Chapter 9: Rank 1? Status?

“How did you do that?”

Stephen’s voice was laced with unrestrained curiosity and excitement, something deeply shared by John who looked at the red-haired beautiful woman gratefully. The Orc had fallen onto the ground, slightly squirming, but its life was already slowly slipping away from each spurt of blood that sprinkled out of its wound.

“I… I don’t know?” Natasha stared at her hands in sheer disbelief, “I just… wanted to protect John… and… and…”

“And it happened?”

She nodded.

“Nicely done, Natasha.” Stephen wanted to chuckle, but he knew that if he tried then he’d be spitting blood again, “Damn… that was a heavy blow.” wincing, he looked at the still shell-shocked woman, “Care to help a person in need?” he grinned, once the adrenaline rush cooled down it left him completely spent, but looking at the reward that was sprawled on the soil, it was worth it.

Natasha blushed in embarrassment before skipping over whilst carefully supporting him up, “Are you okay?” she scanned his body, and aside from a few bruises here and there, the only thing she needed to be worried about was a probable internal injury from that crushing kick, which would have been troublesome considering they had no way to heal something that only a surgeon could put his hands on.

“Meh… I’ll survive.” he peered over the other side, “What about you, John?”

“I had better days.” the older man replied, but his face was scrunched up in a frown, “Hmm… it seems it’ll be quite a feat to get out of here given our conditions.” he placed his hands on the ground while trying to use it as leverage to bring his body up, but it was to no avail, “It’ll definitely be quite a feat.”

Natasha was concerned, “If… if you can’t move then…” she bit her bottom lip, “We should stay there for the rest of the night,” she pointed at the hideout they’ve been in previously. It was not recommendable, especially since the rest of their companions were still at the cave, but two of her teammates were wounded, it was foolish to thread back through the underbrush anew.

“Natasha, help me get there.” Stephen hinted with his eyes towards the fallen Orc, “We can’t leave it there to rot, not after our conjunct effort to bring it down.” his ocean blue irises altered into crimson ones.

“You… you want to eat it?” the red-haired older woman furrowed her brow, reluctant and eager, “Does it really give you skills and stuff?” she draped Stephen’s arm over her shoulder as she walked to the dead monster, a large pool of blood around it, which she found oddly inviting. Her eyes took on a violet hue before she shook her head to get rid of disturbing thoughts, but the rumble of her stomach didn’t seem to agree with her.

“Yes, and If I’m not mistaken, the stronger the monster, the rarer the skill, or something along those lines.” Stephen smiled, “Either way, it should give us something quite useful.” he grabbed his sword, but the total lack of energy hindered him from mustering enough force to lift it up, “John?” he looked at his older companion.

“Can’t help you there.”

“Natasha?”

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“M-me?”

“Yes, you just have to rip a small chunk off.” he lent her his weapon, “The wound is pretty large and deep, it shouldn’t be that bothersome to cut a bit of flesh off.”

Holding the hilt of the sword, Natasha was dazed, her eyes morphing into glowing amethysts before she unhesitatingly impaled the tip of the blade inside the gash, crudely slicing a small piece of meat off. Blood flowed out, prompting them to lick their lips in anticipation as an appealing aroma wafted in the air.

“We’re in for a treat…” Stephen muttered as he eyed covetously the content on the older woman’s hand, “Are you done?”

“Yup.” she turned around, her hands bloodied from the slabs of meat, “Let’s get back inside first, lest an uninvited guest pops up and ruins our feast.” she giggled.

Stephen looked at her amusedly before shifting his gaze upon a surprised John, “She’s different in this state, isn’t she?” he asked, eliciting a nod from the latter, “Anyway, the blood of the Orc would certainly lure monsters,” he cupped his chin with his hand, thinking, “Unless we cover it up.”

“How we do that?”

“No idea…” Stephen replied resignedly, “Ammonia solution? We don’t have that here…”

“We can burn it!” Natasha excitedly offered, “I don’t know if it will help… but might as well try it.” she gave them a Cheshire grin as she bounced around in enthusiasm.

“…” Stephen and John looked at each other in dismay, “Can you do that?”

“Ah… no… it seems that I don’t have enough of that encore thingy.” her shoulders slumped, disappointed, “But if I eat this… maybe…” she looked at one of the chunks of flesh in her hands, “You should eat it too.” wasting no time, she distributed the meat to them before stuffing her share in her mouth with gusto, something both of men did right after.

[You have gained 4 points in Strength.]

[You have gained 2 points in Endurance.]

[You have gained 5 points in Encore Power.]

[You have gained the skill Encore Slash, Lv.1]

[You have gained 3% in Evolution.]


Feeling his body trembling from a clash of energies, he almost tumbled over as his muscles trembled and twisted, recreating themselves as they were intermittently washed and strengthened in Encore Power. It was painful but refreshing, as if he was breaking free from some kind of chains. He couldn’t help but feel immense thrill amidst the waves of pain. John was undergoing the same thing whilst Natasha stood there, staring in front of her.

The screens weren’t over.

[You have reached 10% in Evolution.]


[Congratulations. You have reached Rank 1.]


[You have gained 3 points to all of your Attributes.]


[You have unlocked the Status function. You can survey your data and skills by summoning it using – either thinking or saying it out aloud – its epithet.]


The notifications befuddled him for he had yet to comprehend the meaning behind some of them. Energy returned to his body and the pain he was suffering from the injury vanished, he was healed. Standing up, his body moved with far ease and speed than he had ever perceived before. Power coursed through his veins, begging to be unleashed. It was Encore Power, he realized. Previously it was so thin he had difficulty discerning if it was still there or not, but now it was so clear and lively that euphoria kicked in, leaving him with an ear-splitting grin on his face.

“John… how is it?”

“Unbelievable.” John stood up, taking a deep breath, “Everything is so much clearer than before…”

“Aren’t you exaggerating a little bit?” Natasha chimed in, “Yes, I do feel better, but it’s not nearly as mind-blowing as you’re trying to make me believe…”

“Haven’t you ranked up?”

“Rank up?” she arched one brow, “Not at all, just a few points in both Endurance and Strength, oh, and of course, Encore Power,” she explained with a smile.

“That sums it up,” John said, “We both have, and the rewards are greater, you gain points in all of your attributes.”

“Damn!” she clicked her tongue, “How do I rank up?”

“Apparently, you have to reach 10% in Evolution.” Stephen looked at her, “You should have around 4% or 5% in Evolution, so you won’t be ranking up anytime soon, a pity.” he grinned.

Natasha wrinkled her nose at him, “Screw you, Steph.” she was tempted to give him the middle finger, but she felt it would have been too unladylike, so she held back. Turning her head around, she snapped her fingers – to make it look cooler – as a fireball, bigger than her previous attempt, lit up, hovering a few centimeters above her palm, garnering both Stephen and John’s attention.

Waving her hand casually, the flame departed from its position and impacted against the Orc, covering a sizeable chunk of its corpse on fire. Frowning, she summoned another one before motioning for it to follow its predecessor in its endeavor. This time, the entire lifeless body was coated in raging fire alongside the grassland around it, smoke billowing up.

“Won’t the fire spread throughout the forest?” Stephen whispered to John.

“It… probably will, but considering the fauna that inhabits this place… I don’t think that much damage will be done.”

“Yeah.”

Not long after the Orc’s corpse was completely charred, something that was surprising considering that it didn’t even get a scratch from Natasha’s beforehand attack. Was it because more Encore Power was fueled in the fire? Was it because it was already dead? Stephen mulled over it before smacking his forehead in realization.

“We’re stupid…”

“Stephen?” Natasha turned around, a confused look on her face.

“There was no need to make all this mess since I and John are already healed!” he pinched the bridge of his nose, “Now all this smoke will surely draw attention.” he looked at the ripples of black smoke swelling up, “We should get out of here.” he started walking, his face stretched in seriousness.

“Stephen…” John’s voice resounded, “Look at your status, please…”

“Status?” Natasha dumbly repeated, her head tilted to the side, “What is that?”

Suddenly stopping, Stephen acquiesced the older man’s request as he whispered, “Status.” a screen scrolled down before his eyes.

═══Status:═══

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[Name: Stephen Flamel] [Race: Predator] [Evolution: 10%] [Rank: 1] [Strength: 19] [Endurance: 15] [Dexterity: 23] [Vitality: 14] [Encore Power: 10]


═══Skills:═══

[Basic Sword Arts, Lv.7] [Light Step, Lv.5] [Footwork, Lv.3] [Encore Slash, Lv.1]


He curiously scanned it before he froze as his eyes fell on a particular piece of information, “Predator?” his mouth hung open, disbelief dripping from his voice, “What is this supposed to f****** mean!?” he squinted his eyes, “I’m not human?” he loured.

That caught Natasha’s attention, “What are you seeing?” however, he didn’t reply to her, “John?”

“I’m also at loss, we’ve got a status screen where all of our information is stored, name and race included.” John started in a solemn tone, “However, here, on the Race row, it’s written Predator, not human.” he gazed at her, “Even if you have not your status yet, I doubt it’d be any different…”

“That’s f***** up,” she said, but her eyes showed more amusement than anything else.

“You’re not worried?” the older man queried with an arched brow, “There’s a chance that – for how ridiculous it is – you may not be a human anymore.” he said, “You don’t care?”

Natasha looked disinterestedly at her fingernails, blowing out a bit of dirt off of them, “I mean, it’s not that surprising, we’ve been eating raw meat for a while, haven’t we?” she uttered, “We’ve been drinking blood from its source, and all of these weird abilities…” she spread her arms open wide to add to her explanation, “… are not something humans are capable of, are they?”

“Still… Natasha… what happened to you? Why are you behaving so… unlike you…” he was worried, “You don’t seem to care about things, actually, you’re entertaining yourself out of them…” he shifted his gaze to Stephen who was still dazedly looking ahead of him before shaking his head, “This place is changing us…”

“What are you talking about, John.” Natasha chuckled, “Everything is fine! I doubt we’ll ever go back home anyway,” her amethyst eyes glowed as she surveyed the towering trees around her in wonder and fascination, “All of these fantastical monsters… all of these game-like abilities, I wonder what we haven’t seen yet. Aren’t you curious, John, Stephen?” her lips curved upwards, “Aren’t you curious at all?” she giggled, “So much stuff to eat…”

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