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Tutorial Quest 2/2:

Hunt Dire Wolf: 0/1

Rewards: Variable

I sensed the wolves mana deep in the red forest. It’s taste filled me with a sense of excitement. It was awake now, no doubt hunting. That should lead it right to me. I had already hunted chickens 11 and 12, just to find out that my dexterity would no longer increase from them.

 

I wouldn’t let them go to waste though. I dragged the scraps of their corpses I brought below a half tilted, leaning bamboo shoot. A trail of black blood, a trail of crumbs was leading to below the tower of pisa esque bamboo, where a feast fit for a hairy, 3 legged king sat piled.

 

I could taste his mana as he stalked. He was on to the trail. I knew it.

 

Waiting patiently, I played with the trophy I had collected. A smooth, gigantic Hell Chicken egg. I wished I had a skillet. I wondered what hell chicken egg tasted like. It was weighty. Would probably make a huge omelet…

 

There he is. The wolf stopped, staring at me and growling from a few dozen feet away. I dropped down several feet, landing agilly. I threw the egg away, idly noting that it fell with a thump, unimpacted by the fall.

 

“It’s time to finish this.” I was talking to a dog. Was I crazy? Probably. I had just spent weeks in isolation. This time, I pounced first, leaping forward to [Scratch]. It met me with a swing of its own, howling in pain when our two attacks crossed each other. I had cut through him.

 

This would be quick.

 

I [Scratched] again, keeping the initiative as I tore into the monsters side. I inspected it.

 

Dire wolf

Necrosis

Maimed

972/4000

Most of the work had already been done for me. What's more, it never fully recovered from the last fight. It was nearly dead. I would finish this, then leave this damn place.

 

My next [Scratch] I sent deeper, my eyes widening in surprise as I hit and bounced off what felt like steel. The wolf howled in pain, but was unbent as it lashed out towards me. I stepped backwards, the bamboo shoot behind me catching me as it claws hooked into the flesh below my knee, tearing open new wounds.

 

It fell onto me, its claws digging into my shoulders as it attempted to find purchase with its mouth into my flesh. I [Scratched] again and again, trying desperately to fend off the beast even as it claws raked away chunks of my flesh.

 

It stopped moving, its body collapsed on top of mine as I panted.

 

I dug myself out from under it, my fingers tearing away the soil.

 

My heart beat against my chest, as if it was trying to find its way out. I fell to my knees- not out of fear, or exhaustion, but to lean closer to the monster, tearing away the chunks of hairy flesh.

 

It was dead, and now I would claim my prize. I peeled raw flesh away with my teeth.

 

Swallowing hard, I looked up for my skill options.

 

[Tenacity]


[Tenacity] is a skill used by the direwolves to fight at full health despite their injuries. As pack hunters, they use the weakest of their members as fodder to hunt higher level prey.

“No options. Accept!”

 

An itch crawled across my skin, tickling the end of it. I couldn’t scratch fast enough. Then it was gone. And now… for the quest. I had hardly taken any damage fighting the monster. “I’ll be swimming in rewards…”

 

Tutorial Quest 2/2:

Hunt Dire Wolf: 1/1

Performance Assessment: C

Rewards:

Grade D Core(2), Dire Wolves Pelt

Accept? Y/N

 

The cores and the armor… I didn’t even want to see what I missed out on. “Accept.”

 

Warning: You have no inventory!
Equip [Dire Wolves Pelt] now?

 

“Yes.” The wolf exploded in black smoke. A husk of its body still sat, a remnant of what it was before, hairless and stripped nearly to the bone. I felt a weight land on my shoulders, running my hand through the soft, silken red furs that lied about my shoulder. I patted my head.

Huh.

 

That was a whole wolf head up there.

 

I sensed a fluctuation in the mana in the air. It was several feet away, but still very strong. The gate should be opening any second—

 

The sky was filled with a raucous roar. I could taste the familiar mana from Earth smashing into the world. Now that I had been deprived of it for weeks, it was stingingly obvious, and it was flooding into this world. The gate fluctuated, billowing in and out as reality itself bowed, creating a lensing effect all around it. I saw my reflection for a moment as the reality around the gate collapsed to a singular point.

 

Tutorial complete!
Opening gate.

 

I dismissed the notification.

 

The gate folded inward on itself, erupting mana like in pulsing waves like a volcano. The earth around the gate was scoured flat. White light erupted in columns, saturating the air with mana. It was like watching dry soil take water. For a moment, the world's red tinted light was superseded. Only when every inch within several yards of the gate was saturated to the point of dripping mana did the onslaught of light and noise stop.

 

I saw the inside of the MobRonalds on the other side, and began my journey out.

Five minutes after Damon had crossed through the gate, inside of the MobRonalds, Bella was gripping her own face, contorted in a moment of terror and panic.

 

Oh, and she was screaming. “I don’t know why the gate collapsed! All indicators showed normal!” She paused, waiting for the person on the other side to speak.

 

“I just told you! We can't stabilize the gate! It’s- it’s gone! There’s no thread leading back to… back to…” Bella paused, looking up at the flickering mana. With a pulse, and a flicker, the gate reopened. “Wait… something's opening.” Bella screamed when she saw what walked through, dropping her phone to the ground.

 

It was a man, covered in a terrible, bright red texture. A wolf's head sat above his, and his face had a long scar crossing one of his eyes. Dried blood clung to his mouth and chin. His hands were decorated with long, terrible, black nails.

 

The second he saw her move, his eyes locked to her, like a predator ready to pounce. For a moment, Bella was convinced she was going to die. Then his eyes softened greatly.

 

“You’re……. Bella, right?”

I am sitting in a USAG guest suite.

 

I mean, that's a very polite way of putting it.

 

I am in an interrogation chamber. According to my checklist, anyway.

 

Deliberately uncomfortable chair? Check.

 

Handcuffs? Check. Though they weren’t in use. I wasn’t under arrest or anything… right? They twinkled with enchantments.

 

Good cop bad cop? Check. Good chop brought me snacks. My favorite corn chips.

 

One way reflective mirror? Oh yeah, the works.

 

Apparently popping out of a gate five minutes after I entered, alone, without my party, and saying that it's been weeks was enough to raise some level of suspicion. That's concerning. I was still holding on some hope that Lee, Oz, and Matt had made it out of the gate alright. Of course, in the back of my head, I knew that wasn’t possible.

 

No [Assassin] would leave their dagger in a monster. And the amount of fire damage that thing had taken… that's more mana than the average [Mage] even has. So I was currently waiting for the results of my mana signature test. Not sure why it was important that I get a reading right out of a gate, but they insisted on it.

 

It was some fancy stuff too, nothing like the USAG standard. They had a whole room set up for the thing, here in their local branch office.

 

I munched on another chip, staring boredly as the door opened.

 

“Jeffers.” I greeted him with a calm smile, swallowing another chip. He was tall. Way too tall. Inhumanly tall and lanky. Well maybe not inhumanly, he probably was 6 something.

 

“Mana signature is back.” He looked at me disapprovingly. I mean, I imagined it was disapproving, he was looking down his nose at me. Then again, it would be hard for him not to be, considering he was still standing and towering over me. He laid out a folder full of papers on the table.

 

“Oh yeah, anything special?” I asked while milling through the papers. I frowned. The only thing in this paper work was my official statement, detailing what had happened on the raid. They were demanding of what seemed to be inscrutable and insignificant details to me. Typical bureaucrat bullshit. However, I omitted the parts about eating the flesh of monsters. I think it’s probably a wise decision.

 

“Not particularly. Just go ahead and read through the statement, see if it matches up with what you remember, and sign the bottom.” I skimmed the document, nervous as I felt multiple eyes watching me. “You know, I’ve seen a lot of men come back from near death raids. You don’t act like one of them.”

 

I looked up, meeting his gaze. “Oh, I think there's some trauma I'll never recover from.” I traced the scar over my eye. “I’ve nearly died lots of times though.”

 

“I’m sure you have, taking so many raids at level 1. This is the first time you’ve leveled up, isn't it?” I met his gaze. “Pretty hard to level up with the red system.” For a second, my eyes widened. Did I mishear him?

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I said that it’s pretty hard to level up with the black system.” I nodded absentmindedly, signing the bottom of the paper, and thinking to myself. Is he onto me being an irregular already? No. Maybe I really am a little messed up… I’ve gotten too paranoid. I smiled confidently.

 

“So this time dilation gate…” I leaned forward conspiratorially. “How often does this happen?” It was his turn to be surprised. “It has to be pretty often right? You acted totally unsurprised…”

 

When I had told them of my journey through the gate, and how I had spent several weeks, they were completely unsurprised. I had surmised that this was a well known occurrence— although rare. Jeffers reaction all but confirmed it.

 

“We ask you, again, to demonstrate your discretion—” he stopped, waiting for the crinkling from my corn chips to subside. He coughed. “—discretion in not revealing the nature of this gate or status of your party until we complete our investigation. Oh, and by the way… don’t leave town.”

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Crownfall

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