"Lumia", he called, "It's time to go. We still have twenty miles to go. We should get there tonight."
Lumia sleepily rubbed her eyes with her small hands. It was dawn. The first rays of light weakly shone through the forest. Lumia looked at her brother: he was drenched in sweat, with dark circles under the eyes. He must have stayed up all night, she could tell since she knew him so well.
"Idiot, why didn't you get some rest?" she reproached him, "we have a long way to go, what if you feel ill on the road?"
Helial didn't reply, he couldn't be bother to waste time on his nagging little sister. He was too busy trying to find a way to get both of them to safety.
It's not going to be easy. If the vanguard is already so close, it likely means that there are already Goblins nearby. Right now I don't perceive anything, even if I kept Perception activated all this time I didn't sense anyone coming. Are they marching straight to the city? It would be shorter going through this area, but I doubt an army could pass. Maybe we are safe here, thought Helial.
He picked up what looked like a pile of old rags, the same on which his sister had slept during the night. He clenched his fists. The abysmal poverty they had to live in was a consequence of his brother's actions… He could never forgive him for that.
They were forced to live that pitiful life full of hardships. He never could afford anything for himself or his sister, he could barely pay for food and some basic essentials. That wasn't life, that was survival.
After eating some pieces of stale bread and drinking some weird-smelling water, they went on their way.
Floralivory, Headquarters of the Mana Congregation
"Master Vidio, what do we do? There are too many of them, we won't be able to hold the city. We have few men and our informants say that the commanders of the Army have already reached the Third Phase. How can we defeat them?" asked the middle-aged servant standing in front of him, terrified by what was going to happen in the next few hours.
No answer came from Master Vidio, who was thinking about something else. Helial, where are you? You can't die, you are my only hope to regain my past glory. Please, try to get back to the city.
Vidio's eyes were darkened by worry for his pupil. He had never taught him any Offensive Skill, so they boy would never be able to defend himself against the Goblins. Until Helial had not started a real training in one of their academies, it was better to cultivate the basics as much as possible, so as to have very strong learning foundations.
After all, who could have imagined that the leaders of the Nation of Fiercelake were going to leave the borders completely defenseless? It didn't make any sense. Were they really just going to give up one of their frontier towns? Although small, Floralivory City was a good stopping point for merchants. It was not of key strategic importance, but it was still a sort of trading outpost before the Wild Mountains, where lived Goblins and other unfriendly creatures.
Forgetting about Helial for a second, even Vidio started to worry: the military leaders of the Goblin army were likely to be in the Third Phase. Even though he didn't know their exact level he could make a good guess: they must have been around level 200… Vidio was at level 151, in the middle of the Second Phase. And he was the strongest person in the entire city. Their soldiers were mostly at level 100, still in the First Phase.
"Why isn't the Capital taking action? It takes quite some time to get until here from the Goblin cities… The frontier is swarming with spies, it would have been easy to send some backup in time." There was indeed something fishy going on.
Should they run? That morning, an emissary of the National Council of the Mana Congregation had urged them not to lose men in a pointless conflict. That left no doubt on the stand of the upper echelons: beat it.
"We should go back to the Capital without resisting, according to the orders. Get to the outpost, change horses and go back to the Council, and then… what? Get reassigned?"
"Damn it. Do you really think so many people can flee this damned army?" whispered Master Vidio. "These people have no chance of survival. It's going to be a manhunt, damn it. How many young girls will die?" His womanizer's soul dies hard…
"Saddle a horse, I need to take a look at the situation beyond the walls", ordered Vidio.
"Master, the City Guard forbade to exit from the walls …"
"Quiet, none of those scumbags can forbid me from doing anything. Don't they know who I am?"
Somewhere in the woods, Lumia and Helial were walking towards the city
"Come on, Lumia don't be in a sulk like that. Once inside the city walls we will be safe. Plus, Master Vidio is a great fighter, we will have nothing to worry about when he's with us" said Helial, trying to soothe is little sister..
Lumia looked quite relieved, even though she was trying to conceal her emotions.
Helial's word had not yet died out, that he perceived an Aura in the distance. It was a Goblin. There was a Goblin less than one mile away from them. He could sense one single Aura, so it should have been moving on foot. Although it was difficult to make an estimate at such a distance, Helial was pretty sure it was a weak Goblin.
He took Lumia and covered her mouth, whispering in her hear: "There is one of them near here. Keep quiet and don't make a sound. Let's hide behind a big tree trunk."
Flattened against the tree, Helial kept an eye on the direction towards which was moving the Goblin. Damn it, it's coming right at us, he thought. He started condensing Mana in his hand right away. He had already made up his mind.
It was at less than a hundred yards away.
He could hear the rasping breath typical of Goblins. Many of them had smaller lungs than people, so their breath was short and labored.
Plus, Goblins didn't have quiet higher airways like humans, so they made funny noises when breathing from the nose. This time though, there was nothing funny about what was going to happen next.
The Goblin was about to notice them. He was a few step away from the tree.
Helial jumped out of his hiding place. Now he could see the Goblin clearly in the face. The creature's face was completely covered in rotten goo that left uncovered only the face orifices.
The corners of its mouth were full of lumps of blood. Beast, it has been eating humans for sure!
It was giving off a repugnant stench that brutally filled their nostrils.
You dealt a Critical Hit!
Infantry Goblin lost 5400 HP!
You killed Infantry Goblin!
Helial had managed to deliver the close-range shot right at the head of the Goblin. He didn't hit him straight in the face, but at least half of the skull had been blown away by the blast. He was very lucky. He had taken the Goblin by surprise and he managed to deal a critical hit.
You earned 5.500 Exp!
You levelled up!
You reached Level 17!
Helial had managed to eliminate the Goblin just in one shot. It wasn't too bad, considering that the Skill had been created at the last minute.
Communion with Mana
Helial's eyes went to the hand that had delivered the blow. He killed it. everything happened so fast. But who would have stopped to think twice when faced with a monster?
Lumia hadn't seen anything. Before stepping forward, Helial had warned her with a stern voice: "Lumia, don't come out, it's not going to be a nice sight. Wait for me back here."
His little sister, however, was extremely stubborn and stepped out anyway. But after witnessing that scene, she stood there petrified. Helial didn't go to her; after all she would have to get used to things like that sooner or later.
"He was carrying some interesting stuff", sighed Helial, "I'll take it." He walked to the body, wondering at his own cold blood.
He had killed a Goblin, like really killed it. But he was feeling nothing, at all. It was threatening him and his sister, he kept telling himself that he shouldn't feel guilty.
His eyes went again to the hand that had fired the bullet of Mana that had unceremoniously blown away half of the Goblin's skull. It was that easy, thought Helial.
While he was looking at the body, an open bottle rolled out of the Goblin's pocket and its content start pouring on the ground. It was a thick reddish spirit, the color of blood. It looked a lot like the blood that was encrusted around the Goblin's mouth.
For the first time in his life, Helial had taken the life of a living thing that was not an animal and now he was searching the body to find valuables to steal. What was that, self-defense or brutality? He chased those thought away and focused on picking up the objects.
You obtained Dented Sword!
You obtained Torn Pants!
You obtained 56 Copper Pieces!
Once removed the objects, the body vanished into thin air. It was normal. Every time one removed all the main objects from a monster, or at least the objects that could be picked up, the bodies disappeared. It was actually very morbid to see a living thing vanish. Helial though didn't worry about it too much. Kill or be killed.
After levelling up, he had some Points to distribute in the Stats, but he chose to wait. After all, six points were not a life-changer.
It was time to get a move on again, if not…
Shit, are there more coming?, thought Helial, breaking out in a cold sweat.
He had already recovered all the Mana lost but the situation was not looking up. Unless he scored a direct hit, his attack was not very effective. Besides, he could only fire three times in a row. He was indeed breaking out in a cold sweat.
He perceived five Auras approaching. One of these was a horse. It didn't look promising at all! Helial was really nervous. He wanted to tell his sister to run, but he knew she would have never listened to him. She would not leave him alone, especially now that his life was at risk.
Helial drew the useless Longsword. This time he would have to face the enemy. No one had ever taught him how to wield a sword, so he would have to improvise. He could only count on his own instincts.
He took a deep breath.
Skill Activated :
Communion with Mana
You are able to flow the power of Mana through the most suitable Meridians.
You can move while storing and regenerating your Mana.
MP Regeneration: 200 Mana/Sec
Skill Amplification: 3%
Physical Abilities Amplification: 1,3%
At the same time, he began to condense the Mana on the fingertips of his right hand, all but the thumb.
Fear was almost about to choke him, when he met his sister's gaze. She was not afraid, she trusted her big brother to protect her.
It was normal for a rookie to panic and freeze at his first fights. It would have been difficult to use even three fourth of one's abilities. But Helial didn't know this and didn't worry much about his own inexperience.
He noticed that the Aura of the mounted Goblin had left his companions behind had was approaching rapidly. Helial grabbed tight the hilt of the Longsword.
"Come closer, piece of shit…" he whispered.
He took a very deep breath, then started running at breakneck speed towards the Goblin. He held the blade of the Longsword slightly behind his body, perpendicular to his shoulders, so it wouldn't hinder him while running. He was holding the weapon with his left hand, while with the right he was preparing the Skill. The cast time of the Skill was too long to allow him to engage all four Goblins at a time, he had no choice but kill one first.
Him and the Goblin could see each other clearly now. Helial saw his was wearing a sneer on his face. In the eyes of that beast used to slaughtering and plundering, Helial must have looked like a brat that had lost his will to live. Helial did not smile, there was nothing funny about all that. His hands were shaking and he was covered in cold sweat. He was scared.
Helial finally had some weapon to defend himself with. But even so, he didn't feel safe at all. He could have used the Skill three or maybe four times in a fight. That didn't leave him much room for error.