"Hey, come on, don't be angry…"
"I am not angry in any shape or form."
"Then why won't you look at me?"
"Because I'm embarrassed!!"
Schnee was asleep for about 30 minutes. The fact that she had fallen asleep and that Shin had looked at her sleeping face prompted her to verbally attack him, blushing even more, about why he didn't wake her up.
Schnee went to the kitchen to prepare dinner: as time passed after she had woken up, she calmed down a little.
"Your face wasn't weird at all, don't worry! …..I did take a screenshot though."
"Shin? What did you just say?"
Schnee didn't let Shin's mumbles go unpunished. She was facing away from him, but in the blink of an eye she had grabbed his shoulders.
"Well, you know, you were really cute, so…my hand slipped…"
"Your hand what!? Don't take photos of me sleeping without permission!!"
"You don't have to get so angry…do I have to delete it?"
Schnee had started showing Shin more of her defenseless sides, but photos were still prohibited, apparently.
"But you show me sides like that sometimes, don't you?"
"Because I don't stay that way, and I show them because I trust you. Anyone could see the photos, so I can't let them remain…and besides…"
Schnee paused, so Shin encouraged her to continue.
"I want to look pretty before the person I love. Photos can be looked at many times…so I believe that even more."
As Shin seemed to fail to grasp how a maiden's heart worked, Schnee made him sit down properly before starting to preach again.
"I just don't get it."
In the end, they had dinner later than usual that night.
The next day, Shin headed outside the castle walls, with Lecus, Myu, and Gian in tow. Other students had joined Shin's training sessions, but — unlike the three with him now — they were average, so he didn't bring them with him this time. He was planning to have them fight monsters which didn't normally appear in the area after all.
"Awright, it's time to release the frustration piled up in the training dungeon!!"
"You're getting too excited again. If we die outside, it's over, got it?"
"I already promised Mr. Shin that I won't do anything reckless! And I know that, thank you very much. I'm just getting focused!"
"Sure you are."
"Easy there, you two. Myu, don't make us worry, okay? Gian doesn't talk like this to people he doesn't care about, after all. Having high morale isn't a bad thing, so let's be careful on our end. Myu is different from before, after all."
Myu was 100% eager while Gian looked at her, grumbling. Lecus calmed their bickering and tried to make them focus in the same direction. The three were also balanced mentally.
"You've hunted outside the castle walls before, right?"
"Yes, I think we've fought with all the monsters that normally appear around Erkunt."
Like all other students, Lecus' party had also experienced fighting outside the institute. The monsters' level were not very high, however, so the training dungeon was more effective for practice: they hadn't ventured outside too often.
"The wolf boss was pretty strong!"
"There was a Forest Wolf pack, with a stronger one among them. I think it was level 150 or 160."
Lecus added an explanation to Myu's vague comment. He continued saying that they found another group of students being attacked and helped them: Gian took down the boss of the pack and chased the monsters away.
Their strategy consisted of Myu going wild to attract the monsters' attention, Lecus casting 【Hiding】 on Gian and ambushing the monsters. After crushing their legs to prevent them from escaping, Lecus finished them with magic. If the spells weren't enough, Gian would deliver the final blow.
"If the monsters weren't focused on the group that was fighting them before us, it wouldn't have gone so well, though."
Lecus said that they had chased away the monsters, so even if they took down the boss they couldn't do the same with the rest if the pack. They could have chased them down, but prioritized tending to the wounded.
"I think you made a good decision. The people that were fighting before you were in a pinch, right? If you pushed yourselves to chase the monsters and suffered a counterattack, your assistance would have meant nothing."
Some might protest that it would have been better to chase the monsters and finish them off, to prevent other people from being attacked. Forest Wolves, however, normally appeared around Erkunt: there were likely to be other packs too, so it wasn't so important to finish them off then and there.
"I doubt we'll see Forest Wolves this time. According to guild research, the monsters spawning around here changed a lot: Mystic Wolves, and the powerful versions of Orcs and Goblins. It's not 100% confirmed, but Baghnakh-like monsters have been witnessed too. Stay on your toes, okay?"
Myu answered with energy, while the two boys simply nodded. Maybe not as much as her, but they were focused and eager too.
"What kind of monster is that Baghnakh, by the way? We have looked it up, but didn't find much."
"To put it simply, it's like a huge mouth, about two mel tall. Imagine the head of a wolf-type monster, without ears and with a massive amount of fangs."
Baghnakhs were monsters quite similar to the weapon with the same name. Their level ranged between 150 and 200, about the limit that an average person could handle. Their fangs inflicted poison and paralysis: as they bit down on their prey, the victim would taste the fear of being slowly crushed to death as their HP slowly decreased.
That also happened if the victim was equipped with armor to resist the bites however. Baghnakhs did not have much attack power, compared to their high HP and defense, but their biting attacks had level 200+ offensive power, which would crush to bits any armor grade Rare and lower.
At the same level, only defense-oriented jobs could resist their bites. It just meant that they didn't die on the spot, however: being caught usually left no way out.
"It depends on the person, but even Chosen Ones get eaten by them."
Shin used a word he knew Lecus and the others would know. Even Gian, who had the highest defense of the three, had a 50/50 chance of surviving a Baghnakh bite. Myu and Lecus would have probably resisted only a few seconds.
"It's not confirmed that we'll find any, but the possibility is there. Some of them are difficult to detect even using skills, so never let your guard down."
Even the easily excited Myu nodded seriously now. They weren't in the area inhabited by monsters yet, but there might be dangers hiding everywhere.
Outside Shin and Schnee, Myu had the highest detection skills. There was the chance of finding monsters that, if Myu didn't detect, would leave Gian and Lecus incapable of reacting in time. Shin's warning probably made her realize it.
"Okay, Myu, you're in front. We will only assist you if there's danger. Even though we're here to help you, don't treat this lightly, got it?"
The three students answered in unison, then advanced, with Myu leading them. Gian was behind her, with Lecus in third position.
After a while, they started seeing trees along the road. To save time, Shin's group picked a path that cut through a patch of woods. It was shorter, but presented a higher risk of being attacked by monsters or bandits than the more roundabout path.
Both for people and monsters, the woods were an ally that helped them conceal their presence. According to the information Shin gathered, the path they were walking on was the area with the highest number of reported casualties. Bandits were routinely wiped out by Erkunt's military and vigilantes, so they rarely caused any real damage.
Shin reviewed this information mentally while walking, when a presence in the woods started moving towards the path.
When the presence was about 20 mel from their position, Myu spoke up. She had spotted the same presence Shin had noticed and stared to their right.
"It's just one unit, but it seems pretty big."
Myu continued focusing on the approaching presence, trying to obtain as much information as possible before the fighting began. A player would be likely to use 【Clairvoyance】 or similar skills to see the monster's appearance immediately; for Myu and the others, however, acquiring skills was not an easy feat.
Looking at the three students drawing their weapons, Shin pondered whether to teach them skills or not.
(I know that skills can be taught in the same way as the game. But this is different from the time with Tiera…)
Using 『Secret Book』 was easy, but would create all sorts of problems. In this world skills were extremely precious. Shin wanted to spread them, as means of fighting against monsters, but skills could be used against other people too.
Looking at the history of the continent of Eltnia, conflicts and battles had broken out time and again. Shin had learned of them when he looked up the Dusk of Majesty in Bayreuth and Falnido.
He couldn't know when, where, and how the skills he taught would be used, so he finally concluded that just teaching them on a whim could have ultimately worked against Lecus and the others.
"It's coming out!!"
While Shin was lost in thought, the monster had almost reached them. It rushed through the woods. A rustling sound could be heard from the bushes. A few moments after Myu's warning, a shadow jumped out of the shrubs, as if leaping over Shin's group.
Shin shouted to Myu and the others, who stared at the flying shadow without moving. The shadow had launched an attack towards them from the air.
The students reacted to Shin's order: he had told them that against monsters defense was the first thing to focus on, as he put them through the wringer during training. Thanks to that, Myu and Gian parried the monsters' attack with their weapons and Lecus used the spell he was chanting to deflect it.
"It's a Greygunn."
Shin caught the projectile shot towards him and looked at it: it was a pointy scale. Myu and the others looked at the shadow, which had landed on the ground. It was a lion-like monster covered in lead-colored scales.
Its level was 248, a bit higher than Greygunns' usual range. The size was approximately three mel long. Even with all four of its legs on the ground, its eyes were on the same level as Myu and the others.
Even though it looked like it was wearing armor, its movements were very quick and agile, its scales providing high defense. The large hooked claws on its front paws had very high attack power; while it didn't use magic, shooting its scales allowed the Greygunn to launch long-range attacks.
Some mutated species had elemental scales, which could be recognized by their color. The Greygunn facing against Shin's party had colorless scales, signaling the lack of elemental attributes.
"I've never seen this monster before."
"This guy is tough."
Myu and Gian, their weapons pointed at the Greygunn, growling and ready to pounce, tried to find the ideal distance to attack. They knew that it could shoot long-range attacks, so they didn't go too close without a plan.
"Mr. Shin, could you let us handle this?"
Shin thought that it was a bit too difficult for their first opponent, but Lecus asked him to leave it to them.
"….go ahead and try."
In the future, they would probably have to fight opponents they had never seen before. Thinking that he could help them if something went wrong this time, Shin decided to let them fight on their own. Just in case, he prepared a defense skill that he could activate at any time.
"I'll limit its movements with magic, so you two find an opening and strike. Attract its attention while I chant."
Lecus gave instructions to Gian and Myu, then gathered magic power. The Greygunn noticed that Lecus was trying to do something, so it looked in his direction. Before it could attack, however, Gian stood in its way.
"I'm here too!!"
Gian stepped to the Greygunn's right side, while Myu struck her gauntlets together to attract its attention. Just as the monster looked in her direction, Gian struck his shield with his lance, causing a loud metallic sound to resonate in the surroundings.
Causing the monster's attention to shift just before it attacked, they disrupted its timing and forced it to be wary of both of them, blocking the monster from focusing on attacking a single enemy. In the game it wouldn't be very useful, but in the real world it was an effective strategy.
Myu and her party were putting in practice one of the tactics that Shin had taught them.
"Here I go!!"
The Greygunn was still undecided because of the sounds and fighting aura released by Myu and Gian, when lightning shot from behind Gian. Six bolts flew over Gian and struck, leaving the monster no time to react.
The bolts struck the monster's scales: its body shook and its movements slowed down. Lecus had prioritized the number of bolts, as they did not cause much damage. The monster growled, walked a few steps and glared at Lecus, still behind Gian.
Its rage-filled stare focused on Lecus: the monster's sight now probably only included the spear-wielding Gian and the wand-armed Lecus, an opening that Myu didn't miss. She did not raise her voice or make a sound as she slid towards the Greygunn.
Despite her quiet approach, the Greygunn probably perceived something: it tried jumping away, but Myu's fists struck quicker than it could move away.
From a crouching position, Myu's straight burst together with her aura. Her fist struck squarely against the monster's belly, with a blaze of flames.
Flame/Barehanded combination skill 【Crimson Lotus Straight】.
Its highest quality was destroying shell or armor via a fiery explosion.
Some monsters were protected by thick shells, scales or even armor: one way of fighting them was to use skills such as 【Crimson Lotus Straight】, which could damage armored parts.
The Greygunn they fought had no elemental affinities, so using a Flame elemental attack against the scales was not especially effective, but the flames were certainly had a more powerful effect on the body under its scales.
The explosion blew away part of the monster's scales, allowing the flames to reach its body, which burned through the monster.
It was the status condition 【Burn】, caused by magical flame attacks. Greygunns had sturdy scales, but its naked body did not have especially high defense. It was the ideal chance to attack.
"Here's one mo—whoops, that was close!"
Myu tried to strike the exposed part with a follow-up attack, but suddenly she rolled on the ground, putting distance between her and the Greygunn. The next moment, something flew through the space she had occupied moments before, hissing as it moved through the air.
"Oh, you noticed, I'm impressed."
Since it was her first time fighting this monster, Myu was paying special attention to the surroundings. Shin nodded happily, glad to see that the training was paying off.
Myu had moved away because she noticed something coming from behind: the attack had come from the Greygunn's tail, long and slender, with a large scale attached to its tip. The tail could bend and extend freely, allowing the monster to deliver powerful attacks from outside the opponent's field of view.
Its vicious claws and fangs were easily visible, but avoiding its tail, which often attacked from blind spots, was quite a feat during the first battle against a Greygunn. Myu managed to do so thanks to her high detection skills and agility, but Gian and Lecus might have not been able to imitate her.
"It could have other attack methods too. Focus on its movements!"
Lecus cast a buff on Myu and Gian, then shouted a warning.
The Greygunn, after learning that Myu could break through its armor, moved away from her. Gian then ran towards the monster, followed slightly later by Myu. The Greygunn looked towards Gian, but Myu's movements and Lecus' chanting disrupted its attention.
It chose to focus on the opponents that he knew could hurt it.
"What, so you think I can't do anything?"
Myu moved diagonally in front of the beast, which looked away from Gian: an opportunity that he didn't let go by.
Thanks to the buff and the Movement-type skill 【Sliding】, Gian closed in on the Greygunn in a ready to attack stance: the skill allowed him to not change his stance as he neared the monster.
Depending on the user, it was possible to make it look like the attacker was not moving, something that the Greygunn was now experiencing.
When Gian's spear struck the monster's exposed neck, the creature emitted a growl as if shocked from being attacked out of nowhere.
The spear's tip, still stabbed in the monster's neck, glowed a deep purple, which then spread to the monster's neck and the surrounding area.
The Greygunn jumped away, the spear fell out and blood started staining its scales, blood the same color as Gian's weapon.
Water/Spear combination skill 【Venom Spear】.
The skill made it possible for the spear's tip to transmit a strong poison, which inflicted another status ailment to the monster.
In this world, there were several types of poison: the one inflicted by 【Venom Spear】 affected magic power. Because of this, it was not very effective if the target had higher INT than the user.
The Greygunn's stats, however, were mostly focused on physical aspects, so the poison did not just cause the monster damage.
"It's moving slower!"
As Gian had struck the neck, near the heart, the poison acted quickly. The Greygunn could not react in time to avoid Myu's next attack. She dodged the monster's tail and struck the same spot as before.
With a dull sound, the ground trembled. Myu's strong step added even more power to her fists, causing the monster's large body to be launched in the air, its scales scattered by the attack's shockwaves.
"Don't let up!"
Myu wasn't the only one to move: aiming at the moment the monster landed, Lecus shot more lightning bolts, followed by another attack by Gian.
The Greygunn, slowed down by the damage and poison, could not dodge the lightning. Bracing for impact, it focused on Gian. The spear's tip was met by the scales on the monster's forehead, the hardest it had. Since Gian had aimed between the scales, the monster figured that it couldn't break through them: for a monster, it displayed considerable intelligence.
"You're ready to receive my attack!? You got to be really confident in those scales!!"
Gian shouted. Powered by Lecus' buff, the spear struck the scales and slightly stabbed them, but failed to pierce through. His movements stopped, but the attack did not.
Lightening sprang forth from the spear's tip, burning the monster's head. Thanks to the weapon breaking through the scales, the lightning ran through the monster's body better than Lecus' magic bolts. Because of the point of entry, the Greygunn's whole body shook violently.
When the lightning stopped, the beast's front right paw lost strength, causing it to collapse to the ground.
"You're finish- Myu, stand back!!"
Gian was ready to deliver the final blow, but suddenly he jumped between the monster and Lecus, holding his shield high. Myu too quickly understood what he meant and put distance between her and the monster.
The Greygunn's scales stood up: about the same time as Gian took a defensive stance, then they shot in all directions, like large throwing knives.
Gian blocked them with his shield, Myu with her gauntlets. Lecus, behind Gian, did not need to defend himself and continued chanting.
Following Lecus' call, Gian jumped aside. Lecus' wand was already pointed at the monster.
"This is it!!"
A single bolt flew from the wand. A single, large bolt, very different from the 【Thunder Line】 bolts Lecus had shot at the beginning of the fight.
Lightning Magic Skill 【Thunderbolt】.
It couldn't be used to shoot multiple bolts in different directions like 【Thunder Line】, but the damage it caused was much higher.
The Greygunn, unable to move, had no means of avoiding the thunderbolt: completely defenseless after shooting all its scales, it was struck directly. Without even a whimper, it collapsed completely, smoke rising from its body. Myu quickly approached it and struck it with a chop.
The sound of cracking bones echoed and the monster's HP reached zero.
Shin praised Myu, who had delivered the final blow. Monsters, like all animals, never gave up on trying to survive, until their last breath. Some tried to take their enemies with them, others feigned weakness to strike during an opening. It was thus important to keep attacking, even if the enemy stopped moving.
Shin too did not know at first, but one of the highest causes of death among adventurers was to hesitate before finishing off a monster, thus allowing them a chance to attack. To prevent this, he had often told the three students to never let up before the monster was clearly dead.
"Gian, Lecus, you did well too. You fought well, without letting it focus on a single target. I think you will be able to hold your own also against stronger foes."
Attacking an opponent that couldn't move could be stressful, so Shin actively praised them after the victory. They had actually shown good cooperation, so Shin thought that if it was three vs one, they could probably take one even a level 300 monster.
"Okay, let's go. Monsters will keep attacking, they don't care about our circumstances. We might have to fight consecutive battles, but never lose your focus."
The three students answered Shin's words with renewed energy. They weren't exactly his disciples, but Shin was pleased by their growth.
"Considering the time limit, I guess we're close."
"To me, it felt a bit too long, even."
"You can't consider this a job, can you Shin?"
Twenty days had passed since Shin had accepted the training request: the institute's holiday period would soon be over, which also meant that the training sessions with Lecus' party would be over as well.