The Selection

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Chapter 37 - Post Academy - Encounter

She grabs my hair. I bring her body closer to me in a cuddle, pressing her firm, petite breasts against me. My tongue wraps around hers inside her mouth as I rest a hand on her neck. I stick a leg between hers and then press my raging erection against her leg. Her tongue pushes mine back into my mouth. I swallow as her tongue lunges toward my throat. She pants and moans softly. My heart pounds rapidly, and my palms are sweaty.

I grab both of her breasts while pushing her on her back, my mouth never leaving hers. Suddenly, she turns her head away, pushes me back, and squeals quietly. The blanket covering us falls off at the same time. I open my eyes. Only two small pieces of clothing cover her bare body. A breeze chills my warm body. I scoot closer to her and then grab one of her hands with both of mine. I stare into her eyes and ask, “Luna, what’s wrong?”

She doesn’t answer immediately. She looks away and then back at me. “Sorry, Umm…”

She looks away again. Her face is flushed red. She looks into my eyes and asks, “Do you wanna…do it with me?”

Her eyes sparkle. It takes me a moment to process her question. My face burns up gradually while my heart pounds harder. I let her hands go, force a smile, and then answer, “N-no! Of-of course not!”

I force a laugh but then stop. Her facial expression doesn’t change. My eyes lock on her breasts where my hands were and then back on her eyes. I relax my facial expressions and then gulp. I want to look away, but I keep eye contact. “Yeah…”

“Do you love me?”

“Yeah. I love you, Luna.”

She smiles and then says. “If you love me forever, then I’ll do it with you…”

I clench her hand tighter and respond, “I’ll love you forever. No matter what happens.”

She grins. “Then, it’s okay.”

She lies back on the bed sideways. I gulp before lying down too. I slowly slide my fingers across her back. Her skin is soft and silky. She doesn’t resist as I unclasp her bra. I flare my nostrils as I drag it off, revealing her bare breasts. I bring my head closer to hers. I stop when she tugs on my shirt. “Oh, right.”

She giggles. Oh, shit… I said that out loud…

I blush and take off my shirt. I move closer to Luna as I drape the blanket over us. My lips lock with hers again. Our tongues mingle. Lightly at first, but it grows intense. My hand moves over her breasts. Her nipple is hard. I grab her breast with a hand while sliding my other hand across her inner thigh. She squeezes my hand with her legs. I slide my fingers across her underwear. I don’t know why it’s wet. Every time her moan resounds, it adds fuel to the growing fire inside me.

I sit up and then grab her underwear with both hands. I slide it off her legs. She rests the back of her hands on the bed next to her head. I pant as my eyes linger on the most sensitive part of her body. I gulp before moving a hand closer to it. She squirms a little and moans softly as my finger slide across. I slowly insert a finger inside her to satisfy my curiosity. She closes her eyes. Her lips slightly parted with faint, fast breaths resounding. Her legs squeeze together as my fingers moved inside her, eliciting soft moans.

I can’t hold it anymore. Immediately, I take off my briefs and then position my body on top of hers. Our eyes meet, but neither of us says a word. She spreads her legs apart. I gulp and then slowly drop down. My heart feels like it’s about to explode. Suddenly, someone bangs on my door. I stop moving.

“Hey, Kai! Wake up!” Hiro shouts. I click my tongue and turn my head to the door.

“What do you want?!”

“Sitos’ here! We can finally go on a mission!” He tries to open the door, but it’s locked.

“Can’t you wait like an hour?”

“No! I can’t wait anymore! We still need to find Luna! Just take a nap later!”

Just take a nap later, he says… I frown and turn back to Luna. Quietly, I say, “Let’s continue.”

“If ya don’t come outta there within five minutes, I’ll bust it down!” His footsteps resound away. My eyes lock on Luna, but it feels like the mood we built up is completely gone despite that our bodies are inches apart. She giggles.

“Don’t worry,” Luna says and pats me on the head. “We’ll continue tonight.”

I sigh. “Yeah…”

I get off her and then put on my clothes. “I need to get my things from my room. I’ll meet you in the lobby.”

“Alright,” I respond as I start to put on my armor. She opens the door and then leaves. I finish equipping my armor and then clip on my sheaths. I leave the room and then go downstairs. Everyone except Luna is waiting there.

“Finally, he’s here!” Hiro exclaims. “Let’s hurry up and find Luna. Marin said she left early to go shoppin’.”

Marin smiles. Footsteps resound down the stairs. Luna appears out of breath. “Sorry, I’m late.”

A small spiked mace is clipped to her belt. Hiro asks, “Luna, where’d ya come from? I checked your room, and ya weren’t there.”

Hiro turns to Marin and then asks, “Didn’tcha say she went out to go shoppin’?”

“Yep,” Marin replies. “She must’ve returned earlier than I thought.”

“That’s strange. How’d we miss her? I was waitin’ here this entire time.”

“That is because she did not go shopping,” Sitos blurts out and then looks at me. “She was in Kai’s room this entire time. Right, Kai?”

My face burns up as everyone’s gaze shifts to me. I mutter, “Uh…yeah…”

“Marin, ya lied to me!” Hiro exclaims. Marin stays quiet. “What the hell was Luna doin’ in your room so early for, Kai? Luna, why didn’tcha answer when I pounded on that door?”

Sitos smiles and says, “Yes. Enlighten us.”

Luna smiles, blushes, and says, “Well, if you really wanna know… We were—”

I cough loudly. “More importantly, didn’t you mention we were going on a mission? Does your dad finally have a mission for us, Sitos?”

“No, he is still occupied with the same thing.”

“What?! I thought ya came here because he finally has somethin’ for us after a week of nothing! Hiro exclaims.

“You jumped to conclusions too early, Hiro. Sitos told us while you ran up the stairs,” Drugo says. I frown.

“So you’re telling me I came down here for nothing…?” I ask and then sigh. I start to walk back toward the stairs.

“It does not look like my dad will resolve his problem anytime soon. Stop being a little bitch and look for a request with us,” Sitos suggests. I stop.

“Yeah! That sounds like a good idea! Let’s go!” Hiro exclaims and then runs out the door. We follow him at our own paces. I stay in the back with Luna.

I gaze at her weapon and say, “By the way Luna, I see you finally bought yourself a weapon.”

“Yep! Because you said I needed one just in case.”

“Isn’t that too heavy for you?”

“I can handle it if I use both hands.”

“I see. Don’t be too reckless. It’s a last resort.”

She smiles and says, “I know. Are you worried about me?”

“O-of course I am… Did you have to make me say it?”

“I wanted to hear it from your lips,” she explains and then clasps an arm around mine. I try to pull back, but she doesn’t let me.

"Careful. What if someone sees us?” I ask as I look in front of me. Hiro and the others aren’t in sight. I sigh. “We’re in luck. They’ve already gone ahead.”

“What’re you so afraid of?” Luna asks. “They’ve known for a while now.”

I cock an eyebrow and interject, “Huh?”

Luna stops walking and turns her head around. I stop walking and look behind me too. I rear back, finding the others are smiling closely behind us. “When did you guys…”

“Even I noticed there had been somethin’ between ya two the past few months,” Hiro says. “I was playin’ dumb this whole time.”

I skeptically curl one side of my lips upward. Right…because you need to pretend…

He continues, “Ya don’t hafta be so secretive ’bout it anymore. Especially after last night.”

I knit my eyebrows and ask, “Last night?”

“Like I said, ya don’t hafta hide it anymore. We know ya two slept together last night. That’s why you’re like this now, right?”

I frown, thinking back to last night. I can’t tell him that nothing happened despite that we were in bed together… It only came close this morning when Luna suddenly jumped on me.

“Yeah, we did sleep together last night,” I admit.

“Yep, we did!” Luna exclaims.

“Is that all you wanted to say?” I ask. “Let’s hurry to the Adventurer’s District.”

Before I have a chance to turn back around, Sitos says, “Now is the time to come clean of anything else you are hiding.”

“Huh? What else would I be hiding?”

“You tell us.”

“There’s nothing. Let’s go,” I say and then turn around, bringing Luna with me as I walk forward. We enter the Trade District a few minutes later.

“Hey, the couple over there. Come over here for a second,” an old man sitting behind a stall on my left says. We walk up to it, the others behind us. “How would you like to try this game of luck? If you win, you’ll win the prize of one gold coin. It costs one silver coin to play.”

There’s a stack of scratch cards on the stand. I’ve seen this type of business before in the Residential District in the past. Emdos told me that I should never waste money on it. I walk away and say, “Not interested.”

Only a few seconds pass before Hiro asks, “How do ya play?”

I sigh and then go back. “It’s simple. You take a coin and use it to scratch off the circular coating. If you match three W’s in any direction, you’ll move on to the next stage.”

“Alright, I’m in!” Hiro exclaims and then hands the man a silver coin.

“Good luck. You’re free to take any card you want,” the man informs. Hiro takes the one from the top.

“Hiro, you shouldn’t waste your money on this type of thing…” I say. He ignores me as he scratches off all nine circles. There’s a line of three W’s on the bottom.

“I won!”

“Wow! The chance of winning was only one out of twenty! You got past the hard part. The next part is easier,” the man says and then puts three cups on the table with the brim down. He shows a rock in the palm on his hand. “I’m going to hide this rock under one of these cups. You have to guess the right one.”

“Got it,” Hiro says. The man takes a cover from the ground and then puts it on the table. It blocks our view of the cups. A few seconds later, he removes it.

“Okay. Pick a cup.”

“Hmm… I want the one on the right!”

“Okay. I’m going to give you another opportunity right now. For only ten silver coins, I’ll reveal one of the cups that are empty.” I knit my eyebrows.

“I’ll do it,” Hiro says instantly. He hands over ten silver coins. The man removes the middle cup.

“Now you have a fifty percent chance of winning one gold coin! If you want to change to the cup on the left, that’s fine with me.”

“No, I want the one on the right!”

“Alright,” the man says and then lifts up the cup on the right. There’s nothing under it. “Too bad.”

The man lifts up the cup on the left a second later, revealing the rock. Hiro puts another silver coin on the table. He takes another scratch card and exclaims, “I’ll play again!”

“Sure,” the man says and smiles. “Don’t worry; you just got unlucky.”

“I won again!”

“That’s some amazing luck you have there! Alright, let me set up part two again,” the man says and then puts up the cover. Seconds later, he removes it.

“I’ll take the middle one.”

“For ten silver coins—”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it,” Hiro says and then drops ten silver coins on the stand. The man takes it and then reveals the cup on the right to be empty. Both of the man’s hands are behind the stall.

“Do you want to change to the one on the left?”

“Nah, I’ll stick to the middle one,” Hiro says.

“Wait, you should try changing to the one on the left,” I suggest.

“What, why?”

“Just a hunch.”

“Fine, but if I lose… It’s your fault. I’ll change to the left.”

“Sure.” The man brings up his right hand from under the table and then lifts up the cup on the left. It’s empty. Hiro grunts and turns to me.

“Damn! This is your fault!” The man brings up his left hand and then lifts up the cup in the middle.

“Tough luck. This time it was the correct decision to stay with the middle. You’re on a roll, though. You should play again. You can still win more than you lost if you keep playing.”

“Fine!” Hiro puts another silver coin on the table and then takes a scratch card.

Hmm… Is this old guy doing what I think he is? The next time he takes out those cups, I’ll make sure…

Hiro scratches out all nine circles, revealing that it’s not a winner. “So close. You only needed one more match to win. Don’t worry; you still have a lot of chances to win!”

Five minutes pass of Hiro never making it past the first stage. Hiro stomps the ground. “Damn! This one ain’t a winner either!”

He reaches into his pouch but doesn’t take anything out. “Crap… I didn’t bring any more money with me. I’ll run back to get some!”

I grab his arm and say, “Don’t bother. Let me try winning your money back for you.”

“Oh, you’ll do that for me?”

“Yeah, no problem. How much did you spend so far?”

“Uhh… I’m not sure.”

“84 silver coins,” Marin answers.

“I see,” I say and then take my arm back from Luna. I put a silver coin on the table.

“Well, it’s the youngster from earlier! You’ve decided to play have you?” I lift up the top half of scratch cards and then put the bottom half on top. I take the first one and then scratch it off with a coin. I don’t win. I repeat this for several more scratch cards. I finally have a winner.

“Congratulations! With the odds of one out of twenty, you won after only five tries!”

One in twenty, my ass. I shake my head as the man prepares the cups. The moment he reveals the cups, I say, “I’ll take the middle one.”

His hands are behind the stall. “Sure. Do you want to spend—”

“Sure.” I put ten silver coins on the table. He reveals that the left cup is empty.

“Now, do you want to change to the one on the right?”

I unsheathe one of my swords and then point it toward his face. “Don’t move.”

Hiro shouts, “Kai, what the hell are ya doin’?!”

A few people in the streets stop to look at me. I ignore them and say, “Put both of your hands on the table palm up.”

“Wh-what’s this about? The guards will have you arrested,” the man says as he lifts both of his hands palms up. There’s nothing in his hands.

“Lift up both of those cups.”

“Yo-you can only choose one…”

“I don’t care. If one of them is a winner, you can keep the money.” He turns pale. After several seconds, he finally picks up both cups. The rock isn’t under either of them.

“What the hell?! Where’s the rock?!” Hiro exclaims.

“He probably dropped it before revealing his palms,” I deduce. I stare into the man’s eyes. “Now who’s gonna call the guards? You’re the one who’s gonna be arrested now for fraudulent business.”

“Let me beat up this guy for cheatin’ me!” I grab Hiro’s arm to hold him back.

“Th-there’s no need to be hasty… I’ll give you youngsters all your money back and the one gold coin prize.”

“I want all your money,” I say.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Either you lose all your money, lose your business, and get arrested…or lose all your money.”

“What is going on over there?!” someone exclaims. A guard is running toward us. I sheathe my sword. The guard stops in front of the old man. “Sir, are these people threatening you?”

I glare into the old man’s eyes before he turns to the guard. He answers, “No… It was my fault. He won the jackpot, and I refused to give him the money. Sorry for the trouble.”

“I see. Do not let this happen again,” the guard says and then leaves. The old man sighs. He takes out a pouch of coins and then drops it on the table.

“There. Take it and leave.” I take his pouch and then toss it to Hiro.

“You can carry this,” I say as I pick up my ten silver coins. “Can we skip the mission now and go back? What we just raked is probably worth more than the mission…”

“No way! I’m not doin’ it for the money. I’m bored! How much is in here anyway…”

“Count it later. Let’s get going already,” I say and head toward the Adventurer’s District. Luna smiles and clasps her arm around mine again.

“As expected of Kai! How did you figure out what he was doing?” Luna asks.

“I didn’t. I just had a hunch he was doing something based on where his hands were. He seemed awfully enthusiastic about potentially losing his profits too. It rubbed me the wrong way,” I respond.

“A hunch? If you were wrong, you could have gotten all of us into trouble,” Sitos says. “You did not tell us what you were going to do that. Is that not irresponsible?”

“Yeah, you’re right… Sorry,” I apologize.

“Wait,” Sitos says. I stop walking, free my arm, and turn around. “Sorry? You are fucking sorry? That is not going to cut it for me. I want you to get on the ground and apologize.”

Luna frowns and asks, “Why does Kai have to do that? You don’t have to be so uptight about it because he figured it out before you did!”

“What? That does not have to do with anything,” Sitos replies.

“Wow! There’re at least four gold coins in here!” Hiro exclaims. Luna crosses her arms.

“Doesn’t it? You’re always competing with Kai,” Luna answers.

“And you are always taking his god damn side. If Hiro or I pulled what he did, you would reprimand us.”

“Only because you’d fail.”

Drugo walks between them and then asks, “Sitoster, it turned out fine this time, so can’t we move past this?

Sitos shoves him aside and then says, “Stay out of this Drugo. You usually take a neutral stance, but now you’re taking Kai’s side too.”

“Drugo didn’t do anything wrong, so why’re you being aggressive to him?” Luna asks.

Sitos has been acting strange lately… Maybe family pressures have him on edge.

“Okay, I’ll do it,” I say and then drop to my knees.

“Kai, get back up. You don’t have to listen to him…” Luna says.

“Nah, it’s okay. It’s not a big deal,” I say and then place my palms on the ground with my head down. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

“Hmm… Alright, I will forgive you,” Sitos says. I stand back up, finding that he’s smiling.

“Hmph!” Luna interjects and turns her head away from Sitos. She grabs my hand and says, “Let’s go.”

We continue our way to the Adventurer’s District, eventually arriving at the Adventurer’s Hub. There aren’t that many people here compared to a week ago during the uproar over an S ranked request. We walk toward the bulletin board for E ranked requests.

“I don’t care which one we accept. Just take one and go,” I say.

“All of these sound borin’… Let’s try a D ranked request!” Hiro exclaims.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We only graduated two months ago. We should probably wait a while longer before we try a D rank,” I say.

“Bah! The E ranks we’ve done weren’t that difficult. I’m sure we can handle it. A D rank can’t stop Hiro the Great.”

“There’s no harm in checking what requests are available for D rank,” Drugo says. Sitos is already at the D rank bulletin board.

“Did you find something, Sitos?” I ask.

“This one might be good,” Sitos says while pointing to a request. “We need to collect three Albino Flying Squirrel pelts. The reward depends on the quality of the pelts. They are found in any forest area, but it recommends a place just south of Drymo. We have been there before.”

“Yeah, let’s take that one!” Hiro exclaims. “There’s nothin’ wrong with that one, is there Kai?”

“It’s up to everyone else. Does anyone wanna stick to an E rank request?” I ask. No one answers. I sigh. “Looks like we’re hunting Albino Flying Squirrels.”

“Yeh! I’ll go take it to the lady right now!” Hiro exclaims, takes the piece of paper from the bulletin, and then runs to the receptionists. We follow. He slams the paper on the counter. “’Hiro the Great and Company’s gonna take this request.”

“Sure. We need to check all of your licenses for verification,” the lady says. We hand her all of our licenses. She takes them and the request. “I’ll be right back.”

She goes through a door in the back and closes it behind her. I still have a hard time accepting that as our team name…

Two minutes later, she comes back. She gives us our licenses back and the request. “You all are set. Have a safe trip.”

We leave and head toward the Transportation Center nearby. We verify our identity and collect our key. We go to our garage in the building and then unlock it. I suggest, “We should hire a driver this time. I’ll pay for it.”

“I don’t understand how you can blame Hiro for wasting money on gambling when you’re like this,” Luna says. “It’s because it’s your turn next, right?”

I smile and answer, “You know me best.”

“You shouldn’t waste your money like that, Kai. At least Hiro’s mindset is earning additional wealth, but your mindset is just losing money,” Luna says.

“I don’t mind driving the caravan again,” Drugo says.

“Are you sure, Drugo? Don’t force yourself. It’s better if Kai wastes his money instead,” Luna says.

“It’s not wasting money!” I exclaim.

“Yup, I’m sure. It doesn’t bother me that much,” Drugo answers.

“Thanks, Drugo,” I say and then walk into the caravan. The others except Drugo follow. The caravan starts to move soon afterward.

“We should look in the Drosera Monster Codex to learn more about the monster we’re hunting,” Luna suggests.

“Good idea,” I say and then approach the book we left on the floor. I pick it up and then open it. Luna stands next to me looking down at the book. I flip to the pages covering D ranked monsters. There’s nothing about Albino Flying Squirrels. “That’s weird. It’s not here.”

“Maybe we missed it. Try flipping through it again,” Luna suggests. I flip the pages in reverse slowly. There’s nothing. Quietly, she says, “Was it categorized wrong? Try checking the E ranked monsters.”

I flip through the pages covering E ranked monsters, eventually finding the Albino Flying Squirrel. I whisper, “Oh, here it is. Is this actually an E ranked mission after all?”

“No, look. It says that this monster’s elusive and nocturnal. It’s not strong, but it’s hard to find and catch. When in danger it can release an odor that attracts all nearby monsters.”

“I see. So that’s why it’s a D ranked request. Hiro might be tempted to do something stupid if we tell him about the odor, so let’s not tell him anything.”

Luna smiles and then says, “He might not be happy about hunting an E ranked monster either. He’s gonna be unhappy regardless.”

“Did ya find it?” Hiro suddenly asks from behind me. I close the book in a panic.

“Uh, yeah. It’s a really tough monster to kill,” I say.

“That’s great to hear. I can hardly wait!”

“Marin, what’s wrong?” Luna asks. She walks toward Marin, whose head is tilted down. “Marin?”

Marin looks up and then says, “Oh, sorry. What’d you say?”

“Are you worried about your parents?” Luna asks.

“Yeah…”

“Don’t worry! Your parents are strong! They have 28 other S ranked and A ranked adventurers with them too!”

“I know, but…it’s been a week. Something might’ve happened...”

“Something definitely happened,” Sitos says. “Some random no name shows up offering 15000 gold coins to explore a cave he found in the ‘Cursed Territory.’ Even my family does not have that much money lying around. Sounds fishy to me.”

Marin’s eyes quiver. She buries her head between her legs in fetal position. Luna exclaims, “Sitos, that wasn’t necessary!”

“What? There is no sense in holding onto false hope. She should prepare for the worst.”

“False hope? We don’t know for sure that something happened to them! Their group’s the strongest out of all the groups in the past to explore the ‘Cursed Territory.’”

“Then how do you explain them not coming back after one week? They had a guide who knew exactly where he was going. I find it hard to believe that it would take that long to explore a cave.”

“I don’t know! I’m sure there’s a reason.”

“You say there’s a reason…but you yell at me because I said something definitely happened. Are you stupid?”

“Hiro the Great versus Albino Flying Squirrel!” Hiro exclaims. He swings his hammer around. Luna frowns and points her eyebrows downward.

“No, you’re the stupid one! Can’t you tell that you’re hurting Marin with your words?”

“The Albino Flying Squirrel’s dead! Hiro the Great’s the winner!”

“That is her problem.” Luna steps in and then slaps Sitos across the face. I run between them.

“Luna, that was a bit too much…” I say skeptically.

“You’re a jerk!” Luna exclaims.

“That hurt, you stupid bitch. You are always against me no matter what the situation.”

“Sitos, you too… Let’s calm down…” I say with a forced smile. “How’s Sofiel do—”

“Because you’re always wrong! You weren’t always like this, so why are you doing this now? Because I rejected you?”

I widen my eyes. What…?

Sitos scowls, snarls, and then pushes me down. I drop the book. He takes a step toward Luna and then slaps her in the face. It resounds louder than the previous one. She falls.

"Hey!" I exclaim and quickly stand up. I push on his armor against the wall. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Sitos?!”

“She said something completely unrelated and unnecessary,” Sitos says and then shoves me away. He walks to the opposite corner of the caravan. I turn to Luna. She stands up with a hand on her cheek.

“Luna, are you okay?” I ask while holding her with an arm. Luna puts her hand down, revealing a red mark on her cheek.

“Yeah. Thanks, Kai. Sitos, you’re a sore loser! Kai wouldn’t act like that even if I rejected him!” Luna exclaims and then hugs me with her face on my body. Sitos is sitting against the wall.

“Luna, you really shouldn’t provoke him anymore…” I say quietly. This happens the moment Drugo isn’t in the picture. I should’ve insisted on hiring a driver after all.

Hiro swings his hammer around and exclaims, “In round two, Hiro the Great—”

“Hiro. Shut the fuck up," Sitos says. Hiro stops swinging his hammer and then sits against the wall opposite to Sitos. I sigh and then sit against the wall near me.

I guess the only thing to do now’s to take a nap… I put my arms around Luna and close my eyes.

The caravan comes to a halt. I open my eyes, finding that I’m on the floor. Luna’s next to me. I yawn and stand up. Drugo opens the door and then says, “We’re here.”

Everyone wakes up, and we go outside. No one says a word. “I heard everyone yelling earlier. Did something happen?”

“Nothing,” Luna and Sitos say simultaneously facing opposite directions. I sigh.

“What’re we waitin’ for? Let’s go hunt these D ranked monsters!” Hiro exclaims. “Where do we find ’em?”

I ponder for a moment whether I should tell him the full truth. I end up informing everyone about the monster we’re hunting. We come up with a strategy, and then we go into the forest.

I climb a nearby tree to the top. There aren’t any tree holes. I slowly climb down while looking in various directions. I spot a tree hollow a couple of trees over. I point and shout, “I found one over there!”

The others run in the direction I point to. Luna points to a tree and asks, “This one?”

“No, it is this one, stupid,” Sitos says, pointing to the correct tree. I quickly slide down the tree and then join up with the others.

I force a smile and then say, “Sitos’ right.”

“See? Stupid.”

“Stop calling me stupid!” Luna gives Sitos a glower and grunts. Drugo steps between them.

“We shouldn’t fight amongst ourselves. Why not solve your dispute peacefully? You can have a race to see who can find the most Albino Flying Squirrels.”

“That is fine with me. But if I win, you will get on the ground and give me a heartfelt apology for everything you said against me today.”

“Fine! And if I win, you’ll apologize for hitting me and stop trying to pick fights with everyone!”

“Sure, but that is if you win. Do not hold a grudge against me when you lose,” Sitos says and then walks away.

“Hmph!” Luna interjects and does the same. I sigh.

“Well, I guess I’ll check that tree hole myself,” I say and then climb the nearby tree. I look into the tree hollow, but there’s nothing there. I slide back down. Hiro’s slouched over, and his head is tilted down.

“Ugh…” he interjects with a sigh. “When do I get to do somethin’?”

“We already discussed this. You’ll have an active role when we find the monster,” I say. Luna runs back toward us.

“I found one! Follow me!” she exclaims. We follow her to the indicated tree. She points up the tree and says, “It’s up there.”

“Okay, you and Marin are up,” I say.

“Finally!” Hiro exclaims and then drops his weapon. Marin drops her quilt and bow to the ground. The two climb up the tree on opposite sides. Marin creates a wall of wood that covers up the exit of the hole. I know there’s an opening at the top. Hiro puts a hand over the top of the wall Marin created. Water rushes out of his palm. A second later, a loud squeak resounds. Water flows out of the tree cavity. Hiro pulls his hand back and then water stops leaking from the tree.

“Okay, I sealed it up!” Marin exclaims. The two of them climb down the tree.

“That was it? That was so easy...and boring,” Hiro says.

“Well, it’s different than what you usually do. Isn’t that enough?” I ask.

“Yeh, but… I wanted to hit it with my hammer.”

I sigh and then say, “I’m sure you’ll have a chance, eventually, except it won’t be an Albino Flying Squirrel. We’ll let you get the initiative of any other monsters we encounter.”

“Awesome! Ya can’t take that back anymore. How long do we have to wait here?”

“I think a few minutes are enough for it to drown,” Luna says. “I’m gonna go look for another one!”

Luna runs off. A few minutes pass. Marin starts climbing the tree and says, “I’ll go grab its body.”

Some water flows down the tree as the wall Marin made disappears. Marin reaches into the hole with her hand and then pulls out an Albino Flying Squirrel. She comes back down. The monster is about two feet from head to tail. It’s covered in white fur. A strange smell lingers in the air. It’s neither pleasant nor disgusting.

“What’s that smell?” Hiro asks.

“Probably the gassy odor released by the monster. It’s probably in your Water magic,” I respond.

“Oh! Does this mean monsters are gonna chase us now?!”

“I hope not,” I answer. “It might not attract any monsters because it got mixed with the water.”

Hiro clicks his tongue and then says, “Damn, boring.”

“I found another one!” Luna’s running toward us. She leads us to another tree. We repeat the same process as before.

“I wonder where Sitos went?” I ask.

“He’s not going to be too happy when he comes back…” Marin says. “Luna already won.”

“You’re right… Luna’s about to find our last one while he hasn’t found a single one,” I add. “I’m just glad this was an easy D ranked mission.”

“Hey look! There’s a monster over there!” Hiro exclaims and points to a direction. A Yellow Striped-tailed Mongoose is walking toward a direction where we just were. I look around.

“Looks like it isn’t the only one,” I say. There’s a Horned Rabbit over there too. I gesture my head toward it. It’s going in the same direction as the Yellow Striped-tailed Mongoose.

“I’m gonna go kill ’em!” Hiro exclaims and then starts to run toward the Yellow Striped-tailed Mongoose.

Immediately, I yell, “Wait! Luna’s about to come back, and we need you to take out the last Albino Flying Squirrel!”

Hiro stops running and then walks back. “Damn. Ya can’t do anythin’ without Hiro the Great, can ya?”

I frown. I wonder where those monsters are going… I thought the scent wouldn’t work if it mixed with the water…

Luna returns to us shortly later. We collect the second body of the requested monster and then move on to the final one. We continue as before. Marin and Hiro climb down the tree after filling the tree cavity with water.

“Hey! Where is everyone?!” Sitos yells.

“Over here!” I shout. Sitos pants as he regroups with us. He smells weird. “Where the hell have you been? Luna already found three Albino Flying Squirrels.”

“What?! That is not fair!”

“You lost, and now you’re being a sore loser again? Typical,” Luna says with a smug smile.

“No, I mean I found one a long time ago! But I could not find you all. So I just tried to catch it myself and…” Sitos’ voice dies off and then he looks down.

I raise my eyebrows and then say, “Don’t tell me… You failed, and it sprayed you with the odor…?

“Yeah… Something like that,” he answers. I slap the center of my face with a hand.

“Nice, goin’ Sitos! Now I can finally cure my boredom! Kai, I can initiate, right?”

I sigh and then respond, “Yeah, just don’t stray too far when they come. We don’t know what monsters are in the area.”

“Oh, I see a Yellow Striped-tailed Mongoose! I’m off!” Hiro exclaims as he runs off.

“Well?” Luna asks while facing Sitos. “I’m still waiting. Not only did you lose miserably, but you’re also gonna bring a horde of monsters over to us!”

Sitos looks at her with narrowed eyebrows and a frown. “I will stop picking fights, but I am not going to apologize. You just got lucky.”

Sitos crosses his arms and turns away. “What?! You sore loser!”

I hold Luna back from doing anything that might worsen the situation. “Luna, can you let this go for me? At least until we get back to Drymo.”

Luna smiles and then responds. “Okay!”

“A Horned Rabbit’s coming this way!” Drugo exclaims and then stands in front of the Horned Rabbit’s path. It’s about a feet long and has a six-inch horn on its head. I unsheathe both of my weapons. It leaps with the horn pointing toward Drugo. The horn impacts with Drugo’s shield. I attack it while it bounces off. My blades slice through the Horned Rabbit. It lands on the ground and then leaps toward me. I stab it through the mouth using its own momentum. It twitches a few times before going limp. Something squeals in the direction Hiro went.

“That’s strange. Horned Rabbits aren’t hostile, but it attacked us,” I say.

“It must be a property of the gassy odor emitted by the Albino Flying Squirrel. It didn’t say in the book,” Luna says.

Hiro’s running back toward us. “Help!”

A large group of Yellow Striped-tailed Mongooses chases after him. There are nine of them. Two of them are biting their snouts on the bottom of Hiro’s legs. Luna exclaims, “I’ll take care of the ones behind him!”

Marin shoots several arrows toward the monsters on Hiro’s leg. One of them falls off after two hits on its body. The other one is out of her crosshair. Drugo runs toward the side where the last monster remains. ”Flame pillar!”

Flames in the shape of a circle cover the ground directly behind Hiro. Instantly, fire erupts directly upward. The seven other monsters behind Hiro take a direct hit. A few of the Yellow Striped-tailed Mongooses walk out of the ongoing pillar of fire and then fall on their sides. Smoke rises from their fur. “Get this thing off me!”

Drugo slashes his sword a few times at the monster stuck to Hiro’s leg. It falls after several blows to its body. Luna’s magic disappears after about four seconds have passed since they appeared. I look around and then ask, “Where’s Sitos?”

“Oh, I told him to grab the Albino Flying Squirrel right after Hiro was running back,” Marin informs. Sitos comes down the tree with the monster in hand. Luna is carrying the other two.

“We need to bail before more monsters show up,” Sitos says.

“But I wanna fight more monsters!” Hiro exclaims.

“You already got injured. Haven’t you had enough?” I ask.

“Bah! This is just a flesh wound.”

“Alright, if you find a monster by itself on our way back, you can take it,” I say and then start running back to the caravan. The others follow.

“Alright!” We run for about thirty seconds before Hiro exclaims, “Look!”

I stop running and turn around. Hiro’s pointing to something. “Ain’t that an Albino Flying Squirrel? It’s just sittin’ there starin’ at us!”

It seems exactly like an Albino Flying Squirrel. I knit my eyebrows. I thought they were supposed to be asleep…? The book said they normally avoid attention. It clearly isn’t attracted to the odor, and it isn’t attacking. It doesn’t make sense.

I notice its eyes are red instead of yellow. It gives me a creepy feeling. Hiro runs toward it and shouts, “I won’t be satisfied until I kill one of these with my hammer!”

“Hiro, wait! It might be dangerous!” I warn. Hiro continues running toward it with his hammer held high. He strikes down his hammer on the monster. It doesn’t move and takes the hit directly. Blood splatters around its body. It doesn’t move as a puddle of blood forms. Hiro turns around with a grin.

“What’re ya worried ’bout? It’s only an E ranked monster. Hiro the Great wins against Albino Flying Squirrel!” I sigh.

“Alright, you had your fun. Let’s get outta here,” I say. Hiro starts to walk back. I knit my eyebrows as the body of the monster isn’t in sight anymore. The blood stains are still there. A shiver goes down my spine. “Hiro, get outta there! It’s still alive! It’s not on the ground anymore!”

Hiro turns around and says, “What’re ya talkin’ ’bout?”

I widen my eyes as the monster drops from above. It happens too fast for me to warn. The monster lands on his head and then stretches out its limbs, wrapping around Hiro’s head for a moment. It jumps back into the air. Hiro drops his weapon and falls.

"Hiro!” numerous of us scream.

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