92.2. A Nice Feeling
Daniel and I escaped from the grove. Because the Human man wasn’t as fast as I was, I had to fight beside him, keeping him with me until we were clear from whatever Lair lay underneath the thicket of trees.
The two of us exhausted every Skill we had or could use— there were so many of them. All of them over Level 80, and each of them powerful on their own. If they had been swarm monsters, I probably could have taken them all on my own. But they weren’t.
So we fled and took dozens out until we reached the road we had seen. The dirt path that would eventually lead us to civilization, so far away from the undulating hills in the distance.
Watching us from afar until we were nearly out of site, the [Musur Cravers] must have been very territorial, as they only burrowed back into the ground then. I remembered the [Queen Howre] I had fought— how she came after me just because I walked close to her Lair.
They’re very aggressive, I mused as I picked myself off the ground. Daniel had been lying collapsed next to me too, but he was slower to get to his feet. The [Hero]’s [Endurance] was lower than mine.
“That was dangerous. Why are there Platinum threat monsters hiding at the edge of the Motharis?!”
Shrugging, I helped him up.
“I don’t know. But we survived, see? And that’s all that matters!”
“That was a bit too close of a call than I would have liked.”
He murmured under his breath ungratefully. The two of us didn’t exactly escape unscathed. Especially Daniel. He had been clawed a few times by the [Musur Cravers]. Deep gashes ran through his body, although they were now closing up as the healing potion he drank took effect.
The Human man tossed the bottle aside as I opened my hand.
He gave me a blank stare.
“Can I have one too?”
“I only have one left, Salvos. And you were barely even injured.”
“I was swatted aside!”
Daniel rolled his eyes.
“And I’m pretty sure your Ring of Lesser Protection absorbed most of the damage for you.”
“It did not!”
I lifted up my hands for him to see.
“I’m not wearing any artifacts right now, look!”
“Wait, why didn’t you— isn’t that dangerous?”
He gave me a worried look, but I just waved a hand off dismissively.
“The Amulet of Strength and Ring of Lesser Protection keep running out of mana! I have to recharge them and that always takes a while. So I decided to only use them when necessary.”
“That’s risky, Salvos.”
“Everything has a risk.”
“You’ve said that already.”
I crossed my arms and spoke simply.
“Well, I guess it’s safer now that we’re out of the Motharis. As long as we don’t run into any more nasty surprises like a group of Diamond threat monsters waiting for us further down this road.”
Placing a hand on Daniel’s shoulder, I gave him a sorrowful look.
“Then I’ll be sorry for your loss.”
“Wait, you don’t plan on ditching me if that happens, right?”
I started ahead, ignoring the man as he made sounds of protests. He followed after, slowly, and we continued on our way to Viechester.
The road leading us through the plains eventually brought us to a heavily forested area. The trees here grew tall and proud— the vines reaching down from them covered the canopy above, almost blotting out the sun. And it only grew worse when the sun began to set, and I had to start a fire to light our way ahead.
“Are you sure this is the way back to Viechester?”
I asked Daniel, one hand held up, fire burning on it with my concentrated use of [Ignition]. He peered down at the map he held, frowning.
“It is. And it was marked by Edithe— or whoever had this map before she gave it to us— as a safe spot. Other than a few animals here and there, it doesn’t have anything that could threaten even a team of Silvers.”
“It certainly doesn’t look that way.”
Glancing around the dark shadows around us, I felt less safe here than even when I was back in the Netherworld. At least there, I could see whenever a wild Demon made its approach. There could be anything hiding in the trees here, and I wouldn’t have known.
“I think we can trust this map for now. I’m a bit… tired.”
He exhaled deeply, leaning against a tree.
“It’s been a long journey, Salvos. And if it says we’re safe, I say we trust it. I need to rest and [Rest] and sleep this pain away. Stamina potions help, but once their effects wear off, you get even more exhausted than before.”
“I know that!”
“I use them all the time. And they taste terrible!”
“You think everything tastes terrible.”
“But it’s true!”
The Human man slowly settled himself onto the ground. He placed his back against the tree from before and gave me a pleading look.
“So, what do you say? Can we just stop here for the night? All my good Skills were used up, and my legs don’t want to move right now.”
The two of us began setting up camp, and slowly, I felt the effects of [Rest] take over me. The General Skill still refused to level up— even after so much time had passed. And I didn’t think it was going to level up anytime soon.
It was probably because of my use of healing, stamina, and mana potions. Whenever [Rest] washed over me, it was just as a supplement to what had already been recovered by the alchemical goods.
Once the Human man was lying in bed and snoring, I began to distribute my Skill and Stat Points. Most of it went to [Agility] and [Wisdom] now— I no longer had to worry too much about my [Vitality] since I wasn’t in constant danger of being blasted by mind magic.
Salvos (Death of the Destroyer)
Species: [Greater Demon] (Mortal Form - Human)
Subspecies: [Midday Changeling] - Lvl. 66
[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 4
[Identification] - Lvl. 5
[Racial Skill: Universal Language Comprehension] - Lvl. 1
[Racial Skill: Mortal Form] - Lvl. 2
[Rest] - Lvl. 3
[Title Skill: Zealous Call] - Lvl. 2
[Available Stat Points: 0]
[Vitality]: 70 (+5) (-6)
[Strength]: 43 (+5) (-6)
[Endurance]: 65 (+5) (-6)
[Wisdom]: 88 (+5) (-1)
[Agility]: 135 (+5) (-6)
[Available Skill Points: 1]
[Advanced Fire Creation] - Lvl. 30 (Maxed)
[Charge of Embers] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Fire Strike] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Ignition] - Lvl. 5 (Maxed)
[Scorching Wave] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Self Haste] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Passive - Blue Flames] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)
[Passive - Deadly Instincts] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Passive - Weapon Mastery] - Lvl. 5
All my Skills were maxed too. Only [Passive - Weapon Mastery] remained at Level 5. And while I had been neglecting it somewhat, I didn’t really think having the Skill maxed out would make too significant of a change.
But I was going to max it out anyway; from what I had been told by Daniel and Edithe, Skills were likelier to be upgraded during a Class advancement if they were already maxed. It also helped you meet the requirements for rarer Classes— something which I was sure applied for evolutions and Subspecies as well.
Then when I was finished, I did something different that night. I did not practice my [Advanced Mana Manipulation] as I usually did. I didn’t even switch between my Mortal Form and back to try and gain a level in it.
What I did was… weird.
Having spent a lot of my energy during the day fighting, traveling, and nearly dying, I decided to just… sleep. Or at least, I thought to try.
I had passed out once before: I had fallen unconscious after escaping from Lucerna’s wrath when I first came to the Mortal Realm. So, it wasn’t really a stretch to assume that I could sleep.
I leaned against a tree and closed my eyes. I normally would have kept watch throughout the entire night, but Daniel said it was safe here. And I was willing to take the risk if it meant I could get some brief reprieve.
I lay there for what felt like forever, staring into the void with my eyes snapped shut. Until something began to take over me. I almost succumbed to a very serene, peaceful feeling. It felt like all my pain— all my worries and concerns— were fading away. It was a nice feeling.
Then an inane thought broke me out of it.
Is this what it’s like to be Human? It’s… nice.
I jerked up, glancing around in a panic. The voice— the words in my head— they were entirely mine. I knew I had thought of it myself when I was on the brink of losing my consciousness. But still, I feared for a moment that that had been mind magic. That something else had said that to me, trying to play a trick on me.
Then I stared down at the palm of my hands— Human hands. I squeezed them shut and opened them. There were no claws. No natural weapons I could use to hurt my enemies. A [Fire Strike] from a punch delivered far less damage than what a [Fire Strike] from claws would inflict.
And I had penalties for being in my Mortal Form. Maybe if the Racial Skill continued to level, they would be gone, but right now, I was far weaker like this than in my Demon form. No— not Demon form. Just as Salvos.
But I had thought being a Human was nice. The thought shook me. I didn’t like it at all.
I reflexively clenched my fist, turning it into a ball. If I had done that with claws, I probably would have stabbed myself. If I wasn’t careful.
Sighing, I rested my back once more against the tree trunk behind me. My head tilted up, towards the sky— there was a clearing in the leaves above. A small hole that revealed the darkling skies above.
I stared at the stars. The beautiful, twinkling dots were littered through the black canvas, staining it with light. They were so numerous. So pretty.
It was nothing like the Netherworld. The bland, bleak world I had been born in. I had no reason to go back there other than to find Haec. So, what was wrong with just pretending to be a Human here?
I scratched my head, trying to claw those thoughts away.
“...am I thinking this because of what Lily said?”
I had been a little bit bothered since I met the Fairy. I wasn’t sure why, but the encounter with her, while nice, left me feeling uncomfortable for days. And now, I was starting to realize why I felt uncomfortable.
I shook my head, trying to clear my mind. I stared up at the night sky, not thinking about anything. Just mesmerized by the beautiful sight.
Then, I blinked. My eyes narrowed. I saw something moving. There was a fissure in the portrait. The static scene became dynamic, as a blur ran through it. A blur— smoke?
I stood up, looking at the plume of smoke running through the air. That’s a lot of smoke, but… small smokes? Climbing up a nearby tree to get a better view, I cast my gaze to the horizon, in the direction where the various trails of fumes marked the sky.
Dozens of torches lit up the edge of the forest. Orange lights that revealed figures that had just entered from the pathway we came from. And they were coming closer. Straight at us.
“...Huh. Should I wake up Daniel and tell him about this?”