Expedition in Soki's Hamlet Chapter 1
(Meeting the Monster)
Settled in a camp just before a village, everything looked snow-white, but instead of snow it was actually ash, but an ash purer than the most beautiful of pearls, so pure that it actually looked like snow. The temperature was a little scorching and the ash was very good at spreading the summer heat and reflecting the gorgeous light. It even slightly reminded me of Gate to Desert Beach...minus the water which was instead replaced by lava. The trip here was nothing worth mentioning, a few weird aggressive insects which got accustomed to the harsh environment were our only distraction, and the 'best thing' that had happened was our archaeologist sniffing some volcanic ore and working us to death to excavate it, with the promise that we'll get a share later. My colleagues were 2 shamans, an archaeologist, an engineer, and a teacher. Yes, a teacher! And ironically he was the sturdiest out of all of us, even sturdier than myself, a fighter. And myself and my colleagues weren't the only ones to think it was extremely weird for him to want to join us at the Megalopolis Guild Office.
The settlers beside us were giving us curious looks because of him, and we could almost guess why: 'what in the world would a teacher be doing here?!'. He was wearing a suit, sunglasses, a small golden pin which read "Phantom School" and had a pointer stick, giving out his profession, but he was also wearing a gentle smile that was telling us he was used to this kind of attention and would not care even if the entire Megalopolis stared at him. He was also very confident, thing which showed from his demeanor of slapping his open left palm slowly with his pointing stick while leading us with a casual walk, as if he was ready to turn any delinquent who shows in his way into a top student. The most important, with him in the lead we looked like a class on a school trip, so it was no wonder we would become a laughingstock, and it was impossible to take the leading spot because of his arrogance, which would let him be second to none!
Back in the day when we formed our team, the teacher was the last to join us and we had about appointed everyone to a role. The engineer could fix everything and he was also a marksman, just remembering the way he told me to toss 10 coins the size of my thumb nail in the air just for his bullets to bore perfect holes in the middle of them from 500 meters away makes me shiver in excitement. I made no mistake though, and did this from behind a tree in the field. His every shot scattered the wildlife which had not returned even half an hour after we stopped.
An archaeologist didn't even need to prove their worth to join our team, we actually would've begged one to join us if we hadn't been this lucky to have one voluntarily want to become partners. Venturing out is not even worth it without one of them, even the beginners are really sought-after, just to nurture them and have a guarantee that once they improve they won't have the trouble of seeking this important 'resource'. They can detect traps, lay traps, detect hidden objects underneath the earth, identify artifacts and valuables found during adventures, and can even fight from a distance! There are even archaeologists who specialize in fighting and can even shine brighter than battle-based professions. It is outrageous how many things one can do and how few of them there are.
The two shamans came as a pair, a must in any kind of situation due to their healing abilities, and apparently they were brothers and would not join us unless we accepted both of them, but they lacked nothing in terms of skill. Back in Megalopolis they had both conjured a warm breeze and lifted the three of us, myself, the engineer, and the archaeologist, all the way on the Megalopolis Guild Office. We were not aware of their devious plan, and after lifting us there they actually had us promise to invite both of them or else they would not get us down, and that's how we came to be. But still afterwards, they followed suit to the engineer and went to the field, decimating a part of the forest with a rain of magic arrows which had replaced the azure green with spring ocean blue for a good whole minute until the magic remnants had dissipated. During this 'disaster' they had accidentally wounded a Pochi which was hiding in between the trees but they healed it as if nothing had even happened. This instantly made us view them with admiration instead of the fury of being tricked.
When it was my turn to show off what I was made of I increased my heart rate and made it pump blood faster, releasing an imposing aura which actually made them take a step back unconsciously. My right arm was bulging with veins and after charging it behind myself while leaning forward for a second, I shot it forward towards two trees who were in line with a slight twist of my body to the opposite side, instantly sinking it inside of them all the way to my shoulder. I especially chose this place because the two trees were very close to each other, and just hurting a single tree wouldn't have been much, but two of them without losing momentum was actually rather impressive. The engineer even gave me a smile and a nod of approval, while the rest just raised their eyebrows and were a little startled because such damage was caused by a fist.
But when we returned we met this monster, which at the time seemed nothing more than a joke, and this joke actually showed us that we were the actual jokes. What qualifications could a teacher have to join a team of warriors who could die at any moment? And he actually had the guts to be the one to ask to join us, not to mention that his arrogance was second to none, later on giving birth to the nickname 'Kingaroo(gance)'.
Now make no mistake, before this we had never met a teacher, one must've been crazy to choose this profession, and word has it that everyone who did would be sheltered all the way in Phantom School teaching classes, influencing even more people not to choose this as their life-long aptitude, so even seeing one was pretty rare. We respected them for their sacrifice but this was not the place for them.
"Hey aren't you in the wrong place? School's all the way in Oops Wharf, friend, surely this is not your first time here, right?" said someone from our crowd, but as he stepped forward he seemed to have displeased this teacher in front of us, so much that his whole face contorted more and more the closer he got. His iron smell was akin to blood's, so to us it was nothing as we were most of the time covered by it ourselves, but the teacher's overreaction gave away the fact that he had never been in a battle.
The teacher measured the engineer from head to toes and replied with a chuckle "Yea, yea, the others told me the same thing but it just gets old, you know? How about I just show my friends here what I am capable of, then you can just decide for yourself if I can join or not." It was an attitude we had never seen before, speaking down to us 'peasants' from a place up high out of our reach.
Nevertheless, we were actually curious as to what this teacher could be so confident in that he would not even shoot a second glance at this oil-covered and iron-smelling master of metal in front of him, so we just replied with a nod which seemed to actually satisfy and surprise him, as if he was expecting another joke due to his profession. This favour from our behalf seemed to have actually made him consider being less moody to us and give us the least amount of respect. He must've tried to join dozens of teams before ours to have gained such a temper.
The teacher was slowly moving his gaze through my colleagues and stopped at me. We stared at each other for three seconds before he finally uttered the motive of his intense gaze in a polite tone, but it was still said in such a way like he was asking a student to step forward to the blackboard: "The fighter there, could you help this teacher for a second? Please come in front of me."
I just pointed at myself startled with raised eyebrows, and took two steps forward while the engineer stepped back without turning around. If he wanted to do a trivia, why would he choose me and my muscle-brain instead of the shamans, who were known to be very knowledgeable? But soon I realised that if he chose them first, it would actually lay the foundation for another joke which they were prepared for. And the teacher asking for me disappointed the two shamans as if they were ready to answer to "What is the capital of Caballa Island?".
The teacher lost no more time and said frankly while forming fists and resting them on his hips, bringing out his chest in a confident way: "Strike me with all you've got." ...There was no fear on his face nor hesitation. He clearly saw my veins still bulging on my arms from a little ago from when I had demolished two trees with my fist. I thought he was a madman.
Needless to say, all of us were really surprised and laughed out loud for the entire guild to hear, especially me. At the time I could do nothing more than laugh and step forward to pat his belly with my palm in a friendly and joking manner, but the instant my hand reached his belly my face dropped. He was wearing a shirt that was a little baggy, which made me ask out in shock: "Do you have armor underneath your clothes?".
My question seemed to disappoint my other colleagues whose laughter had now turned into a chuckle, like this guy in front of them was the most pitiful person they've ever seen. Did he really think he could slip away with such a trick? But his reaction shut all of us up. He laughed out the loudest yet, startling yet again the rest of the guild who now started giving us looks of annoyance. He didn't even reply and just unbuttoned his shirt to show us that he had no hidden equipment underneath. The moment he unbuttoned his last button, my eyebrows had formed a deep frown. I had definitely felt as if my palm had touched steel. He had clearly noticed my reaction, and at this point his face formed a smirk like a cat who stole cream and didn't get caught "Strike me with all you've got."
The others were staring at me as if I had betrayed them. " 'You hurt your hand earlier and lost your senses? Better ask the brothers to fix you up, what's up with your reaction?" remarked the archaeologist as she lost a little trust in me and was even a little worried about me. They looked bad because of my mistake and I was definitely upset because of it, so I decided to give this guy what he wants... But I can't say I wasn't worried, so I had to confirm it first "Are you sure? Like, no matter what happens it's not my fault, right?".
Instead of planting a seed of hesitation in his heart, my question actually seemed to have sprouted excitement from every part of his body. I was even wondering if he was a masochist at that point. "Yes, of course I'm sure, I've even said it myself two times, now don't hold back or you'll make yourself look bad." was his response... followed by a wink... This actually made me hold back in disgust rather than worry, definitely a masochist.
I took my stance with a foot behind myself and lowered my whole body, especially my still bulging-with-veins right arm in preparation for a strike, but I thought of using just enough power to knock a regular person out. The teacher still had the same position as if he wouldn't move until his wish was granted, which was to be hurt. I frowned and released a light to medium punch just under his ribcage to force the air out of his lungs, but the moment my fist met his flesh, it had instantly stopped. I did not stop it myself... but it was rather stopped by an external force, and it felt like that force was a huge boulder. My strike didn't even make him flinch, and he was still in his initial position. I felt like an ant trying to lift a castle, and the others did not pay it much mind, thinking that I was afraid of hurting him.
With my lowered body, my fist was still holding onto his stomach, and looking up at the teacher's face all I could see was a huge smile that had replaced the previous smirk. "Tsk tsk tsk.. I told you not to hold back, how much of your power was that?" each word was followed with a slow shake of his head as if he couldn't hide his disappointment. "Don't worry, nothing will happen. Strike with all your might." He made it seem like me worrying about him was a huge joke, it actually felt like he was worrying about me more that I was worrying about him. Once again I confirmed "Are you sure?"
At this point he was annoyed by my repeated question and an even louder 'tsk' was heard from above my head "How many times are you going to doubt this teacher here, when you've even seen it for yourself! You definitely can not hurt me not matter what!" His words definitely struck at my pride. "No going back on your words now." And as if he wouldn't allow my arrogance to surpass his he replied with the most sophisticated "Hmph!" I had ever heard in my entire life.
I took back the exact same stance but this time I waited for my heart rate to increase and pump blood faster "Now we're talking, took you long enough." This sentence only made me stare up at him with a raised eyebrow without even lifting my head. I had charged my punch so much that it was trembling and was pulsating with a red color, which startled my colleagues. "Are you trying to kill him?!" a shaman yelled in alarm. No one else said anything else as if this was everyone's thought. But to their surprise the teacher looked at them in an upset manner. I was at full power right now and was gritting my teeth due to holding this massive force inside my punch, and without notice I just sprung it with extreme speed, dropping my body weight to the ground along with my punch which was aiming for the center of his stomach.
Looking up at him with a smile on my face, I was expecting to see fear and horror but he actually... had an even bigger smile than myself and he still retained the same pose. The moment my punch landed on his stomach a huge shockwave resounded throughout the entire building, and the noise was that of an explosion while the wind was that of a tornado. I was looking ahead at the wall expecting to see him splattered or to even see a hole in the wall but to my shock I had only heard a small grunt which immediately made me look in that direction, where the teacher stood just a few feet away from his initial spot. This is a strike that was even stronger than the one which destroyed the two trees, yet he took it head on and was only left with a red mark imprint of my fingers and knuckles on his stomach.
Catching his breath, he eventually fell on one knee when I was standing up staring at him in shock and awe and in no less than five breaths he actually praised in a calm manner with a steady breath "Oh? Never before had someone made me kneel. You deserve my praise fighter, and to have such a strike without having any killing intent!" following which he stood up and smirked at me. I didn't even have to look behind me to know that my team's expressions were the same as mine, maybe even to a higher degree. My mouth had actually even opened without my notice and I could not even utter a word for a while. And at that time I didn't even know that defence was actually his secondary aptitude, while his first was something even more shocking.
Having already measured the engineer beforehand, he didn't even need to look a second time to call him out, but mostly, he did not in order to avoid his direction for his iron smell not to be too overwhelming, and in his shock, he was brought back to reality a long time after he had been called "The foul-smelling gentleman there, your gun looks powerful and quick. I would like to go against it, but let us step in the field, we've already caused quite the commotion here." While talking he was looking around to see shock, amazement, awe, fear, and all kinds of emotions on everyone's faces. 'Is this really a teacher?' everyone thought.
Usually such a commotion would result in the culprits being chased out of the Guild building, and such commotions were more frequent than one would think, but there may have been none to such a degree, so no one dared to step in. We had to comply to the teacher even if we didn't want to so higher-ups won't be alerted and interfere, since then we wouldn't get away with it so lightly.
Arriving at the field, the first thing the teacher did was lean his head back and breath in the fresh air with a smile brighter than the sun on his face. He now knew that we would follow him no matter where he went just to find out what he is capable of. We still hadn't recovered from our initial shock, but he still spoke the reason of bringing us here to the field. Previously he stated that he wanted to 'go against it' but we had no idea what he meant. He stood in front of the engineer barely holding back a disgusted face, and turned around and walked fifty feet. He once again stood around and yelled even though it wasn't necessary "Try shooting me! If a single bullet of yours can even scratch me..." He reached out in his pocket and took a small pouch, the little movements he did already made the entire field ring with the noise of riches and wealth. "You can have this!".
I felt scammed thinking of why I didn't get such a chance, and even pointed out my frustration. "Why does he get money and I didn't?". The engineer turned around and his look pointed daggers at me, thinking my question would make him stash away that pouch. I could clearly see droll on the corner of the engineer's mouth... but as soon as I wanted to take back my words, he teacher said in a normal voice, still smiling "This is different, previously you had my permission to touch me, now it's touching me without my permission so of course if anyone is capable of doing so he deserves this pouch" After saying so he threw the pouch a few times in the air and caught it with his palm. Afterwards he turned towards the engineer "You have fifty tries."
'FIFTY?!' Is he trying to get rid of his money? And he even said it himself, this engineer's gun is very powerful, what if something goes wrong, but as if to appease our worries, mostly ours since the engineer would actually kill him for that amount of galders, he continued " I'll let you shoot me once in the arm so you'll see there's nothing to worry about, and you can aim the bullets for my vitals." And after thinking for some while he added "But this doesn't count towards our little game." A glare towards the engineer contained an emotion stronger than any of his words. 'You can't hurt me.'
(Work in progress)