Chapter 15: Straying from the Path
For me just waking up and not having the impending doom of school looming over me was always a bliss, but that morning waking up ended up as torture for me.
It was the fourth day since we got trapped in there and I had stuffed myself with burgers of questionable hygiene and then bread. Lots of bread. And sodas.
My stomach had endured a lot, but now it needed to be relieved of that burden.
There was no bathroom in the plaza. Obviously. I scoffed at myself. But I did not believe that 300 people—well, more like 200 now—had not taken care of their business in the three days since we got there. I just- how could I even go about asking them that kind of stuff?
I tried to observe people for a while and figure out how they dealt with that, but my stomach was not too keen on waiting for so long.
My shoulders drooped and I resigned myself to just go find a lone corner outside of the plaza. My stomach cramped as I continued to go from place to place, not finding any suitable spot.
When I finally found the spot the burden just left me immediately.
Then another crisis struck, but this one was easily resolvable, I just had to bear not having socks from that point on.
I began making my way to the plaza feeling light as a feather, but three rats got in my way. Only rats were dumb enough to get so close to the plaza. All the other monsters understood they would be hunter pretty quickly if they did.
I drew my knife and began the fight. I jumped around the rats, promptly dodging their bites and slashing their bodies in return.
Two of them fell pretty easily, but the third one managed to escape.
Whatever. I shrugged and I wiped my forehead. Even if now I could move like a pro fighter, like a ninja, like an absolute champion, it was still hard to keep that state and not make mistakes for too long. Maybe that rat would’ve bitten me, and was not good. Pain was still a no-no if I could avoid it.
I consumed my crystals and returned to the plaza in no time.
The groups were already gathering to head out. It appeared that more people than the previous day had mustered enough courage to join a group.
Well, it was normal after three days. You’d have to be an idiot to not realize that was the natural course of action.
I began looking for the guys to also head out. I was thinking about going back to the hardware store and try to get a replacement for my dulling knife.
When I got back to my group my face stiffened by the sight of Veronica’s girlfriend gathered with Jair and the others. Veronica couldn’t possibly be planning to bring her with us, right?
My expression darkened as I approached them.
“Hey, what’s up.” Jair waved. “Where were you?”
“Um, just-” My thoughts went back to that lone corner outside of the plaza. “Just taking a morning walk.” I shrugged.
“Oh, okay.” Jair nodded.
I sighed internally but then caught Brian looking at my feet, at the lack of socks. “Anyway.” I raised my voice. “Where are we going today? I was thinking it would be nice to try to get new weapons at the hardware store.”
“Shouldn’t we try finding more food?” Jair scratched his head. “I mean, other people have snacks, canned food, and even cakes, you know. We can’t hope to survive off bread forever.”
“Sounds good.” I nodded.
“We could try to level up as well,” Brian said.
“Okay, let’s get going then,” I said.
As we made our way to the edge of the plaza, the girl continued sticking close to Veronica. She is really going to come… I frowned.
To my relief, the girl stopped following us a few steps away from the street.
“You’re going to be fine here, okay?” Veronica patted the girl’s shoulders, staring at her into the eyes. “There is a lot of people around and those guys are gone anyway. You have nothing to worry about.”
“Yeah, I know…” The girl nodded weakly. “Good luck out there, guys.” She waved her hand. “Stay safe.”
Now kiss. I rolled my eyes and began walking.
“We will.” I heard Jair’s voice from behind.
“Yeah.” Even Brian’s.
Now they’re all friends, great. I quickened my pace, clenching my fists. Left out as always…
We reached the hardware store in no time, but all the good stuff had already been taken. We still found a stick to, well, stick to a knife, but no new knife. We’d have to make do with our old ones. I did find a big and heavy hammer that I had ignored last time because of how heavy it was. Now I was more than two times stronger than before, so I could finally wield it. It still felt clumsy in my hands, but I just had to hit a monster to cause a lot of damage. Even an elite goblin would be hurt pretty badly if hit with it.
The others also armed themselves with other random stuff. I was not sure why they picked most of those things, but the bucket of bolts Jair took was a genius find. I even went out of my way to pick another of those buckets as well.
I could already see him throwing handfuls of bolts at monsters and covering them with metal.
After leaving the store we began walking in a straight line ahead of us. We were bound to come across a market or at least a convenience store. Hopefully.
Having to put down the bucket of bolts and choose between the slightly dull spear or the unbalanced hammer was a little annoying, but our fighting prowess had soared after Jair began using the bolts.
It was 100% assured monsters would begin to panic after being covered in solid metal and then they would just get speared to death. Most of our fights ended up without injury or just light cuts or bruises. If anything I began to complain because we were encountering too few monsters and all of them only gave 1 ether.
“Oh, that one is level 2,” Brian exclaimed when we encountered a group of six monster raccoons. He pointed at a brown one that was slightly bigger than the others.
We let the raccoons charge at us and then Jair threw two handfuls of bolts at them.
Just as monsters usually did, the raccoons began thrashing around trying to get rid of the metal solidified on their fur and we swiftly took care of three of them. Then as they began to retaliate despite the metal, we surrounded them and began poking at them with our spears.
Their pained squeals were beginning to get to me. I was no stranger to monster squeals, screeches, and growls of pain, but the monster raccoons’ wails sounded way too similar to an agonizing dog. That hit too close to home.
I gritted my teeth and rushed towards the raccoons wielding my heavy hammer.
The raccoons dodged me fairly easily, but that opened their backs to attacks from behind. Brian managed to stick his spear into the level 2 raccoon’s back and while it hissed in pain I swung down my hammer at its head, making it bounce on the pavement with a crack.
Another raccoon jumped at me while I lifted the hammer again, but Jair stabbed it on the side and pushed it away.
With one of the two remaining enemies injured, the rest of the fight went by pretty fast.
I healed myself and consumed the two crystals that belonged to me as per our loot order.
I had won the level 2 crystal this time, which sadly, only gave me 2 ether.
“You know we would’ve still won even if you didn’t charge like a madman, right?” Veronica crossed her arms, frowning. “There was no need for you to get-”
“Agh, we finished them faster anyway.” I rolled my eyes. “Time is gold, remember?” I couldn’t admit it was because I wanted to stop the raccoons from wailing, could I?
We had been walking for almost two hours when we found a small grocery store still standing that wasn’t completely looted. It went without saying that we stuffed ourselves with all kind of chips and snacks. In the middle of the store part of the roof had fallen and partially obstructed the access to the other side, but it was nothing a bit of careful squeezing couldn’t fix. We filled as many bags as we could carry and even with Veronica continuously nagging us about how we could get a stomachache for eating too much were unimportant compared to the elation, the glee.
“Do you still want to go hunt monsters to level up?” I nudged Brian with one of the many bags I carried.
“In your dreams.” He chuckled.
I left the store with at least five bags full of stuff along with my hammer in one hand and two more along with the bucket on the other. I even had to put my spear under my armpit to be able to carry it all.
On our way back we began avoiding all monsters we saw by making use of Veronica’s skill or simply taking a roundabout route.
Because of this, we ended up turning in a corner we had not passed by before.
“…is not coming?”
We heard a voice coming from the building right next to us.
“No, he said he didn’t want to get involved with the boss anymore.” Another person answered.
“Ohh, he’s fucked.”
“Why so?” A woman asked.
The others remained silent for a few seconds and then someone sighed loudly. “I’ll tell you since you’re new,” It was new voice. “But don’t repeat it in front of the boss or anyone else, for that matter. You know that what the boss wants to do is really big for us, right? Well, you don’t know even half of it. If everything goes to plan we’ll become richer than any of us ever imagined. I’m talking about corrupt politician levels of richness. And that's for each of us!” The person laughed. “You know what that means, right?”
“Ehh…” The woman hesitated.
“Absolute secrecy.” The man declared solemnly. “The boss won’t allow for any loose ends, so I think Roberto will end up having an accident tonight when going to take a dump.”
Jair flinched and gasped.
Immediately I heard the aggressive sound of chairs scraping the ground.
Before I could think of anything, I saw a head peeking from the building and looking right at us.