Chapter 117: Fall of Mighty

Impossible! It was absolutely impossible to choose all seven skills, even though they were to my liking! Or was it not? [Indomitable Will]. This one had a permanent place in my skillset. Then what about the other four Slave skills? Some could have a replacement among the General Skills, others may not. I suspected that it would be hard to find a substitute for [Master’s Shield], but for me to get rid of it entirely?

F***! I honestly didn’t want to. It was so damn hard to learn how to use the barriers, finding a use for them in combat, and I was supposed to throw it all away?

If I did that with all the Slave skills, except for [Indomitable Will], wouldn’t that mean that the efforts I’ve made since I found freedom on the banks of the Treim have been for naught? On the other hand, it would certainly help me get rid of that damn Slave tag.

Perhaps… perhaps I could replace [Behemoth] or [Wrought Hide] with some General Skill. After all, Deviant of Humanity had no effect on them, just Slave. Then I could keep more of the skills I’ve already put my efforts into.

“Agrrr….” I growled, pulling at my hair in frustration.

I liked Deckard’s approach of going with one’s gut more and more. It would be nice not to care and reach for what felt right to me. On the other hand, understanding how the system worked and how classes and skills interacted with each other could have given me so much.

Worrying I was one of the rash ones, maybe even stupid, after all I lacked the local common sense, Lord Wigram tried to explain this to me. He did his best to make me understand the importance of not living in ignorance of something as important  as classes, skills, and the system. 

Well, I understood that. Coming from where I came from, I wanted to know how this world works, which was difficult without some kind of global network. I missed the internet so much. Not knowing what was going on in the world, what was going on in my country, or in the f****** city next door was so annoying and, oddly enough, terrifying.

The phone was never my addiction, and I could easily do without it. It was just so convenient to have all the information in the world in the palm of my hand. Here, one had to ask and talk to people. Strangers, I saw for the first time in my life. 

Not my thing.

The very thought of it made me uneasy, which is why the only receptionist I spoke to was Enola, why the prospect of an evening, a tavern full of strangers toasting my class evolution, made my throat tighten with dread.

Anyway, I’ll have to deal with it when the time comes.

Information.

Was there another way to get them? Like newspapers my dad used to read at breakfast? I know. Who reads the papers these days, right? Well, if I came across some, I would.

However, in my rambles through the streets of Castiana, I didn’t notice anything similar. The truth is, I didn’t look for it. Perhaps…it was time for me to do so.

Not that knowing what’s going on in Sahal would help me solve my current predicament, skills. 

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Which skills to choose, which ones to replace, which ones to get rid of, the same questions that kept running through my head over and over again, with no answers on the horizon. It was overwhelming.

That’s why I found this little musing on access to information a nice distraction and a hint of how to get out of this mess. Ask. Deckard might know a thing or two about General Skills. He grew up here and should know the ins and outs of them. Well, at the very least, he mentioned them a few times, gave me some suggestions. Surely a better solution than flipping through all the skills I had access to, as there were a ton of them, with no filter or search option in the system.

Why did I have so many? Because I wasn’t a toddler, I was a bloody 29-year-old. Old, I know. My age aside, I have picked up a lot over the years, and the system has reflected my life on Earth too. 

Among them were a number of entirely useless skills such as [Proper Table Etiquette]; [English Language]; [Queueing]; [Sale Buyer]. Actually, the last one was quite interesting as it would allow me to see if the discount is real or a scam on the customer. 

Then there were those I picked up in my work, not just the last one. [Quick Writer], a lot of touch-typing behind this one in the course of my office work. [Butt Sitter] I guess it came from the same job. [Gardening Secrets]; [Flower Care] and others like them I had access to through my loved career as a florist. 

Going through them all was simply tedious and headache-inducing. Too much information was pouring into my brain.

“Ha…” I sighed tiredly, massaging my temples, and gave Sage a hug to get rid of some of the mental fatigue.

[Pain Resistance] was one skill I knew could replace [Painless Agony]. Deckard might know of a more suitable one or how to get it. This was true for other skills as well. There could easily be better versions than [Tireless Machine], [Swift as a Whip], or [Master’s Shield]. I simply didn’t know.

With that, I worked out what to do next. Ask Deckard and not worry about it now. It will be much more worthwhile to go back to what I came to Fallens Cry to do in the first place. Try out my skills.

There was so much I wanted to test with my current skillset.

Class Skills (8/8):

Indomitable Will (Passive V): lvl 119

Painless Agony (Passive II): lvl 26

Tireless Machine (Passive II): lvl 28

Swift as a Whip (Active II): lvl 25

Master’s Shield (Active II): lvl 19

Fierce Pounce (Active I): lvl 2

Unbending Resilience (Passive I): lvl 1

Call of Nature (Passive I): lvl 1

My claws were so much sharper with [Call of Nature], all I had to do was try it on someone other than myself. My poison was the next thing on the list, and [Beast] tempted me as well, despite the risk of using it.

So, with renewed determination, I released Sage from my grasp and jumped to my feet. “Let’s get to it!”

Finding my next prey wasn’t hard. Killing it was a different story, heavier on my conscience. But no matter how much it weighed on me, I had to say it was getting easier. Something I was glad for and terrified of at the same time. Horned rabbits were dumb beasts created by Labyrinth. They weren’t humans or terrans. Still, I couldn’t shake the thought, what if killing people becomes just as easy for me one day?

Not that I was planning on killing anyone. Well, except for Dungreen and a few mind mages. But let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen soon.

So, better not to think about it and focus on what was in front of me. A grazing horned rabbit.

Trying to mimic the movements I had learned when I had [Silent Prowl], I got fairly close before the beast caught the wind of me. That’s when I took off, straining my legs to the limit just to get to the horned rabbit before it charges against me.

I almost made it. Just a few steps and I’d be at its side. Unfortunately, sneaking didn’t get me close enough. 

For the first time in the time I’ve been dealing with these beasts, the Horned Rabbit didn’t immediately rush at me, instead it leaped away. Smart choice, considering it wouldn’t have had time to pick up the necessary speed to ram me down. Stupid one too, as the beast was slower in the air than on its feet, meaning I could keep up with it. The moment it landed, I was on it, sinking my claws into its side.

It was a bloody business, too bloody for my taste. So after a few slashes, when I confirmed my claws were as sharp as a well-sharpened blade, I ended it quickly in no less gory manner.

Digging in with my feet, I stabbed the rabbit through the chest. And this time, I hit the beast’s heart. It was more to the left than I thought and higher than I expected it to be. But that didn’t change the fact that the horned rabbit collapsed without letting out another squeak as my claws left a hole in his now stilled and bleeding heart.

Needless to say, when I wiped my bloody hand on the grass, it was while using [Indomitable Will]. This style of fighting was not good for my peace of mind. Not yet. The way I was adjusting to my new life though, even that could change soon.

However, my mental health was not what I wanted to find out from this fight. It was good to know that I could rely on my claws if needed. Of course, with that also came the question of whether it would be better to choose another skill instead of [Fierce Pounce] since I’d basically only be using half of it without claws.

Again, that may change. Plus, Deckard hasn’t started teaching me anything yet. Who knows what direction my fighting style will take then?

Now? Now I was trying to work with what I had.

Sage was next.

The poison required a bit of preparation, so I started creating it right away. As always, I was ready for the skill activation to take my breath away. It didn’t, though. Sure, it was still uncomfortable, but smoother. Overall, a nice change, which I chalked up to two reasons.

My body was able to hold more mana due to my higher Intelligence and Wisdom. I’m not saying I had the mana. It simply didn’t regenerate that fast, even with higher stats. Though [Tail of Poison Empress] only sucked up a quarter of my mana pool this time instead of its third as usual. 

Then the mana itself put up noticeably less resistance to it all, moved through my body with greater ease, and most importantly, it formed the magic of the skill without much pushback.

With my venom glands filling up, I went hunting. Well, hunting may have been too strong a word. All I did was lure the horned rabbit into a cloud of orange gas and try to keep the beast in. Fortunately, the rabbit was as stupid as the last one I used the poison on and paid no attention to the deadly mist, trying to kill me at any cost. Well, since the poison was no stronger than before, the mass of the beast made it a lengthy battle. It took so long that I had to use [Tail of Poison Empress] again when the poison cloud got too thin.

The outcome was inevitable, and the horned rabbit succumbed to the poison. Though, along with the notification of my beast slaying, came one I hadn’t seen in a while.

  • [Tail of Poison Empress] reaches lvl 13

It made me aware of how underleveled the skill was and how far I was from the poison of the Empress of Poison in Great Journey, a tale written by Prince Alederman that the librarian read to me. I know, it was no good comparing myself to a beast that could probably match Esu in strength, or at least the mossbear mothers, yet I couldn’t help myself. In that tale, her poison and what she could do with it sounded amazing, like magic.

Perhaps one day. A girl can dream, right?

A little confession. I chickened out a little and decided not to go through the full beast transformation, thus staying at tier II for my next test. Fully furred, with fangs in my mouth, but not starving. This brought my Constitution to a whopping 119 points and my Strength to 55. The shift was incredible, and it kind of threw me off. Actually, it made me stumble a few times before my instincts kicked in and made me quickly adjust to the new power.

Speed was an aspect of Dexterity, just as Agility, Nimbleness, Flexibility, and Grace were. All of them had an impact on my movement speed, but without the Strength, I wouldn’t be able to reach those speeds either. With more of it, my legs propelled me faster, allowing me to reach the beast before it could get away or attempt any attack.

And when I struck with my fist, it was with the force of a bone-breaking hammer. I’m not kidding. My punch actually broke a horned rabbit’s rib and made me wish [Unbending Resilience] was at a higher tier. The increased impact of my blows tore through my skin like I hadn’t had the skill at all.

Of course, I was also trying to find a way to get to the back of the horned rabbit’s neck. If I could manage that, killing these beasts in one hit wouldn’t be a ridiculous notion anymore. Can you imagine? Just find another prey, one wham, and that was it. Easy peasy, right?

There was a hitch, though. I had little experience with these beasts and fighting in general, so getting to the back of its neck protected by the horns without endangering myself was more than difficult. 

Yet it brought to my mind again the question I had asked earlier. Was it always this easy? So far, it’s just been one big struggle for me. Everything I had, I had to wrestle for. 

That’s when the city guards came to mind, particularly their levels. Those with class evolution were mainly around level 120. So did they experience what I did? Was it the reason behind their level jump?

I…I wasn’t so sure. It could. However, my fight with the rabbits was too easy, without a real challenge. So how could they grow if they didn’t push themselves further? 

I didn’t like where my train of thought was taking me, but I didn’t see any other way except for me to go deeper into the Labyrinth unless I wanted to stagnate. The first floor just stopped being a challenge for me, at least one where I had to push myself to the limits and give it my all to survive.

The heavy impact that came abruptly from the left and sent me flying was a painful reminder that I shouldn’t let my guard down, even here on this floor, that I was too careless. Lost in thought like a fool, instead of focusing on the fight and the surroundings, I failed to notice when another horned rabbit showed up, eager to get me for its dinner.

Despite my mid-air correction and efforts to land with my feet on the ground, I slammed into one of the labyrinth blocks that, in addition to columns here and there, were scattered across the hills and meadows of the floor. My impact with the black square block, interwoven with faint glowing white lines, was so hard it took my breath away.

Bruised, bleeding, yet with unbroken bones courtesy of [Unbending Resilience], I fell into the grass. Despite getting the wind knocked out of me, my first thought was of the beasts. However, much to my relief, I found the beasts fighting amongst themselves. The newcomer apparently decided not to cooperate with its fellow rabbit in hunting me down and fighting over my corpse later. The beast decided to kill its rival right away. Stupid call, if I may say so.

Regardless, it allowed me to get my bearings from my blunder. First, I coughed up the blood that had gotten into my lungs and filled my lungs with the oxygen my body so badly needed. Then I wiped the blood off my mouth and spat out what was left of it in my mouth to get rid of the sweet iron taste before I got back on my feet.

Regenerating the lacerations as fast as I could, I kept my eyes on the fight between the two beasts. Without question the newcomer had the upper hand. After all, its opponent was weakened and injured from fighting me. Well, I should be the one to finish the rabbit off. It was my right. Yet, not wanting to jump between two brawling beasts, I stilled my urges and waited for the moment I’d face the bastard who ambushed me unprepared.

I know. That’s how ambushes work. Besides, it was my fault for letting my guard down. The way I handled the fight and the previous ones led me to overconfidence. And that was stupid of me. As Deckard said, overconfidence has been the undoing of many seekers. 

To be honest, I thought it didn’t concern me, that I was self-aware enough to avoid being that. As it turns out, I was wrong and wasn’t the exception proving the rule, the better one. No, I was just another dumb seeker almost killing herself in Fallens Cry.

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Bravo, Korra!

Giving myself a little mental ironic applause, I shifted my weight to find a better fighting position, only to step on a rock hidden in the grass. This little oversight, the issue which I thought I had already worked out, made me stumble. The pain wasn’t even that bad, yet I instinctively leaned my bloody hand against the black square block I had rammed into earlier.

The moment my fingers touched the cold stone, the faint glowing white lines lit up, and Traiana’s cry flooded my mind. It took me by surprise, almost making me pull my hand back, but what I heard gave me pause. 

Echoing through my mind was not just her lament for the fallen, as usual. I could hear the sounds of battle still raging in the distance and feel… her pain for those whose lives were lost, for her loved ones she will never again be able to talk to or feel the warmth of their embrace. The deep loss gripped my heart so tight it hurt, and when this harrowing memory passed, I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks and crying loudly, screaming for the world to know my pain, her loss.

“F***!” I cursed after I swallowed my cry and caught my breath. “What the hell was that?!”

“”Squeak?”” 

Yeah, I don’t think so, buddy. 

The horned rabbit, the winner of the two, was just as confused about my antics as I was about what I had just heard and felt. Hesitating whether to attack, to ram me down again, the beast was just standing there.

Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t in the mood, unwilling to go through another fight after what I’d been through. I mean, Traiana has been through. The battle, the lost. The memory, or whatever the hell it was, seemed so vivid that it was hard to separate her feelings from mine. 

It gave me an idea, though.

Since raging emotions that weren’t mine, yet no weaker, flooded my mind, why not express them in one roar if the cry wasn’t enough to get them out of my system. I wanted to try the roar anyway, to see and feel the full force of my presence and its effects on the beasts. So I put all of Traiana’s pain in my battle cry and let it out.

The last time I did that, the room shook, not what I expected to happen with Labyrinth. However, a ripple swept through the grass around me, hitting the horned rabbit just as it made up its mind and was about to rush at me. Instead, the beast let out a faint squeak and froze in terror.

Then it was a quick process, where one blow to the back of the neck ended the rabbit’s life.

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