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I woke to ribbets. I sat up, rubbing my head. I glanced casually around. 8 frogs, two of them already hopping away. 5 in front, 3 behind, 2 of the behind ones hopping away. I yawned and got to my feet. Two of the frogs in front opened their mouths to shoot their tongues at me. The other three leapt towards me. I stepped to the side, filled with certainty where the tongues were going to come from. They sailed harmlessly past me.

Most surprisingly was that I found that I had somehow already drawn my cudgel and was lashing out at one of the leaping frogs.

-Who drew that?

-It was I, I’m other you.

-Oh, hello other me, how do you do?

-How do you do.

My left hand snaked out and plucked a withdrawing tongue out of the air, yanking it towards me. Other me warned that the frog behind us had opened its mouth, and I stepped to the side, the tongue shooting harmlessly past. This really was too easy. I finished off the frogs that were close, then chased down the two runners. Then I considered myself.

I stared at the marsh around me. I mentally took a picture, then closed my eyes. I held the picture there, counting how many stalks of grass I remembered. It took a surprisingly short amount of time, pretty much a single second. Then I opened them and counted the grass around me, equally quickly.

Hum.

I looked down to find my hands playing rock, paper, scissors against each other. I began doing multiplication, starting with three digit numbers, but swiftly growing bored with it. Only when I began reaching 20 digit long numbers did I start to frown, taking up to a minute to finally find the answer to each one.

Shaking my head, I brought up my status screen.

Name:PredatorLevel:4
Race:Biomass:13
Vit:6 (+2)End:8 (+2)
Str:7 (+2)Agi:7 (+2)
Dex:4 (+2)Memory:105 (+2)
Processing Power:105 (+2)Parallel Computations:2
Wis:5 (+2)Luck:31 (+2)
Titles
A Creature Which Named Itself PredatorRaceless
Skills
Lesser Air AffinityEndless StomachWeapons Mastery Lvl 1


I suppose it would have been too easy if Parallel Computation was also increased by the bonus from my title. What would I even do with 4 selves?


-You could have one of the other yous work on it.

-Oh, thanks other me. Good idea.

I laughed, and then frowned, surprised at myself. I usually wasn’t so prone to displays of emotion-

A scream cut across the marsh.

I stood up, glancing around. And then I remembered that the creature said that on the 5th day, more of “my kind” would arrive at this place. A flash of red caught my eye, and I focused my gaze.

A female of similar skintone to mine and bright red hair was dashing across the wetlands, stumbling through puddles and seemingly ignoring the present danger of the frogs.

-Ah, she likely doesn’t know about the frogs, other me.

-I know, other me. It’s just foolish to make such noise in a strange place.

But to the woman’s credit, her clothes appeared to be ripped, and there was a line of blood streaming from her shoulder.

A low chuckle attracted my attention. An overweight, balding man was strolling after the female, spinning several knives across his fingers. He also had a long spear strapped to his back. My expression brightened immediately.

I stepped out into his path to attract his attention, then said. “Give me those knives. I need them.”

He blinked at me, then laughed. “Oh you want these, you shitty Tarzan wannabe? Then here, have them.”

I carefully watched his hand as he telegraphed the throw, whipping a knife towards my throat. I plucked it out of the air, and hefted it, curious.

His face went white, and his off hand flicked two more towards my torso.

I spun the knife I had first caught across my fingers, imitating him while MY off hand snagged the two new ones out of the air.

“Something like… this?” I attempted to throw the knife back, but it trembled mid air and he was able to dodge my leaping to the side. While mid air, he twisted and flung 5 knives at me. I watched the sweat drip down his forehead with a sly grin on my face. The increased mental functions had a lot of benefits. Although time didn’t slow, my mind was miles ahead of body, which was close to the limits of a human.

I had to use both hands, but I gathered all of the knives.

“No… more like this.” I flicked three knives towards the man, and they embedded themselves in his thigh, gut, and shoulder.

Congratulations! Due to your high level of attention and comprehension, you have managed to learn the Skill “Knife Throw Lvl 1”. Accuracy when throwing knives increased by 3%. Damage increased by 1%.


“Oh yes, it’s like this.” I splayed my fingers, the remaining knives flying out in a fan, sinking into the trembling man’s body.

Congratulations! Due to your practice, your skill has become “Knife Throw Lvl 2.” Accuracy when throwing knives increased by 6%. Damage increased by 2%. You may now throw additional knives at once.


He started screaming, and I glanced around, frowning.


If he kept up that noise, it would likely attract the frogs in the area, or something worse. So I walked over to him and cracked his skull with my cudgel.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have reached Lvl 5. All Biomass has been consumed.
Due to your special circumstances, you have the choice of retaining the previously earned Racial Growth Rate of “XN-00013” or use the Biomass to receive another randomly assigned Growth Rate. Note, retaining a Growth Rate will allow you to learn Racial skills at the typical level they are learned. Note, if a Growth Rate is retained, the Biomass will instead be converted into random chances for improvement.
Do you wish to retain your previous Growth Rate? Y/N


I hesitated. I barely had any biomass, so I probably wouldn’t get very many chances for improvement. And if I got another Parallel Computation…

I clicked yes.

Growth Rate retained!
Vit +1
End +4
Memory +96
Processing Power +107
Due to the conversion of 17 Biomass, 1 chance for random improvements were earned!
Chance One: … +2 Luck!


I breathed out a sigh of relief, then frowned. I did not earn another Parallel computation. And more problematically, while my memory and processing power was even more overpowered, that didn’t help me survive beyond a certain point. I needed to increase my physical attributes. 


Still, killing this strange man was much more effective than killing 50 or so Frogs. I wondered idly whether I should kill the female too.

I retrieved the knives from the man’s body, wiping the blood on his clothes. Then I took the shield from his back. It was a sturdy thing, made from wood reinforced with metal. Although it wouldn’t withstand the tongue of the mound toad, with my quick calculations, I should be able to defect it harmlessly enough.

Before following the female, I devoured the man’s body, ignoring the horror from that strange impression within myself, and checked my status.

Name:PredatorLevel:5
Race:Biomass:13
Vit:7 (+2)End:12 (+2)
Str:7 (+2)Agi:7 (+2)
Dex:4 (+2)Memory:201 (+2)
Processing Power:212 (+2)Parallel Computations:2
Wis:5 (+2)Luck:32 (+2)
Titles
A Creature Which Named Itself PredatorRaceless
Skills
Lesser Air AffinityEndless StomachWeapons Mastery Lvl 1Knife Throw Lvl 2


*****

When I caught up with the female, she was leaning against a tree, seemingly unaware of the sleeping bear behind her.

I hissed between my teeth. This was difficult. The female was sobbing quietly, her red hair preventing me from seeing her face. Other me commented that she had good hips for birthing. Other me began thinking about whether I had lost my capability to breed when I became raceless while I considered my options for grabbing her attention.

Ultimately, I settled on throwing a knife.

With a Thunk it sank into the tree trunk, right next to her temple. I was quite pleased with my accuracy. The female looked up, her eyes wide. They were brown, I noticed.

“S-S-Stay away!” Her voice wasn’t so loud that it would wake ME up when I was sleeping. But the area where the bear was became ominously still.

I hastily drew my hand, still holding another knife, across my throat, frantically trying to signal that she should be quiet.

She began to scream.

The bear leapt to its feet with a roar.

I just sighed, my hands were already whipping two knives at the furious bear. I was aiming for its eyes, but I was annoyed to find that one knife whizzed by its head, while the other sunk into its nose. I suppose nothing comes easily without practice.

The bear’s angry eyes narrowed and focused on me. Luckily this bear seemed to be a relatively small one, only 7 feet tall, but it still had several hundred pounds of weight on me. It lumbered towards me, paws raised. I dashed forward, one hand drawing the cudgel, the other strapping the shield onto my arm.

The girl continued shrieking, stumbling backwards away from us.

Full of bloodthirst, the bear swung its paw downwards to crush my body. I crouched even lower, raising the shield to deflect the blow and swinging my cudgel in an arc to smash the bear’s knee joint.

My blow hit first, but I didn’t have time to decide if it inflicted significant damage.

The bear’s blow hit much, much harder.

The shield cracked and splintered, and I was thrown dozens of meters to the side, tumbling through the bushes until finally smashing up against a tree trunk. Groaning, I rolled over, surprised to find that while everything was extremely painful, Nothing appeared to be broken, aside from the shield.

It appears that all those points going into End really paid off. Then I shivered, imagining what a direct hit without a shield would do to my body. I spotted my cudgel nearby and quickly grabbed it, giving it an affectionate rub. Better not lose my oldest friend quite yet. Still more to do.

Abruptly, the female’s screams cut off. Gritting my teeth, I stumbled to my feet and walked back towards the bear. No one would steal my easy levels and get away with it!

When I approached, the female appeared to be curled up into a ball on the ground, and the bear was pawing at her, curious. It had managed to remove my knife from its nose, and a small amount of blood was dripping onto the trembling female. I circled around behind the bear, a wild giddiness rising in my stomach. I had no idea why I was about to do what I was about to do, but I felt the rising adrenaline and grinned.

My feet were light and close to soundless as I sped forward, part of me focusing on accelerating, the other part using my perfect memory to find every twig and leaf and place my feet between them. Then, as I neared, I leapt towards the bent over back of the bear, one knife in each hand. I landed perfectly, my legs splayed around so that I seemed to mount him, as if was a small horse and not a bloodthirsty black bear beneath me.

In the split second after I landed, I stabbed down with my knives, deep into the flesh of the bear’s back. It roared, straightening up and swiping at me around its back, but I had already used my knife holds to scuttle up farther.

Honestly, standing up was a bad choice, Mr. Bear.

When I reached a good spot on its shoulders, I left other me take the left hand while I focused on the right, and we both began wildly stabbing around the front side of its neck, attempting to nick its jugular.

The pain incensed it further, and it began to swipe more earnestly, its razor sharp claws raking across my back. Hissing with pain, I ignored the swipes and stabbed deeper, and deeper, until…

Other me found it first. Blood began to spurt out, covering my fingers and drenching the female below, dying her cheek the same color as her hair.

Mission accomplished, I left both knives embedded in the bear where they were and dropped down, drawing the cudgel again, smashing that same knee. This time, with a sickening pop, the knee bent sideways and the bear tumbled over. Right on top of the female.

Its roars were turning slowly into low groans, and then to fearful whines, but for good measure I threw the rest of my knives at it, adding however I could to its blood loss. For the next 10 minutes I waited patiently as the bear bled out, shifting feebly on its back.

Finally, after around 3 minutes of stillness on the bears part, it sighed, and a notification popped up before me.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have reached Lvl 6. All Biomass has been consumed.
Due to your special circumstances, you have the choice of retaining the previously earned Racial Growth Rate of “XN-00013” or use the Biomass to receive another randomly assigned Growth Rate. Note, retaining a Growth Rate will allow you to learn Racial skills at the typical level they are learned. Note, if a Growth Rate is retained, the Biomass will instead be converted into random chances for improvement.
Do you wish to retain your previous Growth Rate? Y/N


Not this time, weird blue notification. I was a bit disappointed that I only had the 32 Biomass from eating the man earlier, but hopefully I could still get a decent race’s growth rate. I clicked 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 a “Kobold Minion.”
Vit +1
Str +1
Dex +1


I sighed, gazing at the pathetic name, and the even more pathetic level up gains. Perhaps I was just spoiled so far? But another notification popped up.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have enough experience to reach Lvl 7. 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.


Oho! Two levels for one kill? Excellent. And now I have the opportunity to eat this entire bear before leveling! With that much Biomass, I will undoubtedly get a good Growth Rate!


*****
After dragging the bear off the body of the smothered female and sparing her a glance, I dug in, gluttonously devouring all the flesh of the giant thing. I took care to shave much of its pelt off, planning on using it later.

Otherwise, I sucked down every edible morsel. I even cracked open its larger bones and drank the marrow. By the end, I had 99 Biomass. Excited, I brought up the Status menu and selected Level Up.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have reached Lvl 7. All Biomass has been consumed.
Due to your special circumstances, you have the choice of retaining the previously earned Racial Growth Rate of “Kobold Minion” or use the Biomass to receive another randomly assigned Growth Rate. Note, retaining a Growth Rate will allow you to learn Racial skills at the typical level they are learned. Note, if a Growth Rate is retained, the Biomass will instead be converted into random chances for improvement.
Do you wish to retain your previous Growth Rate? Y/N


Rolling my eyes, I reached forward to press no-


“Where did you put all that?”

Eh?

I twisted around, other me just as shocked as I was.

The female was sitting up, wiping blood off of her face and glancing from me to the picked clean bear bones next to me. Well, I suppose I really should have checked if she was alive, but I figured-

But then I froze, as notifications began to pop up before me.

Growth Rate Retained!
Str +1
Dex +1
Wis +1
Since you have reached Lvl 7 as a “Kobold Minion”, you have the chance to learn the Racial Skill “Path of the Dragon”. Would you like to learn it? Y/N


I paused. Well, It certainly was a better racial skill than Foul Stench…


“Hey! I’m talking to you!”

I reluctantly turned away from the notification and looked at the female.

***POV CHANGE***
Ketlia had been manipulating men for most of her life. So when that balding pig had stolen her shield and threatened her with his knives, she ran away screaming. As they say, “Danger invites rescue.”

What she didn’t expect was that her rescuer would be this cold eyed, shirtless, hasn’t-taken-a-bath-in-weeks sorta type. The right side of his face was marked by scars, and most of the ear on that side was gone too. Also, that her scared act would result in waking up a bear.

Or that the rescuer would kill the bear and eat it raw.

She decided to refer to him as “wild man” for now. Wild man was currently scratching his cheek, seemingly perplexed by her. Her clothes were still ripped from where the knife man attacked her, so she drew part of the bear pelt that lay near her up over her body, subtly reminding him of her own femininity, and her vulnerability.

This action finally drew a response. Wild man pointed at the pelt. “Don’t touch. That's mine.”

Ketlia frowned, annoyed by his reaction. “Why? So you can creep on my body? No way.”

If anything, this seemed to confuse the Wild man more. “...what’s “creep”?”

Pursing her lips, Ketlia said slyly, “So you aren’t thinking about me naked right now. At all.”

Wild man nodded, as if this was the most normal thing in the world. Smirking, Ketlia marshaled her will and activated her skill that earned her a place in the weird place.

She reached into the wild man’s mind.

-What is she talking about?

-Like I said, procreation.

-In the forest? Foolish bears and snakes could-

-Anyways, it’s a definite yes for-

-Still, the growth-

-Dex is fine-

-Should we-

“SHUT UP.”

Ketlia was shocked at her yell, and rubbed her temples. She hadn’t had much chance to utilize her new ability to read minds, but she found wild man’s voice to be more loud and incredibly fast speaking. “Are you fucking crazy? Why do you have two voices inside of your head?”

Wild man tilted his head to the side. Then he smiled, very slowly, and Ketlia shivered.

“...you can read minds?

***POV Change***
I suspected that if I really had to, other me could run interference by very loudly thinking through multiplication tables. But I suppose it really doesn’t matter if she reads my mind. I’m not trying to fool her, just use her.

“Does it just work with people? Or with monster too. Could you read the bear’s mind?”

The female nodded hesitantly. “Yes. But it was harder. And I didn’t notice it because it was asleep.”

“Can you sense nearby thoughts? Or do you need to know someone is there to read? What’s the range? How deeply can you see? Can people hide thoughts from you?”

Female frowned. “I’m not just going to tell you the extent of my powers.”

I shrugged. “Prove to me you are useful. Or I will kill you for the level.” We maintained eye contact for several seconds.

Female looked away. “...yes, I can sense minds just by them thinking. Its like ripples on water. The range is pretty far. Like I know that right now…” She frowned. “There is something coming this way. Because… because it can smell blood.”

“From which direction?” Female pointed deeper into the forest. I sighed. Probably a big ass snake-

“How big of a snake? I could see you picturing it. In you mind it looked… it looked big enough to eat a bear.” Female laughed shakily, and I chuckled. Still, if she could really sense life forms based on their thoughts, it would make harvesting frogs for Biomass much simpler. And it would make avoiding traps a breeze.

“Follow me. Let’s go somewhere less dangerous. Then I want some more information.” I picked up the pelt, recovered my knives, and hurried away, turning my attention back towards the notifications. Other me paid close attention to the female.

I clicked yes to learn Path of the Dragon.

Congratulations! You have learned the skill “Path of the Dragon”. Legend has it that Kobolds are distantly spawned from dragons, but that is a myth! In fact, the opposite is true. Every Kobold carries within it the seed of a dragon, and if nurtured, they become entities that can cause hellfire to rain from the skies. To begin to nurture your seed, kill an enemy that is a higher level than you.


Hum, simple enough. I didn’t really know what levels most monsters are, but those mound frogs are probably-

Due to the conversion of 99 Biomass, 4 chances for random improvements were earned!
Chance One: ...Evolutionary Leap! All stats (aside from Parallel Computations) +1. A small amount of height gained.


Height? What sort of nonsense-


My skin bubbled, then shifted. My muscles seized up, then abruptly relaxed, almost causing me to fall over. I spared the female a small glance, then coughed lightly into my hand. It made me nervous, knowing that a mutation might come through, leaving me vulnerable in front of her. Although she seemed docile enough now, even if she was giving me weird looks, I had no doubt that she would kill me to survive.

Chance Two: ...Str +1!
Chance Three: ...Mutation!


Damnit, just when I thought I was in the clear-


“Uh, just a moment,” I managed to cough out, leaning up against a tree to brace myself. The female just watched me with glittering eyes.

Body undergoing mutation…
Mutation failed!


“Keh-!”

The pain was as invasive and debilitating as I remembered, but I struggled to stay on my feet, glaring at the female. For her part, she seemed taken aback by my grimace, and backed a few more feet away from me. After about 30 seconds, the pain passed, and with a sigh I turned and began jogging towards the nearby wetlands. It would do no one good to be caught here by a giant snake.

“Is it still coming towards us?”

The female nodded nervously and looked back. “Yea, and faster than ever. I think it just passed the spot where you left the…” She glanced at the pelt I was carrying. “The bones.”

Chance Four: ...Mutation!


Damnit! Of all the rotten luck.

Body undergoing mutation...


Waves of pain rolled across me, fiery needles that ripped through my flesh and flayed my bones. I couldn’t swallow, couldn’t breath. I stumbled forward, intent on getting away from the snake. But where the pain usually started fading by this point, it just kept building. My heart trembled, its rhythm falling to pieces. My vision began to fade, my eyes filled with tears.


For a moment, I wondered whether I could die from one of these. An evolutionary dead end?

Mutation successful! You have discovered the attribute “Health Regen”. Base value set at 1x. Health Regen increased to 2x.


After the pain broke, it became a wave of comforting warmth that spread over my entire body. My eyes once more grew sharp, my heart beat confidently, and I could feel a strange itching on my back, where the bear scratched me. I wondered if my ability to heal had really increased that much. Either way, at least I had gotten some benefit from the mutations.


Once more confident, I strode forward, bringing my status up to admire my new level.

Name:PredatorLevel:7
Race:Biomass:0
Health Regen:x2
Vit:9 (+2)End:13 (+2)
Str:11 (+2)Agi:8 (+2)
Dex:7 (+2)Memory:202 (+2)
Processing Power:213 (+2)Parallel Computations:2
Wis:7 (+2)Luck:32 (+2)
Titles
A Creature Which Named Itself PredatorRaceless
Skills
Lesser Air AffinityEndless StomachWeapons Mastery Lvl 1Knife Throw Lvl 2
Path of the Dragon


*****


***POV Change***
Ketlia breathed heavily struggling to keep up with wild man. After his initial few spastic episodes as they left the forest, he seemed to recover his poise as they entered the marsh area. Since then, he had loped confidently ahead for what had to have been almost 5 miles, ignoring her increasingly accusatory glares. She had focused on him to see his thoughts, in case he was doing it on purpose, but wild man was only thinking about ways to use her. Letting her concentration fall, she sighed.

Reading him really was more difficult than others. His thoughts were like a busy city. And the fact that he was inwardly talking to himself… Not as most people do, but that amount with an extra layer of complexity. It took a lot out of her to read him.

Finally, unable to stand anymore, Ketlia said, “I’m hungry.”

Wild man stopped and looked at her. Then he looked around. After a minute, he nodded. “This should be a new village. Use your skill, female. Find us some frogs.”

*****
She had thought he was joking, when she found a dozen small minds, they really turned out to be weirdly oversized frogs. He then gave her a long look, and then said. I want to try something.

Then wild man moved among the frog like… well, a human among normal frogs, giving them sharp raps on the temple generally, killing a few that tried to escape with his knives. Then he brought the few that he knocked out over to her.

“I want to try something. Kill these, and if you level up, tell me what stats you gain. In exchange, you can eat a frog. Deal?”

Ketlia frowned. “Level up? Stats? Do you really think this shit is real? This isn’t a video game.” Wild man just gave her a deadpan look, as if she were an idiot.

‘Well,’ She thought to herself. ‘I suppose I can read minds, so…’

Killing the first one was hard, but once he showed her where to stab, it was simple, if messy. After the 6th frog kill, a blue box popped into existence in front of her.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have reached Lvl 2. As a human, you have gained the follow:
Vit +1
Str +1
Dex +1
Wis +1
Willpower +1


She reported the gains to wild man, who nodded thoughtfully. “Interesting. Basically 1 for everything. But also, you have a stat that I don’t I wonder if that’s because of your skill.” 


Overall though, Ketlia could tell that he was pleased by what she said, smug in a strange way. She wondered if he gained more from a level up. Smiling slightly, she looked at the notification box below that one.

Due to your title “Soul Conduit” you have gained the following:
Int +2
Wis +1
Willpower +3


She opened her status screen and was pleased by what she saw.

Name:Ketlia StoneLevel:2
Race:Human
Vit:3End:1
Str:2Agi:3
Dex:4Int6
Wis:6Luck:4
Willpower:7
Titles
Soul Conduit
Skills
Mind ReadingLesser Astral Perception


‘Not as physically minded as this specimen,’ She thought, eyeing Wild Man, who began devouring most of the frogs. ‘But I’ll make due.'


“So,” She finally said, watching with distaste as he ripped into a frog leg. “I know you’re a savage, but how am I going to cook this?”

Wild man just chuckled, and she opened her mouth to deliver a sharp retort, but then she blinked. She turned and looked to her left.

“There are… people.” She frowned. “A lot of them.”

*****
Ketlia gave Wild Man a sidelong glance. She could sense his thoughts were whirling round and round incredibly quickly, but she made no attempts to peer into him. She had enough of headaches for one day.

She was still carrying the frog that he had given her, and Wild Man still had three of his own, dangling idly from his left hand. His right arm was still wrapped around the bear pelt. All in all, he really looked like a wild man who could survive in this strange landscape.

Turning back towards the group of people, she considered them. Most attractive of all was the modest first that most of them crowded around. There were about 10 people in total, most of them young and fit. Aside from the 10 around the first, three men were using two axes to cut down a tree, far away but still within sight of the camp.

A shoddy lean to had also been erected, and Ketlia could sense that there were three people within, engaged in… passionate activities.
Her lip curled. A chieftain already enjoying the spoils of being on top. Literally. Well, in its own way, the predictable types were desirable. Ketlia looked at Wild Man again, who was now fiddling with the claws he had taken from the bear.

What was most impressive about the camp was the huge skull of what could only be a snake, sitting on a pole in the middle of the camp.

“So? Let’s go over and introduce ourselves.” And to her surprise, he nodded. She led the way, feeling slightly ridiculous bringing an oversized frog with her. As they neared, the people by the fire leapt to their feet, calling frantically. Ketlia felt the annoyance emanating from the lean to from the interruption, and the three men off cutting down logs hurried back.

The entire group gathered before them, around 10 feet away, 16 in all. A fair amount. The man who walked out of the hut, followed by two flushed brunettes, could only be described as golden. 6’2, honey hair, tanned skin, he would definitely be the protagonist in the movie made about their current situation. He would unite humanity and lead them to salvation.

Ketlia shivered. But if the people who sent them here were to be believe, it would only be for 7 days.

“Hello!” Golden boy greeted them with a smile. “My name’s Nathan. It’s great to see there are other survivors. I looked around as much as possible to find people, but it seemed all we were finding was bones.”

He laughed lamely, and a few of the group behind him tittered. Ketlia opened her mouth to respond, but much to her surprised, she felt a light touch on her back. She was so used to the nonphysicality from Wild Man that she almost jumped. As it was, she just twitched, looking sidelong at him.

Wild man just gave her a long look, and then looked back towards Nathan. Curious, she reached into his mind.

‘That one with black hair, at the back. He is the dangerous one.’

She glanced at the man in question, finding a nerdy looking character with greasy black hair and fanatical eyes. She reached into his mind, and could feel his calculating mechanations. And also the trust that individual had in Nathan.

‘Well,’ Ketlia thought wryly to herself. ‘There are different sorts of danger.’

“I’m Kat. This is my…” A brief pause, but still enough that Ketlia cursed herself. “Cousin Devin. We just managed to catch these frogs and were wondering if we could borrow your fire to cook them.”

One of the brunettes stepped forward eargerly. “Well, it won’t be for free. Maybe if you gave us a couple of those frogs-”

“Dana,” Nathan spoke with a frown, then smiled brilliantly at Ketlia. “Don’t listen to her. Of course, feel free to use our fire. We are all people here, we need to stick together. But of course, if you feel like sharing…”

Ketlia opened her mouth, but was surprised when Wild Man spoke. “Take these. Catching them… is pretty easy. I’ll go get more.”

He threw the three frog bodies to the ground in front of the practically drooling group, and then turned to go. Ketlia hastily reached into his mind, and was profoundly annoyed by what she found there.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll come back for you.’

Wild Man walked off, and Ketlia turned to the annoyingly bright smile of Nathan.

*****
By the time Wild man returned, Ketlia was forced to listen to too many stories about Nathan’s exciting life in the real world, and excuse herself to escape his increasingly forward advances. She did, however, learn that the one that Wild Man seemed concerned with was named Ishten. For a brief moment she considered staying here, among these talkative, catty, nebulous social hierarchy. But a brief gander into the minds of those here let her know that Nathan just wanted to fuck the shiny new girl, and most everyone else regarded her with various shades of envy or disgust.

Only Ishten was different, but what she found in his mind was something more sinister: a growing obsession, evidenced by the way his eyes remained locked on her the entire time.

When he returned, Wild Man had somehow worked the bear pelt into a makeshift robe, looking quite presentable, to a group of people who didn’t possess noses. But tied to a branch were 9 frogs, which the group accepted with glee.

After eating with the group in a manner that appeared almost normal (if a bit voracious) Wild Man stood. “Well, we should move on. It is not safe here. I recommend you do the same.”

Miguel, one of the brawny men that were cutting down trees and building a second and third lean to, frowned at Wild Man. “What do you mean? We just built a place to sleep. Do you just want us to wander around the marsh.

Wild man just blinked at him. “There are no frogs in the nearby area. That means they were already aware of you. They will come in large groups to kill you. Leaving before that would be smart.”

Nathan put a hand on Miguel’s shoulder, quieting him. Then he turned to Wild Man. “I think what Miguel is trying to say is that you might be good at catching frogs, but they are still just frogs. Even if a bunch come, so what? And if they are anything like that monster,”

Nathan pointed at the snake skull with a smile. “We will be able to handle it. If we work together, humans can overcome anything. Won’t you consider staying?”

“I’m uninterested.” Wild Man refused without any dressings. Nathan’s smile began to seem a bit forced.

“Even so, there’s no reason that you should force your… cousin… to join you on your wanderings. She seems like the type of girl who deserves a bit of comfort. Isn’t that right Kat?” His voice lowered to a purr as he leaned toward Ketlia. “Wouldn’t you rather stay here, with me?”

Ketlia stood. “Sorry. Family comes first.” She walked confidently forward, away from the group. Wild Man turned and followed. She could sense the poisonous roil of emotions from Nathan, and was a bit impressed that when he eventually spoke, he sounded so reasonable.

“I’m sorry to hear that. If you change your mind, we will be building a future here. Together.”

Ketlia did her best to resist the urge to vomit.

*****
After they had walked away a bit, Wild Man picked up the pace. They spent the rest of the day heading west and hunting what frogs they encountered. He let her get most of the kills, and then ate the bodies raw afterwards. She wondered idly where he put all of that food he ate, but figured that there were more pressing questions than that.

She was also a little annoyed that Wild Man seemed to take it for granted that she would choose to follow him than remain with the people. And it wasn’t hard to be annoyed at him when he offered her what amounted to a sweaty and bloody bear blanket, because he “didn’t need the rest of it.” But she wrapped it around her shoulders anyway.

“When in rome,” she muttered to herself. By the end of the night, she had reached Level 3, and she could sense that her mind reading powers were becoming more strange and powerful, but in range and detail in what she could see.

They stopped and crawled into a small alcove beneath a fallen tree, laying back to back in the darkness. Ketlia bit her lip, and resisted the urge to cry. One day at a time.

She wouldn’t lose to this wild world.
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