Marcello was awoken several hours into his slumber by his goblin shaman slave nudging him with a stick.
“Master, something here!” the goblin shaman said urgently.
Just a moment later, something set off the wooden clank noise traps that Marcello had set up around the camp. He had also put down two bear traps, but they were too few in number to sufficiently cover the perimeter.
Marcello quickly equipped his armor and grabbed his longsword, emerging out of the tent with his sword in hand.
“Where?” he asked the goblin shaman, who he just noticed was missing a good chunk of its health bar. “What attacked you?”
“Grute not see!” the goblin replied in a bit of a panic.
Marcello whipped around, scanning the entirety of the forest for signs of danger. Right as he looked around, a ball of fire slammed into his back, singing him.
“Aah!” Marcello yelped in pain. He was particularly vulnerable to magic based attacks, and this one was no joke.
The caster darted behind a tree, and Marcello was unable to make out its figure in the darkness of the night. He did not have any kind of night vision ability, nor was there anything as convenient as night vision goggles stocked at the tutorial shop the last time he checked. Maybe there was a potion of night vision of something of the sort, but Marcello was not prioritizing that at the moment when he was shopping.
Straining his eyes to track the movement of the figure, Marcello summoned his archeios javelin.
“It’s you, isn’t it? The monster from earlier with the drain magic!” Marcello bellowed, unfazed by the elusive enemy. He infused a bit of his voice with giant’s roar.
There was no response.
Another fireball hurtled towards him, as Marcello could not dodge in time. Whoever this enemy was, they were out of range of his giant’s roar. He summoned his wooden plank shield, the ball of fire splashing onto it and leaving a charred spot. The wood from the terrestrial realm was something else, and just like how treasure chests made by wood from the Yggdrasil tree could not be burned by regular fire, so too the crudely made wooden plank shield that Marcello had hastily constructed could not be set aflame so easily by a normal fire spell.
“It’s not you, huh? Someone new?” Marcello shouted. The dark magic monster that he fought before never used fire spells, so it was obvious that this was a different entity.
He spoke his mind, not just to voice his thoughts but also as a way to flush out the enemy. If the enemy responded with a grunt or whatever, then he’d know where exactly it was. Also, because the sound of his own voice made the prospect of fighting in the middle of the woods at night just that little bit less terrifying.
He was having a hard time tracking the enemy after each fireball briefly illuminated them. Whoever he was fighting against, they were very careful to be nimble in their step, not occupying the same space after firing. A formidable foe.
“Catch!” Marcello shouted to Grute, tossing the goblin shaman a bone sceptre. As much as Marcello enjoyed role playing a mage, his magic ability was far below that of a true mage like his current enemy.
“Use the orbs!” he commanded, and Grute happily obliged.
Marcello had loosened the wooden cuffs on the goblin shaman last night so that it was still chained to the tree, but with one hand free. That was to allow the goblin shaman to warn him if anything unsavory came around, and that additional foresight came into play right now. The goblin shaman took the sceptre with its free hand and began to cast the dark orb spell.
As this happened, Marcello quickly hoisted the archeios spear up, watching the dark orbs intently. Where those orbs would fly to was of utmost importance. He needed to cover his combat weaknesses, such as the lack of visibility in the darkness, on the fly with some improvised tactics, and he recalled that the dark orbs were of the homing variety. In addition, they had a faint sort of dark bluish or purple hue, which made them visible in the night.
Because they were visible homing missiles, he could simply track the trajectory of the orbs to be able to find his assailant, and then pelt them with his archeios javelin. A quick and dirty plan, one that he hoped would work out.
“I thought I told you guys, females only! No males are allowed in my part of the woods! Non-negotiable!” a familiar female voice called out from the night.
Two magic missiles shot out from the foliage, intercepting and destroying the dark orbs that were traveling towards her.
Marcello instantly recognized that voice, and put things together.
“Emma?” he shouted, lowering his archeios javelin.
An orb of fire appeared in the distance, illuminating the figure that had been attacking him just a moment ago. With a form fitting black robe and a large witch’s hat that looked like it could barely fit on her head, a highschool girl with straight black hair and a remarkably pretty face appeared from the shadows. A hint of a plaid skirt could be seen from the seams of the black sorceress’s robe that she had donned, her signature style.
Despite the deceiving innocence of her soft facial features, her actual personality was the stark opposite. The last time Marcello had met her, she had concealed the nature of her class for the entirety of the first two areas until the very end. She was cold, calculating, patient, and surprisingly intelligent and far-sighted. She was also the only other person that he’d met so far with an inheritance.
Out of all the people Marcello had encountered so far, Emma was one of the most dangerous. A wolf in sheep’s clothing among a flock of sheep that fancied themselves to be threatening. She was someone who truly fit the Shakespearean definition of method to her madness.
In fact, the very last words that she spoke to him were no hard feelings, as she used her inheritance to enrage Marcello into engaging the castle lord as she escaped with a teleportation scroll. Marcello had to admit, her plan was a good one. It was why she was still alive.
“Who are you? And how do you know my name?” the black witch of the north asked, her staff raised at Marcello. Her voice was cold and callous, and belied the intent of killing him immediately if he answered wrong. A molten ball of fire appeared in front of her staff, just waiting for the command to attack.
Marcello’s goblin shaman slave mirrored the gesture, producing his own dark blue orb. But his master signalled him to back off.
Marcello did not intend to fight Emma, but part of his begging curiosity wondered how he would fare against the infamous black witch of the north that Frank had warned him about so adamantly. As strong as Marcello was, he was not sure how exactly this exact scenario would play out, especially when he was disadvantaged by the lack of visibility in this time of day.
Marcello removed his helmet and stepped forward. “Recognize me? You left me in a pretty tight spot, Emma.”
The black haired girl’s eyes widened in surprise when the unhelmeted knight approached her, recognition glistening in her eyes.
“Marcy?” she said in a lower voice than before. The iciness of her voice was gone. “I thought you were dead.”
Marcello shrugged. “Barely got out alive. So, I gotta ask. What’s this whole thing about females only?”
Emma laughed. “That’s just for fun, I guess. And plus, dirty old men are inherently less trustworthy. Haven’t you heard about that eyepatched guy Eric? I heard that he prostitutes out the girls in his camp. Disgusting old man..”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of him alright,” Marcello replied. “Feels like I can’t go a step into this forest without someone working under Eric trying to assassinate me. Although this is the first time I’m hearing about the whole prostitution thing. Are you sure that’s real?”
Emma giggled. “Yep. Typical men. And the assassination thing sounds about right. That’s why I gave his men a stern warning the last time they tried poking around up here. By the way, aren’t you going to tell me how you survived the castle lord fight? And where have you been all this time?”
Marcello shook his head. “It’s a really long story. You probably wouldn’t even believe half of it.”
“Are you the one who opened up the inner forest by killing those wolves?” Emma asked quizzically.
Marcello nodded. “Yeah.”
“Wow, even I couldn’t do that,” she said wistfully. Her face brightened up for a moment, her eyes flashing crazily. “You’re really strong now, huh. Good doggy!”
The goblin shaman’s ears perked up. Its master had been calling it a dog for the longest time, and it was only now that the reason why was revealed.
Suddenly, Marcello realized that he had subconsciously picked up some of Emma’s mannerisms. He decided to change the topic as fast as possible before the goblin shaman could comment on why this strange human girl was calling its master by its own derogatory nickname.
“Anyway, we can catch up later, but there’s something more important to talk about right now. I need your help, Emma. Not sure if you heard, but soon it’s going to be the blood moon, and there’s a disaster just waiting to happen in just a few days as these monsters called the old ones are cut loose on us. That’s in addition to the entire forest’s creatures leveling up. I have a feeling that the old ones are still in a vulnerable state right now before the blood moon, so I’m trying to stop it alone. Why don’t you come help me? If we don’t stop it, all human life in this forest might be eliminated.”
Emma nodded. “Yeah, I had some similar messages. It’s why I was poking up here in the first place, following the trail of some person that happened to kill all the wolves on his way here. It turns out that person is good ol’ Marcy! Maybe we should get the old crew back together!”
Marcello laughed. “You mean with Michael and Nolan? Troy’s a decent enough guy, and Alice is alright, but those two would probably bolt the second there’s any danger.”
“Weeeell, maybe they’ll have a change of heart this time around!”
Marcello groaned. “You know Emma, I really can’t tell if you’re joking half the time.”
“By the way, did Jason survive too?”
“Nah, he didn’t. The castle lord cleaved him in half.”
An uncomfortable air hung around the campsite, which was broken by Emma giggling. “I see you’ve set up a nice camp here, and you even booby trapped it too. What would you have done if I stepped on one of your bear traps by accident?”
“Nothing, because you probably deserve it, right?” Marcello replied.
Emma pouted, the flaming orb floating next to her head bobbing up and down with her. “So, what are your plans for the rest of the evening?”
“Sleep, of course. You woke me up in the middle of the fucking night. And I need to set up those noise traps again. You’re welcome to help me, if you want.”
Emma took a look at all the wood shavings scattered around camp with a bit of an upturned nose. “So you’re the one responsible for all of those hideous wooden carvings I’ve been seeing around the forest, huh?”
Marcello shrugged. “Guilty as charged. And they’re not hideous. Well at least, not all of them.”
“Hmm…” Emma said, staring at Marcello. “That armor looks kind of familiar. Did you take it from the castle lord himself?”
“You really are something else, huh. Maybe following you around is the right idea.”
A small laugh came from Marcello. “Hey, Emma.”
“What’s up?” the girl said, looking up at him. She was busy unpacking her own tent, having decided to stay with him.
“What do you think our chances are against a level fifty evolved hobgoblin and a horde of angry goblins?”