Chapter 68: Eremus Gate (4)
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Professor Artie clicked his tongue. His chin rested on his hand and his hand rested on the table as he looked at the monitor.

“They took it down too easily, professor,” he said to Claudio and Don Brocious.

Claudio nodded his head, not moving his eyes from the screen in front of him. A young boy was displayed there, having torn apart the length of the Death Worm as he sat atop it, the boy wiped away the blood from his greatsword.

“As expected from Luke Reese,” Claudio said, “He is truly one of a kind. What explosive growth in his strength.“

“No, no, I am not talking about that!“

Don Brocious 'hmm'ed at Artie's words. “Right? We already know Luke is powerful. The truly splendid one is her.“ His finger pointed to another screen.

The crowd, which had reached seven in number, all followed his finger with their gaze.

Bloodied wings and red feathers with a hint of black spread over the sand on the screen. Some flesh and organs laid haphazardly on the wastelands. Following the trail of blood, one girl with flowing red hair and red eyes entered their sights. 

A bald bird's head with a long, sharp beak and madder eyes laid motionless on the tip of her spear, blood drizzling down its length and to her hands. Seraphina Exise spun the spear in her hands. Looking at her handiwork had the ends of her lips tugging her mouth up into a smile. 

A half-fairy.

The professors could see it. Her sadistic side made her the spitting image of a beautiful fairy that tempted others to their tunes. Getting bored of the head after a bit, Seraphina Exise swung her spear and the head flew out of its blade. She placed the weapon between her inner arm and quickly wiped the blood off her hands.

“The ladies don't like blood, gotta get rid of that…“

Her words seemed to have snapped professor Artie out of his mini-immersion as he clicked his tongue and shook his head. “No! Not that one either. Just retire, old man.“

“Bastard.“ Don Brocious tightened his fist and hit the top of Artie's head.

The newcomers in their show who weren't used to Claudio, Artie, and Don Brocious' shenanigans thought they had to calm the mood down and chimed in with their own words.

“You are right, Professor Artie,” Miss Keneally, one of the other professors said. “Rank 1, Zachary Ainsworth has continued to show why he is ranked first. He immediately got Seraphina Exise's friends to help him out and defeated the monster with virtually no injuries!“

Artie raised his eyebrows at her words. Certainly, Zachary Ainsworth's battle was one of its kind too. The professors couldn't catch how or why, but Leslie Fenrir and Soliana Neriren, two others in the top twenty were helping Zachary.

They held down the monster with Soliana's elf magic and used Leslie as a tank to deal some damage and handle most of it. In the meantime, Zachary offered them support all the while looking for an opening in the monster. Just as it presented itself, with a speed that would leave even Leone Hendrickson behind, Zachary used his shortsword to fall the monster in one quick swoop. A neat cut, right through its core. A splendid display of teamwork and patience.

Professor Artie snapped at himself again and raised his head, ready to stop the others when all of them spoke up in perfect sync.

“The best was definitely the pair of Rank 5 and Rank 4,” they said.

'Them!' Artie wanted to shout. He had been trying to talk about them all along but refrained from saying so. Doing that would have just made him more pathetic.

Rubbing the beard on his chin, Don Brocious hmmed and nodded. “That is to be expected. These two are the most experienced of all the students. A mage, and the son of the world's top 3. They did it without taking any damage and even saved a lot of stamina and mana. Or actually, they had monstrous amounts of those.“

“Right!“ Artie said. He could still get in a cool line, he thought. But before he could speak, Claudio Alo cut him off.

“Being able to dodge, dodge and weave are truly better than throwing a killer straight… The others can learn from these two. Though, they can do both.“

Artie bit his lips and just shut up. He was done.

The other professors seemed impressed at Claudio's words, looking at Kristina and Leone in a better light. It looked as if the two of them had used up all the strength in them as they leaned over the pile of sand that used to be the sandsnake, but it also seemed as if the two could go against the snake multiple times over.

Don Brocious looked at the operator that had lost his map and nodded. The operator flipped a few more switches, and a new screen popped up in front of the students.

“Unfortunately,” the old professor said, looking at the screen. Claudio Alo and Artie smirked while the other professors gasped when their eyes fell on it. 

“They just had to be in the Eremus gate.“

[Point-Based Rankings:
1) Zachary Ainsworth - 2 Points (Core Half Damaged)
2) Luke Reese - 1 Point (Core Damaged)
3) Seraphina Exise - 1 Point (Core Damaged)
4) Leone Hendrickson - 1 Point (Core Damaged)
5) Ardreth Vallen - 1 Point (Core Damaged)
6) Kristina Steitz - 0 Points
7) Leslie Fenrir - 0 Points
.
.
.
.]

***

Deep inside the Eremus gate where the sandy wind was enraged and where the dry ground had earned the ire of the hateful sun, where even monsters that had been born within the dungeon found it hard to survive, one young man with long, black hair fluttering in the wind stood steady.

An enormous bag hung from his shoulders as the boy looked in front of him. The smirk on his face seemed to be screaming in joy, making even the accursed land curious about what had him so happy.

“No drones! No detections! No eyes!“ the boy said, spreading his arms wide. There was no one around to hear his words. No one that could understand him, at least.

Standing a few meters away from the boy, deep within the raging sands was a slithering snake with green eyes. The giant snake would have been enough to send a person reeling back in fear, yet a few paces away from it stood another creature that seemed to have come straight out of a nightmare.

Pink and red folds covered the being's grotesque skin as its hundreds of teeth convulsed. The Deathworm's silhouette filled the shadows, but it was not facing the boy. Rather, it had its eyes locked on the gigantic rhinoceros in front. The gray monster looked like a cancerous blob for an animal as teeth and horns grew from all parts of its disfigured head to a total of thirty. Were it not for its rather normal body, anyone would have written the monster off as a work of fearful imagination, yet it existed right in front of them.

Overseeing the three monsters with its sharp eyes, a bald vulture flew in the skies above, waiting for any of them to fall so it could feast tonight. It had not even noticed the small insect called a human, that being was too insignificant, unpalatable.

“What say, system?“ the boy said again. His voice was loud and oozing with excitement.

“Should I… let loose?“

No more no more Ralph

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