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Chapter 11

* * *

Nice place.

Ruins, piles of stones, incomprehensible holes in dilapidated walls, fragments of statues, and broken columns, all densely overgrown with ivy. Poisonous, by the way. And as a finishing touch - a lot of aggressive monsters.

Nice, very nice.

A purchased map of the city's surroundings showed three dungeons for beginners. It was the easiest of them all, the Abandoned Crypts of Loeur, designed for a group of two or three tenth-level players, or one, but not lower than the fifteenth.

The developers of the game tried to achieve maximum authenticity, and therefore the choice of monsters for the beating was rather monotonous. Based on the fact that it is necessary to combine the need to give players the loot from the monsters and the simplest logic (a particular dungeon is cleared for the millionth time, and therefore, it should not be not only the loot but also monsters), the developers decided to justify the constant appearance of monsters that certain places imposed curse. Specifically, on these crypts, the curse worked, causing the souls of the once-buried intelligentsia to be reborn again and again. Since the original bones had long ago been ground to dust, all the grave horrors consisted of twigs, stones, dust, and necrotic energy. It makes sense - no matter how much you scrub, until the curse itself is killed, the monsters will continue to be reborn.

Like this one, standing half a hundred steps away from me.

A single zombie. The simplest kind of undead. Physical melee attacks, clumsy but hardy. Cannot wield magic, so there's no way to get anything of value out of it. Best for beginner players.

It's time, my friend Vova!

I put the sword in my left hand and extended my right hand in front of me.

"Read the scroll of Amala's Blessing!"

Clap, rainbow flash.

The Blessing of Amala, rank four, has been cast on you.

All characteristics increased by 16

Defense increased by 8%

Endurance increased by 8

Lucky. All of the gods' blessings increased characteristics, but Amala's blessing had a chance to increase one random characteristic additionally. I expected endurance to drop on the third or fourth time, but now I've saved three scrolls. I could sell them later...

"Read the Phantom Companion scroll!"

With a slight rustling sound, a faintly glowing cloud appeared in front of me, which immediately formed into a human figure woven of mist.

The Companion was a non-combat pet. It could neither damage enemies nor help allies, but it was perfect for spotting traps, testing monsters' abilities, luring enemies to attack, and other suicidal things that would be a pity to send a full-fledged player to do.

Called up the inventory screen and threw one Blood Shield scroll on the ground.

"Order - read the scroll."

The companion floated up to the paper lying on the ground and a couple of seconds later was enveloped in a crimson-black haze.

It's working! Well, if everything goes on as planned, then...

"The order is to attack this zombie."

The misty shadow swam toward the monster standing in the distance. It sensed it at ten paces and strode briskly toward it. Quietly, without a "Brains!" or a growl or any other effect.

To be honest, it was even scarier.

Three paces apart, the Companion lightly struck the zombie without doing a single bit of damage, and the zombie immediately smacked him back.

YES!

My plan paid off! The shield surrounding the Companion absorbed sixty percent of the damage and returned it to the attacker! The impact strength of a zombie at that level was about fifty points. My Companion, as it should have been, had half my endurance. Before I left town, I put twenty points into the stats I'd gotten for level up, plus my paladin got twelve life and five mana for each level. Plus (how sly and thoughtful of me!) a Blessing of Amala with an endurance bonus. As a result, I was comparable to a level fifteen character, and my Companion had almost three hundred HP. A shield-softened hit took only twenty. It's a scratch!

I raised my hand, pointed it with my open palm at Companion, and said: "Heal!"

The "Healing Touch" invocation I had set when I entered the game worked, and a light white spark slid from my palm toward Companion healing the damage.

The zombie had seven hundred health points. Each hit gave him thirty to thirty-five points of damage back. Now all I had to do was wait until his health was low enough. The important thing was not to miss the moment when I had to attack, or he would kill himself, and I would not gain experience. Of course, there would be loot, but I wasn't here for looting.

I need EXP!

At fifteen percent of the monster's life, I stopped healing the Companion, drew my sword, and rushed forward.

"Jump!"

I push the Companion away, and he's behind me. The zombie, enraged by the damage it was inflicting, tried to sidestep me to get at the main offender. I shoved my shield at the figure towering over me and punched him in the face, with no finesse. My blow took three percent of the monster's life, but he didn't care - the Companion was firmly at the top of his aggression list, and the zombie was all about getting to him.

Strike, strike, strike!

The last blow hit an already crumbling heap of rot.

I followed the experience numbers. The zombie was a group dungeon monster. The experience from him, designed for three or four players, I got alone. Plus a difference of six levels, and that's a five percent increase in experience for each. And then, of course, the modifiers. I got seven times more for him than I did for a normal monster. True, it took twice as long to beat.

Well, I can live with it.

I pointed my open palm in the direction of the zombie remains.

"Loot."

Nothing, as I expected. The only noteworthy things in this dungeon are dropped from the bosses.

"Heal. Heal. The order is to attack this zombie."

* * *

Companion, once again full of energy, headed for the next target.

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Camrad RIP

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