We call over a dozen people to help cut up and load half the Rakertus onto a sturdy cart. It’s being pulled by two abnormally tall goats called Yagi. They’re the Nomura clan’s beasts of burden, and they’re also a source of milk, fur, hide and meat. Since the Yagi come from a remote mountain valley, humans have yet to domesticate them.
We return to the village and are showered by everyone’s cheers. The hunting party is now the centre of attention. As a crowd gathers around Chiyoko to commend her success, I try to sneak away from the rowdy bunch, but I am noticed by a certain kobold.
“Enbos! I heard from Tanaka how you saved Daichi’s life.”
“Oh, hello Hachirou. I didn’t see you there.”
Because Hachirou, Chiyoko and Takashi are the only kobolds who can speak Arenish, I always follow them around. Since Takashi is usually busy, and Chiyoko despises me, I spend most of my time with Hachirou who holds me in high regard. However, because he treats me as such he feels less like a friend and more like a subordinate.
“By the way, were you picking herbs again?”
“No, I’ve been helping out with the washing.”
For some reason, Hachirou keeps doing odd jobs around the village. You would think the son of the head would have an important post.
“I think it’s better if you settled into one trade.”
“I… I’m not sure. I thank you for your consideration, but I’m perfectly happy helping everyone in whatever way I can.”
“… I see.”
“Incidentally, I cannot accept this.”
“Enbos, you played an important part in the hunt too. Please come and join the others!”
“No, no, no! I’m perfectly fine!”
“As always, your modesty continues to inspire me. But your deeds shall not go unnoticed!”
My tug of war with Hachirou draws the attention of the crowd. No, don’t come this way with your admiration. Please spare me. I can’t handle the pressure…
“Ugh, this may sound strange, but that was exhausting.”
“Do not forget my own gratitude, Enbos. Good work on today’s hunt.”
After the initial excitement from our return, another trip was made to fetch the rest of the meat. The scraps were used to make tonight’s dinner, and I must admit, for this taste I wouldn’t mind hunting another! Of course, the talk of the table was today’s hunting trip.
I want to curl up somewhere nice and quiet… like underground.
“So, what have you come to ask?”
“Today, I learned you’re a fan of SF4.”
“Ah, the <Destroying Surge Fist>? I often visited the arcade back on Earth. Won quite a bit of prize money too. What, do you feel like having a real life match?”
“No way! You’ll score a “Perfect” and there wouldn’t be a second round! I’m just curious about spiritual energy. I didn’t know it could be used that way.”
“I’m not surprised. I’m pretty much a pioneer in this type of skill, which I have taken to calling Spirit Arts.”
“You created an entire skill type just to imitate a video game? I may be a casual but…”
“Of course not! I wasn’t that obsessed. You may have realised but kobolds have low magic ability, with the exception of me and my family. Even then, I would classify myself as average. I wasn’t born with a Unique Skill like you, though my growth was much faster than normal.”
“So you developed Spirit Arts to bypass your limitations and rival magic casters. How does it differ from using mana?”
“Mana is just a more tangible form of spiritual energy. For some reason, this world, or rather, this reality is closely tied to the soul. It’s almost like living in a dream.”
“Well, it IS a fantasy world. Even now, I sometimes find that hard to stomach.”
“I think that’s natural for people like us. If I had to explain it, when you cast a spell, your soul modifies your mana according to your will and understanding to create a desired effect.”
“Yeah, I’m aware of that.”
“However, in the case of spirit arts, it skips the processing step and uses mana only as a medium to apply the result.”
“But that means you can warp reality with just your imagination.”
“Not exactly. Spirit arts are not derived from thought, but from belief. While magic relies on the mind, spirit arts rely on the heart.”
“Yes, I understand your scepitism Enbos, but hear me out. By tempering a spirit art through constant practise, the action becomes imprinted into your soul, thus strengthening your spiritual energy’s influence. I recreated the <Surging Fist> after a year of image training. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I fired it.”
Well, that does certainly sound interesting. Instead of trying to create a spell by imagining the entire process of the mana interacting with the world, you can directly add any effect you want to the skill. Wait, is it possible my integrity stat shows my resistance against spirit arts?
“I see. I would love to master a few spirit arts in future.”
“I… wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Huh? Why not?”
“All living souls have a baseline of spiritual energy. Below that point, your body will start to weaken. To avoid this, the body increases its metabolism to recover energy. However…”
“… my only source of spiritual energy is by taking the lives of others. My soul has no baseline, so it will keep depleting until I can’t maintain my existence.”
“Yes, but on the flip side your <Soul Core> is designed to hold souls, so you’re able to retain your spiritual energy for much longer. Normally, that excess energy would disappear within minutes.”
“Which means I can stockpile a large reserve beforehand. Sounds like I should start farming energy and raise my level.”
That one puzzled reply threw me for a loop.
“You don’t have levels like me?”
“No. Is it the effect of a unique skill?”
Ha… haha… I knew it. It was nothing but a delusion. If Takashi doesn’t have levels, then why would I?
“Never mind, Takashi. It’s just a figment of my imagination, or rather, my <Create Status> skill. It would be ridiculous if I levelled up like in an RPG.”
“That’s strange. I also have <Create Status>, but… Tell me Enbos, did you level up after absorbing the Rakertus?”
“Because you’ve definitely grown stronger compared to this morning.”
Wait, what!? Is levelling a lie or not?
“How do the undead normally develop?”
“Their strength usually depends on the amount of energy absorbed. You, on the other hand, do not follow such conventions.”
“Then… what does this mean?”
“… I have no idea. May you explain how it works?”
“I see… Enbos, please tell me whenever you level up or you’re about to change class!”
“Also, don’t absorb more spiritual energy than you need! Be as conservative as possible. We’ll talk more once I figure this out. Have a good night.”
“Good night to you too.”
I politely declare my departure and walk towards my tent. For some reason, Takashi sounded incredibly… concerned. What does this mean? Is levelling a bad thing? Did I ruin a pacifist run? It’s impossible to stop anyway as there are too many factors.
Once I return to my tent, I reach for my travelling pouch and take out the necromancer’s book.
All living things have a baseline of spiritual energy, was it? I’ll have to research that in future.
I reapply the concealment enchantment and spend the rest of the night unravelling the secrets of necromancy.