Several days passed.
Like before, the group continued up the river. They constantly encountered enemy monsters, but none of them were as extreme as the Spore Goblin. Fighting, eating, and occasionally lazing around, Ellis once again enjoyed the comforts of a cyclical routine.
On the tenth day, something unexpected happened.
“Isn’t it a bit too early for this?” Ellis couldn’t help but ask out loud as he intently stared at the wriggling semi-transparent orb on the ground.
“Well, I think so too, but then again, there are a lot of different factors in play here,” Grisella spoke with a troubled expression. “The fact that it was produced from a Calamity-class monster is one such factor. It might have some sort of effect on the maturation cycle… Also, there’s you.”
“Me? What the heck do I have to do with this?”
She hesitated for a moment. “Ellis, even if you don’t realize it yourself, you’re also influencing this thing.”
This thought first popped into her head after she witnessed Wight’s forceful evolution.
Ellis was an unusual existence surrounded by even more unusual existences. Ever since she first met the man, there was this lingering suspicion in her heart that Ellis was more than just an overpowered punching machine. Due to Grisella’s natural tendency as a researcher, she began to form her own theories.
She knew this beforehand, but Ellis was someone with an almost unfathomable amount of mana within his body. It was reasonable to believe that he either naturally attracted mana like a magnet or his excess mana flooded out into his surroundings. Either way, the result was a constant environment of high-concentration mana.
It was common knowledge that places with a high-concentration of mana generally yielded stronger monsters. What’s more, areas with ‘specialized energy’ like the nature essence within a forest, or the fire essence on a volcano also affected a creature’s growth. A similar phenomenon might be happening with the slime egg.
The same theory also applied to the rest of the group. Ellis’s very presence acted as a sort of tonic for those around him. After all, no matter how hard one worked, it was extremely difficult for ordinary monsters to break through their supposed ‘limiter’. It was evident that there was another additional force at play here.
After Grisella explained all this to him, the man in question simply nodded his head.
So, not only am I a combat-type cheat, but I’m also a support-type? Or would it be more along the lines of an experience multiplier?
Ellis wasn’t very surprised.
In retrospect, Wight’s situation was a bit fishy. While he did not think that her efforts were completely pointless, the concept of breaking through a limiter was still a bit farfetched. At the very least, effort alone could not produce such results.
Turns out I’m that last extra kick that she needed, huh?
Ellis felt somewhat weird about the whole thing. He did not want to take full credit for her change, yet it was undeniable that his presence was irreplaceable.
After a while, he shook his head and cleared his thoughts. “More importantly, the slime is about to hatch.”
Back on the ground, the little red ball inside the orb kept moving. It pulsated like a beating heart, while the rest of the orb twisted and contorted. This persisted for a few minutes before something changed. Suddenly, the red ball rapidly expanded. In a blink of an eye, it ‘devoured’ all the white portions of the orb, transforming the whole thing into some sort of scarlet sphere.
Time once again passed. The intense red gradually cooled to a mild, fleshy pink.
“It’s done.” With Grisella’s confirmation, the hatching process had come to an end.
As she closely examined the newborn creature, she subconsciously furrowed her brow. “The color is different from normal. Usually, it would be red or brown, not soft pink like this. Also, it does not seem to have a core…”
“Is that bad?” Ellis asked.
She shook her head. “No, not bad, but… as expected of a Calamity-Class’s offspring. This thing is a genuine variant.”
With her confirmation, he turned and looked at the tiny thing with clear interest on his face. Despite not having any eyes, he couldn’t help but feel as if the slime was staring back at him.
It was a weird, yet strangely fascinating sensation.
Just looking at it like this, Ellis was not sure whether or not it possessed intelligence. Right now, it took on the form of a semi-transparent amorphous blob. It occasionally shivered, but other than that, it remained entirely immobile. For all intents and purposes, this thing appeared more plant than animal.
“Is it supposed to be like this?” Ellis knew next to nothing about slime ecology. Whether it moved around like a real animal or stayed sedentary like a sponge, he really did not know. For now, all he could do was consult his group’s resident dictionary.
“I… I don’t know either.” Grisella exasperatedly sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “This thing is a completely unheard-of variant. To be frank, it’s like a completely new species, one wholly different from anything that Lull has ever seen before.”
The biggest indicator of this was its lack of a core. Different colored slimes were par for the course, but from Lull’s inception to now, there had never once been a slime without a core.
Does Ellis’s mere presence really have that big of an effect?
Despite the several times that he had previously shattered her common sense, she still couldn’t quite believe it.
Grisella hesitated for a moment, “…from what I know about regular Carrion Slimes, they need to be fed in order to grow. Carrion Slimes are carnivores by nature; they like to eat meat. What’s more, they also possess a special constitution. Carrion Slimes are influenced by the things that they eat.”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Take the Calamity-Class monster that you fought for example. It probably looked like that because it ate a ton of Petal Eels in the past.”
“So, basically, it’s the type of monster that can grow stronger with better ingredients?” Ellis summarized her words.
“Erm, basically… yeah.”
“So… does that apply to intelligence as well?”
“That…” she paused for a moment. “I think so, yeah.” Grisella eventually nodded. “If a slime consumes an intelligent life form, then it might get more intelligent.”
“I see…” Ellis had an overly serious expression on his face. “So, if I want it to grow up to be both strong and smart, then it needs to eat something both strong and smart?”
“Technically, yeah, but…” For some reason, Grisella suddenly had a bad feeling.
Without warning, Ellis abruptly ripped off his arm.
The solitary witch’s eyes widened in fright, but he naturally ignored her.
At this point, Ellis was quite experienced with forceful bisection. To him, it was no more than a quick sense of discomfort. He casually threw his arm on the ground.
For a moment, the Slime jiggled. As if it had sensed something, it then slowly moved towards the fallen arm. The parts of the arm that it touched immediately began to melt. After a few seconds, the rate of melting increased. In no time at all, the slime feasted on the arm with great fervor.
“Good, it worked.” Ellis nodded to himself.
“Good, my ass! What did you just do?!” As expected, Grisella immediately freaked out. She stood there, wide-eyed and in shock. She couldn’t quite comprehend what had just happened.
“What, you say?” Ellis looked over at her. He rolled his eyes. “Isn’t it obvious? I fed it. That’s what you said to do, right? Don’t worry about me though, I regenerate real quick. See?”
As if to demonstrate, he waved his growing stump. A few splashes of blood scattered throughout the surroundings, but that was of little consequence.
Grisella’s bottom lip twitched. “You, you… you freak of nature!”
“So noisy…” Ellis outwardly complained as he made a show of covering up his ears. “Isn’t it fine? Look, he likes it too.” Ellis glanced back over to the Slime.
At this point, half of his arm was already gone. The Slime was still busily devouring it. For a creature of such small stature, it sure had a big appetite.
“No, no, no, it’s an even bigger problem if he actually likes it!” Grisella was not one to give up so easily. “What will you do if that thing develops a taste for your flesh? Sooner or later, it will definitely try to attack you!”
“Ah…” Ellis widened his eyes. That possibility had never crossed his mind.
He stared down at the Slime once again. This time, the sight of it happily eating his arm did not look so cute anymore.
After about thirty seconds, it finally finished its meal. Ellis was quick to notice its change. Compared to before, the Slime had clearly grown in size. If before it was comparable to a golf ball, then now, it was more along the lines of a tennis ball.
The Slime’s body slightly shivered. It swiveled around for a moment, before it’s ‘eyes’ landed on him. Without hesitation, the creature excitedly crawled towards him.
Ellis froze. Now that it finished its meal, was it trying to eat him next?
Thankfully, that did not happen. Instead, the gelatinous creature nuzzled up against his foot.
A slime’s touch was definitely one of a kind. It was warm, like a hot bath given physical form. It also felt kind of like pudding, except a tad bit firmer. Overall, it gave off a somewhat comforting sensation. Also, the way it acted sort of reminded him of a puppy.
Ellis slightly raised his brow.
Did it imprint on me? Judging by how it was acting, it certainly looked like it did. Or maybe it’s just waiting for me to lower my guard? No… that shouldn’t be the case. It’s acting way too affectionately for that…
In the end, Ellis dropped his worries. At the very least, I don’t feel any malicious intent, so it’s probably not something to worry about.
He breathed out a light sigh. He glanced back up at Grisella. “See, nothing to worry about.”
She did not look convinced. Unfortunately, she was powerless to change Ellis’s mind. “Just be careful. It might try to devour you at night or something.”
“Devour… at night…. a night visit?” A rather colorful expression appeared on his face. Come to think of it, it does feel kind of like a boob…
Weird thoughts floated through his head.
Staring at the absentminded look on his face, Grisella’s frustration only increased. This little punk… what sort of filthy thoughts are running through that head of his!? Even though I’m sincerely worrying about his well-being, why is he always like this?
She felt infuriated, but the most that her powerless self could do was pout and glare at him with unhappy eyes.
Ellis shook his head and cleared away his wandering thoughts. He sheepishly scratched the back of his head.
“It’s fine, it’s fine, nothing will happen.” He reiterated, half in an attempt to alleviate the weird atmosphere in the air. “Besides, this thing is so cute, I wouldn’t mind if it chomped off a finger or two.”
“Y-you…” She wanted to retort, but found no words that could properly express her emotions. She eventually just shook her head. Talking with this guy is too exhausting!
Ellis eventually looked away. He decided to push aside the issue of Grisella’s fluctuating mood and focus in on more pressing matters.
If I want it to grow strong like everyone else, then I’ll need to feed it all sorts of things. Ellis felt that raising a slime was sort of like watching a house plant grow, except the former was a lot more immediate than the latter.
Where should I start?
After wracking his head for a few seconds, he suddenly recalled the newest corpse that he had acquired.
Would it eat the corpse of a Spore Goblin? That thing’s already a few days old though…
Ellis hesitated. Outside of the nutritional value that a Calamity-Class corpse might have, he felt somewhat reluctant to give up his dreams of one day creating a necromancy army. Then again, that was only a dream. No, it was even less than that. It was something more along the lines of an unachievable fantasy!
He was not a very pragmatic man, but Ellis knew when to give up. The choice was clear!
Without hesitation, he asked Ena to pull out the corpse. He gifted it to the Slime, to which it happily accepted. The creature took a mere ten minutes to completely devour the body.
After the meal, it once again grew in size. Now, the slime was around the size of a baseball.
“It’s growing pretty fast, huh?” Ellis muttered mostly to himself.
In response, Grisella shook her head. “Compared to most normal slimes, it’s actually growing slow. Carrion Slimes are about the same size of an adult human male and even the smallest newborns are at least the size of a calf. This thing’s small size is probably a result of its parentage.”
“Whether it starts off big or large, it doesn’t really matter. It’ll eventually grow into it.” He shrugged his shoulders. If he was someone who worried about the size of his companions, then Wight and Ena would have long since driven him crazy. He bent down and picked the thing up. He stared at it with glittering eyes. “As for your name… how does Mumei sound?”
He originally wanted to name it Mami, after Mammary. The name was clearly inspired by its uncanny resemblance to a certain body part, but it didn’t really sound all that right to him. He thought up other names too, like Puffy and Milky, but all of them were clearly inspired by the same thing.
After some earnest introspection, he eventually decided on with Mumei, which was actually just an alteration to the original name that he first came up with.
The name was a bit girly, but since the thing didn’t really have a gender, Ellis did not pay it any mind.
“Well, how about it? Do you like it?” Ellis asked as he intently stared at the slime. Even after a few seconds, it still did not answer, but that did not really bother him. In the first place, he never expected for it to respond.
… Regardless, the name is still tangentially related to breasts… If this thing ever gains intelligence… Ellis subconsciously shivered. He secretly vowed to keep the origin of its name a secret.
The newest member of the group took up residence on top of Ellis’s head.
Normally, Ena would have complained. After all, the top of his head, as well as both of his shoulders, were unofficially regarded as Ena’s ‘spot’. Luckily, the little fox was fast asleep.
In fact, she’s been asleep for most of the day. Even when they were in the midst of traveling, Ena was still asleep. Instead of walking on her own, she opted to rest on top of Plush’s surprisingly comfortable back.
To be honest, it was quite liberating. With Ena asleep, there was no more constant bickering between a certain little fox and a certain little white-eared wolf.
With the issues of the ‘birth’ all sorted out, the group continued on their journey.
They encountered more monsters along the way. None of them were Calamity-class, but most of them were strong. Fortunately, there was nothing that his group could not handle.
Everything was basically the same as before, but there was one thing that did surprise him: Wight and the others were unexpectedly quite welcoming to their newest companion.
Maybe it was because it couldn’t really communicate with the others or maybe because its intelligence was still up for debate, but they treated Mumei like a newborn baby that had just arrived home from the hospital.
The wolves practically spoiled it rotten. After every battle, they would present the new corpses to Mumei. In retrospect, it was a somewhat eerie scene that resembled a bunch of fanatic cultists gifting their sacrifices to some sort of horrific cosmic abomination.
Even more surprising than that though was Mumei’s large appetite. Without exception, it devoured all the corpses that it came across. It truly was a glutton incarnate, one that outstripped even godly foodies like Ena and Plush.
Yet, despite all of its meals, it still wasn’t quite satisfied. In the end, Ellis also fed it other ‘alternative meats’. More specifically, his arm.
Without a doubt, Mumei’s favorite type of food was his arm. It was mildly disturbing, even for Ellis. If he thought about it too much, it would start to bother him, so he simply decided to turn a blind eye to this child’s growing appetite.
Still, the feeding process was somewhat inconvenient. Cutting off an arm every time he needed to feed it was not only a pain in the ass, but it also stained his clothes. Luckily, Ellis was quick to find a solution.
Rather than an entire arm, after some experimentation, he discovered that blood was more than enough to satisfy the little thing. In fact, Mumei seemed to like his blood even more than his arm. This newfound discovery brought him some comfort. After all, drinking blood was a lot less gruesome than eating arms. This way, he could pretend that Mumei was just some sort of gelatinous vampire, rather than a man-eater with a preference for homunculi.
Like this, a new routine had developed. Every morning after breakfast and every evening before bed, he would slice open his palm and feed Mumei his blood. It was similar to nursing a child, except instead of milk, he was using blood.
Every time, the little thing would hop onto his palm and lap at his newly created injury like a puppy drinking water.
Aside from the initial incision, the process did not really hurt. In fact, the sensation of Mumei drinking from his palm felt somewhat ticklish.
As the days passed, the little slime steadily grew in size.
By the fourteenth day of its birth, it had consumed more than two thousand corpses. As a result, it had grown to the size of a beach volleyball.
Normally, its new size meant that it could no longer sit on his head anymore, but that was a surprisingly easy issue to fix. As it turns out, Mumei possessed the ability to control its size.
Currently, it could expand to the size of a compact car and shrink to the size of a Ping-Pong ball. It was a rather convenient ability, especially for ambushes and assassinations... although he doubted whether or not it could understand what those concepts were.
It’s not like the slime was entirely brainless. At the very least, it could understand his words and obey his commands, but aside from eating, it did not really show any other desires. After some thought, Ellis did not really worry about it. He figured that it would just get smarter as it grows older. After all, it was still only about two weeks old. He shouldn’t expect too much from a new-born.
Normally, Mumei maintained a size comparable to a baseball.
Their journey continued unperturbed, until something else happened.
For the first time since they had reached the other side of the river, the river itself had changed.