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After completing the ladder, Marcello’s profession status changed as well from Carpenter -> Carpenter (novice). Apparently his profession did not level the same way his class did, and his progression would be marked in tier grades rather than levels. He wasn’t quite sure how to increase his profession tier, but it just made sense that crafting new things with higher grades would steadily increase his proficiency.

Anyway, he was exhausted from working for so many hours in a row. The sun was setting and it was time to get some sleep. Marcello took out a sleeping tent that he bought back at the tutorial store and set it up near to the waterfall, after making sure that there were no other giant creatures nearby.

“I’m gonna get some sleep, alright Frosty? See you tomorrow,” he said to his ice elemental companion. “And keep watch for me, will you? If there are any more angry beavers just give me a nudge.”

The ice elemental nodded.

Marcello loathed to spend more of his ice elemental friend’s summon duration for sleep, but unfortunately when the body called for maintenance he was in no position to protest. Although he felt a lot more energetic after the system was implemented, he still needed rest once in a while. He didn’t want to brave the next level of the biome without sufficient rest, and it would be great to recover some of his paltry mana bar too. The enigmatic bulwark knight class was not exactly great to his intelligence and wisdom growth, with both of those stats sitting at a terrible 9 and even that was rounded up from 8.8.

Marcello entered the tent and laid down in a sleeping bag that he bought for a few points, scrunching the sleeping bag up as a pillow since it was kind of hot in the terrestrial biome.

“Good night, Frosty.”

Frosty was unable to reply because ice elementals didn’t have lungs, but Marcello could feel that he replied in spirit.

---------

The next day, early morning.

“Take that”! A level four warrior from sector two shouted, finally taking down a giant level 11 naked mole rat with the help of his party.

Its level was higher than anything else his party had experienced so far in the tutorial, and it was with great effort that his seven man party was able to take it down.

“God damn, these monsters just got a whole lot harder!” a newly promoted level five archer said.

The coniferous forest that nearly blotted out the sunlight was filled with roaming beasts, and one of their scouts reported that there was an entire party of humans up ahead from their sector that were decimated by the beasts, their bodies having been eaten or drowned in the river up ahead. The poor scout was barely able to relay the information without retching; an entire human party slain by the savage beasts of the forest? They had to have gotten stronger since the two trials, but he never thought that the beasts’ strength would increase by this much.

The levels of all beasts were much higher than what they had encountered before, and the further into the forest, the higher level the beasts.

Despite what the tutorial told them, there was not even a hint of a quest giver or a shop in this god forsaken forest.

“Godfried, can you scout ahead again?”

The scout named Godfried, a bearded man with knotted hair, nodded. He had an advanced version of identify that let him see the levels of creatures far above his own level, so naturally he was the scout for the party.

Godfried sprinted forward, returning fifteen minutes later.

“We can’t go any further, there are packs of level 19 wolves up ahead just patrolling the area,” he moaned. “What are we supposed to do?”

A wave of fear washed over the rest of the team when they heard what their scout said. Level nineteen beasts were absurdly overleveled for the party to take on. No wonder that other human party was killed off. Just one was bad enough, but a group roaming in packs? A group of level nineteen enemies could quickly wipe their party of just-promoted level fives.

The highest level creatures that they fought so far were the werewolf and banshee bosses of the second trial, both at level nine, and even those ended up killing two of their members.

---------

Early morning.

Back in the terrestrial biome, a certain knight was climbing his way up on his sturdy yet shoddy wooden creation, his feet wobbling with every rung out of nervousness in trusting his own handiwork. Still, the wooden ladder held firm, true to its identifiable characteristics of sturdy and flexible. He had already cleared the first half of the rock cliff to the right of the waterfall, and was making his way up the second leg now.

Right beside him, his ice elemental companion was climbing up with its bare hands, slamming its hands into the rock cliff and cementing its grasp onto the craggy precipice with offshooting ice crystals.

Marcello realized that he could’ve just hitched a ride on Frosty, but making the ladder on a level with no monsters wasn’t too bad of a choice since Frosty’s summon duration was going to expire eventually.

“Hup!” he exclaimed, climbing the precariously steep ladder again, praying that each of the somewhat off-center rungs would hold his weight.

Thankfully, they did, and he managed to climb his way onto the next level of the terrestrial biome. What a relief.

Well, not quite, because the moment he reached the top of the waterfall he found himself staring down a horrifying sight just a few yards away from him. The beast loomed over his head, its skin a pallid, pale white, and the grooves of its hideous jaws dark with blood. The thing’s eyes, one of which was open, looked at Marcello through a tangle of bloody strands of hair.

What in the actual fuck was that? He quickly used identify, as Frosty lumbered onto the top of the cliff.

[Level ? Albino Molerat]

The mole rat lunged towards him so fast that Marcello barely had time to summon his plate armor. Its claws swiped at his torso right as his blue gambeson chestplate appeared to protect him, the armor thankfully saved him from the brunt of the claws but the impact still knocked him back precariously to the edge of the cliff, a head’s distance from the edge behind him and just a few feet away from the waterfall to the left.

An enraged Frosty jumped onto the sickening albino mole rat and wrestled the accursed creature to the ground. The ice elemental clearly had the upperhand in the fight as it held the monster's head and pummeled it with its icy fists, but the mole rat fought back viciously. It was stronger and higher level than the earth beaver from before, as the albino mole rat wrapped its thick white tail around the ice elemental’s neck in an attempt to choke it.

Unfortunately for the mole rat, it didn’t have the intelligence to realize that ice elementals did not need oxygen to function. Frosty simply stood up and then slammed its entire body down onto the ground, slamming the mole rat down onto the earth as Marcello flung his archeios javelin at the albino monster’s flank.

“Sundering blow!” Marcello shouted, swinging his longsword at the mole rat in an attempt to help when honestly his ice elemental could have taken care of it himself.

The mole rat’s hide was tough, as it had a higher constitution than the beaver, but Marcello just gained two levels and was quite strong himself with his forty strength. His longsword struck hard while also leaving a concussive billowing blow from the impact.

Sundering blow was kind of like a blunt force attack even when casted through a longsword, which was a cutting type weapon. The effect was strange yet effective. Marcello felt like he was swinging a kitchen knife, and with every swing it also followed up with an invisible punch to the gut, dealing more damage of a different type with additional armor penetration and armor crush.

Frosty followed up with a massive downwards swing of his fist, smashing the rat’s head into smithereens.

SPLAT.

What once was a scary carnivorous overgrown mole rat head was now a bloody splat on the ground with ice spilling from it.

At this point, Marcello felt like he was a side character to the adventures of Frosty the overpowered one-punch-one-kill ice elemental. Why was his character even needed anymore? Just for moral support, huh. He was basically the vulnerable and defenseless character that the main character Frosty needed to save every battle, almost like the little sister of the overpowered main character archetype in all of those korean novels.

Anyway, Marcello made a mental note to never, ever, ever, ever, ever fuck with an enemy ice elemental. It was at times like this that he was so glad that the ice elemental was on his side and not the other side.

The albino mole rat was slain, but at the cost of another chunk of Frosty’s summon duration. Frosty wasn’t going to be able to carry him forever. Still, probably the best eight thousand tutorial points ever spent.

You have slain [Lvl 31 Albino Mole Rat] - You are the sole contributor to this kill, and have received bonus tutorial points for the kill. Bonus experience awarded for solo contribution. Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy.

Holy shit, this thing was Level 31!

“Damn Frosty, you made that mole rat look like he was level five or something…” Marcello said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Ding! [Enigmatic Bulwark Knight] class has leveled up to level 18. Strength has increased by 1. Constitution has increased by 2.

Ding! [Human] race has leveled up to level 18. All stats have been increased by 0.1.

...

Ding! [Enigmatic Bulwark Knight] class has leveled up to level 20. Strength has increased by 1. Constitution has increased by 2.

Ding! [Human] race has leveled up to level 20. All stats have been increased by 0.1.

You have reached a threshold level. Please choose a new skill from the following options.

Shopping season again. Maybe after a hundred of these new skills he could finally take back his role as main character and would no longer have to live in Frosty’s gigantic and intimidating shadow any more.

Marcello first retrieved his huge wooden ladder that the system so graciously deemed as shoddy grade and put the entire thing in his inventory. He wasn’t exactly sure how it fit in there but if the system allowed it, he wasn’t going to complain.

His plan for now was to scope out the new area and find a path to the exit, while also leveling up his carpentry and combat level with Frosty.

“Hey Frosty, can you keep an eye out for me?” Marcello asked.

The giant nodded.

Heh. Shopping time. He felt like a teenage girl at the mall.

--------

Late afternoon.

[Gabriel (alive) – Level 14 Necrotic Healer]

Gabriel stalked a large group of people from sector two that included a scout by the name of Godfried. He had been following them for about an hour and a half now by staying in the dark cover provided by the many trees with his epic skill He Who Hides in Shadows activated. His close proximity with the party granted him vital information about the structure of the forest, information that he sorely needed as he had exited his last trial late again.

Godfried’s small group suffered a casualty, and merged into a larger group from sector three where a burly man with an eye patch named Eric was the leader.

Gabriel was considering approaching them and offering to join their party, but after spending the better part of the tutorial alone he had developed a taste for solo play. It was more experience for him when he killed things solo after all.

Clearing two trial rooms by himself taught him to conduct extensive reconnaissance on his surroundings, to be abundantly cautious, and that patience often rewarded itself. For now, he was alright with just killing a beast here or there while he gathered more information from stalking this team.

For instance, from their conversations, he already found out that sector three’s trials were slightly different than sector two’s. They had some kind of bridge crossing challenge where imps attacked them from all sides.

“There’s a lone level thirteen deer further down the river,” Godfried related to the large burly warrior with an eye patch over his face.

“That’ll give us some experience, although leveling really is a lot harder when the experience is getting shared by so many of us,” Eric replied.

Gabriel noted that Eric was without a doubt the de facto leader of their group, having been the leader of the seventeen man group before merging with Godfried’s. He was also the highest level, a level eight warrior. Now level eight didn’t seem all too high when compared to his own Necrotic Healer level, but by the standards of the tutorial it was already quite high.

“Let’s go hunt that deer,” Eric pronounced. “Andrew, you and–”

Before he could finish his sentence, a mana projectile soared through the air from across the river and blasted the man called Andrew in the side, knocking him down and chunking half of his health. Gabriel had seen the basic skill called mana bolt used before, but this one was ludicrously strong.

A very faint red tendril of mana extended across the river from a bush, so faint over that distance that only Gabriel could see it with his higher degree of mana attunement from his class.

“Enemy attack!” Eric shouted.

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HereBeTreasure

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