Few days passed with no major event occurring. I made the decision to not go to the slime forest every day. I wasn't an expert but surely getting beaten up every day was not good for the body so I made sure to always leave one day in between. I used those days to focus on a different exercise: lifting my weapons.
I gripped the stone sword and shield on the ground and lifted them both with all my might. I managed to stand for about a second before falling backwards. "Oww.." I groaned as the shield landed on top of me. The smarter thing to do was probably getting strong enough to hold both of them individually first before holding them together.
I started with the stone sword first. I placed it on my shoulder and slowly started walking...step...by step... Alfred happily marched behind me, placing his sword over his shoulder as well. During my walk, someone caught my attention.
It was one of the neutrals. An Arthur fake. I recognised the number on his leg: 6239. I've talked with him on a few occasions. He was always the one who volunteered to carry buckets of water from the lake or the nearby well. But today something about him was off.
He usually liked to keep his head high so he could either greet others or looked up at the clouds but now his eyes were glued to the ground. His expression was the same but he was breathing more heavily indicated by his puffing chest. The speed of his walking was also slower than usual.
I dropped my sword and walked over to him, "Here, I'll carry that for you."
"O-oh no I can do it."
"I insist. I currently can't lift my own weapon so carrying heavy objects is good training for me."
He gently placed the bucket of water in my hands. It was heavy.
"Are you sure?" He asked as he watched me struggle.
"Y-yeah," I began walking slowly while being careful not to spill anything. As we walked together, I told him, "You shouldn't be working if you're sick by the way."
He was calm but did express a small degree of shock. I'm guessing he was trying to hide it from the others.
He chuckled shyly as he scratched his head, "Ah well...I just didn't want to worry the others."
"How do you guys usually deal with the sick?" I asked.
"Sleep it off. Hope for the best." He replied simply, "If it's really severe, the Reaper and the Scout would go out to search for any travelling beastmen who has a healing role or at least some sort of medical experience."
"Beastmen huh..." I had seen their kind before but rarely.
I felt Alfred eagerly tugging on my leg. He was jumping up and down, lifting his arms in the air.
"What is it?" I asked.
Arthur6239 looked at Alfred with curious eyes.
I gently placed the bucket of water down in order to pick up Alfred, "He said he wants to stand on your shoulder. Do you mind?"
"S-suure?" He said with a confused tone.
After landing on his shoulder, the small knight approached Arthur's cheek and gently placed both his tiny hands against them.
I looked closer and was slightly surprised when I saw small, green sparkles beneath Alfred's hands. It was then i had finally realised that Alfred actually had a small healing skill. A skill that specifically required him to place both of his small hands on a person's cheek in order to activate.
"Oh wow!" The villager's eyes lit up as he pet the mini knight's helmet with a smile, "Thank you so much Alfred! I feel so much better!"
That was a lie. Or perhaps half a lie. His heavy breathing indicated he was still sick yet his genuine tone implied that he did feel slightly better. Alfred seemed convinced by Arthur's acting and proudly accepted his reward.
After delivering the water and telling Arthur6239 to get some rest, I asked Alfred to use his healing skill on me again. This time I felt it. It was a very nice, soft feeling. A feeling so subtle that it could've easily gone unnoticed. Even though the healing effect was minuscule, it was still assuring to have.
"Do you have your own skill tree?" I asked while struggling to lift my stone sword up and down.
The knight nodded. I had originally thought that Alfred and I shared the same skills, the only difference was that his skills were a smaller versions of them. But I didn't have a heal skill.
"Interesting." That meant that Alfred had the ability to gain new skills and be more powerful like us instead of just having a set amount of skills like the wild monsters.
Before I knew it, two more weeks passed.
I was back in the slime forest, doing my usual routine with a slime. While the beating cycle continued, I pondered about the concept of defence. Does it matter which part of the body gets hit? Does each body part have its own defence stat or does it apply to everything?
I experimented getting hit in the back rather than my arms. In terms of pain, it didn't matter but I switch between the two when one side got too sore.
The pain had slightly decreased but at that point, I wasn't sure whether it was because of my defence increasing or it was simply just me getting too use to it.
"Only time will tell I guess."
I used it as an excuse to help the sick Alfred the other day, but now I found myself actually volunteering more to help transfer the buckets of water to help with my weight training.
But if I wasn't transferring water or in the slime forest, I would walk around the village, carrying my stone sword that was still too heavy for me to carry with one hand.
I managed to make a few laps around the village before succumbing to the weight of the sword and collapsing to the ground, "oww."
Alfred went up to my cheeks and pressed his hands against them.
"Thank you." I said as I rubbed his helmet.
"Are you ok?" One of the villagers called out.
"I'm fine!" I picked myself up and decided to take a break first.
Another neutral was standing near the lake which caught my attention so I exited the village and went towards the lake to greet them. She was an Elizabeth fake and was looking out at the water. This wasn't the first time I saw her hanging around the lake. I saw her there quite often. Her number, 1129, was on her shoulder. Her expression seemed too deep who someone who was just there for the beautiful view. I would often spot her doing certain things like pointing to parts of the lake, or looking closer into the water as if searching for something.
"Do you want to go fishing?" I asked.
It looked as if her heart almost jumped out of her when I said that.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." I apologised.
"No, no it's okay okay," Her face was turning slightly red. "sorry, I was just daydreaming."
She laughed shyly as her looked back at the lake, "Y-yeah... It's...just something I've always wanted to try."
"What made you interested in it?"
"Well, I once saw a few humans do it and it looked...really fun. Compared to the action-pack battles that everyone is into nowadays, fishing just seems so...calming." She explained, "Oh, I don't mean to offend you though."
"I know. Everyone is different," I replied, "Why don't you give it a try?"
"Umm, you see, I actually don't know a single thing about fishing," She admitted with a shy laugh, "and I'm not sure if this lake even has any fish. Normal fish, I mean."
"Hmm...sorry I would help but I also don't know anything that either." I admitted.
"Oh that's fine. Don't apologise for something like that..." Elizabeth replied before looking out at the lake, "I'm fine with just enjoying the view for now...it's beautiful isn't it?"
The lake was so crystal clear that it projected a perfect reflection of the clear blue sky. The villagers had a done a fantastic job at preserving it. When I was just getting settled in, I was sternly told not to use the lake for dumping, showering, or anything that could pollute the water.
"Yeah...hopefully it stays that way."
To be honest, I did have my doubts. But as the weeks went by, the pain of the slime's attack kept on decreasing until it could no longer even bruise me.
In fact, the slime's bounce attack could no longer make me budge or fall down anymore. I didn't even need to use the Triple Hit Endurance exploit.
To speed up the process up, I even attracted a second slime to attack me. I decided to continue lifting my stone sword up and down while the slime continuously attacked my back.
I felt Alfred tug on my leg again.
I looked at him with a concerned look, "You want to fight a slime all by yourself? Are you sure?"
He nodded eagerly.
I crossed my arms, deciding whether that was a good idea or not.
"Ok. But only one at a time ok." I said sternly.
He jumped in excitement before grabbing a stone and running off. Shortly after, he came back with a single slime following him.
With the two slimes hitting my back, and my arm lifting my stone sword, I watched Alfred battle with the slime, ready to interfere if anything went wrong. I used my "defensive gift" skill on him as well. Slimes were small but it was still like five times Alfred's size
Alfred was aggressive and took every chance he had to swing his tiny sword. In fact, he never bothered to dodge and got hit each time the slime attacked. Yet each time, he got back up to fight. He might as well have been going through the same endurance training that I was going through.
He wasn't able to defeat the slime by the time we had to go back home.
"Alfred? Have you grown taller?" I asked randomly as we walked back.
He titled his head in confusion. Maybe it was just my imagination.
The both of us continued training from there.
I was given new clothes, much to my surprise.
"Sorry it took so long to make," The neutral who made the clothes apologised, "I wanted to make sure it was easy to move in since you battle a lot."
She was an Eve fake with the number 9654 on her foot.
"T-thank you so much." I replied, "I honestly didn't expect to receive something like this."
"Oh please, you're one of us now, it's only fair you wear the same clothes as us." She said with a smile.
I looked down at my clothes. I now wore a light tunic and long thin brown pants, similar to what everyone else wore. Truth to her word, it still felt free to move in and was a lot warmer compared to my previous clothes. It was an unexpected yet pleasant surprised.
Eve handed me back my original clothes which she had folded neatly "Here, you can have this back."
"What did you all do with your original clothes?" I asked out of curiosity.
"Oh, umm," She scratched her head as if slightly embarrassed, "we burned them, hahaha. But you don't have to, of course. It is yours after all. It was just something we all agreed on doing."
I held the clothing in my hand. A copy of the type of clothing that the original Aria would wear. The clothes that us fakes were born with wasn't the special armour or magic clothing that the original nine heroes have so they weren't worth much to sell. But even so, you could still use them for extra materials or at the very least, it could serve as an extra layer for warmth if it gets more cold.
The fact that they still burned them regardless probably meant it had a deeper meaning behind it. I think I had good idea on what that deeper meaning was.
"I'll burn it." I said.
"Are you sure?" She asked even though she couldn't suppress another smile when she heard me say that.
"Yes. It's probably for the best."
I could now hold my stone sword with just one arm. More than that, I could even swing it as well. It still took a lot of effort to hold it meaning avoiding was going to be a lot more difficult though. Of course, I wasn't even halfway yet since the shield is significantly more heavier than the sword. But it was motivating to see that I was making progress.
I had four slimes beating up my back as I looked up my skill tree. Despite being called a tree, there was a severe lack of "branches" as each skill simply floated there in my vision by themselves. Branch skills do exist but I don't seem to have any.
At the moment, the stone shield was incredibly heavy even if I used two arms. For now I could only hold my shield in the air for a about a minute before both my arms feel like falling off.
I was about to try lift my shield again when I felt Alfred pressing something against my leg in an incredibly excited manner.
I gasped. Siting in Alfred's small tiny hands...was a single slime ball.
I grabbed Alfred and spun him round and round in happy cheers, he dropped the slime ball but I didn't care, "ALFRED THAT'S AMAZING! I'M SO PROUD OF YOU! OH WOW! YOU'VE IMPROVED SO MUCH IN SUCH A SHORT TIME!"
Alfred was probably the happiest knight alive at that moment. I stopped spinning and hugged him as I collapsed on the ground from the dizziness. Completely ignoring the four slimes that were still attacking me, Alfred and I rejoiced in celebration of his fight solo win.
Alfred had grown bigger.
He was roughly the size of a human baby now.
I lifted him up with two hands, gently raising and lowering him to test his weight. Despite carrying him around, I never noticed that he was heavier now. Probably because compared to the stone sword, he was still light as a feather.
"So you don't need to spend any magic or effort to keep him here?" Asked Lily3209. She was one of the neutrals living in the house I was staying at. In fact she was the one who invited me to stay here.
The house itself was pretty empty besides a single chair and table that they randomly found and fixed. We all slept on mats and there were about four of us here, including me. The other two were out at the moment so it was just me and Lily.
"No," I answered as I watched Alfred run around the small hut, "there doesn't seem to be any limit to how long he can stay here. But he does require food and sleep though. Is that strange?"
She shrugged, "Not sure really. But I heard that other summons usually can only stay in the real world for a limited time depending on the skill."
"Is that so?"
"Then again, typical summoners also don't use a sword or shield, so you're definitely different..." She commented before reaching her arms out to the small knight, "Hey Alfred! Come here, can I have a hug please?"
The mini knight shook his head before running to me and sitting on my lap. Since he could no longer sit on my head like he used to, he would do this whenever I sat down as some sort of substitute.
"Aww, you're so lucky." She pouted.
I simply laughed.
There were about 20 slimes, probably even more hiding in bushes.
I looked at Alfred who simply gave me a confident thumbs up.
I would've seen this a horrible idea before but weirdly enough, a whole nest of slimes no longer looked as scary as it did before.
As if we were running into a lake for a casual swim, Alfred and I dove directly into the group of slimes.
Naturally, every slime began their onslaught of bounce attacks on both of us.
It was...very underwhelming to be honest. Four slimes wasn't much different from 20-30 slimes. I'm sure even more joined in but there was barely any difference.
In fact, even with all of this, I was able to sit up straight, and do some stretches. It was actually beginning to feel more like a rough, rapid massage more than anything. I was slightly worried about Alfred but he wiped away all my concerns when I saw him proudly standing up with his hand on his hips as the slimes couldn't knock him down he. I was almost shocked by how fast he improved. He was now almost as tall as them but the slimes were still bigger overall. Alfred then began blindly swinging and poking his sword at the surrounding slimes.
As he did that, a certain familiar noise rang from within my head. A noise that I hadn't heard in a while.
"Triple Hit Endurance" has upgraded to "Quadruple Hit Endurance".
Quadruple Hit Endurance: Your defence will increase by 5% every-time you are hit. Can stack up to 20%. The defence boost will reset after the fifth hit or if 1 minute has passed.
Alfred and I looked at each, once again ignoring the crowds of slimes that were bashing themselves desperately against us.
It felt as if my efforts were finally paying off.
Although that was no excuse to start slacking off now. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It has dawned on me that now it was going to get serious. I had officially conquered slimes. In other words, there was nothing else left for me to improve from just versing slimes.
It was time for me to move on a different monster.
E-Rank monsters: the rank right above F-Rank. While they are still considered weak by the general public, the only reason they are not considered F-rank is because they all still have the potential of killing you.
Currently, near the slime forest were two common monsters of this rank: sharp-tailed rats and mud golems. Mud golems are slow but contact with them may end in slow suffocation, on a beginner's level, usually only people with long range roles can kill them. The rats have less defence but they are still swift and can deal more damage.
The choice was obvious for me.
The rats lived in small holes that all connected into tiny underground caves that only they would fit in. Hence the only way to fight them is to either wait until one comes out or lure them out with food.
These holes were spread all across the field, hidden by the knee high, tall grass.
Alfred and I waited, lying down and hiding from a distance. I had Alfred punch me twice in advance.
We did bring food but we kept it with us. Putting it out near the holes may attract more than one so we decided to wait until we were lucky enough to get one rat to come out by themselves.
For maybe around 20 minutes, we hid in the tall grass from a distance as we saw rats come and go. Finally, we spotted a single sharp-tailed rat that was alone. It was brown, furry and had a slightly bigger size than a dog. Truth to its name, the end of its tail had a sharp grey point.
This was it.
I slowly got up, and aimed a rock. I was slightly nervous. The last time I tried to face these things with the Angel role, it did not end well. Some part of me wanted to go back to the comforting slimes. But I wasn't going to improve anymore if I did.
I threw the rock.
It looked towards us and saw Alfred waving the piece of meat we had brought. Without alerting any of its friends, it came running towards us.
We made sure to lure it away from the nest before engaging in battle. We stopped at a wide circular open spot where we had cut the grass in advance just for this.
Alfred was the first to attack. His sword glowed slightly as he swung his weapon. The rat dodged before diving into the tall grass around us. I looked around for the slightest of movement. it was using the tall grass to hide where it was so I had to watch the movement and sound of the grass carefully.
Behind me, the rat flew at me, swiping its claws.
I summoned my shield and ducked behind it. It swiped at the shield before going back when Alfred came rushing at it. I learned that I didn't necessarily have to carry or lift the shield. Because of the rat's height, I could simply rest the shield upright on the ground and duck behind it. Being able to hold it up would still be useful in the future though.
Now we stood between the rat and its nest.
The rat ran around. Both of us followed the movement of the grass.
It attacked again. Alfred ran to face it but the rat jumped over the small knight and towards me.
I repeated the same thing I did before. But to my shock, the rat jumped over my shield and managed to scratch me across the neck. I winced but it did not hurt as much as I thought it would. The scratch wound drew a bit of blood.
Letting go off the shield, I drew my sword and swung it. It evaded. I was too slow with my swing. It was quick enough to circle me after my strike.
Its tail threw itself and stabbed the back of my leg.
An incredibly burning sensation rushed from my leg to my whole body. The pain made me scream. It was nothing compared to slimes. But this was my chance. Gritting my teeth and enduring the pain, I twisted my hip and summoned my shield. I threw it down and sliced it's tail in half using the sharp edge on the bottom of my shield.
I heard it squeal in pain.
It was going to retreat. It probably would've gotten away, but Alfred came running in and stabbed the rat's leg through the ground.
My leg was screaming but I had to keep going.
"Sword strike!" My stone sword pierced the rat's skin, letting out lots of its dark green blood.
"ALFRED MOVE!" I jump up towards it using my other leg, summoned my stone shield again. Alfred moved out of the way as I fell on top of the creature, crushing it using the weight of my body and the shield.
I felt the rat struggle viciously until it finally stopped.
My body was still incredibly tensed. I laid there for a few moments to be safe before I slowly rolled over.
There it laid. Motionless. the body of the rat disappeared into particles, leaving behind a piece of rat meat.
We did it. We killed our first ever E-rank monster. The first one I had ever been able to kill.
I would've celebrated here and there but the burning pain in my leg reminded me of my wound. I took a look. Blood was slowly flowing out. Luckilly the sharp part of the tail that was stabbed into it disappeared into particles along with the body. I would've been too cowardly to pull it out myself.
Alfred quickly came to my aid and placed his hands against my cheek.
At the same time, a familiar noise rang through my head.
New Skill Unlocked
Regeneration (Passive): You will gradually heal HP over time. Rate of healing increases when asleep.
The pain was too agonising for me think about how "gradual" the healing was. My leg didn't feel better even after a few minutes so I assumed the healing must be extremely slow.
My leg was stabbed when I had a 20% defence boost. My mind shivered at how much more it would've hurt if I hadn't had that boost. Those tails were incredibly sharp.
The battle was incredibly short yet the pain felt as if I had been battling for hours. It was still morning yet I wanted to sleep.
But I couldn't sleep here. Not now. But my leg felt as if getting up would only quadruple the pain.
Alfred was incredibly worried for me. He tried pressing his hands harder against my cheek, thinking it would increase the healing.
I forced out a smile, "A-Alfred...we did it! We actually...did it. That was...t-that was the first- Argh!"
I winced again at the pain of my leg. For some reason I felt sleepy but I resisted the urge.
Fear slowly began building up. Even with Alfred protecting me, who knows what could happen if I fell asleep here. I needed to...to...
My eyes began dropping slowly and my vision was getting blurrier and blurrier. Why was I so sleepy? I had gotten plenty of sleep before this yet why...Was it...was it because of my new skill. Does it automatically make me fall asleep when my body needs healing. Was this my skill tree telling me that I needed to rest and heal.
But I can't. Not here at least. Not in the wild.
That was too dangerous. I can't-
I saw a leaf. It fell from above and right next to us.
It was strange how a single leaf was able to wash off all my worries and fears.
More appeared and now that I was no longer concerned for our safety, I no longer fought the urge to go to sleep.
As my vision got more blurrier. I saw a figure appear before me right when I slept.
I woke up to see the Reaper sitting on a chair, staring back at me with a grin. Alfred was there too. His hands were still on my check.
"HAHAHAHAHAHA!" She laughed, "To think a rat could mess you up this badly!"
Alfred began jumping happily. I rubbed his helmet with a smile as I looked around.
I was in the house I slept at. It was night and there were bandages wrapped around my leg. The next thing I saw was a single leaf on my lap that had the words, "Well done." on it.
"Thank you," I said as the leaf disappeared.
I turned back to the Reaper, "I got another new skill: regeneration. A passive."
"Ahh, that would explain your recovery," The Reaper replied, "I have it as well. It's a common passive for many others. Especially for tank roles."
"Does it work even during battle?" I asked.
"I believe so. But I wouldn't rely on it in a battle." The Reaper said before standing up, "But we can talk more about that later. Come on, let's go outside. I'll carry you."
We exited the hut to see that everyone had gathered around.
It seems everyone already knew about the news. When everyone saw me return home with rat meat instead of slime balls, they all rejoiced in honour of me. They had set up a bon fire and it seemed Yukari had brought home a lot more food for tonight. It all seemed a bit extra considering all I did was defeat a mere E-rank monster but I would be lying if I said it didn't make me feel very happy and accepted.
I sat down by the fire as each villager came to congratulate me.
We ate, talked and shared stories with one another. The night went on, filled with laughter and joy.
He was a Baron fake and he had the number 5923 on his back which was covered by his clothes.
He was visiting the grave again.
I went over to greet him.
"Hello." I said softly.
Out of everyone, he was one of the most devastated by her death since he was one of the people who lived with her in the same house. Not to mention, I heard that he was also a regular visitor of her stall.
I stood behind him without uttering another word. I barely knew her so I felt like I didn't deserve to kneel next to him while he mourned. Having spent most of my life alone, I had never truly experienced the feeling of losing someone truly precious to you. Frankly, I hope the villagers and I never experience it at all after this.
"She taught me how to make a sandwich." He spoke out of nowhere, still looking at the grave, "...She said would teach me whenever she learned to cook something new..."
"...You want to inherit her dream?" I asked.
"...I... don't know...I feel like that...I...do I even have the right to do that..."
"I'm not sure," I replied honesty, "What do you think she would've wanted?"
"She wanted...everyone to eat delicious food..." He replied, "For the right price of course. She would say haha... oh sorry, you probably took that seriously huh. She actually never charged anyone for money. It was just a joke that she liked to make."
I smiled. I never thought about that but it did sound like her.
I was never one who was good with words, I simply spoke what was on my mind, "What you choose to do after this is still you choice...But it seems her dream is still very much alive, don't you think?"
We both returned to the town once the sun entered its slumber.
Another two months passed by peacefully. I continued training with Alfred. The Scout and Reaper kept searching for other unique fakes while guarding the village. Nothing major occurred...at least not until now.
There I was staring at the creature with wide eyes.
It had six arms, sat on a huge bolder with folded, furry legs and had the head of a dear. It had hooves and human shaped hands. His torso looked as if it belonged to a human. But he was certainly no human. Despite being in plain sight however, the creature did not attack me and sat there in silence...it was staring at me.
"Oh wow you found him," the reaper appeared from behind me, "Either you're insanely lucky or the world just really wants you dead."
"Yes. The B-rank monster that rules this entire area. Viridescent: Watcher of the forest." She stated with a wide grin, she looked at me straight in the eye before asking, "Wanna challenge it?"
To be continued.
A/N A short correction to be made to avoid confusion. In chapter one, i made a reference to the rats but said they were C-rank. That was a mistake. Meant to say E-rank. I will fix that soon. Also, forgot to mention but I made a discord server for this story. Check my profile if you are interested.
This chapter was finished on 08/02/2022ns184.108.40.206da2