A massive jenglot dominated the center of the room, nearly half a size bigger than its three companions. At full extension, it would have knocked its head against the ceiling. Which was probably why it was crouched.
Or maybe it was trying very, very hard to deal with Mel and her team. Despite his pessimism, the trio of women they had searched so long for were all here. Worse for wear, it looked like, but still alive.
Rani’s spear was broken, but she still fought with both ends; she had tied broken-off claws to one end as a short makeshift spear. Mel was showing much of her pale skin, most of her clothing having been turned into bandages for the other women. Daiyu looked the worst, her right foot dragging and bleeding as she fended off the monsters closing in on them from behind.
“Hold on!” Sharmila cried out, already running to meet the jenglot. She raised her spear, leaping the remaining distance and plunging her weapon into the nearest monster’s body. It cried, rearing backwards as it tried to grab its assailant.
Another of the jenglot turned away from the fight, growling at the new group. Jan swirled her parang around, gesturing at the monster to close in on her. At the same time, Uswah moved to flank her, leaving Arthur the only one who still hanging back.
He scanned the ongoing battle, trying to figure out what was going on as he started shifting to flank the group. Together, Uswah and Jan were fighting a single jenglot, wearing it down but unable to land a killing blow. In the meantime, Mel, freed up from handling four monsters at a time had turned around and focused on taking down one by herself while Daiyu and Rani held off the largest jenglot.
Having assessed what was happening, Arthur made a decision. He circled the fight towards Daiyu and Rani, who were struggling to hold off their monster. After all, Daiyu was badly injured and Rani looked exhausted. Each blow that they blocked made it seem like they were going to fall over.
Once he was in position, he ran forward as silently as he could, keeping himself as low to the ground to dodge the monsters’ awareness. Unfortunately, the larger creature seemed to sense him long before Arthur could reach it, bounding backwards and away from the girls.
Undeterred, Arthur kept moving forward, watching as the jenglot pulled away from the women, far enough that Rani finally collapsed to the ground, breathing hard and leaning on one butt end of her broken spear. Arthur winced, having hoped for some help but he kept moving. Then he realized that the damn monster had stopped in its tracks.
“Smart bastard, aren’t you?” Arthur grumbled under his breath as he planted a foot forward and thrust with his spear, using the full momentum of his movement. The spear shot toward the monster’s throat controlled only by one hand.
Only for it to be batted aside with casual disregard by one claw. The monster snarled and strode forward, attempting to catch Arthur off-guard.
But he kept the momentum, spinning his own body and shortening his grip on the spear haft. Swinging the weapon above-head, he blocked a claw attack, then stabbed up at the jenglot’s thigh. Now that he was certain of the creature’s speed, he poured energy into his body, triggering the Heavenly Sage’s Mischief to increase his speed and attack form.
The tip of the spear tore the inside thigh, the empowered attack easily parting monstrous flesh and defense. Arthur stepped away a single step after so that he could put his point at the back of the monster’s chest. It stopped the monster from approaching closer, even when it tried to unleash strikes from both claws. Ducking low, Arthur kept moving, using the haft and his positioning to block the attacks.
A half-dozen passes and Arthur received nearly half as many wounds, the claws leaving lines of blood all along his body. Even with his boosted attributes, he found himself struggling. His own return attacks had left a few stabs in the monster’s body but nothing fatal or damaging enough to make it stop or slow down.
Bu the battle all around had the group slowly winning, whittling the monsters down. The jenglot who were so powerful could not be ended with a single attack, so Arthur and the women had to bleed them, cripple them with repeated attacks that took muscles and tendons and senses with each successful hit.
Yet, the jenglot were so strong that a single claw attack could end them if it landed right. It was a dangerous game they played, and Arthur, after a further clash of staff and claws, chose to switch it up.
He reversed his spear and stabbed deep into the monster’s foot, causing it to rear backwards. Then, in the gap, Arthur stabbed again, this time sinking deep into the monster’s knee, crippling the monster.
Then, before it could recover, Arthur skipped to the side, thrusting again at the monster’s raised arm. He stabbed it deep between the bicep and bone, tearing sideways and ripping a gap. He jumped backward then, and wobbled on his footing for a moment.
The jenglot on the ground threw itself at Arthur, trying to take advantage of the moment, only for Arthur to stabilize immediately and hop up high. Before the monster could claw his legs apart, Arthur swung the weapon down onto its head. He smashed the haft on the back of its skull, crushing the monster’s face to the ground. Then, landing smoothly, he sidestepped around the clawing and twitching hands to drive his spear into the monster’s neck before retreating the rest of the way.
Looking up, he scanned the group, searching for his next opponent. Mel was already done with hers, the monster on the ground and clutching its chest. On the other hand, Jan and Uswah’s was still standing, though Mel was moving to flank it. Which left . . .
“Hold on, Shar!” Arthur called out, rushing in from behind. The monster looked up at the cry, spotting Arthur and turned to watch as he ran over. Which was what he wanted, because in the few moments when the monster wasn’t trying to claw Shar, she managed to bury a knife into the monster’s lower body.
The monster reared, the pain from getting stabbed in the back causing it to jerk backwards. Arthur sent his spear into the monster’s chest, grimacing as the end wobbled a little to sink into the creature’s left lung.
The monster staggered further, then ripped the spearhead from its body before tumbling backward. Shar, moving a little too late, didn’t manage to get out before it crashed down on her, trapping her. She let out a cry of pain, trying to scramble out even as Arthur turned to search for more jenglot.
Only to find that none of the monsters were still standing. Even the one he’d left injured but still alive had expired in the meantime. Their own team were all alive, none injured fatally.
A situation that Arthur found surprising to the extreme. If gratefully so.
Cutting the flow of energy to Heavenly Sage’s Mischief, he found himself flopping to the ground moments later as the battle took its toll.