One day into the final phase. Sounds of fight broke out everywhere around the area. Signs of battles were also left around such as burnt grass, shattered rocks, spikes of ice, bits and pieces of clothing and also splatters of blood.
Many of the Hunters have got the tags they needed and many more were searching and getting back theirs. A battle of the fittest where the elite will come out on top.
Each of them struggled to be victorious and used any means necessary. Trickery, backstabbing, head on fights, stealing and even certain uses of their skills.
Some people are smart enough to have taken countermeasures, while some are dumb and only relied on their skills and also high confidence.
Some of the Hunters conduct this alone, while some do it in teams. Each having their own ups and downs.
When hunting alone, it would be much harder to capture prey but the bounty will be all for yourself. Hunting in a group would be easier to carry out especially when taking on big games, however, the team would need to distribute the bounty between the members.
Everyone has their own style. We all just need to find it, and utilize it. But as a team, everyone must play their roles as best they can for the expected outcome.
“Fuu~” Matthew ended his solo monologue in his head with a whistle.
He looked back at the bodies tumbled around close by. He was slightly panting after the fight he was just in.
“These guys came out of nowhere.” Matthew muttered as he sheathed his sword back on his back.
Matthew picked up the tags that were on the two persons’ chests. “That’s two tags down.” He flipped the tags in his hands for a bit.
“It’s safe now.” He shouted toward a certain tree. From behind it, Rose and Cecilia came out.
Rose approached the bodies on the ground and looked over it. “You sure made quick work out of these guys.”
“They were quite tough I must say.” He flipped one tag at Rose and she caught it. “But it was worth it.”
“Oh, nice! Now we just need four more.” Rose said.
“You were so great back there Matthew! So strong!” Cecilia complimented Matthew with enthusiasm.
“What do we do with them now?” Rose gestured her chin at the bodies. “Just leave them?”
“We only want their tags so yea but, hmm… Cecilia.” Matthew turned to the person in question.
“What is it?” Cecilia responded.
“Could you heal these guys?”
“Eh uh yes, b-but why exactly?”
“I don’t want them to die to any monsters out here since they’re injured. Once they are up, they should be fine.” Matthew said.
“Bu-but, won’t they just come back at us when they do?” Cecilia said.
“Maybe so, but even if they do, we’ll just beat em again.”
“Umm okay…” Though still a bit puzzled by Matthew’s confidence, Cecilia kneeled down close to the bodies and started casting her spell.
Soft green light appeared on her hand and the body she had her hand on also glowed. Before long, the injuries that the person had soon closed up and healed as if nothing happened.
Cecilia proceeded to move to the other person and performed the same spell on him. The wounds healed leaving only the stains of dried blood and dirt on the skin and clothes. After checking that the injuries were properly healed, Cecilia stood up.
“All done.” She said to Matthew.
“Good work. Rose, do you want to help me move these guys to the shade?” Matthew asked.
“You can do it yourself, right?” Rose said.
“I’m kidding. Sure, I’ll do both even, [Water Bubble].”
Two bodies of water floated around her before she directed them toward the persons with her hand. The water then carried the two bodies under a tree and gently placed them there before dispersing into vapour.
“There we go.”
“Nice Rose. Now, we should look for tags soon.” Matthew said.
“Cecilia, come on.”
The day went on with nothing else. The three did not encounter anyone else let alone acquire more tags. The day went by and night fell. The three set up camp for the night and rested by the fire.
“Hah… Damn it, nothing today huh…” Matthew was quite frustrated.
“There are still two days left. We’ll make it through.” Rose tried to encourage him.
“Yeah~ I know… It’s just a bit boring. I was really hyped for more fights though.”
“Do you enjoy fighting that much?” Cecilia asked.
“Look, I know it’s not a good mentality to have but, yes. It’s not that I like to fight, but enjoy the thrill of it.”
“Is that not the same?” Rose narrowed her eyes.
“It’s not! I just enjoy fighting but I don’t like it, okay? It’s different!” Matthew retorted.
“Yeah, right. Anyway, I do think we need to secure the tags sooner. It’s better to have them sooner and lay low later.” Rose said.
“I think so too, but how are we going to do that?” Cecilia asked.
“I could track them with [Astral Sense], but since they’re hiding their presence, it's hard to track them.”
“I haven’t learned [Magic Sense], so I can’t be of help in that field.”
“So all we can do is just hope to encounter someone soon. Like with those two guys. We just need seven more.” Rose said.
“Just seven more… Hopefully we’ll have better luck tomorrow.” Matthew prayed as he looked at the stars in the sky.
He suddenly sensed something among the stars or rather, from somewhere much, much further and abstract. He shivered. The hair on his body stood up.
Rose noticed the slightly heavier breathing from Matthew and asked. “What’s wrong Matt?”
Matthew stabilised his breathing first before answering.
“I… I don’t know. But something is out there, in the far distance. I don’t know where.” Matthew said.
“... Does it have something to do with the dreams you were having?” Rose asked.
For a moment, Matthew flinched. “How did you know?”
“It’s not hard to tell, especially when you keep mumbling about it by yourself.”
“... I don’t know. The feeling is different.”
“What I felt just now was fear but somewhat not because I was afraid of some kind of power. In the dream, I also felt fear at first, but in the end, I only became curious. Just now… As if, as if I was afraid that someone was hurt or something.” Matthew thoroughly explained the perplexion he had.
Rose did not say anything back, but she fell into deep thought. However, she only shook her head and gave up.
“This may be too much to think right now.” She said.
“Matthew, are you okay?” Cecilia asked in worry.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. We should go to sleep now.” Matthew stood up and stretched his body. “We’ve got hunting to do tomorrow.”
“Hmph… You’re right, dwelling on this too much isn’t gonna help either. Let’s get some shut eyes.” Rose supported Matthew’s idea.
“We’ll head out tomorrow moring and hopefully we can get ourselves some tags.”
Both Rose and Cecilia nodded in agreement. After putting out the campfire, they all headed into their tents and slept.
The next day, after having a simple breakfast, they were on the move again. After the tough luck they had yesterday, they were hoping that some light of hope would shine upon them today.
“Matt, can you really not detect anyone?” Rose said.
“Nah, like I said, they’re all hiding their presence. It’s not easy to detect them.”
“Hah… Then how are we gonna find enough tags in time? Wandering randomly isn’t gonna be enough.” Rose complained.
“I know but what can I do if-!”
Mathew abruptly stopped his sentence and turned to his left (which was the other two’s right).
“What’s wrong Matt?” Rose asked.
“I’m sensing two people over in that direction.” Matthew said.
“Yeah. I’m going for them.”
“Eh wait a second Matt!”
Matthew had already ran ahead leaving the two behind.
“Tch! Come on Cecilia!” Rose and Cecilia ran after him.
It did not take them long at all to reach Matthew. When they arrived, Matthew was just standing there.
Upon arrival, Rose immediately sounded her question.
“What’s wrong Matt? Huh?!” She then noticed something. “What in the world…”
“!!” Cecilia only covered her mouth when she also saw it.
There were two people, one elf and the other was a human, each tied to two trees and were heavily injured. They were covered in dirt, lacerations and blood.
“I don’t know what happened to them but, whoever did this…” Matthew did not continue his sentence and only clenched his fists.
“Were the signatures you sensed earlier from these guys?” Rose asked.
“Yes, but by nature, astra shouldn’t be coming off of people who are knocked out. Someone must’ve used them as bait.”
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!
A slow clap suddenly came from behind. Matthew, Rose and Cecilia turned around to face the source of it. Apparently it was someone they had met before.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Cecilia and her friends. Lucky me that you were the ones that fell for my trap. I should be thankful perhaps.” Said Alan.
“You…” Matthew locked eyes with Alan. “You did this?”
“Indeed. I was testing to see if my trap worked, and it fetched something quite quickly.” Alan smiled.
“This is something horrible you just did.” Rose shouted.
“The rules never said that I can’t do something like this and that I may use any means as long as I don’t kill them.”
“B-but doing this is inhumane. Those poor people…”
“Ho… You have the courage to talk back to me now, Cecilia?”
“...” Cecilia took a step back.
“What do you want?” Matthew asked.
“I dare say you are dumb for asking something obvious, but aside from the tags… I also want revenge.” Alan’s face suddenly turned serious.
“You just humiliated me in front of many people back then. I won’t let it go that easy.”
“Is that so…”
The tension in the air grew as Matthew and Alan were locked in a cold stare.
“Whatever your problem is, what you did may not be wrong by the rules, but it is still not right. We’ll take you on!” Rose was about to jump in rage and fire out a spell.
But when she reached out her hand, nothing happened.
“What?” Rose gasped out.
“Anti-Magic field.” Matthew muttered.
“Sharp, but too slow. I don’t want anyone interrupting.”
“You coward!” Rose shouted.
Rose was about to just head up to Alan in a full blown rage, until Matthew held his hand in front of her.
“I got this. You two just stay back.” He said.
“But Matthew, he’s one of the top in my school. He’s really strong!” Cecilia whispered to Matthew in desperation. Her voice just sounded like she was scared and worried.
“I was one of the top in mine too.”
“Are you sure about this Matt?” Rose asked.
Matthew did not give a verbal answer and smiled with a serious yet gentle expression before stepping forward. Understanding his intention, Rose and Cecilia backed out.
“Not backing down?” Alan grinned.
“Not like I have a choice, right?” Matthew smirked.
“Nope.” Now Alan’s eyes were filled with rage and his body was practically shaking as well.
Matthew maintained his calmness while resonating his astra with his opponent’s.
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.