Chapter 11:

Chapter 10: The Echo of Decision

Zero to Hero

"Kick him, Bailee. Like this."


"Tina! Don’t hurt him!"

"Don’t worry! He might not look it, but he is sturdy."

"Bailee, you shouldn’t hang around her too much or you won’t ever get popular with the boys."


"Just so you know. I am the most popular in my village amongst the unwed," Tina boasted proudly as I packed up my sleeping bag and greeted everyone.

"Probably because Lovetta is not interested in anyone from your village."

“Don’t even talk! Lovetta is already 25! Still not married or have kids when she is so beautiful and strong. Who do you think is to be blamed for that?”

"Let’s eat first, and you two can continue your squabble later," Candace intervened loudly, cutting the tension.

"What will you guys be doing today?" Bailee inquired as we gathered for breakfast.

"Thane said we’ll gather all able fighters today and go over the plan on dividing up. Hoping for a swift strike, wipe them out in under a week," Tina eagerly disclosed, thrilled for the imminent action.

After breakfast, Bailee’s father joined us as we headed to the elder’s house to fine-tune Thane's plan.

"Keep my dad safe, Ken. He isn’t that strong," Bailee earnestly advised.

"Don’t worry, Bailee, I will keep everyone safe."

"Hmph. Show-off."

Brushing off the wolf girl's comment, we greeted the villagers already gathered. Some were eager for action like Tina, while others, like Bailee’s father, wore worry on their faces, fearing injury or worse.

"Hey Thane. Will you be okay while I scout further today?" I asked.

"I was hoping to spar with you and everyone else to gauge the team divisions."

"I’ll spar with you after I get back. Test everyone else first," I promised, ready to set off.

Despite some reluctance, Thane provided me with some final tips before turning his attention to the rest.

"I’m coming with."

"Don’t you want to test your fighting abilities against all those in this village? Or were you just all talk about how you were a better fighter than a runner?" I instigated, taking advantage of Tina’s straightforwardness and competitive nature.

Wanting to tag along with me but also getting goaded into proving her strength, the conflicted wolf beastman girl eventually decided to stay and test her abilities against the villagers.

"Laters, everyone. I should be back before sundown. Let’s go, Yami."

After saying goodbye to everyone, I left the village with Yami to enact the decision I had come to term with after a night of pondering.

Ten hideouts, from a few thousand to nearly ten thousand goblins. The goblins were expanding so rapidly in only five short years that if they were left alone for much longer, the entire ecosystem of this mountain range would be totally destroyed.

"Stay hidden, be vigilant, Yami. Alert me if anything odd happens or any goblin escapes. Take them out if needed," I instructed.

Growling softly in understanding, Yami disappeared from my side as the intelligent wolf teleported somewhere out of sight.

"Boost," I murmured, enhancing my body 130 times its base capability with my holy-level physical magic while also greatly increasing the drain on my stamina by using the boost magic to double that peak.

Moving at a speed faster than most could see, I became a blur as I rushed through the cave hideout, slicing everything in my way into pieces.

Ten, twenty, fifty—I lost count in my rapid onslaught. The once populous cave of over 2000 goblins turned into a sea of carnage within minutes.

Setting the cave ablaze, the nauseating odor of blood and burnt flesh sickened me. Despite the revulsion, I pressed on, resolute in my mission.

Summoning Yami upon exiting, the winged wolf materialized, vigilant and ready for action.

"Make sure you take care of any goblins that might be coming back. If the fire tries to spread outside of the cave, put it out so we don’t burn down the entire mountain. I need to take a quick nap before we move to the next camp."

Physically drained but more so mentally exhausted, I laid next to Yami while the wolf watched the surroundings alertly.

Hideout after hideout, as the morning turned to late afternoon, what started out as ten different camps of goblins, fifty thousand strong, had been dwindled down to just the original hideout.

"Probably should have started with this one instead," I murmured to Yami as we arrived at the main hideout where around ten thousand goblins remained.

Too exhausted to boost anymore, I couldn’t even increase my baseline to holy level as my five years of hiatus showed just how out of shape I had become.

Barely able to keep a high tier divine level enhancement going, I dashed into the cave hideout, hoping my stamina would last long enough to finish this gruesome mission I tasked myself with.

As the original hideout, housing close to ten thousand goblins, the cave tunnel was deep and extensive, layered with different pathways leading to different sections.

Racing through the maze of a hideout and slaying everything in my path, my stamina slowly waned as my enhancement gradually weakened.

A hundred times stronger than my baseline, seventy-five times, fifty times—the deeper I got, the weaker I grew. As I reached the depth of the cave, I had to undo any enhancement to ensure I didn't pass out from exhaustion.

Without any enhancement, my appearance in the final area startled the goblins. Wild screams followed up with groups of goblins charging at me, I took a deep breath, getting ready for the final showdown.

"KEN! Why are your clothes all ripped up? You are covered in blood and wounds!" Candace shouted as I finally arrived at the elder’s house, exhausted and ready to pass out.

"What happened to you! Some of those idiots were saying you ran away because you got scared of the raid tomorrow," Tina added heatedly.

"Can one of you grab the elder for me, please? I need him to at least stop this bleeding so I don’t pass out," I pleaded, too exhausted to even speak to Thane.

With the elder doing his best to heal the numerous wounds, I was finally able to gather enough strength after stuffing myself with a copious amount of food.

"I won’t be joining you guys tomorrow on the raid."

"What do you mean! Are you really that much of a coward you are scared of some goblins!" Tina shouted at me before I could continue, not happy with my words.

"You know, Tina. You really need to let people finish when they are talking. I won’t be joining you guys because I have already cleared out all ten hideouts. I’m sure there are some leftover goblins running around the forest, but as long as you guys stay in groups and watch each other’s backs, no one will get hurt."

"What do you mean you cleared all the hideouts?" Thane asked, showing pure confusion like most of those villagers who were still here for the brief on the raid.

"I spent the day going to each of the ten hideouts we scouted, and every single goblin in each of those hideouts has been properly eliminated. I thought I could do it much faster, but five years of inactivity took a much bigger toll on my stamina than I wanted to admit."

Shock spread through those that had gathered as the news of my words were met with disbelief and doubt.

"I know you said you could single-handedly take care of the goblins, but you didn’t have to go that far to try to impress me. But since you cleared out their whole hideout, I will join the raid tomorrow and see if I can snipe a leftover," Candace said flirtatiously, loud enough for most of the men to hear.

"Thane! Better not put that girl in my party. I can’t believe I won’t get to show off and have to play cleanup duty!" Tina complained, oblivious to the disbelief amongst the villagers of my feat.

"Wow. Look at all those scars all over your body," Bailee said loudly as she watched the elder performing the healing magic, still sticking around even though it’s way past her bedtime.

"I know how he got all those ugly scars! My sis told me! He was too dumb to reach holy level naturally so he sparred to near death then got healed daily for almost half a year."

"The boy reached holy level? At his age? In what area?" Thane questioned.

"Every single area more than five years ago. I told you he will one day become the strongest," Candace said happily. While her words are obviously false, Thane’s doubt instantly disappeared after realizing my unraveled strength.

"What does holy level mean?" Bailee inquired innocently.

"As you learn magic, you will be able to enhance your body or use elemental spells. Once you can double your baseline power, you have reached the first level, the beginner level. Holy level is when you are able to enhance your body at least 128 times above your baseline," I explained. Of course, there is much more to it like boost magic, one’s baseline genetic, awakening and things I have no clue about due to the event from 5 years ago.

"Why go alone?" Thane probed.

"No offense, but you all aren’t strong enough. If the hideouts aren’t swiftly eradicated, they’ll communicate or escape, complicating matters," I justified.

"Alright, everyone. The meeting is now over. Please return to your homes and get a good night of sleep. I will let everyone know their party for tomorrow’s raid now that the plan has changed," Thane advised the group as the gathering dissipated, most feeling a sense of relief.

Bailee’s dad was one of the grateful ones as he thanked me and left with Bailee, Candace, and Tina so the little girl could be put to sleep. A few of the young men who wanted to impress Candace ended up feeling upset as they will no longer have the arena to show off.

After thanking the elder for treating my wounds, I returned to Bailee’s house with Yami, ready to drop dead from the exhausting day where my lack of training and overconfidence almost cost my life.