Risa was a woman of average appearance and average height, but her stocky build and sword attached to her waist revealed that she was no delicate flower vase, at least in Mia's eyes. But since Jared's orders were to follow and protect her until she went home, rather than anything like a forcible escort, Mia had no intention of cutting short her training against monsters on the very first day. As long as Risa didn't interfere, Mia decided not to care and to just ignore Risa's presence.
It wasn't long before Mia came across another Wild Boar in the forest. This time, Risa also received instructions to stand back and simply watch. Colson, of course, would step in if necessary and defend her from any danger.
Unlike last time, this Wild Boar noticed their presence and attacked without being provoked. With prior experience from her previous interrupted battle, Mia was able to fend off its Charge easily by reading the course the Wild Boar would take. In fact, she landed what could be considered a lucky blow for her age and skill level - her wooden sword managed to slash the Wild Boar right in the eye. This caused the boar to immediately squeal loudly in pain as a small spurt of blood splashed onto Mia's clothing.
Not being used to such experiences, Mia felt somewhat queasy in her stomach. However, the boar's vicious attitude helped to quell the butterflies in her stomach and focus on the enemy at hand, weak as it was. With a simple repeat of two more sidesteps and sword slashes, the boar was finished off. Mia collapsed on the ground, out of breath, and watched as the Wild Boar's corpse slowly vanished into the air, leaving only a few earth elemental shards behind.
Colson had already explained this phenomenon to Mia beforehand, and it was also the same mechanic as in the game. Mana-infused wild creatures were no longer purely physical beings, and they drew their power more from the elements themselves rather than physical might. Once slain, their bodies would no longer contain the life force necessary to hold the elements together and be naturally returned to nature. Afterwards, they would leave only some elemental shards behind that were the materialization of their remnants of power.
Mia did some contemplating as she rested on the ground. In games, characters were always capable of running around everywhere on wide-open maps, never slowing down to walk. They would proceed again right away no matter how many battles in a row they just had. Of course, this was impossible in real life. Running around everywhere was just for players' convenience, and nobody could have the stamina to do that all day long in between fighting monsters, much less Mia who was only a young girl again.
Mia suddenly wondered if monsters in this world were capable of dropping equipment and if there would be treasure chests lying out and around for no apparent reason in the wild. While there were undeniable gaming elements to this new world she was in, there were also many parts that behaved like a real world rather than a game one. Monsters dropping equipment that they had no use for and kind-hearted people leaving treasure chests for future generations to find seemed incredibly unrealistic to Mia. Well, for the time being, there was no way to check.
She decided to focus on learning what she could. So, she opened up her status window with the stone and saw that her experience was now at a paltry three points rather than zero.
However, she had just fought two Boars earlier. What were some contributing factors to the different amounts of experience gained? She wanted to experiment with learning how a few game mechanics would work with experience points.
This was something easy to test. Mia asked Colson to slay the next Wild Boar they came across, intending to check experience gain for both of them.
She didn't mention why to Colson, but she was his employer and lord that he served, so he obliged. He figured it was no big deal as a level 1 or 2 Boar was just a piece of cake to him.
After finishing the deed, Mia checked both their statuses to see that the experience bar had remained the same for Colson, while she had gained one experience point. Maybe it was that Colson's level was too high, and he couldn't earn any experience from such a low-level monster.
The following experiment was just as simple: Mia had Colson knock out the next Boar instead of killing it, while she gave it a finishing blow.
A… resounding success? While meager, Mia did end up getting 2 experience points from the kill.
This seemed like an adequate confirmation that the experience system remained the same with the person landing the killing blow in the party receiving extra experience points. Somehow, it seemed that whatever magic or gods that ran the natural laws of this world counted Colson and her as being in a "party" together, so Mia could share and divide Colson's earned experience.
Mia thus immediately decided to go around with Colson as her "babysitter." This was an apt description of a gaming tactic in some RPGs where a party consisted of an overleveled character together with an underleveled character or characters.
Well, such overleveled "babysitter" characters typically acted as meat shields and strong attackers in the early stages of the game, but had weaknesses such as experience leeching or poor growth potential. They would soon become overshadowed or some event would cause them to leave the player's party, but this time Mia hoped that none of those tropes would come to pass. She didn't know Colson's growth potential as he was no named character from the original game, but she hoped for at least average combat strength from him as well as continued long-term employment. Still, she wouldn't be able to control the future, even with knowing some game events that would eventually occur far down the road.
After some rest, Mia told Colson about her plan for the next few hours.
"Colson, I'd like you to begin eliminating the monsters in this forest. However, leave all the last hits to me, and only render them unconscious."
Naturally, Colson was rather confused by this, and it showed on his face. "Yes, Milady, that will be fine, but what's the purpose behind all this? Do you have something in mind?"
Technically, it was a breach of etiquette for a servant to question a noble like this. If anyone had dared to question Count Hart, it was likely that the servant would have been whipped or worse, depending on the Count's mood. However, Mia wasn't someone used to such formalities, so she actually preferred Colson's direct manner of speaking.
"Killing these monsters can give me valuable experience that I need to level up. The efficiency rate is a little low, but there are only weak monsters here and we should be able to kill them at a fairly decent pace due to their weakness. My goal is to level up and become stronger; there are things I want to do that can't be achieved without sufficient strength. Colson, you know about experience and levels already, so how is it that you level up?"
Colson felt like Mia was always filled with surprises. Killing as many weak monsters as possible only for the sake of experience points? It seemed rather meaningless to him.
"Level up? I never really paid attention to it. I just trained under my grandfather. While I did fight monsters from time to time under his instruction as well, I've never heard of anyone that used the method of slaying weak monsters in order to get stronger. Shouldn't people be challenging themselves against the strong as the correct method to train and level up? Is it really possible to get stronger by repeatedly killing these weak enemies?"
Mia came to the realization from this that "level grinding," another gaming strategy that she was familiar with, must not be a thing in this world. Of course, nobody in her original world either would do such a thing in real life, camping out in a forest and doing incredibly basic repeatedly for the purpose of improving their skill level.
However, as long as whatever system was out there responsible for these status windows via the Status Stone magic indicated that she was receiving experience points, Mia believed that it was evidence that she could indeed increase her level through even repetitive, meaningless appearing actions like level grinding. Since she couldn't explain the logic behind this, she decided to not think too deeply into it.
For now, Mia simply wanted to focus on obtaining level 2 and seeing what would happen, along with hunting for a pet Slime in the Clearlight Forest. After capturing a slime here, she could then move on to other areas with slightly stronger monsters to ramp up the difficulty and her rate of growth, much like a game would do.
She also wanted to see if she would be unable to unlock an innate talent at level 10 just like the game characters. Colson had Swordsmanship Mastery, which was a talent that couldn't be more ordinary which would improve his swordsmanship skills. Still, she figured it was probably on par for an average person, as there were plenty of NPCs that didn't even have innate talent bonuses to begin with.
While foundational training was important, Mia wasn't adverse to taking shortcuts when they presented themselves. Besides, in the end, her class was still [Wind Mage] and not one particularly suited for physical combat, nor was it her style. If possible, she wanted to unlock or learn new skills that would allow her to fight from the back lines. Using a sword to defend herself should only be a last resort. Then again, she didn't know what she would be able to do or learn, so perhaps she would be stuck as a physical fighter mage class in the end?
Risa was merely following behind them at a long distance as an observer to ostensibly "protect" them and was unable to hear their conversation. Thus, she ended up with a much different interpretation of Mia's level grinding session…
While in the forest, Mia also practiced casting [Detection lvl. 1] as they went along. She figured that since it was termed "lvl. 1," it was obvious that its powers could be improved. While there were no instructions on how to level up the skills, the basic method in the original game was simply to use them repeatedly and the skills would level up based on the number of times they were used.
It was difficult to describe, but Mia felt that the most apt analogy to how [Detection] worked was like the function of minimaps in most game. She could sense in a radius around her with a rough idea of the terrain as well as any living creatures nearby. She was at the center of this "minimap" in her mind, with Colson next to her and Risa following a bit after. Any monsters that entered the area of effect for her [Detection] spell would also reveal its presence to her, but she was unable to determine specifics like what type of monster it was. At an estimate, Mia figured that the range was approximately ten meters.
'Other people in reincarnation stories I've read about receive all sorts of amazing powers and have an assortment of good friends and companions gathered to them right away by the magnetism they exude as the main character. Meanwhile, the only powers I have are personal air conditioning and a minimap in a world of magic and my first companion is someone that I had to hire to accompany me. Well, I suppose I can also eavesdrop in on others a bit easier. I also have a strange suspicious woman following me that doesn't really count as my companion. Sigh, why did things become like this?'
Five minutes later, Mia located a nest of Humongous Bees.
Unlike the Wild Boars which were solitary, these monster versions of normal bees were just like their original forms in that they lived in colonies. Mia counted five dots on her internal minimap.
"Colson, can you handle a small swarm of Humongous Bees? I estimate that there's about five ahead of us."
Colson didn't need to ask about how Mia knew, because he could also see the Humongous Bee nest. The Humongous Bees were each slightly smaller than the size of a basketball, making Mia feel like they would likely give a normal five-year-old child nightmares.
"Leave it to me, they're actually not much of a threat. Their only danger is that they can inflict the Poison status if they land a hit. Don't worry though, it's not highly venomous, so the damage over time you'll receive is low. Here, take this basic antidote I have as well that should work against their weak poison. I might not be able to cover for you if there's five of them. You're absolutely sure that you want to do this, Milady?"
Mia somehow had an impression like she really was in a beginner's tutorial, even receiving a free early game item like an antidote…
"Yes, let's begin. Didn't that boy from earlier say that his servant would protect us on our way home? Surely she's capable of fighting as well if it comes to it. I doubt that sword of hers is just for show. Remember, just knock them unconscious, and leave the last hits to me!"
Colson immediately jumped up and attracted the Bees' attention by throwing a large rock at the Bees' nest. There were no "taunting" skills in his arsenal which would be able to lock the monsters' attention on to him indefinitely, but the rock instantly marked him as an invader in the Bees' eyes which should be eliminated. Well, even without the rock, the Bees would have attacked him regardless if they noticed him. It was simply in their nature. However, this had the bonus side effect of gathering the Bees together as they all rushed him –
This was one of Colson's only mana-infused attacks that he knew how to use. It was just a normal damaging sword slash which would send out an energy wave in a small arc that could be effective on a few enemies at a time, a low-level AOE. Colson also didn't have enough mana to cast it for very many times, but he decided to use it here to deal with the Bees as fast as possible.
A minor wave of sword energy shot out from his sword and knocked four Bees to the ground, flapping their wings helplessly but failing to get up, dazed by the blow. The final Bee had dodged the [Arc Slash] and went straight for Colson's arm with its protruding stinger.
However, Colson's [Tough Leather Jacket] ended up simply deflecting the blow from the Bee's stinger as it glanced off harmlessly. Mia was rendered speechless as she knew that her basic children's clothes which provided zero defense of any sort wouldn't be able to imitate the effects of Colson's [Leather Jacket], as she privately vowed to obtain at least some beginner-level equipment in the future.
She suddenly wondered about how certain types of female equipment like flimsy dresses and skirts could provide top-level defense in the game… Whoops, she was getting sidetracked.
Colson smacked the remaining Bee into the ground with the flat of his sword. After he gave the Bees on the ground a few more blows that made them stop struggling without killing the Bees, Mia cautiously approached while staying at a distance from the long stingers.
She had a sudden thought before she swung down her sword. Could these poisonous stingers be gathered? Even if the poison within these Bees was weak, it would be potentially useful.
"Colson, could you lend me a hand? Is it possible to cut off their stingers and store the poison within them for future use before killing these Bees?"
"Erm, I don't know, I've never tried… I suppose it should work, but what could you possibly want Bee poison for? Even if it barely counts as venomous, it's still a poison, and using poison is hardly honorable…"
"I know that it's weak, but such a thing may come in handy. It's always better to have more knowledge. Only by studying about it can you be on guard against it. Even if you aren't the type to use poisons, that can't be said for everyone now, can it? There's no telling when it will potentially become useful to know about or have such a thing available to us."
Colson nodded begrudgingly while Mia inwardly sighed.
'It's good that he seems to be the straight-laced honorable type, but there's also downsides to his personality. While he'll most likely be reliable and trustworthy, there's certain… pragmatic actions that I won't be able to have him perform for me.'
'The Age of Chaos is coming, and pristine concepts like honor won't exactly be useful to survive the upcoming catastrophe. Well, even if there wasn't an upcoming apocalypse, there's always times when the ends justify the means – or at least that's what I believe.'
'I'm going to have to find another companion who doesn't mind doing certain types of… dirty work in the future.'
Colson used his [Iron Sword] to cut off the Bees' stingers before Mia finished them off with blunt impacts from her own [Wooden Sword]. Luckily for her, it wasn't particularly gory, as the monsters' bodies disintegrated… which was still somewhat hard for Mia to take in, but it was better than the bloody alternative.
Mia then took a look at her status again. This time, she gained ten experience points. Obviously, it was a much nicer sum than one or two experience points for a single Boar, as the Bees typically came in small groups.
It was only a few minutes' work for ten experience points, although the work was mostly done by "babysitter" Colson. Well, this didn't account for time spent traveling, resting, and searching for enemy monsters, but Mia figured that she could at least make it to level 2 by either the end of today or tomorrow.
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