「 For fuck sake, boy! wake up! 」
As soon as I become conscious again, what greeted me is a loud shout right in my ear.
「 Wh-what?! Huh? How long was I asleep, sir? 」
「 Just for a while. Anyway, we got something more important! Goblin riders are coming! They will be right at us any minute now! 」
Just for a while? Wasn’t I in that palace for quite a long time, perhaps an hour or two? Does time flow differently between this place and that dream-like palace?
「 I don’t have time to explain, you need to go back to the nearby vill- 」
「 ARH-WOOOOO!! 」
The sound of wolves howling could be heard, indicating it’s close to us. How could this be? I thought elder brother Elric already cleared them out.
「 Are we going to fight them? 」
「 Shit they’re already at us. Dammit, I can’t believe I was right. Get up kid, you gotta go now! 」
He grabs and pulls my arm. Forcefully making me stand. He then reaches for the gear that is laid down on the ground and brings it to me.
「 Run to the nearby village. I hold off the monsters while you are away. 」
「 B-but sir… 」
「 No buts! Ah, shit here they come. How the hell are there still wolves in this area?! 」
He looks to the left and I follow his gaze. And there they are, four menacing grey wolves almost the same size as Instructor Kalish, around thirty meters away from us. Each of them has a goblin riding on top of them, geared with short spears and a helmet.
They are slowly approaching us, maintaining vigilance on our movements. They then spread out, creating distance between themselves. All of their movement seemingly coordinated, making me realize they must be experienced. One of them found the goblin’s burnt corpse and starts to approach it. The wolf’s snivel could be heard, using its nose to wake the corpse.
The other wolves on the other hand growls, their sharp fangs bared, ready to strike us. The goblin’s faces filled with anger but a wide sneer could be noticed from their lips. My hands start trembling again.
They want revenge for their fallen comrades…
I tighten my grip on my sword, steeling myself for the brutal fight. It is at this moment, I felt a hand on top of my hands, pushing down.
「 I’ve told you, kid, this is my fight. I’ll see you in the village. 」
「 They outnumbered you, sir! You won’t be able to handle all of them! 」
「 While you can’t even handle one of them! If you are so worried about me, give me the vitality potion, just don’t tell Lady Heva-sama about it. 」
Feeling guilty for leaving him behind, I give him my only vitality potion. He reaches for it when suddenly, a wolf dash towards us. He grabs it and he pushes his other hand with hovering magic runes – chanting.
A magic barrier takes shape in front of the wolf, crashing it. The wolf gets knocked, the goblin rider even falls down. That was really close.
「 Now go! 」
I nod to him and then run as fast as I can. Oh god, the monsters noticed I’m making a run, sending one of the wolves to hunt me down.
『 Operam! 』
The wolf that was chasing behind me now didn’t pursue me anymore and rush towards Instructor Kalish. That spell must have diverted the monster’s attention towards him.
I keep up my pace and head to the nearby village where we rest our horses. We traversed this forest for around two hours, so I assume it will take me around an hour of running. This is where I will be put to the test on whether my hellish training was worth it or not. Hopefully, he will be fine and already dealt with those monsters before I’m even halfway to the village.
Thankfully, he taught me how to navigate an unknown environment without a map beforehand on our trip. He even became greatly passionate about it after I talked to him about my slight interest in becoming an adventurer in the future.
The forest scenery changes from time to time. I follow along with the cross marks on the trees we’ve left beforehand to indicate our path. Noticing familiar landmarks like the one I notice just now, a boulder of mossy rocks, reminding me I’m on the right track. I don’t know how long I’ve been running. Perhaps ten or twenty minutes? Not knowing the exact time is making me quite anxious. Having a watch is going to be a priority in the near future.
As I grew tired and out of breath, I finally stumble upon a stream of water, where we last took a break. I stopped on my tracks, sitting near the stream as I try to catch my breath.
While also making sure to rehydrate by drinking the water available. I also took this opportunity to observe my surroundings and plan my next move as I rest.
Reminded that there’s a chance the wolves catching up on me, I stop resting and start making my way across it. Jumping and minding my steps on the big rocks in the stream. Reaching the opposite side of the water stream, I follow the slow-flowing waters going slightly downwards, a stark contrast to my hurry nature.
If I remember correctly, the path went off the stream around here and followed through those bushes. Jogging through the path, I’m sure I should be near the village by now.
However, when I focus on my surroundings again, I’ve noticed something is missing. The cross marks that should’ve existed are never to be found anymore. Am I lost?
How is it possible that I’m lost? Where did I go off track? Was it in the stream of water?
There’s no time. I’ll just go back to the stream of water and figure out from the-
「Grrrrr!! 」「Grrrrr!! 」「Grrrrr!! 」
The horrifying sounds of wolves gritting their teeth could be heard from all directions.
Multiple stares piercing through my bones, sending shivers to my very core. I scaredly check all corners. But all I can see are just trees and bushes in this foggy weather.
Wh-where are they?
I could feel my heartbeat… pounding ever more so in my chest. I force myself to not pay any mind to my beating heart as I become highly strung, twitching to any noises. My eyes darted from one place to another, alert for any movements of those monsters.
Branch crackling and bushes swaying noises can be heard from all sides.
They surrounded me…
Then, they appear themselves. I spot three… four… no, six. Six wolves with goblin riders on top of them from all sides. There’s…. So many of them… Can I even fight back…?
Their expression filled with anger and mocking grins. Knowingly that I must be easy prey for them.
Distanced by a mere twenty meters, I’m rather clueless as to why they haven’t attacked me yet. They just stand there, approaching me leisurely – toying me.
Maybe if I distract them with… No that won’t work. C-come on Ryo, think of a fucking way to get out of this situation!
Goddammit, it’s fucking hopeless. My mana reserve is barely enough for one spell. I could drink the mana potion; however, it’s useless since I won’t be able to chant quickly enough for these many monsters.
Is this it? Will they make my death painless? Or will they slowly eat me as I suffer? I was given a second chance in life and soon enough I will waste it just because I’m weak?
How could I defeat them? There are so many of them, it would take an army to beat them. Wait… An army? Wh-what if I summon those shadows?!
I hastily establish a mental or spiritual connection to that mystical palace, where they lie. From there, huge magic runes materialize where I stand. Shining bright lights to me from below. I then finally chant, 2
Two human-like forms wrapped in shadows take shape in front of me. Their posture is ready for combat as they face the monsters in front of me. Strange, I used magic runes to summon them, but it didn’t use any of my mana.
The monsters seem to be startled by this turn of events. Their previous mocking expressions are now replaced with cautiousness and perhaps — horror.
Exterminate these monsters!
Yes, my lord.
I command them to immediately attack the monsters now. Striking while the enemies are startled is crucial to get an edge on any fight.
The shadows dash towards the monsters. Their movement can’t be followed by the naked eye. By the time I spot one of them, the spearman; its spear already pierced one of the wolf’s neck from the side. The wolf whimpers as its mouth fill with blood, dropping to the ground, along with its goblin rider.
Chaos fall as screams and the sharp sound of clashing metals rings to this once solemn place.
While they are fighting one after the other, I slowly move further away from the core fighting stage, observing how the shadows fare against the monsters. It’s the perfect moment to test again their combat skills, and more importantly – their loyalty. Everything went quite smoothly, the shadows were not under too much pressure fighting against them.
It was at this moment, one of the goblin riders dash towards me. Moving in a flash. The wolf’s mouth opens, showing its sharp teeth. I jump out the way, barely escaping my demi-
The goblin spear hit my right shoulder! Blood and pain start flowing. I instinctively cover my wound with my hand, trying to stop the bleeding.
Not good. Instructor Kalish was right, I can’t even handle one of them.
The wolf dash towards me again. I drop my sword and prepare my last spell.
Force thrust blows out of my hand, colliding with the wolf dashing momentum. It knocked the wolf but didn’t overthrow its balance. Damn it, I didn’t focus enough on my spell, resulting in a weak spell cast.
One of you gets over here. I need help.
I’m coming, my lord.
In a flash, the shadow swordsman sprung out in front of me. Just in the nick of time when the wolf strikes me again.
The shadow swordsman faces the goblin rider. Its spear aimed at him. The shadow swordsman deflects it. As he evades the wolf’s mouth, he moves to the goblin’s back. His black sword, planted in the goblin’s chest.
The goblin falls, as he breathes out his last dying whimpers. The wolf glares at him, filled with anger. I use the opportunity to move to the wolf’s blind spot.
I dash and thrust my sword aiming towards the wolf’s stomach in a quick motion. The sword blade digs deep into the wolf’s stomach. The wolf whimpers as it tries to counter-attack me, moving its body facing me. But that is a fatal mistake.
The shadow swordsman thrust its sword to the wolf’s stomach too. With two blades in its body, the wolf whimpers, accepting its inevitable death. I feel something vaguely creeping up to my very soul again.
Worried about the shadow spearman, I look at him and see whether he needs help. The two wolves near him are still standing, slightly injured. The shadow spearman however is in much worse shape. His left arm is chopped off, and his posture is sluggish.
Swordsman, help exterminate the monsters and cover the spearman.
Yes, my lord.
I run towards him. Trying to help ease the pressure on him.
By the time I’m in proximity, the swordsman is already intercepting the monster’s attack. I hastily grab my bag, opening its cover to grab my mana potion. Then, I take three gulps, leaving the potion bottle half empty. That should be enough for one big spell.
While at it, both of the wolves leap towards the swordsman altogether. He dodges to the side. While simultaneously slash towards one of the goblins, chopping its hand, holding a spear.
The goblin screams loudly, as the rest of the monsters’ will seem to wither. Seeing the small window, I focus on myself and prepare a magic spell.
The wave of flames gushes out in front of me. Slight incinerating both of them. They run around blindly, squirming, trying to fan off the flames. Their screams reminded me of that one goblin. The scene is horrifying, but I steel myself to quickly end their misery. I thrust a sword right to each one of their hearts to give them a quick death. And as I expected, I feel something vaguely creeping up to my very soul again.
By the time the shadow swordsman and I were down, I check over to see the shadow spearman’s condition. Surprisingly, he’s kneeling down rigidly, as if his missing arm doesn’t matter.
Between the shadow spearman and I are the wolves and its goblins rider, laying down on the ground, blood seeping out of their bodies, dying the grass red. But their chest is still beating, and their mouth opens gasping for air.
Why didn’t you end their misery?
It is your right… to harvest… their soul, my lord.
Harvest their soul? What…?
I have so many questions but ending their misery comes first. I thrust my sword to every single one of them. Their squirms as they let out their last breath is something that I still haven’t gotten used to. I feel something vaguely creeping up to my very soul yet again.
Wait a minute, is that what he meant by harvesting their soul? When I kill monsters, the thing which creeps to my core is actually the soul that I have slain? But why is that? And what does the soul do to my body? Am I cursed?
Then the pain comes out, centering at my right shoulder. The intense adrenaline from the fight must have worn off. Now the pain comes out with full force. It pulls me back to reality as I need to plan out what’s my next move.
Isn’t the shadow spearman in a much worse condition? Is he alright?
Spearman, are you alright? How do we patch you up?
I don’t know… Looks like this is my last service to you, my lord… Please forgive this foolish minion for ending his servitude to you.
He falls to the ground. His human-form starts to crumble, turning into black dust. The wind carries away his matter — leaving not a single trace of him.
The once chaotic surrounding becomes solemn once more. I maintain that silence in the honor of the shadow spearman. I didn’t get to know him, yet he sacrifices his life in order to fully follow my command and protect my life. What’s more, he even asked for forgiveness in ending his servitude that I didn’t request from the beginning…
I’m still doubtful and uneasy with their absurd loyalty towards me but his actions deserve my full respect.
I then turn my body facing the shadow swordsman. Noticing my gaze, he kneels down, and his head looking downwards.
I’m not sure how to say this… But how do you feel about your comrade?
Splendid, my lord. Every minion under you should aspire to be like him.
No… that’s not what I meant, Aren’t you sad or feel anything about the death of your comrade?
…Nothing, my lord…
I see… We’ll end the session now.
Yes, my lord. This minion will await your next command… Always.
A spinning dark aura starts surrounding the shadow swordsman, after it fully covers him, it puffs out, slowly disappearing. The shadow swordsman is now gone.
The pain comes out once more. I forgot I was quite injured in my right shoulder. Thankfully, the bag also contained some bandages. I apply it to myself and head out to where I left off, leaving this grim place filled with corpses.