"Rachel..." Swind muttered as he sat next to the perfectly still and peaceful looking young girl who was actually eight years his elder.
The two of them were in one of the many rooms that belonged to the lodging cabin in Eolande's Glade.
Ever since they had returned to the world tree, Swind hadn't left her side. He'd been patiently waiting for Lone to arrive and see what he could figure out about Rachel's soul and hopefully repair it.
Swind wasn't sure what time it was, but he had completely ignored his needs to sleep and eat. In fact, he didn't even feel tired or hungry at all. He suspected that this was to do with the system messages waiting to be read by him in the corner of his vision, but he refused to give them any attention while Rachel was like this.
He was startled by a sudden sensation on his fleshy shoulder. "Hmm?" Turning his head, Swind saw Lone standing next to him.
"Swind, you've been here since yesterday?" Lone asked with concern in his tone.
Swind returned his gaze to Rachel's petite form. "Yes-ss. I didn't want to leave her ss-side in case anything happened."
Lone just nodded in response. He leaned over the bed and placed one hand on Rachel's chest before closing his eyes. A few moments passed, though Lone looked just the same. There was no change in his expression even as he pulled out several dozen Mana Orbs and they turned to dust.
Once he was finished, Lone retracted his hand. "There. Her soul's back up to C-rank strength. I've bound it to her body as well, but I feel like it's still slipping. I don't know enough about souls to know what's wrong with her. I'm thinking it got corroded by the Emperor Slime and needs more in-depth healing. Something more substantial than just reinforcement and binding, but it's hard to know."
Lone's voice was filled with sadness and regret even as his face remained passive. Swind could tell that he was trying his best to be considerate of him while he delivered the bad news. "I... ss-see... Thank you, Mr Immortus-ss..."
"From what Hazel's told me, there's a small group of soul oracles that have a permanent residence in Mystopolis. I promise, Swind, I'll do everything in my power to force them to give me every skill they possess even if I have to do some things I'd rather not." There it was. One of Lone's promises. He never went back on his word, so Swind felt a little bit of relief creeping its way into his fear and worry-riddled mind.
"Uurrrgg..." An almost inaudible sound came from Rachel's lips as her eyes flickered open.
Both Lone and Swind looked beyond shocked at this.
Swind squeezed her hand softly and said, "Rachel?" Hope consumed his heart.
"Gnnnruug..." She didn't look his way, she simply remained still as more groans escaped her mouth. She didn't seem to be in pain, nor did she seem to actually be trying to say anything, but this was a good sign, wasn't it?
Out of the corner of his eye, Swind could see a few cracks forming on Lone's face as well as his fist's turning white from being clenched too hard. "I swear. I'll fix her. No matter what or how long it takes. I'll do it."
With that said, Lone spun around and left The Glade.
Swind could only sigh and try to soothe his raging emotions as he held Rachel's hand and listened to her making strange noise after strange noise.
He wasn't sure if she was still in there somewhere, conscious underneath the layers of damage, but Swind felt like talking to her now that she was awake. "Rachel... Did you know? We won. Mr Immortus-ss was-ss incredible. He and the king defeated the Darkness-ss Dragon. Ah, but before that, I awakened to a new power..."
A few hours passed as Swind detailed every little thing to Rachel that he could remember from the start of the war to the current moment.
Eventually, his throat got dry and he lowered his head. It hurt. It hurt him more than he had expected. Not a single response from her beyond her incomprehensible gurgles and moans. No change in pitch, no flicker of her eyelashes, no muscle twitching, nothing at all to indicate that she understood him.
Maybe to serve as a distraction, or perhaps to just get away from the reality of Rachel's condition for a few moments, Swind chose to finally look at the waiting system notifications.
|Warning! The host has depleted their stamina points and is now feeding off of their lifeforce to sustain their strenuous activities.|
'Ah... From when my senses told me everyone and the world tree was in danger...' Swind continued to read with a disinterested gaze in his eyes.
|The host has developed the world skill: Energy Absorption.|
|World Skill: Energy Absorption|
A skill that was granted to the host by the planet: Altros.
This skill allows the host to use their Worldforce to gather the lingering energy in the atmosphere and their surroundings to replenish their stamina.
|Cost:||None, however, it is limited to 20,000 points of energy.|
|Mastery:||Beginner Level 1|
|The host has gained a new stat: Worldforce|
'I see. This is a skill like the Sword Intent of Miss Sophie and the Stamina Redirection of Mr immortus?' Swind could perceive the usefulness of this skill, but at the same time, it all seemed so... pointless.
|The host has developed the passive skill: First Aid.|
|Passive Skill: First Aid|
A skill that allows the host to apply basic treatments to heal other people or themselves.
Passively boosts the effects of all herbs, gauze, medicine and all other forms of first aid by 20%.
|Mastery:||Beginner Level 1|
'From treating and bandaging Miss Sophie's wounds?' Swind guessed.
It was rare for someone of his lacking talents to obtain a skill after the first application of it, as evidenced by his Bastard Sword Mastery, Knitting Mastery and his Cooking Mastery. Each one of those took him many months to learn. This just told him that he was very talented with first aid in particular. It was a nice surprise, if not a useless one right now.
'That won't help Rachel... And even in a more... normal set of circumstances, unless we get separated, Mr Immortus is more than enough to render this skill worthless... Just like me...' His gained pride from obtaining his racial Lemurian's Sixth Sense had already been washed away upon realising how little he could do to help the girl who loved him so much.
That was the end of the notifications. He checked his status briefly and saw that it hadn't changed at all despite how many monsters he had killed. Like Hazel, he was stuck at level ninety-nine.
For the first time in his life, Swind felt his eyes getting wet as he gazed at Rachel's beautiful but expressionless face. "I can confidently ss-say now, Rachel, I love you."
A tiny smile crept onto his tear-stained face as he brought his mechanical hand up to her cheek and stroked it softly. "I love you, ss-so, please... Rachel... Please, come back to me..."
The sounds of her groaning and his muted sobbing were all that filled the room.
A few minutes passed before Swind had a powerful, yet very dangerous thought. 'I need to be stronger... If only I was more powerful, this would have never of happened... I could have been there, by her side... I... I could have taken her place... I need to be stronger!'
And like that, as if a light had been turned on in an otherwise pitch-black chamber, power coursed through the Lemurians veins. He'd broken the F-ranker bottleneck and stepped into the fold of the E-rankers.
'It's not enough!' Forcing his new world skill into action, Swind gathered the energy that was outside of the pocket dimension - The Glade - and he willed it to flow into his body.
System messages flashed in front of his eyes, but he ignored them. The energy of the war that had recently taken place wormed its way into his body. His level rapidly rose until it reached a new cap, level one-hundred and ninety-nine.
Like a wineglass shattering, he smashed through the bottleneck and became a D-ranker!
This process repeated itself three times until he was, unbelievably, an A-ranker!
'It's still not enough!' Swind roared mentally as he focused his mind. The lingering energy of the war had all been consumed now, but there was plenty of energy inside the people and the world tree itself, wasn't there? Maybe with enough strength, he could channel this new skill of his and give the energy to Rachel's soul!
"Ah, shit," an annoyed voice called out before Swind felt a heavy impact to the back of his head and he lost consciousness.
Slowly opening his eyes, Swind tried to move his body but found that he couldn't even so much as open his lips, let alone move his muscles. He was lucky, in fact, that he could even open his eyes right now.
"You're awake?" a familiar voice asked.
Swind looked at its owned and saw Lone standing over him. This meant that he was probably on a bed of some sort.
"Man, I thought I was scary when it came to Soph and Sophie, but boy, you took the cake with ease, huh?" Lone laughed a little. "Were you really gonna just eat up the world tree and kill everyone on it?"
Swind was confused for a moment before his memory caught up. He closed his eyes and sighed mentally. 'What was I thinking...'
"Ah, by the way, it's been three weeks since then," Lone claimed, surprising Swind. "Your body nearly exploded. Too much energy for an E-ranked vessel, you see?"
Swind would have nodded were he able to move. "I've been rebuilding your body from the ground up. It's really fucking expensive. Easier since I didn't have to do your tail or right arm since you don't want them back, but still costly mana-wise."
Lone took a seat and cracked his neck. His face looked exhausted. "Well, it's done now. You look... a lot more human now, just to warn you. I had no choice. The only bodies that I've worked with at A-rank or higher are humanoid in nature, so sorry about that if you wanted to stay entirely scaly."
Swind cared very little about his appearance, so this bothered him far less than it might have bothered someone else. "Anyway, you should be fully healed and adapted now. Just give it a few minutes for the drugs to wear off. I'm going to sleep."
"Don't do anything like that ever again, okay, pal? I know how you feel, but she isn't dead yet. I'll fix her, don't you worry. This will never happen again to any of the Wanderers so long as I'm alive." Lone's voice was filled with confidence and a wave of deep anger.
He got up and stretched. "There's a mirror in front of you, so take a look at your new body whenever you're ready. After that, head to the living room. No one's seen the new you yet except for me. I didn't want anyone getting in the way of my Creation Magic and making me fuck it up, so give 'em a good surprise, yeah?"
Swind just mutely nodded. "Good. You can already move your head. Oh, also, look at your status when you get a sec, it's pretty amazing."
With that said, Lone walked out of the room and presumably left for his and Soph's bedroom.
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