Charles stood next to Kira and Alli as the doorway he had created to Alaria disappeared.
They were left standing in the abandoned building of a military base in Colorado, some twenty miles away from where they had first met. Several large white domes dotted the visible horizon and a nearby sign proclaimed the ruined area as ‘Buckley Air Force Base’.
“Why are we here?” Alli asked in confusion. She had been expecting them to reappear in Dungeonville. Instead, they were somewhere else, covered in drifting snow and a biting cold.
“Charlotte needed some parts for one of her projects, and this base was reported to have what she needs.” He pointed behind them to the lightning scorched ground, wisps of smoke curling gently above it. “My ‘Zero Door’ spell leveled up yesterday on our way here, which is part of what allowed me to finally come to get you. I’ve been using it every chance I get, but I could only use it once a day no matter what I tried.” He grinned. “Now though, I can use it twice a day.” His smile disappeared with a grimace. “Normally anyway, apparently going to another world uses both slots. We will have to wait till tomorrow to go back home.”
In a show of control that she hadn’t possessed before, Kira summoned her weapon. The bracelet flowed down her wrist and formed into a large maul with a spike opposite the blunt smashing head. Before a bright flash of light had always accompanied the weapon forming, and her ability to affect its shape had been minimal.
Charles didn’t say anything as he saw how the sight affected Alli. They had been growing stronger and more adept in their skills, while she had been stuck learning from a Goddess. It was a more than a decent trade in his mind. To her, the sudden difference might make it feel less so.
“Don’t worry, we haven’t left you behind or anything.” He told her gently. “I have only leveled up to 21. The experience needed to go from 19 to 20 was double what I needed to go from 18 to 19. It is a somewhat similar jump to what happened at 15. We can’t confirm it since no one else is close to our current levels, but we also think our race advancements may have affected how much experience is needed for each level.”
“That and we haven’t been focusing on hunting monsters as much lately.” Kira cut in, pointing her large hammer effortlessly at the approaching group of rabid animals. The weapon must have weighed at least twenty pounds minimum, but she handled it as though it weighed nothing. “Though, I have reached level 19 same as you.”
Level 15 was the cutoff for normal people, it was the level that separated the warriors from the regular villagers. It required the same amount of experience you had earned up to that point to move up that single level. Thankfully, it went back to normal once you reached level 16, with only minor increases needed to reach 17.
Charles couldn’t help grinning happily as he faced the pack of over-grown animals. The ability to level up did not belong to just humans, animals could do it as well. The examples in front of them were what happened when they hunted their own kind. They went feral first, and then rabid, losing any ability they had once possessed to think.
They became nothing more than another monster to be hunted.
His eyes flashed golden for a moment as he was tempted to use his divine abilities. He didn’t believe the desire was bad; it was simply too easy to become reliant on them. Not to mention he had spent so much time practicing his magic that it would be a waste to use such a strong ability on the weak. In any case, he could only use the dispersion spell once a day. It made no sense to waste it on the weaklings.
“Was there a reason for the jump?” Alli asked, breaking his chain of thought. “We got classes when we reached 15. Was there anything like that this time?”
“There was a notification about increases in the inventory but that was it, and it didn’t affect me, anyway.” His inventory was already in what he suspected was the completed form. He had actually been rather disappointed that it wasn’t something else, but understood that he and his sister were different.
It would be interesting to see what changes were made to Kira’s and Alli’s inventories when the time came. They, well Kira was now a High-Human, and Alli had never even been one. Who knew how everything would work for them.
Shaking his head, he zipped his coat all the way up to his chin and stepped out into the open air. With a thought, he made sure that Alli was in their party and then attacked the approaching monsters.
They were low-leveled scrubs compared to his party, something that he had come to realize was normal lately. The reason for their quick advancement in the first place was due to the god’s interference. Something that seemed to have vanished for the most part.
He didn’t believe for a second that they were gone or had suddenly become bored with the game they had started. No, there was something else at play here, and from his conversations with Kate, Kira’s younger sister, he thought he knew who it was.
Despite having access to several elements, he could use to attack, lightning remained his go-to move. It had been with him the longest, and while it was not the most versatile it still did the job.
Kira kept her weapon at the ready as they looted the smoking animal corpses and continued on into the depths of the base. The monsters may be weak, but they were numerous.
The wind howled between the empty buildings, half-buried footprints hinting at the existence of humans in the area.
Alli sniffed at one of the prints and shook her head, “They were made last night sometime.” She stopped and looked back at Charles. “We need to talk tonight. There were certain things Alaria taught me that you need to know now.”
Charles stared at her for a minute and sighed. “Alright, tonight then.” This was not how he had envisioned their reunion going. He and Kira had been on their own for long enough that it would take time to reorient their mindsets.
The wind howled as they walked towards the buildings that controlled the radio equipment. Overhead, the clouds were growing darker with the promise of biting cold and fresh snow.
“Stop,” Alli told them suddenly. “The people are inside that building, and they are afraid.”
The footprints had indeed been heading in the same direction as they were.
“What do you think, scavengers?” Kira asked, there was no judgment in the word. It was the normal way of life for those who didn’t live in one of the towns he had made. Besides, they were doing the exact same thing after all.
“I don’t think so. The footprints lead directly here, they haven’t explored any of the other buildings at all. So, either they already have in the past, or…”
“Or, they set up camp here.” She finished for him.
Alli stepped closer to a building and stepped into its shadow, her voice entering Charles’ mind a moment later. Her link as his companion allowed them to communicate over longer distances than her telepathy normally allowed for. “They seem to be living here. It isn’t a large group though, only around thirty or forty of them.”
“That’s not enough for a normal town, I would have to use a gem.” Not that he minded, he had bought several of them since she had been forced to leave. “Do they seem… like decent people?” He had almost asked if they were violent, but that would have been a stupid question. Only the violent and the lucky had survived this long.
“They seem hungry,” Was the frank reply.
Charles shared the conversation with Kira and the two decided to head inside. Normal humans had next to no chance of hurting them at this point, so it wasn’t a risk.
The front of the building was dark, and the windows had been boarded over and blocked with scraps of wood and metal. The entrance was a little better, with only a single door left open for them to walk through.
Not caring for the dim insides or lack of visibility, Charles threw a ‘Divine Wisp’ into the air. The spell protected those inside its glow against the unnatural effects of fear but was otherwise a normal floating mage light.
Startled gasps and screams echoed painfully from inside the atrium as the filthy interior was revealed.
“What do you want?” The speaker was a hard-faced woman, dressed in a dirty but intact military uniform. Her cheeks were gaunt and lanky and limp from lack of proper nutrition. Despite that, every move she made spoke of control and strength.
Kira quirked an eyebrow at her and then glanced at Charles. Maybe the people here weren’t completely hopeless.