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Chapter 10 | Gargoyle 1

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Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Slowly… Slowly… OUCH!

The small female wolf cub was slowly making her way from ground zero. Someone had to have noticed the explosion and dust plume. However, it was surprising not to see anyone despite the amount of time passed. More reinforcements of soldiers should’ve been on the scene and if they were, why was she still alive?

The pain from each step multiplied when she tripped and fell into an embankment. She was covered in mud and her fur coat was ruined. Her precious fluffy fur… But she had to carry on for herself and for Jun.

She climbed to the other side of the embankment to find a monster with the form of a deer with another creature infused into the side of its body. The small reptile thing in the deer was blind and used the deer’s eyes to see as it moved unsettlingly towards her. The deer’s head was limp but still growled in unison with the reptile.

STOP! She ordered the monster to cease. But it didn’t.

Huh? Was it because of her weakened state? No, it wasn’t. She could see through her monster sight that another monster was watching. She didn’t know what it was, it was a humanoid with wings, grey scales and hunched back. It looked like a gargoyle. More abominations from hell ran towards and encircled her.

They were getting ready to pounce her. The slime couldn’t do anything fancy with the state she was in, so she elected for a more straight-forward approach. She embedded some slime beneath her feet and crystal spikes shot out from all around her. The monsters were killed instantly. The gargoyle monster then flew away.

Hey. Get back here… She thought to herself as she collapsed again. She was so weak. However, she saw what the monster was. It was like her, a monster that could access the Network and command other monsters. She saw the monster’s connection through the Network. If she cracked that monster open, would there be an icosahedron-shaped life-crystal in its belly too? She wanted to eat it.

She traveled for days as she limped across the forest. The gargoyle was stalking her. Clearly, it smelled spilled blood and was hoping for an easy kill. However, she was able to deflect wave after wave of its monsters.

GIVE UP ALREADY!

The slime was coming across another dirt highway as a band of soldiers was heading down the road. The party of soldiers had a similar composition to those she encountered before, there were five people for shooting and one mage. The mage was casting the tracking spell. She had seen the magic circle pattern so many times now that she immediately recognized it. She hid in the brush as they walked past.

For whatever reason, the mage’s spell didn’t recognize her. This was very fortunate because she didn’t know if she could defeat them in her current state. She cautiously crossed the highway and continued limping.

After another few days of walking, her condition was deteriorating. The only plus side was that freak of nature stopped stalking her. Maybe it lost interest after the umpteenth time it tried to attack her. The gargoyle had more of an ability to command other monsters than she did. The slime could never get other monsters to fight for her.

Her whole wolf and slime bodies were tingling from the numbing response caused by the chronic pain. Her pain from her life-crystal was lessened from absorbing other crystals. Those crystals’ materials were used to repair the cracks on her own crystal. Still, the recovery was too slow. Her vision on all fronts was getting hazy.

Was she going to die here? In the middle of the forest with no one around? She seriously contemplated this horrible reality and the arrogance she exuded as her own ‘light-of-life’ was showing signs of fading.

Over the next shrub, she saw wooden spikes embedded into the ground pointing outwards. She has seen this in people’s camps to protect themselves from monsters. However, the wooden spike and the dirt under it looked old and untouched. It must at least be abandoned. She poked her head through the bush and the wolf cub saw a large encampment of people. It was a mixture of soldiers, merchants, and their guards.

Everyone in the camp seemed to have slept the night and were about to disembark from the clearing during this early morning. It must’ve been a communal resting spot. They cloaked their whole camp too. Okay, she needed to keep her aura low and just go around.

However, she was spotted.

Ugh! Run away! But the wolf cub couldn’t run as the pain was still extensive and caused her to trip. OUCH! Everything was stinging.

“Brother! Please wait!” The young girl spoke to another person in the distance as she jogged to the cub after seeing her emerge from the shrub. Honestly, the slime was ready to put a spike in her skull until she realized her young age. She was also injured and wrapped in bandages. This child couldn’t look more docile if she tried.

“Yuli! What is it?” A young man about twice the girl’s age came running over. They were both staring at the young wolf. The young girl looked like an innocent soul who wanted to help her. The other person was likely going to kill her. The wolf cub stood up with all her strength and confronted the two.

“Mr. Alton. We are departing soon.” Another man showed up but he seemed a bit unconcerned for her. This guy was likely comparable to the loud and vulgar people from her spying missions, possibly a mercenary.

“It is hurt and alone,” Yuli looked at the small cub with a very pitiful expression.

“Yuli, you read about wild animals. We don’t know if it’s infected or not,” the brother said. The word ‘infected’ was one she recognized because it was talked about a lot during her spying operations. Was he being cautious because the wolf cub might infect them? Infected with what?

“But I sense no monster aura in it! We must help it!”

His sister had eyes filled with determination. He couldn’t refuse her and sighed in defeat. “Elliot, do you have an active monster core?”

Elliot gave a crystal to the brother and he approached the wolf with the crystal. The slime girl’s caution alarm went up as the ears on the wolf’s head perked up along with her tail.

“No! Shhh. Shhh. Please do not be afraid. We want to help…” The young girl was practically begging for her not to run away. She already embedded her slime in the ground. One thought from her and a spike would shoot up.

Don’t mess with me…

The young man presented the crystal near her face for a second and backed off. The slime girl didn’t see any spells being activated even though there was mana with the crystal. Was that the test?

“No glowing…” The young man said indifferently. Yuli was ecstatic and slowly approached the cub with open arms.

What should I do? The slime thought anxiously. She wasn’t sure what to do. To trust or not to trust a total stranger. From what she had seen, they didn’t mean her harm but this could be a ploy to harm her.

No, she shouldn’t think like that. That mentality was no good if she wanted a friend, to see enemies everywhere. She should take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about this world. However, the slime and her cub body froze and trembled. She was vulnerable and didn’t have much of a choice if she wanted a chance for survival.

“Aww. It is alright. Please do not be frightened,” Yuli said as she gently wrapped the small trembling cub in her arms. The wolf let out a pain-filled squeal.

Before the slime noticed, the young girl casted a spell and the cub’s tense body suddenly became relaxed. It felt like healing magic. It was too invasive for the slime’s liking. The cub looked up from the arms holding her and witnessed the girl’s shocked expression.

She knew.

The cub was struggling, trying to get the girl to release her. The girl tightened her embrace and said in a gentle whisper. “Shhh. Shhh~ Please do not be scared. I will protect you.” The face she showed was one of acceptance…

If the slime was an idiot to trust a human, this girl was a bigger idiot. However, the slime was also a bit happy. She couldn’t explain why as she stared into the girl’s eyes. Her pain was greatly reduced. The pain was now replaced with a much more tolerable gentle throbbing. After a week of such pain, she almost forgot what it felt like to not feel inflamed.

She gave up. If this girl had malice intent within her, she wouldn’t trust anyone ever again. The slime girl thought this as she snuggled up to the girl’s soft body. She finally passed out and rested after the week-long battle of pain and agony.

***

It fell asleep in her arms. How cute! Yuli could sense the monster core within this cub when she applied her magic, but the spirit within it was gentle and in distress. It was strangely human and was frightened. It was strange that a monster would give such human reactions and act so understanding. Monsters usually attacked without thought and if this monster truly did understand her, it would be sentient. “I will protect you,” Yuli promised.

***

The boy thought he had friends but he was wrong. The ‘friend’ was someone he talked with frequently and had fun together in elementary school but his ‘friend’ betrayed him. His ‘friend’ and bullies ganged up on him after school and kicked him to the ground. Around him, he saw his fellow classmates watch with faces of pity. It was cruel. It was painful. This was one of many incidences when trusting someone led to him getting hurt. Trust led to him being murdered.

There was no warmth at home. His parents blamed him for the mistakes made by him and others. He reached out with his hand only to have his palm slapped away. How he managed to stay sane in this environment, he didn’t know. Turning into a slime probably would’ve driven him to madness if he didn’t build such good resistance.

To rely on himself alone was the lesson he had in that life. Yet…

Yet he wanted to be loved and to love. To care for others as they cared for him. To rely on others as they relied on him. Was this truly a fantasy? It was because there were no absolutes. To trust was to open yourself to be vulnerable. When facing such despair, was that even a possibility?

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XeroDK

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