“Be on your guard. The beast this time is particularly ferocious, but we need the food for the journey ahead.”
To prepare for the migration, me, Chiyoko and four other kobolds are hunting a Rakertus, a four-ton carnivorous lizard. It’s rarely hunted due to its vicious nature, and it’s Chiyoko’s first time hunting one as the party leader. When I ask why we’re targeting such risky game, Chiyoko snaps at me saying, “You’re part of the reason!” I’m sorry, but I don’t know why I’m at fault here!
We devise a plan, but since it lives on the plains, the terrain is disadvantageous. Chiyoko assigns each of us a role, and of course, I’ve been given the most exalted one: the bait. Sigh, I guess this is what she meant by a special job. Hopefully I can earn their trust with this.
With a throwing spear in hand, I silently approach the location our scouts reported. Soon enough, with grass on my antlers and pollen on my clothes, I spot our target.
… Change, change! Why the hell did I agree to be the bait!?
It’s 8 metres long and as bulky as a bull! It’s pretty much a dinosaur. With armour-like hide, thick claws and a heavy tail, it makes me wonder if our plan is enough. Not to mention its teeth; large, serrated teeth. My only console is that it can’t cast magic and rarely has combat skills.
I take position around fifty- no, make that sixty paces away and ready my weapon. I could throw a <Fireball> to draw aggro, but I don’t want to start a grass fire, and I’m not confident about casting <Lightning> at this range. So instead, I’ll use <Great Throw>.
<Great Throw (Basic): Throw a projectile with enhanced strength.>
It’s a skill I acquired after I broke my sword and resorted to a makeshift spear. It doesn’t improve accuracy, so I’ve been practising whenever I can. I’ll wait for the wind to die down a bit.
… Everything is ready.
I activate <Great Throw> and move my body with guided motion. The spear flies in a smooth arc and lodges its stone tip into the Rakertus’ leg.
It notices my presence and lets off a thunderous roar. I signal the others by whistling with <Project Voice>, and then I immediately flee.
Its foreboding footsteps send tremors through the ground. Using <Hunter>, I match my pace with the monster and track its position. This oversized lizard is actually quite fast! I lead the Rakertus up a hill and into the grassland, where it begins to tire. I guess Chiyoko did put some thought into choosing me, as I can’t feel fatigue.
I run into a clearing and jump over a fallen tree. In dogged pursuit, it clambers over the log…
… and walks right into our trap.
It’s hind leg falls into a hole lined with iron spikes and a thick lasso, tied to the broken stump. It tries to break free, but the snare only digs deeper into its flesh.
At Chiyoko’s command, four kobolds pop out of hiding and rain arrows on the Rakertus. The bone tips are smeared with a weak poison, further wearing the creature down. I join in the assault by throwing more spears.
“!edis tfel sti ot niotnetta sti warD”
Three of the archers reposition themselves and attack its left flank. While it twists its body to face them, one of its front legs steps into another pit trap, sealing most of its movement.
So far so good, but we only have a brief window to kill it. Supposably, it has high magic resistance which is why I’m not casting any spells. That’s why…
“I’m almost done, skeleton!”
… this entire plan hinges on Chiyoko, who allegedly has a sure-kill technique. Though I have yet to witness it, she says it’s a long ranged attack that needs time to charge. I glance over to find she has accumulated an extraordinary amount of spiritual energy.
Interesting, I wonder what kind of skill would use spiritual energy to…
I snap my head back to the Rakertus. It’s now using its tail to fling soil and gravel with violent force. It then swings at the log and…
It’s going to hit one of the archers!
I stop the airborne missile metres away from his body. His relief is short lived however, as the Rakertus manages to dislodge its hind leg from the first trap and begins pulling at the second.
“Nail him now!”
“I don’t need you to tell me that!”
Chiyoko takes a low stance and begins focusing spiritual energy between her palms. The skill manifests itself as a blue ball of swirling power. She then compresses the energy into a concentrate form, changing its colour to violet. Wait, haven’t I seen this somewhere?
“<Destroying Surge Fist>!”
Isn’t that an Ultra Combo from SF4!
She fires the projectile straight at the Rakertus and blows the four-ton monster, trap and all, into the air. It lands with a sickening crunch.
What a devastating attack! It’s more powerful than in the game! So wait, does this mean Takashi recreated the entire move set, including its evil counterpart?
“Did your father teach you that skill?”
“Indeed. It harnesses spiritual energy to strike the soul directly. It’s a technique my father brought back from your world.”
“Well, not exactly…”
“It’s not the same? As I suspected, I have a long way to go before I can surpass him. I still can’t beat his <Rising Dragon Fist>.”
Chiyoko looks around to check our party’s wellbeing. Her eyes then settle on the upheaved log.
“Um, about that… Thank you, bo- ahem, Enbos for protecting Daichi. I feel ashamed…”
“Oi! Are you trying to compliment me or insult me!?”
“I was showing gratitude, you empty-headed fool! I feel ashamed of my own ability.”
“I should have prepared more- no, I should have made better use of you. If you hadn’t reacted as readily as you did…”
What is this? I feel less like a fellow hunter and more like a tool.
Chiyoko’s distress is suddenly blown by the party’s cheers. The rest of the hunters come over and offer me their sincere gratitude. It’s quite different from their consummate attitude earlier this morning. Chiyoko also has trouble swallowing their praise. Though she blames herself, our comrades seem to think otherwise.
… I see, she’s scared. She has to succeed Takashi someday, and she’s scared of making the wrong call.
“What is it, skeleton?”
“Nothing, you worrywart.”
“Wha-! What would you know about leadership, you forest hermit!?”
“Again, nothing. Better you than me, if that offers any consolation. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my meal.”
I walk over to our game and proceed to absorb the Rakertus’ soul. Chiyoko watches silently with a dark expression.
“… You must release its soul.”
It was only after I joined the Nomura clan that I learned of their customs. They believe all life after death should return to the World Stream to be reborn. Unlike my impression that the World Stream is impartial, for some reason Takashi thinks that the will of the deceased can affect their rebirth, which is why some are born with skills.
I can’t embrace such a belief. That would mean my reincarnation was either a freak accident or… the World Stream deemed me fit to be a skeleton. How can I acknowledge something as twisted as that?
Furthermore, the undead are viewed as souls trapped in the mortal realm. The fact I can store multiple souls is a hindrance to the cycle of life. That’s why I agreed to release every soul we hunt, though it hamstrings my <Equip Soul>.
“What’s wrong? Is the Rakertus not enough to sate your hunger?”
“No, I’m full.”
As soon as I’m done, Chiyoko and the rest of the hunters offer a prayer to the slain beast.
I can’t let them know about Helena. Takashi would never help me save her.
Sneak (Basic) has evolved to Sneak (Greater)!>
<Sneak (Greater): Extended delay in detection of user.>
Class: Skeletal Mage
Max HP: 80 (↑3)
Max MP: 52 (↑5)
Attack: 20 (↑1)
Defence: 18 (14+4)
Magic: 33 (↑4)
Resilience: 20 (↑1)
Agility: 23 (24-1) (↑2)
Integrity: 105 (↑9)
Unique Skills: Ruler of One | Equip Soul
Innate Skills: Night Vision (Greater) | Create Status (High) | Soul Core (Greater) | Soul Eater (Greater) | Enhance Mind (Greater) | Parallel Thought (Basic) | Magic Perception (Greater)
Extra Skills: Heavy Strike (Greater) | Great Throw (Basic) | Shadow Step (High) | Project Voice (High) | Sneak (Greater) | Control Weight (Basic) | Spectral Sense (Greater) | Analyse Soul (Greater) | Reveal Magic (Basic)
Magic Skills: Fireball (Basic) | Lightning (Basic) | Conjure Flame (Basic)
Custom Skills: Control Oxygen (Basic) | Kinetic Barrier (Basic)
Stored Skills: Intimidate (Basic) | Rending Claw (Greater) | Crushing Jaw (Basic)
Skill Points: 120/310
Affinities: Spirit | Dark
Resistances: Nullify Manipulation | Nullify Mental Impairment | Nullify Pain | Nullify Metabolism | Nullify Fatigue | Nullify Ailment | Temperature Resistance | Decay Resistance | Dark Resistance
Weaknesses: Holy Weakness | Blunt Weakness
Titles: Worldfarer | Hunter | Novice Mage | Spellcrafter | Suspicious Being
Equipment: Deer Mask | Cloak of Self Repair | Boots | Gloves* | Standard Clothing
Items: Suspicious Book* | Envelope | Certificate | Lock of Hair | Handkerchief