Rose was suddenly jerked from her sleep by the sounds of muffled screaming and quick shot up on her bedroll. The fire had gone out during the night with nobody awake to keep it fed but the sun was just beginning to rise - giving the clearing a very small amount of light. It was enough to let her eyes make out the dozen dark shapes moving in the shadows though!
“Alex, wake up!” She yelled loudly as she grabbed her sword next to her and stood up, only to be knocked roughly forward as something squishy and wet, yet oddly solid at the same time, smashed into her. Rose yelped in surprise and swore under her breath as she stumbled heavily a few steps forward but managed to keep her balance and her weapon. Keeping your weapon at all times was drilled into her quite heavily by her father over the years.
She spun around to face her attacker and was face to face with a slime! It was an amorphous blob of green with no visible features. They tended to stay in a teardrop-like shape most of the time unless trying to squeeze in somewhere tight, but they had no discernible face or limbs. They hunted in packs like these ones, which as she looked around the other shapes were indeed more slimes, and pummel their prey by bouncing into them hard until they got a chance to group together on top and slowly dissolve them for consumption.
“Alex, what are you-AHHHHH!” She had started to call to Alex again, wondering why he had not woken up yet, and found him covered head to toe in several slimes and unable to get up! ‘The noise that woke me up, it was muffled screaming coming from Alex!’ She suddenly realized. “I’m gonna get you out, hold on! Can you use your magic still?” She asked as she tried to run to him. ‘Why hasn’t he cast a spell yet?’ She wondered in panic.
Rose only managed to take a single step however before she got knocked to the side hard by another slime. ‘Damn this darkness!’ She yelled in her mind. ‘We should have taken turns on watch and kept the fire going! How could we have forgotten the basics of traveling in the unknown!?’ She berated herself over the stupidity of them both in such a situation.
As she fell Rose made sure to roll as soon as she felt solid earth beneath her, not even taking the time to get her bearings and know where she was rolling towards. She had to keep the slimes from covering her like they had Alex! But she didn’t have time to help him right away, there were too many of them. ‘I can’t help him if I get stuck in the same situation.’ She thought with grim determination. ‘I need to get rid of a few of these things first.’
She quickly looked around her to take stock of the locations of the slimes she could see, before taking a few good steps back to space herself eventually from the ones coming towards her. After taking note of them all, she tried to calm herself a bit and got into a stance. ‘I have only had access to my Ki for a few days now and my circulation is still not the best, but it’s now or never.’ She steeled her nerves and breathed in, and out. In, and out. Thankfully slimes are among the slower creatures, at least until it lunges.
Rose circulated her mana throughout her body, a little unsteadily at first, but before the first slime reached her she managed to channel it through the palms and onto the blade of her sword, coating it in the Ki. ‘Yes!' She mentally crowed. ‘The slimes will go down much easier with Ki on my blade!’ Rose charged at the first slime and yelled out an unintelligible battle cry. The battle had begun.
‘What the hell!?’ Alex was jarred awake by a combination of crushing pain all over his body and a mild burning sensation on any exposed skin. He opened an eye for a split second despite the burning sensation on his face and immediately closed it again. ‘Damnit, the pain hit too fast for me to get a good look at whatever is crushing me. I can’t breathe!’ He thought in a panic. He tried screaming and flailing as he lost control of himself in his panic, lungs quickly begging for oxygen.
‘Alex! Alex calm down!’ Alice tried yelling to him, but he couldn’t hear her over his own panic. ‘Alex, you need to use your magic! You can still do it, just calm down and concentrate!’ She screamed as she too started to get frantic. She could feel his consciousness fading away as his body ran out of oxygen. ‘No no no what do I do? Alex, don’t die on me!’ She yelled with all of the emotion and conviction she could convey.
She began frantically trying to use his mana as she had done when Jeod was transformed, but he had given her express permission at the time. She could feel the power, feel the vast pool of mana within them both but it seemed like a hard barrier kept her mind from drawing upon those damned reserves!
Alice began throwing herself - her consciousness, her soul, her very being - against the barrier with as much strength as she could muster. Her own thoughts and senses were becoming blurry as well now with the repeated blows taking a toll. Suddenly she felt, more than heard, cracking in the wall. ‘The barrier! It’s crumbling!’ She thought with excitement. ‘Once more!’ She screamed, and threw herself against it again, finally smashing her way through the barrier and into the vast pool of power!
As she immersed herself in the power she suddenly realized that without Alex holding it back the entire ocean was rushing at her! ‘Too much power! I don’t have time for a proper spell, this will have to do!’ She exclaimed as she grabbed as much power as she could without being overwhelmed and threw it out of Alex in an attempt to blow away the slimes with raw mana. As soon as it left her grasp she retreated from the mental barrier back into her own portion of their shared soul and mind, gasping with exertion.
An explosion of raw mana lit up the clearing as if it were day while shredding the slimes atop Alex and blowing away everything in the clearing with the shockwave it had created. Alex laid still in the center of the blast looking uninjured except for a few burns on his exposed skin, as the slimes did not have enough time to fully dissolve him. Unfortunately, he did not awake, however, simply laying on the ground unconscious.
Rose was in mid-charge at the first slime uttering her battle cry when this happened and she was unceremoniously picked up and tossed through the air by the shockwave. ‘What the hell!?’ She thought frantically while screaming out loud. She hit the ground hard, wincing and grunting at the pain, as she skipped across the ground before coming to a stop in the bushes at the edge of the clearing.
Her arms and legs both had minor cuts and scrapes and she knew that she would have quite a lot of bruises forming later. ‘If I even survive…’ She thought grimly. Rose pulled herself to her feet and was pleased to see she had still managed to keep ahold of her sword even while flying through the air. ‘Dad will be quite proud to hear that beating this habit into me actually worked.’ The thought made her smile wryly as she inspected the clearing.
What she saw took her breath away. Alex laying in a small crater, all of their belongings blown away and scattered around the clearing, liquid slime splattered all over and at least half of the slimes now missing from the clearing. “Wha!” ‘What the hell did he do?’ As she had that thought however we noticed he was still laying down and not moving. “Alex!” She screamed and ran back in his direction.
At this point, they were down to three living slimes and with fury and adrenaline fueling her system Rose managed to control her Ki quite well for a beginner and promptly finish them off. Slimes were one of the easier monsters to defeat of course, but you normally didn’t face a whole group of them in the almost dark alone after being woken up surprised and with an injured ally.
When she finally finished off the last slime Rose quickly sprinted to Alex and checked his pulse and breathing. “Yes!” She said aloud with pure joy. “He’s alive!” She fell back on her butt as the events of this morning caught up her and exhaustion claimed her. ‘If this is just the first day…’ She thought to herself glumly. ‘I’d better try to see if any of the medical supplies survived that blast of mana and tend to Alex.’ She thought with purpose as she got up and began to search the debris in the clearing. Over the course of the fight, the sun had continued to rise and it was now bright enough to make stuff out on the ground a short distance away thankfully.
‘This will be a long day.’