8 The Hunt

Zack was currently sitting behind a tree, and was slowly nearing the pack. He had already found the target he was looking for. He didn't know how well they could hear him, so he had been crawling from cover to cover while getting closer. His only option was to throw some spare berries on the ground and slowly lure it away.

The two made a plan, before entering what Disappeared2.5 had thought their targets' hearing range to be. Zack would lure away the Viper Bear with an arrow sticking out of its neck, and bring it to a clearing nearby so that they could fight without worrying about being killed by the entire pack.

As he made his final crawl to the next cover, he scraped his hand against a broken twig's exposed insides and took a point of damage. He kept crawling though, assuming he was still safe.

Finally close enough to toss the berry, he took it from the pouch on his leather utility belt and chucked it close to the target.

It took notice immediately, and moved closer, walking on all fours. The arrow sticking out of its neck seemed unable to hinder it, and it didn't even seem to mind its presence. And upon reaching the berry, its forked tongue stuck out briefly and went over the berry.

The beast then used its tongue to bring it into its maw and swallow it. Then, it noticed another one by a tree nearby, and made a loud hiss. The others hissed in response before moving onward, leaving the target alone.

As Zack hurriedly moved behind another tree, he couldn't help but stifle a chuckle. This thing must have had a really low intelligence to have fallen for such a blatant trap. It even sent off the rest of the pack! He felt his muscles become tense as he held in the laughter, holding it back lest he get mauled to death by a pack of beasts.

This charade continued for a short while before he reached the clearing. After throwing his last berry haphazardly into it, he positioned himself behind the target.

Zack and Disappeared2.5 were now on opposite sides of the clearing, an intentional choice by Zack since he wanted to test the validity of Ivan's strategy.

Jumping out from cover now that the Viper Bear was busy looking for the next berry, he slashed at its back with as much force as he could.

The blade got stuck when it sliced deep enough though, and rather than the hiss he expected, it made a guttural roar that stunned him briefly. It was enough time for the beast to attack, its claws outstretched and its large fangs bared.

The beast turned around, standing on its hind legs as it swiped at Zack. The claws tearing into his thick wool shirt, cutting through his chest. With one attack, Zack had already lost half of his health points! He understood why his comrade had run away now, the might of this beast clear as day to him having suffered from one attack.

The pain from the cut radiated and made him bite his lip to stifle a yell, the blood flowing out dying his white shirt red. It was a deep cut, and made it harder for him to move. His health continued to drain as he moved, and he had no clue how much health this damnable beast had to its name.

He pressed on though, and dodged another swing of the beast's sharp claws. Though, the heel of his foot hit a rock, causing him to stumble. And as Zack tumbled backward, an arrow flew across the clearing and hit the beast in the left leg, causing it to turn around and face the direction the arrow had come from.

It couldn't see where it came from, but soon after another one hit in the chest. This angered the beast, and it roared even louder than it had done before.

Quick to take the chance though, Zack grabbed the hilt of his sword and pulled the blade out of the thick muscles of the Viper Bear.

He then slashed at the left leg, knocking the arrow out and causing the beast to stumble. Zack was focused on immobilizing it so they could avoid ruining the quality of its drops.

The few arrows sticking out of it had already ruined the drop quality substantially though, and he cursed at the fact that his comrade seemed to be unaware of the hunting mechanics.

The vertical slice down the back was meant to preserve the quality of the pelt drop, but it seemed it wouldn't matter much at this rate. Shaking his head, Zack thought to himself as he rolled out of the way of another swipe of the beast's arm.

'Who am I kidding, I'll be lucky to not die at this rate, my movements are only exacerbating the amount of damage I'm accumulating. I need to hurry and immobilize this damn thing.'

He heard a message notification, and cursed at the distraction, nearly getting hit as he rolled to the side again. Another arrow flew through the clearing, but missed its target, hitting a tree in the distance.

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Zack shook his head as he swung his sword again, cutting into the Viper Bear's paw. It roared angrily again, and Zack violently pulled the sword back, causing blood to gush from the beast's wound.

He jumped back, but stumbled over a twig and fell on his behind. Another arrow flew by and struck the bear's arm, and Zack noticed the bear's reserved behavior change at that point.

It got on all fours and recklessly charged forward at Zack.

"Ah fuck, that's not good." Before he could get up, the bear slashed at his ankle, mimicking the way Zack had been hitting it throughout the battle. That attack managed to cut off his foot, and Zack was now stuck in place.

More arrows continued to hit their mark, but it seemed not to bother the beast in the slightest. Zack felt incredibly tired now. The pain subsided and it seemed the void was going to envelop him soon.

He had but ten health points left, and it'd take a miracle at this point to save him. He didn't want to lose his first battle though, and through the groggy feeling enveloping him, he swung his sword one last time.

With a loud clang against the Viper Bear's hidden scales, Zack's grip on his sword loosened. He couldn't fight back any longer.

The Viper Bear seeing its prey no longer moving, unhinged its jaw and swallowed the unconscious Zack whole. In the distance, Disappeared2.5 began shouting.

"Oh come on, you pull me out here, adamant that you can do this, and then you go and get eaten? I'll wring your wallet dry you idiot!"

As he nocked another arrow, he felt a strong desire to win. This feeling overcame him, and as he took aim, water began forming around the tip of the arrow. He didn't notice this, and when he shot the arrow, the water turned to ice as his desire to win peaked.

The arrow shot through the air, leaving behind it a trail of glimmering ice shards. He took notice of this and arched his eyebrow, but didn't hesitate to nock another arrow and shoot, his aim just as it was before.

The two arrows hit the bear in the chest, and the frost spread out, encompassing a majority of the bear's left side.

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.

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Meanwhile, Zack had just respawned within the cottage he had started at. He got up from the bed and looked to the chest to find it was empty, and that his sword was gone. "Damn, seems I owe him fifty copper now."

He then looked around for something to wear.

As he looked around, the robotic voice spoke to him. "Having died, your quest progress has been reset for The Basics. Having died for the first time, you have unlocked Tutorial Quest: Retrieval." Zack could figure the nature of the quest based on the circumstances, and accepted it silently.

'Let's see, from here it'll take like ten minutes to get to that clearing if I walk, so I should be able to get there pretty quickly if I run.' He then grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around himself as if it were a toga, and began running barefoot outdoors.

He would take a point of damage every time a stone cut his foot, and the pain was really annoying, but Zack was determined to get back and join the fight. He wasn't willing to take a loss like that, especially after claiming to be skilled. One might even call him salty.

Although he had died, he was positive his comrade didn't. He was determined to avenge himself and avoid owing an entire bill to someone he hardly knew.

After a short while, finding the footprints he and his comrade had left behind, Zack was quick to go off the trail, accumulating even more damage as he haphazardly made his way to the clearing.

By the time he reached the clearing, he found arrows strewn about and patches of ice everywhere he looked, but no sign of his comrade or the beast they had been fighting.

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