RE: Chap 33– 34: A bloody path
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Ran lowered her gaze and turned around, “I’ll open a path. Stay sharp!”

She discreetly swept her hand to close the windows appearing endlessly in front of her.

*PING*

WARNING

 

You are over-exhausted!

 

Your condition is critical!

 

She closed her eyes and murmured, “Activate paired skills. Unlock true body.”

*PING*

True body is unlocked.

Switch in progress

 

New stat created

-

Fighting Spirit

….

 

The air around her began to change. It was as if there was an invisible current flowing deep within her body and spreading to her limbs. Her body softly shook and small arcs of statics could be seen pouring out of her pores. Her posture straightened. She grew inches taller. Her body became more athletic and flexible; taut with a hint of savageness. Her feathers lost some youthful roundness and turned sharper. Her skin darkened a bit, from honey to milk chocolate. Her ink black hair turned moon coloured with some black locks. Her hazel eyes changed into a striking blue sapphire colour. In the depth of her eyes burned something dark. Ran breathed out deeply and gathered her hair into a ponytail. She stretched to get familiar with this new body she had never used. Parvian and the others were flabbergasted.

 

“What was that?” Parvian couldn’t believe his eyes. “How can you grow taller and change this much in an instant?”

“I’m not stupid enough to let unknown people with hidden motives see my real appearance. That body is just compatible with my fighting style,” Ran explained. “Even though my stats are somewhat lower than you guys, I am more used to fight in melee battle, so you better follow my lead. The reason why isn’t your business.”

 

At her feet laid the carcass of a beast. She stepped on it and the blood wove itself into blood boots and shin guards. Ran’s whole appearance and demeanour made them think she could be a general in the Demon King army. She gave her arms and legs a few swings. Each swing felt slow and soft yet Rikku couldn’t help notice that they felt somewhat eerie.

 

“I’ll be the vanguard. Stay at least 20m behind so you don’t get caught in the mess,” Ran stated as she secured 2 short swords on the small of her back, “Rikku will take the sides, Parvian takes the rear and thins out the crowd. Dorian, focus on driving and leave the rest to us. Stay alert in case they need support.”

“Are you sure about that?” Rikku asked, “Why don’t we just give up on the carriage and make a run for it.”

“How far do you think we can run?” Ran replied with indifference.

Rikku wasn't happy with her tone. He placed himself in front of her and stared deep in her eyes, “You said we have a lot in common. That’s true. We are a team. I see you.”

 

Ran was startled and somewhat puzzled.

 

“I see you,” Rikku repeated himself again with seriousness, “So, open your eyes and look at me too.”

 

Ran frowned. She wanted to ask what he meant but her words were lost under a thundering roar and the quakes of the ground.

 

“Let’s go!”

 

A deep and ancient aura surged out of Ran. The bloodthirst and killing intent in it made Rikku break into shivers. Her eyes gleamed with ferociousness and fighting spirit. It had been a while since she indulged herself in a battlefield. A dense wave of beasts was storming out of the forest. Parvian’s delicate face drained of its colours. He bit his lips and loaded his arc. This wave was formed from at least 15 beasts and their group didn’t have enough lives to fight against them. Ran clasped her hand together. She had to gamble on a bold move right from the start. Her hands moved apart from each other and in between a blood orb appeared. She had to take out all the blood she accumulated so far.

 

“Spin,” Ran commanded. 

 

The orb spun around and grew at a fast pace until a gigantic blood orb floated in front of Ran. This was going to cost her a great deal of mana to manipulate. She gritted her teeth. She waved her hands and turned the single orb into several dozens of blood lances. She waited for the beast to move closer before throwing the lances. The blood lances rained over the beasts. Thundering wails echoed across the camp.  The lances didn’t kill any of them, they were too low levels anyway. The aim wasn’t to kill them but injure and weaken them enough. Torrents of blood were flooding the way to the road.

 

WARNING

 

Your condition is critical!

 

New Skill created

 

Burning Flame has been created

-

Levels and stats will be burnt to alleviate Fatigue and replenish HP and MP

 

Ran wobbled on her feet, pale and a bit out of breath. She swiftly drank a mana potion. As soon as she was back on her feet, Ran pushed her feet against the ground and flashed forward. She threw a punch at the closest beast. It was already near death, a punch and a dropkick on its head finished it off. On her back, a crimson reel materialised. The reel spun at an unbelievable pace, turning the splashing blood into thread.

For an instant, the guys were so stunned that they forgot to budge. A second beast had already dropped dead before they snapped out of their daze. Ran moved slowly forward punching down, kicking up and collecting corpses. The reel on her back was threading new threads and supplementing her gauntlets and boots in a never-ending cycle.

An enormous wolf bolted straight to her and leapt. Ran dodged by a hairbreadth. Her body lowered itself. She pushed her hands against the ground and let loose a brutal leg sweep at the wolf’s temple. The heel flew out like a bullet. The wolf wasn’t able to avoid it. Inches before the kick landed, a blade whipped out of the heel sole and impaled the beast’s brain. The wolf howled then dropped dead. She removed her foot bluntly, flourished her hand and collected the corpse. Parvian and Dorian drew in a sharp and cold breath. Even though the carriage only moved a couple of meters forwards, they had already started fighting.

 

“How could she be this fierce?” whispered Parvian.

“Where did she learn to fight like that?” wondered Dorian.

 

They felt a shiver creeping down their back. They had seen her cold self, they just never thought she could be this merciless and bloody. Ran danced through the battlefield like a crimson fairy. She only left blood in her wake and the ringing echoes of broken bones. She may be experienced in this type of melee battle, but nothing could change the fact that she was intrinsically weak. She had levelled up a lot tonight, but in reality, her levels couldn’t rise at all. Each time she earned a level, it would be burned through Burning Flame to supplement her HP and MP. Ran was dancing on an extremely thin and friable line. One misstep would let to her potential death. Ran hadn’t done any useless dodging or fancy moves. She had been fighting for a while now and her low stats were taking a toll on her. They barely made a third of the way to the road.

WARNING

 

Your condition is critical!

 

Ran chugged potion after potion. Her breath had become laboured and her face had lost the little colour it had regained. Enemies kept on crashing into her, wave after wave, wearing her down. Her blood equipment had crumbled apart and the twin swords had become dulled and chipped. The wounds on her body were pilling up. She was a bloody mess. She glanced behind. Rikku was fighting alongside a shadow and defending the sides of the carriage. Parvian, standing on the rooftop, was shooting arrows non-stop. Taking advantage of this slight lapse in focus, a panther-like beast pounced on Ran.

Ran tightly gripped the swords, crossed them on her chest in an attempt to protect herself. The swords shattered. The beast clawed her deeply and sent her flying backwards. Her body rolled on the ground several meters before she could stop herself. She tried to lift herself off the ground. She vomited blood and groaned in pain. The beast didn’t give her time and pounced again. Mid-air, arrows and daggers blew through the beast’s body. Its crashed unto the ground and died.

 

“Aaaaaahh!” Ran pushed herself off the ground. Her fighting spirit soared. She wobbled on her feet. She had only 2 potions left and she couldn't afford to waste them now.

"Burning Flame!"

 

Mana flowed through her veins and her wounds stopped bleeding. What a treacherous skill! The after-effects of such a skill were… She sighed, it wasn’t like she could afford not using it anyway. She tightened her fists, her knuckles cracked and she struck out. Her fists smashed into the dead panther and she buried her arms until the elbows.

 

“Spin!”

 

The blood flows snaked around her forearm, elbows, up to her shoulders. Ran stood up, both her arms were covered in crimson threads as if they were sleeves. She stepped forwards, the threads on her knuckles spun lightly and transformed into a sharp bloody pick.

 

---

 

The quartet had been fighting for almost an hour across the camp and the road was finally in sight. They were all exhausted. Ran was panting hard. Her face was wary and dripping blood until she almost couldn’t see. She could still stand only thanks to sheer determination and her newly created Fighting Spirit stat. Her levels and stats were dangerously low and she was wobbling on the very thin line between life and death. The hidden gleam in her eyes revealed itself.

They were almost there. As soon as they could hit the road, they would be able to ride at full speed out of this hell. They had managed to clear the way and only tens of meters were between them and salvation. Parvian cheered at the glimmer of hope in front of them.

 

“We are al-”

 

The ground shook violently. Ran who wasn’t stable on her feet, stumbled down. A fierce roar echoed, stunning the team silly. Walking out of the forest onto the road was a gigantic black bear. It was around 8 feet tall. Its eyes were deep red. On its forehead was a shimmering bloody gem. It looked at the 4 youths and growled loudly. There were no beasts left around them. Those that were still alive had run away as soon as the bear showed up.

 

“Are we going to die?” asked Parvian as he shivered.

“Is that a class 4 beast?” wondered Dorian out loud.

“It can’t be the demon beast, right?” It was the first time that Rikku’s voice trembled.

 

Ran didn’t even hear them speak. Her mind was racing, figuring out a possible plan of action. She bit her lip. They couldn’t fight this beast. They could barely stand. She glanced backwards. She still had 2 potions left. If it was only her, she could run away. She furrowed her brows. She could get out of there alone. It wasn’t like she really needed Kan Yune. If it was her… the gleaming thought swayed then spread across, obscuring Ran’s mind. The thought sang an alluring melody, sweet and languish.

Ran was so absorbed that she forgot where she was. She heard the warning cries way too late, the beast was already too close to her. The bear lifted its paw and swung it downwards. Ran paled. She hastily took out 5 dead beasts corpses from her storage to protect herself. The wind blade and pressure emitted by the claws hurled through the battlefield and struck the pile of dead beasts. All of them burst and splattered into mush. Ran soared back with force. Rikku intercepted her and barely manage to cushion her fall. Her body shuddered and she spat out blood.

 

WARNING

 

Your condition is critical!

 

“I have a plan,” Ran had no other choice than drink a potion.

“We are leaving,” Rikky replied sharply. Rikku’s expression was grim and resolution shone in his gaze.

“I have a bomb,” she pushed herself on her feet.

“You don’t-”

 

The bear growled and loudly stepped ahead. It didn’t place those ants in its eyes. They were just tastier than regular magical beasts. Parvian anxiously tried to keep the bear away. Arrows flew, trying to turn the beast into a hedgehog. Few actually managed to stuck. Its fur was too thick and its skin too hard. Dorian had stepped down the carriage, took out a heavy sword from his item box and threw it hard. The bear swung its paw and deflected the sword with ease.

Questioning Kan Yune wasn’t worth their lives. Rikku wanted to run, “Let’s-”

 

Ran focused and without listening To Rikku, rushed forwards. She circled around the bear. Her speed was slow and she was dodging by a hairbreadth every single time. Rikku clenched his fist tightly. Ran was being reckless. He had no intention of sacrificing himself for other people. No matter how much he wanted to leave and save his own life, his feet wouldn’t budge.

The bear growled, it was being constantly pestered by an annoying fly and its anger grew bigger. It stood up on its hind legs and let out a powerful roar. It reverberated through the air. Ran’s head felt like it was about to explode and she lost her footing. The bear slashed at her. Her heart throbbed. At this point, she couldn’t evade it. Her face turned dark. She jumped backwards, took several monsters’ corpses to bear the paw. She used the last corpse as a stepping stone to withdraw further back. The claws went through the carcass like a hot knife through butter. Ran managed to take out a corpse to cushion her fall before crashing on the ground. She bounced back a couple of meters away. Her ribs cracked. Her left shoulder dislocated. She vomited blood. She fought to stay conscious.

 

"Activate Burning Flame," Ran managed to mutter.

 

WARNING

 

Your condition is critical!

 

Your level and stats are too low to activate this skill

 

Her body shook and she spat more blood.

 

A skill has evolved

 

Burning Flame has evolved into Blazing Sun

-

Blood and surrounding Mana will be burnt to alleviate Fatigue and replenish HP and MP

-

Lv 1: Mana in a 1m radius zone will be burnt

Blood in a 1m radius zone will be burnt

 

“RAN!”

 

It wasn’t until Rikku heard Parvian scream that he snapped back in. The demon bear growled again. Rikku hadn’t moved at all. Ran was dragging herself up. The blood on her body was burning. Vapour rose around her. Her ravenous eyes were fixed on the demon beast. Rikku clenched his jaw; he had made his choice. 3 shadows appeared at his side. In an instant, the shadows flickered and reappeared near the demon beasts. Rikku breathed deeply and mobilised all the mana available.

 

“Blood Sacrifice,” Rikku coldly commanded, “Gather and let the shadows rise.”

 

The blood-soaked earth trembled around him. Black shadows rose from the ground; slaughtered beasts and fallen humans. A shadow army came into existence.

 

“One minute only,” Rikku yelled to the others. This skill was too taxing and his level too low. Shadow beasts and former humans alike attacked with ferocity. They swamped the demon beast. The bear slashed and clawed its way through the silhouettes. One after the others, the soldiers exploded. However, wounds started to add themselves on the demon beast. All hope wasn’t lost just yet.

“Hah!” Ran cried out. The air around her was burning and slowly but surely, her internal wounds started to recover.

 

Parvian joined the fray. From the rooftop of the carriage, he shot arrow after arrow like a madman. An arrow found its way into the bear’s eye. It bellowed in pain. At this exact moment, the 3 shadows landed their blow. One shadow thrust her short-sword into a wound near its ribs. Another shadow slashed at the tendons of its hind legs. Finally, the last shadow leapt over, stepped onto its shoulder, swung a war-hammer and smashed it on its jaw. The bear threw its arms around, sending the last shadow flying. It wailed in pain, its lower jaw broke open.

Rikku shuddered. He fell to his knees and spat blood. Instantly, every shadow imploded. This had indeed been too heavy for him. It was now or never. The bear was thrashing around, blinded and wounded. Supported by her fighting spirit, Ran dashed forward. A clear bottle appeared in her hand. Behind her, the guys were out of breath. They didn’t know what Ran was going to do, their hearts were pounding out of their chest. The beast had been weakened by Rikku’s shadows and blinded. Its mouth was wide open, as long as she was close and accurate enough, they had a chance to escape.

 

“Hah!” She was ready to throw the bottle. She faced the beast. Her arm rose, the bomb was ready. She stared at the struggling beast. As she faced the eventuality of her death, her hand hesitated. A thought flashed through her heart. The insidious gleam dazzled her heart for an instant. A short instant that cost her greatly. The bear suddenly sensed her and clawed around. Ran was frozen, her eyes as wide as saucers. A thin mist condensed in front of her and turned into an icy shield. The claws slashed through. The shield cracked. In a desperate move, just before the shield completely shattered, she threw the bottle the closest of its mouth that she could. The bomb exploded and the corpse of an enormous boar appeared to protect her from the blast.

 

The blast was more powerful than she thought, her body soared backwards, tumbled and bounced around violently. Rikku rushed to catch her. The impact took his breath away and he too was dragged backwards. Dorian jumped in and caught them. An eerie silence followed the explosion. For a second, nothing could be heard. The bear was laying down, immobile. The fur on its head was burnt and it was laying in a pool of blood. The air was filled with the smell of burnt meat. Rikku’s face was drained of colours, his ribs were crushed. Blood was oozing out of his mouth. He wanted to take a potion, but his right arm couldn’t move. A flask appeared in his left hand. It was shaking too much and was too weak for him the drink.

Parvian jumped down the carriage and helped him drink. After Rikku finished one, Parvian gave him one of his too as his injuries were life-threatening. Rikku breathed out and winced. He looked down. Ran had rolled out of his embrace and Dorian was hastily feeding her potion mouth to mouth. Her eyelashes fluttered and her face regained some life. Rikku, Dorian and Parvian breathed out in relief.

 

When Ran opened her eyes, she met 3 worried pair of eyes. She grimaced, “Are we still alive?”

“For now, yes,” Parvian exhaled softly.

“You almost died,” Rikku reproached while helping her sit.

“Almost,” her head was a bit dizzy. Her eyelashes fluttered, “Been there, done that.”

Rikku scowled, “ Don’t -

ROOOAAARR!!!!

 

The roar felt like an earthquake. The ground trembled and the quartet’s hearts shattered into nothingness. The demon beast wasn’t dead. Worse, it went berserk. It wailed. The cry was deep and horrendous. Half of its lower face was missing. Its neck was a bloody mess of charred flesh. It tried to stand up on 2 feet but, its tendons were wounded, so it fell down. It roared even louder. The horses they had painstakingly maintained alive collapsed dead, their body twitching and mouth foaming.

The bear thrashed about in its madness and the group was too bewildered and stunned to react. Terror was overwhelming their soul. In an instant, it moved near them. With a sweep of a paw, Rikku was slammed dozens of meters away. Dorian was smashed deep into the ground. Parvian was standing still, trembling and tears rushing down his face. He saw death and felt powerless in front of its magnificence.

 

“Aaaaahh!” A war cry sounded from under the demon beast. Ran had rolled under it. Her small arms were thrust deep into a gaping wound at its ribs.

“ABSORB!”

 

The bear roared furiously, shaking its body in an attempt to get rid of her. Ran gripped the flesh and muscles around her hand tightly.

 

“Get out of here now! Take them with you!” Ran cried out to Parvian.

Another paw swept by and Ran fell over.

“SPIN!” Torrent of blood flowed out of the wound.

Ran barely avoided a blow as she rolled to the side.

“GO NOW!”

 

Her arms were drenched in blood. The blood morphed into claws and Ran threw herself at the bear’s back. She clawed in deep. She was riding the bear’s back in a wild rodeo, fighting to stay on it. She lifted one hand; the blood on it turned into a drill that she thrust deep into some bleeding wound it had on its back.

 

“Aaaaah! BURN! MOTHERFUCKER!”

Burning Flame has levelled up

-

Lv 2: Mana in a 2m radius zone will be burnt

Blood in a 3m radius zone will be burnt

 

Parvian helped Dorian and Rikku. They drank their last potions and kept their lives. They heard the bear wailed in pain; its mana and blood were burning from inside out. Ran yowled as well. One beast and one human were burning alive. They watched the scene, powerless.

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