Everyone dismounted from their horses and tightened the grips on their weapons, prepared for battle as what started as a low hum in the distance built into loud buzzing sounds. Of course, they were already somewhat prepared for the possibility of qi beasts showing up, but nevertheless, such an event was not welcomed and not being able to see what was approaching brought about a slight feeling of trepidation in some of the guards.
Tom cast his eyes over his surroundings, trying to discern the direction in which the harsh buzzing sounds were coming from, when Ray suddenly shouted out.
“Over there” said Ray, pointing to a series of trees not too far off.
Everyone looked in the direction Ray was pointing at and although they could not yet see the approaching qi beasts, Tom became sure that Ray’s claim was correct when he focused his hearing and was able to determine it as the source of the buzzing sounds, though even if he hadn’t, he would have ascertained the veracity of Ray’s claim in the next moment, when the qi beasts finally rounded the trees and came into view.
Not panicking in the slightest, Tom immediately noted what appeared to be a small horde of large wasps, each one being about 1 ½’ in length.
“Oh, those are some mean looking wasps” commented Lance upon seeing them. Tom couldn’t help but also agree with this statement. The wasps did indeed have mean looking faces, a product of their biology rather than a reflection their personal feelings or efforts as wasps were not particularly known for their facial expressions.
At the same time, on Methis’ celestial viewing platform, where 4 Gods were sitting together in a gazebo and watching a projection of what was happening, one of them, a giant wasp itself, started excitedly making some high pitched noises which roughly translated as “Ah, look, look, some of my people. I can’t believe some of my people are here”, while moving about animatedly. Jacob couldn’t help but let out a wry smile as he thought to himself [they’re not going to be there much longer].
Back on the planet, several of the more experienced members of the group started cursing.
“Shit, Marauder wasps. I bloody hate the things” cursed Pike.
“Same here” replied Avery, and with good reason too. Marauder wasps were venomous and although a single sting wasn’t enough to kill a body strengthening cultivators like them, it would still hurt to high heaven, a fact that both Pike and Avery could testify to due to previous misadventures in the Tainted Forest. Right now however, there weren’t just one or two Marauder wasps, there looked to be around 50, which meant it would be easy for a single person in their group to get swamped by them and stung multiple times. If this happened, that person would definitely be at risk of dying.
“Marcus” Adam called out.
“Yeah, I know” replied Marcus as he moved to the front of the group and a half formed golden gauntlet formed at the bottom of his right arm.
“Alright, someone will need to lead the horses awa–” Adam began to say, knowing full well that the Marauder wasps would pose a far more significant threat to the horses than any of them, before he was abruptly cut off by Ray.
“I’m on it” cut in Ray, already moving to grab the reins of several horses before retreating away from the group and the incoming Marauder wasps, an action which garnered the ire of the other guards who felt like he was running off with soft duty while they had to do the heavy lifting. I mean, it would have been fair enough if one of them was personally selected or they’d decided between themselves but Adam hadn’t even finished his sentence before Ray had stolen their opportuni- *cough cough* cut and run. Wasn’t that just shamelessness to the extreme?
In the midst of their grumblings, Harrison shouted an ‘Oy’ at them, attracting their attentions towards the front and the rapidly approaching Marauder wasps. This was, after all, not the time to be complaining, even if he understood why they were.
Everyone quickly prepared their weapons as the wasps drew nearer. Tom, Harrison and Avery all drew their swords, Tom readying his shield as well, Bartholomew took his axe off his back and Lance and Pike stood at the ready, their polearms already in their hands.
[Damn, why is it I use a spear again? How the hell am I meant to hit those things with this] thought Lance after appraising the incoming wasps. Although they were certainly giant by the standards of wasps, they were still a fairly small target to hit with a spear, especially considering that they were fairly agile in the air. Because of this, Lance couldn’t help but curse at his choice of weapon as even though he was actually rather skilled with a spear, it would still be difficult to do well in this situation. He just hoped that given their size he’d be able to take some of them out with a few good swings and quick thrusts.
Not just Lance, Pike beside him was also annoyed at the moment. The thing he hated the most were small, fast moving qi beasts that entered within the range of his weapon or hid in small nooks and crannies. He especially hated Marauder wasps since he’d been stung by one before and gotten a painful lump that had persisted for over a week.
“Grr, fucking things” he mumbled under his breath as they approached. Sufficed to say, both he and Avery, who had experienced their painful sting before, would be glad when this fight was over, as, seeing the number of Marauder wasps approaching, the prospect of getting stung by them weighed on each of their minds. However, these thoughts didn’t affect their preparedness for fighting in the least. They were, after all, professionals. They just didn’t want to get stung again.
While different thoughts were running through everyone’s heads, some feeling anxious, others annoyed and yet more merely focusing on the combat to come, Adam finally unsheathed his own sword and launched the 2nd technique of the Cardinal clan’s Crimson Sword Style in the process, starting the fight before the wasps had drawn too close.
A crimson light shot out from Adam’s sword at high speed towards the approaching Marauder wasp horde. This technique was instantly recognised by the others as the Crescent Moon technique of the Cardinal clan’s Crimson Sword Style, both because it was one of the most frequently used techniques of the clan and they were thus already familiar with it but also because before reaching the wasp horde, the crimson light had already formed crescent moon shape for which the technique so aptly got its name.
However, before the crescent moon shaped light had even reached the wasp horde, Adam swung his sword several more times with unprecedented speed, releasing more crimson coloured qi. This barrage quickly turned into crescent shaped blades of crimson qi as well and followed up the first blade in targeting the incoming wasps.
In launching this attack, Adam had shown his sharp judgement and fighting sense, things that he had developed through numerous combat experiences. Using his advantage as a qi expansionist cultivator, he had decided to launch a ranged, qi based attack, however, knowing of the enemies’ agility in the air, he had waited until they had drawn in close enough so that they could not react in time to avoid his attack.
In the next few moments, Adam’s judgement and assessment of the situation proved correct. Although the Marauder wasps in the centre of the small horde tried to dodge his attacks by scattering in all directions, they were too late; or rather, they never had the time to do so in the first place. The attack had been perfectly timed and executed, not being launched too prematurely so as to be dodged, thus wasting qi, but, just at the right time, where Adam could maximise the damage dealt in one surprise ranged attack, before they came to close and it became harder to target them in a group.
The crescent moon shaped qi blades of crimson light sliced through many of the Marauder wasps in the centre of the horde, instantly reducing their numbers from 50 to just over 30. The bodies of the killed wasps falling to the ground in pieces after having been bisected into halves from Adam’s attacks and the buzzing noise that had become almost deafening, lessening a bit.
Tom noted how along with this successful barrage of attacks from Adam, a sizeable hole had formed in the centre of the wasp horde, essentially creating two separate groups of wasps, one which was headed for Adam, Marcus, Avery and Lance on the left and the other which was headed for Tom, Bartholomew, Harrison and Pike on the right. This grouping however would prove to be somewhat pointless as shortly thereafter, when they had finally gotten close, the wasps started to fly about haphazardly.
On Adam’s side, Adam had already stopped launching his crescent moon attacks. Although his first series of attacks were successful in taking out a large number of the enemies, his kill rate using the technique quickly dropped and using it so many times in succession had had a large drain on the amount of his stored qi. Plus, besides the drop in effectiveness by having to target individual wasps instead of a group, since they had now spread out more, the wasps had learned to be cautious Adam and the crescent blades of crimson qi, avoiding them by flying erratically. However, while Adam had stopped using his own qi techniques, Marcus had not, and now, it was his turn.
As they drew in close, a number of the wasps that had spread out in the air, once again gathered together and formed a small group as they converged towards Marcus, who was at the front of his group. Marcus however, couldn’t help but smile at this. What they were currently doing would only help him to make better use of his technique. They were basically handing themselves on a silver platter to him.
Stepping forward, Marcus threw out his right fist towards the angry Marauder wasps that were trying to swamp him. The golden qi on his arm then moved from his fist, changing from its gauntlet form and spreading out like a cloud in front of him. This by no means killed the wasps coming at him, however, it did stun them, causing them to stop and hover in mid-air, seemingly disoriented and with only the strength to keep them where they were.
With this attack, Marcus had managed stun a good six of the wasps and taking this chance, he drew his sword and began slashing at them, joined by Avery who quickly came in and killed two that had only been caught by the edge of the golden cloud and were about to recover and escape.
The horde being thinned out even more, Adam began operating his movement art, Red Light Running, in order to speed up and catch the wasps which were buzzing around in the air, not bothering to deploy any defensive techniques as such a thing would only be a waste of his already depleted qi. He jumped forward, swinging his sword at the flying wasps but met with only little success as they had become wary of him, giving him a wide berth and flying up and out of reach when they noticed him get near. Of course, in the somewhat chaotic flying pattern they were taking as they were buzzing around everyone, not all of them could react in time when Adam dashed in from their sides, but, for the most part, they were able to avoid his attacks.
Unfortunately, behind him, Lance wasn’t having much luck either. Instead, he was floundering about, desperately trying to avoid being stung as two wasps kept diving at him stingers first. He tried swinging at one as it dived towards him; however, it easily and agilely avoided it, its forward momentum only momentarily stopped as it moved to avoid the blow. Seeing its stinger speeding towards his face and the other wasp that was harassing him also quickly moving towards him from the corner of his vision, Lance dove to the side and rolled on the ground, dropping his spear in the process. In doing so, he had managed to avoid the assault of the first wasp; however, looking up from his position on the ground, he could see the second bearing down on him, the first turning in mid-air, continuing its pursuit and new one diving down from above and joining the fray.
A sense of panic grew in Lance’s heart as he wasn’t in a good position to dodge again and he knew that he wouldn’t have enough time to grab his spear and raise it to defend himself. Even if he could grab it in time, what good would it do? He hadn’t landed a single hit on any of the wasps yet and his swings were doing little to slow their advance. There was almost no chance he would be able to effectively defend himself with it. Even if he managed to pick it up in time and was lucky enough to kill the first wasp and through some miracle took out the second as well, he knew that he’d never be able to take out the third. There were just too many directions and small, fast moving targets to deal with at once.
However, luckily for Lance, as the three wasps drew nearer to him, they all became stuck and stunned in a golden cloud of qi that had suddenly passed over his head. Marcus had been able to reform his golden gauntlet, expending a fair amount of qi in the process, and then once again expelled that in mid-air to stun the wasps attacking Lance.
Seeing the wasps stunned and struggling to hover in place, Lance smiled. He kicked off the ground and ran forward, grabbing the wasp closest to him and pinning it to the ground. Lance then took a dagger he kept on a belt at his waist and, much to his satisfaction and relief, drove it through the head of the wasp that was squirming in his hand.
As he was doing this, Marcus, who had approached from behind to save him, was not standing idle either. He too, rushed forward, dispatching the remaining two stunned Marauder wasps that had been caught in the cloud of golden qi, further reducing their number.
Looking around, Marcus saw Adam chasing after a wasp that was frantically trying to stay out of his reach and Avery, with a flick of his wrists, skilfully and deftly kill a wasp that had approached him, slicing through it cleanly with his sword. Seeing these things and noting how so few of the wasps that had attacked their group of four remained, he couldn’t help but be pleased and somewhat surprised at the quick work they were making of them.