A loud sound of gear turning resounded in the dark night. The heavy giant gate slowly moved outward, revealing a gap that got wider and wider.
The South Gate finally fully opened, and endless darkness lay beyond it. It was like staring into an all-black wallpaper plastered onto the wall.
Larson the guard signaled at the trio with his eyes, and they quickly went through the gate.
The moment they were outside, the gate quickly closed. It appeared that the mechanism allowed for rapid closing of the gate while opening it took more time. It was a necessary measure to prevent dangers from getting into the city.
Outside the gate to the left of it, there was a bell that was barely reachable by an adult. The bell would be the signal for whoever was on guard to open it. However, simply ringing the bell wouldn mean the gate would be open. There was a certain rhythm that only the residents would know. On top of that, the one standing guard on top of the wall would verify the persons identity first.
”No monsters around. Those Peacekeepers sure are doing their job right, ” commented Chris, looking around at the lifeless outside world.
The area around the wall was noticeably quiet, but there were dried stains on the wall, which most likely were blood or other bodily fluid.
”They need to do whatever it takes to increase our survival rate, after all, ” Crane added, ”Anyway, ready your weapons. We don know if there are still monsters remaining around. ”
Crane took out a revolver from under his coat. His preferred fighting style was from afar while supporting his puppets and dolls, which were fighting from close range. Revolvers were also the main choice of weapons for Peacekeepers, those assigned with the safety of the town.
The two dolls on his shoulders readied their own knives, while Thompson the puppet was carrying a candle in its left hand and a dagger in its right.
Chris took out a dagger and wield it in his right hand. The Goddess that he had a contract with granted him improved agility and dexterity, but it wasn enough for him to dual wield daggers, so he chose to be safe. He preferred to kill his enemies with a sneak attack since it was the most suitable with his Goddesss style.
Catherine took out a revolver that looked identical to Cranes. The Goddess she was following didn grant any combat ability yet, so that weapon was the safest choice. She was also the only one still at Tier 1, so she would stay behind most of the time.
”Don worry, once you become Tier 2, you will be much more powerful than now, ” Crane consoled his sister.
”Im really looking forward to it. Its a shame that its Tier 2 where you get your bread and butter abilities, not Tier 1. I just can wait to get mine, ” Catherine replied eagerly.
”Youll be a real Witch once you are Tier 2. Youll be scarier than now, ” Chris joked, and Catherine just gave him a glare.
The trio had been walking in the seemingly endless darkness for a while. It was a vast open desert, but the lack of wind cause the sand to appear frozen in place. The candle that Cranes puppet was carrying was only enough to light up their path, but they were still surrounded by the suffocating darkness. The giant town walls were now far behind them, and in the dark, they couldn be seen anymore.
Chriss green pupils had been glowing orange the whole time. It was his Night Vision ability, which was granted to him at Tier 1. The whole world was glowing orange in his eyes like he had a filter applied. It allowed him to see the dangers that might be lurking in the dark.
Besides Chris, Cranes Tier 1 also granted him danger detection ability. He was able to feel malice or killing intents, so when something dangerous approached them, he would be able to feel it even though he couldn see clearly in the dark.
”Halt. There is a monster ahead. It hasn detected seen us yet, ” Chris stopped his siblings and whispered.
Crane also felt a hint of danger, but it was faint because the monster hadn detected them yet.
”What is it? ” asked Crane cautiously.
”Its a Brown Scaled Lizard. They are practically blind, so this one won detect us unless we approach it, ” Chris explained, ”There is only one, so I will sneak up on it. Cath, be careful with your revolver, don shoot me by mistake, ” Chris grinned playfully.
”I know. My role is more of support anyway. I will leave the fighting to you guys. A damsel like me should just stand back and watch, ” Catherine replied jokingly, ”You should copy its ability, so you can curl into a ball too, ”
Crane laughed and controlled the two dolls on his shoulders to jump down.
Chris smiled in reaction to Catherines joke and sneaked carefully to the monster with his dagger at the ready. His Tier 1 granted him the Blessing of Stealth, making his movement more silent and undetectable, and his recent Advancement granted an upgrade on the Blessing. On top of that, the sand acted as excellent soundproofing.
Cranes dolls followed closely behind Chris. Although the dolls had no stealth ability, they were light enough to not make a lot of noise while walking. On top of that, they were inanimate objects, so they couldn emit any killing intent or presence that could be detected by the enemy. Cranes candle-holding puppet also followed them, staying a distance away. Without light, the other two wouldn be able to see anything.
Brown Scaled Lizards were monsters that were lower in the food chain, prioritizing defense over offense. They were normally the size of a human adult and their diet consisted of other smaller monsters or animals. Their scales provided them protection, while their color allowed them to blend in with the sandy surrounding, camouflaging them from their predators. Despite being almost blind, they had very sensitive ears to detect dangers, and if threatened, they would roll into a ball. negating most attacks with their metallic scales. Because of the hardness of their scales, they were often hunted. Their heart was also used as a ritual material by some Votaries.
Maybe Cath is right. I should copy its ability and reverse it. It should be fun at least.
Chris thought about what Catherine suggested as a joke. He knew that in order to understand the limits of his abilities, he would need to experiment on a lot of abilities. He was also curious about what would happen if he did copy the monsters ability to curl into a ball. However, since he didn have a deep understanding of it, he would need to copy it after seeing it in action.
Slowly and carefully, Chris approached the monster, who was still unaware of the hunters approaching it. Its hearing seemed to be enough to detect its predators, which were mostly bigger and relied on absolute strength to crush its metallic scales. However, the stealthy and silent Chris remained undetectable by the monster. Cranes dolls followed closely behind.
Chris and Cranes dolls leaped forward and quickly slashed the creatures head, which was the only visible part unprotected by the scales. The monsters blood stained his sharp dagger, and instinctively, the monster curled up into a ball, tucking its head in its stomach and covering every inch of its body in hard scales.
Chris grabbed into thin air and all of sudden, a brown orb appeared in his right hand before disappearing.
He had copied the monsters ability.
”Come here. This thing is not going anywhere now, ” Chris beckoned his siblings.
Crane and Catherine approached their brother and took a look at the scaly ball next to him. There was blood on the sand and some also sprayed on Chriss coat and the dolls; the creature must have been heavily wounded.
e not going to curl up like this thing? ” asked Catherine. She saw her brother copy the monsters ability.
”Maybe later. Im busy right now, ” joked Chris.
The creatures defensive ability was indeed effective to ward off predators, which mostly relied on their claws or fangs. The metallic scales were hard enough to protect the creature from most of such attacks. However, in the face of human hunters, it was a sitting duck. While rolled up into a ball, it was practically immobile. Also, although the scales were hard, their base was still flesh, and a thin, sharp knife would be able to reach it and injure the creature.
It was also the reason he didn try Reverse on the copied ability to see if he could force the creature to uncurl. The lizard was easier to deal with this way.
”Be careful. The scales are sharp around the edges, ” Crane warned his brother.
He controlled his dolls to assist Chris while Thompson remained on the stand-by. He and Catherine also stood back, as shooting would be the last option; the loud sound would attract unwanted attention.
”Don worry, the more dangerous, the more fun it is, ” replied Chris with excitement in his eyes.
He and the little dolls approached the creatures and ran their knives along the base of the scales. He had no difficulty achieving his goal, but the dolls were small, so they had to climb onto the creature and reach with their tiny arms.
Pain ran across the Brown Scaled Lizards body. Its instinct told it to release itself from its curled position and ran away. However, it also could feel that the moment its head was exposed, it would be attacked immediately.
The monster uncurled itself and instantly tried to escape while letting out a roar in an attempt to intimidate its attackers.
Chris was very quick to react. He had sunken his dagger into the monsters head, aiming for its brain. Blood spurt and covered him.
Although not as fast, Cranes dolls were also able to react in time and attacked the Brown Scaled Lizards head. With the combined attack of the three, the creature finally died.
”Crane, do your thing now, ” Chris gestured at his brother.
Catherine quickly approached Thompson the puppet and took the candle from its hand.
Crane moved his hand and suddenly, the dolls and puppet fell to the ground lifelessly. He had to sever control of them temporarily in order to achieve what he was about to do.
Since the lizard was dead, it has practically become a lifeless thing, which means, Crane would be able to control it after injecting his spirituality into it. Crane approached the creature and places his palm on its wounded head, avoiding the bloody part.
”With your ability, why don you just control swords or daggers? Its much cooler than dolls, ” Chris asked half seriously.
”You know why. I cannot make my puppets fly, and walking swords are not that useful, are they? ” he replied.
Chriss image of cool Crane being surrounded by numerous flying swords was shattered and replaced by a man being surrounded by swords awkwardly hopping around to move. It made him laugh.
After Crane has finished injecting his spirituality into the dead lizard, his fingers danced as if he was playing an invisible piano.
He started controlling the creatures dead body like his own puppet. He made the monster dig a hole deep enough to bury its whole carcass, before ordering it to lay hidden in the hole.
Controlling a creature that size depleted Cranes spirituality very quickly, so by the time he finished, he was drenched in sweat as if he had just run the distance between two cities. He controlled his breathing and quickly went into meditation, which helped him regain his spirituality.
Chris and Catherine, on the other hand, began covering the hole with sand as best as they could, sweeping with their feet and scooping over the sand with their hands, burying the dead creature imperfectly. It was a crude work, with parts of the monsters body sticking out here and there. They then marked the spot with an X as a reminder.
The creatures scales and organs could be sold for some money, so they wouldn want to leave them. However, carrying the heavy scales would only inhibit their fighting capabilities, so they did what they always did. They buried the creatures carcass with Cranes ability to protect it from scavengers. The cold sand also acted as cold storage, slowing down its decomposition. They would come back later on the way to town to dismantle the carcass and harvest their spoils.
After doing all that, Chris stretched his body leisurely. He then thought about the ability that he had just stolen to activate it.
Suddenly, Chriss body was curled up in a fetal position. However, as there were no scales protecting him, he was basically in a defenseless position.
Catherine and Crane laughed at their brothers action.
”Its practically useless, eh? ” asked Crane.
”Yep. Besides being comfortable, there is no other benefit. Might be useful when I can sleep at night because of your snoring though, ” Chris joked and Crane frowned. Catherine could only laugh again.
The man then released his palm, causing an illusory brown orb to appear.
With his ability, the brown orb turned orange before disappearing. With that, the Curl ability had been reversed into something else.
”Crane, can you try curling or hunching your back? ” requested Chris.
Knowing that his brother was about to experiment with the new ability, Crane complied. He began sitting and sat while hugging his legs.
”Alright, lets call this ability, Straighten! ” Chris gave a command while extending his palm.
Suddenly, Crane felt like his body was being pulled by invisible ropes, forcing him to stand up straight. It was even a much better posture than his usual one, although it was really uncomfortable. Once he stood up straight, the pulling forces disappeared.
”That is slightly more useful. So you can force enemies to straighten their posture. Might be useful for enemies that are in a stance as well, ” Catherine commented genuinely.
”True. You can break the enemies stance that way. But anyway, lets get a move on. We need to hurry and hunt the Banshee before the sun is up, ” Crane added and then urged his siblings.
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