Martial artists had a long history of chopping down on stones – or tiles - to show off how strong they were. Now, this wasn’t actually the martial artist having tougher hands than the tile but just someone that took advantage of physics and generally weakly-constructed and brittle tiles to make themselves look cool. Some did it with bricks, too, even though that also didn’t make sense as these bricks were not constructed to resist force applied to the edges, making them rather brittle too.

Lots of tactics were applied to do this. The simplest of which was to always make sure there was a small gap between the surface and the object before hitting. This increased the force applied significantly as the object was smashed down and thus breaks more easily – the fact that there are always small gaps between stacked tiles is for this exact reason.

All of this is to say that actually smashing rock with your hand isn’t going to happen. No martial artist before the system could break a normal everyday rock with his or her bare hands. What would break instead was the hand of the person. The reason for this was basic damn physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and all that.

This law of physics was also mostly true after the system. There were magical ways of making it not really a thing anymore, but when punching someone or clashing using weapons, it mostly existed. There were some examples of martial arts being able to circumvent these laws, such as when the Sword Saint blocked Jake’s weapon back during their duel and more or less nullified or fully redirected the force.

Carmen clearly didn’t have any such skill. Neither did the Earth Elementals. With how the system worked, one would also think that the bodies of the Earth Elementals were, on average, more durable than the exposed fists of a human.

But… well, looking at what was currently happening, Jake wasn’t so sure, at least not when the elementals were compared to Carmen’s fists.

She flew forward as her fist smashed into an elemental, sending it flying back as shards of rock flew everywhere. It rapidly regenerated as the tunnel itself seemed to attack her with dozens of spikes erupting from all sides.

They all hit a golden set of phantasmal armor as Carmen kept up her attacks, utterly annihilating the Earth Elementals. Jake had to admit that she was a lot better at melee fighting than he, not just in that she had higher Strength, but her technique was also far superior.

Some blows were large and flashy, but others were far more complicated. When an elemental charged her, Carmen countered by landing three quick jabs that each left microcracks on the elemental before she followed up with a straight to shatter the entire central part of its body.

Jake, for his part, wasn’t slacking off either. He teleported and sometimes floated through the tunnel as he fired off arrows, went into melee, used magic attacks, and was just generally switching it up for whatever was appropriate. Needless to say, he couldn’t use his full power when with others and in an enclosed space. If he was alone, the entire area would already be filled with poison mist and arcane explosions.

However, the one who was thriving the most was a little murder bird who was like a tornado of razor blades just shredding the elementals one by one. Sylphie flew around faster than the poor elementals could handle as they were cut to pieces.

As for the elementals themselves, they were a lot like the Cloud Elementals Jake and Hawkie had fought. They were pretty slow but incredibly durable and annoying to put down for good. They kept re-constructing themselves until they ran out of mana, and the only good way to kill them was to just break them repeatedly.

Offensively they were a bit meh, primarily manipulating their surroundings to strike at their target or by just hitting with their huge bulky bodies consisting of stone and soil. They weren’t a threat to anyone in the party of three and were, on average, very low-tier creatures. The same as most common natural-spawning elementals, actually.

Elementals were a bit interesting in how their races worked. Basic elementals like Fire Elementals, Earth Elementals, Wind Elementals, and even Cloud Elementals could vary pretty widely in power even within the same level. The way the race gained stats per level could vary, and one Earth Elemental could gain 100 stats per level while another got twice that. This was more or less always tied to the area in which they were born and resided, and sometimes maintaining this growth required them to remain where they had spawned.

Measuring the strength of an elemental was still pretty easy, even without Jake’s instincts. You just had to measure the mana levels they gave off and compare that to their level. As mentioned, these Earth Elementals were on the weaker side, making the three of them do quick work.

They began diving deeper and deeper into the tunnel as they killed anything in their path. Another general trait of elementals was their lack of intelligence, making them little more than environmental hazards with a bit of instinct tossed in. Needless to say, elementals were often the prey and not the predator. The cloud island was a great example of this, and the only way they tended to survive long was if they dominated an area like the tunnel Carmen, Jake, and Sylphie were currently tearing apart.

Soon they were practically sprinting as they barely bothered to finish off the annoying elementals. They took too long to kill and would keep chasing anyway, so they just let them pile up and then took down bigger groups. When they got further in, the entire tunnel also expanded to a large cavern with several pockets in between narrower tunnels. Carmen began making a few stops and made Jake and Sylphie follow to loot some precious metals and other natural treasures she needed for her profession.

Jake was all-good doing this as these open spaces where the precious materials existed in were also ideal hunting grounds for Jake. It allowed him to get more distance as he began bombarding the elementals with explosive arrows and even began testing some things on them, primarily with Touch of the Malefic Viper.

He didn’t have any poisons that were good against Earth Elementals. Heck, he didn’t have anything good against most elementals. Lightning poison was pretty decent against many elemental types, but following pocket monster logic, electric-type moves didn’t work against rock and ground types. Of course, the poison type didn’t work either following this logic, but luckily poison in this new world wasn’t quite as restricted as before, and Jake soon began making some progress as he used the poor elementals as test subjects.

Honestly, what worked best against them was perhaps what one should have expected: corrosion. Stones were durable and steadfast but also slow at adapting and expelling energy. A stone could not easily change shape or shake off acid, and the elementals were always forced to take solid form in some way or another. Of course, if he just doused an Earth Elemental in acid, it could just shear off its outer layer. This would still do some damage, true, but it would be minor at best.

But what if you spread the corrosion into the body of the elemental? Infecting not only the physical body but the mana itself with the power of corrosion? Jake didn’t have any good anti-rock corrosives he had any experience with, but he did know a few basic types from lessons, all of which proved somewhat effective.

Sure, it was less effective than just using destructive arcane mana, but Jake still found it worth his time to learn and improve this aspect of his profession. It wasn’t like these elementals would put up a good fight anyway, and Carmen was damn slow at times getting the metals she needed as the extraction processes weren’t always as simple as just smashing the ground and grabbing whatever gave off the most mana. It was a bit like collecting some herbs, though Jake tended to swipe them up swiftly anyway, even if it lost some efficiency.

Ah, who was he kidding? He just scammed ancient vampires with antique furniture whenever he needed stuff.

“You good?” Jake asked as he finished off the last elemental that tried to stop Carmen from slowly getting the small gem out of the stone. She had carefully taken it out after rubbing away the surrounding stone with her palm like was it made of sandpaper.

“Yeah, I got it. Last push for the Prima?” she asked.

Jake nodded as he sensed the air and took a deep breath, practically smelling the unique mana of the Prima. “It’s up ahead… one, maybe two caverns. Honestly, hard to tell with how dense the mana is.”

“Ree!” Sylphie complained as she puffed herself up in anger. She really didn’t like the heavy earth affinity in the air hampering her wind mana. Jake knew she had to spend more mana than usual, something Jake luckily didn’t have to due to his arcane mana being so closely connected to affinity-less mana, something there was still plenty of.

“Alright. We make the push then, no breaks till the Prima is down,” Jake said, getting quick confirmations from the others. None of them were tired out yet, and Jake had naturally shared his potions with the group, being a good team player and all that.

Two minutes later, they departed for more Earth Elemental slaughtering and to reach the Prima. Many Orbs were collected along the way containing pure earth mana, too, making it not entirely a waste of time, even if the experience was subpar.

As Jake had guessed, the first cavern they reached was devoid of any Primas, making them swiftly move through. By now, the areas were getting pretty big, and it especially began opening up when they got closer to their goal.

“It is right up ahead,” Jake said with great confidence.

His words were proven true as they reached a new expansive cavern. However, this one was different from the others. The occasional crystal lined the walls, giving off a faint light, and in the middle was a pillar of crystals that seemed to hold the ceiling of the cavern up. It was humming with power, and Jake instantly recognized the pillar as a natural treasure similar to the lightning tree on the cloud island. The tree did give off more power, though, and Jake was certain the tree was a better treasure. The giant elemental that was currently siphoning off its energy certainly didn’t help it either.

The Prima itself looked like a large bulky golem with blocky but faintly humanoid features. It was more than fifteen meters tall as it stood with both its arms on the pillar and was practically pulsing with power. Jake and the others used Identify on it, and it was indeed the strongest thing around and had the Prima tag.

[Earth Elemental Prima - lvl 185]

Jake tossed Carmen a look, and she just snickered as she knelt down and pressed her fists to the ground, giving Jake a nod as he also began to prepare his opening attack.

He did so as he whipped out his Bow of the Apex Hunter and began charging his Arcane Powershot. Sylphie also began glowing green as a small whirlwind began revolving around her. Their actions truly got the attention of the Prima as the entire cavern began moving. Dozens of elementals emerged every second, and the Prima itself reached out a hand to attack.

It wasn’t a fully charged Arcane Powershot, but it was good enough. Jake let go of the string as he exploded with arcane power, and at the same time, Sylphie flew forward with speed matching his arrow.

“Sacred Battleground,” Carmen spoke as a golden pulse went through the entire cavern. She stepped forward and blocked a barrage of stone fragments heading for Jake, who was already charging his second Arcane Powershot while at the same time beginning to condense an Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter within the special space in his quiver.

Two things impacted the Earth Elemental Prima a second later. One of them was an explosive arcane arrow that sent shards of rock flying, and the second was a hawk that just pierced straight through, surpassing the power of Jake’s arrow by quite a bit.

However, the elemental healed near-instantly as it kept pulling power from the central pillar. Its outer shell also began changing and taking on a crystalline form as Jake noticed the many shards embedded in the walls of the cavern give off similar energies to the Prima.

Some kind of resonance? Jake asked himself. One thing was clear, this entire cavern was the domain of the Prima and would make it a lot harder to-

Jake then saw Carmen make a weird hand sign as she punched the ground. A shockwave traveled all throughout the surfaces of the cavern, and within an instant, thousands of crystals exploded, taking away a large part of the elemental’s home-field advantage while making crystal dust rain down.

The pillar in the middle still stood strong as the Prima displayed a level of intelligence Jake was not used to seeing from elementals. It retreated by sliding up the pillar as it sent the many regular Earth Elementals after Jake and Carmen as it focused on Sylphie.

An endless barrage of rocks went for Jake and Carmen, making her unable to fully defend Jake, forcing him to fire his Arcane Powershot to blow up a few elementals. Meanwhile, Sylphie engaged with the Prima that had begun changing its form. It transformed into a long snake-like creature instead of its humanoid form as it coiled around the crystal pillar. It opened its mouth and sent out sharp barrages of rock, each one of them the size of a human forearm.

Sylphie tried to attack, but her smaller attacks had a hard time breaking the crystalline outer shell of the Prima, while the larger ones were instantly healed anyway. Jake kept an eye on everything as he and Carmen killed the elementals one by one. He didn’t see them losing, but if the situation continued, it could get tricky… the pillar more or less seemed to give the Prima infinite energy to absorb. It was a situation Jake had seen before, and he knew just the thing to fuck the Prima up.

“I need a path to the pillar,” Jake said as he flew next to Carmen.

“Got it,” she nodded as she smashed her fists together, making her entire body glow golden. She stormed forward and began clearing a path that Jake quickly went through, switching position with Carmen, so she covered his back while he went for the pillar.

“Cover me,” he said as he went up to the base of the pillar. He also sent a mental message to Sylphie, and she reacted by beginning to fly around the pillar. Jake felt the wind pick up all around him as a whirlwind of green energy formed, covering his form and keeping the projectile attacks of the elementals away. The only way for them to actually attack him was to come with their true bodies, but Carmen had that covered.

Jake placed his hands on the pillar as Touch of the Malefic Malefic Viper activated along with Arcane Awakening in the balanced state. He focused his energy on the pillar as he pulled out two items he quickly began consuming to aid the process. One of them was a rare rarity Refined Dark Orb from a powerful Dark Elemental that had been refined into a catalyst for dark affinity magic, and the other was an all-purpose amplifier for transmutation magic called a Transmutation Stone.

[Transmutation Stone (Uncommon)] – An uncommon stone used to aid in the transmutation process, functioning as a catalyst. Using a Transmutation Stone makes harmonically fusing energies easier.

It was the kind of item that Villy would describe as “a crutch” that wasn’t good to use under normal circumstances, but it did make the process slightly faster.

Jake’s attack on the crystalline pillar was quickly noticed by the Prima absorbing energy from it, and it promptly reacted. The ground beneath Jake began pulsing, but Jake was ready as he stomped down, sending a wave of pure, stable arcane mana through it. The mana lingered, making the elemental unable to manipulate the earth, buying him time.

Sylphie also picked up the pace and began attacking more viciously, even trying to pull the Prima away from the pillar altogether. It didn’t work, but it brought Jake even more time as he worked fast.

Both his items were rapidly consumed as Jake pumped mana into the pillar. Dark cracks began spreading as the dark mana consumed everything it could, and Jake happily helped it along, giving him flashbacks to his days with the Quintessence in the boar dungeon with the lake.

Back then, it had taken him many hours for a lake with far less energy than this pillar to be corrupted… but the Jake of back then was not the same as now. He pushed in the mana as the cracks began spreading several meters up the pillar every second, and when the Dark Orb cracked, it reached the Prima coiled around the pillar.

When it did, the Prima knew it was screwed. It rapidly uncoiled itself as it tried to flee to the ground, but Sylphie managed to create a wall of wind that sent it tumbling down in Carmen’s direction. Jake also stopped what he was doing and went on the offensive again. The pillar would no longer help the elemental, and it knew it.

The Prima changed shape again mid-air into a panther-like form as it met Carmen’s fist with a claw. They were both blasted back, but before the Prima had any chance to stabilize, it was attacked by Jake and Sylphie. One was an archer that fired explosive arcane arrows that broke the outer crystalline defensive layer, and the other was a hawk that attacked and sent what may as well by air shotguns into these exposed areas.

It kept trying to retreat, but they simply didn’t give it a chance. The Prima kept struggling, but when Jake pulled out and hit an Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter, it seemed to know its days were numbered. Its form had reduced significantly, and with reluctance, the Prima suddenly flew towards the central pillar again. Jake, Carmen, and Sylphie had placed themselves to stop it from fleeing away from the cavern, not run towards the very center of it. This meant none of them able to react as the elemental smashed into the pillar. It seemed to almost merge with it, and Jake felt his corrupted mana be affected within the pillar… but it wasn’t getting weaker. No, it was being purposefully fed as it grew in power.

Jake’s eyes opened wide.

“Defenses, now!” he yelled as a huge surge of energy erupted from the pillar, making it explode into millions of shards as cracks formed all over the cavern walls. A huge rumble shook the ground as Jake, and the others got notification of the Prima’s death. it had consumed itself in an attempt to take down its attackers…

By bringing down the entire fucking mountain on top of them.

A note from Zogarth

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