Light snores and the voices of the night, that was all that reached my ears. Ofris and Sahria had somehow managed to move all of the boxes, bags and merchandise onto one side of the cart, giving them enough space to spread their blankets.
The two of them were now lying next to each other on their makeshift bed, with not a hairs width separating their bodies. Neither of them seemed to mind this, as it was still far more comfortable and safe when compared to sleeping under the open sky.
Just minutes ago I had slept right next to them, cuddled against Ofris' arm and protected by his warmth, but I could no longer sit still, not with this pressure trying to chase me out of the cart. My bladder was close to bursting.
I didn't think twice before jumping off. The merchant had attached the reins of his horse to one of the wheels, thus not only preventing the animal from running away but also denying the possibility of the cart starting to move anytime soon. I had all the time in the world. And I wouldn't need much.
The horse neighed as it saw or heard me jumping down and running towards some bushes standing nearby, but I didn't pay it any heed. I was running out of time, and I didn't want to relieve myself anywhere near. At least not near enough for Ofris or Sahria to wake up from it.
It was one thing for the merchant to find out, but the other two? What would they even think about me then? Sure, it was natural and everybody needed to do it. But to relieve myself while being transformed into a pet? They would think of me as weird!
After a few moments of searching, I found a perfect hiding spot behind a bush that was big enough to not only hide me but hopefully also dampen the sound a bit.
It only took seconds to get rid of this unpleasant pressure that had stolen my sleep. I just finished my business and turned around to go back to the cart – or at least I had thought so.
Two amber colored eyes stared at me. They were as large as my head, had slits as pupils and even faintly glowed in the dark, turning them into the incarnation of a nightmare.
I immediately jumped backwards, not however without releasing a panicked scream or rather yelp. It was this single high-pitched sound that made the eyes begin to move, and with them the whole animal.
It was a lizard half the size of the horse, with scales so dark that they were almost invisible this deep in the night. A long blood-red tongue was darting in and out of its giant mouth, trying to find out if I was tasty or not.
After jumping back a few more times, to get a few seconds of time, I immediately started barking. And sure enough, a thick mist started gather surrounding my body. In the dark, it looked like smoke, but the lizard wasn't the least impressed by this trick of mine. Before the mist clouded my vision, the monster had already reached me.
「STAY AWAY!」 I heard my barks ring in my ears, "STAY AWAY!"
A crushing pain assaulted me before my vision had even cleared again. The lizard had caught one of my legs, yes, only the leg, not my whole fox body which would easily have fitted in its mouth. I had turned back to my human form, though that did little to help me against this attack, as I already heard my bones breaking.
When my vision finally cleared enough to see the lizard, it immediately let go of me. Its amber-colored eyes stared deep into mine, dazzled by my sudden change. But this surprise didn't last long, as it released a threatening hiss before trying to attack once again.
『FOXFIRE!』 I screamed. 『FOXFIRE!!』
Two balls of fire began forming, one to each of my sides. They spun around rapidly before shooting towards the stunned animal. The first one missed it completely, as I had been too panicked to properly aim, but I was luckier with the second one. It hit the side of the animal, revealing the real color of its scales, a dark purple.
Despite it being a good hit, the fire didn't spread but died off within mere seconds as, contrary to the goblins, the lizard hat nothing to keep it burning. Its scales, too, seemed to be heat resistant to some level, as aside from them turning dull and black, and a little smoke rising, there was real damage to be seen.
«Damn it! Damn it!»
I escaped backwards a few steps, using the little moment my magic had averted the lizard's attention for. There was no way for me to kill this thing, at least not with the Foxfire alone, but I had no other spells aside of it, at least not a single one that could damage it.
The lizard shook off the little pain it had received with an angry hiss, before charging towards me again. It never intended to give me a chance, but neither would I let myself just eaten like this!
I hurriedly closed my eyes in preparation for my next magic.
A blindingly bright light attacked me. It drove tears into my eyes, despite my closed lids and the arm I had tried to protect myself with.
The lizard had been caught by surprise, it couldn't avert its gaze or turn around in time, nor was it able to shield itself using its arms or legs. Even before I opened my eyes again, I could hear it fight against the damage the magic had caused to it. It was hissing, growling and even screeching.
Naturally, I didn't stop with just this. I summoned a whole series of Foxfires, attacking the lizards' head again and again, before it finally collapsed, together with me.
"RIKA?!" Ofris voice echoed in my ears. "What happened?!"
It didn't take him more than three, maybe four seconds to reach me. He let himself drop into the grass, lifted me up and began tormenting me with dozens of questions.
"What happened?! Did it attack you? Has it bitten you!? Are you hurt somewhere?"
I tried to answer him, but when I did, only weird sounds left my lips. Some of them were still words, others, however, were cut off right in the middle. My voice had lost all of its strength and my tongue, too, felt numb – together with my whole mouth. It was as if I had visited a dentist, though that profession probably didn't even exist in this world.
Ofris' face slowly lost its shape. It became fuzzy, just like the two silhouettes next to him, Sahria and the merchant. There were only cloudy shapes remaining from them, and it got worse by the second. All of this was accompanied by a feeling of nausea, which got stronger by the second.
"Summ-" I tried to force my voice out. "Summon Spir-"
"What?! What do you want to tell me?!"
『Summon: Spirit Fox』
With my last energy and fueled by desperation, I somehow managed to spit the three words out. But it was long too late for me to celebrate, as my failing vision suddenly took a turn to the worse. It was rapidly consumed by darkness, together with my consciousness.
⊱————- Extra ————-⊰
Laurin: Why do I need to learn this?!
Persides: Mathematics is one of the pillars a well-functioning state is built upon, Your Majesty.
Laurin: Does it help me defeat a warrior?
Persides: No, but...
Laurin: Then why do I need to learn this?!
Laurin: If it doesn't help me win, I will not waste my time on it!
Persides: Your Majesty, you said the same about politics, your writing lessons, geography, astronomy, music...
Laurin: Because it is true!
Persides: Your Majesty, please reconsider!
Laurin: Can you fence?
Persides: I can, yes, but-
Laurin: Let's do that, then!
Persides: Yes, Your Majesty ...