System Change

Chapter 9: Through the Forest

Chapter 8: A Close Shave

Derek watched as Thomass head fell and his breathing went lax. That didnt take long. Derek summoned a sleeping bag from his bracelet and placed it on the ground close to the fire. He then picked Thomas up and carefully put him in the sleeping bag and zipped it up. Thats better.

After getting Thomas settled, Derek began to think about what he needed to do. I dont really have a plan. There arent any Invaders I need to fight or any goals I need to work towards. I guess I just need to level and learn more about this world. First, I should see to it that the kid gets home safe. Its the least I can do. Derek put a few more logs on the fire to keep it burning through the night. Then he sat close to Thomas and went deep into meditation. With the level of the skill, Greater Meditation was much more refreshing than sleeping.

Time passed as the two rested through the night. Only the crackling of the fire could be heard coming from the camp. Eventually, the sun broke over the horizon. A new day had begun.

Derek had been deep in meditation, but with his new upgrade, he could still maintain awareness of his surroundings. He had heard some rustling through the night, but the noise never grew any louder, so he never confronted whatever it was.

Derek opened his eyes to look at the remains of the fire. He had not fed it all night, and there was not much left other than hot coals. As the fire dimmed, the rustling had gotten louder, with the fire now out, Derek knew that whatever creature was in the forest would no longer stay back. Derek closed his eyes and concentrated on his hearing. I really cant tell if my old Enhanced Perception skill is working or not. Ive never been able to test it since unlocking it during my time in the void. Maybe I need to find some type of perception based skill in this system. Though, my perception has always been good, so its really not a priority.

Derek listened as the rustling stopped and lumbering footsteps started approaching. He opened his eyes and saw that Thomas was stirring awake. “Hey kid,” Derek said. “You sleep well? You were really out of it last night.” Thomass eyes were open and he sat up, just noticing that he was in a sleeping bag. His mouth moved as he was about to answer, but his eyes widened and he was unable to get anything to come out.

Derek grinned as he knew that Thomas had seen whatever creature was “stalking” them. He finally turned to see a giant bear creeping towards them, about 25 meters away. Something was off about the bear, as it looked sickly. Derek decided to test his Identify skill on the bear and see if the bear was close enough to be identified.

Dark Bear(Diseased)

Level 48

A Dark Bear native to the forest. A disease has set in, and it is slowly converting into an undying species.

Ew. So something is fucking with the forest and causing disease to everything in it. Derek summoned his glaive, stood up, and began walking towards the bear. Being provoked by Derek, the Dark Bear roared and began its charge. Derek moved faster, getting within reach of the bear.

The bear swung its clawed paw at Dereks armored chest. Ducking under the swing to avoid getting a scratch on his armor, Derek moved behind the bear. Without looking, Derek swung his glaive in an upward arc, feeling it bite into something, then release. He turned to look at his work.

The head of the Dark Bear landed before its body even had a chance to fall. If this thing is going to turn into a zombie soon, you gotta go for the head. Derek walked over to the motionless head and ran his glaive through its brain. “Double-tap bitches.” Derek said, remembering some of his favorite movies back on Earth.

Derek viewed the notifications he received after beheading the bear.

You have killed level 48 Dark Bear(Diseased)

277 Experience Gained

Level Up

Level Up

90/169 Experience to Next Level

Derek was now a level 5, 79 experience away from level 6.

Derek unsummoned his glaive and walked back over and sat by Thomas. “Hey, Tommy. Whats the deal with this forest? That bear was diseased, and my skill said that it was in the process of turning into an undying creature.”

Thomas was shocked. He had heard people talking about the strange things happening to the forest, but never thought it was affecting the monsters too. “You said that it was changing to undying? Thats bad, real bad.” Thomas clenched his fists. “If thats true, then none of the villages by the forest are safe.” Thomas was thinking about his own village. It was not too close to the forest, but it was not far enough away to be unaffected. And his friends from the other villages would be doomed.

“Ok, but how has it gotten this bad without anyone knowing what was going on? Surely the forest didnt die overnight.” Derek could not understand how the villages could let this happen without investigating the problem.

“Its not that nobody noticed. The forest has been getting bad slowly since before I was born. Years ago, Torith sent some high level adventurers to investigate, but they didnt find anything. They just said that it seemed like the forest was dying naturally and would eventually completely die off” Thomas answered.

“Torith?” Derek asked.

“Torith is the name of the city closest to the forest and villages. If we absolutely need to go into a city, Torith is where we go. It is still so far away that it takes months of travel just to get there and back. Ive never been there, but my grandpa went there with my father when he was young.” Thomas stopped talking for a moment, thinking about what his grandpa had told him. “Also, the city is named after the lord and his family. Rydan Torith is the current city lord.”

Sounds like some adventurers didnt take this job very seriously. “If all the creatures turn undying, how will it affect the city?” Derek asked.

“It will affect all of the villages anywhere near the forest. Those people will probably journey to the city to look for help. There already isnt enough room in the city, so with all the people moving there, it should get worse.” Thomas said. “It will probably be bad on the city lords reputation if others find out what happened to a forest in his domain. He wouldnt care about the starving people in the city, but a hit to his reputation would anger him.”

“Do you know of how something like this happens?” Derek asked Thomas.

“I dont. Youll have to ask my grandpa or an elder from another village, they may know.” Thomas was not sure of a cause. He had only heard stories of undying creatures before, never thinking that he may have to experience it firsthand.

“Well, we cant do anything right now anyway, no use in worrying about it.” Derek put the undying creature out of his mind for now. “Well leave soon to look for a village, then we can get you home. But first.” Derek pulled a mirror out from his spacial bracelet.

“Holy shit!” Derek could not help to shout at the figure staring back at him through the mirror. “How are you even talking to me when I look like this? Why didnt you say anything?” He was a mess, literally. His hair went everywhere and his beard looked like a birds nest. He was still surprised that there were not any grey streaks in his hair though.

Derek looked at the kid. “First things first.” Derek summoned a small black device with an odd blade on the end. He used Identify to make sure it still worked.

Mana Clippers

Attack

Durability

5

120/125

An unknown magical weapon made by an unknown blacksmith.

Costs 5 mana per minute to use

“Kid, you got mana right?” Derek asked.

“Yeah, I have the base 10 wisdom that gives everyone 100 mana. Why, what is that?” Thomas replied.

“This is a magic weapon, it costs 5 mana per minute to use. You can use magic weapons as a level 0 right?” Derek answered and asked another question.

“Yeah, it should be no problem.” Thomas was confused again. It seems like Ive spent more time being confused with this man that I have the entire rest of my life.

“Good, catch.” Derek threw the Mana Clippers over to Thomas. “Now channel your mana into the weapon.”

Thomas did as told and the blade on the end started glowing blue and vibrating. Is he giving me this magic weapon to defend myself? Magic weapons cost so much, even the basic ones. Thomas could not help getting excited. He was holding a magic weapon, his grandparents had never even held a magic weapon before.

“Now, think about the guard on the back of the blade leaving about 8 millimeters.” Derek gave Thomas instructions.

Thomas focused on what Derek said and to his surprise, the odd attachment on the blade moved forward, covering the blade.

“Good, now come stand behind me.” Derek commanded.

Thomas did as told again.

“Alright, now, run the clippers through my hair and give me a haircut.” Derek finally told Thomas what he was doing.

Thomas stumbled, almost falling. “You said haircut?” He asked.

“Yes, those are hair clippers, I never leave home without them. Now, get cutting, move from front to back until my hair is all the same length.” Derek said.

Thomas gave in. All that excitement and expectation, and now Im just a glorified hairdresser. Thomas did not know whether he should laugh or cry. He ran the clippers through Dereks hair and the hair fell off smoothly, leaving all that remained the same length.

Although he thought doing this was rather demeaning, especially after the buildup, Thomas could not help but be fascinated at how the magical weapon worked. He was entranced seeing the guarded blade glide through the mans unkempt hair and leaving only a small but perfectly even amount of coal black hair on the mans head.

Thomas did not know how long had passed, but when next he looked down, he was finished. The mans hair was all 8 millimeters long.

“Good, now give me the clippers back.” Derek demanded.

Thomas reluctantly handed the magic weapon back to Derek. How amazing was that? That is so much easier than using a blade to cut hair. What else does this man have in that storage device? Thomas wondered.

Derek reactivated the clippers and handed Thomas the mirror. “Here, hold this in front of me and be still.” He said.

Thomas accepted the mirror and did as asked.

Cant trust the kid not to fuck up my beard, I got to do this myself. Derek took the clippers and cut his beard off, leaving a small amount covering his face. Then he changed the guard length and cut at it some more. I love having high Dexterity. Derek mused. Soon after, his face was shaven and only a stylish beard remained, Derek never being one for a mustache. “Alright kid, good job. Give me the mirror back.”

Thomas was spaced out, not hearing Derek. He was staring at a completely different person sitting in front of him. He just realized that Derek was young. Hes not even as old as my father would have been. Derek repeated himself and Thomas broke out of his trance. “Yes, here.” He stammered as he passed the mirror back to Derek.

“Thanks. Now I just need to find a river for a bath, then we can get you home.” Derek put everything back into his spacial bracelet, sleeping bag included. ”Come on, let ’s go. ”

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