Chapter 22: Arrangements
Lumian awoke to the world shrouded in a faint, gray fog.
With practiced ease, he bounded out of bed and rushed to the window. His gaze fell upon the mountain, a towering behemoth of brownish-red stones and reddish-brown soil that loomed in the wilderness beyond.
Despite its modest size, a mere twenty or thirty meters tall, the mountain seemed to stretch endlessly upwards, piercing the very heavens themselves. Lumian found himself using the words “mountain peak” to describe it, so profound was its impact on him.
Beneath its massive frame, the ruins of dilapidated structures encircled the desolate wilderness, stacked atop one another, layer upon layer.
Judging by the shotgun-wielding monster’s build, I’d say it’s highly skilled in both running and jumping. It also appears to possess a degree of intelligence, capable of wielding a weapon as complex as a shotgun…
It has incredibly strong tracking abilities, and I can’t discount the possibility that it possesses some sort of superpowers, much like Aurore…
As Lumian focused his mind, details of the target began to surface.
His initial judgment was grim—if he attempted to face the monster with the shotgun, his chance of survival was a meager 10 percent. And if he tried to utilize his special trait, it would only hasten his demise. His meditation was a double-edged sword; it pushed him to the brink of death, making him vulnerable to even the slightest strike from the enemy.
Sneak attacks and assassinations were not viable options either. The other party possessed an uncanny ability to track his movements, rendering any attempts at stealth futile. Plus, Lumian lacked the necessary equipment to mount a ranged assault. A revolver would have been a godsend.
For the past two days, Lumian had wracked his brains trying to come up with a plan. And finally, a solution presented itself: traps!
He had ventured deep into the mountains with the village hunters, where he mastered the art of setting traps. Since then, Lumian had become a pro at pulling off a few practical jokes.
Lumian’s initial plan was to use oil as a weapon. His idea was to fill a large bucket with oil, tie a rope to it, and hide it somewhere high. When his target approached, he would yank the rope, causing the bucket to tip over, drenching the unsuspecting victim with oil. Then, he would light a torch and toss it at them.
However, after some deliberation, he gave up on the idea.
On the premise that the creature had strong tracking abilities, he knew he had to overestimate its sense of smell.
The smell of oil was quite obvious, and if he used other stronger smells to cover it up, he wasn’t sure if the other party would react differently. The monster might even be able to distinguish even the slightest abnormality, like wild dogs.
In the end, Lumian chose to dig a deep pit and plant stakes at the bottom.
He knew that there was a certain problem with this plan. With the tracking abilities displayed by the monster, there was a high chance that it would discover the anomaly in advance and see through the trap.
Lumian’s response was to find a way to exploit its blind spots and lower its guard.
His weapons were inferior to the creature’s, but he hoped his intelligence could give him the upper hand. As a human, he had one advantage: his brain.
At least from our last encounter, it possesses a certain degree of intelligence, albeit not quite that high… Lumian comforted himself.
But he refused to let this lull him into a false sense of security. He would plan assuming that the creature had the cognitive abilities of an average human being.
Someone like Pons Bénet.
No, that guy’s IQ is lower than a pile of rocks. If it weren’t for all his goons, I’d have him bowing down to me and calling me daddy. After a moment of contemplation, Lumian raised his expectations of the monster. Yes, treat it like an uneducated padre.
He gazed out the window again, his eyes fixated on the wilderness between his dwelling and the ruins.
This place was closer to the “safe zone,” making it the ideal location for his hideout. However, there was no cover, leaving everything exposed in plain sight, making it unsuitable for an ambush.
“It’s fine to dig a trap, but if I use myself as bait, the other party will be able to spot me from a distance and shoot me. It won’t need to come over at all…” Lumian muttered, contemplating whether to take the risk of entering the ruins to set up a trap.
His plan took shape rapidly, with one thing left to confirm: it would take a lot of time to dig a deep pit and plant stakes below. Lumian couldn’t expect the other party to wait until he was done.
After a moment’s reflection, Lumian opened his arms and made an “embrace the Sun” gesture. He prayed more fervently than ever before.
“My God, my Father, please bless me and aid me in dealing with that monster.
“Praise the Sun!”
There was no 100% certainty for most things in the world. Lumian didn’t hesitate for a moment. He grabbed the pitchfork and axe from the bedroom and proceeded to the study.
Considering the target’s weapon, Lumian knew he had to switch up his protection gear.
He shed his cotton clothes and lashed hard-bound books to his chest and back with a rope.
This was makeshift paper armor!
He vaguely remembered his sister warning him about the potential for internal injuries, but he couldn’t afford to worry about that now.
He stretched to make sure the weight of the books wouldn’t impede his fighting abilities, then donned his leather jacket and headed down to the ground floor to gather materials for his trap.
Not long after, Lumian’s grip tightened on the shovel and bundle of ropes at his waist, one for climbing and the other for crafting rope nets to replace the tree branches.
He breathed deeply, steeling himself for what lay ahead, and gripped the iron axe in his right hand as he opened the door.
A faint gray fog crept through the wilderness as Lumian approached the mountain, the peak now dyed in blood.
Lumian made his way through the eerie silence, creeping towards the edge of the ruins.
With caution, he walked a distance to the side and tossed his shovel, pitchfork, ropes, and other gear into a dark corner of a collapsed building. With only his trusty axe in hand, he returned to the spot where he had entered the ruins.
Moving quietly and deliberately, Lumian crept deeper into the ruins without drawing attention to himself.
When he finally reached the spot where the three-faced monster had scared him off last time, he paused for nearly a minute before turning back.
Halfway there, he began to detour, circling back towards the collapsed house where he had stored his tools.
As he approached, Lumian scanned the terrain, searching for a suitable location to set up his trap.
There’s a relatively wide and short crevice here. With a little modification, it’ll make an excellent trap and save me precious time. As for the other one, well, that might take a while. But I’ll just have to hope the monster won’t find me too quickly…
Lumian retrieved his shovel and other gear, turned back to the chosen location, and set to work.
After modifying the crevice, Lumian wielded his axe and sliced off a jagged piece of wood, then inserted it into the trap’s base. He crafted a net from rope, draping it over the trap before covering it with soil, ensuring that it blended seamlessly with its surroundings.
With everything in place, he began to mimic the monster tracking him.
If this creature is as perceptive as I think it is, it will sense the trap and avoid it, perhaps leaping over it in a single bound. However, it would inevitably reach this spot…
I need to be here, so it spots me the moment it arrives… Lumian measured the distance with his feet and confirmed his line of sight before settling on a relatively intact wall.
He squatted there and confirmed his line of sight.
Then he began to dig a second trap.
This was a trap specifically designed for “normal humans.”
Lumian knew that when someone had managed to track down their target and easily realized that the other party had laid a trap for them, only to discover that the enemy was lying in wait nearby, they’d probably get cocky. Their thirst for success would overwhelm them, and they’d ignore the possibility of a second trap, eagerly lunging at their prey.
It was a classic flaw of people with pedestrian intelligence.
Lumian just prayed that the monster didn’t possess the average IQ of a human. If it did, he had no choice but to bolt. Odds were he’d be ensnared and left to die in the wild, with a slim chance of making it back to his house and hiding in the “safe zone.”
Cordu’s abnormality had forced him to make a dangerous choice.
With every passing moment, Lumian grew increasingly wary. Even though he had set up the second trap, the monster with the shotgun had yet to make an appearance.
The same held true for the other monsters.
At last, Lumian began to relax. After stowing away his shovel and other supplies, he stood tall, spreading his arms wide.
“Praise the Sun!” he exclaimed with renewed vigor.
Lumian shrank back against the wall and fell to his knee, his eyes fixated on the first trap.
There was no clear line of sight to the path he took, obstructed by a collapsed building looming in his way.
He waited there, patiently, his heart thumping in his chest. Lumian could feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins, and the sensation was unprecedented.
As a vagrant, Lumian had encountered his fair share of “enemies” who were bigger and brawnier than him. But they weren’t looking to off him; they just wanted his grub, dough, and a decent spot to catch some Z’s. Even if someone happened to die in the scuffle, it was chalked up to an unfortunate accident.
But now, the adversary he was up against was a monstrous creature that didn’t abide by human laws or morals. And it was exponentially stronger than Lumian. Hell, it might even possess a few superpowers. If his scheme went sideways, the outcome was all but certain.
Thump, thump, thump… Lumian’s heart was about to leap out of his chest.
Everyone wanted to live the good life, and Lumian was no exception.
Breathe in, breathe out… breathe in, breathe out…
Lumian tried to take deep breaths to steady his nerves, but it wasn’t helping.
Lumian hoped the monster would appear sooner, though he dreaded its arrival.
On the one hand, it could bring a quick resolution to this situation, regardless of whether the outcome was positive or negative. At least then he wouldn’t be as anxious as he was now, almost at the point of breaking down. On the other hand, fear gripped him tightly.
Realizing that he couldn’t go on like this, he reminded himself, I can’t burden Aurore with my fears. With that, he attempted to meditate, focusing all his energy on the task.
Although it proved more challenging than before, Lumian eventually managed to outline the crimson sun in his mind.
The mere sight of it eased his nerves somewhat, yet he still trembled with fear.
Suddenly, he heard a faint rustling sound.
It was as if a shepherd was approaching quietly through a nearby pasture, hidden from view.
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