The babi ngepet herd had noticed him. They’d started turning, the biggest of the herd already charging towards Arthur. He reviewed the angles, the direction that he had to move in. Realised that there really weren’t a lot of options, not if he wanted to hit one of the slopes.
Any other time, he might have considered wielding his spear, taking at least the largest boar down. But there was an entire fast-moving herd behind the lead monster, and a bunch of jungle rats rushing right after him. Slowing down long enough to set his spear or try anything fancy would mean getting mobbed by them.
So. Run. Like a nun.
At the same time, Arthur was already beginning to understand how this entire trial was meant to go. He had to run, fast, and avoid the herd. He had to keep piling speed on, keep moving so that he would not be injured.
But that also meant he had no time to watch for the ambush predators. Theoretically at least.
Now was the time he realized that his traits were offering him quite a few advantages. Enhanced Eyesight was letting him see into darkness that another cultivator might find blinding. It was because of that singular trait that he could pick out the kuching hitam that was waiting for him on the second rise, prowling towards the edge of the ledge that he was most likely to take. It was also that ability that let him spot the flying projectile from the monkeys, reminding him to duck his head a little so that it bounced rather than splattered.
There was still splatter, but a lot less.
“I hate this trial so much,” Arthur cursed under his breath, even as he kept running. Good thing another trait was enabling him do the cursing, while still judging what was coming and spotting how far more he had to go. Multi-tasking at its best, and he definitely needed that trait, because a part of him was also trying to work out the best way around the trial’s shanghaied method of guidance.
And boy, was the term shanghai all too appropriate in this case, what with him about to lose his life if he stayed on the rails here.
A snort, a loud squeal. He glanced back, eyes widening as the herd of rats behind him began to glow. Red energy infused the entire herd, gaining in prominence as they ran. He could even swear they were moving faster.
Yep, definitely faster.
“Hun dan!” Swearing, Arthur wondered if the Tower was out to get him. Every time he made up his mind not to do something, the Tower would try to make him do it. In this case . . .
“Time to see, if I can be, a really, really good, jumping bean!” Sing-songing under his breath to get the rhythm and timing right, Arthur switched directions a little. No way to hit the slope on time, never mind the fact that the kuching was waiting there.
No. He was not going to risk it. But that didn’t mean he shouldn’t try to improve his chances. On that note, he made sure to angle his spear down a little. He switched his stance, taking multiple leaps as he built up momentum to the side of the steep slope he was facing.
At the last moment, he plunged his spear down, using it as an impromptu pole vault. It was not as good as his old staff, what with lacking both height and having a spear tip that messed things up, but at least it meant he had a very good pivot point as he threw himself upward.
A little energy was lost, a little momentum as he then yanked his spear out, twisting himself around as he kept flying through the air, launched high. He arced, feet first, before he managed to pull the rest of his body.
As he had expected, the greater strength and the additional energy imparted by the spear vault had let him clear the steepest part of the slope to hit the hill’s first level, even as the jungle rats swerved away from the wall at the last moment. Only to meet the thundering herd of babi ngepit, who proceeded to trample the entire group of rodents, leading to chaos.
The screams, trumpets, and shrieks of the monsters below him was music to Arthur’s ears. Though he had his own problems, for having made it over the edge, he was still turning around and getting his feet positioned for a landing when an unlucky, or skilled, projectile from above caught him on the top of his head.
It knocked him off course a little, but more importantly, it distracted him. Leaving him to crash into the ground in a weird sprawl of limbs, half on the front of his face, half on his knees that he had tucked, pulling him into a spin.
He bounced and rolled before coming to a stop, groaning and spitting out soil and other unmentionables, a little woozy from the diseased poisons and the crap attack and his sudden change in momentum. Movement in the corner of his eyes reminded him that he was not alone up here.
Arthur dropped low, even as the kuching leapt at him, nearly taking his head off. He felt claws brush the air, a couple of the sharp implements clipping his hair moments before he spun around. Acting on instinct, the pair twisted around and threw themselves at one another, crashing in a flurry of drawn kris and claws.
One hand against the cat’s neck, pushing it and its body sideways so that the more dangerous claws were forced to scrabble for purchase and they lashed and scored at his other arm. Arthur weaved his kris like a sewing needle in and out of the monster’s torso. He kept attacking, knowing he couldn’t afford to stop till the kuching stopped first.
When the cat was finished, Arthur staggered to his feet, worried he was out of time, only to realize that only brief moments had passed. His injuries smarted, blood running down his arm and along the side of his body where the monster had scored against him.
“No time, even to rhyme…” Arthur slipped the kris into its sheath, scooped up the spear and began running for the next slope. As he ran, he angled towards the edge of the cliff where the monkeys stared down at him balefully and kept tossing things at him.
Luckily for him, it seemed the creatures did not have the same volume of projectiles they might have in a forest. The occasional rock or other hardened—or sloppy—mess might arc over to him, but it was not the constant hail that he had feared initially.
That was the good news. The bad? They were angling along the ledge to keep him in sight and intercept him. But he couldn’t slow down. For he could hear the drumming of the herds starting up the slope, not so far behind him.
Pouring on more speed, Arthur ran, sucking in deep lungfuls of air as he tried to work out his next move. Caught between the monkey horde and the pig herd.
Definitely a metaphor in there somewhere.