After travelling around ten kilometers, Rey passed by the town and turned to the west. His goal was not far. He headed to a river, which was the main source of drinking water in these places.
Having reached it, he headed towards the north again, right along the river. Despite the fact that the river was about forty meters in width, its depth was less than Rey’s height. And due to the flat territory, the river’s flow was rather slow.
Moving along it, Rey enjoyed the wonderful view of the crystal clear water. The fresh morning breeze blew his face with cold air.
He decided to move this way not because of the need for water. After all, he could get energy from his souls. Just most of animals should have been near the river. And since Rey was going to travel only in the form of a Forest person and only on his feet, he decided to simplify the process of searching for animals by moving near the closest source of water.
Although the form of a snake was much more effective, it could not develop further. Rey was sure that he had already reached its current limit.
On the other hand, the body of a Forest person could become stronger due to the possible development of different specializations and skills, which he simply could not use in the form of an animal.
Another advantage of this form was the ability to wear armor. Despite the fact that he could mainly move in the form of a snake and simply turn into a Forest man to absorb souls to develop skills and specializations, it was quite dangerous. According to Theia, animals in this part of the Forest were stronger than in its south part. And even though Rey himself did not notice any difference, he did not dare to risk.
After moving near the river for some time, Rey decided continue moving slightly away from it. Although his hearing in this form was phenomenal, sound of water still distracted him.
At the same time, somewhere about twenty kilometers to the north, a woman dressed in a strange robe, with a big hood covering her face, appeared next to a small hill. She seemed to come from nowhere, as if she was always there.
Upon looking around, the woman approached the hill and stretched out her hand, muttering something. At this moment, a ball of light with a diameter of few meters appeared next her hand. The snow and even the soil under her feet instantly melted, giving off hot steam.
Without paying any attention to this, the woman gently moved one of her fingers, pushing this unimaginably powerful ball of energy forward. It moved really slowly. After a couple of moments, the ball of light reached the hill. However, as if the hill was made off soft butter, the ball of light simply and easily moved through the ground.
Hot steam came from under the ground now, and the overall temperature rose so much that the surrounding snow started melting pretty quickly. But the woman simply continued to stand still there and watch the scene before her eyes. Not even a piece of her clothes moved, despite the fact that she was right in the epicenter of everything happening.
After another couple of minutes, the woman waved one of her fingers to herself, forcing the ball of light return to her quite quickly. Having reached the woman’s hand, it simply disintegrated. However, the burst of energy left after its disintegration raised temperature near the woman by few more hundred degrees.
Afterwards, she lowered her hand and went to the hole, which was just made by the ball of lightning. The hole in the ground had a low angle, so the woman could get down. She did not care about a huge amount of steam still coming out from there. Temperature there was so high that some pieces of the ground even turned into magma. But the woman neither cared about this, because she walked right on the air.
After reaching the end of the nearly twenty-meter-deep hole, she stopped and quietly said something. And at the same moment, some kind of a hiss that was still coming from the heated rock disappeared. This happened due to the fact that temperature inside this newborn cave had just decreased dramatically.
The woman stretched out her hand once again, and a strange black sphere appeared there. As soon as she released the sphere, it slowly, just like a feather, fell on the hardened ground.
Looking at the thing left by her, she turned around and appeared on the surface after a moment.
“This gift will be the last... Do not let me down,’ the woman said quietly, with the hood still covering her face. Though there was not anyone near her to hear words. Even animals ran away from this place, feeling an abnormal temperature increase.
Upon saying these words, she stepped forward and disappeared, leaving a ripple in the air.
Rey did not know about everything happened, because the stream of hot steam was too far from him to notice. However, this event still touched him indirectly. After twenty minutes, he faced with the first wave of running away animals.
Naturally, such a strange behavior of the local fauna surprised Rey. At first, he thought about running away in the same direction, but pretty soon he changed his mind. Raising his bow, Rey shot an arrow at the big deer, which was rushing towards him. The arrow hit the deer’s head, instantly killing the running animal. However, Rey did not stop, because at this moment several more deer appeared behind the just killed one.
Another arrow left his bow and hit the neck of one of the animals. This time, the animal managed to make few more steps with the arrow in its neck, falling near Rey. Without wasting any time, Rey did another shot, but hit nothing, except for a tree, because the rest of the deer started running in different directions.
Afterwards, he rushed to the body, which was closest to him. After absorbing its soul right on the fly, he hurriedly moved to the second body. After doing the same thing with the second body, Rey hid behind a tree, listening to the noise of the Forest and trying to understand cause of such a strange behavior of these animals.
A minute passed, but nothing happened. Upon leaving not the best hiding spot, he collected all the arrows. Since they were very well made, they easily could be used more than once.
‘What’s happening out there?’
Rey slowly went ahead. However, all he saw after some time was another group of animals running in the same direction.
Rey did not hesitate, so he quickly took out his bow and made a shot. After killing three animals, he went further. But he did not see anyone running away anymore.
The Forest was filled with the dead silence, and it was slightly annoying, because he could not find even small animals now.
Continuing to move into the same direction, Rey slowly but surely approached the place, where the woman appeared.
During two hours, he did not meet a single animal. And cause of this became obvious to him when he saw the vast area of the Forest without any snow and with the huge crater in its center.
Rey spent almost half an hour going around this place just to make sure that there were not any living creatures there.
Still remembering his own bitter experience, Rey was about to pass by this place, but his curiosity overpowered his caution in the end.
Moving extremely slowly and with the bow in his hands, Rey approached the center of the strange place. After walking closer to the small hill, he realized that it was not a crater, but a deep hole in the ground. Its depth was really hard to measure due to the uncomfortable position of the sun.
Not daring to move closer, Rey stopped ten meters away from the hole.
‘What a strange shape.’
The hole had shape of a perfect circle, which was carved right in the ground. After waiting for some time and observing it, Rey did not notice any movements inside. Taking from the Inventory a torch and a pinch of already familiar inflammable grass, he easily made few sources of light for himself.
Upon walking closer to it, he threw one torch into the hole. Force of the throw was enough for the torch to fly the entire length of the hole without problems and reach its bottom. During the throw, Rey could see everything he needed, so he was quite sure that there was nothing dangerous.
Having hidden the bow and calmed down a bit, Rey still took out one of his daggers and slowly went down. The torch in his off-hand gave enough light to see walls of this “cave”.
The cave went deeper into the small hill. At the beginning, its walls were almost completely made of dirt, but after about ten meters, Rey noticed rocky ground under his feet.
He did not have an idea how it was possible to create such a hole in the ground. Now he was more interested in a strange object, next to which laid the thrown torch. Rey did not notice it earlier, because this small black ball did not reflect light at all.
Rey stopped two meters away from it. After a close examination, he came to the conclusion that this thing was not perfectly circular.
‘Is this... an egg?’
This guess seemed to be true, since Rey, after turning into a snake, actually noticed a small and weak spot of heat inside it. Moreover, in the form of a Forest person he could also see a weak green glow coming from it.
‘And is this place some kind of a nest?’
‘But if this is the case, then this creature’s parent must be somewhere nearby. Maybe all those animals were running away from it.’
‘Moreover, a creature that can easily create such a crater just cannot be weak.”
‘It’s better for me to run away from here too… or I can…’
Biting his lip, Rey grabbed the egg and rushed away, ‘If I’ll be able to get such a power, then the long-awaited day will be much closer.’
Having run out of the cave, Rey quickly put the strange find on the ground and turned into a Tildas. Carefully grabbing it with his claws, Rey managed to take off with some difficulty. Although the egg was slightly smaller than a chicken, he never had an experience of flying with something in his claws.
Only after flying nearly a dozen kilometers, he slowed down and lowered. Even though Rey did not see anything strange below, he still did not dare to lower his guard. While he was still in the air, Rey had already decided fate of this egg. Upon choosing a small empty field with a fallen tree on it, he unclenched his claws.
Rey had no idea about what kind of animal was inside the egg. That is why he did not hurry to land. The egg crashed into the tree trunk and broke without any problems. Afterwards, a small cloud of black smoke came from it. At first sight, it seemed harmless, but pretty soon Rey realized that he was wrong. Instead of the tree trunk there was only dust left in the place of its contact with the egg.
When the smoke completely disappeared, Rey finally landed. His very first thought was to land far away from the egg. But as soon as he noticed a miniature gray haze, he immediately hurried there.
As it turned out, it was a snake’s egg. Upon landing near the tree trunk and turning into a Forest person, he leaped towards the soul. And only when the soul was inside him, he sighed with a relief.
Rey could not wait to test his new body. However, after checking his inner space, he noticed that the soul of a snake looked quite usual. It was gray, just like all the souls he had met before, except for a Human soul and Arvus’ soul. By the way, the soul of the killed strong warrior was not much better than the soul of a Forest person which he empowered with energy by himself. Arvus’ soul was even worse in some ways, and that was very frustrating. Moreover, because it took too much space, so he had to break the soul of his former teacher.
A Snow Snake’s body was not big and did not seem strong at first, but its poison was akin to a deadly weapon. That is why, without paying real attention to the color of the new soul, he took his new form.
Taking into account all the time Rey spent in the form of a Snow Snake, he could move in this body completely freely. However, there was one problem. Currently, he was the size of his own footprint.
‘I shouldn't jump to conclusions that fast.’
Rey tried to produce poison and became disappointed, because he did not succeed.
Checking his new body, Rey realized that his eyesight in this form was much better than that of a Snow Snake. Even colors seemed clearer to him, so he was able to closely examine his snake body.
‘What a dark color.’
This body had really matte black color. It did not reflect sunlight at all. Its whole body was covered with tiny scales, which were hard to notice due to the strange, impenetrable dark color.
‘Hmm, I can’t consider this form useless, since it’s great for both escape and imperceptible entry. It’s even better than a Kuring’s form in this regard. Thinking about it, it’s the smallest creature I’ve seen so far.’
Comforting himself with this, Rey turned back into a Forest person and, putting on his armor, checked his Status. And text appeared in front of his eyes made him quite happy.
[Hunter] advanced to second level. Though, he did not know when exactly it happened, because he had not checked the Status since the killing of the runaway animals in the forest.
With the advance of the specialization he got new skill [Animal Detection].
‘Wow. That seems super useful.’
After some time, Rey finally finished checking the rest of the information by reading name of the new animal type, which appeared in his soul list.
‘Isn’t it too loud for a small snake, is it?’ looking at the sun, he humped and went further. Beginning of his journey now seemed not as boring as he initially thought.