A single red dogkin guard led Fran and a group of around thirty black catkin towards the area that the goblins were spotted. All of the black catkin were carrying weapons, albeit crude ones. Some were stuck with just sticks or farm tools. They all wore timid expressions on their faces and their eyes nervously darted all over the place.
What the hell? Why are they being so paranoid? All they have to do is sit around and watch Fran kill twenty goblins. Is it because they’re so used to running away that they find it unthinkable for them to knowingly approach a group of monsters of their own accord?
“Anyone, combat experience?” asked Fran.
The black catkin all shook their heads vigorously.
“Never sent to fight Bashar?” asked Fran
“No we were never sent,” answered a black catkin. “The beastkin country doesn’t conscript black catkin. Our tribe’s too weak to fight.”
“Other tribes no complaints?”
“They don’t. All the other tribes consider us a nuisance on the battlefield. They all say ‘don’t bother coming’. We couldn’t contribute anything at all even if we did insist on joining.”
“Before we were actually used as meatshields,” said another black catkin. “But that was in the past when slavery was still a thing. The Beast Lord quickly banned the practice once he freed all of us. We are grateful to him for that.”
“Yeah. So basically, outside of being a meatshield, we are useless in a fight.”
I was expecting that there would be at least one or two decent warriors among the black catkin living in the beastkin country. There’s a whole ton of them living here, after all. But looks like I was wrong. Rather, the exceptional black catkin seemed to be those that travelled outside the beastkin country like Fran’s parents or Kiara. The black catkin that live here are so cowardly that it’s almost kinda heartbreaking.
“Treated poorly?” asked Fran.
“Not really anymore. Before, when we were slaves, times were tough. But now that we are free, the other tribes don’t harm us directly anymore. But they still look down on us.”
“It’s not like we look down upon you,” chimed in the red dogkin leading the expedition. “You know how it is. Black catkin being weak is just a fact. Like how the sky is blue and the grass is green. Common sense says that it’s only natural for black catkin to be weak.”
Judging by his expression, he really doesn’t think anything malicious about the black catkin. It’s just that he grew up believing that the whole race was weak. The idea was probably reinforced by the fact that all the tribes except the black catkin were capable of evolution.
“But looking at you makes me feel like I should reconsider, ” said the red dogkin. “I can’t wait to see you in action.”
The guard seemed to acknowledge that black catkin did in fact have potential, but sadly, his opinion didn’t seem particularly widespread. Fran’s strength didn’t look like it would change everyone’s perception of the black catkin race as a whole.
15 minutes after departing from Schwartzkatz, we arrived at the area where the goblins were spotted. We found ourselves in a wilderness sparsely populated by trees. The soil in the area around the black catkin village was poor. It simply didn’t have enough nutrients to support a dense woodland.
“This place, huh,” remarked one of the black catkin.
“What’s wrong with this place?” asked Fran.
“You see, there was a period of time that we wanted to cultivate crops and such around here,” he explained. “Since our race is weak, we didn’t have the manpower to deforest the entire area around the village. We could only cut down a few trees at a time and try to make do with a small area. When we found this clearing, we thought we would be able to build some big farms here, but it turned out that the soil was not fertile enough to grow anything.”
The black catkin around him looked sadly at the ground. He continued.
“There are more fertile lands a bit further north, but those places are too cold for us to bear. Also, they are infested with monsters.”
“Speaking of monsters, I see the goblins,” said the red dogkin.
Fran quickly ushered the group to hide behind a large boulder. We spotted the group of goblins marching southwards in a rocky area up ahead. They would definitely come across the village if they kept their current course. The goblins were equipped with iron armor and were holding metal weapons like swords and spears.
That’s odd. Goblins usually aren’t that well armed. Most of the time goblins wear loincloths and carry around sticks. At best they tend to have the leather armor that they would loot off adventurers every now and then. But the only time I’ve seen goblins wearing legit armor was back in Alessa during the Goblin Stampede. And even then, the only ones that had it were hobgoblins. Is there supposed to be a dungeon nearby or something?
“Those goblins are way too well armed,” said the red dogkin. “They must have stolen their equipment from a group of bandits or mercenaries.”
“Goblins too weak for that,” said Fran.
“No, not if the group was bigger. If the mercenaries or bandits were too severely outnumbered, the goblins probably could have done them in. It would make sense if that group over there is all that was left of what started off as a larger horde.”
“It should still be a cakewalk,” I told her telepathically. “These are just still normal goblins, and I am not detecting any reinforcements in the vicinity. Go wreck them.”
Fran stepped out from behind the boulder and turned to the crowd of black catkin behind her.
“Going now. Will eliminate goblins. Watch me.”
The crowd stared at her nervously.
“Please don’t go!”
“Don’t abandon us!”
“Don’t worry,” said Fran. “Urushi staying here.”
Urushi popped out of Fran’s shadow and trotted over to the huddling villagers. Their faces relaxed when they saw that the big black wolf would be guarding them.
I’m glad that the villagers are no longer afraid of Urushi. They warmed up to him after seeing him being friendly and happily interacting with Fran.
“Will be quick,” said Fran.
“Please be safe!”
“W-We’ll be watching.”
Fran left the villagers and stealthily approached the goblins under the cover of the rocky terrain.
“You should hold back a bit. You want to demonstrate your strength at an extent that the villagers can actually see it.”
“Nn. Awakening. Brilliant Lightning Rush!”
Black lightning bolts sizzled around Fran’s body. Her tail changed from solid black to black with gray stripes and stuck out like a lightning bolt. A cloud of dust to whipped up around her.
“What did I just say about holding back!?”
“Nn. Cooler this way. Will slowly demonstrate sword skills.”
Fran unsheathed me and slowly walked up to the goblins. The goblins noticed her and began eyeing her. Three of them approached her with swords drawn and their tongues hanging from their mouths. With three smooth strokes, Fran cut those goblins down. The remaining goblins, now seeing her as a threat, surrounded her with their weapons ready. Three more goblins lunged at her, but she stabbed the first through the chest after ducking under his blow, then spun around and beheaded the other two as they tried to attack her back. To the onlookers, she moved so effortlessly and gracefully that it looked like she was performing a dance.
“Welp. The goblin’s formation is already starting to collapse. Wait. Doesn’t that one on the ground look more nicely dressed than the others? You probably defeated their leader without even noticing.”
“Nn. Will use flashy magic now.”
While the goblin’s were caught between either fighting or fleeing, Fran fired Tri-Explosion towards the edge of the goblin’s formation. There was a great flash of light and one goblin was instantly vaporized. The two around him were blown a great distance away, their charred bodies tumbling on the rocky ground.
The remaining eleven goblins turned around and fled at full speed. But Fran was too quick for them.
“Stun Bolt. Stun Bolt. Stun Bolt.”
Fran paralyzed the leftover goblins by firing weak lightning magic at them. After the final goblin hit the ground, Fran inspected their convulsing bodies.
“You’re not going to kill them?”
“Nn. Will make others finish them off.”
“Oh nice idea! That’s a great way to give them some confidence and experience.”
“Nn,” she said smugly.
“I think it’s safe now. You should go get them.”
As we walked back towards the group of huddling black catkin, I took one last look at the twitching goblins.
I hope that the black catkin have the guts to finish them off. Hopefully their feral and ferocious side hasn’t been completely extinguished.