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Uncharted Forest - 292 km from Sawtooth Mountain Pass

Lt Joesph looked up as he heard a muffled rippling echo from the skies, but the thick canopy barely allowed any view into the sky. Even sound was muffled and suppressed by the thick cover, making it hard to gauge where it was coming from.

"Come on, move it guys," Lt Joesph encouraged the tired slaves as they pushed through the forest. "Tyrier!"

He gestured the Claymore One leader over, "Think you can lay some false trails and cover our movements?"

Tyrier paused and glanced around the forest before nodding, "Got it, you got any claymores or explosives?"

Lt Joesph nodded and pointed, "Get it from the Asagi," He gestured to a small quad pedial walker, climbing over a tree root with large baggage on its back, following a hulking Oerkin wearing a barely fitting helmet and a sleeveless uniform with a couple of ammo belts crisscrossed over his barrel chest. In his large muscular arms, he cradled a large machine gun that looked almost too small for him. "I will assign you some guys for support."

"Got it," Tyrier gave a low whistle, signaling the rest of Claymore One over, "Alright guys, got a shit job." He said to the rest of the team as they gathered around him.

"We gonna lay some surprises for any chance of pursuit at our rear and also spells to cover and mislead the enemy," Tyrier gave a quick brief. "Whatever we need, explosives or mines, we get it from the golem's supplies. Questions?"

"Why the fark are we doing this shit?" Hitsu grumbled, "Can't the Marines handle it? Why is it always Claymore One got to do all the shit jobs?"

"Shut it!" Tyrier growled, "Will you trust a brunch of FNGs (*Fucking New Guys) to wipe your ass?"

"Now I know you guys are feeling pissed and sad with Doth's incident," Tyrier lowered his tone, "That Hero who killed our friend and buddy is out there, and he is coming again," He pointed to the rear.

"And we are gonna give him a surprise party when he comes," Tyrier said while looking in the eyes of each of his team, "Now what say you?"

"Time for round two!" Altied growled, "Let's kill that son of a bitch once and for all!"

"Hell yea!" Tavel nodded, rubbing his bandaged arm. "He's got to pay for Doth!"

The rest nodded in agreement, "Okay, we are gonna split into three sectors, left, center and right flank." Tyrier pointed to three directions.

"Altied and Young, you cover the left flank, Hitsu, and Loke, on the center and Tavel with me on the right,' Tyrier ordered, "Mine it, trap it, lay your magic formations, or whatever shit you want, but do it quickly. Questions?"

"How much time?" Loke asked.

"Maybe half a day? Or less?" Tyrier replied, "We have no idea, it could even be an hour."

"Won't it be a hazard in the long run if the traps and mines are not triggered?" Young asked in concern.

"We mark in on the maps if possible and have the Marines clear them in the future," Tyrier replied, "We don't have the luxury of worrying about hazards now. Any other questions?"

The men shook their heads as they pondered on what to set up on their assigned areas.

Tyrier nodded, "Good. Grab what you need, and who you need. The lieutenant had given us his okay on using his men."

"Sergeant Tyrier?" A Marine Sergeant appeared behind Tyrier, "The LT has sent us over to assist you."

Tyrier did a quick look and saw two sections worth of Marines had gathered up, half of what Lt Joesph had in his force. The golem called Asagi was curiously looking left and right at the ongoings as it stood at the edge of the crowd.

"Alright Sergeant... Emberstone," Tyrier read the nametag off his uniform, "Split the men up into three groups and also all the explosives and mines from the golem and do the same."

SGT Emberstone nodded and started directing the gathered Marines, pointing and gesturing at the golem while getting the men to form up in three groups. "Sergeant Tyrier? It's done."

"Good," Tyrier strolled up, "Alright, you guys are here to help us lay some surprises for the blue boys who is coming. We don't know how much time we have, it might be an hour or a day. So work fast and work safe!" He pointed to one group, "You guys follow Altied and Young. You with them and the rest with me. Now let's get to work!"

"OOO RAH!"

-----

Somewhere at the Uncharted Forest

Blue Thunder painfully stretched out his broken wing, allowing Luth and Dek to bind his broken wing bones with a piece of wood and duct tape. He chomped down on the unappetizing ration blocks and sighed, "I want meat..."

"Come on, Blue, soldier up!" Stamford patted Blue's ridged head. "Wait a while more, and I get the boys to hunt you something later."

"Promise?" Blue Thunder made a plate-sized puppies eyes at Stamford who shook his head at Blue Thunder's antics.

"Promise!" Stamford replied, "When it is all safe and clear!"

Blue Thunder gave a grunt, as Barkley pulled out another crossbow bolt stuck at Blue Thunder's left shoulder. "Damn, another few hands, and this would have skewered Luth."

"How is it?" Stamford climbed up next to Barkley who was stuffing the wound with anti clogging powder."

"Removed four crossbow bolts, applied burn cream on three lightning bolts strikes, patched several torn wing membranes on both wings with duct tape and..." Barkley gestured to the other two who were still splinting Blue Thunder broken wing bones. "that..."

Stamford nodded turned to watch Blue Thunder, swallowing the remaining ration blocks. "He should be fine with enough rest and calories," Barkley said, "But the wing at this condition, he might not be able to fly long distances and his speed will be greatly affected."

"Meat will heal me fast!" Blue Thunder snaked his serpentine head back to look at the both of them, "Meat makes it all good!"

"Yes yes, you glutton!" Stamford shooed his head away, "Go get some shut-eye, we might need you to move at any time!"

Blue Thunder gave a pout and lowered his head back on the ground and closed his eyes, and before long, a bubble appeared over his nostrils as he gave off a light snooze.

"The crew? And ammunition status?" Stamford asked as he watched the bubble of snort grew expand and contract following the rhythm of Blue Thunder's breathing.

"No injuries, just shaken," Barkley turned his attention to the other two who were packing up the first aid toolbox. "Ammunition is down a roughly 1.5 drum magazine per gun."

"Gold Squadron is providing as much cover for us as possible," Dek yelled, as he stowed away the first kit toolbox. "But they only have enough fuel to stay in the AO (Area of Operations) for roughly another two hours or less."

Stamford nodded, "Let's wash up and take a break for now, with Blue in this state, we can't do much either. But at least we cleared the skies."

"Oh, yea! I got puke all over my body!" Luth said, as he started stripping his uniform off and ran towards the river with Dek to wash up.

"I keep watch for now," Stamford said, "later we might need to do some hunting for Blue and our dinner before it gets dark."

"Got it."

-----

The Hero paused in his movements in the trees and he cocked his head, listening to the sounds in the forest. "Now, now, what do we have here?"

He closed his eyes and from his body, covering him in a warm yellow-white glow manifested, granting him an increase in his abilities. He could hear the clanking and clashes of metal against metal in his rear, where the rest of the Empire forces following him were making their clumsy way through the forest.

For the past day, they had airlifted every soldier into the forest closest to where the enemy is at as Dante's mental link with Evelyn was still unsevered. Dante himself personally destroyed a large swath of forest, enabling the dragons to land the men, before making return trips to pick up more. Only when the dragons had transported everyone, did he send them out to look for any traces of the rebels and the strange barbarians with the demonic thundersticks in the direction where he sensed Evelyn's lifeforce.

He judged that they were roughly half a day or less away when one of the dragons returned bearing news of discovering an unaffiliated dragon but matching the description of an Empire heavyweight dragon that was said to have turn traitor.

Dante left the soldiers behind to push forward, his mental link with Evelyn was telling him she was roughly in this direction. Now crouched in the trees, he closed his eyes and opened up his inner eye, groping for a sense of where Eveyln's lifeforce was at.

He opened his eyes with a smile, feeling the strength of the mental tug, knowing himself to be very close and he kicked off from the tree branch, the force of his leap shattering the branch as he flew for meters onto another tree branch, his magic barrier around him, negating the whipping branches and trees.

"Time for vengeance, mortals!"

-----

Private Slow grunted as he stretched his strained back, after spending half an hour digging around the forest floor and planting claymore mines and rigging them up to trip wires. He pointed harshly at Asagi who peered from next to him at the barely visible wire he set at knee length across two tree roots. "No no! Back! Dangerous!"

He shooed the curious spider golem away, "Danger! KA BOOM!" He gestured with his fingers opening up like an explosion and pointed to a corner of a tree. "Stay!"

Asagi seems downcasted as it lowered its head and trotted sadly to stand at where Slow pointed. Slow gave a sigh and gave it a pat, "Wait here, Me done soon!"

Asagi gave a sort of wag with its armored plated stone body and settled down at the tree, waiting patiently for Slow to finish up.

"Sarge! I am done here!" Slow yelled after he covered up the claymore aimed between the two ever blue trees with trunks wider than he could hug with his two hands. "Come on, Asagi, let's go!"

Suddenly a tree branch snapped loudly from above and a small shower of leaves fluttered down. Slow jerked his head up in surprise and saw a slightly glowing elf half kneeling on a tree branch that was snapped in half with one part dangling in the air.

"WHAT?" Slow roared out, "CONTACT!"

-----

Dante landed hard on to a tree branch and looked down, seeing a strange monster with bags and boxes on its back next to an Oerkin dressed in a strange manner. He gave a grinned at the Oerkin who yelled out an unknown language and seemed to fumbled for something on the body of the strange four legged creature.

Dante's eyes narrowed and his grin grew wider as he recognized the weapon the strange Oerkin was lifting up, it looked like one of those cursed thundersticks! "Found you!"

-----

Slow grabbed his MG-1 which he stacked on the back of Asagi, cursing at himself for leaving his weapon, and for a brief moment, his drill sergeant words came crashing into his mind, "NEVER LEAVE YOUR WEAPON FROM YOUR SIDE AT ALL TIMES!"

"Oh, I am gonna get drilled out!" Slow yelped as he remembered the painful memories of basic training. "CONTACT! HERO SIGHTED!" He roared again, and swung his MG-1 in hip fire stance, snapping off the safety and fired, sending a meter long muzzle flashing into the forest, and spent empty cartridges flying off into the forest ground.

-----

Dante smiled widely as he watched the slow-motion movements of the Oerkin and he leaped down, his arms reaching to the back of his waist where a pair of swords hung in their own scabbard sat.

A twin gleam of silvery light flashed out, and the Oerkin yelled in pain and rage, as twin fountain of blood erupted out from its body in an 'X' shape. It dropped the roaring thunderstick and fell against the weird looking four-legged creature which appeared to have arms that gripped onto the falling Oerkin and started to drag it away into the trees.

Dante laughed as he watched the antics of the creature seemingly trying to save the Oerkin. He took a step forward and slashed down at the Oerkin, wanting to finish it off as he knew the Oerkin were very tough and hard to kill. But to his amazement, the strange creature blocked his sword slash, sending a numbing sensation down his arm as a loud, "CLANK!!" reverberated from the body of the creature when his sword hit it.

"Huh? What manner of creature is this?"

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