Chapter 13:

Chapter 4.1, Irene

Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team

Irene’s house looked normal to her. It was a two-storey building, located twenty minutes travel from the Moon Village by foot. Normal was the word she would describe judging from the front. Bookmark here

When they entered, Irene announced their arrival. Bookmark here

“I’m home!”Bookmark here

There was no response.Bookmark here

“Guess they were on another quest.”Bookmark here

“Your family always collaborated with my parents, anyway. They weren’t many adventurers out there that can do what our family does,” said Aiden, who took off his shoes by the entrance.Bookmark here

The house gave a homely feel to her. She could smell the fresh air wafted around the house, probably due to the potted plants placed hanged at certain areas of the house. Bookmark here

She looked around, getting to know the layout of the residence. Bookmark here

The living room was on the left, kitchen and dining room on the right, along the walls of the hallway probably lead to their bedrooms. But across the long hallway was a distinct looking door, where there was another set of shoe rack next to it. Bookmark here

“Irene, where is that door leads us?” asked Alice, pointing the door in question.Bookmark here

The corner of her mouth upturned slightly, “That would be our archery range.”Bookmark here

“You mean… your backyard is an archery range?” Bookmark here

It made sense for an archer adventurer to have an archery range but not at the backyard. Archers usually have their own range in another house.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” she answered her in a casual tone. Bookmark here

After giving her an answer, she went ahead to the door, where Alice had pointed out earlier, with Alice and Aiden in tow. Aiden was used to her personalities, he knew what was going to happen when they entered the field. Bookmark here

The preparation room had a large variety of bows were displayed on the weapon racks on the right side of the room, while the left was a huge stack of labelled crates, storing different kinds of arrows.Bookmark here

As Alice browsed through the weaponry, Irene walked towards one of the bows. She felt the familiar sensation running course to her limbs when she grabbed it. It reminded her of the time when her parents first taught her how to wield a bow. Bookmark here

It was a custom-made bow, too, designed for beginners. Bookmark here

Irene shook her head to bring her attention back to reality. She nocked the bow with one fluid motion, testing the string quality. The tension was still a good condition. It would be able to provide maximum distance the archery range could offer. Bookmark here

“Alice, could you grab ten iron arrows from that chest over there?” She asked, pointing toward the corner of the room.Bookmark here

“Sure.” When she opened the specific crate, she was petrified. Bookmark here

It wasn’t because of some sort of magic that had activated on her. Bookmark here

The crate was filled to the brim with iron arrows that were properly stacked among each other. The iron arrowheads were polished to a point that you could use it as a mirror. Even the shafts were smooth, and you couldn’t feel any sort of friction from them. Bookmark here

Are we in a weapon dealer’s house?!Bookmark here

After grabbing the necessary equipment for her training, they moved on to the next room. It was the archery range Irene had mentioned; it was designed to be able to transition between indoor and outdoor conditions. Bookmark here

This time, the theme of this range was outdoors. There was a huge number of targets placed randomly on the field from ten metres to five hundred metres from their allowed firing positions.Bookmark here

“All right, Alice. I want you to fire an arrow at that target. But do take note of the wind around here. Sometimes their speed and direction shift and they will reduce your chance of success.Bookmark here

“Understood.”Bookmark here

Compared to normal arrows, magic arrows were not affected by wind speed and gravity. However, their firepower was not on par as normal arrows. In terms of speed, normal arrows reign supreme. It took keen concentration and time from spellcasters to create their magic arrows, even in the middle of the battle.Bookmark here

Alice nocked her bow and took aim at her target. She then focused her surrounding winds. When she was about to fire, her bow suddenly shook, and she gave in, causing her arrow to fly by her target.Bookmark here

“You’re not supposed to hold it like that. Use your index finger and a thumb to cup around the handle. As you nocked your bow, the bow will be pulled toward you and your left hand acted as a pivot to stabilize it. Try again.”Bookmark here

Alice nodded and nocked her bow again. This time, her left arm felt firm and stable when using Irene’s technique. She took a deep breath and release. Her arrow flew and struck at her designated target.Bookmark here

Irene folded her arms and nodded. Bookmark here

“Great. Do that eight more times, before we move on to the next stage.”Bookmark here

“Next stage?” she repeated, tilting her head to the side in confusion.Bookmark here

“Your next target is one hundred metres away from here, then three hundred metres and lastly, five hundred metres mark.”Bookmark here

She nearly dropped her bow. “You can’t be serious.”Bookmark here

“She’s serious. Believe it or not, she trains here every day in any combination of weather and climate she can get,” added Aiden, who was sitting and leaning against the wall.Bookmark here

“You will get the hang of it. Although it will take some time.”Bookmark here

Alice just wanted to try archery for fun, but Irene seemed to be misunderstood by her request.Bookmark here

“What did I miss?”Bookmark here

They turned their attention towards the door leading back to the preparation room. The first question they thought was “How did he get here?” Irene had made sure every entrance was locked after they entered her home. Bookmark here

“How did you find me here?” The first person who asked that question was Alice.Bookmark here

“I thought you might be heading somewhere with them after I left, so I asked for the village chief’s help me to locate you with her spirit.” He looked at Irene, expecting an answer from her.Bookmark here

“Basic archery training.”Bookmark here

This is a basic archery training?! thought Alice, giving a wryly smile at that response. Bookmark here

Sensing a dilemma coming from her, Jayce had an idea. Bookmark here

“Okay. But I have a suggestion: Shall we have a team battle?”Bookmark here

“Okay. But what kind of team battle?” asked Irene, who seemed to be interested in this suggestion.Bookmark here

Before he answered her question, he needed to know something. Bookmark here

“Got any open area like a forest?”Bookmark here

“We do. The door over there leads us to it.”Bookmark here

“I don’t have a choice, do I?” sighed Aiden, laid-back to the wall close to the entrance of the field in question.Bookmark here

Alice understood what he had meant: he just got out of the bandit camp after being kept as a prisoner and looking for a time to take a proper rest just like how she and Jayce were eager to do so, but they still had to produce a report of their recent quest to the village chief of the Moon village. Bookmark here

She had to wonder, why, all the sudden, that Jayce would propose a friendly match of team battle? Without a word from her, Irene guided them to her training field. Bookmark here

The team battle-winning condition was the same as any other friendly battle: If every member of your opposing team unable to develop any mana shields any further, you win. Alice and Jayce were given five minutes head start to pick any position in the field, while Aiden and Irene will wait at the door they came from. Bookmark here

Of course, Irene will not peek where they were heading. As for Aiden, well, he did his best not to listen to their footsteps by reducing his hearing range.Bookmark here

When the time was up, Irene immediately climbed up to the nearest tree she could find and searched for them. Aiden stood below the tree where Irene had climbed, waiting for her orders.Bookmark here

                                                           ____________________Bookmark here

They each stood behind a tree, staying still and listening to their surroundings for any presence of their opponents. They just reached two kilometres in the span of five minutes, thanks to their agility training.Bookmark here

One of them, a girl, gripped the bow that was lent by her opponent. She just managed to hit a practice target once, she wasn’t sure what to do with this bow when she had yet to reach a proper standard. Then she heard a voice from her partner telepathically.Bookmark here

Alice, can you hear me?”Bookmark here

The necklace he gave her during their expedition to the grimoire’s world allowed them to communicate with each other with their minds. Instead of nodding, she responded back to him through the necklace’s communication rune with a yes.Bookmark here

Good. Make full use of your enchantments. We already knew they have acute eyesight and hearing as passive skills. These enchantments may not be able to fool them completely but at the reasonable extent.”Bookmark here

ThudBookmark here

They looked at the arrow that pierced to the ground between them then they exchanged glances.Bookmark here

Did they find us?Bookmark here

Unlikely. We circled around to get here just in case Aiden doesn’t listen to our footsteps, unless…Bookmark here

Unless?Bookmark here

Move!Bookmark here

Before she realized, Jayce dashed towards her and pulled her when his left hand grabbed her arm and unsheathed his blade with his right hand, blocking an oncoming blade that aimed for her neck. His left hand wrapped around her shoulder and held her firmly to keep her from falling. Bookmark here

“Didn’t expect you to be here so soon,” said Jayce, his eyes scanned his stance and equipment. Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Irene’s ability to interact with her spirit,” replied Aiden, distancing himself away after failing his ambush.Bookmark here

Alice, I will take care of Aiden. Focus on Irene.Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

He let go of her and threw a knife at Aiden. Bookmark here

Aiden deflected it with his blade gauntlet. Bookmark here

But then Jayce immediately closed the distance between them and kicked him square in the chest so that he could bring the fight somewhere else. Their presences gradually faded into the forest, but Alice could hear an occasional sound of blades clashing. Bookmark here

Fortunately, Jayce positioned her behind cover where Irene’s direction, judging from the arrow. But she knew she shouldn’t stay here for long. She activated her stealth enchantments and headed towards the opposite direction of Jayce’s. Bookmark here

I had to make full use of the foliages when I move. Jayce is counting on me to take her out.Bookmark here

“You’re pretty good. You made use of the forest to your advantage.”Bookmark here

“!” Bookmark here

She looked around her surroundings, she couldn’t locate where the voice was coming from. At least she knew the voice belonged to Irene, but…Bookmark here

“There’s no point to search for me. I’m sure you know full well of my abilities to interact with spirits.”Bookmark here

“So that means your spirit is you?” asked Alice, assuming a defensive stance to dodge any potential trajectory coming at her. Bookmark here

“That’s right. Enough talk, let’s begin.” Bookmark here

As soon she ended the conversation, three arrows flew towards her from her right. Bookmark here

She turned to her side and raised her staff to begin her incantation for a spell. Bookmark here

“Barrier!” Bookmark here

A solid translucent block formed thirty centimetres in front of her, blocking the oncoming arrows. But she was soon hit from the back, she felt the slight pain surging from her back and her mana was then replenish the mana shield with her magic gloves. Bookmark here

Even with the mana gloves’ ability to cancel out fatal blows that would kill them, the users were still able to feel pain from their attacks, but only a fraction of it.Bookmark here

With the timing interval between her shots, that means she is closed by, but where? Her mind began racing. She had to think of a solution as soon as she can before getting herself defeated by Irene. Bookmark here

She sprinted away from Jayce, hoping to reduce the chance of Irene able to help Aiden. Arrows came raining down from left and right. Bookmark here

Questions began to appear in the back of her mind: how was she able to shoot those arrows in such a short interval of time?Bookmark here

As she contemplates, an arrow managed to score a hit to her right leg, causing her to tumble, but she regained her balance and continued racing forward. She couldn’t lose without a fight. Even though this was just a friendly battle, what she interested was finding solutions for situations she had never encountered before.Bookmark here

“You are surprisingly resilient for a magician. I thought you will go down after two hits.” Bookmark here

Her voice sounded distant but close at the same time, Alice increased her awareness of her surroundings. She could be close but she can’t be sure about it. Bookmark here

“After witnessing your actions last night, I thought you would be able to locate me by now.“Bookmark here

That was when Alice remembered her of how she had saved Jayce from the bandit leader’s decisive blow. Without a moment to waste, she clenched her right hand and imbued her mana to her magic glove. She concentrated on the properties of the arrow she attempted to manifest. Bookmark here

Once the magic arrow formed in her hand, she slammed it on to the ground, sending clouds of dust and dirt up in the air. Bookmark here

Irene, perhaps Irene’s spirit, distanced itself away from the blast. It waited for the dust to subside, but Alice is nowhere to be seen. Bookmark here

It quickly searched around the vicinity, tracing for any minor movement that might give her a hint of Alice’s location. A slight movement of leaves was seen ahead. Bookmark here

With that, Irene shot her arrow at that location. Instead of getting reflected by the mana shield from her magic gloves, she was responded with another explosion. Bookmark here

“?” Bookmark here

She raised an eyebrow in question. Alice was a magician, but surely she could have seen any presence of magic circles if she cast explosion magic. That was when she realized the object in her hand. Bookmark here

This is going to be interesting, she thought to herself. Bookmark here

The situation between them became an archery battle. Bookmark here

                                                           ____________________Bookmark here

She managed to distance herself from Irene, thanks to the customized magic gloves Jayce had made for her. The first explosion chipped a critical amount of her mana shield, while the second explosion was used to mask her movement further to gain more distance. Bookmark here

She needed to think of a way to compensate for her archery skill. Bookmark here

Irene would have shot her down before the spells were completed. She knew she didn’t have much time to think after knowing the extent of Irene’s spirit to search their target. Bookmark here

She contemplated every weapon, armour, and runes she had on her. Her staff might not be suitable to go against Irene in terms of speed; her armour can reduce the impact from oncoming projectiles in a reasonable margin; her stealth runes could bypass Irene’s field of vision but not her spirit. Bookmark here

The only conclusion she had, for now, was to find the real Irene and engaged her in close-quarters combat. Bookmark here

The main issue at the moment was how will she be able to locate her. She could have been anywhere in this forest. That was where Alice realized something important. She brought her attention to her magic gloves. Bookmark here

Can I create it? Bookmark here

She shook her head, removing any hesitation she held to herself. There wasn’t any other option she could think of, so she began the procedure. Bookmark here

The magic arrow she attempted to manifest was difficult. She had to get the properties right, a single presence of any element will render it useless.Bookmark here

Half complete, Alice placed the unfinished arrow back to her magic gloves and resumed moving to the next location as she heard a sound of rustling leaves behind her by thirty metres. Bookmark here

She kept her stealth enchantments active and thread carefully to another location.Bookmark here

Irene kept her calm in this situation, she knew she wouldn’t get any results if she did. She stood on the tallest tree she could find, looking for any sort of strange movements that might lead her to Alice. Bookmark here

But sadly, no result. Bookmark here

Has she already discover how I track her? Bookmark here

A few years ago, she discovered that she could perceive spirits. The elders had suggested her to become the next chief of the Moon Village. Bookmark here

However, she didn’t have the slightest interest at all. All she ever wanted was to be free from the village and travel throughout the world to hone her archery skills and create different types of bows. Bookmark here

After declining the elders’ suggestion, she tested out her new-found ability further. She tried to gather a few more spirits, but none of them wanted to approach her. However, her current spirit was the one who stayed beside her. Bookmark here

With that, their friendship was born and she named her spirit: Aria, due to its affinity with the wind and forest it possessed. There were times where she wondered why she was chosen. Bookmark here

Back to the task at hand, she began to have a suspicion that Alice was now tracking her while avoiding Aria. But there was no way to locate her position with their current distance. Aria was still searching around the forest from where they just had battled. Bookmark here

“Should I wait or track her myself? No. Aria wouldn’t want me to face Alice head-on.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.