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  There was something incredibly hypnotizing about a giant snapping turtle crossed with a tentacle monster eating a buffalo creature whole. I mean, it was absolutely horrifying to see - I hadn’t even known that a buffalo could scream - but on the other hand, it was not that the kind of thing you can look away from. How, by the grace of Podi’s shiny stone, does a monster Evolve into that!? This thing is even more freaky than the Blood Moly!

  I guess, in a lot of ways, that it isn’t anything I need to worry about. I can, after all, fly now and it wasn’t able to get through the gorge into my valley. However, I was starting to get the feeling that this entire world was just a patchwork of powerful monster’s territories. Flying away probably wouldn’t help me much.

  To the east, if I ignore the titanic death turtle, was an open flat plain. Given just how open it was, I was leery about going out there. First, I did not like places that I couldn’t wall and defend easily. Second, now that I had wings, I liked having places to launch myself off of. Admittedly, a lot of that was my instincts talking, but my mind agreed with that idea. It made sense to live in places where I could keep myself safe.

  To the north and south of my valley, as well as some kilometers to the west before the mountains, were forested hills. That seemed much more like where I would like to live, except that I wasn’t exactly sure how it would be different than my valley. Undoubtedly there were alpha monsters who had already claimed their own territory. As it was, with the Stone Lynx dead I almost had claimed the entire valley.

  ...I wasn’t sure why that was important. These instincts were even more territorial than the Komadus ones were. I suppose I could rationalize it fairly easily. The higher my Level got, the larger an area I needed to hunt to gain experience. Presumably, most monsters in this same situation also had become larger and required more food as well.

  Regardless, I couldn’t see a real reason to go north or south. As for west… Well, the mountains actually terrified me more than the turtle. I hadn’t actually seen any monsters there, but I had a sneaking suspicion that flying monsters would get more powerful in the mountains. After all, there was less tree cover in the mountains but lots of altitude differences that allowed flying monsters to easily exploit the terrain. While that was tempting for me, as a flying monster myself, I also suspected that there would be powerhouses already living there.

  Aside from the freedom my new ability to fly granted me, the only other reason for me to leave my valley was to avoid the Blood Moly. Now that I killed the Stone Lynx there was no reason that it couldn’t range into the northern part of the valley. However, if that plant was killed I would be the undisputed ruler of this valley and I wouldn’t have much to fear. The valley walls were far too tall and steep for anything but powerful or flying monsters to make it down to the valley floor. The only way into the valley for most would be the gorge, which was blocked by turtlezilla over there.

  The Blood Moly seemed to kill mostly by strangulation, and I rather doubted it would be able to come close to choking me given the size of my neck. Plus, [Scale Armor] and [Wyvern Hide] meant it was very difficult to cut or crush me. How hard could it be to kill a plant with my talons and teeth?

  Well… The Lynx never managed it and it had the same advantages I did, but I did have other advantages. How much would or could my toxin and venom work on a plant piloting zombie monster corpses though? My next thought was to throw rocks at the plant monster from the air, but the same question came up: how much would that affect a plant? As for other tools, I didn’t have hands to use them anymore.

  I suppose I also had magic, but my magic was pretty pathetic; it was worse than it was in my previous life! I could shoot a single bolt of mana - what Shati had called a “magic missile” - but doing so drained my entire anemic mana pool because of how inefficient I was. I had also managed to gain the Skills General Magic and Air Magic, but that had not helped me very much at all.

  Traps wouldn’t work well either, not against the zombified monsters. Although maybe I could modify a trap to work? Maybe submerging the Blood Moly in a small pool of toxic water might work, although I doubt it would work quickly. If I could make a fire trap of some kind, that would be the best, but I couldn’t start a fire with magic and I didn’t have hands anymore.

  Maybe I could combine them? Trap the plant in a trap and then bombard it with rocks and flammable things and then light a fire elsewhere and toss it in, perhaps. I could also take sand and gravel into my mouth, submerge it in my toxic spit, and then blast it into the plant with a magic powered toxic sandblast. It would be a bit disgusting, but it would allow me to spread the poison over the body of the plant, because I wouldn’t have to worry about if the plant’s lesser circulation failing to spread the poison.

  Yeah, that might actually work quite well! My current body wasn’t very well suited to digging, but my Digging and Trap Making Skills would make up for the difference. I could stockpile large rocks, flint, and tinder nearby to make ready. It wouldn’t actually take me very long to prepare, the hardest part would be scouting out the Blood Moly so that it didn’t ambush me while I was building and the second hardest part would be luring the thing into my trap.

  For all that I could fly, the valley was still decently large and the Blood Moly wasn’t exactly large. Nor, for that matter, was it easy to see in the undergrowth. My Class ability, [Prey Sense], would help, but I doubt it would help all that much.

 

  “[Prey Sense]

  [You are able to sense where prey might be!]

  [The higher your Perception, Acuity, and Magic Stats, the more accurately you are able to predict where your target could be. This ability is most effective when tracking either general prey or a particular prey monster you have just seen. The longer between when you have last seen a particular prey monster and when you use this ability, the less effective this ability will be.]”

 

  I had tested it out and it was a lot like playing hot and cold; which is to say: quite frustrating. All I really got was a vague idea what the direction of whatever prey I was tracking was in, and I didn’t get much of an idea how far away that prey was. I could have a Hatchling Boreal Toad gnawing on my tail and my [Prey Sense] seemed to think it was ten or twenty meters away at least.

  Still, it was somewhat better than nothing and it would save me time, if nothing else. Not that time was really a worry of mine. While I wasn’t entirely sure, I was fairly certain that I was not yet a year old yet. I could afford to take my time if I wanted to and I still would Level up just fine.

  ...Nah, I would die of boredom if I did that. Besides, I wanted to kill the Blood Moly because it was the last real threat in the valley, not for the experience. However, I do have to admit that the experience was incredibly tempting. I wasn’t sure what its Evolution stages were, but if it was what I thought it was I would get three hundred percent bonus experience from it on top of massive base experience.

  Killing it might give me enough experience to Evolve immediately again! Wouldn’t that just be wonderful? I might miss hands, but I expect that the stats of the Young stage of the Lesser Wyvern might be too much for me to pass up. Giving up my wings would be a hard sell as well. Being able to just fly away from my problems was a massive advantage, after all.

  Well, all of this was neither here nor there. For now, I would get to work. Flying across the stream was easy enough, although it wasn’t always easy to find a branch that could hold my weight in the trees. After a small incidence where a family of Blood Squirrels attacked me, I began my hunt for the Blood Moly, half hopping and half flying from branch to branch.

  The forest was much more quiet this year. Instead of being dominated by lizards and toads, Blood Squirrels and Common Slimes were the most common monsters. In fact, there were very few toads or lizards at all. After some consideration, I supposed that the Ctuhulu-turtle hadn’t been at the gorge entrance last year and so Adult monsters had been able to enter to lay eggs. This year, any monster that tried to do that was just eaten by that giant monster outside. So the only monsters that were here were the ones that could breed and live inside the valley or were here beforehand.

  Of course, that does make me wonder where the Hatchling Boreal Toads and Hatchling Green Lizards that were around came from. I had no way to find out, so I let the question go and focused back on my hunt. The lesser amount of monsters made my hunt a lot easier because I didn’t have to check nearly as many creatures as I would have last year to see if they were meat robots being driven by a killer plant.

  I needn’t have worried about finding it though. A Blood Squirrel crawling around the ground really stands out if you are familiar with their behavior, especially with a flower growing out of its head. I would have worried because Blood Squirrels would be able to climb out of my traps, but the Blood Moly can’t control the monsters with that level of coordination.

  The next few hours were spent digging, gathering, and waiting as I prepared my trap. Every so often, I would stop and check on the plant monster’s location. A couple of times, I had to stop and wait for it to move away so that I wouldn’t start the fight early, so it was late afternoon before I finished.

  I suppose I could wait for tomorrow, but darkness was not really an impediment to my sight and patience was not one of my strong suits. In the end, my plan worked perfectly. Two hours later I was staring down into my pit trap where the burning Blood Moly was currently located - there was only one problem.

  The thing wasn’t dying!

  Poisoned, pummeled, and on fire, and still the thing just would not die! I really was not sure how to react to that besides my current abject confusion. I suppose I could bury it? For all my Trap Making Skill was rather high, the reality was that I really could only make pit traps and leave poisoned bait out for creatures. That left me with burial as my only back up option when confronted with something like this, and frankly I had not found burial to be very effective.

  I was fairly sure it would be even less effective against the Blood Moly which was, at its core, a plant. True, plants needed light and air, but they could go without far longer than most other organisms could and I would imagine that the Blood Moly would be even more hardy. Besides, the fire was hurting it, even if it was just a little bit. How long would it realistically survive anyway?

 

*Six hours later*

 

  The Blood Moly has now spent eight hours in the fire. On one hand, it is even more stuck in the pit than it was at the start because the monster body has burned away. On the other though, this is quite possibly one of the worst nights around a campfire I could have imagined. The thing just won't die!

  At this point I think my best option is to let the fire burn out and then try and rip it apart myself. Sure, I didn’t really want to engage it in melee, but I have to imagine that eight hours of fire, toxins, and bludgeoning had weakened it somewhat. So I stopped adding fuel to the fire and a little less than another hour later, I pounced down with my talons leading the way.

  Its roots reacted instantly, wrapping around me with startling speed. At first I was able to rip out some of its roots with ease, but while the tendrils were weak on their own there were a lot of them and they were much stronger together. I was secreting toxins and moving my jaw down to take a bite out of the flower and leaves of the Blood Moly, hoping that my venom might help if I injected enough of it.

  This was going to be a long fight.

 

Rei’Reihammara Solily POV:

 

  Our party made it to Evergold late at night. Rauvin, our leader and vanguard, had insisted that Evergold “was just one more mile away,” for maybe two dozen extra miles before the town came into sight. Honestly, I hadn’t expected any different, even for one of the shorter lived races Rauvin was especially impatient. There was an upside to arriving so late however:

  “You’d think they had never seen an Elf before,” I mused as we passed the slack-jawwed guards at the gate and entered the town.

  “They probably haven’t Ray,” Chaurl, our cleric said with a tired sigh. “How many elves have journeyed to Varrskya, and of those who have, how many have left the coastal cities?”

  It was a rhetorical question, of course. Though the answer was one, namely myself.

  “How many people have ‘journeyed’ out this far at all?” Ylma, our party’s mage sniffed in disdain as her eyes looked over the dark town. “Given how large this town is, more than I thought, but even so I would be hard pressed to say we were in civilization.”

  “So long as one of the people who has is an innkeeper, I don’t care about the rest,” Chaurl complained. It was a sentiment I agreed with wholeheartedly. I might love nature, but I do prefer to sleep in a bed at the end of the day!

  The guard had recommended an inn called “The Miner’s Rest” and had given directions, so our party made their way to it in good time. I heard Chaurl muttering a prayer of thanks to his god when he saw that the common room was lit and that the innkeeper was still awake. Having to wake up - and then negotiate with - an innkeeper was never a fun chore, and it almost always fell to Chaurl. After all, people had little trouble getting mad at a warrior but tended to be a lot calmer when talking to a cleric or priest! We got two rooms, one for men and one for women, and pretty much collapsed into them as soon as we could. I was asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow.

  Unfortunately, morning came all too soon. All of us were in various states of unkemptness - Ylma was particularly bedraggled, she never did well with mornings - as we gathered around the table, enjoying the meal prepared by the innkeeper.

  Rauvin had that look of a born leader and although he also happened to be somewhat of an idiot when it came to non-lethal things, he was always serious when the situation was dangerous. Standing at just over six feet tall, with short blonde hair and a trimmed goatee, even having just rolled out of bed he was already being eyed by the waitress.

  Aside from being the party leader, Rauvin was our vanguard and even had the Class [Vanguard]. He also had the [Heavy Infantry] and [Officer] Classes from his time in the army and had left with enough money to afford a full steel plate, which made him the perfect kind of person to lead from the front of the battle.

  To his left was Chaurl, who almost seemed the precise inverse of Rauvin. Where Rauvin was tall, Chaurl was short; where Rauvin had short blonde hair, Chaurl had long black hair gathered in a ponytail; and where Rauvin wore plate, Chaurl was dressed in robes.

  Chaurl was a cleric of Jakkus, the god of ambition, one of the lesser gods in the human pantheon. He provided healing when we were injured and was capable of armoring himself with blessings and wading into the fray himself when it was warranted. His primary Classes were [Acolyte] and [Brawler], although he also had the [Chef] Class from before he joined the Jakkus faith and became an adventurer.

  Between the healing and the cooking, it was a running joke that we all would prefer the food.

  On Rauvin’s right was Ylma whose fiery red hair was sometimes literally on fire because she was the party’s mage and preferred to use fire magic when fighting. Originally from a nameless village in the Old Lands, she had been thought of as cursed for her hair and ostracised. Through some various events though, she ended up with a scholarship to a prominent mage academy and lived most of her life in the lap of luxury. Her pale skin and soft hands had never seen a day of work until she was sent to get practical experience with magic and became an adventurer herself.

  As a [Witch] and [Fire Mage], Ylma blew away our enemies with blasts of fire. Whenever that didn’t work, she would curse them and weaken them for the rest of the party. Her Strength was low, but her Magic was very high and she could melt the armor right off a bandit.

  Next to her was Karlin, another one of our frontliners. He was the eldest - if you didn’t count myself - of the adventurers, although he was still under thirty. His dark brown hair and beard were messy, but other than that he was rather nondescript. If it weren’t for his steel studded leather armor and the sword on his belt he would be easy to mistake for a homeless bum on the street. He was a quiet man who rarely cared to speak more than necessary, but competent enough at what he did.

  Karlin was a [Rogue], [Swordsman], and [Skirmisher]. When Rauvin pinned our enemy down, Karlin would dart in and take advantages as they came. It was easy not to think of him as a threat compared to Rauvin in his heavy armor, but any bandit who made that mistake rarely got to make the same mistake again.

  Tamlin was something of a midliner. A young man with sandy hair who wore it in the same fashion as Rauvin - out of a slight case of hero worship - despite the fact the hair on his face was too wispy for him to really pull of a beard, Tamlin also wore leather armor but carried a spear instead of a sword.

  As a [Spearman], Tamlin helped to hold enemies away from the back line and was able to thrust forward whenever an opening presented itself. However, he wasn’t a very high level yet so Karlin usually capitalized on those openings before Tamlin could.

  And then there was me. I was very, very young for an elf, only a mere one hundred thirty one years old. I had the golden hair that was the sign of an elf descended from the Sol family line that I wore in a braid, letting the sharp point of my ears be visible to whomever looked. Other than that, I looked like an oddly tall and thin fourteen year old human girl; I was too young to have the truly sharp features of an adult elf.

  Like Tamlin, my youth meant that I didn’t have the best Classes. I was a [Warrior], [Hunter], [Scout], [Archer], and [Herbalist], and anyone who saw that list of Classes knew what I was going for. Of course an elf would be going towards the [Ranger] Class, it was such an incredibly common stereotype!

  The explanation for that was a bit less mystical than elves just being attuned to nature though. Having grown up in the Elven Groves, I had lived among some of the best [Rangers] in the world for longer than the rest of my party had cumulatively been alive. Once you see a millennia old [Far Ranger] whose Level might be in the hundreds practice their craft, of course any child would want to be like them! Regardless, I provided scouting, tracking, and ranged attacks for my party, and I think I did it well despite my basic Classes.

  I shook my head to clear it; I needed to pay attention. We had come to Evergold for work and so today was likely to be a busy one for us.

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vladerag

Bio: Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!

You can find them here! https://royalroadl.com/profile/76129/fictions

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