༺ Hunting Grounds (3) ༻
Marie hopped across the dense forest as if she was out on a walk. Her feet that were as energetic as a freshman of the Academy led her forward to a place that had actual freshmen students lying down on the ground.
“M, my back…”
“Are you alright? Are your wounds serious?”
She was just asking as a matter of formality and received a response that was in the scope of her imagination.
The student sounded discouraged more than anything. It seemed that she hadn’t been expecting the gap between themselves to be so big.
The genius mage, Marie Dunareff – the official rank of Grade 1 that she received wasn’t for show.
“I’ll let you off this time so good luck!”
“That’s good! I also had to push myself like you guys last year! You’ll be able to do better next time!”
Without taking the armband of the disheartened freshman, she caressed her head and turned around.
“How is this possible with only low-grade spells…”
Lying down next to the astonished freshman were 10 of her peers.
“Hmm~. I like how all the freshmen are brave! But…”
There’s no-one like him yet.
Marie cheeks flushed while thinking about the impressive freshman boy. If it was him, he probably would have continued fighting without giving up.
“That would be troublesome~. I don’t think it’ll be easy to stop him.”
Would she be able to come across that boy in this practical lesson? The odds weren’t that high but if she did manage to see him…
The imagination alone made her heart palpitate.
That was when tree branches shot out of the ground and wrapped themselves around Marie’s wrists and ankles.
“You let your guard down!”
The owner of the voice was a girl with refreshing green hair. She pointed an antique staff, that appeared like the entanglement of tree branches, at Marie.
“O spirits of the forest. Lend me your aid!”
Small fragments of light emerged following her request.
They were the natural-born spirits that existed in the vast woods of the hunting grounds. Seeing them appear voluntarily without any contract, Marie gave a smile.
“So you are that druid freshman, right?”
She was able to stealthily move tree branches outside of Marie’s perception and a single request from her immediately called the lofty spirits of the forest.
A druid had the blessings of the forest. It was definitely not an overstatement to say that this was a part of her territory.
“You should surrender. You can’t beat me in the forest.”
Marie understood where her confidence was coming from seeing the dozens of spirits that were surrounding her. Druids were born with natural affinity to spirits. It was because their hearts weren’t tainted by worldly matters and were instead tinged by nature.
She was a strong spiritual elementalist who could easily receive the help of the elementals and spirits in the forest without even forging a contract. Besides, the overwhelming vitality of the forest was also a source of power for druids.
“I’m Marie. Marie Dunareff. What is your name, hoobae-nim?”
“… Yuel. I am Yuel of the Avelorn Forest.”
“Nn. Unfortunately, Yuel, I have my pride as a senior and can’t surrender.”
“You don’t sound persuasive with your limbs restricted.”
“You mean this?”
Seeing the branches tightened around her wrists and ankles, Marie floated a relaxed smile before flexing her limbs.
– Crack! Crackk!
“I’m sorry, tree.”
As soon as Marie used her power, the branches were ripped apart like paper. Yuel blinked her eyes on repeat in a fluster, seeing how easy it was for her to break out of the restraint.
“H, how could that be!”
“Nn~. You see, I’m the oldest daughter of a family of farmers! I’m confident in my strength!”
– I even received a bull after winning in an arm wrestle tournament!
“That’s clearly not at the level of a normal farmer!”
Although Yuel had been mobilizing only a small number of branches to hide from her sight, a mage breaking out of it with her sheer power… was dumbfounding, but Yuel still believed that she was in the advantage.
“You know about the attributes of forest spirits, right? They are on a definite advantage against you, sunbae-nim, who uses water-attributed spells.”
“Let’s see~ if that really is the case.”
Balls of water immediately came flying at Yuel. They were low-grade spells and weren’t lethal but they were enough to physically neutralize other people.
Yuel communicated with the spirits by using nothing but her voice and asked for their help. The forest spirits immediately moved the ancient trees, which were like their bodies, and formed a wall of tree branches that blocked the balls of water.
The drenched branches soon returned to earth. In retaliation against Marie’s sudden attack, Yuel processed her evergreen mana.
“Bloom, o life.”
A large flower bud appeared from the ground, but when it blossomed, what appeared weren’t beautiful petals but the hideous forms of carnivorous plants.
Marie marveled at how unsightly it was but did not turn her eyes away from it.
‘It’s not a plant of this forest. That means it’s not an actual plant that she grew with mana.’
They were pure magic forms of life that were created from magic. It was when she came to that conclusion – those carnivorous plants that were born to devour something shot their heads towards her.
– Hiss hiss!
– Hiss hiss!
The carnivorous plants opened and closed their horrifying teeth while threatening to swallow the air alongside her. Marie raised her spear in response and used Water Bullets to shoot them down.
– Hiss hiss!
It resulted in a frontal collision between the Water Bullets and the carnivorous plants. The physical power of Water Bullets should be more than enough to easily deal with those plants – that was what Marie thought, but things went in the opposite direction.
Even after being hit by the bullets, the carnivorous plants did not sway a single step and instead turned bigger.
‘Ahah~. So they eat mana huh?’
Marie clicked her fingers in the air as a water bubble appeared out of the air before rapidly turning bigger. It was roughly about as big as a Water Bullet but the amount of mana inside it was on a whole different league.
The Water Bomb exploded in the air. It swallowed the approaching carnivorous plants with its aftershock and flung them away.
She was clever and had quick judgment. It was as expected of a Grade 1 mage.
It was a required skill of a battle mage to analyze the opponents’ actions and decipher the enemy’s magic formula to retaliate in time.
And Marie was someone who received Grade 1 as a battle mage.
‘But I’m still at an advantage in the forest. There is no way I can lose in this place!’
Yuel tapped the ground with her staff and linked herself with the earth below. Now, the trees of the forest that were on her side as well as the ground beneath would move according to her will.
“It’s completely drenched, isn’t it? All the way underground?”
It was then.
In an instant, flowers of snow bloomed all across with Marie at the center. The carnivorous plants which had been pushed away with the Water Bomb were completely frozen. Everything which had been splattered with water was covered in ice. In other words…
Suddenly, the earth soared up as specks of dirt bounced off and juddered as if everything expanded out of nowhere.
The tree branches underground did not heed to Yuel’s link. It was the first time this had happened and she was thus greatly flustered.
“The branches underneath were wet, right? I froze them.”
“H, how is this…”
“You can’t limit a mage’s ability to their main attribute. Remember there are combination spells in elemental magic.”
Marie Dunareff’s specialty in magic was everything including the water attribute. Freezing the molecules of water that appeared from her spell was one of the combination spells she had.
The tree branches that had been wetted with the Water Bomb had gone back down, and that was why they froze underground.
“Not yet…! I still have spirits with me!”
As Yuel said, the spirits of the forest were still in a normal state. They seemed infuriated by the disrespectful one who suddenly froze the ground.
“Sorry. But I think I’ll have to say sorry one more time. You see, I’m going to explode a Water Bomb.”
“A Water Bomb? Something at that level won’t…”
In the middle of her words, Yuel unconsciously turned to Marie’s staff. She realized that the amount of mana embedded inside was extraordinary, upon noticing that it was heading to the air and turned her gaze to the sky.
A great blob of water was being boiled on top.
It was a low-grade spell that exploded a blob of water with the heat of magic to scatter into the surroundings. It was as strong as a shock wave at best, and breaking a small tree would be considered a remarkable feat.
Even though it shouldn’t be anything great as a low-grade spell…
What fell from the sky was a large bomb of water. It was ridiculously enormous and it became a large bomb that covered the entire region.
Heeding the desperate call of the druid, the spirits began to move. They also turned deathly pale as they moved the ancient trees of the forest to protect Yuel, but…
It was nothing but a futile resistance to an overwhelming natural disaster.
The forest looked as if had been bombarded by bombers. The large Water Bomb that destroyed a part of the hunting grounds was the sign that marked Marie’s one-sided victory.
Even though the seniors of this prac lesson weren’t allowed to use medium-grade spells excluding barriers for self-defense, her spell was still overwhelming and that was thanks to her specialty.
This overpowered specialty that allowed its user to increase the output of a spell, which was supposed to have a clear limit depending on the formula, was an ability that was definitely fitting of a boss character.
She was a Unique Grade boss who was meant to be defeated as a whole party. There was probably only one person among the freshmen students who could have a frontal fight against Marie Dunareff.
“A, ahht…! A, are you alright? Sorry! Yuel, you were too strong so I unknowingly put too much power into my attack…! Are you alright?”
Yuel gave a dejected sigh while looking at her restless Senior. This girl with water-color hair was amiable to everyone with an easy-going and a warm smile.
She was a docile girl who loved peace with no animosity against other people. However, hidden behind her face was the horrifying ability of a Grade 1 battle mage.
This girl was probably an innately adorable and gentle person, and a kind-hearted girl who was always nice and generous to everyone.
Even in the small society of a druid’s tribe, there were those that were able to form thicker bonds with other people.
These people were nice and formed great relationships with others, but were ruthless when it came to doing the necessary actions.
“A, are your bones alright? Do you want me to put some saliva on?”
“How would that… even help?”
“K, kuhum… But you know, guardians are meant to get injured as they grow! I also fell down when I was watering the plants on a wyvern and broke my legs—-”
Was this mysterious toughness an environmental buff that was applied to the children of farmers?
Yuel had no clue. This world was full of suffering and both the city and the farm were too difficult for her. Until she was taken outside by the rescue team that was here to escort the injured students, Yuel had to receive the extreme words of concern and encouragement from Marie.
“Hmm… Maybe I shouldn’t have amplified? But she wasn’t an opponent I could beat with only low-grade spells and no amplification…”
Marie turned her gaze in concern towards another student who had been staring at her for a long time.
“Hello? I’m Marie. What is your name?”
Her golden eyes clashed with a crimson gaze.
Right in front of the shed which was the final destination, standing there to stop any intruders was a large golem.
“…Sorry but the 1st place goes to me.”
Named character of freshmen, Golem User Kranel Luden. He was one of the starting party members that were available aside from Hua Ran.
He was standing in front of the shed, stopping every incoming student.
“Haa… Is today like a special day or something? Why am I seeing all the Grade 2s?”
‘Judging from how fast he came here, did he make like a golem horse to rush all the way here? To steal from other students in front of the shed?’
Although defeating Alicia was part of my plan, it definitely wasn’t my goal to meet Kranel after Dorron. I was facing 3 out of the 4 named characters in just one day.
This scenario which would be hard to see in the game even with an infinite number of saves and loads was happening in front of my eyes.
“You have a lot of armbands don’t you? I’ll be first if I take all that…”
“In your dreams, buddy. You’re the easiest after Alicia from Grade 2, alright? Watch me break your favorite golem.”
It was a formula for siege warfare that had been inherited down from the ancient times. Using the formula of the user with the golem core at the center, one could create the large siege weapon.
As long as there was enough material and mana, it would always be strong enough to break through castle walls so humans had been using golems for a very long time.
The fact that they were classified as siege weapons proved their strength, but that also implied a critical downside.
Due to being huge, they were really, really slow.
Unable to retain its form, the golem crumbled down as Kranel fell with it. Walking past the remains of the destroyed golem, I pointed the spear at his neck.
“Golems are nothing but big targets for small and strong weapons like people. If I were you, I would have looked for a friend to protect me.”
“…I have none.”
“I have… no friends.”
“Ah… that’s… sorry.”
Kranel let out an agonized groan as if his shoulder was dislocated when falling down from the crumbled golem.
I relocated his shoulder as a scream left his mouth. The intelligent mages weren’t used to pain as much, so it was something that couldn’t be helped.
“With this, I will be the overwhelming victor.”
While relocating his shoulder, I also took his armband as well as a bunch of green and white armbands.
“Huhu. By the way, the armbands that you’ve earned until now will still be your points, so I’m sure you’ll be able to buy a few potions and stuff.”
Including Kranel’s armband, I had 117 points in total! It was an absurdly large amount of points!
It was the first time I had acquired such a large number of points even when I was repeating this lesson in the game. Was the goddess of fortune smiling on me today or something?
Leaving behind Kranel, I headed to the shed.
It was time to receive my due rewards.
Grade 2 Knight, Alicia Arden, injured.
Grade 2 Knight, Dorron Warsky, weakened.
Grade 2 Mage, Yuel the Druid, injured.
Grade 2 Mage, Kranel Luden, golem core lost.
2 out of the 4 named freshmen characters were unable to fight due to their injuries, and the remaining two were heavily weakened.
Aside from that was the crash between boss characters which shouldn’t have happened in the original scenario.
No-one knew what outcome this would lead to. But—
There was no doubt that the things henceforth were due to Korin’s own faults.
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