Deformed, green bodies stretched out as far as the eye could see. Humanoid creatures of varying shapes and sizes filled the landscape. In a small corner of the forest populated by goblins…
Chaos had crept in.
The goblins screamed wretchedly. More and more rushed to face the invader. But it was hopeless. Their charge was little more than a funnel into a meat grinder.
Neave took a swing with his massive steel sword. His foot landed with a resonant thud, and the metal whistled in a deep pitch as golden mist and runes enveloped it. The phantom image of the centipede appeared, golden runes glowing all over its carapace. The influence of the true strike seeped into the phantom and brought it to life. It flew out and tore through the hordes of goblins, crushing their bodies as it slammed into them, biting and tearing their throats and stomachs out.
Neave opened his mouth wide and swallowed dead goblins whole. Or rather, as whole as they could be after encountering him.
His carnage left no dead bodies behind as he greedily ate up any chunk that dropped to the ground. Soon enough, several taller goblins appeared on the horizon. These were not quite as misshapen as those that rushed him first; several could even pass for green-skinned humans.
The goblin behind them was the most eye-catching. With a bit of make-up and long hair to cover the pointy ears, it would be easy to disguise him as an average human or humanoid spirit beast. It held a well-forged axe and donned fine steel armor. It ran toward Neave so fast that the wind it picked up left the hobgoblins pulling their makeshift capes back down from over their heads.
A relatively small crew of cultivators made their way through the endless forests of the wilderness surrounding Pavarrie. They were one of the many groups tasked with finding the demon child. Except, this group was tasked by none other than themselves.
A rather ambitious goal, judging by their advancement.
The group leader was a hunched man at the first step of the silver path. He was also the only silver path cultivator in the entire group, and the group was merely nine cultivators strong. They marched onwards, gazes stern and backs up straight. One of the members lingered at the back of the group. He was breathing hard, and his steps slowed ever so slightly. The leader of the group sighed and turned around.
“Oh, for fucks’ sake! Can you pick up the damn pace!? We have finally found a trail, so unless someone is ahead of us, we must be the closest to finding this child!”
The shivering cultivator looked at yet another bloody patch of soil next to a tree that had been snapped in half.
“I’m sorry, boss, but I’m pulling out of this job!”
“What!? You can’t be serious…”
The man turned around and ran away. The leader of the group scoffed and turned.
“I hope that traitor gets eaten by a wild monster.”
Another one of the cultivators looked hesitant again.
“You want to run away as well!?”
“No, no, heavens’ forbid. But… We are seeing far too many signs of a nearby goblin camp.”
The leader groaned.
“Yeah, yeah, I can tell. Don’t worry, though. The boy will also run into them if he keeps going this way. Judging by the signs of combat, he must be exhausted. That may even be our chance to get him.”
“What do you think happened to the corpses?”
“I don’t know, man. The kid probably put them into a dimension ring to hide his trail.”
The other man paused yet again. Glancing at yet another patch of blood.
“I don’t know, boss, if that child truly thinks this is hiding their trail…”
“From this moment onwards, if anyone wants to complain, leave by yourself, or I will kick you the hell out! Do you all understand?!”
The men nodded.
“Good. Let's keep moving then.”
Neave spotted the armored goblin running at him. Judging by its features, it must be either one powerful hobgoblin–
Or an archgoblin.
Neave’s heart beat excitedly at the thought of it being the latter. The goblin appeared in front of Neave in a blink, and Neave met its swing with one of his own.
The golden phantasmal centipede was stopped dead by the sheer momentum of the goblin’s attack.
So it must be the latter, then.
Neave grinned harder. That impact would have cracked several bones if he didn’t have his elastic body power. Neave tightened the grip on his sword and made some distance from the goblin. He used another true strike, and a golden centipede shot straight toward the archgoblin.
The goblin smashed it aside and phased into a shimmering mist. The other goblins were already surrounding Neave. He jumped and launched himself directly at the archgoblin. The archgoblin readied its axe, preparing itself to bisect Neave top to bottom. Neave took the strike straight to the top of his head. Or so it looked.
Neave bent and contorted his body, moving out of the way just as the axe was about to touch him. He swung at the goblin's head. The goblin moved out of the way, and the centipede grazed its scalp. Then Neave used the opening to land a heavy true punch to the goblin's armor. The armor rattled as if he’d slammed it with a massive sledgehammer, and the goblin flew away, slamming into several others.
Before the archgoblin could land, Neave appeared behind him and kicked him back. Then he appeared behind the archgoblin again and slammed him once more. And then he appeared in his path once again, lifting the sword into the air and preparing a downward slash true strike.
The air lit with golden runes, and the archgoblin flew right into the strike. The force of the impact slammed the archgoblin into the ground, shattering his body as the golden centipede chewed off its armor. Then Neave, as the other goblins watched, ate the arch goblin. He moaned at the extra power he gained. He separated the monster core, pocketed it into the ring as he readied the sword, and prepared to slaughter the rest of the tribe.
The hobgoblins surrounded him and desperately tried to corner him, but Neave dodged, twisting his elastic body and teleporting around, making the mere thought of landing a hit on him a desperate wish, even for a hobgoblin.
He kicked one in the stomach, snapping its spine and sending it flying over into a tree. Then he bit the head off another. The massive golden centipede carved through the torso of one of the goblins. No matter how many ran at him, they were immediately crushed to paste and eaten.
Neave didn’t bother removing the cores. He just ate them together with the entire monster. He wouldn’t initiate a spirit trial without diluting it into his blood first, so his spirit power crushed and absorbed the monster cores directly. This didn’t do much of anything as the spirit evaporated, but it didn’t harm Neave either, so he didn’t bother avoiding it.
He swung, slashed, punched, and kicked, blood splattering everywhere, practically flowing in small rivers. He slaughtered, and he consumed. Just as the goblins stopped appearing, that was when he saw the humans appear. A small band of eight people showed up out of nowhere.
They stared at Neave with wide eyes and gaping mouths, a few of them taking cautious steps back. Neave readied his sword as he prepared to slaughter them.
Then he quite literally grabbed the sword with his other hand.
Wait, what the hell am I doing? These could be random people walking through the woods. Phew. I’ve gotten so caught up with the fighting I almost attacked random strangers.
They must simply be awestruck at my display of power. Killing monsters is good, after all.
“D-Dear heavens, it’s him!”
“Everyone calm down and follow the plan!”
The men spread out and surround Neave.
That is not how this is supposed to go.
Oh, but it is.
There is no such thing as docile demons.
They are always trying to kill you.
By the time Neave snapped out of it, all that was left were a few additional patches of blood.
The corpses were all gone.
That was alright.
It would have been a waste to let them rot.
Neave grabbed his sword once again and continued running.
Gabrias nearly threw up. There was a literal lake of blood in the middle of the forest. The trees were smashed, the soil was dug up, and the boulders were crushed. He shook, and the others tried to calm him down, but the more he felt them approach the child, the more he lost his nerve about this situation. He remembered the way the child killed the group of assassins. And right now…?
Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.
There were too many signs of fighting. The child should have been worn out ages ago, too exhausted to keep moving and fighting. But the carnage seemed more drastic every time they reached the following signs of conflict.
The gold path cultivators were frowning too. This wasn’t normal. Perhaps the nature of the book was even more sinister than they had initially assumed.
Their thoughts were interrupted when they felt a large crowd of thirty or so cultivators entering within the range of their spirit senses. This was usually the part where they confronted them and told them to either back off or be forced to.
Now, however… They ran to the group of cultivators.
Lank’s shoulders sagged, and he sighed as he felt the gold path spirits approaching.
He was no amateur or a fool. The job was over.
Three gold path cultivators ran up to them, and one bronze rank cultivator ran in their direction from behind them as fast as he could.
The blonde man stood in front and introduced himself.
“My name is Radeon, and I’d like to offer you all a deal. Are you the leader of this group?”
“Let me guess. It will involve you kindly telling us to fuck off and offering to pay some pittance for the ‘inconvenience’?”
“No. We would like to ask for your help.”
“Is this about the demon child?”
“Indeed, it appears that…”
“Then fuck no.”
“You heard me, you asshole. We aren’t going to fucking do it. You’re asking us for help either because the child is more dangerous than you thought or because you need meat shields. Me and my men aren’t fuckin’ meat shields. There’s no need to pay us either. If the danger is that serious, we’ll gladly pick our shit up and leave.”
The brunette woman yelled out.
“No, wait! We aren’t asking either you or your men to become meat shields. You are right. This child is likely more dangerous than we’ve anticipated. Not by much, though! We would be the ones standing on the front line! We are fully confident in defeating the child. You are a professional, right? You must understand we are just doing risk management. We’d equip your men with the best gear we have on our hands. Full plate armor and crossbows! My dimension ring has enough quality silver rank gear to equip an entire battalion.”
Lank’s eyebrows shot up.
“Damn, woman, you must be bloody fucking rich.”
“We will even give every single one of you a high-value monster core!”
Lank responded with a hint of hostility in his tone.
“That won’t be necessary.” He continued, “If you’re that loaded, however, I’d be willing to cut you a deal for enough cash.”
“How much do you want?”
“Enough to get me and my boys to the Bonmiele Theocracy.”
The gold path cultivators looked at each other and turned back to Lank.
“Would you settle for being teleported to the border instead?” She said with a sly smile.
“I sure as hell fucking would. Pull the damn gear out. Boys! Put whatever this woman gives you on your sweaty asses, and let’s get going!”
All the cultivators behind him smiled.
“It’s time to finish the hunt.”
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Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...