Edward smashed his feet on the grass next to Richard’s sweaty and shivering torso. He snapped his eyes wide and rumbled the air with a yell. Edward cut the unnecessary yelling short by pushing Richard out of the slime’s shadow. After he tumbled and rolled across the grass, the core hit Edward’s back.
But the attack didn’t even drop his HP by a single percentage. So he crossed his arms and turned to a shivering and sobbing Richard, beckoning him to get up. “I’ll keep it distracted by letting it hit me,” Edward said. “I’ll lead it to a patch of tall grass, and when I do, sneak around to its back and hit it.”
“There’s no way I’m doing that!” Richard whimpered.
Edward sighed, flinching as the slime hit him for a third time and dropped his HP to 99%. “If you can’t defeat a slime, what makes you think you can defeat the goblins who’re hunting us down? If you want to be safe, fighting this slime is the safest way of doing so.”
“I already told you I only have 2 strength! After I’ve hit it, it’ll just attack me!”
“It won’t kill you after one hit,” Edward said, snorting and shivering as the slime tickled his chest with another strike. “In fact, just come here and don’t even hit the slime. You’re gonna stand here and let it hit you.”
“Why in the world would I do that!?”
“Afraid of water? I’ll throw you in the ocean.”
“That’s even more ridiculous! What’s wrong with you!?”
“The only one being ridiculous is you.” Edward furrowed his brows. “I can defeat this slime with one kick. If it even gets close to taking away 50% of your HP, let alone 100%, I’ll destroy it.”
“How do you know it won’t just one-shot me?”
Edward rolled his eyes. “Do you enjoy being a coward?”
“W-what do you mean?” Richard stammered, turning away and grimacing at the ground. “I-I can see why you’d think I’m being cowardly, but that’s just because of how strong you are. But in reality, I… I at least think I’m being realistic.”
“What about handicapping yourself is realistic?”
“You know what?” Richard said, scowling, snatching a rock off the floor and throwing it at Edward. “I’m out of here!”
“Wait!” Edward said, reaching out to him and twitching as the rock bounced off his temple and the slime tapped his thigh again. “You can level up without fighting!”
“How?” Richard froze. His face relaxed.
“I’ll hit the slime’s core with gentle attacks.” Edward turned back to the slime. He tapped his foot against the slime’s core, cracking it and dropping its HP to 80%. He smiled. “If I do this, I can drop the slime’s HP low enough for you to defeat it in one hit.”
Richard cupped his chin in his palm, stared at the slime, and thought about it for a moment. And Edward sighed at the sight. Richard would barely have to do anything in such a scenario, yet he was hesitating?
“Fine, I’ll do it!” Richard said, clenching his fists and furrowing his brows with resolve and determination.
Edward’s face slapped in his palm. He was hopeless. Regardless, Edward tapped his foot against the slime’s core again and again until he dropped the Level 1 slime’s HP down to 20%.
“Come on,” Edward said, beckoning Richard to come over. “Let’s not waste anymore time.”
“Can’t you lower it’s HP a little more?”
Edward opened his mouth to argue, but he closed it. He already spent 5 minutes on a level 1 slime, and he didn’t want to waste anymore time. So he tapped his foot against the slime’s core, even lighter this time an-
[Congratulations! You have killed a Level 1 Slime!]
[Reward: 10 XP!]
[Progress to Level 17: 5%]
Edward ran out of sighs and simply stared down at the slime’s corpse as it spread across the grass. He glanced up at Richard, and he cringed and turned away. “Sorry,” he sheepishly muttered. Despite sighing for a million times in the last 5 minutes, Edward did it again.
“Unlucky,” Edward said, walking off the hill and searching for another slime. “It’s harder than I thought to control my strength. Oh well. We’ll just have to look for another one.”
After 15 minutes of tapping slime cores, lowering their HP, occasionally killing them, spending a few minutes convincing Richard to sneak up to their backs, and giving him a pep talk and a back rub each time a slime turned and hit him, Richard smashed his fist through the cracked core of a Level 1 slime, splashing black shards on the grass and spreading the slime’s corpse into a puddle. Punching the air, he reached level 2.
“How many skill points did you get?” Edward asked, rubbing his stomach because the slime’s tapping ached his stomach a bit.
“Which stats are you gonna increase?” Edward asked.
“I’m gonna put 2 in defence,” He muttered.
“What?” Edward furrowed his brows. “Why would you put both in defence?.”
“I’m the one tanking all the damage.”
“Considering how eager you are to abandon me to fend for myself in this hellscape, I need to be increasing my defence stats as fast as possible.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. When we fight goblins in the physical world, I’ll be the one tanking all their damage. You should stay behind me and attack from afar.”
“What if they run past you and attack me?”
“Use a spark. Use the many other abilities you’ll get in the future. I’m not sure at what level Wickancis got the ability, but didn’t you remember him flying through that window? That’s what you’ll use to get away from goblins who’ll run past me.”
“But that’s the thing! You don’t know when I’ll get that ability! I need to defend myself now so I’ll put both of my skill points into my defense stat now!”
“Stop it.” Edward grabbed Richard’s shoulder and shook him. “You don’t need defence, you need levels and abilities.”
“Shut up!” Richard snapped as he looked down at his hands, eyes probably scanning over his status screen. “They’re my skill points, I can do what I want with them.”
“Stop being such a wouss.”
Richard froze. His face twitched. His brows furrowed. He shot a skin wrinkling scowl up at Edward. “I’m not a fucking wouss! Why don’t you just shut the fuck up with that stupid shit! Not wanting to jump off a cliff isn’t cowardly, it’s called having common sense!”
Edward chuckled down at him. “If you’re so secure because you’re not a wouss, why’re getting so angry?”
“Why wouldn’t I be fucking angry!?” He shouted, voice cracking to a high pitch. “You just keep saying stupid shit all the fucking time!”
“You weren’t so angry the last few times I said it,” He smirked. “Are you starting to truly accept who you are?”
“Just shut the fuck up!” He sighed, turned away from him, pointed at a distant slime and stomped towards it. “I’ll put your stupid little skill points into my magic stat. Will that shut you up!?”
“It won’t,” Edward giggled and followed. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”
Edward suffered through what felt like an age of tapping slime cores, groaning when he’d accidentally kill them, and encouraging Richard to punch them. However, Richard was different this time. When slimes hit him, he didn’t need a pep talk. He didn’t even need a back rub. He’d just groan, grimace, whine, cry, and panic a bit, but he’d eventually get back up and keep fighting on his own.
After three hours and thirty minutes of hunting, Richard swung his foot through a core’s cracks, splattering black shards on the grass. He smiled and shuddered with excitement because he reached level 5.
He said that he invested four of the skill points he got from the last few hours into magic, and put two of them into defense. Whether he did was another issue, but Edward had no choice but to trust him. As a result, his status screen probably looked like the following…
But bringing a rare smile to both of their faces, Richard got a new ability at Level 5. It was called ‘Ember’. It allowed him to conjure a small ball of flame that he could shoot at his enemies.
They tried his Ember ability on a Level 1 Slime, and it could take away 50% of their HP.
“That’s great,” Edward said as he watched the fire burn and melt the slime’s core. “You should be able to hunt slimes on your own now.”
“The ability has a 10 second cooldown,” Richard said, crossing his arms. “After I use the ability, I’m done for.”
“You won’t be if you attack from afar. By the time it gets close enough to attack you, the cooldown will have come off.”
“What if it doesn’t?”
“If it gets close, then you can run away to by some more time. And if it hits you once, who cares? Just get back up and fight.”
“Fine, I’ll fight them on my own.” Richard said, sighing. “But could you at least stick around, just in case something happens?”
“Of course,” Edward nodded. “I want you to get used to fighting on your own, but I also don’t want you to die after getting ambushed by Level 5 slimes.”
“Thanks,” Richard nodded and smiled at Edward. They then went on their way to find more slimes.
Whilst they hunted for XP, Richard was at ease. When slimes got up close and hit him, he didn’t panic. He grimaced, moaned and whinged, but he wouldn’t freeze and cry. He’d simply get up, punch the slime’s core and shoot it with an Ember. Even when level 3, 4, and 5 slimes ambushed them and hit him, bringing him down to 15 or 5% HP, he’d shout, scream and cry, but he’d use a spark, kick it, shoot it with an ember, and run over to Edward. Not a single tear reddened his eyes, and little snot dripped out of his nose.
After seven hours of hunting slimes, a small ball of fire flickered, appeared, and swirled above his palm. He grunted and thrusted his arm at a distant Level 2 slime as it rushed towards him with a cracked core. It only had 50% HP. But when the swirling ball of flame smashed against the core, it burst into flames, and rose into ash and smoke. Only the slime’s goo drooped on the ground, flattening into a puddle.
Richard jumped for joy and shot an ember up into the sky in celebration. Because he reached Level 8. Edward smiled at the sight. Richard said that for the last few levels, he put 4 skill points into magic, 1 in agility, and 1 in defence, making his stats probably something like...
And even though there was no reason to believe Richard, given his track record, Edward felt he should trust him.
Considering the fact that they only had approximately 210 hours left, Edward thought he should leave Richard to hunt slimes on his own, so he glared at him, expecting Richard to beg for him to stay, and thus another tedious argument would begin. But Richard’s response snapped Edward’s eyes wide.
He didn’t ask him to stay. His knees trembled. Sweat trickled down his face, and his eyes rattled and spread wide as they scanned the plains, shuddering when his gaze landed on level 5 slimes, but he didn’t ask Edward to stay. Despite being afraid, he acted despite that fear.
Edward smiled as he jogged away from Richard and entered the Feral Forest again. Their situation wasn’t hopeless after all. He used to think that Richard would just be a whining dead weight, but he proved himself to be something different. As a result, excitement surged through Edward as he wondered how strong Richard and Charlotte would become, and how his and their strength would fuse to create an unstoppable team of humans that’d bring fear to all goblins that dared to oppose them.
He couldn’t wait to see that look of fear on Wickancis’ face one more time. Edward’s smile wrinkled skin at the thought of it.