In the morning we made our final preparations for fighting hydras. In my case, that wasn’t much. I had little to do besides put on my armor.
All of the scouts were out, looking for a good place to fight the boss- except that remained to see if it was approaching us. It wouldn’t be hard to spot, but we needed all the warning we could to form up.
“What kind of terrain do you think the scouts are looking for?” I asked Alhorn.
He shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe something… less marshy? Against one hydra it’s easy to find a solid plot of ground, but against many of them it’s not so simple. For them, waters up to a few feet don’t do anything but…”
I nodded. We had avoided wading into watery areas for many reasons, but I knew how hard moving in water was. Fighting in it was a crazy dream. Fortunately, hydras were anything but subtle. Whenever we spotted one we could get to a good location if we weren’t already. Though, even very small pools had led to some trouble- I was just glad my boots helped prevent me from slipping on mud. I swatted a mosquito that got too close. “Are there more mosquitoes now or…”
“I think it’s just from being deeper in the swamp.” Kasner said as I watched a few mosquitoes fly to their death on his person.
“Hmm. Isn’t that a waste of mana?”
Kasner shrugged, “It only uses mana when they get close, and only a small amount. It’s lower than my natural rate of regeneration, so it’s good practice. Also convenient.”
“Ah~ I should learn magic.”
“You have better things to spend your mana on, I think.”
“Martial Apprentices get Focus so I’m not too bad off in that department… but I suppose I can’t really afford to waste any out of combat.”
“It’s also about efficiency. I bet you waste a lot of mana anyway.” Kasner shrugged, “It’s nothing personal, everyone does.”
“Well… I don’t always use my full power for everything.”
“That’s not it either… You can get the exact same amount of power out of something with less mana. Efficiency grows naturally somewhat with skill level, but Wisdom is also a factor in that. It is related to finesse after all. Some mana just gets wasted.” Kasner held up two fingers, with electricity arcing between them, “For example, I have to create a path for electricity to want to go… If I have a certain amount, I only need a path of a certain size. Making the path twice as big doesn’t make any difference.”
I nodded, “Ah, I hadn’t really thought about it that much…” In games, mana costs did whatever they would. You could learn things to make spells more efficient… but I had sort of assumed that was natural here- and I’d also thought reducing the power had been part of it here. It came to mind that I hadn’t really been working on my mental attributes at all… even though they’d been the only things naturally at or above average when I came here. I had thought about things, but perhaps I hadn’t studied things in the right way. Well, the mental stats were also more related to the control of mana, and I hadn’t thought about that much at all. I just used skills. If I could increase the efficiency of my skill usage more… that would make me better overall. How much time it took to train was another question, however. I didn’t have infinite time in a day.
The scouts started returning after a bit more than an hour. Halette didn’t have much interesting to say. She hadn’t been assigned to go very far. That was true for everyone but a few of the highest level scout types. They would be reporting back later, and then the final plans would be decided.
It was just a bit more standing around and mosquito swatting before they came back… and after they reported in the call to move out came. The woman who spoke was a magician in the same group as Ruslan. “We’ll be moving to a location near the hydra boss, suitable for us to fight in. Once we arrive, we’ll draw in as many of the hydras following the boss as we can, without the notice of the boss himself… though it is possible we will have to fight all of them at once. There seem to be about a hundred hydras from three to five heads… A few with more, and the boss. This means each party will be responsible for about two hydras, though if you can it would be best to defeat more and help others do the same so that the larger threats can be handled with a numbers advantage, thus decreasing the risk.”
Everyone nodded in agreement. Not that there was much to say about the plan. Kill as many as you can handle was the standard for adventurers. From there, it was just an hour of slogging… followed by arranging ourselves in formation.
Maybe it didn’t deserve to be called a formation, but we were definitely arranged. It was just a battle line, really, with only a few details that made it more than just a wide line of individual parties. On each end was a relatively higher level party, but past them coming in from the outsides it was generally arranged by level and experience increasing toward the center- with Ruslan, the magician lady, and the rest of the highest level group in the center. There were about five out of the fifty parties spread out in a sort of second line to watch for hydras approaching from the back or to support other groups as necessary.
Our party was placed somewhere in the middle of the left flank. We weren’t the lowest level or least experience in other ways- and I was a bit surprised to see some groups that were definitely older than us placed further to the side. The ordering wasn’t exact, so maybe we weren’t actually placed ‘higher’ than them… but maybe we were. All thought about that went out the window when we saw the first hydras approaching.