“Shouldn’t we be running?” Arthur said softly as the jenglot came out of the trees. Even as he spoke, he was scanning the surroundings, counting the number of monsters there were. By the time he hit seven he was thinking they should be running, by eleven he was dead certain.
“I want to see what they do first. We’re close enough to retreat,” Mel said. “Wish I had a bow right now, though.”
“Ah.” Arthur remembered he did have a ranged skill. Of course, he also had only 0.9 points of Refined Energy, giving him a total of nine shots. Best not to use it at this long range, considering it’d give the jenglot more than enough time to dodge.
Maybe, if he timed it right, he could take one down.
“Sure,” he said to himself, “and that’d leave ten more to fight hand-to-hand.”
“What did you say?” Rani asked.
“Does anyone else have ranged attacks?” Arthur called out. The cramped quarters they had been fighting within had not allowed the others to showcase many such skills, even though he knew for certain none of the original three women he had come with had anything like that.
Uswah’s shadow skills might be useful though, except she wasn’t exactly hiding away to ambush and garotte the monsters. Shar and Jan’s skills were mostly simple, internally-focused ones like his own Focused Strike and Heavenly Sage.
“Mel’s got a projection technique that makes her spear longer, but it’s not really ranged,” Rani said. That was not news. He’d seen Mel make use of that skill in their fights, though she was careful in its application. It seemed to make the spear head sharper too, allowing her to punch her spear through open mouths or rib cages when she had it targeted right.
A shake of the head was answer enough. Especially with another howl, this time from a massive jenglot Elite, upon which the entire group of monsters started trotting forwards. They took their time, not sprinting across the distance but still covering the ground at a good clip, some with fingers hitting the ground as they loped forward on all fours.
“Then what the hell are we waiting for?” Arthur snapped, casting a glance back to the doorway. He saw no reason for them to be out, not at all.
Only to be surprised when, suddenly, the third jenglot in line fell, a leg disappearing down a hole and a sharp crack echoing through the clearing as one of its bones snapped with forward momentum.
“Traps? When . . . who . . . ?”
“You didn’t see everything we did,” Mel said. “Sometimes, you’re a little too focused.”
Arthur wanted to point out that he would definitely have seen someone digging a bloody hole in the ground, especially considering none of them had shovels, but now was not the time. For all the work they might have done on the traps, none of the others—and he assumed there were others in the ground—triggered.
“Well, that was a waste of Energy,” Rani said, grumpily.
“Now do we run? ‘Cause I’m voting we do it like a nun,” Arthur said. Even as he spoke, though, he formed an Energy Dart in his hand, raising it upward at the last moment and pointing it at the incoming horde. He chose to pick the second jenglot in line, figuring someone else was going to take the monster who had charged well ahead of the rest of them.
His Energy Dart shot out, flashing across the distance. The monster that was his target jerked and stumbled a little. Almost as though she had been waiting for that moment, Mel leapt forward, crossing half the distance and thrusting with her spear. Her body fully extended behind the weapon just moments before she used her technique, the spear extending in energy form.
It caught the front-most monster in the upper chest, missing the heart but forcing the creature to stumble and halt. She yanked the already-shrinking spearhead out with a spray of blood. Rather than stay in the frontlines, though, Mel started backpedalling.
In the meantime, Arthur’s next Energy Dart caught his own monster not in the face or upper torso but in the stomach. It tore into the monster’s guts, causing it to grip at the wound and howl in anger. It did not, however, stop its rush.
“Damn it!” Arthur cursed. He’d actually been looking to target a little lower, hoping to damage the hips.
Pulling again at his refined energy, he guided it to his forehead and third eye this time. He was backing away already, joined by the others as the monsters drew closer and were now charging. Rani snapped her hands together, then jerked it towards her chest. A hole, one that could have been easily dodged by, suddenly moved forward, the earth rippling as one monster fell. Face slamming into ground, arms caught in the hole, flipped as both arms broke.
“Gotcha!” Rani said. Only Arthur bumping into her and sending her sprawling saved her life, as the next jenglot leapt through the air, nearly tearing her head off.
Spinning on his heels, Arthur thrust his spear into its back, catching it low in its torso. Stumbling forward, Arthur kept moving, yanking his spear out to thrust again, catching the monster under its ribs as it turned. Then, as it faced him, he unleashed the Energy Dart right into its chest, watching the energy burrow deep into the body and punch through.
Its heart burst and the monster, already bleeding out, fell over.
“Come on!” Arthur cried, spinning around to face the other charging groups even as he backed towards the tower. Mel was fighting not one but two monsters, her long spear swirling around and darting outward to keep the creatures from surrounding her. She backed away, positioning herself by one of their fires to help split the monsters and keep them from finishing her off.
Rani, looking wane as she finished using her own energy, was clutching the broken end of her shortened spear, and a parang in the other hand. She held ground towards the leftmost flank, jabbing with the longer haft of the spear at the snarling crowd.
Joining Rani, Arthur kept urging the group to retreat. Knowing they had to get in before they were overwhelmed, frustrated that they had not run already. It seemed the monsters were definitely going to follow them in, judging from their frenzied howls and angry faces.
Which seemed stupid, because they only needed two more dead.