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300 Reaching the Source of Danger, The Appearance of the Real Boss

 Day 44 - 11:24 AM - Mount Malabito, Mamuyao, Rizal

Northwest foot of Mount Malabito, it was the part where the Agos River and the mountain met. At a wide clearing by the riverside, a huge reddish black lizard and several people could be seen. They were of course Mark's group together with the children that escaped from the place where the manifestation of the miasma appeared.

Unfortunately, the attack Chaflar made really took a huge toll on it and it was not able to fly towards the base directly. There was also the issue where there were too many people riding on its back and it had to carefully fly since the children were not used to it. Its master would surely give it a beating if any of them accidentally fell. In the end, the poor dragon could only reach the other side of the mountain where the base was located before it landed.

In any case, it was enough for them to be safe from the miasma. Still, Karlene, Amihan and Edzel were all worried for Mark. They wanted to help but they knew that they would just hold him back. It was not that they want to escape but they had to.

"Will boss be fine from that thing?"

Edzel could not help but voice his worry as he gazed towards the northwest direction. He was not really asking anyone and was not expecting for anyone to answer him.

The feeling they all had as they gazed at that monster was terrifying. It was as if they were going to be swallowed whole by the darkness and lose their minds. Even now, the younger children were shivering from the aura that the monster had and that was the reason they were too behaved while riding of Chaflar's back. It was not because they did not want to fall but more of they did not have the energy to fear about falling off.

As for the children that were able to hold their fear in, they were still in remorse. After all, they had just lost everyone that took care of them in this past month. They all had no parents or guardians now and had no idea what to do next. The only thing that they could do now was to try to appease the other children.

Karlene did the same and helped the children gather in a single area while trying to hush their cries. When she looked around, she saw Amihan and Miracle that stayed sitting on Chaflar's back while gazing towards the same direction as Edzel's.

"You two shouldn't worry. Mark will be fine."

She said thinking what the thoughts of the two could be.

Miracle turned towards her and Karlene was surprised that there was not a shred of worry on the little girl's face.

"Father is fine."

That was the entire thing the little girl said before she returned to gazing back at that direction.

On the other hand, Amihan did not say anything and just looked down. She was already someone that was easily scared of things and she honestly felt like she was about to die when she saw that manifestation of miasma. As a naïve spirit, she was highly sensitive to malice and she could feel that malice and animosity several times compared to people. Right now, she was trying hard to hold it in but her heart and mind was quivering fiercely. Still, despite how terrible she felt, she was still hoping that Mark was fine.

"These girls are strong."

Karlene smiled and looked at the children once more. Since Mark sent them this way, she knew that Mark decided to bring these children to the base. She could not do anything in that fight but in the least, she could protect these children.

Especially, now...

She stood up gazing at the other side of the river.

"Karla, you felt them right. I'll leave those guys to you so protect everyone."

Saying that, she relaxed her mind and let Karla take over. Her appearance changed and a dark purple armor started to cover parts of her body. The nails on her hands turned into claws and her hair changed color and started to move as if being blown by the wind.

Everyone was surprised at her sudden transformation and the children felt scared even more but before anyone could say anything, she already dashed towards the river.

That was then everyone noticed. There were several feral evolved animals creeping on the other side of the river while hiding behind the trees and bushes.

***

Day 44 - 11:28 AM - San Marcelino, General Nakar, Quezon

Almost half hour after the manifestation of the miasma appeared, Mark was still running towards the north following the Agos River. It had already been ten minutes since he entered the forest filled with the red lichen in the surroundings but he was yet to find the very source of all this mess.

The shadowy figure was still on his tail relentlessly chasing him. However, it was still within his calculations. Actually, he was maintaining a fixed distance between him and the enemy. The distance enabled him to dodge the attacks with allowance to save on his mental energy being consumed by his [Flash Precognition]. The main reason he was maintaining this distance was because he was using the manifestation as the radar to point the correct direction.

It was because as he got closer and closer to the real body, the manifestation become angrier and angrier. It even roared more often. When he started to run in a different direction, the animosity the manifestation was releasing would also lower by a bit. With all those signs, he was able to pin point the correct direction to go.

"Tch!" Mark clicked his tongue. "The reinforcements arrived."

He said those words as he started to detect contaminated beasts started to approach him from different directions. It seemed that it took them a while since they still had to gather from different places. However, since Mark rushed towards the right direction faster than the enemy anticipated, it could only throw the beasts towards Mark's direction without gathering in one place.

"I can take advantage of this."

The beasts were all scattered and were approaching him individually rather than in groups. With that, he could deal with them one by one as he ran. However, it would also give the manifestation the opportunity to catch up. In that case, he would need to use his [Shadow Mist Movement] more often and his mental energy consumption would increase several folds.

"What a pain."

Mark vanished into black mist and rushed across the trees. The closest beast to intercept him was just several meters in front.

A burst of miasma soon flew towards him destroying the created subspace forcing Mark out. As he was forced out, his body was horizontally on the air but he was already by the side of the contaminated beast that looked like a wild cat with his left needle launcher aimed at it.

SWOOOSH!

The poisonous needle was launched hitting the contaminated beast on its temple. It caused the beast that amidst its charge to slide several feet through the red lichen covered forest floor.

Mark's body started to fall but it was late to just regain balance and run. He stretched out his left foot towards then ground trying to land.

FLASH!

Before his foot touched the red lichen covered ground, a flash appeared at the sole of his shoes which made contact with the ground first and immediately spread out burning all the red lichen on the place where his foot landed. However, the momentum of his fall was too strong and he still fell.

In the last moment, he stretched out his left arm.

FLASH!

Another flash of light burned the ground where his palm landed and he was able to do a one handed side flip. He then spun his body and landed with another two flashes of light and continued running with the circle of light surrounding his feet.

The contaminated beasts came at him from the front and sides while the manifestation continued attacking from behind. Roars of both the beasts and manifestation echoed inside the forest.

Soon, he suddenly saw an odd clearing at in the middle of the forest. It was not a place where trees and plants did not grow but rather, the trees and plants were mowed down.

He then noticed some metal debris scattered around as he ran.

"Bingo!"

Mark's eyes lit up. He finally found the site of the crash.

Ignoring the incoming enemies, he followed the trail of fallen trees.

He ran as fast as possible while being careful of not tripping on the trees and soon found the crash site. It was under an oddly large acacia tree. When Mark saw the tree, his eyes became wide that he even ignored the appearance of the mangled plane.

This acacia tree was surely not a normal one. He could feel magical energy emanating from the tree although it was faint due to the miasma. Mark could tell that it might be the same as the tree Amihan used as her house before she was affected by Mutagen, a tree that served as a dwelling of a spirit or elemental creature. Still, the tree was almost withered and all its leaves had already had a sickly yellow color.

However, that was not the issue...

Just in front of the wreckage seemed to be a primeval altar with skulls and stones carved with strange symbols.

But that was not still the real issue...

What Mark made wide eyed was the three meter diameter pulsating ball of flesh surrounding the trunk of the acacia tree. Swelling veins could be seen on the ball along with the same red lichen that covered the forest floor. Also on the ball of disgusting flesh, parts of both humans and animals could be seen protruded outside its surface. There were human hands and feet, hooves of a cow, limbs and wings of birds and even heads.

Along with its horrendous appearance, the rotten stench it was emanating made Mark feel like vomiting. The smell not only permeated in his nose but could be said that it was affecting his mind directly.

Without further ado, Mark's eyes turned sharp.

He aimed his needle launcher towards the ball of flesh.

SWOOOSH!

A poisonous needle was launched.

However, a figure swooped in front blocking the needle. The figure soon collapsed after which was actually one of the contaminated beasts.

Mark ran to the side and avoided several bursts of miasma from behind and shot one needle after another. Unfortunately, this needle launcher was not fully automatic and the firing rate was rather slower than his previous one. Still, the speed that the needles flew should be faster than needed.

However, each needle was blocked by animals jumping one after another to become the meat shield of the ball of flesh.

"TCH! Then, let's see if you can block this!"

CLICK! CLICK!

The centerpiece of the shield, [Defier], on his back detached and fell. He quickly caught it and pointed it at the ball of flesh. He rotated the mechanisms on the centerpiece switching the needles to poisonous ones and fired. The layers on the centerpiece opened and hundreds of holes appeared.

With a push of the trigger, hundreds of poisonous needles flew out towards the ball of flesh.

RRRRRUUUUUUUAAAAAAAARRRRRRRAAAAAA!!!

A deafening screech was let out by the manifestation as it rushed towards the ball of flesh.

The whole shadowy figure entered the ball of flesh.

FWWWOOOOM!!!

A black whirlwind surrounded the ball of flesh causing the needles to either change direction or fall to the ground.

"Dammit!"

Mark cursed and retreated as some of the black smoke blew towards him.

"I don't really want to do this but I have no choice."

Mark said as three the three [Mental Crystals] he floated around his right wrist.

He was all ready to activate the crystals when...

"HAHAHAHAHAHA!"

The stones on the altar cracked and crumbled to powder. Black smoke flew out of the crumbled stones and seeped into the ball of flesh. Following that, an eerie laughter was heard.

The ball of flesh distorted and contorted forming an eerie three meter tall face. While looking at Mark who froze at the sudden situation, it spoke in a strange language.

"I wast did disturb and I hadst to hasten mine own awakening.  Nay both'r, I did see something int'resting.  Thee son of human, what art thee?"