It's been a couple of days since the group started walking toward the Yinyue Empire and they had traveled as far as they could, taking breaks in-between, both in game and in real life. The route they were following at the moment was taking them through a forest, which was infested by those trees with a kid's hand hanging out. Aisha had pointed out how the name of that type of mob was "Akateko." Predator Instincts combined with Death's Eyes provided Aisha with an area of absolute dominance, where no monster, NPC or player could sneak in undetected. Of course if their Stealth skill's level was higher than Predator Instincts', she would not sense them.
A highlight of their in-game breaks was when Aisha walked up to a mob she called "Jinmenju," it would've been normal tree if it wasn't for its human-faced fruits. Aisha picked its fruits and set about cooking them in the boiling water in the pot over the fire they had set up. Gaea looked rather lonely as Atlas and Electra flirted while sitting side by side, Matagi was lost in her thoughts and Aisha was busy cooking. It turned out that the fruits were a tasty delicacy, adding a contrasting taste to the light stew.
Another break the group had to make was when Aisha had to go visit the psychiatric. Atlas, Electra and Matagi logged out too, while Gaea decided to guard the temporary camp and fight a bit with the various Jubokkos around. A Jubokko is a tree which attacks passersby with its branches by changing them into tubes and sucking out their blood. All Jubokkos were always the healthier looking trees and when you cut them, blood would come out. One of its drops is "Blood Branch," which Gaea identified as an ingredient for making blood potions, an health potion which, for vampires, gives a temporary boost in health regen.
During that same break, Nathan and Miranda spent their time by taking care of their bodies and then just logged back in. Abigail instead waited for Elisabeth's call before she logged back in. She had eagerly waited to know the psychiatric's opinion, her feelings a mix of hope and dread. Hope for Lia to really be able to feel emotions, and dread for the fact maybe Lia just had mistaken what she had felt for an emotion. The two talked on the phone a bit as Yvonne went back to the capsule.
Two other varieties of tree-related creatures they encountered in the following days were Uma-no-ashi, an annoying horse leg which kicked whoever got too close. Atlas would have been one of those too, if it hadn't been for Electra's prompt reaction, she pulled him toward herself just in time. Despite Atlas' attitude and appearance, to Aisha he seemed rather prone to unlucky encounters with other creatures.
The second kind of mobs were the Tsurube-otoshi, creatures resembling Tengu and Oni which liked to drop down on their victims from the tree tops. Why they weren't categorized as either Tengu or Oni was anyone's guess. And then there were other types of monsters, not related to trees.
Aisha said as she suddenly turned around, drawing a dagger and using Pinpoint Throw to hit the enemy squarely in the face. The hit missed, it hit its torso. The dagger didn't miss because Aisha threw it wrong, but because the monster was humongous. The ox-headed ogre closely resembled a poorly clothed doped 250cm tall man. Its skin was ash-green and most of its veins were visible and also pulsating. The monster was wielding a wooden club in its left hand and a stone axe in its right hand.
Over his head, Aisha could see "Ushi-oni - Level 119." The five instantly took their respective positions: Aisha moved away from the monster, providing support with the sturdy bow she bought in Shazil. As she had the highest level she was in no hurry to take a higher share of exp. Gaea was the tank and vanguard of the group, sometimes switching with Matagi, as she too could take some damage. Atlas and Electra attacked in succession, first Electra would fly up near the monster, but still not enough for him to reach her, and used her racial skill to stun him; then Atlas hit him from the back with either magic or his bō.
Atlas' attack normally gave him the aggro, and this time it was no exception. Gaea quickly activated one of her skills, Blessed Battle, making her sword shine a in a brilliant light. The skill gave a +10% on damage and a +15% light damage for 1 minute at the cost of 300 MP. When she impaled her sword into the Ushi-oni's flank, the monster roared and glared at her. Atlas no longer registered in his mind.
As she stood on the sideline, Aisha could calmly take her aim and shoot her arrows at the mob. She still didn't have the Bow Mastery skill so her hit-rate wasn't high, but to Aisha it seemed like the little boost from Pinpoint Throw was helping. Aisha aimed at various places during the battle: the face, the wrists, the legs and the groin. She didn't even try to shoot at the Ushi-oni's chest as it was obviously quite resilient.
If it hadn't been for the monster's larger health pool, he would have surely died sooner. It's attack were rather manageable, if you didn't make even one mistake. When he attacked with the club, it was usually a downward vertical attack and Gaea and Matagi easily evaded it. When the Ushi-oni attacked with the axe, Gaea and/or Matagi used a diagonal upward slash to change the trajectory of the weapon. Of course they couldn't do it completely, so they also squatted down at the same time they were mid-swing. Even if the mob was big, it wasn't so big it completely overpowered the two girls.
After some other days of traveling, they arrived at the end of the forest. In front of them was a 6 meter tall wall that extended and continued on for so long they couldn't see its ends. It reminded the five of the Chinese wall which encircled all of China. Four figures, certainly guards, could be spotted 100 meters or so to the south protecting what seemed to be one of the entrances to the Yinyue Empire.
Happy to have reached this point, the group decided to take a break and log out. Certainly Aisha could not let Maverick slack off, Maverick hunted mostly alone but nearby. He had to do so because there were too many close ranged fighters in the group; at most he'd cast Sickness every time the effect wore off. During the breaks Aisha sometimes remained in the game a bit more to fight alongside him to raise her proficiency with the bow. It's not like she didn't want to raise her Dagger Mastery, but it would restrict her to fighting close-combat, which would defeat the purpose of sending Maverick away.
Naturally, this was the norm when only one or two mobs attacked them, if it was a group of three or more, not only would Maverick participate, Aisha would fight using her katana or daggers as well.
When Matagi, Aisha, Atlas, Gaea and Electra logged back in, Aisha prepared some food to satiate their virtual bodies' needs while Maverick came back. Once they were all done and Maverick was back to being a simple-looking black bracelet, the five began approaching the gate until a guard shouted something to them
"Halt! Who is it?!"