‘Something feels different today,’ I think to myself as I nervously glance around. The forest had changed, and I didn’t know why, but it made this simple walk through the forest seem far more dangerous than it is. Worriedly, I think to myself, ‘What could have happened for it to feel like this?’
The forest is my home. It can’t compare to the nearby cities in terms of ease of living, but Mom prefers it here. It’s quieter… more peaceful. At least that’s what Mom always tells me. That’s why this situation doesn’t make any sense though. This isn’t the forest I know.
If today were a normal day, Mom and I would have been patrolling our slice of the forest together, but she told me she had some kind of business to take care of in town and had me go alone. This isn’t the first time I’ve patrolled by myself, but with the tension in the air today it would have been really nice if Mom were here too. However, since she isn’t, I have to try and soldier on… even if it is scary.
Come to think of it, I should have at least encountered something by now, but I haven’t seen a whisper of anything. It’s as if all the monsters nearby have completely disappeared. ‘That’s not good,’ I think to myself as I take another look at my surroundings. I’ll need to tell Mom about this as soon as I get home. They could be grouping together under a leader, and even Mom would be in danger if they caught her off-guard. Is this where my sense of foreboding is coming from?
Trying not to let myself panic, I quicken my pace in order to finish this patrol even a second faster. The quicker I get back, the sooner I can tell Mom about it and get this situation resolved.
However, before I can break into a run, I see a splash of blue amongst the greens and browns of the forest. Unfortunately, that means one of the most troublesome monsters of the forest is nearby, but maybe I’ll be able to find out whether or not there’s a leader if I follow it. I know I said it’d be dangerous, but I’m confident in my ability to run away!
With my resolution set, I dive into the shadows, and tail the goblin as it makes its way through the forest. However, both of us hear a noise before long.
“Unya~!” the sound cried out.
‘Oh no,’ I think to myself in panic. ‘That wasn’t a goblin’s cry. That was… that was a baby’s cry!’
Panic fully taking over, I thoughtlessly abandon the shadows and sprint after the goblin. I’m not about to let some monster hurt an innocent baby!
‘Luckily I’m not too late,’ I think to myself as I see the goblin getting dangerously close to the baby. I had to wonder why a baby was out here by themself when it was the middle of winter though. However, I forced myself to abandon the thought and shove the goblin away from the baby. At least this way, the goblin’s focus will be on me. I can handle a lone goblin by myself easily~.
Circling the goblin, I patiently wait for it to make a move. I remember Mom teaching me that a goblin is an incredibly impatient creature, and that the safest way to deal with it was to wait for it to move first and then counter attack.
As expected, I didn’t have to wait long, as the goblin stumbles forward and awkwardly swings the club it’s holding. The attack was so thoroughly projected that I had plenty of time to dodge, and I rake my claws down its back as it passes by. The blow downs the beast, but it isn’t enough to kill it. It attempts to struggle for a few more seconds, but a final bite to its neck finishes it off. I have heard that some people like to play with their prey before they kill them, but with a baby lying a few feet away, now isn’t the time for me to start.
Speaking of the baby, I turn around to look at it, but I’m caught completely off-guard. Its eyes are sparkling with intelligence. It’s almost as if the baby understands what’s going on. That should be impossible though… right?
“Ugyah!” the baby suddenly calls out.
I jump a bit as it feels like the baby is calling out to me. However, I calm down quickly enough and finally remember that I need to call for backup. After all, I don’t know what to do with a baby! ‘Mom, I hope you can hear this,’ I think to myself as I infuse my voice with magic and let out a howl.
“Awoooooo~” is the reply I get from a distance away. Mom had gotten my message.
‘Good,’ I think to myself in relief.
However, my relief is short lived because I soon hear the mutterings of many goblins gathered together. I knew it… this is bad. ‘I hope Mom gets here in time,’ I worriedly think to myself as I take a defensive position in front of the baby.
Before the goblins rush out to attack me, I feel the ground shake and can smell the one scent I’ve known my entire life. I smile internally because Mom has arrived. For some reason she is approaching from behind the baby though. ‘Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as she’s here,’ I conclude.
The “battle” is over in an instant. Before I could blink, Mom had already transformed into her human form and cast [Earth Burial], instantly swallowing the goblins threatening us. It’s a magic I can use as well, but it’s totally different when Mom uses it. One second the goblins are standing there, and the next, they’re gone. I even take a look at the ground after the spell, but I can’t see any visible change.
‘Amazing,’ I think to myself in awe. ‘I want to be just like Mom when I grow up.’
Meanwhile, Mom ignores me and looks at the baby… that I haven’t forgotten about. “Ah, it seems the excitement was too much for the little one. It’s fast asleep,” Mom says as she carefully picks the baby up and begins walking home.
Transforming out of my wolf form because Mom was here with me, I ask, “What are you going to do, Mom? Do you think one of the outsiders left that baby here?” It hadn’t happened here before, but Mom had told me stories of humans abandoning their children for various reasons.
Mom, still busy looking after the baby in her arms, replies, “Even if we take her to the villages outside this forest, I doubt anyone would take her in. Someone left her here, and it’s not likely that whoever it was will want this child back.”
“So that means…?” I trail off. Mom still hadn’t answered the question.
Stopping and glancing at me, Mom laughs, “Isn’t it obvious? We’ll just raise her ourselves.” With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she adds, “Or would you rather we left this child out here in the cold?”
“Of course not!” I reply immediately, stomping my foot into the ground. “Really, Mom, I wouldn’t do that to a baby!”
My only reply is laughter as Mom and I near our cottage. ‘How frustrating,’ I think to myself. ‘Mom can be serious when she needs to be, but she likes teasing me too much!’
Entering our house, I can finally relax though. Now that I think about it, the dreadful feeling went away too. ‘How strange~’ I think while glancing at the baby in Mom’s arms.
Once inside, Mom sets the child down on a soft pillow and motions for me to follow her. I don’t want to disturb the sleeping baby, so I quietly follow after her. However, moments later she sighs and turns around, walking back towards where the baby is sleeping while saying, “The baby is awake already, so let’s go check up on it.”
“Okay,” I say as I also about-face and follow Mom back into the main room. “What are we going to do about the forest though?” I ask hesitantly.
Pausing for a moment, Mom says, “I’ll go out and investigate it in a moment. It’s certainly a bad sign for that many goblins to have gathered together. There’s likely a chief somewhere. If we’re lucky, there might even be a general” she laughs.
“What about the baby then?” I reply quickly. Knowing Mom, she could easily handle the trouble in the forest since she’s prepared for it, but she wouldn’t want to leave the baby here by itself.
“That’s easy,” Mom begins with a smirk. “I don’t have to worry about the child because you’re going to be here watching over it.”
“I don’t know how to take care of a baby, Mom!” I cry out in panic. “If it’s left to me, who knows what could go wrong!”
“Relax,” Mom soothingly says as she places a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll lull it to sleep. The child should stay that way while I’m gone. All you have to do is keep an eye on it.”
I depressedly nod as we both reach the baby. Once again, I can see intelligence in its eyes, but since Mom isn’t mentioning it, I guess it’s alright.
As promised though, Mom takes the baby into her arms and rocks it to sleep, humming a simple tune as a lullaby. It looks like the baby is trying to resist the urge to sleep, but eventually it closes its eyes.
Carefully, Mom places the child back down and then nods to me before placing a finger over her lips and winking. She tiptoes to the door and quietly slips out, leaving me alone with the sleeping thing before me.
Luckily, time passes pretty quickly and the baby is still asleep. However, it’s kinda boring while I wait for Mom, so I move closer to the baby and gaze at it. I’m still not sure whether it is a male or female, and it has a strange scent, but I have to admit… it is cute.
Suddenly though, the baby wakes up as if knowing I’m thinking about it, and jolts in surprise… likely because my face is so close. I laugh and tell the child, “That was a cute reaction!”
Of course, I don’t think the baby can really understand me, even if its eyes do appear intelligent, so my words are ignored and we end up staring at each other. However, that’s not any fun either, so I start to poke the baby’s tiny feet. The cloth wrapped around the baby had partially come undone at some point, and its feet were just barely peeking through. It was enough for me to attack unreservedly though.
While I’m enjoying listening to the baby’s laugh as I continue to tickle its feet, it suddenly starts crying. Instantly I’m back to panicking. Mom didn’t tell me what to do if the baby started crying, so I quickly pick it up and try to lull it back to sleep. It isn’t working though!
I’m panicking and don’t know what to do when the baby suddenly stops crying. I look at it and my panic intensifies because now I don’t know why it suddenly stopped crying! “Momma! I need you!” I cry out.
Just as soon as I say that, I feel a pair of arms come in and take the baby from my arms. Looking up, I see Mom standing there with an apologetic smile on her face. Before saying anything though, she checks to make sure the baby is alright. “What happened?” she finally asks, satisfied with the checkup.
“Well…” I start, “I was watching the baby like you said to, but then it woke up and I didn’t know what to do! I saw its feet and couldn’t help myself, so I started poking them. It laughed for a while, but then all of sudden it started crying, and I didn’t know what to do, and I got scared, and I’m sorry Mom!”
Mom lets out a gentle laugh before replying, “Ah, you just annoyed this little one. I’m guessing it’s not a fan of being tickled.”
“Oh, thank goodness.” I say in relief. “I was scared I had hurt it somehow.”
Mom smiles at me reassuringly before turning back to the baby, her smile turning into a mischievous one.
‘I’m sorry, little one,’ I think to myself right before Mom starts tickling the baby for herself. I knew this would happen after seeing that smile, but I was hoping she wouldn’t tease someone so young. I smile in resignation before also joining in and teasing the writhing child.
‘Don’t worry,’ I think to myself as I happily look at the baby in Mom’s arms. ‘I’ll make sure to protect you from all the monsters out there. You’re family now!’
I have returned!
I’m sorry for leaving you all hanging for nearly six months now.
The good news is that I’m going to try and have a chapter at least once a week for all of you though.
This chapter is a bit special in terms of timing, but normally I’ll be aiming for a Friday release. Likely around 9:30 pm (Central Standard Time).
Once again, I am sorry and I hope you continue to enjoy the story alongside me.
P.S. I’ve changed the formatting up a bit, so please let me know which style you guys prefer. Personally, I like this one, but I will use the old one if you guys like that one better.
P.P.S. For you guys reading it here, it’s a bit different. I’ll be doing a 24 hour delay before I upload it here. Not because I dislike you guys or anything. I just want to bring more attention to my own site. you can find it here.