With a kiss of the midnight winter breeze, Avery slipped a black cloth over her mouth that hung off the bridge of her nose.
As Avery left the gates, tens of bundled knights brushed past her, grumbling about wasted time, shovels in hand. In the distance, another blizzard was brewing, its howling wind echoing through the endless sea of white trees. A large mass of snow and wind glistening in the moonlight like a swirl of stars that hungered for the moonlight, devouring all in its path. The road ahead had been shoveled, heaps of snow banking the rim of the brick path downwards.
Once she reached the bottom of the road, her steps quickened. With a flutter of her cloak, her figure bounded into the Imperial Forest, her pace comparable to the finest stallion with a cat’s nimbleness as she navigated among the tree trunks. Beams of moonlight pierced through gaps in the tall pine canopy. It wasn’t long until she went head first into the billowing blizzard, specks of snow slapping themselves against her unwavering figure.
Since the nightmares began, this was the only way she could find peace. Leave the comfort of the city and forge her mind through in the wilderness. The odd serenity of the forest ebbed away most of her woes, but it wasn’t until she started to swing her sword, smash with her hammer, and burn with her magic did she begin to feel alive. Feel empowered. But there was a feeling she had tasted before, one that her mind mulled for. Yearned for.
The taste of battle.
It wasn’t like in the game. The searing heat of the Dragon’s magical attack that sent her heart beating. The suspense of the outcome. She was able to confirm it when she killed that Heavenly Knight that stepped up to her in the valley.
“A battle junkie… Never thought I’d turn out to be one…” She thought to herself as the visibility was cut down to almost twenty-feet ahead. She didn’t slow her pace though. She was feeling ecstatic as she slipped around trees that materialized within an instant ahead of her, leaving her to barely graze by them.
After a while though, she became serious as she came out for her true objective. She stood on a village’s edge. Smoldering remains of a few homes greeted her as the wind carried the heavy scent of iron and death. A few towering figures floated through the blizzard’s veil before disappearing. Even though the wind’s moans, she could hear the thuds of heavy steps.
And a ping of disappointed hit her heart.
She had spotted a group of Trolls, large hulking humanoid monsters that stood almost twenty feet tall standing up straight. With two pairs of dull eyes, dark olive skin, and thick muscular bodies, they dominated their territories with strength and were A-Ranked monsters that, if not for their child-like intelligence, would be considered S-Rank monsters. They were known for their brutality, strength, steel-like skin, and a temper that would make a Dragon blush.
They loved to torment humans and monsters alike, often leaving trails of destroyed villages and dens in their paths. Avery had marked them for hunting on her map, she had also marked a nearby village she could use as a landmark to then find her way forth and back. In the end, though, she hadn’t thought that maybe they would attack that village. In front of her laid a face-down body of a mutilated child. She barely looked at the poor child before turning back to the village. In the veil of snow, a pair of golden eyes glowed murderously before they faded away into the storm
. . .
A large green monster stood over a half-collapsed building, rummaging through whatever remained. Although Trolls were as smart as toddlers, they also possessed the curiosity of toddlers. With blood-caked fingers, the humanoid had pulled a chair from the wreckage and fiddled with it before a blood-caked face grinned ever so hideously. It smashed the chair against the home’s outer wall with a deep, amused laugh.
As it broke apart, another Troll came up, curious to what the other was doing while it snacked on a half-eaten beast-woman like some street food. Its dull eyes watched with interest. Just as the troll was going to take another bite, its entire body crumpled to the floor. Blood bloomed around and stained the snow red.
The troll with the chair felt something warm splash against his skin. Turning, it saw its brethren folded on top of itself on the floor. The head was completely minced with blood gushing from the red flaps of flesh and meat that once was its neck. Around his fallen brother, a golden shower of dust flickered before it disappeared in the wind.
For a moment, the troll was memorized by glitter, before it finally registered that its brother had died. Its chest swelled with air, but before it could release its warning call, is upper torso disappeared, replaced with ripped flesh and a dangling, mangled spinal cord.
Snow crunched under Avery’s feet as the troll’s body fell sideways, blood blooming through the snow below it. Blood dripped from the hammer in her hands. Blood splatter colored the right side of her cloak. Unaccustomed to battle, her hands were nearly a foot from the head of the hammer when she swung it into the last troll. The blood had splattered her cloak, filling her nose with the scent of putrid blood.
She didn’t mind it though as she stared down at the two monsters. A mixture of emotions swirled in her eyes. It wasn’t like the Dragon. She didn’t feel that rush, but she did feel a placid calmness in her mind. A struggle of her old world morals and the new reality raged on in her mind, but she pushed it aside with determination. That child’s body flashing before her eyes.
She already decided to annihilate these beasts.
A flash of gold and her body disappeared in a shower of gold. Using a skill that did not have much use in battle, Blink was proving to have its own edge in this world. In-game, it was more of a showy skill that used little mana. It was implemented for an in-game event that was some brutal version of Ninja Warrior, where blink was the only way to avoid traps. It moved the user anywhere within a five-meter radius at their will.
That was the flavor text, but in use, it was a Spatial-movement spell that could only move the user front, back or sideways due to the hastily made mechanicals it used. The developers never thought they would use it after the event, but users desired to keep it. So they did. In towns, people used it to play tag and side. Its usage in battle was null since it would have been a mainstay in a battle to avoid all enemy attacks.
However, its used in battle was removed for users of the Demon King Raid, the last raid in the game was where Avery had earned Excalibur and her final set of armor. It was necessary for avoiding the King’s almost instant invoke spells.
But it still didn’t give her a sense of satisfaction.
She turned from the bodies and looked towards the village center, a few rows forward. visibility had improved up to forty feet. The storm was beginning to subside, leaving more of the Troll’s handy work bare under the heavens. Mutilated half-eaten bodies laid scattered down the village path.
She then walked forth with her wrath filling her mind as she bit her lip.
Today, the trolls would know fear.
. . .
Five Trolls sat in a semi-circle in the village square. Facing Avery’s direction with their faces nuzzled into the bellies of deceased villagers. All of their chests painted with dripped blood that drizzled down from their chins as they ate the dead like chicken wings. Their misaligned teeth pulled at muscles, intestines, and organs alike.
Avery stood at on the square’s edge, looking on in disgust; Malevolence burning in her golden eyes. She only saw them as disgusting pigs. Pigs who’d learn their place with their lives today. When did she feel such anger? She felt that question the moment she saw that child’s body when she first arrived. A swirling ball of fire, crying to consume the ones who sparked its existence.
Excalibur morphed into of a column of fire, directly into her right hand. She reversed the grip before her glowing eyes narrowed with a dangerous glint.
She skipped forward, leaning back. When her rear foot landed and she leaned forward, she threw the spear-like Excaliber towards the centermost Troll. It was the largest and the fattest of the bunch- Earning her immediate wrath.
The sword whistled through the moaning wind like a vulture swooping down for a kill. Its point hit the center of the chest, burying hilt deep. The blade stuck out the back through its spine and impaled it to the brick wall behind it. Its upper body leaned back as its arm fell limp. Its food narrowly missed, fell onto the hilt and hung there.
The other four were startled from the attack and dropped their food as well. For a moment, they started at their leader who spasmed before going limp. Then angered roars raged from their throats to challenge the one who killed their leader. Though they had the intelligence of a toddler, they had no problem tracking the direction it came from, just to find Avery standing there; taunting them with by holding her hands out wide, Mjolnir on the ground.
They all scrambled to their feet, slipping on blood puddles and half-eaten bodies, and they charged at her. Their roars and mumbles sounded almost like curses as they shoved and pushed each other to be the first to kill their newfound enemy.
Avery pulled Mjolnir from the snowy path, holding it with two small gloved hands.
The moment four hands reached out to grab her, she disappeared in a mist of sparkling gold particles. All four trolls tumbled and rolled before a small figure dropped from the sky. She landed on the far right troll, smashing its head. A red branching tree bloomed from its head. When she lifted the hammer, brain matter and blood dripped from the silvery-gold ornate head.
The surviving four saw the kill- which took a span of five seconds – and reached out to grab her with newfound hatred. Avery quickly jumped high with a ‘Whoosh’ as the hands only found their dead brother. Their howls and roars chased after Avery as she Blinked again.
This time, the three looked around in panic before she reappeared; hammer swinging.
The hammer caught half the stomach of the furthest troll. She aimed for its mid-section, but it saw her and dodged in time. Unfortunately for him, it ripped out his stomach, organs, and ribs in splattering to the side and blood spitting on Avery.
Avery was thankful for the cloak and facemask that caught the majority of the hot blood that clung to her.
The split moment she was stunned by the blood splattering over her, one of the trolls had somehow reached her without her noticing. It grabbed her leg and hoisted her high before catapulting her over the roof of two homes and crashed into the courtyard of a third.
Yet, Lady Luck smiled upon her today – Landing in a wagon full of dried hay. Taking a moment to regain her bearings, she rolled off the wagon as the dust, snow, and debris flung into the air as two frenzied Trolls chased after her. She took a moment and readied a spell, for the moment they burst through the wall.
Then the stone wall exploded into a cloud of dust and two ugly monster faces peeked through – Then the spell hit them…
A raging column of fire engulfed the two as their pitiful roars turned to moans of pain. The fire reached to the heavens. Even the storm dispersed around the village as the fire turned the two to ashes within a few seconds, depleting nearly a thousand of her painfully stored mana. Thirty seconds was the duration of the spell before it puffed out of existence the same way it came.
All the was left was a two block radius of scorched earth before Avery. Only stone and burning thick wooden beams attested that there once were homes there. Even the howling storm had reeled itself back as Avery saw the moonlight beat down on the empty village.
. . .
After receiving multiple reports from Guild Scouts, Duke Greyscale nominated ten A-Rank Adventurers, Free-riders, and Mercenaries. The Empire was one of the strongest nations, so many people came for money. Luckily for him, some of those were A-Ranked Warriors that happened to be passing through.
They galloped along with twenty of his best knights that were comparable to B-Ranked warriors, around level thirty. With this much, they stood a high chance to defeat the reported trolls. So long as the report didn’t miss any.
They navigated haphazardly down the snow-caked path. He silently thanked himself for keeping the roads in good order, or else this riding would injure the horses before they got to the village in the Troll’s path. Just as he was thinking that a bright column of red-orange light shot up into the sky. Then, they burst from the snow veil and down a clear glistening snow path.
Vast cut fields enclosed them on either side. A column of godly fire rose from near the center of the large village, blowing away the storm and other columns of smoke.
“Shit! What’s going on!?” One of the hires yelled out. All the others wanted to know too, but the fire dissipated, leaving a large patch of empty land near the village square. “Hurry!” Duke Greyscale bellowed as his horse took the lead, but his heart sank when the heavy stench of blood filled his nostrils the closer he got to the village…