Ketlia kept her eyes half open, considering Diver’s urgency. She felt a distant sort of regret, that she hadn’t traded away different things to the Ilium when she had the chance. Her looks, for one, to prevent puppy dog like males from doing exactly what was happening right now. Still, there were benefits…
‘So tired already, and it’s only breakfast…’ Ketlia sighed to herself, sighing.
“Kat, why do we stay? I’ve talked to some other teams I’ve met here, and we can get out. We can just go-”
“And Kent?” The less she had to speak, the better, let Diver see the error of his ways and shut the fuck up on his own.
But unlike what she had predicted, Diver’s eyes just burned more passionately. “He has totally bought into the “Kill Predator” rhetoric, and you know it. He’s always thinking about a worthy opponent, and he’s fixated on Predator as the one he has been waiting for this whole time. Please Kat, you and I are the only sane ones left. Why risk it? Let’s leave together-”
In a way, Ketlia supposed, Diver was smart. He was right about the weird mania around fighting Predator that the rest of the group displayed, even Jana, and he was clever to use that to try and get her to leave. But, like most men, he inevitably followed up a smart move with an incredibly foolish, self-serving, and disgusting one.
“We can stay together, I’ll protect you the entire way-”
‘Such is the depth of his thinking,’ Ketlia remarked to herself, ‘that he believed I both needed and wanted his protection.’
“Diver, we can’t. They are counting on us, they are counting on me. And Jana… I can’t leave her to face this alone.” Her voice was low and concerned, full of soft femininity, but Ketlia's mind was a grey wasteland of mind numbing boredom.
Such were the methods of dealing with stubborn people. Make them think she wanted what they did, but something, someone, else was holding her back. In addition, add a comment about another female, implying they are weak and in need of protection, feeding into their general impression of females need protection. And just like that-
Diver’s eyes narrowed and he sat back, unable to come up with anything to say.
Levers and gears in Ketlia’s mind turned as she regarded the person in front of her. He was becoming awfully full of himself. And possessive of her. As they always did.
‘It would be a tragedy if an accident happened during their fight with Predator…’ Ketlia thought, her fingers tapping in rhythm against the table.
A full night’s sleep and a warm banquet breakfast (most of which I monopolized) did wonders to improve my mood. With the demon emperor bound and gagged in Ashni’s closet and a whole army of demons to sharpen my skills against, things were looking up.
After polishing off some sausages, I turned to the hanging notification and pressed no.
Due to your special circumstances, you will receive the racial growth rates of a random race based on the amount of biomass consumed.
Congratulations! You have received the racial growth rates of an “Oracle of the Endless Woods.” Would you like to splice another race onto this one?
I stopped and leaned back in my chair, considering.
-Seems like it’s a magy-type of race.
-Oracle, like seer or prophet….born in the woods though. What to splice it with?
-Magma gators and woods probably don’t mix very well. Both the Lynx and Owl seem like pretty good fits though….and the robot….
-Yea, the robot one was one of the reasons we got so powerful early. And why there is two of us…
Using my extremely powerful memory, I looked back at the three growth rates.
-The Robot one was just processing power, parallel computations, and memory, but pretty significant boosts to each.
-Owl was pretty significant at the time, especially to agi, dex, and perception, but has pretty lackluster mana by current standards.
-Hey, 76 isn’t so bad. At least it’s growth. We never gained the Lynx growth rate alone It was spliced with the robot. It did, however, lead to a large increase in balance. Probably not that again.
-So either an owl seer or a robot seer, huh.
-What is a robot seer?
Scratching my chin, I thought about it.
-Let’s find out.
Determining Spliced Race…
Congratulations! You have obtained the growth rates of a “XN-OMEGA-02: Predictive Analytics Model.”
Processing Power +189
Timeless Perception +40
Would you like to retain the race “Oracle of the Endless Woods” for future use?
I clicked yes and replaced The Owl with the Oracle.
-Leaving the Lynx in case we want more balance in the future.
Congratulations! For reaching Level 24 as “XN-OMEGA-02: Predictive Analytics Model”, you have the option of learning the racial skill “Precognition Lvl 1”. Would you like to learn this skills?
Congratulations! You have learned the skill “Precognition Lvl 1”. Due to synchronicity with Timeless Perception, efficiency of processing Timeless Perception will increase as Precognition levels. Precognition allows the user to sense events that will occur in the future to greater or lesser degree. User has a small ability to sense dangerous opponents. User will notice life threatening danger a split second before he normally would have.
-A useful skill, I guess, but don’t we sorta already have it with the stats?
-Probably why we got the synchronicity bonus. Still, the increases to mana and processing power will be a big help.
Before I could consider further, another notification, that had been apparently sitting behind the first level up notification.
Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have enough experience to reach Lvl 25. Unfortunately, without Biomass to consume, you cannot level. After obtaining Biomass, select the “Level Up” option in the status screen to proceed to the next level.
-Perfect. Must have gotten it while slaughtering all those demons yesterday. Now we can eat to our heart’s content.
Grimacing I thought more about that option. Although that was the ideal, I likely would want to keep this rate again for the mana. And the bonuses to perception were extremely attractive, although it was hard to see the benefits immediately.
Shaking my head, I considered my new status screen.
|Racial Growth Rate:||XN-OMEGA-02: Predictive Analytics Model||Biomass:||421|
|Light of the Unlucky Star:||0||Essence:||10/31|
|Health Regen:||x4.6||Mana:||2661/3035 (+106)|
|Vit:||149 (+30)||End:||341 (+30)|
|Str:||171 (+30)||Agi:||153 (+30)|
|Dex:||174 (+30)||Memory:||500 (+30)|
|Processing Power:||519 (+30)||Parallel Computations:||2|
|Wis:||164 (+30)||Luck:||33 (+30) (#Error)|
|Timeless Perception:||193 (+30)||Balance:||221|
|A Predator||Raceless||Nurturer of the Undead||Singer of the Dark Cadences|
|Bringer of War||Master of Throwing Knives||Warden of Glacier and Moon||One Who Denies His Own Mortality|
|Gene Splicer||Born Under a Cursed Star||Black Exo-skeleton with 9 Lives||Student of the Arcane|
|Though Blind, This One Still Hungers|
|Air Affinity Lvl 4||Endless Stomach||Weapons Mastery Lvl 2||Silent Kill Lvl 1|
|Code of the Dragon||Aura of the Predator Lvl 9||Summon Lesser Dead Lvl 7||Bile Emission Lvl 2|
|Unholy Bestowal Lvl 3||Physicality Lvl 9||Song of the Murloc People Lvl 1||Thunder Stance Lvl 7|
|Cadence of Earth||Cadence of Water||Wind Stance Lvl 2||Wind Blade Lvl 9|
|Pain Tolerance Lvl 8||Greater Resistance to Fire Lvl 2||Sneak Attack Lvl 2||My Soul is the Flame, My Body the Blade Lvl 5|
|Lesser Ice Affinity Lvl 5||Lunar Affinity Lvl 7||Automated Air Armor Lvl 2||Flicker Lvl 1|
|Poison Resistance Lvl 2||Absolute Control: Self Lvl 6||Arcane Mastery Lvl 3||Floating Pond Beneath the Moon Lvl 2|
|Iron Will Lvl 2||Lunar Break Lvl 6||Immolation Lvl 4||Lesser Spiritual Resistance Lvl 2|
|Precognition Lvl 1|
|Saved Growth Rates|
|Sable Haired Lynx||Obsidian Magma Gator||Oracle of the Endless Woods||XN-00013|
|Level Up? Y/N|
-Our list of skills is getting a little long…
-Most of the fluff are stance stuff and resistances, that accounts for like 10. Then we have worthless trash like Bile Emission and Song of the Murloc People.
-Too bad we can’t just forget skills to clean things up…
I chewed on my lip, wishing there was more breakfast remaining. Getting my biomass up would take time, and from Jen's short communications were telling me, there was already a challenger lined up for the 10th floor.
-Well, it probably won’t be so hard that I’ll need to use it immediately. But it’s annoying.
Standing, I stretched until my shoulders cracked and then walked towards the door. I bet I could scrape some more food out of this place before I went to fight the demon army. Then I would work some more towards leveling up lunar break, and-
Ashni stood at the door, her arms folded
“If you do not want to ascend immediately, why not spend some time working on your sloppy form. It could use some polishing before we head on to real challenges.”
I paused briefly, but ultimately dismissed it. More pressing needs.
Shaking my head, I walked past her. “I don’t believe I can improve noticeably in the time we have, while other skills are close to improving.”
Nodding slowly, she gave me a long look. Then she said lightly. “I have spoken with Jen. She has arranged for us to have an exclusive broadcast deal with a streamer of The Great Tower. Due to the associated fees, she has food waiting for you on the 10th floor.”
“Almost a ton of it,“ Ashni added over her shoulder, leaving the room.
-Tch, she said that to tempt us to leave. That bitch.
-...but it’s not something I want to resist. Fine, only one more day of practice, then let’s head up.
Scratching my mournfully empty stomach, I walked out the doors and towards the waiting demon army.
Ketlia considered Kent with a thoughtful expression. Between the two of them, the slight asian man was surely the more palatable to her. On the other hand, he, too, was entirely too deeply obsessed with her for Ketlia’s comfort, but to Kent’s credit, he seemed content to let their relationship stay as is, rather than pushing for more like Diver.
“Diver spoke to you of leaving,” Kent said, his tone clear he meant it as a statement and not a question, even with his arms folded and eyes closed.
She nodded, still giving him a long look.
They were at lunch, while most of the rest of the group continued to do training exercises for Part 3 of the plan. Kent had never really featured heavily in Kettle’s plans, aside from protecting Ketlia, and Ketlia was bored of the training, so neither had attended.
Honestly, Ketlia couldn’t figure out why Kettle didn’t use Kent more heavily. If anything, Kent was the one that Ketlia believed could fight Predator most evenly. Sure, Diver’s abilities were more flashy, but still…
Kent opened his eyes. “Yet you remain. Why?”
Ketlia kept her expression neutral, pretending to think about it. Her current plans had expanded two
- Eliminate Predator, the one who knew her actual name, the label of an identity she had discarded.
- Ensure that Diver learned his place in her life.
Still, neither of these reasons were particularly nice or righteous reasons, and Ketlia opened her mouth to give him a reason quite like she had given to Diver.
Kent held up a hand. “Save it Kat, if you do not wish to tell me, I don’t mind.”
Then he calmly continued eating, and Ketlia wondered how much insight Kent really had into her behavior.
Perhaps this was a good opportunity to be rid of them all. Hopefully Predator lived up to the Hype.
With Aura of the Predator deactivated, the demons surged forward, content to throw themselves towards me, heedless of their assured doom. My smile stretched wider, welcoming them to the end.
I had two goals for today. The first was to level up immolation up another level. The heat was currently enough to turn rock into dribbling liquid, but I believed that with all the bodies I could embrace here, I could push that to the next level.
The second goal was to get Lunar Break to level up.
“First though… let’s have some fun,” I said sweetly, lunar mist rushing to fill the air around me. I gestured and it swirled, forming a tight vortex hanging over my head. The demons screeched their viciousness, perhaps in some far fetched attempt to scare me, and rushed towards me.
“How quickly they forget,” I crooned, 1000 lunar reflections condensing. Then I pressed, combining those 1000 disparate shards of lunar glass into a huge mirror. There was a slight throbbing in my temples and a tightness behind my eyes, but the increases I had gotten to processing power made maintaining a reflection of a larger size much easier.
-Well, comparatively easier. It’s still taking two of us.
The mirror floated above the demons, who largely ignored it, focused as they were on me, alone and without any assistance.
-Kya~ I’m so helpless, I hope the demons don’t come closer.
Of course, the demons did, and the huge mirror I summoned floated ominously after them, casting a dark shadow over the surrounding area.
Honestly, I was a little impressed by the sheer size of the mirror, almost as large as the old fort on my path, but I still figured that the power increases for size wouldn’t be as much as the bonus for the lunar pond. As such, when all the demons were practically drooling on me, I shattered it, opening up the gates to hell.
The bodies of the demons around me bulged and cracked. Large swathes of ground disintegrated to powder, the earth underneath it buckling and shifting. It was simultaneously extremely loud, and completely silent, as the grinding of particles made an unnerving noise, but the demon’s swift death shifting the previous cacophony to immediately nothing.
For my part, I just grinned, my body jolted and squeezed, but largely unaffected by the discharge.
Congratulations! Due to your actions, your skill has improved to “Lunar Affinity Lvl 8”. The amount of mana required to summon lunar mist is greatly decreased. A small amount of lunar mist will be maintained near the user’s persona, which can be used at will. Such lunar mist will regenerate after being used. Condensed items will last much longer.
There is a certain joy,’ I reflected, carefully stepping forward over the thin film of spongy demon flesh that was the only remaining evidence of the previous group of demons who attacks me, ‘In walking over the battlefield, where all that remains is the silence of death and victory.’
My eyes sharpened, and I scanned the horizon for the next column of demons.
She knocked sharply on the door. “You called?”
Gillette gestured her into the room. “Yes, yes. I have a surprise for you.”
Ketlia nodded and sat down slowly, curious. Gillette’s eyes were bright and his smiles were sharp; this reminded Ketlia much more of the Gillette of old, rather than the recent, scholarly incarnation.
“I told you I was looking for information correct? About the monster my group ran into. Specifically, I was looking into the history of the Great Tower, not the the entertainment program we have now, but the edifice that defines our biverse. I received a report,” Gillette said, passing papers over to her.
Raising an eyebrow, Ketlia asked. “Biverse? Like 2 universes?”
“I forgot you were originally from such a backwards planet as Earth,” Gillette said with a chuckle. “Yes, the biverse. Two universes leaning against each other, completely separate, except for a single bridge: The Great Tower. Or perhaps artery and vein would be more appropriate, because it’s both.”
Gillette paused, as if expecting Ketlia to have more questions, but she simply remained silent. Instinctively, Ketlia knew that allowing him to express his excitement would make this process much simpler.
“...as I was saying, I was looking for origin stories of the tower. The most complete records are quite a bit above my paygrade, but most of that information was taken from somewhere; more specifically some of the dungeons on floor 19.”
Gillette began to pace. “I put up a notice on that floor that I was willing to pay for a complete rubbing from one of the deepest dungeons; one that people very rarely bother with, due to difficulty. Well some fool named Tim took me up on my offer, and provided an extremely meticulous engraving. Look, here.”
Gillette gave her a sheaf of papers, and Ketlia skimmed over it for a few seconds. Then she looked back up at him.
“This almost seems like a children’s story.” Ketlia said, frowning.
By Gillette’s reaction, Ketlia felt a sinking feeling in her chest. He was grinning slyly,barely able to keep a straight face; she had fallen for his trap.
“Read it a bit more closely,” Gillette urged softly. “And then I’ll tell you a secret.”
In the beginning, there were the elves and the fae. These two races live in two different worlds, each world created by the combined effort of two of God’s four children.
Seraphim and Nyx created Elves. The Elves had infinite lives, but must sacrifice their own lives so children could be born into the world. They were a wise, considered people, but they did not have great strength, only time to amass great knowledge.
Genesis and Abyss created the Fae, who flicked in and out of existence unpredictably, flashing like blooming flowers, then wilting away just as fast. They were extremely powerful, violent, emotional, and volatile. Still, after they had served their purpose, the fae would vanish from the world.
Such was the power of the Fae that the Great Mother, Holy, The One True God, She Who Would Settle Atop the Great Tower, who spoke only 4 times since The Beginning, spoke to Genesis and Abyss.
After the Fae were created, The Mother said to Genesis and Abyss, “Careful, children. Guard your realm well.”
Genesis and Abyss were embarrassed, but took Her words seriously: The Mother did not speak lightly. So those two watched the Fae, recognizing their power, vigilant of any who could destroy their realm.
It as only much later that they realized the warning was not for them to care about their powerful Fae, but to be weary of the wise Elves, who figured out how to bridge the realms.
It all began with the King that could do no wrong. He who negotiated to end the eternal feud between the Sera Elves and the Nix Elves. He who tamed the Mad Duchess. He who was blessed with the sharpest mind the elders among the Elves had ever seen.
He who was cursed with triplets.
He who was named Tuallan Rex
It was honestly more like chasing down demons at this point than actually fighting them. An amusing exercise at first, but swiftly becoming more tiresome as the day dragged on.
I was currently training Immolation, and the heat already wore down my patience through the constant thrum of agony I was experiencing during it. As the demon’s bodies melted and ceased to be around me, my fury steadily rose, climbing high enough to boost me a few stat points.
At the same time I felt a strange change within me. A strange cruelty was emerging, and it was especially prevalent while I had immolation activated. For a few hours I resisted the impulse to extend over much the suffering of these worthless preys, but there came a moment when I realized there was no reason to hold back.
It was the same moment that I realized where the impulse came from.
-We just want to share the pain.
I paused, hand still on a swiftly melting demon, thinking about it.
Honestly, it was true. The constant agony was grating on my mind and senses. But strangely, as I inflicted the pain on others… Some of that cloudiness disappeared. I felt sharper, more whole.
Curious, I tried fighting a demon by rapidly activating and deactivating Immolation, hitting the pathetic creature with enough heat to warp its body, but not enough to kill it.
To my delight, it truly did survive, shrieking in agony. I pulled it closer.
“Mmm, it certainly is gratifying that someone understands what I go through,” I mused with a wicked smile.
Ketlia continued reading.
Long after Tuallan Rex had become a wise and famous king, he, as all Elves did, applied for a child. As all children could only be born using the life of another elf, only when another elf felt he or she had lived long enough could another child be born.
So for countless years Tuallan Rex and his wife waited, until finally it was their turn. After a dozen years of attempts, they succeeded; a child would be born to the king. It was a day for celebration throughout the empire. For an entire year the kingdom celebrated.
But, mere weeks before the baby was to be born, an accomplished Elven seer hurried to the castle.
She told the King that there was not only a single baby within his wife’s stomach.
The King attempted to hush up the news, but his distraught wife wept and wept, and due to her sorrow the guards talked. The kingdom of the Elves was rocked by the news, and the looming possibility of a royal baby being stillborn hung over them all.
But salvation came from an unlikely source. A vile and detestable alchemist, a fiend who was complicit in the great crimes of the Mad Duchess, volunteered his own life for the child’s. He only asked that he be allowed a proper Elven burial.
And so the night of the birth came.
The queen bore triplets. As one infant lay still, its lips turning blue and cold, the queen snatched a knife from the midwife and slit her own throat, cooing, “My babies, my babies…”
The third child resuscitated, the servants attempted to console the king, but Tuallan Rex simply stared at the dead body of his lovely wife, his one true love.
That entire night, Tuallan Rex did not move.
The next day, Tuallan Rex began to build.
“...Kettle’s big event is coming up,” Gillette interrupted. “Perhaps it’s better you finish the rest tonight, and we speak of it tomorrow.”
Congratulations! Due to your actions, your skill has improved to “Immolation Lvl 5”. The amount of mana needed to maintain Immolation is greatly decreased. Flames extending from the user’s body have grown in size. User’s abilities to perceive through immolation have increased according. User’s body is slightly more capable in withstanding the heat.
Although the level increase of Immolation was good, it didn’t include an actual increase to the top end damage it could deal, which disappointed me. Even more than that though…
I glared at the horizon, where the sun had already sunk low.
-Still no lunar break level.
Tsking to myself, I began to walk back towards the castle where Ashni was keeping the emperor. I would try for a short while to level Lunar Break up on his body, but I wasn’t holding out much hope. And although I wanted it, there was something I wanted more.
Grinning, I shook my head slightly.
With glittering eyes, I daydreamed about the trap waiting for me only a single floor above, and how I would break it apart and burn it to ashes.