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A note from MichelleRReid

3/3

The green Serpent’s huge white fangs and red mouth came closer to my soaring body. I gasped and twisted in the air, trying to get out of the way, even though I knew I would fail.

A gray blur streaked on my right. The blur took the shape of Billy who smashed his blade down on the green Serpent’s nose. The strength of the impact crushed the Serpent’s jaw closed and bowed its head. I sailed right over its head and landed on its back.

A strong grip clapped around my arm and I was jerked to the side, off the monster’s scaley green back. Axe Guy — Nick? — didn’t wait for me to get my bearings before he tossed me to the side. I was barely out of the way when the green Serpent slashed out with its two-foot thick tail. It hit Axe Guy Nick right in the chest and he staggered with a pained grunt. Would he even have taken that hit if it weren’t for me?

I landed hard on the ground and gasped for air, staring up at Morgan’s face. She leaned down and touched me with gold, glowing fingers. Instantly, my HP increased.

I nodded in thanks to Morgan and rolled to my feet.

“You should stay with me,” she said, her eyes on the fight.

I shook my head. “I’m not useless.”

She frowned and glanced at me. “Okay. Here.” A book appeared in her left hand. It flipped open by itself, pages waving through the air, as it started to glow. The pages stopped turning halfway through and a bright light radiated from the page. She waved her hand at me.

A warm sensation started at the crown of my head and spread down my body until it reached the soles of my feet.

[Protection: +15 Defense. Time limit: 15 minutes]

My eyes widened.

Morgan nodded, apparently satisfied. “That should help for a little bit.”

Mason grunted nearby and she turned her head towards him. He flopped through the air and landed on his back a couple feet in front of us. Morgan moved to attend him as Emma jumped forward and put herself between them and the silver monster. She set off one arrow after another. Each one hit, but just like the sword attacks, each attack was too shallow to do any serious damage. Kip’s fire attacks were just as ineffective; the scales were just too thick.

Morgan waved her hand, a golden ball of light appeared then left her palm and encompassed Mason. The golden glow spread over him and he climbed to his feet. He nodded at Morgan and tapped Emma slightly on the shoulder as he ran to rejoin the fight.

I stared hard at the silver Serpent, concentrating on it, looking for a critical-hit spot. It moved so fast it was hard to see anything but a blur of scales. Then, I finally found it — a light glow of an energy crystal, three feet below it’s jawline, on the left side of its body.

I ran over to Emma and pointed. “Shoot right there. That’s its weak spot.”

She immediately drew an arrow and let it loose. The arrow shot through the air in a deadly blur. It hit the scales but was deflected, leaving a small scratch inches lower than where I’d pointed. “There?” she panted.

“Wait for me,” I said and activated Feather Step. I was trying to be conservative with my MP, because I didn’t know what else was going to happen today, but this was getting serious. I lunged right over Trace’s head and landed on the silver Serpent.

It flailed trying to throw me off, but I held on. It angled its head and to snap at me. At the same time, Mason swung his sword at an existing cut and left a deeper gash in the monster, and Trace flanked it and stabbed at it with his hooked daggers. The Serpent paused and lifted its head in the air, hissing in pain.

I shimmied up its body until I found the location of the energy crystal. I gripped my kindjal and stabbed up, sliding the blade between the scales. With a jerk, I popped the top palm-sized scale right off the underbelly.

“There! Hit it there!” I yelled.

The words were barely out of my mouth before an arrow sank in the exposed muscle tissue. The arrow tip missed my hand by inches, but that wasn’t what caused alarm to seize my breath. The snake withered, nearly shaking me off it. It turned its head, couldn’t bend enough to reach me. But it didn’t die. I knew the arrow hit the right place. Had it not gone in deep enough?

Two more arrows sank into the exposed tissue, but the monster still didn’t die.

My hands slipped on the scales and I started to slide down. Determined, I wedged my kindjal between two scales on the snake’s back and used it to hold myself in place. If Emma couldn’t shoot through the monster’s muscle, maybe a good kick might send the embedded arrow all the way home. I angled my body, getting ready to stomp.

Just then, the green Serpent snapped at me. I gasped and jerked away. My legs flailed free, and I barely held onto the kindjal as I tried to slide around the silver Serpent’s body to put it between me and the attacking monster. The green monster’s fangs dug into the silver Serpent’s neck right where I’d clung a second ago. After a quick snap, it pulled back, jerking and hissing as Billy and Nick sheared off a chunk of its flesh and Kip roasted the exposed muscle.

The silver Serpent that I clung to twisted and jerked in the air. I gripped my kindjal tightly with my left hand and tried to swing back to where I’d been positioned before the other monster got in the way.

“Let it go!” Mason warned.

Before I could decide to follow his order or not, the silver Serpent turned its head to the side and lunged, aiming for the thick brush around us.

It was fleeing! I gasped and let go of my kindjal.

Deep, piercing agony cut through the fleshy part my left upper arm, so strong that my mind numbed and I could only scream. A hooked dagger was embedded through my arm all the way up to it’s guard, the tip of the dagger pinned me right into the silver Serpent’s wound left by the other monster. The dagger’s gut hook latched on the exposed muscle and effectively nailed me to the monster.

Pain ricocheted through my numb mind. I didn’t even have time to figure out what I should do before the Serpent plunged into the forest, moving at a dizzying speed.

Through the wind rushing past my ears and foliage slapping me, I could hear Emma and several others yelling for me between the sounds of continued fighting. Those sounds quickly disappeared.

I was like a rag doll on the back of an out of control wagon. The silvery green Serpent slithered over the uneven ground, through bushes and around trees. Each move it made, the dagger in my arm jerked more and sent intense stabs of pain through my body. As if that torture wasn’t enough, the monster kept shifting purposefully to try and scrape me against every tree and giant rainbow crystal that it past. I had to keep shifting and pivoting from one side of the snake to the other, causing all the more damage to my arm. My red blood mixed with the monster’s black blood and ran down the scales, leaving multicolored splashes on the ground and random leaves as the Serpent crashed through the jungle. Everything combined steadily chipped away at my HP, even with the Protection that Morgan had cast on me.

I gritted my teeth and tried to clear my mind enough to figure out what to do. I gripped the dagger’s handle with my right hand and tried to stabilize myself, so that it didn’t tear my left arm anymore. Each of my breaths hissed through my teeth as I looked at the next tree the snake was aiming at. I kicked my feet up, knees bent, and held onto the handle as tight as I could. The soles of my boots landed on the tree trunk and I jumped backwards with everything that I had.

My mouth gaped open in a silent scream as the dagger thrashed in my arm. With a gruesome fleshy rip, the gut hook of the dagger cut through the monster’s muscle it was embedded in. For a second I was airborne, finally loose from the Serpent. Even if the dagger remained in my arm, it would be the least of my problems. I twisted in the air and landed on the ground, my feet sliding across moist dirt before I stopped. I winced and gripped my limp arm beneath the dagger to brace it.

The monster hissed and whipped around, its huge red eyes focused on me.

Oh shit! Mist exploded out of me, filling up the area between me and the high level monster. I didn’t know how it hunted — sight, heat, or smell — but I hoped that the Mist would conceal some of that. I then quickly activate the skill that I’d received from the Skill Stone I picked up yesterday — Stealth (Limited).

My body, already concealed in the white fog, turned completely invisible. It would be a heavy cost — 10 MP for 10 minutes, on top of my already depleted MP — but I couldn’t fight this monster. The only thing I could hope to do was get away.

The monster froze, as if it was confused by what was happening in front of it. I gripped my arm even tighter, bracing my injury from shaking as I used the Serpent’s momentary distraction to climb the mist, as though it were stairs, right into the tree. I reached the treetop and pivoted to a thick branch where I knelt down behind a large rainbow crystal growing out of the silvery bark. I cupped my hand under my elbow to catch the blood dripping from my limp arm. The last thing I needed was the monster reacting to the noise of it dripping and finding me.

The Serpent lunged forward and struck at the mist. It got nothing but an empty mouth. The monster whipped its head back and forth in the mist, causing it to waft and curl in the air, but no matter what it did, it couldn’t find me because I wasn’t on the ground anymore.

A couple minutes later, it finally gave up. Slowly, it turned and slithered into the depths of the jungle, leaving a bloody black trail in its wake.

I shifted and leaned back against the tree trunk, still invisible and in pain. I didn’t think that would actually work so easily. I knew about Stealth, but to my knowledge, it came in several levels. Since I had Limited Stealth, I thought it wouldn’t be that effective against a high-leveled monster. Was it because I paired it with my Mist? I frowned, remembering how the Orcs had used it to sneak up on me months ago. How they were literally invisible and silent; there wasn’t even a hint of their smell or presence.

My ability wasn’t at the level yet. My sounds weren’t masked, I was just naturally silent, and I didn’t know the full extent of how my presence and smell were erased. But it did turn me invisible — that was a start.

The monster was gone, but I still had a dagger in my arm. First Aid 101 suggested that I wrap it up so the impaled object didn’t wiggle around — haha — and go to the nearest hospital or healer. Only I was in the middle of a jungle on the far side of the Gate and I had no idea where Emma’s team was. My bearings got jumbled up while I was pinned to the monster, but I knew enough to know that I was a long way from where I started. I couldn’t trek through this high-leveled jungle with this in my arm.

God, this ‘destroy the crystal’ task was a lot more dangerous than I thought it would be. So much for sneaking in with Emma’s team, finding the giant crystal, and destroying it without implicating Emma in process. Nothing had gone right since I stepped into the forest. Not even counting yesterday, today was such a screw up that I’d somehow got in the way of a teammate’s attack right as I was trying to get out of the way.

That’s right, I knew where the hooked dagger had come from. It belonged to Trace. Whether or not he’d pinned me on purpose, I’d have to go over that with him later. Right now I had more immediate needs to take care of. Getting my blood pumping faster with agitation wasn’t going to help me at all.

I squeezed my eyes shut tight and took a deep breath as I accepted that no matter what happened next, it was going to hurt. A bright side was that I had Regen ability, and it would heal my arm back to perfect condition — once I got the dagger out. The drawback was that I was going to have to stay still for at least an hour for that to happen. Technically I had enough MP to keep Stealth activated the whole time, but then I’d be completely out — and who knew what else I’d encounter before I found Emma. If I found Emma.

This sucks. I hissed out a pained breath and looked down through the thick mist, to the trail of blood on the ground. I should be able to find my way back if I followed that, given that the monster didn’t make too many detours trying to get me off, or I wasn’t found by a high-ranked monster first. Knowing Emma, she was probably trying to drag her team through the forest after me. A smile twitched at my stiff mouth before I grimaced.

Gotta get this thing out first. I moved my right hand and looked at the blood pooled in my palm. Droplets of the Serpent’s black blood skimmed the surface of my red; like oil drips in water. I knew human and monster blood couldn’t mix, but I didn’t see it often. I sighed, looked at the amount of bodily fluid I held. I guess that’s one benefit of being a Hunter. We can bleed like an old Japanese cartoon and keep going. Since I didn’t sense a monster around me, I tipped my hand and let the blood dribble to the ground. Then I pulled out the fresh spare shirt I put in my Items Bag this morning and used it to wipe the blood off my right palm.

When my skin was dry enough, I unbuckled the double belt of my hip satchel and wrapped the extra length around two protruding rainbow crystals, carefully strapping myself against them. The last thing I needed was to get the dagger out, then pass out from blood loss and fall out of the tree. My back pressed snug against the cold stones, I sagged into the harness I’d created and silently panted in pain. After a minute, I summoned my kindjal to my hand and my spare pants onto my lap.

I took a couple deep breaths to psych myself up, then raised the kindjal.

******

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A note from MichelleRReid

Do you even find yourself in a situation where you think, Well, what the hell do I do now? Jyn (and me) are kinda feeling that way right now. I don’t often write myself into a corner. Lol.

As a side note, I have done A LOT of research on weapons for this story. About 45 minutes for every new weapon that I introduce. And about 15 minutes for every fight scene I do. (Reina’s death scene actually took about an hour, deciding on what sword to give Billy, based on what I needed it to do. I think I read about and talked over ten different greatswords with my weaponry friend, (C). C still thought that I should give Billy a longsword, but Billy’s personality and strength demanded something a little less practical. So Mason got the longsword and Billy got an oversized claymore. All of which was talked about after midnight, lol. (C’s wife is so awesome.) I research the limitations and movements of a weapon, and bend it to what I need. Fantasy, right? It's fun like that.

I spent hours researching stab wounds and dagger extractions. There are some really gruesome pictures. (It’s this type of research that gets authors banned from airports. And yes, I know some authors on the FBI Watch List because of what they have researched for a book. I also know an author who is now a human weapon, just because she wanted to know what it’s like. If she gets pulled over she has to let the police know and show a specialized hidden weapons license, letting him/her know she can kill him/her with her bare hands. Think Black Widow or Jason Bourne.)


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About the author

MichelleRReid

Bio: I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.

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