The dire bear was seriously injured, but William didn’t doubt it could still kill him if he was careless. William hadn’t tested how easily his bones broke in this body, but he decided it was better to not have to find out. Besides, he could easily die without breaking a bone, if he let himself get slashed. Upon thinking about it, he noticed a few slashes here and there, and realized his dodges hadn’t been quite as perfect as he thought.
Still, the bear was looking much worse. There was blood matting its sides, turning its brown fur black in the darkness. William had long since lost concentration on his light spell, but fortunately the moon and stars lit things well enough for him to see. Scorch marks were dotting much of the rest of the dire bear, where it wasn’t bleeding. Even so, a large part of that damage was only on the surface, and while that could kill something with enough of it, striking critical organs was more important. For that, he needed more power.
William started chanting, once again. This time, it would be a protracted chant instead of firing it off at the first good opportunity. That was risky, because if he lost concentration, he could suffer magical backlash. On the other hand, he needed to take the extra time to gather more mana, so that this spell could be more powerful… and hopefully the final one. Chanting and dodging around was really starting to take the breath out of William.
There was another reason he couldn’t afford to have the battle drag on much longer. His parents would be running out of arrows, since they would normally have no reason to have a quiver of more than about twenty arrows. Though they weren’t doing any critical damage with their shots, they were weakening and distracting the bear, and William wanted as much of that as he could get.
Though William wasn’t an expert on bear expressions, he felt that its current one was something like annoyed. It hadn’t been able to get to the tasty food in the barn, and it hadn’t been able to kill these people attacking it. William thought it might have chosen to retreat, but it didn’t realize how injured it was. Perhaps it couldn’t understand being injured by those smaller than it. Then, it did something completely normal… and totally unexpected.
Still some distance away from William, it stood up on its hind paws, threw back its head, and roared. The sound was deafening where William was, and he staggered back. Even so, it didn’t cause any real damage to him, and even his ears would be fine. It was the other more unexpected effect that he hadn’t anticipated. All around, the mana in the air became agitated, trembling violently. Even the mana around William, already under his control, fluctuated uncomfortably. He was already controlling more than he was comfortable with, and he felt his control slipping. However, he couldn’t afford to lose his spell now, nor could he afford to suffer magical backlash. He found himself yelling in response, and mentally tightened his grip on the mana already under his control. In addition, he wrested control of mana between himself and the dire bear. All of this happened in an instant, and at the same time William pointed his staff toward the dire bear and released his spell.
William’s hearing was somewhat numbed, but he still heard the thunder caused by his lightning bolt. Normally, the thunder was very faint, since any electricity under his control was rather limited, and hardly comparable to a true lightning bolt. However this time his spell actually displaced enough air for there to be a sonic boom it left in its trail. As for the actual lightning bolt, it struck dead center on the bear’s chest. That was actually off target, since he wanted to hit the heart, but at least William didn’t manage to miss such a gigantic creature. Besides, it didn’t appear to matter as the bear toppled forward, with blood pooling underneath it.
William held his staff out cautiously as he caught his breath, waiting to see if the dire bear would move again. Instead, the reflective pool of blood only grew larger, though its final expanse was limited by the blood soaking into the ground. As the pool continued to expand, William’s father Barend approached him. “Are you alright, Josef?”
He took a deep breath and then nodded. “Yeah, I’m alright. I wasn’t expecting anything like that to show up here.”
Barend nodded. “Indeed. This is close enough to the city that it probably shouldn’t have been able to get here unnoticed. We should send word in case this isn’t an isolated incident.”
Despite growing up on a farm where they raised animals, William didn’t eat meat that often. After all, most of the animals weren’t raised for their meat, and those that were didn’t get eaten by them, but sold. They still ate fowl on occasion, since those grew more rapidly and were cheaper, and there occasionally hunted things nearby, but even so meat wasn’t something they ate every day. That is, not until the last few weeks. Right now, they had bear meat. Lots of bear meat. Far, far too much bear meat. It was rather tough and stringy… but beyond that the taste wasn’t bad, and William thought that it probably had a lot of protein.
This was after they carted as much as they could into the city, and were still doing so every week. The remains of the bear took up about half of one of the cooler buildings, and William was glad they had that, or it would have mostly rotted in the field. Well, perhaps they could have managed to hire some exceptionally powerful animals to drag the corpse into the city, but it was better this way. Dire bear meat wasn’t all that popular, and with thousands of kilograms of it, it didn’t sell that quickly even in a city of many people. Still, it sold some, and over the course of the entire creature, it was worth quite a bit of money.
Though he wasn’t much for the taste, William was glad for the meat, since he had stepped up his physical training, and his combat training in general. That was especially true in terms of magic, which he hadn’t wielded in combat much himself, at least not directly. Sure, he might not run up against a dire bear again, but there were other dangerous things in this world… or in this country. William hadn’t really thought about it much, but there had been some powerful followers of the Demon King, and even if he was destroyed some of them would still be around. He wasn’t sure if they had continued to follow in his unpleasant style of “ruling”, but there were mixed statements about them which didn’t fill William with confidence. Not that he planned to go against them, at least not at this point, but being stronger himself wouldn’t be bad.