Chapter 34 – Struggle
An enormous wolf bolted straight to her and leapt. Ran dodged by a whisker. Her body lowered itself. She pushed her hands against the ground and let loose a brutal leg sweep at the wolf’s temple. The heel shot out like a bullet. The wolf wasn’t able to avoid it. Inches before the kick landed, a blade whipped out of the heel sole and impaled the beast’s brain. The wolf howled then dropped dead. She removed her foot bluntly, brandished her hand and collected the corpse. Parvian and Dorian drew in a sharp and cold breath. Even though the carriage only moved a couple of meters forward, they had already started fighting.
“How could she be this fierce?” Parvian whispered.
“Where did she learn to fight like that?” Dorian wondered.
They felt a shiver creeping down their back. They had seen her cold self, they just never thought she could be this merciless and bloody. Ran danced through the battlefield like a crimson fairy. She only left blood in her wake and the ringing echoes of broken bones. Perhaps she’s experienced in this type of melee, but nothing could change the fact that she was intrinsically weak. She had levelled up a lot tonight, but in reality, her levels couldn’t rise at all.
Each time she earned a level, it would be burned through Burning Flame to supplement her HP and MP. Ran was dancing on an extremely thin and friable line. One misstep would lead to her potential death. Ran hadn’t done any useless dodging or fancy moves. She had been fighting for a while now and her low stats were taking a toll on her. They’d barely made to a third of the way to the road.
Warning! Critical condition!
Ran chugged potion after potion. Her breathing was laboured and face had lost the little colour it had regained. Enemies kept on crashing into her, wave after wave, wearing her down. Her blood equipment had crumbled apart and the twin swords, dulled and chipped. The wounds on her body were piling up. She was a bloody mess. She glanced behind. Rikku was fighting alongside a shadow and defending the sides of the carriage. Parvian, standing on the rooftop, was shooting arrows non-stop.
Taking advantage of this slight lapse in focus, a panther-like beast pounced on Ran.
Ran tightly gripped the swords, crossed them on her chest in an attempt to protect herself. The swords shattered. The beast clawed her deeply and sent her flying backwards. Her body rolled on the ground several meters before she could stop herself. She tried to lift herself off the ground. She vomited blood and groaned in pain. The beast didn’t give her time and pounced again. Mid-air, arrows and daggers pierced through the beast’s body. It crashed to the ground and died.
“Aaaaaahh!” Ran pushed herself off the ground.
Her fighting spirit soared. She wobbled on her feet. There were only 2 potions left and she couldn’t afford to waste them now. Mana flowed through her veins and her wounds stopped bleeding. What a treacherous skill! The after-effects of such a skill were… She sighed, it wasn’t like she could afford not using it anyway. She tightened her fists, her knuckles cracked and she struck out. Her fists smashed into the dead panther and she buried her arms until the elbows.
The blood flow snaked around her forearm, elbows, up to her shoulders. Ran stood up, both her arms were covered in crimson threads as if they were sleeves. She stepped forward, the threads on her knuckles spun lightly and transformed into a sharp bloody pick. A little sip and she’d be good to go.
The quartet had been fighting for almost an hour across the camp and the road was finally in sight. They were all exhausted. Ran was panting hard. Her face was wary and dripping with blood until she almost couldn’t see. She could still stand only thanks to sheer determination and her newly created Fighting Spirit stat. Her levels and stats were dangerously low and she was staggering on the very thin line between life and death. The concealed gleam in her eyes revealed itself.
They were almost there. As soon as they could hit the road, they would be able to ride at full speed out of this hell. They had managed to clear the way and only tens of meters were between them and salvation. Parvian cheered at the glimmer of hope in front of them.
“We are al-”
The ground shook violently. Ran who wasn’t stable on her feet, stumbled down. A fierce roar echoed, stunning the team silly.
“No… No! NO! NOOOOO!!!”
Walking out of the forest onto the road was a gigantic beast. It was more than 3m tall. Its eyes were deep red. On its wolfish forehead laid a shimmering bloody gem and an enormous antler. The front of its body was shaped like a bear and the rest like an ox. It was missing pieces of flesh and rotting bones were apparent. It looked at the young foursome and growled loudly. There were no beasts left around them. Those that were still alive had run away as soon as the bear showed up.
“Are we going to die?” asked Parvian, as he shivered.
“Is that a class 4 beast?” Dorian wondered aloud.
“It can’t be the demon beast, right?” It was the first time that Rikku’s voice had trembled.
Their words didn’t even reach Ran. Her mind was racing, figuring out a possible plan of action. She bit her lip. They couldn’t fight this beast. They could barely stand. She glanced to the rear. If it was only her, she could run away. She still had 2 potions left. Her brow furrowed. She could get out of there alone. It wasn’t like she really needed Kan Yune. She wasn’t going to throw her life away for people she just met. Throw her life away… This was another world, perhaps here she could… the previous gleaming thought swayed then spread wide, obscuring Ran’s mind. The thought sang an alluring melody, sweet and languishing.
Ran was so absorbed that she forgot where she was. The bear lifted its paw and swung it downwards. Even though the beast was far, the power aimed at her was enough for Ran to pale. She hastily took out 5 dead beasts corpses from her storage to protect herself. The wind blade and pressure emitted by the claws hurled through the battlefield and struck the pile of dead beasts. All of them burst and splattered into mush. Ran soared back with force. Rikku intercepted her and barely managed to cushion her fall. Her body shuddered and she spat out blood.
Warning! Critical condition!
Rikku’s expression was grim, resolution shone through his gaze.
“I have a plan.” Ran had no other choice than to drink a potion laced with alcohol.
“We’re leaving.” Rikku replied sharply.
“I have a bomb.” She pushed herself on her feet.
The bear growled and loudly stepped ahead. It didn’t place those ants in its eyes. They were just tastier than regular magical beasts. Parvian anxiously tried to keep the bear away. Arrows flew, trying to turn the beast into a hedgehog. Few actually managed to strike. Its fur was too thick and its hide too hard. Dorian who’d stepped down the carriage, took out a heavy sword from his item box and threw it hard. The bear swung its paw and deflected the sword with ease.
Was Kan Yune worth their lives? Rikku wanted to run away, “Let’s-”
As if she was bewitched and without heeding to Rikku, Ran rushed forward. She wanted to know. She wanted to hold onto the perverse thought that maybe, she accomplished what she had been denied for so long. She circled around the bear. Her speed was slow and she was dodging by a hairbreadth every single time.
Rikku clenched his fist tightly. Ran was surely being reckless. He had no intention of sacrificing himself for other people. No matter how much he wanted to leave and save his own life, his feet wouldn’t budge.