༺ Hunting Grounds (2) ༻
After taking down Alicia Arden, I put the blue armband into my pocket.
‘About this much against Grade 2, huh.’
Honestly, I was only able to win because it was Alicia. The others were a bit hard for me to face because of their unique abilities.
‘Both the Druid and the Golem User are annoying but…’
The most difficult one to fight against among the named characters of the 1st year students was the Mercenary of Flying Swords, Dorron Warsky. Even with the 50% backup of the second line of my Precept, I would probably only have around 30% chance of winning.
But more than anything, Alicia Arden was in more of a terrible state than I expected.
The greatest strengths of Alicia Arden lay in her specialty, Eyes of the Boundary, and her base stats. Eyes of the Boundary was something that would let her see through the gap in the dimension, which immediately made the user enter the ‘Domain’.
Back when it was a game, the thing expressed as a ‘Domain’ was just a killing move that was described as the person attacking in a suspended world, but it was something that actually existed now that this was the real world.
The Arden First Sword Style, ‘Domain Severance’, and the ‘Void’ of Six Ways of the Spear were all aiming for that same thing. In the previous iteration, I wasn’t even able to reach the very depth of the Void.
This was unrelated to a person’s physique and their strength. It was something that could only be activated in an unimaginably transcendent realm of concentration.
Aside from that, Alicia’s basic skills were also very insufficient. Even though I had 3 years of extreme experiences under my belt, that still shouldn’t have been enough to overwhelm her in terms of technique.
That made me concerned about the boss fight against Marie, which was now less than a month away.
“Well… Her stats are still there so she should be helpful.”
According to the original plot, the ❰Murderer of the City of Fog, John Doe❱, who was also related to the first missions of the 2nd Arc, would soon be showing himself. At the end of the 1st Arc, Marie would fight against him, who infiltrated into the city, and show signs of awakening.
‘Should I get close to Alicia and make her train for the time being?’
I still hadn’t fully recovered my skills from the last iteration, but I still knew what Alicia lacked.
Luina Arden would soon visit the Merkarva City in search of the ❰Murderer of the City of Fog❱, and after meeting her and having a catalyst, that should be enough for Alicia for the time being.
‘She’s probably going to have to stay at the hospital for some time, but I guess I should help her out when she’s better.’
Considering how she took a eight trigram palm strike with a considerable amount of aura inside, she would probably have to stay in bed for a week. I really wasn’t expecting to be that weak though. Honestly, I might have even beat her with a sword.
“There’s a Grade 3!”
“Don’t let him go!”
“Y, you bastards…!”
The hunting grounds were very noisy. Students were starting to understand the rules and the clever ones began to hunt in groups.
Whether it be against demonic beasts or other students, a numbers game was always an effective strategy and the students were starting to understand that as intended by the Academy.
It was natural that low-Graded students would unite and cooperate against their higher-Graded peers, and the group that I came across was of a similar kind.
“Huh? Wait. He’s just Grade 5.”
“Should we get rid of him?”
“Don’t bother. What are you gonna do with his armband? Oi, Grade 5. Do you want to go around with us?”
“He can at least be a bait for us right? Oi, if you join us, I’ll give you 10% of what we gain.”
“In your dreams.”
I quickly moved the spear before they could react and hooked off their armbands.
They were flustered upon seeing their armbands hanging on the tip of my spear, but I ignored them and continued running across the forest.
Two white bands from those two Grade 4 students… Adding that to Alicia Arden’s blue armband should equal quite a high number of points.
My goal was to hit 100 points in this lesson; obtain the ‘seed’ and aim for the hidden piece. I would definitely be able to reach 100 points if I took the armband of another Grade 2 student but that was nothing easy and it was questionable if I could even come across them in the first place.
In the game, you could save and load to get 100 points but that wasn’t an option in the real world.
My job now was to steal all the armbands of my peers!
– Clink! Clank!
I was heading North with a bunch of thoughts filling my head when a bursting thud echoed across the forest.
– This is unfair!
The sound of clinking metal and screams filled the forest as the heat of the battle came closer and closer.
‘Wait, why are they coming towards me?’
That was when something came flying in.
Something was falling above my head while giving off a heavy load of pressure. This pressure…
I instinctively thrusted my spear!
Swathing the spear with my aura, I let it collide against the falling sword as the two blades fell in a stalemate.
It was heavy, as expected of the magic sword created with heavy iron which was 4 times denser than steel.
Although there weren’t any special traits in this sword, it definitely had a simple merit which was weight. Normally it was a magic sword used against large-type boss monsters but the fact that this sword came flying at me… could only mean one thing!
“Hoh, you flicked the heavy iron sword away? You’re quite skilled aren’t you?”
The Mercenary of Flying Swords walked closer while retrieving the magic sword. After seeing me, the man couldn’t hide the slight speck of doubt that appeared in his eyes.
The atrocities of a battle were in full display behind the man’s back.
Dozens of peers were lying unconscious on the floor. Not only were there students but there were also the corpses of demonic beasts and bits of Soul Dust that were left behind by demonic spirits.
All of this was something done by that one man – that former mercenary who looked a lot older than his actual age.
“Being famous is sometimes quite tedious. There are too many people attacking me all the time.”
– I want to avoid unpaid fights though.
Even though he had shown an overwhelming victory against dozens of students, the Mercenary of Flying Swords did not have a single wound on his body.
“How about you just pretend like you didn’t see me?”
His five magic swords threatened me.
He was saying there was no reason why a predator should bother letting a rabbit run away.
“…This is not going according to plan.”
Let’s run away.
The magic swords rushed towards me through the woods.
Alicia powerlessly walked out of the hunting grounds.
“Uhh… To think Mr. Korin was that strong…”
Was he even a Grade 5? She wondered, but what was filling her head more than that doubt was the harsh comment he gave about her that seeped through her bones.
『Lack of practice from over-reliance on talent.』
Lack of practice… That was the same criticism as the one she received very often back home.
“I don’t even plan on going down the path of swords though.”
Even though she was gifted, Alicia had no serious plans on becoming her grandpa’s successor. She had been doing it because it was cool and was a good exercise.
And more than anything, it’s because she wanted to be praised by her older sister from a different mother…
『We can’t stop the blood!』
『The weapons were made non-lethal. How is that even possible!!』
That day was when everything changed for her. The day of her first spar had changed everything in her life.
And that was also when she grabbed the attention of her grandfather and became a successor candidate.
『Looks like you only relied on the sword and didn’t learn anything else.』
However, she still felt pain after receiving such criticism.
“…I must have looked pathetic.”
Would her benefactor have criticized her the same way? Thinking about it like that made her lethargic.
“He was strong,” Alicia murmured to herself while thinking about Korin Lork. She had never seen such a sharp spear before. How much sweat and blood must have gone into it to perfect his skills to that level?
From the fundamental skills of a spear to his experience that let him overcome the weakness of a spear and his perfect skills… He reminded her of her older sister.
She found herself laughable for being self-conceited for being called a genius and not working hard.
“Should I… try a little harder?”
Alicia decided to practice her sword more after going back instead of being satisfied by others calling her a genius.
“He gave me pieces of information, candies… and also gave advice…”
His face was quite wild and his muscles…
She recalled Korin’s appearance one by one, and that was when something caught her attention.
“Uhh, that belt…”
Wasn’t it the same one as the one her benefactor was wearing?
“Student Alicia Arden!”
The voice of an old professor helped her leave her world of imaginations.
“Ms. Arden. You’re going the wrong way.”
“That’s the habitat of Grade 3 demonic beasts.”
“The entrance is on the other side. Go that way. And don’t lose the way this time.”
Hiding the blush in her cheeks, Alicia dashed through the forest. She was buried in embarrassment and soon completely dismissed the thoughts about belts.
Mercenary of Flying Swords, Dorron Warsky was a veteran mercenary.
He had been a part of a group of mercenaries ever since a young age, and was a veteran who defeated countless demonic beasts and spirits. The official acquisition of a Grade 2 guardian certificate which he got even before the admission was the proof of his incredible experiences.
Dorron muttered while observing the crushed trees and the new vacant plot of land that replaced the previous lush forest. Old and tough trees that had been growing for centuries were torn apart like pieces of paper, and the magic swords of flame and lightning had left behind traces of a catastrophe.
But this was far from what Dorron was capable of.
‘He dealt with the swords before I could even use them properly.’
The core of the flame sword had been penetrated before its output could be raised to the maximum, and the lightning spiritual sword was buried so deep underground that Dorron couldn’t take it out even with his specialty, telekinesis.
Plus, the magnetic iron sword which worked well with magic circles of acceleration had their weak point exploited, and the formula had been broken.
“Who is he? It was as if he knew about the abilities of all my swords and my specialty.”
More than anything, he was very experienced. Putting outside how he knew about his abilities, he was proficient at efficiently dealing with the problem.
Dorron was startled by him targeting the swords but from what he felt during their collision, his physical strength itself wasn’t that great. He was barely on the level of a Grade 3 Knight, and would probably have to be considered a Grade 4 Knight.
But that alone proved that the grading test had given a terribly wrong result of a Grade 5 Knight to Korin. Dorron also couldn’t guess how such a powerhouse had stayed under the radar for so long.
‘That’s a lot of money gone. I have to give up on this practical lesson.’
Three of his five magic swords were broken. He would be able to repair them quickly as long as he had the materials but it would also take a whole load of his precious time for those materials to arrive.
“That almost killed me!”
I was quite fortunate to avoid being disqualified in the fight against Dorron. The helping factor was that I remembered all the traits of his magic swords and those magic formulae in the previous iteration and the game.
‘If I didn’t successfully neutralize the tedious flame sword and the lightning spiritual sword at the start of the battle, it would have been over.’
Dorron Warsky was one of the core party members alongside Alicia Arden for the player at the start of the game. He was very versatile unlike the Druid who depended on terrain and the Golem User who had a clear limit when it came to interpersonal fights before being trained at it.
Besides, his various elemental-attributed magic swords were excellent at dishing out a lot of elemental damage so he was the strongest ally character that could be used until the end.
The only downside was that he cost a lot of money because of his character’s personality traits, ❰Miser❱ and ❰Employee❱, but he was even better than Alicia in terms of strength.
Magnetic iron sword… The wound created by his super acceleration sword which was accelerated by his proud magic formula was still screaming in pain.
Even though it definitely had become a non-lethal weapon thanks to magic, my shoulder was ripped out just by coming into contact with it.
But it was okay because the wound was already starting to close.
‘❰Regeneration of the Tenacious Warrior❱. It’s working nicely.’
It was the specialty that greatly increased the regeneration ability when the HP went below a certain threshold during a fight. Instead of something as simple as regeneration, it was similar to a regression and a perfect restoration of the body.
“Huhu. That’s what you get for taking my shoulder!”
Three of his magic swords were broken. We were still at the start of the main story line, so those swords were made using Grade 3 demonic stones and were relatively cheap. Because they weren’t specially-crafted swords by a proper Grade 1 blacksmith, the joints and the fusion of the formula and the sword were still quite weak.
It will cost quite a lot of money to repair that.
That was when the forest quaked. Water droplets dispersed in all directions and even managed to reach me, which was ridiculous considering how far I was.
There was only one person in this Merkarva Academy who would use such a high level water-attributed spell in the forest.
It was northeast of where I was, and was probably near the final destination of this practical lesson, the shed.
The only person capable of pushing Marie to this level could only be one of the named freshmen characters; either Yuel the Druid or the Golem User, Kranel Luden. Kranel would probably last about a minute and Yuel the Druid… might actually be able to fight back a fair bit considering the overwhelming advantage of being in a forest.
“Maybe she would last about 3 minutes?”
But even with the environment in consideration, the fight wasn’t a favorable one for her. Her opponent was none other than the strongest student of the 2nd year students; a genius that rivaled Lady Josephine, the strongest mage out of the named characters of Merkarva Academy.
– Rumble! Ruuumble! Ruuuumble!!
The exploding noises of amplification spells and alchemic formula made the forest let out a shrieking yell. Knights who had been quarreling with blades until now would be dumbfounded at the sight of something so supernatural, and the ones that were going down the same path of magic might despair at the face of an overwhelming talent.
‘Scrap that. It would be great if she could last 2 minutes.’
That was Marie Dunareff – the child beloved by magic who fell from grace due to an unwanted awakening.
She was the final boss of the 1st Arc who I had to beat after a month’s time.
“Ugh… Let’s not even go near that place.”
I decided to go the long way around.
Being disqualified due to being caught up in that fight would be the most disheartening thing to experience.
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