Matthew and Rose walked around the area for a bit since the exam hasn’t started yet. Both of them were ready to go. Though they were both not wearing any heavy armour, it was the setup that best suited them.
Matthew wore a normal looking blue shirt with a red short sleeved jacket and standard pants. Though these clothing seem normal, they were made out of specially made mana strings which its durability and strength is partly imbued with the user’s. Other than that, he also wore a pair of gauntlets on his forearm. He carried a sword on his back which had a fiery design to it. He also had a badge with the number 3 on his chest.
Meanwhile Rose was wearing a dark blue one piece dress with little decorations of red on the skirt and her abdomen. She also wore a short cape on her shoulders and her usual red rose hair pin. She also had a badge with the number 2 as well.
“There sure are a lot of people here.” Matthew said.
“So many want to become Hunters huh. It’s gonna be tough to compete.” Rose said.
“Don’t worry, we already got our a year and a half training with us. We’ll make it through. I’m sure of it.” Matthew put his hands on his waist as he looked over the flood of people.
“Don’t be overconfident. We don’t even know what the others are capable of.” Rose was clearly vigilant and careful.
“Relax~ Loosen up a bit.” While Matthew was clearly carefree for the exam.
Rose only sighed at him. But even so, she knew that Matthew would be very dependable when it counts. She couldn’t ask for a better teammate for now.
“Hello, welcome to the starting line of the exam.” Someone said via a megaphone. This brought all the Hunters to silence and turned their attention towards the owner of the voice.
“As you all know, there are three phases in the exam. Although you know the number, we will not tell you what the phases are except for the first one which we will give shortly.” A young woman who was acting as a field assistant on that day explained to the group of people that was ready to go through the exam..
The crowd of Hunter only listened closely while a few murmurs were in the background.
“You must complete the task given in order to move on to the next phase. After you are done with the tasks and completed all the phases, you have legally earned your Hunter license and the official Hunter ID tags.” The young woman showed them a tag and a license card.
The Hunters gasped in awe when they saw them. A spark of spirit could be seen in their eyes. Then the field assistant stored them away in her pocket.
“Now, the introduction is over, we will now commence the first phase of the exam!”
Gasps of surprise came from the audience. This was too sudden for most of them, but some were already riled up and ready to go.
“Right! The first phase! Head to the top of that hill in three days!”
Murmurs of confusion came from the audience of Hunters.
“What? Are you not up to the challenge?” The woman asked.
“Ah, no, perhaps this might be too easy?” One Hunter who was in front said.
“Ho~ Easy huh? Well then, I say good luck to you! If you don’t make it by the time limit, you will be immediately disqualified. Now get going!” She enthusiastically cheered for them.
After being reminded of the time limit, all the applicants rushed towards the hill with roaring spirits.
Matthew and Rose were also not left behind.
“Getting to the hill, it’s not that far. We may be able to make it there by tomorrow.” Matthew said.
“This may sound too easy. There has to be something up.”
“Whatever it is, we should be able to handle them. How are you holding up?” Matthew asked Rose.
“I’m fine. I can keep going with this stamina magic.” Rose’s body was glowing with yellow light from the magic she casted on herself. “ What about you? Do you want me to cast a spell as well?”
“I’ll be fine. Save your mana. Like you said, something is up.” Matthew’s expression suddenly went into serious mode.
Rose understood and kept her mind vigilant as before. ‘This is a really different version of Matt when he’s serious.’
After some time of running, they came upon something weird.
Rose noticed and looked in front of them. “Where did this fog come from?”
“Anything could be doing this. A monster, a natural phenomenon or someone. Listen, it sounds like people are getting further away from us.” Matthew said.
Rose focused on her hearing. Matthew was right, they almost didn’t hear the running footsteps.
“We’re separated from most. Don’t lose sight of me and stick close.” Matthew said.
Rose followed and stuck closer to Matthew and made sure he was in her line of sight. The fog was getting thicker as they kept running.
It probably has been a few hours since they started, Rose was starting to feel tired as the effects of her magic wore off over time. Rose was sweating profusely meanwhile Matthew almost didn’t sweat at all.
Aware of how dangerous it might be if Rose were to stumble, he considered resting for a bit.
“Ha… Ha… I still don’t understand how you have so much energy.” Rose said as she panted.
“Hehe, I’m gonna need it to fight for longer if needed. Just rest up now. I’ll keep watch.” Matthew said.
“Okay~" Rose replied.
Matthew only stood there as he watched his surroundings. In this fog, he could barely see two meters in front of him.
'Some of the others must be getting close. It's not a race but being separated for too long is kinda bad.'
Matthew rode his train of thought for more possible outcomes. Getting lost, being attacked, walking into traps, caught in some kind of unnatural phenomenon, many things could occur if one was not careful.
A sudden scream stopped Matthew's thinking. He quickly glanced at Rose but she was perfectly fine. Then he looked back around him trying to find the source.
"Did you hear that?" He asked.
"Yeah, I think it came from that direction." Rose pointed somewhere in front of them.
"Let's check it out." Matthew said.
They both jogged towards the possible direction of the scream. Sounds were getting closer and louder. There seemed to be someone in trouble or being attacked.
Though the fog was thick, they could still make out a few silhouettes.
"What's going on there?" Matthew asked Rose.
"It looks like someone is being attacked by something. That guy also has a barrier up it seems."
"Right. I'll take out the monsters. You tend to the guy."
"Got it." With that, Matthew sprinted ahead.
In the midst of the fog, a girl with silver hair and was wearing a white dress was surrounded by bloodhounds. A fierce wolf-like beast that hunts in packs.
The girl had already set up a barrier to protect herself, but she did not have the means to fend off the bloodhounds by herself. And so, she slowly backed up trying to get out there and possibly get away. However, with their keen sense of smell, she doubted.
“Ah!” She stumbled over a rock and fell on her butt. She panicked as she hurriedly got up. Before she knew it, a bloodhound pounced on her.
Luckily, her barrier warded off the attack. She checked her body for any injuries but there were none. She then watched back where the hounds were.
“I can’t see anything…” She lost track of them amidst the fog.
A hound pounced on her again but this time, she was the one pushed back. She was once again on her butt. She looked around, even though just silhouettes, she could see the bloodhounds had cornered her.
“No… This can’t be the end. Please, help!” She cried out for help, but of course, no one answered. “Damn… I never should’ve let them down. Now I’m all alone.” She silently cried out and waited for her demise.
She had given up. She even put down her barrier. What’s the use of having one if eventually you’ll die? She waited, and waited, and waited. But the hounds never came.
“Hm?” She immediately checked her surroundings.
The hounds were as if no more around her. She did hear any growls. Then she heard footsteps from in front of her. She suddenly had this ray of hope. Seeing the silhouette of a human approaching her, she bounced back up.
“Alan!” She shouted in joy. “You came back?” She was overjoyed that tears began to well up in her eyes. However, who appeared was not the one she had hoped for.
“Hm? Who’s Alan?” Matthew asked when he could see the girl clearly.
As if her hope was destroyed, she went silent for a moment.
“Matt!” Rose’s voice could be heard approaching them.
“Oh Rose.” Matthew turned to Rose.
“You’re already done?” Rose said as she just arrived.
“It was just a bunch of dogs.” Matthew turned to the new girl and asked. “Are you okay? My friend can heal you if you want.”
“Ah, oh, I’m fine, thank you.” The girl averted her gaze from both of them.
Matthew was confused by this and glanced at Rose who only shrugged. Then he glanced back at the girl in front of him. She was fidgeting and her face was a bit red. Matthew thought maybe she was uncomfortable, so he introduced himself.
“My name is Matthew, and this here is Rose. What’s your name?” Matthew asked.
The girl took some time to answer. “Ce… Cecilia.”
“Ah, okay.” For some reason, looking at her, Matthew felt a junior vibe coming from her.
Matthew shook off that thought and continued to ask her. “What are you doing here by yourself? Did you get separated?”
The girl only fidgeted with her eyes closed but she didn’t answer. Matthew glanced at Rose again but she only gave the eye, as if saying “what am I supposed to do?”. Seeing the girl like this, Matthew felt like maybe he shouldn’t press further.
“Well Cecilia, if you don’t want to tell, that’s fine. We should get going. Can you move?”
Cecilia still had her eyes closed. Until Matthew poked her shoulder. “Eh ah what?”
“I was saying, we should get going, can you move?” Matthew repeated his question.
“Oh ah yes, yes I can.” She replied stutteringly.
‘What is with this girl?’ Matthew thought.
“Alright. Let’s go. Rose, maybe you should walk with her. I’ll walk ahead of you two.” Matthew said to Rose.
“Sure. Come on.” Rose gestured to Cecilia to follow them.
Cecilia silently followed Rose while Matthew led the way. Matthew was thinking of what he should do with the girl. Maybe just let her stay until they get to the hill and then just leave her back to her friends? That could be an option, but that will for the next chapter.
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