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The massive pot bellied lizard lumbered into the basin, its vicious claws protruding and its large white fangs bared. With a giant round belly that extended from its neck downwards, the lizard with a large frilly dewlap hanging from its neck was huge and intimidating, causing the entire forest to rustle with its every movement. Despite the portly nature of its midsection, a clear indication that it was well fed, it had the muscular body of a half-ton bull and thick muscular legs.

[Level 62 King Jaeger (Lord)]

It was the king of this biome, the largest creature by far in this entire terrestrial pillar. The lizard had been hiding in the shadow of a fallen tree, as he waited for the creatures that served as prey to pass. It knew that one of these creatures was foolish enough to pass within his sights.

Soon enough one approached, staggering through the underbrush and stumbling towards the lizard's water hole. It was an unsuspecting beaver, limping as it was chased by something. The lizard emerged through the foliage and bent downwards, grabbing the beaver with its teeth as it tore its prey in half, spilling its innards in an explosion of foul smelling liquid.

But that was not the only prey that stumbled upon its lair at the end of the waterfall. In the basin of water was a large ice elemental, bigger than any of the other creatures in the forest but still only up to half the height of the King Jaeger. The ice elemental was an unfamiliar creature to the king, and the king instantly recognized the ice giant as a threat.

“Take this!” Marcello shouted, chucking his archeois spear towards the King Jaeger with very little mana left in the tank. He wasn’t about to let the king attack his ice elemental companion for free.

[Level 20 Enigmatic Bulwark Knight]

Even with Marcello’s formidable strength at this point in time, the archeios spear was only able to slightly penetrate the King Jaeger’s green hide. This was not just a level difference, and Marcello knew it. The king was on a completely different level than any other level 62, just like how the castle lord was no average level twenty something foe.

This was a boss, or a lord as the system liked to call them for some reason. Its power level was no joke.

Gwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!

The King Jaeger roared as it splashed into the basin towards Frosty, its tremendous bulk causing a tidal wave of water displacement to travel towards the ice giant.

The ice giant was no slouch though, and quickly began to crystallize more of the water so that he could move to solid ground. Marcello ran to the left and drew his longsword, waiting in the shadows of the tree for the king lizard to attack.

With a great sweep of its frilled head, the portly King Jaeger bit towards Frosty, a move that was promptly answered by a solid punch from the ice giant, leaving them both reeling.

That was when Marcello struck.

“Sundering blow!” he shouted, swinging his sword which was now also boosted by Swordfaire.

Clack.

The longsword simply bounced off the pot bellied lizard’s scaled stomach, although there was a shockwave issued that penetrated and slightly damaged the lizard. The +Armor crush aspect also came into play, damaging the scales of the King Jaeger and leaving several of the giant lizard’s green scales dented and cracked.

But for a beast this size, that kind of damage was inconsequential. The King Jaeger swung its fat tail at the minor annoyance scratching its hide that was the knight in full plate armor.

SLAM.

What was just a casual whip of the tail for the King Jaeger was a near fatal blow for Marcello, as he felt his plate armor and high constitution just barely save him from being instantly killed. The tail slammed into his body so hard that even his armor dented, his ribcage almost cracking from the blow.

He flew a few feet in the air from the sweeping tail blow, landing painfully on his side. The attack dealt more two thirds of his health bar with a single blow, and even the vital energies that flowed into him from the soil below were not enough to soothe the body wide pain he was experiencing.

HP: [42/175]

Marcello groaned, gasping for air on the ground, his plate armor soiled by dirt and moss and the odd leaf here or there. “Shit,” he cursed.

After taking a casual blow from the boss monster that nearly killed him, he had to admit that this was an impossible fight from the get-go.

Frosty was fighting valiantly, the overpowered ice giant delivering punch after punch of icy justice at the lizard with fists of ice.

The King Jaeger was undeterred, as the enormous lizard drew in close to the ice giant and used his massive frilled bulk to thrash its opponent into the ground at the edge of the basin, the ice giant falling backwards and crashing into a tree.

Marcello could only watch in horror as the King of the pillar raked its claws across the ice elemental’s mist-covered face and crystalline torso, digging deep into its ice body as cracks began to appear on Frosty’s torso.

Out of sheer desperation, Marcello channeled Giant’s Roar.

“GGGGGGGRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”

The roar infused with ancient giant’s magic rang loud and clear through the forest, but the King Jaeger’s presence stat as a lord tier entity was far too high for Marcello to suppress.

With a crushing blow, the level 62 King Jaeger bit down on the ice giant’s shoulder, as an jagged irreparably large crack appeared on Frosty the ice elemental’s chest.

Your summon has been destroyed.

Marcello felt a surge of dread wash over his body at the sight of the giant ice elemental’s broken body getting bitten into once more by the giant lizard like it was a bored child at the back seat of an SUV on a road trip viciously trying to get the last bit of a slurpee out of a paper cup.

With Frosty by his side, he felt invincible walking through this biome, knowing that the ice giant would have his back and carry him through any kind of enemy ambush. It also felt like having a friend, keeping him company and allowing him to stay mentally sane in the face of unreasonable dangers. But now what was he supposed to do?

While the King Jaeger was still preoccupied biting at the ice elemental’s broken body and making sure that its territorial threat was dead as doornail, Marcello quickly took out the scroll of pathfinding and checked where the exit was.

The black arrow pointed towards a cave entrance to the left of the waterfall, which was clearly the king’s den.

With a roar, the King Jaeger looked up from the cracked remains of Frosty, its eyes turning towards Marcello.

Marcello gulped. Time to run.

The armored knight made a mad dash for the river, jumping into it right as the well-fed king of the pillar swung its frilled head down searching for him.

Icy cold water seeped in through all openings in the armor as Marcello unequipped it, simply bobbing in the rushing river as he escaped from the King Jaeger. His body bumped into the rocky sides of the river, leaving him bruised but otherwise healing from the vital energies of the terrestrial biome. He only lifted his head up momentarily to check his surroundings before dunking back down, until he had floated for several minutes to a safe distance away.

Marcello grabbed the side of the riverbed and resurfaced, immediately reequipping his dented armor as he scanned his surroundings for enemies. Now that his overpowered summon was destroyed, he was a hell of a lot more vulnerable to the animals in this plane.

Speaking of the armor, it was gradually fixing itself but not at a very fast rate. Marcello really had to thank the plate armor for holding up and saving his life from getting one shotted by the King Jaeger.

“Ugh... now what do I do?” Marcello muttered to himself, resting under the shade of a tree. He had both a health and a mana bottle uncorked, and was busy downing both of them.

Frankly he was feeling a bit depressed about his situation now. He felt like he had an empty pit in the bottom of his stomach as he tried to evaluate his chances of survival given the current odds. Killing that monster was out of the question since his longsword strikes barely even hurt it, and that was with sundering blow active.

“Time to restrategize, I guess,” he said to no one in particular. Normally he’d chat with Frosty about his battle plans, but now the ice giant was no longer of this world.

“Maybe it’s better if I just try to sneak past to the exit,” he said to himself.

After reviewing his options, Marcello decided to go that route. Maybe he’d go hunt a lower level beaver or something, but even that would be quite dangerous without his ice elemental.

Marcello rested up for a few hours, internally grieving the loss of his ice elemental companion while also parking himself at the top of a thick tree branch that he climbed on top of. The loneliness was beginning to kick in.

From this tree branch, he’d have a vantage point to spot any incoming enemies before they got too close.

He also planted a few Bear Traps around, an ability that he’d forgotten to use in recent times because of far stronger options, but in the absence of party members or a summon he had to resort to his old strategies.

His damn archeios javelin was also lying around the basin of the waterfall too. Marcello didn’t have enough time or mana to retrieve it back then, so now he was down a ranged weapon too unless he counted his crap tier free bow from the waiting room.

Two hours passed quickly. Another beaver waddled its way across Marcello’s peripheral vision, but the creature did not see him.

“Alright,” he said. “Time to do some reconnaissance.”

Marcello carefully retraced his path back towards the basin of the waterfall, careful to keep Quiet Steps active and to lay low when he saw any creature nearby. Worst case scenario he could just jump into the river and let it take him to safety. In the absence of any kind of disengagement ability, using nature to his advantage was the best he could do.

He finally reached the basin after half an hour of trekking, and very quietly walked around the perimeter of the King Jaeger’s territory, making sure to be as stealthy as possible. It was mid-day now, and the sun hung directly above the biome, making him sweat a bit. Luckily the river was a great source of cold fresh water, although he had stocked more than enough canteens of lukewarm drinking water from the tutorial store.

Marcello poked his head out to find that the King Jaeger was sitting on the entrance of his lair, completely blocking any way in.

Shit. He decided to camp out and check out its movements during the day. Marcello perched himself in a tree nearby and carefully monitored the King Jaeger’s habits.

Minutes turned into hours, as the King Jaeger barely moved the entire time. It hunted another animal that strayed too close to its lair, then continued to sit at the entrance.

An hour turned into three hours of nothing happening. The King Jaeger looked like it was sleeping, but even the slightest movement of a butterfly near its body would cause it to look around. So he could only continue to wait, biding his time.

Finally, the King Jaeger stirred, moving towards the basin and stepping into the water. It wanted to take a bath, perhaps.

Marcello took that as his cue to dash for the cavern entrance. He scrambled down from the tree he was perched on, then ran as fast as he could towards the cavern entrance.

But the King saw this, and tossed a massive boulder from the side of the waterfall basin towards the entrance of the cave, blocking it as if it understood Marcello’s intentions.

And that wasn’t all. To Marcello’s horror, the King Jaeger’s entire green scaled body began to glow and expand like a balloon, the already massive lizard that was a forty foot monstrosity turning into a ninety foot titanic beast that he had to crane his neck to see the top of. Water spilled out of the basin like it was nothing as the expansion of the King Jaeger’s body continued.

Holy fucking shit. Looking up at the green scaled monstrosity, it was the most he could do to not wet his pants. He wouldn’t even be ashamed of it either, this monster was the size of a fucking dragon now and it eyed him hungrily.

Marcello just realized that this was the King’s special ability that his Conquest of Lords quest alluded to. It was an ability to expand its body to a completely abnormal size.

Just how the hell was this fair? He began to understand why this particular trial’s estimated survival rate was a flat 0%.

The inflated King Jaeger pot bellied lizard thumped over, completely blocking the entrance to its lair with just a few steps. Marcello stumbled while making a run for it, but a fat claw slammed down on him, instantly crushing his body.

HP: [0/175]

His life was snuffed just like that, inconsequentially and without any fanfare. Just like an ant under someone’s foot.

This was not a hero’s death. It wasn’t even any major miscalculation by him. He was just faced with an enemy that could not be overcome by any method.

It was all over.

Or was it?

Despair Intuition has activated.

+10 stats when the end is near.

Your health has increased.

Your mana has increased.

Your strength has increased.

Your constitution has increased.

Your agility has increased.

All effects have been multiplied due to a state of despair.

Marcello felt a last surge of vitality breathed into his system.

HP: [10/185]

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A note from HereBeTreasure

Thanks everyone that joined on patreon! The story is having a great run, and it's come a long way since those shaky early chapters. 

Also just a heads up, chapters 28 and 29 are one chapter. I was going to do something with despair intuition causing a "detective moment" freeze in chapter 28 but ended up scrapping it because it didn't fit with the rest of the story. 


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HereBeTreasure

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