Chapter 8 – Time to leave home
By the end of the week there were less than eighty people, including NPC, in Saroon Bararm. Most people left the area over time, headed for areas with more resources and stronger monsters. The majority of support class players left when ‘The Blackguard’ Yorah Gami returned and told the town about a nearby fort with a wall and army. Tempted with the promise of protection; weak players followed strong despite Yorah’s reputation. During the first day he gathered together the strongest fighters and left the town to fight the most powerful monsters in the forest and surrounding areas. He would return from time to time to coerce equipment and supplies. He hadn’t returned for a number of days before he delivered his message.
Much to the surprise of the survivors, who were lucky to own dull iron equipment, he wore a full set of thick black steel items. His greatsword was a huge red kris blade with a black hilt and handle. Hovering beside his name a level was the title, ‘Blackguard’. It was an ominous title but his message was something they’d hoped and longed for.
Rabbit was much faster than Mari thought she would be, and found it difficult to sit still. It was an odd combination that child had proficiency to use heavy armour but no strength to lift it. When she considered the blood donor, Mari assumed it, and the magic skills, came from the knight. The ‘Healing Magic’ skill required at least 11 Mind to select; apparently skills gained through hybrid making ignored requirements. The result of bypassing the requirements was that even though Rabbit could use wind and healing, she didn’t have much mana and her spells didn’t have much effect.
Rabbit’s lack of strength was also an issue. She may have had the speed to avoid any attack and strike any target, but she had trouble dealing damage. Her lack of stamina would also be a problem if her tired expression wasn’t so cute. Mari wasn’t strong either but was happy whenever she got to carry the sleeping child. Rabbit progressed up levels quickly, with Mari weakening strong monsters and letting Rabbit deal the final hit.
At the start of the week, Mari noticed that she hadn’t seen, or killed, any ghosts since Rabbit was born. It was then that she realised that she was probably the strongest thing on the forest. After reaching level sixteen she had to slaughter a field full of monsters to level and a full quarter of the forest had to fall for the level after that. It scared her slightly to think about leaving the forest. She hadn’t left once since the game began. From time to time she would scout around the forest but always from the safety of the sea of trees.
In order to destroy the rest of the ghosts, she would have to leave eventually. She knew it but was none the less apprehensive. She pet Rabbit as she slept on her lap and thought to herself. “If I have Rabbit I at least won’t be alone out there.” That was the deciding factor for her. Rabbit was quickly approaching level ten and the town was bordering on empty; if she was going to leave she would do so through the village.
Mari would have liked to get the ‘Increased Health’ Skill, but didn’t have the Strength or the Minor Stats to select it. She made do instead with ‘Blood Magic Focus (Reduce Cost)’ and ‘Demon Staff Focus (Reduce Cost)’. The pair reduced the cost of using her staff to the point that she could cast it four times before needing to heal. Mari didn’t know it but, despite the power the ‘Staff Focus’ series they were fairly unpopular. Staffs rapidly become out-dated and it was rare for a better staff, even using the same element, to uses the same skill. An example of this was Mari’s Demon staff and Voodoo staff; although they both benefited from ‘Blood Magic Focus’ only the Demon staff benefited from both the acquired skills. It was a skill that, in most cases, provided temporary benefit only.
The Demon of Saroon Bararm spent a lot of time looking for his angel. Not as long as he would like, as when he woke up in the morning he was just so cold and would spend the morning lying in the sun. To make matter worse, whenever he went looking her be would bump into people from the village. They all start attacking him; or did they? He wasn’t sure. He would look around and they would be dead. They smelt really bad and didn’t remember them being so thin and black. His memories were somewhat hazy. Something about killing everything; he couldn’t be sure.
Not that it particularly mattered to him. So long as he found his angel it didn’t matter. When he caught a glimpse of her, blond hair fluttering as radiantly as when he first saw her, he followed her with light feet. He was vaguely aware that his appearance was frightening; faces stretched with fear came to mind to make the point. It would hurt him to be hated by his pure seraph, but he believed deep down that if he approached it the right way, his love would reach his benevolent saviour.
He stayed near her, but was still rarely able to find her; she was much faster than him. He found that even the creatures of the forest were drawn to her. To his amazement, even the vicious wolves that attacked anyone who so much as stood still too long were as docile as a lamb around her. One day he noticed a young child at his angel’s side. The girl had facial features that looked like her and an animal tail that, in his mind, was evidence that she was his child. He hadn’t met any other humans with animal traits, he doubted any others existed. When he saw the child besides his angel he knew the world had granted his dream and given him a child with her.
As he bathed in the morning sun he saw them head towards the village. It was his chance. If he showed them a good time on a family date they’d accept his love, regardless of how he looked. He trusted his instincts and headed to the forest entrance ahead of them, lucky for him they stopped at a stream to bath, giving him time to prepare. Flames formed into the shape of a three meter long sword and he made his way into town. If they were attacked on their date, his angel might think that it was dangerous to be around him. He made sure to completely disintegrate any bodies around him; having her think that he was forcing them to live in an unsanitary location was more than he could bear. There were, thankfully, less people then he thought there would be. It was regrettable that some people got away; if they came back and started conversation he might not be able keep up. If she thought he was bad company, or worse kept bad company, she might not let him near their child.
As he swept away ashes with a straw broom, he realised he was being silly. His angel was a far too beautiful person to be bothered by those things. They could have the worst date in the world and she would still come to see his love for her. Still, his pride wouldn’t let the woman he loved have a bad date. He waited by a café for his family to arrive.
Having taken a refreshing bath Rabbit and Marigold began their walk to Saroon Bararm. From the tree line they could see green fire striking down the village’s population. She had entirely forgotten about her first hybrid. Dealing with it would be more trouble than it was worth, so they avoided the town. She had intended to get supplies for their journey from the town. She had been burying money in caches throughout the forest; money taken from the ghosts that entered her forest. Instead she would have to make do with whatever supplies the people that fled from the Demon took with them. Rabbit made sure that no one escaped, using her speed to cross the planes at an unmatched pace. When Rabbit found someone trying to run or hide, Mari would target them from long range with her magic, aiming carefully as to hit despite the distance.
The pair came across a well-worn path, presumably a trade route, and followed it. The ghosts had an annoying tendency to group together. If they followed the path they’d find more eventually.