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173 The Stone Clad Woman

 Day 6 - 8:17 PM - Southbound E3 Expressway, Parañaque, Metro Manila

Using the dump trucks and the military trucks as the outer defensive cover, the smaller vehicles managed to hide in the inner rows. The soldiers and policemen hid behind the trucks observing the two large monsters fighting just two hundred meters away from them. Not a single one of them wanted to shoot even a single shot at the monsters. The same was for the refugees and other personnel. Everyone felt nervous but all they could do was cover their own mouths trying not to make any sound.

Just a single loud sound they made could lead to everyone's demise at this moment.

Mark, hiding behind the MB Sprinter was tightly frowning. Everything deviated too much from what should have happened.

The scene in his dream, the crushed vehicles, the disembodied Irene, the killed Captain Dela Rosa and Keene, the death of Odelina, Abbygale and Iola... Mei's body that was punched with a hole on her chest...

All was done by that woman in clad in stone.

He could never forget that...

Yet, what in the world was that frog head?

Mark was gravely mistaken...

The future changed in a horrible way. Futhremore, he judged the enemy from his premonition wrongly. The stone clad woman was not an infected but was actually a Failed Mutator...

No wonder...

Mark felt laughing.

It was no wonder why that stone woman killed everyone first before trying to kill him. Not different from normal Mutators, the savage consciousness of Failed Mutators also had a dominating emotion or trait on their minds. That consciousness also had intelligence and mindset different from the ones the original consciousness had. Like Odelina's who was "Bloodthirsty" and Laelaps' who was "Ferocious". When the two were saved before their consciousness was fully consumed, Odelina changed into "Loyalty" and Laelaps with "Independence".

What the stone clad on her subconscious was...

"Torment..."

She wanted to torment her enemies as much as possible before killing them.

Irene was killed before Keene and Captain Dela Rosa to torment the two. He was the last one to be killed because that stone clad woman wanted to torment him the same way.

However, how could that stone clad woman knew the torment that the others were feeling? Unless...

That woman was also an Empath! It was also the reason that the frog headed infected was attacking her!

"Sh*t!"

Mark's eyes dilated in that realization and he suddenly looked at that stone clad woman from behind the vehicle.

The woman threw a large debris towards the frog headed infected and was facing her enemy. Yet, Mark could feel that most of her attention was actually targeted towards them! He now noticed. Their fight was closing in towards them not by chance but because the stone clad woman was actually approaching their direction despite being hindered by her enemy.

She knew that there were people here!

Mark's grave expression did not escape Mei who was beside him.

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Mei's voice snapped him back.

Mark looked beside him and saw Mei, Odelina, Abbygale and Iola staring at him with worried and scared expressions. He patted the head of the two girls and gave a tight hug at Mei who did not feel happy at that hug at all. That hug however, was not just to try and cheer up Mei but to also calm him mind.

The people around them who saw Mark did that were not confused at all. Rather, they thought that Mark had already given up and were saying final words to his loved ones. They felt the same. Those two monsters in front of them was not something they could survive.

Mark released Mei and did not speak and just patted her head. Mei on the other hand stared at him as he took out a radio.

"Captain Dela Rosa, are you there?"

Mark spoke at the radio. During the time they were lining up the vehicles into formation, he heard from the radio that the soldiers had already called for reinforcements from Bay City. They also made another contact after they finally had visuals of the two Unknowns in front.

"This voice... Mark?"

Captain Dela Rosa's voice sounded from the radio along with the noisy background.

"How long will it take till the reinforcements from Bay City arrive here?"

"They said that it would take about fifteen to twenty minutes."

Dismay filled Captain Dela Rosa's voice.

"That's too long."

"We know but we have no choice but to wait."

Mark did not speak anymore. He knew far more than the soldiers knew about what was happening.

The road was blocked and returning was not possible. To escape on foot? The stone clad woman was an Empath. It was very likely that she could also detect people like how he did. The last option was to fight and it would surely lead to everyone's death. Even escaping while a few people stay behind to defend was also not plausible. It would be easy for the enemy to annihilate the people that stayed before pursuing the ones that escaped.

The only option left was for him to distract the two away from this place and there was no other person that would be able to do that aside from him. If it was a normal person that would do that, the frog headed infected might follow but not the stone clad woman since there were more people here. If Mark was the one to do it, he could make that woman detect that he was also an Empath and it was likely for her to chase after him. For the same reason, the frog headed infected would surely come after him.

DRAAAAAAA!!!

A shriek like roar was released out of the stone clad woman's mouth. That scream made Mark tense up as he suddenly jumped into action. He hurriedly grabbed Mei and the two girls along with Odelina. He pulled them down crouching to the ground behind the MB Sprinter.

BAM! BAM! CRASH! BAM! TAM!

A plethora of sounds echoed everywhere which caught everyone off guard. Even the soldiers who were attentively watching the fight between the two monsters were not able to react.

Soon, the people were greeted to a devastating sight along with shocked and frightened shrieks to painful screams and moans.

After he was sure that the sounds had stopped with only the screams and shouts left, Mark let the four stand up. What greeted them now around them was the horrifying sight.

Broken windows and large gaping holes on the vehicles and cracks on the asphalt road were already mild. For the unlucky ones, quite a large number of soldiers, policemen and the refugees died on the spot while a larger number of people were injured. Most of them even died inside their vehicles letting their blood drip out of the doors and splash on the windows.

"Master, what happened?"

Odelina was too shocked. Everything was fine just now but her master only pulled them down for several seconds and the things made a horrible turn. They then saw Mark pick up something on the ground not far from them. It was a pointed rock about the size of an eight hundrem mililiter soda bottle. Similar looking stones also littered the road. Seeing the rock made Odelina look towards the stone clad woman and she saw that the silhouette of the woman was somehow thinner. It was as if she cast off a few layers of her stone armor.

It was then that the people inside the MB Sprinter went out one by one in panic.

"Why are you all going out? It's dangerous!"

Odelina hurriedly intercepted them since her two children also ran out.

"Mom! Something hit the roof of the car!"

The scared Odette hurriedly hugged her mother and complained. What the girl said however made Odelina feel cold sweat on her back. The other vehicles were damaged and people even died. What ever happened, everyone was within the range of attack. She frantically wanted to check the damage on the vehicle.

Mark's voice suddenly cut her off.

"Don't worry. Our vehicles are right behind the dump truck, that attack won't directly hit our cars. All you have to be worried about are stones falling from above."

It was part of Mark's arrangement and not only the MB Sprinter but also the vehicles of his friends along with Monique and Harvey's were all hidden behind the thick plated dump trucks.

He was expecting that and it was not a one-time attack either. It was the AOE attack of that stone clad woman which caused most of the casualties and damage in his dream. It was a rain of stones. Her body would tense up along with a shriek like roar and her stone armor would spit up into pointed pieces like a hedgehog. Those pointed stones would then shot away from her body at fast speeds. The each stone projectile was fast and strong enough to penetrate even armored vehicles in a direct hit but in the least, the falling stones would not. It was likely that she used that attack to deal damage to both the frog headed infected and to them who were watching.

"Boss, are you hiding something from us?"

Melissa who also ran out of the vehicle asked. Her question immediately stirred up the crowed. After all, that previous attack also hit their vehicle and the result to the others was devastating. They could even see the frantic refugees asking for help dragging their heavily injured loved ones, the soldiers that were hurriedly running here and there and there were even dead people around with large gaping holes on their bodies.

Mark's actions since earlier were too odd especially when he suddenly pulled Mei and the others down to take cover. That action was too timely to the sudden attack despite the fact that he was not facing the battle at that time. Along with that attitude and explanation... It was as if he knew what was going to happen.

After shaking his head, Mark stared at Melissa.

"It's better for all of you to not know. You all should return inside the car. It might be too dangerous to others but our vehicles are armored."

"But Boss..."

Melissa hesitated.

"Just return inside, I need to find the military officers first."

Mark did not speak anymore to her. After making Mei and the two girls stay inside the vehicle, he left towards the northern side of the convoy where the vehicles of the leaders and the Humvee Emika's family boarded were located.

Along the way, she saw the dead bodies being hurriedly moved out of the pierced vehicles but both soldiers and refugees. The ones who were injured were being tended by the medics and were applied first aid despite the danger.

Among the injured soldiers, Mark saw Irene. She sat on the ground behind one of the Humvees with Keene beside him clutching her left hand. On her right was the same doctor who checked Iola back then when the little girl was near death. Irene's neck and right shoulder were bleeding profusely. Looking at it, the skin on her neck and shoulder were scraped off even revealing her white shoulder bone.

It seemed that she was almost beheaded like how she ended up in Mark's dream. Irene was lucky that she was still alive and conscious.

Mark did not disturb the childhood couple and walked towards the group of soldiers and policemen nearby. There, he saw the leaders in a heated discussion.

***

"We should leave this place already! Just abandon the vehicles and let's go on foot! We are nothing but sitting ducks here!"

"I have the same idea. Those two, whatever creatures they are, are still in their heated battle yet we are already receiving damage."

"I understand what you two wanted to say but we won't have any way of protecting everyone on foot! If you all think that all of you can fight the infected on the way, I won't stop you. Furthermore, we had no way of moving on foot without being detected by those two Unknowns! There are too many people with us!"

Councilor Palabrica, Congresswoman Lanie and Captain Dela Rosa voiced their opinions respectively. Chief Mallari was only listening at the side and it seemed that he would go with whatever decision the others would come up with. Major Lopez on the other hand was on a deep contemplation. He was likely to be weighing all the advantage and disadvantages of the suggestions they gave.

"Don't bother with those rubbish ideas. No matter what all of you come up with, it will end up with everyone dying. It's all false hope."

A man's voice suddenly joined the discussion. His voice was full of mockery for their suggestions. The voice was too confident that they would die that it made them look at the direction the voice came from. There, a man stood with a heavy bag and several weapons hanging on his body.

"Mark!"

Both Captain Dela Rosa and Madam Lanie called out the man's name at the same time.