~ Chapter 6: The Bloody Mushrooms ~
Slowly opening my eyes, I stretched and forced my body to wake up. My mind was a bit confused as to where I was, but the memories of the previous days slowly flowed back, and I remembered I wasn’t on Earth anymore.
With a heavy sigh, I got up and scratched the back of my head. I yawned a bit and noticed that it was still dark outside.
Oh yeah… long nights. I remembered what Seryanna told me regarding the length of days and nights of this world.
One thing was certain though, even if the bed wasn’t that comfortable, I still slept for quite a few hours. Honestly speaking, I was expecting to wake up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a certain redheaded dragoness fighting giant black spiders. Seryanna didn’t mention anything about waking up after a few hours and taking turns as a guard, probably because I was too weak right now to be of any help. If something attacked us, I would probably end up dying before reaching her tent and waking her up.
As I stepped outside, I found the dragoness looking at the fire while holding her sheathed sword in her arms. The way it pressed between her breasts gave her a rather tempting look, and it tickled my imagination a bit, however, if I slipped a single word out, and she found out that I held such thoughts towards her, I was sure I was going to end up as mincemeat.
“Good morning, Seryanna.” I said with a smile.
She immediately glared at me.
Did I say anything wrong? I asked myself.
“That’s Sir Seryanna.” she corrected me.
“Oh! Sorry, my apologies, milady.” I made a small bow.
“Your apologies are accepted, but don’t let it happen again. I’m neither your friend nor your lover to be called directly by my name.” she retorted.
Achaaa! This is like the thing with the Japanese people, right? If you are a stranger, especially a foreigner, then you must always use honorifics to address others. I think ‘san’ was the general one ‘chan’ and ‘kun’ for female and male friends, respectively, and ‘sama’ for someone held in high regard, like a boss. Using no honorifics means a close relationship between the two, close to intimate or very good friends, and it must only be used if the other person allows you to. I think there was also a rule about first and last names. A friend can use the first name, but the last name with an honorific is the standard use for work colleagues or recently met people. Maybe I should ask her just in case? I thought and then took a seat on the chair placed on the other side of the fire.
“Sir Seryanna, is it alright for me to call you by your first name, or should I call you Sir Draketerus? I don’t know which is the proper and respectful way to do so.” I asked with a humble tone of voice.
She looked at me for a moment and then lowered her eyes to the fire.
“Sir Seryanna is fine. Draketerus is my family name, but if you add Sir to it, then it can be perceived as an offense unless spoken by a royal.” she explained calmly.
“Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.” I said and then remained quiet.
We were waiting for the sun to show up from its vacation. Another hour or so would pass by until then, but as far as I knew, it was utter madness to travel through the forest at night in a small group like ours, however, so far, no monsters appeared to have attacked us. The warding crystal was either very good or my Luck was to blame for it.
Eventually, when the lazy sun made itself present, she packed camp, showing me how easily she could store any item in her purse. All she had to do was point the ring at the desired item and then chant something quickly. At the end of the chant, she added the name of the item as she perceived it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to remember the chant no matter how many times she used it. For me, it appeared to be rather complicated, but when I asked her about it, she denied such a thing, stating that even children could use it. This only made me reach the conclusion that it may have had something to do with either the Hero passive skill or maybe that game-like interface I was using.
“We should be able to reach the Griffin area today.” she announced one hour after we left the camp site.
“I see… Sery… Sir Seryanna, do you make this trip often?” I asked her, seeing as she appeared to be rather familiar with the forest and the path to the Griffin nests.
“Yes. Once a week.” she told me.
After I managed to get over a rather large tree, which she hoped over with ease, I asked her “Why are these mushrooms so important?”
She stopped in her tracks and looked back at me.
After a moment, she told me with a calm yet serious tone of voice “They are a necessary ingredient for the treatment used to cure my grandfather.”
“Oh… But shouldn’t you be able to buy that from a pharmacy?” I asked foolishly.
Furrowing her brow, she looked at me and then asked “Pharmacy? What is that?”
“Erm… er… Drug Store? Herbalist? Potion Store? Something like a combination of those three?” I replied trying to remember some old names used for the modern-day shop where you could get most of the pills you needed plus baby powder.
“No…” she shook her head “My grandfather lives in a small town that’s quite far from both a city with a herb farm and the capital. If I could, I would have bought it directly from there.” she told me.
“So, every week, you spend almost four to five days just searching for this mushroom?” I asked.
“Yes… I never found more than one or two. Like I said, it’s quite rare to find.” she lowered her head and closed her eyes for a moment. “We should keep going…” she said when she opened her eyes.
“Yes.” I nodded and tried to stay close to her, she walked fast.
I wonder if this world has something like a cure-all plant I often saw in games… Sigh, it would be nice to find it, then she wouldn’t need to make this long trip every week. Still, I have to admit… I’m impressed. Four to five days a week journeying into this dangerous forest with the sole purpose of finding a mushroom to help cure her ill grandfather. I hope we will find more than just two of those mushrooms… It will be nice, but what are the odds of that happening? I thought while trying to keep up with her.
Not long after that, I found myself in front of a big boulder. Of course, she hoped right over it, but I had only two choices: climb it or walk around it. I chose the latter. Stepping on the ground carefully, I chose the left path.
“I’m going around it!” I called out to her, hoping she wouldn’t leave me behind.
“Humans are too weak… You should be able to jump over something so small.” came her reply with a click of her tongue.
Woman, it’s almost 3 meters high! What am I? A kangaroo? I wanted to retort, but I let out a sigh and simply accepted the fact that she was a dragoness, and I was a small human.
After I went past the boulder, I noticed something behind the tree right next to Seryanna. It was a beautiful and quite captivating yellow flower with a rather strange glow to it. The top petals formed small upside down bells, and the ones under it had a spiral shape with a white line crossing through the middle. It was so beautiful, you could stare at it for hours and not get bored with it, but from where Seryanna stood, it was completely invisible. Actually, I would go as far as to say that only by going across the big boulder next to me could you spot it.
Strange… I thought to myself as I walked closer to get a better look at it.
Seryanna watched me stray away from the path and furrowing her brow, she approached me.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Look!” I pointed at the flower.
Turning her head, she squinted her eyes and searched for it. When she spotted the plant, she made big eyes and gasped. From that reaction alone, I could tell that it had to be a rather valuable one.
“This is a very rare plant… I don’t know it’s name, but I saw it once in an herbalist’s shop… It costs about 20 gold coins.” she told me.
“So, is it valuable?” I asked, pretending not to know.
“Yes, quite so.” she replied with a small nod of her head.
Hm, Cha-Ching? It’s Cha-Ching right? Yes! Cha-Ching! I was smiling on the inside. With that flower alone, I could get a decent start in this world, but then the next thought hit me. Rich and weak equals easy prey for thieves and bandits. I better not get too greedy or else I’ll end up as dragon food. I thought and gulped.
“Should we take it?” I asked.
“If you wish.” she told me.
“Huh? If I wish?” I asked, blinking surprised.
“You are the one who found it. It’s yours.” she straightened her back and nodded once as to reassert that she made a wise decision.
“But… you were the one who’s dragging my sorry behind through this dangerous forest.” I said quickly.
“Indeed, you are weakling, and I could claim this valuable flower as my own, but what is yours it’s yours. I am honorable dragoness, not a human!” she claimed.
That hurts… I thought as I felt the stings of her hate.
“Sigh, very well… But! If it turns out that you actually need this plant more than me, I’ll give it to you as payment for taking care of me. Deal?” I asked.
“Very well. I won’t decline.” she told me.
With a smile, the deal was set and all that was left to do was to pick up the flower. She was the one who handled it, but she let me carry it. Instead of cutting it at the root, we picked up the root as well just to make sure that it wouldn’t wilt by the time we returned.
Thus, I gained my first item: an <unknown> flower worth at least 20 gold coins of draconian currency. The rock between my toes didn’t count…
I felt a bit weird carrying a pot in my hands, but Seryanna solved the problem by temporarily lending me a backpack. At first, I asked to use her [Purse], but she refused, saying that magical plants should never be carried in ordinary ‘purses’. To carry plants, I had to carry a special ring enchanted with the spell [Herbalist’s Pouch]. The difference between the two was that the latter could actually carry only plants and seeds. It also had the special property of keeping magic plants safe and healthy by allowing the user to feed them with his own magic.
We continued on our journey for another three hours, but at that point, Seryanna had to make a pit stop, so she made me wait in the middle of nowhere until she was done. I was a bit more rude and just used the first bush I stumbled upon. I instantly missed having soft toilet paper at my disposal. Big rough and itchy leafs weren’t very pleasant to use.
While I was waiting, I began to think back at my family and what they might be doing. It hadn’t even been more than a day, and I already missed my home, soft bed, even my mother’s yells for not taking out the trash. Father was probably calling every police station in the country by now unless the God-like actually didn’t forget to let them know who exactly he brought to this world from the billions of humans on Earth. It was a bit hard to accept the fact that I would never see them again. I kept wondering if maybe there was a special spell I could use at one point. Still, if I made friends, found someone I loved, and made a life for myself here, would I try to return? That was a question that kept bothering me and which would probably would for a long time from now on.
I should stop thinking about that for now… I thought and then sighed. It would be quite bad if something attacked me while I was distracted by such thoughts… Hm, it would be bad, but I do wonder just how strong I am compared to these monsters… even the weakest among them. I also wish I could find out if Seryanna’s kills actually add to my XP, but so far, we had yet to encounter even small critters. Maybe it’s thanks to Seryanna’s threatening presence? I can barely feel it now. Maybe I got used to it. Speaking of which, are we considered a party? Ah! I better stop all this useless thinking and keep my eyes and ears sharp before something actually jumps on me! I shook my head and straightened up bit.
Sir Seryanna returned when she was done and continued to walk ahead of me without saying a word. I don’t believe that would have been a good time for a pick up line, so with the flower pot in my backpack and my mouth shut, I followed her.
For another hour, the scenery didn’t change by much. The same type of rocks, same type of moss, same type of dirt, and same type of big trees like those found deep in the Amazon forest, but about ten times sturdier. There wasn’t any sign of wild life though, not even those huge spiders Seryanna claimed to be infesting the forest. I was beginning to wonder if she was just making that up or if by ‘infested’ she meant ‘one for every 10 square kilometers’.
“Grrr!” the growling came from behind me.
I gulped and slowly turned around.
“Erm… Ser… Seryanna?” I called out.
In front of me stood a three meters tall black wolf. Sharp, black teeth threatened to rip me to shreds. Red, piercing eyes warned me that I could never run away from its gaze. Strong muscles and powerful paws that ended with sharp, black claws told me that I couldn’t fight it. It’s shiny, black fur made out of thin metal wires told me that I couldn’t defeat the monster before me.
“GRRR!” the beast raised the volume of its growl.
I stumbled back and fell on my behind. I was frozen in fear, and my body didn’t react to my brain’s urges to make a run for it. A single move, a single pounce was all the beast needed in order to slash me to pieces .
“Ser… Seryanna… help me…” I managed to squeal, but it felt like I could barely speak at all, like I was whispering.
Did she hear me? What if she didn’t hear me? Seryanna! HELP! I called out in my mind, but my lips barely moved.
The beast opened its jaws, showing me those black teeth and sharp red tongue.
“HYA!” shouted Seryanna as she cut the air in front of the monster.
The wolf jumped back and let out a threatening growl, but the dragoness didn’t flinch. She glared at the beast and then dashed towards it. The wolf opened its jaws and sprayed something towards her, but the attack missed the target. The plants touched by that substance immediately showed signs of corrosion and wilting. Chanting something quick, she pointed her hand at the wolf and a fireball with a 5 cm diameter formed at the center of her palm. She shot it straight at the beast, but it dodged to the left. The fireball exploded and to avoid the blinding light, the wolf closed its eyes for a moment. Seryanna was waiting for that exact moment, and with a single slash of her sword, she cut the wolf in half, right where its heart was. It couldn’t even yelp anymore. The two halves fell on the ground and twitched for a few more seconds before they laid still in a pool of dark blood.
“Are you alright?” she asked me once, but I didn’t reply. Only when she did so for the second time did I realize that she was talking to me, and also that she was about to slap me.
“I’m fine! Please don’t hit me!” I said raising my hands up.
“Hmph! So it seems. I didn’t expect the wolf’s stare to affect you this much. You are weak.” she told me as she walked off.
It hurt to be called weak, but what was I supposed to do? My Dragon Tamer skill wasn’t doing me any good until I actually made a dragon my friend. So far, it seemed like I would be making lots of enemies, especially if Seryanna was a template for typical draconian behavior and attitude towards humans.
“Wh-what about the body? Aren’t we going to skin it or something?” I asked as I followed her.
“It’s a Corrupted Spike Wolf. Its fur is made out of metal needles, its flesh is poisonous, but its claws and teeth are about two silver coins each.” she told me, but looking back, I saw she left the beast intact.
“So, is it alright to leave it like that?” I asked again.
“That one was a weak scout. Once the pack senses that it has gone missing, it will follow its scent. Upon discovery, they will feast on the wolf’s remains. If when we return we will find the teeth and claws intact, I will pluck them out.” she explained and then urged me to walk a bit faster.
With a silent nod, I followed her, but looking back, it made sense. In a game, you could instantly loot the corpse of a monster, but in reality, it was a rather long and laborious process not just anyone could pull it off. Thinking about it, maybe Seryanna didn’t know how to properly skin the wolf or acquire other parts.
In general, gathering skills are rather good for making a few extra coins. Combat is usually the primary thing, so maybe… hm… Maybe the first thing I need to learn is something related to gathering? Mining, skinning, and herbology should be basic skills. No, I can’t be sure the names will be the same, I’ll have to be REALLY careful this time. For all I know, that idiot God-like being could have named it: Potato Salad… I thought while following Seryanna on the path towards the mysterious Bloody Mushrooms.
Out of curiosity, I looked at my stats to see if being near the wolf when it died granted me any XP at all. Unfortunately, I was still at level 1. Nothing changed.
For the next hour or so, I kept praying to find those mushrooms faster, for them to be plenty enough to satisfy the grumpy dragoness, and most importantly, that no monster attacked us on the way there. Becoming monster chow wasn’t on my To Do list for this world. I wanted to get out of the forest as quick as I could, find a noob town and then slowly raise my level.
Hm, if Seryanna were to become my friend, then she might be willing to help me raise my level. Nah! I’m sure that if I ask her, she’ll point the sharp sword at me and then go: Me use pointy thing and stabby stab stab you till you bleedy bleed bleed! Or something like that… I thought and the let out a sigh.
Ten minutes later, I stopped in my tracks and asked her. “Hey, Sir Seryanna? How many of those mushrooms you said you usually found?” I asked her.
“One or two. Why?” she asked me as she stopped and looked back at me, I wasn’t looking at her, but at a small clearing dyed in red from all the blood spilled on it.
“I think I found a few…” I said and pointed at the clearing.
On the other side, at the base of the huge trees, hundreds of those mushrooms were waiting for us to pick them up. They were surrounded by white bones dropped there by the monsters called griffins from their nests up in the trees. There were a lot of them surrounding the small opening, but there was no sign of the actual beasts in them or in the skies above us. The area was clear.
“You… You found them…” said Seryanna.
Looking at her, I was about to say something, but her expression caught me off guard. Soft tears formed in the corners of her eyes. Her gaze had softened, and a smile finally adorned her beautiful lips. The Seryanna in front of me looked gentle, pure, quite different from the battle-hardened knight she portrayed until now. If I dare to say, she showed me a rather humane side to her.
My heart skipped a beat, and I gulped.
“So much… Alkelios, you found so much… With this, my grandfather could be cured…” she told me through her tears, but she didn’t bother to wipe them off. She let them flow over her soft cheeks and around her gentle smile.
“Yes, but I didn’t do much…” I said, but I could feel my cheeks and the tips of my ears turning red from staring at her for so long.
Looking away, I shook my head and closed my eyes for a moment.
Pull it together, Alkelios! Don’t fall for her! Don’t fall for her! I thought to myself.
Jumping to conclusions and letting my heart be swayed by her charming smile and rather gentle side to her wasn’t something I wanted to end up doing. I had to remember that she was a draconian woman who hated humans. She might have accepted my presence for now, but there was no telling how she would behave once we returned to civilization. I had to keep my head straight and heart unchained by her charms.
I let out a sigh and then turned around. She wasn’t there anymore. She was gone.
Blinking surprised, I first looked left and then right. I spotted her out there, in the middle of the clearing. With a serious look in her eyes, she approached the mushrooms. The dragoness had regained her composure.
“Ah! Wait up!” I called out and went after her.
We found the mushrooms. All that was left now was to pick them up and then head back to her town, back to civilization.
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