Chapter 53: It Wasn’t Without Bumps


Chapter 53: It Wasn’t Without Bumps

—DONGGGGGGGG

A powerful ringing smashed through my head as if I had been sleeping under a church bell that had been hit with the force of a speeding truck. My sleep and potential grogginess was blown away in an instant my mind clear and heart rate high.

“Attack!” I yelled out immediately as I ran out of the tent.

“Hyres are coming, quickly!” From the shadows of the light inside their tent, I saw two were already awake scrambling to get out, their warding magic didn’t wake them the way mine did.

Still, they looked experienced to this and quickly ran out in few seconds.

“We detected it just now. Do you know what it is?” Aegis look at me.

“It’s a pack of four giant insects coming from all sides it looks like 2 will arrive first from the north and west. Each is about 3 meters tall with two sickle blades for arms reaching 2 meters. Most of their weight looks to be their chest, arms, and four legs. Based on their movements I estimate they are class 2, D.”

“All that detail…okay I and Aegris will make contact first then you fill in the gaps when you can. We can’t let them surround us as and fight as four.”

I nodded my head at the simple plan. Better we get the leg up.

Through the layers of wards I could sense the hyres blasting through them as they got closer showing how important wards were for a party. This would have been a surprise attack otherwise and if I really was as at these two’s level as the two the preemptive attack could have been disastrous if one of us got injured from the start.

Contrasting the urgency the wards caused there was no sound coming from the forest yet these bugs ran with their four legs blazing with light steps if not for the wards the forest looked frighteningly tranquil.

The siblings drew their weapons but they didn’t seem to have a set of armor. To appear like them I kept my armor as a ring and only brought out my spear.

The light of a red flashed under their feet then instantly disappeared. However, there were stark changes to the sibling’s auras. The sibling’s hair, buckler, and swords all began to glow a bright yellow-red. With powerful steps the shot off in the direction of the two closest ones.

Following their lead I cast First Snow on my spear it radiated a pale white and let out soft familiar snow.

Chasing after them in the northwest direction the two suddenly paused.

“There!” Aegis pointed and yelled.

They ran forward in a blazing dash towards the one from the north. From the speed of the hyres passing through my wards, the north would come much before the western one.

I followed behind them leaping over the thick fallen trees and ripping through bushes.

—KRAAKAKA

With a clear view, we saw the giant mantis with a dark metallic exterior.

The hyre looked surprised but didn’t hesitate and jumped up as if it been catapulted, its shiny sickle arms glinting in the night an orange-red from the sibling’s augmenting magic.

Aegris stood with his legs spread apart twisting his body clockwise rapidly turning then flinging his left arm out.

—Wooosh

His buckler flew off the forearm holster leaving a trail of crimson cutting through the air like burning saw blade.

—CLANG

The mantis blocked the shield but lost a lot of its speed towards us. The impact caused the buckler to fly away but like a boomerang it slowly made its way back to Aegris who lifted his arm and controlled it to slide back onto the small rail on his forearm while he ran forward.

“HAAA!” Aegris and Aegis wasted no time both met the mantis as it was about to land.

In perfect unison, they began a barrage of attacks trading amazingly quick blows making me wonder how their weapons never clashed with each other. The mantis was no joke its two arms blocking quite skillfully however with two against one it was getting injured nonetheless.

While they fought I kept my eyes on the area watching their backs and waiting for the next hyre from the west to come.

I didn’t wait for long.

The second one arrived!

“Charging!” I yelled my intention to the siblings as I dashed forward to the left at an extreme speed.

“We heard be careful!”

I need to act like a spearman. Flying past the siblings to the other giant mantis my spear made contact with the hyre that had just arrived. It tried to deflect but my forward speed and thrusting strength were too much. Its block didn’t do much to deter my spear’s path.

I was aiming to punch through the giant lower abdomen.

“It’s no use.” I looked at the hyre struggling to push back.

The mantis I faced fought with its four legs to stop itself from being forced back as I pressed forward with greater and greater force. I ended up shoving it right against a tree.

—KRAKAKAKA

It shot its shark-like head forward to try and bite me but my spear was too long

Desperately its hind legs pressed against the tree to attempt to push back.

—CRUNCH

My spear pierced through its two sickle arms and then it’s hard shell. With the shell cracked through my spear slid through the lower body. I made sure to cause as much damage adding a twist to really churn its soft organs turning them into mush. The mantis went limp as I pulled back leaving no chance for my spear to get stuck in a tree. With my spear out I saw a gaping hole. The white innards that had caught on the serrated sections of my spear spilled out.

With a kill a felt a brief sensation enter my perception as the spear and my armor, currently a ring, absorbed the aura of death. With this, I confirmed it had died and ran back to the siblings waiting again watching the area the other two would arrive soon at the same time.

“Nice!” The two gave a brief glance and saw I had finished one off.

The siblings also where almost finished not allowing the mantis a moment to breathe. It tried to run away and buy time for the others to join zigzagging up and around the forest trees but it was no use. The two were relentless as they followed it throwing their buckler chipping at its hard head, catching their small shields, and then following up by slashing with their glowing swords chipping at it some more.

Its slowing movements made it clear the forces had caused internal damage.

“HAAAH!”

—Swish

Aegis found an opportunity and finally cut through leaving a giant gash the hyre with its half-broken head twitching on the ground before dying.

“The other two are coming!” I yelled

Aegris and Aegis didn’t let their victory lose their focus and turned around.

—Kakakaka

In anger at their dead comrades the two that appeared at a rapid pace no longer bothered to quiet their steps as they threw up dirt and rocks behind them to pick up more speed.

Their steps were extremely quick!

But so was ours!

“We’ll take the one on the right you just defend and buy time while we take care of one!”

“Got it!” Confirming Aegis plan I ran to the mantis on the left.

This time I was on the back foot as the mantis swiped and tried to bite at me with its shark teeth.

The siblings threw their bucklers and jumped up catching each others’ after they were blocked. The quick distraction was enough to already put this other mantis on its backfoot as they arrived with their swords and bucklers in hand. Catching and slashing their attacks never let up.

I watched over them as I defended against my mantis. Using various defensive stances or rolling to dodge its bites. Leaving it to take an ear-popping chomp of the air instead of breaking its teeth on my arm. I was being merciful.

I could charge this mantis once again, but a real spearman close to the sibling’s strength would only be able to use such an attack sparingly. Such charges are an attack with a high mana load and expulsion cost and can’t be used so rapidly.

Of course, I didn’t use any mana at all and just emulated it by releasing a little bit of my true physical strength.

I dodged once more then repositioned my legs and began to practice my defenses as it began to ferociously strike at me with its two razor-sharp arms.

However, First Snow was beginning to show its effects as the frost was growing around its elbows and body. I then began to defend against it aiming for its joints to further slow it down.

“HAA!”

I heard a yell from the sibling’s side of the battle and saw Aegis deal the finishing blow smashing its head with her buckler like a backhanded slap. The mantis fell back then to the side. Aegris ran up stabbing its head to make sure they had finally defeated it.

“We’re coming!” Immediately after they ran over to lessen my ‘burden’ by tossing their bucklers and jumping in front of me.

“I can dive in again now if you two keep it busy and give me some time.”

“We got it! Go ahead when you can.” Aegris spoke without looking behind.

Pretending to charge up after a moment I lept into the sky feeling the cold midnight air rushing past me as I rocketed towards the moonless starry night. Aiming my spear downwards with both hands I began my descent.

“AAAA!” I yelled out as I dove down like a missile.

—Cling!

It was clear sound as the long blade of my spear pierced cleanly through its hard head right down through its upper abdomen and out from under it. Like a giant bug-kebab, I had killed the final one. Still hanging onto my spear standing on its head I pressed down then pulled back jumping up landing behind the two as the giant mantis fell.

—Woooo

Only their pants filled the noise of the still night for a long moment as our nerves began to settle.

“W-we did it.” Aegis’s voice was a bit shaky.

I use to have those too but the months in the dungeon got rid of them quite fast, but it seemed the two were a bit more inexperienced than I had thought. Still, their combat prowess was exceptional.

The orange shine on the metallic bodies of the slain hyres began to disappear as augmenting magic left the two. Only the reflection from the stars in the sky shined on them from the cracks in the tree canopy.

“Let’s dismantle them and move away from here as fast we can.”

“Right.” Without wasting any time we took apart the important bits and took out the two orbs from each hyre.

I could have thrown everything into my storage ring easily, but that would have exposed the massive space of my storage treasure to Aegis’ over analyzing eyes.

After tossing the remaining worthless bits far away we head back to our camp.

“You’re quite strong.” Aegris grinned as he began to re-setup camp the two hyres that joined later had run through here and made quite a mess.

Like him, I was also happy these two weren’t bad at all. Their fighting style was practiced and deeply set. More than I could say for myself. In terms of talent, they were truly gifted unlike a fraudster like me.

After quickly setting up camp again we all went back to sleep we would have a long distance to travel in the morning we could discuss the distribution of everything then. Making sure we are well rested was more important.

***

The next morning I awoke before the sun arose. After washing my face with some water I went out and began to collapse my tent.

What’s that smell.

My nose twitched as I turned around to see Aegris cooking a meal for three on a skillet. Off to the side of the grill away from direct heat were plates of creamy grits, eggs, and large pieces of ham.

“Eat the sun should come up soon.” Aegis looked at me gesturing me to take a plate.

Without reservation, I quickly walked up afraid that I would miss out on another of Aegris’ meal and began eating breakfast.

“Delicious.” I let out after I finished chewing and taking a gulp of tea to warm me up from the morning cold.

“Of course it’s good I made it. Even the ham I cured with my own brine mixture.”

I nodded my head this boasting was well deserved. I continued to mow down the entire plate as he talked about the various details of the food.

“Aegris this trade was well worth it already.” I pat my stomach.

“Our mother was famous in our village for her cooking skills. She could make any meat taste like heaven.” Aegis proudly said as she finished her last bite.

As we waited for Aegris to finish eating I was the first to bring up the topic of the distribution of spoils.

“How do we want to split the materials? I would prefer more mana orbs to essence orbs, preferably all of them.” Speaking plainly was the best. Saved time and skipped directly to negotiations.

The materials weren’t worth much.

“You are not the only one who needs them, I have a stone that’s about to fully form.”

Her mana body is a bunch of rocks?

Like a bunch of pebbles? Is that even comfortable to lustrate in?

I wondered what it looks like. I tried to picture a chair made of cobblestone but it didn’t quite have the grandness I felt mana bodies had. With no easy way to know I moved on.

For me, the materials weren’t a priority, clarified mana orbs is what I was after.

“How about this, I get half of all mana orbs but forgo any essence orbs we obtain?” It was not a bad deal at all for either of us.

It even benefited them.

Aegris and Aegis looked at each other.

“We…can do this. But you’re an essence trainer you don’t want essence orbs?” Aegris looked at me slightly perplexed.

“Mana load is a big part of spearmenship its best for me to have a strong mana body. Do I take that as a yes, do we have an agreement?”

“Hmm, so it’s like that for spear wielders.” Aegris looked to have understood. There was no point in lying it was something they could have found out quickly anyways.

“Yes, we agree to those terms,” Aegis spoke.

As for the materials they would be sold wholesale and we would split it into thirds. At a glance, it felt unfair because they shared their gains but it was fair nonetheless.

I had one mana orb on me and after breakfast Aegis handed me another as I handed her the essence orbs.

With the spoils meeting concluded and everything packed we set off again as the sun touched the horizon its rays barely peaking up.

Like yesterday I followed behind after experiencing moving through a forest with Frium this pace felt torturous.

***

“How ferocious,” Aegis said catching her buckler after missing her target.

As if it been shot from a canon a massive mountain lion had lunged at my throat but just as quickly is it appeared it began to run off.

It had missed by a hair.

Running away was a car sized mountain lion with a gnarly horn and two tails.

“We have to kill it we can’t risk letting it bring friends,” Aegris spoke out as he and his sister started running after it.

With no wards, we couldn’t be sure if there were any more coming. I too ran after the fleeing hyre.

—ROOOOAAARR!

Seeing us following after it the lion turned around to bellow out a mind-numbing roar. Stunned, we all stood still for a breaths time. Without wasting time it turned back around and quickened its pace.

We shook it off and continued but the distance between was getting larger and larger.

“I’ll charge after it to slow it down, you two will have to get ahead once I slow it down enough to finish it off.”

“We got it, we’ll go around and be waiting ahead. Be careful yell out if you can’t handle it.”

After hearing their confirmation the two ducked to the sides of the forest out of view.

Seeing as it was getting away I “cast” my augmenting magic and charged after it blowing past jumping from tree to tree. Like yesterday there was no spell or technique it was me just faking it.

In no time my “temporary” speed boost caught me up. Being much faster I had the opportunity to attack it.

“HA!” With my spear trailing behind me I lifted it as I jumped up and thrust aiming for the back of its head.

Oh, it can sense me?

I was a bit surprised.

Using its claws it dug into the ground sliding to a stop with all its strength on its front legs. It quickly decelerated causing me to miss.

What battle sense! This hyre might be on the upper end of D at the cusp of being rated at threat level C.

Having blown past it I was now in front of it, facing off.

The massive mountain lion bared its white fangs it jaw clenched while keeping low to the ground like a compressed spring. We circled each other for a bit but I was the first to move instantly my feet flicked forward. 

—Clink. Clank!

With its razor-sharp nails, it swatted away two quick slashes from my spear. However, it didn’t anticipate a third attack weaved in!

—BAM

The hyre was thrown back a few meters its eyes slightly unfocused after delivering a massive blunt blow to its lower jar with the blunt bottom of my weapon. With such a long rod a blow like that was like being struck with a hammer.

“DIE!” Still having some the time limit I gave my charge available I instantly closed the distance again with my “augmented” strength.

As it shook its head to relieve itself from the previous blow’s disorientation I arrived to launch a stronger offensive. It was shocked and begun to step backward as I began a flurry of attacks while it was unsteady.

I danced around trading quick blows with its incredibly quick front and hind legs defending. I made sure to tag its legs and neck. I wouldn’t be the one to finish it off after all. Its thick chain mail like fur coat began to whiten with frost and the temperature around its body slowly dropped.

Seeing I had slowed it down enough for the siblings I faked the waning of the boost of power and speed showing that I longer could keep fighting it on my own.

Seeing it’s chance it was smart enough to not try and finish me but instead ran past me and ran off!

I didn’t chase as I watched it separate from me I was sure the siblings had the time to directly run around secretly to intercept it up ahead.

Standing with my spear to the side I heaved heavy breaths to feign as if I had wasted a lot of energy to fight it on equal terms on my own for a short period.

This hyre was strong, strong enough to have a good chance to win against two. Which is why it had tried to rush at me from behind to kill me from the start.

With three, however, it had no chance.

Its movements were slow enough now that I caught up shortly without needing to run with augmenting magic.

“HAA”

“HOOO”

Aegris and Aegis where already in combat with the injured and much slower version of the hyre. The siblings had been fighting it for a few minutes now and with a final swish of his blade, Aegris cut open the hyre’s neck finally getting through its tough, now icy, coat.

From far I saw the hyre’s eyes dim while blood spilled out in surprising amounts. Aegis quickly followed up by piercing its head ending its suffering.

“They’re getting much more frequent.” Aegis frowned as she began to dismantle the hyre and extract its orbs.

This fight was our fifth since we set off.

“Nous how is your mana? Do you need a break? My brother and I can share the load between us while you’re on your own.” She looked at me as I pretended to have finally caught my breath.

Being the only one who can close gaps and weaken the hyres in this party made my work is a little troublesome as many of the hyres we’ve encountered all run away at the first sign of losing the fight.

These encounters were not leaving enough time to fully recuperate mana but it would be especially bad for me if I was truly using any. I was completely fine under the surface but on my face I looked like I was getting exhausted and starting to feel the pressure.

I sighed.

This pond we’re headed to must quite the place for hyres. It’s probably like an oasis of latent mana making it a natural place for hyres to hang around. Will the siblings be in danger?

I grew worried. While I am confident in protecting myself with my strength protecting someone else was something that needed both power and skill. With my meager attainment in spearmanship if I could save them if something unexpected happens was up in the air.

“I’m fine. But we should be extra careful there is no doubt the pond will be extremely dangerous for us. I suggest we don’t bother sleeping in this part of the forest and just push ourselves to head back to the area we were last night.”

“What are you scared? All this fighting is great, look at all the materials we’ve collected we’ve handled everything so far just fine.” Aegris voiced his disagreement.

While it was true we’ve handled everything even with me pretending to be as strong as them. I felt it was better to not risk any more than we already have.

“I have to agree with my brother Nous. Although your work seems to be harder than it is for us these spoils have been massive. What about we change our earlier agreement and you can have all the mana orbs we collect from now on?”

Aegis, as the calculative person she is, mistook my worry for dissatisfaction with the proportion of work I was putting compared to the spoils I was getting.

I sighed once more. They were the majority and it was nice enough of them to even be considerate enough to change the earlier agreement. If I was truly as strong as them I would be fearing for my life if they abandoned me.

“That was not my intention, but I’ll agree with that. I will warn again we should be extremely careful.”

“Don’t be so shy Lumi, if you felt this unfair just say it we’re a party. Do not worry I haven’t even shown you my full strength.” Aegris seemed to fall in line with his sister’s thoughts and laughed it off patting my back.

Although boasting at the same time he was thoughtful enough to understand the heavier workload on me. I could only praise as they could understand the value of someone else’s work.

I half-smiled at Aegris words and continued after them. We would be arriving near the pond within the next hour. Completely on guard, I was truly scared a hyre would snatch one of these two before I could even react.

***

After traveling for close to an hour appeared a faint sweet smell coming from the air up ahead. With it, however, where the sounds of battle behind a treeline. I could make out flashes of light from the cracks between the trees. It looked quite fierce.

“Someone’s fighting up ahead.”

“I don’t see anything are you sure?” Aegris spoke as we strode forward.

Getting closer I could now smell burning and see unnatural gales that rocked trees every now and then.

“I can hear it too now. Let’s not approach, we should go over there and see what the situation is first.” Aegis wanted to get to a rock formation with decent elevation it would have a clear view of what was happening in the pond.

There was no telling what was ahead without risking ourselves so this was the best choice.

Running up the jagged rock formation we arrived quickly up at its peak to see below.

“It wasn’t someone but somethings. Are they fighting over territory?” I questioned as two hyres circled each other with vicious glares.

Both hyres where emitting strange gases I could immediately tell they where probably extremely poisonous from how they damaged the nearby vegetation.

“Mmm, probably. The waters of the pond are extremely toxic during the day but at night they become the antidote to itself. The night’s waters can be used to treat other poisons too it’s a perfect place for poisonous beasts like them. Each one probably wants it all to themselves.”

Aegis summarized some of the request details we got after we accepted the quest.

The pond wasn’t small at all from here I could see its large figure resembling the number 8. It could easily be home for both if each stayed on opposite ends. Unfortunately, I doubt either one would concede to becoming roommates with each other.

“We can stay here until midnight but we should move towards the center so hyres won’t get curious to see what’s moving at the peak after their fight finishes.”

Aegris and I didn’t say anything but we were all in agreement.

From their use of magic it was obvious they were class 1 and from their strength a class 1 with a treat rank of D.

We watched the two hyres not hold anything back using all of their innate magic and strength to fight for supremacy. Fighting in and out of the pond the toxic water splashed high in the air and the shore of the large pond was quickly being remolded. Being class 1 hyres their ability to battle was much higher than I had anticipated it seems these two were on the high end of their threat level 
and at the cusp of reaching C.

Their battle sense was incomparable to the class 2 mountain lion we had fought earlier.

As for why they weren’t C? It was because this was their peak. As for the rock tortoise, it was merely its beginning.

With continuous blows of black corrosive liquids and trades of powerful bites, the two hyres began to look more and more crazed to win.

“It looks like the Moonshimmer Poison Crocodile won,” Aegris said as he studied them looking to be in deep thought.

The battle was coming to an end both beasts were heavily injured with large flaps of skin swinging around exposing white bones, tendons, and pink muscles. The winner looked to be the one with all its limbs still intact.

Their savage unrestrained natural ability for combat was a learning lesson for all three of us. As an essence trainer bowman, I never took much from watching these battles in the dungeon, however, now as someone who has touched upon the essence of close combat I could take in some insights and hopefully apply them in my own fighting style.

Aegis and I nodded to her brother’s conclusion. The black-furred bear with purple smoke surrounding it was missing one of its paws. The Moonshimmer Poison Crocodile had disintegrated it during an exchange catching it in its mouth grinding it into a mush before tearing it off.

Seeing it wasn’t winning the bear lost its ferocious eyes and using three legs ran away half-limping and half-hopping.

The croc was too injured to follow and dove deep into the poisonous waters to recover. There seemed to be a hop in its step that didn’t come from being injured. It was a triumphant walk.

With the battle ended our focus shifted back to us.

“It’s a shame we aren’t a full party isn’t it?”

“Are you saying we can’t beat that thing while it’s injured Lumi? A few hits from us and the bear will be dead.”

“No, what Nous is trying to say is right. Let’s leave it be.” Aegis quickly threw water on Aegris’ dangerous thoughts of chasing after the injured bear.

If we were a full party like the one I was in with Ronald I would heavily consider taking them on. But just the three of us there was no way we could contend with me limiting myself it would be a 50/50 gamble at best.

“Even if we can’t take them at least we took something from watching them fight.” I consoled although Aegis knew better I could see it was a bitter feeling for her too.

“That’s true.” Aegris agreed and turned around walking to the center of the peak of the rock formation. He sat down cross-legged with his sword and buckler on his lap with his eyes closed looking to be in deep reflection.

Aegis and I followed after seeing we would now wait for the night to come to complete our quest. Sitting in a triangle back to back we waited.

At least from here we had been able to get a decent overview of the area and felt a bit safer knowing the largest danger inside the pond was injured and wouldn’t be coming out.

Even if it wasn’t injured it wouldn’t necessarily attack us. Its food source was the poisonous waters.

Soon enough it was a half an hour to midnight and the sun was starting to set. As if in sync all of us stood up at the same time.

“Let’s go.” The siblings both said simultaneously.

Was it after watching the two class 1 hyres fight that they realized the dangers?

“Mmn, let’s go,” I said after.

With quick steps, we made it back down into the forest and head for the pond.

The fight must have scared off a lot of hyres as we didn’t encounter anything on the way there. We arrived with a few minutes to spare the sun was just about to set.

“Look, look over there the flower!” Aegis was the first to notice a tiny plant sprouting.

We all followed and stood a few meters away from the waters. The plant was growing right up along the edge of the waterline.

“Don’t get close until the sun fully sets the pond is still poisonous even if it’s semi-clear.”

Like watching a timelapse the sprout quickly grew leaves and a stalk and then a bud. This wasn’t just the one close to us but happening all around the pond dozens of these purple flowers quickly appeared.

While I wanted to take in the beauty of the purple flower we had no time the moment the sun disappeared and the waters cleared we quickly ran along throwing the flowers with their roots intact into our storage treasures. Aegris and Aegis shared one so they ran together.

“Remember to leave one, we need it to attract the beetles.”

“We know, we’ll leave that one over there by the on the north side it has the biggest space for us to fight.”

After the exchange, we continued around the edges of the 8 shaped pond. We had arrived on the southwest side so the siblings took the outer edge and I took the inner edge since with two they were faster. Then we met up at the northern side where a single flower stood.

“How many did you get?” I looked at the two as I waited by the single flower.

“Sixty-one, and you?”

“Twenty-six.”

“So, eighty-eight with the one we leave up. Let’s try for at least double in case some of the poison sacs are damaged.” Aegis said as she began to move towards the front with her back towards the shore.

Aegris took the left and I took the right.

“Yell out an estimate of how many are coming your way. If we’re close to double I’ll store the flower away.”

“Alright, Nous we’ll leave it to you.” Aegis glanced over and gave me a nod.

—Bzzzzzz

Just after she finished talking a cacophony of buzzing and clicking sounds became louder and louder. Knowing a bunch of bugs where coming it made me feel a bit of disgust. The beetles weren’t strong at all but their numbers made up of their lack of individual strength. There was a reason why we had to pick the flowers at midnight. One was to stop them from being eaten but more importantly so the scent they emitted wouldn’t spread far and attract too many.

“I have a hundred coming here!” Aegris yelled

“A hundred also!” Aegris’ voice followed.

And coming towards me were close to a hundred or so. I quickly ran to the flower and stored it into my ring then quickly retook my position.

—Crunch.Crunch.Crunch.

They truly were weak. The siblings’ fast-paced fighting style was perfect each weapon was smashing through them at a rapid pace. Seeing they weren’t having any trouble I ran towards the horde of flying beetles coming my way slicing them as I moved through using a fast style within the Azer Dragoon technique.

My spear moved incredibly quickly whipping up the air around me not letting a single one by. A few more stragglers also came after the main group but since all the flowers were picked no more came after.

“We’re done!” Aegis said happily as she finished dismantling all the beetles she killed.

Aegris and I were also dismantling our own pile of bug corpses, except it seemed she was quite adept at it and finished quickly. Just as Aegis had suggested many of the beetles had their poison sac destroyed and around half were usable. Maybe someone like Frium could control the path of her spear blade finely enough to only behead them but I wasn’t anywhere near that realm.

The most pleasant surprise was not the 300 or so mana orbs I would soon collect but that death aura I was absorbing was equal for all things. The mountain lion, the mantis, the rabbits in Civieto, or the hundred beetles here they all gave the same feeling when they died while I had on my spear and armor even in its ring form.

“I’m finished, what about you Lumi?”

“I’m done now too. Let’s go back to the rock formation.”

“Yes, let’s go before scavengers come to eat the scraps.”

With that, we followed the same path we took to get here. Because their night vision wasn’t so good they had no choice.

Luckily we did not encounter any hyres. Before we climbed up the 100 meters back to the top Aegis and I placed wards around the base of the rock formation. Though we did have some alerting sounds nothing ended up attacking us.

Maybe I was too cautious about wanting to leave immediately back to the other area?

While I did think that for a moment I still disagreed with the decision although their viewpoint wasn’t wrong.

Relaxed at the top I finally enjoyed the scenery here. The moon finally showed tonight and the stars felt particularly more dazzling. I was always one to enjoy the wilderness on Earth and here there the outside had a natural extra awing factor I couldn’t get enough of.

“Here you go the mana orbs me and my sister obtained.” Aegris held out his hand with a ring on his index finger.

“Thanks.” I tapped my ring to his and sensed the transfer. 237 mana orbs were passed onto me including the 5 hyres we encountered on the way here.

“Nous do you think you can stay for a few more days out here? Seeing as it looks safe so close to the pond we can do this at most three more times.”

“This gives us two days to get back to Obsense City and a day to rest before the matches begin.”

I thought for a moment.

“That’s fine with me.” Its really only a day’s travel back to the city from here but to be on the safe side even they gave themselves leeway.

“Wonderful.” Aegis and Aegris looked relieved.

Are they that tight on money?

At least this means they trust my skill if I was a horrible member in this party I was sure they would want to get back as soon as possible.

After another amazing meal made of the mountain lion we had slain we all retired to our tents to lustrate, do personal things, and sleep.

***

With our plan set, we arose early, scouted the area past the wards for any changes, and came back to the rock formation to eat dinner, rest, and wait for midnight. We repeated this schedule three times without a hitch. These two were truly reliable. Although Aegris did get hasty due to boredom the days we encountered no hyres during our scouting Aegis was there to reason with him.

The morning after the third repetition we immediately set off after dismantling the beetles. It would be a full day’s travel to reach the city from midnight to midnight. Aegis had added slack for one extra day of travel or if really needed two but two would mean no real rest before the day of the tournament.

Oh?

Their backs aren’t so stiff anymore.

I noticed as I followed behind them as we trekked on towards the city. I was happy I had earned some trust as they had earned some from me too.

After removing my glance over them I returned my eyes to watch over the area behind.

“HELP!”

“PLEASE HEEELLP!”

A cry from behind us reached our ears. The three of us quickly turned around with our weapons in hand.

“AHHHH!”

I badly beaten group of four ran towards chasing them was a familiar giant furry black hyre.

A disgust filled me seeing their actions. Doing something like this was absolutely looked down upon. Forcing a hyre onto an unrelated group was extremely unmannered to say the least.

“Get the hell away from us!” Aegris yelled out with a vicious tone.

“PLEASE WE CAN’T KILL IT!” Still running towards us the massive bear behind them continued its pursuit.

It was the class 1 hyre we had watched fight the crocodile. Although still slightly injured it wasn’t anywhere near what it was the day it left the pond. It had even regrown its missing paw.

These idiots must have really overestimated themselves if they fought it today mistaking the, now, superficial wounds as heavy. Greed must have taken over their reasoning thinking they had obtained a decent fortune.

“Scram!” Aegris yelled again but to no avail.

“Ahhh!” The person at the back screamed out having his back lacerated by the bear’s innate magic slash. Soon, another five lines of glowing purple flew threw the air landing on his back again creating an X shape.

His entire body began to turn black and purple, but quickly the poison was dispursed by his own magic.

“You bastards! You dare come to us and throw your failure onto us!” Aegis was fuming seeing we wouldn’t be able to outrun this thing.

Having been provoked it would chase us all down individually and kill us unless we tried to fight it together.

“You!” I pointed at the short kid at the back with a white staff who had fix the poison on himself.

“Come here stand behind them heal or augment us when you can. You three disappear I can already tell you’ll be useless, don’t bother us.”

Understanding my intentions Aegis and Aegris walked up beside me. The young kid still running towards us nodded his head his eyes red streaked with tears.

The other three said nothing and just continued to run past us while the young kid stopped behind the siblings.

About to give chase to the injured party members I “cast” my charge and confronted the bear directly to obtain its attention.

—Bang!Bang!

My spear and its claws collided its fast attacks where ruthless each downward swipe with its paws shot out purple arcs one for each sharp claw. Doing my best while limiting my strength and speed I was successful in blocking its bites and other attacks.

“Don’t just stand there do something!” I yelled out to the stunned kid. He was doing nothing as the poison had landed on me.

I wasn’t able to harm me, but I still had to wake him up in case the sibling became afflicted.

With the little assistance after he removed the poison, I added in a few more attacks as I danced with the bear.

“I think I’ve slowed it down enough, help me.”

“We got it.” After my words, the siblings joined in. I took its front while Aegris and Aegis took the left and right sides respectively.

The young kid stood a few meters behind me.

With this, we began to seriously fight it.

—Bang!

“Sister!” Aegris cried out seeing Aegis kicked with its hind legs thrown like a rag doll into a tree.

“I’m fine!”

“Go tend to her!”

“Y-yes.”

As the young kid fixed her injuries and cured the poison that had got to her Aegris increased his attacks to make up for the lack of a person.

Once Aegis joined the fray again he slowed back down, but that burst looked to have sapped a lot of stamina.

This bear was a tank. Not only was its coat insanely strong against attacks its roar would leave the siblings shaken if not for the young kid standing far behind removing the awe. They would have died unable to block or dodge its bites or claw slashes.

Finding a groove with all four of us we continually pressed on. It ran around the three-sided encirclement we had built charging targets one after the other but with no avail as it attacks and movements had reached a point where even the three idiots could have a chance at attacking it.

It would be a drawn-out battle but I saw the light of victory.

“We’re here to help!” Speaking of which the three cowards finally made an appearance seeing the dangers much more removed.

I had already noticed they had sunk back far away. My guess was to collect our items once we were killed.

“Filthy fucking cowards get away! This is ours now.” Aegris barked knowing exactly what the three were trying to do.

The bear’s charges continued to get slower the longer it fought me. It had noticed and began to try and avoid directly fighting me but it was no use I would begin to attack its other legs the moment it turned away. Realizing there was no escape it knew it had no choice but to fight me and kill me to break our winning condition.

“We three cannot ignore that this is our fault we have to help you defeat this hyre.” Seeing they could ignore our commands as we were busy fighting it off they joined the side with Aegis and began attacking.

“Bastards move!” Aegis piercing voice scared them off so they moved to its back.

Our battle continued for over half an hour. Aegris, Aegis, and the young kid were at their absolute limit but so was the bear Aegris and Aegis had damaged its coat enough and were directly cutting its flesh. It was the same for me.

Its icy body became more and more mangled riddled with small injuries as we led it around the area it had flattened in its charges and stumbles. Even its eyes had been beaten bloody and blue with the use of their shields as its slower speed was unable to dodge them.

It should be dead soon. Its movements were no longer slow but instead sluggish and uncoordinated. It had bled too much blood, suffered too much internal damage, and exhausted too much energy fighting us.

With a final roar, I stared at me reading its final attack. Just as it began to lunge at me…it had turned around!

“AHH!”

“EEEK!”

Shit!

Seeing it wouldn’t be living for much longer it had decided to take the lives of the weakest — the trio. The trio tried to turn around and dodge but its giant mouth was already close to them and would crush them with one bite.

I shot forward like a bullet arriving almost instantly piercing its massive head with enough force to destroy it altogether. White chunks of brain and blood sprayed on the trio as they huddled on the floor.

I knew they would be useless.

Cough.Cough.Cough.

Seeing it was dead I used my spear to prop myself up.

“Lumi what’s wrong are you poisoned? You! Get over here and help him!” Aegris called for the young kid.

“C-coming.”

I waved off Aegris and continued to cough violently.

I should win an award for this.

“He’s… not poisoned.” The young kid looked worried.

“I think the magic he used right there must have had some backlash.” Aegis finally joined in.

Nice! Good job Aegis.

“Yes… Aegis is right… that ability I used is a last resort the backlash is huge.”

Cough.Cough.

“It’s because of you three he had to use it! Get out of here don’t you think about asking for any materials from this bear!”

The trio looked at each other then back to us with a shameless expression.

“Look, you’re all injured and probably exhausted all your mana you need us to protect you in this forest no?”

“That’s right. What can you do right now if we want to take it all? Do you want to risk overreaching? Be grateful we only want what we deser—”

Aegis pointed her sword pointing it at the three.

“I have every right and the strength to end you three here.”

“It seems you’ll be just fine we’ll leave dismantling to you. Thank you for saving us!” The trio ran off without looking back.

Truly cowards.

“You should have killed them sis. People like that will only bring harm to others in the future.”

“Let’s dismantle it and look for a place to camp.” Aegis didn’t respond to her brother.

But I could guess that she didn’t have the strength at all to fight the three at the moment.

It was a bluff, she was decisively cunning.

“You too. You should have let them die Lumi.” Aegris then looked at me.

“Forget it. Never mind, sit down and rest we’ll dismantle it.” He looked apologetic as if he said something rash and turned around.

He was right. His anger was justifiable.

I should have let them die. I should have…but I reacted before I could stop myself an instinct from living on Earth telling me if I can save someone I should save them. I sighed, I would need to temper my mind and heart. This isn’t my peaceful life on Earth people like them will really bring harm to others including me and those I care about. Seeing myself hesitate here I began to question whether I could truly enact my revenge on Laurent.

Aegis and Aegris, if they did have the strength at the moment I was certain they would have killed them.

“You, how do you know them. Answer!”

“I-I only met them two days ago at the guild.” The healer became flustered at Aegris’ harsh tone.

From the way the trio treated him we could tell they weren’t close. Not once did they even mention coming to help the comrade they left behind nor when they took their leave just then.

“Relax yourself Aegris. He’s already shown he isn’t spineless.”

He was the only one who looked remotely ashamed when they ran towards us.

“I didn’t want to fight the poisonous bear but the three said they would abandon me if I didn’t follow them.”

“We can’t verify if that’s true or not you could be saying anything to avoid being blamed.” Aegris continued to glare at the young kid.

“It’s true I really didn—”

“Shut it!” Aegris yelled.

“Aegris! Calm down. Go, go dismantle the rest I’ll talk to him.” Aegis put her dismantling tools to the side and walked up the the young kid.

“Please understand our anger. Tell us your name first.”

“M-my name is Alexander Heylinth I am a follower of Blinding Light’s Scripture.”

“Alexander, can you back up your claims in any way? We’re rightfully distrusting of you four and I am only giving you a chance to make amends because you were a big help in defeating it.”

“We aren’t completely unfair and will give you a portion of the bear, but if you want to travel with us back to the city we won’t agree unless you prove you weren’t an accomplice.”

He was young and hearing this felt like it was too harsh but I said nothing. This is how it was done in this world.

I did agree with Aegis his poison removal was quick and almost instantaneous. All of the bear’s attacks were infused with poison even bearing near it would inflict it upon us but he was good not once where we seriously ever poisoned.

“H-here watch this. I began recording when I knew their insistence would bring trouble I thought I would need this to explain their deaths to the guild.”

Alexander took out his phone and on it was playing a recording from his point of view. Unlike MAGI’s these had to be manually set to for the contacts to begin recording.

“Alex what are you a bitch! Look at it! It’s completely injured! Are you saying we can’t take it on? Are you calling us weak! Hey! Don’t look down, look at me!”

“Be grateful we brought you along when you don’t even have any combat augmenting spells useless shit. Just shut up and follow us or we’ll tie you up and use you as bait.”

Watching the video made me truly regret not letting them die. My blood was boiling watching them kick and push him forward while he pleaded them to not go and bother the bear.

“Alright, Alexander that’s enough. Nous is it fine if Alexander is added to the party?”

Still “recovering” I nodded my head.

“Yeah it’s fine, I’ll send the request right now.”

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Alexander broke down in tears once I sent the request through my phone.

Poor kid. He was extremely young no older than thirteen.

Using his robe’s sleeve to clean his face he began to help with the dismantling. Aegris didn’t say anything but he had the same face of regret he had earlier when he asked why I saved the trio. Instead of apologizing he helped Alexander with his dismantling since the young kid had very little strength.

Practically the entire carcass of the bear was worth something causing the dismantling process to take a while. By the time they had finished, it was well past noon. Thus we ended up heading to our first campsite.

I had noticed the trio follow us but they left quickly once they realized we all had recovered our mana.

The trip back was uneventful and we made it back to the city. Once we finished up our quest we split the money for everything other than the bear between us original three. For the bear, we shared it with Alexander of course.

“Alexander you’re talented. Without a grimoire you can cast cleansing spells almost instantly and have a good battle sense. Is it fine if I contact you to party in the future?” I looked towards the young kid.

“Yes!” He bowed and nodded his head.

“Ahem, us too,” Aegris said.

“Of course.” He exchanged contact information with the siblings also.

Alexander waved goodbye after thanking us some more then left the guild building saying he had to prepare for his talent tournament. Supportive type mages had a different type of talent tournament and it wasn’t as flashy or well known as the colosseum battles were.

“I hope we can form a party again in the future.” I looked over to the siblings still here.

“We would like that too please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll take our leave first we want to prepare somethings before the tournament.”

“Of course. See you at the tournament.”

I would hope this was a path to a semi-permanent party with these two. As for Alexander, I’ve only known him for even less so I’ll have to see but I have a favorable impression.

The siblings said they were going to buy new weapons before the start of the tournament. Unlike mine that needs to kill to grow other types of growth type weapons just need to be used.

With their departure I left to the outside walls and set up my tent I would be studying the second volume of Azer’s book until the day of the tournament. I was close to understanding another ability as to use it in the talent tournament apart from First Snow. First Snow had an easy cast but hard execution while this second technique was quite difficult to learn and I would hope an easy execution once I did.

Although I knew I would probably be undefeated there was an excitement rumbling in me as I waited for my match.

Did Frium’s battle freak-ness rub off on me?


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