“Think about it, in a world where your all is measured by something so accurate and tangible as a number, and that number directly feeds into how powerful you are, well, of course those with more are going to lord it over those with less. Fantasizing that society wouldn't be anything but a hierarchical nightmare is simply naive.”
-The man who lived in a pithos.
“What level are you?”
“...I’m.... I’m level one…”
“Exactly. Like a child.” She flicked him on the nose.
She had to bend down to do so due to his height, a diminutive 4 foot 6, a child’s height. Which would have been fine if he were a child, but as an adult human it wasn’t exactly ideal.
Rain reacted a moment too slowly to fend off the flick and his frail arm whistled through the air hitting nothing.
She laughed at his flailing and wrapped her arm around Adlen’s broad shoulders.
“Aww look at the little kiddie rage. Pathetic.”
“I’m not a kid. Just help me like you said you would and I’ll grow out of this, that’s how this levelling thing works, it builds up your body.”
“Stamp your foot harder little boy if you want it so much, no, better yet, lick my foot,” leered the elf girl.
“Yuck. Are you serious Myra?” said Adlen eyeing the elf hanging off his side.
“Deadly serious.” She flicked off one of her sandals and waggled her toes.
Rain eyed her foot with dismay.
“Come on you worthless little shit, tongue between my toes or I’m going to leave you in the forest to die, no one will say anything, and you know you don’t have the levels needed to last even a day out here. Your life depends on me, on us.”
“Do you want to die?”
Rain wanted to run away never to see the horrible elf girl again, but he knew he would be throwing away the tiny thread of hope that had drawn him out of town and likely his life too. Rain was a survivor, his life had centred around it, and survivors did what was needed to survive. So, unhappily, reluctantly, he got to his knees and crawled toward her.
“Holy shit he’s actually going to do it, what a little freak!” laughed Adlen.
Rain crept forward and stretched out his tongue, the tip touched the tip of her toe. Myra shrieked and kicked him in the face, hard. He collapsed to the ground.
“Urgh! Gross! He touched me!” said Myra, dramatically wiping her toe on the grass as though to rid herself of the touch.
Adlen rolled his eyes. “You were going to do that from the start Myra. You’d never let a dirty little runt like him touch you.”
“Mm, true, a level one is no better than trash really. A level like yours on the other hand…” She looked up at him with half-lidded eyes then grabbed his hand and placed it on her hip.
Rain looked up at them from the ground. He hated this, he hated his situation that had led him to be so reliant on these arrogant assholes... Most of all he hated himself for being jealous of them.
Adlen was a muscular giant at 6 foot 3 inches and Myra had the look of a toned athlete, tall for a female elf at 5 foot 11. The gift of levelling young, levelling young meant a stronger bigger body as it boosted growth and development.
He himself had none of that, much of his childhood had been marred by nights going cold and hungry, desperate enough to chew pieces of leather to numb the hunger pangs. He remained stuck at level 1 because there had been no one willing to help him find and kill a monster. Suffice to say the lack of levels and the lack of food had ruined his growth, he looked positively skeletal in comparison to the pair.
He slowly got to his knees.
“Keep perving because you’re never going to get this,” said Myra, grinding up against Adlen.
“Should we do it in front of him? It would be pretty twisted,” said Myra.
“Oh, I’d love too, but the others will be back any moment now.”
“Fiiine. No show.”
Rain gritted his teeth and held back a scathing comment, he had no desire to see them go at it, but he was dependent on their goodwill and couldn't afford to go against them in the slightest.
He wiped blood from his lip and climbed to his feet.
“Hey, Myra stop fucking around. The horses are hobbled. Let's get inside this dam dungeon already,” said An even taller guy than Adlen who pushed aside the foliage and stepped into the clearing. A pair of girls followed behind.
Rain eyed him warily. While Adlen was an intimidating level 19, this one, Brax, was an incredible level 28, a prodigy, and because of that one of the most desirable men in the dungeon town of Lynthia, Rain’s home. Seriously, Rain had seen him simply walk up to a random woman and take her hand and draw her away. She would happily follow, hopping like an eager rabbit into the nearest bedroom with him. It helped that he looked like an idealized adonis with long black slightly curled hair, though as always a person's level was cause for greatest attraction, a high number charmed people like nothing else.
That two of the three girls of the team seemed to have attached themselves to him did not surprise Rain in the slightest. In fact he was more surprised Adlen had any chance at all with Myra.
“Oh we were just having a little fun, nothing serious!” she pouted at him.
“Just a little eh?” he slapped his thigh and Myra bounced over to him where he wrapped one large arm around her hips.
Adlen scowled seeing that. Rain had to hold in a snort of laughter, he knew well that Adlen would love to say something but like himself he would have to keep his thoughts unspoken for fear of getting beaten to a pulp by the higher leveler.
“Hey you wanted us to go, well, let’s go,” said Adlen pointedly, clearly hoping to distract brax from Myra. He gestured behind himself to a stone entrance.
It was an impressive thing, the entrance to a dungeon. At least twenty feet tall and built from heavy block stonework. Large angular runes from a dead language marked the thick arch, chipped and marred with age beneath patchy green mosswork that crawled across its surface.
Brax caught Rain’s eye. “Scared, little Rain? This isn't where runts should tread.”
“If you must know, yeah, I am, weren't you scared to fight your first monster?”
Brax snorted. “Nah, power levelling is easy, you just gotta hold a knife steady once the monster is pinned, I stabbed the shit out of mine, was fun as hell.”
“You would say that, you overlevelled-...” grumbled Adlen stopping himself from finishing.
“Ooh I bet you could take ‘em solo these days though!” cooed Myra running a hand across Brax’s chest. Brax smirked at Adlen’s irritation.
“Around here most monsters are easy for me. I would need to find something a bit rarer to provide a challenge.”
“Come on Brax, I’m not here to hear you brag about your levels as well as your prowess in bed.” said one of the girls who had followed him into the clearing.
“Ah, I’m pretty sure I satisfied your curiosity on the latter one. But sure let's get inside and get you your promised levels. The runt too.”
Myra clung to him as he strode into the darkness of the dungeon and Adlen followed scowling unhappily. He was followed by the two girls then lastly came Rain bringing up the rear.
Rain had to walk quickly to keep up.
That he had been allowed to join a team going to power level lower levelers was something that Rain was still having trouble adjusting to. He was the town’s runt or near enough, a stunted level one. How had he come to be like that? Unfortunately for Rain his father had attacked the town’s Ranker when Rain was a child for trying to take Rain’s mother.
Attacking the highest levelled person in town and its de facto leader when you hadn't even broken level 20, well it wasn’t exactly wise. Still, Rain’s father had fought like a demon and by some incredible fluke he had permanently blinded the Ranker in one eye.
Which was the worst result imaginable.
The Ranker had brutally crippled Rain’s father in furious retaliation and then tortured his mother to death in front of him. Then, surprisingly, he sentenced him with a Black Mark and let him live, this meant little to the man who’d seen his wife suffer and die in front of his eyes and from then on he had escaped into the bottle.
This left Rain with a broken home and a drunkard for a father. Worse, a Black Mark meant that any descendants of the man were to be made to suffer the same punishment, ‘Sins of the Father’, in practice that meant one person, Rain.
He didn’t understand at the time, being made a pariah and being banned from being power levelled seemed like nothing, not even a real punishment. It wasn’t until he started to grow older that he realised he had been handed a slow death sentence. No way to increase his level because he was too weak to kill even the weakest of monsters and no help to do so.
His father had passed a few years ago, a decade of booze and self-harm and Rain had woken one day to find he had not returned home. He found him several hours later having passed out in an alley and caught his death of cold leaving Rain alone in the world. Things only got worse after that and Rain was reduced to begging. Most ignored his pleas for fear of angering the town’s Ranker but he had survived, just.
And now he was here, having somehow wormed his way into a group going out to a dungeon to power level. It was as he had hoped, the death of his father and so many years having passed had softened people's hearts and caused them to forget the Ranker’s Black Mark. Of course his weak and pathetic state was not so easy to ignore, but he would just have to make up for that by working all the harder once he started levelling.
Ahead the two girls chattered. One a human, one a halfling. He listened warily.
“Did you hear?” said the Human, “Alfreda got her 23rd level a few days back, if she keeps going at this rate she’s going to overtake Brax.”
“Tch, that woman has enough boys hanging off her arms, she’ll be even more smug and insufferable if she becomes one of the top levelers in town.”
“Oh like you can talk about hanging off of arms, you’re like a leech on Brax’s side, suck suck suck, and in more than one way.”
“Hey shut up, it’s paying off isn't it? Who else can say they’re getting personally power levelled by tall, handsome, and absurdly high levelled over there.”
“Plenty of girls I’ll tell you. You wouldn't be the first.”
“I suppose you would know being queen leech.”
“Oh I’m in it for more than just the levelling.”
“Mrmhm. Next guy who comes along with a few more levels and chiselled abs and you’ll jump off Brax like a rat off a sinking ship.”
Rain had heard the way levelers spoke for his entire life, but it still managed to set him on edge. He wondered if it was because he was in a lot of ways an outsider looking in.
They caught up as the others paused.
“Eliza, Lira, keep it down would you,” grumbled Adlen, “You’re going to attract goblins or worse.”
Eliza, the human, stuck her tongue out at him.
Comments (2)See all