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Sorry for the super super super SUPER late post. Life and such. Might be moving soon, next chapter is coming. This is gonna be an exciting one! Now to sleep, blegh.

As always, enjoy~

 

It's been three days since Mother and the rest of her team were sent out on their current hunt. While I understood before that they’d routinely been out past their initial time estimates, it did nothing to calm me. It’s either because of this or the back end of my period that I’ve been a nauseated wreck since this morning.

The last time I could actively recall being anxious to know a person's whereabouts, it nearly drove me to my grave. That time was when the Army gave me a notice of ‘MIA’ for my Stepfather, mother, and sister. Eventually, I was just forced to think them dead.

"Just parry already!"

The crack of wood resounded, occasionally breaking up the sound of ragged panting and yelling through the early afternoon. 

"I'm trying, okay?!"

Lorn sent us out to play about on our own once more but insisted that Vaughn and I practice with each other to maintain our form. 

"If you'd just stay still!"

Vaughn sidestepped one of my swings, giving ground with each dodge and struggling to maintain the fight without circling. 

"Besides, aren't you swinging a bit hard?!"

Rolling to the side, Vaughn managed to avoid my latest swing that came from over the shoulder. The result was the wooden shaft of the training sword digging into the soil with a thud. 

"And let you expect something else from a monster? I'm throwing-"

Bringing the sword around in an upward swing, I managed to catch Vaughn through his guard and swiped the wooden blade into his armpit. 

"Ah- fuckin-"

Vaughn's sudden complaint was cut off by my shoulder planting into his chest as I lurched forward on my swing's recovery. Falling to the ground and releasing his sword, Vaughn brought his opposite arm in to cradle the shoulder that was hit. 

"What gives?"

Vaughn looked up as if I'd betrayed him. 

"Firstly, language... try not to emulate me, okay?"

I had to break eye contact thinking of it, considering it was flattering in a way. Vaughn was emulating me in some ways, and I didn't think that would be best for him. Particularly my penchant for swearing when I was stressed and given the opportunity at once. He could do that when he was older; right now was a bit early for his own good. 

"Secondly, what I meant to say. Most monsters we will end up fighting, you can't measure your strength against. That works for maintaining the fight with another humanoid usually, but not most other things."

Reaching out my free hand, I offered help to pick Vaughn up. Begrudgingly accepting the help, Vaughn pulled himself up and grabbed his sword once more. 

"You're starting to sound like Callum... If anything, yeah, you're right about using your strength. I just didn't know I'd be fighting a troll."

Vaughn smirked, shrugging as he spoke. 

That's because I was an NCO Vaughn, I've trained soldiers before- You asshole! Did you REALLY just compare me to an Troll?!

"Really? Gonna compare me to a monster?!... "

Vaughn responded by giving an obviously mocking nod, clarifying that he was teasing. Rotating his shoulder before fixing his position, Vaughn smiled as he approached, appearing to hold in a chuckle. With the intent to continue clear, I brought my training sword back and to the side to give a good lower guard.

I'm wiping that smug ass grin off your face!

"Vaughn, I'm not healing any bruises for that."

Beryl added from her place at the Temple's entrance.

Over the next couple of minutes, we continued to spar. The clashing of wood began to slow, and for the first time today, Vaughn was pushing me back, and I found myself strangely unable to keep up. Aside from my nausea, Vaughn's stamina seemed to surpass my own by a fair bit. While I was actively panting and gasping for air, Vaughn's movements seemed alike they took not an ounce of energy more than before we started. It all culminated at the point I tried forcing him back into the defensive and-

"Hold- Not an overhead!"

Unexpectedly, Vaughn managed to completely stop my blade as I felt the force of the impact reverberate back through my arms. Overcome with nausea; I broke my composure as my legs collapsed from underneath me as I heaved. 

"Oh-god- blegh-"

I proceeded to cough up at least half the water I'd taken in earlier.

What the fuck?! I had 'Endurance' as a skill, right?

Hey, Kiyomi, are you seriously okay to train like this?

Vaughn tossed his sword to the side, rubbing my back as I continued emptying my gut.

“I can give healing if you need it!”

Beryl added from her position on the Temple’s front steps, watching, ready to heal us at any moment. 

"I'm fine; I could just use a wash-up... and some more water."

Of all things, they're worrying about ME right now? I'm fine, you two.

I waved off Beryl's offer, choosing instead to walk to the side of the pond. Joining me, Beryl purified the water as both I and Vaughn drank. 

This is still so strange; reading it was one thing, but experiencing it?

Drinking right from a pond never would have been a thought before. Though with Beryl training further, we could drink from nearly any water source. The slime was still present; it stopped swelling just as Vaughn and I headed back yesterday and still hasn't moved. Supposedly it's nothing of a bother from what Lorn says. 

"I'm just nervous; this is the first time Mother hasn't come back immediately in some time. Lorn says they'll be okay, but I just can't help but worry."

Cupping some water in my hands, I splashed myself and scrubbed my face. 

"They'll be fine. Miss Lorn did say that they reported to a scout that was waiting on them."

Vaughn scrubbed his own face before standing.

"What we should really worry about is keeping up with the training. Me and you, at least. Beryl can still train with her Mothers'."

"You two can still join us, you know."

Beryl chimed in. 

"Not for our training. It would just be supervision. Vaughn and I are both training with two different sword types, and both your mothers only know polearms and magic."

"Lorn asked already. That's why we're here now."

The two of us replied.

"Well, can't we spend time doing some other things too? This will burn you both out."

Beryl complained, slowly making her way back to the porch.

"At least come inside and eat lunch in the meantime. Kiyomi, I think your nausea is because you skipped breakfast. Am I wrong?"

“No... “

I averted my eyes. For some reason I was so excited to see them this morning that I left without eating.

“...Okay, yes.”

So stupid! Really?!

“Come on, get up, let’s eat.” 

Patting my back, Vaughn stood and started walking back to the church.

Re-entering the Temple, we were greeted by the new interior we'd managed to fix up this morning. Using a box of nails and my hands, we were able to break down the benches and tables we couldn't use in the main room and fashioned a large table and some chairs. The walls were spotless as before, with the exception of some drawings Vaughn had made hung here and there. The shrines to each of the Gods were still in place, but they were covered by cloth. I did this cause I felt like a few of them were watching me anytime I was in the building. 

Those things still give me the creeps... ugh.

 Looking away from the wall of shrines, I joined Beryl and Vaughn at the table. 

“So what do we have today?”

I pulled one of the chairs, leaning forward against the table as I asked. 

"Some smoked meats and bread. I fetched the water already. Mother Cressida said this was the best she could offer since we were leaving home."

Beryl pulled a cloth bag from under the table and unraveled it, pouring the contents onto the table. A sight for sore eyes to myself, considering I just emptied my stomach. 

Ooooo~ Peppered beef! Bacon? Ah! Bagels?!

 


 

The sound of the local fauna was different today, as it had been since the beginning of the week. Lorn looked over the forest from her perch atop one of the trees bordering the quarry. Originally, the area was a rich habitat with a wide variance of megafauna and monster. Now, the only thing alive in the area was Lorn, her adventurers, and the megafauna either too big or too fast for the Rock lizards and Bulettes to take down. Because of this, the only thing heard was the occasional below of a stalker or the calls of the different birds. Lorn ordered the controlled burning of dead trees before the hunt commenced to give the best possible chance of evasion against the prey to break off their scent. The smoky air was enough to give an unmistakable smell yet thin enough to avoid hindering anyone. Looking over her rough drawing of the area, Lorn reached into her satchel and pulled a piece of food from it. 

Taking a bite from hardtack that she'd brought out with her, she barely moved as she felt the vibration of someone moving through the tree.

"Lorn."

Avery whispered, the wind barely passing her lips. Barely replacing the sound of her own lumbering body flexing the wood under its grip. The large Arachne was taken onto the request based on her experience and class; the same as Lorn's, Slayer.

"Mm?"

Lorn barely made a humming noise in response as she chewed.

"Team one is in place. Two Scouts for diversion, two Fighters for mainline, two Clerics, and one Warmage."

Simply nodding, Lorn prompted Avery to continue. 

"Team two is placing its last charge. One Scout, one Fighter, two Knight's, one Cleric, and three Mages. A few more minutes, and we'll be ready to start."

Bringing her body up higher, Avery came into view of Lorn's good eye. The Arachne was adorned in a set of layered, studded armor that lined her chest, legs, and her arachnid abdomen. This contrasted Lorn's own, as she was only equipped with leather armor. Her swords were at her waist, fixed along the backside. The pair of blades were the ones she routinely used to carve the monsters brought back to the Guild. 

“Each of them are in place to fight their assigned Lizard pack?”

Lorn whispered, pulling out her own weapon from its sheath. A short sword she'd kept to her side since early in her life. Taking a cloth to wipe oil across it, the sword gave off a strange violet glow as the oiled rag passed over its surface. 

"The only ones out of position are us."

Avery shrugged, looking out over the quarry. 

"Not for long. The three Bulettes should be out here."

Lorn pointed the blade of the sword near the quarries center. 

"Think we can take three by ourselves?"

Shaking her head, Lorn looked at Avery as she placed the rag in one of the pockets to her cloak.

"We'll have no choice, too many Rock Lizards."

"Well..."

Avery sighed, scratching the back of her head for a moment before placing her hands on her swords.

"...Say the word boss lady."

Closing her eyes, Lorn breathed in as she took in the sounds of the environment. Breathing in the clean, crisp air before exhaling. Placing her sword back in its sheath, Lorn pulled out a small bone instrument. Placing it to her lips, Lorn inhaled one last time, then exhaled. The sound that flooded the area was that of 'Skullker,' searching for rivals within its territory. As the call fell off and silence fell, the sound of fauna panicking and attempting to flee could be heard before a sudden rumbling emanated through the ground. As the earth trembled, parts of the ground swelled and shot into the sky as the explosive force from multiple magic charges blew rock and earth apart. With that, multiple groupings of boulders split apart suddenly, revealing a horde of reptilian monsters the size of a horse that began fleeing at random into the forest. As those creatures scattered, the raw surface of the soil left behind began to break as bony plates broke through and split them, revealing Lorn and Avery's targets. 

"There they are! Stay to my right side! I can't cover that flank as efficiently!"

Lorn yelled, her voice barely being heard as the sound of falling earth and secondary explosions still occurred. 

With the dust settling, the monsters Lorn and Avery were to claim as opponents were revealed as they surfaced. Two large, plated monsters rose and revealed their size. Appearing comparable in size to a huge bear, each one must have weighed one thousand kilograms each. Their bodies were sleek, covered in bony plates, with large claws adorning each limb. Their semi-pointed snouts, filled with teeth, gaped wide as they began wailing for their third packmate.

Fuck, the mother isn't here! Screw it! We'll have to get them both while we can and hunt her down later.

Lorn thought, now placing the instrument back into the cloak. Popping one of her supplements quickly, Lorn readied herself for combat.

"Now!"

Lorn launched herself from the tree, sword re-sheathed. Landing at the bottom, she took in a deep breath as she pushed off the ground and began her approach. She had chosen the Bulette to the left, breaking to the left as Avery landed and began running to the right. As the two Slayers split apart, each Bulette set its sights on the sudden intruders to their territory, grunting and stamping the ground. The creatures were tough, well armored, and equipped with no shortage of natural weapons, a twisted blend of both a snapping turtle and an armadillo. With their opponents set, each of the beasts pressed forward, ready to kill.

 

 

 

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