Chapter 29:

028 ┃ Divide and Conquer

The Isle of the Forgotten

Spud raced down the corridor trying to escape the stalker. Behind him, the monster pursued him like a charging rhinoceros, the floor shaking with each heavy step it took.

The boy repeated in his head what his partner had just said. Dawn trusted him. He had been training for this very moment. He couldn't let her down now.

He suddenly turned to face the stalker. He barely had time to dodge to the side as the monster lunged at him. The stone wall cracked when the beast collided with it. Yet, it seemed that the impact had barely affected the monster, as it turned instantly to look at Spud.

"Here we go," murmured Spud to himself as he unsheathed his sword.

He ran at the monster, charging with his sword in front of him. He had seen Dawn do it many times. He could do it too.

The stalker let out a screech so loud that Spud swore it was pushing him back. It raised one of its arms and swiped in front of itself, intending to hit the boy. Spud barely dodged the blow, and he was alarmed when the ground cracked from the impact. The monster's arm was as big as his body and covered with blackish skin that resembled bone.

With a shout of determination, Spud swung his sword at the monster's arm with all his strength. If he could at least cut off the limb, or even kill it, it would make Dawn's job a lot easier.

The blade sunk only a few centimeters into the beast's arm, producing a harsh sound upon impact. It had done no damage.

Spud barely had time to pull out his sword when he was shoved back by the massive stalker. He tried to break his fall as Dawn had taught him, but he ended up slamming hard against a wall, the wind knocked out of him.

He struggled to his feet, watching as the monster charged at him again.

"It's impossible," Spud admitted desperately as he tried to escape. He was on the balcony that overlooked the throne room. With no other options, he jumped just in time to avoid the monster. Thinking quickly, he drove his sword into one of the hanging tapestries, tearing it as he fell and slowing his descent.

He landed heavily on the floor. He was sweating and out of breath. At least he had bought himself a few seconds before the stalker could reach the ground floor. Or so he thought.

From the floor, he saw the massive black creature leap from the interior balcony straight at him. He barely had time to scramble out of the way as the stalker crashed onto the floor.

In the room, Dawn was having trouble defending herself from the monster. Even though it was thin and appeared fragile, it moved faster than any other stalker she had seen and had claws sharp as knives. If it weren't for her experience fighting them, it would have already sliced her to pieces.

She decided to focus on defense. The monster attacked relentlessly, trying to reach vital areas like her torso or head with its claws. Dawn blocked the attacks with her spear, retreating slightly with each hit she received. She had to wait.

At one point, the stalker opened its mouth, filled with sharp teeth, and lunged at her, tired of attacking with its claws. Dawn didn't hesitate to seize the opportunity. She deflected the beast's head with her spear and spun around to face its back. This should buy her enough time. With a wide swing, she severed one of the monster's hands with a clean cut. She had actually aimed for the head, but it had reacted faster than she expected.

The stalker looked at its severed limb and let out a disturbing screech that Dawn never got used to. It had only angered it more.

Now with even more aggression, the monster lunged at her, slashing wildly with its remaining limb. Even though it was missing an arm, it was faster and more violent than before, making it hard for Dawn to keep up. She even received a cut on her cheek for not reacting quickly enough.

Knowing she had to finish this quickly, Dawn backed up onto the balcony. Thinking it had her cornered, the stalker leaped at her with its claws raised, ready to finish her off. Dawn thrust her spear into the beast's torso. Although it didn't pierce through, it was enough.

Breathlessly, she lifted the monster with her spear and threw it off the balcony. The stalker stretched its arm trying to grab on, but it was too late. It fell down the abyss, letting out a gut-wrenching screech as it disappeared into the darkness.

Dawn leaned on her spear. It had been harder than she expected. After just a few seconds of rest, she ran out of the room to find her partner.

Spud was struggling to fend off the stalker's attacks. Although it wasn't very fast, it had tremendous strength and armor-like skin that his sword couldn't penetrate. All he could do was barely dodge its blows while waiting for Dawn.

The beast swung its fists at him, a blow that Spud barely avoided. The strike shattered the king's throne instead.

The boy was panting as he struggled to stay on his feet. If one of those hits landed again, he would surely die instantly. The stalker turned toward him and opened its massive mouth to let out a deafening roar.

An arrow pierced one of the monster's eyes, causing it to stagger in pain. Spud looked back to see his guardian angel. There was Dawn, bow raised, and her spear on her back.

"Dawn! I'm so sorry. I tried, but it's too much for me," Spud confessed, on the verge of tears.

"Don't worry, I'll handle this. You go hide," the girl ordered, brandishing her spear at the stalker.

Spud nodded and retreated to the upper floor. He felt incredibly frustrated at not being able to do anything once again, but he had tried and failed. He peeked over the inner balcony to watch the battle.

Dawn easily dodged the slow attacks of the monster. She had no trouble getting close enough to strike with her spear. With a swift movement, she thrust directly at the monster's neck.

The spear pierced, but only a few inches. Confused, Dawn couldn't avoid the creature's hand striking her full force, sending her flying through the air. When she hit the ground and struggled to her feet, the world spun around her. She put her hand to her head and was surprised when she saw it covered in blood.

The monster wasted no time. It lunged at her again, forcing her to block the blow with her spear. With each impact, Dawn felt her arms shake. She was so dizzy that she couldn't think of any way to finish the beast off. Its skin was too tough, and she had taken a heavy blow. She did her best to shield herself from the blows as she backed away.

Her back bumped into something soft. It was the wall tapestry. The monster had cornered her, and she had nowhere to run.

A. Hoshino