The next morning, I woke up much earlier than usual.
Usually, I would wake up when the sun was a quarter of the way up the sky. I’m not sure what time that was, since we did not own a clock; I assumed that that was around maybe eight or nine in the morning. Today however, I’d say I was up closer to six or seven.
And that was because today, my mom and I would be leaving Villamcreek.
My mom was a magic-wielder. A spellcaster. Or a so-called ‘Dark Acolyte’. But most importantly, she was a heretic. She supposedly used to be quite a prominent figure as well, being a Human from the Holy Xan Empire who joined the Forces of Darkness. She was one of the only Humans who was a part of the Shadow’s Evangelium when they were still around over a decade ago, before they were finally crushed by the Holy Xan Empire. As such, my mom was wanted by the Church, the Mercenaries Guild, and numerous other countries or organizations that my mom made enemies out of.
We talked about it last night, and decided that we should leave as soon as possible. Sure, we could delay it a couple of days, and try to leave at a more appropriate time, but that would definitely lead to the Inquisitors showing up just as we are about to leave. That’s how it usually goes, wasn’t it? That’s a flag, right?
I was not an idiot! I was not going to procrastinate and wait for a more appropriate time— something which would surely never come. That was why we had to do this, and do this now.
Slowly, I peeled my blanket off of myself, and pushed myself out of my bed. I groggily walked out of my room to get ready, washing myself and wiping myself down with a piece of cloth. Then I got dressed for the day, wearing my one-piece smock that went down to my knees, held together by a girdle around my waist. With that, I was ready to go.
As usual, mom was already gone by the time I was awake, so I had to pack my things on my own. We decided against telling anyone of our plans, since it would surely lead us to getting caught down the line; so we were just going to disappear tonight. And to do that, we had to pack light.
I grabbed a bag of coins, and headed to Villamcreek.
Villamcreek was a small and obscure village on the outskirts of the Rem Republic, with only forest surrounding us for miles on end. The Incen Mountain Range formed a natural barrier to most of the neighboring countries, barring the Free Lands, which was accessible through a pass in the northeast. But our country did not have the greatest relationship with them, which made travelers or merchants coming to and from them even more sparse.
Farmers labored to provide the majority of food for the village, while others— like Adrian’s father— went hunting for animals to bring back meat to sell here, while skinning them for other parts to sell in the neighboring towns. There were also some craftsmen and even basic tinkerers who sold basic products here, hoping to maybe one day get enough money to move to a city. This all meant that there was not a lack of shops in the village— there were just very little of them, and they tended to be pricey.
I arrived at the village after a short walk, heading straight to one of the few said shops. There, I bought things I felt necessary for travelling that we did not already have; all in all, it cost about 47 bronze, which was about 2 and a half silver.
Currency in this world was almost completely ubiquitous: the smallest denomination of money was bronze, followed by silver, then gold, and finally platinum. 20 bronze equaled to 1 silver, 12 silver equaled to 1 gold, and 100 gold equaled to 1 platinum, though platinum was supposedly quite rare. Bronze coins typically got you your everyday items such as food and drinks, whilst gold was what you use for larger transactions like buying a house.
Although the Rem Republic was considered to be one of the richer countries in this world, living in a small village like Villamcreek meant 2 and a half silver was worth quite a lot. Most people here would barely make 2 gold a year! What I had spent, was pretty much a quarter of my mom’s savings, and was sure to arouse some suspicion, but it didn’t matter; by the time anyone caught on to what we were doing, we would have been gone.
It didn’t take long before I was back home and was packing; I didn’t have much I needed to bring, just a few clothes, some books, and other basic necessities. I did not really have any items with sentimental value in this world, which somehow turned out to be a good thing.
By the time I was finished, it was not even noon. With nothing much else to do, I decided to practice my control over mana crystals. I went to the kitchen, picked up the lighter, and activated it just enough that a spark would come out. I did that a few more times, before making an actual fire; I made small flames and big flames, made it continuous and instantaneous, and I repeated it all several times.
I was still in the middle of practicing when I heard a knock coming from the front. Quickly pocketing the lighter, I went to the door and opened it. Adrian was nervously standing there in his leather tunic, with his dad’s pistol on his side.
“Hey,” I greeted him curtly.
“Uh, what are you doing?”
He managed to make eye contact with me as we spoke, but quickly broke it off once again, after he got the question out. Speaking of which, what kind of a question is that?!
You did not just go up to someone’s house and knock on their door to ask them about what they were doing. Obviously I’m talking to you!
I liked Adrian, I really did. He was the only person in Villamcreek that I would consider my friend, but his crush on me made it difficult to talk to him sometimes. I mean, I know that I am difficult to talk to for most, but at least I’m not awkward about it!
My unintentional silence from thinking too much seemed to key Adrian in, and he quickly followed up.
“You usually come to the village to pick me up before you go gathering— I just thought that I’d save you the trouble and wait here instead, but uh, I forgot that you don’t go gathering every day. So, I was wondering if you’d be going today?”
Ah yes, I completely forgot about that. There was no point in going to the forest today, but I did want to give him some sort of subtle goodbye and get some form of closure from this part of my life. So I shook my head.
“When are you—” Adrian cut himself off, only now realizing what I said, “Oh.”
“But, let’s hang out anyways,” I said, stopping him before he could excuse himself.
He visibly brightened upon hearing that, to which I smiled at.
“Oh um, sure! Uh, what were you thinking of doing?”
I stepped outside of the door, and closed it behind me.
“I’m not sure.”
“You’re not sure?”
Adrian seemed perplexed by that. I didn’t blame him, we had never done an impromptu hangout session before. It was usually him accompanying me while I did something.
“Let’s just go to the village. We can find something to do there.”
“Oh um, sure!” Adrian said, parroting his earlier statement.
We left my house and started walking back to Villamcreek. It was a nice day to be out and about; the sun was not too glaring, being blotted out by a small gathering of clouds in the sky. The air was calm, the wind gently rustling the leaves on the trees. And in addition to that, the birds were singing, completing this scene and giving off a serene ambience in our little walk. T was the perfect weather for me— not too hot, and not too cold. I spoke casually to the boy.
“You know, I’ve been learning how to use mana crystals.”
“You have?” Adrian stopped walking, and turned to face me with a look of disbelief.
“Yeah,”— I walked a few more steps before stopping as well to turn and face him— “took me a bit but my mom taught me how.”
I took out the lighter from my pocket, and let out a quick flame.
“See.” I pointed at the flame.
“That’s… amazing!” Adrian was genuinely awed by that. He leaned over, staring at the fire burn gently an inch off the mana tool. “How did you learn it so fast? I thought you couldn’t do that just a few months ago.”
“Practice,” I said simply, not cluing him to the fact that I learnt it in less than an hour.
The boy seemed almost enchanted by the flame, so I decided to extinguish it and pocket the lighter before he somehow burned himself. Neither of us said anything for a few seconds after that, and we awkwardly stood facing each other in silence. Realizing that he would not speak first, I decided to bring up the only thing I could say at the moment.
“You’re pretty amazing yourself, Adrian. When I found out that you could use a gun’s mana crystal, I begged my mom to teach me how to use one. So it’s thanks to you I can even do this.”
“Oh,” Adrian said, blushing, “thank you.”
Is that all you’re going to say?
I knew that he had a crush on me and all, but please throw me a bone here! I was not used to to speaking with people, and I needed someone else to carry the conversation for me. Ugh, this situation is so awkward, even the birds stopped chirping. It was almost unbearable, and the rustling of bushes didn’t even help.
Wait— rustling bushes? But the wind stopped blowing…
I slowly turned my head to face the source of the noise, only to meet a pair of glowing red eyes peering at me from inside the bush to my right. Immediately without thinking, I jumped and tackled Adrian to the ground several feet from where we stood.
My eye contact with the Monster must have triggered something in it to attack us. It leapt out of the bush it was hiding in. My quick reaction seemed to have saved our lives. The Monster was already standing at the spot we were in, as we hit the ground.
It stood there on four clawed legs, a solid five feet tall and nearly ten feet wide. Its body was coated with yellow fur, that turned into a golden mane at its neck; it had the face of a goat, with two horns protruding from the top of its head, and a small golden beard at the tip of its chin. Its tail— which extended beyond the length of its body— was brown in color and patterned with blotches of yellow throughout, complete with the mouth of a snake at its very end.
It was a Chimera.
Adrian saw this too, and immediately unholstered his pistol as he got up. Aiming at it with both hands, he shot the monster in the face.
A bullet made of pure blue energy shot out of the pistol, flying straight at the Chimera. It knocked the Monster’s head back slightly, leaving a small scratch where it struck. The Chimera opened its mouth and let out a ferocious roar, before it was hit by another two bullets close to where the first landed, drawing some blood.
A fourth and fifth bullet shot by Adrian only hit the air, as the Chimera leapt to the side to dodge. Although there was a short interval between each shot, Adrian did not have to reload since the pistol was fueled by the mana crystal.
The Chimera circled around us in the span of five seconds, before lashing its snake tail out at Adrian. He managed to narrowly avoid the strike by stepping back and jumping to the left, while the attack missed me entirely as I was still prone on the ground.
Adrian was barely grounded when he brought his gun back up. The Chimera however, was faster and leapt forwards at him, taking a final shot to the face, before it knocked the gun away with a claw. With another swing, the Monster struck Adrian across the chest and onto a tree nearly ten feet away. But it didn’t let up.
The Chimera was immediately on the boy again. It pressed him up against the tree with its tail. It opened its mouth to reveal hundreds of sharp carnivorous teeth, baring it in a sadistic grin to my bleeding friend.
At this point, I got up and ran. Not towards the village, of course; I was not a coward. Instead, I ran towards the fallen gun which was laying on the ground around five feet in front of me. I was not even sure if I could use it, but I had to try something.
The moment I got up however, the Chimera snapped its head towards me. A small ball of fire flew out of its open mouth and straight towards me. I immediately dove for the gun, barely grabbing it as the fireball exploded a foot behind me, knocking me forwards several feet.
My legs were covered in severe burns up till my knees, where the burn marks were significantly less pronounced. It still hurts a lot!
I pointed the gun at the Chimera, and channeled the mana through the crystal, firing a bullet straight at the beast. Oh my God, it actually worked!
The bullet struck the Chimera on the chest, and hardly seemed to faze it. A second struck it in the face where Adrian hit it before, drawing more blood, and a third went over its head. Oh yeah, recoil.
I immediately adjusted my aim, and shot a bullet at the Chimera’s face. As I did that, the Chimera opened its mouth wide and fire began building up on its gaping maw. Luckily for me, the bullet went into its open mouth, and struck the fireball before it shot out, causing it to explode on the Chimera’s face.
Unlike the mana bullets, where each seemed to do as much damage as a paper cut, the explosion of its own fireball seemed to actually hurt the Chimera. It reeled back in pain from the explosion and dropped Adrian from its tail. I pelted it with more shots as this happened.
With its now free tail, the Chimera lashed out at where I was laying. It tried to pull me towards it. But I rolled out of the way of the tail, and prepared for the follow up strike by pushing myself to the side. This saved me from being hit by the leaping claw attack which immobilized Adrian.
The Chimera then pulled back its other claw, loading it for an uppercut-like swing to my still downed body. I propelled myself off the ground with both hands, took a step back as I leaned out of the strike, just dodging it. Unfortunately however, I completely forgot that my legs were badly burnt.
The excruciating pain from standing up was numbed by the adrenaline, but it did not fix my wounds. So as I tried to dodge the Chimera’s next swing, all I did was stagger on the spot.
The Monster’s claw connected straight to my chest, drawing lots of blood, and was immediately followed up by another strike that knocked me prone on the ground. It pinned me on the floor with its claws, digging even deeper into my flesh.
I screamed as the Chimera snarled at me, digging further into my skin as it pressed me on the ground. Huh, didn’t know Humans could bleed that much, the casual thought crossed my mind.
To be honest, I did not really care if I died. I’ve already died once to some stupid jerk fake god for some stupid jerk fake reason, so dying to some monster wouldn’t make much of a difference to me. My life in this world never once mattered to me.
And yet, if I did die, I knew that my mom would get really sad, and I didn’t want that; I didn’t want my mom to blame herself for my death, thinking that I could have survived if she didn’t refuse to teach me magic a couple months ago. So, gathering all my strength, I attempted to lift my right arm up.
I may not have learned magic, but I did learn how to use mana tools, and I was going to put everything I learned to survive. The Chimera saw me move my arm, saw how I was struggling to even lift my hand, let alone the gun held in it. It was quite clearly intelligent, since it quite clearly taunted Adrian earlier, and was doing the same thing now to me with what appeared to be a smile— a terrifying and toothy smile— as it seemingly took pleasure in his suffering.
Smarter than I thought.
Slowly, I began to grab the mana inside the gun as I lifted it up. The Chimera already knew that mana bullets wouldn’t be able to kill it, so it simply just pressed harder into my chest to inflict more pain. The pain seemed to give me the necessary push to jerk my arm up and towards the Chimera.
Thinking that I was going to shoot it again, it decided that it had enough fun hurting me, and moved its maw forward towards my head to finish me off. At the same time, powered only by adrenaline, I moved the pistol towards the Chimera’s open mouth.
With all of my remaining strength, I shoved the gun straight inside of it, while I simultaneously felt myself shoving all of the mana inside the gun’s mana crystal at once. The Chimera immediately jerked back and closed its mouth, but it was already too late.
The gun was inside the Monster, and its mana crystal was overloaded. Less than a split second after I let go of the weapon, an explosion blew me 20 feet away from where I was lying.
I saw my right arm flying far past me as my limp body slid to a stop on the hard dirt. The rest of me managed to remain intact, only because the Chimera’s massive claws that pinned me down ended up protecting me from the explosion.
The Chimera however, wasn’t so lucky. Its head exploded into a thousand pieces, and its two front legs were blown off its body. It was, for all intents and purposes, dead.
I stared at the dead Chimera, and managed to curl my lips up into what I hoped was a smirk. Darkness began to fill my vision, and I barely managed to get out a final thought.
Still a stupid dumb idiot.
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