Chapter 13: Of Goblins And Predators

The air was cloaked in a cumbersome whiff of life juices, something the troop of Predators found themselves dearly relishing on as they cozily nested against the wall, goblins’ remains and innards blanketing the rocky ground in a display of sheer savagery, whereupon a crackling fire highlighted the gory mess with its flickering glare. Stephen’s face was stretched in happiness as his lips curled upwards in an ear-splitting grin, his crimson eyes fixed on the girls who were huddled together, intermittently giggling among themselves.

After a pleasurable session of eating and drinking the daylights out of those poor creatures, he and John had taken the time to patiently explain to them what they had discovered concerning the screens and their sudden personality change; of course, not without adding their assumptions, erroneous or not. They discussed and tried to lay down several ideas they thought were valid, yet they had never lingered on them more than required.

“So, are you all in?” John inquired after conveying them his plan regarding the gremlin-like creatures, and the whereabouts of their pre-supposed den, “It may or may not be dangerous, we have little to no information on them, but if their power is only at the level of what we stumbled upon thus far, there shouldn’t be any jeopardy to our life, however…” he continued in a sober voice, “… if any rank 2 or higher goblins show up, than I suggest everyone to immediately retreat and not engage in any fights.”

“If we can retreat, that is,” Stephen piped in with a sarcastic chuckle, “But I doubt a goblin is stronger than an Orc, so we may still have the odds on our side.” he peeked at their expressions, “Either way, we don’t know for sure if today we’ll meet them, but in case we do, me and John will take the vanguard, clearing a path for us, whereas Natasha will cover our asses from behind.”

“Stephen, language!” Natasha chided playfully, “Nah, kidding, I will cover your pretty little ass for you.” she chirped with a wink, prompting her fellow female Predators to burst in peals of laughter.


“Oh c’mon Steph, don’t make such a face.”

“It wasn’t even that funny…” Stephen mumbled under his breath as he shook his head. Apparently, female Predators have absolutely no sense of humor, he quietly to mused to himself. He then resumed, “Anyway, just as I was saying before I was rudely interrup–” again, he was cut off by a chain of giggles from the girls as they looked at him in amusement, one of them was laughing so hard that she released a pig’s grunting sound that she tried to futilely cover up, but it only served to intensify it.

Female Predators laugh for no reason, he mentally noted anew.

“Why are they laughing?” a puzzled Frank scooted closer with a raised eyebrow, “What was the joke?”

“There was no joke, Franky, it’s just them being… themselves…” Stephen threw his hands in the air, feeling completely disregarded, “Girls…” he called out, to no avail, “Girls…” nothing, “GIRLS!” he coated his hands in Encore Power and clapped, hard.

The result was a blast that echoed out throughout the cave along with a breeze that generated from the raw force of his strength. He was surprised for a moment, but it was successful in drawing their attention onto him, so he was satisfied, “I’m glad you finally deigned yourselves to pay attention to this little one, so it’d be very appreciated if you could go through our planning without unwanted interruption, again. Thank you.” he ended with a glare, restarting.

“Now, as I was saying, Natasha will protect me and John from behind whilst the rest of you encircle her and make sure no goblin attack her, you can avail yourself of the weapons outside, choose one carefully, please, it may stick with you for a long time,” he concluded dryly, “If you got any skills then you can pick a weapon correlated to said skill for the meantime.” he scanned them, “Any question?”

Frank raised his hand, “What if a monster of the same level as you, John and Natasha encountered previously, appears?” they’ve been told about their unsought rendezvous with the Night Stalker whose strength had left a deep mark in their minds, and even if they got stronger, it was outright stupid to even believe they had a smudge of a chance to partake in a fight against it, lest they were suicidal.

“Well… in the worst case, we die.”

“And… in the best case?”

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“We die.” Stephen cackled ill-humoredly, “There’s no ifs or buts, the only reason me and the others survived was because the Night Stalker had its attention on the Basilisk, and even then we almost kicked the bucket.” he scruffed a strand of hair out of his eye, “But… should we truly meet such a fearsome creature, I suggest to split up and run, that way not all of us will die. Maybe.”

“That’s not reassuring…” Daphne wagged her head plaintively, “Well, it’s not like we have any alternatives.” she draped her leg over the other, curling her small nose, “Anyway, I’ve got a Sword skill, same as you, I presume?” she arched an eyebrow at Stephen, receiving a nod of approval from the latter.

“Indeed, let’s go outside and pick some weapons and gears, I’m sure they’ll come handy, however worn out they may be.”

With that, they got up and filed out.

Manned with leather bracers that tightly wrapped around his forearms, Stephen smoothed out his black shirt as he swapped his crumbling sword for a better-looking one that was wastingly laying on the ground, near a beheaded goblin that was sprawled near it, a fresh puddle of blood around it.

“Are you all done?” John’s voice rang out. He took a quick look at his groupmates, noticing that everyone had taken a weapon and a few pieces of equipment to protect themselves with. Sarah had an axe, which made him oddly happy whilst Frank was fiddling with a shabby spear, “If so let’s depart.” he set out, followed closely by the others who positioned themselves as per Stephen’s instructions.

Walking towards Nort-West for 10 minutes straight was a bit daunting considering the high probability of bumping into undesired monsters, but thankfully the rain had stopped, offering them a sweet and temporary reprieve as they steadfastly waded through the thickets, scrutinizing their surroundings with surgery-like focus.

“Damn, I think this is not the way…” Frank muttered after a short pause, “We’ve been walking for quite a while, I doubt any goblins will suddenly pop up, huh…” he frowned, “Plus my feet are killing me, s***.”

“Stop whining Franky, just a bit more to make sure there’s nothing of concern here…”

“He’s not wrong though, we could use a small break…” Natasha curled her nose, “I’m also getting a bit tired.” she had been on high alert since they’ve undertaken that direction, coupled with the fact that she’s been on the move for hours, she felt her legs begging for clemency.

“Oh, right.” Stephen abruptly mouthed out, smacking his forehead in realization, turning his head around, his eyes found their way into Natasha’s puzzled ones, “I forgot we had an elderly lady with us, I apologize, would you like me to piggyback you? Maybe a bridal carry style would better suit your old and refined tastes?”

Natasha’s corners of the mouth twitched at being called old, before teasing back, “Sure thing, darling, come on, pick me up.” she hustled closer to him while prodding his arm, “It’s not like you haven’t done that before.”

“Hah, seriously? Damn, Stephen, I didn’t think you and Natasha had already f***** each other this soon…” Frank chimed in with a boisterous laugh, his eyes lighting up in amusement, “No, wait! I’m jealous, that’s not fair, I want to get laid too!” he pouted.

“No, Franky, we haven’t done that… yet.”

“I’m married, I’m not that fickle that I would cheat on my husband!” the red-haired Predator flashed him her ring finger, where the silverly proof was embedded on, “Truly a pity, isn’t it?” she asked with mock-sadness, “Oh… you’re younger than me by 20 years too, alas, it seems we were not fated to be together.” she sighed, “But who knows? Maybe if you try hard enough.” her melodious giggle tingled delightfully his ears.

“I miss the old Natasha, where is she?”

“Oh, she’s here.” she pointed her thumb at herself, “I’m Natasha, pleased to make your acquaintance.” she cracked up again, something shared by Daphne and Sarah.

“What a horrible sense of humor…” John who was at the side quietly listening, shook his head in dismay, feeling a tinge of pity for the younger Predator, “Shh!” he suddenly brought his finger up to his lips, motioning for the group to be silent as he jutted out his ear, his brow furrowed, trying to perceive something.

Faint gurgle sounds proliferated from the adjacent area, accompanied by hurried movements. The group tensed up.

“Goblins?” Frank wondered, his knuckles whitening from the firm grip on his spear.

“I think they’ve heard us, we weren’t particularly careful with our voice timbre,” Stephen said.

John beckoned for them to softly follow him as he tiptoed forward, his axe ready for a probable upcoming assault, “Stay in formation.” he reminded them before he resumed his endeavor.

When they passed by another few trees, a clearing came into their view. Crude wooden shacks towered over the alarmed goblins that swarmed the place, some of them were clearly females for ragged pieces of clothes were hugged tightly around their breasts, and of course, at their modesty; though their faces didn’t seem any more feminine than the male ones.

Frank whistled, “Damn, there must be at least… 30 of them?” he was unsure, “And some of them are taller too.” that last tidbit of information caught Stephen’s attention as he followed Frank’s line of sight and spotted the goblins in question, his eyes narrowing.

[Analysis Complete!]

[Hobgoblin, Female, Age: 108 days, Rank: 1, Encore Power: 17]

[Hobgoblin, Male, Age: 114 days, Rank: 1, Encore Power: 21]

[Hobgoblin, Male, Age: 103 days, Rank: 1, Encore Power: 15]

There were three of them, and apparently, he could distinguish their gender too now, apparently, it was a new tweak due to his recent rank up.

The goblins seemed to sense Stephen and John’s higher rank and were reluctant to step forward. They had the numbers, sure, but they weren’t stupid enough to blindly rush forth, most likely to their own inevitable death. However, the hobgoblins behind seemed pretty cocksure of their victory, and with a snarl, commanded them to attack, which they did after a bit of hesitation.

“Well, here we go…” Stephen hardened his eyes, swirling his sword horizontally whilst taking a quick glance at his older comrade, “You take the right, I take the left.” he said, getting a nod of response from John, who alongside him, charged in tandem at the oncoming goblins.

“Be careful not to break the formation!” John shouted as he cleaved his assaulter’s head in two, a jumble of crimson liquids shooting up.

Only allowed on

Stephen waltzed through a group of goblins, his blade flaring by their necks as they slumped down with their heads severed. Behind him, a fireball darted over his shoulder, wallowing another one in a blazing mantle before it likewise fell down with a pained scream, its stubby appendages flailing about the air. Seeing their small army getting hacked so easily, the hobgoblins, however, were not happy and decided to take action personally.

- my thoughts:
One of the many chapters I'm not proud of...
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