Everything was turning bad far too quickly. Team Dawnlight was understandably concerned about Mien but more pressing dangers were on their way. Quaker’s urgent tone interrupted their thoughts, “This is bad! We need to move, pronto!”
They could see another thick cloud of dust and an increasingly intense tremor in the ground manifesting in the distance.
“They’re coming for us now! We need to run southwest!” Locke’s anxiety was starting to grow. He quickly pulled Kristin and Laffey into a frantic run.
Miran was perplexed but this wasn’t the time to question how a ‘regular’ person could possibly sense the changing direction of the monster wave. Locke’s unanticipated burst of authority had jolted her out of her daze.
What the hell was that? Miran watched Locke pull a distance with Kristin and Laffey in his grip. His presence was more intimidating than the high-rank flaming lizard they challenged before. She shook the thoughts out of her head; she still needed to get out of harm’s way. The Lehrling summoned her moonlight wolf and straddled it. They began chasing after Locke.
Quaker, the shield wielder, picked up speed. He unleashed the full extent of his mid-rank Knecht impetus, which allowed him to outrun the moonlight wolf. That alone was uncharacteristic of earth impetus since it was known for being grounded and stable. Strength was indeed forced out in desperation, especially considering that their lives were at stake now.
Martin and Daler could sense the commotion. They’d just managed to pry Mien out of the leopards’ jaw a few moments ago. The young freckled young man was a bloodied mess, his right arm an unrecognisable wreck of torn flesh and scarlet. The night leopards had dealt great damage to him and it was fortunate that they weren’t known for raw strength. Mien would’ve lost one arm if he’d been snatched away by some other monster. The young man’s breathing was shallow but a good sign of life.
“You head off first, I’ll shield you from the back!” Martin offered. Greater danger was imminent. Mien wasn’t just the young reconnoitre of Team Dawnlight but also Miran’s younger brother. The swordsman was determined to protect his future brother-in-law.
Daler quickly took action, throwing Mien over his back and following after their retreating group. The footsteps of the approaching monster wave were progressively louder, they couldn’t afford to waste another second further.
The leopards’ green eyes shone in the dark. They wanted to chase after Daler but Martin quickly blocked their path. Monster waves had a tendency of reducing those inside it into senseless beasts but the night leopards were relatively sharp. They weren’t great at direct offences but they were masters of ambush. Even so, their earlier success had come at the cost of two deep gashes across their abdomens, courtesy of Mien’s panicked retaliation. The leopards were fully aware that wounds and miscalculations were major disadvantages hence they opted to watch Martin closely and wait it out. They knew that more monsters were coming from behind and this human would eventually end up in their bellies.
“Oi! Wait for me!” Howl panted heavily at the tail end of the group. He was considerably slowed by his injured arm, causing him to fall behind Miran and Quaker. Team Dawnlight pledged to never leave anyone behind; they wouldn’t leave Howl to die despite his crudeness.
Quaker turned around sharply and dashed for Howl, swiftly throwing the man over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes before sprinting away again.
“Hey! Brother Quaker! Are you trying to suffocate me?!” Howl’s eyes lolled over. Quaker ignored his protests. The pungent scent of salivating monsters and their insatiable hunger was growing stronger. Quaker could see two long-armed enchanted monkeys, three condor giant lizards and five unihorn giraffes from the corner of his eyes. There would be more tailing behind these monsters for sure. Locke’s swift escape wasn’t without good reason.
Their carriage was a lost cause. They could only hope that the stallion would serve as a good distraction to buy them more time.
“Daler! Hurry! We’re over here!” Miran shouted from atop the moonlight wolf.
The archer leapt through the branches with great agility and hopped down onto the wolf, which Miran had skillfully manoeuvred over.
“Martin got held behind! We need to help him!” Daler pressed Mien into Miran’s arms, turning around with the intent to take off again. Despite that, the sight behind had him stunned. Scarlet sandworms, metal spine mana wolves, crackle-clawed metal eagles, flying mantis, condor giant lizards, long-armed monkeys, green mane enchanted leopards galloped in a frenzy towards them. Not to mention, two overpowered double-winged mana elephants stood in the mix of monsters. The myriad of creatures that he could both name and not name became clearer in his sight in the growing morning light.
The full scale of the monster wave was unknown during the dark. The break of dawn had unveiled the truth and Daler was seized with fear. Team Dawnlight had been incredibly blessed to have avoided the direct monster wave in the past. Perhaps they’d been lucky enough to be at the right place and at the right time that had inevitably prevented them from being swallowed by the ruthless monsters.
Miran and Quaker soon mirrored his horror. The only option they had was to escape with pinpoint focus. Under the intense stress of being chased by hundreds of major monsters, the moonlight wolf and Quaker ran with all their might. They covered another few hundred metres high on adrenaline. There was no way Daler could make it back to Martin at this point.
“No!” Miran finally sobbed. She sent her bloodlust hawk after Martin but the great distance and initially weak mental link they shared had stopped her from getting a clear look at his condition. The faint responses she was receiving through the mental link could only mean that the hawk wasn’t in great shape either. Crudely put, it was on the verge of death.
Locke sprinted a distance of two kilometres. He finally slowed down upon reaching a low hill that was hit by abundant sunlight. The forest behind was a complete mess; trees were trampled over by senseless monsters, leaving behind various noises that disturbed the tranquillity of morning. He observed the monster wave. It appeared that they were out of harm’s way now and even if monsters were to come their way, it would be of manageable numbers. Team Dawnlight eventually caught up to them.
Quaker fell to the ground with a heavy thud. He was elated since he’d narrowly avoided death. The man inhaled greedily, happy that he lived to see another day. Howl, on the other hand, was in worse shape. His initial wound had been tormented by the haphazard run, whose actions had further enlarged the lesions across the length of his arm. The swordsman’s left arm was soaked red and he could barely bend it anymore.
Mien remained unconscious in his sister’s arms. Daler grew even more silent than he already was. He clenched his fist tightly, frenzied thoughts racing through his mind. Miran stared ahead blankly with tousled hair, looking more dishevelled than ever.