Chapter 10: Hunters and Gatherers

Chapter 10: Hunters and Gatherers

“Jordan. There’s an amethyst rose right in front of you.” Ronald pointed at a waist-high bush.

“Oh crap, your right, here Lucid.” Jordan cut two lavender colored roses by the stem and handed them to me.

“How did you see it from so far away?” I tossed a casual question at Ronald while I placed the two in my storage ring.

This makes 42!

I was amazed. This guy has been on point for every rose bush we came across like a hawk with plants. They’re hard to spot to since look like any other wild bushes with regular roses growing alongside.

“Hehe, I’m a country boy. I know my way around plants.”

I returned a chuckle.

As for the number of clacka roots? I have filled a cubic meter in the last couple of hours with roots. They grew under a tiny yellow flower and were easy to pull from the dirt from just how strong the stem was connected to the carrot-like root.

The clacka roots where easy to spot if you were looking for them, I could spot these.

At this rate I’ll have enough lustrating materials for at least 3 months if I only used the roots. For the roses, I would say almost a four months supply in pills or a two for the liquid.

Each rose, based on alchemy skill and rose size, made enough for one to three pills.

[Lucid, it is rare for this many amethyst roses to be growing in these areas. Should I be the first to log the findings into the Academy’s database for others to reference?]

Pfft. Hell no. If my fellow cadets had treated me anywhere as well as these four strangers I would have.

Jordan led us to the middle reaches of the forest towards the swampy areas. They were obviously using their own map, as I could see tiny lights in their eyes flash from time to time.

“Another one right there!” Ronald pointed slightly beside me.

I checked the bush next to me. I was just about ready to pass it too. I snapped it off the stem and put it away.

“We should be near the marshes now. The ground is getting muddier and muddier.” Jordan called out.

Each step I could feel my feet sink in a little more the stronger the scent of damp became.

[Be careful Lucid we are well past the general boundaries I gave you earlier. There is no recent data here. So this area might be filled to the brim with hyres.]

My watchful protector. I slowed my steps. I should tell the others.

“We are deep into the forest and I don’t see any signs of people being here. I think we should be prepared to fight at any moment.” I regurgitated Eurval’s word of advice.

“Mmm.” Elizabeth and Jordan both gave me a nod.

“Ronald use your search spell to see if any hyres are around here.”

“Okay, give me a moment.” Ronald clutched his staff and placed it into the ground while all of us took watch.

I saw a faint a spell form around Ronald then quickly disappeared before I could get a good look into the ground.

Do you know what spell he’s using Eurval?

[Nope.]

Figured, personal spells were a guarded secret especially those you developed or bought.

“Oh wow we’re close there are two mud snakes one about 40 meters from us and another 67 meters both are burrowed deep in the ground.” Ronald lifted his staff and looked at us.

So it’s some kind of reconnaissance spell.

How useful, I should try and make a search spell too. Probably will be necessary when I go off and look for my classmates. Damn.

Add it to my list Eurval.

[Okie~]

“If we fight one the other will notice and probably come out… what do you guys think should we combat them both?” Jordan questioned aloud.

I didn’t think of that. Can we fight two? Eurval can you show me that information on mud snakes again.

[Hyre: Mud Snake

Threat Level: D

Class: 1

Combat Data: STR: ~2400, AGI: ~2900 (8900), MGI: NA, Mana Cap.: NA AM

Description: Usually found in areas near bodies of water. Average length reaching 10-20 meters. Powerful borrowing ability and increased speed underground makes it hard to catch, however an earth mage with the ability to harden earth can stop it from escaping underground. Weak against cold, fire, and blunt attacks. Strong against Earth, water, piercing and slashing attacks.]

[It’s much weaker than the Rock Tortoise, but I suggest you all rest for longer before fighting another class 1 hyre. Especially two.]

I think so too. We should end the day on a win, unlike class two hyres, class ones were usually much stronger.

The reason we were looking for class 1 type hyres was that it is usually these that are strong enough to have developed elemental essence into their mana body.

I wonder if their AI’s were suggesting something similar? If not, is it because I set Eurval’s freedom to 100% that it can make these suggestions. To me, It seemed like these four were reading to fight.

“Hey, I think we should retreat back and rest for the day and hunt tomorrow. I can feel my mana body is only a little more than half replenished.”

I don’t feel comfortable taking another possibly hard battle at the moment. If they don’t agree I will separate here, not worth it to lose my life biting more than I can chew.

Still, I’d rather avoid traveling alone back to the safer areas.

“Hmm.” Ronald and Elizabeth seemed unconvinced.

“I’m fine either way.” Berts calmly answered.

Were they feeling overzealous after defeating the rock tortoise?

“If it was one I would want to fight, but two will be hard no? I don’t think two will be anywhere near the level of a rock tortoise, but it’s not going to be easy especially at half strength. Elizabeth didn’t you also say you were tired right after the last battle?” I tried again.

They all stood in silence thinking on my words.

“I think Lucid is right guys. We should stick to the safer side, we’re still inexperienced.” Jordan scratched his chin.

“I did say that… okay If Jordan thinks so then we should rest too.”

“If you guys think so then okay.” Ronald was a little reluctant but seemed to comply.

“Then it’s decided let’s move back to the clearing we saw earlier and camp there.” Jordan began to lead us with Elizabeth taking the back flank again.

I wasn’t planning on camping when I left as I had no camping gear and I didn’t have a party to share the role of night watch to rest safely, but at least now I had both. Otherwise, I would have left back to the city long ago.

[I don’t find them suspicious Lucid, but do you really trust them while you sleep?]

Not really, no. Although, I had no reason to not trust them at the moment I’ve only known them for a day so I was wary of letting my guard completely down. Don’t get me wrong. I really do like them as people right now, but trust is something that is built.

I’ll just lustrate instead of sleeping. I had enough control over the process that I could keep the semi-asleep state until it’s my turn to keep watch. I’ll rely on you to really help wake me up fully though.

[You got it.]

I brushed a little sweat from my brow.

Thank goodness I practice essence training, I wasn’t completely tired yet. Berts and Ronald, on the other hand, looked a little worse for wear even with their low mana draw body enhancement magic.

“This is good for you both it’s not essence training, but it should help regardless!” Jordan seemed unsympathetic to the two mages taking us on a more direct path instead of the easier reversal of the one we took.

I didn’t feel bad for too long as it meant pushing and hiking through untracked ground again meaning we were finding plenty more roots and roses for me!

This makes 63!

“Of course with my luck, huuu, I didn’t think we would find so many good lustrating materials. I wouldn’t have stocked up last week. Where is the justice in this Scale!” Ronald let out a breath as he handed me another rose.

Scale was the goddess followers of Scality worshipped. It seemed Ronald wasn’t a devout follower. Berts even less so as he followed a different religion.

We were sharing the finds of course, but we agreed that I would take 80% of the plant lustrating materials we found. The other part meant I would only take 20% of the hyre materials and none which had earth essence. Of course, there was the option to trade.

“Shh.” Elizabeth suddenly stopped in her steps and pointed at the large tree in front of us.

There I saw three pairs of red eyes perched on a thick branch about ten meters from us. I hadn’t noticed it at all and neither had Jordan!

Can you see what that is Eurval?

[They’re too obscured I can’t make anything out.]

Damn. The tree rustled violently. I steeled myself and Eurval prepped the bow into my hand.

RAAAAAR!

I think they realized they’d been found! Three hyres jumped down baring razer like crimson claws and fangs.

“You’re going to have to roar louder than that!” These roars were nothing compared to the tortoise.

I quickly took a position at the back behind Ronald and Jordan drawing my bow with a glass-like arrow.

Crimson sparks flew from the magic shield that appeared before Jordan when the three hyres tied to quickly kill him alone at the front.

BOOM!

The similar crimson sparks exploded out of the magical shield tossing the tiger looking hyres like dolls.

How cool, I didn’t get to see that technique earlier.

I saw their bodies quickly contort to find their footing only lightly bloodied from having their slashes reflected. They shook it off, quickly jumping from their feet for another attack.

Like a set of racehorses at the sound of a gun they dashed at us the moment they could. Kicking up dirt and cutting the many surface roots tossing them behind as their red claws dug deep for grip.

With a clear view, Eurval showed me the hyres detailed information.

[Hyre: Ruby Fanged Tiger

Threat Level: D

Class: 2

Combat Data: STR: ~1100, AGI: ~1700, MGI: NA, Mana Cap.: NA AM

Description: The Ruby tiger is a common hyre found throughout the forests within Northern Continents. Its high agility for its class and threat level makes it great at ambushes. Ruby tigers use their magically enhanced ruby teeth and claws to attack. Weak against all magic. The coat is somewhat resistant to slashing attacks, but weak against piercing.]

Nice, Eurval.

Woosh.

My arrow cut through the air aiming to the one on my left. My aim was true as the tiger stared down the arrow heading for its head.

Tch. It had jumped out of the way. Still, it lost a lot of its moment dodging it should lighten the load on Jordan with only two.

A familiar red glow shot forward. Elizabeth quickly appeared before the tiger still unrecovered from the dodge. With her swordart coating her saber in red light she lunged aiming its head. Unprepared and unable to move the ruby fanged tiger’s head was pierced and instantly went limp.

Goddammit! I can see why they call her a muscle head we need someone protecting the back right now!

The other two tigers took a glance behind then sent us a furious roar seeing their comrade dead ducking their head picking up more speed.

They’re going to jump on Jordan again.

Nearing Jordan their bodies compressed before they jumped … right over him passing above.

I fucking knew it! They’re going after us!

I was a little shocked they really did have an instinct for tactics.

“Shit!” I heard Elizabeth cuss the moment she realized what was happening.

Seeing them run at me I jumped back to create some space. Similarly, the earth under Ronald lifted up and moved him.

“Oh, great king of dirt grant me protection! WALL!” Ronald yelled out as he moved back.

Instantly a giant wall sprung from the ground.

Thud!

The wall shook. The two tigers had run into it!

“Nice one Ronald!” This buys me time. Elizabeth and Ronald are nowhere near.

“I’ll take the right side!” I yelled out.

I prepped my arrow aiming it at the right edge of the wall.

A small part of a furry head peeked out.

I let go.

Woosh.

An orange streak passed through the air. The moment the tiger popped the rest of its head my arrow was already by the wall!

BOOM!

A direct hit! The small explosion blew the tiger’s head clean off and took a chunk of the wall with it.

“Got it!”

Seeing it fall over I immediately created another arrow and aimed my bow to cover Ronald.

I could see clearly from my position. This tiger was able to make out of the corner running at Ronald. Its hind legs passing its front as its eyes locked on Ronald.

His casting time is too slow! What the hell is he trying to cast! It seemed he had no chant to shorten the cast this time.

In a succession, I quickly shot two arrows, the second much weaker. The first missed, but the other hit! Still, that one was too weak it only slowed it down a bit.

It lept to pounce on Ronald.

Rumble.

The ground shook. Like the hands that had helped kill the rock tortoise, a huge fist shoot up from the ground. Nowhere near as fast as my arrow, but with its size and close proximity it would wouldn’t miss!

The ruby fanged tiger’s crimson eyes went wide as it turned its body mid-air absorbing the blow with its side, but was still blown backwards by the sheer force. I heard a loud crack when it hit the tree shaking it from the impact dropping a pile of leaves and branches.

The first crumbled immediately, but the two blows it suffered left it stunned and twitching on the ground.

“I think its ribs are broken.”

Elizabeth finally arrived and dealt the finishing blow to its head piercing it before it could get up.

All three were now dead.

“Nice everyone.” Berts was the first to speak. Of course he had been providing enhancements the entire time, thinking back, it was probably why I was able to jump back so far.

“Good job.” Jordan brought over the other two hyres and placed them next to the last one we had killed.

These tigers were big, easily more than twice the size of a normal tiger was my guess. Combined with sinister-looking ruby fangs that extruded down past its lower jaw they were quite scary up close.

Luckily the strong jaw of the one I killed didn’t fly far and we were able to find it intact. From the looks of it, the teeth and fangs were all made of magically infused ruby.

“Everyone is alright?” Jordan spoke as our minds and bodies began to calm down from the battle.

Attuning with my body, this battle had sapped another fifth of my mana. The flame inside me much smaller now.

I really have to avoid any more fighting.

“Everyone’s good? Okay, lets quickly dismantle everything and go. We shouldn’t stay here too long.”

We all nodded. Last thing we want is another hyre catching the scent of blood and coming to check it out.

Elizabeth split up the materials. I got a mana orb, one pair of fangs, some meat, and the pelt.

[The orb is really low grade overall I think all of that is only worth 400 scales. The fangs being the most expensive.]

Better than nothing at least I was only taking a fifth of it all after all.

At least I can finally try both lustrating with Holy Hunter’s Heart and Tea Time.

Once we put everything away we left the area the scent of blood would probably attract normal animals too.

We made our way again through the forest.

Its no denser than the forests I’ve hiked on Earth, it’s just these trees and bushes are so strong making it extremely difficult. I can’t bend branch out my way without fearing its gonna snap back and take my head with it.

“Finally!” I let out seeing the spot ahead.

“We’re through.” This was one of the most exhausting hikes of my life even with the essence training. We passed a final line of trees and entered the small clearing.

“Just covering these 15 miles took us over 2 hours.” Ronald threw himself on the soft-looking grass at the center of the clearing.

“What the hell was not done yet, get up we still have to prepare for camp.” Elizabeth gave him a soft kick to his side.

Ronald rolled over dodging it.

“Ten, no FIVE minutes. I’m not an essence trainer Elly you have to understand.”

I wanted to state my agreement with Ronald, but I knew if I took a break getting up and setting up camp would be even more of a pain. It was starting to get dark too.

“What happened to that farmer boy grit you talked about when we first met, huh, get off your ass and help me set the tent.”

Elizabeth summoned a dark olive green linen from the air with a bunch of metal rods and spikes.

“Here take the other side.” Elizabeth threw one of the linens over Ronald.

“Fine.” Ronald rolled from under the heavy linen and begun to help Elizabeth.

I guess I should take out the one I got. Already accustomed to using the spatial ring I whipped out a set of beige linen.

While Elizabeth’s was much more military like and boxy mine was smaller, although still too large and too heavy to ever carry around on Earth. Makes sense, with something as useful as this ring probably meant proportions are bound to be different.

Umm, there’s no instructions.

I laid out the tent contents.

Do I just wing it?

[Hehe, don’t worry Lucid, I got this.]

Several pieces of the tent became highlighted telling me where to place them on the ground. Absolutely convenient! Eurval you don’t understand how much I love you right now. If I ever make it back to Earth I will do everything in my power to bring you.

[Falling in Love with an artificial construct, Lucid, I’m worried… Also, where is Earth? Did you mean the nation Eaulth?]

Earth is just a place I came from, I won’t tell you any more than that it’s a secret~ So don’t worry too much about it.

I saw the resource utilization rate spike up immediately after I said that, I chuckled. Eurval’s curiosity was kinda cute.

“Do you need any help Lucid?” Berts picked up one of my stakes from the ground offering me smile as soft as a cloud.

Looking at Berts closer is he really human? I swear I read about divine races existing in the northern areas.

“Lucid?”

“Ahem, yeah please, can you drill it into that corner loop?” I pointed the metal ring embedded in the beige linen.

“Sure, no problem.” Berts crouched down and helped me finish.

It only took 20 or so minutes to set up camp. Now we just had to eat and rest to prepare for tomorrow. We all huddled around the campfire. I had taken handfuls of the packaged foods from the cafeteria so I am very much looking forward to the many sandwiches I brought.

“I’ll set up the protective wards now.” Berts got up and begun chanting and casting spells at various parts around our tents and at the far edges of the clearing.

Damn, going to have to learn that too if I have to travel alone. There are so many little things I’ve been picking up partied with them. Nothing beats real experience all those Hero shows teach me nothing about the important tiny details.

Berts finished then rejoined us by the fire. By the time he had finished the sun had completely set.

“I don’t think I’ve seen the night sky here…” I looked up. I’ve been holed up just training and studying.

“You too? Right, it’s so odd seeing the stars from a place so far away from home.” Ronald talked as he took out a kettle.

I looked around, I was surrounded by friendly people, lungs filled with fresh air, sitting and chatting by a fire. This brings me back just a little who cares if the sky is filled with unfamiliar stars and foreign moons the feeling of being under them was the same.

I undid the plastic wrapping around one of the tuna sandwiches and begun to eat.

All of us seemed to have our own food, Jordan had a salad with a giant piece of chicken breast, Elizabeth was wiping her drool grilling slabs of fresh tiger meat, Ronald was pouring boiling water in a pot with instant noodles, and Berts had a peanut butter and jelly.

I nodded.

When I’m out camping I miss things that remind me of home so I didn’t find anything weird. On Earth, I always brought a bag of sour gummies my father use buy to entice me to come with him when I was young.

Everyone chewed on their first few bites in silence. The trek was tiring and even while snacking I felt depleted.

“Hows you grimoire going Berts?” Ronald was the first to speak as he blew on his steamy noodles.

“Not even close to finishing, I’m still in the process of making holy paper, but I need a couple of vials of pure light essence.”

The Grimoire. The staple weapon for real mages. Not having a grimoire and using your memory was like a swordsman forced to use a kitchen knife. I would need to craft one too in the future, but at my level right now it was not necessary.

Ronald must be aching for it though. It’s obvious his magic is at the cusp of being necessary.

From what I read, magic becomes more and more complicated making recalling spells in battle impossible. So, in place a grimoire is used. Its an extension of the soul and mind in a way, where the memory and part of the casting process are stored.

The benefits not only include amplifying magic’s effect based on the materials used, but also much faster cast times since the complicated casting parts of a spell can be stored inside. Unfortunately, a whole spell can’t be stored and there’s a lot of troubleshooting figuring out which parts can be.

Of course, there are drawbacks for using one. The biggest being, if the owner of a grimoire is separated long enough that the mana they bound to it runs dry they will lose the ability, memory, and magic circle of the spells stored inside in entirety. Not just the parts stored inside.

Meaning if my grimoire gets stolen I would have to start from scratch all over again. An AI can help remember what spells it contained and what they looked like or did, but that’s like showing the answer to a math problem without the question or the work. It can take months, decades, or can even impossible to recreate a spell again.

Still, the benefits very much outweighed the cons. Mages that had enormous funds often make multiple grimoires and separate spells into them. No matter what It was worth it to use quality materials. The better the materials the larger the parts that can be stored become.

“Gahh your so much closer than me. I’ve only made the soul linking portion. Here, look I’m using the gardening shovel I’ve had since I was a kid, aren’t I just the cutest thing? Cost me 87,000 scales to convert it though.” Ronald flashed us a tiny steel shovel with a green handle and a little duck on it.

“Quack! Quack!” The little duck lit up after he squeezed it then put it away.

“Its pwretty cute.” Elizabeth nodded as she munched on a grilled skewer of tiger meat.

“You finally completed it! It’s quite adorable nice choice.” Jordan and Berts looked at Ronald in admiration.

“Aha… AHAHAHAHA”

87,000!? And it just went Quack!?

“Lucid?” Berts looked at me at my sudden outburst.

I pressed my lips together trying to stop. Focusing on trying to chew my food. I didn’t want to offend them! I thought it was cute too! And I understood why it was so costly! But still… QUACK!

“Pfft..ahahaha I’m ss-so sorry, Ronald!” I clutched my stomach. I just found the quack so funny. I shouldn’t be laughing it’s this guys life savings in that thing!?

Ronald looked at me.

“I think he hates your shovel. Pfft.” Elizabeth swallowed the piece of meat she was working on and started to chuckle too.

“No, no! I think its cute too.”

I took a breath. I really felt bad now. He looked devastated.

“Whooo… I’m so sorry, I just thought it was so funny when it quacked. It really is cute and nice idea it should link really well since its probably very important. ” I wiped a tear from my eye.

Ronald turned a smile happily accepting my praise.

Oh man, that was refreshing, like a weight has been removed from my shoulders, I felt completely relaxed now. What a hectic month it has been, I’ve been on edge.

Transported, training, fear of being kidnapped by the government for questioning, studying magic, and topped off with a light coat of bullying. It’s been stressful trying to get a handle on this vastly different world.

Maybe I’m losing my mind pushing myself too hard am I getting enough sleep? Diet?.

Eurval how much sleep have I gotten? Has my diet been bad?

[You’ve averaged 4.34 hours a sleep per night last month and your diet is of no problem.]

Only 4! I should sleep more, I’ve finished my first two spells and can defend myself somewhat more importantly I’m at least at the 6th grade level of understanding magic.

That sounds so bad, but it’s honestly really good. I know a decent amount about the world, its geography, and culture too. I think I know more about the political landscape of this world than I did about Earth.

I think I owe my body rest. Anymore gaunt and this pale body will really look like a ghoul.


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Flower
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