Episode 37

The First 3-Star Promotion Test (2)
1 week ago
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‘…A gap!’

Ma Hana dashed forward right then.

With the characteristic agility of the Myoin Tribe, Ma Hana moved swiftly even without skills like [Agility] or [Sprint] for speed enhancement.

Ma Hana was certain after the recent exchange of attacks.

The speed of the two was slightly slower than hers.

‘My current speed is 12.’

She guessed each of them was around 10-11.

It wasn’t a significant difference for one to consider, but being slightly faster meant she could take the initiative in combat.

Ma Hana first targeted not the green-haired one who was coughing from a fall, but the orange-haired one catching her breath.

She recalled the briefing Yu Seha had mentioned before the match.

[Rogue] originally excelled in mid-range combat.
Her current reckless approach was merely due to excitement.
Since her relentless attacks were as annoying as they were effective, dealing with her first was her plan.

“Uh, Aaagh?!”

The orange-haired one panicked, realizing it was too late for her to act.
Just as she was about to strike down with the edge of her shield.
Ma Hana had to quickly abandon attacking and switch to defense.

“[Edge Strike]!”

It was because the green-haired one, having readied herself, cast the skill as if leaping forward.

The dagger she held emitted a light even more intense than [Poison Stab].

[Edge Strike] was a powerful technique that delivered two consecutive physical hits to a single target.

Bang!

Ma Hana, who hastily blocked with her shield, couldn’t hide her surprised expression.

Having been hit directly by [Push Shield], she must feel like being shaken up inside. Yet to recover so quickly and even land a skill.

“Don’t be ridiculous…! To a dropout like you, to someone who just gets lucky with men, you think I’d lose?”

“……”

She stepped back helplessly.

“Hey, snap out of it! Are you going to lose here?”
“…!”

At the green-haired one’s shout, the orange-haired one belatedly stood up.
She slipped the knuckles she had been wearing into her pocket and gathered magic to form a dagger, seemingly determined to fight properly.

Ma Hana breathed quietly.

Don’t waver.
And acknowledge it.
The words she just shouted in her mind… they were undeniably true.

‘If I hadn’t met Seha, if I hadn’t had his help, I surely wouldn’t be here.’

I would have given up on my dreams long ago.

I know it.
How pathetic I am.

I feel it.
How lucky I am.

I realize it.
How I’m receiving more than I deserve.

‘That’s why…’

I can’t give up anymore.

It wasn’t to fulfill her own dreams.

Yu Seha.

To repay his silently trusting heart and intentions through crucial times.

To dream of a future moving forward together with him.

Ma Hana could not back down now.

“…I can’t lose either!”
“Shut up!!”

The sparring continued.

Green-haired caused a disruption with quick movements and a dagger.

And the orange-haired pressured her by throwing a dagger into the gap.

Of course, it was all in vain.

Green-haired’s [Poison Stab] and [Kick] couldn’t penetrate Ma Hana’s durability and shield.

Orange-haired’s [Dagger Throw] and [Sand Throwing] were contained within the shield, thanks to the special effects of [Shining].
Activated by Ma Hana’s [Clear Sight].

But the green-haired had uniquely effective, sharp teeth.

The skill she had used on Ma Hana just before.

And.

The attack from the orange-haired assailant created a momentary gap.

“[Edge Strike]!”

With a shout, a sharp double strike burst onto Ma Hana’s torso.

Crash!

However, the blade of the dagger shattered in return.

The durability of the [Beast Armor (H)] made by Im Hyeja protected Ma Hana in such a moment.

“…Insane.”

The edge of the shield burst into the solar plexus of the stunned, green-haired opponent.

At that moment, Ma Hana’s relentless strike hit its mark.

“Cough!”
“H-hey, are you okay?!”

Ma Hana gathered strength on the shield she was holding.
Once again, she attempted to finish them off with [Push Shield].

That’s when it happened.

Wobble!

“…?!”

Ma Hana flinched.
The skill stopped involuntarily.
The reason was a foreign sensation clouding her vision.

‘I can’t… see…?’

A darkness like a black mist.
It had darkened both of Ma Hana’s eyes.


“…What is this?”

The meticulous female employee adjusted her glasses.
To her, it seemed that the match should have been decided moments ago.

However, for some reason, Ma Hana wasn’t moving.
It was Yu Seha, standing next to her, who answered the employee’s question.

“It’s darkness.”
“….What?”
“Status ailment, darkness. You’ve heard of it, right?”

She had indeed heard of it.

Though less common than popular ailments like [Poison] or [Burn], it definitely existed.

“Take a good look at Ma Hana. Do you see something like black mist in her eyes?”

Just as he said, there was something black, subtle yet flickering, around Ma Hana’s eyes.
Only then did the female employee realize the situation she was seeing.

“…Could it be from the attack earlier…?”
“Yes, probably.”

[Edge Strike].

In fact, Yu Seha found it difficult to understand the intention behind this skill being used stubbornly by the green-haired individual.

“…It’s certainly more powerful than [Poison Stab], but…”

Even so, it was just an ordinary Uncommon skill.

It was a skill that couldn’t possibly deal proper damage to Ma Hana, who had recently experienced rapid growth.

However, if this was the intended target from the beginning, the story changes.

Ma Hana didn’t notice it, but Yu Seha saw it clearly.

It was the faint black concentric circle-like impact that appeared when [Edge Strike] was executed.

And that impact was something Yu Seha was well aware of.

“…Skill rune.”

Specifically, it was the [Dark Needle] skill rune.

D-class boss monster [Shadow Porcupine].

A monster of the porcupine type that curls up and shoots poisonous quills in all directions.

It had at least four types of runes.

Among them, [Dark Needle] was the skill rune with the lowest drop rate.

It seemed like she was lucky enough to get this skill.

“It’s a decent match.”

[Sipeu] fundamentally had a class specialized in screwing over the opponent by combining various status abnormalities.

I definitely felt that it was well set up.

“You don’t seem worried, though?”
“Of course, I am not worried.”

I responded with a broad, complacent smile.

A smile so brilliant it had no equal.

The female employee, usually likened to a machine, unwittingly felt her cheeks flush.

“The girl I raised won’t lose to something like that.”


“…It’s darkness.”

Ma Hana realized her condition a beat too late.

A critical status abnormality for a tanker, as Yu Seha usually mentions.

“…I see. This is indeed quite dangerous.”

It wasn’t just that she couldn’t see in front of her.

Her senses were diming, and it was hard to tell whether the ground beneath her feet was even or not.

The high-rank [Darkness] felt like being swallowed by the mouth of a gigantic monster… She fully understood what that meant at that moment.

‘…Hoo.’

Ma Hana did not panic, though.
Yu Seha had told her enough ways to cope.

‘…Focus on hearing, on instinct.’

Two cat ears and two human ears.

All four ears twitched and reacted to the faintest sounds.

Shashak!

She could hear the presence of the duo moving swiftly around her.

Right behind, and as a distraction, in front.

‘…I can do it.’

It was Yu Seha who told her, so she definitely could do it.

[[Cat's Intuition L.v. 1] is activated.]
[All senses are temporarily enhanced. The blood of the Myoin Tribe reacts when close to danger.]

“Die!”

She felt the [Rapid Strikes] disperse into three paths in front of her.
Calmly raising the shield, she blocked the targeted strike point.

“What?!”

The surprised orange-head shouted.

But it wasn’t over yet.
She felt a straight stab aimed at her back.
It was definitely the green-haired’s [Poison Stab].

Whisk!

With minimal movement, Ma Hana turned her body to dodge the attack.

“Eek…!”

As the attack missed, the green-haired charged forward, stomping the ground.

“[Edge Strike]!”

Another explosive double-stabbing attack.
However, the green-haired soon became horrified.
Because Ma Hana was blocking her attacks with her eyes wide open.

“Wh-what?! You’ve already escaped the darkness?!”

A title gained by passing through the Forest of Dreams.

[Conqueror of Darkness].

And the effect engraved within it was [Darkness Resistance]. A whopping value of 5 greatly reduces the duration of status abnormalities.

“H-hey! What do we do about this?! Isn’t the Darkness’s cooldown long?”

“…Shut up! We rush in together and knock her down!”

With no other sharp strategies available, Ma Hana raised her shield towards the duo charging at her simultaneously.

Upon activating [Raise Shield], a blue magical light wrapped around the shield, reinforcing Ma Hana’s defenses.

Thud, thud, thud!

The consecutive strikes resonated against the shield.
And Ma Hana, like a mountain, blocked everything that came at her.

Amidst the ongoing strikes, Ma Hana focused her consciousness.

She drew out an unknown power engraved within her body, known as [Rune].

[The rune of the Pearl Spitting Tortoise (B+) engraved in [Raise Shield] exerts its power.]
[The effect of [Turtle's Endurance(p)] is added. A stacking effect is granted. Each stack increases all attack power by 2%. (Current stacks: 10/10)]

Ma Hana’s shield began to swirl with a crimson hue.

Only then did the attacking duo instinctively realize the danger and step back.

But it was futile.

They had already fallen into Ma Hana’s strategy.

The second gem on the shield she was holding shone.

It was a sign that the power of the skill set with the socket gem [Dungeon] obtained from defeating the Pearl Spitting Tortoise was activating.

“[Provocation Roar]!”

A wide-range, area-wide provocation spread through Ma Hana’s mouth.

“Th-this can’t be!”
“A provocation skill? That dropout?!”

Regardless of their own will, the duo rushed towards Ma Hana and unleashed a barrage of attacks.

They seemed incredulous that Ma Hana possessed the power of ‘Provocation,’ considered among the strongest of status effects.

Ma Hana, catching her breath, squeezed the remaining magic she had into her shield.

[<The Wrath of Turtle(P)> effect is activated. Since the stacks of patience exceed 10, an [Enhanced] effect is granted to the skill.]

The swelling crimson soon turned into a deep red. Then, the red magic spread out in all directions, taking the shape of a cat.

“[Push Shield-Strong]!“

Bang!!!

With Ma Hana’s shout, a massive shockwave, at least 2 to 3 times stronger than the basic [Push Shield], spread out.

The stadium shook and the sound of it crumbling echoed everywhere.

On the ground, there were marks as if a giant beast had clawed the earth.


“…Could it be an [Ultimate Skill]…?”

The watching female employee couldn’t hide her astonishment at what happened.

[Ultimate Skill] was the hunters’ finishing move and secret technique.

Certainly, its power seemed almost enough to match that level, but Yu Seha was expressing denial of this.

“It’s just a basic attack technique. It’s possible because it’s enhanced by the power of runes.”

“…N-no way. Even with the power of runes, you’re saying a skill can become that powerful? And she’s a pure tanker, right?”

The reason Yu Seha aimed for the [Garden of the Peal Spitting Tortoise] despite being able to go for other hidden pieces was exactly this.

‘…This is the decisive reason I can operate Meowi not just as a tanker but as a damage supporter.’

It was a powerful one-shot given to Ma Hana, who didn’t have high maximum magic.
At the same time, it was a mechanism that assigned the roles of both tanker and sub-dealer.

It was the moment when the picture Yu Seha wanted unfolded.

“…Ugh, ugh…ugh.”

“…Ugh…”

The duo, engulfed in the shockwave, lay sprawled against the distant wall of the stadium.

Their clothes and equipment were completely shattered, and they barely managed to breathe.

This place had a protective barrier since it was a sparring ground.

If it had been a real fight, both of them would have turned into minced meat right there.

“…The match has been decided then.”

The female employee nodded and marked ‘Ma Hana’ as the winner of the [Two Victories in Sparring] test.

“I will submit the record to the higher-ups. Also, I will send it to the academy, so you can receive your test certificate from them.”
“Thank you.”
“Then I’ll be going first…”

The female employee, bowing her head, clicked away and disappeared.

Soon, not much later, the sound of rapid footsteps could be heard.

“Seha~~!!!”

Our Meowi.

The utterly adorable Meowi was hurrying over in a rush.

As she spread her arms, I, too, opened mine to catch her.

“Seha, Seha! I did it!”
“Yes! I was watching! Our Meowi did great!”
“Ehehe.”

Meowi and I hugged each other and joyfully bounced around for a while.


30 minutes later.

The duo who fainted were taken to the hospital, and we were talking with the staff at the counter.

“Miss Ma Hana. Here is your test pass certificate.”
“Thank you!”

As she secured the certificate, one of the two stars (☆☆) recorded in Ma Hana’s status window turned black.

It meant that there was only one test left.

“Meowi, what do you want to do now? If you’re tired, we can rest for today…”

Meowi shook her head at my words.

“Let’s go practice for the second test right away! The place Seha told me about. I want to go too!”

Her eyes sparkled brightly as I reached out and stroked her hair.

She must be tired, whether she knew it or not.
Seeing her determination to work hard, how could I not be moved as her ‘Supervisor’?

“Then let’s head out right away.”
“Yes!”


A moment later.
I took a deep breath and opened my mouth.

“Whew, here we are, Meowi.”
“…I-is this the place?”
“Yes.”

I and Meowi nodded to each other as we looked at each other.

We looked forward with solemn faces.

The place where the two of us had arrived.

That place was adorned with brilliantly colorful signs…

It was a shabby arcade.

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