"Treasures?" Shesmu asked, his faked surprised expression veiling his inner thoughts.
For how long will I need to keep feigning ignorance? Please, someone, get me out!
"Yes, treasures. These can have any number of items, from weapons to armors to anything else. If we get to open some of these, we can swap out these trash pieces of equipment for something better earlier than everyone else. Plus, we don't even need to grind out monsters and waste time. Of course, we need to be lucky enough to find them."
As DepressedRyan was explaining, Leo shimmed in.
"Well, these treasures are cool and all. But in the end, they're just an addition, we can't just waste time looking for them hoping for a stroke of luck. In the end, they're not as consistent as fighting Bosses."
"Oh Bosses, I forgot to talk about those. Yeah, there are Bosses in the forest. The guard was being scared and all, and he told me to take caution as there are strong monsters in the forest. But how can we be scared of fighting them? Fighting strong monsters and Bosses, that's a man's biggest romance!"
At DepressedRyan's declaration, Leo couldn't help but nod approvingly.
Seeing the two being so excited, Shesmu smiled and thought.
Well, at the very least they're not chickening out from the challenge. That's a great start.
After the trio had their fair share of excitement, Shesmu brought the group down to earth and asked.
"It's cool that there are bosses and treasures, but you talked before about some kind of strategy. What strategy can you even make without knowing what we're going against?"
At Shesmu's question, Leo and his friend fidgeted nervously, before DepressedRyan finally answered.
"Well, it's not really about strategy more than just knowing each other. We all know our skills, but none of us know each other's fighting style. I thought that if we're given this opportunity to stay in this place where we have infinite energy regen, we could test out each other's skill level." He then continued with a smaller voice, "I wonder if that will be fine with you?"
"Yeah, no problem."
Shesmu played with Leo for 8 years, so he knew his fighting style like the back of his hand. However, that was future Leo. Shesmu has no idea about his skills when he just started playing the game.
At Shesmu's response, both DepressedRyan's and Leo's face brightened up. Leo then exclaimed,
"Good, so let start right now!"
Seeing Leo being so excited, DepressedRyan calmed him down with a few words.
"It's good that you're eager to start, but before that, claim your chest. Or, how do you plan to use your skill without a weapon?"
The trio then used their beginner's chest and equipped the set. In a flash, their attire changed. The swords they were holding were an exact copy of the one used in the tutorial. They also wore plain iron shoulder pads, a chest plate, leather pants, and a pair of shoes.
"Okay, Leo. You have no problem in using your three skills, right?"
"Ehh, to a certain extent. We do still fail to activate them sometimes." Leo answered, fidgeting in place. He was obviously feeling guilty about his incompetence.
At Leo's answer, Shesmu just smiled gently. Since he already started practicing animation cancels, Shesmu forgot for a second how hard it was to activate the skill in the first place. One needed to free his mind and only think the name of the skill for it to activate, this was pretty hard for someone who just started playing. He remembered that when he first started playing the game in his past life, he was also in a similar situation. At the time, it took him 3 hours before he was able to use his skills freely.
"It's not a big problem, so don't worry, we will fix that in a second." Shesmu then took a deep breath before assuming a more serious tone. "First of all, let's start with the basics. When you try to use a skill, I noticed that my mind becomes unusually clear. I deduced that this is the system helping you maintaining a clear state of mind that is necessary for the skill to activate. I want you to just let the system do its thing, and focus on maintaining that thought until the skill activates. I know that this is hard, but it's the only way to do it, so try your hardest."
At Shesmu's explanation, both Leo and DepressedRyan turned serious and nodded.
"Okay, let's do this." Saying so, Leo raised his sword in a fighting position, executing Empowered Slash.
Seeing his friend being so eager, DepressedRyan followed suit.
As the duo entered their own world, Shesmu also went back a few steps to have enough space for his training.
This escaped my attention before, but it seems that I did at least retain the ability to instantly use my skills. If I didn't even have that, then…
Thinking about the possibility, Shesmu shook his head.
No… No time to think about such possibilities now.
Shaking all of these thoughts away, Shesmu focused on the task at hand.
I should first get the cancel down, only then can I focus on other stuff.
Shesmu took his fighting stance, shut his eyes and breathed deeply. He then reopened his eyes with force, only to witness an incredible scene. A white shadow materialized in front of him, its form hazy, and its movements silent. This was a figment of Shesmu's imagination. For the longest time, he was able to shadow box against humanoid lifeforms that his mind created and visualized. This was one of Shesmu's secrets. Focusing on the neck of the creature he performed his Empowered Slash Cancel.
Shesmu's sword went through the white shadow, however, as if it was made of gas, it rematerialized again.
Once again, Shesmu took his fighting stance, swung his sword and activated Empowered Slash, slashing through the white shadow. This time too, he successfully performed Empowered Slash Cancel.
This pattern continued for a while. Ten times, twenty times, fifty times. Time seemed to stop for Shesmu as he focused only on the sword in his hand and the white shadow in front of him.
Sweat dripped from Shesmu's face and plopped on the pool of sweat next to his shoes.
Once again, Shesmu performed Empowered Slash Cancel. To the inexperienced eyes, this slash may look the same as all the others, however, it still made Shesmu's heart pump from excitement.
Great, that one felt clean.
While not flashy, Shesmu's last Empowered Slash Cancel was the fastest and most streamlined one he ever performed since his reincarnation. His other attempts might have looked good to one without any experience, but any decent player from Shesmu's past life could discern all of its weak points. First, they were slow as the fighting position they emanated from and their trajectory wasn't optimal. Second, they were easily blockable as they left a big interval between the normal hit and the Empowered Slash one. In that interval, a pro player will be able to use Dash to escape the second wave of damage.
However, Shesmu's last Slash didn't suffer from any of these. Not only was it fast, but it was also fast even with Shesmu's past life standards. However, this wasn't what made Shesmu the happiest, the reason lies in the timing of the Empowered Slash. In that one slash, the interval between the damage done by the normal attack and the skill was so small that Shesmu couldn't even discern it.
If I were in the receiving end, then maybe even I wouldn't be able to dodge it consistently.
Hard work does pay off, even though Shesmu spent an unknown amount of time trying to perfect his technique, the results left him satisfied.
Fatigued, Shesmu dropped on the ground, on his bottom.
"Ah, huff, huff."
I shouldn't get carried away. This was a good strike, but it's not as if I can do it consistently at this level.
However, even though Shesmu thought this, his smile couldn't hide his happiness.
At a sudden cough that came from behind, Shesmu jumped in surprise. Turning around, Shesmu found both DepressedRyan and Leo behind him.
"Well, wasn't that the intense training session? We waited until you finished before coming to talk."
"Oh, so you guys finished already?"
At Shesmu's question, Leo almost let out a chuckle.
"I mean, of course, we did, it's been more than three hours already."
At the mention of time, Shesmu finally noticed that the sun which was high in the sky was already close to setting. He then looked back at the duo, before standing up and saying.
"Sorry for the wait guys. Let's get going, the forest of beginning is still waiting for us."