Not all of the green birds fed on the bluestar grass. A few larger ones flew directly towards the magic-condensing fruit trees, but the red fruits didn’t seem to be very appealing to them; they turned back to the bluestar grass after eating only two or three pieces of them.
However, the birds didn’t get to feast away peacefully; battles constantly occurred between the beasts. All of them fought each other for the food, but surprisingly, they didn’t dare to provoke the larger birds. It seemed like they were their leaders.
“Oh, no! Green cuckoos!” Angelina whispered to Joaquin. She was still staring at the patch of shrubbery Locke was hiding beneath.
“Calm down, we can only make a move once they’re done feeding. Billie grabbed Angelina’s arm to stop her. She was a plant-type caster, so she had the strongest combat power among the other casters in this situation. Though, Angelina was unaware that Billie shared the same worry as her and was looking in the same direction.
The nearest cuckoo to Locke was less than three metres away. He was close enough to count its feathers individually. He lowered his heart rate again when it got closer to him.
Green cuckoos were low-ranked major monsters that lived in groups. But unlike wolves that rarely had packs numbering up to a hundred, a group of cuckoos typically consisted easily of hundreds. There were approximately six hundred of them busy feeding nearby, with a few more that swooping down to the forest from time to time.
Though herbivores they were, they were not to be trifled with. Although they were just low-ranked major monsters, their sheer numbers, sharp steel beaks and powerful claws made them troublesome to deal with. Not to mention, they weren't particularly fleshy, so they were seldom desirable prey to most other monsters apart from their natural predators.
The cuckoo feasted and defecated next to Locke. He held himself back from grabbing his sword, otherwise, he would’ve definitely killed it right there on the spot. After satisfying its hunger, it shook its feathers and pecked at them to remove the dirt on them. It then spread its wings and flew off.
When it was finally gone, Locke let out a sigh of relief. Angelina and the others, who were watching from a distance, were just as relieved. They really wouldn’t want to mess with this large group of vengeful major monsters.
Once they were done eating, the group of cuckoos cooed happily as they flapped their wings and left the forest, leaving only the leaves, branches and the remains of the seeds scattered across the ground.
After making sure that all of the birds had left, he got up slowly and observed his surroundings, not letting his guard down even when he spotted no cuckoos. He pulled his longsword out and flicked it, and a piercing buzzing sound was heard as it travelled across the forest. Nothing unusual happened even after he heard the echoes.
It seemed like the group of cuckoos were long gone and their nest was very far away from here. After signalling to the rest that it was safe, he went straight for the fruit trees. This six-acre-large patch of land was probably the cuckoos’ territory as he couldn’t find any other creatures after walking around it.
“Let’s hurry up. We’ll leave this place once we’re done collecting the fruits,” instructed Joaquin.
Bob and Chris started picking them right away while Joaquin and Angelina rolled up their sleeves and helped them out as well. Meanwhile, Locke climbed onto a taller tree to stay on the lookout. On the other hand, Billie sprinkled some strange powder around the forest. When a gust of wind blew past, the entire forest was filled with a strange lime scent.
Although the cuckoos were herbivores, they were extremely vengeful. If they knew that Locke and the others had trespassed into their territory and stole from them, they would definitely be angered. Among low-ranked major monsters, wolves were the best at tracking enemies down, followed by birds such as the green cuckoos. Locke and the others had to take some precautions if they wanted to have a safe journey back.
This powder was made by Billie herself. Although she wasn’t interested in alchemy like Angelina, she did try her hand at making various types of potions and materials. This powder could mix up the scents in the air with a smell that the birds didn’t like. Even Locke couldn’t stand the smell. He figured that the cuckoos might return for another meal soon given that they only snacked on a little bluestar grass, so he kept vigilant.
The others were still collecting the fruits. As the weather was scorching hot, the magic plants had to be stored properly in a special wooden container. Otherwise, they would spoil by the time they returned to Princeton. Not to mention, they had to be very meticulous with extracting the fruits as the mana in the fruits would dissipate if they weren’t careful.
These fruits seemed were very important to casters. After sprinkling the powder around, Billie went joined the others to gather fruits. They were only the size of a thumb and spread far across the branches, so picking them wasn’t an easy task. Just as when Bob and Chris climbed up a new tree, Locke spotted a black dot in the sky. He squinted and looked at it again more carefully: the cuckoos were back.
“Hey! Let’s go!” His eyes instantly widened as there were now at least a thousand cuckoos flying towards them. Everyone heard his call and Joaquin and the other casters immediately kept the fruits that they’d gathered and ran out of the forest. Bob and Chris jumped down from the trees and followed closely behind them while Locke stayed behind all of them to keep an eye on the incoming cuckoos.
The cuckoos flew at a very high speed and were already approaching the fruit trees at rapid speed. With the air still filled with the powder's scent, the cuckoos were uncomfortable with the smell. Although it wasn’t toxic to them, it would usually drive them away.
However, given a choice between food and the environment, the group of cuckoos eventually chose the former. They landed on the ground and began to eat and flapped their wings to dissipate most of the scent, allowing more cuckoos to land and join the rest.
Locke and the others continued to run out of the forest. Since they’d already planned the route in advance, they were able to leave the area as soon as the first batch of cuckoos landed. Though, four to five larger cuckoos had noticed them and began to chase after them.
They ignored the cuckoos behind them and continued running. As they were still very close to the fruit trees, starting a battle there would draw in the other cuckoos and doom them.
However, the cuckoos flew faster than they could run, so they weren’t able to shake them off. The cuckoos seemed to be very determined to chase after them as if they’d stolen something very precious from them.
“There’s no point in running anymore. Let’s kill them!” Locke turned around and charged at their pursuers. The cuckoos were initially flying quite low as they wanted to follow closely behind Locke and the others, only to be caught off guard and be able to soar in such a short time. He slashed at the cuckoos with his green longsword, scattering several green feathers and decapitating one of them. The head and body fell with an audible thud.
After he’d stopped running, Angelina and the others rushed over and prepared to attack the cuckoos. These large ones were more powerful than the low-level cuckoos and seemed to be mid-level major monster. If they didn’t kill all of them right now, it would be difficult for them to exit Salt Forest as the other cuckoos might be called over to join the chase.
Locke gained the upper hand with his unexpected attack and this had motivated his fellow group members. Two fireballs formed in the air and shot towards the two large cuckoos. A spear made out of vines was also fired and it soared through the air even faster than the fireballs, before piercing through the neck of one cuckoo before the fireballs reached.
“Icicle!” An icicle appeared in mid-air and shot towards the cuckoos as well. Aided by a mid-level major monster’s ice crystal core, the damage of Daenie’s spell attacks increased drastically.