“How far along are you on your path? And what exactly is your path?”
“How can I tell how far along a path I am? And my path is the Unrelenting Path of Slaughter.”
The wolfkin fell silent for a moment. What was his name again? Gae Bulg? I think I’ll just call him Puppers—it’s much easier to say. “I thought a squirrelkin would be more in tune with the path of ‘hey, look, an acorn’, not a Path of Slaughter.” Hey. “And you even have a prefix before your path. What is this world coming to?”
“I’m the squirrel here! Stop getting so distracted and tell me how to become a mid-ranked spirit warrior already! Stupid Puppers.”
“Did you just call me Puppers?”
That’s it. “Where’s my Barbeque ring?” Here it is.
“Incorporate your path into your daily life! Live, breathe, eat, and sleep your path. You—”
“Sleep my path? The heck is that supposed to mean. Speak clearly, Puppers!” There should be enough mana in the vicinity to activate this ring, right?
“You know how Lan’s skills were preceded with ‘Path of the Spear’ every time he used one? He incorporated the Path of the Spear into every essence of his life. While he was sleeping, he trained the path in his dreams. As he was eating, well, he exclusively used a spear to eat his food. He bathed with a spear, combed his hair with the spear, wrote on paper with the spear. Everything he did was to further himself on the spear’s path.”
“Great. But how am I supposed to do that with a Path of Slaughter? How do I eat with slaughter? Slaughter’s not even a tangible object!” This advice sucks. I thought he was supposed to make me a mid-ranked spirit warrior.
“That’s a good question.” Puppers fell silent, so I wiggled my toes to make sure he was still there. “That tickles. Please stop. I’m trying to think of a way. Cuchulainn also followed the path of the spear, but he had a prefix too: it was righteous. He used his spear to help everyone he could, fighting for justice and the weak. The unfairness in the world where the strong bullied the weak, he tried to correct that.”
“…Once again, how does this have to do with slaughter? I think I’m just going to keep on killing things.” That’s right. The easiest way to get stronger is to follow the path, isn’t that what Durandal had told me? “I won’t sleep or eat, and I’ll bathe in the blood of the things I kill. Isn’t that the simplest way to follow the Path of Slaughter? I think it is.”
“I’m glad my advice has been useful to you.”
…I was already doing that before I met him though. But I guess I’ll let him feel some satisfaction. It’s no good to have unsatisfied socks. What if he decides to tickle me in the middle of a fight? “Yes, it was useful advice.” Not really. “Thanks.”
“Does that mean you’ll let me materialize my spirit form?”
“Lan Ravenwood is the sixth prince of the Ravenwood Empire. He was my previous owner and—”
“Nope. No materialization for you, Puppers.”
“What!? And stop calling me that! My name is Gae Bulg, the spear of Cuchulainn! Hundreds have been defeated beneath my spearhead, and—”
“And you’re a sock now. Socks shouldn’t be this noisy.” Oh, nice. There’s another big lizard over there. Unrelenting Path of Slaughter, go! Puppers’ protests drowned out into nothing as my senses faded away, leaving me with my vision of white and red. Now that I think about it, the Path of Slaughter no longer stopped me when I strayed off the path. Couldn’t I really do everything under these circumstances? Maybe it’ll be a little difficult to adjust to if my hearing and smell are gone, but I should be fine, right?
After making quick—read long—work out of the lizard while I was dismantling its body and removing its most valuable part, Puppers’ growling voice reached my ears. “Let me spar with you at least. The amount of time it takes to purify the beast core you absorbed will take too long otherwise.”
“You just want to materialize, don’t you?” I’m not going to keep him in my socks forever. Just until he learns how to behave. “Who’s Lan?”
“Lan Ravenwood is the sixth—”
“Stop right there! No materialization, Puppers.”
“Out of curiosity, do you know how to cook?” Is it just Durandal that’s terrible at everything save for swordsmanship? Well, no, Durandal’s a good spearman too. I wonder if Puppers would be a good swordsman.
“Cook? A weapon spirit has no need to learn how to cook. There’s—”
“I think it may be a long while before you materialize, Puppers.” But that bit about sparring was probably true. I remember I could consume three cores a day while fighting against Durandal. It’s only a single core when I hunt beasts. “Last chance. Do you know who Lan Ravenwood is?”
A breeze passed through my toes. “Lan Ravenwood? Who’s that?”
“Oh, not bad. What’s your name?”
“Ms. Fluffytail, please. Don’t make me say it.”
“What was that? You don’t want to materialize today, is that what I heard?”
“Okay, I guess that’s that then.” Well, I don’t expect to break him in so soon. It’s exactly like raising a dog! I’ve seen some people in the army raise them. There’s lots of punishments for disobeying and plenty of treats for correctly following a command. Too bad for Puppers, I don’t have any treats available. Maybe I shouldn’t be so mean to him.
“My name….” Another breeze passed through my toes. “My name is Pu, Pu, …Puppers.”
“Nice to meet you, Puppers! My name is Lucia Fluffytail.” This lizard’s heart is green too. How odd. “What kind of spirit are you, Puppers?”
“I’m … a sock spirit.” My socks felt damp. Was Puppers crying? Oh, no, that was just the blood from the lizard soaking through my shoes.
“Good job, Puppers. Who’s a good boy?” And with that, I let the dejected-looking wolfkin materialize in front of me.