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Day 22
I’d like to imagine I looked quite dashing as I rode back into my base on a skeleton bear-spider, my cloak flapping in the wind. But when I arrived, the remnants of my forces just looked over my behind me, up in the sky.

Turning, I glanced up, following the past of their gazes.

Thankfully, the twilight made it quite easy to see the giant dirigible in the shape of a dragon floating over my path. I frowned, turning to Jerry. “Is that sort of thing allowed?”

After a second, he nodded uncertainly. “...you must come alone through the portal at the end of a path, but… you can keep an equipment you have with you at that time…

***POV Change***

Dekker’s eyes bulged. Gillette and a filthy slime that had been a errand boy not 5 days ago, sat across the table from him. The chairwoman, Zassa, sat at the head of the table and fanned herself, eyeing both sides.

“As I see you have discovered, there are 3 openings for administrators on the 5th floor. In 4 days, whoever has the most Towers to their name will head up. Old Zeke and Nantia aren’t interested. And I, of course, am too busy with… other pursuits to leave the first floor.” Her reptilian mouth curled into a smile, and everyone grew uncomfortable. They all knew her fascination with poison.

Dekker’s lip curled. “So… we three will be… coworkers on the fifth floor.”

Chuckling, Zassa shook her head. “Actually, there is one more individual competing for the spot. She should be arriving shortly.”

There was a knock at the door, which opened and revealed a lovely young woman with glasses and dark hair tied up in a bun. Dekker couldn’t even speak, his face tentacles just hung there limp.

Zassa nodded. “Good morning, Kettle.”

***POV Change
“What do we do about it?” Turnip wondered, gazing upwards. I shrugged.

-The challenger has to come down eventually…

-Something tells me it won’t be that simple.

“Greetings! It is I, Encelldross. Perhaps you’ve heard at me.”

The challenger, Enny, had set up some sort of magnification system for his voice, so it boomed out over the entirety of my path.

“Challengers and Path Boss, you may surrender your valuables and retain your lives. Or you may resist, and be reduced to ash. I care not. I will give you 4 hours to decide. After that, I shall come.”

The booming voice fell silent. Whipman walked up next to me. “Well?”

I yawned. Seems the perfect amount of time to crush a nap.”

*****
***POV Change***
“I always knew you were jealous of me, Gillette, but I never would have expected that you would stoop to seducing away my secretary.” Dekker leaned back in his seat, inwardly gleeful that Predator seemed to be determined to prepare nothing for Encelldross.

Chuckling, Gillette ignored him. Dekker glared hatefully at the three who bet against him. To his surprise, Kettle spoke up.

“You are mistaken. I was not “seduced away.” If anything, I seduced him.” Kettle delivered this bomb with a straight face, adjusting her glasses.

“Wha-....what?!”

Kettle nodded. “Did you think I wanted to remain a secretary for the rest of my life? No, I was determined to stop working for filth like you as soon as possible. So I started saving money and towers, observing challengers, waiting for one who could carry me out of here. Just by chance, that man who was supposed to become our new path boss grabbed my ass as he walked into the office with his protector. To amuse myself, I watched the feed of his first day, imagining that someone would kill him.”

The corner of Kettle’s mouth quirked up. “Imagine my surprise when it actually happened.”

***POV Change***
The booming voice woke me up. “It’s good to see you have some sense, challengers. But Path Boss… Since you have not bowed in fealty to me, I assume you have chosen death.”

I stretched slowly, quite enjoying the ripped remnants of my bed. ‘It’s not so bad,’ I thought, ‘And maybe I can just have someone sew it back together. My minions seem suitably diligent. Maybe I’ll even give that responsibility to Tim.’

My face tightened; undoubtedly he would return to me a masterwork of quilting, and Jerry will wonder I force Tim to always clean up my messes.

Mood ruined, I walked out the door and down to the courtyard. As I walked out, a wave of force knocked me off my feet.

BOOOOOM.

Heat seared my back, and I tumbled forward. The smell of smoke filled my lungs.

“Sir!”

“Stupid Disciple!”

Yellow Bones’ concerned rumble.

“Oh, Staff Sergeant Tim, thank god you are safe.”

“RAWRRRRRR.” I leapt to my feet frantically looking around. So many skeleton archers were milling around that I couldn’t find Tim!

“EVERYONE GET OUT NOW.”

After seeing the look on my face, they all fled, heading to the marsh.

-...Won’t Tim leave this way too…?

-Ah. Shit.

Yellow Bones looked at me with sad eyes, hurt by my yelling. I beckoned him over. “No, no, you stay. You’ve been with me the longest now.” His huge body rumbled contentedly.

-We also have a bigger problem.

I looked up to the dragon blimp, next to which a giant fireball was slowly being formed. Then it shot downwards, directly towards where Yellow Bones and I were staying. But seeing that huge blast gave me an idea.

In a moment I had covered the distance to the wall and leapt up to the battlements. The mana potion crate was still intact, almost half full of potions. Grinning, I lifted the crate and hopped down to the ground, moving behind Yellow Bones. “You’re gonna need to cover me for a few minutes buddy. This is going to take some time.”

He nodded. I picked up a mana potion in each hand and began to drink.

***POV Change***
“As I watched that man die, I realized two things; I was sure that the man who fulfilled my wish was human and that I could have sworn I watched him die earlier, his chest cavity destroyed. So I went to the recordings.” Kettle spun her tablet around, showing a short video clip.

“If you had asked me which was more likely that I was incorrect about, I would have said the chest cavity. But as you can see, it happened. Yet, several hours later, this man gets up and kills several weak, but at least experienced bullies. So I brought up his file.”

Jen leaned forward, intently listening. Gillette had a small smile on his face. Dekker just sat with a slack jaw, surprised that his cool secretary was speaking so much.

“Level 11 after a week in one of the beginner training grounds. Mediocre results, all in all. A single know skill, present before entering the training grounds, unleveled upon leaving. Due to these unsatisfactory results, and his human race, the intake personnel sent him to the First Floor to die.

“A few interesting details emerged. The personnel had made no attempt to record his stats. Didn’t even check them. And although race was queried, it came back blank. Assuming it was a glitch, the personnel ignored it.

“But I could not ignore it. I’ve always been… a bit different from other girls.” Kettle smiled bitterly. “Good at memorizing. Smarter than my peers. Very little desire to associate with other. The popular girls were like a strange animal to me. But suddenly, taking me quite by surprise… like other girls I remembered, I had finally found a boy I couldn’t take my eyes off of.”

***POV Change***
Yellow Bones groaned, molten bone dripping off of him. The heat made me sweat, but…Yellow Bones had taken 3 direct hits from the fireball for me, sheltering me as best he could with his huge body. Only now was he starting to come apart.

-The mana consumption of simply maintaining it has now matched  the amount of mana you restore by constantly drinking potions. This is all we have.

-Then…

“Bring…”

Another fireball swelled in size, soon becoming a bright spot in the sky.

“It….”

The fireball began to descend. The huge, compressed mass of air above me began to spin, accelerating rapidly.

“Down….!”

Congratulations! Due to your actions, your skill has improved to “Lesser Air Affinity Lvl 8”. Control of air increased. Mana costs slightly decreased. Efficiency at preventing air resistance greatly increased.


A huge whirlwind appeared, funneled to a point, and shot forward, becoming a spear of sharpened air. It whizzed through the night sky, almost invisible, only a terrible howling revealing its passage. The air spear were like two ships passing in the night, one blazing and one howling. But then a voice echoed out over the path.

“You fight back? Uninspired, path boss. Accept your fate. Burst.”

The fireball exploded, the air pressure spreading out in a wave, throwing off my precarious control and dispersing the air spear into nothing.

-Cheh, cheating.

-Do we have enough mana potions to do it again?

-Negative. Besides, won’t he just stop us the same way?

-We need to get him down here, or go up there. Think he will fall for taunting?

-How long do you think it would take us to create an elaborate lie about a nonexistent subordinate who steals the other subordinates loyalty?

-Several days. But if we pull it off, he will be so mentally incapacitated that he talk to himself.

-Ha.

-Ha.

Yellow Bones turned and looked at me with confused, droopy eyes because half of his skulls were melting. Another fireball was forming above.

“Ah.” I slapped my fist against my palm, an idea striking me.

***POV Change***
“Within a day or two of watching him, I contacted Jen, who brought him lunch. I questioned her for hours, intent on collecting every detail of his mannerisms and physical abilities. Sorry about that Jen. After cobbling together a few estimates of his stats, I was floored. His comparables included monsters that you most often encountered in the mid 30s floors. His level is much lower, of course, but if he grew into that level of strength…

“I could leave this hellhole, at the very least. During one of your many lengthy breaks from the office, Dekker, I drew up a proposal and went to Gillette with it. He was, at the very least, running counter to your interest, and would likely entertain any idea that would hurt you.”

Gillette chuckled. “Imagine my surprise when I got a call from you office. And your secretary, cool as ice while sitting within sight of your desk, told me that she had a way to ruin you, she just needed funding. And a few favors.”

Shrugging, Kettle pressed a few buttons on her tablet and produced two images, Gerard Kiefhart and Zindaloo. “So as a show of good faith, I saw a talent challenger, got you interested, Dekker, and then told Gillette to watch as you lost money to the Path Boss I recommended backing. Everything worked out as I had anticipated.

“Then, I created a situation where a speculative bet from Gillette wouldn’t look fishy: A freshly risen path boss, promoted several levels beyond his means, challengers pooling to attack him all at once. Amusing for those watchers who bothered with the First Floor, with plenty of casual betting. How much were the odds he would stop them all, Gillette?”

“30 to 1.” He spoke mildly.

“And then I showed you my tower account deducted it all, and bet it on him right in front of you. Daring you, an administrator, to match me, a secretary.” Kettle adjusted her glasses, dismissing the two pictures. “Suddenly, I had capital to work with, but no longer any plan of action. Still, I knew it would only be a matter of time before you found someone else who you thought could recoup your losses, Dekker. I lent Gillette the money I made to make him appear more affluent, putting you under pressure. And when you had found your golden egg, I made my move; I made a call from your office to Ms. Chairwoman, requesting details on a loan. When she called back, you were so delighted that you accepted it without a thought.”

“I’m always willing to oblige...when people agree to try my poisons if they default…” Zassa hissed, her eyes bright.

***POV Change***
-What he is, is arrogant.

-Extremely so.

“Cretin, stop waving that torch around. I cannot hear what you are saying.” Enny’s voice boomed out over the land, his annoyance clear. I stood on top of Yellow Bones shoulder’s waving a torch. Yellow Bones hopped side to side, avoiding the fireballs Enny tossed down.

But the dirigible was floating slowly downwards, drawn by my antics. I grinned. Just a bit more now.

“If you don’t stop your games, I will no longer show mercy. I rolled my eyes. As if I would believe-

I paused. The air began to fill with fireballs, 5 at a time.

-Oh dear

-Guess this distance will have to do.

The dirigible was still around 300 meters above. “Now you die, fool.”

Banking on the fact that he wouldn't have any further fireballs to toss, I reached down and touched Yellow Bones’ shoulder. “Unholy Bestowal!”

Congratulations! Due to your actions, the skill has improved to “Unholy Bestowal Lvl 2”: The power granted to your undead minion has increased. Slightly more of your racial growth rate shall impact their growth.
Unholy Bestowal used! Yellow Bones has received a great blessing based on the race “Ogre Variant (Two-Headed Albino)”. Due to synchronicity between Yellow Bones and the Ogre Variant, effect of Unholy Bestowal increased 150%. Intelligence remains the same. Vit, End, and Str are all vastly increased. Growth rates for Vit, End, and Str are vastly increased. Yellow Bones’ size is greatly increased. Learned skill “Living Bone”: wounds to bone can heal as wounds to flesh would. Learned skill “Humble Beginnings”: Increases the chance of mutation of self by 10%, and chance of mutation of lower tiered undead by 30%.


The force of Yellow Bones’ body changing knocked me down, slamming me on his shoulder. Which was good, I supposed, because otherwise I would have been knocked to the side by the two giant skulls that grew up on his shoulders. The eyes glowed red. 

Rumbles rocked Yellow Bones’ body, as it cracked and grew.

By the time I had regained my balance, Yellow Bones has risen to be 30 m tall. We exchanged a glance, my entire head the size of one of his eye sockets. I hopped down onto one of his huge palms while he began to dash forward.

-Only 270 more meters to go.

As fireballs surged downwards, directly towards us, Yellow Bones casually reached up with his other hand and punched a fireball, dispersing it in a wave of heat. The other fireballs smashed into the ground in the nearby area. Then, pulling the arm that held me back all the way, Yellow Bones leapt and threw me directly upwards.

I leapt at the highest point of his throw, adding a little extra momentum to the burst, and began using Air Affinity to lower my air resistance as I spend upwards, shooting towards the dirigible.

-200 m

My speed was incredible. Even with my high processing power frantically calculating, I was barely able to maintain the air bubble around me, keeping me shooting forward. When I noticed dozens of smaller fireballs were forming in the air in front of me, I grimaced.

-150 m

“Do you think others have not been in your shoes? Do you think your elders and betters have succeeded in such efforts, based on my presence here, the layer of 1 path. Unimaginative and foolish.”

Several fireballs made beelines towards me. I breathed in deeply, and then out. I made no move to defend myself.

-100 m

Fireballs began exploding around me, bursts of heat smashing against me, ruining some of my momentum. My extra hard hair remained immaculate, resisting the urge to catch fire.

-75 m

“You persist?” Enny seemed so generally surprised that I couldn’t help but chuckle. Then I gritted my teeth as wave after wave of fireballs descended, smashing much closer to my body, the first burning holes in my cloak and blistering my skin.

-50 m

“Fine then. Perish.” Panting, I looked up. Instead of the mini fireballs he had been throwing for the last several seconds, fireballs of the previous size, that he had thrown burning my castle-

-OH MY GOD THE BED

-....the bedding… is gone…?

-35 m

My heart began to beat wildly, and I stared directly into the huge fireball without fear. He would pay.

-25 m

The fireball began flying down towards me. My momentum was running. As I watched the death ball approach, my mouth twisted in a cheshire grin.

***POV Change***
“So you planned this all.” Dekker’s words came out in a croak. “You arranged everything. Even this fight with Encelldross?”

After a slight hesitation, Kettle answered. “Actually no. Based on the data available on Encelldross, I could predict no way that Predator would win…”

“Then why did you bet everything on him?!?! Why did you force us to this point?!?!” Dekker screamed, spit flying everywhere. 

Hearing Kettle’s words, Gillette began to sweat a tiny amount.

‘What do you mean, no way Predator could win…’

Jen remained silent, eyes glued on the screen.

Kettle seemed very much like the young woman she was then, watching the approaching fireball. “Yes… it does make me quite uncomfortable. But I would never get another chance as good as this. As him. Turns out I was just waiting for a boy I could take an illogical gamble on.”

Jen jellyed in agreement.

***POV Change***
-We should dodge.

-No.

-The fire will burn us into nothing.

-It likely won’t.

-It’s going to hurt.

-Yes.

-So thus we should dodge.

-Did the fight last night teach you nothing?

-....You are such a masochistic piece of shit.

I let my air control that had lowered air resistance down to conserve mana and closed my eyes, approaching near enough to the fire that having them open began to hurt. Then pain got worse before it got better. I felt the fireball explode, my proximity setting it off.

The first wave spread, feeling more like ice then heat. Then it seemed as if 1000 vicious insects were digging into my skin. By nose was literally on fire, fire pouring into my lungs. Another wave hit, a sticky coat of agony drenched over my body. I could feel my flesh begin to bubble. I attempted to use pain tolerance, but it was swiftly knocked aside. Now perhaps my body only held together due to the improvements of physicality, but that was beginning to fray too.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, the skill has improved to “Pain Tolerance Lvl 5”: Your ability to ignore pain has risen. You may maintain some other sensory function while under extreme pain.
Congratulations! Due to your actions, the skill has improved to “Pain Tolerance Lvl 6”: Pain will no longer be able to knock you unconscious. Your body has a fuzzy idea of what is physically possible while injured, in spite of agony.
Congratulations! Due to your actions, the skill has improved to “Pain Tolerance Lvl 7”: You are extremely tolerant of pain. Pain flushes distractions from your system, leading to improved focus.


Just like that, I pierced through the fireball and came out a husk of charcoal, slamming against the balloon part of the dirigible. I dropped down like a sack of potatoes, luckily landing on something wooden and solid. Trying my best to sit up, I only managed to tumble to the side. I was so weak I surprised myself. I vomited on the deck as I tried to move.

“You remain alive?” I heard a soft tapping on the deck and looked up to see a child of around 10 walking towards me. He had pointy ears and this bones. Most notable was his shirtlessness, and how it seemed as if there was a lighthouse inside of him, shining outwards, giving a clear outline of his ribcage underneath his skin.

A notification popped up, making me vomit again.

Congratulations! You have encountered the third step on your path to becoming a dragon. Slay that monster, devour his heart, and know true strength. Bonus Objective: absorb a portion of the truesoul that animates his body.


More than anything else, he seemed puzzled. I closed my eyes and slumped to the deck, concentrating on healing. Was I really fighting a child the whole time?

-Thank god we get to kill him now, before he grows up.

-Agreed.

“Why do you struggle? You are so weak. You should-”

I released my remaining mana in a burst, knocking him off his feet and throwing him backwards. Sighing, I tipped a mana potion into my mouth, careful not to spill it. To my disappointment, Enny didn’t fall off the edge of the platform, and was slowly regaining his feet. I looked around, noting that the platform was carved with strange sigils. Only a few meters away from where I was were several barrels and tables, seemingly filled with food. I got to my feet and hobbled over to them.

As quickly as possible, I began stuffing food in my mouth.

“Coming up here was foolish.”

Biomass +1


“This whole formation was designed to multiply my power. You cannot win a fight with me here.”

Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


“If you don’t turn around and face me, I will eradicate you where you stand. None may ignore me.”

Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


“Grrrrrrr!” Of course, he couldn’t annihilate me where I was standing; I was directly next to the balloon part of the dirigible. He ran closer, a huge sword of fire appearing in his hands.

Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


Biomass +1


I gulped down one last mouthful, disappointed that I could only manage 28 Biomass on short notice. Enny was about to cut my head off, his face contorted with fury just two steps away from me. I cracked my head, feeling slightly recovered from the agony of almost being burned to death.

I flicked several knives to the side, ripping holes in the dirigible. A huge blast of air knocking us off the platform, sending us spinning midair. I was glad to see that Enny’s firesword was extinguished. As we fell, I used air affinity to move closer to his flailing form.

When I was near enough, I grabbed him midair and punched him in the face. I couldn’t utilize my full strength or get good leverage, but I still felt his nose and cheekbone shatter, which was an excellent feeling. I punched him again for good measure, gleefully smashing the skull in of his surprised face.

Unfortunately, this seemed to wake him up. He began to BURN. Not quite as hot as the fireball, but close. That light in his chest was giving off a crash amount of energy, his flesh turning to charcoal and falling away before my very eyes.

Checking the swiftly approaching ground beneath us, I adjusted our angle of descent as best I could with Lesser Air Affinity. We smashed directly through the smoldering drawbridge and into the moat. I had hoped that the impact would break his back or something, but he just roared and flailed, that light in his chest getting brighter as it burned through his flesh. I tried to slit his throat with a knife, but the metal melted and my hand started to bubble.

-Seems we currently have a higher melting point than metal.

-That will be great to bring up at cocktail parties.

The water around us kept him cool for a bit, but then it began to boil, the scalding hot steam pushing me back.

“Damnit,” I whispered, or meant to whisper, but what came out of my mouth was a beautiful, haunting melody. I paused. When I had sung, the boiling had slowed somewhat. Had it been my imagination?

-No, memory review indicates there was some effect. Try saying something.

“Jen was really squishy and fun to touch?” My voice came out, and the words were clear, but they somehow transformed into a wonderful music underwater, spiraling around me in a pure blue energy. Something about the water energy counteracted the explosive fire energy within Enny’s chest, slowing the boiling of the water around us.

***POV Change

“Ah! Oh… that… that’s not what it sounded like.” Jen wiggled in her seat. Dekker and Gillette gave her long looks. “No, really, it was um, good, but it was just… p-petting...well maybe… more like rubbing…..”

Kettle just watched the screen with a small smile.

***POV Change***

“Larva are delicious and beds are the keys to happiness~” I began to alter the pitch and trying various styles, seeing if it made any difference. It did not, the song continued without me. The water whirled around, becoming a richer, cleaner blue. Waves of power rolled off of me, and the boiling had decreased to the point that I could once more see Enny, who glared hatefully at me.

“Enny is a baby who will die and be stepped on so I can become a dragon, and beds are the key to happiness~” I had developed something of a refrain. Small plants began to grow at the bottom of the moat, and I sensed that the moat was strangely deepening and widening at the bottom, becoming incredibly large.

Enny turned and began to swim away, his burning red light suppress by my strange blue lighted song. “Don’t run away for I have longer legs and can swim faster than you, and Beds are the key to happiness~”

I caught up to him easily, grabbing his foot. He kicked wildly, But I dragged him closer, drawing knives.

Desperate, his hands glowed with fire and he slashed at his midsection, severing the lower half of his body. Bleeding out quickly, he swam to the surface.

“Tim isn’t real and I shouldn’t think about him, and Beds are the key to happiness, and WHO THE FUCK IS TIM?!!?”

Congratulations! You have successfully sung the Song of the Murloc People. Merlocs have been informed that his is a suitable place to settle. Depth and water energy present in the area has been improved.


Seeing Enny’s body disappear out of the water, I surfaced too, but found myself with a bolt of slowly growing fire in my face.

“Now accept your death, proletariat, or-”

I used Bile Emission, a huge blast of rancid and radioactive vomit surging forward, extinguishing the fireball and covering Enny’s charred body. He screamed in fury, struggling to wipe it out of his eyes.

Once I scrambled up on solid ground, I entered the first form of the thunder stance, surging forward and shattering his left shoulder. 

He roared in fury, the light inside him growing once more. I adopted the water cadence and twined my hands around his other arm, snapping each finger, then shattering the elbow and dislocating his shoulder.

He howled tears forming in his eyes. Poor Enny probably had never experienced pain like that before.

-It would be a favor if we took that strange light from him.

-Likely would spare him a lot of agony.

My hand flashed forward, stabbing into Enny’s chest, but as I punctured the skin, the heat increased by an order of magnitude. My hand was just an inch away, but in that second, my skin and muscle melted away. What remained was simply bone…

I blinked, looking closer. Tendons and… yes, nails, were still there. I flexed my hand experimentally, and the hand responded. Well then…

My hand descended, basically just nails and ill will at this point, and grasped at the light. My hand was beyond pain, but my wrist behind it was trembling in agony. Even with my high pain tolerance, it was almost too much to bear.

But then I felt something solid. I gripped and snapped a portion of it off.

Enny screamed, and then exploded.

I was sent flying, and I think I passed out, but luckily I landed in the moat, and the pleasantly warm jacuzzi temperatures relaxed me right back awake.

-Luckily? When if you had drowned.

-I don’t think anyone has ever drowned in a jacuzzi.

-You don’t even know what that is. And I don’t think we are talking about the same things.

I swam back over to the place where Enny was, a warm rock pulsing in my hand. I casually scrolled through my notifications.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have enough experience to reach Lvl 18. 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.
Congratulations! You have slain your third step on the path to becoming a dragon. Eat the creature’s flesh, and gain its strength.
Bonus Objective for Path of the Dragon partially attained! You have gathered 2/7s of the truesoul. You may either consume them for an increased mana pool or absorb them into your body.


I waited on the final notifications until I solved the second. Approaching Enny’s body, I frowned, noticing that the rest of the glowing thing was gone. But then I shrugged, and grabbed a handful of ash, which was basically all that remained. With an expression of distaste, I put it into my mouth.

After absorbing the creature’s strength, you gain some of its resistance to fire. The skill “Greater Resistance to Fire Lvl 1” has been gained.


An increased mana pool would be interesting, but…

-Don’t you want to glow from the inside?

I absorbed them into my body.

***POV Change***

“You….” Dekker was trembling. “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.”

He leapt across the table at Kettle, intent at slaughtering her at the very least. But a grip like iron on his shoulder stopped him dead. Turning slowly, he found himself face to face with Zassa’s glittering eyes. 

“You are VERY deeply in debt to me, Dekker… Do you think you are free to act as you will? Ohoho… You should have paid more attention to the fine print of our deal…”

A needle slid into his neck and Dekker knew no more.

***POV Change***

Congratulations! You have gained the attribute “Essence”. Essence functions similarly to mana, and skills that require mana can be funded with Essence. Using essence to fund a skill will greatly increase its effectiveness. Depleting Essence will cause max essence to increase. Essence set at 1.
After absorbing the 2/7s of the truesoul, essence +14.


I frowned. So it was basically another mana pool?

-A more powerful mana, I guess. Also, more straightforward to increase. Anyway, I’m hungry. Let’s go back to the castle.

Hopping across the moat, I found a smoldering courtyard waiting for me. Surprisingly, all of my remaining undead were gathered there, as well as Kettle, Jen wearing a smiley face tie, and a male creature I didn’t recognize.

-Likely Gillette.

Most pleasingly, there were several drums of larva. I went over and started to eat. After I had finished off the first drum, I turned to the undead, who seemed disheveled and covered in blood.

“What happened to you guys?”

Jerry saluted smartly and began to answer. “While you were dealing with the creature in the sky, the other challengers used the chaos to mount a sneak attack on the castle, making a break for the rear entrance, trying to reach the portal. Luckily, Tim had been shoring up the defenses there for days, in case of  just such a-”

“Stop talking.” I didn’t need this right now. I moved onto the next drum, racing through it. After eating them all, I had 999 Biomass. Before approaching the three who seemed to be waiting patiently, I leveled up.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have reached Lvl 18. All Biomass has been consumed.
Due to your special circumstances, you have the choice of retaining the previously earned Racial Growth Rate of “Ogre Variant (Two-Headed Albino)” 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 selected 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 “Frost Fang Packleader.”
Vit +4
Str +2
Agi +27
Dex +24
Processing Power +23
Memory + 1
Wis +19
Timeless Perception +36
Mana +399


-Hum, another agility spell caster, huh. It will do. 

-Yes. Especially since relying on these mana potions, having a greater amount of mana makes battles much easier.

-Also, getting points into Timeless Perception made me realize that I never stopped suppressing it.

I burst out laughing. Jen seemed to take this as a sign and threw herself at me. “You did it!”

Rubbing her head as she was draped across my torso, I smiled. “Yes, I did. So now what? Shall you three continue to blackmail me?”

Jen made a boo-ing noise, but Kettle nodded. “Yes, we will. Is that not to your liking? Your next order is to climb to the 5th floor. Don’t you want to go higher than this?”

Pain, heartbeat, power, struggle, life, thrill. More.

-Try and use sentences, buddy.

Wrath, Resentment, Hatred. Fear.

-Shut up, other me.

“Yes, I want to go up.”

“Good.” The man spoke for the first time, his voice smooth. He reached over and plucked Jen off my shoulders and carried her off. “We’ll go up first. Kettle will explain the details. Thanks for the winnings, Predator.”

As he carried her off, I could hear their conversation.

“Why does she get to stay!?!?”

“She arranged this all, so she gets to be the one with a personal goodbye. Shush. Next time, arrange things yourself. Have a little confidence, Jen.”

I stood awkwardly next to Kettle for a bit, watching the pair go. 

“So…” I broke the silence. “What do I need to do now?”

“Simply go through the portal. Then ascend safely to the 5th floor, where we will be waiting as administrators. At that point, our utility will be made more clear to you. For now, you should select another of your minions as a path boss to succeed you. Until you reach the 5th floor, your path will remain down here.”

Nodding, I turned to the group of undead.

-kukuku… finally a surefire way to draw him out.

-Shush, other me.

“There is one clear choice for the new path boss.” I paused for dramatic effect. “That is… of course Staff Sergeant Tim!”

The silence was deafening. After several seconds, crickets started chirping. A few seconds later, Jerry stepped forward. “I’m sorry. Staff Sergeant Tim told me you would try to do this… but you know how much he reveres r you. He insisted that he go on up ahead through the portal first, scouting out the area for you, providing you with assistance.”

“....”

-Just let it go. Don’t think about it.

“Fine, Jerry, you’re in charge.”

“Me? How wonderful, I had hoped, but-” I ignored him and walked to the gate. Outside, Yellow Bones stood, leaning over and peering at what was occurring within. As I approached. He held out a hand, and lifted me to eye level.

“Heya buddy,” I said, rubbing his ear holes. “I’ll be heading up first. You stay here and protect everybody, okay?”

Yellow Bones jerkily nodded, large tears of corruption and death falling from his infernal eyes, hitting the ground and causing it to sizzle ominously. I hopped down and walked across the courtyard, nodding to the undead I recognized. They all saluted me.

Kettle walked in with me, through the ashy rubble, towards the portal room. Right in front of it, Whipman was waiting with his spear. I raised an eyebrow at him.

"I-I'm coming with you." He straightened, obviously torn. "Part of it to continue your training... But... I also want to see for myself how far these martial arts of my master can take me.

I gestured for Whipman to lead the way, and he stepped up through the portal.

When I wen to follow, Kettle grabbed my arm. “Oh, that reminds me.”

“Hum?”

“1,237,908.”

“Huh?”

“That’s how many towers you owe me. For all the supplies I gave you. What, did you think they were free?”

I gave her a blank look. I kinda had. She laughed, bending over slightly and holding her stomach. Her nose scrunched up.

“Oh my. It’s so easy to forget you aren’t really human, based on how you look. Although…” She looked me up and down. “That’s slowly changing. No real human has a body like THAT, or the glowing yellow eyes, and-”

She fell abruptly silent as I stepped forward and clumsily pressed my lips against her cheek.

I stepped smartly back, just a hair from the portal.

She tilted her head at me.

I scratched my chin. “For luck. See you on the 5th floor.” Then I stepped backwards through the portal.

*****

Status Screen at the End of Arc 1

Name:PredatorLevel:18
Race:Biomass:0
Racial Growth Rate:Frost Fang PackleaderEssence:15/15
Health Regen:x2.1Mana:36/1499
Vit:79 (+5)End:57 (+5)
Str:76 (+5)Agi:67 (+5)
Dex:59 (+5)Memory:243 (+5)
Processing Power:294 (+5)Parallel Computations:2
Wis:118 (+5)Luck:33 (+5)
Timeless Perception:86 (+5)
Titles
A PredatorRacelessNurturer of the UndeadSinger of the Dark Cadences
Bringer of War
Skills
Lesser Air Affinity Lvl 8Endless StomachWeapons Mastery Lvl 2Knife Throw Lvl 9
Path of the DragonAura of the Predator Lvl 4Summon Lesser Dead Lvl 5Bile Emission Lvl 2
Unholy Bestowal Lvl 2Physicality Lvl 5Song of the Murloc People Lvl 1Thunder Stance Lvl 1
Cadence of EarthCadence of WaterCadence of WindWind Blade Lvl 1
Pain Tolerance Lvl 7Greater Resistance to Fire Lvl 1




***Author's Note***

Woo. Well, I got the chapter out before heading to bed, but the day sorta changed... I think it counts?

Turns out that THIS is the longest chapter I have written for this so far. 19 pages, and I condense the tables on my messy version. Who knows how long it is on here.

So yea, next few chapters will be a slightly silly 2nd floor of the tower as I think a bit about things. I haven't really done it so far, but I figure now is a good time to at least brainstorm xD.

Anyways, let me know what you think. I figured this would be a good place to mark the end of Arc 1, partially because I finally have a concrete idea of what I'm doing, and how I want to write things. And it lets me explain to myself why I slaved for so long over these two finale chapters...

Happy Reading~
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puddles4263

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