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Aether Beasts

Chapter 9 - 9

Chapter 9 - 9

The exit that I took to make it out of the warehouse was blocked by rubble. It was the other door in the clearing. luckily for me though, the rubble wasn"t too big and it was only the effort of about ten minutes or so to clear it all away.

The room directly after that was simply gone, as though it had been bitten in half, although from what I could tell, it was some sort of reception area, not that it mattered now. Seeing the forest again made me nervous, but Zirani"s words and my desire to make it back pushed me forward. My journey doesn"t end here and I wanted to know what had happened to everyone.

It was mid-afternoon and if I didn"t run into any interruptions then I should make it back in a few hours and before true nightfall. As much as I"d changed in the past two days, Zirani was right in that I didn"t want to be out when it hit night. This was the wilds and it was the domain of aether beasts, and there were some nasty beasts that were nocturnal hunters.

I leaned down and placed a hand on the ground, focusing. I pulled aether from my core and moved it through my body to my hand. I formed the image of a string in a sea of stone in my head, and pushed aether to its tip, creating a ball. The actions flowed easily and smoothly compared to the first few times I"d tried. The first pulse flew out in a wave around me and in seconds returned, bringing with it information from the green, from the forest.

Another wave pulsed and I continued for another two pulses before I stopped. From the information I"d gathered, there were no aether beasts within half a mile around me, in any direction, although there were a few regular animals. What was most important, though, was the tracks and disturbed plant life. Footprints, and branches, and tree limbs that had clearly been cut with a blade.

Zirani was right, this green sense was incredibly useful, and I marveled at how much I"d gotten in just a minute.

The tracks made it easy to figure out where to head, and I began moving through the forest, using the information I"d acquired from my green pulse to make the trip easier. I avoided open space, and paths that ended in blocks, choosing to weave through the trees, and areas with plenty of cover. My steps were light, I knew where leaves, other things that could cause noise, and bushes would be, allowing me to avoid making sound and be aware of potential hiding spaces.

After an hour, I leaned down and used green pulse again. This time there were aether beasts close by, two grendels, although they were stationary for the most part. I avoided them, and at one point used a lashing vine to head up a tree. I entered a very clustered part of the forest and with bark armor and lashing vine, I was able to move from tree to tree with far more ease than a normal human could.

I felt like an animal, to be honest, and it felt exhilarating in a way, using my techniques, weaving through the forest, that reminder of potential danger, a constant thought in my head.

Two hours later, and more green pulses it seemed like I was going to make it to West Vale with no trouble, unfortunately, that"s when I ran into an aether beast.

It had been sniffing the remains of what must have been some sort of animal when I stumbled across it. I almost managed to sneak by, but almost comically a twig snapped under my foot.

I sighed and took a fighting stance as the grendel turned to face me.

Grendels were hunched back humanoid creatures that looked like small people covered in brown fur. They had claws and were quite muscular. They apparently came in different sizes but around West Vale, there were only lesser grendels.

It let out a growl, that sounded part cough and charged at me, no thought, just the need to kill and eat. Grendels were dangerous, but they were stupid and one core beast with no affinity. Their cores contained only pure aether.

There was a moment of panic as it charged, and I almost stood frozen, but then almost like a jolt of electricity, everything that had happened in the past two days seemed to pass through my mind"s eyes and time seemed to slow. I dodged its swipe easily, and struck its stomach with a bark-covered fist, and swept its legs out from its feet. It fell to the ground, and Ziranis words played in my mind.

"Nature can be violent, uncaring"

A lashing whip formed in my left hand and wrapped around its throat. I pulled it up just as it was about to hit the forest floor, and brought its face to collide with my right fist. It flailed and tried to swipe at me, but I dodged and wrapped the vine around it whilst moving behind it. I pulled and shoved my knee into its back. A human would have done no damage, but I was at the first level of aether infusion. My body had been infused with aether and enhanced.

When my knee connected with the grendels back, there was a sickening crack and it howled. I let my vine disperse and the grendel dropped to its knees. I moved up and took ahold of its head, and with a vicious twist, snapped its neck.

It fell to the ground, and I stood there panting for a few seconds.

"That was good, but you shouldn"t have let it make any noise, as that will attract others and you played it out for too long. You could have ended that much quicker."

I jumped slightly as Zirani"s voice sounded in my head. I"d forgotten she could do that, and though she was right, even with the criticisms I could somehow feel her pride through our bond and I smiled at the feeling.

I didn"t spend any time trying to get the grendels core and instead headed away from the scene. Once I was far enough away, I used green pulse and continued onwards towards the town. Now that I"d fought and knew I could handle myself, at least against weaker aether beasts, I wasn"t as scared.

Fortunately, I didn"t run into any other beasts and broke out of the forest just as it was hitting evening.. Once the town was in view I increased my pace, I was in the home stretch now and I was eager to get back to my home and my aunt, who was probably worried sick.

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