Re: Interference Chapter 6: The Road Ahead

It took me some time to calm down, gradually shaking off the unpleasantness of recent happenings.

An entire day I spent on the roadside.

Mostly, I just kept myself occupied enough, focusing my attention on the surrounding scenery, or doing handwork during resting time.

I need to admit, the scenery here is soothing. Unlike the unpleasantness of the marsh, these hills are covered in lush, green fields, and the road is safe.

After spending the night relatively close to the ruined forth, sleeping under the stars in a small thicket off the road’s side, I resume my trip towards Nudria village.

The road ahead is still long, after all.

As I walk along the road, I have much time to think.

About my goals, and what I really want to do here.

I could just settle, find a work and live in a village or even with the former slaves in their new settlement. But…I don’t really want to do that.

Although this world is harsh, and I experienced first hand how violent it can get, I still have this desire, this need to travel and explore. After all, I spent my previous life sheltered, doing a menial work day after day, without allowing myself to get out of my comfort zone, and relying on games to escape that stagnating reality.

I will not do that again, now that I have a second chance at life.

I will live to the fullest! And now I sound like a shonen manga protagonist.

Chuckling a bit for this silly thought, I stare at the road ahead.

My problems still remain, though. The real, material problems, like the need to assert some kind of income…namely, I need to get money.

And also, since I was simply dragged into existence here in this world, I do not possess a proper identity, like I.D. Papers or a passport to prove who I am.

It should not be a problem if I visit small villages or settlement, but it could hinder me, or put me in trouble if I attempt to enter large cities.

Simply using a false backstory will not cut it, as it could be exposed and accused of being some kind of spy or criminal with bad intent.

And so, I need to settle these two pressing matters. The most difficult thing to get will probably be the second one, some kind of confirmation about who I am.

Money is not an immediate problem, since I found some in the ruined fort, and I could even resort to selling the items that I scavenged from there. It will only last for a bit, thou.

Well, first things first. I still have a long walk before reaching Nudria village.

With the Sun high in the morning sky, I walk on the north-bound road.

Winding through the hills, the “road” is nothing more than a dirt track . No signposts or milestones yet, maybe this road is not much used or still being built.

Although, judging from the patches of grass growing in the middle of the road, I think this road is simply not often used.

From time to time, small thickets can be seen at the road’s side. There, the trees resemble pines, with scaly-looking brown bark and needle shaped leafs.

I even saw a small fox-like monsters popping out of the vegetation. With big ears, the little thing scurried away as soon as it saw me.

It’s hot under the intense sunlight, but the occasional, gentle breeze makes it almost pleasant. I even removed my mantle, tucking it away in my inventory, and now I am walking in a short-sleeved cloth shirt and blue pants made of a cotton-like cloth.

I really hope to not get sunburn here, walking around without protection.

Still no sight of fellow travelers on the road. I feel a bit lonely.

I go on until noon, judging the time by the Sun’s position.

Taking a small break, I climb a hill overlooking the road. It’s high, covered in vegetation and rocks popping out of the ground. The climb to the top is a bit tiring, but I manage. Sitting on the hill’s top, I consume my lunch there.

It seems food does not expire inside my inventory, and objects even keep their temperature inside it. This must be my most overpowered skill, huh?

It’s like a combination of spacial and time magic.

I wonder about how useful this skill would have been in my previous life.

I let my gaze wander to the scenery around me. From the hill, I overlook the road ahead and even manage to see my destination.

Of course, I am using Inquisitive Eye to enhance my vision here…it seems the skill got this new effect when it got leveled up.

Still faraway…but I can see it in the distance.

Between two wooden thickets, on the side of a small lake. On the north side of the village, a small river flows down from a lone mountain, forming the lake and flowing away. Perhaps it connects to the large river from the forest?

The mountain is not so high…it’s more a big hill than a proper mountain, covered in green trees all around.

The village below seems so small, like those toy cities that I played with in my childhood.

After eating my lunch, I stretch my limbs and get up, preparing to climb down the hill and resume my trip.

But…something catches my hear. It was faint, but I clearly heard someone scream.

The sound came from the east side of the hill, in the opposite direction from the road. I turn that way, and activate Inquisitive Eye again.

I can see a group of people struggling, fighting against something.

It seems a group of low-leveled monsters attacked them. Five in total, the information about them reads “Red Wolves”, their level ranging between 1 and 3.

After taking a deep breath, I decide to make a small deviation from my way and help them.

I rush down the hill, running towards their direction while monitoring the situation with my skill.

The best course here would be a surprise attack to distract the monsters and give the group a chance to retaliate or flee.

After running with all my strength, I now am at the edge of the thicket.

I pull out a small bow and some arrow. With this, I will be able to test this bow, that I made using materials taken from the fort and assembled with my crafting skill.

I activate Inquisitive Eye and draw the bow. It’s harder than I thought, and my arm is twitching from the effort.

<> I mutter to myself, putting all my will to steel my hand before letting the arrow loose.

I manage to hold my hand steel, and I take aim.

The arrow flies with a whistling sound, hitting one of the monster, a level one Red wolf.

Right on mark. The arrow sinks in the monster’s left eye, and the creature drops down with a wailing sound, its leg twitching in the air.

[Navi: Defeated Red Wolf lvl 1! Acquired EXP]

<<Finally!>> I speak out loud. I was getting worried before, as I noticed that the monsters I fought and killed did not give me any experience points. But, this time, I got some. Could it be because I killed them with my weapon instead of using a skill?

It seems weird, tho.

Still, I need to focus. I ready a second arrow on my bow, and let it loose.

This time the monster manages to avoid a lethal hit, the arrow barely grazes the furry red skin.

With a growl, the thing turns toward my direction, and charges.

<<Good, now they should fare better>>.

I brace myself for the upcoming attack. Luckily, only one of the wolves responded to my attack, the remaining three still focused on attacking the other group. Two people are actively fighting against them, protecting a third person that lies on the ground, injured.

The wolf is now near, and it jumps straight at me.

I put my bow away and pull out my spear.

Avoiding the first attack, I retaliate with a thrust of my weapon, aiming at the wolf’s head.

It evades however, with quick and nimble movements, immediately jumping to a safe distance.

It starts circling me around, growling as he glares at me.

It seems…cautious, almost like it is studying me before making a move.

But…it doesn’t seem the wolf noticed my trap. Immediately after my first attack, when I fired the arrow, I set up Black Fluid. I made several offshots, planting them in the ground.

In short, I made landmines with my skill.

As the wolf circles around, it is now right on top of one of the mines.

I just activate the skill again, using the “form control” effect to make spear-like protrusions burst out of the ground.

The wolf realizes my trap and tries to jump away. It is too late, however, as the sharp ends pierce its hind legs, leaving the wolf on wounded on the ground. I close in toward it.

This time, I want to test if my theory is correct. I use Black Fluid again, changing it into Blade mode and slash at the wolf.

[Navi: Defeated Red Wolf lvl 2! Acquired EXP!]

So…it’s not like using the skill to kill prevents exp acquisition…so, it must be related to absorption? Now that I recall, I used Black Fluid to absorb the monsters before…

Leaving the wolf’s corpse behind, I hurry towards the group.

As I run, I recover the scattered Black Fluid. Aiming with my hand pointed towards the wolves, I use Black Fluid again, shooting small darts made from it.

It only distracts the wolves, but this action is enough to allow one of the fighters to strike and kill one wolf with his polearm.

Only two of them left.

The fighter yells, perhaps trying to scare them away.

Instead, the remaining wolves howl at us, and attack.

Charging, they switch their position while running at high speed.

[Navi: Detected! Red Wolf (lvl 2)-Red Wolf (lvl3)-Skills: Bite, Overspeed (activated)]

It seems the two wolves activated their overspeed skill, some sort of speed-buffing ability. Their movements grow faster indeed, and now they encircle us…am I seeing their after-images?

Taken back by this sudden development, I hesitate for a moment. One of the wolves attacks the fighter, wounding his arm and resuming the high speed movement.

Troublesome.

Simple attacks will not work here…but I can use a dirty method. When facing something quicker than you…it’s your win if you mess up the terrain.

Shooting with Black Fluid, I scatter the darts all around.

<<Focus! You’re not hitting them!>> frustrated, the fighter yells at me. Although his voice still has a lot of energy, the man himself looks really worn out. He’s a level 2…beast-man?

So, those kind of people exist here…I hope they are not victim of discrimination for their race, like in most fantasy setting.

Feeling a bit challenged from his remark, I activate Black Fluid again, making the darts explode like before.

The high-speed wolves cannot react quickly enough, surprised by the sudden objects popping out in their tracks.

Like their comrade before, they fall on the ground with severe leg wounds, unable to move.

Now…let’s test the final part of my theory.

Using Black Fluid in tentacle mode, I grab one of the wolves, the level 2 one, and absorb it.

The beastman looks away in disgust. As he understands that the injured wolves pose no more threat, he scurries to his friend’s side.

With crunching and gnashing sounds, I absorb the wolf.

I am a bit troubled by the sight of it, remembering what the same skill used by the Laughing Man did to the soldiers. Of course, I swore to never use the absorption on humans or human-like beings.

[Navi: Absorption Success! Red Wolf lvl2 successfully absorbed! Gained new skill- Bite (restricted to race: Monster. Detected compatibility between Black fluid-Bite skill! Would you like to integrate the skill?]

This time, I select “no”. Spamming Integration could be dangerous, since failure in integration leads to skill loss. Maybe I will use it again once I know more about the process, but for now, I will leave my skills as they are.

Like I thought, absorbed monsters do not yield EXP.

Troublesome indeed.

The other wolf is wailing, frantically trying to rise on his maimed legs.

I approach it, and it starts growling and barking furiously.

With my spear, I put it out of misery.

[Navi: Defeated Red Wolf lvl 3! Obtained EXP!]

This time, I use Black Fluid to absorb the wolf’s corpse. I only get materials from it, thou. I really wonder what are the exact conditions here. I think about the other battles that I fought.

Against the slime, I did not get any exp, although the skill I used that time was not the same as the one I possess now.

When I fought the worms, I used Black Fluid, so the conditions should be the same. In that circumstance, I absorbed monsters while they were still alive.

Perhaps there is some kind of “balance” concerning the benefits I can get from Black Fluid. If I absorb a living monster, I have a bigger chance of obtaining skills…but I do not get any experience.

If I kill a monster with weapons or Black Fluid, I get exp and absorb the corpse later, but doing that will decrease, if not completely eliminate, any possibility of getting the monster’s skills.

At least, that’s what I can surmise from the information I have. I’ll need to check Navi later, and see if I can obtain more info.

As I think about the skill, I start feeling uneasy. My head hurts, and I feel nauseated.

A sudden sensation, like energy rushing into me. I start shaking, and my vision blurs and distorts.

I can hear my heartbeat growing fast, faster every passing second…a feeling so intense suddenly rushes in my spine, tingling almost as if something is about to break.

This sensation grows stronger, and stronger… I want to scream!

And then…

[Navi: Level UP! Congratulations, Roshal! Your level is now 2! Obtained 5 STAT points, 1 SKILL point! You will be able to allocate your points by activating me, your Dream Navigator, during your sleep! Keep up the good work, strive to get stronger!]

That was…intense. My first level up. Although the benefits do not seem to be immediate, I need to sleep it over it seems.

I completely forgot, but Navi did explain this during her first introduction…

I hold my hand to my chest, panting with my breath in disarray.

<> the voice came from one the beastman that was fighting the wolves.

<<Don’t worry. What about your wounds? Your companion there, he also looks pretty injured…need some help?>>

I ask as I walk towards the group.

The beastman is a level 2 warrior, clad in a worn leather armor. His arms are exposed up to the shoulders, and they look…covered in scales.

A deep, bleeding bite mark gapes on his left arm, and several other minor wounds cover his leg and thighs.From his forehead, thick, red scales point upwards, growing thinner as they reach the hairline.

Unkempt, red spiky hair, and a sharp look in his yellow eyes. His face gives somewhat of a reptilian feeling, with a small nose and half-closed eyelids.

He’s taller than me, and looks a bit older.

I extend my hand, introducing myself.

<>.

The beast-man looks a bit puzzled at first, but then he grasps my hand and firmly shakes it.

<<Sorry…it’s just…your kind doesn’t exactly shake hands with the likes of us, you know?>>

He laughs a bit. It seems that beast-man ARE discriminated by humans in this world. What a clichè.

<>

As he introduces himself, something is swaying behind his back. A red tail, almost as long as his leg. How did I not notice it immediately?

<> a voice comes from the two people beside us.

One of them, an old beast-man, is lying on the ground, with a sever injury on his leg. The voice belongs to a girl.

Her small figure is sitting beside the wounded man, and she is holding her hands out. Light is flowing from her palms toward the wounded, and I can see his skin slowly closing. In a matter of seconds, the wound is completely gone.

She looks severely fatigued after that, and her bronze, tan skin glistens with sweat.

Her small body trembles under her thin cloth tunic. I can see small black scales covering the upper part of her arm and her exposed shoulders, while two pair of black short horns, slightly curved backwards and emerging from her wavy black hair.

She turns towards us, on her face a tired smile.

My heart skips a beat. Her facial features are delicate, with her slightly closed eyes that give her somewhat of a sleepy expression.

Although she also has some kind of a reptilian feeling in her lineaments, she’s a real beauty. I try to not glance at her breasts, swaying unrestrained under the thin cloth…

I feel a sharp glare from behind, as if a snake is about to attack…

Retel clasps my shoulder. Turning around, I can see an unpleasant smile in his face.

<<So, you must be our mysterious savior, am I right?>> the old man’s voice interrupts a dangerous situation.

<>

The man laughs.

<> his voice sounds tired, but a kind smile brightens his face, still pale from blood loss.

He adjusts his position, resting his back on the trunk of a small tree.

His long, white hair contours his face, and a lush beard paired with long mustaches of the same color give him a dignified aura, similar to the stereotypical appearance of an old Chinese martial art master.

A single, golden horn extends from his forehead, surrounded by golden scales that almost look like a small crown. His clothes are torn, but look expensive and well made. Perhaps he’s a rich person?

He bows his head to me.

<>

He said, waving his hand towards Levia to introduce her.

<>.

Saying so, Heod starts rummaging in his pockets. He takes out a small, wooden pipe and a cloth wrapping. Pouring some sort of minced, gray herb inside the pipe, lighting it with a flick of his fingers.

Taking a long, heavy puff, he exhales white smoke with a satisfied look on his face.

<<Manager, you should drop that habit!>> says Retel with a fed-up tone.

<<Oh, shut up brat…we’ve escaped a dire situation here, and I need a bit of celebration. Ah, if only I had some wine…>>.

After Heod’s remark, I decide to surprise him a bit, providing a wine bottle straight from my inventory. I found it in the fort, among the belongings of a merchant.

<> I say after noticing that the small group does not seem to possess any belonging aside their weapons and clothes.

<> says the old beast-man with a laugh.

Still, it may not be safe to stay here, as there could be more wolves lurking among the trees. And so, we move closer to the road.

We walk slowly, matching Heod’s pace.

As we finally arrive near the road, I share some of my provisions with them. They seem curious when I take out food from my Inventory.

But, as I noticed before, it seems the beast-men do not discriminate against skill-holders.

In facts, the three of them possess Skills themselves.

Of course, having used Inquisitive Eye on them, I know. I kinda feel bad about doing so, almost like violating their privacy.

Sitting on a cloth sheet laid on the ground, the three enjoy their meal while sharing their story with me.

<<So, you know…it was really scary! And that…coward! He took our bags and fled away, leaving us to fend for ourselves! Even knowing that Manager was badly injured! Oh, you’ll see what I will do to him once I catch him with my hands…>>

With a flurry of words so fast to make me dizzy, Levia starts plotting murderd against their companion who abandoned them.

Judging from her behavior from few minutes ago, I would have thought her the cool, taciturn type…but man, I was so wrong.

Retel and Heod show an embarrassed smile while Levia goes on and on with a detailed description of physical torture that she will inflict to the unfortunate soul.

<> I ask.

This time, Heod answers me.

<< We were procuring ingredients…I am an alchemist, and I need several rare ingredients for my studies and craft. These two freeloaders are my bodyguards, along with that rascal that left us to the wolves>>.

I nod to the explanation.

<> asks Retel, munching an apple.

I told them. From when I woke up after fleeing the slimes to the slaughter inside the fort. Of course, I kept my “suspicious summoning” here to myself, but…the rest was pretty much accurate.

I felt my voice breaking when I shared my memories about the fort, and I have to admit, talking it out gave me a bit of sanctuary from the uneasiness of that memory.

Although I’ve been forcing myself to not dwell on that memory, it is still too recent and shocking. Maybe with time…

<> Heod says after I share my story.

<> he mutters with a serious expression.

Levia and Retel have been quiet during my story, they just listened and smiled with sympathy as I shared.

<> I say with a smile.

<>.

<<Nudria…I’m heading there, too. Perhaps we could travel together?>> I ask. Moving as a group will be safer, and having someone to talk with will surely be better than walking this road by myself.

<<And, if you want, I could even help you find those herbs you need>>.

Heod watches me silently. With a deep nod, he accepts my offer.

He showed me what kind of herbs they were looking for, while Levia tended to Retel’s injuries.

<<So, this herb here. It’s called Muguet, and has white, bell shaped flowers, each with five petals. Only the bloomed ones will have their healing properties, so keep your eyes open for those>>.

As Heod instructed me, I recalled the mushrooms and herbs I collected inside the marsh.

Taking a sample of each, I show them to the alchemist. Not of good-will, since I plan to sell them to him if he deems them useful.

The beast-man’s eyes widen as he sees the mushrooms.

With a wry smile, he takes the mushroom and smells it.

<<Ahh, what a nice find you have here, Roshal!>> he dingles the mushroom from his fingers.

<> Heod’s smile grows even larger, as he makes a dramatic pause. Perhaps this mushroom is some ultra-rare ingredient?

Will it yield a legendary-class healing potion, capable of miracles?

<> he says, winking his eye.

Still, it seems the final product can earn you a lot of money. Luckily, I have stockpiled the mushrooms in my inventory.

<<Well, I was thinking about how to repay you for the trouble here>> says the old man.

As I was about to decline any kind of payment, he made a tempting offer.

<>

Of course, I accepted.

After resting for about one hour, and assuring that Heod could properly walk, we move from the roadside, heading to the woods again.

<<So, before we move…it’s better to do a little briefing>> suggests Heod.

<<Well, I guess it’s the best choice, since we could end up battling some nasty things in there, we need to know what each of us can do in battle>> continued Retel.

Taking a pose with his polearm resting on his right shoulder, Retel started his explanation.

<> he says with a boasting smile.

Taking a proper stance, his carefree expression shifts into a serious one.

Red light ripples around his body and his weapon.

<<Raise!>>.

As he shouts, he slashes a tree, cleaving the trunk in a single strike.

<> strangely, I have the impression Retel said the final part of that sentence with a lower tone.

<<Well, I’m next. Uhm, you know…I like to use blunt weapons, although right now the one I had with me has been stolen. Ugh! That damned…So, right now I cannot be of much use, unless you have a spare weapon with you, I mean, I could use a crude club, but it won’t be stylish…>>

Levia’s stream of words makes me chuckle. Retel makes an angry face at her.

<> he says in a rude voice.

I don’t exactly know what happened, but now Retel is squirming on the ground, holding his head in pain.

With an innocent smile, Levia trows away a big tree branch and continues her explanation.

<>.

She extends her hand toward Retel, muttering something.

<>.

A gentle, white light ripples from her hand, encroaching Retel. The snake boy stops squirming in pain. So, it’s a healing skill.

<> she says while pointing her finger to Retel.

<> says Heod to them.

<<Ah, right!- Retel suddenly remarks with a loud voice- levels! Ahem…my level is 2, while our Levia here is level 4. The old man is level 12…a bit lame for his age, but he can’t help it since he never fights…now, Roshal…show us what you can do!>>

And so, I show them Black Fluid.

<> says Retel.

<<It’s sooo cooool! It can transform! Can you make a shield? And a sword? Oooh, can you make a giant bear-shaped golem?>> Levia shows a better opinion about my skill.

<<No…wait, why bear-shaped…never-mind>> I sigh while holding my head.

<<Well, thank you for your honest opinion…next, I’ll show you my other two skills. First one, is called Inventory. Just as it sounds…it’s a storage ability>> I demonstrate the skill by taking out some things from the inventory and storing them again.

Levia claps her hand…maybe I should take out a small rabbit from a cylinder, next time.

<>

Heod nods with satisfaction.

<>.

<> says Heod after clapping his hands.

Retel nods, and he extend his hands. Levia does the same.

I look at them, puzzled.

<> asks Retel with a perplexed face.

<>. Seriously, what are you doing?

Retel sighs.

<<Ok, Roshal. Extend your hand, like we are doing>>.

<> I answer to Retel’s instruction.

<<Now, close your eyes>>.

I hold out my hand towards them. And suddenly…a sound rings in my head.

[Navi: Party Request- Retel, lvl 2/ Levia, lvl 4 (leader). Would you like to accept? Y/N]

Of course, I said yes.

[Navi: Congratulations! Roshal joined Levia’s party! Band together, fight evil with the power of friendship (important notice: friendship does not actually provide any combat bonus)]

Was that closing remark really necessary, Navi?

Nevertheless, it looks like in this world you can actually band together. I wonder if armies here are just very big parties?

Setting aside those silly considerations, we head towards the trees. It seems the Muguet herbs only grow beneath these trees here.

<<Now, beware of incoming monsters>> says Heod, reminding us to be careful.

We move in formation, according to our abilities.

At least, that’s what this formation should be.

Retel takes point position, acting as vanguard. Levia is not actively participating, and I’m the rearguard.

As we enter the first battle, we begin to realize…we don’t work well as a group.

Retel is reckless, he jumps into the fray, frantically trying to get the enemy’s attention on him. Maybe he does so to protect everyone, but, doing so, he neglects his safety and always needs to rely on Levia’s curative skill after battles.

Levia, on the other hand, is forced to spend her energies healing, and cannot actively participate in battling the enemies.

It seems they fought like this for a long time, with Retel keeping the monster’s attention on himself, Levia healing him constantly and the other guy acting as a damage dealer.

And that’s why they were in trouble before. After their companion fled and left them alone to face the wolves, they had no proper means to deal with the enemies.

Retel could not focus on just one wolf, since neglecting the other enemies would have exposed Levia and Heod to danger.

But…the two are not the only ones at fault here. I myself am not used to fight, moreover, the only times I fought I was alone.

I almost injured Retel several times, as I used my skill without properly grasping his movements, and, although in the end we successfully killed the monsters, we ended up with severe damage on our group.

<> I apologize to the wounded Retel.

Tending to his wounds, Levia has a concerned expression.

<> she says, lightly punching the boy’s shoulder.

Not only his reckless behavior during battles, Retel shows another limit in combat. His weapon.

The polearm he uses is too long to fight inside the vegetation.

Although he can use his skill to mow down obstacles, he cannot use it repeatedly and often ends up with his mobility severely hindered by the surroundings.

We could use a different strategy, luring the enemies on open terrain…but what will we do if the enemies ambush us?

We decide to rest a bit, and rework our strategy here.

Following Heod’s advice, we start from scrap, focusing on what we did wrong in the first battle.

<>.

Although the old man is not a fighter himself, it seems he is a keen observer.

<> I suggest.

Although, heavier armor is out of our possibilities right now, I should be able to provide him with a shorter spear and a crude buckler.

Retel seems immersed in his thoughts. As Heod said before, the boy is really fond of his polearm.

With a deep sigh, he takes the weapon in his hands, looking at it with sad eyes.

<>.

And so, he agrees to change equipment. It seems he was taught about to fight with this kind of setup, so he should be proficient in using spear and shield.

I proceed to fix him a spear and buckler, crafting them from wood and Red Wolf’s materials.

[Navi: Crafting Success! Short Spear (Red Wolf Bone Spear) x 1! Wooden Shield (Red Wolf Shield)x1!]

Using the “crafting” skill, I thought about reinforcing a wooden shaft with the bones of Red Wolves, but instead, the skill fused several bones together producing a proper spear out of it.

The spear-head is a sharp-pointed bone, and a bit of the wolf’s red fur is used as decoration for the spear-head. I’m pleased with the results.

For the shield, I made several attempts starting from simple wooden sticks tied together, until I acquired the “wooden shield” recipe from my attempts.

Using the recipe, I obtained a solid plank by combining several wooden branches, and reinforced it with wolf pelt. With this, Retel’s defenses should be more effective.

He himself seems pleased, and he accepts the new equipment. I also give him a short sword, one of those I took with me from the camp. With this, he should be fine even if his primary weapon is broken or non effective.

Next, we focus on Levia.

Since Retel should get less injuries and fight more effectively with this new setup, she could start participating more actively during battles. Her light attire is not suited to direct combat, tho.

<> I ask her, handing my short bow and some arrows.

With a nod, she takes the weapon from me and springs on her feet.

With a quick movement, she notches an arrow and points her bow to the sky. The arrow flies with a whistling sound.

[Navi: Defeated Sparrow (wildlife)!]

<<Well, I guess this counts as a “yes”>> I say, while looking at the poor unfortunate bird that lies on the distant ground.

Levia smiles in satisfaction.

<<Now, Roshal-she says- what will you do?>>

That’s a fine question. The problem is…i don’t really know how to use my abilities properly when fighting in a group. I need to thoroughly think about this.

<> Heod and Retel agree with a nod of their head.

<>.

<<So, the second option. It seems the more suitable one, and…you can use effectively your detection skill too, and give us head ups if something dangerous is approaching while staying with the group>> says Heod.

<> says Retel, stretching his arms.

And so, we end our strategy break.

As we move towards the trees, I activate Inquisitive Eye.

<> I whisper, pointing towards some tall bushes in the distance.

Retel nods, and we start moving towards the point.

It seems sneaking to them is impossible, since the beasts have already spotted us. Did they smell us from afar?

No matter, the wolves start their attack. One of them immediately falls prey to Levia’s arrow, tumbling on the ground.

The other wolf tries to run away, but Retel blocks his path. Forced to fight, the wolf is being kept at bay by Retel’s shield, while being injured by rapid spear jabs.

Focused on Retel, the wolf does not notice me until it is too late. It jumps in attempt to avoid my attack, but I still manage to pierce him with my blades.

Of course, I am not using normal weapons. Indulging with my fantasy, I activate my Back Fluid with both hands, making two dagger-like blades.

I have not the slightest amount of combat proficiency to effectively dual wield a weapon, and my clumsy attack misses the wolf’s vitals while the blade I hold with my left hand completely misses the wolf. Still, it does not matter.

Feeling a bit unfair for what I am about to do…I simply use an underhanded trick, making spear-like extension burst out of the blade when it sinks in the wolf’s body.

And so, a slight wound from a failed attack becomes a fatal injury. Truly, this skill I posses is pure evil. Or maybe…I am the nasty one, using it in a mean way? No, no, this power is definitely devious. I’m a nice guy after all.

This time, the battle went smoother. I am no longer using attacks that could be damaging my allies, and Retel properly focuses on defending himself while drawing the monster’s attention. Levia’s support fire is incredibly accurate…perhaps she’s a natural archer?

Still, I noticed that the EXP I got while fighting in a party with them is the same I got when fighting the wolves alone. I would have loved to have some kind of group EXP boost, you know?

We proceed to collect materials from the bodies. According to Heod, you can sell fur and even bones and teeth to peddlers in the village, although the monster’s meat has no proper use.

Before, Retel was in charge of dismantling and skinning the corpses, but, since I possess my all-purpose skill for that, that role fell to me. Well, it’s much quicker with my skill, and, as a side bonus, I do not need to get dirty using Black Fluid.

As I focus on gathering the monster’s materials, Levia and Heod are gathering the herbs scattered beneath the trees.

We go on until sunset, having two more battles against small groups of wolves. We even spotted a huge boar-like monster, but the thing did not pay any attention to us. Since it had a high level, we did not bother it either.

Although…it would be interesting to see how we fare against a tough opponent.

We decide to set camp in the small woods. First, I use the trick I learned from Emilia’s group, and set up alarm wires all around us.

<<Huh, that’s smart>> comments Retel. Perhaps they never used these kind of tricks? Although i’m not one to judge, having only learned this recently.

<> says Levia.

<> retorts Retel with a fed up tone.

The two continue their bickering, abruptly ending their quarrel when Levia’s fist collides with Retel’s head.

It seem they get along like this all the time.

Still, they’re a refreshing sight. It’s good to have company.

Meanwhile, I help Heod prepare dinner. He already has a campfire going, and I am peeling and slicing some roots, putting them inside a metal pot taken from my inventory.

<<Now, add these herbs here-says Heod- and the rabbit’s meat. Then, it only needs to boil for a bit>> It seems the old man has a passion for cooking.

<> he remarks with a loud laugh.

We consume dinner together, making small talks around the fire.

I share with them a few scary stories that I know…of course, they are just the plot of the horror movies I loved to watch in my previous life.

Still, it’s nice. Sharing stories around a campfire.

We decide guard duty. I offer for the first shift, while Retel and Levia will do the others.

They quickly fall asleep, perhaps exhausted by the intense day we had. Next to me, Heod is smoking his pipe.

<> he says with a sad tone.

<

every time>> puffing out his smoke, Heod looks in the distance.

I simply stay silent, and listen.

<>

He shakes his head, tapping on his pipe to let the ashes fall down.

<>

He smiles and pats my shoulder, before returning a serious expression.

<>.

Heod pauses again, re-igniting his pipe.

<>

I smile to the old man. His words are true, as their company is soothing to me. And they really seem a reliable bunch.

<<Still, I am not asking you to just stop your travels and live in the village. Hell, I was about to move out myself, take the boys away to see the world. You see, I was a traveling peddler before, but I settled in the village when I found the boys. Life on the road is difficult, especially so for small children. But, I have been thinking about moving out and resume my traveling business now that Retel and Levia are old enough. So, we could travel together with you>>.

After a pause, I turn towards Heod.

<> I answer.

We continue speaking, sharing a bottle of wine. We just sit there, talking, without even waking up Retel and Levia when their time for guard duty came.

Until dawn, we just talked. I just talked, this time telling him everything, about my world, about what I had gone through since I woke up here.

Heod did not say a single word. I even had some doubts about his reaction to my tale, perhaps he would have considered me mad…instead he just listened to me.

At the end, with daylight painting the sky above, he simply patted my head.

<>

Taken by the mood, I even forgot to allocate the points I got from my level up…well, I ended up not having any sleep, spending the entire night awake. Well, I’ll do that next time, for sure.

We stood from our seatings, moving towards Retel and Levia. It seems they too were awake all night, pretending to sleep while listening to us.

Retel had his cocky smile, holding the short spear across his shoulders, Levia hugged me and smiled.

We went on, leaving our resting spot behind and facing the road ahead.

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