Coming up to the second orang minyak village while forest trolls were awake was very different from their expedition to the first village. Rather than running into numerous scouting parties of orang minyak, Arthur’s team had to deal with these mushroom-trolls. Yet, the time invested beforehand to get everyone to their second transformation had proven its worth; each troll group was dealt with in quick order.
When they got within a few hundred feet of the village, the team ran into the remnant of a battle between a bolstered orang minyak scouting party and a group of trolls. The oily humanoid creatures were in the midst of feasting on the bodies of the fallen—of both species—when Arthur’s party launched their attack, Rick’s massive crossbow bolt tearing through and nearly beheading its first target. Smaller slingstones caught creatures as they stood and thrown javelins nearly finished off half the group.
After that, the team’s melee fighters closed in and mopped up the last few monsters. Rather than wait and potentially be found out, the team stripped the monsters of their cores quickly before forging ahead to the low-slung, less protected village.
This time around, the group chose to split their forces. Not too far apart, and with a wide enough distance between the parties such that they could offer mutual aid if necessary. The reason for that change of tactics was one simple factor: the majority of the creatures were hiding within their ramshackle huts from the rain, staying out of sight rather than keeping watch for invaders.
In this way, the team intended to ghost through the village and strike at the huts, tearing into the monsters in small numbers before they could group together and react. That, hopefully, would mean that the larger-than-normal numbers in the village would be less of a factor, since the scouts were pulled in.
“Ready?” Arthur looked around, checking on his team. Following him were Casey, Lam, and Yao Jing. The other small strike team with Jan, Mel, Uswah, and Rick were already moving to the nearest hut. He waited a second, noting that Rick had raised and loosed a crossbow bolt into the village. Arthur’s breath caught as he waited for shouts or screams, but nothing arose.
Whoever Rick had taken out, their dying had not breached the thunder and constant patter of rain. Exhaling, he waved his own team on. He chose to stay outside as they swept in. The cry of surprised orang minyak and the clash of blades barely escaped the hut.
But it was not entirely quiet. From a nearby hut, a head poked out. Arthur sent a Refined Energy Dart at the creature, catching it on the forehead. But unlike Rick’s massive crossbow bolt, his attack was insufficient to kill the other immediately. The orang minyak staggered back, clutching its face and keening loudly.
“Shit! On me,” Arthur cried, sprinting forward and thrusting his spear. This time, his attack was fatal, Focused Strike piercing chest and heart with ease, and the monster slumped over, dead. Arthur’s spear was battered down a moment later by another creature who had emerged from the hut, already shouting.
“No good, no good.” He cursed, letting the spear fall to the ground from numbed fingers. Instead, he snatched the cursed kris from his belt and swiped it across throat, ducking under and back as he backpedaled. His opponent clutched a bloodied throat, the curse of poison working its way deeper and freezing vocal chords.
Then another lunge, followed by a series of quick thrusts and cuts. Arthur felt the Heavenly Sage’s Mischief surge through his body at his beckoning as he held the ground against the orang minyak that kept trying to exit the hut. His strength now matched the monster, who was wounded and poisoned.
He held the line, even as the clatter and clamour from within the hut grew. Just as the rest of his team arrived, one of the monsters from within gave up on the door. It crashed through the side of the makeshift hut, causing the rest of it to begin collapsing, only to face the weapons of his team.
Surprise distracted Arthur’s opponent, allowing him to step in and shove his kris deep into the creature’s heart. Leaving the weapon in it, he ducked low and grabbed his spear from the ground, retreating only after he retrieved both weapons.
Then Arthur scanned the surroundings. Unsurprisingly, nearby huts had orang minyak exiting. They were slow in coming out, surprise slowing their reactions down. Even if the struggle with his opponent felt like it had taken forever, he knew that was just the distorted sense of time that happened during a fight. In reality, not even a minute had passed.
Rather than wait for the creatures to regain their footing, Arthur took the fight to the nearest. He took off at a run, spinning his spear to clip an emerging head in the temple before he leapt into the sky, thrusting as he did so with the weapon to extend his reach.
Surprise caught his next opponent, spearhead punching through the monster’s futile defence. Then, landing easily and only stumbling a little as his feet skidded in the mud, Arthur was beset on both sides. Behind, his team hurried to catch up and strike while the creatures were yet to rally. Monster after monster fell, but soon, even amidst the panting of monster and human, the constant drumbeat of falling rain and the rumble of thunder, cries of surprise took hold, echoing.
That, of course, was when Rick’s weapons of choice were unleashed.
A new thunder filled the surroundings, the hammer of bullets falling on furred, oiled bodies and dropping them one after the other. Flashes of light filled the night sky, strobing as flashes of light exploded from muzzles in the twilight of heavy rain.
Before, as suddenly as it began, the battle was over.
Perhaps it did not go entirely as they had planned, but it was easier—so much easier—than the first village. Soon enough, they regrouped, pouches bulging from extracted cores.
“Next?” Casey said.
“Yes. One more village, then the real test,” Arthur confirmed.
Perhaps, just perhaps, this idea of a speedrun was not entirely insane.