Chapter 34.3 SS

“This is boring,” Markus complained while he was resting on the boar. “There’s nothing to do here. Just grass. Lots of grass. “And it’s hooooot.” Tyler was already regretting taking Markus with them.

“Well, it’s not like we are in the shade. It’s called a field for a reason you know.” Lily grumbled as she too looked for something to do. “Usually we are in a shaded cart and the sun isn’t above us.” She walked closer to Tyler and whispered to him, “should we go back into the forest? I didn’t think it would be this hot. Even most of the flowers are half dead. This is pointless.”

Tyler looked around and nodded. The yellow summer grass was swiftly blowing with the breeze, but everywhere he looked it was half dead due to the heat. He brightened as he looked around and saw no one in sight. “Should we do a mock battle instead? We have the space for it, and there is no one around. Miss Paige always said we should have a backup plan in case things go wrong. What better way than this?”

“Than what?” Lily said as she looked around.

“An open field and a reason to hurry back! Remember, Teacher Zenith said that there will be an examination to determine what class we’ll get into at school, as well as who will be mentoring us. So we might as well practice right now!”

“A fight? I wanna help! I learned how to fight too!” Markus yelped as he jumped off Boary’s back. Tyler and Lily shot a glance at Markus skeptically. “Mhmm. Auntie Paige has been helping me with my warrior stances!” he said angrily.

“She’s teaching you how to fight?” Tyler said breathlessly. He frowned. It wasn’t fair! ‘Everytime I asked it was always no this, or no that.’ But maybe it was a good thing. He could always learn by watching, afterall. “Okay Markus, Lily. Let’s do it like this. Lily will pick a target and attack it at range, and Markus and I will run up and attack in close combat.”

“But there’s nothing here to fight. How will we find a monster to defeat?” Markus said as he looked for a monster to fight. 

“Duh, we pretend of course! Boary, can we practice with you?” Lily asked Boary nicely, patting his head gently. But Boary was no ordinary boar to be swayed by such crude means. He snorted and pawed the ground four times. Tyler and Markus looked over at Lily, fully knowing what the boar wanted. “…Fine. Next time I come I’ll bring five hay bales with me. Five and a half, sorry.” Lily sighed as the boar in question snorted.

“Okay. So we’ve secured our testing dummy (snort). Now, let’s practice on our way back to the forest.”

“Can I borrow your sword, Tyler? I don’t have my own yet.”

Tyler frowned. “You don’t have a sword? How have you been training then?”

“Auntie lets me play with her hoes after I help out in the fields. I’m not allowed to have my own sword until I’m at least six.”

“…Fine. Miss Paige said the test will be on my defensive skills anyways. The key to a good defender is knowing when to advance. Lily, are you ready?” 

“I am! Okay. As the Party Leader, I saw we stop every thirty paces to evaluate how we are doing. We’ll go in this order: Tyler, Markus, Me. Markus, make sure you get behind Tyler after each attack.” Lily said carefully as she drew her hair into a ponytail. “Let’s do it! Cidala Heroes, attack!”

“Markus! Make sure you back up after each attack!” Tyler yelled at Markus as he moved forward to block the semi charging boar. The boar had been training with the two children for over two years now, and had learned how to regulate his power to match what the kids could withstand. Even a slow trot for him amounted to several hundred pounds of force on Tyler’s shield. ‘And…now!’ Tyler thought as the boar rammed into the shield. He quickly angled his shield and his body so that the boar would veer off to his side, lessening the pressure he himself felt. The only problem with this was that the boar’s trajectory did not veer too far off course, and if the boar decided to continue forward with his attack, Lily would be in danger. 

That was where Markus’s role came in. Tyler turned his head slightly to watch what Markus would do. As soon as the boar’s head was deflected sideways, he saw Markus quickly swung his wooden sword at the boar’s leg. “Hah!” Markus yelled as he planted his foot heavily on the ground and swung his sword horizontally, using the boar’s momentum to help augment his attack.

But the boar’s meaty leg absorbed the attack with minimal discomfort to said boar, who continued forward. Even without Paige there to direct him, Boary understood the danger of a Mage casting a spell, something subconsciously telling him that there was danger ahead. The battle would end so long as he could get within ten paces of the mage, something that was heavily drilled into him by Paige. But an object coming toward his head caused him to jump sideways and veer off course of the mage; the gust of air as it passed by made him glad that he had dodged the object. No, the shield. 

“Good swing Tyler!” Markus yelled out excitedly. Tyler nodded his head as the boar circled around for another charge. What Markus did was no different than what Miss Paige had taught him, he realized. She had repeatedly stressed the importance of having a solid stance, making sure that his footing was stable as he moved or blocked. But where he would block and sidestep, Markus stood his ground and attacked, which Tyler thought was a bad idea. At that point, a shield bash would be a better option, since you could force the enemy to a passively defend against your follow up attack. ‘Still, it was gratifying swinging the shield like a sword. I wonder why Miss Paige never taught me that?’

“…blustering winds, confuse my enemy. [[Vertigo]]!” Tyler watched as a small tornado appeared around Boary, the sheer amount of wind moving was creating a shrill, loud whistle that started to hurt Tyler’s ears, much less the boar who was surrounded by it.

“Tyler, Markus, now!” Lily said confidently, moving forward to reach their position. Both of the boys moved forward. Drat! That would have been the perfect chance to attack, Tyler realized belatedly. But getting closer would have impacted them as well, judging by how Markus was moving oddly, his balance severely affected by the shrill wind. something they would have to discuss with Miss Paige or Miss Zenith on how to correctly use it in a battle. 

If there was one thing he did not like about their teacher’s style of teaching, it would be that they did not give practical applications of the spells or skills they taught. Rather, it was up to Lily and himself to figure out the best way to use what they were taught. Something about a person’s style, but that did not make sense to him. Why not just teach everyone how to use a spell or skill the same way? Tyler moved that thought to the back of his mind as he swung the flat of his shield and Markus swung his sword against Boary’s side, causing him to fall over. But where Tyler stopped his attack after the swing was completed, Markus stepped forward with his back leg and stomped the ground; angling his completed swing downward. Tyler watched as the young boy used the momentum of the swing to set up his next attack, an overhead slash, the impact causing a meaty slap.

“Sqkeaeaak.” Boary cried in pain, not used to actually feeling it in these training sessions with the children. Against Paige, sure, as her attack somehow managed to make even his bones hurt. But a dull ache in his side confirmed that the last attack had actually bruised his muscle. Boary rolled on his side away from the children as the smaller child tried to land another attack, using the same move but on his right side instead. He quickly rolled to his feet and jumped away, drunkingly trotting away from the children. Circling around, Tyler knew that Boary was getting serious, his feet digging heavily into the ground below. The boar lowered his head, his broken tusks aiming at Lily.

“Boary is settling into his final attack! Tyler, shield bash. Markus, draw his attention away. I’ll use gust to help Tyler’s attack! I need at least half a minute Markus! Make sure to retreat by that time! Oh blowing winds…” Lily cried out quickly before settling into her chant. Tyler nodded his head at the suggestion. While it took an incredible amount of practice to make it work, Tyler knew from experience that their combined move was the best way to stop a charging enemy, human or otherwise. Miss Paige and Mister Nick agreed too after testing it with them. Markus quickly ran diagonally toward the boar, Tyler quickly angling himself to match Markus’s movement. Miss Paige had said that unless the opponent had a ranged attack, it was almost always better to angle to one side. Both to split the enemies focus as well as to set up his own counter attack.

“Markus, can you draw Boary’s attention for ten seconds?” Tyler asked as he saw Boary’s eyes swivel between Markus and Lily, unsure of which to attack first. Logically speaking, Boary would have gone toward Lily first, as it would be the fastest way to end the battle. But the ache in his side made the boar uncomfortable about leaving his back toward the child with the sword.

“I can do that! Tell me when, Tyler.”

Tyler paused to listen to Lily’s chant, trying to gauge how much time they had. Looking backwards at Lily, he realized that her eyes were open and watching him, as she nodded and moved forward slightly. “Markus, change of plans. Attack!” Tyler cried as he moved forward, confident now that he knew Lily was watching the battle. Teacher Zenith had made sure to teach Lily how to prolong her spell as short or as long as needed, something about flexibility leading to adaptability. “Charge ahead now Markus, I’ll be ten steps behind you!” 

Markus nodded his head and sprinted forward, with Tyler following closeby. Even wearing his leather suit armor, Tyler’s speed was not slower than Markus’s speed unhindered. Benefits of age, training, and muscle that talent alone couldn’t match. 

Boary listened as they were talking and figured out their main plan of attack. That was the problem with animals that developed a mana core; their mental, physical, and latent traits increased dramatically, hence the term monster. Of course, the children did not know how smart Boary really was that at the time, so they did not take precautions against an enemy listening. He grunted and charged at Lily, determined to break apart their plan. So long as the mage was taken out, either attacker would not pose much threat, certainly not before he ran out of steam.

“He’s going after Lily! Markus, fall back. When I deflect his charge, you aim for his feet. It’s the only way we can get him to stop before he passes us!

“No, attack him, Tyler! We can stall for time while pressing the attack! Even defenders need to attack sometime!” Markus yelled as he sprinted at an angle to the boar.

“Tch! Dang it Markus!” Tyler yelled as he strode forward, running straight at the charging boar. “Lily, now!”

“…Give him strength and push my friend forward! [[Gust]]!” Lily yelled from behind. Tyler shoved his shield in front of him and sprinted forward, his speed increasing as the wind propelled him forward faster and faster. “Aaah! [[Shield Bash]]!”

The wooden shield impacted the boar with a mighty thud. But the unexpected happened as well; his shield shattered upon impact as Boary used one of his broken tusks to parry the blow, Tyler widening his eyes at the sight. His thoughts traveled back to what Paige had said once before. 

Paige had been standing over Tyler as he panted heavily on the ground, his shield broken in two. ‘Hahaha, A shield bash is powerful, but you have to be careful to recognize the limits of your shield. The base material of your shield will always limit how much force it can take before breaking. That is why there are always two trains of thought for weapons, durability versus sharpness. The common saying is that durability will always win at lower levels, but sharpness will win at higher levels. Eventually, the best defense is the greatest offence, Tyler. Hahaha.”

“Tyler! Watch out!” Lily’s scream snapped him out of his reverie. Boary’s momentum hadn’t decreased quite as much as he had hoped, or Boary’s judging by his panicked gaze. ‘He’s going to fast. This is definitely going to hurt!” Tyler thought as he watched Boary getting closer and closer.

“Aaaah! [Seismic Slash]!” Markus screamed from the side as his foot planted heavily into the ground, the ground near his foot rippling with an unseen force. Tyler could visibly see the shaking motion travel up the boy’s leg and through his body before focusing directly on his sword. The wooden sword shone with a black light, and as the body of the sword connected with the boar, the boar’s body rippled slightly as he was physically shoved to the side; narrowly missing Tyler by nearly a foot.

“Ow ow ow!” Markus cried as he rolled on the ground. Tyler stared in awe as Lily ran forward to check on Boary. “Thanks Markus. That…was amazing actually.”

“It’s something you can learn too. Auntie Paige uses that move all the time when she is digging. Just watch her movements the next time she is farming.” Markus said tiredly as he sat still on the ground. 

Lily walked over, Boary walking beside here. “We need to hurry back Tyler! Look at the sun, we have to head back before mother comes! It’s one thing to play in the fields, but another to be caught without a teacher here!”

“Right! Markus, get up! Quick, we need to get back!”

“But…”

“No buts Markus, we’re leaving now!” Lily said, pulling Markus across the dirt road.

“Did you have a good day?” Lily’s mother asked as they left the forest. Luckily they had made it back and found Paige in the same clearing, Boary nowhere to be found.

“We did have a good day. Tyler and I found out that we need to have a backup plan just in case our first plan fails. We need to work better as a team if we are to get a good spot at Nespe Academy. Right, Tyler?” Lily asked as Tyler walked beside the carriage home. She could see that Tyler was trying to imitate Markus’s moves with his shield. A low sweeping motion, followed by a quick spin into an overhead chop, followed by a stomp and a backhanded swing. She snorted quietly in her head, not really seeing why Tyler was so focused on it. There was no way an attack would be able to defend better than a solid shield. Useful she supposed, but at that point why not just bash the enemy with your shield? 

“Right. I need to have a backup plan just in case my shield breaks.” Tyler said seriously as he practiced against an invisible foe.

“What did Miss Zenith teach you today?” Lady Emilia asked suspiciously. 

“She, uh, taught us how to coordinate as a party. We even had a mock fight to test our theories,” Lily cheerfully said as she nodded, closing her eyes so that her mother could not catch her lying. “But Tyler’s shield broke when he defended. We think that if it breaks next time, Tyler could go on the offensive instead of retreating from the attack.

“I see…Well, just keep up the good work. I expect great things from you Lily. I knew you would like Teacher Zenith, Richard. And Stephone thought that she would be subpar. Hah! Her results speak for themselves.” Lily and Tyler stiffened. Turning to the front of the carriage, they noticed that the usual driver had been replaced by two men, one person noticeably shorter than the other.

“Father!” “Sir!” The two children said at the same time. 

“Haha, like I would miss the chance to see how much you’ve improved! Very good Lily. Very good.” The smaller, stouter one spoke happily, grinning widely at his daughter. Richard looked over at her daughter and smiled happily. “Look at you, my little Wind Mage!” The other person, a younger man dressed in a butler suit, frowned at Tyler. 

“That was a very odd attack combination. Did you learn it yourself?”

“Yes sir!” Tyler nodded. Lily rolled her eyes but said nothing, knowing full well he was only imitating what he saw from Markus. 

“Good. We may make a Warrior out of you yet. Very fine move. Most wouldn’t think about using that type of attack with a shortsword though, as it is much more devastating with a weapon with a longer reach. But using it with your shield is much like swinging an axe, due to the sheer mass of your equipment. That stomp though… it looks you’ve figured out the importance of having good footing when defending and attacking.”

Butler Stephone looked critically at Tyler, sizing him up. “Learning from a Conscript can only get you so far, boy. Since she is focusing on defensive skills, how about you I teach you instead. Are you ready to learn some offensive skills? I’m sure I can teach you [Seismic Slash] within a few years.” 

“I am!” Tyler nodded, thinking that today’s random adventure truly was a great one.

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