Re:Interference Chapter 8- Leveling Up

The battle at Nudria village was hard for us, and we barely managed to survive. The village itself suffered severe damage due to the Hero’s attack, and most buildings were completely destroyed.

Thanks to sheer luck, and the help of the surviving Dryads’ healing magic, most of the injured villagers managed to recover. Although, there were some losses, still.

During the week we spent there, I simply laid down on a soft bed, being nursed back to health by Levia and Heod with the Dryads’ help.

My injuries should have been lethal.

That’s what Heod told me with a serious face.

Still, the Dryad’s intervention saved me from certain death. The forest creatures worked all day and night to atone for the destruction their controlled brethren caused, or so they told.

It seems that some monsters also posses some kind of honor…

The Dryad also suffered a major blow from this situation. Between the Hero’s initial attack in the forest and the remaining struggle against the villagers, only a few Dryads survived.

I feel some guilt, since three of them met their end against me and my companions.

Still, it’s not like the events in the village only led to negative consequences for us.

We managed to gain two rewards from this battle.

First, the villagers offered us some material rewards, in the form of money and goods. But neither me nor my companions wanted to accept goods or money from the village, given their condition. And so, I asked the village head to provide me with some kind of authorization to enter the city of Sendria.

Instead, the chief offered me an Identity Stone. It works like some kind of ID, recording name, nationality and other info about their possessor. According to the chief, this kind of item is an absolute necessity if you want to enter the cities like Sendria, since their immigration policy is really strict.

Normally, obtaining such item would require a lot of paperwork and permissions from the local authorities, but he made an exception for me and my companions. And so, I formally became a citizen of Nudria village and acquired a proper identity in this world, and the means to prove it.

The second reward is less…material than the other. Still, it’s something more related to my survival in this world.

Since, after the battle, me, Retel and Levia managed to gain some levels.

After my recovery time, we left the village behind.

[Navi: Leaving Nudria Village- Entering Sendria Grasslands]

Our course is set to Nudria city. According to the villagers, it should take us four full days to walk there.

They even offered us a cart and some horses, but we preferred to leave such valuable resources to them.

According to Heod and the villagers, this region was once part of the Aldora Holy Kingdom, but gained independence after internal struggle. It is now administered by Sendria city, an independent city-state that rules the surrounding villages like Nudria and several others. Of course, the customs and traditions of the people in this region still resemble those of Aldora kingdom, although the discrimination of beast-kin and skill-holders is less persistent than in Aldora.

We decided to go to Sendria for one main reason. The city of Sendria, the biggest in this region, is famous for a peculiar structure hosted inside it. A cave of some sort, that develops several hundreds of meters down in the earth, and hosts thousands of monsters inside it. In short words, the city holds and manages a Monster Dungeon.

Monster Dungeons are rare in this world, and even more rare are those that are effectively managed and controlled by humans.

The Dungeon in Sendria is one of such places, being managed by the city as to offer both a steady source of rare materials harvested from monsters and a reliable training ground for troops and adventurers. According to the villagers, it is possible to be registered to the Guild that manages the dungeon after paying a sum of money. It is not an enormous feed, and after registration it is possible to sell monster materials and materials harvested from the Dungeon directly to the Guild.

The Guilds itself offers accommodation for registered people. In short words, by going to Sendria we will manage to gain a place to live in, a proper income of money and the possibility to raise our level.

There is also one more reason that makes Sendria advantageous to us.

It is a large city with an elite army, good public order and a good disposition towards beast-kin, so it will definitely be the best place for us to settle down, at least for some time.

Still, my real goal in this world should be to oppose the Heroes, right? According to the Laughing Man, the God picked me for this reason, in the end.

Although, the Laughing Man was a bit vague… he just told me to do what I please, as long as I can kill a Hero or two in the meantime.

And also… I don’t completely trust his version of the story. After all, he could be just manipulating me to his ends…

What is clear here is that, in this world, there is an ongoing conflict between the Hero faction, based in Aldora Holy kingdom, and the Laughing Man’s faction. Perhaps I should just avoid both, and live my life here with a low profile…yes, that would be nice.

And, according to the villagers and from what I saw in the Marsh, it seems the Empire is mobilizing the Army to conquer new territories.

Maybe…that could be the reason for the Hero’s sudden apparition in the village. Was he sent there to spread chaos and facilitate the Army’s advance? Still, it seems like a waste of war potential, so there could be other reasons there…

Well,having just met one of those so called Heroes, I know that, as I am now, I certainly cannot win. And, more importantly… I kinda don’t want to risk my life against them.

This is too troublesome for me, I almost miss my old life…

<<So, we’re gonna stay in the city for a bit, right?>> Retel’s voice interrupts my thoughts.

<<We’re gonna need quite a bit of money to rent a place there>>

Well, he makes a point.

Considering our total belongings, we have enough for paying the entrance tax and the registration fee, but after that…we will need a steady income if we want to properly live there.

<<Well, the first month will be a bit rough, since we need to spend some of our money for new equipment and such. We will use the Guild’s lodgings, but after we manage to earn some money, we will be able to rent a proper place for us.>>

Heod shakes his head, showing some concern.

<<Hm, I don’t think it will be our best option. From what I remember, there is a beast-kin district in the north part of the city. The rent there should be cheap, and so we will manage to afford a proper place. My point is…I could prepare and sell my alchemical products if I can have a proper place to do my work without curious eyes around, and the Guild’s lodgings will not grant us much privacy, I fear>>

In the end, after reasoning a bit about what to do, we decided to follow Heod’s idea.

I really hope that the old man’s potions will sell well…

Although the more concerning matter for me should be our monetary situation, I cannot bring myself to stop thinking about what I said in the village.

While I was recuperating from my injuries, I made some pretty big talk about my goal of getting stronger…but, now that my head is a bit more clear, I realize that I don’t actually know how.

For starters, I do not even properly understand this whole”level up” system that this world relies on.

I…we cannot just go on with half-assed information, after all.

So, I try to ask my companions what do they know about the level up system.

<<What do you mean “how”? You beat up monsters, and bam! Level up. It’s as simple as it sounds>>. Retel’s response to my doubts was straightforward.

<<Yeah…but, how does it really works? What are the conditions needed to level up, are there other methods besides killing monsters? That’s what I would like to know. I mean, if some less dangerous method exists…>>

[Navi: There is no such thing! Only hard work and harder battles!]

Navi’s remark is somewhat depressing.

So, only battles huh? Or, maybe, you could obtain EXP by performing special actions, like saving a princess or such…

[Navi: Well…no.]

Again, a negative answer. Still, is it my imagination, or Navi’s personality somehow got worse after her upgrade?

As I voiced my doubts, we spent the entire time talking about the “level system”.

Heod seems to be the most informed about this process, since being older than us he experienced the level up many times.

According to him, the only way to increase your level is by fighting and defeating monsters. Different kind of creatures yield different amounts of EXP.

<<For example, common monsters like the Red Wolves give small amounts of experience, while rare and powerful beings like Griffins or the mythical Dragons will grant a higher amount of EXP. Of course, the rarest monsters are also more troublesome, so in my opinion it is best to hunt a large amount of common monsters than challenging a single rare one>> he said.

Navi also confirmed it. The only way to obtain experience is to kill something. That’s why the Dryad that I freed from the Hero’s spell did not yield any experience, and for the same reason, the Hero did not grant me any EXP at all, since all I did was inflicting him some wounds, without properly killing him.

Soon, her explanation went into so much detail it became a proper info dump…most of it was just a more technical explanation of the same things that Heod said, but she added some interesting notions to that.

According to her explanation, there isn’t an upper limit for levels. Or, to put it in gaming terms, there is no level cap.

It could be a good news, but, on the other hand, just thinking about fighting against a level 100+ or stronger enemy gives me the chill…hell, I’ve been struggling to defeat enemies under level 10!

Also in this world there are three categories of people, in relation to their level up speed.

The first category consists of people that grow fast, requiring few EXP to increase their level. In contrast, it is more difficult for them to acquire new skills.

As a middle ground, the second category of people require more EXP than the first, but they manage to acquire more skills more quickly if compared to the first.

The last one is comprised of people that require lots of experience for a single level, however they compensate the slow growth rate with the acquisition of powerful skills.

It also seems that the amount of experience needed to increase your level is incremental. So, for example, if you need 10 EXP to get from level 1 to level 2, you will need 30 to go from level 2 to 3 and so on. The increment needed depends on the growth category.

After that , her explanation turned into some sort of mathematical nonsense, with complicated formulas and graphics that, according to Navi, should have helped me to have a better understanding of the system.

Of course, all the formulas only managed to give me headache.

[Navi: Hm…it seems Master is a bit…too dumb to understand my wonderful explanation]

No…her personality definitely grew worse after the upgrade…

Still, she confirmed that only killing monsters will yield experience.

Although…

<<Navi, is it possible to gain experience by killing humans?>> I mutter.

[Navi: Negative. No experience is awarded by killing a member of the humanoid races, like beast-kin, humans, elves and such. It is possible, for you, to acquire their skills by Absorption, Master]

No, thank you…that is something I will never do…

So, it is impossible to obtain EXP by murder. Well, it’s not like I would kill someone just to get stronger, of course. It seems like this rules makes sense,it’s like a system implemented to prevent murder spree among the human population…

<<Hey Roshal, can I ask you a question? You mutter to yourself a lot, is there something wrong?>>

Levia’s concerned voice distracts me from my thoughts.

<<Huh? Oh, I’m just consulting my Dream Navigator>> I answer nonchalantly.

Retel bursts into laughter as he hears my sentence. Levia also is looking like she’s struggling to not laugh right in my face. Did I say something wrong?

<<Ohi ,why are you laughing?>> My voice sounds irritated. I hate being made fun of.

<<Oh, it’s just…you can’t possibly be serious, right? I mean, things like Dream Navigators and such are the stuff you find in stories for children, where a benevolent magical spirit helps the Prince against the Dragon or something like that…>> Retel says while giving me a wry smile.

<<I mean, something like that is really absurd. What’s next, a Demon Lord?>> his laughter continues without interruption.

Oh, if you only knew…

<<Still, you lot did not make this uproar when I told you I came from another world? Well…it’s not important. I thought that everyone had a Dream Navigator in this world, but according to your reaction it seems to be a rare thing>>

No point in bickering with them about this.

I even ask Navi if she can make herself to be heard by them, just to see Retel’s reaction.

[Navi: Affirmative! Initiate Party Communication Routine!]

Oh, the faces they are making now…that will teach you lot to not mock me.

Retel is speechless, while Levia suddenly became incredibly polite and began a formal introduction with Navi.

But…this thing here could be really useful.

<<Navi…can you do this even when we are separated?>>I ask.

[Navi: Uhm…perhaps you wanted to know if it is possible to use me to communicate at distance, am I right Master? Well, the new me can do this without any effort!]

I want the old Navi back…

And so, after sharing the existence of Navi with the group, I made her go through the level system explanation again.

It’s a good thing to share information with your companions, right?

Well, it seems that most of the things she told me are just common knowledge, like the different categories based on growth rates and such, or the knowledge about how to obtain your experience.

Still, according to Navi’s explanation, Levia should belong to the first growth category, while Retel to the second or even third, given the fact that their level is different although they fought and won the same battles against the same enemies.

But then, Retel who belongs to the slowest categories should possess more skills than Levia, and that is not the case here, since Levia holds two skills and Retel only possess one.

<<Well, I got one skill since birth>> answers Levia to my doubts.

So…something like this is possible?

[Navi: Special circumstances can occur, like skills being inherited at birth or gained by performing special actions or after meeting certain requirements]

That makes it all more confusing…

<<But still…without a Dream Navigator…how do you distribute your stats for the level up?>> As I ask this question to my friends, their perplexed expressions confirm that me and them use a completely different system to level up.

According to Retel and Levia, the Level Up they have is something that happens in a moment, and completely automatic, without any possibility of control on the skill point distribution or skill acquisition.

<<Huh…that surely is different. Is it something related to their race being different than mine?>> I ask to Navi.

[Navi: Negative. The Level Up system is the same for every humanoid race. Only subjects of different GODS have access to peculiar, one-of-a-kind system. Like Master, for example, or the Heroes]

Well, it seems that I’m the anomaly here…

There are more subtle differences between my system and my companions’.

As a matter of fact, none of them possess the Luck stat, and they only get 4 points per level, instead of getting 5 points like me.

And also, they do not get any Skill point, and can only acquire skills in two ways: by doing certain actions or, rarely, as they level up. The skill gained by level up is usually related to skill they already possess, like Levia’s two healing skills.

This part of the system seems to be shared with the one I use, since I also have been capable of obtaining skills by performing certain actions.

Although, my situation about skills is even more complicated, since I can just acquire new ones by absorbing enemies.

It also seems that none of my companions ever heard about the Skill Integration.

So, to summarize, I learned several important things that I will have to keep in mind.

In the end, I personally got three levels from the battle against the Dryads, reaching level 5. I allocated the 15 STAT points during my recovery period…since during that week the only thing I did was lay on the bed and sleep. Well, it’s almost a joke, the fact that I became stronger after spending a whole week in bed.

To allocate the stats, I followed the same distribution of points from my first level up, and now I have 5 points in STR, AGI, ACC, one point in INT (since it is a bit worthless to spend point in this stat until I learn some kind of spell) and I ended up boosting my Luck to 9.

There is a reason that compels me to dump points into this stat…although, it’s still nothing more than a hunch…

Still, after the “upgrade” to Navi, it looks like I did not gain any Skill point from level up.

As a matter of fact, it seems that several things have changed after that, with some of my skills being converted into “functions” integrated to Navi instead of being proper skills like before.

Still, the upgrade gave me more benefits than demerits, in the end…also, I think that my skills are fine like they are, for now, and I can always absorb some more if the need arises.

Also after the battle I managed to upgrade Black Fluid to level 3.

Retel gained two levels, reaching level 4, while Levia only got one, reaching level 5. It seems they got less EXP than me, since they only managed to defeat one Dryad.

Well, that poses a little problem for us all.

Because, according to the information we have about the Guild, the minimal level needed to gain access to the Dungeon is level 6.

It looks like we will need a bit more training…well, we will think about that when we reach the city.

We’ve been marching since morning, so we decide to stop on the side of the road for a quick lunch.

As usual, the road here is just a big dirt track. I wonder if things will change near the city.

Thankfully, there are some side areas that are used to provide a parking space for caravans and such, and we decide to stop there.

The place is even furnished with a wooden table and stools, and so we are able to properly sit around a table while we consume our lunch.

Heod once again provides us with his cooking. As we consume our lunch, we continue discussing about our current situation and on the course ahead.

We set on march again after our lunch.

After a few hours, however, we encountered one of the most annoying enemies for travelers.

Rain.

A proper squall began without any kind of notice. It seems that this kind of sudden heavy rain happens a lot in this region…but still, walking on foot under the squall is surely unpleasant.

I really hope to not catch some kind of flu…

Our salvation came unexpected. On the side of the road, we encountered an encamped caravan. It seems that the group of merchants decided to wait for the squall to pass, and stopped the caravan on the side of the road.

We reached out to them, asking to let us take shelter under their carriage’s roof.

There was a high possibility that they would turn us down, instead the caravan leader gave us a big smile and let us join them.

Their group too is traveling to Sendria city. Apparently, they are a group of traveling merchants that deal transport of goods between Sendria and the village of Tritia.

A joyous bunch, they gave us a warm welcome, especially to Levia. It seems beast-kin girls are really popular in Sendria…

Still, this encounter is really convenient. I manage to exchange some of my possessions with the merchant, and gain proper information about Sendria economy.

According to the caravan leader, it seems that the prices for weapons and equipment in Sendria is really high, due to the constant demand from adventurers and such. Well, it is within expectations.

Also, it could be beneficial to us, since I could craft some equipment with my crafting skill and earn more money by selling it. Good to know.

The price for food and everyday goods is not prohibitive, since the farmlands around the city produce almost all kinds of vegetables and diary products.

Meat is more abundant than in the villages, thanks to the dedicated farms that properly specialize into farming animals for human consumption.

And, most important of all, the city is in dire need of alchemical preparations, like health potions, antivenom and such. As he heard so, Heod produced a wry smile…I can almost see his eyes become dollar-shaped…

The main problem seems to be gaining a permit to sell goods in the city. You need to obtain a proper authorization from the authorities, and normally it requires several months to obtain one.

If you follow normal means, that is. In other words, it is possible to bribe the officials to speed up the bureaucratic process. It will cost us a bit more money, but it will be a necessary expense if we want to secure a proper income.

We wait with the merchants for the squall to pass. However, the sudden downpour lasts for almost all day, and the heavy rain only stops after sunset.

The merchant offer us to spend the night in their camp, lending us some places on one of the carriages. Of course, we reward their generosity with some money, since it would be too uncomfortable for us to abuse their hospitality.

As they share dinner with us, we tell them about the recent events in Nudria village.

It seems the news had already reached them. As a matter of fact, they themselves feared this kind of scenario would have happened, sooner or later.

Although, they reassure us about the possibility of an attack on Sendria. According to them, the city is protected by an elite army, and, beside the army, there is also a very powerful group of sorcerers that reside in Sendria. In short words, it is unlikely that the Aldora Army would end up attacking Sendria head on.

Again, this kind of sentence is exactly what an NPC would say before a large attack on the city…

As the sun dawns, we prepare ourselves to resume our travel. The merchants even offer us passage on their carriage…what a nice bunch of people.

After consulting with my companions, we decide to decline, however. The reason is simple…there are monsters on the road.

The safest thing to do would be to accept the merchants’ offer, of course, but, since our situation is a bit peculiar, we decided to go on and travel by ourselves.

Because we need to fight those monsters. Not only for the sake of raising our level some more, since we still need to meet the requirement for entering the Guild, but also to hone our cooperation and coordination in battle. After all, we will be fighting more and more from now on.

And so, we bid farewell to the merchants and proceeded to walk again on the road.

Of course, going with the caravan would have been much faster…

As the caravan passes us on the road, I almost regret this decision we took.

Well, what is done is done…and so, we continue our march towards the city.

The landscape around us is composed by large fields, lush with tall green grass and without any kind of trees.

The roadside is safe, however small monsters hide in the tall grass, keeping their distance from the road.

It seems the monsters here are not aggressive until provoked, and prefer to flee when they spot humans. Almost resembling a deer, with large ears and a single, jagged horn on the forehead.

[Navi: Detected! Longhorn x4 (lvl 2)]

The Longhorns travel in small groups, and their heads frequently pop up from the tall grass as they keep lookout for possible threats.

We decided to test our strength against them.

As Heod waits in the distance, me, Retel and Levia approach the group of monsters.

We decided to split, leaving Levia behind as me and Retel circle around the monsters. If we are careful enough, we should manage to properly do so without being detected.

Thanks to Navi, we can communicate at distance, and so we use her useful feature to coordinate our movements.

Our attack plan is simple. First, I will immobilize the Longhorns by using Black Fluid. Next, Levia will shoot her arrows and Retel will finish off the monsters.

Or, at least, that’s what it should have happened. Instead, we messed up. The monsters managed to detect me and Retel, and scurried away in the distance. A complete and epic fail…so much for our winning strategy.

[Navi: Well, Master’s plan was bad anyways…]

Seriously, what is wrong with her?

We tried and tried again, ending up further and further away from the road. A stupid mistake.

As we got away from the safe roadside, the grass grew even taller, and strange noises began to emerge from the surroundings.

[Navi: Detected: Razor Beak -lvl 6]

It seems that predator-like monsters also inhabit these lands…still, since the monster is of the aggressive type, this time we will not have to pursue it…

With the appearance of a big bird, the Razor Beak shrieked at us before charging. It’s fast, and the huge talons on his hind legs seems to be very dangerous. Luckily, it’s not a flying monster, or it would be really troublesome to deal with it.

The monster charges at Retel, trying to kick him with his talons.

<<Too slow>> he boasts while avoiding the attack.

As the giant bird is focused on Retel, I ensnare it with Black Fluid. It seems that after leveling the skill to level 3, the amount of Black Fluid I can produce is almost doubled, and I can extend it ten meters away from me without straining myself.

As I restrain the monster, Levia pierces his eyes with a volley of arrows. Blinded and wounded, the Razor Beak tries frantically to free himself.

However, Retel’s spear pierces the monster’s chest, ending the battle.

<<Still, it would be better if I Rosie didn’t break…>> he mutters to himself, looking at the blood-stained spear in his hand.

Thinking about it, our equipment is a mess. During the battle against the Hero, we lost the items we used at the time. Retel’s favorite polearm was broken, his leather armor torn to shreds. The same happened to Levia’s bow.

Basically, we are trying to fight monsters while dressed in common clothes, without any protection, and using weapons made with my crafting skill.

The performance is not that bad, but of course a spear made of monster bone cannot do as much damage as a polearm with a proper steel tip.

Still, our equipment, although shabby, is enough to deal with low level enemies.

After collecting the Razor Beak’s body with my skill, we contact Heod using Navi, to reassure him about our position.

We ignore his outburst of bad words, as he complains about our lack of sense in pushing so far away from the road.

Levia manages to calm him down, however, assuring him about our safety.

After that, we continue our hunting session. The main goal here is to make Retel gain a level.

The ideal situation would be to find groups of low level enemies, and deal with them without putting us in danger.

But, in the end, we only manage to fight aggressive monsters. The others, like Longhorns, just scurry away before we can attack them…perhaps we are making too much noise, or they are just smelling our scent from afar.

The tall grass around us hinders visibility, and makes us vulnerable to sudden surprise attacks. The surrounding sounds are loud, and it is impossible to now if that rustle in the grass belongs to something fleeing from us, or to something that is about to pounce on us.

It’s a frightening situation. Of course, we could use Navi to detect enemies around us, but we chose not to.

It’s useless if we just rely on the detection skill all the time. We will never grow in battle experience like this.

And so, we went on.

As we thread carefully in the tall grass, a shadow jumps on Retel and quickly takes him down.

He barely manages to protect his vitals during the surprise attack. It seems that another Razor Beak marked us as prey, and ambushed us.

Still, this one’s level is 3. A small fry.

After a bit of initial surprise, Retel quickly regains his composure. Activating his skill, he kicks the monster away, finishing it off with a single spear jab.

<<Good job>> I say to him, while he poses with a cocky smile near the fallen prey.

We go on like this, pushing our way through the tall grass. After few surprise attacks, it seems that the Razor Beaks in the area gave up on attacking us.

It should be something to be glad about in a normal situation, but since we are here to fight monsters, it’s an unfavorable situation if they just flee every time we encounter one.

In the end, we decide to give up hunting for today.

We contact Heod once again, and head to his position.

The first day of hunt was a bit of a failure on our part. First, we need to properly learn how to hide ourselves, to avoid detection in order to sneak to our prey.

Especially when the terrain offers low visibility, and we cannot just use ranged attacks on distant enemies, making our presence less detectable will be vital for us.

Next, our coordination is still lacking, and our attack plans are not so effective. After all, we are all amateurs here, not battle hardened veterans or expert monster hunters. Man, it is harsh to face your own limits…

Meeting up with Heod, we continue our march on the road while discussing our recent hunting experience with him.

He instructed us about some of the rare herbs that grow in these fields, so we will also aim to obtain some during the next hunt.

Still, he scolded us a lot for scurrying away like that, without telling him first.
In the end, he made us promise to stick to the road, and only hunt monsters that are near the roadside, without threading into the Grasslands.

We decide to call it a day, and make preparations for our camp on the roadside. The sun is setting on the horizon, and as night falls the Grasslands begin to glow with thousands of small lights.

Fireflies. Their flickering lights dance on the green sea around us, making for a pretty captivating show.

As usual, Heod is busy cooking us dinner. The main course will be meat from the Razor Beaks, since, according to the old beast-kin, it is a true delicacy.

This time, the meat slowly roasted on the campfire will be served with vegetables and bread that we got from the merchants before.

The Razor Beak meat is truly delicious. Although, I never thought that monster meat could be eaten like this… I almost expected it to be dangerous, or something like that…

<<Of course, there are some monsters that taste bad or have poison in their meat…but most of them can be eaten. And, as a matter of fact, there are some that are true delicacies. Well, of course it’s only thanks to my cooking prowess that this meal is so delicious!>>the old man praises himself while laughing out loud.

After dinner, we make our usual preparations for the night on the road. The sky is clear, so there should not be any risk of a sudden downpour of rain. At least, I hope so.

This time, I take the first guard turn, letting the other three rest. While my companions soundly sleep, I take out some monster materials from my inventory to practice crafting.

Well, it’s not like I am neglecting my guard duties here…simply, before starting my crafting session, I made wires of Black Fluid and spread them all around us. This way, if something approaches us, I will be alerted immediately. Well, I could also rely on Navi’s detection, but it’s better to be cautious after all.

I tied to produce accessories from leather, with the final goal of practicing my skill in order to produce leather armor for all of us.

Still, although I know the “recipes” for creating leather items, it seems that I lack the means to properly make them.

Basically, I made a conceptual mistake. I thought to be able to produce leather goods by using simple monster skin, without giving proper thought on the process.

Because, to produce leather, you first need to treat the skin properly, using chemicals and complicated manufacturing processes to transform the soft skin into a though material.

Perhaps Heod knows how to produce leather, or at least part of the process. I need to remember to ask him about it.

I abandoned my project about leather goods and focused on making arrows for Levia and spare weapons for me and Retel.

Using splinters obtained from monster bones fr the spear-heads, and the feathers of Razor Beaks for the arrow tail, I managed to produce several arrows.

Next, I fixed up a new spear for Retel, and a new buckler shield made of monster bones. I wonder why…shouldn’t bone materials be harder to produce than leather? I swear, the way that these skills work leave me perplexed…

[Navi: Success! Crafting Skill level up! Lvl 3lvl 4! New recipes added!]

Oh! A level up! Although…the new recipes require some advanced materials, like smelted metal and such…

It seems we will be forced to buy metal equipment, after all. Still, it would have been nice if I could craft it myself, but oh well…

I spent my whole guard shift like this, continuing my practice with crafting.

Yawning, I stop and put away the materials and finished products, and head to Retel’s side to wake him up.

<<Hey, it’s your turn now>> I say to him while shaking his shoulder.

He opens his eyes and gets up, still drowsy and with his hair messed up.

<<Well, guard duty is on you right now>>

He doesn’t even answer me, still taken in sleep’s embrace. Still, he manages to scurry away from his sleeping bag. I hope he doesn’t fall asleep again…

The night went on without any kind of unpleasant event, and I even managed to get a few hours of proper sleep. As the new day dawns, we consume a quick breakfast and then resume our march toward Sendria city.

This time, we ask for proper permission from Heod before we head into the tall grass. I can almost feel his concerned gaze on our back…

We decided to stick to the roadside, without delving too much into the Grassland.

After a bit, we encounter a group of low level Longhorns. As we spot them, we decide to try and hunt them again.

<<It seems that the beasts did not notice us>> I say to Retel and Levia.

We stop in our position. From previous experience, we know that we cannot approach them directly.

<<I have an idea. Stay still>>.

As I inform my companion to hold position, I activate Navi’s detection. There are six Longhorns in total, their level ranging from 2 to 4.

Next, I try to calculate if my Black Fluid can reach their position.

[Navi: It is possible, Master. However, the skill’s offensive power will not be enough to eliminate the monsters]

Well, that’s not my goal here. What I want to do is to use Black Fluid to trap them and prevent their escape.

I activate the skill, making two thin tendrils and slowly extending them towards the Longhorn pack.

Using Navi to keep the monster’s position under control, I try to move the Black Fluid as quietly as I can. Basically, I am making the tendrils crawl on the soft soil.

Unnoticed, the skill slowly circles around the group of monsters. Of course, this kind of control would be impossible without Navi, since the tall grass blocks our vision.

As the two extremities of the skill connect, making a loop around the Longhorn pack, I begin to reduce the loop’s width and pull it toward me, at the same time.

And, as the loop comes close enough to the Longhorns…

<<Now!>>

I activate Black Fluid again, pulling with all my strength. The Longhorns are taken by surprise by the sudden assault from my skill. As the Black Fluid comes into contact with their legs, it changes shape, entangling the beasts and preventing their escape.

At the same time, Retel and Levia begin their attack. Both of them rush toward the Longhorns, weapon ready in hands.

The two beast-kin make short work of the monsters.

It seems our hunt was a success, this time.

After taking a bit of time to properly harvest the monster’s materials, we continue to thread into the grasslands.

We stopped from time to time to pick up the herbs that Heod wanted. It seems that this kind of herb is widely common in the Grasslands, growing as a kind of parasite plant to the tall grass.

According to Heod, it is the base used to produce some kind of high quality solvent, making it a staple ingredient in alchemical preparations.

Better stock up on them.

Still, even after the battle against the Longhorns, Retel did not reach level 6. He’s really the slow-growing type, huh?

It seems we will need more battles…

Right as I was thinking so, we end up being attacked by a monster. A serpentine body, with shining green scales. Two tiny, underdeveloped arms are visible on the monster’s chest, and the snake’s head is crowned by a red mane.

[Navi: Detected- Grassland Snake lvl 10]

So, our first level 10 enemy…

The snake’s attack is really quick, and it almost catches Retel’s arm. His bite is probably poisonous, so it’s a good thing that Retel managed to avoid it.

Still, we cannot let our guard down.

Levia shots a volley of arrows, while I try to restrain the monster’s movement with Black Fluid.

The monsters however slithers away from our attacks, delving into the tall grass to attack us again.

Probably aiming for our blind spot, being sure that his shape is hidden by the grass.

Still, we can track his position thanks to Navi.

Again, I try to use Black Fluid to restrain it. This time, I make the tendrils bury into the ground. I am trying to imitate the same technique the Dryads used with their roots.

Well, I could probably have obtained the skill itself if I properly absorbed the Dryads’ bodies after the village battle.

But, since the remaining Dryads helped us and the villagers, we ended up returning the bodies of their fallen brethren to them, to give them proper burial.

The imitation however works well enough. Traveling underground, the tendrils work their way to the snake, while the monster was lying in ambush planning his next assault on our group.

As the Black Fluid burst out of the ground, it takes the creature by surprise, restraining it.

With his movements locked, the snake cannot evade Retel’s spear.

Or at least, that’s how it should have been.

The snake’s eyes light up with a sinister shimmer, and Retel’s body freezes on spot.

[Navi: Retel- Status inflicted: Paralysis]

That is troublesome…

As the snake manages to paralyze Retel, it spews a thick, purple colored ball of liquid venom at him.

Luckily, I manage to shield him with Black Fluid.

This snake is too dangerous, we need to be more careful with our moves.

Levia manages to hit the snake’s left eye with an arrow, making the beast flinch in pain.

As it does so, Retel is released from the snake’s skill, and he quickly regains his composure. Activating his skill, he jumps and plunges his spear inside the snake’s body.

Still, it’s not enough. Enraged by the wounds, the snake frees himself from my skill and knocks Retel away with a sweep of his long tail.

The beast hisses at us, and his green scales begin to glow and shake, producing a rattling sound.

The sound envelops us, growing stronger and stronger.

<<I feel…strange, my head, spinning>>

Levia’s words come across weak, as I see her figure swaying. My vision starts to blur, and I feel like I’m loosing my balance…is it some kind of a mind attack?

[Navi: Status inflicted- Confusion! Beware!]

The snake retaliates after his confusion-attack. His tail smashes against Levia, throwing her away before smashing her body to the ground two times.

I try to stand, and use Black Fluid to at least lessen the snake’s assault on her, but I cannot muster any concentration to activate the skill.

This could end really badly…

After dealing with Levia, the snake point his gaze on me. His remaining eye glows, and I feel my body becoming stiff.

The snake opens his jaws, showing two long teeth dripping with venom. His head bolts towards me, and a burning pain bursts in my chest as his jaws close around my shoulders.

Perhaps because of the pain, or the effect just happen to end, but as the snake bites me, my head clears from confusion.

Crying in pain, I use all my power to activate Black Fluid.

With my free hand, I form a blade from my skill and plunge it inside the snake’s remaining eye.

The monsters quickly pulls away from me, leaving a gaping wound on my shoulder as he writhes in pain. Still, the Black Fluid blade is embedded in his eye.

All that I need now is to activate the skill again. As I do so, the blade extends and pierces the snake’s head from side to side. Falling on the ground, the monster exhales his last breath.

We won, but our situation is bad. Levia and Retel are injured, and, although I can cure myself by absorbing the snake’s body, I need to do it quickly and tend to them.

The snake’s poison starts affecting me, but I manage to absorb the monster’s body and have a last second full recovery.

Taking a big sigh of relief, I hurry to Levia’s side.

Her injuries are not so bad.

Quickly, I take a healing potion from my inventory. Before we left the village, Heod stocked us with some potions for emergency use.

After a few minutes, Levia ‘s injuries are healed. It seems that the old man’s potions really are reliable…

As I am tending to Levia, Retel comes running towards us.

He’s…ok?

As I check him, I notice that his level finally got to 6.

Wait, does leveling up give you a full heal?

[Navi: During normal level up, the body is ridden from any injury. That is not the case for individuals who use a different level up system, like Master, for example]

Of course, I am relieved to see that Retel does not need healing.

And…

<<Look at this! Snake Eye!>> he shouts, and his eyes light up like those of the snake we just fought.

Of course, I am dumb, and I look straight into his eyes.

[Navi: Roshal- Status: Paralysis]

Well, I could certainly avoid this kind of event…

After laughing his ass off, Retel graces me by releasing his skill.

<<Thank you>> I mutter, slightly offended.

Still, this new skill he gained seems useful. But the most important thing right now is that he finally managed to catch up to level six.

That means…we can stop dicking around in the tall grass, and we can spend the rest of our journey to Sendria avoiding any kind of troublesome battles.

After making sure of Levia’s conditions, we prepare to go back to Heod. It seems neither me nor Levia gained any level with the exp from the battles we fought in the grasslands.

<<So, what should we do now? We could continue like this, and try to increase our level some more before reaching the city, or we could just leave things as they are and try to reach Sendria without further battles, now that Retel has reached level 6>>

I ask for my party’s opinions on the matter. Well…I would prefer to spend some time without any danger around, but I will stick to their decision if Retel and Levia want to continue our hunts here.

<<Hm…well, the only thing here that gave us some trouble was the snake…the other monsters around are easy, I mean, we can deal with them just fine. I would like to continue, since the higher our level gets, the easier our battles will be, no?>>

It seems Levia wants to push on with the battles here. Retel just nods at Levia’s words. Well, it seems it’s decided like this.

<<Ok, we will continue our little hunts in the tall grass>>

Abiding to the group’s will, I follow them into the grasslands. We continue on for some time, without encountering any enemy. Deciding to call it a day, we head back to Heod.

After regrouping with the old man, we discuss with him our decision to continue hunting in the Grasslands.

<<Have you thought it thoroughly? Yes, you will gain a few levels by doing so, but keep in mind that we will end up making a three days trip into a week long journey, or even more…>> he said to us.

<< Maybe it should be better if you set a goal, like reaching level eight or such, and after that we go straight to the city>>

His suggestion is good. We discuss it together while having dinner, and decide to agree to the old man’s suggestion. After all, we already spent two days and we barely made a third of the distance.

As usual, we set guard turns for the night.

This time, I had the last guard shift. Again, nothing troublesome came up during the night, and as morning rises, I wake up the group.

Once again, we resume our hunt in the grasslands while Heod travels along the road. This time, he gave us some sort of necklace with a small pouch of tissue hanging from it.

<<This here contains a special mash of herbs. The scent from this pouch will cover yours, making it easier for you lot to sneak around without being smelled by monsters from a hundred meters away>> He made it during his guard turn last night, from herbs we collected in our previous hunting trip.

As we bid him farewell for the day, we wear the necklaces and head into the tall grass.

It seems that his little preparation is really useful. We manage to sneak close to a group of Longhorns without being detected. Of course, our movements grew better since our first, clumsy attempt on the first hunt.

We even repeated the same strategy, with me and Retel circling around the Longhorns, while Levia held position in the distance.

As me and Retel launched the first attack, Levia’s arrows supported us from the distance.

One of the monsters managed to get away, but this time the hunt was a success. Still, the Longhorns of this group were only level one and two, so the exp we gathered was a bit lacking.

Spending the entire day in our hunts, me and Levia managed to reach level 7 after several battles. The last one was against a level 8 Razor Beak.

The monster was a bit troublesome to deal with, and it managed to injure Retel’s right arm before we could take it down.

We did not use any healing potion this time, since we could rely on Levia’s healing skill.

The healing effect from her skill is way faster than Heod’s potions…although she cannot use it too much times in one day.

Still, it’s a good skill to have at our disposal.

This time we went on until dusk. Heod scolded us when we emerged from the tall grass, since we told him that we would be back before sunset.

To punish us, he even threatened to leave us without dinner, but his threats crumbled after Levia gave him a single, sad look.

That did not stop his scolding, however. He went on and on until bedtime, and I could even hear him mutter to himself while he was laying in his sleeping bag.

Using sleep-time to raise my stats, I followed the same pattern as before, dumping one point each in STR, AGI, ACC and two points to LCK.

The third day we encountered rain again. This time it lasted for almost half an hour, and it was a light rain capable only of being a mild annoyance.

The ground around us quickly dried under the sun, and it returned like no rain at all had fallen that day.

As we continue our hunting in the grass, we stumble upon an unusual sight.

A lone rock stands in our way, emerging from the green sea of grass. We reached it while following a lone Longhorn.

But, as the monster came near the rock…

The rock changed shape and swallowed the Longhorn whole.

With my eyes gaping wide for the sudden attack, I signal Retel and Levia to stop.

<<That rock…is dangerous>> I mutter.

[Navi: Detected- Mimic lvl 15. After skill analysis, I strongly suggest that you absorb the Mimic, Master!]

Oh, what an interesting suggestion…

The Mimic’s level is pretty high if compared to ours. It will probably be a tough battle against it. First, I instruct Levia to shoot some arrows at it. Maybe the monster is just posing as a rock, and his body is tender like normal meat…

As the arrows collide with the Mimic, they broke without even grazing the surface. Following Levia’s attack, I launch a ranged attack with Black Fluid, but the result is the same.

<<So, it truly is a rock>> I mutter.

Noticing our attack, the Mimic rises from his position and turns towards us. From the rock-shaped body, four eyes appear around a vertical mouth ridden with large, jagged teeth.

The thing bellows, a deep and reverberating sound.

Crab-like legs are sprouting from the bottom side of the creature, and it starts moving slowly towards us.

But, as soon as we assume our stance to attack it…

The Mimic changes shape, becoming an elongated, snake-like form. It charges at us so quickly, knocking me down with incredible strength.

Retel manages to avoid the initial attack and activates his new skill, but the Mimic is unaffected by it.

<<Damn monster!>> he shouts, charging at the Mimic with his spear in hand. His attack connects…

The spear-head flies away after a loud, clinking sound. The monster’s part that Retel attacked changed back to rock, breaking his spear.

The Mimic retaliates, slashing Retel with his crab-like legs.

He manages to avoid the brunt of the attack, however the sharp-pointed leg grazed his leg.

I try to use Black Fluid to restrain the Mimic’s movements, but as I almost manage to wrap the monster it changes form again, reducing his size and managing to escape my grasp.

<<Crafty little thing, aren’t you?>>

Again and again we attack the monster, but our attacks are either repelled by the rock transformation or avoided when the monster reduces his size.

This is frustrating…

Luckily, the thing does not seem to have powerful offensive abilities…probably the Mimic usually relies on surprise to attack weaker prey, instead of hunting it down with powerful attacks.

Still, it’s a difficult battle for us.

After using almost all of my tricks with Black Fluid, I decide to try one last card from my deck.

<<Retel, Levia…stay away from the Mimic…stick to ranged attacks only!>> I shout to my companions, while activating Black Fluid once again.

The Mimic managed to avoid each of my attacks…so, this time, I decided to use the same trick I used against the Hero.

Mustering all my will, I change the skill into gas-form. Although this time it takes less energy to maintain and control this form, it still is difficult to do so.

I envelop the gas around the Mimic, while it is distracted by Levia’s arrows. It seems that the monster is not that smart, since he does not notice the black fog swirling around him, and just changes back into rock form to repel Levia’s arrows.

It seems I was too hasty in praising the Mimic’s craftiness before…

Well, thank God for stupid opponents.

After enclosing the Mimic inside the mist-form Black Fluid, I turn it back to fluid form. This time the mimic is fully enveloped by it, and I start the absorption.

It’s a bit of a waste, since it could have earned us a lot of exp, but I want to go along with Navi’s suggestion this time.

The Mimic struggles from within my skill, and almost manages to get out a few times.

In the end, it succumbed to Black Fluid’s Absorption.

[Navi: Success! Mimic Absorbed! New skills obtained: Perfect Form Control, Perfect Mimicry! New skills restricted to race: Monster. Detected affinity between new skills and Black Fluid, would you like to Integrate the skills? (Suggestion: proceed with integration)]

Well, I did all this following Navi’s suggestion so…I will commit to it.

Hoping for the best, I start the Integration process. If my hunch is correct…this time the success rate should be higher. From what I manage to understand, this Integration thing is a random process, which means…it should work, if you get some luck. Following this dumb train of thought, I put some of my hard earned stat points into the Luck stat. Only for this.

[Navi: Integration Success (result modified thanks to LCK stat)! Perfect Form Control+Perfect Mimicry+ Black FluidBlack Fluid! New skill attributes: Mimic (can reproduce anything absorbed by the skill- two categories: Bio, Mineral- increase the number of structures that can be mimicked by absorbing more structures and materials with the skill)]

It seems that my hunch was correct…so, those points were not wasted after all…

After giving my excuses to Retel and Levia for the lack of EXP from this battle, I explain to them how I acquired the Mimic’s abilities. And, of course, I try them out right away.

I can select what kind of structure I want to mimic with Black Fluid. First, I try the mineral category, changing my skill into stone and even metal.

It’s useful, since like this I can produce stronger blades when attacking with Black Fluid (the blades I could produce before were more like bones or claws).

Then, I try out the Bio category…it is definitely weird. I can reproduce any kind of bodily part that I have absorbed, from the Mars Worms to the Grassland Snake… the most curious thing is that I can choose even specific organs, like nervous system or even…eyes and mouth.

[Navi: Suggestion-it is possible to acquire tactile and visual input with Black Fluid using this skill attribute]

Oh, so that’s how it is…

I try to produce an eye with Black Fluid, and close mine. As the mimicked eye is complete, I can properly see from it.

<<That is definitely…gross>> Retel and Levia almost say the same line at the same time.

Well, I too am thinking the same thing, although I don’t deny that this new skill attribute could be useful for scouting ahead.

To test things even further, I produce an offshot with Black Fluid and form an eye on it.

Even when separated from me, the eye properly functions, relaying visual information directly to my mind.

In short words, I produced a reliable security camera with my skill. Well, it is more of a gross security camera, but let’s ignore that for now…

I spend some more time experimenting with the new mode. It seems that, by adding nerves to the Black Fluid, I can obtain a better control of it, and also it seems that Navi can move the offshots independently if I dote them with a nerve circuit of some sort.

Being done with experiments, we decide to hunt some more since there is still daylight. After five battles, me and Levia manage to reach level 8, while Retel grows to level 7.

This time, we only fought monsters whose level was equal or above ours. It seem that this way we manage to get more experience, but of course the risk is definitely bigger than dealing with lower level monsters.

One thing that I noticed is the carefree attitude that we are beginning to take while fighting monsters. And that is a negative thing, by all means.

We need to keep our tension high, at all costs, since a moment’s distraction could lead us to serious injury if not even death.

It took a battle against a level 12 Razor Beak to keep us in line again. Being carefree, Retel made a wrong movement while attacking the monster, and ended up having his throat slashed by the thing’s sharp talons. Panicked, we almost fell into confusion as both me and Levia rushed to his side neglecting the monster.

I ended up taking a big injury on my back, as the Razor Beak sunk his claws into me. Luckily Levia managed to regain composure and kill the wounded monster with her arrows.

Still, a moment’s distraction almost costed us our lives. I healed myself by absorbing the Razor Beak’s corpse, but Retel needed both Levia’s skill and a healing potion before he could stand up again.

After that, I made them sit for a bit and reflect about what we did wrong during that battle. Of course, I too took my share of the blame, since I was at fault, too.

After that, we unanimously decided to head back to Heod. Everyone was immersed in his own silence, pondering about the potentially lethal situation that we just escaped.

More than that, we reflected about how a stupid behavior almost costed us our lives.

As we rejoin with Heod, we share with him the details about our hunt of the day. This time we made sure to come back before sunset…since we cannot make the old man worry too much.

And, following that thought, we decided to not tell him about the last battle against the Razor Beak. The old man’s heart would not stand something like this again.

As usual, we share our dinner under the stars.

I send off the others, volunteering for the first guard shift. This time, I intend to use my newly acquired ability to make surveillance-camera around our group. It works, although the excessive visual feedback makes my head hurt a bit.

[Navi: Suggestion…since Master’s brain seems to be too slow, perhaps I could help process all the info? This mode will be available even when Master is enjoying his sleep-time]

Seriously…stop being so toxic…

Still, by leaving the visual-data processing part to Navi, my head stops hurting, and I can just enjoy looking at our surroundings from ten different points of view. I bet that in my old world some pervert would pay a pretty sum of money for this kind of ability…

In the end, I spend my guard duty time by playing around with the surveillance-camera mode.

As Levia comes to start her turn of guard duty, I leave the entire apparatus on, just in case.

After allocating the STAT points I just acquired today, I drift into sleep’s embrace.

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