The barrier shattered into shards of magic, and Chris discovered the demon mage had been waiting for him. Light burst from the demon’s three daggers, revealing them to be some kind of concealed magic wands. The light converged, gathering into a spell in front of it.
Chris hadn’t been expecting that, but he had planned on chucking his shield at the demon anyway, and did so. Rather than his initial plan of hitting the mage in the face, the shield was instead aimed at the coalescence of energy, passing through it and hammering into the mage’s chest.
The daggers in the mage’s hand warped and melted, as if seized within the jaws of a living volcano. Even as the demon was borne backward by the shield plowing into its chest, the building light expanded.
Chris’ eyes widened. That didn’t look good. Rather than continue forward to whack the demon, he scooped up the Dungeon Core and ducked behind the obelisk. Light blazed and the unstable energy detonated, bathing the room in light and sound.
The upper segment of the obelisk began to topple, the symbols along its length fading. The System screens Chris was already so familiar with began to dance across his vision. But he didn’t have time.
Clutching onto the Dungeon Core, he stumbled backward as the top of the obelisk collapsed. The tower’s floor, destabilized by the arcane rebound, heaved and groaned as the obelisk hit it. For a moment it held, then the stone buckled beneath the weight and everything went crashing down.
Chris stared as the wave of collapse came for him. Ahead he saw the first spherical glimmerings of the portal appear. He leapt, thinking the rift wouldn’t manifest in time, but just as he began to fly past the focal point, the shimmering sphere snapped into reality around him.
The world blurred once more, bringing with it the acid trip disorientation of portal travel. He flew forward and his face carved a ditch into the grassy glade. Behind him, he heard the smaller, matching obelisk crumble to the ground, as his mouth filled with grass and dirt.
He sat up, spitting and spluttering, feeling as if he’d removed half the glade from his mouth. He blinked and brushed a stubborn spot of mud out of his left eye and looked around smiling.
His smile faded.
Dozens of demons stared at him with hateful and accusatory eyes. The ones on this side of the portal were too dumb to know what he did, just that he did something. They straightened and stretched, like stalking lions, fangs bared.
“Oh shit,” Chris muttered.
He pressed himself to his bare feet and began sprinting out of the glade at full tilt.
The demons sprinted behind him, but Chris was just out of their reach. He pumped his arms furiously as they howled and hissed and roared their frustration. Then, his goal in sight, he accelerated, putting more distance between them.
He heaved his mace into a large tree, letting it topple forward. Where? Onto the wall of the Undead town, of course. Archers loosed arrows at him and two feather shafts flew into the gap where the demon mage’s darkness had ruined his armor. Thankfully they rattled around inside, cutting into his torso but not piercing anything vital or deep. Chris spat but jumped up onto the tree and began running up toward the walls.
The archers suddenly stopped firing as they spotted the howling horde of demons behind him. Chris smiled in satisfaction and stepped onto the ramparts.
“Oh shit,” he echoed their thought-processes mockingly.
He ignored the dumbstruck archers and guards and jumped off the wall into the city. The impact was a little harder on him than his last leap from the same battlements, since the ground on this side was paved rather than spongy. However, it wasn’t as bad as he expected; he must have gotten stronger.
An arrow broke on the paving stones next to him, one archer’s feeble attempt at hitting him, but Chris kept on running. He was all too aware of the demons at his back. Then he turned down an alley, vaulted up a wall, onto the thatched rooves, and was home free.
He laughed, then lay down in the thatch, out of sight of the demons, except those on the wall; they seemed pretty bestial, so it was a good bet that like dogs, they lacked object permanence—as soon as they hit the streets where their vision would be blocked, they would forget about him. Until then he would watch the show as they rampaged through the Undead on the walls, coming up against no real resistance. “GG. EZ. No re.”
He checked through his quests first.
(Mandatory) Enter the Dungeon (1/1)
Reward: F-1 Health Potion x5
(Mandatory) Seal the Dungeon (1/1)
Reward: 10,000 System Coins, Experience Boost, Title: Anomaly Breaker I, Pill of Pure Body (Human, F-1)
(Optional) Steal the Dungeon Core (1/1)
Choose your Reward (Dungeon Core will be consumed): Random Reward x5, or Settlement Core
Woo! Sweet loot. Although he’d already gotten the five health potions.
He checked his Status. He’d leveled up to Level 16. After a moment’s thought, he put five points each into dexterity, strength, and luck. His stats were already well rounded and boosted way above normal, even before he received his new complement of titles. Just by dint of sheer bullshit he already had a ‘well-rounded-build’—which was a byword for ‘fucking haxx’ back on the diginet. Luck was already his highest stat, so he figured that it might be worth piling even more points into it and see how things panned out. He imagined it was one of those stats that people added a few points to every once in a while, but never really invested in due to the demands of their builds—and those who did, died because they were too lucky and too weak for their own good. Getting a monster haul of treasure was only good luck until you brought it into a town full of people who were too strong for the law to apply.
He also noticed that his System Coins total hadn't budged while he'd been inside the Dungeon, but at least he'd got monetary compensation to make up for it.
He checked the three new titles he’d acquired.
Anomaly Breaker I: Clear  Anomaly. +2 to all stats. +1% to all stats.
Rift Scion: The first in your cohort to overcome an Anomaly. +5 to all stats. +3% to all stats.
Surpasser: Clear an Anomaly you have little hope of defeating. +5 to all stats. +3% to all stats.
He swore a little when he saw the last title. What the hell? Had the System literally just sent him in there, closed its eyes, and left him to die, with only the faint hope that he might overcome it? That was like tossing a cat into a lake of poison, and expecting it to develop poison immunity. At least he got a title out of it. Although it felt like it had been handed out in a ‘You survived! Here, have a sticker’ kind of way.
Complaining under his breath, he brought up his Status.
|Race||Hybrid: Human (F-1), Slime (F-2)|
|Traits||Human Potential, Monster Hybrid, Monstrous Constitution, Monstrous Assimilation, Amorphous, Stone Form|
|Titles||Genesis of Blood, Prime Underdog, Agent of Self-destruction, Prince of Poison, Makeshift Master, Prodigy, Legendary Prodigy, Unrivalled Prodigy, Horde Disciple I, Xenocidal, Infiltrator, Anomaly Breaker I, Rift Scion, Surpasser|
He looked over everything. He was starting to venture into the realm of the absurd with his stats. And even then, with all of that, he hadn’t been expected to clear the Anomaly. He pulled up his first tangible reward, the Pill of Pure Body.
He hadn’t failed to notice that the Slime portion of his race had raised to F-2. He’d have to figure out what that meant. But he was willing to bet that that pill would do the same to the Human part of his race.
The body pill was an unblemished white capsule that sent warmth travelling through the fingers he pinched it in. A soft white light pulsed from its surface, wiping away the blood and grime that caked his hands.
Chris ignored his mother’s warnings about taking pills given to him by strangers. He popped it in his mouth and swallowed.
Then he coughed. His stomach gurgled horribly. He curled up as something rose through his throat. From his mouth poured a stream of noxious black liquid, it seeped down the thatched roof, and dripped onto the alley below.
He heard the shriek of a demon—likely as it got drenched in the foul ooze that dribbled from between his lips. Just like when the Slime had pushed his blood out through his pores, now black liquid streamed over his skin, adding to the torrent that poured onto the shocked demon in the alley.
Chris lay there, shivering in a fetal position as the last waves of evil-smelling goop exited his body. He gagged as he spat out the taste of bile and rancid garbage. The smell of it stuck to him, like the haze of sewage and sweat and sin; but, as he drew in a breath, he could suddenly taste the air. It was cleaner, fresher, more rich and vibrant. He could have sworn the world looked… not brighter… more colorful, as if his eyes were suddenly truly seeing for the first time.
He thought back through some of his memories and it was like he had been living within a veil of haze. That haze had been stripped away, replaced with clean air and strong beats of his heart within his chest. He checked his race, and saw that his rank as an F-1 Human, had finally caught up with his Slime half at F-2. He didn’t exactly know what that meant, though. He had more pressing concerns.
He really needed to wash the foul liquid off him. The newfound clarity to his senses only exacerbated the pure offensiveness of the smell.
Then he remembered. Couldn’t his Slime absorb liquids? He held his arm over his skin. “Come on, little buddy, clean it up.”
The Slime balked, and Chris could have sworn it was side-eying him as he said the words.
He pushed it against a particularly foul and egregious puddle. “I’ll get you a demon or an Undead?” he wheedled. “I promise it doesn’t taste so bad after the first mouthful.”
His arm recoiled, and Chris sighed. Well, drat. He hadn’t even seen a water source yet—it was just as well he got nutrients from his Slime absorbing stuff. Walking around smelling like this was going to suck.
As the sun set over the horizon, he stared at his last completed quest. He had to make a choice. Hesitantly, he selected his last reward: Settlement Core.