Currently, the night was at its peak, as everyone was currently within their fifth session of the Training Zone. In an area surrounded by many overgrown hedges and plants, three different individuals could be noticed hiding with the shrubberies. Their faces carried a tinge of anxiousness, but if one looked into their eyes, they would see that deep within them was a fire that burned with stubbornness.
One of them was a fat young man with blond hair, his sweaty arms were firmly gripped around a large broken-off tree branch. The others were a stunningly gorgeous young lady with purple hair, who held a knife fashioned from a sharpened stone flake attached to wood. Next to her, was a beautiful girl with golden hair and large rounded blue eyes. She was currently holding something akin to a crudely fashioned bow made from a long thin wood and twine that was double knotted from both ends. A primitive holster was slung across her torso as it rested on her back with sharped arrows made from similar stone chips.
Looking from left to right, deep within this region of the woods, one would notice a silhouette making shuffling noises as it cautiously moved about the wilds. It was a black panther that was one size bigger than its regular counterpart, it had two tails, along with long and sharp fingernails including a set of savage-looking teeth, shimmering in a similar light much like that of its icy cold red eyes.
This panther was cautious and intelligent, it stood at the center of the field and lifted its head while sniffing. Soon, its eyes flashed as it glanced towards a section of hedges. Upon doing this, it promptly began to make its way towards them.
"Shit, how could this bastard be so skilled?" Fatty Joe muttered in shock.
"Big Brother, you have to be quiet; our position isn't directly found out yet," Emilia said in a whispering tone.
"Ah, yes, your right, I was only a little agitated, Emmy..." Fatty Joe replied in an even softer tone as his grip around the thick branch increased.
Layla, who had been quiet for a while, looked at the scene carefully as she spoke, "Fatty, Emmy, I think there's another way around this..."
"Hmm, how so sister Layla?" Emilia asked while looking over, as Fatty Joe also looked on curiously.
Layla's eyes scanned their surroundings and noticed that the hedges they were inside had a broad reach. She then spoke with a firm look in her eyes, "Evan said that this time's goal is to defeat this Two-Tailed Black Panther, we can't hope to fight it directly so we must really on the advantages of our surroundings."
Fatty Joe looked at her and spoke, "Then, how do we beat it?"
Layla looked at him and spoke again, "I'll try to find a way to sneak around its back and look for a method to strike its vitals with these knives, but you'll have to be the one to distract it from our presence since it has a great sense of smell."
"..." Fatty Joe remained silent for a while before he glanced at the thick branch in his hands and replied, "Fine, if I have this, then I can at least force it in a struggle for a short amount of time. However, this panther is not like a bear, its agile and would more or likely be able to strike me from many angles in a single assault. There's no way I'll be able to resist that, especially with those absurdly sharp and lengthened paws."
Layla was about to say something, but Emilia, who heard this spoke, "Brother... you can leave it to me, I'll do my best to keep its movements hindered."
Fatty Joe looked at Emilia in surprise as he spoke, "Emmy, are you sure? Has your bow skills improved that much?"
Layla was also a bit surprised, but Emilia looked at them with a slightly cheeky smile as she spoke with a thumbs up, "Brother Evan said that my skills have reached a passing grade."
As both Layla and Fatty Joe heard this, their faces turn to shock, but if one looked deep down, they could also see a slight amount of fear. No one knew better than them how much of a demon Evan had been in these past few days.
"E-Emmy that's good if it's like this then I'll leave you to watch my sides..." Fatty Joe said with a bit of awkwardness.
"Hmph! Since that devil can say that, then we'll be fine..." Layla said with a pout on her face.
Emilia made a snicker before readying herself and knocking her bow. Fatty Joe, seeing this, also glanced at Layla and nodded.
Layla then took a few steps back, vanishing into the tall hedges as her voice sounded, "Commence hunting..."
The black panther was already nearing their location, but the instant it heard the female voice, its ears jumped while its eyes gleamed in a sinister manner.
"Roar!" With a loud roar, it charged through the hedges like the wind, moving many times faster than a pro alethic runner, stirring the grasses into a flurry of noises.
Soon, the panther had arrived before its first opponent, as it saw the calm looking fat man before it that held a sturdy tree branch, the panther scoffed with disdain as if to say, "Che! A human thinks that it can hinder me with such a heavy thing. I'll teach you today..."
The panther wasted no time, it pushed all its power into its hinds and bounced forwards like a bullet. As it swished through the air, its sharp claws were stretched before it, as it was prepared to end the foolish human's life in one fell swoop.
Fatty Joe's eyes narrowed at this, even though he'd been in many different battles these past few days, this was without his most dangerous foe yet. He couldn't help but feel slightly nervous as his forehead started to sweat even more.
He swallowed his spit and firmly brandished the tree branch, taking the stance of an unyielding soldier on the battlefield as he yelled, "Bastard, show me what you've got!"
With the shout, Fatty Joe swung the tree branch with all his might, causing the air to make a whooshing sound due to the force of his swing.
The panther having been experienced was alarmed, it didn't think a human could have such strength. Though it was startled, however, its reactions weren't any less than its mind, promptly it shifted its body to the side.
Bang! The log in Fatty Joe's hand smashed into the ground creating a small impression on the grassy floor, a few chunks of dirt scattered about as it rose to fatty's nose, causing him to sneeze.
As this happened, the panther which had already landed to the side then lunged from the ground. In moments, it had arrived only five feet away from Fatty Joe as its claws struck towards his throat.
Fatty Joe's eyes widened as he thought, "Shit! I was careless..."
Yet, before the claw could strike him, a whistling sound was heard from nearby. The panther hearing this noise was even more surprised, it shifted its body's weight once more and only managed to narrowly avoid the sharped flint arrow which then buried itself into the ground before its eyes.
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It lifted its head and glanced towards the hedges as if trying to find the source of this danger. However, Fatty Joe, who had recovered, did not miss this chance.
"You damn cat! Let's see you dodge this one!" Fatty Joe shouted once more, as his fat arms tensed up, causing his vaguely visible muscles to show beneath many layers of meat.
The thick branch was once again brandished and struck towards the distracted panther, as he saw it too late, the panther only had enough time to jump and curl itself into a ball to try and resist the impact.
Bang! The thick branch struck it, causing it to fly a few feet across the tall grasses as it smashed into a tree, looking at its back one would now see an open wound that flowed with blood.
The panther though injured had managed to recover to a standing posture, it tried to fight the pain as it glared at Fatty Joe in hatred.
It then took a step forward and lowered its hinds as if prepared to lunge at Fatty Joe once more. Fatty Joe seeing this smirked and spoke, "What? Do you still want to go at it? Come, let this fatty teach you your wrongs!"
Yet, as fatty said this, the panther which was ready for battle had suddenly turned around and jumped into a nearby bush, as it quickly scampered away.
"Damn! It's smarter than I thought, we can't let it escape!" Fatty Joe said as he prepared to chase after it.
From a nearby bush, Emilia had begun to fire a flurry of arrows to hinder it, but the panther was already on guard.
With every arrow fired, the panther's ears would shake as it shifted its wounded body from side to side, avoiding each bolt at the final moments. Its body swiftly navigated through the complex woods, easily obscuring itself from both Emilia's and Fatty's sights.
Suddenly, a ledge had appeared before the panther with another plot of land not too far off, the panther then prepared to use its entire remaining strength to jump over the edge, but it was at this time, a shadow fell down from the tree above its head.
Swing! A sharp sound piercing directly through flesh sounded as Layla's long flint knife had struck through its forehead when she jumped from the tree branch.
Both Fatty Joe and Emilia was about to curse, but as they saw the panther fell to the ground in silence and Layla's appearance, they sighed in relief.
Fatty Joe then throw himself on the ground as he spoke with a laugh, "Layla, I didn't think your knife skills were so good, you really had us going there..."
Layla smiled as she took the bloody knife from the panther's head and wiped it off, though her eyes flashed it a somewhat complex look, she shrugged it off and replied, "That devil also said my skills were passable..."
Fatty Joe hearing this made a self-deprecating smile as he spoke, "Che! Well, it seems that I'm the only one not worthy of that devil's praise..."
"Haha!" Both Layla and Emilia started to laugh as they heard this, but it was at this time a voice sounded from nearby.
"So, I'm a devil now... it looks like this training isn't enough," Evan said as he slowly appeared from nothingness.
The trio was startled as they looked at Evan before lowering their heads, Fatty Joe began to speak in a flustered tone, "Brother Evan, I... you know, I was only kidding... haha!"
Evan smiled at this and spoke, "I know, that's why I'll be upping your training after this session, consider it my final appraisal for passing this test."
Fatty Joe's face sunk at these words, but he didn't reply, Evan paid him no mind as he glanced at Emilia and nodded, he then looked at Layla and walked over.
Layla seeing this blushed as she didn't dare to face him directly, she spoke, "You, what do you want? Can't you see we've only just passed the test?"
Evan smiled and replied as he leaned in closer, "I didn't think that even you would call me a devil, it seems that I'm going to have to give you some more personal training..."
Layla's face turned even redder at this as she spoke, "You... if you keep bullying me like this, I'll... I'll pay you back whenever I get stronger than you."
"Haha! I'll be waiting for that day." Evan replied with a cheeky wink as he poked her cheek.
Layla pouted as she balled her fists up and shook them at him threateningly, Evan seeing this wanted to do more, but it was at this moment, Rick's voice sounded, "Hey, there's no time to be flirting here; the time is almost up."
"Che! This guy..." Evan muttered as he saw Rick appeared along with Breya.
Evan looked at everyone and clapped his hands and spoke, "Everyone, you've done well, after these few days of training I am pleased to announce that you've all passed the initial phase. Tomorrow I shall be taking you all to that restaurant we talked about to celebrate, so make sure to handle any affairs you can during the day..."
"Will do." Layla, Fatty Joe, Rick, and the others said in unison, as they knew what he meant. They also seemed a bit different from a few days ago, carrying an air of experience and determination.
Evan smiled as he looked at this while he thought to himself, "It took a while, but I think with them, we might just be able to do it. Now then, let's see their current stats... inspect."
As Evan thought this, a series of details appeared before his eyes as his lips rose into an even more exciting smile.