Chapter 138: The Actual Trial - Mark 2
Traveling at night was dangerous, especially when the destination was the forest from which no one had ever returned alive. Even though there was a possibility that Sila, a member of the slime race, might be an exception, he still didn't dare to be carefree. He decided to rest under a big tree surrounded by a spacious green field that enabled him to have a good look of surroundings.
Sila placed Bow under the tree and asked Lookhin to take care of her. However, a minute later, he checked on them and saw Bow and Lookhin peacefully sleeping together.
He broke several tree branches for a bonfire, while Vata took out a lighter to ignite it.
Nevertheless, Sila didn't look at her, instead activating Orbiting Cosmos to infuse fire into his palm before throwing firewood into the pile of tree branches.
Vata looked at Sila with astonishment and put her lighter away. She leaned her body on a nearby rock and placed her shining magic wand next to her.
Sila broke the silence by asking her a question, "Miss Vata, what are you doing here?"
"No need to add 'Miss.' You're Varee's boyfriend, aren't you?"
"That's not it. We're just friends."
"Huhu. Your answer is exactly like Varee's. It makes me feel more suspicious~"
Sila ignored Vata's tease and continued, "Back to the topic, what are you doing here? I have heard that this location is very dangerous. You shouldn't be alone."
"Who told you I came alone? I was in a raid party with around a hundred people yesterday. However, I'm the sole survivor of that party. I survived because I was in the rear since I'm a spellcaster. My Rhythm also helped me."
Sila didn't know what a Rhythm was, but he guessed that it must be some kind of special skill. He remembered that Cross had used one against him too. Since it might be a personal secret, he didn't ask.
However, it seemed Vata could tell that Sila might be clueless about Rhythms, so she asked, "Sila, don't you know about Rhythms?"
Sila shook his head. "No, but you don't need to tell me if it's a secret."
"It's not that great of a secret nowadays. A Rhythm is the second stage of the energy reinforcement skill that is unlocked once the player has a complete understanding of their own personality and ability."
"I personally think that energy reinforcement is already good by itself. Why do we need Rhythms?"
"Rhythms aren't ordinary skills. They are more like secret moves... Well, they used to be secret but not anymore. If it is activated, the flow of the battle may even be reversed."
"Is that so?" nonchalantly said Sila.
Vata frowned at such a reaction. "I will show you mine, then."
"Eh? You don't need to. Since it's a secret move, it won't be good for you to show it to me without a proper reason."
However, Vata didn't care. She just stood up and swept the dust off her body. "Rhythm of the Western Wind," said the young woman, before some kind of semi-transparent light green mist covered her body. Her eyes glowed with a green light and her cloak fluttered even though there was no wind.
"This is... just cladding your entire body with normal magic power reinforcement, isn't it?"
That's right. Excluding her glowing eyes, what she was doing was no different than cladding her body with magic power reinforcement.
Vata furrowed her brows. Only a handful of skilled players were able to use Rhythms, but the skill was now regarded as normal.
"It's not the same. While Rhythm of the Western Wind is active, my casting speed is doubled and I can move freely even when I'm casting a spell that would normally force me to stay still. I can even read the wind's current. It may seem like I'm bragging, but no one has ever bested Western Wind in a hit-and-run battle."
Sila was starting to become curious about Rhythms, but Vata misinterpreted Sila's serious expression and told him something that he wasn't particularly interested in knowing.
"Oh, Western Wind is my title, for the record."
"I see. Is there a downside or a limitation to using Rhythm though?"
"There are. First, Rhythms can only be used for a short period of time and have a cooldown, though it varies between players. Secondly, Rhythms are a secret move so their information doesn't show up in a system window. Players need to study their Rhythm's ability, activation period, and cooldown by themselves. Lastly, you have to say your Rhythm's name out loud every time you activate it."
"How can we know our Rhythm's name though?"
"You can come up with anything that sounds cool and suits you. I have incorrectly pronounced my Rhythm's name two or three times but it still activated just fine."
Vata sat down again. They weren't particularly close, so there were not many conversation topics to choose from. It was mostly just Vata telling Sila stories about Varee when she was younger.
If Varee was considered a calm and collected type, Vata would be considered her polar opposite as she was very energetic. Based on Rashane's description, he had thought that Vata was rather quiet. It seemed his guess was wrong.
"It's getting very late. Why don't you use a Returning Scroll to rest in town?" asked Sila.
"We have already entered Stone Forest's territory and the use of Returning Scrolls has been prohibited. The system window should have already told you though, so why aren't you aware of that?"
Sila just remembered that he no longer had a system window with him to give alerts like that. He had come to the Stone Forest a long time ago and was aware that he wouldn't be able to use Returning Scrolls after a certain point. Nevertheless, he was still curious. He was sure that its territory should be deeper in the forest than their current location.
"But, we haven't reached the point where the use of Returning Scrolls is prohibited, have we? I recall that the territory has petrified trees and that's one of the markers used to find the edges of it."
Vata didn't know why Sila hadn't heard the system alert. She figured it was because Sila had muted system notifications, so she didn't think too hard about it.
"This is another mystery of Stone Forest. Recently, its territory has been widening greatly. It has almost reached the edges of the whole forest, blocking the usage of Returning Scrolls until the outer parts. I thought you knew, as I saw you prepare a bonfire."
The reason Sila set up a bonfire wasn't because he had known about this. It was just that he planned to go ahead once morning came.
"Miss Vata, It's very late at night so it will be quite dangerous for you to travel. I suggest that you continue your journey in the morning. Just move toward the sunrise and you will arrive in Beginning Town before midday."
"Eh? Won't we return together?"
"No. I have business within Stone Forest."
"Everyone said that. But, it's really dangerous, so dangerous you can't imagine it. There are a lot of scary slimes and they are very aggressive."
"I think I can handle them. You can just go back without worrying about me."
"No way! Sila is Varee's friend so you are like my little brother! I can't let you go to such a dangerous place like that alone. Please listen to me for your own good, come back with me and we will join another raid party before going there. But, if you insist on continuing without waiting for others, I will be coming with you!"
Sila was troubled. He understood that Vata was just worrying about him, but if Master Viola was actually in the forest, those aggressive slimes that she had mentioned were only a warm-up for whatever awaited him.
Vata was Uncle Rashane's daughter, so he couldn't bring himself to put her in danger.
Sila breathed a heavy sigh. "In that case, please get some rest. We'll be heading into the forest early in the morning."
Vata nodded, took her small tent out from her system window and entered it. She didn't forget to tell Sila that if she woke up and didn't see him, she would enter the forest and search for him.
"Both sisters are difficult to deal with," muttered Sila.
Sila could depend on qi circulation to alleviate fatigue and didn't have to sleep, so he planned to spend the entire night practicing Orbiting Cosmos. However, this only lasted for a short while before he ran out of magic power again. As magic wasn't his main energy type, he didn't possess any supportive skills that helped him regenerate his magic power faster.
When his magic power ran out, all he could do was drink magic potions or just wait for it to naturally regenerate.
It wasn't a fruitful moment for Sila. Actually, he had planned to return to the mansion to take out magic potions, but, based on what Vata had told him, he wouldn't be able to do that.
Sila took the black card out of his pocket and tried activating it by saying, "Go to the Mansion of Secrets."
Sila's body emitted a white light and, a moment later, he found himself on the yard in front of his mansion. "Eh? It works?"
He shrugged and entered his treasure room to retrieve all fourteen highest-grade magic potions currently stored there. It was fortunate that Julia had put a label on them. Their appearances resembled small test tubes and each of them could be swallowed in one gulp. Then, he stopped by the card zone and took a Pink Slime Card with him.
Training in the mansion would be more effective as his energy recovery rate would be increased. However, Sila was afraid that Vata might wake up and think that he had left her to enter Stone Forest and go ahead without him. Thus, he teleported back to his previous location.
He placed all of the magic potions next to him and started practicing again. When his magic power ran out, he would drink a magic potion. For the record, each magic potion gave off the feeling of very fresh air flowing into his lungs.
Sila practiced Orbiting Cosmos until sunrise. Although racial skills didn't have skill levels, he could tell that he was getting better at using it, though it was still far from a level that would allow him to use Divine Raiment. Now, the best he could do was holding three elements within him, which was clearly better than before when he could only hold a single element.
Vata exited her tent while yawning. She said good morning to Sila before her eyes locked onto the empty test tubes lying on the ground.
"Aren't they... Fountains of Life, the highest grade magic potions?! What have you done, Sila?"
Sila was confused. "What? They are magic potions, so of course I drank them. What's wrong with that?"
"G-Genuine... One, two, three, ... How many have you drunk, Sila?"
"Eight. What about it? Why are you so surprised?"
"How can I not be? The price of each of them is around 10,000 gold!"
"10,000 gold?! How can they be that expensive? I thought they were just ordinary magic potions."
"Ordinary? You are dead wrong. Other than its ability to instantly refill your magic power, it can increase your maximum magic points capacity by ten percent. It's a rare consumable item, so not many dare to use it."
A Fountain of Life seemed to be the magic-type version of an Emperor Qi Pellet. However, more than one person could refine it and its ability was far below the pellet, so its price was significantly cheaper (though it was still considered expensive by most players). Most skilled magic-type players tended to carry at least one with them in case of emergencies.
"Ah, I see. No wonder I could use my skill for longer. I thought that it was a result of my training though."
"Are you that rich? You are not like what Varee told me."
"I'm not... But, they're just in-game materials and they are meant to be used anyway, right? Um… If Miss Vata would like to have..."
"I don't want one or anything, really. I also have... one... for myself but I've been putting off in using it. I was just... shocked to know that you drank a lot of them."
"Anyway, you have to take this card with you if you want to enter Stone Forest." Sila handed the card that he had retrieved from the treasure room to Vata.
"F-grade Pink Slime Card?" Vata read the card's description.
"Yes. I've always thought that its ability to prevent the slimes to attack you first was ridiculous. It turns out to be useful in the end."
"Um... This card is getting expensive too, lately."
"Is that so?" Sila showed a gentle smile while recalling the time when ten cards would be needed just to trade for a measly 1 silver. The economy was really too hard for him to understand.
Vata equipped the card and asked, "Sila, you already have one for yourself, right?"
"I'm a member of the slime race so I don't need it. Slimes won't attack me anyway."
"Ah. I forgot. Varee told me about that. There were posts about it in the game forums as well."
Vata stored her tent in her system window while Sila put Bow back inside his clothing. As for Lookhin, although it was his pet, it was a bird. He wasn't sure whether slimes would attack it so he decided to seal it inside the ring just to be safe.
Both players departed together. Sila noticed that Vata's speed wasn't inferior to Varee's or his. It seemed that what she had said about being the best at hit-and-run tactics was true to some extent.
After an hour had passed, Vata told Sila to come to halt.
"Ahead of those boulders, there will be slimes waiting to ambush us. Although, with the card, we might be able to pass without being attacked this time."
Sila noticed a line of slime-shaped boulders around two meters wide, long, and tall. There was a ten-meter gap between each of them; it was as if all of them were a border separating two nations.
There were messages engraved on each of them, so Sila narrowed the distance to take a look.
Vata quickly followed. "You don't need to bother reading them all. The massages are the same on each of them. People used to think that they were some kind of code, but now they are no longer minding them and believe that they are just pranks."
Once Sila moved closer, he was certain that they were surely not pranks nor secret codes, but orders. The messages had the same handwriting as the ones engraved on the giant and tiny slimes, and Bow had told him that it was Viola's handwriting.
Sila instantly understood what he had to do since the messages clearly stated:
"The Actual Trial - Mark 2: Don't attack. Don't dodge. Violation of these rules will result in death."