Chapter 51 Cheating Death – Hunting (Part 3)
It was one thing to assume they weren’t the only humans left, it was another thing to face it.
Feeling trepidation and joy, the group had a mixed bag of reactions to this ragged man suddenly appearing.
Despite their wavering emotions, they all stayed on guard.
Daichi had one hand on the hilt of his sword and the other ready to cast a skill.
Taking a moment to analyze the situation he thought about the man’s description and level. He wasn’t weak, not compared to them at face value… But he was clearly older than them. He looked around 40 or so.
In a world filled with mana, the average lifespan of a human was far greater than that of earth. The average lifespan had changed throughout the ages and the rulers of the land had ordered the smartest men at their disposal to figure out the cause.
The smartest men being people associated with mana, the question was answered in time. The conclusions these men came too, was that lifespan was associated with mana. The more mana in the atmosphere the longer the average lifespan happened to be. At the peak of their planet, it was recorded that the average lifespan was around 200.
When the mana had lessened, the average lifespan had dropped to around 120. More noteworthy, was that the mana in the atmosphere didn’t just affect the lifespan but the development. People with more mana or able to manipulate mana at their will, could maintain their peak physical condition far past their prime into old age.
Daichi had read information along these lines, even if he hadn’t read quite enough to be an expert or to know enough to gauge this man’s age based on his looks or mana.
Even still, due to this awareness. Daichi did not let down his guard so easily. He was aware of the possibility that this man was far older than he seemed, and therefore could be far craftier than they anticipated until he realized that the mare had said nothing.
Without glancing in their direction Daichi asked out loud “How come you didn’t notice him?”
The shorter mare barely paid this man in their presence any attention, “His mana is so weak he wasn’t noticeable.”
Staring at the man before them, Daichi felt a sliver of relief before the many possibilities that existed ran through his mind one by one.
“Who are you?” Kaden stepped in front of Hannah and Ava and asked with his knives out.
Noticing Kaden’s demeanor towards this stranger, Daichi couldn’t help but wonder whether his change of heart had really been this thorough or if it was only because this was a man and not a woman…
Finally calming down, the middle aged man looked at them and finally paid attention to details. Their clothes, weapons, expressions, ages. “My name is Jeremy. I was living in the forest with two friends for the past 5 years when the sky went dark. Next thing I know everything shimmered and then my friends have trees sticking out of their bodies and I nearly die as well. Everything went to shit damn it!”
In frustration Jeremy looked at them with fists clenched on the ground.
Sighing and trying to compose himself as he realized he was in the midst of kids far younger than himself, Jeremy continued his story “I managed to collect a bunch of food and water and set off for what I thought was the nearest town. Except the forest was completely different, the routes I knew were gone… Everything was different and I got lost. Then I notice all these beasts and monsters! Fuck… I nearly died more than once. I’ve had to fight a few times but I only have an axe on my back and well… It’s been hard… I thought I might never see another person ever again…”
Glancing at one another the group backed up and away from Jeremy while whispering to one another.
Daichi glanced at the mare “Watch him” and focused on the group discussion.
Ava argued that they should just leave him here. She didn’t feel comfortable with adding yet another member to their party. Kaden kept quiet surprising both Hannah and Daichi.
Hannah decided that it would be best to bring him along, he could be helpful and they could always part ways whenever they needed too.
In her mind, Hannah had decided to use any advantage to get stronger. In the worst case scenario… Hannah was sure that Daichi would kill this man if it needed to be done.
Daichi agreed with Hannah further surprising Kaden and Ava. Staring at them he voiced his opinion “I think he has information that could be helpful. He’s only level 19 so I don’t think we should let him come with us. No reason to carry him when our lives are in danger constantly. Moreover we are already struggling to get stronger ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t share information that might be useful to one another and give him some supplies. If he wants more and won’t take a no, I will handle it.”
Finished speaking, Daichi gave them all a solemn look.
Daichi had never killed a human, but at this point he’d realized he didn’t think he’d view it too differently from killing a monster. A sentient being was all the same in his eyes, was killing a troll with higher thinking any different from killing a human? A life was a life.
Kaden clenched his jaw and fists at Daichi’s comment but said nothing. He decided to pick his battles, and this wasn’t the time or place.
In agreement, they all acknowledged one another and walked back over to Jeremy who looked at them hesitantly, “I really don’t mean you any harm. I can help you kids. I don’t know how you’ve survived thus far but I can help. I’m pretty strong. I bet you guys have managed to stay alive because of those weapons. They look really amazing, but it won’t be enough. You need someone who knows this forest, and I bet I know it better than any of you.”
Glancing at one another, there was a slight flicker of humor in their eyes before it withered away as they heard a loud screech coming from high above and away from them.
Feeling perturbed by the sound, Daichi motioned to the newcomer “We can talk, that’s all we promise.”
Glancing at them with hesitation and relief fading, Jeremy gulped before a creeping feeling of fear started flowing through his mind. He began wondering whether these kids would really not want him to join them. Immediately deciding to put his best foot forward, “That’s fine. I’m sure you’ll see my value. Kids like yourselves need protection after all!”
He continued to look at them trying to look valorous, but beginning to think that no matter what he would need to get his hands on one of their weapons. Those could be the difference between life and death, besides what would these kids really be able to accomplish with them.
Smirking to himself, but trying not to show it. Jeremy got up and decided to lead the way “Why don’t you kids follow me, I know a safe spot from where I just came. It’s not too far off either, it’s a good spot for us to talk and rest, it’s getting late after all.”
The others looked at one another and Hannah replied “After you.”
Glancing at her, Jeremy’s eyes twitched a bit confused as to who their leader was.
Choosing to lead the way, he didn’t even think twice about leaving his back open to these kids. In his mind these kids were absolutely no threat, they would be shields and props for him so that he could survive this damnable forest of hell!
Moving forward Jeremy was indeed wondering about the group dynamic. He couldn’t tell if the tall redheaded bearded man was their leader, the sexy redheaded girl that answered him or the quiet guy whose expression hadn’t changed much during their entire meeting.
Jeremy walked at a brisk but moderate pace. He wanted to make sure these kids could keep up with him, after all they were probably pretty weak and had just survived in this forest by luck thus far. Wondering a lot about them, he wanted to get to his cave as soon as possible so he could get as much information as they had.
Jeremy was dying to talk to these new people, but he’d been wandering the forest alone for days now and had come to understand that the slightest noise could get you noticed. Getting noticed meant dealing with a slew of monsters all of which were stronger than you.
Holding back his curiosity, Jeremy imagined just what it would be like to have one of those knives or swords those two boys were carrying.
They looked like they were of such high quality. Jeremy had been using an axe but he had to be very careful, swinging and making contact with something sharper or sturdier would mean losing his only weapon.
Jeremy inadvertently grunted while annoyed remembering that he had already run through his friends weapons.
I had to kill them. We weren’t all going to live. It was them or me!
Taking a glance back at Daichi. Jeremy calmed himself. These kids didn’t know what they were doing. Their weapons would be his the moment he got everything he could out of them.
He’d focused almost all of his points into strength. Therefore Jeremy was confident, that now that his strength was at 29 he’d have no problem lopping off their heads with one swing, maybe even going through their bodies.
That would horrify them all he thought.
After an hour or so they reached a small area where the trees were clustered even closer together almost like a natural little closed off space, with a slight opening big enough for something human to walk through.
After walking in he went and sat down by a tree and immediately began to ask the kids every question he could think of; Where are you from? How did you get stuck in this forest? Do you know how to get help? How to get out? Where are you going? How do you have such wonderful weapons? How have you survived thus far alone? Who are the two quiet girls that haven’t spoken more than one sentence this entire time?
Most of them stayed quiet and even Daichi stared at Hannah allowing her to take the lead and answer.
She explained how what he had experienced they had as well, on a grander scale. Their entire village being brought to ruins and nothing being left except the monsters. Without going into detail about their hunting, Hannah explained how there were too many monsters and how they were working their way into their town trying to claim is as territory and that they were forced to flee. They were trying to make their way to the capitol and had a good idea of how to get there. The weapons were legacies.
The man stared at them in awe and despair. It just so happened that he had been heading towards their town. He had thought it would still be there, that he could receive shelter and aid there. Suddenly his greatest hope was dashed away.
Jeremy stared at them thinking about how idiotic these kids must be thinking that they had a chance to make it all the way to the capitol. The capitol was far enough that making it there through this monster infested forest would take a miracle on top of a miracle.
In Jeremy’s eyes their plan was akin to suicide.
Daichi had noticed that Jeremy would occasionally glance at their weapons and linger for just a bit too longer. He had been on guard since they met him, and up to this point he had provided nothing of value to them.
Even what little information he had about the forest turned out to be useless to them, who were heading out to the opposite direction. They were heading towards an area he’d never been even before the awakening of the gods. Before everything was “changed”.
Jeremy did provide one tid bit of information that made everybody’s eyes glitter with interest.
“There are a swarm of fairy like creatures, they’re about a foot tall and they all appear at night in this section of the forest. They don’t always come out but when they do it’s almost magical… It would be wonderful if it were for what follows… They’re like little walking balls of mana and a lot of the monsters in the area try to feed on them. Most fail… but there are two creatures… I saw them once. They were… They were terrifying. The very presence of these fairies is like a beacon for everything in the area…” Jeremy said looking amazed, everyone watched as that expression of awe turned into a quaking fear.
The entire group was exchanging glances. This was going to be very helpful. As it was they had no idea what was in the area, but Jeremy did.
He informed them that there were troll like creatures near the water banks, making it extremely difficult to refill any water.
There were also centaur like creatures of different varieties. They usually moved in packs and once they knew you were in their territory they would chase you non stop. He’d almost lost his life numerous times to them.
Spitting out the words in both anger and fear he finally came back to those two creatures.
“They were like bulls… Except they weren’t… They also… They seemed to know exactly what they were doing when they were killing those fairies like they were nothing. If I didn’t know better I would say they were divine beasts.” Jeremy said chuckling at his own foolishness half in fear and half in amusement.
Jeremy glanced up at the sky as the sun was setting and the stars and moon were coming out.
Daichi’s eyes widened, so did everyone else. They knew better, if everything they had seen thus far was possible, perhaps divine beasts were indeed in their vicinity.
That meant both a huge risk but the possibility of great rewards. Everyone was now re-weighing the benefits and costs of trying to battle these creatures but it seemed it was out of their hands.
The taller mare suddenly stood up with her sister as they both focused on a single spot, as if they could see past everything in their line of sight to something more.
“It would seem we were lax in our judgement. The two from before are heading this way. Very fast.” the taller mare spoke.
Daichi noticed their wariness and immediately got to his feet as well “How fast and are we safe?”
The shorter mare responded “Very fast. Not here, if anything we’re trapped.”
Daichi took out one of his blades, as he glanced at the others “Let’s get moving, if they can get in but we can’t get out then we need to change positions, now.”
The others were already on their feet preparing for a battle as Jeremy was staring at them wide eyed, he couldn’t help but lick his lips in the sight of so many wonderful weapons.
Daichi started moving forwards and out of the enclosed space looking around trying to get a feel from where they were coming, the taller mare right by his side “Very close.”
The shorter mare stayed behind with Jeremy as the others moved behind Daichi to prepare.
Suddenly all around them, blue lights began to glow.
A wonderful scene right out of a fairytale began to play right before their eyes. Like fireflies except, these large blue glowing lights felt peaceful, warm yet cool and large.
Almost in a whisper behind them “It’s the fairies.” Jeremy said his voice cracking as fear began to spread through him.
Looking around them, the group was in awe of the wonderful feeling spreading through them.
The mare looked around them like children staring at the most delicious candy through a window. Wishing they could go in but knowing their parents wouldn’t let them.
Daichi was staring into the distance, wary of seemingly everything at this point. In the distance he could he a galloping at the ground began to tremble.
The ground trembling was the first sign that things were about to go south very fast.
Off in the distance, the others could now see what the mare had begun to sense before them, which had turned their normally expressionless faces into ones of hesitant vigilance.
Two large creatures. Larger than oxen. Much much larger than oxen. These two bull-like creatures were nearly ten feet tall and seemed to be about 16 feet long.
They looked massive. Their movement caused the ground to tremble, causing small earthquakes in their vicinity making cold sweat drip down the backs of everyone seeing them.
Daichi could only guess at their weight as he stared at them, “Maybe 5… 6000 pounds…?” he couldn’t help but say out loud…
Even this would be a conservative estimate. Their sizes aside, the reason their very sight was so fear inducing was because everything in their wake seemed to just… Burn.
Daichi’s eyes glazed over as he began to think about the rewards of killing these bulls. They were so magnificent that a part of him wanted to slaughter them. Without even realizing it his bloodlust had begun to seep and his desire to kill was overwhelming his reason.
Normally Daichi made calculated decisions. He would take into account risk and reward before taking action. Except… Daichi’s ego had slowly begun to grow inflated. A sense of invulnerability had seeded itself within him as he had continuously battled and killed monsters far stronger than him with relative ease.
All of the glowing balls of light, which were apparently fairies turned into wisps of smoke that were instantly devoured by these bulls which seemed to now be moving at a light gallop and yet were moving at break neck speed.
Their speed slowing as they neared more and more of these fairies.
Finally now within 25 meters, Daichi triggered his analyze skill almost on instinct.
Bull Spawn Named: Khalko Level: 62
Description: A spawn of a divine beast. The outer skin is as strong as metal. It’s physical strength and charge is deadly, without the use of it’s flame abilities.
Bull Spawn Named: Tauroi Level: 62
Description: A spawn of a divine beast. The outer skin is as strong as metal. It’s physical strength and charge is deadly, without the use of it’s flame abilities.
Daichi had begun to trigger his analyze skill at the slightest opportunity. He wanted to improve it and realized that he wouldn’t be able to do so without using it as often as possible. Moreover there was always the possibility that within the information he received, would be a hint towards an opponents weakness or some piece of information he could use.
Although as he stared at these creatures. Daichi felt a lump in his throat.
Staring at these creatures which seemed to be ignoring them. Daichi felt fear and awe. Daichi wanted to both run away from them and try and kill them. His bloodlust held at bay by the small part of him that was still trying to be rational about attacking seemingly powerful creatures.
At odds at what to do, he could only stare as the others shared similar feelings… Except they had no inclination to try to attack these creatures that seemed to have been spawned by something divine or hellish.
Their massive sizes, their long 3-4 feet curved horns. Their burning crimson eyes. The flames that appeared where they walked and seemed to disappear almost as quickly. These beasts exuded an aura of the divine.
Steeling himself as the bulls came to a stop and began to feast on the fairies. Daichi clenched his sword in his right hand as he held it out next to him and made up his mind.
Daichi came to a conclusion as he’d stared at these bulls long enough. His Chaotic Eruption skill and Chaotic Erupted Sphere gave him a distinct advantage no matter who he fought. In Daichi’s eyes the best case scenario would be that he could kill these creatures with relative ease and injury and gain something incredible from them… Worst case scenario he could do nothing to kill them and he would his skills to stun them and run away.
Glancing at Hannah and the others, Daichi spoke again “These creatures are strong, I’ll test them out. Hannah follow up with me. Mare cover the others.”
Feeling that calculating part of his brain trigger, Daichi could barely contain his bloodlust but was still trying to manage the best case scenario for himself.
He called Hannah over to follow him, not because he believed she could hurt them but because he knew that she would (if necessary) become a much needed distraction. Even if she was killed near instantly, that small bit of time could be crucial for him. Moreover, if she was in mortal danger he was positive that Kaden would try to save her and Ava being left alone would also try her best to help.
If he asked Kaden who was the fastest to help, he’d likely argue with him about all the detriments of attacking these majestically powerful creatures and Ava had been overwhelmed by her fears on more than one occasion making her too unreliable.
“Fortune favors the the brave!” Daichi spoke out aloud.
“What the hell! Are you fucking crazy boy!” Jeremy stated at him shock confused. He’d already been getting ready to run away but now hearing his words and seeing Daichi beginning to run towards these hellish beasts was the nail being driven into the coffin.
Glancing at the sword in Daichi’s hand, Jeremy steeled himself, turned around, and ran away.
The mare ignored him as Ava and Kaden turned out to notice Jeremy running away.
“You coward! Where the hell are you going!” Ava shouted at him momentarily distracted.
Kaden gritted his teeth and turned back to see Daichi lifting his hand, knowing what was coming next, Kaden clenched his daggers even tighter getting ready for a sprint.
Moving forward Daichi was certain that he could find a way to kill these beasts.
“It doesn’t matter how high their level is! Levels are only a factor in strength! I have stats much higher than others at my level, I have experience in staying alive and I have a skill that will lead me to victory!” Daichi thought as he moved forward with seemingly reckless abandon.
Daichi triggered his <Chaotic Eruption> skill pointed right at the Bull Spawns and readied himself as he moved forward getting ready to trigger his Chaos Erupts skill only to be astonished that just as he was a meter away the Bull Spawns aura suddenly fluctuated and flames exploded from their bodies pushing both Daichi and Hannah back through the air into the ground.
On his back Daichi looked at the Bull Spawns, feeling the blazing heat that had scorched his hand and looking right at them as he felt fear running down his spine. “I didn’t stun them…? My skill didn’t work…?”