After determining what the main goal of the villagers was during the monster horde distraction, Annie returned to help the rest of the group. Thank god she did, because by the time she had arrived, Randidly had been forced to use spells to intervene multiple times, mostly relying on his new spell that created a hand of lava that reached up out of the ground and physically grabbed a monster, burning away its skin and keeping it still as the molten rock and metal cooled.
It honestly intimidated the surrounding monsters too, so it was the perfect Skill to use to buy time. And in that time, Annie arrived, prepared to give the team some breathing room.
Hissing, she narrowed her left eye and loosed an arrow, that ricocheted off the battered helmet of two stories tall ogre, and then shot an azure tiger in the forehead, dropping it. Blood continued to drip from the cut she had received, over her other eye, blurring her vision. Luckily, it seemed she hadn't lost all of her razzle-dazzle.
After bellowing in fury, the ogre readjusted its helmet so its beady eyes could see out, and then looked around, his wrath scouring the area for a target. But Annie was already was gone, flipping away. With the brief distraction, Alana disengaged from a huge serpent, smashed back a weird, tentacled creature, and then exploded in a burst of sunlight, illuminating the darkened area. Immediately, the ogre seemed to remember its previous opponent that had covered its arms and legs with wounds. But it was too late, that moment of distraction had revealed an opening, and Alana shoved her burning sunspear into its heart. Then she shoved it forward, blocking another monster's advance, and leaped several meters backward, to gain a few seconds of respite.
But by then, Annie was moving, her tongue flicking out, tasting the air. She could feel the scents of her companions, and of the horde of monsters that was pressing forward, causing their group immense pressure. The air was thick with such scents, the vibrancy of their emotions thickening the trails, but Annie's Skill was growing by leaps and bounds, and she was able to keep them all straight if just barely. Plus, the emotions gave her a clue who she needed to assist next.
For good measure, Annie put 4 arrows into the back of a giant toad's head and then headed towards the left flank, which contained the most panic of all the scents. That was Ptolemy, but he would only feel fear if someone else was injured, so...
Just like the rest of the group, Annie had been initially very interested in the quest, given the flat percentage, it would grant at the end. Plus, this was a great bunch of free experience. Instead of seeking out, they simply had to wait by the village, and the monsters would come towards them. But although they had casually been referring to these monsters as Raid Boss class, that was ultimately inaccurate. The fearsome power of the Raid Boss partially lay in its ability to procreate and create an army that would come and wipe out a village.
These monsters came ready-made to wreck the village, they were just much easier kill than the army because there was only one of them. But that didn't mean that they were any less dangerous than an entire army.
Still, considering the level of their party, taking them out was child's play. Unless you were alone, facing 6 of them at once, with 10 more waiting behind, to strike at your weaknesses. Although they were powerful, their group was giving ground; there were simply too many high caliber monsters at once.
Annie leaped to the next tree, wiped the blood out of her eye, and then drew her bow. Ptolemy was standing some distance away, healing a large gash on Thea's shoulder. From her, Annie could only feel fury and hatred, as she watched her bear standing up to a centipede and two-headed goat, bellowing its defiance. Then animals hesitated, intimidated by what was in all likelihood a Skill, and a well leveled one at that. It gave Ptolemy the precious few seconds he needed to heal Thea, and then unleash a fireball on a hawk that was circling above, sending it squawking to the ground harmlessly to dodge.
Annie loosed an arrow, pinning its wing to the tree then knocked another arrow, turning towards the other looming monsters.
Give some ground, the message from Rose arrived, and huffing, Annie use her Split Shot Skill to send an arrow the split and smashed into both the centipede and goat's faces, stunning them. Chrysanthemum turned and retreated, allowing Ptolemy to land a precious few healing spells on her, and after Chrysanthemum was clear, Annie's mouth curled into a wicked smile.
"The Cold Sleet before Stillness," Annie whispered, shooting an arrow into the sky, and watching as her Mana dropped to almost nothing. Instantly, she turned away and lopped off, pulling out a Mana potion to drink, not even bothering to watch as the dozens of magical arrows descended from the sky, crashing into the monsters standing in the area, ripping holes in their flesh and spreading a deadly, creeping numbness through the area around the wounds. It wasn't a super destructive move, but it was the Skill of hers that had the most debilitating effects. The coldness acted like a poison, that would slowly consume the body of the monsters, making the entirety of them numb.
The left flank then would have a few minutes, but...
THere was a trumpet-like call as a six-tusked elephant charged forward, rushing forward in the wake of her Skill. Grimacing, Annie spun around and raised her hands to her lips. Slowly, evenly, without any rush, she drew out a long, thin wisp of breath she extracted from herself, feeling her Stamina drop to almost zero as well. Then she snapped it in a practiced manner, straightening it, then flexed it, turning it rigid. Then she put the breath arrow on her bow and shot it towards the elephant which was only a dozen or so meters from her now, rampaging.
"The Last Gasp."
The smokey arrow shot forward, smashing into the face of the elephant, blinding it briefly, before it swirled up and rushed into the elephant's nose and mouth. There it would slither like a serpent until it reached the lungs, and then...
The elephant's eyes went wide, and it stumbled as the blades of air sharpened abruptly and exploded in its chest, ripping apart its lungs, and most of the surrounding internal organs. After a brief stumble, the creature collapsed.
Annie sniffed, wrinkling her nose, then continued her retreat, her breathing heavy. It had been quite a while since she had felt this close to danger, felt this tickle of danger so constantly. Her Hunter's Instincts Skill had gained 10 Levels in the past hour, which was a ridiculous amount of growth.
Which, she supposed, was the point of the Raid Dungeon. There wasn't anywhere else where you would encounter so many dangerous monsters, let alone 200 or so at once. Under this immense pressure...
Annie had never felt so alive.
The original plan had been to split their close range forces into three pieces, one acting as a vanguard, splitting the monsters that were rushing forward, the two flanks mopping up the remnants. To no one's surprise, Alana would be alone, acting as the tip of their spear. Aside from the Ghosthound himself, she was the most dependable, and would only break when she died. And Annie had fought against Alana before, that woman was a bitch to scratch, let alone kill.
Meanwhile, the choice of the flanks was much more surprising. The right was Ace, Lucifer, and Drake, while the left would be Thea, Chrysanthemum, and Ptolemy. Rose, Clarissa, and the Ghosthound would stay back and support from afar, while they had largely let Annie move as she pleased. Annie knew the arrangement annoyed Rose, but the other woman grudgingly admitted that Annie could handle herself, unpredictable as her assistance was.
Ace had been the only one to speak out against this plan, pointing out that the left was much weaker than the right, but Rose had been adamant, and after bringing up the issue, Ace had let it drop.
Annie knew why the left was made that way; Thea was slowly becoming a force of nature. As she developed, slowly growing used to her advanced combat Skill, she was rounding out to be a berserker style warrior. Meanwhile, Chrysanthemum might as well be an infinite chasm, for all the success the monsters had against her. She was just as strong as every one of these monsters, if not a bit stronger, and twice as strong. Plus, from Annie's observations, Chrysanthemum possessed just as many impressive Skills as her bounded companion.
Tasting the air once more, Annie swerved and headed back towards Alana's position. Not three seconds as she sensed Alana's frustration, there was a message in the Party Chat.
Close to my limit.
Help is on the way. Hold out 7 more minutes. The Ghosthound's reply immediately came.
Acknowledged. Annie imagined Alana’s stuffy face as she sent that reply, hand salute included and all, and stifled a giggle.
As Annie tasted again, there was a new scent in the air, a new prey. It was a variation on a familiar scent.
Annie pursed her lips. The Ghosthound made minions again. This one was larger than the previous ones, and much less while. More... solid. He had explained briefly to her how they were based on stats, so this one would be... Endurance.
As she thought that, a turtle the size of a car trundled forward, moving at a quick clip, for a turtle. There were a few vines curling up out of its shell, around its neck. Its shell was a deep, black-green, and its skin was the color of old peas. Its golden eyes scrutinized Annie briefly, but then it nodded in acknowledgment and hurried passed. Chuckling, Annie leaped up onto its back, catching a ride.
It only took 30 seconds to arrive at Alana, and it was clear what the problem was. There was a large demon in front of the sun-touched woman, covered in red scales, and with long, clawed hands. It laughed again, and belched out a ball of black fire. Alana spun to the side, grabbing a bronze wolf by the scruff of its neck like it was a puppy and throwing it in the way of the strange fire.
When the flames touched the monster, it began to howl, which lasted all of 3 seconds, before its body was consumed and it was naught but ash. Annie whistled.
Talk about fast acting.