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Focus.

I feel my mana envelop my body. Mana Skin activates and I focus my senses on how it conveys the mana to perfectly cover my frame. Mana Skin has been stuck at level 40 for three weeks now and I need it to reach the next level.

I’ve tried compressing the barrier Mana Skin makes but the barrier only weakens after I compress it a certain degree.

I took today off to give myself the extra time needed to pass the test. Things have been hectic over these last three weeks and my magic training has sadly been reduced to almost nothing.

Six days ago, the first chameleon spider was spotted by Ronald’s hunting group. It took the spiders slightly longer to reach our hunting grounds than we originally thought but they showed up none the less. We slew the beast the next day but we saw signs that others weren’t far behind the first one.

The village has been scrambling to cut down as many trees as possible since Camden laid out his plans to defend the village. The villagers got behind the idea and even now we have an alternating team of people cutting down as many of the surrounding trees as they can.

The village has cleared nearly thirty feet of the forest surrounding our village and even the rain turning into slush hasn’t stopped people from working like they’re possessed. Any of the trees that can be safely burned have been processed to help reduce how much wood father needs to gather in the forest. With his free time, father has been spearheading the deforestation project and only goes into the forest once a week with me.

The fields have been prepped for winter leaving the farmers open to help remove the many stumps surrounding our village. They’re focusing near the fields that way when this disaster finally passes, they can expand the workable farmland.

With the village working so hard, master and I have been swamped with work. We needed to forge nearly twenty axes to help with the tree felling and we’ve been sharpening axes every day.

My average day in master’s forge starts with us sharpening as many as five axes before we get to any real forging. Ronald even commissioned another two bows for Hayk and Arash. Ronald brought the two men over to Del’s after they went hunting with him and witnessed his new bow in action.

Neither could afford the price I insisted on. Our small village works mostly through barter but everyone has a few coins stashed somewhere. I wanted five silver and that was with a huge discount. I would normally give them the bows and have them slowly pay me back but our current predicament has made things difficult.

I have maybe two weeks before Kervin comes back with the materials I ordered. The mithril and magic gem are the main components master needs to forge me an engraving pen. I’m confident I can cover his broker fee by the time he gets back but I still need to order magic tools so I can study their runes.

I was set to turn them away when Ronald offered up his share of future chameleon spider hunts to cover the cost of their bows. I don’t know why he would pay for them but I couldn’t turn down a request from Ronald.

Customizing two bows took up a lot of Del’s and my time. When we started making the bows, the spiders weren’t yet spotted in our hunting grounds, meaning we were working off of good faith instead of the promise of payment. And of course, once we finished Arash and Hayk’s bows Braddon came to us with a request of his own. Thankfully he had the coin from his family.

I had to change my schedule to accommodate the influx of work. I spend six days with master forging bows, spears, and everyday items like nails for the village every week. The last day I spend helping father to gather wood in the forest and spending time with mother.

Master has been complaining about his lack of sleep as of late. He leaves the forging to me while he mines and smelts the huge amount of steel we need.

If that wasn’t enough for us to do, we had to hunt the spider that was spotted close to the village when it showed up. We stuck with the same tactics as the last two times but instead of using a torch to light the magnesium, Ronald prepared an arrow that we could light on fire. The arrow was ruined but it proved much safer for us to use.

The last five days the hunting group has come across two more spiders hidden in the woods. The falling snow has helped outline the creatures, preventing any casualties so far. It’s become more apparent the beasts are spreading out.

Each day the hunters find less and less game in the woods. Rumors are spreading through the village that the hunters spend their days following tracks only for them to suddenly disappear leaving behind a few drops of blood and nothing else.

The snow is starting to stick on the ground and everything is only going to continue to get harder.

I’m thinking too much, I need to start practicing. Tomorrow will be busy. We need to hunt down another spider. The beast was spotted only an hour away from our village and must be dealt with before it gets any closer.

To prepare for tomorrow I decided to take today off… well, not a full day off.

I haven’t had a chance to pass the Mana Skin test and it’s arguably one of my most important skills. Mana Skin is my most important skill in battle. I may use the skill every day but that’s not enough for it to reach the next level.

I talked to my parents and Master Del, warning them that I planned to spend the day meditating. Master jumped at the opportunity for a break while my parents were sad, I wasn’t doing the same. They know how busy I am and though they don’t like it they understand why I can’t take more time off.

Even now, I can’t settle down. If I keep worrying about everything I need to do, I won’t be able to focus on the task at hand. I get up from my bed and prop my window open. The fresh cold air invigorates me.

I move back to my bed and try to relax my body, adjusting my breathing as my body slowly relaxes. Looking around my room, I focus on sensing my mana and the mana surrounding me. My room lights up around me as I concentrate on my Sense Mana skill. I’m used to seeing mana but the finer more intricate currents the mana moves in only become visible when I focus on them. I watch the wind attuned mana gently drift through my open window and mix with the stagnant wind mana surrounding me.

The small amount of fire mana shrinks away as the wind carries the cold in from outside. I inspect my floor and watch the slow-moving mana inside the stone react in its own way to the new wind mana. The fire mana around the room is swept away as it emigres from my furniture. Watching the heat being sucked out of the room is oddly relaxing.

I move my gaze down towards myself and notice a small amount of fire mana leaking from my exposed skin. As the mana trickles away, I feel the bite of the cold around me. I try to use Mana Manipulation to keep the heat from leaving my body but the notes of fire mana are too small and too resistant with my current skill level to have any effect.

I close my eyes and check my mana pool. The mana inside my body is practically bursting at the seams. My mana pool is fully charged and working on purifying the mana I absorbed from my surroundings. Keeping my mana pool full and forcing my body to purify the excess mana I absorbed has slightly increased the growth rate of my Magic stat.

I activate Mana Skin but instead of using Mana Manipulation to help the barrier form, I use the skill to slow its activation. The skill tries to pull my mana out of my skin, so I use Extract Mana at the same time pulling it back in.

The two skills fight each other over my mana. I slowly reduce the pull of Extract Mana and watch the barrier form. In slow motion, mana bubbles out of my skin and merges together to make a barrier. While the barrier forms, I compress it like I usually do. Even with my extra concentration, I can’t reduce the barrier any further than normal.

If I pump more mana into the skill, I can make the barrier bigger but it will cost me exponentially more mana without a noticeable increase in barrier strength.

I’ve been contemplating this problem for the last few weeks and I think I have an idea on how I can improve the skill. One barrier is good, but two is always better than one. Instead of wasting my mana trying to make the barrier bigger, I decided, why not layer them?

My first Mana Skin barrier is ready, now I need to make another one. My skill is already activated, so I can’t just use it again. Can I manually form another barrier on top of the old one?

This time I don’t hold myself back with Extract Mana and instead use Mana Manipulation alongside Expel Mana to try to form another barrier.

As soon as the mana is released from my body it collides with my existing barrier. I try to make a gap in the barrier for the mana to move through but my skill refuses to comply with me. I know how to adjust the thickness of the barrier around different parts of my body but intentionally removing the barrier over any part of my body seems to clash with the skill.

My mana just gets absorbed by my barrier and Mana Manipulation loses its finer control over it.

“I’ll have to start over,” I mumble to myself.

I use Extract Mana to pull all my mana back into my body. I have to say, Extract Mana is turning out to be just as overpowered as Inject Mana. Thanks to the skill I can practice my magic skills without losing a significant chunk of mana in the process.

After all my mana is safely absorbed, I refocus on my skill. If my mana won't pass through my skill neatly to form another barrier on top of my first one then I’ll have to form another one along the bottom of it instead.

I activate Mana Skin again but I use Mana Manipulation to push the barrier off of my skin while it’s forming. The barrier takes longer to stabilize but I successfully form the barrier half an inch off of my skin. The mana bubble looks funny around me and I’m reminded of a good witch from a classic movie. I wonder if I can fly somehow with this? Probably not, and I don’t want to chance a bunch of munchkins worshiping me either.

I have the first barrier up, now I need to manually make the second one below it. My skills activate and I carefully sculpt my mana into a new barrier covering my skin. The barrier neatly fills in the gap I left behind, did that do it?

I pull up the skill.

Mana Skin (LV40) (99%)

Why didn’t it work? I focus back on my barriers, trying to figure out what is wrong.

I don’t see anything wrong with them?

The outer barrier is strong and looks exactly like my usual barrier only farther from my skin. The second barrier is nestled between the first barrier and my skin and they aren’t merging together.

I slowly swing my legs over my bed and move to grab my knife. I need to test the strength of the overlapping barriers.

I push up from my bed and almost face plant onto the floor! My hands quickly move in front of me bracing myself before I hit the floor. My hands covered in the barriers slide off of the stone floor, leaving me sprawled out like a starfish. My limbs seem to have little traction while covered in my new barriers.

What’s going on!

I turn my head and look at my feet. I move my leg to try and stand up but my eyes go wide when I see what happens. The outer barrier isn’t in sync with my movements. The inner barrier is conforming to my body but the outer one is lagging at least two seconds behind. I move at a snail’s pace and prop my body up with my hands. If I move too fast, I’ll lose my grip on the floor.

I watch the barriers carefully and realize I can’t change the thickness of the outer barrier. I usually reduce the barrier below my feet as small as I can make it, so it doesn’t interfere with my walking. My new barriers are keeping me suspended an inch off of the ground and not responding properly to my movements.

It takes me five minutes to stand up and I wobble with each movement. My first step almost has me back on the ground. I slowly inch my way over to my nightstand and move to pick up my dagger.

Again, my new barriers make the task more tedious. The barriers around my hand make it so my fingers can’t properly grasp the handle. Luckily the blade is still sheathed. Using both of my hands in a cupping motion, I carry the dagger back to my bed.

I slip again when I try to get on top of my bed. When I pushed off with one of my legs I tumbled to the side. My hands naturally went out to grasp something but the barriers prevented me from grabbing my bed to break my fall. My dagger went flying and is the only thing that made it on top of my bed.

It takes another seven minutes this time for me to make it to my feet.

I look down at my bed and try to picture how I’m going to do this.

“To hell with this.” I decide to let gravity do the work.

I let my body fall forward and plop face down on my bed. It would be so much easier if I could just disperse my skill and try again once I’m situated but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make the barriers exactly the same again.

Like a snake, I slither into position before I sit-up. I look down at my sheathed dagger and frown. This is going to take forever.

Moving like a sloth, I manage to unsheathe my dagger and hold it in a reverse grip. I move the blade over to my arm and slowly push down against the outer barrier.

My barrier has always worked best against blunt damage not cutting edges. I move the knife back and forth, slowly cutting into the mana. I put just enough pressure on the knife to breach the skill without accidentally stabbing myself.

I watch the knife saw through my first barrier and reach the second.

I freeze my hand when the knife makes it through the outer barrier. I watch as mana escapes the punctured outer shell like a tire with a hole in it. I retract my knife and seal the gap before I lose any more mana. The inner barrier wasn’t a barrier at all, it was insulation.

Focusing back on my arm, I watch how the inner mana helps seal the barrier and slowly fills back up replacing the mana I lost when my skill was breached.

No wonder the outer barrier isn’t conforming to my body. The mana in between my skin and the barrier is acting as a buffer. My body is putting pressure on the mana which isn’t moving the force to the barrier. I never made two barriers in the first place.

I got close but that’s why the skill didn’t level up.

I sheath my knife and move it off to the side. Thinking back, when I earned my Mana Skin skill the barrier formed almost on its own when I gained the skill. It started off being permeable like the inner part is now.

The inner barrier needs to be stronger. I start pumping more of my mana into the softer area and compress it before adding more.

I have 300 mana compressed in the inner barrier compared to the 75 I have in the outer one. Using Mana Manipulation, I slowly change the structure of the clump of mana to resemble the outer barrier.

Once the barriers structures match and rest up against one another I feel it click. The sensation of a skill advancing reverberates throughout my body. Just like with Inject Mana, when a higher tired skill passes a test you immediately feel the difference.

I use Extract Mana and absorb the barriers covering my body. I shiver when I feel the cold air brush up against my skin.

I jump off of my bed to close my window and almost trip. I overcompensated as if I was still surrounded by my skill. I chuckle to myself thinking back on how I was flopping everywhere. I’ll need to practice moving with my leveled skill.

I close the window and move to the center of my room. I activate Mana Skin and watch it form a Barrier around my body. I’m worried nothing changed but once the mana covers my body in a one-inch shell the barrier splits and forms two separate halves. I check my mana and see that Mana Skin now uses 200 mana to activate.

The stronger barrier lifts me off of the ground an inch. I flail my arms, finding a new sense of balance. I move my limbs and see the barrier mimicking my movements.

A huge smile crosses my face. It works!

I move over and sit on the edge of my bed. I pull up my status page that I’ve neglected over the last few weeks.

LV: 61 Experience: 391,445/ 449,563

Health: 2,050/2,050

Stamina: 1,298.18/1,363

Mana: 789.82/1,000

Vitality: 205.00

Endurance: 80.08

Strength: 124.01

Dexterity: 117.00

Senses: 60.41

Mind: 62.47

Magic: 100.59

Clarity: 75.36

Status Points: 0

Skills:

Tier 1:

Meditation (LV77), Running (LV71), Axe Skills (LV55), Blacksmithing (LV58), Cleaning (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV50), Chanting (LV46), Mining (LV46), Drawing (LV37), Cooking (LV36), Trading (LV32), Dagger Skills (LV31), Acting (LV30), Sewing (LV24), Wood Carving (LV21), Sword Skills(LV19), Pugilist Skills (LV4), Spear Skills (LV2)

Tier 2:

Sense Mana (LV78), Double Step (LV55), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV40), Axe Arts (LV36), Hammer Arts (LV36), Writing (LV32), Mathematics (LV30), Intimidating Shout (LV30), Increase price (LV13), Lower Price (LV12), Dagger Arts (LV12), Sword Arts (LV6), Marching (LV5), Gourmet (LV2), Shout of Valor (LV1)

Tier 3:

Expel Mana (LV56), Mana Manipulation (LV49), Precise Strike (LV30), Double Strike (LV30), Weighted Strike (LV17), Flash Step (LV12)

Tier 4:

Inject mana (LV43), Mana Skin (LV42), Mental Resistance (LV40), Extract Mana (LV19), Magic Blacksmithing (LV15)

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV29)

Increased Skill Levels

Running (LV71) 3,550exp

Blacksmithing (LV56-58) 8,550exp

Hammer Skills (LV49-50) 4,950exp

Chanting (LV46) 2,300exp

Mining (LV43-46) 8,900exp

Sword Skills (LV15-19) 4,250

Sense Mana (LV78) 7,800exp

Double Step (LV54-55) 10,900exp

Measurement (LV40) 4,000exp

Sword Arts (LV4-6) 1,500exp

Expel Mana (LV56) 8,400exp

Mana Manipulation (LV48-49) 14,550exp

Precise Strike (LV28-30) 13,050exp

Double Strike (LV27-30) 17,100exp

Weighted Strike (LV13-17) 11,250exp

Flash Step (LV11-12) 3,450exp

Inject mana (LV42-43) 21,250exp

Mana Skin (LV41-42) 20,750exp

Mental Resistance (LV39-40) 19,750exp

Extract Mana (LV12-19) 31,000exp

Magic Blacksmithing (LV6-15) 26,250exp

Sense Soul (LV29) 14,500exp

Skill Experience: 258,000exp

Crafting Experience: 70,803exp

Fighting Experience: 5,394exp

Total experience Gained: 334,197exp

It’s becoming abundantly clear that though my lower tired skills play the most part in my everyday life but it’s my tier 4 and 5 skills that give the most experience these days.

I also used to consider my gains from fighting the chameleon spiders as a huge bonus but when compared to my crafting it’s almost a moot point now. I earn around a 1,000exp for each spear I make and 36 of them gave me over half my crafting experience. I earned approximately 3,300exp for my part in each of the bows. Master did the finer details, so I’m assuming he earned much more experience than me.

I’m close to level 62 and two more of my skills reached their first test. I have a feeling Mental Resistance will be the hardest skill I’ve ever had to raise and most likely I won’t be able to pass the test until Sense Soul finally reaches level 30. The time I can spend in my previous memories is expanding but I still can’t choose which memories I relive. I hate to say it but 70% of my previous life would be considered boring to anyone watching.

Hammer Skills has been leveling slower ever since I started focusing on swordsmanship. I’ll have to ask Del if he has any idea on how I can pass its first test.

“I need more free time.” I rise and stretch my limbs, getting a better feel for my stronger Mana Skin.

Ha, I go from complaining about a boring past life to not having enough time in a single day for everything I need to do.

Glancing at my closed window, I can tell by the rays of light seeping between the shutters I still have four hours before the sun goes down. That should be enough time for me to train moving around with my skill activated.

I don’t bother putting my jacket on, focusing more on securing my sword and dagger in place. It’s a lot harder securing them through my stronger barrier.

I push my door open and walk out into our living space. Mother is sewing in her chair while father is carving what I assume is a figure of a farkas. Both of them glance up at me and notice the weapon at my side.

“Where are you going, sweety?” Mom questions me while her hands gracefully move through the fabric in front of her.

“I need to test out how to move properly with a new skill.” I motion down at my feet. Mother and father’s eyes enlarge when they realize I’m hovering in place.

“You can fly!?” Mother puts down her work and springs towards me. Father follows her equally curious.

“I wish.” I flatly state. “I improved the skill that helps me defend against taking damage. It’s a lot thicker now, making it more difficult to move with. I need to go with master and Ronald tomorrow to hunt that chameleon spider that’s closing in on the village. I’m safer with the skill but using it in battle without knowing its effects can be dangerous.” I explain to them.

“You going into the woods?” Dad asks.

“Just far enough away that no one will see me practice.” I smile at the two of them. I walk over to the front door and start putting my shoes on.

“I’m sure you will.” Mother sends me a look that says she knows better.

I smartly choose not to rebut her. I start trying to pull hard on my shoes but they refuse to slip over my feet. I’m stupid, my feet are two inches wider and longer when they’re covered in my barrier. When I activate my skill it usually envelops my clothes, guarding them from the elements, but I don’t usually change clothes with it still activated.

“Having trouble?” Father looks down at my feet.

“Sort of. I don’t want to waste my mana deactivating my skill just to put my shoes on.” I frown at my footwear. Maybe I can use dads?

“Do you need to wear shoes?” Father’s question makes mother and I look at him funny.

“She needs shoes.” Mother points out to father.

“But does she?” Father turns to me and gives me a questioning look.

I don’t plan on running into anyone in the forest and my barriers are definitely stronger than my boots. The cold won’t affect me either, so do I really need to wear footwear?

I stand up and hop around with my bare feet. “Guess I don’t.”

Mother has a sour look like she wants to say something but decides to hold it back. She’s been really cool about supporting my decisions lately.

‘I’ll be back soon.” I move to open our front door.

“Make sure you stay safe and be back before the sun goes down.” Mother throws out some ground rules before I can leave.

“You know I’m a big girl now, right?” I playfully jab at her.

“And?” She crosses her arms.

I raise my hands in surrender. “You got it, boss!” I shout as I make my way out of the doorway. As I close the door behind me, I shout a quick, “Love you,” before the door is fully closed. I’m sure I saw a smile on mother’s face.

The winter clouds are rolling overhead fighting with the sun trying to heat up the ground. It’s just warm enough for the small piles of snow around the village to melt. My feet sink into the mud but not as deep as my shoes would normally go. The barrier keeps my feet spotless in the muck.

I round our house and jog the thirty feet into the forest. It feels weird to move like this. I might not be wearing shoes but the barriers surrounding my feet keep me from feeling anything I step on. A few Double Steps and a Flash Step gets me deep enough into the woods no one will see or hear me.

I stop under a large tree on top of a pile of snow. The snow is hidden from the sun by the canopy giving me a glimpse of what’s to come soon. In only a few more weeks the snow will stop melting and will cover the forest in a sea of white. I stop thinking about the coming weather and focus on my practice.

Let’s see how well I can move with Mana Skin activated. I take up a starting position facing deeper into the forest. I raise my hand into the air, making a gun with my fingers. I imagine a bang and take off. This time I don’t stop using Double Step. As I sprint through the trees Mana Skin slowly feels more natural again. I have to use Flash Step to dodge some trees but I can’t stop now. The speed is intoxicating.

I’ve had to cut back on my morning runs, using the time to practice swordsmanship with Camden, and even then, I couldn’t go all out like this. The trees are keeping me from reaching my top speed but being able to run 40mph in the forest feels amazing.

My arms pump back and forth while I keep my breathing even. I run across some snow here and there but with my speed and Mana Skin activated my feet barely sink into the slush.

A hear a large branch snap off to my left. I don’t take any chances and use Flash Step to give myself some distance.

I let out a sigh of relief when I see a Karhu stumble out of a den, I didn’t notice I was passing by. The beast that once terrified me doesn’t even make me feel an ounce of danger. After facing a bigger and more dangerous beast he might as well be a cartoon bear.

“Go back to sleep!” I use Intimidating Shout.

A surprising amount of confusion crosses the beast's face before its expression turns to one of rage. I check behind the creature and see there’s nothing in its den. There’re no cubs or even a mate. This big guy isn’t defending a family and he should be hibernating already.

As the top half of the karhu rears up on its back legs I see why it’s attacking me. The beast’s ribs are showing through its fur.

It must not have found enough food to hibernate. If the rumors around the village are true then even the karhu must be having trouble with finding enough prey with the chameleon spiders roaming about.

“RRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAA!” The beast lets out a huge roar.

When I was a kid that was enough to freeze me in place, now it just makes me mad. Did the village hear that?

I need to finish this beast before anyone arrives.

I take my stance and grab my katanas handle. The big beast charges me while I wait at the ready. I adjust my grip trying to accommodate the thicker barrier around my hands. This will be a good test run for tomorrow.

Once the karhu is close enough it swings it’s two right paws at me. I easily side-step the strike and draw my blade. The sword cuts the air and slashes the two arms that are now within my reach. The cuts are deep but I almost lost the grip of my sword. I adjust my hands to better hold the sword.

I decide not to inject mana into my sword, if I burn its hide mother would be pissed at me. The beast's fur turns red as it tries to backhand me. I jump back to dodge the wild swing and circle the beast making use of its blind spot.

I activate Double Strike with my sword and deliver two deep cuts on its two left hind legs. Using my smithing skills with a sword still gives me a weird feeling but they make my sword even deadlier.

“Aaaaaaarrrrrrrr!” The beast wails again but this time it’s a cry of pain.

“You were probably just hungry, huh? I’m sorry, but you chose to see me as prey. If you backed off earlier, I would have let you go. I’ll give you one free shot as an apology.” I need to see how strong my new skill is.

The beast sends one of its remaining good claws at me. I feel its dagger-like nails slice through the first barrier but catch on the second. The force of the beast’s strike knocks me back a few feet out of its range. I take a knee and assess the damage.

That strike was weaker than when I was struck by the chameleon spider but its claws did more damage compared to the blunt force damage of the spider’s legs. If I took another strike from a chameleon spider I could probably recover immediately now.

I rise to my feet and repair my Mana Skin skill. “People in my village are hungry and your hide will help keep someone warm.” I make up my mind to finish this.

I run straight at the beast.

All four claws come at me in what can only be called the scariest bear-hug ever.

Before the beast can trap me in its grasp, I use Flash Step one last time to reach its side. I switch to Double Step launching myself up onto the back of the creature.

“You can rest now.” I raise my sword and activate Precise Strike. My blade cleanly delivers a deep cut to the Karhu’s spine. Blood erupts from the injury and the karhu falls to the forest floor. I jump off before the unmoving body falls to the ground.

I offer a silent prayer for my vanquished foe. This wasn’t a murderous goblin or dangerous magical beast; this was just a hungry bear.

I look down at the lifeless body, “How do I dismantle a karhu?”

I’ve never participated in a real hunt before. Ronald is the one who processes the spiders we kill; master and I just carry everything when he’s done. I’ve watched Ronald dismantle the spiders but he’s not very forthcoming when it comes to teaching.

I guess I’ll start skinning it? I flick my sword and wipe the remaining blood onto the beast’s fur. I sheath my sword and draw my knife.

……

How do I skin a beast?

I’m going to have to get someone, aren’t I?

I turn around to make my way back to the village and panic when I realize something is standing in front of me.

My mind is racing. I don’t have enough time to draw my sword again. My dagger is already in my hand, so I take a step forward and thrust with all my strength. I feel my hand being knocked away and a strong pressure on my shoulder.

Something sweeps my leg out from under me and I’m lying flat on the ground.

I’m about to spring to my feet when I hear, “You ok?” Ronald’s short and even question irks me.

“No! I thought you were another beast!” I shout at the stone-faced man. He offers me a hand that I reluctantly take.

I hear laughter behind Ronald. Once I’m back on my feet I see today's hunting party in formation behind their silent leader.

I might be surprised at how easily they snuck up on me if I wasn’t so angry about being tossed on the ground.

“Why did you throw me?” I narrow my eyes at Ronald.

“You attacked.” I almost try to stab the man again after his nonchalant answer.

I can’t argue with this man, so I turn my attention to the giggling hunters behind him. “Are you going to let the beast rot away or are you going to process it? I already did the hard part!”

Arash and Hayk are the first two people who take the hint and move towards the slain beast to start processing it. I would be happier if they weren’t trying to hold back their laughter as they pass me.

The other hunters move to help them all snickering in their own way. The last person to pass me and Ronald is Lucas. He’s the only one who isn’t laughing at me and surprisingly gives me a respectful head nod before he quickly moves over to help his senior hunters. When did he start treating me like that?

“Blood.” I look back at Ronald wondering what he means. He points at my shirt causing me to scrutinize my appearance.

“There’s no blood on me.” I retort to the man.

Crap! There’s no blood on me. It must have looked like I slew the karhu effortlessly but easily got flung on my back by Ronald. No wonder they’re all laughing at me.

I turn away from Ronald so he can’t see the embarrassed look on my face. “You can handle the rest, right?” I question Ronald without looking at him.

He doesn’t respond and I’m forced to turn around. He nods once to me before he starts walking over to his fellow hunters. He doesn’t make a sound as he walks away from me like a ghost amongst the trees. I glance at his feet hoping to see how he moves so silently. His shoes look like their dancing around anything that would make a noise.

Could I do that? I look down at my own feet. My eyes enlarge when I remember I’m not wearing any footwear. Did anyone notice? None of the hunters are looking at me strangely.

I take the opening to start jogging home. My embarrassment and worry about the hunters fade away as I think about my fight with the karhu. I’ve reached another milestone. I can single-handily face beasts that give the average person pause.

Someday I’ll do the same to those damn spiders.

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6,000 words.

 

I hope you enjoyed the chapter and, as always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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