The people in the waiting room made space for the hunters, while Nana and Lith quickly dismissed their previous patients, leaving the beds free for the wounded men.
They were so desperate, that no one complained about Lith’s age or diminutive stature. Before any of the two hunters could say anything, both healers spoke as one.
“Close the curtains and let me do my job.”
They performed “Vinire Rad Tu”, but rather than to find the cause of the affliction, which laid bare in front of their eyes, it was meant to check if there was a sliver of hope saving them.
Lith didn’t even had the time to activate Invigoration, before noticing that the woman was already dead. He tried nonetheless, but there was no mana flow to manipulate, no life force to enhance with light magic.
“I’m sorry.” Lith said closing the dead woman’s eyes. “She was already dead before you got here.”
Before he could continue with his bedside manners, Nana yelled to him.
“Get here, quick! We can still save this one if we work together!”
Lith rushed to the other bed, positioning himself at the man’s feet while Nana moved behind the head. They both needed space to operate at their best.
Nana was right, Invigoration could still feel a mana flow, despite it being weak. The hunter’s wounds were very deep, Lith doubted that fake magic could help him.
Fake healing magic would spread to the whole body, before focusing on the injury, and that caused it to need a few seconds to take effect. Even worse, the spreading and focusing process would cause the spell to lose some of its effectiveness.
True healing magic, instead, would directly affect the wound. Thanks to Invigoration, Lith was also able to pinpoint were to send the light mana with surgical precision, maximizing the potency of the spell.
“Nana’s specialty is not light magic, after all. If she called me, it means that she hopes my personal spells can save this man.”
For a moment, Lith hesitated. He would have loved to have the time to ponder about the risk reward ratio of that scenario.
He couldn’t care less about the life of a stranger, he was much more scared of exposing his secrets, losing everything in the process.
“Screw it! Sooner or later I’ll have to reveal my spells. I want to believe in Nana and give all this ‘blessed by the light’ cr*p a go. Play scared, die scared.”
Lith started performing quick hand signs, mixed with ninja hand seals he remembered from an old movie. He had prepared that choreography since the last conversation with Count Lark.
“Vinire Eskla!” The light magic flowed straight through the hunter’s blood vessels, repairing them and stopping the blood loss. With Nana keeping his conditions stable, Lith was able to bring the hunter to the point where fake magic could save him.
After that, he had to lean against the wall and slide down to the ground.
Lith was exhausted, he had never attempted something that required so much focus and mana for a prolonged time.
“Damn my stupid green mana core! If it was already cyan, maybe I wouldn’t be forced to leave halfway through the procedure.”
Luckily, Nana took all the credit for the success, relieving Lith from any possible questioning about his unknown spell.
After taking her forty copper coins, she warned the hunters’ leader.
“He is alive, but barely. I don’t know if he will make it or not. I can’t even assure you a full recovery. His injuries were too deep, we did the best that we could.”
“Forty copper coins, almost a f*cking half silver coin and that’s all you have to say? A bunch of ifs and wishful thinking?” He yelled.
Nana clearly understood that the man wasn’t really angry with her or Lith, he still could not accept the loss of one, if not both of his friends.
Yet she did not care.
When it came to anger, Nana was second to none. She had been the scapegoat for others’ misbehaviour enough to last for a lifetime.
“Listen to me, young man, and listen well. I dare you find any village that hosts not one, but two healers capable of casting tier three spells!
If you want certainties, go find Krishna Manohar, the god of healing! He lives in the White Griffon Academy, just five hundred kilometres (311 miles) from here! And now get out of my house, before I make you!”
Even a grieving man knew that to further antagonize a mage whose eyes were brimming with power and whose voice generated wind blows was plain suicide.
The two surviving hunters could only comply.
While Nana was clearing the blood spattered around the room, Lith had managed to use Invigoration enough to recover some of his strength, so he followed them outside.
Trawn woods was too close to his house for comfort.
“Sir hunter, please wait!” They were already halfway toward the tavern.
The hunters’ leader really wanted to vent his frustration on the little pest, but he had regained enough of his cool to admit that the kid was blameless. If anything, he had contributed saving the life of his little brother.
That and he was still scared sh*tless by Nana.
“No need for honorifics, young man. My name is Ekart Longran, and this is my sworn brother Flek Irotia.”
“My name is Lith.” The three men bowed to each other.
“The man whose life you saved is my little brother, Otum Longran. If I can do anything to return the favour, you just need to say the word.”
“Could you please tell me more about this magical beast?”
Ekart shivered for a moment, his eyes closed by the fear that memory generated in his heart. But he was a great hunter, who had danced with death countless times. With every passing second, he was recovering both his courage and spirits.
“It’s a huge Byk, do you what it is?”
According to the bestiary in the Soluspedia, a Byk was a bear that had evolved into a magical beast. They were in tune with earth magic, in rare cases also with fire magic.
“It all started around a month ago. The farms on the east side of the Trawn woods were being attacked by a mad beast. At first it would just slay some cattle, before returning to the woods.
But then that harpy of Baroness Rath put a huge bounty on the Byk, in hope to avenge his mad son. She believes he has fallen prey to the beast months ago.”
“Rath.” Lith thought. “The name sounds familiar.”
“The psycho that tried to rob you of your bunnies.” Solus reminded him.
“And that was the beginning of the end. After slaying some wannabe hunters, lured by the promise of easy money, the Byk got a taste for human flesh. From that moment, it started to hunt down his pursuers with elaborate traps.
When we understood how smart the Byk is, it was already too late. We managed to get away only because he was too engrossed in his last meal to chase us.”
Lith bowed again.
“Thanks. I live near the woods, and your information may have just saved my family. Consider your debt settled.”
Before he could turn around, Ekart grabbed his shoulder.
“I have been long enough in the business to recognize a fellow hunter when I see one. Listen to my advice, don’t’ go after it. That beast is unnatural. Not only is smart and cunning, it also moves at unbelievable speed.
No matter how fast you run away or chase it, it keeps switching places, li-like a ghost. I know it sounds stupid, but I believe it to be a vengeful spirit.”
Lith thanked him again, before going back to help move Otum in one of the tavern’s rooms and to clean the blood on Nana’s house floor.
When he finished, Nana handed him twenty copper coins, half the fee.
“Go home and rest. You really are talented in light magic, but that spell is too draining for you. Use it only in case of emergencies.”
Lith nodded, but before going back home he needed to purchase some things. He kept discussing the matter with Solus the whole time. Facing such a monster without more than one plan and enough preparation was idiotic.
After warning Selia, he spent the whole day resting and using Accumulation. In a life or death situation even a small power up could made the difference.
That night, he slept for the first time in two months. Lith wanted to be at his peak condition, he wasn’t willing to take unnecessary risks. He woke up before dawn, leaving a note for his parents.
He then wore his brand-new leather hunter set, with metal protectors for the forearms, shins and heart, his last line of defence in case everything else failed. Once outside, after checking there were no witnesses, he casted the Soaring Hawk spell and took flight.
The Trawn woods was too big, and moving on foot was too slow. Using both his Life Vision and Solus’ mana sense, he started looking for his prey, while moving near the top of the trees.
It didn’t take long to find it, the Byk wasn’t even trying to hide. Lith could trace it thanks to the bear claw marks on trees and rocks, until he found it eating a deer.
“So much for smart and cunning. How the heck can it still eat? It should have filled his belly many times already.” Lith thought. “Nevertheless, let’s see if I can kill it nice and easy.”
The Byk was on the ground, while Lith was in the sky, the distance between them about 30 metres (33 yards), well within the spirit magic’s range.
Lith sent a huge wave of mana, meaning to snap the Byk’s neck in one go.
The Byk instinct was sharp. Even if it was still unaware of the new hunter, it could feel that something was off.
It infused his whole body with earth magic, so when the two mana flows clashed, the spirit magic was diminished to a neck rub.
“F*ck my life! Again with that sh*t, just like the Ry.”
“It seems that magical beasts are able to use fusion magic to some extent.” Solus commented.
“No duh, Sherlock. And what’s worse is that fusion magic is spirit magic’s bane. It can disrupt my mana flow making it useless. But that stands only for direct attacks…”
Having his first plan failed, Lith hid behind the tree while moving away from the Byk. Casting spells in mid-air still required too much effort, he also wanted to keep his ability to fly a secret from the prey.
Once on the ground, he took a roundabout path toward the Byk, using Float to not make noises, and a subtle dark aura to cancel out his smell and aura.
When Lith found the Byk again, it was still sniffing the air, looking at its surroundings.
Lith moved right behind its back, before unleashing a lightning as big as the crouched Byk.
It had no effect, aside from angering the magical beast and blackening some of its fur.
“Holy sh*t! I would have never suspected that earth fusion could shield from lightning.”
The Byk roared its challenge, standing tall on its legs.
It was an enormous beast, at least four meters (13 feet) tall, with a weight close to a ton. Its fur was deep brown with shades of green, and its green eyes were staring at Lith with malice.
“Too big for comfort!” Lith summoned a strong wind, hoping to take advantage of that unstable position to topple the Byk and prevent it from charging ahead.
The Byk channelled even more earth magic, becoming heavier while digging deep into the ground with its claws. It managed to return back on its four, now standing 1.6 meters (5’3″) tall at the shoulder.
“Magnificent display of earth fusion!” Solus couldn’t hold her admiration. Lith was the same, but much more scared.
“Yeah, I’m clearly a noob compared to it. Ice Spears!”
Countless spears of ice appeared out of thin air encircling the Byk. Each one was two meters (6’8″) long, ten centimetres (4 inches) thick and razor-sharp.
It was Lith’s sure kill spell.
The spears came down at the same time, like a deadly rain.
The Byk didn’t seem scared, though. It roared again, getting partially up on its legs, before slamming the front paws on the ground, creating a spherical shielding made out of earth and rock.
The spears crushed against the summoned barrier, inflicting no harm to the Byk.
Both Lith and Solus cursed as one.
“F*ck me sideways! Magical beasts use true magic too!”