Many wobbly steps along the rocky shore later and something came into view.
It was the bloody corpse of a giant toad monster.
Rain approached it warily.
“I guess Brax and his group continued to power level after mutila- after what they did to me and dumping me in the lake…”
Rain had strong feelings toward the people who had betrayed him but addressing those feelings was difficult when his stomach was in constant gnawing pain from lack of food.
The toad corpse didn’t look like something a human would like, but he was used to eating horrible food to survive. Raw toad wasn’t about to break him. In fact as he drew closer the enticing scent of its blood began to excite him and he started to drool with the thought of getting his teeth into it.
Unfortunately something had gotten there first, or rather somethings. Several crabs looked up and glared at him from where they were chewing at the toad’s flesh or trying to pull flesh free with their pincers.
He made shooing motions with his paws trying to scare them away but the crabs weren't having it, they snapped at the air and waggled their bodies around on spiny legs.
“Big monster crabs. Suppose that's about right for a dungeon.”
The crabs were large, the largest having a shell about a foot across, but that didn’t deter Rain. He could smell meat was close and the hunger drove him onward. He jogged up to the nearest crab and with an awkward kick he booted it as hard as he could. To his surprise it was catapulted into the air and landed in the lake with a Ka-Plonk!! Splash.
“Holy shit I’m strong! This is incredible!”
Drunk on power he snatched at the nearest crab and holding its leg he flung it out over the lake. It went far.
“F-fuck this feels amazing.” he said as he stared down at his muscular arms. They couldn't be further from the skeletal sticks devoid of muscle from his past life. He could actually lift and throw things!
He gleefully freed the toad from the crab buffet, launching crabs one by one into the lake.
Then he turned on the toad for his own reasons. Food.
He couldn't stop himself, he went at it face first and bit into its side. His razor sharp teeth cut into its hide with ease and he ripped free a great chunk of muscle and flesh, blood pouring down his chest he snapped at it, cutting and dicing it before swallowing as quickly as he could manage.
“Oh gods why does this taste so fucking good!” he whined.
He leapt onto the Toad and began using his jaws to incise into it, moving along its surface and cutting furrows. He groaned as he ripped and tore trying to stuff as much of the meat down his maw as possible. He could only describe it as a perfectly cooked rare steak crafted by a professional chef, jaw achingly delicious. A little voice worried at the back of his mind that being turned into a monster might have adjusted his sense of taste, but his hunger swiftly squashed it.
Ten minutes later he lay slumped against the toad, his stomach was rounded having been so stuffed. Still, the mountain of toad was perhaps only a quarter diminished.
He rested a paw on his overtaxed and taut stomach. He could feel it working. In fact he could feel it more than working. He watched with shock as his stomach started to gradually shrink with a growling churning sound. What was more he could feel his body responding, he felt strange, a feeling like stretching when waking up in the morning, in fact he aped the feeling and stretched out his limbs. It felt good, in fact it felt amazing! His stomach slowly diminished over the next minute or so until it returned to his originally flat stomach. He patted it tentatively.
“Tasted good enough that I don’t think I can say no to more… I’m still so goddamn hungry.”
He turned and laid into the toad once more.
A while later, and after his fourth round of toad, he collapsed in a puddle of toad blood and watched with fascination as his distended stomach slowly vanished. He stretched out his limbs and curved his spine as the feeling washed over him. This time he tested his theory. He placed a claw so that its tip lined up with a crack in the stone. It didn’t take long, slowly the claw pushed past the crack until it stopped a little beyond it. He was right. He was growing with each meal.
“Fuck, this changes everything. I’ll take being a monster if I can become bigger and stronger.”
He eyed the toad but with disappointment realised there wasn't much left apart from bones and he had already cracked said bones to suck out the marrow. He needed more. More food.
He looked around the lake shore. At some point some of the crabs had returned, ever the scavengers they waited nearby, ready to eat the remains once he left. Unfortunately for them Rain had other plans.
He casually sat up and glanced around. A rock, perfect. With one motion he leapt to his feet, grabbed the rock and then ran at the crabs. The crabs panicked and scuttled into each other. Too late. He landed amongst them like some kind of wrathful anti-crab god and began laying about himself with his divine weapon. Crash, crack, splinter. He cut down a dozen crabs in his hunt. The rest fled into the water, but it was enough for Rain. He dragged his victims into a pile and sat cross legged in front of them. Strength powered by a hunger both for food and for growth let him rip apart their shells and tear free pawfulls of flesh. He eagerly cracked their claws and poured the contents straight into his open maw.
One feast later and he looked down at his stomach with disappointment. He wasn't even two thirds full. He scowled.
“Not enough mass. Tasty, but I need something more substantial to satisfy my hunger.”
He grumbled and got to his feet.
“I hope the crabs haven't gotten to more of Brax and Co’s kills first…”
He continued along the shore.
It wasn't long before he came upon more, a pair of dead toads, and something else that was a surprise, a Goblin body.
After smashing a dozen crabs with rocks he had the spot to himself and he crept up to it.
This was the first time he had seen a Goblin in the wild. The reality was far less dangerous looking than he had imagined but a lot more filthy. The Goblin wore nothing but a loin cloth and some beads around its neck. A deep spear wound in its chest was obviously the work of Adlen.
Rain decided to ignore it for now and focused on the two toads. He salivated at the sight of them and his stomach growled in anticipation.
“I think this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to eat to my heart's content. Can’t say I dislike it,” he grinned, his lips raising to reveal his wolfish molars.
He attacked the nearest toad body and shredded it with his teeth and claws, pushing hunks of meat into his maw as fast as he could bite it into manageable chunks. He was getting better at this, more efficient, but also more hungry.
By the time he was done with his first meal half the toad was gone. His stomach was rounded like a beach ball, his skin stretched tight. He was fuller than ever before having eaten more in one sitting than anything so far as marked by having eaten half the toad, no small feat considering its size.
Satisfaction rushed through him as he started to digest and he could feel himself growing. His spine creaked under the changes and his joints popped. He shuddered as he felt the tips of his paws reach a little further than before. Oh this was nice.
He barely paused as he leapt on to the rest of the toad with savage glee.
An hour of gorging later and a wolf like monster covered from ear tip to toe tip in toad and crab blood slowly heaved themselves up from the ground.
Rain had no perfect reference but judging by how far he felt his eye level was from the ground he suspected he was starting to near 5 foot in height. Something he would have given anything for in his past life but now, now he just wanted more.
He eyed the Goblin body.
“It’s… a bit human like… but I am a monster, and monsters eat monsters right?... and sadly I’ve eaten more unappetising looking things as a starving Human.”
He scuttled over to it and sniffed hesitantly.
“Oh gods it smells wretched!” he cried holding a paw over his nose.
Still, his stomach demanded food so he gingerly lifted up a leg and with the wariness of someone who thinks they are about to taste something awful he bit off a toe, closed his eyes in apprehension, and chewed.
“That.... that actually tastes pretty good… I guess the smell is just due to them having never heard of the concept of hygiene...”
Rain decided that he would rather get done with it as quickly as possible so he had less time to think about what he was eating. His overriding ravenous hunger was making that a lot easier than he thought it would be, although the little voice in the back of his mind worried if that was more to do with him no longer being human...
Having practiced eating efficiently he placed the Goblins hand in his mouth, pushed from the shoulder and began dicing it with his teeth making his way along the arm. With a savage bite he dissected the last of the limb from the torso and the chunk slipped down into his stomach.
“Hrmm, I still prefer toad I think, but it’s a bit better than crab…”
He didn't slow and each limb went into his mouth until he was left with a torso. He grabbed a rock and split open the Goblins skull. He wasn't a fussy eater, the head is often the bit that gets thrown out at the butchers as no one wants it so he was no stranger to brains and eyeballs. It was just a fact of life and when cooked not as bad as one would expect. In fact he’d heard they were a delicacy in certain noble courts. Here and now though they were fuel for the engine that was his growth.
A torn open rib cage later and he was muzzle deep in the Goblins organs. Heart, kidneys, liver, even stomach and lungs, he ate it all.
At last he stopped, stomach stuffed and nothing of the Goblin left except his loincloth, marrow-less bones and cracked open skull.
He had to admit after eating his way through it that Goblin might be a contender for the top spot. Toad’s days were numbered unless they upped the ante when it came to tastiness.
Drool still hanging from his chops he sat in fuzzed contentment as he felt his body surge with growth as the Goblin digested to fuel it.
“Hnnnn.” he stretched his limbs and paws in deep satisfaction.
As the growth waned he caught a sudden motion out of the corner of his eye and leapt to his feet in fear.
A Goblin met his gaze for a moment, they had been hiding behind a rock and trying to creep past. Seeing Rain absolutely plastered in blood they panicked and ran screaming.
“Ah. That might be a problem.”
Rain had studied the dungeon, he knew about monsters, Lynthia did have a public library after all and he had spent many days secluded in it reading everything he could on how he might be able to fight and kill a monster and gain a level alone without help. That had proven fruitless of course, even the weakest monster, a Goblin, would be able to kill him with laughable ease in his pathetic state and that was assuming they weren't alone. Goblins were a pack monster, a tribal monster. Where you met one many were sure to follow.
He dashed after the fleeing Goblin. He could not let it get back to its tribe and raise a swarm of the things to come and kill him. He suspected he would be able to kill one alone, even if it was armed, but as soon as more than one came into the equation he knew that things would become increasingly risky. Facing more than one monster at a time was worse than facing a single much more powerful monster in many ways simply because it's difficult to keep track of them and being stabbed in the back was a constant threat. Keeping track of two or three and keeping them at bay in his current state? Maybe. Four or more? Forget about it. Many many levelers died to tribal monsters simply because they do not have eyes in the back of their head.
The Goblin was a little shorter than him thus shorter in stride and his wolf-like legs increased that difference, they allowed him to sprint forward at speeds he would have only thought possible of someone with significant levels. However the Goblin had a head start and knew the terrain. He chased it from the shore into a cavern and from there into twisting winding tunnels and caves.
He was gaining and as they passed from a tunnel he leapt and tackled the Goblin to the ground.
He held onto the wriggling monster as they rolled across the stone before coming to stop.
“It’s the Dire Beast! Kill it!”
Squawked the Goblin in his paws, which he realised by her voice was female, but that of course was much less of a shock than hearing her speak Common.
He looked up to see a trio of Goblins sitting around a campfire frozen in the middle of eating what looked like a roasted rat.