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A note from zaifyr

Number one of the rising stars! Thank you all!

As a bit of celebration I have a bonus chapter coming out today as well. It will just be on Patreon, but available to EVERYONE. Will clear up something for everyone's favorite R.O.U.S. But will not be necessary to the story so I don't plan on including it on RR. Read it or don't. You can enjoy the main story either way.

Chapter 30.1: Rodent of Unusual Size (bonus chapter)

Now that she had some time to herself, Bee scanned the shelves for more books that might be useful. Considering what had just happened, she resolved to find something to help her defend herself better. However, Bee wasn't sure if that meant focusing on a self-defense combat book or researching recipes she could use in combat. She had plenty of primary resources for alchemy but needed more advanced ones. Really Bee just needed to explore the rest of the castle. She remembered seeing some of the more powerful materials as they were being carried from place to place when the mages were still around. They had all the resources here they could ever want. Even better, most items had ways to continue harvesting them. By this point, some of the animals kept here might have died. Some plants might have also failed, but the materials and infrastructure were still there. Who knows, maybe she could get some of them back up and running. Of course, it would take a lot of research to figure out, not to mention skill and time… But for now, there should be large stockpiles, at least.

Browsing the section on "creation" (or so it seemed), Bee pulled out a book describing different flash powder recipes. She was curious if having the flash powder would have helped her with the adventurers; this might have given her a chance to run. She thought back to the encounter, mentally kicking herself. She had frozen up in fear. There had to be a way for her to overcome that. Hopefully, it wasn't just an experience thing. She didn't want to seek out more life-threatening situations; she just wanted to handle them better if they came up.

She continued to browse, taking the book back to the table as she collected them to have a free hand to grab books off the shelf. Bee picked up a book on alchemical acids, one on smoke or cloud-forming substances and another on basic fire potions. She stacked piles of books into a few categories: escape and distractions, attack or damage, and general purpose. As she made repeated trips between the shelves, the stacks grew.

At first, the library was confusing, but she was finally more comfortable with it. Several days of exploring the shelves gave her a better feel for the organizational strategy. At first, she could only make the best guess of where to look, but now it was almost as if the library was her second home. She could find any sort of topic easily.

The last book she picked was related to her class and the scanning skill. Unfortunately, that final category had little to reference; she had found only one book slightly related to it.

It was titled "the character sheet: all known fields, possible values, and specializations, with digressions into the origins and complications of the system."

Yeah. Sounded like another winner. It had something to do with the system and character sheets, but Bee didn't think this would help. Still, it was worth a shot.

Luckily, her class had a straight-up guide on it. But, unfortunately, it was a very light guide. Looking at the summary, it seemed that Devotee was one of the most flexible classes ever because it highly depended on who the devotee worshiped. So this probably wasn't going to help her very much. Still, it might give her some idea of what skills to expect or perhaps something about future classes. Or when to expect skills related to her master's.

Bee spent several hours flipping through her collection, setting some aside for later and bookmarking essential passages in others. But there were only a few immediately valuable things. She copied down one flash powder recipe along with a couple potions that might do damage if flung in someone's eyes. They also worked as minor acids or bases for other alchemy recipes.

She also had a recipe that would increase her movement speed by 10% for a 30-second window. Given how tedious the recipe looked, she was curious if that was worth it, but she had most of the ingredients in the lesser store room. She needed to make a trip there soon. And figure out how to get into the more secure storerooms. That could wait, though.

After finishing her research, she thought about what to do. First, she should try to scan some of these demons in cages to see precisely what she was dealing with. Perhaps the scan could also tell her how far along they were in their recovery.

Considering that her scan had leveled up recently, Bee also had another idea. If she wanted to prepare for the future, she needed more information about the lieutenant.

***

Bee's steps echoed throughout the dark interior of Nazareth'gak's prison. There was still no noticeable change in the demon's form. She likely wouldn't see that for a while now. It was a good sign, but still nerve-racking that she had no indication of how far away it was from awakening.

When she scanned the adventurers, she could see a class type and exact levels. She didn't expect to get so much here. Likely she wouldn't be able to see the actual level of the demon since the adventurers were much closer to her than it, but Bee hoped to get more than nothing.

She got as close as she dared before running a scan, and as expected, more details appeared this time. Turns out its class was torture-type. She didn't even know that was an option. The level just said 30+.

So it seemed she could get accurate levels within about 20 of her own, with ranges or something vaguer as the numbers got further away. Bee was almost glad that it hadn't shown her an exact level. That information would only dishearten her or maybe cause her to pass out from fright.

Reconnaissance finished, Bee returned to the library with renewed resolve. Once Void had finished its brooding, she hoped to clean again. Bee wanted to make that final push to level 10 and get her next skill. In the meantime, though, she had plenty more to research.

---

Matthew collapsed just over the crest of the hill. He was not as fast as Patricia or Arnold but had managed to keep them in sight as they fled. Once they had managed to get out of direct view of the castle, he had expected them to slow down, maybe let him catch up so they could talk. But no, they kept running as fast as they could, slowly leaving him behind. He didn't catch up to them till hours later. Then, finally, the group reconvened just over a series of several large hills as though the earth would protect them from their enemy.

"Is it following us?" Patricia demanded as Matthew got within shouting range.

Matthew jogged the last few meters, panting. "Not that I can tell. But who knows. It could have sent scouts of its own."

Tension filled the air as they considered their encounter with the demon. Patricia finally broke the silence.

"What the hell was that? If anything, the mages understated the threat. Summoning monsters, teleporting, wind magic… That's not something we can handle."

Matthew straightened, his breath slowly returning to an average pace. "We're not supposed to handle it. If we could handle it, the mages would never have left. That's why we're supposed to scout and report."

He paused for a moment, turning his gaze to each of his teammates. "We know more than we did before. However, not enough yet, I think."

Arnold's eyes filled with horror. "You can't be thinking of going back there. You can't."

"I am, but not in a stupid way. No more waltzing up to the front gate. This has to be a stealth mission. The walls are scalable, even more so if there's a distraction. We'll set a huge bonfire on one side of the castle to draw their attention. Maybe that will make it easier to sneak over the wall. We'll go early in the morning, so the sun will be up by the time I'm trying to make a getaway." Matthew said.

"You'll make a getaway?" Patricia glared at him. "Are you planning to go in there by yourself? I can't let you do that."

"The hell I can't," Arnold's pupils dilated in fear. His voice was small but certain. "I can light the bonfires for you. But there's no way I'm going back near that castle."

Patricia rounded on the lanky man. "Well, there's no way he's going alone! I won't let him."

Matthew saw the fear in her eyes, both for his safety and her own. He couldn't, in good conscience, ask her to go along. "No, Patricia. You need to stay here and help ensure Arnold gets away clean. We need to make sure at least one person gets back. We need to warn the others. But we also need more information. This is a risk I'm willing to take alone."

His teammates stared at him. Arnold cursed under his breath but didn't have anything else to say. Patricia simply met Matthew's eyes mutely. For a solid minute, no one moved. Eventually, she shook her head.

"I won't stay with Arnold. Maybe I'll wait on the wall to give you covering fire while you're sneaking around, but I'm not leaving you to fend for yourself."

Matthew saw Arnold glancing between the two of them. He could see the regret in the man's eyes, but he could also see no strength behind them anymore. Arnold would need time to recover if it was possible for him. Arnold wasn't a coward nor a particularly brave man, but he did love his friends. It was probably tearing up inside to admit that he was not courageous enough to go with them.

Matthew didn't hold it against him. But nevertheless, Arnold would play a vital role. Someone needed to cause the distraction, and while it was a safer role, it wasn't entirely without risk.

"Arnold, once you set the fire, you can meet us in Greg. Give us two weeks to catch up. If we're not there by then, continue on to the capital."

Arnold nodded and pulled out a leather-bound book and quill. He handed them to Patricia. "I want you both to write letters to your families just in case. Along with anything you remember about our encounter so I can pass on our reports."

Patricia jotted down notes for a few minutes before blotting the ink and scouring it with sand. Then finally, she grimly handed the notebook over to Matthew.

Matthew thought about who he had to write to. Few people came to mind, just a younger brother he hadn't talked to in years. So Matthew penned a quick note, speaking of his love for his little brother. He regretted not coming to visit more often and hoped this letter would never reach him. After that, Matthew detailed their experiences from when they saw the castle. He was careful not to leave anything out, even their own cowardice. Who knows, the demon might have had some effect on them, and it would be necessary for the king and the military to understand.

He returned the book to Arnold, who tucked it in his belt. Then they all began to plan.

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A note from zaifyr

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About the author

zaifyr

Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.

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