4 – Indy Ploy – I
Aria gasped for breath on the forest floor. The commander, that wicked human warrior, stood over her. But she could do nothing.
His face was hidden beneath that steel helm, but she could sense the lecherous gaze beneath it. And in sensing that, she knew the fate she was about to face. But she didn’t want it. After running so far, after abandoning her family and kin out of fear, after doing her best to survive, was she to suffer the same fate?
It was cruel. Far too cruel.
Why had the Goddess forsaken them? She was taught that Elves were the closest to nature and the Goddess. They were her favored children, the proof of which was their ability to freely meld mana and call upon the spirits. So why? Why did Goddess Serena ignore them in their plight?
The man laughed and said some words, but Aria couldn’t hear him. The loss of blood from her left arm, the lack of air from the rough treatment, and the blow across her face made her consciousness faint. But she held on. She held on because she knew that failing to do so would mean that it would be even worse after she woke up.
She had seen it first-hand, her kin played with and tortured for being so ‘lifeless’ and turned into nothing more than dolls.
But it was impossible for her. She had gone through too much.
With all her might, she breathed those two words.
The Goddess had abandoned Aria and her kind. Moreover, humans had declared them as mortal enemies, conspirators with demons.
Asking her for help was pointless, as Aria’s previous prayer had shown.
Even so, she wanted someone to save her.
A desperate, unheard plea. It was one that she knew would go unfulfilled, but one that she still prayed for with all her might.
The slave leader laughed and began reaching towards her chest.
Seeing that, Aria closed her eyes. But then-
“Tch. I knew what I was walking into but this is still sickening, even the second time.”
The scene was the same as the first time, even though it felt like a lifetime ago.
Six men surrounding a wagon of battered and abused elves.
One man looming over an elf on the ground, just about to remove her shirt.
It really was disgusting, just as bad the second time as it was the first.
The man looming over the elf turned towards me like the first time. But this time, I didn’t wait for him to finish examining me.
Darkness flooded the surroundings. The already dim forest became completely black.
“Nullinvoyd! Scatter the shadows!”
To the man’s credit, he didn’t hesitate before attempting to disperse my magic. But that was just what I wanted.
In the brief moment before the shadows dispersed, I moved. My faithful companion (stick), cloaked in chaos and darkness attributes, slashed through the man. Considering that it was capable of scratching that demonic dragon, I wasn’t surprised when the man fell apart in two halves and spilled out blood and gore.
I remembered to grab his sword and sheath, binding it to my back with a thread of darkness, and then picked up Aria. At that moment, the light returned to the forest. However, it was too little too late. By the time the men registered that I had slain their leader and rescued Aria, I was already gone.
After leaving the men and captured elves behind, I made my way to the depths of the Ancient Forest with Aria in my arms. Her left arm was bleeding out after I removed the chained arrow piercing it, but I managed to close it with a patch of Darkness mana. Her body seemed to know what to do from there since the wound gradually began to heal.
That done, perhaps knowing that she was safe after my actions or at least finding me a better alternative than the men from before, the beautiful elf fell fast asleep.
Staring at her peaceful expression, I couldn’t help but frown. “…This is going to be troublesome.”
I saved her on a whim initially and the second time around I had decided to save her due to the title I now possessed. However, I hadn’t considered what would come next after that.
In most stories, it would be fine to wander around with an elf as a companion. However, while I didn’t know the full details of the event that occurred, I could sense something was wrong. The event that allowed me to meet her and the actions I had taken meant that I would be drawn into something troublesome soon enough.
Of course, I could undo any of that at any point and leave her behind, but that would have left a bad taste in my mouth.
I shook my head and focused on the matter at hand: finding a place to rest for the night.
After walking long enough for night to fall, I had managed to reach a small clearing with a pond. A few boulders scattered nearby would serve as seats while the body of water provided one part of the required resources. What was left was to create a shelter, fire, and obtain food.
Aria was still asleep and didn’t seem like she would wake any time soon. If she was awake, I could have used her expertise and familiarity with the forest to gather resources, but as she wasn’t, I would have to do it myself. But it would be bothersome to keep carrying her with me…
So far, I had avoided encounters due to using Information Concealment. Unfortunately, I highly doubted that it could be maintained as an area of effect when I wasn’t present. I also wasn’t in the mood to find out.
“…Well, hopefully this is enough. If not, blame your misfortune.”
I held out my hand and wrapped her body in shadows using Darkness Affinity. At the same time, I used Information Concealment to erase any signs that we had been in the area. It was imperfect and a strong monster could probably see through it, but there was nothing more I could be bothered to do.
After a few moments, Aria became invisible, shrouded in shadows. That would hold even if she moved around for a while, but if she was smart, she would stay put.
With that accomplished, I made my way out into the dark forest. Now that I had a new weapon, it was important to test out its capabilities.
Although it was dark, with my skills I could see just as clearly as if it was day. At my left side, there was the sheathed sword that I had taken from the man I killed. On my right, bound to my body by a thread of shadows, was my faithful companion across ten thousand lives. Though it was a simple stick, I had grown accustomed to channeling it with my mana to use as a weapon. Considering how it was able to cut through the dragon’s scales without breaking, I deemed it worthy enough to remain as my primary weapon.
However, that could change if the sword I picked up proved stronger.
A slight rustling sounded from behind me. Before I had a chance to examine the source, something rammed itself into my back.
“…Huh. Is this what the dragon felt like when I was fighting it?”
Turning around, I saw a boar. It was covered in dark fur and had long ebony tusks. Those tusks must have been what hit me. And looking down, I noticed a few scraps of dark fabric where my shirt must have torn off.
It was a strange feeling. Before the Goddess transported me, something like that would have definitely killed me. In fact, before I had started to challenge the demonic dragon, I would still have died to such an attack. But now, all I felt was as if someone had tapped me from behind.
The boar blinked and then reared back. It must have realized that it had attacked something it couldn’t stand a chance to defeat.
But it was too little too late. Drawing my newly acquired sword with my right hand, I slashed at its exposed neck.
That time, I blinked. The sword that had easily taken my life the first time, the sword that scattered my darkness… when it struck the boar’s fur, it cracked. Not only that, but it didn’t even leave a single scratch on the boar.
While I was confused, the boar retreated. Quickly spinning around, the dark-furred beast dashed off into the forest. And like how it attacked me without notice, before I could react, it had vanished without notice.
For a while, I simply stared off in the direction where the boar disappeared. I had no doubt that the Goddess was laughing her head off at the moment. If it hadn’t been me who experienced it, I would be doing the same.
But it was, and so I was far from amused.
…Still, it was strange. It should have been obvious that a forged steel blade would do more than a stick. Yet, it failed to leave a single scratch on the boar whereas the simple stick I randomly picked up when I awoke eventually managed to cut through a dragon’s scales.
“…Let’s try again.”
I closed my eyes and remembered.
A slight rustling sounded from behind me. Before I had a chance to examine the source, something rammed itself into my back.
That time, I didn’t bother musing. Instead, I wrapped my new sword in chaos and darkness and swung it at the boar’s neck-
An even louder noise than the first time resounded from the sword. And it did so before even getting close to the boar.
While I was confused, again, the boar vanished without a trace. But unlike last time, I decided to examine the sword in my hand.
“…What a shoddy blade.”
It was completely ruined. The moment I channeled my elements, the blade was splintered. The appearance it held was like that of fractured glass. And just like fractured glass, when I moved it slightly, the entire blade crumbled into a pile of worthless shards.
I sighed. “…What kind of world is this, where a simple stick has better performance than man-made steel?”
At that moment, the Goddess would be laughing again. Not wanting to give her that satisfaction, I closed my eyes once again and remembered.
A brief rustling. Without a second thought, I spun around with my faithful companion in hand and chopped at the charging boar’s neck. This time, I felt no resistance. Instead, I felt a gush of warm blood stain my pants as the boar’s headless body fell forward.
I sighed. There was no need to question if that Goddess would have found my situation amusing. Still, it would be too much of a hassle to go back yet again. And it would also be strange if I never encountered troublesome events after being transported.
In any case, the boar would serve well enough for food. It would probably take a few attempts to cook it right, but something was better than nothing. The problem was the worthless piece of metal hanging on my left side.
I placed my faithful companion (stick) back at my right side and then drew the sword in its place. Since I hadn’t used it, the blade was still in pristine condition.
“In that case, why did you shatter?” I muttered and then decided to gradually fill the sword with chaos and darkness mana. However, before I poured in even a thousandth of the amount I used with my faithful companion, the blade began to crack.
I frowned and drew my mana back. Almost immediately, the blade returned to its normal condition.
To experiment, I decided to use only darkness mana. However, almost immediately, the blade turned into rust.
I closed my eyes and remembered.
I was holding the sword. It was still in pristine condition, not yet tainted by any element. This time, I reached out with chaos. The effect was more favorable, and the sword grew with an ominous purple light. However, before I managed more than a hundredth of what I was used to using, it completely shattered, sending metal shrapnel in every direction.
That included the boar’s corpse. What had been a relatively undamaged source of meat was instantly shredded, turning into unsalvageable chunks.
I sighed and remembered again.
“Like I thought… What a shoddy blade.”
I had expected a strong sword that I could use to actually kill that damned dragon. But instead, I got a piece of scrap metal that was weaker than the random stick I picked up in the Lost Woods.
I tossed aside the rusted scraps of steel in my right hand and glanced at the brief message in the middle of my vision.
The sensation of examining with mana is memorized. Analysis LVL 1 obtained.
…Well, it seemed that the sword wasn’t completely worthless. On examining the new skill, it seemed that its effect was something similar to ‘Scan’ or ‘Libra’ from certain RPGs. Using it on the boar’s corpse, a screen appeared.
Name: Black Steel Boar (corpse)
Summary: A boar infamous for its speed and durability. While defeating it provides great experience akin to defeating metal slimes, doing so is much more hazardous. Many an adventurer has fallen prey to such thoughts. On a side note, although it is resistant towards physical attacks while alive, when deceased, its flesh is perfectly marbled and tender making it well-loved among the upper nobility.
Although the skill didn’t provide as much detail as when I examined my own status, it provided more useful information. Not only that, but it was information that I didn’t know. It would appear that the Goddess’s system filled in the gaps for me.
That would be useful.
Out of curiosity, I used it on my faithful companion.
Summary: A stick you picked up. Since you’ve used it a lot in the past, even though it can’t remember you doing so, the stick has somehow become accustomed to your mana. The best weapon, capable of cutting through the Wrathful Sin Dragon’s scales.
That would explain it. Although it was somewhat concerning how the stick seemed to have remembered my mana and didn’t bode well for if the Goddess could do the same, there was nothing I could do about that except try to get stronger as fast as I could. Still, the fact that my faithful companion (stick) was the best weapon and that the dragon was called the Wrathful Sin Dragon was useful.
As for the poor excuse for a sword lying in pieces on the ground next to me…
Name: Nullinvoyd (ruined)
Summary: A demonic blade created through the painstaking effort of the Empire’s brightest magi and enchanted with the dreaded Chaos attribute. It is capable of disrupting all mana in the nearby vicinity, making it the bane of magical creatures. Unfortunately, it has been ruined through experiencing a chaos greater than its own.
“Tch. What kind of sword can be called a ‘bane of magical creatures’ yet be unable to kill a simple boar?”
Since it was called a magical creature bane, it should have easily cut through that boar’s fur.
…Unless the boar wasn’t magical? Hm… that merited some thought.
The sounds of branches snapping echoed from all around me. Glancing around, I saw a pack of silver wolves draw near.
Name: Fenrir Wolves
Summary: Wolves that bear the ancient bloodline of the dreaded Fenrir, slayer of Odin. While weakened, they are still a force to be reckoned with. They are the natural predators of Black Steel Boars, possessing claws and fangs that can bypass any defense.
I sighed after reading their status and then raised my faithful companion yet again.
HP: 100000 (+100000)
MP: 20000 (+20000)
Absolute Memory LVL ?? – A unique unranked skill granted to Nowun by Goddess Serena using the infinite human potential gifted by Earth’s Creator. Grants the concept of ‘Absolute Memory’ to the user.
Information Concealment LVL ?? – A unique unranked skill recognized by Goddess Serena due to the user’s ability to withhold and conceal information. Grants the concept of ‘Information Concealment’.
Chaos Affinity LVL 5 – A skill granting the affinity of Chaos, the magical element that disrupts all others.
Physical Damage Resistance LVL 5 – A skill granting resistance towards physical attacks.
Imperial Slash LVL 5 – A subset of the martial skill “Imperial Swordsmanship”, which is the greatest swordsmanship available to the current era of humans. Using physical strength (or an appropriate substitute), lash out with the force to sever steel.
Indomitable Will LVL 5 – A skill granting resistance towards mental status effects.
Darkness Affinity LVL 5 – A skill granting the affinity of Darkness, the magical element embodying shadows, void, and negativity.
Mana Resistance LVL 5 – A skill granting resistance towards phenomenon involving mana.
Analysis LVL 1 – A skill gained through the skilled usage and interpretation of mana fluctuations. Allows gaining of information through reading the world’s record. More is shown with greater expertise.
The Nameless – Obtained by giving a pseudonym to Goddess Serena and refusing to present one’s true name. Due to this, the original name is discarded and one’s true nature becomes indistinct.
Otherworlder – Obtained by all those transported by Goddess Serena to Asifant. Grants language translation and basic knowledge of the world.
Karmic Anomaly – The title granted to one whose karma cannot be discerned. Effects are unknown.
Martyr – The title granted to one who sacrificed their life for the sake of another. Doubles HP and MP.
Aria’s Savior – The title of the one who saved the elven princess Aria Sylvania from suffering a fate worse than death. She will never forget your kindness and owes you her life.
(Tentative) Legend – The title of one who (challenges) defeats ancient beings of catastrophy. Grants superhuman strength and speed.
Name: Aria Sylvania
MP: 1236 (+618)
Wind Magic LVL 4 – The skill to utilize wind magic
Spirit Magic LVL 3 – The skill to utilize magic involving the spirits of nature
Archery LVL 1 – The skill allowing combat utilizing bows and arrows.
Wind Attribute LVL 4 – The skill born from the shape of the soul, influencing the natural characteristic of one’s mana. Wind magic becomes easier to perform while Earth magic becomes more difficult.
Youngest Elf Princess – The title given to the youngest princess of Alfheim royalty. MP is expanded by ½.
Darling of the Wind – The title given to one who was born favored by the wind. Grants the Wind Attribute and increases growth of wind-related skills.
Deserter – The title given to one who abandons their people for their own sake. Affinity with own race greatly decreases.