Chris landed on a hilltop, less than half a mile from a town. Already he could see humans being teleported in, milling about in the town square, jumping in fountains and generally doing whatever it was gamers did in tutorial towns. They were all dressed in the same clothing.
Chris looked down, seeing himself dressed in a simple homespun leggings and tunic, with a rope belt. At least he wasn’t naked after all.
He looked at the people in the tutorial town. They seemed awfully carefree. Maybe not all of them found themselves dropped into the same nightmare as he had been.
He took a step forward, but a shining barrier, formed of interlocking golden hexagons blocked his progress.
Monsters may not approach Tutorial Town #734701 (Hartshire) until Starter Protections expire (14 59:32:44 (DD HH:MM:SS))
To enter the Tutorial Town before Starter Protections expire, join the Beast Horde when it gathers (6 59:32:44)
(Optional – Monster) Join a Beast Horde (0/1)
(Optional – Human) Kill 5 Monsters (0/5)
(Optional – Human) Reach Level 10 (0/1)
What was that about? Concerned, he brought up his Status. He read through it. Some things had changed. That wasn’t good!
Hybrid: Human (F-1), Slime (F-1)
Human Potential, Monster Hybrid, Monstrous Constitution, Monstrous Assimilation, Amorphous
He checked the new entries, noting that the Enlightened trait had indeed disappeared.
Monster Hybrid (Human + Slime): Your body combines Human and Slime physiology. You will be classified as both Human and Slime, and no longer count as a fully Enlightened race. Lose Trait: Enlightened. Gain Traits: Monstrous Constitution; Monstrous Assimilation; Amorphous.
Monstrous Constitution (Slime): Your body has unnatural durability due to its unique cellular composition. Resistance to Bleed and Poison effects. +10 Constitution. +5% to Constitution.
Monstrous Assimilation (Slime): In rare circumstances, your body may incorporate some of the Traits of compatible organic lifeforms it consumes. Assimilation Ability.
Amorphous (Slime): Your body may stretch and compress. Amorphous Ability.
Did that mean he was a monster now? He wasn’t entirely pleased with the new development. Monsters did one thing in tutorials. They died.
He looked at the hand the mad slug scientist had altered. It certainly looked normal. He tried to change its shape, but the skin only rippled slightly. He tried walking toward the human tutorial town once more, but was impeded by the barrier once again. Not knowing what else to do, he started running as far away from the hordes of murder-crazed newbies that would undoubtable already be making a beeline for the nearest monster. That would be him.
Actually, come to think of it, that might actually be a good idea. Not the killing him part, but taking out whatever monsters he could find. He’d already gotten a ton of sweet titles from being a lucky s***, why not abuse the stats he got from them to get more. There had to be more ‘first in cohort’ bonuses lying around, just waiting to be snapped up.
Already, there were Humans streaming from out of the gate, so Chris looked around, spotting the forest nearby. He abused his high dexterity and was off like a rocket.
Faster than he would have expected, he was beneath dappled forest shade, leaves rustling calmly all around him. Where were all those generic fantasy wolves at? It was practically a trope by now. Or goblins. Goblins were good too.
He needed a weapon, though. He jumped and snapped a branch hanging from a tree, surprised both at how high he jumped and how easily the branch snapped off in his hands. Hell yeah!
The branch was overly long, and laden with leaves, so he whipped it against a tree as he ran past, causing the leaves above him to quiver and shake, and his improvised club to reduce to a far more reasonable size.
He eventually reached a forest glade filled with rocks. He looked around. Where were all the monsters?
He strode into the middle. Seriously. How could there be a tutorial if there wasn’t anything to fight? Were they teaching knitting or something? He kicked the nearest rock in frustration.
The rock rose to its feet and punched him into a tree.
Chris wheezed as the tree groaned, shaking free a hefty payload of leaves on top of him. He slid the forest floor gasping. That would have been funny if it didn’t hurt so much. That single strike would have killed the old him.
He staggered to his feet, looking for what had attacked him. After he attacked it, which meant that it had technically self-defensed him—but that was semantics.
The creature reminded him of the Cave Troll from Lord of the Rings, except rockier and uglier. It lumbered toward him as he hopped up to retrieve another branch—he had dropped the first when the monster had given him his first impromptu flying lesson.
Chris slammed the branch into what he mentally deemed the ‘rock troll’, dismayed when it shattered over its hide with little impact.
The rock troll continued forward, unperturbed. It bellowed, rousing the other sleeping ‘rocks’. Dozens of the monsters looked at Chris, blinking with red-rimmed eyes. They stepped forward as one.
Chris decided to move on to Plan B: Run away.
Chris ran, vowing to return with a sledge-hammer, as soon as he got access to the town. That might be tricky.
Then he spotted a group of four humans entering the forest, laughing among themselves. They hadn’t seen him yet, and Chris wasn’t sure what to do.
His gaze fell on a sunbeam piercing through the leafy canopy. An idea struck him and a wide grin suddenly plastered itself all over his face.
He crouched and hurried over, moving faster than a normal human could run. Then, when he was within the illumination of the ray of sunlight, he stood and clasped his hands together in a serene pose.
He schooled his expression, maintaining a neutral façade as the good-time gamers finally spotted him. With his boosted perception, he could already hear them chattering excitedly.
“Hey, guys. Do you think that’s an NPC?”
“I don’t th—”
“What? Yeah! Definitely.”
“Do you think he’ll give us a quest?”
“Worth a shot!”
Staying calm was becoming increasingly hard as the group of four jogged toward him, each subtly vying to be the first to speak with him.
Chris flicked glances at the weapons they each held. One bow, two swords, and a mace. Bingo!
Before he could bust out laughing, he launched into a speech.
“Greetings, noble adventurers, I am Sir Christopher. Pray, tell me, what dost be thine names.”
“Hey ther—” One of the swordsmen began to speak, but she was interrupted by an elbow to the ribs by the bowman.
“No, Ceci, that’s not how you do it. You heard how he speaks. You’ve got to get in character, like this,” the bowman whispered.
The swordsman coughed, thumping his chest. “Greetings, Sir Knight. I am Sir Philip, and these are my companions. The lovely Lady Cecilia.” He gestured to the bowman. “The brave Sir Percy.” He pointed to the other swordsman. “And, finally, the renowned Steve, Soiler of Smallclothes.” He gestured to the mace-wielder.
“My name’s not Steve, you asshole,” Steve the Spoiler of Smallclothes flicked Philip. “I am Si— Lord Albert, Sir Knight.”
Chris struggled to keep a straight face. “Well met, Sir Philip, Lady Cecilia, Sir Percy, and of course, Steve. It is my greatest pleasure to meet you in these woods today. However, I find myself much dismayed to admit, that I, Sir Christopher of Kingscastle have found myself in dire straits.”
Philip straightened. “Perchance, Sir Knight, you have a quest we may aid you in?”
Chris’ face started to twist into a look of helpless mirth, quickly, he turned. “You are all too kind, Sir Philip, but this is my own burden to bear.” As he spoke, he broke down into stifled laughter as he tried to force the words out of his mouth. His suppressed amusement must have registered as distress, because he heard Cecilia step forward and lay a hand on his convulsing shoulders.
She spoke, “What’s, uh— What ails you, Sir Christopher. It is no… imposition. It would be our pleasure to aid you.” Cecilia began to step around to face him.
Chris held out his arm, wracked with sobbing laughter, tears rolling down his face. “Please, fair lady, it would be a stain on my honor to have one as fair as…” he was seized by a particularly strong fit of laughter that he only pushed down through force of will, “as fair as thee to see a lowly, disgraced knight such as I in such a state.”
“Oh, what’s the matter?” Cecilia asked, dropping the roleplay and rubbing his back consolingly.
Chris stared into the middle distance. “You see, fair lady, I must defeat the rock trolls in the glade, yonder.” He pointed in a random direction. “However, I have found myself assailed by the most damnable luck. My steed… my frog… steed, has left me. A handsome Prince of Kingscastle was wandering these woods. He spotted my steed and kissed it… her, and lo and behold, she morphed into a beautiful, long-lost Princess of Kingscastle. You see, on her froggy person, she bore my mace. After she reverted, she rode off back to Kingscastle with the Prince—her true love. So overtaken by passion was she that she forgot she took my mace with her. Without my mace, I am unable to defeat the rock trolls, my sworn enemy. I fear returning to Kingscastle with my quest unfinished, especially should it become known that I unwittingly made use of a Princess of Kingscastle as my mount.”
He finally gained control of his features and turned back to the group, tears of laughter still streaming down his face.
Philip and Percy looked excitable, Cecilia seemed sympathetic, and Steve—Chris was just going to think of Albert as Steve—Steve was the very image of reluctant skepticism as he clutched his mace a little tighter.