《Death: Genesis》19. Inevitability


Clutching her bow, Abby silently stalked through the jungle, sweat beading on her forehead as she flanked the rest of the party. They’d already lost two men to the cursed place, and though they weren’t much better than Julio, she took the loss hard. After all, she was the party’s highest-level scout, and as such, they’d depended on her to warn them of any dangers. It wasn’t that she didn’t take the role seriously, but rather, that her skills didn’t really fit their expectations. Despite being an archer, none of her abilities really fit the traditional pathfinder role. She could usually make do because of her stat allocation being partially skewed toward agility and dexterity, but she had nothing that would help her avoid or track enemies. And that lack had come due when they were ambushed a few days before by troupe of apes.

The party had reacted like one would expect from an elite squad, giving as good as they got, but there was only so much they could do when faced with such a disparity in numbers. At the end of the day, the expedition only had nine members, and they’d been attacked by three times as many apes. They eventually won out due to their varied skills, with both Vladimir and Abby herself playing key roles, but when the dust settled, two of Julio’s men had fallen. It was a sobering reminder that the wilderness was filled with risks, even for seasoned adventurers such as them.

As she weaved through the thick underbrush, Abby took a look at her skills.

[Gust of Wind] (G) – Summon a bulwark of wind. Evolution: Grants finer control over airflow.

[Conjured Arrow] (H) – Summons an arcane arrow. Durability and speed of conjuration based on Dexterity.

[Makeshift Camp] (G) – Create a temporary camp which increases regeneration of both mana and vitality as well as providing basic protection from wildlife.

[Cure Disease] (H) – Flood a body with purifying mana, curing minor diseases.

Not for the first time, Abby lamented her first skill choice. In her defense, she’d been entirely clueless when she chose it, and back then, she had half-suspected that the entire thing had been a dream. It wasn’t until her first kill that she had come around to the fact that she was in a new world with very different rules from those associated with her old life. If she’d had it all to do over again, she would have chosen something that offered a little more direct offense – something like the arcane arrows that were a staple for most archers she had come across.

When she got her second skill at level five, she had been prepared to do just that. However, The System had other plans, and it had only offered her utility skills. Thankfully, she’d acquired a bow soon after leaving her tutorial dungeon, so she at least got something useful. Without [Conjured Arrow], she’d have been forced to take up fletching just to walk down her chosen path. And even then, it would’ve been incredibly inconvenient.

By the time she reached level ten, Abby had learned enough that she had been looking forward to her new skill selection quite a bit. There was a saying that The Framework laughs at the plans of men, and never was that more true than when she finally gained her tenth level. She and Vladimir had been pushing hard to accomplish a mission when they’d come upon a pack of wargs – giant, wolflike creatures that traveled in groups of up to twenty. They had only barely survived by running, but the few that Abby had managed to kill had pushed her past level ten, granting her the ability to choose a new skill.


Eagerly, she had opened the sub-menu, and she was rewarded with three incredibly potent archery skills. She’d been so excited that she almost didn’t even look at the other options. However, the battle with the warg pack hadn’t come without a price, and Vladimir had been mortally wounded. Without a healer, he would surely die. So, she had been forced to eschew the other skills in favor of the one option that could help them in the short term. That was how she’d chosen [Makeshift Camp].

Truly, it had exceeded her expectations. The skill itself had a couple of requirements – chiefly that there needed to be a fire wherever she chose to use it – but once she met them and empowered the skill, it had created a twenty-foot circle of regeneration and protection that had allowed Vladimir to live through that night. In addition, it had even rebuffed a few attacks from monsters who’d smelled the blood and rightly assumed they were weakened.

Still, regardless of how well it had worked, Abby couldn’t help but feel a little cheated by The Framework. She was an archer without any applicable skills. A ranger without the ability to track. A scout who relied on stats alone to sneak through the wilds. If she hadn’t already proved her worth a thousand times over, Abby would’ve felt weak to the point of giving up.

But maybe that was just her old identity asserting itself.

Abby shook her head, forcefully dispelling those thoughts. She hadn’t been that person for nearly a decade, now. Even before her death, she’d left that identity behind. And she wouldn’t give in to that feeling of worthlessness ever again. Not now. Not after she’d sacrificed so much and worked so hard at becoming the powerful version of herself she’d always dreamed of becoming.

She loped through the jungle, her eyes darting around as she tried to see everything, all at once. While she might not have any true scouting abilities, she was still more perceptive than most. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have survived in this brutal world for so long. The island was littered with the corpses of the careless.

It was that very perception which stopped her in her tracks as the slightest of movements caught her eye. She didn’t give in to the natural inclination to whip around to face the creature that was obviously stalking her. Instead, she let out a high-pitched whistle to let her party know of the danger. It had barely left from between her parted lips before something burst forth out of the underbrush, gleaming claws arcing for her face.

However, Abby’s investment in dexterity and agility wasn’t just for show, and she easily dodged the creature’s attack. Still, its claws passed only inches in front of her, so close that she could feel the wind of their passage. And another set was on its way, coming in from the side. Abby sucked her stomach in, barely avoiding the claws she knew would have disemboweled her.

As a primarily ranged combatant, Abby didn’t have the endurance to tank such a blow – not many did – so she’d been forced to adapt to that weakness. Most archers would’ve taken some sort of movement skill, but she hadn’t had that opportunity. Many people were overly reliant on skills, and rightly so. They were often incredibly powerful. But Abby, who had, through circumstance or ignorance, been pushed down a different path, didn’t have that luxury. Instead, she had spent hour after hour, year after year, training herself in various acrobatics that took advantage of her strengths. The result was that, even without skills to aid her, Abby was better at avoiding damage than the vast majority of her peers.


As the creature – Abby only got a brief glimpse of black fur – charged at her, Abby leapt over it. Using the monster as a step, she launched herself even higher, twisting as she flew through the air. Pushing mana into the rune in her hand, she cast [Conjured Arrow], and a silvery arrow suddenly materialized in her hand. In the space of an instant, she had nocked the arrow, then loosed it at her attacker.

The arrow, propelled with unnatural speed by [Gust of Wind], struck true, sinking deep into the monster’s neck. A fountain of stark white blood followed, and the thing wheeled around, completely ignorant that it was already dead. As Abby landed, another arrow sailed through densely humid air, hitting the black-furred creature in the eye with enough force that the arrowhead burst through the back of its skull.

It fell with a thud.

That was when Abby got her first look at the thing, and she was surprised to see that she recognized it as a gaborin – a strange, humanoid mixture of man, bat, and panther that made its home in tropical jungles. She’d run into them before, and back then, she’d only survived because she’d only skirted the edge of their territory.

The things were semi-sapient, meaning that they were primarily driven by instinct, but they had also formed a mimicry of a tribal society, not dissimilar from the apes of the old world. If apes were possessed of superhuman speed and claws that could rip through high-grade armor without missing a beat, of course. And like so many monsters, they traveled in packs – a nugget of information that proved accurate when Abby heard a blood-curdling scream coming from the direction of her party.

Immediately, Abby took off, weaving through the trees like a wraith. Luckily, she’d only drawn the attention of one of the gaborin, else she’d have been shredded to pieces. However, that also meant that the bulk of the tribe – or pack, depending on how much intelligence one wanted to attribute to the monsters – would be attacking her party. And while she didn’t really care about any of them, save Vladimir, she’d been given a job, and she intended to do it to the best of her abilities.

Eventually, she found the party, who were engaged in a furious battle against fifteen gaborin warriors. The creatures all looked similar to the one she’d killed – bipedal, black-furred, and with bat-like faces – though some of them had opted to use crude weapons instead of their razor-sharp claws. It seemed a waste to Abby, but one she was thankful for.

The party itself was holding its own, though the sheer numbers were on the verge of tipping the balance. Just as Abby was beginning to wonder why Julio hadn’t simply killed the entire group, the arrogant man made his move. It was almost like he was waiting on her to bear witness, a feeling that was supported by the fact that he looked up at her and winked before unsheathing his katana.

In the blink of an eye, Julio had bisected an unlucky gaborin who’d chosen that moment to charge the man. His blade had moved so quickly that Abby had difficulty even following what had happened, and she was only sure when she saw the black-furred creature fall apart.

How much agility did the man possess? Over a hundred?

Abby didn’t have much time to contemplate, because just after dispatching the attacking creature, Julio chose to use his first skill – and it was a strange one, too. He slapped the blade of his katana against his metallic bracer with a clang, then sheathed his sword as a wave of aural power spread out around him, attacking both friend and foe alike.

For her part, Abby was far enough away that she was largely unaffected, but when the wave reached her, she still felt a piercing pain interrupting her thoughts. It was easy to shake off, but the men and gaborin in closer proximity weren’t so lucky. One and all, they fell to the ground, writhing in pain.

That’s when Julio struck.

He’d dispatched another three helpless gaborin before he realized he’d made a huge mistake. While the rest of the human party had finally succumbed to unconsciousness, the gaborin had adapted surprisingly quickly, and were already rising from the ground, white blood flowing from their ears.

Julio scrambled back, narrowly avoiding one claw after another as he swung his sword. Each swing was accompanied by a high-pitched whistle as it cut through the air – another skill, Abby was certain – but whatever it was meant to do, it was rendered ineffective by the fact that the gaborin had been deafened by his first attack.

Briefly, Abby considered letting the creatures kill the man. It wasn’t that she was the sort who’d normally double-cross her companions. She wasn’t. In fact, she had a reputation as one of the more honest members of the Champions of Light. However, she also knew that Julio would eventually turn the tables on her, and though Abby was loath to admit it, the despicable man was powerful enough to completely overwhelm her. So, it was with some reluctance that she raised her bow and finally loosed her conjured arrow. Then another. And another. Over and over again, each arrow finding its mark.

Predictably, it wasn’t long before the gaborin realized that another threat had joined the battle, and a few turned and charged toward her. All but one went down before they made it to her, and the third was wounded badly enough that it only took one swing of her hatchet to finish the job.

Meanwhile, Julio was still hard-pressed, even by one of the gaborin. He was quick, but obviously out of practice. It seemed that he’d long relied on his overpowering skills, and when they’d proved ineffective, he didn’t know what to do. Even so, he was level nineteen, and as such, his stats were in an entirely different category. It wasn’t that dissimilar from if Vladimir had attacked her; he was a talented warrior, but the power difference would soon assert itself.

So, given that, Abby was more than a little surprised when Julio misplaced a foot and tripped over a root, giving the final gaborin an opening. Like lightning, its claw arced out, aiming for Julio’s throat.

It never made it.

As soon as Abby saw Julio trip, she’d made her decision. She fired an arrow that, propelled by the wind, quickly found its mark.

The gaborin’s entire paw exploded from the force, and the creature let out a pitiful howl infused with every ounce of its agony. Julio seized the opening, his katana finding the monster’s chest and plunging straight through its heart. The gaborin collapsed atop him, the katana piercing all the way through its torso.

Abby didn’t care about Julio, but she had long since chosen to live her life with some semblance of honor. And killing the leader of her expedition would’ve fallen outside her adopted code of conduct.

With the Gaborin dead, Abby quickly closed the distance to her friend, Vladimir, who like the rest of the party had fallen into unconsciousness. She knelt beside the big warrior, checking his vitals.

“He lives,” came a familiar voice. “They all do. Though they’ll all awaken with splitting headaches.”

Abby turned to the leader of the mission. Julio was coated in white blood, but he seemed unharmed. “What did you do?” she asked.

“Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?” he said. Before Abby could react, Julio’s hand swept across his body, propelling a mote of rainbow-hued energy toward her. She had no idea what it was, but she wasn’t so trusting that she would willing let it hit her. With inhuman reactions, she leapt into the air, twisting as she conjured an arrow. Her eyes widened when the mote of multi-colored energy followed her up and through the air, hitting her square in the forehead.

It didn’t hurt. In fact, she didn’t feel a thing. However, when she tried to fire her arrow, something stopped her. She tried to push through whatever barrier prevented it, but nothing seemed to work.

She landed lightly and demanded, “What did you do to me?!”

“Just some insurance,” the man said, moving toward Vladimir. “I saw you hesitate back there. Let’s just say that you and I are going to get very cozy from here on out.”

He knelt beside the big warrior, putting a couple of fingers on his head. Abby felt more than saw a surge of energy before Julio stood, rolling his shoulders. “Very cozy, indeed,” he said, grinning at her.

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