Hurrying through the web covered forest, I hasten my step.
Right now, I separated from Elinalise and am heading towards a new Shell Spider.
I went off in a pretty important part, so I am not really happy about this. It feels like those moments when you are watching a movie and are in the climax, but your bladder suddenly says he wants to go and you can’t just hold it off for later. That kind of terrible sensation.
The spider is not that far, so I soon arrive at the point.
There, a Shell Spider that looks similar to the one before stops in motion as it notices me blocking its path. It was truly no different from the previous spider, but…
I was completely shocked.
I should be in a hurry, but what was in front of my eyes made me forget everything.
This Shell Spider had one major difference from the other one, and that is… it is covered in blood. The jaws of the spider were covered in fresh blood.
Then, I saw it.
Connected to the rear of the spider, there’s a body that’s tied by thread. And that body is missing its head. It was torn off.
Then, I see something that shook me more.
The attire of the body told me of one person. A person that escaped not long ago.
Even without her head, I could tell it was Julee.
Her whole body covered in webs, she still gushed out fresh blood.
As expected, even when I have seen dead bodies before, it is still not something I can get used to.
Honestly, I don’t feel much. We barely knew each other, and the impression she gave wasn’t that good either. But it really is shocking to see how cruel the reality in this world truly is.
“… This is a really unpleasant sensation. I don’t know how I should deal with this anymore”
I better finish this up first.
The Shell Spider twitches when it finally sees me move. It’s being extremely cautious, but when I make a few steps more…
It jumped at me, baring its jaws that are coated in blood.
What a poor move.
I place my hand on top of the Shell Spider’s head the moment it was about to reach me, and push it right onto the ground.
A gushing sound comes out and a slight tremble happens before subsiding.
The lower part of the Shell Spider made contact with the ground at tremendous force. Its head, unable to resist the impact, was squashed right as it made full contact.
Yes, the weakness of a Shell Spider is their soft lower part. Well, even if I say ‘soft’ it is more like ‘softer than the top’. So this is the fastest and oldest way of dealing with it. Squash it.
My hands hurt slightly, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe the [Heavy Blow] skill has a charge function or something like that. The more I charge it the more damage I will do, but consequently, I will receive a bigger recoil.
I look at the wrapped body of the archer.
I am really troubled on what to do.
My mind is telling me to bring her with me. I can’t leave her body here. The chances a mana beast will come and take her away are high. That would leave a bad aftertaste.
But suddenly appearing in front of the party with the dead body of their companion is definitely a bad move too.
I already have an idea of what I could do… It’s just, not pleasant to do so.
I open my inventory window and stuff the body of the Shell Spider. And then, I once again turn to Julee’s body. The inventory pointing at her.
Her body soon disappeared and the ‘item’ [Human Corpse] appeared in it. The description is: “Body of a deceased human. Name: Julee”.
Kugh, it’s as bad as I expected it to be…
I quickly close the inventory and shut my eyes to calm my mind.
Soon after recovering for a bit, I run off once again, back to where the party is fighting.
When I arrive, I was pleased with what I saw.
Circle of flames were burning the spiders and the trio was fighting with ever new vigor.
Even without watching all, I knew that the flames were Elinalise’s deed. Moreover, she was in a totally different position from before.
“You finally made your first steps”
I couldn’t help feel slightly happy about it.
But really, magic is awesome.
Watching those spiders roasting, I seriously thought that.
I have been practicing and trying to analyze the best I can this thing called mana in order to use magic, but the mana feels so misty and vague. It’s like, the moment I grasp it in my hands, it soon turns into smoke and disappears.
The fight soon ends.
Everyone did an excellent job. All of them were now dead tired and lying on the ground.
I saw this as an opportunity and jump down from the tree, heading directly towards Elinalise, who’s leaning her back on the trunk of a tree with her eyes closed and a pleasant smile on her face.
After congratulating her for a job well done, she passed out.
Her face was showing total relief.
When I brought Elinalise back to her house, the two bodyguards Ethan and Lylian rushed to where I was with faces filled with worry.
There wasn’t much, so I explained the situation. For some reason, they both shook my hands and waved it up and down. With tears in their eyes, they repeated the same words as Elinalise: “Thank you”.
I felt my chest slightly tighten from that.
Elinalise was not injured in any way, just exhausted her mana and stamina. So simple rest was the best way to heal her.
I had something to talk with Ethan, so we both went to the living room. Lylian stayed with Elinalise to nurse her.
By the time I left the house, it was already evening.
“Well then, I wonder if they are already there”
I whisper that as I head to the meeting place. I have to prepare myself though…
I was instantly punched in the face.
In a desolated alley at night where the only source of light were a few dim magic bulbs, 4 men were standing there.
One of them being me, and the other 3, the party of today. Their state is still not at the top, but with Lylian’s top notch healing, they are able to at least move normally already. If this were my previous world, those wounds would have taken at least a week to recover. Healing magic sure is impressive.
And well, the reason I was punched by Alfred was none other than what was at his feet. The cold body of his already late comrade, Julee. The top part is covered by a mantle, but it was clear that a very important part of her body was missing.
The moment I showed them her body, everyone froze, but Alfred soon ran towards me and punched my face. I didn’t move. He has all the right to after all.
“Why do you have her body? What did you do?! What happened to her?! Answer me!”
Alfred grabbed my collar and shook me, his eyes completely bloodshot. Tears were forming in his eyes. Even if she was someone that abandoned them, he still held her dearly enough to shed tears for. From what I heard, the three knew each other since kids.
“You better answer!”
This time I was punched in the stomach, by none other than Frank the other childhood friend. His punch was stronger than Alfred’s. As expected of a physical damage dealer.
Unlike the punch in the face, the punch in the stomach pushed out the air and it came right out of my mouth. The damage in itself wasn’t that high though.
After that punch, Alfred released my collar and Frank continued hitting me. It’s true that it didn’t damage me much, but each one of them was heavy. It carried his emotions clearly.
“Say something you bastard!”
“H-hey, isn’t that enough? You know, at that rate he won’t be able to speak right?”
“We don’t need your opinion here Ryan!”
For once, Ryan sounded pretty normal there. But as a complete outsider in their connection, he was completely pushed out of this.
“Hey Frank, that’s enough”
“Alfred! But this guy… this guy!”
“This guy what? We don’t know anything yet”
Frank takes a step back and just looks at me with anger. He is clearly containing himself.
It seems they have both calmed down a bit now.
Alfred walks forward and looks at me. His eyes were calm already but it was obvious that he was still holding something back.
“Youma, why were you taking all those hits?”
He came with a completely different question this time.
“… Well, it is true that it was partly my fault. Anyways, now that you are calm, you should be able to see it right? There’s no need to ask me”
I shift my eyes towards the corpse of Julee. Following that gesture, Alfred also turns his head.
“Her whole body is covered in web and… her head… was torn off”
Alfred says slowly, biting the words.
I turn my arms and flex my body slightly. Then walk to Alfred’s side and add:
“An archer running off alone in a dangerous area is one thing, but in that area filled with webs where she had difficulties to traverse, moreover, her unstable state of mind at that, it was clear that she wouldn’t be able to avoid the webs at all. And that fatal injury…”
“… It was another Shell Spider, right?”
Alfred cuts into my words.
Looking at the injury and location, this is the logical conclusion. There are incredibly few mana beasts in that forest who would be able to tear off the head of someone. And with all the webs around her body, it was no surprise he arrived to that conclusion.
“Yeah. By the time I arrived there, it was already too late. Sorry”
Alfred didn’t say anything and just walked towards Julee’s body. Kneeling in front of her, he lifts up her right hand and takes off a ring she had on her finger.
“Thank you Youma. Also, sorry for the bad treatment, even when you went through the trouble of bringing her to us…”
“It’s okay. There’s one thing I would like to ask though. Can you please keep this a secret from Elinalise?”
Elinalise would definitely blame herself for the death of Julee. In this time where she is still recovering, telling her that Julee died would only provide unnecessary burden.
“Yeah, don’t worry. I will keep it from Freyhart”
“I suppose I count as well? No problem bro, I will keep it a secret from kitty”
The burial was done in a very simple manner. All bodies have to be cremated before being buried, or the bodies will turn into zombies. Just like how I was mistaken for a zombie at my arrival in this world, zombies are a common sight of parties that have been wiped out.
“… Sorry about what happened back there, Youma”
“Don’t mind it”
As I was looking at the tomb of Julee, Frank stood beside me.
Without facing me directly, he apologized. Simply looking at the remains of what was once Julee with a sorrowful expression.
At this moment I thought.
No matter what world it is, life is truly brittle.
At the morning of the next day.
Just like usual, I go down the stairs of the inn after doing my morning warm-ups.
“Youma, good morning! Sensei came to teach you today as well!”
“… Elinalise? Why are you… no, never mind. You shouldn’t be out of bed so early, you still have to recover right?”
I was greeted by a person I didn’t expect today, Elinalise.
But contrary to my confusion, Elinalise made one turn and pumped her fist.
“I am totally okay already. 100% recovered”
This is weird.
“… Uhm, Elinalise, didn’t you receive the message I left to Ethan?”
“?? Ethan? I didn’t see him at all since yesterday. Lylian was the one who helped me get ready today”
Why do I feel like Lylian actually had something to do with why my message wasn’t relayed?
I scratch my cheek and sigh slightly.
“Sorry Elinalise, I already have plans for today. I can’t go to your magic training lesson”
“I told Ethan that you didn’t need to come today, but it seems the message didn’t arrive. And also, even if your body has recovered already, you still have a lot to do today as well right?”
After hearing my response, Elinalise lowers her head despondent.
She made a big step yesterday. Her field of vision should have widened with it. There should be a few things she has to think out and arrange. Her way of acting in battle will definitely change, and because of that, she will first need to think it out with her new set of mind.
She probably understands that.
“I… just wanted to… Youma”
Elinalise pouts her lips and whispers something in a really low voice.
Well, she did come all the way here. It’s not like I am in a hurry anyways.
“Since you are here already, how about we eat breakfast together?”
Elinalise answers my invitation with a wide smile.
I clean myself and order an extra serving for Elinalise.
A dim cramped street without a single person in sight.
Worn-out buildings, thrash here and there, a thick sour smell of dead fish mixed with sewer water, and the lack of human presence.
If one were to suddenly end up here, they would wonder: ‘Am I in the same city of Arnesti?’
And it would be a really natural question. Compared to the bright, lively and noisy Arnesti; this place is so dark one would think it is night even when knowing it is broad daylight, there’s no humans and yet you feel as if someone is watching, the sounds that are heard are mostly of things like: water, broken windows, and the occasional cries of unknown critters.
This is the slums.
An area that you have to pass through several alleys in order to arrive. A ‘hidden’ sector of the city, where the lowest of the lowest gather.
“This is worse than I thought”
Once I enter deeper into the slums, I begin seeing the inhabitants, no, the ones that have lost their will to live.
The ones in sight were sitting down, leaning their back as close to the wall as possible, shrinking their famished bodies and cowering in fear or maybe from the cold. There were also some that were just lying down on the floor, not moving an inch. Their lifelessness made me wonder if they were actually dead.
No, there really were some who were dead.
Just looking at this sight made me tighten my fist in pain.
The slum is the place where laws don’t reach, security won’t protect, and humans won’t be treated as humans.
Why would people be in this place then?
Obviously, because they have no other choice.
I don’t feel like delving into that right now though. The mere sight of this is just enough for me.
In every world, in every civilization, there will be a place like this.
Looking at them, the figure of my parents overlap.
‘Is this how my parents would end up?’ I shake my head.
Just face forward. Watching every corner will only worsen my mood and will only bring bad memories.
I double check the paper in my hand and compare it with the surroundings.
“There should be a T mark somewhere around here. Oh, found it”
Between all the cracks of the buildings, I find one small T that is clearly made by something sharp.
“’Then turn right, and when you see the green door building…’”
‘Stop and search for a healthy-looking man wearing a tattered robe. He will be wearing a distinctive black glove in his right hand’
“Huh? What what?”
I approach the healthiest-looking man I found. He was leaning his back on the wall like everyone else in this street and checking out what seemed like cards.
The moment I talked to him, he turned only his eyes towards me with a disinterested face.
I once again say it.
“You are the ‘Carrier’, right?”
“Don’t know who told you that, but if you are looking for my services, you gotta show me motivation”
The ‘Carrier’ continued looking at his cards without giving me a single look again, just emphasizing the word ‘motivation’.
“How much is that motivation?”
“About this much”
He lifts one card, a 10 of diamonds. That means 10 silver.
“Isn’t that a bit too much?”
I did hear this was around 5 silver normally.
‘Carrier’ reacts at my question. He turns his face towards me and glares.
“Huh?! Did you come here for a trip or what? Look, I don’t know how you got all the way here, but with that flimsy body of yours, you won’t survive to go anywhere. You know my job and came for my services. And I am telling you, that’s how much I need to be motivated to ‘carry’ your weak ass!”
The ‘Carrier’ closes onto me and shouts as loud as he can towards my face.
Hm, that alerted quite a few people around. Maybe that was a signal of some sort.
Once someone gets close to the ‘Carrier’, one has to choose between getting his services no matter the price or getting attacked on your way back.
I arrived to this place safely with the use of [Instinct of the Predator]. Avoiding all unnecessary trouble. But the area I want to head to is dense in thugs. There’s no way I will be able to avoid them, and fighting blindly – with how my class works – I prefer not to.
I’m glad I asked Ethan before coming here.
I rummage through my clothes with a visible carefree face, and show him the small badge I take out. A strange glowing letter is etched in it.
“Will this raise your motivation?”
“Hiegh! G-Great customer, why didn’t you say so from the beginning? Don’t worry, I will definitely guide you through this place. Just state your destination and I will make sure you definitely get there safely. Since it is you, I will make it 5, no, 4 silvers and 50 coppers”
“But you know, are you sure you can protect me? I’m a weak ass after all”
I give a very bright smile.
“Right, 4 silvers it is. Customer, this ‘Carrier’ will not fail you”
“Yeah, I’m counting on you”
I follow the robotic steps of the ‘Carrier’.
It really did have quite the big effect. His tone suddenly became really polite, and the thugs in the surrounding also backed off.
This may be a lawless place, but overwhelming power will still have effect even in these areas.
This really does tell me a lot about the extent of the Freyhart’s influence.
I have to thank Ethan when I go back.
“We have arrived. Will customer be okay here?”
After talking with him for a while and getting as much info as I could, we arrive at another area of the slum.
I give him the 4 silvers and the ‘Carrier’ bows his head repeatedly before disappearing into the dark streets.
The area where I am standing now is like a completely different area from the previous one. It could still be considered the slum, but this part is a more urbanized one.
I can see people walking around, and signs of stores hanging here and there.
Well, the type of people here are pretty wild-looking. Everyone looked as if appealing, ‘I am strong!’ while they walk. In this area, you must at least show that much aura or you would get eaten.
I was brought here by the ‘Carrier’ and a special glove is given to denote the privilege.
Anyone that has this glove is prohibited from being attacked or will suffer. That’s how much authority the ‘Carrier’ has, or well, the person backing him.
If there’s a law in here, it would probably be: ‘The strong is the law’.
I walk through the streets heading to my objective, using [Discern] on the people every now and then.
[??? Level: 34 Class: Archer]
[??? Level: 37 Class: Warrior]
[??? Level: 31 Class: Rogue]
[??? Level: 36 Class: Warrior]
They were mostly level 30-40. And the thing that stood out the most was that none were mages.
Is this a world where being a mage gives you instant success?
Well, looking at the Freyhart’s background, that may be the case.
Several women approached me and tried to persuade me into entering their stores. I refused them all and continue walking.
I stick out like a sore thumb.
Those women probably saw the glove I am wearing and began assuming things.
And judging by the fact that this is still morning, this is probably still light persuasion. By night there will be more people with gloves who are looking for ‘cheap’ entertainment. Not only in the red district, but also in the fighting clubs.
The slum is in no way small and its functions are varied. It can even be called a functioning system that maintains this city.
As I continue on, I see several fights going on. People brawling, ganging up on someone, coercing; many acts of aggression were looked upon by their surroundings as a show of some sort. No one helped nor showed any sign of feeling bad for it. On the contrary, I could see many smirking and laughing.
I hasten my step.
Really, why is it so deep in? Are those guys trying to make their customers tour the whole place before reaching them?
I finally arrive.
Without this glove, I probably would have met an infinite amount of troubles without even reaching this place.
It tells me a lot of how ill of a personality the person that made this place has.
I look at the building in front of me.
A simple squared building several times bigger than any building around, with few holes that could not be called windows but more like the holes one pokes in insect boxes to have oxygen enter, and an ashen color that intensified the cold atmosphere around it.
Two sturdy looking guards were standing at the entrance, level 45 and 47.
Screams could be heard even when outside. Screams of pain that stabbed my ears.
Shortly after my arrival, a tall and slender person with a mustache and clothed in full black comes out from the building.
“Welcome to the slave market! Sir, can I help you with anything?”
“Yeah, is there any other reason I would come here for?”
I turn my head left and right. No other stores around and this is the deepest building you can find in the dangerous slums. There’s absolutely no way you can end up here without knowing beforehand.
“Ohoho! Right right, what a foolish question I have made. Then customer, over here please”
The slender man bows and invites me in.