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The man that Eric referred to as Andrew convulsed violently before falling to the ground after the mana bolt hit.

“That deer is my prey!” a female voice shouted from across the river bank, out of sight. “If you go that way, you’ll end up like your buddy over there, alright?”

Eric looked down at the convulsing Andrew and then back across the river, trying to find the mage that caused that injury. He had never seen such a powerful mana bolt before, able to chunk Andrew’s health bar to such an extent and leave him reeling on the floor having a epileptic fit of some sort. Eric never noticed the red tendril of mana connecting to Andrew’s body, which fed into the illusion of the mage’s strength.

Gabriel noticed though. He had already drawn his rare-rarity Necromancer’s staff out of pure habit. Those last two trials had basically stripped him down to an easily alerted killing machine, but he realized that they were bantering so he stayed his hand. No reason to get involved yet, not unless it involved Agnis. If Agnis showed himself, he was not going to show any restraint.

“There’s no need to fight!” Eric shouted across the river, looking for the source of the female voice. Feigning pacifism, he had one hand behind his back signalling to his archers to fire once they located the target.

“Euuuuuaaaaaggghhhhh!!!!!!!!”

Andrew’s anguished scream rang out, as another mana bolt whistled across the bank and smote him in the side, bringing his health bar down to precariously low.

“Let’s stop this senseless violence!” shouted Eric once more. “Come join our party! We have over twenty members already and would gladly accept a talented mage such as yourself. It is better for us to tackle the horrors of this forest together, so we can all earn experience and level up. What do you say?”

Despite Andrew’s state, Eric was still trying to barter. Their party had come across so few beasts of manageable level so far, and each kill was precious and the shared experience was low. A lone level 13 deer was a prize that he wasn’t willing to give up. He didn’t know how long it would take for them to find another beast that was reasonably leveled and alone.

The female voice replied with a laugh. It was Emma, after all, and she knew exactly what the eyepatched man was trying to do. She saw his shifty gaze as he was ordering his archers to find her.

Whatever. She had enough mana now with her shiny new amulet from the tutorial store to blow them to hell and back.

“As if I’d join with a bunch of sweaty men. I’ll give you one more chance to go the other way, otherwise I’ll start farming experience from your corpses!” Emma said.

A hand signal issued by Eric from behind his back prompted his group’s archers to raise their bows quickly.

“Archers, FIRE!” Eric shouted, finally revealing his true intentions.

Before a single arrow could get off, a mana bolt sizzled across the river and killed Andrew.

This was the first of many skirmishes that were beginning to take place over the scarce resources of the forest. Despite the final event of the tutorial being a non-confrontational one in appearance, the lack of adequate sources of experience was beginning to cause groups of initiates to kill each other.

It soon became clear to the initiates that just as deadly as the beasts roaming the forest were their fellow humans.

---------

“Hmm….” Marcello said.

The skill options for level 20 were actually kind of lackluster, so he just picked up Swordfaire, which would greatly boost his sword proficiency and damage as he scaled up. But that wasn’t really what he was focused on right now.

He had just received a notification for a secret quest when he reached level 20.

Secret quest unlocked: [Conquest of Lords]

[Conquest of Lords]: Each pillar of the terrestrial realm is home to a variety of different life forms, some of which are quite powerful. The King Jaeger of this particular pillar is no exception, and is a lord tier entity. As an enterprising member of humanity, you may assimilate some of the strengths of the lords that you slay. Slay the lord to gain conquest over his signature ability. King Jaeger slain [0/1]

The rewards sounded very enticing, but Marcello really did not want to fight the King Jaeger without undergoing some extensive reconnaissance on it first. That was his goal for the day, as his Tutorial Scroll of Pathfinding was pointing straight towards the center of the level following the path of the waterfall.

So the waterfall from the first level originated from a huge roaring river spilling down from the cliffside from the level that he was currently on, and in the very distance he could see that this huge river was yet again connected to another waterfall.

His scroll of pathfinding pointed straight towards that second waterfall rather ominously. The exit was usually near the boss, so Marcello surmised that following the river would lead him to the boss’s lair as well as the exit.

“Frosty, can you follow this river? I’ll tail behind you.”

The ice elemental nodded, as Marcello used his old quiet step ability from his thief class to shadow the ice elemental from a safe distance. The giant fifteen foot ice elemental began to walk forward, crushing into the vitality spewing earth below with each step. Droplets of water floated upwards like a mystical spectacle, and Marcello could not help but marvel at the beauty of this biome. If it were not for all the monsters and the like nearby, he could easily retire here and build a nice wooden cabin as a summer home.

Unfortunately, there were monsters here, and before long there was a suspicious track of a quadrupedal overgrown mole or something of that sort. Marcello saw a flash of its tail scurrying away from the giant ice elemental.

Shit. His precious experience was running away!

Marcello was about to shout for Frosty to chase it, but the giant was not fast enough for that.

Tch. Maybe it was time to reevaluate his strategy. He was hoping to post the ice giant upfront so that the giant could smash some monsters’ skulls in and he could mooch off the experience without endangering himself. No, it was not exactly a tactic that befitted someone with a class called enigmatic bulwark knight which was an intimidating tanky frontline fighter, and he knew that keeping up a cool appearance was vital to a man’s pride and fashion, but Marcello admitted that sometimes swallowing his pride was worthwhile and he honestly had no reason to appear cool in front of stupid overgrown animals.

Anyway, this experience mooching strategy just didn’t work if the ice giant scared everything off. Time to switch things up.

“Let me take the lead Frosty,” Marcello said, issuing the command to his companion. “If anything comes out to attack me just bash their heads in, okay?”

The ice giant gave a wise nod.

They switched spots now. Marcello would dangle himself as bait for whatever creatures this pillar biome still contained, and then he’d hide behind Frosty who’d kill them and take their xp for him. How glorious and courageous of him. He was sure that the ancient roman legionnaires or greek Spartan warriors would be so proud of him right now.

Some bogies showed up a lot sooner than he would’ve thought, the two beasts stalking near the river and ready to attack at a moment’s notice. More overgrown animals that were about to get their asses kicked in by him and his ice giant.

[Level 25 Earth Beaver]

[Level 30 Molerat]

Marcello quickly summoned his blue gambeson plate armor with the white lion and black kiteshield sigil and prepared for a fight. His longsword was in hand, and he looked remarkably like the intimidating castle lord that he slayed to obtain this set of equipment.

“What are you waiting for, huh? Come at me, you overgrown meatloaves!” Marcello shouted, taunting them to attack him because clearly these wild animals could understand him. They couldn’t. He felt like one of those people on youtube that recorded themselves telling a bear to ‘go away’ with a can of bear spray in hand, as if the bears understood english or something. Absolutely mental.

While the meaning of the words may have been lost on the animals, the tone of voice and taunting body language of the human were not. With vicious claws and a big rudder, the giant beaver attacked Marcello, gnashing its teeth at him as the higher level molerat butted it in the side while also going after him. The two animals clearly were not friends, but they were united in their aggression towards him.

Lumbering into action like the reliable ice giant he was, Frosty engaged the molerat while leaving the beaver to Marcello.

Marcello took a two handed slash at the beaver as it closed in on him, the longsword cutting into the beaver’s fur. He was a bit stronger this time around than when he faced that beaver earlier, but it was still not an easy fight by any measure of things. Unbeknownst to him, back in the forest section of the tutorial there were entire parties of humans hunting singular level thirteen beasts, and here he was soloing a level twenty-five through the environment’s own vital healing energy.

With a strong swipe of its paw, the large beaver knocked his armor, dealing a bit of damage. It followed up with a lunge at Marcello with its great big body, which Marcello prepared for with a thrust right into its chest with his longsword.

But even as the longsword sank into the beaver’s flesh, the beaver’s large body’s forward inertia slammed him forward into the roaring river as its teeth dug into his armor painfully.

Marcello fell in the icy water, feeling his skin burn where the beaver's teeth had dug in. Struggling, he kicked and slashed at the beaver’s face until it promptly let go, and he bobbed in the current for a moment before resurfacing. Taking off his helmet for a second to wipe the water off his face while squinting his eyes from the blisteringly cold water, he swam to shore and grabbed a hold of the side of the riverbed, hoisting himself up.

The river current had taken him a few yards away from the action, and he summoned his archeios javelin to aim it at the beaver.

“Hng,” he grunted, hurling the uncommon javelin at the beaver with the strength of an olympian.

The javelin hit the beaver, dealing damage. Its health was now about three quarters, still way too healthy and healing by the second. The beaver noticed that the ice giant was heading towards him, and started limping away. The mole rat had escaped Frosty’s wrestling earlier.

“Chase him!!!” Marcello shouted. “Don’t let my experience get away!”

The earth beaver had a bit of a limp after landing poorly into the water, and was limping away as fast as it could, but Marcello and his ice giant were hot on its tail. It scurried as fast as it could while following the river.

Marcello summoned his shortbow and fired a few moving shots, all of which missed the beaver, but he just kept firing. Finally after thirteen shots one of the arrows hit, hitting the beaver in the back. It didn’t do much damage, but the arrow embedded itself in the beaver’s hide just barely and was starting to cause it a bit of pain as it moved, slowing down its retreat.

They were traveling uphill now as the roaring river began to broaden into a lip, and they were approaching the waterfall. Marcello threw another javelin which missed and shot a few more arrows before the beaver disappeared above the lip of the hill. Marcello and Frosty ran to the top of the hill where the water was spilling out from, to be greeted by a gigantic basin of water with a roaring waterfall falling from above. The sheer size of the waterfall was unbelievable, and it fell from a height of approximately two hundred feet, dropping from the sheer cliff face to the enormous basketball court and half sized basin below.

The sound of the rushing water was deafening in the warm morning air, and a glob of floating water slapped Marcello in the face. Frosty the ice giant had already walked into the basin, causing a bit of ice to crystallize from the sides to allow him to traverse it. The beaver was frantically paddling with a limp away from the giant.

“Frosty, get back!” he yelled at the ice giant, but the deafening roar of the waterfall meant that his command was not heard. He had a bad feeling about this. Marcello miscalculated the distance to the waterfall. It had appeared further away because the nonsensical height of the waterfall was obscured by trees, creating an illusion that the waterfall was far away when in fact the basin was right here.

Suddenly, the trees began to rustle from the side of the basin. Marcello felt a shiver down his spine as a giant pot bellied lizard the size of a four story house appeared from the foliage to the left.

A new enemy had appeared.

[Level ? King Jaeger (Lord)]

Ding!

Congratulations, due to your reckless attempt to identify an enemy far above your own level, your [Identify] skill has leveled up!

[Level 62 King Jaeger (Lord)]

Oh fuck.

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HereBeTreasure

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