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There was a lot to do, but Randidly put it off for a little bit longer, looking instead at his skill notifications.

In that last bout with the Sphinx he had gained 2 levels in Spear Mastery and Phantom Thrust, 1 in Spear Phantom’s Footwork, 2 in Phantom Half Step, 4 in Fighting Proficiency, 1 in Haste, Sweep,  and Phantom Onslaught, 3 in Empower, 2 in Roundhouse Kick, an impressive 6 in Spearing Roots, 1 in Root Manipulation and Fireball, 1 in Physical Fitness and Pain Resistance, and 2 in Mental Strength.

These stats he poured into Intelligence, Strength, and Control, raising his ability to do damage, which had been slightly underwhelming during the fight against the sphinx. The Frontrunner path was only 70/100, and he still had 15 more stats to get from it, but his status screen was already starting to become monstrous.

Randidly Ghosthound

Class: ---

Level: N/A

Health(/R per hour): 311/340 [+8] (175 [+12])

Mana(/R per hour): 501/534 (77.75)

Stam(/R per min): 357/392 (65 [+4])

Vit: 51 [+4]

End: 35

Str: 38 [+2]

Agi: 62 [+10]

Perception: 29

Reaction: 46

Resistance: 14

Willpower: 64

Intelligence: 86

Wisdom: 44

Control: 64

Focus: 31

Equipment: Average Leather Tunic Lvl 5: (+2 Vit), Gloves of Quickness (Vit +1. Agi +3), Necklace of the Shadow Cat Lvl 20 ®: (Vitality +1, Strength +2, Agility +7)

Skills (Soul Skill):  Spear of Rot Mastery Lvl 259

Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 46, Phantom Thrust Lvl 46, Spear Phantom’s Footwork Lvl 33, Eyes of the Spear Phantom Lvl 20, Phantom Half-Step Lvl 11, Heavy Blow Lvl 23, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 27, Dodge Lvl 31, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 34, Block Lvl 32, Haste Lvl 20, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 11, Sweep Lvl 17, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Empower Lvl 24, Calculated Blow Lvl 19, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 15, Edge of Decay Lvl 11, Agony Lvl 1

 

Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 12, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 24, Root Manipulation Lvl 27, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 23, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 9, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 8, Summon Pestilence Lvl 15, Mana Strengthening Lvl 13, Wall of Thorns Lvl 4, Soul Seed Lvl ®,

 

Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 22, Farming Lvl 20, Plant Breeding Lvl 9, Mapmaker Lvl 4, Analyze Lvl 24, Refine Lvl 6

 

Auxiliary: Physical Fitness Lvl 30, Meditation Lvl 31, Running: Lvl 20,  Sprinting Lvl 15, Sneak Lvl 22, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 16, Pain Resistance Lvl 12, First Aid Lvl 13, Equip Lvl 20, Pathfinding Lvl 16, Mental Strength Lvl 13, Curse Resistance Lvl 3, Fire Resistance Lvl 8

Randidly’s Intelligence, Agility, and Control all were well over 50, which was probably the line that none of the other members of Donnyton had passed, even if they focused completely on 1 stat. Combined with a total Vitality of 55, Randidly did it all well, even tank, and much better than most people did.

It was still something of a disappointment for Randidly that his Resistance was still so abysmally low. 14 looked very sad surrounding by 46 and 64. But his speed was currently so high, and he possessed enough defense skills, that he didn’t want to invest the points into it currently.

Randidly walked out of his hut and towards the area where they had left the thorny vine. Now, as he intended to level his Soul Plant, he wanted to be able to see it.

When he came to the glass container, he found the strange being much as he had left it, but Randidly was surprised to find Lyra, crouching nearby and poking the container.

“You have weird taste in pets,” She informed him, wonder in her eyes as she gazed down at the wiggling creature. She didn’t even seem to mind the long scratches the thorny vines left on her hand as it tentatively prodded her back..

He smiled slightly, mildly embarrassed, and elected not to respond. He hadn’t managed to top her in quips yet, and after an exhausting day, now was not the time to start.

Instead, he opened his menu, and sure enough, there was a Soul Plant option. He clicked it and a small status screen appeared.

Soul Plant (Blood) (Click to Rename)

Lvl 1 (Click to Level Up)

Survivability: 6

Physicality: 4

Magical Aptitude: 1

Brain Function: 3

Particularity: 2

 

Battle Ability: 4

 

Special Skills: Flexibility

Randidly scanned through the explanations for the stats, they were all pretty self explanatory. Survivability was defense, Physicality was physical strength, Magical Aptitude magical strength. Brain function was how intelligent it actually was, like what sort of concepts and orders it could wrap its mind around, while Particularity counted any characteristics that made it unique and gave it strength that weren’t really covered by the others. Battle Ability was a combination of all the above scores, which would equate it to what level monster it could hold its own against.

Starting out able to fight level 4 didn’t seem very impressive, but Randidly supposed it was level 1. It had time to grow. Although it was pretty impressive that this small, weird plant with 1 foot long tentacles could manage to surround and strangle one of the Lvl 4 wolverines that were as numerous as fleas.

After a slight hesitation, Randidly renamed the plant to Thorn, due to its prickly appearance. Then he clicked level up.

Congratulations! Your Thorn Lvl 1 is ready to level up. Due to its nature, your first choice is set: Make Thorn either “Hungry” or “Thirsty”.

No explanations were provided. Randidly sighed. So it was going to be like this, huh…? The level ups for the plant were much more opaque than his own. On a whim, he clicked Hungry.

Thorn is now Lvl 2. Survivability has increased by 2. Physicality has increased by 1. It has learned the skill Strangle.

Congratulations! Your Thorn Lvl 2 is ready to level up. Due to absorbing the blood of The Smiling Tribulation, Ep-Tal, please choose whether Thorn shall absorb its Body or Mind.

After a second of hesitation, Randidly chose Body. After all, he didn’t really need a strange mage plant. Although having it be a little bit more intelligent would undoubtedly be useful…

Thorn is now Lvl 3. Physicality has increased by 2. Due to increased size, Particularity has increased by 2.

A gasp took his attention away from the notifications, and he turned to see that Thorn had swollen to be a fat bush, about 3 feet in diameter, bristling with thorny vine tentacles. The glass container cracked and fell to pieces. He felt Thorn’s pleasure as it stretched its new body, flexing its powerful muscles.

Lyra turned around and kicked Randidly in the shin. “Warn me next time, Jesus.”

Then she paused, tilting her head, and giving him a long look. “And also… I’ve known you for less than a week, Randidly. If you hadn’t come back… it’s not fair to make me cry over someone I’ve known for less than a week.”

Randidly scratched his chin awkwardly. “Why does it matter to you?”

Lyra promptly kicked him in the shin. Then she stormed off. Scratching his head,Randidly turned around shocked. He had received a new notification.

Congratulations! You Soul Plant Lvl 3 has absorbed enough blood to level.

He saw his plant some distance away, along the treeline, ripping through two or three imps.

Congratulations! Your Thorn Lvl 3 is ready to level up. Due to exposure to the forbidden tongue of Ep-Tal, he has gained profound insights into the world. Shall he have mastery of the Land or Sky?

Apparently Thorn had done enough with the tongue to get an extra bonus, huh? As for the choice… Although Thorn flying would be amusing, wasn’t this also a pretty straight forward choice…?

Thorn is now Lvl 4. Magical Aptitude has increased by 1. Brain Function has increased by 1. Particularity has increased by 3. Thorn has learned the skill Dig.

So now it could dig? Shrugging, Randidly looked once more at its Status screen.

Thorn (Blood)

Lvl 4

Survivability: 8

Physicality: 7

Magical Aptitude: 2

Brain Function: 4

Particularity: 7

 

Battle Ability: 11

 

Special Skills: Flexibility, Strangle, Dig

It had certainly been effective at Lvl 1, when it had grown within the skull of the sphinx, so Randidly was hoping for something similar in the future. What was pretty interesting was that its Battle Ability now put it on the same level as something Lvl 11, even though it was only Lvl 4, by its own standards. That was reassuring, although it was hard to tell how accurate that was.

Obviously, Randidly had no level and could handle 100 level 11s. It was a question of quality of the fighter, rather than level. But it served as a decent way to understand strength.

After playing with Thorn a bit, and impressing on it the importance of not eating humans, Randidly left, heading to talk with Daniel and Donny about what was to come. Better invite Sam too, and Decklan and Dozer, because they would be the ones on the front lines…

Randidly grimaced. Why did it seem like the stronger he got, the more people he had to talk to….?

Wasn’t this why he let Donny found the village in the first place….?

****

The group of 6 stayed after The Ghosthound left, Daniel, Donny, Sam, Dozer, Decklan, and Mrs. Hamilton. They stayed silent for several seconds as they listened to his departing footsteps.

The first one to speak was Donny, who turned to Sam. “Have you had a chance to look at the body he brought back?”

Sam grunted. “Yea, and what I’ve seen… Let’s just say that unless you have the strength of Dozer, it’s a real chore to cut the thing up, even the hide. And that was mostly turned to swiss cheese, almost useless now. The bones and claws are a different story, and I have a few ideas about how I can use them…”

Daniel coughed. “He means… if what Randidly says is true, and there is another one of these out there, waiting… can we handle it?”

After a few seconds of thoughtful silence, Sam said. “If we are there to meet it, in formation, probably. But out of all of us… Probably only Dozer, Clarissa, and Lyra can damage it. If we can keep it locked down for long enough, sure.”

The room fell silent at the unspoken truth of that statement; if it came upon them in the night, while they weren’t ready….

Decklan smiled crookedly. “We still have a day. Let’s up the training. Daniel, how much can we improve the dungeon?”

Daniel checked his notes. “...We are currently just short of 9000 SP. by noon, we will get there. If you would prefer we focus on the dungeon, instead of upgrading the Village itself… we can push it up to Lvl 14. That is an almost 3x increase in difficulty. Is that…. What you all want?”

Donny, Dozer, and Decklan made eye contact and nodded. Mrs. Hamilton closed her eyes and shook her head slightly.

“This might not be quick enough,” She said. “But if Ms. Northwind’s group joins us, a lot of them used to be nurses. They could be taught healing palm and become a healing corps. Having a designated healer with each squad would increase the success rate.”

“That’s a good idea,” Daniel said slowly, rubbing his chin. “In addition… I think we should initially just raise the Lvl to 10, to let most people go through it. Even still, I expect some casualties. You can’t account for everything. For the more elite troops… they can wait and head into the Lvl 14 dungeon.”

Donny laughed awkwardly, shaking his head. The rest of the group looked at him, confused.

“It’s not the dungeon plan. Well, not the method. It’s just…” Donny, looking suddenly like the teenager he really was, scratched his ear awkwardly. “Can you believe that we are talking about this? Risking our lives? If this had been two weeks ago…”

Everyone remained silent, as Donny continued to speak. “And yet… I can’t stand still. Because I know that if I wait or hide, something big and mean is eventually going to show up, and I won’t be ready for it. So I train, and risk, just to prepare. It’s like The Ghosthound says, ‘The only thing a spear can do is move forward, thrusting into the future.’ It’s just… strange, how much we’ve changed in such a short amount of time.”

After that, the group dispersed, slowly drifting apart, alone with their thoughts, considering how the world changed. And changed them in the process.

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