Nia had been nervous that Sera might choose to side with the realm. With the bonus levels being irrelevant for her, the immediate and more elementally aligned gains, offered by the spell searching side, would have broken a bunch of parties. Not to mention that the girl would have just needed to interrupt her sister or damage the spells the two had engraved previously, very little work for a lot of gains compared to defending the mage for the next 32 days.

Though fortunately nothing like that had happened and the probability of sudden betrayals had become basically zero after joining a side as none wanted to deal with the penalty for that. A fact the guide had made clear the girls understood, well, mostly Sera. Her sister was, as the initiator of the war, a special case.

Freed from those fears, Nia could completely focus on defending the mage, but with the assassin being what she was, she took a more proactive role in it.

[Greater Poison Flame Lizard Lv 63 (Flame Sea Shore)]

“That they want me to kill something this strong… I wanted to increase my level faster to not lag behind, but that has become a bit unreasonable. It isn’t even a human…” The assassin muttered quietly as she checked her definitely non humanoid target with the highest level she had encountered since the start of the war.

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She had talked a lot over the past three days to level her guide class and was now in the flow, even talking while killing stuff. A flaw she would have to try to fix before it became a permanent part of her. Though the issues would likely vanish on its own, once the fights became more common and she had less time to talk about the realm and whatever else she suspected to increase her level.

The creatures she had to dispose so far were too few and had mostly too low of a level to be part of some collective search effort. And fortunately or unfortunately they also weren’t humans. Those would have been a better fit for her class. But then again, if a human went missing, it would have likely alerted whoever was in charge of the search for the spell.

Interrupting the musings of the stalking girl veiled in darkness, the 4 meter long burning lizard was getting closer and closer to one of the traps the mage had previously prepared. At least she wouldn’t have to fight the beast completely alone.

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Deeming it the right time, Nia quickly flooded the environment with her usual dark smoke, robbing the beast of its vision. Then a dagger flew through the air towards the flame-clad creature. She wasn’t expecting much damage, however that also wasn’t her intention. Catching its attention was enough for the moment. While the amount of buried traps and spells made it easy for an enemy to get very close to them, it was still unlikely that they would get into the kill-zone on their own. Also she would probably get less or even no experience in those cases.
So after mostly sealing the potential problematic senses of the wingless dragon, a few well placed attacks and noises quickly lured it into the right direction.

A few seconds later the ground it had just walked onto suddenly gave in. A simple pitfall with some sharp and spiky stones at the bottom. Nothing which would stop the high level lizard for long, even though it was quite deep. The beast also seemed not quite happy about the sudden obstacle and maybe some wounds it had hopefully sustained, as it voiced its indignation with a roar.
However the hole was only meant to delay its victims. The truly deadly part on the other hand was about to happen.

Pushing a bit of mana into the middle one of three inconspicuous looking stones near the pit a number of spell circles flashed into existence inside the trap. At first the raging beast was doused in jets of water, dimming its flames, then a number of ice lances impaled it. Another roar escaped the creatures throat, this time however much more pain filled. Then it went limb, yet without a kill notification and with its level, Nia was sure it was still alive.

Should she reuse the trap? No.
While it needed some mana to start the process, it was also somehow linked to the whole spell construct and took the rest of the needed mana from there. The assassin wasn’t quite sure how their mage had achieved that, though the girl had used some mana crystals in the construction of her spells, so that could be part of the reason. Not that Nia had much understanding of enchantments and spells beyond the instincts gained through Eas. Sure, she had looked into it as she had been younger, fascinated by the wonders of magic as many, but in the end she had given up as even most pure mages and enchanters relied on the system as well as the notes of those before them. So the girl had chosen a hybrid build like most.
Not intending to use any more mana from the spell her party member was charging for the moment, the girl decided to go with a more hands on approach. The beast was quite big, but 4 meters still meant that maybe her daggers and definitely her short-sword would be able to reach the brain of the creature.

Acting as intended, she carefully climbed down the hole and silently approached the beast. Not easy with the water filling a part of the pitfall and icicles sticking out of various wounds on the lizard, but she was experienced. The beast still seemed to notice something, as it turned its head slowly into her direction and a spell circle with small flames started to slowly manifest. But before it could regain its vigor, using all her force she sent her blade through a half opened eye into its brain. The resistance of its high level body wasn’t easy to overcome, yet the girl kept pushing her sharp short-sword deeper.

With the pain inflicted there was another onset of a roar, yet before it could fully leave the lizard, it turned to a gurgling as finally the last health of the beast got depleted. The flames of the dangerous seeming spell circle also quickly vanished as messages appeared in the girls mind.

[You killed a Greater Poison Flame Lizard Lv 63.]
[Your Assassin class has reached Lv 36.]
[Your Assassin class has reached Lv 37.]
[Your Elemental Mage class has reached Lv 31.]
[You have reached Lv 29.]
[Your Elemental Veil skill has reached Lv 1.]

If she was grateful for one thing, it was that apparently Eas didn’t mind assassins using traps. It may seem logical to some, but Eas could be quite picky in regard to which action granted how much experience.

But the messages didn’t end there.

[Your Scion of the Hunt extra class has reached Lv 3.]

[The Favor of the Hunt skill has been awarded.]

[Favor of the Hunt]
[A skill unique to the Scion of the Hunt extra class. The hunt, unlike fights, only knows prey and predator and a predator will use everything they can to their advantage. As you have proven, with the right preparation even insurmountable seeming behemoths can be slain. Damage against prey of a higher level increased based on the level difference. Damage against prey unaware of your presence increased based on their unawareness.]

She hadn’t quite expected her extra class to level here, but apparently slaying something more than double your level, even when she had the help of traps fueled by the mana of an abnormal mage, qualified her for a level up.
Maybe the skill she gained would help her keep up with whatever her party members would antagonize in the future…

Meanwhile the body had disintegrated. Likely a sacrifice to recoup the lost mana. And with how Eas prediction had updated they were more than on track.
A shiver ran down her spine. It still didn’t feel right to her to simply sacrifice other beings… But it also felt as if there was more to it this time. As if the directions had changed for a split second. Did she just sense a shift in the dimensions? Potentially another feature of her guide class? Or was she just getting a bit exhausted? The hunt hadn’t been a long one, but facing something this much higher in level than her own was mentally taxing.
Unfortunately she doubted she could get many answers to those questions for the moment.

“Well, time to improve being a guide!”

With the girl leaving the hole, the top layer of stone was slowly reconstructing itself, readying itself for its next victim.

Stepping out of the black tear in the space, Eric looked around. A lot of other people, scavengers as they were usually called, had already set up their stalls, but it seemed he was still soon enough to find a good spot for him-self.

He didn’t like the term very much, as it lumped healers, mercenaries, robbers, smiths and whoever else tried to profit from the war without actually participating in it together, even though they had all very different goals.
Ever tried fighting in such a drawn out battle without a way to fix your body or weapon nearby?
The thought alone made the smith angry, but the term had stuck aeons ago and now he as a smith was part of the same group as those trying to get better rewards than the system offered through negotiations or those looking for easy kills for a bit of extra experience and equipment. Despicable.
Unfortunately war also offered a lot of opportunity, so he couldn’t just pass on it.

And he would have passed, if it wasn’t a war open to everyone.
Thanks to getting the info of his own realm opening sooner than most, he managed to booby-trap his smithy, kill a few high level intruders and reach level 100. Now he should be focusing on evolving his species, but getting connections and patrons was also important. Even more so when he could get into contact with some rising stars of bigger guilds and churches.
Furthermore it would be helpful if he could delegate parts of his own evolution quest.

Building a small hut out of metal and rock was quickly accomplished with his melt affinity. A lot of other people used more temporary housings, but a stronger building would make a better impression on whoever looked for a smith and it could protect him from at least some of the fallout generated by the war. Well, as much as a non-enchanted building only intended to last for the war could protect someone. It was hopefully still more than the tents and blankets many other people used, though with the materials and enchantments available one could never be quite sure.

Rechecking the quest, he had to frown. The rewards had more than halved over the past days, but that wasn’t what bothered him. He had no intention of participating.
However about 28 days were remaining while only 3 days had passed since the start of the war.

Was the initiator side still getting more help in casting the spell?

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