Matthew, Rose and Cecilia fought through a number of monsters as they made their way towards the hill. Through the fog, a thick forest, a river and finally up the hill, they reached the place in two days, leaving one day before the time ran out.
Many people have arrived but it seemed to have significantly decreased from the original numbers.
"Maybe they still haven't made it." Matthew said.
"Or they're just lost." Rose added.
They were all covered in dirt and dust from their journey. Matthew had a little bit of blood splatter here and there as he was the one that confronted the monsters head on while Rose and Cecilia stayed at the back.
"Cecilia, how are you holding up?" Matthew asked, but it was not answered.
Cecilia looked all around her as if searching for someone.
'She's been quiet all this while even though we've been together for two days. But Rose said that she was fine. What is she looking for?'
"Cecilia." Matthew called out again.
"Eh wh-what is it?" Cecilia flinched in surprise and answered.
"What's wrong? Are you looking for someone?" Matthew asked.
"..." Cecilia did not answer.
Matthew turned to Rose once again for help. Rose sighed this time and walked closer to Cecilia.
"Cecilia, you can tell us. No need to be afraid." Rose consoled Cecilia.
However, Cecilia still did not give any answers. She only stared at the ground while stealing glances.
Matthew and Rose looked at each other and silently sighed.
"Alright, the time is up!" The field assistant announced via a megaphone. She proceeded to explain further. "Those who did not make it here in time had been disqualified. Now, we shall move on the next phase! That is, hunt down any of the creatures present in this area.”
"Points will be judged by the time taken, amount and difficulty rank of the creatures. You may use any method necessary and you may also do it in a party or team but the points will be split among the members."
"Again, you will be given three days and you may report your hunt at any time within the given time after you are satisfied. If you do not report in, we assume that you were unable to hunt anything. Then, without further ado, let the hunt begin!" The assistant raised her hand upward in a chopping motion and initiated the second phase.
Unlike before, not everyone immediately moved out in a hurry. While others had made their move, some stayed and discussed the necessities of the hunt and some leisurely walked around or were resting.
Like most of them, Matthew, Rose and Cecilia were discussing except that one of them was not really in it.
"We should find something big and strong. We could earn more points like that." Matthew suggested.
"That would be good but we could also hunt a bunch of weaker things. It might be easier to do.” Rose added.
“Hmm either taking on a tough one or a bunch of small fries… What do you think Cecilia?” Matthew turned to her now.
Cecilia only averted her gaze.
‘Damn, I’m trying to get her involved and get to know her. But at this rate…’ Just then, Matthew thought of something.
“Rose, what kind of creatures can we find around these parts?” Matthew asked.
“Eh, well… We’re in the hills and around us are marshlands pretty much so… Maybe swamp creatures like bugs or amphibians or reptiles, why?”
“Is that so..” Matthew cupped his chin as he thought.
“Hm?” Rose tilted her head in confusion.
After a while, finally Matthew lifted his head. “Alright then, we’ll hunt down a bunch of basilisk lizards. How about that?”
“Ba… Basilisks you say…” Rose gasped.
“Yes, they are quite strong and they live in groups. We can get high scores and quite the amount of them as well.”
“Are you crazy?! We can’t just be going for big games already can we?” Rose objected.
“Eh?” Rose was once again dumbstruck. “What do you mean?”
“I know that we lack the experience to do this, but if we can plan properly and use everything we have, we can pull this off. And by that, I mean all of us.” Matthew’s eyes fell right on Cecilia.
“Eh?” Cecilia gasped. “M-me?”
Rose finally came to realisation. ‘So that’s what he wanted to do.’
And Rose came to support Matthew. “That’s right. We’re gonna need you too for this.”
“Bu-but I only know Divine Magic. I can’t fight let alone take out giant lizards.” Cecilia panickily rejected.
“Who says Divine Magic can’t help?” Matthew said. “We’ll need you during the hunt if not after.” Matthew threw a smile.
Cecilia was breath taken. She almost forgot to breathe at the moment. “O… Okay.” She replied in a really soft voice but it was clear enough.
Matthew smiled and scoffed a little. He looked over to Rose and smiled brightly to her as a sign of thanks. Rose simply nodded with a soft smile.
‘He’s trying to not let Cecilia feel left out. I understand that, but by taking on basilisks is a bit… Stupid.’ But nonetheless, she was kinda happy that Matthew did. ‘That’s just the way he is, always was.’
The two days later, the three made it to the swamp by the hill. The area that was actually close to where they had passed a few days ago. The croaking of wild toads and ringing of insects filled the air along with a thin mist.
Initially, it took them only about one day to get to the swamp, but to find their target was much harder. Only a few hours ago were they able to find some tracks left behind that lead them to a large den under a lot of tree roots beside the water.
Matthew, Rose and Cecilia were crouching behind a large tree nearby. Their footwear and lower parts of their clothing were soaked and dirty.
“That has to be their nest.” Matthew said. “Alright remember the plan-”
“Eww~ the mud stinks. Can we get this over with?” Rose complained with a low voice.
“... Just remember the plan. Cecilia, you ready?”
“Alright, let’s go. Come on Rose." Matthew gave instructions.
"Ugh… Right. [Flame Arrow]"
An arrow of fire shot out from Rose's hand and into the depths of the den.
"Now we wait." Matthew said.
Not long after, smoke started to come out of the den as well as growls. Splish splash was also audible and was getting louder.
"Here they come. Get ready, both of you."
Only a few moments later, giant lizards with weirdly long legs and bodies the size of alligators rushed out.
Matthew immediately sprang into action. He unsheathed his sword and slashed on the back of one of the lizards.
"Graww!!" The lizard cried out in pain.
Matthew pulled out his sword from its back and slashed again, going for the kill but he suddenly felt a sharp gaze on him. That distraction almost cost Matthew big time.
The lizard swung his tail underneath Matthew, knocking him down. The lizard raised its forelimb high and was about to strike down on Matthew.
A barrier formed in front of Matthew and blocked the attack. The lizard was stuttered, Matthew took this chance and stabbed it right through its torso.
Matthew glanced at Cecilia only for a moment and gave a thumbs up which was replied with a nod. Matthew kept going and rushed for the others.
A few icicles flew at the grouping lizards and froze the water beneath them. The lizards tried to free themselves as their feet were frozen along with the body of water.
Matthew gripped his sword tightly, flames of red swiveled and swirled around his sword. Trails of ablaze were left behind the swing of his sword as it struck the lizards and cast them on fire.
Cries of pain came from the lizards as they rolled around in the water. Matthew made sure that all of them were down on the ground before proceeding the plan.
“Cecilia!” Matthew shouted.
“Right! [Electro Negation]!” Cecilia casted a spell. Everyone’s body slightly glowed in purple.
After confirming the effect of the spell, it was Rose’s turn. “[Thunder Burst]!”
Rose slammed her hand on the muddy floor and a burst of electricity came from her. Electrocuting the very water including the lizards that were rolling around. The three that were casted with a special spell were unaffected by it.
“Good job. Now leave them to me. Hyah!” Matthew dashed in.
‘Now that the lizards are staggered and weakened, I can finish them off easily.’
Matthew slashed and sliced at the lizards with great speed and power.
Not long after, all the lizards were laying on the mud. Matthew swung his sword in the air and the bloodstain on his sword was thrown on the ground.
“Well, we’re done here. We’ll collect the claws and report back.” Matthew said while turning towards Rose and Cecilia.
“Sure.” Rose said.
“Good job both of you. Without you two it would’ve been much harder.”
“No problem.” Rose put up a smug.
Cecilia flinched when Matthew looked at her.
“Thanks for casting that barrier back there. It really saved me.”
“U um… You’re welcome…”
Matthew smiled to see her reply once in a while. “Alright, let’s go.”
They collected the evidence for their hunt and after that, they all headed back to the hill. However, Matthew had something else on his mind.
‘What was that gaze that I felt? It was weird.’
The gaze he felt earlier whilst fighting was ominous and strange, however, he did not push that thought much further and kept focusing on the exam ahead.
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