The black spots on the body of the leopard were testaments to its understanding of the dark element. It was a shadow leopard, which made it excellent at stealthy attacks and pursuits rather than direct confrontation. Following the tracks left behind by the old wolf, the shadow leopard found the cave where the wolf had taken refuge just before nightfall.
With age, its reflexes slowed. Only when the shadow leopard reached the entrance of the cave did the wolf react. However, when it did, it woke up instantly and evaded the shadow leopard's first strike. The shadow leopard blocked the opening of the cave with no intention of letting the old wolf escape.
The old wolf's only remaining eye glowed green in the night, staring fiercely at the shadow leopard. The other eye was blind, yet it seemed to burn with ruthlessness.
On the other hand, the shadow leopard was like an elegant cat, circling the old wolf slowly to wait for an opening. The soles of the feet gripped the ground tightly, and its neck was lowered slightly. The shadow leopard was not as relaxed as it appeared.
After the short standoff during which they sized each other up, the old wolf acted first and pounced the shadow leopard. Unlike the young and energetic shadow leopard, the old wolf did not have the stamina to fight prolonged battles. Its muscles had already tensed up in the standoff, and were starting to sore. The wounds on its body sent crackling pain through its muscles, and pus was dripping around the sockets of the blind eye.
The shadow leopard was very smart. Knowing that the old wolf was not fit to fight at this point in time, all it did was block the cave entrance. This time, he would settle it once and for all, and to add insult to injury, finish the old guy off close to its territory. The shadow leopard was fighting in its element of the dark night. The black spots on its body radiated gloom, and the surrounding dark elemental essence congregated around the shadow leopard, boosting its speed. Only one would make it out of this alive.
Although the old wolf was lacking in physical strength, it was much more evolved than the shadow leopard. A monster did not necessarily grow stronger as it aged, but one thing was certain: the longer one lived, the more elemental power one would be able to comprehend and absorb. The two beasts had their own advantages, and neither one flinched. Knowing that it didn't have the stamina, the old wolf decisively rushed first.
The ending of the battle between the two beasts was underwhelming. The shadow leopard had gotten a bite out of the old wolf's hind leg. The experienced wolf retaliated by striking the soft abdomen of the shadow leopard with its claw. It left behind three lacerations that exposed the leopard's internal organs. With this, the shadow leopard had no ability to continue the fight. It needed to recover as soon as possible. Being the ruler of a nearby territory, there were many others vying for its territory, so there was a limit to which the monsters were willing to get injured in a fight, lest their other peers took advantage of them should they suffer a pyrrhic victory. While the shadow leopard's wounds looked scary, it only needed time and food to recover.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for the old wolf. There was no way its lame leg could be reattached; the bones of its hind leg had been broken from the bite. Just as the old wolf's teeth contained the element of fire, the shadow leopard's fangs contained the dark elemental essence. The corrosive essence seeped into the old wolf's mauled hind leg, and there was no hope left for it.
At night, the cold of the wind felt like knives piercing through the fur of the old wolf. With blind eyes, a maimed leg, and countless scars and less obvious injuries on its body, the old wolf felt that its life had finally come to an end. The fur on its body was full of holes torn off by the shadow leopard in the previous battle. Thinking of the shadow leopard, the wolf's gloomy eyes grew cold. If it had been five or six years ago, it would've been able to defeat the leopard on its own, no, even kill the leopard. He wouldn't have needed the assistance of the wolf pack.
Yet, now, that hypothetical was pointless. The aged wolf could no longer keep up. It was a matter of time until it collapsed. Its severe new injuries just brought its end closer ahead of schedule. As an intelligent monster, it could already foresee its own death.
The old wolf walked to the top of the hill, faced the bright moon, and let out a long howl. "Awoooooooooh!" As it howled, it took a trip down memory lane to the time when it was young, when it competed to be the head of the pack. After it secured the throne, it led the pack to dominate Morphey Forest.
It remembered those times like they were yesterday. Its sole eye began to tear up. It howled nonstop, expressing its nostalgia for life and protest against the unfair destiny.
"Awoooh! Awoooh!" The howls echoed back and forth between the Bering Mountains. Many wild beasts and monsters hiding in the forest also left their shelters, one after another, to answer the old wolf's howl.
The old wolf seemed to be seeking an end. It was sending out a provocation to the other monster lords of the Bering Mountains. Certainly, there would be some who would rush out to fight the old wolf.
Of course, the old wolf knew the consequences of its actions. It continued to howl at the moon. With its life drawing to a close, it was bidding its last goodbyes to the world.
The moonlight quietly seeped into the old wolf's skin, and the brown fur of the old wolf \ slowly turned bright white without it noticing. The howling old wolf had its throat rolling, and its body gradually rose. The one-meter-high and two-meter-long old wolf slowly became 1.5 meters high. Although its length had not changed, its silhouette now resembled a ferocious tiger.
The physical changes were most directly reflected in the old wolf's sense of touch. Its body felt warm and the tingling wounds had also begun to numb. Finally, the wolf stopped howling, and looked at its body, puzzled by the changes.
Perhaps it was the wolf's final thirst for life that triggered its potential, or perhaps Lady Fate favoured the old wolf. It had unexpectedly absorbed the moonlight and gained insight into the light element, which was related to the fire element.
Moonlight wolves were low-rank monsters. Agile and sensitive, they were the most patient hunters in the jungle. Moonlight was their ideal camouflage and their most important source of power. The place where the moon shone brightly was where they were most active.
The old wolf was a fire-attribute monster. Ordinarily, it would've advanced to become a low-rank fire wolf monster. Moonlight wolves were considered the nobles of the wolf pack and they were elegant and arrogant. A low-rank beast fire wolf advancing into a moonlight wolf was nothing short of a miracle of evolution.
The old wolf looked at its white fur with one eye and was very surprised. Was it still itself? After sniffing the smell on its body, it was reassured. The old wolf continued to howl in excitement. It could tell from experience that it had advanced to a new rank. Outside Morphey Forest, there other monster rulers that were low rank too. The old wolf had seen low-rank monsters wantonly hunting and killing other minor monsters countless times, and the old wolf had yearned to be like them.
Once again, the wolf let out a howl. This time around, there was less anguish in its howl, but more energy. There were barely any creatures that were above the rank of minor monsters in the Bering Mountains. The old wolf's long howl was also an announcement of its newfound strength. The monsters who had been clamoring with the old wolf one after another stopped making noise. Their keen insight into the elements and sound told them that the howls now came from a low-rank major monster.
After the excited howl, the old wolf stopped itself. Its injury hadn't healed yet. It had only experienced an advancement to the low rank. It was still blind, its hind leg was still mangled, and its body was still ridden with severe injuries all over. Fortunately, the moonlight wolf's body was filled with light elemental essence; light and water elements were second only to the life aspect in terms of regeneration. As long as enough moonlight was absorbed, the old wolf's body would gradually recover.
Advancing to become low-rank major monsters usually had no impact on a monster's lifespan. Fortunately, the old wolf became a moonlight wolf, which had an extra lifespan of nearly ten years compared to other monster wolf types. This was also why moonlight wolves ranked higher than other monster wolves.
The old wolf was still an old wolf. It just changed from a state of near death to a moonlight wolf. In fact, it was only more than 20 years old. Compared with the moonlight wolf's life span of more than 40 years, it should be in its middle age, but the severe injuries it had suffered before were still there. Every injury would permanently reduce its lifespan. Even though it had advanced into a low-rank moonlight wolf, it would only be able to enjoy life for another 10 years at most.
The old wolf didn't care about the scarcity of its lifespan at all. On the contrary, it was grateful that it had a stroke of luck at the last juncture of its life. It wasn't even bothered with the thought of seeking revenge on the shadow leopard. Instead, it wanted to return to its wolf pack as their new leader. Having a low-rank major monster as the head of the pack would be far better than having a minor monster in the same position, and this major monster was a noble moonlight wolf. The size of their wolf pack would easily double. As social creature, the old wolf did not want to continue as a lone wolf.
The light element in the body was still very sparse. Most of it hovered around the old wolf's mutilated eye and hind leg. The rest of the elemental essence circled its wounds, both visible and hidden. Slowly, the old wolf's body began to repair itself. The dead tissue on its eyes had been left that way for far too long, so it could not be healed. At the very least, the pain there was eased. Its leg had only recently been injured, so it was possible for it to recover fully.
The chilly night wind breezed through the white fur of the old wolf. Now, it didn't feel cold anymore. The moon hanging over its head was the source of its power.
Instead of slowly recovering with the light element, it could also accelerate the process by eating! The light element in his body was spread all over and could repair the damage instantly, but it was running really low on it. It took time to absorb more from the outside world. In short, the old wolf was now famished and it needed a massive amount of food.
After sniffing its surroundings, it was surprised its sense of smell recovered to the level of its youth, unlike how it used to only be able to detect enemies as they approached. It picked up the scent of a stranger. Could it be a human? In the past, the old wolf had hunted several ordinary people and adventurers who hand wandered into the forest. Human flesh was smoother and more tender than wild beasts'. The old wolf limped and stalked away with anticipation.