I detected a few magical signals approaching the small elven settlement, most likely humans. Combined with the word ‘slave hunters’ I heard, I had a bad feeling about this.
I headed towards them. An hour later at normal walking speed, I saw nine humans.
They… probably weren’t beta players.
Dirty, unkempt looks, ratty leather coats. Unlike the players I met before, they weren’t paying much attention to their appearance. Of course, they might be players roleplaying as bandits, but I doubted that. It had only been 10 days since the game started. I didn’t think those kind of roleplayers would show up so soon.
I got as close as I dare, to take a closer look on their equipment.
They had more handaxes and bows than swords, plus plenty of ropes on their belts. Only one looked like a magician. That one was fiddling with a choker.
…that was way more evidence than I ever asked for.
Let’s assume they were truly slave hunters.
If this game event happened due to the kid’s talk about slave hunters, then their target must be the elven settlement.
Maybe they were a group of simple animal hunters making a living. The ropes were to capture large animals like deers, the magician was fiddling with that choker because he was bored… yeah, I know, that was a stretch even by my standard.
So then, what do I do?
My original goal was to gain strength and survive until the end of the alpha test, for ten years of life and a new identity.
The experiment’s goal was to investigate the mental stress of the ‘disconnect’ born from using a monster avatar extremely different from the human body. There was no need for me to clear the game.
Being slaves did not necessarily mean being mistreated. The elven villagers were just NPCs, there was no need for me to care…
Sorry, I lied. I cared a ton.
I might have become a lot more apathetic to sapient life ever since my mental health started plummeting, but I had met this boy. I’d talked to him. I couldn’t let anything bad happen to him.
There were two choices here.
One, I warn the village of the danger… if only I could speak. I could try to threaten them, but what if their programming didn’t allow them to run? Then I’d be their enemy.
Two, I deal with these people before they could find the settlement… well, they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t know where it was already. Before they could approach the settlement, then.
I couldn’t just chase them away. I needed to make sure they never come back.
I didn’t know if I could even win here, though.
[Magician x1] [Race: Human♂] [Slave Hunter] [Magic Points (MP): 65/65] [Hit Points (HP): 48/48] [Total Combat Power: 86]
[Hunter x3] [Race: Human♂] [Slave Hunter] [Magic Points (MP): 40/40] [Hit Points (HP): 70/70] [Total Combat Power: 70]
[Goon x5] [Race: Human♂] [Slave Hunter] [Magic Points (MP): 30/30] [Hit Points (HP): 60/60] [Total Combat Power: 57]
Unsurprisingly, they were weaker than beta players. But they still had around the same power as a black caterpillar, plus human intelligence and magic. They weren’t exactly easy opponents. Intelligence was what allows one to defeat more powerful enemies, and was the reason why humans were so scary. Yet that was still no reason for me to retreat here.
…but what if they weren’t actually slave hunters? As soft as I was, I couldn’t act until I was 100% sure. I made plans to confirm.
First off, I used [Humanoid Form (Terrible)] – a skill in name only, as what should have been processed by the system was all offloaded to my brain – to turn humanoid, then wore the cloak.
I approached, then stopped hiding myself when I was close enough and started walking towards them, taking several seconds for a single step.
The day was nearly over. I supposed the (probable) slave hunters were planning on making camp until morning.
“Hey! There’s something over there!”
As I moved closer, the one keeping a lookout shouted to his fellows.
Yes, there’s something here all right. Look, I’m a defenseless kid wandering around in the dark…
The magician tilted his head, looked at me, then smirked.
“My, a kid found us. That won’t do, that won’t do at all. Hey, folks, don’t let him escape. The more elven kids we get, the better. They fetch a high price among our more… degenerate buyers.”
“Yeah!” “Got it.”
Two of the goons cracked their knuckles and loosened their shoulders. They approached, looking like this was just another chore to be done, but their leering smiles betrayed their excitement.
…guilty as charged.
The forest was darkening, and the goons weren’t expecting trouble. I shot my body out from the coat’s sleeves and covered their faces.
They panicked. I absorbed their life force as fast as I could. Their comrades still hadn’t realized anything was wrong, with me hidden behind the goons in the gloomy forest.
Seeing the two men desperately waving hands in front of their faces, the rest of them stood, finally alarmed. “What happened?”
The two goons gurgled and dropped to the ground. The magician started, eyes wide open.
“Get away from that kid! That’s a monster!”
Whoops. But I got two of them!
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] ・A low demon made of dust and gases. A fragile spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 168/176] 16↑ [Total Combat Power: 185/194] 18↑ [Unique Skill: Reroll] [Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Terrible)]
Plenty of new magic for me. A moment later, an arrow pierced through me.
“Did that kill it?!” A hunter shouted
You killed some air. It tingled a bit, at most. I abandoned my cloak and flew at him.
“Get away from it! That must be a Wraith! Load up your magitools with magic stones, now!”
“No, no, no! Save me!”
The magician merciless set fire on both the enveloped hunter and me. Damn if it wasn’t hot! But I held on, sucking out his last wisps of life. He shriveled up, sowing even more confusion among the men.
They just finished putting some sort of black stones into their bows. I assumed those were the ‘magic stones’ and ‘magitools’. Some sort of enchanted weapons. Those would probably be able to inflict damage on my barely-tangible body, but I had already moved before the men could do anything.
Towards the goons unequipped with anything effective.
“It’s coming here!” “Stay away! Stay away!”
Humans had more magic than wild animals, so they could still barely hurt me. However, I had more around triple their combat power. I had nothing to worry from them.
“C-Come on, fiend! S-See how you like this!”
In his fear and confusion, one of the more tough-looking goons drew his dirty short sword.
“Watch out! One of the Wraith’s ability is to cause fear!” The magician’s voice rang out.
Well. I wasn’t a wraith, but close enough, I supposed.
The sword-wielding goon swung his sword in wild abandon – apparently just seeing me was enough to terrorize him. I absorbed all his life force in one go.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] [Magic Points: 158/191] 15↑ [Total Combat Power: 177/210] 18↑
My maximum magic went up from killing the hunter and the goons, but my combat power went down from all the damage.
Ow-shit! The hunters used their bows!
The goons tried to run from me. I caught up, then used them as meat shields.
But the hunters no longer cared about friendly fire. One of the arrows pierced clean through a goon’s neck. He gurgled and went down.
If they weren’t worrying about their own comrades, then neither need I. I snatched up the last of his dwindling life.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] [Magic Points: 149/193] 2↑ [Total Combat Power: 168/212] 2↑
Eh? I got almost nothing. Might be because he was nearly dead, might be because someone else killed him.
There were more important things to worry about. Mainly, that there was still half of them left, while my combat power had dropped too much. One magician, two hunters, one goon… All the strong ones were left. Damn.
“Fucking useless dumbasses! What the fuck am I paying you for?! Kill that thing!”
“But Boss, it’s strong!” “We lost too many of us. Let’s retreat!”
“Shut the fuck up! The nobles wanted us to bring back young girls and elven kids! We can’t go back like this!”
Oh, I see… They wanted elven children slaves. A part of me understood that this was just a game event, that they were just NPCs, but the rest of me was too busy being incensed.
The group kept shooting and the magician kept throwing fire even as they argued. I ignored the hits and attacked the weakest one first.
“Noooo, stay away, stay awaaaaaay!!!”
“Stay, you maggot! Stay and keep it still! The rest, keep shooting!”
“Don’t hate us, alright? You were just unlucky,” one of the hunters clicked his tongue.
Yeah, sure, don’t hold a grudge for being sacrificed. But considering it was me they were sacrificing to, it wasn’t really my place to say anything.
The goon hysterically ran about, and I chased after my future meat shield. Then one of the hunters shot through his leg. The goon screamed.
“Good job! [Fire Bolt]!”
There weren’t anywhere for me to hide, now. The magician shot a bullet of flame at me.
The mass of flame exploded in front of me. Freaking hot! At least it wasn’t a direct hit. I could bear with this.
I used the flame as a smokescreen and attacked the bow-wielding hunter closest to me.
It wasn’t really anything amazing. I just stretched out a part of me and tried to ‘parry’ the bullet of fire away, for a lack of a better term. I couldn’t afford to fail there, so I used [Reroll] to raise my chances of success. It worked, the spell’s damage was reduced by half, and I could get moving right away after the parry.
The hunters were fast, but not the one carelessly believing I was down from the fire. I landed a clean grab on him. He rolled and writhed around, desperately trying to dislodge me.
“Stay right there! This is our chance!”
The magician was about to burn the both of us like he did with the goon, and this time the other hunter took offense to that. I took the chance to absorb the life of the downed hunter post-haste.
“I am your employer! Shut up and follow my fucking orders!”
“We accepted because we were promised a few elves of our own, not to get fucking killed by a fucking dumbass!”
The magician screamed in incoherent rage. He readied a particularly powerful fire spell, to be cast at the hunter.
Here’s my chance!
I forced the spell to fail, and it exploded right on their heads. They howled in pain and stumbled, faces held in hands.
The magician losing his calm probably contributed to my own success with the skill. Also, I confirmed that using the skill on someone else drove up the cost immensely. I felt like I just lost almost half my magic in one go.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] [Magic Points: 63/193] [Total Combat Power: 82/212]
I absorbed the last dregs of life from the nearly-mummified hunter, then went on to envelop both the magician and the final hunter all at once. My combat power was low, my movement was sluggish, and I was getting quite irritated.
“Damn wraith! Stop!”
Screw you, I wasn’t a wraith.
The hunter went limp nearly immediately, but the magician’s high magic power took time to completely absorb. He burned me as I clinged on his face, scorching my life. I held on.
The spells he used only helped me empty his magic faster. A few seconds later, he finally slumped on the ground. The battle was over.
With victory, relief washed over me. I only barely won. I’d been on tenterhooks the whole fight, and it ended with me having only a sliver of health left. Too dangerous.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] ・A low demon made of dust and gases. A fragile spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 27/238] 45↑ [Total Combat Power: 50/262] 69↑ [Unique Skill: Reroll] [Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Terrible)] [Rank-up Available]
My maximum power grew a bunch, but I was as weak as the day I began the game. I still couldn’t believe I won… wait a minute… rank-up?!
…more weird stuff.
This… wasn’t evolution? Well, whatever, that was for future me to think about. Current me was feeling too drained, my mind heavily abused from the exertion of the fight and the lack of magic.
So, the village. Should be pretty safe now… oh, right. That one goon with his leg shot was still alive.
I honestly wasn’t all that keen on killing someone defenseless, but if he report back, there’d be more slave hunters coming. So I made up my mind. I slowly rose. The goon quivered, watching me with fear evident in his eyes.
Then an arrow went through his chest, and another into the ground beneath me.
What?! I expanded my consciousness to scout for threats. Several adult elves emerged from the forest depths, bows pointing towards me warily.
…oh boy. What do I do?
Author’s Note: The fights still seem low-key, but that’s only for the moment. We’ll be getting to the big booms sooner or later.
A bit of exposition for [Reroll]:
Actions have a fixed 3% chance of being a critical failure.
Chances of success for physical attacks are lowered by the opponent’s dodge rate. Magic-like effects can vary in power, is modified by the opponent’s resistance plus other factors, but they only rarely fail completely.
However, one trait is shared among all demon-types: the ability to cause fear to living beings. When a demon is feared by a weaker opponent, for each rank the demon possesses, the opponent’s success rate drops by 10%.
The Reroll skill also has ranks. At its current rank, the protagonist can use it twice in a row. The skill consumes 10 magic each time it fails. If it succeeds, and if the skill was used on a target that wasn’t the skill user, it consumes an amount of magic according to the power difference between the target and the user. And of course, rerolling can fail every single time.