Alright not really much to say so let's get this show on the road
Disclaimer I don't own rotsh
"This place is way too weird." Baxley mused as the party of the bow hero went deeper into the grove while looming in every direction with caution.
Unlike before, none of the trio encountered a single killer moth this time even though they were more than a bit fairly numerous the previous time they went in and none of them bought the idea that they were wiped out, it just wasn't possible.
What really weirded everyone out was the glow many of the plants were giving off. Audrey had asked both of her teammates if this was a natural occurrence in their world but both claimed not to have ever seen anything like it or even have heard the scarcest rumor of such a thing.
The closest thing ever witnessed was a single type of plant known to grow in another country but even then that didn't come close to the scene that the three were seeing since it wasn't just a single type of plant but rather many of the trees and bushes.
Audrey didn't think much of it when she and the others had first entered the place but coming deeper within the place it offered quite the sight which was both mesmerizing and unnerving at the same time.
What also put everyone on edge was the fact that in spite of not encountering a single monster or hostile of any kind the party somehow felt or rather it would be more accurate to say that they knew that they weren't alone.
It might have been easy to pass the reason off as being due to the supposed third night when the target that they were hunting was supposed to appear but they all sensed something was currently lurking somewhere within the grove.
"There's no use in worrying about that now, we need to hurry and get through this, the faster we're done the better." Audrey said.
"True but we need to find our target for our mission to truly begin."
"Yeah I'm well aw-" Audrey stopped.
Have thou come here to undertake the trial for thy power?
"What the hell?" Audrey asked no one in particular.
"Audrey, what's wrong?" Inquired a somewhat concerned Bluebell.
"I-it's hard to explain. I feel like someone asked me something but…-did either of hear anything."
"No." Bluebell answered while Baxley only opted to shake his head.
This only got Audrey to sigh. "That's what I figured.
"What do you mean?"
"I didn't even hear anything myself."
"But you just said you felt like someone asked you a question."
"I know, that's just it, I didn't hear any actual voice, the question just popped in my head."
"That doesn't sound like a normal occurrence."
"I wouldn't think so either but somehow I feel certain that someone was asking me about it."
"Something about taking a trial to obtain power judging by the context."
Bluebell placed a hand on her chin pondering this, if only Audrey was asked this silent question then there was a fair chance this had something to do with her being one of the four cardinal heroes but what was suppose to happen was anyone's guess, the only thing Bluebell could think of was that it was somehow tied to the target they were going after.
"You have any thoughts on the matter?" Audrey inquired.
"Other than the likelihood that this might be tied in with identity as one of the cardinal heroes since you were the only one asked this question. Can you tell me how it was asked exactly by any chance?"
"I think so, the sentence went "Have thou come here to undertake the trial for thy power?" I'm not really sure why anyone or anything thinks I would be here to take a trial though, I didn't even know there was one here of all places let alone plan on taking it."
"I see from the sound of it however it sounds like it comes with a reward in terms of more power if you pass it."
Audrey wore a contemplative look before replying. "I'll mark Herba as my very first teleportation point via my transport bow."
"Wait. What do you mean teleportation point?"
Audrey started sweating nervously, much to both of her companions' confusion. "You recall the first time we went to the dragon hourglass so that I could register myself at the lotation."
"And how that nun gave me sand from the hourglass itself."
"Well I just recalled that I had the ability to teleport to up to three various locations of I have been to before so long is I have them selected as a rally point."
"Okay, well to be fair there wasn't really any reason to mark any location down since the only place we ever really head to multiple times is the capital."
"Right." Audrey mused a bit relieved that she wasn't being chewed out for the fact that she had more or less forgotten she had the ability.
Bluebell's face become more stern
"That being said you should have marked the capitol down as one of the locations we can instantly travel to, it would have saved us time once we need to go back to let you copy any bows there."
"Ri-right." All things considered Audrey probably should have seen that coming. "That aside I can make sure to make Herba as a place to return to via the transport bow to take this trial at a later date."
Bluebell didn't give any verbal reply and simply continued on with the rest of the group whilst grimacing. 'Audrey if what I suspect about this so called trial turns out to be true then….'
"I see the clearing ahead of us."
"You don't mean the one where we found the corpse do you?" Bluebell asked as an inner opening in the tree line came into sight.
Baxley scratched the side of his head. "Sorry I wish I could tell otherwise but its that very one we're commi-!"
"What's wrong?!" Audrey asked before glancing ahead and seeing a sight that was nothing short of a cross between bizarre and gruesome which left her with the urge to empty the contents within her very own stomach.
A mass of vines were growing directly out of the soil itself, that on its own was already out of place considering at least on Audrey's version of earth the traditionally view from certain types of trees but what really stood out was that the vines in question were wrapping themselves around something forming what Audrey could only describe as a makeshift cocoon of sorts.
A cocoon which was slowly crushing whatever was inside of it, from the looks of the vines' movement along with all the blood leaking out from between them and spilling out all over the ground and the crunch sounds coming from within it looked like the vines were acting like some sort of meat grinder.
Whatever was being grinded however, Audrey really didn't care to know, whatever was encased within the vines to say the least was not a pretty sight, it couldn't possibly be with whatever it was being grinded into a literal bloody paste.
So thou has decided to undertake thy trial.
Wait! What?! No that can't be right, Audrey didn't agree to do any such thing, least of all now of all times while she was in the middle of a mission that was about to begin as soon as she and the others found their target.
Baxley glanced at Audrey noticing the off look on her face. "Audrey what wr- WHAT THE?!"
Baxley's sudden exclamation jerked both Audrey and Bluebell's attention towards him and upon seeing the tense look on his fave along with the fact that his gaze was set somewhere else both women followed the direction of his stare and were met with a jaw dropping and also unnerving sight.
Standing at the opposite end of the open area just outside the treeline was a massive creature completely different from the killer moths the group had previously encountered during the reconnaissance.
Should thou fail to pass thy trial, thou shall perish here in this place
Yet another mute sentence manifested itself with Audrey's mind as if out of pure nothingness.
Dammit no! She didn't have time for this- wait a minute, looking at the creature standing on the opposite side of the clearing Audrey saw that it was Bipedal with two hooves for feet and muscular legs covered in a thin line of somewhat light purple practically lavender colored fur. Most of the rest of the creatures body was covered in the same coating of lavender colored fur with consisted of somewhat humanoid midsection and chest that both somehow looked both muscular and anorexic at the same time possessing a six back and muscled breast yes showed a visible rib cage on either side that gave off an iree orange glow from between them, it arms were also slightly humanoid in appearance possessing all five digits on each hand, however all of that were not only too long to belong to any human but also had long claws on each of them, the neck unlike the vast majority of the body was covered in a much thicker mane of white fur.
The feature that really snagged Audrey's attention was the head which like the majoring of the body was covered in a thin layer of lavender dur looked like that of a deer or more so a stag with two long antlers that must of had around twenty to thirty tines growing off of the main beam none of which looked natural at least as far as the bow hero could tell. Ultimately the tine detail wasn't relevant, what was was the fact that this thing had a deer like head meaning it fit what little description.
Should thou pass thy trial thou shall be rewarded with immense power
And another silent sentence. "You've gotta be kidding me." Audrey said to no one in particular, were the situation less dangerous and uncertain she probably would have laughed bitterly in sheer annoyance at the entire ordeal.
"What do you mean? Does the fact that this is the target annoy you?" Bluebell asked.
"In a sense but it's not for the exact reason you might think."
"Um Audrey we mi-!" Baxley was forced to stop mid sentence when a sharp branch suddenly grew out of the ground trying to impale him, luckily he was quick enough to pivot his body to avoid the attack before cleaving the branch in half. "I don't think our target plans on standing idle and letting us have a peaceful conversation."
Everything looked in the direction of the creature which was still in the same spot but now it had one of its hands outstretched. It wasn't much of a gesture but it was enough to confirm that the branch that almost sckewer Baxley was its' doing.
Audrey quickly pulled up what information she could on the humanoid stag creature she could which unfortunately wasn't much
Odd the target wasn't showing anything indicating its level or even at least a question mark like the wave boss did making its strength completely uncertain. "Let's just say our mission and that so-called trial we talked about turned out to coincidently be one in the same." Audrey said all the while firing off a small number of quick consecutive shots toward the trial guardian.
The trial guardian swatted the arrows out of the air with its claws earning an annoyed grunt from Audrey who realized normal frontal attacks were essentially useless this opponent which had followed up with a alarming fast dash straight towards Audrey was nearly forced to use her quick dash skill to dodge.
This thing's speed was practically on par with her own assuming it wasn't holding back in the department. Unfortunately Audrey's narrow evasion was rendered meaningless in the following moments once the trial guardian performed a sweeping motion with its legs bringing its far leg around and kicking Audrey in her side with enough force to send a good number of meters, almost all the way to far tree line.
"Audrey!" Bluebell screamed out seeing the bow hero take such a heavy blow, considering that Audrey's defense was her weakness and that was even without the self inflicted curse that one blow had to have done a great deal of damage. A glance at the party hud confirmed as much the one blow alone had wiped away just over a quarter of Audrey's hp bar.
Things only got worse when the trial guardian turned towards the still downed hero to continue its assault. Bluebell felt fear rise up within to levels she never thought possible, with the speed the trial guardian had just shown it would be able to reach Audrey's position and attack her while she was still laying on ground, combine that with the power it had with just that single kick and the picture that painted in the scenario if the thing was allowed to attack Audrey now-no that couldn't happen, luckily she was already relatively close to the creature by just a few steps.
Without any time to contemplate the most optimal option Bluebell simple ran forward and thrusted her rapiar outward at the trial guardian's leg only for the beast to jump back before dash at Bluebell who managed to raised her shield up by the skin of her teeth to block a swipe from the trial guardian the send her skidding on her back around the dirt.
Rather the pursue her directly the trial guardian held it arm out in Bluebell's direction, only through a sense of precognition thanks to seeing the attack once already was Bluebell able to swiftly roll out of the way and avoid being impaled by a sharp ended branch that grew out of the ground in the very spot she had just been occupying.
Quickly getting to her feet Bluebell readied herself for a direct assault from the trial guardian which simply attempted to summon another sharp branch to stab her which she avoided with a side jump before running after the trial guardian itself.
Rather than going after Bluebell to meet her assault with one of its own the trial guardian spun its entire body around to block a blow from Baxley before pushing him away and turn around once more to parry a blow from Bluebell before following up with a swipe of its other hand and she block with her shield avoiding the better part of the incoming blow but not without being staggered but the sheer force behind the blow.
Baxley meanwhile was about to try to go in for another attack before finding both of his legs entangled in something. Glancing downward Baxley saw that the same type of vines much like the ones that were crushing whatever they had inside of them were now wrapping themselves around both of Baxley's legs and from the looks of it possibly intending to encase and crush his body into a bloody paste.
Ironically as unpleasant as that fate was, it was actually the absolute least of the hyena's worries since the trial guardian was upon him with its arm outstretched ready to kill him with its claws via a single swipe. There wasn't any time to cut himself loose from the vines and dodging was out of the question since he couldn't move from his current spot, he could try to block and parry the strike but he wasn't sure of the chances of success.
To his surprise the trial guardian turned around once more to parry an attack from Bluebell before following up with a kick which Bluebell took with her shield but was ultimately sent to the ground before numerous vines grow out from the immediate ground around where she layed and around no time in beginning to wrap around her body ensaring her and halting any attempt Bluebell could have made and slowly began trying to form a makeshift cocoon around her.
Baxley felt his stomach turn to ice at this development if Bluebell didn't receive help very soon then it was pretty much a given she'd have an agonizing end once the vines holding and growing over her proceeded to crush and grind her entire body into little more than blood, bits of bone and whatever else once it was all said and done.
Unfortunately Baxley wasn't given anytime to try to free himself or try to help his teammate since as soon as Bluebell fell to the ground the trial guardian immediately turned its attention back towards him wanting to deliver the killing blow as it readied its claws. 'Da-dammit!'
A mass of numerous arrows falling down around the immediate area surrounding Baxley and forcing the Trial guardian to back off.
A stream of lighting flew toward the trial guardian which tried to utilize a sharp branch to block the incoming projectile only for it to rip right through the rip and hit the trial guardian earning a grunt but nothing more in terms of damage.
A shocked Baxley turned his head to see Audrey who was now back on her feet and circling around whilst the trial guardian had shifted its attention to her and was already headed her way.
"Get yourself free!" Was all Audrey yelled out to Baxley before using her quick dash skill to evade the trial guardian completely as soon as it was upon her before letting another arrow loose which tore through a fair number of the vines that were in the process of encasing her allowing the swordmaiden enough wiggle room the free most of her upper body and also her sword arm which in turn granted her the ability to begin cutting the remaining vines still holding her.
All the while Audrey had fired numerous arrows whilst running from the trial guardian now chasing after her and going through a quick incantation in the process, once the incantation was done she casted on earth hole spell making a pit rat in the path of the trial guardian which immediately leapt over it avoided the trap however the bow hero was one step ahead.
"Chain arrow." Since the trial guardian was currently airborne that meant it lacked the ability to dodge her attack and as a result the incoming arrow morphed into numerous chains that wrapped around the trial guardian leaving it seemingly vulnerable at that moment until something happened to dismiss that scenario completely
Before the trial guardian had even finished falling to the ground, a sharpened branch grow out of the ground next to where it was going to land and as the monster's body approached the ground one of the links if the chains holding it got caught on the branch's end which lead to the entire net of chains being destroyed and the trial guardian freed once more
Audrey grimaced at the sight, she had hoped for her party to have a few moments to inflict more meaningful damage before the trial guardian got loose again but the thing seemed to always keep pace with her move per move. Meanwhile both of the now recovered teammates made their way to her side.
"Okay this thing is even tougher than I thought it would be." Baxley declared.
"This beast has got to be on par with a wave boss at least." Blueblue mused.
Audrey grimaced, "No thing is on another level from the chimera we fought back during the wave."
That might have been something of an understatement, the chimera had proven to be one tenacious opponent in its own right even managing to inflict serious injuries on both Audrey and Naofumi but the thing was still just a mindless rampager by the end of the day. The trial guardian on the other hand was much more intelligent, unlike the chimera or any type of monster Audrey has encountered so far which all have a one track mind.
The beast somehow instinctively knew to keep its flank coverer and on top of that attacked in a more pragmatic way, the use of the vines when Bluebell and Baxley were in vulnerable positions or the follow up kick it hit Audrey herself which could be used as a testament to that.
Rather than try to run after any member of the party the trial guardian decided to conjure a number of sharp branches to try to stab each member of the party.
Audrey jumped back while Bluebell pivoted her body and Baxley cleaved the branch extending towards him in half before it could reach him.
Meanwhile the trial guardian broke into another run towards Audrey whilst two new sets of vines tried to grow around both Baxley and Bluebell's legs forcing the both of them to quickly cut themselves loose buying the trial guardian extra time to pursue Audrey unhindered.
In response Audrey took aim and was an instant away from utilizing another skill before she heard the ground began breaking apart just behind her meaning one thing.
Another branch was coming up to stab her from behind. Acting as fast as she was able Audrey threw her body to the side narrowly avoiding being stabbed through the spine however a new problem arose when the trial guardian had come upon her with its claws at the ready.
Audrey managed to fire an arrow towards the trial guardian's face forcing it to swat it away allowing Audrey just enough breathing to get back to her feet.
Unfortunately the trial guardian managed to keep pace with the bow hero swiping its other set of claws at her, Audrey opted the jumped back but the trial guardian's claws still ripped a few bloody gashes through her midsection causing her to wince in pain and giving her pause as her evasive jump ended allowing the monster to close what little distance Audrey made between them and follow up with a kick that sent Audrey literally flying into the side of a tree.
"AUDREY!" Baxley cried out to panic upon seeing the bow hero take such a blow all the while Bluebell began running in her direction
In spite of the amount of pain she was currently in Audrey forced herself to get back up to turn in her teammates general direction. "Don't lose your focus!" She yelled back she yelled to both of her teammates prompting both of them to return their attention back to the trial guardian.
As both of Audrey's friends ran towards the creature to engage it the trial guardian used another sharp branch forcing Bluebell to atler of her course to avoid being gutted all the while the trial guardian itself went for Baxley who tried to meet an incoming claw swipe with a wide arc swing from his ax.
Upon impact Baxley felt painful vibrations shoot through both of his arms finding himself grateful that his weapon wasn't knocked cleanly from his hands however that bit of good news proved worthless when the trial guardian utilized its other claw set and tear into Baxley shoulder causing him to cry out in pain before following up with a kick the sent him sailing a good number of meters while his ax left his hands.
In the following moment Bluebell found herself having to avoid another sharp branch that emerged from the ground right in front of her whilst the trial guardian looked as if it was going to finish off Baxley.
However just before the trial guardian could begin running after the downed hyena a slab of the very ground rose up right in front of Baxley blocking the monster's path to him.
Rather than turning to the source of the spell right then and there the trial guardian utilized more vines against Bluebell momentarily catching one of her legs. As the sky blue haired sword user proceeded to cut the vines a new branch grew out from the nearby ground and extended towards her midsection.
Bluebell barely managed to notice and react in time to avoid a fatal blow but the combination of immobilization and the distraction it caused allowed the sharp to still cut into her side relatively deeply.
With two opponents injured to point of being out of the way momentarily the trial guardian turned its attention to the only opponent not out of action and locked eyes with the bow hero who had her hand extended outwards from the earth wall spell she had previously cast to give Baxley some form of protection in a fit of desperation.
Glancing at Baxley who was still on the ground holding his shoulder and Bluebell was still in the process of freeing herself in spite of her own injury Audrey found herself forced to inwardly acknowledge the grim reality of her and the other's situation.
When they had first heard that this thing had taken out a good number of adventures that was already enough to hint that it wasn't a typical monster in terms of prowess, a fact that should have been hammered home when the news of the trial guardian having even offed individuals who have class upped.
It wasn't that Audrey wasn't expecting a hard fight, she wasn't naive enough to expect anything to be easy but the gap in power between the trial guardian and her party was too great. The thing was practically toying with them whilst leaving no major openings in its own defenses.
From the beginning the trio found themselves kept on their toes simply avoiding the simplest attacks and to make matters worse even the most basic swipe from the trial guardian's claws was nothing to scoff at. On the other hand the only solid attack that the trail guardian's hit with was a thunder arrow which didn't do much of anything aside from getting a grunt of the beast.
A wet crunching sound was heard drawing Audrey's attention back towards the original vine cocoon that the party chanced upon when they first came to the clearing, still crushing whatever it held inside while streams of blood and other grotesque stuff leaked out from the crack and spilled onto the ground.
Now that Audrey looked at it she noticed the same orange sword that Berg was using when he fought her upon his arrival in Herba. She didn't have time to ponder any of it since she had to turn her attention back to the fight.
Forcing herself to get completely back to her feet Audrey glared at the trial guardian and took aim at it all the while the monster ran towards her.
Firing a few arrows at the thing Audrey was unsurprised when the trial guardian simply swatted them out of the air as they came in within its' reach however Audrey wasn't done. "Frost arrow."
Letting loose the skill as the trial guardian got too close to try and change direction to dodge Audrey was greeted to the sight of a thick layer of ice forming over one of the trial guardian's arm momentarily immobilizing the entire limb.
Quickly following up Audrey aimed her bow upwards. "Rain arrow."
Due to being distracted with one of its arms being frozen the trial guardian wasn't immediately prepared to defend against or avoid the numerous arrows the rained down upon it.
While that was happening Audrey ran around and passed the creature and used her quick dash to gain a good deal of distance from it before glancing in Bluebell who had gotten back to her feet's direction and tossing two hp potions to her. "Take one and give the other one to Baxley!"
"What about you?"
"I'll buy you the time you need to heal yourselves." Audrey replied before while shifting her gaze back towards the trial guardian. While the arrows raining down upon it from the bow hero's skill the damage they inflicted was unfortunately minimal at best, she might not have been able to any type of health bar since the trial guardian's stats weren't shown but the fact the the arrow not only failed to pierce its' hide very deeply (if at all) but it only earned what sounded like mere grunts from the trial guardian itself made it abundantly clear she wasn't inflicting any major wound.
Audrey could only grunt in frustration as the trial guardian broke the ice off of its' arm allowing the limb to regain its mobility before turning to the bow hero.
At this rate this fight was not going to go in any type of positive direction, even all of Audrey's skills only did minimal amounts of damage.
She doubted any of her offensive magic spells would do much individually either unless this thing has a specific weakness to earth or wind which was something Audrey would not bet on. She had a few bows that had heat or freezing resistance meaning that it was possible to build up defenses against individual elements but she didn't know if elemental weaknesses also applied in this world.
The answer might have been a very obvious yes but personally Audrey would rather have some evidence or a personal experience to back up the confirmation of its existence, it was safer then just saying elemental weaknesses are a guaranteed thing just because they were in possibility every rpg that had magic as a factor with its gameplay only to find out otherwise the hard way later on due to making an unproven assumption.
But on that account, this might be a good time to try it out. Yes the party was in a grim situation but contrary to what most would think this might have been a good time because of that.
As things stood Audrey's normal attacks were effortlessly deflected and her skills if they hit their mark did next to nothing, granted Audrey had a thirty percent reduction that she couldn't deny was making matters worse she highly doubted that not having it affliction would change the entire course of the fight, thirty percent was a considerable gap but its was only so big, needless to say the bow hero still retained just over half her overall strength.
With that being the case just maybe a change in strategy might have been in order since the fight head on wasn't going to win them the trio the fight.
As the trial guardian broke into a sprint in Audrey's direction she began running away whilst firing arrows at it and beginning an incantation in the process.
While the trial guardian slowly gained on Audrey she managed to complete her incantation and used her quick dash skill to avoid a claw swipe before holding her hand out whilst pieces of the ground broke off and formed a spike sharp projectile made of stone in front of her palm. "Fast earth shot!"
The earth based projectile flew forward at the trial guardian and hit it square in its' side. This time the beast let out a brief wail of pain and seemed like it flinched this time before turning toward Audrey and letting out a growl whilst running at her at full speed.
While she wasn't sure how much damage her magic based attack did since it did not really leave any actual wound per say it did have more of an effect than her offensive skills did.
Now aware of this Audrey decided to repeat the same scenario all over again of having the trial guardian give chase to her while she readied a spell and used a quick dash to narrowly dodge a swipe from her opponent before launching a counter attack in the form of another fast earth shot spell.
This time the trial guardian used a sharp branch to block the attack before trying to skewer Audrey with a sharp branch which she promptly dodged. The trial guardian had a bit of intelligence so it made sense it wasn't going to fall for the same exact strategy twice but Audrey wanted to be sure so she wouldn't make a potentially fatal slip up do a miscalculation in assessing everything pertaining to the fight thus far.
Glancing at her party roster, she was glad to see Baxley's health going up and Bluebell's in a better state than before.
The trial guardian rather than immediately running after Audrey had decided to spawn more sharp branches trying to spear the bow hero through with any of them Audrey just used her natural speed to avoid them.
Meanwhile the trial guardian tried to close in on her before Baxley, now fully recovered, decided to try and intercept it only for the monster to take a quick swipe at him forcing him to block the attack with the flat part of his ax. Upon impact between the incoming claws and the head of the ax Baxley slid backward but remained standing through all of it.
Before the trial guardian could attack Baxley further a projectile made of stone impacted the beast's chest bringing its attention back towards Audrey. The Hyena would have ran after the trial guardian but he found a new set of vines growing on his legs keeping him from giving chase.
Baxley snarled in frustration before glancing towards Bluebell who was running after the monster from behind trying to get to it before it could reach Audrey only to be stopped when a sharp branch grew out of the ground in front of her forcing her to stop her run as to not inadvertently impale herself on it. Almost immediately vines began growing around her legs.
Turning back to the vines around his own legs he growled while raising his axe to cut the vines off. "How many of these things are going to keep growing out of the ground?" He demanded no one in particular.
While that was happening the trial guardian resumed its' attempt to take out Audrey who simply used her quick dash ability to instantaneously retreat to the treeline before leaping up into one of the trees to start an incantation under her breath.
All the while the trial guardian ran closer to her position before stopping and slightly crouching meaning one thing.
As the target leaped into the air and towards the branch of the tree Audrey currently occupied whilst the bow hero had cast a magic spell towards the ground.
As the trial guardian's leap brought it closer to Audrey's position she took aim and fired a thunder arrow towards the creature. Since it couldn't dodge due to being in midair the trial guardian opted to block the attack with its arms.
As expected the skill did very little damage but it didn't matter, the thunder arrow did its job as it stopped the trial guardian's air momentum and the creature fell back down to the ground and more so towards the spot where Audrey had cast her previous spell.
The trial guardian might have been somewhat prepared for the oncoming skill it was forced to block but it wasn't the least bit prepared for the wind trap it landed on before the trial guardian found itself launched back into the air becoming disoriented in the process leaving it vulnerable to Audrey's next attack which came in the form of a frost arrow that she shot dead center into the trial guardian's chest which in turn created a thick layer of ice over its entire body leaving the target completely immobilized for the moment as it fell back down to the ground.
Knowing full well that the thing would break out very soon Audrey wasted no time in leaping out of the tree and towards her two teammates who had both freed themselves and looked like they were about to run in to attack it. "Wait!"
Both of Audrey's companions gave her confused looks so she wasted no time in starting her explanation. "We're not going to come out of this on top if we try to simply fight this thing head on."
"What do you suggest we do?" Bluebell asked.
Cracks started to appear throughout the ice layer encasing the trial guardian causing Audrey's eyes to narrow and take aim. "Chain arrow."
Her skill added a layer of chain around the icy prison holding the trial guardian hopefully reinforcing the thing for the time being, while it was a given the trial guardian would still break free Audrey needed the thing to stay down long enough for her to explain her plan to her two companions.
"I'll keep this as short as I can, basically normal attacks are too easily parried, my skills the few times they do hit do way too little damage so we need to switch tactics."
"Okay what do you want us to do?" Baxley asked.
"Fight using magic, it's not doing any huge amount of damage but its having a better effect than any of my skills are."
Bluebell wanted to protest since her affinities ran the risk of setting the entire grove on fire but realized Audrey was somewhat risking it herself with the use of her thunder arrow and knowing her, Audrey was fully aware of it, the reason wasn't hard to deduce in fact it was rather straightforward since with everything that had happened up to that point including Bluebell's very own near death experience via being grounded to death by a cocoon of vines made it apparent the party was very outmatched and as such they needed a plan or they were going to die sooner or later. "Alright, magic it is then."
More cracks appear throughout the ice layer holding the trial guardian. "I only have support magic, so I can't use it to fight directly." Baxley said
"That's fine in fact both of your spells might just make all the difference in whether or not this idea works." Audrey said before Baxley began his incantation for fast guard.
Audrey found herself eagerly waiting for the fast guard spell to be cast on her and give her a raise in her defense all the while begin an incantation of her own. Once Baxley had finished his incantation he held his hand in the air. "Fast guard."
Audrey felt the pain through her pain that she had been blocking out for the sake of fighting off the trial guardian lessen a bit. It was not a big difference by any means, hell even the slightest movement sent a searing sensation through the gashes on her abdomen. While Baxley readied his other support spell Audrey decided to do a little research into the possibility of an elemental weakness.
While she didn't like the idea of banking everything on something that might not even exist and even if it did there wasn't any guarantee that either Audrey or Bluebell could take advantage of it the fact remained that she and the others needed any advantage they could get just to have hope of simply surviving this.
In that moment the trial guardian finally broke loose from its prison, breaking the ice and chains that were previously holding it before getting to its feet and breaking into a full run after the group.
"Just focus on chanting!" Immediately after giving out that order Audrey thrusted her hand out. "Fast tornado."
A long twister manifested from her palm and hit the trial guardian head on stopping it in its tracks and even pushing it back a bit while also earning a wail of pain. 'Looks like wind is the most effective element between my affinities.' Audrey thought before following up with a rain arrow attack forcing the trial guardian to dodge and delaying it from going on the offensive for a few more moments.
A new sharp branch grew out of the ground in front of Audrey forcing her to dodge via jumping back before a set of vines began to grow around her legs, all the while Bluebell and Baxley were also forced to evade to more sharp branches aimed at them before the former held out the palm of her primary hand (her rapiar had been seethed since the change in strategy) towards the now approaching beast whilst Audrey Shot a thunder arrow at the trial guardian which is was forced to dodge.
A stream of lighting erupted from Bluebell's hand and shot towards the direction the trial guardian was dodging to in order to avoid Audrey's attack leaving the creature with no way to dodge the incoming magic which it took the full brunt of.
Bluebell's magic however didn't appear to do too much, it was somewhat more effect than Audrey's thunder arrow skill but not by a alarge degree. The adventurer turned hero companion could only cringe at the results, she might had gotten a hit off but she would need it to do more damage than it had just done less she runs out of mp long before making any real progress against this thing
"Magic up!" Baxley yelled out before running to help cut Audrey loose who in the meantime had made a new earth wall at the midway point between the party of the trial guardian from its current position.
"Try using your fire element, it might do more damage, and yes I'm fully aware of the obvious risk.".
Had Bluebell actually had the time and the situation was less grimm she might have thought of arguing against the idea but with the situation being what it was she wasted no time in readying her next spell.
Just as Baxley had finished cutting Audrey loose the Trial guardian came from around the left side of the earth wall. Since her rain arrow skill was still in its recharge state before she could use it again she decided to use her other attack to covered a moderately sized area. "Poisen mist."
Releasing another arrow in the trial guardian's general direction the bow hero watched as the party's target utilzes a sharp brnach in front of itself to use as a makeshift shield against the incoming attack. The branch stopped the arrow's flight but it ultimately proved to be irrelevant once the arrow combusted into a purple mist the covered the immediate area around thw trial guardian which immediately leapt away.
"Wait, let me make an opening for you." Aidrey said just before Bluebell could let her next spell loose.
The trial guardian meanwhile had tried to come around from the other side of the earth wall whilst Audrey used her quick dash to actually close in on the creature rather then increase the distance this time momentarily baffling her teammates until she took the following action and shot a chain arrow directly at the trial guardian leaving it no chance to dodge due to how close she had gotten to it with her previous quick dash.
The moment numerous chains manifest around the trial guardian rendering the beast momentarily immobile Audrey yelled out "Now!" To Bluebell who wasted no time in holding out her palm towards the trial guardian. "Fast fireball."
A turrent of flame flew toward the trail guardian engulfing it and earning a much louder howl of pain than any previous time it had taken anytjing that could even be considered actual damage.
Audrey smiled at the result, in terms of efficiency it was pretty much a given that fire was a winner out of all the elements that the party had access two. On top of having Baxley's magic up spell boosting it Bluebell's fire magic was going to be the key to winning.
And just as it seemed that the tables were turning thanks to the elemental weakness to fire Audrey was hit with an unwelcome surprise.
Releasing first of the two tier restrictions
What followed next only made things take a bad turn when the still flaming trial guardian zipped forward at greater speeds then it ever had until now and was on Bluebell before she could even completely process what was happening.
A single kick of the trial guardians hoof was all it took to send the sky blue haired swordmaiden all the to the treeline before her body hit one of the trees with enough force to break through it and hit the next in her body's path.
Bluebell hp bar instantly dropped by a considerable amount but neither of the remaining party member were given time to worry since a single vine much thicker than any of the other ones before it grew out of the ground a couple meters from where Baxley was standing and whipped around in a collision course for him at such a speed the Baxley couldn't dodge nor block the attack.
Upon impact with his abdomen the hyena felt the air leaving his lungs and a few ribs crack as he was sent sailing past the treeline.
As the thing turned its attention to Audrey the bow hero tried to take aim at the beast but a mew sharp branch came out of the ground in front of her and extended at much faster speed than any before it.
It was only because of her speed Audrey and able to avoid being stabbed straight through her thigh, regrettably however the branch did end up ripping a deep gash in the side of her thigh and to make matters worse another single vine and since then grew out of the ground and whipped its body towards the bow hero.
Once the plant whip hit it Audrey felt was if someone had just taken a sledgehammer to her as she sent flying through the aor completely disoriented until her body impacted a tree.
The trial guardian wasn't about to give Audrey time to recover as it closed in on her at speeds that almost made it a blur in Audrey's eyes.
Forcing herself to block out the protest from her body Audrey somehow manged to get to her feet in time to use a quick dash to avoid a claw swipe that litterally shredded the trunk of the tree she was previously sitting against.
Before Audrey could do anything further the trial guardian had already closed in on her sending a kick into her side knocking her all the way back into the middle of the clearing.
As the bow hero laid sprawled in the dirt the trial guardian held out in hand before two sharp branches came from the ground beneath both of Audrey's thighs before stabbing through the back of them and coming the front effectively impaling them and earning a scream of pain from the other worlder.
By some miracle Audrey managed to retain just enough focus to pivot her body to the side just enough to avoid a third sharp branch that would have other wise impaled her straight through her spinal cord and killed her on the spot though it did leave Audrey in an uncomfortable position since both of her thighs still had branch going straight through them which hurt like hell and having her upper body now forced on its side due to her back pressing against the body of the third sharp branch she had just narrowly avoided death by wasn't help matters.
The trial guardian was clearly determined to make the kill as it wasted no time in closing the distance between itself and the bow hero.
"Fire bullet!" A multitude of fireballs flew in the direction of the trial guardian which was hit by a few causing it to cry out in pain before evading the rest.
Bluebell quickly ran over to Audrey's side with a look of near panic on her face. "Hold on Audrey, it's going to be okay!"
The bow hero could only groan thanks to the amount of pain she was in before taking a few breaths in order to speak with her teammate.
However as she was about to begin the trial guardian was already closing in before a crescent stream of flame flew in its path forcing it to stop in its tracks.
Audrey was baffled by what had just happened. Where had that flame come from? It couldn't have been from Bluebell since she had just finished casting that fire bullet spell mere moments ago and she was standing next to where the bow hero laid, meaning she would have seen it if the flame had come from her teammate.
Looking in the direction the attack had come from, Audrey saw Baxley now holding the sword that Berg had tried to use against the bow hero during their fight in his secondary hand.
If not for the intensive pain and the severity of the party's situation Audrey would have more than likely would have facepalm and inwardly chastised herself for not thinking to have one of her teammates use that sword after seeing how effective fire was against the trial guardian.
Speaking of the trial guardian it suddenly created a white transparent dome around itself which within the span of a few mere moments grew in size until it encompassed the clearing and continued to expand even further.
Audrey and the others were confused by what just happened, whatever the trial guardian had just done it could not have been an attack, it didn't do any damage. Maybe a biff of some kind? Audrey really hoped not things were already bad enough, a debuff for her and her party, she didn't want to believe that but she needed to be sure that wasn't the case pulling up her hub she saw that everyone's stats were unchanged leaving her confused.
Baxley decide to send another crescent flame projectile at the trial guardian which dodged before retaliating via bringing out another single large vine that whipped towards Baxley who simply opted the meet the attack with yet another conjured flame which cut cleanly through the incoming vine before dissipating in midair.
Odd for the flame to go out that quickly but at least it meant the grove wasn't set ablaze. Baxley meanwhile glanced in Bluebell's direction signalling her with his eyes.
Bluebell meanwhile redrew her rapier and used it to cut through the top halves of both branches going through Audrey's legs. Upon seeing Audrey took a deep breath and let out pained grunts as she pulled both legs loose and sat against the remaining branch.
While the good news was that Audrey was no longer pinned in place the bad news was that her thighs were bleeding profusely from the new holes going through them. Seeing the state she was in Bluebell felt her sense of worry go through the roof. "Audrey, you need to take a health potion for yourself."
Rather than replying or complying Audrey glanced towards Baxley in time to see him attempt to utilize the flame power Berg's sword possess only for the flame to dissipate mere inches from the blade before Baxley was forced to cleave a new sharp branch im halftheat was aimed for him.
Audrey could only stare in disbelief, why did the sword's ability stop working? Did it run out of whatever was fueling its' power? Somehow Audrey highly doubted that was thr case the way the sword's ability stopped working felt too sudden if anything it might been more viable to say that something was tampering with it.
Wait was that what that white dome covering the grove the trial guardian had made did.
"Fast fireball!" Bluebell called out creating a torrent of flame that went out before it got very far.
That only served to validate Audrey's fears; meanwhile the trial guardian took the chance to close in on Baxley before the bow hero took aim at the space in between and launched a frost arrow which interpreted the trial guardian mid dash hitting it in the side and freezing half of its body.
The creature stopped in its track whilst Audrey yelled out while pulling her hud up at the same time to confirm what she suspected. "Both of you need to get out of here now!"
Bluebell gave Audrey a look of disbelief Whilst the bow hero cast an earth hope beneath the still half frozen creature allowing it to fall inside. "That thing nullified all fire based attacks."
Her hud confirmed it showing new information.
Inside elemental suppression domain, fire efficiency reduced to 0%
"We can't win this anymore." Audrey said. The fight was already pushing the party to its limits before and now that it got this increased prowess along with its only weakness removed this was a no win situation essentially. "You two need to get back to Herba and save yourselves!"
With both of her legs punctured through Audrey couldn't stand let alone walk or run and the trial guardian wasn't going to allow her the time to down a healing potion to heal her legs so she was done for no matter what, at the very least she could still save both of her friends, the people of this world that were important to her.
Sacrificing herself to save her friends was now the only option, normal attacks were useless, her skills did next to nothing in terms of damage, most magic did a bit better but not by enough, and the domain the trial guardian created stopped the only truly effective means of fighting it. Her curse series might be able to do some damage but she'd lose control of herself to rage and likely attack her companions.
The westerner summoned as the bow hero hoped both Bluebell amd Baxley would take the chance to retreat while the trial guardian was still breaking free however as the trial guardian leaped out of the hole now free of the ice Baxley ran forward toward the creature performing a jump attack reminiscent to a certain hero from an iconic game back in Audrey's own world.
Of course Baxley's attack was easily parried and he was pushed back but he remained standing defiantly with both weapons at the ready.
Meanwhile Bluebell ran forward firing off a fast lightning bpth spell with her primary hand whist planting herself firmly in the trial guardian's path as it ran towards her tanking her spell. Much to Audrey's shock her teammate managed to do what she would have thought to have been impossible and took a thrust of the trial guardian's claws on her shield stopping the creature dead in its track.
The claws had pierced through her shield and the ground beneath her feet caved in forming a crater beneath and her gritted teeth made it obvious that the effort of her task was putting a huge strain on her but Bluebell stood firm having completed stopping the creature's charge nonetheless and rendering it and its extending limb immobile.
Meanwhile Baxley ran at the side of the trial guardian with its claws stuck within Bluebell's shield leaving said side vulnerable with a thrust of the sword the hyena demi human stabbed the beast through its leg and then followed up with a horizontal swing of his ax through the trial guardian's side leaving it with a gash.
The trial howled in pain whilst Bluebell decided to redraw her repair was make another wound in the leg that Baxley had just stabbed giving it a second puncture wound before pulling back towards the now hero's position leaving her shield behind in the process whilst Baxley also pulled back.
Audrey could only stare in disbelief at what had just happened. Where in the world did this second wind her companions were showing come from, cliche determination, plot armor? Some act of god? Whatever the case Audrey couldn't really complain (not that she really wanted to) since this might have helped tip the odds somewhat more in their favor now that the trial guardian had sustained injuries of its own.
Still the risk of both Bluebell and Baxley losing their lives needlessly. "You guys need to get out of here while you have the chance." Audrey said desperately only to seemingly be ignored causing the bow hero to grit her teeth in frustration.
"Please I don't want either of you to die because of my screw up so please live!" Audrey wasn't going to deny it, she already suspected that this mission was a set up even before Berg showed up, and afterwards it became all but a given that this was indeed just that, a set up. Considering how ridiculous the Trial guardian's prowess was it was safe to say that the guild master was going to at least succeed in having Audrey herself killed but even so she didn't want her teammates-no her friends to die with her.
Having met them helped show her that this world wasn't completely irredeemable as she almost led to believe when seeing the wrongs of the crown and subsequently many of the world's people. They needed to live even if she didn't make it.
"Like the hell we'll abandon you!" Baxley all but roared out whilst keeping his gaze fixed on the trial guardian which tried to use another thick vine to whack Baxley away only for to hold his weapons in an x formation and cutting through the vine once it came close enough.
The trial guardian then let out an enraged roar before breaking into a running however thanks to the damage both of Audrey's companions had done to one of its legs moments ago the creatures speed was reduced considerable to the point the Baxley was able to react much more easily than before and duck under a claw swipe before thrusting the pilfered sword forward only for the trial guardian to use its other set of claw to knock the weapon cleanly from his hand.
However Baxley already had into axe at the ready but rather than swing it at any part of the trial guardian's main body he opted to swing his primary weapon towards the first set of claws which the creature was bringing back around. Much to the bow hero's surprise instead of clashing his ax head with the incoming claws he angled the blade to cut into the trial guardian's palm earning another howl of pain.
Unfortunately the trial guardian quickly countered with a kick that sent Baxley sliding across the dirt clearing.
"Fast lighting bolt." Bluebell let a new stream of lighting loose after the trial guardian which leaped to the side in order to avoid the magic attack. "I'm with Baxley on this one."
"But you could die here!"
"So what? That's always been a possibility from the moment we became members of your party and joined you on your journey to fight the waves. If we just turn tail the moment we're faced with hardship then we wouldn't have any right to be here with you to begin with."
Audrey was left stunned momentarily before she saw the trial guardian heading their way once more before it was intercepted by Baxley who performed another jump attack forcing the trial guardian to block the attack with its claws.
"That's what it means to be a comrade of one of the heroes- no, actually of anyone, true comrades go through and support each other through any endeavor not just when it suits them best."
The trial guardian pushed Baxley away before pursuing him and bringing its claws down in a wide arc only for the demi human to somersault out of the way. "That's way neither me nor Baxley are going anywhere without you." Even if Audrey had instructed her and Baxley to leave if it looked like things were taking a grim turn, that was one instruction that Bluebell and the latter could never follow.
Audrey wasn't just one of the four heroes or some idol to Bluebell like she may have been to many others, she was Bluebell's friend and Baxley's savior, even if it meant putting their own lives in excessive danger or losing an entire limb there was no way in hell Bluebell nor Baxley for that matter were ever leaving Audrey to die.
As Baxley got his feet the trial guardian was upon ready to shred him to pieces with its claws before it was impeded and numerous raining arrow falling down around Baxley keeping the creature from reaching him.
Seeing this Bluebell turned back to Audrey had was still sitting against that branch that had nearly been the death of her with her bow pointed skyward and her head tilted downwards causing her eyes to be obscured by her bangs.
By some miracle Audrey suddenly started slowly getting back to her feet by sheer force of will in spite of the puncture wounds in both of her things that went straight through. "Bluebell, Baxley….thank you." With that Audrey took out an hp potion and wolfed the contents down as fast as she could her hp bar climbed back up a bit but not all the all and while the pain from her wounds was eased to a degree it was still very much there along with the wounds themselves.
After hearing Bluebell's words Audrey felt her resolve to see this through to the end harden, this fucking dear thing…whatever the hell it was suppose to be was not going to do her or her party members in, weather they had to find another weakness or play the long (likely VERY long) game chipping away at this creatures hp bit by bit Audrey and her friends were going to make it through this.
The guildmaster was not going to be the (indirect) death of any of the trio today, they still had future waves to contend with and other people to save so no matter what it took the bow hero's party was not about to be defeated here.
"It's good to see that your group holds some promise, even if your over all performance against this creature could use more than of improvement." A new but familiar voice said.
What followed afterwards was the arrows protecting Baxley running out seemingly clearing the way for the trial guardian to attack him only for a new impediment to rear its face what a multitude of black tendrils grew out of the ground around the beast and wrapped themselves around its limbs and body immobilizing the trial guardian completely and causing it to roar out in rahe while the trio all turned to the source of the voice and saw Nera. "I hope you won't be so foolish as to deny my help, you're just barely holding out as things stand."
"Trust me, we're more than happy to accept the help after all this thing has put us through." Audrey replied.
Nera jist shrugged. "Then let's finish this being off for good."
Audrey nor her teammates needed to be told twice, with Nera here they now had a better chance at actually taking this monstrosity down."
And that is for this chapter I originally was going make this fight scene in only one chapter but after the chapter started getting closer to the 10k mark I decided the second part could make its own chapter.
Yeah the trial guardian is really putting the party through the ringer but I didn't hint and foreshadow that this was not going to be an easy fight, especially after Uadrey amd her party were able to all but breeze through the mercs that invaded.
I also wanted this arc as a way to show more of Audrey's character more so that her supportive and protective nature isn't just exclusive to Naofumi (otherwise she'd come as nothing more then a shield fan girl) she cares for her friends to if how she used her curse series in response to Baxley almost being captured or how she tried to sacrifice herself in order to ensure they lived. Hopefully this chapter and arc overall did a decent job of showing that.
Anyway I'll get the second part of this fight out asap. Until next time in second of the two tiers