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3 Ranked Beasts

    In the middle of a prairie, surrounded by a thick forest, stood a massive tree. Underneath this tree, the figure of a young man picked itself up from the ground.

    This young man's clothes where tattered, dirty and clearly a size too small for his body. His slightly long black hair had dry leaves and broken twigs stuck in them, and covered his face almost completely.

    Once the young man got back on his feet, he started touching his own body in search of injuries, but to his surprise, there were none.

    Relieved yet skeptical about not being injured in the slightest after such a lengthy fall, a new spark of faith towards his otherwise bad luck was ignited within the young man's mind. While still perplexed, he ran his fingers through his hair.

    As his hair were moved aside, a handsome face was uncovered.

    He had a diamond shaped face, bordered with a sharp jawline which merged into a slightly pointy and protruding chin. Underneath a straight and well defined nose, were a pair of thin lips of a healthy rosy color, which almost completely covered a set of pearly white teeth. His straight and naturally full eyebrows stood above a pair of sharp, upturned eyes evenly spaced apart.

    Inbetween the young man's eyelids, an ivory white sclera surrounded a pair of umber colored pupils, which changed into a lighter shade the closer it got to the black ring that enclosed them.

    After one look at the young man's eyes, anyone would see the decisiveness this youth had to adopt in order to take care of himself. In fact, his calmness after such a fall, would surprise many.

    One would also notice, to the unbeknownst of the young man, a very thin layer of golden light laying at the bottom of his pupils.

    "You look worse than when I've left you, Daniel.. eh eh" said a voice that came from behind him, along with a deep and slow laugh.

    Daniel turned around and noticed that the voice belonged to the old man who he had lost sight of earlier that day.

    He was standing a full head taller than Daniel, which was not short by any means for his age. His eyes still giving off a dim shine, and his smile still gentle.

    What broke Daniel out of the surprise of seeing the old man once again, was the urgency he felt to go back to his sister. He hated leaving her alone, and the idea of making her spend a night in the city by herself, made him anxious.

    After finishing to brush the leaves and twigs off his hair, he looked towards the old man, but as he was about to start talking, the old man's voice anticipated him "It is clear that you have somewhere to go, don't worry about me, I'll be fine here alone.." said the old man, with a gentle smile always present. He then added "I've been here for a long time."

    Daniel had the intention of guiding the old man back into the city, since he wasn't sure if any ranked beast would leave the forest to the prairie and hunt for prey. But after realizing that the old man looked fine despite not having a bag or a weapon.. he convinced himself that the old man was probably capable of taking care of himself.

    As Daniel was about to bid farewell, once more, the old man interrupted him. "The fruit you've picked.. make no mention of it to anyone." Said the old man as the warm smile suddenly left his face, for the first time since the two met.

    "Good and evil exist in this world.. more clearly than you can imagine.." Added the old man slowly, while turning to look at the massive three that stood still in the scenery. His figure, then, disappeared into thin air.

    Daniel surprise was at its peak, yet he managed to say out loud "WAIT! Who are you?.." Unfortunately, nobody was around to answer. Yet, a familiar deep voice resounded through the entire prairie, shaking Daniel's soul to its core.

    "I have already told you that.. HA HA HA" Answered the voice, before a loud laugh started to reverberate in the air, forcing the grass to bend in awe. As the thundering laugh ended, the last words Daniel heard from the domineering voice, left him dumbstruck "Farewell, Dan of the Hiel's.." Said the voice before disappearing completely.

    It took a few minutes for Daniel to leave that surprised state of mind, and remember why he was so anxious before. Unfortunately, it was too late to avoid going through the forest at night.

    He was aware that traversing the forest at night would take far longer than it took him to get here. His sense of direction wasn't bad, the only reason he got lost and ended up finding Iewah, was because he had been chased for hours. What could prevent him to have a safe and short travel through would be only one thing.. Beasts.

    The city of Phyrri had been built nearby the legendary tree on purpose. A small group of settlers had discovered the tree during one of their travels, and after one of them had obtaining its gifts, they named it The Catering Tree and decided to settle close to it.

    When the city was at its earliest stages, many martial artists and mages traveled to Phyrri in order to obtain the blessing of the tree.. That had caused the ranked bests which inhabited the forest between the city and the tree, to be hunted to a state of near extinction. What was left of them, were the lowest ranks.

    The strongest ranked beasts that had been reported were of the second rank,  which any patrol of city guards could kill.

    The remaining low level beasts which inhabited the forest, had turned into prey of unranked hunters. Their ranked cores would still be collected by hunters, but their value was small, that cultivators with the slightest amount of wealth was able to afford them, without having to hunt the beasts themselves.

    Furthermore, those who had reached the rank of those bests, were unwilling to risk their lives to hunt for the cores in the forest at night.

    Of course, even though cheap, Daniel would have never been able to afford one. He had to work hard only to reach the required amount of money for his monthly payments, and what was left of it, was used to take care of his sister and himself. One could see how that was barely enough from the tattered state of Daniel's clothes, or by his underfed physique.

    Daniel entered the forest at sunset. For the first hour he saw nothing more than a few unranked beasts, which at their worst, made a bush rustle nearby him.

    After two hours, he started to hear roars and howls in the distance, but none of the beasts they came from. Almost ready to thank the unusual behaviour of his luck, he heard the sound of water, and it was close.

    When he reached the source of the noise, he noticed a large pond at the base of a enormous bouder. The surface of this pond was covered in broken twigs, floating leaves and water plants, things which made seeing through them very hard.

    Unsure if he should take the gamble, he waited for a few minutes behind the trees that surrounded the large pond. He was about to approach the bank of the pond himself, when a rabbit like creature approached it from the other side.

    This rabbit like creature was very large, probably enough to not fit in a big cauldron. It had bright red eyes that shined in the dark, and a snow white fur. Two long and thin horns grew on its head, right at the base of its fluffy ears.

    Daniel had heard of this beast from his father. It was called 'Bloody-eyed Hare', and it was a rank 1 beast of the lowest level.

    Considered by many as the weakest of all the ranked beasts due to its vegetarian nature, its combat prowess was lower than many carnivorous unranked beasts. The only way it had to evolve was by consuming spiritual herbs, which were far too rare for an entire species to thrive on. This had put it at the bottom of the food chain.

    Daniel observed the beast for a couple of minutes, as it sniffed around while approaching the bank of the pond, then it started to drink its water. Daniel's stomach started to grumble. He had only eaten half of the piece of bread which he had taken with him when he left the house in the morning, and that was enough for him, but he hadn't expect that he would not be able to come back for a full day.

    The idea of getting back home to his sister with a Blood-eyed Hare hanging from his shoulders, was too enticing. He reached for the ground with his arms and grabbed a rock.

    "This beast shouldn't be dangerous.. and if I miss, I can always escape" Thought Daniel as his mouth started to salivate at the idea of having a feast for dinner, together with his beloved sister.

    The rock was big enough to do damage if it hit, but not enough for him to be unable to swing it a few times. The hare had a cowardly nature, so he was certain that, even if he failed to bash the rock on the hare's head, the beast wouldn't fight back and just escape.

    As Daniel left the cover of the trees and approached the hare from behind, he held the rock tightly in his hand. Step after step he got closer, until there were less than 10 meters inbetween them. But the moment Daniel was about five meters away from it, the Blood-eyed Hare suddenly stood up in place and straightened its long ears.

    Daniel thought that he had been sensed by it, but since the beast didn't leave, he stood completely still, hoping that it would relax once more and allow him to hit.

    A minute didn't pass before a giant opened mouth full of long sharp teeth, appeared from underneath the water, and shutted tightly on the white ball of fur.. Biting off half of the hare's body.

    Terrified by the sudden appearance and the gory show, Daniel stood paralyzed, a few meters away from the two-meters long crocodile head that had just popped out of the water.

    As the crocodile moved out of the water to scarf the remaining half of the hare's body, Daniel was able to see the beast more clearly.

    The crocodile had three sets of yellow colored grooves that went through his entire length, starting from the back of his head and all the way down its tail. The end of its tails was deformed as compared to a normal crocodile, it had the shape of a spiked mace, which the crocodile clearly used to hit its enemies during a fight. The last detail that Daniel noticed where the two oddly long teeth moving up from the sides of the beast's nose, looking like a pair of straight horns.

    This crocodile was called Yellow-striped Caiman, and it was a rank 3 beast.

    Of course, Daniel was unaware of what this beast was. The forest surrounding Phyrri was said to have no beast above the second rank, and that had been the case since many years before Daniel's or his father's birth. Inside Daniel's mind, the type of beast this crocodile was, was possibly the last thing he needed to know. His only thoughts were on how to escape this predicament.

    None of his muscles moved, as his eyes were stuck on the beast's teeth, which still dripped with the hare's blood. Crocodiles could stay still for a very long amount of time, so minutes passed as a young man, and a giant crocodile looked at each other without moving.

    Daniel grew increasingly calmer, to a point where he was surprised to find himself angry at the giant crocodile for having stolen his prey.

    Of course, that thought came and left in the span of a few moments. His full focus was still on the crocodile's movements.

    After a couple more minutes of waiting, Daniel noticed the giant crocodile starting to slowly step back, and entering the water once more. Confident that the beast had given up on catching him, possibly because it didn't have the element of surprise, Daniel took a step back as well.

    Unfortunately, Daniel couldn't be more mistaken, as the moment he stepped back, the half submerged crocodile sprung out of the water and rushed towards him.

    "Shit!.." Daniel exclaimed, before turning around and taking off into the forest.
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