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 Torix said, "This next few beasts will be level 150. Be ready for them."

I said, "Of course."

He opened the summoning portal once more, the purple lining it more vicious than the previous one. From it, a twisted, gnarled mass of branches and roots shot outwards. The monster of bark and wood crawled towards me, thousands of empty eyes staring at me from its spiny body. At the tree's center, the trunk caved in, creating teeth of wood. It twitched as it squirmed, more like an insect than a beast.

Brach Leon, Corrupted Treant(lvl 150) - Once a leader of a sentient race of plants, this being has fallen from basking in the sun to squirming in the shade. Their race fought against the dominant species of their planet and won. They enslaved the humanoid race, ruling over them for hundreds of years.

The sides of the Treantis people split, one side for the continued enslavement and the other against it. Much like wars fought on earth, a civil war erupted. Brach Leon was the leader of the enslavement regime. Torix came, killed, then possessed him.

With hundreds of roots and branches, Brach pummels targets with innumerable blows from above and below. Strengthens in darkness and grows weaker in sunlight. You have nothing to fear.

It was time to test my new found agility. The monster whipped a wooden branch towards me, the air hissing as it gained speed. I shot towards the attack, dodging by a hair underneath it. To me, that hair was like a mile. I could sense the exactness that I could move around it. I could feel how close I could get before it actually hit me. Even the wind from the attack was within my expectations.

Seven more strikes lashed out towards me, but I slipped past them, moving just enough to dodge. I wasted no movement, no lapse in my balance holding me back. As I weaved around the onslaught of strikes, Torix said,

"It always amazed me, watching a warrior fight with all three attributes unlocked. Any I watched couldn't maintain it for long. With how subtle and slight your movements are, you might be able to extend your stamina further."

I laughed before setting myself into my fighting stance. Knees bent. Arms pinned against my sides. My jaw kept square and down. A tentacle of wood lashes towards me, I bend beneath it. As it passes overhead, I torque on my heels and smash my fist into the wood. Chips of wood splinter as force travels down my wrist, into my shoulders, and back into my heels.

I almost fell backwards from how well my blow connected. The timing of the swing, the angle of the blow, even the way I braced myself, it was incredible. The impact timed so cleanly that my heels cracked into the stone beneath me. The echo of the blow was like shattering a bottle full of thunder.

As the next vine came snapping towards me, I shot a straight into the belt of bark. My fists were like bombs, each blow landing like an explosion. I slid back a foot from the how hard it landed. The wood smashed to ruin at my touch. After cleaving four of the monster's branches with momentous impacts, the attacks slowed.

The monster reeled back, no longer enraged. If anything, it seemed almost afraid of me. I grinned an eager smile, showing the whites of my teeth. I walked towards it, inching closer like a moving wall. It whipped another strike. I chopped the wooden vine with my fist. After cleaving a few more branches, the tree no longer glanced at me like food. To this thing, my fists were like axes, tearing it apart.

I kept pressuring the monster, moving forward with patience. When the thirty foot tall tree's back pressed into the colosseum's wall, the trunk teeth squealed. I approached like a guillotine coming down on a man's neck.

Each root that came within my grasp, I eviscerated. Every vine that squirmed near me, I sheared. Every branch that attacked, I retaliated with an unweildly force. The monster pushed itself up the wall, scrambling for further distance.

With a burst of speed, the monster shot sideways. I slid on my feet, cutting the monster off from running. Quoting the movie Watchmen, I said, "I'm not trapped in here with you. You're trapped in here with me."

I pulverized the tree with gauntleted fists. As the tree monster died, chunks of wood and splinters littered the pool of blood we standed in. Torix nodded his head in approval as he said, "That was rather ruthless. You handled that monster with such ease. The three attributes are showing their might already."

I clanked my fists as I said, "It's amazing how good it feels to fight."

Torix nodded before snapping his fingers. In an instant, the blood was gone. The splinters dried, the wetness in my boots no longer present. he said, "Let's get that filth out of the way. It was starting to coagulate."

I blinked, stunned by the sudden change. After a second or two, my armor bent to consume the tree. As it did so, I said, "What was that?"

"Silent casting. It's a perk for reaching 30 intelligence. Quite useful for stopping orthodox methods of countering spells. It's more for convenience then actual pragmatism, however. High level mages will fight with their minds. Having high mental resistance is fundamental."

I glanced at my menu screen, seeing a gain of three levels from the single fight. I tap my chin as I say, "It's a good thing mine's at 96% then. Anyways, I think I'm gonna go with intelligence next. With arcane blood, It'll increase my maximum health on top of letting me learn stuff easier."

Torix stood up and said, "The armor affects other resistances besides physical ones? That's possible?"

I shrugged as I said, "I mean, it does, so it is. It raises the resist cap for all damage types I have resists for."

Torix grinned, his teeth yellow as parchment. He said, "Then understanding these ruins has become my priority."

He snapped his fingers and a chair formed beneath him, more a writhing shadow than a seat. It held him up as he leaned close to the runes. After a few moments, he said, "Every time I glance at this, my understanding of it lessens. Questions are answered with even more questions. This will take...time."

Before replying, I put three points into intelligence. The same clarity of before washed over me. Things that were complex became simple. What surprised me most, however, was the tug of mana on my skin. The density of the arcane laying in my blood thickened ever so slightly. It acted as a pressure, much like gravity, that helped hold me together.

I used the red air conditioner skill I had. At that moment, I sensed the bonds of arcane within me lessening by the smallest bit. Those arcane bonds helped keep me together. They kept me whole. Using magic tore apart the bonds that the arcane had created within me. In essence, I sacrificed my body for the magic I casted. It was more like converting my body into magic than using my blood for magic.

At that point, I pulled at the arcane holding me together. It surged from my hand in a torrent along with a burning sensation in my hand. I clamped my fist, killing the cast. A notification appeared,

Breakthrough achieved! Apprentice level unlocked for Arcane Blood Manipulation

(lvl 1) ----> (lvl 25)

I said, "Torix, have you ever heard of breakthroughs?"

He waved me off as he stared at a jagged character on the wall. He said, "Of course. They aren't that uncommon."

"Alright, cool. Can you spawn another monster?"

"Sure, sure."

The cycle continued like this for a while. Torix spawned abomination after abomination, and with my improved dexterity, I ripped them apart. I checked out my notifications.

Evolution gained. II Harbinger of Cataclysm unlocked. Evolve Y/N?

I press yes in an instant. It was finally time. When I tap the Y button, my armor clasped into me. Like a thousand nails piercing me at once, the armor stabbed until it reached my bones. I scream out, the sheer torment unbearable. Even with 96% pain reduction, I could do nothing but convulse.

Torix stood at my screams, pacing over as he said, "What's wrong? What happened? Are you alright?"

I thrashed on the ground, grabbing the sides of my skull. Every inch of me burned like I'd dived into a pit of magma. My flesh was eviscerated by the armor as it dug into me. In a panic, Torix created a green ring above lined with incantations. He mouthed a spell faster than my ears could hear.

A healing light shined down, alleviating the agony. The reduction allowed me to think again. My armor kept eating my flesh for an undetermined amount of time. When it finally stopped, I laid in a pool of my own blood and sweat. I stared at the ceiling, not knowing what happened. I turned towards Torix.

He observed runes on a distant wall. In one hand, he held a leather bound notebook. In the other, he wrote down inscriptions and diagrams. He glanced back and forth between the notebook and the wall. I glanced back at the ceiling. Lamps made of mana kept the room lit.

I rolled onto my front. As I did so, I noticed my gauntlets. They were smoother, more like skin. An intense, red light reflected off the stone floor from my helmet's slit. Even though I could see the crimson beaming off the floor, it had no effect on my eyesight. Weird.

I stood up slowly before clasping my fists. Nothing hurt. If anything, my mind cleared and my body strengthened. Within seconds, I discovered why.

II Harbinger of Cataclysm(Armor, Legendary Unique) - Armor that can absorb rift energy(Ambient Mana) for evolutions. These evolutions may add other special effects. Cannot be removed, only altered. Armor is regenerated with health. 0/4,000,000 Mana left till next evolution.

A Harbinger's Might - Increases Damage reduction cap by 1.5% | Current Max: 96.5%

Shell of Eldritch - Additional 10% increase to total health | Current Total Health: 110%

The Walking Calamity - Gives unique ability II Oppression | Current Damage: (6000 + 20% of health/min) within a 120ft radius

Abhorred - Decreases Charisma by 10% | Current Total Charisma: 90%

- From a different world I rise. We usher forth creation through ruin. Our might is our union. All crumbles in our wake.

These bonuses were awesome, but having my charisma lowered sucked. In the grand scheme of things, I'd just increase it to thirty over time, get the leveling perk, then not worry about it. For now though, the bonuses were well worth it. My combat potential was impressive to say the least.

The bats flying around atop the cavern would die in six seconds of exposure to oppression. I turned towards Torix and said, "Alright, let's continue the training."

Torix waved me away and said, "Go find a nearby dungeon. It's best you collect a few extra cores in case your attributes outrun your perks. They can be exchanged for powerful artifacts, and you'd be gaining resources rather than depleting mine."

I sigh as I said, "Shit. Well, when you're right, you're right. Any pointers for where dungeons could be?"

Torix cupped his hand as he said, "Hmmm...If you could find any nearby physical feature of interest, there will likely be a dungeon of some sort there. The more extraordinary, the more likely a dungeon exists of a high level. That's what you need."

He turned towards me and said, "Be wary of marauders and hunters of all kinds. It's unlikely they'll be dispersing this far from the gates just yet, but you can never be too careful. The dimensional rift is bound to have attracted some attention from unlikely sources. That being said,"

His voice turned like stone as he said, "Do not, under any circumstances, use oppression."

I grinned wide as I said, "It's more fun without it. Cya Torix."

"Goodbye, apostle."

I left out of the dungeon, making sure the sentinel knew what an assface he was. Once in the sun, I stretched out my arms. The smell of rich earth, fresh wind, and sun baked trees was intoxicating. The sunshine warmed my armor while the soft grass cushioned my feet. Man, I fucking love nature.

With that in mind, I ran towards the nearest landmark of great renown, the Evergreen Ravine. It was a 50 mile long, steep ravine full of pine trees. What made the place so interesting was how trees didn't grow near the ravine, only inside it. It had something to do with variables in the water levels in the soil near here.

Regardless, Micheal and I'd been there multiple times. A few species only grew in the ravine, like a few species of catfish in a few lakes. It made for a novel experience.

So I sprinted towards it, my feet tearing clumps out of the earth as I ran. The wind pressed against my armor with a comforting cool. Birds sang songs in trees while I passed by wildflowers of all kinds. Baneberries, bee balms, and bloodroots littered the forest floor. I ran for around 20 miles before coming close to my destination as the sun started setting.

Two hills lined the edges of the Evergreen Ravine. As I closed in, the trees disappeared before I reached the edge overlooking the entire landmark. It looked...different. Schema transformed the forest into a jungle, wild and shaded like an emerald. Flowers of all kinds bloomed in that vibrant green, bright and beautiful. Batches of glowing orange and yellow lined the tops of trees.

These shining fruits lit the forest as I jumped down into the Ravine. Stiff cliffs bordered both sides, closing the place in. I paced around before seeing the first enemy. Lean, muscular, and powerful, its muscles rippled under its scaled skin as it walked.

Orange stripes lined its black sides. Black drool leaked from its mouth, and when it roared at me, four lines of teeth lined the bottom and top of its mouth. Several teeth jutted outwards at the front of its mouth, like a boar's tusks. Plates of orange armor lined its back and outer legs. The eyes of the creature open wide, too wide even. With its tusks included, it looked insane and vicious.

Komodo Tiger(lvl 56) - Being near a rift, even the smallest animal become monsters worth fearing. Komodo Tigers are just such a phenomenon. Once everyday lizards, their teeth are designed to shear the gums in their mouths, leaving patches of rotting flesh. They bite animals then wait till that animal dies of infection.

Combine that with their sheer size and bulk, they become intimidating, aggressive creatures. Most would be advised to approach with caution. You are not.

The bull sized lizard charged me, its tail swinging back and forth as it ran. I tucked in, keeping my arms close. I walked towards the beast with patience before it reached me.

It snapped forwards, the disgusting maw gaping open. I lifted my foot onto its bottom jaw as I grabbed the creature's tusks with both hands. With a quick stomp, I ripped off its jaw while sidestepping its charge.

The bloody jaw crushed under my foot, and the creature slammed into the ground. Gurgling while its tongue flapped around, I lifted my right hand and struck the creature's head. Bone cracked. Flesh tore. Skin split. With a few well placed punches, the creature died.

Curious, I rubbed my left hand against the creature, marveling that such a thing exists. I mean come on, It's basically a goddamn dinosaur. And dinosaurs are awesome.

While in my stupor, a metal harpoon sliced straight through my hand like hammering a nail into dirt. A deafening crack sounded behind me as I winced and turned around.

Behind me was a thin, lithe figure wearing silver power armor. Clear cases full of red goop pumped the crimson liquid through tubes, straight into its arms, shoulders, and chest. The mechanized armor's hydraulics glided smooth as snakeskin as she aimed a bulky gun towards me.

A momentum sink slid out the back of the cannon as another harpoon lobbed through the air. Fast as a bullet, I couldn't move before my other hand pinned into the ground. As I sat clamped against the ground, I glared toward her.

Althea Tolstoy(Unknown lvl 123) - Very little is known about her, besides how effective she is at hunting bounties. She's been charged with finding any unknowns near the dimensional rift.

I pulled both my hands from the ground as she reloaded another harpoon into her barrel. I pulled one spear of metal as I shouted, "I'm sure you'd like your spears back." I pulled out the other harpoon, grabbing it in my right hand.

I crushed the metal between my fingers as I bellowed, "Where do you want them? Through the roof of your mouth or the center of your chest?"



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