The earthy, damp scent of fallen leaves spread through the air, a shadow in the wake of a passing shower that proclaimed, in no uncertain terms, the arrival of fall. Bars of cold sunlight pierced the dwindling canopy, igniting the fiery leaves scattered below, a final parting gift from an indolent summer. Raucous birds flew by overhead, eager to escape the clutches of a tenacious winter that crept into the air. Amidst the quiet clash of the seasons lay a girl, hair as red as the remnants of summer, oblivious to the chaos, her attention fully absorbed by her own silent hunt.
Ahead of her stood a young buck, its dappled hide almost golden in the sunlight. It had wandered away from the rest of the herd while grazing, seemingly oblivious to the danger. Despite its sedate appearance, Molly approached cautiously, each motion slow and deliberate. It was all too easy to spook the deer and waste the effort she spent tracking and stalking it.
The buck suddenly raised its head, as if it noticed something in the air. Before it even had had a chance to consider bolting, her spear was already soaring through the air, a missile aimed straight for its lungs. The buck sprang forward, surprisingly nimble for a creature of its size as the spear drew nearer, nearer-
“-Molydian Nirfourd.” The harsh voice of Mr. Hoverson, her history teacher, wrenched her consciousness back to reality. "Since you seem confident in the material, would you mind explaining to the rest of us the factors that led to the Seven Years War?”
"Uhh…” Molly looked around the room, desperately buying time as she wracked her brains for anything to say. History was never her strong suit and she could never bring herself to care about it. It seemed that people were always fighting each other for one reason or another and everything ended up becoming a pretext for a war eventually. "Sila and Relera had some tension over border disputes, and Abele felt threatened by Ageunta.” That much she remembered. Why the countries started fighting was beyond her. It was probably some trivial reason, and she had no idea what it could’ve been.
"Even a first year student could tell me that much. And probably faster too. I was looking details about the specific events. Can you even name one of them?” The bell rang, interrupting Mr. Hoverson’s scathing remarks. Molly silently thanked the goddess for the timing as she packed up her things. "Read sections 4 and 5 and be prepared for a quiz next class,” shouted the teacher, over the clamor of students eager to get out of the class.
Molly all but sprinted out of the classroom. She didn't have any strong feelings about her next class, but at that moment, being anywhere else was better than remaining there. Before she knew it, she had arrived in the courtyard, where a ranked fight was taking place, though a butchering would have been a more appropriate description of the way the fight was going.
Molly recognized one of the combatants - Díno. Who hadn't heard of Díno at this point? Even a portion of the incoming freshman knew of him, for his fearsome strength and haughty attitude were both infamous. She didn't know the other student, but judging by his situation, he wasn't anyone worth bothering remembering. Probably an incoming student with more power than sense.
Trying to get a better view, Molly pushed her way past a throng of onlookers. Third period was starting soon, but it wasn't everyday that one got to see a strong student fight. Gaining first hand data on Díno was well worth the risk of detention. With stronger opponents, rumors were an unreliable source of information. Too often, the information was exaggerated or simply incomplete, when students tried to convey a sense of power they themselves could not comprehend.
One thing was certain from watching Díno fight - he was not primarily a mage. There was no way that a mage could move that swiftly or deliver such power with his unarmed strikes. If Díno was actually a mage, he would be at least A rank. She doubted that he was that strong. That meant he was probably a mixed class like a Spellsword. So it wasn't quite as humiliating as losing to a mage in hand to hand combat, but still, for a class specializing in close range combat to lose to a mixed class, it meant that Díno was certainly one to be wary of.
Díno's victory was not much of a surprise to those watching the fight. That outcome was clear five seconds into the fight. However, Díno's challenge to the crowd surprised Molly. She knew from experience that maintaining a constant effect like his blizzard was much more tiring than it appeared to a casual observer and he had dodged the initial flurry of attacks which certainly was impressive. To seek another fight immediately in such a condition meant that Díno was even stronger than he first appeared, that he was exceptionally reckless, or a combination of the two.
Molly considered only for a moment before she stepped forward from the crowd. Taking out a spear from her inventory, she pointed it at him as she issues her challenge. "Even a lion knows to be wary of hyenas in the wrong situations. Díno Jordas, I accept your challenge.” As she spoke, she concentrated on her energy, allowing it to flow through her. Lightning crackled across her body, releasing a shower of sparks around her, ultimately gathering into her spear.
Somewhere in her mind, a voice told her that this was a bad idea, that she would be late to her next period. Perhaps seeing his recklessness emboldened her, but at that moment, she didn't care about such mundane concerns. There was no better way to gauge Díno's strength than to fight him herself and there was no better opportunity to attack than now, before he had a chance to recover. "Let's see if your skills live up to the rumors.” Before Díno had a chance to respond, she threw her spear at him, already pulling another one from her inventory. Díno's challenge was a strategic oversight, and she didn't intend to let him recover.