it's fangs, Peter would straighten his body with his back against the ground, making the creature impale itself even further. The creature didn't have a neck that it could reach down with, or weapons on any of it's 8 legs, so all it could do was flip around trying to shake Peter out.

Over a few minutes the monster's struggle became weaker and weaker. It was fighting a losing battle.

By the end, the elite warrior had struggled so hard that it impaled itself up to Peter's mid thigh, and he had long legs due to his height. It was like having a fence post stabbed into its underbelly. That leg was also kicking, twisting, and churning all of the spider's vital organs from the inside with every chance it got.

Peter sat underneath the lifeless insect body, nearly crushed by the weight of it, and in pain because of his broken arm.

Soon after that, the weight began to ease up on its own. The elite was beginning to sizzle, and fade away just like the other monsters did. Peter felt the refreshing power returning to him through [Soul Drain]. This monster's soul must have been a big deal, because he healed up almost 25 points of both [Health] and [Stamina] all at once.

Laid out on the ground exhausted, Peter enjoyed the peace and quiet. He heard the occasional hatchling approach him, then run away scared, but it didn't bother him. They couldn't hurt him even if he took a nap right here.

After a short time his eye twitched involuntarily as the bone in his arm popped back into place, and healed itself. Around the same time, he got a familiar alert from the system.

 

You have left Combat!
Notifications enabled.
You have risen to level 10!
Two skill slots unlocked for reaching level 10!
Arbiter class skill has been added to dormant skill list for reaching level 10!
[Patience] has risen to Adept level 1!
[Momentum] has risen to Adept level 1!
[Soul Drain] has risen to Novice level 9!
[Fervor] has risen to Adept level 2!
[Toughness] has risen to Adept level 1!
[Exo-Skeleton] has risen to Novice level 7!
[Dash] has risen to Novice level 10!
[Fear Aura] has risen to Novice level 7!

 


Congratulations!

You have defeated a level 18 'Elite' class monster.

As the strongest of it's generation, and the leader of it's own group of arachnids, the Elite was a symbol of power. You have taken that power for yourself.

Rewards: 10 unallocated stat points, and a randomly generated world energy item.


 

[Patience] Adept level 1 has given back all banked stat points with interest.

 

"Hoooly Sh-- OUFF!"

Just as Peter was going to curse in amazement of how many things he was rewarded, a metal bracelet materialized above him, and fell right into his face.

 

***

 

Observing from the side of the arachnid's cage, Kayel was being held back by Jogun. Peter was currently being pounced on over and over by the Elite Warrior arachnid.

"Jogun what are you doing! He's going to die! We can't just let our Avatar die like this you fool!" Kayel yelled.

Jogun physically held Kayel back with a bear hug from behind, "No old man, Look! He's actually winning! Use your magic to listen inside the cage."

Kayel's arm got free, and his elbow caught Jogun in the side of the head, knocking him to the ground with a thud. Kayel was actually the stronger of the two, but they weren't fighting to seriously injure each other right now.

Kayel began rising above the ground, but Jogun recovered enough to grab his leg before he flew to the roof entrance to the cage.

"I'm telling you, trust in Peter! He needs this experience or he'll never amount to anything!"

Kayel gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. He was about to retort with how he would rather have a weak living Avatar, than a strong dead one, but suddenly the fight inside the cage stopped.

The two of them froze. Kayel still suspended in the air with his atmospheric magic, and Jogun holding his ankle with both hands. They stayed still for a few seconds before both of them breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The elite was dissipating back into world energy. Peter looked to be exhausted, but alive.

"See? I told you," Jogun yanked Kayel down to the ground where he stayed for a few minutes.

"I.. I can't believe a level 0 Avatar with no access to any kind of magic, or [Mana] could pull something like that off," he finally said with a blank stare towards the sky. His beard slightly dusty from the fight they just had.

Jogun smirked, "He's Adrestia's chosen one. I don't think we should ever underestimate him," He looked down his friend, then helped him to his feet.

"Come. Let's see what Peter gained."

 

***

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A note from Excalionar

Special thanks to 'adsgvf' for the help as my proof reader / creative advisor!


Edit: Added missing level 8 indicator to last status page.   |   Added level ups I missed for [Exo-Skeleton].


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Excalionar

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