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A note from MelasD

New cover art, any thoughts on it? 


10. Gratitude

Defeated [Spindly Hellhound - Lvl. 11]!

Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!

 

Defeated [Hellhound - Lvl. 13]!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

 

Subspecies [Zelus Imp] Level Up!

[Zelus Imp - Lvl. 12] -> [Zelus Imp - Lvl. 13]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

 

 

Defeated [Gadarenes - Lvl. 14]!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

 

Defeated [Bone Breaker Gadarenes - Lvl. 15]!

Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!

 

Subspecies [Zelus Imp] Level Up!

[Zelus Imp - Lvl. 13] -> [Zelus Imp - Lvl. 14]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

 

I pried the spear off the body of the last of the [Gadarenes]. I stared at the pile of bodies— at the trail that stretched back as far as I could see. After I left the [Hellbeast] behind, the half of the [Hellhounds] that chased me attracted more Demons with their constant growling and howling.

I tried to lead them to some [Demon Larvae] I had spotted, but those were quickly defeated before they could escape. Then came a single [Fiend], which attacked both me and the [Hellhounds] without distinguishing a target. The [Hellhounds] tore it apart, giving me an opportunity to flee— until the [Gadarenes] showed up.

An entire group of them, all of them taking on different forms, attacked me. Then the [Hellhounds] caught up to me, and it was an all out battle from there, which I somehow survived. I had to thank my companion— even though he was still on my shoulder, he saved me a few times by knocking any Demons that got too close to me. And now that the fighting had finished— I had leveled twice to Level 14.

I placed my companion down, nodding to him to begin his evolution. He had leveled as well, and was now Level 11. He started to shift— his body morphing— and as he did, I started to distribute my Stat Points.

 

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 5]

[Vitality]: 17

[Strength]: 12

[Endurance]: 18

[Wisdom]: 22

[Agility]: 34

 

When I leveled the first time, I spent 2 Stat Points on [Vitality] and [Endurance], and 1 on [Wisdom]. It was out of necessity. My health, stamina, and mana was running too low; if I had not done that, I wouldn’t have survived.

Now though, I was able to distribute them however I wanted. And I… still spent 2 on [Endurance]. I needed it for the future— in case I had to fight for such an extended period of time again. Then I spent 2 on [Wisdom] and 1 on [Agility].

Satisfied with that, I moved on to my Skills. I didn’t have time to decide what to expend my Skill Points on, so they were still untouched. So I had known I would have quite a few available— even still, I was shocked to see just how much that was.

 

Skills:

[Available Skill Points: 15]

[Basic Fire Creation] - Lvl. 1

[Double Step] - Lvl. 1

[Fire Strike] - Lvl. 4

[Fire Blast] - Lvl. 1

[Passive - General Tool Proficiency] - Lvl. 1

 

15 Skill Points?! How did I get that many? Last I remembered, I had 6 Skill Points!

Then I paused. I tried to think back to all the times I had leveled after getting my evolution— before that, I received 3 Skill Points for evolving, which I thought was just a one time thing. But apparently… I was getting 3 Skill Points now that I had evolved.

I was happy about that. I didn’t need to be so sparing with my Skill Points now, and could experiment more. But wait—

If I started to receive more Skill Points now that I was a Lesser Demon, did that mean I missed out on getting 2 additional Skill Points by going from Level 9 straight to Level 11? That sucked!

Oh well, I couldn’t do anything about it. Something told me that the next time I evolved wouldn’t just be ten levels from now. It felt like… I would get my next evolution somewhere around Level 40. So I made sure to keep that in mind the next time I had an evolution available.

For now, I considered the Skills I had. Four of them were at Level 1, with only [Fire Strike] at Level 4. That was a useful Skill— if not for it, I probably wouldn’t have survived. The Spear of Flames was a good weapon, but by itself it wouldn’t have done as much damage as with the Skill. I decided to figure out what to do with it last, going to the new Skills I had available.

I had tested most of the Skills I had obtained in battle, so I felt like I knew what I wanted to do with them. First was [Double Step]. I liked what it did, but the cooldown between uses made it lose some of its effectiveness. I was already faster than most Demons I met, after all. I raised it by 2 Skill Points, bringing it to Level 3 before moving to the next.

Next was [Fire Blast]. It helped me quite a lot earlier— if not for it, I wouldn’t have been able to hold off the [Hellhounds] for as long as I did. However, it didn’t do much damage, and could serve its purpose at its current level. But maybe it would increase in damage if I raised it, so I decided to raise it by 2 Skill Points, also bringing it to Level 3.

Then came [Passive - General Tool Proficiency]. It wasn’t exactly the best Skill I had, even though it let me use the spear better. But even if I didn’t have this Skill, I was pretty sure I knew how to swing the spear, just from seeing the Demon with crooked horns swing it around. So I gave it less Skill Points, only raising it to Level 2 with 1 Skill Point.

After that was [Basic Fire Creation]— the only Skill I didn’t use in battle. I could infer what it did based on its name, but I wanted to test how useful it was rather than wasting Skill Points on another useless Skill like [Basic Fire Conjuration] had been.

I brought my hands forward, trying to create a simple ball of flames. I focused— and even though I did not try to create anything too complex— I felt a significant amount of mana disappear. I had thought it was enough mana to create a ball of flames the size of my head, but when I looked down at it, all I saw was a tiny blaze floating on the palm of my hand.

I stared at it, disappointed. That… wasn’t impressive at all! It was worse than [Basic Fire Conjuration]! Why would my Skill change to that?!

I tossed the small ball of flames aside, annoyed. I had expected it to extinguish the moment it left my hand, but to my surprise, it dropped on the ground intact and rolled. I paused, looking down at the small ball of flames.

Then I quickly picked it up.

Amazing! I held it between two of my clawed fingers, inspecting it carefully. It was… a ball of flames. A solid ball of flames. It wasn’t acting like how fire normally acted at all— almost like the Spear of Flames! It was not completely solid, although it felt solid enough that my clawed finger couldn’t just pass through it. But it was fragile. I felt that if I pressed too hard on it, it would break.

I wasn’t sure what would happen when it broke, but I wasn’t going to just crush it on the palm of my hands. That was dangerous! I could burn myself if it decided to become regular fire, no longer under my control. So I decided to throw it.

Aiming at a large rock a small distance away, I hurled the small ball of flames with all my strength. It broke on impact, just as I had expected. But as I watched it break, I saw it staying solid for just a moment as it shattered into dozens of large pieces, before losing its form and turning to normal embers.

I stepped forward to the large rock, investigating the damage. It seemed that there was a slight burn from when the small ball of flames was still solid, before leaving proper scorches when it turned back to embers. That was a good Skill.

I wanted to test it out further. I tried to conjure a spear— one similar to the Spear of Flames I was carrying with me. To my disappointment, all I could create was a small spiked object, and it cost a lot of mana once again.

I decided to use 3 Skill Points on it for now, bringing it to Level 4. I liked what it did and it seemed useful. However the main reason I spent more on it was because I was hoping to possibly create my own Spear of Flames in the future.

That Skill had been the best one so far, and it made me excited to level more in the future. And now that I was done experimenting with it, I could finally go back to [Fire Strike].

I still had 7 Skill Points. 7 Skill Points I could use. I had seen how effective [Fire Strike] was combined with the Spear of Flames, let alone how useful it was by itself. And if it worked on my own fire creations— then it was best to keep it as strong as possible.

So I made a rash decision. I chose to spend all of my Skill Points onto [Fire Strike], knowing full well I couldn’t reverse it. I raised to Level 5, then Level 7, then Level 10—

And it stopped. I still had 1 Skill Point left, but I wasn’t able to use it on [Fire Strike]. But why? I checked my Skills, confused— then I saw the reason why I wasn’t able to increase it any further.

 

Skills:

[Available Skill Points: 1]

[Basic Fire Creation] - Lvl. 4

[Double Step] - Lvl. 3

[Fire Strike] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Fire Blast] - Lvl. 3

[Passive - General Tool Proficiency] - Lvl. 2

[Unused Skill Slot] x2

 

It was ‘maxed’. It had reached its maximum level— at Level 10— and I couldn’t raise it any further. I felt my lips curling down as I realized this. I slowly raised my hand, then quickly struck forward with the Skill.

[Fire Strike]!

I watched as flames lash out along with my claws. The fire seemed almost sharper than before. And it took up less mana too. But other than that, it didn’t change much.

It was more powerful, sure. However, that was it. It didn’t cause immense destruction like that Demon with crooked horns had been able to do— it was just a stronger version of [Fire Strike]. I had thought a maxed Skill would be more significant than that.

So this was the limit of that Skill? If that was it, I could have just tried to learn a more powerful Skill and replaced [Fire Strike] with it, before maxing it out. Unless…

Intuitively, I realized that I could upgrade my Skill. Just like how [Basic Fire Conjuration] had changed to a more powerful Skill, I could also change, or even upgrade, [Fire Strike] to something else. But that required more than just spending a Skill Point on it.

It was an interesting thing to learn. I felt my annoyance disappear as I decided to keep my 1 Skill Point for the future— I didn’t know what to use it on now, and could use it later. It was not like I had to spend it immediately. With that settled, I finally turned my attention to my companion just in time to see his evolution finish.

A tall red figure emerged from the lump of flesh that had once been his body. He stood on two feet, just like me; he raised his arms inspecting them as he closed and opened them. He didn’t have any claws, although the size of his arms made me think that a hit from that would be able to do more damage than whatever my short claws were capable of inflicting.

He was over half my height taller than me, with a broad chest that was almost as wide as me if I held up both my arms to the side. His long black hair with yellow streaks swayed as he turned to face me, and his lips curled up into… a smile.

“Hello.”

I knew he was my companion. I had gone through drastic changes myself, but even still, I approached him cautiously. It was apparently different from knowing something and experiencing it myself.

“Hi…?”

He looked at how I was approaching him, then nodded his head as we did to each other. I checked him with [Identification], just to make sure one last time that he was my companion.

[Fiend - Lvl. 11]

He was still the same level as I had last remembered, so that was good. Slowly, I stepped next to him and lifted one claw to poke him with. He made a sound and I jerked back. He continued making the sound as I edged away from him, thinking that I had either hurt him or angered him. It took me a moment to realize what sound he was making.

He was laughing!

He was laughing at me for the way I was acting. I glared and pointed a clawed finger at him.

“You were the same way too!”

My companion continued to chuckle as I drew my lips down— into a frown— and huffed.

“Stop laughing!”

“Alright, alright.”

That was all he said as he straightened his body. I continued eyeing at him, slightly annoyed, as he finally stopped his laughter. Then he pointed a finger at me.

“You’re Salvos.”

“Yes I am.”

I replied matter-of-factly. I was Salvos and no one else was Salvos. That was what I had concluded the moment I was born. And I was happy to see him affirming that belief of mine by nodding in agreement.

Slowly, he jerked a finger back at himself. I cocked my head, confused by this gesture before he spoke out.

“You’re Salvos. But me? I’m Haec.”

Blinking, I slowly raised a hand and pointed at him too.

“You’re Haec?”

“Yes. My name is Haec.”

I looked at my companion— at Haec— trying to parse him. He gave me a confused look, uncertain as to why I was having difficulty understanding this. And it was not like there was much to process. He had a name— of course he had a name. I just never once considered that he had one, only referring to him as my companion.

“What’s wrong?”

He asked me the question almost worriedly. I hesitated, almost wanting not to answer it to seem stupid. But as the concern on his face grew, I forced a reply out.

“I didn’t think you had a name— I didn’t even think of giving you a name. I always just thought of you as my ‘companion’.”

I looked up at him guiltily. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling guilty— perhaps it was because I hadn’t fully recognized him as separate from me until now. I knew I would be upset if someone treated me that way. However instead of getting mad, Haec just laughed again.

“As your companion huh? That’s fitting. You are our leader, after all.”

“Leader?”

I gave him a blank stare. I knew what that word meant— a leader was someone in charge of others. Like the horned Demon or the Demon with crooked horns had been. Those were leaders. But me? I didn’t think I was a leader.

Yet, Haec seemed to disagree.

“Yes, you’re my leader. I follow you and do what you tell me to do. Then you protect me and we both level.”

That… was perfectly logical. When he put it that way, I was definitely the leader in this relationship, even if I never thought of it like that. But in the first place—

“Why did you follow me in the first place?”

I had wanted to ask him that from after I saved him from the wild Demon. In fact, I wanted to know why some Demons followed each other, even back when I first met him in the group with the others.

Haec seemed to consider the question for a moment, raising his head up to the crimson sky. He spoke slowly, choosing each word carefully.

“Because I am grateful to you— you saved me. You saved my life. So I follow you to help you in return.”

“But you followed the others too! Remember? Before we were attacked by the large Demon.”

I wasn’t sure if he understood what I was referring to; now more than ever, I was aware that my labels for everything I had encountered was my label. It was my perspective and not his. So he might not have thought of them as the others. Fortunately, it didn’t take him long to realize what I was talking about.

“Ah.”

Haec’s eyes lit up in comprehension. His face twisted, growing… somber.

“Yes, the others. I… followed them because I was born with them.”

“Wait, you were born at the same time as the others?”

He shook his head.

“No. Not all of them. But with most of them. I can’t tell you why more joined our group, but we were already a group from the start. Only you joined us by yourself.”

“Huh.”

I had no other comment on that. It seemed that I wouldn’t be able to learn why some Demons formed groups while others didn’t. I decided to just ascribe it to their natural instinct.

And it was not like they were alive anyway. So it didn’t matter; I was curious, but after so long, my curiosity was gone. But still, it seemed to bother Haec as he still had a grim look on his face. Slowly, I poked him.

“Are you ok? Why are you looking like that?”

He jerked, looking up at me.

“Oh, I was just… feeling sad.”

“Why?”

I eyed him inquisitively. Why was he sad? He seemed happy just earlier, but now he was suddenly sad. He shook his head as he answered.

“Because I was thinking of the others. They were my group— but now we aren’t anymore. They’re gone.”

I still wasn’t sure why he was sad— he told me that as if it would make sense, however I was just as lost as I had been before he replied. But he was sad and I knew he was sad. So I decided to reassure him, poking him again so he would face me, then I smiled.

“The others may be gone, but I’m still here. I’m your leader— follow me and you’ll be safe, right?”

I gestured around us, at the bodies on the ground; then picking up the Spear of Flames, I pointed past them.

“So don’t be sad, because wherever we go, we’ll be together. We’ll fight together. We’ll level together.”

I looked at Haec expectantly. I wasn’t sure if what I said would work. Perhaps it would only anger him, or make him even more sad. I wasn't even sure why I said it; why did I even care about him? But I saw him smile just slightly, and that made me feel better too.

“You’re right. As long as we’re together, we’ll be fine, right?”

I stepped backwards, walking without looking as he followed me. I wasn’t even sure where I was going— I couldn’t see ahead because my back was turned, after all. But still, I felt my smile turning into a grin.

“Of course. We’ll be fine no matter what. I’m the leader, after all. I will protect you—”

I wasn’t able to finish what I was saying and stopped. I had been interrupted, not by anything made by any Demon around us, but by the words in my head.

 

Now Entering [Demon King’s Domain].

 

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A note from MelasD

Hey everyone, in this chapter called gratitude, I just want to express mine to you all for the support you've been giving me! I haven't been able to respond to most comments due to trying to focus on my upcoming finals, but I have been reading them. And I appreciate the kind words <3

 


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MelasD

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