75 Chapter 75 Games
Joseph stood up. The heat stones were recharged and it was time for them to go. They hadn't seen any other barbarians for hours before stopping to rest.
"Joseph," said Stella softly.
"Yes?" he said, turning towards her after they had been walking for another couple of hours.
"This is boring. No wonder you're overthinking things."
He laughed. "I'm just trying to make sure I'm prepared. I want to think of as many things that can go wrong as possible so I can try and be ready. I was almost poisoned but had TEST FOOD that day. I was poisoned and almost died, but had managed to get breath emission at a high enough level right before then. Now I'm about to go up against some ancient evil with no real knowledge about it. If my mom knew, she would cry."
"See? Look on the bright side. You're with me." She smiled at him, and he couldn't help but smile back. She so rarely smiled it was a treat when she did.
"I totally agree that you are the best perk about this whole trip!" he said, grinning widely.
"Want to play tag?" she asked. It was a game the street kids had played when she was older, but she had been too afraid of the big kids catching her, so she hadn't really played.
"Oh, please! You would destroy me!"
"What if I give myself a handy cap?" she asked, with a small smile.
"Like what?" he asked suspiciously.
"I'll only hop like a bunny," she said, with a smirk. Twitching her nose, she held her hands up to her chest and gave a cute little bunny hop.
Joseph couldn't help it. His eyes went wide and he started laughing.
"Alright," he finally agreed, grabbing her hands. "You're it!"
He broke into a run, but only made it about thirty feet before she caught him. They spent the next two hours with Stella hopping like a bunny while Joseph tried to catch her. They made great time, but he finally had to stop. The temperature had been dropping significantly. Lunch was quick, only lasting long enough for their heat stones to recharge. They gobbled some food down, then got back on their way, playing more tag until it was supper time. Snow had started to accumulate, so they had slowed down some.
Stella slept first so he could recharge the rocks. With night vision at 9, he could see shapes moving towards them in the dark. There was a huge pack of wolves. He counted them as they approached. There were 23, though 5 looked pure white.
"Stella?" he asked softly, trying not to make them attack.
She was immediately awake, looking around and noticed them.
"Dire wolves with winter wolves leading," she whispered.
"What are those?" he asked.
"Winter wolves are a magical variant of the dire wolves. They're immune to the cold. They also have a breath attack if ice spikes that I'm not sure your CREATE FIRE can vaporize quickly enough."
Nodding he stood up, and regulated his breathing in order to draw mana into himself. As soon as the nearest winter wolf was in range, he cast IGNITE FIRE. He could feel it resisting but he didn't care. His incredibly high will forced it to burn, and it caught. All of the wolves panicked when their leader caught on fire.
He targeted the next wolf and it caught on fire too. He wasn't sure if it being panicked made it easier or not, but it wasn't nearly as hard.
Stella was suddenly there, between two of the wolves, with daggers in her hands, covered in blood. The two wolves slumped to the ground with blood gushing from their necks. He tried to remember if she had moved, but he couldn't remember it. She just appeared there.
He turned to a third wolf, to catch it on fire, but was starting to feel incredibly tired, because he was still maintaining their camp fire. Stella moved through the pack, dispatching them with a stab here, a slash there, then went up against one of the winter wolves. It jumped at her, and she disappeared beneath it, reappearing moments later, covered in its blood.
The remaining winter wolf decided they weren't worth the trouble and turned to flee with the rest of the dire wolves close on its tail. Stumbling to the fire, Joseph sat down. That was exhausting!
Stella returned moments later, carrying the huge white hide of the winter wolf she had killed and several large chunks of meat from one of the wolves he had burned to death.
"I wish I knew the spell PREPARE GAME," he said sadly, taking a chunk of meat from her.
"It's alright, I'm sure you'll learn it soon enough."
As he settled down to sleep, she was moving back to the other carcasses to skin them as well. He was pretty surprised how tasty the meat had been. Meat from a predator was supposed to taste bad, but this wasn't. Maybe hunger helped to temper the taste.
When he woke, there were three more corpses but Stella had skinned everything, even the ones that were badly damaged, and had taken a lot of meat off of them. Taking the offered meat, she had cooked over the fire, he thought about how she had fought the wolves. It figured that she would be super good at fighting. He wasn't sure where she had placed everything, but she distracted him.
Twitching her nose, she settled down for her turn to nap, and he just shook his head in amusement. He knew exactly what he wanted to make for her, when they got back. She was going to get a hoodie with bunny ears and a little cotton tail. She could have it as a reward for keeping him alive during this trip. The thought made him giggle, and when she woke up three hours later, he was still grinning.
"What are you thinking, Master Joseph?" she asked curiously.
"It's a surprise. Don't worry, I'll love it!"
He shouldn't have teased the rabbit, he didn't even get close to her after that.
"Come on, Master Joseph, you are a smart fox. Surely you can catch one little bunny?"
He was panting so hard, trying to catch his breath, that he couldn't answer for a moment. Using breath, he absorbed some mana and managed to restore his energy faster.
"I feel more like a coyote, trying to catch a roadrunner," he said, thinking of one of his favorite cartoons in his previous life.
"Does that make me a roadrunner?" she asked.
"No, you're still a bunny."
"Beep, beep," she said, hopping in the air and running off with a laugh.
He laughed too, and chased after her.