Mike was still grumbling about the loot he might have missed on the wolf’s body when he rounded the hallway’s far corner.
Only half paying attention, he didn’t immediately see the lone zombie at the end of the new hallway.
It’s movement drew his attention though. A normal level one zombie had a shuffle like a drunk with a wooden leg. By level two the shuffle was mostly gone. If the zombie had made it to level three it moved almost normally, with only the occasional jerking or twitching motion.
But this zombie was full on sprinting. Its head lowered and its arms flung back aerodynamically.as it pounded away at the distance between them.
The scariest part, it was completely silent.
If its movement hadn’t caught his attention, or it had been closer, Mike might have been taken to the ground before he noticed anything was wrong.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Mike used [Analyze] even as he raised his ax and braced himself to meet the zombie’s charge.
|[Zombie Level 5]
After devouring several victims this zombie has begun to evolve in strength.
Mike hadn’t even seen a level four yet and he was facing a level five. The difference between each level with monsters seemed to be quite considerable too.
A player at level three and level five weren’t that much different. It came down to skill, skills, and equipment, which one would win in a fight.
With monsters is was more like each level they grew exponentially stronger somehow.
Not that Mike had time to really dwell on things before the zombie leapt into the air crossing the last few feet.
Sliding a foot backwards, Mike swung his ax up to meet it in mid air.
The zombie, seeming to understand the danger twisted, turning the fatal blow into a glancing one. Its left arm was severed from its body, foul smelling black blood pumping from the wound. But it managed to crash into Mike’s chest at full force,carrying them to the ground.
Mike brought his ax up to butt the monster in the face with the blunt end but with a terrifying strength it grabbed his right wrist, stalling the attack. Letting go with his left hand he tried to pry its fingers away from his wrist.
The zombie ignored his attempts to dislodge it.
It drew its face down toward his throat with the obvious intent to feed.
Mike reacted instinctively.
Abandoning his attempts to break free he slammed his left elbow into its temple.
The blow would have at least stunned a living opponent but it barely seemed to phase the undead at all.
Again and again he struck, squirming and struggling with every muscle in his body as he leveraged a knee into its stomach and forced some distance.
The zombie, perhaps deciding he was getting loose, or maybe just adjusting for a better chewing position, released Mike’s wrist.
Not daring to doubt his luck, he rammed the ax butt into the zombie’s face once, twice, three times, the dead skin peeling away to bone before that too cracked under the blows. Then as he finally found purchase with his knees, he flung the zombie backward just enough to bring his ax head around in a quick sweep.
The sharp blade cleaved into bone and brain like a Christmas ham, and the zombie jerked once before falling still.
The fight was over.
Mike was exhausted. He smelled terrible. But he’d survived.
Taking a quick breather, he stood, pushing the corpse back.
On the ground nearby he saw string of bone laying there.
Having not actually done anything to the zombie that would resulted in three rune covered vertebrae strung together on a braid of leather cord, falling out, he [Analyzed] the bones.
|[Grimlore’s Lesser Amulet of the Deathless]
Wearing this amulet will strengthen any undead’s ability to level. Skeletons in particular may experience an evolution when they come in contact with the bones used in its making.
Mike smiled thinking of Troy as he bent, picked it up, and slid the amulet into his dimensional bag. He did briefly consider wearing it first, but the chance it might turn him into a zombie or something else sinister made him resist the temptation.
Nowhere near done exploring the halls, Mike briefly used both his [Hunting] and his [Tracking] skills, just to see if he could find any sign of living creatures near the building. He found nothing, that didn’t mean there was nothing, only that his skill was too low to detect its signs if it was there.
The skills also did nothing in regards to the wandering dead. He still had to manually search for them.
It was a good thirty minutes later he returned to the lobby. In that time he’d faced half a dozen zombies. They’d all been low level after the first thankfully, and they’d all been stuck alone for one reason or another.
The second to last zombie had let him level up. He dismissed a Spirit raise out of hand. Both points would only allow him to raise it by point one, and he didn’t yet have any Qi skills to need more Spirit.
He was also satisifed with his Body for now. He doubted that infection would be countered with an additional 0.2.
That left Strength, and Quickness.
He’d been repeatedly show he wasn’t strong enough.
But speed was addictive to Mike who’d always had quick hands but been slow on his feet.
It was a toss up. The memory of how helpless he’d been under the zombie’s grip, how lucky he was it wasn’t intelligent but instinctual, made him choose Strength.
|Name: Mike Tanner – Race: Half Orc
Occupation: Monk – Level: 6
Purse: 1270 Credits
STR: 2.3 / QUI: 2.0 / BOD: 2.0 / SPI: 1.8 [AP: 0.0]
Walking into the lobby he startled everyone as they saw him, beaten and batter, covered in blood. Mike talked them down with a smirk, feeling oddly calm and talkative, likely side effects of almost dying.
“Is everyone rested?” He asked after they seemed to calm down.
Jessica answered for them, “We’re all ready to go whenever.”
“Is anyone not a player?”
The little girl raised her hand, as did the teenager. He’d known the blonde cop was from her ears, but he was a little surprised at the office lady.
Looking over at her until she met his eyes he asked, “What 「 System」.reward did you receive?”
Without actually speaking she held up her hand. For a moment nothing seemed to be happening. Then he noticed it, air was gathering, slowly a stemless rose made from ice floated above her hand.
As the various oohs and awws sounded out she laughed bitterly, “It’s called [Elemental Control: Ice]. The description says it isn’t magic. And it doesn’t work like the other skills I’ve seen. It has levels not stars, and level one is useless in a fight. I can make ice for everyone’s drinks, that’s about it.”
Mike had almost laughed when he saw her power. Not only was it potentially amazing, but he realized from the moment he’d noticed her calm, cool, demeanor, he’d thought of her as an ice queen.
Ignoring her cynicism asking only, “What’s your name?”
She hesitated a moment at that, not flustered or embarrassed, just taken off guard at his change of subject.
“Patricia. I prefer just Trisha though.”
“Okay Trisha. How ’bout I promise you that I’ll keep you alive until your ice control is like something out of a comic book?”
Trisha smiled at that, but she didn’t say anything.
Mike turned to the little girl, “And your name cutie?” he asked, trying to sound like an adult. He wasn’t sure it worked, or was needed. When he’d first seen her, he’d assumed she was ten, maybe younger, based on her size. Getting a better look at her, he judged she was actually more like twelve or thirteen, just short.
“Emma,” She answered, Mike smiled at her then turning to the teenager he waited for him to supply, “Brandan.”
Finally turning to the cop he asked, “and you?”
“Officer Nikki Ryan. You can call me Nikki, or Ryan, either way.”
“Okay, Nikki it is then. I’m Mike, and this is Jessica. We’re part of a group that is aiming to survive whatever is happening. Whether we’re just waiting for the army to ride in guns ablaze, or making a totally new life under the 「 System」, we’re going to make it. What do you guys think? Are you in?”
Every one pledged their support almost immediately. It seemed that Mike and Jessica were by far the strongest humans any of them had seen since the beginning, and they felt a little bit safe, under them.
Which is only made it all the more ironic that in that exact moment of celebration and safety, the glass front doors crashed inward as three fully transformed were-wolf-dogs jumped into the lobby.
“Get inside the vending machine circle,” Mike shouted, pulling out his ax and backpedaling so that he was the last one listening to his own order.
He’d just stepped over the line as the first of the three attempted to cross the plane of the circle surrounding one of the vending machines. A crackling blue energy slammed into the monster sending it flying off into the far wall at nearly three times the speed it had hit the energy barrier.
Their companion a broken ruin sliding down from the hole he’d made in the drywall, and their prey temporarily beyond reach, the two wolf things howled in rage, pacing just beyond he circle. Their yellow eyes filled with undisguised hate and violence.
Author : The Steve