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A note from puddles4263

5/8

Maybe he was spoiled from acting solely within the theater of a Zone for the past several years, but Randidly found himself somewhat stunned by the sheer size of Tellus. Once again, the powers that be in the Central Domain didn’t see fit to assist their team with transportation, and they were left largely to their own devices.

This point at least, Randidly understood. It seemed that the teleportation locations acted off of an Aether variant and that it was much more difficult to gather such energy than it had been in the past. Although not irreplaceable, the energy was theoretically finite, especially if they weren’t able to regain the Spear-source relatively quickly. Perhaps if they had more money to their name…

Randidly wondered idly why neither Azriel or Helen seemed to possess any money. Of course, he didn’t expect a single thing from Silo; the bastard probably gave his last few coins to a three-legged dog.

To the guy’s credit though, he was capable enough in those few times they encountered monsters while traveling. His moves all seemed to be related to the image of a bright light and powerful flashes. It didn't’ seem particularly… impressive in all honesty, but there was a strange wariness that Randidly felt when he watched the other man move. Something was lurking in that image.

Well, it was somewhat hard to tell. No matter how close those levels may be, Randidly knew that there was some distance between them. One benefit of the training with Azriel and Helen was that he was much more nuanced in his understanding of spear techniques. Helen repeatedly drilled those lessons into his head.

If he misread her approach…

And he had, over and over again. Until finally, something clicked.

Strangely, he had immediately gained several Levels in Visualization afterward. It made him look forward to how the passive Skill could help him as he gained more Levels in it.

To Randidly’s surprise, they weren’t really ambushed all that often by monsters on their travel. On his initial walk to Niergem, he hadn’t thought much of it, but the trek to the capital and then South from there really hammered the lack of monsters home in his mind. When he asked about it, Azriel gave him a weird look.

“The energy is leaving, so monsters no longer spawn. The only way they can reproduce is the old-fashioned way. There are areas where monster populations are expanding due to this reason, but in most places… they weren’t designed to live here.”

After two days of travel, the group arrived at the Southern Coast of the Central Domain. It took some doing to locate the particular military base, and waiting there was only more disappointment; their Sergeant, Flail Platton, was currently across the sea and performing insurgency operations.

Randidly was trying to figure out how to convince the group to just go across anyway when Silo spoke.

“Perhaps… waiting is definitely not the best option. Although it is difficult… I believe was should cross to the Southern Domain and search for Sergeant Platton there.”

“The seas are infested with monsters, are they not?” Skarch asked curiously.

Silo nodded.

To everyone’s surprise, Skarch smiled widely. “How exciting.”

****

Silo Rune leaned back against the frame of the small wooden vessel. With good weather, they would make landfall on the other side of the sea in five days. It was slow going, but it gave Silo more chances to finally check the treasure he had been given by his uncles. Time and time again he had been disciplined until he understood how precious it was, so he was loathe to use it.

But this was the time. Everything they had learned pointed to this. They would not get another chance. With the Spear-source captured, the higher-ups would not pay much attention to the strength of spear users until it was too late. And by then…

Well, Silo hoped to finally break that impossible barrier. But that was a long ways away now.

So at the moment, he took his turn resting in the small dark cabin in the boat and laid down on the hammock. The room was barely larger than a closet, but it was the only place with an privacy on the boat. Although the military sympathized with their plight, Silo could tell that both Sergeant Platton’s absence and the lack of forthcoming assistance weren’t entirely natural.

Althumber appeared to have extended his reach even here.

Pressing his eyes shut, Silo tried to wipe his mind clear of any thoughts of his adversary. The other man was weak. Before absolute power… nothing mattered. For the people that he needed to protect, Silo would do anything. Even traveling down this road towards becoming a monster.

Carefully, Silo produced a small seashell case from his interspatial pouch. With trembling hands, he opened the case. A ring sat there, a small white gold band with a jet black stone. Shivering, Silo reached down and wrapped his fingers around it.

There was a second of disorientation, and then he felt something slam into his psyche.

Congratulations! Your Skill Corruption Resistance has become Level 49!

Congratulations! You have reached Level 31! +4 Stats distributed between Endurance, Strength, Agility, and Focus, +5 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Physical Stat. +18 Health, +6 Mana, +13 Stamina. Your Skill Level for Blighted Slash has mutated to Level 54! Your Skill Level for Forsaken Thrust has mutated to Level 62!

Congratulations! You have reached Level 32! +4 Stats distributed between Endurance, Strength, Agility, and Focus, +5 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Physical Stat. +18 Health, +6 Mana, +13 Stamina. Your Skill Level for Sadistic Violence Mastery has mutated to Level 31! Your Skill Level for Forsaken Thrust has mutated to Level 68!

Congratulations! You have reached Level 33! +4 Stats distributed between Endurance, Strength, Agility, and Focus, +5 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Physical Stat. +18 Health, +6 Mana, +13 Stamina. Your Skill Level for Corrupted Physique has mutated to Level 80!

Congratulations! You have reached Level 34! +4 Stats distributed between Endurance, Strength, Agility, and Focus, +5 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Physical Stat. +18 Health, +6 Mana, +13 Stamina. Your Skill Level for Corrupted Physique has mutated to Level 82! Your Skill Level for Blighted Slash has mutated to Level 61!

Congratulations! You have reached Level 35! +4 Stats distributed between Endurance, Strength, Agility, and Focus, +5 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Physical Stat. +18 Health, +6 Mana, +13 Stamina. Your Skill Level for Blighted Slash has mutated to Level 65! Your Skill Level for Weight of the Rotten Hero has mutated to Level 19!

Finally, the sense of sickness overwhelmed Silo’s resistance and his hand sprang open. The ring fell to the wooden ground with a thunk. He tried to move quickly, but Silo couldn’t grab the bucket and pull it over fast enough; some of his vomit spilled over the edges and slopped to the ground near the ring.

All the while, that jet black stone drew the eye, sublime and twisted.

Shuddering, Silo focused on light. Pure, clean, healing light. He thought about his Skills Brilliant Advance and Shining Strike. It was… so hard to remember what each light looked like, what each felt like. It seemed like every time he relied on the stone, his light was driven farther away and he had to work harder to bring it back.

But his uncles were adamant. He must hide this treasure. If Silo was slowly corrupted by its influence, imagine how a lesser man would be swayed by it. Perhaps they wouldn’t even be able to cope.

After barely managing to clean up his sick, Silo slumped onto the cot and felt sleep calling him. But he ripped into his lip with his teeth, barely managing to keep him awake. Groggy and still trembling, he used a small piece of cloth to pick the ring off the ground and put it back in the seashell case. Only when the case was safely stored within his interspatial pouch was he able to relax.

Taking deep gulping breaths, Silo distributed his stats while staring up at the dark wood of the ceiling. It was just a good thing that he didn’t break into a new tens digit in Level: the worst part of the process was gaining new Skills. Every time it happened, he felt something break in his old Class.

The Illuminating Spear.

Could it really be called that any longer…?

Silo was barely managing to maintain an image strong enough to be called an Adept with his light images. A sudden thought struck him. He rolled over and pressed his nose to the ground.

Perhaps… perhaps Althumber was right. He was a fraud. After all, it was not his own Class that had given him the power to defeat Althumber.

He had relied one of his corrupted Skills. And when he had used it…

People had praised him, stating that he was just a hair away from becoming a Pontiff, able to manipulate reality solely through the exercise of his images. It was… impossible. Why were his images so strong, without him every working on refining them?

The answer was obviously that the images were within the ring already, and Silo was absorbing part of it. A brief check showed that his Heretic Path had risen to Heretic Path XXIX. Another Judgement would come soon. He closed his eyes.

There were so many people to protect. So many enemies around him. So many hangers-on who needed him… And he had to manage everything alone. Without him, this world would perish.

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