4.0 Zero_Chapter 4: Smile

I woke up at dawn, made sure Clare was sound asleep on the other side of the smoldering campfire, and sat up inside my sleeping bag.

Looks like it worked, I thought.

Last night I experimented by putting a longer ‘nested’ code on myself. I set it to wake me up if anything came less than 20 feet close to us, if Clare woke up or if dawn broke.

I sat facing the East, but instead of appreciating the beautiful sunrise, I thought about several questions that had popped up in my head after yesterday’s events.

When I saw everyone’s status yesterday I was quite shocked. Odog had an ability called “Reloader” that let him reload his crossbow quickly. Most of the bandits had abilities like “Divine Ironing” or “Fast Laundry,” which was kind of depressing.

Clare had an ability called “Sunshine” that made her feel bright and cheerful and spread
its effects to anyone that saw her…

I sighed.

None of these were in the original game but even more surprisingly, everyone seemed to
have abilities! In the game, only the Hero and the Demon Lord had special abilities based on the results of the personality quiz at the start of the game.

And then there were some weird skills that made me a little nervous, but I decided to think about them later.

“You can stop pretending to be asleep now,” I said, without turning around.

Clare jumped, clearly surprised at being found out so easily. My heightened senses made it easy to notice when her breathing changed so I knew when she had woken up.

“I’ll make us some breakfast and tidy up the camp so you should go clean up at the stream down there,” I said, pointing at a patch of trees a few feet away.

Clare hesitated a little before nodding and going towards the stream. By the time she was back, I had cleaned up the camp and made breakfast using Re:write. Surprised by the amount of food laid out over the table, Clare sat down on the other side with her mouth agape. She only started eating after I did.

“Clare, will you be returning to your village now that the bandits have been dealt with?” I asked.

“Yesh,” she said with a mouthful of bread. She swallowed. “But Kai, I wanted to ask you a question, if that’s alright?”

“There’s no harm in asking, so go ahead,” I replied.

“I know it’s rude to ask about someone’s status but what did you use to beat those bandits? I’ve never heard of anything like it before! Was it an ability or a created skill?” she asked, eyes shining.

Created Skill? Don’t tell me!

“Yeah, um, what were created skills again?” I asked.

“Eh! You don’t know about created skills? Kai, you wouldn’t happen to be some creepy hermit or something?” She raised an eyebrow.

I laughed a hollow laugh. “I come from far away, and we don’t have created skills there so of course I wouldn’t know!” I said.

“Far away? Everyone on Erath knows about created skills,” she raised her other eyebrow too.

“Oh, my home is across the ocean. We don’t interact with people from Erath, much,” I said with a perfect poker face. I’d always been a talented liar.

“Across the ocean! How did you get past the storms and the whirlpools and the sea monsters?” she exclaimed.

“That’s a secret! So, since I don’t know anything about this place, I hope you can help me out and tell me a little bit about it,” I said.

“I never thought I’d have to teach someone about something so basic,” she muttered/ “Created skills are skills that weren’t made by the goddesses but were derived from existing skills by humans. Skills like Appraisal or even extra spells like Flamethrower.”

Magic spells are considered skills after all, but wait!

“Wow, I’ve never heard of those skills before. What do they do?” I asked, hiding my nervousness.

“Appraisal lets you see the status of other living things and flamethrower lets you shoot fire from your hands. Every kid wants to learn flamethrower you know, they’re always disappointed if they don’t have an affinity to fire magic and I can’t blame them because it is pretty cool,” she said smugly, since she could use fire magic.

“This appraisal skill must be pretty rare though right?” I said.

“Not really, almost everyone has it.” She smiled..

Shit! Even though I guessed it would be something like this and hid all of my stats with Re:write as soon as I saw Appraisal in their skills sections, don’t tell me she saw it yesterday?

“But don’t worry, it’s rude to check other people’s statuses so I didn’t even think of checking yours,” she said.

Paranoid as I was, I had to make sure of it myself, so I used Re:Write to make Clare unable to lie for a minute

“So, you haven’t tried to check my status?” I asked.

“Of course, no- Yes I have,” she said, her eyes widening in surprise.

“What did you see?” I asked her.

“Nothing! Everything had a weird sign in front of it!” she exclaimed just as the effects of the Re:Write wore off. “What was that? What did you do to me?” She narrowed her eyes in anger but there was a bit of fear in them as well.

I sighed and leaned back in my chair. “Sorry, sorry. Had to make sure. I really love my privacy after all. And hey, you have no right to be angry, didn’t you say that trying to check someone’s status is a rude thing to do?”

“But- but-” she stammered

“We’re even now so let’s just move on, okay?” I said, meeting her eyes, and giving her my most charming smile.

We stared at each other without blinking for a few moments before Clare’s eyes started to water and she looked away.

“Heh”

“Oo”

I smiled and looked at the sun rising across the sky.

“Anyways Clare, you said that you wanted to go back to your village. I’m going in that direction, so I might as well escort you back home. Is that okay?” I asked.

She hesitated a little before sighing and nodding. With that settled, I cleaned up our breakfast and makeshift dining table, and made the wide eyed Clare promise not to tell anyone about my abilities. We then began walking towards Reneste Village.

The road to Reneste village wasn’t very well maintained. Fallen logs and boulders blocked the way occasionally, and the towering trees around the path stopped most of the sunlight from reaching the ground, making it near impossible to see in the late afternoon.

Along the way, I continued to ask Clare about Erath.

“By the way Clare, I don’t know how long it took to get here so could you tell me what date it is?” I asked as we stepped around a rotting log.

“It’s the 8th of Solaron 998 PH,” she replied, jumping across a small puddle.

“We have a different calendar back home so could you explain yours to me?” I asked.

“Wow, even the calendar’s different huh? Well, there are 6 months in a year, each named after a Goddess and each month has 60 days,” she said, facing me while walking backwards.

“Hey, watch where you’re going. You’ll fa-” I said, just as her foot got caught in some vines and she fell on her back.

I sighed and gave her a hand up. She dusted herself off and continued to walk as if nothing happened.

“Anyways, what does PH stand for?” I asked, shaking my head at her actions.

“It stands for Post Haze, of course,” she said, without pausing.

“Uh, Clare?” I said.

“Yes?”

“What’s Post Haze?”

She stopped, then stared at me with wide eyes, “Seriously? It means after the Haze, of course! Wow, I guess you’re dumber than I thought.” She gave me a pitying look.

“I know what ‘Post’ means, damn it! I was asking about what Haze means!” I said, indignantly.

She somehow managed to open her eyes even wider “What! You don’t know about the Haze? Seriously Kai, did you just crawl out of the ocean or something? Oh right, you kinda did. But still!”

When I managed to calm her down, she explained that the Haze is what the Churches call the time before the Goddesses created the world and everyone in it. It was one of the first things everyone in Erath learned so it was quite shocking that I didn’t know about it. When I told her that was probably because we didn’t believe in the Goddesses back home, she opened her eyes so wide that I observed her status again to make sure she wasn’t using a special ability!

“Kai! Are you maybe an Originist?” she said, with a hint of alarm in her voice.

“No, what’s that?” I said, making a puzzled expression.

She let out the breath that I didn’t even realize she was holding.

“Um, well you see-”

There was a loud thud as she walked right into a giant purple wall.

“Wa!” She complained, covering her nose with both hands. “Wha din yoo teh me bou teh wah!”

I smiled and shrugged, “You were giving me this annoying look so I thought I’d let the wall straighten you out.”

“Oo!” She brought her hands to her side and glared at me. Her face was a little red but she wasn’t bleeding so it was probably fine.

As she began scolding me, I couldn’t help but wonder how this little girl had managed to cheer up so quickly. Was it because of her special ability or did the death of her parents not affect her as much as I thought it would?

“Alright, alright. We better get going. Although, it is pretty weird that someone built a wall in the middle of the road. And why is it purple? It has a weird texture too, almost like-” I put my hand on the wall and stroked it.

“Um, Kai?” Clare asked.

“Yes?” I replied, both my hands on the wall.

“Why are you stroking the wall?”

“Because it’s fun.”

“Kai?”

“Yes?”

“You’re weird.”

“…”

Ignoring Clare’s confident declaration, I walked around the wall. It was at least 30 feet high and 20 feet wide and circled back inside like a spiral.

Isn’t this…?

“What was that sound?” Clare said, poking her head out from behind the last curve of the spiral. The wall ended with a large spherical bump. But this bump had long black rods coming out of it.

“There it is again!” Clare said, running forward.

Of course, I’d heard the sounds as well and it confirmed my guess about this ‘wall’. Clare went up to the end of the wall and bent down. She searched inside a small hole between the wall and the ground. She turned around, cuddling something in her hands.

“Waon!” said the tiny purple ball in her hands.

“What is it?” Clare asked.

“It’s a Hell Kitty. A Rank A monster. The one in your hands is just a kitten but this wall is what an adult Hell Kitty looks like,” I said, gesturing to the ‘wall’ and smiling at Clare’s surprised expression.

But her gaze grew dim and she stared at the ground.

“Was that her mommy?” she whispered, her eyes gesturing towards the purple wall.

The smile fell off my face.

She hasn’t cheered up. She was just trying to hide it. I’d tried to do this too. Bury your feelings deep inside and plaster a smile on your face, and maybe while trying to trick everyone else, you might just manage to fool yourself too.

I sighed but I didn’t reply. Instead, I walked up to her.

She’s so small. Barely reaches my chest…

I patted her head once and moved my hand to the kitten in her hands. It had shiny purple fur, tiny paws and couldn’t even open its eyes yet.

Guess the three of us are pretty similar.

“What should we call it?” I asked, stroking the purring kitten’s head.

“Count Doom?”

“No.”

“Purple Heartbreaking Devil?”

“No.”

“Cataclysmic Charger?”

“You’re totally ruining the mood you know?”

“Waon!”

I sighed. Clare smiled a little and the kitten purred as she stroked it.

“Right, let’s just go with Waon then,” I said.

“Waon! Waon!”

After burying Waon’s mother, we continued walking towards Reneste.

After a while, the sun started to go down and we decided to make camp. Since that didn’t take long because of Re:write, I asked Clare what she wanted for dinner.

“Golden Pasta!” she said, drooling.

That sounded like some expensive dish she might’ve seen at a restaurant. She’d been asking for that kind of stuff since lunch, when she found out that she could have anything she wanted. Well, there was no harm in indulging her a little.

I conjured up a steaming plate of ridiculously shining pasta.

Was it even edible…? Apparently, it was, because Clare started eating it in big mouthfuls.

“Waon!”

“Ogh wight! Waft dosh wahon eath?” Clare asked.

“Don’t talk while you eat,” I said, shaking my head.

Right, let’s see…Observe

I looked at Waon while thinking about information regarding its diet.

Carnivorous. Loves milk. Yeah, it’s just like a real cat.

I created some cat food and put it in front of Waon.

“Waon!” it said, happily eating the cat food.

At night, I lay down the same precautions as last night and settled down on the other side of the campfire.

“Kai!”

“Yes Clare?”

“You have to tell last night’s story again!”

“Why not a new one?”

“Waon hasn’t heard that one yet!”

“…”

And so, I told last night’s story again, but I couldn’t help adding something in the end…

The little girl stared at the sky again.

“Hey, what are you thinking about?” asked the little boy.

“I was just wondering, why doesn’t the golden rain happen every day?” she said.

The boy started laughing.

Why are you laughing? she asked, playfully punching the boy’s shoulder.

“Isn’t it obvious? Why would they cry all the time, they’re not always sad you know!” he said, smugly.

“Oh? Then what do they do when they’re happy?” she asked, hoping to wipe the boy’s annoying smile off.

The boy smiled.

“That’s even more obvious, isn’t it?” he said. “They smile.”

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