Phillard had no memory of ever being an animal. His first recollection was standing up on his legs, feeling the need to fill his belly. As a magical beast, he had always been on the top of the food chain.
Fear was a rare emotion for him. Something he experienced only when facing Evolved Monsters or, more recently, Lith. Being eaten alive made Phillard discover the emotion of terror.
The awareness that, even if he somehow managed to get rid of the troll, he could still die from his wounds, was almost enough to make him panic.
His body was weak but his mind was strong. Tendrils of earth emerged from the ground, shoving themselves down the troll's many maws. Mud and rocks tasted terrible. A disgusted expression appeared on the Fallen's face while it tried to get rid of the fetters restricting its movements.
Reaper exploited the moment the two were finally separated to unleash his most powerful lightning on the still struggling troll. Hammer Fall was the equivalent of a tier four air spell.
The lightning bolt was as big as a small house and instead of striking once before disappearing into the ground, it coiled around its prey, hitting it multiple times.
The troll's skin was blackened and the smell of grilled meat accompanied his charred body. It made the Lindwurm hungry, reminding him he was an apex predator. All those who opposed him were bound to become food first and manure later.
The troll started to heal the instant the lightning stopped, its hands glowing with light magic. Guardian the Ry struck it with several fire bolts, but in its humanoid form, the troll wasn't vulnerable to fire anymore.
"I'm useless here!" She said. "I'll go back and help the others. Try to hold on until we get rid of the other three trolls."
"Easier said than done!" Reaper cursed. Letting a single troll go would mean that all of their fallen companions would have died for nothing. Running away wasn't an option.
Phillard roared his challenge and stood up on his tail despite the agony from his multiple wounds and the blood spurting everywhere. The troll charged at the Lindwurm, releasing another barrage of daggers made of light.
This time Phillard was ready. He clenched his right hand, raising a stone wall that blocked the light spell. The troll smashed through the wall, falling into Phillard's trap. Right behind the stone barrier, he had mixed water and earth to create a thick mud layer that thoroughly coated the troll.
Suddenly the creature was deaf, blind, and slowed enough for the Lindwurm to conjure a giant hammer made of stone. He used it to send the troll flying in the sky with a single powerful upward blow.
"Strike it with everything you got!" Phillard ordered both the Crons and Reaper while removing the earth and leaving the monster drenched in water.
Lightning bolts struck from every direction with enough force to almost prevent the troll from falling down. Phillard made sure the creature never regained its footing. He swung the stone hammer sending the troll flying every time it was about to reach the ground.
With no spells and its mobility sealed, soon the troll reverted back to its hideous form and died shortly thereafter. Phillard was exhausted. He was doing everything he could to treat his wounds, but his knowledge of light magic was limited to chore magic.
He could only dress the wounds with earth magic to stop the bleeding. When he saw that the three other trolls were still alive, rage blinded him.
"Why don't you just die?" He roared. The air in his lungs mixed with the unique mana running through his body. A spark of his life force ignited the mana, turning the roar into a green cloud that enveloped the trolls and filled the crater.
The rocks melted, and the earth decaying emitting the disgusting smell of rotten eggs. Everything touched by the toxic breath died and the trolls were no exception. Their bodies turned into pools of white liquid. Not even bones were left behind.
"F*ck my life!" Phillard cursed. "Couldn't I have learned that five minutes ago?"
Of the twenty one magical beasts, only fourteen remained and many others wouldn't survive their wounds.
Phloria's boot camp was a nightmare. She knew what to expect, Orion had told her everything in advance, yet no words could describe the harsh reality she had faced during the last six months.
First, her long hair had been shaved to a buzz cut and then all of her magical items had been confiscated. Everything that reminded her of her past life, every link with her family had been severed.
They strictly forbid the use of magic outside of chore magic during the training course. The cadets could only use their first name and the service number assigned to them. It was for their own protection.
The military was the polar opposite of an academy. The male to female ratio was seven to three and nobles would suffer from hazing if discovered. Most of the applicants were poor people trying to build a better future for themselves.
More often than not, they had been forced to run away from an unfair ruler, either to spare their families from more taxes or to avoid a grudge. Nobles were despised by both officers and grunts, forcing them to hide in plain sight.
With her muscular build and her callous hands from all her training, Phloria had no problems passing for a commoner. Whenever someone asked her about her family or past, she simply talked about Lith's.
They had spent so much time together that she knew his life like the back of her hand. It helped Phloria to make friends and to keep her identity a secret. She had never experienced most of their daily worries except through Lith's words.
The first months were brutal. The instructors only cared about strength, stamina, and speed. Only those who excelled would get a shot at becoming part of the elite forces. Average cadets could only become normal soldiers, while those lacking in one or more skill could only hope that their brain would get them a desk job.
The rest would be deemed unfit for service and discharged.
In every test during the first three months, Phloria outperformed every other cadet in her platoon. It earned her a lot of admiration from her barrack mates and just as much hostility from the other cadets.
However, the Ernas family had stolen too much spotlight lately, their enemies were itching for an opportunity to embarrass them.
Archduke Teben had never forgotten the humiliation his daughter suffered during the White Griffon tournament. He couldn't stand Phloria overshadowing Clea in the military too, so he made sure the right rumors reached the right ears.
When her identity was "casually" discovered, all Phloria's hard work was for naught. Even her barrack mates abandoned her. They could stand being outclassed by a hard working commoner, while the success of a silver spooned noble was unacceptable.
Soon Phloria was cut off from the other cadets. The only thing worse than the daily hazing and humiliation was the isolation. Things hit rock bottom when her platoon met their sergeant instructor: Trion Proudstar.
It was Archduke Teben's final gift. He knew Trion hated his brother so much that he had refused Lith's family name and bought one with his own merits instead of using them to further his career.