Chapter 2-2

Artwork: MioChin

Proofreader: ramna27, Orion Dye

We’re almost done with our preparations, but the number of scaleetles keeps rising there are a little over fifty right now. What a headache!

“Kenta, lead us!” Rine donned her armor and is waiting for orders.

“They’re almost here, Kenta-kun.” Ara-san had little to equip and was just going through her skill-list. She’s not that used to combat, so she hasn’t most likely used most of her [Elemental Magic]-spells in the field.

“Come on!” Kyou-san could also gear up quickly, but she used the time to prepare a bunch of consumables, putting them into her belt pouch for easier access. Reaching into your backpack can take a moment too long, after all.

I’m still closing the belts of my red hide armor, but there was one question I had: Why am I the leader!?

At least for combat, it seems that the girls are pushing the responsibility to me. “Phew.” But there is little time to argue and to be honest, I wouldn’t trust the judgment of any of them. The process of elimination is telling me, that I have to make the strategy unless I want to invite trouble.

“Ara-san, this terrain isn’t well-suited for [Spirit Magic], so you concentrate on [Elemental Magic] since it’s raining, you can use water-spells while conserving MP.” When water-spells are used, you can either create water in the process or use the one around, latter saves a lot of effort, time and MP. “Use AoEs, until they’re here, single target when they come close and when it’s an infight, cover Kyou-san as an [Acrobat]!”

“What does AoE mean?”

“Area of Effect, attacks that cover wide areas and multiple enemies. If possible, hinder the movements of some, so that we need to fight less at the same time.”

“Got it.” Ara-san is good as a CC (crowd control) or damage AoE, so we got this covered.

“Rine, you’ll be the first line of defense, just do your regular thing, and remember: No [Dismember]!”

“Got it!”

“Before they come, use [Crescent Moon], to decimate their numbers.” Rine learned some new skills over the last few weeks, which makes her even more deadly than before. But I guess, since she fought all her live without the use of skills, she tends to forget, that she has those.

She’s like a perverted mix between tank and DD (damage dealer), who tanks by dealing so much damage that the enemies won’t be able to do anything anymore. And I thought, I was a DD before.

“Kyou-san… Just keep behind Ara-san and try not to get in the way.” There is no place to hide her, and it’s safer for her to stay near someone, who can cut her slack.

“Hey! Don’t treat me as useless!”

“Well, you can heal us and recover our SP, so you’re just almost useless.” I can’t imagine a situation with a fight against numbers like these, where Kyou-san can actually cast one of her spells without putting herself in danger.

“I’ll show you.” Kyou-san changes to [Herbalist] and draws her dagger-sized knife to show her determination.

Come one, Kyou-san, we both know, that you’re no combat character.

I string my bow. I shouldn’t use it in the rain as much as possible, but if I want to survive, I’d better use it a few times, before they come. Scaleetles weren’t that strong. “First line of defense will be there.” I don’t want them to attack our set camp, so let’s choose the rising there. “The second line there.” Another rising. “Kyou-san, you go to the second line, while the rest will go for the first, to attack with ranged attacks. Ara-san and I will fall back if they’re coming close.” I don’t need to worry about Rine. She’s probably able to fight all of these on her own. “And no coats, we need the mobility.”

Rine can take care of herself, as long as she doesn’t do anything stupid, which isn’t exactly unlikely. But so far, that happened only once in battle, against the fourbirds. Plus,I was the one responsible for this by being too weak due to the curse.

Everyone moves to their positions. I put an arrow on my bow and stuck several more in the ground. The scaleetles are already within range, even if it’s hard to aim at one, there are so many, that I’ll hit something regardless.

Let’s try it. Put up a stance, pull the string, aim and shoot.

The course of the arrow isn’t exactly straight and a little shorter. So that’s the effect of the rain on an arrow in flight, less than I imagined. “They need to come closer. Rine, you wait as well.” [Crescent Moon] doesn’t have that much of a range, and while we have another bow, it’ll be better to have her cover us later without any delays. “Ara-san, blast them!”

Ara-san begins chanting. This will be a big spell. There are those, who are rather quick and can be used in a fast fashion and those, who needs chants, which can last several minutes.

But if it’s a water-spell, the casting time should be shortened in the rain.

Here it comes! “[Tidal Wave]!”

The rain surrounding the scaleetles begin to amass and splashes at them. The impact disperses the enemies.

Even though they’re fish-like monsters, the scaleetles have to deal with brunt force here. I don’t know if there is something like magic resistance here or resistance against specific elements, but nonetheless, this spell is working.

Ara-san repeats the process, aiming for splitting the charging scaleetles into smaller groups. “Don’t hinder the first ones. Keep striking at the mobs behind! Rine, our turn!” I put four arrows on my bow and use a skill: [Quadruple Shot]!” Three of my four arrows hit, two in one of the scaleetle, the third one got the leg of another, while the last one fell short.

“[Crescent Moon]!” Unhindered by the rain, Rine’s sword draws an arc, which flies at the enemies, slicing some of them in half.

I grab more of the ground-stuck arrows, it’s faster to do it like that instead of fishing them out of my quiver.“Next volley!” We repeat the process one more time. They’re about to come here, the first group is decimated, but still strong. “Ara-san, we’ll fall back! Rine, keep safe!”

“I will!” She’s hopping on the balls of her feet, preparing herself.

The first phase was a success, but that was also the easy part. The real trouble is about to begin.

With bearing shark teeth, the scaleetles attacks! Rine’s sword cuts right from above, while her other hand catches one of the teeth she just severed, throwing it in the eye of a second fish-monster. She trips a third with a sweeping kick, which turns into a roundhouse-kick while spinning, kicking the fourth one into the side.

She’s definitely alright, but there are too many for her to hold. Some scaleetles are taking a detour to avoid her and aim at Ara-san and me.

“[Sleep Blow]!” A blueish gust passes right next to us, the point of origin is Kyou-san, who holds the palm of her hand right below her lips. She puts a powder into it and repeats.

This is one of her new skills she learned from classing-up to [Herbalism]. Her new [Herbal Weapons]-ability got her a whole new array of skills, and because they are skills, things like rain don’t matter. Skills are always something special and can overcome physics with ease.

[Sleep Blow] bypasses the making a soporific, she just grinds the needed herb to a powder and can magically inject it, to blow a slumberous breath. But the effect is greatly weakened compared to an actually compounded medicine.

At least it’s enough to slow down the first scaleetles, I turn around and take my spear from the [Inventory]. “Ara-san, keep going. [Whirlwind]!” I push the forerunners back, creating a new line of defense between the already established first and the second line. “We’ll change the plan!”

I don’t intend to stay here for long, but Ara-san has to cover Kyou-san. Rine is still fine, but the next ones are coming, maybe half a minute before they arrive. Everything is still good.

Why do I have no skill, which makes me attack multiple times against multiple enemies!? [Whirlwind] is more about buying time than doing massive damage.

While standing my ground, I just try to poke each of the five scaleetles I’m facing.

“[Fountain Gun]! [Icicle Knives]!” Using fast spells, Ara-san shoots one of the scaleetles away, while her [Icycle Knives] hurts the others. “[Entangle]!” The grass under the feet of one grew, it’ll be only held for a moment, but that’s all I need.

“[Armor Piercer]!” My spear is penetrating the scales, bones, and innards easier than a hot knife butter. They seem to have moderate [Defense], but low [Vitality], if stats like that is even applicable to monsters. “Ara-san, keep the next wave away!” Following my order, Ara-san begins to chant a new [Tidal Wave].

I don’t think, that I need her support with my foes anymore. I stab one scaleetle, directly into its upper body; it might not die immediately, but it’s gravely wounded.

“[Itching Breath]!” Kyou-san got that powder from the alfar, so it’s original effect is quite bad. Even in its weakened state, it causes the two scaleetles who tried to get to my left flank to squirm, making it easy for me to use that chance to kill the first, by thrusting my spear right into its sharky face!

The other one swings his fist at me, but it convulses, giving me enough opportunity to deflect the attack with my arm guard and slicing the sharp sight right over its eyes.

Seriously, these guys are easy enough, just a bit too small to hit them at good places. But oh well, maybe Kyou-san is a bit useful as well.

“[Tidal Wave]!” The next wave of mobs is delayed, enough time for me to finish up. Rine is about to end her enemies as well. Or what’s left of them.

“Ara-san, let the second wave come, hinder the next ones.” If a wave is about ten scaleetles, then there will be three more.

I use my hide-skills: [Camouflage], [Mask of Wildlife] and [Hide Smell]. With [Sneak] I change my position, waiting right there, were the scaleetles, which passes Rine will come.

Now they’re right before me: “[Whirlwind]!” The damage is greater than before, while the pushing effect is the same. That’s [Stealth]’s [Assassinate]-skill, a passive skill which increases the damage when I attack from hiding. If the enemy is totally unaware of me, I can deal up to double damage.

But man, that combination of skills to hide me is sure draining my SP. I’d better-

What is that idiot doing!? “RINE! FALL BACK!” She slaughtered too many enemies and is now balancing on their slippery corpses, while she tries to kill even more. That’s dangerous! Even she’s bound to make a misstep there! When she does, then a pack of scaleetles will attack her, which might kill her in the end!

“OK!” She answers loudly, without much of a worry.

Girl, keep an eye on your surroundings!

“[Tidal Wave]!” Its effect is amazing as always, but it won’t delay the next wave enough before they’re coming at us.

Damn that rain! My armor is sticking at me, and I can feel it scraping at my crotch and my nipples. My spear, full of blood and water feels slippery to my hand, I quickly remove my archery glove and wipe my hands on my pants to get a firmer grip again.

Rine falls back a bit and readies herself. She already removed her gloves. When did she do that?

“Ara-san, keep the next wave busy, Kyou-san, cover her!” I hate that! It’s not as the former plan was totally overthrown, but we’re losing ground. The moment Ara-san is not able to keep the next ones away for a bit, we’ll have to face even more. It’s like the plan was flawed to begin with!

We only got half of the second wave, and now the third arrives, battered by [Tidal Wave], but still able to kill us, if we’re careless.

They’re charging!

Rine has her hands full, so they are trying to pass her: “RINE, SKILL!”

“[Crescent Moon]!” Some of them are sliced, but she takes a hit by doing so, a fist into the side. On the other hand, she just pokes the eyes out from the one, who dared to hit her.

“[Whirlwind]!” I hit three and push them back, but five jump at me at the same time. They knock me over, and I feel the wet, bloody ground, and a scaleetle, which raise his fits and hits me right in the face.

I draw my steel knife and wildly stab at it. I feel another scaly arm and stab at it as well. “Ah! Die! Diediediedie!” I’m a bit frantic, but it’s quite effective. I roll over and stand up, seeing the lethally wounded scaleetles, which surrounded me just before.

Dammit, I let them pass me as well!

Kyou-san is stabbing with her knife at one. Her left hand wanders to her belt pouch and *boom*, a fire bomb is thrown right into its face. Though there is another one, but man, you can see, how much [Herbalist] pumps her [Strength]. Well, for now, Ara-san is covered, which is exactly the reverse of what I thought would be necessary.

But no time to observe it, I need to fight! I run towards the wounded scaleetles, stabbing them like a madman with my knife, picking up my spear with my other hand, throwing it into an approaching mob.

The fourth wave hits.

One, two, three attacks hit me. I’m surrounded by scaleetles, some are jumping at me, attaching themselves like some kind of leech. Only [Wild Eyes], which makes it possible to sense spirits, allowed me to get a very rough idea of the battlefield, as my vision was constantly taken away by scaleetles.

My SP are dangerously low, if I wasn’t a hero, I would surely be long gone.

Numbers are scary! Taking on large numbers with small numbers is freakin’ scary! The enemies aren’t that strong, but I feel overwhelmed.

Ouch! One sinks its teeth into my barely protected arm, and it hurts! I try to shake it off, but that only widens the wound. And I need my knife arm to keep another one off me – while being pummeled by fists from different directions.

I see my SP-bar rising. Ah, Kyou-san must have cast [Stamina] on me. I can’t even hear anymore, except the growling of these beasts. I also got healed, but that shouldn’t be necessary yet, so why-

Then I got [Tidal Wave]d. Did you ever jump from a diving board from a height of ten meters (almost 33 feet)? Imagine how it feels, if the swimming pool comes to you instead. It chunked off a good amount of HP while being washed away by the water masses.

Usually, I would complain because of the friendly fire, but first, I can’t, because I cough like crazy, and then if it’s Ara-san, there might be a reason to it.

At least I got rid of the scaleetles. Except for the one who still has its teeth sunken in my arm. I stab it right into its nape.

I feel pretty much like shit now. But I’m still alive.

I look for other enemies, but it’s more or less over, only a few are left, and Rine is taking care of those. After the last one, she sighs and stroke her wet hair back. She smiles, even though I can see some red marks on her face.

Kyou-san is holding her arm, she got bitten as well. Her left eye is swollen, and the moment she realizes it’s over, she falls to her knees. “*Sob*” Well, welcome to battle. You’re only four months late.

Ara-san’s sleeve is ripped, and she has some scratches on the arm, looks like she escaped being bit by a small margin.

I don’t know how I’m doing right know, but it’s most likely even worse than them.

The battle was probably only mere minutes long, but I feel like I fought for hours, even if I don’t remember most of it, since I fell into a stabbing fury.

But let’s look on the bright side, we got XP, we can get drop items, everything is fine.

I’m sarcastic, you know?

“Pheeeeeeeew…”

“That’s a big one,” Ara-san comments my sigh.

“Shut up!” I use my whole array of [Perception]-skills plus [Wild Eyes] to look for other enemies. There were none. Only a squirrel. With a panda-like fur. It’s running away.

Where is my bow? There! I pick it up, but the string snapped, and I won’t have time to put on another one. Dammit!

Should I tell the others about the squirrel? But what to do? There is nowhere to hide here. Should we break up camp and try to get away from here?

No, it won’t do any good. There may be a trap ahead, and we need to rest.

But I could tell them.

“Kenta-kun, why were you hurrying to your bow?” So Ara-san didn’t notice the squirrel.

“To look if it’s broken. Rain and such.”

Ara-san is looking at me, her ears are slightly flinching like she’s in wonder. Rine is calming down Kyou-san while healing her. Kyou-san is too busy dealing with her pain.

I’ll keep it a secret for now. I want the girls to rest, so making a fuss about it will be counterproductive. Good thing that Ara-san is still hardly able to read a human’s face.

Everything is still alright.

 

―○●○―

 

“Phew. And you thought that [Healer] is a useless class.” Poultices are sometimes way more useful than using magic. While a [Heal] will close a bite-wound, it won’t really disappear, the flesh will just contract. But putting one of Kyou-san’s poultices on it will completely heal it overnight if you’re a hero.

“Shut up!”

We’re taking care of our wounds, Ara-san is back to her undergarment, showing Kyou-san the scratches on her arms. Kyou-san herself was the first, who got treatment, her arm is poulticed and bandaged, while an ointment was put on her eye. She will be OK after a while.

Rine only got some bruises, but that’s something that can be taken care of with magical healing and some rest. She’s now tying a bandage over the poultice of my arm.

“Now that everything is over, I like to confirm something.” I look at each of them. “Since when am I the leader?” I mean, there was some weight behind my decisions before, but before we got to Aroahenn, it was just that: Some weight.

The three girls are looking at each other and then all eyes are on Kyou-san, who sighs and answers my question: “We made the decision ten da- a week ago.” A week in this world is ten days, so Kyou-san might try to adopt that kind of common sense. “Arako asked if there was a leader and explained to us, why a single leader is important.”

“…and you didn’t call me for something that important?”

“Ken, it started out as a girl’s talk. So why should we call you to that.”

I have something to say to it, but I hold it back and inquire further: “And why didn’t you nominate yourself, Kyou-san?”

“Because it would be a pain.” Her whole body tells me that this is the blunt truth. “It’s not like you give all the calls, the leader role is more for hairy situations.”

“That’s right.” Ara-san interferes. “The alfr heroes made the experience, that it’s better to have one individual give the calls when things go wrong and quick decision-making is important. After hearing about your exploits before Aroahenn, you seemed to be the logical choice, Kenta-kun.” It’s hard to tell, what she tells with her body, but I think it’d be something like pride.

“Kenta is a great leader!” If Rine had a dog’s tail, it would be wagging. “He always knows what the rest is doing, and he’s smart, so I thought you were the leader the moment we met!”

“You can see, Ken, it’s the obvious choice. Even I have to admit that you did a great job back in the chasm, if we don’t count the moments, you were so stupid that I can’t believe it even today.” That’s Kyou-san for you, no praise without an insult for me.

“I see. So, Kyou-san, Ara-san, and Rine: Now the most important question.” I take a deep breath: “Nobody thought it would be logical to tell me!?”

Rine is looking at her feet. Ara-san is avoiding my eyes. Kyou-san looks back with squinted eyes: “To be honest, you’re so bossy the whole time, I thought that you wouldn’t even notice.” Then her eyes relax, and she bows to me: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. You’re not as dense as I thought.”

Bitch! If I hit her, I’m sure to get punished by Rine, but man, I want to pay her back! “I’m sorry as well.” Then let’s use words. “I never even considered that the former class-president would be unable to confer information to her former classmates. And unable to lead us as well.”

“Well, considering how it went today, maybe I should take a shot.”

“Momo, that’s not fair.” Ara-san interferes. “If we consider the numbers, the relative strength, and the terrain, Kenta-kun did a good job. Even the weakest monsters can bring heroes down, at least as far as I know, and I know much. The hero-system is complex, and there are aspects, which aren’t even affected by it.”

After talking with Ara-san so much about the hero-system, I know what she means. Like the fact, that whatever your [Strength] is, there is a hard limit to what you can lift. Or whatever your [Agility] is, there is a hard limit to what you can run. And many more examples. To raise these limits, you need specific [Skills].

Ara-san looked into alfr heroes way above our levels, so she got knowledge which will come in handy. Even though the more I learn, the more strange I find things.

For example, one of the alfr heroes fought a golem, who was able to tear down a steel door. He got hit several times, but only got bruises. Then he was attacked by bandits in his sleep and was beaten up, resulting in bruises. Since a big-ass golem and a simple bandit are not the same in terms of punching power, it looks like there is even a hard limit to how far [Vitality] can downgrade incoming damage.

Same goes for the scaleetles today. Both, Kyou-san and I suffered a bite wound, but even though mine doesn’t go as deep as hers, my [Vitality] is way above hers, it shouldn’t even be much of a scratch, if we just compare numbers.

Well, there is a minimum damage in many games as well, the math isn’t always that easy.

So far, it’s somewhat reasonable, until you ask the following question: If the hero-system comes from the gods, why should they put a hard-limit to how much [Vitality] can decrease the damage? As long as it’s in place, the heroes remain vincible by non-serious threats.

So why only downgrade strong hits, while weak hits remain as they are? Well, heroes are still pretty hard to kill, because our bodies work even under abuse, but if you can go so far, that you can downgrade a hit, which should break your bones to bruises, why wouldn’t it be possible to downgrade hits that cause bruises to nothing?

At least the pain-tolerance goes up with [Vitality]. I’m sure if I were bitten by a mere dog before becoming a hero, I would’ve cried like a brat.

As a hero, the scaleetle bite hurts, but I’m not even flinching much, unless I move my hand, and therefore the muscles in my forearm.

Kyou-san, on the other hand, had to use a sedative to endure the pain. Her wound might be deeper, but it’s not like mine is not serious.

It’s all more complicated than it seems at first glance. This is not a game. It’s reality.

“Ken’s not even listening anymore.” Ah, I totally missed some sentences.

“Nonetheless, you have to do it.” For some reason, Rine and Ara-san are pushing Kyou-san right in front of me. The latter doesn’t seem remotely pleased.

Kyou-san is putting her weight from one foot to the other, while her right hand plays with the ring on her left ring finger. I look at her, and her eyes are turning away reflexively, but then they turn back to me and stare at mine. “Sorry. That was too much.”

…what!? Since when does Kyou-san apologize earnestly? This doesn’t make sense!

Unsure what to do, I scratch my head. I look at Ara-san and Rine, who are piercing me with their eyes. Ah, I see. Kyou-san was forced to apologize by them. And now they want some reaction from me.

I look at Kyou-san, who’s all flustered. I haven’t seen that in a long time. I guess last time I saw such an expression was back in the chasm. I never want to return there, but I saw some sides of Kyou-san there, I’ve never known before.

Her flustered face is cute. She’s such a bitch at times, but she looks at least pretty. “It’s fine.” Somehow I feel a bit of nostalgia. I guess Kyou-san wasn’t the only one who behaved differently in the chasm. “Don’t mind.”

I might have said a thing or two, which wasn’t great either, but I won’t apologize for it.

Nonetheless, Kyou-san’s eyes are softening. My eyes wander to her nose. I think there is still some hardened snot there. Then to her lips. A scene pops into my head. It’s not as if I forgot it, but I try not to think about it.Yet somehow the mood brings it back. While fighting the ss’rak patriarch, Kyou-san and I-

“Katarine-san, who’s about to jump who?”

“Wawawa!”

Usually, I should be annoyed by the peanut gallery, but this time I’m thankful. Because it got strange, I was about to give in to my lust. “Phew.”

Kyou-san holds her head. I think she’s sweating a bit. But a small whisper leaves her mouth. “Thank you.” Not like I can’t hear it, with my enhanced senses.

“Did I destroy the mood?” Ara-san is scratching her ear while pondering. But she blushed a bit.

“I think I just saw something, which I don’t know if I should love it or not.” Rine’s face is flushed pink, her ember-eyes are all over the place.

Seriously, I want to escape here. “I will go on a stroll.” Maybe I’ll find one of these squirrels. That’s something worth doing. And I need to cool off.

The rain is still coming down.

 

―○●○―

 

I, Momokawa Kyou, don’t know why, but for some reason, Ken decided to stay awake. He’s sitting just outside the tent, under the tarp, right beside the fire. That he misses out a WP isn’t typical for him, but maybe he’s afraid of other monsters attacking, while his [Dormurnal]-skill is impeded by a tent.

Since we got two tents, each for two people, I’m alone in mine. Originally, it was planned that Ken and I would share a tent, especially since Arako still doesn’t know about Rine-chan’s ‘sleeping habits.’ So she was more than willing to share a tent with Rine-chan and Rine-chan wanted to share a tent with Arako, it was hard to deny it.

I just hope that it’ll end well.

When Ken was away for a few days, I had no problems sleeping without him, but tonight I’m wide awake. I would use a soporific, but then it’d be hard to wake me up if something happens.

“Phew.” That’s the fifth time Ken makes that sound tonight. I can hear it clearly since it’s nearby.

Something is strange with me.

Why do I even count the number he makes his noise?

There was an obvious answer, but that can’t be right. I don’t like Ken. But I don’t dislike him either anymore. Maybe it’s the confusion. The confusion that I don’t dislike him anymore like I used to.

He’s the worst. He’s never kind, all he does is selfish, and you have to force him to do the obvious. He’s a misanthropic bastard!

But at some point, I stopped caring.

My hand wanders to the ring on my left finger. I really got a bad habit there. It only happened about two months ago. But that ring is a part of me now, even if I don’t like it. The picture of the lioness engraving is deeply ingrained in my memory.

A ring I can’t remove, a bond that can’t be severed. Maybe it’s that. The circumstance that won’t let me separate from him.

But how he looked at me today after I was forced to apologize to him. Even slimmed down, his face isn’t handsome. Even though he’s got muscles in that form and stands firm against anything…

No, don’t even start there!

Maybe it’s like something I saw on TV. I’m forced to be with Ken all the time, and we were just in a life-and-death situation today. What was it called, ‘suspension bridge effect’? To misunderstand excitement with love or other feelings?

Since teaming up with him, these situations have just increased and he is almost always by my side. Yes, now that I think about it, the knot of feelings begins to unravel. That’s right. I don’t feel anything for Ken. I’m just processing the events of today.

I feel relieved.

With a last look at the ring, I close my eyes, while smiling.

Everything is still normal. I have to think about some new insults I can throw at Ken for tomorrow and the days to come.

 

―○●○―

 

I sit in front of the fire, the rain is dropping onto the tarp. Good thing I slanted it out so that the water would trickle down at one side. Meldorn taught me well.

I’m sleepy, but that’s to be expected. Too bad I can’t keep up with using my detection skills without burning my SP. Otherwise, I would feel much safer. So I only use some of them about every ten minutes, keeping my SP-consumption in check.

Rine is still sleeping, and Ara-san is still alive. Kyou-san had a few problems at first, but now she’s in slumber as well. It’s easy to tell when using [Pitch].

No squirrels, birds or other animals so far. Or mobs. I rub my eyes, staying awake for long isn’t good, but I can do it.

Suddenly, I hear a quiet shriek, and the entrance to Rine’s and Ara-san’s tent opened up, Ara-san crawls out and scurries next to me. “Wh—what happened?” She’s sweating a lot.

“Maybe you turned in your sleep.”

“I don’t know, I just felt approaching coming and my body moved by instinct, only to barely see anything.”

“I warned you.”

“You mean about Katarine-san’s sleeping habits?”

“Yes.”

“So she was trying to kill me!?”

“Maybe. I think sudden movements are enough to trigger it or any sort of killing intent.”

“Uhh.” The tips of her ears fall. “That’s the reason Momo was asking me constantly if it’s alright. But we could only get these tents.” Since Aroahenn was a small community, it was half a miracle that we got tents there anyway.

“Well, you can sleep in Kyou-san’s tent. I’m doing night-watch.”

“Why?”

“The monsters.”

“…I can see that, but is that truly everything?”

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

“You were eager to patrol the area several times before we went to sleep.”

I see. So instead of blaming my discomfort, Ara-san reached a more logical conclusion. As expected from her.

Well, Ara-san should be able to handle this information. “When we left Aroahenn, I saw a squirrel watching us. Then another one, after the fight with the scaleetles. Maybe they’re somehow involved.”

Ara-san’s ears are moving irregularly. … I totally forgot, that she had an episode with these squirrels, so she’s most likely the last one, who could handle it.

Well, now the cat is out of the bag. “Didn’t see another one until now and I guess, half of the night is over. We need to keep focused and don’t rush decisions. If we move by their calls, we’ve already lost. And… maybe, just maybe, I’m wrong.” However, if I’m right, the squirrels teamed up with the oni, and for some reason, they’re trying to bring us down. Correo had something to do with the demon attack and was also attacked by scaleetles.

Coincidence? I think not. He has most likely set up the attack by himself to earn our trust. Not that I’ve ever trusted him.

“I don’t think I can sleep anymore.” Ara-san’s not eased by a bit.

“Then can I leave night-watch to you?” If someone is awake, that’s enough for me. I’m sleepy.

“Don’t leave me alone here!”

“Phew.” I grab my backpack, take out another blanket and give it to her. “Even by the fire, it’s still cold.”

“Thank you.” She takes the blanket and put it around her.

Then she leans on me. “Hey.”

“Please let me do it. I’m scared.”

… Look at that elf, who’s afraid of squirrels! If there were an NPC like that in a game, the whole game community would call it bullshit.

“Phew. Then let’s talk about what to do.”

“We don’t know much about what the enemy is capable of, except limitless cruelty.”

Just what did these squirrels do to you!? “Actual night-watch might become mandatory. Plus, we didn’t level up much, so maybe we should stop here and there to try and grind some XP on the way.”

“But that will slow us down, making it easier for the enemies to put a plan together.”

“We’re well equipped, so there is nothing we can do. Like you said, we don’t know what the enemy is capable of, so we can’t put an actual strategy together. Also, we already covered up the basic formations.”

“Then maybe we should finally decide how to spend the WP.”

“I already thought about it. I’d go with a mix of [Attribute]-bonus-increase and to increase the range of them, those bonuses are rather cheap and good basics won’t backfire at least.”

“I thought you wanted to increase the XP-gain again.”

“That’s still what I want, but I think to increase our basics is still better in this situation. And if we increase the range, we can actually fight while benefiting each other. A boost to [Attributes] just by being near each other is helpful, especially if it’s not only slightly like now.”

“I can see what you’re talking about. How far is the range at the moment?”

“About one meter.”

“…that’s not much.”

“If we could increase it to ten meters, it would greatly help.”

“And if we do that, we might still have enough points to increase the bonus several times.”

“Exactly.”

“Then we have to talk with Katarine-san and Momo about it.”

“Do we have to?”

“We all have to confirm each buy, and it would be troubling for them if they wake up with such a message popping up.”

“…fine.”

“Can you think of other ways to handle the incoming danger?”

“You mean besides strengthening ourselves?”

“Yes.”

“Strategy-wise… I don’t think so.” I already know how the skills of each party-member work and I lack the insight of what the enemy is capable of.

If we over-prepare for something we already know, then we might be unpleasantly surprised the moment something else pops up.

So I think of another way: “Maybe we could change course and directly go south first until we hit the road.”

“But the moment we do, we’re very predictable. In the wild, we can still take several paths, especially since we lack the points of orientation without the sun and stars, it’s harder to ambush us since we aren’t sure where we are going ourselves.”

“You’ve got a point. Are there any large settlements on the road, before we’re supposed to hit it? Just checking out the alternatives.”

“A few. Most of them are well defended against attacks from the outside.”

“Like Aroahenn, huh?” I saw how safe that was! Of course, I’m being sarcastic again.

“That was an attack from the inside, and it wasn’t that disastrous if we think about it. It was just sudden.”

“Yeah, yeah. But maybe there is another route, so we should go over every settlement that is there, plus everything you told me before, even the tiniest bit of information, that you might have forgotten to tell me.”

“You tyrant!”

“That’s me. Now, tell me!”

It’s about our lives, you know?

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