It wasn’t until they were within sight of land that Randidly felt them. Of all locations, being on top of water was the most blinding for Randidly. There were minuscule plant life forms floating everywhere in water, but it appeared that either his Skill Level was too low or there was a categorical wall that kept Randidly from being able to communicate with them.
Either way, he had to rely on the physical sensations on his body to detect enemies. It was the wind that gave them away; although the sea they were crossing was salt water, the tang on the air was distinctly that of blood.
“I thought that there weren’t very many monsters,” Randidly said casually. It was Azriel’s turn to take a stay of privacy in the cabin, and Skarch and Silo were peering towards the land and talking in quiet voices. They looked up when he spoke.
“...true, but unfortunately the sea had a much higher population of monsters to begin with.” Silo said with a frown. “People cannot clear out the Raid Bosses as easily when they cloister themselves off at the bottom of the sea. But their numbers begin to work against them; the Raid Bosses do not often have friendly relations with each other. When enough of them populate the sea, they don’t have the spare attention to harass the people on land. Although they often send their young in raiding missions against us to test themselves…”
Randidly took a long sniff and grimaced. “Well get ready, because they are coming.”
Skarch blinked mildly at Randidly, but Silo just rolled his eyes. “It’s true that they often attack right before a storm, but it has been proven time and time again that superstitions such as these-”
With a screech, the first strange frog person spurted up out of the water and landed on the boat. The vessel was probably meant for little more than the four people that were already on it and rocked dangerously from the impact. Randidly winced. Even though he didn’t doubt he could survive, it would be obnoxious if he fell into the water. Fighting underwater seemed like a prospect that he was not looking forward to.
To his credit, Silo roared into action as soon as the enemy was on the boat. He spun his spear expertly and flashed across the few meters between himself and the frogperson. The monster was Level 39 and carried two short sickles that appeared to have been made from the claw of a red shelled crustacean. It crossed its weapons to block, but Silo’s spear slipped past and speared into the frogperson’s slimy body.
“Grrrahhg!” It spat out and phlegm landed on the deck. Stepping around it, Randidly lashed out with Acri, severing its right arm.
Just as Azriel was opening the cabin door and stepping out onto the deck, three more leaped up and landed near their wounded brother. The boat was only 10 meters across, from tip to tail, so so many bodies on the deck made it almost impossible to swing spears around casually. You were as likely to hit your allies as the enemies. In this sort of distance, the frogpeople’s short sickles were much more economical.
But no matter their high thirties Level, this was not a boat that would flinch away from a fight. As two nearby moved to attack Randidly with their weapons, he snorted. Acri twisted its shaft around Randidly’s arm and basically gave him a blade that was sticking out of the base of his palm. His Talon Strike Flashed out, ripping into their rubbery throats.
That didn’t seem to kill them immediately, but they fell backward. Randidly checked the rest of the boat. Silo was finishing off the already wounded one, and Azriel had already made three large holes in her opponent. Just now, Skarch finished producing her spear and leveled it while looking solemnly at the water.
The bodies were quickly dumped overboard and with a curse, Silo went to the rudder and fiddled with it for a few seconds. Then he straightened. “Those few were a distraction; they destroyed the rudder. Can anyone do something about moving the boat? The wind-”
“I’ve got it,” Randidly said calmly, and maneuvered around Silo to touch the rudder. With Plant Dominance, it was simply a matter of pouring a bit of extra Mana into the wood of the boat to reawaken it. Then he could grow the rudder outwards. Giving Randidly a weird look, Silo nervously tapped the pouch at his waist.
Then he shook his head and sighed. “...thanks. But you are going to need to protect it. They will probably try and strike again.”
Randidly grinned. Even now, he could feel the vibrations in the water as the frogpeople swam closer. When the darted abruptly forward towards the rudder, Spearing Roots ripped downwards out of the boat to meet them. It burned through his Mana pretty quickly, but Randidly had no difficulty slaughtering the few nearby. But doing that made him realize how many more there were swimming nearby. Hundreds. Maybe somewhere near a thousand.
Randidly sighed. This… might get exhausted.
The next 10 minutes passed in tense silence. Randidly casually sipped a Mana Potion. Every 30 seconds or so, another group would rush upwards, but Randidly had 100 sharp roots waiting for them. He imagined it must look extremely fearsome from below, to see the boat drifting with those gnarled roots dragging through the water.
Randidly was no sailor, but he tried to coil the roots tightly when they weren’t needed so there wasn’t any unnecessary water drag. After a few wavers, Randidly got a pleasing notification.
Congratulations! You have reached Level 28! +5 Stats distributed between Vitality, Perception, Resist, Intelligence, and Control, +14 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Mental Stat. +1 to a Physical Defense Stat. +1 to a Mental Support Stat. +2 Control. +20 Health, +24 Mana, +23 Stamina, +.5 to all Regenerations! +1 to Health and Stamina Regeneration! +20 Progenitor’s Influence.
Twenty-eight was starting to get to the point where Randidly felt slightly guilty for how high his Level was, but he put it out of his mind. After all…
He glanced sideways at the other people glaring down at the water. Everyone had their own secrets. Randidly didn't doubt that each had their own advantages they could use to defeat the frogpeople, despite the fact most of them were a much higher Level than they were supposed to be.
“...I don’t know how you did it, but you really sensed them coming, didn’t you? Will there be more?” Silo asked, his face serious. Inwardly, Randidly updated his rating of this guy. Sure, he was a spoiled dick from being raised in the Central Domain, but he at least had the decency to admit when he was wrong. And he was rather deft with his spear. He wasn’t as good as Helen would have been, but he could hold his own here.
“They are waiting,” Randidly said quietly.
Skarch nodded. “Mmmm, this is a good sign? Or a terrible one. If they wait… perhaps-”
“Something big will come, yes? Too bad these souls don’t count towards our Soulstones,” Azriel said with a sigh. Randidly agreed. If he could pad their stats here…
Well, he supposed the tournament itself didn’t matter. But there was something strange about this conflict with the Wights that Randidly couldn’t yet put his finger on. He hoped that by seeing the front lines, he could understand it.
Also… at the back of his mind a question was slowly growing: what role did Lucretia have amongst her people? Why was she-
Randidly twisted. Cursing, he uncorked two more Mana potions and downed them. He would need it. “Incoming. Something big enough to swallow us.”
Immediately, Randidly regretted saying it, because he fully intended to take care of the issue before they were devoured. But he needn’t have worried. Both Skarch and Azriel simply nodded placidly, and Silo continued to glare at the water as if intimidating the circling fish. Perhaps he wasn’t listening?
At this point, Randidly had almost 4000 Mana available to him. Below, a mother fucking Kraken was pushing itself up out of the dark waters to reach the boat from below. Riding on it were a variety of frogpeople that were a pale, sickly green like they lived far from any sunlight. Because Randidly couldn’t see them, he couldn't’ tell their Level, but his instincts warned him these were much more capable than their greener cousins.
Blowing through 2000 Mana in a split second, Randidly swelled the roots attached to the bottom of the boat. They twined and twisted until they became larger trunks of plant matter. These weaved together and stretched until a giant gnarled hand formed, growing out of the bottom of the boat.
Randidly’s eyes glowed emerald. The wind was beginning to rise as the storm came steadily closer. Underwater, the wooden hand clenched itself into a fist.