It was a time of three long weeks, filled with dread. Simon put off his travels for a Class, instead waiting within the sphere of influence of his spring, just hoping that nothing would change around him. The monsters around him grew abruptly weaker too, and then abruptly stronger, as dungeons came into being around the 4 towns.
Then one of the towns fell to its Tribulation, and became another dungeon they had to worry about.
From Simon’s position, there was a village directly West, that was the village founded from the golden coin Simon earned. Then there was another village to his North and a bit West, which was the closest one to him. Then directly north of Simon, and North of the other village, was the new fallen Newbie Village, which became a dungeon. The final Newbie Village was more East of Simon than anything else, the farthest away. But all three surviving villages worked together to address the new problems.
Simon found himself very quickly outclassed by the level of monsters in the surrounding areas, as he didn’t have a Class to improve. So he isolated himself further. It seemed the golden lilies kept monsters away, so Simon stayed put, hoarding more and more of his Mending Liquid, learning Refine and turning it into something much more potent.
After three weeks, there was another notification.
The Tier III Raid Boss has been slain by Lucifer! In the wake of its passage, the Boss has passed onto Lucifer an Ancient Rarity piece of equipment.
Your Zone has opened up to the worlds above. Two Champions descend into your Zone. These Champions are randomly determined. Fulfilling quests and services for the Champions grants increased experience accumulation and skill growth. These Champions stand opposed to one another. Your Zone will not progress until one Champion has triumphed in its war against the other.
The first Champion to descend to your Zone is the Wild Rider. A loner and more at home with animals than people, the Wild Rider’s true bond is only with his steed, the Ivory Stag. Pledging to the Wild Rider will immediately grant the Soul Bond Skill.
The second Champion to descend to your Zone is the Skeleton Knight. Brutal and efficient, the Skeleton Knight prizes order and discipline above all else. Pledging to the Skeleton Knight will immediately grant the Ancient Stamina Skill.
The Wild Rider will be marked with a green pillar of light for two weeks. The Skeleton Knight will be marked with a grey pillar of light for two weeks. Good Luck, and choose your Champion carefully, for they will shape your Zone.
Above him, Simon could look and see the green pillar of light very close. It seemed to be beyond the villages, but still quite close. Meanwhile, the grey pillar of light was much farther away, more to the South and East.
While undoubtedly needing a Class, Simon was also tempted by the thoughts of Skills by pledging to the two Champions. But mostly he was drawn to the idea of the Wild Rider. Not only was it closer, but having a Soul Bond with a monster seemed rather interesting…
Even through the thick fear and worry that had gripped his heart tightly since arriving at this place, Simon felt a glimmer of hope. Perhaps this world, this world changed by the System, wasn’t so bad after all.
But still, the caution won out. Over the next several weeks, Simon simply communicated with the traders who came through his spring, which had become something of a trading outpost, with several huts built for the people who passed through. Simon learned about the two Champions.
To the Southeast, the Skeleton Knights had a castle in the middle of the badlands, which most people had avoided anyway, but they wanted to explore in the future to trade with the other villages. He had an army of lesser skeletons too, but most of those were deployed to the South, struggling against Donnyton and Franksburg.
Meanwhile, the Wild Rider was very close to these villages, and had taken over suppressing the nearby dungeon. It was unclear from looking at the Wild Rider whether it was a man or a woman, and they spoke only sparingly, but they were fair and respectful. Trade could be conducted with them, and traveling in and out of their territory was fine.
There were some drawbacks to both, in the form of new and more powerful monster spawns in the surrounding area, some of which obeyed the Champions, but others which did not. It made sense that the Wild Rider would bring more monsters suitable for riding, but why did the Skeleton Knight fill the badlands with zombies and crypt spiders…?
The other news was mostly what Simon thought of as propaganda, coming from the Southeast, talking about the heroic battle to slay the Tier III Raid Boss. Rumor had it that some of the “Classers” from the area were already at level 40, approaching 50, and could slay a normal Raid Boss with one hand.
Both of Donnyton and Franksburg were upgraded villages, and both had their strengths. Donnyton was filled with interesting characters, who led their squads to victory time and time again, hunting in the badlands. Even the Skeleton Knight was on his back foot against them, and peace talks had begun.
Meanwhile, Franksburg had Lucifer, the man who slew the Tier III Raid Boss. Travelers claimed that the Ancient Rarity equipment he obtained was a cloak of darkness that allowed him to teleport.
Simon was torn between believing them, because of the System, and calling them crazy.
But it did serve as… something of a spark. So Simon set his goals, and then trained and trained, grinding up to the goals he set for himself. After two long, arduous months, he finally reached those goals, and looked nervously at his status screen.
Health(/R per hour): 67/67 (33.5)
Mana(/R per hour): 108/108 (53)
Stam(/R per min): 43/43 (8)
Skills: Chosen of the Golden Lily Spring Lvl 175, Bash Resistance Lvl 15, Stab Resistance Lvl 6, Blood Clotting Lvl 22, Crushing Grip Lvl 18, Mana Bolt Lvl 40, Running Lvl 23, Physical Fitness Lvl 8, Bubble Lvl 26, First Aid Lvl 32, Meditation Lvl 31, Mana Shield Lvl 23, Herbalism Lvl 19, Healing Palm Lvl 17, Dodge Lvl 19, Bloom of the Golden Lily Lvl 5, Refine Lvl 20, Sense Ailment Lvl 33, Sixth Sense Lvl 22, Mending Stream Lvl 45, Water Jet Lvl 28, Water Manipulation Lvl 15
Scratching his head, Simon wondered whether this would be enough. He had put a lot into his Physical Stats, just so he wasn’t too imbalanced, but-
He couldn’t wait much longer. The two Champions had been here for months now, marshalling their forces, recruiting people. They didn’t really mind what you did once you pledged, but if they called you, you had to come to battle, where you would receive increased experience and skill gains. Simon needed that, to catch up, even if he could only support. It was time.
A noise made Simon look up. Reflexively, his Sixth Sense skill flared to work, scanning, but there didn’t appear to be any danger. Instead… it felt like some sort of opportunity. Here, on the day he planned on finally leaving, an opportunity…?
Bemused, Simon Bliss trotted forward, out of his small area, carefully moving through the underbrush. Rather than a monster, like Simon had worried, it was a person, collapsed on the ground.
Immediately, Simon sensed something was wrong based on the posture. In addition, the man’s shoulder appeared to be bleeding, and… his shoes were stolen? What sorta asshole monsters-
This thought focused Simon’s attention once more. He carefully scanned the surrounding area, looking for the culprit. The man wouldn’t have just been… dumped here, would he…?
But looking at the man with the perspective of his earlier thoughts, Simon’s heart sank. Of course, he must have had a good sort of equipment as footwear, and had been beaten and left to die. Or even beaten, where he had wandered here, looking for Simon for aid, for healing…
The man had black hair to his shoulders, and was wearing some strange sort of leather garb. Perhaps he was related to the Wild Rider…?
A twig snapped nearby, and Simon jumped, his Sixth Sense scanning wildly, consuming his Stamina without a thought. But it was nothing, just a small animal. Timidly, Simon crept forward, out of the cover of the trees, towards the man. Once he was in range, Simon activated Sense Ailment, his senses extending towards the man.
Immediately his senses recoiled, and Simon was sent reeling, his mind nearly splitting from the vicious pain that tore through him. His Sense Ailment didn’t give him much traditional information, it simply reproduced the ails the other was feeling in Simon’s body, at only a fraction. None of the other pains, even complex fractures that left a grown man crying, had even swayed Simon, who admitted his tolerance for pain was pretty low.
The fact he was experiencing that sort of head pain was unimaginable. Some sort of head trauma…?
More fearful for the man’s life now than he was nervous, Simon hurried closer, rolling him over. It looked like the man hadn’t shaven in a few days, but it was hard to tell with all the dried blood on his face. In addition, there was a pretty deep wound on his stomach, which would need looked at.
Simon grimaced. He really, truly was trying to leave his safe haven. He couldn’t in good conscious, just leave the man there, right?