IKCTAWBWTWH 8: Red Eyes
Kitsune and Finia immediately moved from the area. No matter how strong Finia was, and regardless of how Kitsune’s awareness had finally caught up to his status, they would be severely outnumbered against an entire colony of bees. As long as they couldn’t drop the possibility that they were close to the hive, it wasn’t wise for them to remain anywhere near the battle site.
Also, while Kitsune knoew he would be able to block a bee’s sting, he was doubtful of whether he could block an attack from the wolf or spider of the previous day with nothing but his body. Honestly, scary things are still scary, and he didn’t want to try taking attack after attack.
“About how much further?”
“Yeah, from what I see, we’re on the last third of the trip.”
“So 10km left. We’ve come quite a ways… if we move at this rate, I guess we’ll arrive by sunset?”
“If you don’t die, that is!”
Kitsune and Finia were steadily approaching the town. During her battle, Finia had expended quite a bit of Mana, and she was sitting on top of Kitsune’s shoulder, trying to recover it. Mana was something that replenished with the passage of time, and the recovery speed varied from person to person. By the way, Finia boasted that she could make a full recovery within two hours.
Along the way, Kitsune tried to test his status as he walked.
There wasn’t a good way to confirm『Resilience』, but to test 『Dexterity』 and 『Strength』, he tried running a bit, and hitting some rocks around the area.
The result was that with the elevations to 『Vitality』 and 『Dexterity』, he was able to run just a little bit faster, and slightly longer, at least, so he felt. The when hit, the rock only cracked a little bit, and perhaps because of his 『Resilience』, or his 『Pain Resistance Lv8』, his fist didn’t feel any pain during or after hitting it.
“Oh right, Finia-chan, what are Skills exactly?”
“Skill? Um, well, they’re sort off… what people can do, I guess?”
Finia attempts to wring out her knowledge to answer.
In this world, Skills are the abilities held by people.
For example, let’s say Bystander A were to pick up fencing, and keep it up past a certain point. In that case, they would be able to acquire『Fencing』as a Skill.
Among them, there are also Active, and Passive ones. The active ones are the ones with levels attached to them, and the passives are those without.
The Level stuck on Active Skills are that skill’s proficiency, or the scope of their effects. At a person’s level, just how proficiently can they use it, or how much of it would their Status allow them to draw out. If it rises, it will definitely become something powerful.
As a test case, let’s look at Finia’s 『Fire Magic Lv3』.
She was able to use fire magic, therefore, she acquired the 『Fire Magic』 skill. Her high magic disposition, as well as her skill in manipulating it, along with her current battle experience, earned the Skill an evaluation of 『Lv3』.
The level tacked onto Active Skills… their Skill Level raises by the possessor’s competence.
Putting it all together, the person’s individual level raises through gained experience and wisdom, and Status and aptitudes rise corresponding to it. Skill Level is influenced, and rises by personal level, status, proficiency in use, and nature.
By the way, the standard scale of Skill Levels is as follows.
Lv1: Beginner Class
Lv2: Intermediate Class
Lv3: Advanced Class
Lv4: Veteran Class
Lv5: Pro Class
Lv6: Genius Class
Lv7: Hero Class
Lv8: Legendary Hero Class
(TL: Lv7 is Eiyuu, and Lv8 is Yuusha. While I understand the difference, I don’t know how else to Romanize and differentiate them)
Those 9 stages. In this world, even among the highest level of practitioners, there are few with the talent to reach Lv7. If an ordinary bystander were to put in life-threatening training, then the greatest he would be able to achieve would be around Lv5. Lv6 and above is the realm of those born with innate talent in the field.
“Hmm… what they can do, is it…”
Kitsune thought. The things he had been given Skills for were things he could do, and that seemed plausible, but 『Eerie Constitution』,『Persistence』and『Coercion』 didn’t really fit under that umbrella.
“Active and passive… I see, so skills you activate by will, and ones you usually have under effect.”
“Ahaha! Yeah, let’s leave it at that!”
For now, Kitsune had obtained a vague idea about Skill Level. He didn’t really understand the criteria, but he thought he would get it sooner or later, so he shifted the rails of his train of thought.
Finia seemed to think Skills were just Skills. She wasn’t thinking too hard about it.
“Even so, what the hell is 『Eerie Constitution』… This is definitely the cause of my bullying.”
“What sort of skill is it?”
“No idea. Doesn’t it make people think I’m eerie?”
“Kitsune-san isn’t eerie though.”
Kitsune didn’t know the effect of his passive skills. When he had encountered the Spider and Bee, he had invoked fear in them through it, but he hadn’t realized it.
His Active『Skill Discernment』was too low to even be given a Skill Level. However, that was also something he didn’t know. Kitsune tried thinking harder about it, but as he figured there was no way he would get anywhere just by thinking, he put the matter aside.
“Anyways, for now, it doesn’t look like monsters on the level of bees pose any danger, so has our security increased from before?”
“But right now, Kitsune-san’s defense is only enough to block a pebble thrown out by a child, you know? You have no safety!”
With a bright smile, Finia continued to throw out demotivational lines. Kitsune thought she may be right, as he pushed his way through the vegetation and proceeded forward.
◇ ◇ ◇
After that, they proceeded quite a distance with breaks mixed in between.
While they were tired, the fact they had gotten this far without encountering any Magical Beasts was a spot of good fortune. The distance left to the town was only 3km, a distance that left quite a bit of leisure, both physically and mentally. I mean, they only had one tenth of the trek remaining.
“Just a little bit more.”
“Yeah! My mana is full, too! Even if we encounter a Magical Beast, we’ll be fine!”
“And wait, Finia-chan, couldn’t you have just carried me, and flew there?”
“Sorry, Kitsune-san! My wings are for one man use!”
“Well, I guess they’re too small to carry two.”
As they had some mental leisure, conversation sprung back and forth. But they weren’t negligent of their surroundings. They were still inside of a forest, and it wasn’t strange for another Magical Beast to pop up.
“But it’s that… my stomach’s empty.”
“I can live just fine, even without food, so I’m not really…”
“… You traitor.”
“Ahaha, how cruel, Kitsune-san! No… in this case, am I the cruel one…?”
“Hey, keep up.”
“Ah! Wait for me, Kitsune-san!”
Leaving behind Finia, who had crossed her arms, and begun thinking deeply in midair, Kitsune continued walking forward. Seeing that, Finia rapidly started fluttering towards him.
But at that moment, an aberration occurred in the airspace.
As she was trying to head to Kitsune below, an impact rocked Finia from behind.
Kitsune caught her as she spiraled in his direction, and the calm atmosphere ended there. The phenomenon that caused Finia’s fall didn’t come to a close there. The instant after Kitsune turned around… in the center of his stomach, a sharp edge stabbed him with fearsome momentum.
The wind was knocked out of his lungs, and the power sent his body shooting backwards. Even after hitting the ground, the momentum send him tumbling across it.
It appears that Kitsune’s 『Resilience』 was on his side, and even though he was stabbed with a sharp object, it barely went into his skin, and it didn’t leave a wound.
He mustered power into his arms to lift his body, and looked at the opponent who had sent him flying. In the place he had been standing before, saw an unidentifiable something.
A messy black mass of gathered miasma, that raged up like a blazing fire was there. And in the center of that darkness… red eyes stared back at him.
Inside of Kitsune’s head, an image of death played out. He understood it in an instant. That if he confronted this thing, if he fought this thing, he would be killed. Overwhelmingly. Hopelessly. This was a monster too different in ability, and he understood that.
From the depths of his heart, chills shake his body. Kitsune opened his eyes wide, and hurriedly stood up. Roughly gripping Finia, who had fallen unconscious near his feet due to the impact, he ran with all his might.
“Hah… hah… hah…! What the hell is that…!”
His legs are tangles. Even though he had become much faster through the status elevations, he felt he was moving incredibly slow. The intense intimidating aura he felt from behind was slowly closing in.
Scary, scary, scary, die, at this rate, I’m going to die. Kitsune was driven to terror. Even if the heavens and earth were reversed, he was certain he wouldn’t be able to win.
What’s more, he didn’t even feel any killing intent from that monster. It wasn’t thinking to kill him. It wasn’t thinking of anything like that, but it was merely chasing him because it found it interesting. And once it had caught up, even without the intent, it would probably kill him.
“What is this…! I don’t get it…! … Hah… hah…!!”
His breathing was in disarray, and his stamina was running out. His mentality was being chipped at, and he was unconsciously letting tears flow from his eyes.
The black miasma leapt at him, and cut at his back. The defense given to him by his high 『Resilience』 was torn through like paper, and blood gushed out of the tear in his back.
With the momentum from the cut, Kitsune collapsed onto the ground.
He tried to stir himself, but he couldn’t move properly. Because of 『Pain Resistance Lv8』, he didn’t feel any pain, but his body had definitely taken damage. It’s natural that the damage would obstruct his movement.
But even after falling forward, Kitsune rose, and he swayed as he continued his flight. Seeing his action, the red eyes within the depths of the miasma narrowed. They didn’t seem to hold any rationality, but it appears that they had developed a different sort of interest in Kitsune than before.
“Gu… hah… hah…!”
Every time he moved his feet forward, the wound on his back convulsed, and he felt like he’s going to fall over. Every time he proceeded, the ground was stained red with his blood, and the path he was taking was clearly indicated.
But the monster of miasma didn’t pursue the boy any further. The swaying Kitsune’s speed was way too slow, and as such, the monster was leisurely moving beside him. The monster appeared to be observing him, as it aimlessly moved around him. The red eyes remained directed at him the entire time.
The fear Kitsune held towards the monster messed up his breathing even more. The intimidating air that made it feel as if he would fall unconscious, and the pressure that he may die in the next instant put his mental well being at its limit.
Not knowing whether he had raised a battle cry, or a scream, Kitsune raised a loud voice as he took out the broken knife portion from his pocket, and swung it. The monster dodged it all too easily. It even managed to swipe it from his hand.
After gazing at the knife for a while, the miasma monster discarded it as if it had lost interest. To gaze directly into Kitsune’s face, it drew closer.
“What is this… for there to be a monster like this here… how was I supposed to know…!”
As he whispered that, the monster narrowed its eyes in delight. It’s not like it said anything, but the emotion was definitely conveyed.
Kitsune stared at it, and for some reason, he felt his mind calm itself down. Even if he was going to be killed in the next moment, he was still alive for now.
(… I don’t understand what this thing is… but I’m still alive. I can still move…!)
Looking at the fairy Finia in his hand, he remembered.
(My promise to Shiori-chan… I have to protect it…! I can’t die yet…! I don’t want to die…!)
He felt power surge up from the depths of his body. His body moves. Though his wounds aren’t healing, he’s able to move without resistance.
Perhaps he had gotten stimulated by being too close to death. Perhaps it was that adrenaline thing, he thought, as he stirred up his body.
Kitsune hadn’t noticed it, but this was the ability of the skill 『Persistence』 in effect. As long as his mentality didn’t give up hope on his continued existence, it was a skill that would temporarily allow his body to work beyond its limits. If he had activated 『Status Discernment』 at the time, he would have understood it.
Name: Naginata Kitsune
Gender: Male Lv4
Skill 『Persistence』In EFFECT
Is what it had become. Kitsune raced out with his body, which could move again. Much faster than before, the monster of miasma seemed mildly startled.
But even so, it easily followed behind him. Regardless of the 『Persistence』Status boosts, Kitsune was still far below it. The overwhelming difference had only closed ever-so-slightly, but the main problem didn’t change.
“Hah… hah… as I though… am I going to die?”
His breath now in order, he ran as fast as his body would permit, but the monster was already running in normal strides beside him.
(My mind’s recovered enough for me to crack retorts, I guess. This is adrenaline, right… Uwah, I still don’t get the feeling I can win… but if I can run like this all the way to the town…!)
Kitsune experienced speeds the likes of which he had never run before as he turned down a path that would lead him to town. The overwhelming pressure on him was still crushing him, but in the end, all of the opponents he had faced up to this point were monsters capable of killing him, so having a stronger one come out didn’t really change anything.
“Or so I tried thinking!”
Kitsune suddenly came to a stop, and changed directions. The monster keeps running forward a bit, before braking, and changing course to match him.
But by that turn, he was able to gain a little bit of distance. It would probably close up soon enough, but still, it was there. Before he was closed in on, he tried scheming a plan.
“…… I ain’t got nothing!?”
While running, he received quite a shock. As he was in a forest, there wasn’t anything. Without any plan in mind, he was easily overtaken.
“Hah… this pitch black wanker.”
The atmosphere surrounding Kitsune changed. He stopped, and glared at the monster. This didn’t look like one who would calmly let him run off all the way to town, and even if he tried to run, the other side was faster. He decided running would be impossible.
“And wait, there’s about 3km to town, right… it’s too far if I wanted to run… what the hell was I thinking?”
Kitsune muttered to himself as his eyes filled with his will to live. His feelings that he didn’t want to die mingled in with『Persistence』… and exceeded the miasma monster’s madness.
To summarize, 『Eerie Constitution』’s activation conditions had been met.
“Anyways, going down without a fight isn’t my style.”
The monster was much stronger than Kitsune. While it had never met them before, it was on the same level as Dragons, and other supreme beasts of calamity.
However, 『Eerie Constitution』worked without heed to such differences in level. Regardless in a true difference in ability, it was a Skill that worked through psychological superiority.
“I’ll resist, and resist, and escape before I die. Come at me, pitch black monster!”
On the boy’s words, the perplexed monster displayed an emotion of joy. It’s interest in Kitsune was higher than ever before. The pressure it exerted rose even further, but as Kitsune already saw the monster as much stronger than himself, it didn’t have any effect on his psychological superiority.
He picked up a rock lying on the ground, and chucked it. Of course, the monster dodged… but in that moment, Kitsune was able to close in, and step right in front of it. The speed raised by 『Persistence』 surpassed what the monster had anticipated.
He took out the broken knife hilt, and swiped the remaining blade portion at it horizontally. Inside of the miasma, the edge grazed against something, and when the knife had escaped the darkness, the blade was covered in a slight amount of blood.
… I can do this. Attacks can get through!
The moment Kitsune thought that…
The monster raised a cry that couldn’t be described in sound. On the cry, 『Eerie Constitution』 was forcibly dispelled, and 『Persistence』 also lost its effect.
Kitsune opened his eyes in shock, but his moment of hesitation was fatal.
By the time he noticed it, he was dancing through the sky.
He couldn’t tell what was up or down, and he couldn’t determine the actions that had happened in that instant. All he understood was that he was sent flying above the forest, and sprawling in the sky.
From his mouth, bloot spurted out. He saw the red blood obey gravity, and fall to the ground. And across his chest, raced… pain.
What happened to Kitsune was an uppercut-esque attack performed by the monster of miasma with fearsome speed. The attack had impacted his abdomen, and its massive output was enough to send him reeling into the sky. What’s more, the level of damage it caused was enough to breach Kitsune’s 『Pain Resistance Lv8』 effect that cut off his sense of pain.
(… Ah, it won’t move anymore… this body.)
『Persistence』 and 『Eerie Constitution』 were lifted, and the damage obstructing his movement returned. As he began to feel his body start to descend, Kitsune obtained enlightment about the limits of his own body.
(I don’t want… to let Finia-chan die…)
Kitsune held Finia’s body close to his, as he pointed his back to the earth. He removed the mask, and embraced it alongside her. Like this, even if they were to collide with the ground, the mask and the girl would get out of it alive.
“Shiori-chan… I’m sorry.”
The moment his body hit the ground, he spoke those lines as his consciousness faded. The last thing Kitsune saw was, watching his descent with delight… those red eyes.