Chapter 39 - A Test
They turned to look at the source of the sound: Mark. He was in horse stance, having just broken through to the One Star level.
Mages had it easier; they could slowly build up each of their Physical attributes and painlessly level up, be it as mages or warriors. Those without the Mage gene though had to do it the hard way. All three of Mark's body attributes – strength, speed, and resistance – had just improved at the same time. The stress on his body was so great it broke his bones and torn his flesh for a moment before they were regenerated by mana.
He was healed quickly, while his bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, tissues, and everything else also improved, becoming a better conduit for mana.
Meanwhile, impurities were also forced from his body. Excess fat and toxins were expelled through his skin, creating a kind of black goo layer over him.
It took a few seconds, and then it was done. He had become a One-Star Warrior.
"Congratulations," Aaron said with a smile, as he cleaned the man with a spell.
Mark bowed. "Thank you, young master!"
"Attack incoming!" Helina suddenly said before Aaron could reply. "Five... Ten... Twenty... Fifty-two beasts coming from the north!"
"Finally," Aaron said. "How strong are they?"
"Twenty of them are Five Stars beasts, thirty are Champions, and two are Eminences," she said with a trembling voice. That was a power to be reckoned with.
"That's almost tailor-made," Aaron replied without worry. "Seems like there's an intelligent power controlling them, and it's only sending a probationary force to test us. Sara, you're the vanguard. Mark, you fight whatever beasts you can.
"Helina, you take care of Sara and Mark. Protect them if you think anything will go wrong. We're fighting a defensive battle, guys. Focus on your battle awareness, and on staying alive while doing the most damage you can. I'll be ready to defend you if something happens, but then, you'll have failed my test."
"Test?" Sara asked, surprised.
"Of course. Fighting for what you want with your own hands is the way of the universe, and I won't spoil you. As long as you keep proving your worth, I'll keep teaching you. Fail me enough times, and I'll send you back to Firestar."
They said nothing, which displeased Aaron a bit. Later, he would have to remember them when to speak 'Yes, young master!' He only forgave them because they were anxious due to the sudden pressure placed on them.
Shadow One just crossed her arms and watched everything in amusement. As an Ascender, she would have no trouble killing all fifty-two of the incoming beasts, but she didn't seem intent on doing so.
As for Lo, he had unveiled interest in what was going on, looking at everything and everyone with clear curiosity on his eyes.
Sara was controlling herself not to tremble. She had felt so proud when she became the youngest Champion in the history of the Valdian family, but since she started this travel, she felt nothing but worthless.
The family had only seven Eminences, but Eminences seemed to grow like cabbages wherever Aaron went, trying to kill him as if it was the most common thing in the world. They even had two Eminences in the group, a Prophetess and a Crusader!
And now, her, a mere Champion, was supposed to hold herself when fighting against two Eminences and thirty Champions, with only a One-Star Warrior to support her? And Aaron called it a test?
To make things worse, beasts were usually stronger than humans on the same level. It wasn't any difference in their attributes, but that they had better control of their power and innate abilities that were hard to predict.
At least the Prophetess was supposed to help, but only if things got out of control. And if everything went to hell, the young master himself would intervene.
She focused on controlling her nerves, telling herself repeatedly that the young master could save her no matter what happened.
Mark had no idea how he could help in a fight against beasts that were, at the very least, at the Five Stars level. But he would stay sharp and look for an opportunity.
He willed his spear out of his spatial ring and gave it a good look.
Name: Blue Diamond Spear
Grade: Peak Mortal Item
It still amazed him that he had been given a Peak Mortal Item back at Lamia, and a Blue Diamond Sword to boot! As an elite soldier of the Valdian family, he had had access to Lower Magical Items before, and even another Peak Mortal Item weapon, too. But Blue Diamond was the stuff of legends.
Usually, the better the grade of a treasure, the more expensive it was. However, there were exceptions, and Peak Mortal Items made of Blue Diamond was one of them. They were as valuable as Higher Magical Items simply because weapons made of Blue Diamond were that great in cutting things, not to mention they had great resistance.
If it wasn't for the fact that Blue Diamond couldn't be enchanted, it would surely be classified as something much better than a mere Superior resource.
He wanted to test it, and if things went his way, it wouldn't be long before he got the chance!
Aaron watched disapprovingly as Sara just looked north without doing anything. Not asking Helina for more information on the incoming enemies, not using any scouting spell herself, not boosting hers or Mark's attributes, not casting protective spells, not even flying to get on an easily defensible position! She just stood there, waiting for his enemies to make the first move!
Mark, on the other hand, crouched on an overgrown patch of grass close to Helina, one of the best places he could get to, really.
Helina herself was doing okay. She cast a Mana Shield on Mark, that looked like a transparent blue-purple-violet bubble around him. She also took a white orb from her spatial ring and was channeling some mana through it, while she created traps all around the area.
Those traps were small pockets of time mana that would slow down any being that touched them, a great choice for the situation.
Besides time-slowing traps, she also filled her surroundings with ice and wind traps of multiple purposes, from hindering to killing. Those would be a danger for any unaware person, too, but Aaron approved it; awareness of one's surrounding was the basis of a battle, and if someone stepped on those traps, they had only themselves to blame.
A few moments later, the beasts appeared.
The two Alphas had hated each other for their whole existences, but now, the Ancient had sent orders: kill the invaders.
All bests in the mountains knew why the Ancient allowed some humans to go through the mountain, but not others: the Ancient's mate. Whenever she was around, he liked to impress her with carnage, but when she was gone, he just went to sleep.
It was a waste. Both Alphas liked to send their pack at humans, it was a great way for warriors to prove their worth to the pack, but now, the Alphas themselves had come.
Almost in unison, the two of them who had been leading the pack at the soft-skinned apes stopped and howled. Their fifty subordinates increased their speed onwards.
Aaron looked at the incoming tens of beasts. They looked like wolves made in hell: three pairs of yellow eyes, three rows of sharp teeth, three tails each. They had been named Triad Wolves for obvious reasons.
The differences between them were in their size and pelt colors.
The twenty Five-Star Beasts were two meters tall, with red pelt. They left fiery footprints onto whatever they stepped on, even solid rock. They were called Fire Triad Wolves.
The thirty Champion Beasts were three meters tall, black striped red pelts. They also left footprints, but theirs burned in black fire. They were called Stripped Triad Wolves.
And finally, the two Eminences were about five meters tall, their pelts were black, and they left no footprints at all where they walked upon, even if they did so on mud. They were Shadow Triad Wolves.
Aaron was disappointed. He expected more of the probing beasts, but that was way too easy. Beasts were considered stronger than their human counterparts on the same level, except for elemental beasts. Those were vulnerable to elements opposite to theirs, enough that even a Champion like him would have no trouble fighting an Eminence if he used the right elements. It didn't mean he could easily kill them, but he would have no trouble defending himself from the Shadow Triad Wolves as long as he used spells based on the light element to do so – and his mana wasn't depleted.
The two Eminences stopped running and howled. It made the fifty other wolves much more aggressive. They attacked as if they were seeing the tastiest meal of all.
It was then that Sara surprised him.
A moment after the howling, she attacked. Her body turned into black smoke and shot forward at the Eminences. Her smoky self stopped a few meters away from the wolves, midair, and started shooting wind blades at them while moving around.
Not bad, he thought. She had made herself immune to darkness spells and attacked the most powerful enemies. Sadly, that showed her narrow mindedness, for she had ignored the rest of the battlefield.
In the end, she passed. This test was one for courage and technique. She had shown some measure of both.
The attacking wolves didn't stop to try and help the Eminences. About half of them hit time traps and were slowed to a crawl, making them look like they were running in slow motion. Of the remaining half, ten went at Helina, only to freeze in place when they hit the invisible time bubble around her, and the other fifteen went at Aaron.
He sneered and flew on the air high enough that no wolf would get to him.
Most of them tried to jump at Aaron anyway, only to land awkwardly on the ground. Others opened their mouths and released fire streams at him, but he simply dodged without difficulty. A few of them went for Shadow One and only one at Lo.
Aaron walked interested at the Stripped Triad Wolf going at the inept. He wanted to find out which secrets the man was hiding, but Mark let out an aggressive howl and Aaron had to check on the warrior.
Mark had run behind one of the frozen wolves who had tried to get to Helina, stupidly yelling all the while, and thrust his spear with all his might but without any spearmanship. As soon as his spear made contact with the beast, the time freezing effect connected to it, and then, to him. He was also locked in place.
Everything happened in a few instants. Sara's Wind Blades reached the Eminences and did some superficial damage. This enraged the beasts. One of them opened its mouth, showing its three rows of teeth, and shot multiple balls of dark fire at the fog that was Sara. The other jumped to the side and barked, releasing a sonic wave that pushed Sara's fog almost ten meters back. While being pushed, Sara's human form appeared for a moment, showing a bloodied nose and ears.
She didn't stop though and kept attacking.
Aaron was satisfied with the results. Even in her narrow mindedness, Sara had shown better judgment than Mark. Helina had been the one to shine the brighter, and he decided to see just how good she was.
"Helina, get rid of these vermin," he ordered.
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I'm Ed, a writer of GameLit. So far I have released only two books, but I'm working on increasing this number by tens! No, by hundreds! Maybe thousands! xP
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