And so, it was decided upon that Dega would take responsibility for having taken Mia's first time – for joining a sub-class, of course.
"I'd like to start by learning anything that can be directly useful for combat," Mia told him. What was that skill he used to finish off the boss bat monster in the cave, for instance?
"Understood. First, I'd like to see what you already know about the basics. Show me anything that you can already do." He figured that she had to have at least some basic skill already to have been able to go through the Clearlight Forest as well as the cave they were in front of.
Mia took a short moment to gather her knowledge learned from Colson on the basic sword stances. After alternating between magic and physical training every day, the basic sword motions were slowly becoming imprinted in her muscle memory.
Dega took a look at her movements and shook his head slightly. In his eyes, she was still a pure beginner. Well, this was only to be expected, considering her age. It was alright for him to teach a beginner, as he had done it for the other bandits. Still…
"Is this all you know? The basic stances and swings? Anything else that you can show me?" It didn't seem like Mia's skill level was sufficient enough for her to even deal with that boss bat monster in the cave.
Mia stopped practicing her sword movements and stood still. "No, this is all that I know how to do. I only started learning the sword two months ago. My sword teacher is my hired bodyguard. He told me that it's too early for me to practice against humans, and that I should focus on the fundamentals."
"That's correct. But with just these alone, it's still not enough for you to have grabbed the treasure from inside this cave. I can tell that the boss bat monster
should at least be stronger and faster than you by far. What did you do to help you grab the treasure in that cave? You mentioned being a wind mage, right? Did you use some wind magic?"
"Yes, I used wind magic against it. But, I can't use any attack magic spells. You see, I'm an E rank in wind magic." Mia fell silent to let the impact of her words sink in.
E rank? Dega knew perfectly well what that meant. To use adventurers as an analogy, only the pure novices would start at E rank. But, it was a different scenario for E rank magic, as this was a measure of one's natural talent and power. Magic ranks would be far more difficult to level compared to an adventurer ranking.
"You were able to succeed even with E rank in wind magic? That's really impressive. What did you do? Try it against me. There's no need to worry about me, as I'm a lot stronger than that bat."
Mia thought about it for a moment. What was she even supposed to show him? She had used [Still Air] to disrupt the bat's echolocation system, but that obviously wouldn't work on him, would it? Was she supposed to give him an explanation of echolocation?
Well, there was still something else she could show him – Whimsy!
"Alright, but why don't you try attacking me instead? You could say that I have a special defensive technique. …How about going a little easy on me though? Say… using medium force?"
As she said so, Mia began casting [Still Air] on the vicinity while wrapping herself in wind element mana. It would be a test of Whimsy's defensive capabilities for her.
Dega furrowed his eyebrows upon hearing this. Was he supposed to actually attack Mia? Sure, he was the one who mentioned showing him her abilities, but…
"Are you really sure about this? You could get hurt, you know!"
"Yes, I'm sure. Come at me!" There would be plenty of opponents that wouldn't be going easy on her at all in the future, so why not use this as a chance to get some extra training? Mia brought out her wooden sword.
Still hesitant, Dega walked over slowly and didn't even assume a proper fighting posture. He easily read Mia's attack as aiming for his right arm, and chopped down with his right hand, knocking the wooden sword out of her hands and causing her to stagger.
Dega then followed up his disarming of Mia with… a light tap on her shoulder. Mia stopped with a blank expression as she shook her wrist that was numb from the wooden sword being knocked away.
"I said go easy on me, but not this easy! Try to knock me over! Or are you afraid to hit a little girl?"
"No buts! I said it's okay to attack me, so do it to me! How am I supposed to test my defense if you don't at least get slightly serious?"
Dega's face started flushing slightly red out of embarrassment from being lectured at by the little girl. He also noticed that he seemed to be breathing slightly harder than usual.
Since he was much taller than Mia, it was rather inconvenient for him to fight with his hands at a normal height. Dega elected to sweep Mia off her feet with a low kick aimed at her shin, carefully controlled so that he wouldn't give her more than some slight scrapes when she fell.
When his kick connected against Mia's left shin, rather than immediately knocking Mia off her feet as he expected, he felt the blow being absorbed by something soft and rubbery. Something green then emerged from under Mia's clothing and entangled his foot.
Dega hadn't been taking this mock fight too seriously, so he was caught off guard and thrown off balance, as he hadn't made use of any footwork or a proper stance to begin with. Dega found himself on the ground instead, not understanding what had just happened!
"Okay, stop! Whimsy, he's not an enemy. It's alright. Come out and say hello!"
Mia stopped her slime from acting aggressively as she winced and rubbed her shin. Although Whimsy's Slime Armor had succeeded in cushioning the impact of the kick for her, some of the force was still transmitted through, leaving her shin slightly sore.
Dega merely stared blankly at Mia and Whimsy. Where had this slime suddenly appeared from? He was unable to put two and two together.
"Dega, this is Whimsy. Whimsy, this is Dega. Whimsy is my pet Wind Slime. She's the one who took the blow for me just now, along with being the main reason why I could go through the cave successfully." Mia decided to start referring to Whimsy as a "she" for convenience's sake, despite not knowing Whimsy's gender. She could only hope that Whimsy wouldn't mind, and that Whimsy wasn't a boy…
"A slime? Pet? What is this? I've never heard of monsters and humans being together on friendly terms! Just what did you do?"
"Well, if you spend some time together with the slimes, you'll find that they're actually quite easy to get along with. All you have to do is be nice to them and they'll befriend you. I'm making use of her defensive capabilities to protect me. Would you like to try for yourself?"
Previously, Colson had refused Mia's offer to help him obtain a pet slime of his own. But, having magical pets was something that Mia saw no reason to keep for only herself. This was something commonly available to game players already, and if it was a large part of the game, it would surely be developed sooner or later regardless. Perhaps it was even common already in the neighboring Rodan Kingdom.
Mia tried envisioning having the entire bandit group being equipped with slimes and fighting like so… and failed to figure out what it would be like. What would "slime bandits" even be like, anyways?
Dega glanced over at the green blob that had an expression almost as if it was glaring at him. This "Whimsy" seemed obviously protective of Mia. Dega shook his head and stood back up, marveling at the wonders in the world.
"About working with a slime… let me think about that some more. Who's supposed to be the teacher here, anyways? It's my fault for having gotten overconfident. I can see now why you were able to survive in that cave. It was due to… Whimsy? Good job on taking care of her," Dega said gruffly. He had no idea how to interact with a slime.
"Still," Dega continued speaking. "Although you had the advantage of surprise, you were unable to make use of it. Is this the extent of what you can do?"
Mia nodded. "That's why I would like to learn combat-related skills from you. Right now, I have some non-combat skills available to me, such as [Whisper], which allows me to communicate with others over longer than normal distances on the wind. Oh, and I was using [Still Air] on this area just now, which has the effects of somewhat deadening the air. Did you feel any effects from it at all?"
"You… deadened the air?" Dega took a deep breath and checked his current condition. Indeed, he felt as if he was slightly out of breath, something that shouldn't have happened with how little exercise he had just done. Earlier, he had chalked up his breathing to embarrassment, but now that he was calmer, it did seem a little unnatural to be short on breath.
Dega told her about what he felt, and made a suggestion for her. "Breathing plays a critically important part to any fight. Maybe this isn't the strongest of magic spells, but it can still give you a slight advantage. Not only will this type of effect make your opponent more prone to tiring, you could try controlling your own breathing patterns as well for maximum efficiency. Remember to always inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Also make sure to exhale when exerting power and control your own breathing to match the pacing of your own movements…"
Mia abandoned all thoughts of creating a "slime bandit" group and focused on Dega's combat teachings. This was what she was here for, after all.
Besides, slime or other monster taming was something that couldn't be done in a quick manner – at least not by her. Right now, she just needed to focus on learning whatever she could, as much as she could.
Mia didn't notice what was happening, as she had her eyes closed while practicing breathing techniques, but Whimsy was actually starting to imitate her movements. Dega really didn't know what to say as he watched the green slime bob up and down in tandem with Mia's breathing. Were slimes even capable of learning breathing techniques meant for humans? Did Whimsy simply have a habit of imitation?
At any rate, Dega suddenly felt in his mind that he would never be bored as long as he was around this strange little girl, Mia Hart. He would always be able to see strange and interesting things around her.
Dega stopped Mia after he judged that she had gotten the basics of breathing. "You said you wanted to learn useful skills for combat, right? Combat skills can't simply be learned from books – you have to practice them in practical situations as well. Are you ready to go through this?"
Actually, Dega couldn't help but admit that he wanted a little payback for having tripped him successfully and making him fall on the ground… just a little! The skills he intended to teach her, while useful ones, would be rather hard on her body.
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