The Implock – Chapter 87 – “Weary Bones”
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Hi! I just wanted to make sure I notified you all that there had been a change to the story's skill system. As I've recently felt it didn't feel nearly rewarding enough just giving random 1-level-up to every skill whenever appropriate, going to 1-10 on a superfluous scale that didn't truly mean anything, I've gone back changed the entire way skill-leveling and mastery-leveling works.

This new leveling scheme goes as follows; [Inferior Moderate Superior Peak]. Upon reaching Peak, the skill or mastery can then evolve or advance under certain circumstances.

So now there's actual change each time a skill or mastery upgrades - whether it be visually, in the power displayed, or even its overall practicality. Instead of just saying +5% to damage! Now there's an actual difference whenever a skill or mastery upgrades. Like [Demonbolt] changing color, shape, or simply becoming bigger and badder. Hopefully, you all find this change fitting! It took some time getting it all fixed in older chapters to also make it work in the following chapters, but it's finally done and should bring more satisfaction overall.

∼ Weary Bones ∼

Chapter - 087

Weary old bones supported on no more an old walking stick carried the old man up the ever-reaching mountain. How this withered man had managed to get this far up in the perilous peaks of the Spine of Argon - no one quite knew - but the old man himself. Even as his frail and gaunt frame was hidden beneath fine but dirty robes, his weathered face of pale and wrinkly skin alone told of his age - a grim reaper of time hovering over him with a shadowy presence upon his person.

Yet, he remained utterly unperturbed as he continued to cross the otherwise uncrossable.

Turning a bend on one of the lower passages along the mountain, the old man came upon a rather peculiar sight. A small figure, around the height of a gnome, sat by a fire. A large egg cooked over the flames as he ate. Whispy white brows rising in surprise, the old man noted the figure's many small wounds covering his body, as if he had been beset by a tempest of birds. The old man chuckled to himself, approaching the figure.

"Hello there, young one. Mind if this old man takes some comfort in your fire to warm my old bones?"

Jumping at the unexpected approach, Nyx had somehow not even noticed the old geezer. He was only moments from killing the old man, ready to sling bolts of demonic fire when he paused. For some inexplicable reason, he slowly dispelled the roiling mana he had instinctively summoned. Narrowing his eyes, the demon instead just nodded with a hint of wariness.

"Thank you very much." The old man smiled as his friendly eyes crinkled, taking a seat opposite the figure with a groan. "Ah - these bones aren't what they used to be, but the mountains are still as inhospitable to the weary and old as they have always been." He chuckled merrily.

Observing the old geezer as Nyx ate, he wasn't quite sure what to make of him. Nyx himself was entirely unclothed except for some torn pants that now resembled more of a loincloth than anything else. He had long discarded his pitiful excuse for robes. However, this old man seemed not even to react to his rather demonic figure. 

Was he blind something? Nyx thought curiously. Yet, his trusty instincts were as silent as ever in the face of the congenial old human. He felt no danger. However, what he said next took Nyx completely off-guard.

"-So, what's a demon doing up here on one of many lonesome mountains? With none but the wind to speak to - hmm?" His old gentle face hadn't even changed, entirely unafraid and devoid of hostility.

Nyx, however, froze, not quite believing his ears. The old man knew?

Not sure how to handle this, Nyx truly felt no threat or imminent danger from the old bag of bones. Yet, here he sat, uncaring by the fact that his company was one of clearly demonic origins. Curiosity got the better of Nyx, so he simply decided to see where it would go. "Lost, I'm lost." He explained curtly, prodding the cooking egg with some animus.

"Stupid birds..." Nyx muttered the last part, but the strange old man appeared to easily hear him as he chuckled in turn.

"Oh- aha, I see." He laid his gnarled walking stick on the ground so he could warm his pale, calloused hands. "Those feathered creatures can be quite troublesome at times. But if you know how to befriend them, they make for some rather outstanding companions." He sighed, almost as if nostalgic.

"Right..." Nyx said slowly, not quite believing the human as he had personally witnessed the wickedness of those accursed creatures firsthand. And not all because of his rather embarrassing run-in with a flock of them - not-at-all...

The old man suddenly exclaimed quietly, appearing to remember something. "But if you're lost, my good friend - there's a settlement just down the ridge over here. It shouldn't be far."

Perking up at that, Nyx was actually rather grateful as he had been wandering aimlessly for a while now, just hoping to find some civilization to help point him in the right direction. However, that made the demon suddenly realize something. Looking around at the seemingly endless mountain range that stretched onto the horizon, flat land nowhere in sight and but a fever dream to most. How had the old man even gotten here? Alone, no less?

Frowning as he inspected the old man's frail form, Nyx could smell the death on him. Not that he reeked. But almost as if he wasn't quite alive either. Somehow having lived longer than he should've. So the question remained; truly how had he gotten up this mountain in his deathly condition? There were plenty of monsters, not to mention the absolute arduous nature of traversing the Spine in itself.

"How?" Nyx couldn't help but ask.

"Hmm?"

"How are you alive?"

"Oh- that's a long story. Perhaps for another time, my young demon. A long story indeed." He sighed reminiscently.

"Then... why are you here?"

"Just realizing a fancy of an old man. A journey of sorts. To repeat what I had once walked at the start. Coming full circle in my life, I guess you could say." The old man explained with a note of amusement. As if making fun of a younger self.

Nyx didn't exactly know what to make of it. The old human made no sense. However, he didn't find his presence unpleasant either. Instead, he felt strangely content talking with him. Not afraid or worried about being exposed or hiding his true identity. "You're not like most other humans..."

"You don't like humans that much, huh?" The geezer noted after hearing the demon's tone. "How come?"

Nyx looked at the old man weirdly like he had just asked a stupid question.

"Because... they're stupid... and useless." Was the best Nyx could come up with as he had to take a moment to think. "All humans are."

"Oh, that can't be true." The old man said with a grandfatherly voice. "There must be some humans you don't think are stupid, right?"

Pausing, Nyx realized that those words didn't ring hollow, taking the demon aback as he stopped to think. Combing through memories made of a recent life lived, unlike that of the infernal wastelands from whence he escaped, Nyx came to understand that the old man might actually... be right...

Horst, the friendly human and amazing cook he had met and shared multiple evenings of relaxation with on his journey to Cragspire. Eric, the human brawler who had firmly earned his respect as a fellow fighter. Even Aria, whilst not human, wasn't much different as she was just another enlightened. One he believed he could forever entrust himself in, the girl kind and loyal to a fault.

Why... hadn't he recognized this before? Sure, the number of humans who were annoying and stupid was as numerous as the stars themselves, being in the overwhelming majority in all his encounters, barely any of them of note. But it truly couldn't be said for all of them. Nyx frowned as it felt like another layer of his bestial and instinct-driven animal brain was being slowly peeled away. As much as Nyx prided himself in being the smartest of imps, the thought of returning to such baseless instincts almost made him as angry as he was towards the idiocy displayed by most humans all around him nowadays - the pride within him not able to acknowledge such weakness.

The old man broke Nyx out of his internal revelation as he hummed approvingly. Looking up, the demon saw the old human's pleasant smile.

"We're not all that bad. Though... I can agree with you in many cases," He said before chuckling. "-As I said, birds make good companions if others cannot. But I trust, one such as yourself, need not make any such. As you already have one - with more sure to come."

Nyx frowned, not quite understanding. Then a bit of shock flashed across his face. He even knew that Nyx was a warlock?

However, before Nyx could understand the implications of the old man knowing such an incongruity to the world order itself, the old man got up with a groan. "Well, then. I better get going, these old legs aren't going to walk by themselves." He dusted off his robes. "Thank you for sharing your fire. Oh - perhaps a parting gift is in order."

Nyx didn't say anything as he just watched the old man approach, taking his walking stick and placing it to the dirt. Nyx could only watch as he, with his weary arms and shaky old hands, made some of the most delicate movements Nyx had ever witnessed. He etched a symbol into the ground, one that seemed rather inconspicuous. A rune? Nyx realized. But as engrossed as the demon was, he couldn't take his eyes away from it. The rune started to glow, Nyx's eyes going wide as the rune itself was etched into his mind.

[You have learned the Rune of Embodiment: Rah]

[Congratulations, your proficiency in Words of Power has increased!]

[Words of PowerInferior → Moderate]

Nyx could barely believe it. A new rune? And also the skill level-up. Words of Power was notoriously one of the hardest skills to further, something that even Aria with her seemingly boundless knowledge and expertise in the magical arts unable to teach him much of. He could intrinsically feel that it had barely even moved towards [Moderate] with all her training. But here had gotten it from [Inferior] to [Moderate] in an instant - simply by watching a rune drawn by a withered old human.

Looking up, he realized that multiple hours seemed to have gone by as the sun was on its way to set - the old man gone.

"Who... -what was that human..?" Nyx thought, incredulous but more than grateful.

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