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A day had passed since I had gained {Fast Healing}, yet {Fast Healing} wasn’t fast enough. I had broken ribs, although it was anyone’s guess how many. It’d be impossible to push through that crevice until they were completely healed. As for using wind magic, it wasn’t at a level where I could cut stone. In fact, it wasn’t even at a level where I could do more than a light breeze.

The skill core had given me a level 1 skill. Getting it to a higher level required time and practice. The Governess had said that she was at level 10. So much for being powerful. At best, I could be a disciple of many skills, and Master of none.

How did you train {Fast Healing} anyway? I was already hurt. How could I make myself heal faster? I tried meditating, but after an hour, I had already had enough of that.

While I was dealing with this, Zoe was walking around tinkering with various parts of the ship. She seemed to have a strange fascination with it. Maybe she had gained that from the Governess. As for me, I didn’t care about this half-buried vehicle at all. It might be an interesting archaeological find for the citadel, but a rusty, half functioning piece of ancient technology wouldn’t help me get my revenge.

I was eager to get out of this cavern and see if anyone survived. I’d gather the survivors and see if we can salvage any ships. Once we get one put together, we’ll head straight for the citadel. Ah… I actually didn’t know where the Citadel was. I had the sense that Zoe had at least some of the Governess’s memories. Here was hoping that she remembered how to get to the Citadel.

It was while pacing around on the deck that I suddenly came face to face with a slime. I looked it up and down. It jiggled and started moving away from me. It was slow, and its movements felt a bit aimless. It was clear that this thing was nothing like Zoe. How could they have anything in common? It was at that moment that an idea struck me. I limped my way down the stairway and found Zoe fooling around with more components, playing with wires in ways I couldn’t understand. What was she trying to accomplish? Was she trying to get another device working like the Status Relay?

“Zoe… just a question for you, but can you eat other slimes?”

Zoe pulled her head out from under the console and looked at me, and then she made a bitter expression.

“You don’t like the taste… understood, but can you?”

She frowned, staring at me, but after a moment of silence, she finally nodded.

“Then, you should eat all of the slimes around here.”

She stuck out her tongue in disgust, and then went back under the console.

“No, hear me out!” You gave me your {Fast Healing} skill. I’m appreciative. However, what if {Fast Healing} is a skill that other slimes have too? If you ate it, you could regain your own {Fast Healing}, right?”

She stopped and then looked back out at me. After a moment, she stood up and then gave a curt nod.

“So, I was thinking, if you ate all of the slimes, you could make multiple skill orbs.”

She stopped, shot me an exacerbated look, but then nodded and continued on. As soon as she appeared on the deck, the slimes that had been steadily moving closer had all seemed to start fleeing as if by instinct. Zoe didn’t hesitate. Her hand once again turned into a spear, and then it shot out. Rather than impaling a crustacean, it pierced a slime. The slime struggled, but her arm suddenly turned into something resembling a hose. It looked like she was pumping out the insides of the slime.

She had a bitter expression on her face as she did it, but when she was done, the slime disappeared with a pop.

“Well?” I asked, getting close to her. “It may not work the first time! We don’t know if every slime has this skill, and even if they do, your absorption may not be perfect.”

Zoe let out an audible sigh. It was something she had done intentionally, as she didn’t have to breathe. That was one of the parts about her that took some getting used to. Although she could emulate human movements, she still felt unnatural. It wasn’t just the lack of any discernible body hair. She also didn’t blink, and her chest didn’t move as if she was breathing. This gave her a doll-like quality, making her appear both more fragile than the governess, and more terrifying.

Her mode of attack, perhaps the most terrifying part about her, was used for hunting down three more slimes. She held her stomach after that, indicating that it was making her sick. However, after a moment she sighed and started gaging. A ball appeared in her hand. She gave it to me before turning and heading back downstairs. It looked like she had eaten all of the slimes she could handle at that moment. However, it had also been a success. The ball in my hand showed that she could gain a skill from monsters she ate.

“Now, for my next test.”

I pulled the ball, and with a flash, it was turned to dust. It was somewhat painful using a skill orb like this. If I took it to any of the other islands, they’d hand over an armada of ships for this. I could mount my war against those pirates who had taken my family.

I returned back down onto the bridge of the ship and placed my palm back on the Status Relay. It displayed my new information.

Detected Skills:

{Fast Healing} Level 2

{Flee} Level 2

{Glibed Tongue} Level 9

{Wind} Level 1

I let out a long breath. It had worked. Using another skill orb allowed me to level up {Fast Healing}. This was the best thing I could hope for. It meant there was an easy way to get stronger. Unfortunately, it was by consuming and creating dozens of these skill orbs. Even thinking about using such a rare item in this way would make most men weep. However, if it allowed me to gain strength, it’d be worth it.

Although it took some begging, I got Zoe to continue to hunt and consume slimes. She had to break after every three or four. Sometimes, she was able to produce a skill orb. Sometimes, she wasn’t. Rather than continue to use them, I was more curious how many she’d be able to create off the population of slimes. This island contained thousands. That was thousands of chances to level up {Fast Healing.} I felt a bit useless, but at the same time, I was eager to see the results of her work. I continued to edge her on to eat more.

As to how she could absorb the bodies of dozens of foot-long slimes at a time, I found out how a bit later when she went to the edge of the ship and then purged. Well, I knew many women who would do similar things after meals, including my own mother. Banquet dresses were not easy for women to get in, and they usually needed to empty their stomachs if they wanted any hope of getting in them. Thus, I took her frequent trips to the side of the ship in stride. It was better than her turning into some apomorphic blob. As long as she was able to maintain her attractive female appearance, I had no complaints.

Every slime that was easily accessible within the cavern was eaten. That ended up being several hundred. As to how many orbs I ended up with, it numbered only twenty. I was a bit disappointed by that, but twenty skill orbs were still amazing. That meant I could get my level up to 22. After the last slime was devoured, Zoe laid out on the deck, looking like a dead fish.

“Zoe… do you get a fast heal with that last batch?” I asked.

She looked at me with narrowed eyes but then nodded. She reached to her mouth to gag it out, but I held up my hands.

“No… please, keep it. At least for now. Your healing… I don’t want you to not have it. You’re… important to me. So, I can’t afford you to risk your life. Do you understand?”

She stared at me for a minute, but then just turned away. She shut her eyes, which is not something she would normally have to do. That meant, when she did it, it was deliberate. It was her way of saying that our conversation was done.

I still didn’t know why the slime was even helping me. Part of me thought that it must be because of my {Glibed Tongue}. When it ate the pirate, it gained the knowledge to speak my language. Then, when I spoke to it, my voice managed to keep it from killing me. I had sent it to the governess in my panic. Perhaps it wouldn’t have eaten either of us if I didn’t say anything. However, the governess was on death’s door anyway. The knowledge the slime gained by eating her, it was important.

I also had a feeling that the slime would only gain the knowledge of living things that it ate. When you died, your brain died, and so it couldn’t take any knowledge from dead brains. At least, that was what I thought. As for the slimes, they didn’t have a mind, so her eating them wouldn’t affect her mind at all. I felt like I might need to worry about her eating living things in the future, though. It might change her personality or even turn her into a different slime, like one that wasn’t willing to help me.

As far as skills go, I did wonder if skills could be extracted from the dead. If they could, that would be preferable. I already had some ideas about that.

I decided to stop dwelling on the slime, and instead picked up the pile of cores. Two days ago, the pile of skill cores in front of me would have been a dream. This was enough wealth to buy all four islands. It was truly unbelievable. Supposedly, the citadel had a means of creating skill cores too. Did they have a slime locked up deep within their tower? I didn’t know that answer. If it really was this easy to make skill cores though, you’d think they wouldn’t be so meager with them.

I picked up one core and then used it with a flash. Excitedly, I put my hand on the Skill Relay and checked out the readout.

Detected Skills:

{Fast Healing} Level 2

{Flee} Level 2

{Glibed Tongue} Level 9

{Wind} Level 1

I frowned as soon as I saw it. {Fast Healing} was still level 2. Did I make some mistake? Was the skill core a dud? I should have gone up to level 3, right? Feeling a bit worried, I consumed another core. Every core was impossibly valuable. Every core meant the world to me. Thus, wasting one was painful. Yet, I knew nothing about them. Maybe there really was a failure rate.

Another core vanished, bringing me down to 18. I tested my skills once again.

 Detected Skills:

{Fast Healing} Level 3

{Flee} Level 2

{Glibed Tongue} Level 9

{Wind} Level 1

I let out a breath of relief. That really had scared me for a bit. So, core skills didn’t always work. Or… a second thought came to my mind. It was more frightening, but it also made much more sense. Perhaps, every level required more skill cores to reach the next level. If that was the case, my need for skill cores would rise exponentially. Rather than get twenty-two levels, I’d be lucky if I broke ten.

There was only one way to be certain. I tested it out. I used a skill, checked, used it again, and checked. Fail. Fail. Fail. Success. It took four orbs to reach the 4th level. 1 to get to level 1. 1 more to get to level 2, 2 to get to level 3, 4 to get to level 4. I had 14 left. If it took 8 to reach level 5, then I was only getting one more level. That also meant the amount to get from level 99 to 100 would be astronomical. Like, it’d be an amount that was unobtainable. At this rate, getting something over level 20 would already be near impossible.

I only had to keep going and see. Used one. Fail. Fail again. Fail. Fail. Fail. Success! I let out a breath. It worked after only 6. I had brought {Fast Healing} up to level 5 now. I had two options. I could hold onto the remaining cores as my wealth, or I could try to get to level 6. If it required 8, it’d be just enough. If it required more, well, then I’d have tossed all those orbs away for nothing.

What eventually propelled me to keep going was first, that Zoe could make more by hunting the slimes that weren’t in this cavern, like the ones in the cove or on the beach. Secondly, as much as I saw the cores as wealth, who would I be able to sell them to? In short, their value was astronomical, and even attempting to sell them would likely bring the Citadel on me. If they found out about Zoe, they would assuredly take her away from me. I’d never be able to get my revenge.

I began to use the remaining cores, and I let out a breath of relief when it took only eight cores. Every level seemed to required 2 cores more than the last level. It stood to reason that I had only needed one core to get from level 1 to level 2 because I had been using Fast Heal non-stop for the last two days. Perhaps, I was already halfway to level to 2 anyway just trying to repair all of the damage I had accumulated.

With my {Fast Healing} now at level 6, I could feel a marked improvement over my prior conditions. I could almost feel the healing happen. It was like an itchy feeling inside me. Wanting something to do while Zoe recovered from her overeating, I got some water in something that I had been using as a pail for the last few days.

Thankfully, in this cave, a steady flow of freshwater ran down one of the walls. It wasn’t too difficult to gather. One of the good things about this island is that the ground contained a good filtering medium, and so the water here was surprisingly clean and fresh tasting. Unfortunately, it was merely an interesting commodity, and not enough to allow our island to grow and gain wealth.

I sat down and began to wash my stump carefully. The flecks of blood and scabs started to come off, and it revealed underneath tender pink skin. I looked into the pocket to see a shaky image of my face. There was a cut across my eye socket and eyelid. As for the eye, it was gone entirely. It was a garish sight, and I would never be able to see out of it again. That was where the pop weapon had hit me. I realized I had been naïve and lucky. Had the projectile weapon hit me directly, it would have been my brains I had been missing. Still, I felt a bit of sadness. My looks I would have once described as dashing were forever tarnished by this wound.

A flutter of movement caused me to look up. Zoe was standing next to me. She was watching me with her unblinking stare, but the expression on her face was hesitant and perhaps seemed to even hold a tinge of understanding?

“Well,” I smiled at her. “I may never be pretty, but ugly men have managed to land plenty of beauties, so I’ll be fine.”

She reached out and gently touched my eye. I let her, although the past me might have hit her hand away. Something about this slime, I just didn’t feel like hiding anything from her, even my feelings.

After a moment of touching my eyes, she reached up and touched the top of her head. It was noticeably bald. I raised an eyebrow, but then she gave me an exasperated look and pointed to her head directly.

“Ah! Un… you’re saying that being bald makes you self-conscious?” She puffed out her lower lip and nodded.

A slime was uncomfortable with her looks? No, she had acquired at least the partial memories of two beautiful women. She already understood human mannerisms and communication. It only stood to reason that she knew how a girl should look, and her inability to make hair likely left her feeling like she wasn’t pulling it off properly.

I suddenly laughed, covering my mouth quickly as I looked away from Zoe’s bald head. She frowned, and then her expression grew upset. She reached out and punched my shoulder.

“S-sorry… it’s just… you can be really cute sometimes.” I said.

She stiffened for a moment, and then gave a sniff and spun around. She quickly went back down below to the bridge, likely to return to work on whatever she had been working on before I had interrupted her with my wants and needs. I leaned back and stroked my chin, though. I had no clue what she really was, but Zoe was instrumental to my survival. Already. her importance to me was greater than most of the people I had known for my entire life on the island, other than my family, of course.

So far, I had only managed to take from her. At some point, I needed to give something back. Well, I would accomplish nothing trapped down in this cavern. It was time to go back to the surface and see what happened.

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