Recovery and Decline

 

Is it just me, or did I actually see that this got second place on the daily ranking board?

I really can’t be thankful enough.

 

“Hah…”

Once I’d made it back home, I felt myself succumb to my usual bouts of unease.

“How are we supposed to take care of that thing…? There’s nothing we can do…”

Despite my mumblings, I was fully aware that we couldn’t very well go on without cooking up a plan.

I really did understand, but…

Look, I’d never been the most brave or gallant kind of guy. If you were to ignore my high stats, my blessings, and just how easy it was for my skills to grow, I was just a plain old villager… just a farmer.

So far, I’d just avoided whatever fights I knew I couldn’t win, and the one time I actually ran into thieves I’d saved myself by begging for my life.

That was just who I was, really…

No, no, I couldn’t let myself go down that route. I wasn’t about to get anywhere by being negative.

I just needed to calm down a little.

Luckily for me, I’d come into possession of liquidised herbs, courtesy of Wong. If those could help me relax, they’d be worth their weight in gold.

Once I’d gone and retrieved a small sheet of linen I could use, I poured in the herbs and let them stain the cloth before pressing the it to my face.

The pleasant aroma soothed my nerves, and I felt that I had sufficiently calmed down.

It was entirely possible that the stuff worked purely by capitalising on one’s preconceived notions that it would, indeed, function as a relaxant. But even if that was the case, I didn’t mind.

“…No wonder melk weed’s as costly as it is.”

I was much more composed that I had been only moments earlier, I noticed.

Now that my thoughts were much more rational and streamlined, I realised that while that thing’s attack and magic power were through the roof, it could mean that its defensive capacities, magic included, would be much weaker.

While I found it dubious that any average Joe could pierce through its defences, I entertained the possibility that with my stats, high as they were, I could deal damage if I really pushed myself.

That meant that all I had to do was avoid taking on the brunt of its attacks.

Wait, that thing had a Breath skill. Given all the magic power crammed into its breath, there was no way for me to evade if it should decide to heave some my way, was there…?

Hey now, I’d already decided that I wouldn’t be negative about this.

If I could just make my move before it cast its breath… If I could take first blood by surprise and pack everything I had into my attack, would it be possible, with just a little bit of extra luck?

Yeah, that was it. I had plenty of ways to go about doing this. I just had to do everything in my power to find out what I could about that thing.

“Alright then… Guess I’ll make some time to look into it tomorrow.”

I’d made up my mind. I allowed myself an early dinner then, wanting to be ready on the day that would follow, went to bed.

Only a few minutes had passed since Al left the guild.

Helen and Wong were engaged in conversation when Jake made his way into the guild.

“Oh, if it isn’t Mr. Jake. How did that request go?”

“That thing? It went by without a problem…. But… Well, how do I put this…”

“There was this… something big went down, see…?”

“…? Did something happen?”

Wong, seeming to have little patience for the way both Jake and Ramil stumbled over their words, decided to press them for more information.

“Hah… Well then, let me tell you. Just keep in mind that people might panic if word of this spreads. I’d rather speak to you in your own room. Do you mind?”

“Fine by me. Auntie Wong, you don’t mind waiting for a bit, do you?”

“Not a problem.”

Helen escorted the other four all the way to her private quarters. Once they were all inside, and once they’d made sure that the door was closed tightly, Luke began to speak.

“Here’s the thing. We met a dragon in the Grim Forest. A black one.”

“A Black Dragon…? Well, that’s certainly not common…”

When Helen spoke, her expression took on a more strained aspect.

“That wasn’t just a Black Dragon, Miss Helen. Even Jake said he didn’t know what that thing was. It’s probably something much, much worse. You don’t know anything about it, do you?”

In the split second that followed Luke’s question, Helen’s face had drained of all colour before instantly returning to her usual complexion.

“I… I don’t think I do, no! I’m really sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.”

Luke, finding himself suspicious of Helen’s forced expression, decided to dig a little deeper.

“Well… You sure look like you might…”

Before he could finish his statement, Syl grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Thank you for your time. We’re calling it quits today.”

“What? No, but…”

Luke tried to return to his inquisition, only for Syl to bring her face close to his ear and whisper something to him.

“There might be some kind of history she just doesn’t want to bring back up, you know? If you’re going to ask something, you really don’t need to open up old wounds.”

“…I’m sorry.”

“O-Oh, don’t let it bother you. So am I…”

With Syl having stirred up a good measure of regret in Luke, and with Helen’s own apology done and over with, the group of four left the room.

Not long after, Wong walked in.

“…You don’t look too good. Pale as a sheet’s what you are. What’s the matter?”

“Well, I… I certainly can’t say I’m fine…”

“…Just be careful. Don’t keep everything locked away inside, you hear? Do you need some herbs?”

Helen never answered her query, the gloom never leaving her face.

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