༺ Hunting Grounds (4) ༻
A virtuous-looking old man welcomed me inside the shed.
“Ohh~. I was wondering why it was so boisterous outside but it seems like we have a guest already.”
The keeper of the forest maintaining this place, Mr. Harris walked up while stroking his lumpy beard.
“I’m Korin Lork, sir.”
“Student Korin Lork. Hmm. Two blue armbands! That is… quite impressive.”
“I was just lucky.”
“Let’s see. Your score is… 117 points! Astounding! It’s my first time seeing such a number.”
That was a natural result considering how I defeated two of the Grade 2 students who gave the most points in the forest, and thoroughly ran away from the 2nd year seniors.
“Can I choose my rewards now?”
“Of course. You can choose anything as long as you have enough points.”
Mr. Harris guided me to the items that were hanging on the wall of the shed. There were items like the fang knife of a Mat Boar and a Grade 3 leather protective coat, but the real deal here was the Shark Bear’s bile1Bile is a fluid that is made and released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
Even though you had to use 50 points for it, it increased strength by 20 points and gave you a skill called the Leather of a Shark Bear which made your skin more tenacious.
But that wasn’t what I was after.
Mr. Harris was impressed by my choice – the small inconspicuous seed that was at the very corner of the displayed items.
“You have great eyes, don’t you? Definitely wasn’t thinking you would go straight for the Seed of a Mandrake.”
This seed was the reason why old-timers of the game aimed for 100 points no matter what.
❰Seed of a Mandrake❱
Mandrake was a powerful elixir that could significantly empower the low-leveled player in the beginning.
But that wasn’t the end. Without cultivating this immediately, I could go to the ‘lake’ at the outskirts of the hunting grounds and obtain a unique hidden piece.
‘There are a lot of people today so let’s sneak into this forest tomorrow.’
“17 points left… Hmm. Please give me this and this one here.”
I said while pointing at a plant nutrient that was worth 6 points and an earplug which cost 10 points.
The nutrient was for the growth of the Mandrake and if I were to dump this on the flowerpot along with the seed, it could notably reduce the time it takes to fully grow from 1 year.
The earplug was made with the fur of the Northern Silver Fox and could pacify the intensity of the scream of the Mandrake, which was strong enough to kill a person.
With this, I had pretty much achieved my overall goal of this prac lesson. In the previous iteration, we had relied on all sorts of magic barriers and tools, but it was something I had to do alone, now that Park Sihu wasn’t here.
‘That is one heck of a shopping trip.’
I left the shed and found Kranel Luden looking for the broken core amidst the remains of the golem.
“Do you want me to help you?”
“You should just say, ‘Thank you,’ in times like this, buddy.”
The wood golem that was created by absorbing the dirt and trees of the forest was insanely big so finding the core was quite a daunting task. But the core had to be found to repair it or something, so we couldn’t leave it behind either.
We were searching through the remains for a long time and barely discovered it when more students arrived from a distance.
“Uah…! We’re finally here!”
Unexpected people came in 2nd and 3rd place. There was Jaeger carrying a large mace, and Lark, who was panting while carrying a heavy hardcover spell book.
“Wait… Korin. How come you’re here already?”
“Are we, late…? Huuk… The seniors are just too cruel…”
“I’m 1st place. You guys are 2nd and 3rd.”
The two of them turned to each other, before hurriedly dashing towards the shed without sharing another word. Naturally, Jaeger was a lot faster than Lark as a knight.
“Wahaha! 19 points!”
Jaeger left the shed with a stretch. He seemed to have defeated quite a lot of Grade 3s and Grade 4s.
“What about Lark?”
“Were you two working together?”
“Yeah. He summoned a ghost knight or something, and was good at controlling it. By the way, how did you reach here so quickly?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Oh yeah? Anyway, you wanna go to the training rooms today?”
“Sure. What about you, Kranel?”
I shifted the conversation to Kranel.
“This must be fate in its own way. It would be nice for us to have some food together and go sweating afterwards.”
In the previous iteration, I used to cooperate with Kranel Luden quite often.
Even though I called him weak, that was only when it came to interpersonal fights. Against big demonic beasts, his golem was the best tanker / damage dealer with no room for doubt.
“Let’s have kimchi udon today and not…”
That was when the forest jolted.
“That’s fancy… Is it the other Grade 2s?”
“……That can’t be.”
Unlike Jaeger and the other freshmen, I denied that possibility. Three out of the named freshmen characters were unable to fight because of me.
Alicia Arden, Dorron Warsky and Kranel Luden were all incapable of fighting anymore so the only one left behind should be Yuel, but she should have lost to Marie a long time ago.
There was no way that the current Yuel could last more than 3 minutes against Marie.
‘Marie isn’t the type to waste her power against students lower than Grade 3 though…’
Were there dozens running in at once or something? But if it was that, she could have just amplified the strength of her low-grade spells a little bit…
It was then.
An enormous wall of ice soared into the air while destroying a part of the forest. It was Marie’s Combination Spell, Frost… that was at the level of a high-grade.
“The demonic beasts are running away…”
Demonic beasts had no fear. Strength wasn’t the thing that was important when inducing anything similar to fear – one had to have a similar demonic nature to them.
No matter how strong a human was, they would recklessly run in.
Marie was forced to use the high-grade spell ❰Frost Combination – Multi-Shield❱ and the demonic beasts were running away. For something like this to occur…
“D, don’t tell me…”
A tremendous amount of force was roaring in the skies. The outburst of evil aura and signs of destruction were displaying their significance.
Marie Dunareff was a genius.
Born as the first child of a family of farmers, she walked the path of magic and was praised as a genius by everyone around her.
This innocent and lively girl of the countryside had been walking up an easy slope that was far from the likes of frustration, failure and despair.
This did not change even after she entered the guardian academy.
She was innately gifted at interpreting formulae, and was blessed with mana.
After learning 1 thing, her mind could comprehend 10 things of a similar kind and she was referred to as the successor of the history’s greatest mage, Senior Professor Josephine.
That was why the thing in front of her eyes was ‘fear’ that denied everything about her from the core.
The tear next to her neck was scorching in pain and an unreal amount of pain was stopping her brain from functioning properly.
‘I… I have to analyze…’
But… What could she even do after an analysis?
She saw it with her eyes and felt it with her skin, but her brain refused to admit it.
Thin and slender fingers of the opponent were like the poisonous claws of a god-slayer that ripped through her dimension.
The red lips and white teeth of the opponent were cracked open like that of a rabid dog, and her blood-stained gaze was scarlet like it was drenched in the blood of her heart. And the white skin that appeared as soft as finely-ground flour was ridiculously thick enough to ignore an explosion of mana.
She wasn’t using aura to protect her body nor were her claws sharpened thanks to a specialty.
It was just an overwhelmingly strong physique that was in a whole different league. It was a disaster created by the combination of an Unbreakable Vajra Body and an abundance of demonic aura that was so dense that it could rip through adamantium.
“No. L, low-grade spells won’t work…!”
To the point that she had to ignore the warning words of the Senior Professor that she couldn’t use offensive spells above medium-grade… Marie was pushed into a corner.
She had already broken the rules by using multiple high-grade defensive spells… but that still didn’t allow her to stop the devil.
The fragments of the shattered barrier struck her small body along with a shockwave.
Her body crashed into a large tree. It was unknown whether it was a nosebleed or from the wound on her neck, but warm blood was dripping from her head.
She was scared.
Her eyes were dizzy and everything felt vacant as if the world had come to a stop.
The noise that had been ringing her cochlea was no longer there, and the chaotic scene of the forest around her failed to even enter her sight.
The beast approached her.
“D, don’t come…”
It was neither a knight nor a mage, but a personification of ‘violence’. It was a natural disaster suppressed into the shape of a human and Marie soon came to the judgment that defensive spells won’t be enough to save her.
“Don’t come here…!”
❰Frost Combination – Snow—❱
In that pressing moment, what stopped the two of them was the sharp voice of the Senior Professor.
“Stop there. Hua Ran.”
Ah, I’m alive.
I didn’t die.
Immediately after realizing that, Marie felt relieved as her consciousness quickly faded away.
The practical lesson at the hunting grounds produced a very unexpected result.
First of all was that a Grade 5 student like me had come 1st place with the most number of points, and the other notable event was the fight between the strongest freshman Hua Ran, and the strongest 2nd year student, Marie Dunareff.
A battle between two Grade 1s.
Everyone inside the hunting grounds had seen the aftermath of their battle, but would anyone even guess that they hadn’t been using their full strength? Would they even possibly dare imagine that those two people, who were currently considered Grade 1, would eventually become lofty existences of the Unique Grade?
‘For now, it’s Hua Ran’s victory I guess.’
Hua Ran, with her abilities sealed due to the restrictions, was an oppressed beast. Even though her original form was currently sleeping, her innate nature was that of a demonic beast, and stimulating her too much would end up awakening a Unique Grade monster.
That was why the fight between Marie and Hua Ran was not a good sign. It was something that ignited the fuse of the time bomb called Heavenly Yaksha.
“Who are you?”
In the corridor in front of the sick bay, I was stopped by a few of the senior students that were restlessly walking around.
“I’m a freshman, Korin Lork. I came to visit Senior Marie.”
Seeing the candies and the bouquet of flowers in my hands, Marie’s peers took a step back. Soon, a girl with brown bob-hair, who if I recall correctly was Marie’s friend and the first victim… Isabelle received the bouquet of flowers.
“Sigh… She needs to rest for now. Apparently it’s only the doctor and the Senior Professor that can go inside. I will hold onto it for you so don’t worry.”
“Thank you. Please say hello to Senior Marie for me.”
Leaving behind Isabelle and the 2nd year students, I walked out of the building.
The catalyst for Marie to awaken into being a Unique Grade was the encounter with the Murderer of the City of Fog, John Doe, which would be happening in a month. I wasn’t sure how the demonic molecules were working inside Marie’s body, but there was still a lot of time.
As long as I increased my stats through the weekend missions and received the help of the freshmen lads, it should definitely be possible.
There was no need to hit the last Phase 4, and as long as we could go up to the 3rd phase, my current arrangements should be enough.
‘It will be manageable as long as we go according to the main scenario. I can solve it even without the player.’
The reason I bothered showing off my power to the Grade 2 named characters was also partially because of this, because there was no way they would help if a Grade 5 weakling suddenly came up to them and proposed a cooperation.
Their first show of interest in the player is when the player displays their innate talents and strength. Thus, this practical lesson was like my self-introduction telling the Grade 2 students that I wasn’t someone to be ignored.
‘One more week and the named characters should be back to themselves. That’s when I’ll make an offer about forming a party.’
The final boss of the 1st Arc of ❰Heroic Legends of Arhan❱, ‘Unique Grade Vampire, Marie Dunareff’.
While hoping that her story would not end in misfortune this time, I walked across the paved roads of the Academy.
Owls were crying at dusk when Marie opened her eyes.
Beneath the familiar ceiling, Marie raised her body in the dark sick bay.
Isabelle, who was leaning on the bed in sleep, woke up with a rustle. When she realized that her friend had woken up, she immediately raised her voice.
“Marie! Are you okay? Is your neck alright?”
Without paying any attention to her disheveled hair, Isabelle observed Marie’s condition.
Although most of the blood had been wiped off of her hair, there were still powders of dried blood slowly falling down, and the bandage around her shoulders still had signs of seeping blood.
“That freshman… This is clearly too much! Even though you could only use low-grade spells…!”
The infuriated girl badmouthed the freshman student who had been isolated by Senior Professor Josephine. While saying that they weren’t under a fair condition, Isabelle told Marie that there was no reason for her to feel discouraged.
However, without listening to any of her words, Marie slowly turned her vacant gaze to the side.
Moonlight was shining through the window.
The neck of her friend that was gleaming under that dreamy shed of light–
Seemed as appealing as a ripe fruit.
Aura Rank: Upper Medium (9,400)
Mana Rank: Upper Unique (66,700)
Specialty: Mana Amplification, Blood Law, Summon Familiar, Blood Realm
Overall Grade: Unique Grade
※ Difficulty: S
※ Time Limit: Failure upon Marie Dunareff’s Death
※ Reward: ?????
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- 1Bile is a fluid that is made and released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder