World of Karik: A Game of Villains Chapter 34: THE DARK TOTEM
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I hated being cornered, but I had to make a choice: either to give up and yield, or to send my not fully equipped paladins into battle. This was more of a mathematical task than a moral one. I had all the information needed to figure out if I could afford the second option.
I started with analyzing the Chaosites. When I saw Yegor at the end of the first day, he had a second-level Mark. Given that leveling-up was becoming more and more difficult, it could potentially reach the sixth or, more likely, the fifth level by the tournament. The same thing went for his own level: I could predict that he would reach level thirty or forty-five, if he was lucky. Keeping in mind that the Chaosites were crazy, but not stupid, the boy had had to boost his attacks to break through the defense of my paladins, and that meant that Yegor were to put all his stats into strength. Taking into account all the bonuses, his strength would rise over a hundred, which meant that my guys would have to be ready to protect themselves from Double Rage. The bonus four hundred percent added to the power of his skills was, in fact, a lot. He could deal more than a 1,000 damage per attack. And after drinking a Potion of Dexterity and making at least a two blow combo, this number could become even higher. Dmitri's armor wouldn't protect from that, even if we had it enchanted. So only a shield and doubling health points from reaching a hundred endurance could guarantee that my paladins would survive even in the worst-case scenario. Well, a suicidal attack can bring victory only if it's sudden.
And what about the Darks? I had seen their levels. They couldn't increase their attributes up to a hundred, so their defense wouldn't be a problem. In this world, it was quality over quantity. Of course, I would like to play it safe, but, apparently, that wasn't meant to happen. So I just had to be happy with what I had. If I'm right, my preparations would be enough.
"Dmitri, I say, get your tea, and sit down. Look, the birds are singing, and the grass is growing." They both froze. However, the redhead got to his senses quickly, brought two steel mugs, and put the kettle of some herbal tea on the slightly smoldering fire.
"The smell is amazing." Trying to inhale the fragrant aroma, he almost blew his nose in our future tea and, embarrassed, turned back to me.
"So, you're just drinking tea?" Vlada finally got over the surprise, but looked quite pleased. I knew it. Petrovich had both options in his mind, and both of them suited him.
"Why don't you go and do something, huh?" the blacksmith asked without much hope, but she only shrugged, showing that we wouldn't get rid of her until the tournament.
How much easier it was with alchemy — nobody was willing to follow you to the swamp to stop you. A forge somewhere in the woods could come in handy, too. I could give him a hint. We wouldn't need anything huge there... A small forge would be just as useful.
After fifteen minutes of an oppressively silent tea party, I fled, leaving Vlada to be torn between two choices: whether to follow me or keep an eye on the blacksmith. And, unfortunately for my masculine pride, she chose Dmitri. Solely to make sure that he wasn't going to make any enchantments, I suppose. As for the good news — finally, for the first time since last night, I had time to look through the skillbook that I had gotten the day before.
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Blinding Blow skillbook
Restriction: steel weapons
Feature: professional, cannot be enhanced
Allows you to reflect a beam of light into the enemy's eyes and momentarily dazzle them when fighting in sunny weather.
To be honest, I had looked at the description the day before, but I didn't have a chance to consider how I'd incorporate the skill in my battle strategy. The first reason why I hadn't rushed to do so was that this skill was complete bullshit. Who would ever consider reflecting sunlight into eyes a superpower? And, more importantly, it couldn't be enhanced with Rage. It didn't correlate with any of my skills. At least it became clear why Dasha decided to get rid of the skillbook. And the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. How long have I dreamed of a strong physical skill! With my strength and dexterity... I could really use one! But it was the best life could offer me at the moment. I had no specific ideas on how to use Blinding Blow, so I decided to leave it until tomorrow. Then I would be able to test it and see what's what: maybe this skill could be useful for something.
I put the book into my inventory and went to eat. On my way, I passed by the forge to see Vlada, languishing in idleness, but still looking after the redhead. After lunch, I wandered around the camp a bit, making everyone who got in my way nervous. I did that without any malicious intent; such things just happened. Wherever I went, everything stopped, no matter what it was: cooking soup, preparing firewood, cleaning, repairing the fence or exercise. People stopped and looked at me silently, not daring to say anything. Of course, if the leaders were there, everything would've been different. One could clearly feel the distinction between the strong and the weak in this world. I was very much pleased with being the former.
I decided not to pay attention to them and climbed a bushy hill nearby to look at our "home" from a height. It had changed a lot. The rock where the stocks and the caves for the newbies were, and where everything had started, took up no more than a quarter of the settlement. Dozen of houses stood on the plain, and the fence was no longer made out of sticks randomly stuck into the soil; now, it was made of two rows of ten-feet-high planks that could stop even a wild beast if it came to our place. They were even going to build a tower, which was strange, considering that Petrovich had a Geas and had to lead people to the Distant Forest. To be honest, I used to think that he's a conspirator and a fraud, but he showed himself as a warrior that night in the Forbidden City, and now I could see that he wasn't that bad as a leader as well. He took good care of his people, at least. The question was where he found the time to do all of that. Petrovich was a man that could easily walk the path of Light, if such a thing were real and not just a part of my fantasy.
And then I saw my paladins. Finally! How long were they gonna keep me waiting? Knowing how many curious eyes there were in the settlement, we should meet somewhere beyond its borders. This would be a nice chance to test my wards' vigilance. If they couldn't react fast, it would be a good lesson for them.
After maxing out dexterity, even a true lover of city life like me could move around the forest with ease. Those two didn't notice me until the very last moment and got hit in their heads with two well-aimed cones. I was about to tell them what I thought about constant vigilance, but what my paladins did after that really pleased me. Cyril estimated the angle of the attack, turned to me and covered himself with his shield right away. Lena covered his back, ready to attack at any moment. They really did learn how to work together during the last three days.
"Hi," I came out of the forest, looking at their faces, on which tension was slowly changing to relief. "How're you today? Do you feel like winning?"
"It'll be hard to win, but we won't lose for sure," Lena said, hinting that they would probably fail to break through heavy or even medium armors as they had only just increased their endurance.
So, the time for what I've been looking for had finally come. At first, I wanted my paladins to improve their endurance by themselves, and to use stats from leveling for raising their strength so that they could break through the enemies' armor. But now, with my new abilities, we could solve this problem in a different way.
"Give me your weapon," I said, outstretching my hand. "We'll bless it."
Lena was the first to hand her rope to me. Well, here's another trick for you. To start the process, I took some Elenite directly from my inventory the very moment I touched the weapon, so that no one could see anything odd. This time I knew how it worked, so I didn't lose time and finished the process right away, putting fire into the rope and turning it into a whip with a lead bob on the end.
Physical damage: 20
Fire damage: 10
Strangely enough, the initial characteristics of my scythe were the same, but the result was much better. Was it because I didn't know what to do then and waited until the very end, practically losing Dmitri's gift? So, the longer I waited, the stronger the weapon became, and the possibility to ruin it rose, too? If I was to come across something rare and unique in the future, it would be a big test for my will whether to keep enchanting or to stop a bit earlier. But first, I had to check if I was right. And I'd use Cyril's daggers for that.
Ignoring the girl's ecstatic screaming I started the next enchantment. This time I waited a bit longer before using Flame Flow.
Physical damage: 25
Fire damage: 15
Well, I could consider my theory successfully proven, but I still had no idea why their weapons changed their form. Regardless, Cyril was delighted.
"I can break through any armor with them!" Luckily, the guy was wise enough not to scream, he quickly followed Lena's example and hid my gift immediately. Such things weren't meant to be shown until the very last moment.
"And with our healing," the girl continued thoughtfully, "If we're not killed by the first blow, we can defeat anyone. I've never regretted choosing Light, but only now do I see how lucky Cyril and I are."
I got tired of expressions of gratitude rather fast, so I changed the subject to tactics. My paladins turned serious again and kept discussing attacks, sequences, and counter-attacks to any enemy move on our way to the camp, during the lunch and up to the very beginning of the tournament. To be honest, I thought of this stage of preparation as one of the most important ones. No matter how strong you are, if you don't know what to do, the enemy would find a way to defeat you. And the other way round.
"Let the tournament begin!" Petrovich's voice boomed from the square near the gates, where we used to organize training fights. "The first fight: Light versus Dark."
I didn't know how Dasha and Innokenty decided who would go first nor did I care. My paladins had to go to the arena both times. I took my place near the redhead, tried to distract myself from what was going on and remain neutral. It might sound cliché, but one could always see better when emotions were out of the way.
On the one side of the arena stood Cyril and Lena, clad in their silver and blue armor. On the other side were five Darks. Marina, with her staff, stood somewhere in the back rows. Stas and Sergei stood next to her; no wonder, one of them was an archer, and the other was a crossbowman. But I still felt strange about guys hiding behind girls' backs. In the first row was Olga with her gun and a dagger. I noted that she hadn't had the latter before. Next to her was the fragile Lina with a giant shield, who was the only one wearing heavy armor. Were they going to use the classic role-play-game scheme: tanks, fighters, and support? How naïve of them. This was a very real world without a couple of game nuances. But I was most interested in Olga's gun. Why did she need it? Cat, it's her main weapon, duh. But keeping in mind the high endurance of my paladins, her bullets wouldn't harm even their naked skin, to say nothing about their armor. It was also useless to rely only on her special abilities; she couldn't have a lot of them, and there was always the cooldown. Did Olga count on scaring her opponents with her weapon? It made sense: habits of the old world were hard to shake off, and staring down the barrel of a gun could make anyone feel nervous.
"Shall we start?!" Innokenty shouted. "We have another fight to win; I don't want to delay it if it gets too dark."
"Just a moment," Dasha answered politely, "we're still waiting for someone."
Someone? But all her followers are already here!
At that very moment, as if she heard a signal, Marina howled, and a Werewolf jumped over the fence that I had admired before. The creature looked very similar to the one we had seen the other day. I looked at the giant beast that clang to its master's feet and tried to understand if this would change anything.
"A Dark totem," whispered the redhead with both surprise and admiration.
"What are you saying?" I even choked, hearing a familiar word.
"I'm saying that this Werewolf is very likely to be a Dark totem. I saw her buying a book from the merchants. I wondered why a young girl would need such a thing," the blacksmith said, pointing at Dasha.
"So what's the book about?" I tried to hint that he'd better hurry with the answer.
"It explains how to torture animals and make monsters out of them," he replied in a sad voice. "But you need to be the right kind of person for that. You need to enjoy it."
Enjoy, huh? I changed my opinion of Marina, imagining the melancholic, kind looking girl bending over a strangled wolf with a knife in her hand.
It was kind of funny, actually. The Dark tortured others to get their power, while Light tortured itself.
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