Chapter 87 Everyone
While the group around Damien were all celebrating the successful victory, no one noticed one of the participants who was off to the side suddenly collapse on the ground. A thin red line of blood dripping down his neck. When his body hit the ground, his neck came clean off and rolled a few meters to a near by participant.
Looking down at the head, taking a moment to comprehend what it was. The color drained from his face as he screamed “Dan-“ before his head throat was pierced by a set of claws so small they came out through his mouth and the blur so fast no one noticed.
Except by the time the second body hit the ground everyone had noticed and their eyes were alight with fear. Suddenly multiple people were screaming
“Danger!” “Enemy” “Watch out!”
Multiple participants began to stand back to back to one another as they realized they hadn’t even seen who their foe was. Whoever it was had managed to kill two people within the scope of the group without anybody noticing a thing. That very fact was enough to strike fear into everyone of them.
Karina stood by one of the largest and burliest participants. Looking down at her, he assumed she was doing so because she was quaking in fear with the others and expected him, a manly-man to protect her. After all, ‘she is just a girl’ he thought.
Of course he didn’t have the presence of mind to detect the disdain in her eyes and that she was using him as a rather large meat shield.
Damien was staring at the group unsure of whether he should flee now or wait a while longer to see whether he could fight his opponent. He didn’t at all mind leaving the others behind, but he refused to run from an opponent he hadn’t seen.
Before their vary eyes a slaughter began to commence.
“You sure that’s a good idea Marcos?” Keith asked as he began to scavenge the area.
“Yeah, if we keep going I’m sure there’s definitely going to be a cave around here. All trolls keep a stash of their belongings around their base. Plus…. This one was pretty strong, all of us taking turns to distract and hurt it and it still took hours for us to take him down, no way he doesn’t have a large stash!” Marcos said with enthusiasm as his words riled up the group.
After Marcos had entered his group, he kept a pretty low profile but due to his amicable personality, he made friends quickly. Unlike some of the higher tiered groups that had participants confident enough to go it alone, most of the other groups did the exact opposite. They decided to group together in order for safety.
Unlike Leo or Damien, their priority was passing the exam, but by no means would they even attempt to it at the cost of their own lives.
Their group was so large, that just staying put while deciding what to do ended up drawing too much attention causing a group of rage hounds to attack.
“Rage hounds!” someone shouted.
The group was disorganized at first causing some casualties before everyone was fully prepared to even defend, but there were still some people who calmed down enough and regained their bearings in time to fight back and lead a counter attack against this pack of rage hounds. Marcos was one of the first to begin the counter attack, he fearlessly charged forward and singlehandedly killed 3 of them. There were after all only 12.
Rage hounds always traveled in packs, they resemble dogs and wolves in their shape except that they naturally draw in more mana from birth which strengthens and develops their bodies. The result is a much stronger and larger physical body, but the cost is that their minds are unable to handle the mana they draw in with their low intelligence, and they go mad. They do nothing but hunt and eat and when they don’t find prey they turn on one another an eat the ones that die.
While ferocious, they’re beasts who’re constantly on the brink of losing control of themselves. Well trained warriors with weapons and courage and the mentality to handle their own are far from being worthy of being their meal.
Afterwards, while some of the wounded were getting patched up by the others, Marcos suggested going towards a nearby stream. He was quickly questioned how he knew the direction of the location but he played it off really quickly that he heard running water. Of course before he arrived, he told everyone to be prepared for trolls.
They arrived and a long battle ensued with a group of trolls. The weaker ones were still a match for some of the participants and the weak were quickly weeded out, but even they played a role in dealing with the trolls. Eventually it came down to a long prolonged battle between the troll leader and the remaining 30 participants. Surrounded, they took turns battling it in groups of four at Marcos’s suggestion. They surrounded it in waves and took turns attacking and defending. Even though this troll would have been able to kill any one of them on any given day, and even all of them in general. Marcos’s quick thinking and effective strategy not only helped them kill it, but by the end of the battle everyone was looking at him like their unanimously decided upon leader.
After killing the troll, they began looking around for his cave. In the book that Marcos had, it had a passage about how all trolls had a lair where they kept their belongings. Goods taken from those they’d killed over time. Some of them had even managed to get their hands on natural treasures as trolls had a surprisingly long lifespan.
They spent a while looking, not realizing that the sky was getting darker even though it was still the middle of the day.
“I heard you got into a little scuffle with Damien before. What happened?” Haeru asked trying to make conversation.
He’d decided to follow Leo because he thought that Leo had made a convincing speech earlier, however short. Despite his training and his confidence he also didn’t want to venture out into the forest on his own. In his mind that would be akin to suicide, teens with limited skills wandering into this forest alone? ‘That would be asking for death! Hah! You could be special, with the best swords and tools and you still wouldn’t make it out alive’ he thought.
Leo shrugged while not giving his reply much thought “Nothing much, he said some things that were out of turn, so I said some things back. Apparently he can dish it out but he can’t take it.”
“Haha… Yeah… It’s his family, he’s grown up quite spoiled. I know lots of noble families who raise their children to be warriors, but Damien has had even his warrior skills delivered to him on a silver platter.” Haeru said while failing to mention he was raised exactly the same, with the same silver spoon.
Most of the others that followed along were too tense and wary. Their focus was on their surroundings without the slightest bit of ease. Haeru wasn’t a warrior like them, he was someone who’s family had raised him to learn and understand mana. Even though he wasn’t a a particularly hard worker, he was quite perceptive. Everything he was taught, all of the small enlightenments his parents had gained over the years were taught to him and he grasped them all. He could already manifest fire with mana as a conduit. He’d even learned a few skills as well…
Unlike everyone else, he was as relaxed as anyone could be under their current circumstances, and it left him feeling awkward. Surprisingly and to his delight, even though Leo was on guard and quite vigilant to his surroundings, he was more than willing to have a conversation with Haeru.
“I know, my friend’s father works for theirs. I’ve met him before although I doubt he remembered me. Some parents just don’t take the time to teach their kids the things that matter” Leo commented while suddenly feeling apprehensive.
Haeru was chuckling and about to reply when he saw Leo tense up and reach for his sword. Noticing the change, Haeru started manipulating the mana around his body as he looked around to see what was going on as he noticed a beautiful woman standing on a tree branch not far in front of them.
Something about her demeanor looked ethereal but the beauty of her features left him breathless.
This woman had an oval face but just a little of baby fat in her cheeks, somehow it made smile seem even more radiant as it made her dimples stand out even more. Her large black eyes with long eye lashes matching her straight and long dark hair that came down past her shoulders completely accentuating her body that looked skinny and frail but gave off an imposing figure.
Haeru’s eyes were glued to this woman and while Leo had also been momentarily stunned, as he’d looked at her from top to bottom, he couldn’t help but glance back at her eyes. The smile on her face didn’t seem to reach her eyes. They looked cold and distant and there was no reason or way a woman could just be casually standing around in this forest.
Leo felt an overwhelming sense of apprehension as he heard her speak “You shouldn’t have come.”