“So what do we do with him, captain?” asked a moustached bandit rider as he kicked the intact foot of Marcus, eliciting a groan from the unconscious boy.
The bandit captain looked at Marcus. “Nothing. We don’t have the time to care about him. He’s gonna die soon, anyway.” He glanced at the dense forest around them. “The animals would take care of him after that.”
“But didn’t you wanna show him to the boss?”
“Yeah, this brat fought against seven of us alone. Even managed to kill 2 of us. Of course, I wanted to show him to the boss,” the captain said, furrowing his brows. There was also something peculiar about the boy. The boss had once shown him some swordplays and told him to watch out for anyone who uses them. If he wasn’t wrong, this boy used something similar. He might have some connection to the boss.
It’s a pity…
“Anyway, we have to move today, and carrying a dead weight like him all the way to the headquarters would be a hassle,” he said, provoking a burst of laughter from the surrounding men.
Yes, in a few hours, the boy would be a dead weight alright.
“That’s enough joking around. Now hurry and pack up.” The captain flicked his wrist impatiently. “We have to be ready for the raid in two days!”
Another laughter rose among the bandits, their steps quickening as they cheered, “TO THE RAID!”
A reverberating roar drowned the cheerful shout of the bandits and shook them to the core. They forgot the work at hand and stood up, alert faces looking towards the depth of the forest.
“What was… Shit!” The Bandit captain’s eyes bulged out from its sockets. A giant figure charged at their camp at breakneck speed. No tree or bushes stood intact in the path of its tremendous forward momentum, snapping in half or ripping apart like cardboard. The captain’s heart quaked as he took an involuntary step back.
“The sleeping tiger!” He quickly took out a silver bow and glanced at the other bandits. “Don’t just stand there like fools. Bows out! Shoot it down before it reaches the camp!”
Bloom gulped. The last time it had been too dark to see the creature properly, but now the light was enough.
It stood nearly five meters from the ground. Mossy green fur covered its muscular frame, also, the two black horns growing from its head. Real tigers shouldn’t look like it, Bloom was sure.
Hostility radiated from it in waves, pressing down on Bloom like a giant tsunami. It made her stomach churn.
It’s coming for me!
Did it know she shot the arrow? That didn’t matter now. To get to her, it had to cross the camp. And the bandits wouldn’t agree to that, would they?
The first arrow struck the tiger square on its shoulder with the tremendous force of the bandit captain’s wind attribute, nearly blasting it back a step. It paused, a pained growl escaping its throat as it turned its attention towards the bandits, only to see 4 more arrows hurtling at it.
“Shit!” Bloom clenched her fist. They were supposed to start fighting each other so she could just swoop in and rescue Marcus, but those thugs were using arrows! Why couldn’t they just be nice and fight each other to death? Frustrated, she punched the tree trunk beside her.
This isn’t gonna work.
The tiger also wasn’t content to just get hit from afar. It dug its feet into the ground and opened its cavernous mouth.
The sound spread towards the camp like a shock-wave. The sheer wind pressure of the roar was enough to make Bloom nearly lose her grip on the tree branch.
[You are confused]
[Dexterity -5 for the next 3 seconds]
Bloom shook her head to get rid of the dizziness. While not that bad for her, the primary target of the roar, the bandits were rolling on the ground. Only the bandit captain was standing with his hair blown back like a hedgehog. He stumbled forward, clasping the shoulder of one of the bandits.
“We can’t fight it. Go get the horses ready,” he said.
Bloom looked at a patch of grass behind the camp where a few of them were going crazy, jumping and neighing. They looked scared.
No! She couldn’t let those bandits escape! Fortunately, the horses were closer to her than the bandits. She jumped off from the branch, landing on the bushes nearby.
[Damage Received: 5]
Bloom clenched her teeth, ignoring the sting in her legs. She had to get to the horses before the bandit. Besides, this little pain was nothing. She’d had worse yesterday.
The bandit backed away towards the horses as he continued firing arrows towards the tiger. All the others were still confused from the roar. Only he and the captain had recovered somewhat. ‘Recovered’ might be too much in his case though. Most of his arrows wobbled around, hitting anything but the target. Good thing the others were starting to recover too. Hopefully, they could keep it at bay before they could escape.
A loud sound of stamping and horse's hoofs from behind him drew his attention. He turned around and immediately went stiff. The pole that kept the horses secured lay uprooted in the grass. And the horses? They ran into the woods as if someone lit a fire on their tails.
“How…?!” He gawked at the fleeing beasts with his mouth open. For a second, he forgot the crisis charging at their camp. How did they get free? Did someone free them? “Who—”
The arrow caught him square in the face before he could speak. He stumbled back in shock and pain.
[Damage Dealt: 5]
Bloom quickly took out another arrow preparing to fire, but before she could do anything, the tiger roared again. It was getting pretty annoyed from all these attacks, pesky as they were, the damage still piled up. The arrows already consumed nearly a fourth of its health, especially the bandit captain’s shots. Each of them was accurate, taking a sizeable chunk of health when they struck.
It jumped, its massive form sailing over shorter trees, and landed right before the bandit Bloom shot. It turned around at a speed belying its massive structure and swiped its claws at him. Blood scattered from the bandit’s chest as he flew back. His HP halved almost instantly.
The captain used his archery skill, creating a blast of wind powerful enough to push the huge monster back and send it in a momentary state of [Confusion].
“What about the horses?” he asked, holding the collar of the bleeding bandit up by the collar.
The injured man shook his head. “They fled! There was someone—” Before he could finish, another arrow came flying and struck him below the ribs.
[Damage Dealt: 5]
Bloom immediately readied another arrow. She didn’t need the tiger’s permission to sign up as its ally now. It was the one injured, after all. She had to make sure it died together with the bandits, not early.
So take out the wounded guy first!
The tiger clearly agreed with her. It chomped down, using one of its most powerful skills, [Bite].
It was a fatal attack.
[You have levelled up]
[You have levelled up]
A white glow spread around Bloom. Shocked, she stared at her hand.
“So this is level up!” she whispered. She felt… definitely stronger. Strength coursed through her veins, giving her confidence. She glared at the battle in front of her. Maybe she could take all of them down.
That’s too much confidence.
She gave her thoughts a mental slap, jolting herself away from that feeling of omnipotence. Anyway, why did she level up two times? Because of the dead bandit’s level?
“IMMORTAL, DIE!” The roar of the Bandit captain brought her back to her senses. She ducked instinctively as an arrow passed through where her face was.
A soccer sized hole appeared in the tree behind her. Sharp splinters of wood barraged against her leather armour. Bloom’s heart jumped to her throat. She jumped back, diving into the shelter of the forest. A cold shiver ran up her back as she leaned against the thick trunk of a tree. So close! That scared half the life out of her.
The sound of battle came from behind her. The snarls and growl of the tiger and the shout of the four remaining bandits. Biting her lips, Bloom extended the hem of her cape outside the shelter of the tree and waited a few seconds.
Letting out the breath she’d been holding, she readied another arrow and cautiously peeked at the battleground. Sure enough, the tiger didn’t leave any room for the bandits to pay attention to her. But battling one to four, it was in a pretty bad state.
Excluding the captain, the other three had already taken up their swords, attacking the creature with a steady, coordinated strategy. Only about a third of its health remained. This way it was gonna die soon.
I can’t allow that!
Bloom released a volley of arrows at the bandits, ducking behind trees after each shot. Only level 3, her shots didn’t harm the bandits much, but they were enough to divert their attention from the beast.
“Damn!” The bandit captain turned his bow towards Bloom and released the shot he prepared for the tiger. Too bad Bloom was pretty adept at hiding at this point. Not like she needed to do anything else. The tiger already found its chance. It took a small leap backwards, getting out of the range of the weapons. Its glowing yellow eyes looked at the sky as it howled, a greyish green ripple of light spreading through the ground around it.
Its unique skill, [Sleeping Field].
[You have been afflicted by the ‘Curse of Sloth’. You have begun to feel sleepy and your movement speed has slowed down by 30 %]
The same message as last time. Bloom stumbled back, stepping outside the circular grey-green boundary.
[The ‘Curse of Sloth’ has been lifted. All status returns to normal]
“Whew!” She breathed out. That was uncomfortable, experiencing that feeling again. She never expected the area of effect to reach as far as her. Good thing she was just on the edge. The memory of getting her head bitten off, she really didn’t want to relive that a second time.
[You have levelled up]
Bloom’s eyebrows shot up. Did someone die again? She peered out from the bushes and sure enough; the tiger had killed another two guys.
The captain was fuming with both rage and fear. He had long abandoned the bow and taken up his scimitar. With red, bulging eyes, he and the last bandit continued to assault the tiger. They must kill it. Only that way they might have some hope of survival.
That hope didn’t last long.
“Damn you!” The captain looked at the bodies of his companions scattered around him for the last time. They were dead. How? Why? Another hour and they would already be gone from this place. Why did the calamity strike them now?
The sword fell from his hand, frustration and regret drowning him as the tiger’s paw crashed on his body.
[You’ve levelled up]
[You’ve levelled up]
[You’ve levelled up]
Again and again, the white glow flashed on Bloom’s body. She had levelled up 7 times throughout the whole battle.
Levelling up is really fun! She gripped her fist, eyes shining with confidence. She didn’t even have to work for it much. Her enemies did the work for her. Her smile didn’t last long, though. After all, not all her enemies were down.
The tiger was still standing!
It was unsteady on its feet, with only a sliver of red remaining on the bar above its head, but it was still standing and it was a massive threat.
This was one of the two faults in her plan. Luckily, the other thing she was worried about didn’t happen. Although fallen bodies and torn tents scattered everywhere in the camp, the area around Marcus remained unaffected, maybe due to some game magic. But the tiger...
How would she deal with it now?
“Leave! Leave or just die, please!” Bloom prayed.
The tiger swayed, every inch of its shaggy fur hide covered in so much blood it looked red instead of green. Hurt and tired, it wanted to go back to its shelter and have some good, long rest. It took a lurching step towards the forest, but a sudden, low moan made its ears perk up.
Someone was still alive!
It slowly turned its massive head towards the source of the sound, the unconscious Marcus. A deep growl rumbled forth from its throat as it stopped.
“Damn!” Bloom yanked another arrow out from her quiver, fixing it to her bow as fast as she could. “No way in hell!” she shouted as she released the arrow.
[Damage dealt: 35]
“GRRRR!” The tiger turned around. That girl! She was the one who had hurt it first. Because of her! Only because of her, it nearly died. Golden flames blazed within its eyes as it crouched, its rage-filled scowl fixed on her every move.
“Come here, you dumb shit!” Bloom taunted, taking out another arrow. Only 4 more left. She had to make each of them count. She drew her bow and aimed, but before she could release it, her eyes shrunk to a dot.
The tiger wasn’t there! It just simply… vanished from her sight.
“Where did it go?” she gasped out, a shiver running down her spine. Her sense of danger flared up, raising all the hairs on her neck.
She whirled around, bringing the wooden bow in front of her chest to block the incoming slash of the tiger’s paw, but the claws smashed right through the wood. They ripped through her leather armour like razor-sharp daggers, leaving three large gashes on her chest.
[Damage Received: 600]
[The durability of Yew Longbow reduced to 0/ 30]
[The durability of Leather Armour reduced to 40/75]
[Yew longbow is broken]
Blood scattered through the air as Bloom flew back and crashed into the ground near Marcus. “Unh!” Clenching her teeth, she tried to suppress the groan.
Her whole body felt numb, with pain shearing through her ribs like they were on fire. She lost nearly 90% of her health in that one strike. She even lost the bow. If she wasn’t wearing the armour...
“Grrr…” with a low growl, the tiger limped towards her and Marcus, its steps slow but sure. Its eyes plastered on Bloom like a hawk, ready to pounce on her at a moment’s notice. The smell of its quiet fury stung every inch of her skin like sharp needles.
No time to mope!
She scrambled up from the ground. One of its attacks would be enough to finish her off. Should she try to run? Maybe she could draw it away from Marcus?
Her lips twisted in a sneer. Was there any guarantee it would chase her? Or was she just looking for an excuse to run? No. She couldn’t, no she wouldn’t leave Marcus behind. Possible or not, she needed to fend it off.
A weapon. She needed a weapon.
Her glance fell on her belt. Greyvern’s sword. She released a heavy, hopeless sigh. It was a piece of junk. Useless, most likely. But she didn’t want to break it. Greyvern seemed to care about it so much. But at this moment, did she have any other choice?
The approaching tiger followed her gaze. A chill spread through its heart as it spotted the sword. Its animalistic instincts roared danger. Its fur bristled like an angry male cat spotting its rival, and it bounded towards Bloom like one.
Fear squeezed Bloom’s heart like a vice. Her fingers tightened around the hilt of the sword so hard, her knuckles turned white. Maybe it was the feeling of a weapon in her hand, but it did rid her body of the stiffness. She stepped back, hauling the sword out of its sheath. A dazzling white light overshadowed everything. It shone like a brilliant sun in her hand, forcing her to squint.
“The hell!” Bloom squeezed out. A strange sense of power seeped into her from the sword. Her heart thumped louder and louder as she muttered, “Strange Rusty Sword!”
Rather than its usual anger and might, the tiger’s howl this time seemed desperate, almost fearful. Opening its huge maw, it pounced towards Bloom, its dagger-like fangs ready to chomp on her head. Shocked out of her musings, Bloom slashed the sword at the creature’s head without even thinking about it.
A blinding blade of light followed the path of her swing. The air twisted and burned along its path as it flew toward the sky like a crescent moon. In the blink of an eye, everything fell silent.
Bloom gulped, staring at the weapon. It dimmed a lot after the flash. Only a calm white glow surrounded it now.
She put the thought aside, returning her attention to the tiger. Though it wasn’t moving, it still stood poised to attack her. A feeling of anxiety rose from the pit of her stomach.
What happened? Didn’t it work?
[Damage delivered: 75]
The tiger shivered once and its head slid right off from his shoulder, landing with a muted thump on the ground. Blood splashed out like a fountain from the stump on its neck, bathing Bloom in a crimson rain.
[You are the first to defeat the field boss, Sleeping Tiger]
[Acquired Skin of Sleeping Tiger x1.]
[Acquired Fang(s) of Sleeping Tiger x2]
[Acquired Claw(s) of Sleeping tiger x5]
[Acquired Vial(s) of Blood of Sleeping Tiger x3]
[You’ve levelled up]
[You’ve levelled up]
[You’ve levelled up]
[For defeating multiple significantly higher level enemies alone, you’ve been awarded the title: Challenger of the Unsurmountable]
[You have defeated multiple enemies of a significantly higher level by using your wits]
Bloom slumped on the ground and rubbed her forehead as the string of messages came and went one after another. That was exhausting. Not physically, of course, but those few nerve-wracking seconds took all her mental energy.
No! No time to relax!
She breathed in and out a few times and looked behind her. “Marcus!” she mumbled. His health was dangerously low. She punched the ground once before standing up again.
Still a long way to go!