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Randidly’s eyes quickly scanned through the notifications.

Congratulations! Your Soul-Skill Spear of Rot Mastery has reached Lvl 500! Your path is long and winding, but you find yourself wandering deeper into the darker corners of the forest, where the incestuous growth and cannibalization of bacteria and fungus reigns supreme. Your feet desire direction!

You look at the dank rot. What do you see? What is Rot?

Warning, you have tread too long on the Path of the Heretic. Heretic V is now open to you. For this, you must face Judgement. Due to your affiliation with the Patron of Ash, the Judgement of the Patron of Frostbite descends. Know that even if you endure through the Judgement, more will follow. Proceed directly to the nearest Village and speak with the Spirit to repent.

Warning! In a nearby area, a Judgement of Frostbite descends! If you are not the one who caused this Judgement to descend, your life can be preserved by staying out of the way of the Judgement, and by not interfering with its quest. God Speed.

Randidly was standing in a grove of trees on a slope, and in the small area below him, between where he was and the monster horde, a large glowing circle of sigils appeared in the air. They cast a strange blue light on the area, that even attracted the attention of the monsters. As soon as they saw it, they fled, running into the hills. The light condensed into a glowing figure, standing tall on the small hill.

After a few seconds, the light faded away, revealing a tall creature covered in white hair. To Randidly’s eyes, it looked like a 3 meter tall yeti, its chest probably as wide across as the hood of a car. Judgement of Frostbite, Lvl 37 hung over its head. But in the same way that Ep-Tal had, this one’s name was glowing yellow.

And its aura reeked of danger.

Randidly leveled his spear with a grin, a manic light in his eyes, but before he could advance, another notification popped up, a repeat.

You look at the dank rot. What do you see? What is Rot?

Was it waiting for him to actually answer…?

Randidly looked at the strange Yeti, which pounded the ground, with its fists. Several small, pudgy versions of itself crawled up out of the ground, only about half as tall as a man, but the little ones began to point, spraying cones of frost that froze the nearby earth.

As the slowly spreading ring of frost began to take form, Randidly looked directly into the cold blue gaze of the Yeti. It raised its huge, furred hand and beckoned. It was, Randidly knew from the Yeti’s haughty expression, an invitation to die.

“This Rot…” Randidly whispered. “Is fertilizer. It is the means by which I will grow.”

If you crave something, take it.

“I will devour it.”

Your feet begin to move, taking you on the path of Consumption and Growth. You have learned the skill Bacterial Regeneration Lvl 1.

Bacterial Regeneration: Passive skill. Adds an additional 1 point of regeneration per hour of Health and Mana, and 1 point of regeneration per minute of Stamina, per skill level. Effect doubles for 1 hour after eating.

Grinning, Randidly removed a small roll from his satchel and began to eat. No point in wasting the extra value, even if it would amount to very little right now. Seeing that Randidly didn’t appear to be moving, the Yeti roared, another two dozen or so little Yetis popping up out of the ground.

Randidly wondered where they were coming from. And as he chewed his roll, he dearly wished he had mana right now. Putting an Incendiary Bolt through the smug face of the Yeti would give him a very profound sense of satisfaction.

Still, he would work with the tools he had. His grip on the Spine-Spear tightened.

****

Lyra gazed from Kal to Constance, who was currently being given first aid by Vivian.

“After The Ghosthound ripped out his tongue and sent his insects in to eat his vocal cords,” Kal said, glaring at Lyra, “..That’s when Babi Taka struck. She already controlled a pretty large political faction, due to her skill, and so without Constance’s skill, Kraig couldn’t handle them all alone. He’s been beaten and squirreled off somewhere too. And everyday they lock us up here, and come to cut out his tongue again, before the system can heal it. Without his voice to activate the skills….”

“What skill does Babi Taka have?” Lyra asked, a kernel of wariness rising in her chest.

Kal shrugged. “It’s some sort of replication skill. Let’s her create a copy of any item. The smaller, and less enhanced by the system it is, the easier it is. She’s been keeping the police force supplied with ammo, which is why they are behind her. And also…”

Kal glanced at Constance, who sat stoically with his eyes closed, and Lyra snorted.

“And because Constance wasn’t exactly a popular ruler while he could speak, huh? Why does she even leave him alive anyway? If something happened and his tongue grew back_”

Constance finally reacted, opening his eyes and gazing at Lyra with a reproachful look. She winked in response. “No need to flash the bedroom eyes at me, honey; you aren’t my type. And I’m sure you’ve learned a few dozen lessons from having your tongue cut out everyday, and wouldn’t dream of abusing your powers ever again. Yadda yada.”

Vivian, still frowning, turned from her ministrations. “Constance is kept alive because he’s the village chieftain. There are… consequences for the village chieftain dying, it is said. But the threat of it keeps the Town Spirit in line, and allows Babi Taka to control the SP too, so it’s a calculated risk, leaving him alive.”

‘Ah’ Lyra thought. ‘That explains where fake Randidly dashed off to.’

She could still distantly sense the projected illusion of Kim-Lath, moving through the city. See how people live, huh…? If it wasn’t after the village chieftain, then it was moving after the Village Spirit…?

Clapping her hands, Lyra rewarded everyone around her with a sunny smile. “Well, since it looks like tonight is going to be a roller coaster ride, we might as well be the first group to set off a firework.”

Walking casually, while Kal and Vivian watched with mounting horror, Lyra walked up to the door, raised her hand, and casually pointed a finger gun at the lock.

“Bang.”

The wood splintered and shattered, the hinges ripped from the wall. The doors collapsed in a pile of dust, and Lyra stepped through, finding two shocked guards, both at least well trained enough to reach for their side arms.

Before they could bring the pistols to bear though, Lyra crossed her arms, using her elbows as a support, pointing a finger gun at each of the men. Recently, in Donnyton, there had been a growing philosophical movement in regards to the morality of killing another man. Sure, they killed monsters, but with the looming arrival of the connection with another village, was killing another intelligent being acceptable?

Lyra wasn’t a philosopher, but she had watched Randidly move through the monster horde on that first night, blood blooming around him like crimson lillies, wilting in the next second, leaving nothing but death. And although the ground stunk for hours afterward, she had never forgotten how beautiful it was.

“Bang.”

Both heads of the police split like sledgehammered melons, destroyed by her Mana Bullet skill. She even received a skill level.

She looked over her shoulder at the wide eyed trio behind her, smiling slightly. “Ready for your daring rescue, princesses?”

After a short silence, and several exclamations, they followed, almost unwillingly. They proceeded down the tower, Lyra skipping and hopping and killing every guard they came across, except one.

It was the skinniest person they had seen in police riot gear, and Lyra was tired of wandering around without a purpose, so she cut off his hands to ensure he wouldn’t try anything funny, and spent a very satisfying 15 minutes alone in a room with him, while Lyra’s three princesses waited outside.

Lyra had a cruel upbringing, and she professionally had learned to act like the person the viewer wanted to see. She could be anything. Due to her… admitted fixation on Randidly, she had kept to herself in Donnyton, keeping people away from the very sharp edges of her personality. But now… in this other town, after Randidly had fled south to get away from her attention...

Based on how quickly the man broke into tears, begging for mercy, Lyra admitted to herself she might be bottling up some emotions related to Randidly, and they weren’t positive ones. But she left the room with the location of Kraig, the black man who had been Police Lieutenant before the system came, which mellowed out her Princesses’ grumbles considerably.

Once they knew he was located on the 10th floor, Lyra ballsily just took the elevator down, not bothering with anything else. Just as she expected, they were greeted by a face of absolute surprise when they came off the elevator and walked around the corner, finding the guard station.

As they scrambled to their feet, Lyra waved her hand, and birds formed of mana swooped forward, ripping through their necks. Their eyes dimming, they fell to the ground. Vivian vomited in the corner of the hallway as Lyra bent over and rummaged through the body’s pockets.

When they opened the door, they found Kraig chained to a chair, barely conscious. Even Constance moved to his side, his face concerned.

Lyra removed a mana potion and a health potion from her pocket, drinking the former and passing the latter to Vivian, who began dripping it into Kraig’s lips.

“Princess number 4, get~” Lyra said in a pleased tone.

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