"Alright, up you go."
"Not a word to Beryl..."
"On my word, Kiyomi."
Vaughn rolled his eyes as he knelt. After reaching the ledge of their new hide-away, Vaughn spent what must have been five minutes trying to convince Kiyomi to let him carry her back.
"Gods, I can't believe this is happening."
Kiyomi groaned as she slung her sword over her shoulder before signaling for Vaughn to turn around, wrapping her arms around his neck once he was in position.
"Alright, now caref- Eeep!"
"Up we go."
Vaughn grabbed Kiyomi just by the back of her thighs, lifting them just above his waist so he could carry her. Unprepared for the sudden contact, Kiyomi nearly jumped into position for Vaughn from being startled.
"W-w-w-warning n-next time! Jeeze!"
Vaughn could have sworn he heard the blood rushing to Kiyomi's face once more.
"Sorry, can't grab back further, y'know?"
"Of course I know! Just walk!"
Within a matter of seconds, Kiyomi's mood shifted entirely as Vaughn felt a sudden flick to his ear.
"Ouch!.. Ugh, okay-okay. I'm walking."
I'm sorry, okay? Jeeze, Kiyomi, calm down.
Vaughn complained to himself in his head as they walked, choosing to think on the path they'd taken out to save some time to get and also avoid too many people. After a few minutes of silence, Vaughn felt Kiyomi shift in his grip some. Her movement was as if she were adjusting so he'd have less weight on his arms, as she clamped her legs around his hips just tight enough to mimick a shelf for them. Just after, she brought herself further up Vaughn's back. Leaning just over his shoulder, Kiyomi managed to halve the load on Vaughn in a matter of moments.
"Carrying me like you were would have made you cramp up... this will keep the weight to your hips and legs..."
Kiyomi spoke rather calmly and quietly compared to before. Vaughn could feel her head look to the side for just a moment.
"Thank you... sorry"
Vaughn nearly missed it, but he heard Kiyomi apologize under her breath.
“No, I’m sorry about the slime. Your clothes were nice too.”
Kiyomi sighed in response.
“It was inevitable; they were for adventuring anyway... so... when are we going back?”
Kiyomi asked, confusing Vaughn for a moment before he could understand what she meant.
After that, when we arrived at Vaughn's home, the two of us were scolded heavily for being reckless. Lorn gave me an earful, and Gregor undoubtedly yelled at Vaughn. I could swear I heard inklings of it as Lorn and I walked away. Thankfully, we were allowed to go back, provided we were careful enough and ensured that the slime was no longer present. That night Lorn gave me a spare set of clothes that Mother had on standby if anything like this happened and actually brewed more of the yarrow tea for the both of us. After some more talk on the species choices I could take, she sent me on my way, and I found myself sleeping alone for the first time ever since I woke up in this world. The results were an abysmal night of sleep I'd rather not repeat.
The next morning went full circle with Lorn waking me, us eating, then walking all the way back out to see Gregor. When she left, she left with some adventurer girl that looked like a scout. They informed us we may have to head back to the Adventurers Guild without them that evening, but didn't give much reason as to why. Making their own way, Vaughn and I were finally sent off on our own and that's how we found ourselves where we were now.
"It's still crazy how it doesn't really do anything... It actually looks dead."
Vaughn and I were staring into the room where the orang Slime dwelled. Currently, it was just sitting where it was, weakly moving an inch at a time closer to us.
"I don't even think this thing is a threat... It's almost hard to kill from how poor a state it's in."
Vaughn was correct in this thing probably already being on death's door. Slimes usually needed a water source within reach, and this one was probably trapped in this basement for a long time. That could explain the rate it degraded my clothes on the prior day and also how sluggish it was. Going over our game plan, the slime was just barely able to nudge the bottom step and was too weak even to climb.
I can't kill this thing... it can't even move without struggling.
Seeing the thing, I had different feelings about it the day prior. However, now I was nearly unable to even look at it.
"Huh, what-AH! WHY ARE YOU STRIPPING?!"
Vaughn fell back with a thud, landing on one of the higher stairs. Looking back down, his face was soon covered in my shirt and cloak.
"Take my clothes and wait in the tower."
"What are you doing?"
"From what I remember, Slimes have a core. Usually, if they're in good health, it's hard to hit and moves around really fast."
Taking off my boots and trousers and stuffing my underwear into the boots, I directed Vaughn to turn around with the cloak still over his face.
"This one should be weak, so if I can grab it, I can actually drag the slime up and out to the pond."
"Are you sure you want to do that?"
Vaughn yelled back, now standing at the top of the stairs.
"It's the easiest way to get rid of it. We'll have a rotting slime in the basement otherwise."
"Good enough...seriously, this girl."
I could hear Vaughn talking to himself as he walked away.
Okay, I can't believe I'm doing this... think of it as practice in catching or killing them later. Yeah, practice.
Looking down into the basement, I looked here and there at the slime, trying to identify a core before actually jumping into the thing.
"Gods, why'd it have to be a slime?"
Swallowing some air, I took my first step forward, careful not to trip as I stepped through the Slimes membrane.
"Alright, where are you?"
"I got it!"
After roughly five minutes, Vaughn was pulled from his thoughts by Kiyomi yelling victoriously, followed by the sudden of groaning wood as she ran through the temple to get to its exit. Looking up out of the steeple, Vaughn could see why Kiyomi gave him all of her clothes instead of just the boots and the trousers. As she ran, she was carrying the slime across her whole body as she held the core above her head. The thing was huge. Vaughn had seen entire herds of Slime's, and not a single one had a core this large. It was just barely the size of Kiyomi's head, and the entire thing's body was a strange translucent orange that looked like it was struggling to maintain its form. Upon reaching the waterline, Kiyomi seemed to struggle with the thing in her grip before throwing it as hard as she could to the lake's center.
"That was her plan?!"
Vaughn was astonished at the fact that the slime let go rather than continue hanging on. That being said, it was so weak that it could have been, and it would never matter. When the core and what parts of the membrane followed it actually came into contact with the lake, it swelled exponentially in size until the thing was the size of a cart, then began to shrink down to what slimes commonly grew to. After that, the slime just sat there, floating. Quickly washing herself off, Kiyomi ran back towards the Temple and started calling out to Vaughn for her clothes.
"So, the thing isn't moving anymore. It's just floating... you didn't kill it by throwing it, did you?"
Vaughn asked, sitting on a bench next to Kiyomi as they sat, munching away at the fruit from a local tree they'd found.
Kiyomi swallowed the food she was chewing before finishing her sentence.
"Slime membranes disperse when they die; the only way to kill one for sure is to damage or destroy the core. The thing is fine."
"Why let it live?"
Kiyomi shrugged, not taking her eyes off of the creature that sat where she'd thrown in some time earlier. Taking another bite of the fruit we were eating, Kiyomi looked up to the sky, then back to Vaughn. Her expression seemed like she was weary of something unseen.
"I chose to, simple as that... It was dying... it wouldn't have given us anything. I wanted to be angry about my clothes... but... I guess I couldn't."
Kiyomi left her explanation at that. Looking at her from the side, Vaughn caught a glimpse at a gentle demeanor he'd last seen in one person.
"That's kinda nice... don't think you'll get that way on every monster we handle?"
Kiyomi giggled at the prod, surprisingly.
"Nah... when it's not life or death... maybe. But the stuff we'll be hunting Vaughn."
Kiyomi smiled weakly.
"Not all monsters are as weak as a Slime or a River Crawler. Enough of that, though."
Kiyomi stood, wiping her hands after shoving the rest of the fruit into her mouth. Spitting out the core of the fruit, she grinned ear to ear and looked back to Vaughn.
"Let's get to working on our hideout!"
Smiling in turn, Vaughn nodded and stood with her.
Lorn and the lone human scout, Carena, sat atop a branch on one of the wild oaks along the edge of the quarry.
"You've noticed, right?"
Carena asked in a worried tone. Nodding, Lorn checked a sheet of paper she'd brought out with her.
"The numbers shrank significantly from the report to even less than any individual pack should be."
Both of them were troubled by the sudden change in numbers. They were scouting, of course, but the numbers were still far too low.
"You don't think they've started spreading throughout the area, have you?"
Lorn shook her head to Carena's speculation.
"Let us hope not; if so, everyone outside the walls will be in danger until we kill the entire den's worth of lizards... and we need to track down the Bulette's... Let's go. It's getting late."
With the sun passing its apex, Lorn prompted their departure. Trying to put as much space as possible between themselves and the quarry as they could before nightfall.