Shadow of the Deep Wolf
I felt the sensation of the skill being integrated. It was impossible to describe. Perhaps it was like gaining new knowledge that seemed like something you always knew but had just forgotten. And you forgot that it was something you just learned… I wasn’t making any sense. I felt sick.
Such confusing thoughts repeated in my head until it was finished.
I now had a skill called ‘Shadow of the Deep Wolf.’ I repressed the impulse to check it immediately and instead, thanked Pochi.
“Thank you, Pochi. We are true friends now. I feel it in my body.”
“We are now connected. It is like a promise between us. Of course, even without it, I consider Daniela a friend as well.”
“Hehe. Do not worry about that. I feel the same.”
This forest… Well, I wasn’t even sure if it should be considered a forest… I always seemed to get attacked in forests. But that was how dangerous and harsh this world was.
“However, it is not the same with other humans. I cannot change so easily.”
“Well, that is fine. It’s the same with everyone.”
However, not everyone was bad. I knew that Ash, his family, and the rest of the beastkin were good people. And that’s why we had been able to become friends. It was not good to allow first impressions to decide everything…
It made me wonder about the Assault Kobold and the Loup-garou…
“By the way, why are you two here?”
“We came to see a friend. He’s white orc. Have you seen him?”
“Ah, them. I see. They too are good neighbors and friends. I will take you to them.”
“Thank you. That would be a great help.”
What a relief. I was worried for a second that they would be rivals if not enemies who fought over their territory. There was always an order in which who came first. But they were good neighbors. That was a wonderful result.
□ □ □ □
Pochi started to walk along the lakeside, and so we followed him. The forest he had been hiding in spread out along the bank, so we naturally had to go through it.
“Be careful. There are not many monsters in this place, but they are still here. And they are usually hiding among the trees.”
“From what I saw from above, there seem to be a lot of forests here. Are they all populated with monsters?”
“Yes, they are. It has always been this way. The prairies and less dense parts of the forest and the part of the lake are for animals. I don’t know why, but that is the way it is.”
It’s become a habit. Pochi said. But he didn’t know how long or who had made it that way…
“What do they eat?”
“Monsters can get by on mana for the most part. And mana is especially thick in the forest. But they also eat wandering animals and the fruits from the trees.”
Well, animals would probably wander in every once in a while. However, if it was true that the mana was thick in the forest, it suggested even more strongly that someone had designed this place. As for someone that was capable of such a thing… Certain elves, perhaps?
We encountered several monsters on the way, but it never resulted in a fight, thanks to Pochi. He was much too intimidating, and we just walked through the forest.
The sunlight was warm and comfortable, and the rustling of the leaves overheard was very pleasant to listen to. We even sat down by the roots of a tree in order to rest. The forest roof with the sunlight leaking through was so beautiful. It was almost worrisome that I was enjoying this trek so much. Like we were on a hike.
“The sun will be coming down soon. You should prepare a place to sleep.”
Judging by how bright it was, I had assumed we still had several hours left. But perhaps my enjoyment of the walk had messed with my perception of time.
“This place is surrounded by mountains on all sides. While they do not cast great shadows over us, it still causes the land to get darker at a faster rate.”
I had forgotten about that. This place was like being at the bottom of a deep bowl. The shadows were large, just like the walls.
“Alright, we should set up our camp then.”
“I shall sleep where the mana is thick. I’m sure that no monsters will approach, so there is no need to worry.”
“Got it. We’ll see you again in the morning then.”
Monsters had their own lives. And there was no need for him to stick around. But I was grateful that he was keeping the other monsters away from us. Still, it would probably be best for us to take turns on the night watch.
That night, we ate soup and bread. Daniela had also walked around and gathered some fruits, which we ate. And then we took turns sleeping. Like Pochi said, there were no monster attacks.
□ □ □ □
Midnight. It was as if even the trees and grass were asleep. When only the light of the stars dance and sing. I sat alone by the fire and kept watch.
Daniela had taken the first watch, and I had slept well. And so I felt very clear-headed.
I was currently using Jack of all Trades, Master of None to play images in my head.
Of course, I was watching ‘Shadow of the Deep Wolf.’
“…I see. This is a very powerful skill.”
What I could see, was three versions of myself swinging a sword.
‘Shadow of the Deep Wolf’ was a cloning skill. However, it wasn’t like you had identical versions of yourself like some kind of ninja. Like the name suggested, they were dark, ‘shadow’ versions of me. They appeared just as the skill was activated. I was just thankful that it didn’t give me three heads like a Cerberus.
However, what did ‘Deep Wolf’ mean? Deep…like from hell? Was there even a hell in this world? Was there a heaven?
“…I guess there’s no point in worrying about that.”
The loud sparks of the fire brought me back to the present. And so I used Presence Detection. But there wasn’t a single monster in the area. Well, except for Pochi, who was a short distance away. He wasn’t using Presence Block anymore.
The mana was thick there. It had come out of the dragon vein and collected. The perfect place for monsters to eat. Though, I didn’t want to go near a place that was so strange… We would have to keep a distance from the forest when possible.
Now that I was finished seeing the images through Jack of all Trades, I got to my feet. It was time to test it out.
I concentrated my will towards it, and then my shadow began to stretch and change shape. It was wearing the same clothes and armor as me. And while it was completely black, it did appear to be three dimensional if you looked very hard. Even its clothes were moving in the wind. It wasn’t just a flat silhouette.
“…But I don’t see any weapons.”
I then realized that I wasn’t carrying one either. The demon armor sword was lying on the ground. And so I picked it up and unsheathed it. At the same time, a shadow extended from the clone’s hand, and then it too was carrying a sword.
“I see. I have to be carrying one too.”
That seemed a little limiting in terms of how I could fight, but there was no point in complaining. I then tried taking out the greatsword, and the clone also switched weapons.
And then I moved and tried swinging it. There was nothing surprising. It mimicked my movements perfectly. But as I had very little experience with this kind of thing, it was very strange to see.
Still, it was clear this was a very useful skill. It would help me when Daniela wasn’t around, or when she was not enough.
“Hmm… It’s almost morning.”
I could hear the chirping of birds. I couldn’t see the sun coming up the horizon, due to the mountains, but the sky to the east seemed to be getting pale.
Well, I suppose it was a good time to start preparing breakfast for Daniela. It would have been nice if these shadows could do it for me, but that was apparently not possible.
□ □ □ □
I woke Daniela up and we ate breakfast before returning to the forest. The sun eventually arrived overhead in our circular patch of sky. By the time it was the warmest time of day, we came out of the forest.
“This heat is nearly unbearable without shade…”
“We are close to Arthur’s village.”
“I see… I guess I can go a little further…”
I stretched my back while I felt my body temperature rising. Yes… The village… So there really was a village…!
My feet felt lighter. Maybe it was because we were on grass now instead of soil. Ah, I could not wait.
“Asagi, I understand that you are impatient. But I will not be able to keep up if you use Legs of the God Wolf.”
But I wasn’t using it… I looked down at my legs and saw that they were indeed covered by platinum and green wind. I hadn’t tried to… Was I really in such a hurry?
“Ahaha… My mistake.”
“You really are something…”
She laughed. And I laughed too. How embarrassing. And in front of Pochi, too.
However, Pochi seemed to be deep in thought as he stared at me.
“I might blush if you stare at me any harder…”
All three of his heads moved as he started walking again. I looked at him, puzzled. What was it? Had we said something that bothered him? I didn’t know… Perhaps he wasn’t used to seeing humans talk casually. Maybe I should tell him that we were joking?
“Hurry along now.”
“Ah! Not the ass! Don’t hit the ass!”
I could have sworn that she squeezed it too. Regardless, Daniela and Pochi were already ahead of me. And so I swallowed the rest of my protests and ran after them.
□ □ □ □
As we walked along the grassy lakeside, we encountered a herd of animals that had come to drink. It was said that many monsters in this world were the result of animals taking in too much mana and mutating. And since such monsters tended to live in great numbers in fields, forest, and mountains, you did not see animals too often.
But it wasn’t as if there were none at all. There were especially a lot of deers, birds and monkeys. I had met a wandering wolf myself when I first came to this world. Now that I thought back on it, it was a pretty rare experience.
The animals that were drinking in front of us were horses. They were black, white, and brown in color and seemed to be enjoying themselves. And they didn’t run away when they saw us. Either they were used to humans or had no sense of danger…
“It would be a lot quicker if we rode on them.”
“That sounds like a terrible idea…”
Catching wild horses for transportation. It sounded exhausting. It would be better for me to carry her and run.
After watching the animals for a while, we continued our hike towards Arthur’s village.
The grass felt strong under my feet. I could feel them pushing back. Perhaps it was because of how rich the soil was. That was how blessed this place was. Mowing the grass here would be a nightmare.
And it was all so beautiful. Seeing them move in the wind reminded me of looking at the sea. If I met Arthur here and was able to return the sword, we would be headed to the sea next. Though, I wasn’t sure if our boat would be good for the job…
We walked for another few hours while looking at the animals running through the field. Then the settlement came into view. It was between the forest and the lake.
“Is that it?”
“Aye. That is where Arthur should be.”
Pochi replied. On closer inspection, the structures looked similar to the ones we had seen in Cath Palug. Perhaps they were a little larger. Orcs were taller than beastkin, after all. And it would have been easy to build too, given how strong they were. They were monsters that swung enormous clubs.
We started to walk faster then. And when we were close enough, the orcs noticed our presence and came out to greet us. They weren’t carrying any weapons.
I shouted while waving my hand. Then a few of them waved back. That made me happy. I smiled.
“Are you a child?”
“You try waving too. They might wave back.”
She snorted. However, her pale arm rose in the air as she waved as well. And then even more orcs waved back.
“Huh. They seem more receptive towards me.”
“Hey, I warmed them up for you!”
“You two really are childish…”
Pochi declared with a sigh as he saw my annoyed and Daniela’s smug expressions.
Yes. We really were just children.