He was woken by a knock on the door.
“Orisa, wake up! You have fifteen minutes for a morning bathroom! Meet me at the infirmary after you are done!” A familiar voice assigned her a new task. “Do you hear me? Are you awake?”
“Yes~! I am!” Orisa gave a big yawn before leaving the bed.
‘Oh, right.’ The task he was assigned just now was finally acknowledged by his brain. ‘I haven’t done THAT yet.’ He was half excited and half terrified by the deed he was supposed to perform.
After double-checking that it was, indeed, a girl’s bathroom, he went in. Ten minutes later the washed and cheerful girl moved along the corridor toward the infirmary.
‘It was easier than I expected, thank god. I guess, for a girl turning into a boy it would be much more difficult.' He imagined an uncontrolled jet chaotically bathing the walls of the toilet.
Opening the door of the infirmary, he saw Rita already about to leave.
“Are you sure you’ll be ok alone?” Already familiar Captain asked Rita in a worried tone. “I know I said we rounded them up good, but…”
“It’s alright, Captain.” Rita interrupted him with a grateful expression. “We’ll be fine. And you need to rest and tend to your gear, too.” With a worried look on his face Captain silently nodded.
“Are you going somewhere today, Rita?” Orisa asked her after she closed the door.
“Not only me, but you, too.” Rita checked Orisa’s face, turning her head left and right. Nodding to herself, she continued. “Today we send you to the camp.”
A mix of sadness, panic, and anticipation assaulted his heart.
"But before that, we have another important thing for you to do." She said, pulling out a scrunchy from her pocket. “You need to get your Seals before leaving.”
After making a ponytail on Orisa's head, Rita smiled happily and they both left for breakfast.
It was well past midday when they left the fort. Orisa and Rita sat in a wooden cart, which was slowly pushed by a horse. An hour-long trip awaited them. Orisa was really grateful for the cart ride because after the morning's Sealing ritual her bag became heavier from healing supplies she was given.
‘It’s so nice that it’s Rita who is escorting me. What a pleasant girl, especially after dropping her pouting attitude.’ But out loud he said a completely different thing:
“By the way, why are we alone? I expected to see more people heading to the camp.”
“They left yesterday, while we were catching up with your registration and other stuff. You did not see them, because they were in the tower most of the time.”
“Oh, right, the tower!” Orisa finally remembered another postponed question. “Is that some kind of training facility, too? And can you tell me a bit about the future?”
Over the next forty minutes, he learned a lot.
The Tower was called the Arrival Chamber. There people like Satoru appeared. There were one hundred and four Chambers on this continent.
People arrive at Chambers on a daily basis. They are taught a few basic things and then sent to the training camps.
There are fifteen training camps. People are gathered there to take a crash course about this world and receive some basic combat training. Training and studying takes one month.
The camps were mandatory and could not be avoided, for it was akin to a delayed suicide to let people just walk away after being reincarnated. No knowledge about the world, language, no abilities or fighting skills. While one month of training was strictly forced, people in the camps had some leeway, getting free time on their hands to either study in the library, or get additional courses and training. Or, indeed, simply rest and chill.
At the end of the camp, everyone has a choice — to serve in the military on a contract basis or leave and become ‘an adventurer’.
Rita's voice was calm, with a hint of gentleness to it. She radiated a motherly aura, however not that of seasoned matron-veteran, but a young, competent and loving housewife. She poured out a lecture after lecture, teaching him a lot about this world, and not in a dry and cold manner of a professor, but more like a parent sharing her wisdom with the kid. The more Satoru listened to it, the more he felt at ease.
While Rita was quite attractive, had really good curves here and there and everything was supported by a pretty face, Satoru looked at her without any horny feelings, which was quite unusual for him. She felt and behaved older than she looked, and because of that Satoru's feelings towards here were more of admiration than anything else.
After processing all the information he arrived at another question:
"If so many people arrive here daily, why isn't this world overpopulated?"
“You’ll learn everything in the camp. Basically, most of the people here are infertile and can’t reproduce.” Rita paused, looking at Orisa with an awkward smile. “But I guess for a young girl it’s a good thing. No need to bother about getting pregnant.”
He flinched heavily. Just the thought of having sex with a man made him shiver. ‘I mean, I’m open-minded and all that, but…’ He thought deeply about this situation and his future. ‘Oh, future, right. Time for another question.’
Suddenly the horse came to a halt and made a few stomps. It let out a long neigh, shaking its ears nervously.
Something big and white dashed out of the nearby bushes, jumping so quickly that both passengers didn’t have time take a proper look. It flew in front of the cart, immediately disappearing in the bushes on the other side of the road.
Orisa was about to ask Rita but then saw her extremely focused face. He looked in the same direction, wondering. Next moment a wave of terror vehemently shook his body. The horse was missing both its head and neck, with blood pouring rapidly out of an enormous wound. The metallic smell filled the air around them.
A moment later the horse’s corpse finally fell, tilting the cart that was still tied to its body. Orisa immediately fell forward, rolling over the horse’s corpse to the ground. The fall was painful, but much more disturbing was the fact that now Orisa’s figure was covered in a mixture of dirt and blood.
Rita skillfully jumped to the side of the cart. With the book open in her left hand, she went towards Orisa to help her stand up.
Twenty meters away the bushes shuffled, and a huge white beast came out of them, holding the horse’s head in its maw.
‘Whoah, a random encounter! I’m gonna earn my first EXP!’ Satoru was having a lot of fun, looking forward to his first levelup. ‘I hope they share EXP here and it’s not everything to the one who made the last hit.’ Pain and disgust faded into the background, replaced by anticipation. ‘I wonder what kind of beast it is. It looks kind of like a wolf, but…’
The beast was at least twice the size of an adult bear. Its white mane gleamed like metal. The jaw had at least two rows of sharp teeth. But the most notable feature was its eyes — it had two pairs of very long, slit-like eyes that glowed with violet light.
“Hide behind the cart.” Rita said with a tense voice, taking three steps away from the cart.
“Is it dangerous?”
“This is a hound wolf and it evolved once.” Satoru shelved another term for research before Rita continued. “But it’s all right because I'm here." She pointed at the wolf with her right hand and chanted:
“Tomecraft: Greater Firebird!”
Blazing bird formed at the tip of her finger and dashed away.
‘Wow, so fast and furious, so wow.’ Satoru mused to himself, watching the spell.
But it took the wolf one lazy bounce to avoid danger. Rita repeated the spell again but to no avail. The wolf, feeling no danger, dropped his dinner to the ground and began to casually consume it. After such a display, Satoru’s excitement began to drain away.
“Should we hide while it’s eating?” Orisa asked in a low voice.
“It can easily track us down, no point.” Rita said intently, turning her book to another page and taking aim at the wolf.
“Tomecraft: Greater Thunderstrike!”
A bright flash was followed by a loud bang. The road exploded, throwing around chunks of pavement and raising a cloud of dust. There was a smell of ozone in the air.
When the dust settled a bit, Satoru saw a smoking pit. ‘Mother of god…’ He was astonished by the power of the spell.
But the wolf was not amused. With a slightly burned snout, he stood at the edge of the pit, growling.
‘Considering the damage, he is probably angrier because of his dinner being blown away…’ Satoru wiped sweaty palms with his pants.
Rita took aim again and then the wolf finally rushed forward.
“Tomecraft: Greater Th… A-A-A-A-Arrgghhh…!”
A cold, heavy sweat broke all over Satoru’s body, followed by a wave of panic and terror. Looking out from behind the cart he saw Rita moaning in a pool of blood. She was firmly pressing the open book to her chest with her right hand. As for her left hand, there was none. Blood spurted from the shoulder, filling the already huge puddle.
Orisa’s legs were shaking vehemently while she moved towards Rita’s body. Approaching her, Orisa noticed another ugly wound on the left side of the abdomen. Rita’s moans became quieter and quieter.
“R-r-rita… R-i-i-i-t-a-a-a…” Orisa wailed, falling to her knees in the bloody puddle.
The wolf stood some thirty meters away from them. Having decided that the danger is over, it began to calmly chew the hand. At that moment Rita turned her head toward Orisa slightly:
“…twenty… three…” She murmured, coughing out some blood. She no longer moaned, just breathing shallowly. Tears were flowing from her eyes.
A faint hope blossomed in Orisa’s heart and she immediately grabbed the book, skimming to the said page.
‘Now this is my moment. I will save her!’ Satoru thought, putting one hand on the book and pointing another at Rita.
“…idiot…” Coughing even more blood Rita groaned.
‘What..? Why?’ Satoru was puzzled before it finally hit him. ‘Oh fuck, I don’t even know what spell it is! I’m retarded!’ He immediately placed the book on Rita’s stomach. She put her right hand on the open page and took a few deep breaths.
“Tomecraft: Greater Balm!”
Rita inhaled sharply, coughing out more blood, but after that, her breathing became steadier. With one finger, she turned the book three pages forward.
“Tomecraft: Blood Blockade!”
The blood stopped flowing from her wounds.
“Do exactly as I say.” She spoke in a quiet but even voice. Satoru was overjoyed that she was getting better, but then he noticed her face, white as chalk, and remembered a pool of blood underneath.
“Help me stand up.” Rita continued.
With both hands Orisa helped her up, carefully avoiding the wounded parts. ‘Heavy…’
"Page seventy-five." Orisa opened the page without taking the book out of Rita’s hand.
“Now I need you to hug me from behind. Skin to skin. Extremely tight. And point at the hound with one hand.” Rita’s legs trembled noticeably, the whole body was soaked with sweat.
Orisa took off her shirt, positioning herself behind. With both hands, she pulled up Rita's blouse and pressed herself against Rita's back. Her skin was cold and sticky. Orisa felt how much Rita's whole body was trembling.
The wolf finally noticed their activities. He took a long look at them and slowly spat out a piece of unrecognizable flesh which once had been a gentle hand. And then he began to move towards the pair. At first, slowly, increasing speed with each step.
"Press tightly," Rita said.
Twenty-five meters. Orisa pressed her right hand against Rita’s stomach to pull her tighter.
“Tighter!” Orisa put all her strength into her right hand, pointing at the wolf with the left.
Nine meters. Opening the maw, it jumped.
“Tomecraft: Calamity Thunderbolt!”
A throbbing, bursting sensation swept over Orisa’s stomach to her left hand.
The world became white and silent. Nothing can be seen or heard. Only cold skin is shaking, moving with each heavy breath. Then came the ringing, growing louder and louder. Orisa had an insufferable headache.
‘Ugh, that’s what concussion is?’ Satoru thought, suffering heavily. Then his internal critic joined the conversation. ‘You’re a wizard, Ha… Sato… damn, Orisa.’ He ruined the joke anyway.
When the sight returned to him, Satoru saw two smoking pieces of mane a few steps ahead.
‘What is her power level..?’ He was astonished.
Another feeling he finally noticed — the weight of someone else’s body. It was extremely heavy. Orisa’s legs gave out and the pair fell to the ground.
“Rita? Are you okay? Rita?” Orisa carefully put Rita on the ground.
‘She is still breathing. But for how long..?’ Orisa slapped Rita a few times on the cheeks. “Rita! Rita, wake up!”
Moaning softly, she spoke. “I… will be fine…”
“Rita…” Orisa’s voice trembled. “Your hand...?”
"The book… forty-six…" Her voice was barely audible and lips moved slowly, pushing every word out with a lot of effort.
Orisa opened the book on that page and placed it on Rita’s belly.
“I will… probably be out… for some time…”
“It’s okay, I will protect you!” Instead of answering, Rita smiled slightly. Gathering her remaining strength, she chanted:
A green circle appeared at her shoulder wound. After it hung there for a second, it spawned green bandages that formed an arm-like object. Before disappearing, another wave of bandages was summoned, tying the future hand to the body.
"It's… okay now… You did great…" The book fell down from Rita's belly, soiled even more in an almost dry pool of her blood.
‘Oh, c’mon you pussy, keep it together! Don’t you dare!’ Internal critic whined angrily, but it was too late. Orisa buried her face in Rita’s chest and wailed.
“R-i-i-i-t-a-a-a..! You are ok-a-a-a-y..! I was so worried!” Orisa squeezed the scraps of Rita’s blouse and continued to sob.
“Good girl…” Rita hugged Orisa with her right hand. “You did great…” She continued to stroke Orisa’s back for a few moments. Then her hand stopped and helplessly fell to the ground. Orisa sobbed for a few minutes before a wave of exhaustion hit her. She passed out with her head resting on Rita's chest.
Orisa woke up when it was already dark. Rita was still unconscious. She breathed heavily, and her body was burning with fever, covered with sweat again. Even with the moonlight, it was clear that the wound on her side was heavily inflamed.