CH : 20 – DISCOVERY PART 2D
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DISCOVERY PART 2D

Day 53; 1015 (Morning)
Focus: 513

With his sense of direction in disarray -- due-in-part to his encounter with the sea of hands -- 513 aimlessly sprinted through the mist.

Even so, no matter what direction he travelled -- whether he headed towards the central sphere or to the outer rim -- he knew that his time for respite would inescapably come to an end sooner, rather than later.

513: "I must be resolute or I'll meet my end here."

He told himself.

Although his voice was commanding and the words he spoke were impactful, his haggard breath and complicated smile showed traces of panic and uncertainty.

Deep down inside he knew that his conviction had wavered. 

During his bout with the sea of hands, his momentary lapse in clarity led to his own acceptance of an inevitable death. How could someone like him possibly escape from such an impossible situation?

As a result, his movements were dulled and his mental processing slowed. 

However, in that moment of darkness, a glimmer of hope was reignited within him. Through an act of desperation, his subconscious will-to-live gave him the strength necessary to stave-off his attackers. 

[To live is to struggle…] These words resonated deep within his heart. Although they were not profound, they carried the weight of his beliefs.

After a few more moments of contemplation, he shrugged away his thoughts and readied himself for another round.

513: "Hff, hff. Any moment now…"

After unleashing a few breaths of worry, he tightly gripped his short spear, then waited for what was to come.

*CRUNCH*

The world of shadows returned, dying the dull-white mist in a blanket of red. 

His pupils dilated as his eyes adjusted to the darker gradient of light.

Each time the red mist arrived, the flow of time within it progressively slowed, while the time outside remained unchanged. At first, it only lasted a second; a blink of an eye. Then, one second turned into several. Eventually, after a few more trips, time inside the red mist lasted over a minute. 

[I wonder how long it will last this time.] He pondered with indifference.

Meanwhile, the shadows that had been chasing him before, immediately resumed their fervent pursuit upon his return to their world.

He was fortunate that the existence of these beings were confined within this red mist, otherwise his life would have already been forfeit. Because of this, it wouldn't be far-fetched to conclude that the red mist was from another plane; another world separate from the forest.

In reality, 513 had not travelled far from the location where he had fought-off the sea of hands. As a result, the wispy shadows in pursuit of him required little time to make-up their lost ground.

The musk of fermenting viscera and mold permeated through the air as the shadows drew closer. Their despondent howling became more unintelligible and frantic with every step taken. 

[This must be a special type of hell I'm experiencing.] 513 mumbled internally.

All around him were an endless array of branching tube vines that connected together through web-like formations. Although they were intangible, they gave-off an oppressive quality of suffocation and doom; witnessing their ceaseless replication first-hand only led to the uncomfortable feeling of claustrophobic dread.

Encircling him were several hundred shadow abominations quickly closing-in. Their humanoid features gave the impression of unsettling familiarity, while their long, unnatural strides resembled an imperfect imitation of a human.

513 could only watch at a glance as portions of their featureless faces collapsed into themselves, revealing crooked, impossible smiles aimed towards the sky. 

Their heads rattled violently, causing the air around them to heat-up. As a result, long strands of steam spewed-out from the pores on each of their scalps, creating the illusion of long, silver hair.

These shadows encapsulated the true essence of nightmarish creatures befitting of the hellscape created by the red mist.

*FOHMP* *FOHMP* *FOHMP* 

Without a second thought, 513 thrust his spear backward, piercing the bodies of three shadows encroaching from behind.

*FOHMP* 

Thrusting his spear forward, he mercilessly skewered the shadow abomination that had leapt towards him. 

The impact was so violent that the shadow’s limbs snapped forwards, destroying its ability to move or react. Thus, rendering it harmless. 

It could not even struggle as its body slid past the half-meter long spearhead and onto the spear shaft; the shadow was like a sack of wet dirt on the end of 513's short spear. 

While this happened, streaks of dark, red blood on various parts of 513's short spear, congealed into frozen crystals in a span of seconds, reminding him to not overstay his welcome.

He coldly watched as the shadow's limp body gradually disintegrated while still impaled on his short spear. Its half-dozen pair of eyes randomly scattered about its body, looked at him with a mixture of emotions. Most displayed a hint of rage, remorse, and sadness. While others exhibited a glint of relief and calm.

In a blink of an eye, the deformed body of the shadow crumpled into itself and was sucked into the short spear like a collapsing star.

513: "That was...unexpected…"

He muttered in surprise.

The shadow disappeared as-if it was never there. Only remnant traces of congealed blood frozen onto the short spear showed proof of its previous existence.

The battle waged-on as he sprinted through the blood-red mist. With each thrust of his spear, several more shadows met their demise. 

Every shadow impaled by his spear was absorbed by the spearhead made-of blood bone.

It seemed as-if his fight for survival had turned into a chore -- a chore of feeding his weapon. 

But he had no complaints.

His calculated spear thrusts continued to decimate the group of shadows that pursued him. The several hundred that had initially given chase, were easily whittled down by a third. 

Despite all of this, 513 showed no signs of fatigue. This revelation caused him a bit of concern.

Although he had become more confident with his spear handling, the overall resistance given-off by the shadows bothered him. 

It was true that they made great effort in injuring him, but it also felt like the shadows willingly threw their bodies at him to be slaughtered.

[Are they purposefully slowing me down? If so, for what reason?] He thought.

*FOHMP* 

After dispatching yet another shadow, 513's unmoving, placid expression slowly turned into a frown. 

Killing the shadows had become too simple, too easy.

[This is wrong...the serious threat that I feel doesn't match the lack of danger I'm in. Even the sea of hands from before aren’t around...something is off.] He worried.

*FOHMP* *FOHMP* 

Two more shadows fell by his spear. 

By now, his pursuers should have thinned-out significantly. 

Thinking so, he took a quick gander at the group of shadows chasing from behind. The very moment he did, both of his eyes narrowed in disbelief, his brows furrowed expressing a pained reaction, and a cold bead of sweat dripped down the side of his face. His mind worked overtime to process the image that he had just witnessed.

Just beyond the remaining group of shadows, were several lumbering giants whose heights reached the limits of the mist's ceiling. Unlike the deformed humanoid shadows that had been faithfully chasing after him, these figures took on the characteristics of disfigured beasts that have been melted and sewn together like failed science projects. 

Of these lumbering giants, a few consisted entirely of nothing but teeth and ears randomly fixed onto large, moving, amorphous structures. While others appeared to be constructs modelled from the mind of a lunatic -- countless limbs joined together, all moving independent of one another, but all sharing one common goal: to pursue their target.

At a glance, these lumbering giants could be mistaken for slow-moving targets, but in fact, they were deceptively quick. They covered much more ground than their shadow counterparts.

The scene from behind prompted 513 to voice a complaint from his heart.

513: "Well, shit…"

The presence of the giants unsettled him. So much so that his well-timed, well-placed spear thrusts turned into chaotic thrashing. 

His rampage did not end until dozens of shadows had been killed and eaten by his short spear.

513: "Suspicious."

He whispered to himself.

Just ahead of him was a dark feature in the landscape that appeared to stretch endlessly into the mist. Unfortunately, the feature was unavoidable since it was directly in his path.

It did not take long for the dark feature to come into full-view.

At first, the feature appeared to be a small ledge made of dark stone and compacted dirt. As he got closer, however, 513 realized that the feature was superficial.

Ahead of him was no ledge, but a thick grouping of hundreds, no, thousands of bloodied hands.

The sight in-front of him caused a cold sensation to creep-up his spine and to his skull, making his head grow numb.

[Its a fucking pincer attack!] He exclaimed in surprise.

Behind him, the grotesque, lumbering giants that he saw from a distance, were now only a few meters away. They had increased the speed of their pursuit by forcibly disposing of any humanoid shadows they saw as hindrances. Now, the giants were positioned at an optimal distance for striking.

Gritting his teeth, 513 swung his short spear backward in a wide arc, lacerating the bodies of the lumbering giants closest to him. This caused them to momentarily hesitate, as pieces of their bodies split open and snapped like dry twigs.

Random assortments of organs and fluid spilled-out from their wounds, further slowing their movement.

513 used this chance to charge forward with more force. He had already been sprinting for quite some time, but he felt neither out-of-breath or low in stamina. 

Taking this into account, he strengthened each step he took with more power, causing both his speed and travel distance to increase several fold.

His muscles bulged as a result, causing discomfort to appear in areas where his armor was tightly strapped onto his body.

However, he chose to ignore this -- the discomfort and pain. He understood that failing to act now meant certain death. 

In reaction to his movements, the group of countless hands ahead of him no longer sat around waiting for his arrival. Instead, they all rushed forward in an effort to subdue him. 

Seeing their formation collapse into waves of charges, 513 swung his short spear forward and put more strength into his steps.

Using both hands, he tightly gripped his short spear, locking it close to his chest. 

Chambering a powerful thrust, he waited for the opportune moment to strike.

*BOOM*

His speed exploded as he dashed forward using every ounce of power he had in his right leg. 

In an instant, the ground beneath his right foot was compressed into stone under the force of his dash. As soon as his foot left the ground, dirt that had been displaced by the weight of the step exploded behind him. The explosion launched fragments of hardened, frozen ground towards the enemies still chasing from behind.

The projectile debris bore through the soft bodies of shadows directly behind him like thrown rocks piercing jellyfish. 

The lumbering giants fared no better, as large chunks of their base structures were blown away by the hardened debris.

*BOOM*

Another explosion occurred as 513 crashed into the bloodied hands.

The moment he entered striking distance, he fired-off his chambered spear thrust, impaling and uprooting dozens of bloodied hands from the ground, and throwing countless more into the air. 

A distinct line could be seen cutting through the thick band of bloodied hands as 513 pummeled through without losing any momentum.

With just one attack, he managed to clear a path, but it came at a severe cost. 

The recoil from overloading his right leg with power caused his bones to shatter and his muscles to tear. To put it bluntly, his attack was conceived through desperation.

*THUD* *THUD* *THUD*

At the end of his attack, the extra weight from all bloodied hands skewered on his short spear caused 513 to lose control. As a result, he crashed and tumbled over the ground like a skipping stone.

When he recovered, he spit out a mouthful of blood and complained aloud.

513: "Ugh...what a familiar feeling…"

With the majority of his enemies now behind him, he quickly scrambled onto his remaining working limbs and crawled away.

[It's so close!] he exclaimed in his mind.

His exit out of the mist was only a few meters away. It was the first thing noticed after identifying the bloodied hands, since they were blocking it.

After his short spear absorbed all the remaining bodies it had impaled, 513 quickly secured the weapon onto his supply pack and continued towards the exit. On the way over, he used the miniature kite shield to cut down any stragglers that aimed to pin him down. 

He was still not proficient in using the shield as a weapon, but so long as he treated each strike like a punch, he could easily neutralize threats.

Behind him, the waves of bloodied hands had finally managed to stop their forward momentum. Eventually, they were joined by the remaining shadows and the lumbering giants who were still chasing after 513. The roaring of their screams peaked as they converged into a massive force with a shared goal.

513 did not dare look back as his head itched from frustration.

513: "Tch. Fuckers."

He clicked his tongue in disappointment, as he winced in pain.

The exit was only an arms-length away. There was no way he'd get captured by those creatures at this point.

Nevertheless, he took no chances and put more strength into his limbs. 

Without a second thought, he launched himself into the exit.

◊◊◊◊◊◊

Day 53; 1017 (Morning)
Focus: 513

A plume of red mist horizontally exploded outward into a clearing, void of any trees or mist. The plume extended-out four meters into the clearing before 513's body was revealed within it. 

As he touched the ground, he consciously rolled onto his upper shoulders, to disperse the momentum of his landing. He then kicked-up towards the sky with his left leg, launching his body back into the air.

While in mid-air, he utilized the momentum and rotational force introduced by his shoulder roll to turn his body 180 degrees -- facing the direction from where he exited from.

When he landed a second time -- this time on his left foot -- he immediately detached his short spear from his supply pack and performed a downward slash.

*FWISHH*

His downward slash parted the red mist that had extended-out into the clearing, dispersing it until none remained. 

The noise created by the slash was the result of an ideal cut using proper blade-edge alignment; if he was wielding a sword, the sound would be described as sword wind.

513: "I'm ready you bastards."

He growled-out.

In his readiness for battle, he paid no mind to his surroundings. His eyes were fixated on only one thing: the red mist. Whether his enemies were the tentacles or the embodiment of hell, 513 was ready to fight to the end.

Then, as-if a switch was suddenly flipped at random, the mist returned to its dull-white hue.

[Unlike me, I guess they can't get-out.] 513 mused to himself.

*CRUNCH*

The mist was dyed a shade of red once more, but only for a brief moment. However, that wasn't what concerned 513. 

The sound of the crunch was so loud and so close, that 513 reactively leapt away from the noise, almost re-entering the mist on accident.

*CRUNCH*

Facing the direction of the sound, 513 narrowed his eyes.

513: "The fuck is that?"

He cried-out in surprise.

Ahead of him were several mounds of mangled corpses and body parts piled roughly six meters high. Blood and fluids from the mounds dyed the frozen ground beneath them in an assortment of colors. 

The pungent odor given-off by the mounds would have made 513 gag if he hadn't already become accustomed to the smell.

Behind the mounds, was an enormous, grub-like creature. Its large, scythe-like legs protruded-out from each of the many segments making-up its body -- which numbered over fifty. Its color could only be described as dirty marble, and its skin contained countless imprints and scars, denoting a life filled with battle.

The grub was coiled-up like a snake, but there was no clear distinction between its head or rear. 

Its body rippled like a violent storm over a lake. The ripples looked like impacts from panicked creatures trapped behind a curtain of latex, where the occasional face of a beast would cause the grubs' skin to distort and stretch.

Above the creature was a large swirling sphere, spewing out an endless amount of mist. But interestingly, the mist was prevented from entering a large area surrounding the giant grub. Even the place 513 stood on was completely free of the mist -- the place he called the clearing.

[...am I really stuck here with that? I don't even know how I'm supposed to fight that thing.] 513 contemplated. [I should keep my distance…first, I need to hide.]

After locating suitable cover, 513 gingerly moved towards it without making a sound. 

Once there, he then began to massage his ruined leg in hopes that it would accelerate recovery.

Meanwhile, at the location where the grub was coiled-up, dozens of eyes from each of the grub's scythe-like legs all opened-up in one simultaneous act.

With the advantage of having multiple viewing angles, the grub's many eyes locked onto 513's position with ease.

The presence of 513 brought immense joy to the grub, as a glint of surprise and gluttony shimmered in each one of its eyes.

Grub: (high-pitch noise) "What is this?! An exceptionally rare delicacy has wandered into my domain!!"

The grub gleefully screamed.

---Chapter End

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