“It’s just a soda can, Stanley. Waiving it around like a lunatic only makes everyone think you shouldn’t drink anymore soda.” This was just another day after school in the science club.
“It’s not the soda can that maters! It’s the metal that it’s made of that’s the cool part.” Stanley practically radiates excitement.
I wish I can change the expression on my past-self’s face but this is only a memory. If only I could talk to Stanley one more time. I could tell him about my new life… no, that wouldn’t excite him too much. We’d probably spend all our time talking about blacksmithing or magic metals.
“You see, aluminum has only been around for about 200 years but it’s one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust! It is the most revolutionary metal humans have ever discovered!” I miss listening to Stanley’s rants.
“What about steel?” The old me deadpans. Oh yeah, this was around the time I first joined the science club. Now that I think about it, I was deliberately trying to piss Stanley off so he would stop dragging me here.
I wish I could slap my old self for deliberately trying to destroy his only true friend he would ever have.
I smile as I remember what happens next. I was stupid to think I could ever throw Stanley off his game when he talked about metals.
“We can talk about steel next but I have to tell you about aluminum first! I was watching a video about how they make engine blocks for high performance cars out of aluminum! You know, this stuff!” I have to hold my sides; I’m laughing so hard. The look of shock on my previous self’s face as Stanley shoves the empty soda can in his face is priceless.
I watch as the former me sits back in his chair, crossing his arms in defeat while Stanley continues his rant. “The video was amazing! I’ll have to show you later! Aluminum is the metal we used to conquered the skies and beyond. Almost everything around us uses aluminum in some way. It’s only through chemistry that we discovered how to use it.”
I miss having aluminum in my life. It’s just one of the things I took for granted.
“First they harvest it from tropical regions with red soil. Then it’s shipped to special plants to turn it into powdered alumina.”
Oh Gods! I never remembered this! Where’s a notebook when you need one!
I need to focus. If I can somehow duplicate the process and produce aluminum, I could make so many things.
“It’s mixed with water, lime, and soda ash, and grounded together.” Ok, I think I can manage that.
“Noooo!!! Not yet!” I scream out when I feel the eyes’ gaze drill through the memory and focus on me.
I’m immediately ejected from my soul. My eyes snap open only for me to wince and close them again. The sun is directly over me and when I opened my eyes my vision went white for a second there.
“Damn it.” I cover my eyes with my right hand and smash my left against the forest floor.
“Take it easy, sweety.” Fathers voice grows louder with each word. I feel the ground lightly tremble as he rushes to my side.
Using my hand to block the sun’s blinding rays, I open my eyes and focus on father who’s now sitting next to me. I’m about to ask how long I’ve been out but I stop when I see his angry face.
“How could you do something so stupid! Taking on a horned hob! You promised your mother you would run away from danger not run towards it! What do you have to say for yourself!” I can’t meet father’s eyes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t run. I made you worry again.” I keep my eyes down, waiting for another tongue lashing.
“I thought I lost you!” Instead of him yelling he scoops me up into his chest and holds me tightly. My body still aches quite a bit, so I mustn’t have been asleep that long. I relax my muscles and slowly move my arms to return the loving embrace of father.
“I know it’s no excuse but I couldn’t leave everybody to face that monster by themselves. It could have helped the other hob fight Del or even worse went to attack you. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise.”
“It doesn’t matter now. You’re alive and that’s the only thing that matters.” I shift in his embrace until my head is resting against his shoulder.
Now that I’m upright I can better see my surroundings. We’re a hundred feet from the goblin village. Villagers are walking around, tearing apart the goblin’s wooden structures, turning the crude huts into bonfires. The smell of burnt goblin flesh is already wafting around the clearing. I see four fires already consuming the dead.
A few villagers walking by make eye contact with me. They all have confused looks on their faces like they don’t know what emotions they should be having right now. Regardless of their looks, each villager who meets my eyes bows their head to me and moves on with their work. “Dad, why are they…?”
“I heard you were awake. We weren’t sure you would wake up this soon. Ronald said you had extensive wounds but nothing life threatening. Regardless, we expected you to sleep till at least tomorrow morning.” My question is cutoff by the approaching headman.
I slowly turn around and try to sit on my knees but dad has other plans. He helps me turn around but he makes sure I remain sitting in his lap. I can’t remember the last time I was in this position.
Facing forward, I see the big four approaching father and me. Master and the headman both look worse for wear. They both were in the frontlines like me, and just like me they both have bandages covering their limbs. Ronald and Braddon were our two best archers, so I think we must have done our job correctly because they’re only sporting a few cuts and bruises.
I look over at Ronald. “You bandaged me up?” I don’t know how I feel about that. He slowly nods his head at my question. It’s not only my limbs but also my chest that is bandaged. Being the best hunter in our village I’ve heard about his first aid skills and how extensive they are but I’m still slightly bothered by the fact he must have seen me partially naked. It’s too bad Anastasia was too important to the village so we couldn’t bring her along with us.
Another villager walks by our group hauling the body of another goblin. His eyes sweep across all of us but he stops when he meets my gaze. He nods his head to me and continues carrying the corpse towards the closest bonfire.
“Why does everyone keep doing that?” I watch the back of the man as he walks away. Fathers hands slightly tighten around me.
“It’s only right that they acknowledge their hero.” My head snaps in Camden’s direction. I suck in a short breath of air when I feel a spike of pain because of the quick movement.
The headman can obviously see the confused look on my face. “You stood up against a monster that had already killed two people. Many more would have died if you ran like the others did.”
I never saw the first person the hob killed, let alone the people running away from our fight. I was so focused on my fight with the hob that I tuned out my surroundings.
“Everyone recognized your heroism. Many more would have died if you didn’t step forward.” The other three nod their heads, agreeing with Camden.
I know I did the right thing but it didn’t feel like I saved everyone.
“How many died?” My question causes the four men to frown.
Again, it’s the headman who decides to answer my question. “We lost thirteen people during the battle. Seven more were critically injured. We sent half the hunters and a handful of villagers that still had some strength left to try and help the injured reach the village in time. Sadly, I don’t think half will survive the night.”
Damn, 27% of our expedition is dead or close to dying. I shiver thinking about our loses.
“What went wrong?” I can’t help but ask.
“We…” For once the headman has nothing to say. Technically our leader, the losses must hurt him the most.
Master takes a step forward. “These goblins… these goblins were abnormal.” Master rubs the back of his head.
“What does that mean, master?”
“The size of this horde was misleading. We were expecting a few horned hobs but the one that rushed me was an old hob. Goblins stop changing once they grow their horns, so I couldn’t say how old he was. I’d say the hob I fought was around level 65, maybe higher. Hobs like that only ever appear in colonies exceeding a thousand strong. And the only other horned hob in this horde was the newly grown horned hob you faced. We discussed it and we think this horde was once over a thousand strong in the deeper parts of the forest.”
The rest of them look more worried as master continues. “Something must have attacked them and drastically reduced their numbers causing them to flee. The hob I faced was most likely the last remnants of a truly strong goblin horde. We weren’t prepared to face a monster like that.”
“So, what do we do about it?” I question everyone.
“Right now, you should rest up. We’ll discuss it tonight back at camp.” Camden answers me.
Ronald, Camden, and Braddon nod their heads and walk off to help everyone cleanup the clearing. “I’m proud of you… but don’t do anything like that again. Darrius.” I smile as master berates and congratulates me all in one. Master nods his head to father and joins everyone else.
I tease dad once everyone is gone. “Shouldn’t you be helping out to, dad?”
Instead of answering right away dad pinches my side.
“Ouch!” Flinching, I feel the different sore spots all over my body react.
“I was given the most important job. I’m supposed to make sure you don’t do anything reckless and that you rest up properly.” I want to make a joke but the sad truth is that I’d probably panic if I was left alone in this clearing while feeling so weak.
Another villager walks by us smiling, why is he smiling? He notices my questioning gaze and his smile vanishes into a look of horror. He nods and continues across the clearing dragging the body of a small goblin behind him.
“Dad, why is everyone looking like they’re happy and sad at the same time?”
“It’s a combination of survivors joy and guilt all mixed together. People naturally feel joy when they survive a battle like this, everyone probably leveled at least once some more so than others. Then people are reminded about how many of their friends and neighbors were injured or perished during the fight. Have you checked your status page yet?”
“No, I haven’t checked my status page since we left the village.”
“If you leveled, which knowing you, you probably did, make sure you invest in Vitality. Investing in your vitality while injured will reduce the time you would normally take to recover.”
“Alright dad, let me down.”
“I’m going to meditate after I check my status page and I don’t think you want to remain still for the next couple of hours, do you?”
I shuffle out of father’s lap and get into a comfortable position.
I could tell that my stats rose considerably while we were marching here and even more so during the fight with that horned hob. Let’s see if I can try and pull up a section summarizing my skill levels this time.
LV: 60 Experience: 63,587/ 420,152
Status Points: 0
Meditation (LV77), Running (LV68), Axe Skills (LV55), Cleaning (LV50), Blacksmithing (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV45), Chanting (LV42), Mining (LV42), Drawing (LV37), Dagger Skills (LV31), Acting (LV30), Cooking (LV29), Trading (LV26), Sewing (LV24), Wood Carving (LV19), Pugilist Skills (LV4), Spear Skills (LV2)
Sense Mana (LV76), Double Step (LV51), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV37), Axe Arts (LV36), Hammer Arts (LV34), Writing (LV32), Mathematics (LV30), Intimidating Shout (LV29), Dagger Arts (LV12), Increase price (LV7), Marching (LV5), Lower Price (LV4)
Expel mana (LV53), Mana Manipulation (LV42), Precise Strike (LV24), Double Strike (LV23), Flash Step (LV3), Weighted Strike (LV2)
Inject mana (LV40), Mana Skin (LV35), Mental Resistance (LV34),
Sense Soul (LV25)
Increased skills Levels
Pugilist Skills (LV1-4) 500exp
Running (LV67-68) 6,750exp
Axe Skills (LV53-55) 8,100exp
Marching (LV1-5) 1,500exp
Intimidating shout (LV27-29) 8,400exp
Double Step (LV40-51) 54,600exp
Measurement (LV37) 3,700exp
Axe Arts (LV33-36) 13,800exp
Precise Strike (LV22-24) 10,350exp
Weighted Strike (LV1-2) 450exp
Double Strike (LV22-23) 6,750exp
Flash Step (LV1-3) 900exp
Mana Skin (LV33-35) 25,500exp
Mental Resistance (LV34) 17,000exp
I reached level 60; another milestone met. I immediately distributed my free points into Vitality, Strength, and Dexterity. As the pulse of translucent colors appears out of my soul, I feel the pain throughout my body slightly dissipate.
My skills shot through the roof during the battle. I can’t believe Double Step gained twelve levels and I passed its test during that critical moment.
My skills played a huge part in me surviving the horned hob but one skill calls out to me, Flash Step. I’ve kept challenging myself to run faster and faster and now I’ve reached the next level. Flash Step was the culmination of every bit of my Strength and Dexterity. If my body wasn’t screaming at me to rest, I’d probably be running through the forest right now.
I look around, trying to picture what direction I would go. All I see is death surrounding me and the trees leading into the distance are scarred at their bases, painting a terrifying picture. Maybe I wouldn’t go running around here.
All my skill leveling earned me over 150 thousand experience. Doing some quick math that leaves around 48 thousand experience from the goblins. I doubt the weaker ones gave me that much experience judging by how quick I killed them. No, most of that experience must have come from the horned hob.
I saw death’s doors and watched as they started to open for me. Looking back, I can’t believe I survived. My attacks did nothing and I was almost out of mana and stamina. If my skills didn’t break through in that moment it would have ended again. But I survived and thanks to this worlds laws I was handsomely rewarded for it.
It’s scary how much this world seems to promote violence. No that’s not true, this world is more balanced than my old one. Hard work is rewarded to anyone who seeks to improve and nature has its own ways to defend itself. We may be able to expand our village but whatever attacked the goblins in the deep forest could probably wipe out our village if we ever were stupid enough to relocate there.
I thought this assault would solve all our problems but instead we’re left with an executioner’s axe above our heads. No, I can’t think about that right now. I slowly enter a deep meditation.
We’ll discuss the issue later. For now, I need to rest and regain my strength.
The sun is falling fast and everyone is scrambling to light their campfires. All of the goblin corpses were disposed of. Those of our group who died were cremated in separate fires and had their ashes gathered for their families to scatter when we return.
I’ve managed to regain most of my stamina and my Health has bounced back at an incredible rate. My mana was slightly overtaxed so it should take me another full day for it to recharge completely.
Father stuck to me like glue the whole day and is even now following me over to the headman’s campsite. With me and father joining the campsite most of the strongest people in the expedition are gathered. The remaining hunters were tasked by the headman to patrol while we discuss the future.
“We need to discuss our options.” The headman straightens his back and look around the campsite to meet all our gazes.
“Isn’t that your decision?” I point out the obvious chain of command.
“I’m not sure what we should do. We lost far too many people already but we have no idea what’s out here.” Camden looks defeated.
“Father, why don’t we return to the village? We annihilated the goblins before winter could start to take hold. We were promised reinforcements during spring. As long as the threat is not another goblin tribe, we should be fine.” Braddon makes a good point.
“I agree with Braddon, everyone’s seen too much death already. If you try and tell the villagers we need to search the area for something just as dangerous as the goblins, with a little more than half the people we started with, the villagers might just leave for the village on their own.” Dad looks seriously at Camden.
“That might happen, but what if you’re wrong?” Ronald leaves his question ambiguous leaving father and Braddon tilting their heads to the side.
“I think he means that, what if whatever was attacking the goblins is just as mobile or even more mobile than the goblins? Does anyone have any idea what inhabits the deeper parts of the forest?” I try and explain Ronald’s reasoning.
“Death lies in those trees.” Come on Ronald, you need to articulate better.
“Like what?” I try to press the hunter, only to have Camden answer instead.
“It’s hard to say what lies in the deep forest. Magic beasts and other powerful creatures rarely stay in one place long. My father taught me that no monster is common in the higher magic regions of the forest. Since our village was founded, there have been plenty of expeditions made into the deeper parts of the forest and each time hunters have brought back different magic birds, beasts, and even giant insects. But even the weaker inhabitants of the deep forest are said to be stronger than a level 40 man.”
“So, you’re saying it could be a giant fly or a dragon? There’s no way to know?” I can’t help but use some sarcasm. The headman’s family has been leading this village for generations and he has no idea what creatures live close enough that are capable at exterminating 500 goblins.
“Aaliyah, that’s no way to talk to Camden. Apologize.”
“Yes, dad. I apologize for my remark, Headman Downs.” Dad narrows his eyes at me. I guess he didn’t miss the slight sarcasm at the end there.
“It’s fine Darrius. Aaliyah has more than earned her right to criticize my leadership. I apologize that I can’t better answer your questions, Aaliyah. High leveled traveling hunters come sparsely to our village and they rarely share their secrets. Members of my family rarely have the levels to demand knowledge from such people.” Another case of people treating knowledge as something to be hoarded.
“Do you have any suggestions then?” Braddon asks me.
I look at father off to my side. His face drops when he sees my sorrowful expression. “I do actually have an idea.”
“Don’t you dare.” Father has the same angry look on his face as when I woke up after the battle.
“Let me explain first then you can yell at me, father.” Dad grits his teeth but doesn’t say anything else so I continue. “Father, Camden, and Braddon should escort everyone back home. Ronald, master, and I will stay here for a day and recuperate until we are back to our full strength. Then we will scout the surrounding areas without entering the deeper parts of the forest. If we find anything dangerous outside the denser magic areas of the forest then we ‘test’ its strength before retreating to warn the village. Hopefully whatever attacked the goblins stayed in deeper parts of the woods.”
Everyone but father looks like they’re contemplating my idea. He of course tries to refute my idea. “You have already done your part. Besides, there’s probably nothing we need to worry about.”
“If that’s the case dad, then we’ll just be camping for a few more days, sightseeing. The three of us are strong enough we might meetup with the rest of you before you even reach the village.” I try and undersell the danger.
“I said no.” Father crosses his arms expressing his final decision.
I glance around the campsite and see the others have uncomfortable looks. Do their looks mean they disagree with me or father?
“What do you guys think?” I try asking everybody.
If we were playing poker, I could read everyone’s hand right now. No one wants to look at father. So, they agree with my plan.
“It doesn’t matter what they say. You already almost died once! I won’t let you risk your life like that again!” I can see the headman frown at his words.
“No one is denying Aaliyah’s contribution, Darrius. Make no mistake, I’m not happy sending someone younger than my daughter to scout the edges of the magic forest. That said, it’s her plan and she deserves our trust. And I’ll remind you I’m the leader of our village.” Camden’s stern gaze leaves no room for rebuttal.
I can’t let everyone just stare at each other for the rest of the night. “Dad, do you think anyone other than me would have survived against that hob, could you have done it?” Dad looks angry at my question but slowly his face warps into a rare look of sorrow. “We won’t be looking for a fight. The three of us need to go because we are the most likely to survive anything hiding out there. Master is the strongest, Ronald will help us spot anything wrong, and I…” I chocked on my next words.
“…I reached level 60.” Everyone, except Del, looks like I just slapped each of them across the face. “I love you dad but this is my decision.” My father looks even more hurt by my words now.
“Does that mean we are all in agreement?” Camden receives a head nod from all of us, except father, who continues to look a giant puppy that was just kicked. “Good. We’ll start marching everybody back to the village tomorrow. We’ll leave some extra supplies for the three of you before we set off. The village can’t afford to lose any of you, so if you encounter anything dangerous, I want you to rush back to the village immediately. Is that understood?” All three of us agree with Camden.
I scoot over to dad and placer my hand on his shoulder. “I promise to return quickly and without a single hair missing.”
Father looks up with a stern expression. “You better, because I’ll have to explain to your mother what happened during the expedition and why you aren’t back home already.” The hairs on my neck and arms stand on end. “If you come back with anymore injuries then she’ll kill you herself.” I don’t think even my level will save me from what’s to come when I return.
Why do I always have to put myself in these situations?
“You guy’s ready to move out?” I call out as I walk over to our small firepit and kick some soil over the flames.
“Are you ready, you were the one with the most injuries?” Master leans over and grabs his pickaxe.
“I’ve had almost two days to rest. Other than the last bit of my Health that’s slowly recovering, I’m back to 100%.” I walk outside our hut and breath some of the fresh morning air.
I stretch my limbs, making sure the pain from the battle two days ago is fully gone. Stretching my neck muscles, I admire the hut we made. The three of us might not be carpenters but each of us can move heavy logs when we need to. Master cut down enough trees to build us a small cabin which had the bonus effect of making a clearing for us too. We aren’t planning to stay here long but having a defensible structure makes keeping watch much easier.
We’re in the same spot the expedition used as our last campsite. I look in the direction everybody left in, I hope they’re doing ok.
I hate to admit it but I was struck by the adventuring bug. I’m not looking forward to see any crazy beasts but the idea of exploring the edges of the magic forest is making my blood pump faster.
Del and Ronald walk out of our hut, adjusting the gear they’re carrying.
“You want to lead us, Ronald?” Master looks over at our hunter.
“Sure.” Ronald turns and starts walking into the forest. Del and I have to dash after him before his silhouette disappears amongst the trees.
The three of us move at an incredible pace. Weaving in and out of trees, vaulting over rocks or fallen logs, it takes us only twenty minutes to reach the clearing we attacked two days ago.
Master and I step back as to let Ronald observe any tracks that might be new. We silently follow him for over an hour before master becomes inpatient. “Any new tracks?” I can tell he’s trying not to show his displeasure.
“Yes.” Ronald’s answer hangs in the air.
I can see master ready to burst. I was worried master would talk in his weird voice around Ronald but Camden warned master before the expedition that Ronald has known about Del’s particular speech habbits for years now. It’s just that neither like talking to others, so they never had a real conversation together. I would wager that they’re awfully similar to each other but master would probably yell at me if I said it out loud.
Master avoids talking to people because he doesn’t want to be bothered, while Ronald only says a few words at a time and rarely starts a conversation on his own volition. I should probably handle talking to him.
“Do you recognize the new tracks?” I step in front of master and address Ronald.
“Farkas.” He responds, still looking at the ground
“Any new tracks you can’t identify?” I hold my breath waiting for his answer.
“No…... nothing new.”
“That’s some good news at least. Any new goblin tracks?”
“No.” I look around the clearing. No sign of more goblins. Predators will be drawn to the smell of blood here but they’ll only find piles of ash. I can already see new seedlings sprouting a few feet into the clearing. The mana density here is 25% higher than I’m used to. Father said the mana in forests helps the plants grow, how long until this clearing vanishes below a new canopy?
“If everything is normal here then we should move closer to the deeper part of the forest.” Ronald must agree with me because he stops looking at the ground and makes his way to the opposite end of the clearing we arrived at.
Still looking forward, master compliments how well I handled talking to Ronald. “You’re quite good at talking to him.”
I glance over at Del. “I think he’s nervous about talking to people. He might have a more serious form of glossophobia.”
“What?” Master almost misses a step and looks over at me. “What is that?”
“Oh, sorry. Glossophobia is the fear of speaking to a crowd of people but in severe cases it can be a fear of speaking to the public in general. Instead of taking the initiative to talk he will almost always answer questions with short responses. With that in mind you need to keep your questions short and to the point. It’s also probably why he stays so far ahead of us.” Ronald tries to always stay ten feet in front of us at all times.
Master looks confused at my explanation but doesn’t refute my hypothesis.
As we move forward, I can feel the magic in the air become denser as we move deeper into the forest. We need to be stealthier, so we move slower and don’t talk to each other. Even Ronald reduces the distance between us to only five feet.
I’m surprised the trees around here are scarred as well. The cuts look shallower and most trees are already healed. The scars on the base of the trees are the only signs the goblins were active in this region.
The magic in the air is almost 50% higher here. The trees are taller and the canopy is thick enough that it blocks out most of the sun’s rays. Of course, the lower light doesn’t affect any of us.
The trees and mana are interesting but I thought the higher magic density areas of the forest would be cooler looking. “The deeper forest isn’t that interesting.” I mumble under my breath.
Master lets out a chuckle so quiet only Ronald and I can hear it. “This isn’t a part of the magic forest yet. We should be their soon.” I’m about to question Del when I see Ronald looking back at me. He motions for us to continue.
Our advance slows once again but I can feel the difference with every step.
50%, 55%, 60%…… 85%. The mana density is climbing rapidly with ever step. Eventually I see it, the border between the two forest zones. Using Sense Mana, I can physically see the mana rolling out of depts of the forest. The forest in front of me is teeming with mana. They’re so saturated with mana, the plants are positively glowing.
We don’t dare go into the deeper parts of the forest but we need to check along the border. We zigzag around trying to spot signs of anything dangerous.
Walking along, I keep my Sense Mana skill going. The dim world is overlaid with an almost thermal view of mana in my eyes.
Each tree stores mana in its own way like a fingerprint. Some pool the majority of their mana in their roots while others prefer to focus their mana in their canopies. The steady circulation within the plants can be soothing to watch.
“Huh?” In front of our group, off to our right, I see a thin tree stretching into the canopy above. It blends in naturally to its surroundings and no one would say its out of place but my mana vision is showing the mana within the tree circulating incredibly fast. Even the magically charged trees I saw in the deeper parts of the forest circulated their mana at a fraction of this speed.
The only time I’ve seen mana move that fast is when its inside a living creature.
“Oh, gods.” I stop in place. Focusing on the mana within the tree, I trace it into the canopy. It’s hard but I filter through the surrounding mana. What I’m left with makes the color drain from my face. The silhouette the mana makes isn’t in the shape of a trees canopy.
Perched, hidden far above, is a massive body of mana. Now that I’m focusing on the shape, I can see nine other legs reaching the forest floor.
Yes, legs. I can only physically see three other legs closest to us, the rest are spread out covering at least a thousand square feet.
“What’s wrong, Aaliyah?” I watch the mass up above twitch with every word master utters.
The only good thing is master’s question pulls me back to reality. “Ronald.” I try not to shout. Luckily the urgency in my voice is convey well enough for him to stop walking forward. A few more feet and he would have passed the beast’s first leg.
I feel myself shaking.
“What is…?” I cut Del off by raising my finger to my mouth. He takes the hint when he sees my terrified face.
Ronald also sees my gesture and slowly moves closer to us making sure to avoid anything on the ground that would make a noise.
Once Ronald is standing next to me, I motion for Del and him to lean in closer.
Our cheeks may be touching but I refuse to take my eyes off of the hidden threat.
In the quietest voice possible I whisper, “Big Monster.” The two of them shiver at my revelation.
“Where?” Ronald whispers back.
Still shaking, I raise my finger to the main body in the trees.
“Didn’t sense.” Ronald’s usual sharp look is replaced with fear.
“My danger Sense skill never when off.” Master is also worried.
I motion for the three of us to bend down. I grab a small stick and sketch the outline in the forests floor. I can’t portray how big the beast is but I make sure to point out the legs.
The men get my message and carefully watch as I point out the three legs we can see from our position. Now that I look, each leg sticks out because there’s no scars on them. Every other tree has the markings that the goblins made. Is that why they cut up all the surrounding trees? This thing must have been hunting them!
I think the others notice the difference too, because after I pointed out the first leg, they easily followed my directions to the other two.
“What do we do, retreat?” I can’t help but whisper.
“We need to try.” Master grips his pickaxe.
“Try.” Ronald upswings his bow and draws an arrow.
Two already agree, if I suggest we flee it will compromise the group. We need to be on the same page for this. “Agreed, we test it and run if it’s too dangerous. I’ll take the closest leg.” I nervously reply.
“I’ll take the other two legs.” Master hands me his pickaxe so I can charge it.
“Eyes… if any.” Ronald studies the spot that I pointed out was hiding the main body.
I fill Del’s pickaxe with mana. Ronald doesn’t seem to care and neither do I in this situation. Handing the pickaxe back, Del now properly armed, moves to his position. I activate Mana Skin, again using nearly 300 points of mana to defend myself.
A quick glance at Del and we both swing our axes at the same time. I use Weighted Strike alongside Double Strike to try and cleave the leg in two.
My first blow lands but barely leaves a crack. My second blow digs halfway through the exposed carapace. I quickly swing again and use Precise Strike to finish bisecting the leg.
I was planning on stepping back but the top part of the leg slams into me.
I’m knocked back nearly twelve feet. My Mana Skin is best suited to absorb blunt force damage but that strike destroyed twenty percent of my Mana Skin.
Before I can get to my feet, an ear-piercing screech has me covering my head with my hands trying to block out the sound. The sound is like the worlds largest teapot steaming over but with a deeper tone that is somehow sounds sharper in the ears.
Master moves to my side and hoists me to my feet. I can see master managed to cut through the two legs he was assigned. The top part of the limbs are no longer disguised as trees and I recognize the material. The carapace is the same grey color as the materials the two horned hobs were using as armor. That means they managed to kill one of these things but on the other hand that means there’s probably more hidden in the forest.
The three limbs we cut are leaking a blue liquid and the insides look like they’re are made of softer flesh. The remaining seven limbs are also revealed as the creature’s camouflage fades away.
The three of us retreat backwards as the main body descends from the canopy. Just as I feared it’s a giant spider with two extra limbs. The spider’s whole body is covered in its grey armor and unlike the spiders I’ve seen around our house I can see its fangs positioned underneath the main body. The eyes are also located under the body arranged in a v formation outlining the mouth of the beast. The legs are connected to the top of the spider but fanout around it.
Now that I can see the body of the creature clearly, its size is even more frightening. The main part of the body is the size of a small truck.
While I’m staring at the monster Ronald loosens his first arrow. The arrow soars towards the monster’s eyes but the beast shifts forward and the arrow bounces off of the bottom carapace. I don’t know if he used a skill or the bottom part of the monster is stronger than the legs but his arrow did nothing.
“Watch out!’ Del moves in front of me and swings his glowing pickaxe. The axe clashes against a new leg that was about to slam into me again. Master is pushed back into me but manages to deflect the leg to our side.
Seeing his chance, master launches himself into the air, raising his pickaxe above his head as he tries an overhead strike on the creature’s main body.
I watch in horror as the spider bends its legs and uses its body as a battering ram against master who’s soaring through the air.
Sparks fly when the pickaxe lands against the spider’s carapace during the initial clash but the force behind the spider smacks against Del sending him back towards me. I move out of the way before Del accidentally lands on me.
“I don’t think I did any damage!”
“Need better arrows.”
The two of them couldn’t damage it so I definitely can’t hurt it with my meager strength. Time for plan B. If there’s only one enemy I can justify trying it.
“Can the two of you hold it back for a little bit?” The two men look at me in astonishment.
“Maybe, you have a plan?” Master looks skeptical and Ronald doesn’t seem convinced either.
“I think so but it might leave me in a weakened state.”
“Ok.” Ronald turns and nocks another arrow.
“If this doesn’t work, we run.” Master raises his pickaxe and charges the beast again.
No pressure, Aaliyah.
I start chanting quietly in English.
“Hear me earth. I summon your power and offer you 400 points of my mana to materialize before me. I summon the element magnesium and ask it appear in a powdered form. I need the powder to form into a ball 10 inches in diameter in the palm of my hand. Once formed, the ball will be held together in a wind ball and fired at 200mph in a straight line. Execute!”
I channel almost half my mana to my right palm as the spell activates. I rarely practiced freeform magic since the time I almost drowned myself brushing my teeth. The most important thing I learned was to never mix fire into any of my spells. I don’t have the mental control to execute something that volatile.
The type of freeform magic I’ve focused the most on is earth magic. Manipulating the earth around you is incredibly mana intensive but using mana to summon a fake element for as short period of time is easier on my mana pool.
A silver ash ball is almost fully formed in my hand.
“Move out of the way!” I scream at Ronald and Del.
The both of them shoot off to the side as the ball in my hand is launched at the face of the beast. The spider is too preoccupied watching the two of them dodge that it doesn’t notice the small ball until it strikes it in the face.
The wind shell holding the ball together shatters and the magnesium dust covers the spiders face.
Reaching to my side, I grab a small torch a villager left for us. I brought it incase we need to scare something off with fire.
“Llaif gamfr ol e nnamse!”
Using the basic fire spell Del taught me, I quickly light the torch. The spider is more pissed than ever and shrieks loudly again.
Ronald and Del use the chance to regroup with me.
“What in Tarrow’s forge was that?”
“No time to explain! Throw the torch in its face!” I shove the torch into Del’s hands. Gods bless the man; he only takes a second to register my command.
Master runs up to the beast, dodging its limbs and tosses the torch directly against its face.
I never practiced summoning this particular element let alone setting it on fire.
The fireball the torch sets off is more than anything I was expecting. A white flame ignites across the giant spider’s face. The flames are so bright it’s hard to look at them.
The spider immediately starts flailing about trying to extinguish the fire. The creature slams its body into the forest floor trying to snuff out the intense flames. “Sorry buddy, that’s not going to work.”
We watch the spider continue to crash around the surrounding trees until it finally falls to the ground motionless.
30 seconds later the fire starts to magically disappear. The magnesium I made with magic only lasted 71 seconds before it reverted back to magic.
Earth magic can summon walls, floors, or even a whole building. But unless you’re manipulating already present materials, whatever you built will disintegrate after it burns through whatever magic you used to make the structure.
“Ha-ha, Ha-ha. I can’t believe that worked!” My maniacal laughter might need some work but I’m happy I survived a fight without passing out for once.
“What was that?!” I turn to see Del and Ronald staring wide eyed at me.
“Just some freeform magic. Oh, that reminds me! Can you keep this a secret Ronald?” He takes a step back and rapidly nods his head.
“Master, that was a magic beast, right?” I can’t stop smiling.
“Yeah, I’d bet my forge it’s a wind type magic beast. We should try and harvest as many materials as we can from it.”
“Do you think we can use some of the materials for forging?
“We can try. Materials froyour mam wind type magic beasts are better used for enchanting rather than using them to forge with though.”
“The materials can be used for enchanting!?” The possibility of practicing enchanting mixes with the high of winning the battle, I don’t think I could meditate right now even if I tried.
My joy is shattered by the screams in the distance.
That’s at least three more giant spiders hiding in the surrounding forest.
“Let’s harvest what we can and make for the village. People need to know what’s crawling around our forest.”
I think we can all agree with master on that. Let’s strip this spider and book it home.
Oh gods! What is mother going to say when she hears about this creature!