“As we all know, a person's or monster’s Combat Power quantifies their potential capabilities in battle. However, it is not an absolute that an individual with a higher Combat Power would win in a fight against an individual with a lower Combat Power. After all, your Combat Power is merely the accumulation of Essence Points we gain per level.”
Oblec faced Fissyah and nodded at her. He was speaking with an uncharacteristic confidence, striding back and forth, and wagging a thoughtful finger as he continued.
“There are many factors that could bridge the gap between Combat Powers. There is the obvious wit— stratagem and planning could bring the downfall of any foe. Especially monsters who tend to be, but not always are, less capable of thought than us.”
He tapped a finger on his forehead, a grin spreading across his bearded face. Coming to a halt, he placed a hand on his chest and closed his eyes.
“Another prevailing factor in overcoming the difference between Combat Power are Skills. As people, we are able to pass down Skills. Compile lists of Skills and information on how to learn them. Not all Skills are created equal, and with more Skills at our disposal, we are able to possibly even overpower a monster or another individual at a similar or higher Combat Power. Of course, it is always risky to face a stronger enemy. But since we have [Lesser Appraisal], we are capable of picking and choosing our battles, are we not?”
There was a glint in Oblec’s eye as he finished his lecture. Fissyah, Lire, and I sat before him, having been carefully listening the entire time. Well, I sat on Fissyah, and Lire sat on me since I was the larger Slime. Also, I was pretty sure Lire wasn’t listening at all.
It had been… maybe a day or two since we arrived at his little hovel, and our training was finally going to begin. We exchanged a glance and came to an agreement before turning to the bearded Gremlin.
“Question.” I raised an appendage.
“Yes, Violet?” He raised a brow.
“What is a Skill?”
“...when you said to explain it all from the beginning, I didn’t think you meant to go that far back.” Oblec sighed and sat himself down on a small boulder. “Skills are rewards given alongside levels. Whether it is to aid you in recreating a great feat, or encoding something you’ve learned— it’s all about surpassing your previous limits and establishing a new floor to build from.”
“All through the guidance of Drasel, right?” Fissyah asked.
He nodded. “Indeed. Although, a common misconception is that Skills are necessary to cast magic or to physically exceed your capabilities. Rather, it is the converse. It is only by accomplishing the latter will you be able to learn a Skill.”
So, from this, what I was getting was that Skills were good. Having more Skills was even better. And most importantly, Skills were given as rewards of sorts for one’s hard work..
“I have, uhm, three regular Skills and three Passive Skills. Only a single Special Skill. Is that good?” I asked.
I watched as Oblec blinked. “What is a Special Skill?”
“Wait, shouldn’t I be asking you that?”
Apparently, he’d never heard of it before. He rubbed his chin, listening with intent as Fissyah and I explained how we learned [Arc Symbiosis].
“A Skill that lets you share a body and Combat Power. I have never heard of anything like that before.”
“Well, but you saw our transformation, right?”
“I did, and my [Lesser Appraisal] did not work on you,” he said, shaking his head. “I had been under the assumption that you were above my level, but apparently it was something else in your nature that prevented it from working.”
“What’s the difference between [Lesser Appraisal] and regular [Appraisal], anyways?” I asked as I continued to pat Lire’s back.
“Regular… [Appraisal]?” Oblec frowned.
“Yeah— have you never heard of it before?”
“I have only ever considered the possibility of it, but I have never seen it before. Have you, Fissyah?”
The girl shrugged. “Violet has [Appraisal], and I have [Lesser Appraisal]. It’s honestly unfair. It costs the same amount of Arcane Essence, but hers is better. I can’t see the level of anyone who’s 20 levels above me.”
“[Lesser Appraisal] limits you to seeing those who are within your advancement threshold or below.” The bearded Gremlin shook his head. “Tell me, Violet: are you able to see my level?”
“You’re Level 62 with a Combat Power of 3970,” I answered him simply.
“That’s fascinating. Even though I am two advancements above you, you have no trouble using [Appraisal] on me. Is there even a limit?”
“It’s weird.” I shook my head. “Why do I have [Appraisal] and not [Lesser Appraisal]? This doesn’t make any sense.”
His brows furrowed. “Weird indeed.” There was a flicker in his eyes. A thought crossed through his mind. Drawing to his feet, Oblec gestured for Fissyah and I to follow. “Come, before I teach you more of what I know, I’d like to test out your capabilities. Show me your [Arc Symbiosis].”
* * *
“Where are we going?” I walked alongside Oblec as he led us down a tunnel. Lire bounced alongside us, literally glowing and lighting the path. I wonder if I can do that.
I couldn’t test out my possible bioluminescent abilities right now since Fissyah and I were under the effects of [Arc Symbiosis]. While I kept a lot of my qualities as an Arcslime, even when merging bodies with the girl, I wasn’t wholly Slime-like anymore.
If someone stabbed me in the chest, I was pretty sure I’d be more amenable to dying than if I was stabbed as a Slime.
“We’re going to a… nest. A monster’s nest.” He came to a halt right before the tunnel curved down. “Do you hear that?”
I narrowed my eyes, peering into the darkness ahead as a soft buzzing made its way closer to us. Oblec swooped up Lire and started back a bit away.
“If anything happens, I’ll step in to save you. But I highly doubt that’ll be necessary.”
“Uhm, what is that sound?” I asked, and Fissyah replied mentally.
“What it is doesn’t matter— just get ready.”
I took on a defensive stance as a blue creature fluttered its way up the tunnel. It beat its wings rapidly, making the buzzing sound I’d heard. It was about half my height with a curved horn at the top of its head. And it had a pair of antennae that wisped with a misty energy.
[Elemental Beetle - Level 21 (Combat Power: 403)]
“Isn’t its Combat Power quite low for its level—” I started.
The Elemental Beetle cut me off as it zipped straight at me. I pivoted to the side, easily dodging its attack. It spun back around, twisting its antennae together as crystalline shards formed.
My eyes widened. “That’s…”
“Ice magic!” Fissyah called out. “Get back— [Arcane Flameshot]!”
The ice spike shot straight for me, but Fissyah’s own projectile intercepted it. Her [Arcane Flameshot] easily shattered the icicle and burned through the Elemental Beetle. The monster dropped out of the air as a notification popped up.
You have defeated an [Elemental Beetle - Level 21 (Combat Power: 403)]!
You have absorbed its Physical essence!
“That was easy,” I muttered.
“Wait, was that really it?” Fissyah asked, and I shrugged.
“I did say its Combat Power was quite low for its level.” I turned back to Oblec, waving at him. “Hey, are we done?”
“Not yet,” he said, gesturing past me. “Look.”
“What is he talking about?” I raised a brow and glanced at where he was pointing.
Then I heard it— the buzzing. Louder than before. Dozens more shapes emerged from the shadows. Elemental Beetles, but coming in different colors. Red, black, and green alongside the blue. They conjured their magic: fire, earth, air, and water.
(Well, technically ice was water, right? It was just another state of water— at least, according to my elementary school science teacher. Sure, the laws of physics on Earth might not have applied in this world, but I was going to assume that ice and water were still one in the same.)
The myriad of Elemental Beetles faced me, readying their barrage of magic. I snapped my fingers in realization.
“Oh… so that’s why they have low Combat Powers. Because they make up for it with their numerical superiority and their Skills!”
And they unleashed their attacks.
* * *
Oblec watched as the battle ensued. As the lone girl took on the twenty-or-so Elemental Beetles all on her own. He felt inclined to intervene, but he knew that this scene was misleading.
Not only was it not actually a lone girl fighting the monsters but two girls, the Elemental Beetles were also far outmatched by their combined Combat Power of over 1000. Each of the flying monsters averaged at a Combat Power of around 400 to 500.
They were so much weaker than Violet and Fissyah that no more than a minute into a battle, a dozen of them had already fallen. Even with their numerical superiority, they were going to lose.
Violet leapt up into a cluster of Elemental Beetles, lashing out with the tendrils protruding from her back. The monsters’ shells were shattered in an instant. Their wings broken. And they collapsed to the ground. She spun around, firing what looked like an [Arcane Shot] at one of the higher-leveled Elemental Beetles, but the bearded Gremlin knew that it wasn’t the same Skill he had.
And what stood out to him the most was how Violet seemed to just absorb the damage inflicted onto her. An fiery bolt crashed into her back, and she just scowled.
“Ouch— Fissyah burn them!” Flames shot out from her tendrils— fire magic provided by the Gremlin inside the purple body.
Interesting… Oblec stared as an ice spike grazed Violet’s shoulder, barely causing her to stumble.
Whether it was ice magic, fire magic, earth magic, or wind magic, the Elemental Beetles’ attacks seemed to… bounce off the girl. No— it was like she was resistant to it.
And it was not just limited to the magical projectiles. One of the Elemental Beetles charged straight at her, snapping its pincer-like mouth for her head. She raised a tendril to block the attack, and the monster’s teeth wedged itself on her body. She quickly slammed it into the wall, crushing it with ease.
A natural resistance, the bearded Gremlin observed. It protected Violet from both magical and physical attacks. It was different from focusing one’s Physical Essence on your [Body]. It would make them more durable, not more resilient— they’d be able to survive more attacks, even if they were still hurt by it.
Normally, one needed to train to learn Skills that offered resistances. So that they were able to walk through fire unscathed. But if Oblec tossed Violet into a pit of fire, he was pretty certain she’d be a little bit hurt for a moment, and very angry for a day.
It was like she had a dozen or more extra Passive Skills without even having the Passive Skills for it. These natural traits existed— he knew that every race often had a few abilities they were born with that essentially functioned as a Skill. But to this extent?
Oblec closed his eyes and glanced over at Lire. His best friend. Already quite a special Slime, but not comparable to this. Chuckling, he turned back to Violet as she finished off the last of the Elemental Beetles.
“It seems we’ve found quite an interesting individual, haven’t we?”
“Nn,” the Shrouded Slime said in agreement.
* * *
You have defeated an [Elemental Beetle - Level 24 (Combat Power: 525)]!
You have absorbed its Physical essence!
You have defeated an [Elemental Beetle - Level 19 (Combat Power: 410)]!
You have absorbed its Physical essence!
You have advanced to Level 21!
- Arcane Essence +40
You have advanced to Level 22!
- Arcane Essence +40
“Is that the last of them?” I panted, standing over the bodies of dozens of— and maybe even a hundred— dead Elemental Beetles.
“No,” Oblec replied with his arms crossed. “There are still hundreds more further down the tunnel.”
“Seriously? Ugh, do we really have to kill all of them?” I knew it— Oblec was a fraud the entire time. He was just exploiting us as his exterminator!
“Violet, focus,” Fissyah’s voice resounded in my head, snapping me back to reality. “There are more on their way.”
I tensed, checking my Arcane Essence reserves. I was starting to run low, and I was pretty sure the Skill would run out soon. But Oblec just grunted.
“That’s enough. Monster nests of this size are dangerous and are better if left alone.” He drew back and started up the tunnel, carrying Lire on his shoulder. “I have seen what I needed to see. Let us return.”
“Oh.” I stared at him as he left. Then I ran after him. “Wait, what did you learn?”
“That you are quite the special individual, Violet,” he said simply. “And perhaps more troublesome than I initially thought you’d be.”
I paused. “...ok? But maybe you could drop the whole ominous-wisdom-shtick? Because I’m more confused than anything right now. I’d like an explanation.”
Oblec sighed. “Very well. I’ll give you an explanation…”
* * *
Draxus the Savage Hunter stalked through the dark tunnel, watching the giant spider wrap its prey in its webbed trap. The Arachnatect’s red eyes glinted in the darkness, before flickering in his direction. Judging by its size, it was likely over Level 50. Close to his level.
But he was a Shadow Inquisitor. An elite warrior of the Dark Empire. He drew his bow, unleashing a volley of flaming arrows. He burned the monster’s home— as the battle— the smoke poisoned the Arachnatect’s lungs. The fire kept it at bay. And that was enough to turn the tides of the battle in Draxus’ favor.
He strode away from the burning home of the giant spider as the monster collapsed behind him. Lowering his bow, he spoke in a menacing whisper.
“I will find you, Arcslime.”