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The creature stepped into the light of my magic feather, revealing itself, surprisingly, to be a huge wolf, covered in leather straps, bags, and packs, with a feral drooling snarl and wild bloodshot eyes. And I could instinctively tell: the creature was strong. Perhaps, even as strong as I was.
“Ike, get back to the main group”, I warned.
“What?”, the scared swordsman asked back, confused.
“Go back!”, I screamed, putting myself in front of my expedition partner, and putting a shield between us and the wolf, which pounced.
“CRASH!”, my shield cracked, and broke in a thousand fragments under the slash of the front paws of the huge wolf, and I was sent flying back.
My body kicked twice on the surface of the lake, before I felt a stone beneath my feet, and kicked it at the same time I conjured a barrier and an explosion under my foot, shooting myself at high speeds back to the fight. Gritting my teeth, I pulled my right fist back, readied a ball of energy, and punched the beast, releasing a fiery blast right on its snout.
Before the explosion or my fist could reach its target, however, the wolf barked in my direction, and its voice pushed back and canceled out my attack, as if the smoke and heat had hit an invisible wall.
I jumped back, retreating. I wasn’t so sure if I could defeat that thing as I was at the moment. Then, once I paid good attention, that wolf had a strange feeling to it, as if it didn’t belong there. Could it have come from the deepest parts of the cave? For a moment only, my mind went back to the chain tattoo, if I broke another link, and if the power boost was as significant as last time, I could probably defeat that thing easily… but at what cost? Another part of me would be lost forever, substituted by something else. And who knew? Perhaps the next link I broke wouldn’t follow the same pattern as last time, perhaps it would completely substitute my personality. Perhaps I would die. Perhaps I would kill someone.
Shaking my head, I grabbed Ike by his hand, and dashed towards the path from which we reached that chamber: if I could avoid fighting, I would do so.
When the ceiling rocks came crashing down with another bark from the wolf, blocking my escape route, I knew I couldn’t do so.
Without a break, the wolf dug one paw into the ground, and hurled a volley of rocks and boulders in our direction; if I used my shield to protect Ike, however, and the wolf pounced at me again, I’d be hurled back right into the stone rubble pile, I could lose contentiousness, and then everything would be lost.
I was about to push the awkward swordsman away, when I saw his eyes turning wide and red, and somehow Ike managed to easily avoid the incoming projectiles, every single one of them, with amazing reflexes.
“Can you fight?!” I asked, surprised, as I simply shot myself away from the curtain of stones and boulders with an explosion.
“I can’t h- hurt a living being, but I can move well enough”, the swordsman replied, his shyness and quirkiness a fraction of what it was a minute before.
“Good enough”, it had to be. “If you want to live, distract the beast while I hurt it, then!”, I pointed my right palm at the wolf and shot the same concentrated bullet of energy I used to kill Sumixan at the beast, but it jumped away at the last second, avoiding the explosion.
Mid-air, however, the wolf seemed to have noticed Ike waiting for it right where our enemy would fall, holding the handle of his sword, emanating a deadly aura, and the beast, to avoid the next attack, curled its tail around one of the stalagmites in the ceiling of the cave, pulling itself up, and dug all of its paws in the rock up there.
I didn’t wait for the creature to start barking at us again, or start a cave-in, but jumped after it, using explosions to push myself upwards, turn around in the air, and dig my feet in the ceiling too.
Eye to eye, the wolf and I immediately started to exchange punches and bites: I dodged the deadly fangs, and punched the beast right in the left eye, exploding it out of its socket. The snarl of the beast grew even more savage as blood poured in streams from its blinded side of the skull, but it couldn’t use all of its weapons in that position, for if it unstuck its paws, it would fall right over Ike, who was still putting on the killer aura.
The speed of the attacks increased, the big teeth chomping the air just millimeters away from my actual position, and I had less and less time to punch the wolf back. Between one bite and another, however, an opening showed itself to me, and I was ready to blow the beast’s head off, when I felt something hit me on the legs.
A flash of intense pain paralyzed me for an instant: the opening was a bait, and the tail of the wolf had come from my blind spot and hit my legs with more strength than it should have.
As I fell down to the ground, feeling my legs pulsating, I saw the wolf taking advantage of the surprise it caused on Ike too to free itself from the ceiling, and hit the awkward swordsman away, into the darkness beyond.
Fighting the torturing pain, legs shaking intensely, I forced myself back up, barely able to breathe. The snarling of the wolf beast turned into something almost like a smile. Was it having fun?
“Tch!”, that seriously annoyed me.
There was I, afraid of becoming a monster. And there was the monster, embracing its nature. It was only with much willpower, that I fought against the wish in my head to break another link, and crush every single bone of the creature and let it die slowly.
Still, willpower alone wouldn’t win that fight. And so, almost passing out because of the intense pain, I shot myself forward with another explosion beneath my feet, pulling back what I very well knew, and the beast probably understood that too, would be my last punch.
But I had been too slow, my wounded legs pushed me in a weird direction, and my punch, in the end, passed right beside the wolf’s head; it had been able to dodge the hit with ease. And while I was still flying right beside the wolf, it turned its gaping, drooling maw in my direction, full of joy.
Then I opened my fist, revealing a bunch of pebbles. Two could play the game of baiting.
I created another explosion right on my palm when the wolf was about to dig its fangs in me, and shot the handful of pebbles faster than any flying arrows against it, point-blank: the bast’s teeth, were broken, the jaw removed from the head, and the brains of the wolf were scattered all over the cave wall behind it in an instant.