Right now it would be possible to trail Glade and shoot him when he was far enough from the city. With that he could dwindle down the threat. But what if he had back-up? With how everything was set-up, it would’ve been strange if he didn’t.
But if he could one shot Glade then it didn’t matter if he had back-up. The problem was if he couldn’t. Lazarus remembered the time he shot Leo and one of the bandits from before. With a strong enough mana barrier, it wouldn’t be possible to kill him.
So what? He could shoot him again and again. But will it take long just like with Leo? If so, then he’d get the hostages killed. Not to mention open himself up for surprise attacks. What if Ana sent them? She knows about his invisibility and that it could be countered with beastmen with good senses.
There were far too many unknown factors. It was too risky.
“What-...should I do..?” Muttered Lazarus in frustration, clenching his fist as he stared at the ground. He was out of options.
True, it was his fault. But it doesn’t necessarily mean he should save them, was what his logic told him. His body on the other hand, refused with all its might, rooting Lazarus where he stood with numbing guilt.
Gallios was one thing, but to let a ten year old girl get tortured was another. He couldn’t bring himself to abandon them.
Lazarus shook his head. Then took a deep breath. When faced with a seemingly impossible situation, it was better to calmly think things through and divide the factors of the decision. The mentality drilled into him during his VR military training began surfacing subconsciously.
What did he have?
A laser edged sword, invisibility, several remote mines, a variety of grenades and a last resort to rampage mindlessly.
What did he know?
The location of Gallios and his daughter, which was most likely a trap. If they had beastmen with them, then Lazarus invisibility was as good as nothing.
Was it better if he had eliminated Glade while he was here? Maybe, but it just seemed risky somehow. He didn’t have enough information to act on it.
Lazarus placed a hand on his chin, furrowing his brows while thinking with every fiber of his being. No matter how he weighed the pros and cons, the better option was to leave.
If only he could find a reason to even the weigh on the scales. Lazarus continued to think and think, getting more frustrated as the seconds passed by.
As he was lost in thought, he felt a soft nudge on his leg. He stopped and shot a glare below, at that moment, his eyes widened.
“How could I forget?!” Said Lazarus with excitement, gazing at the small purple rodent beside him. Like a beacon of hope, shining through the darkness in his thoughts, he felt a surge of relief having realized he had one more thing in his arsenal that would give him a reason to go.
“With this-..... I can go without risking myself.” Said Lazarus, nodding to himself as he gazed at the dumbfounded rodent with a seemingly invisible question mark popping over his head at his master’s strange change of mood.
Lazarus immediately headed for the location on the map. It was far from the city, and where he had hunted goblins at. The stench of the swamp warded of adventurers which is why it was the perfect place to hide. Not to mention people didn’t like goblin quest due to the fact that it was troublesome, yet the pay was meager.
As Lazarus dashed further and further away from the city, he continued to pass by many people along the path, it didn’t take long for him to be so far out that city was already seemingly the size of his thumb from where he stood. But at this point, night was almost closing in, the orange tainted sky made it evident.
“Sunrise right?” Spoke Lazarus, gasping for air as he eyed the forest further up ahead. He then opened the piece of paper on his hand, and he knew at that moment that he was right on track.
The map had a red cross mark at the center of the thick forest, somewhere Lazarus wasn’t willingly going to go. While he was still far away from the forest, he glanced around, searching around with his naked eye first, then his thermal vision next.
Having affirmed that he wasn’t followed, nor was there anyone in the vicinity. He knelt down, making a purple rat appear in front of him.
“Rufus, I need you to scout the area. Tell me how many enemies there are, and their formation. Oh and, don’t forget if there is any beastman with them, let me know with five pings.” Said Lazarus. “I’ll first secure a route and mine the path so I’ll have an escape path.”
Hearing his words, Rufus nodded with a squeek and then disappeared from plain sight yet again. Lazarus in turn was engulfed in several crackling electricity, disappearing from sight as well.
First, Lazarus needed to know if a barrier was set-up beforehand. He wouldn’t want to get trapped a second time, like the time with Ana and her maids.
Second, he needed to know if there were any beastmen that could detect his scent, namely those that were related to the feline and dogs race.
Third, was if Gallios and Leira were truly held captive by them. But at the back of Lazarus’ mind, he knew that it was most likely true, considering that they approached him and even knew his relations with them.
As he waited outside, he kept on staring at the red dot on his radar like screen at the corner of his vision. The small red dot kept on moving away from the center, which was Lazarus. Delving deeper into the forest.
The moment Rufus was almost out of the radar, Lazarus in turn began moving so as to not let the little rodent out of detection range.
So far there wasn’t any sort of ping so the rodent hasn’t encountered anyone yet. With Rufus’ sensitive smelling, it was relatively easy to find people, unless they were 300-meters away from him.
With that in mind, Lazarus simply needed to follow Rufus’ path so he could be safe. But still, if there happened to be someone with a better nose than Rufus and could smell farther, then Lazarus’ would be in danger.
Right now, Lazarus simply gambled on the fact that there shouldn’t be anyone like that. At least, that’s what he hoped.
As much as he wanted to send Rufus on a full recon, it was relatively impossible to cover the whole forest. Not to mention the time limit.
Everything was against his odds. Knowing this, Lazarus couldn’t help but clench his teeth in frustration as he continued to jump from tree to tree.
With a sound of chiming bell, Lazarus stopped and knelt down while on top of a thick tree branch as he muttered. “Rufus?” he called out as he glanced at the radar.
*Cling* *Cling* *Cling**
“An enemy…. But three chimes?” Muttered Lazarus as his brows furrowed.
Three chimes must’ve meant that Rufus had found three enemies or-.. the rodent forgot his instructions. It somehow didn’t sit well with Lazarus to have three people in one place as it wasn’t ideal for an ambush.
The enemies were experienced enough to tail him without him noticing, not to mention they had done thorough research on him so he couldn’t dismiss it as them being inexperienced.
Either way, he still had to confirm for himself. But before that, Lazarus decided to let Rufus do a more thorough survey of the area. If these three were indeed together then he could just snipe them-- was what Lazarus thought.
Hearing the rapid pinging, Lazarus gulped, trying to soak his parched up throat. “So the hostages are with the three enemies as well…. Damn..”
Lazarus’ hopes of sniping the enemies were easily foiled. If the enemies kept them then they’d have a sure way of killing them on the spot. If that’s so, then the moment he’d shoot one of them. No doubt the hostages would be killed.
“Wait-..” Muttered Lazarus with brows furrowed. He was preoccupied of thinking about how to deal with them that he’d overlooked the signal Rufus gave him.
“-FS, it was three rapid pings right?-”
-= Affirmative =- Replied the deep robotic voice in his mind.
“Three-.... Why three?” Lazarus couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread creeping up to him. Rapid pings meant referred to the hostages, that’s what Lazarus had told Rufus. So why three? He was relatively sure that there would only be two hostages.
They had taken Eris as well. That was the only other person that they could’ve used against Lazarus. It wasn’t too far fetched to think that way considering that he had met Glade early in the afternoon which gave them enough time to attack Eris.
“Damnit.!!” Said Lazarus, raising his fist and bashing the tree with all of his might, making the leaves rustle. At that moment, Lazarus kicked the branch, jumping from tree to tree at a rapid pace.
Carefully position himself, he encircled the marked area, trying to make sure that there wasn’t anyone the Rufus had missed. With both his naked eye and thermal vision, he made sure that there were only animals.
At this point, dusk was already on the horizon. And now that Lazarus had made sure that there were in fact, only three enemies that didn't seem to be beastmen, he jumped down.
Slowly crawling through the grass, hiding from bush to bush while taking small peeks at the direction, Lazarus slowly approached the marked area. The closer he got, the more his heart pounded.
No matter how trained he was, the sense of danger was still all too real. No matter how many times a soldier was sent to war, a numbing nervousness always engulfed them. It was a sensation he could never get used to.
Dirt riddled his clothing, but it didn’t matter, Lazarus kept on moving stealthily despite being cloaked. He couldn’t help it, it was training that was drilled on to him.
It didn’t take long for him to notice a figure from afar.
“Is that them...?” Muttered Lazarus, leaning on a tree on gazing from the corner of his eyes as if he was on a shoot out already. Using his enhanced vision, he zoomed in.
There he saw, three hooded individuals. One was the man called Glade with his signature blue skin, revealed by his arms sticking out from the cloak. The other was a more bulkier individual, and the other was a man with green skin and tattoos on his arms and was somewhat relaxed, casually leaning against a tree without a care in this world.
And when Lazarus leaned ever so slightly away, at that moment a surge of cold relief welled up on his fiery chest, seeing a large bald headed smith together with a young girl with braided silky black hair wearing a jumper. A child.
To have a child involved in all of his affairs made Lazarus’ head hot. It was the lowest of the low. The worst a scum could ever do. But-... Lazarus knew if it wasn’t for the child he wouldn’t have gone. So because they settled for Gallios and knew he wasn’t alluring enough for Lazarus, they took his child with him.
Although it was a relief to see the two fine, seeing as the two were on the ground tied with a vine reminded Lazarus of the situation. But the one thing that stood out, was the third hostage. Rufus wasn’t wrong, but he never expected it to be someone he never affiliated with.
It was a young beastman, a gorilla wearing an armor, also tied with vines. Somehow his looks reminded Lazarus of the drunk gorilla who had attacked him, but a younger version.
Lazarus eyes widened. He remembered his battle with the Gorilla. He knew for a fact that the the ape wasn’t drunk. He could tell from his sober reactions. Although he didn’t think too deeply about it at that time, it now made sense. Somehow, knowing the culprits behind the attack ticked Lazarus off.
Glade forced the ape to attack him so he could have a rough idea of what Lazarus can do. With that in mind, Lazarus was at an advantage. He didn’t show all of his arsenals at that time and it was a good thing he didn’t.
Back to assessing the situation.
If he wasn’t wrong, he suspected the vines to be the same as the one he was tied with back on Sylphi’s village. A vine used to sap away mana or prevent its uses. Knowing that, it was obvious the three couldn’t erect any mana barrier so they were relatively vulnerable.
The three were like corpses on the ground, carefully positioned near the bulkier individual, while the bulkier individual held down Gallios and Leira to their necks with his muscular hands, ready to crush their skulls to smithereens while they slept.
Lazarus pulled his gaze away, leaned against the tree and took a deep breath. He wanted to calm himself and assess the situation once more.
“Leira and Gallios are safe for now… but how do I save them..?” Muttered Lazarus, biting his nail while unconsciously frowning, thinking and thinking.
They didn’t seem to have a beastman who could snuff him out. So escape was a possibility….. Lazarus shook his head. It would be naive to think that. Maybe one of the other three could still track him. So maybe he wasn’t safe yet.
“-So what should I do???-”
Thinking so much that his head felt hot, Lazarus strained his brain trying to find an answer.
Snipe them? -- Impossible
Bomb them? -- The hostages will be a goner.
Talk with them?--........
Obviously it wasn’t the smartest idea but what other choice did he have?
At the back of Lazarus mind, he knew that these people weren’t planning on letting them go even if he showed himself. After all, the Gorilla that attacked him probably did it on the promise that his kid will be set free. He was even detained by the guards because of that.
Yet….. despite all that. His child was still here. That was proof enough that they wouldn’t let them go. Lazarus knew that. But he simply hoped that if he negotiated with the three, distract them for a good amount of time. Maybe… Just maybe he could create an opening where he could use his flashbang and grab the two fast enough to escape, but of course, he knew it wasn’t going to be that simple.
Lazarus was nervous. His hands were cold, his back was sweating. Why did this have to happen to him? All he ever wanted was to build a beacon. Why the fuck were people after him? Why the fuck can’t they just leave him alone?
Lazarus’ head grew hotter and hotter. Cursing his luck. If he found out whoever was behind this. Ana or whoever. He’ll do everything in his power to put them through the worse hell they could ever think off.
Skin them alive. Hack their limbs off. Pull their fingers one by one. Gouge out their eyes. Anything horrible Lazarus could think off. He will do it.
“Mark my words whoever did this... you will pay.” Said Lazarus, his fist balling. There was no other way to save the three. No other way to find out who was behind all of this unless he confronted the kidnappers.
Heaving a sigh, Lazarus stood up and began walking.