18 Chapter Eighteen
(Correlated with the manhua's chapter 18)
"What, who did that?!"
Of the four teens, only Mu Bai and Mo Fan reacted quickly enough to keep their balance and remain standing while Zhou Kun San and Xiao Hou fell on their bottoms.
"Did any of you listen when Mr. Xue and I warned you of the dangers you'll be facing?!"
The teens' attention were pulled to their angry teacher, Ms. Tang Yue, who stood beside their bus with fireballs floating around her, primed and ready to teach them another lesson.
"You will be training here for two months, and I that time, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get yourselves killed! One such way is starting conflicts with other students, creating distractions from your goal of survival, and dying to a sneak attack! I will not stand for any division within the students!"
Despite having seen her angry half a year before when he broke school-issued the stardust accelerator, the sight of such a kind, attentive, and hot teacher threatening to burn him alive caused him to gulp. Less needed to be said about the other three Ms. Tang Yue threatened, as they'd never seen their teacher act so violently.
"Do I make myself clear?!"
"Now shake hands and apologize to each other."
Immediately, the four became uncomfortable, sharing uneasy looks. That moment of hesitation seemed to be enough for Ms. Tang Yue to consider their actions defiant, because a fireball above her shoulder began growing in size as though warning the boys that they had few options.
Seeing the threat, their self-preservation instincts kicked in and they quickly stood before one another and extended a hand. Mo Fan to Mu Bai, and Zhou Kun San to Xiao Hou.
"Please forgive me."
"It was my fault."
Although none of them meant their words, Ms. Tang Yue harrumphed and dispelled her fireballs before ordering, "Now catch up with the rest of your class."
After the four reunited with their class at the military post, they gave their attention to a bulky man in a green uniform with long, brown hair who stood in front of other mages in the same garb. He was the highest-ranked officer and most powerful officer at the post.
"I will be your lead instructor for this combat training exercise! My name is Zhankong!" The man pointed to an area in the distance to his left. As the post was situated beside a cliff, Zhankong was pointing at land far below where they stood. "Your training will begin tomorrow in that crater down there."
The entire group of students turned to see the area he spoke of, confirming that there was indeed a massive crater in the forest below.
"Your training will be made up of many things including normal physical exercises, but tomorrow we'll be starting you off with a monster bounty without any adult assistance that will take place in Herbage Valley."
As though it were practiced, everyone in the class grew frightened, eyes wide in disbelief, and began speaking amongst themselves in hushed tones. Finally, one of the students, Xu Zhaoting, spoke up to Zhankong.
"Instructor…you are joking, right?! I've heard that even the easiest monster bounties require at least three experienced members of a hunter squad to complete! You're just going to throw us out into the wilderness?! We're all only at the first stage!"
Xu Zhaoting's worries and point were reasonable, as monster hunters were mostly in the second and third stage with tons of experience fighting a variety of monsters and knowledge of their behavior. Sometimes it wasn't only power which won a fight, but intellect and resourcefulness built up from years of training.
"And?" The callousness in his voice was apparent. "You students need an experience like this. Otherwise, you'll become arrogant, unbeknownst to the fact that the difference between you and monsters is great. You need to learn how easily they can tear you apart firsthand."
Unable to refute, the students quieted and let him continue.
"Don't worry about the grading for your bounty tomorrow. If even one of you can complete the task, your entire class will pass. Otherwise, you all fail."
Again, the class was shocked, because the results of that exercise affected a long of things, including their ability to graduate that year. However, when they raised their protests…
"SHUT YOUR MOUTHS!" Zhankong's mighty roar instantly quieted the students. "Those who are unwilling to take part can retreat like cowards and fail! I have no interest in training trash! Though, yes, this exercise will be difficult." Zhankong suddenly toned down his dominant aura, allowing the students to breathe. "If a student of you manages to do most of the work when completing the task, I will personally reward them with a defensive magic treasure."
For the third time, the students found themselves gaping at Zhankong's words. Of course, their reaction was warranted, as almost all magic tools for fighting were luxuries and the standard was that mages needed only to depend on their own capabilities. If the instructor really awarded a student with a defensive magic treasure…that was extravagance they didn't even expect from their school!
"Hey, Zhankong," one of the men beside Zhankong leaned toward him, "you're giving away a magic tool—are you out of your mind? Still, that's quite the prize. Why don't you let our guys handle it?"
Scowling, Zhankong asked, "Oh? Should I feed you with a spoon, too?" Then he turned back to the students. "For now, you are all to enter the post and get yourselves ready. Tomorrow, we will sort you into groups and send you on your way!"
The next day, Zhou Min, Xiao Hou, Xu Zhoating, Mo Fan, He Yu, and Zhou Kun San were chosen for a team.
"Mo Fan, you are this group's leader while Zhou Min will be your deputy." Mr. Xue announced. "Once you've readied your supplied, head out right away."
Then, Mr. Xue handed Zhou Min a map. Just like that, the six students were expected to traverse the wilderness by following the map to their destination and hunt down monsters. Everything about the situation filled the students with dread, but what could they do about it? Forget about graduating, they wanted to grow stronger. They were aware that living their school lives as so-called magic geniuses and being pampered would soften them, leaving them unprepared for the real world if they wanted to continue on the path to greatness. Yes, they could give up the pursuit of strength for a steady life which involved magic, like teaching or construction work, but that wasn't what they wanted. It wasn't the most they could achieve and they knew it, unwilling to settle for anything less than the most possible.
Ten days later, Mo Fan's group were deep in the wilderness, still following a path they thought would have ended a long time ago.
"How much further do we have to go?" He Yu asked. "There's nothing but trees and mountains here. I'm so booooooooored!"
"Well, last time we checked, the map said the destination is thirty kilometers away." Replied Xu Zhaoting.
Trudging behind the two, Xiao Hou complained, "It isn't just thirty kilometers of walking, though. We also have to climb steep rock faces and cut through vegetation at times…"
Even farther behind than Xiao Hou and having the most difficulty keeping up, Zhou Kun San said, "If I called the shots…I'd…have us take…breaks all…the time! After all…I'm sure…that the Young…Master Mu Bai…will be…the one to…complete the mission!"
It being the umpteenth time Zhou Kun San made that claim, no one bothered to refute or chastise him, simply keeping their pace and having conversations about whatever topic came to mind. Despite the fact that they'd been hiking for ten days, foraging for food, doing their business in the trees, and slowly working their leg muscles to death, the group didn't have too bad of a time. Except for Zhou Kun San, Mu Bai's sycophant. His dislike of Mo Fan and Xiao Hou prevented him from interacting much with the rest of the group.
Eventually, after climbing hundreds of rough, stone stairs, they ran into their first major problem.
"How are we going to deal with this?" Xu Zhaoting asked with a tired voice.
Catching up with him and Mo Fan, Zhou Min asked, "What's the matte-" before abruptly stopping and looking on in disbelief at the massive ravine situated before them.
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"Its walls are steep and the other side is at least twenty-five meters…"
When the rest of the group caught up, they unanimously decided that it was time for a break.