Spoiler: Chapter 14: Responsibility Today is the 11th. I'm shriveled but Alissa massages me until I release it. This morning routine is sacred. Here's my progress: InfoName:Wolf RyderAge:16RaceHumanHP:100MP:560Magic Power:235Level:17Experience:386/3500StatsStrength:9Endurance:10Dexterity:9Speed:10Intelligence:20Wisdom:16Willpower:15Charisma:11Piety:12Perception:15Sanity:8+4OtherStatus Effects:NONETitles:"Good Luck" NicknameAffiliations:Helios (Fellowship), Alissa (Blood Slave, Fiancee), Hanafuria (Blood Slave, Fiancee), Roxanne Succubus (Fiancee) Companions:Alissa, Hanafuria, Roxanne Succubus, CielCrimes:NONEAnd my skills: Wolf RyderSkill ReportPhysicalSkill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Sword Use9+6Dodge4+5Parry4+5Block1+8Shield Bash0+1Muscle Explosion0+1MagicalSkill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Sense Mana0+5Mana Control0+7Mana Recovery6+0Mana Efficiency1+4Reduced Mana Cost5+0Mana Overuse Resistance0+2Electric Magic0+5Light Magic6+4Space Magic19+12Summoning Magic12+8Blessing Magic2+8Nature Magic0+8Redirect Mana (creator)2MiscellaneousSkill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Skill NameLevel Andraste Language10+0Dismantling0+2Enhanced Semen Recharge0+3OBS: Level means (free point)+(trained point) With this my trump card is [Gate]. This skill has an extra part that's called a "coordinate" that stores the location of wherever I'm standing. I can store up to "(skill level/5)+1" "coordinates". I then choose a coordinate and when I cast the spell one black circle appears on the ground in front of me and one appears on the "coordinate". Whatever touches the black circle gets teleported to the other cicle just like when you teleport between floors on a dungeon. If my mana is not enough then the object just doesn't get transported. Since my [Space Magic] is level 11 I can maintain 3 "coordinates" and not lose them when I remove all my points on it. I believe most mages must learn a weaker version of [Gate], the prices for a space mage teleport are quite high, it must cost them a lot of mana then. With 30 points on [Space Magic] it's not really expensive and I can use it a lot for all of us. Those tests were made hiding from Ciel, of course. Before we leave I put more points in [Nature Magic] so I can use the level 20 spell [Animal Tongue] and speak to the spirit griffin that was waiting for us on the back wall. -We will be gone for a few days, ok? I'll leave this last piece of meat here but we will give you more when we come back. The griffin turns his head sideways and then he looks down, he at me with sad puppy eyes. We move to the west gate. The dinghy is still comfortable enough for us, I hug Hana and Alissa on the back while Roxanne flies it besides Ciel. When we registered Ciel she got the town pass too so we just have to spend a few seconds at the gate. The meeting place is directly outside the town past the chest high wall, we are the first to arrive. I concentrate and chant [Wind Armor]. Repeating the chant a few times I get an inspiration and manage to find the way to cast it in an area, it ends up saving a lot of my mana. The way to cast it in area feels very similar to the way I expand my soul to use [Redirect Mana], I guess this is why this was easy to me. -Oh my, you truly are becoming quite the mage, Wolf- Ciel says. -Hmhm, everyday I fall for you even more- Roxanne says while she rubs her cheeks on my head. I don't feel that proud though, I'm kind of cheat, my Earth knowledge and point realocation is a huge advantage here. I cast [Sharp Blades] in an area and after about 30 minutes chanting I also manage to cast [Swift Foot] in an area, instantly my [Blessing Magic] increases by 2 (now it's 2+10). Unfortunately this cost me 1/4th of my mana and I start to hear a ringing in my ears signifying I overused my mana. Casting mana intensive spells really screws with your body, even my throat hurts. Ciel can cast [Inspire] that reduces physical, magic and mental damage slightly and give us a small stamina and mana regeneration boost. For Alissa, Ciel casts [Perfect Arrows], which reduces a lot of the drag on her arrows. You have to get used to it but Alissa has talent with the bow, she adapted quickly and now her arrows can penetrate deeper. I look around and nearly everyone is already here. Hilde was observing me, I see she brought 2 mercenary space mages. Unfortunately, Simon is here too. His fellowship, Swift Wind, is composed by 6 people. There's 2 gold haired elven male archers which look like they look like they are constantly smelling something bad. There's a large muscle head who carries a greatsword and his face reminds me of ogres. There's a small mage with a forgettable face who looks like he's always sleepy. And there's an average brown haired halfling who uses a sword and dagger. Alissa told me halflings are humans who are at maximum 1m tall. They have round faces and noses and are very adept at hunting and farming, with most of the (in)famous assassins in history being halflings. Don't ever confuse a dwarf with a halfling you don't want to anger a person who is in arms reach of your jewels. A man approaches us and speaks. -So you are the boy- He says. I don't like the way he talks. He's the leader of Escutcheon, a fellowship that has 4 shield users, one mage, and one archer. He's a big burly fat man with a tower shield, his skin is slightly darker than Ciel's, his black beard cover most of his round face and his small beady eyes look at me with a slight hint of wildness. In essence, he's a big black bear. I just raise an eyebrow and stare at him. -Tell the truth, how did you kill the Orc Headhunter?- He says and crosses his arms. Even Ciel glares at him. I point my finger to the side and expressionlessly cast [Lightning Bolt]. He jumps backwards in surprise. -What the fuck- He mutters. -I don't have to chant, you know what that means, right? I don't chant and I use the sword, you know what that means, right? -Hahah, so I guess there's no way for me to ask for a spar without magic? -Fuck no, that's asking a swordsman to fight with half a sword. -Fucking'ell, I guess you are fine then. And all your women can at least lift their weapons? -Logan, remember they killed the Symbol of Hate and subjugated the goblin village- Hilde says, approaching us. -You always get yourself the weird ones. The boy got his own harem- He says to Hilde with a crooked smile. -Yes yes, this fellowship is quite valuable and expensive, go back to your place and let them work- She says while waving her hand dismissively. -Tch, alright- He clicks his tongue and leaves. -… Fucking magic dick- I clearly hear him mutter. At 7:40AM we depart south. Alissa goes far in front in her fox form while Roxanne guides us with our map. After drinking one of Roxanne's high-grade MP potions I control 2 german shepherds on the flanks. Hilde and her party walk between Swift Wind and Escutcheon. At the back a 2-man scouting party makes sure nothing sneaks on us. By putting the 5 free skill points Alissa has in [Sense Presence] she can sense things from pretty far away, nothing will get past her. The goblin population is still down, we only met 4 of them. Suddenly my ring glows green. We bought another pair of Emergency Stones, this one is for Alissa. The green means she found something she can't deal alone, it's a Young Ogre. Alissa fires an arrow perfectly into an eye, again. The Ogre charges towards us. -UGOOOOO!- He yells. -URAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!- Hana yells harder. The ogre decides to charge her. Hana grips her sword with two hands, she dodges his charge and slashes, cutting one of his legs clean on the knee. He falls down heavily and skids on the mossy dirt. When he stops Ciel stabs him on the throat mercilessly, then she grimaces. She seems content to be on this trip, she's eager to fight but I know she's not really enjoying the killing part. I didn't even have to fight. After a while the ring goes green again. We carefully approach Alissa, it's a Grey Berserker. -Hm… I wanna try something. Hana will distract him, I will summon an elemental with a mace and if it gets stunned Alissa will fire an arrow on its eye, if it doesn't die you girls cast [Wind Hammer] and [Torrent] at his head in this order. If all fails we mob him and go for high-damage. -Why do it like this? Isn't it a bit risky?- Roxanne asks. -I wan to preserve the fur the most I can, it's very valuable and I also wanna test the blunt force of the elemental. So I will go right, Roxanne behind me, Ciel left and Alissa is free. We all agree to the plan and rush forward in formation. The Grey Berserker immediately turns and looks at us warily, it's deciding whether or not it's worthy to fight us, he's more clever than the average monster. -Come here you big fat ugly shithead!- Hana taunts. It roars and its eyes focus on Hana, then he charges. I summon a 3-armed metal earth elemental, the more my skills increase, the less human I can make it. This one has one arm sprouting from the top of its head with a mace for a hand. The bear gets up on its hind legs and swipes at Hana, she dodges and then blocks the second attack, a scale flies from her shield. Holy shit these claws are sharp, this is the first time our scale shields got damaged. The elemental runs awkwardly towards the bear and bends its whole body down while swinging its head-arm. The attack hits the bear and brings him down but since he was standing up there wasn't enough momentum to kill him. The elemental hugs the bear who was stunned for a second, then bear starts thrashing about, he can't break the hug. -He's moving too much, I can't get a shot- Alissa says. -[Wind Hammer]!- Immediately Ciel lets out her spell. The spell hits the cheek of the bear like a boxer punch, the bear stops for a second and resumes thrashing but weaker. -[Torrent]!- Roxanne lets out a thick but short burst of water from the tip of her staff. The bear is hit on the other cheek and now he's groggy. Alissa fires her arrow and it hits his eye, the arrow goes so deep you can only see the feathers remaining. The bear twitches and his body goes limp. -Oh, I leveled up- Says Hana. -Look at this, the fur is perfect!- I cheer and rub my hands, I can feel the gold coins. -W-what's with you Wolf?- Asks Ciel, her eyebrows knit in worry. There's 4 women in our house, all I want is enough money to play dress up with all of you. -Well… Uh, I have certain things I want to buy. Roxanne and Alissa share a look, they know my expensive hobbies are either tea or clothes for them. I approach the corpse. The fur is perfect, we will get the full price for this body. I store it all. -Wow, your [Item Box] is pretty big, Wolf- Ciel says. I had to stop myself from saying a dirty joke. Hilde seems satisfied with our actions, since we have a good forward scout the others don't have to stop until we deal with the monsters. Even when a group of Mossy Fangpines appeared we engaged them before they threatened the expedition. Logan just scoffs and looks away, he won't admit we are skilled, what a tsundere. We take a stop for a quick lunch, Alissa and Ciel cooked a lot of food for us so we have proper meals and not the simple stuff from the food stalls. Corn is not as important to the local culinary so I taught a few recipes with corn meal to Alissa and now she's putting it in everything. After lunch orcs start to appear but they are all naked and unarmed, it's just target practice for Alissa. With such small amount of monsters appearing we had no hangups but we still barely made it to the camp site before it was sunset. It seems Hilde overestimated her own stamina as she slowed down a few hours after lunch. If she had asked for [Swift Foot] we would have been on time, maybe I should have offered first. With this there's no time for Alissa to scout the numbers of dragons on the nest so we just make camp. Our camp is at the edge of a mountain range, brown rock protrudes from the ground with white diagonal streaks, this is the Pavees Mountain Range, a delicious name that reminds me of a dessert. Inside the mountain range there's a cave system where the dragons made their nest. A warm, covered, and secluded place is the best nest for dragons, there are a few monsters who love to eat dragon eggs. My women and Hilde don't mingle with the other fellowships, considering they are all composed of men there's a real unbalance here and their gazes make me burn with jealousy. -Holy shit Ryder, are they all yours?- Simon says while we pull out our tents. -Hm, yes, they are all my women. -Last time I saw you you were just with the small lass there, the hell is your dick made off? I force a wry smile. -Last time I saw you you were looking for someone to track the Orc Lord, right? How did that go?- I ask, trying to change the topic. -That was focking rough mate. We got the "halfshit" assassin over there to track the orc for us and he actually did a good job, the orc had ran away from The Smirk and was marching back southeast to the Sea of Trees but we found him. The problem was getting near the fucker, his guards were good sniffers, we had to roll up in literal orc shit to be able to approach him. Hah, you should have seen the "halfshit" cut the dick of the Lord and then run away like headless chicken because he enraged the fucker. Orcs are proud of their genitals, cutting one off will make it go berserk until it dies. Since it has no other purpose in life besides reproducing and fighting, once reproducing is cut off it will fight to the death with whatever comes in his way. -He actually cut it off and survived? Is he lucky or stupid?- Hana interjects and saves me from the conversation. -How about both? The Orc Lord actually cut down his own guards, made things easier for us until the whole orc camp woke up from the noise. Hana keeps the gruesome conversation until I escape and call her to the bath. Ciel keeps watch, though it's unnecessary since I can now summon 4 dogs for guarding and a bird for spying. Now that nobody has the energy after yesterdays orgy we just fondle and kiss each other, I reward Hana with a good amount of attention and breast massages. After we get out Ciel is blushing. I'm pretty sure we didn't make any lewd noises so I'm not sure why she's blushing, maybe she's just imagining things? I'm pretty sure she knows we do it all the time during the bath. After Ciel takes her bath Roxanne uses her magic to dry her hair and brushes it. Ciel integrated with us so well that basically the only difference between her and the other is that we don't touch each other, yet. We gave the orc corpses to the other fellowships to eat. If one didn't know about this world they would see this scene as a bunch of cannibals roasting 2 ugly green men. Orc meat is slightly green and tastes like pork. The ribs, abdomen and arms are considered the best parts. I ate orc before but seeing things like this makes me a bit sick, the people here sincerely do not consider monsters to be any close to humanoids at all. I keep 2 Rottweilers as intimidating guards in front of my and Ciel's tent and the 2 other german shepherds keep making rounds around the camp. My bird is a small owl that I hid in a nearby tree with a good view of the camp, if anyone tries to sneak about I will know. Today is a slow day so I get the women to teach me her weak spots, my tongue got so tired I had trouble speaking. Today is the 12th. Hana wakes me up with her insides squeezing my member. She's getting rather addicted to me giving her pain but I don't want to make too much noise here by being rough with her so she's a little dissatisfied. We use [Clean] on the tent and Alissa makes sure there's no smell, then we call Ciel. Oh the horror, our table is too small and the tent doesn't have space for a bigger one so our charcuterie board that we are used to make in the morning is much smaller. Ciel enters and starts blushing. Really, again? I was wondering why she was like this when I noticed Alissa is moaning softly while I brush her tail, I guess I got too god at it. When we break camp only my group and Hilde and her assistant have bright expressions, everyone else suffered because of the guard, bad food, and bad beds. Alissa doesn't waste time and sneaks into the cave entrance. Yesterday she was supposed to observe number of dragons and how many are leaving the nest but because we were late she couldn't do it. Dragons are social creatures and live in nests with around 20 others until they are mature enough to live alone and reproduce. The strategy is to wait for most of the dragons to leave to hunt and kill the remaining few, then we wait until the rest comes back one by one and ambush them inside the cave where they can't fly away. With 2 space mages perhaps we can kill the entire nest. We break camp and move closer to the cave entrance. If you pay attention every once in a while you hear the flap of wings, it's the dragons moving about, this makes everybody tense up. At around 8AM Alissa sends me the signal, the gem on my Emergency Ring turns green. -Let's move- I tell Hilde. This time we will have very little to do. My party will stay at the back while everyone else helps kill the dragons remaining on the cave. It's not like we are useless, the noise and smell of blood could attract other monsters that we would have to deal with, we could even end up facing a dragon by ourselves if we are unlucky. Alissa joins with us and the party leaders. -I saw six dragons leave, they are all barely two meters tall. There's three at the cave, they are guarding eggs. There's two hatched and one weird signature. -Weird signature?- I ask. -Yeah, I don't know how to explain. I'm not sure if it's an animal or a monster but it's small like the other hatchlings. That's new. -I know a bit of [Nature Magic], perhaps I could use [Animal Tongue] on it. Hilde shrugs. -Suit yourself, but if it's another dragon per our contract you will have to buy it from me. It's not like I want it or anything, I'm just curious but whatever. -I will only pay the standard price for a dragon child, if it weren't for Alissa you would never know it was special. Hilde thinks for a moment and narrows her eyes. She knows it's fair and she has no way to scam me out of more money, [Sense Presence] is a fairly rare skill so the discovery was truly only possible because of Alissa. She sighs and resigns. -Fair enough. Escutcheon leads, followed by Swift Wind, then Hilde, and then us. The scouts will stay outside and try to warn us of anything dangerous coming, Alissa will stay at the entrance. This place is a cave system, it has one large tunnel that bends sneaks deeper in the mountain and multiple side branches the goes on for a kilometer or so. The ground is uneven and full of protrusions, but you can see the effects of dragons going in and out of it every day, there's plenty of spots that got flattened by their huge feet or scraped by their claws. I take one point out of [Sword Use] and put it on [Sense Presence]. Without Alissa everyone realizes how convenient her sensing is. As the main party goes forward cautiously we check plenty of the side branches. There's an annoying enemy in caves called Scritter due to the "scritt" noise they make. It's a 30 centimeter tall black crab-like monster that can stick to walls. It's attracted to light sources and if not dealt with they will eventually swarm you and nibble you to death so we regularly go around the side branches to exterminate them. We also found a few normal slimes, which are amoebas that spit acid and eat anything organic. For those Hana uses her bow and we kill them with ranged attacks. It deflates like a water balloon and leaves a rubbery outer layer that people use to make jelly. After Roxanne collects a few mushrooms we finally reach the cave guardians. I hear a roar and the ground shakes, the battle has started, we finish clearing the back and move forward. We reach a large open space filled with bones where the smell of animal and shit is noticeable to me, good thing Alissa isn't here. There's three 2-meters tall blue dragons fighting, one already has an arrow on its eye, another has a deep slash on his neck and is bleeding profusely and the last is being pushed back but is unharmed. The dragons are large quadruped lizards with long claws and thick bodies, their wings grow from their backs to over 5-meters in length, and they have long necks allowing it lots of dexterity during a bite. Their teeth have edges, allowing them to cut down whatever they bite and also carve those teeth into swords, like mine. Escutcheon have spread themselves and are taking care of two dragons while the muscle-head and the halfling from Swift Wind suppress the last dragon. One or two arrows bounce off the front scales of the dragons, which is the hardest place, but most arrows penetrate the wings, making it difficult for them to move it. Some arrows hit their mark which is the back and sides of the dragon, those are the soft spots. A few arrows hit the right spot and the front legs of the second dragon lose their power. It tries to swipe one last time but it's so slow that the man on the front manages to cut it off, the dragon roars in pain and retreats a bit. The first dragon gets angry and charges mana, he's trying to breathe fire. I notice that Simon is the only one who didn't try to hide behind a mage or a shield user, he aims his bow and remains perfectly still. Once the dragon opens his mouth Simon lets out his arrow and strikes to roof of the mouth of the dragon. It chokes and uncontrolled flames fly around but they get so weakened no one gets threatened with a burn. The dragon gets confused and desperate which gives an opening for the others to slash his neck. He gets completely decapitated once one of the mages uses a [Water Blade] directly on a deep cut. 1 down 2 to go. With new support for the halfling and the muscle-head, they go into the offensive and quickly the 3rd dragon is drenched in blood flowing from its neck. It starts to slow down and tumble when the muscle-head charges and does a savage downward slash with his greatsword. The head of the dragon flies as its cut off from its body. With one dragon remaining the halfling decides to be retarded and jumps into the back of the dragon. He stabs his knife and sword into the back of the dragon and use them to hold on while the dragon goes crazy trying to shrug him off, this is bad because no one wants to approach a rampaging dragon. -That's enough ya halfshit!- Yells Simon. With a maniacal laugh the halfling jumps off his back and the others finish killing the dragon. With only cuts and bruises the first fight was a complete success. Ciel, the Angel runs around and heals the fighters, pure and thankful gazes share room with a few lewd and evil ones. I take a clean look around the nest. There's a spring nearby, this is why the nest was so deep inside the cave, there's enough enough water here to sustain all the dragons. Making a nest on top of trees or mountains is not a good idea for dragons since they need a nearby source of water for their young, which are very weak and can't fly until a few years later. Hilde immediately starts moving and with a "poof" she pulls out a huge, scary looking knife. She starts cutting down the leather of the dragon, Lina receives the scales, cleans them and give them to the space mages. Hilde's guards bring out huge axes and start chopping the limbs and cutting the meat. Nobody else knows how to do this so we all just watch. I move towards the back of the nest and look at the eggs and hatchlings there. There are 4 black eggs with light blue spots on top of a bunch of dry leaves and sticks. Besides them there's 2 small dragons that are the size of small dogs, roaring to anyone who comes close, their scales move up and down like a wave, the borders of these scales are sharp like blades. The last dragon is curled and shaking at the furthest point of the cave, it's obvious which is the special one. -Hey, I wanna try something, don't kill the hatchlings yet!- I yell to the guys suppressing the aggressive hatchlings. -Eh? Why, these shits are dangerous- Says one of the men. -Just stay back, child monsters aren't aggressive, they have a strong sense of self-preservation. -This is such a bother, why sh- -Just fucking do it! Hana approaches and lets out a bit of [Intimidate]. Thanks honey, that helps. The guys back off with a frown and Hilde lifts an eyebrow. After the hunters leave and the angry hatchlings calm down, I approach the scared hatchling and put points into [Animal Tongue] and [Sense Presence]. Using these skills I observe how the soul of this little dragon works. It is truly different from the soul of a normal monster, it feels closer to an animal. -Ciel, stay near me, I will meditate to try to understand more of this dragon, I will try something that might tickle you a bit. Hana and Roxanne cover the entrance. -Oh? Sure. Ciel sits close by me. I didn't tell you to sit but ok. I can feel her warmth since she's basically touching my shoulder, quite pleasant. I extend my soul to all the hatchlings and Ciel. The dragons tastes salty and dirty, once I start to feel the delicious taste of Ciel's skin I suppress my sense of taste and focus on observing their souls. There's a clear similarity to the souls, its like there's a "layer" that's covering the souls of the monsters but it's covering only half of the scared dragon, it's like an orange half-peeled. Monster behave like animals until they meet a humanoid, when this happens their blood thirst prevails over all other senses, aside from children and the smarter ones it even topples self-preservation. So could that last layer be the override that makes monsters aggressive? If so this explains why this little dragon doesn't attack and is instead completely scared. Dragons are one of the smartest race of monsters, so it's self-aware enough that knows we are humanoids who killed its parents and are about to kill it and its siblings. The fact that it's scared instead of angry tells me it's special, it's like the ID we use to differentiate monsters from humanoids is part of the "code" that makes monsters behave the way they do. I look at my side and Ciel is hugging my arm. There's no softness because of her armor but there's a considerable squish on her bust, her face is red and she's breathing sensually. Oh boy, I knew it felt good but I forgot how much it felt good. I know Ciel looks favorably at me so I felt like teasing her more but I think this is borderline harassment, she's not as depraved as the others. She notices I'm looking at her with a smirk and she quickly gets up and moves away towards the girls. Fortunately nobody noticed her momentary lewdness. -Alright, kill the others, I will buy this one and keep it safe- I say. The guys shrug and with a frown they draw their swords and decapitated the hatchlings. The last dragon looks even more terrified at the swords and cowers again, I draw its attention by tapping on the ground. Well then, I have no idea what to do but let's try to improvise. -Hey, look at me, I will keep you safe ok? You are special, you are different, I won't hurt you, ok? The dragon locks its eyes on me and I feel it starts to reduce the shaking. -You understand me? I know you are not a monster but you aren't an animal or humanoid either. Can you nod if you understood this? The dragon stares at me for a few seconds and it gives me a shy nod. -Excellent! I'm sorry about your parents but this is how life is here, they were monsters and they were dangerous to us. I can protect you, do you want my protection? The dragon nods again with more confidence. -Here, you hungry? I pull a plate and put a piece of raw mutton on it then back away. The dragon shyly unrolls itself and moves around, observing the piece of meat. -You can eat, if I wanted to poison you it would be easier to just use magic or cut you. The dragon looks at me and narrows its eyes. What? I'm telling the truth. Then I swear I hear it sigh and it starts to eat. Once its done it stares at me with renewed courage. -Do you understand that you are special? These other dragons are not like you. The dragon looks at its parents being butchered for a while then looks at me, with a sadder look. -The world won't wait for you to mourn, you have to be strong and stay by my side if you want to live, ok? The dragon nods. Jesus, how smart is it? I feel I'm talking to a human child. -Can I touch you? It coils a bit but nods then I pass my hand over its scales. It's the same as Hana's, rough and round with a pointy tip, would be a perfect blade when raised and makes a clacking sound when you pass your hand over it. There are spots that has much smaller scales like the back of the head, back of the neck, and spine, these spots I felt like it enjoyed more when I passed my hand. [Animal Tongue] creates a mental connection between caster and animal so it understands when I speak and we can share some very simple emotions when close together. Right now I feel that the little dragon is getting calmer, though I know its heart is hurting. -I can't stay here long, I'll have to carry you, if we get into battle you will have to move by yourself and stay close to my group, ok? It nods. -I also can't keep [Animal Tongue] all the time. It's a spell that lets me speak to you so sooner or later you won't understand what I say anymore, ok? It thinks for a moment and then nods. Honestly I have no idea what I'm doing, it's just luck I didn't traumatize it or something like that. -Come here. I grab it and carry it in my arms as if it's a baby. It's still shaking lightly. -Miss Hildegard, this dragon is more of an animal than a monster, it can understand me so I'm taking it as a pet. -We will negotiate the price at town, but a live dragon child is going to be at least 3 gold coins. -Alright, you can deduct it from our pay later. I know blue scales aren't special so this one is average and 3 gold coins is a good price. I go back to the entrance to reunite with Alissa and I introduce it to the girls, Hana seems to be the one most happy to touch it. -Now, we need to give you a name, ah, do you have a name?- I ask. It shakes its head. -Hmm… Are you a boy or a girl?- I ask. I frown. -What?- Roxanne asks me. -It's a girl... The women share a smirk. Alissa snorts. -Alright, how about Aoi as a name? It means blue or azure in one of the languages of my homeland. Aoi is a japanese word and the names the dragonkin use are clearly japanese. -Sounds cute- Says Roxanne. The others nod and Aoi seems happy. -Ah... Oh... Ih!- Aoi tries to speak. -Wow, those vocal cords seem good, maybe one day she will talk to us?- I ask. -Sounds plausible. We know that ancient dragons can speak with us- Says Alissa. It's quite common to find talking dragons in her hero stories. Because of how we fight, Aoi will normally follow me or she will stay near Roxanne. After a few minutes talking Alissa makes a serious face. -A dragon is coming. We run back inside and tell the others so they can prepare an ambush. We hide in a branch tunnel ahead of the ambush so Alissa can sense if something else is coming behind. The ambush ends quickly since the dragon was completely unguarded, it was simply surrounded and decapitated. I don't let Aoi look at the corpse, I feel she has the same mindset as me. We take another pass clearing the branch tunnels. Aoi can hurl small fireballs capable of killing slimes, but the Scritters are too fast for her. Her body is quite long so she curls into our necks like a scarf, she had been licking Hana's scales and when she felt my jealousy she came lick my cheeks too, so fucking adorable. Then the others also wanted a lick, her tongue is extremely slippery. Alissa comes back and warns us of another dragon, when it passes by our tunnel Aoi cowers in fear. -What's wrong?- I ask. I feel a coldness in my heart, a pain as if it's being repeatedly stabbed, a distance from light. It's Aoi's feelings, I believe she was being abandoned for being different. Even though we are killing her parents she didn't feel attachment to them, she felt fear of being killed along with her siblings. Sounds a bit fucked up to me but this is one of the least brutal ways of life among monsters, orcs and goblins are way way worse. We stop for a quick lunch and Hilde comes to me. -So you want that dragon as a pet?- She asks. I remove [Animal Tongue]. -Well yeah, she's different from the others, she's like a small child abandoned from her parents- I say. -You can talk to her?- She looks surprised. -Kinda, I can make questions and she understands a lot but she can't speak and I only feel vague emotions from her. -Hm, she looked like she was shaking with fear when we entered the cave, I have never seen something like that. -Monsters feel fear and have a self-preservation instinct but when they see humans most of them go berserk and sacrifice their lives to kill us. It seems this one doesn't have any bloodthirst for humans. -Oh, isn't this how Dragolites were tamed?- Asks Roxanne. -Precisely, which is why I'm keeping her, I can study her soul and understand the differences between monsters and humanoids. Also, she's a nice pet. Hilde looks amused, her sharp gaze and business personality is melting a little, I guess everyone loves puppies. I know the empire has a dragon knight squad so they already breed dragons somehow, which menas Aoi is not unique but she's still valuable. I think the royalty and plenty of the nobles like to have a dragon mount for fast travel. But to think that Hilde is not trying to haggle the price of Aoi is making me nervous. Considering the color of Hilde's armor and the dexterity her subordinates have when dismantling the dragons, this is clearly not the first or even second time she does this. Rabanara is a good source for wyvern and dragon parts so she must be making a career on this. We continue our work and successfully ambush 3 more dragons, 8 in total. When it starts to get late we wrap it up and return to the camp. The remaining dragons that come back are unlikely to come during the night, they must be on a very long trip and even if they do they will only enrage for a while but go back to hunting again as usual, they aren't going to abandon a good nest like this so easily. Aoi loves the bath and looks curiously at my foreplay with Roxanne. Wait, this is kinda bad, she's like a child, but nobody seems to think the same as me, for the others she's just like an annoying pet who keeps staring while you have sex. After a while she seems to lose interest so I finally concentrate on pleasing Roxanne. I actually started to understand Alissa's book since I'm always cuddling her while she reads, it's not an interesting story since it's too poetic and heavy to read but I can understand the outline. I feel like I will shed my bias soon about the literature of this world and get me a book to read. Alissa suddenly closes her book, pushes me down and undresses me. -I have been imagining you all day, you know- Alissa whispers into my ears. -Oh? Why is that? -The way Hilde is looking at you is turning to be just like Ciel's- She says while rubbing her hips on me, a mischievous smile appears on her face. -And… How does Ciel looks at me? -Anxiety, curiosity… Desire- She chuckles. -How can you know? -Who wouldn't? The town hero that killed the Symbol… Ahn, pleases three women and roped up another, a reliable presence even though he looks so young and small, recognized by the lord for his bravery and yet has a shy personality… Ahn. Any woman would have her eyes on you- She says while moaning, I can feel my leg getting wet. -And seeing how they look at me makes you excited? -Hmm, yes… I wanna see them try to steal you from me. I know it's useless because I know how your heart belongs… To… Me- She kisses me and chuckles again. And she puts it in, she's drenched and squeezes me tight. What have you done Goddess of Love? The innocent Alissa is becoming warped. She unleashed her feelings now that she has the approval of everyone and even the gods. What is she gonna become? But the most fucked up thing of all is that I'm enjoying it. I stuff Alissa's mouth with her own panties and thrust inside her with all my might. Ciel definitely hears her moan, her tent is right next to ours and I want her to hear. I want Ciel to masturbate to me, I want Hilde to have fantasies of the things I do to my women, I want them to believe I have a magic dick that bounds these girls to me as slaves. They need to get weak in the legs when they hear my name, they need to wet themselves in anticipation for my cock, they need to know who's the man that owns them. Alissa doesn't last long and orgasms on me. She falls over and I pull Hana and thrust from behind, she was already wet just from watching my savagery. I'm not holding back, I just wanna fuck something. Soon enough I find release. I'm not done yet, I feel it rising again. I pull Roxanne and fuck her until she begs me to stop, I throw her on the bed and she falls down, breathing roughly and with a stupid smile. I drag Alissa and fuck her some more until I finish inside her. Alissa's words had awakened a small fire in me making me cum so much it spilled on the sheets. My back hurts, I have to cast [Heal] to be able to move again. Then Hana gets fired up and rides me like I'm a bull. The tent reeked of cum so we had to put a lot of mana into [Clean] to make it go away. Today is the 13th. A scene of heaven on hell, 3 goddess satisfied by me in the middle of a deadly forest and near a dragon's nest, this is far from my idea of what an "adventure" would be. Alissa makes me cum hard before I'm fully awake, she's still frisky from yesterday. I think we went overboard, my back still hurts, I use [Heal] on it again. My [Nature Magic] increased by 1 (now 0+9) and incredibly I learned [Sense Soul (creator)]. Aoi must have pushed my knowledge about souls to a new level. Alissa also finally increased her [Fox Transformation (innate)] to 5, she's a bit bigger and can fit her weapons inside her transformation. It's like things finally clicked and they started making sense. A soul is divided in "layers", this is why we require more experience, or rather, more "soul parts" to increase level. The "circumference" of the soul gets bigger and bigger, requiring more and more parts until another "layer" is completed. Aoi's half-baked layer gave me such clarity. [Sense Soul] is an extremely interesting skill, it concentrates a small amount of mana on my eyes and it allows to see the level of people up to 10 meters, it opens a square black screen like my menu when it activates. If I level this skill perhaps in the future I can see more information. It would be incredible if I could read other people's skills, it would give me a good idea of combat experience others have and allow me to make better decisions on engagements. I look at Ciel and see that she is level 29. I tell the girls about my skill and they share the same thoughts as me, this skill is incredible. Aoi is confused when I thank her but she's happy to help, somehow. Ciel looks a bit absent minded so I take this opportunity to sit close to her and nudge her shoulder, this gives her a jolt. -What's the matter? Did yesterday's experiment awaken something in you?- I tease her. -Wha-wha-wha-what? N-no, it wasn't that… Wait no, it was nothing, nothing happened, I'm not thinking anything, a-a-actually I was thinking something it's just that it's nothing important…- She's completely flustered, her face twitches as she can't settle on a single expression- A-anyway you never explained what that thing you did was! -Oh right, I can expand my soul, it allows me to collect information about body and soul. Something like touch, taste, composition, and a ton of information about the soul that a simple [Sense Presence] can't do. -T-t-taste!? At least she didn't care about touch, she's hiding something massive beneath her clothes. -Hahah, I'm just messing with you. I could do that but I just used the soul analysis properties. I used it on Roxanne once by mistake, she told me it felt good so I didn't think too much about it later, sorry about that. I have to try it on the girls though, the sexual potential of that is interesting. Alissa's ears and tail twitch, Hana smirks, and Roxanne smiles and blushes. Ciel seems to be at a loss for words and simply blushes while her jaw swings without a sound. With Alissa's words I'm conscious of Hilde's gaze, she doesn't show shyness but I feel she's staring, I'm likely biased now. But then again everyone seem to be looking at us, you can smell the envy in the air. Alissa goes into the cave and returns soon, it's empty so we will only wait in ambush. I take the time to walk around with Aoi and practice some combat maneuvering with her, she runs pretty fast but she tires easily. I believe she can stay safe during battle but during all other moments it might be best if she's being carried by someone. Aoi also seems starved for attention, she won't run away willingly. At 9AM a duo of dragons appear, this will be risky. The hunters are splitting in two, there will be less support for each side if the dragons decide to trample, but I'm not payed to help them so we stay with Hilde at a branch tunnel. Perhaps I could help if someone gets injured but my reaction time is going to be slow, jumping into the middle of a fight is dangerous. As soon as the dragons pass us their rhythmic ground pound slows down, they noticed something. I look at Alissa and she shrugs, she doesn't know what happened. They walk for a few seconds more and stop, I hear a whistle mixed with grunts, that's not a human whistle, must be the dragons. Silence… -ROOOOO~! -CHARGE! What the fuck is going on? I hear loud footsteps, a dragon passes us and 3 men run after it but you can't outrun a dragon, he's already escaped. We move out and in a minute the ambushed dragon is dead. -What the fuck happened?- Hilde asks the group, she's pissed. Shrugs abound. -I honestly have no idea, we didn't make a fucking sound, not even a pebble moved- Simon says, he's dumbfounded. -I heard nothing too and I have excellent hearing- Alissa chimes in. -What about smell?- Hilde continues. -Nothing- Chimes in a fox wereanimal from Escutcheon, he's grey haired with black spots. Hilde grumbles and facepalms. -Perhaps it was too quiet?- Says Alissa. -What do you mean?- I ask. -There's not even the noise of Scritters around, the entire cave is deadly quiet, there should be a few dragons guarding the hatchlings and they should be making at least some noise. -Shit, you are right. Hell, 2 years hunting dragons and I never had such a situation- Hilde says with a wry smile. -Considering how smart Aoi is, perhaps these dragons are of a higher intelligence, which means they are more perceptive- I say. Hilde sighs. -We have to remake our ambush then, lets go closer to the entrance and perhaps we can capture a Scritter or two- She says. -I advise we leave, they could be bringing a swarm here- I say. -Fucking not, I paid you for 2 days here and you are all staying- Hilde responds with anger- There's another exit on this cave system, that one the dragons don't know about so we can escape that way if they really do come. -There's a lot that could happen between the swarm coming and us escaping, there's still a lot of danger if we stay. But in the end I'm paid to protect you, it's the others who are going to have to fight the swarm. -Yer right, if we stay I'm going to ask for a raise, I'm here to ambush dragons not fight against a swarm- Simon pitches in. Hilde negotiates with the other hunters, in the end my suggestion fails and she strikes a deal with them. I wanted to leave and tried to use the hunters to convince her but they are too greedy. It's difficult to abandon her because even if the other hunters disagree with her her guards and the space mages might help her enough that she can return alive, which means I can't use her life as a bargain ship. She didn't entrust her life to me she just hired me as insurance against harm. We go around and collect 4 Scritters, tie them up, and throw them near the entrance. This way there's some noise at least. Hopefully the dragons don't recognize that the Scritters are making noise because they are distressed. The dragon that ran away had a few arrows on its back so he dripped some blood around, because of that 4 Mossy Fangpines wandered into the cave to look for the source. They are dumb enough that they think that something capable of wounding a dragon is a potential food source. Hana and Ciel took care of them on a tight corner. They just charge and get skewered, Hana skewered two in her spear and waved it about, bragging to the other hunters. Before lunch a single dragon appeared and got ambushed, with this there must be less than 5 dragons remaining on this nest. Alissa gives me a green signal, something is coming. I feel she is running here in her fox form in full speed, something is wrong. She comes around the corner and her fox mouth opens. -IT'S HUGE, A HUGE DRAGON IS COMING!- She screams. "TONNNNN~!". Something unimaginably heavy falls down on the ground and the ground shakes. -RROOOOOOOOOOOAAA~~!- I feel my bones shake with this roar, it's a huge fucking dragon and it's angry. Hilde fell on her knees and even her guards are shaking, the other hunters are already running. Aoi crawls up to me and cowers in my arms, shaking. I hear lots of heavy footsteps. -A SWARM!- Alissa screams again, she's desperate. I pull Hilde on her feet and push her forward. -Get the fuck back on your feet and start running! I'll cover your back but I won't die for you!- I yell. Hilde gets a shock and starts moving after the hunters. -Roxanne! Map!- I yell. Roxanne takes her map out and makes sure we don't take a wrong turn. With a swarm on our backs a dead end is a death sentence. We start running. The ground immediately turns from the beaten path into jagged and uneven rocks, making it hard to move. The paths twist and turn and become smaller. The footsteps that were getting closer start to get lower and lower until we can't hear it anymore. The tunnel reduces in size so much we have to squeeze around it to pass, thank god Hana and Ciel can pass by with their mountains. We are safe for now but we still have an angry huge fucking dragon after us so nobody stopped for a rest until we reached the exit and a small light could be seen. We all stop on a small room to take a breath, we have to squeeze a little. -Holy fucking shit boy you were right, I regret everything, hahahah!- Simon says and laughs. How can you laugh... -Fuck me, that shit must have hundreds of years of age, why did it never leave its nest until now?- Logan says. -A few dragons live their entire lives in their nests until they are so old they are near death, then they go die in battle- I answer. -What, so it's old and weak?- Asks Simon. -Hell no, that thing is gonna berserk on us until it dies, Rabanara is in danger, these ancient dragons can command wyverns. -Fuck, so did we bring that monster to Rabanara?- Asks Logan. -No, it was gonna rampage sooner or later, we just have the good luck to be in its path- Says Hilde with a wry smile. "Good Luck" indeed. -Normal formation, we will be jogging all day until dusk. Here, [Swift Foot]- I cast the spell on Hilde and her assistant. That little girl is quite strong, her face is stern. -Everybody ready? Let's go! Alissa rushes out first and everybody follows. We are reaching the first trees when Alissa yells in desperation. "TONNNNN~!" Again something unimaginably heavy falls down on the ground and the ground shakes. We are outside the cave at the entrance of the forest, behind us is a monstrosity. Shiny dark blue scales the size of my head, fangs the size of my body, a head the height of a truck, a body the size of blue whale, two huge horns protruding out of its head, innumerous scars on its body, one huge eye is cloudy white and the other one makes you wonder if there's a universe inside them. It looks at me and fear fills my mind, it hates me, it knows I'm using the bodies of its kin as armor and weapons but its gaze turns somewhere else. Hilde, she's wearing the same scales as the dragons family, she's a known dragon hunter who's been killing dragons for 2 years, the dragon knows her and it feels immense hatred for her. It didn't even glance at Aoi. Hilde falls down on the ground and pisses herself. I feel mana gathering, an amount I never felt before, an amount that gave me the chills of what's about to happen. Hahah, I fucking hate this world. -FIRE BREATH HIDE BEHIND A TREE!- I scream, other voices yell the same. I have no time to rescue Hilde, I only hope she finds a tree. Unfortunately she chose the one besides her while I chose the one away from the dragon. Alissa jumps besides me. I summon 2 titanium elementals and tell them to run in front of Hilde's tree. "FOOOOMMM!", the fire ravages the fire-resistant Sea of Trees, our tree goes in flame and we nearly get burned by the heat intensity. My elementals slowly lose power and melt, Roxanne is panting trying to keep a [Water Wall] up. The fire stops and I look outside, a hellish landscape of fire that only lasts a few seconds, the magic fire burns out quickly and the forest's resistance makes it burn out quicker. The ground is red hot and the trees are almost entirely burnt, only a small spot behind them is still intact. -Roxanne, water! I point towards where Hilde could be and Roxanne sprays a [Torrent] in that direction, white smoke rises and mixes with the black but the way there is passable. Ciel uses [Air Hammer] and the smoke clears, Hilde is there, hugging Lina and her guards are curling on the ground. The dragon notices us and Hilde, I feel its anger coming back, it starts to move forward. I open [Gate] to the camp site. -GET IN NOW! I WILL BRING HILDE BACK!- I scream. -Wol-... -NOW!- I scream again and push Alissa into the black circle along with Aoi, they disappear. I store the coordinates for my current position. -FOR THE MISTRESS!- Charges one guard. -FOR HOUSE ROTH!- Charges the other. WHAT IN THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING. I rush towards Hilde. The dragon doesn't even slow down and swats the guards who fly away into the distance. The space mages make a distorted face of fear and disappear. The dragon looks at me and lunges towards Hilde. Lina and Hilde aren't hugging anymore but they are close, I can get them both with each hand, as long as I can grab them. I jump, I cast [Gate], the dragon bites. -Wolf!- Alissa yells. I take my face out of the dirt, on my right hand I'm holding Lina, on my left hand I'm holding the upper body of Hilde. Hilde looks at me, her mouth is half open, her eyes stop moving. From below her armpits her body is missing. -ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAA...!- The dragon roars again in the distance and I lose my footing, I look away from Hilde and puke. I failed, I failed, I failed. If I was one second faster, one breath faster, one millisecond faster, one fucking moment faster, I could have saved her. -AAAAAAA...- Lina screams but Hana covers her mouth. -The dragon is still there! Quiet! The little girl lets out muffled screams and squirms on Hana's body but she doesn't try to break free from her. Alissa casts [Clean] and hugs me. -The guards!- It dawns on me- They might still be alive. I wobble a bit but I manage to stand. -What!? You wanna go back!?- Alissa chastises, her voice nearly cracks. -I have a [Gate] coordinate there, we can jump and search for them safely if the dragon is not there anymore. -They must be dead, they are the only ones still there, the dragon would have killed them. -The dragon didn't care about them he only cared about Hilde and me. -That's even worse! You are not going back there!- Alissa hugs me with all her strength. -Alissa...- Ciel touches her shoulder- I didn't know about [Gate] but if me and you go there we could save them. How much mana do you have Wolf? -Nearly half, the [Gate] is so close we barely used mana, leave your armor and weapons here and for certain we can rescue them. -P-please…Hic, t-they are go-good, hic, p-people- Lina mutters between sobs, she broke free from Hana and is moving towards Alissa. -Nnngh~… FINE! But we do it quick and you obey me, when I say we are leaving, WE ARE LEAVING!- Alissa yells at me while she grabs my shoulders. I think she's traumatized after the Symbol. I nod and cast [Gate]. After we remove our heavy gear we walk into the circle. The hellish scene is more subdued, the fires have almost all stopped and the ground is a little less red hot, but the most important is that the huge dragon is not here. -This way- Alissa leads us. Away from the destruction about 100 meters from where we were is the white fur woman, she's unconscious and one of her arm is bent in the wrong way. Ciel touches her and closes her eyes. -She will be fine, she's got a concussion, a few broken ribs, and a broken arm. She straightens the arm of the woman and chants something, a few seconds later she casts a spell. -Done. I open a [Gate] below the woman and she disappears. Alissa makes us cross the destruction and 200 meters is away is the doberman woman, both her legs are broken, her head hit a stone. and she's bleeding profusely. -The swarm is here!- Alissa warns me. I immediately cast [Gate] below all of us and we return. Lina gasps. -She's almost dead, Wolf, help me! With a shudder we straighten her legs and I put a nearly all my mana on my [Heal]. I immediately drink a mana potion and sit down to meditate, if we are found while I don't have mana for [Gate] we are dead. When I open my eyes my mana is on half, Lina is crying with Ciel and Roxanne besides her, the white fur woman is awake but still laying down, the doberman woman is sleeping, Alissa is besides me, Hana is on the lookout and the corpse of Hilde is covered with a bloody cloth. I store Hilde's corpse in my "Items" and get a chill when I see the entry "Hildegard Roth upper body". The girls put her belongings inside a bag, when you die the contents of your [Item Box] slowly appear around you. She had her ID tablet, coins, cloth, underwear, some unknown magic stones, cutlery, cups, and emergency food. -How are they?- I ask Ciel. -The white woman will be fine, if we heal her a bit more she should be able to walk by herself, the other woman is unconscious and will take a lot more mana. -Use the rest of your mana on the white woman, I need to save mana for an emergency [Gate]. Alissa let's go, we are not exactly at the campsite and there could be other people there at the site. We walk for two minutes and we reach the campsite, the space mages and the scouts are there huddling behind bushes. -You came back! Thank you!- Says the first space mage. He's a man with black skin and white wool coming out of his arms and neck, he has a pair of ram horns. He's a demon-race, ram type. -My life is in your hands, please help us go back!- Says the second space mage. He's a lanky man with greenish skin and a pair of green arms coming out of his back with scythes on the place of his hands. Another demon-race, praying mantis type. -I don't think the other fellowships are coming back, they will survive the forest easily but they have no reason to come back now- Says one of the scouts. They are both twins, they have blue skin, and a spiky bony webbed mohawk coming out of their heads. They are not merfolk, they are demon-race, seahorse type. -Miss Hildegard is dead, I couldn't save her, we rescued the guards and the assistant girl so we might have to carry one of the guards- I say. Everyone makes somber faces. -I'm sorry, I'm sorry I didn't have enough mana! We are carrying so many scales and meat that I could only barely get myself out!- Pleads the mantis man. -It's okay, what's done is done, we just need to get out alive. I have no energy to talk to them or encourage them more, they just need to follow orders and stay with us for them to live. It's 3PM. We are gonna carry the doberman woman on a makeshift stretcher. The white dog woman is good enough to walk and jog for a little while but she's in pain, I heal her on specific spots to ease her pain and she looks at me with puppy eyes. -I can't believe I'm still alive, I don't know how you did it but thank you for saving us, my name is Tadita, my comrade is Andrea- The woman bows to me and Ciel- Thank you for your magic. I will definitely endure so I don't slow you down but please don't hesitate to leave us behind in case of danger, we already lost our master so we failed in the most important mission of our lives. If you hadn't charged I could have saved you 2 without wounds, though. I'm not really blaming them, they were very brave and loyal to that woman. -Ehrm… I won't sacrifice you two so easily, you should put more value on your life. -My life is already worthless since I lost the master I swore to protect- She frowns. -Then you should find something new that will give it value, the gods won't be happy with life wasted as a sacrifice- I pat her shoulder. She frowns a little harder but I feel a bit of motivation gathering on her eyes, honorable sacrifice isn't really popular among the gods here. We move forward with Alissa far in front scouting, 2 dogs protecting our flanks and the scout duo behind. We rotate the carrying of Andrea but the space mages offer to carry her the longest. After an hour walking Ciel healed her enough that she could wake up, but because she still has broken bones we use a sleeping potion that Roxanne has to keep her knocked out. We find no other monsters until nightfall, not even the Mossy Fangpines are dumb enough to be around after hearing such a dragon roar. All tents now are near ours, they are way too scared to be away from us since we are basically their lifelines. We healed up most of the wounds from Andrea so she got strong enough to wobble around. The girls wake her up and help her take a towel bath. Tadita never left her side. The space mages have the tents for themselves and for the women so it's really a good thing to have them around. Alissa is organizing the dinner and cooking the provisions the space mages brought. Lina was sullen the entire time. -How are you feeling?- Ciel asks me while I watch Alissa cook. She sits besides me on the table on our tent. I suppress a sigh. -Depressed, disappointed… -Do you blame yourself? Well I guess Ciel is now my therapist. -Not really, I know telling people about [Gate] would be a problem, but I still feel sad about it. Because I couldn't show my power someone died. I hate feeling like this. -Such is the life of an adventurer. Because you made a certain decision someone died in a split second, that doesn't mean you are responsible for their deaths, it just means you were unable to save them. -Such is the life of an adventurer...- I smile bitterly, I chose this life- Thanks for coming talk to me. -It doesn't seem like it was really needed- She smiles wryly. -No, really, thanks. She smiles, a pure smile that squeezes my heart but I feel a hint of sadness on that smile. -Did something like this happen to you?- I ask. She keeps still and her eyes look away. Bingo. Then I will be your therapist too. -I'm sorry if it's personal, but I really wanna know more about you- I insist. She makes a pained face. It's just like removing baby teeth, gotta do it all at once or it will hurt more. -It's nothing special. I just… Failed… -How do you feel about this? She looks at me and narrows her eyes, I just smile innocently. She sighs and gets serious. -When I was a warrior priestess I once escorted a caravan up to Sommerland. During the trip our scouts failed and we got ambushed by a group of Dream Eaters, before we could draw our weapons there were already dead people. There was no way we could win, our captain gave us the order to hold off the enemies long enough for the merchants to run for their lives then we would escape, if we could. In the end, I survived… So I know how you are feeling. Something is missing. I stare at her and frown. -Ciel, isn't there more details on this story? -W-what do you mean?- Her eyes dart about. -You aren't telling me everything, there's something else that's hurting you. She looks at me angryly. -You are running away from something- I say. She stiffens. This is cheating, I know Arantos told me she was running from her fears so I wanna press her on that. -I left him… I pat her back. -Let it out, you know that talking about it helps- I say. She remains still. -Come on, it's your turn. She grimaces. -I left him to die… I could have saved him, I had mana but I got scared and ran… I survived, he could have survived, but I left him... -It's okay. -It' not. -Yes it is- I rub her back, I feel like hugging her. She goes quiet again. -Do you blame yourself? She smiles bitterly. -Yes, I abandoned him. -Did you forgive yourself? At one point you have to forgive yourself for your mistakes otherwise you will never move on. It seems this is the case with her. Quiet again. I have to keep pushing. -How long do you deserve to be punished for it? -How should I know!? It's not like I'm doing it willingly…- She looks at me teary-eyed. -Then do you at least recognize that you shouldn't be suffering for it anymore? -I… Yes, I don't wanna feel that pain anymore- She looks away. -Tell me, why did you join this fellowship? Truthfully. -The reasons I told you before weren't lies. -But there should be something more, right?- I smile innocently. She groans in frustration. -I thought… That you wouldn't run, that I could trust that you would never make me feel like I abandoned someone again- She glances at me. -Hm… Well, I don't want you to throw all the responsibility at me, I want you to share it with me, so we can all agree on something and be capable to make our own decisions. -I know… I was just… Running- Her voice trails off. I grab her hand. She didn't even flinch. -Then it's time to take a breath and look around, you have another path you can take. I squeeze her hand and let it go. She bites her lips. -How old are you, Mr. Therapist?- She asks in a playful tone. -Sixteen. -Bullshit. True. I smile wryly. The girls notice our conversation is done and awkwardly come have dinner. At the bath even the cheerful Roxanne was depressed but my mood has been getting better so we have a productive cuddling session. We don't do anything more than that, nobody is in the mood. Before going to sleep me and Ciel use most of our Mana to heal the guard duo. Today is the 14th. I wake up to a pouting Alissa who's tracing her fingers over my chest. I smile and nod at her, she smiles back and goes under the covers, I just close my eyes and enjoy. During breakfast a disheveled Ciel gives me a pure smile and I return it. My relationship with her feels odd, unlike the others I developed affection for her before having sex with her so I'm unusually aroused and anxious right now. Hana sees my tent and smiles mischievously, when we get home I will let it all out on her. Ciel finishes the healing of Andrea so now she can walk and even fight, although it's unadvised since her body is still adapting to the healed bones. If I were to cast [Regenetation] for half a day on both I could get them back into normal shape but we don't want to spend any longer here, the swarm could be nearby hunting for us. I manage to cast [Swift Foot] in an area after 10 minutes of chanting, I still need practice but it's getting better. Most monsters are still far from this area so we only meet 2 naked goblins who likely just birthed on this part of the forest yesterday and then 3 Fangpines who are idiotic enough to think the area is safe. Because we jogged we reach Rabanara by noon, we ignore our hungry stomachs and rush towards the town. -Ah! Grand Ryder, p-please a moment- I hear Lina call for me. -Oh? What is it? -P-p-p-please, bu-buy me!- She bows to me in a right angle. I'm dumbfounded, the women gather around me and the guard duo put their hands on Lina's shoulders in solidarity. -Uh, why ask me? -Hm, Mr. Ryder, I'm sorry to say this about the family of my late master but… The Roth family is in a tight spot...- Says Andrea while cringing. -Yeah…- Tadita cringes along- Miss Hildegard was a good merchant and a hard worker but the rest of her family isn't anywhere as good as her. If I were to guess they are going to be driven out of the market in a few years without her. -Wow, that bad? Why is that?- I ask. -They are… Lazy, dumb, and wasteful. I'm sorry Miss Hildegard but it's the truth!- Andrea claps her hands in prayer and bows. -So you think I will be a better master?- I ask. -Y-yes!- Lina looks at me with teary eyes- Considering your personality, the way you treat other women, and your feats it's my dream to serve under you! -Hm… What can you do?- I ask. I'm a little concerned over the "dream" part. -I can manage a business, help with administrative tasks, enchant equipment, perform maintenance on equipment, craft basic items, and I can fight, a bit… I-I a-also c-ca-can g-give you m-my b-body!- She stutters as her pale face gets red as a lobster. Adorable. She looks young, younger than me, is she even of legal age in this world? Is there a legal age? The space mages and the scout duo who were desperate to enter the town stopped and came back to us, even though we are in front of the town they still respect me. -Let me consult with my fellowship- I say. I gather everyone in a circle far away from everybody. -Alright, opinions. -I think this is fine, she will be useful- Alissa says, then she comes closer and whispers in my ear- I wanna see you break that tight pussy. I will just consider her opinion as "biased". -She will be perfect to maintain my armor, the metal plates of the brigandine are a bitch the fix once I get hit, besides our shields are taking damage, she's experienced in manipulating dragon scales, perhaps she could help. She could even be trained in combat, dwarves have good strength because of their [Stonebody]- Says Hana. -Another helper would be nice, she seems to know something about the market so she could help me sell potions- Says Roxanne. -I… Feel a little guilty leaving her alone, if she gets back to the Roth family she will likely be sold to a pervert somewhere. She seems smart and dedicated, surely there's plenty of jobs we can give her- Says Ciel. Well… I'm the biggest fucking pervert around, so I don't know what you are thinking. Though I have no plans on touching her. -So, there's no good reason to deny her...- I mutter. -What, why are you hesitating? Wouldn't having another woman be good for you?- Ciel says in a joking tone. That hurts a bit. -I'm not like that, Alissa and Hana are exceptions because I was incredibly lonely. I won't take her just because she's offering her body to me- I say a bit sad. -Oh, uh… Sorry- Ciel apologizes awkwardly. -Anyway, I agree that there's no reason to deny her, if she was the private helper of Miss Hildegard then she must be competent enough- Alissa intervenes. -But can I really buy her? Isn't she property of the Roth family now?- I ask. -Not really, slaves aren't something you can inherit so easily. By law they have a chance for freedom or to be bought by others when their master dies, but you will still have to negotiate with the Roth family. It's only a chance, not a guarantee- Alissa says. -But since you brought her corpse and her belongings you actually have some leverage over the Roths. You risked your life to save her, even if it wasn't successful...- Hana says. -You are also someone with a blessing, that's even more pressure on them to give you a fair deal- Roxanne adds. I sigh. Is this part of the god-sanctioned harem? I'm not lonely or scared anymore so I don't need another slave, it just gives me a bad taste in my mouth to think about using her like this. I know she will be useful but I don't really like the prospect of slavery, it's somewhat different from a Blood Slave where there's personal responsibility and a close watch from the gods. I feel like a hypocrite but I don't have the energy to put my thoughts in order. -You don't have to accept her if you don't really want to- Alissa says. -No I… Actually want to protect her, let's accept her- I answer. I feel like she's a puppy that needs an owner, I can't leave her alone. We go back to the group waiting for us. -Lina, do you want me to buy you and release you? She straightens up and slowly her eyes open wide in fear. -P-please d-don't. -What? You don't want to be freed?- I raise an eyebrow. -I...- She can't really find a way to explain herself. -Perhaps she's afraid you will abandon her- Whispers Alissa. -Why would she think that?- I whisper back. -If she's your slave you have to treat her responsibly, if she's not then her position might actually worsen. I kinda understand but it's still a bit ridiculous. -Slaves who find a good master don't really adapt well to being freed- Ciel whispers. Fine then. I sigh. -I won't release you. I'll buy you- I tell her. -T-thank you!- She clasps her hands and jumps in joy, she was expressionless most of the time but now her cute smile melts my heart. We enter the town and walk to the guild. Once inside our weird group causes a bit of a commotion, I'm not sure why. I go to the nearest attendant and request a meeting with the guildmaster. After a minute he comes downstairs. -Oh, a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Ryder. Actually, no, every time I meet you a lot of work falls on my shoulders, you are shaving off years of my life this way- Silas smiles wryly. -I have come to accept my nickname is the truth, but I'm sorry for giving you too much work. And it's a pleasure to see you too, guildmaster. -Well then, let us go to a private room. Swift Wind and Escutcheon already gave us an idea of what happened but your report is the most important one. Silas led us to the biggest meeting room, after a while 7 scribes appeared and started collecting the reports. Only Lina knows about [Gate] so we coordinated with her a plausible lie to how we escaped. -Poison cocktail? Never heard of such a thing before. I shrug. -Desperation births creativity, I think we caused an allergic reaction to that dragon. Silas laughs heartily, it's the first time I see his calm demeanor crumble. -What in the… Hell… A dragon with... Allergic reaction...! The bards will love this!- Silas says while catching his breath. Silas coughs and recovers his composure. -So the only casualty is Miss Hildegard, this is quite a miracle seeing how intelligent that dragon was. Also, his vengeful attack towards Miss Hildegard means he will likely command the wyverns to attack us, send word to the lord immediately- Silas motions to an attendant nearby, he hurriedly leaves the room. -There's no contradiction in any of the reports, I see no unclear matter over it too, I consider the reporting as finished. Now I must tell you a representative of the Armorer's Guild is here, he wants to speak with you. He likely wants to abuse my mental state to drive down the rewards since my protection target died but they don't really have an advantage here. -Ah, can you contact the Roth family? I wish to buy Miss Hildegard's slave, Lina. -Hm, yes I can, you have her possessions and her corpse right? No need to give it to us, you can return it in person then. This concludes our business, do you wish to talk to the Armorer's Guild representative? -Yes, please. Silas and the guild personnel leave the room. -Thank you for not abandoning us, if you ever need the services of space mages we will give you a discount. This is the least we can do to you- Says the ram space mage. -Thank you- Says the mantis space mage. We say our goodbyes and they leave. They leave a leather trunk with Lina's belongings. -You look young but you clearly knows what you are doing, it was a good opportunity to work with you- Says one of the scouts. -You have a good heart, it's not wonder people say you are the town hero. To face the dragon with just poison bottles requires some massive pair of balls, I'm glad I met you and your fellowship- says the other. This makes me a little embarrassed. We say our goodbyes. -Well then, I guess this is goodbye- Says Tadita. -Indeed, I don't think we will meet again so soon. But once again, thank you. I don't have much to repay you but let me serve you in exchange for saving my life- Says Andrea while bowing. -A-ah, there's no need for that, it was part of our job to keep you two safe- I answer hurriedly, Ciel nods along. -You are troubling him Andrea, if you really want to be with him then just ask for marriage- Says Tadita. -N-n-no, t-that's no-not what I-I meant!- Stutters Andrea while blushing. Tadita taps her back and grins. -Anyway, we will be in your debt. We will go back to the capital and join the guard or a mercenary group, we aren't hunters so staying here is not the best choice. If you visit the capital come look for us- Says Tadita. Everyone gives them a goodbye and they leave, only Lina stays with us. -I thought she really was going to ask for marriage- Alissa says, disappointed. What's with you, how many women do you want to add to this harem? -She likely thought she wasn't strong enough, we are not really lacking in firepower- Hana says. -A-anyway, Lina, are you going to leave now or do you prefer to stay with us?- Asks Ciel. -C-can I stay? I would rather not meet any other Roth for now- She answers shyly. -Sure, no problem- I say. I put 10 points into [Acting] and [Mental Resistance], we are going to need this for this part. After about 10 minutes we hear footsteps. An old man with graying black hair and two large guards enters the room. The man has a long nose and a wrinkly face that gets even wrinklier due to his frowning. He's carrying a few papers, likely the report. -Greetings, I am Tanquara, senior representative for the Armorer's Guild- The man says and sits down. -I am Wolf Ryder, leader of Helios. -Well then, Mr. Ryder, let's talk business. You have failed your job, Miss Hildegard is dead, al-... -Hold it, my job was not simply protecting her, I was to protect her and her subordinates and secure the return of the collected materials. Tanquara grinds his teeth. Interrupting him was impolite but I can't let him declare the job as a failure like that. -Yet the most important person there was not returned- He says while narrowing his eyes. -She went against my advice, I even tried to use the other hunters to persuade her but greed clouded her judgment. It's unfortunate we met such a rare dragon but it still ends up being her fault. -But you could still have saved her, if you were faster and didn't hesitate you could have pulled her away from the dragon in time! -What do you think I am!? A miracle worker!? Did you even read about the size of that monstrosity? Every other fellowship ran away the moment they could, the guards were swatted as if they were flies! It's not my onus that she died, it's my luck that I even survived! The poison cocktail was a stroke of luck, even if I had pulled her away the dragon would chase us to the end of the world if we didn't get such a reaction from him. Do you understand, it was not skill that we survived, it was just sheer dumb luck!- I shouldn't yell but this made me angry. I can't let him get to me, making me say dumb things is his goal. -If it was just luck perhaps choosing you as the vanguard was a mistake as you lack the skill to survive such encounter- He turns his head away in contempt. -You do not have the authority to judge my skill or of my fellowship, you know very well that such a dragon requires an army to deal with. It all goes back to Miss Hildegard ignoring my advice for greed. In the end I recovered part of her body, her belongings, saved her slave, her guards and the subordinates, the only thing missing on this expedition was her returning alive. He stares at me and grinds his teeth. There, I closed all ways of attack. -As she ignored my advice her death is her own fault, I did everything I was asked to perfection and even went beyond, I demand full rewards, deduce the price of this young dragon from it- I point to Aoi, sleeping while curled to Hana's neck. -I can't give you full rewards, your target of protection is dead. -I can't protect those who have a death-wish, she broke the contract on her own. I demand full rewards- I had put 1 point into [Intimidate] and let out a bit of my power. I see his mouth twitch, he's a tough one. -Fine, here's your rewards... A young dragon costs 3 gold on the imperial market, even though yours looks like it's tamable I will respect your agreement with Miss Hildegard. He gives us a sack of coins, I use [Metal Appraisal] on them and nod to him, he quickly leaves and I sigh. Such negotiations leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn't like to bad-mouth Hilde but merchants in this world are ruthless, can't give them even a centimeter. -That was a really good negotiation, master. I didn't believe the representative would buckle like that- Lina says. I shudder at hearing the words "master" again. -I had some good teachers. Hana and Roxanne are experienced in this. -Yep, a little bit of intimidation at the right moment and any merchant will buckle, they try to put up a strong front but they are all cowards- Says Hana. -I see, it's a negotiation tactic different from when merchants deal with each other, it's all about a war of information and connections- Lina says with a pensive expression. -Remind me to never become a merchant. This seems like a nightmare to me, I'm way too straightforward- I say. -Well you can always use representatives if you become a merchant- She continues. I still don't wanna deal with that, even through someone else. -I'll go sell the monsters we have killed, you girls can go to a restaurant and have lunch. -Ah no, let's all eat together, it's not fair to you- Alissa says. -Hmm… Anyone with a different opinion?- I ask. Silence. We move downstairs and enter the dismantling room. Gordon and Sonny are chatting. -Oh, Mr. Good Luck! I heard about your exploits, you are always doing something interesting- Gordon greets me. -I wish I wasn't. Anyway, good to see you Mr. Gordon, Mr. Sonny. -Uh, yes. Good to see you too Mr. Ryder- Sonny is a bit distracted. -Oh, looks like you got a pet dragon eh? Now then what surprise you have for us? I pull out the Grey Berserker and the Young Ogre. -Oh! Such pristine fur! What an achievement Mr. Ryder, I'm impressed. How did you do it? -I held it with my earth elemental, after that we hit his head until it got dizzy and Alissa finished it. -That's amazing, only the best fellowships specialized in hunting Grey Berserkers can achieve this. Oi, Sonny, help me here. Sonny got out of his stupor and went appraise the bear. He kept stealing glances at us, no, he kept stealing glances at Roxanne. He's a demon race after all, I think he's a succubus too, maybe the name is incubus for men. I grab Roxanne's tail at twirl it around my hand, Sonny shudders. Roxanne looks at me with curiosity but then she looks at Sonny and smiles mischievously, she hugs me from behind and leans her body on me. Her hand enters my jacket from the top and she caresses my chest. Sonny's white skin turn red and he turns around, he focus on appraising the monsters and the proof of subjugation. -Here's your rewards- Sonny says between gritted teeth. -Keep bringing those bears to me, boy, I love Grey Berserker meat. Also, don't tease Sonny too much, eh?- Gordon says and winks. Sonny chokes on his spit, I just smile and leave. -Finally, let's eat something and go home. Intermission 5 A man that doesn't tell his birthplace should not be trusted, a man that hides many secrets should not be trusted, a man who lacks the common sense of the populace should not be trusted, a man who hides mysterious skills should not be trusted. And yet I can't follow any of this advice, I feel hopelessly lost in darkness where the only light comes from his back, making me follow him. When I was used to the darkness, to the sameness and safety, he comes like a curious and innocent being who opens a path for me. It's not the same old life I yearned for but something new with a hint of nostalgia. He should be younger than me but I feel nothing that leads to believe it to be true, only his face and his love for women says the contrary, but that's not enough, I almost feel like stealing his ID card just to confirm his age. Logic tells me I should stay away, even though there's 2 blessings around him he's far too secretive or mysterious, but my instincts tell me otherwise, they tell me of an opportunity, of an adventure, of a new beginning. I thought I could help him but he might end up helping me more instead. Besides, what kind of man can please 3 women and still wake up with vigor every morning? One of them being a dragonkin no less. I only hear occasional the muffled ruffling and moaning but still, my imagination is making me embarrassed. Those have been some hard nights... And days, and mornings, do they ever stop?