As my new familiar rubbed her cheek against my own with her arms around the back of my neck, I had a look at my status. There was a new entry in it.
Claret (Greater Dark Spirit)
(So she's a dark spirit, and a greater variety at that?)
That answered why she appeared similar to those ghost monsters I found in the dungeon back home. At the very least, I presumed that spirits were similar to ghosts as they were both incorporeal beings, even if one was a monster and the other something closer to normal living beings. At least they acted like it, being that their diet wasn't quite that different from my own when I could eat the energy of ghosts and undead monsters. Not like it kept my stomach from shrivelling up like a raisin though.
Concentrating on the entry, I was able to get more details like usual. The entry detailed that familiars were contracted beings to a master. The benefits of the contract was that both members can know the location of the other at all times as well as transmit their thoughts and mana to each other. In addition, the master has can use the skills owned by the familiar though at a reduced effectiveness, and the master can give access to their own skills for the familiar. Finally, the master can end the contract at any time, but the familiar was bound to it for life unless if released from their service.
The first bit was pretty much as expected from something called a familiar contract. They were all simple things that gave pretty obvious benefits and were easy to imagine their purposes. The latter bit though made me reread the description.
Being able to use skills you didn't have was a huge thing, even if it wasn't as effective as on the owner. The fact that it went both ways as long as I gave her access opened up countless possibilities.
The last part was reassuring. It was possible to end the contract if this turned out to be a bad idea, and the fact that she couldn't meant that it put me in a stronger position. Though, the way it worked, I didn't really want to ever contract someone ever again. It just put so much power over the familiar into the master's hands. It wasn't nearly as bad as slavery, but it was a wonder that Claret wanted the contract so bad.
Next, I moved further down and examined Claret's personal entry. Doing so made her status page appear without me having to use [Scan].
Species: Greater Dark Spirit
[Mana Eating 10]
[Exceptional Vitality 5]
[Boundless Spirit 7]
[Strong Arm 2]
[Relentless Body 1]
[Winged Feet 5]
[Feather Touch 4]
[Brilliant Mind 9]
[Adamant Psyche 8]
[Unarmed Technique 4]
[Blunt Resistance 10]
[Slash Resistance 10]
[Pierce Resistance 10]
[Arcane Magic 8]
[Blaze Magic 2]
[Terranian Magic 2]
[Aqua Magic 3]
[Tempest Magic 4]
[Lunar Magic 10]
[Solar Magic 1]
[Dimensional Magic 3]
[Synthesis Magic 2]
[Arcane Resistance 6]
[Fire Resistance 7]
[Earth Resistance 6]
[Water Resistance 7]
[Wind Resistance 8]
[Dark Resistance 9]
[Light Resistance 9]
[Mana Manipulation 9]
[Mana Perception 9]
[Parallel Thought 6]
[Spirit Perception 10]
[Suppress Presence 9]
[Suppress Aura 9]
[Sense Presence 9]
[Danger Sense 10]
[Rapid Regeneration 3]
[Rapid Refresh 8]
[Acid Resistance 2]
[Poison Resistance 3]
[Paralysis Resistance 8]
[Confusion Resistance 9]
[Sleep Resistance 5]
Frankly, it was pretty amazing. Some of her skills were even higher than my own, and she had some skills I haven't even heard of. [Dimensional Magic] and [Danger Sense] were of particular interest to me. I hoped that I could at least learn those for myself.
Claret was definitely higher level than anyone else I had seen so far as well, putting her stats at some extremely impressive levels. It was amazing how physical ability had no correlation to appearances at all in this world.
Thinking about it, nothing about her appearances correlated with how she really was. She appeared to be in her late teens, yet she acted like she was half her age, but her actual age was measured in centuries if she wasn't lying about anything.
That age part especially was useful for me. If she really was around as far back as she claimed, then she could tell me quite a bit about this world. The fact that she was my familiar meant it was much easier to control her than anyone else as well, so that put in some level of protection against betrayal.
So far, she had done nothing to suggest that she didn't deserve my trust, but at the same time, I had only just met her. I couldn't even tell if her level was indicative of the range the strongest people of this world were at, or if it was some sort of deception to let my guard down.
In the end, I couldn't decide without spending more time to figure it out.
Before I knew it, my hand was going through Claret's hair as I supported her body with my free arm. She had completely stopped rubbing her cheek with mine and instead just entrusted her entire body to me. For some reason it reminded me of a cat falling asleep on my lap as I pet it.
As enjoyable as this arrangement was, there were things I needed to know, and it was the perfect opportunity for her to earn my trust.
I pulled Claret's body apart from me and I looked into her eyes as I held her shoulders at arm's length. The dark spirit's eyes were half closed like she was feeling groggy, yet her expression was that of displeasure. She tried to pull herself back onto me before I spoke out, making her stop.
Just by saying her name out loud, the girl put on a smile as bright as any she had shown me despite how dark her expression was just moments before. Did this mean she really easy to deal with, or extremely troublesome to deal with? It felt like it might be both.
"How did you find me anyways? There shouldn't have been any way for you to find out I was even around."
"That's easy! It was these guys!"
Claret backed off and raised her hands. A few little fluffballs came over and hovered above the palms of her hands.
"These little kids were spreading word that there was a friendly vampire giving them tons of food. When I heard about it, I rushed over to where they said you lived, then followed the ones that were with you after you left!"
I stared at them. Something about them felt like they were puffing out their chests with pride going 'Yup, it was us!', but it wasn't like they had any anatomy aside from being nearly spherical balls of coherent mana. They didn't have any mouths, and as far as I've seen, they're completely incapable of making any sounds. I wasn't convinced that anything that I thought they were trying to convey was anything but signs that I had long since gone a bit weird in the head.
"Yup! Well, kinda. These little guys can't really say much but all together that's what I was able to get. They're can only actually give feelings like 'food giving', 'tasty', 'nice person', 'vampire', and stuff. They're not smart enough to do much more than transmit what they feel about things."
(Wait, then I haven't gone halfway to wonderland in the head then?)
It was comforting to have someone confirm me that I wasn't just imagining the little spirits were telling me stuff.
"But still, they could've been talking about anyone. That's no reason for you to rush so much."
"That's more than enough reason for me to drop everything and rush over! Even if they didn't tell me that it was a vampire feeding them! Even if they just said that there was a nice person, it was enough! I've gone back and forth across the entire world trying to figure out a way to bring you back after what that damn hero did to you! If the little kids said there was a nice person, there's no way I wouldn't check to see if you found your way back on your own!"
"I, I see."
This devotion of hers was a bit suffocating. I didn't need something so weighty in my life. I was starting to regret making that contract. Depending on how things went, I would sever it and go into hiding for a while.
"But it is strange though. The little guys said you were a vampire like before, but I've never seen one without red eyes or fangs. Did you do something to them?"
"Ah, well, a bit."
If she was going to be as clingy as she's already proven herself to be, there was no way for me to keep hiding this trick of mine, so I dispelled the transformations I made to my eyes and teeth.
"Oh wow! You couldn't do that before! That's amazing! This time nobody'll suspect you're a vampire!"
(So that Scarlet really did go around hiding the fact that she was a vampire?)
But it was annoying how she kept considering me the same person. I had no memories of such a life, nor had any reason to really believe that Claret couldn't have been wrong when she said my soul had the same colour as hers.
"Umm...why did you want to enter the familiar contract so badly anyways? It doesn't provide you with much benefits in the first place."
"Was that bad? Do you not like me so much that you don't want it?"
"No! No way. I was just curious!"
(That's cheating. I'm just so weak to those puppy dog eyes...)
"In that case! It's so I can feel where you are all the time! The contract joins our souls together so we can feel each other all the time! I was so lonely these hundreds of years not being able to feel you! But...I can feel something strange. Like there's another soul inside of you?"
"Huh? You can feel that?!"
"Yes, umm...what did you do, Master?"
"I'm holding onto another soul inside me in the hopes of bringing her back to life in the future."
"Another soul! If you're going that far, then, is that someone important to you?"
My mouth curled up gently into a smile as I put a hand on my chest. I couldn't really feel Alicia, but sometimes it felt like I could. It was reassuring that she was with me all the time. If not, I might've still been holed up in the dungeon mourning over her death, stoping only when I lost control over my body to my hunger, but returning immediately after.
It was a scary thought just how powerful my instincts were when I didn't make sure to keep them in check.
"Hmm...I checked out quite a lot of stories about people trying to bring back the dead but..."
"You did?! What where they? How did they work?!"
"Wah! Th, there were quite a lot of them, but none of them ever worked. I even tried some myself to bring you back, but it didn't feel like I got even close to making them work. It's said that the souls of the dead go to god's land for all of eternity..."
"Then that's perfect! I have Alicia's soul right here with me! I made sure to stop it from being taken anywhere!"
I grasped Claret's hands and brought my face close to hers. But against my expectations, her gaze dropped, refusing to meet my own.
"I'm sorry. I don't think you'll like any of them. Not a single one could be called a resurrection. There were ones where they tried to build new bodies from metals, stones, wood, monster parts, but the results weren't even close to a person. They weren't alive no matter how you looked at it."
My hands fell. I thought I had finally found a real clue, but in the end there wasn't anything. My hands closed into fists as they trembled and I bit my lip, holding back tears that threatened to overflow. It wasn't Claret's fault. It wasn't anyone's fault, but I felt like I was moving closer to failure rather than success.
"I, I, I'm so sorry! I don't know of any way. I'm so useless. You gave me so much, yet I can't pay you back for any of it. If only I had that one mortal's skill, I might've been more use to you..."
If there was a useful skill, I wanted to know about it. Even if it wasn't relevant, just knowing about important and unusual skills was helpful.
"I...think it was called [Interpretation]? There was a mortal who talked to himself a lot while working on some weird-looking stuff, but I found out he was talking to his skill. It was as if it was alive and would tell him all sorts of things."
"Skills can't be alive, but it really seemed like it. I was curious and checked it out, but it wasn't telepathy or anything. I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking to someone else in the room or elsewhere."
Quickly opening up my menus, I scrolled through the master skill list and found the skill Claret mentioned. [Interpretation]. It was a skill that collated and summarized information as well as interpret it in various ways. Unlike a normal skill, it was purely informational, and didn't directly effect the body, but instead the mind. It took inputs from the user's perception and processed then outputted it to the user's senses directly.
"This is it!"
I had it! It wasn't a permanent solution, but an excellent temporary one! If I could get all the key perception pieces, I could create a brand new skill that allowed Alicia to use my own senses to perceive the world, while being able to talk to me directly! It wasn't a real life, but she would be able to enjoy it to a certain degree! On top of that, I could ask about her opinions and preferences when it came to a real resurrection once I could figure out a way to it!
"Thank you! You're amazing!"
"Really? Thank you Master!"
We hugged as we yelled and screamed, flipping end over end as we floated there in the sky. The little fluffballs were dancing around basking in our excitement.
After a few minutes of basking in our little celebration, I quickly moved on and went to analyzing the skill. The code for the skill was insanely long. Probably the longest I had ever spent the time to actually read through. It made sense considering how complicated of a thing it did, but that was hardly any consolation for how much work this would be.
I went through it line by line, looking for the parts I needed. Things like accessing and receiving data from the senses, how it was used and interpreted for the bulk of the code to act on. It was quite difficult work, but the thought that it was a solid step towards being able to talk to Alicia once again was more than enough motivation to do so no matter how much time it took.
But annoyingly, Claret started to shake my arm and yell into my ear. I glared at her for a second as she shied back for a moment before gathering her courage.
"The sun! It's starting to rise! You need to hide yourself properly!"
"It's fine. My clothes do a good enough job."
The sun wasn't really something for me to be seriously scared of anymore. The burns hurt for sure and I wanted to avoid that, but there was no way for me to die from it, and my robes did an excellent job of protecting me anyways.
"But, but! Please! Don't risk yourself like that! At least, at least cover yourself and stay somewhere close to the shadows!"
I wanted to argue, but tears were streaming down her face as her voice rose in pitch as she yelled. There was a clear desperation to her expression as she looked like she was ready to forcefully pull me down into the first hole she could find.
"Fine. I'm supposed to be escorting a wagon, so I can hide behind or under that if something happens. Is that good enough?"
"It is! It is! As long as you have a safe place to hide if something were to happen!"
Claret nodded faster and more vigorously than a bobble-head after a hidden speed bump.
I sighed to myself. I didn't like the idea of making Alicia wait longer than she had to, but Claret had given me a clue I desperately needed, so I at least owed her enough to keep her placated.
I flew in the lead as she followed, tightly gripping my arm as her head nervously twitched back and forth. We hadn't strayed far from the wagon and a visual sweep as we came down confirmed what [Sense Presence] had been telling me all night: that there wasn't anything for me to worry about.
The sky was starting to light up quite a bit even though the sun hadn't crested the horizon yet. A quick check confirmed that everyone was still asleep and the pot of marinated meat was untouched all night.
I changed my eyes and fangs before safely disengaged [Spirit Form], but as I did it without saying anything, Claret passed right through me as I did so. She looked up at me with frustrated puppy dog eyes, leaving me with nothing but a sigh. I reengaged [Spirit Form], but as I couldn't do anything with it on, I also applied [Materialize]. Playing around with it, I quickly figured out how to make it work on most of my body, but leaving a portion of my entire body uneffected, so I was partially phased as corporeal and incorporeal.
With a cheerful yay, the dark spirit circled around me and wrapped her arms around me from behind as she hung off of my neck like an oversized accessory.
"As expected of Master! Even though you don't remember me, you remembered how to partially phase so I can stick to you!"
I put her comment to the back of my head. As annoying as her reference was, I didn't want to hurt her feelings if I could help it.
"What are you doing Master?"
As I pulled the pot of meat from the wagon bed, the oversized talking necklace started to poke some questions.
"I'm making breakfast."
"Why are there chunks in your blood?"
She continued to ask.
"It's not blood. It's a marinade for the meat."
"Why are you making breakfast with meat? You can't eat meat."
"It's not for me."
The words took a few seconds to click before I felt her head turn slowly as her head panned across the camp site. I could almost hear the gears grinding in her head as the pieces fell into place. Then she arbitrarily nodded before falling silent.
Well, that made it easier to work.
Checking the meat quickly, it looked good, so I reshaped some of the dirt into a flat plate of stone with four legs and placed it over the dead campfire. Throwing my mana out, I created a flame across the bottom of the plate, took out a bottle of vegetable oil and spread some across it. Next, I levitated the meat over to the plate until it was filled. The meat gave off a nice sizzling sound as it cooked.
It didn't take long for the others to start waking up, drawn by the sound and smells.
"Oh, this is looking even better than what you made before!"
Unlike yesterday, Mint wasn't last to get up, as he quickly came over without anyone having to wake him.
"Mademoiselle! Would you be my wife?"
"Thinking with your stomach isn't any better than thinking with your pants!"
"Though I can agree with the sentiment, I think that was rude too."
Everyone sat down around the fire as I gave each a bowl and a simple fork to eat with. Against my expectations, as I gave them the meat, they used their own knives instead of the forks I provided, stabbing them into the meat and eating it right off of the blade.
It's like I had just encountered a bit of culture-shock, though I shouldn't have been surprised considering that so much of this world was different from Earth.
"This is amazing! It's so juicy and flavourful!"
"I haven't had meat this sweet before!"
"Something about it just makes me want to eat more!"
"Ah! I wanna eat it until I burst!"
With reviews that glowing, I couldn't do much but smile while continuing to cook up more meat while serving the ones that were done.
"What sort of meat is this anyways?"
"I think the monster I got them from were called loam wolves?"
Everyone froze and stared at me when I answered Mint. Well, everyone but Claret. She was just pressing her cheek against mine through my hood while quietly giggling to into my ear on occasion.
"It's really loam wolf?"
"I've never had wolf meat this good."
"It tastes better than the nice meat I got on my birthday."
I really had no way to answer such a thing. I've never had wolf meat before and trying it out now wouldn't be a fair comparison.
After a few moments of contemplation, and me putting out another serving of freshly fried meat, they all forgot about the issue and just dug in. The fact that the dripping marinade was getting everywhere as they ate grew more and more prominent in my mind as I continued to cook.