Forming bonds with animals, by feeding them mana-cores, was a fairly common practice. Typically, it would require a ‘Beast Tamer’ class first, and if the person’s companion died, they wouldn’t be able to sacrifice their own health to revive it.
Michael was a ‘Player’ and not an ‘NPC,’ so he was given a myriad of completely overpowered and unreasonable abilities to make his experience more entertaining. It wouldn’t be a very fun game, if the ‘Companions’ he made could be permanently killed.
Rather than ‘permadeath,’ ‘Hardcore’ difficulty referred to the way that damage was calculated. On ‘Easy,’ all base stats would be dramatically increased: not just for the ‘Players,’ but also the ‘NPCs.’ The ‘Game’ was balanced, but he was the only one actually playing it; everyone else, was struggling to stay alive.
Obviously, there was a symbiotic relationship between a ‘Beast Tamer’ and their ‘Companions.’ The humanoid gained experience as long as they were within a few hundred meters when any of the kills were made, but the magical-beast was usually able to consume many more mana-cores than they would on their own.
There was one quirk though, which was affected by the bond: ‘Evolution.’ To rank-up, the mana-core has to be given to them by their partner, from something that their partner personally killed; otherwise, they would only gain increased stats.
However, the changes to their body, rather than following their ‘natural’ path, would be influenced by the traits and attributes of whatever the mana-core had been taken from. Depending on the Beast Tamer’s Luck, there was also a possibility of failure: though the chance was typically very small.
Essentially, the ‘Luck’ stat would determine how powerful the evolution would be, and the higher the rank, the more dangerous the evolution would become. Michael had no idea about any of that nonsense, and simply removed his level-two corpse out of his inventory; after leaving it on the riverbank, he looked at the little fox and said “What are you waiting for? Eat it.” while pointing at the deathly pale face.
Since it was from the time that he died of a bacterial infection, he was almost certain that Inari would become ill, but he wasn’t worried about it. She already died once, and all it cost him was a bit of excruciating pain; there was also the high probability that she would gain a disease resistance passive, so he didn’t think too deeply about it.
After realizing that the vixen didn’t understand, he picked up a relatively heavy stone off the ground and used it to bash open ‘his’ lifeless head. He stored the body almost immediately after it died, so there was very little decomposition in the areas that weren’t infected; after literally digging through his own brain, he pulled out a rank-F mana-core.
Michael tossed the tiny bead in-front of Inari and told her “There, eat it, okay?” before storing the corpse back inside of his inventory. She hesitated for a moment, but eventually scooped it up with her little pink tongue, and swallowed it. He impatiently waited for a few seconds, but then asked “Nothing happened? Maybe it’s some kind of countermeasure to prevent players from farming their own mana-cores?”
After a minute, there was a notification that read: “Inari’s stats have increased after digesting a level-two, rank-F human’s mana-core: Aura +.5, Strength +1.5.” Her outer appearance didn’t change, but there was a significant stat-boost.
The vixen didn’t receive any visible illnesses, and her health wasn’t dropping, so he figured that she wasn’t infected with anything. Michael immediately pulled out the crow-sized ‘Vicious Sparrow’ from bag-slot three and tossed it in front of the excited fox.
Without him even saying anything, Inari began tearing open the bird’s head and quickly devoured the level-two, rank-F, mana-core. There was an instantaneous transformation, as her body grew to the size of an adult red-fox, but maintained the same proportions: Her age was still ‘child.’
Then, a third tail emerged along-side the two fluffy-white ones; it was completely covered in soft, brown, black and grey feathers. The three of them waved back and forth, as the fur on her legs darkened, until it was obsidian, but there were no other significant changes.
A message popped up in front of Michael, which read: “You have successfully evolved Inari into a Triple-Tailed Fox. Base stats have increased based on your luck and the ‘Vicious Sparrow’ that the mana-core originally belonged to: Aura +.5, Agility +1, Perception +1.”
Race: Triple-Tailed Fox
Mana Regen per minute: 10
Health Regen per hour: 10
Attack Rating: 12.5
Defense Rating: .5]
Michael groaned, and then muttered “Good thing I didn’t test this shit on myself. Ugh, starting out at rank-F, means that I missed two chances to evolve with the best possible mana-cores… Sigh, I’m such a noob; I actually gave her a shitty white-rabbit to evolve the first time, and now a miscellaneous ‘Vicious Sparrow.’ Well, as far as pets go, in the end-game, I can probably find some kind of super-rare dragon, and just feed it the best quality cores that I could get. The most important thing is my own body… Wait a fucking second, in the end, aren’t I still completely naked? These are all just base-stats; in these kinds of games, the only thing that ever really matters is the gear. It’s actually kinda amazing that I can even kill level-one rabbits with just my base-stats.”
Indeed, the only reason that he was able to defeat anything without equipment, was because of the ‘Hardcore’ difficulty, in the settings. A ‘normal’ adventurer with decent weapons and armor, would have been able to compete with a monster that was a rank above them; at higher levels it was an even more extreme difference.
By just using a generic stone, rather than his bare hands, Michael was able to do far more damage. Utilizing magical spells and skills was equally important, so most people would have to train for years, before venturing out into the wilderness and hunting monsters.
The newly evolved Triple-Tailed Fox, quickly ran up to the naked man and pounced a few feet off the ground, tackling his chest. He easily caught Inari’s surprisingly light body, and asked her “Who’s my adorable glass-cannon? Aww, so cute~, eww, hey, bad doggy… ugh, don’t slobber all over my face.”
Just like a happy puppy that was given a lot of delicious food by a human, the young vixen was already rather attached to Michael. However, she didn’t even understand how truly ‘lucky’ or ‘unfortunate’ she was, because her mind was still far too underdeveloped to comprehend her precarious situation.
After a few seconds of that, his health suddenly started plummeting; he received a ‘stunned’ and ‘bleeding’ debuff. Blood started dripping from his left nostril, and his eyes rolled upwards, as he collapsed onto the ground, with a confused fox barking and jumping around his body.
The moment he died and looked at the state of his corpse, the pitch-black wisp sighed dramatically. Then he wondered “Was it poison? Could be an aneurysm, or maybe it was a side-effect from eating those mana-cores? In that case, it’s basically all of the above… I don’t see any wounds, so I probably wasn’t attacked. Oh wait, it could be magic though… Nope, there isn’t really anywhere for them to hide. Well, I’ve always had horrible headaches, so maybe it was just some kind of… wait a second, maybe it was from mana-exhaustion?”
Casually respawning, Michael managed to terrify Inari by his sudden appearance. Even a magical beast would think it was strange and unnatural, but something like that was just common-sense for any gamer from his world.
As he examined the corpse more thoroughly, he couldn’t find any external injuries, but he wasn’t exactly an expert on the subject. With a deep sigh, he stored the body into bag-slot one, and moved on with his life.