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1-40 Through the Woods

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Author: EnroItzal Original Source: Scribble Hub

Some time after the trio had awoken from their untimely slumber, the group was closing in on their first planned rest stop for the day, a small grove just before the slope ascending up into the hills. Contrary to their expectations, they were actually way ahead of their schedule in spite of the initial bleak assumptions of their trip.

It was now about an hour past noon. Relief appeared on Erin and Lyra’s face safe for Aedan who was bearing an indifferent expression as always.

Freed let out a groan as he adjusted himself in his seat. “Good gods… what happened to us?” he asked, rubbing his temple along with a grimace.

Cal and Selene threw the same question.

It went without saying that the three’s questions regarding their sudden fade to dreamland was only to be expected. Aedan was quick to spin the story that satisfied the three’s dire inquiry. The pretense was that they passed out from the abundant Miasma in the dark woods from before. It was quite a common occurrence for greenhorns. There was no toll to their physical health but their mental health wouldn’t be a different story.

Selene was fine. Freed was a little unsatisfied with the transpired event since he was put into the category of a greenhorn. As for Cal, he was on edge even more than before, due to the fact that he showed such an unsightly display in front of his subject of infatuation. It was even made worse when Selene tried to calm him down but his eyes were glued to the back of Erin. A quarrel was moulded out of this “infidelity”but Erin paid no heed to the ensuing drama. She was just glad nothing bad happened to them.

The bickering went on until they were within a few hundred yards from their first rest stop. Erin immediately turned around and silenced them with a glare and the finger-to-lip gesture. Aedan pulled the horses to a stop.

“Oh what is it now?” Freed asked with much annoyance in his tone.

Just then, Lyra came riding back from scouting ahead. “Bandits,” was the first thing that she said.

“How many?” Selene instantly asked upon hearing her words.

“Six,” Lyra replied. “And lucky for us. They’re not that bright. They don’t have anyone manning their perimeters.”

“Ah good,” Freed said. “This journey is numbing my limbs. These bandits might be able to help with that.”

“W-what do we do?” Cal asked with a stutter.

Freed scoffed. “What else, you idiot? We kill them of course.”

Cal gazed astonishingly at Freed. “W-we’re going to kill them?”

Selene sighed. “Cal, we talked about this.”

Cal frowned. “I know we talked about this but we’re actually going to do it now.”

“I don’t know about you but I sure as hell not going to risk letting a bandit run free,” Lyra answered.

“We don’t need to kill them,” came the unexpected words from Aedan.

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Erin gave him a doubtful look. Knowing Aedan, she was sure he was not up to something as merciful as his words suggested.

“That’s really surprising coming from you,” Lyra said.

“Sorry, let me phrase it another way.” Aedan cleared his throat. “We can just beat them unconscious and use them as fodder for any wild animals or monsters who tread too close to our camp.”

Instantly after Aedan made such a suggestion, everyone in the group grimaced, Erin included. With her and Aedan’s presence, no monsters or animals would dare to approach them but there was no guarantee things wouldn’t deviate from the norm.

“What?” Aedan returned their glances. “They’re just getting what’s coming for them.”

“You don’t think that’s overdoing it?” Erin questioned.

Aedan chuckled. “Oh milady, you can be so naive at times.”

“Don’t call me milady!”

“They have probably done worse to their victims. And by probably, I meant more likely than not.”

“W-we can just kill them….” Selene gave her vote in a trailed-off voice.

“I agree with Selene,” said Erin. “I won’t condone such cruelty.”

“This is cruel?” Aedan shot back. “On whose standards? Yours?.”

“I understand your point, Aedan. They might have done worse but that is no reason for us to sink to their level.”

“Your eyes say wisdom but your mouth speaks naivety. Truly curious, you are.”

“You will do no such thing, Aedan.”

“Fine. Have it your way.” Aedan grumbled his reluctance with his compliance. “Shame. They would have at least been useful for once in their miserable and pitiful life.”

Ignoring the Dragon-kin’s mutterings, Erin proceeded to discuss the attack plan with Lyra and the others.


“There’s seven,” said Erin who was surveying the bandit camp with Life Sense from atop of a tree.

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“Seven?” Lyra, who was just beside Erin, gave the scene a once over again before turning back to Erin. No matter how many times she counted, she couldn’t find the seventh bandit. “I count six. Where did you a seventh?”

Erin pointed at a large unmoving sack beside a bodily-scarred bandit.

“That sack?” Lyra narrowed her eyes at the sack. “What’s in there?”

“Their catch, most probably. It’s still alive.”

Lyra frowned. “I’m surprised they let their catch live. They always cut them up at once.”

“If they let their catch live, it only means that they intend to sell it.”

Lyra’s frown deepened. “You mean…”

Erin nodded silently.

Lyra creased her brows in anger. “These bastards—!”

Erin raised her brows in question. “That’s an unexpected reaction. You’re fond of animals?”

“More like I understand their fate. I have personally witnessed such cruelty. Back in my village, we have dealings with poachers. You should see those animals or monsters’ faces… Miserable… Living the rest of your life as the extension of someone else’s cruel will. That’s no way to live.”

“We’re riding horses, you know?”

“That’s different. It’s like enjoying a dog cuddly gnawing on a bone versus forcing cocoa down a dog’s throat just to enjoy their suffering.”

“Ah, that’s… a little bit hypocritical but understandable.”

Just then, a glimpse of light was directed into Erin’s view. It was the signal from her party. Everyone was in place, that was the meaning. She waved back lightly.

A small ball of light was tossed from a bush and into the middle of the camp. The bandits who saw the ball only stood there and gazed at the light orb in confusion.

“Okay. On three. One, two—” Erin took a deep breath. “Three!” She shouted.

The small ball of light, a Light Drop, exploded from the excessive infused Mana. Lights engulfed the camp and each of the bandit’s vision. At that instance, Erin and her party sprang into action.

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Lyra released an arrow at the head of the bodily scarred bandit. Freed pounced from the bushes and quickly decapitated the bandit closest to him in one fell swoop. Selene crept swiftly towards the back of a bandit and impaled the bandit through his heart. Cal charged in with a battle cry. He almost botched his assault but he managed to recover from his trip and stabbed a bandit right in the chest. He fell along with the bandit when he failed to pull out his sword.

Erin, with her saber drawn, dropped from atop the trees and twirled gracefully in her position, slicing the throat of two bandits who were merrily boasting away about their past nefarious deeds.

[Experience gained +6% – Level Progression: 88%]

Two for six? Not even humans are worth much. Really need to find a high level prey.

Without waiting, Erin immediately cleaned the blood off her saber with a ragged cloth she pinched it off of the bandit she killed. As she cleaned her blade, she realized a faint tremor in her hands. It had been a long time since she last took the life of a human. Around the period of her demise, her title as the Sword Saint had spread far and wide. She had been so famous that even bandits in the middle of nowhere were able to recognize her. Therefore, no one approached her with ill-intentions and so, she didn’t need to take any lives as self-defense. Even in duels, it rarely ended in someone’s death. Even if there was death, it was always a result of the victims’ own rash actions.

“That’s everyone, right?” Selene asked.

“Yes,” Erin answered after a second pause.

Lyra immediately went to check on the sack.

Selene let out a heave of relief as she slumped to the ground. “Whoa… that was… intense.” She was breathing heavily.

Erin approached her. “First time?”

Selene shook her head. “Not exactly but this is the first time I have killed in a premeditated manner.”

Aedan made his way out of the bushes with the party’s luggage in tow. Erin gave a quick glance over his shoulder, where she could see their horses and carriage, tied to a small tree.

“He doesn’t look too good,” Aedan remarked dryly.

Spurred by his words, Erin looked to Cal, who was still kneeling on the ground beside his victim. His eyes were stuck to the hole which he inflicted onto the bandit’s chest. Selene was the first to come over to his side and console him.

“Is he alright?” Erin asked as she approached the two.

“He’ll be alright,” Selene assured her. “We’re just not just not used to this yet.”

“Well, take your time.” Erin smiled assuredly. “The beginnings are often the hardest.”

Freed clicked his tongue. “Yeah right. I’m sure the world will wait for you.”

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Despite his harsh tongue, no one paid much heed to him, except Lyra who was looking at him with disdain. If she wasn’t working hard to untie the complicated knot on the sack, she would have offered a retort.

“You seem used to killing, Miss,” Cal said solemnly with his gaze cast down at his own hands.

Although taken aback by the sudden question, Erin kept her composure. “I am,” she said.

“How did you do it?”

“Do what?” she asked but she then understood the question. “Getting used to it?”

Cal nodded.

Erin smiled wryly. “I didn’t.”

“Sure didn’t seem like it.”

“Cal!” Selene quickly rebuked her companion.

“There will be a lot of things in your life that you just won’t get used to. You just learn how to live with it. As for killing, that is something you shouldn’t get used to. Otherwise, it’ll turn you into something dreadful.” Erin brightened her smile. “Cheer up. It’s good that you felt bad. That only means that you have a good heart.”

“Hmm,” Aedan murmured from the side as he unpacked their provisions, drawing a glare from Erin.

“You got something to add?” Erin asked with a raised brow.

Aedan shrugged. “What I wanted to say has already crossed your mind, presumably. So… no, I got nothing to add.” And he resumed preparing their meals which were all dry rations.

Erin was about to hit him when—

“What the f̲u̲c̲k̲!?” Lyra uttered, drawing the glances of everyone.

Erin was the first to run over to her side. Once there, she gave a similar utterance of surprise. “What the f̲u̲c̲k̲?”

“A girl?” Cal muttered in horror.

Yes, a girl. What was stuffed into a sack was no animal or beast but a human girl around the age of eight or nine. She was wearing a plain dress and there were blood splatters on her clothes.

“Damn it! I should have taken my time with them!” Freed roared. Everyone glanced at him. “What? Don’t look at me like that. Even I have standards.”

Steering her attention away from Freed, Erin appraised the little girl.

“Hmm. She’s unconscious.” Erin mused in her heart. “She has a few bruises but nothing major. According to appraisal, her name is Celia and the only skills she has is a level one Fleet Foot.”

“Is the girl fine?” Lyra asked Erin. “Is she hurt?”

“She’s fine. The bandit’s did nothing to her,” Erin said after inspecting the girl’s buttons. “She’s just exhausted and in shock. The blood isn’t hers.”

“Thank the gods.” Lyra sighed in relief. “But if the blood isn’t hers, then whose?”

While Erin was checking on the girl, Aedan hunkered down beside her. His fingers were getting a feel of the girl’s dress, appraising the fabric.

Lyra was about to admonish Aedan for his sudden odd actions but Erin stopped her.

“What is it? Something about the girl’s dress?” Erin asked.

“I recognize this fabric. They’re from the village up ahead. The village we are heading to.”

“The bandits attacked the village?” Lyra was prompted to ask.

Aedan bent further down to take a whiff of the girl’s dress.

“What the hell are you doing!?” Lyra yelled—

—which Aedan ignored. “It’s not just human. There are traces of beasts.”

“What does that mean?” Selene chimed in.

Aedan looked to Erin and Erin nodded in understanding.

“The bandits most likely didn’t attack the village,” Erin said. “Monsters did and this girl fled from the village. And while she was fleeing, the bandits chanced upon her and abducted her.”

“Monsters attacked the village?” Selene blurted out. “Then we have to make haste!”

“No,” Aedan refuted.

“What do you mean no!?” Selene yelled. “People’s lives are at stake here!”

“Selene, calm down,” Erin told her.

“You’re on his side, Miss Erin!?”

“Be calm, Selene. Our horses are tired and we are starving. If we rush ahead now, we won’t be in any condition to fight when we reach the village. We’ll be throwing our lives away in vain.”

“Then what do we do?” Lyra asked, her eyes stayed on the girl who she was cradling all this while.

“We stick to the plan, that’s what we do. If monsters truly had attacked the village, it only meant that the monsters are dauntless and strong. Our haste will only bring upon our demise. We fill our belly here and make whatever preparations that you need to. We move in ten minutes. There’s a place we could camp for the night in the hills. That’s our current destination. Any questions?” Aedan waited for ten seconds before moving to his own device.

“Come on, Selene. We should eat.” This time, it was Cal who was allaying Selene’s restlessness. A refreshing sight for Erin.

When Erin looked around, she found Freed was already sitting against a tree with a flask and a rye bread in his hands.

“Wow. He’s fast.”

“Erin.”

She heard her name being called. She turned to find Lyra who was still cradling the little girl.

“She’s cold,” Lyra said, her hand tapping on the girl’s forehead.

Ering quickly glimpsed around but found nothing appropriate enough to keep the girl warm. They all have their respective blanket for sleeping but it was in their cart, which was some distance away. Before she could offer herself to retrieve the blanket, Lyra came up with a surprising idea.

“Your tails will do the job,” Lyra said.

Looking at the beaming Lyra, Erin had an inkling that this was her ulterior motive when she had approached her instead of going to fetch the blanket by herself.

Instead of being reluctant, Erin was actually quite curious about the effectiveness. And so, she took a seat on a strewn log among the camp and cradles the little girl with not just her arms but also her tails. In no time at all, the girl had a faint smile appearing on her face. She even rolled to the side, grabbed on to a part of her tail, and used it as a bolster.

When Erin looked up, she realized she was receiving all kinds of gaze from her traveling companions. Freed was trying to look like he was indifferent to the sight but his blushing cheeks betrayed his attempts. Cal on the other hand was brazen with his desire and envy which prompted Selene to pinch his attention back to her. Aedan was truly indifferent but his gaze remained on the sight. As for Lyra, her mouth began to open but before her question could come out, Erin had already given her a response.

“No.”

“Just a little?”

“No.”

Although Lyra gave up, she held onto her hope wishfully as she nibbled away her dry bun and stared enviously at the little girl at the same time.

Erinthea – Faerie-kin: Three-Tailed Fox-kin

Level: 10 | Status: Mildly Exhausted

Might: 19 | Arcane: 15 | Finesse: 15

Magic Arts – Spirit Magic Lv. 6 | Arcane Edge Lv. 2 | Arcane Armor Lv. 5

Combat Arts – Sword Art Lv. 6 | Fleet Foot Lv. 5 | Brawler Lv. 4

Innate Skills – Appraisal Lv. Ex | Night Vision Lv. Ex | Sixth Sense Lv. Ex | Toxin Resistance Lv. 1 | Lust Deviant Lv. Ex

Unique Talent – Mystic Blade Lv. Ex

Level Progression: 88%

Remaining Skill Points: 2

Remaining Ability Points: 2


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