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The sun was already descending to hide behind the Iceclaw mountains to the west when Grendel finished instructing his orc minions. Their orders were simple. Do not get near the human town, do not kill any humans but capture instead. With the orcs out of the way, he walked back to the road and then in the direction of the town gates. He could see a lot of humans gathered over the walls and on top of the gatehouse. Among them his main target, the Guild Master.

The adventurer's guild was an organization that connected people with combat-oriented jobs and the wanderlust to go beyond the safety net of the human town with the people that needed things done, the requesters. The main job of adventurers was to trim down the monster population around human towns. Although the low magic zone made monsters loathe getting near the town, it was uncommon but not unheard of that sometimes they did get near and even attempt to invade. The orc siege was screaming 'I am here and I littered the fields with corpses, who are you calling uncommon?' in a figurative way.

The hidden purposes of the adventurer's guild were twofold. First, it was an escape venue for the rebellious youth. Is the town too boring? Go hunt wolves. Want to see the great outdoors? Go and please bring these herbs back when you return. There was no serfdom in this kingdom and all citizens were free to travel but few did because once you set foot outside the walls and fields surrounding a town it was monster country. The second purpose was to make a patrol zone around the towns. Adventurers were often sent to check on places around town for 'signs of strong monsters' as the guild officers advertise, but the real purpose was another. There is something out there that wants the humans dead. And it is not about trolls bent on vengeance. Maybe it would be better worded as 'there is something out there that wants all humans dead'. Grendel wanted some humans very alive. Helen, for example.

But right now it indeed was a troll seeking vengeance. Another exception. When Grendel walked into what he believed to be the arrow range of the Guild Master, the man nocked an arrow on his bow. Grendel held an outstretched index finger and waved his arm sideways. He kept walking and Guild Master shot. {97+40-20} The arrow flew straight at Grendel's heart {91} but the troll was aware of the attack this time and had plenty of time to sidestep and watch the envenomed arrow hit the ground. {78 vs 73} {17 vs 80} The scene repeated itself twice before Guild Master lowered his bow.

"Weren't these things supposed to be expensive?" Grendel muttered to himself as he picked up an arrow and licked the venom to confirm the type. It was wyvern venom. He made a point of breaking all three arrows and shattering the grooved arrowheads. The thin metal was no match for his prowess and sharp claws.

He resumed walking and pounded his chest like a gorilla. Several humans readied arrows but Guild Master shouted something and they lowered their bows. It was a waste of arrows to shoot at the troll. He stopped at around a hundred and fifty feet from the lowered portcullis. Right behind the metal grate was a heavy wooden gate, obviously closed shut.

"You, shitty sniper. Come down here and lets fight!" His challenge was received with disbelief by the humans. Grendel advanced around twenty feet more. Nothing. He came less than a hundred feet from the gate. The humans didn't act. Soon he understood why. They were waiting for someone. An old man with fuzzy gray hair wearing robes and wielding a mage's staff appeared over the wall.

"Begone, troll. You shall not set foot in Mirfield today!" The old man shouted with a coarse voice filled with malice.

"My business is not with you, old man. I have no ill will against you. But that murderer will pay." Grendel pointed at the Guild Master.

"I know why you are here, monster. You will not have your bride back. That girl is long gone!" Scoffed the Guild Master. He felt safe there atop his wall. The thick sturdy stone construction would resist almost anything. Except maybe a giant animated tree. Mirfield was a town with many contradictions.

The words triggered something in Grendel. He could feel the rage bubbling up, the berserker side of his troll nature demanding bloodshed. But he was not wounded and not under pressure. He was still in control. But that sleazy man was going to see his last day. He sighed and opened his status. Back on Earth, Grendel was the kind of player to finish the final boss of an RPG videogame after hours of trial and reloads and gaze at the 'x99' next to his 'Giga Elixir' entry on the game's inventory. But his human nature was slowly losing to his monster instincts. It was only to be expected as his former life's memories were sealed away and he was only piling up monstrous experiences during this second shot at life. He spent 98 SP at once and leveled up his 'Emperor's Might (SS) skill to the maximum level.

Skills, monsters, and adventurers are ranked by the System using letters. Going from H for the very common to SS for the rarest among mortals. A triple S rank does exist but it is reserved for divine beings. In this dead post-apocalyptic world, all gods are long gone. There is not even religion. Every skill level costs a number of Skill Points, or SP for brevity, equal to the new level. But SS skills cost double. For the record, Grendel is a B-rank troll. A-rank is something reserved for some legendary and what could be called 'boss monsters' back on Earth. A wyvern is an example of an A-rank monster. The ranking is based on rarity, not strength even though they usually go hand in hand. Another trivia is that Grendel has an H-rank skill, called 'Complaining'. It was a joke skill he acquired and was not able to get rid of.

Emperor's Might has two modes. One for combat where all the skill's active power is spent in a single strike and another for feats of strength where the energy is used during a short duration. Grendel activated the second mode and jumped. The active power multiplies damage or strength by double the skill's level. To such an empowered troll, crossing a hundred feet in a single leap was the same as jumping a five feet wide creek. The time to jump was also shortened.

He jumped and readied his spear. Right before he landed he stabbed the Guild Master. {55 +12} The veteran archer was no pushover. His agility honed by years of experience allowed him to react and {74} move away from the incoming weapon. The spear grazed his left arm instead of piercing his heart. A minor wound. The humans on the wall froze. Those caught unaware thought the monster had teleported or somehow crossed the distance without actually moving.

The old mage was not one of them. He opened with the most powerful fire spell commonly seen. "Nova Blast." The chant was shortened, a hint at the job held by the man. Wary of the spell that almost claimed his life during his fight with the Shining Blades, Grendel swung his spear in the path of the condensed fire projectile and used a counter-skill of his own. "Spell Parry." {75 vs 67} He was not able to completely neutralize the powerful spell but most of the power was dissipated. The unstable magical construct erupted sooner than expected, spreading blazing tongues of flame everywhere in a short range. The target and the caster of the spell, as well as some people around, were singed by the fire.

"Gruenwald, get away from this monster. You are the only mage we have. If you can't cast fire spells we are done for!" Shouted the Guild Master while he swapped weapons to double short blades. "Come, creature. This wall will be your grave." A thick, dark green venom dripped from the groves in the blades. Focusing for a brief moment, it was like the Guild Master had blurred his figure before dashing forward. {11 +30} Grendel repelled the archer's approach with the butt of his spear and asserted his space over the wall.

The troll was wary of the wizard. With a short casting time, he had very little advanced warning that a spell was coming and he might not be able to set his spear to parry the spell. To his luck, all fire spells had some telltale signs like a flying projectile or some heat and flame buildup before striking. But the wizard Gruenwald was a priority. If he was indeed the only caster available to the town's defenses, taking him out meant instant victory.

"To think that 'wheat girl' would give me so much trouble. I shouldn't have accepted her as an apprentice!" The mage cursed and spat after retreating behind a line of strong guards. It made sense. Someone must've trained Helen in the mystic arts. If that guy was the only mage available, the connection was obvious.

There was time to think because nobody was willing to make the first move. The Guild Master would need to pile up several blows to stack up the dose of venom but a single blow from Grendel's spear would finish anyone on that wall. Gruenwald was trying to figure out what made his spell misfire. And Grendel had to keep one eye on each side of the combat with each of the opponents on a side. The remaining humans were standing still hoping the troll didn't notice them, but most were already making plans to just run away.

"Bastards, you will pay for killing Helen!" Talking is free as some players of tabletop RPG use to say. Grendel's voice had tones of despair and rage.

Caution spoke louder in the Guild Master's heart than his frustration. This monster could be talked with. Maybe a bloodbath could be avoided. "She is alive! She ran away during the first attack of the orcs."

The revelation made Grendel lower his guard just a little. With a hand signal, he instructed the guards and adventurers to back off and get out of sight. Slowly the other humans retreated, leaving only Gruenwald and two guards acting as his bodyguards, Grendel and Guild Master at the gatehouse's roof.

"Give me what I want and I will give you something in return. I can't promise a fair trade, but I will spare the town and the people. I'm doing a big job of holding my anger right now, you shitty sniper. And don't think this venom will do something to me." The threat to attack the people was just a bluff. He had no desire to do that.

"What do you want?"

Grendel turned to talk to the man, "I want to use your..." In that brief moment of distraction, Gruenwald had quietly finished a chant under his breath.

"Nova Blast!" {10} Caught by surprise, Grendel received the spell square on his back. Almost half of his HP was shaved right there. Stumbling forward, he traded a puzzled look with the Guild Master. Blisters formed and boiling blood spurted from his back. Troll flesh was quite flammable.

"Shit, Gruenwald why did you..." The Guild Master grimaced but seized the opportunity. He dashed in and slashed with both blades at the troll's thighs. {65+10} "Twin Vipers." Both blades made shallow cuts as some unseen force repelled the weapons. But they still drew blood and more important, delivered the venom.

"Vitality Booster!" Grendel triggered his lifeboat technique and clinched the man right in front of him to bring down his jaw {87} to bite the exposed shoulder of the Guild Master. The sharp fangs tore the flesh and ripped open a large wound going from the shoulder blades to the nape of the neck. The collarbone and scapula were crushed but the main blood vessels of the neck were not pierced. The man was incapacitated and would never again make use of his right arm even if by some miracle it would remain attached to his body.

The troll spared no time to turn back to face the wizard. He was finishing another silent chant but the Horn Spear was already set to parry the spell. "Firebolt Volley." {35 vs 95} This time all the firebolts were parried. Wielding the Horn Spear in a single hand, he readied a goblin javelin on the left hand.

"Power Javelin." {53 +20} The spear flew right at Gruenwald's head but one of the guards sacrificed himself to take the blow. The javelin pierced the man's shield and lodged inside his chest. By that time Grendel's back was almost as if brand new. During these seven minutes, he could recover more than a thousand HP of normal damage each minute. But it also meant he had to wrap up the fight in that time and then keep safe during the cooldown. It would be bad if humans learned of that vulnerability.

"Come, mage, let's dance." He taunted the magician. It was mostly bravado and it didn't work. The other bodyguard was tracking Grendel's movement with his eyes. Having the skill himself, he knew what it meant. "Come have a piece of me, soldier. 'Taunt'." {89} It worked and the soldier left his ward to draw his blade and run to attack the troll. Grendel lowered his stance and charged forward, the tip of the spear almost grazing the stone rooftop.

"Nova Blast!" Once again the old wizard tried to use his nuke. {8 vs 19} Unfortunately his old nerves got the best of him and he almost miscast the spell. Grendel just cut the small gout of flame produced and used magic of his own. "Firebolt" Instead of throwing the spell he charged the spear with its magic and stabbed the now unguarded and exposed elder. {94} It was like beating a rag doll. The spear pierced the frail body and went through until the impaled man was resting over Grendel's hand, coughing blood. His staff clattered on the stone and with a wide swing Grendel threw the wizard's soon-to-be corpse outside the town like a catapult.

He was stabbed on the back by the bodyguard's blade but the wound closed as fast as it was cut. He grabbed the soldier by the head and tossed the poor man after the other one he was supposed to guard. The last one standing on that rooftop was the monster.

Grendel approached the bleeding Guild Master. "I need to use your job crystal. Let me do it and I'll spare your life."

"Letting a hybrid monster use the job crystal is the same as a death sentence to me," thought the Guild Master. "The guild will have me executed. If I die here by his hands at least I'll be honored as a hero that fought to the last." He concluded.

And then he uttered his last words, "Fuck you, filthy monster!"

Grendel has gained 3 + 3 levels ([3]Racial 41 > 44, [4] Magic Swordsman 34 > 37). 45 SP earned.
You consumed the flesh of a human. 14,753 core points added. {92 +2} You unlocked the '[5] Guild Master' job.

Grendel picked up the old man's staff and Guild Master's signature bow. Their former owners won't need them anymore. He looked at the system messages and smiled. He might have missed his beloved, but he had just gained something extremely good.

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Skill Growth:

Skill Poison Resistance level 8. Skill Combat Awareness level 6. Skill Evasion level 8.
Skill Fire Resistance level 5. Skill Athletics level 5. Skill Spear Mastery level 6.
Skill Negotiation level 3. Skill Presence Detection level 6. Skill HP Restoration level 8.
Guild Master's Skills

Skill Guild Field Control level 1 awakened.

Allows the guild master to regulate the range of the guild field, increasing or decreasing it by up to 20% per level (from 619% to 1% at level 10).

The Guild Crystal MP expenditure increases or decreases by the same rate.

Skill Guild Master's Authority level 1 awakened.

While inside a guild field, allows the guild master to forcefully change the title or job of a creature. Automatic success for guild card holders, resisted by Magic otherwise. For purpose of beating resistance, raise own magic score by <level> x 20%.

Also makes the guild master's words more persuasive for card holders. Grants a positive correction on social interactions.

Skill Appraise (people) level 1 awakened.

Can appraise the status of people. Resisted by Magic. Target's resistance is modified by job tier. For purpose of beating resistance, raise own magic score by <level> x 20%. A bigger success on overcoming the resistance yields more information.

Skill Guild Management level 1 awakened.

Allows the user to manage a guild branch.

Level 2: Request registration.

Level 4: Issue Card

Level 6: Appoint Receptionist

Level 8: Adventurer Ranking

Level 10: Guild Field Clairvoyance

Skill Ambient Magic Absorption level 1 awakened.

Allows the guild crystal to absorb MP from the ambient magic. Drastically lowers ambient magic levels. Amount of MP gained increases with level.

Skill Guild Tool Creation level 1 awakened.

Allows wearer to craft and enchant Guild Cards and Crystal Cardreading Slabs. Guild Tools only work inside a guild field.

Skill Guild Field Empowerment level 1 awakened.

Increases all stats by 1% per level while inside own guild field.

Skill Guild Field Vitality level 1 awakened.

Increases Maximum HP and ST by 1% per level and increases HP and ST recovery by 5% per level while inside own guild field.

Ultimate skill. Reach level cap to unlock.

A note from MDW

Damn that 92!!!!! <shakes fist>

About the author


Bio: The author would like to reinforce for the umpteenth time that the characters' opinions are their own, may be intentionally wrong, do not reflect my (MDW's) personal viewpoints neither are included in this work to further any political agenda (I don't even live in the same hemisphere or country as you, whichever those are. I'm writing from the Earth-Sun L3 point for all I care). My works serve no purpose other than to tell stories with conflicting viewpoints. Use of the reader's critical sense is highly advised.

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