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1-41 Plight of the Night

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Author: EnroItzal Original Source: Scribble Hub

The journey through the hills was easier than their dreaded expectations. Hills and mountains were hotspots for highwaymen ambushes, so their expectations for the worst was well-founded. To lessen the burden of the horses, Erin and the others were scaling the hills on foot. Of course, they did not let their horses run free. They were leading the horses up the hills along. The only one in the wagon was Celia, the girl from the village. She was still unconscious after hours had passed since they found her. Lyra would occasionally express her worries but Erin repeatedly assured Celia was fine.

Though the steep slope made the climb arduous, the overall trek was a breeze. Their paths were paved. Therefore, the horses and wagon could travel through without any difficulty. According to Aedan, the reason for the paved roads was that this road had once been a famous highway for merchants but the increment of monsters and bandits forced the road into decline. Unmaintained it may have been, it was still miles better than not having paved roads at all. The amicable weather without a doubt played a huge part in their fortune. It would be an absolute nightmare if it had rained. The surface was roughened by the weather but a little bit of water could nullify those advantages.

Erin would check in on her companions once in a while. She had thought Cal and Selene would hinder their progress given their inexperience but they didn’t. They were astonishingly fit for the ascend.

No, not astonishingly. They are adventurers. They should be able to travel in different terrains as the bare minimum criteria.

For Erin herself, she wasn’t as fit as she had been when she was Argon Raze but she was still hanging on. As far as she could tell, she might be the one who would give out first. It went without saying Aedan was the only one who had no issues with his stamina. Much to her annoyance, even Lyra was doing better than she was. Erin held herself back from clicking her tongue.

Aside from the whims of nature and their stamina depletion, they did not need to worry about attacks from monsters. Per Erin’s suspicions, the monsters stayed far away from the group. It relieved most members of the party but Erin held a different opinion. She wanted the experience points and with the monsters distancing themselves from the group, the circumstances were defying her wish.

Moreover, the monsters had a distinguishing scent that exemplified their strength. No doubt they would give out more experience than the monsters near the town. Erin didn’t know how she could discern a monster’s strength just from their scent but she just could. She was hoping some of the monsters would be dauntless or foolish enough to approach them but none did.

They have also encountered their fair shares of bandits. Some laid in wait behind boulders for ambushes. However, those bandits were quickly spotted out through Lyra’s eyes and Erin’s nose. They were dispatched without mercy or leniency. Incidentally, there were some bandits who shirked away from the group. Some had come at them with zeal but at the sight of a Fox-kin with three tails, their ambition was shattered by the notion of offending the Faerie-kin as a whole. Those who were adamant with their ill-intentions or simply ignorant were simply dispatched by the group much like their peers.

Looks like the monsters have more brains than the bandits. Shocking.

To Erin’s surprise, the bandits’ numbers were in the dozens among the hills. They weren’t exactly a huge clan but more like a scattered bunch. They didn’t seem friendly with each other from what Erin could gather. Though they weren’t much of a threat, clearing them out was certainly becoming a tedious task. Thankfully, the bandit threats didn’t persist for their whole journey through the hills.

Though she said that, Erin wasn’t all that bothered. After all, while the bandits provided meagre experience, it was enough for Erin to ascend to the next level.

“How’s the girl?” Lyra peeked into the wagon to check on Celia as they climbed the slopes.

“She’s alright,” Aedan muttered. “How often are you gonna ask about that?”

Irked by Aedan’s indifference towards the girl’s condition, Lyra took the liberty to care for Celia in her arms.

“She’s cold,” said Lyra.

“But she won’t freeze, if that’s what you’re asking,” Aedan responded dryly.

“Perhaps I can help?” Erin offered her assistance.

But Lyra rejected it. Her reasoning being something about her empathy for the little girl and also her wanting to prove that she could be a good spouse. Of course, Erin wonderfully ignored the latter part of her reasoning.

In spite of the favorable conditions, their pace couldn’t be faster than they desired. They were right on schedule but given the circumstances they just came to know of their destination, their current pace was less than ideal. Still, they would need to rest. They reached a clearing at the peak of the hills by dusk and this was the place they were camping for the night.

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“We’ll camp here for the night,” Aedan spoke up.

“Who will be on watch?” Lyra asked.

“No one,” he answered without a pause. “We have a Fox-kin here. We have her nose and ears. And I have my Spirit Magic. We’ll know if someone or something came near us even in our sleep.”

“That sounds dangerously arrogant,” Lyra rebuked.

“We will need everyone at their best tomorrow. Therefore, everyone should get as much sleep as they can. Leave the lookout to Erin and I. Even if you don’t trust me, you can trust Erin, no?”

Lyra was silent.

“Good. Now, get to work, everyone. I want this place warm and bright before dark.”

At Aedan’s beckon, they began to set up their camp. No one complained, not even Freed or Lyra. Erin had a complicated feeling when she witnessed how seamlessly Aedan was fitting into a leadership role. Whenever she pointed it out, Aedan would always refute it with some jokes but it remained evident, he had the instincts to lead people. Erin could respect that but it was a shame he had an arse of a personality.

As soon as the campfire was properly stoked and the skies were grey, Aedan threw in a handful of brownish powder into the flames. A peculiar vermilion color of smoke soon exuded from the fire. Erin was able to appraise the powder before the flames completely swallowed it. It was simply known as Monster Repellent. It let off a scent that most beasts and animals would find repulsive. However, there were some who would be lured in by it. Erin asked Aedan about the odds of such happenstance.

“Not zero but it’s extremely close,” he answered. “Monsters that would be lured in are mostly aquatic or affiliated with water. Since we’re in the hills, that’s not very likely but who knows, fate can be whimsical.” He ended his reasoning with a shrug.

Erin accepted it but no way she would leave it all to chance. She intended to sleep lightly for the night but she didn’t know how her body would hold up.

“W-wait! Monster Repellent?” Cal blurted out his question when he noticed the peculiar smoke color. “It costs a few silver nearing a gold coin.”

“So it’s a luxury item, huh.”

Even Selene gasped at that realization. “We didn’t encounter any monsters on our journey. Do we still need to use Monster Repellent?”

“Being extra cautious is never going to hurt,” Aedan answered plainly. “And lives will never amount to any amount of gold.”

His answer seemed to satisfy the two but baffled Erin. She just couldn’t for the life of her understand how can someone be so enlightened yet so obnoxious at the same time.

Just as Erin thought she could resume back to setting up their camp, a discord had emerged. It came in the form of a shout.

“You forgot our whetstones?!” The shout came from Selene, who was unleashing her voice on Cal.

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“You said you would prepare the other items and I handle the weapons,” Cal retorted. Despite his steeled tone, his trembling cheeks and wobbling eyes were giving his courage away.

“You idiot! The whetstones were together with the weapons. They were right beside our swords. Of course you bring it together. How could you not think of that?”

And the bickering went on and on but to Erin’s surprise, the two did not stop their work. They were arguing but their hands were stopping.

At least they still have some tact.

Eventually, their quarrel made the little girl in Lyra’s embrace stirred.

“She’s waking up! She’s waking up!” Lyra announced excitedly.

The two immediately dropped their dispute and came over to Lyra’s side with the others. Freed was trying to look like he was just going with the flow but it was clear he was just as curious as everyone else in the group.

“Get back to work, you dullards!” Aedan admonished them all. He was even shaking his head in his palm. “You’re just going to scare the little lass if you all surround her. You too, Erin.”

Everyone was stiffened by Aedan’s consideration but when he squinted his eyes and darkened his expression, everyone scattered back to their own tasks. Although, none of them had full concentration on it. Erin included, everyone was sneaking glimpses over their own shoulders towards the little girl who was waking up from her untimely slumber.

The girl moaned as she squirmed in Lyra’s arms. Her eyelids fluttered as they struggled to lift up.

“Is she okay?” Lyra asked with a voice filled with anxiety. “She’s having trouble waking up.”

Aedan rolled his eyes. “For f̲u̲c̲k̲’s sake, Lyra, calm down. This is normal.”

After a few more toss and turns, the little girl was slowly opening her eyes.

“She’s awake! She’s awake!” Lyra exclaimed in repeat.

“Yes, astute observation,” Aedan muttered.

Ignoring his sarcasm, Lyra smiled radiantly at the little girl.

“Wow… she can smile like that?”

Erin gasped in her mind. Lyra had shown her all kinds of smile during the times they shared a bed but this was the first time she saw this kind of smile. A smile that meant only well, devoid of any devious desires. Erin had no doubts she would be instantly infatuated with her if she was shown this smile from the beginning of their acquaintance.

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The little girl opened her mouth next but no words came out. She blinked as she bounced her gaze between Aedan and Lyra. It was only after a few seconds, when everything had sunk in, the little girl sprang from Lyra’s arms. She tried to step away but her legs gave out. Lyra swooped in to cushion her fall before she hit the ground.

The little girl flailed her limbs to get out Lyra’s arms all the while stuttering at her words.

“It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re safe now, little one,” Lyra attempted to calm her down.

All the little girl could do was blink and shiver.

“Everything’s fine now, little one. What’s your name?”

“C-Celia…” the little girl stammered. Somehow, her gaze trailed away from Lyra’s and ended on Erin. Her eyes widened when she saw her peculiar traits, specifically Erin’s ears and tails.

Aedan nestled himself beside Lyra. “So Celia…” he began.

Hearing her name called, Celia turned to face Aedan.

“Can you tell us what happened?” His voice was soft and soothing unlike the other times where it was sharp and filled with overtones. “We’re adventurers and we’re here to help.”

Upon hearing the word “help” and “adventurers”, Celia immediately spanned her eyes to their limits. “You need to help everyone! They need help! Monsters everywhere! Everyone’s running. Everyone’s in danger! You need to hurry!” she cried out in a series of near-incorrigible words.

Lyra tried to calm Celia down with soothing words and songs but to no avail. She was repeatedly crying out her experiences prior to her captivity at the hands of the bandits. It became clear that Celia had no memories of her kidnapping. She only remembered her village and monsters attacked it.

Erin became worried when she picked up multiple presences closing in on their position. Celia’s wails were attracting the monsters. Erin and Aedan’s presence and the Monster Repellent was the only reason the monsters had yet to come charging into the camp but Erin was dubious on how long the circumstances would remain so.

Aedan seemed to realize this matter too. The only choice now is to forcibly put her to sleep but he hesitated. Mind-related spells would have long-term effects on the victim, especially on children. It pained him to make such a choice but for everyone’s well-being, he had to do it. It was made even harder as Lyra was hugging her tightly, trying to calm her down.

Suddenly, Celia fell silent, extremely so.

“Eh?” Lyra blurted out. She looked down at the girl she was cradling. “She fainted? She fainted! Dwarrow, she fainted!”

Coincidentally, Celia fainted on her own accord. Seconds before Aedan’s spell was cast. He gave the unconscious Celia a brief but thorough glance. “Calm the hell down, Lyra. She’s just in shock.”

“Will she be alright?”

“She won’t be if you’re panicking at every next instance.” Aedan sighed. “Give her to me, you go help the others.”

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Without waiting for her response, Aedan snatched Celia away from Lyra. Due to his current height, it looked awkward for a child to be in his arms.

Erin, who was watching the scene playing out from a few feet away, was astonished at how seamless his movements were.

“No,” Lyra opposed. “I can take care of her.”

Before the situation could escalate any further, Erin cut in between them. “Okay okay. Let’s just calm down here.” She turned to Lyra. “Aedan has finished his work. You haven’t. So let him take care of the girl first, then you can take care of her when you’re done, alright?”

Lyra frowned. “You think he’s able to take care of a child?”

Erin glimpsed back at Aedan, who was attentively wiping off the dirt and sweat on the girl with a clean cloth. “Not perfectly but I think she’ll be safe with him. In fact, she’s probably at the safest place in the entirety of Green Scar, wouldn’t you agree?”

Struck with a sound reasoning, Lyra could only accept the outcome of this insignificant dispute with a click of her tongue.

When the night had fully descended, they had their evening meal around the campfire. The meal was simple but surprisingly delicious due to the Pandan paste Aedan had brought along. This little surprise was thanks to Aedan’s abuse of his father’s connections. It wasn’t just the Pandan paste but the meats were also expensive cuts. Cal and Selene expressed their worries regarding the cost but Aedan assured them it was all on the house.

They shared some stories afterwards. They tell tales of their beginnings and also urban legends of the town. One legend that astonished both Lyra and Erin was that Aedan was once very frolic with romance, sleeping with different women and sometimes men night after night. Erin cast an inquisitive gaze towards Aedan but the person in question merely murmured some neutral answer as a response.

“He’s neither denying nor affirming anything… huh. As expected.”

After that story, the rest of the tales came mostly from Freed who boasted about his “adventures” with women from various cities. Though no one bought into it.

Celia was once again in the arms of Lyra. The girl had not woken up since she fainted again but Aedan assured everyone she was simply in too much shock.

“In fact, it would have been extremely odd if she’s up and about, given what she had most likely been through,” Aedan had said.

As Freed blabbed away his ventures and capers, Erin retreated to her own device within her mind. She didn’t excuse herself away as she didn’t want to come off rude and what’s more, being alone outside in the night was simply courting danger. Not that she would actually be in danger given her abilities but she refused to take any unnecessary risks.

“Now, I remember I have a few remaining points to spend.”

She focused her mind on her stats, drowning out the voices and noises around her. Her stats information became clear like ink on paper in her mind. She currently had four points each in Skill and Ability.

Without much hesitation, she allocated all of her Ability Points evenly into Finesse and Arcane.

[Finesse: 15 has increased to 17] [Arcane: 15 has increased to 17]

Erin’s quick and committed decision was actually something she had given a long cerebration to. As far as she could tell, her physical strength was something she didn’t want to rely on her stats to hone. Her strength would increase just by swinging her swords or simply participating in activities that required strenuous efforts. She had the same sentiment for her Sword Art. She would leave those two’s increment to her own hands instead of the System. Therefore, she chose to focus on Finesse and Arcane. She originally wanted to just dedicate her points solely into Arcane but after some self-evaluation, due to the wide possibilities of feats her tails were capable of, she decided to spend some points in Finesse.

As for Skill Points, she assigned them all into Spirit Magic. Her reasoning for these decisions stemmed from her desire to widen her repertoire of magic and also, to what she had experienced and witnessed, Spirit Magic was incredibly versatile.

[Spirit Magic: Lv 6 has increased to Lv 8]

A stream of knowledge flowed into Erin’s mind. She stifled a gasp at the arrays of new spells she was exposed to. Versatility was beginning to sound like an under-evaluation for Spirit Magic.

On an interesting note, she came to know from Aedan that some spells couldn’t be learned by simply leveling up a Magic Art. A prime example was Twilight Veil. She didn’t learn it through leveling up but from Aedan’s teaching. This meant there was a chance that there were a whole lot more spells to be learned other than the Spirit Magic spells she currently had.

Spirit Armor and Familiar Summoning?

From the knowledge that was poured into her mind upon the increment of Spirit Magic’s level, Erin came to know that Spirit Armor had similar function to Arcane Armor but with significant differences. Arcane Armor was a Magic Art not a spell and Spirit Armor gave protections towards the arcane and mental aspects. It provided no protection against physical means but upon remembering how the mastermind of the whole Goblin situation was capable of mind control, Erin was more than satisfied with a defensive spell against Mind-type spells. A more surprising detail of Spirit Armor was the Mana consumption.

It’s… surprisingly low. How much is that…? About a quarter of Arcane Armor’s consumption? Interesting. Is this because of my affinity with Spirit Magic?

As for Familiar Summoning, it allowed Erin to make contracts with Spirit Beasts. It was a very versatile spell. Only downside to this spell was the prerequisite, she would first need to find a Spirit Beast and make a contract with it before this spell could become relevant.

“Maybe I can consult Nivia about that? Or would Aedan know anything about this? He’s no Fae but he’s long lived and someone who had previous memories of his multiple past incarnations. He might be a better choice, just maybe.”

As she contemplated on who would be the best choice to consult her Familiar Summoning about, a predicament struck, a very personal plight. It started with a single hard beat of her heart and the heating of her body.

[User has entered Carnal Starvation. Lust Deviant activated.]

“Damn it… Is it really going to be a nightly cross to bear?”

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

Level: 11 | Status: Carnal Starvation

Might: 19 | Arcane: 17 | Finesse: 17

Magic Arts – Spirit Magic Lv. 8 | 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: 5%

Remaining Skill Points: 0

Remaining Ability Points: 0

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