Wight felt tired.
The little wolf had been battling for more than a day now. By this point, her mind had been stretched thin while her will was practically running on fumes. Even though this was the point in the battle where one wrong move could very well equal death, right now, she felt an overwhelming desire to lay down and take a nap.
Still, she did not give up. Even when her vision grew blurry and her limbs felt like lead, she still persevered. In fact, her situation only further spurned on her motivation.
As Wight tore through another mushroom monster, she took a quick step back and briefly surveyed her surroundings.
She was not the only one currently in battle. Like her, the other wolves were also embroiled in bloody combat. Out of everyone here, the most effective fighter with the highest kill count was Umbra.
Umbra was special. Unlike the others, he knew how to use poison magic and fortunately for him, poison worked surprisingly well against the Spore Goblin’s army. These mushroom spawns were more plant than animal. Umbra’s specific brand of poison worked similarly to herbicide.
Dark tufts of miasma leaked out from Umbra’s slightly parted jaws. The mist swirled around him like tumultuous rain clouds. With a slight puff, it slowly seeped out into the surroundings. He was like a lone reaper walking through a battlefield. With each step that he traveled, more and more corpses fell beneath his feet.
Within this battle, one Umbra was easily worth at least five Wights.
Unfortunately, his success did not go unpunished. By the time noon rolled around, most of the spawns had redirected their efforts and concentrated their focus onto a certain poison-spitting wolf. While this sudden change did lighten the load for the others, it more than quadrupled the strain that Umbra had to bear.
His advance was eventually forced to a standstill. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. The wolves that once trailed behind him, soon overtook him. After another five minutes, the distance once again significantly increased.
As the rest of the wolves forged forward, Umbra’s figure slowly sank beneath the might of the mushroom sea. After a while, not even a speck of his fur could be seen. At this point, nobody knew whether or not he was still alive.
Wight wanted to turn around and go back for her brother. Unfortunately, she couldn’t. Monsters surrounded her on all sides. They clawed at her limbs and nipped at her paws. Rescuing Umbra was simply impossible. Ironically enough, her only salvation lay further ahead, where the density of the crowd was thinnest.
Right now, her only goal was to kill the Spore Goblin as fast as possible. If the Boss died, then there might be a way to save her brother.
A part of her knew that the Boss was baiting them. After all, why else would the front of its army be so vulnerable? It wanted to guide them further into the forest. It wanted to tease them, play with their inconsequential lives like a twisted puppet master.
Still, even if it was what the Goblin wanted, Wight really had no other choice. For her own sake as well as Umbra’s, she needed to continue.
With a heavy heart, she single-mindedly forged forward.
The rest of her pack faithfully followed her, but at some point, they too were devoured by the endless wave.
Plush was the first to go. His big body meant that he had to consume the Buggy Potion at a faster rate than everyone else. After he ran out, the fatigue eventually caught up to him. Like a sinking battleship, the mushroom army dragged him down into their abyss.
The next to go were Tangerine, Cobalt, and Cinder. They did not fair any better than Plush. The trio fought together with both coordination and grace, but what did three wolves count for in the face of an army of thousands?
Cocoa lasted the longest. The weakest of the wolves fought desperately, but like everyone else, she too was swept away by the tumultuous sea.
Every single one of Wight’s precious family, all of them, just gone. Whether they died, or whether they were still struggling desperately to survive, she did not know.
At some point, Wight found herself alone.
Despite the sinking feeling of inevitability, she still struggled forward. She was like a tiny sailboat amidst a chaotic sea, a desperate sailor yearning to go home. Wight recklessly charged ahead.
The potions around her neck had long run out. Her body steadily racked-up injuries. The total amount of blood that she had lost throughout the battle was enough to fill up a large basin. She was quite literally running on fumes, but like a train that had broken free from its tracks, she did not know when to stop.
Right now, Wight felt utterly and hopelessly lost.
The little wolf was not the naïve and childish little wolf that Ellis thought her to be. In a way, she was an individual with plenty of worldly knowledge. At the very least, Wight was an avid chess player.
The current battle made her feel like a lone knight surrounded by a board full of pawns. Killing one would not result in victory. In fact, attacking now would only lead to a quick defeat.
Still, this was not chess. For her, there was no other route but forward.
For a brief moment, Wight recalled back to the things that Ellis and Grisella had told her prior to the battle.
The Spore Goblin was a single creature, yet it possessed the otherworldly power of creating life from nothing. A seemingly infinite army with a seemingly untouchable king… in the face of such a monster, what could she possibly do?
Was there any way to win this battle or was this place destined to be her final resting ground?
There were still roughly three miles until she reached the Spore Goblin. The army did not look any thinner than what it was twelve hours ago.
Turning around was not an option and one slip-up meant death.
Her siblings were gone, their statuses unknown.
She was the only one left.
If Wight wanted to survive, if she wanted to win, then she needed to act now.
…. but, in the end, what could she do?
It wasn’t that she lacked the resolve, but she simply lacked the means to justify that resolve.
Even after wracking her brain for a long time, the little wolf still could not come up with any sort of intricate, life-saving plan that could wrest her away from the jaws of death… no, the only thing she found was a slim possibility.
Wight did not possess her beloved Master’s incredible strength, nor did she have access to that deplorable fox’s powerful magic. Even when compared to the other wolves, she was severely lacking in all aspects except speed.
In that case, rather than hoping for something she did not have, she decided to pin her life on the only thing that she did. Speed was the only thing that Wight had going for her. Speed was the only thing that kept her away from the ranks of mediocrity.
To Wight, speed was her only hope.
The answer was truly so simple yet it took her more than a day of suffering to come up with.
She needed to be faster. If she wanted to live, if she wanted to survive, if she wanted to live up to her master’s expectations, she needed unbeatable speed.
Wight lightly bent her legs. A line of blood dripped down the side of her face, but she did not mind.
Even faster than that deplorable fox.
Even faster than the fastest thing on this planet.
Even faster than her very own master.
Faster, faster, faster, faster, faster, faster, faster…
She kicked off the ground.
Faster. Go even faster than fast!
Kill the lethargy within her body, trample down the feeling of rising fatigue! She was determined to keep moving forward. Being late, being slow like last time… no, not like last time. Never like last time.
Last time, her master had taken care of everything. He killed the slime and saved the day, but… what about next time? What if he were to ever need her help, but she couldn’t be there to provide it? What if… what if she couldn’t be faster? What if her master died because she was too slow to help?
No matter what, whether it was her siblings or her precious master, she would never let such a thing happen!
Spurred by such determination, something inside her broke. It was like a rock smashing through a glass window. Wind from the outside world suddenly rushed inside.
One last spurt of energy reinvigorated her body.
Wight’s figure blurred.
The next second, a spawn suddenly collapsed to the floor. Its entire chest had been gouged out.
…that wasn’t enough. That wasn’t nearly enough! She needed to be even faster!
In a blink of an eye, two heads abruptly exploded. Wooden chips flew through the air like a burst of confetti. If one looked closely enough, then they’d notice that faint wooden particles clung to the ends of her paws.
Still, it wasn’t enough. Faster, she needed to go even faster!
A black shadow darted through the battlefield like a bolt of lightning. It moved like the wind and killed like a storm.
Faster, faster, faster!
In the midst of her heightened fervor…
From somewhere deep within the mushroom army, a loud roar echoed like a sonorous war drum. Plush’s large body erupted from its depths. He was covered in scars, but his eyes flared with ferocious intensity.
From even further away, a large circle of spawns suddenly fragmented. Their skins turned purple, before they collapsed onto the floor, immobile. In the middle of the circle stood a singular wolf. Umbra’s eyes glowed pale white, while his fangs dripped with acidic poison. His body was covered by a hardened layer of black sludge. As he moved forward, the cocoon-like casing slowly flaked off his body. Each and every one of his steps melted the ground beneath his feet.
Cocoa, Tangerine, Cobalt, Cinder, every single one of them crawled out from the depths of hell and fought back against the army, their strength and intensity just as mighty as when they first started the battle.
Spurred on by Wight’s struggle, the entire pack caught their second wind and recklessly charged forward. Whether it was Plush, Umbra, or the three wolf brothers, they fought with their very lives on the line. Even Cocoa, the resident princess of the group, did her best. Wooden chips and clumps of dirt stuck to her matted fur. It gave her a very rugged vibe.
Looking at everyone trying so hard, Umbra could only shake his head. Sometimes, he envied their master. Leaving everything to everyone else, lying down and watching the fight from a faraway place, such a life was one that he wanted to achieve.
Until then, he could do nothing but put in the work.
The wolf’s jaws slightly slackened. A thin mist of black vapor leaked out from his throat.
Right now, Umbra wanted to make a new poison. A poison that could kill even the unkillable. A poison that could poison even the unpoisonable. Within his body was a collection of various poisons. By mixing and matching the right one, he could theoretically create even stronger poisons.
A poison strong enough to kill God was what he wanted to make… or at least, that’s what his Master one-sidedly decided as he looked at Umbra with shining eyes.
Umbra wasn’t at that level, nor did he have such lofty ambitions, but his current mixture should be a pretty potent one.
The black vapor suddenly twisted and contorted. It followed his will and flew towards the nearest Spawn. The haze passed through the creature before it continued towards the next one. In its wake, it left behind a withered corpse.
Like a slow-moving domino, numerous emaciated bodies fell to the ground with a resounding thud.
Umbra let out a sneeze. Using up so much poison always made him feel under the weather, but there was nothing he could really do about it. This was the price he had to pay for such power.
He shook his head again and trotted forward. He chased after the shrinking silhouettes of his distant siblings.
Despite being the furthest one away, his kill count still remained the highest.
As for the individual responsible for this resurgence, Wight was barely reticent of these changes.
She could feel it. Her legs, they ached and throbbed and burned as if hot coals had been pressed directly onto her muscles. She could feel it. The fur on her ankles and the soles of her paws practically ripped off from all the friction.
She could feel it all.
Her thighs and ankles grew heavier with each step that she took. Ironically enough, each step covered a wider distance. She was getting faster. No, it was more than that.
Wight’s mind was a messy haze. Her eyes had long glazed over; her surroundings appeared nothing more than blurry chaos. Still, she developed an acute awareness to the things around her. Whether it was the Spawn in front of her, or the one behind that, or the one behind that other one, she could see it, but not really.
Suddenly, a thought popped into her head.
It was something that her master had once taught her.
For the weak, there was no such thing as an easy salvation. You could not rely on convenient heroes to save you. One could only rely on one’s own self. The only path available was forward. It was always forward.
Push. Keep pushing forward. Even when you feel like you’re about to give up, even when others call you stubborn, keep pushing. Just single-mindedly push. Push, push, push. It was the only way for a regular person to break through their limiter.
As expected of her master, each and every one of his words were filled with wisdom!
Ellis once told her that his words were an amalgamation of ancient texts that he once stumbled upon a long time ago. Of course, Wight was just a wolf. She did not know that these ‘ancient texts’, actually referred to all the comics and web novels that Ellis had once obsessed over.
Still, regardless of Ellis’s bull crap, there was one undeniable truth that Wight had cemented into her heart:
She needed to be faster!
Another crack. This time, it did not come from inside her. Rather, her surroundings had cracked. A large boom echoed through the air. It pushed everyone away and propelled her forward.
The next instant, her jaws viciously tore through the throat of a giant Spawn. Her teeth barely scraped at its surface before she further blasted forward. One, two, five Spawns immediately crumpled. If one looked closely, there were giant bite marks littered across their bodies.
Still, it was not enough. At this level, it would never be enough!
Wight warily raised her head up. Her eyes locked onto something distant.
Without hesitation, she sprinted forward.
The Spore Goblin suddenly looked up.
It did not have eyes, but it could still perceive the looming threat.
For the first time, it stood up. The Goblin pressed its hands on the ground and exhaled. Small holes suddenly appeared all over its arms. From those holes came thousands upon thousands of black spores.
The spores touched the ground and planted themselves into the nearby trees. A few seconds later, the ground and the trees bubbled. More than a dozen creatures emerged out from the gurgling surface.
The creatures were massive in size and possessed jagged, almost wrinkly skin. Some had six pairs of arms, while others sported fat bellies and log-like limbs. The only commonality was the mushroom cap on all of their heads.
The newly formed Spawns immediately converged onto the Spore Goblin. They created a tight barrier that separated the Goblin from the rest of the world. It was like a phalanx of legionaries, all devoted to protecting one important life.
As the seconds ticked by, the crowd continued to grow. Even then, the Goblin was not satisfied. The feeling of danger still persisted. In fact, it grew even larger with the passage of time.
While the Goblin continually created more and more Spawns, at some point, a tiny black figure had arrived.
Wight saw it. The giant army that blotted her surroundings exuded out a pressure that threatened to drag her feet across the mud. Still, she was not concerned. Her target was not the army, but rather, the general behind that army.
She increased her pace. Soon, even the noises around her disappeared. Wight could only hear the sound of her rapidly beating heart. It marched in sync with every step that she took.
Faster! Even faster than before!
Another boom echoed through the air.
This time, rather than be propelled by the explosion, she felt as if she had just outrun it.
Without hesitation, she dashed headfirst into the opposing army. The Giants moved in to respond, but she was too fast.
The phalanx was not enough to stop her. They were large and the overall formation was sturdy and intimidating, but none of that mattered. Wight could see it all. The gaps in their defense, the tiny parts that they did not bother to hide, and the even tinier sections that they couldn’t. These were all chinks within their armor. It was as if they were made perfectly just for her.
She weaved in and out, squeezing herself past even the smallest hole in their defense. Jutting appendages and misplaced limbs occasionally struck her, but she powered through the pain.
One second, two seconds, five seconds passed before she broke through the defensive line.
The only thing in front of her was a diminutive green creature with an overly large mushroom cap on its head.
It stood in a small circular clearing with its hands pressed to the ground and its mouth locked in a seemingly perpetual scowl. The Spore Goblin was still in the midst of the creation process. It did not even realize Wight’s arrival, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to give it a chance.
Without hesitation, without pause, in a blink of an eye, her jaws were already firmly clamped onto the Goblin’s throat.
A dull crunch quietly echoed throughout the air.
Wight had slain her first Calamity-class monster.