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A note from puddles4263

17/21

Congratulations! You have reached Level 42! +8 Stats distributed between Vitality, Perception, Resist, Intelligence, and Control, +20 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Mental Stat. +1 to a Physical Defense Stat. +1 to a Mental Support Stat. +2 Control. +36 Health, +40 Mana, +40 Stamina, +3.5 to all Regenerations! +1 to Health and Stamina Regeneration!

Due to Guidance of the Wraith Adder, +4 Agility and +2 Bonus Stats!

Randidly sighed ruefully and stretched. It would be a long road to Level 49 at this rate. Already, he was starting to feel the diminishing gains for killing monsters below Level 50. If he wanted to improve further, he would need to hunt a lot more or hunt those at a higher Level.

Of course, Randidly would easily transition to more dangerous prey. The reason so many people became stuck at this tier was that they didn’t have the ability to hunt monsters over Level 50. There was a sharp rise in stats at monsters of that Level, and most of them weren’t just above Level 50, but they neared Level 55. That gap was too much to overcome with hard work.

Yet this sort of barrier wouldn’t stop Randidly at all. His images and Skills were at a level that had made Levels irrelevant when he was Level Twenty-five. Now that he was closing in on Fifty, it wouldn’t take long before Randidly was completely invincible at this Level.

After scanning the surrounding area for any more monsters that he could easily find and kill, Randidly gathered up Acri and began to move. They were almost at his destination, and it was time to find some answers.

Randidly had quickly made his way South after finishing his arm to catch up with his Riders. Although the connection to them was still too distant for him to be sure of their location, Randidly had paid rather close attention to the direction that they had departed when setting out from Donnyton. With that information, he had a pretty good idea of where they had gone and why they refused to return.

After all, Neveah was operating in that direction. If anyone would be able to usurp control and inspire rebellion in his Riders, it would be her. It made him chuckle.

Of course, it would be her.

He had briefly considered simply sending her a message and asking about what she was doing with them, but Randidly suspected that she was trying to hide something from him. That was why she wasn't able to leave and return to Donnyton to see him, even when she claimed the state of that portal to another world was "manageable". Therefore, surprising her might yield more information than he would get by giving her time to predict his arrival.

It was a slightly immature tactic, but at this point, Randidly was annoyed. Although maybe it was unfair to blame her for the Riders continued absence. Perhaps she didn't know that he had ordered them to return?

Maybe she had needed bodies, and their noncommunicative asses had arrived. She simply was making use of the tool that came to her.

Shaking his head, Randidly extended his flesh and blood arm and allowed Acri to slide up his limbs. The weapon comfortably settled around his neck, warm to the touch. Then Randidly continued to lope Southeast

There was only one other group of monsters that he encountered on the journey, aside from the grizzly bears. There appeared to be a rather well established Tier II Raid Boss that had been able to gain a foothold and now had four lieutenants accomplishing its bidding. A powerful force, to be sure, but not one that Donnyton would normally have trouble eliminating. Which meant that this area was either past their sphere of influence or that this group was purposefully left alive... perhaps as a way to train weaker Squads?

That made a certain amount of sense. Monsters would continue to spawn in the world in absentia as long as Earth remained on this portion of the System's tests, but there was a danger to fighting against an organized foe that couldn't truly be compared to fighting one giant monster.

After all, such combat would more closely resemble what it was to battle against humanity. Even if it wasn't necessary in today's world, it might be in the future. Practicing those Skills was valuable. Such a controllable monster grouping was something that Randidly could see Mrs. Hamilton supporting. Plus, the growth of Raid Bosses was relatively predictable; even if left alone, Tier II Raid Bosses wouldn't grow infinitely. There was a soft Level cap that would keep them in the perfect sort of punching bag area.

Despite the fact that Randidly understood the uses of such a monster presence, he didn't bother to control Acri as the spear greedily ripped its way through the whole settlement. The strange four-armed giants ran for their lives, but their Levels were only in the early thirties. They weren't able to deal with Acri at all.

Which made Randidly idly wonder how indestructible Acri was. He was hard enough to resist blades and sharp enough to cut through the armor of the high-Level Masters of Tellus, so the plant being certainly possessed extraordinary survivability. Honestly, the fact that the Wight forces had captured Acri and hadn't just been able to break it into kindling was probably a testament to the spear's power.

When a gleeful and blood covered Acri slithered back to Randidly, he barely suppressed a shiver. Perhaps he should treat the spear with more respect moving forward. But Randidly's point about selfishness was definitely correct…

Their experience fighting Aegiant was a lesson, but it would not do to allow that lesson to warp them with fear.

At the end of Randidly's long road Southeast was a rough looking city on the edge of the great sea that constituted Zone 32's Southeastern neighbor. As most of the Zone’s population was scattered in the diverse group of islands that dotted the sea, there were few places that actually served as a gathering place for this Zone's people. One of those places was the City in the Clouds that Randidly had heard rumors about.

And then there was this place.

While the City in the Clouds was where most of those with any ability or coin ended up, this harbor town, affectionately called Scant by the locals, was where flotsam washed ashore. Every boneheaded youth looking to make coin and seek adventure on the seas ended up here. There was simply something about the salty air and the sound of water lapping against the shore that drove people crazy.

It filled their heads with dreams even as all that the sea gave them was sand and salt.

But perhaps the people had reason to be crazy. Of all the known Zones, this one had the highest known concentration of Dungeons. Some of them were hidden in islands, while others were associated with particular sea currents.

What that meant was that every week or so someone would stumble back wounded and announce they had cleared some high-Level Dungeon and found gems. Or pearls. Or powerful items. Which set another ten youths to dreaming and sailing wildly out in search of adventure.

Besides the fools that packed this town, there was something else that put Scant on the map: fish.

While Donnyton and Franksburg had made great strides in developing and domesticating monsters for meat, most of their diet was still grains and vegetables. In comparison to the difficult to control monsters which always had the chance of reverting to their feral forms, the vast schools of tuna within the sea were easier to catch and more tender to eat.

Perhaps just due to its initial scarcity, fish had shot up in popularity over the past few years. Lake Apollo in Zone 1 had once produced fish, but the strange infestation of Raid Boss/modified humans had killed out most of the local species. When Randidly had informed Tatiana in one of their calls that he would be heading to the Southeast, she enthusiastically demanded that he grab some fatty tuna for Erickson Steel.

With a bemused expression, Randidly walked up to the line of shacks that formed the outward perimeter of Scant. Because there were no true walls. He wondered how they dealt with roaming monsters. Or whether the people at the edge of this poorly constructed place-

Then Randidly paused. The ground rumbled. Within a few seconds, large cracks formed in the dirt beneath his feet. Very soon, familiar small feelers exploded outward and Randidly didn’t need to wonder how the town of Scant was staying safe, for the moment at least.

Randidly laughed. "It's certainly been a while, hasn't it?"

With a gleeful trill, Thorn exploded upward and enthusiastically wrapped itself around Randidly.

There were a few points there the nominal "thorns" dug into Randidly's exposed Skill, but he couldn't help but notice how deftly Thorn shifted its body so Randidly didn't end up looking like a piece of butchered meat. He filled the note about Thorn’s physical control away as he simply laughed and watched as meters and meters of vines as thick as his thigh exploded out of the ground and waved wildly in the air.

Randidly noted with amusement that several people noticed the strange plant display and hurried in the opposite direction. Windows were closed and doors were audibly locked.

"Easy there buddy. It's good to see you, too." Randidly said warmly. There were probably fifty individual thorny vines waving almost 30 meters into the air at the moment, but Randidly could sense that this was just a fraction of Thorn's current size. "You've certainly been eating well, haven't you?"

Thorn hummed in confirmation, greedily rubbing itself against Randidly. Sulfur chirped and pleasure, enjoying the physical touch.

That caused Thorn to pause. Several smaller tentacles came out of the hole in the ground and carefully felt along Sulfur to determine what this interloper in the enthusiastic reunion was. As recognition dawned in the cognizant plant, the frisking became more vigorous.

Very quickly, Sulfur wiggled in glee as Thorn's sharp thorns scratched away at it. After all, when Sulfur's surface layer was cracked or scraped away, Sulfur had the chance to produce a stronger shell. So it was quite willing to be the subject of Thon's peculiar style of attention.

Quickly Acri trilled and flexed upward. Its head bobbed back and forth, waving its head like a cobra. Within a few seconds, a dozen of Thorn's vines popped and mimicked that movement, much to Acri’s displeasure.

With a laugh, Randidly stripped off Acri and Sulfur and tossed them to the side. "You three have some fun. It's been a while since you met, right?"

As Randidly moved out of the way, the three Soulseed beings engaged in a wild wrestling match. Acri and Sulfur were soon trembling from the exertion of challenging their older sibling, while Thorn methodically tired them out and prodded them.

Such was the power of Randidly's first Soulseed. Then Randidly showed his teeth. It would certainly be different if Randidly brought Thorn to the Donnyton challenge, wouldn't it...?

That might just be overkill. Donnyton wouldn’t know what hit them.

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puddles4263

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