Brandan took his last breathe looking pleadingly into Mike’s eyes, like he was begging for more time. It tugged at his heart. At the same time he could only whisper, “I told you to throw the damn knife. I said don’t be a hero, just throw it and get back to safety. Stupid freaking kid.”
Mike didn’t shed any tears for Brandan.
Closing his open eyes, Mike rested his head on the tile floor and compartmentalizing he set about checking on his crew.
Coming up to Trisha’s side he took a knee to look at the unconscious Nikki.
“What happened,” he asked as he noted she wasn’t bleeding anywhere.
“It was my fault. I wanted to make sure I killed it. I was thinking my pistol isn’t always enough. So I tried to use my new enhancement. I assumed I knew how, but it turned out to take more than just raising my arm and thinking shoot. The damn thing closed the distance while I just stood there pointing my wrist at it like an idiot.
Nikki got an arrow off that grazed its muzzle, so it marked her as the threat. It didn’t use its claws or bite her, just sort of slammed into her and rolled off in the same move. I saw her head bounce off the floor as I turned and drew my pistol. It swatted me away too. As I got up it was turning on Trisha who’d gone all defensive when the kid ran out. I still don’t know how it worked, but I saw the kid get shredded and my cannon just went off.”
Before Mike could say anything, Trisha added, “I think it wanted to take us alive.”
Mike looked down at Brandan’s body then back at her, without stating the obvious, when she dropped the darker shoe.
“I mean us, as in the women. I don’t know if it was all monster or part of it was still a man, but I’m pretty sure it wanted to take the three of us alive. I don’t think we would have liked the reason.”
Mike grunted. She was probably right. Whether the wolf man had been a pervert or biologically driven to find mates didn’t really matter. The girls had dodged a bullet. He decided to mentally give the save to Brandan. Make the kids death mean something in his mind at least.
Reaching into his bag of holding he found a health potion, and held it to Nikki’s lips.
She woke with a sputtering cough before he’d used more than a third of the vial.
Calming her down with shushing motions he waited till she was fully aware again before he turned to the other two and asked if they needed any of it. They both shook their heads no, so he put it back away.
Mike pulled Nikki to her feet even gave her a half hug and a shoulder to cry on for a few minutes when she saw Brandan. She hadn’t known him much longer than Mike, but she’d made the same sort of promises.
“Go check on Emma,” Mike whispered after a few minutes, “she’ll need you to be strong for her.”
As Nikki listened to him, Mike shook his head with a sigh.
He felt like he was being manipulative. He didn’t like messing with people’s minds.
The sad fact was they couldn’t afford to stand around mopping They needed to keep moving, keep leveling, and keep finding survivors.
Numbers wouldn’t guarantee safety. But a number of higher level players would be the closest thing to that guarantee they were likely to find in this new world. Mike didn’t have to be the one to organize it all, but someone had to; If they found another group doing the same, merging would only get them to the goal that much faster.
The remaining werewolf, the wounded one plastered to the wall, twitched again, its movements stronger. Mike wondered if it was healing or something.
He picked up the knife he’d bought for Brandan, hefting it from one hand to the other. Walking over towards her, he crouched down next to Jessica. She was still moping on the floor, so he gave her a question to distract her.
“Is it better to let the girl kill the wolf or a zombie for her first?”
Jessica didn’t answer him. She just turned and looked at him, her face registering shock.
Mike didn’t let her protest.
“Don’t give me any crap about her being too young. I’m not planning on making her a front line soldier or anything. But we can’t coddle her. Bringing her up to at least level one and then giving her a shot at the vending machines is the absolute least we can do to help her survive.”
Jessica’s shoulder sagged even as she agreed with him.
“I know you’re right. The kid wasn’t really my fault, he shouldn’t have ran out like that. But it was my fault that I tried to use my enhancement before I knew how to use it. That was stupid. Assuming my idea must have come from the「System」was stupid. I was stupid.”
Mike reached out and brought her into a brief hug. Jessica was strong, she embraced him back, sobbing once, twice, then pushing him back with a whispered thanks as she forced herself to stand.
Mike smirked at her, she was impressive from his point of view. The timing was off to flirt or blow smoke up her ass though so he simply said, “aim at the wall and try to make your cannon thing fire. Do it until you’re sure you know how to make it work.”
“Yessir!” Jessica responded with a salute that wasn’t the least bit mocking, though Mike though it probably should have been. He was far from a “sir.” Even objectively, outside the military use of the word he wasn’t really a sir, not to Jessica, who was older than him by a year or so.
Trisha, who Mike hadn’t realized was behind him, laughed.
“What’s funny?” he asked her, facing her.
“You are. You flinched when she called you sir.”
“Maybe I did,” Mike admitted.
“Why? Do you really want someone else to be in charge that bad? Or do you maybe like her and don’t want her to see you as her leader?”
Mike didn’t know how to answer her at first. Then it hit him that it wouldn’t hurt anyone for him to just admit they were both true. He muttered, “insightful. Aren’t you?”
“Very.” Trisha said with a half smile that made her eyes sparkle, “I also noticed you don’t stare at my chest as much as most men. You look me in the eyes. Why is that? Am I not pretty enough? Or maybe you just prefer small ones?”
Mike had been about to answer how he’d been raised by a single mother, that she’d taught him how to treat women. But then, as she said the last bit about chest sizes, she thrust hers out, emphasizing her point by making them shake just a little.
Mike completely forgot what he’d been about to say. His eyes were drawn to them like metal to a magnet.
Trisha laughed, “Maybe you’re not immune to me,” she said.
Mike grunted, breaking his stare instantly.
“I’m an ass man, so you don’t do it for me,” he said, covering his embarrassment by slapping her on the ass, and making her yelp as he disengaged from the conversation. He’d felt uncomfortable with her flirting. It had been sudden and unexpected, more so even since it had come from Trisha, the ice queen. But he’d liked it.
He’d liked flirting back even more.
But it felt wrong to be so happy with Brandan’s body only ten feet away.
Seeing Emma and Nikki talking, Mike walked over to them and dropping to one knee he looked Emma straight in the eyes as he said, “I need you to do me a favor kid.”
Emma nodded, ready to do whatever he needed.
“Don’t agree so quick,” Mike said, taking the knife in his hand he held it out toward her, hilt first, “I need you to kill that wounded wolf.”
Before Nikki could do more than squawk he kept talking, “you can look at it as putting down a wounded animal, or destroying a monster, I don’t care. What I care about is you. You’ll be safer after you’re a player. And the more you grow as a player, the safer you’ll be.”
Mike kept his argument short, making sure Nikki could hear it as well. The cop seemed to want to disagree with him, but to her credit she left it to Emma to decide. Emma took the knife, her little hand shaking.
Mike tried to remind himself that it was necessary as the little girl, who looked even younger than her twelve years, carried the knife over the wolf man, and after only a slight hesitation, drove the blade into its open yellow eye. She left the knife in its skull as the「System」alerts overwhelmed her for a moment.
Mike walked over to her, again and putting one hand on her shoulder he said, “Good, now go get Nikki or Trisha to help you use the vending machine.”
As she ran off Mike wrenched the knife out, pulling an eye with it. Cleaning the blade off on the werewolf’s pelt he was just about to put the blade away in the bag of holding when a 「System」message popped up.
|Dogman claws and fangs are harvest-able materials that can be sold in the「System」store.
Would you like instructions on how to harvest them now?
Mike accepted and as the information entered his mind he snorted. “If you’re just going to tell me to wrench them out or chop them off, what’s the point of the mind upload junk?”
Here’s Saturday’s chapter a whole day late. Aren’t you guys so excited? I know I am. So how about I give you a spoiler, as like a cherry on top? *Begin Spoiler* Mike does not find out he is the lost princess of a fairy-tale kingdom in this next chapter. *End Spoiler*Hope everybody is okay that I just ruined that surprise for you all.
Author : The Steve