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252. Pebbles

[-̶̧̛̻͕̹̩̖͕̑̈́̂͗̾͊̓͌̀͗́͝ͅ-̵̖͎͖̤̌̇̿̓̿̌́̆͛͆͘͝-̵̧̣̩͚̗͕̤͙͉̱͕͎͔̟͐̑͊͌ͅ-̶̻͕̲͓͈̼̥̰̘͔͛̍̊̒̉̈́̐̂̋̕͝ Boulder - Lvl.-̶̧̛̻͕̹̩̖͕̑̈́̂͗̾͊̓͌̀͗́͝ͅ-̵̖͎͖̤̌̇̿̓̿̌́̆͛͆͘͝-̵̧̣̩͚̗͕̤͙͉̱͕͎͔̟͐̑͊͌ͅ-̶̻͕̲͓͈̼̥̰̘͔͛̍̊̒̉̈́̐̂̋̕͝]

[-̶̧̛̻͕̹̩̖͕̑̈́̂͗̾͊̓͌̀͗́͝ͅ-̵̖͎͖̤̌̇̿̓̿̌́̆͛͆͘͝-̵̧̣̩͚̗͕̤͙͉̱͕͎͔̟͐̑͊͌ͅ-̶̻͕̲͓͈̼̥̰̘͔͛̍̊̒̉̈́̐̂̋̕͝ Boulder - Lvl.-̶̧̛̻͕̹̩̖͕̑̈́̂͗̾͊̓͌̀͗́͝ͅ-̵̖͎͖̤̌̇̿̓̿̌́̆͛͆͘͝-̵̧̣̩͚̗͕̤͙͉̱͕͎͔̟͐̑͊͌ͅ-̶̻͕̲͓͈̼̥̰̘͔͛̍̊̒̉̈́̐̂̋̕͝]

[-̶̧̛̻͕̹̩̖͕̑̈́̂͗̾͊̓͌̀͗́͝ͅ-̵̖͎͖̤̌̇̿̓̿̌́̆͛͆͘͝-̵̧̣̩͚̗͕̤͙͉̱͕͎͔̟͐̑͊͌ͅ-̶̻͕̲͓͈̼̥̰̘͔͛̍̊̒̉̈́̐̂̋̕͝ Boulder - Lvl.-̶̧̛̻͕̹̩̖͕̑̈́̂͗̾͊̓͌̀͗́͝ͅ-̵̖͎͖̤̌̇̿̓̿̌́̆͛͆͘͝-̵̧̣̩͚̗͕̤͙͉̱͕͎͔̟͐̑͊͌ͅ-̶̻͕̲͓͈̼̥̰̘͔͛̍̊̒̉̈́̐̂̋̕͝]

“So, how does that work?”

I stared at the three ‘Cursed Boulders’ hovering before me. Each of them were like a miniature version of the one I’d just fought. They were smaller, yes. And they weren’t composed of all the debris that’d come from the original Cursed Boulder. Remnants, yes. But many of the shattered pieces of rock and pebble and dirt were scattered around, still lying on the ground. It was just the large chunks that’d risen back up.

And they were ready to fight.

I felt my shoulders slump as the vortex reappeared around them. With only their silhouette, they turned to face me. I crossed my arms and faced the sky.

“So, Sal, am I… done with my task or not? Because I’m supposed to destroy the Cursed Boulders, right? Not three of the Cursed Boulders?”

There was no response. And the three remnants attacked.

I flipped through the air as their distorted and multi-colored tendrils struck out at me. They moved slower than before, far easier to dodge now. Somehow, because they were split apart, they were smaller and weaker. I always thought being tinier meant you’d be faster, but that wasn’t the case here.

One of the remnants teleported before me, trying to capture me within their storm. The same trick the original did. I knew now that the Breastplate of Alexander could stave off their attacks. So, I took it head on as a pair of invisible arms grabbed the remnant. I pulled myself towards it with [Mystical Projection] as an aura shimmered around me. And with my claws, I smashed into the center stone.

The strike sent chunks of rock and debris flying everywhere, but it didn’t kill the remnant. Not just yet. The other remnants tried to catch me as I spun around. I dodged their attacks, and while still holding onto the first remnant with [Mystical Projection], I began to crush it with my invisible hands.

I fell slowly as it began to crumble from the pressure. Just as it collapsed entirely, the other two remnants appeared before me. Another teleportation. This time, in sync. They assailed me with their vortex at the same time, burning straight through the aura around me. I gritted my teeth as I spread my arms wide, gripping both of them at the same time to crush them just like I did with the first.

But I’d be too slow. I already saw the aura failing. I realized that it’d take too long. That I had to teleport out of there. However, just as I was about to use [Long Range Teleportation], I saw a red glow.

The Breastplate of Alexander shifted. It normally glimmered and shone an iridescent wave of colors due to whatever enchantment it had. However, now its color began to grow uniform. Crimson. Like blood. As if it had been bleeding— taking the attacks for me— and now it was entirely stained from its own wounds.

My eyes narrowed as one of the temporary Skills it granted me echoed in my head.

[Repudiation Repulse].

I tapped a finger on the breastplate, pouring my mana into it. I closed my eyes and inhaled.

It exploded.

A wave of force shot out in an instant. It expanded like a disc at first— a ring that quickie expanded, followed by a powerful blast in all directions. It was an explosion of all colors. One that consumed everything around me.

The two remnants of the Cursed Boulder were instantly obliterated. They were blown apart, turned into dust. There was nothing left behind. Everything that had comprised them had… evaporated.

Even the bits of the sky I’d seen was gone. I blinked and stared at the Breastplate of Alexander.

“Huh. That’s a surprise.”

“No!”

A voice shouted. I glanced up to see the Devil floating down towards me. He wore a scowl on his face and crossed his arms when he landed.

“No! No! No! No! No!”

“Um, what’s wrong?”

I cocked my head as he continued shouting. Behind him, I watched the remains of the first remnant begin to form another two remnants. I raised a hand to crush them with [Mystical Projection].

“Wait, wha—”

“You!”

He pointed at me, cutting me off. I nodded.

“Salvos.”

“Yes, Salvos. You. Why did you use the Breastplate of Alexander to destroy them? I told you to destroy the Cursed Boulder with your Class Skills!”

“I mean, you just said I couldn’t use my Subspecies Skills. You didn’t tell me I couldn’t use it.”

“It was implied—”

He closed his eyes and massaged his temples. I watched him ruminate over this as the two remnants behind him were fully formed. I shrugged.

“Look, you just told me to level up my Class and their Skills. And I did exactly that!”

I doubled checked the new notifications in my head

Class [Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus] Level Up!

[Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus - Lvl. 58] -> [Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus - Lvl. 59]

Gained 2 Secondary Skill Points!

Class [Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus] Level Up!

[Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus - Lvl. 59] -> [Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus - Lvl. 60]

Gained 2 Secondary Skill Points!

Yep, I was Level 60 now. So, I did not defy the Devil’s instructions at all. I was doing exactly what I was told to do. Why was he upset?

“Alright.”

He finally spoke in a tired voice.

“That… breastplate gives you a Skill. One that’s able to absorb attacks and reflect them to your enemies after a critical point. That’s why it completely destroyed everything around it.”

The remnants rose from the ground as he continued.

“However, in doing so, you diminished the number of foes you’d have for the future.”

“What do you mean?”

“This Cursed Boulder— or well, that’s what the Beastmen call them. They are not so much cursed. More… corrupted, yes. But that doesn’t matter for now.”

He snapped his fingers, trapping the pair in what appeared to be a glass box before they could lash out at him. I knew it wasn’t a glass box with one glance at it. But it sure looked like one.

“What I’m saying is that you won’t be able to reach your next Class advancement because of this. These two are the smallest they’ll go.”

He gestured at the remnants. They were pretty much pebbles at this point. No larger than my head.

“Once they are gone, you’ll have no more levels to gain from them.”

“Huh.”

That made sense. I just had no idea that they’d only break down so far. I was expecting them to turn into tiny little dust monsters. Although, if that were the case, would I even be able to destroy all of them? In which case, it would be an impossible task. To complete the task, it logically meant that they’d stop breaking into smaller pieces at some point. I tapped a finger on my chin.

“Well, can’t I just reach my next advancement by Level 65?”

I gave him a hopeful look. He shook his head.

“If you truly wish to achieve that, I advise you to find other ways of defeating them. One that doesn’t rely on pure brawn, and one that doesn’t rely on your artifacts, either.”

The Devil clapped his hands lightly, and the two remnants of the corrupted thing began to fly around— away from me. I reached out to stop them, but Sal stopped me.

“For now, I suggest you let them roam free. Otherwise, you wouldn’t even be able to gain five levels from them. Find some other monsters to hunt in the meantime. Whatever it takes to complete this task.”

I furrowed my brows.

“Wait, so you want me to let them grow big again?”

“That is correct.”

He nodded.

“And they can do that just by…?”

I watched as the remnants gathered dust and small pebbles to reform themselves, very slowly. Gradually. They couldn’t lift trees like the original had been able to. These were tiny, and what they could consume were equally as tiny.

“Yes, they absorb their surroundings to grow their size. Anything and everything can become a part of them.”

I narrowed my eyes, fixing my gaze on the specks of azure on them. Marks of the sky.

“Anything?”

The Devil’s eyes glinted knowingly.

“Yes.”

With a tap of his hoof, he spun around and created a portal. I tapped a finger on my chin as a thought crossed my mind.

“Where do they even come from, anyway? I’ve never seen or heard of anything like that before.”

He paused before the hole in space. The Devil glanced back at me.

“They come from the Endlands.”

He answered simply.

“Or, at least, what’s left of the Endlands.”

“Where’s that?”

I cocked my head.

“Somewhere far, far away.”

With that, he placed one of his hooves through the portal as though he was walking through a doorway. Another thought crossed my mind.

“Wait!”

He frowned as he stopped once more.

“What is it now? More questions?”

“No, I just…”

I thought of the Beastmen. The destroyed tribes— the vengeance in Mountaintooth’s eyes.

“If I let these… corrupted pebbles, or whatever they’re called, run free, wouldn’t they kill a lot of people?”

“They would.”

The Devil tilted his head, facing me curiously.

“Is that a problem?”

I paused. I thought about it for a moment.

“No, there isn’t a problem.”

“Good.”

And the Devil vanished.

 

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MelasD

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