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Melly stared off into the distance and continued down the all too familiar path towards the village she had grown up. The source of all her current mental trials was following closely on her heel. Like a natural disaster, Clemiticus swaggered at an even pace, leaving destruction and confusion in his wake.

Did the man ever stop? She thought in desperation. Melly saw herself as a normally cheerful individual. Today her glass was not half full. It was empty, shattered on the ground by a leering evil scoundrel dancing on top of the ruins, singing a song about his new boots.

"Aha!" Clemiticus grunted as he bounded for the eleventh time that minute. He had taken up the art of lunging since they had departed ground zero, leaving one swamp ogre dead and one village girl furious.

Bing!

“Clemiticus has gained an increase in the passive stat: agility!”

“Clemiticus has gained an increase in the passive stat: Stamina!”

"Would you stop that?" She barked.

"Stop what?" He hefted himself forward and landed beside her with another powerful groan. It was then she noticed yet another extremely disturbing thing. There was not a bead of sweat on the man. Even after all the running, skipping, falling down a cliff, climbing up said cliff, and jumping around for another solid hour, the strange simpleton didn't have one single drop of sweat on him.

"Clemiticus." She eyed him with suspicion.

He crooked his head like a puppy dog, and his eyebrows shot up expectantly.

"You have been bouncing around for the last hour."

"Yes?" He responded with an irritatingly high pitch and a goofy grin. "exactly sixty-eight minutes to be precise."

Melly bit back a harsh insult and took a deep breath to calm herself. She had to make sense of all this madness.

"Why aren't you sweating?" As if to emphasise her point, she wiped the moisture off her brow and flicked it aside. It had been a rather warm day.

He gawked at her. "I dunno, maybe the stamina in my new boots?"

She stared back at the man in disbelief, studying his face for an answer. She was stunned to see that other than the swamp dirt that covered half of his face, there was not one imperfection across his entire features. It was as if he had been born that day. He was - well - too perfect.

Perfectly irritating, she thought.

"You don't sweat! And you have barely any marks on your skin," she spoke almost to herself.

He nodded helpfully. "Well, I never go for the rough and scary looking sort of characters." He smirked. "I try to go for a slightly buffer vanilla version of myself. You know, blonde hair and blue eyes. Not a tremendous amount of customisation in the creation process."

The cyclone of confusion was escalating. And the eye of the storm seemed to be centred on a village idiot with a god complex. What, she thought. Does not sweat. Clem's perfect bodily features. Has no sense of urgency when in danger.

"Halt!" he yelled. It was the first time she heard a tone of fear in his voice. Her thoughts immediately were interrupted, as her attention was in full panic mode.

He was again staring into nothingness as he pointed at floating, invisible things.

The blue fairy flew into view and watched what its master was doing.

“Is that our status windows?” he asked the Fairy.

“Yes master.”

"Well shit, that was lucky!" He said, turning to the bewildered expression on Melly’s face. "Well, the good news is - I found our HP bars!”

“HP?” she asked.

“Health points,” he explained. “It gauges our current vitality status, and well any way I found them-”

“And?”

“-And it says we’re nearly dead!" Clemiticus said confidently.

"What?" she stammered. "How can you tell?"

"Well, you know how when we fell on the ogre in the swamp?"

She nodded.

"Apparently that fall did significant damage to the monster. And, we received the same percentage."

She shook her head in disbelief. "But we look fine. We haven't got any broken bones, cuts or anything like that!"

Clemiticus shrugged. "True, but it says you are now on 4 per cent HP and I'm on 3."

"And that means?"

"We are one kidney stone away from death, I guess."

"What?" she shouted, alarmed. "How can you be so sure?"

"Hang on, hang on." He held up his arms in a feeble attempt to calm her. "Just trust me."

Yeah. Like that would be so easy, she thought as she imagined slapping him hard enough to do 3 percent damage to him. Then she remembered the ogre creature and how easily it had died in front of them with, as Clemiticus had put it, 2% hp. Her lips tightened as her brain did mental gymnastics, performing a perfect 10.

"So, if I were to believe you. And I'm not saying, just yet, that’s the case. How would we, hypothetically, get better?"

"We will need to get more HP back."

"Yes that. H. P." She cautiously spoke each letter as if they had some sinister origin. "How do we get more then?"

He smiled. "Oh! That's easy. We need to eat and drink a bunch of potions and stuff."

He fumbled in his pockets and pulled out a bunch of useless items and soiled food he had picked up since the encounter with the wolf.

None of which, as far as Melly could make out, could be described as potiony or edible.

"Hmmm." Clemiticus muttered as he examined their surroundings.

The path beside the duo contained bushes that lay on either side. He grabbed a bunch of weeds and leaves, proceeding to mash them together into something resembling a blob.

"Those aren't edible," Melly said bluntly. "And that!" She pointed to a line of red berries in his palms. "I think that’s poisonous."

He shrugged and continued to mash the items in his hands, ignoring her look of disgust at his new creation.

"Congratulations!" the all too cheerful fairy announced. "Clemiticus has learnt: Cooking: beginner level One.”

“Clemiticus has learnt the recipe: Disgusting muck that will give you dysentery."

He grinned. "I learned cooking!"

She stared, dumbfounded.

"And what about that recipe?" she demanded. "I'm not eating that!"

Clemiticus shrugged and took a mouthful. "Well, that's crap," he commented as he threw the rest of his 'food' on the ground. "Only gave me one percent."

Like that matters, you idiot, Melly thought.

"And the dysentery?" she asked.

He waved a hand in dismissal. "Meh."

"Meh?" she shook in rage. "What is meh?"

He answered her with a shrug and launched into making a new recipe.

"Ahhhrrggh!" she roared. Her mind flipped back and forth from desperation to outrage.

Clemiticus continued to make new food, adding things like rocks, sticks and mud as the fairy announced in a cheerful song.

"Congratulations, Clemiticus has learnt the recipe: Mud Pie."

"Congratulations, Clemiticus has learnt the recipe: Dirty Salad of Dysentery."

"Congratulations, Clemiticus obtained: Cooking–beginner level two."

"Congratulations, Clemiticus has learnt the recipe: Barely edible forest rations."

"Aha!" Finally, Clemiticus exclaimed in triumph. "it says the recipe recovers 50% of your HP over a few minutes. That'll do!"

Her heart dropped as she shuffled next to her insane companion and eyed the grotesque meal she would have to subject herself to. She stretched out her hand and gently clasped them around the malformed mud ball covered in random leaves.

"I hate you." She spoke as she took her first bite and immediately regretted it.

Melly closed her eyes as she forced herself to swallow the first mouthful. If anything, it was even worse than she had feared. Everything about the so-called meal was just horrible. Her eyes became misty as she examined the strange items Clemiticus had pulled out of his pocket.

"What's your HP now?" she asked her newly acquired chef.

"Up around 6.5% and climbing." He responded.

Several large oval-shaped ingredients lay on the ground, and she bent down to pick one up. Clemiticus paced around in front of her as he munched down on his ball of mud.

She held the ball of mud in one hand aloft and aimed towards the idiotic man. Just one throw! She told herself. Just one easy toss and all of your troubles would go away. Murder in these circumstances is justified. Father will understand.

Clemiticus turned back towards her and smiled.

"Oh, thanks!" He swiped the mud ball from her hand and jammed it back into his pocket. "I would've completely forgotten that!"

Her mental tornado churned faster than more and more of her sanity ebbed away.

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Grimtorn

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