Chapter 343: The Skills Training Ground
The surrounding clouds of white fog transformed into several stuffed dolls wearing small cloaks, each of them holding a confetti popper . They simultaneously pulled the strings and colorful confetti flew out all over, along with cheerful popping sounds . The largest one among them, the white silhouette who gave grades to Sila and his comrades, also transformed into a woman in a white cloak .
“Welcome to Colossia Club, dear customers . How much money do you . . . ” She didn’t get to finish her sentence as one of the stuffed dolls gently yanked the edge of her cloak . She looked at it and saw it shaking its head twice .
“Oh, right! Introductions first, right? Thank you for reminding me . You’re so cute~” The woman lifted the doll up, kissed it on the cheek, and put it down . That particular doll rushed back to join its friends, blushing .
Sila and his team slowly let their guard down . As a matter of fact, apart from Sila, Alpha, and Midnight, the rest of his team—Miki and Isaac—didn’t put up energy reinforcement at all . This really proved how his squad ranked dead last . Putting up energy reinforcement was the most standard move when encountering an unexpected situation .
“Ahem . Hello again, humans . This great one standing in front of you is the majestic Queen of the Fog Race, Fowl . ” She bowed her head slightly, albeit a bit unwillingly .
“Nice to meet you, Miss Fowl,” Sila greeted the woman in a friendly manner .
Fowl leaned over and took a better look at Sila, her eyes squinting . “Don’t try to get friendly with me . Your skill won’t work on me . I only care about wealthy people . ”
Sila was surprised . He was sure she was referring to the skill Monster Heir, which normally caused monsters to show more respect toward him and become friendlier . This strengthened his belief that she must be a high-level psychic-type monster .
“Where is this place?” Sila changed his approach, asking directly .
Fowl snapped her fingers . The stuffed dolls made haste to fly up and unwrap a fabric sheet hanging from the ceiling, showing the words: “The Skills Training Ground of Colossia . ”
“This place is the Skills Training Ground of Colossia, a special place where humans can practice their skills in preparation to enter the Word of Ten . . . Hmm, wait a second . ” Fowl took out a note from her pocket and read it . “Oh, so I can tell them now . . . but they have to be the ones asking me . How annoying . ” Her last sentence was only a mumble, but Sila just happened to hear it .
“Let’s just say it’s a place where you can train yourself to become stronger,” She concluded and didn’t fail to finish her sentence, “ . . . for a trivial fee or two . ”
Aside from Sila and Midnight, the other squad members seemed to be extremely excited . Now that the room was bright, they could inspect it better . Not only was this room spacious and had good ventilation, but it also had rows of shelves filled with various kinds of weapons and even automatic vending machines . All in all, it looked like a giant luxury recreation room .
“This is a hidden quest, right? Are we getting a reward?” Miki was delighted .
“What reward? Don’t spout random bullshit . You come first, you get to pay first . That is your reward,” Fowl said, her expression unchanged .
Seeing Miki's face turning pale, Alpha asked Fowl, “Shouldn’t you first explain to us what kind of benefits this place will give us? How can we pay for the service when we don’t know what it is?”
Fowl nodded . “Logical . That’s logical . Let’s do this, then . Since you’re my first batch of customers, I will show you around for free . Think of it as a reward . Do know that this service normally costs you . If anyone else comes here after you, I will charge them . ”
Sila and his people didn’t know what to expect, so they readily accepted the reward . Fowl started leading them around the room, explaining the venue’s features .
“Actually, this place has been partially opened for a long time, but no one ever found it . Anyway, our facilities are fully unlocked once the Secluded Temple, the Psychic Refinery, and Magical Library become available in their respective main cities . Together with this training ground, these four places exist for the same purpose—preparing humans to enter the Monster Realm . ”
“Oh . The name of this place is the Skills Training Ground, so I take it that we’ll get to train our skills here, right?” asked Alpha .
“You’re right . Still, this place is different from the other three places, which focus on advancement . The services of this place include going back to fix past mistakes, so I’d say we’re more special . ”
“Fix past mistakes?” Sila became interested .
“Correct . The Secluded Temple tempers your body and qi, strengthening your foundation and guiding you to develop your own unique qi . Well, to be fair, if you’re truly capable, you wouldn’t need their services . Coming up with your own exclusive qi is a feat that one can do without entering the Secluded Temple . ”
Fowl secretly blinked at Sila . Maybe she possessed some inspection skill which had informed her that Sila’s qi was unique .
“The Psychic Refinery is the same . It helps humans refine and stabilize their psychic power, including elevating it through crisis stimulation . Unlike facing real crises, however, there is a limit to how high it can improve by utilizing this method . Thus, those risk-lovers and adventurous types wouldn’t require this place .
“Lastly, the Magical Library is slightly different from the former two, but their objectives are mostly the same . You can sacrifice your basic Element Magic in order to learn one Unique Magic . For the record, Unique Magic is generally better than Element Magic and more difficult to acquire . Still, one can discover Unique Magic through other means such as a hidden quest . ”
Fowl took a deep breath, causing her bosoms to lean forward . Isaac stared at them without batting an eye . Such a display of perversion prompted Miki to poke her fingers into the man’s unblinking eyes .
“The best of them all is here, the Skills Training Ground . No matter how hard you try, the service that this place offers is not something you can find elsewhere . It’s quite difficult to explain . Let me show you a demonstration . ”
Using Psychic Body, Fowl split her body into five identical ones . In each body’s hand was a neutral-element magic arrow . Each of them shot the arrow to a different member of Sila’s squad . The speeds of the arrows varied .
It was noticeably clear that the arrows flying toward Sila and Midnight were several times faster than others . Their speeds were properly calculated, ensuring that each of the squad members couldn’t help each other .
Sila shifted his body to dodge the arrow coming his way . However, the magic arrow—which normally flew in a straight line or at a slight curve—mysteriously swerved, following its former target . In the end, he had to clad his forehead with qi reinforcement to directly receive the hit .
Bang—! Bang—! Bang—! Bang—! Bang—!
Explosions rang out five times consecutively, but there was no damage . Apparently, these arrows only generated loud sounds upon hitting their targets .
The only one left standing was Sila while the remaining four fell to the floor . No one was injured though . They were simply confused .
“I shall explain . Ranging from the scores, you, the 41 points one . ” Fowl pointed at Sila . “Your movements were excellent . Your foundation is quite solid . Your mastery of energy reinforcement is also decent . However, you failed to realize that the attack was a mere sound arrow . You would have discerned the kind of magic I was using by simply taking a look at ambient mana around me . The essence of magic is wasted on you . ”
She then pointed at Midnight . It seemed pointing at someone’s face was her habit . “You, the 35 points one . You couldn’t tell the arrow was harmless either . Still, you did a good job stepping back at the last possible moment, disturbing the point of explosion, and creating a defensive magic barrier in front of you . Anyway, it’s lame that you stumbled because your control of magic power was poor, being pushed by your own barrier .
“You, the 16 points one . You pulled a dagger out very quickly . You would have coped with the arrow as well as the former two . Your decision-making speed was a bit too slow, however, so you failed . ”
Lastly, Fowl spared her glance at Miki and Isaac, the mood in her eyes changing . “About these two, I don’t have many things to say except . . . ”
“Brilliant?” Isaac tried to fill in the blank .
“You suck!” Fowl almost shouted . “Your arrows were slower than the others yet you failed to defend yourselves . This girl thoughtlessly lifted her arms to guard against the arrow . . . without using energy reinforcement, no less! As for you, you’re busy contemplating which skills to use . You should have instantly used whatever one! How terrible are you?! Do you think your opponent will just wait for you to take your turn, huh?!!”
One of the stuffed dolls quickly ran to her before tugging on her cloak . Fowl stopped and stroked its head . “Erm . . . Sorry, I was too emotional . I’m always like this every time I see a crappy . . . I mean, a person still in development . ”
The stuffed doll seemed dejected . Apparently, it had hoped for a better act of love, more so than getting a pat in the head . With its head hung low, it regrouped with its friends, who patted its shoulder to encourage it .
“In conclusion, the Skills Training Ground will grade you based on how well you can make use of your skills . Those that are good with their skills will get high scores while those that are bad will get low scores . The average is 55 points, meaning every one of you is below average . ”
Sila was shocked to know that his mastery regarding skills-handling was below average . “What does the score portray?”
“Don’t mind it too much . It’s just the evaluation system of this place . Generally, you can’t use “Rhythm” if your score is below 70 . The score is evaluated by the average mastery of all your skills . You actually possess many skills with high scores . However, you also have several skills with very low scores . That is the reason why your score comes out low despite you believing you’re not weak . ”
Sila realized that Fowl must have discerned his fighting strength and determined he was quite strong . For the record, if one considered only qi-type skills, Sila would have scored 75-80 points given his proficiency . His psychic-type counterpart would have been a bit lower, but should at least be average, so probably 50-55 points . The problem was his magic-type skills, which should be around 0-5 points, so the outcome turned out the way it was .
“Some people lack training while some lack knowledge, or lack other necessary skills that will unlock their potential . The Skills Training Ground is the place where these problems can be fixed . . . with some trivial fees involved . ”
Sila already had Zarnak, who had been teaching him how to utilize skills, so he didn’t think he would benefit from this place . However, it seemed Fowl knew what he was thinking . She sent a sound transmission to him .
“Let me tell you that this place can teach you better than your Demonic Armament . You don’t even realize the real importance of the Blade-Sharpening Dragon . Its vast knowledge is merely a small feature . There is some information that Demonic Armaments themselves can’t directly impart to the users, but expect the users to realize on their own . What makes the Blade-Sharpening Dragon truly dangerous is not its ability to train its master, but its ability to negate downsides . ”
‘How?’ Sila thought, but he believed Fowl could hear him .
“Consider this my first and last free service for you,” Fowl conversed with Sila through mental connection . “Monsters or humans can wield a maximum number of three Demonic Armaments . Wielding the Blade-Sharpening Dragon means you can wield two other powerful Demonic Armaments, which always come with fatal downsides, without receiving any negative effects . That is its most terrifying ability . ”
Sila’s thought process sparked like it was hit by a lightning bolt . He finally got it . Zarnak had tried to hint at it many times, but he always failed to notice . He only realized it now that Fowl had directly revealed the answer .
Sila quickly asked Zarnak to reaffirm his theory, “Zarnak, what is the downside of the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword?”
“My slow-to-realize master, once someone wields the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword, they shall lose all of their power, undoing all of their efforts and sending them back to the start . Qi, psychic, magic power, special skills, and basic skills will all be erased . Lucifer acquired it in order to reset himself to Level 1 Squire Rank, restarting his life as a qi-type being instead of a magic type . ”
“What will happen if I’m the one who wields it?”
Zarnak continued its usual monotonous speech, but Sila could tell from its tone that it was quite proud of itself, “Nothing will happen . You shall acquire its power without receiving any side effects . Conquering me means you don’t have to worry about the negative effects of any equipment you wear . ”
Now that he understood Fowl’s capability, Sila asked out loud, “Can you please explain it clearly how this place will help us? Please don’t say something vague like ‘fixing mistakes’, be specific . ”
The rest of his team also looked forward to an explanation . Fowl pointed at arena rings all over the place . “These ten rings are teleportation circles, leading you to training grounds . Although there are only ten rings, each one splits into a hundred rooms, meaning we can serve as many as a thousand customers at any given time .
“In each room, you will find my Psychic Body ready to coach you and go over which skills you need to obtain and which you already have but should improve . As long as you pay a . . . moderate service fee, I will teach them to you . By demoting your rank, I can even teach you the skills that you are normally unable to learn anymore . ”
“Demoting our rank?” Everyone exclaimed, surprised .
“I have a certain skill that will temporarily demote the target’s rank . It can be used in combat, of course . Due to some necessity, however, I intend to use it here . ”
“Why does rank demotion become necessary?” Alpha was interested .
“You humans are really ignorant creatures, aren't you? The majority of you are already Marquis Rank, but your strength is subpar at most . It’s to be expected though, for those too focused on leveling up without caring about skills,” Fowl irritably explained . “Listen . A higher rank is beneficial for increasing your health points and energy reserve, unlocking higher-tier skills, entering special locations, and wearing better gear . Those are obvious advantages . However, there are downsides that you humans always fail to notice . ”
“Some skills specify the rank you have to be in order to obtain them . There are many support skills that are only obtainable if you are Squire or Knight Rank . The smart ones won’t be in a hurry to promote their rank . They will stay at the same rank and grind until they have all of the support skills before ranking up . While it’s true that higher-tier skills are better, some of them require other low-tier skills as prerequisites to learn them . Do you get it now?”
No one ever knew about this . Sila finally understood the reason why he didn’t get other mastery skills aside from Bare Hands Mastery . He had easily gotten Dagger Mastery after killing a few slimes in the past, but never got other weapon mastery skills despite trying various weapons .
The other members also came to a realization . It was natural that every player wanted to level up faster in order to equip greater battle gear and access better skills . However, such a mindset led to the path of a character with a poor foundation as they overlooked a certain serious problem . Some high-tier skills required lower-tier skills in order to learn them, meaning they lost the rights to acquire them by ranking up too quickly . To fix this problem, they would need to deliberately get themselves killed by boss monsters and demote their rank . Thus, the service provided by the Skills Training Ground was extremely valuable .
The chance for them to acquire important skills and consolidate their foundation had come . They would be willing to pay no matter how expensive the service fee was . The price wasn’t a problem at all .
“How much is the service?” asked Alpha .
“Including registration fees and miscellaneous expenses, it’s not expensive at all . ” Fowl held up her hand with all of her fingers spread out, smiling . “Only this much . ”
“Five gold?! Wow!” Isaac exclaimed . He didn’t expect ‘the trivial fees’ to be this trivial .
“It’s five thousand gold . No discount . FIVE-THOUSAND-PER-PERSON . ” Fowl’s voice became serious . She even emphasized the fact that it was the price per person, not per group . “Pay it, or get out . The exit is there . ”
Or maybe the price was a problem . . . for poor people such as their squad .