(*As for the reason characters may not yet be in Orario, that is because you are presently three years from the start of events in the story!*)
Vahn kept repeating the words over and over within his mind, unable to comprehend the revelation Sis just gave him.
“Sis, why is it three years? I understand it’s my fault for not specifying a time, but what should I do now? I don’t know anything about this world outside of what I had read in the manga!” he shouted.
(*Relax Vahn. ‘The Path’ determined that your current strength was lacking for residents of this world. As it stands, a common thug would probably be able to take advantage of and even kill you. At best you would likely become an underling or supporter for disreputable adventurers. Without having increased your own strength, it would be difficult to join and survive within a Familia. You now have three years to train before the events of the story so you can be more impactful in your decision-making.*)
Vahn took several deep breaths, ruminating over what Sis had said. He understood by looking at his stats, most of his parameters were far below the ‘records’ standards. There wasn’t much he could do about that since he was never able to exercise or move freely in his previous life. And, since he didn’t wish for any power from Klyscha, he would have to rely on his own efforts to become stronger.
After thinking it over, he started to develop feelings of gratitude towards ‘The End’. It seemed to be making the best possible choices given his current lack of understanding. It also provided him with a companion he could talk to when he is feeling lonely.
“I understand, Sis. ‘The Path’ was right to give me this window of opportunity to grow. Even I wouldn’t want to accept someone into my Familia if they were to become a burden. At least until I become much much stronger…”
He begins to look around the area once again. It’s his first time seeing a real-life tree, much less being in a forest. After weighing his options, he is uncertain of the best course of action.
“Sis, where do you think I should go? I don’t have a map, and I’ve never been inside a forest. I don’t know any edible plants, and the wildlife of this world is completely foreign to me.”
(*’The Path’ has a basic mapping function which includes a compass. Though it can only map things within your line of sight, it will allow you to compile a map within the system of ‘The Path’. I would suggest heading north. Note that when you first entered the world ‘The Path’ was able to make a basic map of the landmarks in your immediate vicinity for 50km. About 2km north, you should be able to find rock formations and water, which has a high probability of providing access to a cave which would be highly beneficial for your current situation. You can access the map by using the command ‘Toggle Map’ or ‘Toggle Minimap’.*)
After the explanation, Vahn tried using both commands. He noted that ‘Toggle Map’ showed a very large birds-eye view of the surrounding area. He could even see a large portion of the western section of Orario, though the buildings were presently unmarked. To the north, a distance that didn’t seem that far, he was able to spot the ‘rock formations’ Sis had previously mentioned. Considering that much of the surrounding area was dense trees, he agreed it would be the best choice. He closed the map using a mental command, and then tried ‘Toggle Minimap’. Within the peripheral of his sight, he could see a circular, somewhat transparent map, much smaller than the one he had used previously. It also showed his line of sight as a cone emitting from the arrow within the center of the map. He noted that, whenever he turned to look at objects they were immediately updated on the minimap, enabling him to see their presence even when turning away.
“This is going to be a useful function. As long as I have this, any place I’ve been to I’ll be able to return to without getting lost. But won’t this be incredibly overpowered when I finally enter dungeons?” Though he didn’t mind taking advantage of all the features provided by ‘The Path’, Vahn didn’t like the ingenuous feeling lingering in his heart.
(*You don’t have to worry about that Vahn. Many of the Dungeons within this world are similar to living creatures. They are able to change their layout and alter their structure over time. Though you will definitely have an advantage in general mapping capabilities, it isn’t to the extent where it will allow you to far exceed others. After all, anyone could draw up a map as they progress into the dungeon, it just takes more time compared to the map function of ‘The Path’.*)
Vahn was convinced by what Sis had said. He also understood that focusing on the map could distract him from things happening around him. Though he could mentally move the map around using his thoughts, it did take up a part of his vision.
He began walking towards the northern direction. On his way, he made sure to look around his vicinity while trying to map everything he could see. Periodically he would use the ‘Toggle Map’ command to see the larger map. He noticed he was able to zoom in on the areas he had traversed, and the area of focus now had all the details he had mapped using his minimap.
Though the area of the rock formation was only 2km away, Vahn noted that it was very physically demanding to move through the forest. His clothes would constantly get stuck on the various plants and shrubbery, and he began to develop rashes around the scrapes that began to accumulate on his arms and face. It took him an entire two hours to finally arrive at his destination, and he noticed that the sky was beginning to darken. On his minimap, he could see that the cone that depicted his line of sight had begun to shrink, and it became more difficult to map things as he progressed through the rock formations.
After another half hour of searching, as the sun continued its descent, Vahn finally found a small cave near a creek. As he approached to investigate, he heard strange noises coming from the shrubbery to his left. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand, as a cold sickening chill crept down his spine.
Turning towards the source of the noise, Vahn froze. Standing around 10m away, there stood a small emaciated green-skinned humanoid. The upper half of his body seemed to be covered in a leathery hide, while the bottom was entirely covered with dense fur. Its height was slightly under 1 meter, and its physique was similar to that of a small child. Vahn could see within its vicious red eyes a ferocity that shook him to the core.
The monster, which Vahn recognized as a Goblin, looked directly into his eyes. It seemed to understand the terror he inspired as it slowly began to walk towards Vahn, waving a short serrated knife that seemed to be carved from stone.
10 meters…9 meters…8 meters…As the Goblin continued its approach Vahn stood absolutely still, unable to muster any thought of fighting or fleeing. Though he had spent his entire life in a lab having horrible experiments performed, he had never been in a combat situation. Though the eyes some of the researchers used to look at him were similar to the Goblin before him, it was nowhere near as vicious. Vahn knew, this Goblin genuinely wanted to kill him.
7 meters…6 meters…just as it began to reach the halfway point, Sis suddenly shouted out within his mind.
(*Vahn, equip your weapons! The goblin has higher agility than you, so you have to fight back! You need to take the initiative or it will be too late!*)
Vahn immediately snapped out due to the sudden exclamation from Sis. Just as he was about to equip his weapons, the Goblin seemed to have sensed his change and immediately lunged at him, aiming the small knife directly at his throat.
Vahn twisted his neck back as quickly as he could, raising his arms to protect his face.
The goblin continued it’s lunge, impaling the small knife directly in Vahn’s left arm before pulling it away, tearing away at his flesh due to the serrated qualities of the blade.
Because of the sudden impact, Vahn was knocked off balance as a sharp pain coming from his left arm sent alarms ringing in his head.
(*Vahn, you need to get up quickly. If you don’t equip your weapons you won’t be able to fight back!*)
Vahn scrambled back, trying to right his footing as the goblin began to prepare another lunge. He crouched down, this time aiming towards Vahn’s torso before jumping out at with murderous momentum.
Catching the goblins movements in his eye, Vahn’s mind felt a cooling sensation spread, seeming to dull the effects of the pain emitted from his left arm. He mentally tried to equip both of his weapons, causing the dagger to appear in his right hand while his left hand remained empty.
Using the clarity brought about by the cooling sensation, Vahn shifted his weight and tried to use his now disabled left arm to absorb the oncoming lunge.
Once again, the goblin’s knife pierced into his already mangled flesh. It lifted its foot to try and kick off of Vahn’s torso, using the leverage generated to rend the knife from the arm.
Vahn used the brief window before the goblin is able to recover to throw all of his weight into the small-statured creature.
Taken by surprise due to the young boy’s movement, the goblin tried to back away and create a distance between it and the human standing before him. The moment it began to open the gap, it saw from the left side of its vision the shadow of a dagger aiming directly at its temple. Due to the previously generated momentum of its lunge, the goblin was unable to change directions in time and could only watch helplessly as the lethal strike approached.
Completing his strike, Vahn fell powerlessly on the now dead goblin.
The moment he touched the ground, he could feel a painful throb coming from his left arm, which he was now unable to move. He could feel the sickening flow of his blood as it left his body, reminding him of the thousands of similar times he felt it in his previous life. The cooling sensation in his mind began to become more powerful, and Vahn was able to notice his heart, which was previously beating rapidly due to the flooding of adrenaline, was now beginning to slow.
As he lay on the ground atop the corpse of his first kill, he began to take deep an heavy breathes. He knew that Goblins were among the weakest creatures in this world, and had he failed to land the blow at the expense of his left arm he most likely would have died, bringing an end to his journey before it even started. He began to lament at his powerlessness, as a fierce desire to become stronger awakened deep within the core of his being.
Mustering what strength remained in his body, Vahn stood up, hunched over. He began to hobble towards the entrance of the cave, praying that the interior might offer him safe haven through the coming night. He followed the entrance and continued onwards for about 20 meters before the cave suddenly opened up. Vahn noted quickly that the cavern was about 8 meters in diameter, and the walls were studded with small crystals that emitted a weak light which brought a mild illumination to the dark interior. Vahn cuddled up next to the brightest crystal in an effort to use its light to examine his wound.
Suddenly, his thought process was once again brought to an immediate halt. As he looked at the blood dripping from the wound on his arm, Vahn couldn’t help but feel a peculiar sensation, like butterflies within his stomach trying to bore their way out. The blood dripping from his arm was a deep crimson…a stark contrast from the pale golden colored blood that haunted him in his previous life.
Inspecting the wound, he could see through the mangled flesh severed blood vessels and tendons, which helped explain why he was now unable to move it.
“Luckily the knife was small and didn’t break any bones…”
(*Yes, but you need to wash the wound and apply pressure quickly. Goblin daggers are usually unclean, and the wound they cause, if left untreated could fester and even result in death!*)
Vahn followed her instructions as he flushed the wound using the Decanter of Replenishment. He also made sure to drink several mouth-fulls himself to prevent passing out and developing a fever due to dehydration. As someone who was very experienced with dealing with blood loss, Vahn knew several of the important steps in treating wounds. It was just the fact that others typically dealt with any injuries he sustained that caused him to slightly overlook it.
After cleaning and dressing the wound using a strip he had cut from his tunic, Vahn found a relatively flat area within the cavern to lay down. He noticed that the crystals within the cavern not only produced light, but they also emitted a very moderate amount of heat which kept the interior of the cave warm.
As he lay back staring at the top of the cavern, he began to fantasize that each of the crystals was the various ‘records’ within ‘The Path’. He imagined traversing through the worlds, becoming stronger, meeting both friends and enemies, and eventually even finding his mother…
As he began to drift off into unconsciousness, one final thought came to Vahn’s mind which he felt an urge to speak aloud.
(A/N: Just kidding~Next part is the real quote.)
“I’m home…” he whispered into the cavern as sleep overtook him.