Yurial\'s words struck everyone, making them freeze for a split second, even Lith.
He immediately understood why he had been forbidden to take part in the test as a regular student.
For him it would have been a stroll in the park.
With their skinny limbs and bloated bellies, the goblins almost resembled the pictures of starving kids that humanitarian associations back on Earth would use in their fundraisers.
They were short, between one and 1.2 meters (3\'3 and 3\'11) high, and their disproportionately large eyes emphasized their childish appearance.
Their bloodlust and their hungry, lustful gazes, though, revealed their true nature.
If was the first time for the whole group seeing humanoid monsters.
They usually lived in the wilderness, far away from populated areas.
Unless of course, the humans had been so stupid to chase or hunt away the magical beasts.
Humanoid monsters travelled in small tribes, needing time to settle up and grow their numbers before becoming a real threat.
Magical beasts were the natural predators of such creatures that disrupted the natural flow of things.
They would hunt, cut down trees and destroy their surroundings recklessly since once humanoid monsters exhausted the natural resources, they would simply move to a new region and start over.
Magical beasts would react to their presence, slaughtering them before the cycle of destruction, r*pe and murder could begin.
In the new world as long as the balance between humans, monsters and beasts stood, no race was allowed to grow unchecked.
When the goblin with the club entered her range, Phloria did not hesitate.
She slashed down with her estoc aiming for the neck.
Thanks to its instinct, the creature managed somehow to react, blocking with its stone weapon.
The estoc crushed the club, but in the process it was deflected, cutting off the goblin\'s left arm instead.
The creature\'s scream was human like, its blood spattered on the cave\'s walls staining them red.
Phloria had never wounded someone intentionally, so her first instinct was to stop and provide first aid.
The goblin perceived her weakness and exploited it using its now sharp stick to stab her throat.
Phloria inwardly cursed at her stupidity, while all her training kicked in, allowing her to deflect the stick with the shield and to cut the goblin\'s head off for good.
In the time she needed to do so, however, two goblins managed to slip past her.
What she had never thought about, is that after decapitation the heart would keep pumping for a few seconds, generating a fountain of blood that blinded her long enough for even more goblins to pass, while the others surrounded her from all sides.
One goblin was enough to throw Quylla on the ground, pinning her down with its weight while trying to rip off her uniform and slash her with a knife at the same time.
She hadn\'t expected Phloria to fail, so she was still chanting a tier three spell when it happened.
She started to yell and cry at the same time, helplessly attempting to get it off her.
What the creature lacked in strength, it compensated in fury and hunger.
The uniform protected Quylla from the poisoned knife, but she could still feel the hits.
Another girlish scream quickly followed.
Yurial had fallen as well for the sudden attack.
Unlike Quylla, armed or not a single goblin wasn\'t enough to bring down someone of his height and build.
Once a second and a third one joined the fray, though, he fell to the ground, his vision blurred by the blood coming from multiple hits to the head.
The scene almost paralysed Friya too, but Quylla screams woke her up immediately.
Her new rapier made short work of the goblins that got close to her, blood and guts spattered everywhere, releasing a disgusting smell of sh*t and bile.
Friya repressed the urge to puke, moving forward to help Yurial, the closest one to her.
Her weapon was too long, though.
With so little space and the mass of piled bodies, she had no way to be sure not to stab him in the process too.
Why didn\'t I bring a short weapon too She cried in desperation, hitting the back of the enemies with her shield, to force them to retreat.
Lith remained in the back, flabbergasted by their incompetence.
- Why do Quylla and Yurial hesitate to aim for the vitals They are healers too.
Why tier three magic instead of first magic In such an enclosed space speed is more important that raw damage, not to mention these things are so small and weak.–
Since their appearance, Lith had thought about dozens of ways to effortlessly wipe out the goblins.
By crushing them with spirit magic, slicing them down with a hail of ice shards, or simply cutting them apart with air magic.
They wore no protections, it wasn\'t a matter of if they could kill them, just how to do it and how much made them suffer.
Lith didn\'t like that situation one bit.
To hold himself from intervening, he grabbed his staff strong enough to turn his hands white.
- They are mine! How dare these monsters put their hands on them His mind was burning with rage.
But everything is still under control and no one is really injured.
If I help them now, they\'ll learn nothing, becoming even more reliant on me.
I would only cripple their growth.
Is this what Linjos meant when he told me I would benefit from the test too
Is he trying to teach me restraint -
In the front line, Phloria had quickly recovered, cutting down her enemies like grass.
The goblins surrounded her more than once from multiple angles but they died all the same way.
With a single thrust of her estoc.
Wish for it to get shorter! She screamed to Friya.
Orion\'s gifts weren\'t simple blades, they were a forgemastering treasure, able to contract and expand at will, making them suitable for every combat scenario.
Friya followed her advice, and her rapier turned into a short sword that she used to safely free Yurial.
Use first magic, you idiot! Lith screamed, incapable of standing idle anymore.
His voice shook Quylla from her terror.
She released a jolt of electricity that stunned and paralysed the goblin.
Her magic couldn\'t harm her, so she ignored the current flowing through their bodies and unsheathed her knife.
Quylla stabbed the creature over and over, screaming in frenzy.
Only after reducing it to a bloody mess she managed to stop.
When the fight was over, the group was covered in blood, guts and sh*t.
The stench surrounding them was suffocating, making it hard to breathe.
Quylla was the first to start crying, realizing what she had done, but refused to let her knife go.
Then it was Yurial\'s turn, cursing himself for being useless, then Friya and lastly Phloria.
They had experienced the hard way how different it was hunting some defenceless game from killing a sentient being for survival.
Their sobs quickly turned into a violent cough; the pungent smell was irritating their noses.
Between the shock derived from the fight and the gruesome scene in front of them, they started to puke one after the other.
- What the heck How can they be so stupid First thing they should cleanse to zone, otherwise the smell of blood will lure other creatures.
I doubt monsters will patiently wait for them to stop puking before an attack.
Don\'t be so hard on them. Solus\' mind sounded full of motherly affection.
They are just kids.
Quylla told us more than once that she never used magic for aggression before the academy, the worst things she has ever faced were hunger and solitude.
As for the others, they are the lucky ones.
Until now they have been served and pampered, only worrying about meeting their parents\' expectations.
When it happened to you, would you rather have had someone yelling at you or a hug and a good word–
Solus\' words only brought back bad memories.
Lith\'s first kill had been his own father, back on Earth, but even then he needed neither.
He had been too busy protecting himself and Carl from that poor excuse of a mother to leave any space for feelings.
- I wonder why it has always to be me being the bigger person. He thought.
Well, maybe because you usually are the bigger person in the room. Solus chuckling somehow lifted his spirit.
According to Solus there were no magical items in the cave, aside the ones they were wearing.
Maybe Linjos had been sincere about the lack of supervision, and maybe not.
Before intervening, Lith put the bracelet meant to bring them back into the main hall inside the pocket dimension.
Then, he tapped the staff on the ground, releasing a wave of darkness magic that cleaned the corridor, dissolving every trace of the fight into nothingness.
Be strong, Phloria. Lith patted her shoulder, almost getting stabbed in return.
She was still on edge, jumping at every noise.
You can\'t remain here, other creatures may lurk nearby.
You all need a place to rest and recover.
Normally he would have also pointed out how he was already helping them too much, not only by advising them, but also by keeping the light alive while they were all panicking.
In their current state, though, it would have been rude, not to mention he doubted that any of them cared for the exam at the moment.
Phloria and Lith helped the others to get up, healing their wounds and prompting them to regain their cool.
Not even half an hour had passed from the beginning of the test, and everyone was already in dire need of sleep.
They kept walking for a while before finding a proper place to rest.
The underground maze was composed by corridors connecting a series of caves that varied in size.
Some were so small they needed to crawl, others were bigger than the academy\'s classrooms.
Luckily, they didn\'t encounter anything else on their way.
The group settled inside a cave with a single entrance, but only after Yurial made sure there were no hidden passages or tunnels in the walls.
After that, he conjured a series of arrays that would turn anyone walking inside their lair into mincemeat.
Meanwhile, Lith handed Phloria a piece of paper and an inkwell.
What is this She asked after passing out warm blankets to the others, while Friya lighted a fire from the wood she had carried in her dimensional amulet.
Unlike the mock exam, this time they had come prepared.
First rule of dungeoning: always draw a map. Lith imparted her the knowledge coming from his experience with Dungeons & Looting.
Damn, I had completely forgot. After opening up the scroll, she noticed that he had kept track of all the rooms they had passed through.
Aren\'t you going overboard by helping us so much Phloria was worried for him, but at the same time was really happy having Lith covering their backs.
It\'s just a grade. He shrugged.
Knowing Linjos, the bigger part of it will depend on how much we learn from our mistakes, rather than being punished for making them.
This is an academy, after all, not a slaughter house.
Done! Yurial had a prideful expression while walking back into the makeshift campsite.
Right now the arrays are on standby, to not waste their magical energies for nothing.
Normally only the Warden can activate them, but since I need some sleep too, I consumed a few mana stones to make the arrays respond to whoever holds this.
He showed a red mana stone the size of a chalk.
Great thinking! Phloria complimented him.
Now we can rest easy.
After deciding the shifts, everyone took their places around the fire, which served more as a moral comfort rather than for light and heat.
There were always things that no matter how powerful, magic wasn\'t able to accomplish, like soothing a restless mind.
No one managed to fall asleep, the images of the goblins\' corpses still flashed in front of their eyes.
Friya was the first one to leave her place and snuggle up on Lith, soon followed by all the others.
She still remembered the sensation of safety he exuded while she was between his arms, and now she needed it more than ever.
Despite all that had happened, Lith had remained unfazed, like a mountain in the face of a storm.
Quylla, and even Phloria and Yurial, despite being to proud to admit it, felt the same way.
In their hearts the firmly believed that his murderous gaze they had grown fond of overtime was capable of send back whatever horror was lurking in the shadows with the tail between its legs.
In fact, after discussing again the guard-duty order, the group fell asleep as one, leaving Lith as a mother goose surrounded by ducklings.
Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, he stood watch listening to their snoring.