Chapter 107 Stranger in the Woods (Part 6)
‘Every single human here has as much mana as me!’ He thought to himself completely surprised. He was already pretty pleased by the amount of mana he possessed before, and now he was confronted by a group of humans who were suddenly making him feel… Mundane.
Daichi stood there, mouth agape as he processed what he was seeing.
The humans were slowly winning as they killed more and more of the wolf creatures attacking them, unlike the creatures the humans were well organized and were clearly displaying some notable teamwork. Although Daichi wasn’t an expert when it came to working with others, he could tell that they were at least coordinating with one another and this wasn’t their first battle together.
‘The loud one’s their leader’ he thought to himself as he tried to calm his mind. He was already shocked at how much mana they had, but as he watched the battle with his mana sense his curiosity was further peaked and he couldn’t help but slowly jump down a few tree branches at a time to get closer. He wanted to see the battle with his own eyes.
He got close enough that he could make out fights breaking out everywhere but he couldn’t get a clear view of everything around him as the tree branches and leaves got in his way. Even so, the sight below him shocked him even more than what he’d seen with his mana sense. Everyone was fighting chaotically against the beasts, and although they were killing the beasts they weren’t doing it without taking some casualties and wounds themselves. Moreover, Daichi could tell that something was wrong.
He instantly felt a kinship with one of the beasts as he attacked one of the humans in a rage and voracity that would have terrified any normal person. ‘Something’s wrong with these beasts…’ Daichi immediately felt something was wrong.
Although he couldn’t quite tell what these wolf-man creatures were, they were too out of control. Enraged and attacking with no sense of purpose other than to kill. Even before, from what he’d seen it was rare for any creature to attack with no purpose.
‘Beasts attack for food or territory, and monsters attack for the same reasons and that which they covet. Humans attack and kill for an even wider range of reasons, but even so everyone and everything always do what they do for a reason’ Daichi thought to himself.
Staring down at the battles below him, he could tell that the beasts and humans didn’t know one another. The beasts were attacking with a voracity that resembled need. They were attacking because they needed too not because they wanted too. Daichi even figured that no matter what kind of wolf-hybrids these creatures were, he’d never heard of any type of wolf-creature that didn’t attack with its pack and coordinated their assaults. All wolf creatures attacked and killed with teamwork, similar to humans in fact. Everything about the battle below felt and looked so chaotic that it left Daichi with a sour feeling. Something didn’t sit well with him as he wondered why it felt so familiar even though there was no reason why it should.
Then the shock he’d already felt once hit again! Daichi hadn’t paid attention because he’d still been using his mana sense to partially sense the flow of mana in the wolf-hybrids and people below, but once he stopped using it altogether to take a look he realized that everyone fighting looked like a teenager.
‘Some of them look even younger than me!’ he thought to himself as a slight feeling of annoyance welled up inside of him. Even though he didn’t realize it, he was already scowling out of disapproval. ‘I spend years and years reading and then I spend who knows how long trapped in a bubble doing nothing but trying to get stronger only to free myself to find kids who are even younger than me doing as much as I can!’
A slight feeling of resentment would have formed in even the most noble of men, and weaker men would have gone green with envy in a heartbeat but Daichi was at most slightly annoyed. That slight annoyance went away as quickly as it popped up as Daichi’s curiosity got the better of him and instead of focusing on what others would have considered their own shortcomings, Daichi became solely focused on what this meant about the world and how it had changed. More importantly, what that meant for the people in the area, he didn’t even dismiss the slight possibility that this was an isolated incident and that the people here weren’t even a good representation of humans now as a whole. ‘Perhaps it’s just this group of people, the best of the best or something?’
Daichi pondered these things for a while longer before his mind returned to the feeling he’d had before. Every time he looked at one of the wolves attack with an expression of rage and confusion and the willingness to to die if it couldn’t kill it left Daichi with the strangest feeling.
Daichi knew something was wrong but he felt he was missing something even or at least, equally obvious. It took him a second to put two-and-two together as he jumped a few more branches to get even lower and get a better view as he realized what felt so ridiculous about the entire scene. Everyone was fighting with weapons or bare-handed.
Daichi widened his eyes and opened his mouth in surprise for the second time in minutes as another profound shock ran through him. Staring at the battles that were now slowly coming to a conclusion, Daichi realized that despite the amounts of mana that everyone possessed, no one was utilizing strong magics or the elements. Everyone was fighting as if they were normal people, with a few of them utilizing mana in a strange way to move or strike faster. In fact, Daichi wouldn’t have even realized that much if he hadn’t triggered his mana sense to notice the flow of mana.
Daichi tried to organize his thoughts as a small sliver of a silver lining peaked its way out from underneath all the shock. Daichi realized that although the mana sense he’d created was already a wonderful tool, if he fine tuned it, it would become even more useful. ‘If I can figure out how to use this to specifically tell how mana is being used… At worst it’ll help keep me alive, at best maybe I can even steal some techniques and further my own understanding with virtually no effort!’
That small glimmer of hope helped calm his nerves, he’d been too shocked by these people so far. While thinking about the many shocking aspects of what he’d just seen, and trying to think of explanations and possible reasons for the many changes. Daichi had unknowingly already gotten as low as the lowest branch on one of the trees as he watched what was going on in plain view.
One of the older participants noticed the new arrival as he slayed one of the wolflings and immediately ran to Junior. “Look over there, new arrival!”
Junior finished slaying the last wolfling in the area and then focused his attention on the new guy that had just shown up. Junior had almost instantly become the leader of his group of participants. His talent was borderline between enviable and average, and so he’d been placed in an average group. Although that could have easily meant that he would go unnoticed in a crowd of people no one would be paying attention too, Junior was not only blessed with good looks but patience.
Instead of being upset about where he’d been placed, he immediately took it upon himself to stand out and by doing so he almost instantly convinced everyone to follow his lead without ever advocating for the position. He’d come the leader of the group without anyone specifically talking about it out loud. In doing so, he actually led his group to be successful in their previous encounters. Not every group had been so lucky as to establish cooperation early on.
Although it wasn’t obvious because few groups ever came in contact with one another during the exams. It was usually the groups that couldn’t establish a leader early on that had the most trouble. The exam was set up in a way that only through cooperation would everyone have not only the greatest chance of survival but also of standing out by showing off their best attributes.
Junior had been busy during the battle directing others to stay focused and to attack the swarm of wolflings as a group in pairs. He wanted to limit the casualties. Even though they’d had a fairly good showing thus far, the group he’d been placed in had a lot of people who either lacked courage or the talent necessary to survive in such a harsh environment. There had already been a few casualties along the way, and now there were a few more after this battle.
Junior had been focused on the battle, but he’d been aware of his surroundings. He’d noticed someone slowly getting closer during the battle while watching what was happening. At first he’d thought it was another monster, another enemy to add to the list but when Junior failed to notice any ill-intent from the the inbound stranger, he started focusing on the battle in front of him.
Now Junior stared at the stranger openly as he made out in full view another teen with torn up clothes as annoyance and indignation welled up inside of him. Facing this young guy, who looked roughed up from the clothes he was wearing but the happy demeanor he was sporting. Junior couldn’t help but get upset.
“It’s probably someone else from one of the other groups. Probably one of the assholes from the top groups who thinks he can just go off on his own and do whatever he wants.” Junior said in neither a loud voice nor whisper to his friend next to him.
Junior didn’t know who it was, but he was already annoyed thinking about how he could have helped at some point but choose not to do anything but watch. He didn’t know how strong the stranger was, but if he was strong enough to make it to the area of another group alive and well, and even with a smile on his face then clearly he was strong enough to help their group mid-battle.
“Who are you?” Junior spoke as he walked in Daichi’s direction.
“I’ll answer that question if you answer one of mine first.” Daichi responded with some excitement in his voice that Junior misinterpreted as Daichi looking down on him.
Junior had already experienced this attitude from too many people in the past who thought they were better than him, hearing this from what he considered to likely be one of the hidden elites was of no surprise. Even his unwillingness to simply answer with his name even though HE had approached THEM.
“What?” Junior spat out bitterly but held his tongue from saying anything more.
“How long has it been since the God’s awakened?” Daichi asked with that same excitement in his voice.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Junior answered looking more annoyed than he meant too. Normally he could keep himself in check better than this, but suddenly he was faced with a riddle from a stranger who seemed to be looking down on him. All of this right after a pretty rough battle, had Junior with little patience as his nerves were frayed.