Chapter 10:

Chapter 9. Paths of Decision

Zero to Hero

"Breakfast time!" Bailee's voice echoed through the room as she shook me from my slumber while I nestled in my warm sleeping bag.

"Just kick him. That’s my usual wake-up call for him," Tina chimed in, her tone casual, as if the typical morning occurrence was a normal behavior.

"You see what I have to deal with daily? Please don’t grow up to be like her."


After 20 days of journeying together, Tina’s daily outbursts had become routine, something I tolerated to avoid escalating situations. Of course, I could've done more to avoid inciting her reactions, but then again, the 20-day journey would have been cut short as I’d have perished from boredom.

After greeting Bailee's parents and Candace, we settled for a hearty breakfast, primarily meat from my hunting on our journey. As the family and the village faced increasing difficulty in acquiring rations due to the goblins' expansion.

"Ken! Candace said you're super strong. Why didn’t you stop the guards from tying you up yesterday?" Bailee inquired eagerly.

"We weren’t in danger. Sometimes it's easier to go with the flow than complicate things," I replied, hoping the wolf beastman girl would grasp the hint.

Post-breakfast, I met with Thane, who volunteered to guide me in scouting the goblin camps and strategize against them.

"Why take Tina and not Candace?" Bailee questioned as we readied essentials for our day trip.

"Candace can probably blow this entire place up if she wasn’t caught off guard but she is average at best when it comes to physical things so a scouting mission just doesn’t suit her. And I’m not taking Tina. She’s just going because I can’t stop her from making my life more difficult."


"Just so you know, other than my father, Zeev, and Lovetta, I'm the strongest in my tribe. I’m definitely much stronger than this middle-aged sheep. No way those little green things could harm me this badly."

"Don’t be rude, Tina. The chieftain taught you better," I interjected, noting Tina’s brashness.

"Sorry, old man," Tina muttered quietly, for once, seemingly realizing she’d crossed a line.

"Don’t worry. It’s true our tribe is weak and we avoid conflicts," Thane responded, unfazed by Tina’s words.

"Stay safe, everyone!" Bailee advised earnestly as the little girl waved goodbye with Candace by her side.

With Thane guiding, we dashed through varying elevations of the mountain range. Soon, Tina’s stamina waned, her breath huffing and puffing forcing our brief rest on a tree bench.

"Pretty fast for an old sheep," Tina remarked, trying to catch her breath.

"Thane’s a goat beastman. If it weren't for you, we'd have moved much faster," I replied, highlighting Thane's superior speed and endurance.

"LIES!" Tina snapped back, unwilling to accept the truth.

"You’re still young, kid. You'll surpass me soon. Besides, speed isn’t everything; I just excel at running away with my life intact," Thane remarked, lightening the mood.

"Exactly! I bet I’m already better at fighting. I spent most of my time sparring anyway, not running through trees," Tina retorted defensively.

"After we reach Ostrium, I'll introduce you to a professor who helped me immensely when I was at your age. Your dad might be powerful, but he's not that great of a teacher," I offered.

"We've been traveling for 20 days, and now you're telling me my dad isn’t a good teacher? Why haven’t you taught me anything? Afraid I will get stronger than you?” Tina’s loud questioning threatened to give away our position if any goblins were nearby.

“Tina, if you’ve forgotten, we’ve been on the move constantly. When would I have had the chance to teach you?” Exasperated with the conversation, I redirected my attention to Thane, who showed me his hand-drawn map detailing the surroundings and the locations of major goblin camps.

Following the map’s guidelines, we spent the day exploring the area.

"You're back! You caught a bear! How did it go? Did you get rid of all the goblins?" Bailee excitedly asked as we returned from our scouting at sundown, carrying a giant bear for the village to share.

"How come you herbivore beastmen also eat meat?" Candace inquired after greeting us upon our return.

"Why don't you fire humans just disappear when I pour water over you?"

"I am a fairy!"

"Stop it, you two. It doesn’t matter if you are a beastman, lizardman, elf, merman, fairy, or whatever else. At the end of the day, you are all human. Everything else just makes you look slightly different and have slightly different powers," I replied, putting an end to their bickering before it got out of hand.

With a large bear to clean, I had no time for their typical squabbles. I requested Bailee to gather someone from each family, and we set to work dividing the bear into different portions based on Thane’s guidance regarding family sizes.

"How did it go? Were you able to discover their hideout and figure out a plan?" Candace asked.

"Thane is even more amazing than I thought. He had nearly every hideout already marked, but their population is growing rapidly and expanding fast. They might soon discover this village."

"We will just go wipe them out before they can! I will show you, Thane, just how strong I am!" Tina happily exclaimed, gradually showing Thane more respect after witnessing his strength and dedication.

With the news of fresh meat, each family eagerly sent a member to the elder’s house to get their share. I couldn’t help but notice that the younger men were far more interested in having a few moments of small talk with Candace as she distributed the ration while I discussed strategies with Thane.

“Dinner’s ready!” Bailee shouted happily as she returned with Tina. The wolf beastman girl wouldn't stop pestering me, eager to know what strategic information she had missed while she was away preparing the food.

“Good night, Theodore, Thane. We will see you tomorrow,” I bid the father and son pair farewell as we followed Bailee back to her house to turn in for the night.

“Sorry that you have to sleep on the living room floor, Ken.”

“Don’t mention it, Bailee. Now go to sleep before your parents get mad at us for keeping you up so late.”

As the girls said their goodnight and left for Bailee’s room, I laid in my sleeping bag, unable to sleep.

“Finally found you.”

“Why are you up so late, Candace?”

“Right back at you! But if you must know, I was hoping you would be sound asleep, and I would sneak into your sleeping bag to snuggle with you.”

"Yami, you better warn me if this sneaky fairy ever tries anything," I said to my loyal pet wolf, who not only followed me the entire day as we scouted but also kept me company while the rest were fast asleep.

“Yami, I was the one who found you, so you be nice to me and help me with him!”

“You mean tried to capture and sell her.”

“Anyways! Tell me, why couldn’t you sleep?” Candace asked, deciding to shift the conversation back.

“You heard Thane’s plan, right? He wants us to wipe out the entire population of those goblins. There must be close to 50,000 of them.”

“Are you nervous? They aren’t that strong, right? I’m sure you will do just fine.”

“Candace, not trying to boast or anything because I know how weak I am compared to the best, but I can single-handedly wipe out every last one of those goblins in this region in a single day.”

“If it’s that easy, why do you look so concerned?”

“When we were out there scouting, what I saw wasn’t some crazy scary monsters, Candace. I saw intelligent humanoid creatures, not that different from a pack of wolves. I have never had an issue killing animals for food like that bear we brought back for the village.

“Just like I would rather not kill that one with the cubs when we first met, I don’t want to wipe out this entire population of goblins because they are simply doing what they need to survive. But I also don’t want innocent kids like Bailee to have to live in hiding and be afraid of going outside of this walled-in hideout or risk death.”

“You know Ken. No one is forcing you to save this village. We can leave whenever you want. Right now even. Just ditch that wolf girl, let's steal some horses from the stable, and we will be on our way. It’s not your issue to begin with. If you didn’t accidentally teleport into Bailee, we wouldn't have even known about this village.”

“I feel sorry for all those men in this village that’s fawning over you. Does this mean I don’t have to help your village either and can go back to my hut?” I replied with a small smile.

“Ken, I can’t force you to help me or my village. If after 20 days of traveling together, you still feel like it’s the wrong decision, you can go back to that tiny shack in the middle of nowhere, lock yourself away from everything, and drown in self-pity.”

“Geez, so harsh. You know, Candace. Traveling with you two and spending time training Yami, I realized how hard it was to live in solitude, how difficult it was to have no contact with others. As much as a pain in the ass you two have been, I’m glad we met that day and I decided to come on this journey.”

“You lumping me together with that wolf girl is just insulting… You know, Ken. Sometimes the right decision isn't the easy one. Sometimes, there might not even be a right decision, and you have to make the tough choice between two bad outcomes. Do what you feel like. If you want to help the village, I will support you. If you feel it’s too much to wipe out the goblins, I will support you as well.”

“Thanks, Candace. I will think it over tonight.”

“What do I get as a reward?”

“I don’t know? Did you really deserve a reward?”

“Of course I do! You owe me a reward. I will think of something later. Now go to sleep! Goodnight, Ken,” Candace said happily as the fairy girl headed back towards Bailee’s house, looking beautiful as ever with her hair shining under the moonlight.

“Let’s go, Yami. Sorry I kept you up this late after the busy day we had.”

Following behind Candace, Yami and I returned to Bailee’s home as the long day finally came to an end. Candace’s words made me rethink the situation, a new perspective and the hard decisions ahead.