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A note from puddles4263

4/7

Tera snatched one of her knives out of the corpse of a nearby monster and flicked her wrist. That knife materialized within the neck of a bull that was charging at the newest member of their Squad, who had fallen on his ass.

Decklan’s Squad was not a numbered Squad, so sometimes it was hard to recruit from the normal people of Donnyton. Even recently, with such a huge influx of population into the area. Still, those people needed time to grow into their Paths and Skills, and adjust to the world of fighting. None would rival the experience that the people who started in the Zone would have. Those who fought their way to this point might be covered in scars, but they had an edge.

Alana was doing the best she could, but there just wasn’t enough time to temper the new arrivals.

Cartwheeling over, Tera stopped next to the kid and lifted him roughly to his feet. He seemed to barely weigh anything at all. “Stay on your feet. Keep your weapon up and your center of gravity low. All of these are slow, so work with someone else to kill a few. Got it?”

She didn’t wait for his answer but was already gone, using Prestidigitation to make a knife appear from nothing to shove down the ear hole of one of the insect people. It screamed and chittered at her, but fell.

Tera glanced over towards Decklan, who had apparently found the leader. Decklan was moving quickly and striking hard, but the strange armor that the man wore slowly healed even as Decklan struck more blows. If he wanted to hurt the opponent for real, he would need to take more risks or burn through more of his Stamina.

Tera knew Decklan’s moves well. They were powerful, but they were Skills that were often based on percentages of Stamina. The more you spent, the more powerful the effect, but that didn't make up for the fact that Decklan was not gaining increased staying power in a fight as he Leveled. No, he was just growing more deadly.

Inwardly, Tera was torn for a split second. She wanted to help Decklan but suspected that her attacks would do little to tip the tide of that battle. On the other hand, Decklan’s Squad already had two injuries on people that put them out of commission. They were quickly being pushed back by the sheer number of insectoids.

Tera gritted her teeth. She didn’t even see the Raid Boss that spawned these fucks. Because it was likely so far away, it couldn’t control the tide to attack really. But it would still stay safe to make more some other day.

After Tera put these down, she swore to herself she would hunt these Raid Bosses down and end them all.

‘Who could have done this?’ A thought popped up, an annoying thought. These were controlled Raid Bosses, launching an assault in Donnyton territory. But she ignored it. That was for later.

“Fall back, give up the cave mouth. Let’s bleed ‘em dry while they are stealing our gold.” Tera called, and the squad formed up and shifted around, moving more off to the side. The insectoids seemed to be aware of the change, and they surged to pressure the Squad further, without letting them have a respite. The two wounded were being tended to, but the healer was barely able to cast Heal without being pushed backward.

Knives condensed like flakes of snow on a cold day and Tera dealt them like a hand of poker. She felt the familiar ding of gaining a Level, but she ignored it as she moved smoothly between the falling bodies of the insectoids. It was a dance, of a sort, a performance. She was the Juggler, and although her power wasn’t so impressive, in terms of death-defying feats of dexterity, few could match her.

But of course, her eyes were just as sharp during the fight, and she saw the flash of three shadows, each bigger than the last, that slipped into the mines.

Now was another impasse. Her performance had bought the squad enough time to regroup and form up around her, so she could pause and glance towards Decklan. The obsidian figure facing him was definitely starting to look the worse for wear. Blood was dripping out of a wide wound across his chest. But the armor was reforming, and Decklan was standing still.

That was never a good sign.

“Two of you, head out to assist Decklan. Anton and Fran. The rest, continue to support and cut these bitches apart. I need to figure out what they are after.”

They would likely try to stop her, or have a few go with her, and Tera knew they couldn’t spare the bodies. They needed to be here. So she left, moving quickly and producing a thin cloak from her interspatial ring. With the cloak around her, her Sneak Skill Level was effectively doubled, and her movement speed increased by 10%.

In a whisper, she was gone, deeper into the dark tunnels. The entrance was rather wide, but she followed the trail of monsters deeper into the branching maze. The deeper she went, the more serious her expression became. There was only one mineral that could be found in this branch, and it was a very rare one.

It was Tellumurite.

When she rounded the corner, Tera was quiet, but they seemed to be ready for her. Three insectoids jumped out at once and walked their necks towards her knives. They were down and she was rolling past them. An arrow sailed overhead, hitting where she would have been in a standing position.

Tera slowly stood, storing the cloak away. If they knew she was there, it wasn’t worth the encumbrance.

There were four people in front of her. The first, and only revealed face, was a middle-aged man holding a bow. His face was solemn as he regarded her, his gaze fixed. Tera felt a tingle between her shoulder blades. Behind him there were three more figures, the first looking like a normal sized human, the second a huge man the size of Dozer, and the final one being a creature wrapped in tattered cloth that was as big as a van.

“You are a guard, aren’t you?” The large human asked. “So guard us. It shouldn’t take long.”

The middle-aged man grunted and loosed two arrows. The first went towards the spot that Tera just vacated, the second toward the spot she was moving towards. Tera almost wanted to snort, as she twisted her body and dodged it. Four more arrows followed that, but Tera was gaining ground.

There would be a moment when the man switched from a bow to a close combat weapon, and that was the moment Tera was aiming for to strike. When he changed, he would be in transition. That was an opening that she could exploit.

Except she was only two meters away, and he hadn’t switched.

Feeling slightly disdainful, Tera grabbed the next arrow the man shot at her right out of the air. It was partially luck at this range, but her senses and control of her body were extremely high. Without a trick-

She felt the flash of magic. An electric discharge spread up the arrow through her body, freezing her briefly. The man smiled at Tera as he aimed an arrow at her navel and shot it.

The paralysis lasted only for a second, but he was very, very close. Instead of dodging, Tera could only lean back and bed. First a little, then a lot, throwing her body backward. Even with the Flexibility Skill Tera had, it was a close thing. But within a split second, she had become a letter O, her head coming around and back between her legs. She wasn’t so sure if this was possible before the System, but she thanked God it was now.

The arrow ripped pass through her armor along her stomach, passing so close that it left a brush burn. The man looked down at her with wide open eyes. She flexed her hands, producing more knives, and threw them upwards from her position between her legs. One went into the man’s shoulder, and the other was heading for his throat.

But he hadn’t come here for nothing. He jerked his head to the side and there was only a shallow gash across his throat. The blood was warm and red, but it would take a while for him to bleed out.

Still, that gave Tera time to straighten and cross the last few steps to him as he stumbled backward. Without even blinking, she cut his head off and raised her hand to throw knives at the other figure.

The middle figure, the Dozer sized one who spoke earlier, moved before she could pick a target consciously. Three of her knives slid into his body in the midsection, but he didn't slow. He spread his arms wide and rushed towards her.

Well, if he was relatively tanky, then…

Just gonna overwhelm him with numbers.

Tera pressed the limits of her Skill as she made more and more hidden knives appear. With a small gesture, they slammed into the approaching figure, causing him to stumble. Some missed his body, ripping through his cloak harmlessly. But those gave Tera a better idea of where to strike, and soon he was more porcupine than human.

“Aw shit,” The man said as he stumbled. “The Skills are failing already or-”

“So soon?” The smaller figure spoke, looking up from the area where they had been retrieving mined Tellumurite. What surprised Tera was that the voice was a woman. “Fine, then I’ll handle her. Don’t you dare die on me.”

Then the small figure turned and began stalking ominously towards Tera.

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puddles4263

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