The explanation of how regular animals can interact with prompts in order to become monsters is split across two pages and I don’t want to bother going through the trouble to highlight both fragments and combining them, but basically what happens is that if, for example, you are a rat and you are particularly good at being a rat by, just hypothetically, sneaking into someone’s cellar and finding all of the food, this gives you a rank up. If you happen to express approval rather than negativity in response to the rank up prompt, you will become a monster.
This brings up again a question first raised by Threadbare’s own ranking up shenanigans earlier: Why is there even an option to say no? Shouldn’t the only answer be “OK?” Is there some kind of opportunity cost for leveling up?
Anyways, the rat king is sending its children to eat Pulsivar and Threadbare alive, because apparently it cannot tell that Threadbare is inedible.
Pulsivar moved with lightning speed, sweeping out with his claws as they came at him, dancing back and batting them away as they came, but there were too many angles to cover. One larger rat took a bite out of his tail with its chisel teeth. Another one latched onto his ear and the cat howled, spraying blood as he shook his head, sending the rat flying as a red number ‘5’ floated up to the ceiling.
Apparently the cat vs. rat match-up is way less lopsided in Threadbare than it is in Outside.
Movement to his side, a rat coming in with a furious charge—
—And Threadbare turned and SWIPED it out of the air.
Claw Swipes Activated! Your Claw Swipes skill is now level 2
The rat disintegrated. Bloody bits rained down on the somewhat-thinned crowd, and for a second, the lot of them hesitated. Threadbare, oblivious to the momentary reprieve, studied his paw. Black, hardened claws about an inch long stuck out of it, dripping red, red blood in the dim light of the crystal.
Pulsivar the cat had slain enough rabbits and rats and birds to unlock the next part of his evolutionary chain. Pulsivar was a Tomcat, and he unleashed the full force of his mightiest skill upon the ears of all present, as a screeching, hissing, buzzsaw of a howl echoed through the tight basement and shook the mason jars on the shelves! This was Caterwaul: The sanity destroyer!
Why didn’t he use this on Threadbare in their first encounter? By the end of that fight this cat was freaked the fuck out, and he never busted out his secret superweapon? Sure, it’s an AoE move that wouldn’t necessarily be effective against a single target, but it also deals sanity damage, which for all Pulsivar knows is Threadbare’s weakness (given he is wiser than the average bear, probably not, but Pulsivar can neither see nor read Threadbare’s character sheet).
A royal fanfare, trumpets and all, followed by officious-sounding squeaking. Though without words, it somehow had the weight of dignity behind it. It spoke of valor and duty, to rat, king, and pantry… …but most importantly of all, it added a sanity buff to its fallen subjects. And around them, the fallen rats rose, one by one. The ones slashed to death were unmoving still, but the effects of Pulsivar’s caterwaul were thoroughly undone.
And then it doesn’t even make a difference to the fight! The two of them just go right back to hacking through the rats piecemeal.
The rats were thin on the ground now, depleted enough that they weren’t filling the bloody, corpse-strewn ground. They had to peel off into two separate rings, one around the golem and one around the cat. And when the cat got surrounded he simply leaped out of it, smacking with both paws on one of the ones snapping at Threadbare.
Before they could realize that death was among them, the cat mowed down the distracted rats like a scythe through grain. Then Threadbare ran past him, intercepting the next string of rats, and making them ring up around him again. And Pulsivar was free to rip and tear without fear of reprisal. He had much more stamina left than the teddy bear, even if his endurance was abysmal.
The idea here is supposed to be that Threadbare is tanking for Pulsivar’s DPS, but that’s not really what’s being described. Why does the “next string of rats” wait around patiently for Pulsivar to kill the rats on Threadbare? If Pulsivar can kill them faster than reinforcements can arrive, wouldn’t he be able to kill them faster than they can ring up around him in the first place? And if he can’t, won’t Pulsivar get swarmed midway through hitting the rats on Threadbare?
But the main issue here is that we’re basically looking at a Tera Online fight, here. Tera Online is very slightly more active than your standard Diablo derivative WoW clone, but it’s still really stilted, stiff combat. This fight isn’t interesting the way the previous encounters with Pulsivar and Emmett were, mainly because 1) Threadbare is completely wrecking these rats’ shit and 2) it’s overstayed its welcome, with this entire second wave after the caterwaul being entirely unnecessary. Threadbare doesn’t seem to be completely impervious to the rats’ attacks, but he’s close enough that I’m not getting much sense of urgency from this fight. Pulsivar hasn’t taken noticeable damage since the rats chewed the end of his tail off at the beginning of the fight, a wound that should’ve been pretty dire but seems to represent maybe a quarter of Pulsivar’s total HP, tops, given how well he’s held out against the rest of the tide.
Quick aside on that note: Fair enough that concepts like blood loss and organ damage don’t necessarily apply to a LitRPG world with hit points and so on, but there’s still no reason why similar looking wounds shouldn’t have similar lethality to them as in real life. A guy whose intestines have spilled out his stomach might not have to worry about stomach acid spilling out into his other organs or dying from massive blood loss, but he should still be at very low HP, and when I see a cat whose tail has just barely been chewed off, my first thought is not “yeah, that cat can probably go on fighting for a while.”
At first it looked like another group of rats… bigger, filthier, and even more angry. But they were moving strangely, jerking and stopping, straining against the floor, practically clawing their way along. Then they got into the light, and Threadbare saw why. Their tails were twisted together into a pulsating knot, and sitting on top of this knot was a rat twice the size of the others,
Claw swipes took down one of the big rats, but there were nine in total, and they dragged along their fallen comrade, only slightly slower for the effort.
The initial wave seems like it was bigger, but the boss wave here is apparently literally ten rats, counting the rat king.
Threadbare topples a shelf onto the rat king, then grabs a dowel from its remains and beats the rat king to death while it’s pinned under the debris. This part of the fight works much better, partly because Threadbare is back to being the underdog ripping a wounded arm off while straining to upend the shelves onto the rat king and so forth, and partly because it doesn’t involve so many combatants and thus take so long that the narrative has to back up and start summarizing the tactical situation rather than depict individual actions.
After killing the rat king, Threadbare becomes a ruler. Not of anything in particular, he just unlocks some stuff that would be helpful to any ruling he gets up to at a later date. I am down for a teddy bear king.
After staggering out of the cellar, Threadbare encounters Celia, who is, of course, horrified by his damaged condition. She later ends up in a fight with her father which is probably supposed to foreshadow some deeper conflict, but which is on the surface really petty and dumb. Relevant snippet:
“No! There’s an upper limit, you can only ever have so many jobs! You can’t waste your potential with the trivial stuff—”
So there is a reason why you might ever want to turn down a new job. Dear old dad isn’t mentioning what that upper limit actually is, though, and I put good odds on Andrew Seiple not having figured it out yet.
In the dark of the night, in a sprawling hillside village set among several scrawny farms, a batwinged form settled onto the window of the largest house. It slunk in, peering with beady eyes, as it folded its wings against its scaly back.
Sitting up in bed, a blanket clutched to her voluptuous form, a raven-haired woman smiled sweetly at the imp. But the smile didn’t reach her eyes, which might as well have been chips of ice.
We’ve seen the imp here briefly before in a bit I didn’t bother to comment upon. The succubus is new. Who they are or why they care enough about this tailor to spy on him is unknown, and the only bit of new information we get from the ensuing conversation between the two them is 1) those scrolls that Celia was burning through earlier are somehow helpful to them, and 2) demons are not very nice.