Scorpion Lion Forest
Editing: Exkalamity, Sebas Tian
The act of “jinxing” something, also known as “raising a flag”, has always been one that has both brought trouble and evoked fear. It has changed all sorts of destinies. It’s known for hooking up average losers with the hottest girls in school, brutally murdering loving fathers serving in the military, reversing all but guaranteed victories, and everything in between.
So you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this tangent and all.
“Wasn’t there only supposed to be a 1% chance for us to run into a manticore?!” I complained.
“Nn. Lucked out,” Fran happily replied.
“More like this only happened ’cause you jinxed it!”
We happened to encounter a 5 meter tall lion with a scorpion’s tail as we tried passing through The Shortcut.
Species: Manticore (Lion-type Monster)
Sole Sense: Lv 1
Sharp Nose: Lv 6
Espionage: Lv 4
Flame Breath: Lv 6
Vigilance: Lv 4
Harden: Lv 8
Herculean Strength: Lv 5
Shock Resistance: Lv 6
Resistance to Abnormal Status: Lv 6
Life Force Detection: Lv 4
Claw Arts: Lv 9
Claw Techniques: Lv 7
Earth Magic: Lv 5
Poison Spray: Lv 6
Tail Strike: Lv 9
Fire Magic: Lv 4
Physical Barrier: Lv 7
Roar: Lv 5
Magic Poison Fang
Description: A monster that resembles a lion with a scorpion’s tail. Its rank is justified by its defensive prowess as it’s offensive stats tend to be relatively lackluster. It is quite easy to combat so long as you take note of its tail. Its core is located within its heart. Threat level: C.
The manticore’s stats seemed reasonable and rather fitting given its rank. That is, it was about as strong as all the other C ranked monsters we’d fought to date. As indicated by its description, its skills were mostly centered around bolstering its defenses.
That said, it had both Magic Poison Fang and Herculean Strength, so its ability to attack wasn’t something to be underestimated.
Or at least that would’ve been the case if we’d run into it when it was in perfect condition.
“Dying?” asked Fran, as she tilted her head.
“Not quite. It’s health and mana are both sitting at about half.”
The manticore had deep wounds carved all over its body. The guild had said that younger manticores and manticores that’d been kicked out of their territory were the only two types that adventurers would normally encounter on The Shortcut.
The one we were staring down seemed to belong to the latter of the two categories. Its right leg had a deep gash in it and its right eye had a cut that seemed to render it useless. Its ever important tail had been torn down the middle and was missing its upper half, stinger and all.
It seemed to have sensed Fran’s strength, as its back was arched like an aggravated housecat. Its injured leg had prevented it from running away, so it instead chose to ready itself to engage her in combat.
“Alright. Let’s get ourselves some exp and loot its corpse once we’re done.”
“Nn!” Fran nodded, excited at the prospect of combat.
“Stay on guard, Urushi. Whatever almost killed our manticore friend here might still be nearby.”
“Woof!” Urushi replied reliably.
“Let’s go, Fran!”
The manticore’s defenses were focused towards physical resistance as opposed to magical resistance. To that end, I was going to be taking charge of our offensive efforts; Fran’s capacity for magic fell behind my own.
Fran was going to be focused on defense. She awakened in order to make it easier to avoid the enemy’s attacks by using her perception-type skills in tandem with her boosted dex stat. She’d be using her Sword Lord Arts and Perfect Barrier to parry and mitigate anything she couldn’t dodge. Though I was going to be focused on attacking, that wasn’t all. I was also preparing a teleportation spell just in case we ever needed to escape.
“Graaaaaaohhhh!” the manticore roared as it lunged towards Fran.
“Fmph,” Fran grunted as she dodged the manticore’s strike and took to its rear.
“Sweet! It looks like you’ve got us into a pretty good position. Thunderbolt! Thunderbolt!!”
“Gyaaaaooooooo!” the beast howled as the magical projectiles drove themselves into its body.
Lightning Magic’s biggest perk was the crowd-control type effect that came with its damage. The paralyzing bolts slowed its limbs and allowed us to better avoid its strikes.
“Yeah! Let’s keep this up till it dies!”
We continued to fire off spells. We probably could’ve opened with Kanna Kamui or even Thor’s Hammer and just straight up won, but, we didn’t want to blow up the monster’s core by spamming spells with too much power.
Thus we whittled our foe down with medium powered spells instead.
“Lightning Blast! Lightning Blast!!”
I called them medium powered, but that was only because I was used to casting the two other spells I’d just mentioned. Truth be told, the spells I was casting were probably considered high powered given that they could hurt C ranked monsters.
Another four blasts of lightning caused the manticore to die.
“…Dead?” Fran narrowed her eyes, still on guard.
“Oh god damn it Fran! You’re jinxing things again!” I groaned.
Fortunately, we were fine this time around. The manticore was actually dead. It didn’t get back up and attack. I pierced through its corpse and absorbed its core.
“It’s been a while since I’ve last absorbed anything this strong.”
My mood improved as I felt the manticore’s magical energy flow into me. I ended up gaining a whole 200 monster core points worth of value from it, which was a lot more than I imagined. I almost wanted to run into another manticore now.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like there were any other manticores nearby. They weren’t the kind of monster one encountered regularly.
“Grr!” Urushi let out a low growl to warn us of an incoming entity.
Likewise, Fran’s ears twitched as she picked up on the individual the wolf had detected.
“Whatever it is has got quite a bit of magical energy.”
The thing coming towards us had about the same amount of magical energy as a manticore, but it wasn’t one. Whatever it was, it was approaching incredibly quickly.
And it wasn’t alone. There was what seemed to be one of its allies following behind it as well. If they were monsters, it was possible that they were the type that hunted in pairs.
“I’ll get us ready to teleport the hell out if need be.”
Fran kept her guard up and took a combat ready stance with me in hand as she awaited the incoming pair. But both she and I were taken aback regardless.
”What impudence! I have been robbed of my prey!”
A young girl that looked to be only the slightest bit older than Fran complained as she sprang from the bushes. Her voice carried with it the sort of tone one would expect from a highborn.
She was pretty. She was really pretty. Her beauty was of such importance that I had to say it twice. Twice! 
Her hair was cut rather short, but curled inwards at the ends. Her eyebrows were thick, but not too long horizontally. They almost seemed a bit like the kind you’d see in Imperial, historical Japanese courts if you looked at her from afar. When combined with her big forehead, it made her give off a youthful charm. Both her hair and the ears that adorned her head were a platinum blonde while her skin was white as snow.
Her deep, crimson eyes clearly stood out from the rest of her visage. They were big, round, and carried within them all the girl’s obstinacy and determination. The sheer strength of her gaze was more than enough to draw attention to her.
Furthermore, her eyes weren’t the only thing that contrasted with her skin and hair; her armour did too. It was like her opposite: everything she wore was dyed in black. Her metal armour was ornamented all over with gold, giving her an air that was magnanimous and threatening. I couldn’t help but feel like it was too over the top for a child to wear, but for some odd reason it seemed to suit her nonetheless.
I could tell at a glance that she was a beastkin, but I had no way of knowing what race she was in particular. I appraised her, given that it was only natural in our current circumstances, but I wasn’t able to get anything out of it. She must’ve had a skill or item powerful enough to totally ward off the effects of even my Eye of Empyrea.
I instead had to rely on using my experiences to discern that she was some sort of cat-related beastkin.
“I can’t appraise her, so I can’t say for sure, but it looks like she’s probably a White Catkin or something,” I pondered.
“White Catkin. Doesn’t exist,” Fran telepathically replied.
“Nn. Know all catkin types since also catkin. No white.”
Wait, so what is she then? Is she not a cat? Nah, she has to be a cat based on how her ears and tail look. Maybe she’s like a White Pantherkin or White Tigerkin or something, assuming they exist?
“Can tell already evolved,” she remarked conclusively.
“Huh. Well then…”
“Nn… But strange. Can’t tell species.”
She could not only stop me from appraising her, but also somehow had the ability to prevent other beastkin from figuring out her precise species.
The girl briskly walked towards us as I found myself lost in thought. She was giving off an extremely hostile aura, but not the murderous kind. We decided to take a wait-and-see approach and hear her out for the time being. That said, we weren’t going to let her approach us any more than she already had.
“Stop there,” Fran narrowed her eyes as she issued a warning.
“…I need not for you to tell me that,” the other girl replied.
Much to my surprise, she stopped right where we told her to. Thinking about it, I realized it made sense. There was no reason for her to step within range of our attacks.
That action alone was more than enough to inform me that the girl was a skilled fighter. With a single glance she had not only discerned that Fran was strong, but also accurately estimated her effective range.
Her eyes widened as she took a second look at Fran. I couldn’t tell whether it was because she’d realized Fran was the Black Lightning Princess, or if it was simply because she was an evolved Black Catkin.
I wanted Fran to ask her who she was, but that had to wait. There were more important issues to be addressed.
“Approaching person, your party member?”
A second individual emerged from a bush behind the girl as she answered Fran’s question.
“Please don’t rush on ahead of me, my lady,” the individual rebuked.
A wave of shock coursed through my brain the moment I saw her. The sheer impact I felt was on par with the one I’d felt when I saw the Leviathan just the other day.
I was so surprised I couldn’t stop myself from muttering under my breath.
“Is that… a maid…?”
 Shitty meme. “If something’s important, you say it twice!”