Chapter 23:

Chapter 22. Standoff

Zero to Hero

Tina's frustration echoed through the forest, her voice cutting sharply through the air. "Why won’t you kill those annoying things! They are driving me insane!”

“I wanted to see this wolf pack, not murder them,” I retorted, hoping to pacify her irritation.

As we delved deeper into the forest, what I anticipated to be a week-long journey turned into a test of endurance. The encounter with the wolf pack from day three onward proved more intense than I had imagined. Abigail’s warnings about the corrupted wolves rang true as they launched relentless attacks, striking from the shadows with ruthless efficiency. Even after a week, we remained days from the exit, ensnared in their relentless pursuit.

Abigail’s voice, tinged with fatigue from our daily skirmishes with the wolves, broke the tense silence. “I think another day, and they might stop following us. They don’t seem to travel outside of their territory.”

Tina, her frustration boiling over, turned her ire towards Yami. “Yami! Go tell your stupid kind to stop following us and trying to murder us!”

“You are a wolf yourself. Why don’t you go talk to them?” I suggested, trying to diffuse the tension.

“I AM A BEASTMAN! Not some stupid animal!” Tina's voice reverberated through the forest, punctuating our heated exchange.

“Hey! Apologize to Yami! Besides, you can turn into a wolf, right? Couldn’t you communicate with them in your wolf form?” I interjected, attempting to redirect the conversation towards a resolution.

“Of course I can’t. Didn’t you study at the best academy in the entire world? Asking such dumb questions,” Tina retorted sharply. “You had no issues wiping out those goblins, I don’t see why you are so against killing a few wolves.”

“Totally different situation,” I countered, my tone firm. “If Abigail’s village is still intact within the forest, then maybe I would have a reason to do so. But now, the wolves are just trying to survive and protect their territory. They aren’t reproducing rapidly or trying to overtake the entire ecosystem.”

“Blah blah blah! Just kill those stupid stalking wolves!” Tina's frustration bubbled over, her impatience evident.

As always, our conversation devolved into random bickering, each of us entrenched in our own perspectives, unable to find common ground.

“Let’s just keep going and escape from their territory,” Candace interjected, her voice calm amidst the tension. “I just want a good night of sleep without them hounding us and howling all night long.”

Neighhhhh!!! The sudden sound startled our horses, causing them to halt in panic as a pack of wolves emerged from the thick undergrowth.

“I guess they really don’t want us to leave. The leader has finally shown up,” Abigail commented, her voice tinged with apprehension as a one-eyed wolf stood in our way.

Much larger than even our horses, the one-eyed wolf was both magnificent and terrifying, blocking our path with his pack, his intent clear.

“What did you people do to him? He's so fixated on murdering us,” I mused aloud, my thoughts drifting to the wolf's relentless pursuit.

“I don’t know! Probably something to do with his missing eye, but we were hunters! We hunted everything in this forest for food, so it’s not like anything was personal,” Abigail reasoned, her voice tinged with regret.

Not wanting to harm the wolves but determined to protect my party, I made a decision. Dismounting from my horse, I approached the wolf, ready to confront him face to face.

Massive and towering over Yami, the wolf locked eyes with me, its single piercing yellow eye radiating a fierce determination.

“One versus one. You and me. If I win, I won’t even kill you, just let us leave in peace,” I challenged, my voice steady despite the tension in the air.

“Why are you speaking to a stupid wolf!” Tina's protest cut through the silence, her frustration evident. But as the one-eyed wolf grunted to his pack, they backed off, proving Tina wrong, their understanding clear.

With the wolf pack and my party as spectators, the unlikely duel between us commenced. While the wolves demonstrated intelligence and employed various tactics in their attempts to hunt us down, their lack of awareness of my true strength highlighted the limits of their intelligence compared to blessed beings like Yami. In fact, I believed Yami’s intelligence to be on par, if not superior, to that of Tina.

“Get behind me so you don’t accidentally get injured,” I instructed the girls, ensuring their safety as I prepared to face the wolf alone.

Determined to demonstrate to the wolf pack that mercy, not strength, spared them, I gripped the hilt of my sword and assumed my stance, ready to end the fight with a single decisive blow.

“FLAMING SLASH!” I roared as I charged at the bewildered wolf, combining my physical prowess with fire magic. The resulting flame slash soared just above the wolf, slicing through hundreds, if not thousands, of trees behind it, a display of power that echoed through the forest.

"Flaming slash? Why are you naming your attacks? Sounds so dumb!" Tina scoffed, her tone dripping with skepticism.

"Hey! I was like 16 or something when I came up with that move! Besides, naming your attacks makes it easier to train and a simple name is the best," I retorted defensively, a hint of pride in my voice as I defended my choice.

“Sheesh. I’m glad you didn’t use that on my dad. I don’t think he would have gotten away with just a single arm,” Abigail remarked, her eyes widening at the destruction I had caused.

“I told you he is the strongest! He just needs to get over this self-pity and train hard!” Candace chimed in, her unwavering belief in my abilities evident in her words.

Smart enough to finally realize that the only reason they were still alive was because of my kind heart, the wolf leader assumed a submissive position and waited for my orders.

Taking Tina’s words to heart, Yami, who had previously ignored the wolf pack, decided to take the lead. She walked up to the one-eyed leader and began communicating with him.

As we watched, the pair exchanged growls, snarls, yaps, and barks until eventually, Yami returned to me, her tail wagging happily.

“I TOLD you Yami should have just told those stupid wolves to stop!” Tina yelled, seeking affirmation in her frustration.

“Na… Only because I showed them just how strong I am. Or else, I doubt this wolf would have listened to Yami,” I replied, refusing to concede to Tina's assertion.

“Well, you should have shown them your power earlier so we didn’t have to suffer for an entire week,” Abigail interjected, coming to Tina’s defense with her statement.

“Who cares! We find out that Yami is smart enough to not only understand us but also get other wolves to understand so everything is good!” Candace said cheerfully, always ready to support me and my decisions.

“Hey Yami. Let them know that just like they needed to hunt for survival. People that used to live in this forest did the same. If it’s for survival, anything goes. But they shouldn’t hunt people just because of past incidents,” I instructed Yami, who yapped in understanding before returning to the one-eyed wolf for another round of communication.


Suddenly, the one-eyed leader started howling, and the rest of the pack followed suit. Soon, the sound echoed throughout the forest, indicating a communication network spreading far and wide.

“Thanks, Yami! You are definitely the most useful of my groupies,” I quipped, trying to lighten the mood.


While my attempt at humor didn’t land well with Tina, the tension dissipated, and the wolves resumed their usual activities. We could finally continue our journey without the constant harassment from the forest's top predators.

After ten days of navigating the dense forest, we traveled for another two days until we reached a flowing river. The waterway served as a natural boundary, dividing the territory between one of the beastman kingdoms and the most powerful kingdom in the world.

“Do regular elves look like Emma? I don’t think I have ever seen a full elf in person,” Tina inquired as I teleported us across the rushing river.

“A regular elf is about half as beautiful as Emma, but their ears are twice as long and also pointy like hers. They are quite racist and have a superiority complex like many humans. Don’t go crazy if someone makes fun of you because you are a beastman,” I warned, knowing Tina's fiery temperament.

“I will just smack whoever dares to make fun of me,” Tina declared, her determination clear despite my warning to keep peace.

“How far away are we from Aenwyn? What’s our plan once we are there?” Candace asked, breaking the silence.

“It should only be a three-day ride from here. I haven’t had time to think about a plan with the wolves keeping us busy. I guess we will go as tourists, like our original plan, get a feel for the situation, and go from there. Since their boss is blessed, it's likely we will do nothing and continuing our journey after a few days.”

“What about my people? Are you just going to abandon them?” Abigail questioned, her concern evident.

“Abigail… I specifically told you I’m not a savior and will only do what I can. If this blessed elf is crazy strong, what am I supposed to do? I’m just a regular guy with no power or status.”

“A ‘regular guy’ who trained and knew all 10 of the heroes. Couldn’t you ask one of them for a favor and get rid of this terrible evil guy?” Abigail persisted.

“Knowing someone and being close enough for them to help are completely different things. I’m sorry to say this, Abigail, but without the ability to teleport freely, I don’t think any hero would travel this far away from their city.”

“Don’t worry about it, Abigail. Ken is the strongest! I’m sure he’s way stronger than some random elf,” Candace reassured, trying to comfort her fast friend.

“If he’s too weak, once we eventually meet up with my brother, I will get him to come and destroy this elf. My brother is way stronger than this lame human!” Tina exclaimed, her confidence in her brother unwavering but not without reason.

“Zeev is definitely much stronger than I am since he is blessed. Don’t give up hope, Abigail. While no hero would be able to help, I do know plenty of others that might be able to help. If we couldn’t do anything, you could always travel to Ostrium and get Fernard to help. That dude is unbelievably strong and one of the nicest guys,” I suggested, offering a glimmer of hope.

With our words of encouragement, Abigail’s fluffy tail began to waggle as her mood drastically improved, and our journey toward Aenwyn and the unknown future continued on the horizon.