Stephen’s eyes slowly fluttered closed – the nippy cold breeze fondling his hair amidst the rain that drenched his wayward locks, sticking them to the sides of his face – before he snapped them open, resolution blazing within his crimson pools as he shuffled his gaze upon a restless John, “Let’s head back,” his voice tore through the thunderclaps, “It’s not safe staying here.” he glanced at the charred corpse of the Orc whose fire guilty in lynching it had now been snuffed out. He was no weather forecast, but the signals of an apocalyptic storm about to swallow them within were crystal clear.
“Already? Pity.” Natasha uttered out with a disappointed wag of her head as she took a last glimpse at the environment they were in, “I wish I could have seen more weird monsters.” she spun around, tucking a chock of hair behind her ear, a growing smile on her face, “But it wouldn’t do to abandon our friends, would it?”
Stephen stared at her from the corner of his eyes, “No, it wouldn’t, that’s why you should stop lusting after monsters and pick up your pace.” he said, getting a pout in response, “Can’t you get back to your usual old self? Isn’t there a switch or something?” he inquired sarcastically.
“Oh my, you want to get rid of me this bad?” she sent him a shocked look, her hands shooting up to cover her mouth in mock-horror, “Fine!” she wrinkled her small nose at him, “It’s not like you won’t be seeing me soon anyway.” with that last defying declaration, her eyes altered back to deep and vivid green emeralds, earning an arched brow from John and a chuckle from Stephen who shook his head in mild amusement.
“Ah… sorry, I… you know,” Natasha started in a sheepish tone before she was cut off by John.
“Yes, Natasha, we know,” he continued, “I’m just worried because we have no idea why you have these sudden personality changes.” he wondered, “Is it because you’re a Predator now?”
“I don’t know? I feel… weird when that happens though, like I’m in control but at the same time not,” she rambled on as she started paddling over, following them through the woods, “I’m aware of the things I do but I just can’t stop it… no, it’s more like I don’t want to.” she scrunched her face up in concern, “I become fickle, flirty and oddly cheerful…” she smiled, “As if I don’t have any worries in the world, truly a weird yet liberating sensation.”
“Did you use to take drugs?” Stephen crudely asked, earning a frown from Natasha, “You never know, maybe that messed up with your head.” he cackled.
“No, Stephen, I didn’t.” she sniffed indignantly, “I’ve never touched a cigarette in my life, for your information.” she puffed out her chest in pride.
“What about you John?”
“What a cultured man, aren’t ya?” Stephen grinned, “Oh right! I haven’t tried that out yet!” his eyes lit up before he raised his sword up vertically as he sorted through the Orc’s memories, which shed some light on the question he’s been mulling over for a while now, namely, that of drawing out Encore Power and use it for combat.
“Stephen?” Natasha called out once she saw the younger man stopping in front of a tree, “What are you doing?”
“Shh… I’m concentrating.”
“…” John and Natasha looked at each other nonplussed, but opted to stay silent as they’ve been requested to.
Stephen didn’t want to waste too much time knowing that a monster may pop up anytime, but the curiosity coursing through his veins was overwhelming. He had to try it out. Images flashed through his head and he couldn’t help the small smile that graced his face. He could see the Orc hunting with its axe, swinging it left and right with no skill behind whatsoever. However, every time it slashed the air, a colorful burst of energy trailed along the blade’s direction, smashing trees and rocks, leaving behind trenches and splinters.
It was a marvelous ability, and he knew that if the Orc was capable of using that from the start they wouldn’t have won without casualties, granted that hey even had a chance to win.
Breathing in, his heartbeat slowed down. He started communicating with the foreign energy residing inside his body, motioning it to move following the string of instructions he had gotten from the Orc’s puerile brain. Encore Power bustled with liveliness as it streamed through his hands before coating the blade of his sword in a flimsy red thread that looked feeble and about to dwindle away anytime.
Breathing out, he flicked his wrist, the blade delimiting a red transparent-like line in the air that proceeded to sail forth, clashing against the trunk of the tree, begetting a scrape on its wooden frame; neither too big nor too small, it was discernible enough to know that some damage was done. Stephen panted, feeling a chunk of that energy dissolving as he scanned the outcome of his attempt.[Encore Slash has reached Lv.2]
“Oh…” Natasha covered her mouth in surprise.
“That would turn out to be a very useful skill.” John asserted, “I should try it as well, but we’ve been staying here more than we should have, let’s go.” with that they set off, walking with haste towards the direction that would have brought them back to the cave.
A hazy tangle of footsteps wafted into the cave. Frank’s head instantly perked up as he quickly scrambled to his feet despite his body’s desperate need to repose. He had been awake for a hours whilst the rest of the group were huddled together against the dank rocky wall, eyes closed. Concern had clutched his stomach for the past agonizing hours, hoping that their missing members would all come back unharmed. Knowing that it would fall upon his shoulders the responsibility to take care of the two sleeping girls should they die, something he wasn’t confident on carrying on successfully.
“Stephen! John! Natasha!” he called out before his stout feet could even strut out of the cave’s threshold, “You’re finally ba–” he halted mid-sentence once he was under the impetuous rain, his feet frozen on the muddy soil. The smile he was donning morphed into a bitter and resigned frown as his eyes locked with that of dozens of short-sized creatures; all of them armed with some sort of medieval and primitive weapon or equipment.
His body started trembling and against his better judgment, he started running towards a random direction – almost tumbling down in the process – but abruptly stopped when his brain composed itself, shepherding him into realizing that Daphne and Sarah were still oblivious to what was happening, and certainly would be in peril once those humanoid ugly things entered their shelter. He gritted his teeth and forced himself to spin around, enduring the rattle-like laugh coming from the creatures.
They knew he was scared.
Humiliation was the last of his problems as he gripped tightly his briefcase, the only object he never parted from. Strength-wise he knew he had the superiority against them, but facing over ten of them was something he wasn’t capable of, especially considering they had weapons.
One of the creatures suddenly took a step forward, a smirk on its hideous face, its beady eyes revealing naked mocking. It bounced around and rattled something he couldn’t understand the meaning of, but considering that it elicited the other creatures to cheer and make a commotion as they surrounded him and the perpetrator of the ruckus in an arena-like perimeter, he knew things were about to get bad, very bad.
“S***… s*** s*** s***!” he cursed as his pupils scurried left and right vigilantly, his arms hugging his briefcase, as if it was his lifesaver, “Y-you wanna fight!?” he spat out, staring at the pointy end of the spear directed at him. So it was that what it wanted, no, what they wanted.
He was nothing more than dead meat in their eyes, a stepping stone for that creature that seemed to inflate under its kins’ encouragement. Belittled, underestimated, again and again. Frank felt the blood rushing to his face, his fist clenching around the leather of his briefcase as his face twisted into an angry scowl, “F*** you!” he swore out loud, saliva springing out, “You little piece of s***!” he unceremoniously rushed to the humanoid that was looking at him with contempt, and unskillfully swung his folder at the creature who stepped out of the way and struck straight with its spear.
“Aaghh!” Frank bent over, a hand holding the place he was hit on, blood seeping out of the chinks of his fingers, “Damn!” he choked on his saliva from the pain. Looking up he saw the creature guffawing at him, something their audience was sharing as a choir chuckles rang out, “I’m not going down without taking you with me! You HEAR me!?” Frank roared out, rage fueling him.
Mustering all of the energy he had left, he condensed it on his hands before he hammered his briefcase anew, slamming against the creature’s unprotected and fragile knee with its edge. A resounding cracking noise wiped off the sneers from the creatures’ faces cheering on as his jeering opponent slid down on the ground with an ear-piercing shrill, clasping its injured limb.
Frank recoiled once he saw the damage he did, a blood-covered bone was sticking out of its torn skin.
“F-Frank?” hearing his name being called out he turned around, just in time to see Sarah and Daphne stepping out of the cave, their faces crumpled up in sleepiness and concern, that, however, turned into stiffness when their gazes chanced upon all those pesky monsters.
“Oh no…” he uttered out in panic, “Get out of here! Now!” his words fell into empty ears, “S***!” he tried to stand up but his efforts were futile.
The humanoid creatures seemed to have completely forgotten about their suffering comrade as their eyes fell on the two frightened women, lecherous smiles adorning their faces, their eyes lit up in happiness and lust. One of them, without the consent of its kinsmen, made a ran for Sarah who almost jumped out of her skin, before the rest followed even more hungrily, trying to catch up with each other.
Frank reached out with his hand, however, the pain hindered his motor capacity and blinded his senses. He was left there staring at what would have surely scarred him for life. Nevertheless, he couldn’t possibly have foreseen that as soon as one of the creatures was about to touch a hastily scampering back Sarah, a shadow furiously sprinted by, before a blade smashed upon the creature’s skull with such a force that its eyeballs popped out of its eye sockets, the crown of its head was completely broken and split in two, littering the ground with brain matter.
“John?” Frank almost retched after seeing such a gruesome scene and had to avert his gaze, which didn’t help him for a cold shiver went down his spine, the hair on his body suddenly standing on their ends. Looking up he was met with the crimson stare of Stephen who was nesting a sword on his shoulder as he scanned the situation, “Y-your eyes…” he gulped, feeling like a rabbit in front of a lion. His life felt worthless and easily erasable if so the younger man wished. It was a primal fear that came from the depths of his being.
“I wonder where these goblins come from,” Stephen muttered, brandishing his sword before he sprinted off towards the goblin nearest to him with such a speed that Frank was still staring at the place he was just in, “Second blood is mine.” he grinned whilst flaring his hand by. His blade cut through skin and bones, prompting its head to drop to the ground trailed by a spurt of blood. The greenish humanoid still hadn’t realized it was dead even when its skinny form followed its head and flopped down in its own blooming flower of blood.
“Oh my, I feel left out,” a giggle brought Frank’s attention to Natasha who was amusingly skipping over the place, “This one will stay alive for you.” she nudged with her foot the still screaming goblin the potbellied man had defeated, “You won’t regret it, I promise.” she smiled before she snapped her fingers as a fireball sparked to life above her hand.
“Your… eyes… what is this… oh my lord…” Frank still had trouble processing what was going on, “What…” his pupils shrunk, mirroring the scorching light of the flame as it raced by his face, engulfing a goblin going for Daphne, in a red blanket of pain, dying not long after with a final death rattle.
What followed after was not a battle, it was a one-sided slaughter.