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A note from puddles4263

A couple things.

First, I'm very against authors "clarifying" scenes. I think the work should speak for itself. So when I comment, I'm trying to provide an alternate understanding, but I don't mean it as the final say. Each person's reaction is their own to have, and a true interpretation of the story.

Second, I've received a surprising number of messages from people wanting to give me money. As a person who likes money, this is pleasing. So I will probably start work on a Patreon. This is, of course, more work, which doesn't please me. But the idea would be to have 2 tiers of rewrites, which is a lot of work to set up, but should be servicable past that point. 

Ideally, Patreon peeps would have access to an addition number of chapters. Releases would continue as normal, I just need to write a bit more to get ahead.

Finally... due to the first and second things, I'm going to scale back how much I comment here. Mostly because I should just answer with the story itself. But I will still pay attention to it.

Randidly felt the hot, hungry buzz of anger still in his chest, but flowing below that, cooling him swiftly, was a sharp sense of fear, and a prickling of guilt. The anger itself was exceedingly strange. It was the hottest thing he had ever felt, but it simultaneously was so numbing. It was an animating energy, that enraged him and made him heedless. If Ezzie hadn’t staggered into the room, distracting Randidly, would he have continued until he killed Tessa…?

Shaking his head, he forced his mind away from that topic, but was confronted with an equally vicious one; that hatred fueled, focused episode of Agony had increased the skill Lvl by 3, and it only took a dozen or so seconds.

Randidly had always known that mental state influences the speed at which levels were gained, but still… this seemed ridiculous. Was it that it was used on humans then? Or was it just that he truly, desperately wanted to hurt Tessa in that moment, for what she had implied about Sydney?

Either answer was disturbing. And it was one that he would need to answer clearly, in order to continue to grow stronger. He wanted to make use of the most efficient methods. If fighting against humans was the most effective…

If deeply, truly wanting to hurt your enemies was the most effective method….

If losing his morality was the most effective method...

Following a still whitefaced Ezzie, the two of them reached the roof. The apartment building wasn’t the tallest building in the area, but it was one of the highest, and the higher buildings were generally clustered downtown, which was a mile or so away, to the South. Therefore, his current vantage point gave Randidly a very clear view of the surrounding area.

From his observations, Randidly could only come to one conclusion. Franksburg, as it was now, was doomed. It was simply too large to defend effectively. It had been fine when they were only dealing with wandering monsters, but the monster horde would change things, and not for the better. Last night’s casualties, even with the help of the squad from Donnyton, proved that.

So Randidly took that violent lava anger, filled with strange pricklings of ice, still alive in his gut, and used it. He reached within himself, felt the source of his mana, the same source that he had so much trouble controlling with the grace of Lyra, and prodded it gently.

As he expected, it stoically had no response.

Grinning to himself, Randidly lamented this fact. If he could only figure out how to replicate Lyra’s skills…

But that was not his path, he knew. His path lay elsewhere. And he could only keep his eyes on the ground and move forward, lest he lose his grip on the weapons that he did have.

So this time, he grabbed his mana source, and pulled, dragging every drop of mana he could out. And then, with eyes burning emerald, he raised his hands.

****

Lucifer watched the caravan for Donnyton leave, his face serious.

Derek Quinn rubbed the stump of his left arm and asked. “...Did you also want to go?”

After a long time, Lucifer nodded slowly. “It was, a tempting offer. Luckily most of the Freedom Fighters have family here, or else….”

“At least they recruited mostly from the the University, and other odd jobs.” Derek Quinn commented, but Lucifer’s reaction of chuckling confused him.

“What’s so-”

But before he could finish the question the earth beneath their feet rumbled dangerously, the whole area quaking. Before either of them could even respond, the area to their immediate left and right erupted, thorny vines surging upwards, twisting and twining, snaking amongst each other.

Shuddering, the earth in some places cracked and fell away, revealing more thorny vines, some as thick as an adult male’s torso, with viciously sharp thorns that stuck outward like curved bayonets.

As they watched, aghast, these thorn walls, which were about 8 feet high, began to spread to the left and right, along the perimeter of their defenses. As it continued on, the height dropped, only reaching around 5 and a half feet at its lowest, but the wall of thorns ran immediately adjacent to their previous defenses, bolstering them immensely.

And at those locations where the Franksburg government had seen fit to put small gates, the walls split allowing continued passage.

Their view of the departing caravan, through the main gate, remained unchanged. Barely a ripple of reaction could be seen from them, as if they had been expecting this all along.

Even Lucifer, in that moment, felt a sliver of fear. Was this the type of world this was becoming…?

***

Congratulations! You have created an Inspired Wall of Thorns. Rampart of Thorns has been created.

Congratulations, Wall of Thorns has increased to Lvl 6.

Congratulations, Wall of Thorns has increased to Lvl 7.

Warning, all mana has been depleted. Mana will not regenerate for 24 hours.

Randidly lowered his hands, feeling profoundly drained, but satisfied. Almost reflexively, he removed a mana potion from his bag, but then smiled bitterly at it, putting it away.

“Extraordinary. I had wondered who had wandered into my village, but-”

Randidly turned towards the voice and found a bland faced woman standing there, smiling slightly at him, which must be the Franksburg’s spirit guide. What Randidly didn’t expect was that when he met her eyes, the woman would gasp, and take several steps towards him.

“You…! You possess… You’ve slain a Tribulation?!?! But why-. You don’t yet have a class?!?!” The woman’s voice transformed from shocked, to nonplussed, to eager, to…. almost hungry over the course of several seconds.

Her eyes bright, she clasped Randidly’s hands, pressing herself closer to him. “Allow me to grant you the godly class you deserve. Just join my village, and I can make sure that you will be unrivaled in strength in this Zone-”

“I refuse.” Randidly said simply, his eyes narrowing, as several things clicked into place in his head.

Comments from Nul and the Neighboring town’s Spirit about two halves of a whole.

A Spirit, and a matching Tribulation.

Nul suddenly so eager to converse with Randidly, and then refusing to meet with him after Randidly continued to wait on getting a class.

The peculiar inactivity from their neighbor town.

The hunger in this town spirit’s eyes as she looked at him.

If the Spirit and Tribulation were somehow connected, and meant to become one, the system made a little more sense. Not in terms of the survival rate of Newbie Villages, but at least in terms of the motivation. The Tribulation wanted to continue living, and needed something from the village.

But a village would also gain… something by vanquishing the Tribulation. Or another villages tribulation. Or perhaps even another village.

But what exactly were they trying to obtain…?

Randidly ignored Franksburg’s Spirit and walked away. But one phrase that she spat at his back, once it was clear Randidly was uninterested, stuck in his mind.

“Fool. You and your kind are doomed to starve. You will come crawling back, and think I will help you then? Ha!”

****

Kim-Lath, The Tribulation of many faces, turned and graced Lyra with a warm smile, still using Randidly’s face. Lyra felt a small, warm flutter in her heart from it, even as she knew she was being foolish.

“Have you reconsidered the favor I asked for?” Kim-Lath asked sweetly, delicately cutting off the edge of the wolverine steak and raising it to his (Its, Lyra reminded herself) lips. They had taken to having dinner every other night, chatting about innocuous things.

Almost like a date.

But just like Lyra’s languid enjoyment masked a viciously exacting suspicion, so too Kim-Lath’s innocent banter hid a sinister agenda. Not for a moment did Lyra think she wasn’t being used. She just couldn’t quite figure out how. And honestly, Randidly presenting a smiling face was an amusing diversion.

Kim-Lath had finally tipped its hand slightly at their last dinner, where it had casually, too casually, asked to be shown around the village. Lyra had demurred, going into a long rant about how annoying it was to deal with the people of Donnyton. Which it increasingly was.

FIrst of all, they were entirely too gracious and respectful towards her. She had been amused by how they associated her with Randidly initially, but as they suddenly treated her as nothing more than…. some freak pet of his that could perform amazing tricks of magic, it had really started to grate on her.

Second, all they wanted to do was grow stronger. And yes, that was important. But you needed to take some time and enjoy yourself a little. Twisting yourself too tightly was a fast way of burning out, or turning super evil, or something. Although Lyra couldn’t deny that a look of cruelty in Randidly’s eyes, some rough play between them… was oddly arousing.

Probably a little intimate to have Kimmy act out with her, Lyra lamented.

Ultimately, Kim-Lath had taken Lyra’s rejection without comment, receiving it with a smile. But what was surprising was that he had brought it up once more.

“...I think not,” Lyra said, abruptly very tired of this game. If she hadn’t been almost 100% sure this was simply a projection, and not the real body, she would have attacked and tried to kill it.

But Kim-Lath’s response surprised her. “Then how about the village nextdoor? I simply would like to see how creatures like you live.”

Lyra thought about it, and couldn’t really find a reason why she shouldn’t. She also was slightly curious how Ellaine was doing, even if she simultaneously hoped that Kal and Vivian needed to resort to back alley handjobs to get by. But the frustrating part about the two of them was that they always seemed to land smugly on their feet, smiling and charming.

“...You know what? Sure.” Lyra said, nodding and stretching. She was due for some exercise anyway. Not that she really needed it. The system enhanced world had almost everyone looking fit and toned. Honestly, Lyra wished staying the correct balance of curvy, slender, and toned had been as easy while she had been acting. “Wait here though, I want to check something quickly.”

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