The labyrinth 『Wood Men Fighting Forest』 was generally a place where D and E rank adventurers hunted, and Survivors was there that day.
As the name implied, it was a forest, but not as thick and dark as one might have expected. There was sunlight and it was not too difficult to walk around, due to a characteristic of the type of monster that made up the majority of the monsters living in it.
A monster named Wood Man attacked while letting out a scream that sounded like a flute. As the name implied, this monster looked like a human made out of wood.
This creepy monster attacked Survivors with a dropkick while screaming like some sort of strange bird call.
“Out of my way!”
Karan swatted it with her Dragon Bone Sword, and it flew away in the direction of the other one that was waiting in the back.
But the one in the back quickly dodged and ran forward.
“Geez, what a bother!”
Tianna cast Ice Shield to protect herself and Sem, buying time for Bond to skillfully slash it in two.
“Good grief, I do not like these nimble ones.”
“There’s three more, be careful.”
Shouted Nick, and Karan started moving. She approached a Wood Man so quickly, one would think her sword did not weigh a thing.
The Wood Man, sensing danger, hopped back, but as it landed, it was hit by ice bullets shot by Tianna. And then, Bond and Nick finished the remaining two.
Nick saw the Wood Men die, but did not let his guard down and looked around.
“Alright… Wait, Tianna…”
“It’s alright, there are no more monsters around here.”
Tianna knew to search for enemies even without Nick’s instructions. Upon hearing her, everyone let out a sigh of relief.
“I was a bit scared when more than ten of them popped up…”
Said a tired Sem.
Wood Men were smaller than the wood golems that appeared in the Labyrinth of Bonds, but were much more agile.
Since their bodies were made of live tree instead of dry wood, Karan’s fire breath did not work as well, but their most troublesome feature was ‘High Intelligence’.
They were good at linking their individual attacks and knew exactly when to retreat.
But it was not like they had no weaknesses. Since they liked to fight, they would create roads where they could easily walk and maintain them so there was nothing obstructing their view, and had the habit of using them as fighting arenas. Sometimes, they would perform sneak attacks, so adventurers could not simply walk around without caution.
Simply put, they were monsters that liked to fight, and knowing how to take advantage of this was a wall that intermediary adventurers had to overcome.
“But still, I think it went well, especially considering it was the first time.”
“Yes. They’re fast and not dumb like goblins, so plenty of people get stumped here. It’s a good experience for us.”
Said an interested looking Karan, but Sem on the other hand seemed less happy.
“I don’t feel good about being protected all the time… Maybe I should learn some fighting techniques too.”
“You Sem? I think you’re doing a lot already…”
“But I always have to be backed up by Tianna and Bond.”
“You cast support magic on us so don’t worry… Still…”
Nick put his hand on his chin and started thinking. It made sense that Sem was worried about not being able to fight back. No one knew for sure if his back up would make it on time 100% of the time, and above all else, telling him to trust that someone would always be there to protect him went against the whole principle of the party.
“It wouldn’t hurt to learn how to fight with a wooden sword or staff. Do you want to practice a bit?”
“Yes, thank you. A mace is too frightening, but I can carry a staff around town without people feeling threatened.”
Sem nodded. It seemed he was on board.
“Alright, but first…”
Nick looked around at the Wood Man corpses.
“We need to collect materials from them, and once we’re done, we need to pick medicinal herbs.”
“This part is a pain.”
Listlessly mumbled Tianna and Bond.
“It’s easier to take materials from them than goblins. Come on! move, move!”
Nick clapped his hands and said some words of encouragement, and they raised their heavy bodies to start working.
Apparently, Wood Men sprouted from seeds and grew just like real trees, but once they reached a certain size, they would start walking like humans. Eventually they would be killed by adventurers or other monsters, but if they were lucky, they would collapse and return to the soil after a few years. When this happened, the magic energy stored inside of them would also go into the soil, so precious plants would grow where Wood Men lived. Wood Men were troublesome monsters even for intermediary adventurers, so picking plants in such places was not easy, but they fetched a good price on the market.
Because of this, Sem was very excited to be in a position where he could easily pick these herbs.
“Oh, this is a good one. If you boil and drink this, it will speed up magic energy recovery.”
“Here’s a Wood Man Flower. This is used to break bewitching spells, but can also be used for things like sobering up and sedation.”
“This one’s good too. It’s used against blue rust.”
“I found a poisonous plant that’s a bit dangerous because it’s highly addictive, but it’s used for anesthesia so maybe I’ll take it.”
The other members looked on with curiosity at Sem being feverishly excited about something other than women.
“You sure are an expert… I don’t know that much.”
“That’s too bad. I can sell the herbs I picked for fifty thousand, and double that if they’re prescribed as medicine.”
Tianna’s eyes lit up.
“Wait wait. You need to follow the instructions of someone that knows about this sort of thing, or you’re going to end up doing something like taking poison back to town with you by accident.”
“Eh… What about you Nick?”
“I have some experience, but not as much as Sem. You’re really good at this, are you used to walking around in the mountains?”
“Yes, I did all sorts of things. My hometown of Rhodiane isn’t a small town, but it’s in the borderlands, so there were a lot of inconveniences… I used to pick wild herbs every day, and I also know a thing or two about hunters and carpenters.”
“Thank you for saying that. I didn’t get many compliments back in the temple.”
Asked a puzzled Nick, and Sem smiled self-deprecatingly.
“They would tell me not to act like a lower class person.”
Nick was not very faithful and almost never went to temples, but he did know about arrogant priests that looked down at the regular citizens.
“Well, they had a point. If there are too many people and not enough work, it’s the governing classes duty to create jobs. Conversely, a person being relaxed and carefree in a place where there aren’t enough workers, is going to be used as an excuse to not create jobs.”
“It’s like you’re talking about nobles.”
“Pretty much. Priests, especially Medlar worshipers, don’t like work that involves getting their hands dirty. They’re very self-important.”
“Haha, the priests in the capital must be terrible for you to be saying that.”
“Ah, s-sorry. It’s not like I’m saying this out of malice.”
Tianna felt bad and apologized, but Sem did not really care. If anything, he seemed to agree, and nodded.
“How should I put it… A lot of people that become priests are ambitious to rise in the world. It’s hard for commoners to climb up in life since we’re not in war, so the quickest way to success is to climb the ranks in a temple.”
“So there really are people like that?”
“Not only that… But it’s the reason I was expelled.”
Nick, Tianna, and Karan let out a big sigh filled with sympathy.
“You sure have gone through a lot of hardships.”
Mumbled Bond with a complex expression.
“Quiet! Anyway, once we’re done resting. We’re going to go beat the boss! Imagine it’s someone you hate!”
Everyone stood up with a dry smile as they heard Nick.