“Dungeons! Every adventurer wants to go dive dungeons! What is it about those man-eating caverns that causes people to lose their wits!? Oh sure, there are rewards for the lucky and the victorious, but the vast majority of adventurers who challenge them die on their first dive. Of those that survive, around three in five don’t earn enough to cover their expenses - including their medical costs - and end up destitute and broken. Of those that do earn enough to cover their expenses, maybe one in one thousand actually strike it big and come out with riches and powerful artifacts.
Then a bunch of idiots see that one party and decide they should become adventurers themselves, starting the whole cycle again.
Better they had all gone out and killed goblins or something. At the very least, they would have been doing something that helps the world as a whole instead of gambling with their lives for nothing.”
- Vice-Master of the Dorywnville Adventurer’s Guild, complaining - drunkenly - in a local tavern.
My efforts in exploration were not particularly rewarding. Oh sure, I got the Drawing Skill and the Cartography Skill, and those were good.
[You have learned the Skill: Drawing! Drawing is now Level 1!]
[This Skill improves your ability to draw pictures!]
[The greater your Drawing Skill the easier you find it to remember things you have seen. For every Level of Drawing your effective Dexterity is increased by .5% at all times. Your effective Perception, Acuity, and Dexterity are increased by an additional 1.5% per Level while actively using the Skill.]
[You have learned the Skill: Cartography! Cartography is now Level 1!]
[This Skill improves your ability to make maps and recall terrain!]
[For every Level of Cartography your effective Perception is increased by 1% at all times. Additionally, your effective Acuity and Dexterity are increased by 1.5% while making a map.]”
However, it was soon becoming apparent that I was living in a bowl. Even with my Leveling and the bonuses from my Skills, I have a pretty terrible Perception. When you throw in the fact that there are trees and shrubs all around and add to that the fact that I am small and so my point of view is only a few centimeters off the ground, it would be fair to say that you could hide a cliff face a few dozen meters from me without me ever noticing it.
I had decided to explore to the north of Newthome and it hadn’t taken me long to run into a rocky cliff face. At first, I thought I was in a valley, but a couple hours of walking made the curve of the cliff clear. The water that fed an actual pond, which itself fed the swampy area where my little “pond” was and a stream which flowed away from it, came from a spring about halfway from the center of the bowl and the western edge.
Given that I wasn’t underwater right now, that water had to go somewhere, and following the stream eventually allowed me to discover a gorge that the water had carved through the rock. It led out east and was probably my way out of here, if I wished to leave. I had to admit that I somewhat did, but what would be the point?
There might be people out there, but given that I was a toxic lizard monster I doubted I would exactly be welcomed into society. No, it would be better to continue to explore here for now, Level a bit more, and learn a few more Skills. I left it alone for now, but marked the area on my map for the future.
My full map was not a very impressive thing; I had difficulty drawing with my front claws and nose. But I was able to read it, and that was what counted. I was in a bowl-like valley area that was maybe a couple of kilometers in diameter. At the very center there was a small pond that was fed from the spring in the west and had a stream leaving it to the eastern gorge. North of the pond was a swamp that made up the majority of the northern part of the area but gave way to forest as the ground got higher closer to the valley edges.
The southern half of the valley was a dense forest, much denser than the one to the north because it wasn’t broken up by water as much. It was hard to explore because the entire area was a bloodbath and I was ambushed multiple times from the dense undergrowth. The only exception to this was a portion of the southwestern edge of the valley near where the spring was.
That area was rocky and only had a few plants. The sun was nice and warm and felt really good on my scales, but the lack of cover meant that even though there were less enemies there I ended up fighting quite a bit anyways. It was also here that I was disabused of my belief that I was the apex predator in the area.
[Juvenile Stone Lynx, Lvl 3]
[A relatively shy monster that combines the speed of a hunting cat with the endurance of stone.]
[While not particularly aggressive, the Stone Lynx is considerably dangerous to adventurers who lack blunt weapons. The fur of the Stone Lynx is literal stone and while it is not a golem itself, the same tactics apply to the Stone Lynx as do to golems. Sharp and piercing weapons are generally useless while blunt weapons like maces are vastly more effective.]
It was, for whatever reason, uninterested in killing me - because I have no doubt it saw me long before I noticed it - and seemed far more interested in sunning itself and grooming its “fur.” Its fur seemed to be actual stone, despite the fact it flexed and moved like hair would.
The grey-and-white feline was the size of a smaller puma from Earth but far fluffier looking, except that the fluff was leaving scratch marks on the rocks underneath the cat whenever it shifted. The cat’s eyes appeared to be actual topaz gems and the claws obsidian and I slowly backed away and decided to avoid that area as much as possible from then on.
It wasn’t the only apex I ran into either. The southeastern forest contained another monster I would prefer to avoid if possible.
[Mature Blood Moly, Lvl 12]
[A rare herb that is used in various resistance potions. This individual has been exposed to a high amount of mana and mutated.]
[Moly is an herb that is known for its incredible magic and mana resistance properties and is mostly immune to mutation from mana exposure. However, the Blood Moly has been grown in ground watered by mana rich blood which bypassed its natural immunity causing it to become a Blood Moly. It retains its near total immunity to magic and will implant itself into nearly any recently dead creature and reanimate them to seek more prey.]
I wouldn’t call the Blood Moly a walking plant; it didn’t have anything like legs itself. What it did do was implant itself into other monsters and use them to hunt down its prey. Its roots were more like black, barbed tentacles that would restrain and constrict and burrow into whatever monster it catches before it implants itself into the body. After the creature died, it would then seemingly reanimate as the plant’s vehicle and go hunting for more.
It had actually had a very pretty white flower, but it was a truly terrifying monster to see in action. It had wanted to kill me, but it was only as fast as the body it was on and so wasn’t able to catch me. Honestly, I was just curious how the hell it saw me. Did it use the monster’s eyes? The thing was creepy and I was glad it seemed content to stay in the south.
Returning to Newthome, I made notes to avoid those places gaining me another Skill that I honestly should have thought to gain earlier.
“[You have learned the Skill: Writing! Writing is now Level 1!]
[This Skill improves your ability to write!]
[For every Level of Writing your effective Acuity, Dexterity, and Charisma are improved by .5% at all times. Additionally, your effective Acuity and Dexterity are improved by 1% per Level of Writing while you are using this Skill.]”
There probably was a Reading Skill as well, but the only thing to read was my own writing and I wasn’t sure if that counted. Well, that wasn’t quite true, I also had my menu. My trip to the southern part of the bowl had resulted in a few of my Skills improving, the most important of which was the Analysis Skill reaching Level two. Unfortunately, Level two Analysis was mostly useless when I tried to use it on other monsters, but I was able to get a few more bits of information out of my menu, namely from the Species entry:
“[Species maturation varies from Species to Species. As a Komadus Lizard your Evolution maturation stages are: Hatchling, Young, Juvenile, Adult, Elder, and Ancient.]”
The important part of this was that I realized that the Stone Lynx was probably two stages above me and the Blood Moly was three stages above me. This meant that the Lynx had Evolved as many times as I had, but upwards, and so had probably had incredible Stats. The same was almost certainly true for the Moly as well, although that was a bit more uncertain.
After all, from the description of the Blood Moly it didn’t seem like they were monsters from the seed on up, but mutated into monsters under certain conditions. So for all I knew the Adult Blood Moly was a pushover that I could easily kill with a single bite. I didn’t feel like testing it though.
What I did test was whether or not it was immune to poison, because I left the corpses of every monster that attacked me as a poisoned trap as I did my exploration. Unfortunately for me, the Blood Moly seemed to be and the Stone Lynx too. Either that or they didn’t want the bodies I left.
I did get a massive harvest of experience from other creatures though. Of course, that didn’t matter much given how much experience I needed for every Level now. Next time I Evolved, my first Level of whatever I Evolved into would cost two hundred ten experience. Unless there was some Evolution that I simply couldn’t let pass by, I think I will go up to the next stage this time. If for no other reason than that I would be closer to contending with the southern alphas.
Of course, I still continued to raise my Skills in the hope that I would find something too good to pass up. After all, if it was too good to pass up it was literally too good to pass up!
...The thought made sense to me, anyway.
Two Levels of Writing later, I managed to gain Reading and - because I had started writing limericks out of boredom - Poetry.
“[You have learned the Skill: Reading! Reading is now Level 1!]
[This Skill improves your ability to read and the speed of your reading!]
[You find it easier to read other’s handwriting and to understand other writer’s meaning at all times. For every Level of Reading your effective Endurance, Acuity, and Willpower are increased by 1.5% while reading.]
[You have learned the Skill: Poetry! Poetry is now Level 1!]
[This Skill improves your ability to compose and read poetry!]
[You find it easier to find rhymes and you find it easier to remember the poetry of others at all times. For every Level of Poetry your effective Acuity and Dexterity are increased by 1% while composing and writing poetry. Additionally, your effective Acuity and Charisma are increased by 1% per Level while reading poetry.]”
Podi help me, but the people of this world must be ridiculously strong. Given just how many Skills there are, I doubt that there are not weapon Skills and the like. Since I presume that Classes give abilities as well, Adventurers must be superhuman at the higher Levels! Just imagining how a person might combine Sprinting, Charge, a weapon Skill, and whatever else they could on top of it - their effective stats would be ridiculous!
I had, after discovering the Stone Lynx and the Blood Moly, considered leaving through the gorge. However, now I was fairly certain that outside of my little area this world was a deathtrap. At least there were no people here, and no reason that I could think of for them to come here, and I couldn’t say that outside of this place that would be equally true.
Better the devil I know, I guess.
I wasn’t too worried about them coming north anyways. The stream was pretty fast moving, so the Blood Moly wouldn’t be able to cross even with an amphibious monster. It would just end up washing away downstream, which would be problem solved as far as I was concerned.
The only way around the stream was through the Lynx’s territory, and the Blood Moly likely couldn’t kill the Lynx. I wasn’t sure if the Lynx was likewise unable to kill the Blood Moly, but the stone fur of the Lynx made it immune to the Blood Moly’s roots. At least, that was my theory.
As for the Lynx itself, well, the northern part of the bowl was mostly water and swamp. It would sink and drown rather quickly, so I didn’t have much to worry about from it. I suppose this made me the apex of the northern part of the bowl? Was… Was I becoming territorial?
I was, wasn’t I? That desire to explore earlier, it was the same desire to explore any animal would have when establishing a territory. I explored, decided that a place was mine, and now I wanted to defend it.
The mere thought of a monster of equal power coming through my territory made me angry, furious even.
I still didn’t have nearly enough Willpower, although I don’t think this instinct was as bad as the other ones. It was easier for me to twist to my own desires. My instinct wanted me to explore and see new things? I was able to turn that into exploring new Skills for a decent amount of time, and now that it wanted me to defend my portion of the valley I could twist that into improving my Skills!
Better Skills meant better Evolutions, which meant better defense!
Name: - Species: Hatchling Komadus Lizard Level: 4/5 Experience: 137/150
Class: -locked- Health: 80/80 Mana: 7/7 Stamina: 100/100
Str: 32 End: 31 Vit: 24.6 Agi: 19.6 Dex: 14.6
Per: 23.6 Acy: 28.6 Wil: 16.6 Cha: 22.6 Mgc: 14.6
[Breathes through her Skin](racial) [Toxic Skin](racial) [Toxin Control: Minor](racial)
[Regeneration: Minor](lesser)(racial) [Scale Armor: Minor](racial)
[Envenomed Bite: Hatchling Komadus Lizard](racial) [Poison Resistance: Major]
[Disease Resistance: Minor] [Better First Impression] [Healthy Thoughts]
[First Words] [Killing Blow]
Ambush: 2 Analysis: 2 Cartography: 1 Charge: 3 Cleaning: 1 Climbing: 2
Composing: 1 Charm: 1 Crafting: 3 Digging: 5 Dancing: 1 Dodge: 3
Drawing: 1 Etiquette: 1 Intimidate: 1 Jumping: 4 Meditation: 2 Poetry: 1
Reading: 1 Singing: 1 Sprinting: 2 Swimming: 3 Stealth: 5 Taunt: 1 Throwing: 1 Tracking: 2 Trap Making: 6 Writing: 3
Tomorrow - hell, maybe even tonight if my traps catch enough - I will Evolve again. The anticipation, the desire to be stronger, I can hardly get myself to go to sleep. I can’t wait!
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