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A note from puddles4263

4/5

Congratulations! You have reached Level 2! +5 Stats distributed between Vitality, Perception, Resist, Intelligence, and Control, +3 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Mental Stat. +1 to a Physical Defense Stat. +1 to a Mental Support Stat. +1 Control. +20 Health, +24 Mana, +23 Stamina, +.5 to all Regenerations! +1 to Health and Stamina Regeneration! +20 Progenitor’s Influence.

Congratulations! You have reached Level 3! +5 Stats distributed between Vitality, Perception, Resist, Intelligence, and Control, +3 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Mental Stat. +1 to a Physical Defense Stat. +1 to a Mental Support Stat. +1 Control. +20 Health, +24 Mana, +23 Stamina, +.5 to all Regenerations! +1 to Health and Stamina Regeneration! +20 Progenitor’s Influence.

Luckily for Randidly, the way the System worked meant that he received double as much experience for the deaths of the cats once he reached Level 2, and that was then enough to push him to Level 3 before the end of the battle, earning him an… almost intimidating amount of stats.

No wonder so many people went for this Class thing. It was incredibly useful.

That wasn’t all the notifications he had received from the fight, either.

After being summoned, the stats of the Strength Grove Defenders has slightly increased! Punching power increased! Health slightly increased! They have learned the Skill Grappling Mastery! It has increased to Level 20!

The gorilla things might have looked rather silly, but they were basically walking wrecking balls, absolutely demolishing any enemies they came in contact with. They might be relatively smaller than people, but it wasn’t that much smaller, and they were at least as tall on their legs as a cat was on all fours, putting them in perfect position to pummel the resistance out of the cats.

And they were a very necessary part of the reason that the group held out. All told, they probably were forced to kill a little over 200 of the fuckers before they became wary and retreated. Which probably meant they would need to face a boss soon, but… Randidly was much more pleased that he had finally leveled up, so he didn’t really get annoyed by the coming fight all that much.

Perhaps this fight would even give them a clue with which they could look for the Key of Death, which was unlikely, but it would be nice.

Under Rose’s direction, the group moved forward in a much more discernable formation, prepared for a second surprise attack. None came, and the group just explored the huge cathedral, taking more than an hour to cross the distance to the front doors, which had broken and fallen, letting them out into the air.

Randidly looked around. The cathedral was located on a low hill, surrounded by similar rolling hills if a bit smaller than the one they were currently on. Below them, a few miles away, there was a river and flowed off towards the horizon. It was night, but in the sky, Randidly could see several small tears, probably made when he had lashed out at the Raid Dungeon using Aether Manipulation.

Grimacing, he turned away from those and looked at the other landmarks that dotted the horizon. Randidly spun on his heel, then leaped up and climbed the cathedral, so he could get a better look.

This turned out to be a lot harder than it had seemed, simply because of how long it took to climb the enormous building, but eventually, Randidly sat on top of it, scanning the horizon. There were three of these strange things, and honestly… it was good enough of a clue for Randidly, as to where to go next.

They were strange towards, but extremely… almost lumpy at the top, and haphazard. It honestly looked like someone had speared a giant beehive and then driven the weapon into the ground, holding the beehive aloft. There was a strange monstrousness to the shape of it, something that made Randidly sure that this was not created by people.

One even appeared to be rather near them, and Randidly made a mental note to head in that direction. Clicking his tongue, Randidly started the long climb back towards the ground.

****

Drake slowly sipped at the bowl of soup that was given to him, his eyes on the ring of stones just outside the fire ring. To give the illusion that he was lost in thought, but also not blinding himself for a few precious seconds by staring directly into it, in case some other monster attacked.

Due to him being close to a Level already, Drake had gained two levels in the previous clash the cats, which was pleasing. He even gained about a dozen Skill Levels, fighting for that time, defending against the cats flanking tactics. But his mind couldn’t dwell on these happy thoughts, because it was focused on other matters; his fellow team members.

The Ghosthound was obviously the focus of most of Drake’s scrutiny because he looked with the purpose of knowing these fighters, should they ever end up on opposite sides. But contrary to what Drake expected, the Ghosthound had stayed rather passive, allowing other people to fight at the front, while he had supported with his roots… and also with those strange apes.

Shivering, Drake scooped another bite of soup into his mouth. Those three pets that the Ghosthound had summoned had torn the cats apart limb from limb. Although they weren’t particularly proficient at catching them, or controlling their bodies, once they had their hands on an enemy…

The Ghosthound also seemed completely unconcerned while those three were fighting, which meant that his Control stat was either extremely high, perhaps even approaching 200, or that they were independent entities. Which had pros and cons associated with it, but the cons were that trying to fight the Ghosthound would clearly be like fighting multiple people at once.

Couple that with the fact that his true strength was still hidden… Drake could finally understand why Copernicus urged Sydney towards being peaceful, especially now.

Of course, Sydney wasn’t so foolish as to start a real war or something. But there were more and less aggressive ways to deal with Donnyton’s growing share of the armor market and in the folktales of the Zone. For now, Sydney had remained passive. This man was a large part of that reason.

Drake sighed, burying the budding antagonism inside himself. It was pointless, and he was a professional. But still, examining these powerful individuals was a once in a lifetime chance. He would make use of it.

In terms of Ptolemy and Clarissa, Drake basically just marked them down as immediate targets. It remained to be seen whether either of them possessed any techniques that could devastate an expert, but in terms of destructive mage power, East End had nothing close. Coppernicus specialized in curses, which was useful, but not as useful as striking a squad with lightning.

Thea was a bit mystifying to Drake, because sometimes she made him feel a thread of fear with her strikes, and other times she appeared extremely clumsy. It almost seemed as if she had recently experienced a growth spurt or something, and her body was a little off in terms of fighting. But if that improved…

And also, the bear was a freight train of power. Thea didn’t need to do much to pull her own weight with that thing here.

Lucifer was definitely powerful but unexciting. Drake had the same evaluation for Ace. But he couldn’t help but notice that neither of them was pushing themselves. There were further depths there, to plum, to figure them out. For now, Drake simply waited.

Alana was exactly what she was billed as: the leader of Donnyton’s First Squad. Whether it be in timing, fighting power, or Skill use, she was almost flawless, doing about double as much as any of the other frontline fighters. Although that was partially due to the fact that aside from Drake, the rest of them seemed to care little for defense, and instead focused on out attacking the enemy.

Which was fine against enemies at this level, but when they faced something stronger…

Finishing his bowl, he stood and offered the empty thing to Rose, who nodded and accepted it. Rose was also what Drake had expected, but what he hadn’t expected was that Rose and Dauntless would spend very little time together. They almost seemed relieved, to have this chance apart. Perhaps a chance worth exploiting? Or….

“Whatcha looking at?”

Drake pivoted, hand going to his sword, to find Annie standing there, smiling at him innocently. Of everyone, even between her and the Ghosthound, Annie was the one who truly made Drake feel the most fear.

Because ultimately, the Ghosthound was a young man with simple, direct motivations. He might have the most power, and the most versatility, but Drake was confident that he could avoid a conflict with the Ghosthound by staying behind certain dotted lines, and keeping his head down.

Meanwhile, when Drake met Annie’s eyes, he saw that she had picked apart what he was doing, and even now was slowly flaying away the top layer of his thoughts, so she could dig down into why. She was capricious, loyal, but without any scrap of hesitation when it came to making hard decisions.

This, in addition to the fact that she moved so quickly that he almost immediately lost track of her location, meant she was the opposite of what Clarissa was: a being designed to take out a powerful Classer.

“The other squad members,” Drake said stiffly. Honesty was best here. She could probably sense his genuine attitude, and perhaps that would throw her off a bit. “Everyone is… very strong.”

Laughing, Annie patted his back, her eyes still examining him closely. “Examine away, Mr. Drake. But try to keep it professional, or my boyfriend will kill you when we get out of this.”

Then she sashayed away, and Drake looked back to the ground, closing his eyes.

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puddles4263

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