The story didn’t start with an inn, or a dragon. It started when a young man, two months a herbalist’s apprentice, picked up a stick, and proceeded to smack a berry out of a tall shrub.
A story begins with a choice, or perhaps the absence of it. A hand shaken, a door opened, a fire started, a destiny found. Some begin with conversations, enunciated for all the world to hear and behold. It’s when someone becomes curious. Curiosity begets exploration, and exploration engenders discovery. A journey that waits to be taken upon, with steps to follow or deviate from, to an ultimate prize.
In this, the berry, colored a cherry red and only recently ripe, didn’t really wait for anything special, nor was it a prize. It couldn’t think. All it was meant to do was grow, drop, and spread its seed to propagate. Nothing so important that it could change the course of history or something like that.
But someone decided something else for it, and reshaped its purpose.
And that was his strength. This was his story. It didn’t start with an accident, no matter what the evidence may have said on the contrary.
It started with a declaration.
The berry fell, and it landed into a dark brown, strong, and calloused hand. Its owner raised it up to his face, eyes regarding.
“Huh. You look juicy.”
Heinrick Mythen, a Level 13 [Scientist] and apprentice to a master herbalist, smiled, and took a bite.
“Hmm. Not really apple-good. I’d say a notch below a typical red apple. Do you think that’s fair?”
The bitten berry didn’t reply. If it could, it would probably be screaming. Or that’s what he’d guess would happen - if fruits talked, would they all be nihilists that have accepted their eventual ends in a cycle of growth and decay? Then maybe they wouldn’t scream. They’d just smile. Fatalistic and ever smiling fruits, right until they’re eaten or rotten.
… eh. Dumb thought.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t know, would you.”
He took a few more bites and swallowed the berry whole. Now humming a jaunty tune, Heinrick began methodically thwacking berries out of the tall shrub’s branches. With every three berries he’d catch, he’d stuff them into the bag of holding at his side, and go right back to swiping at the rest.
This process happened for the next few shrubs he found. For the low hanging berries, he’d just grab at with his hand. Smack. Stuff. Smack. Stuff. It was simple, efficient, and routine. Sometimes he’d spot nuts, which most of the basic recipes he knew also called for, so he’d grab those as well. The usual silence of the forest was quelled as the [Scientist] wandered about, humming loudly enough for the breeze to carry.
Surely enough, his bag was filled to the brim by the time the sun started to fall on the horizon.
“Well, that’s... “ Looking into his bag of holding, he counted. He whistled. “More than fifty! And some nuts, too. For a Monday grab, it’s not so bad!”
Heinrick combed a hand through his blonde hair, sighing. Satisfaction thrummed in his chest.
“I should probably fix up that garden. Save some of you Haealan berries for later!” Heinrick loudly considered, and then realized what that meant. “Ah. Then I’d have to go to Bareshades. Buy some fertilizer. Hm.”
He wasn’t really forbidden from leaving the hut - or laboratory, or brewery, actually wait no it was all of those things - but ever since he’d been taken under the wing of the herbalist, he hadn’t really… gone anywhere else. Heinrick had been holed up in the hut day in and day out, studying and mastering the recipes his master assigned him. Health potions, mana potions, energy drinks/stamina potions, the art of berry pulping, the various ways you could distill an ingredient, how to use Sage’s Grass… and other things, too, but the important takeaway here was that, no matter how you looked at it, Heinrick was sort of isolated. Outside of his self-ramblings and his master, he’s barely socialized.
… the Nymph didn’t count.
Thinking about it made him feel disappointed in himself. There was a lot more to this continent, to this world , than just a room full of flasks and vials that smelled like it was two wrong reagents away from blowing the entire building to smithereens or poisoning all its inhabitants.
Straightening up, he decided.
“I guess I’ll just have to find a reason to visit. Which… would be buying fertilizers.” His mouth wrinkled. “But I need a better one.”
Sure, me. A better one. Just admit that you’re nervous.
“‘m not nervous. Not at all. Nope.”
Deciding to put off deliberating about that later, Heinrick clipped his bag of holding and his stick to his belt, and started walking back home. Before that, though, he was going to take a detour over to the pond, where‒
On the other side of the tree he was just about to pass by, something sharp flashed and lunged towards his direction. He froze. There was a dagger aimed and poised at his neck, mere inches away from cutting into his throat.
“Hey there,” the voice that ambushed him spoke. “Heard you talking to yourself earlier. You seem like a smart guy ‒ I’m guessing you know how this goes. Give me that bag, and any other precious shit you’ve got on you.”
That was another reason he hadn’t left the hut. Bandits.
His master had relayed to him about the increasing presence of bandits on the roads the past few months. Something apparently happened up north, and all of a sudden, a [Bandit Lord] and his motley gang of assholes showed up and started antagonizing this side of Aigran.
For one to show up so far away from their usual places, though…
“Wh-what‒” Heinrick gulped, and asked the first thing on his mind. “I thought you guys preferred the roads. Why are you in the forest?”
The [Bandit] just grinned. “Heard there was a herbalist around. Visited your hut, by the way. Couldn’t get in, some magical protections or whatever. So either you’re rich as fuck, or… you’re an [Enchanter], too. You’d be pretty useful .”
He wasn’t an [Enchanter], and he wasn’t the herbalist. But he wasn’t going to say that. Heinrick gritted his teeth and, raising his chin, glared.
“What makes you think I’d do jackshit?”
“This knife that could slit your throat any second for one, pretty boy.”
He must’ve made a face, because the [Bandit] started laughing.
“Go on and roll over, bitch. Don’t make this any harder than this has to be.”
The asshole licked his lips. Oh, this fucker was asking for it. See, Heinrick may have been just a Level 13 [Scientist], but he also had another Class. Though, that wasn’t what he was thinking of using, because he had a lot more than just Classes.
He never got a class for it ‒ cancelled any that popped up every time, because he was more focused on levelling his two main ones and didn’t want to add any more than he could reasonably keep ‒ but that didn’t mean he wasn’t good . Well, truth be told, he wasn’t good. No, not really.
He was pretty fucking great at martial arts. And that included self-defense. Namely: How to knock a knife away, and how to punch the hell out of a motherfucker.
The first mistake this [Bandit] made was thinking he was an easy target. The second‒
Was not watching his hands.
Control the weapon, his instincts screamed at him. With both hands, Heinrick grabbed at the [Bandit]’s wrist. The man yelped, surprised, as he expertly twisted and ducked forwards, shoulder-checking his attacker while extracting the dagger out of his limp fingers. With that same hand now holding the weapon, Heinrick gripped the handle tight and bashed the butt of it into the [Bandit]’s face. He pushed against the man and he stumbled backwards.
“You fucking bitch !” The [Bandit] howled. He was about to charge at him, maybe use a Skill and Heinrick had to watch out if there was a Skill about to be in play, but he stopped, noticing the dagger was now aimed at him.
Heinrick didn’t smirk, didn’t say anything, didn’t even breathe . Instead, he flung the dagger away. It landed somewhere on the ground to his right.
The [Bandit], being clearly very stupid as he barely hesitated before choosing, rushed for it.
So Heinrick tripped him. The idiot face planted, not even anywhere close to the weapon. With him on the ground, Heinrick put a knee on his back and kept him there and pulled his arms into an armlock.
… that was too easy. The [Bandit] screamed obscenities and struggled. After a few seconds, it wasn’t hard to presume he didn’t have any Skills he could use to escape. He would’ve used one by now. And besides, even if the asshole had [Lesser Strength], an armlock was pretty damn hard to get out of without proper training.
This wasn’t really the time to wonder about that, though.
“Don’t underestimate a herbalist, dumbass.” And then he struck the [Bandit]’s nape hard enough to send him unconscious.
The forest fell silent once more. The earthy scent in the air flowed into his nostrils, filling his lungs. Heinrick looked at the still fading sunset, gazed over to the knife, then back to the motionless figure underneath him, and blinked.
“...what do I do now?”
The solution, weirdly enough, presented itself when he dragged the poor [Bandit] with him to the pond, which, for its size, was pretty strange to call a pond.
It was definitely a lake… no, a pond.
No, he wasn’t going to drown him . He wasn’t a [Murderer], or a… [Drowning Expert]? [Aquatic Assassin]? Uh, [Waterkiller]?
Heinrick shook his head. This world was already a pain to take in by itself ‒ he didn’t want to mull over the infinite implications of Classes and Skills right now. He looked forwards, and sighed.
“Oh, look what the gay cat dragged in!” A blonde-haired and fully nude woman sitting by the pond’s edge yelled. Her figure was, to say the least, pretty damn attractive , with curves that could behead a person if she thrust them right with enough force and goddammit, Heinrick, don’t think about it. Green patches of mass covered some parts of her limbs, stretching about in patterns that made her look even more eye-catching.
She was a Nymph. That was all she called herself, the past times Heinrick was here. Just the Nymph.
She was also horny all the time and a pain in the ass . If Heinrick wasn’t very strict with his self-control, she probably could have seduced him by now.
Except she couldn’t, and now ‒ she was dead set on being as irritating as possible.
“Please stop calling me that. Also, I’m bisexual, and very not interested in having sex with you.” He huffed, setting the still-unconscious form of the [Bandit] lying somewhere nearby.
“But you are ,” the woman-faerie-pixie- trickster -whatever whined. “You’ve barely been swayed by my charms! Even when I used my Skills!”
Right. The Nymph had the [Woodlands Mistress] Class. He found that particular fact out after enduring her wails about the unfairness of the world as each and every Skill related to seduction she used on him failed.
Secretly, though, they almost worked. He was just too good at dealing with boners. And covertly smelling and quickly downing Restrain Potions.
The woman continued to complain. “‒ergo, you’re gay. And you always act so prickly and keep your distance, like a bitter feline beastkin, so you’re a cat, too!”
Assigned homosexual cat furry by asshole Nymph. God, if he told his past self of three months ago that that was a thing that was going to happen, he would have choked himself to death.
“It really is such a shame,” the Nymph theatrically sighed, wiping her dainty hands over her shining forehead. “You have such an elegant yet muscular form ‒ oh, those arms , they could lift me up for days, and those incredible thighs, too! And from what I’m seeing, you must be packing quite a huge ‒”
“You can wax poetry about my dick and pine in your lust later , Nymph. I’m just here to get Water Lilies and deal with ‒ this .” Heinrick gestured at the lightly groaning [Bandit], who was still out cold.
The Nymph blinked. She lowered her hands into the pond, causing a ripple.
Her expression turned excited. “Oh! Is he a gift ? For me ? Heinrick, honey, you couldn’t have!”
The apprentice blinked. His gaze shifted between the [Bandit] and the Nymph.
And right there, the solution to two problems presented itself.
“...our deal,” Heinrick muttered. There were ‒ a few ways this could go, and his brain registered that some of them were… dubious.
The Nymph tilted her head at him. “Ooo, so he is for me? Just so you know, I’m not interested in taking advantage of people while they’re asleep‒”
His chest constricted. Something deep inside him, buried and held back, burned .
“ Yes. Good. Don’t, ” he growled. “I don’t want to be responsible for indirectly victimizing someone, even if they’re an asshole.”
She leaned back. “I ‒ of course I wouldn’t.”
Heinrick nodded. He took a deep breath, and exhaled. His heart stopped racing.
“So. When they wake up, uh. Think of it as an introduction between two parties that I’m mutually hostile towards to try and make things better for everyone involved.”
“Hostile? But Hein honey, you’ve been just the sweetest to me.” The Nymph fluttered her eyelashes at him at a rapid pace. Her voice dripped with sarcasm. “You haven’t taken advantage of me, you haven’t oggled my breasts, you’ve never even made a single lecherous look in my direction!”
“Yeah, and isn’t that just sad. For you.” Heinrick couldn’t help but grin at her pout. He snorted. “Anyway, he’s been groaning. I think he’s about to wake up. Have fun.”
The Nymph giggled. Heinrick felt a tad bit uneasy in the stomach. She started clapping her hands in excitement and scooted over to the man, looming over him, hair draped over his face. Her breasts were in full view for him as he finally opened his eyes.
“Wh… what the… who’re…” the [Bandit] groggily started. And just as expected, he stared. “You’re… is this heaven?”
“No, sweetie. But it sure will feel like it, if you want.” There was a sultry tone to her voice, and underneath, maybe some level of magic. Heinrick scowled as the [Bandit] started nervously laughing, face turning very red.
“Oh, um. Uh. I think I’m‒”
“Getting pretty excited down there, aren’t you?” She chuckled.
“ Ugh. ” Heinrick groaned. The apprentice crossed his arms and silently screamed at the sky. The [Bandit] blinked as he finally took notice of him, recoiling a little. “Oh, no, don’t worry. I’m not doing anything. Think of this as a favor from me to you ‒ my particular brand of mercy.”
“I ‒ is this‒”
“Hey, only as long as you want it and say yes . If you want to get the fuck out of here right now, just ask. I’ll gladly save your ass.”
Though Heinrick offered a grin, really, he was hiding his discomfort. This was ‒ he was essentially taking advantage of the poor guy, and though practical, his own morals strained under what he’d done.
“Nymph. Don’t force him into it.”
She glanced back at him. Instead of a look of lust like he expected, she gave him a soft, reassuring smile. It was such an unexpected look on her that the Nymph laughed at his disbelief.
“I told you, I won’t , darling. I’ll ask . Just like I did with you. It’s a Skill of mine, after all.”
“Hah. You certainly tried .”
She laughed again, and this time, it was sincere. Something in her eyes said, ‘Here, look at me. This is who I am. This is what I’m good at.’ Somehow, he could respect her for that.
The Nymph refocused on her quarry, putting the full force of her gaze on him. He gulped.
“So, what’s your name, hunk?”
“M-my name is Crater.”
“ Crater .” Here, she was in her element. The Nymph said his name with such intense desire, Heinrick could almost feel it filling the air. “Do you desire me? Do you mind… this? My body, so close to yours?”
The [Bandit] gulped, and looked back and forth between the arm-crossed apprentice and the Nymph slowly easing the distance between their bodies. “Eh… heh, uh, you know what? Yes. Yes. I don’t think I mind this at all .”
“ Good . Now shush. Let me help with your little, or shall I say, big problem.” The Nymph slowly dragged a hand down the man’s chest. Somehow, the water trailing her fingers sliced the man’s shirt, revealing his bare chest. The [Bandit] shivered audibly as‒
Heinrick turned away and walked over to the other side of the pond. Well! Good. Nothing ‒ depraved . But he still wasn’t watching. He wasn’t here for any of that.
“Now, where are those Water Lilies…?” he asked no one in particular. Then the sounds started.
I really hate my life right now.
“Just tell me what you want, handsome. I won’t push you, but don’t even try to push me around. Except I certainly will ask for it.”
“O- oh , please, dead gods , take my‒”
Tuning out the conversation (and loud sounds of sexual activity), Heinrick took the time to look for the flowers. As the minutes passed, he’d found one, two, seven different Water Lilies. He uprooted them and packed them into the bag of holding still on his belt, beside the stick and the [Bandit]’s dagger that he… repurposed. For himself. Definitely not stealing.
The blaring intercourse happening on the other side of the pond continued with no end in sight. Or volume.
While looking for a ninth Water Lily, Heinrick caught sight of himself in the reflection of the lake. Looking back at him was a black man of an average height, whose build was not really as the Nymph described it, but close enough. His limbs were sinewy, and together with the curves of his waist gave him a filled-out yet somewhat lithe look. The surface of the water couldn’t reflect it right, but his skin was a dark, reddish-brown, a complexion not usually seen in this part of Aigran. Heinrick’s hands found themselves running through his shoulder-length curly hair, bleached a golden blonde. The roots were starting to show. The apprentice’s expression turned cloudy. Now where the hell was he supposed to find blonde hair dye‒
And then something suddenly shot out of the pond.
Heinrick stumbled, falling on his ass as the thing collided with his chest. It was a blue Slime. He nearly panicked, but then he noticed ‒ compared to the previous Slimes he had encountered in the pond, this one was… distinctly smaller.
And harmless. It blobbed, shook, and hopped over and over on him, trying to attack. Heinrick pushed it off when he stood up on his feet. It landed with a squelch , and, judging by the increasing vibrations of its gelatinous body, it was pretty offended.
“Hey, little guy, I’m uh, not interested in a fight right now.”
The Slime jumped a little higher than he was comfortable with. He raised his hands, showing his palms, as he tried to dissuade it.
“No, seriously. Please. I just want to get some Water Lilies.”
It ‒ wavered. Its vibrations slowed down a little. Heinrick sighed in relief. Then ‒ an idea popped up in his head.
“Hey. Wanna help?”
If the Slime had eyes, it would have blinked incredulously at him. Though Heinrick didn’t know ‒ couldn’t, really, he wasn’t a mind reader ‒ the Slime was actually considering his words. Heinrick, however, could guess that its sudden lack of movement meant what and then maybe .
“Huh.” A smile crept up on his face, his guard lowering. And then he remembered that there was still some very loud love making behind him.
“ Don’t stop ‒”
Heinrick winced. The Slime was curious about the sounds as well, but it didn’t seem so important as the human standing in front of it. The apprentice coughed.
“Anyway. Do you see that there? That’s a Water Lily. It’s an important ingredient in a few potions. My master always keeps a stack of it in the backroom, but ever since someone from Bareshades bulk-ordered like, one hundred Focus Tea packets, our supply’s been steadily dropping. Do you know what a Focus Tea is? It’s in the name: for sharpening focus. See, the properties of Anoley and Water Lilies when combined right develop a chemical…”
That was how the herbalist apprentice spent the next thirty minutes (yes, those two had sex the entire time) picking out Water Lillies and even some leftover Gel around the pond’s edge (the Slime probably ‒ glared at him, but Heinrick was quick to reassure it that he wasn’t planning to take it a step further) with the help of a diminutive blue Slime, all the while trying to explain various recipes Water Lily could be used in and spouting science facts.
And the night couldn’t have come any sooner. The moon was up in the sky, shining its light down on them. Heinrick crossed his arms and grunted in appreciation. It was a beautiful sight. Then he looked back down to continue counting his gains.
“Woah, thirty Water Lilies! I only tend to get around ten, and that’s after an hour of searching. You were a great help, little guy!” Heinrick grinned at the Slime. It just wobbled in response. “I’m guessing that’s a you’re welcome .”
It was a I don’t know why I’m doing this , no problem , and can I start fighting you now all in one Slime sentence, but Heinrick didn’t know that.
It was as he double-checked his belt that he realized the sounds of sex had died out. When Heinrick checked the Nymph and the [Bandit], they were finally done. And covered in… yeah.
The [Bandit] was lying on his back, shirt torn through the middle, revealing his astonishingly muscular but lithe frame. Heinrick took a moment to admire it, before thinking better of it. The guy literally just tried to rob him and then threatened to kill him an hour ago.
…the idiot was still pretty damn built, though, he had to admit.
The Nymph, on the other hand, was chuckling to herself as she washed her body in the pond water, her bottom half submerged in it.
“ Thank you for this, Heinrick. As promised…” The Nymph whispered something into her hands, and in a flash of light, a small pouch appeared.
Yes, the deal they made. If Heinrick could find a way to please the Nymph without directly involving himself, the Nymph would give him locks of her hair, free of charge. It had come about in one of their conversations (unending series of questions from the Nymph as Heinrick tried to ignore her screaming about how much she wanted dick while he was fending off Slimes).
She offered it up to him, chortling with a dangerous glint in her pupils. Heinrick took it with no fuss. He rolled his eyes.
“You sure looked like you had fun.”
“Absolutely! And I think I will continue to do so, for the foreseeable future! That means more of my luscious hair for you, my gay kitten.”
The deal accounted for every single time Heinrick could logically be the reason behind it. Uh-oh.
“...he’s gonna come back tomorrow, and the day after that. Isn’t he.”
The Nymph giggled one last time before diving into the water, disappearing into the depths.
This was… definitely a lake. Not a pond. And yet. It was a pond. The contradiction refused to resolve in his head, and Heinrick decided not to think about it anymore, otherwise he’d start screaming.
He passed by the [Bandit], who was sitting upright and gazing into the pond.
“Are you, uh, staying?” Heinrick asked. It came out in a mumble, but the other man probably heard it just fine, as he met his eyes. His cheeks flushed a little. This wasn’t really what he meant by wanting to talk to more people, world!
“Stay here? Nah. I’m running off in a bit.” The [Bandit] looked at him, biting his lip. “I, uh.”
The apprentice sighed through his nose and interrupted the man before he could say any more.
“No problem, and all’s forgiven. Just don’t try it again.” He snorted. “I’m keeping your dagger, though.”
The half-naked man glared at him, but then turned away. “I’m gonna have to tell the others about you, you know.”
Heinrick glanced back at him. Moonlight shone from behind him. If he was in the [Bandit]’s position right now, he’d look like he was glowing: an intimidating and confident force of nature.
So they were gonna come after him?
The apprentice smirked. He was betting on it.
“So? I’m gonna be ready for everything you fuckers bring.”
Then he left, and didn’t look back, not seeing, but confidently knowing that the [Bandit] had an awestruck expression.
He got what he wanted from the forest today. In fact, a lot more than what he was expecting. Heinrick stared up at the night sky as he walked, satisfied and pleased with himself all at once.
After all, this turned out to be a pretty great day! Even if it was also weird as fuck .
Well, what’d he expect? This world was turning out to be stranger and stranger with each and every passing day. Yet, maybe that was why he loved it, why he painstakingly treasured all the details of every experience he’s had and wrote them down in his journal. This place was starting to become familiar to him, and he found himself wanting to explore this world. Find its every secret, make friends, and finally break free of this cocoon he wrapped himself in. Perhaps… even discover love.
... should he even think about going ho‒?
Something barreled into his legs, distracting him from his thoughts. It nearly knocked him over. Even without looking, though, he could already guess‒
“ You? ” Heinrick exclaimed, incredulous, at the sight of the blue Slime from earlier hopping by his legs. “Are you… following me?”
It jumped once and bumped into his leg.
He chuckled. “Still want to fight me?”
The Slime ever-so-slightly tilted itself, as if internally debating its response. If Heinrick could hear it, it’d be thinking to itself, hm. Maybe I don’t. Maybe I want something else. And just what would that be?
“Oh. Then do you… want to come with me? Back to my home?”
The Slime stopped hopping in place. It looked like it was… staring at him. Once again, Heinrick could only guess, but his gut told him, that in this Slime’s heart, it was screaming‒
That’s it. Yes. Yes, I do. I suppose I will.
A strange, warm feeling bubbled in his neck, up into his head. Had he just made a friend? With a Slime? The idea of it was so bizarre, and yet here it was, right there, the truth of it right in his face.
He smiled so hard his cheeks nearly burst. Heinrick reached out a hand. The Slime immediately jumped onto his palm. Its body was like jelly on his skin, and yet somehow also ‒ greasy? Slowly, it traveled up his arm.
“Hey, that tickles!” he laughed. The Slime sped up and propped itself on the shoulder of his tunic. For a moment, the two of them stared at each other (sort of). Doubt crept up his spine ‒ was this a mistake? Was it about to‒?
But instead, it simply butted into Heinrick’s head. It seemed like a gesture of affection.
“I’ve made a new friend.”
Heinrick could almost explode with excitement. A friend. He grinned.
“Sooo… wanna hear about science?”
For the next ten minutes, Heinrick just ‒ rambled to the Slime, jumping from topic to topic with absolute fervor. Aigran. Biology. Alchemy. Chemistry. Classes. Skills. Even math!
The Slime listened intently, though Heinrick couldn’t tell. All the Slime had known in life was the pond and its kin, and how they had to fight to survive. But then this ‒ human had come into its life, or more like it came into his, and treated it with kindness. And talked . He had told it of the wonders of science, of Focus Teas and compounds and chemical structures . It spoke to it of the nature of the world ‒ and itself.
That was why it wanted to come with. To learn. Perhaps through Heinrick, it could satisfy this strange, burning, and insatiable feeling in the core of its being. Curiosity.
Heinrick wouldn’t figure that out until months down the line, but by then, the Slime would have gotten its answers, and more.
“‒so that’s what my master told me about how Sage’s Grass was developed. The secrets were stolen through visions looking into another world! That’s fucking insane. You know what I mean by ‘another world’, right? Right. Too bad most [Planewalkers] and [Seers] are dead now, though. It’s… really bad. I hoped that maybe…”
His cheek suddenly felt wet. Oh. Shit. His Slime friend wobbled worryingly.
“Uh… I’m fine, don’t worry. Just thinking of sad stuff.” Heinrick sighed. And… he realized the whole clearing in the forest was silent.
Heinrick blinked. There was barely any wind, either. But there was a faint smell of…
“ AWOOOOOOOO! ”
He froze. Oh, fuck .
There were wolves in the forest.
The apprentice looked up.
And it’s a full moon tonight.
Before he could even think to run, something ran into the clearing. When it stopped, Heinrick saw it was a gray-furred wolf. It bared its fangs at him, growling.
On his shoulder, the Slime started shaking.
“It’s‒” Heinrick struggled with words. “It’s going to be okay. I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve.”
His friend wobbled.
“No, not you! It’s a metaphorical sleeve!”
The wolf started rushing him. Heinrick, taken off guard, narrowly avoided getting bit as he danced around the wolf’s snapping jaw. His legs tensed as the wolf lunged for him again. Heinrick jumped back, and leaped to the side as the wolf reached for him again. The howls started getting louder. Who knew how long until its pack members came?
He had to finish this, and quickly . The knife wouldn’t be of much use unless he wanted to get his arm bitten, and his stick wouldn’t work, either. These weren’t regular dogs, and they wouldn’t just roll over and play fetch . Other than his spare Health Potions, Heinrick forgot to bring any of his acid flasks, which would have been incredibly useful here.
And that meant‒
“So, about that trick up my metaphorical sleeve!” Heinrick hunched and rolled away from a flurry of swiping claws, holding the shaking Slime tight in his hands.
“If there’s no chance of escape‒”
Then, as it paused and took its precious time aiming its focus on him, Heinrick stretched his right arm forward, hand splayed and directed at the wolf. He closed his eyes and veered his head away.
The other thing, the trick up his sleeve? Was that his other Class‒
“I’ll just have to make one! [Flashbang]! ”
was Level 9 [Mage].
A flash of light and a burst of sound screeched out of Heinrick’s palm and right into the wolf’s head. The world turned white for a quick second, and his eardrums throbbed painfully, but it abated. He opened his eyes to see the wolf dazed, wildly shaking its head. And there was another wolf just a few meters away, charging towards them, and behind it was a large, hulking figure‒
“Time to run!”
And Heinrick ran for his life. Behind him, more and more wolves poured out from in between the trees, chasing and yapping after him, some nearly biting his ankles and managing to scratch at his legs, and even his arm at one point. But Heinrick was still a [Mage], and he still had more than enough energy to outlast the wolves.
“[Flashbang]! [Strobelight]! [Delayed Flashbang]! [Delayed Flashbang]!”
Behind him, a dizzying array of lights and sounds filled up the night, disorienting the wolves. His mana pool started suffering, his breath running out.
But he and the Slime reached the edge of the forest.
They ran, and ran, and ran, back to the hut where it all started for Heinrick Mythen.
At the hut, Heinrick could barely focus on his surroundings, still stuck on the adrenaline high of being chased down by wolves. There were so many.
“I hate full moons. And was that a werewolf back there?!”
The Slime shuddered. It spotted the werewolf, too, and it was twice Heinrick’s size. Its kin, before it left, had warned it of the werewolves. They couldn’t have spared a chance against that beast if it had caught up.
“Well! That was certainly an adventure. I’m beat!” Heinrick flopped into his bed, made of animal furs and old quilts. He had to waste a Health Potion to deal with the scratches. He’d just have to make up for it by brewing up more in the morning. The Slime bounced over, but Heinrick just shook his head.
“If you wanna explore the place, go ahead. Just be careful of the lab, and don’t touch anything. I’ll introduce everything to you in the morning!”
Then a thought came to his head. He grinned at the Slime, arms wide and eyes warm.
“Welcome to your new home.”
And with that, Heinrick Mythen fell asleep.
If Heinrick hadn’t been attacked by the wolves and wasted his mana, he probably would’ve noticed the absence of his master, or the note he left on the drawer by his bedside. But because he was tired, he didn’t.
Yet, there was one thing that he did notice. No one in his position would have been able to miss it, because as it were, it was a phenomenon common to all in this world.
[Mage Level 10!]
[Beast Tamer Class Obtained!]
[Beast Tamer Level 5!]
[Skill ‒ Lesser Bond obtained!]
[Skill ‒ Slime: Basic Intelligence!]
“...hey. What the fuck? What happened to levels 1, 2, 3, and 4?”
(But. He wouldn’t know for months on end, that the truth was‒
it wasn’t supposed to be. )