Getting Hard (Rise of a Tank)

Chương 194: 190 – Mortaring and Pestling

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Another hour and a half of leeching went by.

I sat by the cave entrance, my four legs folded beneath me, happily mortaring away at the ingredients in my pestle as classical music played in my ears to add pretentiousness to the atmosphere. Wait. Was it the other way around? The pestle probably was the pounding thing, and the mortar was the bowl. Paritor and his flaming buddies fought the stale Swine Lords at the other end of the cave.

We hadn’t chatted for a while. I wasn’t going to ask which was the mortar and pestle. But I should break the silence, nonetheless. Our dynamics should be like a friend helping another. It would’ve been fine to stay quiet if I hired him for a leeching gig, the same as there was no problem not talking to the cab driver—many preferred it that way. But carpooling with a friend in silence was awkward. At least put in the effort to socialize in return for the favor.

Dumping my alchemical paraphernalia into my inventory, I trotted to the fight.

“Herald?” Paritor said, spotting me when I passed him. “Halt! It is dangerous—”

“I’ll be fine. You know I’m tanky.” I used [Horde Stampede] to safely weave between the Asipu hounds and Swine Lords. Some monsters swiped at me, but they couldn’t pop my shell. [Healing Embrace] let loose ghostly hands wrapped around Paritor’s summons, restoring them for a tiny amount. “Oh well, it’s still something. Just level one, anyway.” I veered left, out of the fight, and towards Paritor.

“Isn’t that your new skill from the Ocadule imparted by Mehubanarath?” he asked.

“Yup, it is.” I intentionally used [Healing Embrace] as a conversation starter. “It’s from the fourth Rank of my Aritu Form Ocadule. Going to take some time to reach Rank five, but I’m very excited about it.” I didn’t ask the obvious question because the bait was laid. Paritor would bite it.

“My Asipu Form Ocadule is more than ninety percent to Rank five,” he said. “At the cusp completion. I hope to be done by tomorrow.”

He hadn’t returned to the Big M yet? How odd. A little segue before asking him about it. “Is this why you stayed behind after our team practice? To reach Asipu Rank five? So sorry for leeching off—”

“Don’t be troubled, Herald. It’s my choice to help you.”

“But if you’re on your own, killing monsters in your level range, you’d probably be done with it by now.” And you can tell me what to expect for the next part of the Big M’s quest, I added in my head. A bummer that Paritor was just on the same part of the quest as me. Useless bait pulling nothing.

“What’s a day of delay in exchange for helping a friend?” said Paritor, almost piercing my steel-encased heart.

Having true friends meant acknowledging others as equals. I didn’t see that happening anytime soon. Perhaps in another lifetime. “Thanks, Paritor. I appreciate it. But I’m surprised that your Asipu still hasn’t reached Rank five. I thought it’d be at least Rank six by now, maybe even seven. I didn’t know the experience bar to the next Rank was insanely long. Is it exponential or something? Even then, you’re twice my level.”

“To confess, I have four other Ocadules.”

“Four?” I jolted in genuine surprise. “So, five in total?”

“Indeed.” He nodded with a frown. “The Gli I farm split not only between five Ocadules but also their numerous unlocked skills. Add to that my Cidule and its skills. Quite a crawl progressing them all with Gli trickling into each. It’s a blessing in disguise we’re yet to discover any Mardukryon variant or I’d have a second Cidule to feed.”

“So, that’s why your Asipu Form Ocadule is taking so long to Rank up, though it’s your first one. I only have my Aritu Form Ocadule and poison-brewing Ocadule.”

“An elementary mistake I committed,” Paritor replied, somberly shaking his head. “I chased everything to make my summoner build work. Desperate, I chose many Ocadules that are theoretically helpful, but not anytime soon as they needed to be leveled.”

“The lure of the end goal sometimes muddies the path to it,” I said with an authoritative air. That should go on a T-shirt.

Kidding aside, I understood him. Theorycrafting was a drug, especially for overthinkers like me. Wanting those theories turned into reality provided an insane drive, especially to prove to oneself and others that the idea worked, without pausing to think if it was a good idea to make work in the first place. It wouldn’t surprise me if Luds had a part in Paritior’s ‘inspiration’.

“I hoarded Ocadules related to summoning,” Paritor said. “Anything that could help: auras, minion passives, buffs, debuffs, healing. I was a one-man party that didn’t work well with parties, so I went my own way. To make matters worse, I hindered myself with many Ocadules—a beginner mistake.”

“Why don’t you take off some of the Ocadules for now? Concentrate on the better ones first?”

“That is the logical choice, but, alas…” Paritor shrugged. “I’m resolved to trudge through this quagmire I dove in, and endure until I reach the shore.”

Part of him didn’t want to admit the mistake he was already aware of. A childish stubbornness I could relate to. “You’re doing well, so far.” I nodded at his summons that continued to roast the monster piggies. “I’d never guess your build is this suboptimal. What you said to Luds about matching meta builds is more than right if you’re this strong though you have gimped yourself.”

Creases spread across Paritor’s face as he cracked a hideous but genuine smile. It seemed Herald Stone, the Heart Toucher, was touching hearts again. “You make a good point,” Paritor said. “I’m performing at this high a level despite my self-inflicted disadvantage.”

“Just picture the time your Ocadules and skills will reach decent levels. You’d throw off the shackles you chose to wear and show the world what your summoner build can really do.” Cue in inspiring background music with rising violins. The moment wouldn’t be complete without a thumbs-up, channeling the spirit of Kezo. Two thumbs up!

“That moment is on my mind,” Paritor replied, wistfully staring at his summons. “It’ll be a long journey, but worth it. Thanks for your supportive words, Herald.”

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With my job as a cheerleader completed, I returned to my brewing spot to continue mortaring or pestling, whichever was which. We moved from cave to cave, mowing wave after wave of sickly giant piggies—Paritor was doing the mowing—until we completed the mission, only to do it all over again. And again and again.

Grinding sounded monotonous and tedious, and it should be, but it somehow wasn’t. Repeatedly doing the same thing was more fulfilling in games than working in real life, even though actual jobs rewarded us with money to survive compared to intangible digital rewards. Perhaps what was tangible in RPGs was the definite metrics of becoming stronger. A new set of badass armor brings more happiness than another zero to the bank account.

And that’s Herald’s philosophical thoughts. Thanks for coming to my lecture.

Some skills leveled up as my leeching progressed. The first was [Mantle of Kindling] from my Mardukryon Cidule.

Lvl. 4 Mantle of Kindling: Intense heat deep within bursts outward, enveloping you with protection from the ancestors. Punish those who would strike you by Burning them. (32% chance to Burn attacker with 36% of Attack and Magic Power per second for 8 seconds). Those Burned by any source will be weakened by (-17% Attack and Magic Power) when attacking you. Replenish (65 + 0.8% of Armor) Ancestral Shroud when you Head-On Block an attack from a Burned enemy; limited to once every second.

Nothing overpowered, though the higher chance to Burn and its longer duration were appreciated. Best ignore the Burn DoT because it’d just tickle enemies. I should focus on the debuff of Burned enemies. Less impactful against those with high Attack and Magic Power modifiers—there’d be some canceling out in the calculations—but it still helped my survivability, especially against mobs.

If I wasn’t mistaken, the debuff of [Proficient Battle Brewer] on poisoned enemies was far better than [Mantle of Kindling]. I suspected [Proficient Battle Brewer] was a final reduction on incoming damage rather than a modification of the enemy’s stats.

Lvl. 1 Proficient Battle Brewer: Leave the safe confines of your laboratory and stride in the battlefield, proving your arcane might on the front lines with a (10%) chance not to use bottles when using combat skills of this Ocadule. Your experience with arcane poisons gives you +(15%) Poison Damage Resistance. Enemies poisoned by you deal (10%) less damage to you.

In any case, the best part of [Mantle of Kindling] was its AS replenishment. I should find more auras to reserve against my Ancestral Shroud since I could comfortably maintain it since [Greater Pyro Shell] was charged to my Health now. The problem was LSPs.

[Penitent Fortune Healing] from my Aritu Form Ocadule was the second skill to level up. The movement speed and Evasion Rating penalties, and healing boost were all increased. The debuffs would proc [Cleansing Flames] and spread through [Cloak of the Plaguespreader], so there was no actual downside. Double cast of [Healing Touch] now added two [Rejuvenation Charge] instead of one, but it wasn’t necessary because of [Healing Embrace].

Lvl. 4 Penitent Fortune Healing: Concentrating on a penitent prayer to the ancestors slows your movement (-25% Movement Speed) and reaction speed (-65 Evasion Rating). But in return, good fortune showered upon you by the ancestors allows you to perform healing feats beyond your skills, with (+10% Healing Increase). When using [Healing Touch], there is an 80% chance to cast it twice on the same target. (Heal over Time buff does not stack for a target.) If it does, generate +2 additional Rejuvenation Charge.
Requires: Healing Touch Lvl. 3

Duration: 7 Seconds
  Cooldown: 14 Seconds

And that wasn’t all. [Poison Bottle Cast] also leveled up, fueled by the bigger experience gained from crafting the higher-leveled [Frigid Yew Salve]. Just in time to pair it with my new [Proficient Battle Brewer] skill. I could now make three poison clouds.

Lvl. 3 Poison Bottle Cast: Throw an Akhos Poison bottle and a vaporizing reagent, turning the specific poison into a gas cloud that spreads over a small area (maximum of three). The Akhos Poison in cloud form has a 32% increased chance of inflicting its negative status, with its duration increased by 5 seconds. Enemies in the affected area have their poison resistance reduced by 18%.
  Item Cost: 1 Akhos Poison Bottle, 1 Vaporizing Reagent
  Duration: 55 Seconds
  Cooldown: 10 Seconds

“Paritor, we can have a rest now,” I said after a few more hours flew by.

“You’re not level twenty-nine yet,” he replied, checking our party screen.

“Probably an hour or two of grinding and I’ll level up. I can do it on my own later.”

“We can continue. Or do you have something else to do?”

“No, but I have leeched off you for hours already, and I’m feeling conscious about it. You even gave me money. You’ve done so much to help me that I don’t think I can repay you.”

“Help freely given requires no compensation. We can continue until you reach twenty-nine, as I promised.”

“It’s fine. I-I’ll go to, uh, sleep. Yes! That’s it.” I intentionally made it appear I was pretending to make up an excuse. “If you’re still up for leeching me, we can do it some other time, maybe after your Asipu Ocadule reaches Rank five.” The sides were reversed.

Now, I was doing Paritor a favor by cutting our leeching session short. Herald Stone could make himself look benevolent every time. Plus, I could dangle the fact that he wasn’t able to finish his promise—though, it was me who stopped him—when I’d ask for another favor someday. Pity the bird getting hit by many stones.

The true reason I wanted to stop leeching was because I was done collecting Blighted Tokens for the skill I wanted to buy. And, with an hour left to go before I’d officially wake up to start the next day, I wanted to test it out on my own. If I could reach level twenty-nine, even better.

I hurried to the event shop in the village, avoiding obstacles along the way like Luds bragging to a crowd about how he completed the world quest, or Chimi loitering outside the Chief’s Lodge, waiting to Contract newbies to farm the items he wanted.

“This looks good,” I said, my hand hovering over the buy button. “Hopefully, I can find good Links for this.”

Lvl. 1 Unselfish Blighted Decay: Suffer (1%) of your Maximum Health as Poison Damage per second, and share the Blight with enemies, dealing (0.1%) of your Maximum Health as Piercing Poison Damage per second in an area around you. While active, your body is more susceptible to pain, (-5%) Armor and (-10%) Poison Damage Resistance; affected enemies will be doubly weaker. This skill will automatically toggle off at 5% Health.

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