The final phase of the exam.
Participants were given tags at the start of the exam that were labelled with certain numbers. The task for the Hunters to complete was to collect three tags and also still possess their own in order to pass the phase.
Those who have lost their tags will be disqualified, while those that were able to collect at least three tags aside their own will be qualified and those who collect more will be given extra points for that will be used to judge their rank.
Participants were allowed to use any means. Traps, head on fight, tricks, teaming up and even stealing the tags collected by others was also allowed. However, killing another participant will disqualify the participant and be sent to court to be judged.
“If anyone is asking, this final phase is important as you will not only be dealing with monsters but also bandits, treasure hoarders, mercenaries, and also other Hunters. Dealing with these kinds of things are much harder than dealing with monsters. This phase is to test and train you all for this reason.” Said the Executive Officer of the exam before the phase started.
The venue was changed to a forest in the mountains by a river in the northern region of Omni. Participants were given an hour before the phase started for them to prepare themselves.
As usual, Matthew, Rose and Cecilia were together and had agreed to work together to collect the required amount of tags for each of them. Their plan was already laid out.
Matthew would be the main force if any would give a tough fight. Cecilia’s job was the most crucial one, maintaining a barrier on their tags so that they don’t easily lose it in a conflict and Rose was also supposed to maintain a spell that retorts any that attempts to grab the tags. However, Rose can also be a back-up firepower when needed.
Though they have a strategy, they don't have a plan for getting the tags. Since everyone will be doing the same thing, it takes the best to overcome the rest.
A few more minutes before the phase starts.
"Matt, could you stop pacing and just sit down for a moment?" Rose said as she was getting annoyed by Matthew walking around in back and forth.
"I can't! I'm too excited! The last phase, a lot of fights, it's gonna be amazing! I can't wait." Matthew could jump in joy right now because of his excitement.
"I get it, just cool it. We should take this slow."
"We only have three days to collect as many tags as we can. And we need to protect ours as well. I don't think we can take this slow. Don't you think so too Cecilia?"
"Eh ah uhmm I guess so?" She replied.
"Cecilia, don't encourage this guy. We'll just collect the required amount, then we'll let the others be, okay?"
"Yeah yeah, that's what I had in mind from the start." Mattheq said, although his behaviour says the opposite.
"Hah… I don't know how you get excited to get into a fight. Right, Cecilia?"
"Oh umm yes?"
Cecilia's short and crude answers were getting to Rose. It's not that she was angry or anything, but she was just a little annoyed that Cecilia was being too shy.
Rose wanted Cecilia to fit in like they were close friends. ‘Or maybe I shouldn’t rush this? It just feels awkward.’
“Rose?” Matthew called her out. “What were you thinking about?”
“Oh, nothing really. Just, are we ready for this?”
“Of course, just leave taking the tags to me. You two can focus on guarding ours. We’ll make it through.” Matthew had a confident and determined aura around him.
This atmosphere gave both Rose and Cecilia a bit of confidence as well as they all smiled together.
A loud horn vibrated the air, signalling the start of the final phase. After hearing that, they all prepared.
Rose and Cecilia stood up and clapped their clothing off dust. Matthew tightened his gauntlets and affirmed the hilt of his sword on his back. While facing in one direction as if there was a camera there, they stood brave and ready.
“Let’s do this!”
The horn that signalled the start of the final phase had just been blown. Every participant of the exam should start moving now.
“Hah… That should do it.” Said Niji, an examiner of the year’s Hunter exam, as he pulled his lips away from the horn.
“Haaahh…. I’m pooped.” Lisa said as she dropped her butt on the chair. “Though I’m not doing much, it’s still tiring after not sleeping for a few days.” She pinched her eyebrows together and massaged them.
“Hahaha, well, it’s our job to observe the participants. And you’ve done enough, we all have.” Another examiner who sat beside Lisa, Jin, said.
“It’s almost over, so just hold on a little more.” Said Niji.
“That said, I’m nothing but amazed that Miss Heller looks just fine without a wink of rest.” Jin said.
“Yeah… You are so amazing Miss Heller.” Lisa complimented her senior.
“Oh, it’s nothing really. You’re complimenting me too much. We all played our part well enough. I could not ask more from all of you. Even those that are still on the field.” The Executive Officer of Examination, Heller, said. “While you are on rest for now, why don’t you tell me about your observation so far? Who is it in particular that piques your interest among the applicants?”
“Who piques my interest? Hmm… Ah! There is this young man with blonde hair.” Lisa started first. “His skill is quite good. He wears cowboy style clothing, he even has that hat! He looks pretty cool. And his party is not bad either, I can feel each of them are really good.”
“Ah~ that one, yes, yes, I also think that they are pretty good. Their teamwork is efficient as well.” Said Niji. “For me, I like the pair of guys with red hair and the other one had a weird mustache. One of them was using a disc with a string attached and the other was using a pair of gauntlets that changes forms. They don’t really have teamwork, but individually, they are both strong.”
After Niji was done, Jin told his opinion. “I don’t really know, but I think I like the team with a shark type beast astra and the fish type astra warrior. From their powers, I bet they’d fit in the ocean.”
“Ah, I’ve seen them as well. For some reason, there are a lot of incredible people this year. Though still only number in around the tens, but it’s quite the improvement compared to past years.” Lisa said.
“I’ve noticed that too. Well, with the amount that we started with, it’s not really weird. Boss, who do you think is great among them?” Niji turned to Heller.
“Yeah, tell us what you think.” Jin said.
“Ahh very well, since I asked first. I’ve been watching over pretty much all of them. I also recognise the ones that you mentioned but, there is this one person that I believe stands above them. I am pretty sure, you all should’ve seen him in action several times.” Heller started and purposely made them wait longer.
”Who is it?” Lisa sat moved closer to listen.
“His name is Alan Major. A fine young man with many talents from what I can tell.” Heller said.
“Ahh him! I know, I know. He is said to be a younger sibling of one of the five coloured Hunters, the Black Monkey. I’ve seen his records of his academy. He pretty much aced all of the classes that he took in his years and he’s at the top of his class.” Lisa said.
“He also performed well in the exam phases too. He is surely following in the footsteps of his brother.” Niji said.
“Ho~ he is well known it seems. However, it’s weird that you did not mention him before. Why is that?” Heller asked.
Jin and Niji looked at each other for a moment before replying.
“It’s because of his attitude.” Niji said.
“He already took the exam for several years consecutively by now.”
Once again, Niji and Jin looked at each other.
“He’s killed several participants before. Some say it’s by accident, some say it’s intentional. It didn’t matter, the point was that he killed. But he kept getting past his trials somehow. Umm shouldn’t you know about this?” Jin nervously said.
Heller flinched for a second but she quickly regained her cool. “Ahh that must have slipped my mind. That man has been through some trouble huh?”
Silence. Now even Lisa was aware of the atmosphere. Niji, Jin and Lisa stared at each other.
Perhaps feeling that the current atmosphere was not well for her, Heller decided to leave. She stood up.”Well, I’m going to check on a few of the other participants. You all may rest in the meantime. See you.” And with that, Heller disappeared.
Among the treetops, away from the place where the examiners were resting, Heller stopped for a moment to collect her thoughts.
She sat down on the branch that she stood on. After confirming that her surroundings were safe enough, Heller released the magic that she had kept on for a few days now.
As the magical aura lifted up from her body, her body started to reshape and change. Her skin colour changed from the tanned white she was into pale violet. Her hair, from dark brown into deep purple. Her eyes, from brown circles to red vertical slits. Horns also appeared from thin air beside her head.
After a few seconds, magic stopped coming off of her body. Heller has taken her form finally, but it was not heller anymore.
“Hah… This is why I don’t like spying.” Crymillia sighed as she leaned her back on the bark of the tree. “They are amazed that I am not tired. Huh, not weird. I’m a devil after all.”
Crymillia ran her head through the conversation earlier. She accessed the few information she gained from it and also from her own observation.
“The process so far was a success. Though not as expected, the result is not bad. There are some quite exceptional people among them, while most are pretty much trash and the others did not even try or died trying.”
“And for some reason too, the people of this world had also increased in strength somehow. Could there be something else happening? Should I even report that? Hmm… Well, I guess I’ll think about it later. Back to what I was thinking, that Alan fellow… He might be perfect for my experiment tee he he!”
Crymillia chuckled while imagining what kinds of results would come out of her experiment. She must pick the opportune time to kidnap him or if possible, convince him somehow.
Crymillia let out a wry smile and a tiny chuckle. “Fufufu~ from the aura he showed earlier, he is good enough. Fufufu~”
Meanwhile in another place among the hills where the Hunters were spread out. A particular Hunter was with his team of two others.
“Achoo!” Alan sneezed.
“Eh, boss, did just get a flu or something?” A young man with quite a bulky physique asked. He only wore a simple sleeveless shirt.
“Huh, it’s nothing. Someone is probably talking about me.” Alan said as he brushed off his nose.
“They must be talking about how to beat you boss. Heh! Not like they can.” Another man said. He wore a light green shirt and black pants.
“That’s right, no way the boss would lose to anyone else.” Said the bulky man.
“Right! Right! I can’t even get close to the boss’s power.”
“Stop it. Even so, I’ll need to be careful to not kill this year. But… that seems pretty hard now. Someone is getting on my nerves.” Alan said with veins popping out on his forehead.
“Don’t worry boss, we’re definitely gonna teach him something. We’ll be with you.” Said the big one.
“You can count on us.”
Alan could only stare at them with half glad half annoyed stares. ‘Well, I guess I can’t blame them. I’ll let them be. But that guy…’
Alan looked at his right wrist which was bruised and was still stinging in pain. He still remembered the pain and humility that felt.
‘I’ll definitely get you!’
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