Chapter 34 Cheating Death – New Members (Part 2)
Daichi was left unable to look away from these staring eyes, unsure of what to do.
Moments later these eyes were gone. Fully alert now, Daichi didn’t want to alert the others unnecessarily especially if they were tired but considering the possible danger of an enemy knowing their location, he struggled with what decision to make.
If it was another human, that could be just as dangerous as any monster but the others likely wouldn’t think so. Wanting to avoid this possibility Daichi chose to act by not acting. Instead of alerting the others, he maintained his vigilance and looked around, constantly trying to trigger his analyze skill in case anything or anyone was close enough for it to notice them.
Anxiously waiting on his tree Daichi observed his surroundings without dropping even the slightest bit of his self-awareness.
After a few minutes… Daichi calmed down a little. Whoever or whatever it was seemed to have left.
Calming down only left Daichi with a greater anxiety. If they were “friendly” they would have likely tried to make contact, if they weren’t friendly they could be getting more enemies.
Trying to shake his anxiety Daichi considered that there were a slew of other possibilities that he was ignoring. Ignoring the anxiety he calmed himself down and maintained his vigilance. This persisted for another few hours or so until the others started waking up one by one.
Feeling less anxious after a few hours, Daichi put the instance behind him thinking whether they’re friendly or not they’d find out soon enough. As long as he’s on guard, they won’t be able to launch any sneak attacks making it irrelevant whether they attack or not. Since the awakening of the gods, there had simply been one threat right after another, expecting no different from today Daichi steadied himself for the day to come.
With everyone waking up and eating some of their food and water, they all discussed rationing their food. Thus far they hadn’t explicitly talked about it, but they had been watching what they ate, trying their best not to eat more than necessary.
Realizing that they had officially left their town and that there was no going back, the conversation that should have taken place days ago was finally had.
After eating their portions and climbing down from the trees, they stretched their bodies and parted in sets to use the rest room not too far from one another.
After taking care of the bare necessities, they discussed what direction to go. Not a single one of them having a particularly good idea of their location, they decided to simply continue in the general direction they had been going the day before.
Hannah and Ava made small talk and complained about their cuts and bruises while Kaden and Daichi walked in front of them brushing away the leaves and branches in silence staying vigilant of their surroundings.
Noticing that they weren’t being particularly weary of him, Daichi was in slightly better spirits thinking about how his apology the day before had some pretty good results. Part of him was still thinking about whatever it was that made eye contact with him earlier, but putting the thought to the side he focused on what was right in front of him.
After a few hours of walking, taking breaks every so often, the group came to a clearing in the forest. Taking opportunity to rest, they decided to snack at the edge of the clearing.
While eating his snack, Daichi felt an unsettling sensation of someone watching him. Feeling alert like before, he began to look around and activate his analyze skill…
Noticing his sudden movements, the rest of the group become more self-aware and readied themselves in case an enemy was near.
Finally seeing something on the other side of the clearing, Daichi made contact with a pair eyes. The same ones from earlier on in the morning.
Immediately feeling on guard, Daichi considered the possibilities. Regardless of who or what they were, they had followed them for hours, their intentions making them suspicious in his mind.
Walking out from behind the leaves covering them, two girls appeared within their eye line.
Both girls had oval faces with just a little bit of extra baby fat in their cheeks giving them an appearance of youth. Large black eyes with long matted dark hair coming down to their shoulders, their bodies looked skinny and frail, and their tall heights accentuated their lack of extra fat on their arms and legs. Despite their slightly gaunt appearance they had striking expressions that despite their looks and gender gave off an intimidating aura of self-reliance.
Wearing rags and holding nothing in their hands, they simply stated at the group.
Noticing their arrival Daichi and the others simply stared back unsure of how to proceed but before being able to formulate a plan Kaden stepped forward and began calling to the girls.
“Are you two okay!? Where did you come from!? Do you need help??” sounding concerned and putting the others into a difficult position.
Daichi stared at Kaden’s back stupefied by his words and actions.
Despite not receiving an answer Kaden started moving forward not too slowly but not too quickly holding his hands up in a defenseless-gesture “Seriously, do you need help?? I’m Kaden. These are my friends. What are your names?”
Looking over to the side and making eye contact with each other, the others wearing different expressions of confusion and uncertainty began slowly following Kaden.
Daichi was the last to move, not wanting to move further into the clearing in case this was a trap. This whole situation felt too strange.
Two girls wearing rags suddenly appearing in the middle of the forest? What the hell is Kaden thinking?
Clenching his fists and then placing them on the hilt of his swords, Daichi began slowly moving closer wanting to get into the range of being able to use his analyze skill.
As Kaden got closer one of the two girls spoke up, “Stop right there.”
Every one stopped walking including Kaden, expecting the worse.
The same girl spoke up “We do not have names. What are you?”
Everyone was surprised by that question, Kaden unsure of what to say but feeling the need to respond “What do you mean? Do you mean where are we from, like our towns name?”
The other girl responded with seemingly the same voice as her sister “What are you?”
“We’re from the Outer City. That’s what it’s called, it’s one of the furthest cities from the capital, but it has I mean, had a gate.” answering with what he thought they meant Kaden spoke up
The slightly taller girl first spoke up clenched her fists and lowered her tone “Last time, What are you.”
Looking confused and helpless, unsure of how to answer Kaden just shook his head when Hannah spoke up “We’re human. What else would we be?”
Daichi had thought that this was what they were asking, but being naturally cautious and not wanting to give anything away he’d stayed quiet. Sparing a glance in Hannah’s direction Daichi was a little annoyed that she answered and a little impressed at the same time.
The two girls turned to look at each other and then as if having a quick unsaid conversation with each other, turned back to look at Kaden and the others looking less on guard.
Speaking in a less aggressive tone, “We haven’t seen a human in years. What has happened. Where are we. Who are you.”
Kaden was at a loss for words but that didn’t stop him from speaking “What do you mean? This forest has been next to our town forever, since it was built. What do you mean humans? Aren’t you human too? We don’t mean any harm by the way, we can help you if you need it. My name is Kaden, this is my sister Hannah and these two are my friends Ava and Daichi” Kaden pointed at each one of them introducing them a bit awkwardly
Staring at Kaden’s back Daichi continued to be stupefied by him, thinking that maybe his stupidity would occasionally be useful. There was no tactful way to ask what he just asked, getting ready for the situation to go south he began thinking about what skill to use on them when the time came.
Both Hannah and Ava were staring at the girls with guarded expressions, still optimistic. If they weren’t human than what were they? How could they speak their language?
Glancing at each other once again, both girls weren’t showing too much on the surface. Their expressions guarded they seemed to be able to communicate without speaking, either that or they just knew each that well.
Seemingly having come to a decision, both girls began walking forward slowly.
Noticing their actions, Daichi felt even more on guard.
Kaden had stepped back to just a few steps in front of the others when he had introduced them, and now getting a closer look at the girls as they got nearer he began to fully appreciate the view.
The girls stopped a few meters away from Kaden and completely within the range of Daichis analyze skill.
Fledgling Mare Level: 25
Description: A young Mare who has lived only a few centuries.
Fledgling Mare Level: 26
Description: A young Mare who has lived only a few centuries.
Staring at their information Daichi began to feel cold sweat running down his back. This was the first time he had encountered a ‘monster’ that seemed to have intelligence on par humans. They could speak their language and appeared human as well.
Thinking back to what he had read in the historical textbooks that included information on monsters. Daichi remembered a passage that mentioned that the stronger the race of monster, the more their appearance would resemble humans with minor exceptions.
The textbooks referred to anything that wasn’t human as ‘monsters’ of course, and referred to anything that wasn’t human unworthy of being trusted. Daichi didn’t believe everything he’d ever read but the information regarding stronger races resembling humans made sense to him, and seeing that these Mare girls were at least a century old. His natural weariness of others kicked into high gear.
“My sister and I were walking our grounds when the sky turned black. After it turned back to normal, the forest was different. What do you know?” The shorter girl said, seemingly unafraid of us attacking them.
Kaden looked slightly excited “So it happened to you too!! Yeah, that happened to us when we were in town, and then the next thing we knew the whole town was basically in ruins…” Finished with his sentence Kaden looked down seeming crestfallen
Suddenly looking back up with more composure, “What do you mean different?”
Looking at each of us individually the taller Mare answered “It smelled different.”
“That’s it?” Kaden was hoping for more, looking at them optimistically he pushed with his eyes for them to elaborate
“Smelled different. It’s not the same. The other monsters around are different than the ones we’re accustomed too as well. The mana in the air is stronger.” the taller girl said
“Much stronger” the shorter girl elaborated on her sisters comment
Finally speaking up trying to sound neutral as Daichi posed a question he knew the answer too “Are you human as well.”
Hoping for a lie Daichi waited for their responses with his hands on the hilts of his sword.
“No. We are Mare.” They responded in unison.
After listening to their response, the greatest reaction was undoubtedly from Kaden and Ava. Ava revealed a small gasp and Kaden was filled was confusion.
Kaden asked “What’s that? So… You aren’t human?”
“Mare is mare. We are not human. Humans are not seen often in our forest.” The taller girl stated.
Daichi looked a little green, he’d been hoping they would like about what they were so he could just kill them and they could move on. Instead they answered honestly making him feel anxious, hoping that the worst case scenario would not occur.
Kaden looked back at Hannah and seemed to ask her a question with his eyes that only she would understand. Knowing full well what he was asking, Hannah looked at him with a stern face while glancing at Daichi and Ava.
Understanding her meaning, Kaden turned back to the Mare “Where are you going and what do you plan to do now?”
“We briefly hoped you would have information about where we were. You do not, so we will continue our walk.”
Seemingly devoid of personality it seemed it didn’t matter which one of them answered, their expressions stayed even and their tone the same. These mare seemed to be carbon copies of one another.
Daichi raised an eyebrow while thinking about whether they were actually sisters, or if perhaps even if they were, that sisters might mean something different for mare than it did for humans.
Striking at Daichis heart with words that he was dreading Kaden asked the mare whether they would like to come with them, “We’re heading in that direction. There is a lot of danger around here but we’d probably be safer if we all stayed together.” Kaden pointed in the direction where they had come more or less and finished his sentence with an upbeat tone
Daichi immediately spoke up “Kaden! We would need to discuss this. As a group.”
The mare exchanges glances and responded “We would like to come with you if you would let us.”
Kaden made an excited expression and turned around to face an ashen looking Hannah and Ava.
Not even glancing at Daichi he walked a few steps to get closer to the group and whispered “This is fantastic. If they come with us we’ll have a bigger and stronger group! Plus they look like they could use our help, if we can help we should help!”
Daichi chimed in “I didn’t want to say this earlier… But I noticed someone or something before we got up. They left almost as quickly as I’d seen them so I didn’t want to make too big a deal if it wasn’t necessary. I’m certain that’s them. They’ve been following us since this morning. There’s no reason for them to join us, in fact we’d be safer without them.”
“Why would we be safer without them? Besides even if that were true which I don’t think it is, because they might be strong, they wouldn’t be safer without us.” Kaden countered with a righteous expression
Both Daichi and Kaden stared at each other reaching an impasse. Then turning at the same time to look at Hannah and Ava to hear their input.
“Daichi, did you use your skill on them? How strong are they?” Hannah inquired
“Level 25 and 26 is all it says, but they could be stronger. We should’t let two people we don’t know who are already stronger than us come. This is a stupid idea.” Daichi answered
“I don’t think they should come either. We don’t know them and they’re monsters.” Ava voiced her opinion
“So what if they’re not human? That doesn’t mean they’re bad! Plus if they’re strong then they can help us.” Kaden pushed the topic.
Everyone having different opinions on the topic, they all looked at Hannah since she was the only one who hadn’t said anything up to this point.
“I think it’s a little strange if they followed us since this morning. I also don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea to team up with people we don’t know… But I don’t think it’s really a choice anymore. Kaden already invited them, they’ve followed us since this morning so they could just continue to follow us even if we say no, and if we say no they might become hostile. We should let them come.” Hannah looked over at Ava hoping she’d agree with her.
“I don’t trust them, but fine. If they’re going to follow us anyways.” Ava answered
“There’s another option you know.” Daichi said while looking down at his swords.
“No! We’re not doing that! There’s no reason to do that! What the hell is wrong with you man?” Kaden spoke up louder than he meant too.
Hannah just gave Daichi a glance and shook her head.
Looking at the others with an even expression Daichi hid exactly how much annoyance he was feeling at this very moment. Knowing he was outnumbered, and that he was not going to win this argument. Daichi shook his head in reluctance and defeat.
This is the worst case scenario he thought.