Proofreader: Orion Dye
Now that we finished dinner and brushed our teeth, Kyou-san comes to me. “Now tell us finally.” Rine and Ara-san are standing behind her, the girls are mobbing up to me, even though Ara-san knows as much as me. Reminds me of school. “Tell us, Ken. What are you worrying about?”
“A lot. I worry about so many things that it’d take days to recount them all, but I guess you’re talking about the tracks and stuff.”
“…we can talk about the rest another time. For now, we concentrate on this.” Kyou-san’s strangely calm. Rine looks puzzled, as if she doesn’t know, why she’s exactly here, joining this conversation. Maybe she was OK with how things went so far. Ara-san rubs her ears awkwardly.
“Well, you more or less got it figured out. When we left Aroahenn, I saw one of these panda-squirrels observing us. It happened before when I was alone, so maybe it was waiting until we left the forest as a group. Then we got attacked by the scaleetles, and it’s the same like back then with Correo.”
“So you think Correo and the squirrels joined forces?” The way the squirrels helped the oni back then makes it plausible, so Kyou-san is fast on the uptake,
“Most likely, and Correo is somehow involved with the demons. He used Hoshibashi and Yoshimura to smuggle his forces into Aroahenn, and I’m sure that he intended to do the same with us.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“Come on, Kyou-san, it’s obvious! He even gave us the same map!”
“Not that. I mean, it’s perfectly clear that Correo was using us as well, but what I can’t believe is, that you correctly remembers Hoshibashi-kun’s and Yoshimura-kun’s names.”
She… has a point. I generally don’t remember names. But I don’t want to forget those two.
They’re only enemies now, but they practically forgot who they are, so I feel kinda obligated to remember them as they were. Even though I hardly knew them.
Not that I would tell Kyou-san this.
“Disregarding Kyou-san’s comment, there are other things that are strange. We are in the Wildlands far off the road. So if what we heard about this place is right: Why are we not facing monsters more regularly? We had our fights, but these weren’t too hard. It’s like someone removed the monsters around here somehow, but if that’s the case: Why?”
“Do you think, the ones who left the tracks did this?”
“Not necessarily. If this Correo-guy can smuggle a battle-force into Aroahenn, who knows what he is capable of. If he can call scaleetles, maybe he can scare away other mobs. But for what reason?”
“But are you sure, that he’s after us? Why should he be?”
“I don’t know.” That’s exactly why I’m stuck. As long as I have no idea why he’s after us, I can’t narrow his possible plans down. If he wants to kill us, for whatever reason, it’d be simple. But then he should’ve used all his resources when the scaleetles attacked.
So he has to have other objectives.
“Ken, stop thinking about it all by yourself. That’s why we have Rine-chan, Arako, and me here. Let’s discuss this together.”
“I’m included as well?” Looks like Rine is a bit surprised.
Ara-san’s eyes are half-closed, indicating that she’s thinking of this meeting as a bit of a pain. Normally, she would add further notes to her research during this time, but nonetheless, she sits down on a stool, ready to talk.
Each of us sits down, and we began discussing. It’s almost like a guild discussion via voice chat, just that you can actually see your conversation partners. And that there is only one gamer involved, which makes it much harder.
Like there is an idiot.
“I think it’s the oni, or how you called it. The red, horned demon, which I fought. It wants to take revenge on Kyou!”
Then there is a bitch.
“And you’re sure, that you didn’t do anything, which might put off Correo, Ken?”
“You were always there when I was with that guy!”
“But when we first met him, you were some seconds alone with him, since Rine-chan and I went into the wagon before you.”
“What could I possibly do in mere seconds!?”
“More than enough.”
And there is a scaredy-cat.
“You all forget, how evil the squirrels are! They might have made a pact with this Correo, and their condition for it was, that all of us will be exterminated!”
“Ara-san, could you please explain, what they did to you?”
“I can’t! If I do, they will come and get me!”
What a pain. In the end, we’re as smart as before, but somehow I still got the feeling, that something changed.
“It’s time to go to bed, but I want to keep night-watches. So we’ll all sleep here.” That’s the reason, why I didn’t set up the tents. “Two persons at the same time. Ara-san and Rine are one team, the other is Kyou-san and myself.”
Kyou-san seems a bit offended: “How did it come to these teams?”
“Ara-san and I have to be on different watches since we have the best night senses from all of us. Then I considered combat potential overall, and putting Rine and me on watch at the same time would concentrate too much of it at a single spot. So this is what’s left.”
“…you really thought it through.” She’s playing with the ring on her finger while furrowing her brows. Then she smiles at me. “Good job, Ken.”
I feel my whole body shivering. I’m sure, that’s what Kyou-san is after, sending a chill down my spine, by praising me while giving one of her fake smiles.
“That’s smart, Kenta!” And Rine is copying her, which makes it a combo-attack!
“Seems appropriate.” While Ara-san clearly doesn’t understand Kyou-san’s intention. “But will the ‘sleeping next to each other’-condition work this way?”
“Let’s find out. Kyou-san and I are going to fetch some sleep first.” That’s because I wouldn’t dare to wake Rine up later on. “But before that… hand-chest.” Means, that Ara-san and I will put our hands on each other chests, an alfr way to show closeness to each other.
It’s the first time, I’ll put my hand on Ara-san’s chest, but seriously, it’s not like she has breasts. She’s an alfr after all. So I try to make it as nonchalant as possible.
Let’s see, my hand is supposed to go right above her heart… yep, no breasts at all.
But it’s still a bit exciting. I’m healthy, after all, and that’s the first time, I have my hand on a girl’s chest. I try to inhale and exhale slowly, keeping the feelings bottled up.
“This…” Ara-san’s ears are blushing, and the blush is wandering into her face. “This is strange… It never felt so… *pant* warm, when I did it before. Could you move your hand a little to the right? Ah, thanks. That’s better.” She calms down, which is more than I can say about myself.
Her hand on my chest doesn’t feel different from before. I don’t want to think about, why she was so sensitive when my hand was still in the former position, but I can’t help but wonder: Besides a more frequent period, and a certain sex drive, did Ara-san also got more erogenous zones?
STOP. THINKING. ABOUT. IT!
“Kyou! Let’s try that, too!” Rine, who was absorbed in our actions until now, uses her idiotic smile, to ask Kyou-san a question.
While the girl in question rubs her nose-bridge. “…fine.” … Kyou-san? Is that you? Why did you comply?
“Yay!” Rine puts her hand on Kyou-san che- breasts! I can’t call it a chest, Kyou-san has breasts! Maybe not the biggest ones, but still plenty. Rine’s hand is even sinking in a bit.
Kyou-san doesn’t seem to mind and put her hand on the chest-piece of Rine’s armor.
Rine realizes that it won’t be the same this way. “Wait a bit.” She lifts her hand from Kyou-san’s breasts and starts opening the belts of her chest piece. She removes it and reveals her bountiful peaches under it.
Yes, Kyou-san never had a chance. Rine’s juicy fruits are just a step above.
Then both girls put their hands on each other breasts.
“Ah, Kenta-kun! You just moved your hand!”
“…sorry.” This view has just charmed me, so I slipped off.
I look at a displeased Ara-san, who moves my hand back to place. “And you’re supposed to look at me and feel my heartbeat. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.”
Such a nagger. Well, I look at her. Her white hair, her eyes with the double iris, dark blue and dark green. The slit pupils. The long nose bone and high cheekbones. The face, which should feel strange, but seems so attractive to me. It may seem dreamy or lifeless if you’re not used to it, but I can tell that she’s focusing on me.
Under my hand, I feel her heart. It beats faster than mine.
Is it because she’s alfr?
Or because she’s a girl?
Or maybe just because she’s smaller than me? I heard that small animals have a much faster heartbeat-rate.
Words escape her lips. “I can barely feel anything under your armor…” Should I take it off? I had better not. “Your heart beats faster than before.”
Time flies by in silence. And then:
|You gain 1 WP.|
|The alfr hand-chest is a way to show closeness, much like human hand-holding. Be sure to please your unusual, but lovely wife by respecting her culture.|
I remove my hand, Ara-san does the same. Rine and Kyou-san also stop hand-breasting each other. While Rine laughs and Kyou-san also giggles, Ara-san and I are exchanging awkward looks.
This is strange. No, I’m strange. Something strange is happening with me.
It’s not my usual horniness, which is already more than I can handle, but something else.
Maybe because I feel the bud of friendship with Ara-san. I don’t make many friends, especially outside the internet, so I’m more or less clueless regarding some things.
Maybe it’s something like a teenage-drama, but how should I know?
I don’t even know if I want to stop it.
“Kyou-san, we’ll go to sleep. Ara-san and Rine will take up watch.”
“Then turn around, so I can change.”
Kyou-san changes into her so-called pajama and brushes her hair afterward, while I just don off my armor. Both of us lie down, after taking some cold medicine, while Ara-san and Rine begin some conversation.
I just fall asleep, while using [Dormurnal]. My consciousness begins to fade out, while some awareness stays.
They’re still talking. Ara-san sits right next to me, while Rine is beside her.
For some reason, Rine turns her head to me while still talking. Her head closes in, Ara-san is holding her breath.
I wake up and open my eyes: “What are you doing, Rine?” My mind is flooded with all the stuff that happened during my sleep, which means that I process the whole conversation until now within seconds. “Ear-plugging?” Wasn’t that one of the things that appeared on the WP-list, after Ara-san got involved? An alfr way to show love to each other?
Rine smiles at me, it’s her idiotic smile. “Please!”
I’m too tired for that. “No.” I turn around, put a hand on my ear and am about to sleep again.
“Katarine-san, Kenta-kun. I just heard something approaching. Monsters… be prepared.”
I sit up and use my array of [Perception]-skills.
Ara-san’s right, there is a pack of monsters there, some strange abomination of black and red hedgehogs, as large as humans, with thick spikes, which are slightly opening and closing like a stork’s beak. Some sort of transparent fluid is leaking out of the spikes.
There are only eight of them, but they look dangerous.
Rine holds her blade, she won’t be able to see them, but she looks at the right direction. Her determination is showing.
…I think she’s more dangerous than the hedgehogs after all.
The hedgehogs are only fetching water from the stream, but I still consider fighting them. It’ll be a great way to earn some XP.
“I want to ambush them.” I declare my intention.
“OK.” Rine is always on my side.
“Do we have to? We already moved so much today.” Ara-san complains but is picking up her staff.
“Kenta, we should wake Kyou.” Rine makes an unusual suggestion. Well, not unusual for her, who always wants to do stuff together with her friends.
“Then do it.” Kyou-san surely doesn’t want to wake up for some random mobs.
“Kyou!” Rine shakes her a bit.
“We’re about to ambush monsters, Kyou. So prepare yourself.”
Kyou-san takes a glance at me, then she looks at Rine again and nods. Slowly she stands up, takes her cloth armor and turns to me. “Turn around.”
She’s really preparing herself, huh? How unusual.
What’s wrong with her? I almost have the feeling that Kyou-san is actually trying to be part of the team.
“Ken, what’s better. [Cook] for the slim chance to work for a [Knife]-skill or [Herbalist] for the [Strength]?”
WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER!?
Not that I let this expression show on my face. “[Cook] for starters. It may not be a combat class, but more skills are useful. When things turn dangerous, switch to [Herbalist], it still beats [Cook] and [Priest] in [Vitality]. But don’t forget to occasionally change to [Priest] for healing.”
“This whole changing classes during combat is a headache.”
“You just missed one of the vital parts of the hero-system until now.” Changing classes is necessary to make the most use of being a hero. But there is another important factor: “Ara-san, I think we could try taking these hedgehogs out without magical support, so change to [Acrobat] for now. That class isn’t bad at all, but you have too little experience with fighting in close combat, that’s why you suck.”
“You just don’t like my moves!”
“You’re just trying to be too flashy!” Maybe I should ask Rine to train her.
But the moment I ask Rine that, she’ll surely insist on training me as well, and I can go without getting the crap beaten out of me on a frequent basis.
“So here is the plan.” It’s quite simple. I use [Ranger] to get closer, then I try to take one out. Rine will charge in right afterward, then we will see how dangerous these hedgehogs actually are.
If they’re weak, we will let Ara-san and Kyou-san join in. If they’re moderate, Rine and I will train one of them to our rearguard and take on the rest.
If they’re strong, Ara-san and Kyou-san will change classes to support us.
“If anything goes wrong, the escape route is along the stream, downstream. It’s simple enough that all of us can do it. If we’re separated, we’ll use our [Inventory] to communicate, let’s find one spot on the stream to meet up then. So don’t forget your backpacks and definitely don’t lose them! Everything clear?”
“I’ll do my best!”
“I’ll show you the power of flashiness!”
“Then let’s start.” I use [Sneak] and [Mask of Wildlife] to soundlessly merge with my surroundings.
Being an alfr among humans isn’t always easy. ‘What is your opinion, Ara-san?’ Why didn’t Kenta-kun asked me something like that?
Now we have to face some black hedgehogs and I think that I should know them. Maybe some of the other alfr heroes told me when they were fighting in these plains.
Or maybe I had even fought them some decades ago. But they couldn’t be powerful in that case since I’ve already forgotten them.
Nonetheless, Kenta-kun is too rash, he surely wants to turn them into XP. But he’s human, so it seems only natural for him to make rash decisions, despite his rather analytical nature.
I gently flick my earlobe, it stimulates my brain by sending a neurotic signal to it. It’s a good method if you want to think about or try to remember something.
This way, I already got a new clue, how to find out what I know about these hedgehogs.
Maybe I wrote it down, so my [Linguistic]-skill [Memory Note] might work. It’s a rather unreliable skill, which is dependent on my [Intelligence]-attribute. It just gives me a chance to remember the words I wrote down about a certain topic, the higher my [Intelligence]-attribute and the more relevant my search term is, the better the probability.
I change to [Bookie], I always note things in this class. “[Memory Note]: Black hedgehog.” Katarine-san and Momo look at me a bit confused, as I whisper these words. There are only a few [Abilities] that has silent active [Skills], so in most cases, you have to say it out loud if you want to use a certain skill.
Some memory resurface. Sticky blackhogs. That’s what these monsters are called.
They release some fluid, which will harden if it comes into contact with a non-blackhog. I wrote it in my notes to try to make a Monster Almanac, which was too much work in the end.
I tried a lot of things in the last century, and I didn’t even figure out the hero-system completely. The math behind it is inconsistent, which makes it hard to derive a formula. Many variables need more data to be calculated.
But I should indeed warn Kenta-kun about these blackhogs. Though there is one problem, he already used [Mask of Wildlife]. Unless I want to shout out to him, I have to use [Whisper] to contact him, but I can only use it if I can feel the spirit of a person.
The spell [Mask of Wildlife] meshes the spirit of a person with the environment. I move my ears, feeling the surroundings with them.
I’m no Oro’hekk, but I’m still an alfar. Kenta-kun shouldn’t be so hard to detect, he’s a beginner in [Spirit Magic] and there is only high grass as vegetation here, so there isn’t much spirit to mesh in.
There, his strong spirit. It always amazes me, it has such sharp borders despite being pa’ar. It dulled in the last three weeks, but something seems to hatch, which makes me ask, what exactly will happen.
I have to concentrate since I feel a throbbing, which certainly doesn’t belong to me. This curse really messes with me, giving my body undesired urges, whenever I’m seeing Kenta-kun, interact with him, or even think of him for some time.
My body isn’t mine anymore. I know that, and it feels strange. I’m sure that the moment Kenta-kun starts to lust for me, I will fall like a dead branch from a tree. And somehow this thought is even exciting. It’s wrong at some level, but thinking of it makes this throbbing even stronger.
… I’ve forgotten to [Whisper] Kenta-kun about the blackhogs, he already attacked one, using his [Assassinate]-skill to increase the damage, while he aimed at the neck.
Of course, the blackhog fell.
I better change back. [Acrobat] like Kenta-kun wanted or [Druid], which would be wiser. … [Acrobat] it is. Even if he doesn’t praise me, we’re currently something more than friends. He depends on me, which makes this throbbing even intenser.
I feel a surge of power in my legs and back. For some reason, alfar-heroes tend to have less change in muscle proportions when they change their class than other species, maybe it’s because alfar have more efficient muscles?
Kenta-kun retreats while fighting back, Katarine-san is already beside him with her [Torch]-spell in her palm, but both of them let one of the blackhogs through. “Momo, be prepared. If their liquid hits you, it’ll harden.” I take my staff in both hands, the thick end in front of me.
Momo inhales deeply. “I’m ready.” Is she?
I still have problems discerning human facial expressions, I can only see that it’s a bit tensed up, but maybe she looks stern and ready.
When Katarine-san charged in, she also had a tensed up face.
“[Torch]!” A light hovers above Momo’s left palm.
Taking a running start, I jump over the blackhog; It’s time to use a powerful attack. I charge up [Stingfall]; I feel how something is holding me in the air, it’s a side-effect of the charging process.
Momo clenches her knife and step back little by little. Then suddenly she leaps forward, with a wordless battle cry. She holds her magic light in one hand, her weapon in the other and tries to stab the blackhog in the face, but it turned, so she faces its spikes.
She stops at the last moment, but the blackhog rolls sideways, trying to bury her. Not only that, the liquid is splashing, hardening on her clothes and face, even her boots are glued to the ground.
But my attack is ready: “[Stingfall]!” I aim at the blackhog and shoot towards it with my staff, just like an arrow that got shot by a bow.
Too bad that I forgot about the spikes.
I hit the blackhog hard, I could hear its bones break, but I scraped by some spikes, giving me several scratches along my upper body. Some parts of my dress are sticky, but it doesn’t impede my movements.
At least I prevented it from hurting Momo too much. She also received some scratches and now looks at me with wide-opened eyes. “Arako, are you alright?” She breaks free from the hardened liquid, which bound her to the ground.
I answer truthfully. “It hurts and stings, but my attack got in perfectly!” Kenta-kun complained about me being too flashy, but when I make an attack like this, it just makes me happy. In addition, it’s gorgeous.
My alfr instinct tells me that everything is alright with this attack. Period.
Something is up. My ears are picking something up. Spirit. I align my ears and can sense something above us.
My eyes are following the signal, and I can see an owl. Not like an owl in Alfarheim, this one has long feathers and a curved beak, while the feathers on its head made it look like it was wearing a tricorn.
Something is strange about its spirit. … I know, someone shares it senses, I still have to learn that application of magic.
“Arako! Help me!”
I look around and see how Momo has already finished off the first blackhog and is trying to fend off the second one. Kenta-kun is currently engaged with two of them, while he’s all covered with their liquid, which limit his movements, whereas Katarine-san, who visibly evaded most of the splashes, just killed another one.
Humans are really rash, Momo could have told me, that she would fight another one before she engaged it. “Leave it to me. [Chin-upper]!” It’s a [Quarterstaff]-skill, which thrusts the staff under the chin of the opponent, to lift them into the air.
Wouldn’t it be great, if I slip under its belly and try to lift it even more?
I do it gleefully, but the blackhog slashes with its claws like crazy, scratching my face.
“Take this!” Momo stabs it in the throat. After a bit of flailing, the blackhog loses its strength and is finished off by her.
With this, the fight is over. Kenta-kun complains again, Katarine-san is checking, if he’s alright, Momo tries to get the hardened liquid from her clothes.
Judging from Kenta-kun’s mumbled curses, I better not tell him, that I knew about the blackhogs. Even if it’s his fault for vanishing before I recalled it, he will be angry.
Still, there is another thing. “Kenta-kun?”
He stops with checking out his equipment while cursing the blackhog’s liquid and answered gruffly: “What!?”
“I sensed an owl.” It’s not here anymore.
His eyebrows lower themselves, and he frowns his forehead, it’s an interesting look. “Phew…” His face softens somewhat. “Since it’s you, it has to be important. What’s with that owl?”
“Someone used [Share Senses], a [Spirit Magic]-spell on it.” He waits for me to continue. “With this spell, you’re able to use the senses of the target instead of your own. You project a bit of your spirit into the target’s, and while the connection is there, you can try to synchronize with it.”
“So you can see through its eyes.”
“So that means, now alfar or other users of [Spirit Magic] are involved as well.”
“Unless one of the squirrels learned it.”
“They can also learn [Spirit Magic]?”
“Wasn’t it obvious? They were made conscious by [Spirit Magic], so some can develop that talent as well.” I’m sure that I already told him, but I also forget stuff, that’s not important for me. So Kenta-kun might do the same.
“But if the squirrels could do that, why didn’t they used it before?” Kenta-kun scratches his head. I think it’s almost like rubbing your ear, instead of a sharp stimulus, you use a soft one to make you feel at ease.
Momo brings in her own thoughts. “Maybe it’s not the squirrels. You saw these hynoar-tracks, right? And some others… Arako, how common is [Spirit Magic] in this world?”
“I don’t know. I guess, it’s uncommon in general, but I believe that the hynoars had some individuals capable of using it. Then we have rangers, which were taught by us alfar, there are shamans, and some other occupations. What do you think, Katarine-san?”
“Um…” The blonde human tilts her head while her arms are akimbo. “I’ve never heard of the term [Spirit Magic] before meeting you, but there are some unusual magic styles even within Feuerberg and much more outside of it. There are people, who speak with animals and plants, but they live outside the cities.”
Kenta-kun summarizes our thoughts. “So basically, since the hynoars are living as hunter-gatherers, there is a high chance, that some of them could use [Spirit Magic], and for some reason, they sent an owl out tonight, which just happened to fly over us, while we were battling. … We’ll break camp. I want to walk an hour or two before we sleep.”
I’m already sleepy… The battle before was exciting enough to make me forget that I’m tired, but now it’s over, and I feel the fatigue. “Hayachoo!” I sneeze. My head feels fuzzy.
“Achoo!” Kenta-kun also sneezes.
Both of us and even Momo took another pill of cold medicine. We need to suppress it for a while, but I really want to sleep.
We pack our stuff and walk in the dark. I can see fine, but Katarine-san and Momo seem to be uncertain, where to go. Kenta-kun has [Darksight], but that doesn’t extend to the other humans. I don’t know how much better I see in the dark than them, but at least I won’t step into a burrow by accident, and I have my ears, which are able to give me a picture of my surroundings by feeling them.
Being human seems to be like living blindfolded.
“Ara-san, you’re falling behind.” But what kind of stamina do they have? In terms of SP and [Vitality], I’m somewhere along the lines of Momo, but I exhaust much faster. I should note the numbers down to crunch them later.
I feel light-headed. My feet are hardly touching the ground. Strange, I should be used to sleepless nights, but somehow I feel terribly tired.
Something warm embraces me. It reminds me of when I first met Kenta-kun. He caught me when I was falling asleep while standing.
I see. It happened again.
I feel a bit of power returning, but I’m still about to fall asleep.
“Phew… that’s the limit, I guess. Rine, support her for a bit.” I feel how Kenta-kun leaves me, while Katarine-san lifts me under my shoulders. I open my eyes and see Kenta-kun, putting his backpack on reverse. “Put her on my back.”
|You gain 1 WP.|
|Your husband is being considerate and letting you ride on his back, while you’re too tired to even walk.|
I feel it. His back. My arms embrace his neck, while he puts his arms under my knees. My whole body is touching his back, even though I can only feel his armor and the hood, he’s wearing. I put my head on his shoulder, and some strange sound comes from my throat.
It’s happiness. My body is happy. My mind is barely able to feel the wrongness to it. It’s too tired.
“Rine, Kyou-san, take my hands.”
Katarine-san takes his hand without any hesitation. She already wanted to ear-plug Kenta-kun. His and my ear are only an ulch away. So close.
Momo asks. “Why?”
“It’s too dark for you, and I don’t want to bring light-sources into it. Even if it probably won’t help with owls, a light-source would give us away for miles. I want to increase the speed again, so unless you want to fall into a fox’s den or something like that, you’ll take my hand and let me lead you.”
Momo slowly takes his hand.
|You gain 1 WP.|
|Even if it’s not as romantic as a moonlight-stroll, all four of you have a great night of walking together, while sharing a physical connection.|
I feel every one of Kenta-kun’s steps, while I try to maintain the balance. It’s good that I’m still in [Acrobat], which enhances it. I don’t want to trouble him further by being even more of a burden.
Even though even I can tell, that I’m about to fall asleep since all I can think about is how nice it feels to be on Kenta-kun’s back.
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