Pongpong is too strong
A tall and deep forest located west of the Academy.
Here, all sorts of rumors never ceased.
Children missing in the forest were all said to have been eaten by animals. They claimed to have witnessed giant monsters roaming. Someone saw them burying corpses.
Most of these incidents and accidents were recorded in the “Campus News” section of the game.
Reading it carefully, you start to wonder.
If these incidents never stop, will people keep going in and getting hurt or disappearing?
Of course, those who enter when accidents happen might be foolish, but the truth is, isn’t there something hidden in the Shadow Forest?
Actually, such rumors were circulating.
— There’s a Ginseng in the forest that grows explosively just by eating.
— There’s a magic sword left by a certain hero.
— If you clean the moss-covered statues and offer prayers, they’ll bestow blessings!
It’s all just rumors, but people couldn’t help but hope.
That’s how deep and mysterious the Shadow Forest was.
A giant footprint.
Danya, who had swallowed her saliva, mumbled.
“It seems quite big.”
“Is it a bear or a lion?”
“No, it’s too thin for those types.”
Ian, who had been examining the tracks for a moment, got up from his seat. Then, as if uninterested, he turned away.
‘…As I thought.’
Seems like he’s not interested in this kind of stuff either.
Danya sighed inwardly.
The Catsnesia clan. In their clan’s sanctuary, everyone had their own interests, and they peacefully coexisted. They discovered flowers they had never seen before on the cliffs of the mountains, captured strange animals in the highlands, and found clear ponds that reached all the way to the bottom. And so on.
Of course, among them, Danya, who had been practicing magic, was somewhat of an outlier, but she didn’t dislike those things. After all, they shared common interests.
‘But there aren’t people like that here.’
– Ew, the dirt is so gross.
– Don’t animals transmit parasites if you touch them?
– Flowers? Can they be used as magic ingredients?
On the outside, Danya is plain and cold.
No matter how hard I tried to talk to him, I got that kind of response, so at some point, I closed my heart.
Still, she had hoped that maybe she could have some kind of conversation with Ian, who seemed to understand her a bit…
‘I want to go home.’
Suddenly, she missed her hometown.
Just as Danya was feeling down.
“Come over here, Danya.”
Ian called out to her.
In a somewhat colder tone, Ian continued.
“There are tracks here that look like they belong to some kind of animal.”
“Hmm… Tracks? You found them?”
“Why are you so surprised? Am I not capable of that?”
“I didn’t think you were interested in this kind of thing… Not that I’m saying I’m interested in you. No! I didn’t mean you’re not capable or anything!”
She either liked Ian or she didn’t.
Danya, trying to make sense of it all, started analyzing hastily.
“It seems quite, quite large, like some kind of animal… That tree has pretty significant damage.”
“Do you have any rough guesses?”
“A few, but I’m not sure.”
Nodding with a raised head, Danya replied.
It might not be an animal; it could be a monster.
As they went deeper, they could feel a dark and eerie energy, more suitable for demons than the usual forest.
Meanwhile, Ian had found new tracks.
“Here it is again. Looks like claw marks.”
Is he secretly talented at tracking?
Danya suddenly became curious about Ian’s past.
Although I had to immediately shake my head. But she had to admit it.
“Hmm. These aren’t claw marks, though. Still, it was a sharp guess.”
“Thanks for the praise. You sound like a teacher.”
“Hmm! I think these are… teeth marks.”
Danya nodded and crossed her arms.
“That’s the hint. Try to guess what kind of animal it is, Ian.”
Danya raises her head firmly in triumph.
Ian couldn’t help but smile faintly, almost laughing at the triviality of it all. Of course, he quickly hid his expression, but still.
“Danya, as you mentioned initially, it’s not bears or lions, right?”
“They wouldn’t leave such large tracks like these.”
In reality, Ian was somewhat familiar with this compared to usual people. He had acquired some knowledge during his time in the military.
‘It seems the time to use what I learned back then has come.’
His feelings were complex.
Anyway, an animal with two large teeth? What could that be?
One animal came to mind, but… it wouldn’t be this huge, right?
In that moment…
— Fwoosh! Bang!
With an explosion, a bright light like fireworks burst through the dense trees.
Ian and Danya locked eyes.
“Emergency Rescue Magic!”
A small artifact the professor had distributed before the practical exercise.
When you pulled it like a firework, it activated protection magic along with a signal flare indicating your position.
— Of course, using it during the exercise meant receiving the lowest grade. It was up to the students to decide.
That advice had come with it.
It was clear that the Mezai students, who were somewhat fixated on ‘grades’, had used it, indicating that something significant was going on.
— Fwoosh! Bang!
At the sound of another explosion, Ian nervously spoke.
“This seems dangerous.”
“Can you sense the magic?”
“… I feel strong magic nearby, but not in that direction. It’s more like… underground, perhaps.”
As Ian concentrated on sensing magic…
Rescue magic was activated once again.
Danya’s expression darkened.
“… It’s coming this way, Ian. Let’s get out of here.”
“It’s too late.”
“…What are you talking about?!”
As Ian focused on sensing magic…
He opened his eyes.
“It’s already there.”
He pointed with his hand.
A massive rabbit stood there.
A rabbit that seemed to be at least 3 meters tall.
Danya mumbled absentmindedly.
“… Is that a rabbit?”
“Look at its head.”
Ian pointed to the rabbit’s head, where a small blue mushroom was growing.
“I can sense magic coming from there.”
“The mushroom Professor Rowen was talking about… that was it.”
“Indeed, it teaches us not to pick up just anything.”
“Oh, it even responds.”
Danya snapped at Ian, who spoke nonchalantly.
“You idiot! We should be prepared to run!”
No matter how much of a rabbit the opponent was, at this size, it would be dangerous if it attacked. Moreover, perhaps due to the mushroom on its head, it seemed to have quite an aggressive demeanor. It kept eyeing them.
“Isn’t it already too late? If we could escape, the others would have already done so. Look at those thigh muscles.”
Ian’s powers of observation were definitely reasonable.
He took a step forward and adjusted his posture.
“What are you planning to do?”
“Anyway, if we can’t escape, isn’t it better to at least try to hit it once?”
“Look closely. Can you see something like blood on its fur?”
“… You’re right.”
Danya sighed deeply as she examined the rabbit closely.
“Then I’ll attack first.”
“What’s the logic behind that?”
“You’re the lowest-scoring student in our class.”
Ian was on the verge of snapping, but he could see a hint of concern in Danya’s eyes.
He nodded and observed Danya as they approached each other, their eyes meeting.
As they locked eyes, they drew closer to each other.
Danya’s magic gathered around her body.
‘Is it a grass attribute?’
A natural aura emanating from her magic.
Like the Earth element, it’s quite rare.
‘I’m looking forward to this.’
It was the first time he saw someone else’s magic.
What kind of magic would she use?
The magic gathered in Danya’s hand took the form of a bow.
Ian couldn’t help but admire it. Danya’s posture, holding an intangible magical bow, seemed quite convincing.
The green magical arrow that left her hand hit the rabbit right in the center of its forehead.
“Did it work?!”
No, it didn’t.
If you say such things, it’ll be like raising a flag.
Look at that.
The rabbit’s momentum became even fiercer.
“It seems this rabbit is immune to magic!”
There was a reason why the grades-obsessed Mezai students had used this. Maybe because she had exhausted her mana, Danya staggered.
“… Leave me and run.”
What a line straight out of a boys’ manga.
Ian couldn’t help but chuckle.
Who would run away?
Ian had already decided to consider Danya a comrade. To oppose the unknown non-v*rgin heroine, he needed a companion.
‘She’s useful in many ways.’
Besides, he had to prepare for the disciplinary committee. Having someone on his side could make a significant difference.
“Stop raising flags and stay behind.”
“What about me?”
“You’re Ian Blackangers. The lowest scorer in our class… and you don’t even know combat magic.”
This cat, seriously.
There was no way she was going to cheer him on.
“Thanks for your concern.”
“It’s not just concern?! You’re a magician too. How do you plan to deal with a magic-immune opponent?”
“There are various ways.”
“If you’re so worried, support me from behind when something happens, use an artifact.”
Saying that, he shifted his focus to the opponent.
The rabbit also approached Ian.
‘A giant rabbit immune to magic.’
Well, that’s even better.
The rabbit stared at Ian, adjusting its posture.
One step, two steps.
The distance between them was getting shorter.
And when the rabbit’s thigh muscles tensed.
Ian quickly chanted two spells.
Certainly not the most romantic of spellcasting, but…
In an instant, Ian’s arms and shoulders were covered in metal.
Danya, who had been watching, was wide-eyed.
What kind of magic was that…? Was it even magic?
The question was soon answered.
A dull thud resounded from the rabbit, covered in fluffy fur.
The typical damage output mechanism of the Earth element.
It was magic (physical) damage.
“… That was easy?”
Ian was slightly taken aback.
The rabbit was now in a dazed state after a single punch.
The power of the makeshift “Metal Man” (Temporary name) was more potent than he had expected.
‘Injecting magic into an element and enhancing it makes it simple yet powerful.’
By using Extraction and Transformation to overlay an element onto his arms and reinforce the overlaid element rather than his own body, he had found a way to bypass the advanced magic spell “Physical Enhancement”.
The rabbit, which had seemed to be regaining its senses, began to collapse.
… The problem was…
The huge rabbit fell down and the ground where Ian was standing collapsed.
Danya reached out, but it was already too late.
He fell straight into a small sinkhole-like space.
Was it a large underground cave?
Even as he fell, he could feel the rough texture of the earth all over his body. At the end of the fall, there was undoubtedly a hard floor.
‘I need to absorb the impact.’
Ian quickly extracted the surrounding elements.
However, trying to absorb all the shock like this would be difficult. Ian began to transform it into a thin honeycomb-like structure around his body.
Falling for a while…
With a loud thud, he hit the floor.
“Ugh… Uh, I’m okay?”
There was quite a bit of physical force from the fall, so there was a dull impact. It felt like being kicked while wrapped in a blanket?
‘Check the honeycomb structure’s performance.’
Ian stood up as he released the magic enveloping his body.
It was a fairly large cave.
The peculiar thing was that it was made of packed soil, not rocks.
Most importantly, strong magic could be felt in the vicinity.
‘Is this the source of the magic I felt in the forest?’
If the magic was this overwhelming, it could be quite intimidating. However, Ian felt more comfortable than ever. It was as if he were inside the womb of the primordial mother.
While looking around, Ian realized the reason.
A corner of the cave.
There was a small statue of a goddess made of clay.
Goddess of Earth. Gaia.
The reason he recognized her face was simple.
The beings corresponding to the gods of each element were quite important in the game as well.
And only now did Ian understand the true nature of this place. It was the most lucrative gacha element in ‘Fanta X Aca’.
‘A blessing has come!’
The opportunity to acquire power had been granted.
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