The earth route was filled with rugged rock, and felt desolate with its lack of vegetation. Instead, swords and spears stuck to the ground like grave markers. The sky route was not much different, so people familiar with classic literature would say it was like the Asura’s world.
Asuras were mythological beings. People obsessed with fighting and always hungering for battle would turn into an Asura, and become trapped in an endless battle even after death.
Still, only the scenery reminded people of this, not the monsters themselves.
The ogres that appeared in this route were not as strong as the one Nick and his party once faced in the Goblin Forest. Although they were similar physically, they were not intelligent enough to speak, and their movements were simpler.
An ogre was hit by a chakram fired by Tianna, and the rest fell into panic. Monsters that were proud of their physical strength would panic the moment they encountered an opponent their huge muscles would not be effective against. This was common for oni-type monsters, and while this intelligence of sorts was surprising, it also left them open for attacks.
Nick, Karan, and Bond attacked the ogres with a short sword, broad two-handed sword, and one handed sword respectively.
The three fought perfectly in sync together, and the ogres that once gave them trouble were kicked around by Nick’s staggering slashes and Karan and Bond’s fierce attacks.
“Hmm… Was it always this easy?”
Karan felt a little disappointed.
“The weapons we find in Thousand Sword Peak are effective against the monsters here, so that makes things easier.”
As Nick answered Karan’s question, the last remaining ogre attacked her, but her movements were too sharp, and she easily defeated it.
With the ogres down, the area was suddenly quiet.
“Alright, let’s go!”
“Wait, calm down. Don’t rush too much.”
The match’s rules did mean that speed was very important, but at this current altitude, rushing too much could have the opposite effect, and result in them moving slower…
Is what Nick was about to say before Karan slapped her own cheeks.
A clapping sound echoed.
“Nothing. Sorry. I was being impatient.”
“I see… Well, drink some water. Let’s all take a break.”
They headed towards a small rocky clearing and sat down.
“We are getting close.”
Said Sem as he looked at the peak.
Contrary to Blazing Bird Peak, they felt something mysteriously profound about it. As though it was trying to keep them away.
“This view is nostalgic.”
Responded Tianna to Nick, with clear surprise on her face.
“Yeah? Is something wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s just kind of weird I guess.”
“I was taken here to train and told to fight ogres. I couldn’t beat them on my own, but I used staggering tactics and knocked them down.”
Tianna nodded. On their first adventure as a party, Nick fought an ogre by himself, although Karan delivered the finishing blow. Tianna, Karan, and Sem thought back to it.
“Your point of view has changed since then. You used to be taken places, and now you take others. Which one is easier?”
“Neither is easy. And the two parties are completely different too.”
“What were the other members like?”
“There were five of us. Our leader was Argus the Weapon Master, and then there was the swordsman Garosso, the hunter Dean, the heavy warrior Belik, and me.”
“Thinking back, that is a bit weird… I did try to get them to hire one.”
“And they said no?”
“They just said it wasn’t that kind of party.”
“They sound stubborn.”
“Well, even if we call it an adventurer party, it was more like a dojo of sorts where we learned the All Martial Arts style. We were all like Argus’ pupils… We were all strong.”
Despite Nick’s words sounding proud, his expression seemed bitter. Tianna noticed this, and answered with an awkward smile.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of emotion behind those words. Not that I blame you.”
“I’ve remembered some bad things… They would never take collecting materials seriously, and always left cashing them in to me even though they weren’t careful at all about how they spent their money… Garosso was the worst. He liked to go out playing with women. Nonetheless, he was still terrible.”
“What do you mean terrible?”
Asked Sem. The subject matter piqued his interest.
“He’d get tricked into giving them money and then forget all about it in three days. There was even that time he took his savings to some woman to supposedly get her out of prostitution… Not that he had a lot of money saved up to begin with.”
“I know I’m not one to talk, but people need to be careful about not taking everything they hear seriously when they’re involved in that sort of life.”
Said Sem with an awkward smile.
“But you still hung in there. Was there anything good about that place?”
“Not really… Well, there was one.”
“They were all very serious about their training. Even Garosso turned into a chaste monk when it came to his sword.”
“Chaste monk uh…”
Tianna seemed to not believe it.
“No, it’s true, you know. We wouldn’t have gotten past rank C without a sorcerer if it wasn’t the case.”
“Is he the master of that thing you talked about called iai?”
Nick started remembering his conversations with Garosso.
It was mostly him trying to get Nick to go after girls with him, or pestering him for money. He behaved just like an adventurer, in a bad way.
Still, there were a few times when he actually acted like a proper senior to Nick, and taught him some things.
‘Hey Nick, you’ve never gone out after women uh? What do you mean you’re not interested? How long are you gonna stay a kid?’
‘Come on, please! Just give me a little advance payment! Your account book is all balanced right?’
‘You don’t know how to sharpen that short sword. Give me that, I’ll show you.’
‘Alright alright, I’ll teach you. See, when a monster has a hard shell like a bug, that doesn’t mean you can’t cut it. You just have to insert the blade in just the right way…’
Nick suddenly realized something.
He was at a loss for words, and his face was frozen.
“Oh? What’s wrong?”
“Ah, no, nothing… I’m just thinking too much. We should get moving. Can all of you breath normally now?”
The match was almost over.