Chapter 365: Graduation
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Resting within the treetops, Tsubaki closed her eyes in focus. She was waiting, getting ready for her ‘final test’. Beneath her, she could hear footsteps across the dirt road. She had to listen closely to make out the patterns of the steps. If they were a player, there would often be a slight disorder to their rhythm. However, an NPC was different, their walking motions programmed and perfectly repeating, unless they had some obvious injury.

After a moment, her lips crooked upwards, her hand resting down on the branch she was resting on. Blue light slowly began to leak out of the wood, flowing into her palm. When it stopped, it had formed the shape of a dagger.

As the light seemed to solidify in her grasp, the dagger became more real, wooden with a row of thorns making up a serrated edge. Tsubaki stood up, before crouching down on one leg, her other foot lowering to hook onto the bottom of the branch. She allowed herself to slowly fall forward, until her body was aimed at the source of the noise that she had detected.

Only then, when she was properly aligned, did she move her foot off of the branch, her other leg kicking off. She vanished in a flash, appearing on the road in the middle of a caravan. There were four people, all walking in formation. One, front and center wielding a sword and shield, and clad in heavy armor. Two in the back, wearing either blue or white robes and carrying a staff. And finally, one in the center that wielded no weapon, but carried a large backpack.

Tsubaki appeared immediately in front of the human woman wearing a white robe, her eyes glinting fiercely as she brought her dagger up. There was a startled cry of pain as the thorns dug into the woman’s skin. A fountain of blood gushed out of her chest as she fell back, trying to catch herself with her staff.

But one free strike was all that Tsubaki was allowed, as the woman’s cry had alerted the other members of the caravan. The one with the backpack yelled out, immediately moving forward to hide behind the warrior, who charged forward with his shield. It was hard to tell whether they recognized her as a player, or thought that she was a wandering monster. Either way, she had been openly hostile towards them, and they had to defend themselves.

As the warrior’s sword fell towards Tsubaki, she was able to hear an odd sound of wind being cut. She flashed away again, this time appearing behind the mage. Just as she did, the warrior’s sword struck the ground, a blast of air rising from the impact. “She’s a ninja, watch out!” He called towards the dwarven woman in the blue robe in alarm, who had instinctively erected a blue barrier around herself when she lost sight of the enemy.

Inwardly, Tsubaki nodded, satisfied with the mage’s response time. Another quick flash, and she appeared above the human woman. “Sorry, but I’ll need to ask you to sit this fight out. Clerics are annoying to deal with.” She spoke coldly, her left hand bundled up as if the tip of the spear, glowing with an earthen light as it plunged into the woman’s open wound.

Another gasp of pain rang out before it was silenced, the woman’s health bar plummeting. However, that had left Tsubaki open to an attack from the mage. Knowing that she was too quick for a large spell, she had instead chosen to send a bolt of ice at Tsubaki’s side. 

What surprised her wasn’t that the attack hit, given that she had done her best to properly time it. No, what surprised her was the grunt of pain, the health bar that immediately appeared over Tsubaki and dropped by nearly half from such a normal spell. Is she a special mob, or a player that focused too much on speed? The thought flashed through the remaining players’ minds as the warrior picked up his sword and dropped into a charging stance.

Yet, the words that Tsubaki spoke sent chills down their spines as she stood, the dagger dropping from her hand. “By my oath, I mark these souls for execution.” Her arm stretched out to the side as black wings formed along her back, a golden light flashing as a scythe made of white bone was suddenly held in her grasp. The weapon had slight differences with the legends, yet an image appeared in the minds of both the dwarven mage and the armored warrior.

Tsubaki’s wings flapped once, and she appeared in front of the dwarf, staring down coldly at her with her large scythe pulled back. “Sever.” She commanded, swinging forward. The scythe cut through the barrier of mana, slicing along the neck of the mage and causing her head to roll.

“Why…” The warrior asked as he saw his second party member fall. Turning his head, he shouted towards the person that they had been protecting. “Run!”

The man toting the backpack was already moving, knowing he could offer nothing to this fight. However, Tsubaki did not give chase, turning around to face the man. When she did, he could see her mouth moving, forming words she wasn’t speaking. It took a moment for him to realize that she was counting down from ten.

Kicking forward, his boots lit up with a green light as his body launched far beyond normal speeds, shooting towards Tsubaki like a bullet. However, just as he was about to pierce his sword towards her, her body vanished, and he felt a pain along his back, a warmth spreading over it. Tsubaki appeared behind him as blood began to leak from a cut in the back of his armor.

Five. Tsubaki mouthed to herself, spinning around to face the warrior. He clearly showed his own experience, knowing that he was outmatched in skill. As soon as he had gathered his balance, he kicked off the ground, using the special ability of his boots to propel himself far into the distance again.

Seeing this, Tsubaki blinked, standing fully upright and allowing her scythe and wings to vanish. She turned around and began walking while talking aloud. “Vivi, please send a friend request to that dwarf for me.”

Oh? Taking an interest in someone? Vivi asked in surprise as Tsubaki’s body flashed forward, several meters with every step.

“She showed good judgement and use of her skills.” Tsubaki replied noncommittally, glancing towards her health. Even given their level difference, one basic spell had done nearly half her health, and it wasn’t even at a critical location. If not for the special ability she imbued within her scythe, she doubted that she could have broken the mage’s shield and killed her so easily.

After a few moments, the fleeing image of the man carrying the backpack came in view. Given how Tsubaki was flashing forward constantly, it only took a matter of seconds for her to appear in front of him, causing the man to stop with a gulp. “W-what do you want from me?” He asked, feeling as if he could be killed at any moment.

While the death penalty wasn’t too harsh, it would delay his delivery, and even gave the possibility that some of his important merchandise to drop. However, Tsubaki simply stared down at him. “Do you have some armor I could use?” She asked in a casual tone. Her starting clothes had long since turned to rags, those rags being torn off during countless battles with monsters. As it stood, there was barely a scrap of cloth on her. “Perhaps some clothes, instead?”

The man blinked dumbly as he processed her request. “Oh… uh… sure.” He opened up his inventory, pulling out a set of female leather armor and female clothes, which Tsubaki took with an appreciative nod. When she turned around and vanished again, the merchant could hardly believe that he was being left alive.

I couldn’t help but smile as I watched Tsubaki fighting from my room, gazing through a mirror to watch her screen. The fact that she had taken the items from the traveling merchant showed that she was done with her trial, that she had considered herself to have graduated. Not only that, but what she showed me was quite amazing.

Not only had she learned how to use chakra on her own in the game, but she had even rekindled her divine spark to gain her knight’s blade again. That was her most iconic weapon outside of the game, but it must have been incredibly hard for her to use inside of it. After all, she was still rather lacking when it came to levels, so the amount of energy available to her should have been more limited.

Though, I wasn’t entirely sure if that would apply to divinity, given that there was no mention of it in the stats screen. Maybe it was a hidden stat, or something that just needed unlocked. Or maybe, it just wasn’t a stat at all, and the game treated it just the same as the system out here.

Either way, Tsubaki was ready to finally reveal herself to the world of Vision Expanse. I gave a small nod of my head as I shifted the mirror to glance outside of the castle, where I could see Fafnir standing atop one of the mountains, his eyes focused out on the ocean. With Ryone’s help, we had taught him a basic spell that would allow him to move underwater, but he still seemed a bit apprehensive about it.

With one mighty leap, he lunged off the mountain, causing large rocks to fall from its peak. His wings extended fully and cast a wide shadow over the land below. As he moved closer to the water, his eyes continued to scan over it, his head turning side to side.

Finally, as he seemed to find something that he liked, his wings tucked in and he dove. A blue film appeared to form around his body as he entered the water, steam rising from the dive. The mirror followed him beneath the water, and it showed boiling water rising from around him, bubbles floating to the surface.

Fafnir himself was chasing down a large reptile, looking like a crocodile, but with a more narrow snout. The creature was nearly half as long as Fafnir was, which already made it a massive beast, and likely a local king of the waters. Still, it was fleeing from the larger dragon, a high speed chase occurring beneath the waves.

Fafnir opened his mouth wide, preparing to unleash its breath weapon when its eyes opened wide in shock. The intense heat of the breath attack had melted away the blue film around its mouth, and it coughed out. Its wings gave a heavy flap to push him up, his head lifting above the surface to gain a panicked breath.

Watching a dragon flail around on the surface of the water was… unusual, to say the least. In the end, it had to kick off from the water, creating large waves that threatened to break over the tall walls along the shoreline. Thankfully, those walls began to glow, and a higher wall of mana formed to prevent the tidal wave.

Looks like he’ll need a bit more time to properly get accustomed to being the king of the sea. I thought to myself in amusement, shaking my head. The fact that he had taken the risk to dive into the water showed that he was getting more willing to try such things. Maybe in the next couple of days, he’d be able to properly hunt on his own.

If not… well, it was a good thing that there were other ‘snacks’ he could eat on the island to keep himself from starving, without having to hunt any people or livestock. I gave a small nod towards that thought, mentally noting to keep an eye out to ensure he didn’t do just that. The last thing we needed was for the world to see that the Keeper’s ‘pet’ had taken a liking to hunting humans. Not that they’d provide much nutrition for him either way.