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Chapter 27 | The Hunt 2

~~*~~

Everyone in town was anticipating good results on the newly expanded hunt for the Devil Slime. The town militia was going to the forest tomorrow to set up new Dungeon Master traps. Reinold and Tasha both said they were going with them to inform her of the developments. The traps would be placed near her dungeon so she had to be more careful. Samuel was also looking around town to gather information from the Association and the freelancers involved in the hunt.

What bothered Alisha the most was the Dungeon Master traps that only Commander Dustin knew about. By now, they must’ve deduced that she was reincarnated by now. In fact, the rumor going around town was that the ‘Knights of Order’ were coming. Hunting monsters was just a front for this Church-affiliated group to hunt reincarnated.

Reinold and Yuli trusted Sir Alan and Lycus because they’ve known each other for years. They entrusted their lives to each other a number of times. They were in Talluem when Yuli got assaulted by those criminals. After Reinold and Yuli left with Elliot’s freelancer escort group, Alan and Lycus headed south to the dungeon they were talking about last night.

That and the fact Reinold was in their party up until three years ago was all Alisha knew about them. Alan and Lycus were both actively participating in the hunt for her but they seemed very concerned for well-being. Informing them about the situation was a natural step in avoiding misunderstandings.

“I don’t want to tell them,” Alisha protested.

“Why not? You can trust them. They are very nice and they can keep a secret,” Yuli said in a sweet voice.

“However, that doesn’t mean I want everyone and their grandparents to know about me. I think the number of people who know my identity should be few. I also don’t want you or your family getting more involved than you already are with any of these risks.”

In all honesty, she was just afraid. Back in her previous world, she only told a select number of people about Charlotte and they weren’t even her family, only friends after a lengthy process of indecisions. She was bad at this and led to her suffering more than necessary.

In fact, this led to her being killed. Her memories from telling people her secret was scary despite the positive results. The cost of a potential negative reaction was too great in her mind. Now, multiply that several times over. It was a nightmare. She couldn’t remember who pushed her off the building but it was directly after her revelation to someone who she thought she could trust.

Alisha knew what she was doing was irrational and couldn’t bring herself to do it. Everyone who knew about her being a monster right now was because of various circumstances and weren’t because she told them out of her own volition. Her circle of friends was because of the effort of Yuli.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I can’t… I don’t want to…”

Alan and Lycus were heroes in the eyes of the people. Alisha didn’t trust the people of this world. This situation was different from Yuli’s relationship with the people. In their eyes, Yuli was ‘human’ but Alisha wasn’t. Even with her intelligence being known to the Imperials and the freelancers, they were still trying to kill her.

“Okay. I do not want to pressure you…” Yuli was disappointed. It was hard for Alisha to hear that voice coming out of her. This was especially after all the things she had done for her. But her fear was that great.

Alisha in her human form was going to sleep with Yuli in her bed. They were relatively the same size now so this made hugging comfortable. Alisha needed this after today’s events.

Being calm in Yuli’s arms, Alisha spoke, “I want to tell people about me and not be so afraid…”

Yuli stroked her head and said in a soothing voice, “When you are ready…”

Alisha nodded and drifted to sleep.

***

“I’m returning to my dungeon for a bit,” Alisha announced after breakfast and took out her Soul Phone spell gems from her belt. “I will be back before dinner time. These are communication devices you can use in case you must contact me or Guide.”

Alisha could sense the tension around the table. Although they understood her motives for this, they wanted nothing but to protect her while knowing that that thought wasn’t realistic in the long-term. Alisha felt very responsible for the current situation and it was sad that she couldn’t return the faith they had shown her.

It was a reasonable request in light of the commission. Alisha wondered to herself, why did she always have to make things so difficult?

She made her falcon meatsuit in her hand, transferring her core crystal into the bird before taking off and letting her human body dissolve back into her slime.

As mentioned before, she could shift her consciousness from one body to the next as long as that particular mana gem was infused with some of her essence. This was the same principle how Alisha created the communication devices. Guide used his own soul essence he infused into the stone blocks within his Dungeon Field to create the golems and link them to his will.

Discovering this ability to open a channel within the Network had to be the greatest of all her abilities so far. This opened possibilities to her, including creating slimes under her command and sending them into Riverside to spy for her.

This gave Alisha the ability to create monsters.

Monsters generally were one of two types. Natural-born or mutated. Natural-born monsters were species that reproduced. Mutated monsters were animals that turned into monsters from high concentrations of mana. Undead were considered mutated.

Guide explained there were two types of dungeon monsters: contracted monsters or artificial monsters. The artificial dungeon monsters were self-explanatory and were the golems. There have been reports that monsters created by the dungeon could also spawn spontaneously in areas of high mana concentration. The contracted monsters were the regular dungeon monsters roaming around. They came under Guide’s servitude willingly as a kind of symbiotic relationship.

This explanation was fine but Alisha added something further. There were actually two types of artificial monsters. One that had a Dungeon Master’s essence and one that didn’t. Monsters created by simply infusing mana from the environment into an entity created a normal monster with limited will, like how the golems were. Monsters infused with her essence, like her spy slimes, were under her direct command and acted on her own will.

Alisha might’ve found a way to revive Jun after a few months of death. His soul was still beating warm next to her soul gem. She wanted to talk with him again. What would happen if she transferred Jun’s soul into a new vessel? This required further study.

She landed with her human form a short walk away from her dungeon. Alisha wanted to make sure she wasn’t followed before heading to her lair. She giggled a bit to herself. She had a ‘lair.’

Flying around wasn’t at all inconspicuous. If someone found a work-around for that tracking spell, she would be in danger. As an exercise, she calculated a spell formulation that could track her by overlaying her aura signature with a signal from a living person. The reason why the tracking spell wasn’t a threat at the moment was because of Jun’s soul next to hers, muddying her aura signature.

If anyone figured this out, she and the Altons could be in danger. However, humans here were relatively narrow-minded so she doubted if anyone would consider a group of humans helping a monster or about her overlaying her aura signature. The only person she could think of as a threat was Commander Dustin. With her spy slimes, she should know if anyone figured it out yet. No one could keep that tracking spell secret with such a large bounty on her head.

“Alisha,” said a sudden voice in her ear.

“EEEK!” Alisha nearly jumped out of her skin as she leaped forward and spun back to face whoever it was with her sword drawn. She immediately saw Reinold and tried to calm herself from having her hypothetical heart rip open as her breath became heavy, nearly choking. “ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?!”

Reinold laughed out loud and tried to settle Alisha down with a pat on the head. Fearing her teary reaction last time her head was pat, Alisha avoided his hand but was still visibly embarrassed. The young girl having her face flush and pouting in front of him looked absolutely adorable which only added to the cycle of laughter. Was she being bullied right now?

As Reinold calmed down, Alisha had the sense it was a bad idea to have teased him so many times. She never thought there would’ve been any reappraisal.

“I’m sorry, Alisha. Are you still upset?” Reinold asked as they walked deeper into the forest together.

“I’m not upset!” Alisha denied it fiercely.

“Fine. Fine…” Reinold said lazily. Alisha was becoming very conscious of Reinold following her.

“What are you here for? Are you coming to the field trip a bit early?” Alisha referred to her offer for a tour of her dungeon at the end of the week.

“You can say that.”

“How did you even follow me?! I flew here!”

“It’s not something too hard for a level three caster like myself to do. I just followed you while running very fast.”

“That’s cheating…” Alisha said while sulking. Reinold was amused by her childishness and wanted to rub her head but was blocked again. He looked a bit disheartened at her continuous refusals and he was finally warming up to her. The Altons were so loving to her it ached her heart. She felt like they were her family but did they feel the same about her?

“I thought you might need me around in case something happens.”

“Shouldn’t you be at work? I feel bad if you’re missing pay because of me.”

“This is what I do for Yuli from time to time so it’s not a big deal.”

“But to escort me in the forest. I’m sure nothing will happen and if it does, I can take care of myself!”

“Don’t worry about it, you should rely on us more.”

“But… you’ve already done so much for me…”

“Look, Alisha. This isn’t about a balance. We don’t keep score on what we do for each other.”

Alisha smiled. Her relationship seemed to be clearer now and she couldn’t be happier at this fact. This might be the first genuine smile she has shown him that wasn’t full of play and sarcasm. The third time’s the charm when Reinold patted her head, Alisha began to cry tears of happiness. She wasn’t sobbing but the tears overflowed at the act of affection.

Reinold was taken aback by the tears but Alisha quickly refuted his reaction, “No! I just… It was unexpected and I was happy… So…”

Guide interrupted, “I’m sorry for interrupting your conversation, Madam. I’ve been scouting the area with the falcon meatsuit and I detect a squad of Knights heading northwest to your position.”

“Guide, I’m impressed by your initiative,” Alisha said as she quickly wiped away the tears.

“Thank you, Madam.”

“Can you give me a visual?” At that moment, her consciousness shifted to her falcon body who was flying overhead a few miles away. A large group of casters in white armor marched in their direction with great discipline. They raised the flag of the Knights of Order, the enforcement arm of the church. The flag was crossed silver swords above a golden sun and white background. Although that is what they were known as publicly, they were known as something else for the people hunted by them: The Inquisitors.

The Inquisitors rode into town just the other day and rendezvous with their commander officer: Gale. Supposedly, their arrival was a routine occurrence to inquire about the religious elements of the town and to purge demonic elements, mostly monsters. These people were very powerful in holy magic and therefore very dangerous for her.

Why were they hunting her in particular and how did they know where she was?

The next moment, Guide’s falcon was shot down.

Her consciousness suddenly shifted back to her main body where she had been standing motionless and gasped her air. That was scary.

“The Inquisitors are coming!” Alisha was flustered. She didn’t know what to do now. From what she heard, they were very good at subjugating Dungeon Masters when they get too daring.

Reinold, by contrast, was calm and was thinking of a solution, “We need to get to your dungeon quickly. If they can’t track you, they’ll eventually turn back.”

“No, that won’t work. If they lose their signal, it’ll be confirmation of the location of my dungeon! We have to lead them away.”

“And then what?”

“I’ll kill them, of course.”

“Hold on! We could solve this with diplomacy.”

“…diplomacy…” Alisha wasn’t amused at all by the suggestion. Was he being serious? “What do you have in mind, then?”

“Run away and I’ll distract them.”

“No, I’m not leaving you in danger! You’re not involved! I can handle them on my own!”

“I know you can but I can’t leave you either!” Their argument came to a head and Alisha went silent. She looked into Reinold and saw he wasn’t going away. She sighed.

“I don’t want you to get hurt because of me…”

“I know but this is my decision.”

Alisha saw that Reinold wasn’t going to change his mind and relented rather than to drag on the argument, “…Okay. But are you alright killing humans?”

“I am,” said Reinold without hesitation but a very subtle tremor in his voice gave away that he was at least apprehensive. Alisha thought about his response and figured there was something more to it. This casted a small doubt in her heart which grew into a large concern for Reinold’s well-being. Is he going to be okay? Alisha thought.

Alisha guided Reinold as they looped around her dungeon to a better position. They zigzagged to get the Inquisitors off the path of the dungeon and laid out their planned defense.

After another falcon was shot down, Guide reported that contact with the Inquisitors was eminent. From her Expanded Space, she made an AR-15 rifle appear in her hand. Reinold was taking cover beside another tree and saw her feat of magic.

“Wow. Didn’t you say you were bad at magic?”

“I’m bad at casting. Two different things. This is just an inherent ability all Dungeon Masters have, an extra-dimensional storage.”

Reinold whistled at his amazement. “Is that rifle one of your abilities too?”

“No, I made this.”

“Made?”

“In my dungeon, I have the resources and technology to make this weapon. It’s an automatic rifle from Earth.”

“An automatic rifle?” He said with skepticism.

“I know what you’re thinking but trust me with this.”

There was a reason why the soldiers of the Empire used lever rifles when semi-automatic and automatic rifles were available. This came down to production costs and magic efficiency. The most important part of a battle was the amount of mana you expand versus the damage you inflict. Since everyone could cast to aim their weapons with deadly accuracy, there was no use for automatic fire.

Reinold loaded his revolver and drew a sword from his belt. They waited for the Inquisitors to approach. Her final scout was unable to determine their exact numbers, they were hidden by the trees and were using their cloaking spell but there were at least ten knights.

Suddenly, Alisha was shot in the chest.

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