When Azriel sprinted across the field and eviscerated a group of four Wights that were tearing off chunks of flesh from a spear user, Azriel glanced across the bloody road and met Skarch’s eyes. The other woman didn’t flinch at all, despite the fact that Skarch had purposefully fled away from assistance. Azriel declined to consider the why’s of that action.
Instead, she smiled primly at Skarch. ‘Didn’t expect me to account for you making that decision, did you?’
Skarch had not the subtlety to respond with her eyes, which was a pity. But also, Skarch had three long scratches across her face and her left shoulder armor had been ripped away along with a chunk of flesh, revealing bone underneath. Azriel wasn’t sure how Skarch was managing to continue using the shoulder in that condition. Perhaps she mobilized it with the sheer force of an image? That was an interesting theory.
There was a road running parallel to the Hallat, with fields to the South and a small bit of forest between the road and the river. From what Azriel could gather, Skarch and company had been forced out of the forest and onto the road to stay ahead of their pursuers, but it had backfired, likely due to Skarch herself. The larger space let her display her might more frequently, but it was a tactical mistake.
Taking the time to strike with large blows you couldn’t manage in a tightly packed grouping of trees took a few extra seconds. Those seconds was enough for the Zeitgard to strike.
At this point, Skarch’s forty-person squad had been reduced to fourteen, and the survivors were more like haggard refugees than the pride of the Spearman School’s army. It made Azriel sigh. But there was an opportunity here, to burn them all down.
Energy pumped like warm adrenaline through Azriel’s body as she charged towards the pursuers. They seemed to move in groups of ten, some of them spaced out a few dozen meters from each other in pursuit of Skarch. The first group of ten seemed somewhat stunned at Azriel’s rapid appearance, and she was among them before they could move into a defensive formation. Her spear slid cleanly through the skulls of half of them before the first counter-attack came, and that was far too feeble to threaten her.
They fell like figurines of sand, disintegrating at even the slightest touch of wind.
But to Azriel’s surprise, three more groups approached her, one from the road and two coming out of the forest. Psychic Poison whizzed past her, but Azriel calmly ducked. She studied the approaching Zeitgard groups and clicked her tongue. The Wights were learning. Their hierarchy was very centralized, and the fact that they were adopting tactics to deal with powerful spear users meant that there was a leadership figure guiding them.
Several things clicked into place. Azriel rushed forward, the warm energy she received from Randidly filling her. These three groups weren’t a problem, but their presence was troubling. Quick as a spark, Azriel had completely eliminated one group and decimated another while avoiding the Psychic Poison launched by the third.
Then she disengaged, rapidly retreating towards where Skarch’s group had been ambushed, quite a distance far ahead. But Azriel was only halfway to reaching the group and assisting when another volley of Psychic Poison shot out from the forest. Instantly, Azriel’s steps became short and varied. Bobbing and weaving, she avoided every bit of the Psychic Poison, but four more groups of Zeitgard burst out of the treeline. The remaining group and a half behind her were closing rapidly.
Azriel shook her head. In fact, this wasn’t a trap that Skarch had fallen for, but it was a trap that had been laid on a much grander scale. Tactics like this meant only one thing.
There had to be a Witch King nearby directing them. And they were being allowed to run so…
Randidly Ghosthound. It was a trap to draw the scourge of thorn and fire that had taken more Wight lives than any other non-officer on the front lines.
This time, their Spectral Claws slashed towards her legs, aiming to either destroy her ability to run or to rip such holes in the ground that she couldn’t escape. Almost sadly, Azriel shook her head. If they had attempted such an ambush a three months ago, before she had met Randidly once more and received his blessing, perhaps.
Two bright crimson ribbons unfolded from her waist, seeming to condense from thin air as Azriel activated her Skill In Pursuit of Blood. Instantly, these small tactics became irrelevant as Azriel’s body blurred forward She ignored the nearby groups attacking her and crossed the distance to where Skarch was in a second.
Two more of Skarch’s subordinates had fallen, and Skarch wasn’t in a good place. It was obvious her Mana and Stamina were both near the bottom, and Zeitgard were pouring out of the treeline to attack the survivors. They struggled valiantly, but they had already done this for too long. So many of them had already fallen, it was easy to see why they were losing heart.
Azriel was like a drill that tore through the backs of two of the groups, flinging body parts everywhere. Another benefit of her Passive Skill as that the force of her momentum blasted away a dozen or so other Wights with just the force of her passage.
“There is a bigger punch coming. We cannot stop here.” Azriel said shortly. To her surprise, Skarch glared at her, her normally passive eyes red.
“Do you think we wanted this?” Skarch growled, gesturing at the trembling and exhausted spear users behind her.
Azriel didn’t bother to say anything. She simply felt a great weight of mental exhaustion settle upon her shoulders. Instead, she moved forward and cut into the wave of Wights that came from the forest to reinforce the fight against Skarch’s squad. Due to her actions, the survivors had about a minute of respite, managing to jog forward at a light pace and regenerate Stamina while Azriel tore their lines apart.
But a few hundred Zeitgard had circled around from the fields side and rushed ahead of Skarch’s group. A few hundred more meters West was now a blockade that was trundling forward towards them.
Skarch slammed the butt of her spear into the ground and raised her head to the sky. “Fuck this wrinkled hand! This is never-ending. Do we take to the fields?”
“Back through the forest,” Azriel answered, glancing around. “Running is just depleting our Stamina. Stamina that your squad desperately needs. At least with our backs to the river, we can give them a brief respite.”
“If we make a stand, they will just bombard us with Psychic Poison,” Skarch said warily. But the whole group wheeled around and crashed into a surprised group of Wights that was coming out of the forest.
Among the trees, Azriel couldn’t reach her top speed any longer, but her ability to accelerate short distances was brought to the spotlight. She flitted among the trees like a ghost, appearing next to groups of Wights and smashing them into the ground. Her feet left large footprints as she turned forcefully back and forth.
Behind her, the two ribbons trailed like paths of fresh blood, marking her passage.
It took some time for the remaining group, twelve squad members, Skarch, and Azriel, to pass through the trees, but it really seemed the Wights hadn’t expected it. After the initial resistance, they broke out of the encirclement and made it to the thinner part of the forest near the water’s edge. Of course, the only reason that this part was left relatively undefended was that it was not a path to escape.
It was just a shallow, muddy grave.
But it also bought them time. Say what you will of Randidly Ghosthound, but even he underestimates the time it takes him to accomplish something. There was something endearing in that, Azriel believed. It was easier for her to accept the unreasonable estimates her mind produced for him when even he seemed to be surprised.
As the group stumbled out to a small 30-meter area that was clear of trees next to the river, Azriel could feel something in the air change. She looked up at the sky and shook her head. It was like a soft pressure on the back of your neck, the Silence. It was strange, but not too much that it caused discomfort for spear users.
But Azriel knew that when Randidly descended amongst the trees, wearing the Crown of Upheaval and Silence, the effect on these spell based individuals was much more negative. After confirming the flow of energy in her chest was becoming more and more focused and vibrant, Azriel closed her eyes.
She ignored the heavy breaths of the worried squad members around her as she focused inward. If her expectations were correct, a few thousand Zeitgard were the least of their worries. And as soon as Randidly arrived…
The ground rumbled, and Azriel could almost feel the threads of his will reach out with energy and seize control of the entire forest in which the Zeitgard was running. Then it exploded into motion, and the screams of the Wights became audible. There was another low rumble in response, but this was a furious roar, rushing towards the source of the first rumbling.
Azriel checked her PP and allowed herself a small smile. Just enough
Congratulations! You have finished the Path “Chasing Red Moonlight X”! With these hands of yours, you chase something far beyond what those around you can comprehend. Almost at the expense of all others, you have thrown yourself into this Path to catch the Red Moon. On the road there, you have become something more. Strength +5, Perception +10, Reaction +15, Agility +50.
You have gained the Skill Halo of Desolation (Ru) Lvl 1. You have gained the Skill Crimson Penetrating Moonbeam (Ru) Lvl 1.