Zhou quickly gathered five of his men. He also handed me a leather pouch to tie around my waist to put my ‘Status Card’ in. As soon as we were prepared, we embarked on our rescue mission.
We ventured back into the forest and followed the scout as he guided us towards our destination. The scout led the way while I ran alongside Zhou, with the other troops just behind us. As I turned my head to take a quick glance at the team, I realized that most of the men were around the same age as Zhou. Meaning I was definitely the youngest one among the people.
I also managed to take a quick peek at their gear. Compared to them, my sword was so much cleaner than theirs despite having leftover stains from the demon wolf attack I encountered. Some of their swords had already begun to rust and were covered in dirt and bloodstains. It was then I realized that encounters like these were common and that there will be a lot more unavoidable fights to come.
As I was about to question if they were also ‘Travelers’ or not, Zhou told me as we ran that excluding the other ‘Traveler’ we were about to meet, we were the only ‘Travelers’ in the village. Which meant all of the people that partied with us were all from this world. Knowing that these people trust an outsider to not only lead the mission but to also be their village chief, Zhou must indeed be a great person.
“As you commanded, we went and scouted out where the rest of the demon wolves were.” The scout said while giving his report. “Towards the southwest of the village, we heard a group of wolves chasing a young teen who we presume is a ‘Traveler’, since that ‘Traveler’ wore the same garments and wielded the same sword as this ‘Traveler’.”
The scout said as he then pointed towards me. He continued his report.
“As soon as we spotted the ‘Traveler’ in trouble. I splitted away from the group and ran back to the village to report back to you and get reinforcements while the rest of us stayed and protected the ‘Traveler’.”
“Good,” Zhou said as he complimented the scout’s quick thinking. “Now let’s just hope that they are unharmed.”
“W-Will they be alright?” I asked as I worried for their safety.
“Don’t worry. My men are more than capable of handling a pack of wolves. My main worry is when their pack leader joined the fray.”
“Demon wolves always move in packs and are usually led by a single pack leader. They may be categorized as lower demons, but a pack leader has a certain level of intelligence and it knows how to strategize. Which makes them quite formidable even for professionals. Their weakness is when once the leader is taken down, the wolves will be in disarray and will usually disperse from the battle.”
“Then what about the wolf I fought against? He was alone but it didn’t choose to run away when it saw me?”
“Simple. He thought you were weak and helpless and decided to pick on you, thinking you were easy food.”
Well, a boy in new clean clothes and drinking water from a pond with a face of ecstasy would definitely be an easy meal. I guess it also made sense why it got tense when I grabbed my weapon.
“We’re here.” The scout in front of us said as we seemed to have reached our destination. As soon as he said that, Zhou told all of us to hide in the bushes to plan our counterattack.
I looked ahead at the incident and got a good look at the situation. Right in front of us was a one-sided confrontation between several demon wolves of the same size and three people. Two of them must have been the scouts that were sent to protect the new ‘Traveler, which was the other person that was behind them. The child also seemed to be the same age as I was and had the same garments and weapon when I woke up in the forest too. The child definitely filled the bill of a new ‘Traveler’.
The only difference was she was a girl this time, making it the first time I saw a female ‘Traveler’.
She had semi-long brunette hair and her eyes were slightly green in colour. Her chin and nose looked sharper compared to the rounder complexity from the other girls I have met in the village. From a distance, she looked like she was slightly taller than me. She looked a lot different from the other girls I have met in the village. Most of the villagers had black hair and brown eyes, except for Elka.
The three of them were pushed to a corner as the scouts armed themselves with swords and made sure the new ‘Traveler’ was behind them, making sure she wasn’t the first to get hurt in the action. However, with how aggressive the wolves were as they slowly approached them, it wouldn’t be long till things get messy.
They looked unharmed but they were panting heavily, especially the girl who was having trouble breathing properly. They were definitely exhausted.
The most likely scenario was that as soon as they could get their hands on the girl, they ran away from the wolves, hoping they could lose them. Eventually, they failed to lose them as they hit a dead end and brought them to their current situation.
Zhou and his guards were hatching a quick plan while I continued to examine the event. It didn’t take them long as Zhou grabbed my shoulder and explained his plan to me.
“We don’t have much time, so here is what we are going to do. We are going to pincer them from the back and surround them. In the meantime, I’m going to need you to grab the newbie and run towards the village. Bring her to Elka and stay with her.”
“W-Wait, what? Didn’t you say that these wolves are tough? Are you sure you should be challenging them? Shouldn’t I stay and help…”
I said with a worried tone but Zhou replied quickly before I could finish questioning him.
“Look, kid. You are still inexperienced in an actual battle. Sorry, but you might only drag us down. So just listen to me and do as I say.” He then stood up, took out his huge sword from his back and said with confidence before running towards the wolves.
“Besides, this guy here is pretty strong.”
The other guards followed suit as they got up from their sneaking position. They then sprung out from the bushes and surrounded the demon wolves. The battle was reversed and it had turned for the better.
This time, the wolves were outnumbered.
While the wolves were staggered, Zhou took the advantage and rushed towards the pack. He dealt the first blow on the wolf closest to the new ‘Traveler’ by slamming his sword onto one of the wolves’ heads. His men then followed his lead and began to clash with the wolves. The sound of metal clanging resonated in the atmosphere while the sound of flesh tearing apart gloomed the mood. The air felt heavy and reeked of sweat instantly as the battle started.
Zhou then grabbed the new ‘Traveler’ by the left arm and ran towards my direction. As he reached the spot I was hiding, he then handed the girl to me and quickly faced back towards the battlefield.
“Our scout left a track behind so you should know the way back. Now, go! ” He shouted as he ran back towards the fight.
“A-Ah. Yes, sir!” I said as I quickly turned around, prepared to make a run for it. Coincidentally, the tree beside me had a cross painted in blue on its trunk. I then noticed there were the same blue markings on the trees ahead of me that more or less formed a path. This must have been the track Zhou mentioned and it should lead a path towards what should be the village’s south entrance.
“Let’s go,” I said to the fellow new ‘Traveler’ beside me as I prepare myself to make an escape.
She didn’t utter a word at all but gave a weak nod. It was enough to tell she was confused and exhausted from the trouble she had to experience. Nevertheless, I followed my orders and ran towards the village while holding onto the girl’s hand.
I followed the trail as best as I could. I managed to run through a few marked trees with no trouble at all. However, as the path continued, my steps slowed down and I slowly lost my sense of direction. Because I was in such a rush, I lost track on which blue marking was the one I had passed by and which one I hadn’t. Eventually, I lost myself in between the path and was once again found myself stuck in the middle of a forest.
“Er… Which one is the way again?” I said as I looked around the area, trying to recall my steps.
I looked towards the girl and noticed she was panting heavily. She had her head down and had her hands on her knees as if she was about to fall over any second. I then realized I had been running while grabbing her the entire time without caring about her condition. It was then I felt bad about myself, not understanding her condition enough.
She must have been scared stiff knowing that she woke up in the middle of nowhere, had a terrible amnesia and eventually chased by a pack of scary creatures. If anything, she definitely had it worse than me.
Knowing that as long as I was in between the path back to the village, I would eventually meet up with the others. So, I took the time to let her catch her breath while I tried my best to comfort her.
“A-Are you sorry?”
She looked at me with a face of total exhaustion, annoyance and confusion. It took me a while before I realized what I have said.
“A-Ah! N-No! I-I meant to say ‘Are you ok?’ and ‘I’m sorry?’ I didn’t mean to sound as if I was picking on you? A-Ah what have I done? L-Look anyways, everything is going to be fine. Zhou said he is really good at fighting against those wolf things… A-Ah… you don’t know what were those, right? Erm… you see…”
Before I could finish my wobbly and down-right terrible explanation, the girl in front of me began to giggle. It then slowly became a full-blown laughter as she put her hand on her tummy and tears began to form. It was then I realized I had made a laughing stock out of myself. My face had definitely turned red as I felt totally embarrassed of myself. However, her laughter gave me enough time to have a proper look at her overall figure.
I was wrong, she was actually shorter than me, but only a little. The scouts that were around her back there must have been shorter than I thought. Her long brunette hair reached all the way to her waist but a little messy and tainted with dirt. Her light-green eyes were big and round. Her lips may be dried up but it was rosy in colour.
Her neck was slim and her shoulders were even slimmer. She had a rather flat chest for a girl around my age, which I believe should be a thought kept to myself until my very death. Her torso was rather thin but it wasn’t to the point where it would be called skinny. Her legs were long and slender, except for her thighs that seemed to be slightly thick.
Overall, for a girl that looked around my age, she was definitely attractive. It was also then I realized that I was staring at her for a very long time. If anything, too long, enough for her to notice.
“Had enough yet?”
“Huh? A-Ah, yes. I mean, no. I-I mean, what I’m trying to say is…”
Before I had the chance to prove my innocence, the girl in front of me suddenly took a step back and began to shiver. Her eyes widened and she was in fear. It didn’t take me long to realize what she was looking at wasn’t me but what was behind me. I slowly turned my head behind and realized what she was looking at.
I was stupid to have overlooked a small detail while analyzing the wolves. I may have seen a pack of wolves but what I forgot was the fact Zhou said that there should be a leader among the pack. What I saw just now was indeed demon wolves but I had forgotten that they were all the same size. And before I could realize my mistake…
The pack leader had shown itself.
And it was true terror.
What appeared behind me was a demon wolf bigger than anything I have seen before, almost twice the size. The ears were longer and sharper, erecting out of its huge head. Its nose was sharp and its eyes were bigger and darker in colour than the other wolves I saw. Its teeth were larger and the drool coming out from the mouth only showed how hungry for blood it was. It had huge claws, longer and sharper than a knife. Its tail was longer than I was, which made its overall figure ever more terrifying.
The leader must have hidden itself from the pack and used them as bait to fish out the guards while he hunted for the weaker targets. And that would be me and the other new ‘Traveler’. Zhou wasn’t wrong when he said that these creatures had intelligence.
I ordered the girl to back away as I quickly made a step back and armed myself with my sword. I raised my hand up and shielded the girl. It was then I realized she also has her sword in her scabbard tied to her waist.
“You can fight, right?”
The wolf made a loud growl before I could reply. It was loud and earsplitting, enough to shake the ground and my eardrums. I began to shiver in fear and my legs were trembling, knowing this was a whole new different feeling than challenging a single wolf. I was up against a foe that could eat me whole in one go.
As the wolf made a growl, the girl that hid herself behind me grabbed onto me tighter on my shoulders and started tearing. It didn’t take a genius to look back to know that she was frightened upon experiencing the confrontation that was happening in front of us.
It was then I realized that I had to be the one to protect her.
I took a deep breath and tightened my grip on my sword, preparing myself to go against the beast that was no doubt stronger than I was. He continued to creep towards me as I circled around the wolf, waiting for its next action.
It wasn’t long until a chance was given to me. After a long stand-off, the wolf made its first move.
The pack leader lunged itself towards me. I quickly grabbed the girl and pushed her away from me. Not paying attention to her landing, I then quickly raised up my sword with my right hand and used my other hand to support the central ridge of the sword. The wolf landed on top of me with its mouth wide open and pushed me onto the ground with immense force.
I landed on the ground hard as it had its front legs locking my shoulder onto the ground. However, I managed to get my sword in between the opening of its mouth from biting my head into a bloody mush. However, I have underestimated the strength of the wolf. The force coming from the wolf that was pushing down onto me was three times the strength from the other wolf I encountered. With what strength I had, I couldn’t hold on to it for much longer.
“Run! Now!” I screamed out to her while still keeping my eyes on the wolf. It got even angrier and pushed down even harder onto me.
“W-What about you?” The girl said with tearful eyes as she tried to stand up from the ground.
“JUST GO!” I shouted with all my heart as I continued to push all my strength in holding myself against the attack. A crack started to form on my sword from the immense pressure. My left hand started to bleed as the sword was slowly slipping, sliding itself into the skin of my fingers.
After hearing my command, her body jerked in shock. She quickly got up and ran away. Not caring where she went I used all my strength left and pushed the wolf away from me. It lost its balance and fell onto the ground. The ground quaked as the wolf lost its balance and slammed onto the ground with a loud thud.
I quickly got back onto my own two feet and examined the condition of my left hand. My fingers were bleeding and blood kept flowing out from the wound. The pain hurt like crazy but I was reminded of a bigger issue in front of me. I tightened my grip and raised my sword up, getting my eyes on the price.
During the encounter, I realized my stance had improved and I wasn’t as afraid as I used to be. I was definitely still in fear and my heart kept pounding as if it was about to rip out of my chest, but it wasn’t as bad as when I first encountered the pack leader.
It was like I had evolved or improved during the battle.
The wolf got back up and I was once again thrown back into a stand-off. It was obvious that I had zero chance of landing a proper blow onto the beast if I would charge forward. Thus, I decided to wait for his attack and prepared myself for a parry attack instead.
It didn’t take long for the wolf to lunge itself onto me again. As it threw itself onto me, I quickly darted myself to the right while raising my sword up. I was lucky enough to barely dodged the attack as the claws slashed through the air right in front of my eyes. As it was about to land back onto the ground, with my sword up in the air, I used what felt like all of my muscles and slashed downwards, slicing his torso from up to down.
As the wolf landed itself back on the ground, it took a few steps back before looking directly into my eyes again. The attack may have been a successful hit but it had only barely grazed his skin. I looked at my sword and realized that the crack had only gotten bigger.
However, a cut is still a cut. If I kept the momentum going, it would eventually chip enough life out of him before dying from blood loss.
Blood was dripping out from the skin of the wolf. As soon as it noticed the wound, the leader of the demon wolves had only gotten even angrier and was desperate for revenge.
Not a moment wasted, it once again lunged itself onto me, I repeated the same steps in hoping to land another blow but the wolf instead spun its body and slapped my body with its tail.
It wasn’t as painful as a slash from a normal demon wolf but it was strong enough to send me flying. I then fell onto the ground hard, ass first. My sword was flung out of my grasp and it landed onto the ground out of my reach.
I was once again reminded that the pack leader had a level of intelligence and was able to strategize its attack. I realized that I had underestimated my opponent and it was way beyond my ability. I had to prepare myself to make a run for it while I still have the energy to do so.
However, a formidable enemy would never give their opponent any time to breath.
The wolf charged towards me without a moment’s notice. Its growl had only gotten louder and more distorted. It was definitely going for the kill this time. I raised my hand and shielded myself, kept my eyes closed as I was awaiting for my death to arrive.
But that moment never arrived.
A metallic sound rang as I kept my eyes closed. I slowly opened my eyes to see a man blocking the attack from the wolf with a sword…
“Good job, kid. You did great. I saw your sword over there, so I just picked it up for ya.”
Zhou then pushed the wolf back with the sword with ease and knocked the wolf off balance. He then turned and picked me up from the ground. After checking my overall condition, he continued his words.
“Can you still fight, kid?”
As soon as I agreed, he took out the huge sword from his back and handed it over to me. As he dropped it on my hand, the weight of the sword threw me off balance. It was heavy and definitely not something anyone could wield. The grip was way longer than the sword I was using, clearly meant to be wielded with both hands. The blade was also thicker and longer. Overall, it was definitely way out of my capabilities to wield.
“I will keep the beast distracted, as soon as I could lock the bastard in place, I need you to slice its neck in half, that’s its weakness.”
“W-Wait! Are you sure I can handle this? This weapon is huge!”
He then turned his head and with his big rough hands, he placed it on my head and said with a smile.
“Trust in yourself. And trust in the sword.”
With that, he took off.
The battle was a spectacle. Every move Zhou made was calculative and fluid as if he could read the movements of the demon wolf. Every hand raised, every dodge and every slash were on point, making sure there was no room for any mistakes. However, none of his attacks were lethal. His ultimate goal was to tire the beast.
In the meantime, I grabbed the huge sword in my hands and gripped it as tightly as I could. Feeling its weight that outweighs me and prepared myself for the signal. I started to circle around the wolf while dragging the sword across the field, getting ready to do my part of the battle.
Eventually, the wolf decided to do a frontal attack towards Zhou out of desperation. That moment was exactly what he was waiting for. Zhou used my sword and sliced it across its face. As soon as he did that, I noticed the crack on the sword was almost across the entire blade, ready to snap at any moment. However, it seemed like it was exactly going according to his plan.
With a loud warcry, out of nowhere, he pulled out another sword from his scabbard that was attached to his waist and sliced through its left arm, gushing a stream of blood out of the wolf. The wolf made a loud cry as it raised its head. Zhou then used the other sword and slammed down onto his right paw. As soon as the sword landed onto the paw and sliced all the way through to the ground, the sword broke in two.
The wolf made another loud cry but this time with pure agony, while still having his head up. It was definitely in a lot of pain.
With a broken sword in Zhou’s right hand and the other still undamaged on his left hand, he raised the swords upwards and pierced through the submental space below the chin of the demon wolf, holding it in place and locking its movement.
As soon as he gave me the signal, I dashed towards the wolf from the side with all the strength I have left. As I reached its neck, along with the adrenaline rush coursing through my body, I slammed my left foot onto the ground and raised the huge sword over my head. I could feel the sword blocking the sunlight as I kept my eyes glued onto the neck of the wolf. With the huge force coming from the weight of the sword, it sliced through its neck clean and severed the wolf’s head from its body. The body fell onto the ground and its blood flooded the green field as the big boss was finally defeated.
Zhou didn’t even bother pulling the swords out as he tossed the severed head onto the ground along with the swords still pierced through it. He then walked up to me, had his hands on my shoulder and then gave me a big hug.
“You did great, kid.” He said as he pulled me away from him, still with his arms on my shoulders and continued his compliment. “You not only fended yourself and killed the pack leader, but you also chose to sacrifice yourself to protect the girl. Now, that takes a lot of guts, and for that, you deserve another comfortable bath and more food when you get back.”
His compliment gave a warm feeling in my heart and had me blushing all over my face.
“Thanks… Wait… The girl!”
He then looked over to the left and as I followed suit, the other ‘Traveler’ among us popped her head out of the bush and gave us a wave.
“She managed to find us while following the blue markings on the trees and quickly told us about the situation. Don’t worry, the wolves are all dead and the rest had headed back to the village, all alive and well. If anything, you are the most injured of them all.”
“I see.” I gave out a huge sigh of relief and could finally relax from all the exhaustion from fighting such a beast. “I guess that means that second sword you have was…”
“Hers.” Zhou said as he let go of my shoulders and grabbed the huge sword in my arms and put it back on his back. He then walked towards the girl, raised his right arm and said without looking back at me.
“Now, let’s head home.”