I didn’t how I knew it but I knew I was dreaming.
Fierce ice-cold winds raged around me, lashing mercilessly at the wet skin of my face.
I was on my knees on a snow-covered ground, hands drenched in blood as I held on to someone in my arms.
I couldn’t see their face. It was too blurry to make it out. An unimaginable sense of sorrow tore at my heart, eating me alive. I held them closer to my chest while I wretchedly sobbed.
I rocked my body back and forth as I mumbled the same words over and over again into their hair, “Forgive me. Please, forgive me. Please….Oh please...”
“Sergio…my…Sergio…You…mu--musn’t…cr—y…D—don’t…cry…f—or…me…” The figure whispered into my ear, their voice so weak and broken.
I leaned my head against theirs, breathing them in. The oddly familiar scent of fresh magnolias drowned my senses. I continued to sob as I peppered desperate, tear-soaked kisses all over their face.
“Y--yes baby…Yes, I will. Wait for me, alright? We will be together again, soon. Just wait for me. Baby...just wait for me.”
Their cold fingers brushed weakly against my face, almost as if they were trying to memorize the shape of my features. With great difficulty, they placed their ice-cold lips against my own. Our kiss tasted strangely salty yet sweet at the same time. I felt them smile before they grew suddenly still. I could no longer feel the warm huff of their breath against my face.
I wailed miserably into the silence. My wails however were soon drowned by the fierce winds and no one heard them.
I jolted awake, nearly falling off of the branch under which I had been sleeping.
My heart was thumbing widely against my chest, like a caged hummingbird. I touched my hands to my face and they came out wet.
Disoriented, I looked around me. The weather was calm and clear, no snow or fierce winds in sight.
What kind of dream was that? And when did I revert back to my human form?
I took a deep breath and let it out. I folded my knees against my chest and placed my head in between them, hoping to calm down my frantic heartbeat.
I didn’t know how much time passed before I was no longer on the edge of hyperventilation. I lifted my head, sighing. I continued to stare at my hands for a moment before deciding to stand up. I reactivated my Voidling form. Using my ‘tails’ I climbed down the tree. Once I reached the bottom floor of the forest, I deactivated my Voidling form.
I pulled my water container out from my inventory, took a drink and washed my face. Afterwards, I shoved it back into the magic circle.
I leaned against the trunk of the tree and swept my gaze across my surroundings. I was still unsettled by the dream I had but I forced myself to not look too deep into it.
Stress, it must be stress. Hell, anyone would be stressed in these circumstances. It is totally normal to have nightmares. It must be my psyche’s way of coping with the madness of getting sucked into a fictional book’s world. Yes, this was totally normal.
Rubbing my fingers against my temples, I greeted Dolores. “Good morning, Dolores.”
|[…Good morning, Reader.]|
“Please, show me my stats interface.”
I leveled up yesterday but because I was too busy working out basic necessities, I forgot to check it out. Dolores said I had 10 stat points to spend, two new skills and something about my sword needing more souls to rank up.
「Stamina : 25/25」「Vitality: 10/10」「 Mana: 25/25」
「Strength: 20 」「Intelligence: 25 」「Agility: 10」「Perception: 10」「Charm: 0」
Stat Points to spend : 10
10 points, okay. Now, where do I spend them?
Yesterday, I realized how important the Stamina stat was for my class. The more I increased it, the more skill uses I could have. I was sure I would accumulate more skills down the road and when that did happen, I would need more Stamina to execute them. After going through it one more time in my head, I decided that Stamina was a stat worth investing in.
My 10 points Vitality stat, however, irked me. In most video games Vitality equated heath points. In the book’s setting, it was supposedly the equivalent of the classic RPG endurance stat.
In other words, Vitality determined the amount of damage I received from physical attacks. It also modified my susceptibility to diseases and bleeding as well as my natural healing abilities. In conclusion, the higher the Vitality stat was, the tankier and healthier I became.
Health points as a concept didn’t exist in the Twilight Realm. Unlike video games, a dagger that managed to bypass your Vitality stat and pierced through your heart would kill you regardless of what level you were.
The current Vitality stat I had displayed before me was way too low for my likening. There could be future situations where I would exhaust my Stamina stat and have nothing to fall back on except my Vitality.
It would be equally worthwhile to invest in the Vitality stat, especially with my current low level.
In the end, I decided to split the 10 points evenly between my Stamina and my Vitality. My Stamina was now 30 while my Vitality was 15. The change wasn’t much but it served to ease some of worries. I had a tendency to think too much. As long as I felt I had a semblance of control over my situation, I would be alright.
Next, I checked my new skills.
【Impale】 : Exclusive to sword-wielding classes. The user performs a powerful physical attack that immobilizes the target enemy for 30 seconds. Consumes 7 Stamina points.
Note: The physical damage applied by【Impale】is determined by the user’s Strength stat.
The ‘immobilize’ effect alone makes this skill worth having. Following my battle with the Wailing Hound, I realized that 30 seconds could be more than enough to seal anyone’s fate in a fight.
【Void Grasp】 : Exclusive to Voidling race. The user uses their Voidling Strands to bypass the target enemy’s Vitality stat, draining their Stamina 1 point per a second. Consumes 10 Stamina points.
Ah, so the reason the Wailing Hound couldn’t shake off my ‘tails’, which Dolores now called Voidling Strands, was because it was drained of its Stamina.
What an interesting and powerful skill, it would make quite the combo with Impale. 10 points is too expensive for my current level though. I guess I will have to be careful with how and when I used it.
Okay, now I needed to check my sword. The sword had a unique name and I had a feeling it wasn’t your typical piece of equipment.
I lifted my sword and gazed at it. A screen box popped out next to it.
『Soul Link: 'Serg'』
『Type: Sword] [Tier: Otherworldly』
[Current Rank: Bronze』
[Souls consumed until next Rank: 01/20]
「Physical Attack Power:」
20 (Corresponds with Soul Link’s Strength stat)
「「Voidrippler」has a 1% to 10% chance to bypass a target enemy’s Vitality stat, inflicting a critical hit.」
「Every time 「Voidrippler」 lands a critical hit, it drains 5% of the target enemy’s Stamina and 5% of its Mana.」
「Every time 「Voidrippler」deals a death blow to a target enemy, it absorbs its soul.」
[「Voidrippler」 recognizes its Soul Link’s mana signature. If unequipped, it can return to its Soul Link’s hand regardless of the distance. 「Voidrippler」cannot be yielded by anyone else but its Soul Link.]
Note: Rank up「Voidrippler」 to increase its attack power, its critical hit chances and to unlock more of its Unique Skills.
An evolving sword, interesting. I guess I won’t need to look for other weapons in the future.
The Otherworldly tier part caught my eyes. I was starting to see a theme with my ‘Voidling’ race and my ‘Outsider’ class. Rumored to have come from the stars, an alien-like form, the repeated reference to the Void word, a sword that eats souls and draining skills.
Hmm, was the author inspired by some sci-fi race but instead of implementing it directly into the story, they chose to make it a hidden lore?
Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter now. I will take this race-class combo as far as I can, utilize its strange powers to strengthen myself so I can reach the final quest quicker.
I got a goddaughter to spoil and my makeshift family to return to, I can’t afford to waste time.
Energized, I headed further east to collect some fruits for breakfast. I could always roast some Wailing Hound meat but I understood that my diet needed to be varied in order to keep myself healthy.
Eventually, I came across several shrubs that had some red berries hanging off their branches.
I picked one and brought it closer to my face, inspecting it. I sniffed it and its scent smelled sweet. I wiped its shiny red skin with my hide skirt then licked it. Its skin was tasteless.
I was worried it might be poisonous and I didn’t want to risk it since I didn’t have any medicine on me. As I was debating whether I should just throw it my mouth or leave it, a deafening roar shook the entire Wailing Woodlands, startling me.
The ground underneath me started to violently tremble and several nearby trees crumbled to the ground from the unbelievable force of the vibration.
Oh shit. That didn’t sound like something I would want to fight.
No longer having the luxury of caring, I throw away the berry and instantly run in the opposite direction of the roar.
And as my luck would have it, the roars continued to grew closer even as I run. My heart was beating so hard I feared it might just carve itself out of my chest. Refusing to look behind me, I just kept running for my life.
At some point, I reached some clearing. I looked frantically around me, looking for somewhere to hide. There was nothing except for trees and more trees. I could climb them but the scene of the trees earlier falling to the ground as if they were made of paper remained fresh in my mind. I noticed a boulder behind some bushes and I automatically run to it. As I was just about to reach it, the ground beneath my feet started to quake and crack.
A fissure split the ground in half in front of me. I was lucky I managed to jump backwards at the right time or else I would have been swallowed by the ground itself.
The tremors were getting stronger and stronger. Not caring if I broke a bone or two, I jumped as high as I could over the fissure, landing painfully on the other side. I winced as pain exploded through my legs. However, I didn’t waste any time to inspect them, instead I slipped right behind the boulder and assumed a crouching position.
I struggled to collect my breath, my lungs felt as if they were on fire. Sweat pooled over my forehead and started to trickle down my temples. I sneaked a look from my hiding spot.
Just as the tremors got to the point where I could barely hold on to the ground, a gigantic monster rolled into the clearing as if thrown. Its visibly wounded body bulldozed through the trees, flatting them to the ground in the way of its momentum.
The monster was a sleek, black feline that had two massive horns extending out of its head and fangs like those of a prehistoric saber-tooth. Its side was marred by huge, gruesome claw marks and blood oozed out of them freely.
As the feline monster struggled to stand up on its legs, another even more gigantic monster jumped into the clearing.
The sight of it caused the blood in my veins to freeze. It emitted an aura so thick and heavy it weighted down the very air itself, cloaking it and making it hard for anything in its vicinity to breath. That included me.
The new monster, which was some kind of wolf with pure white fur and blue flames clinging its tail and paws, encircled the wounded monster. It sneered at it and I could hear the sneer reverberating inside my chest.
Its eyes, which were a strange hue of gold, were pinned menacingly on its opponent.
I didn’t realize how intently I was staring at it until a screen box showed up in front of me.
[Appraisal failed. Character cannot be appraised.]
[Warning: We advise Reader to not engage this monster.]
Oh believe me, you don’t have to tell me that, Dolores.
The feline monster, which was too wounded to stand up properly, growled in response. Its red eyes glared back just as menacingly. Defiance etched on its face.
The white wolf opened its massive jaws, an orb of consolidated blue formed inside its mouth. It then directed at the black monster. In an instant, a deafening bomb sounded and the wounded monster was disintegrated into nothing.
The aftermath of the magic attack burned down the entire clearing. The water in the very air evaporated, resulting in a veil of white mist which cloaked the entire area. I could no longer see properly.
By the time, the mist settled a bit. A hole the size of an entire house stood where the black monster once was.
The white wolf disappeared.
Relieved that I had managed to escape death by the skin of my teeth, I let out a shuddering breath. Had I chosen to climb a tree instead of hiding here, I would have been turned into a nothing by now.
I leaned my head against the boulder and closed my eyes for a moment.
What a rude awakening. There was nothing imaginary about what has just happened.
This isn't a game. I am now well and truly stuck in a dangerous dog-eat-dog world. I can’t afford to be weak or stupid. If I want to go back home, I have to be smarter, I have to get stronger. There is no other choice.
I grimly nodded to myself before rising to my feet. I inspected the aftermath of the battle scene. This clearing which was full of trees and shrubs a moment again had transformed into a wasteland in a blink of an eye.
Such destructive power.
I continued to venture further east when my Perception stat picked on a weak whine. Intrigued, I followed the sound. I kept my distance behind a tree as I sneaked a look.
I saw a monster which I was well acquainted with: A Wailing Hound. It was swatting at something much smaller with its paw. The tiny thing let out a familiar pain-filled whine as it struggled to evade the bigger monster’s assault.
Now that I was rudely awakened to the importance of leveling up and getting stronger, I made a spit second choice. I crouched down low on the ground as I stalked the Wailing Hound from behind. It seemed too interested in the little thing to notice me.
Taken advantage of its inattentiveness, I jumped into the air while activating my Impale skill.
|[【Impale】 skill activated]|
I thrust my sword right into the back of its neck, driving it deep into its flesh. The Howling Hound whimpered but the sound came out all weird and hoarse because of the sword piercing right through the back of its throat.
|[Howling Hound is immobilized for 30 seconds]|
I put more force into my sword, swaying it back and forth while it was wedged in the monster’s neck. I kept at it until I managed to severe the monster’s head clean. The head rolled several meters away before stopping. The now dead Wailing Hounded thudded to the ground, motionless.
[You have slain a Level 2 Howling Hound]
[Origin bonus ‘20% Level-up Speed activated.]
[30 experience points gained. 80 experience points until Level 3.]
[「Voidrippler」, your equipped sword, has consumed 1 soul]
[Offer「Voidrippler」more 18 souls to unlock next rank.]
I swiped the blade of my sword against the dead monster’s hide, cleaning the blood off of it.
I looked at the brave, little furball which had been trying to stand its ground against an enemy hundred times its size.
Noticing my gaze, the little monster flatted its ear behind its head and hissed at me.
The more I looked at it, the more familiar it seemed. Black fur, red eyes, tiny little horns and small fangs.
Wait, doesn’t this little thing look like the black monster the white wolf had just killed? Am I tripping?
I squatted down to the ground to seem less threatening to the little monster. As I studied it, I noticed it had some shallow claw marks on its coat and one of its eyes had a deep scratch on it. The little thing couldn’t open it and the eye continued to bleed.
The little thing was no ordinary animal. It was a monster and from what I had seen from its adult version, it was a fearsome breed that could battle something as obscenely powerful as that white wolf.
A little bleeding wouldn’t kill it, would it?
I hesitate for a bit before rising to my feet. I started to walk away but then changed my mind. I turned around and looked back at the little thing.
Now, there were two of them. They were identical. The other little one, which must have been hiding, was licking its sibling’s bleeding eye while it purred. It was probably trying to comfort it.
Was the wounded little one trying to protect its sibling from the Wailing Hound?
I sighed, smacking my hand against my forehead. Goddammit, why did they have to be so cute? Now, I can’t just leave them.
If my guess was correct then the black monster which had just been killed was likely their parent. Although they might be of a superior class of beast monsters, they were pretty much kittens right now. If I hadn’t interfered by chance, that Level 2 Howling Hound could have ended them in a single bite of its jaws. Without the protection of their parent, other monsters would definitely kill them off.
“Dolores, what should I do?”
|[What does Reader wish to do?]|
“Should I bring them back with me?”
|[Reader should follow what his heart desires. If he does not, he might come to regret it later on.]|
Surprised by such a deep and human-like answer, I lifted my brows. “Wow, Dolores. I didn’t except that from you.”
|[It is what it is.]|
Oh, someone is getting cheekier.
Chuckling, I moved towards the dead Howling Hound. I used my sword, clumsily skinned a bit of its hide and sliced some of its meat. I placed my sword on the carcass and walked towards the little ones. Once I got close enough to them, I crouched down and extended my hand. I put the meat pieces on the ground in front of the kittens.
They watched me warily throughout the whole process, the healthy little one moved behind its wounded sibling. Its gaze nervous and its ears flat on its head. The other kitten bravely hissed at me, despite its still bleeding eye.
After placing the meat, I walked backwards and sat on the ground, three meters or so away from the little pair. At first, they wouldn’t touch the meat. Their eyes would dart continuously between the food and me. Distrust and wariness in their red gaze.
Eventually, it was the brave little one who moved first. He grabbed the meat at lightning speed and jumped back to its sibling. It put it between them and started to eat, the shyer little one followed. While they ate, every now and then, their eyes would dart my way as if they were reminding me they haven’t forgotten I was there.
A soft smile came to my face as I watched them eat their fill. Warmth spread its way to my heart, driving away some of my loneliness. Cute things were definitely the Achilles heel of the modern man.
Deciding I was going to look after those little twin kittens with the horns and the fangs, I went ahead planning to build them a small den in a tree nearby. I could use my sword to carve an opening in the trunk, pad its floor with leaves and cover it with the Wailing Hound’s hide.
My poor Otherworldly-tier sword. Since I came to this world, it had been a scissor, a sharpener and now it was going to be a carving knife. I wondered if it could talk, what would it say to me?
Laughing at my absurd line of thought, I got up and started to get busy.