The mother bear leaps out from the outcrop and lands with a resounding thud in front of us.
The cub looks at its mother with curious eyes and prances over to her. But then halfway there it turns around and scurries over to Francis’s leg.
The mother is not at all pleased with the situation.
“P-p-p-please go away,” Francis says with chattering teeth. “Good bear, good bear…”
“I assume this is not a friendly animal,” I say.
“Correct,” Delta says, staring blankly at the beast in front of us.
“Excellent.” A grin grows from ear to ear on my face. This is perfect. Almost TOO perfect.
“Delta, if we die,” Francis says, “I just want you to know I support your decision, even if you don’t want to tell me.”
Delta glares at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You two having a baby, I mean.”
“What? How the hell did you find—Ugh, this is the worst possible time to mention that.”
“Sorry. I just think we’re about to be mauled by a friggin’ bear!”
“Let’s survive this and I’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“Okay, I—Eryk, what are you doing?”
I approach the mother bear even closer. I stare into its eyes and keep my smile wide. I step forward and poof out my bow and arrow from my inventory.
The mother bear glares at me with intense anger. She knows we’re about to have our duel. But she doesn’t know the swift pain that death will br—
“Eryk! No!” Francis shouts. “Stop right this instant!”
“Don’t hurt the bear or I’ll never forgive you!”
The bear snarls at me. Its sharp teeth are bared to me and with just one swipe it could take my Life Points down to near-zero.
I need to fight.
“You can’t hurt it. It’s just an animal and it’s got a cute baby bear right here.”
The cub makes a cute sound.
“I really think that we should kill this before it kills us,” I say.
“Don’t kill it! Please!”
“…Defeat it, but leave it completely unharmed?”
“Please!!! I don’t want to be an animal murderer…”
“You will not be an animal murderer; merely an accomplice of one.”
“Okay, fine,” I say. “Fine. I will defeat the bear without causing it any injuries. That, or I will fail, be mauled, and you will be responsible for my death.”
“Well, you don’t have any ID and so you’ll never go missing, so as long as we hide your body nobody will ever catch us,” Delta says.
That was a little bit too well-thought-out for my liking, so I decline to respond to her.
“Fine, then. Leave it to me. The hero, as always.”
“Don’t be an ass, Eryk,” both say simultaneously.
Declining to be an ass, I step up closer to the bear.
The mother bear is about to attack me. The bear cub is still playing with an absolutely terrified Francis.
My time to strike is now.
“Engarde!” I shout.
I leap at the beast—
It freezes in shock— then raises up on its hind legs and gets ready to strike.
That’s a bit of an odd move, I think, since it is now somewhat vulnerable. And luckily that plays right into my hands. Literally.
I grab the bear by its front legs and hoist it up in a swift throw. It catches itself before it tumbles over on its back, and wobbles for a second before becoming steady. It stands upright like a human.
“Bears can stand upright?!” I yell.
“Yeah, isn’t it adorable?” Francis asks.
“I wish you were more terrified,” I say. “Because I am.”
But, terrified or not, I won’t allow myself to be bested by a monstrous animal. I grapple the bear’s hands and begin my battle tango.
It roars and snaps at me, but I move my head out of the way. I refuse to let go of its arms even as it struggles as much as it can.
The fear is creeping in—the fear of Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer] and future hero of Earth!
I wrestle the bear to the ground. It trashes and swipes but I’m too close to it to make any effort.
We’re tumbling around. First I’m on top, then it rolls over and it’s on me. Then we roll over and I’m on top of it. It’s growing more tired, less fearsome, the longer I hold it down.
“Roar back at you, you beast!”
It throws me off of it and then rolls back on all fours.
I beckon it closer, but when it charges I jump out of the way. It turns around and does the same thing, and then I hop over it—
—and land right on its back!
I ride the bear like a horse, but even as it bucks I stay steady. Try as it might, the bear is fully under my control.
When I feel like it’s had enough, I jump back off with a stylistic backflip, the glint of my arrow’s tip shining from the sun above.
When I land on my feet and take a bow, the bear loses itself. It wobbles, raises its head… then collapses on the grass.
Delta and Francis are speechless.
The bear cub stands upright and claps its hands.
“That is how you defeat an enemy,” I say. “My tutorial is concluded.”
“Holy shit,” Francis finally says. “You actually wrestled a bear to submission. You…”
“We should leave these bears the snacks I left unfinished,” I say. “That shall be our reward to them for allowing me a Destiny Point.”
“Yeah and we should probably get out of here before the mama bear wakes up,” Francis says.
“Agreed,” Delta says.
We leave some snacks, gather up the blanket and cooler, and run back to the car as fast as we can.
Our Great Test has concluded.
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