Chapter 76 — Half-Elven Ranger
They found only limited loot. The two split the spoils evenly, each netting around 30 Gold Derahls. It was a pretty small sum even with just the two of them, let alone if they’d been in a typical squad of five adventurers; each member would then only get 10 or so Gold Derahls. Monsters rarely gathered in large groups in the wild, thus finding even a small pack of gnolls by themselves without any intel beforehand would take half a day. Because of this, the EXP and profit gain of venturing into the wilderness could only allow adventurers to advance to Grade 4 at best. Those who were past that stage would travel to the Underdark or even the Abyss to further train themselves.
After the battle, Soran received a notification telling him that he had earned 1200 Slaughter EXP, with each gnoll averaging at around 200 EXP. It was understandable, considering that not many of them had advanced into gnoll warriors, and Soran only killed half of the dozen gnolls to begin with. Additionally, as the battle's difficulty level was low, Soran only gained 1 point in Sneak, probably from the initial strike in which he used Backstab while sneaking. Backstab required precision, because it would only activate when the strike hit a critical spot, making it difficult to use unless the user was hiding and could aim precisely.
There was a saying: 'Only use seventy percent of your strength in your punches.' The philosophy behind it was to prevent over-committing to the strike so that a person could retract his arm after landing a hit. However, if striking through utilizing one's waist and legs was considered using one hundred percent strength, then abilities such as Backstab and Sword Form—Heavy Hack would be using a hundred and twenty percent strength, bringing out the full strength of the entire body. As such, most users would take in a deep breath to increase their body’s oxygen content to fuel the skills.
High-grade close-quarters combatants all had special skills. The skills may not belong exclusively to their professions, but not everyone could learn them either. There were plenty of skills that belonged to this category. One example was meditation. Before the monk profession gained popularity, training through meditating was almost non-existent. However, currently, even warriors would undergo meditation to bring out their full potential. Some people from Earth also had similar abilities: despite being physically asleep, their minds remained awake, and their senses were heightened up to tens of times.
Those with high-grade professions would undergo harsh training in order to forcefully awaken to these special abilities. As ascetic monks took this to the extreme, they were the strongest amongst all monks.
When in certain states, such as being extremely relaxed and tranquil, a human’s reflex time could reach the degree of a few milliseconds within the game world. High-grade close-quarters combatants could even dodge bullets, and sword saints and monks were even more proficient in evasion than most. Soran once saw a few sword saints training together, and they all had extraordinary innate reflexes from their profession. Legendary sword saints could probably even split bullets firing out of a machine gun.
While rogues were also agile, their reflexes were not that extreme. Only those who become shadowdancers could achieve such agility. However, there was a training exercise commonly known as 'speedrunning' that could help enhance one's agility and reflexes. It basically consisted of sprinting repeatedly with increasing intensity. One might even be able to run on water after training long enough.
Back in the forest, the duo continued their original mission of scouting out the place. They tracked down monsters whenever they came across traces, and sometimes they would hear the sounds of other scouts fighting. As they were still at the periphery of Whiterun, there were no signs of any lizardmen or ogres. These fights were just warm-ups for the true fight to come, and they served to enhance team chemistry among adventurers. If they did not cooperate beforehand, they might make mistakes due to being unfamiliar with each other's fighting styles.
By evening, the army had already reached the boundary of Whiterun, the region where Soran and Yarse had been. The scouts went on to check out the dense forest ahead, and casualties finally occurred when they encountered ogres. An adventurer’s waist took the brunt of an ogre's mace, and by the time priests arrived, he had already died.
Late that night, Soran and Yarse returned to the army camp and ate their rations since they’d finished their mission early.
"Looks like Whiterun plans to annihilate the monsters in one go." Yarse jumped to join Soran on the four-meter-tall rock he was sitting on, handed him a bottle of liquor, and continued, "It's about time for the regular clean-up operation that happens every five years anyway. Heh, those nobles. They probably took a lot of the money assigned to the operation for themselves."
The army cleared out monsters at certain intervals, mainly to prevent an outbreak of monsters. They reproduced like weeds, their numbers growing year by year. A gnoll would give birth to a whole bunch of pups at once, and with enough food, they could grow into a large tribe in just three years. Due to having lower intelligence than humans, monsters grew up and reproduced faster than humans to make up for their disadvantage.
Soran waved his hand at the offered bottle and said, "I don't drink."
The ranger did not seem to mind and drank the liquor himself.
"Those in front met trolls. I heard that three died. The army’s already sent their wizards over."
Soran startled upon hearing the word and asked in a serious tone, "Wait, trolls are already at the borders?"
"Yeah…" Yarse frowned in response.
He took out his arrows and cleaned them one by one. True adventurers loved their equipment as though it was part of their own bodies. The ranger even tested to see if the two arrows he had used today were still in good shape by balancing them on his fingers. He was obviously a brilliant longbow archer, which was rare among half-elves.
"That's not a good sign, you know," Yarse continued. He finished sharpening the tip of the two used arrows with his sword before placing everything back where it belonged. "Those annoying bastards just won't die. They're really tough to handle if you’re unprepared. I hope it's not the entire tribe migrating. Have you ever heard of the Battle of the Grey Hills of Autumnfall?"
"No." Soran lightly shook his head.
Yarse carefully removed the blood stains from his sword and began to speak with a tint of nostalgia in his tone. "It was five years ago. Hill giants took over the Black Iron Ogre Tribe's territory and forced them to move away. Those fellas settled down within Autumnfall’s territory. It was still fine when they were few in number, but they were hard to handle once they reformed their tribe.
"A lot of us died in the battle. Over half of the half-elven army suffered casualties. Even the five hundred elite longbow archers were almost annihilated. These humans may have great equipment, but they don't seem a lot stronger than the half-elven army to me."
The ranger lifted his shirt to reveal a long centipede-shaped scar on his stomach. "I was lucky to survive. I got hit with a flying axe in the stomach. My intestines probably got shortened by a chunk too. I retired from the army and roamed from city to city, and now I’m just trying to earn a bit more before I get too old to do such work. Gotta save up some money for the future, you know."
Yarse laughed; it seemed like he really wasn’t that young after all. He must have
gone through plenty of battles to be so experienced.
Adventurers who fought up close would quickly experience a decline in combat prowess due to aging. Unlike wizards, who become stronger the longer they lived, close-quarters combatants' abilities dropped over time. If one was unable to enter the Realm of Legends, where age would no longer be a concern, they would inevitably grow old and die of old age. It was already considered pretty decent for middle-aged humans to be half as strong as they had been in their prime. Despite having more experience, their physical state was already nowhere as good as before.
As half-elves aged slower than humans, if Yarse was already planning to save up some money and retire for good, he was probably almost fifty years old already. Even though half-elves could live for up to a century, their agility would drastically decrease upon reaching the fifty-year threshold. They might still look young, but their bodies no longer had the vitality of youth. A lot of rangers would then turn to divine magic to at least be somewhat useful. In fact, most high-grade rangers knew a few low-level divine spells for this reason.
Soran remained silent
It was a simple interaction between two solo adventurers. Yarse was trying to be friendly with Soran so as to establish a good relationship with him. In such a large-scale battle, it was necessary to have someone who was at least somewhat trustworthy to watch his back. Soran, however, did not want to speak about anything personal with a stranger he had met not too long ago. He simply extended his hand and said, "We'll leave the front to the army. We'll be fine as long as we are careful."
Yarse shook Soran's hand, then drank another sip of liquor.
"Although you look human, I feel like you're a half-elf. My intuition has always been spot on," he commented idly.
The two actually did not converse all that much. They by no means trusted each other, but at the very least, they knew that they would cover for one another in battle. That alone was enough for both of them; the chances of surviving were a lot higher than if they were fighting alone in such a chaotic environment.
A bugle call could be heard from the army camp. A team of fully armored warriors was carrying back a troll corpse. After noticing the dead troll, the atmosphere among the adventurers turned heavy. Trolls had extraordinary regenerative abilities, and they were hard to kill without using fire or acid. They had even greater Strength than ogres, and their Constitution was above 20 the moment they were born, with most reaching up to 25 sooner or later. They could regenerate their limbs and even their heads.
If trolls appeared in such close proximity to the city, who knew how many monsters had flooded out from their original habitats? It looked like clearing the roads would be a much harder task than expected. Soran could only hope that the army had overwhelming strength over the monsters; their equipment was designed to slay dragons, and he could even see some heavy war machinery in the army camp.
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