Robin found that punching the tree into fragments gave him a lot of time to think. It was not that it was hard, but there was just so much tree. He checked his skills while he was punching; the tree wasn’t exactly a moving target with weak spots to exploit.







Bug Taming



Delay Reaction






Bond Insect



Reinforce Bug



Resist Pain






Resist Fear



Enchant Object







Most of the skills were about what he expected them to be, but… Robin stopped punching for a moment when he saw his Resist Fear skill.


Holy yoshi, that’s amazing! I wonder what the limit is? And Resist Pain is at nine...


Should punching this tree hurt more? My hands feel fine, and I have not lost any BODY.


He kept punching the tree. Another howl pierced the night, startling some small bird out of the tree.


Robin heard wood creak from the trees over his head, and then satisfaction from Opal.


Robin took a few last, big swings at the tree, and then looked over at May, standing up straight.


“I think that will be enough. It will have to be, in any case. I think we are out of time.”


May nodded, glancing in the trees. “We are.”


She squinted into the trees briefly, tilting her head in the affirmative.


“Think they’re about a minute away, if not sooner.”


“Why are they not here sooner, as fast as they are?”


“They’re paranoid as hell, luckily. It makes them take their time… at least until they find something to obsess over.”


Robin shuddered. No thanks. I would rather not be thought of at all by Tweaker Mages…


“Can you cover me a bit while I, er… absorb… this wood?”


May snickered slightly at his awkwardness, but she had the decency to cover her mouth, at least. Robin glared at her. Fine then! Crank up the timidness in my voice a little bit...


“I’ve never done this before. It’s my first time, and I’m nervous. Will you hold me while I do it?”


May stared at him open-mouthed for minute before busting into quiet giggles. “It’s about time you lightened up a little, but right before a fight to the death with a psychotic tribe of rubber-armed mutants? You have a weird sense of timing, kid. Let’s get this over with so we can find a more advantageous position as they move in.”


Robin nodded and began scooping the wood dust, shards, fragments, and chunks into the Aliquam Pack.


May rolled her eyes and helped him scoop it into the bag, pressing the wood in as he moved it like a vacuum cleaner, or perhaps a very lazy dog.


When they had the majority of the wood into the pack, Robin nodded his thanks at her and sat down, opening his new armor menu and willing his armor to trigger the Aspect of the Blue Desert Locust at the same moment, intent on absorbing the mana, the wood, or both.


He remembered that it drained PHYSTAM just a moment too late to change his mind. He felt his eyes grow heavy, and it became a physical struggle to keep them open. He staggered slightly, leaning over his lap. May said something, but he could not understand her. What did you say?


“Wherdiduse?” That ...definitely wasn’t right. Robin shook his head, holding up his finger to May. She said something again, a little more clearly. Robin nodded absently, feeling his PHYSTAM slowly tick back up.


Several long, deliberate breaths later, Robin had collected himself enough to sit up fully. As he got to his feet he read the new armor ability that had appeared on his armor menu, only wobbling slightly.


Aspect of the Wasp
The wearer of the Ironclad Armor of the Beetle can produce a chitinous blade from their arms. When they inflict wounds, the wounds cause pain at twice the intensity of a similarly placed and sized wound. If damaged or destroyed, the blades may be reformed with additional uses of Ironclad Armor of the Beetle.


Robin considered it for a moment. It looks like another passive ability that should affect the armor by default. Good, it will be nice to have a weapon I can remake at any time. Robin willed the menu to close and was startled by another notification.


The Ironclad Armor of the Beetle has upgraded to The Shell of the Blue Entomage. Motes may be applied directly to the Shell of the Blue Entomage.

Robin groaned out loud. Great, another ability that will absorb from my already scarce Mote pool.


He looked up at May and started to tell her about his new ability.


He froze when he saw her tense eyes staring into the woods, her machete drawn. She spoke without looking at him, her voice flat and low.


“My traps should be going off any moment, if they didn’t avoid them entirely. I’m going to go out and trigger the manual ones, maybe see if I can engage any solo targets. Will you be okay by yourself for a little bit?” She glanced up at Opal before continuing, and almost seemed like she was communicating something to his familiar. “Opal should probably stay with you.”


Robin nodded, trying to show more confidence than he felt. “I will be just fine. You go ahead.”


She looked at him for just a moment for giving him a curt nod and disappearing into the woods behind her.


Did… did she just lie to me? What could be out there that would make her deceive her only backup?


The trees had become much more silent than they had been previously, a testament to how close the Tweaker Mages had to be.


I guess this would be a good time to use the Aspect of the Dragonfly.


Robin focused his MANA into his armor, willing the Aspect to activate. After a moment, he felt his armor shifting into him, molding itself a little bit tighter against him. As he watched it, fascinated, the larger armor sections became small, plated sections, each overlapping the last. The scales shifted from a dark brown to a deep, iridescent blue, the color changing as he shifted his angle of view.


The forest exploded into sound, like someone had turned up the speakers of reality. Robin contained his startled twitch and did his best to adapt to the increased awareness of movement he had abruptly attained.


If it does this much for perception, what does it do for Stealth? I cannot afford to test it now, though. Next up… Aspect of the Wasp!


Robin felt his PHYSTAM drain slightly, but it was nowhere near as significant a loss as what had happened earlier with the Aspect of the Blue Desert Locust. His forearms grew slightly heavier, and Robin felt a sensation he couldn’t quite place, almost like he had just discovered a muscle he had never used before.


Robin flexed the muscle, and blue-tinted, rough-looking blades came out of his forearms just over the wrist. The blue was the same color as the Aspect of the Dragonfly. Each blade looked like a flattened bayonet, an almost triangular shape with deep grooves running vertically up the blade in between the “peaks” of the triangle points.


These look like they can cut in any direction… Excellent.


That’ll help if any more spiders jump on me, he thought darkly.



May knew he would be alright.


She knew this for a fact.


Firstly, because she was watching him through her class abilities.


Secondly, because she wasn’t far away from him.


Thirdly, because Opal, his gigantic pink pet praying mantis, was significantly more dangerous than he seemed to acknowledge, care about, or e ven realize. She had seen what it had done to the jumping spider it had encountered. The monstrously-sized arachnid had been dead in seconds.


Well, as good as dead, anyway.


She shuddered. Her perception-enhancing abilities were sometimes a curse in ways other than causing her to grow additional eyes; she could have lived without knowing how much sheer mass the mantis could eat.


May turned her attention away from Robin, just as he was ...turning blue and growing swords from his arms!?


Man, right as it got interesting. Hope he’s ready, because he is officially out of time. May dropped from the tree she was in, cutting through the skull of one of the weird little toddler-tweaker-goblins (or whatever they were) before it could run away or cry out.


She snapped her blade out to her right and killed another, severing its spine even as it turned around. It stared at her for a split second before dying, its dead eyes screaming “Unfair!”


May leapt back up into the trees, her leap easily carrying her into the bough, and her increased perception allowing her to maneuver through the hidden tree branches with ease. She zipped a web to another tree some twenty meters away and used Web Skate to cannonball over, extending her arm outside the protection afford by her skill to cut through the chest, collarbone, and back of another Tweaker Goblin. That works, I’m sticking with that.


Why are there so many of these things? Is it because we’re near their base, or… were they just reproducing up until now?


May felt her conscious thoughts drift away as she entered the rhythm of combat, the unnatural speed of the Tweaker Goblins requiring constant attention to her maneuvering, lest she find herself being knocked bodily to the ground.


May had just killed her sixth Tweaker Goblin when she heard it.


It wasn’t particularly hard to hear, and had they not been in a forest with dense tree cover, it would not have been hard to see, either.


A massive explosion had just come from the directions the Tweaker Mages were coming from, painting the sky with green and red flames.


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About the author


Bio: Just read my stories and make wild assumptions, it's more fun that way.

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