The Price of Life
There was a procedure when leaving the town through the eastern gate. Still, it was simple, as all they did was scan your status card. These things really were useful.
When that was done, we decided to head to the north. We would be traveling upstream of the river, and I had the idea that we might find something interesting over there.
“What do you think we’ll see?”
“This is a very large river. I doubt there will be much change no matter how far we walk…”
We discussed other things as we walked together. It had been a while since we were able to just relax like this. Daniela had picked up a stick now and was swinging it in the air. It was a childlike gesture and made me feel somehow nostalgic. Our current quest was really just exploration.
Thirty minutes must have passed now. Here, the river branched out. A narrow river curved out away from the main current and winded through the plains on the opposite side. We decided to follow it.
“Daniela. There are fish inside.”
“Hmm, so small. They will hardly make a satisfying meal.”
“Yeah. I guess we’ll leave. They’ll grow big one day.”
We muttered while gazing into the water. Just then, something entered our Presence Detection parameter. We caught each other’s eyes and drew out our swords. It felt like goblins. But they seemed to be in an unusually large group.
“Perhaps they are multiple packs who have joined together.”
“Oh, that makes sense. The direction is… Over there. Maybe they’re just here for the water.”
“Then we should hide near those rocks.”
I nodded at this suggestion, and we moved away in order to spy on them while being hidden. Eventually, we could see glimpses of the small goblins through the swaying blades of grass. They cried loudly as they waved their rusted swords, cutting the grass as they advanced.
After a while, they reached the small river. There was no grass by the river’s edge, and the goblins came into full view as they stepped on the bare soil.
Two of the goblins carried weapons. Four others seemed to be searching through their surroundings. And then there were five small ones. Were they a family…? It almost looked like the adults were keeping watch while the children drank from the river.
However, we could not leave them. They would eventually attack humans. There was a sense of guilt in taking this precaution, but it was according to the rules of this world. Cruel, but necessary. There were things I couldn’t defy if I wanted to be an Adventurer and live as a resident in this world.
“Asagi, could you not freeze them in the water?”
“Ah. I think I could do it to those that are close to it.”
“Then freeze the small ones first. They will be hard to find if they get away.”
I followed her order and quietly sent a current of blue magic into the river. When the crackling of the ice on the water’s surface reached the young goblins, I increased the power all at once, freezing their heads. The suddenness of this caused a panic, and they flailed their arms and tried to pull their faces out from the ice. The adult goblins turned to see what was happening. That’s when we attacked.
Daniela ran like the wind as she pulled out a short sword and threw it. The weapon flew straight into the first weapon-wielding goblin’s back, throwing him off of his feet and into the dirt. All eyes turned to the body. Daniela wasted no time in unsheathing her rapier and stabbing it into the back of another goblin.
The young goblins were frozen. The adults died one after another. With the situation now deafeningly clear, the remaining goblins scrambled to pick up the fallen weapons or tree branches. They were not difficult to deal with. Sword hands were severed, open chests pierced, and legs cut out from under them before our swords plunged down into their backs. When they were all dead, we turned to the frozen goblin children.
“Now, it’s just them…”
And so Daniela and I stabbed them with our swords. The blades slid through their backs without resistance, and the lives were snuffed out. While I knew this would happen, it did not feel good.
“I can tell what you are thinking, just by looking at your face.”
“Sorry… I can be pretty pathetic.”
“I would not say that. It is important to feel affection towards life. It is what makes us human.”
“It’s what we do. And we sort of have to.”
“Indeed. Both humans and monsters have this ability to choose.”
As a human who was a thrall to a forest wolf, I often felt that it was hard to fight them. It made me wonder if I would have started to side with goblins, if I had just so happened to have received an enchantment from one instead of Beowulf. It was an interesting thought. But none of it would matter had I accepted Rachel’s offer.
I felt like a very weak creature for even telling this to Daniela.
“…I see. I do have my reservations about fighting other elves. You have certain feelings based on your own situation. It may not be easy to resolve it.”
“You think? Even if I became Rachel’s thrall?”
“I think you reject the notion because you use the word ‘thrall.’ Why not ‘ally’?”
Yes, the fact that Rachel had used the word had bothered me in a way. Thinking of the arrangement as an ‘alliance’ did make it sound better.
“A God Wolf ally. I do not think it a bad thing.”
“When you put it that way, no, it’s too terrible.”
And being friends with a fenrir would certainly make me more confident.
And if I accepted it, would I then be able to kill forest wolves without regret?
“Sometimes I feel like we are going around in circles.”
“Emotions are incredibly annoying…”
“Do not say that, Asagi. You would not like me very much if you did not have the ability to feel.”
“That’s the best argument I’ve ever heard.”
“Did you just growl at me…”
“Oh, that was only my stomach. Come on, it is time to eat.”