Lize had mixed feelings about this place.
Although they weren't there for a mission, Lize still couldn't relax. The forest brought back bad memories from before. Whenever she walked on the grass, she remembered the deaths of her previous leader and her comrades somewhere within the forest. It was a terrible feeling.
It's no surprise though since it was her first time experiencing a complete wipe. She slung her bag over her shoulders as she walked silently behind the group, her mind preoccupied with the past ordeal.
Even Marlene, the only one who had a good relationship with Lize besides Rhode, was unable to comfort her because she was also preoccupied with something at the moment. The genius Mage was looking rather dull as she dragged her feet next to Lize. Clearly, her mind was wandering somewhere else, and the culprit that made her like this was no one else but the new Ranger Alchemist Lapis, who was not too far away from her.
After that day, Marlene agreed to Rhode's request and tried to teach Lapis about 'standard' alchemy. At first, Marlene didn't think that it would be difficult, but oh my, she was so wrong.
Although she didn't study mysterious creation and construction, at least she knew how to concoct potions. As long as she can teach her on that topic, it shouldn't be much of a problem.
However, when she discussed with Lapis about potions... she finally realized that she wasn't omnipotent. Even though Marlene was confident about her knowledge regarding the topic, Lapis was just too abnormal. Her knowledge regarding alchemy was far beyond ordinary people's comprehension.
Here's a simpler way to describe their conversation:
"Lapis, after we grind an apple into juice, it will still retain its rich nutrients. Then, after altering some stuff, we can create a relaxing and energetic effect..."
"But Sister Marlene, after cutting the apple into pieces, we can also use for beauty purposes..."
"Now, Lapis. We're not talking about beauty. The main point is about the juice..."
"But why can't we use it for beauty purposes after making it into juice?"
That's just how Lapis' mind works. Marlene decided to give up after bearing with her for two days. Being the genius she was, Marlene rarely puts down her pride. But in the end, she told Rhode that she wanted to quit being her instructor. Rhode could not force Marlene to do something against her wishes, so he could only give in to her request.
As for Lapis, Marlene wasn't sure how her future would be. She acknowledged that Lapis' way of thinking was unique and different from the Magic Academy's teaching style, yet it was also Lapis' greatest weakness.
One must realize that alchemy knowledge had been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. It took countless Alchemists to form an effective learning system. Lapis was unable to enjoy the benefits of this learning system and had to create her own path in alchemy. If one division already took hundreds of years to master, what about all three divisions?
Rhode felt differently; he came from the modern world, so he knew that there were many individuals with unique gifts. He read many novels where the main characters were oddballs, and yet they still succeeded in the end. Maybe Lapis was the same?
Still, it didn't matter even if Lapis failed. Rhode had already made preparations to let Lapis become a maid in the stronghold. At least she would be pleasing to the eye and Rhode wouldn't have completely wasted his money he had spent on training her.
"Sister Lize, are you okay?"
Anne, who was as cheery as always, came to find out that Lize was in low spirits.
Lize raised her head and smiled bitterly. Despite the scenery of Twilight Forest in spring to be beautiful, Lize was in no mood to enjoy it. She knew that she was acting strange, but she couldn't control her emotions.
"Nothing, it just that I'm not feeling very well."
Lize didn't explain further. She didn't want to bring her past up. But... why can't she let it go?
Even Lize herself didn't know the reason why.
Hearing Lize's vague answer, Anne stared at her for a while and once again revealed her energetic smile.
"Although Anne doesn't know what happened to sister, Anne still think it's better for sister to be happy. Otherwise, the people who care about you will be sad too. If you're happy, everyone will be happy too, isn't that a lot better?"
Anne didn't say anything more and ran to the back in high spirits. Lize looked at the girl who skipped away with complicated feelings. She stretched out her hand to touch her face.
"... Those people who care about me... will be sad too... is that right?"
She said to herself.
Then she lifted her head to look at the sky through the gap between the leaves.
Everyone arrived at the destination before the sun went down.
The site was a clearing along the borders of Twilight Forest and Paphield. A warm and gentle breeze rustled the grass on the flat ground, giving off an aura of tranquility.
Shauna and her subordinates quickly began to set up camp. They were extremely proficient; in a mere ten minutes, they've already managed to set up a decent base camp.
Their base camp was established on a hill with a nearby creek flowing downwards into the forest on both sides. Old Walker and Randolf demonstrated their Ranger skills by setting up many traps around the base camp. Although it was supposed to be a 'leisure' trip, it was still better to be safe than sorry.
While they were setting up traps, they managed to catch some wild rabbits escaping from a hawk. So, it seems like they were going to have meat for their next meal.
The whole journey was rather relaxing from their departure until now. But after indulging themselves in a delicious rabbit stew for dinner, Rhode reminded them that they weren't here for recreation.
"This is the training schedule."
Rhode said while handing pieces of paper to Shauna, Randolf, and the rest. While they were reading the content, Rhode opened his mouth and continued,
"All of you should know what this is. My first requirement of you is to master these skills. Of course, they are not difficult, and you've already probably heard of these skills, but my requirements are stricter."
"Sir, this is..."
At that moment, Randolf and the rest had just finished reading the contents of the paper. They were surprised and looked at Rhode unbelievably.
Randolf's eyes widened in shock. What was on the paper right now, were the various skills belonging to Rangers. The skills were arranged in a manner that was unfamiliar to him. Based on the skill's duration and cooldown, the paper informed him what are the first skills should be used, followed by the second skill, and then the last skill. Moreover, it also showed him which combination of skills to use in different kinds of situations!
However, if a player were to see this piece of paper, they wouldn't be as surprised as Randolf and the rest. If they were a being a burden in the game, they would've opened their browser and searched on the web on 'How to get the highest DPS' - and what they found would be what Randolf was looking at right now.
(ED: In MMORPG terms: Skill chaining/skill combos/skill trains or I believe more commonly known as skill rotations.)
That was the training method Rhode had thought of.
Previously, Rhode had asked Randolf and the rest of their learned skills. Of course, as NPCs, they won't have any 'player abilities' so they weren't as strong as the players. But if he gave them a good skill rotation to use, he could still create a perfect attack plan.
That was indeed Rhode's purpose.
Since these newbies can't figure it out on their own, he should teach them step-by-step on how to use their skills efficiently. No matter how stupid they were, after reading this detailed 'skill guide,' they should be able to improve themselves significantly.
If they are still unable to perform well... at that time, he would consider to let Randolf wear the maid outfit and stand in front of the entrance of the stronghold.
Frankly speaking, in terms of battle experience, Randolf and the rest were complete newbies. But they were still mercenaries who've passed the assessment, so they must at least have some insight on their own skills.
Randolf and the rest were pleasantly surprised to find that Rhode had given them such a valuable gift. One must realize that it was no easy feat to produce something such as this without years of experience, and if they aspire to reach Rhode's level of competency, they would have to sacrifice many years of their life to gain experience.
The difference between the experienced and the inexperienced was akin to day and night. When comparing two Swordsmen using the same skill, if one of them had years of experience while the other was a newbie, the way they used the same skill would result in a completely different outcome.
So, now that Rhode developed a skill rotation for them that maximized their DPS, they were extremely ecstatic.
Thus, the way that Randolf and the rest stared at Rhode somehow turned into admiration.
How does he have the knowledge of so many skills?!