~ Chapter 3: A tragic hunt ~
Thick bushes and big, old trees were all the two elves could see wherever they looked. Their tracks could easily be lost among the tall, dense grass covering the ground. Above them, the sky could barely be spotted through a few holes in the lush crowns of leafs. Each step they took was as silent as a panther’s prowl, but the strong scent of the pouch hanging on Knox’s belt made it a bit tricky for them to hide their tracks. Because of this, they moved with the wind blowing at their backs to carry the smell through the thick forest in front of them. Eventually, a Dayuk would pick it up, and the two boys would be able to hear it coming.
Of course, there was the option of going against the wind and spreading the scent behind them, but that was only when hunting herbivores like deer. Initially, this was Anwen’s idea, but Knox was the one holding the bait, and he decided against it, simply stating that a Dayuk wasn’t a grass-eater.
“Can you hear anything?” Anwen asked in a whisper.
Knox furrowed his brow and twitched his ears.
“Nothing yet. And keep quiet! If I fail this because of you, I’ll cut the tip of your ears.” he replied and glared back at the boy.
Anwen wasn’t impressed by his threat.
A couple of minutes later, they both heard a low growl coming from ahead. It wasn’t very loud, but something was definitely closing in on them at an alarming speed. For Anwen, this was the first time he ever heard a predator’s growl in real life, but he recognized it from movies and internet clips he watched back in his world. As for Knox, he placed a finger over his lips and signaled to move to the left. Anwen nodded and moved behind a nearby bush, meanwhile, the other elf took the bait pouch and tossed it at a tree a few meters away from him.
The beast ahead of them heard the thump and dashed towards its potential prey, but it didn’t take a straight path as the boys initially thought. The Dayuk headed towards Anwen, but it didn’t sense him, yet. It jumped over the bush, nearly touching the boy’s head.
What the… Anwen thought surprised when he saw the two meters tall wolf land in front of him and then running towards the bait.
His heart started to pound like crazy, adrenaline being released in his blood, while a wave of fear rushed down his spine. Being so close to a vicious predator was no joking manner, and for the first time in his life, Anwen realized just how close to death he really was.
While the elf trembled in his spot, Knox was focused on his prey and didn’t show to be afraid. The Dayuk found the bait pouch with ease and sniffed it a few times, but strange enough… he let out a small whimper. Shaking his head, he growled at the bait and then used his big clawed paw to toss it aside, scratching the ground a bit as well.
At first sight, the monster looked just like an oversized mean wolf, but his fur was light in color, with a tinge of dark brown on his back and the top of his paws. From his forehead, a big horn grew up towards the sky. It was about 20 cm long and similar to an antelope’s horn. There were a few scratches on it to show that the beast used it for more than just showing off. It was an actual weapon the Dayuk could use in battle.
“HAH!” Knox shouted as he jumped at the wolf from the bush, startling Anwen.
The sharp blade came down at the beast, but he noticed him at the very last second and moved out of its way. Landing on all fours, the Dayuk let out a fierce growl and then pointed his horn at the boy, marking him as his next victim.
“Tch! It dodged.” said Knox annoyed.
The wolf measured him with his eyes and took a step to the left, while Knox moved together with him staring straight into his eyes. The two were getting ready for the next strike, the first to move would be the attacker, while the other would be the defender. It was an easy game in which Knox took the first step.
With one jump towards the Dayuk, the elf tried to slash at his paws, but the wolf dodged again and attempted to stab him with his horn, but the attack missed. Landing next to him, Knox made another attempted to hit him again, only this time it worked. The wolf’s left hind leg was cut at the thigh, a gaping wound was formed in his flesh. Red, thick blood poured out, tainting his fur.
“YELP!” the Dayuk cub sensed the pain and tried to move back.
“Good! It’s injured!” grinned the boy.
He was far from dead though, so he bared his teeth at him and tried to bite the elf’s right leg. Knox narrowly avoided it by moving back, but this allowed him to strike and land a hit with the hilt of his sword in the right eye of the beast. Yelping again, he used his paw to hit the boy. Knox couldn’t avoid this one and was tossed to the side.
“Gah!” he groaned as he rolled on the ground a few times, but he wasn’t injured, just a bit dazed.
Seeing Knox in danger, Anwen gripped the hilt of his sword and jumped at the wolf. Without shouting or screaming, he closed his eyes and pushed the blade forward.
“YELP!” the Dayuk’s scream was heard.
Opening his eyes, Anwen saw the red blood pouring around the blade stuck in the open wound on his abdomen. The once light-brown fur was now tainted and smelled of iron.
Did I? Did I kill it? he asked himself, but looking to his right, he saw the look in the wolf’s eyes.
It wasn’t anger… it was fear.
Another yelp was heard as the cub pulled back from him, trying to run away. He was injured, he was in pain, and the bleeding showed no signs of stopping.
“Good job!” shouted Knox at him.
Anwen didn’t hear him, he simply looked at the Dayuk as he tried to limp away, yelping and looking desperately for a way out from the prey turned predator.
In that moment, he remembered what Luca told him about this stage set for them. It was a hunt in which only the cubs were left.
It looks dangerous, but… but that’s a puppy… he thought and then a few thoughts passed through his mind, the reasons as to why the cub was here.
If his parents were hunted or chased away, he was maybe searching for them. He remembered how he reacted to the bait, and Anwen wondered if what they were carrying around wasn’t actually a piece of meat from the hunted Dayuks.
The elf gulped and looked down at his hands. They weren’t tainted with blood, but the tip of his sword was. Then he looked at the whining cub as it limped away, calling out for help from parents who didn’t exist anymore.
But its a beast… it’s just a monster, right? Anwen thought, trying to console his shaken heart.
“Get out of the way, Anwen!” shouted Knox.
Blinking surprised, he looked over at the boy and saw him staring at the wolf cub with his hand on the hilt of his sword. A strange red energy was gathering around it.
“Anwen! MOVE!” he shouted again, and the boy listened.
What is he doing? Anwen asked himself as he stepped out of his way.
The energy started to crackle and take the form of small flames licking the scabbard of his sword.
“My name is my power! My name is Knox, and with it, I shall take down my foes!” shouted the elf and then drew his sword.
Fires raged around the blade. The Dayuk cub turned around and started to whine. Afraid of those flames, he pulled back, lowering his head and flattening his ears back. The cub was scared and knew this was the end.
“HAH!” Knox attacked.
In front of Anwen, nothing short but an execution took place…
The sword covered in flames slashed through the air, cutting it apart and hitting the beast. A final yelp was released as the fire burned his flesh, cutting through it like a knife would through butter. The distance between the two was of about four meters, but the sword didn’t even need to physically touch the wolf to strike him down.
Once the attack was over, the flames vanished, including those eating at the corpse of the wolf. It was over.
“See! That’s my power!” said Knox with a smirk as he walked over to his prize.
Now that they had defeated the Dayuk, all that was left to do was to bring back some sort of proof. That would be the horn on top of its head and a small claw. Knox was the one who took them, while Anwen walked over to where the bait pouch was tossed.
It didn’t take long for him to find it. The smell gave away its location in a moment. Picking it up, he went against Luca’s order and opened it. What he saw inside made his stomach turn. It was an eye, a wolf’s eyes.
This… he thought, but simply looked away.
Tying it back, he walked over to Knox. The dead cub next to the elf felt strangely wrong for Anwen, but this world had other rules. He had no right to say anything if he wanted to survive and grow stronger.
If I want to rise up in ranks, I guess I have to obey these strange laws… I have to accept the truth of this world. he thought to himself, but his heart felt torn apart between the idea of surviving by obeying the orders or doing the right thing. For now, the latter lost in a battle of importance.
“We should head back now…” said Knox as he took out a piece of cloth to wipe the blood off the freshly cut horn.
“Yeah…” Anwen said and forced himself not to look back at their kill.
While they walked through the forest, following a seemingly invisible path only Knox knew, the two boys didn’t say a single word to each other. They kept walking, taking step after step, in silence, while the smell of fresh blood lingered around them.
More than once, Anwen tried to say something, to ask Knox about this world, but he feared that if he did such a thing, it would give the elf more reasons to suspect him for not being whom he said he was. He could only clench his fists and stare at the ground.
When they nearly reached the point where they split up from the others, they heard a loud scream. It would have been faint, almost impossible to perceive for a human ear, but not for theirs.
“That’s Lira!” said Knox after a moment as worry and fear appeared on the boy’s usual smug expression.
Both of them ran towards the direction of the scream, while praying she and the instructor were alright.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
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