By the time she was done repairing her gear and upgrading her array with the new rune, it was evening. An interesting discovery she made was that the repair function was also able to clean her clothing while repairing it. So now she did not have to worry about getting all smelly. She did wish dearly for a long hot bath though… Maybe one day she would be able to afford such luxury once more. For now she had to settle for washing with water from a nearby stream. She decided that one day, she would have her bath again. How long it would take, she didn't know, but she was committed.
With her new resolution to get a bath firmly set in her mind, Zoey headed back inside for the night. Nito had spent the day practicing his meditation technique so he hadn't moved an inch, and Zoey didn't bother him as she settled in for another peaceful night.
The next morning they were both up with the sun and full of energy. Nito wanted to go hunting with her so he could test out his new abilities he had been picking up from his Scythe Mantis Reaper technique. Zoey was curious as well, so the two of them headed out to hunt some Ice Venom Sky Snakes together. On the way out to the rock spire jungle where the snakes lived, Nito was showing her all the different plants and resources one could gather in the forest for food and other things. He was a wellspring of knowledge about what plants were edible or useful and which were not. Zoey was a studious listener of course, absorbing the information like a sponge.
Soon enough the two made it to the hunting area, and Zoey had a new appreciation of all the plants that grew in the area. She wasn't sure if some of them would be edible for humans, but she had her interface to determine for sure if needed. Nito in the meantime started to test out his new abilities.
Thanks to the technique he had practiced he could now disappear completely from sight much like the Scythe Mantis had done when Zoey fought it in the dungeon. He was still in the early stages of the technique though and could only disappear for a short time, and Zoey could still sense his vague presence when he vanished. For practice, they hunted some Rank 1 ice Venom Sky Snakes so Nito could acclimate himself to actual combat.
He proved to be quite adept at using the technique. When one of the snakes would swoop down to strike at him, he would simply go invisible a moment before, throwing the snake into confusion. While the creature was confused he would strike with his knife to kill it. Throughout the process he was visibly excited about the fact that he was able to actually kill the creatures. Before, he could barely defend himself from non-magical creatures much less a Rank 1. Getting to Rank 2 had been a huge leap for him when it came to combat strength. He was stronger and faster, with heightened senses and faster reflexes. The Scythe Mantis Reaper technique was no joke.
As the two friends progressed deeper into the Ice Venom Sky Snake territory the snakes grew more numerous, and far bolder. They would often be attacked by several snakes at once. Zoey mostly used her combat knife and started to test her Crystal Claw Bracer out on the stronger snakes that were on the cusp of Rank 2.
The magical claw performed excessively well and Zoey was soon using it like an extension of herself as she struck down Ice Venom Sky Snakes one after the other. Nito was flustered by the appearance of a magical claw on her arm and requested an explanation. When Zoey told him about all the items she had pulled from the dungeon, his eyes glazed over from the shock. In his time alive he had never seen weapons like the ones she recovered. Anything close to, or similar to the things she had recovered was zealously hidden and guarded by the noble houses, never to see the light of day until an actual war broke out.
Zoey on the other hand was practically a walking arsenal of ancient artifacts at this point and Nito kept muttering about the absurdity of it all as they continued on their hunt. As they went Zoey was placing all the dead snakes into her inventory so they could clean the materials later when they got back.
They progressed deeper into the area until they reached the place where the portal to the dungeon had been just two days ago, but looking around there was no sign that anything had been there at all. Shortly after they passed there they encountered their first Rank 2 Ice Venom Sky Snake.
They had been walking single file through some thicker underbrush when the snake struck, spitting Ice Venom at them from behind. Zoey was in the rear, so she jumped to the side and shouted to warn Nito, who instantly went invisible and slinked into the brush in the opposite direction. You wouldn't realize it from their stature, but Zoey had come to recognize from her time with Nito that Vekt were strangely flexible and could pull off some serious gymnastics if needed.
They both managed to avoid getting hit by the venom and Zoey, being the only one visible, became the snake's target. This particular snake was extremely aggressive and kept spitting venom at Zoey as it swooped from spire to spire among the canopy. Zoey was forced to dodge constantly on the ground to avoid the venom.
Zoey was not content with simply waiting till the snake got tired and ran off so she stopped dodging and actively began chasing the snake. She leapt onto one of the rock spires and used her Crystal Claw to stab into the rock and propel her upwards into the canopy. The Ice Venom Sky Snake was caught off guard, as no prey it had ever faced had actually chased after it before. Thanks to the moment of surprise, Zoey was able to reach the section of canopy the snake was coiled in and slashed her claw through the thickest part of the growth, causing the entire section to collapse.
The snake tried to use its wings to fly free of the collapsing canopy, but got tangled in the vines and branches, tumbling all the way to the floor of the jungle. The moment it hit the ground, Nito appeared from the underbrush like a phantom and pounced on the snake's back hacking at the back of its head with his short blade. He wasn't able to do much damage, but he did keep the snake in place long enough for Zoey to come down from the canopy like a bolt of lightning.
The Crystal Claw pierced through the Ice Venom Sky Snake's head and pinned it to the ground. As the body thrashed around from the death throes of the snake, Nito was tossed away into the bushes, only to emerge no worse from wear after the snake stopped moving. Zoey retracted her Crystal Claw and grinned at Nito as he stared in disbelief at the creature they had killed. Never in his wildest dreams had he believed that he would take part in such an event.
Turns out, meeting Zoey was a turning point in his life, for more reasons that he even knew.