19.0 Zero_Chapter 8: On a Hill

A hero, a demon lord, a goddess and me, sat around a campfire. Quite the strange scene, wouldn’t you say?

As I lay on my back, enjoying the heat of the campfire burning beside me, I cast my thoughts back to what had caused this unusual gathering.

After leaving Reneste, I sat on a small, green hill and explored my ability. After all, I’d had almost no time to experiment before I’d heard Clare’s scream and rushed over.

Feels like that happened such a long time ago now, I thought, feeling a little sad.

As I sat on the hill, I used Map to observe everything on Erath. I followed the lives of a few ordinary people to understand how life was like for them. I also observed the behaviors of nobles, kings, adventurers, priests, and just about every other social group on Erath.

I also used re:write to find the strongest people in this world, and observed them for a while. The six goddesses were on that list, although surprisingly, apart from the Dark goddess, the others weren’t in their shrines and it didn’t seem like they spent a lot of time there either. The way they had chosen to live their lives was interesting, to say the least.

The hero and the demon lord were on that list too of course, so I observed Lily training in the Light king’s palace, and Runir traveling across Erath while pretending to be a merchant. I was surprised when I learned that they had been summoned from Earth because the spell I’d used to come to this world shouldn’t have had an effect like that.

Also on the list was the demon general that had kicked Runir out of his castle, a few warriors, knights, and adventurers, as well as some monsters and other beings.

But as I gathered information about Erath, what really surprised me was the event called the ‘Haze,’ and the concept of ‘Fate’. After I found out about them, I decided that I needed to learn more about this world and its people before I implemented the plan that was forming in my head.

Now that I knew what I could do, I needed to learn what I should do.

Some of the applications of my ability I had thought up on the hill were frighteningly powerful. In fact, I’d fantasized about quite a lot of ways to apply my ability back when I was first designing my character and although those ideas had seemed ridiculous back then, they were now perfectly feasible.

And so I saved a bunch of new ‘favorites.’

Some of them were very convenient, such as ‘Cure,’ which was meant to remove all ailments and toxins from the target’s body, and ‘Detect,’ which would alert me whenever any hostility was directed towards me.

But when I began modifying myself, I realized my ability was more convenient than I had originally anticipated. I rewrote my senses so they would be more acute but also made myself immune to sensory overload, so that strong smells or bright lights wouldn’t faze me. I removed the need to excrete or to cut my hair or nails and I also made it so that my glasses wouldn’t fall off my face. I also made the glasses indestructible, for good measure. And then I saved a large, nested code by the name ‘God Mode,’ but let’s not get into that right now.

The most terrifying part was when I started rewriting forces like space and time. These were the ‘favorites’ that were so terrifyingly convenient that I knew they would kill the fun in everything.

There was another thing that I did on the hill; I looked out for Clare. I didn’t check her status because I didn’t want to know the answer to that question yet, but I did make sure that she was doing all right. I used a new favorite called ‘Alarm’ to setup a warning system that would alert me whenever the target was in danger.

And so I sat on the small, grassy hill for a week or so, learning about the world, learning about its people and learning about its problems.

I resolved to do something about them, but for that, I needed to understand this world better. And what better way to experience this world than with three of the most powerful people in it?

I woke from my thoughts because of an ‘Alert’ I had setup to inform me if something crossed the perimeter of our camp. I sensed who it was without opening my eyes.

“You shouldn’t go out alone at night, you know?” I said.

“Mind your own business, Kai,” he replied as he walked away.

As the wood burned and the campfire crackled in the otherwise quiet night, I thought of the two girls. Their eyes revealed the sadness in their hearts which resonated with my own sorrows. I thought of a way to give them a sense of closure, at least for a little while.

And so I told them a story.

“…the memories of a friend,” I finished.

The story had made me sad as well, so I quietly listened to the sounds of the smoldering campfire and the occasional sob that came from Lily’s sleeping bag.

“What did you do?” asked Runir as he returned.

“I told them a story,” I replied.

Runir looked at me with what I assumed to be skepticism and confusion, but I didn’t explain anything else so he eventually walked closer, possibly frowning.

“Kai, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Of course not, what do you want to ask?”

“Kai, who are you?” he asked.

Lily stopped sobbing, and I was sure Amy was listening as well. I opened my eyes and stared at the stars.

“I wish I knew the answer to that,” I said, my voice barely audible.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, if I asked you this question, would you be able to answer?” I said, still gazing at the stars.

He froze for a moment. “Of course, I’m Runir Candela, a wate-”

I shook my head. “No, no, that is not who you are, that is what you are. I doubt anyone can really answer your question, Runir.”

“I didn’t mean it in a philosophical sense, I said it colloquially. But fine, what are you Kai?” he said, with a trace of a smirk on his lips.

“Oh, I’m just a simple, traveling storyteller,” I replied, smiling as I turned to face Runir directly.

He frowned. “A traveling storyteller? What kind of a profession is that?”

“It’s not a profession, it’s an identity.”

“Ah, really? Then what is your profession?”

“Unemployed.”

There was an awkward silence after that but Runir soon snapped out of it and went over to his sleeping bag.

“You’re a very interesting person Kai. But I couldn’t help but wonder, do you have a goal or a purpose?”

I thought for a long while as the question had been an unexpected one. “Yes,” I said, simply.

Runir nodded as if he’d understood something. “If you’d like to come with us on our journey, we’d need to know a little bit about you though.”

“Why? Do you know everything about each other already?”

“But you’re too mysterious! How can I rest easy when a variable as powerful as you is around?”

“Powerful? What makes you think that?”

“I can’t see your status with Appraisal, so you must be much more powerful than me.”

 

I smiled and shook my head. “You know, appraising someone is quite the invasion of privacy. However, I’ll let it go this time.” I raised my hand in the air. “And the reason you can’t Appraise me is because of this ring on my finger. It’s a magic artifact that hides your status from others.”

Although what I’d said about the ring was a lie, I did rewrite the ring to make it look more powerful so it would be more believable.

I didn’t think Runir accepted my explanation completely, he was too smart for that, and he did stop pestering me with his questions.

Once I was sure that he wouldn’t ask any more, I allowed myself to drift into sleep.

I woke up at dawn and stretched my arms as I got up from the sleeping bag. The ashes of the fire were still warm and a gentle breeze brushed past the trees, sending ripples through the sea of leaves.

Amy was still sitting against the tree and I knew she hadn’t slept all night because she didn’t need to. In fact, I could’ve removed my own need to sleep as well but I decided not to, not only because I was used to sleeping but also because I enjoyed resting and I enjoyed sleep.

Sleep was a wonderful thing, in my opinion. It allowed me to forget everything about myself and float in the realm of my subconscious. And dreams were a great inspiration for a story.

I looked over at Lily’s sleeping bag, which was curled in on itself with the girl hidden within. My gaze shifted to Runir, and I was surprised by the way he lay sprawled all over, with drool dripping out of his mouth. It was a very different sight compared to his usual, calm demeanor.

I walked out of the campsite and went over to a little stream. I jumped into it, letting the cold water wash over my skin and clothes. Walking out, I used rewrite to dry myself. I could’ve just cleaned myself with rewrite but this was more refreshing, in my opinion.

After walking back to the campsite, I created some cooking pots and began cooking breakfast. Amy walked over to help and by the time Lily and Runir woke up, we were done making breakfast and had started eating. They joined us after freshening up.

“So, where are you guys going after Fohil?” I asked, despite already knowing the answer.

Runir and Lily looked at each other before Lily said, “We’re going to the Fire goddess’ shrine.”

“Really? Well if it’s okay with you guys, may I come along? I’m sure I’ll get some inspiration for new stories if I go to a place like that!”

Runir hesitated but Lily immediately nodded. “Sure!”

We continued walking down the plateau towards Fohil. Along the way, we chatted about a few inconsequential things and planned for the journey to the Fire goddess’ shrine.

Runir had been trying to convince Lily and Amy to tell him about the story that I’d told them last night, but the two of them refused to share it with him. I also refused to tell him, mostly because it was fun watching him suffer from curiosity.

We heard a loud roar as a saber-toothed feline monster crashed through the trees and appeared on the road. All of us reacted instantly. Lily took out her knife, Runir took out his sword, and Amy stood in front of Lily while preparing Fire magic.

I looked at the monster and used a new favorite.

Leave.

The monster obediently left, not even glancing at us as its tail swished from side to side and it walked back into the forest. The others were puzzled by the strange scene so I also pretended to be confused. Then we continued our journey to Fohil.

We finally arrived at Fohil, which was a large town at the foothills of the mountain range that included the plateau upon which the capital Cerena was built. Fohil was a more bustling and robust town than Cerena, and there were more people from different countries here. The four of us walked through the city gates after paying a small toll tax, and made our way down the main street.

Even though nearly a thousand years had passed, there was still an astonishing lack of technological developments on Erath. Apart from the Air kingdom, none of the other kingdoms gave much importance to science, preferring to invest in magic and magical research instead.

I claimed that I was going to go to the market to buy ingredients and other necessities, and promised to meet them at the Bearclaw Inn, where we had decided to spend the night. Of course, I didn’t need to buy any supplies because of re:write, so I simply wandered about in the city, experiencing its sights and sounds.

There was a fountain in the square where water fell in cascading steps before flowing through a beautifully carved pattern in the wall. There were street musicians and clowns lined up around the fountain, entertaining crowds of idle civilians.

The sounds were also lively. Idle chatter of people talking to each other, the laughter of someone pointing at a clown who had just pulled a prank on his friend, and the friend’s angry shout at the clown.

I watched the birds fly down from the rooftops and peck at the breadcrumbs scattered on the ground by an old lady sitting on a bench. I heard a street musician playing an instrument that I couldn’t recognize but one that I appreciated listening to anyway.

Children were laughing while playing on the streets. Hawkers were advertising their wares in loud, gruff voices. People were walking into stores and buying clothes, shoes, and accessories.

The town of Fohil was peaceful, lively, and happy. Just as it had seemed from the hill.

 

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