A Way to Stop It
We got through the cave in a matter of minutes. Perhaps they had used it several times, because there were magic lanterns installed. After that, we started to go around the mountain in order to reach the sea of trees.
However, this was harder than expected.
For the first few days, we traveled, rested, and camped with the mountain to our left side. However, it seemed that no matter how long we walked, the forest never ended and we weren’t getting any farther from the mountain. I was reminded of just how ridiculously large it was.
I thought of using Eyes of the God Wolf a few times, but it didn’t seem safe after hearing what Pochi had said. Who knew what would happen if I couldn’t control it.
Well, surely it was just a matter of time before the forest ended. That was what I thought as we walked. And then two full weeks passed.
□ □ □ □
“Asagi. Surely you can use it just a little?”
“No… Well… I am starting to wonder if it’s alright now…”
“I would feel like I lost if I give in now.”
“You are a damn idiot.”
It was our fourteenth night since leaving Camelot. I could see Daniela’s exasperated expression on the other side of the bonfire. At the same time, a burst of wind magic covered me in sparks.
“Ah! Are you trying to burn me!”
“Dragon armor cannot burn.”
“But I can!”
I said while patting down my clothes. Of course, there wasn’t a single burn spot on it. And my skin was also untouched.
“How much longer must we be locked up in this forest? Just use it. A little.”
“You can say that because you’ve never found yourself turning into a monster… It’s quite scary, you know.”
While our conversation was quite lighthearted, I had felt something close to restlessness during the last two weeks. Like I was being targeted by a giant wolf from behind. I even dreamed that a wolf attacked me. It was ridiculous, given that I was a thrall to a God Wolf. Well, maybe if it was one of the lower wolf monsters…
It was clear that this restlessness and the dreams were causing stress. And it was only going to get worse. The only solution was to go and see Rachel so I could have these skins turned into clothing.
However, the sea of trees was vast. And there was no end in sight.
As we wandered through the endless forest, it seemed like the icesnow phase was ending. There were more monsters as well recently. And this was very deep in the forest. That meant they were high level and rare.
We even saw the Paralyze Viper. A terrible snake with sharp teeth and paralysis poison. We were somehow able to fight it off, but it was quite hard to do it without using my skills.
Especially since I was so used to using Legs of the God Wolf. It was tiring having to concentrate on sealing it.
Yes, I hadn’t used Eyes of the God Wolf or Legs of the God Wolf since we left. The last time I used them was when I was hunting in Camelot. I was scared of that feeling getting stronger. The discomfort. Daniela did not understand it. But I did not want to become a wolf.
The skill that I had put so much trust in had turned its fangs on me now.
I couldn’t put into words how scared that made me feel.
Daniela said in annoyance as she got up and turned away.
“We are going to Rachel. Now.”
“Uh, I’m not…”
I shuddered. I couldn’t remember her being so angry before. Perhaps she had become sick of how I had been acting. I started to wonder if she would just leave me here alone.
However, when she turned around to look at me, her eyes were wet.
“If you turn into a monster, I will turn into one as well. But this cannot continue. This anxiety over what might or might not happen.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was grateful for her deep affection, but it was clear that she hated the way I was now. And it was all my fault.
“And so I am taking you to her. We need to deal with this as soon as possible. And then maybe you will grow a spine again.”
“Daniela… Thank you.”
Well, it was like her to say that.
Yes, I was always acting like a coward. Hadn’t that been why I died? I was scared when we were being robbed. I couldn’t even talk.
It was the same here. Running from goblins and wolves. I was then lucky enough to get a skill, which led to getting ahead of myself and nearly being killed by a wyvern.
I had been so hopeless many times, and Daniela had saved me. And here we were again. It was rather pathetic. Why wasn’t I able to grow?
Well, things could be worse.
What was important was that I was trying every day. As long as I did that, I should be able to keep up with her somehow.
“Daniela. Give me the key.”
“You do not need me to open it?”
“Yeah. I want to do it.”
I stretched out my hand and Daniela passed me the key. The key that Rachel had given us. I sent magic into it and pressed it into the air. The tip of the key disappeared. Then I turned it. There was a click. And the sound of heavy metal rang as the space opened in front of us.
“I packed everything.”
“Thank you. Let’s go then.”
Daniela had put everything into her hollow bracelet. And then, side by side, we stepped into the alley.
□ □ □ □
It had been a while since we were last here. It was evening. There were no crows cawing, but there was a sense of melancholy in the air.
It was late. And so I knocked on the window so as to not alarm them.
I had barely finished when the window opened loudly.
It had an antique, wooden frame that was quite atmospheric.
“Hello. Do you have a minute?”
“What’s this? And at such a time… Bah, come in then.”
She was always kind enough to let us in. And so we took off our shoes and climbed inside. It was a Japanese room. There was a round table and steaming cups of tea were placed on it. Had they just finished eating dinner?
Rachel glared at me with annoyance as she sat down and leaned on her elbow.
“Well, the thing is… There is something that is seriously bothering me. And so I have a favor to ask.”
Apparently, she sensed that this was important. She straightened her back a little as if preparing to listen to me. And so I slowly told her about what had happened.
“…So, Pochi gave me the skin of his parents. But I’m worried that wearing them could just make matters worse.”
“Well, they won’t do that.”
I leaned forward.
“Hmm. You see, it’s a phenomenon that occurs when you resist a power that wasn’t originally in you… At least, that’s what I believe. And it seems like Pochi realized this.”
Rachel said with a nostalgic expression.
“I was a wolf once. But there was nothing to eat up north, and so I ate monsters. The wolf instincts in me grew even stronger, and I became a monster. But that still took four to five years. You seem to be going twice as fast.”
So, that’s how it happened. And it was faster in me. Could my high AGI have anything to do with that?
“I think it is one of the reasons. After all, there is no AGI status in Japan. You put on the dragon armor on top of that, and then received the wolf skill. You resist yourself, your equipment, and your skill… All of those together are what caused you to start turning into a monster in less than a year.”
Status, equipment, skill. I had thought all of this was just standard stuff. But it wasn’t for me. And that difference was eating away..
“…Wait a minute. If you knew all of this, why did you not tell him?”
Daniela was quick to ask. But Rachel just stretched her legs as if she were listening to the wind.
“Becoming my thrall was supposed to repress it for the most part. But from what I hear, he used the skills like an idiot and nearly killed himself. And there is the Jack of all Trades skill as well. Master the use of tools by playing images in your head? Clearly that is not right. Ultimately, you’re fighting while using images in your brain to make calculations about you and your opponent’s movements. It is like predicting the future. Even a fool would know what effect that would have on your brain.”
Rachel snapped back at Daniela’s accusation. I listened, chewed it over, and realized what I had been doing.
Yes, it was an odd skill. Well, not that I knew much about skills. But I always thought that I had received this specific skill because when I had been stabbed, the last thing that was on my mind was regret about the many things I had been unable to do.
But it was the Nova who brought me here. Did they give skills to everyone that they summoned?
Well, there was no point in wondering about that. I wouldn’t find the answer. And so I pushed that aside and turned to face Rachel.
“I had heard things about the skill. Using it so recklessly as you have was bound to have consequences. Of course, it would be a different story if you want to become a monster wolf like me.”
I wasn’t sure if that was rude to say in front of her, but it was the truth. Daniela was already starting to say that she would turn as well. I didn’t want that.
“Well, I’m not surprised. That’s why I told Yasushi to avoid overuse of his skill. Of course, he hasn’t received any skills from monsters, so he is not really in danger.”
“So, is there no hope for Asagi?”
She wasn’t holding back… I felt like a patient who was about to hear the doctor’s prognosis.
“Once it starts, there is likely no way to reverse it. But you can make it smoother. I told you. The cause of it all is when powers repel each other.”
“So, if I wear these skins, the flow of power will become smooth?”
I glanced at the skins that were spread out on the floor.
“The repulsion between dragon and wolf will be gone. Then you should be able to use the skill without problem. And you must renew your contract with me. It will strengthen your connection as a thrall of a God Wolf. Kind of like overwriting the promise with the Deep Wolf.”
“But wouldn’t that mean my promise with Pochi…”
“Don’t worry. It’s just going to make the priority clearer. The rest is up to you.”
That was good. I wanted to maintain that connection.
“That way, the power of the God Wolf will erase the other repelling forces. The mutation will not advance. If anything, your power will increase. Hmm. It’s killing two birds with one stone.”
“Not the words I would have used here…”
I had been wondering if I was going to die. A little extra power didn’t mean much.
“Well, there it is. Now, give me those skins. I will make them wearable for you. And I’ll even add an enchantment.”
“Thank you…that will be a great help!”
“Hmph. It’s not the least bit pleasing hearing such words from the likes of you!”
Rachel turned her nose away as I bowed. Daniela thanked her as well.
“Now, get out of my house! This will require that I work late into the night. But it should be ready by morning.”
“Alright! Daniela, let’s go.”
“Aye. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you so much for helping him.”
“I told you to leave!”
Rachel’s ears looked a little red as she pushed us towards the window. I frantically grabbed my shoes and jumped out.
It had been a while since I felt this. The feeling of falling into the sky. I hated it.
Daniela reached out to grab my arm. However, the power pulling me into the sky was stronger. From the corner of my eye, I could see Rachel laughing.
As Rachel waved, our screams echoed in the red sky. And then I lost consciousness.