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Chapter 11 | Gargoyle 2

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Yuli sat on a stump gently caressing the small lovable creature in her arms. She was currently making the short journey to her hometown of Riverside. They had spent the night at this communal campsite and everyone was starting to leave. She was traveling with her brother, Reinold, and were being escorted by a group of freelancers commanded by Captain Elliot.

Yuli was a small child with long blond hair and blue eyes as bright as the sunny sky. She had a slender form with her short hair braided on both sides of her head and covered part of her ears. Her brother was much taller and had a modest build with light brown hair and deep blue eyes.

One of Elliot’s freelancers came over to her as the rest of the freelancers and Reinold were still preparing. “Yuli, I would like to check up on your condition. Can you please come to the stagecoach?”

“Okay,” Yuli agreed and brought the cub along.

The woman leading her to Reinold’s stagecoach was Tasha, the mage of Elliot’s group. Tasha’s healing ability was a lot better than her brother. Unfortunately, a caster couldn’t heal themselves with their own magic.

“Reinold. Would you guard the door, please?”

“Of course,” Reinold said and took a position to block unwanted eyes. The girls went inside the stagecoach with the door ajar for light. The space available inside the large stagecoach was small due to the number of goods it carried but still large enough for at least two passengers to sit on crates.

Tasha helped Yuli get her top off with the baby wolf sleeping on her lap. Bandages were wrapped around her chest and abdomen. Tasha casted a spell which appeared as a magic circle emanating its familiar blue glow and began her healing. “Your bones are healing fine but the damage in your lungs is what I’m concerned about. So, don’t push yourself too hard okay? We’ll visit the hospital for some medicine after we arrive in Riverside.”

“I am doing fine now. Thank you, Tasha,” Yuli said as she gave a huge smile. Witnessing such an innocent sight ached her heart.

“Those criminals…” Tasha spoke in a low voice full of contempt. It was a bit scary. “They didn’t deserve the embrace of death we gave them…”

“Please do not mind it. There is nothing more to be done about the situation.” Yuli was nervous about what the other freelancers in her hometown might also do to exact their revenge on the dead. In her opinion, death was more than enough and she didn’t want anything unspeakable happening on her account.

“Don’t mind it, Tasha,” Reinold said while facing away from the stagecoach. “Even though what they did was quite blazon, we need to trust this matter to the authorities and not make what happened worse. It’s for the best that our family doesn’t get involved in retribution.”

Yuli silently agreed with her brother. Tasha took another look at her patient and was overwhelmed by her emotions. Tasha hugged her.

“You’re such a good girl, Yuli! You do know that right?! What happened wasn’t your fault!”

“Tasha, I am fine. I know. Please let me go…” Yuli’s body still ached a bit and with the baby wolf in her arms, she couldn’t adjust properly.

The communal campsite was on the fork of the dirt highway and everyone who gathered for the night usually organized themselves to stay in larger groups for the next leg of their journeys. For high traffic areas, escorts were unnecessary but if everyone followed that mentality, no one would bring any armed guards. Therefore, if freelancers or solders from the Empire were to travel towards their destination, anyone would be allowed to tag along for free.

However, it was rare for a freelancer group to lend their services directly to a merchant or traveler in the same manner.

Reinold was worried about the ulterior motives of Elliot’s freelancer group. Even though they saved Yuli from the criminals who attacked her, to offer their service for free without expecting something in return was very odd. This was especially because of the gratitude they already felt. Elliot knew this but he chose to remain silent on the matter. Rather than being malicious, it seemed like it was something private. Still, as the son of a Merchant Lord, he had to be conscious of these things.

There were two other merchants who wanted to go with them to Riverside so they decided to go together. And so, the caravan they had were three wagons, fifteen escorts including eight from Elliot’s group, and six civilians. The four other civilians were citizens of Riverside so they recognized Reinold and greeted him when they entered the camp.

Everyone left the camp together as the sun was peeking out from under the horizon and the colors from the two moons receded from the sky.

Yuli rode on the stagecoach’s driver seat next to her brother while their escorts were on horseback. She began to think carefully about the existence that was sleeping in her arms. It was a cute and fluffy female wolf cub. It wasn’t a normal animal or monster.

She sensed a monster’s aura when she healed it but at the same time, it looked at her with intellectual recognition. The monster detector also didn’t react and so that could only mean she was holding a Dungeon Master.

There was no way a regular monster or Dungeon Master could be sentient in any compacity. Monsters only existed to needlessly kill. Monsters didn’t sleep and they wouldn’t simply allow themselves to be taken, and especially into a disruption field, rendering it blind. How this was possible, Yuli didn’t know. Perhaps her brother would know but she was hesitant to do so without her parents around. He always thought he knew what was best.

Reinold was speaking to Elliot who was riding beside them. “Elliot, I heard from Samuel that you used to be on the Imperial royal guard.”

“It wasn’t as extravagant as you’re imagining. Although Sam and I had a role in protecting the royal family, it uneventful and short-lived. My wife and I moved to Viennera shortly afterward.”

“Still, for you to be part of the royal guard, you must be a powerful mage.”

“I’ve established myself as a level three mage while I was in the guard. I’m confident in my abilities.”

“I’m a level three mage too,” Reinold said, smiling. “Perhaps we should duel later.”

“Perhaps. If it isn’t too bold of me, may I ask why are you working for your family now if had such power?”

The answer to this question was something Reinold had to remind himself occasionally, “I have my obligations to my family. I can’t just go off on my own forever.”

“I see. My wife wants her first child therefore, I cannot keep to this lifestyle either. You do like the freedom acquired from being a freelancer, don’t you?”

Indeed, he did. That much was obvious but the most prudent reason was sitting beside him. Just as Elliot had his wife he needed to support, he had Yuli.

***

Suddenly, the cub in Yuli’s arms jolted awake as if from fright. The slime girl vaguely remembered the nightmare she had. She then focused on the person holding her.

“Hello, little one! Please do not be afraid,” Yuli said gently and smiled at the child in her arms. Reinold snuck a peek at the cub but wasn’t interested. He seemed to be pre-occupied with something else. The slime girl saw the girl’s face and she relaxed her tense body. She didn’t completely trust the human girl holding her, she could sense the girl’s aura so she could react in a moment’s notice to her casting or ill intent.

The slime recognized the situation. She trusted the two young merchants not to attack her especially if they allowed her near them. The slime girl had a fear of humans but she wanted to learn more about the world. If they were offering to house her somewhere, she had little reason to refuse. This arrangement was worth the risk, for now.

Yuli waved a treat in front of her. “Are you hungry?”

It was only a lump of meat but her animal instincts took over and she wagged her tail for the cooked meat as she reached for it. Yuli giggled from the tickling on her palm as the cub ate out of her hand. The cub licked Yuli’s hand and barked, marking her approval.

However, the happy mood didn’t last long. Elliot rode alongside the wagon and spoke to Reinold. “Did you feel that?”

“Yeah…” Reinold said with worry. The slime and Yuli also sensed it. They looked at each other knowingly as the cub’s ears stood at attention.

“Everyone! Form up!” All the horses encircled to protect the stagecoach. As they casted their barrier spell, everyone sensed a large surge of mana. A large ball of light hit the right side of the barrier and shattered it immediately.

The great force that was left lifted the heavy stagecoach and overturned it to its side. Reinold grabbed Yuli and jumped out of the way as the stagecoach violently came to a stop. Then, a gang of giant long-faced furless bears rushed them from both sides. They pounced on them from their hiding spots in the forest brush.

Their right flank gave out immediately as those with their mana depleted by the blast were quickly torn apart by the bears. The left flank was able to deflect the ambush by fired their freezing spells to the monsters’ chests while pushing them back with their bullets.

“Everyone! With me!” Elliot shouted. They were somehow able to survive. Yuli and Reinold were given cover by the freelancers and were mostly unharmed. They got up from their tipped over wagon and ran. Reinold guided Yuli as the remaining freelancers headed into the forest. The two other groups already fell to the monsters who ambushed them. The bears were taking their time crawling and chewing their meat.

The slime sensed the aura of the monsters that attacked them. To any other person, they would interpret the aura as just another monster but she recognized it. She had to kill it. The slime girl quickly broke out of Yuli’s grasp and began running to the opposite side of the road.

“Hey! Come back!” Yuli was pulled back by her brother’s hand as she attempted to reach the cub.

“Yuli! We need to go!” Reinold shouted fiercely.

The wolf cub stopped out of reach to meet Yuli’s eyes. “GO!

Yuli swore she heard a voice and realized it was the cub’s. She gave up as the slime ran into the brush and out of sight.

The slime girl couldn’t help but feel responsible for this ambush. The gargoyle’s aura was strong and surged as it commanded the monsters to attack. Her crystal was still giving her a throbbing pain and expending her mana could make the pain worse again. She had to end things quickly. The slime formed into her human body with bow and arrow in hand.

The gargoyle noticed her advance from a distance away. It launched many balls of mana at her. The attacks were coming very fast but she was able to dodge each ball as they hit the ground and trees around her. She found an opening and shot her arrow. The crystal arrow flew into the gargoyle’s forcefield.

Was this monster using human magic? This looked so familiar to the platoon of soldiers’ magic to deflect her arrows from before. In that case, she just had to push through that spell with force. She enhanced her strength and the strength of her bow and arrows.

The gargoyle was catching on to what she was attempting and was about to fly away. The slime girl shot her arrow and it traveled at near sonic speeds. As the monster lifted off the ground, the arrow ricocheted off its back and made it smack into the ground. She saw the forcefield spell literally shatter.

I finally got you, bastard, the slime thought. She needed to know why it was following her. She needed to kill it so the other monsters it commanded would stop being directed to attacking the merchant girl and the others. She wavered for a moment as her human throat coughed up blood. The pain was coming back.

Eating this monster’s crystal would feel so satisfying, she imagined.

The monster looked weakened but not beaten. The slime girl prepared another arrow as she walked forward and aimed at the gargoyle as it looked on hatefully at its supposed prey. She shot her arrow where its life-crystal was in its body. However, its hand shot up and blocked the arrow through its fresh. At the same time, it launched another attack at her, but this projectile was different.

As soon as the projectile contacted her, the slime felt like her whole being was burning again. She collapsed to the ground as the gargoyle stood up as if nothing had happened. It was a ploy! Weren’t all monsters supposedly stupid?

No, that was her unfounded assumption. Monsters with Network connections had access to vast amounts of knowledge. She never thought this would be the case.

The gargoyle cackled as the slime girl rolled on the ground in agony. It was like the crystalizing infection in her slime again but was also shocking her like a stun gun. She returned to her slime form and attempted to isolate it.

“You will make a wonderful servant…” The gargoyle was so thrilled with a grin on its twisted face that it didn’t mind the arrow in its hand. However, the grin was fleeting because the slime girl reformed herself into her human body and successfully separated the corruption. The gargoyle stood shaken and stunned as the now black-colored slime bundle dropped to the ground. The slime girl was hurt and had to catch her breath.

“Impossible...” The slime girl stood up and faced the trembling monster. The show of strength was so intimidating that it was backing away in terror. The slime girl looked coldly at the humanoid monster with grey scales and wings. The monster flinched at the sight of her unnaturally-colored eyes.

“WhO aRe YoU?” Black spoke using the girl’s tongue.

The gargoyle didn’t answer.

“ShAlL I AsK aGaIn?” Even if he wasn’t going to speak, the slime had other plans to make the gargoyle talk. The arrow lodged in the monster’s hand sprouted out and stabbed its body with numerous spikes. She was about to take its soul when the ‘light-of-life’ suddenly disappeared and left an empty husk.

What just happened? She wondered.

The threat was over so the slime girl doubled over and released the fluid in her lungs and stomach. She was weak again and dropped to the ground. Her vessel was destroyed by the corruption and she had to use a replica body. Black always chose the worst times to show herself. But she was lucky she showed up at all.

In the corner of her eye, she saw something move. What was that? She turned her gaze to the blackened slime and saw the slime bundle move. It had a ‘light-of-life,’ a soul in it. The black slime bundle developed into a monster. It was about to lunge at her.

FREEZE!

Again, her command did nothing. She couldn’t let it touch her. The slime formed a crystal lance and pierced the black slime in mid-air. The corrupted slime died.

The pain from her cracked crystal should ease with the absorption of the gargoyle’s crystal. However, now she wasn’t sure. The gargoyle had a corrupting power like poison and now she was going to willingly absorb its crystal. Would it affect her in a negative way? The answer should be no because of a few reasons. The most important reason was that the gargoyle’s soul was gone along with its mana and any continuous spells. On every metric she could determine, the crystal should be safe to absorb.

The crystal had the shape of a dodecahedron. It wasn’t the same shape as her crystal but it was a regular polyhedron like hers. The color was a dark blue. What if she absorbed this crystal and something bad did happen? She was doomed if she didn’t and doomed if she did. It didn’t matter. Her pain was becoming debilitating again. She was really dying this time and she risked everything for this chance. She had no choice from the start.

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