Novel Rupegia

Discussion in 'Community Fictions' started by Manasong, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    Genre: Action, Fantasy, Psychological, Romance, Harem, LitRPG, Magic, Male Lead, Portal Fantasy / Isekai, Slice of Life
    Content Warning: gore, profanity, sexual content (male/female, female/female, and human/non-human(not for the faint of heart)), traumatizing content

    New chapters Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8PM US East. At least 3k words each.

    This novel can also be found on Royal Road (most of the sexual content is censored), Scribble Hub, Wattpad, Hentai Foundry, Webnovel, MoonQuill, Archive of Our Own, and Literotica with the same name.

    Find more informationation at my blog or my Patreon.

    "You may now kiss the bride."

    But no kiss ever came.

    I'm ripped from my wedding and thrown into a medieval fantasy world with game-like elements. It may seem like a game, but that doesn't matter to me, because this is my reality. The pain, the hunger, the cold, the fear, it's all real to me.

    Alone, without knowing why I'm here, in a world where I know nothing and nobody, I decide to buy a Blood Slave to have someone I can trust. She brings me comfort and so much more. She helps me raise my head high again and bravely move forward. Together, we'll grow stronger. Together, we're unbreakable. But she won't be the only one by my side. We need more than just each other, for I know that my purpose in this world can't be accomplished with only her help.

    Monsters and dungeons plague the land, forcing civilization to protect themselves from the hordes with tall walls and fierce determination. Killing monsters is a daily need, but they aren't the only enemy here. I have a powerful "Gift" that allows me to change my "skill points" at will, but if others were to know about it, there would be many that would try to use me by any means possible.

    Step by step, moment by moment, day by day, we keep moving forward, always aiming to improve our strength. One day, we'll meet our Fate, and we'll be ready for it. Swords held-high, shields tightly strapped to our arms, wings spread apart, spells at the tip of our tongues, minds focused like blades, and our hearts hardened like steel. We'll take on whatever comes our way!

    ---------------------------------------------
    What to expect: Slow story focused on the day-to-day life of a transmigrated man rather than on the plot.

    The plot exists but it very slowly becomes relevant.

    Detailed environments and extensive world-building.

    Realistic and tactical combat instead of flashy.

    Protagonist with a cheat but far from overpowered.

    Lots of descriptive sex scenes, it is treated as just another part of life instead of merely fan-service.

    A harem where the members actually enjoy living with each other.

    Occasional weird wording and grammar, English isn't my first language.

     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021 at 1:18 AM
    Uhoh_, TheHoblit and Chafalleiro like this.
  2. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    Many thanks to reader ZeroDays for switching the dashes (-...-) dialogue notation for the quotation ("...") dialogue notation.

    "You may now kiss the bride."

    But no kiss came. The warmth of her hand suddenly vanishes; the feeling of standing on the stable ground switches to the stomach-churning pain of free-falling, and then my consciousness is severed.



    "Lily…" I murmur.

    My back hurts, my whole body feels like stone, nausea prevents me from trying to get up, and my nose is filled with the musky smell of nature. I finally realize I'm laying down with my eyes closed and my belly up.

    Once the nausea subsides, I decide to open my eyes, and I see huge trees that almost cover the entire sky. Like cracks on a wall, the crown shyness of the canopies let only small streaks of light pass through.

    After regaining control of my body, I manage to sit and look at my surroundings. This is a forest with trees bigger and thicker than anything I have ever seen before, but bushes prevent me from seeing too far. The air is damp and slightly hot, reminding me of the subtropical climate I was born in.

    I get up and notice my body feels weird, then I look down and see I'm not wearing my tuxedo, but instead, I have a leather jacket lightly padded with a gambeson, a woolen white shirt, woolen black pants, and some rather uncomfortable leather shoes. On my waist, there's a belt where a sword and scabbard are hanging.

    I draw the sword and notice that it's rather light. Oddly, I don't find it difficult to handle, and it's almost as my arm moves on its own as I swing it. Its blade is straight and double-edged, about 90cm in length. There's space for only one hand on the hilt, which has a cross-shaped guard. The edge is sharp and can easily cut the bushes I swing at. This is not a prop.

    "Am I in a renaissance fair?" I ask the air, astonished.

    I don't remember how I got here. Did I hit my head? The last thing I remember is being at my wedding ceremony.

    Then a small amount of panic enters my heart.

    "Lily…!? LILY, WHERE ARE YOU!?" I scream in panic, but no response comes, I'm completely alone. After a few moments, I calm down and continue taking in my situation.

    My body still feels weird, and I don't know why. At least I'm not nauseous anymore, but now I'm starting to feel scared.

    I don't know where to go because there are only trees as far as the eye can see. I also don't remember how I got here and in which direction I can go to find someone. I'm truly lost in the woods with no idea of what to do.

    Besides, I've never seen a forest like this. I'm a Canadian living in the cold north where it should be winter and the trees are much smaller. Did I travel to a faraway place to the south, or is it summer and I simply forgot the passage of time?

    Time passes while I think about what to do, and I start to feel an itch slowly growing inside my head. It's not on the outside, on my hair, but actually inside. Like when water gets on your ear and it gets uncomfortable. It feels like I can almost "touch" it, but it's barely out of reach.

    I keep trying to "scratch it" while shaking my head, and little by little, it feels like I'm getting closer. Then, suddenly, I somehow "scratch it," and a menu opens.

    Like a light projection in front of me, I see various columns of black squares with white letters on them, similar to a touchscreen on a phone.

    Now I feel like I'm going insane. There's no source of light or medium where the light hits to explain this as a mere projection. It's a floating object that passes through the bushes near me as if it's non-corporeal, and as I move around I notice that It follows my torso but not my head.

    Curious and scared, I use my finger to touch the square that says "Status".

    A new black square opens with a lot of information written on it.




    Info​
    NamePRESS HERE TO CHOOSEAge16RaceHuman
    HP100MP100Magic Power175
    Level0Experience0/100

    Stats​
    Strength7Endurance8Dexterity9
    Speed10Intelligence20Wisdom15
    Willpower11Charisma10Piety0
    Perception15Sanity9

    Other​
    Status Effects'NONE'
    Titles'NONE'
    Affiliations'NONE'
    Companions'NONE'
    Crimes'NONE'
    I can't believe this. Mom told me this would happen but I didn't listen. I have now officially gone insane, I'm seeing a video game "status" in real life.

    I start panicking a little. This situation isn't funny. Compounding on my loss of memory and waking up in an unknown place, now I'm seeing something impossible to explain: a ridiculous looking menu that makes me believe I'm into some ultra-realistic virtual reality game.

    I can feel the pain in my body; I can breathe in the smells of the forest; I can perfectly see a level of detail only a real eye can; I can feel a slight hunger in my stomach; I can feel how uncomfortable these ridiculous clothes are; and I can taste my saliva inside my mouth. Just to make sure, I lick my hand and taste the salt of my cold sweat. All of my senses tell me that this is real.

    Is this the future where I purposely erased part of my memory and entered this virtual reality just to feel like I've been transported to another world? This is the only logical explanation that does not involve a supernatural event. But if this has really happened, then there's a huge problem: I see no "Quit" or "Logout" button.

    My heart beats like crazy, my vision loses focus, and I start to gasp for air because I feel like I can't breathe. My mind is slowly filled with fear, then my vision darkens, and my knees start to buckle. I'm having a panic attack.



    I blink, and suddenly I regain my awareness. It seems like the worst has passed.

    Apparently, I had laid down at one point, and at least I didn't collapse and hit my head against the ground.

    I sit up and look around, still a bit dizzy, but dismay hits me as I notice that I'm still in the same stupid forest as before.

    Fuck!

    I need to focus on my only ally here: logic. Logic is my friend, logic is my ally, and logic will help me get through the insanity and ridiculousness of my situation so that I can make a proper decision and that won't get me killed in this horrible world.

    First things first, I have to explore my options. There are more buttons to press on this menu, so let's just pull off the brakes on my skepticism of this fantasy.

    On the left of the menu, there are buttons on a column, they are: "Status", "Items", "Skills", "Magic", "Notes" and "Messages".

    "Messages" has an exclamation point near it, and I assume it signifies that there's an unread message. I open it, and it shows me the only unread message.



    Sender: God.

    "I'm sorry about this, but there's no way for you to go back."



    Logic doesn't help when God fucks you over. My vision is darkening again, I'm having another breakdown.

    Then I see my "Sanity" in my "Stats" window going down a point.



    This time, I forcefully bring myself back from the stupefied state I was in.

    No, no, no, no, no, no, no~~! I can't get mad, this is a prank, someone is messing with me. A camera is hidden and soon someone will jump out of a bush and laugh at me. I have to keep calm so the entirety of the internet, and then the world, won't have a reason to point and laugh at my situation. It's okay, keep calm, it's all a prank.

    Since this is a prank, why not use magic? I want to see what kind of special effects they're going to use.

    I press the "Magic" button and… a blank black box appears.

    So, I guess I don't have any magic skills yet. Well, let's see how "Items" works. I don't have a backpack, so how are the items going to appear? Hah, it's going to go *poof* and materialize from thin air or something?

    I press the button and a list appears.




    Items​
    Item NameQuantityItem NameQuantityItem NameQuantity
    Empty backpack1Spare clothes bundle1Rock bread10
    Dried meat10Deer waterskin5Sleeping bag1
    Flint1Kitchen knife1Skinning knife1
    Cooking pot1Whetstone Q1002Wool cloak1
    Firewood10Rose coin1Gold coin10
    Silver coin50Copper coin100
    "At least you gave me money, you shit stain of a god," I grumble to myself.

    I press the "Sleeping Bag" button and the menu suddenly closes, then a transparent sleeping bag starts to hover above my finger.

    Scared at the sudden apparition of a ghost sleeping bag, I step back and pull my hand away, but the ghost follows my finger as if it's glued to it, even going through the nearby bush without disturbing it.

    I swing my hand trying to unglue it, then I press my finger against my jacket, and the sleeping bag suddenly materializes in front of me with a *poof* and falls on my feet.

    I think I'm starting to get used to the insanity. A sleeping bag materializes from absolutely nothing and I don't really feel anything. Is this "shock"?

    Now… how do I put it back?

    I notice that there's an icon on the corner of the item screen that's animated. It shows a hand grabbing a sword, then bumping a button, and the sword disappears, then it loops.

    I grab the sleeping bag, press the button shown in the animation, and *poof*, the sleeping bag disappears. Then I see the entry "Sleeping bag" appear on the item list.

    So is there an item limit? Or a weight limit? Is it limited to things I can carry on one hand? Maybe I should write these on my "Notes" and test them later, it should be a priority to understand this if I'm going to be stuck in this fantasy land.

    Finally, let's see the "Skills" menu. On the right, there's a column with the writing "Skill Points: 10". Below it is written "Acquired Skills," and below that there is [Sword Use 1], which has a minus and a plus sign beside it. It seems I can increase or reduce the skill points at will with these ten "Skill Points."

    On the right of this column, there's a large box with the tabs on top: "Physical," "Magical," and "Miscellaneous." And each of these tabs shows an uncountable number of skills.

    "Physical" has things like [Sword Use], [Axe Use], [Shield Use], [Block], [Parry], and [Bow Use]. Some of these look like they might be overlapping, so perhaps the benefits stack, but it sounds troublesome to test. There are others where the name isn't very descriptive, like [Antushi Style], which is probably related to martial arts schools. Then there are some like [Enhanced Reflexes], [Muscle Explosion], [Hawk Eyes], and [Battlefield Perception] which are interestingly named. There are also dozens of crafting skills like [General Blacksmithing], [Armor Smith], [Weapon Smith], [Jewel Crafting], [Woodwork], and [Bow Crafting]. And finally, there are some ridiculous ones like [Enhanced Sexual Stamina], [Oral Technique], [Enhanced Genital Control], and [Enhanced Semen Recharge].

    "Magic" sounds extremely interesting to me. It has all of the standard elements like [Electric Magic], Space, Light, Dark, Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Nature. Then there are more exotic skills like [Spirit Magic], Summoning, Conjuring, Blessing, Cursing, [Undead Creation], [Bloodwork], and many more. There's magic enhancements like [Mana Control], [Mana Efficiency], [Mana Recovery], [Mana Absorption], [Mana Reflection,] and [Reduced Mana Cost].

    Mana seems to be the name of the source of magical power in this world, so maybe MP means something like "Mana Points."

    Continuing, there are resistances, like [Poison Resistance], [Fire Resistance], and so on. Then crafting, like [Armor Enchanting], [Weapon Enchanting], [Jewel Enchanting], [Alchemy], [Potion Brewing], [Magic Tool Carving], [Poison Brewing], and [Golemancy]. The last one seems extremely interesting to me since I have a degree in robotics. And there are ridiculous ones too like [Slavery Magic], [Sexual Charm], and [Sexual Metamorphosis].

    "Miscellaneous" contains things like [Weapon Appraisal], [Jewel Appraisal], [Metal Appraisal], [Ore Appraisal], [Flute Playing], [Lute Playing], [Musical Improvisation], [Singing], [Oratory], [Acting], [Writing], [Housework], [Cleaning], [Washing], and even [Folding]. Then there are some interesting ones like [Sense Presence], [Hide Presence], [Quiet Steps], [Quiet Action], [Intimidation], and [Charm]. There's even a bunch that's related to language proficiency, but I don't know which one to choose, so I'll leave it for later. Some look like they belong into the "Physical" category, but with things like [Charm] and [Sense Presence], maybe they revolve around some weak form of magic, so they are a mix of both physical and magical skill.

    Luckily, at the top, there's a search function, but typing on this menu is very awkward. Unlike a keyboard, where you can feel the feedback of pressing a key, this keyboard passes through the finger, so I don't feel anything when I press a button. The feedback is even worse than that of a smartphone.

    I can add and remove skills at will, and since I already have one point in [Sword Use], I actually have eleven skill points I can use if I remove this skill.

    "Notes" operates like an office computer software where you create and organize documents, and simply write things in them with the awkward, floating, non-corporeal keyboard.



    Now that I have seen it all, I need to decide on my next step.

    I have some food, and although something like "rock bread" doesn't sound appetizing, I don't think I'll starve to death so soon. But still, if there's no civilization nearby, then I need to secure a source of food and water.

    Perhaps [Conjuring Magic] will give me something to survive, but I'm not sure relying on it is a good idea. I have no idea what kind of nutrition magically created food has, and I also have no idea of the mana cost of conjuring it, or how fast mana recovers. I'll need to test it, but testing it now might cost me precious time.

    Since I have no idea where to go, maybe it's best to find a vantage point where I can look over the surroundings and search for a river or a man-made structure. The problem is that I can't see very far in this thick forest, so I might have to wander about for a long time before I find a hill. I'm also scared of sleeping in an unknown forest and what might hunt at night, so I absolutely don't want to waste time.

    Suddenly, an idea comes up to me. Since I can add or remove skill points at will, I can see which magic gives which spell, so maybe there's something useful in there. Once I put one point into a magic school, it gives me at least one spell. Most magic schools seem to require ten points until the next spell is unlocked, but some require five, and I don't know what's after level eleven since I don't have enough points.

    Although [Golemancy] seems interesting, it doesn't look like it's useful right now. [Conjuring Magic] gives me [Conjure Water] at level 1 and [Conjure Bland Meal] at level 5, and [Conjure Dirt] at level 10, so at least I have a source of water, but I'll have to test it later for how much water it gives me. It might also be a good idea to have at least one offensive magic since I seemingly have good stats for magic if it's based on "Intelligence" or "Wisdom" like most RPGs.

    I wanted some healing magic, but since my "Piety" is zero, I'm uncertain if it's a good idea since healing magic is tied to religion and piety in plenty of games.

    I'm starting to wish I wasn't an atheist.

    If this truly is a different world, then I better start believing in the divine seeing how supernatural things are happening around me.

    After I look at [Summoning Magic], I get an excellent idea. The first spell for Summoning is [Summon Small Bird], which might be my best way of finding my way around this forest, so I put a point in it, go to the "Magic" tab, and press the spell's button.

    For a second, I feel like my blood is being sucked out of my body through every inch of my skin, then a ball of light appears in front of my finger.

    Not knowing what to do, I decide to touch the ball, and gravity suddenly starts to apply on it, so it falls on the ground and then stops shining. Suddenly, I'm looking at the sky again.



    When my head stops spinning, my senses are overwhelmed by the oddest combination of feelings I've ever felt. On one side of my vision, I can see the sky, and on the other, I can see the sole of my own boots as I appear to have fallen on my back; my body feels really weird and tired while also light and energetic at the same time; I feel like I've "grown" more limbs, yet I can't "control" them; everything sounds a lot noisier and louder than before; and my stomach feels both hungry and full at the same time.

    After getting a little bit used to the situation, I raise my upper body. On one side of my vision, I see a small brown bird that looks like a fluffy ball, on the other side of it I see… myself? I don't remember looking like this. I'm younger, much younger. This baby face that I didn't see for more than a decade is staring at… me?

    After a long minute staring at the bird, all the weird feelings start to make sense and I get over this mind-fuck. This little bird in front of me is my summon, and I'm "sharing" its senses. Things like sight, hearing, touch, taste, proprioception, heat, and maybe even more. There are so many that a headache starts to flare; my mind isn't ready for so much information.

    I wish that I wasn't sharing all of those senses

    Suddenly, the sharing stops, and I feel so sick that I almost puke.

    A flush of information followed by a sudden cut is too much for me to handle. I have to spend a few minutes controlling my stomach so that I can keep whatever's in there.

    After getting my stomach under control again, I look at the bird and notice that it's still in the same spot, with its beady little eyes staring intensely at me.

    If all I need is to wish for this "sense sharing" to stop, then I wish that I could only share the sight.

    And now my vision is back to seeing two images.

    It's not like my vision decreased, it "expanded," and now I can see much more, which puts a strain on my brain and makes me feel a little queasy. At least now I'm sure that this little guy is the perfect thing to help me find civilization.

    I look at my "Status" and notice that my max MP has been halved, and that my current MP is now at fifteen points. It seems that either summoning is an advanced form of magic, or I'm just bad at magic even though I have good stats. Also, I didn't put any points into things like [Mana Control], [Mana Efficiency], or [Reduced Mana Cost], so maybe that's why this magic is so expensive. That was a mistake, so I wasted a lot of mana points.

    But it doesn't matter now. What I need to do is learn how to control this bird.

    First, I try to wish for it to move like I wished to stop the sense sharing, but nothing happens. Perhaps it only works with voice commands, which makes it impossible to use it as a puppet.

    "Sit on my hand," I order, then I open my palm, and it obeys.

    Seeing the bird suddenly take flight makes me nauseous again, but I guess it's just a matter of getting used to it.

    Now, with the bird closer to my face, I can finally see myself properly.

    I'm truly much younger than before, I'm really sixteen again. Round face, protruding jaw, full cheeks, traces of pimples, a few characteristic freckles, complete lack of the stubble that made me look manly, and short black hair neatly combed to the side, now slightly disheveled.

    That's me, the young, baby-faced me. Considering how I'm seeing my younger self through the eyes of a little bird, I can feel my "Sanity" dropping another point.

    I need to get a hold of myself! I'm not supposed to be affected by this anymore, and my safety is the top priority right now. If I really am inside some sort of video game, then just by looking at the large number of combat skills I can assume that this is a dangerous world. Not only that, but I'm alone in the woods, which is the most commonplace for enemies to appear, so I need to prepare myself and focus back on finding civilization.

    While calming myself, I notice something odd inside my head. It's like an "itch," and it's similar to the "itch" that I have to scratch to open and close the "Menu," but maybe this is related to the [Summoning Magic]? I feel like I don't have to make an effort to scratch it, so I'll leave it like this, otherwise, it's possible that I could accidentally dismiss the summoned bird and lose the mana I'd already spent.

    Finally, it's time to scout the area.

    "Fly high in a circle and come back after two minutes," I order.

    Hopefully, it knows what two minutes are. I also defined a time limit since I'm afraid that it won't come back unless I tell it to.

    The bird quickly flies upwards and crosses the canopies, giving me a breathtaking view.

    A sea of trees, that is how this place looks from above. There are some trees that are much taller than the rest, allowing me to see their trunks, and they show huge vines hanging from their branches. There are huge roots thicker than a house that twist around the ground and disappear among the trees. Blue, red, yellow, orange, white, and black patches of leaves color the sea as if they were drops of paint on a green canvas. The sky is completely clear and blue, showing me that this isn't a completely alien world. But the most beautiful detail of all is the sunlight reflecting on the leaves, which creates beautiful twinkling lights as the bird flies around.

    Based on the position of the sun, it looks like it's either a few hours before noon or a few hours after it because I don't know which direction is north or which direction the sun is traveling towards.

    Far away, near the horizon, I can see a grassland, and beyond that, just on the edge of my view, I see something that makes my heart stop: multiple black lines stand on top of another black line. It's not a mountain or a weird tree, and it kind of looks like towers behind a stone wall, but it's definitely man-made.

    Finally, I have a direction to go. After the bird comes back, I'll order it to fly towards that to investigate more closely.

    But wait, that doesn't look like anything modern; it reminds me of drawings of medieval fantasy towns… Just another piece of evidence I'm not in a normal situation.

    Suddenly, the bird's view gets shaky and blurry, and a shadow blocks part of it. The bird has been captured by the claws of a large, scaled animal.

    I don't know what happens if it gets killed, but I fear that a painful feedback could be sent to me if that happens, just like in some games.

    I immediately "scratch" the "itch" inside my brain, and the vision of the bird instantly gets blurry, then it slowly goes black. My field of view returns to normal size and the discomfort of double view goes away. It seems that I just "unsummoned" my familiar.

    This hits me like a bucket of cold water. It shows again that this world is dangerous and I need to prepare for battle.

    So far, I only have 1 point into [Summoning Magic] and [Sword Use], leaving me with 9 unused points, so I better prepare.

    First, I test the melee skills. Taking off [Sword Use] instantly removes all the "intuition" I had when holding a sword.

    I slash with the sword, then I put the point back on and slash again. I instantly feel a difference as my second slash feels much "smoother," but I have no conscious idea of what I'm doing, it's all just "intuition."

    I test [Parry], [Dodge], and [Block], but the "intuition" they give me is incredibly weaker than [Sword Use]. Then I test [Sword Use] again and notice that it also gives me some small intuition in how to parry, dodge, and block just by itself. There's some overlap in what the skill gives me, so I don't necessarily need to spread my points around to multiple skills, at least not yet.

    The Style skills don't give me any noticeable changes, so I have no fucking idea how to use them, and their names don't give me any clue about what weapon they're about.

    Once I put on [Muscle Explosion], I instantly feel like I can do a "power punch" or an "instant dodge." In fact, every muscle of my body feels ready to move with "explosive" speed.

    I try out the punch, but I pull a muscle on my arm and it takes a few minutes to stop hurting, then I try the "instant dodge" and also pull a muscle on my leg. I don't remember being that physically inept, but it seems like this younger body is pretty weak.

    Is this a fucking Deprived start?!

    [Hawk Eyes] allows me to "focus" my vision, basically reducing my FOV to allow me to see better, but after a few seconds of using it I feel mentally tired, so I don't think I need it right now.

    The "enhancement" skills like [Enhanced Strength] also use "mental energy" to work, but instead of actually making me stronger, they just make it slightly easier to "use" these attributes, as in, easier to push me to my limits.

    For example, [Enhanced Strength] doesn't actually make me stronger, it just allows me to better use my (I assume) meager seven points of "Strength."

    Curiously, [Battlefield Perception], doesn't give me any noticeable changes, so I don't understand how it works.

    "Sneaking" skills like [Quiet Steps], [Quiet Action], and [Hide Presence] also need me to "focus" to feel any noticeable difference, though [Hide Presence] doesn't visibly do anything besides draining my mental stamina, but at least it's a lot less straining than [Hawk Eyes].

    [Sense Presence], on the other hand, instantly gives me a response the moment I put it on. I "know" that there's a "white dot" ahead, which I locate with my eyes and identify as a little squirrel going up a ginormous tree. A few seconds later, the small "white dot" disappears from my mind, though I still see the squirrel moving, so I guess the range of the skill is limited.

    It's kind of like a mind radar, with plants being extremely faint white "dots," and other animals as properly discernable "white dots." These "dots" start to gain weird shapes the more points I add to the skill, but I have no idea what these shapes mean, and the skill drains me exponentially more with the number of points, so I can't test it for long.

    Overall, I'm a bit disappointed with the "Physical" skills. They don't give me any significant benefits besides [Sword Use], so that skill is the one that has the most use to me right now, pun intended.

    Now, magic, on the other hand, seems a lot more impactful.

    First, I want healing magic. I bite the bullet and put 10 points in [Light Magic]. I have a suspicion it uses "Piety," and since I have zero in that stat, it might be useless to me.

    I go to my "Magic" tab, press [Heal]… and nothing happens.

    I guess I was right. If zero "Piety" means that I can't cast it, then maybe it works like a multiplier. If I assume that "ten" is the normal value for the average person, then I might need at least that much "Piety" before it becomes cost-effective.

    Well then, at least there's another healing spell I can use. I put five points in [Nature Magic], and it gives me two spells: [Constricting Vines] at level 1 and [Regeneration] at level 5. Both seem very useful for someone like me that doesn't really want to fight. I put one point in [Electric Magic] so I at least have one offensive spell: [Lightning Bolt]. I don't want to use [Fire Magic] in a forest since I'm not confident I won't start a forest fire.

    Now, how do I use the last five points? I should at least always have one on [Sword Use]. One on [Hide Presence] just for safety, one [Sense Presence] to let me see ahead leaving me with two points left. It's straining to keep these two skills "active" at the same time, so it'll be impossible to use a third like [Quiet Steps].

    There's nothing that helps me fight better than adding two more to [Sword Use], so I'll go with it.

    Now there are six "itches" inside my mind and because of some sort of subconscious understanding, I can differentiate between them quite easily. One is the "Menu," two are for the [Nature Magic] spells, one is the [Lightning Bolt] spell, and the last two are [Sense Presence and [Hide Presence]. With a little bit of familiarity, it seems that it'll be very easy to quickly use the one I want.

    My mana is back to twenty, so I think I'll rest some more until it's back to full.



    While I wait, I focus on calming my heart so I can do what I need to do, then I notice my "Sanity" going up one point, and it's now at eight. I guess that forcing myself to prepare for danger has repaired my mind, somewhat.

    I assume that the average is ten, so being at eight isn't necessarily bad, but I believe this means that I have to work harder on keeping calm.

    This is possibly a medieval fantasy world with swords and magic, which means that it's different from my society. I need to be mindful of things such as respecting the nobility, avoiding triggering the superstitions of locals, understanding local laws, adapting to the food and etiquette, understanding the economy, understanding the common sense, and dozens of other small things.

    If I fail with this first contact, then I don't know if I can survive until I reach the next town. I can't bring attention to myself, so I should avoid things like [Slavery Magic], [Bloodwork], and [Necromancy Magic], which sound dangerous and potentially illegal. [Summoning Magic] also seems advanced and exotic, and it's best that people don't ask where I learned it, so I should hide it, too. Also, the skill system seems abusive. I could turn from a swordsman, to a mage, to an assassin, to a craftsman, and to a negotiator, all in a small amount of time. It doesn't seem normal for people to be able to do what I did with this skill system. Even the menu and things like "Items" could be abnormal here, so I have to be cautious of that, too.

    Now I'm starting to accept this might really be another world. "God" may have sent me a message that I can't go back, but there's no evidence of that, it's just the words of a suspicious being that I have never seen before. Perhaps I can go back, or perhaps not, but first, I need to search for knowledge about this world, about teleportation, and about other worlds, only then can I truly decide if it's possible or not.

    Even if this world is only a game, I can still feel a lot of pain, I can feel the pleasure of the wind, I can feel the hunger in my stomach…

    Now that I think about it, I feel like I should eat a piece of meat.

    This "dried meat" is too salty for my taste, too hard to cut, and too rubbery to chew.

    I really want normal food now.

    I didn't even get to taste the buffet that I ordered for my wedding, and there were so many choices of chocolate candies that I never got to enjoy.

    I slap my cheeks to get away from these idle thoughts.

    Going back to the previous train of thought, I can feel the satisfaction of eating something, and everything else that I should normally feel. For me, this is reality, not a game, so I don't want to live a poor and hard life. If I can basically do anything with this skill system, then maybe I can use it to my advantage and have a quiet, but fulfilling life while I search for knowledge about how to get back.

    I sigh and lay back on the cold, hard ground. I can see the sun on top of the canopies now, so I guess it's about noon. Also, my MP is now back to full, and it took at least an hour of waiting, so I think I should conserve my MP as much as I can.

    I just wanted to hug you one more time, Lily…



    I try to eat a piece of "rock bread", but it's really as hard as a rock. Well, I guess this is why it won't spoil easily. Then I try to wet it with my saliva and it easily turns into mush.

    Bland, wet, white bread, delicious.

    I have to test [Lightning Bolt], too. It's best to know your tools, even if I'm going to waste the mana right now by firing it at nothing.

    I scratch the "itch" of [Lightning Bolt], and immediately the point of my left finger starts feeling hot while the sensation of blood leaving my body comes again, so the spell must be charging.

    I look at my finger and see that it's shining faintly. I point it forward, and after two seconds of holding it still, a lightning bolt flashes from my finger towards a bush ahead.

    After the flash and thunder, I see that the bush has been partially carbonized while the rest has caught on fire.

    I have no idea how to measure damage, but this spell feels dangerous, though a small, rather dry bush would burn extremely easily. I'm not sure if it can kill someone in one hit, and there are also the status values and HP values, so maybe people can get resistance through "Endurance," or something.

    I cast [Constricting Vines] and feel my finger getting hot, so I point to another bush, and once the spell fully charges, green vines burst from the ground and wrap themselves around my "target." It takes a few seconds for them to wrap around it completely, so I don't think I can use this on an enemy that's moving.

    These spells cost me around 1/4th of my mana, so I only have four more uses or so of [Lighting Bolt].

    I think I'll wait again until my mana is full since I don't know what happens if I use all my mana. In some games, you can feel sick, faint, lose health, or even die, so I'm unwilling to test my mana to the limit.

    Finally, after resting again, I get the motivation to move on. Now I need to walk in the direction of town and reach safety.



    I walk with [Sense Presence] and [Hide Presence] activated and just power through the tiredness that they give me.

    The skills make me tense, but I can still appreciate the environment. The trees are all ten to fifteen meters tall, with a girth that would require at least five people to make a human chain around it. There's also the occasional huge root snaking around the trees, randomly going above or below the ground, and they make me wonder if they're the roots of one huge tree.

    There're also plenty of different bushes and small trees with fruits, mostly colorful berries and grapes. I try to put the fruits into "Items," but they all show a "??? fruit," so I'm not sure what they are or if they're even edible. They look quite appetizing, though.

    Then, as I walk through a small patch of blue-leaved trees with a white trunk, my [Sense Presence] picks up something different from the animals. I sense a "red dot" a few meters away and to my right. Not only is the color ominous, but I actually do feel like the skill is telling me that it's something "dangerous."

    Then my heart skips a beat when I notice that the red dot is coming directly towards me.

    Did it notice me? Does it also have [Sense Presence]? I can't even see it because the bushes are on the way.

    I hide behind a bush and crouch. If possible, I'd like to avoid combat. In games, killing monsters gives experience, which will increase my "level," but I don't have confidence in my abilities, and I also don't even know what kind of "enemy" is coming.

    The presence continues towards me. I notice the intercept route is a little off, so maybe it's just a coincidence that our paths would cross, but it'll still be very close. I can't afford to move and make a noise.

    I put my hand on the hilt of my sword.

    As I wait for the enemy to come closer, I start to hear footsteps. The pitter-patter makes me think that the red dot is a quadruped, so perhaps it's a dog? Then I hear the sound of someone sniffing the air. It's smelling me. There's no escape now that it caught my scent; it's going to find me.

    A bush ahead of me rustles, then a small wolf-like animal comes out of it. It has a long snout that gets thinner at the nose, fangs coming out of its closed mouth, and a round body with spines covered in moss. What's not covered in spines is covered in grey fur. It's certainly not an animal that I know.

    I freeze for a moment as I'm still not used to the ridiculous things that happen to me, but that was a mistake.

    The monster has noticed me, and it immediately bares his fangs, then lunges at me.

    It's coming, it's gonna bite me, it wants to kill me, I'm going to die.

    "AAAAAAAH!" I scream in fear.

    The fight or flight instinct kicks in, and this time, I decided to fight.

    When the monster gets close enough it jumps, aiming at my face.

    Like the noob that I am, I forgot to draw my sword, so all I can do is aim the blade at the monster while it flies towards me, and it hits the side of its snout. This isn't a katana capable of Iaido, so I only manage to give it a mere cut, but at least I deflected the tackle.

    It passes by my side and falls two meters away.

    I turn immediately to face it, and the animal does a move that sends chills down my spine. It lifts the hind legs and lowers the front legs, then the spines move their pointy ends directly towards me and start to shake. In the next moment, they shoot out like arrows.

    Through some incredible reflexes or luck, I lunge to the side, hiding behind the nearest tree, but it isn't a perfect dodge. The side of my left leg is assaulted by a wave of pain as the mossy spines enter my skin.

    My heart was already pumping adrenaline a few seconds ago, so I manage to ignore the pain, but still panic and decide to use my trump card. I charge [Lightning Bolt].

    I hear the rushed footsteps of the monster chasing after me. It has to go around the tree, so it doesn't reach me instantly, but its speed is still faster than I can cast.

    I see it, and it immediately jumps again, its open, fanged mouth aiming towards my face, then the Bolt flies.

    The lightning roars and the animal screams. It tackles me, but it doesn't bite. I protect my face and manage to grab him by the snout. It isn't very heavy, so I manage to not fall back from the impact. Then I slam it against the ground in rage.

    Part of its fur is burned, there's smoke rising from its body, and its eyes are both cloudy and possibly fried, then it starts to convulse, but it's not dead yet.

    Anger runs through my body and I pierce its head with my sword, letting the skill do it all for me.

    The monster twitches for a few seconds, then it stops moving.

    I killed something, I actually fucking killed something…but the feeling of my sword piercing through flesh is disgusting.

    "You are now level one," a female voice echoes around me.

    "W-what? Who's there?" I question and look around, but there's nobody around. I blink as I process what I heard, and after a few moments, I recognize that the voice was inside my head, like a video game announcer.

    I stand still for some time, thinking about what just happened, but the adrenaline goes away and the pain of the spines piercing my skin starts to grow.

    I quickly pull the spines out, but it just makes the pain worse. Now, my skin trickles with blood and stains my clothes, then I notice that four spines got stopped by the leather jacket.

    I guess armor really is useful here, though it's a bit lacking in padding.

    I cast [Regeneration], and a ball of light appears, floating above my left palm. I push it against my body and it sinks like it was ethereal, and I remain still for some time as I feel my mana steadily drain, then I start to calm down as the pain slowly subsides, and a slightly pleasurable feeling courses through my body. It seems that this is a continuous or "channeled" spell.

    It takes ten minutes, but the blood stops completely, then the wound starts closing, and the pain goes away completely. I guess this magic isn't something you use during battle, but it remains in effect for a minute after I stop channeling it.

    My mana is now at twenty. I guess I really need that [Mana Efficiency] skill for magic.



    While waiting for my mana to recharge, I look at my stats, but disappointingly, they didn't change. Perhaps, like "Sanity," stat values change based on training or other conditions instead of level.

    Then I look into my skills and notice that I have four new Skill Points to spend. I use two for the [Mana Efficiency] skill and two for [Sword Use]. Even though I barely used the sword, it was because I made a mistake and kept it sheathed before the battle. The monster was fast and magic has a short delay to cast, so I need to defend myself with a weapon if I get into melee.

    I test a [Dismantling] skill, but it seems it just gives me "intuition" in how to butcher it, but at least it gives me the idea that the corpse of monsters might be valuable.

    I decide to put it into my "Items," and it shows as "Hedge-wolf? monster corpse." I don't understand why there's a "?" there. Maybe it's like the fruits and the naming is based on my knowledge, so it picked the most appropriate name I could think of.

    I also change my pants since the smell of blood could attract more monsters. The bloodied pants are put into "Items" and get named as "bloody black woolen pants."

    I take out the "spare clothes bundle." It's a neat stack of clothes tied by a small cord. Maybe it needs to be like this so that it can "stack" and be considered as one item instead of each piece of clothing being separate. The bundle also has some linen underwear, which is the same as the one I'm wearing. It's loose-fitting and a little uncomfortable for me.

    Now I start to think about this world. It's clear that there are monsters different from animals and that they're hostile.

    This one likely discovered me by smell, so I guess [Hide Presence] was a bit useless, but maybe there's some magic that can help mask my scent. The loud roar my [Lightning Bolt] made when I tested it might've also alerted it of my presence, so that could be why it came towards me, to begin with.

    But the main lesson here is that I need to fight and I need to kill what I fight, there's no other way to survive here.



    After recharging my mana, I start moving again. Now I feel a little more confident since I calmed my heart, but I'm still feeling rather stressed. The [Sense Presence] skill is taking its toll on me.

    After walking for what seems like half an hour, I get another hit on my radar. The red dot feels "different" this time, and it's not coming directly towards me.

    I hide behind a bush with a good vision ahead and wait until I can see it. After a minute or so, a bush rustles and the monster comes out of it.

    It's a skinny, little green man with an ugly, oversized bald head full of wrinkles, a large, pointy ear, and a curved nose. It's a goblin, a standard enemy of fantasy worlds. It's completely naked, and its disgusting genital is dangling around, waving as he moves. He's also wounded as I can see a few bruises and cuts all over his exposed skin that are lightly bleeding. In his left hand, he is dragging a long, thin dagger, probably used for piercing, not cutting.

    This is a golden opportunity. A single Hedge-wolf gave me one hundred and ten experience points and let me level up, now I need two hundred points, but every single point counts.

    Just a single level in [Electric Magic] was enough to be the difference between life and death, or at least life and a nasty bite on my face. If I want to survive, I need more skill points, so I need more levels, and, therefore, I need to kill this goblin. The chance of success on this is high unless I'm mistaking the strength of this little green thing. He's not even a meter tall, so he should be weak.

    Yes, that's it, I'm charging.

    I draw my sword and dash towards him, holding it high above my head. The goblin barely has a chance to react before I'm into range, and I chop downwards.

    The goblin's face instantly warps into a scowl as he raises his dagger and tries to deflect my sword with his dagger, but he's too weak in comparison to me. He's not fast or strong enough to parry, but he still moves my sword sideways a bit. What was supposed to be a single hit kill by a chop to the head becomes a deadly wound as the tip of my sword sinks into his shoulder. It passes through flesh and bone, entering his chest, then it gets stuck.

    "GYEEEEEH!" The goblin screams. A nasty scream so loud that it hurts my ears.

    With this, the color drains from my face. He could be calling for allies, and now I might be in a bit of trouble.

    With anger fueling my movements, I dislodge my sword from its body, then bring it back and slice horizontally. The skill helps me do a simple, but perfectly executed cut, and the blade smoothly slides along his neck sinking deeper and deeper until it comes out on the other side, decapitating him, and his head rolls away. This is an awfully sharp sword, though his neck was pretty slim.

    I don't have time to be stunned by the bloody scene. If a wounded goblin appeared, maybe there are others who just finished fighting. Even if they're wounded, I have no confidence in fighting more than one enemy, especially if they can just throw things at me, like spears.

    Leaving a corpse will attract more monsters sensitive to smell, so I quickly add the goblin's body, head, and knife to my "Items," then I dash into a right angle from where the goblin came from to maximize my distance from where I killed it.

    After a minute or so, I slow down and catch my breath. I look at the sword in my hand and realize I forgot to clean it, so it should've left a trail of blood directly towards me.

    Fucking…!

    I pull the already bloodied pants from "Items" and use it to clean the blood, then I resume moving towards my destination.

    This goblin gave me one hundred and eighty experience points, now I only need ten more for the next level. This is good progress.

    Just two more points into [Sword Use] allowed me to properly swing the sword twice and get a kill, so I'll soon be able to increase the skill some more. But this battle went so well because it was a surprise attack against a small monster armed only with a knife, so I hope I don't find anything worse.

    But I do, find what that goblin had fought.



    After another hour, I get another hit on my radar, and it sends chills down my spine. I feel that this red rod is considerably larger than the previous ones, and I estimate that its body size is as big as me, but much longer and thick.

    I immediately crouch behind a bush and hide in fear, then I make sure that [Hide Presence] is constantly on.

    The monster is just going to pass nearby, and there's no risk of it getting too close. It's slowly strolling around, and it seems like it doesn't even have a fixed destination, so I assume that it's not searching for me, specifically.

    After two minutes, I start to hear the monster walking. It's another quadruped with a very heavy body. Then I hear a small growl, an unmistakable bear growl.

    I start sweating cold. Even in my world, a bear is not something you fight with just a sword and a party trick spell.

    Then the bear suddenly stops.

    Did it notice me? How? I can't hear it trying to smell the air.

    Then I hear it turn in my direction. I wait for a few seconds, my heart trying to escape my mouth, then it growls again, and this time, it sounds angry.

    Yeah, it noticed me. [Hide Presence] must've failed!

    I should've walked away, I should've taken [Quiet Steps] so that I could walk away from any dangerous encounter, but I didn't think this would happen, I didn't expect that it could so easily detect my presence. I thought the Hedge-wolf was an exception, but I was naive.

    Now, what do I do, flee? I'm getting tired, the bear is in the way of my destination, and I'm not sure if I can outrun a bear. Maybe I should fight and test the waters, then flee if the situation gets worse. The problem is, if I get hit once, then maybe I'm dead, so there's no room for a mistake here.

    I need to at least look at what kind of enemy this is. The hedge-wolf was just bizarre, but maybe I can see something that'll help me defeat it.

    I get up and peek from behind the bush and regret doing so. The enemy is truly a bear, a frightening bear staring at me like a ravenous beast. It has five claws the size of my hand on each paw, fangs the size of my head protruding from its open, salivating mouth, and grey fur covering its body.

    But then I become surprised as I notice that it's wounded. I can see more than a dozen shafts of what seems to be spears stuck to its body, there's a strong trickle of blood dripping from its face, one eye is closed, and there are multiple bloodstains all over its grey fur. It's heavily wounded, so it's probably what the previous goblin was fighting.

    I think that there's a chance of victory, but I can't get hit. If I do, I'm dead, so I have to use everything I can to win.

    I draw my sword and start casting [Lighting Bolt], then the bear immediately starts charging. I don't want to use [Constricting Vines] because the spell is too slow, and I also have a feeling that simple vines won't stop the charge of something that big.

    He's fast, but so is my casting, I manage to cast my bolt twice before he gets into melee range. Each hit slows him down considerably and the smell of burnt flesh fills the air, so I successfully stop his charge.

    He gets on his hind legs and tries to use his huge paws to swipe at me, but they're too slow, so I jump backward and release another Bolt, making him roar in anger.

    Now he's angry. With a sudden burst of speed, he waddles a little closer and swipes with a speed that catches me by surprise. All I can do is defend myself with the sword as the claws hit the blade and its massive strength sends me flying.

    I hit my back against a tree and air leaves my lungs, then I feel a blinding pain that immobilizes me for a second.

    My vision becomes blurry, but I manage to cast the Bolt again. The spell hits the bear on the snout, then it stops its attack and starts convulsing.

    An opportunity! I could run away, but the bloodlust clouds my mind. Anger makes me move forward, and the sweet deal of getting a large amount of experience fills my thoughts with greed. I charge forward.

    How long are his convulsions going to last? I don't know, but since this is low-level magic, it's likely to be short, so I start casting again.

    A strong headache attacks me, so I think this is my last spell.

    The bear stops convulsing and roars again, then I finish my cast at point-blank range.

    The bear flinches in pain from the spell, then I let the skill take hold, and I lunge. The tip of the blade sinks through the eye and continues on until it reaches the hilt, then I feel the tip hitting the back of its skull.

    The bear twitches once, then his body gives up and it falls limp on the ground.

    "You are now level five," the female announcer reports again.

    I look at my stats, my MP is at minus four. A massive headache flares and my vision goes dark.



    I slowly recover my consciousness. My back hurts a lot, I'm shivering, I have difficulty breathing, and my head hurts so much I don't think I can even stand.

    While laying down, I look into my stats and see that my MP is at ten but my HP is at ninety.

    Even though I blocked the attack I got damaged. Scary.

    My "Magic Power" grew by five and my maximum MP by ten. I now have twelve new skill points, so I put them all on [Mana Efficiency] and cast [Regeneration] on myself.

    It takes another ten minutes, and I heal myself until I have only one MP left. The spell helps with the back pain, but the headache worsens, and I'm still feeling very tired.

    I simply rest on the ground until my MP reaches twenty, then I use [Regeneration] again and the back pain subsides enough to let me stand.

    I look around and see that the bear is dead with my sword sticking out of its eye.

    I did it, I fucking killed a huge bear, a monstrously large bear. Fucking hell.

    I take the sword out and clean it on the bear's own fur, then I grab a paw and store the bear on "Items. Now I need to properly distribute my points.



    I have thirty-one points total, so I put them like this:




    PRESS HERE TO CHOOSE Skill Report​

    Physical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Sword Use5Dodge3

    Magical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Mana Efficiency3Mana Recovery3Electric Magic4
    Nature Magic5

    Miscellaneous​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Sense Presence4Hide Presence4
    I should at least be able to use [Lightning Bolt] five times without fainting, perhaps one more and then fainting. I don't know which is more efficient, [Mana Efficiency] or [Reduced Mana Cost], so I'm just going to bet on efficiency. I also don't have time to test them since it's way past noon now and I need to keep moving. I prefer to spread out my capabilities a bit instead of focusing on only one thing since no skill has a significant impact on my fighting capabilities because they seem to be heavily limited by my stats. I need to be versatile and adaptive here.

    With unsteady steps, I start moving again. I'm still hurting, my HP is at ninety-eight, and my MP is at forty, but I shouldn't linger any longer here lest another monster find me, attracted by the sounds of our battle.

    The range of [Sense Presence] is noticeably higher now and it makes me less tense to use it along with [Hide Presence], which is good since I still have a headache.

    I can see my MP gradually going up even while moving, so [Mana Recovery] is a good investment. Now I can heal myself again while walking, then the headache and back pain gradually stops, but I'm still feeling very tired.



    After another hour, I get another hit. This time, I know it's a goblin.

    It seems to be standing still, so I could test using [Quiet Steps]. I don't want to fight and I'm really tired, but I need this knowledge!

    In games, goblins usually attack in numbers to compensate for their lack of intelligence or equipment, so finding a single goblin is lucky. Maybe not so lucky since I also met what made them scatter, but still, this situation is a lucky find.

    I switch [Sense Presence] for [Quiet Steps] and activate it, then I sneak closer to the goblin. Like [Sword Use], [Quiet Steps] gives me "intuition" in how to move quietly, and my footsteps become noticeably softer. It seems that the skill isn't straight-up magic, but it's close.

    I manage to catch a glimpse of the goblin, and he seems to be looking downwards, distracted with something, so I circle around to get behind him and continue approaching.

    From an opening in a bush, I notice he's treating a wound. He has a nasty cut on his shoulder, and he's wiping it with a seemingly clean cloth.

    How smart is he?

    Then I notice that he's wearing a small leather jacket and that he has a wooden spear with a shining metal tip next to him.

    He's not the same as the previous goblin. This one is more experienced, seemingly smarter, and also has better equipment. I need to kill him with one attack.

    I carefully approach, inching closer, little by little.

    I must have patience.

    My heart beats so fast I can hear my own pulse.

    I inch closer.

    My hand shakes with anxiety and anticipation.

    I inch closer.

    He's barely within reach of my sword.

    "Gah?" He leaks a sound and looks behind, but it's too late.

    I lunge forward and stab his throat, then he immediately pressures the wound as he writhes on the ground. All he can do is garble some words and gasp for air while slowly dying from drowning in his own blood.

    He stares at me intensely. His beady little eyes don't contain anger but only surprise. Maybe he's surprised he got attacked, or just surprised he's going to die.

    I stand over him and stare back, but the bloody scene makes me feel nauseous. He's way too human for me to just watch him slowly die.

    Perhaps I made a mistake. Perhaps he's sapient and a person who belongs to a community in this world. Perhaps I committed a crime. I never allowed those two goblins to attack first; I ambushed both of them.

    I can't look at this anymore, so I decapitate the goblin.

    Shit, I feel even worse now.

    He gave more experience than the last goblin, but it's not enough to level up again. I look at my status and see that my "Crimes" section is still saying "NONE." This gives me a little comfort, but only a little.

    I put him and his spear in my "Items," then I turn around towards my objective again and see something frightening.

    A human skull, multiple bones, and a skeleton torso are laying at the foot of a huge tree. The bones are small, but they're definitely human, or at least I think they are. Goblin heads are seemingly much larger than this skull.

    Then I see something besides the skeleton, a ruined backpack.

    I now remember that the goblin's equipment was rather dusty and old-looking. The spear was clean, but it was chipped. It seems that the previous owner of this equipment was the skeleton remains. The goblin had just found it by chance.

    When I look inside the backpack, I see a small ruined notebook. I open it, and while it's mushy and the words are blurred, I can still discern some foreign characters every once in a while, so I remove one point from [Sword Use] and start adding it to each of the language skills in my "Miscellaneous" tab.

    After a few minutes, I finally find the language this notebook was written in, it's Norvok.

    I have to put five points in the language for me to be able to make sense of what's written. Also, it seems that the maximum for language is ten.

    This notebook is a diary. A dwarven young man was traveling to the other side of the continent and writing about his travels. There are tellings of what was eaten, killed, who he talked to, and minor random details. I can't absorb anything from the culture just by reading this, but it helps me discover that the language used by the locals is called Andraste.

    There's no identification in the backpack or notebook, so I don't know the name of this dwarf. I feel like I should bury him, but I don't have a shovel and neither the energy nor the time to waste here, so I just put all his bones in a pile and continue on towards my objective.



    After another hour of walking, I finally see something glittering beyond the trees. It's grass, grass touched by the sun. I've finally reached the border of the forest.

    I start to run. I don't care if I find another monster, I just want to see what's ahead. If it's really a town, then the last stretch of my journey is close, and with that, comes safety.

    The view opens up, and the forest finally ends. I'm now in a grassland, and I see a beautiful sight. The green tall grass reaches my waist and waves with the wind, painted with the gold of the reflected sunlight. It's a calming picturesque view that makes me wish to just lay down and relax, but the most beautiful sight is beyond the grassland.

    I see the stone wall, around twenty meters tall, with towers double its size behind it. Very far away, to the left of where the wall ends, there's a cobble chest-high wall, and behind it, I see a few wagons with dozens of people walking around them. Beyond the chest-high cobblestone wall, I see plantations, so they must be farms.

    Finally, civilization!

    I remove [Quiet Steps] and [Hide Presence], and reduce [Dodge] by two, then I add ten points to [Andraste Language]. With preparations done, I start running towards the wagons.

    Suddenly, my energy runs out as I realize something. I haven't thought of a story to tell them yet. Even if I can communicate, it's best that I don't tell them I came from another world or tell a shitty lie like I lost my memories or something similar. There's a probability that I will be taken advantage of if I do that, so I need to decide on a believable story.

    I kneel and try to hide under the waist-high grass, then I take out my backpack from "Items" and fit a few things on it, like the sleeping bag, cooking pot, change of clothes, pieces of food, knives, and some coins. Now, my backpack is full and heavy, so I continue moving forward. I hope nobody noticed I didn't have it on me before.

    As I approach the wall, I attract attention from the people ahead, then some men with cloaks lean on the chest-high wall as they watch me.

    Then I get close enough to discern the details of the men watching me. They're all wearing a hauberk with a grey tabard on top, and a mail coif. A few have spears, but all of them have swords hanging from their waists and kite shields strapped to their arms. The tabards are black with a simple white kite in the middle, which has a golden sword and a rose crossed over it. This must be the heraldry of the town's lord.

    Is this really Earth? It looks like I'm in a medieval fantasy world.

    When I get close enough, I count four male and two female soldiers watching me.

    "Ooi, are you okay?! Are you an adventurer?!" Shouts one of the men.

    Adventurer? No, that sounds dangerous, I'm just a traveler.

    Their speech sounds really odd to me. I hear foreign words, but in my mind, I perfectly understand what they mean. This must be the effect of the language skill.

    "N-no, I'm just a traveler. I got lost in the woods and got attacked!" I answer in the same odd speech as them, clearly not English.

    The soldiers start murmuring with each other, looking slightly surprised and confused.

    Once I get close enough to properly see their faces, one of the soldiers starts talking out loud as he frowns, "Uh, you're too small to be traveling by yourself, and you don't look like a dwarf, but I guess the forest should be calmer right now since the last culling was just two days ago."

    The other soldiers snort and chuckle.

    "Kids are always looking for a cheap way to get levels, even if it's dangerous," another comments, and the soldiers hum in agreement.

    I tense up, unsure what to say, but if they think I'm just a dumb kid then I guess it's acceptable.

    "Anyway, are you going to enter the town?" The first soldier casually asks.

    "Yes, please. I'm tired, and I really need some rest," I quietly answer.

    "Don't go out again, you got lucky this time, kid," a female soldier advises me with a reproving tone.

    Lucky? Pff. If that's being lucky, then please wake me up from this nightmare.

    The first soldier ignores her and continues, "Alright, I'll process your entry, come with me. Now everybody, back to your stations!" He barks as he glares at the other soldiers, and they all disperse immediately. I notice that this man wears a golden armband on both arms, so perhaps he's the leader of the watch.

    I could only look at them for a short time, but these men and women are all tall, burly, and have attractive faces. I'm rather surprised they aren't uglier.

    I jump over the wall and fall on a raised cobblestone road, then I follow the leader. We pass by two stopped wagons, and each has another soldier writing something with a… pen? It looks like a thin metallic cylinder with a very small jewel at the tip.

    Both the civilians and the guards that are talking are wearing such finely embroidered woolen clothing that makes mine look like rags. One even has a beautiful silk cloak. I guess they must be merchants.

    We walk through a long, wooden bridge lowered across a moat, then we pass through a huge portcullis, and we finally enter the town.

    Ahead of us, there's a short row of boring and bland buildings. After that, a spectacle of crooked, bizarre, and beautiful buildings starts. Perhaps the boring ones are barracks.

    The man leads me into a small office stuck on the wall. Inside, I see a few simple wooden chairs around a wooden table with a few sealed scrolls on top of it.

    "Alright, sit," he casually orders and motions to the chair. Once I obey, he continues, "Do you have any identification?"

    I sweat a bit. I don't even know what this "identification" is, so I need to lie here.

    "No, I lost it when I got attacked. I had another bag, but it got torn," I stiffly answer, doing my best to keep a poker face.

    He lazily raises a black eyebrow. "Right. Well, we'll just use the Inspection Crystal, then. Is that alright with you?" He sternly asks.

    I have no idea what this "Inspection Crystal" is so I'm just gonna go with the flow.

    "It's ok," I calmly answer and flash a shy smile.

    "Then wait here. Let me grab it in the other room," he replies and leaves without waiting for an answer.

    Perhaps this stone will see my status window. The name is obviously suggestive.

    When I open my "Status," I notice that I haven't written my name yet, so I hastily try to awkwardly write down my own name on the floating, touchless keyboard.

    Wait no, my name sucks. Fuck that shit. It's time to choose a cool name my parents were too boring to pick for me.

    I choose "Wolf Ryder."

    A few seconds later, the man comes back with a simple box that cushions a crystal ball and a tablet. It looks slightly expensive.

    "Alright, put your hand on the ball and keep it there until I say otherwise," he orders.

    I obey, and when I touch the ball, the transparent crystal tablet changes color to black, and white letters start to appear in a style that's exactly like the "Menu"'s, then I notice that the letters are in Andraste, but my "Menu" is in English.

    Curious.

    The man carefully reads the tablet, and I notice that my new name is written right at the top. I'm glad I took the time to write it.

    He knits his eyebrows and comments with a worried tone, "Hmm… there's nothing wrong here, but you're awfully low level for someone of your age, and what's up with those skills? No Conjuring, Fire, Space, or even [Light Magic]? Also, no trade skill or any other life skill here, and your Language skill is that of a scribe, but still…" -He raises his head and looks at me bemusedly as he stifles a laugh- "What kind of sheltered child are you? I've never seen a combination of skills like yours."

    "Well… uh, I’m…" I desperately search for an answer and look away.

    Well, he's not lying. My life on Earth could seem sheltered in comparison to the people of this world. Also, I could come up with an excuse, but that would just give more rope to the conversation. Even if he looks down on me, I shouldn't speak carelessly.

    "I'm a bit sheltered, yes," I admit and blush in embarrassment.

    "Hah! it's kind of a miracle you survived the Sea of Trees… Well, anyway, since you have some combat skills, go to the monster hunter guild or the dungeoneering guild if you want to survive here. The Sea isn't like the Mainland, so don't go out there alone or without preparation again," he talks down at me with a tired tone as if I was a stupid kid, which he knows I am since he saw my age in my "Status." Then his tone instantly shifts into a commanding one as he adds, "Now, let me see what's in your backpack."

    The way he said Sea of Trees makes me think this is the true name of that forest.

    I open my backpack and show all the things that I have inside.

    "Alright. The ball says you don't have an [Item Box], so the tax is just going to be one silver coin for entry, and five copper for using the status stone."

    [Item Box]? Perhaps it's different from my "Items" ability. There was something called [Space Magic], so perhaps [Item Box] could be found there?

    I silently pay him the amount.

    He advises me like one advises your little brother, "The guilds give free IDs, so go register there, and you don't need to pay tax depending on which ID you show." Then a subtle glint appears in his eyes. "Also, is this your first time here? I can sell you a map for ten copper coins," he offers with a grin that shows a set of very white teeth.

    "Alright, I’ll take one."

    I pay him and he hands me a sealed scroll made from roughly textured paper.

    He shows a business smile and says with a practiced tone, "Then that's all. Welcome to Rabanara, the great fortress on the shore of the Sea of Trees."

    I ask for an inn recommendation within the middle price range, and he tells me to go to the Resting Spring's Inn, then he waves me away.



    The map is quite crude and lacks beauty, but it gives the location of all the important locations. The Bazaar, the Flea Market, the Farmer's Market, the Guild's Corridors, the Crafter's Corner, the Gambling Den, the Theater, the Carnival Field, the Colosseum, the slums, the commoners' area, the Nobles' Quarter, the multitudes of inns, and the brothel district. After some searching, I find the Resting Springs.

    As I walk through the streets, I see a large amount of weird-looking people. People with animal ears, tails, claws, snouts, patches of fur, animal-looking digitigrade feet, and hands that almost look like paws in any sort of combination imaginable. People with horns, tails, wings, and plenty of other weird body parts. Skin colors of all the colors of the rainbow. Most wearing very revealing clothing, and plenty are floating around or flying slowly. Their clothes go from delicate togas and kimonos, to rough and boring medieval clothes, and some even use straight-up animal pelts like stereotypical barbarians. It's a carnival of people with mismatched armor and weapons, and with body types ranging from big, burly, and tough, to small, cute, and scrawny.

    Not only is the populace interesting, but the town itself is also fascinating. It's like someone partially demolished a cobble building, then used whatever wood they had to rebuild it but also used a different architectural style. It's like the town is a patchwork.

    All of the buildings have odd, crooked shapes, and they're made of a mix of a dark and light wood with white and dark-blue cobblestone. They don't look hastily made, though, as both the stone and wood are full of relief, details, and decorations. Some buildings have heavily jettied floors, giving it a comfy look as they "lean" towards the street, and others have an assortment of statues and other decorations on supporting pillars, and some even have vines growing directly from the beams.

    Truly an odd town.

    All those things in combination with the bizarre architecture makes me feel like I'm actually the normal and well-dressed one. I see even a few small animals that look a bit human-like in their behavior. They run around like children, appearing and disappearing out of thin air.

    Surprisingly, the town looks clean and doesn't smell even though horses are everywhere. Behind nearly every wagon, there is a floating yellow broom that sweeps the floor by itself without even lifting dust, it's like it just makes shit disappear. Perhaps these are spells that keep the roads clean.



    The inn is close by, and there are still a few hours until sunset, but my body and mind are exhausted. All I want is to rest for a little while.

    The inn is a large building. It isn't as crooked as the other ones, and it's made entirely out of cobblestone. It has three floors and gives off a rustic feeling. There's no spring, though. I've been lied to.

    Once I enter, a middle-aged man with a small chin, brown hair, and small circle glasses greets me from behind a desk while he writes in a book with an ink quill.

    "Welcome to the Resting Springs Inn. Would you like a room?" He asks with a kind tone and a gentle smile.

    "Yes, please. What kind of rooms do you have?" I calmly reply.

    "We have a only few single-bed rooms on the third floor, but on the second floor, there's still a lot of space in the communal room."

    The communal bed might be one cheap room where multiple people sleep together. No, thank you.

    "Single bed, please," I politely request.

    "That'll be one silver a day, would you like to reserve the room for multiple days?"

    Uh… my brain is not working properly.

    "Ten days…" I come up with a random number.

    He nods and smiles again. "We also give breakfast and dinner, five copper for each meal. During dinner, the public bathhouse is open, and the bath is included with the meal, but personal bathing rooms can be reserved by ten copper. There's also a magician responsible for the bath that you can rent personally for fifteen copper at any time."

    Food is cheap, a bed is not...

    I (try to) think for a moment, then I answer, "I'd like both meals for each day. Also, what's the exchange rate for silver and copper coins?"

    He stares blankly for a moment, likely surprised at my question, then he recomposes himself and answers in his usual gentle tone, "Avgi silver coins are equal to ninety copper coins."

    Perhaps this is not something people normally ask him. Also, now that he said "Avgi coins" I notice that there's something written on the coins. It's written in the [Andraste Language], but it's only a few letters and some numbers, so perhaps it's some identification?

    I pay the innkeeper and he gives me a key with the number 304 on it, and a smaller black key.

    He assumes a practiced tone and recites, "Here it is, room four on the third floor. The smaller key opens a safe. Once you leave, give me the room key, but keep the safe key, and don't leave anything valuable outside of the safe. The safe can only be opened by us after your stay ends. Finally, would you like to be called for breakfast and dinner?" He gives me a business smile.

    I don't have a watch or an alarm clock. I'll never get up at the right time without them.

    "Yes," I awkwardly respond with a nod.

    He turns the book around and hands me his ink quill, then points to a blank line. "Please write your name here."

    I start to write my name and my hand just moves by itself. It's a very odd feeling, like I'm doing things by reflex only. I don't really know what I'm writing until it is done and the language skill tells me that I've written "Wolf Ryder." The squished characters are a bit difficult to tell apart, but something tells me that my calligraphy is perfect.

    "Thank you for your patronage," he adds and bows slightly, then I nod and walk towards the stairs.

    The inside of the inn is made entirely of light brown wood. It's simple and a little cramped, but perhaps they just wanted to maximize the number of rooms. I notice that shining jewels on the ceiling are illuminating the inn; they're basically weak light bulbs.

    I enter my room and lock the door, then I take off my sword belt, boots, and jacket. I sigh in relief, then I drop on the bed and fall asleep.



    I dream of the unpleasant sensation of cutting flesh with my sword.



    A knock on the door wakes me up.

    "The dinner is ready, and the bath is hot," the muffled voice of a young woman reaches my ears.

    I don't know what the bed is made of. It's not hard, but it's not really good for my back. I might need to search for a proper bed if I'm going to stay here for a while.

    I put my clothes back on and go downstairs.

    On the first floor, there's a communal hall with a few square tables and chairs. A small number of commoners are sitting about, waiting for the food, and I see more people are coming down the stairs.

    I sit and wait, and soon, a plate comes to me. Vegetable stew, a piece of roasted mutton with spice and herbs, and a piece of fluffy, white bread. It tastes okay, the stew lacks some spice, but the mutton is well done. Perhaps due to the prominence of woolen clothing sheep are a staple food.

    After eating, I go through the back door and reach the baths. Contrary to every single fucking medieval novel, baths aren't that rare. The Romans loved baths, you know, bathhouses were a thing throughout history, you know.

    I ask the attendant at the front about how it works. They use the heat of the kitchen coupled with the help of a mage to heat the water of the bath, so that's the source of the mist coming out of the doors ahead. It makes me quite happy that I'll be able to get some hot water to sink in and not just a towel bath.

    For four pieces of copper, I'll get a towel, a very small piece of rough soap, and a sponge. The bath is divided into three parts: men, women, and mixed. Using the men or women's costs another piece of copper. Curiosity gets the best of me and I enter the mixed one, which is free for the patrons of the inn.

    Let's say that some light prostitution is going on over there. I immediately leave and pay for the men's bath. I'm not a puritan, but seeing sex live is too awkward for me right now.

    The etiquette is that you first gather a bucket of water, then use it to wash away all the dirt with the sponge and soap, then you're allowed to relax in the pool of hot water.

    So I start washing, but I start to feel conscious of my body. Most men here are somewhat handsome. I'm not ugly and I have a cute baby face, but damn, are all the people in this world at least somewhat attractive?

    When I get out of the bath, it's already night, and the people are either going to bed or to a tavern to drink. I don't really drink, so I go to bed early today.

    I lay down on my not so comfortable bed and spend some time reflecting on what happened today. I got sucked out of my wedding into a painful, dangerous, magical, insane, and ridiculous world. I killed two humanoid beings in a very gory way, I killed a bizarre animal, and I killed a huge bear that almost killed me. If not for [Regeneration], I think I would be dead now.

    What kind of god would throw me here at this precise timing? Fuck you, God. Or help me, help me because I want to go home, I want to see my wife, I want to hug her, kiss her, and have sex with her, then have her fall asleep in my arms and wake up seeing her smile. Fuck this world. Either help me, please, or get yourself fucked, God!

    I feel something "change" inside of me. I open my "Menu" and look at my "Status." My "Piety" increased from zero to two.

    I break down and cry myself to sleep.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2021 at 6:25 AM
  3. VesperNyan

    VesperNyan Well-Known Member

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    You got me at yuri.. say no more
     
    Tanyia and Manasong like this.
  4. runsing

    runsing status : bleeding, health -10/s Novel Updates Staff

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    @Manasong

    while it is not resizeable, you CAN actually use table
    https://forum.novelupdates.com/posts/3400199/

    Item NameQuantity
    Spare clothes1
    Dried meat10
    Firewood10
    Silver coin50

    Code:
    [table][tr][th]Item Name[/th][th]Quantity[/th][/tr]
    [tr][th]Spare clothes[/th][th]1[/th][/tr]
    [tr][th]Dried meat[/th][th]10[/th][/tr]
    [tr][th]Firewood[/th][th]10[/th][/tr]
    [tr][th]Silver coin[/th][th]50[/th][/tr][/table]
    TR indicates the start of a new row. /TR ends it
    TH /TH is the content. each couple indicates a column
    don't put a space between Table and TR / TR and Table.
     
  5. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, I have added tables, look kind of ugly but I guess they serve for now.
     
  6. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    A knock on the door wakes me up.

    "The breakfast is ready," the muffled voice of a young man reaches my ears.

    The nightmare didn't end. I'm still here, stuck in this world.

    I didn't sleep well because my back hurts, but since I went to bed soon after sunset, I've at least managed to sleep for a long time, so I'm not that tired. I had a few nightmares, though, and one of them was simply me staring at the goblin drowning in his own blood. That scene was way too brutal for me; it still creeps me out.

    I look at my stats and see that my "Strength" increased by 1 (now 8). I guess yesterday's effort was rewarded.

    My mouth feels horrible. I have to buy a toothbrush, a hairbrush, some soft sleeping clothes, a better blanket, a proper pillow, more spare clothes, and underwear. I also have to clean the bloody pants.

    I saw that there's a well outside for cleaning, so I can just buy soap from the bath attendant yesterday, then I can pay her to use magic to instantly dry my clothes. Sounds convenient, but also not.

    Now that I have a "Piety" of two, [Light Magic] seems to work, and its first spell is called [Clean], but even that spell isn't powerful enough to completely clean my clothes or my mouth, so I still need some utensils.

    I spend long minutes staring at the ceiling, trying to muster the energy to get up. Even though the bed is uncomfortable, getting up and facing reality feels like a worse deal than staying here, cooped up in a dark room.

    But my survival instincts are seemingly stronger than I gave them credit for.

    I'm not going to wither and die of depression. My "fuck you" to this world will be to die of old age!

    With a tired groan, I sit up, then I put on my clothes and go downstairs to eat breakfast.

    Today, the main course is bean paste, which reminds me of the Brazillian staple, though it lacks rice. There's also roasted vegetables and a loaf of slightly sweet bread. I realize sugar might be expensive so this bread is actually high quality, but, as a sweet tooth and a chocolate addict, the only thing I can call this is "boring."

    While eating, I think about what I should do next. The guard said to get an ID at the guilds, and depending on what ID I have I don't need to pay customs tax. But first, what exactly should I do in this world?

    I want to go home, but to do it I need knowledge. I saw that there's a magic university here, so perhaps they have a library that I can use, but I don't think it's going to be free. I think that, historically, religious buildings like churches could have people knowledgeable about the world, so perhaps I could go to them for advice. The map shows that there's a temple in the middle of the town.

    Regardless, I'm going to need to find a job and acquire money for a steady living. With my skill system, I could start a crafting business, but factories in this age might not have good workers' rights laws, which might make it easy for others to exploit me. Also, I'm more of a creative type, I'm not good with manual labor.

    Perhaps I could bring technology from my world here, but that's risky and it's really going to call attention to me. Inventions take a lot more than just being the first to do it, I need knowledge of economics and security to safeguard the profits of my inventions, and I know nothing about either of these.

    If we're going to assume this is an adventure and role-playing game, the most straightforward method of acquiring money is killing monsters. The map shows that there's a dungeoneering and a monster hunters' guild, so adventuring might be a risky but also valid way of work. Seeing how my skill system works, I have an incredible advantage in combat.

    I also need Experience to increase my level and get more skill points. I don't know how to acquire Experience besides killing monsters, but perhaps there's another way to acquire skills like training or taking an apprenticeship, though I need connections and a proper career path for that.

    So, in the end, my first move should be to go to the monster hunters' and dungeoneering guilds. But first, I'll buy a hairbrush and a toothbrush. My breath still feels a bit bad.



    Now that I'm rested and much calmer, I notice that this city is bizarre but also kind of inspiring. The different architectural styles are all very interesting, and even the contrast between them has a charm of its own.

    The people also have their own sense of fashion. It's like this town is a hub for travelers from all around the world, and they all bring their own piece of home with them. Some alleys are dark and ugly, others are comfortable and calming, some have vines and unidentified plants growing all over, others have lights and moving metal parts that remind me of steampunk. The people are all energetic and positive interactions are abundant.

    Maybe it's just that I'm in the good part of town, or maybe I'm just feeling lonely.

    Yeah, let's go with lonely.

    After some walking, I get to the monster hunters' guild, and my first impression is that it looks menacing. Fangs and bones decorate the protruding pillars, skins and scales of all kinds decorate the walls, and an even bigger carnival of colors than the rest of town makes me question the sanity of the architect. A large skull with a long snout and huge teeth but lacking a jaw is hanging over the entrance with the teeth sunk on the wall as if the skull is biting the building itself.

    I cross the tall double doors and I'm greeted by a large number of people chatting around tables decorated with the same ridiculous style as the building's walls. Most of them are drinking unknown liquids from tankards, but there's no way it's not alcohol, and it seems like some people are drinking it like water even though we're still in the morning.

    The first floor of the building is one large hall filled with tables. Over one wall, there's a set of large boards with pieces of paper stuck on them. If this follows the traditional game template, those are the bulletin boards and the papers are requests for extermination.

    On another wall, there's a row of booths filled with men and women wearing a dark blue velvet uniform with some simple yellow embroidery to make the uniform prettier, and they also have a badge on their chests of a crossed fang and sword. That's the symbol of this guild, and it's the same one on the double doors.

    I walk towards one of the booths.

    "Welcome, how may I help you?" A middle-aged female attendant greets me. She's a beautiful short-haired brunette that shows an air of experience.

    I smile gently and answer, "Hello. I'm a traveler and I just got into town. I came from a small village, so I'm rather ignorant of the way things are done around here. Can you explain this guild to me? What I was told might not be fully correct."

    The attendant opens her eyes in surprise. I guess this is something that's unusual to ask.

    "Well, this guild is very simple," she starts with a kind tone, then her eyes gloss over and her voice becomes robotic

    Oh, here it comes…

    "This is a place for people that hunt monsters to gather, party up, and trade or sell their spoils. The Townsguard does regular cullings to keep the monsters in check, but they also sometimes employ hunters from the guild to help with it. Outside of the culling, other parties also hire hunters to catch monsters for their ingredients that can be used to create valuable items, potions, and food; as escorts for a merchant caravan; for expeditions inside the Sea of Trees or dungeons; or to simply protect something. Every once in a while, a special and dangerous monster appears, and hunters specialized in tracking are then sent to hunt it down. In cases of emergency, the hunters are also called and duty-bound to help defend either the city, the people, or the buildings in the vicinity of Rabanara. Those are the main functions of hunters on this guild."

    She takes a breath and immediately continues, "On our side, we buy any monster corpses or organs, intact or not, then we evaluate them and give out the proper rewards. The advantage of selling to us is that we have experts in dismantling and evaluation of monster parts. We do not haggle and only buy at a fixed price. We also buy parts without the need for a buyer since we're able to stock them. If you were to go to the merchant guilds you could sell for higher, but there might not be anyone buying it at the moment.

    "On the second floor, you can use the meeting rooms to discuss things with your allies, and we guarantee a [Silent Room] enchantment on each room; on the third floor, there's the administration personnel that you can consult for more serious matters; and behind this building, there are the training grounds, and for ten copper, you can use it and train with our instructors for a full period."

    I assume period means from morning till noon or from noon till dusk.

    "We're a sister guild to the dungeoneering guild, but we're the ones who manage and organize the hunters. We also help assess the danger of monsters and the ability level of hunters to minimize death or harm. The dungeoneering guild holds all records of dungeons, monsters, and they help acquire the tools necessary for expeditions.

    "People who register at the dungeoneering guild are called explorers, those that have registered at both guilds are called adventurers. Finally, registering at either or both of the guilds allows you to enter or leave any town without paying tax as long as you don't hold any export good on you or in your [Item Box]. If you acquire the favor from the guildmaster or someone with equal or higher authority, then you can pass the gate without having the contents of your [Item Box] read." The woman finally finishes and takes another breath.

    She seemed surprised at my question, but she was able to answer it perfectly. I guess they're prepared for ignorant people like me, and it's just that I'm a rare find.

    "Hmm… So, how do I register?" I shyly ask.

    "Two silver coins, a drop of your blood, and we give you your crystal ID tablet. Also, during registration and afterward, we periodically ask to inspect your tablet. This is to make sure that no criminal and no person who learned forbidden skills are using our facilities."

    I frown and ask reflexively, "My blood?"

    She smiles sweetly and soothes me with a motherly tone, "[Slavery Magic] needs you to ingest the blood, and there's nothing a Blood mage can do with your blood that'd affect you."

    "Oh…" I mumble awkwardly. I guess I just made myself look like a superstitious dolt. I quickly move on to another question, "Forbidden skills?"

    She diligently replies, "[Necromancy Magic], [Bloodwork] and [Undead Creation] are the only ones whose names we're allowed to mention. [Slavery Magic] and [Blood Magic] are also forbidden unless you're registered."

    Registered? So slavery is also sanctioned in this world.

    "Alright, I'd like to register."

    The guard already saw my entire "Status" when I entered the town, so there's no problem here, but I need to be careful of which skill I choose or I might accidentally pick something forbidden. There are tons of skills with dangerous or suspicious names.

    I turn around and fiddle a bit with my skills as I pretend to look for my coins. I put one point into [Space Magic] so my usage of "Items" is less suspicious. The crystal tablet the guard used for customs didn't show the level of my skills, so this should be fine.

    I pay the price, then the attendant gets a transparent crystal tablet and a needle from below the table. She pinches my finger with dexterity and lets a drop of blood fall on the tablet.

    She picks it up, spends a moment to read it all, then turns to me and reports, "I'll register this at our books. Please wait here for a while." She leaves the booth and disappears deeper into the building.

    I turn around just in time to see a fight break out. Two drunk-looking men start punching each other with unsteady postures, then two large attendants with clubs at their waists immediately jump in and forcefully break the fight.

    They hold the men in position while they scream abuse at each other, and after a minute or two they tire out, then the attendants drop them in place. They both fall down on the floor like boards and the hall resounds with laughter.

    This is a very ruthless but surprisingly friendly atmosphere. Still, I don't really feel comfortable here.

    Soon, the attendant comes back and gives me the tablet. It's a small rectangle made of a transparent crystal that fits well in my hand, like a mini smartphone.

    She shows me that all of the entries can be hidden by touching them, but that's just a convenience in case I want to show something to someone. The customs guards will reveal every entry and look at all my skills in case I've learned something forbidden.

    I'll just put it in my chest pocket for now, then I'll store it in my "Items" later.

    "How do I register at the dungeoneering guild?" I ask.

    "Just show them your ID and they'll register your name for free."

    I knit my eyebrows in confusion. "What, if it's free, then why do I also need to register there? Can't it be done automatically?"

    She answers with a perfect business smile, "It depends on the town, so not every hunter and dungeoneering guild is integrated."

    I scratch my head in confusion. "Oh, well… Anyway, now I want to sell some monsters I killed."

    Her smile becomes gentle and genuine. "Oh? You already killed something? Well then, please follow me to the disassembling room."

    Ah, fuck, I made a mistake, I forgot my "Items" is a special thing. I know that [Item Box] probably works similarly, but I've never actually seen it in use.

    I need to make an excuse so that I can remove all my points and put them into [Space Magic] to see if I get an [Item Box].

    The attendant takes me into a room with multiple cushioned chairs along the walls and a closed door with a sign "In use" hung on it.

    "There's someone disassembling a monster. Wait here, and when they're finished, you'll be called," the attendant quickly advises then leaves with a small wave.

    I just got a life jacket. I sit and immediately put all my points into [Space Magic]. The first point gives me the [Telekinesis] spell, at 10 points I get [Gravity Crush], and finally, at 20 points I get [Item Box].

    I immediately cast it, then a little mana goes away, and it opens the exact same menu as "Items," but now there's nothing inside of it.

    Well, then.

    At least now I know the truth, so I put all my points back how they were.



    After a good thirty minutes, the door opens and a big, bald, and burly man with a bloody apron and gloves greets me with a smile.

    "Good morning, young man. Are you here for dismantling?" He energetically asks.

    "Yes, I am," I obediently reply with a nod.

    He pats his apron with pride. "I'm Gordon, the chief butcher. We're ready now, so please come in, and sorry for the wait."

    I nod silently and follow him across the door, then we enter a large, cooled room with a large number of metal tables where a few are still bloodied. There's another person with a bloody apron and gloves that's scrubbing the blood off of everything.

    "Now, pull out on the table anything you want to sell," Gordon instructs.

    I pull the monsters out of my "Items" one by one, and neither of the men comments anything. I notice that the monsters are still warm and bleeding, so this means that whatever is in the [Item Box] or my "Items" gets frozen in time. When I pull out the bear, the two men freeze and let their jaws hang open, then the assistant stops scrubbing and mutters a soft "Wow."

    "Yo, call Sonny. This one is valuable," Gordon requests to the assistant, then smiles creepily while staring at the corpse.

    Gordon touches his palm with his indicator, and a large knife materializes in his hand with *poof*, then he ignores the other monsters and starts removing the pelt of the bear.

    "You killed this one alone?" He asks while vigorously slicing the monster.

    "No, I found him weakened. I think he was fighting the goblins that I killed," I confess.

    His laugh echoes across the large room. "Hahaha, now that's a jackpot. You see, this one also has a bounty on him, so when we get Sonny here you'll get a bonus. Also, did you kill it by stabbing it through the eye? That's some creative method you got there." He glances back and shows me a bloody smile as some of the bear's blood has squirted on his cheek.

    Do they have poker here?

    "Creative? How are you supposed to kill him normally?" I curiously ask.

    "Crushing the head. His skin is too hard to kill with an axe or spear, and magic ruins the meat and the pelt too much. I see you used something like [Electric Magic], yeah? That's good to stun him, but it still damages the pelt a little."

    The door suddenly opens and I see Sonny come into the room. He's a small man with yellow eyes, white hair, pasty white skin, white spiral horns on his head, and a thin, white tail with a pointy tip. When he sees the bear, his eyes shine behind his oval glasses, his lips curl into a creepy smile, and he excitedly whispers, "Ooooh, excellent."

    Thankfully, he ignores me and goes towards Gordon. He examines the butcher's work and starts talking to him, then the assistant comes back and helps Gordon.

    After Gordon finishes the bear, which they tell me is called a Grey Berserker, Sonny says that the reward for killing him is two gold pieces while the body is worth another seven. If the hide was more well preserved it could be sold up to ten coins. Each goblin's body is worth forty copper. The "hedge-wolf", which is called Mossy Fangpine, is worth one silver coin.

    Since the money isn't excessive, they give it to me immediately, otherwise, it's necessary to wait for the money to be transferred to the guild.

    Sonny turns to me and comments with a subtle smirk, "So this is your first hunt, eh? Starting your tally with a surprise. But don't let other hunters use you, now. They might be too easily impressed by a lucky kill on the Grey Berserker."

    I awkwardly smile and reply, "Well I don't plan on bragging about it, so nobody will know."

    He holds back a chuckle. "Oh, no. We publish hunt results, so people will know your name pretty soon."

    I wince and look away. "Argh… Is that so?"

    Even this I have to be careful about so that I don't stand out too much.

    Gordon's laugh echoes again through the cold room and he asks, "Hehehe, you don't want fame? What kind of hunter are you?"

    "It's rather troublesome to be too famous too quickly," I tiredly answer.

    He points the bloody knife at me like a finger and nods. "Haha, the boy got a good head on his shoulders."

    "Anyway, we'll be waiting for your next surprise," Sonny politely adds and gives me a small bow.

    He seems to be a delicate man as he moves with measured movements that give him an air of dignity.

    I say my goodbyes and leave. Now I need to go to the dungeoneering guild since they might have some interesting information about monsters and dungeons.



    Since the two are related, the dungeoneering guild is close by, so I quickly get to my destination.

    This guild also boasts an extravagant facade. Black bricks reflect little dots of light from the sunlight, ceremonial blades slowly swing along the wall through magical means, and exposed clockworks show a very familiar clock above the double door. This clock is exactly the same as the ones on Earth, with twelve hours and sixty minutes. Maybe I can buy a pocket watch somewhere and cosplay as a steampunk Victorian British noble.

    On each of the large double doors, there's an engraving of a gear and an upside-down bardiche. The symbol probably represents the cliche of a trap of swinging blades in a corridor being activated by a mechanism. The dress code for the uniforms of the attendants is exactly the same as the hunters' guild except that the badge is different.

    The door is on a corner of the building, so when I enter it I'm faced with a rather small hall with a few cushioned chairs and tables. The rest of the building is separated by a chest-high wall, and past it, I see rows and rows of bookcases, tables, and chairs. There's also a considerable number of people studying there. It seems that I have to put a coin in a booth to enter the library area.

    The small windows let little light in, giving it a moody illumination, and couple that with the almost absence of any sound, and the atmosphere is one of calmness and seriousness. All in all, this place seems much more refined than the hunters' guild.

    I approach a booth and ask to register. The attendant takes my tablet away and comes back a few minutes later.

    "How do I enter the library?" I ask.

    The attendant responds in a low and serious tone, "There's a toll of two copper coins, and you have to put a deposit of one gold coin. If you damage a book, then your deposit is forfeit."

    "What kind of books are there here?"

    His tone seems more detached than the previous attendant's, but at least he's not unwelcoming to questions. "Strictly magic, traps, dungeons, monsters, and artifacts. Anything else you need to go to the temple or the university."

    "Artifacts?"

    "Rare magical items with dangerous uses."

    O~h… that sounds interesting.

    My imagination runs wild for a second, but the attendant's stoic stare prevents me from daydreaming, so I ask my last question, "I also heard you sell supplies for expeditions."

    "The item shop is through that door." He immediately points to a closed door.

    How's a room full of shops so silent even though it's right next to a library? I'm going to bet on magic.

    I'm not interested in buying items right now, so I just leave the guild. Next, I'm going to the temple.



    The temple is in the middle of the town, so it takes quite a while to walk there.

    It might be a few hours before noon, but the food stalls are already opening around me, and soon, the smell of simple, roasted and fried food fills my nose.

    I'm actually kind of hungry, and I'm too curious to let this chance pass by, so I buy a cheap stick of goblin meat. It's quite a lot of meat for a single copper coin so it makes me a bit anxious to eat it because it's probably bad-tasting meat that the poor eat.

    I bite into it and barely feel any taste, though I'm not really surprised that it's this bland. The only real flavor on it comes from the spices: a mix of garlic and oregano with salt. Still, I thought spices would be expensive for a middle-ages society, so to see it wasted on this meat stick gives me a small amount of hope for the future.

    After finishing my stick, I throw it in a "garbage hole," which seems to lead to the sewers, and I'm surprised again with how clean the town is.

    Nothing else catches my attention, so, after a long walk, I finally arrive at the temple.

    The temple lot is a large square divided into four smaller squares with four thin towers rising at the corners, and the temple itself is a gigantic half-sphere made of what seems to be white marble at the center of the lot, taking up nearly half of the land available.

    Two divisions of the lot have buildings on them that look like living quarters, and one of those buildings is full of children, so perhaps that's an orphanage while the other one is the priests' dormitory. The third sector is a grass garden with a dirt field, and the last is a small but lush plantation full of weird plants.

    I notice that while the orphanage and the dormitory have a lot of charm, the temple itself doesn't seem to have any sort of decoration, giving it an air of austerity.

    I cross the stone path and enter the temple proper, leading me into a huge circular hall. Along the outer wall, I see sixteen statues, each depicting a different human-like bust, and in the center of the hall, there's a single huge statue depicting a sphere, which is the biggest statue of them all.

    It seems that the entirety of the first floor is a place for prayer, and it's divided into two rings. On the outer ring, there are benches spread all over that point towards the outer statues; and on the inner ring, the benches are pointed towards the spherical statue. Beside each entrance, there's a large stair that runs along the circular wall in a clockwise manner and leads to the second floor.

    I see all kinds of people praying in a variety of manners to the statues. Some are on their knees, some have their hands up in the air, some are holding themselves, some are clasping their hands and have their eyes closed. I can even see a few people crying, and those are all accompanied by a person that I assume is a priest. They wear a loose white robe with a colored vertical line on the side of the arms and legs.

    This scene stuns me for a few seconds. It seems that this is a polytheistic world, so it might be a good idea to learn about the gods and choose one to pray. Since "Piety" exists as a stat, might as well use it. I'm a pragmatic agnostic, so, if there's a benefit, then I might as well convert.

    I look around and go for the closest priest that's not doing anything. A woman with tied black hair, tanned skin, and full lips. On Earth, she could be called a "Latina."

    "Excuse me," I call her attention a little awkwardly.

    She turns to me and smiles kindly. "Oh, hello," she greets back.

    I lean on my awkwardness to make my words more believable. "I'm a traveler, and I just came to this town from a small village where I could barely learn about the world. Could you spare a moment and teach me about these statues?"

    She spends a moment in silence looking at me with a mix of confusion and amusement. "Oho… an inquisitive person. The Gods favor minds like yours." She nods gently, then motions to the stairs. "How about we go to the second floor to not bother the commoners praying? There are plenty of rooms for private consultations over there."

    "That sounds good," I softly reply.

    "My name is Ciel, what's yours?" She asks with a smile.

    "Wolf Ryder."

    She nods respectfully. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ryder. Follow me, then."

    "Mr. Ryder"? Feels weird to hear that.

    The second floor seems to have consultation rooms along the outer walls while administration rooms are in the center. Small holes in the ceiling and shining crystals on the walls light up this building, reminding me of hospitals due to the sterile white everywhere.

    I look down a corridor that leads to the center of the floor and see a spiral stair that probably leads to the third floor.

    She takes me to an empty room, and like everything in this temple, it's made of white marble slabs with black cement on the seams. There are a few simple cushioned chairs and a table. Ciel sits at the other side of the table, then motions for me to sit on a chair in front of her.

    "Now, then, what would you like to know?" She kindly asks.

    I scratch my head in thought.

    I didn't think this through…

    I just shake my head and go for the most basic thing I can think of, "Well… could you start from the beginning, like, the beginning of the world?"

    She looks at me with eyes open in surprise, and I blush in embarrassment.

    Goddammit, she's looking at me like I'm a weirdo.

    "I think what I know is full of holes, so let's start from the beginning. This way, I won't miss anything important," I hurriedly add.

    She chuckles then smiles kindly at me. Honestly, her smile is quite charming. Then she stares at the ceiling in thought for a moment and accepts, "Understood. Let's see… the Tale of Creation starts like this.

    "The Overseer is the most powerful god that has ever been, but even with all his power, they desired 'something.' They, with their immortality, didn't know what it was to live and die, they always existed. To observe how it would be to not be immortal, they created 'something,' and to govern that 'something' while the Overseer observed, they created two gods: the God of Beginning, and the God of the End. And so, that 'something' would be born, live, and die, becoming the first living being, the Original Life.

    "But the Overseer wasn't satisfied. 'It was a waste to let that Life die and disappear,' they thought, so they created ten gods that would govern over that Life. It lived and died inside one of the governing gods, then moved on to the next one, and so on and so forth. Thus, that Life wasn't wasted and lived in a cycle, which was called the Original Cycle of Life.

    "But the Overseer wanted more. The Cycle repeated again and again endlessly without change, so the Overseer created the God of Change, whose purpose was to alter that Life little by little, making it different every time, and thus, ensuring that no two Cycles would be the same again. But that was dangerous as the God of Change didn't know restraint, so Change could eventually break the Cycle with their power. To prevent that, the Overseer created the God of Order, whose purpose was to restrain the God of Change and to prevent them from breaking the Original Cycle of Life.

    "But Change also wished for more. The Cycle was changing and its integrity was secured, but there was only one Cycle, one Life, and now even the God of Change wanted something 'new.' So the God of Change created a new subordinate god, the God of Creation, whose purpose was to create new Cycles for Change to exert its power upon. Since the new god was a subordinate, they didn't have the authority to interfere with the Original Cycle of Life, so there was no risk of the new god breaking it.

    "But Order was there to restrain Change. The God of Order was displeased with the new creations, so they copied the God of Change and created a new subordinate god, the God of Destruction, whose only purpose was to stop the God of Creation. And so, the four gods battled for an incalculable amount of time.

    "But even their battle grew stale. As they were immortal beings, they couldn't kill each other, so they used the only thing that could die, the new Cycles of Life birthed by Creation. The Gods wielded them like weapons to create and destroy, spawning an endless sea of Cycles as their battle raged on, and inside each Cycle, uncountable battlefields were created.

    "But creating was easier than destroying. As Change used their power to alter the Cycles, they grew and became increasingly complex, and even the Life inside them was affected. When our Realm was created, Life had become what we now call 'mana,' while the Cycles that governed over it turned into the ten base elements of everything: Light, Darkness, Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, Electricity, Nature, Space, and Spirit. And so, as the Gods battled using mana, they created our land, our sea, our skies, our souls, our plants, our animals, our sun, and our night. The battlefields inside the Cycles became the Realms.

    "But now it was Creation's turn to yearn for more. They wanted to repeat what his superior god did, they wanted to create something that could create things themselves and change the flow of their battle. After much thought, Creation realized that simply creating another God wouldn't do, they needed something that had the unlimited potential to grow stronger, smarter, and spread their existence far and wide. They created humans and the Genderless God of Existence to watch over us, bringing forth the Dawn of Mankind.

    "But Destruction was there to restrain Creation. Destruction created humanity's worst enemy to counter Creation, the monsters. They're beings specialized in killing humanoids, and their only purpose is to grow stronger and kill. In response to the monsters, the God of Creation changed humans into different forms to act against the monsters. They created the other races of humanoids: the halflings, elves, dwarves, gnomes, pixies, beastfolk, wereanimals, merfolk, dragonkin, chimeras, and finally, the demon race, bringing forth the Dawn of Civilization.

    "But this time, Destruction had the upper hand. The people the God of Creation birthed were smart, but they couldn't grow fast enough to counter the monsters, beginning the Age of Oppression where humanoid life was almost wiped out. To save the humanoids, God of Creation gave us the power of improving our soul by killing monsters and absorbing the fragments of their souls to create new layers, which we call 'levels.' With more layers, our soul expanded and allowed us to grow further and faster.

    "But Destruction had to answer that. They cursed the land, making it so that the free mana in the environment would be used to create monsters. With this, any sort of abandoned land would birth hordes of monsters, which could eventually overrun all civilizations.

    "But Creation would not give up yet. Seeing the power of the 'levels,' the God of Creation gave us another boon, a way to share our greatest advantage, our greatest gift, our knowledge. They created the 'skills,' which allow us to quickly learn what others had already learned if we train our bodies in similar ways. This was the decisive move that allowed us to push the monsters back and kill Ender, our Nemesis. And with that, the land was safe, bringing forth the Age of Glory."

    Share the knowledge? Then the skills aren't decided by the gods, but instead, by the mortals? I see. This way, skills can be modified and new ones added, otherwise, the progress of society would be almost entirely dependent on the Gods.

    "But Destruction was relentless in accomplishing its job. They took their time, but they managed to create something that would rival the power of civilization: the immortal Monster King, a copy of a humanoid that has high intelligence, the capacity of growth, and the power to command monsters at will. With this, civilization was pushed back again, and the endless battle with the Monster King started, which continues to this day. Currently, the battle could be said to be in a stalemate; we keep the monsters in check, while the Monster King pushes us back whenever we gain some ground."

    In the stories I've read, this type of villain would be called Demon King, but since there's already a demon race I guess it would cause confusion to call him that.

    "The creation of the Monster King started Age of Discord, where the races fought each other all over the Realm as they couldn't agree on a way to unite and fight the Monster King. Then came the first emperor of Avgi, Ajax Doxa, who united our continent, Gilios, and presented a front strong enough to prevent the Monster King from taking over the Realm. After the emperor's death, he Ascended and became the first Humanoid God, the God of The Sun. Thus, he brought forth the Age of the Sun.

    "As a response to the creation of the Monster King, the God of Creation enabled the birth of dungeons, sky fortresses, and monster ships. When the mana gets too thick at a certain area, a mana storm is born, but its destructive power did nothing but help the God of Destruction. Thus, to control that, the God of Creation blessed the land so that whenever a mana storm occurs, a dungeon is created to absorb its power. If it happens below the ground, it's called a dungeon, if in the sky, it's called a sky fortress, and if below the sea, it's called a monster ship."

    I suppress a smile.

    And finally, the most standard element of any fantasy story, the dungeon, has finally shown its face coupled with the reason why it exists.

    "These dungeons are manifestations of our culture coupled with the power of the nearby monsters. This contains the power of the mana storm with the drawback of creating powerful monsters, but considering how dungeons are limited spaces, dungeons are the perfect training grounds for civilization. With the creation of the monster hunters' guild and the dungeoneering guild, we manage the monsters and the dungeons so that we can acquire power and items in ways we never could before."

    "After that, the God of Creation left this Realm to continue their job, and he created many other Realms along with ours in this Cycle. Though we don't know their names, we do know that the name of our Realm is Rupegia, and the name of our Cycle is Reigurando."

    "Wait, what? Can you explain a bit more what Realms and Cycles are?" I interject.

    She smiles kindly. "Well… see it this way: a different Realm is a place where the laws that govern Life, or mana, as we call it, are different than ours. Perhaps it's a land where you don't have a ground to fall to, perhaps it's a land where you fall up instead of down, perhaps it's a land where monsters and people changed places. Do you understand what I mean?"

    So, in essence, it's a different "reality."

    I nod and answer, "Yeah, I think so. And what about Cycles?"

    "Cycles are the collection of Realms as well as the path of mana. When things are destroyed, like our spirit, the earth, the flame of a spell, or anything else, the mana doesn't just 'dissipate' like some would believe. It simply moves on to the next step of the Cycle as all Life is preserved eternally. In the case of our spirits, they move on to be born again on the next Realm of our Cycle."

    So my soul kind of moved on through the Cycle but I retained my memories?

    I grab my chin in thought and question, "You say there are different Cycles, but how do we know this?" -An idea enters my mind and it makes me quite excited- "How do we know there are other Realms? Can we see other Realms? Can we move between them?"

    She smiles and lifts her hand, gesturing for me to slow down a bit. "Woah, calm down, that's coming on the next part of the tale."

    I lean back on my chair and smile embarrassedly. "Ah, oh… sorry. Please continue."

    "After the God of Creation left, certain humanoids started to acquire immense power. They were called heroes during their lives, but their time on the Realm eventually ended, like all things should. The God of Creation took notice of such souls passing through the Cycle, and they didn't want to waste the experience of these honorable heroes that achieved so much, so Creation turned them into subordinate gods, and thus, the Humanoid Gods started to Ascended. Counting the first emperor, we know of sixteen Humanoid Gods so far.

    "These gods give us Blessings and Messages to us when necessary, and this is how we know about the other Realms as they occasionally give us bits and pieces of information. They can see beyond our Realm and told us a bit about what's out there, but even they can't leave Rupegia.

    "We think there are other Cycles because it fits the teachings of the God of Creation to always grow and expand, and the Humanoid Gods tell us the God of Creation is not currently in any Realm of this Cycle, so there's bound to be other Cycles. Also, this means that, fortunately, the God of Destruction isn't here as they should be chasing after Creation, which brings stability to our Realm.

    "That's the total of the Tale of Creation," she finishes with a smile, then she pours water into a cup and wets her dry throat.

    I blink blankly as my brain returns from "story mode," then I blurt out, "Wow, that's a lot of information. Is this written in a book? Do you have other books with tales about this world that I could read?"

    She looks at me curiously. "You know how to read? Well, we do have books, but they require special permission. Though, if you join the temple, you can read them at any time."

    I narrow my eyes in suspicion. "What do you mean by joining the temple?"

    "Working as a priest. There's always the need for more people helping in the orphanage, or cooking the meals, or spreading the word of the Gods in the streets."

    That doesn't sound like easy work, or work that pays a lot. I need to acquire money for research and to get a lot more power so that I can live an easier life, and I don't think I'll get either by working here.

    I frown and respond, "Hmmm… I don't think I want to become a priest. Is there any other library that I can access?"

    Her mood slightly sours for a moment as she becomes a bit disappointed, but then she returns to her gentle and genuine demeanor and answers, "If you help the temple, maybe you can catch the attention of the head priest, and he's the only one capable of giving special permission, but our books are rather limited. Besides that, you can try the library at the magic university. It has a much wider variety than ours, but it costs a lot just to enter, and the books available to non-members are also limited…" She plays with her hair adorably as she reflects on something for a moment. "Are you perhaps a scholar? By your clothes, you look just like another commoner or starting adventurer, but you are way too smart to be either. You also can read and your curiosity is rather impressive."

    Well, I guess this was unavoidable. I needed information, and there was no other way besides stumbling in the dark. Time to lie a little.

    I give her a gentle smile as I lie, "Well, I'm from a very far away land, and I had to give up a lot just to come here, but I'm no scholar, I'm just a naturally curious person."

    Half-truths. It may sound mysterious, but I don't have the knowledge required to craft a well-built lie where I give information such as birth-place, family names, and etc.

    "Hm? Hahah…" She tilts her head and laughs awkwardly. "Well, I'm sorry for trying to pry into your business, but I can say one thing for certain, you're an interesting person."

    It seems she understood I don't want to talk about my origins in detail. A person who hides his past is suspicious and untrustworthy, but I think I acquired enough goodwill that she can just let this pass.

    This talk gave me some comfort, so perhaps I can keep coming here and asking more questions. It seems that the God of Creation encourages the sharing of knowledge, so I can ask questions more freely than I had imagined. The priests also don't seem oppressive, so I feel like I don't have much to fear from them.

    Right now, I've heard enough about religion, and I still want to go back to the dungeoneering guild to look for info about the monsters around here. I've decided I'll carefully hunt as a primary way of making money until I'm more accustomed with crafting and the laws. I'm not a fighter, but I also know very little about trade and economy, so I'll need a lot more knowledge to get into that area, and fighting seems easier in comparison due to the skill system having so many combat skills in comparison to everything else.

    I may not be a warrior, but I have a bit of knowledge about tactics and warfare, so at least I don't feel completely helpless when I think about where to start.

    "Well then, I think I've heard enough for now," I announce and nod respectfully. "Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed this talk, so, can I come back another day and ask for more?"

    She nods emphatically and replies, "It's part of our job to inform those who listen, so I would enjoy talking to you again. If I'm not at the temple, just ask for any other priest that's on standby."

    "Well, if it's not too much, can I continue talking to you, specifically?"

    I'd rather not talk to different people, and she looks much better than the wrinkly old priests I saw around.

    She twitches in surprise, then smiles gently as she accepts, "O-okay, that's not a problem. During the morning, I either work at the clinic or the orphanage, and I help prepare lunch and dinner most days. Every two days, I rest during the afternoon, so I'm not at the temple every day."

    I return the smile. "Alright, then. I don't know when I'm coming back, but it's going to be soon. Until then."

    "Goodbye, Mr. Ryder," she gracefully says her farewell.

    "Goodbye, Miss Ciel," I reply with decidedly less grace.



    Since it's almost noon, I look for some cheap food. It seems it's the bean season, so most stalls are selling a variety of bean dishes.

    I enter a restaurant and eat a green bean soup that reminds me of green peas. All they have here is goblin meat, though. Previously, I felt that my inn was expensive, but after tasting this meat, I feel like the price is justified.

    I'll postpone going to the university for a while until I have a better grasp of magic and the life around here, so now I'll go to the dungeoneering guild to gain more knowledge of the area.

    I still feel it's dangerous to say I'm from another world, so I'll avoid places where they might ask my background. If I told them the truth, I'd certainly cause a lot of ruckus, and in no novel would that end well.

    As I'm walking back to the dungeoneering guild, I have some time to reflect on what I learned. Ciel said that the Humanoid Gods give blessings and messages, so there's really no question about the presence of gods here, therefore, being an atheist is just idiotic. Some "God" sent me here, but simply reneging all Gods would be an infantile decision, especially because I'm dealing with fucking Gods. It's just not something to take lightly.

    I saw that there are sixteen gods, so maybe I should learn more about them and start praying to one. Since they also communicate, and they were once people of this world, then perhaps they're reasonable. It also gives me a little comfort in knowing there's a being that could help me if I show a little faith.

    I notice something change within me. I open my stats and see that my "Piety" has increased by 1 (it's now 3).

    It seems that the peepers in the sky can even read my mind.



    I enter the dungeoneering guild and ask for the section with information on monsters and dungeons around this area. The attendant guides me to the second floor and shows me a section with dozens of cloned books. This seems to be a common inquiry around here, so the guild prepared a large number of copies of the books: "Monsters of Rabanara," "Dungeons of Rabanara," and "Advice for New Adventurers". The creativity in naming is heartwarming.

    After taking a look at them, I learned that I'm one lucky motherfucker. The Grey Berserker is the most powerful type of monster in the region, and I met one when it was at its weakest. There's always a large bounty on them because they're smart enough to avoid the culling, so they're always a danger in the forest. The advised strategy to defeat it is a group of at least three fully armored people and one healer. The aim is to use blunt weapons to break the bear's bones since they're much more fragile than the hide, which makes most cutting or piercing weapons useless.

    Goblins are like in any other game. They grow like weeds and require constant care so they don't choke your plants, which means your life. They give little rewards, but it's possible to sell a whole corpse for a considerable amount of money. The problem is that most people don't have enough carrying capacity to bring a lot of corpses into town. Goblin meat is tasteless and sinewy, but it's the base meat for the poor so they always sell, though most hunters don't bother with the corpses and only bring a proof of extermination, which is the right ear.

    Mossy Fangpine is another dangerous enemy. There's a chance the mossy spines will poison the person; another evidence I'm actually lucky. They hunt in packs of three or more, and the one I fought was alone only because of the culling. The strategy is to hide behind a shield and wear at least leather armor, then counter stab it in the face after it jumps to bite, or just use magic since they are vulnerable to it. Arrows are okay to use, but they are fast and the spines can deflect arrows if you're unlucky. They have extraordinary noses, so they're likely to appear whenever a monster is killed because of the blood.

    Another enemy is the Rabid Rabbit. This one, like the Fangpine, only charges and bites. The bunny acts alone and is extremely vicious. Their bites are poisonous and can even make a person go berserk. The meat tastes delicious and is considered a delicacy while the saliva glands are used in potions, so this monster is always hunted, making it hard to find.

    In the sky, there's the Dragolite, a small dragon that doesn't have a fire breath. Their meat is somewhat hard to cook and has a strong taste, but it's still valuable. The farmers hate them since they like to kidnap the sheep around here but they don't kidnap the children and instead just try to kill them, so everyone who lives in a farm around here is trained in archery the moment they can hold a small bow.

    The last part shocks me a little. This is really a brutal world. Also, this is the enemy that captured my summoned bird.

    There's also the Giant Dragonfly. It uses its legs as spears and attacks with high speed. The easiest strategy is to just use a spear longer than their legs. They're weak but annoying to deal with because they are agile, and it's difficult to dodge or escape them, so it's advised for hunters to always carry a simple, disposable long spear in their [Item Box]. Due to the monster's nature, they mostly appear along rivers or lakes, and they don't fly too well among the trees, so that's why I haven't met one yet. Their wings and eyes are valuable crafting items, so they sell quite well.

    The occasional migrating flock of wyverns is a threat. Different from dragons, who have wings on their back, a wyvern's forelegs are their wings. Also, this monster looks more like velociraptors with wings, while dragons are lizards with wings. Wyverns attacks are the most common threat to this settlement, so, sooner or later, I'll be called to defend the town against them.

    They only fly as a way of long-distance movement since their huge bodies and low magical capability makes flying awkward for them. Unlike dragons, who can manipulate the wind with ease, wyverns tire easily if they have to be agile during flight, so fighting against them is always done on the ground. The best strategy against them is to fight behind shield walls using pikes and ranged attacks. Finding and destroying wyvern nests is heavily rewarded since this means that the attacks on the town reduce in frequency.

    These are the common monsters that are born here, but the thing is that migrating monsters are extremely common, so the chance of meeting a random monster is quite high, which means that a monster hunter really needs to read a lot about their prey to be prepared for anything. This discourages me a little about hunting monsters in the forest for money. I also have little experience in tracking, so I think that looking at the nearby dungeons might be a better choice for now.

    Dungeons have a lot of variety. There are some that are maze-like, whose floors can be many times larger than entire towns. Others are just large underground environments where monsters roam around copied fragments of the world above. Some even have artificial lights, allowing them to sustain some form of plant life. Plenty are mere dimensional doors to some unknown space, possibly full of traps, randomness, and constant change. The most popular among hunters are the small labyrinths, especially the ones that create a floor exclusively for a single party, which guarantees that no other party will influence your progress, but unfortunately they're much rarer. Most dungeons have some sort of "elevator," which allows adventurers to move to any floor they've previously explored.

    Dungeons increase in depth the more they're allowed to remain undisturbed. Damaging the core forces the dungeon to reduce in depth to repair itself, while destroying the core makes it fall apart. The nobility is the one responsible for culling the forests and managing the dungeon depth, and in the book, it is implied that a noble that doesn't fight doesn't deserve their title. It sounds quite interesting, so I need to ask more about this later.

    In the book "Advice for New Adventurers," there's some simple info about "Stats" and magic, which is extremely valuable to me. It says that the average stat for a commoner should be ten and that anything below that is concerning.

    "Strength" is self-explanatory, but it says that the number represents overall muscular power, so the book advises adventurers to train their entire body instead of just a few muscles because the "divine system" gives people a little power boost every time the stat increases.

    "Endurance" is like physical stamina, but it also helps with resisting magic or poisons. To increase it, I only need to do aerobics, and the book advises to never try training [Poison Resistance] without an authorized healer.

    "Dexterity" pertains to the precision of muscular movement. It's the main stat for sharpshooters, but it also helps quite a lot with martial arts, so it's a secondary stat for warriors. There's no mention of a "thief" or "rogue" fighting style, though.

    "Speed" is self-explanatory.

    "Intelligence" is said to help with the speed of learning skills, which is excellent news to me since mine is pretty high. It's also a main stat for mages since they need a lot of skills to be effective, so the faster they learn, the more powerful they can become.

    "Wisdom" is more mysterious, but it generally correlates with life experience, so mine is at the appropriate level for someone of my (counting Eath's) age, but I'm a bit of an odd 16-year old for Rupegia standards. This is the main stat for mages because the subconscious of their brain uses their knowledge of magical theory to do all the minimal adjustments and calculations that a spell needs to work, so I guess I might be kind of a good mage?

    "Willpower" is all about mental endurance, and while I was never a slob or sedentary, I'm also not a super disciplined person. This stat helps with resisting spells that affect the mind and is also used by mages to "brute force" their spells, supplementing their lack of theoretical knowledge with pure will.

    "Charisma" is a very mysterious stat and not much is known about it, though someone with high "Charisma" is instantly recognizable. The book also advises that adventurers should always be wary of merchants with a honeyed voice.

    "Piety" is another obvious one, but it also tells how well divine power can channel through a mage's body, so that's why [Light Magic] didn't work when I had zero "Piety."

    "Perception" is simply attention to detail. It seems to help with detecting spells and illusions, the "light-bending"-kind and not the "mess with your mind"-kind. I'm a bit surprised mine is considerably high, but I guess it's because I'm quite attentive and reflective.

    "Sanity" is too complex for a simple book to explain how it's calculated, but all I should know is that it provides a good gauge of one's mental health along with their susceptibility to mind-affecting spells. Twelve is a good number for a well-adjusted citizen, and the book advises one to talk to priests if it's lower than that.

    There's no way I can tell Ciel about my problems, at least not yet…

    Since it's actually viable for someone to learn magic on their own, the book explains that "Magic Power" is simply how much one can alter reality with a single point of mana. It's advised to keep it at half of the max MP because, otherwise, the spells either become too weak and ineffective or too powerful and hard to control. My MP and "Magic Power" are still both too low to affect me like that, though.

    There's also a short description of the magic skills. [Sense Mana] is self-explanatory, but the book says that all spells leak mana, which is what the skill picks up once the particles touch the senser's skin; [Mana Control] allows a mage to put more or less mana and modulate the spell's power, making it mandatory for powerful spells; [Mana Recovery] increases natural MP regen; [Mana Efficiency] helps with the natural mana leak and reduces the cost of continuous spells; [Reduced Mana Cost] affects only the initial cost of casting a spell, so it doesn't overlap with Efficiency. There's also some info about mana overuse, which happens when a mage uses too much mana too fast, and blackout, which is when a mage's MP goes negative, but the book only says to avoid these conditions because they're unhealthy even if someone has the Resistance skills to deal with them.

    Lastly, the book gives me a small formula to calculate one's "soul potential." If the total number of skills (and their levels) some has is less than four times the person's level, they have "positive soul potential," and it's easier to learn skills; if the total is higher than that, then they have "negative soul potential," and it becomes increasingly harder to gain skills, the deeper into the negative numbers the total is.

    I'm not sure how this relates to my cheat since I can just zero my total skills at any time, effectively giving me a positive soul potential any time I want.

    It's quite tiring and time-consuming to keep reading all this information, so I don't really have time to go out of town today. I decided to go to a nearby dungeon tomorrow, Royd's Kerfuffle, a labyrinthine dimensional door dungeon that has an "elevator." The adventurer that discovers a dungeon gets the right to name it, and most of them have quite an eccentric naming sense.

    This dungeon in particular isn't that popular since the monsters there do not reward much, but it could be a perfect training ground for me. Only at the lower levels that I need to be careful and look out for traps, and the worst of them teleport their victims to a random place on the same floor, so things only start to become difficult after the tenth floor, but the floor traps are always on the same spot, so it's easy to avoid them.

    It's also a good place to train "Willpower" due to the monsters that spawn there, but they're pretty physically weak, and I have a cheat that lets me counter them.

    Right now, I still have some free time until sunset, so I decide to go do some physical training.



    The hunters' guild training grounds is a large dirt field. There's a large area for sparring; an archery range; a wide, long, and secluded place where I can see some mages throwing some flashy spells; a place where a few freakish; floating pieces of armor fight some people; a small building with barred windows; and a small fountain for people to drink.

    Is that fountain magical or is there plumbing in this town?

    I pay the toll to enter and approach one of the idle men with the symbol of the hunters' guild engraved on his leather armor.

    "H-hello, I'm new around here. Could you tell me how I can use this place?" I stiffly ask him.

    He's not big or burly, but he has a menacing gaze. He sports a buzz cut, his face is full of small scars, and his posture is intimidating.

    How does one get scars in a world with magical healing?

    He replies in an eerily calm voice, "Hm? Well, the archery range is free, and we can lend you a bow and arrow, but you'll pay for anything you break. The magic range is free, too, but you need a safety briefing so you don't hurt other people. The Living Armors are rented, and the manager deals with that. I'm an instructor, and I can give you training with weapons, but you can't monopolize me, so we have the students spar with each other once you're at a proper level." I listen intently and remain tense under his unwavering gaze, which makes me want to spontaneously look away, but I manage to resist it.

    "Then, could you teach me the sword?" I anxiously ask.

    He nods energetically. "Alright, let's spar so I can measure your skill. Put away your sword, and I'll give you a wooden one."

    He goes into what I assume is the warehouse while I put my sword in my "Items," then he comes back with two wooden swords and throws one at me.

    "What's your name?" He casually asks.

    "Wolf Ryder."

    Now that I've said it again, I think that I've made a mistake. This name certainly doesn't suit me. My parents were right, my original name was better.

    He taps his chest with a closed fist and replies, "I'm Toga. You make the first move, and I will start attacking after a while."

    So I start my session. I rush and attack, but I have no idea what I'm doing. Because the skill system takes over some of my movements I'm at least confident that I know how to slash and thrust.

    Toga effortlessly blocks, parries, and dodges my attacks. It feels like I'm a child throwing a tantrum while he holds me back by simply holding my head. Then he starts attacking and in three strikes my sword falls out of my hand.

    "Well, your technique is a mess, who taught you the sword?" He questions with a deep frown.

    "Self-taught," I answer meekly.

    "Mystery solved," he responds and laughs out loud. "You know how to attack, but you're lacking a 'flow,' so it's easy to find openings to counter, which means that the first thing you should learn is how to defend yourself. Now, what sort of training do you want?"

    "How many types of training are there?" I reflexively ask back.

    He sighs softly and gives me an odd look. "Depends on what job you want. Adventuring warriors want any 'Physical' skills that they can get their hands on, and their role in a fight depends on which skills they have an affinity for; soldiers train to have a balanced selection of weapon and defensive skills like [Block] and [Parry]," -he scans my body up and down- "but they need 'Stats' more than they need skills, which you're lacking; and knights train mostly their weapon skill and other enhancement skills like [Muscle Explosion] and [Enhanced Strength] since they use enchanted weapons and wear heavy armor, so they don't need defensive skills as much. Archers have it easy, though, since all they need is [Bow Use] until they're high level."

    "I want to work as an adventurer," I immediately confess.

    Then he smiles a bit creepily. "I see. So, do you want to train the proper way, or the easy way?" And his words give me a chill.

    I know what's coming. It's going to be painful, but this is an opportunity to see what true sword fighting is like, and what kind of man or boy would say no to that?

    "The... proper way," I weakly answer, starting to waver.

    He grins evilly and commands, "Then defend yourself like your life depends on it, because it does."

    Then he beats me up.



    My body is bruised and bloody. I didn't imagine that a blunt wooden sword could make such a cut. Toga crushed me and he's barely out of breath. He's certainly a scary man. Did I choose the worst instructor by any chance?

    While I'm sprawled on the ground, Toga calls for someone. Another instructor comes by and touches my arm, then he starts singing something like a prayer.

    "[Heal]," he softly sings after finishing the strophe, then my body suddenly hurts a lot less, the bruises return to normal color, and the cuts stop bleeding then close up, all in just a few seconds.

    This is [Light Magic], and it's much faster than my [Regeneration] spell.

    Oh wait, was that a chant? Do people normally need to sing something so that the spell activates? I don't know anything about that, but it's a common trope in video games to balance magic, and they make it so that powerful magic takes a long time to chant.

    I get up and notice there's a small number of people watching me, and quite a few of them are grinning, then embarrassment fills my heart and makes me blush.

    What's so funny?

    "Good job surviving, boy," one of the grinning men praises me half-ironically.

    I fail to hold back a small smile. They're making fun of me for getting beaten up, but I just can't deny it must've been a spectacle.

    Toga stops in front of me, and I notice a hint of kindness in his tone as he reports, "Your body is weak and your technique is poor, but you got enough 'Willpower' to withstand the training. Keep coming and you'll be a proper swordsman in due time."

    I had noticed people greet each other with a clear nod, so I mimic that and politely state, "Thank you for the session, teacher. I'm very tired now, so I'm going to retire."

    I'm not sure what's the etiquette when dealing with the instructors here, so I just call him "teacher" instead of saying his name.

    "Goodbye," he calmly replies with a nod.

    I turn around and wash my face in the fountain, then I leave. Now I'm just going to pass by the hunters guild for a quick look.



    Near the entrance, I notice something I had ignored the first time I came here due to nervousness. On one of the walls, there are two large black boards where I can see something written in white. The first board is named "Notable Hunts," and it displays a magically scrolling list of hunter names with monster names next to them, and I get a chill when I see my name with "Gray Berserker'' right next to it. The second board is named "Confirmed Kills,'' and it displays a list of the hunter names coupled with the number of monsters they've killed that scrolls much faster than the first one.

    I walk towards the notice board and see that most of the notes there are about the prices for the bounties or corpses of the common kills around here, like the goblins, Dragolites, or monsters from the dungeons, while the rest are bounties on specific monsters sighted. Some contain a rough drawing, but they all contain the name, the last seen location, a short description of the monster, and a threat level.

    From what I understood by reading monster books, the threat level goes from 0 to 10, the numbers have the following meaning: 0 = harmless, 1 = capable of killing a child, 2 = capable of killing an untrained adult, 3 = capable of killing the common soldier, 4 = capable of killing a soldier squad, 5 = capable of killing a knight squad, 6 = capable of killing veteran hunters, 7 = capable of killing a soldiers company (100 men), 8 = capable of killing a division (10,000 men), 9 = capable of destroying a fortress, 10 = unkillable.

    Why are knights ranked lower than veteran hunters? Is it a matter of specialization? I see that there's a permanent bounty on the Grey Berserker, and his threat level is four. Dragolites are threat level one and Mossy Fangpines are threat level two.

    When I decide to leave, I notice that there are a few people looking at me, then I recognize that at least two of them were here in the morning when I sold the bear.

    Do these people do nothing besides sit here and drink?

    It's probably what Sonny said: other parties will be interested in me since I killed a Grey Berserker all by myself. It doesn't matter that it was half-dead, they don't know that.

    I decide to quickly leave and go back to the inn to rest.



    Dinner is a red bean paste with minced meat and spices to put on the bread. Feels like it's spiced with paprika and cumin, so now it only needs some spicy pepper for it to be just like chilli.

    After dinner and a bath, I go back to my room and reflect upon today. I look at my skills and see that they all have two numbers on their level separated by a "plus" sign. [Sword Use], [Dodge], [Parry], and [Block] all have a 1 on the right side of the plus while the rest have a 0.

    The fuck?

    I try to manipulate my skills, but only the number on the left of the plus sign changes, and I seemingly can't remove the skills with the 1 on the right side.

    Did I "learn" these skills? Does this mean that trained skills are different from the ones assigned with the system?

    I guess this also means that I can't learn [Parry], then remove the skill, then learn it again, and repeat as a way to accumulate skill points.

    No exploits in this game eh? Mine not included.

    This is how my skills are right now:




    Wolf Ryder Skill Report​

    Physical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Sword Use5+1Dodge2+1Parry0+1
    Block0+1

    Magical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Mana Efficiency3+0Mana Recovery3+0Electric Magic4+0
    Nature Magic5+0

    Miscellaneous​
    Skill NameLevel
    Andraste Language10+0

    Info​
    NameWolf RyderAge16RaceHuman
    HP100MP110Magic Power180
    Level5

    Stats​
    Strength8Endurance8Dexterity9
    Speed10Intelligence20Wisdom15
    Willpower11Charisma10Piety3
    Perception15Sanity9

    Other​
    Status Effects'NONE'
    Titles'NONE'
    Affiliations'NONE'
    Companions'NONE'
    Crimes'NONE'
    After that, I almost doze off thinking about the Tale of Creation. The name "Reigurando" keeps coming back to my mind, as it reminds me of something, but I just can't put my finger on what.

    Then something hits me. The Japanese language lacks some things required for them to pronounce foreign words properly, and their way around it creates an accent that some even find funny. After a while, I've started to notice the patterns in their speech and now it's become easy to understand what foreign word they're trying to say.

    The Japanese way of pronouncing the English word "Playground" is "Pureigurando," while RPG, Role-Playing-Game, is pronounced "Arupegi," which is incredibly similar to Rupegia.

    Oh, no.

    I'm truly stuck in a fantasy video game, and it's made by the Japanese. Then it also hits me that "Demon King'' is a very common trope in Japanese light novels.

    I really am an "isekai" protagonist…
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021 at 1:38 AM
  7. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    Many thanks to reader q00u for switching the dashes (-...-) dialogue notation for the quotation ("...") dialogue notation.

    I'm not really shocked, you know? My "Sanity" didn't go down, so I guess this is proof I'm adapting to the situation. It also didn't go up, so I guess this is my limit. I'm just fated to remain half-sane in this shitty world.

    Being introduced to magic and monsters so abruptly certainly shocked me and didn't help with my mental state. Though the biggest shock I had so far was the message from God. It was incredibly cryptic and suspicious, but there's nothing I can do about it besides dealing with it and moving on.

    Oh wait, it's morning already? Did I sleep? I don't remember sleeping, so maybe I just fainted and then suddenly woke up.

    My thoughts are drifting endlessly, preventing me from reflecting upon anything important. I simply can't focus because my mind is swimming with the possibilities.

    It's like I'm living inside an isekai novel. There are so many tropes being thrown at me that I can just predict what's going to ha-…

    I hear a knock on the door, then a muffled female voice reaches my ears, "Breakfast is ready!"

    That must be the innkeeper's daughter. She's a really cute girl with blonde hair in a ponytail and a very feminine small face. She seems to be very bubbly and kind, and she looks like she's my age, by that I mean this-world-age, not original-world-age. She has a brother, and they kind of look like twins. I've caught a few patrons and even myself staring at her absentmindedly, but did she notice our stares? She's just a bright spirit, and she always comes to us with a warm smile, ma-…

    No, wait, I can't run from this, I need to finish that train of thought. If I think this world is like a novel, I can predict some developments about my reason for being here and what could happen next. Ciel said that the God of Creation is not in this Cycle, so the God of Destruction must've followed him, and because of that, this realm is more or less stable. This means that, if in the future, The God of Creation comes back, or if something calls theirs or the God of Destruction's attention, then shit will hit the fan.

    So, I think I need to prepare and get stronger while not messing with the balance of this world. But am I really supposed to be a "hero"? The message that "God" sent me is suspicious, why not tell the reason I'm sent here? Why apologize? Did something go wrong? Was I not supposed to come here?

    I guess that doesn't really matter in the end. In the isekai stories, a "hero" is sent for whatever bullshit reason just to create a story. It's used as an impetus to return to the previous world or save the current world, but in the end, the "why" doesn't matter, what matters is what I do next.

    There are too many possibilities and zero answers or evidence. The best I can do is simply prepare while trying to keep the balance of the world. There's a possibility that I might have to fight the Monster King, so information on him is essential.

    The possibility of a realm transfer is another thing I need more information on. Maybe my original world is part of this cycle, so it might be best for me to raise my "Piety" and communicate with a humanoid god.

    Lastly, there's a possibility that this is all just an ultra-realistic VR game. If I die, will I return to Earth? Well… there's just no way to test that, so I think I should ignore this line of thinking.

    Now, let's get back to the present. Training at the hunter's guild is going to take a long time to yield results, so I want to enter Royd's Kerfuffle to quickly gain a few levels. Those skill points can turn me into a master swordsman whenever I want, so I need levels more than anything right now. But before I leave town, I'm going to buy some equipment and supplies, then take a look at the dungeoneering guild for tools.



    Today, breakfast is a simple vegetable soup with a small piece of mutton and some sweet bread. Honestly, it's kind of nice.

    After eating, I go to the Crafter's Corner. Walking around town is rather tiring, but I'm not a sedentary person, it's just that I'm not used to this amount of exercise. Yesterday, I fought until I collapsed, so my muscles are still a little bit sore. Maybe I should rest, but I can't stay still due to my anxiety. I need a stable source of income before I can relax properly.

    I see a few pieces of Gray Berserker leather armor on the market. They're, unsurprisingly, gray, and they're three gold pieces each. It seems expensive, but considering how that bear is known for being tough, I decide to part with my money. I get a jacket and pants.

    The armor is quite flexible and well-padded, so I feel snug and safe in it. I do have to moisturize then oil it so that it doesn't dry and harden, but the cost of doing that is nothing in comparison to how much more I'd have to pay for metal armor.

    I notice that good padding is quite expensive, and all of the stronger ones come from monster fur. It seems that cotton is rather flimsy in comparison to monster-based textiles, but it's still more expensive due to a variety of reasons.

    There are more expensive pieces of leather armor I could've bought, like Hell Wyvern, Kite Dragon, troll, ogre, and Dragon Lord, but I feel like this one should do for a small dungeon.

    I let the merchant appraise my old armor, and he tells me that it's made from Hobgoblin. It's a good low-budget armor, but it doesn't last long, so an adventurer shouldn't bet their life on it.

    After observing the merchant, I switch my skills to Armor and [Weapon Appraisal], and they give me two spells each, [Appraise] or [Appraisal Eyes]. The former is the more commonly used one since it's cheaper, but it's flashy, and I don't want people to know I'm using it. The latter shows me the information of the equipment on the usual black screen of the "system" after I stare at it for a few seconds, though the spell continuously consumes mana, so I can only use it for a very short time.

    With 10 points in Appraisal, it seems that it only shows me the "Material" and "Quality" info of the equipment. There are still a few instances of "???" on each piece of equipment.

    I choose a "high" quality steel one-handed sword with the same design as my current one, which is made of iron. I also choose a "high" quality small, round, iron shield iron painted entirely in black. I'll use it by holding a handle instead of strapping it to my arm so that I have more flexibility with it.

    Finally, I pick a pair of Hobgoblin leather mittens, a Hobgoblin cap, the cheapest bow, a quiver, and twenty arrows. Even if I don't know how to use a bow yet, I can put some points in archery once I level up.

    All of this costs me three gold. It's a bit pricey, but I can't skimp on my safety. I also see a few, much more "fashionable" versions of the same equipment I'm buying, but they cost a lot more, of course.

    Then I go look for supplies like blankets, cloth, cutlery, plates, bowls, rope, lantern, food that's easy to eat, spare clothes, whetstone, and finally, oil for equipment maintenance.

    There is straw pail that can be used as toilet paper, but it seems like even children are trained to learn [Conjuring Magic] and [Light Magic] level 1, which give them the spells [Conjure Water] and [Clean], respectively, so they can clean themselves after heeding the call of nature. I guess this is what the entrance guard meant when he said I had no "life skills."

    I also buy a few of the lowest-grade health, mana, and antidote potions. They aren't for use during combat since they only act after five minutes and work up to thirty minutes. I notice that the HP and MP potions have a small shine to them, so I guess that the standard way of knowing if something is magical or not in this world is to see if it shines.

    The potions all come in glass flasks, so I can't carry them in the pockets of my armor. Because of that, the merchant advises me to buy a few metal flasks so that they can survive melee combat. It wouldn't be funny if I passed out and died due to poison because I couldn't focus enough to pull an antidote out of my "Items," so I get three of these "battle potions."

    Then I go to the dungeoneering guild for tools for the expedition. All adventurers need items that keep them safe from monsters while they sleep, eat, or answer the call of nature, especially if they're alone. The most common item is scented candles to keep monsters away, but there's the danger of the wind snuffing them while someone sleeps, which would make them vulnerable to being attacked while sleeping, so at least a [Monster Repellent] magic tool is necessary. This magic tool is a crystal that uses mana to reproduce the effect of a scented candle, so there's no risk of it being snuffed out, but the downside is that it's more expensive and requires mana to recharge. To use it, I need to put 1 point into [Mana Control], then I can turn it on or off, or recharge it.

    Another important tool is the Escape Bomb. It's a more concentrated version of the scented candle and it's used to run away from monsters. The seller tells me it stinks horribly, so I should throw it on the monster or at the ground and not on myself if I don't want to pass out from the smell.

    Talking about smell, there's an anti-scent powder that's commonly used by explorers since a lot of monsters hunt humanoids using scent. It's basically a magical deodorant since it removes any smell. There's a magic tool version, but the powder is very cheap, so I can save some money until I'm more comfortable with my income.

    Then there are the [Proximity Warning] crystals. Thieves occasionally prey on adventurers, so monsters aren't the only danger in a dungeon. If I'm going to sleep inside the dungeon alone, then I need something to warn me if something or someone is getting close.

    And finally, I buy a map of only the ten first floors of Royd's Kerfuffle. I don't plan on going to the eleventh floor anytime soon.

    The stone and crystals are expensive, five gold total, but it's something I'll never have to buy again.

    A huge hole opened in my funds, and more than half of my gold coins are gone. I still have the rose coin, but I have no idea what is the exchange rate to gold coins. I'm also afraid to exchange it because I still haven't seen anyone use it, so I might get scammed. Perhaps another day I should go to the merchant guilds or bankers and see if there's a place for money exchange.

    The dungeoneering books mentioned that Space magicians normally ferry people between the dungeons' entrances and the town. I already noticed a few huts spread around town with "[Gate] services" written above the entrance, so I guess that's where I can get a teleport. But teleportation gets more expensive depending on the weight of the contents of your [Item Box], so I don't want to expose that I have nothing in my [Item Box] to random people. It's suspicious to walk around without an [Item Box] because this spell seems to be another thing that everyone learns when they're a child so that they can at least carry coins in it.

    I don't think everybody has level 20 [Space Magic], so it must be possible to learn spells before you have the required level. Must be why the [Item Box] starts small and why magicians are normally the ones that carry the most supplies. Even if the magician isn't an offensive one, the dungeoneering book always recommends having one just for the [Item Box]. They're basically human pack mules.

    I don't want to hire a magician yet, so I'll go to the dungeon on foot with the crude map that I got from the dungeoneering guild. It shows me that the Sea of Trees is to the south of the town, the farms are to the north, and to the northwest is the entrance to the dungeon. It takes one hour on foot, so I'm going to arrive there around two hours before noon.



    I put all my points in [Space Magic] so that I can use [Item Box], then I put in it my silver coins, copper coins, and some things like the sleeping bag and some food.

    I walk to the west gate, the same one that I first came in from, then I start customs. I show my ID and the guard at the gate uses a crystal ball to read the contents of my [Item Box], but at least I don't have to pay for anything because of my adventurer ID.

    I take a look at his crystal tablet and notice that at least they can't see the number of coins that I have.

    I assume customs are just an anti-smuggling measure. Since trade goods are taxed, they don't let people just put anything they want in their [Item Box] and then travel to wherever.

    I walk out of town and see a line of multiple wagons with groups of people in between, all waiting to enter the town, and by their worn armor and weapons, they seem to be mostly adventurers. It looks like this is quite a busy town.



    After I'm a little ways away, I put everything back into my "Items" and spec my skills for fast movement and stamina. I have 31 points, so I put them like this:




    Wolf Ryder Skill Report​

    Physical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Sword Use5+1Dodge2+1Parry0+1
    Block0+1Sense Presence3+0Enhanced Stamina5+0

    Magical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Electric Magic1+0Nature Magic5+0Blessing Magic10+0

    Miscellaneous​

    Nothing​
    With 10 points in [Blessing Magic], I can use [Swift Foot] on myself, and with [Enhanced Stamina], I can walk much faster without tiring.



    Though the Enhanced skill drains my mental energy, I can still enjoy the sights as I follow the cobbled road west. To my right, there are the farms, endless fields of green that wave with the wind; and to my left, there's the Sea of Trees, an ominous wall of huge trees where dangerous monsters lurk within.

    I recognize that most plantations are of beans. The plants are short sprouts with uncountable bean pods hanging from them, the short height of the plantations giving me an unimpeded view until deep within the farmlands.

    I recognize water wheels near the edge of my vision, so there must be a river that runs close to the town. I also can't see any sheep from the small amount of livestock in my view, so maybe they're deeper in because this area is more dangerous due to being so close to the Sea of Trees.

    Very, very far away, beyond the plantations, I see the snowy peaks of a mountain range. I know that at the bottom of the mountains there's a valley with quite a few dungeons, so I might go there one day.

    On the side of the Sea of Trees, the trees are so tall that I can't even see what's beyond them. The area around the town is a plateau surrounded by mountains, but nobody fully mapped the Sea of Trees, so it's unknown what's out there.

    After a long walk, the road turns north, which means I'm close to my destination, then a few minutes later, a small forest starts to peek above the farms as I come for the final approach. The trees surrounding the dungeon's entrance grow very fast, so this area is a source of cheap lumber.

    As I approach, I see that a small wall surrounds this forest, and a single squad of guards protects the entrance to the small grove in the rare chance a monster comes out of this dungeon.

    When I get close, they just nod at me, uninterested in the common adventurer passing by.

    Then I finally reach the entrance to Royd's Kerfuffle. It's an ominous black vertical rectangle that glows faintly, a dimensional door. I change my skills towards combat and make them as follow:




    Wolf Ryder Skill Report​

    Physical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Sword Use5+1Dodge3+1Parry0+1
    Block4+1Sense Presence5+0

    Magical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Mana Efficiency4+0Mana Recovery4+0Electric Magic1+0
    Nature Magic5+0

    Miscellaneous​

    Nothing​
    This way, my main attack is the sword, [Lightning Bolt] is a backup, [Entangling Vines] is for utility, and [Regeneration] for healing. Since [Parry] already has a good overlap with [Sword Use], I chose [Dodge] and [Block] to give me more options.

    With that, there's only one choice here, I step inside the black door, and I suddenly find myself standing in an eerie black void as even the door that I came from is now gone. Curiously I can see my own body though I can't find where the light comes from.

    Suddenly, a small, black window appears in front of me as if I opened my "Menu." It has only two lines of writing on it: "1st floor" and "Exit." I touch "1st floor."

    A familiar feeling strikes me. Like when I first got transported to this world, the ground vanishes under my feet, then I feel like I'm free-falling, but this time, I remain conscious. After a long second, the ground reappears under me, then the darkness is lifted instantly.

    I'm now in an empty room made out of gray square tiles with black seams. There are two exits out of this room, one ahead of me that takes me to an unremarkable corridor, and one behind me, the same ominous black door that I came from.

    Every few tiles, there's a small gem that glows faintly, illuminating the dungeon with a weak light. There are areas and even entire levels without light higher up, so it's another reason to keep on the low levels for now.

    There are three types of enemies around here. The first are the goblins, which carry a variety of conjured weapons that disappear when the monster dies. The goblins are so weak that even a greenhorn like me can take them down in a duel.

    Though it's annoying that the goblins' weapons equipment disappears, finding loot in a dungeon is actually rather rare as most of the items inside them are fakes created by the dungeon.

    Anyway, the second enemy is the Mandrake, a small walking root that looks like a baby. It'll scream while attacking to disturb the enemy, but it's a very weak monster. Its feet are used for potions or cooking, but the rest of the body isn't valuable, though the more mature ones have leaves growing out of their heads that have some value for potions.

    The third enemy is the Bush Baby. It's not the animal bush baby, but an actual baby-looking monster that has a bush on its head. It's a relative to the Mandrake that doesn't scream. It attacks with piercing vines, and there's a chance to be poisoned by them if the wound is deep enough. It's even less valuable than the Mandrake, but it's more dangerous.

    These are the enemies on the first ten floors. They're horrible for making money, but I'm here only to acquire Experience and levels.

    It's time to start exploring.

    After locating myself on the map, I start walking around the labyrinth while keeping a close watch to where I'm going. It'd be very embarrassing to get myself lost in the first dungeon that I've entered. I also don't want to stumble upon one of the stairs to the next level, so I keep near the border of the maze. But the size of this floor actually surprises me, it's about half as large as Rabanara.

    The mazes in this dungeon are made of multiple corridors and small rooms, with most of them leading to dead ends with a monster waiting, but there's still plenty of paths that I can take to navigate the floor. Occasionally, there's a monster roaming the paths, but they generally don't enter a path that leads to a dead-end, so the dead ends are the most common safe spot for resting after killing the monster waiting there, though it's possible to be corned in them if one's not careful.



    I detect a goblin ahead of me with [Sense Presence]. There's no way for me to sneak around it in these tight corridors, so I decide to face it from the front.

    I first hear its footsteps, then it comes around the corner, and I wrinkle my nose in disgust. The first thing I notice is that it's naked, and it's a male. He's a green ugly thing around one meter tall wielding a crude spear. He doesn't have any clothes or armor, so his genitals are exposed, freely dangling about. I feel sick just looking at him.

    Once he notices me, he immediately charges forward and braces his crude spear, but he shows no emotion.

    There's no room for hesitation, I have to fight him, to kill him. My sword is shorter than his spear, so I decide to fight cautiously.

    He seemingly doesn't know how to use his weapon as he simply thrusts with dull movements and continues to advance, getting within the range of my sword.

    I easily deflect his attack with my shield then counter, and the blade sinks into his chest with little resistance.

    He drops his spear and tries to grab my sword, but I kick him with the sole of my boot and he falls on his ass.

    He tries to grab his spear again, but it's too late. I chop downwards and my sword gets stuck midway through his skull.

    He immediately goes limp, and the red dot in my [Sense Presence] fades away. He's dead.

    I use my foot to dislodge my sword and brain matter drips out of the wound.

    Fucking hell.

    Now there's blood on my boots, but just a quick [Clean] is enough to remove most of it.

    That was easy. This sword cuts cleaner than the previous one, so it's like a hot knife through butter. I'm also not afraid anymore of taking a hit after Toga taught me how to defend myself. The wonders of healing magic may be affecting how I think about wounds, though.

    I'm getting kind of hot with the leather mittens, cap, and pants, but considering how safe I feel, I can't complain.

    I cut the ear as proof of extermination and wipe my blade on a piece of cloth. The reward is only five copper if there's no corpse, but I can't really appear with dozens of goblin corpses in my [Item Box]. Showing the Gray Berserker might have been a mistake, and I won't repeat that again so soon, though I think that Sonny and Gordon were so happy with the Berserker that they've ignored my strangeness.

    In a few minutes, the dungeon will completely reabsorb the goblin corpse, but I think it'd be a waste to leave it there, so I'll just store it as emergency funds, and I also want to try to find the limit to my "Items."



    As I explore a dead-end, I encounter another naked goblin, this one wielding a dagger. I kill it before it reaches me with a single chop to the head and move on. A second appears soon after, and this time it's a female with small breasts. She also wields a dagger, so I dispatch her with ease.

    The gore coupled with the free nudity is making me feel sick.

    Then a fourth goblin appears. It has a spear and a loincloth.

    Finally, some decency. But does this mean that he's more experienced?

    He charges at me and his spear slides off my shield. I try to counter, but he keeps his distance this time.

    Question answered, he really is smarter.

    It takes a few hits, but I manage to deflect his spear with my shield in a way that he opens up his guard, so I lunge forward and slash his face.

    He trips and falls, then tries to bring his spear back, but I put my foot on his arm, and I stab his heart. With his free hand, he grabs the blade of my sword and his face distorts in pain.

    "Grah…" He lets a small groan and dies.

    That was odd, the first three didn't show any emotion, but this one did.

    I'm getting creeped out by the flashbacks of the goblin drowning in his own blood.

    I cut the goblin's ear and store the corpse, then I quickly move on.

    Soon after, I meet another naked goblin, this one with a sword. I want to try something out, so I let him hit my shield with his sword, then I riposte and kill him.

    The hits don't hurt, but they tire me out. The spear doesn't have much weight behind it, but the sword does. If I want to last in this dungeon, I can't let myself get tired after every fight. Just because I can block, doesn't mean that I know the most efficient way to mitigate the weight of a weapon, so I need to be careful since I currently have low physical stamina.



    I wander about without meeting anything for a while, then I finally encounter a Mandrake. It's an ugly thing about half a meter tall, just like the books said.

    Immediately after seeing it, I get dizzy and almost fall as my ears get attacked by an extremely high-pitched buzzing, then I hear a horrific scream in the background. It's not just my ears that hurt, this thing is also magically attacking my mind.

    This is fucking terrible I don't want to meet this little shit ever again.

    The monster immediately charges, and I can see it pointing its two spear-like arms towards me.

    I barely regain my footing in time to desperately slash at it before it collides with me. I feel the sword sliding along its chest, but it doesn't sink as deep as before. Its skin is much tougher than a goblin's.

    With the slash, I send it back to the ground, then a greenish, transparent fluid starts pouring out of its chest wound.

    The little fucker is tenacious, it immediately gets up again and points its arms towards me. In my rage, I do a savage chop, and my sword gets embedded into its head, then it goes limp.

    "You are now level six," the familiar female announcer's voice echoes in my mind, then I quickly get to work and chop off the monster's head.

    "What the fuck…" I whisper as I stare in horror at the decapitated baby head in my hand that drips greenish blood on the dungeon's floor.

    Then a sigh escapes my lips.

    Fuck this world.

    I suck it up and cut off its two ugly distorted yellow feet because they're valuable as ingredients, then I open my skill window and put my four new 4 points in [Mental Resistance]. This way, the next Mandrake will be more bearable.

    I could put these points in [Sword Use], but the difference each point makes seems to be decreasing drastically. Just knowing "how" to swing a sword won't help me if I can't physically swing it the way I want. I have to raise my "Stats" some more, I think.

    I continue forward and meet another goblin with a dagger. This time, I test my [Lightning Bolt] on it, and it takes four hits before it dies.

    Took too long and used too much mana. I need to put more points into magic before I can use it as a main source of damage.



    A few hours pass, so I start to become hungry. I sit down and pull out some meat and vegetable sticks to eat.

    After that, I heed nature's call. The dungeon absorbs anything I leave around, so it's going to be okay. It's really embarrassing to be so vulnerable in the open like this, but with [Sense Presence], I know when someone is coming.

    I temporarily put a point into [Conjuring Magic] and [Light Magic], then I use them to clean myself. It takes one-fourth of my mana since I want a much "deeper" cleaing, so the mana cost is kind of high.

    After moving a good distance away, I decide to sit down and wait for a little until my mana is back to full.



    While resting, a wandering goblin appears. This one has a loincloth and a sword.

    He screams while charging, but his skill can't compare to mine, and I easily decapitate him. I wasn't fully rested, so I change resting places again.

    I notice that the enemies are giving less experience than before, so I guess I'll have to go to the next floor once I level up.

    The next monster that I meet is a Bush Baby. Its vines are long, about three times the length of a spear, so the strategy is to cut the vines multiple times until I can approach it safely. If I rush it, the vines will bend and pierce me from the back.

    This monster is quite annoying to deal with. The attacks are fast and start to tire me out. My [Block] isn't good enough, and neither is my "Endurance," so my body complains from the exertion. It's taking me too long to cut the vines, so I cast [Lightning Bolt] three times, and after the third spell, it gets stunned.

    An opportunity!

    I jump forward and cut off the first vine, but the second escapes my following attack. At least now I just have to deal with one vine until its body is in range of my sword.

    The vine slams against my shield once, and I slash the air, then it slams a second time, and I miss again. On the third slam, I get the timing right and cut it off in a perfect counter. Now I can reach it with my sword.

    I dash towards it, then I slash across its face, opening a long and deep cut. It loses its balance from the pain, and that's enough of an opening for me, so I chop, and my sword gets stuck midway into its head.

    It's a bit of a shame that the leaves got damaged, but I have no time to care for it. I cut off its head and apply [Regeneration] to myself, easing my tiredness.

    After a minute, my muscles feel relaxed again, and I move on. I go towards the stairs to the next floor because the monsters around it are stronger.



    Two Mandrakes appear side-by-side, then I'm forced to my knees by their combined scream.

    Fuck!

    I was overconfident. Even with [Mental Resistance] I'm just barely able to remain standing up. This is a problematic situation.

    I instinctively cast [Lightning Bolt], and it hits one of the monsters, slowing down its charge. The other jumps and aims for my heart with its pointy arms.

    Good thing that they're dumb. I just slash at the first one, then the second comes right behind, and it slams against my shield. Its attack packs more punch than the Bush Baby, so I grit my teeth and hold my ground.

    The first one falls back due to the push from the slash, and the second one falls by my feet. Feeling the danger, I kick the second one and it flies away a few meters. The little shit is tough as fuck, and it hurts my toes even through my thick boot.

    The first one gets up and jumps again, then I bash its head with my shield. It falls backward on the ground, then I pierce its face with my sword, right through the forehead. It wriggles for a few seconds then stops moving.

    I look forward and the other Mandrake is mid-jump, so all I can do is block with my shield. The impact makes me step backward, and I lose the grip of my sword that's still stuck on the body of the dead Mandrake.

    This is bad.

    I kick the Mandrake again and feel an immense pain on my toes. This time it doesn't fly far.

    I cast [Lightning Bolt] twice, and on the second time, it gets stunned. That's enough of an opening for me to wrench my sword free from the corpse.

    The Mandrake stops convulsing after a short moment, then it charges again, but it's too slow. I chop down with all my strength before it can react, and my sword sinks into its skull until it touches the nose.

    I dislodge my sword and sit on the ground while trying to avoid looking at all the gore. My head is spinning, my right toe hurts, and my arms are tired from my savage chops, so I cast [Regeneration] again.

    That was brutal. My heart is racing and fear courses through every inch of my body.

    Mandrakes are a weak enemy, but two at the same time is no joke. I need to go back to near the entrance and keep killing goblins. If it wasn't for my [Mental Resistance], I think I would have been forced to use my Escape Bomb.

    I harvest the enemies and notice something change within me. I open my "Skills" and see that I got [Dismantling] level 1.

    That was easy, shouldn't I need to practice more? Or was it because I had already acquired some knowledge through books? Eh, whatever…



    I store the bodies, then I hurry back to the entrance and hunt goblins. After the sixth one I hear, "You are now level seven."

    I put all my points in [Sword Use] (now 9+1). Even though the skill isn't increasing my combat effectiveness as much as before, it's still the most important one for me to raise.

    I decide to rest, but my break is interrupted a few minutes later as I get three large hits on my [Sense Presence], and they aren't monsters.

    Soon enough, I start to hear footsteps, then I see three adventurers coming towards me from down the corridor, so I quickly put points in [Andraste Language].

    "Oh? Greetings," the man at the front politely greets with a smile. He seems young, perhaps slightly older than me. He has neatly combed brown short hair, giving him a refined air. He carries a shiny short sword, a pristine large kite shield, and he's wearing some really-well made black leather armor with thick padding. He seems wealthy.

    On his right side, there's a rough-looking man wearing chainmail and a bastard sword. He looks a few years older than us, and I see short light brown hair peeking from below his chain coif.

    Behind them, there's a woman in a dark blue robe wielding a simple wooden staff with a blue gem at the tip. She's a fully grown woman with straight brown hair that reaches her shoulders. She has a cute and calm face with a button nose and a small chin.

    "Hello," I answer in kind, then I get up and nod as I believe this is the standard neutral greeting.

    "You're here for training?" The young man gently asks.

    "Yes, I'm practicing my sword," I respond calmly, then I eye his companions, but they seem mostly uninterested in me.

    He flashes a smile. "Well then, be careful when you meet more than one monster. It's easier to just run away because it's really hard to fight while alone. Be well." He waves and moves on.

    "T-thank you. Goodbye," I answer meekly, then I roll my eyes at my own awkwardness.

    What an odd exchange, but I also wish had I met him about an hour ago.

    Are they planning on staying here for the night? It's going be dusk soon, so starting to explore now isn't efficient time-wise.

    I shrug and continue hunting goblins.



    I meet another Mandrake, and it's alone this time, so my current level of [Mental Resistance] is enough to make this fight bearable. I'm no longer dizzy, but my ears still hurt a lot.

    It seems that the extra points in [Sword Use] make it much easier to slit its throat in a single slice. This takes some aim, but at least this way it's much harder to get my sword stuck in the body like what happened last time.

    Then I meet another Bush Baby. This time, I make steady progress and shave away its vines until I can bury my sword in its head. It's still tiring to fight them, but at least I don't need to use magic.

    This is considerable progress for just one day. It's very motivating, but I have a feeling that the people of this world don't level up as fast as I do.

    I kill two goblins and rest again.

    The Experience they're giving me is very low, now, so the diminishing return is painfully obvious. I need to kill forty goblins just to level up, so the best way to grind Experience is to find Mandrakes or Bush Babies, but it's already late, and I'm way too tired to continue hunting.

    I go back towards the dimensional door, then I exit the dungeon, and I'm teleported right beside the entrance. I see that it's already night, so at least my sense of time wasn't completely screwed by staying so long inside the dungeon.



    The squad of guards has changed. There are five of them and they mostly stay inside their small hut while a single one stays outside, near the entrance to the dungeon.

    We trade a nod, then I go towards the grove to find a secluded corner. I find a pair of adventurers making a tent in a small clearing, so I move away from them and set up my own camp.

    I pull out of my "Items" a ready-made meal. Near the Crafter's Corner there are plenty of stalls that sell small boxes with food that's easy to eat, so I bought a few. This one has a loaf of bread with bean paste inside, a handful of a vegetable that reminds me of broccoli, and a few pieces of fried Rabid Rabbit meat. I feel a little uncomfortable with eating anything with "Rabid" in the name, but it actually tastes really good. It's slightly marbled, which surprises me with how cheap it is.

    I brush my teeth, put a lot of points into Conjuring so that I can fill a bucket of water to wash, turn on my [Monster Repellent] crystal, position my [Proximity Warning] crystals around me, bring out my sleeping bag, and finally, I try to sleep. Let's put emphasis on try because this bag is really uncomfortable. I should've bought a tent and a better sleeping bag.

    The dungeoneering guide says to sleep with your armor on, or at least have leather armor if you can't sleep in your plate or chain. So I guess this can't be helped, adventurers are just fated to sleep badly.

    I stare up at the sky, but I only see clouds, not even a single star. Eventually, my tiredness overwhelms my anxiety and I fall asleep.



    I dream again of the goblin drowning in its own blood.



    The sun wakes me, and I feel that my body is sore and stiff. This was a terrible night.

    Fuck, is this going to become a trauma? I'm already uncomfortable sleeping in the open like this, I don't need recurring nightmares screwing with me.

    I break fast with a goblin meat stick. It's very salty and dry, but I only have water to drink. I need to buy some fruit juice when I go back to town.

    I miss coffee, I miss chocolate milk, I miss tea, I miss soft drinks (diet only).

    I look at my "Stats" and notice that my "Magic Power" and MP have risen by 5. It seems that using spells slowly builds up your mana and power. Unfortunately, no other stat has risen, so I guess I need to nearly kill myself every day to raise my "Strength" or "Endurance."

    I stretch a little, recover my crystals, store my tent, and turn off my repellent stone, then I get ready to go back inside the dungeon.



    I decide to get closer to the stairs again. Mandrakes or Bush Babies are too rare, and it's taking too long to level up, so I'm getting greedy.

    I meet two Mandrakes in sequence and easily dispatch them. I'm really getting used to handling their shrieking. My strategy to deal with more than one is also ready, but I'm a little dubious about how to deal with two Bush Babies.

    My theory-crafting is cut because I detect a goblin coming towards me. I meet it head-on and see that it's wearing a full set of padded leather armor: jacket, pants, mittens, boots, and a cap. It wields a small round metal shield and a shortsword.

    I need to aim for the neck or face, trying to cut through that armor just won't be possible.

    "GYEEEH!" The goblin screams and charges forward.

    I deflect the first blow and attack with my sword, but it dodges backward and evades. I try to follow up with an upwards slash, but it blocks my attack with the edge of his shield.

    It tries to slash sideways towards my face, but I evade by jerking my body backward. The goblin is short, so his sword barely reaches me, but still, it was dangerously close.

    The goblin overcommits and swings wide, creating an opening for me. I bash its shield and it loses its balance, then I follow up and thrust at its neck.

    It jerks its body and avoids a fatal wound, but I still manage to inflict a nasty cut on the side of its neck, and blood starts pouring profusely over its shoulder.

    It jumps backward and tries to regain its balance, but I cast [Lightning Bolt] and immediately slash towards its face. The bolt hits and its entire body twitches. The goblin didn't get stunned, but its reaction is dulled enough that my slash cuts at its cheek deeply.

    "GAAAAH!" The goblin screams and loses its balance again.

    This time, its guard is fully open, so I lunge and jam my sword into its eye socket. It groans as its body twitches, then goes limp and dies.

    "You are now level eight."

    Now, what do I need, exactly?

    I clean my sword and sit down to think.

    Perhaps more [Mental Resistance]? The two Mandrakes were rough to deal with, but maybe there's another way to deal with them that doesn't involve Resistance. Mandrakes are vulnerable to fire, so maybe one point in Fire and then the rest in [Mental Resistance]? Also, [Blessing Magic] level 1 sounds good. I'm not using a lot of spells, so maybe I could spare some MP for a self-buff.

    Hm… Blessing will be left for later. I'll put one point in [Fire Magic], and the other three in [Mental Resistance] (now 7). The biggest threat to me right now is reduced mental capacity during a fight with a Mandrake leading me to make a bad decision. There's also what the wealthy adventurer said, I can just run if I meet two dangerous enemies, but I have to be capable of making the correct decision. In the lower levels, monsters don't generally work together, so it was a coincidence that I met both at the same time.

    With that done, now I need a target to test my [Fireball].

    The first guinea pig to volunteer is a naked goblin with a dagger. I cast [Fireball] and I hit it right on the face, then he falls backward and screams in pain.

    Weren't the naked ones supposed to be emotionless? I need to revise this theory.

    Ah, exposed flesh is more vulnerable to fire than lighting, so [Fire Magic] is more useful here than lightning.

    If the stunning effect of [Fireball] on the Mandrakes and Bush Babies is stronger or equal to [Lightning Bolt], then I'll take the point in [Electric Magic] and put it in [Blessing Magic].

    I thought that fire damage only did more damage to enemies in comparison to [Electric Magic], but I ignored the physical aspect of burning something alive. I didn't think about it because the book spent more time talking about harvesting and the fact that the monsters are vulnerable to [Fire Magic] was only mentioned in passing. Perhaps it's because it's an easy enemy. Magic seems pretty powerful here, so I find it difficult to believe mages would spend their precious mana killing such small fry when the front line could effortlessly hack their way through.

    I think this sort of information would likely be found in magic books, but I didn't look too deep into the ones at the guild because they were a bit too esoteric. I need to go to the university's library for that.

    I continue grinding monsters, and after half a dozen goblins, I finally find a Mandrake. Its scream was really painful before, but now it's easily bearable, so I think I'm ready to fight two Mandrakes without much risk.

    I immediately cast [Fireball] at the monster.

    The ball hits its face and the screaming reduces in intensity. It's super effective! The Mandrake slows down and almost stops, then it pats its head with its pointy hands in a desperate attempt to stop the small fire that the spell created.

    A perfect opportunity. I charge forward and easily decapitate it.

    Also testing this spell on a Bush Baby might be prudent, but I'm feeling confident it's going to be even more effective. The Bush Baby's leaves seemed very dry, so I believe them to be a weak point against [Fire Magic].

    I remove [Electric Magic], put a point into [Blessing Magic], and cast [Wind Armor] on myself. The magic creates a ball of light on my palm, then I touch myself, and the spell is cast on me. This magic creates a sort of wind-based "kinetic shield" that protects my entire body, slowing down physical attacks by using air resistance. Every few seconds, I can see small distortions around my body and also feel a slight breeze whenever that happens.

    Unfortunately, the spell has a huge cost, and half of my MP is gone. Coupled with the two [Fireballs] I used, I barely have any mana left, so I spend some time resting.

    I notice that meditating really does increase the rate that my mana recovers, but I need to make sure that I don't fall asleep since I have to keep my eyes closed.



    I get up and move forward. I think I'm ready for the next level, so I move steadily towards the closest stairs and kill a few goblins on the way.

    The stairs are just a simple downward set of steps that ends in the same ominous black rectangle like the one of the entrance and exit. I cross it, and the floor select menu appears, but now it has a "2nd floor" option, so I press it, and I'm teleported to the new floor.

    It looks exactly the same as the previous one: drab and boring. The goblins aren't naked anymore, but the Mandrakes and Bush Babies are still the same.

    After a few kills, I notice that even the Mandrakes and the Bush Babies are giving little experience. So it seems that the enemies ramp up in power little by little.

    I'm thinking that now that I have [Fire Magic] I'll be okay on the third floor.



    After a few more kills, I find another armored goblin. I think it's a male, the females seem to have a slightly smoother skin and fewer wrinkles.

    He's wearing the same leather armor as the one from before, but the shield is bigger and he's taller, so now he's just a little bit shorter than me. I'm 165cm, by the way. Yes, I'm short, I know, it's hard to forget.

    I'll have to be more careful with this goblin since it looks like he has much more skill and intelligence than the others. Just to confirm my theory, he smiles before he charges towards me.

    We trade even blows, but his attacks are heavier than the Bush Baby vines, so I have to focus on deflecting more to tire me less. This leaves me with little openings to strike back, so I start to get pushed back.

    I have to do something.

    I notice his attacks follow an obvious timing, so I prepare myself, then I bash his shield right before he winds up his slash. He wasn't expecting me to counter with such power, so I manage to break his posture.

    I bash again, putting all my body into it, and he loses his balance then falls on his ass.

    I strike his shield while he desperately tries to crawl away backward. His sword hand is busy supporting his body while he defends himself with his shield, so he can't get up, and his smile turns into an angry frown.

    I step on his sword hand, making him drop it, then I drop my shield, grab his, and open his guard. He tries to wrench free, but I have the physical and mechanical advantage, so I stab him in the face until he dies.

    This one tired me out, so I need time to catch my breath and apply [Regeneration] to my arms.

    Curiously, his shield doesn't disappear like the rest of his equipment did. I put some points into Appraisal, and it tells me it's a simple iron shield. It has no painting or decorations on it, and it's of "medium" quality. Average at everything, but I guess it might be worth something, so I put it into my "Items."

    I have to kill at least another ten of these goblins to level up. My Experience gain seems to be dropping really fast, or is it actually my growth that is too fast? Perhaps killing the same monster has diminishing returns, rewarding me less Experience each time I kill them.



    I eat my lunch away from the goblin corpse, then I move on and reach the entrance to the third floor. I'm getting a little nervous, but I decide it's worth the risk.

    On this new floor, I meet my first mature Mandrake. It has valuable green leaves on its head, and it's nearly a meter tall. The pain from the scream is slightly stronger, but only slightly, so I'm still okay. It's a good thing that their power seems to increase slowly, or else I'd have to put all my points in [Mental Resistance].

    It charges forward like the other Mandrakes, but it's faster than the younger ones. I spread my legs, grit my teeth, and ready my shield.

    Like I had predicted, it jumps towards my chest with its pointy arms aiming towards me. Once it's in the air, I wait for the perfect moment to bash it with my shield.

    Pain flares in my hand as my whole shield resonates with the strike, but my attack was perfectly effective. The Mandrake flies far away, one arm broken, and the screaming stops, so, I guess I succeeded in stunning it.

    I give chase and slash at the downed Mandrake. Its defenselessness allows me to execute a perfect slash, and my sword slices clean through its neck, then its head drops from its shoulders, and a fluid greener than the one from the younger Mandrakes spews out.

    I look at my shield and notice that the tip of one of the Mandrake's pointy arms is stuck in it while the other arm left only a small dent.

    Holy shit, I guess I need a better shield now.

    That bash sure packed a good punch, but I don't think it's the best choice. If they charge and jump, the best option still seems to be to just slash.

    Maybe a spear is the most effective tool here against these charging enemies, but if I meet more than one, I need a backup weapon in case it gets stuck in an enemy. Thinking about this, I pull out a dagger I got from a goblin, then I hang it on my belt behind my back. Considering it's my life on the line having a few backup weapons doesn't seem to be excessive.

    I feel something change within me, so I open my status screen and see that I've gained the skill [Shield Bash] with 1 point.

    Hmm. Shield bash seems to be effective at stunning enemies, so I guess this is another skill that's nice to have.



    I move on and notice that the goblins are now stronger and require more effort to kill. They all graduated from loincloths and are now using basic woolen clothes. A few even have one or two pieces of leather armor.

    So, the ones fully armored are rare occurrences? The dungeoneering book didn't tell me much about these abnormalities, and the only thing I remember is that monsters can go up a level of the dungeon in rare instances. Maybe they're from a lower level, then? "Lower" as in a level deeper "down" that has stronger monsters. The fact that the stairs go "down," but the floor select screen goes "up" is a bit confusing.

    The mature Mandrake is still rare, and the Bush Babies didn't increase in power, so my experience gain isn't increasing, making me rather frustrated. The speed of my progress is dropping sharply.

    It's annoying not having an idea about what's the proper rate of growth in this world. There's a skill called [Inspire Growth], but it doesn't seem to be very useful with such an ambiguous name. I don't really have the time and the points to test it, either, so I just ignore it.

    I can't remove my mana enhancements because I'm starting to use [Fireball] more often to make the fights less tiring. I can't remove my physical combat skills, otherwise, I feel like I'll lose the skill advantage against the goblins.

    Is my best choice to just find a partner? I've only sensed pairs of adventurers coming here, and no solo explorers like me. The problem is that I can't really trust anybody to pair up. I think that my adaptability and rapid growth will be extremely suspicious.

    My body gets increasingly tired, and I decide it's time to leave the dungeon. My legs are aching, my arms are hurting, and I feel like my body is swaying. I've been fighting all day, after all, and at the rate that I'm gaining experience, tomorrow before noon I might get another level.

    When I get out, I see the sun and understand that there are still a few hours until dusk.

    Now, what do I do while I wait? I don't really want to talk to the guards, and adventurers normally don't interact with others.

    I should've bought a book. There's no internet or computers here, so my two main sources of entertainment are gone. Can I maintain my sanity without my games? This might be the true trial of the hero in this world.



    I pass the time by maintaining my weapon and exploring the other magic skills, making a note of every spell, but I don't have the MP to test all of them. "Notes" is a rather terrible interface to use, so I think I'll keep most of my notes on actual paper.

    Most of the magic skills only show me spells up to 15 points, but after that, I can only see "???". The only level 20 spells I can see are [Item Box] from [Space Magic] and [Purify Body] from [Light Magic], so I guess I'm missing something. Is it mana pool? Is it "Intelligence" or "Wisdom" stats?

    The spells are mostly self-explanatory, and while some sound useful, I lack the MP and "Magic Power" to make them impactful enough to justify using them in combat.

    From [Fire Magic], I can use my "cheat" to cast the spells: [Fireball], [Fire Whip], [Fire Arrow], and [Firestorm].

    [Earth Magic] has the spells: [Earth Bullet], [Earth Wall], [Dust Storm], and [Soul Sand].

    [Water Magic] has: [Torrent], [Water Wall], [Water Blade], and [Water Breathing].

    [Wind Magic] has: [Wind Blade], [Wind Hammer], [Wind Wall], and [Perfect Arrows].

    [Electric Magic] has: [Lightning Bolt], [Shocking Touch], and [Rush].

    [Light Magic] has: [Clean], [Spirit Light], [Heal], and [Inspire].

    [Dark Magic] has: [Torment], [Ghost Images], [Inflict Pain], and [Soul Siphon]. I got chills just from putting points in this magic school, and I don't want to do it ever again.

    [Space Magic] has: [Telekinesis], [Gravity Crush], and [Item Box].

    [Summoning Magic] has: [Summon Small Bird], [Summon Dog], and [Summon Small Golem].

    [Blessing Magic] has: [Wind Armor], [Sharp Blades], [Swift Foot], and [Rainbow Shield].

    [Nature Magic]has: [Constricting Vines], [Vine Weapon], and [Grow].

    [Conjuring Magic] has: [Conjure Water], [Conjure Bland Meal], and [Conjure Dirt].

    [Spirit Magic] has: [Spirit Eyes], [Spirit Link], [Soul Touch], and [Materialization].

    [Illusion Magic] has: [Ghost Lights], [Double Image], [Ignorance], and [Pacify].

    [Cursing Magic] has: [Weaken], [Sap Power], [Befuddle], and [Demoralize]. This one makes me uncomfortable to put points in, but nowhere near as bad as [Dark Magic]

    These are the only ones that give me actual spells, and the other magic schools don't, for some reason. Aside from [Torment], there doesn't seem to be any simple spells that can compare to the stopping power of [Fireball], and I really don't want to use [Dark Magic], so I'll stick with my little stove flame.

    As I theorycraft and play around with my magic, dusk comes, and I suddenly feel a small breeze run against my whole body. I look at my "Status Effects" and see that the entry "Wind Armor" has disappeared, so my [Wind Armor] has run out.

    I decide that I'll put four points into [Blessing Magic] the next time I level up so that I can get the [Sharp Blades] spell. It might help me with cutting the armor of the goblins or ensuring a one-hit kill on the Mandrakes and Bush Babies.

    Night falls, and I look up, but I only see a cloudy sky again, and I can't see the moon.

    Wait, is there even a moon here? I think there are stars, but I didn't pay attention to the moon.

    I turn off my lights, but it takes a few hours of restless tossing and turning until I finally start to feel sleepy. The uncomfortable sleeping bag makes it harder to sleep, but I'm going back to town tomorrow, so I'll just deal with it again today.



    This time, I don't see the Gargling Goblin again, but I have a very unpleasant dream. I only remember the disturbing sensation of slicing flesh with my sword.



    I wake up feeling stiff, but at least I don't wake up as tired as yesterday. I get up, stretch, eat breakfast, recover my things, brush my teeth, and put on some anti-scent powder to mask my growing stink of sweat. This powder is essential to prevent the monsters like the Mossy Fangpine from tracking someone's scent, so my first meeting with it was just inevitable. Curiously, there's a magical anti-scent powder that has a faint perfume, but of course, I wouldn't waste money with that, I can still endure the smell of leather.

    I wash my dirty clothes with magic, but I don't think that this was a good idea. With the [Mana Control] skill, I can hold a [Fireball] in my hand and slightly change its size, so I use it for fast drying, but it seems that the spell has damaged the fabric.

    After that, I return to the dungeon at the same time as another adventuring duo. They kind of look like a couple, and I start to feel very uncomfortable.

    I feel so lonely… I don't even want to think about how things are back on Earth. I just… don't want to think about it.

    Whenever I think about Earth, I start to feel depressed and I lose my motivation, so I think that it's best to bury those thoughts until I can deal with them better. Doesn't sound like a healthy thing to do, though.

    I slap my cheeks and enter the ominous black rectangle, then I choose "3rd Floor." I appear in the same drab room as before, but I'm completely alone. Fortunately, it seems that the couple didn't go to the same floor as me.



    Progress is smooth but slow since I don't encounter any armored goblins or mature Mandrakes for bursts of Experience.

    "You are now level nine," the announcer finally says after half of my morning is gone.

    I put my new four skill points all in [Blessing Magic] (now 5) and cast [Sharp Blades]. Like [Wind Armor], a glowing ball appears on my palm, so I push it into my sword. The blade subtly changes and now looks like it's been polished, but at least it doesn't shine ridiculously.

    I touch the edge with my finger and feel that it's dangerously sharp. It's impressive, really.

    I take a short rest because the spell used half my MP, then I move on again and butcher my way through the monsters.

    It makes me happy how easy it is to decapitate the monsters now. I can basically kill anything with one good hit. I even manage to cut a goblin in half at the waist!

    Ok, the sight of his guts spilling on the floor is gruesome and traumatizing, and now there's just blood everywhere, but holy shit, I cut a goblin in half.

    Fuck, am I enjoying this? I either have a mental problem or a natural talent, depends on which world you're from.

    Unfortunately, the experience gain continues to drop. It becomes a waste to fight monsters on this level, so I decide to go to the fourth floor.

    The mature Mandrakes are much more common now, though not all of them have leaves that can be harvested, which is a shame since it's their most valuable part. Unfortunately, the goblins and Bush Babies didn't get stronger, so I decide to keep going down levels until at least the goblins give me good exp again… or is it "up" a level…?

    After lunch, I get to the fifth floor, but it isn't much better. The Bush Babies are now one meter tall and hit harder, but my strategy is polished, and I easily cut my way through their vines.

    I decide to risk it and go to the sixth floor.



    Finally, the goblins are now giving good Experience. Since they're still the most common enemy by far, they need to worth killing or else it's a waste of my time. Now most of them are wearing at least two pieces of armor.

    It seems that monsters evolve in a very predictable pattern.

    The rate of Experience gain is steady, but I'm getting tired much more often now, so I have to take multiple breaks.

    While I'm waiting at a dead end, I get three familiar hits on my [Sense Presence]. I immediately remove [Mental Resistance] and trade it for [Andraste Language]. I need to research the difference between each level of the language skill, I always go for 10 but 7 will have to do this time.

    The three adventurers enter my room and notice me.

    "Hoho, greetings again. You progressed a lot haven't you?" The wealthy adventurer casually asks.

    His party is still the same, but now I see dirt, blood, and tired eyes on the three of them, though the woman is the only one without a drop of blood on her clothes.

    I respond with a faint smile, "Yeah, I got the hang of dealing with these monsters. They're quite dumb and weak, so I had to come to this floor for a challenge."

    He nods and smiles back. "Indeed, my teacher instructed me to come to this level because anything below is just too weak. We went much deeper into the dungeon, but after this level, the goblins got stronger much faster, so we came back here for an easier time." He puts a hand over his chest as he politely introduces himself, "I'm called Nour, what's your name?"

    "Wolf Ryder."

    He nods respectfully and asks, "Then, Mr. Ryder, would you mind if we take a rest with you? Is this area safe?"

    Again with the "Mister." Also, he didn't say his last name, so was it a blunder to say mine? Do normal people not have a second name?

    I get a little nervous, but I decide to be friendly and reply, "Y-yeah, no problem. I killed the monster at the dead-end."

    The three of them sit down near the wall, Nour sits by a wall facing me while the woman and the other man sit at the corner, then they pull out canteens and start to drink.

    Nour introduces his companions as he motions to them, "This woman is my sister, Rania, and the man is my slave guard, Liam."

    "Hello," Rania greets in a monotone.

    "Greetings, Grand Ryder," the man follows with a more diligent demeanor.

    "Grand" Ryder? That feels even weirder, but I assume this is how a slave respectfully addresses others.

    The words that I hear are foreign, but because of the language skill, everything is being translated to its closest meaning in English. The words they speak also sound slightly garbled, so I need to focus to understand what they're saying. This must be the effect of not having 10 points in the language.

    I wave my hand to them and smile.

    Then I feel a faint breeze, and Nour narrows his eyes as he inspects the visual distortion of my [Wind Armor]. "You know [Blessing Magic]? I didn't see you using [Wind Armor] the first time we met," he casually inquires.

    Oh, shit. Quick, time to lie.

    I force a smile and answer, "I didn't want to… train with enhancements on. I thought it'd be best to train my sword without using magic first until I got a few levels with it"

    "Bahahah!" Nour suddenly laughs out loud, then he looks at his companions. "That's the exact same advice that Teacher gave us!"

    "Told ya it's good advice," Rania replies with a wry smile.

    "Agreed, master. The path to glory is a long journey," Liam adds with a serious tone.

    He sounds like a sage.

    Nour raises his hands and lowers his head in defeat as he admits, "Alright, alright. I'm not going to rush out into a dungeon or anything like that. I learned my lesson…" Then he lifts his head and crosses his arms as he stares at me. "But anyway… exploring dungeons alone is uncommon, why don't you partner with somebody? [Blessing Magic] is valuable for any fellowship."

    The advice book said that fellowships are like parties.

    "Don't pry into the business of others," Rania warns him.

    He flinches and smiles wryly. "Geh... I'm sorry. Mr. Ryder just piqued my interest."

    Rania turns to me and smiles wryly. "Forgive my brother, Mr. Ryder. He's far too curious and carefree."

    "That's not a problem… " I answer and awkwardly rub my neck. "I don't mind answering. I'm traveling alone because I'm new around here, and I… pick my partners carefully."

    "Rania, I think he's Teacher's son," Nour teases and chuckles softly.

    "That just means that Teacher's mentality leads to a longer life," she replies flatly.

    There's nothing I can do but smile at this exchange. Nour might be a little nosy for me, but it's hard to be mad at him because he seems good-natured.

    Nour rolls his eyes at his sister's teasing and turns to me again. "Well, okay… but Mr. Ryder, have you thought about buying a slave as a companion? Blood Slaves can be more loyal than even sworn knights," he suggests with a subtle smirk.

    "Blood Slave?" I blurt out a question, but then Nour raises a curious eyebrow at me, so I try to salvage my question, "I mean, how can a Blood Slave be that loyal?"

    He smiles subtly at my awkwardness and answers, "Well, you can use [Slavery Magic] to make sure that they always obey, but that doesn't inspire loyalty. The important thing is that the Gods watch over the Blood Slaves, so you can be certain that they're always the best servants. Just like my companion, Liam."

    So, is it related to [Blood Magic]...?

    "Hmmm… can you ex-…" My question gets cut short. I get two hits on my [Sense Presence], one small and one huge, both monsters.

    Just what the hell is this.

    I instinctively get up and draw my sword. "Monsters are coming," I somberly report.

    All three of them look confused, but they stand up and draw their weapons. Liam looks at me suspiciously.

    "I didn't hear anything," he states, but I ignore him as I recognize what's coming at us.

    Oh no... This enemy is dangerous, extremely dangerous.

    The monsters suddenly start sprinting as they've seemingly detected us, then we start to hear a jingling in the distance.

    Liam turns his head towards the noise and questions in confusion, "Chain mail?"

    "Run!" I shout and dart towards the corridor. It dawns on them what's coming, and they immediately follow me.

    I run as fast as I can, but it's too late. When we get near the entrance to the corridor, the monsters are already at the doorway, trapping us inside.

    We stop and our blood runs cold as we see the two figures coming to kill us. These monsters are the reason I don't want to go to the eleventh floor: the Orc Headhunter and the Swamp Goblin.

    There's a trap on the eleventh floor, a roaming duo of monsters much more powerful than the ones normally found in the area. They hunt weaker adventurers and prey on them, so this is why nobody spends any time on that floor. The worst thing is that the Escape Bomb doesn't work on the orc, its endurance is too high. The duo is a terrifying combo.

    The Swamp Goblin is a brown, filthy goblin that wears simple rags. It uses a blowgun that shoots poisoned darts that weaken the physical capabilities of adventurers. It's physically weak, so it's the priority target.

    The orc is a green ugly monstrosity around two meters tall. It has a pig snout, large eyes, and huge tusks coming out of his mouth; its strength is superhuman; it wields a claymore that he uses with a single hand, and a large kite shield; and it wears a hauberk with a metal cuirass, vambraces, schynbalds, and cuisses. I'll be lucky if I survive a single strike from this thing.

    "MASTER! RUN!" Liam screams while he charges the orc.

    That was the wrong move. Nour and I have shields, so we can defend against the goblin and dodge the orc while Rania snipes the goblin, but we never agreed on cooperating, so Liam must be thinking of sacrificing himself instead of betting on us defeating him.

    I just can't let him commit suicide, so I charge behind him. I cast [Entangling Vines] at the goblin's feet and hide behind my shield.

    Lucky for us, our timing is accidentally perfect. The orc is occupied with Liam, so its reaction is slow, and I manage to duck under the quick slash it sends at me, slipping past it without a hitch, but as I pass, I feel the orc's gaze on me. I think it knows what I'm doing.

    I ignore him and completely hide behind my shield, blocking my vision of what's ahead, then I hear a soft *ptoon* as a dart hits my shield and bounces off.

    Good, now that goblin is dead.

    The vines grab both of its legs and hold them in place. It fired its blowgun and didn't dodge, so now I'm going to make it pay for it.

    The goblin screams in terror and anger, then I reach it and savagely slash down diagonally. My sword slides through its skull and lops off a part of its head.

    I stop and stare as the life in the goblin's eyes is snuffed, his brain matter exposed by my attack, then he collapses, and I immediately turn around, just in time to see Liam getting blown away several meters.

    "NOOO!" Nour screams. He's attacking the orc, but the monster is just effortlessly defending with its shield.

    The orc has one big weakness, its metal armor, which is vulnerable to electricity. I frantically remove a point from [Sword Use] and put it into [Electric Magic] while I pray that Nour doesn't die in the next attack.

    Now with a free hand, the orc savagely slashes sideways. Nour defends with his shield, but he gets splattered on the wall and all the air from his lungs is forcefully expelled.

    The orc doesn't finish him and instead dashes towards Rania. I cast [Lightning Bolt] at the orc's back and it immediately stops moving, then its body starts convulsing. It's stunned, but for how long?

    I do a mad dash towards it and prepare to strike. I try to slash its neck, but it turns towards me at the same time, and I only wound it as it gets out of my reach. His shield suddenly comes towards my face, and all I can do is meet it with my own.

    A loud noise of metal hitting metal fills the dungeon, then pain flares in my shoulder as I feel it almost gets dislocated from the impact.

    I'm forced to take a few steps back to maintain my footing, then I cast [Lightning Bolt] and the orc gets stunned again.

    "[ICE LANCE]!" Rania screams with a cracked voice.

    I see the orc jerk away with a speed I didn't think was possible, then a spear of ice suddenly pierces the orc's shield shoulder. It's a complete penetration right at the bone joint, and the spear is a good 10cm wide, so the orc drops the shield as its arm is now completely useless.

    From behind the orc, I see Rania fall to her knees.

    Was that an advanced spell? It certainly did a lot of damage to the orc.

    Maybe she's inexperienced and is now suffering from mana drain like I did once, so this means I can't rely on her anymore. I need to kill the orc myself.

    The orc roars in pain and anger, then he grabs the lance and pulls it out without hesitation.

    I get up and cast [Lightning Bolt] again. The monster twitches, and even though it doesn't get stunned, that's enough of an opening.

    I stab the orc in the groin, and I feel my sword sinking into flesh. It seems like this is a vulnerable area where the chain and plate mail don't have proper coverage.

    The orc screams again and gives me a weak blow with his claymore that I defend with my shield, but it's enough to push me backward.

    My sword gets jerked around, but I don't lose my grip on it, so it does even more damage to the orc as it's violently ripped out of its body.

    "RAAAAAAH!" Liam screams his lungs out as he charges.

    A dagger flies towards the orc's face, but it deflects it with its claymore. Liam reaches the orc a second later and slashes at it. The orc parries the attack, but that's another opening for me.

    I jump and slash towards its throat, but it evades again with an impossibly high speed, so I only manage to wound it.

    The orc is bloody. Its chest is completely stained from the blood that's pouring from its two wounds on its neck, its legs are red as a large amount of blood flows from its groin, its shoulder has a large gaping hole that bleeds even more than the other wounds. But even with all this, it's still fighting like a barbarian.

    It kicks Liam again, who seems to be too slow to react, and he gets blown away a few meters, then the orc tries to counter my attack with its claymore, but I manage to parry it!

    Is it losing strength? It did counter from an awkward angle, though.

    "[SHOCKING TOUCH]!" Rania screams again with an even more cracked voice. That's a level 10 [Electric Magic] spell.

    Suddenly, the orc starts to convulse, now completely defenseless as the spell wracks through its body, and I see Rania collapse behind him. She must've run out of mana.

    I'm too far to immediately slash at its neck again, but it's enough for me to aim for the groin. This time my sword pierces deeply, and I quickly try to pull it out, but it's stuck.

    The orc roars while still convulsing from the spell. I give up on the sword and grab my dagger, then I jump and aim for its neck.

    The monster is stinky and filthy. My right hand grabs onto the back of its huge head, and it gets coated in something sticky, then its smelly breath hits my face. I ignore my disgust and savagely stab his neck. The skin is incredibly tough, and the dagger's blade isn't sharp enough to penetrate deeply, but I keep stabbing into the previous wound to widen it.

    The orc stops convulsing.

    Oh no, he's going to hit me. Is it going to be a punch? Or a stab? Or a slash? Or is he going to just grab my head and crush it?

    I have no time to get away, so I just have to bet the lack of blood pressure will save me!

    "STOOOP!" Nour roars, and with the corner of my eye, I see him throwing himself on the sword arm of the orc, then hugging it with all his strength.

    Thank you, Nour. You've bound the monster for me, so I'll use your opening.

    I stab the orc's neck even more savagely, causing blood to spurt all over my face and chest. The orc's roar starts to die down as I split its neck open, then it falls on its knees. Its angry expression goes blank, and it starts to fall backward.

    Oh no! Not that way, you'll crush Rania!

    Both Nour and I pull the monster towards us, then it falls face down in a pool of its own blood.

    "You are now level ten."

    Nour and I stare at him for a few seconds as we catch our breaths, then reality comes back to me, and I rush towards Liam.

    I kneel before him and apply [Regeneration]. He's alive, but unconscious. I have no idea if he's bleeding internally, so I'm just going to heal him until he wakes up, then I should try to wake up Rania next. It's best that everyone is awake, even if in pain.

    Nour kneels beside Rania and pours a glowing blue potion into her mouth.

    Isn't she going to choke on that?

    She suddenly wakes up and coughs a few times, then she opens her eyes weakly and starts swallowing the potion properly. After she finishes drinking, her body starts shivering, and Nour hugs her tight.

    Oh, okay. I guess that worked.

    Liam wakes up a few seconds later, but he's too weak to get up. He slowly turns to me and mutters, "Poison…"

    I think he got hit by the Swamp Goblin. This is why that monster is killed first while everyone hides behind their shields. Liam got poisoned during the fight and lost most of his physical strength.

    I pull out a battle potion from one of my chest pockets and pour the thick dark liquid into his mouth.

    I got a little scared of the Mossy Fangpine and the Bush Babies, so I have three. It's going to take around ten minutes for it to work, though, so I'm going to continue healing Liam meanwhile.

    After a minute, I drink a mana potion as my MP steadily drops. My shoulder hurts, and Nour could be wounded too, but Liam is much worse, so he gets priority.

    Rania stops shaking and Nour helps her sit, then he comes over to me.

    "Is that [Regeneration]?" He weakly asks.

    "Yeah. I don't have a lot of mana, and I'm not very experienced, so this is going to take some time," I softly respond.

    He shakes his head gently. "Oh no, you already did a lot. Here, let me give Liam one of my potions." He kneels and helps Liam drink a red potion. I see that its glow is much stronger than the ones I have.

    Nour returns to Rania, then a few silent minutes pass, and Liam gets strong enough to sit. "Thank you, kind Sir, but it's enough for now. Please heal yourself," he pleads.

    I don't want to argue since my shoulder is hurting, so I just do as he says and use the last of my mana to ease my pain. The potion is still acting, so my mana is recovering faster than normal.

    Once I stop healing myself, Nour turns to me, his face still pale, and praises me with a weak voice, "Thank you, Mr. Ryder. You could've run after killing the goblin, but you didn't, you saved us, and most of all Liam, who was going to sacrifice himself for us."

    True… throwing myself on the orc's chest was certainly reckless.

    I awkwardly rub my neck and reply, "I just… I didn't think I should run away."

    "You have a noble soul," he whispers with a smile.

    "Indeed, I owe you my life," Liam affirms solemnly.

    "Thank you..." Rania chimes in with a hoarse voice.

    I'm getting a little overwhelmed, and I have no idea how to react, so I just smile weakly and nod.

    But then the adrenaline starts running out, and the reality sinks in. The orc should be on the eleventh floor, and I don't know why it came here. I'm scared I'll meet another one, so I just want to go home as fast as possible.

    "We need to leave this place. fast. These two monsters shouldn't be here; there's something wrong with this dungeon," I nervously plead.

    "He must have entered the exit… multiple times," Rania supposes.

    "And crossed multiple floors?! That's insane, how could such a rare thing happen repeatedly?" I retort bitterly.

    A monster could indeed enter the exit door on a dimensional dungeon like this one and appear on a lower floor, but that's something rare to happen even once, so for it to happen multiple times is a miracle. We won the lottery of bad luck to find him.

    "Perhaps the Lord has been skimping on his duties," Liam suggests dispiritedly.

    The Lord manages the dungeons. If the monsters aren't culled often, then dangerous ones can appear, or like in this case, an extremely dangerous monster goes to a floor it's not supposed to be on.

    "We need to report this," Nour asserts, then he stares at me intensely. "Mr. Ryder, do you have space in your [Item Box]? We need to bring these corpses to the guild. Since you did the most, the least we can do is to let you take all the rewards for these kills."

    I raise my eyebrows in surprise and ask, "Is that really okay? I didn't kill them alone."

    Nour nods and insists, "Yes, it's the least we could do for now."

    I don't want to argue, so I just collect both corpses, then Liam and Rania stand up, and we start walking towards the exit, which is fortunately nearby.

    Since I'm the one in the best condition, I lead the vanguard with Nour at my side. Liam is still too weakened from the poison to lead.

    We kill two goblins on the way effortlessly. Having two people in the vanguard means that one tanks the attack while the other flanks. Our swords are also sharp enough that we can kill the goblins in a single hit.

    We get to the exit soon after that. The guard near the entrance jumps in place when two completely bloodied adventures and two exhausted-looking ones suddenly appear before him.

    Nour does the talking. He retells what happened, and the guards' faces pale. Meeting the Orc Headhunter is a nightmare for the people around here.



    Two guards escort us back to town, and we wipe ourselves while walking, but enough blood has seeped through our clothes that even a [Clean] can't remove it.

    Luckily, the customs officers don't ask to look into my [Item Box] since I made a blunder and put the corpses in my "Items."

    When we enter the hunters' guild, one of the guards runs towards the closest attendant and murmurs something, then they both hurry up the stairs.

    The presence of the guards and the bloodied adventurers attracts quite a bit of attention. Liam and Rania are looking better now, but they still seem very tired, while Nour and I look quite ghastly because we couldn't fully clean our armor.

    A minute later, an old man and Sonny come down. The old man is short and skinny, his pure white beard protrudes from his jaw and makes men envious with its magnificence, and though he lacks hair on the top of his head, the pure white hair on the sides is well maintained. He wears simple velvet clothing, the same color as the uniform, with only the guild symbol embroidered on his chest as decoration.

    The guards signal to us, and we all go towards the dismantling area. Over there, Gordon and his assistant are processing some meat and stare at us in surprise as we enter.

    "Well then, could you show us the corpses?" The old man gently asks, then he gracefully motions with his hand towards the large, empty tables.

    I pull out the bodies, and I hear a few gasps of surprise. The orc and goblin lost their equipment, but they're still recognizable as the dangerous duo because of their physique.

    Curiosity gets the best of me, and I take a look. The orc's genitals are completely shredded, and I feel pain between my legs just from looking at it.

    "So, it's true. We really need to send a complaint to the Lord," the old man mumbles, then he turns to me and smiles gently. "Now, then. My name is Silas, and I'm the guildmaster. Could you all take a seat and tell us the story in detail?" He motions towards the benches on the wall.

    We obey and retell our fight.



    "Quite the predicament, Sir Nour," Silas comments with a worried frown.

    "Sir"? So it's really true that Nour is an important person. I just wonder why he didn't use his last name.

    Silas turns to me and smiles as he adds, "And we all benefit from having someone like Mr. Ryder among us."

    I'm bad at being praised. Should I say something in response?

    Sonny smiles wryly and continues, "A Gray Berserker and now an Orc Headhunter. You're giving us a surprise after surprise, though I wish it was of a different kind when talking about the orc."

    I chuckle and reply with a tired grin, "I think I just have bad luck."

    The fact that I've been isekai'd should be enough evidence of my bad luck.

    Sonny glances at the corpses and ponders, "Depends on the perspective. Those two monsters are really valuable, and the prestige that comes from killing them isn't small."

    "I just want a calm life," I mumble and frown.

    Gordon laughs while butchering the orc, then Sonny murmurs something and casts a spell. I don't know what spell it is, but he starts talking towards nobody while looking at the orc. He suddenly turns around and reports, "The spirit confirms it, he was killed on the sixth floor."

    So mages can talk to monster spirits, too? I know that I only need a few points in [Spirit Magic] to be able to communicate with spirits, but a monster spirit being able to talk is new to me. I guess this is really useful for information gathering.

    "Have you decided how the bounty is to be shared?" Sonny asks us with an impassive tone.

    Nour shakes his head and immediately replies, "Oh, we aren't taking the money. Mr. Ryder saved us, so all the reward goes to him. Now, if the talk is over, we'll take our leave. We're all extremely tired, and all we want is to rest."

    "Oh, it's done. The rest is with us," Silas agrees with a nod.

    They didn't even let me reply.

    Nour turns to me and smiles gently as he says his farewell, "Then we'll be off, Mr. Ryder, but one last thing. Could you come here to the guild tomorrow before noon? I'd like to properly give you my thanks and reward you."

    I'm taken aback, and I stumble a little during my response, "I-Is that right? Sh-shouldn't the bounty reward be enough?"

    He gives me a warm stare. "That's just money. You saved our lives, so I should at least reward you a bit more. Please, just come tomorrow."

    I sigh and relent with a nod, "Alright then. I'll come."

    He grins, pleased with my response. "Thank you. Then I'll see you tomorrow. Goodbye, Mr. Silas."

    Nour and his companions give Silas a quick bow and leave.

    Sonny comes towards me and reports, "Now, then. The reward for a runaway monster of threat level five is five gold. His corpse is going to sell for three gold and the goblin for one gold."

    That's a huge amount because runaway monsters are a serious threat to everybody. The orc skin sells for a lot, and this one, especially, is way tougher than normal.

    I also take this opportunity and bring out all my remaining proofs of extermination but not the bodies I collected. It all sums up to four silver and a bunch of copper coins. A pittance in comparison to the orc, but at least I recouped the loss from the days that I didn't sleep at the inn.

    Silas spends this short time simply observing me. It seems that I've already caught the eye of the guildmaster, but I'll be laying low for the week, so no grand feat will come while I simply relax and train safe and sound inside these walls. I also don't believe in jinxing, so I can say this with confidence.

    After I take my money, I say my goodbyes and leave.



    It's almost night, so I go towards the inn's bathhouse and get a few concerned glances when they see my bloodied armor. I'll leave the cleaning of the blood for later, so I take out a fresh set of spare clothes after I take a wash.

    Today, I order a drink while eating. They only have something similar to apple cider currently since nearly all fruit juice ran out, and there's not much wine in the town.

    I eat my meal with happiness, not necessarily because it's good, but because I'm happy to be alive. Once I left the guild, I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. All I want is some comfort and love, away from being in situations where I have to frantically stab a disgusting orc in the neck.

    The innkeeper's daughter seems to be extra lovely to me this dinner. I learn that her name is Selina, and she starts some small talk, but it doesn't last long because she's too busy.

    Once she leaves, I just decide to enjoy my meal: a vegetable salad with a lot of cooked beans and some chicken sauce. The vegetables of this season seem to be slightly sweet, similar to carrots and pumpkins. They go well with the beans and extra well with mutton, but today the meat is different. The inn is serving the delicious, marbled Rabid Rabbit meat, and it's of a much higher quality cut than the one sold at a stall.

    After eating, I drop on my bed and immediately fall asleep.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021 at 1:39 AM
  8. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    A knock on the door wakes me up, then a female voice calls out, "Breakfast is ready!"

    My body is light, but my soul is heavy.

    I don't want to get up.

    I can still smell the orc's blood. It has been imprinted upon my heart.

    I didn't dream of the Gargling Goblin, but now I think I might have acquired a bigger trauma. The scene of stabbing the orc in the neck keeps replaying flashing in my eyes when my mind wanders. The fear of something coming to attack me from my back assaults me, giving me repeated chills.

    If it weren't for Nour, the orc would've grabbed my head and crushed it…

    Eventually, hunger wins over fear, and I go down to eat.

    The meal is a simple vegetable soup with Rabid Rabbit meat and toasted bread. The vegetables are savory this time, so it goes well with the meat.

    Selina comes to my table and concernedly asks, "Say, what was all that blood you had on you yesterday?"

    I give her a slightly bitter smile as I answer, "It was from an Orc Headhunter. I had a very unfortunate encounter with it yesterday."

    Her jaw hangs in surprise, then she takes a seat and looks at me worriedly. "The one inside Royd's Kerfuffle? Why did you fight it? I only heard stories of people running away from him."

    I nod. "It was a runaway. I met it on the sixth floor."

    She gasps and covers her mouth with her hands.

    How cute.

    "Did you fight him alone?!" She exclaims, and I see a few customers start to listen intensely.

    Please lower your voice, Selina.

    I shake my head while smiling wryly and answer, "Heavens, no. I fought it with three other people. We were cornered and couldn't run away, so we were forced to fight it. I ended up being the luckiest one and got hit the least, while one guy got poisoned, and I'm sure that he broke a few ribs when he got kicked twice."

    "Wow. But to come back that bloody… did you have a knife fight with him, or something?" She giggles softly.

    Please stop being cute, I'm not in the mood to smile.

    My faint, involuntary smile gains a subtle smugness to it as I reply, "Actually, I did. My sword got stuck in its body, so I had to use my knife to stab it in the neck."

    I won't say that I got it stuck in his groin, that's a sight I want to forget.

    She lets her jaw hang loose again while she stares at me with a blank expression.

    Did I brag too much?

    I awkwardly massage my neck and explain things properly, "Well, the most important person was the magician woman. She cast [Ice Lance] and pierced the Orc's shoulder so it couldn't use its shield arm anymore, then she used [Shocking Touch] and fainted. With that, I had a good opening to stab it until it died. There was also another guy who helped by throwing himself into the arm of the orc and holding it in place so that I could finish it. Then there was the poisoned guy who fought while weakened and got kicked twice. It really was a desperate fight."

    She closes her mouth and her eyes shine while she smiles. "Wow. That sounds amazing…" She whispers in wonder.

    I knit my eyebrows in worry at her sudden shift. "Really? Is fighting so interesting?"

    She nods repeatedly, and rests her elbows on the table, leaning a bit too close to me as she stares with dreamy eyes. "Yes! I know that I'm not strong, and I don't like fighting, but to think that there are people who work so hard, who can achieve so much to protect us, that makes me really happy."

    Oh, boy, stop, my heart is melting.

    Even the eavesdroppers smile at her innocence.

    I become awkward again and reply, "I-Is that so… well… your enthusiasm makes me a little happy."

    She giggles girlishly and gives my hand a comforting squeeze, surprising me. "Thank you for your story. I gotta continue working now, so come back later to talk." She winks then gets up and leaves.

    Honestly, that conversation healed my heart, just a little, but still healed.

    I guess this is why some people fight, because if it weren't for us killing that runaway, then someone else would have to suffer.

    I finish my meal and go back to my room.



    I have some time to kill, so I think about what I should do with my new skill points. I open my "Status" and see that my "Willpower" increased by 1 (now 12), my [Sword Use] also increased by 1 (now 8+2), my MP increased by 20 (now 135), and my "Magic Power" by 5 (now 190).

    How does this magic increase works? It just increases with use, or do I have to "exercise" something within my body like a muscle?

    I put my four unused points in [Reduced Mana Cost] because I need to be able to cast magic more often. Perhaps at the next level, I should get more [Mana Efficiency] to balance things, then later improve my melee skills again.

    I think I'll waste another hour here at the inn. Nour said to be at the hunter's guild just before noon, so there's still a few hours until then.

    I really have to steel my heart because that won't be the last time that I have to fight so desperately. I'm going for the life of a warrior, so my weak and soft Earth-born heart won't survive. This is a brutal world, and after thinking about Selina's words, I understand that there's a need for strong people who protect others.

    This skill system gives me the potential to grow quickly and become extremely strong, and I think that whatever god threw me here probably won't let me lead a peaceful life, so going for the crafter's route might not be the best idea. Besides, it's a bit "romantic" to be a warrior in a monster-filled world.

    My motto has always been: "do the thing you won't regret in the future," so, becoming a selfish hermit hoarding all this power to myself doesn't sit right with me.

    Well, saying is different than doing. Even after this period of reflection, I still feel pain and fear, which is a bit laughable. Perhaps I need some time to let the fear subside. I'd already decided I should take a week off, anyway, so there's no need to keep thinking too much about this.

    I spend some time massaging my sore muscles, and it actually feels good.

    Is there perhaps a massage parlor around here? I know that there's a [Massage] skill, so it could be a common profession. I'd definitely go there if I find one.

    After relaxing for a while, I decide to go meet Nour.



    The hunter's guild has its usual rough atmosphere, but the number of people around the hunt report boards is larger than what I expected. I quickly find Nour at the tables along with his companions. Liam and Rania are drinking something while Nour is simply chatting with them.

    They notice me and wave as I approach.

    "Good day, Mr. Ryder," Nour greets casually.

    "Good day, Sir," Liam greets formally as usual.

    "Morning, Mr. Ryder," Rania greets more energetically than the last time we talked.

    "Good day, everybody. I hope you all slept well," I respond with a smile.

    Nour grins and confesses, "I don't even remember going to bed, I just blacked out from drinking too much. We partied a bit too hard, and even Liam was quite drunk."

    "We have to let it out once in a while. It's not every day we fight so hard," Liam calmly defends himself.

    "Well, little brother, it seems that your next lesson is on how to hold your own liquor," Rania teases and shows her tongue cheekily.

    Nour's eye twitches, then he smiles with a faint pout as he replies, "That's… not true. I can hold it just fine."

    "You did just admit the contrary a few seconds ago," I comment with a wry smile.

    He turns to me and exclaims in disbelief, "Even you…!" Then he grits his teeth and declares dramatically, "You know what, I'll drink every day until I learn my lesson!"

    "Please, don't!" Liam suddenly pleads.

    "I retract my previous statement," Rania calmly replies and chuckles.

    I let out a few shy chuckles along with her. Seeing them all like this makes me feel a little silly I got so scared.

    Nour calms down and his expression softens, then he continues, "But anyway… let's get down to business. I wanted to reward you, and I knew that you were going solo, so I prepared this." -He pushes a sealed letter towards me with a sly grin- "You see, I'm a stupid son of a wealthy merchant, and although I decided to take on adventuring, I still have my own connections, so I made a letter of reference. This will open the doors to you to the most expensive Blood Slave trader of this town, and I obtained a heavy discount for you there, so you might be able to choose among the best that they have to offer."

    I lift my eyebrows in surprise, then I tense up a bit as I awkwardly reply, "Oh, wow… that's incredible, but… I don't really know much about Blood Slaves…"

    I know that level 1 in [Slavery Magic] there's the spell called [Contract of Servitude], then at level 10 there's the spell [Mark of the Master], and at level 20 there's the spell [Tongue of Obedience], but that's absolutely all of the information that I have on it.

    Rania raises an eyebrow and curiously asks me, "Your parents didn't teach you about Blood Slaves?"

    I force a smile and look away. "They did… I just didn't pay attention," I lie and try not to blush in embarrassment.

    Nour and Rania chuckle, while Liam holds back a smile.

    "It's why I'm here. I'm a bit… 'free-spirited,'" I lie again and chuckle at myself. My own awkwardness and embarrassment only serve to improve the character I'm trying to sell.

    "I see…" Nour mutters while smirking, then he leans back on his chair and taps his temple in thought.

    Rania clears her throat and starts, "A Blood Slave is a specialized servant that you buy to perform a specific duty. Their performance is assured by the seller, while their loyalty is enforced through [Slavery Magic]. They ingest your blood, and then a spell is used to bind them to your Fate."

    "Fate"? What's that? Can I eat it?

    I hold back the urge to ask about Fate, and instead ask about something else, "What types of 'duties' do they perform?"

    Nour shrugs as he answers, "Anything. If someone thinks that they're skilled enough in something and that they're worthy of becoming a servant, then they could sell themselves as a Blood Slave. Take Liam, by example." He pats the older man's shoulder, then smiles at me proudly.

    Rania pats his other shoulder and continues, "Liam has a real talent for the sword and protecting others. He cost a lot, but he was worth every coin." She smiles warmly at him, and I get suspicious about these two.

    Liam stiffens for a second, then nods respectfully towards me and adds, "I was having trouble making money through adventuring, so I decided to sell myself for ten years. By the end of my contract, I'll have a small fortune, so I'll go back to my hometown in Faium and inherit my father's smith. If the smith fails, then I'll still have enough money to live comfortably for a while."

    "Contract?" I reflexively question. It seems slavery has some sort of structure or possibly laws behind it.

    Rania rolls her eyes at my question while Nour smiles. I believe they're thinking I'm a country bumpkin due to my lack of knowledge.

    Nour leans forward and happily answers, "The person selling themselves stipulates limits to what their duty entails and the length of their servitude. Usually, the fewer the limits, the more expensive the slave is, but few put strict limits because if there are too many, then it's easier to just buy a traditional slave, instead. A lot of women sell themselves as sex slaves, so the most common limitations are related to that."

    Uh… sex slaves…?

    I glance at Rania, but she's just casually sipping her drink, she doesn't show a single reaction.

    "With the discount in this letter, you can get yourself a young female warrior, if that's your thing, of course," Nour adds, then he smirks when he sees my awkward reaction.

    Holy shit.

    "You're pretty versatile yourself, but I recommend you think carefully about what kind of warrior will work well with your style," Rania casually advises.

    Nour nods and continues, "You got some good skill with the sword, you can heal yourself, you can sense monsters, and you have a spell you can cast chantless, so you can choose basically whoever you want and they'll still be useful to you."

    Ah, shit. I guess mages should chant before casting their spells, but I know nothing about that. At least now I know why it took Rania so long to cast her spells and why she screamed their names.

    "You're not very tall or physically strong, if you forgive my bluntness, so I recommend someone more robust instead of a mage like Dame Rania," Liam adds and lowers his head respectfully.

    "No offense taken," I reply and politely smile.

    Rania's gaze becomes slightly stern and measuring as she gives me another piece of advice, "Keep in mind that the Gods watch over the Blood Slaves, so if the master is being abusive, they can interfere and nullify the contract without the intervention of a priest. It's rare, but it happened before."

    I stiffen instinctively and nod.

    The 'Gods'? So it's god-sanctioned slavery? That's… a little concerning.

    Since they're already thinking I'm a dumb peasant, I'll just lean on it and ask whatever I'm curious about. "What's [Tongue of Obedience]?"

    Rania doesn't seem to have the patience for this, so Nour answers, "That spell prevents the Blood Slave from spilling your secrets. There are a few others, like one that prevents the Slave from hurting you, or another that gives you full control of their body, allowing you to even kill them with a word, but that's illegal, of course."

    Full body control seems worse than normal slavery, but my curiosity makes me want to ask questions like: "Can I control their intestines?" Can I control their eyes? Can I stop the blood flow of certain veins?" Maybe I can perform surgery without the need for anesthesia or blood loss if I can cut blood flow or nerve response at will.

    "That sounds a bit much," I comment with a wry smile.

    Nour shrugs, Liam chuckles once, and Raina nods in agreement as she takes a sip of her alcohol, then she explains, "Yeah, but it's really useful. Most aides of nobles and Lords are Blood Slaves because they're much more reliable and trustworthy than free men."

    Nour happily takes Raina's hook to interject, "Of course, there are loopholes to their contracts and these spells, but they're so roundabout and require so much effort that you need a slave who really hates their master for them to do that. It's easier for them to concentrate the effort in breaking the contract than for them to go around those limitations. Any contract can be broken by a slave that hates its master enough, by the way."

    "Which is why it's important to treat them well," Rania adds and glances at Liam, who nods subtly.

    So, leaving the moral question aside, I guess this is a really thoughtful gift from Nour. He put some thought into what I needed and delivered something that's really valuable.

    After allowing me a few moments to think things through, Nour gets to the final point, "I know that you got some good money from yesterday's rewards, so, with my discount, you can get yourself a pretty good fighter. You might even get lucky." -He shrugs- "Sometimes there are Blood Slaves with specific circumstances, and these sell for much cheaper than they would normally go for."

    Well, I got a trump card: my rose coin. It should be really valuable. Well, at least I hope it is.

    I nod in understanding and smile gently as I express, "Thank you, Nour, I really appreciate this. I think this will help me a lot."

    Nour gives me a wide smile, and even Rania seems pleased. He tells me where the slaver is, and I write it down on my rough map of the town.

    Nour loudly hits his palms against the table and announces, "Now, then. With this business done, I have a personal request for you." -His face turns serious- "How about you join us? A man with skills such as yours is a rarity."

    I smile bitterly. I knew that this was coming. I honestly would like to join them because they're good people, and even if I don't know what their goals are, I'd like to spend more time with them. But no, I can't. They already saw a lot of my skills, so I can't really show them more.

    "I'm sorry, but… I'd like to walk my own path," I politely answer and lower my head for a second.

    "Told you," Rania mumbles to Nour and they both smile bitterly.

    Nour shrugs, and his tone gains a hint of sadness as he replies, "Well, I had to try. It's a shame that we can't walk together, but I don't want this to be the end. I'm going back to my hometown for a short trip, but I'll come back here later and continue my adventuring. When I come back, I'd like to meet you again, if you wish."

    "Oh, yes. Please, let us meet again," I eagerly agree and give him a genuine smile.

    "I live in Hurfa, the capital of the Faium Principality. If we don't cross paths again, then come visit me. My family runs a magic tool shop, and we produce a lot of the Wind stones used in the country. My last name is Asaf, so you can search for my family with this. You... shouldn't have much problem finding the family shop there." He smiles awkwardly.

    I have no idea where Faium is, but I'll write it down later so that I don't forget to look for it on a map. Also, his last name sounds Arabic, but he's as Caucasian as they come.

    I nod and affirm, "Understood. If we don't meet here again, then I'll search for you. I don't really have plans to leave this place for quite some time, though."

    He taps the table loudly and gets up. "Then it's decided! I look forward to meeting you again. For now, we have to prepare for our trip, so we must take our leave. See you again sometime, Mr. Ryder." Then he gives me a quick bow.

    I immediately get up and return the bow. I have no idea if this is the custom here, but it seems to please them, so whatever.

    Nour grins and gives me his blessing, "One last thing, Mr. Ryder. I wish you good luck in the future. You'll need it since you seem to be making waves already." Then he points towards the small crowd near the hunt reports.

    I wish I wasn't, Nour, I wish I wasn't.

    Rania and Liam also bow and say their goodbyes, then I'm just left with a few curious gazes, a letter, and a head full of thoughts.



    I leave the guild and take a stroll along the streets looking for books while thinking about what they told me. A companion would certainly be helpful. If I had someone to watch my back, then there'd be no need to fear the Orc Headhunter crushing my head. If I had someone like Nour to help me, then for sure I'd feel much safer, and it's not because of his skill, but because of his actions. I might be considered the one who saved them, but the moment that Nour threw himself at the orc's arm was when he saved me.

    And it's not like Blood Slaves are completely miserable people. They seem to have their own rights, the ability to escape abuse, and they need to be treated well. Take Liam, for example, he seems pretty proud and content with his job, and he seems no different than a knight or a retainer with the task of protecting his lord. If I just hire someone for a few years, then it might be the same as hiring a bodyguard, or something like that.

    The concept of depriving someone of their freedom might put people off, but I'm a bitter realist. Blood Slaves are merely mercenaries that come with a magical contract. Hell, even the gods are monitoring us so that they're not abused.

    Oh!

    I found a small book telling the Tale of Creation. It even has a lot of cute drawings in it.

    It's just two silver, I'm buying it!

    Now that I think about it, I should ask Ciel about what the gods think of slavery. It seems odd to me they are getting involved with Blood Slaves, but if the gods themselves say it's okay, then who am I to go against them?

    But this also means that society won't really progress. This world might be safer by having the gods watching over the people, but it's like an overprotective mother. The people won't suffer, but they won't learn.

    Adding that to the skill system, and I think that the social progress here might be slow. I want to take a look at the chronology of this world, and I bet that it'd show how slow this world develops in comparison to Earth. This world's "Cycle" is called a "Playground," after all. If things change too much and too fast, the genre of the game changes to sci-fi while you're not looking.

    I think the best thing about Blood Slaves is that I can prohibit them from talking about me. This way, I don't have to worry too much about my abilities showing. I could even tell the truth that I'm not from this worl-…

    What the hell?

    I see a man flying around on a literal carpet, darting up and down the street repeatedly while making quick turns and barrel rolls.

    What's the matter Aladdin, looking for Jasmine?

    Once the passersby start to stop to stare at him, the man lowers the carpet close to the ground and stands up.

    "Good day, gentlemen and gentlewomen!" He exclaims in a loud voice that has the characteristic buzzing of someone talking on a microphone. He waits a moment to make sure that everyone is looking at him, then he continues, "I have shown you all just a small glimpse of the newest magic tool developed! The true [Fly] crystal! This gem is incomparable to that common fake jewel that only allowed you to slowly float around. Now you can fly as gracefully as a bird, turn so fast a dragon would be envious, and make tricks that could impress even the Emperor! This gem is the bleeding edge of technology. Even the imperial army is buying it in droves to construct a new generation of the dream of every adventurer: the airships!"

    Ooooh, airships, my nerd heart is pounding.

    "Come to the Quizzical Emporium at the Bazaar for the latest [Fly] gems. We have magic tools so big you can build airships that can hold as many as eight people! I hope to see you there, honorable citizens!" And he darts away, this time for good.

    The street starts buzzing with people excitedly talking, and I even feel like clapping my hands. I add this flying gem to my notes as research options. Airships and the [Golemancy] skill are the two things that I'm most eager to research.

    Wait what was I thinking about?

    Uh… oh yeah, I think that I could even tell the truth about my origin to the Blood Slave. It's risky, but if I make a contract of at least twenty years, it might be enough to get the trust or goodwill for them to keep quiet about it. At that time, I might even find a way to deal with it if the word gets out, and if I acquire enough power, I might be able to squash the rumors, too.

    But do I have to tell the truth…? It's not like a slave needs to know everything about their master, they're just there to serve. I also can't just tell them that I came from another world and leave it at that. If I tell them the truth, then I'll need to tell a lot more than just that to answer their doubts. It's not a kind of conversation that I'm looking forward to.

    Regardless, I see little reason to not buy one.

    I don't really have an idea of the price a good slave might go for, so I should go look for the value of the rose coin.

    The banker is near the Nobles' Quarters, so I need to go across the town. I'll first go to the temple, eat something nearby, talk to Ciel about the gods and slavery, and then go to the banker to see the value of the rose coin.

    I think I might visit the slave trader tomorrow morning. It's near the castle in the north, so it's another long trip there. It's a bit tiring walking everywhere, so maybe I should look for the price of that magic carpet. I also don't feel like paying for a Space mage transport; I always hated taxis.



    I look for a better restaurant this time, and I find one serving Great Boar meat. They aren't commonly found here, but a hunter expedition deep into the Sea of Trees found a pack there, so some restaurants have a lot of Boar meat to offer for the next few days.

    The beans are good, but I miss rice, too. I'm a Brazilian who immigrated to Canada, and I miss the staple food of my homeland once in a while: rice, beans, and Brazilian-style barbecued meat.

    I waste some of my time in a tea shop. They serve something similar to black tea with an unidentified citric fruit. Is this Earl Grey? It tastes similar, but it's closer to the average orange than the bergamot. They serve a few simple butter cookies that go really well with it.

    Then I go to the temple and search for Ciel. I take a walk around the outer ring looking for her while also taking a closer look at the statues, but she's not down here. I ask a standby priest and he tells me that she's at the orphanage. Luckily, today isn't her free day.

    The orphanage looks exactly the same as the priests' living quarters, with the only difference being that instead of priests, there are children entering and leaving all the time.

    The orphanage is a large, box-shaped white building with a brown tiled roof, which looks a little expensive for a religious institution. It has flowery carvings covering all of its walls, and the channels are filled with a gradient of colors. The orphanage and the quarters seem to be the only buildings where some decoration is allowed. It's quite pretty and makes me feel like I'm looking at one of these "trendy" and "artsy" places back on Earth.

    There's only a brown picket fence surrounding the orphanage and the priests' quarters, but is it really okay for me to enter uninvited?

    The orphanage is in the middle of the plot, covering most of the available land. At the front, there's a simple grass garden with a cobbled path towards the entrance, but I can see some sort of small flower garden behind the building. On this grass garden, there's a metal swing, a merry-go-round, and a raised goal where the children are playing some sort of game of hot potato with a small leather ball.

    I gather some courage and enter the area. A few boys look interested in my sword while the rest ignore me. Then I quickly enter the building and look around. The inside is made of gray square stone while the floor is made of light brown wood with the only decoration being some wooden pillars around.

    Just as I finish observing my surroundings, an old male priest walks by.

    "Oh, hello, can I help you?" The chubby priest asks as his small eyes look at me warmly. His voice is so gentle that it tickles my ears.

    "I'm… looking for Miss Ciel," I reply, a little mesmerized by him.

    His expression brightens and he smiles. "Oh! The sister is in the kitchen. I'll call her over for you. What's your name?"

    "Wolf Ryder. Uh, if she's busy, I'll just come another time; it's not an urgent business."

    He shakes his head gently. "She's not really busy, so don't worry. Wait here in the guest room while I call her over."

    Then he takes me to a really cozy room. There are a few simple sofas around a low coffee (do they even have coffee here?) table; a small fireplace that crackles with burning logs, yet I smell no smoke; and a "Last Supper"-style painting of the multiple Humanoid Gods hanging above it. I like this painting more than Earth's because it's full of different, colorful races and people, and has both genders instead of just boring, bearded men.

    After a few minutes, Ciel comes into the room carrying a tray with a tea set and cookies.

    Oh, no, I just drank tea, but I don't want to deny her hospitality, so I'll just pretend I'm not full.

    "Good afternoon, Mr. Ryder. I was wondering when you'd come back," she greets as she sits, then immediately pours tea for me.

    "I spent the last few days training in a dungeon, and I only came back last night," I respond with a gentle tone.

    She nods and smiles warmly. "I'm glad you're okay. Every day-cycle, we have news of someone disappearing inside a dungeon, so please, be careful."

    I smile awkwardly. "My motto is 'don't die,' so I have no plans of dying soon."

    She chuckles softly and lays back on her seat, then sips her tea. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

    I swallow heavily. There are a few things I want to ask, but I'm sure she'll be thinking I'm a weirdo after I tell her.

    Fuck it. Curiosity wins.

    I clear my throat and start, "There are a few things I want to understand better. The first thing is, what's a day-cycle?"

    She exhales loudly in amusement and raises her eyebrows in surprise as she replies, "Well, a day-cycle is a period of ten days and a half-cycle is five days. Every day-cycle you are advised to deeply bathe once, to pray once, and to make merry at least once; every half-cycle you're advised to make love to your partner at least once and to change the ingredients of the meals, and that's also the time between the monster cullings that the Townsguard is responsible for."

    "How about months and years? How many days a month has and how many months a year has?"

    "A month has thirty days and a year has ten months, so a year has three hundred days."

    So, a day-cycle is equivalent to an Earth's week. Perhaps ten days is chosen because of the ten "base elements" in the Tale of Creation. I don't know why thirty and three hundred are chosen, though. Maybe it was made this way just so it's somewhat similar to Earth. I don't think the Japanese believe there's anything special about the numbers three or ten.

    I look at Ciel and see that she seems both amused and confused by these questions.

    I nod in thought and reply, "Hmm, I see. In my homeland, we say weeks instead of day-cycle and it was seven days, not ten."

    She knits her eyebrows and holds back a chuckle. "How curious…" She mutters.

    I quickly change the topic to not let her think too much about it. "Anyway, I also heard about Blood Slaves, and I got curious about why the Gods would get involved with this matter."

    Her face softens as she starts thinking more seriously. "An interesting thought…" She spends a moment thinking, then assumes a teaching tone as she answers, "The Humanoid Gods are chosen to be our guides. They keep us on the correct path so we don't make a mistake so terrible that we destroy ourselves. We need to keep united and strong so we can always put a front against the Monster King. Therefore, it's their reason for existence to get involved with every aspect of our lives."

    I'm not sure how safe it is to push these sorts of questions to a priest of all people, but I need to get a "feeling" about how slavery is treated in this world. "But why do the Gods accept slavery?"

    She raises her eyebrows in surprise for a moment and asks back, "What do you mean by that? Why wouldn't they accept it?"

    I awkwardly scratch my head as I rethink this question.

    It's better to be direct.

    I breathe in and start my speech, "Isn't it cruel to chain innocent people into servitude regardless of the reason? Isn't it too much to have absolute control over someone's life? To be able to toy with their bodies, to force them to do anything and everything you want against their wishes? Even if it's not immediately harmful, why should anyone have this much power over others?"

    She leans forward and her face becomes serious as she asks, "Do you believe people should be able to sell their bodies?"

    I'm taken aback a little. "You mean… like… prostitution?"

    She shakes her head. "No, not just that. A bodyguard is someone who sells their sword and their health to protect someone or something important. A craftsman is someone who sells their hands to their employer. A slave is someone who sells their time and loyalty to their master."

    "But… are all slaves voluntary?"

    She nods, and her face softens. "Most are. Debt slaves, criminal slaves, and war slaves are involuntary, but they make for bad workers and they lack loyalty, so they aren't as popular."

    Wait… it's like this world's slavery is the inverse of Earth's chattel slavery.

    I blink blankly and immediately ask, "Why wouldn't they be popular? It's free labor."

    She knits her eyebrows in worry as she responds, "They're being forced to work in something they don't like and to a master they hate, of course they'd be horrible workers. Because of this, the masters have to spend more making these slaves happy than voluntary slaves."

    Make them… "happy"…?

    I awkwardly retort, a bit uncomfortable with what I'm suggesting, "Can't they 'motivate' the slaves to work harder with lashings? By that I mean, can't they punish the slaves if they don't work hard enough?"

    She frowns and her tone becomes slightly indignant, making me think that I might be pushing too far. "I sincerely hope you aren't thinking that slaves should be treated like that, Mr. Ryder. We aren't in Bestiaram; committing the Sin of Torture is punishable with death."

    I force an apologetic smile and quickly deny, "N-no, no. I was just asking to satisfy my curiosity. It's hard to truly understand things without asking questions from all angles."

    She opens her eyes wide in surprise and looks away as she coughs awkwardly. "I-I see. It's always good to be curious…" -She turns to me and lowers her head for a moment- "I apologize for doubting you. I didn't realize what you were doing, and it's bad form to assume the worst of someone during a discussion."

    I wave my hand. "It's fine, it's fine. I should've been careful with my wording." And we share an embarrassed smile.

    Her tone becomes more casual and amused. "Are you sure you shouldn't call yourself a scholar? I remember going through these same arguments when being taught about philosophy and morals."

    I blush faintly. I only have a surface-level understanding of philosophy, but it might be above the average for the commoner in this world.

    I shake my head and deny, "I'm not a scholar, I'm just a curious person."

    She smiles warmly and takes another sip. "Then continue as so. The Gods like people like you."

    I nod and bring us back on track, "So, why would anyone sell themselves voluntarily?"

    "To have a better life; to serve a better purpose; to aid a better person. The reasons are endless."

    I frown. "A 'better person'? What do you mean by that?"

    She assumes a teaching tone again as she explains, "We aren't all born as equals, but we all have a capacity to grow. Some people grow faster and further than others, so it's your duty to find these people and aid them. Those who can protect others, lord over those who can't, and the weak aid the strong, so that the strong can protect the weak."

    Okay, I like the last part, but…

    "Why is it our 'duty' to aid others?"

    She smiles smugly like a teacher about to lay unto their students a long lesson. "We are all children of the God of Creation. Regardless of where you're born and what you believe, our mission is to survive and keep the Cycle going. That is our main purpose, our reason for existence, but we're still subordinates of the God of Creation, so our second purpose is to create as many new and interesting things as possible. Lastly, we've also inherited the will of the God of Change, so our third purpose is to keep civilization moving forward and progressing.

    "Do you understand it now?" She kindly asks with expectant eyes.

    I nod confidently. "It's the will of the God of Change. If you can't aid others yourself, then at least aid someone who can."

    She smiles brightly like a mother who's proud of her son's school grade, making me blush again. "Perfectly stated."

    I cough and recompose myself, then I continue, "But what if we want to abolish slavery and institute a democracy?"

    She chuckles once, amused at my suggestion. "The strong serving the weak? That wouldn't work very well. The Gods won't stop you from trying, but you'll have to face the consequences if you fail."

    "'Consequences'?"

    She nods sternly. "The nobility exists to protect us, but if they fail, they have no reason to exist anymore, so they're deposed, if not outright killed as punishment. The same will happen to anyone trying to bring about change."

    Oof, that's harsh…

    She seems amused with my surprise and continues, "Remember that, just like the God of Creation is a subordinate of the God of Change, we are subordinates of the God of Creation, and the slaves are subordinates to us. To abolish slavery would be meaningless since we'll always be compelled to serve our betters due to our reasons for our existence. You can run and hide from that reason, but the gods will find a way to guide you back to the path or simply kill you. 'Slavery' is just a system to aid us in fulfilling that purpose."

    "What do you mean by 'kill you'?" I ask with a worried frown.

    Her tone becomes so gentle and certain that I feel a chill due to the contents of her explanation, "Exactly that. The Genderless God of Existence is a subordinate from the God of Creation that watches over us and kills those who stand in the way of our reason for existence."

    "What do you mean by 'stand in the way'?"

    And her tone becomes serious again. "Those who only want to spread chaos, those who cause the realm to wither, the Sinners who go too far, and the heretics that stand against the Gods. These are the kinds of people that are killed by the God of Existence."

    So, being smited by the Gods is a real possibility. I better not antagonize them… but wait…

    "If they can do that, why don't the Gods govern us like a king does?"

    She leans back on her chair, seemingly slightly amused by my question. "Because that goes against the main purpose of the God of Change: to keep things moving forward. If a God, who exists only for a single purpose, is given the power to govern us, then civilization will be forever bound to that God's mentality, impeding us from growing or evolving."

    "And that would be the wish of the God of Order? To have things stagnate and decay?" I question tentatively.

    She nods and smiles. "Indeed, but remember, the God of Order and Destruction are still Gods, so we can't ignore their wisdom."

    "Huh? What do you mean?"

    She chuckles softly at my confusion, then she assumes her teaching tone again and explains, "They may be trying to destroy us, but the principles they're based on are still very important to us. Just because our purpose is to create, it doesn't mean that we can't destroy. It's necessary to kill a monster or an animal before you can cook a delicious steak. Just because we are to cause change, doesn't mean it has to be in every single aspect of us. We're encouraged to kill bad kings, but a kingdom still needs peace to be allowed to grow and thrive. The Overseer created the Gods to maintain the balance on the realm so that the Cycle could continue, therefore, we must preserve this balance, too."

    Oh, I understand… they don't see the God of Order and Destruction as "evil," only as an "opponent."

    I grab my chin in thought and deliberate, "So it's all a hierarchy. No matter how we're pitted against one another, we're to keep the balance, not eliminate the other."

    She nods emphatically, very pleased. "Precisely. It goes from the Overseer, to the God of Change, to the God of Creation, to the Genderless God of Existence, to the Humanoid Gods, to the royalty, to the nobility, to the commoner, to the Blood Slave, to the normal slave, and finally, to the criminal slave.

    "The God of Order rules over the God of Destruction, who rules over the monsters. They're opposed to us, but that's just their nature, so we accept that their presence is necessary to force us to adapt and grow."

    Though there's a certain amount of freedom, the overall structure of this society is still controlled by the gods, and if I want to change it, I'd basically have to destroy half the gods in this world. Social progress must be truly stagnating because of this.

    "Going back a little, do the gods specify when they intervene?"

    She takes a sip and observes me intensely as she answers, "To prevent people from abusing the line if the criteria are known, we're never told exactly why someone received Godly punishment."

    This is a bit worrying, but I kind of understand the reasoning.

    "So, the only safe choice is to keep being as good as you can to avoid punishment?"

    She smiles warmly and hums, "Exactly."

    "But what does it mean to be a 'good person'?"

    She becomes quite happy and energetic, and I feel like her demeanor is quite cute. "Well, you basically follow the teachings of the Humanoid Gods. Don't waste food, don't hurt others against their will for pleasure, don't commit crimes like theft or extortion, help others whenever you can, things like that. It depends on the God, and there are many, many teachings, but you aren't required to follow them all perfectly. The Gods are reasonable and understanding, so you won't be punished just because you wasted a piece of food, but if you keep doing it, then the Gods will send messages and warnings, and if you still defy them, then you get punished."

    Alright, reasonable, but inflexible. Morality really is defined by the gods, but since they're chosen from the mortals, then, in a way, morality is actually defined by us. It just depends on the criteria of how the gods are chosen.

    "Are there any known criteria for the Humanoid Gods being chosen?"

    She shakes her head."That's not known to prevent it from being exploited, but we know that all Gods were once people who achieved something great."

    Eh, maybe it isn't so bad.

    I massage my neck to dispel some of the tension that has accumulated. Talking about religion to a priest where you don't know what their reaction to questioning will be is a little frightening.

    I finish my tea and start to wrap things up, "Well, I think that's enough about slavery for me today, but I have one last question: I want to choose a god to worship, so can you tell me a quick resume of the Humanoid Gods?"

    She suddenly brightens up and giggles. "That's a good idea! Most people choose around three that might help their lives the most, but if you have the time to study what they represent you could choose more.

    "Anyway, their names are quite self-explanatory, they are: Genderless God of Existence; God of the Sun and Sister Goddess of the Moons; Goddess of Fertility; Goddess of Piety; Goddess of Will; Goddess of Love; Goddess of Growth; God of War; God of Law; God of Festivity; God of Endurance; God of Luck; Goddess of Knowledge and Brother God of Intelligence; Goddess of the Plants and Twin Brother God of the Animals."

    "Moons" as in, there's more than one moon? I've realized I haven't seen the night sky yet. I had no reason to since I immediately went to sleep after getting dark, but now I have to remember to check the sky tonight, otherwise, my curiosity will kill me.

    "What does the Goddess of the Moons and the God of the Sun do?"

    "They were the first Gods, so their teachings are broader and more general because of that. These days, their focus is bringing happiness for those who work below the sun or the moons, but they aren't worshiped as much as they were before, though they're still the ones who talk the most to their worshipers."

    So, I guess I should choose one of them if I wanted to talk to a God.

    I hum in thought, then I lower my head for a moment and express, "Thank you for your time, Miss Ciel, this is really enlightening. I'll think about choosing one for now."

    She giggles cutely and replies, "Thank you for choosing me to talk to. I enjoyed talking to you quite a lot because you made me remember the basis of my faith and stimulated my thoughts."

    I smile back and get up. "Then I'll be off. I'll see you another day."

    "I'll be waiting." She waves goodbye, and I leave.

    As I make my way out, I see that the old priest I talked to when I first came here is in the room beside ours, casually reading a book. Perhaps he was eavesdropping? Well, it doesn't matter much to me.

    Now, I have to go to a bank and look at the conversion rate for the rose coin. The bankers are all over the noble quarters as a safety measure, and since it doesn't matter which one I go, I'm just going to choose the closest one.



    The walk there is quite long, but it allows me to observe the carnival that the adventurers wear gradually turning into the more delicate clothes of the wealthy, who at least have a better sense of style than them. It seems that cloaks, sleeveless velvet jackets, and thin cotton pants and shirts are in fashion right now, while their wealth is shown through lavish decorations on the side of the arms, flanks, and legs.

    I think about passing by the university's library, but after taking a look at my clothes, I realize that it might be a very uncomfortable experience. From what I understood, the university is either for the gifted, the wealthy, or the noble. I don't have any of these three to show, so I need at least a better set of clothing before I even try to go there.

    This thought gets reinforced when I enter the bank. This is a fancy, fancy place. I see spiral pillars with details in gold and purple, black floor tiles with a perfect shine, couches that make my ass tingle just from looking, uniforms that make the employees look as fashionable as nobles, and a large line of decorated booths where attendants wait with a perfect smile.

    I don't belong here. I need to finish my business as quickly as possible and then leave.

    I find the nearest attendant and shyly ask for the conversion rates of the coins. I feel that he looks at me coldly, but responds in a perfect tone without any hint of rudeness, then he points me towards familiar black boards hanging on a wall. They're just like the ones at the hunters' guild.

    These boards hold conversion rates for a variety of coins, and while most are for foreign coins, the board in the middle with the decorated borders is the one for the local coins. They explain the materials that the coins are made from, and the conversion rate between each of them.

    All coins are made with alloys, and their value depends on the alloy composition and weight. Governments might change their alloy and weight as economic measures, so it's important to always know the precise make-up of each coin. For example, they could reduce weight to save costs, introduce cheaper metals to dilute the alloy, or completely change the alloy when new mines are found or old ones are exhausted.

    To my extreme happiness, rose coins are very valuable.

    The normal exchange rate that the empire aims to maintain is that copper, silver, gold, and rose coins have a 1:100 exchange rate. This means that 1 silver equals 100 copper, 1 gold equals 100 silver, and so on. I guess this is to prevent high-value transactions from becoming cumbersome since coins can get quite heavy.

    The attendant explains that a few months ago, a mine that holds a massive amount of platinum was discovered, which is the metal used for the rose coin. This coin is just an alloy of gold and copper for color-coding the coin, giving it its rosy color, while a small amount of platinum is added to give it value because it's too small to make it into a coin by itself.

    This rose coin is also never used without someone who has the [Metal Appraisal] skill because that's the only reliable way to see the percentage of metal in an alloy, and if you're dealing with rose coins, then you have enough gold to hire an appraiser for the transaction.

    The current version of the rose coin is worth seventy gold, but the empire will soon mint a new coin with a higher platinum content to adjust the price. The attendant says the value is going to drop one or two more gold before it stabilizes, but my rose coin won't be as valuable as the new one once it's out, so there's little reason for me to hold it.

    I tell the attendant that I want to exchange my coin, and he looks at me visibly shocked for a moment. I just hope I don't get accused of stealing from somebody, but considering the price of some of the adventuring equipment, I wouldn't be surprised if an adventurer eventually finds something worth a rose coin or two.

    The attendant points me to the end of the line of booths where a few attendants deal with money exchange. There's no queue, so I go there, present my coin, and get the gold counted in front of me, then I take it and leave immediately.

    Once I get out, I start to relax a little. The lavish atmosphere was making me uncomfortable.

    There are still a few hours until dusk, so I kill some time by browsing through books. I buy three about random hero tales and one about romance. I'm not the romance type, but I feel interested in knowing what love is in this world. I also find a very fluffy pillow, which I'm going to use to sleep from now on.

    Then I decide to buy a middle-range set of clothes and a cloak. It's a dark-blue woolen shirt with golden lines running along the sides of the arms, black pants following the same design, black leather shoes, and a fashionable dark-blue velvet cloak. The cloak is a bit stylish. It has a bracelet that fastens its bottom to my wrist, so it reaches my waist, then turns to the side, covering only one arm. I've seen a few people using it, so I don't think it's too out of the norm, even if it looks weird to me.

    After that, I find a stall selling Dragolite meat on a stick. It tastes like chicken, but there's a strong lingering taste of something that reminds me of a herb. I don't know if it's the seasoning or if that's just its usual taste.

    Back at the inn, Selina seems cheerful as usual, but the innkeeper seems to be observing me.

    Shit, I'm not trying to steal your daughter.

    He doesn't seem to be cold to me, though.

    Then I relax and go to sleep feeling very content in my choice of pillow.



    I have a short nightmare with the Gargling Goblin that wakes me up in the middle of the night, making me feel rather frustrated. After that, I dream of killing goblins, but it isn't another nightmare, it's just a memory of the adrenaline rush of a fight.



    Today, breakfast has a salad with a dash of vinegar that tastes like apple, and this makes me want to look at the Farmer's Market for some fruit or something to make juice. If I buy some, I can just ask the inn's cooks to prepare it for me.

    After filling my stomach, I put on my new, more fashionable clothes and start walking towards the castle.

    Today, I see a few pamphlets advertising the Quizzical Emporium. They have a pretty detailed hand-drawn airship on them. They're going all out on the advertising.

    The airship design is that of a horizontal egg, and the top half of the egg is smaller, which creates a deck for people to walk on. At its back, I see what looks like a dozen propellers, so does this mean that this world has a concept of aerodynamics?

    I move on and look ahead. After a few minutes of walking down the main road, the castle starts to peek over the roofs of the houses, and I gradually see it in its full glory for the first time. It's made of blue-gray bricks and looks more like a super thick square tower than the usual medieval castle. It starts massively thick and gets smaller the higher it goes, towering twice as tall as every other building and tower in this town, then it ends with a huge flag hung from a pole.

    Even at this distance, it's possible to discern the details on the flag. It's the same as the heraldry on the tabard of the guards: a black background with a simple white kite in the middle, which has a golden sword and a red rose crossed over it.

    It takes a while until I can see the castle entirely since the streets are pretty crowded with crooked multi-story buildings. It only clears once I get on the main brick road that goes to the castle.

    The stores around here are of high quality and with a lot of variety. Restaurants, tea shops, bakeries, bookstores, magic shops, magic crafters, smiths, magical smiths, potion sellers, high-class inns, taverns that remind me of modern rustic restaurants, furniture shops, real estate, and the closer you get to the castle, the more perfume shops appear.

    I don't resist and buy the cheapest men's perfume I can find. Forty silver coins. It's damn expensive, but I need something to mask the smell of leather if I'm to enter a high-class establishment.

    Then I finally find the slave trader. It's a large white and black building with the words "Golden Necklace" written in gold on a sign above the entrance.

    I stare at the sign for a moment to gather my courage, then I get inside and immediately wish I had bought even better clothes.

    The slave trader is as lavish as the bank. It has an incredibly glossy dark floor and golden seams connecting the tiles, while the walls are adorned with dozens of crystal statues of naked humanoids. The building is large, but the lobby is small as the walls are covered with doors to other rooms.

    An old man wearing clothes that are strikingly similar to a suit and tie comes to me. "Welcome, Grand Sir. How may I help you?" He politely inquires as he bows in a right angle.

    I still have no idea how formal greetings are done around here, so I just stiffly respond, "Good day. I have a letter of recommendation here."

    I extend the letter to him, and he delicately takes it. He looks it over but doesn't open it, then he turns to me and gently asks, "Could you follow me? I'll take you to a private room and then take the letter to the Head so he can verify its contents."

    "Understood," I accept with a nod.

    He opens one of the nearby doors and leads me inside. The room is rather wide, but there are only two lavish couches around a glass table in the middle of it, making the room rather bare. There are no windows as the illumination is magical, coming from shining jewels embedded in the ceiling, and I see a small vent at one of its corners.

    Seems like they even have ventilation technology here.

    The old man motions me to one of the sofas and then leaves.

    I awkwardly sit there and wait. After a minute, another door opens on the other side of the room, and a middle-aged man comes out. His face is so manly and gentle that it makes me oddly uncomfortable. He's wearing a lavish, purple silk robe, and a jeweled ring on each of his fingers.

    The old butler comes after him, carrying a tray with a tea set and cookies, which makes me a bit excited.

    Are those chocolate cookies?!

    The man sits on the sofa in front of me and does a quick bow. "Welcome to the Golden Necklace. Your name is Mr. Ryder, as the letter says, correct?" He calmly asks, his voice is surprisingly deep and stimulating.

    "Correct," I answer with a nod.

    He shows me a handsome smile and continues, "My name is Ghulam Bhatt, and I'm the Head of this establishment. I'm surprised at the contents of the letter given to me. You've made a powerful ally, Mr. Ryder."

    He actually makes me blush, for some reason. This man has a perfect tone, the perfect face, and even the perfect body language. If I were a woman, I'd easily fall in love with him.

    "H-hello, Mr. Bhatt. I just did what I thought was right," I awkwardly reply.

    He nods slowly. "And a reward was given… Now, the letter says you're looking for an adventuring companion, is that right?"

    I swallow heavily and steel my nerves. "Yes, I have no real requirements. I only want someone who can help me fight, so show me your best."

    "Any preference on gender?"

    That's a dangerous question.

    "No…"

    He simply nods again. "Then excuse me as I have to leave to collect the best and bring them here. We'll start with the women." And I suddenly feel a bit uncomfortable.

    I nod and he leaves then comes back again in a few minutes with five women following behind him. They're all wearing a loose-fitting and small white silk dress that keeps their legs bare, showing up to half the thighs. It's also open at the sides, and two of the women are so well endowed that the breasts spill through the openings, and the cloth is so thin that I can even see the form of their nipples. This is way too dangerous and stimulating.

    What am I doing here…?

    When I see the last woman enter, I freeze completely.

    No, no… this is too much.

    A slender body that shows a hint of muscle, a light brown skin, slightly wavy black hair that goes a bit below the shoulder, and a small feminine face.

    That's Lily…

    No, it's not! It looks like her but it's not!

    I want to jump and hug her then kiss and make love to her.

    I miss Lily so much…

    I want to go home.

    The seller follows my gaze and turns to me. "That one is a mage with knowledge of Blessing and [Dark Magic], and an inkling of knowledge in the rare [Summoning Magic]. If you wish to study exotic magic, she's the one you need. She was also trained in simple [Potion Brewing]. She's not a front-line fighter, but she'll be a perfect support for you. Even in bed."

    A shiver runs along my spine.

    "Please remove her," I request with a flat tone, holding back my emotions.

    The seller gets taken aback, but he nods to the old man, who guides her away.

    "Was she not satisfactory?" Ghulam tactfully asks.

    I clench my fist and lock up again the emotions that are about to burst out. "It's not that… she just reminds me too much of someone."

    "I see…" He whispers in a soothing tone, then he continues introducing each woman.

    The first is a raven-type demon race woman. She's tall and well-endowed. Her skin is a beautiful pure black, her charming straight white hair falls on her shoulders like drapes, and her bright red eyes stare with interest. She can materialize a huge blade that comes out of the back of her hand, and she can even fly by summoning bird wings. She specializes in spear fighting and knows [Wind Magic] to support her flight. She allows being used as a sex slave.

    Oof, that last part is scary. I'm just going to ignore her for now.

    The second is a dwarf woman, but she looks like a short teenager. She has brown hair styled in a bowl cut, and a round, funny nose that makes her look rather adorable. She uses the traditional dwarven shield and hammer combo, and she has a racial skill that converts mana into "Strength," but without it, there's no way those thin arms of her would be able to lift a tower shield. She has a few levels in [Earth Magic] for utility and [Light Magic] for healing, so she's rather self-sufficient and lasts long in a fight.

    The third is a human woman. She's well-endowed, and her face looks mean but sexy at the same time, enhanced by her short boyish blonde hair. She's tall, strong, and can hold her own against a knight. She used to be an adventurer, and her body shows plenty of scars as evidence of her experience.

    The fourth is a human girl. She's average-looking but has pretty brown hair. She excels in Water, Fire, and [Wind Magic], but only that, so she's basically a glass cannon. I'm slightly interested in her since she has such a large magic repertoire.

    Then the women go away, and he brings three men.

    The first is a large dragonkin. A tall and rather ugly man with short brown hair. He has dragon wings that he can use to fly for a short amount of time, and small patches of sharp scales protruding from the side of his arms and legs. These scales can act as armor or even be used as weapons since the edges are sharpened. His specialty is that he can breathe a sand storm and blind his opponents, and he's also experienced with all sorts of melee weapons. Truly the greatest warrior of this establishment.

    The second is a dwarf man. He looks the same age as me despite his real age being double of mine. His skills are similar to the dwarf woman, but he can't use [Light Magic]. He may lack the healing magic, but he has his experience as an adventurer to his advantage.

    The third and final is a bald human man with a boring face. He specializes in [Blessing Magic] and [Light Magic], knows a little bit of [Wind Magic], and has some training in sword and shield. He allows being used as a sex slave, even for other men.

    Oh, boy…

    I blink repeatedly to clear my mind from the weird thoughts.

    All of their contracts are for either one or two decades, which is perfectly acceptable to me.

    So, who is the best: the girl mage, or the dragonkin? The dwarf woman is also attractive because of the healing magic. With the amount of money I have, I can buy more than one, but can I really take care of more than one person for now?

    I think hard and thoroughly, but I don't think that I should make a decision right now.

    Seeing my indecisiveness, Ghulam suddenly suggests, "Mr. Ryder, would you be willing to wait two days before you make a decision? I have a new shipment coming, and there are two great jewels there, even better than the ones here."

    This takes me by surprise. Who could be better than the dragonkin and the genius magician?

    "What about these ones, aren't they going to sell in the meantime?" I inquire.

    He gracefully shakes his head and responds, "I can hold them until the shipment arrives, and you have priority because of your recommendation. Also, the ones I've shown to you are my jewels, and slaves of this quality normally take a few months to sell. It's unlikely anyone capable of buying them is going to come so soon."

    I see no reason not to wait, and I was already going to relax for a few days, anyway.

    "Alright, I'll wait," I accept.

    I want to come back and eat these cookies again. The brown one isn't made of chocolate, but it's still a delicious mix of vanilla with a fragrant fruit that goes perfectly with the tea, which seems to be a mix of ginger and cloves, and it tastes really good.



    I leave the Golden Necklace and waste time until noon by window shopping on the main street, then I change back to my normal clothes and go to the hunters' guild for training.

    "So, you're still alive?" Toga sternly questions me, mildly surprised.

    Not even a greeting, just a mean gaze and straight words.

    "Uh, were you expecting the contrary?" I ask worriedly.

    He snorts, looking a bit peeved, then nods and answers, "You didn't come back for more training. That usually means you recklessly delved into a dungeon and got yourself killed."

    I chuckle self-deprecatingly. "Wow, that's not far from the truth, but I played it safe and went to Royd's Kerfuffle."

    He purses his lips reprovingly. "Even that was dangerous. Did you hear an Orc Headhunter was found at the sixth level? That could've been you."

    So, this means you care about me, Toga? Awn, I'm touched.

    I smile wryly and confess, "Well… t-that was me. I fought the Orc Headhunter with three other people."

    Toga doesn't even twitch, he just stares at me, judging my words, then he looks at one of the guys at the bench, the same one that healed me after the last beating I got.

    "Harper! Who was the guy that killed the Orc Headhunter?!" He yells.

    "I think it was some Wolf Ryder!" The healer yells back.

    Toga slowly turns his head towards me in a perfectly creepy movement, then he stares at me even harder, as if his eyes could pierce my soul, and I see a small smile forming on his mouth.

    "So, Mr. Slayer, are you here for more training?" He sternly asks, his voice sounding even more threatening than before.

    I avoid his gaze and tense up. "Y-yes… I would like to spar again," I meekly answer.

    He immediately throws a wooden sword at me. "Pull up your guard!"

    And then he beats me again, even harder this time.

    The other students and teachers start cheering me, encouraging me to not give up, crying in joy every time I manage to block, and flinching with every blow I receive. I think some are even betting, but I can't pay any more attention to them because my life and dignity are on the line.

    This time, Toga doesn't just beat me, he turns it into a marathon of a beating. He wears me down until I'm about to break, then he lets me rest for a precise amount of time, only to wear me down to my limit once again. He makes me last the whole afternoon and only ends it when I can barely stand anymore. The beating is so bad that I even get bloodied.

    Then he suddenly stops and lowers his sword. "That's enough. Today was a productive day, and I'm pleased with the results," he calmly states, and I swear his voice is tinged with sadism.

    More like pleased in seeing me suffer.

    "Thank you… for the session." Those are all the words I can say until I'm fully healed, and it takes two instructors to heal me back to full HP.



    I got back to the inn, and Selina cheerfully greets me.

    "Welcome back, Mr. Ryder, did you fight something fearsome again today?" She asks with a slightly teasing tone.

    "Just a bloodthirsty instructor," I answer with a wry smile.

    She raises her eyebrows in surprise, then immediately exclaims, "Ah! I-I'm sorry…" And covers her mouth with her hand as she giggles.

    I shake my head tiredly. "Don't be, it's training… it's a life I chose."

    "Thank you for your effort." She bows and sends me a wink, then walks away while smiling.

    When I get back to my bed, I take a look at my stats. My "Endurance" and "Willpower" increased by 1 (now 9 and 13), and [Block], [Parry], and [Dodge] increased by 3 (now 2+4, 0+4, and 2+4), which is rather impressive. Though I guess I just didn't have much of a chance to use my sword for attack during this beating.

    Then I remembered that there's a skill called [Shield Use], so why didn't I learn it, already? Is this an offensive skill like [Sword Use]? Do I need to attach a blade and kill something with it so it doesn't count as [Shield Bash]?

    Whatever. If it isn't increasing, then I'll just ignore it for now until I learn more about skills.

    This is my progress so far:



    Wolf Ryder Skill Report​
    Physical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Sword Use8+2Dodge2+4Parry0+4
    Block2+4Sense Presence5+0
    Magical​
    Skill NameLevelSkill NameLevelSkill NameLevel
    Mana Efficiency4+0Mana Recovery4+0Reduced Mana Cost4+0
    Fire Magic1+0Electric Magic1+0Blessing Magic5+0
    Nature Magic5+0
    Miscellaneous​
    Skill NameLevel
    Andraste Language10+0
    Info​
    NameWolf RyderAge16RaceHuman
    HP100MP135Magic Power190
    Level10
    Stats​
    Strength8Endurance9Dexterity9
    Speed10Intelligence20Wisdom15
    Willpower13Charisma10Piety3
    Perception15Sanity9
    Other​
    Status Effects'NONE'
    Titles'NONE'
    Affiliations'NONE'
    Companions'NONE'
    Crimes'NONE'
    After that, I go to sleep, and I have a few confusing dreams about fighting, so I don't sleep very well.



    Today, my body is way too sore for training, and it hurts to even walk around.

    Since I don't have much to do, I wanted to talk to Selina, but she's way too busy this time. Our relationship is kind of awkward. It's not like we're close friends, and I can't call her anytime I want. Also, we only talk during mealtime, and I don't even know where she goes outside of that.

    Since I don't know what to do, I eat my breakfast and spend the morning in bed, dozing on and off until it's almost time for lunch, then I get the energy to walk around and search for some exotic food.

    I find a place with a super spicy Dragolite soup, and it has a hint of curry in it. The problem is, it's hotter than Satan's butthole, so it takes me some effort to eat it, but I do it. I'm not weak to spicy food, so I wonder what the hell was the cook thinking when he made this.

    Then I decide to go to the hunters' guild to train magic. People should already know I have Fire and [Electric Magic], so I'm just going to train my mana pool.

    I tell the manager that I'm going to train with [Fireball], and he gives me the ok, so I go to the furthest corner of the magic training area. Over here, people won't notice that I don't chant, and I can also stay far away from Toga's sadistic gaze.

    I observe the other mages as they cast [Fireball], and I notice that they can cast a very small one almost instantly. I think about putting points in [Mana Control] so I can change the size of the [Fireball] and mimic them, but I don't think it'd be necessary to go to this level of deceit.

    I put all my points into combat skills and start casting [Fireball] until my mana is exhausted. I can only cast it twelve times until my MP is gone, then I put all my points in [Mana Recovery] and meditate until I'm back to full. I try casting it thirteen times, but I nearly faint from the blackout, and due to embarrassment, I decide to not do it again.

    I feel tempted to put on [Blackout Resistance] to get used to the pain of casting spells with negative MP, but the adventurer tips book also said that this lowers one's lifespan since it uses the caster's souls to fuel the spells, so I think I might pass it.

    Training [Mana Overuse Resistance] might be more useful, though, since I only need to let my MP fall too low or use it up too fast to risk suffering from loss of senses, painful headaches, or sore muscles due to mana overuse. The tips book also advised that mages should exhaust their mana every day before going to sleep until they develop [Mana Overuse Resistance], but it doesn't seem like a lot of people follow this advice.

    If I keep practicing my magic like this every day, then maybe I could learn it in a year, but it'll take a lot of diligence.

    I quickly realize that this sort of training is really taxing mentally. A headache always flares when I start running low on mana, so it takes quite a lot of effort for me to concentrate on meditating, but I manage to keep a steady rhythm going until it's almost dusk, then I go back to the inn.

    I'm starving.

    It seems that using mana makes you more hungry than normal as I have to ask for a second serving of the already generous meal the inn gives.

    "What's gotten you so hungry?" Selina gently asks as she puts down the plate for me.

    "It seems training magic makes you super hungry," I quickly answer and dig in.

    She sits down and coos in wonder. "O~h? You can use magic, too? That's amazing. What spells can you cast?"

    I swallow hurriedly and reply, "Oh… it's nothing, just a small [Fireball] and support spells for myself, like [Regeneration] and [Wind Armor]."

    She giggles cutely. "'Nothing'? You're quite humble. A magician who knows the sword is such a romantic way of fighting."

    I stop eating and frown in confusion. "Uh… what do you mean by 'romantic'?"

    She cutely rests her chin on her hand and starts talking excitedly, "Most stories of heroes are about people like you: melee fighters with a trump card in magic. They live dangerous and exciting adventures that give them the wisdom to push their powers to the limit.

    "My favorite is about a mage whose entire strategy revolved around finding the chance to cast a single [Shocking Touch] on his enemy's most vulnerable spot. His way of fighting was all or nothing, and he bet it all on that spell when he fought a dragon. A huge, dangerous, and feared monster being brought down with a single, simple spell. He was so witty he convinced the dragon into getting close, even though it knew what the adventurer was capable of. I got chills when I read that book."

    Is this what a normal girl of this world thinks about or are you just special?

    "Indeed, it sounds like a poetic fight," I coolly reply and chuckle.

    Selina gives me a smile that melts my heart and continues telling her stories excitedly.

    But then I remember Lily…

    It's hard to admit this, but I believe I'll have to live in this world for a long, long time. My growth is slow, transmigration is something unknown to the natives, and I have absolutely zero idea about why I'm here. I don't even have a mentor figure to guide me and then get killed in the middle of the story to give me an impetus to fight.

    I'm stuck here, and if "God's" message wasn't a lie, then it's for the rest of my life.

    What happened on Earth? Did time stop? Are they looking for me? Are they even still alive?

    The way Selina looks at me is quite obvious. The signs are there.

    I know that Lily wouldn't wait for me, and I shouldn't wait, too. We aren't idealists who believe in the existence of "true love," we're bitter realists who just found happiness with each other.

    The subtle glances, the brief smiles, the slow inching closer, the dozens of excuses Selina finds to touch me. I can't ignore it.

    Lily and I wouldn't want the other to spend who knows how long waiting for me to return. We love each other to the point we'd want the other to find happiness, even if it isn't together. We're just that pragmatic.

    Selina makes me laugh and lightens my mood, but there's nothing she can do to fix the storm of emotions brewing within my heart.

    I can't just do this all by myself forever. I need someone to rely on… but I'm too scared to get close to anyone.

    Then I remember the raven-type woman and shiver.

    I'm so goddamn fucking lonely I think that's what keeps my "Sanity" so low.



    I drop on my bed with a sigh, then I curl up into a ball.

    It hasn't been even a month, and I'm already breaking down, but to be fair, in just a few days I've already gone through enough life and death situations to last an entire lifetime on Earth.

    I need to think only about myself, otherwise, I don't think I'll last long. I'm the only thing that matters right now! I should think only about my survival!

    I clench my fists in anger.

    This world will have no mercy for someone delicate like me, so I need to change, but I don't want to.

    Silent tears run along my cheeks, and I cry myself to sleep.

    Lily, I'm sorry…



    I have a nightmare of the Headhunter staring at me with his beady little eyes. It does nothing to me except stare like an ever-present threat.



    Today, I wake up with my body feeling better, but I'm still not good enough to be beaten into pulp again. My "Strength" didn't increase, too, so I think I should start a muscle training regimen. I can just do some quick exercises before bath like I did on Earth, but I need something to replace dumbbells.

    I look at my MP and see it increased by 30 (now 165). That's a nice amount. I can certainly cast [Fireball] one more time now. No "Magic Power" increase though, so I wonder what's needed for that.

    Breakfast is bean salad with not-corn crumbs and a leg of Rabid Rabbit. Honestly, the cuisine around here is not bad, but I just really miss rice.

    Now, what do I do today? I'm not really in the mood for exploring the town since my head is still heavy with the thoughts from last night.

    I feel like I've mentally cornered myself. I'm stuck in a dilemma caused by two conflicting parts of my beliefs. Any decision I make will end up hurting a part of me, so how should I even start to make this choice? It's easy to find the logical path to follow, but it's hard to actually go through with it.

    I try to pick up the romance book to read, but I can't concentrate, so I just absentmindedly turn around the pages without absorbing anything.



    After wasting my morning, I just pick a random stall and eat lunch on the street. I barely even pay attention to what I'm eating, I just know that it's bland.

    After that, I decide to hurt myself and go to the training ground to increase my MP again.

    This time, Toga doesn't stare so much at me. He seems satisfied with the amount of pain I'm giving to myself.

    Besides forgoing shame and losing my senses five times from blackout, nothing really happens, and I just robotically repeat my training sequence with [Fireball] followed by [Mana Recovery]-enhanced meditation. It gives me a bit of a headache from overuse, though.

    After dusk, I come back and absentmindedly eat my dinner. Selina isn't serving today, and I don't ask why.

    I go to sleep with my mood worse than when I woke up.



    I dream of the Gargling Goblin again. This time, I tell him to fuck off, but it doesn't help, and I wake up in the middle of the night sweating cold.



    Selina wakes me up, and I immediately look at my MP. It increased by 50 (now 215). It's quite a large amount, so I believe I did well on yesterday's training.

    Now, it's finally the day to buy a slave. I anxiously eat my breakfast, then I go to the Golden Necklace.

    I don't even know what I want from it anymore…

    The same butler-like old man greets me with a bow, "Welcome again, Grand Sir. Would you like to go to the meeting room immediately? I'll call the Head; the new shipment is ready for inspection."

    "Sure, please do," I whisper back, a bit aloof.

    The moment I enter the room, I remember the heavenly cookies and tea, and my sweet-tooth aching takes some of the edge off.

    The not-butler comes a few seconds later with a tray of cookies and tea, then leaves me alone to devour them, and I notice that there's double the amount than the other day.

    Did he notice I liked them?

    Then Ghulam comes in and does a quick bow. "Welcome again to the Golden Necklace, Mr. Ryder. I'm glad you waited. I'm sure that you'll be pleased with the new shipment, they're astounding."

    He sits and claps his hands, then the not-butler opens the door.

    Two women come in, two beautiful women. I suck in a breath and freeze.

    Astounding indeed.

    The first is a fox girl. She has light brown, almost orange hair styled in a cute bob cut, a diamond-shaped jaw, thin lips, a small nose, round, orange eyes, and pointy orange fox ears on top of her head. Such an incredibly cute face.

    When she walks, I see an orange fox tail dangling about, and it even has a white tip. It looks so soft I want to hug it.

    The second is an elven girl. She has silver straight hair that's so glossy it almost shines, an adorably short stature, skin as white as snow, an oval face, upturned blue eyes that look almost Asian, a small and pointy nose, small red lips, and the unmistakable long pointy ears of the elves protruding at a right angle from her head.

    That's honestly not what I thought he meant when he said the new slaves would be even better than the previous ones. I imagined a bigger monster than the dragonkin would appear or something like that. And judging my current state, I don't think I should be in this room with these two girls.

    Ghulam smiles at me with grace, making it hard to look away from him as he announces, "These are my two new prizes. The werefox is Alissa. She's an offering from an exclusive deal Rabanara has with the Misty Low Forest. They raise and train a slave every five years, then sell them to us. It took me a lot of luck, but I managed to acquire her.

    "She has been taught since she was a child that her destiny is to be a combat slave, and due to her beauty, she has also been trained on how to serve a man. She's the most skilled archer and hunter of her clan, and you won't find someone better than her outside of a Lord's retinue. Her 'Speed' and 'Dexterity' are very high, which gives her pinpoint accuracy and high lethality. Her olfact and hearing are extremely sharp, and she even has the rare [Sense Presence], making her the perfect scout. She was also trained in the traditional lifestyle magic, so she's ready to live even among the nobility.

    "The other one is called Silvane. She's the daughter of a fallen noble from the elven lands of Elaria, so she has no relation to the elves on this side of the continent. Her father, mother, and brother were executed as punishment for failing to fulfill their duties as nobles, so she hopes in finding a master who achieves heroic feats to regain her honor, and perhaps even her noble status. Like all nobility, she was trained in serving men and women, and how to care for and manage a house or a business.

    "Her skills are in [Light Magic], [Blessing Magic], [Wind Magic], [Nature Magic], [Earth Magic] and [Fire Magic]. She has an amazing mana pool since she was training to help her family in managing the dungeons in their territory. She's guaranteed to become an amazing magician in the future, if you train her right.

    Then his tone becomes deep and husky as he adds, calling forth feelings I'm not proud of having, "Both accept being sex slaves, and they're virgins. They also have contracts for life."

    Oh, boy.

    I need to leave this place. I'm not in the right mindset to make a rational decision right now. Only one of the women from before talked about being a "sex slave," so I tried to not think about this, but now, seeing these girls who are ready (and willing?), my body aches for comfort. This craving fights against my fragmented will and my guilt from my love for Lily.

    What am I supposed to do…? Wait, there's a way out! They must cost an exorbitant amount, so there's no way I can buy them, right?

    "W-What's the cost? They must be too expensive for me," I stiffly ask, barely containing my anxiety.

    Ghulam whispers honeyed words to me, "With the discount from your recommendation, sixty gold for the elf, seventy for the werefox."

    NO!

    He chuckles softly and gently adds, his silky tone causing his words to slither into my ears, "There's no rush. If you want to talk or observe them closer it's allowed. Such an investment shouldn't be done hastily." Then he grins perversely.

    He noticed how I'm desperately holding myself and trapped me here. Now there's no way I'm leaving without buying one of them now.

    I force myself to breathe deeply, managing to calm down a little.

    I'm weak… I'm sorry, Lily… but I'm far too weak. Being alone in this world hurts too much, and I'm far too scared that I'll die to pass on the chance of some happiness.

    There's a devil disguised as a man that's tempting me. He threw two wonderful women in front of me and said: "Here! Pick one, grab her, fuck her, make her yours. She will be your thing, your toy, forever. No strings attached, no messy relationships, no love dynamics, no anxiety from rejection, she's your perfect woman. Even the fucking gods tell you it's okay to do it, now fucking choose!"

    I'm sorry Lily… I'm a horrible husband. I'm sorry you fell in love with me, and it's okay to not wait for me.

    An undercurrent of anger rises to the surface, clouding my mind further.

    I'll do what I want in this fucking world because there's no one fucking else that'll help me! I was abandoned here without care, so I'll abandon whatever is holding me back from my previous world! This world will be mine…! Wait no, too far.

    "I'll take Alissa."
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021 at 3:15 AM
  9. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    "Now, please cut your hand with this knife and fill this with your blood," Ghulam asks, then he gives me an adorned dagger and a small bowl. "If you can't do it yourself it's not a problem, Sebastian will do it for you and immediately heal you."

    Nah.

    I cut my hand.

    FUCK! IT HURTS!

    My face cramps, but I manage to retain my dignity and hold back the tears of pain.

    I fill the small bowl with my blood, then Sebastian chants something and touches my hand. A faint pleasing cold covers my wound as the pain stops, then he releases me, and it looks goods as new.

    Is this a thing that all butlers must be called Sebastian?

    The old man Sebastian gives the bowl to Alissa, then she immediately brings it to her lips and drinks my blood while Ghulam chants something.

    "[Contract of Servitude]," he whispers and touches Alissa's head. "Now, point the location where you want the symbol of slavery to appear. It'll be a small circle with your name on it, but If you don't want to show your name I'll hide it."

    "It's okay to show. Put it on her left wrist," I respond.

    She's right-handed, so it shouldn't show too much.

    Ghulam gently grabs her wrist and chants. "[Mark of the Master]," he casts, and a faint light shines from between his fingers.

    He releases her and shows to me that a small black circle has appeared, and I read "Wolf Ryder" written in Andraste with small letters. Around the black circle, there are a few letters from an alphabet I don't recognize.

    "Now, do you want any additional spell? For you, it's for free," Ghulam offers with a gentle smile.

    "Only the speech limitation."

    He touches Alissa's throat and starts chanting again. "[Tongue of Obedience]," he casts, then a small orb of light comes out of the tip of his finger and enters her throat.

    He smiles graciously and turns to me. "There, now she won't be able to tell others about anything you consider a secret. Anything else?"

    I smile back. "No, thank you."

    He gently nods and says, "Then it's done. I really appreciate doing business with you, Mr. Ryder. Though the letter only allowed for a discount this one time, I'll gladly do business with you again." His charming smile now seems like the devil's.

    "I'll certainly come back," I happily admit. I've crossed the point of no return, so there's no reason to say no anymore.

    He makes a signal with his hand, and Sebastian comes forward. "Here's the gift we give to anyone who buys one of our women." -The butler hands me a ring- "It's a Ring of Fertility. Put some magic into it, and the man or woman that wears it won't be able to impregnate or get pregnant." Ghulam smiles kindly, his words cause a chill to run down my spine.

    He stands up and nods respectfully, then Sebastian picks up the documents I signed and the gold, then they both leave me alone with Alissa.

    "Master, may I change to my other clothes now?" Alissa respectfully asks and looks at me with a neutral expression. Her voice has the perfect pitch to my ears, not too high, not too low.

    "Y-yes, please do," I respond awkwardly.

    She immediately pulls up her one-piece, and she's not wearing anything below.

    GAH! Too much stimulation.

    Even though I want to see, I'm not in the right state of mind to stare at her.

    She changes into the normal clothes Ghulam gave to her: a white and slightly loose shirt, black pants, and some cute looking black shoes. I could only stare at her feet, and god, even they are cute.

    "I'm ready now," she says in a low tone.

    "Then let's go."



    We silently make our way towards the inn, and she walks slightly behind me, but still pretty close. She maintains a neutral expression, but at least she doesn't look sad.

    I don't know what to say. Am I supposed to make a conversation? I guess not since I'm her master now, so I don't need to be her friend, but it'll be lonely if I'm not friendly. I guess there's no need to rush or force anything, we'll get used to each other with time.

    We get to the inn, and I talk to the innkeeper.

    "I'd like to change rooms. I need one for two people, now," I request.

    "Single bed or double bed?" He asks, then he glances at Alissa and fails in containing his smile.

    Please, stop. I'm already embarrassed enough.

    "Double," I respond nervously.

    He nods gently and hands me two keys. "Second room on the second floor. Remove all your things from the safe, then return the key to me, please."

    "I don't have anything in it, so here's the key."

    After that, I immediately go towards my new room.

    It's almost mid-day, and I'm starting to feel hungry, but I want to talk to Alissa in private first.

    We enter the room, and I just fall face-first onto the bed. My nerves are killing me.

    What did I just do…? I'm a slave master, now…

    I turn around and look at her. She's just standing there, looking at me with her calm and neutral expression. I guess she isn't going to do anything unless ordered.

    I clear my throat and say, "We're going to be living here… and we'll be sharing the same bed. You can come, sit, or lay down if you want. I don't want you to tire yourself by standing all the time."

    She nods respectfully and obediently responds, "Yes, thank you, Master." I notice that her tail is standing still.

    I pat the bed. "Then come and sit beside me."

    "Y-yes."

    What was that?

    She has been calm and collected so far, but that voice just now wasn't congruent with her expression. Is she a master of poker face?

    She sits beside me in a lady-like way and starts observing the room.

    I sit up and gently grab her hand, making her twitch in reaction, then she looks at me curiously.

    I knew it, she's tense and scared, but she looks so cute I feel like teasing her. Oh god, my shyness already went away, and the sadist is coming out.

    "Well then, what have you heard about me?" I politely ask as I enjoy the softness and warmth of her hand.

    She obediently responds, "Seigneur Ghulam said that you're a powerful and upcoming adventurer. You've gained the favor of someone with influence after saving them and showing your valor. Now you're in need of a companion for fighting, and that's likely why you bought me. I'm sorry, but he didn't say more than this."

    Nour, please, that's too much.

    I release her hand and massage my neck awkwardly as I say, "There's… no need to be sorry." -I shake my head in tiredness- "Well, then. The first thing I want to talk about is that I have a lot of secrets. That's why I bought a Blood Slave: I need a companion that can keep a secret."

    She turns her body to face me, and her orange eyes stare onto mine with her full attention. "Then there's no need to worry about it, Master. Please use the [Tongue of Obedience] as you wish, and your secrets will be safe even during torture."

    "No, no, no, no" -I look away for a moment as I cringe slightly- "There's no need to go that far. My secrets are just things that will attract attention, and I don't want it, at least for now."

    Those were dangerous words, Alissa. Nobody is going to get hurt because of me.

    "I see… I think I understand." She looks away and puts a finger on her chin. Cute. "Master is powerful, and other people might want to try to use you or interfere with your business, so you want to hide this power. Is that right, Master?"

    I smile at her cute expression and nod. "That's right, it's like that. Now, we aren't leaving the town for two days. Today, I want to buy your equipment, and tomorrow, I want you to train at the hunters' guild to get used to it. If I'm lazy, we'll rest for a third day, and then on the fourth, we'll work again."

    "I'm alright with whatever you wish, Master." She smiles back.

    Oh, god, that's even cuter, please stop.

    "Also… there's something I'm dying to do… can I touch your ears and tail?" I childishly ask her with puppy eyes.

    She stiffens, making her fox ears perk up, then smiles shyly. "Y-you don't have to ask… but please be gentle, they're sensitive." She blushes and lowers her head for me.

    Her fox ears are on the top of her head, and she doesn't have human ones. It looks weird if you pull back the hair, so I guess that short hairstyles aren't really a thing with wereanimals.

    I rub her ears and I get filled with bliss. They are made of a very soft cartilage, and along with its furry parts, they're very comfy to touch.

    Her hair makes even me envious. It's so soft to the touch and glossy. It flows perfectly when she tilts her head just slightly.

    After getting enough of her ears, I tell her to turn around so that I can play with her tail. I notice that it has vertebrae, so she can move and wag it the same way a dog can, and its fur is even fluffier than that of her ears.

    I want to hug it! Animal ears, animal tail, kemonomimi! This is really a Japanese game.

    "A-ah… Master. Gentler, please," she whispers.

    "Sorry, does it hurt?"

    "No, it's just sensitive, and it tickles a lot," she responds while squirming.

    Thank god it isn't an erogenous zone… Wait… some people also do erotic things with places like the armpits or earlobes. Just because it isn't immediately erotic, doesn't mean it can't become erotic.

    I stop playing with her tail and say, "I'll get you a very good brush. We need to keep this tail and your hair as beautiful as possible."

    She nods respectfully and shows a small smile. "Thank you, Master. I'll take good care of them."

    I hug her from behind and pat her head. She freezes, then gradually relaxes, melting in my arms.

    "I'd also like to help care for it myself. It feels good to touch," I whisper in her ear.

    I used to brush Lily's hair once in a while. I liked to help keep her pretty for me.

    I keep patting her head and ears for some time, and it seems to help us a lot in calming our nerves. I also can't deny that it feels good to hug a girl like this.

    Her perfume has a faint fruity scent that feels slightly nostalgic, and my heart tightens as I try to grasp onto this nostalgic feeling.

    I have to buy her more perfume.

    After a few long and comfy minutes, I stop the patting and release her, then she almost falls down on her own. She must've gotten sleepy.

    "Nah?" She lets out a small sound in surprise.

    Stop with the cuteness.

    "Let's go out and eat lunch," I gently suggest, and she nods silently while blushing.



    I find a nearby restaurant and ask for a table for two. I sit down, but she remains standing by my side.

    "Please, sit," I motion. "We'll eat meals together from now on."

    This must be standard slave behavior that I need to nip in the bud.

    She blinks in surprise for a moment and asks, "Is it alright, Master? I'm a slave, so I don't need to be treated equally."

    I purse my lips and respond sternly, "Well, I want a companion that I can trust, not just a slave to order around, so I'll treat you equally."

    She stares at me for a moment, then nods and smiles gently. "Thank you, Master. You're very kind." As she sits, I see her tail sway a little.

    Being called "Master" is making me feel uncomfortable, but it also tickles a part of me that I didn't acknowledge before. Is it alright to let it come out of the dark?

    Bah, screw it. I already said before that I'd abandon things that were holding me back.

    I don't want to deal with her choosing a simple meal because she's a slave, so I order the same for both of us, but when the meal comes she hesitates.

    "You also don't have to wait for me to start eating," I promptly say.

    And so we dig in.



    After our meal, we go out and talk as we walk.

    I start counting with my fingers as I enumerate what we need to do, "First, let's buy you a pillow, some proper blankets, spare change of clothes, a hairbrush, a toothbrush, and spare shoes. We'll go to a first-hand store because I don't want to see you use hand-me-downs."

    She seems slightly concerned with the amount of stuff we have to buy and frowns as she questions, "Is it really alright to treat me like this, Master? I'm a slave, and I'm trained to have strong endurance, so treating me softly might… negate this training."

    I can't resist and entwine my arm with hers because I'm starved for skinship, then I pat her hand as I answer earnestly, "Yes. I'm sorry if your training ends up wasted or dulled, but we'll lead similar lifestyles, so I don't need you to retain your 'endurance'… Think of it like this: giving you hardships makes you tire more easily, which means you're more likely to die in battle. If you die, I'll be wasting the money, the huge favor I used to buy you, my feelings will be hurt by losing you, and my time training you will be wasted. So, this is why we need to keep you happy and well-rested: You need to be always at your best performance so you don't die or disappoint me.

    "I'll give you two rules: the first one is 'don't die' because I don't want you sacrificing yourself for me; the second one is 'let's never get into a situation where someone needs to die' so you won't even have to think about sacrificing yourself for me if we don't even get in a situation that needs it. Now, do you understand your value to me?"

    She turns her face away and reflects on my words seriously.

    We continue walking in silence for a minute, then she turns to face me again and nods energetically. "Thank you, Master. I understand," she finally responds with determination.

    Did that make you emotional? Well, I don't think that my philosophy makes me a "good person" because I still bought you… and I'm going to abuse you tonight. Might be even earlier if you don't stop acting cute.

    After getting the essentials, I decide to buy her a simple but cute white, frilly dress. I'd like to buy her more, but money is short, and I need to buy her equipment.

    I thank the God of Luck because I find a cheap perfume that I can give to her. Later on, I'll definitely get her a more expensive one like mine.

    Damn, I feel like I want to dress her up like a doll the same way I used to do with Lily.

    This time, I grit my teeth and don't buy a high-quality sleeping bag, but we buy a larger one for both of us.

    Then I get her Young Ogre leather armor. It's a red-brown color, it's tougher than Hobgoblin leather, and it's also very flexible, which is good for an archer.

    We get her a cheap iron short sword as a personal defense weapon, then we buy a good composite bow because it's compact and deadly. On the matter of bows, we can't hold back because archery is her main way of killing.

    Warbows or longbows are a bit difficult for her to use. Sure, the penetration is unparalleled, but she has problems fully drawing them. She isn't a standard army archer that fights at long distances and whose job is to cover an area with arrows. She's a hunter, which means she needs to draw fast and accurately, so penetration isn't that important.

    I sell my old equipment, but it's pretty shitty, so we don't get much money in return. I buy an upgrade to my shield: a black heater iron shield. It's slightly bigger and of a higher quality iron than the previous one.

    My previous shield has three dents and a nasty scratch from the fight with the Orc Headhunter, so we'd need to spend money to repair it, anyway. The damage makes the smith curious, so I tell him how that happened, and he gives me a small discount in sympathy.

    Alissa's [Item Box] isn't big, so she only keeps her arrows there and some small personal items, like the toothbrush and hairbrush.

    Now that we bought what we need, we go back to the inn, then I reserve a room for us to take a bath, together.



    We enter the room, and I lock the door behind me. The reserved bath is rather small, and it only has a simple wooden bathtub for a maximum of three people.

    "I'll wash you, Master," she volunteers, but I see that her tail is stiff.

    She starts taking her clothes off, and I just stare at her. No man should ever look away when a woman undresses.

    Her nakedness is instantly arousing. Her body is very athletic, and she's slightly more muscular than me. Her breasts are a bit small, but I don't know the size. Perhaps it's C? I just know they're perky and cute, and they'll fit nicely in my hand. Her bush is actually orange, and I see that it's well kept.

    She comes to me and her steps become awkward once she notices my stare.

    She grabs my shirt and pulls it up, then she unfastens both my belts and pulls down my pants. She hesitates for a moment, then leaves my sword on the ground and undoes my shoes.

    "You don't really have to do it like this, I can undress myself," I say, slightly amused, but also feeling a bit awkward.

    "I want to do it, Master," she diligently responds.

    Oh, boy, don't say things like that. I'm already excited.

    Then she pulls down my underwear. She's crouching, so it's right in front of her face in its full glory. She stares at it for a few seconds then gets up.

    She leads me near the tub and grabs a bucket of water, then she makes me sit on a stool and starts to wash my body with the soap and sponge the receptionist gave us.

    Her hands are delicate and she moves with certainty, eliciting a faint groan of pleasure from me as I close my eyes and enjoy it. She certainly knows how to wash.

    She washes my face with such delicacy that it's almost like she's just gently patting it, but I can still feel it's effective at cleaning my body. This is heavenly.

    Then she washes my front. There's no way around it, she has to come in front of me, and she touches my dick.

    "E-excuse me, p-please tell me if it hurts," she stutters, her voice trembling from the nervousness.

    She pulls back the skin and rubs the sponge on the head with even more delicacy than my face. It's so stimulating I have to control myself from pouncing on her. I imagine her tightening her grip and giving me a handjob, and my dick twitches in her hands.

    Suddenly, it finishes, and now she's done washing me.

    "Now it's my turn," I say with a husky tone.

    She swallows heavily. "You don't need to concern yourself with me."

    "But I'll enjoy it." I smile mischievously.

    She immediately nods, and we switch places.

    "Sorry if I'm not as delicate as you, I'm not trained in washing others," I wryly inform her.

    "No need to apologize for it, Master. You're allowed to enjoy yourself," she replies earnestly.

    Ohohoh! Then don't mind if I do!

    Her skin is soft, and there's absolutely no hair on her arms and legs, so my hand just glides along her perfect skin. I can feel the hint of muscle in her athletic body as my fingers trace her abs. It's a mix of toughness and softness.

    Seriously, what is going on in this world? Nearly every person I've seen can be considered beautiful. It's just… "weird."

    Now, look at her. Her skin is so perfect it makes me worried. Where are her veins? Does she even have veins? It's like she's artificial, and it's unsettling me.

    She tilts her head adorably and innocently asks, "Something wrong, Master?"

    I wipe away the stupid thoughts, then I smile mischievously. "Nothing… it's just that your skin is too perfect."

    "Don't exaggerate like this, Master…" Her voice seems a little sad, but her tail twitches.

    "I'm not exaggerating, but whatever…." I shrug and continue washing her.

    As I slowly caress her skin, I leave her tail and ears alone. I don't know how to wash them, I'm sorry, Alissa. But I take special care of her hands and feet. They're just so small and cute.

    Then I start working on the best part that I left for last. Her breasts are soft and bouncy, a delight to my hands. Lily had small ones, so I don't know what bigger breasts are supposed to feel like. I guess this is like jelly? I can't describe them perfectly, but I sure can enjoy them. Flat is justice, anyway, so size doesn't matter.

    I work on her nipples, and I feel them poke against my palm, showing me that she's aroused. I just rub them gently, avoiding pinching them, for now, then her breath starts to get heavier.

    Good…

    I pull her closer, hugging her from behind.

    She feels so warm, and I realize how much I've been missing this feeling. I want her to hug me, to make me feel safe… No, that'll come later. Right now, I need to show her my sensual touch.

    My hand glides downwards, reaching her neat little bush, and I start to play with it. It feels good on my hand since the hair is a little thicker there.

    I don't want to waste any more time, so I pass my hand over her entrance, and her breath immediately becomes haggard.

    Her pussy lips are small and slightly wet, so I just delicately rub them until they start to feel warmer, then I penetrate her with my finger. She flinches backward, and I pinch her nipple at the same time.

    "Ahn…!" She lets out a cute little moan. This is a holy sound that men hear when the gates of heaven open, and I shall never forget how hers sounds.

    I slowly move my finger in and out, and I feel her legs quiver. With one hand, she grabs the side of my head while I breathe down her neck, and with the other, she grabs my hand on her breast and squeezes it.

    My hand pleases her with steady movements, and I increase the speed little by little. The typical lewd sounds and smells of sex come out, then she closes her eyes and lets out her voice. It's a piece of beautiful music to my ears.

    I bite her neck, I lick it, I kiss it. I keep going for a few minutes until she arches her back and her body tenses, then she slowly relaxes and nearly collapses in my arms.

    "What… was… that…?" She asks, out of breath.

    "You don't know? That's a... climax," I mischievously answer with a smile.

    She looks away, a little embarrassed. "Oh… that was much… stronger than I imagined."

    I smile a little sadistically and caress her cheek. "There's still more, but I'll let you rest until later."

    She grabs my hand and nods while smiling, then she looks at me a little anxiously. "T-thank you… Master… but, I haven't done anything for you."

    I get an idea that makes my dick twitch. "Do you know how to use your mouth?"

    She needs a little stiffly. "Yes… I was taught that."

    I wonder how.

    I release her from my hug, and she leaves the stool, then I sit down on it, and she gets on her knees.

    She stares at my cock and blushes, then resolves herself and grabs it delicately. She opens her mouth wide, revealing her four cute canines, then slowly swallows it all. That was slightly scary, but she seems to know how to keep those teeth away from my skin.

    Her mouth is warm and soft, but to be honest, the feeling isn't special, it's the view. A cute woman with a dick in her mouth is one of the most erotic sights I can imagine. You shouldn't watch too much porn, it'll rot your brain and make you fantasize wildly about sex, only to be disappointed at reality when you finally get laid.

    She starts to carefully move her head, and I feel her tongue moving around. Now that feels good.

    "Rougher," I whisper, and she moves her tongue with more vigor.

    What a good girl.

    She grabs the shaft and moves her hand along with her head, which just adds to the eroticism.

    The pleasure; her face; the tension of these past few days fading away; my fears and guilts surfacing; my dark desires that I'm forced to face; my wish for comfort and skinship. All these things contribute to me just wanting to let it out, so I don't last long, barely two minutes. This is the fastest I've ever came.

    "I'm coming," I warn her.

    She doesn't pay attention and chokes on it. She only partially swallows, and the rest is wasted on the floor.

    "Sorry, Master," she apologizes, sounding disappointed with herself.

    I laugh and pat her head as I respond, "There's no problem, you were perfect."

    I see a white trickle coming from the corner of her mouth and smile. This scene is just so erotic.

    Oh, shit, I still haven't kissed her yet. What kind of gentleman am I if I got the order of things wrong? Now there's no way I'm kissing her like this.

    I awkwardly ask her, "Sorry, but can you brush your teeth? I want to kiss you, but I don't want to do it like this."

    She widens her eyes for a second, then pulls out her toothbrush with a *poof* and starts brushing her teeth. After a few seconds, she murmurs something and casts [Clean] on her mouth.

    Now that she's ready, we finally get into the bath together. She sits on my lap, and I hug her tight, then she relaxes her body against mine.

    I look into her large orange eyes lustfully, then I finally kiss her.

    She doesn't move her tongue much, so I work for both of us. I explore her mouth and cautiously avoid her sharper-than-normal canines. I'm really glad she's trained because those four teeth could've given me a nasty cut and a new trauma that I don't need.

    She slowly gains confidence and starts moving her tongue energetically, rubbing it strongly against mine, asking for more pleasure. Our tongues wrestle for a long time until they finally tire out. Kissing inside a hot bath is truly therapeutic.

    I break the kiss, then she hugs me tight and leans her head against my mine. It feels so good that it warms my heart, and I almost cry. This is honestly the thing I needed the most: a hug. I just want to fall asleep like this.

    I'm not alone anymore.



    My eyes start closing in sleepiness, then I hear a knock on the door. Our time is up, and we have to leave.

    While feeling like I'm lifting a ton of concrete, I break our hug. She suddenly twitches and wakes up.

    Oh, fucking hell. How're you so cute?

    "S-sorry, I fell asleep," she sleepily says and rubs her eyes.

    Is she blushing or is it the hot bath?

    I yawn and pat her head. "No need to apologize for that," I whisper gently.

    We quietly dress ourselves and go back to the inn to have dinner. She hugs my arm as we walk, then sits right beside me. I missed cute acts like this.

    Selina comes into the dining hall, and she sees us both. I instinctively freeze as if I was caught red-handed, and I clearly see her mouth move into an "ohoho~" kind of laugh, then she smiles and goes back to work.

    What was that…?

    I shake my head and stop thinking about it.

    I don't have the mind to think about it right now, and I don't even know what I want my relationship with Selina to be.

    Basking in a post-orgasm glow, we don't talk much and just enjoy our meal, then we go back to our room for round two.



    I lay down on the bed first and smile at her. She skips forward, then lays on top of me, and we start kissing.

    We spend long minutes just kissing while my hand slowly explores every centimeter of her body, then I finally reach between her legs and start moving the same way as before.

    Her tongue moves with a new thirst she hadn't shown yet, then she suddenly breaks it and motions to take my clothes off. I stop playing with her, and in a flash, we're both naked again.

    I suddenly grab her and switch positions, putting her below me. She looks at me in surprise and freezes from my sudden action, then I smirk, and she relaxes again.

    Sorry, I'm the one in charge for our first time.

    We immediately resume madly kissing, and I feel her down there. Lewd noises come out as her wetness sticks to my fingers.

    I untangle her from me and sit so that I can pull out my Ring of Fertility, which I promptly wear and turn on.

    I like this name.

    Then I pull out a towel, and put it below her because you never know. She just patiently waits for me, but her body fidgets with anxiety.

    I smile suggestively, and she spreads her legs for me, and her pussy lips part, showing their wetness to me.

    I look her in the eye and scooch closer so that the tip of my dick touches her lips. She stares intensely at it, then her tail starts wagging slowly.

    I whisper sultrily, "I'm putting it in, okay?"

    "Okay…" She responds shyly, her eyes glued to my cock.

    I like how she's straightforward and doesn't hesitate. I guess this is the result of her "training," which makes things so much easier.

    I control the sadism inside me and softly add, "If it hurts, tell me, please. We'll do it slowly."

    She nods, then I push my hips forward and I slide in. She's tight, so deliciously tight I almost grunt with pleasure.

    She lets out a faint moan, then I feel some resistance. I put a little more strength in it, and I get through.

    She makes a pained face, so I stop and apply [Regeneration] on her.

    "W-what? Magic?" She asks, completely surprised.

    I nod and caress her cheek. "Yes, I don't like seeing you feeling pain."

    She puckers her lips cutely, a little embarrassed. "Thank you. It's alright now."

    I feel her vagina relax, reducing the tightness just a little.

    I lean forward until I can feel her hot breath on my face, then I whisper sultrily, "Tell me if it hurts again. I can apply [Regeneration] for a long time."

    "Regen-... that's okay." She nods repeatedly and smiles.

    I push until I'm as deep as I can inside her, and we both moan, then I start moving my hips, and she doesn't complain about discomfort. It seems the spell did a little more than just healing and helped her vagina get comfortable with my thick cock spreading her small flower.

    I don't try to hold it in to last longer. It's her first time, I'm tired, and I just want to enjoy myself, so there's no pressure for me to perform.

    Alissa's cute moans gradually become voiceless as the pleasure builds up inside her. She starts writhing, then she closes her eyes and hugs me, digging her nails deep on my skin.

    I cast [Regeneration] again on her just to be sure, but she gets so consumed by the pleasure that she doesn't even notice it.

    She starts to move her body to impale herself harder on me. Her desperate thirst for cock is just delightful. I want to burn in my memory her cute, moaning face. I want a painting of it.

    She bites her lip, then she turns her head away and opens her mouth, letting her moans freely escape. Her pretty little red lips are so captivating that I feel like biting them.

    She opens her eyes, and her two pretty orange irises stare deeply into me, then she grabs my head, and we kiss wildly.

    You're my precious treasure.

    I don't last much longer and release it all inside her, then we let the embers in our hearts slowly cool down as we just stare at each other's eyes. Our hot and quickened breaths slow down, then we kiss one more time.



    Alissa conjures some water into a bucket to clean us both. Her finger turns into a faucet as a substantial trickle of water comes out of it. I guess this is what Ghulam meant when they said she's trained in "lifestyle" magic. She knows enough magic that it's useful in the day-to-day.

    I take a look at the towel and see a small drop of blood on it. She notices it a moment after and quickly snatches it to give it a wash.

    After she washes us both, we go back to hugging on the bed and sleep together naked.



    This time I don't have a nightmare. I just dream that I'm back on the bath, hugging her.



    Someone knocks on the door.

    "The breakfast is ready," I hear Selina's voice.

    I open my eyes and see Alissa's face. Her pretty orange eyes stare lovingly at me, then her ears twitch, and she smiles adorably. Cuteness, first thing in the morning.

    "Good morning, Master," she whispers, and I see her tail swaying from behind her.

    "Good morning…" I whisper back, then I cup her cheek, and she closes her eyes in delight from my touch. "Were you awake for long? You don't have to keep hugging me if you were uncomfortable."

    Her arms push me closer, and she pouts. "I wasn't uncomfortable. I've never slept like this before, but I enjoyed it a lot."

    I nod gently and caress her. "We'll always sleep like this from now on. I don't want to sleep alone ever again."

    She smiles and nuzzles her face on my chest. I want to close my eyes again and go to sleep like this, but hunger wins. We get up and start getting dressed, then I stretch and yawn happily.

    I slept like a baby. I didn't toss around my sleep, and my back doesn't hurt. It seems the best medicine for sleep is Alissa.

    I turn around to put on my pants, and she gasps.

    "Master, I'm sorry about this," she apologizes worriedly.

    I look at her and raise an eyebrow. "What?"

    "Your back is scratched," she mutters, then looks down, and her posture shrinks.

    I chuckle softly. At least whatever compels her to not "harm" me isn't that sensitive. Then I shake my head and reassure her, "That's proof that a man did his job, so don't worry about it."

    She nods, still worried, but lets it go.



    We happily eat our breakfast in silence, but I just want to stare at Alissa eating, though.

    Did they put extra spice? The soup tastes better today.

    Once she finishes it up, I say, "If you're hungry, it's okay to ask for more. If you get malnourished, your performance will fall."

    "Understood, Master," she responds with a happy nod.

    Good girl.

    "Also, are you okay?" I probe and watch her intensely. "Thinking of last night, are you uncomfortable or feeling pain somewhere?"

    Her ears stand up in attention and she shakes her head emphatically. "I'm fine. Your spells eased any pain I had. Thank you, Master."

    We smile at each other like two silly lovebirds and finish our meal.



    After breakfast, we go back to our room. I'm starting to feel like doing it again, but I need to take it easy with her. She was a virgin just yesterday, after all, and we also have to talk about something serious.

    We sit on the bed facing each other, and I assume a more serious tone as I ask, "Now, then. Can you open your own status window?"

    "Yes, Master," she diligently replies.

    I open my own "Status," and see that under "Affiliations," there's the entry: "Alissa (Blood Slave)."

    "Then tell me every-…" I stop mid-sentence.

    Ho-ho-ho, Christmas came early.

    There's a new button below all the other "menu" options I have, it's named "Followers."

    I click it.
    Info
    Name:AlissaAge:16RaceFox-Type Wereanimal
    HP:100MP:125Magic Power:24
    Level:24Experience:245/6500
    Stats
    Strength:11Endurance:18Dexterity:22
    Speed:20Intelligence:11Wisdom:12
    Willpower:16Charisma:10Piety:15
    Perception:17Sanity:15
    Other
    Status Effects:NONETitles:NONE
    Affiliations:Blood Slave (Owner: Wolf Ryder)
    Companions:NONE
    Crimes:NONE
    Damn, girl. Those are some high stats. I'm jealous.

    I also have the option to look at her skills and magic.
    AlissaSkill Report
    Physical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sword Use9Bow Use20Parry4
    Dodge2Sense Presence5Hide Presence3
    Enhanced Olfact5Enhanced Hearing3Pain Resistance2
    Hawk Eyes1Muscle Explosion1Quiet Steps3
    Quiet Action2Tracking 2
    Magical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sense Mana1Mana Control1Fire magic1
    Light Magic1Space Magic1Conjuring Magic1
    Miscellaneous
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Housework3Cooking2Cleaning2
    Washing 5Riding 2Oral Technique4
    Hand Technique2Fox Transformation (innate)4
    OBS: Level means (free point)+(trained point)
    Holy shit girl, you're strong.

    What the hell is [Muscle Explosion]? [Tracking] is a skill that goes up to level five, so I guess it's not a bad thing she's at level two. Miscellaneous skills like [Cooking], [Cleaning], and [Housework] go up to level ten, so she's not inexperienced in them. Oral and [Hand Technique] are clearly sexual. Also, now I know why she's so good at washing. And what's that (innate) skill? I never saw it on my skill list. And finally, I'm really worried about how she got that [Pain Resistance].

    Her magic is:
    Spells
    CleanSpirit Light (weak)Conjure WaterConjure Bland Meal (weak)FireballTelekinesis
    tem Box (weak)
    I guess that "(weak)" means she learned [Item Box], [Conjure Bland Meal], and [Spirit Light] even though she doesn't have enough skill points for it.

    I see she has four unassigned skill points, and I can edit them, just like I can do for myself. I can add and remove points, but I can't remove from trained skills, and I can't add to that (innate) one.

    Still… This. Is. Fucking. Amazing!

    "Master, what is it?" She innocently asks and tilts her head cutely. Heart damage.

    "Hmm…" I rub my chin in thought and tentatively ask, "Is it possible for someone to see someone else's status screen?"

    "You mean, like the Inspection Crystal?"

    "More like seeing someone else's screen like you see your own."

    "Huh…" She mumbles, and her ears flick. "Never heard of it. Only the Crystal should be able to look into someone's soul."

    "Well. Here's a secret you have to keep." -I smile excitedly- "I can see your status screen like it's my own."

    "Wha-wha-what?!" She stutters and stares at me incredulously.

    I shrug. "That's how it is. To prove it, let me tell you something personal: you have four skill points in [Oral Technique]," I teasingly say with a smirk.

    She gasps and her eyes widen, then she starts blushing heavily.

    I tease her further, "Tell me, how did you learn that skill?"

    "I-I didn't!" She suddenly exclaims and her arms twitch in exasperation, her tail goes stiff, and her voice cracks, seemingly about to cry. "I mean, it wasn't real… I swear! I-it's wood…! Please!" She's in a full-on panic.

    I grab her shoulder and look straight into her eyes. "Calm down! That's not what I meant."

    She freezes completely and starts to control herself again. "Y-yes… that's right… I'm sorry, I lost my temper, Master. I-I deserve punishment for this." She suddenly bows and keeps her head low.

    "You don't deserve punishment," I flatly respond, slightly annoyed at her behavior. I grab her shoulder and gently pull her straight, but she still keeps her head down.

    "Thank you, Master," she mutters.

    "Now, you said wood?" I ask, trying not to giggle.

    She raises her head and looks at me nervously, then her eyes shift about. "Y-yes… The Chieftess brought wooden penises for us to practice on. She showed me the act, and I copied it. It was so embarrassing…"

    I wonder how she'd feel if she had to show her skills during customs. Well, anyways… I at least have to give my thanks to this "Chieftess" for her thoughtfulness. Alissa's blowjob felt really good.

    I simply smirk at her, and she starts pouting from my teasing, then something dawns on her, and she asks, "But, Master, how are you doing it? I've never heard of such a skill."

    I awkwardly massage my neck and look away.

    I don't want to tell her the truth yet, and she doesn't need to know everything, so I'll just tell a small part of it.

    I turn to her and answer seriously, "It's only possible with you because you're my slave, but I can't tell you how I do it. Also, remember that this is a secret, so don't tell anyone."

    "Understood," she nods energetically. Even her nods have their own charm.

    Fuck, I'm way too crazy about her right now.

    I clear my head of these silly thoughts so I can focus on continuing the questioning. "Now, how did you learn [Item Box]?"

    She hesitates for a moment, then she responds unsurely, "I copied the Chieftess' mana manipulation until I was able to cast the spell." My questions may be confusing her, but she's not comfortable enough in asking what the fuck is wrong with me, yet.

    "Hm… let's start at the beginning. How is magic learned, in general?"

    She nods slowly, and her voice becomes even more hesitant. "It's common to start learning spells while one's still a child. In my case, I hugged the Chieftess while she practiced magic until I learned [Sense Mana], then I copied the feeling I had when hugging her until I learned [Mana Control]. After that, I trained to increase my mana pool until I had enough mana to use [Item Box], then, finally, I copied her mana manipulation until I was able to cast it. It went the same way for [Conjure Bland Meal] and [Spirit Light]. It's essential for a hunter to have those spells, so I trained more intensively than a normal child to learn them."

    Then I'll do the same thing with her until I learn those skills and spells. Possibly at night, before I abuse her body.

    I rub my chin in thought. "I see… Now, what is [Muscle Explosion]?"

    Her voice now becomes completely robotic. "It's a skill that lets me do a really strong or really fast movement for a split second. It's useful in avoiding a fatal strike that you can't avoid entirely."

    Oh? So that's how the Orc Headhunter might have been able to dodge the [Ice Lance] from Rania.

    "How did you get [Pain Resistance]?"

    "That's…" -She looks down worriedly and her ears go flat- "Please understand that I'm the one who insisted on it." If she wasn't talking in such a serious tone, I'd be squealing at her cuteness.

    I frown in confusion. "What…? What does it mean?"

    "I asked for the Chieftess to torture me."

    Wow.

    I let my eyebrows shoot up and stare at her very worriedly. "Uh… and why would you do that?"

    She straightens her posture, and her ears perk up, then she puts her hands on her lap in a lady-like way, and proudly declares with a practiced tone, "I'm supposed to be a tool. I'm to be used in combat or as a sex slave as you see fit, so I can't afford to fail because of pain. It would bring great shame to my clan if the soldiers they train can't reach the utmost of their potential due to such a simple weakness. The Chieftess was too soft, she didn't want to do it, but I insisted until she gave in, so please, don't think she's a bad person. It's just my duty to be strong."

    That's excessive. She really takes her duty seriously, but I'm starting to feel bad about her. That Chieftess also sounds like a mother, but I don't think I should ask her about that right now.

    I straighten my posture, too, and assume a more serious tone. "Well, again, I must say I'm sorry because I don't plan on putting you in any sort of situation that will require you to have that skill."

    She stays still for a few seconds, then lowers her head, bites her lip, and clenches her fist. After a few seconds of emotions building up, she leans forward and rests her head against my shoulder.

    The composure from before is completely gone as she softly whispers, "Thank you, for being so kind. I… am glad you bought me. I know it's my duty to be a tool, but I'm still glad you're my master."

    Even if she's brainwashed into wanting to fulfill her "duty," it doesn't change the fact that she'll feel better if she's treated like a human… werefox, I mean.

    I hug her and pat her head, then we stay like this for a while. This position is a little uncomfortable, so I turn her around and adjust myself so I can hug her from behind.

    My cheek rubs on hers, and I can clearly smell the perfume I bought for her. She slowly recovers from her emotional state, and I feel her cheeks burn against mine.

    After a while longer, her embarrassment subsides, so I continue, "What is [Fox Transformation]?"

    She turns her head to the side and sends me a subtle confused glance. Then she speaks and her breath tickles my neck, "It's the racial skill of all wereanimals. My type is fox, so I can turn into a large one, and I'm really proud of its size" -she smiles excitedly- "and since you're small, you can even ride on me."

    Argh, emotional damage. I'm conscious of being small and thin, but still, that's cool as fuck.

    "That's amazing, I really want to see that," I approve and give her a warm look.

    She smiles back, then faces forward and returns to our previous hugging position.

    "Master… do you allow me to ask one question?" She asks tentatively.

    I pat her head. "Yes, you may. You can ask anything you want, actually."

    I'll likely lie because I still don't want to explain everything to her. I also don't feel like talking about home because explaining my background might be really hard and not that important in the end. Creating a rather believable lie might even be useful in the future if I have to explain myself to others, so I can determine its believability by her reactions.

    She frowns slightly and her ears twitch cutely as she asks, "The questions you ask me are… odd. Forgive me for saying this, but why haven't you learned these things? Even a commoner's child would've learned from their parents a simple spell like [Clean]."

    I gently caress her head and calmly lie through my teeth, "Think of it like this: I'm a foreigner from a really, really far land. The common sense here is just way too different from the one in my homeland, so I've been trying to get the general sense for how things are done here to not stand out."

    Her ears perk up as it dawns on her. "Oh! I understand, Master, but how far is it that you never met another wereanimal?"

    I look away and think for a moment. "I'm… well, it's difficult to give you a sense of distance since even I don't know because I teleported here. My origin is another secret, so let's just say that I come from somewhere far and poor when asked. Also, it's okay to say I never told you its name."

    Her tail stops swaying as she mutters, "I see…" And I feel a hint of disappointment in her voice.

    Can't let the awkward atmosphere settle, so quickly I move on. "Next topic. Do you pray?"

    Her tail starts swaying again, and she answers earnestly, "Yes, I do. I pray to the God of War for glory in battle and the God of Endurance to allow me to fulfill my duty." -I'm not really surprised with her choice of gods- "Do the people of your homeland not know about the Humanoid Gods, Master?"

    "Correct. Which is why I think I should start praying to them, but how should I do it?"

    She tilts her head cutely and I pat her harder. "Hm… just ask for help? The gods may have lost their mortality and bonds with the land, but they still have their own personalities, their likes, and their dislikes. The God of War and the God of Endurance were simple men during their lives, so I just ask them for glory in battle and the power to keep standing after."

    I scratch my head as I think. "Do you like, hold your hands to pray or do some sort of ceremony, like, get on your knees? Do you give them offerings or something like that?"

    "There's no need. Praying is the way you tell them how you wish to be helped, and they're gods who focus on results, so they'll help you when you need and become happy when you succeed."

    How practical. I like these gods.

    I pat her head absentmindedly. "Hm… I'm thinking about praying for the God of the Sun, the Goddess of Growth, and the Goddess of Knowledge. What do you think?"

    She sends me a curious glance. "God of the Sun? I don't know why people would pray for him unless you're royalty."

    I smile wryly. "Yeah, well, I have my reasons."

    "Okay…" She mumbles, still a bit awkward with my ignorance. "Then the Goddess of Growth is a good one to pray to if you're training hard. She's also known to help the Goddess of Fertility and the Goddess of Plants."

    I guess the interpretation of "growth" is quite liberal, then.

    "But why the Goddess of Knowledge? Wouldn't the God of War be better for an adventurer?" She continues probing. Her curiosity has led her to forget her slave training, which pleases me greatly.

    "I'm actually more of a mage, so I want to improve my magic, and I also think knowledge should be helpful in understanding this place since I'm a foreigner." I smile wryly.

    Her ears twitch again and I almost squeal. "Oh! You're a mage who can use the sword? Ah, yes, you did use [Regeneration] on me last night. But that's amazing, Master!" She looks at me wide-eyed. That's enough praise, please. "Then I think the Goddess of Knowledge is a good choice. If we please the God of War enough, then he could bless you even if you don't pray to him."

    What a nice guy.

    "Then how should I pray for them?"

    I pat her head more intensely, and she closes her eyes for a moment to enjoy it before answering, "I don't know much about the God of the Sun, but maybe you should ask for a hard day's work? For the Goddess of Growth, you have to wish to improve with all your willpower; that's how the priest taught me. The Goddess of Knowledge is very fickle, so you should ask a scholar about it. From what I understood, you need to wish to seek knowledge without 'cloudy eyes' and to always write a book about what you know."

    "Cloudy eyes"? Is that bias? I guess I should talk to Ciel about it.

    I give her a little squeeze in appreciation. "That's all I had to ask. Do you have any questions about me?"

    She grabs my hand on her belly and also gives it an appreciative squeeze. "Not right now, Master."

    "Then let's form a fellowship."

    A fellowship of the rin-... nah. Anyway, it's like a game "party." It allows us to share experience and to always know the position of each other. The dungeoneering advice book said it's the first thing a group of people working together should do. Also, I feel like I don't want to ever break this fellowship with her.

    We interlace the fingers of our right hand with each other and recite the phrase in unison, "We swear to share our war and our soul and to always keep each other's company."

    On my menu screen, under "Companions," the entry "Alissa" appears. If I concentrate and think about her, I should be able to sense the direction and her distance from me. But since she's too close right now it doesn't work properly.

    I release her hand and crawl close to her. I caress her cheek as I say to her, "Let's go to the hunters' guild after lunch. Right now, I want to savor you." I suddenly hug her tightly and throw us onto the bed.

    "YAH!" She screams in surprise at the sudden attack.

    I kiss her deeply as my hand explores her body, then her tongue starts to respond.

    I've always considered myself the "clingy" type, and it was so bad that I'd hold myself back because I always wanted to touch and hug Lily whenever possible. I feel like Alissa won't say no to me, even if she doesn't want to cuddle, so I'll have to learn her limits with skinship, too, even though I don't want to.

    Shit, thinking about Lily makes me feel guilty, but I told myself I'd enjoy this world, dammit. I'll do whatever I want!

    The kissing escalates, and soon we're naked again.

    I lick her nipples, suck on them, pinch them lightly, worship them. This time, I take my time caressing her body until I make her wet without even touching her down there.

    I stop and stare at her with a grin. Her thighs rub against each other and she pants softly, getting out of breath already.

    "You want it?" I whisper in a husky tone.

    She doesn't answer, but she licks her lips.

    "Tell me what you want," I press her further.

    She looks at me with a mix of a pout and a shy look on her face. Her delicate whisper makes my cock twitch as she pleads, "P-please put it in, Master."

    If a phrase could be considered art, that would be it.

    This time she's more relaxed, so she's not so tight, and she doesn't make a pained face when I slide in.

    She keeps her eyes open, locked with mine, and we enter a trance as our bodies move on their own, fueled by the mad desire to fuck.

    I don't try to hold it in, and soon, I splurge all over her taut belly.

    I'll slowly increase the time I last to match her own sexual stamina. Doing too much and too hard might hurt her for now, so I have to ease her into the world of sex.

    After a quick wash, I hug her, and we doze off.



    I wake up feeling hungry. By the position of the sun, it's not even noon yet. I slowly detach myself from Alissa's body and get up, then she also gets up immediately after. She must've been sleeping lightly.

    This time, I have her teach me how to brush her hair and tail. I'm a little bit afraid of damaging her fur or hurting her, so I let her finish the job after learning the basics.

    We get up, and she cringes again at the new set of love marks she left on my back.

    We go downstairs, and I see something that melts my heart.

    "What is that… animal?" I point to the cute little creature.

    I see a forty centimeters tall cute little squirrel with a cute little apron and a cute miniature broom. It sweeps the floor of the inn while humming in a cute little voice and smiling cutely. It has a slightly oversized cute hand with rather long fingers that let it grip things easily.

    Alissa hums mirthfully and assumes a teaching tone as she educates me, "That's a nature spirit. They're souls of people who didn't want to leave the land, so they fused with the souls of nature and materialized like this. If you give it something it likes, it might help you. Also, it's a good omen to see an inn being able to make one happy…" -She squeezes my hand and lowers her voice- "But, Master, they're everywhere, how come you never saw one?"

    I scramble to search for another lie. "Erm… perhaps the souls in my homeland never linger long. I guess our priests are just good." I shrug.

    She gives a look of wonder. "I see, so it must be a place full of good Spirit mages, then."

    I grin and whisper, "Can I pet it?"

    Her expression becomes a bit pitying. "It'll just dematerialize if you try. You have to win its trust first."

    Awn… let's just move on and have lunch.



    Every so often, we find a minstrel on the streets, singing about something random. This seems to be a profitable job since most of them have quite a bit of coin in their tipping hats. Though, for me, they sound kinda bad. The instant translation inside my brain prevents me from enjoying the poetry, and the instruments they use, mostly lutes or harps, are rather crude.

    "Curious about the minstrels, Master?" Alissa asks, failing to hold back a slightly smug smile.

    I smile wryly. "Uh, yes. Seems profitable to sing on the streets."

    "Only because it's the month of Song. Because of the Festivals of Seasons, the temple encourages us to tip the singers."

    "Huh, curious…"

    Alissa smiles at my innocence.

    Money is short, so we buy a cheap meal with some Rabid Rabbit meat, then we go to the hunters' guild.

    I'll register Alissa because that gives the guild a paper trail that she's with me. This also marks that she's reliable so she can do business in my stead in the future.

    The attendant raises an eyebrow when she looks at Alissa's ID card.

    It's the sexual skills, right?

    I also register the fellowship. It's just a courtesy, but the guild likes it because they can better organize the hunters in times of crisis.

    For some reason, you have to name your fellowship. I think about naming it "Fellowship of the Ring," but I worry about copyright laws in this game, erm, world, so I try to think of something more appropriate.

    Alissa tilts her head in confusion and questions, "Master… why are you looking so serious? It's just a name isn't it?"

    No, little one, this is my banner, my heraldry, my legacy, my legend. I can't screw up and end up like I did with my new name where I feel uncomfortable when people call me Wolf Ryder. I need a strong name that instills pride when it's uttered.

    "You wouldn't understand," I wryly answer.

    Alissa gives me a troubled look while the female attendant shrugs. She has seen this scene more than once.

    Honestly, nothing feels appropriate, but it's not like people are going to laugh at this name, so I'll just pick a reference to something I like. I kind of like astronomy even though it's not my area, so I pick something in reference to that.

    "Helios," I write down the name. Maybe the God of the Sun will get the reference.

    The attendant takes the papers away, and under "Affiliations" on our status screen, the entry "Helios (fellowship)" appears.

    With that, we move towards the training grounds.



    I give her hand a gentle squeeze and state, "I want to see you train the sword and the bow a bit to get a feel for your strength. I also want to spend the afternoon here so that I can train my magic."

    Her ears point up and her tail sways faster as she gives me a slightly proud smile. "Understood, Master. I'm sure you won't be disappointed with my skills."

    We enter the grounds, and Toga's gaze immediately finds me.

    Nope, not today. I'll be training magic on my corner veeery far away from you.

    But first, I watch Alissa spar with an instructor, and thankfully, it isn't Toga. It's a much gentler man, but he's no less skilled.

    Alissa flows with the sword, making dodging and parrying seem effortless, then she smoothly weaves in attacks with blinding speed. She's truly fast, though the instructor is still faster.

    I'm actually curious why she's so good at dodging and parrying since her level in those skills are lower than mine. Perhaps it's the "Speed" and "Dexterity" that combine with the skill and work as some sort of multiplier, so she doesn't need a high skill to be effective.

    A few men stare at Alissa intensely.

    Shoo, go away, that one is mine. There are other women here that are also training, so go bother them.

    After a few minutes, I go to my corner and continue watching from afar. I ask the Goddess of Growth to help me increase my MP so I can always have mana to heal and support Alissa, then I start my [Fireball] routine.



    After an hour, Alissa switches to the bow and she quickly starts drawing a crowd with her archery skills. Her speed is comparable to the instructors, but her accuracy is unmatched. She's my own female Legolas.

    She looks ferocious as she fires arrow after arrow, her eyes staring towards her target like a hawk does to its prey. It's a complete reverse of how she is in bed, kind of the inverse of me.

    Alissa keeps taking my concentration away with her beauty and magnificence, so my training routine is sloppier than before. But it's okay since I enjoy watching her very much.

    When dusk starts to come, we go back to the inn and reserve another bath. I'm way too tired for anything, so we just cuddle and kiss in the hot water.

    After dinner, I ask her to use her mouth, and she happily gobbles it up, eager to show her skills.

    She gives me a constant and smooth pleasure, and I close my eyes to enjoy it to the fullest. This time, she understands my warning and doesn't choke.

    Then we sleep together while hugging each other again.



    I dream of Alissa shooting goblins while I laugh and drink tea.



    I wake up quite well-rested and get a deep kiss from her as a greeting. I think this should be a morning routine.

    My MP increased by 40 (now 255). That's kinda high since I didn't train very well yesterday, so could this be the result of prayer?

    I decide to look at the extermination requests at the hunters' guild. With Alissa's tracking, we can hunt for some of those juicy bounties.

    We walk along the streets with our arms entwined. She's a few centimeters taller than me, so it's a bit awkward at first until we get used to each other's rhythm.

    We enter the guild and start looking at requests, then I hear footsteps approach.

    "Hello! Are you Wolf Ryder?" A chipper and gruff male voice greets me. We turn around and see a short and wide man in full chainmail armor. He has black hair and droopy eyes that make him look like he's always thinking. "I'm Targua, from Honest Shield." He adds after a moment and gives us a diplomatic smile.

    "Uh… hi, hello, yes, I'm Ryder," I confusedly return the greeting.

    Another voice comes from further back in the guild, "Oi! don't listen to him, join my fellowship, instead!" A blonde and lanky man with a bow slung over his shoulder comes running and interjects. His face seems a bit roguish, and he sports a considerable nose.

    "What?" I mumble, dumbfounded.

    Stop, rewind, and start from the beginning this time.

    Targua facepalms and chides him, "Bug off, mate. I haven't even asked him yet and you just jump in the middle."

    The lanky man stops in front of me and gives me a business smile while extending his hand for a handshake. "I'm Simon, from Swift Wind. Pleasure to meetcha, yeah? How about you join my fellowship?" He quickly introduces himself and immediately announces his offer.

    Where did you two even come from?

    I hesitantly shake his large and rough hand, then Targua sends us a strained smile and continues, "Uh… sorry, but yeah, how about you join my fellowship instead?"

    I frown in confusion and sincerely ask, "Why are you guys asking me to join?"

    "No shit we're looking for you, mate," Simon grunts and snorts. "A magic swordsman who can kill and carry a Grey Berserker or an Orc Headhunter is no joke. And then yesterday, everyone at the training grounds was raving about your new companion who's a crazy pretty lass with an extremely deadly bow."

    His speech sounds weird. Is this the effect of the [Andraste Language] skill trying to translate casual slang?

    I look at Targua and he shrugs.

    The thing that annoys me is how they want us to join their fellowship. No, thanks.

    I shake my head and reject their offer, "Sorry, but I prefer to keep walking my own path for now."

    "Ehh. Really?" Simon frowns reprovingly, and I nod at him. "Well, that's a shame, mate. We could make a killing with you and the girl."

    I feel Alissa's grip tighten in subtle anger.

    Targua takes a step closer and clasps his hands in a subtle pleading gesture. "Is that so? Is there no room for negotiations? We could always search for a good deal that'd benefit both of us."

    I kind of like your attitude, but back off, you're too close to Alissa.

    I look at them sternly and stand my ground, "No, sorry. It's not a question about money, it's personal."

    Simon shrugs and makes a sour face. "Well, I tried," he mumbles and walks away.

    Targua gently nods in understanding and accepts, "Sorry to bother you, then. Be well Mr. Ryder" Then he also leaves.

    "I fully agree with your decision, Master," Alissa whispers while sending a mean gaze to the two men walking away. "Those men would exploit you. It's almost always what happens when getting scouted by veterans. Fellowships are bonds made of trust, and those which are made of money are weak."

    How romantic.

    I nod in agreement, then we turn back and continue searching for a request.

    There's a good one. It's a bounty for an Oodogloo which was found yesterday. This monster is a threat level three. It's a large, transparent slime with a human skeleton inside. Because it can walk with the skeleton, it's faster than normal crawling slimes that move like caterpillars or worms. It should have a distinctive ammonia scent, so it's easy to track with Alissa's nose, but it's a very annoying enemy to catch because it runs away from everything and preys on livestock. It was last found half a day away northwest from here, at the farms past Royd's Kerfuffle.

    Alissa follows my eyes and sees the request I'm interested in. "I can take you there on my fox form," she suggests.

    Oh, yes.

    I smirk and reply, "Want to go there right now?"

    She smiles brightly and her tail sways. "Yes! I want to test my bow. The Oodogloo is good for target practice because it's so nimble."

    "Then let's go."

    I want to go not because I'm excited to fight, but because I want a reason to ride Alissa. We already have all the requirements for sleeping outside, so we're completely ready.



    We pass through customs with ease since we're both adventurers.

    A few meters away from the crowd trying to enter the town, Alissa turns to me and excitedly says, "I'm skilled enough to absorb my clothes after transforming, but you'll have to hold my weapons, Master."

    I hold them for her, and she turns around.

    Here comes the trademark of magic in this world: she starts to shine. Her skin turns black, and her armor disappears inside her body, then orange fur starts to grow everywhere and her limbs warp. In just a couple of seconds, she turns into a one-meter tall orange fox.

    Her big orange eyes look at me, then she opens her mouth and talks, but her jaw doesn't move, "Master, get on me, please." Seeing her speak like this is really weird.

    "Uhh… shouldn't we get a saddle?" I question.

    "There's no need; just grab my fur. This form is made of mana, so I don't feel pain."

    I shrug. "If you say so."

    I awkwardly mount her and delight myself with her incredibly soft and warm fur. I immediately notice that a big part of her body is pure fluffy fur and that she isn't very muscular.

    I nuzzle up to her neck and secure myself.

    Once I'm comfortable, she starts walking forward and explains, "I'll increase speed slowly, so tell me if it shakes too much."

    "Alright, let's go."

    Then she starts running, and I start to feel weird from the rhythmic swaying. She's fast, though, so it's really advantageous for us to move this way. I've never ridden a horse, so I need some time to learn how to deal with this.

    During the trip, I keep thinking about what to do with her skill points. She has six free points that I can assign, and that's kind of a lot.

    It's going to be hard to explain this ability to her, though. I can just use the "it's a secret" excuse, but this is kind of a big and weird secret because it seemingly violates the laws of the skill system. She could even think I'm a demi-god, or something, and I'm not comfortable with that.

    I think I'll lie to her, again. I'll look into the skill she wants to improve the most and slowly put those points there. It's just the less messy way, I believe.

    Well, I could just do whatever I want and shrug if she notices something wrong. It's not like she's going to assume I'm the one doing it. But I'll tell her the truth, one day… just not now.

    To test things, I put one point in [Enhanced Stamina].



    The landscape remains the same all the way: long plantations on one side of the road, and a small wall on the other with the Sea of Trees behind it. It's a rather calming trip through a soothing scenery.

    It takes us less than half the time to walk there, and we reach our target location a few hours before midday. We stop in front of the farm that was attacked, Woodwick Ranch.

    Alissa slows down and stops under the shade of a tree by the road, then I drop down, and she reverses the transformation. She graciously gets up from being on her fours and looks at me, then I notice her posture seems a little droopy from tiredness.

    I sit down on the roots and pull out the old sleeping bag beside me. I return her weapons to her, then she ties the sword and quiver to her waist and slings her bow over her shoulder.

    "Lay down here, please," I ask and pat the bag.

    "Thank you, Master," she diligently obeys.

    She's so polite. She's always thanking me, but it does make me a bit uncomfortable, though.

    "This is odd, I'm not as tired as I thought I'd be," she remarks and lays down.

    So she noticed.

    I pat her head, then she closes her eyes, and her tail twitches under her.

    "Is that so? Didn't you miscalculate the distance? Or perhaps just by sleeping with me you got stronger?" I suggest with a grin.

    She opens her eyes in surprise and stares at me.

    "That was a joke, my body is no miracle drug," I add flatly and snort.

    She awkwardly looks away for a moment. "Y-yes. That's not what I was thinking, though."

    "Then what were you thinking?"

    "It's what you said about being happy increases performance. It could be true."

    So she's actually happy, now? I'm glad.

    "Well, I wasn't lying," I tease her with a pout.

    Her face warps with fear. "I'm sorry! That wasn't what I meant. I wanted to say that I just noticed it for the first time."

    I chuckle at her, and she immediately pouts at my teasing. "It's okay, I understand," I whisper and pat her head faster.

    She calms down and closes her eyes again.



    She gets up after a good half-hour, fully recovered from our trip.

    "Oh? I got a new skill, [Enhanced Stamina]," she observes and knits her eyebrows in confusion.

    I hold back my grin and respond, "That's great. It means you can stay longer in your fox form right?"

    "Yes, precisely," she mumbles with a puzzled face.

    "Something wrong?"

    Her tail lazily sways. "It's just that it was too easy. Like 'Endurance,' these sort of skills are hard to come by."

    "Maybe you put more effort than you thought. I think you're a serious and hard worker, so this isn't unexpected for me." I give her shoulder an assuring squeeze.

    She shrinks her posture, feeling a bit shy, but her tail starts wagging.

    "Perhaps…" And her voice trails off while she looks into the distance.

    Now that she has a better [Sense Presence] than me, I decide to remove it along with [Mental Resistance] since there's no need for it here. I increase [Blessing Magic] to level ten so I can use [Swift Foot] to give us a boost in speed. I increase [Electric Magic] to five and [Mana Control] to one so I can use [Lightning Bolt] more effectively to stun the Oodogloo because it's likely to run away.

    My skills look like this:



    Wolf RyderSkill Report
    Physical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sword Use6+2Dodge2+4Parry1+4
    Block2+4Shield Bash0+1
    Magical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Mana Efficiency3+0Mana Recovery3+0Reduced Mana Cost3+0
    Mana Control1+0Electric Magic5+0Nature Magic5+0
    Blessing Magic10+0
    Miscellaneous
    Skill NameLevel
    Andraste Language10+0Dismantling0+1
    OBS: Level means (free point)+(trained point)
    Now I need to explain my skills to Alissa, it's time to lie… again.

    "Alissa, strategy meeting. Time to tell you another secret," I call her attention, and she sits down again obediently. I clear my throat and continue, "I have a power that basically allows me to use all kinds of magic, but it takes time to switch between magic types, and I'm not exactly proficient in any of them."

    "Wow… that's amazing, Master," she innocently coos in wonder. "So, you're actually a genius magician."

    Not true, but it's convenient that you think like this, so I won't tell you otherwise.

    I awkwardly massage my neck. "Well, err… perhaps it is so. I just know it's something I'm capable of. But like I said, I'm not very proficient in magic in general. I'm a jack-of-all-trades, master of none."

    "'Jack-of-all-trades'?" She tilts her head. Her confused face is adorable.

    "An expression from my homeland, it means 'a person who can do anything,' but I'm not particularly good in any of them, therefore, I'm a 'master of none.'"

    "I see…" She nods in understanding.

    "Then, for this hunt, I'm going to use [Blessing Magic] and [Electric Magic]. I'll give us [Swift Foot], and when we meet the monster, I'll use [Lightning Bolt] to try to stun it. You just turn it into a pincushion."

    "Pin… cushion. Ah, with the arrows. Another reference, I think." She looks puzzled, then smiles faintly once she gets it.

    The pincushion isn't a thing yet?

    "Ready?" I ask.

    She gets up and hums confidently, "Yes, let's start looking for the monster."

    Since Alissa has [Sense Presence] and the bow, she'll be basically assassinating every monster while I kind of do nothing until the battle, but there's no way around it, that's how trackers work.

    Still, we're going to search the Sea of Trees during the day, so we could meet something that won't go down so easily. That's when I'll have to protect Alissa from getting into melee.

    I cast [Swift Foot] on both of us, and two-thirds of my mana disappear.



    We'll search the Sea of Trees for the Oodoogloo during the day while it sleeps, then we'll return to the farm to protect the livestock when the night falls.

    This monster is the annoying kind that preys on large animals, but it isn't smart, just cowardly. It attacks the farms at random, so finding it before it leaves its nest is a better option than waiting for the night to come.

    I bought a small compass, which will help with navigation, but we're basically going to wander around until Alissa catches its trail. If a farm gets attacked tonight, then it might leave tracks for us to follow, but the reward will drop a bit if it kills anything, so we don't want to rely on that.

    As we make our way into the Sea of Trees, a familiar scenery appears before me: huge trees, damp air, dark atmosphere, unfamiliar fruits, gigantic entwining roots, hanging vines everywhere, and random patches of weirdly colored trees. I'm surprised there aren't more insects here considering how warm and wet this place is. Thank god for the Japanese devs who must hate bugs.

    I lead the way with the compass, and we go directly west, deep into the forest.



    After half an hour of walking, Alissa stops me. "Something is coming. Two small monsters," she whispers soberly.

    We hide and wait for them to get into visual range, then Alissa ID's them: two lightly armored goblins. They have leather jackets, loincloths, a stone-tipped spear, and a crude wooden shield.

    I give the order, "Fire at will. I'll block the second one if it reaches us."

    She nods vigorously. "Understood." Then she gets up and fires two quick arrows.

    Both goblins silently die with an arrow between their eyes before they can even react.

    "Well…" I shrug and smile wryly.

    I collect their ears and return to her.

    "Likely scouts. There could be a small group camping nearby," Alissa guesses.

    "Let's not get close to their camp."

    "Understood."

    Her demeanor has become as serious as when she was training, and I guess it's because she's fulfilling her "duty."

    We move west again, and only a few minutes later, we have our second encounter. This time, there are three enemies coming, fast.

    Alissa doesn't recognize what they are, and she doesn't believe they've detected us, but our paths are going to cross, and they're too close to safely avoid.

    I decide to ambush them, so I'll get the one on the right, and Alissa will try to quickly kill the two on the left.

    We patiently wait for them to approach, and I start to hear the pitter-patter of multiple small feet scurrying closer to us.

    Alissa gives me the signal, then we spring out of our hiding spot and attack. Our enemies are three Mossy Fangpines.

    I immediately cast [Lightning Bolt] at the first Fangpine, and the second receives an arrow on its head. A second arrow immediately flies towards the third Fangpine, but it's way too agile and manages to dodge, then it charges towards us.

    I cast another [Lightning Bolt] at the stunned Fangpine, then an arrow sinks into its forehead and it dies.

    I prepare myself to receive the charging monster. With my sword hiding behind my shield, I wait until the last moment, then I thrust.

    The Fangpine is stupid and jumps into my sword, which sinks into its body, then it falls on my shield and I nearly lose my footing.

    It starts to wriggle wildly, so I cast a [Lightning Bolt] with my shield hand right at its face and it goes limp, then I use my shield to push it off from my sword.

    It falls on the ground with a thud, but it doesn't get up.

    "Dead. You must've pierced its heart," Alissa comments.

    "Lucky strike, I guess," I respond nervously.

    "Perhaps… you could use a spear?" She suggests tentatively.

    I scratch my head. "Perhaps… I feel a bit more comfortable with the sword, though."

    She gives me a rather pitying look. "Your sword has a small reach, and I don't think you have the 'Strength' to use anything bigger."

    I feel like pouting, but I hold it back.

    I'm working on it.

    The Fangpines are valuable, but their price varies depending on the stocks of ingredients for the alchemists or meat for the restaurants. So far, I haven't seen their meat being sold, so maybe the stocks are low.

    "They must've sensed the goblins' deaths," Alissa speculates.

    "Then let's change our direction. Let's move towards the north a little."

    I collect all of their bodies and we move on.



    There are no encounters for another hour, so we decide to have lunch early.

    I spread a large cloth over the ground, and we sit down on it.

    Our meal is a bean paste and Rabid Rabbit meat sandwich on a not-baguette. Unfortunately, the crust is not as crunchy as I'd like, but at least it doesn't make a mess. I forgot to buy fruit for juice or to even bring tea, so the meal is kind of boring.

    "Next time, we should buy tea," I mutter.

    Her ears twitch and her tail wags. "Oh? You like tea? You didn't tell me."

    I smile awkwardly. "I forgot…"

    My mind was too busy with abusing your body.



    After our meal, I cast [Wind Armor] on both of us and [Sharp Blades] on myself. After the next break, I'll cast [Sharp Blades] on her. It's kind of annoying that I don't have enough MP to cast all my [Blessing Magic] in one go, but that can only be solved with more training.

    We get up and move southwest since there's not much sense in going north too far. The Oodogloo nests deep in the forest during the day, but it's not smart enough to move diagonally to purposely avoid those chasing him.

    We walk for another half hour before Alissa detects the next enemy.

    "This one is large. I don't think it's a Grey Berserker, but I don't know what it is," she reports.

    "Then let's observe."

    Alissa leads ten meters in front because I don't have [Quiet Steps].

    She makes the signal for me to stop, then sneaks ahead, circling a large root. She sights our target, then comes back to report.

    "It's a Young Ogre."

    A threat level 4 monster. It's capable of wiping a squad of soldiers, but we should be able to deal with him if we follow proper tactics. A simple plan is the most powerful power multiplier.

    They're becoming a common sight after the culling, it seems, and this must be why their leather is cheap. The new monster is emigrating into the empty territory. They'll likely remain a common encounter until the next culling.

    I store my shield inside my "Items" and give up on using a spear. Neither of these will be useful in this fight.

    "Standard formation. For your first arrow, aim for the eye," I order, and she nods in acknowledgment.

    Our "standard formation" is her being the damage dealer while I'm the bait and controller. She'll fire the first arrow, then I'll cast [Lightning Bolt] repeatedly and keep it busy while she aims for the vitals.

    She sneaks towards it again without making a single sound, then she draws her bow and releases.

    "UGOOOOH!" The ogre's scream makes the trees tremble. If this is a young one, then the adult will cause an earthquake.

    It rushes from behind the root with an arrow sticking out of its right eye. I observe it and wait until it gets into range.

    The ogre is a two meters tall red-brown skinned humanoid with ridiculously thick arms, legs, and a six-pack that makes bodybuilders jealous. He's bald and his face is round, flat, and deformed, making him look like a cartoon character that hit a wall.

    He's especially resistant against blunt force attacks, but his vulnerability is slashing and bleeding to death. His body is very thick, so he's not fast or dexterous. For me, the best strategy is to just avoid him and counterattack by slashing whenever an opening appears.

    Alissa runs past me and stops a few dozen meters away, then carefully aims her arrows. Even for proto-Legolas, she can't hit the eyes of a moving target, so she's aiming for the neck. The other vulnerable spot would be the groin, but I'm in the way, so the neck it is.

    I try to ignore it, but it's impossible, he's way too tall. The worst thing about this monster is that it's naked. A long, dangling, disgusting thing sways threateningly almost at eye-level as it comes towards me. Fuck this world.

    With [Mana Control], I can put a little more or less mana into the spell and control the discharge for a second or two, so I charge up the stronger version of [Lightning Bolt] while wrinkling my nose in disgust.

    I release it, and the Ogre grunts, then decrease his speed a little. It's subtle, but I noticed that the bolt is stronger.

    I cast it again, and his speed reduces even more, falling to more manageable levels.

    Because of my spells, he ignores Alissa, and focuses solely on me. He gets into melee range and tries to kick, but I jump sideways and slash his leg, drawing blood.

    He growls, then tries to do a sweep with his arm. I duck, and an arrow appears on his neck.

    Another kick with the other leg, another dodge and a slash.

    He tries to smash downwards with both hands held together, and this time, I dodge further away to get out of counterattack range.

    Once his hands hit the ground, a second arrow appears next to the first.

    I dash towards his blind eye, and he loses sight of me for a second. That's enough of an opening, so I charge forward and slash his flank.

    I immediately run away, and he sluggishly turns towards me.

    I realize this is not a good position for Alissa since the back of his neck and head are more protected than the front due to his spinal bones and thick skull. Ogres are built like tanks, it seems.

    I stop and let him approach, then he tries to do an arm sweep again. Since I'm further away this time, I easily dodge and counter with a horizontal sweeping slash.

    My sword sinks into his left forearm, opening a huge wound, but it's almost ripped from my hand as he yanks his arm away. I'm not sure I should do this again.

    He growls even harder, and now things might amp up in difficulty. Like the Grey Berserker, he becomes faster the angrier he gets.

    I circle him to give Alissa a good angle again. He remains in place while sluggishly turning, then a third arrow appears on his neck, and a considerable trickle of blood starts to seep from his wounds.

    I cast Bolt again, and he twitches in pain. It's enough of an opening for a fourth arrow.

    "UGOO-BLEH!" He tries to shout while punching but coughs.

    His punch comes too slow and sloppy, so he gets another deep cut on his other arm. The blood starts pouring faster than the other wounds, so perhaps I cut a large vein or something?

    I need lessons in anatomy.

    He protects his neck with his right arm and glares at me hatefully.

    It's kind of late now, you dumbass.

    Alissa can't act, but now his actions are more limited.

    He sweeps with his arm, using the back of his hand, and it creates a huge opening. I jump forward and cut near his armpit, drawing a spurt of blood.

    He kicks me in response, but the angle is awkward for him. I twist my body and block with my sword. The force of his kick nearly makes me trip, but I jump backward and recover.

    He becomes cautious and stops attacking.

    I cut his leg once and start to circle him.

    After a few laps, he sways slightly, seemingly becoming dizzy. I must've cut something important, so I'll just wait for now.

    After a minute or so, his skin gets covered with vibrant blood. His punching arm slows down to a laughable speed, and his kicks completely lose accuracy. His body starts to sway heavily, and he becomes out of breath.

    Then he finally falls on his ass. He's near death, but his eyes still spell anger instead of fear.

    An arrow pokes his last eye.

    "Ugooo…!" He lets out a weak scream.

    I jump forward and slash his neck where his thick fingers aren't covering. A large amount of blood pours, and then he falls on his back.

    We wait another minute in silence.

    "He's dead," Alissa finally announces.

    That was fucking brutal.

    As the adrenaline runs out, I start to get very anguished at the sight in front of my eyes. I clean my blade and quickly put his body on my "Items," Then I look away from the large pool of blood.

    "Let's move, quickly," I order, and we jog away from here.



    "Master, we shouldn't encounter anything this far…" Alissa points out, and I stop. She walks closer to me and lands a hand on my shoulder. "May I ask you a question?" She requests soberly.

    I turn around to face her and reply hesitantly, "Y-yes, what is it?"

    Her serious gaze turns to concern and worry. "Are you okay? Your expression changed, and your face is much darker now."

    I look away from her and stay silent.

    "Are you tired? Let's rest," she tries to comfort me.

    "No, it's… not that…" I mumble tiredly.

    "Then what is it?"

    "I just..." I sigh and frown. I just don't want to admit this, but I also don't feel like forcing her to stop probing my feelings. "I feel bad about the ogre we killed."

    "What?" She asks with a deliberate gentle tone to not hurt my feelings.

    "He looked too human, and I didn't want to make him suffer."

    "But he was a monster."

    "Still…" Another sigh escapes me. I didn't want to say it like this, but I have to now. I face her and confess, "My homeland was too peaceful, so I didn't have to fight there. I'm not used to seeing so much blood, to hear the death cries of things, of… living beings that look so human. It makes me feel sick and guilty."

    She stays silent as she reflects deeply on my words, but her gaze is still gentle and reassuring.

    After a few moments, she suddenly pulls me into a hug and whispers into my ear, "That's okay, Master. Forgive me for saying this, but I'll selfishly ask for you to continue being the way you are even if it makes you suffer. I think that the realm needs people like you, someone with a truly kind and merciful heart. I'll support you, I'll help you, I'll heal you, and I'll give you my all just so you can continue being like this."

    That was completely unexpected, and I don't know how to answer, so I just remain still.

    Aren't you naive? How long have you known me? It's been just a few days. No matter how close we are, or if we had sex or not, it's just not enough time for you to say things like that.

    But still… I want to believe this. I tried to throw away what held me back, but some things are harder than others. I needed someone to support and love me, so I changed, but now I want to keep this part of my humanity.

    I want to believe that she's right… No, I will believe in her.

    I hug her back and rest my head against her shoulder. I must not cry.



    After a few minutes, I start to feel better and awkwardly break the hug. She lets me go with a slightly smug but still adorable smile.

    I clear my throat and propose, "Let's go back. It's still early, but we should take another less direct route, so it'll take more time."

    "Understood. Please rely on me more, Master," she obediently responds, then clenches her fist over her chest.

    I nod and smile.



    We move southeast with a gentle jog.

    [Swift Foot] is a really nice spell. It lets us walk almost effortlessly, so we can maintain this pace for a long time. Even in this forest full of roots and bushes, we quickly cross the obstacles without any problem.

    Then Alissa gets another hit.

    "Four goblins," she reports.

    I knit my eyebrows in worry. "Hmm… they're increasing in number."

    "Perhaps there's a nest nearby?" She supposes again.

    "Let's observe them."

    We get closer so we reach visual range, and we see four fully armored goblins. Two use spears, and two use swords, but all have shields.

    I don't feel comfortable using a spear against shields while outnumbered…

    They seem very aware of their surroundings, but since we're hidden in the bushes, they can't detect us. They cautiously explore forward at a very slow pace.

    "They look awfully intelligent," I comment.

    Are they searching for something?

    "You think you can kill two if we ambush?" I whisper.

    She matches my volume, "Unlikely; they're alert for something. One is guaranteed, the other I'm not so sure."

    "We'll sync our attacks. You kill the one on the right, and I use a Bolt on the one on the left. It might stun it long enough for you to fire another arrow."

    "I'll use [Muscle Explosion], but I can't use it repeatedly."

    "It's alright. I'll be bait, and once the first strike is launched, you sneak around them until you have a shot. When I remove my hand from your shoulder, we attack."

    She responds with a steady and unwavering voice, "Understood."

    I charge the spell, then I get up and let it loose as I take my hand off her shoulder, and the forest resounds with the roar of the thunder.

    The first goblin doesn't even react, it gets hit by lightning and its body locks in place for a moment, then the other goblin falls with an arrow through its temple.

    The stunned goblin raises its shield to defend itself, then the brim touches the shaft of the arrow stuck through its face. It's already dead.

    The two sword goblins hide behind their shields. They're teardrop-shaped and taller than mine, and with a goblin's small stature, they can easily cover their entire bodies with it.

    I get in the open and wait for the goblins to come, then Alissa starts sneaking around them.

    Since they're not charging forward, I have time to cast [Lightning Bolt] again. The left goblin twitches and groans, but it doesn't fall. It's likely that the shield reduced the damage to its body.

    Suddenly, the right goblin falls with an arrow poking out of its forehead. The last goblin notices it, then turns towards where the arrow came from. That's enough of a distraction; I charge forward.

    I thrust towards the goblin, but it suddenly reacts and blocks, then counters. Our shields and swords get tangled in a messy battle, but we're both too cautious to score a hit on the other.

    It growls and gets into a rage, then wildly tries to stab me.

    Its ferocity gives me pause, and I fight defensively, but I keep it occupied so it doesn't notice Alissa.

    The goblin is smaller than me, so when it foolishly decides to hide its eyes behind the shield to dodge my attack, I follow with a kick, and it staggers backward.

    Its eyes lock with mine, then an arrow sinks into its temple. It winces for a second, then it goes limp and falls down.

    Alissa comes back, and we inspect the bodies.

    They may be armored, but it's all shitty, old, and tattered. The weapons must've been pillaged from some adventurers because they look relatively new, so they might be worth something. I grab the weapons and shields, then I cut the ears from the goblins and move towards Alissa.

    "Honestly, we make a pretty good team," I happily comment.

    She smiles faintly, but she sends me a worried look. "I'd prefer it if you weren't used as bait. We need another companion to act as the front line, Master. Preferably a spearman."

    "Yeah, well…" I shrug.

    She's not wrong. I don't really have the stats to be front line, it's just that I don't have the money. I used it all on her and her equipment, but I don't regret it, though.



    We keep moving forward and meet two other duos of goblins. The first duo one isn't alert, so Alissa kills them both with ease, but the second one is, and it takes a bit more effort. By that I mean I shoot lightning twice, stunning them long enough for Alissa to finish the job.

    If you don't have a shield, you're fucked against Alissa.

    Then we meet a group of four Mossy Fangpines. They aren't coming directly towards us, so this means that the anti-odor powder is working. But perhaps they're searching for the trail of blood we're leaving behind us?

    Killing monsters attracts more monsters, so being a good hunter takes a lot more than just winning the battle. You also have to survive the following encounters.

    I start debating whether or not to fight them when Alissa gets another hit: another two-meters tall Young Ogre.

    "Now, we wait. They aren't going to get too close to us, right?" I question.

    She nods and agrees, "Yes, we'll be safe if we wait here. No need to endanger ourselves unnecessarily."

    The two monsters end up meeting, and something interesting happens: the Fangpines attack the Ogre. We decide to move a bit closer so we can see.

    With his back against a huge tree, a red-brown ogre swings his arm around while fast and small monsters dash all around him.

    "Wow, can they really kill him?" I wonder.

    Alissa whispers in a teaching tone, "If they can avoid getting crushed, they can certainly poison him slowly until he dies."

    "Hm…" I rub my chin in thought as a dirty idea enters my mind. "Let's third-party this fight."

    "'Third-party'?"

    I scratch my head awkwardly. "Erm… Let's wait until the ogre is almost dead, then we jump in and kill the Fangpines."

    Alissa nods, content. "Oh, I see. Yes, that sounds like a good idea."

    "I want the Experience more than anything, so we need to be near the Ogre when it dies by the Fangpines."

    Her expression instantly turns serious. "I see. Once he starts to move slower, we should get closer and prepare for the ambush. I'll warn you once his movement pattern changes."

    "Alright," I agree and nod. Alissa has better eyesight, so she'll be able to notice this detail easily.

    The fight takes a while. The Ogre gets bitten multiple times, but he just can't catch the Fangpines as they're smart enough to let go before they're crushed. I see the ogre growing hair all over its body. It's stiff, slightly green hair, the spikes from the Fangpines.

    The fight could be said to be entertaining if I was into blood sports. The orc is surrounded, and the Fangpines maintain a continuous attack towards his blind spots. The small monsters get plenty of close calls, but none of them get hit even once, a testament to their nimbleness.

    The ogre stops trying to punch and kick them, then he tries to grab their heads when they come for a bite.

    "The Fangpines are salivating, I think they're starving," Alissa comments.

    Makes sense. The culling removed food sources, and the ogres are the ones who are moving in, so they became the new targets of the predators here. Though a huge monster like an ogre becoming "prey" seems "wrong," somehow.

    Suddenly, the Ogre stomps behind him, and the head of a Fangpine becomes mush.

    "Oh!" Alissa whispers in surprise.

    The Ogre managed to predict the attack, but I think it was pure luck.

    "The rest of the body is still valuable, so it's a good thing that it was only the head," I remark.

    It takes around ten minutes, but the Ogre's movements finally start to slow down.

    "It's time," Alissa reports.

    We sneak forward, and I manage to catch a better view of the battle. I can finally see the Fangpines, and they're all out of breath and salivating.

    Just how much saliva can they produce?

    "You take the one on the right, and I'll stun the one on the left. Same thing, hand on shoulder," I order, and she nods obediently.

    The ogre falls to his knees, then I charge my spell, get up, and take my hand off her shoulder.

    Thunder roars through the forest again, then a Fangpine rolls on the ground as smoke comes out of his body, and another dies with an arrow through its eye. The last one turns around and charges towards me without hesitation.

    Really vicious, these pieces of shit.

    The monster jumps towards me, and I skewer it with my crude goblin spear. The body falls heavily on me, but I can deal with it, just barely.

    With a grunt of effort, I throw the spear, and it falls a few meters away. While it writhes in agony, an arrow sinks into its throat.

    It screams like a wounded dog and writhes, then I draw my sword and dash forward.

    The zapped Fangpine weakly gets up, then an arrow ends its life.

    I kneel and stab down, and my sword sinks into the Fangpine's head, ending its life.

    I immediately get up and dislodge my sword, then I turn around and see that the ogre is still on his knees, but his eyes can barely maintain focus.

    "Ugoo~..." He lets out a faint moan.

    I dash and slash his neck. He doesn't even resist, and I open a deep wound that lets a stream of blood pour out.

    He falls on his back, then he dies after a minute.

    "You're now level 11."

    I collect the ogre and Fangpines.

    "I leveled up," I dryly say.

    Alissa grabs my hand and reassures me, "That's good. Our plan was perfect."

    "Indeed," I whisper and smile, trying to remove the image of the dying ogre from my mind. "Let's move. I have something to think about, so I'll just follow you."

    "Understood, Master," she obediently responds and takes the lead.



    My skills are like this now:

    Wolf RyderSkill Report
    Physical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sword Use6+2Dodge2+4Parry1+4
    Block2+4Shield Bash0+1
    Magical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Mana Efficiency4+0Mana Recovery3+0Reduced Mana Cost3+0
    Mana Control4+0Electric Magic5+0Nature Magic5+0
    Blessing Magic10+0
    Miscellaneous
    Skill NameLevel
    Andraste Language10+0Dismantling0+1
    OBS: Level means (free point)+(trained point)
    The next level, I'm increasing my melee skills. Possibly [Block] and [Sword Use].

    We're past half the way back, so we turn towards the north-east. We're likely to exit the forest near our point of entry this way.

    The trees slowly thin out, and no more encounters are found, then we exit the forest.

    "I think we're a few minutes south of the farm," Alissa estimates.

    "Yeah, let's just go north along the road."

    "Want to ride me again?" Alissa suggests with an innocent smile.

    "No man will ever say no to that," I reply and smirk mischievously.

    She takes a moment to understand, then she starts blushing. "What…? Ah, M-Master!"

    I shrug. "You set yourself up, don't blame me for easy pickings."

    She whimpers softly and pouts.

    "Let's go," she mumbles embarrassedly and transforms into a fox.



    The farms are surprisingly orderly, so there's always a sign telling their names, and a road leading to the manor, making it easy to find the house of our employers.

    We find the sign for the Woodwick Ranch, then Alissa enters the trail towards the manor. It's made of packed dirt, so Alissa kicks up some dust.

    The large golden plantations of something similar to wheat pass by our sides in a blur as Alissa dashes down the road. Moments like these remind me of road trips, making me feel nostalgic.

    After a few minutes, we reach the manor. The plantation opens up, and I see a large blue and purple three-story house. It's timber-framed with purple beams and blue stone, which is a rather odd choice of color. The stones and the logs aren't painted, so perhaps they're found in the valley north of here.

    A large grass garden surrounds the house, and I see a not-apple tree with a swing and a clothesline at the front; far behind the house, there's an enclosure where the livestock grazes; like a golden wall, the plantations surround all sides of this open field.

    We make our way towards the porch, where a pale old man in simple clothes is dozing off.

    He hears Alissa's footsteps, and opens his eyes, then jumps out of his cushioned chair from the odd sight of a large fox being ridden by a young boy quickly approaching.

    "Oooh! Oh…? OH!" The man lets out multiple sounds as his brain processes what his eyes see. "YOU BE THE HIRED HUNTERS!?" He yells excitedly.

    Why yell? We are coming, so just wait for us to get near.

    Alissa slows down near the porch, then I dismount.

    I clear my throat and serenely greet him, "Yes, we're the Helios fellowship."

    The guild has a variety of ways of contacting people when someone accepts a request. Like magic stones, spirit messaging, telepathy, summons, and many others. Depends on the price paid.

    Our employers chose a homing carrier-pigeon, so they should've gotten word of us an hour or two after we accepted their request. We could've reached this place faster than the pigeon if we came directly without searching the forest, though.

    Alissa transforms back and I return her weapons.

    The old man grins and laughs excitedly, "Ohohoho. How nice, a wereanimal. Impressive, too…" -His excitement suddenly fades and he clears his throat awkwardly- "Erm, anyway, you're here to spend the night, right?"

    I nod and politely answer, "Yes. We were roaming the Sea of Trees, but we didn't find the Oodogloo."

    He clicks his tongue. "That would be some damn luck if you found it like that, but did you find anything interesting, instead?"

    "Two Young Ogres and a bunch of goblins. There might be a goblins' nest nearby because we found a squad of four that were well-armed and intelligent."

    He claps his hands and scowls. "AH! The little shits made another nest! You're going to report this to the guild right?"

    I twitch and almost recoil from his overly-energetic demeanor. "Yeah, but only tomorrow."

    He waves his arm dismissively. "Eh, that's fine. We can find a passing traveler to send word or something." Then he goes inside the house, and a scream suddenly booms through the entire house, "OI, BELTA! THE WHACKERS ARE HERE!"

    "I HEAR YE!" A female voice screams back.

    I knit my eyebrows and whisper to Alissa, "Whackers?"

    She obediently instructs me with her teaching tone, "Slang. Farmers always have to keep hiring hunters to kill pests that come back all the time, so they started calling it 'whacking' monsters instead of 'exterminating' them." She shrugs.

    A chubby, round-faced, and well-tanned woman appears. Then we see a girl which is a mini version of the woman and a pale-faced boy coyly hiding behind the stairs.

    The woman smiles brightly and greets, "Ah, welcome. You must be the Helios duo, am I right?"

    "Yes, that's us." I nod respectfully.

    She motions for us to come in and returns the nod. "Enter, please. I'll make you some tea and we can wait until my husband comes back. He's at the nearby farms sending word you came."

    The Oodogloo might attack a random farm, so the man must be warning the other farms to come here if the monster appears tonight. They'll likely stand guard all night, waiting for it.

    Belta lays out for us a simple weak tea with a little bit of sugar and some simple nice cookies. Alissa gracefully eats the snacks, showing more class than I do, and making me feel like a smelly adventurer. The tea and cookies are pretty good, though, so they're worth the awkwardness.

    As we tell the woman of our small survey of the forest, a small, wide, and pale man suddenly comes in. He seems to be a man of excess. Excess black hair on his head, excess hair on his chin, excess fat in his belly, and excess muscles in his arms. I see a shortsword hanging on his waist, which should be enough to keep the usual naked goblin away, but not much else.

    He doesn't want to make small talk, so we immediately discuss the simple plan for the night. We'll stand guard near the livestock and sleep in turns. The other farms have a bell alarm system, so when the monster is sighted, they'll sound the alarm. The monster will run from the alarm, but since we have a tracker, we can follow its trail.

    Then we continue our tale of the expedition until dusk comes. The woman lends her bathtub to us, and we're very thankful for that since bucket baths are quite awful, then she invites us for dinner, and we fill our bellies with a simple but tasty meal. After that, we leave the house to stand guard.



    I look up into the night sky and get stunned at the sight. I see a giant moon with a storm of colors raging all over its surface. Each blotch of color is in constant movement, changing every few seconds to another random color. They create waves and crash against each other, causing ripples upon ripples, like a lake's surface under the rain.

    Then I notice seven smaller moons, each a different color of the rainbow, orbiting the bigger moon at a visible speed. They seem to make a full turn every minute, which is blindingly fast for a celestial body.

    Are they even actual moons?

    "Hm? What is it, Master?" Alissa curiously whispers.

    Just what the fuck is this? Why a rainbow? Why is the moon… moons so different from the sun? I slept two days under the night sky and didn't even notice this? Oh, yeah, it was cloudy…

    "I'm just wondering why is the sun so simple and the moons so colorful," I casually lie.

    She laughs girlishly. "What kind of thoughts are you having? The sun is the same as the moons, but he gives us light instead of life."

    I blink repeatedly in surprise and look at her. "Wait, what? Remember, I'm very ignorant about things."

    Her ears go flat and her posture shrinks shyly. "Oh, I'm sorry, Master." -She quickly recomposes herself and assumes her teaching tone again- "Well, scholars have found that the sun looks the same as the moons. The God of the Sun gives us light to work during the day, but with that, we can't see him properly. The Goddess of the Moons gives us a blessing that replenishes our life, increasing our HP and MP recovery during the night. This is why we sleep when she's watching over us: it's so our recovery is even greater."

    Well, at least it ain't just some boring old rock.

    I look back at the moon and imagine what an acid trip would be to land there. "But why does the moon look like this storm of color, and why are these seven smaller moons orbiting it?"

    "That is the Goddess' avatar in our realm. We don't know exactly why it looks like this, and it's said that we can't really understand something that is above our existence. I think I heard that the smaller moons and colors are said to represent 'aspects' of the god. What 'aspects' are, I don't know, so you should ask a priest." She shrugs.

    I'll need some time to process this, so I motion for us to keep moving.

    The livestock grazing area covers a large corner of the backyard, and we set up camp as far as we can from it so Alissa doesn't suffer from the smell. Her nose is quite sensitive.

    I tell her that I'll switch [Blessing Magic] for [Summoning Magic], then I put ten points in it.

    The spells of this magic school give me a ball of light that I can throw to summon things, so it kind of feels like I'm using pocket monsters. If I put a little more "effort" in summoning when I press the "cast" button inside my mind, I can instantly call a summon in a small radius around me.

    I press the [Summon Dog] spell in my mind, then force a German Shepherd to appear beside me, and Alissa coos in wonder and claps.

    With that, half of my MP is consumed and my max MP is reduced by one fourth. This is quite an improvement in comparison to the bird I summoned for the first time.

    I keep the dog's hearing sense, and tell it to patrol the farms in search of the Oodogloo's scent, which is ammonia. If it finds the monster, then it should bark for a while to warn me and the farms, and also chase after it if it runs away.

    I take the first watch and put down an hourglass. It'll mark one hour, and once I turn it three times, I'll switch with Alissa. It's kinda sad to see her sleep alone, but it'll be even sadder when it's my turn.

    My watch goes without a problem, and I practice my [Mana Control] while staring at the moons, then I wake up Alissa and switch with her.

    This tent is cold, not physically, but it makes my heart feel cold. I just want to sleep hugging my cute fox.



    I wake up to the sound of angry barking. Through my dog's eyes, I can see it staring intensely at some weird, black humanoid outline frozen in fear. The dog's vision is monochrome and poor, but there's no mistaking it, that's the Oodogloo.

    "Alissa! The dog!" I exclaim.

    She's in front of the tent, maintaining my sword, and she immediately stores the oil in her [Item Box], then hands me our weapons and turns into a fox.

    In a hurry, I sheath my sword, strap on my shield, store the tent and sleeping bag on my "Items," grab her equipment, and mount her.

    "To the Jolly Ranch!" I command, and she darts forward.

    Even though Alissa can see well in the moonlight, I can't, so I add one point to [Light Magic] and cast [Spirit Light]. A small, light-blue, glowing ball appears above my head and illuminates the whole field with eerie colored light.

    This color really makes me feel like it's a "spirit" light.

    A minute later, Alissa casts her own [Spirit Light], but hers is white, and it reduces the spooky air caused by mine.

    The dog stops barking, and I start to hear the bells being rung from the farmhouses.

    I cut the hearing sense, then I turn on the olfact, and I immediately sense the ammonia.

    Suddenly, the shape turns away and runs into the plantation. The dog gives chase but keeps its distance.

    I take my melee skills off and put them on [Blessing Magic], then I cast [Swift Foot] on Alissa, and she speeds up a lot. We fly through the dirt roads between the plantations as she runs with the wind.

    She shakes so much that it becomes rather uncomfortable for me, but the trip only lasts a few minutes, and we reach our destination.

    The bells all around the neighboring farms quickly reach full blast, creating a painfully loud cacophony.

    Like a fellowship bond, I know at all times the direction and distance my summoned dog is, so I guide Alissa into the plantation.

    "I got his scent!" She suddenly announces.

    It's a bad idea to fight it in the middle of the plantation, so we slow down and wait until it enters another open field.

    I switch my points back into combat mode. I also won't be able to use the spear this time, not unless I want the Oodogloo to use a tentacle to steal it from my hands and use it against me.

    After a minute of painfully running through the middle of the plantation, we enter another backyard. We can see another manor to the side and a dark humanoid figure awkwardly running away with the dog chasing a few meters away.

    I dismiss the summon and see it instantly turn into a cloud of smoke that completely disappears in a few seconds, then I cast [Lightning Bolt] at the Oodogloo and hit its back.

    The figure falls, then Alissa slows down and keeps her distance.

    Not yet.

    The figure gets up and starts to run away. I cast [Lightning Bolt] again, now with the full power of level three [Mana Control]. The figure falls again, but it doesn't get up, and its shape starts to melt.

    "Now!" I give the signal.

    Alissa stops and I dismount, then put her equipment on the ground.

    As she shifts back to humanoid, I unsheathe my sword and jog towards the enemy.

    I hear a commotion near the manor, but I ignore it. They won't help us because they could get in the way, so they just leave it to the "pros." The farmhands can deal with the occasional naked goblin, but this monster is way above their level.

    I cast [Lightning Bolt] again to provoke it, then the now unidentified black mass comes in our direction.

    "OOOOO...duh… GLOOOOO!" It lets out a long and dull scream.

    This sound is what gave it its name. This ridiculous slime who wishes to be human tries to imitate our vocal cords, but it can only let out this silly sound. It runs away whenever it sees an enemy, but can it be enraged if provoked repeatedly, then it loses its human form and attacks with the bones it has inside.

    The slime reaches our Lights, and we see its transparent gooey mass sliding forward at a frightening speed. An amalgamation of human bones floats inside it, constantly moving in a wild storm, reflecting the slime's mood.

    An arrow sinks into the slime with a watery "thunk" sound.

    I cast [Lightning Bolt] again and it convulses wildly, stopping its advance for a second. Another two arrows enter it, and the slime starts losing liquid like a leaky water balloon.

    A tentacle shoots out like a bullet, and I block it with my shield, then my shield resonates loudly. Its attacks are tough like a hammer strike.

    I counter with a slash but it whiffs, the slime is just too fast.

    I dodge a few smaller and slower tentacles, then a third and a fourth arrow creates more places for it to leak.

    I see a thick tentacle is forming, telegraphing a massive attack. I grit my teeth and charge [Lightning Bolt].

    The next moment, a huge tentacle flies towards me, and I release my Bolt. The shield resonates again and I stumble backward as my shoulder flares with pain.

    I steady my feet, then I jump forward and chop without even looking.

    My sword sinks into the huge, convulsing tentacle and splits it in two, then a large amount of liquid and a variety of human bones drop from the wound.

    It uses a mass of bones like a sledgehammer, while the small, pointy ones are used as piercing weapons. Fortunately, the small tentacles aren't as powerful as the large one.

    Grievously wounded, the slime tries to run. It's leaking water from everywhere, and Alissa continues free-firing, increasing the number of holes.

    I cast a short [Lightning Bolt], stunning it again, and I take the opportunity to attack.

    I slash open an even bigger wound than the one before, then its whole body wriggles in panic, and an uncountable number of little tentacles appear on the surface of the slime.

    I dive backward and the tentacles absolutely fill the area where I just was.

    I immediately get up and start retreating, keeping my distance from it.

    The slime tries to chase, but it has lost too much water, and its surface has become wrinkly, greatly reducing its speed.

    For the next half minute, it tries a desperate last effort to hurt me, but it has trouble moving due to the number of arrows poking out of its entire body.

    The tentacles lose power and speed, then the slime finally stops moving.

    Everything becomes completely silent as the bells stop ringing, then I see seven heads peeking out of the windows of the manor.

    "Fuck yeah! It's dead!" I cheer and throw my arms up.

    Alissa laughs girlishly, then I hear cheering from the manor.



    We collect the bones and the remaining slime skin, then we give a short greeting to the family inside the manor, and the man of the house gives me a bottle of wine as thanks for dealing with this pesky monster. I don't drink, but Alissa whispers for me to accept it, so I try to do it graciously.

    Then we leave and return to the manor of our contractor. Belta is ecstatic, and her husband gives me a painful pat on the back then laughs with a booming voice. Alissa squirms from seeing my pain but says nothing this time.

    They let us stay the night in the guest room, which has two single beds, but we can't stand to sleep separately anymore, so we crowd on a single one. It's a little hot and cramped, but we manage to fit in.

    "Honestly, I don't see any problem with our teamwork. We do well together," I comment.

    "Aside from you being in the front," Alissa responds worriedly. "I can see you struggling to defend against the monsters' attacks. No shield-bearer should struggle so much."

    I awkwardly massage my neck."Well… I'd already decided to train my body and skills more. With this reward, we can spend a good time training without worrying about hunting monsters. Also, I'll level up soon, and that should help a lot."

    Alissa pouts and retorts. "Still, I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with you in the front line. Your talent is magic, so you shouldn't need to spend so much time training melee." She lazily traces her finger on my chest as she talks.

    I smile warmly at her. "Your concern makes me happy, but my real advantage is versatility. We just have to hold on and be careful for a while longer," I reassure her and kiss her nose.

    "A while longer…" She repeats, then she kisses my lips lightly.

    After some light kissing, she breaks it and turns her face away.

    "What is it?" I ask.

    "Hm…" She pouts again, and I see her tail is swaying.

    She stays silent for a few seconds, then she moves down, below the covers. I feel my pants going down, then something warm and wet wraps around my dick.

    She's really good at this, so I don't last long again.



    Intermission 1



    Now I'm sure that Master is someone special. He's a kind and calm, but a completely different person in bed; he has the knowledge and curiosity of a child, but the wisdom of someone much older; he has mercy and compassion for monsters, but the resolve to keep fighting. Those aren't things you find among the common man, but those are things that must be protected.

    Master is alone, that much I'm sure, but I'll do what I can to fill that hole. I'm already happy enough that he depends on me in battle and in bed, but I'll show him I can do much more. Even though I know he's letting out his lust on me, I'm content with being able to help with this. Once the lust subsides, his heart will be ready for a deeper bond with mine.

    He tries to look collected and composed, but I know he's anxious about something, and he has no one to confide on, so I can only try my best to lower his burdens. He doesn't trust me enough to tell me his secrets, but I'll support him regardless until he opens up one day.

    I thought that my endurance training would be wasted living such a lavish lifestyle, but now I know it's merely going to be used in a different way than what I'd imagined. His mind is fragile and precious, his will is so strong he's bound to hurt himself, and his code of honor will soon have him face the wicked, which will leave a wound on his soul. All I wish for is the ability to support him through whatever destiny the Gods have for him. I'll stay by his side, no matter what.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
  10. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    The body of the slime is worth five silver; the Young Ogres and Fangpines are worth four and one silver each, respectively; and the reward for the extermination is forty silver, which is quite high because the Oodogloo is an incredibly annoying enemy to find.

    The usual strategy for dealing with this annoying slime is to have one person at each farm waiting for it, then use a signal flare when the monster is found. This is a dangerous strategy because a single person will try to engage the monster and keep it occupied until more people arrive. To defeat it in a single night with just two people is a commendable feat, and with that… my fame gets annoyingly higher.

    For two days, I do nothing but abuse Alissa after waking up and during the bath, train [Sense Mana] and [Mana Control] in the morning, and spar with someone who isn't Toga in the afternoon.

    I buy a tea set and try to teach Alissa how to make tea, but she's more of an expert in that than I, so I just let her do her own thing. We find the not-earl-grey I drank once in a tea shop near the temple, and then we get some cheap cookies to go with it, so my mood improves a lot in these two days.

    My [Block] increased by 2 (now 2+6) and [Parry] increased by 1 (now 1+5) from the sparring, but it's exhausting to fight so much, so I don't think I can keep up training like this for long.

    Surprisingly, I easily learn [Sense Mana] with 2 points and [Mana Control] with 3 points. I think the magic skills are easier because I already have a lot of contact with magic on a daily basis, so this is just a solidification of my foundations.

    Spending an entire morning hugging Alissa while she practices her [Mana Control] is heavenly, though. I wish we could do it every day, but today we need to go to the guild, and I notice that she seems a little disappointed when I tell her that.

    We enter the guild and start checking the requests, but "coincidentally," there's an annoying duo waiting for us. Something tells me that certain people have a second house inside the guild.

    "Yoo! Ryder!" A familiar and annoying voice calls to me. I turn around and see Simon, the leader of the creatively named fellowship Swift Wind. "Join me~, mate. There's an Orc Lord request 5 days away. With your girl, we can find him in a day or two, so it'll be eeeasy money!"

    This time, Targua isn't here but there's someone else to annoy me.

    "Do you want to kill him, Mr. Simon? Orc Lord is a monster of threat level six!" Dennis exclaims, astonished. He's a wealthy-looking, black-robed mage from the fellowship Thunder Storm. His normally disheveled black hair and beard look even more disheveled when he talks to Simon, making him seem "unhinged" to me.

    Simon is unfazed by the mage's intense glare. "We got enough firepower to deal with even a dragon around here, we just lack a tracker like the fox lass." -he points to Alissa and smirks roguishly- "You don't even have to do anything mate, just order her around and we can even carry your ass!" Then he laughs out loud.

    Dennis' eyes twitch, bewildered and annoyed, but he reigns it back almost perfectly. "Mr. Ryder isn't a greedy person like you, he has potential and I can give him the support he needs." -Then he spins on his heels and gives me his wild, intense stare- "Mr. Ryder, join me, and we can grow far together!"

    Dennis seems to have heard the tale of how I used [Electric Magic] to stun the slime during its heavy attack so that I could counter immediately. He has a "thing" for electricity, which means I'm like a flame to this weirdo moth.

    He wants to work close to me as a duo of sword and magic, but he has an annoyingly strong sense of duty and justice. He also wants to be the leader of the party, and by looking at his two tired-looking companions, I don't think that's a good idea.

    I hold back a sigh and try to be a bit diplomatic, so I gently apologize and firmly decline, "Sorry guys, I want to work slowly on my own with Alissa. I still have my own personal reasons to not join a bigger party, but one of these reasons is that I want to take things safe and slow."

    "What a shame, mate," Simon grumbles and shakes his head as he walks away.

    "Be sure of this, Mr. Ryder: stay true to the right path, and we'll surely meet one day in glory," Dennis states and bows, then also leaves.

    What…?

    I think he's a bit crazy. I have no idea what the hell he means by that. Alissa's still looking at the request board, but I can see she's discreetly facepalming.

    "Persistent…" She mutters with a hint of anger, her tail stiff and upright.

    I smile wryly and turn around.



    I think I'll take a day off from training, and maybe tomorrow we'll look again for work more seriously.

    An attendant posts a new request and it catches my attention.

    "Alissa, you know about the Moon Turtles?" I casually ask.

    She follows my gaze and reads the request I'm looking at. She seems mildly intrigued by it as she recollects what she knows. "I don't know where the Moon Turtles are found around here, but I know they're an easy kill inside a dungeon," she confidently states and starts recollecting, "They can only attack by pushing out spikes from their shells, but they move so slowly it's trivial to blind them, and then they're barely a threat anymore."

    I rub my chin in thought. "What about this request? Do you think it's doable?"

    "That's going to depend on luck. Not every turtle has Moonlight Moss."

    The request I'm interested in is a gathering one, where the requester wants an escort to where the Turtles can be found. It pays two gold coins as a reward, and since the Turtles are so easy to kill, so I assume that it's the journey there that's likely to be the problem.

    The requester is a mage, so they'll help fight monsters and kill the turtles, but we'll still need to keep the area secure ourselves since collecting the moss is a very delicate process.

    The kill rewards will be spread evenly among all members, and the pay is kind of high, but I guess our profits will depend on how long it's going to take to collect all this moss. Still, this is a pretty attractive request, so I better take it before someone else does.

    "I think it'll be okay," Alissa assures me and gives my hand a loving squeeze. "As long as we avoid being surrounded, no enemy inside the caves can catch us if we use an Escape Bomb to retreat. It's really rare to find a monster that resists it."

    Her words are a little bit reassuring, but just to be thorough, I'll research the cave monsters around this area. I haven't looked into them yet because I didn't think I'd enter a cave on the Sea of Trees.

    It's the dungeoneering library that saved my life so far. The Orc Headhunter, the goblin squad intelligence pattern, the Mandrakes, the Bush Babies, the Young Ogres, the Mossy Fangpines, and the Oodogloo. All these enemies I knew their attack patterns and their weaknesses, which allowed me to create strategies that maximized my safety and guaranteed a kill.

    The hunt for the Oodogloo was the prime example of that. My instant counter was possible because I knew it had a predictable heavy attack and that it was extremely vulnerable to slashing weapons. I could've assumed these things on the fly just from observing, but it's just waay easier when you know what to expect. Even the dance around the Young Ogre was only possible because I researched first.

    "Excuse me, when is the scheduled negotiation for this request?" I ask the usual older brunette attendant.

    On requests like these, there's a "negotiation" that will happen at a predefined time and place once the requester is informed that a hunter is interested in fulfilling the request.

    "Tomorrow morning. The meeting will be here at one of our rooms," she answers with a kind smile.

    So I only have one day to prepare. Also, it's possible that the requester will ask to depart immediately.

    I think for just a moment before I make the decision, "Alright, send the message that we're interested in this request." Then I turn to Alissa. "I'll go to the dungeoneering guild and research the cave monsters. What about you, do you want to do something by yourself?"

    "Hm…" She murmurs, and frowns gently, looking troubled.

    She has been glued to my side every day since I bought her. Not that I dislike it since I'm the super clingy one, but I think that it's best for her to do what she wants once in a while. I learned how important this was from Lily.

    I may have abandonment issues…

    She looks at me like an abandoned puppy, and I almost immediately cave in. Cuteness is my weakness.

    I pass my will saving throw and add, "If you don't ask you'll never ever leave my side ever again because I'm very clingy, but you should because it's good for your mental health to have some private time for yourself. Believe me, I have experience in this matter."

    "Experience…?" She asks confusedly.

    I look down and rub the back of my head. "Well it's… a matter I can't tell in detail." -I look at her and smile apologetically- "Sorry you'll just have to believe me."

    I don't want to talk about Lily right now.

    She pouts shyly and relents, "Okay… but I don't know what I could do by myself." Then she tilts her head, and like always, it melts my heart.

    I list a few ideas, "There's the juice that I always forget to buy, there are more tea and cookies that you could search for, there's the dress that I wanted to buy for you that might be better if you just choose something for yourself, there are the bookstores where you could find a book you're interested in, there's just sightseeing or looking into the Flea Market or those crazy magic tool shops. Oh, there's the theater, and I have no idea what's being played over there, so I'd like to know more about it. Well, two things are my requests, but there's plenty that you can do."

    Her ears suddenly perk up. "How about spending time in the training grounds?" She asks with an innocent smile, her tail wagging lazily.

    I frown worriedly. "That's… not relaxing though, find something to relax that isn't just training," I plead.

    You'll make me feel guilty from taking it easy if you're always training.

    She smiles a bit smugly. "But you're going to read books to prepare, isn't that considered work?"

    Ya cheeky…

    I narrow my eyes reprovingly. "Just barely, and I kind of enjoy the books. There are the combat reports, the beautiful drawings, and even a few anatomy lessons."

    "Ooh, is that so? Maybe I should also read them and help with the research!" She smiles and claps her hands, her tail is wagging.

    Heh, this girl…

    I relent and decide to just accept her submissiveness, "Then I'll at least ask you to buy cheap juice, tea, and look a bit for clothing before joining me, ok?"

    "Understood, master," she smiles and nods diligently.

    The juice and tea are for me, the clothing is also for me but also for her. Which middle-ages girl dislikes shopping for clothes?

    I actually wanted to go to Ciel and ask about the moon…



    So, I kind of don't want to go inside those caves. It's not like I have a phobia or something, I just fucking hate spiders…

    The most common enemy over there is the Giant Tarantula, so things start just peachy. It's extremely territorial, so there's no way we won't fight one inside these caves.

    They block the entrances with transparent webs, and once you get caught in one, the more you move, the more it wraps. The only fast way out is to set it on fire and possibly burn yourself to escape.

    The webs are very elastic and sticky, so swinging a sword is useless, but swinging a spare spear or just a long stick to get the web to wrap on it is the best way to clear the way. The progress will be slow, but it's better than nothing.

    A common strategy is to have the one in full plate to just walk into them with a torch in hand. Things might get hot, but only if they walk too fast.

    That's just to get near. The Tarantula itself is a heavy monster that pounces on its prey and injects them with a fast-acting venom that's difficult to dispel. The tarantula doesn't normally prey on people, so the venom isn't as effective as it is on the Tarantula's favorite food: goblins. Though a person's limb could still become paralyzed for an average of five minutes if injected with the venom.

    Both goblins and Tarantula's love caves, making the latter the natural predator of the former, and once the Giant Tarantula eats enough, goblins it evolves into the Arachne race of monsters, a half-human woman, half-spider monster. There is a report of a demon race who looks like the Arachne monster, but it's only a rumor. The only reason it's mentioned in the book is to prevent adventurers from accidentally killing a fellow humanoid.

    The Arachne is highly intelligent and cunning, but it's like a deranged human who can only torture, kill, and eat. It's even more frightening than the Tarantula because they toy with their prey. They are adept at sneaking and illusion magic, and they like to slowly poison the enemy from afar with things like small traps and thrown weapons, then attack when they're weakened.

    I'll need [Mental Resistance] for this, and I think that I should just tell Alissa about my skill system manipulation so that I can also give her [Mental Resistance].

    An enemy to look out for is the Sludge, a parent of the slime-type monsters. It's a mass of living feces, mud, and blood, it's basically the janitor of the caves. It's vulnerable to fire, and it'll harden when heated but slow down. This makes them more vulnerable to attacks, otherwise, they move too fast and can completely overwhelm a person by absorbing them inside their disgusting bodies. They're much bigger than normal slimes and even special ones like the Ooodogloo, so they're hard to kill and even harder to escape.

    Another common monster is the Giant Mole. They used to keep creating and destroying the tunnel system inside the Ant Hill, but when they broke into a dungeon they stopped digging, allowing the tunnels to be mapped. They destroyed the tunnels precisely to keep humanoids from doing that, but it's unknown why they stopped

    They're aggressive and move by sound, so while it's easy to deal with a lone Mole, they can call for more, which creates a chain reaction until the party is overwhelmed and wiped out. The usual strategy is to kill one and then retreat unless someone is capable of assassinating the Mole before it can call for its allies.

    Through the fellowship bond, I sense that Alissa has entered the building, so I go downstairs and see that she's at the lobby, carrying an earthenware jar and a cloth bag.

    When our eyes meet, she lets out a sweet smile that melts my heart.

    I get closer to her and smell something sweet and fruity coming from the jar. "Oooh. Is that the juice? What is it from?" I eagerly ask, then she hands me the jar, and I store it in my "Items."

    "Gorgon fruit. I didn't know what fruit you liked, so I got something that tastes mild," she diligently responds, then waits for my reaction.

    Gorgon fruit is a small blue berry with a white pulp that looks like an eye. Its taste reminds me of blueberry and lychee.

    I smile apologetically. "Ah yes, I actually forgot to tell you about that, my bad, but this is a good choice."

    She smiles proudly then becomes bashful, and her tail wags slowly. "And… I also bought some clothes…" She suddenly pulls me closer. "There's something for the night," she whispers into my ear, making my heart tingle.

    I did give her too much for a single dress, so I was wondering if she was going to bring an expensive dress or not. I guess things ended up just right for me.

    I pull her bag into my "Items," then I bring her to my research station. I'm looking through multiple books, like the dungeoneering advice book, the local monsters book, the local caves book, the local dungeons book, and two other monster books. The first gives more in-depth battle reports about the monsters and their anatomies, while the second gives dismantling tips to maximize profits.

    While Alissa curiously inspects the books, I continue my research.

    The Moon Turtles live inside the dungeon that the moles dug into, which is called Spiral Springs. The Turtles got this name because the Moonlight Moss that grows on their backs glows when the moon is full.

    They're slow but sturdy, they breathe jets of fire or water as offensive means, and they grow spikes on their flanks if attacked. The best way to kill them is to fire inside their mouth once they start breathing or to slowly chip away at their sturdy necks while being careful of the spikes. But since Alissa is such a good shot, it's going to be an eye-popping galore.

    The path to get to the Moon Turtles is a pain. First, there's the wall of tarantulas; then there are the hunting grounds where the arachnes like to prey, which are large open spaces where they can freely move above intruders and away from danger; third, there's the maze of mole tunnels, where even if we pass through the shortest path, we'll certainly have to backtrack when we meet a Mole; and finally, we have to cross the dungeon to get to where the Turtles are, which is filled with Spriggans.

    The last enemy we're likely to encounter are these Spriggans, devilish imps that inhabit Spiral Springs. They like to sneak about, play pranks, and set traps. They're one and a half meter tall, male-only, human-looking monsters who have green skin, thin arms, and bark that grows from a variety of spots, which serves as armor for them.

    The bark that grows on their head is even cut and fashioned as if it's a hairstyle. An elven tale tells of a Spriggan haircut contest where the elves would hunt Spriggans to find the one with the most ridiculous "haircut."

    They aren't the kind that immediately goes for the kill, they'll use hit and run tactics with increasing frequency the deeper we go until we reach the floor of the Turtles. The Spriggans and the Turtles hate each other, so they avoid meeting whenever possible, making the floor of the Turtles a kind of "safe area."

    The Spriggans will first try to steal, then they'll annoy and torment, followed by increasingly violent raids until they finally fight to kill once the party is tired. To deal with these imps, we'll have to be always ready to retaliate immediately with deadly force. The more Spriggans we kill, the slower they increase their attacks, and the less they'll try to torment us.

    They won't be that big of a problem since Alissa can easily keep them at bay, and I can just increase her [Sense Presence] skill if she's having trouble detecting them.

    So, the expedition will likely take three or four days. Starting from the entrance of the Ant Hill, it'll take one day for us to cross the caves and to reach Spiral Springs. After spending the night at the entrance, it'll take half a day to go down to the floor of the turtle and another half to do our business there, we hope. The turtles themselves will be easy to kill, but we don't know how long it'll take to collect all the moss. Then, on the third day, we'll make our way back with ease since we'll have an open path to follow.

    The shitty part is crossing the territory of the Moles, and it might be safer if we just leg it, otherwise, we could be backed into a corner with the Spriggans on one side, and the enraged Moles at the other.

    I trace a path for us to take and copy the maps. There are multiple routes to the dungeon that we can take and even more routes from there to the floor of the Turtles, but in the end, it's just luck if the route will be good or not.

    "Wooah," Alissa coos in wonder. "All these anatomy drawings are so interesting. Now I'm sure I can kill any Tarantula and Arachne that I find. I'm glad I came." She smiles and gently sways her head from side to side in excitement, making her hair and fox ears bob.

    What kind of girl gets so excited when talking about killing giant spiders and a giant half-spider, half-humans? No, not even the average adventurer likes spiders.

    I smile warmly and shrug as I say, "Well, I was going to share the info with you anyway, but I guess this is fine since now I don't have to explain things to you."



    Just as we finish eating our dinner at the inn, Selina comes to talk to us.

    "Hello, Mr. Ryder," she greets with her usual bright smile.

    I motion her to the free chair, then Alissa and I both greet her back in kind.

    She delicately sits down like a lady and asks with barely contained curiosity, "Father said you're going to leave on an expedition again, is that true?"

    I nod and explain, "I'll meet with the employer tomorrow to negotiate the terms, but we're likely to depart immediately."

    Alissa adds on, mirroring Selina's excitement, "Miss Selina, we're going to the Spiral Springs at the Ant Hill. We're going to meet arachnes and Spriggans!" She exclaims as her fox ears twitch and her tail wag. Selina and she shared a few conversations these last few days and have become quite friendly to each other.

    "Oh! Bring me a Spriggan head with a nice haircut, I want one for my room," she innocently asks and lets out the sweetest smile.

    Girl, just...What in the fuck.

    Alissa turns to me and gives me expectant eyes.

    "Uh… sure, you pick the one we bring back. I'll just store it in my [Item Box]," I respond coolly, trying not to show my disgust.

    I don't want to be the one to give to a girl the head of a humanoid monster as a gift.

    Alissa gives a quick bow. "Thank you, master." Then she turns to the cute blonde waitress. "I'll surely bring you a great one, Selina. I heard that Arachne eyes are also red and shiny, so maybe we'd encounter a nice pair."

    What is this conversation, I'm glad I already finished eating.

    Selina giggles girlishly, and hides her mouth with her hand. "Thank you, Miss Alissa. I'll be waiting eagerly. I'll also prepare something sweet for you two once you come back," she kindly offers.

    Alissa becomes uncomfortable when Selina calls her "Miss," but I already told her it's okay to be treated as an equal if her master is also doing it, so it only lasts for a second.

    Then Alissa starts telling Selina of the preparations we're doing, and I just watch with a warm smile, consciously ignoring the contents of the gruesome conversation. They talk so innocently they seem like two friends talking about toys or action movies.

    After that, we retire to our room and lay on our bed.



    Alissa cuddles up with me and I wrap an arm around her, landing my hand on one of her black-tipped fox ears, then I immediately start playing with it.

    "You have a good relationship with Selina," I comment amusedly.

    She closes her eyes in delight and smiles cutely. "She's always so eager to hear our stories, so I like talking to her," she explains with a whispery voice then sighs as she lets her body relax on mine. "She's also a good girl, and it's exactly for people like her that someone like me is trained to fight."

    I guess they just have perfectly compatible personalities. The girl who's eager to fight and protect, and the girl who's eager to hear and cherish those who do.

    I pull out the bag with the clothes she bought and inspect it. There's a frilly, flowing yellow dress that goes to her knees. Its color and design fit her well, so I just need to buy her some cute boots to make it perfect.

    Before I can inspect the other set of clothes, she nabs the bag and tells me to close my eyes while she changes. When she tells me to open them again, I start salivating like a hungry dog.

    She's wearing the one piece from the slave trader shop, barely covering her delicious curves; a pair of semi-transparent white thigh highs, teasing me by only partially showing their sexy, athletic shape; and on her arms she's wearing long-sleeved white gloves of the same material, like the ribbon on a gift, making it seem cute and special.

    It's just so sexy my brain restarts to load the "fuck.exe" program, making me freeze for a moment.

    The gloves and thigh highs are simple, they have no frills or special design, but they mix well with the simple silky one piece. It's the beauty of simplicity, and it makes her look angelical. The ears and the slowly swinging tail are just the cherries on top of this foxy cake.

    Like a starving wolf lunging for a slab of roasted meat, I grab her and throw her on the bed. Tonight, I won't be gentle.

    I kiss and grope her aggressively, but that's not enough, so I quickly shift my caresses downwards until my head is between her legs. She needs to be rewarded for bringing back such a precious gift.

    She lets a moan mixed with surprise that shifts into one of pure pleasure midway. It's good to know that I still got it in my tongue.

    I penetrate her with my finger and curl it upwards in search of my favorite spot on the whole body of a woman. I give it a rub, and Alissa squirms in a way she's never squirmed before.

    With the way her waist shakes, I have to hold her in place so that I may continue the stimulation, and her moans only become louder. Her high-pitched moans reach the highest level tonight. Thankfully, our room is sound padded. I would pity the neighbors if it weren't because there's no amount of complaining that would make me stop.

    I maintain the steady and constant rubbing and she quickly orgasms. Her whole body locks up and her eyes roll up as she almost passes out, making me smirk.

    I still got it.

    I stop to let her recover, and she doesn't even have the voice to ask me what I did, she just looks at me with slightly vacant and surprised eyes. Perhaps a bit of fear, too.

    I go back to kissing her slowly until she catches her breath again because I'm not done yet.

    "It's not over yet," I whisper in her ear. She twitches and looks at me with slightly worried eyes.

    I make her turn around, then I grab the back of her neck and press it down on the bed. I lift her waist up with the other hand, then I easily slide inside her.

    I do her with fast pounding at a low cadence so she can feel every thrust. She moans in sync with my movements, and the night goes on as I pound, and pound, and pound, and pound, and pound.

    I change the rhythm every so often, and I add some flair. I pull her hair, her arm, I put her on a chokehold, I put all my power, all my anger on my thrusts, I grip her tail and give it a tug. She takes it all without complaining, and she even perks her ass up to get me to tug her tail again once I stop.

    When I'm near the peak, I turn her around, look into her eyes, then I raise her dress and finish all over her body.

    This is your punishment for overly stimulating me.



    Today, the wake-up kiss is twice as long, followed by her giving me a wide smile. She's still wearing her clothes as she was too tired to take them off yesterday, though at least we cleaned ourselves before collapsing

    I wonder where she found this sexy lingerie, but I'll definitely have her go there again for more. The texture is just too amazing. It feels almost like a synthetic cloth from Earth, but it seems like it's way weaker, and it might only last a few more nights considering how aggressive it made me.

    "Did you enjoy last night?" I teasingly ask with a big grin.

    "Yes… but my back hurts a little," she shyly admits.

    I frown worriedly. "Oh, sorry, you should've told me it hurts."

    She blushes and assures me, "I know, it's just that I wasn't paying attention to the pain at the time."

    How can you still blush after what we did?

    I cast [Regeneration] on her, and she sighs in pleasure, "Oh… that feels better. Thank you, master." -Her ears twitch cutely- "Ah… Now that I think about it, you never chant, do you?"

    Ah, shit, now what do I say…? I guess it's time for another lie.

    "I was taught magic in a way that I don't need to chant, but it's like I said: my magic is weaker than the usual spell precisely because I don't chant," I come up with an excuse that would make sense if we were talking about the balance of a game. "But why do people chant, specifically?"

    I see no hint of suspicion as she answers, "It's to help with the mana flow. The words and the voice resonate with the mana, and it also helps the mind align with spell, improving its efficiency. Casting without chanting requires a lot of familiarity with the spell, but it's definitely less mana-efficient."

    Now that I think about it, chanting is the same as singing. Perhaps it's related to harmony, or something like that, I'm not too knowledgeable about sound physics.




    The Clothes of the Berserker are safely stored in my "Items," and we reluctantly get out of our bed to eat breakfast. The Clothes will be forever with me so I can always pull them out when Alissa requires a savage punishment.

    Selina gives us her blessing for the expedition, making Alissa even happier, then we set off for the hunters guild. Once there, the attendant guides us to the meeting room because the requester isn't here yet, so we wait.

    The room has multiple cushioned chairs surrounding a round table with a tea set, a magical heating stone, and a bunch of cookies all waiting for us. On one of the walls, there's a blackboard with plenty of chalk, and on the opposite wall, there's a large comfy sofa.

    I lay down on the sofa and put my head on Alissa's lap, then she runs her fingers through my hair, and I almost fall asleep.




    The door opens, and a woman walks in, so I immediately sit up.

    Black hair on a ponytail with two side bangs; small oval glasses; a diamond jaw; small lips; a pointy nose; upturned eyes; and a pale white face. My first impression is that she's stunningly beautiful. Then I see spiral black horns on her temples protruding forward, and a long black tail with a dagger-like blade at the tip swinging about. She's a demon race woman.

    She wears a long black robe and silk black gloves. The robe shows a few of her curves, and it has shining purple flowers embroidered all around it. I can see a pair of high-heeled black boots peeking from under it, and I believe they'd be perfect with Alissa's yellow dress.

    This woman is the definition of cool and sexy, until she opens her mouth.

    "Goo~d morning! I'm Roxanne, and I'm your client for today!" She happily exclaims as she clasps her hands under her chin and grins, then she tilts her head to the side and giggles girlishly.

    Alissa and I share a glance. It seems we both had a similar impression of this woman.

    Without waiting for an answer, Roxanne starts walking towards me with confident steps, a swaying body that tickles my heart, and a bright smile. The cool and sexy is back.

    Her approach cleanses me of my dumbfounded state, so I get up and shake hands with her as I introduce myself, "I'm Wolf Ryder, and this is my companion, Alissa. Our fellowship is named Helios."

    She nods energetically and responds with happiness brimming from every word, "Yes! I saw your record. Grey Berserker, Orc Headhunter, and the Oodogloo caught in a single day. That's so impressive!"

    Whenever she speaks, a cool and sexy voice comes out, but that impression is quickly ruined as her tone gets increasingly high-pitched and bubbly.

    I blink blankly and stumble to find words in my stunned state, "Uh… well, thank you… Should we sit and talk about the request?"

    "Yes, ple~ase!"

    Her hands move constantly and her body squirms whenever she speaks. While her demeanor contrasts a lot with ours, at least she's quite expressive and easy to talk to.

    We move towards the table and she sits right next to me. It's so close I can perfectly smell the perfume.

    It's kind of awkward to talk to her like this. She's beautiful up close, but her atmosphere burns my eyes with her bright smile.

    I tell her the route I had planned and she seems satisfied. There's not really much to complain about it since whether the route is good or not is based on luck, anyway.

    Then she shows me the jar she wants to fill with the moss. It's basically a small 200ml bowl. Looks small, but it's moss, it's something that doesn't have a lot of volume, to begin with, but she assures me it's doable to fill it with a dozen or so turtles.

    She also tells me that in the last report from a few days ago, an adventurer saw that the Turtles had a large amount of moss growing on their backs, so there should be enough for what she needs. The moss requires special care to extract it properly, so only a few people have the knowledge to take it. Since there's no Moonlight Moss on the market yet, then that means the report is still accurate.

    With that part done, I change the topic, "Now tell me about your abilities."

    She shows us a grin that I'd actually describe as evil as she excitedly gives us a rundown of her abilities, "I'm a Fire and Water mage! And I have two Unique Spells that I so dearly love: the first one is [Explosion]. If you hold an enemy in place for three or so seconds, I can blow them to pieces! Ah…" -Her excitement goes away and she suddenly cringes- "But if you're going to be on the front line, I'm going to have to say I'm sorry, but you will be drenched in guts and blood…"

    Hahahahaha, I can already feel my "Sanity" stat going down.

    Alissa and I are speechless. Apparently, she can also imagine what [Explosion] looks like as she's as stunned as me.

    Seeing that we aren't going to comment on it, Roxanne clears her throat awkwardly and continues, the happiness from before coming back in a split second, "Then the other one is [Melt Skin]! I can throw a ball of water so hot that their skin will melt! This spell doesn't do a lot of direct damage, but I haven't seen an enemy that doesn't writhe in pain when it hits, so it's perfect for support." Then she nods in satisfaction, proud of herself.

    "You definitely seem like a powerful mage," Alissa comments, seemingly impressed.

    Aside from the gruesome image, these are two interesting spells. Since she's a Fire and Water mage, is she using these two elements combined to create a steam explosion? That'd be actually impressive.

    I haven't tried manipulating two spells at the same time, but it seems taxing. I understand that with high [Mana Control], you can do plenty of crazy things, but to do it with two different magic schools at the same time seems a level above the rest.

    Roxanne giggles softly and continues, "But anyway, my second ability is [Alchemy] and [Potion Making]. Since the caves are filled with enemies that use poison or venom, I can supply us with antidotes and anti-venom. I can even make it on-site with the body of those Tarantulas."

    Yeah, she's special. Aside from the obnoxiously high level of happiness, she seems very useful. It's not going to be an escort job, it's gonna be a temporary fellowship kind of job.

    We discuss battle tactics for a bit, with Alissa taking the lead since she seems the most experienced in fighting alongside others.

    Roxanne easily agrees with everything, bringing us to the last question of this meeting. "Then, do you want to leave right now?" I ask.

    She nods vigorously. "Ah, yes! Just let me gather a few last things and close down my house, then I'll meet you at the east gate. Is that all?"

    I smile gracefully. "Yes, that's all."

    I haven't tried to bargain too hard on the pay. I don't think I can improve the situation since the reward is already high, and the spoils will be split fairly since she's going to be an active fighter. I'm also a terrible negotiator, to be honest. I have no heart for making a deal that isn't fair or that gives me the most benefits.

    Roxanne bows and leaves, then I turn to Alissa.

    "Alissa, there's something I have to tell you. It's going to be another secret." It's actually going to be another lie.

    Let's see how this lie goes, I'll gauge her reactions from this.

    She looks at me curiously and asks, "Oh, what is it, master?" She tilts her head cutely.

    I cringe for a moment before I steel my heart and start, "Well, on my homeland, there's a tale. It says that there's a special person who's born every few generations or so. This person has the ability to read the souls of people and guide them so they may fulfill their desires."

    "Hmm..." Alissa hums in thought and narrows her eyes suspiciously.

    Did she get where I'm going?

    I grab her hand and lie earnestly, "You see… I think I'm one of those people, someone who's called a 'Guider.'"

    "But what do you mean by 'guide them to fulfill their desires'?" She asks skeptically.

    I think for a moment and decide to confess, "Well, you know that skill you got, the [Enhanced Stamina]? I gave it to you. I can see you have some sort of 'unlearned skill points,' which I can turn into actual skills and then back to 'unlearned skills' again at will."

    Alissa opens her eyes wide and lets her mouth hanging in surprise. Oof, that's a little bit off from the reaction that I wanted, maybe I should have left it vaguer.

    "I can't give or take any skill, just the ones that belong to these 'unlearned skill points.' Their number increases with levels and decreases with each skill you actually 'learn,' but I can only take away skills that I gave," I add hurriedly.

    Her mouth moves wordlessly for a few seconds, then she suddenly grabs my hand and stares at my eyes with wonder as her tail wags wildly. "Th-th-that's amazing, master! I-imagine the things we can do with this!" She shouts excitedly.

    Shit… It's nice that you accepted it so easily, but you're a little too excited about it.

    "I-I can only do it to you though, so I think it only works with people close to me," I hurriedly add again, already regretting telling her anything.

    She stops and thinks for a second then resumes her wide smile. "Still, that's a powerful ability. You really are blessed!"

    I sigh and mumble, "Perhaps…"

    I don't feel that blessed though, more like cursed and then sent a consolation prize.

    I decide to reveal another secret and just be done with it, "My magic works the same way, I can move my own potential into different magic types."

    "Ooh, I understand," she nods as she coos in wonder.

    I smile wryly at her cute reactions. "So, you have six unused points that I can assign to skills. If I'm riding you, I'll put them into [Enhanced Stamina], but you'll need to tell me where to put them for when we're in combat. Though, for this expedition, I'll put them in [Mental Resistance] so we can resist the illusions of the Arachne."

    She nods again. "Yes yes, I concur. But for the average battle, I think you can put it all on [Bow Use] since there's no other skill that'll benefit me as much. I need to focus on my strong points… Ah, can you put them into [Fox Transformation]?"

    I check quickly, but I don't find it on the list. "No, I don't know why. Maybe because it's specific to your race." I shrug.

    She puckers her lips in thought. "Hmm… that's a shame. At higher levels, I could use the Transformation to fight in melee or to easily run away. I also think that if I increase it just one or two levels, I might be able to absorb my weapons inside myself, too, and that would be quite useful."

    I feel a little uncomfortable putting you into melee range. Wait, is this the same feeling you get when I'm fighting in melee? I think I understand you a little better now.

    I reassign her extra points and she grins when she notices it, then I wrap things up, "Well then, I think things will be fine the way they are for now, but keep in mind your extra points because they're a trump card for you."

    "Understood, master," she responds diligently.

    I smile gently at her. "Then let us be off."

    I'm glad she accepted and understood things so easily. I guess she trusts me even though I'm such a bad liar. Maybe because this world is so full of unknown and crazy things, me being just another unknown is okay to her.




    We cross the town and reach the east gate. It's closer to the Noble's Quarters, so the landscape is much more beautiful, and the buildings are way less crooked. It kind of loses the charm of the city, though. The clashing architecture was growing on me, and I miss the small, cozy, and rustic atmosphere of the inn.

    We get in line and wait for our turn at customs for a good then minutes, then we suddenly hear the characteristic sound of heels hitting the floor rapidly approaching. It's the cool and sexy Roxanne.

    She's wielding a simple black metal staff with a flat ring on the top, and a perfectly spherical gem in the middle of the ring, which slowly pulsates as it changes it's color from blue to red. She's also wearing a small backpack, and I can see multiple unknown plants and monster parts dangling from it.

    Once she sees us, she waves vigorously by swinging her arm high in the sky.

    "OOI! RYDER!" She shouts excitedly.

    Wh-what are you doing? I already saw you, just come here quietly.

    Alissa and I freeze on the spot, then Roxanne jogs a short distance and stops before us.

    She immediately unslings her backpack and starts rummaging through it. "Alright, then! Here are six antidotes and four anti-venom." She bubbles, then she hands us multiple small flasks in quick succession. The anti-venom are in the standard flat metal flasks for combat use. "Keep the anti-venom on a chest pocket because you won't have time to use it if you store it in your [Item Box]. Also, the anti-venom is magically enhanced, so it works instantly. And here are two of my own HP and MP potions. They're very valuable, so they're only for emergencies."

    Alissa and I silently receive the flasks, then we reorganize our inventories. After that, we wait until it's our turn for customs.

    When the guard sees that I have nothing in my [Item Box] he gives me a curious glance but makes no comment on it. Alissa has things in her [Item Box], so even if it's just me and her, we only look like a duo of adventurers less prepared than usual. Now with Roxanne carrying a backpack, he might have thought she's the servant carrying my things, or something like that.

    Once we get out of town, the landscape turns into the exact same as the west side: farms on one side, and the gigantic trees of the Sea on the other side of the road. The only exception is that, on the horizon, I can see a brown mountain peeking from above a small forest far away. That's the Ant Hill.

    The Ant Hill is a failed [Meteor] spell that didn't disappear, for some reason. This spell creates a huge flaming rock that falls from the sky, which is supposed to blow up when it hits something, but this one didn't, and it just got embedded in the ground. Eventually, nature grew around it, then the Giant Moles started making a cave system inside because the environmental mana is quite high and they love that shit.

    It's called "Ant Hill" because when attacked, the Moles would rush out like hundreds of ants. Then, the lord of Rabanara at the time got tired of it and properly subjugated the Hill, so now it's maintained as if it's a dungeon, which means that there are a lot of Moles inside, but it isn't an infestation that endangers passersby or even that particularly dangerous to the average adventurer.

    When we get a good distance away from the wagons trying to enter the town, Roxanne turns to us and strikes a pose.

    "Alright! So it's time to test this!" She exclaims as she messes with the system, which we can't see.

    She suddenly touches the ground with her finger, and a large carpet appears with a *poof*. It's dark red with lots of yellow geometric patterns, and it has a large, round, green stone near the edge with what seems to be a wooden bike handle coming out of the top.

    "A flying carpet?" I let out a question reflexively.

    She smiles proudly. "Mhmm. It's made with the new super-fast flying stone, and I'm dying to test it out! It can certainly carry three people, but it'll be slower than its max speed."

    How rich are you? This request already pays a lot, and now you just pull out the expensive new hot thing everyone is talking about so casually.

    Though I'm actually kind of concerned about the safety of this thing. Where are the seat belts…? I've now realized that Aladdin was an incredibly irresponsible guy.

    I smile wryly and try to find an excuse, "Erm… How about this: I'll just ride Alissa since she can transform into a large fox. This way it'll be faster, right?"

    Alissa immediately agrees with me as she eyes the carpet suspiciously, "Yes, master. My fox form is really fast, and it'll be more secure for all of us this way."

    Is she concerned for my safety or did this carpet hurt her pride as a runner?

    Roxanne adjusts her glasses and raises her eyebrow in surprise. "Oh, you can ride her? Well, that's fine by me since it's faster," she answers casually and jumps on the floating carpet. It looks as if it's as stiff as a stone floor. She grabs the handle and starts floating up as she shouts, "Then let's goo! Let's race!"

    "Who~a, hold on, it might be dangerous," I try to calm her down.

    Alissa's hand lands heavily on my shoulder. "No, Master, it's perfectly safe. It will be fine," she assures me, though I feel a little bit of aggressiveness in her tone. So, it really is a matter of pride.

    I shrug and give up, then Alissa turns into a fox.

    I grab her equipment and mount her, then I breathe in.

    "Go," I breathe.

    And we go. We go fast.




    "I'm sorry, master. I got carried away," Alissa apologizes with a heartbreakingly sad tone as she looks down at me.

    Indeed, you got carried away, but I'm not really mad since you won. Well, I can't say anything right now, I need to hold in my breakfast.

    "It's… fine…" I manage to let out a weak groan.

    It takes me a few minutes, but eventually, my stomach stops churning. I get up from the grass and see Roxanne trying to stifle a laugh. I try to be mad at her but she's such a happy-go-lucky woman I just can't.

    "I'm fine now, let's keep moving," I order.

    The trip that should have taken one or two hours was done in less than half an hour. The cost was my dignity as I had to spend a few minutes sprawled on the floor to hold myself back from puking.

    When Alissa goes all out, the shaking of her body rises to unbearable levels, which shows how considerate she is of my well-being, and I'm really thankful for that.

    The scenery has changed a little. We're on a slope at the border of a normal forest, not the Sea of Trees. The road we were on deviates south a bit to go around the Ant Hill, so we've just abandoned it. The normal-sized trees with a normal-sized canopy, the normal atmosphere, and the faint humidity all reminds me of the parks I went to on Earth. I'm not a nature guy, but it's actually pleasant here.

    The Sea of Trees is a fantastical and often beautiful forest, but it's very oppressive and filled with memories of battle. I think soon this forest will also have bad memories, but at least I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

    I put my skills like this:



    Wolf RyderSkill Report
    Physical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sword Use6+2Dodge2+4Parry1+5
    Block2+6Shield Bash0+1Mental Resistance8+0
    Magical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sense Manay0+2Mana Control0+3Mana Recovery3+0
    Mana Efficiency1+0Reduced Mana Cost2+0FireMagic4+0
    Light Magic5+0Nature Magic5+0Nature Magic5+0
    Miscellaneous
    Skill NameLevel
    Andraste Language10+0Dismantling0+1
    OBS: Level means (free point)+(trained point)

    I cast [Wind Armor] on all of us and [Sharp Blades] on my sword.

    "Ooh, [Blessing Magic]. I knew you were a magic swordsman, but this is really good," Roxanne comments while inspecting her forearm for the faint magical breeze that the spell produces occasionally.

    I smile gently at her, then I meditate to refill my mana.

    Once I get up, I remember something. "Ah, Miss Roxanne, can we make a temporary fellowship? It'll be good for us to share Experience."

    "Sure thing!" She responds cheerily.

    I grab her delicate, pale hand and savor its softness, but Alissa's feels better.

    Then we start moving.

    The trees around here seem to grow in any direction they see fit, and their trunks are so thin and long that multiple trees huddle together in a sort of oversized bush. There's also too many actual bushes and too much tall grass, making traversal through here very annoying.

    I pull out a spare short sword and use it to cut a path forward. It's fortunate my sword skill helps in cutting grass.

    The cave entrance is not far away, and in a few dozen minutes, we're already touching the brown rock of the failed meteor, but just before we find the entrance, goblins get in our way. Alissa detects a group of three barely dressed goblins with crude wooden spears appear.

    "Target practice," I whisper with an evil smile.

    Alissa lets arrows fly, and two are already dead before the third even notices.

    He actually gets scared and freezes on the spot at the sudden death of his companions, allowing Alissa to fire a perfect arrow towards his forehead.

    "I can feel the difference," Alissa to me as she plays with her bow.

    I put the six extra points she had on [Bow Use] just for this battle, so I'll put them back on [Mental Resistance] when we reach the cave.

    "Impressive," Roxanne praises as we walk past the dead goblins.

    Alissa looks away so I can't see her reaction, but I can still see her that tail swaying for a second.

    Just a few more minutes, and we reach the entrance to the cave: a round, ten meters wide hole. Its size is rather impressive considering the moles are normally only one meter tall. Perhaps they dug it so wide so they could flood out of their caves more easily.

    I pull out the spear with a torch tied at the blade. It's something we prepared beforehand.

    Alissa lights the torch, and we start moving forward while I lazily wave the spear ahead of us.

    Not even five meters inside the cave, a fire suddenly spreads through multiple lines in the air. We've hit the first transparent web.

    It burns for a few seconds before fizzling out, then we keep moving.

    As the natural light from the sun is left behind, we all cast [Spirit Light]. I imagine a white light, and this time it comes out just as I wished instead of the usual ghostly light blue.

    Our progress in these tunnels is slow. Once in a while, Roxanne or I cast a small [Fireball], but the webs have quite a lot of space between them, so sometimes the spell just hits nothing.

    It can barely be called a "net" or "web," though. It's made to imperceptibly cling to the body, adding layers upon layers the further the prey walks in, and when they notice the web, they're already deep inside the cave and partially wrapped.

    The cave is an unending boring brown maze. The tunnels twisting and turning, they go up, down, and over. It's a chaotic mess without sense or rhyme. Maybe someone could make a random number generator just by analyzing this cave system.

    The map is rather nightmarish to understand without 3D visualization. The tunnels end up in rooms that are either square or round, and there's no logic for their shape or location. The cave was just randomly dug in in random directions and rooms were randomly added in just to randomize the randomness further.

    After half an hour of progress, Alissa suddenly stops me.

    "Something is coming," she whispers sternly.

    It must be a Tarantula.

    I drop the spear and draw my sword, then I feel Roxanne start gathering mana behind me. This [Sense Mana] skill is quite interesting.

    I start to hear the sound of something scurrying about, and the many nimble, small feet are coming directly towards us.

    An arrow and a fireball fly ahead.

    "HISHAAAA!" Then a hiss comes back.

    Hard to believe a spider can make a sound like that.

    I see something reflect ahead, then, a few moments later, a many-legged thing enters our light, and it comes flying towards me.

    I steel myself and put my shield up, then I feel Roxanne release her spell.

    Two things hit the shield and my view is covered by eight furry legs twitching wildly. I push back and immediately slash as a counter.

    My sword breaks something hard, then cuts through something fleshy like butter, and I feel something wet and hot fall on me.

    The Giant Tarantula is split into two, and I'm bathed in its inner fluids. It's a mix of some transparent, sticky substance with red blood. It's fucking disgusting, disgusting, disgusting, disgusting, disgusting, disgusting, disgus-...

    "[Clean]."

    Oh, this feels nice…

    It didn't have enough time to soak into my clothes, so everything just disappears in the blink of an eye. I'm better now.

    "Thanks, Alissa…" I mumble with a weak voice, and she pats my shoulder in consolation.

    "Are you okay now, master?" She asks concernedly.

    I force a smile. "Yeah… I just fucking hate spiders…"

    "I'm sorry, Mr. Ryder, I understand your situation," Roxanne sympathizes.

    You don't really need to apologize but it made me feel a little better, so it's okay.

    This Tarantula is just half a meter tall, and it looks to be a young one, which means it's dumber. That's why it didn't even stop the charge even after receiving an arrow and a [Fireball] on its face.

    I cut a fang as proof of extermination and pick up the flaming spear, then we move on.




    "There's two waiting on the fork," Alissa cautions me.

    Not a good idea to continue. Tarantulas are very nimble, so we have to deal with one at a time.

    A simple scenario, so I come up with a simple plan, "We'll lure them out. Miss Roxanne, use [Torrent] on the one on the right and make sure you don't miss. I won't be able to keep both away if you do."

    "Yes, sir! Don't worry, I have perfect aim with my magic," she confidently states and puts a closed fist over her heart. Considering she uses glasses, I'm nowhere near as confident as she is.

    We move forward a little bit so we can see the fork ahead. The tunnel opens into a square room with two other tunnels at the end of it, so the spiders must be just around the corner if we can't see them.

    Do they sleep? Do they hibernate or something? The book didn't talk about these things. I'll have to make noise so they understand we know they are hiding, then they'll either retreat or charge depending on how smart they are.

    I throw a [Fireball] to clear any remaining webs nearby, and we move to around twenty meters from the fork, then I ask Alissa to get near the wall and a few arrows the furthest she can into the corner of the room ahead.

    Three arrows hit the stone ground and break near where one spider should be.

    We wait a few seconds, but nobody hears anything.

    "Nothing?" I whisper to Alissa.

    "Nothing," she responds in the same tone.

    I throw a [Fireball] where the arrows hit and we wait… but again, nothing.

    I grit my teeth in anger. "Well… FUCKING STUPID SPIDERS COME OUT YOU LITTLE SHITS!" I let out an outburst.

    "Oh…! That did it!" Alissa exclaims and nocks an arrow.

    Seriously? Whatever…

    I pull up my shield and prepare.

    Two, one-meter tall spiders come out of the fork and dash towards us with frightening speed. One charges towards me, and the other towards Roxanne.

    Once they're a few meters away, Roxanne fires her magic.

    The spider is hit in the face with a thick jet of water that pushes it all the way down the corridor until it crashes onto the wall of the fork ahead.

    That was actually a really strong spell; I'll be surprised if it's unscathed. I little more power and it would've been an instant kill.

    The other spider jumps towards me, and I remain immobile, just waiting for it to come.

    An arrow whistles past my right ear just as the spider readies its fangs, and an arrow sinks into its mouth.

    It's mid-flight and can't stop, but it starts writhing in pain, completely giving up on the attack.

    The back of the arrow hits my shield and goes deeper into the spider but doesn't kill it, then its legs hit me and it pushes itself away from me.

    I try to counter with a thrust, but it's too fast and my sword hits nothing. That's okay, though, as it's part of the plan.

    I cast [Constricting Vines] at the spider far away who's writhing about on the floor. It's honestly the first time I have a good opportunity to use it because it's kind of hard to time it right. Green vines burst from the ground and wrap themselves around every limb of the Tarantula, keeping it secure to the floor.

    This spell can be very useful, but it takes time to get a grip on the target, so most intelligent monsters are either strong enough to ignore the vines, like the Orc Headhunter or the Young Ogres, or it's smart enough to dodge it, leaving few situations where it's worthy of trying to combo a stun with this spell.

    The remaining spider backs off as it realizes I'm too hard to kill and tries to circle around me to jump on Alissa.

    Like hell I'm going to let you do that.

    I jump forward and slash towards it, forcing it to retreat as it hisses at me, then another arrow pierces its face, taking out one of its many eyes.

    "HIIIIII," it lets out a high-pitched scream in frustration.

    I retreat back to the middle of the tunnel, and now I wait.

    Roxanne releases a [Fireball] at the Tarantula, but the spell is too slow, so the spider jumps backward and dodges it. When it falls, it meets another arrow that pierces its mouth again.

    Shit Alissa, that was good. I didn't even tell you to combo with the [Fireball].

    I cast my own [Fireball] along with Roxanne's. The spider dodges one, but its leg gets burnt by the other, then another arrow hits it, though this time it hit the hard exoskeleton, so it only penetrates shallowly.

    "SHAAA!" It screams and charges forward. Now it's angry and making a suicide charge, so I start preparing a [Fireball] in response.

    I take the charge head-on, and I feel its two fangs hit the shield with power. It hurts my shoulder, but I stand my ground, then I open my shield and point the [Fireball] directly at its face. It has no way of dodging point-blank.

    It lets out a disgusting high-pitched scream as it pushes itself away from me and rolls backward on the floor.

    I feel the vines are dissipating, so we have to finish this now.

    The burned spider stands up, but it's blind and writhing in pain, making it completely defenseless. Another arrow hits its mouth, and it starts to get dizzy, losing its balance.

    I jump forward with a thrust, and my sword hits its head. I crush the exoskeleton and the blade enters the flesh, sinking deep into its brain, then it immediately goes limp. It's dead.

    In the distance, the other spider comes charging. Two of its right legs seem to be broken, so it's lacking in balance and its charge is slow.

    Alissa immediately fires two fast arrows, and it isn't even capable of dodging, so one penetrates an eye while the other enters the mouth. Meanwhile, Roxanne is charging another strong spell.

    Before the girls can attack again, the Tarantula reaches me and leaps forward.

    I receive its attack with my shield, but it's weaker than the previous spider. I easily push it back, and Roxanne lets out her spell.

    She swings her arm vigorously as a fire whip flares in her hand, and its tip whistles past me in the blink of an eye like an arrow.

    The fire whip wraps around the body of the spider, and the sizzling sound of burning reaches our ears as the spider desperately struggles to free itself from it.

    I take the opportunity and slash at its body. I miss the head, but I sever three legs on the right at the base, and now it can barely muster the strength to resist anymore.

    I slash again and the last leg on the right side is gone, so it turns upside-down and struggles to right itself.

    I pierce the soft head from below, then it goes limp and dies.

    I sigh and start winding down, then Roxanne approaches and inspects her work as she casually comments, "That was interesting. I rarely have the opportunity to use [Fire Whip], but it's always extremely useful when the opportunity for it arrives. It's like your [Constricting Vines]: it needs to a distraction to make it work, otherwise, they can dodge it, and these Tarantulas aren't very strong, so I can hold them all by myself."

    "I prefer that you save your mana for a strong [Torrent], but let's try [Fire Wall] next. I really want to see it suicide jump into that spell," I confess with a sadistic tone.

    Fuck these spiders.

    [Constricting Vines] is good as a follow up for a stunned Tarantula, but we lack strong openers. [Fireball] is too slow, while [Fire Arrow] doesn't do much damage and Roxanne needs Alissa-level accuracy to be effective with it.

    "Perhaps [Water Blade] could work?" Roxanne suggests.

    I nod in agreement and add, "Let's try it after [Fire Wall]."

    As we get near the fork, I notice the symbols on each of the tunnels. It's the system explorers developed so someone could locate themselves inside this maze of featureless tunnels. Each fork has a unique symbol, so if we get lost, we can just move to the next fork and then search for the symbol on our map.




    After a while, we reach another fork, a circular room with six exit tunnels.

    "Wait, master," Alissa stops me.

    "What is it?"

    She scans the tunnels ahead, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "There's a strong smell of spiders around here, but they're too far for my [Sense Presence], so let me investigate a little."

    "Sure," I whisper.

    She stops before each tunnel and sniffs the air with cute movements that really do remind me of a fox, making me get so distracted I almost drop my guard.

    "The smell is stronger on these tunnels and lower on these others," she reports and points as she points at the respective tunnels.

    "Let's take a detour and go through that one, then. Less spiders on the way," I order.

    As we walk towards the tunnel, I notice something odd at the entrance. The tunnels are all half-circles and the floor is normally rough and slightly curved, but on this tunnel, the ground is completely level for about ten meters, then it becomes round again.

    My spidey senses are tingling.

    "What's wrong?" Roxanne when we both suddenly stop.

    "The ground is suspicious," Alissa answers, reliable as ever.

    "Indeed," I agree.

    I crouch in front of the tunnel and hit it with my hand, and it makes a hollow sound.

    I pull out a small broom from my "Items" and bush the dust away, revealing right in the middle of the tunnel a small channel. The floor is actually two slabs covering a hole almost perfectly made to look seamless.

    "Oh, wait, the ground changed," Roxanne comments confusedly.

    I turn around and frown at her. "What do you mean? All I did was dust it a little."

    "Perhaps it was an illusion?" Alissa suggests.

    I snap my finger and exclaim, "Oh! An Arachne trap."

    "But it isn't their territory yet," Roxanne replies.

    I shrug and point out, "They're known to be cunning."

    Roxanne crosses her arms and thinks. "This tunnel is the one with the faintest smell of spiders? Perhaps the smell itself is a trap."

    Goddamn mind games.

    I tap my temple in thought as I consider, "We have a few options here: trigger the trap then find a way to cross it, though that could alert the monsters that we are here; try not to trigger the trap and cross, but I don't really know how to do that; go towards the next tunnel with the faintest smell, but the smell might also be a trap; or go to our original tunnel with the strongest smell of spider. Any opinions?"

    "Well, aren't you the leader? Do you really need our opinion?" Roxanne asks with a teasing tone as she smirks.

    I categorically state with a snobbish tone, "I take it upon myself to make the decision, but I want to hear the opinions of both of you before I act." Then I smirk at her.

    She smiles and coos, "Ohh, I like that."

    Alissa clears her throat and follows up in the same tone as me while smiling faintly, "Well then, Master, I prefer to risk fighting the spiders on our original path, that's where our strength lies."

    Roxanne nods repeatedly. "I also prefer that. I really don't like arachnes and I don't wanna play their games. I prefer when my enemies charge into my spells," she speaks her mind.

    I nod and grunt in acknowledgment. "Then it's unanimous, let's go," I order.

    We enter our original tunnel and walk for ten, silent minutes before Alissa notices something.

    "There's something ahead; a single monster," she reports.

    "Okay, I'll try to attract it," I reply and lower the flaming spear, then I release a [Fireball] forward.

    No response…

    So annoying.

    "COME HERE YA DICKHEAD!" I suddenly shout.

    "It's coming," Alissa warns.

    Do they really understand our language?

    A single Giant Tarantula appears. This is going to be easy.

    The Tarantula charges forward madly. It receives an arrow on one of its eyes and a [Fireball] on one of its fangs before it even reaches me.

    The Tarantula loses some of its momentum, weakening the charge, and only a single fang hits my shield. The attack is solid but weak enough that it's bearable, and I even manage to cut a leg during the counter.

    "SHAAA," It shouts angrily.

    As it retreats a short distance, an arrow pokes another eye, then it decides that Alissa is the bigger threat and tries to go around me, but I cut another leg and it backs away.

    With one way closed, it tries to charge past me towards Roxanne.

    "[Fire Wall]!"

    And the spider jumps through the wall without hesitation.

    "HIIIIII!"

    "Oh shit," I mutter.

    Somehow, the spider has turned into a bonfire.

    That's dangerous.

    "Back off!" I yell to Roxanne.

    The spider almost tramples me as it hisses and thrashes about from the pain, and I have to bash my shield onto it to keep it away.

    Roxanne releases a [Torrent] and it flies away as it's partially extinguished.

    The spell was hastily cast, so it isn't as too strong as the previous time. Add that to the monster's tenacity, and the spider manages to quickly get up again. This time, it charges directly at me while half of its body is still burning.

    "Try the blade," I order Roxanne, and I start to feel a lot of mana gathering behind me.

    Rage fuels the Tarantula's charge, allowing it to reach a higher speed, and even after losing another eye to Alissa it still doesn't slow down.

    I just defend from its attack, focusing on keeping my feet on the ground, then I slashing to force it back, but it charges again immediately.

    "[Water Blade]!"

    An incredibly thin blade of water shoots towards the face of the spider. In it's rage, the Tarantula doesn't even notice the spell and takes the hit head-on.

    The blade disappears inside its face, then its body goes limp, and it rolls on the floor. It's dead.

    Through an imperceptible small slit, blood pours out of its exoskeleton, and a few twinkles of moisture in the air show where the blade passed through.

    "Wow, that spell is deadly," I remark in amazement.

    "I think we were just lucky because it was completely enraged, so it didn't even try to dodge," Roxanne rebuts with a face full of skepticism.

    I rub my chin in thought, the rough texture of my gloves making this act not very pleasant. "Hmm… then let's try one more time. At least we know it pierces without a problem."

    Alissa suddenly voices her doubt, "Master, one thing: are my arrows helpful? I keep hitting their eyes, but I'm not sure if that's a very effective target."

    "Yes, they are. The ones in the mouth make them hesitate when they charge. The ones in the eyes make them slower to react, it's subtle but I can notice the difference."

    "Oh, I see…" She hums, a little content, but I can't see her tail right now.

    Then I turn to the half-burnt corpse that smells rather awful. "But now I want to know why it burned so much like this. Was its hair so flammable?"

    Alissa tilts her head cutely and asks, "Flammable?"

    I hold myself from gushing and nod. "Yeah, it means something that catches fire easily."

    "We'll have to examine the corpse," Roxanne points out.

    I shudder. I don't want to touch the spider.

    "Any volunteers?" I ask with a guilty smile.

    "I'll do it," Alissa immediately responds without hesitation.

    No, you're too pure. I have to do it myself…

    "But this corpse is all charred, let's find another one," Roxanne suggests, looking like she's pitying her a bit, and I agree with her.



    We walk for a short while and find another corpse. Five corpses, actually.

    "What is this?" I blurt out, bewildered

    The Giant Tarantula corpses are brutalized. Their legs are bent and broken, their sternum is open and dripping, their abdomen is crushed, and their fangs have been ripped and scattered about. They're all hanging in the air by thick white webs like some sick modern art display.

    Roxanne wrinkles her nose in disgust and questions, "Ugh… what would do something like this?"

    "Arachnes?" Alissa suggests.

    I snap my fingers and exclaim, "Yes! That's it. It's part of the trap to make us not come here. Arachnes are very violent and prey upon tarantulas occasionally, so maybe this is their handiwork."

    "Can we never fight an Arachne, please? This is way too brutal for me," Roxanne pleads, her pale face even paler from disgust.

    I agree wholeheartedly, "Yeah, I'll try to steer us away from them. Now, let's continue for a short while and then rest a little."



    We find a nice large room a good distance away from the massacre and sit down for some tea.

    I bring out the small broom from before and clean the dust around us, then I bring out a large picnic blanket. With multiple *poofs* I pull out sandwiches and a few berries Alissa brought along with the juice. She pulls out a tea seat, the cheap cookies, and starts warming the teapot with a small [Fireball] she holds at the tip of her finger.

    "This is adorable," Roxanne comments with a smile.

    "Master gets grumpy when there's no tea," Alissa shyly teases.

    It's kind of true, though.

    Alissa seems to love making tea for me, and she took it upon herself to always carry the tea set with her. I like coffee with chocolate more, but I'll take what I can get.

    Roxanne follows up with the teasing, "If you told me that you were a noble, I wouldn't be surprised."

    I simply shrug. I know I can be a bit snobbish sometimes.

    Roxanne pulls out a small red crystal and offers it to Alissa, "Here, use this magic stone."

    "Oh, thank you, Miss Roxanne, this is more efficient," Alissa gracefully accepts.

    Then we share our food with Roxanne. She only had a simple sandwich, so she enjoys our cookies quite a lot.

    She finishes her tea and exhales loudly, "Ah~! This is nice…"

    My heart warms up as it feels quite nice to share a nice meal with someone. "It can get even better if I find something high-quality though," I comment.

    She raises her eyebrows and smirks. "Oh? Now I'm interested."

    I look at my cup as I articulate, "Well, first I need to find it. I don't know where, but I know it exists. I've tasted it once, and I'll keep looking until I find it again."

    I still remember the tea and cookies at the Golden Necklace, those were as good as the ones on Earth.

    "Please share with me when you find it, then." And she lets out a cut giggle.

    The sandwiches are our lunch. Though we don't know the time since we're underground, we can still follow our stomachs.



    We move on and meet another lone spider.

    "[Water Blade] this time," I order.

    We keep walking until Alissa tells us it's moving, then we get ready for battle.

    It comes straight at me like the previous fights and loses an eye to Alissa before it even reaches me. Meanwhile, Roxanne gathers her mana.

    I receive the charge with practiced ease, then I counter and cut the tip of a leg. Since I didn't cast [Fireball], the spider is less cautious, and it immediately starts another charge, but Roxanne releases her spell before it hits me again.

    The Tarantula immediately stops in its tracks once it senses the spell flying, then it nearly falls over as its legs scramble, desperately trying to dodge, but the spell still hits.

    The blade opens its thorax and blood splashes all over the floor, but it isn't dead yet.

    This is so annoying; just fucking die!

    The spider stumbles, struggling to maintain itself upright, and Alissa takes the chance to pop two other eyes.

    The Tarantula switches to the defensive and becomes cautious, so I charge forward and slash. It doesn't react in time, and I manage to sever a fang.

    I feel Roxanne gather her mana again, so I just threaten the spider and then back off. Roxanne releases another [Water Blade], and the Tarantula's reduced vision causes it to fail to dodge in time.

    The spell enters its head and its body instantly goes limp. It's dead.

    I clean my sword with a piece of cloth, then I walk to the Tarantula to inspect it. "Well, I guess [Water Blade] really is the most effective way to kill these things," I note.

    "[Fireball] makes them wary, so they slow down their attack, but [Water Blade] does the most damage," Roxanne elaborates further.

    Without hesitation, Alissa walks to the spider's body and touches it.

    I squeak in surprise and pity, "Ah! You didn't have to do this."

    Alissa shakes her head energetically. "I don't mind it, Master. I told you before to depend on me."

    Does she mean what she told me after we killed the Young Ogre? Is this her way of taking care of my mental well being? Well, I'm just being a pussy, so I don't think she really needed to do this, but I don't have the willpower to stop her now.

    She turns to the Tarantula again, then pokes and prods it as she inspects it. "Hmm… the hair is stiff and rough, and it seems oily and damp, but it doesn't seem to be something 'flammable.' What's this…? It's sticky…" -She raises her head and shows me her hand as her eyebrows rise high in surprise- "Is this the transparent web?"

    I get closer to her and grab her cute hand. I can't see very well, so I grab the [Spirit Light] floating above my head and bring it closer to her hand.

    After taking a very close look, I notice a slight shine. It's the ultra-thin and nearly transparent web of the Tarantulas that we have been burning up until now.

    "Hmm… why is there a web on its body?" I wonder.

    Alissa turns to the Tarantula again and starts to feel its body. "It's not everywhere; only some parts of it are sticky like this," she notes.

    Roxanne scratches her horn in thought as she wonders, "Why did nobody know about this? It's kind of hard to believe that nobody used [Fire Wall] to stop their charge."

    "Yeah, that's very odd," I mumble.

    Nobody has anything more to contribute, so reach an impasse in our reasoning.

    I shake my head dismissively and suggest, "Let's just go. We can still inspect more spider bodies and look for anything different."

    "Let me burn this web on my hand first," Alissa says and starts to chant a [Fireball].

    I forgot the web is super sticky. "Hold on," I stop her and grab her hand.

    With subtle movements, I quickly remove her [Mental Resistance] and put it all on [Pain Resistance].

    "It's all good," I whisper.

    Alissa's ears twitch, then she turns to me and smiles. It seems she noticed what I did. And Roxanne just watches us with a confused face.

    Alissa casts [Fireball], creating a flame above her finger, and moves it closer to her sticky hand until the web catches fire.

    It burns for a few seconds, then I approach her and cast [Regeneration] as I return her [Mental Resistance].

    Once she's fully healed, I give her hand a kiss, and she returns a sweet smile, then we move on.



    We meet five spiders in succession, but only two had the web on their bodies. This time, I give Alissa a small piece of cloth for her to check the bodies.

    "Could it be a difference between the sexes?" I propose.

    Alissa tilts her head cutely. "I don't understand, Master."

    I adjust my non-existent glasses and start the lecture, "The male spider coats his body in the web because it's sticky, then uses the stickiness to help hold down the female for mating. I know there are quite a lot of animal species that basically rape their partner during mating, so they use whatever they can to help tie up their mate."

    Roxanne hums in wonder, "Hmm, that's interesting, but I don't know much about animals… are you perhaps a scholar?"

    Alissa nods earnestly, then shares some of her knowledge, "I also don't know much about this, Master. Though it's known that the spiders reproduce, adventurer knowledge doesn't go much further than that since it doesn't help in killing them faster." Then she smiles wryly.

    I just casually respond, "I'm not a scholar, just a curious person who reads a lot of books."

    "To me, that's a scholar," Roxanne retorts with a cheeky grin.

    I shrug, then we move again.



    Alissa suddenly tells us to stop and reports, "This one is bigger than normal."

    "Arachne?" I question.

    "I don't know, I don't recognize the signature." She looks ahead with a serious look on her face and her tail hanging low. Her ears twitch from side-to-side, trying to catch any small sound, but she hears nothing.

    The [Sense Presence] skill is like a radar. It tells the distance, size, and direction with a certain amount of precision depending on the level of the skill. Each type of living being has a "signature," so it's possible to differentiate the types of monsters by their signatures, but if the tracker hasn't sensed a certain signature before, then it's nearly impossible to know what it is.

    I start giving out orders, "Okay, standard formation. No need to worry too much because it's either a bigger spider or an Arachne. It's certainly not a Sludge because there's no disgusting smell." And they both nod in acknowledgment.

    We carefully move forward because we could still sneak past it or enrage even before we meet if we make too much noise. Most monsters are more cautious during the first meeting, but if they know there are humanoids close, they can work themselves into a bloodlusting rage just by themselves.

    We keep moving while still using the flaming spear and we slowly inch closer until we see an outline being revealed by our light.

    It's a two meters tall spider with a red bulge growing out of its head that twitches and pulses creepily. It's so enthralled in eating the corpse of another spider that it doesn't even notice us approaching.

    I give a signal and start to charge a [Fireball] while Roxanne charges her own spell, then the spider turns to us, attracted to the mana.

    As it turns, an arrow pierces one of its eyes.

    "SHIA!" It shouts in anger and pain.

    It scrambles to retreat a few meters in surprise, but it still manages to dodge all the following arrows as they hit its tough exoskeleton and don't penetrate. This one is seemingly smarter and tougher.

    Then it suddenly charges.

    I release my [Fireball] before it reaches me, and it hits the right side of the spider's face, burning one eye. Roxanne doesn't release hers yet, so it's a stronger spell than normal, which is good since this enemy will need more firepower to bring down.

    Then the huge spider hits me, and I'm pushed back a little. I try to counter, but my sword simply slides ineffectively along its legs, simply cutting hair as I struggle to find a fleshy opening to strike.

    I get an idea, then I brace myself and wait for the second charge. The moment it starts dashing forward again, I charge my mana and point towards the spider as if I'm going to cast [Fireball]. The spider falls for the bluff and dodges to the side, so the charge slows and its attack doesn't have the same strength, but I still cast something.

    I jump backward as it hits and cast [Constricting Vines] on the spot I was just at. The spider stops on it, then vines burst out of the ground and grab its multiple legs.

    It remains stuck there for a short while, which is enough of an opening for Alissa to put an arrow in its mouth, but it's also the perfect moment for Roxanne to end it all.

    "[Water Blade]!"

    A long and wide blade of transparent water erupts out of her staff and flies towards the monsters in the blink of an eye.

    The spider tries to dodge it, but it's still stuck in place, so the blade sinks into its flesh and exoskeleton in a diagonal, severing the red bulge and all its right legs.

    The spider falls to the side, then writhes in pain and desperation, but it's over. I lunge and pierce its head, killing it instantly.

    Then we all frown in disgust as the red bulge splashes on the floor, releasing a gush of a transparent liquid, then revealing the skinless top body of a woman

    I'm starting to feel sick.

    Alissa grabs the flaming spear and assertively hands it to me, her face completely serious. I sheathe my sword and grab it, then she silently pushes me forward, and we quickly pass the dead monster.

    After a few minutes, the disgust passes away, and I finally realize the obvious. "That was an Arachne being born," I blurt out.

    "Yes," Alissa answers tersely.

    And that's all we say about it. Even Roxanne has no jokes to tell.



    We walk for a whole hour without any other encounters. It seems that the previous almost-Arachne cleared the area for us. Then we reach a fork.

    "Master, there's a disgusting stench coming from that way," Alissa reports.

    I frown as I detect a faint smell of shit. "That's probably the sludge, let's not go there."

    This enemy I'll avoid with all my power. After reading the battle reports of this monster, I think it'd be a miracle if we don't puke when we get near.

    After that, we only meet one lone spider, so we must be deep in Arachne territory now.

    We start seeing suspicious mists, and Alissa catches unknown smells, then the occurrence of the invisible webs drops drastically, allowing us to greatly increase our pace.

    We find two bear traps and two other suspicious-looking floor designs that we avoid at all cost. We just avoid anything out of the ordinary, really. It's not confirmed that it's an Arachne trap, but why risk it? There's also no need to rush, we can just take another route if our path is blocked.



    "This is the third time you've sighed in just a short time," Alissa suddenly whispers, her voice showing some concern.

    I look back at her and raise an eyebrow questioningly. "Uh? Why are you counting?"

    "To understand your mood," she answers matter-of-factly.

    I facepalm and sigh again. "Is that… really necessary?"

    "Yes, Master," -she suddenly grabs my hand- "I'll protect your mind and body," she confidently whispers as her tail wags gently.

    Girl, you're too good to me, I don't deserve this. You're actually making me feel guilty, and I also want to sigh again.

    No, wait, even for me, this is too much.

    I stop walking and look at the other girls. "I'm starting to feel like this is not normal. The sighing, I mean."

    Alissa lets out a small smile and nods. "That's what I thought," she agrees.

    "Let's just take a break. I'm feeling really tired," Roxanne pleads, her shoulders drooped in drowsiness.

    This is suspicious; even Roxanne is downcast.

    We all immediately sit down on the dirty floor without much care to dust it first.

    I put twenty points in a skill called [Diagnosis]. It takes a token amount of mana to activate it, and I use it on myself.

    Roxanne notices me staring at my hand intensely and gives me a curious look.

    A floating black screen appears before my eyes, and it tells me that I'm suffering from [Lethargy (small)].

    So, we got poisoned or something like that?

    I turn my points back to normal and turn to Roxanne. "Miss Roxanne, do you know of a pacifying poison or something similar that saps energy or stamina?" I politely ask her, trying not to sound too suspicious.

    "Uhh..." She mumbles absentmindedly with a sleepy look. It takes a few seconds for her to process my words, then her eyes suddenly go wide. "Yes! There is a pacifying poison! It gradually lowers one's energy, reducing their will to fight. I believe we might be poisoned with it."

    I've read something about poisons, so I need to make a distinction, "Is it a 'want' or a simple 'can't' fight because the person is exhausted?"

    "'Want', it's a mental poison," she states confidently.

    A-ha!

    Then I remember something important that slipped my mind, so I question Roxanne, "Now that I think about it, did you bring something for [Mental Resistance], Miss Roxanne?"

    This was an oversight. I should've asked what her countermeasures for the Arachne were, but I couldn't tell her my countermeasure was "I will just learn a rare skill whenever I want," so I think it was best that I forgot about it.

    She nods happily and pulls a necklace hidden below her robes. "Yes. This is a small amulet blessed by the God of Endurance."

    So the Gods can also enchant objects; that's quite interesting. I wonder if he'd be mad if Roxanne ever sold it.

    I turn to Alissa and smirk. "I have an idea, so I want to test something, and I'll need your help, Alissa." Then I stand up and offer her my hand.

    "Anything, Master," she obediently responds and takes it.

    I pull her closer and hug her waist, then I turn to Roxanne and smile apologetically. "Also, I'm sorry if this looks inappropriate to you, Roxanne, but this is in the name of science… or rather, in the name of the Goddess of Knowledge."

    Roxanne looks at me confusedly, then I turn to Alissa and look her in the eye lovingly as I cup her cheek. She relaxes in my arms and smiles faintly as she realizes what's to come.

    I pull her face, then give her a deep kiss, and she immediately hugs me back. I start slow, but then our tongues entwine, and we start kissing passionately.

    Energy starts to fill my heart and I get anxious. I want more, more! I want to be warmer, I want to hug Alissa harder, I want to undress her right here and take her. I reminisce about her beautiful body being adorned by the Clothes of the Berserker, her body being caressed by its silky texture.

    My heart beats madly with love and excitement, then my muscles warm up and itch for action as I feel the poison being cleansed from my mind.

    I slow down the kissing, then we, unfortunately, break away.

    Alissa is blushing, her breath is quicked, her tail is wagging rapidly, and her eyes stare into mine with expectancy. What have I done, she's in the mood, but we can't do it right now. This is torture, I say.

    I clear my throat and smile as I report, "I feel like this confirms it, we can break a mind poison by stimulating each other."

    "Eh…?" Alissa suddenly makes a funny noise then immediately clears her throat and assumes a forced composed tone, "Oh, ah, yes. I feel much better now, which means the kiss really did counteract the poison." Then she looks away embarrassedly.

    "Hmm…" Roxanne lets out a mindless sound as she stares at us blankly.

    I smile guiltily at her and suggest, "Miss Roxanne, you're still under the mind poison, so perhaps you should try to stimulate yourself, like slapping your face."

    "Not fair…" She mutters dejectedly, then follows my suggestions and slaps herself, hard. This is the standard way of breaking spells that affect the mind, which really isn't pleasant, so I feel some pity for her.



    Here's a quick complaint. No hero story ever tells you how stressful and embarrassing it is to answer the call of nature in a dangerous place while in a group. You can't go too far too so you don't endanger yourself, but you can't do it too close, otherwise, it's embarrassing if your comrades can smell or hear you. Even if we have incredible conveniences like [Clean] and a portable bidet with [Conjure Water], it's still a horrible experience.



    We avoid another Sludge and a few more traps, then we finally reach the territory of the Giant Moles. We just passed the most dangerous part of the trip, successfully avoiding all adult Arachnes. It's quite a feat, and it's all thanks to Alissa's nose.

    We're sure we've passed the Arachne territory because the traps and mists suddenly stop, and soon after we meet our first Giant Mole.

    "If I use [Quiet Steps] and [Quiet Action], then it's possible for me to assassinate it," Alissa proposes.

    I thought before about the possibility of her becoming an assassin with her skills, but it makes me uneasy to put her in direct danger. She's my only companion, and I must admit that I'm rather possessive.

    I cross my arms and think.

    "Be happy that at least he cares about you," Roxanne comments with a kind smile after seeing my hesitation.

    Alissa nods and states confidently, "I know Master is very reasonable, so I know he'll accept it, eventually."

    I'm uncomfortable with how easy I'm being seen through, and it's also true I'm just stalling. I don't want to let Alissa go while I'm forced to wait here and twiddle my thumbs in the dark, but it will be so convenient if she kills it by herself.

    The Mole is a burly enemy with a weak skull, so Alissa should be able to kill it with a single arrow, but I'm a bit scared of being mauled by its huge, heavy claws. If Alissa can kill it before it can even call for backup, then it'll save us so much time while also being much safer. I just have to trust she won't get herself killed.

    I let out a sigh of tiredness and relent, "I surrender. Go kill it, Alissa."

    They give each other a brief smile, then Alissa walks away without making a single sound.

    I stare at the tunnel anxiously, my body too restless for me to sit down and rest.

    After a minute in silence, Roxanne suddenly comments, "You two are very close."

    I feel something off about her statement. "We don't know each other very long; I'm just clingy," I deny.

    Roxanne shrugs. "Still, your relationship is enviable."

    I turn and raise an eyebrow at her. "Even though she's a slave?"

    "Does it matter if she's happy?" She retorts with a cheeky smile.

    I knit my eyebrows in skepticism. "You can tell she's happy even though you've just met her today?"

    Roxanne nods happily. "She's been smiling most of the time, except when you're under attack. You're always in the front, so I guess this is why you don't see it."

    I suddenly start to feel insecure as I look back to the short time we've been together. I sit down beside Roxanne and facepalm with both hands. "What does she even see in me to be so happy?"

    "You should ask her that yourself," Roxanne responds with a troubled tone.

    I release my face and lean against the wall. "She's young and naive, so she might really be in love with me, but…"

    "'But'?"

    How do I say to her that in my world I would be called a pedophile in certain countries, a creep in others, arrested for slavery in most of the world, or be seen as two idiot teenagers in heat if we consider this-world-age as my real age?

    Seeing my hesitation, Roxanne gives me a piece of advice, "I don't know what is on your mind but you should at least accept her feelings."

    I cringe and try to put my feelings into words, "It's that... I'm from a faraway place. In my homeland, we'd be called idiot teenagers who don't know what love is. Slavery also isn't legal, so our relationship is even more absurd. What kind of thing is love between a master and a slave, anyway?"

    She raises her eyebrows high and adjusts her glasses. "Slavery isn't legal? I'd like to visit that place, one day. But still, I say it again: at least accept her feelings. It's not like there's anything wrong with either of you, so you don't need to be so harsh on yourself, and just enjoy what you have."

    I'm being harsh on myself? Heh, I said I was going to abandon what held me down, but it's harder to do it when I'm not thinking with my dick.

    "Perhaps…" I mutter as I reflect on her words.

    I like this cool, older-sister-like Roxanne, though. Why can't you be like this normally?

    Anyway, I think I've understood what's making me worry. If I don't change who I am, then I'll suffer, but I'll keep my humanity like Alissa pleaded, though it might hurt her, too, seeing me suffer. If I do change, then I won't suffer, but Alissa might lose her hope in me, so it might hurt her anyway. Now that's a dilemma.

    While I think, Alissa comes back silently like a ghost, scaring us both.

    "Ah-...!" Roxanne squeaks, but she immediately covers her mouth, muffling the sound.

    Alissa's ears go flat as she apologizes cutely, "I'm sorry, Master and Miss Roxanne, I forgot to stop using [Quiet Steps]. Anyway, the mole is dead."

    I quickly recollect myself, then I calmly question so she doesn't think I'm criticizing her, "Took you some time."

    Her ears shoot up and she becomes serious again. "It was wary, so I had to move very slowly or else it would've heard me."

    Even though these are weak monsters, they're still blind moles that rely on hearing, so it takes quite some skill to sneak up on one.

    I grab her hand and give her a kind look as I plead, "I know skills like these make you stressed, so please tell me if you get tired. There's no rush, so we'll rest as much as we need."

    She smiles sweetly and nods, making her ears sway. "Thank you for your consideration, Master."



    Alissa kills five more Moles without a hitch. She's my own little assassin.

    "You are now level twelve," says the soothing female voice.

    Finally, it took some time. The spiders and moles are annoying, but they don't give much experience. The only real good source of experience was the almost-Arachne.

    I put my new four points in [Sword Use] (now 16+2).



    Alissa assassinates two more Moles, and we finally reach one of the entrances to the Spiral Springs dungeon.

    The dungeon has a completely different atmosphere from the boring and unending dark tunnels of the Ant Hill. The walls and ceiling are made of cobble with patches of raw stone or exposed mineral veins; the walls are warped and full of curves; the ground is made of soft moss over raw stone, and it'd be nice to lay down on it if it wasn't so damp. We'll end up with wet clothes if we sit on the floor without a blanket to protect our asses.

    A weak blue-green light coming from mana crystals illuminates the dungeons. They're cheap crystals that shine when they absorb mana, and since the dungeon is a solidification of a mana storm, mana crystals shine faintly forever. It's against the etiquette to take or sell these crystals since they're a huge convenience to all adventurers that come here.

    We're currently at the top floor, and like the other dungeons, the floor is massive in length; possibly the size of a town. It's made of multiple large rooms randomly interconnected, and with the occasional shallow water pool occupying part of them. The top floor is safe, so we're going to sleep here.

    The stairs are what gives it the name. They're merely slopes with faded steps where a channel runs and water trickles through, creating a nice and continuous sound of falling water. The slopes are in a spiral, and there's no railing, so the inner part of the spiral is open. That's where Spriggans like to put traps to make adventurers lose their footing and fall down. Each stair is around twenty meters in height, so a drop could be fatal, and we have fifteen sets of stairs to go down through.

    I point to a corner, and Roxanne burns a large patch of moss, drying the floor. We sweep the ashes, and now we finally have a proper stone floor to sleep on. I pull out my tent while Roxanne pulls hers.

    She conjures water on a bucket and heats it by herself so she can take a bath. Once she's done, we stop our watch and switch places with her. Alissa conjures the water, then I heat it, and we take a towel bath together.

    I've found that the fastest way is to cast [Fireball] on my palm, then submerge it into the bucket. It wastes a lot of mana, though.

    Then I get to wash Alissa, and she washes me back, but, unfortunately, we can't make too much noise, so make her bite into a gag, and we use our mouths. There's no way I'm going to spend a night without touching her, so we have to do it this way.

    Then we pull out our dinner. It's fried chicken! I mean, fried Dragolite. After a few bites, I finally remember what Dragolite reminds me of: chicken with rosemary. Then we eat our hot vegetable soup with toasted bread. Thank you, "Items." The convenience you bring is unmatched.

    One of the more interesting parts of the meal, though, is that I have my first taste of juice in this world. Gorgon fruit tastes and looks a bit like blueberries mixed with a hint of lychee.

    "Ah juice, thank you. No alcohol though?" Roxanne asks with a cheeky smile.

    I shake my head. "I don't drink, and besides, we shouldn't drink on an expedition."

    "Alright, alright..." Roxanne immediately gives up and rolls her eyes dramatically, then she gives me a curious look. "Honestly I'm envious of how big your [Item Box] is, Mr. Ryder."

    Well, here we go, insert dick joke here. I can't really spend points for an actual [Item Box], though, and training with Alissa to learn this spell has been really hard.

    "It's a natural gift, so I learned it super fast," I casually lie.

    She snorts and remarks, "It's like you were born to be an adventurer."

    "That's true," Alissa agrees wholeheartedly.

    I give them a painful wry smile and deflect, "Well I'm envious of your [Mana Control], Miss Roxanne. This [Explosion] spell is the mix of Water and [Fire Magic] at the same time, right?"

    Roxanne opens her eyes wide and shouts, completely astonished, "My secret! How did you…"

    I smile proudly as my guess was spot-on, then I give her a smug answer, "Knowledge from my homeland."

    "Unfair!" Then she pouts cutely.

    Alright, I've teased her enough, now it's time to retreat a bit. "But I can't use two magic schools at the same time, so you still have one secret, right?" I politely ask.

    She crosses her arms and grumbles, "It's not like [Explosion]; it's something every expert magician would have to learn one day."

    That's interesting. Maybe one day I'll control all elements at will and become a demi-god? Well, anyway, it's time to change the topic. I'm curious about Roxanne's background.

    "Say, Miss Roxanne, can you tell me about your race or your continent?" I gently ask, no hint of teasing in my tone anymore.

    The pout fades away instantly and she brightens up. "Gladly! But first, I want to talk about the misconceptions a lot of people have about my race."

    I blink blankly in surprise. I still have no idea about race dynamics in this world. "Oh? What are they about?"

    She adjusts her glasses and assumes a teaching tone as she starts to recite, "Well, the first thing is that since we have 'succubus' as the name of our race, people think we're promiscuous, but that's not true! We were created based on the myth of the succubus, but we aren't actual succubi. It's just we just have a higher libido than other races, but we still choose our partners very carefully. Also, we're more carefree and open-minded than the other races, but that doesn't mean we are dumb and unreliable."

    Just by looking at her, I can certainly see how the last one might've come into being. Curiously, the demon race seems to be the most common adventurer race on Rabanara aside from humans.

    "The second misconception is that our horns and tails are sexual organs. Some have feelings when you touch those parts, but it varies from person to person and from type to type."

    I can see that causing some misunderstandings.

    "The third is less common, but some people think we're descendants from monsters. That's definitely not true. The God of Creation made us just like all other humanoids. They might've used monsters as the basis for some races, but we don't have a single drop of monster blood in our bodies."

    I see. Being lumped together with their biggest enemy might hurt their pride.

    Then she smiles, satisfied with our acceptance, and becomes more casual again. "These are the three things I always tell other people. Now, you do you want to hear something specific?"

    "What about your birthplace?" I start.

    She nods sagely and crosses her arms. "Ohh~… that's far away from here. I was born on the Maoka continent, on the west coast, in a small village inside our HolyLands. If you want a more precise location, it's at the west of the Death Valley, if you have heard of it."

    Nope, I haven't.

    I tilt my head like Alissa and curiously ask, "Holy Lands? Death Valley?"

    Alissa smiles awkwardly while Roxanne chuckles softly and answers, "Well, the Holy Lands are a place that no outsider can enter without a permit. It's not a large piece of land, but it's the place that our first ancestors were given by the God of Creation after their birth, so it's a sacred land for us. The Death Valley is a large piece of desert that's very famous among adventurers because there're a lot of very valuable monsters there." -Then she smiles bitterly- "It's also a dreadful place, so hot and dry nobody has ever crossed it, and all the monsters there are horribly dangerous."

    I think there's a place like that on Earth, too, minus the monsters.

    "So do you have kingdoms, too?" I question further. The idea of "Holy Lands" makes me think they're religious, so maybe it's a theocracy.

    She shatters my imagination with a shake of her head. "No, it's just a Council of Elders that's elected from among the aristocrats and clergy." -Oh wait, "clergy"? So they are religious, somehow?- "We do it the same as the elves, so we always had a good relationship with them. Human and dwarven nobility drama books are famously complex, and nobody wants any of that for our race."

    We all share some chuckles. I watched Game of Thrones and House of Cards, and I don't want any of that drama, either. I'm way too straightforward to survive on that backstabbing nightmare.

    Then I turn to Alissa and ask, "What about the wereanimals? How do you govern yourselves, Alissa?"

    Her tone becomes energetic as she seems happy to talk about her people, "We have a Council of Elders, too, but they serve as advisors to the Chief of the Forest that they elect, which is the one who governs all the other clans, though the position generally stays within the same family. The Council is supposed to be composed of the wisest among us, while the leader should be the strongest man or woman of the tribe, but the clans choose their own candidates, so it varies between them."

    I hum in thought. "The Chieftess you mentioned was that leader?"

    She smiles a bit cheekily and giggles softly. "Yes and no. She and the current Chief were the two best candidates for this generation, so they decided to marry and share the title."

    Roxanne laughs like a haughty lady and excitedly claps the tip of her fingers. "Hohoh, how romantic."

    Alissa's smile turns wry. "Well, yes. I wasn't born when they married, but the Council of Elders was very amused. They even made their story into a play, to the embarrassment of the Chiefs.

    "You think it could come to Rabanara? I'd watch that," Roxanne comments.

    Alissa shrugs. "I don't know about that, but you might have more luck if you enter my clan's territory."

    Roxanne leans forward, showing a lot of interest. "Oh, do they accept foreigners?"

    Alissa stares at her cup as she recollects, "Only adventurers and merchants, but I think there are ways to get permits for other types of business. I have little idea how that works, but I know that they don't allow those who aren't werefoxes to settle on the land."

    Roxanne nods in understanding. "Ah, then it'll be okay, I guess, so I might visit one day. Where is it?"

    Alissa's eyes become faintly nostalgic. "West, beyond the mountain range, it's called the Misty Low Forest."

    Roxanne brightens up. "I saw it on a map once. It's not far, so I'll definitely go."

    I think for a moment. Her homeland is actually really close. Though we have to go a bit of a roundabout way because there are only a few spots where it's feasible to cross, I think it'd take only a few days to cross the mountain range in her fox form.

    Would it be too cruel to make this question…?

    I'm not able to hold myself back, so I tactfully ask her, "Alissa… would you like to go visit your homeland one day?"

    Her ears go flat and her tail stops wagging as she thinks for a while, then she shakes her head in refusal. "Not yet, I'm not worthy of returning. I still need to work more, but… I'm really grateful you offered, Master." And she gives me a sweet smile.

    I release my breath in relief. I guess that wasn't a bad choice to ask this.

    Roxanne turns to me with a cheeky smile. "Ah, Mr. Ryder. I see you're reserved, but do you mind telling us more about your homeland?" She politely asks.

    Ah, shit, now that I asked about her homeland it's obvious she might ask about mine. There's no way I'm telling, though. I haven't prepared a proper lie for it yet, so I'm just going to avoid this.

    Even Alissa seems interested in knowing more, so it hurts my heart to do this.

    I take a sip of my juice to stall, then I gently shake my head as I apologize and explain myself, "I'm sorry, but I don't like talking about that place. It's not that I'm a runaway or a criminal, I just don't like talking about it."

    Alissa nods obediently. She respects my feelings about this.

    Roxanne raises an eyebrow in confusion, then she adjusts her glasses and returns to being cheeky. "Well then, if you don't wanna talk about your homeland, then let's talk about mine!" She exclaims with pride.

    Well, okay, her personality might not be that bad.

    Her stories are mainly comedies about the stupid things the people of her village do. They seem to share her carefree and positive mentality, and they also like to party a lot.

    We talk for a long time, and we eventually get tired, so we go to sleep and start the watch cycle. We'll do three-hour cycles, starting with me, then Roxanne, and then Alissa. Roxanne drew the worse one since she'll have to sleep, wake up in the middle of the night, and then sleep again. It can be bad for the body to interrupt sleep like that, but them's the breaks. I could put out a summoned guard dog, but I don't want to show that magic to Roxanne yet.

    They all go to sleep and I sit down outside the tents. Now that I'm all alone, I start to feel a little bit lonely.

    Hello, Goddess of Knowledge. How do you feel about today? I think it was pretty interesting. We found how a Giant Tarantula turns into an Arachne even though I want to forget that image; we found that the tarantulas are likely using the web as a way of mating, though I'll need to make an autopsy if I want to be able to discern their sexes and confirm this; we also found that love, or perhaps just plain sexual thoughts, or maybe even just masturbation is enough to break a mind poison, and we don't need to slap ourselves until we nearly bleed.

    I feel like this world is somewhat interesting, and I'm still thinking about the [Golemancy] skill. Maybe in a few levels, I could put some points into it and try it out. Perhaps that skill could start an industrial revolution in this world?

    I'm still trying to keep the balance, so I don't attract too much attention from others and from the God of Destruction, but I could leave my knowledge behind after I die or something. I do have a degree in robotics, so it's likely to be my biggest contribution to this world.

    What do you think about this? Isn't this your reason of existence?

    Suddenly, I feel something change within me, so I open my stats and see that my "Piety" increased by 3 (now 6), then I see that under "Status Effects" there's a new entry: "Blessing of the Goddess of Knowledge."

    Oh, boy.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2021
  11. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    They both look excitedly at me, their eyes brimming with awe and respect.

    "That's amazing, master," Alissa coos as her tail wags excitedly.

    "Not unexpected," Roxanne calmly states with a nod.

    And I awkwardly rub my neck. "But what does this blessing do?" I shyly ask, a bit embarrassed about my own ignorance, but it seems they don't care or notice it this time.

    Roxanne assumes a teaching tone and excitedly claps the tip of her hands as she explains, "It means the Goddess has her eye on you and will influence your Fate to help you. If you continue to follow her path, then you'll certainly become a famous scholar one day."

    The way she said "Fate" sounded suspicious, as if it was a capital "F."

    Well, anyway, that's fortunate for me, I guess. Maybe now I should look if I can join the University. After this job, we'll have some money saved, so I can probably spend some time studying.



    We undo our camp after breakfast then move on, and in just a few minutes, we reach the first stairs. The sound of falling water tickles my ears, but the vertigo from looking down the hole in the middle of the spiral stairs makes me much more anxious.

    Like planned, I pull a metal spike, a spool rope, and a hammer, then I hammer the spike on the ground and tie the rope on the spike. I use the bowline knot to tie the rope just like the dungeoneering book taught me.

    This rope will stay here for at least two days if the Spriggans don't mess with it. If they do, there's always the alternative of using Roxanne since she can materialize two small bat wings on her back that allow her to magically float around. This way, she can fly up here then put the spike and rope for us.

    We tie the rope to our belts and carefully go down, but the descent is slow because the steps are wet and worn. Roxanne also uses the rope because her wings consume mana, so it's better to preserve her MP.

    "What's that thing?" Alissa whispers as she points.

    I look more carefully and notice that there's a vine loop on the floor, and the rest of its length goes down over the edge.

    I pull a small wooden bowl that we use to eat soup and throw it on the vine. The loop immediately tightens around the bowl, gripping it tightly, then pulls it over the edge.

    "Well, first trap successfully dodged," I announce with a wry smile.

    We continue down and reach the floor unmolested, then we remove the rope from our waists and move on.

    This time, the rooms have no identification, so I have to pay attention to the map, forcing Alissa to take the front of our little column.

    We cross a few rooms, then Alissa stops all of a sudden.

    "There's an enemy observing us," she announces with a chilling tone.

    "Can you take the shot?" I whisper.

    "Yes, but I'm sure the monster will dodge it."

    I give her shoulder an assuring squeeze. "I'll leave the decision up to you. We have to be aggressive towards the Spriggans, so killing them is the best option, but scaring them is also an alternative. We can't waste too many arrows, though."

    She nods diligently. "Understood, I'll wait until I have a better chance to hit."

    "That's fine."

    We cautiously move on, and after a few more minutes, Alissa suddenly stops and lets an arrow fly.

    We wait a couple of tense seconds in silence, then she reports without looking back, "I smell blood, but it must've done little damage as he ran away quite fast."

    I nod and smile kindly. "That's okay. Good work, Alissa."

    Her tail wags once then immediately stops.

    I should praise her more often.

    It's good that we engaged the Spriggan because if we'd ignored him, the little shit would've likely tried to sneak near us and steal something.

    That's the only enemy we find on this floor, but we also find a bear trap, making me wonder where they get these things.



    Another stair, another vine trap. Fourteen more levels to go.



    "Now there are two Spriggans," Alissa apprehensively reports.

    I grab my chin in thought as I ask, "Is it the same one from last time?"

    She nods positively. "I smell blood, so it's possibly the one I've wounded."

    "Let's wait until we can see them, then Roxanne will launch a [Fire Arrow] at them."

    From what I understood, the Spriggans are staying one or two rooms away from us. They can see in the dark, so they have no problem seeing us, and Alissa only knows about them because of [Sense Presence]. It's actually impressive she managed to fire an arrow accurate enough to harm a Spriggan while only using the skill to guide her.

    We cross three more rooms, then Alissa points to a small shadow peeking from the doorway ahead.

    I narrow my eyes in thought and hold back a grin as I point out, "Miss Roxanne, can you see that? On the right side of the doorway, there's a small head peeking."

    Roxanne squints her eyes and adjusts her glasses, but then she shakes her head as she denies, "I don't see it. Can you point my finger towards where I need to fire?"

    I get close to her and she crouches slightly, lining up my head with hers and our cheeks so close they almost touch, then I delicately grab the hand that grips the staff and point it towards the shadow. I sense a very faint smell of sweat and something sweet coming from her, the cheap anti-scent not enough to hide it all. Her pale hand is also very soft and thin, as if she never had to do a day of rough work in her entire life, though Alissa's is also like hers, so I believe magic might be involved.

    I have to hold myself back from inhaling deeply. Call me whatever you want, but I enjoy moments like this.

    Then I swallow heavily and focus back on the now. I make a stern expression and order, "Alissa, shoot your arrow the moment Roxanne releases her spell. Hopefully they're bad at sensing mana."

    Alissa nods obediently and Roxanne starts chanting the spell quietly.

    She points her staff forward, and I sense mana gathering at its tip, then Alissa pulls back her bow.

    "[Fire Arrow]," Roxanne casts.

    A flame shaped like an arrow suddenly appears at the tip of her staff and immediately shoots forward, illuminating the room as it flies alongside Alissa's, but the magical arrow passes the doorway and continues on along the tunnel, a miss.

    "Got one," Alissa whispers, her tone with a hint of joy and pride.

    "Nice," I coo with a grin.

    "Impressive as always, Miss Alissa," Roxanne praises her earnestly.

    Alissa squirms and her tail shivers, threatening to wag.

    Ah, such cuteness.

    We move towards Alissa's quarry and find a thin green man laying down on the floor with an arrow sticking out of his forehead. His eyes are of a pure white color with a green web pattern covering nearly half of it; his chest and arms are partially covered by pieces of mossy, dark bark, and, thankfully, so is his groin; his hair is made of a bunch of small pieces of bark protruding upwards; and the soles of his feet look disgustingly filthy.

    "Let's take his head," Alissa happily suggests, and I glumly nod.

    She draws her sword and grabs the head by the hair, then starts sawing the neck. The blood starts to pour as the meat splits open, but I find myself unable to look away. While Alissa calmly works, I glance at Roxanne and see her wrinkle her nose then sniffle.

    "I dislike the smell of blood," she admits and smiles wryly, but I'm too tense to react.

    Alissa quickly finishes the job and I immediately store the head in my "Items." This is the proof of extermination, so I'll have to watch this horrifying scene again a considerable number of times.

    I'll be fine…



    We quickly move on again to distance ourselves from the pool of blood we left behind, and we soon reach another stair down. At least there were no bear traps on this floor.

    I pull out another spool of rope, and we do the same thing we did before.

    As we go down, Alissa suddenly stops and points out, "Master, this moss is suspicious."

    "What do you mean?" I mumble as I try to look over her shoulder.

    She kneels on the floor and touches the step. "The stone is cracked under the moss."

    I hum in understanding and suggest, "Oh~… Let's hit it with the hammer and see how it goes."

    With a *poof*, I pull the hammer out and hand it to Alissa, who immediately slams it on the mossy step, then we take a step back as a hole suddenly opens up on the steps.

    I pat her shoulder and smile. "Well, this trap wouldn't be dangerous since we have these ropes, but it'd certainly be scary. Thanks, Alissa," I kindly praise her, and she starts acting cute again.

    "Yeah. I'd rather not be thrown around by a rope. Thank you, Alissa," Roxanne piles on, just making Alissa even happier.



    We continue down the stairs and reach another floor. Only thirteen to go.

    I wonder what's below the ground in this world. Is it like Earth where there's the mantle and things get hotter the deeper we go, or is there impassable purple bedrock? Maybe it just "ends" at an infinite hole.

    Focus.

    On this floor, the shallow pools of dark, dirty water are much bigger, leaving very little dry land. There's barely enough room for one person to walk in between them.

    "I smell something funny in the water," Alissa warily reports.

    "Let's not touch it," I immediately caution.

    Roxanne sniffs the air and walks closer to one of the pools, unnerving me, then she crouches and ponders, "I guess the water is corrosive. I don't think it's poison because it'd be really hard to poison every single pool on this dungeon unless the Spriggans have an unbelievable supply of it."

    Corrosion is even worse than poison. It hurts my soul to even imagine something hurting Alissa's cute little feet.

    "And there's another vine ahead," Alissa points out.

    "Alright…" I mumble as I search my "Items" for the bowl again, then I pull it out and throw it on the vines. They immediately tighten around the bowl and pull it into the water, then we hear sizzling.

    Roxanne nods in acknowledgment and states, "Corrosive. It wouldn't kill us, but it'd hurt."

    We find no Spriggan on this level, so maybe the corrosive pools are dangerous for them, too.



    Another stair, another vine trap, and now the pools are back to normal size. Twelve floors to go.

    We cross a few rooms, then Alissa stops us again. "There's a small mound below the moss over there," she soberly reports.

    I remember something from the dungeon reports and frown worriedly. "I don't even want to trigger this trap, so let's just go around," I firmly suggest.

    We take a small detour around the room and circle the pool.

    "There's another mound ahead of us," Alissa reports, starting to sound worried.

    I let out an annoyed sigh and mumble, "Well, shit."

    I pick a spare iron spike because it's heavier than the bowl and throw it at the mound, then a white flash blinds us. I immediately push Alissa back and pull my shield in front of us, getting ready for an attack.

    Only our vision was taken, not our hearing, so I focus on any footsteps approaching, but the only sounds we hear are the ones we produce ourselves.

    A few seconds pass, and our vision returns, but nothing else happens.

    I lower my shield and sigh. "They're just messing with us," I grumble.

    "Just like the book said," Alissa remarks, her tone a little tense.

    We encounter a few more mounds, which trigger a few more flashes, but we don't get blinded a second time. I wish I could dig the mound up, but I'm scared it might turn into an actual mine at some point.



    Another stair, another vi-...

    "It's moving!" Alissa exclaims warily.

    The vine slithers towards us like a snake, but it isn't particularly threatening, so Alissa and I awkwardly slash at the ground a few times to kill it. The vine stops moving after a dozen chops, but using a sword this way isn't good for the blade

    "The Spriggans can control vines, the first real attack is coming soon," I warn them, and they nod obediently.

    And we reach the bottom of the stairs without another incident. Eleven floors to go.



    There are no traps, so we grow a bit restless.

    "Three hits, it's the Spriggans," Alissa suddenly reports.

    Finally.

    I immediately strategize, "One for each of us. I'll take the middle, Alissa the left one, and Roxanne the last."

    We continue forward, and when we enter the corridor, we see something blocking our way. It's a wooden chest-high wall.

    "They're behind that," Alissa whispers.

    We brace for battle and slowly move closer, but then I get an idea.

    I smirk and turn to Roxanne. "Uh… Miss Roxanne, [Fireball], please," I politely request.

    Her expression lights up and she grins evilly. "Yes, sir!" She energetically replies. She was rather quiet all this time, but now that there's an actual enemy in front of us instead of just traps she seems a lot happier.

    I turn forward again, then I feel a lot of mana gathering behind me as Roxanne chants softly.

    "[Fireball]!" She suddenly casts.

    A large ball of fire bigger than my head flies past me, then it hits the wooden wall and explodes, leaving a large hole in the middle.

    "Erm… they're moving… downwards?" Alissa confusedly reports and cutely tilts her head to the side.

    "What…?" I grunt reflexively.

    Alissa scratches her fox ear. "Yeah, they ran away... downwards. There must be a stair or something there."

    "So another feint," I whisper tiredly and drop my shoulders dejectedly.

    "Ugh~..." Roxanne groans and rolls her eyes.

    The numbers of stalking Spriggans are increasing, but they're not attacking. Scaring works for now, but it won't last, so I want to kill some to set fear in them already.

    We walk up to the flaming wooden wall and see a dark hole in the ground behind it. There are vines hanging from the hole like ropes, which is what I believe they used to climb down, and the hole goes down a few meters, then opens into a dark room.

    "This must be how they sneak about the dungeon," I guess.



    We move on and soon reach the stairs down. Another stair, another vine trap.

    "Master, the stairs are slippery," Alissa cautions me.

    We take extra care and reach the bottom of the stairs without a hitch. Just ten more to go.



    As we cross a narrow corridor, Alissa suddenly stops me, then she kneels and observes something close to the floor.

    "I see… oh, it's a wire," she curiously mutters, and only when she runs her finger along the wire that I finally notice it.

    Now, wire traps are a mind trap too. This trap could trigger something that makes the whole corridor collapse, or it could just be a faint, a dud to make us tense, or there could even be another, different trap right after this one as our mind becomes hyper-focused on finding wire traps. It's right up the Spriggan's alley to play with mind games to tire us out.

    I look at the walls and narrow my eyes in suspicion. "Are those slits?" I notice.

    Alissa follows my gaze then nods in agreement. "Yes, Master. It's likely there's an arrow trap behind the walls," she concludes.

    Triggering this trap will cause uncountable arrows to come flying out of the walls. Don't ask me how it works, it's just "magic."

    I grab my chin in thought and guide her, "Alissa, look ahead of the wire, is there any other trap nearby? Like, a pressure trap, a mound, or another wire?"

    Her eyes carefully scan the mossy corridor. "Let's see… there's a suspicious square tile over there," she points out.

    Heh, I knew it.

    And I calmly order, "Then let's slowly move across this corridor. If you trigger something, immediately drop on the floor."

    We cautiously get past the traps, and Alissa spots a second suspicious square tile, then she suddenly stops.

    "There's one watching us," she tensely whispers.

    Just one? And this corridor is rather long… This is suspicious.

    I sternly order, "Alissa, shoot an arrow at him, then we should all increase our speed."

    An arrow flies, and I hurry us forward, then we feel a small tremor a moment.

    "Run!" I immediately yell. I don't even care whatever it is, we just need to fucking run.

    I glance behind us and see the floor starting to split, opening into a deep, dark hole.

    "FASTER!" I scream and look ahead again.

    I can't see Roxanne behind me, so I just hope she exercises regularly.

    Alissa and I reach the end first, then I look back and see that Roxanne is still some distance away.

    Dammit, girl!

    I desperately open my "Items" and pull out a spool of spare rope, then Roxanne's footing disappears under her and she jumps.

    Bat wings suddenly appear on her back, then they start to lazily flap about, and she starts to float. She crosses her arms and legs as if she was sitting in the air while she slowly flying towards us.

    I forgot about that. Thanks for the heart attack.

    "So… I'm really thankful I can float," she casually remarks while giving us an embarrassed smile.

    I facepalm and massage my eyes. "I'd have thrown you a rope if you couldn't," I wearily reply.

    She giggles softly as she steps on the floor before us. "That's a little reassuring, but I'm still pretty pissed at the Spriggans. That was some major trap! We evade a dozen of them, and then a little shit comes here just to trigger one last trap himself," she irritatedly remarks.

    I nod as I coldly explain, "That's why we need to brutalize them. If they attack, then we leave no survivors, and that puts some fear into them."

    She holds her waist and strikes a sassy pose. "Then I'll use [Melt Skin] on them to make them terrified of us!" But I shudder at the thought.

    Help me, Alissa, she's threatening my mental health!

    "Let's not deviate from the plan, effective ways of killing comes first," Alissa soothes her.

    Thank you for being so reliable.

    Roxanne crosses her arms and pouts. "Hmph, alright," she grunts back.

    Then we reach the stairs down. Another stair, another… moving vine, and we easily cross it. Nine to go.



    "There's one on the left corridor and two on the right," Alissa tensely whispers.

    And I strategize, "Hm… If we chase them, they'll run away, and if we ignore them, they'll come from behind and ambush, so I want to force a fight..."

    But there's no time to think.

    "Master! Three coming from the front! Ambush!" Alissa frantically shouts.

    I grit my teeth and grip my sword harder. "Shit. Alissa, right! Roxanne, left! Kill sides, then support me!" I immediately bark orders.

    I draw my sword and ready my shield, then I charge a heavy [Fireball].

    I notice something being thrown. It's a crude wooden spear, but it just clangs against my shield, not sharp enough to pierce it.

    "Projectiles! Watch out!" I warn them.

    Roxanne is bad at dodging, so she's the one in the most danger. I need to kill that spear-thrower since there's no cover here.

    Shadows come into range of our light, revealing three skinny green men. Two of them are wielding crude metal swords and crude wooden shields while the third has a spear in its hand and a dozen more on his back. The shield users have a large amount of bark covering their arms and legs, but their chest is still vulnerable.

    I charge forward. The spear-thrower must die.

    The shield users stop and brace themselves.

    I bash the one on the left, and he staggers backward. A spear flies and hits my shield, but that's enough of an opening. I let out the [Fireball] towards the spear user and parry the incoming blow from the one on the right, then I hear a masculine scream. His voice is similar to a human's, but it's like there are two voices overlapping each other.

    It hit!

    The spear thrower's arm and part of his chest burst in flames, and he starts running around, too stupid to put out a fire in the middle of a damp room full of pools of water.

    I immediately back off and glance at the girls.

    Alissa is on the ground being pulled by a vine towards the pool, there's a Spriggan on fire near her, but Roxanne is sprinting towards them, dagger in hand.

    Fucking no, no, and no!

    I dash towards the one on fire, then he drops his flaming shield and moves towards the defenseless Alissa as her sword is on the ground, out of her reach.

    I don't have time to stop, so I tackle the Spriggan and my sword pierces his back, then we both fall on the ground in a messy way.

    He thrashes about, trying to hit me with punches and kicks, but I can't finish him off since my sword is stuck in him, so I draw a dagger from my back and stab his chest multiple times, right in the heart.

    After a few stabs, he slows down and quickly loses strength, then stops resisting entirely and becomes limp.

    "[Melt Skin]!"

    A chilling, guttural scream fills the room. I look towards its source and see a Spriggan rolling on the ground while white steam rises from his body while Roxanne stands near him, holding her dagger threateningly. Luckily, I can't see much more than that due to the steam.

    Alissa is beside her, clashing swords with a shield user Spriggan. His attacks suddenly slow down, and he starts to retreat, so I dash after him.

    Like hell I'm gonna let you go now, you shit stain.

    He's not fast enough, so we manage to surround him. Roxann's hair is disheveled, making her look very angry and stabby, while Alissa faces him with a serious, murderous look.

    I come from the side and slash at his flank. He doesn't react in time, and blue blood is drawn from his ribs.

    Roxanne starts chanting, so the Spriggan turns around to run again, and Alissa slashes at his back, making him fall from the pain, then I kick his face, stunning him.

    Alissa's boot presses down on his chest, then she beheads him with a clean chop. [Sharp Blades] can make swords become frighteningly sharp.

    I look around and notice that the spear-thrower is already far away, though he's still burning. There's also a Spriggan with an arrow poking out of his forehead, a carbonized body, and a passed-out one with his skin melted.

    I don't even want to look at the last one right now, but then Roxanne walks up to him, and I hear the wet sound of flesh being cut.

    Jesus.

    Alissa starts collecting the heads, but she stops for a moment to stare at one with a mohawk made of bark, then she laughs and stores it. I just spend the whole time staring down, cleaning my sword and shield while Roxanne pats her robes and brushes her hair.

    Once she's done, Alissa comes to me and regretfully apologizes, "I'm sorry, Master. I got caught in a vine trap and dropped my weapons."

    I shake my head and give her a kind smile. "Don't apologize for this. Mistakes happen, and we deal with them as a team. It was good acting by Roxanne to come and free you, but I was also a bit far, so it was partially my fault you were so close to danger."

    She frowns concernedly. "T-that's not-..."

    "Don't argue. We are companions," I assert with finality. I don't want her to apologize like this for every mistake.

    She bites her lip and nods. "… Understood, Master," she reluctantly relents.

    I store my rag and stand up. "Now let's go, I don't like this smell."

    It's the smell of barbecue.



    We reach the stairs down and take a small break to eat an early lunch. At least it seems so since we have no idea of the time.

    I drink my tea with my lunch, which isn't customary. Though I like to drink tea during the afternoon snack, there's no time to take another break after this, so it has to be right now.

    Alissa is content to make tea for us, which also soothes Roxanne's bloodthirst, so I guess this was the best choice, after all.

    We only hear the faint sounds of running water and our quiet chattering, making this place quite a nice spot for a picnic. The atmosphere is also nice, and the girls are happy, almost making me forget the imps planning our deaths nearby.



    Another stair, another vine trap. Eight to go.

    This floor has a few wooden walls blocking the way here and there, but no enemies, so we can just blow them open if they get in our way.

    It seems we scared them off with the last fight, which is excellent to us. Perhaps that attack was a test to see how we react, and it doesn't seem unlike monsters to sacrifice a few for the "greater good."



    Another stair, another two moving vine traps. Seven floors left.

    Mounds and bear traps appear again, and this time, I have a bad feeling about them, so we throw a spike from far away, then it blows up.

    Finally, the mines have appeared.

    We move extra carefully on this floor, but we reach the stairs without any dangerous encounter.



    Another stair, another… empty stair?

    No traps. Suspicious.

    Six floors left.



    Pitfalls, pitfalls galore. We have to keep looking for cracks in the ground and hammering anything remotely suspicious. I also tie a rope around Alissa, then Roxanne and I hold it from a bit far behind while she explores.

    Another stair, another no trap descent.

    Five floors to go.



    "A Spriggan is watching us," Alissa soberly reports.

    "Hmm…" I stroke my chin as I think of a nefarious plan, but the Spriggans are too slippery for what I have in mind. "I want to chase him and give him a scare," I tone down the evil.

    "There have been quite a lot of traps on these floors, so it's better to not run," Alissa counters.

    "Let me try a small explosion near him," Roxanne evilly suggests.

    "Isn't that a waste of mana?" I question her skeptically. I know this spell's mana efficiency is kind of bad.

    "If it's small, it'll only startle him, so it won't waste too much mana," she explains as she adjusts her glasses.

    And I shrug. "Fine, then."

    Roxanne claps the tips of her hands excitedly and turns to Alissa. "Please, point me towards the Spriggan, Miss Alissa."

    I savor the sight of a cute girl and a hot woman rubbing cheeks and holding hands. I want a picture of this scene.

    Roxanne grins evilly as she casts, "[Explosion]!" And I hear a boom, then I feel a faint breeze.

    "He actually got pushed away quite a bit, so I think the explosion wounded him," Alissa reports, sounding quite impressed.

    I nod in approval as I hum, "Oh, wow. We should use this spell more often, then, because it seems that he couldn't detect the spell until it was too late."



    Alissa finds another Spriggan, but he runs away immediately when we stop to aim.

    Heheh. They're scared now.

    A mix of traps appears on this floor, which is quite annoying since it slows us down.

    Then we reach the stairs. Another stair, another no vine trap descent.

    Four floors to go.



    Vines, vines everywhere. We walk forward slashing at the ground repeatedly, but I fear my poor sword will get ruined like this. Vines try to grab us from multiple angles, but they're too slow to be effective now that we're wary of them.

    They're not like the Bush Babies that can strike hard with their vines, these can only move and entangle us then push us towards the pools. If a vine catches us and we fall, as long as we have a sword or dagger at hand there's nothing else they can do.

    Honestly, this is the most annoying room so far. I almost feel like just running past all these vines.

    But we eventually reach the stairs.

    Then I look at Alissa, and she looks at me.

    "Something is odd," she points out.

    "Even I think so," Roxanne agrees, squinting as she stares at the stairs intensely.

    The stairs look… too well done. All the other stairs looked worn out and uneven, but this one? Every step is perfect.

    I ponder for a moment, but I eventually just give up, "Hm… If something happens, we always have the rope, so let's just go."

    We start descending, and we don't meet a single vine trap.

    But once we reach the middle, we hear a *clunk* sound.

    Ah, shit, here we go.

    The stair suddenly changes into a slope, then a large amount of water gushes out from the walls in jets.

    There's no time to react, so we're pushed towards the edge and start losing our balance.

    I slip and slide down, so the rope pulls on Alissa, making her slip, and Roxanne follows a second after, then we're all pushed over the edge by the strength of the jets.

    The rope holds, and we dangle above the pit a good ten meters above the ground, but right under us, I see dozens of pointy shadows at the edge of my light.

    "These fuckers…" I grumble.

    "My robe…" Roxanne whines.

    "Annoying…" Alissa growls.

    We slowly crawl down the rope and land avoiding the spikes embedded on the ground, then we use [Fire Magic] to dry ourselves.

    Three floors to go.



    Another floor full of wooden walls, and it also seems empty.

    But Alissa eventually finds one. "One monster hiding ahead," she calmly informs us.

    "Hm… have they all not ran away?" I think out loud as I squint to discern what's up ahead. At the end of the corridor, I see the outline of a chest-high wall. "Well, whatever, he's behind that wooden wall?"

    "Yes, Master," Alissa obediently replies.

    I turn to Roxanne and grin. "Miss Roxanne, you can see that, too, right? Do you think you can cause an explosion right where his head would be?"

    She matches my grin and adjusts her glasses as she chuckles like an evil lady, "Ohohoh! I like that!"

    Then Alissa helps Roxanne point her finger again, scoring another hit on my heart. The two beauties together is truly a sight to behold.

    Oof.

    "[Explosion]!"

    I hear a boom followed by a wet, fleshy sound, making me giggle.

    We walk up to it and see a headless Spriggan laying on the ground with his back against the chest-high wall. The surroundings are completely covered in blue blood and small bits of brain matter and bones.

    Roxanne leans down to inspect the damage closer. "Ohoh~… I'm quite satisfied with the result, though it's a shame that I destroyed the proof of extermination."

    But then I start chuckling.

    "Master, what's so funny?" Alissa asks concernedly.

    I can't control myself, and the chuckling grows into laughter.

    I try to speak, but I'm so distressed that I can barely keep it together, "I'm not… ahahah… going insane… hahah… it's just that… hah… it's just so… AHAHA… ridiculous…"

    Both of the girls look at me worriedly as I bend over and wheeze, but then my stomach starts to hurt, making me even more agitated.

    "L-let's go, Master," Alissa hurries us, and the fit of laughter starts to subside.

    Soon after, we reach the stairs.

    Oh, look it's back. Another stair, another vine trap.

    Two floors to go.



    We're thankful the journey across this floor is short. It's filled with even more traps, but the small distance to the stairs down means we only have to deal with them for a short time.

    Another stair, another vine trap.

    Last floor.



    "The smell of Spriggan is really strong here," Alissa warily points out.

    "Perhaps they actually live here?" Roxanne wonders.

    I look around and notice small mushrooms and bushes with fruit, so I cite, "This floor has food for them, so while it's not known if they actually live here, they do come often."

    There are forty more floors after the one of the Moon Turtles, and it's thought that the Spriggans are hunter-gatherers who don't live in a single place for long.

    We quickly move on, eager to reach the end of this stretch of our journey, but after a few rooms, Alissa stops us.

    "I smell burnt wood," she whispers, sounding puzzled.

    "Oh? So they do use fire," I mumble back.

    "Well, this means they're close by," Roxanne explains, and it puts my curious mind back on track.

    I smile wryly. "Yes, right…"

    But she looks at me eagerly, just waiting for the order to fight.

    "Let's not fight them," I stop her immediately.

    "Awn…" She moans cutely, which is a bit jarring for her sexy style.

    I give Alissa a worried glance, but she doesn't seem to understand. "You can only blow their heads if they're standing still, you know," I try to appease Roxanne.

    "I can still use [Melt Skin]," she casually replies, giving me a shiver.

    I'm surrounded by sadistic women.

    "Miss Roxanne, that spell is only for emergencies because it's too dangerous to be used so carelessly," Alissa warns her, finally coming to my rescue.

    "Hmm~..." Roxanne groans with a pout, seeming a bit vexed.

    Alissa isn't wrong. That spell has quite the short range, and I'm not letting Roxanne get close to another Spriggan again.

    "Oh! Master, there's nine of them right ahead!" Alissa suddenly exclaims.

    Then I notice that the room they're supposedly in is quite small.

    I suddenly get so giddy I start to grin evilly, "Heheheheh… Miss Roxanne, [Firestorm] please..."

    Roxanne's expression turns crazed and murderous. "Yes… yes… YES!" She shouts hysterically.

    The Spriggans thought they could ambush us again. They thought they could outnumber us. But they've underestimated us.

    You don't fuck with a Fire mage.

    "They aren't coming, they're waiting to ambush," Alissa declares, confirming their death sentence.

    Even the kind and forgiving me is pissed at these imps, and if we can crush them from afar without even being able to see them, then my heart is safe. It's just more numbers on my experience bar.

    I hug Alissa's waist, and she rests her head on my shoulder, then we watch the show.

    "[FIRESTORM]!"

    In the distance, we see the room lighting up. Wisps of flame appear from nothing, creating lines in the air that twist into spirals. The number of flames suddenly explodes until they cover the entire room in just a few seconds, creating a hellish tornado of fire.

    A strong gust of hot wind blows on us, bringing the smell of burnt wood and flesh with it.

    "GET FUCKED!" Roxanne screams triumphantly, then she pants and leans on her staff.

    "They're all dead. Good job, Miss Roxanne," Alissa praises her cheerfully.

    The last stair is a few rooms ahead, so this was our last encounter with the Spriggans. After this, the journey back will be simple since the way is clear.

    We inspect the damage, but no corpses are left behind. The entire room is completely black and charred.



    Then we reach the stairs down. Another stair, another vine trap.

    And we finally reached the floor of the Moon Turtles.

    "MOONLIGHT MOOOOOSS," Roxanne lets out a long scream as she falls on her knees, her eyes watery, and her hands on her cheeks.

    Our prize is finally within sight. Shining in the nearly completely dark cave, a glowing patch of white moss covers the round back shell of a monster, illuminating the surroundings, and revealing the figure of the huge turtle.

    The Moon Turtles turtles are just literally giant turtles with a shell covered in either blue or green moss. They have small little spikes growing out of their shells, like a certain famous kidnapping turtle, that thrust out like a porcupine when it's angered. Fortunately, they aren't aggressive, and they'll only attack on their own if someone stands in front of them.

    There's no moonlight here, but the mana from the psychedelic moon still penetrates the earth and the dungeon, then feeds the Moonlight Moss, giving it its name.

    We take a break to let Roxanne recover the mana she used for [Firestorm], and once she's ready, the massacre begins.

    This floor is damper than the others, and the pools of water are much deeper, but not wider. The Turtles like to hide in the pools, thinking they're safe since nobody wants to touch the water, but that just makes them more vulnerable to ranged attacks.

    We move fast and ignore most turtles since only a few of them actually have the Moonlight Moss. Once we spot our target, Alissa uses [Muscle Explosion] to shoot two arrows in quick succession to blind it. Knowing that it's going to die, the Turtle becomes enraged and shoots fire everywhere in hope of scoring a lucky hit.

    Though it's lashing out wildly, it's still a slow-moving turtle, so I put tall, thick boots and enter the shallow pool, then I carefully approach it from behind and slash its throat. Once I confirm that the bleeding is satisfactory, I return to Alissa to recharge my mental energies while we wait until the Turtle dies from blood loss.

    It dies after a few excruciatingly long minutes, then Roxanne happily floats towards it and starts working.

    The only problem is that all this blood is bad for my heart, making me queasy. I guess the stress of the trip and the danger of this dungeon keeps me sane, but it's not easy to watch the slow death of these Turtles.

    Roxanne's work is slightly fascinating, though. She first spreads a measured amount of a drying powder on it and waits as it reacts until it becomes crumbly to the touch but not enough that it becomes like sand, then she finally pulls out a silver spatula-like scraping tool and collects the Moss.

    The Moss is quite corrosive to most materials, forcing her to use thick gloves. The only exception is silver, which is absorbed when it touches the Moss, creating a fine layer that shields it from touching other things. This layer is what allows the Moss to be safely transported, and it also helps that silver is already an ingredient she wants to use in her potions.

    The process takes a few minutes, and by running from room to room, we manage to kill nine Turtles an hour. We work for three hours, rest, work another three hours, and Roxanne's jar finally gets filled.

    "Contract complete!" She exclaims and happily bounces around while holding her jar.

    "Uh… we still have to escort you back," I point out.

    She stops and grins embarrassedly. "Oh yes, that's right, eheheh."

    How can you be so carefree?

    Exhausted, we set camp in a quiet, empty room.



    Roxanne takes a bath first while we keep watch, and she happily hums a cute little tune as we hear the splashes of water.

    Alissa and I both smell of sweat, but we still sit on the floor right next to each other as we hold hands and stare out of our secluded room.

    "It feels like we have been so long down here," Alissa suddenly comments wistfully.

    I gently caress her hand as I admire how perfectly smooth her skin is and explain, "It's because we can't see the sun, so our notion of time is messed up. Now that I think about it, is there a shop where we could buy a clock?" I raise my head to look at her.

    She looks at her hand and smiles at my loving touch. "I've seen them a few times at the Flea Market. The Crafters' Corner should also have them, but the magic tool shops are more guaranteed to have it in stock."

    "You think it's expensive?"

    Her tail lazily wags as she thinks for a moment. "Yes, that's why not many people have it. Looking at the sun or the sun dials is enough for most commoners."

    I start to feel mesmerized by the movement of her fluffy tail. "We should have some good money after this, so we'll rest for a few days, and I'll use the leftovers to buy one."

    Her tail wags faster and I smile unknowingly. "A few days with only us would be nice," she whispers with a dreamy tone. "I want to learn more about the local teas, and I also want to practice cooking again."

    I raise my eyes back to her face and stare at her orange jewels. "Oh, yeah, you have the [Cooking] skill, but you haven't made anything for me yet. I'd love to eat something you made." -She gushes adorably and gives me a sly glance- "I used to cook, too, so let's do it together."

    She tilts her head cutely in surprise as she hums, "Oh? Yes, let's do it together." Then she squeezes my hand lovingly. "You also haven't told me what dishes you used to eat in your homeland."

    Cooking together… like Lily and I used to do…



    Bath time goes the same as before with gags, fingers, and oral only. Alissa holds her voice better this time, so I put a lot of energy into eating her out, gradually increasing my speed until she tells me to slow down, then she orgasms on my tongue.

    After having my taste of her, we eat the same dinner as yesterday and go to sleep again in turns. I get to sleep for three hours while hugging Alissa, but we have to do it while armored, which dampens my enjoyment a considerable amount. Well, Roxanne's robe can barely be considered armor, but I think she has some light gambeson under it.



    We wake up feeling a bit stiff, then we eat breakfast, and prepare to leave.

    Roxanne spends a long moment looking out of our secluded room, staring at the distant glint of more Moonlight Moss. If she wants to go, she'll do it alone because I just want to go home.

    Eventually, she snaps out of it and we move out.

    Once we get to the stairs, we see that the rope we used is still there. Makes it worth having spent so much money on the spool of rope.

    Then we move through the rooms at a hurried pace. We know where the traps are, and not only do the Spriggans take a long time to change the trap layout, they're also far too scared of us now to attack again.

    We blaze through the floors and leave the dungeon before it's even noon, I think.

    After a light snack, we wait a short while for digestion to do its thing, then we start to stretch. We're going to run, fuck sneaking about again. The moles won't chase us into the Arachne territory, so we can just run past them because they are way too dumb and slow to react fast enough to block us.

    I'll keep Roxanne in front of me because I can't let her sexy slow ass fall behind like last time.

    Then I have Alissa memorize the order of the markings on the tunnels to guide us through the path that takes us outside, and now we're ready.

    "RUN!"



    We simply run past four Moles. We throw a few arrows and spells at them the moment we meet, scaring them off and clearing the path for us.

    "Five more markings," Alissa reports, not even out of breath, but we still have about ten more minutes of running, then she suddenly stops. "Wait, someone's coming."

    I get in front of her and pull up my shield. "What is it?" I warily ask.

    "Three humanoids are coming towards us. They're likely just adventurers, but… they're running from something?" She questions, unsure herself.

    "Running from what? Actually, it's pretty obvious, get ready to fight an Arachne," I order as I glance at the girls, and they nod solemnly.

    Just our luck. This expedition didn't have any real incident so far, so it was about time something unusual happened.

    We wait for a few seconds, then we start to hear footsteps. I quickly become anxious, thinking that the Moles are going to come running from behind now that we've stopped, so I warn Alissa to keep an eye on our backs.

    Sorry you have to work so much.

    Then a line of adventurers comes from the tunnel ahead. The first one is a black man in a hauberk and chausses with a large kite shield and a sword sheathed on his waist; the second is a blonde bearded archer with black leather armor and a red feather cap that looks kind of tacky, and I see a white, thin, furry tail coming out of his back; and the last is a short-haired redhead woman with a black robe, a wand in one hand and a small, round, iron shield on the other.

    They all look deathly pale, their faces blank with fear, and their bodies glistening with sweat.

    "SYMBOL OF HATE!" The man in chain mail bellows and we all shudder in fear at the name.

    We're fucked, that's a threat level 7 monster.

    The Symbol of Hate is an aberrant legendary monster that appeared about two hundred years ago. She's a five meters tall Arachne with twelve spider legs with a hair so stiff that can puncture the skin with their sharpness; her spider body is almost as hard as metal; her black human torso is as hard as an ogre's and her eyes are blood red; her frightening large mouth has hundreds of sharp teeth that shred anything she eats; and her nails are as large and sharp as a dagger. Her appearance isn't exactly frightening, but what makes this monster so horrifying is that she has an incessant thirst for inflicting pain and misery.

    She literally feeds on pain. She captures any living being, brutalizes them, nurses them back to health, and brutalizes them again until their mind breaks apart, then she eats her prey alive. There's only one report of her nest and the only words to describe her are "a hell where the only sound is the cry of pain of tortured souls".

    She's the embodiment of misery. She's a berserking, cunning monster that eludes extermination task forces as long as she has lived. Her aberrant nature means not even the Monster King controls her as she's grown too powerful and too twisted to be considered the same as a normal monster.

    It's that fucking nightmare that's coming towards us.

    But we can't run or we're going to get sandwiched. We're still at the edge of Mole territory, so they might still be chasing after us, and we don't have the firepower to break through their horde if we fight them head-on.

    We can either fight one enemy right now, or we can run and most likely get sandwiched between more than one, so, to me, there's only one choice: we have to fight the Symbol head-on.

    "YOU THREE, STOP RIGHT NOW, THE MOLES ARE COMING AFTER US!" I scream back.

    They immediately brake and almost tumble, then the woman and the chain guy freeze like deers in the headlights while the archer grabs his own hair and falls on his knees, his face wracked with despair.

    Now's not the time to panic!

    "WE HAVE TO FIGHT!" I scream once again, and they turn their heads towards me. "You, mage! What are your spells!?"

    "Hiiii..." She shivers and lets out a small scream, but my imperious tone prompts her to stutter an answer, "F-f-fire, b-ball, arrow, w-wall. W-wind bla-d-de, ha-hammer, a-armor."

    I nod sternly and command, "Ignore wind! Focus only on [Fireball] and [Fire Arrow]. Don't miss, so take your time, and don't waste mana!"

    She nods in understanding while shivering like a rabbit before a wolf.

    I turn to the weremonkey man. "You, archer! Focus only on hitting the eyes. The skin is too thick for anything else!"

    "Y-yes!" He obediently responds and stands up.

    Good, he's not completely helpless.

    Then I turn to the last one. "You, shield! We stand in front. Block and protect, and cut legs only if we have a chance!"

    "YES!" He roars with a surprising amount of energy.

    I turn around and look at the girls. "Roxanne! Same as the mage, save half your mana for an explosion!"

    "Understood!" She soberly replies.

    She trusts me, that's good.

    And to the last one, I give an intense look that she mirrors back at me. "Alissa, same as the archer. We need those eyes popped!"

    "You can count on me!" She confidently declares and clenches her fist over her chest.

    Reliable as always. Marry me, please.

    Then we get in formation and wait.

    I think I'm actually fucking lucky.

    It was simply by chance that I saw the entry for Symbol of Hate, which spiked my curiosity, so I spent a long time searching for tales about her, and they told me the best way to deal with this fiend. Her skin is tough but it's still skin, so fire is extra effective, and if we burn her enough, she'll lose interest and run away. That's our only chance of survival.

    Then I notice that the chainmail guy is shaking.

    "It's okay, we'll survive," I lie, then I give him an exaggerated smile and a thumbs-up. Hopefully, a gesture means the same as on Earth.

    He lets out a nervous laugh, and his shaking reduces a little.

    A few seconds later, we hear a stampede coming, then a maniacal laugh fills the tunnels, and I grit my teeth

    The sounds of the monster get louder, and the mages start charging their mana.

    I look around and wonder if this is the best place for this fight. We're in a large square room that's tall and long, but not very wide.

    Unfortunately, there's no time to think anymore. At the entrance to the tunnel ahead, a large shadow appears.

    The Symbol of Hate charges at us grinning like a mad woman. Her twelve legs are as sharp as a spear, leaving small holes wherever it steps on. Normal arachnes have the human body replace the spider's face, but the Symbol has her naked human body on top of the thorax of the spider, so she has eyes on her human head and on the spider's face, which are quite a lot of eyes to pop.

    A second after I scan her body, two [Fireballs] and two arrows are launched towards her. She blocks one spell with her dagger-fingers while the other grazes the right arm, leaving a small scorch mark. The left arm deflects an arrow aimed at the face but the second arrow sinks into one of the spider's head six eyes.

    She easily deflects the following arrows while the mages gather mana for more [Fireballs], then she reaches us, the front line.

    She tries to trample both of us at the same time, but we face her with determination and hold back the charge. Her front legs slam against our shields, making a small bump in mine as she tries to crush both of us, but she doesn't retreat immediately, leaving her legs exposed, so we both counter with a slash and lightly wound the legs.

    She pulls back and raises her two forwards legs, then uses them like spears. Her arms block more [Fireball]s and more of her skin is burned. The center area between me and the shield guy is clear, giving the archers a perfect shot to her eyes, and another one on the spider's head is pierced.

    I dodge, parry, and block, slowly wounding the forward legs some more, but even my sword arm is quickly tiring from having to deal with the brute force of this monster. My [Wind Armor] is so weak against these attacks that the spell makes no difference.

    The shield guy is doing better than me, though, I just don't have enough "Strength" for this fight.

    But I won't fall first!

    The arrows miss and both [Fireballs] are blocked. The shield guy gets lucky and cuts off the pointy tip from the Symbol's leg, but it can still be used as a blunt tool.

    I start to lose my breath and my arms become heavy. I won't last much longer. The fire damage is too little, and the monster is too heavy.

    Another spider eye goes away, three more to go. The eyes lost are all on my side, so its attacks slow down and I can get a small breathing room, but I don't have the luxury to rest. I counter and cut the tip of another leg.

    "URAAAAAAA!" The shield guy screams. He makes the Symbol's forward leg even shorter, then a large [Fireball] hits her chest and one of her saggy, ugly breasts is completely carbonized.

    "AAAAAAH!" This time the spider is the one who screams, but then her face warps into a scowl as she becomes enraged.

    Her attacks become wilder and heavier, so we take a step back, and another spider eye goes away, leaving only two more and the pair on her human head.

    The Symbol is slowly losing her sight advantage, making it difficult for her to dodge or block all these simultaneous attacks, so she changes tactics.

    She jumps sideways, away from me, and she falls down nearly on top of the shield guy. With three legs, she does a sideways sweep, and he flies away towards the wall.

    This is bad, she turned around the situation, I can't hold her back on my own!

    I take the chance. I dash towards her and slash one leg at the joint, cutting it off completely.

    Heh, easy, only eleven more to go!

    She counters by doing the same sweep, and there's no room for me to dodge. I receive the sweep against my shield and feel a shiver run along my spine as I fly away backward.

    I crash on the floor and roll, but I spread my arms and legs out, stopping me from flying further as I land on all fours, then the Symbol turns towards Roxanne.

    Oh fuck, no, no, no, and no. NO, YOU WON'T.

    I dash with all my all, adrenaline pumping into my veins, and forget all about my tired legs and arms. The only thing I feel is the anguish in my heart while looking at Roxanne.

    A shadow appears in front of her, who's just standing still, muttering something, and completely defenseless. A spider leg pierces her stomach, and I can see the tip coming out of her back.

    The leg stops in the air for a second, then I jump and slash down, using my body weight to sever the leg clean through.

    "WAAAAAAAAAAH!" The spider screams, but not because of my attack. I look up and see an arrow coming out of the human head's right eye.

    GOOD, ALISSA!

    The spider thrashes about as it screams in pain, but it narrowly misses both Roxanne and I, then I see an opportunity.

    Her legs are open, desperately trying to find anyone close to her, too blind with pain to see properly. Once she sweeps her legs to one side, I dash forward and get under her, then I raise my sword and open a long wound along the soft part of the underside of the spider's thorax.

    Blood flows down and coats my arm, and even a piece of mangled intestine dangles out.

    Suddenly, my head bursts with pain, and I lose my hearing as the spider screams so loud it makes my body shake.

    I stumble and look back, only for my eyes to meet with the Symbol's last human eye, and fear fills my spine as the blood-red circle stares at me with evil intent.

    Behind the Symbol, Roxanne still stands, leaning on her staff as she mutters a chant and gathers a huge amount of mana. She's going to use her last card, and the Symbol is too enraged with me to notice her.

    I have to do something, I have to keep the monster still, but I only know one way.

    I run away as I change my skills in desperation, then I hear the spider start moving.

    "STOOOOOP!" The shield guy screams. He reaches the spider and severs a leg, but then he immediately gets blown away again by another sweep.

    A [Fireball] hits the Symbol's human back, making her groan in pain, and she spins in place, now staring at the mage girl.

    Like I'm gonna let you do that!

    They bought me enough time. I turn around and dash as I charge my spell, putting as much mana as I can into it.

    I'm ready. There's no other way, no second chances, this is my best bet and I'm going to see it through the end!

    "RAAAAH!" I scream in desperation to grab her attention again.

    The Symbol's legs are too wounded for her to be faster than me, so I catch up with her, then she stops to switch targets to me again.

    I jump and use one of her legs as a stepping stone to lunge towards her head.

    The spider swings her right arm at me as she turns, and the dagger-fingers slide across my shield, then I suddenly stop mid-flight and an extremely uncomfortable sensation penetrates my left flank.

    I look down and see her five dagger-fingers have penetrated through the left side of my torso cleanly, skewering me completely. The pain is so overwhelming I drop my weapons, and the left side of my body stops responding.

    The Symbol looks at me with a triumphant grin, and instead of throwing me away or finishing the job, she brings me closer, then she opens her disgusting mouth, and the smell of rot that wafts out makes me want to puke.

    Thank you, you cunt, now get fucked.

    I grab the top of her head with my only working hand and release [Shocking Touch].

    The chaotic lighting sparks crackle all over her head, and her whole body freezes, then she twitches uncontrollably as her brain is overwhelmed.

    I kick her body and slide out of her dagger-fingers, then I fall heavily on the hard ground, and the Symbol's dumbfounded face is the last thing I see before her upper body explodes.

    "You are now level fifteen," the comforting female voice announces inside my head.

    I close my eyes as I feel a rain of hot droplets splash against my skin, which is followed by a blast of hot wind.

    A head-splitting headache suddenly flares, then my ears start to ring, and I lose my hearing. I'm in so much pain I can't move, so I just wait on the floor for someone to come help me.

    After a long, agonizing moment, something soft touches my cheek, and I open my eyes, but my vision is blurry, then I cough blood.

    Something cold touches my lips and my jaw is forced open, then a warm, tasty liquid enters my mouth. I almost choke, but I try to drink it as best as I can. My throat is dry, anyway.

    Someone does something to my body, but I'm in too much pain to understand what's happening, then the ringing in my ears starts to lower and my hearing slowly returns.

    "Master! Can you hear me!?" I hear Alissa desperately call to me.

    "Ye..." I let out a rough sound.

    I focus my eyes and discern Alissa's crying face before me. The pain pulsates, but it quickly reduces, allowing me to move my right arm.

    I raise my hand and cast [Regeneration] on myself.

    After a long moment, enough of my awareness returns that I can take stock of my own situation. My leather jacket is open, my shirt has been ripped apart, and the archer guy is holding down a bundle of cloth against my left flank while Alissa pours a red, glowing liquid on it to heal me faster, but the cloth is quickly turning red with blood. I'm bleeding quite a lot.

    "Rox… an?" I croak.

    "She's still unconscious but… we've done all we could for her," Alissa solemnly replies, her face warped in a frown.

    Shit… Roxanne might be dying.

    I can't waste time with [Regeneration]. I hastily put my new twelve points into [Light Magic] and a sort of "internal pressure" tells me I shouldn't put any more.

    Let's see if those "Piety" gains were worth something.

    New spells appear inside my mind, then I cast [Heal] on myself.

    I see a flash of light, then my vision goes dark, and pain flares again in my head. It hurts so much my whole body tenses up.

    I hear a lot of muffled sounds, but I'm barely conscious due to the pain, so I don't understand what they're saying.

    I feel something cold touch my lips and my mouth is opened again. A different, warm and tasty liquid enters my mouth, and I drink it eagerly.

    After a tortuous long minute, or less, pain warps the perception of time, my headache subsides, and I can hear what's going on again, but I only hear sobs.

    "Alis…?" I weakly ask, my voice coming out a little better than before.

    "M-Master?! You're awake!?" She cries back, her voice cracking from anguish.

    "Yes… what. Happen… can't… see," I mutter.

    "You overused your mana! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!" She shrieks, her voice filled with rage.

    "Sorry…"

    "AAAH!" She screams hysterically.

    I want to laugh, but it hurts too much.

    Oh shit, I can't laugh, I have to heal myself and then heal Roxanne before something bad happens!

    "Will… meditate…"

    "You want to meditate? Yes, please do that. You need to rest!" She exclaims, exasperated.

    No, I need mana. Roxanne is in danger, and no potion is going to close a wound like that fast enough. I can't let her die, not after she killed that nightmarish being, not after we went through so much trouble to get the Moss, not after I started to like her obnoxiously happy personality.

    I can't see, and I can't move, so now I'll block my ears. Meditating helps recover mana? Well, I'll meditate as hard as I can! But that might not be enough… I need something better.

    I can see my system with my eyes closed, but I can't move my arms to change my skills into [Mana Recovery]. I could wait until my body recovers, but I'm suddenly struck with an idea to fill the time while I wait.

    [Mana Recovery] and meditation are passive methods, so they aren't as effective as active methods, of which I know one. Dwarves can pull mana from the environment to strengthen their bodies, but unfortunately, that's a racial skill of theirs, so I can't learn it with my cheats, though maybe there's a way to replicate the skill's effects.

    When a mage lacks the knowledge to properly cast a spell, their "Willpower" is used to brute-force the mana to do what they want, so I just need to visualize what I want with crystal clarity and bend the mana to my will.

    The world naturally produces mana as do all living beings, and right now, my [Sense Mana] is telling me that there's a highly magical corpse next to me exuding a lot of mana. I just need to force that mana to come to me!

    I focus on my [Sense Mana] and wish really hard for that mana to be mine.

    I didn't expect anything to happen, but I start to feel something stir within me, and the fear makes me suddenly stop.

    After a second processing the feeling, I decide to resume what I was doing, but with more intensity.

    The stirring comes back and it feels incredibly similar to when I "scratch" the "itch" to activate things inside my mind.

    Come to me!

    I focus more on the feeling inside my mind and the stirring continues to grow, as if I was kicking up a storm within me, then I start to feel a resistance, like a smooth "force-field" trying to push me back.

    I don't understand what it is, but it means that something is happening, and it makes me too curious to stop what I'm doing.

    I push against the force field and it seems to gradually give in, then I start to feel it "stretch" as if it was like rubber, and an even odder feeling strikes me.

    It's like my head is expanding, ballooning out of control, yet my real body has not moved an inch since I started this madness.

    I have no fucking idea what I'm doing, but it's something! And since I'm "stretching" out of my real body, I aim this growth towards the Symbol's corpse.

    After a few seconds of this, my [Sense Mana] triggers as my "forehead" crosses with a thick stream of mana.

    This is what I need! Come to me!

    The stream stirs, like someone disturbed a drop of paint in water with a straw, creating small vortexes of mana.

    Come to me!

    The stream stirs harder, turning into chaotic clouds that surround my ballooned head.

    COME TO ME!

    I open my mouth, trying to "eat" the mana, trying to force it to enter my body, then my MP suddenly ticks up, recovering ten points in one go.

    YES!

    Now it ticks up again, recovering twenty points in a single second, but then my body is wracked by pain, making me groan.

    I WON'T STOP NOW! THIS MANA IS ALL MINE!

    I "chew" the clouds of mana, and my MP skyrockets, recovering to the maximum in just a few seconds while my body burns with pain, complaining about what I'm doing, then I stop and everything returns to normal, though the burning pain remains.

    "Roxanne...?" I force myself to ask through gritted teeth.

    "She is here. We brought her beside you. What do you need, Master?" Alissa unemotionally asks, a dash of concern in her tone.

    "Let me… touch her…" I order, mustering all my strength to speak.

    "What?! Master you need to meditate to gather your mana!" Alissa explains, exasperated.

    "I got it… let me touch her…" I insist and scowl from the pain.

    "That's not possible, please rest, Master," Alissa tries to soothe me and lands a gentle hand on my forehead.

    Anger gives me the energy to give even more weight to my words. "Alissa… that's an order…"

    I can't see her because my view is blurred, but I can hear her squirm in anguish.

    "Wound…" I grumble sternly.

    She silently grabs my hand and moves it sideways, putting it on top of something warm, hot, and slightly sticky, which is right beside something cold, hard and prickly.

    "Remove… spike…"

    Someone fiddles with the cold thing, then it's pulled out with a disgusting fleshy sound followed by the dripping of a liquid.

    "Done…" A male voice replies.

    I press the [Heal] button within my mind and charge it with all my mana, then I release the spell and pass out for good.



    The first thing I feel is that I'm laying on something soft, then I weakly open my eyes, but my vision is blurred by the intense glow of a [Spirit Light] floating above me.

    "Hey..." I let out a weak groan.

    "He's awake," a man calls out.

    My view quickly focuses, and I see the shield guy's upside-down face looking down at me with a frown, then I feel a soft hand touch my cheek, and I turn my eyes down to see Alissa's red-eyed and disheveled face staring at me.

    "How are you feeling?" She tiredly asks with a hoarse voice.

    "Better… my muscles are feeling heavy, but better," I answer and cough.

    She smiles softly, then her thumb caresses my skin. "Stay still, the bleeding just barely stopped."

    I cast [Regeneration] on myself, and Alissa gives me an exasperated look, but she doesn't say anything. She knows I have to do this.

    A few minutes pass, and I start to regain control of my body, then I detect a strong scent of blood.

    I look beside me and see that Roxanne is on a makeshift stretcher. She's unconscious, her robe is completely bloodied below the waist, and I can see a bloody bandage wrapped around her belly, but her breathing seems to be normal.

    "Is she still bleeding?" I ask Alissa.

    "The wound is almost closed but she's still bleeding," she anxiously answers.

    I heal myself a little more time until I can sit, then I cast [Regeneration] on Roxanne until my mana runs out. Her bleeding stops, but we'll have to hope that she doesn't have any internal bleeding.

    I drink another mana potion and ask, "Can you bring me to the spider's body?"

    The shield guy looks at me dumbfounded, but Alissa nods and asks for help.

    They carry me on the sleeping bag and let me down near the Symbol, then I grab a spider leg, open my "Items," and store it. The body disappears, and only a huge pool of blood is left.

    "Carry us back," I tiredly order, then I lay down and immediately fall asleep.



    I wake up feeling a light shaking. I open my eyes and they slowly focus, then I see Alissa's back in front of me and recognize that she and the shield guy are carrying me in a makeshift stretcher through the brown tunnels.

    Alissa notices me stir and looks back at me, then she gives me a warm smile, and I try to smile back, but I'm still very uncomfortable.

    "Roxanne?" I softly ask.

    "Stable and sleeping. She woke up once, but now she's asleep again," she calmly reports.

    I move my points into [Mana Recovery] and start using [Regeneration] on myself again, then I notice that Alissa is wearing a dark red cloth armband.

    "What's that cloth?" I question her.

    She diligently answers, "The Symbol's blood. It has a characteristic scent, and it seems to scare away the monsters, so I made one for everyone. It has worked well so far."

    I nod and smile at her. "Smart." And she gives me a brief proud smile. I'm glad she's back to being confident. Her desperate and disheveled appearance was heartbreaking.

    It's quite likely that the Symbol's blood is what made the Moles pull back from chasing after us. If there are no dumb monsters around, we might even be able to walk back to the entrance without a problem.

    We continue our slow trek in silence for a long time.



    I maintain [Regeneration] on myself and meditate twice to recover my MP until I can walk slowly again, but Alissa doesn't let me walk yet, so I just meditate one more time and cast [Regeneration] on Roxanne to finish her healing.

    The health and mana in my body potions are still working, but they're slow, and they heal basically at the same speed as [Regeneration]. Drinking more potions could fasten the healing, but there's a risk they'll poison us if we overdose.

    After the last [Regeneration] treatment, my head starts to hurt again, and my body tires out. I must be using too much mana, so I'll need to rest a long time until I can cast magic without hurting myself again.

    We stop for a break and Alissa gives me bread, which helps give my body a small surge of energy. As I eat, I look at the others and feel a bit of fear from their ghastly appearances, but then I also wonder how I look if they're that bad. Roxanne is looking even paler than normal, but at least she's sleeping peacefully.

    After the short rest, I convince Alissa to let me walk so the others can conserve their energies.

    We move forward slowly, and I quickly regret my decision as my legs whine loudly about tiredness, but I endure and move on.

    All I can think about is putting one foot before the other and continuing forward in this seemingly unending tunnel, then my mind becomes hazy as I slowly become a walking zombie.



    After an eternity, I finally see the light of the sky.

    "AAAAAAH!" The mage girl and the archer guy let out a long, anguished guy, then the shield guy hugs the archer while Alissa pats the back of the mage. Roxanne suddenly wakes up, confused and scared, and Alissa scolds them for making so much noise.

    I sit down to rest, but I lack the energy to stand up again, so we rest again until I manage to force my body to continue marching.

    We meet a goblin duo in the small forest, but Alissa kills them before they even notice us. I use [Regeneration] on Roxanne just for a short time and stop before my body complains again, but it's enough to wake her up, though she still lacks the energy to say anything.

    Then we reach the road.

    Since there's usually a lot of traffic here, we wait for anyone to appear, and a simple wagon answers our prayers after a minute. It's a local farmer carrying a few barrels of alcohol towards the town.

    He turns pale when he sees how bloody and haggard we are, then he immediately agrees to help, and Alissa gives him a few coins for his trouble.

    Now the worst is over, and I doze off in the rocking wagon.



    When I wake up, I see two unknown robed men carrying me on a proper stretcher as we quickly cross a simple corridor, then I recognize that the men are wearing the temple's priest robes.

    Shortly after, I'm gently put onto a comfy bed with Roxanne put onto another beside me, then Ciel suddenly rushes inside.

    "S-sister!? What's wrong?" One of the priests asks in confusion.

    "I know him. Please, let me treat him," Ciel requests.

    "If you wish so," the priest defers and goes towards Roxanne.

    Ciel rushes to my side and exclaims, "Just what happened to you!?" Then she touches my wounded flank and starts chanting [Heal].

    "We met the Symbol of Hate," Alissa grimly responds from my other side.

    Ciel stops chanting and stares at her, her jaw hanging open in surprise.

    "S-sister… please continue healing him," Alissa begs worriedly.

    Ciel blinks and snaps out of it. "Y-yes! But can you say that again? Explain it to me, please," she pleads and starts chanting again as she inspects my chest wounds.

    While Ciel casts multiple [Heal]s on me, Alissa retells our encounter starting from when we decided to run through the mole territory.

    After three [Heal]s I don't feel any more pain, just tiredness. With the treatment done, Ciel just stares at Alissa, dumbfounded.

    "Why was the Symbol there? That's way too far from its territory!" Ciel suddenly exclaims, bewildered.

    Alissa shakes her head and explains, "Gunther and the others don't know. They were investigating the report of a White Arachne when they suddenly met with the Symbol. They knew they had no chance to win, so they ran towards the Moles to possibly slow the Symbol down, then maybe hide inside the small rooms of the Spiral Springs."

    The White Arachne is a twisted version of the normal Arachne. It can possibly create undead, so both the temple and the monster hunters' guild pay a lot for any information on it. Also, the idea to hide in the Spiral Springs was sound until we came. If they had run towards the entrance, they'd likely get tangled in the Tarantula's webs, which would be their deaths.

    Ciel massages her temples as she shakes her head in disbelief. "Of all things, why-…" -She sighs tiredly- "Mr. Ryder, please pray to the God of Luck because your life is just too eventful."

    "Hah… I have a feeling praying won't really help, though," I wryly reply.

    Ciel stares at me in confusion. "Why would that be so?"

    I shrug weakly. "I'm still alive, right? For an adventurer, you could say it was only bad luck if I actually die."

    Ciel expresses a mix of laughter, anger, and defeat while Alissa just sighs, but I think she agrees with me.

    I hear a chuckle from the side and see Roxanne staring at us with a tired face, then the priest casts [Heal] one more time on her and takes his leave.

    Healing magic is so powerful that our treatment is done in just a few minutes, so now we just need to rest our tired bodies because healing doesn't replenish our energy reserves. There's the spell [Refresh], but at most it's like taking a short rest, and our muscles need more than that to fully heal. There's also the need to let the body adapt to the healed flesh, so no more strenuous activities for today.

    That doesn't mean Alissa can't use her mouth to give me some release.

    After the bath, the temple gives us a rustic vegetable soup with some tasteless goblin meat and as much toast as we want. Overall, it tastes quite nice even though it's such simple food.

    Then we're given a room with two beds to sleep for a night while Roxanne gets one of their own. Thankfully, they let Alissa sleep in the same room as me, but they don't have a double bed for patients.

    The treatment and the bed cost us merely two silver since much of the cost is subsidized by the Lord, which is surprisingly nice of him. For those who can't pay, the treatment is free, and I feel like there's few people who can be shameless enough to lie in front of someone as angelic as Ciel.

    With the day finally over. Alissa and I huddle up together in the small bed, and I finally get a good night's sleep with her in my arms.



    Intermission 2 - Roxanne



    How am I still alive? I have no idea how to deal with this situation. In a split second he made the decision to trust me even though I was wounded and half-dead. We barely know each other, yet he has the bravery to jump into the claws of the enemy and trust that I can finish the battle.

    The older and experienced me tells me that the young boy is insane, but my young and impressionable side shouts that he's a hero. In the end, all I know is that he's dependable and not someone you let escape because even though he's young, he's not a boy, he's a man. Now, imagine how much he'll grow in a few years…

    What I truly feel is hard to say. He acts like a newly-wed with her and yet he doesn't admit his love. What kind of relationship is that? Though, the trust and dependability that they show for each other actually made me jealous. If even after all this he's still unsure of his own feelings towards her, how am I going to be sure of mine?

    All I know is that I want to stay close to him.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
  12. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    Attention, 23/Apr/2021 edit: My writing skill improved a lot along the way I wrote this novel, and the early chapters have noticeably worse quality than the latest ones, so I'm reviewing the grammar, fixing small mistakes, and overall improving the earlier parts of the story. Please keep in mind that from this chapter on the story can seem quite clumsy, silly, weird, a bit cringy, and just badly written at times.



    I wake up and look into my stats.

    My "Endurance" raised by 1 (now 10), my "Willpower" raised by 2 (now 15), my MP raised by a whooping 100 (now 355), my "Magic Power" raised by 10 (200). My [Sword Use] raised by 2 (now 10+4), my [Block] raised by 1 (now 1+7), my [Dodge] raised by 1 (now 1+5), my [Sense Mana] raised by 1 (now 0+3), and my [Mana Control] raised by 1 (now 0+4). I learned [Light Magic] and [Mana Overuse Resistance] with 1 point. The most interesting of all is that I learned [Redirect Mana (creator)] with 1 point, I can't raise that skill.


    My muscle aches but I hug Alissa tight and bite her twitching ear.

    "KYAH!" She lets out the cutest scream I ever heard.

    "Oh? What was that?"

    "M-master! I told you my ears are sensitive!" She turns around and says to me with an angry face.

    "But you didn't hate it right?" I ask and grin.

    "N-no… be gentler," she says bashfully.

    Ah, it's good to be alive. I massage her ears gently and she closes her eyes in happiness.

    "No-no good. I should be the one massaging you!" She opens her eyes.

    "Then by all means," I open my arms wide.

    She comes closer and kisses me. Then she mounts me and unfortunately it doesn't becomes sexual but she does uses her hands to massage my muscles. It feels good, my muscles are all sore and the pressure is nice and stimulating. There's a [Massage] skill, so I wonder how good it must make you feel.

    While I'm enjoying a good massage someone knocks and tells breakfast is ready.

    We get dressed and Alissa guides me towards the mess hall. A large room with a dozen wooden tables and benches. A few priests are about, coming and going with trays of food. The priest who started to treat me yesterday comes to me.

    "How are you today?" He asks.

    "Sore all over but I'm fine. Seems everything got healed already."

    "Yes, that's expected, no actually that's a miracle considering the description of your wounds and your battle," he looks at me with a worried face.

    Well shit. I used [Light Magic] and I healed myself and Roxanne a good deal before coming here, impossible to not notice.

    "Well I fainted multiple times, it really was by a thread," I try to make an excuse.

    "Certainly seems so, you are a lucky man," he says.

    Could I spend a day without hearing something like this? I'm not lucky, now I truly believe so. Even if the universe is conspiring for me to be rewarded I don't consider that "lucky".

    "Hahah, that is something I doubt a little."

    "Oh yes, I know some would agree with you," he lets out a wry smile. "But now rest at least for a day-cycle. Make sure your body is ready before even training. Internal wounds like yours are difficult to see and will do much damage in the future if you are not careful."

    "Thank you for your advice," I bow lightly "There's certainly nothing I want to do more than just rest."

    The priest leaves and we go and get some breakfast. After a little while Roxanne appears while being guided by Ciel, she seems unsteady.

    "Good morning, Mr. Ryder. I feel like the sunlight has never been so refreshing," Roxanne takes a deep breath and smiles.

    "Your positivity is unbreakable," I say.

    "That's the only thing keeping me moving. The chance of finally being able to use Moonlight Moss on my potions and grow rich and famous!" She tries to raise her arm in a fist and then makes a pained face.

    "Miss Roxanne, please don't do that, your body is extremely weakened now," Ciel reprimands.

    "You will have difficulty keeping Miss Roxanne quiet, Grand Ciel," says Alissa.

    Grand Ciel? There's that weird honorific again.

    "Please, Miss is fine," Ciel says with a bow.

    "As you wish."

    "Now, Mr. Ryder. You too should be resting, your wound wasn't any less worse than hers."

    "Well I lost way less blood because I could heal myself up to a point. So I'm mostly just sore. But don't worry, I will take at least one day-cycle of rest. I have a lot of things I want to do in town, I also would like to talk to you again Miss Ciel."

    "Certainly, I would be glad to," Ciel smiles.

    "Mr. Ryder, are you leaving today? If so, can you come to my house in a few days? I would also like to talk to you and properly thank you, do you have a pen? I will tell you my address," Roxanne asks.

    I pull out a cheap magical fountain pen, it generates ink if you put some mana into it. I ask Alissa to write since my calligraphy with these pens is horrendous and my hand hurts too much.

    "Ah, I have the body of the Symbol with me, I will give it to the guild today. I will share the bounty with you," I say.

    "Wha-well, that's unnecessary I owe you far more," she weakly smiles.

    "Say that again and I will pinch you. You are the one who actually finished it, I just gave you the chance. So I will follow our previous agreement, I will negotiate our share and you take 1/3rd of the bounty."

    Roxanne sighs.

    "If you say so…"

    "Then I will meet you again in a few days. Rest well, Roxanne."

    "You too, Mr. Ryder and Miss Alissa," says Roxanne on a tired voice.

    "Goodbye Mr. Ryder, goodbye Miss Alissa," says Ciel.

    We wave and leave.


    We walk back to the in. I will sleep during the morning and go to the guild during the afternoon. Silas sent word to Alissa when I was sleeping that he would like to talk me as soon as I was able, I can just guess what it is.

    When I enter the inn the innkeeper opens his eyes wide and stares for a few seconds. What's that about?

    "Mr. Ryder! You are back already?"

    "Uh… Yes, I finished my expedition."

    "I think he means you were supposed to stay at the temple longer," says Alissa.

    "Ah, that? Well, I can heal myself somewhat so it wasn't that bad for me. But no matter that, why do you know I was wounded?"

    "You are the talk of the town, Mr. Ryder, you are the man who killed the Symbol of Hate. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the story."

    Oh fuck, the entire town? Already?

    "Master is very tired now, let us talk later, he needs rest," Alissa saves me.

    "Ah! Yes, certainly, please forgive me," he bows.

    You don't need to bow, though.

    We enter our comfy little room and I drop on the bed. Alissa lays down next to me and hugs me, my face feels the softness and warmth of her breasts.

    "You don't have to stay all day by my side though, I'm gonna sleep for a while so you should do whatever you want," I say.

    "I want to stay here," she claims with confidence.

    Then I won't discuss it further. I fall asleep in her arms.


    I wake up some time later and she's playing with my hair. Her orange eyes stare into mine.

    "I don't want you to do that again," she says.

    "Do what?"

    "To jump… To throw yourself into the enemy like that, to use your body and harm yourself," her eyes show some sadness and pain.

    "You know that was our best shot at surviving."

    "I know! I just don't want to you to do that again," she says with a weak voice.

    "I won't promise I won't do that again… I will promise I will do all I can so we won't be in that situation again. Remember my two rules?" I smile weakly at her.

    "'Don't die' and let's never get into a situation where someone needs to die'."

    "Good girl." Now my smile grows wide.

    Her eyes water and she bites her lips. I kiss her hand. She cries, I cry a little. I have no intention of dying before we grow old together.

    We stay like this until my stomach growls.


    We get up and I find the innkeeper again.

    "Excuse me, is Miss Selina around?" I ask him.

    He opens his eyes wide and averts his eyes. What is going on?

    "She… is not here today, she's coming back tomorrow."

    Coming back? Suspicious.

    "Oh, I see. I will meet her tomorrow then."

    I say goodbye and leave.

    We go and eat some tasty fried Dragolite again with noodles! Noodles are not as popular so only a few restaurants seems to be serving them, what a shame.

    Then I go to the hunters guild.


    We enter and I immediately recognize Targua is drinking with some people. He sees me and mutters something to the people around him. Slowly the gazes of the guild all turn to us. I recognize the trio that we fought the Symbol with, they get up and come to me.

    "Hello, Mr. Ryder. I don't think we were properly introduced, I'm Gunther from Hauberk," says the shield man.

    He's not wearing his mail so I can see his dark hair and buzz cut. He's sporting a stubble today. His body is large and his face is oval, quite the odd combination.

    "I'm Minerva," says the mage girl.

    She's wearing an average green dress today, it goes well with her hair. She has boyish short hair and an average face and broad nose with a few freckles.

    "I'm Lorthar, well met," says the archer.

    He's wearing his red feather hat again, his tail is upright and sways about. His clothes are black with white embroidery, his beard is more neatly cut today. His clothing is a bit eccentric.

    "Well met. Thank you for your help yesterday, we would all have died if a single person wasn't there."

    They nod, except Lorthar, he looks away. I think he was literally useless during the fight, but I can't say that since he carried me and Roxanne for some time.

    "Let's meet the guildmaster, everyone is staring at us," I add, then we go towards the nearest attendant.

    She leads us towards a meeting room and in a minute Silas appears.

    "We meet again, Mr. Ryder. Mr. Sonny is happy with the surprise you prepared for him," Silas says with a wry smile.

    "Ugh… I just want a quiet life..." I moan.

    "Fate says otherwise."

    "Maybe I need to change jobs."

    "I don't think that will make a difference," and Silas smiles again. "Now let's talk business. First I would like to hear a retelling of the fight, I heard what happened but I want all the details."

    We retell the fight. We all agreed that the most likely reason the Symbol of Hate was there was that it was looking for the White Arachne too. The Symbol likes to hunt and fight and it goes to meet weaker adventurers that dare get too close. It runs from subjugation forces so it's quite cunning and capable of analyzing its enemies. It's a weak monster if compared to other monsters of the same threat level, it's just very cunning and brutal, which makes everyone afraid to deal with it.

    Considering how it was maniacally laughing while chasing Hauberk it was just playing around until we faced it head on. Just the thought that we met such sadistic being makes me shiver a bit.

    "Then we all agree that all that has been said here is completely factual?" Says Silas.

    We all nod.

    "Then let's discuss the reward. The bounty on Symbol of Hate is 2 rose coins. The body sale price is undetermined as there's no previous record to go by, we will need to bring all the interested parties here and auction the body parts.

    Holy shit. The other guys are speechless, their eyes go blank.

    "We don't really deserve the reward, we barely helped," says Gunther, meekly.

    "That's… Dumb. You will get your part too," I say.

    It's honestly a good idea we met so soon after the battle. If we wait greed might come upon their heads and they might demand more. I want my deserved share but I don't want them to go away with nothing, they risked their lives for us too.

    "How about 10 gold for each of you?" I propose. That leaves us with 110 gold coins, 73 gold coins after Roxanne's share.

    Lorthar opens his eyes wide and nods. Gunther and Minerva take some time but nod too.

    "What about the body auction?" Silas asks.

    "20% goes to them?"

    They nod in agreement.

    "What about Miss Roxanne?"

    "We follow our previous agreement, 1/3rd of all we earn is hers. She did kill it, without her magic we would be dead."

    "Do you want the Guild's opinion on this matter?" Asks Silas.

    The guild doesn't force the agreements but it acts as the mediator since it's the one paying the hunters. They also prefer that hunters work together and build bonds so in times of need like in town defenses there's less drama. The guild offers their opinion and it's generally a good idea to take it. The way profits are divided are generally public so if you negotiate a bad deal you will get bad reputation among the hunters. The world isn't perfect, unpopular hunters die in "accidents" much more often than the popular ones.

    "Yes please," I say.

    "It's a fair deal," Silas claims.

    We shake hands. Then we go to the dismantling room and I present the body. Alissa collected the arms and head that survived, she had presented the head yesterday as proof of extermination so that's why they all already believe me.

    When we enter the room Gordon loses all expression on his face, he swallows hard and nods to me. Why are you serious now? I prefer teasing than silence.

    I pull the body out of my "Items" and everyone stares in silence.

    The silence is broken by Sonny who comes running and stares wide-eyed after almost breaking the door.

    "Mr. Ryder… I'm speechless..." Sonny says.

    Even you!

    "This is a bit much for a surprise, eh? But I gotta say, you got guts boy," Gordon finally talks.

    A 200 years old murder machine that fills the nightmares of the town is finally dead and killed by a random young boy who just a few days ago was suffering while killing goblins by himself. Yeah, I agree, now I have done it.

    "Boss, I won't touch this, who knows what's inside. I don't wanna lose my ears hearing the complaints of some old quack who says I did my job wrong.

    "Agreed, we will auction it off intact if no one has the knowledge or courage to do it," says Silas, then he turns to me, "Mr. Ryder, would like to keep it with you or would you like to let us store it? For this monster we will store it in a way that it will remain intact until the auction."

    "Please store it, I don't wanna touch this anymore."

    "Understandable," he nods.

    I look behind and a small crowd of attendants and adventurers gathered at the entrance. Well, shit.

    "Let me say this Mr. Ryder, you are unbelievably lucky," says Sonny.

    "Hahah, that's true. What's up with that boy? You got a good luck amulet or something? Grey Berserker, Orc Headhunter and now Symbol of Hate, that's no mere luck you have," says Gordon.

    "He's a walking good luck charm."

    "The 'good' part is debatable," I say.

    "That should be his nickname then, 'Good Luck'," Gordon looks at me and grins.

    "No, no no no. I don't accept this," I interject.

    "Too late, boy. That's your new name."

    I feel something change within me. I open my status and on my name entry it says: "Wolf 'Good Luck' Ryder". Under my "Titles" there's the entry "'Good Luck' nickname".

    "Nooo… that's it, I'm going home."

    Sonny and Gordon say their goodbyes with a smirk while Silas keeps a neutral expression.

    We leave among silent gazes of fear from the spectators. Silas had already procured the bounty reward so we already have our money. Roxanne's share will be stored until she comes to collect it.

    I'm already tired again so we return to the inn. It's gonna take a few hours until dusk so I just play around with Alissa's body until then.

    She strips in front of me and lays down to my side. I wet her nipples and start playing with them to my hearts content.

    Slowly tracing my finger on it, licking occasionally and sucking on it, pinching and pulling. I close my eyes and enjoy the music of her light moans that grow louder. The pink buds of heaven.

    "Master... please…"

    "What?"

    "Please…"

    She repeats it again and again.

    "Master!" Now there's annoyance on her voice, "Please give it to me!"

    I smile sadistically and get on top of her. I use my hand to help and slowly I piston her, her moans are pure music.

    I'm still rather tired so eventually I have to stop. She decides to mount me then, I just stare at her with her legs spread and reach heaven.

    I thought about giving her the Clothes of the Berserker again but I might hurt myself if she wears it. Later I will tell her to go back to that store and bring more, we are rich now.

    When we bathe I see that my wounds left scars, 5 horizontal scars along my left flank. Normally healing should be perfect but since I mixed it with potions, different spells, and intermittent healing coupled with the long walk I did it left imperfections, scars. I look a bit badass now though.

    Then we have dinner and go to sleep.


    I wake up feeling almost perfectly cured and fool around then go have breakfast.

    I decide to train my [Spirit Light] with Alissa this morning. Ah, the good feeling of hugging her and feeling her mana swirl around. I feel like I can do it if I practice for a few more sessions, my 1 point in [Light Magic] is helping me a lot in understand this spell.

    Then I hear a knock in the door. Alissa answers and it's Selina, she looks very anxious.

    "Would you like to come in?" I say and motion her to the chair in front of the only desk in the room.

    "Y-yes please, excuse me," she enters.

    She hugs Alissa.

    "I'm glad you are safe!" She says with a cracking voice.

    "A-ah, yes. I'm happy you were concerned with me. But I wasn't in much danger since I was always at the back," Alissa is flustered, I smile at her adorableness.

    "T-that's not true. Just by facing that monster, what horrible luck... I can't believe the things you two went through!"

    "Luck is a funny thing. Some say I'm lucky I survived, some say I'm unlucky I met that monster," I say with a bitter smile.

    "Hahah… what are you even saying, Mr. Ryder" Selina lets out a nervous laugh.

    "That's the life of an adventurer we have to look back and laugh to keep moving on," Alissa says.

    Selina stays quiet, she looks a bit sad but now she's calmer. She understood we are past the point of being sad and worrying about what happened.

    After a few awkward seconds she talks again.

    "Then… Mr. Ryder, I have to tell you something… I was proposed to and now I'm going to get married," she says while looking down.

    Alissa raises her eyebrows and a hole opens in my stomach.


    What do I even think about this girl? I just… Don't know. She's cute and funny and it makes me happy to talk to her, but what would our relationship be? This world is very different, people are marrying at 15 while I was marrying at 30. I can't just keep standing around talking and being friendly and slowly build a relationship like on Earth. That's not how things work here, that's why Selina was stolen away and I'm feeling kinda shit.

    But then again, what kind of relationship I would have with her. An inn girl that doesn't fight and will likely never leave Rabanara? Certainly wouldn't be a good match.

    Anyway, I gotta focus on the now. A girl tells me she's going to get married with a sad face, I'm kind of a disappointment right now. Alissa is looking at me concerned, she's not even jealous or angry she just completely accepts she's my property and feels sad my feelings towards Selina are not going to be fulfilled. Selina also probably understands Alissa is my plaything and just accepts it, she was totally thinking in having a relationship with me even though I have Alissa as a slave. Just what kind of bizarre scene is this? What should I even be feeling right now?

    I sigh deeply, I can't lose my pride as a man right now. I can't make Selina unhappy, she's also Alissa's friend.

    "Selina I give you my congratulations and my blessings. I just want you to be happy," I say with a pained smile.

    She looks at me like she's about to cry, then she looks at Alissa who nods at her.

    "Thank you Mr. Ryder, I definitely will."

    "Please be happy, Miss Selina," Alissa says and now she's the one who hugs.

    Selina lets out a laugh.

    "Thank you, thank you… That was all I had to say, now excuse me I have to go back to work."

    She bows, we wave and she leaves. I plop down on the bed.

    "How are you feeling, master?"

    "A little bit confused…"

    That scene of sadness is something I won't forget, I have to ask her.

    "Alissa. Don't you feel a little odd about my relationship with Selina? Even though I have you I was thinking about Selina too."

    "Master? D-do you see me like this? I-It would make me very happy, if you w-would l-l-love m-m-me..." She's frozen in place, her cheeks are a deep red.

    Ok, things are getting messier.

    "I find it kinda difficult to separate sex from love. It's not the same as a true deep love but I do feel something very strong towards you," I say.

    "I-I-I-I also f-feel something v-very strong, ma-master," her gaze loses focus, she's completely flustered and her tail is wagging.

    I sigh and hug Alissa. What do I even feel? Is this love, possessiveness or lust? Does it... Matter? Do I need to truly love this girl to make her happy?

    "What do you think if I were to bring more women to me? I ask."

    "The strong s-should protect the we-weak. Y-you are very strong, master."

    "I think you could easily kill me if you wished."

    "Not that! Your heart, is stronger than any other."

    "What does that even mean," I mutter.

    She chuckles.

    "You don't have to reason everything, just accept it," she smiles and looks at me.

    I feel like I heard something like that before.


    I'm not feeling like continuing training so we go outside. I need to repair my armor and shield, upgrade mine and Alissa's equipment, upgrade all my tools for ultimate comfort, buy better tea and cookies, and then visit Ciel. I wished to send Alissa to the night clothing merchant while I talked to Ciel but she seems to like Ciel so maybe I should have her make a new friend.

    We end up spending 50 gold coins but at least now Alissa has Grey Berserker armor like me.

    The armor and [Wind Armor] is what saved me. The finger daggers didn't even fully penetrate my body, they got stuck midway, they would have sliced me in half if I was naked. Still, I had 5 punctures along my body so it really was pretty serious. It was 1 on my shoulder, 2 on my lungs and 2 on my stomach.

    Alissa now has a pretty white enchanted small composite bow with wavy golden carvings. She thought it was excessive but it really is a good bow, it has a small enchantment that lets you draw the bow easier so it wasn't super expensive. I think I should reward her good work and amazing accuracy, like when she hit one of the Symbol's eyes and saved Roxanne from being fully skewered. Alissa blushes so easily when I praise her it just encourages me to praise her even more.

    Now we have a comfy large tent, a comfy large sleeping bag, comfy clothes, comfy shoes, good quality brush for her hair and tail, magic stones for warming tea, cooking and roasting, and good knifes for cutting. Even though we can just bring food on my "Items" Alissa wants to cook. And we also got perfumed anti-scent for her. Finally, I found a pocket watch, 1 gold coin, ridiculous, even Alissa was concerned but I miss having a clock on me at all times.

    For me I got a new steel kite shield covered in young Emerald Dragon scales; a white Young Emerald Dragon fang sword, it's one sided and has a bit of a curved bulge on the blade. I thought about getting a magical sword but those things are the cutting edge of technology, pun intended, which means they cost a few rose coins each. It's kinda ridiculous the level of equipment here, it goes to show this is a proper "adventurer town".

    I noticed there's a bit of a lack of metal equipment in comparison to monster-based equipment. I guess monsters sprouting from the ground must make mining more dangerous than normal and the abundance of monsters makes using their parts much more common.

    We have 23 coins left from the bounty plus a few remaining that I saved, the reward from Roxanne's request, and there's still an unknown amount coming from the auction. We could live a quite long time comfortably.

    At 3 o'clock we go to the temple.


    Inside the temple we find Ciel on a bench talking to a commoner. She notices us and smiles, then she finishes her talk quickly and comes to us. Oh no, don't need to abandon that person so hastily.

    "Good day Mr. Ryder, Miss Alissa."

    "Good day Miss Ciel."

    "Good day Miss Ciel. How's Miss Roxanne?" Asks Alissa.

    "Prancing about, trying to turn her room into a lab. She doesn't know what 'resting' means," says Ciel in a defeated tone.

    That sounds like her. I share a smirk with Alissa.

    "Tomorrow morning we are freeing her."

    Not releasing or discharging, "freeing" her.

    "Then I will visit her on the afternoon. But anyway, I wanted another talking session with you, is that alright?"

    "Oh yes, it's fine. Let us go to a consultation room."

    When we enter the room Alissa pulls out the new tea set and the cookies.

    "Oh my," says Ciel, pleasantly surprised, "So… is she…?"

    I know you are trying to be cautious since I'm a reserved person but just ask it already.

    "Yes? What is it?"

    "Well, is she the slave you were considering buying?"

    "Ah. Well I was only considering the merits and ethics of buying a Blood Slave, I only met her a few days later."

    "I see. It seems it was the correct choice then."

    "Yes, she's extremely helpful."

    Alissa blushes but maintains her poker face. Cute.

    "Now. I want to talk about the gods again, well first I have to say I got a blessing from the Goddess of Knowledge."

    "Oh! that's surprising, well, not really considering it's you, but it's still amazing," she says.

    "Hm, yes, well. What can you tell me about it? I know nothing about the blessings."

    "A blessing means that you pleased a god, whatever you did that pleased her keep doing and she will help you fulfill your wishes. The Humanoid Gods have subtle powers to alter the fate, there has been no hero in history who got there without a blessing. Be it a simple arrow that misses its mark to a lucky encounter that completely changes fate, blessings are extremely powerful."

    I have a small suspicion that the Symbol of Hate meeting was her doing, or at least a small push into the correct tunnel. Isekai protagonist rotten luck strikes again.

    "Also a blessing is a symbol of trust in society. You will quickly lose a blessing if you do something wicked so you can trust the honor of those who carry blessings. Since yours is a blessing from the Goddess of Knowledge you will certainly find much easier to enter the magic university now. I don't know how they treat those who have blessings but that blessing is not uncommon among scholars."

    High school slice of life arc, other world version.

    "How would they know I have a blessing?"

    "There's a crystal that can show it like the Inspection Crystal. It's also how we verify titles and those who received message from the gods."

    How convenient but it seems I can't hide my new nickname.

    "Seems like I have my next objective in sight. Well, there's something else I want to ask, what are the personalities of the Humanoid Gods? Alissa says it's a good idea to find out their likes and dislikes to better please them."

    "I see, that's a correct idea. Well…" She clears her throat, another memorized flush of information is coming, "Let's start with the Genderless God of Existence. He's the only one who wasn't a humanoid and has barely any personality. He likes those who cherish life and dislikes those who kill carelessly. It's rare but adoptive parents are known to receive his blessing.

    "The Goddess of Fertility is similar to the God of Existence but her power is more broad. She works to help pregnant women, pregnant animals, to increase the bounty of the lands, and even help those who manage the monsters and dungeons so humanoid life could prosper. People commonly pray to her to ask for the sex and race of their children to be what they want. She works closely with the Goddess of Love and the Goddess of Growth. She was a human, her personality was of a carefree and happy person. She spread knowledge in farming, water wheels and windmills.

    "The Goddess of Piety sees all prayers. She helps those who seek guidance from the gods, even those who are ignorant of the gods. Perhaps she's the one who guided you here. Her blessings are for priests or others who guide people. She was a human, her personality was of a kind but strict person. She created the temple organization.

    "The Goddess of Will is a goddess that keeps the mind of humanoids intact. There are many horrors brought by the monsters, so to keep the people united and strong she blesses the nobles and heroes so they can inspire others. She was a dragonkin, her personality was of an always neutral and composed person. She's credited with creating the skill of [Mental Resistance] and [Poison Resistance]."

    Thank you, Goddess of Will, you helped a lot on the Ant Hill and Royd's Kerfuffle. Maybe I should pray to you too.

    "The Goddess of Love rewards those who make others happy, not just in a sexual way, she helps us create bonds with each other. Her blessings are very rare but it happened to emperors or kings who have harems, orphanage caretakers and rarely to lovers. She was a Pixie, her personality was of a very touchy and amiable person. She wrote the 'Treatise on Acting' and created the imperial orphanage along with the Goddess of Piety.

    "The Goddess of Growth helps not only the plants and animals to grow she also helps humanoids who want to grow in any way. Be it physical growth, martial growth, magical growth, artistic skill growth, intelligence growth, or society's growth. Her blessings vary a lot. She was a dog-type wereanimal, her personality was of a strict and serious person. She created the Nemesis, a group of 100 elite soldiers that serve the emperor, they are the best monster killers of the world.

    "The God of War is a straightforward god. Kill monsters and he will bring you glory, give it your all and challenge yourself and he will reward you, he will give you the tools to kill and protect. Obviously, his blessings are the most common among adventurers and soldiers." -Alissa nods- "He was a dwarf, his personality was boisterous and willful. He defended a fort with 500 men against a whole army of monsters for a whole month.

    "The God of Law is the god that keeps the order in our society. He seeks the wicked among us and strips them of their power. He doesn't do justice with his own hands, the law is also for us so we are also being judged by him while we do justice. His blessings are the most common among guards and lords. He was an elf, his personality was of a stoic and calm person. He instituted our law system, becoming the first Judge.

    "The God of Festivity works close with the Goddess of Love. Together they spread the happiness that keeps us moving, he gives us the glory that the God of War promises and makes sure all heroes have their own happy beginning, middle, and end. His blessings are rare and only appear among artists or cooks. He was a krampus demon race, his personality was of a loud and happy person. He created the coliseum and spread the 10 Festivals of Seasons.

    "The God of Endurance is the god that helps the servants, so they have the power to keep serving their lord. It's a god that helps those who do not have the power to reach glory but can help those who can. His blessings are the most commonly found on this world and it's generally found among hard workers.

    "Then Alissa will surely get her blessing soon," I say. Alissa blushes a little again.

    Ciel smiles and continues.

    "He was a gnome, his personality was solemn and thoughtful. He created darksteel, an alloy which can resist even dragon fire.

    "The God of Luck is a very misunderstood god, he doesn't like gamblers or those who abuse luck, he gives luck to those who deserve it. Not much else is known about him, his blessing have never been recorded."

    Maybe I should actually pray to him? He sounds… Reasonable? Though he's a little too mysterious.

    "I have a small suspicion he's the one helping you Mr. Ryder. He was a halfling, his personality is unknown. He's known for killing a dragon by using [Shocking Touch] on its eye."

    Oh, now I see. He must be the one who sent me the Symbol of Hate so now I'm conflicted. Also, I heard that story somewhere before.

    "The Goddess of Knowledge is a goddess who likes to spread knowledge, she helps those who write down any sort of knowledge and shares it with others. The commoners also call her the Goddess of Books, though plenty of priests will be displeased if you say that," she smiles wryly, "Her blessings are commonly found among scholars. She was an elf, her personality was of a stoic and curious person. She created the magical university and became the first Head of Magic

    "Her brother is the God of Intelligence. His work is to help those understand the world, be it understanding the monsters, the land, the plants, or magic, he's the one who seeks answers to everything. His blessings are found among inventors and researchers, he works close to the Goddess of Growth. He was also an elf, his personality was of an inquisitive and innocent person. You personality seems similar to his Mr. Ryder, you should pray to him."

    Huh? Innocent? Do I give that aura?

    "He worked on the magical university and he is the first known magic researcher. He created the first courses in Earth, Fire, Water and [Wind Magic].

    "The Goddess of the Plants and her twin brother the God of the Animals are very obscure gods. They work with the Goddess of Growth and the Goddess of Fertility but they rarely give their blessings, who are commonly found on botanists and animal caretakers. There was a legend of a monster tamer who received a blessing but he died before achieving full potential so our knowledge on monster taming is lacking. The gods were lizard beastfolk, the only thing known about their personality is that they were hermits. They are credited with creating the first health potion and introducing the world to animal husbandry.

    "The God of the Sun is the one who gives us light so we can work, though not much else is known about his blessings. He's the one who sends messages to us more often than all the others combined, maybe it's because he's always watching and in contact with us since the Sun is his avatar. He was a human, his personality was of a jovial and hard working person. He was the first emperor and conquered our entire continent."

    "How did the world look like before he ascended?" I ask.

    "The days and nights were not stabilized like now, they were dependent on the forces of Light and [Dark Magic]. The more wars and death were happening the longer the nights were. It was a much more chaotic but because of such influence, the magic power of everyone was greatly increased. After the God of The Sun ascended he took control of the multiple suns and stabilized our cycle of day and night. His sister ascended later and created an avatar to help stabilize the spread of mana."

    "Isn't the sun necessary for plants to survive? I know that if animals and humanoids live in caves away from the sun we can get sick."

    Vitamin deficiency happens without sunlight.

    Ciel blinks blankly for a few seconds in thought then speaks.

    "Well not all plants need the sun, plenty will lose its color and go weaker and only a some of them dies without the sun. On the matter of animals and humanoids I don't know anything about that, is that common knowledge in your homeland?"

    "Somewhat. There were plenty of people who lived indoors and worked only from their homes and they would often get sick."

    Talking from experience.

    "Hmm… curious but it's something we are not allowed to test and find proof of…"

    "Well it's nothing important, let's continue."

    "The Goddess of the Moons is the sister to the God of the Sun. She's the one who helps us heal and gives us mana, her blessings are common among healers and magicians. The knowledge about her 'aspects' is only conjecture. She was also human, her personality was that of a selfless and introspective person. She was the first lord of the capital and brought the golden age of the empire."

    Oh, now I know why meditation helps with mana recovery.

    "But what exactly is known about her 'aspects'?" I ask.

    Ciel smiles faintly at my question.

    "The leading theory is that since the moons are the avatar of god it should be her personality exposed in a visual form since she doesn't have a body anymore to expose. So the 7 moons are the parts that make up the basis of her personality and the rainbow moon is the combined result. Each color represents an aspect of a humanoid's personality. Red is irritability, orange is sociability, yellow is presence of mind, green is friendliness, blue is openness, indigo is otherwordlyness and purple is wickedness."

    "Otherwordlyness?" I ask.

    "It's the unknown, the deeper parts of our mind that makes us move. Some say it's the creativity but since it's so close to purple which is wickedness the true nature is somewhat darker."

    "Even art can draw upon our wickedness."

    "Perhaps, but I don't participate on these discussions so I can't argue on that matter. If you want to know more about it I can guide you to one of the priests who debates on this."

    "No, thank you. That's enough for me," I wave my hand with a smile, "That's all I had to ask for today too."

    "Master, may I speak with Miss Ciel for a bit?" Alissa whispers to me.

    "Alissa, you can always speak whenever you wish. Do you want to speak with her in private?"

    "Y-yes, it's only matters about the gods but I feel a little embarrassed in sharing that."

    "It's fine, I will leave you two alone."

    "Fine by me," says Ciel with a smile.

    I go out and wander downstairs. I take a look and find the statue of the Goddess of Knowledge. It's a bust of a woman who has a really sexy look, reminds me a bit of Roxanne when she's serious. She has the unmistakable long elven ears very visible.

    I feel a bit uncomfortable around all these people praying so I go outside. I still haven't broken the fellowship with Roxanne so I know she's nearby at the clinic. I think about visiting but she should be tired and needs to rest, even if she doesn't want to. I decide to walk around the building of the priest living quarters.

    Behind the building I see a small flower garden with a few wooden chairs and a table below a glass porch. How lovely. I sit on a chair and stare at the garden while my conscience slips away.


    "Master..." A voice tickles my ears.

    "Hmm..." Do that again.

    "Master, I'm back," I open up my eyes and Alissa is besides me smiling.

    "I'm still a little tired," I yawn.

    "You are a bit like Roxanne, master, you don't rest too much, right?"

    "I guess…"

    When I got Alissa I thought about just training for some time but the Oodogloo request was too tempting. Then after that Roxanne's request was also so good.

    "Let's go back," she says and I nod.

    It's 5 o'clock now, they talked for a long time it's almost dusk.

    "Sorry we took a long time, we started talking about our adventures too and I got carried away."

    "It's no problem I had a pretty good nap here. But is Ciel interested in adventuring?"

    "Somewhat, she seems worried about what you are doing after she learned you killed the Orc Headhunter."

    "Oh, she told you about that one?"

    "Yes, master's growth is amazing, from training with goblins to killing the Symbol in such a short time."

    "That was mostly Roxanne's explosion, I just used myself as bait," I say.

    "Still."

    Ah, whatever.

    "Ah, Ciel said her thanks for sharing the tea and cookies. She would like to know where you bought them," Alissa says.

    "Considering the price, maybe it's better she doesn't know."

    We go back to the inn and reserve a bath. This time Alissa teaches me how to properly brush her tail and her hair.

    This new brush is really good, Alissa almost melts on the chair. Then I fall asleep while training [Spirit Light] with Alissa.


    I wake at 7 AM without remembering how I got naked. After our morning deep kiss we go downstairs.

    "Ah, Mr. Ryder. Two messengers just came by, here are the letters," says the innkeeper. I want to learn his name but I'm embarrassed to ask.

    "Oh?"

    I open them up. The first is from Silas, he tells me the auction will happen in the next half-cycle at the theater. The second one gives me chills, Ghulam, the slave trader asks me to come to his shop, he has a "business proposal" for me.

    "Oh, what a great thing, master, Mr. Bhatt has chosen you."

    "Chosen for what?"

    "For business, he must have found a really special slave for you."

    "Why would he do that?" I frown slightly.

    "It's part of the job, finding the slaves and the clients. Bloods Slave traders only work by reference or when they notice someone special, like how Mr. Bhatt noticed you."

    I'm scared, but interested. That man is a devil in disguise, he sees the darkest parts of my soul and abuses my weaknesses.

    "Would it be okay if I saw him tomorrow? I wanna train in the morning and visit Roxanne after lunch."

    "Yes, it's not urgent, just don't take a half-cycle to go."


    I try to ignore the looming darkness on my heart and go have breakfast. Selina is also busy today but she sends a warming smile to us. Thankfully things aren't awkward.

    We go back to our room and I focus hard on [Spirit Light].

    "OOOH!"

    It appears, a weak light blue ball of light floats above my head. I look into my stats and see [Spirit Light (weak)] in my "Magic" window.

    "Congratulations, master," Alissa lets out a warm smile.

    "Finally! Next is [Item Box]!"

    "What? Don't you already know [Item Box]?"

    Gah! My tongue slipped!

    "Actually… it's… not [Item Box], it's a different spell, it's from my homeland. I want to learn [Item Box] because of customs, it will attract a lot of attention if people know I can hide anything inside my different [Item Box]. This is another secret you have to keep."

    "Ooh… now things make sense. In any case master, I have to warn you that one was very difficult, it took me three months to learn it. Your progress with [Spirit Light] was abnormal."

    Crisis averted, it seems I'm good at lying. I'm not sure if I should be proud of this.

    "Eh, it's okay I'm gonna reach it eventually."

    I thought about learning [Conjure Water] but it's not as inconvenient as having to waste 5 points into [Light Magic] like [Spirit Light] is. I can just mess with my skills real quick whenever I need water.

    We fool around and after that Alissa starts to read one of the hero books I got. I'll make a small library one day, Alissa, you just wait.

    I lay down on the bed. I take out my points in [Light Magic] and put them into [Golemancy]. I was so busy these days I never even put a point on it once, I also have to investigate [Redirect Mana] later. With 1 point in [Golemancy] I get a spell called [Infuse], at 15 I get a spell called [Mold].

    Crafting magic seems to be a completely different experience. As I cast [Infuse] my hand fully glows and my mind gets hazy. I'm tripping balls.

    I see geometric forms that spin and change in ways I can't even understand, colors that change into things I have never seen before and hurt my brain. A kaleidoscope of shapes, colors and feelings.

    I see a square and I grab it. I turn it and it turns into a cube, then into a circle, then into something that I can't even explain anymore, then back into square.

    I can touch and manipulate and feel but I can't discern what's happening and why. It's like there's multiple overlapping songs and I'm trying to discern one from another but I don't even know what the song is supposed to be like. It's noise, but I know, I feel there's something below that noise, I just can't grasp it.

    Now my head is hurting too much, I wanna go back. The cacophony slows and stops, then I feel like I'm returning to my body.

    My vision focus and a pale Alissa looks at me.

    "Wow," I mutter.

    "Master!? What happened?"

    "I, uh… I cast a spell from the [Golemancy] skill, then I saw something really weird."

    "[Golemancy]? What's that?" She tilts her head.

    "I dunno, but it's one of the magic that I can change to."

    "Ah, with your guide ability? I see, but tell me that first, you scared me!" She frowns and huffs.

    "Sorry, I had no idea it was going to be like this. By the way, did I do something while I was unconscious?"

    "Well you lifted your hand and it started glowing like a rainbow, then you froze and stopped moving your eyes as if you were a statue. I tried to touch you but you were hard as stone too."

    "Wow, well… I wanna explore more this spell so I'm gonna do this more in private. But unfortunately it seems it used up all my mana in just a minute."

    "Hmm… it could be dangerous master, I never heard of something like [Golemancy]. What if it is forbidden magic?"

    "Oh, that could be a problem. Alright, I will look into the magic university before I use that spell again."

    The name looked innocent to me, though.

    "Thank you, master."

    "Why are you thanking me?"

    "For listening, forgive my insolence but I don't want you doing dangerous things. I can deal with monsters but I can't help you if you hurt yourself with magic."

    "Oh… Well, don't worry. I'll be as careful with magic as I am with our expeditions."

    "After the Symbol your words give me doubt," she lowers her head.

    "Geh!"

    That's kinda true.


    I meditate and practice [Telekinesis] until 2 PM then we get ready to visit Roxanne. I use my formal clothes and Alissa her yellow dress with heeled boots. I could feel Roxanne moved away from the Temple and went somewhere near the noble's quarters. She seems to live in a relatively wealthy area.

    When we reach her house it's quite a bit excessive. It's a gated house with a tall metal fence, it has a large grass garden with a flower patch under the windows and a tree with a swing. It's made of dark brown boards and cobble for the pillars. Transparent glass covers the windows. It looks very rustic, but it's also very large. It has 2 floors and a small veranda on the second floor with two cushioned chairs and a decorated mono table.

    We enter the gate and knock on the door. I feel Roxanne coming down from the second floor, did she not notice we were coming?

    "Welcome!" She opens the double doors with a bang and yells with her arms above her head.

    She's wearing a body conforming black straight dress and open and simple high heels.. She looks so much better this way than with her robes.

    "U-uh, yeah. How are you doing Roxanne?" I ask and force a smile.

    "Perfect! I'm back to full health and fully working, I just couldn't stop thinking about the Moonlight Moss, I worked so hard Ciel got angry at me!"

    Why are you so proud of angering Ciel?

    "Oh! Please, come in," she moves out of the way for us.

    The inside is a very comfortable looking house. At the sides of the entrance are stairs for the second floor. In front of us is a carpeted dining hall with a large table that easily houses 8. The boards are even darker inside and the simple lights gives a very comfy feeling.

    There's a large painting of the town castle on the opposite wall. On the right of that there's a door to another room and on the left you can see the kitchen behind a chest high counter. Aren't those counters kind of a modern design?

    "Sit, sit, please," she motions to the table.

    We sit and she goes to the kitchen. She opens a large black metal box and I can see a bit of fog coming out. Then she pulls a metal tray with a black cake on it. Oh boy.

    "Ta-da! I had this arranged to be made by the baker when I came back, so it got finished just yesterday. Since I kept it cold it's still perfectly good," Roxanne says.

    She cuts the cake. The frosting is actually white with the outer layer black but the insides are black with a layer of black creamy filling. She pulls a few plates and cutlery from her [Item Box] and gives the first slice to me.

    "This is a thank you for a job well done. I wish I could do much more for you since you saved me but this will do for now!"

    I cut a piece and put it into my mouth. OOOOH~… it's… it's…

    "CHOCOLATE!" I yell.

    "Yaa, what?" Roxanne looks at me scared.

    "I… missed this taste so much… I couldn't find it anywhere… chocolate..." I hold back tears.

    "Ohohohoh. I wanted to surprise you with something new but this reaction is just as good," Roxanne grins.

    "It's delicious, is this something from your homeland, master?" Alissa's tail is swaying rapidly.

    "Yes, it's the most delicious sweet ever made, 'The Chocolate'. Well it was not created there, I don't know where it comes from but it's my favorite food I ate there."

    "Unfortunately it's not imported here yet," Roxanne says with a half-frown, "A peddler caravan from the Faium Principality brought it here and it sold in an instant. It seems to be the new craze over there."

    Nour… I'm coming Nour…

    "Since they are still learning how to use it only cakes like these are available but they will run out soon," she adds.

    "The fruit merchants commented how the elves sugarcane first harvest is coming. If chocolate and sugar gather here..." Alissa wonders.

    "Ooh… all the sweets that will come… this is too much teasing!" I say.

    "Hahah, I didn't know you were such a sweet tooth, Mr. Ryder."

    "I can see why master gets grumpier when he doesn't have tea and cookies."

    I shrug. They are not lies, I know my weaknesses and chocolate is one.

    Alissa brings out a very mild tea that goes well with the cake. She's starting to understand the subtleties of tea.

    "Now there's something really important I wanna ask you, Mr. Ryder," Roxanne turns to me with a serious expression.

    "Oh?"

    "Please let me join your fellowship!" She bows and claps her hands.

    I'm a bit more confident in working with other people, at least I know I won't be burned at the stake if some of my powers are known. Roxanne is a bit of an airhead, she won't look too deep into my lies and she kinda already owes me her life. She won't blabber about my powers.

    "Oh, well. Okay."

    "Wha… That easy?" She blinks blankly.

    "Well, you are trustworthy and reliable. People are praising me too much, you are the one who actually blew up a the Symbol of Hate with a single spell. You are a really powerful mage."

    Roxanne blushes, that's a first.

    "T-t-thank you! I have been looking for a fellowship for such a long time but I never managed to find someone trustworthy, those who were never let me join. I have been lonely for such a long time!" Her posture shrinks.

    Well I can kinda guess why. Her carefree personality would put off the more serious types.

    "Well but what do you mean by trustworthy?" I ask.

    "Greedy, backstabbing, abusing, harassing, ignorant, and arrogant ugly little men and women. If you are an unknown hunter it's really difficult finding someone good," her eyes shine in anger.

    "Even with your powers?" I ask.

    "Master, remember Dennis and Simon? Even if you are powerful it takes a while to build trust. The first ones to come are most likely trying to use you instead of building a bond."

    "You thought Targua was trustworthy?"

    "Perhaps," she shrugs.

    "I guess I understand your situation now, Roxanne. But, what are your objectives? I plan on continuing adventuring and even traveling around the world. I wanna learn more and grow stronger. Would you be ready to come with us and leave this house?"

    "Why yes! This house is a rental, I already crossed an ocean to come here, I'm not too attached. I..." She looks away and cringes, "Don't really have a real goal yet, I just want to keep creating more potions, I just love all the incredibly things you can do with this magic. I can heal and change and improve and purify the body without even touching a person, I can leave my mark in the world without even seeing the places I help."

    She smiles as she talks, she looks silly and innocent.

    "Wait, go back. This is a rental? Isn't it… Super expensive?" I ask, dumbfounded.

    This is a large house with what looks like many bedrooms and a large kitchen. She was living alone here? How does she clean all this? I didn't rent a house yet because it's much more economic to just stay at the inn. Why is this a rental!?

    "Well… Uh… I w-wanted to use this as a benefit to-to recruiting me. But I never joined anywhere so I… I didn't want it to go to waste, so I kept the house," Roxanne shrinks again.

    That's a bit irresponsible, I think this would be a point against instead of in favor when you asked to join a fellowship.

    "Well then I guess we can use it, right? Since we are kinda rich now we can live here for a while," I say.

    Perhaps I will have to go back and find work again sooner than I thought. But this is a really comfy house, I wanna spend some time here.

    "OH! Yes, I will give you the master bedroom, I feel a bit lonely on that huge bed. Also, all rooms are soundproof so there's no worry," Roxanne grins and winks at Alissa.

    Alissa blushes. There's no need to be embarrassed now after all we did.

    "There's a bath upstairs that fits 6 people. Whenever you need I can fill it up and heat it easily. There's also no problem with cleaning every half-cycle, I hired a maid to come here and clean. I can also cook my own meals so I can cook for you too."

    "No, I will cook and clean," interjects Alissa.

    "I will allow you to cook but to clean too might be too much. We will keep the maid for now, this is a big house," I say.

    Alissa pouts. Those cute pursed lips make me want to kiss her.

    "I wanna spoil you to death not overwork you to death," I say.

    Alissa blushes again, her tail wags for a second. So easy.

    "I will just move my things and in an hour the room would be ready for you two," Roxanne says.

    "Then I will go back to the inn and end my reservation. Alissa you should help here and prepare things."

    "Understood, master."

    "The hunters guild might be a bit far to walk now so I can lend you my flying carpet if you wanna go," Roxanne says.

    Eh, please no, I feel that thing is really unsafe.

    "I…think I would rather start riding Alissa around town. It might attract a bit of attention but I don't mind anymore."

    "Please do, master. There's no need to walk around so much," she smiles smugly.

    "Actually, I'm already starting to feel lazy, let's go to the inn together, Alissa. You should also say goodbye to Selina for now, you should visit her but now you will see her way less often."

    "Yes! Thank you master."


    I can see a few gazes while Alissa flies through the streets. Wereanimals are not rare since the fox clan lives rather close but to have a person riding a large fox is still an interesting sight.

    "Hello, I'm here to say I will be ending my reservation," I tell the innkeeper, I really wanted to say his name right now but I don't remember.

    "Oh! Y-yes… perhaps would Selina be…"

    "Ah, no don't worry. I wish Selina happiness but I recruited another member to my fellowship who's renting a house so I will be moving there."

    "Ah, I see. Sorry to insinuate such things."

    "It's no problem. Is Selina here? I would like to say goodbye for now."

    "She's at the kitchen, let me call her for you."

    The innkeeper hurries away and comes back with Selina, who's wearing a lovely apron and removing a toque.

    Alissa explains the situation and they hug. Selina turns to me and respectfully bows, I will surely miss her beautiful face. She says she will be going to marry in a day-cycle and gives us the date of the ceremony. After that she will live with her husband near the Bazaar and help her husband's shop, he owns a simple cloth store.

    I keep quiet while they talk because I'm hurting a little. I really did start to like her.

    We leave soon after and go to the guild to register Roxanne since we are nearby, we also update our house address to Roxanne's.

    It's not even 5 and the drinking is already heavy. There's a minstrel playing some songs on a lute. I miss music from Earth, this minstrel is kinda crude and the guild is too loud for me to appreciate this. Perhaps the theater will have shows with better music.

    I feel a few gazes on me so we quickly leave and go back to our new home.

    The house has 6 bedrooms on the second floor and a study with a large, but mostly empty book stand. I put my few books there. Roxanne works on her own bedroom so this study was mostly unused. I put my research notes on the desk.

    There's a basement but it's completely empty. There's a back garden where we could make a small plantation but no one knows how to do it.

    I take away all mine and Alissa's clothes from the "Items" and put it into the large wardrobe. I feel a chill. This reminds me when I started to live together with Lily, the nostalgia makes me a bit emotional.

    No time for that, I don't want to keep wallowing in the "what could have been".

    The house lacks in decorations, aside from the painting and some horizontal relief lines around the interior walls there's no other decoration. The house is comfy, but boring.

    The lower floor has a kitchen with a large table, lots of cutlery, a large magical stone oven, a magical stone sink, and a magical stone fridge. Looks so modern and archaic at the same time. We have to refill the mana of the fridge every day-cycle, it's quite the heavy mana cost but Roxanne does it by herself easily. The bath and sink water goes to the sewer below the town, only the poorest parts of town do not have a sewer exit. There's no plumbed water though.

    The other room on the lower floor is the living room, it's quite large. It has a small, empty book stand, 3 really comfy sofas around a small table, and a magic tool fireplace but there's still a chimney for real firewood.

    The back window gives a nice view to the garden too. A small wall separates the end of our garden with the start of the garden of the back neighbor, which is another house very similar to this one. It seems this block is all rentals, must be why I saw both nobles and wealthy-looking adventurers around.

    The bath is huge, it has a magical stone but it takes a while to fill by using that. Roxanne can just use [Water Wall] and a [Fireball] and it's ready in 10 seconds, it seems she practiced that a lot. The toilet is besides the bathroom.

    Alissa will start cooking tomorrow so today is still "Items"-ready meal. After that I cuddle with Alissa while she reads a book, it's hot so we don't need to light the fireplace. Roxanne retires to work on her room and once in a while I hear a twinkling of glass, metal hitting each other, and some mutters.

    I'm honestly somewhat bored in this world. The lack of games and internet makes me quite the pervert since it's the last big source of dopamine to me. I guess this is why people drank so much in the past.

    The book Alissa is reading is a bit boring, an epic. I could find more interesting light novels on the internet in a few minutes.

    I guess I should keep practicing magic. I practice some [Mana Control] and think about [Golemancy], that was such a mindfuck I'm still processing that experience.

    The bed is actually enormous, I think 3 people would fit there, it's ridiculous. We test the cushioning of the bed and the soundproofing of the wall with the Clothes of the Berserker.


    Today I'm going to meet Ghulam. I wake up feeling nervous. Alissa goes down to make breakfast. I can hear Roxanne working again.

    I help make ground meat dumplings while Alissa fries them and makes a salad with cider vinegar that was stored here.

    Roxanne comes down looking disheveled and sleepy and we eat the meal with some Dragolite meat.

    "Roxanne, did you cook alone?" I ask.

    "Erm, hardly. There was no time so I made a lot of steamed or roasted vegetables and stored them for the day-cycle, then I would buy meat from nearby and eat with bread."

    I kinda pity her a bit.

    "I'll be going to the Golden Necklace today with Alissa. You will stay home?" I ask.

    "Yep, I still gotta finish my new work with the Moonlight Moss."

    "What are you trying to make with it?"

    "Secret!"

    I shrug.

    "Ah, Mr. Ryder, are you going to buy another slave there?"

    "I don't know, Mr. Bhatt called be there to 'conduct business' but I have no idea what to expect."

    "It's a woman," she says with confidence.

    "W-why do you say this?"

    "What else would it be? You are the town hero for now you would certainly be worthy of a powerful Blood Slave. So if he called you means he found someone really good. And after Alissa it would be difficult to sell a man to you."

    That's…True. I don't want a man near Alissa, slave or not. I'm certainly overprotective, but I'm happy! That's what counts.


    We arrive at the slaver at 8 AM. I enter and Sebastian greets us with a wide smile.

    "Welcome, Grand Ryder. Would you like to meet the head now?" He didn't even look at Alissa, this annoys me a little.

    I nod and he leads us to the room. Alissa wants to stay standing but I make her sit besides me. After a while Ghulam comes out and enters with a wide smile. Behind him Sebastian comes with the heavenly cookies and tea again.

    "Welcome again to the Golden Necklace, Mr. Ryder. I am glad you came so soon. I thought you would be very busy right now, but alas, the hero is rather reclusive," he puts so much expression on each word it's almost like watching a play. How much "Charisma" does he have!?

    "Uh… Hero?"

    "Yes, you should know by now you are the talk of the town. There's even some voices asking for you to appear before the lord and get a commendation for your service. It is rather refreshing seeing how you are not that concerned about such matters," he says with an amused tone.

    "I try to live quietly, I don't want to get involved with nobility and bask in the glory. I'll only embarrass myself greatly."

    "You have the guts to face the Symbol of Hate without hesitation but not to face the crowd that's giving you glory?" He asks.

    Well how am I supposed to answer that? I just stay quiet while Alissa twitches for a second.

    "Ah, forgive me, that was rude of me," he bowsm "It's not guts you lack, but self-importance. It is good to live a quiet life but unless you are a priest it will be helpful to be mindful of such matters."

    "Well… What you say is not wrong. It's just difficult for me, I'm actually really shy."

    "No shame in that, just make sure you live without regrets Mr. Ryder," he smiles.

    That's kind of my motto already. I chuckle.

    "I try, I try…"

    "Now Mr. Ryder, you may not be basking in the glory others want to give you but accept a little bit of mine. I know how your party is rather lacking in front line power so I have the perfect addition to your party," he claps his hands twice.

    Oh boy, I knew it.

    Out of the door comes a nearly 2 meters tall dragonkin, a woman. She has red wavy hair with such volume it's almost a mane, yellow lizard eyes, slender and sculpted body, large and perfectly round breasts, a fearsome face and narrow eyes that makes her look like a model. The worst thing is that she has one of my weakness, slightly brown skin.

    I shudder when I see her white silk one-piece that barely covers her body. She also has small patches of shining emerald scales on the back of her hand, side of her cheeks, top of her bare feet, and at the side of her arms and legs.

    The slaves shown so far, even Alissa, all had their eyes lowered and their posture as slightly lowered to show their submission, but this woman is different. Her eyes pierce me, her gaze made me feel small, as if I was a prey and she was merely toying with me. A small grin appears on the corner of her mouth. She's not a slave, she's a man-hunting woman and I feel like prey. Is this how women feel when men leer at them?

    "This is Hanafuria. She's a dragonkin with affinity for fire. She is 23 years old and an experienced adventurer. Don't worry, she's still a virgin, dragonkin normally wait until they are past their physical prime to marry and have children.

    "Her skills are in martial arts, she's extremely sturdy even for normal dragonkin. She can use the spear, sword, bow, and pole arms with ease. If she doesn't know a weapon, she can learn it, she has a talent for learning new weapons. She can use full plate armor and last longer than the light armored soldier though she won't be able to fly with it.

    "Her magic skills are ordinary and forgettable so her specialty is being the front line of any sort of attack. As she is a dragonkin she can fly for short bursts, this means she can be used as a swift shield and can protect anyone anywhere as long as it is within flight distance. She can also use this power to charge towards enemies and empower her attacks."

    "Master… she's perfect..." Alissa whispers.

    You are not supposed to say things like this, how is a man supposed to think rationally when there's such a meal in front of me? I agree with you, she's perfect, now come to me and strip on the bed!

    "W-why are you offering s-such a woman to me?" I ask, sweating cold.

    "Your party is extremely unbalanced right now, Miss Roxanne is weak in close combat, as the reports of your battle say. If you don't bring a proper front line she will be in danger. I'm sorry Mr. Ryder but you are not enough to protect her and Miss Alissa at the same time.

    "How did you know that?"

    I only registered Roxanne yesterday.

    He smiles faintly.

    "Fellowship records are public, it's also extremely easy to learn about hunters if you just ask a little. Since my job is to find the right clients it would be shameful if I did any less."

    "And you are offering her to me just because you think my party is unbalanced?"

    "It's only one of the reasons. Your subjugation of the Symbol of Hate demonstrates you have enormous potential, your behavior shows you have strong character, and Hanafuria herself is interested in serving you."

    "She can choose?" My eyes widen in surprise.

    "It's part of her contract, she's too powerful to just be left to anybody. Only those who have the potential should possess her."

    I get a chill when I hear "possess", she's not a companion to join a fellowship, she's considered another object that will serve me just like Alissa.

    "And if I give her to just any noble or wealthy adventurer the gods will punish me," Ghulam continues with a smile.

    The gods are indirectly telling me to create a slave harem.

    "What's her price?"

    "One rose coin."

    Oof.

    "I don't have that money."

    "It's no matter. The auction is coming soon and the lowest predictions say you will earn at least two rose coins, we can defer payment until then."

    I don't have a way out. I'm cornered and I will be left alone with the man"eater, not even Alissa can save me now.

    A point of no return.

    "Then I will take Hanafuria."
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
  13. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    "Then it is done. I am certainly glad Nour sent you my way. I am honored to do business with you," Ghulam bows.

    "Thank you for choosing me, I'll be forever grateful to Nour for sending me here. Just one last thing, that silk one-piece, does it come in black?" I grin, he grins. I knew it, he's the devil.

    "Sebastian, please."

    The old man goes outside and in a few seconds he's back with a beautiful black silk one-piece. He gives it to Alissa who folds it in her arm.

    "That will be a gift. Then I will be off, until our next business, Mr. Ryder," and he leaves graciously.

    "You can change into those clothes." I point to the bundle of clothes on the table, they are the same design that Alissa got when she left.

    Hanafuria does not even hesitates, she strips her one piece and slowly puts her new clothes in front of me, this time I stare to my heart's content. She has no hair down there, her breasts bounce slightly but they seem very firm, her ass is round and plenty.

    "I am Wolf Ryder, this is Alissa, my first Blood Slave. I will call you Hana for short."

    "Understood, master." Her voice is strong, it does not betray her face.

    "I will walk with Hana home, Alissa, can you buy the basic necessities for her on your own?"

    "As you wish master," Alissa bows lightly.

    We leave the building and we split with Alissa.

    "I'm very clingy and I love touching, if it's not inconvenient we should always walk holding hands or with an arm over the body."

    I'll be strict and decisive with her, if not I feel I will be crushed by her aura.

    "Understood. My scales may look hard but I can control the hardness, so please do not be afraid to touch them, master."

    I grab her hand and feel her scales, they are soft and warm. I ask her to show how hard they can be, she flexes her arm and the scales raise a bit, they become tough and rough. If I pass my hand on the border it will cut as easily as a blade.

    "Do you sharpen your scales?" I ask.

    "Yes, though they stay sharp naturally they can become a secondary weapon during battle if sharpened enough."

    "That's impressive."

    "Hahah! Thank you, master," she laughs loudly.

    Her arm is long enough we can hold hands easily. Her hand is big but soft, her fingers are very feminine and her nails are well done. I can smell the faint perfume the slaver uses on them.

    "Why is your hand so soft? Wouldn't it go rough from training so much?" I ask.

    "Dragonkin can harden skin at will, not just scales, our hands will never grow rough and our nails will never change unless we wish so."

    "I feel envious."

    She laughs again.

    "You and every other woman on the world!"

    "Your wings, they are summoned like those of the demon race?"

    "Somewhat, ours grow, while the demon race's is entirely mana. Ours use physical power to move, theirs use magical power."

    "I see. Can any dragonkin fly for a long time?"

    "There are those who can, but they are extremely rare and are considered to be special. Real dragon wings control the air around it, dragonkin wings have only a faint control over the air. Our bodies just aren't made for flying like a true dragon is."

    A dragon's body is not really made for flight but whatever.

    We stop by a clothing shop and buy her some pretty casual clothing. She looks stunning in straight dresses, not so much on frilly dresses like Alissa does. I splurge a bit and buy her two dresses and a couple spare casual clothes. There's no sexy underwear here, it seems it's not part of the culture yet.

    "You enjoy what you see," she says with grin.

    "Very. What do you think of me? I will dress you up and play with your body everyday from now on," I smirk.

    "I'm eager," she responds immediately with narrowed eyes.

    "W-what?" I nearly choke on my spit.

    "Hahahah! Was that unexpected?" Her grin grows wider.

    "Yes, don't you just barely know me?"

    "Don't you also just barely know me and yet you tell me these things?"

    "Touché."

    I was getting a bit carried on.

    "What?" She blinks blankly.

    "Sorry, it's an expression of my homeland. It means 'you got me' or 'you scored a hit on me'."

    She laughs again. She laughs a lot it seems.

    "There's plenty of women, specially among the dragonkin, who enjoy small men like you," she says and licks her lips.

    I feel a chill. I'm not even gonna comment on "small men".

    "If so, why were you a virgin until now?"

    "For the same reason nobody bought me until now. I didn't find anyone worthy of it. Haughty nobles or crude and stupid mercenaries. Bah!" She scowls.

    "And you seriously think I'm worthy?"

    "I think you are worthy of testing."

    "Oh? What if I fail the test?"

    "I have enough willpower to break the slavery and run away," her tone is completely casual.

    "Wow. That's impressive."

    I don't really feel like I should fear that she will run away. Besides, breaking the contract is not instant, there's a lot of wiggle room between her deciding to run away and her actually managing to run away.

    "Hah! I know! That's why I sold myself so easily."

    Should I ask the actual reason she sold herself? I feel like it's too soon but her personality tells me she wouldn't mind. Screw it, I will be tactful about it at least.

    "Would you tell me the reason you sold yourself? This is not an order, you don't have to tell me."

    "Oh? Well, it's no matter. My family were merchants, they fell to a conspiracy and I was forced to either marry someone or be sold into slavery so I could abandon my family name," she says in a bored tone.

    Were merchants.

    "I'm sorry to hear that."

    "Don't be, my father was a fool," a hint of anger seeps on her voice. "He fell for the trap and turned to crime to pay off the debt he accumulated, because of that the entire family suffered. I suffered the least though, I sold myself cheaply and just had to stop adventuring until I found you," and she smiles.

    Cheaply? If that's cheap I don't wanna know the actual price of Alissa. What kind of discount did Nour prepare for me, really?

    "I will be taking a break for around a day-cycle and focus on studying magic. Is that alright with you?"

    "I'm yours for life now, master." Oof, I feel giddy. "I will be fine with whatever you wish. Now that I'm here it might actually be best for you to focus on magic, I heard you made a small miracle when healing your companion."

    "Did everybody hear in detail my fight?" I ask exasperated.

    "Hahahah! This is an adventuring town, master. People here live for these kind of stories! The minstrels might garble the details to add some flavor but the real story should be out there."

    The conversation dies down and we just enjoy our walk back home. My mind wanders into the image of her naked body and I get anxious. I'm actually glad I got her, she seems to be an amazing person.


    It's 9:30 and we reach home. We open the door and Roxanne comes from her room, Alissa is in the kitchen preparing something.

    "Oooh. Told ya it was a woman," Roxanne says, examining Hana.

    "Well, this is Hanafuria, Hana for short. Hanafuria, this is Miss Roxanne, a companion."

    Hana looks at Roxanne, then at me, then at Roxanne again and smiles. What?

    "Well met, Miss Roxanne. It seems from now on I will be your shield," she grabs Roxanne's hand and kisses it.

    "Hohoh, I already feel safer. I'm happy to meet you Miss Hana."

    "There's no need for honorifics for me, I'm just a slave of Grand Ryder."

    "Nonsense, Mr. Ryder barely treats Miss Alissa as a slave, there's no need to treat you worse."

    "Then I gladly accept it," she bows.

    Holy shit, this woman looks majestic.

    "Excuse me, I gotta go back to work," and Roxanne walks back to her room.

    Alissa comes to me.

    "Master, I bought more of that cloth that might fit Hana," she whispers.

    Now you've done it.

    "Gimme to me. We will be staying upstairs until lunch."

    "As you wish master," I could see a mischievous smile on Alissa's face.

    "Hana, do you want to wait for tonight?" I smirk.

    "There's no need, is there?" She says.

    I grab her hand and lead her to our room.

    I lock the door behind and she sits on the bed. I approach her, grab her chin and kiss her deeply. She receives and stays still for a few seconds, then she moves and her long tongue explores my mouth eagerly.

    We hug each other while kissing. When I get closer to her I feel her breasts on my chest, it feels firmer and much more elastic than Alissa's. Is this due to dragonkin special skin?

    As my hand explores her back I move it to the front and grab her breast. A small moan comes out.

    I stop the kiss and lift her shirt, don't tell the US but I found two weapons of mass destruction.

    The nipples are already erect, I pinch one and lick the other. She moans loudly. She grabs my hair and pulls me into her breasts, I give a small bite and she yells a bit in surprise.

    "That's so good," she says with a heavy breath.

    "Did you ever touch yourself like this?"

    "Hahah, I'm completely inexperienced on that."

    I bite her other nipple, she moans.

    "Then I will teach you a lot of things today."

    I push her down and pull down her pants. She's already wet, Jesus how eager are you? I spread her legs and put my mouth all over her mound. I use my tongue along with my finger.

    She squirms and moans and grabs my hair and pushes my head in with a lot of strength. Her moans are lower pitched than Alissa's but no more or no less sexier, every moan of a woman is perfect.

    I take my time with increasing the speed, it's already quite the stimulus for her. Then after a few minutes doing it I put my finger up and find that sacred spot. She stops moaning and releases my hair, she trembles and grabs the sheets, then she starts moaning again but much louder.

    I keep doing it with each finger that can reach until I tire of it, then I go back to using my tongue.

    She's gasping for air, she has trouble breathing. As she slowly starts to fidget more I increase the roughness of my tongue, then she flinches and I feel her insides clench, she finally orgasmed. Then I stop and rest a little.

    "What… was… that..." Two kicks, two goals.

    "Well, the first was the G spot, it's a very sensitive spot, the second thing is an orgasm."

    "That's..." She's lost for words.

    I crawl up to her face.

    "Now then," I kiss her scaly cheek, "It's time for the main meal."

    I pull a cloth from my "Items" and put it below her. I pull down my pants and she looks at it, she stares with anticipation.

    I rub it on the entrance, she twitches a little, then I tease some more. I push a little then pull out then rub it again and repeat. Little by little I enter her.

    She makes an angry face, grabs my hips and pushes me in. I slip in easily.

    "You tease too much!"

    I laugh. I feel her warmth and she moans again. Some resistance but her strength clears it away. I cast [Regeneration] on her.

    "What? You are healing me?"

    "No need to feel pain, I can keep this on all the time."

    "I like the pain," she says while staring into my eyes.

    Oooooh? Then don't mind if I do!

    I pull out and thrust with all my strength. Her hand on my hips tightens her grip, she closes her eyes and grits her teeth. I repeat, again and again the smacking noise is loud. She squirms at every thrust.

    I move a little so I'm standing on the border of the bed and she looks at me confused. Now I have the proper support.

    I resume my thrusting with even more strength and speed. Her mouth opens and she can't moan anymore. She drops her head and tries to regain her composure. The strong and proud unbreakable shield is squirming and nearly crumbling by my hands. The man"eating gaze and her hunting aura are now nothing more than a joke. She knows who's the real man here, she knows who's the real master.

    "Harder..." She says.

    Are you serious?

    "Harder!" She yells.

    "You know what, once sec…"

    "What?"

    She looks at me confused. I open my stats and move my points around. 10 at [Enhanced Stamina], 10 at [Enhanced Strength], 10 at [Enhanced Sexual Stamina] and it only allows me to put 1 in [Enhanced Genital Control].

    "You fucking asked for this," I say.

    Then I thrust with all my might.

    She screams. She grabs my back and her nails dig on my skin. I'm actually taking HP damage, she must be making me bleed.

    I turn her sideways and thrust, I turn her around and thrust, I grab her legs and bend them and hold her in the air. I wish I had a mirror. Then I throw her back into bed and mount her again and choke her. I pull her hair, I press down her neck and spine. I do it with all my might the things I couldn't do with Alissa at full power. I slap her ass until it's as red as her hair. I dig my nails on her skin and thrust with all my power.

    Then my stamina decreases, I'm finally getting tired. I pull of [Enhanced Sexual Stamina] and feel it coming. With a few last thrusts I finish inside her. Then I push her back into the bed and she collapses. The dragon has been tamed.


    She's laying face down and sprawled like a used doll. I turn her around and her eyes lack focus, she's gasping for air. Then she slowly notices me and smiles. I conjure some water, put it on a cup and give it to her. She sits down and drink.

    "I may… be inexperienced… but that… wasn't normal..." She says between gasps.

    "Yeah, you could say I'm a bit special."

    "If you do that… every day… I will die."

    "Hahahah, no I can't do that everyday, it's just that you asked for it."

    "I certainly did," and she laughs loudly again.

    Our bodies are sweaty, the sheets need washing, the cloth I put down has a rather considerable blood spot. Thankfully her insides are resistant and my dick doesn't look like a murder weapon.

    I lay down next to her and use her breasts as a pillow. She caresses my hair.

    "Your breasts are quite firm and elastic, is this because of your dragonkin skin? Alissa's are much more soft and squishy."

    "I don't know about that. I will need to feel her breasts to compare."

    An idea appears.

    "Would you like to fondle a woman?" I ask.

    "Hm? I feel nothing in particular."

    "But do you feel disgusted?"

    "Hm... no."

    "Would you kiss Alissa if I asked?"

    "I could try."

    Ho-ho-ho, Christmas came twice this year. This response almost makes me feel like doing it again, but my muscles are way too tired for that.

    "Don't you feel shame?" I ask.

    "Of course, but I don't allow shame to get in the way of what I want."

    "Your straightforwardness is rather charming."

    "Hah! Thank you, but I know I have two other things more charming than that," she grabs my head and rubs it into her breasts.

    I play around with those two monsters for a while and when we are both properly rested I tell her we need to take a bath. We walk out and Alissa comes to us.

    "The bath is ready, master," says Alissa.

    "How thoughtful, thank you, Alissa," I say. She smiles and bows.

    The bow wasn't necessary though.

    "Oh, what a nice bath, we could all get in together," Hana says.

    "I will definitely bathe with you and Alissa whenever I can."

    "What a luxury."

    "Thank Roxanne, her magic makes starting a bath something trivial."

    "I certainly will."

    We wash each other. She's very rough and I keep her away from my sensitive parts. I wash her scales delicately, they need to be hardened during washing so I have to be careful not to cut myself. Hana seems amused at my care, she does not try to stop me from washing her. It seems she behaves just barely like a slave should, I don't really mind.

    Once the bath is done we help Alissa cook. She was testing a few recipes during the morning and now she's doing the real deal.

    The half-cycle has changed today so the food should too. It's an orc meat pie with not-palm heart and not-corn. Plenty of salad and bean paste on toasted bread. Felt refreshing eating something so elaborate, now that we have a kitchen we can prepare meals like that often.

    Hana sits on the chair and grunts.

    "Oof."

    "Are you hurting? You should tell me that, there's no need to keep in pain I can heal you immediately," I touch her arm and cast [Regeneration].

    "It shouldn't be a bother, but I'm not used to pain in that place," she flashes a smile at me.

    Roxanne smirks and Alissa looks at me worried. I sigh.

    "Even if it's bearable you should tell me. Here let me tell you the same thing I told Alissa. Being in pain makes you tire more easily, which means you might die more easily in battle. If you die I will be wasting the money I used for you, my feelings will be hurt by losing you, and my time will be wasted since I will lose a strong companion.

    "So this is why we need to keep you happy and well rested, you need to always be at your best performance so you don't die or disappoint me. I will give you two rules, the first one is 'don't die'; the second one is 'let's never get into a situation where someone needs to die'. Now, do you understand your value to me?

    Roxanne and Hana are surprised. Alissa nods repeatedly in agreement.

    "Hooh, now that's a good mentality," says Roxanne.

    Hana's yellow lizard eyes stare at me wide-eyed.

    "I-I understand, master," she bows to me, "I will always remain on my best performance for you!"

    We start eating.

    "Master, forgive my improper behavior but do you have alcohol?" Hana asks. Alissa seems irked.

    "A slave shouldn't ask for such things!" Alissa scolds Hana.

    "I don't mind, Alissa. I don't drink so I don't have any alcohol. But I can buy some for you if you want. Just don't drink too much, I don't like to deal with drunk people."

    "Ah, there's some wine in the ice box. I was so busy working I didn't drink anything in a while," Roxanne runs and grabs the bottle.

    "Ice box" is the name of the fridge on this world, creative.

    "For me it's difficult to become drunk due to my 'Endurance' but I still enjoy the drink once in a while."

    "Well I don't mind then," I say.

    Roxanne pours for Hana and they share a smile. They clink their cups and drink.

    "Seven months of boredom. Seven months waiting for someone worthy. I feel reborn!" Hana pushes her empty cup in the air and smiles.

    "Considering Mr. Ryder's record, we won't be bored for long," says Roxanne.

    "But what can we kill that topples the Symbol of Hate?" Her eyes glint dangerously.

    "There's always the ancient or immortal dragons."

    "Ohh, now that's every dragonkin dream," Hana nods and relaxes her posture.

    "Ah, I heard the last expedition over the City of the Damned failed again," Roxanne claps the tip of her fingers in misguided excitement.

    "Hmm… the undead are an interesting foe. I never fought one, how do you kill something that will never die?"

    "Don't know, you could use them for an endurance battle, though."

    "Seems so, the perfect place to challenge myself."

    "Ah, we could just gather them all in the same place and I blow them up! Hohohoh," her smile is pure evil, "There's no way they will revive if there's nothing to revive."

    Hana chuckles loudly. Alissa is a bit impressed and amused at this exchange and I'm rather uncomfortable at these outrageous ideas and dangerous words.

    Meals together are going to be very lively.


    "Hana come to the room. Now I gotta explain a few things about our teamwork."

    "Understood, master."

    Alissa is cleaning the table and Roxanne goes back to her room.

    We sit at the bed. I open her stats window.
    Info
    Name:HanafuriaAge:23RaceFire-Type Dragonkin
    HP:150MP:28Magic Power:10
    Level:35Experience:1443/10900
    Stats
    Strength:19Endurance:24Dexterity:12
    Speed:13Intelligence:8Wisdom:9
    Willpower:19Charisma:16Piety:11
    Perception:9Sanity:17
    Other
    Status Effects:NONETitles:NONE
    Affiliations:Blood Slave (Owner: Wolf Ryder)
    Companions:NONE
    Crimes:NONE
    HanafuriaSkill Report
    Physical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sword Use19Spear Use14Bow Use9
    Two-Handed Sword Use9Pole Arm Use6Dagger Use4
    Shield Bash6Block7Parry6
    Dodge4Tatesomu Style3Intimidate 2
    Battlefield Perception2Taunt3Parry6
    Enhanced Reflexes2Enhanced Stamina4Enhanced Strength2
    Enhanced Endurance4
    Magical
    Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel
    Sense Mana1Mana Control1Fire magic1
    Light Magic1Space Magic1Conjuring Magic1
    Miscellaneous
    Skill NameLevel
    Housework 2Cooking 1Cleaning1
    Washing1Riding3Pain Conversion4
    Dismantling4Fire Breath (innate)5Summon Wings (innate)2
    OBS: Level means (free point)+(trained point)
    Spells
    CleanSpirit Light (weak)Conjure WaterConjure Bland Meal (weak)FireballTelekinesis
    Item Box (weak)Fire BreathSummon Wings

    Now those are some stats. Could her "Charisma" be affecting me?

    I tell her of my "Guider" lie.

    She grins.

    "Seems like there's no way I'm leaving you now. I will marry you and have your children, master, whatever you wish I will give it to you. That is too good of a gift to let it slip."

    No need to be so eager.

    "There's no way I'm letting you go, too. Now, what is [Pain Conversion]."

    "Well..." She cringes, "[Pain Conversion] is something I acquired one day after a long… long day of fighting. I can convert pain into pleasure, I still feel the pain though."

    "… What."

    Hana shrugs.

    "I guess… that explains some things..." I massage my forehead.

    "Hahah, I guess so," she says awkwardly.

    An idea pops in my head.

    "Wait, no actually this is good, I can abuse you in any way I want and you will enjoy it."

    Hana licks her lips. Oh boy, my heart.

    "Hold on, we have to stop here we are getting sidetracked, business first. Anyways, why do you have 150 HP and I have only 100?"

    "Hm, from what I understand HP is only a representation of health. Dragonkin have much tougher organs and can still fight with wounds that would make any other race faint."

    "Wow, seems like your race is really strong."

    "Fuck yeah! Dragonkin are the toughest race and the best warriors," she puffs her chest and hits it with her fist, "After us only the dwarves compete in toughness and the dog wereanimals compete as best soldiers."

    I smile at her, her confidence is infectious.

    "But we are kinda terrible at anything else," she scratches her head and laughs, I chuckle along.

    "Well uhm. What's [Tatesomu Style]?"

    "[Tatesomu Style] is my fighting style. It revolves around bashing and countering."

    "Hm. What is [Taunt]?"

    "I can yell curses at the enemy and they will get angry and charge at me. If the enemy is attacking someone weak I can use it to divert their attention to me."

    Wow, there's aggro management in here too. Also, this is why swearing at the spiders worked.

    "What about [Intimidate]?"

    "It's a skill I can't really control, it just makes people afraid of coming to me if I get annoyed. Because of these two balloons too many men fell for me," she fondles her breasts, "So I guess I developed this skill after crushing enough balls."

    I don't wanna hear that story.

    "Ok, next, [Battlefield Perception]?"

    "It makes me easy to understand what other people are doing even when I have my backs to them. I used to run escort jobs, so I'm extra sensitive to when other people are in danger."

    Sounds interesting, I should add it to my skills later when I have room.

    "You say your wings are physical but [Summon Wings] is a spell?"

    "Well it costs a little bit of mana to grow the wings, then it's all physical power to move them."

    "So, what skills do you want to improve with your spare points?"

    Hana thinks for a bit.

    "Divide them in [Sword Use] and [Block]. Those are my most useful skills to help you," she answers.

    "Alright, this is all for now. Again, this is all a secret. Even Roxanne doesn't know, though at some point I think I will tell her."

    "No problem, master. I will take this to the grave."

    "Ah, I guess you don't know yet but I got a blessing from the Goddess of Knowledge a few days ago. This is why I'm deciding to enter the university now."

    "Oh! Just another reason why choosing you was a good idea," she hugs me.

    I shrug and bury my head on her. I'm not gonna say no to a god-sanctioned harem.


    It's 1PM. I put on my expensive clothes, I'm going to the magic university. We will buy Hana's equipment and register her tomorrow, I'm too eager to look for info on [Golemancy]. Hana will stay, clean the house and train a bit.

    We give the last piece of chocolate cake to Hana, for a moment the man"eating woman disappeared and a little girl with a red mane was smiling. Adorable.

    I leave and ride Alissa, with her it will take only a few minutes.


    We arrive. At the end of the street I see a large grey brick wall and black metal gate is open. A glowing golden symbol is visible on each side of the gate, a vine staff with a trillion shaped gem at the top. Atop of the gate there's a metal arch with the glowing golden words "Rabanara's Magic University".

    The first thing inside is a majestic rectangular fountain with water gushing around in rhythmical fashion, the jets slowly float from one tube to another. Small musical sounds can be heard every time a jet of water gushes out and passes a floating metal ring. Besides the brick path that passes around the fountain there's flower patches where all flowers move rhythmically.

    Occasionally you see someone flying with a magical carpet, magical chair, magical broom, magical bathtub, or just simply flying or floating. There's an assortment of staves and wands of all shapes and sizes, shining, glowing, or non-corporeal.

    There's a building behind the fountain with glowing yellow words "Reception". It's a white brick rectangular building with two floors and an ornate black tiled roof. Behind the reception multiple other buildings following the same design can be seen, far in the distance a thick black tower rises on top of grid of buildings.

    We shyly pass the black velvet uniformed guards who all have wands and swords.

    We enter the reception. It's a large hall made of glossy wood with a glossy counter, in the middle multiple attendants await. We approach and talk to one of the attendants, she wears a grey velvet uniform with the university's symbol in gold over the chest and a grey beret.

    I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the wealth here.

    "Good afternoon. I'm a traveler who's researching magic. I would like to know the ways I can join the university, just recently I acquired the Goddess of Knowledge blessing."

    The attendant lets out a perfect smile.

    "Please put your hand over this crystal while I analyze your condition."

    She pulls out a transparent crystal ball and a transparent crystal tablet.

    I put my hand on the crystal and words appear on the tablet. The attendant gasps. I made sure I didn't have any suspicious skill on like those I used on Hana.

    "Everything is good. I will check if there's an advisor free, if there's not we will schedule an appointment. Please wait here," she motions to a cushioned sofa at the wall and scurries away, almost running.

    A few potted plants give this place a hint of a modern feeling.

    After a few minutes a robed middle-aged balding man with a belly and a round, hairless face appears. He's holding the crystal tablet with my information.

    "Good afternoon, Mr. Ryder. I am Mathias, an advisor here for potential applicants. Would you come with me to a meeting room?" He bows slightly.

    "Good afternoon. This is Alissa, my Blood Slave. Let us go then."

    He nods to Alissa and she bows.

    This building is all offices besides the large entrance hall. We enter an office with a few chairs, a tea set, a potted plant and a tall document drawer. I feel nostalgic entering this office, modern cubicle culture still haven't reached here but it's close.

    "Now, Mr. Ryder. The process to join is dependent on what the entree wants. You mentioned research, what magic you intend to research here?"

    "Well, I just heard an obscure mention of it but I want to look into [Golemancy]. I'm not even sure the details of it so I will first look into any information that exists here, if this is not forbidden magic."

    "[Golemancy]…? Hmm… I think there might be some records about such magic here but it's really obscure. I will have to request a query to the archivist. From what I remember it's not forbidden, so do not worry, since you don't have the skill even if it's forbidden it's not unlawful to be curious about it."

    That's very reassuring.

    "Now. We know that you have a blessing, we give a large discount in the tuition to those who have it. What other facilities do you intend to use besides the one for research?" He lets out a business smile.

    "Can you tell me my options? I don't know much about the university after all."

    "Let's see," he blinks repeatedly while thinking, "We offer courses in plenty of magic schools. Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Electricity, Nature, Light, Dark, Space, Spirit, Conjuring and [Blessing Magic]. We offer beginner, intermediate and advanced courses for all of these. There's also three levels inside each class difficulty but it's unnecessary to complete all three, they serve to help the slower learners.

    "We offer theoretical studies like astronomy, farming enhancements, monster anatomy, ancient languages, ancient history, lost knowledge, and many others more specific classes. These theoretical classes are too many to count, you better read this booklet. There's also crafting oriented courses."

    He pushes forward a booklet with about 10 pages.

    "I'm only interested in the magic schools for now. Do you offer classes on Illusion and [Summoning Magic]?"

    There are a few magic schools that he didn't mention, like cursing, so I will keep quiet about them for a while.

    "Those are fields under research, there's not enough teachers or a standard plan done to turn it into a full course. If you enter as a researcher you can look for those who research into that area."

    I definitely will.

    "We also offer training courses in practical magic skills like [Reduced Mana Cost], [Mana Control], [Sense Mana], [Mana Efficiency] and [Mana Recovery]," he continues.

    "What about [Redirect Mana]?"

    "We know nothing about such skill, the crystal says you are the creator of it. If you would like to share how you acquired that skill would also be another point towards accepting you."

    "I could definitely share that. What about [Mana Overuse Resistance] and [Blackout Resistance]?"

    "Those skills require inhuman effort to acquire, no one has the courage to do it. It's very impressive you acquired that one," his voice shows a little admiration.

    Yeah I did acquire it after a near-death experience.

    "I can tell you what I did to acquire [Redirect Mana] but it's similar to [Mana Overuse Resistance], I had to work so hard I think I nearly killed myself."

    Alissa looks worried. I never told her about this skill, I kind of forgot with all that was happening.

    "Is that so?" Admiration turns into disappointment, "Well, that's regrettable, but still would be a nice addition to know what it does and how to get it."

    "I still haven't properly used it, so I will test it for a day-cycle and then I will tell you the results."

    "That is acceptable."

    "Then I want to enter a beginners course in [Reduced Mana Cost], Space, Blessing, Electricity, Light and Nature."

    "Beginners?" He lifts his eyebrows in surprise.

    "Most of my magic is self-taught, I wanna learn from the basics and solidify my foundation."

    "Oh, I see. Well, that's commendable. Let me tell you that you can only learn the [Gate] spell from the [Space Magic] school if you want to become a certified 'Portal Master'. On the empire the [Gate] spell is heavily regulated."

    "I see… I will keep that in mind."

    I still wanna learn that magic school, I guess I will just remove points in [Space Magic] to hide I could use [Gate].

    "Also it's quite a lot of classes, we recommend a maximum of 5 classes since we work with half-cycle teaching," he continues.

    "What do you mean by 'half-cycle teaching'?

    "You have a different class each day and after a half-cycle you repeat your classes. After a day-cycle you get a half-cycle without classes where you are supposed to deepen the knowledge of what was taught or to simply rest. The professors are all available for consultation during the rest days."

    "Then I will take off [Light Magic] for now. How long do these courses last?"

    "3 months. The next course is to start in 2 day-cycles. But you could get some pointers and start pre-studying until then."

    "That's fine by me, what will be the price?"

    "With your blessing a full half-cycle of studying will cost 2 gold per 3 day-cycle, or rather, 2 gold per month. If you can show us the [Redirect Mana] we will lower it to 2 gold per 4 day-cycles. If you join right now then in 2 days we will have a small office ready for you so you can research, the office is for free for those with the blessing. The gold cost will only start counting once you start your lessons."

    "Then I accept these terms."

    Mathias takes me to the treasury where I make the payment for the full course, if I get the discount the money will be returned. When the office is ready the archivist should have found my query, then I will really start working on [Golemancy].

    Today is the 10th of the 6th month of the year. On the 7th month my classes will start.


    It's 4PM, Alissa takes me home. Hana has been diligently sweeping the entire house, I let them both talk and share the work. I will start working on [Redirect Mana] now.

    I go to the bedroom, lay down and meditate. I have to recreate the conditions from last time. I couldn't see, I couldn't feel my body and I decided to shut down my hearing. This is gonna be difficult to do. It was also a life and death situation, you really need high "Willpower" to do something like this.

    The feeling I had was completely bonkers too, I felt as if the air was my body. It's somewhat like [Sense Mana] but isn't, it was way, way more defined. I can put up to 20 points into [Sense Mana] but it doesn't reproduce my feeling from [Redirect Mana], it just makes the sensing more accurate.

    So I guess it's something about my spirit? Perhaps I manipulated my spirit? It certainly felt like I was "reaching" for something. I know that with [Sense Presence] you can somewhat see the form of the spirit, so perhaps the spirit can be "deformed" or in my case "expanded". Now how do I let my soul "expand"? When I think about doing it I end up inadvertently moving my muscles trying to "touch" the mana in the air. I'm trying to move my soul but it's a different kind of movement, like moving a muscle you never had or scratching an itch somewhere you can't touch.

    The feeling of casting magic by "scratching the itch" is an odd one. I feel like I'm controlling a "hand" that presses a button. I heard that the skills and magic knowledge is stored inside your soul so perhaps that "hand" is moving inside my soul?

    If I can move inside my soul then can I "push" this hand out? I can somewhat feel the hand moving, but it's tiring, it's a muscle I never used before. After a while I can barely move it anymore. It's too painful, I gotta rest.

    I open my eyes and notice an hour has already passed. That didn't really feel like an hour, I guess I succeeded in shutting down some of my senses, like the sense of time. I will try to focus on killing my senses for now.

    "Master, the bath is ready," says Hana.

    "Wh-what…? Oh, nevermind I lost track of time again."

    "What were you doing, master?"

    "Meditating and trying to kill my senses, there's a skill I wanna train."

    "Ooh, sounds interesting."

    I chuckle and we leave.

    Alissa is waiting for us inside the bath room. It was kinda fun taking a bath together, Hana makes things more lively, but I was way too tired for anything sexual. Hana fondled Alissa's breasts while washing her, Alissa was a little scared of her but she was mostly embarrassed and not disgusted, maybe there's a chance.

    "I totally understand, master, her breasts are much softer than mine. Mine are firm and elastic, hers are soft and conform better to the shape of the hand," says Hana.

    She is currently massaging Alissa's breasts, I just imagine her palm slowly rubbing on Alissa's nipples.

    "I-i-is t-tha-that so?" Stutters Alissa.

    "Alissa, if you don't like it, you can say it, okay?" I say.

    "I-i-it's o-ok-okay, m-master, i-it f-feels good."

    Oh boy. This view is so erotic, the mind is willing but the body is tired and bruised.

    "In any case, if you want I think Hana would be able to comfort you," I say.

    "W-wha-tha-n-w-u-as…"

    It seems Alissa broke.

    "Alright Hana, let's not push Alissa too much, she's way too embarrassed now."

    "Awn… her breasts actually feel nice," Hana pouts.

    Please, my body hurts too much. Stop with the teasing.

    I grab Alissa and carry her inside the bath. After a warm hug she seems to calm down a little. Then Hana comes and hugs me from behind. Her breasts truly are comfortable pillows.

    Double spoon on a warm bath. Heaven.

    We get out and prepare dinner. Hana is a master of the knife, she chops faster than a master chef, I'm scared. She doesn't know recipes, or seasoning, or the technique to cook but she's a pretty good helper.

    We eat orc meat dumplings with a root that's slightly sweet, it's not-ginger. Feels oriental.

    "Master, may I ask you a question?" Asks Hana.

    "Sure, you can ask anything and I will judge if it's possible for me to answer."

    "Understood. Well, I was wondering, are you a noble?"

    "Why do you ask that?"

    Roxanne and Alissa are curious.

    "Well… you are smarter than the average adventurer, you have quite a bit of knowledge no commoner has, you have skills no commoner or adventurer normally have, you lack skills the commoner or adventurer normally have, you speak too perfectly, and finally everyone calls you by your last name."

    "Well… no, I'm not a noble. I'm just special, I guess. But only nobles have last names?"

    "Everyone has a last name but only nobles or rich families care about last names."

    "Oh, well, since I didn't knew the tradition I always gave my full name, then everyone started calling me by my last name and I forgot about it. Do you all have last names?"

    "Well, technically my last name is Succubus, but normally no one cares about last names in the demon race," says Roxanne.

    "I was born a slave, I never had a last name," says Alissa.

    I will give you mine, then.

    "I had mine but abandoned it when I turned into a slave," says Hana.

    "So wait, how do the other races deal with last names?" I ask.

    "Mostly humans, dwarves and elves commoners that give their children last names. Some wereanimals and dragonkin also do it, but it's mostly nobles or rich merchant families that do. I don't know what the beastfolk do. That's why I thought you were a noble," Hana says.

    "Then maybe I should ask people to call me by my first name, I don't want to be confused with a noble."

    "I think things are fine the way they are now," Roxanne says, "You are already famous and now you have a blessing, people will definitely respect you much more if people call you by your last name."

    "Well, at least you could call me by first name since I do the same to you," I tell Roxanne.

    "Is that fine?"

    "We are companions now, it's fine."

    "Well then, Mr. Wolf. Pleasure to meet you!" She smiles and gives me her hand for a shake.

    "No need for 'Mr.' too."

    "Alriiight," she coughs, "Well then, Wolf. Pleasure to meet you!"

    "Uh… yes, pleasure to meet you too Roxanne," I shake her hand and she grins.

    "Oh, you two just call me Roxanne then, no need for 'Miss' anymore," Roxanne says to the other girls.

    "T-that's a bit much," says Alissa, she looks down but her tail sways.

    "If that's a request that comes from her then..." Hana shrugs.

    "Fine..." Says Alissa.

    I like this. I think Alissa is far too submissive, I want her to be a bit more selfish.

    After dinner Alissa reads her book while I cuddle with Hana and practice my [Mana Control]. Hana pets me and brings me bliss. Then we all 3 go to sleep at the same bed. Good thing it's ridiculously large otherwise Hana wouldn't fit well.


    Today is the 11th.

    I wake up in heaven with breasts at my back and breasts at my front, we all sleep naked. It's warm but it's worth the slight inconvenience. A warm and kind kiss from Alissa and a stimulating storm from Hana. I abuse Alissa since I didn't do her yesterday and Hana leaves to prepare breakfast.

    Hana leaves everything done and when I finish Alissa she just has to fry the dumplings and season the salad. Orc minced meat dumplings with a beans, vegetables and not"corn crumbs. Weird combination, we need more ingredients.

    Alissa will buy food while I go with Hana to the hunters guild to register her and buy her some equipment. Roxanne lends Hana her flying carpet while Alissa will take me to the guild. Roxanne tells me there are actually safer versions of personal flying vehicles but she got the smallest one so it can fit in her [Item Box], I guess I will buy one for all of us after the auction then.


    Outside of adventuring I want my women to wear their best clothing. So this time Hana was wearing one of her straight black dresses and simple sandals. When we entered the guild I kind of regretted that, at least the eyes weren't on me this time. Ah fuck it, Hana is too majestic to not show off so I will walk with her proudly.

    We quickly register her and I get an idea, Hana gives me a menacing smile when she hears. We go to the training grounds, inside the warehouse there's a small place for changing clothes and taking a bath so I have Hana put normal clothes.

    "Hello teacher," I greet Toga.

    "Hello, Mr. Slayer," his gaze is stern with just a hint of a smile.

    "This is Hana, my new Blood Slave. Would you like to spar with her? I would like to see her fight."

    His gaze turns to Hana and his minimal smile grows to a visible size. Hana takes his gaze on and grins fearsomely.

    "Sure," he says, "You warm yourself first and we will have our 'spar'."

    A small crowd forms while they prepare. Toga is an average height man and looks small near Hana, almost feels it's a David versus Goliath scenario. Toga uses a normal wooden sword while Hana uses a long wooden sword and kite wooden shield. Their menacing gazes towards each other makes me sweat cold even though I'm just watching, do they both have [Intimidate]? Is this the result of the skill?

    Toga strikes first. He gives such strong blows it feels like he's Hercules, the sounds fill the entire training grounds and even more people get curious. Hana is a defensive fighter so for her it's just another day's work, she blocks repeatedly and when she gets the perfect deflect she counters and pushes Toga back.

    Toga quickly switches gears and it's as if he's not even feeling the pressure from Hana, he keeps parrying and dodging until he gets his chance and counters. This time Hana has to work to not get hit.

    A rhythm between attacking and defending feels like it's establishing when Toga changes the song. He pushes Hana back and locks swords. She takes the challenger and they have a small strength contest.

    They grit their teeth and have a staring contest at the same time. Hana's ferocious gaze makes me anxious. This not cheating, right? This doesn't count as cheating, right!? I want her to look at me like this…

    They break the lock and go back to the standard fight. Toga sweeps her leg and she almost loses her balance. As a first, Hana is required to dodge to not get hit and then she starts to feel the pressure. She starts to get pushed back by a combination of quick, strong strikes, leg sweeps, and shield bashing. Toga is using all his tools, he even tries to grab her shield.

    Hana gets angry and starts bashing too. The sounds of battle get even higher as her shield clashes with his sword. A bash hits his arm and Toga is pushed back, his posture is broken. This is it!

    With a movement that defies human speed Toga dodges the strike and counters. With an inhuman movement he jumps, no, flies upwards and his sword goes down on Hana's shoulder and explodes. The observers break from their frozen state, they scream and cheer while I regret my idea and rush over Hana.

    "What are you made of? This would have broken a bone and you are just bruised!?" I say stupefied.

    "I'm a dragonkin… master… I hardened my skin… but if the sword was sharp… I would be dead… ," she says between breaths.

    I put points into [Light Magic] and use [Heal] on her, still very mana inefficient for me.

    "Thanks… it doesn't hurt anymore, master."

    "You got a proper shield this time, Mr. Ryder..." Says Toga, he's sweating but he's not out of breath, "Now you won't die if you meet something worse than that Symbol."

    "Heh… I guess so," I say.

    Makes me a proud to see her praised by Toga but I'm still a bit jealous of her gaze.

    A bunch of the students come to try to spar with Hana but we have other business now. I go with her to the warehouse and wash her body. I use [Sense Presence] and feel 2 men sneaking close the warehouse so I throw some scalding water over the high window.

    "FUCK!" I hear and they run away.

    Now back on her glorious dress we go buy her some equipment.


    There are a few things we have to be mindful of when buying heavy armor for an adventurer. Those things are defense, mobility, price, maintenance and convenience in more or less that order of importance.

    Plate armor would offer the best protection, specially against attacks like fire breath. But it reduces mobility, specially for Hana who wants to use her dragon wings for quick mobility, it's too heavy. It has an exorbitant cost. It requires specialized maintenance, some adventurer groups have to employ a personal armorer for things like this. And finally it's very inconvenient to use.

    Leather armor offers weak protection but it's enough to reduce damage of most attacks, like how my Grey Berserker armor was probably the difference between life and death for me, though it doesn't protect against blunt. Mobility is among the best. Price is affordable since it's the most common armor. Maintenance is cheap but the armor gets irreparable after a while. It's also very convenient and those who can't sleep with plate, sleep with leather. I will buy a Young Ogre set of armor for Hana to sleep in.

    Chain armor offers very good protection against slash but not against a few, specific pierce attacks and zero against blunt. Mobility is similar to leather. It's more expensive than leather. It requires some specialized maintenance but it could be done with a little help from [Earth Magic's] [Manipulate Metal]. It's very convenient to sleep and you can use it over clothing, though it's rather noisy, so no sneaking.

    Scale armor offers better protection than chain but a little less than plate but still not much against blunt, its advantage is in repelling magic like a fire breath. The mobility is much better than plate but still less than chain. It's expensive, but very popular among adventurers. The maintenance is also expensive since you need specific monster parts, you can substitute but it won't have the same effect. It's very convenient to use, some you can also sleep on.

    Brigandine offers protection better than chain but less than plate, it offers some of protection against blunt. The mobility is more than plate but less than chain. The price is more than chain but less than plate. The maintenance is also similar to chain. It's a bit harder to use than chain but you can still sleep on it.

    It seems that metal armor is more expensive than the other kinds. Cloth armor also seems very limited. On the other hand armor made from monsters is overflowing.

    For now we will reserve a steel lined brigandine with tassets, a hauberk for the arms and thighs that will be used below the brigandine, schynbalds, metal vambraces, and a padded chain coif. She doesn't like to use helmets since it reduces her vision and the coif will ruin her hair so we got a padded one that she will keep for when necessary. Perfect protection against slash, protection against blunt is limited so she will have to rely on the shield.

    We will buy only after the auction. I wanted to get scale armor but I think that even with the auction money it will be expensive, perhaps in the future I will get it as an upgrade. I wanted the best armor for her since she's certainly gonna use her body as a shield if necessary but I will have to hold it in for now.

    Finally we got her a simple spare iron bastard sword, a large kite shield and a simple wood spear with a metal tip. Later when we have the auction money we will get her a long sword and shield like mine, the emerald will go well with her scales. I wanna get her a longbow too, she has some skill with the bow and the brigandine offers enough mobility to use the bow.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  14. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    We meet with Alissa and go back home for lunch. A proper meal, orc meat ball pasta with a oniony white creamy sauce. Alissa got a bit of fruits too so we have not-strawberry juice to go and some wine that Roxanne asked for.

    I hang on the wall a small clock I found, now everyone can look at the time. I still want to give a pocket watch to everyone one day. Then afterwards I go back to practicing [Redirect Mana]. Alissa installs an archery target on the backyard for practice and Hana does physical training. I'm worried that Roxanne only leaves her room to eat and take a bath.

    I go back to bed and start moving my "inner mind hand". It's a weird feeling to understand but there's clear gestures that I can do. It's not just "move" and "push", there's more movement that I can do but I don't know what it does since I have nothing to test it on.

    I'm trying to test the borders of this "inner mind" space but it feels like it's infinite, perhaps I have to do something else to reach the border. When I was half-dead I had that weird feeling that I was the room, before that I had a very strong wish to grab all the mana, to engulf it, to eat it.

    I feel like the secret is on hunger. I was out of mana so I will waste it by casting [Wind Armor] on myself repeatedly. When I finish and go back to meditating there's a clear change, my "hand" feels like a "mouth", I can feel the mana and taste it. I want it, I need it, but I can't reach it.

    I need it… I need it. I need it! I NEED IT!

    I feel the change. That same familiar feeling of expanding my soul, the mana flowing around is part of me now, even if it's weak I can feel it. I feel a stream coming from the wall, is that because of Roxanne? I wanna follow it. I touch the wall, it blocks me.

    The air is now a part of me, the wall isn't, I can't cross. But air is just atoms and the wall is a bunch of solidified atoms. I will just turn the wall a part of me so I can cross.

    It's too hard. It's resisting me, how is it doing that? The air doesn't resist.

    "Master?" Asks Alissa.

    "Oh? What is it?" I open my eyes.

    "The sun is setting, Roxanne got the bath ready for us."

    Wow, again I completely lose the track of time.

    This time bath has no groping of Alissa. I'm also saving myself for tonight, we didn't use the special clothes Alissa got for Hana yet.

    Dinner is orc meat pie and roasted vegetables.

    A bit of cuddling after dinner, I use Hana's breasts as pillows and Alissa laying down on my lap and reading. The smell of their perfume fills my nose.


    Finally, I lay down on bed and cover my eyes while they change.

    A succubus and an angel. Both of them look at me with hunger.

    Black gloves that caress my chest, white gloves that pull down my pants, two mounds covered in thin silk that bounce in front of me, the fearsome smile that makes me feel like prey, a delicate hand that touches my dick. These women are gonna use me. I change my skills into what I call "Sex Maniac" build.

    Something warm and wet wraps my dick and moves in incredible smoothness. Two thick thighs wrap around me and push a woman's lower lips in my mouth, I open my mouth and thank for the meal, those lips will feel all the power of my tongue. I put small bites every now and then for a change of pace. The feeling on my dick changed and now something tight and much warmer envelops it, I instinctively move my hips to match hers. I use my hands to pinch and rub Alissa's nipples.

    Even with [Enhanced Sexual Stamina] I still feel it coming I tell Alissa and she unmounts me and drinks it all up. One done another to go.

    "Time to switch," I say.

    "You still want more?" Hana says.

    "No way I'm not fucking you tonight."

    Now I gotta use all my remaining tongue strength to make Alissa cum. She's not the kind that specifically likes being rough and energetic so I can take my time, meanwhile Hana is breaking my hips.

    Hana leg power is astounding, the bed creaks and Alissa looks back in surprise. Those thick thighs being caressed by that black cloth makes her look like she's sculpted as the image of a goddess, her body is too perfect. Her mane hair waves as she vigorously sucks the soul out of my body, this is the power of the dragon woman. She squeezes her insides and tries to wring out my cum.

    She grabs my waist and increases even more in power and speed.

    "Y-you will hurt master," says Alissa, amazed and worried.

    "I can… handle it..." I say.

    It hurts a bit but there's no way my pride will let it say that, that dragon woman was tamed by me and a little bit of pain is on par with the duty to satisfy that monster. No, monster is too rude, she's a goddess, my goddess.

    Alissa might be awakening something in her, she starts rubbing herself while looking at Hana and pushes my head further into her lips. She squirms and in a few minutes she cums. Then she dismounts my mouth and the angelic white athletic thighs move to the side, she doesn't stop rubbing herself though. Now I can focus entirely on Hana.

    My hands that were pinching her nipples with all my strength now move to her thighs. I put my nails into them and match Hana's rhythm, the smacking sound grows even louder. I start to get angry, you won't finish me, woman, you are mine, I will finish you.

    I pull her from the top of me, turn her around and do her from behind. I use all my strength, all my speed, all my stamina and destroy her. I put her on a choke hold and her back bends. I feel her insides squeezing me but I don't even know if she came or not, I don't care, I'm just focused on destroying her insides. I. Will. Fucking. Destroy. You.

    The white angel and the black succubus, I will have them painted while we fuck and then I will kill the painter. Those two are mine and now the succubus needs to learn her lesson. I feel the strength leaving my body, I pull out the skills and feel it coming stronger than I ever came before.

    The speechless Alissa, the white angel, furiously rubbing herself to this sight. The tamed dragon succubus who stopped begging for more and can barely hold her breath. What is more erotic than this sight?

    I pull it out and cum all over her back, I cum so far it even hits Alissa.

    "Clean this," I order Alissa.

    Still expressionless, she obeys me and licks Hana's sweaty back. Then I get hard again at the sight, I use Alissa's head as my cock sleeve and end up cumming one last time inside her mouth. My balls and dick hurt, I overdid it.

    "I'm surprised I can still maintain this blessing while doing things like that to both of you," I say.

    "What do you mean, master? You are more likely to earn a blessing from the Goddess of Love like this," Alissa says.

    This fucking world… Or rather, this world is about fucking.

    "M-master, can you heal me a bit? My back hurts a lot," Hana says.

    "Sure. Ah, Alissa, Hana has a skill that allows her to turn pain into pleasure, that's why I'm rougher with her," I say that because Alissa was looking at me worried again.

    "Rougher…?" Says Alissa with a surprised look, "Master, I thought you were giving it your all when I brought these clothes for the first time."

    "Well… uh… I kinda like things rough but I go easier on you since I know you are more sensitive."

    "Oh..." Alissa looks a bit dejected.

    "P-please don't look like this, I can't be like this all the time, you pleased me perfectly."

    "Even I will die if he does it like this everyday. Tomorrow I'm gonna have some sore muscles," says Hana while tapping Alissa's shoulder.

    "I-I see… I'm happy to hear this," Alissa says with a small smile, her tail sways once.

    Seems like we recovered her pride.

    "Now, the Clothes of the Berserker are a bit too stimulating, let's leave them for special days," I say, "Tomorrow I will also be very sore, I will have to take it easy."

    "The wha-... nevermind," Alissa shakes her head with a wry smile, "Master, didn't the priest tell you to rest from physical activity for a day-cycle?"

    "Hahahah, I will apologize or whatever but no way I'm abstaining from sex. You two are far too delicious to wait."

    Hana shrugs and talks.

    "Something tells me he would go insane if he abstained for a cycle."

    That's a bit much, I'm not addicted… I'm not.

    "T-that seems true..." Alissa agrees while looking defeated.

    Ah, whatever. I wasn't such a pervert on Earth, it's this world fault that I'm like this because it completely screwed with my life. I'll be damned if I won't enjoy it to the fullest until I die.

    "Think it like this, I could die tomorrow so I should just do what I want, this one of the rules I live by," I say.

    "Isn't the first rule 'don't die'?" Alissa asks.

    I shrug.

    "Those rules concern decision making, living without regrets is a general life lesson. One is for future planning, the other is for present enjoyment."

    "I… Kind of understand," says Alissa.

    Hana shrugs again.

    We wash ourselves and I have another perfect nights sleep among naked goddesses.


    Today is the 12th.

    We wake up and have sandwiches with dried orc meat, Rabid Rabbit meat and pickled vegetables with some tea.

    I have to learn how to shave with a straight-edge razor. Alissa and Hana try to help but I have to let them do it for me for now because I had to use [Regeneration] to heal myself from the cuts. Luckily my beard grows very slowly at this age.

    I'm too tired to train so I help clean the house, ignoring Alissa's protests. We also dismissed the maid now that Hana is going to help. Cleaning is much harder without all the chemicals we have from Earth.

    We send the casual clothing and heavy sheets to the nearby washer, we seem to be going through a lot of sheets. The washers have magic tools and a good variety of strong chemicals that help washing. But the sensitive clothing, like some of the more expensive underwear and dresses we bought, are washed by hand because even with [Clean] it won't get the dirt that's deep into the clothes.

    Hana is the one who volunteers for doing the most of the washing since her skin is tougher, it won't be damaged as easily due to the chemicals but I still cast [Regeneration] on her. Washing by hand, sweeping the floor, cutting and preparing the food, carrying loads and etc., she really is the best for hard labor. Alissa has much more softer hands, she does everything else Hana isn't as apt, she's the manager of the house and deals with the delicate things that it's better that Hana doesn't touch.

    I help, but just a bit, my modern knowledge of cleaning isn't as useful in this world where things are either old school or solved by magic. But I still wanna learn how things are done.

    For lunch Alissa blanches Dragolite meat. It removes a lot of the rosemary flavor so it tastes much closer to chicken. We shred it and fry these not"chicken dumplings, all that's needed is some catupiry.

    Alissa and Hana leave to retrieve my armor and scour the shops for a few more ingredients and tea. It warms my heart seeing them work together, I only hope they will kiss one day. I have no idea how to categorize my feelings for both of them.


    I got back to training [Redirect Mana]. This time I keep focusing on penetrating the wall, it's extremely tiring. In the end I can't do it, I think I need a change of perspective.

    Air is just atoms floating around and colliding with one another, solid matter is atoms bonded together, so this means that it's probably the bonds that impede me from "possessing" them. But how to "possess" an atom of air in the first place? I try to focus on moving my "soul" as little as I can so I can see how exactly the "possession" occurs.

    I can't really feel the individual atoms change but I can feel the "wave", like a pixelated picture that changes color. I can see a "wave tip" where a single pixel turns color, then the next pixel in front changes color and the 2 pixels besides the first also change color. This continues, forming a cone with the "possessed" atoms. The way I "move" is actually hundreds of these cones together, forming a wall.

    I try to use a single cone to enter the solid wall. I can focus much better and the resistance is less but there's still resistance. I have to reduce the size, reduce until it's the size of an atom. Reduce, reduce, reduce, reduce!

    I push through, I don't think it was the size of an atom, it was just really, really, really small. I can now see into the empty room nearby, well it's not "seeing" but "feeling". I extend my body again and pierce the next 2 rooms following the mana trail and finally reach Roxanne's.

    This is the first time I see her room. I can feel the clothes spread on the floor, the multitude of glass flasks spread around the shelf, the smell of multiple unknown ingredients, the smoke that fills the room. Finally, working on a desk there she is, mixing on a small glass, holding a spoon in one hand and a small piece of round glass near her eye with the other. She's working, in her underwear.

    I didn't "see" her, I "felt" her. I felt her cute feet, her sexy soft thighs, her lacy sexy panties, her lower lips, her soft belly, her cute small breasts, her ghost nipples, her luscious lips, her delicious tongue, her cute nose, her mischievous eyes, her silky hair. I never used this on a person so I never thought I would receive this much information about her body, I covered her room instantly when I got through but only after a few seconds I could process what was happening. I could even taste her, this is the amount of information this skill gave me.

    I stop everything and return my soul to normal. I sit down and hold my head thinking about what I have done. Then I hear a knock.

    "Hey Wolf, did you do something? I felt some weird mana enter the room," Roxanne asks.

    FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, now what do I say!?

    "Ye-ye-yeah, I… Am testing [Redirect Mana]. I saw… A lot of mana coming from your room… So I tried to redirect it, didn't think you would be able to feel it."

    "Oh? It's that skill you used to get mana to heal me, right?

    "Yeah, that's the one."

    "Hah, that's an interesting skill, you gotta tell me how it works. It tickled me all over my body."

    No, no, no, no and no, I will never tell you that.

    "A-a-anyway, I don't know how it works fully yet. I won't use it again on you."

    "Oh no, please do, it felt really good."

    Please stop.

    "I-i-is that so? D-don't you think it's weird I can make you feel like that?"

    "Hm… if it's you I don't care. Anyway, I'm going back to work."

    "O-okay, work hard."

    There's no way I can deal with this, I'll just forget this happened and move on. In the future I could use it on Hana or Alissa though…Well I'm playing with fire here.

    I go back to meditating and focus on touching the mana stream. No more exploring for me.


    I feel something warm. I open my eyes and Alissa is snuggled on my side. I turn around and pat her head, her tail starts swaying a little.

    "How did it go?" I ask.

    "We found a good charcuterie, lots of good meat, we filled half the ice box," Answers Alissa with her eyes closed.

    I massage her ears and she shivers a bit.

    "Tomorrow I will go to the university, can you come and pick me up for dinner?"

    "Can I stay with you there?"

    That hurts my heart, I want you there but you will be bored most likely. You also have other things you should do, like trying to be more selfish.

    "No. I would want it, but no. Me and you need to learn how to be far from each other once in a while."

    "I don't want to learn that," she looks at me with puppy eyes.

    Okay, you are being more selfish but that's not the way I wanted.

    "Neither do I… but we have to, maybe if we had a way to communicate from long distances."

    "There is, there are Emergency Stones and Bound Lithographs."

    "What are these?"

    "Emergency Stones are pair of rings with a small stone in them, if there's an emergency one side can send a signal to another but their range isn't that great. Bound Lithographs allows you to send a small drawing to the receiver but they are quite expensive."

    "Can you buy an Emergency Stone for me? If we can have at least 2 different signals then it will be quite good. Lithographs will be for real emergencies and when we have more money."

    "Ok..." She answers in a faint voice.

    What's up with you today?

    "Did something happen?"

    "Nothing happened, master."

    "You are more… in low-spirits right now."

    She stays quiet and her beautiful eyes show a hint of tiredness.

    "Say it."

    "I had a thought. I didn't want to fight again," she looks at me with sad eyes.

    "That's normal, I think about this every day."

    "But I'm not supposed to think like this, I trained my entire life to fight."

    I sigh.

    "Even if you try as hard as you can to be act as a tool you will never be perfect, you are still just a huma-… I mean, just a normal person in the end."

    She looks down and remains in silence.

    "Don't believe in yourself. Believe in the me who believes in you."

    "What?" She looks at me again, confused.

    "Hahahah, just another reference to my homeland."

    "I… think I get it."

    "How about this, you don't have to reason everything, just accept it."

    "Ah..." She lets out a weak smile and hides her head on my chest, her tail sways.

    This fucking world… You are still just a teenager and you are forced to think things like this. Our relationship isn't helping her state, it is totally unhealthy but I don't think I want to correct it. You cling on me and I cling on you.

    We stay like this for about an hour.


    Today Alissa washes Hana, she seems to be back to her usual mood. Alissa touches Hana all over her body and my heart tingles but there's no real sexual tension, Alissa doesn't seem to really swing that way.

    We have dinner and Roxanne brings out another bottle of wine. She has been drinking increasingly more, she also looks worse each day.

    "Roxanne, is everything okay? You look tired today, again," Asks Alissa, Hana also looks at her with worry.

    "I'm so close… I can feel it, I can smell it, I just can't touch it."

    "What?" I ask.

    "The Moonlight Moss, it's so close… I can almost finish the elixir," Roxanne eyes are vacant.

    "Don't you think you need a bit of rest?"

    "No!" Her bloodshot eyes stare into mine, "Not now, I'm so close, just a final sprint and it's done. If I stop now I will lose my train of thought."

    "Hmm… I think you might be a bit too eager. Just be careful Roxanne, you don't need to isolate yourself too much, it's okay to come to us and enjoy yourself a little."

    She sends me a sharp gaze for a second. What was that? Then she sighs.

    "Perhaps… I will keep that in mind, thank you all for your concern."

    Hana pats Roxanne's back.

    After dinner we have our normal cuddling session. Me being hugged from behind by Hana, and Alissa being hugged from behind by me. I try to practice some [Mana Control] but Hana improved her hair stroking technique and I fell asleep.

    I woke up being carried in Hana's arms and felt all giddy. She put me in bed and undressed me, put me in the amazon position and for the first time we did it slowly and with love.

    Once she finished using me I saw Alissa masturbating on the side of the bed, she totally awakened something. Then I took her while Hana was stroking Alissa's hair and finished for the second time. I'm still feeling drained from yesterday.


    Today is the 13th.

    I want these days to continue forever. This is heaven, no more, no less.

    Sandwiches for breakfast with plenty of ingredients to choose from, this time I give Alissa a good kiss for she gave me another present.

    "Cheese! I love cheese. What is this one from?" It tastes buttery and nutty.

    "Well, sheep," says Alissa.

    "I used to eat a lot of cow cheese on my homeland. Now that I think about it, why are there no cows here?"

    "The town lost all cows at the last wyvern attack a year ago, I heard. The cow ranchers didn't feel like coming back until someone found and destroyed the nests," says Roxanne.

    "Oh, I heard that wyverns attack often."

    "Yeah, they migrate from the Sea of Trees and create nests year after year. One day they try to migrate past the town and attack."

    A small urge to kill wyverns appears on my heart.


    After breakfast Alissa comes to me.

    "Master, you should buy at least 2 more sets of good quality clothes so you can go to the university with pride," she says.

    "Hm..." I'm actually too lazy to go buy more clothes to myself.

    "You look well in good clothes, Wolf," says Roxanne over sleepy eyes.

    Oof.

    "Agreed, you look very handsome in good quality clothes, master," says Alissa with a nod.

    Double oof, but still, laziness.

    "Thinking about dressing you up makes me very excited," Hana says with her man-eating gaze.

    Oooooof.

    "Alright..." I concede.

    We go out to buy some clothes and an Emergency Stone. The stone is a pair of rings with a white stone on top, 1 gold. If I rotate the stone clockwise a green signal appears on the other ring, if I rotate it counterclockwise a red signal appears. Green will be for Alissa to come to me, red will be for emergencies or danger.

    I put Alissa's ring on her left ring finger, she gives no reaction. I'm slightly disappointed, I have to ask Ciel about how marriages work in this world.

    We buy black velvet clothes with a purple rose embroidered in the chest. It seems velvet is the fashion and the girls both liked the style of Roxanne's clothes so now we have matching outfits, makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

    They also chose a weird cloak. It has a very wide hem, it doesn't touch the ground and the cloak stays straight but the corners of the hem have bracelets that go to my wrists. It's black with small grey pigments.

    The second set is made of wool and it's a light white frilly shirt and black straight silk pants. I look kinda pompous. Finally I have two sets of black cloth shoes.

    We spend the rest of the morning looking around. We end up passing by magic tool shops and it makes me think that some modern inventor must be stuck on this world like me. But I lose hope in that because all these tools are still incredibly inconvenient to use and have none of the modern simplicity.

    A simple bedside lamp could come with the ability to change the color of the light, some come with annoying sounds that play while turned on, others play random animations, there are even those that you can write reminders in the light. The problem is how incredibly complicated, obnoxious and abstract is the process to use these options. To change the color you have to spin the stone with your whole arm and stop when you reach the color you want, to play a sound you have to scream it to the stone for a minute and hope it gets the sound right, to change the animation you have to literally pray with the stone in your hand and hope a new animation appears. It's just quacks trying to appeal to the commoner to sell junk.

    We go back home at 11 and prepare lunch. Roasted orc meat with fungi sauce and a creamy soup of sweet vegetables to eat with soft bread.

    After lunch Alissa takes me to the university and then she will go look for an Emergency Stone. Hana went to spar on the training grounds and I feel jealousy appear again. I know it's completely irrational and I need to stop being so possessive, but still.


    I talk to an attendant at the university's reception and the chubby Mathias comes to greet me. He takes me a few buildings deep into the university.

    The university seems to like small pools with squirting jets of water that produce small musical sounds, there's a few between the orderly buildings. I see a few beautiful trees that are giving some fruit, then I see a fruit fall on the ground and shrink until it disappears. Is that safe to eat?

    The archivist building is bigger than normal and it only has a few very small windows. Once inside the smell of old books fills my nose, it's very nostalgic, I already read my fair share of old books.

    The archivist is a man who's so old and thin you would think he's using magic to stay alive. He has one assistant, a young man who's probably going to be succeeding him soon.

    The archivist talks in such a slow tone his voice almost makes me fall asleep.

    "There's only one surviving record about [Golemancy], it's from a diary of a mage who was also a philosopher. He gave us some good insights into summoning magic and the principles of the soul. He had succeeded in one test of this skill but he died soon after of old age and the proof of that experiment ended up being lost before his body was found," he says.

    "Here are the transcript of his notes. If you need the original text you will need a special permission from a head of department or higher," says the assistant.

    "That is fine by me, thank you," I take a bundle of papers.

    Then Mathias takes me to my new office. This one is pretty small, enough space for a desk that 2 people could have dinner in, a potted plant on the corner and a tall document drawer on one wall. They provide all paper that I could need and a better magical tool pen than the one that I have. On the door a small wooden plaque with my name engraved in it is hanged. Below my name it's written "Junior Researcher", I almost feel like clapping the tip of my hands in excitement just like Roxanne.

    "Mr. Ryder, one thing you should know is that these offices are protected from burglary by [Space Magic]. If you want to practice [Space Magic] inside please warn the building manager first so your office's protection can be maintained," Mathias says.

    "Understood."

    "That is all that I have for you. By the way, Mr. Ryder, is there any progress in [Redirect Mana]?" He asks.

    "Quite a bit, actually. I have a better understanding of the skill now but the thing I'm sure of is that it requires a tremendous amount of 'Willpower' to use it."

    "That's quite interesting, there's a few people who are eager to see the results of your skill, Mr. Ryder. Well then, I will be off, until next time," he bows and leaves.

    Is that so? I barely entered the university and I'm already attracting attention again.

    I sit on my desk and start to read the query results.


    The mage who wrote this journal was a summoning specialist. He was studying the essence of summoning magic.

    "Where does this conscience come from? The summoned beings clearly have a soul since they can be detected by [Sense Presence], if that is not true then a few hundred years of our knowledge was misguided. So I would rather assume that summoning magic truly creates a soul, a very peculiar soul.

    "I have been training my [Sense Presence] for years just to understand more about this summoned soul. I have a little pride in saying no one else on this world has a ‘Sense Presence' as high as me and I have looked quite far for someone better than me. So believe me when I say that what I see inside the soul is something that does and does not make sense.

    "The skill [Sense Presence] gives size, direction, distance and the possibility of identification of soul type. We unconsciously ignore the identification information and immediately associate that information with a type of living form. But by having a skill as high as mine and a very careful analysis I can say that the identification information is actually a ‘shape'.

    "This ‘shape' is often something incomprehensible, something that hurts me just by trying to look deeper into it, perhaps this is why our brain ignores the information immediately. I can say that the 'Willpower' required to understand the shape of the soul was inhuman and you can look into my status crystal, I actually do have a pretty high 'Willpower'. The fortunate thing is that not all souls are incomprehensible and most have parts that are comprehensible, leading me to identify patterns.

    "The most common pattern is cubes, those patterns are found in all summoned creatures, in fact I think this is the reason why summoned creatures are so obedient. They have the simplest soul form of all while humanoids have the most complex. I tried to identify soul patterns inside hundreds of different kind of humanoids and I could only identify a few patterns during my whole life. But from those patterns I found something interesting, the ones who had understandable patterns where all summoners like me or people who used frequently the elemental spirits of their magic schools.

    "As every mage should know every elemental magic school has a spirit that you can summon, except for [Space Magic]. These spirits are commonly used as assistants to the mages, which means they have a lot of contact and have to think in similar ways. If we believe that the soul contains the personality or intelligence of a person, what can we infer from the fact that summoned souls and the summoner's souls share a few patterns?

    "It means that either the summoned souls are a copy of a part of the summoner's soul or the summoner changes his own soul so that a part of it can connect to the soul of the summoned creature. But even the summoned creatures have souls similar to one another. So if we assume that their soul is part of their personality we can infer that their souls is merely a small piece of what makes a humanoid conscious and capable of following orders.

    "If summoning creates a body from mana and molds a simple soul inside this body, can we simply create a soul and infuse that soul on a new body? If it works I will call this [Golemancy]."

    The notes detail a bunch of experiments and other conjectures about summoning magic, not sure if I can use them to help train summoning. At least I have solved the mystery of my acid trip.

    But now I have another mystery to solve, how do I understand what each soul is going to do? Perhaps I could start by copying the soul of a summoned creature but that will require me to observe the soul with a high [Sense Presence], seems doable but also very complex. I was thinking about my soul manipulation that I did with [Redirect Mana], I wonder if I can use it to feel someone's soul.

    I summon a bird and concentrate again. I move my soul towards the bird on the desk and envelop it. I can feel it, taste it, it's a particularly disgusting feeling. It only felt good with Roxanne because she is a beautiful woman and it went only skin deep.

    I share my touch feelings with the bird and oh boy, this could be sexual quite easily. It does feel really good to be touched by a soul.

    Ok, bad thoughts, I gotta concentrate.

    I can certainly feel the bird but I can't penetrate it, I guess I will do the same as with the wall. I'm still sharing the touch feeling and I start feeling a tickling sensation when I try to penetrate the chest. It's getting stronger and starting to interfere with my concentration but I soldier on and continue.

    I do it, I penetrate the body of the bird. It's even more disgusting, I can taste the raw meat. But the bird itself is not feeling much different, only tickles a little more inside. I envelop the outside and spread through the entire inside of the bird, this could be a good diagnosis tool, I can feel every vein and bone and organ of the bird. This soul touch is starting to frighten me.

    Now where's the soul? I'm using my soul to touch it physically but there's no soul there. Hm… I need to concentrate more, I can still absorb more information about the bird but I'm getting tired, I'm near my limit.

    Just, a bit more. There's something… Odd, with this bird. I can feel everything on it but there's something hiding, some information that's evading me. Is this the soul? The mage did write that our mind tries to avoid looking at the shape of the soul. I just need to force a bit more. A bit… More… More!

    Something starts to assemble on my mind. I feel that I can now see something that was trying to hide, like a magnet that wants to escape and gets hotter the more you press. It's as if I'm putting the pieces together, I know that the pieces fit, I can see how they fit. I just need to put them together so I can see the bigger picture, I need them together so I can see the shape they make… A bit more… MORE! Oh, well shit, it's just a fucking cube.

    I let the pieces go and my mind starts to hurt, that was super tiring even if I didn't move a muscle. My muscles are okay but my mind is tired, I don't want to think anymore, Alissa come save me. I send the green signal to Alissa.


    "Master, are you okay?" Alissa asks.

    "Hm?"

    "You are very absent-minded."

    "Oh… I'm very tired. Working on [Redirect Mana]."

    Roxanne chuckles and sends a thumbs up. I guess I look just like her right now. Alissa sighs.

    Oh shit I barely paid attention to them during bath, that was shameful of me.

    Tonight I need comfort, I don't let Alissa read and I keep kissing her deeply while Hana strokes both our heads. Then when Hana has enough she takes me upstairs and abuses my body. Then it's Alissa's, the awakened peeping pervert, turn. I'm actually super drained today but I endure, even if my balls and dick hurt I will please my women, I did not receive such a gift from the gods to let them stay unsatisfied.


    Today is the 14th.

    I wake up in heaven and think about yesterday. The bird's soul was just a cube but there's more info below that, there's more intricacies that I can look for. I summon the bird again and do the same, I hold the pieces of the soul in place and try to observe them further.

    The cube has an intricate geometric engraving, it starts as a circle and slowly turns into a web and then into a grainy pattern to form another circle. This pattern repeats as I get closer, it's like the engravings change the closer I get until they stop. It hurts my eyes, something's resisting my approach with great force. There's something below the geometric patterns, something like a language. I don't understand, I can't look at it for long but it's there. I have to look, I have to look harder.

    "Master?!" Alissa says with a desperate voice while shaking me.

    "What?" I ask completely confused.

    "Yo-you were moaning and writhing about."

    "What?" I'm even more confused.

    "What were you doing?" She seems even more worried.

    "Trying something out, there's some hidden knowledge that's hard to get to."

    "You are hurting yourself."

    "I… honestly I wasn't squirming and moaning. I don't know why I my body did that, it moved on it's own."

    "Master… please be careful, this looks dangerous."

    Yeah, it does. My heart is burning right now, my body is lethargic and my mind is spinning. But this is exciting, I'm looking at something no one did yet, or at least I think that mage did but the proof got lost.

    "I know, I will stop now," I say.

    Hana is at the doorway and the worried face of both of them breaks my heart. I have a feeling that even the Goddess of Knowledge won't approve of me hurting myself.

    I go downstairs and reflect on what I saw while sweeping the floor.


    That was feedback. The way I'm seeing inside the soul requires some sort of contact, "feeling" the soul is not like seeing, it's not something passive, it's an active sensing. The soul is not something we should be looking at it seems, or at least I shouldn't be using my naked soul to look inside another soul. I need to put "gloves" on my soul to interact with another soul this directly.

    [Sense Mana] and [Sense Presence] aren't passive sensors. With [Sense Mana] I can see with precision the shape and distance of the mana. Mana is flying to the air and not passing through me, how could I sense them without active sensing? There's no light that hits mana, gets changed into a different color and hits our eyes so we can see it.

    To sense mana or a presence we have to modify our souls in a similar way to the way I was changing my soul with [Redirect Mana]. I wasn't manipulating my soul directly, I was manipulating the mana inside my soul and using that mana to stretch my soul to touch other things. That's how I absorbed mana from the world, I stretched my soul on mana stream and redirected the mana that was now inside my soul so I could absorb it. To successfully look into the soul of somebody I have to invent a skill like [Sense Soul] or something like that.

    But why am I so good at this? Why nobody managed to come to these conclusions? There's spirit magic and other people could use [Sense Presence] or [Sense Mana], they could have put some willpower into it and noticed the small details. Is my analytical mind so rare here? Perhaps it's skill system instant-casting and [Redirect Mana] that gave me a new perspective on my research.


    "Your grin is a little creepy," says Roxanne.

    "Oh? I didn't even notice, I made some breakthrough and now I'm digesting things. But your face is even creepier, you look like a ghost."

    "Hahahah," Roxanne's ghost-like face lightens up, "I also made a breakthrough, but I learned this means I have more work to do so I'm rather tired right now."

    "You really should rest, I'm worried about you."

    "Awn. Thank you, but I have done worse, I'm fine."

    "Yeah, done worse but that still shaves years of your life."

    "Guh..." She flinches, "I… will take a break…"

    "Yes, do it please."

    Roxanne goes to the sofa and lays down, I tell Alissa to bring some good tea and cookies to her and tell Hana to keep her company.

    Shit, I told her to take a break but now I'm the one who wants to touch a soul "bare-souled" again. I guess I will laze around the sofa with them and think about what I saw.

    Hana uses her stroking skills on Roxanne and she collapses on her lap, I use my ear massage skills and make Alissa collapse on my lap. We spend the rest of the morning lazing about.


    We have sweet bread to go with sweet vegetable soup and more orc meat with fungi sauce.

    After lunch a messenger appears. Silas invited us to a subjugation force for a large goblin camp found a day from the town.

    "This must be the one we reported some time ago, isn't that right, master?" Asks Alissa.

    "I think so too... oh, so this letter is a request we can't turn down?" I ask

    "Please, master, we have to go," says Hana.

    "It's just a question."

    "Oh, sorry. Well yes, we can't turn it down," answers Hana.

    "Technically we can but we can be kicked out of the guild if we do that," says Roxanne.

    "I see. Well, what does 'shock squad' means?"

    "It means we will be the ones doing the slaughter," says Alissa.

    "Blessed with good luck," says Hana with a grin.

    I frown. Alissa grabs my hand and I sigh.

    "That's actually quite a good position, we will be watched by everybody," says Hana.

    That makes things even worse.

    "I'm actually pretty shy among strangers, I don't feel blessed," I say.

    "That's no problem, master. Keep near me and I will brush away anyone who comes to bother you," says Hana with a smile.

    A bit comforting.

    "Master is kind and wise, those are your strengths. If you don't want to deal with problematic people leave it to us, we will keep you safe," Alissa adds.

    A bit more comforting.

    "Even I know that. Wolf is a precious gem that breaks easily," says Roxanne with smirk.

    Eh, please, that had the opposite effect.

    "Miss Roxanne! That wasn't something good to say," scolds Alissa.

    Roxanne runs away to her room and Hana laughs.

    To be honest I actually do feel blessed, blessed to have these girls.

    The departure will be on the 16th at 1PM. We have enough time to collect our money from the auction and get our reserved equipment.

    Since we are going to fight all of us, except Roxanne who we locked out of her room for her to rest, went to the training grounds to brush up on our skills.


    Alissa draws a crowd with her archery skills and Hana has a line of students challenging her for a spar, some people are betting heavily in favor of Hana. I go to my corner and practice my fireballs again.

    After training I feel something change heavily in me, I look and I gained 4 points in [Mana Efficiency], my [Sense Mana] increased by 2, my MP increased by 100 (now 455) and my "Magic Power" increased by 10 (now 210).

    Wow, I guess my knowledge about mana increased a lot during this time but I never practiced it properly so it must have accumulated somehow until now. Or maybe this is the Goddess of Growth helping me prepare, regardless I guess I should thank her.

    Thank you Goddess of Growth.


    We take a bath together and Hana tries to brush Alissa's tail, it ends badly and I have to do it to compensate for her. Hana is gets sad but I guess her talent lies in stroking hair.

    Dinner is sandwich of fried minced meat, a proto-hamburger. I used lots of leaves and squishy vegetables to make it as close to Earth's burger than I could, the girls loved it. "Refreshing" they said, they were going to put some heavy sauce on it which would make it soggy and impossible to eat with your hands.

    I tried to carry Hana who fell asleep in the sofa but I fail, to my utter shame.

    "Awn, that was cute. Don't feel bad, I'll play with you more today, okay?" She asks and strokes my hair again.

    Tonight Alissa teaches Hana how to use her mouth, she doesn't have fangs so it goes well. She's more of a storm while Alissa is much more delicate. I finish inside her mouth and she tells me she loves the taste, I just don't know how to answer to that.

    After that Alissa rides me while Hana uses my face. I feel my balls shriveling.


    Today is the 15th.

    I wake up and Hana is trying to suck my soul through my dick. I endure the pain in my balls and dick and cum again, then I feel something change within me.

    I gained the skill [Enhanced Semen Recharge]. What the fuck.


    Hana laughs her way out of the room. Alissa assumes a poker face and freezes on the bed, staring at the distance. I go out and Roxanne runs to her room laughing, Hana told her.

    You know what, fuck this. I will wear it with pride, what kind of man has his balls drained every day for so long he develops a fucking skill? I'm a pervert and I can become a sex god in a few seconds, this is my talent and my biggest source of dopamine. Bow to me, unworthy men who cannot even please your own women.

    "Rejoice, Alissa, this means you can do hold back less if you wish to do me," I say.

    She looks at me, looks at the distance, looks at me again, opens her mouth as if to say something, then closes it and blushes. How can you still blush like this?


    We eat toast with pâté, butter and tea after everyone calmed down. Roxanne sends me a few gazes, Hana seems to be in a good mood and Alissa keeps her poker face.

    The auction will start accepting bids at 3PM, we are not required to be there at the start but I want to see it. It will take at most an hour, then we will have to linger a while to receive our money.

    I'm getting anxious so I try to spend time sparring with Hana.

    "Roxanne, did you ever get your share of the bounty from the Symbol?" I ask.

    "Oh shit, I forgot! Eheheheh, can we pass by the guild before we go to the auction?"

    I shrug.

    Roxanne is locked out of her room so she's just watching us from the window on the living room.

    "You work too much Roxanne, you have to clear your mind once in a while or you will block yourself and stop progressing," Warns Hana.

    "Hm? What do you mean?" Asks Roxanne.

    "Mental progress, skill training, and muscle training are all similar. Sometimes your mind won't learn if you don't stop to rest. This goes for martial training and muscular growth, if you overdo it you stop or even lose progress," she answers.

    "Hmmm, perhaps there's some truth to that."

    "Hmph," Hana grunts while casually parrying my attack and countering me.

    "We all care about you, so don't overdo it, ok?" Says Alissa, while practicing her bow.

    That got her. She lower her eyes and looks a little guilty.

    "Thank you… I don't know how to work as a team properly, so thank you..." Roxanne says.

    "Awn..." Hana stops the spar and gives Roxanne a sweaty hug.

    "Eck!"

    In the end Roxanne practices her water and fire a bit. She shows impressive control by making very small spells, she did not go rusty while working non"stop. I think this is how she uses her [Explosion], an extremely small and concentrated ball of fire and water conjured inside the target. Direct manipulation of other living beings is extremely difficult, I guess her spell is so small and concentrated she can basically bypass that.


    For lunch Alissa shows a meaty pasta sauce that reminds me of Madeira sauce.

    Then we all get ready to go and holy shit the women look hot. Alissa melts my heart with her cute white frilly dress and small white shoes, Hana looks majestic with a risque red silk straight dress open on the back and Roxanne makes me uncomfortable with a black slightly gothic dress with a huge cleavage and black knee socks.

    Roxanne and Hana go by magic carpet while I ride Alissa. We pass by the monster hunters guild and the hall nearly stops for them. This is a bit too much attention, I'm sweating cold. Thankfully Roxanne doesn't waste time, her reward was already ready. Then we are finally off to the theater.

    The theater is an amazing place, it has beautiful Gothic architecture and a blood red color from it's bricks. It's a half circle where the entrance is on the circular side. The walls are full of details and arches in relief and statues of all kinds of humanoids in different postures. With a sword in hand, reading a book, shaking a flask, holding an orc head, putting on a crown, tilling the land, and many others. All the statues are supposed to represent a great work of art that became known around the world.

    Inside, the bricks turn yellow and give a majestic feeling to the architecture. There are large sets of stairs that take to the 3 levels of stands that there are. On the walls are paintings on huge canvas depicting the plays being shown. I really need to come here one day and watch one of these plays but the luxury puts me off.

    The guards at the entrance knows who we are and they direct us to a specific stand where Silas is. It's a balcony on the 3rd floor where we have central view of the stage. Silas is sitting there talking to a majestic man with a huge red fur cloak and black and gold clothes with a few jewels embedded.

    "That is the lord of Rabanara, Alaraste Anara," whispers Alissa.

    Oh fuck, oh fuck, the Lord!

    Silas sees us entering and points to chairs besides him.

    "Good afternoon, Mr. Ryder. It's good to see you here," says Silas.

    "G-good afternoon, guildmaster. I was curious to see how it would go," I answer and sit down to his left.

    "It's just a small event, nothing special."

    Alissa sat on my other side and Hana and Roxanne sat down on the row behind us.

    "Good afternoon, Miss Alissa, Miss Roxanne and Miss Hanafuria," he looks at each girl and nods. They give a greeting and nod back.

    "This is the lord of Rabanara, Alaraste Anara. My lord, this is one of the fellowships who fought the Symbol, the fellowship Helios. Miss Hanafuria wasn't present at the battle.

    The lord turns and looks at us. He's a dark haired man with square jaw and a well kept stubble. He has a deep, stoic gaze, his black eyes pierce me and then pierce the girls. He has an aura of authority, I wonder if it's a skill.

    "Greetings to you all," he says. I mimic Alissa and give a small bow, "I see it now, the man, the mage, the archer and now a strong shield. You will do well tomorrow, look for my elite squad, you should work together with them."

    "Elite squad?" Whispers Alissa.

    "Elite squad?" I repeat reflexively. I'm sweating.

    "Yes. They will be the main power on the subjugation tomorrow, your mage and your archer are very powerful killing forces, have them work with my elite squad."

    "Say 'as you wish, my lord'," Alissa whispers.

    "Y-yes, as you wish, my lord," I obey, Alissa pushes my back and I give a small bow.

    For a split second I notice a small smile on the Lord's face.

    "A large amount of goblins are amassing on that camp, we couldn't find it's exact location so we are calling every reliable fellowship that has a tracker," Silas says, "Also we will require quite a lot of firepower so we calling for the Lord's help this time, he will lend us a subjugation squad with a genius magician. The elite squad, yours and 2 others will be the main killers of this operation. But let's leave the details for tomorrow."

    He smiles faintly and we turn forward again.

    In a few minutes it starts. On the stage a man appears in a proto-suit.

    "Gentlemen and gentlewomen. Good afternoon to all of you and to our Lord Anara who's watching over us today," and he motions to our balcony.

    Alaraste gets up and waves once, then he sits down. The lower floor can't see me sitting but all the other balconies can, the amount of gazes in this direction makes me freeze.

    "Tonight we are all here gathered for an auction of the body of a legendary creature, the Symbol of Hate. This creature is an aberrant monster that lived for 203 years, we know that it's soul is so deformed it doesn't even obey the Monster King. It reached 5 meters and 12 centimeters under normal posture. It has 12 spider legs with a hair so sharp that can draw blood if you carelessly touch it. The body of the spider is as tough as a plated knight while the body of the human has a skin as tough as an ogre. It's mouth is composed by hundreds of small teeth that painfully tear and shred anything it eats, don't smell them, you will puke. Its hands sports such long, sharp and tough nails that it used it in combat as a weapon similar to a dagger. The hero who was stabbed by these nails barely survived."

    Oh, that's me… don't call me "hero" though.

    "It is a being that literally fed on pain. It captured its prey, tortured it, harmed it and then like a caring mother brought it back to full health, only to start the cycle of pain again. Only when someone's mind is truly broken is that mercy is given and the prey is finally eaten alive. It's the embodiment of misery, it's cunning allowed it to avoid all who were sent to exterminate it until it underestimated the destructive power and cunning of two humble fellowships. I present you the corpse of the Symbol of Hate!"

    A large square glass cube floats towards the middle of the stage and the theater explodes in murmurs.

    "Impressive, what a fierce battle," says Alaraste, his eyes widen.

    The body is floating inside the glass cube. You can see floating besides it the two missing spider legs, the missing spider leg tips, and the bloodied and partly burned arms and head. The finger daggers on one arm are still bloodied with my blood. The head has its eyes and mouth open. The arrows are still stuck on its eyes, the artwork of Alissa. A piece of intestine dangles from below the Symbol, now that is my artwork.

    I feel a slight shifting behind me. Roxanne is looking away and Hana is squeezing her hand. The auctioneer continues.

    "You can all see the damage required to stop such monstrosity. Incredible accuracy with arrows to hit the eyes. Fearsome swordsmanship to be able to cut legs and the tips. The unbelievable cut below the entire thorax of the spider. The courage to throw oneself into these frightening daggers on its fingers. And finally, the most impressive is how destroyed the main body is, the genius of the mage who blew up the entire torso of the Symbol with one attack. Fortunately for us the arms and head survived such gruesome fate."

    Roxanne is being praised but she looks paler than she normally is and looks down. Now Alissa turns around to give her hand a squeeze.

    "Fortunately for all of us the most interesting parts survived, the human head and the spider body. Even with most of its eyes destroyed the nervous system of the spider is still intact, the legs and the innards still hold most of its contents and there's still a lot of blood inside the body. A treasure trove for those who are looking for 203 year old monster parts that have been soaking in mana and pain for all this time."

    "Let us start the bidding! The body will be sold in its entirety along with all the severed parts. The initial bid is 1 rose coin!"

    "1 and 10!"

    "1 and 20!"

    ," 1 and 50!"

    ," 2 coins!"

    Starting good.

    "2 and 30!"

    "2 and 40!"

    "3 coins!"

    Oh boy.

    "3 and 50!"

    "4 coins!"

    Keep it going!

    "4 and 20!"

    "4 and 30!"

    I'm at the edge of my seat. I can taste the money.

    "4 and 40!"

    "..."

    "4 and 45!"

    It's slowing down. Oh no.

    "4 and 50!"

    "..."

    "5 coins!"

    "…"

    "..."

    Oh.

    "…"

    "Is that all?" Asks the auctioneer.

    "It's a 1."

    "It's a 2."

    "It's a 3!"

    "SOLD!"

    177 gold coins for us. 107 after paying for Hana. I'm rich, bitches!

    I look back and find that ‘Hauberk' is a few rows to the side, I didn't notice them coming.

    Gunther is with his eyes closed, he holds an expressionless face. Lorthar has his hands clasped and he's praying. Minerva is crying with an ugly face and snot dripping from her nose. It's kinda heartwarming, 22 gold coins for each is still a lot, they could even retire and buy a farm somewhere.

    The lord quietly leaves. Silas motions us and Hauberk to come with him. We are taken to a room, in there we sit on one of the luxurious sofas and wait. There's a man with a thick magnifying glass with inscriptions on the lens, he must be the metal appraiser.

    An old man with a large black and purple robe and pointy hat appears. He carries a jeweled metal staff with a giant shining yellow jewel at the top. He walks slowly and a bit wobbly but I can feel a strong savagery in his eyes. Another man with a proto-suit holds the arm of the old man and they walk together.

    "Grand Rizek. Pleasure to have you here," says Silas.

    "Hoh, pleasure to be here, even more pleasured that I lived long enough to see such a legend be killed," the old man responds in a raspy but very strong voice.

    Silas simply smiles and the man is brought to a chair. He turns around to us.

    "Hah, wouldn't have imagined such squirts would bring that thing down. The tortured souls that were victims of that evil thing thank you."

    We simply nod, slightly overwhelmed at his vigor.

    "Now, Sebastian."

    Another butler, another Sebastian. With a *poof* he materializes 5 rose coins and puts them on the table. The appraiser inspects each coin and then nods to Silas.

    "Then it's done," Silas snaps a finger and another man with a proto-suit appears, "Please take Grand Rizek to the storage area."

    Rizek leaves slowly.

    "Who was that man?" I ask.

    "A mage that belongs to the lords court. He's a genius of [Electric Magic]," says Roxanne.

    Electric, eh…?

    Silas stores the coins in his [Item Box] and brings out a huge sack of gold coins, another with silver coins, and a last one with copper coins. Then one of his helpers count the coins and separate the parts for each of us. The guild takes 5%.

    "Glad to do business with you. We will see each other again tomorrow," Silas says with a smile.

    "I'm glad I met you, even under those circumstances I'm glad I met you," Gunther says, he and the other 2 companions come and shake our hands.

    "What are you going to do now?" I ask.

    "Move to a calmer area, we can take it easy now and possibly find a nice place to retire," Answers Gunther, he lets out a large smile and his eyes look far away.

    "Be well," I say.

    And finally we leave. Tomorrow we will pay Ghulam and retrieve the equipment we reserved for Hana. Tomorrow a new adventure begins. I'm only a bit excited, a tiny little bit.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2020
  15. Manasong

    Manasong Well-Known Member

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    Tonight Roxanne joined us on the sofas, she stole my breast pillow and cuddled with Hana, they seem quite friendly with each other. I played with Alissa's tail until she fell asleep, then I succeeded in carrying her to the bed and gave my all to both of them. With the expedition things might be harder for a few days so I have to enjoy it while I can. My new skill also helped a lot, I felt much more invigorated.



    Today is the 16th.

    This morning we only had a quick breakfast and we all left to buy the remaining supplies, we spent most of the morning looking for the last few things. Didn't even use my new sleeping bag and instead we bought a bed that fits us 3. We also bought an even bigger tent that you can stand on, a small table for us to eat inside the tent, a lot of different "Items"-ready meals, and a new flying vehicle for all of us.

    The vehicle was quite expensive, 30 gold, but it fits 6. It's a polished wood dinghy with wheels and a windshield. Looks a bit weak but the price was because the magic tool was quite big, almost the size of a basketball.

    The tool is a slightly green tinted polyhedron crystal. There's a handle that's stuck to it, it doesn't move but it responds to pressure, it controls yaw and pitch. To apply propulsion you have to manipulate your mana around the crystal, this means that you can fly in any direction, even backwards, but it's not advised. At most you should only switch between applying force upwards to float or forward to speed up. Roxanne and Hana have a little experience with it so they will fly if necessary, I will learn it in the future.

    I sent Alissa to pay Ghulam and after that we moved to the west gate where a row of wagons and a crowd of people are already waiting. It's 11 AM so we take an early lunch on a nearby stall. Then we see Silas coming with 5 knights and 2 robed figures.

    The knights wear black scale armor and on top a surcoat with the heraldry of the Lord. In the middle of the knights a familiar face appears, black hair, square jaw, the hint of a stubble and a piercing, stoic gaze. He's the Lord, or rather, a younger version of him.

    Behind him another familiar face, an elven girl. Silver straight hair, it almost shines. Short, skin as white as snow. Oval face, upturned blue eyes, nearly asian, small pointy nose, red lips and the unmistakable long pointy ears of the elves protruding on a right angle from her head.

    Silvane notices us and smiles at Alissa who returns it.

    Silas stops near the crowd and speaks.

    "Gather here hunters! We will begin role call! Bring your leaders and we will start the strategy meeting!" He yells, his voice has the characteristic distortion of someone speaking on a microphone.

    When the roll call begins we enter a nearby building and sit around a table. Burly men, scarred faces, wicked eyes, stoic gazes, threatening auras. Those are the adventurers leaders sitting on the table, and then there's me. Aside from Silas I'm the smallest and also the youngest here. I wanna run away, help me Alissa!

    Thankfully the strategy has been defined already, there's no need for me to speak. The Lord's son, Haaran, is the one explaining things. He's the leader of the expedition and the leader of the elite troops of the Lord. His voice is lighter than the Lord's but it's like he's a clone of him, I just wonder what kind of genetics is going on here.

    There will be one fellowship responsible for the vanguard, one for the rearguard, and 4 duo's responsible for scouting. Those are the ones who will protect the main forces during the trip. After we reach the place chosen as our base of operations all fellowships will contribute with tracking the base of the goblins.

    When found, our strike will begin. There are 2 artillery fellowships that will rain magic as the first strike. My fellowship, the Lord's elite troops and 2 other fellowships are the shock troops and will fight any enemy inside their base. The scouting troops will make sure as few as possible goblins escape, the vanguard will protect our backs during the attack and the rearguard will guard our base of operations.

    The plan is simple, swift and decisive. We will take half a day to get to the entrance to the Sea of Trees, camp there, half a day to move to our base, most likely half a day to scout, half a day to fight, and another day to get back. We will be back before Selina's wedding. The meeting ends and we are ordered to get up on the wagons.

    "Greetings, Mr. Ryder, I hope you remember me," Silvane approaches us and speaks to me, her voice is delicate and feminine.

    I actually do remember your curves, or the lack of them, when I saw you wearing that one piece.

    "Greetings, Miss Silvane, it would be difficult to forget a face like yours," I say. Damn I nailed that line.

    "Oh my," she smiles, oh my heart, "It is good to see you well Miss Alissa."

    "You too, Miss Silvane," she smiles warmly, "What happened to you? You are part of the lord's elite squad now?"

    "Oh yes. Lord Haaran bought me, I'm to marry him at the end of the year," she brims with happiness.

    "That's amazing! It means he will look to conquer a dungeon soon, right?" Alissa seems very happy.

    "Yes, I'm also under apprenticeship with the court magicians, I will enter the university the next month."

    Oh?

    "You might study with master then, he's also joining next month."

    "Ah, so he's the one with the blessing then?" She turns to me, "The skill you created, [Redirect Mana], caught the attention of many people."

    Ugh, I didn't really want to though. I smile wryly.

    "How's the research on that skill? ," she continues.

    "It's going very well but because of the subjugation I had to stop it for a while, it will delay me a little now."

    "That's unfortunate, but this is our duty," she nod with a serious look and Alissa follows, "We can't let that goblin camp get any larger, for the sake of our people."

    Then she's back to smiling faintly.

    "It seems you found your happiness," says Alissa.

    "And you did yours," answers Silvane.

    Alissa blushes a bit.

    "Let us go, we can speak more when we reach camp," Silvane says.

    "Certainly!"

    From what I understood Alissa and Silvane met in the Misty Low Forest when both of them were to be brought to Rabanara. They spent a day-cycle together and became friends. Their dreams and goals were similar, to find someone strong for them to serve so they could honor their families or restore the family's honor in the case of Silvane. They didn't say it but I noticed they didn't have any hope of finding love, they only talked about duty.



    The wagons use double horses and run on the road. It's a rather well built road, less well maintained than the one inside the town but it's still impressive engineering. It is made of large square blocks, there's some sort of cement holding them together; it is slightly curved and a small channel on the sides holds the rainwater that slowly drains away from the road. The wagons don't shake much but they make noise.

    We share our wagon with Akros, one of the shock troop fellowships. They have 4 members. A red skinned demon race man, he has a single horn coming out of his forehead, truly a japanese creation, he uses a tower shield. A large, tanned, and bearded man, he uses a two-handed sword the size of his body. A lanky white man with an ugly black bowl cut, he uses a longbow. A scrawny and cute dwarf girl with boyish black short hair, she uses a small composite bow.

    Honestly they aren't very pleasant. They are too crude, they keep talking about the ways they will disembowel the goblins and the dwarf girl wants to make a competition with Alissa on how many eyes they will pop.

    Hana saves me, she cuts in the conversation and they eventually ignore me. I just zone out and practice my meditation for [Redirect Mana]. It's quite hard to cut your senses with so much stimulation going on. It serves to shorten the trip though, before I notice it Alissa tells me it's time to leave the wagons.



    I stretch and feel how sore my muscles have become. We spent half a day inside that wagon and I spent all of it meditating, it's kind of amazing. I wish I had this sort of skill back on Earth, boring trips done in a second.

    It's 5PM. We left early and reached the border even earlier. Haaran tells us to start marching, the scouts run ahead first, then the vanguard goes, and we follow behind it. Behind us are 10 space mages, they have large [Item Boxes] and are basically humanoid pack mules, the rearguard is tasked with protecting them. I saw Targua leading the rearguard, he waved at us and kept to his business, what a nice fellow.

    The atmosphere of the Sea of Trees is always a bit fantastical to me, even charming. Now I know a few plants and fruits and we discreetly collect them. My "Items" is bottomless so I'm the only one who can afford to increase my load.

    I decide to lie and tell Roxanne I have managed to acquire [Summoning Magic] on the university, this way I can use my bird for scouting and my dog for guarding us.

    "So, Roxanne, my research of [Golemancy] is pretty close to [Summoning Magic]. So close that I have acquire a few spells on it already."

    "Hm?" Her eyes slowly regain focus as she looks at me, "Ah! Oh yes, There's a spell called [Summon Small Golem], right? Kinda obvious the two schools intersect somewhere."

    Not the angle I was thinking about but okay.

    "Y-yeah, well so far I have only managed to summon a small bird and dog. Also, I wanna tell Lord Haaran but I'm feeling a bit intimidate by him."

    "It's okay to not tell, master," Alissa says, "Not many hunters tell all their secrets. You can just use it whenever you wish and most people won't bother. Unless if you summon something really inconspicuous, like the elementals."

    Elementals sound interesting. I haven't updated my magic list yet, perhaps I can get more spells now. I don't know what level I need for elementals though.

    "But isn't it a rare magic? I don't want to keep calling so much attention to me."

    "You are already the town hero," says Hana.

    I look at Alissa and Roxanne and they both shrug.

    "Besides, the news of you having the blessing of the Goddess of Knowledge should be spreading too. You can't stop your fame anymore, master," Alissa smiles wryly with a hint of pity.

    This is bad, but also good, it means I can more easily say "fuck it" and do what I want. The problem is the ID checks, I need consistency, if I keep adding or removing skills it will be problematic if they are recording my skill progress.

    "Alright, I'm thinking about summoning 1 or 2 dogs and using them as guards, that way maybe we won't need to participate in the watch."

    "Oh-oh, that's a good idea, Wolf! Please do,&qu