The feminine Shadow, Deceiver and Liar, chuckled seductively as Torrent gave her answer. The studious Shadow, the Seeker of Secrets, hummed and turned the softly illuminated pages of his great book when Torrent spoke. The Accomplice of Injustice snorted, and caught the knife he had been idly tossing up and down. He turned away from the reptile--or, was she a little girl?--and began to fade into the void where she could not see him, no matter how hard she looked. Torrent sought to go further into the shadows as well, pulling against that strange tether that intensified...and then, began to tear free, as the figures around her suddenly flinched in surprise. Their gaze upon her became more intense with wonder as she strained against the pull, which now began to feel like tearing off bandages sticky with gore..."Bad move."
A hand, humanoid in shape yet thrumming in every aspect with power, closed around Torrent. And now someone held her, as if she were a pet, in the crook of one arm as they stood on an endless black plane. The Demon King, his crimson cloak shifting like the nebulae surrounding the stars, leaped backwards--back through the Void Torrent had pushed through, back into the light of a thousand thousand stars.
Torrent saw the obsidian geometry crack. Something she could not describe with mathematical shapes or the physiological senses burst through for an instant, snapping down where they--where she
--had just been, and then fell back through as space bled darkness to seal the gap."You won't remember this, hopefully, but I guess I'll say it anyway. This doesn't count as "help," got it?"
The Demon King turned, and like releasing a fish he sent her back towards the spinning, colorful world far below. "You aren't from this world. Keeping you here requires chaining you with an anchor. So I don't care what you do--get yourself killed, or climb over corpses, fine by me. Grow strong, or cower in fear, how you live makes no difference, nor what Spirits you commune with. But if you're going to break those chains--don't leave them lying around for someone else to yank themselves up with. Got it?"
Then, the Demon King turned back to the Shadows slinking around the void."Morgen. Selomo. Don't get the wrong idea. You can do as you like with them, if they come to you...or even otherwise. As long as..."
And now Torrent plummeted, rejoining her body in a violent jerk as if waking from a nightmare.
Her bloated flesh had dried, turning gray and lifeless save for the shadows squirming beneath the skin. Now the flesh-sac cracked and peeled, as her body instinctively thrashed.
She could remember nothing, save feelings of discovery, immense terror, an odd warmth...half blurred images of a dream...and two shadowy figures, with names.
The body that emerged from the Lesserwurm's skin was longer, more serpentine, but she had increased in width as well. Her forelimbs had disppeared, and in their place were two limbs that felt utterly alien to anything Torrent had possessed before. It was somewhat like wearing oven mitts or thick gloves, but the sensation of fingers, and the fine-motor skills and coordination that came with them, were gone. Or...were they? If she focused, like stretching a stiff limb or performing a difficult new exercise, she could move a single digit...yet this, too, was not a finger. It did not have joints made of cartilage or bone. Its sense of touch was vastly magnified...to the point that it was somewhat unpleasant. It was raw muscle, with a thin layer of mucus...
Two heads, growing from the base of Torrent's "real" head, extended on longer necks that seemed to have a uniquely formed musculature, granting them enough support to rest comfortably in a position mirroring half-raised arms. These heads had no eyes, but there were sensitive spots upon the tops of their snouts and the back of their skulls that seemed to "sense" light. There were a pair of working nostrils, though they were not attached to lungs--rather, they simply transmitted scents, and even the sensation of temperature. What the heads did have, were thick and flexible forked tongues, and double rows of savage teeth. And they could swallow, though apparently their throats were somewhat more narrow due to the larger amount of muscle mass surrounding it.
YOU HAVE TRANSFORMED!
(Immature) Lesserwurm > (Adolescent) Stone-Hardened Forked Snake
Your Base HP has increased!
Your Base-Power and Base-Defense stats have increased slightly!
The Minor Recovery Skill has been boosted. You have not reached your full Potential, the boost is [reduced] (1.0 > 1.25).
You have lost your foreclaws and gained pseudo-heads.
By random chance, one of the magical energies within you have come to the forefront. You gained the unexpected variant, Stone-Hardened!
Skill Development: Earth Affinity (0.0 > 0.5)
Stone Hardened - Your Base-Defense stats have very slightly increased! Increase your Earth Affinity by deepening your understanding of the Earth element.
Indeed, this was perhaps not the expected variance Torrent saw herself achieving. While she had made use of her Tremor Sense and digging abilities, and had the spell Rock Spire, her magic development had branched out into many paths and she likely did not see herself as particularly "earthy" in nature. But, it didn't really seem to come with any downsides. Her coloration had changed somewhat, as had the quality of her scales, and there were now some earthy growths that had not been present before, but nothing that would hinder her movement. If anything, these better defenses would give her even better survivability. [[Feel free to describe these cosmetic changes in whatever reasonable fashion you wish.]]
Meanwhile, Oberon contemplated his new spell. Indeed, it seemed like the majority of skills he had learned in this world were only good for fighting something, or at the very least hunting prey and surviving in hostile environments. But the Sprite would not be satisfied with that and continued to imagine new possibilities for his magic. Rising high above the trees, he cast his new spell and used his highest rank Analysis ability.
You used Magic Analysis IV!
---Gravity Well, Rank I---
Within 30 feet of the caster, create a spherical area with a diameter of 5 feet. Magical force infuses the physical phenomenon of gravity, increasing its effect upon the target at the center of the sphere. More accurately, the caster's Mana takes on the properties of Gravity itself as in the case of other Elemental Magic. Therefore, the amount of "gravitational energy," being applied in the same area of space has increased (your Old World would perhaps theorize this as "the conversion of Mana "particles" into the hypothetical particle, the graviton, increasing the number of gravitons and thus the gravitational force present"). The target experiences a crushing force roughly equivalent to a fourth of its own weight concentrated into a single instant. This force is not applied from a single vector of direction, but rather within the center of the sphere equivocally. At higher Ranks, the amount of weight increase this magic can cause might make the target's movement much more difficult or cause other forms of indirect damage due to gravity's many effects on biological functions.
When the Sprite flew back down, his next experiment was to observe the reaction of a Shield spell cast upon a normal rock. Infusing the stone with mana caused the mana to become Earth-element aligned, but would pre-set spells react in the same way? He observed the result with Mana Sense. The description of that skill had mentioned that different users would experience this "sixth sense" in different ways, and Oberon had already seen that to him, Mana appeared in a visual form like a cloud of fog. The Shield spell upon the rock took the form of a white-and-green tinged cloud, with a very slight hint of gold, but then this cloud took a more defined shape as a sphere. The sphere, like a vaccuum sealed plastic bag, then shrank to cover the rock like a perfectly stretched skin.
There was, perhaps, a very slight metallic glint of golden smoke. No more than a wisp, coming from within the stone itself. But though it drifted around under the surface of the Shield, the Shield itself did not change in color or, seemingly, in function. Although...what exactly did it mean, to cast a spell that "increased natural defenses" on an inanimate object? Did rocks have "defense" or "power" stats like what were sometimes mentioned in the Transformation notices the System gave them? Did this just mean the stone wouldn't take damage until a certain point? Did it mean the rock was actually harder? And how could the Sprite test such theories?
Ash worked on experiments of her own, attempting to force the Earth mana she had finally learned to generate into some form of workable spell. By adding more magical energy, she hoped to create some sort of lattice for this yet unformed ability. As her mana pooled between her claws, the "tiles" continued to grind back and forth...At first the only change was that they seemed heavier.
But as she kept at it, her eyes growing sore from the constant use of Mana Vision, she gained a greater feel for the magic--literally, it was quite a tactile sensation. These pieces seemed to not fit correctly because they were...too big. Obviously there was no visible mold for them to be pushed into, and one would think that this free floating mass of energy directed by her own will could take any shape she willed. One would think. Yet that was the only feeling she could describe. It was too big, though its current heaviness felt right somehow.
You combined Grass Twine and Smooth Bead!
Obtained Item: Beaded Twine
Is this perhaps a bracelet? A rosary? A simple, primitive piece of jewelry. Improving it is as simple as adding more to it at this point.
Ding! You are making Quest Progress!
Digbie stared hard at the Hard Stone in front of him. It was somewhat round, but also lumpy. Not quite a square, definitely not a sphere, but somewhat circular too. A three dimensional object, with some decent heft to it. It had an edge that might make a good knapping surface to smooth it out on one side. One quarter of its rim was smooth to the touch. Save for one place near its center, however, its thickness was close to uniform, as was its density and hardness. It did not have any shine, or even a sheen. Its coloration was gray speckled with a bit of non-metallic blue here and there. There was one squiggly line like the types formed by sedimentary layering of materials.
The not-so-little goblin's continued chants, as he sat with crossed legs and tried to draw power from the earth, was almost meditative--though not in the sense of the actual skill, Meditate. His Mana had soon topped out, but he could feel it buzzing inside him as he chanted.
A golden circle spread out from Digbie like ripples on the surface of water. It didn't travel far, just enough to surround both the Palablin, and his chosen Hard Stone where it sat in front of him. The third and fourth repetitions of his chant caused a second circle to form within the first, around the Hard Stone, and shapes began to spark and sputter around the edge of the two rings. As Digbie stood to his feet, he felt his Mana plummeting--but, he had significantly more Mana now than he had when he first tried chanting to save Torrent. He kept repeating himself--and a triangle expanded under his feet, its longest point spearing the circle which contained the Hard Stone. It was as if it signified the flow of energy from where Digbie stood, from him, to the circle upon which his chosen material sat.
Digbie stomped the earth and extended his arms upward. It was somewhat similar to the Warrior I pose of Yoga. With a flash, the Rock Spire shot upwards. It was thinner, coiled tighter. Faster, and longer. The various shapes and sigils exploded into sparkles of light as the Hard Stone was sent flying upwards like a coin flipped on a giant's thumb.
Digbie felt his Mana deteriorate to almost nothing as sweat broke out on his brow and his leg muscles trembled. The Hard Stone fell back to earth, with an almost perfect circle punched out of its center.
Skill Gain: Dextrous I (0.9 > 1.0)
Your practice with fine manipulation and using your pseudopods has earned an unusual skill for your species! Your body can now be used to more effectively manipulate small objects and tools, though you still aren’t strong enough yet to “wield” weapons or pick up very large things without other Skills.
You are out of Stamina! HP Drain is active!
You are taking Poison Damage!
You used Monster Analysis! You used Material Analysis! The target is not a Monster, but is related to a Skill used by a creature. The target's Material components cannot be fully analyzed, as the Skill's use has been completed.
You have learned the name of this Skill and its user, the ?Enchanted Sword? Aegeus, inhabited by an Undine due to unknown circumstances. It seems to be a Water aligned elemental spell. It used a large amount of moisture from the environment and intense pressure to create a simplified, but powerful attack. Further analysis unavailable without the Skill: Magic Analysis.
Skill Gain: Throw Item I (0.5 > 1.0!)
Using an item from your inventory, you hurl it at the opponent by expending Stamina. Different items may have different effects and some are more suited than others as projectile weapons. At this rank, the chance to destroy the thrown item is very high. Damage type depends on the item.
Skill Gain: Stone Shot I (0.6 > 1.0!)
You have learned to charge a piece of stone with your energy before hurling it at your opponent. This attack does blunt, piercing, and Earth-elemental magic damage. It consumes less MP than most spells, but requires ammunition.
Asura suddenly felt his pseudopods loosen up, as if his limbs had suddenly been freed of some kind of shackles, and he was able to drag Trent backwards along the ground. Their rear had been cleared of opposition thanks to Ardur and Undine taking the Wisps out earlier, and Asura himself had disposed of the zombified lizard. Steve laid down a spattering of webs as the group began their retreat, and several charging Skeleblins tripped over themselves as they were caught. But as many monsters as were coming, they would soon simply climb over their companions like a bridge...
Ardur's sinewy limbs churned as he tried to force his essence into the stones he threw. One of them sparked red as his Point Strike skill seemed to trigger, but it fizzled out before it hit the enemy. Nonetheless, a Zombie Rat's skull was crushed as it crawled over a Skeleblin's spine.
"I've, huff, never seen, huff, a Dungeon develop this quickly, huff..." Trent barely hung onto the blade in his hands. The glow was gone completely but the strange steel kept its watery gleam. "...No." he said under his breath, shaking his head. Only Asura could hear him because of how close they were. "I'm, I'm not. Not yet...But, but I will be..."
Ardur's handful of rocks found their marks here and there, forcing the weaker undead like the lizards and pixies to halt their advance. The Skeleblins and Slimes were having a harder time getting through the traffic jam and over the wall of corpses--new ones had been stacked on top, as Steve continued to lay down covering fire. It was like adding a layer of mortar, before new bricks were dumped on top of a wall, and then laying down yet another. The first few climbers only added to the heap and confusion.
The group managed to get back to the open area of the cave, but Ardur wound up for one more shot...and felt Mana surge through his arm. It wasn't fiery and hot, but stern and solid, as he planted his feet for one last act of defiance against this wicked place. A golden glow suffused his projectile as Stone Shot activated, and his aim was true. The stone passed a javelin in mid-flight, deflecting its tip just enough that it fell into the pool well short of the party. The javelin throwing zomblin, its armor cracked and face torn off by Asura and its body battered by the Depth Charge, went down with a bile-filled gurgle as the Stone Shot cracked its already pulpy head like a melon.
"Dis way!" Momma Slime burbled, pointing towards the distant light of the entry. The group had already pretty much cleared out this part of the cavern, if they took a dead run (or as close as they could get, hauling Trent's exhausted form) that they could probably get out without issue. Or, did they want to risk trying to regroup and take another shot at overcoming that horde...?
Careful and observant of their surroundings, the rat trio made their way to a short distance from the campsite and regrouped. From here, though the Myrminor blood-scent and their sharp eyes still told them the story, they were far enough to avoid notice by either Monsters or Bandits. And as the scene unfolded...
At the place where Ed's trail met the ring he had made around the camp, the disturbance under the ground became more pronounced. With a rumble, a hole fell in followed by an upsurge of armored bodies. Two Myrminor Scouts emerged first, antennae raised as they looked one direction and then the other. While their mandibles clicked and they each began crawling up one side of the circle, the hole behind them coughed up another clod of dirt. The larger, more thickly armored hide of a Worker appeared. It turned its broad head this way and that, but after several moments no other giant insects had left the tunnel. It seemed like only this group had been attracted by the death of their companion, but then again the Workers were quite formidable on their own.
The bandits on watch had finished their patrol around the perimeter, and met up at the fencepost where Ed had thrown the rock. The Hobgoblin was examining the chipped mark on the wood.
"'Tweren't no arrer or knife." he growled, before turning back to the others. "So if'n it's a rock, I thinks it had t'be thrown from ovah dere..."
The sound of scuttling legs, snapping madibles, and hard chitin brushing past the grass drew their attention. One of the Scouts stopped several yards away from the bandits, but it began to make an odd sort of hissing sound and rearing up on four of its legs. Its antennae and the other two legs waved in the air, clearly a signal to the other scout and the Worker.
"Da hell'd dat come from!?"
"It's dem big bugs, watch it! Always more'n one of 'em around!" One of the Bugbears hefted his stone-tipped club and started towards the insect. It began backing up, and its hisses grew louder. Ed had already seen firsthand that the Scouts weren't that strong if one could catch them offguard, or had a weapon suited to crushing or piercing their armored flesh. However, Ed himself had several strength-enhancing abilities. Bugbears were bigger than him, and they were strong, but how would one fare in open combat against the Myrminors?
It side stepped the goblinoid's first strike and darted in to snap at his legs. The Bugbear kicked it, pushing the insect backward, but stumbled back when its mandibles almost closed on his ankle. The other two bandits were moving to back him up, but the other Scout and Worker were charging towards the fray as well...
Would the Rat Party try to sneak inside the camp while the guards were distracted, or would they wait until the battle was finished and hope the victors would be weakened enough to make them easy prey?
"Ayedunna!" The green haired pixie imitated Nira, turning a loop de loop in the air as her wings fluttered. She began looking around, apparently for Femus--but luckily for the Wisp, he had figured out that meditating and being stealthy at the same time weren't going to work, at least not with this particular combination of skills. The pixie moved vaguely in the direction where the wisp was, but now that he was fully focused on suppressing his own glow she couldn't find him among the herbs and flowers. She puffed out her cheeks in a clear pout, and circled back around to the other fairies.
Nira made it look as if she were deep in thought about how to help the blue haired pixie make another dress, but in reality she deeply considered how to further her skills. However, regardless of the subject, "deep thought" was not something that the pixies were familiar with. After only a few moments of sitting and waiting, the blue pixie patted Nira on the shoulder and made an impatient sound. Then she began to buzz around the area, as if trying to coax Nira into moving again. In doing so, she almost ran into the redheaded pixie that had taken this time of stillness to slowly approach Nira again. The two pixies both yelped as they collided mid-air, and the blue one reacted irritably with a catlike swipe of her hand. The red one avoided it, and glared at his counterpart with bared teeth. The blue one stuck her tongue out at him, but he gave a "hmph!" and flew away from her to sit down next to Nira. He peered at her face, observing her focused expression, but if she ever gave him a glance back he would immediately dart off again.
The blue one landed in front of Nira, stomping her foot. And the green one had returned now as well, babbing something incoherently as she pantomimed the circle and made wisp-noises again.
Right now the trio was peaceful enough, even though they were clearly quite high strung and growing irritated with the lack of anything fun. How long they would stay like this was anyone's guess...
You used Monster Analysis III!
---Adolescent Human Female, Magic Class ???---
Humans are not technically considered Monsters, and seem fundamentally opposed to them. They are of the Enlightened Races like Elves and Dwarves, highly evolved creatures considered truly sentient, though this may depend on definition. Nonetheless they are a technologically and magically advanced race in control of multiple nations, with a varied history across most of the interior continent, and distinct cultures in different biomes. This one is a late adolescent entering early adulthood, and seems magically inclined. You have learned that others call her Mira. WARNING, DANGEROUS!
---Adult Human Male, Warrior Class ???---
(You have analyzed this Creature before, effectiveness boosted!)
Humans are not technically considered Monsters, and seem fundamentally opposed to them. They are of the Enlightened Races like Elves and Dwarves, highly evolved creatures considered truly sentient, though this may depend on definition. Nonetheless they are a technologically and magically advanced race in control of multiple nations, with a varied history across most of the interior continent, and distinct cultures in different biomes. Unlike Monsters, Humans can be born with various affinities for many combinations of stats, Skills, Magic types, and so on. However, their connection with the World is not the same as it is for Monsters...This Human is a fully adult male, and seems very physically powerful. WARNING, LETHALLY DANGEROUS!
---Jason, Immature Rokklit???---
A much smaller, weaker form of Earth aligned elemental creature. Rokklits are quite rare outside of areas charged with powerful Earth Mana, as they are essentially stones imbued with some form of life through concentrated forces of magic. Their bodies toughen as they mature, becoming as tough as boulders by adulthood. As a child, however, their bodies are light enough to be lifted and fragile enough to break when thrown. You know Jason to be a fellow Reincarnate, though not how he attained this form.
The Poltergeist was the first to answer, and he kept it short and simple. Lear nodded with a grunt and turned his attention to the Rokklit. That one, too, answered immediately just as the Farmer had demanded. Lear hummed, though in his broad chest it sounded almost like an engine starting up, and held his broad chin between thumb and forefinger. Miiba still sat stock still next to his trunk-like leg, and as she sniffled he reached down to pat her head with one broad palm.
"So you don't remember much about the summoner, but you can confirm it was a male humanoid. And you believe that this description does indeed match the summoner. I believe Miiba when she says she doesn't know you, so for all three of you to have the same story is pretty strong evidence." Lear opened his eyes and instantly shot a glance at Geir. The redhead's attempt at saying something else died in his throat. "Mira, did you scan either of them?"
"The, the Poltergeist." stammered out the magic user. "He has way too many skills for his level, and the Source Lens had the same weird error message that it did when I used it on Miiba."
"And Geir." The farmer put his hands on his hips. "I could hear your yelling from the other side of the house. How'd they answer your question?"
"It's too convenient and vague, has to be a lie--"
"Geir. How did they answer?
" The barbarian looked at the dirt with tightly clenched fists.
"Said he had some kinda incurable disease, and the medicine he took was going to kill him either way. Said his world didn't have magic or monsters, but they're technologically advanced." Geir gestured with his head at Danny, and once again Lear looked at the Poltergeist. The air of intimidation had begun to clear, and now the farmer had a mature look about him.
"True, dying of disease and wishing for a healthy body isn't too uncommon in the backstories of these Summoned or Reincarnated Heroes. From that description, I'm betting you had a form of what we call Tumorus Oncos--or, as the Otherworld terms it, cancer."
"Aha! That's definitely a lie! Tumorus isn't incura--d'oh!" Lear had flicked Geir's forehead with one finger, causing him to stumble backwards a step.
"It can't be treated with traditional Healing spells, because it's a malfunction of the body's natural growth." Mira said, looking at Danny with what seemed to be a new appreciation. "But Unorthodox Medicraft--what we call healing spells that use different elements--and High Rank Otomancy have a high rate of success...though there are certainly rare cases where it's too far gone or other complications can make the procedures unsurvivable. But..."
"Remember, their world doesn't have magic. Instead, they have to use something similar to Alchemy--and, if it was killing you just like the disease, it probably involved "radio waves," right?" Lear nodded his head as if he were presenting great, sagely knowledge, and both Mira and Geir looked at him with clear admiration. "And what's more, their world doesn't have Skills either--I bet their healers can't do procedures as precisely as ours, or that their equipment isn't as well made." Then the farmer snapped his fingers.
"But we're getting off track here! The point is--I don't think these three are lying. And if they were all summoned by the same person, and if they really were humans who have now been shoved into Monster bodies...then we have something entirely unprecedented on our hands."
Crouching down so that he was at the same level as Jason and Miiba, Lear now waved at Danny to come down from the Cluckel coop.
"If you two newcomers will swear to me, whatever way you know how, that you aren't going to cause me and my family any problems or hurt any Humans, then I'll let you stay the night in my shed. My name's Lear, and this is Geir and Mirabelle." He gave them a grin and a thumbs-up. "But if ya try anything funny, just know that I was a big-shot in the last Demon War, and I will literally backhand your heads off. Got it? Good. So with that settled..."
His eyes hardened, and that serious aura returned.
"Miiba, this is a question for you too. Do the words "Heilicht Empire," "Ashyran Sultanate," or "Benevoire," mean anything to any of you? And do any of you ever recall seeing a city with lots of gold, an enormous black tower, or a desert?"