Meanwhile, the encounter between Leis’ group and the black-haired girl had been interrupted because of the System message and they both had lost sight of each other quite quickly.
They had been swarmed by the eagles coming from above their heads and the fact that the goblins had been alerted of their position wasn’t helping in the slightest.
Leis clicked his tongue as he stabbed an eagle coming from behind with a reverse grip. He turned around and slashed two goblins’ heads before returning his blade to his sheath.
“We should have gone to that mountain earlier,” he muttered whilst standing back-to-back with his sister. “We would not have had to deal with the goblins and the terrain would have been much more advantageous.”
“Indeed,” Dan agreed as he jumped from one tree to another with a dagger in hand. He pushed his glasses and looked at Leia who flinched a little bit.
“As long as we stay in the forest, not only are goblins capable of ambushing us at any moment, but the eagles also have more blind spots to exploit and they can retreat farther up in the sky while if it was up there, the air would be thinner and harder to navigate for them.”
“Fine, fine, fine!!” Leia shouted at him. “Stop spouting smart shit, smart asses! I’m sorry I woke up late, okay?! Now focus on the damn birds!”
The whole gang laughed at her words and it was that moment that everyone heard and saw the detonation occur at the top of the mountain. Rakna’s dust explosion was observable by every Host and they all saw the giant eagle at the top of the God Statue look at it as well.
The buff guy of the gang whistled as he slammed a shield on an eagle. “That was flashy. I wonder who it was. Was that a bomb or something?”
“Maybe…” Dan mumbled while staring at it. He saw the blue flames that preceded the explosion and he only knew of one thing that could produce that kind of hue. But since he couldn’t really say if it was Eion or just a System Item, he stayed silent.
“In any case, let’s hurry and find a shelter,” Leis instructed loudly. “A cave or a place with a lot of trees and no gaps would be best. If it comes to it, we can also just cut down a few trees and pile them up.”
* * *
When Rakna reached the foot of the mountain, his wolf ears hidden under the illusion twitched and made him look in a certain direction where a pair of glowing eyes was looking. He squinted and waited for Flavia and Allan to land next to him.
“What’s with that look?” The latter asked immediately after seeing him.
“Nothing… I’m just wondering if it works even like this,” Rakna replied much to the confusion of his companions. He then put his index finger and his thumb in his mouth and whistled very loudly. Right after, several howls echoed, but very shortly this time, unlike last night.
This included the wolf that had been hiding in the bushes just next to the trio. Flavia heard it and saw it run off after it stopped howling. “Did you just…?” She was baffled.
“I called for some help. Don’t mind the details,” Rakna said. “Our priority right now is to get you two 50 Crystallized Souls each. How many do you have?”
“Uuh,” Allan checked his system prompt. “18.”
“23,” Flavia followed. “What about you?”
“53. I already reached the quota thanks to earlier. That’s why I’ll help you hunt,” Rakna stated.
“Damn, you got a lot in one go. You must be level 8, right? I barely got 7 just now,” Allan uttered.
“Same here,” Flavia added and looked around. “So, how do we do this? Most of the eagles already have targets. It’ll be hard to find isolated ones. Do we just go steal others’ hunting grounds?”
“We don’t need to,” Rakna declared and whistled again. But this time, he did it sporadically as if he was trying to relay a message. He was answered with more howls. “It won’t take long. We can try to find some while waiting.”
Allan scowled. “Waiting for what?” He asked and the expression his friend gave him at his inquiry surprised him. It was the usual aloof face he had gotten used to but his eyes seemed to be almost smiling.
* * *
Somewhere in the forest, a white rabbit was chewing a leaf when it heard footsteps approaching. It froze on the spot and turned around shivering. A second after, a literal stream of gray wolves leaped over the little animal and landed loudly before continuing their run.
The leader of the pack rushed toward the sounds of the humans fighting. He could hear the shouts and the cries of the birds. The leader only had one order; bring the preys back to the King.
“Awooo!” He howled and his pack concorded. They all reached the battle zone and the humans started panicking. But the leader ignored them. He was a noble level ten gray wolf. Before they even knew what was happening, he already had caught an eagle in his mouth; still alive.
At the same time, the rest of the pack disarmed the humans without killing them and proceeded to grab an eagle and bolt away.
The same thing happened in several locations. The wolves assembled and formed groups to steal the prey for their King.
From the sky, Gray was observing with an aggravated look. He was invisible to everyone on the ground and only the giant eagle would sometimes glance in his direction.
“Is that supposed to be the capability of an S+?” The cyber clown muttered. “That kid clearly is a werewolf. Some kind of noble blood as well. But why did all of these wolves submit to him so easily? There’s that weird woman too… Why are there two non-human Hosts in a human batch?”
Gray groaned louder the more he thought about it. “In any case, the S+ is breaking the balance. As expected, that is what I should say but… at this rate, it’s going to completely invalidate the results. But I have no authority over the mission stipulations…”
He mused a bit while whirling his cane then came to a reasonable solution. “All right. We’ll do it this way,” he muttered and swiped his hand on his System window. A holographic keyboard then appeared and he started typing on it extremely fast.
When he pressed enter, the eagles scattered across the Tutorial stage abruptly stopped attacking and headed toward the school building.
Leis, who was about to strike down one of them, frowned when he saw them backtrack and fly toward the school.
“Weird, why’d they do that?” Leia muttered while shouldering a long hammer. “Dan! Any witty explanation?”
“I have no idea,” Dan replied with a shrug. The wolves hadn’t attacked them so they couldn’t even guess the cause of the eagles’ retreat. As a matter of fact, the leaders of the wolf packs were smart enough to recognize that gang’s threat and not target them.
“But, in any case, it’s not a good sign,” he added. “They’re gathering above the school and I’m pretty sure most of the goblins from yesterday settled there.”
“That means if we want to continue hunting those birds, we would need to face an army of green-skinned midgets.” Leis sighed. “Has everyone reached their quota for the mission?”
“No. We still have members short of a few souls,” Dan informed. “If they had continued to assault for a bit longer, we would all have enough. It’s unlucky.”
“What do we do now, bro?” Leia asked.
Leis shook his head with a sigh. “Well, logically, it would be best to get close to the school and carefully pick out some preys but it might not be that simple.”
“Why?” Leia raised an eyebrow.
“Did you already forget?” Dan pushed his glasses. “There’s a certain clause in this Avian Trial.”
“The prompt said ‘stealing from fellow Hosts is permitted’, remember?”
“Wait, does that mean we can… kill others for their souls?”
Leis rubbed his temples. “Let’s just do what we can. We’ll get as close as possible and see if we can hunt enough for all of us to leave. The faster we do it, the better. I may not be willing to harm fellow students but it can’t be said the same for everyone.”
The gang nodded and followed him as he backtracked toward the school.
* * *
While the Hosts were panicking or even already plotting against each other, Flavia and Allan were staring dumbfounded at the many wolves sitting in front of them, happily wagging their tails like tamed dogs, with live eagles in their mouths.
“Kill them,” Rakna told them as he looked at the sky where he could see the last flock of eagles on its way toward the school. He squinted his eyes just a little bit and turned his scarf into a bow for a second time.
He raised it and pulled on the string. Two arrows appeared and were knocked at once. Rakna’s mastery of the bow wasn’t that great compared to his most proficient skills, but his uncanny instinct as well as his wolf constitution sharpened every single of his observing capabilities.
He aimed for no more than two seconds before releasing the string. The two energy arrows whistled through the air and Rakna casually wrapped Sonata around his neck again. When he was done, two kill notifications appeared in front of him.
Then, unexpectedly, a special prompt followed.
⫷ ֍ ⫸
Your Archery has reached level 5. Host has accumulated a sufficient amount of level 5 proficiencies to initiate a combination.
Will you fuse your Weapon Proficiencies?
Rakna scowled. ‘Alexa, what is the benefit of this fusion?’
[You will acquire ‘Weapon Mastery’. Your weapon-related proficiencies will combine to create it and its main advantage is to be able to manipulate any possible weapon, even if you have never even touched it before in your life. The level of ‘Weapon Mastery’ will be the same as your highest proficiency. It is a rare, useful ability, Rakna. I recommend to accept the proposal.]
‘I see… can I do the same for my hand-to-hand combat proficiencies?’
[Unfortunately, the conditions for that combination have yet to be met.]
‘Hm… I accept this fusion.’
The instant he accepted, he felt something strange intruding his consciousness. It wasn’t painful and it didn’t seem like much had changed either. There wasn’t any new information in his brain however some of the comprehensive gaps for his already acquired proficiencies had been filled.
“What is?” Allan asked while approaching him then pointed behind him with his thumb. “We’re done here. Both of us have 50 souls.”
“Good. Let’s go back to the school for now.”
“Huh? Why? We have enough souls now; can’t we just leave?”
Rakna didn’t respond and just pointed at the giant eagle resting on top of the statue.
“I’m not following you…”
“Those souls we’re collecting,” Rakna started. “We’re supposed to give them to that statue. But is it really normal for us to be giving an Eagle God the souls of its hunted brethren?”
“Are you insinuating that there’s more to this mission?” Flavia concluded.
“Yes. That giant bird is probably a boss. Or at the very least, he’s the guardian of the exit. There are high chances we need to defeat it to leave.”
“Well, why not do that then? Also, if we defeat it first, we can have the bonus titles.”
Rakna shook his head. “Alexa, can I share System windows with other Hosts?” He inquired out loud and his two companions could only watch puzzled until they received a prompt asking them if they agreed to receive external data.
“Accept it,” Rakna said and lit up a cigarette. He huffed a cloud of smoke that cut off his vision for a second. When it went away, Flavia and Allan were wearing fearful expressions. “Now, if you get it, let’s see if we can get some competent teammates to help us.”