Jake readied himself as the creature swam beneath him. He knew it was aware of him as he felt its attention upon him. The eels before had been about five meters long, but this one… this one was on another level. More than an eel, it was a giant sea snake. He estimated it to be in excess of a hundred meters with a large bulky form, with a diameter over six or seven meters.
However, this didn’t mean it was slow. It slithered around the pillars lining the large room, seeming to enjoy the jolts of electricity that ran through them. On the other hand, Jake really didn’t, as he was forced to keep his distance from all the pillars or risk getting zapped.
The large Eel Lord didn’t seem to be in a rush to attack him. It appeared to have only just awakened as whatever powered the room also turned on. It happily absorbed the electricity and empowered itself. Jake decided not to waste his opportunity as he held out his hand.
Mana condensed as an arrow began appearing from his palm. More than an arrow, it looked like a harpoon, with jagged etches and a large broadhead. It was naturally Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter. While he didn’t know much of these lightning eels, the Terror and Spitters were close cousins, and ultimately, they were flesh and blood creatures.
Jake kept an eye on the eel as its massive form made its way around the chamber, keeping an eye on him too. It was apprehensive, far more so than any of its brethren. This indicated at least some level of intelligence as it had no doubt noticed the four dead eel around his more-or-less uninjured form.
It wasn’t that smart, though, as it allowed Jake to fully summon the arrow. Now his only issue was how to deliver it. He had no confidence firing an arrow with all the pillars lining the room to function as cover, not to mention the tiny little detail that he was still underwater.
Underwater archery didn’t have a good historical track record. In that, it didn’t have any track record. Because underwater archery wasn’t a thing, because underwater archer would be stupid, and Jake didn’t plan on inventing it in mortal combat.
So he wrapped the Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter on his back with arcane strings and took out his blades. He coated both of them in uncommon-rarity necrotic poison and added a small layer of stable arcane mana on each blade to encapsulate the toxins and not have the water dilute and weaken the killing power. Also, he had a very advanced attack tactic called “stabbing both swords into the eel to their hilts” planned.
Next up, he began condensing what looked like cubes of highly stable arcane mana. Whenever he made one, he sent it flying out into the large chamber, simply floating where it was. He did this tens of times, making hundreds of these cubes. The mana expenditure was insane, but he had the natural environment to keep him topped up. As for the purpose of these cubes? That would become clear later.
Being fully prepared, Jake narrowed his eyes as mana began condensing around him. Crystalline bolts began assembled by the dozen. The eel noticed what he was doing and knew it could no longer continue what it was doing. It moved around a few more pillars as it began rapidly making its way towards Jake.
Far more rapidly than Jake had expected.
Shit, he thought as he released the bolts of arcane mana towards his foe. Despite its massive form, the eel managed to dodge most, while the rest only left surface wounds. Four tendrils of pure lightning consensed around its head when it got close and moved to grasp him.
When he got a closer look, he noticed they were a mix of highly condensed water and electricity. The Eel Lord used them almost like hands, Jake dodging backward. In his moment of temporary panic, Jake fired off a blast of arcane mana, sending himself flying back and getting a bit too close to a pillar as he felt the hair on his head stand as faint amounts of lightning entered him.
The eel dove forward, lunging as it tried to bite down on his significantly smaller frame. Jake was more prepared this time as he already made a path of escape. He condensed some water below his feet as he stepped down. One Step Mile activated as Jake found himself standing on a cube of stable arcane mana more than two hundred meters away.
He had come to learn that One Step Mile really didn’t give a shit about what kind of environmental mana it had to make him travel through. Sure, the water was far denser, but in the end, it was still neutral and not antagonistic mana, making his One Step Mile work as well underwater as on land.
However, there was the issue of having something to step on. Condensing water far away from him was incredibly difficult as Jake usually used his Sphere of Perception for this, but with the Sphere limited, he required pre-prepared stepping platforms. That is where the cubes came in.
Why cubes? Well, because they had more sides, and while Jake had tried discs, they often weren’t oriented properly. Cubes were far better at that as they tended to spin randomly around from the currents and whatever movement in the water his fighting instigated. The cubes of stable arcane mana also lasted longer as they had more real estate to pump mana into. So yeah, that’s why he used cubes.
Jake teleported again just after landing, getting on the other side of the eel to confuse it. It sent out a large wave of electricity, but Jake was ready as he simply tanked it with his scales. The large form of the beast allowed him to take yet another step as he appeared on top of it. Electricity ran up his body, but it failed to paralyze him as he slammed both his swords down into the Eel Lord’s body.
It made a loud squeal of pain, sending a soundwave through the water that made Jake’s ears bleed. Yet Jake didn’t let up as he dragged both the blades across the body of the beast, leaving two incredibly deep cuts in its body. Not to mention the poison that now flowed within.
Sadly, he couldn’t continue his assault as the eel shook its body and amplified the voltage. Jake was forced to jump off, and just in time as an almost shockwave-like jolt of blue power ran through the eel. The massive creature fled from him as it slithered around several pillars, absorbing even more electricity as its wounds also began healing.
Jake responded by summoning even more bolts of arcane mana. However, he didn’t simply do that but also coated them in his own blood as he sent them flying through the water. The eel avoided most of them, but a few did find purchase.
Annoyingly, he found that the electricity of the pillars helped speed up the elimination of poison in its body as well as heal it. Ultimately, he still chose to fight it at range and wait for it to get close as his arcane bolts petered it as it tried to hide behind the pillars. Jake still did more damage than it healed, making him unsure what the hell it was doing until he noticed its skin slowly begin turning blue and begin crackling.
It was storing electricity not only in its body but its skin and small scales hidden beneath the skin. Each of the scales served as small batteries. Jake felt his own poison be slowly led into these scales, and the poison by worn down. The entire thing reminded him of how the Malefic Viper’s scales had-
His eyes opened wide as he stopped what he was doing. Without thinking, he poked a certain skill, impulsively activating it without any hesitation.
Do you wish to experience the Legacy of the Malefic Viper? Uses remaining: 2
The nine council members surrounded the dragon that was the Malefic Viper, having activated their trap and sealed the beast within a grand barrier. They were confident and saw no reason why they shouldn’t be able to slay it.
Their magics activated as they rained down upon the dragon’s scales, yet the moment they did, something wondrous happened. The scales seemed to almost come alive as they consumed the magic and stored it within themselves, nullifying or at least delaying much of the damage the Malefic Viper would have taken.
Everyone present was taken back, except for two other consciousness present. Naturally, the Malefic Viper had expected it, as all of this was a part of the plan to make them all fear him to amplify the effectiveness of his presence that he would release soon after.
The second person who wasn’t surprised was Jake. Already back during the first time, he had noticed this peculiar phenomenon, and now that he experienced it himself, he truly understood. However, comparing it to the eel was simply shameless.
This was on an entirely different level. Jake saw the scales consume the mana with absolute avarice, and he felt that it didn’t stop there, far from it. The mana stored in the scales began being broken down by an odd mix of Touch of the Malefic Viper and Palate of the Malefic Viper. The two skills seemed to fuse, existing within each scale as they passively did their work. The purpose of this was clear… to transform and then absorb the mana. Claim it as his own, with absolute gluttony and greed – a concept Jake understood very well and perhaps a part of the reason why he comprehended this skill so easily.
He felt it, he understood it, and as he focused his mind, he applied it. The vision around him began breaking down soon after, being the shortest Jake had ever experienced and even repeating the same scenario. Jake understood why… for he had wished to experience this again. He had wished to finish his comprehension, and the system acknowledged his desire and granted it.
As for why it ended so soon… because Jake was done, and he needed not see anymore. He had seen this end before, and he had his own battle to attend to. The notifications appeared before his eyes as he was transported back again.
[Scales of the Malefic Viper (Ancient)] – The Malefic Viper’s scales are the first, and often the only required, line of defense. Allows the Prodigious Alchemist of the Malefic Viper to turn parts of his skin into scales, vastly increasing the effect of toughness and adding a certain damage threshold. All damage below the threshold is nullified. The scales are exceptionally resistant to magic, allowing the alchemist to handle toxic substances better. Passively provides 1 Toughness per level in any profession related to the Malefic Viper. May you continue down your path, o chosen of the Malefic One.
[Scales of the Malefic Viper (Legendary)] – The Malefic Viper’s scales are the first, and often the only required, line of defense. Throughout the ages, as the Malefic Viper became a dragon, he too was granted the power inherent in the well-known dragon scales, making him a bane of all magic. Allows the Alchemist of the Malefic Viper to turn parts of his skin into scales, vastly increasing the effect of toughness and adding a certain damage threshold. All damage below the threshold is nullified. The scales are legendarily resistant to magic and will store excess mana from any magical attacks that would have otherwise damaged you. If the damage taken by the scales is too high, this mana will be dealt as direct damage after a certain amount of time. Otherwise, this mana will be slowly refined and be absorbed or dispersed into your surroundings. Passively provides 3 Toughness per level in Heretic-Chosen Alchemist of the Malefic Viper. May your scales be as perennial as the Malefic One, and may the sight of your scales let all know their resistance is futile.
*’DING!’ Profession: [Heretic-Chosen Alchemist of the Malefic Viper] has reached level 131 - Stat points allocated, +10 Free Points*
*’DING!’ Race: [Human (D)] has reached level 135 - Stat points allocated, +15 Free Points*
The eel was clearly flummoxed when Jake returned. He had only been gone for a few seconds, but it was enough to throw it off momentarily. His trip away had been brief, but Jake was still experiencing the euphoria of the skill upgrade, and he had no patience or willingness to delay experimenting.
Scales had been the first of the “of the Malefic Viper” skills Jake got that granted him stats. The skill had been the beginning of it all. It had served him well and been his primary defense for such a long time… and now he would see what the improved version was truly capable of. Scales covered his body, looking no different than before visually, but the assumption that no changes had happened couldn’t be further from the truth.
Each scale was a small magical treasure in itself, holding concepts and power Jake couldn’t fully understand. Yet the knowledge of the skill made him aware this was because the scales he summoned were true dragon scales or at least a very close imitation of them. He was certain an actual dragon would have far more powerful ones, as the Viper’s were still on another level, but that didn’t mean his scales already weren’t ridiculous.
The Eel Lord collected itself, its body now shimmering with electric light. Jake noticed the Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter was still on his back, and he couldn’t help but smile. He began condensing mana under his feet as the massive beast charged towards him, its gaping maw open and ready to rip him apart.
Jake stood still as the eel released a massive shockwave of blue light. If it had hit him only a dozen seconds ago in realtime, then he would have been paralyzed and found himself in quite the pickle… but now? Now the electricity simply rolled over his body, small sparks absorbed by the scales here and there.
This didn’t deter the beast as it still attacked. It sought to consume him; that much was clear.
He chose to oblige, but on his own terms.
Jake leaped forward, arcane energy exploding behind him as he was propelled like a torpedo towards the open razor-sharp teeth-filled mouth of the eel. Naturally, the beast noticed his near-suicidal attack and prepared to chomp down with a strike that no doubt could pierce even his new shiny scales. Unfortunately, they still carried the same relative fragility to physical damage as before, even if that had also improved.
Not that it was an issue in this particular instance, for the moment before the Eel Lord managed to close its jaws around him, its entire body froze, being affected by Gaze of the Apex Hunter for the first time. It failed to move as a figure barrelled straight into its open mouth and summoned a bow.
Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter still had to be shot from one, after all.
And while archery was utter shit underwater, it was still useable if you only had to make a magical arrow move a bit forward and puncture a beast.
The arrow was released just as the beast was able to move. He shot it upwards towards where he assumed the brain of the Eel Lord would be but didn’t wait to find out.
A blade appeared in each hand as he headed not out of the mouth but further in. Simultaneously, the eel’s internal defense system activated as everything around him contracted, and electricity unlike anything ever before dominated the environment, being far more powerful within the beast than outside.
The energy rolled over him as Jake’s eyes lit up from the electricity. The scales blocked nearly everything, but some damage did still manage to seep through. He reckoned most things would die from being crushed by the contracting muscles of the eel and the massive amount of electricity… but Jake wasn’t most.
With his two blades, he cut up the eel from the inside, storming through the inside of its body down the length of the beast. It squealed and resisted. It tried to crush him, it tried to fry him, it did all it could as it thrashed around but failed to truly do anything. Jake made things even worse as he even cut up his own arms and began spraying his blood inside the body of the eel.
One step at a time he carved his way through its body, leaving only rotting necrotic flesh and blood in his wake. At the same time, his scales were pulsing as they absorbed more and more mana. If he had done this before the upgrade, things wouldn’t have ended well, but now?
Now all the beast could do was slowly realize it had swallowed more than it could chew.
*You have slain [Giant Fulgarian Eel Lord – lvl 158]- Bonus experience earned for killing an enemy above your level*
*’DING!’ Class: [Avaricious Arcane Hunter] has reached level 140 - Stat points allocated, +10 Free Points*
In the end, the water level didn’t turn out to be that bad – Jake just had to leave with Path of the Heretic Chosen and do something else to truly enjoy it.