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77 The Woodmen

 Day 3 - 8:14 AM - Molino Boulevard, Bayanan, Bacoor City, Cavite

After getting ready, Mark sat beside the door of the vehicle with Abbygale beside him. Mei and the two kids were intently watching the monitor as Mei unskillfully maneuvered the Drone over the infected.

About ten minutes after Mei and the children started luring the infected away, she finally managed to lure the majority of the infected in front of the city hall towards the back of the building. It was then that Odelina stepped on the gas pedal and drove the vehicle towards their destination.

Along the road, Odelina mercilessly mowed down the infected that blocked the path of the car. The vehicle would rock every now and then but there were times that the shaking was unbearable. Those situations happened when Odelina ran over the infected with wood like skin. It felt like they were ramming the car on something very heavy, like a small tree.

Adding these infected to his list, Mark decided to call them the "Woodmen".

Arriving at the destination which was the office area of the gymnasium at the north of the City Hall, Mark quickly opened the door of bolted off. He started shooting the incoming infected specifically, the Biters as they move closer than the other infected.

Mark's eyes became sharper and his movements became faster. He was using his adrenaline rush! He aimed at the heads of the infected as accurate as he could. Also with the short distance between him and the infected, it was unlikely for him to miss his shots too much. It was not like he was aiming as several hundred meters away with his bare eyes. He would surely miss if that was the case.

While Mark was shooting the infected, he and Abbygale entered the broken glass walls of the office reception. It was then that Odelina moved according to the plan. She made a U-turn with the vehicle and sped off out of the compound. It was to ensure that the vehicle would not get swarmed over by the infected just because they had to wait for Mark and Abbygale.

***

Going back to the place where they parked the vehicle earlier, Odelina started to do other things Mark ordered her to. It was to teach Mei and her children at least how to fire a pistol.

When Mark asked her before if she could use a gun, she readily nodded. It was because one of her late husband's hobbies was hanging out on a shooting clubs and practicing shooting with any kind of gun. Before they had their children, there were several times that he would bring her along with him and taught him how to.

As they had just returned from the compound, it could not be helped that there were infected chasing after their vehicle.

Using a pistol, Odelina unhesitatingly shot the Biters closing in without batting an eyelid. She left the slow moving ones for the training of the three. Looking at her skills when shooting the Biters, it was obvious that she had a higher level of gun skills compared to Mark.

Odelina taught the three how to shoot the gun one by one. Of course, it could not be done in one session. Mei and her children were flinching for every shot they made with the pistol. There was another thing to Mei though. It seemed that she could use the pistol crossbow Mark made for her than the gun. She managed to kill several Eaters when she used the crossbow but she missed all her shots with the gun.

The children also managed to shoot the gun at the zombies but the ratio of the shot hitting the infected was very low. In the end, the arm of the children had already become sore due to the recoil of the gun and Odelina had to finish the remaining infected by herself. As the Eaters were not really much of a threat, a grey gauntlet made of grey bone slowly emerged from Odelina's hands and she started punching the infected. The punches looked clumsy but as a Mutator, her strength was not a joke.

When they cleared all the infected around them, Mei rushed back to the vehicle to monitor the situation around the City Hall. She launched the drone she made to land on the rooftop of the gymnasium once more and patrolled the area. When she saw the situation, she panicked as she immediately reached for the radio.

***

While Odelina and the rest had good time learning how to use a pistol, the situation on Mark and Abbygale's side was not that smooth sailing.

The infected outside the office were flocking into the office without stop. The sounds created by the pieces of glass walls on the floor being stepped on by the infected coming in were attracting even more infected.

The M16 Assault rifle he was using, even if equipped with a suppressor, was still making sounds enough to attract the infected nearby.

Mark continuously shot the infected as they retreated further inside the office.

Even while he was shooting the infected, there were still times that one or two would still manage to come closer to them at directions he was not facing. At those situations, a red blurry shadow would charge at the incoming infected. By the time Mark faced the infected that came closer, he saw Abbygale's shoe planted on the infected's face snapping its head backwards.

However, it was not the large number of infected that gave them the worst headache. It was the Woodmen.

As they were closer, Mark could see the features of the Woodmen clearly. Their skin totally turned into wood with a texture of a tree bark. They were slow, even slower than the Eaters. It looked like that their wood like bodies were hindering them from moving freely.

It was fine since the Woodmen were slow but the problem here was their skin being too sturdy and thick, like a tree. Their bodies were also too heavy. Another thing was their mouths were non-existent. Mark could not think of where these mutated infected was able to get the energy to move. Photosynthesis? Mark, did not know they did not seem to have leaves on their bodies though.

Two Woodmen blocked them from going further into the hallway. Mark shot a single burst onto one of the Woodmen's head but the shot mutated infected only staggered backwards without even falling. It regained its balance and continued moving towards Mark. He could see the bullets being stuck on its forehead and the white colored blood flowing out of its wounds. Rather than blood, it looked more like tree sap.

A Biter came rushing from the reception area of the office making Mark turn back to deal with the Biter. As the Biter was too close, Mark did not use the long bodied rifle but slashed the Biter decapitating its head.

Mark turned back at the two woodmen and hacked the neck of the nearest one with the machete. It almost made him curse.

"Tsk!"

The sensation it gave him as the machete made contact with the Woodman's neck was the same sensation he felt when he was chopping firewood! It did not only fail to hack its head off but the machete almost got stuck!

At that moment, Abbygale charged with fast speed towards the Woodman. She jumped towards the wall and used it to propel herself to the side of the Woodman and kicked it on the part of its head where the ears should be located.

The kicked Woodman was pushed back by the impact of the kick and staggered. However, it still did not fall down. What tenacity!

Still, the impact by the kick still pushed it enough for Mark and Abbygale to slip past the hallway. It was a good thing though. With the heavy and sturdy Woodmen blocking the hallway, it would be harder for the infected outside to chase after them.

Mark and Abbygale entered a wide corridor. He knew they were near the area behind the stage inside the gymnasium. The stairs going up should be just around the corner. Why did he know? He had entered this place several times before! Most of the time it happened was before local elections in the past years!

As they were about to continue running, the radio in Mark's belt vibrated. He hacked an incoming Eater's neck and took out the radio.

"Mei'er? Is something wrong?"

He just finished his question when he immediately heard Mei's panicked voice.

"Gege! Hurry and escape, the large infected behind the City Hall is coming your direction!"

"What!"

Mark was surprised. They had not even arrived at the stairs up to the second floor! Furthermore, the suspended pathway that connected this building to the City Hall was all the way to the third floor!

"Gege! Hurry! It's already nearby the corner of the City Hall!"

"Mei'er! I won't turn off the radio so update me with the situation!"

"Ok!"

Mark stored the radio back into his belt but did not turn it off or muted it. He then turned to the little girl.

"Gale, you heard her. We're going to speed up."

The little girl nodded.

Even if Mark said that to Abbygale, he knew that the only one who needed to speed up was him!

The father and daughter duo ran towards the stairs and climbed it. As they were half way to the second floor, an Eater came shambling towards them from the second floor. Mark dodged sideways and kicked the Eater's back making the infected tumble down to the end of the stairs below. The Eater's head strongly slammed onto the floor creating a bloody mess.

As they were in a hurry, Mark did not spend his time on killing the infected on the way. He would just kick their knees and legs making them fall unto the floor and continued running. Mei continued on relaying the situation outside as they ran.

When he reached the third floor, he heard Mei.

"Gege! It's already outside the building you are in! It's trying to reach the pathway!"

'Well, sh*t.'

Mark and Abbygale rushed across the hallway of the third floor. Luckily, as the third floor, there were almost no infected inside. They only encountered two Eaters before they found the door to the pathway.

The door was locked but they could hear a banging sound coming from the outside.

"It's smashing the foundation of the pathway! Gege, hurry up! There are cracks on the foundation already!"

Time was the essence! Mark unleashed a burst of shots on the lock of the door and kicked it open. When the door opened, he could feel the floor shaking.

BAM! BAM!

"What the hell does it want from us?! It should go back on guarding that fruit!"

Mark said as he could see some leaves sticking from the outside of the pathway. He was sure that it was the leafy head of the Level 2-Mutation Woodman.

"Gale! We're running!"

Despite the shaking pathway and the loud banging sounds from below, they started running across the suspended pathway.

As they ran across, Mark looked to his left and could see the Mutant Woodman staring at him from below.

'What the heck!'

Mark was sure that it was staring at him. Its stare was even following him as ran across!

However, the actions of the Mutant Woodman did not conform to the normal behavior of the infected. It saw Mark and Abbygale running but did not blindly chase them. It actually continued smashing on the foundation of the pathway! It even smashed harder as it saw the two!

Mark almost lost balance and had to grab the railing beside him due to the extreme shaking of the pathway. The cement on the floor even started to crack.

"Not good!"

Despite the loss of balance, Mark continued to push on without looking back. He could hear the loud smashing behind him and even started to hear creaking sounds as the metal supports of the pathway started to lose its foundation.

"Papa, hurry up!"

"Gege!"

Mark could hear the shouting of Abbygale who should have already run towards the other end of the pathway but ran back to him and Mei who was watching from the vehicle using the drone that came flying just a meter to his right.

He looked at Abbygale for a bit and felt a little amazed and even envious. The little girl was not even a little bit affected by the shaking!

By the time he managed to get to the end of the pathway, the foundation crumbled. The heavy remains of the foundation pulled the rest of the pathway down almost breaking its connection to the building beside the gymnasium. The cement floor on the pathway also crumbled as the metal supports started to twist.

Mark looked at the destroyed pathway. He did not feel nervous but it was still a dangerous situation. This pathway could not be used anymore.

Seeing that the prey successfully traversed the pathway, the Mutant Woodman seemed to have lost interest for some reason.

Mark and the Mutant Woodman stared at each other for a few seconds. He actually had the notion to give the aggravating infected with a few shots of his assault rifle but stopped as it did not seem to have interest to continue attacking.

Leaving the staring contest, Mark entered the door behind him with Abbygale after bashing the lock open.