It took roughly one hour for the duo to reach the small valley that the parchment indicated but the journey had gone smoothly.
Sophie could now hear the familiar roar of the water crashing into the deep pool below.
The pair moved stealthy towards the clearing, but Sophie was shocked at the scene before her eyes.
Several teams of students were battling the triple headed snake with fearsome attacks and abilities.
It appeared that the parchment was in several more crates than Sophie had anticipated as there was well over one hundred students battling the monster while countless others watched from the forest.
A silent majority was content to see others be exposed to the dangers of battling the monster while they hung back and tried to fish for benefits.
Three students tried to launch sneak attacks at Astrid and Sophie from the shadows but a series of blaster shots to their chests caused them to be instantly eliminated.
Astrid observed the entire situation with an oddly serious look on her face before tilting her head slightly in confusion and turning around to gaze at Sophie.
"SophieI just realised something," Astrid quietly whispered.
"What is it?" Sophie replied in a puzzled tone.
"Do we need to defeat the guardian beast? I mean where exactly is this so-called treasure located?"
"Is it inside the pool of water?"
"Is the beast the treasure?"
High intelligence was the key characteristic of mages and Astrid was no exception to the rule.
Some might stereotype her battle junkie tendencies as proof that she was nothing more than a muscle-head.
But the Mendolesa girl's enemies would suffer if they mistook her straightforwardness for naivety.
When it came to tactics in fighting. Astrid had one of the sharpest minds that Sophie had ever encountered.
Astrid's only weakness was dropping her guard once a fight had presumably been won.
She had raised an interesting point which caused Sophie to frown slightly and mull over the words in her mind.
What exactly was the treasure? Or was there even one in the first place?
The parchment simply marked this location on the map as a place of interest but in retrospect this could mean a number of possibilities.
Was the something inside the beast a treasure?
It was possible to turn the fangs into weapons but without poison from the creature they would simply be sharp daggers.
Meanwhile the fight was still intensifying as this new batch of students were clearly more powerful than the ones that Sophie had seen before.
Ying Yang palm strike!
A bald student wearing monk robes leapt high into the air before striking a heavy palm on the backside of the beast that exploded with a black and white aura.
The snake roared in pain and lashed out towards the airborne student, but his companion quickly drew its attention with another attack.
Bone prison art!
Enormous bone spikes burst out from the ground and pierced the soft underbelly of the creature.
This team was clearly made up of students at the qi spirit stage and Astrid's eyes gleamed with excitement as she saw the powerful moves.
The middle head of the snake hissed loudly and spat out a glob of reddish venom that caused the temperature to rise.
It struck one of the students on the outskirts of the battle and he screamed in pain as his flesh began to melt.
Luckily, the barrier device activated immediately, and he was teleported back to the ship before his injuries could become fatal.
The triple headed snake was not in good shape either as it appeared as though it had suffered through several days of fighting and was beginning to feel exhausted.
Human wave tactics were surprisingly effective!
A blue line crossed the neck of the snake before the right head was lopped completely off.
The wielder of the blade was a noble girl wearing an intimidating full set of armour and numerous hidden weapons.
She landed gracefully on the ground before sheathing her sword and making a proud declaration of strength.
"Listen up all you cowards hiding in the bushes!" she roared at the students in the forest.
"Either step up or after we bring down this monster. You. Will. Be. Next..."
The unspoken threat hung in the air for several minutes but no one made a move from the sidelines.
"We should join," Sophie muttered.
"After fighting together for so long, those students in the clearing will definitely more united than those in the shadows."
She looked at Astrid to get her opinion but the Mendolesa girl just waved her claws happily and vanished from the spot.
"Palus creata, sub hoc anguis", came a lazy chant before a thick swamp appeared under the snake which caused it to sink into the ground.
Countless students shot wary looks towards the mage that suddenly appeared in their midst, but Astrid paid them no mind.
Not willing to be outdone, Sophie flashed forward and shot several blaster rounds straight into the creature's eyes.
Her marksmanship was remarkable, and each shot was directly on target.
It appeared that their willingness to step forward was a trigger for the remaining students as one after another came out of the forest to join the fight.
The girl who slashed through the left head retreated from the battlefield to sit down and mediate.
Clearly that impressive sword strike had caused a copious amount of qi consumption.
Triple headed snakes were fearsome creatures but the loss of one of its main heads had greatly reduced it combat abilities and it eventually succ.u.mbed under the barrage of attacks.
The right head took out several students before Astrid casted a freeze spell to lock it in place as Sophie shattered it with a powerful kick.
Losing two of its heads caused the creature to lose a great deal of blood and it crashed down at the edge of the pool with only the middle head barely hanging on.
This round of fighting had finished with a pyrrhic victory for the students as the survivors walked slowly towards the dying beast.
What little unity shared between fellow candidates was beginning to disappear as flashes of greed appeared in the eyes of the surviving students.
The creature was bound to be full of precious materials and food that would be useful during the exam.
And there was not enough to go around.
The only surviving head was the middle one who opened its injured eyes to watch the approaching students with an unreadable expression on its face.
Jeers and taunts were directed towards the triple headed snake as the surviving students couldn't help but vent their frustrations.
"Hahaha look at this pathetic creature!"
"You eliminated my friend you piece of shit,"
"Ay ladswho wants some snake meat tonight?"
Laughter rang throughout the clearing, but Sophie hung back while carefully watching the snake weakly resting on the ground.
Something did not seem right.
It was only a small feeling of discomfort, but Sophie could not shake off the notion that she needed to leave the area now.
"Damnthey might take all the good stuff," Astrid whined before following the crowd of students towards the beast.
She leapt forward before Sophie could discuss this uneasy feeling that was crawling down her spine.
What was wrong?
Why am I feeling like this?
The triple headed snake was clearly on its last vestiges of life, but Sophie could swear that it was now gazing at the students with a taunting expression.
Fiery energy built up in its mouth, but its fangs had long been shattered so this act seemed to be a futile one in the opinion of the students.
Sophie's eyes turned briefly red and she could now see more and more energy acc.u.mulating in its mouth which expanded the beast's jaws until the bones cracked under the pressure.
"Astrid get away from there now!" Sophie yelled frantically.
Just as the first student arrived at the remaining head of the snake and prepared to give a fatal blow...