As the road continued, a village was visible in the distance. Based on the map, which automatically filled up, the village shared its name with the lake: Murph Village.
The scenery changed slightly as Erika drew closer to the village. There were puddles scattered along the road and they glittered suspiciously.
These don’t look like your average puddles.
Erika poked a puddle with her finger, but nothing happened. Nonetheless, her inner RPG veteran whispered that these puddles were more than flat decorations.
A ripple resounded from another puddle. A mass of water formed together and created a tiny creature.
It was a chubby, little water person, small enough to fit inside a palm. It crawled out of the puddle and began walking around. Its water legs produced splashy sounds as they hit against the solid ground.
The blob started running after a while, but it clumsily tripped and landed on its chubby belly.
Erika experienced a seizure as she watched the water kid struggling to stand up. She quickly approached the adorable creature and grabbed it.
The Water Blob waved its short arms and legs while it was raised into the air. It was small and defenseless, making it all the more endearing.
Erika smiled gleefully as she examined the sacred Water Blob. It was made entirely out of water and its cool skin felt nice against Erika’s palms.
The blob thrust its arm in Erika’s direction.
A cold wave of water slapped Erika’s face. She was taken aback and blinked in daze.
The blob used this opportunity to jump out of Erika’s weakened grip. It safely landed on its round belly and began running.
It was easy to catch the fleeing Water Blob, but Erika wanted to see more of the blob’s clumsy running on these short, round legs. Whenever the blob tripped and landed on its round belly, it made Erika twitch in joy. It was the same as watching a baby performing its first steps.
“Come to mommy now~”
Cold water struck Erika again, but it wasn’t very effective. The blob’s frail attempts to assault Erika were more endearing than dangerous.
The little baby continued to run while producing funny sounds. Even with her [Communication] rune, Erika couldn’t translate the Water Blob’s squeaks.
Erika stretched her hands toward the Water Blob... but it vanished right in front of her. A destructive gust torn the blob to shreds and splattered it across the grass.
【Vivi defeated a Water Blob.】
Erika continued to stretch her hands with a frozen expression.
What... just... happened?
The cute water child was just there; it was right within Erika’s grasp. A moment later, it was brutally rent asunder and vanished from existence.
“Ahahaha! Serves you right!”
Vivi put both hands on her waist and laughed in mockery. It was a clean and flawless victory for her.
“H-huh!? Like, what’s your problem?”
“Why did you shoot down that little blob!? It was just a baby!”
“Hmph! Like, why do I deserve to be yelled at? Just because you’re a slowpoke idiot, the generous Vivi helped you exterminate that pest!”
Vivi cross her arms and lifted her chin in arrogance. She was convinced she did Erika a service out of goodwill.
“I... I wasn’t planning to attack it. It didn’t do anything wrong!”
“Like, are you for real? It attacked you like three times!”
“We were just... playing around...”
Erika clenched her fists in a mixture of anger and despair. Vivi sincerely believed that the Water Blob was the very incarnation of evil, it was impossible to convince her otherwise.
This is so wrong... but i can’t think of anything good to say...
Erika’s scattered thoughts were interrupted by a familiar sound of ripples. A new baby blob emerged from a puddle and crawled toward the ground.
“This is like free money! Take that!”
Erika was too late. Everything was too late. The newborn blob was blasted across the puddle and sunk into nothingness.
“S-STOP!! Don’t hurt them!!”
Erika yelled her lungs out. This massacre of helpless babies was unforgivable!
“Hey! The fuck ya doin’, Titan!?”
Erika froze in her tracks. When did she start dashing? When did she draw out her knife? Most importantly: why was her knife pointed straight at Vivi!?
C-calm down, Combat Aid! I don’t want to harm her!
Erika fought off the automated system and lowered her knife. If not for Mina’s well-timed warning, Erika would have committed an unforgivable crime.
“Like, you wanna go?! Hmph!”
Erika was pushed away by a gust and landed on her bottom.
“S-sorry, Vivi... I didn’t...”
Erika stared at her hand in disbelief. It felt like the implanted limb of an alien, which had nothing to do with Erika’s own will.
There was just a little bit of anger, Erika was just a little riled up. However, based on such shallow feelings, the Combat Aid decided to possess Erika’s arm and to assassinate Vivi.
The thought of harming Vivi never crossed my mind! Not even once! I need to fix it. NOW.
Erika couldn’t rely on a system which tried to murder friends over small disputes. She brought up the Combat Aid’s menu and lowered its level by a huge chunk.
This is already the second time today... what is happening to me?
First she slapped Mina, now she assaulted Vivi. Where did the peaceful Erika disappear to? When did she turn into a raging delinquent?
Is this some form of Vireco as well? Was I corrupted by this aggressive Combat Aid?
It sounded like a cheap excuse to justify her violent behaviour, but Erika had no better explanation to offer. There was no Combat Aid in the real world, but Erika’s hand nonetheless slapped Mina on its own. It felt the same as when the Combat Aid gave a “push” to Erika’s arms during combat.
“My body moved before I could think”, huh.
It was a popular excuse by students who got into fights. As a class president, Erika listened to a fair share of such stories. It was embarrassing to rely on such an excuse herself.
The awkward incident helped Erika to cool down. Her thoughts flowed smoothly, and her protest against the extermination of Water Blobs turned more pragmatic, less emotional.
“Anyway, please don’t shoot the blobs.”
“Why? They’re like free money!”
“They’re just small, defenseless creatures. Is the great Vivi actually a lowly bully?”
“Small? Defenseless?! Like, are you for real?! You have no idea what an idiot you are, hmph!”
Vivi spotted another blob and began channeling a wind attack.
“You need to crush Elementals while they’re still young idiots!”
Vivi fired a gust of wind, but it was blocked by a meat shield.
Erika stepped in and was slammed by the fierce blast. Thankfully, the little blob behind her was unscratched.
“Move! I plan to earn easy money off them!”
Erika stood firm and braced herself for any future wind attacks. A messaged popped up somewhere along their heated conversation.
【Your [Communication] rune reached Level 2.】
It felt as if the game reduced Erika’s righteous arguments to a cheap grinding for her rune. Erika didn’t appreciate that at all.
“Don’t harm the blobs.”
“W-why?! Like, they’re the enemy!”
“No, they’re just harmless little cuties.”
“Harmless!? Like, you’re even more stupid than I thought! If you let them be, they’ll grow into disgusting monsters who’ll bury you in the depths of the sea!”
“Is that so...”
Erika needed a moment to contemplate over this new information. In modern MMORPGs, It wasn’t uncommon for a roaming mob to gradually evolve into a stronger form. Perhaps Water Blobs had a very disturbing evolution tree, which included turning into tentacle monsters who grabbed innocent girls.
But that wasn’t the case in the present. The only crime these blobs committed thus far, was to shoot an arrow through Erika’s heart and to mesmerize her with their cuteness.
“I hate that dumb chick, but gotta agree with her here.”
Mina made an invisible nod and supported Vivi’s stance. As far as she was concerned, these pesky blobs were enemies, meant to be slaughtered.
“Mini, you too?”
“They’re just dumb mobs. They exist to be killed!”
“But that’s so cruel. Don’t you feel sad for them?”
“Bah! I’d mop the floor with these scrubs any day!”
Mina confidently puffed her invisible (flat) chest.
“Mini is so heartless~ How can you hurt cuties like them?”
“Huuuh? What’s so cute about them? They’re just water slimes!”
“But they’re so tiny and chubby~”
“Do ya have a fetish or something? I bet ya keep cockroaches as pets because they’re small, haha!”
“Ugh... no, cockroaches are... well...”
Erika averted her eyes and a shiver run through her body. Cockroaches were indeed small and harmless, but they were on Erika’s blacklist.
Am I really the weird one here?
Nobody supported Erika’s righteous movement. But, even if the whole world turned against her, she’d remain the ally of baby blobs!
“Alright. If you want to keep murdering the blobs, then I hope you’re ready to part ways with this.”
Erika took out the Dragon Chocolate and aimed it toward the lake. It was a dangerous gamble, but she was ready to go as far as needed to protect the poor Water Blobs.
Vivi cancelled her wind magic and brought down her arm.
“F-fine! Like, this chocolate is worth more than I can earn off these idiots, so I’ll bear with it for now! Not that I like chocolate or anything, though! Don’t get the wrong idea! Hmph!”
Erika smiled and sighed in relief. There was the risk of Vivi calling off the whole escort quest thanks to this threat, but everything worked out in the end.
The little blobs remained sound and safe, as long as the Defender of Cutelings was around.