Alexander and Valentin Petrovich accompanied us, sleepy and shivering due to the evening’s dampness and coolness.
"Can you at least give us something to eat?" Olga tried to turn the conversation to her subject of interest.
"First training, then food," Petrovich failed to crack a joke, milling around us with decent speed, which was unexpected with his impressive belly.
"In fact, there is nothing to eat now, but Andrei and Suren will find something upon our return." The food crisis seemed to be one of many issues here. At least it became clear why the leaders of the group didn't go with us. As for Baldy… I could have sworn that he said that he didn’t give a shit about newcomers and went to bed.
"What do you usually eat, anyway?" Fox asked suspiciously.
"Well," Alexander scratched his head, "if we need a lot of food at once someone goes to the far forest and, if lucky, brings back a moose or a wild boar."
“And if not, they appear back in the bunker and shout for someone to come and release them,” Petrovich was unusually cheerful today. Perhaps because Igor wasn't nearby.
"Why don't you all go together?" the Major asked. "It is easier to fight something big in a group… You are bound to bring some meat back."
It sounded fine, but judging by the smiles on the faces of the old-timers, it was not that simple.
"If we meet something particularly bad deep in the forest, nobody will survive," Alexander said in a mournful voice and laughed. Petrovich laughed as well. What had to happen to people to have their attitude toward death change so much? Keep in mind that one of us was recently finished off by one of his companions.
"Will you stop milling around?" the cop, who was probably still recovering from his resurrection, did not look too good.
"It’s impossible, Val is doing his best to raise his speed," Alexander answered calmly, inappropriately shortening the old man's name.
However, having in mind the “immortality” that we have gained in this world the concept of time and age of people living here was warped. Alexander and the others must’ve been here for quite some time already. How long, I wonder? Alex continued, "He's a lancer, mobility is a must for him."
Lancer? The statement didn’t really match his awkward body. On the other hand, Petrovich had reached level 9. He was definitely worth something.
Chatting, we moved forward. It turned out that we were being led to an old cemetery located right between the base and the swamp. Per Valentin Petrovich’s words, ancient skeletons lived there. They were only level 2, which was perfect for beginners like us.
It sounds pathetic, I know, but when a skeleton climbs out of the ground right in front of you, covered with mud, with red flames burning inside the hollow eye sockets, it is a creepy sight. Fortunately, no extreme test was planned for us. Alexander grabbed his hammer, which turned out to be his divine weapon, and quickly and efficiently flattened our bony guest.
“Here we are," he said, looking satisfied. "Now, here are some basic rules. First, we'll teach you how to summon and hide your weapons. Second, we will train you. Spread out across the field. At your current level, the best choice is a one on one fight. Kill ten enemies and reach level 2. We’ll head back once everyone's done. You will think about your training over a snack. Lastly, if you encounter something really dangerous, run to us, we'll cover you. However, if the enemy's level is higher than ten, you can die on the spot, no one can help you. We'll meet at the base.”
It was easy to hide and summon the sword; I just had to imagine it disappear into an imaginary bag, and then imagine it appearing in my hand. Semyon took the longest to get used to this technique. He even called his knife blade down once and almost cut off a couple of fingers. After that, we had to listen to a short, but extremely boring lecture, from Petrovich. As it turns out, you can easily lose a limb here. A usual wound, no matter how bad, could be healed within a couple of hours with bandages, but injuries like a cut off finger had only one cure — premature death and rebirth.
We went forward and slowly moved to the sides. Oddly enough, no one argued if this training drill was really necessary. There would have probably been more indignation had we been thrown in here without a reason or a proper explanation.
"Vasily, aren't you scared?" Fox asked quietly and got closer. The recent events seemed to have changed her opinion of me and made her hold me in high regard. Did I really need this trust, though?
"Not a bit," I lied cheerfully and stopped.
The ground in front of us moved — my first opponent was about to appear.
Ancient Decayed Skeleton
As we had been taught, I checked its description first. There were no surprises. I didn't have any special abilities so I went up and swung my sword at it. The hit was hesitant; the blade shook and I almost lost my weapon, but the system awarded me with a successful hit.
Damage dealt: 20 (weapon: 10, strength: 10); blocked: 8
So I dealt twelve damage. I was strong enough to cope with this opponent barehanded. Then it was the skeleton’s turn. I slipped past the first hit, but it seemed to have predicted my move. I ducked and ran right into a blow, delivered by the skeleton’s free hand, which threw me a couple of feet aside.
Damage taken: 20, blocked: 18 (endurance: 10, armor: 8)
Although the skeleton's blows looked intimidating, I only lost two health points, which made me realize why Petrovich and Alexander didn't worry about us at all. My understanding of how our training was organized also improved. They gave us poor armor on purpose. We wouldn't die this way, but we would come to understand what damage was and would get used to it.
Having understood how things worked, I quickly dealt with the skeleton, received the experience points and had a look around. Fox had already dealt with her first enemy and was fighting her second opponent. I had a feeling that the skeleton would lose the sight of her sometimes. I wondered if that was how her disguise worked. Two beaten skeletons were already lying near Semyon who was experimenting with the third one, trying to strike at individual limbs and deprive the enemy of mobility. Mikhail, it seemed, was moving aimlessly in circles. Hasn't he found one yet? As soon as I had thought that, a couple of skeletons climbed out from the ground just in front of him. Letting out a girly shriek, the Major raised his sword. It lit up with white light, went down and smashed both opponents into pieces with one blow. Mine didn’t go down like that. His special ability was really powerful, that was for sure.
"Don't bother about that." As it turned out, Fox had been watching me the entire time. "You'll find a war scythe and become stronger, too."
Why, thank you, how reassuring. I would better practice my spells, but I couldn't do that while everyone was nearby. One should note that Fox was constantly pretending to mind her own business, but she heard and remembered everything about my chosen weapon. I gave her the right nickname.
"Thank you," I pretended to be flattered by her attention, and moved forward in search of my next undead opponent.
"Aaaaaah!" Olga's cry came from the opposite end of the field.
Eyes widened with fear, she ran to us with a small wooden spear, a dart even, stuck in her shoulder.
“Skeleton warriors!" Alexander's quiet voice did not match what he said next. "We can’t cope with them. Everyone, retreat to the base! If you get lost along the way, just die.”
That was all the help we got; both of our guards were out of sight in no time flat. Petrovich hadn’t powered up his speed for nothing. He ran faster than I could have imagined. All in all, I understood them — why die if you can't do anything? Not like anything would happen to us. On the other hand, however, it was still unpleasant. Take Baldy for example, he played fair when the cadaver was chasing us.
I finally spotted Olga's pursuers — seven skeletons; all level 12, according to the system. They looked much more impressive than their level two cousins; they were all clad in armor, and the fire inside their skulls seemed to burn a little brighter. One of them flashed with a blue flame, accelerating his movement twofold, and turned into a blurry silhouette. The skeleton instantly caught up to the girl trying to escape and cut her in half.
"...together we can!" Seeing this display of power, Semyon, who had been trying to unite us to fight the enemy, stopped, turned around and ran toward the base without saying a word. Fox and the Major had done this maneuver even earlier. Was I the only one left? What was next? Would I have time to run away with everyone, or should I take a moment and try to test one of my theories?
"Run! I'll try to get them out of the way!" I shouted. Even if it doesn’t work out, I will at least continue being taken for a naive fool who does not interfere with anyone's plans and therefore lives the longest.
Fox stopped for a moment. Did she want to help me? Fortunately, she changed her mind, allowing me to play it cool and run toward the swamp. Well, not exactly cool, as the skeletons were still trying to kill me, but at least I had a plan. Andrei said that magic-firing mosquitoes lived in the swamp. He said, and I quote: "Their attacks are weak; there is no end to those damned creatures." Because of that I had put much hope in my unique magical protection. If those bloodsuckers hit me for less than three damage, I would survive and escape. My plan had a second stage in case that didn’t work. If the cadaver had eaten the wolves, the monsters here were at war with each other, which meant that there was a chance that the mosquitoes would kill my pursuers.
I was running out of breath when the forest suddenly became thinner. Something squished under my feet. Did I manage to escape? It was too early to rejoice. Trying not to rush, but not daring to stop, I made a few risky jumps from one hummock to another, and ended some sixty feet from the shore. There was nowhere else to go. It was only when I had calmed down a little, that I noticed a cloud of insects swirling around me and that my health had fallen by almost ten percent. Looking inwards, I realized that most of their attacks dealt only one or two points of damage, and that they were being completely absorbed by my resistance. However, critical strikes occurred sometimes, removing four points at once, gradually lowering my health. Fortunately, I had the Cure Light Wounds spell, which healed me constantly for 20 seconds. This didn’t mean that I could relax, but I could survive.
My pursuers appeared on the shore at that very moment. All of the mosquitoes left me alone and flew toward them. Was this going to work? My heart fluttered with excitement as I watched the life points of my pursuers disappear slowly. They had no blood, of course, but the local mosquitoes did not seem to mind. One by one, the skeletons fell to the ground. Unfortunately, one remained standing. It seemed that I was not the only one with basic magical resistance.
Captain of the Skeleton Warriors
Not paying attention to the gnats buzzing around it, the creature moved toward me. Would it manage to reach me? Taking a step forth, it sunk waist deep into the swamp to the waist. Despite the swamp reaching its chest, it continued pulling itself forward stubbornly, though slowly. I had to do something or I would be killed. What could I do? A sword wouldn't help — using it against an opponent of this level would be suicide. All I had left was magic, but no attacking spells. Feeling desperate, I threw a curse which slowed the skeleton down. However, that was not all.
Reduces all enemy stats by 10%.
If the opponent has one or more blessings, the spell has a 30% chance to turn one of them into a curse of the same level.
Would regeneration, cast by healing, be considered a blessing? Shivering, I cast a Cure Light Wounds spell on the skeleton. Now, the curse.
Regeneration replaced by Reduced Accuracy.
I updated the healing spell and waited for the successful completion of the curse.
Regeneration replaced by Roots.
Very well, this time the skeleton was generally stuck. Once more.
Regeneration replaced by Weakening the Undead.
Regeneration replaced by Poison.
The last two were especially nice. I didn't know what Weakening of the Undead really was, but its effect was beautiful — it looked like a small sun rising above the skeleton which even moaned resentfully. The poison started to hack away at its health bar. It went slowly, but the effect hung for a while. After countless curses and swears, the skeleton finally ran out of health.
You killed the Captain of the Skeleton Warriors.
Level 5 achieved.
Great rewards, and I was yet to examine its body.