Chapter 8 Dangers in the Tole Forest
“We are arriving at Edge Town. Passengers, please check for your items before departing.”
It was my first time out of the academy in two weeks, I won’t say I wasn’t a bit nervous. But having soaked into some of the culture of the world I felt confident in blending into the inhabitants.
Before I left I had gone back to my apartment to get my black backpack and the cadet uniform. I had also stuffed the backpack various drinks and foods from the cafeteria. Luckily I was able to get a burlap sack for free from one of the cafeteria cooks.
I needed something to store what I gathered and I felt the backpack would be too small.
[Are we really headed to the Tole Forest already?]
I nodded my head.
I really wanted clacka roots. Plus It didn’t sit right with me that I wasn’t maximizing all the possible mana body growth.
[Ehh are you sure Lucid, it’s quite dangerous and you barely learned to cast spells TODAY…]
Lucid? I was slightly surprised at the change in name.
[Sorry, does master not like it?]
No, not at all call me Lucid if you want. Honestly, it makes me a little happy.
[Hehe will do. If you think you can than okay… I’ll compile the academy’s hyre information and map out the less dangerous areas then. Try and stay within them, but be careful! This doesn’t guarantee anything.]
I nodded. After seeing a glimmer of the destructive powers from my bow I felt secure in being able to survive. It also made me wonder how little crime there was considering I had the power of a rocket launcher as an amateur.
I guess having a common enemy being the hyres would do that.
[No no Lucid, the entire city is a giant magic formation. It would instantly vaporize anyone at your level that wanted create such large havoc and at least stop someone at Mrs. Eddy’s level. It’s also why you regenerate mana so much faster within the city.]
Wait, so if threw a punch when that guy shoved me I would have died instantly!? My short time here could have disappeared just like that not even completing a full day.
[The formations can differentiate between someone aiming to kill and aiming to hurt then respond appropriately or not at all it even has the ability to stop crime. Otherwise way too many people would be dying every day.]
I breathed a sigh in relief as I made my way on towards the city gates. I’m guessing the formation seemed to also be the reason hyres didn’t near the city.
When I was transferred into this body on the train it had submerged itself into a subway line when we approached the city so I never got to see these giant walls up close.
300 meter tall white stone walls encircled the entire city, easily over 500 miles in circumference. I passed through in awe at the sheer size. Honestly, thinking about it now, this wall was much more impressive than the two buildings.
“There goes the extra mana regeneration.” The moment I began passing through the long gate to the outside I could feel the extra mana the cadet uniform was providing waning until it completely stopped.
Looking around the outside there was a stark difference. There wasn’t even a paved road towards the next town as it instantly turned from stone into the dirt just outside the tunnel like a gate.
I guess it makes sense since most commerce use spatial mages.
There was quite a bit of a crowd outside the gate. It looked like everyone was doing their final preparations before setting off. Some summoned giant beasts then shooting off with their party others where checking their equipment and weapons were in good shape. There were even dozens of peddlers selling various adventuring items like antidotes and daze inhibitors or tents and dried foods.
“Hey you, will you be needing an augmentor escort?” A man in full plate armor called out locking his eyes onto mine with his helmet under his arm. He had a bastard sword at his waist and a shield almost at large as he was leaning against him on the ground.
“What do you mean? Am I not allowed to leave alone?” I neared him as I spoke. I was sure one didn’t need to be in a party to leave the city, but best to make sure.
“Oh no, I knew I saw a fresh face. Many cadets who don’t have a party hire us augmentors for protection, at a small fee, of course, we also usually split the materials that hyres leave. In turn, we help you fight hyres you couldn’t have defeated alone and help you collect herbs or plants at a much faster pace.”
“Ohh I see.” Honestly, as a bowman having someone be my front line would be great. I was a little on edge going at this alone and maybe having someone with experience for the first time out wouldn’t be so bad.
“How much would a day be? I’m not really looking for hyres. I’m looking to collect clacka roots and amethyst roses.”
“My usual rate is 1500 scales per day, but since it seems it’s your first time I’ll let you hire me for half. I’ll be good and say 700.”
He wanted 700! Let alone 1500, I only had a little over 100 scales left. There is no way I could afford this.
[That’s too bad its a pretty good deal Lucid the going rate is around 1500 Scales. Even if you were only going to safe areas he probably knows where good gathering areas are and help defend you from hyres. Not only that his presence would probably deter anyone who wished to rob you on the way back.]
I sighed there was nothing I could do.
“Sorry, even with the discount I don’t have the money.” I really didn’t.
“Ah that’s too bad, but here take my contact card if you ever need help I’ll even give you the same rate for the first time.” The armored man gave me a smile and left my side as the next train would be coming soon.
I thought he would be rude or at least cold the moment I declined. Since he wasn’t I saw no point in not hiring him if I ever did need an augmentor in the future.
[Jack Orchid, Professional Augmentor, Rank: Noble Cardinal, Specialty: Vanguard]
I asked Eurval to add his contact information and continued on the dirt road towards the forest. If I didn’t have access to the academies detailed maps of hyre hotspots I probably would have tried my best to haggle him down or offer a greater percentage of the materials.
Looking at the map Eurvel projected in my sight, the edge of the forest was about 50 miles away from the city. I could probably get there in under an hour if I ran thanks to the physical body training, but I decided to walk at a fast pace instead.
I picked up my gait taking brisk steps as I followed the many other young cadets walking on the dirt road out of the city. The sun didn’t set until midnight so I had plenty of time — it being a little over 2:00 in the afternoon.
[Its common to refer to people as adventurers, not cadets if you aren’t sure they’re actually cadets, Lucid.]
“Really? Huh.” Maybe I haven’t soaked in enough after all…
I was little on edge as I continued my fast walk because of the familiars. The ground under me shook each time a beast flew past me their giant paws, or hooves, pushing them over a 100 miles an hour.
Although I had seen these familiars on television I was still shocked by them in person every time.
They were huge! Seeing an elephant-sized lion kick up dirt running towards my back to pass of course was going to be scary. But It seemed most of the people walking around me didn’t seem to mind them at all.
[Don’t be so scared Lucid they’re just familiars. They’ll only attack if commanded or you attack first.]
I know, but still… with one command their beast could take a swab at me leaving me a puddle on the floor. I shook my head and moved towards the outer parts of the dirt road to avoid being close to them.
“Hey you there, are ya headed towards Tole Forest?” A brown-robed youth with a staff called out to me. His hood was down showing me his young face, lightly tanned skin, and dark purple hair, he looked around my age.
Taking notice he was talking to me I slowed my pace waiting for him to catch up causing him to speed up.
“Sorry to bother, but I saw you without a party. Me and a couple of others are headed towards Tole Forest, I wanted to see if you wanted to party with us for the trip there? I don’t know if you know, but strong hyres like to pop up on the road to pray on us folks who don’t have a familiar. Whatcha think?”
He pointed at a group of three walking on the edge of the dirt road behind us. At the front was a man with a large shield on his back and short thick sword at his waist, next to him was a tall red-haired woman equipped with a long saber, and at the back was a saintly looking shaven man in white robe and porcelain mace.
They seemed to be enjoying themselves as they walked.
[He seems alright Lucid. I think you should agree. I didn’t know, but reading about it now he’s right it’s been common for newbies to be killed that way lately.]
I didn’t see a reason to decline and their aura was very different from the ones I would get from students at Laurent so I was a little curious about how different.
“Sure, but I’m a Bowman is that fine?”
“That’s perfect I assumed so when I saw your ring. This is great with you in our party its rounded out. Come!” The brown-robed man smiled and led me to his group.
“Told you guys he was a bowman. So the split is going to be 30% for me! hehe. Oh yeah and this is, err, did I get your name?” He looked at me.
“Ronald…well, I’ll just introduce myself first.” The woman with the rapier shook her head.
“Hi there I’m Elizabeth I’m a first year at Osfell Academy. As you can probably guess my specialty is fighting with the saber. It’s nice to meet you, and you are?”
She had a sharp gaze of a valiant fighter, but it was still kind.
What nice people. The difference was staggering compared to the treatment I received back at Laurent. Now I was certain the people attending Laurent really where something else.
“My name is Lucid I’m a first year at Laurent Academy and my main weapon is a bow. I’ll be in your guy’s care.” I gave the four a small bow. Being the backline I would really be in their care.
“Ooh, fancy guy I had totally thought ya had just bought the uniform second hand since you were walking all lonesome with no augmentor or familiar. You know I was tempted to buy a used Laurent uniform, its defenses are decent while being so cheap! Besides you don’t give that stuck up vibe at all.” Ronald spoke up, the others seemed surprised too when I said I went to Laurent.
“Don’t mind him. Nice to meet you Lucid, I’m Jordan all of us are actually enrolled at Osfell Academy and in the same year as Elizabeth. I practice as our vanguard.”
I nodded in return shaking his outstretched hand. It was extremely firm and callously, yet gentle and warm in a way.
“Good to have you Lucid. My name is Barts my main practice is supportive and healing magic. If you get hurt or need help just call out to me.” Barts clasped his hands and have a bow. His voice was incredibly calm like a still lake.
“My turn eh, sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. My name is Ronald I’m an Earth Mage. I’ll probably be middle line if we get attacked since I need to be quite close for my spells to have decent effects. I also have some defensive Earth spells so middle is perfect.”
After we made introductions we picked back up the pace and made our way. After talking it seemed only Jordan and Elizabeth were physical body trainers and not real mages. Both had bought their defensive and fighting spells. The rest all used magic to increase their physical body’s power in battle while being actual mages.
[I hope you don’t stop physical body training Lucid, duel practicers are rare, but exceedingly powerful compared to the majority who only train in one.]
And why didn’t you tell me this when I bought the equipment?
[Ehehe I only want what’s best for you~]
I was only teasing, I was quite glad I was on the path of practicing both.
As we walked the conversations I had with the group from Osfell died down. I was a stranger for the most part after all though they seemed accommodating. They are good people I felt. Making me kinda wish I was attending their academy instead.
“Hey, Lucid why don’t ya have an augmentor or a familiar?” Ronald suddenly brought up.
“Ronald don’t be rude. Don’t answer him Lucid I’m sure you have your reasons.” Jordan smacked Ronald on the shoulder and gave me a smile.
Most of the students at Laurent came from wealthy families from across the world so it was odder that I didn’t have one.
“I don’t mind, I’m actually quite poor there is no way I can afford any of that. I only made it into Laurent due to something similar to a scholarship.”
There was no actual ‘tuition’, but many of the cadets came from affluent families bypassing the traditional route and ranking through donations. Not only that many cadets had expensive armors, techniques, and weapons bought for them before attending so, of course, they passed the minimum requirements.
Regardless of real talent with so much invested into a cadet, they were bound to at least appear extremely talented without their equipment to get in. I would guess that half of the cadets were really just ‘average’ had they not been born wealthy.
And me? I or the Lucid before me really was a robot at memorizing and performing magic calculations, a savant. I hate to say it, but I was basically, or am, a special ed student.
“Don’t get the wrong idea I’m not rich or anything, I came from the sticks just like Jordan,” Ronald spoke out he seemed worried if he touched a sensitive subject.
“No, really it doesn’t bother me at all.” I really didn’t mind.
“By the way Lucid are you headed towards the forest because of the rumor that Tole’s Dungeon is finally appearing again?” Barts spoke up this time.
“Yeah, that’s why so many are headed there. Many rare plants and really strong hyres worth a lot have been appearing more often than usual. It’s usually a sign that the dungeon will appear.”
Lucky! I had no interest in the dungeon right now, but if it meant finding medicinal plants for lustrating then I was all for it.
“Is it a particularly dangerous dungeon? You guys are looking for it?”
Elizabeth let out a laugh.
“No way! We’re way too weak to be entering dungeons. We’re looking for a hyre with earth attributes. Ronald and Jordan want to fill their weapon sockets with the essence orb from a mud snake since their affinity is earth.”
“Eh, are you sure mud snakes give earth attributes don’t they live near water?” I blurted out without thinking much of it.
I had looked over the information provided by Eurval on mud snakes and found it odd it would only give the earth attribute.
“AH!” Ronald yelled out.
“You Laurent folks aren’t just talk. Gosh darn, I was almost fooled by the name. Man, I even paid 600 scales for information on mud snakes weaknesses too.”
[Hyre: Mud Snake
Threat Level: D
Combat Data: STR: ~3400, AGI: ~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 makes it hard to catch, however, an earth mage with the quake and earth hardening ability can stop it from escaping. Weak against cold, fire, and piercing attacks. Strong against Earth, water, and slashing attacks.]
Being a cadet had its perks this information was free to me even had to option to get more details too.
The group huddled and started talking amongst themselves on their plan going forward. Although, we moved at a relaxed pace it still quite fast. We would reach the edge of Tole Forest within the hour.
Another half hour passed they decided to just hunt mud snakes and sell the orbs and hope they can kind an earth on the market since they knew how to fight the mud snake.
I agreed hearing their choice, it was the safest action after all. Fighting random hyres without information would be a gamble at best for parties with little experience.
The evergreen border approached quickly once it came into my view ending the expanse of plains and rolling hills.
I guess nothing ended up happ—
GRAHHHH. A vicious roar sounded out from the top of a large hill in the distance.
“I-is that a rock tortoise! RUNN! ” Everyone around stopped in their tracks and looked towards the giant animal. Unfitting with its size it slid off a large hill curling into a ball and rolled down the towards us at an incredible speed.
“I’m out, I can’t fight that alone. No way.” One person walking alone cracked a mirror-like pendant — instantly their body disappeared.
[A teleport treasure that must have been expensive.]
“No way we can outrun it together Lucid, get ready to fight it.” Jordan gave me a serious look as the other four took their positions.
“How can we be this unlucky…” Another person nearby looked down as they made a mad sprint back towards the city. I felt the giant amount of mana accumulate around them before they shot away.
Jordan took the front of our formation a little behind was Elizabeth, Ronald was in the center while Barts and I were at the back.
The giant tortoise smashed through the various parties at the front. Jordan was able to fend off the rolling blow directed at us without much issue. However, already I could see the casualties.
I averted my gaze on the ground.
GRAA. It yelled again shaking me to my core as it unrolled itself showing its giant meaty wrinkly legs, neck, and face.
I could feel my legs shaking beneath me. This was another level fear above that of the familiars. The scent of up kicked dirt and blood entered my nose as it stomped forward throwing a dead adventure into its mouth.
I… I never knew blood was so red… I wanted to vomit as I held in the retches.
The rock tortoise was at least two stories tall at its shell and three at the top of its head.
Seeing the damage it quickly assessed the only threats left was us! Everyone else had dispersed or died! Its head shot straight at Jordan like a jackhammer.
“Elly! Ronald!” Jordan yelled for Elizabeth as his shield glowed a brown light and absorbed the impact from the bite. Already running Elizabeth’s speed shot up leaving behind a red trail as she made an arc towards the exposed neck sending a vicious cross slash then fell back behind Jordan.
“Sand sink!” Ronald called once Elizabeth had fallen back creating a giant magic circle appears under the feet of the tortoise. Although its rolling speed was fast its unrolled speed was slow! It couldn’t move away in time.
Unable to dodge three of the tortoise’s legs sunk deep into the ground. It looked angrier now immobile than it had been at the small gashes bleeding purple blood on its neck.
“Lucid! Lucid! Lucid!” Barts voice slowly became unmuffled as the ringing in my ear stopped and a green light fell on me waking me up from a dream.
[Master that roar up close caused you to fall into a daze. You need to begin your attack the rest have been fending it off, aim for its eyes and the area under the shell where its neck is connected to!]
[Hyre: Rock Tortoise (Adolescent)
Threat Level: C
Combat Data: STR: ~17000, AGI: ~2300, MGI: NA, Mana Cap.: ~NA AM
Description: An adolescent version of a Rock Tortoise. Powerful shell extremely resistant to all magic and physical damage. Not yet reached maturity cannot cast innate magics. Must rely on powerful biting force and head thrusts to kill. Weaknesses eyes, thin skin near the base of the neck under the shell. Avoid bites or stomping power.
“Shit!” I felt bad. I had been standing here like I was watching a movie. If I wasn’t partied I would have died!
I could see Jordan and the rest are completely in sync, yet could only enter a stalemate at the moment, but Jordan looked as if he was getting tired even with the added defenses from Barts. Those head blows and chomps were no joke he was draining his mana quickly running around defending them from hitting any of us.
“Aim for the area under the shell! I’ll aim for its eyes” I yelled out. Now wasn’t the time to be stingy with the information from Laurant’s database that Eurval was showing me in my view.
I calmed myself as I moved to the side for a better angle. The tortoise is only 60 or so meters away my aim should be good.
Eurval in sync with my thoughts transformed the bow into my hands. Like clockwork, I brought out a flame arrow and nocked it. Whoosh. Feeling scared I put in a decent chunk of mana into the arrow. It flew fast leaving at a trail of orange arriving at its face before exploding. It must have been distracted fighting off the four and didn’t notice me until the arrow was too close!
Its head moved fast, quickly turning to the side moving out of the way. Still, the arrow was a few feet away from the head well within the blast radius as it passed by!
“Now!” I willed the arrow to activate before it went too far.
The fire arrow exploded causing a giant chunk of flesh to fly off its face and more to dangle loosely.
Its right eye was completely gone! Even its beak was partly cracked. With its movements stunned from the blow, Elizabeth sent glowing red slashes at the softer tissue at the base of its neck making deep wounds that quickly filled with purple blood.
It roared one more time, I was unaffected this time. Its movements became fiercer and more enraged as it shot its head at us.
Again. I already had another fire essence arrow nocked. I shot it at its other eye. Prepared it ducked its head down dodging it completely.
I clicked my tongue as I activated the mana letting it explode in the air behind it grazing the shell not leaving so much as a burn mark. It’s not going to be easy now. Still, we had the pressure in this battle now.
“How long can you hold on? If I can’t get another arrow at its head we’re going to have to slowly whittle it down at its lower neck.”
At least it could no longer retract into its shell with its legs locked. If it only escaped into the shell with its head we could easily take out its legs to kill it slowly.
“Damn, maybe 8-9 more blows from its beak,” Jordan answered. Its neck was too fast up close even Elizabeth had to wait for it to attack before going in.
Ronald was shooting small rocks, but most of his attention was on controlling the spell under it so it couldn’t wiggle its way out and charge at us.
Another blow was blocked by Jordan that was aimed at Ronald. His shield was glowing green and brown now because of Barts’ enhancements.
We were running out of time, the moment Jordan fell it would go after Ronald who had to be nearby for the spell to work. Once Ronald was gone it would be free to move towards Barts and I. Elizabeth with her speed could probably escape.
I shot another two arrows as fast as I could at the rock tortoises left and right.
Nope. It easily dodged one explosion and ducked the other. Just like the course said stats are deceptive its head could move way too fast.
“Jordan do you have anything that can stop his head for a bit? I think I can pierce its head.”
“Pierce its head? This is a rock tortoise your fire arrow only blew of its flesh and cracked the beak!” Jordan called out.
He was right even with a direct blow it would take two maybe three more to blow through. However.
“I can do it if I shoot through with a wind arrow!” I yelled back from the back line as tortoise continued to swing its neck another four blows just like that.
A fire arrow exploded in front of Elizabeth stopping the attack towards her.
“Okay we’ll trust you, we have no other options right now. Everyone next head bash we move to pin down its neck for Lucid! Elizabeth its gonna be on you to doge!”
I prepped the next arrow. With my mana body sensitivity much higher I could roughly feel over 40% of my maximum mana leaving me into a single arrow. There was nothing transparent about this mana packed arrow inside violent storms of essence crashed inside.
The tortoise twisted its neck again shooting downwards at Elizabeth. With a red glow, she dodged it by a hair’s breadth leaving a red afterimage. The thunderous snap of the two beaks meeting each other resounded cutting through the air where she had been standing.
“NOW!” Jordan jumped onto its neck using the tortoise’s own momentum to press it down further towards the ground.
“Hold!” Two giant hands appeared from Ronald’s earth magic assisting Jordan wrapping them around the hyre’s neck holding it down to the ground.
“Lucid! Shoot!” The dirt was giving way, cracking from the immense strength of the tortoise fought to move. With its neck held with magic Jordan had moved to the ground pulling on its a flap of thick skin downwards.
My white arrow flashed past Barts and Elizabeth. BOOM! I hit the tortoise dead center blowing a half meter wide hole through its head. The violent tornado following carrying bits of white brain matter and purple blood over its shell and far onto the field behind it.
The rock tortoise instantly went limp stopping all its resistance and fell.
We had killed it!
“NICE!” Ronald was the first one to jump up in joy.
“Blurgh” I fell on my knees and vomited out the half-digested lunch I had earlier.
I paused for a moment only to throw up another portion of food.
“You okay?” Barts came up to me and pat my back as I continued to retch every time I saw the meat paste left of the bodies of adventurers.
I threw up one more time this time it was mostly a yellow liquid.
“I-I think so.” After a final empty heave, nothing came out. It was probably the adrenaline of the ongoing fight that had kept me from becoming like this in the middle of battle.
“It’s just the way life is for adventurers. They knew the risks just as we do.” Jordan came up and consoled me.
Yeah, but I didn’t know the risks until now — is what I wanted to say.
This world really is only for the strong.
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