A massive beast, towering at nearly four meters tall, bounding nearly nine meters in length, stood on its four, muscular legs with protruding veins, spitting smoke out of its nostrils. It had two heads, though they weren’t separate but uniformed, leading to a rather disfigured-looking features; four eyes weren’t at even line, and two pairs of nostrils were actually vertical to one another, just off the center of two faces. The singular head had features of two, and was covered in thick, emerald scales. It spilled into tree-trunk-thick neck, which was also covered in scales, elongating slightly from the body. At the meeting point it split into two sides, where both were like tortoise shells, thick and seemingly impenetrable, while the central line ran straight with six sharp-looking spikes protruding in arching formation from the back. At the far end of its body was a two meters long tail, ending with an arrowhead-like tip seemingly made of toughest steel. It whipped left and right repeatedly, rising up dust storm and creating gashes in earth wherever it passed. The beast was universally known as a Devil Mutation - it occurred when either one or more beasts came in contact with Devil Qi during the time before they were born. In reality, most of these beasts died during the birth as their bodies would mutate to the point where organs would be displaced, incapacitating them to the point where they couldn’t even take a single breath. However, from time to time, despite numerous problems, a beast would survive and grow up. At their peak, even in places where Devil Qi was barely non-existent, they could rival a peak Purity Realm cultivator on their bodily strength alone. Though that wasn’t the case for the two-faced beast, it was still as strong as a mid-range Mythic Realm cultivator. As it was corrupted by Devil Qi, it had inherently understood basic cultivation and used Qi to strengthen its body beyond what an ordinary beast could.
Staring at it, currently, was a group of seven, who all had serious expressions on their faces. Taking charge upfront were Kraval and Fish, both of whom held their warhammer and shield - respectively - in the air, ready for beast’s charge at any moment. Behind them, the solitary figure stood - Smite. Further behind him were Shaneine, who had already nocked the first arrow, Aeala who stood still, her eyes dancing around the opening, trying to find another approach besides the direct one, and Freya who, despite feeling terrifying pressure that nearly caused her to fall on her knees, resolutely stood with bandages already prepared in case someone got hurt. Lucky had already pulled back from the group and hid in the nearby shrubbery, waiting for the battle to begin before stepping out. This was the very first true opponent their little group faced - though they did have some tough battles on their way over, none were life-threatening and were used more as a polishing chances for the group. However, the beast before them certainly couldn’t be treated as such; as a Devil Mutated beast, it technically didn’t have a name as such beasts were largely unique and hardly ever two of same make appeared in the world. What they understood from it was that its original form was rhino, and due to two faces, they suspected Devil Mutation had bound them together even before the birth. As none had a way to inspect the beast - like Lino could with the help of Primal Spirit - they could only draw assumptions based on beast’s appearance. The formation they chose was a standard one; Fish and Kraval were tasked with keeping the beast at bay, with Shaneine providing long-ranged focus-fire. Smite had two jobs: first was to keep Shaneine, Aeala and Freya safe in case beast breached Fish and Kraval, and second was to occasionally dip his fingers and attack the beast when it wasn’t expecting it. Lucky provided flanking support and her battle style largely relied on weaving in and out of the battle, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. As Aeala was still rather weak and had barely reached Core Realm, she didn’t participate in the battle directly and would instead observe the battlefield like a general, seeking for the best way to defeat the foe. Freya, on the other hand, wasn’t even a cultivator; her mission was to provide first aid to injured to the best of her capabilities. All in all, it was a rather well-put group. The main thing they lacked, though, was a magic component; though Fish knew some, it was mostly low-tier arts that were used for suppression rather than direct conformation. In the end, though, they had to make due with what they had.
The battlefield, unfortunately, didn’t favor them tremendously; beyond the beast was a massive lake, its surface terribly calm. At sides was a large clearing, save for a few spots of shrubbery where Lucky was hiding. Behind them was another clearing, with roughly hundred meters until the forest from where they came. All in all, it was a pretty open battlefield that encouraged direct confrontation. Even without knowing beast’s exact stats, they were all certain of the fact that direct battle would only lead to their certain deaths.
“Kraval,” Aeala gathered her bearings and spoke. “Drag its attention back till Lucky can come from rear. Fish, work in concert to distract it when it gets too dangerous. Shaneine, you do you. Smite, prioritize attacking over defending us; the beast shouldn’t be that quick on its feet.”
“Yes, m’ Lady!” the group exclaimed back.
Aeala was always the one that played the role of general when it came to battles; part of it had to with her almost inhuman-like ability to process information on the battlefield quickly and find the best solution, and part of it had to do with the fact that, regardless of everything, she still remained perhaps the most knowledgeable person when it came to cultivators, Devils and Devil Beasts in the entire group, save for perhaps Lino who, of course, wasn’t here.
Kraval roared lowly, clad entirely in thick armor, as he ran forward, causing earth beneath him to tremor. He swung his large warhammer from up down, aiming at one of beast’s legs as he could hardly reach its head properly. Fish immediately flanked, gathering a small sphere of golden light in his free hand while preparing to use the shield to block at any moment. Shaneine withdrew until she was roughly sixty meters away from the beast and began firing off one arrow after another, each with accuracy that even ‘deadly’ seemed inappropriate as an adjective. She was by far the deadliest threat in their team, but they always had to try their hardest to mask it to give her freedom to do her job. Smite on the other hand distanced himself from the far rear of Aeala, Shaneine and Freya, inching closer to Fish and Kraval, entirely focused on the beast, waiting for the moment to jump in. Lucky was still hiding, tight grip on the daggers’ handles, ready to strike out at any time.
The first sound to break the stalemate was the arrow crashing against the beast’s face; it roared and spat out massive amount of saliva in front of it. As it landed on earth, it caused sizzling sounds to echo, and everyone realized that Kraval’s and Fish’s jobs suddenly grew twice as dangerous. However, both braved on; Kraval’s first strike landed squarely against the right, front leg’s kneecap, even managing to dent it slightly as the beast cried out in pain. It suddenly reared forward, surprising Kraval with its dexterity; Fish quickly moved sideways and used the brute force with shield to push the beast back. At the same time, Lucky saw the opportunity and sprinted out, brandishing her daggers backwards and sliding underneath the beast that was hardly keeping balance; stomach was one of the few areas on its body where it had no shielding, and Lucky took the chance to stab and then slide her daggers throughout, creating two massive gashes where blood and guts where immediately spat out. Though mostly crimson, there were tinges of black everywhere, like little worms wiggling about. The beast cried out in pain yet again as Shaneine’s arrow hail reached it; six arrows got embedded in the beast’s head, turning it into a porcupine, while six others were either broken or slid off of the hardened skin. Kraval and Fish worked in concert to limit the beast’s movement while Smite weaved in and out, striking at the few soft spots they have identified.
As though it suddenly had enough, the beast roared and reared, rising its front legs up like a horse, as a massive surge of Qi blasted outward in a ring-like fashion. Both Kraval and Fish only felt a force tantamount to a massive boulder crash against their chest, causing them to slide nearly thirty meters backwards before somehow stopping. Even Smite and Lucky weren’t spared, and due to their rather weaker constitutions, they were rooted from their feet and flung backwards like pieces of poultry. Two pairs of menacing eyes stared daggers at the group for a moment before its maws opened, a blood-freezing screech following. Just as they though the beast would go berserk and attack them, it turned around and began running away, splitting sides as it circled the lake and went behind it. As the group was stunned by the sudden chain of events for a moment, they took nearly three seconds to gain their bearings which allowed beast to gain a decent distance on them. They hollered immediately after and gave chase, disregarding everything else; the beast was much weaker than its outer shell would indicate. It was luck that one could hardly ever come by; they couldn’t let it slip away. However, surprisingly, the beast was rather quick; even Lucky, the fastest one in their group, couldn’t near a hundred meters away from the beast. They could only follow the dust it was kicking up and hope it tired out. It’s not as though they didn’t think there was a chance of it looking for help, but they were confident in at the very least escaping.
They followed the beast until the other end of the lake whereupon they found a winding road that led up the mountain that was hidden by fog until then. The mountain seemed roughly six thousand meters up, and they only hesitated for a moment before following the road, continuing the chase. The road was rather tough, if for nothing but the fact that it curved left and right time and again. They endured for nearly two hours before they appeared to have reached the end; deciding it was best they be careful as they’ve lost the beast nearly half an hour ago, everyone pulled back as Lucky entered the shadows and moved forward. Her eyes darted about in alarm as she moved, but there wasn’t even a trace of beast left by now by some miracle. She closed in on the edge and crossed to the other side, whereupon her heart immediately froze like a statue. What awaited her was a massive beyond description basin. The first thing she noticed were black towers spitting out chilly smoke into the sky, then millions of gray specters fluttering about ceaselessly. Then her eyes moved toward the base of the towers, where entire city of macabre awaited her; what shocked her even more was that Devil Qi was so thick one could actually see it with naked eye. Without a second thought she turned around and ran away. From her experience in the Umbra Kingdom, she grew somewhat familiar with Demons and Devil Qi, and what she felt in there surpassed anything and everything she experienced in Umbra Kingdom by miles. She knew they stumbled upon something big, and in her mind only one face appeared when she thought of what to do about it. However much that face annoyed her, she was a firsthand witness of at least a part of his capabilities. She also knew without anyone else telling her than another war was imminent; as to whether they ran or fought... she herself didn’t have the courage to say either way, as war was something that should never be taken lightly, especially against a foe that has proven capable of cruelty beyond reason time and again.