A gust of wind rushed out of Richard’s palms. It hit Unnalt and the two Warriors, pushing them backwards till they tripped. It also pushed Edward, Charlotte and Richard in his grasp, away from the sewer and towards a quay on the canal.
Edward somersaulted on the wooden boards as he landed on it. He glanced backwards down at the sewer. Another gust of wind rushed out of it, and Unnalt and the two Warriors flew out with the wind.
1 minute and 30 seconds remained of his Marathoner Ability.
Edward sprinted down the quay, the world around him covered in the darkness of nighttime. But in the distance, torchlight bobbed towards him.
When he got closer, he could see that two level 5 Warriors patrolled the quay with torches in their hands. They marched towards him.
“Kill them,” Charlotte whispered. Richard nodded. “They’re only level 5. You can do it instantly.”
“I can,” Edward said, taking a moment to ponder. “But can’t we just run past them?”
“We don’t want extra Warriors to shoot arrows at us. It'd also help us if their torches set fire to the quay.”
“You need to kill them,” Richard said. “Our HP is too low to risk keeping them alive.”
Edward got close enough to leap on them. The orange lustre of their fire spread across his cloak. He had to decide. He could one-shot them both in a single second if he hit them where their armour wasn’t, but should he?
In the sewer, he had to kill those two goblins or else achieving freedom wouldn’t be possible. But he could dodge the arrows of the two Warriors quite easily. There was always a chance of getting unlucky, but should he really take two lives that had nothing to do with him just to take away fears of something improbable occurring?
Yes, goblins ate humans, but did that mean all goblins ate humans? Should he really judge an entire species on the actions of one small group? He knew nothing about this world or the goblins in it. Not to mention, humans ate all sorts of animals all the time. Some groups of humans were cannibals, and that didn't mean all humans were.
Despite that, Edward leapt into the circle of light that the level 5 Warrior’s torches formed. They lurched at the sight of him. “What’re you doing here at night?” one of them asked, probably not seeing his face under his cloak and thus thinking he was a goblin. Their eyes snapped wide when they noticed the cloaked people in his arms. “Who’re those peopl-“
Edward scowled, pounced on a goblin, and whacked his foot at his face. His skull caved in from the kick. Blood and flesh exploded all around him.
[Congratulations! You have killed a Level 5 Goblin!]
[Reward: 200 XP]
[Progress to Level 20: 1%]
Edward's face twitched at the 'congratulations'. Disgust wormed up his stomach, but it wasn't just because of the system message.
The other goblin shook and tripped to the floor. “Y-you’re Level 19!?” he whimpered with quivering lips, moistened by a stampede of tears. “Wh-why’re your eyes green? Wh-why ar-are you-“
Edward’s foot shuddered as he lifted it off the wood, but it did little more than that. Shuddering was the only resistance he could muster. None of the self-hating thoughts or gut grinding guilt could stop his leg from blurring and smashing against the goblin’s neck, ripping head from torso.
[Congratulations! You have killed a Level 5 Goblin!]
[Reward: 200 XP]
[Progress to Level 20: 1%]
Edward dashed away from them, continuing to sprint down the quay. Eating animals and eating humans were completely different actions. Images of the melting body of the Divine boy and the de-capitated corpse of the young girl he tried to save, and the horrid sights of the meat wagons filled his mind and slapped away all guilty thoughts. Killing goblins who tried to support such a system of butchering and eating humans was justified.
Thinking about it a bit more, his logic was faulty, but his anger and adrenaline pumping thirst for survival rammed those thoughts down into the depths of his subconscious. So he kept moving onwards.
The torches the goblins held fell onto the wooden boards, setting fire to it. A bonfire lit up the night behind Edward. The quays shuddered and something banged on it from behind. Edward turned back and stared behind the fire. Unnalt and the two Level 25 Warriors leapt onto the quays and rushed down it.
Edward reached the end of the quay, and a cobbled street greeted him. He jumped onto it and sprinted down it. Wooden and stone buildings filled the sides of the streets. Clouds covered parts of the moon, so it was hard to see.
1 minute remained of his Marathoner ability.
He reached a fork in the road and wondered which one to go down.
The light of torches spread across one street and he could hear laughing, cheering, and shouting from down there. Looking closer, he saw it was an inn. A crowd of people were drinking, eating, dancing and brawling outside of it. There were tons of people on the exterior, so there would probably be a lot more inside it. So he turned away from that street and down the other one. It was much darker, only dimly lit by the cloud covered moon.
Edward turned backwards and saw that smoke rose from the torch’s bonfire and therefore couldn’t see Unnalt or the two Warriors. He smiled at the sight. All he had to do was turn down one of the many alleyways that covered the sides of the street and there’d be no way that Unnalt or the two Warriors could find him. So he turned and sprinted towards an alleywa-
Three goblins strolled out of it. Two of them were an adult couple, wearing simple and dirty tunics and trousers. Mud and ash covered their faces. They were much shorter than him and their limbs were stick thin. The third goblin was even smaller and skinnier than them. He was a young boy, could be no more than 14 years old. All three of them lurched at the sight of Edward, and the young boy squealed.
“Do it,” Charlotte muttered whilst Edward sprinted past the family of goblins and into the alleyway they strolled out of. Richard nodded.
Edward glared down at Charlotte. An anger towards her birthed within him, but also at him self. He killed two goblin adult soldiers who had nothing to do with him, but the sight of a family made him choose differently? “Do what?”
“You know what I’m fucking talking about.”
“I don’t.” Edward ground his teeth as he flicked his eyes away from her. Why was he so emotional? Why was he such a hypocrite?
“When Unnalt and the two Warriors run down this street, they’ll ask that goblin family if they saw three humans and ask where they went. If you killed them, then you could've run down a different alleyway, and they'd think you ran down this one, thus mis-directing them.”
“So?” Edward muttered with a shrug, delving into the depths of the dark alleyway.
“You just threw away an easy chance of attaining freedom!” She hissed up at him.
“You’re seriously getting angry at me for not killing a child?”
“No, I’m just...” Charlotte trailed off, grimacing at the ground that blurred past them as they rushed down it. “I’m just saying that you threw away an opportunity.”
“We’ll get others,” Edward said as he turned a corner in the alleyway. “Others that don’t involve us becoming monsters.” He shook his head and nearly chuckled at the shit he spewed out of his mouth. He had no idea what to think anymore. All he did was go off of his emotions.
30 seconds remained of his Marathoner ability.
“Did you see a cloaked individual run down this street!?” He heard Unnalt shouting behind him, back from where they came.
“W-we did!” Another voice they didn’t recognize stammered. Considering its low pitch, it was probably the father of the goblin family. “Th-they went down this alleyway!”
Richard clicked his tongue. Charlotte sighed. Edward chewed his lip and winced when he heard Unnalt’s and the Warrior’s footsteps echo through the alleyway. Edward kept sprinting down it. His wince intensified when he looked down and saw that blood from their body splattered along the floor. The only reason Unnalt and the two Warriors asked the couple was because it was dark and they didn’t look on the ground. But even if he killed the family, they’d be able to find them by looking at the blood.
His Marathoner ability went on cooldown. The green glow around his body vanished. The Agile Aura ability went on cooldown.
Edward turned another corner and entered a wide open street. Except for the banging of an unlocked wooden shutter, rattled and flapped by the icy wind, all was silent. The shutters of most of the buildings he passed were locked shut. Only that one was left open. Through it, he could see stands covered with shovels and barrels filled with axes. Bags bursting with coal leaned on the walls. It looked like a smithy.
Other than that, the street was featureless. He could see nothing but stone buildings and wooden buildings with locked shutters. Despite scanning every nook and cranny of the street, he could see nothing that could help him survive. So he aimlessly rushed onto the street, but his sprinting slowed as hopelessness consumed him. Even tears welled up in Richard’s eyes as he frowned down at the trail of blood they left behind.
Their escape was impossible. It always had been. He killed those goblins for nothing at all.
Charlotte’s eyes snapped wide and sparkled. They focused on the flapping shutter of the smithy. “I’ve got an idea,” she said.
She told Edward to run down the street, stay close to the smithy, but then stop. Following her orders, he turned away from where he was previously running, faced the smithy, then leapt towards it, plunged through the unlocked shutters, and silently somersaulted on the floor.
“Thanks,” Edward said as he laid Charlotte and Richard down on the stone tiles on the forge, letting Charlotte lay the bow, bag, axe and shield she held on the ground. He smiled down at her, grasped her hand, and pulled her up into a crouch.
“Thank you for carrying us,” she said as she smiled back, but then frowned as she focused back on task, pressing her back to the forge’s stone wall.
Because the shutters for the smithy weren’t locked, it meant that they could sneak into the building without making much noise. Whilst plunging through them made them rattle against the stone wall, the wind was rattling them anyway. The goblins sleeping upstairs would probably just think the sound was just a strong wind, if they even heard it. The only other sound was Edward’s landing on the floor, but it was made of stone tiles which wouldn’t make much sound if landed on, unlike a wooden floor. Also, Edward had plenty of practice in jumping off trees and silently landing behind direwolves.
They saw that light didn’t shine through the gaps in the shutters either, so they knew they wouldn’t have to deal with any goblins that lived inside the house - until morning at least.
The only other issue was their trail of blood. However, pretending to run down the street, and stopping would trick Unnalt and the other two goblins into thinking that Edward saw their trail of blood in that moment, stopped, figured out a way to prevent their wounds from leaking blood, and then continued running down the street.
So Edward, Richard and Charlotte crouched and leaned against the wall, pressed their ears against the stone, eager to see if Charlotte’s plan worked.
They heard the bashing of metal against stone. It started quiet but got louder as the three goblins rushed out of the alleyway and ran onto the street. But then the sound vanished.
“The trail has stopped!” said a voice Edward didn’t recognize. It probably belonged to one of the two Warriors who was with Unnalt. “Where did they go!?”
“They must’ve ripped off pieces of the cloaks they stole from Ranro and Dilla, and used them to bandage their wounds,” Unnalt said.
“If that’s the case, then they must’ve continued running down the street somewhere!” The smashing of metal against stone continued.
“I don’t know about that,” Unnalt said.
“We don’t have enough time to not know! We need to keep chasing! Are you really prepared to let Ranro and Dilla’s sacrifices go to waste! We can’t let them escape no matter what!”
“I’m not gonna stand still until those wretched humans are dead!” The other goblin barked.
Unnalt grunted and hummed. But then his steps quickly joined the other two’s tumult. “Fine,” he hesitantly muttered.
Their footsteps gradually quietened and then vanished. The silence of night replaced it.
And at that moment, all three of them let out a unanimous sigh. They all smiled and slumped against the stone wall. Edward shook his head at the sight of his hands.
He couldn’t believe he killed so many sentient beings in such a short time frame. He couldn’t believe he was still alive. But was he? He felt like a completely different person. But even if he was, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what he became. As long as he was alive, whatever he was alive as. He turned to the others and smiled at a joyful Charlotte, and a shivering and anxious but smiling Richard, and he felt glad at what he did despite the sight of goblin corpses plaguing the corners of his mind. It was kill or be killed, and he’d much rather do the former, especially if it involved killing bloodthirsty man-eating goblins.
A door from upstairs creaked.
All three of them bristled. Footsteps pattered on what sounded like wooden floorboards above them. All of their joy vanished. Edward jerked his head left and right, searching for a place where they could hide. Charlotte pointed at a few barrels filled with iron axes and jumped to her feet. Edward and Richard nodded.
The footsteps got faster and louder, getting closer.
All three of them sprinted towards the barrels.
The sound of footsteps lowered and got closer as if they pattered down a staircase.
Edward pushed all the axe shafts into a bundle and grabbed them all at once.
The sound of the footsteps vanished, probably landing on the stone tiles of the lower floor. The floor they were on.
Edward pulled all the axes out of the barrel and gently placed them against the coals of the furnace. Charlotte did the same for her bundle. Richard tried to do the same, but Edward glanced at the axes and he saw...
Petty Iron Axe (Uncommon)
Strength: + 10
They weren’t regular axes. They weren’t regular axes that a regular person could carry. They were iron axes that even Edward, with all his strength, felt the weight of. So Richard panted with the exertion of pulling them out of the barrel. He tripped. They fell against the edge of the furnace. The ringing of iron rattling against iron, and metal bashing against stone ravaged the forge and flogged their ears.
They heard someone yell and jump from behind the door of the forge. Sweat trickled down Edward’s temple. Charlotte hissed and scowled down at Richard, snatching his ear and yanking it as she pulled him to his feet. She grabbed him, lifted him up, and chucked him into the barrel she emptied. She crouched down behind it, knocking an arrow to her bowstring.
She peeked out from behind it, glared at Edward, and jerked her head towards the space of the wall behind the door. “Get an axe and get behind the door!” She snapped at him in a whisper. “We’re gonna have to kill them.”
Edward grimaced, grabbed an axe off the floor, ran over to his shield, snatched it off the stone tiles, and rushed behind the door.
Footsteps pattered behind it. He could hear metal snap together, probably firestrikers, and then the crackling of fire. Orange light glowed through the slits of the door. The shadows of legs divided the light that shone below the door. The door shuddered. The doorknob turned. The door creaked. It opened.
A young goblin girl, barely 10 years old, wearing a white smock walked out of it, holding a lantern that was nearly half the size of her. She yawned and stretched her bony arms as she walked into the forge. “Looks like I was just hearing things,” she muttered. Then she bristled at the sight of the axes covering the floor. She gasped when her eyes landed on a puddle of red liquid.
She saw their blood.
She snapped her eyes wide and mouth open, about to yell. But Charlotte peeked out from behind the barrel and aimed her arrow at the girl. Edward’s eyes burned. His frown fell to the depths of Hell as he tightened his grip on his axe’s shaft. He dropped his shield on the floor, and reached out towards the goblin.