Chapter 60 — Cliff
One, two, three...
One after another, the gnolls who had been out hunting returned. The gnoll alpha, which had a scarred face, glared at the dead bodies and growled loudly in anger. It was more intelligent than the other gnolls and had fought against adventurers many times, enough to realise that their settlement had been attacked by adventurers. Just like they brutally murdered and ate humans, Soran had mercilessly slain all their pups. The gnoll alpha could tell that there were only a few enemies, as they had escaped by the time the hunting teams returned.
Twelve gnolls gathered in the settlement.
It was a middle-scale gnoll tribe; over half of them were adults, with one third of the grown-ups being warriors. There had also been some gnoll pups, but Soran had killed them before retreating into the forest. Using their innate talent, the gnolls had tamed three coyotes, though those had also been defeated. The coyotes could aid them when hunting and were also food reserves when there was a lack of food. To gnolls, food was of utmost importance; they would even eat the weakest in the tribe when necessary.
Gnolls were born warriors and scouts, having sharp claws and fangs, as well as a sensitive sense of smell. The differences between male and female gnolls were indistinct, with there being only slight differences in size. Generally, males were also stronger than females, and the females would show more motherly features during their baby nursing period, but these weren’t very useful indicators.
The gnoll alpha stopped in front of a dead female gnoll. It bent down and sniffed the corpse's bloody claws; the blood belonged to Soran. It then lifted the three-hundred-pound body up with one hand and let the others smell Soran's blood. They could distinguish the smell of a particular target’s blood for half a day, and they could track the target down if it was within a one-kilometer radius.
Revenge—this was their natural instinct.
Just as humans would grieve and take revenge for those killed by monsters, the gnolls were now going to avenge the deaths of their young children.
The gnolls howled and howled, then started to trace Soran by detecting the smell of blood in the surroundings. They were not the strongest creatures in the wilderness, but they were certainly one of the most troublesome monsters to deal with. They were born to kill and slaughter, born as hunters who could track down their prey. Their bestial instincts also made them live in groups where the strong ruled the weak. Gnolls were Level 3 monsters the moment they became adults, and their combat prowess was comparable to Grade 2 warriors if they advanced to become gnoll warriors. Under dire circumstances, gnolls might even hunt monsters that were stronger than them using the power of numbers and teamwork.
Food was the main factor determining the scale of a gnoll tribe. As long as there was a sufficient food supply, a female gnoll could give birth to up to a dozen gnoll pups a year. When food was lacking, only the gnoll alpha had the privilege to mate; this was to ensure that the next generation of the tribe were all strong gnolls. Not only could the other tribe members not mate, they also had to cater for the gnoll alpha's children together. This was very similar to wolf packs.
Meanwhile, Soran was speeding through the dense forest. In such a terrain, only rangers could leisurely ditch the pursuing gnolls; it was only a matter of time before the gnolls could locate him.
There were also gnolls known as "bloodluster gnolls" on the outer planes. Their blood tracking ability had a range of ten kilometers, and they were lethal hunters who preyed on drakes. Thankfully, Soran didn’t have to deal with those currently.
Back to the current situation, the gnolls were now charging into the forest, following his trail of blood. Soran needed a more advantageous terrain; he could easily handle dozens of kobolds at the same time, but a dozen gnolls was beyond his ability.
It was a contest of stamina between Soran and the gnolls. With 20 Constitution, Soran had considerable stamina and could continue running, but the gnolls were gradually slowing down after charging for a kilometer or two. The dense forestation was a hindrance to both parties; the gnolls could not charge at full speed, nor could Soran. However, Soran's Dexterity granted him great reflexes and agility. His enhanced sense of balance and reflexes allowed him to continue running at relatively high speeds while avoiding bushes and branches, and he could even run a few steps on tree trunks when necessary. To put it simply, it was like Soran had been buffed by Lighten Object while the gnolls had to run on the ground.
The trees were getting less dense, and the terrain was gradually changing. Soran noticed a rocky hill ahead; it had a rocky cliff which almost stood perpendicular to the ground, not to mention some three-foot-wide faults between the layers. He accelerated and leapt, clinging onto the wall of rock with both hands, and began climbing up. With amazing speed and agility, Soran climbed his way to a small platform which was roughly twenty meters from the ground. The peak was not too far up, though there was nothing but rocks up there.
Soran applied some ointment to the wounds on his shoulder, then loaded his enhanced crossbow. After that, he proceeded to take out more crossbow bolts from his bag and placed them into his waist pouch, which used to hold short knives used for throwing.
When facing gnolls, it was best to avoid open areas such as plains to avoid getting surrounded. If encircled, even high-grade warriors would need to take a few hits to break the encirclement, let alone a Grade 2 rogue like Soran.
Traps were only useful under specific circumstances and terrain, which was why adventurers rarely spent the time to set traps in the wilderness. Rangers, who were best suited for combat in the wild, were more like warriors who relied on agility instead of strength and power. This was also why the advanced profession Swashbuckler existed; it was for people who liked to fight like warriors but would also like to have more mobility. They were especially powerful in group fights.
The trees and bushes at the edge of the forest rustled, and gnolls emerged one after another. The gnoll that was leading the charge had a scar from his forehead to his cheek; had the original wound been a bit more to the center, its eye would have been rendered useless.
Soran lowered his enhanced crossbow and took out a bloody head from his multi-dimensional bag—it belonged to one of the gnoll pups he killed in the settlement.
Ouuuu! Ouuuu! Ouuuu!
The gnolls howled in grief and rage. They went into a frenzy, their eyes bloodshot. They howled as they rushed toward the rocky wall, wanting to climb up and tear Soran to pieces.
A bolt cut through the air, hitting the frontmost gnoll. It tumbled and crashed into the rock wall.
Soran calmly hid behind a large rock and reloaded, then aimed at the gnoll he had previously hit. The bolt hit the gnoll right in the head, puncturing its cranium.
"36 critical damage dealt!"
“Successfully killed Gnoll Warrior!”
“Extracting soul energy from target… Received 320 Slaughter Experience Points.”
Within twenty meters, the base damage of an enhanced crossbow could reach over 20; it could instantly kill low-level enemies if the bolt landed in the right place.
The gnolls were good climbers, but the almost-perpendicular cliff was not so easy to climb either. A few gnolls who were more agile than the others led the way, but they were splendidly shot down and killed by Soran, who had the high ground. The gnolls did not have much room to dodge while climbing up the cliff, making them easy targets. A bolt punctured one's neck, and it fell to its death, while the other instantly died as Soran landed a headshot.
It was only when the gnoll alpha howled that the other gnolls finally realized they were at a disadvantage. They split into groups; some hid in Soran’s blind spots while others advanced on his flanks and climbed up from a different angle, attempting to surround Soran from both sides and above.
"Fuck's sake. So damn smart," Soran muttered as he moved to change locations.
He tossed the gnoll pup’s head down the cliff, then continued to climb his way up. Gnolls were not highly intelligent creatures, but they were not dumb enough to wait and get slaughtered either. Soran could still kill five or six of them if they chose to assault him upfront, but he had no choice but to move now that the gnolls attacked from the sides.
Soran climbed up a bit, steadied himself, and leapt up; he could now jump higher than the agile elves. He spun his body mid-air, turning a hundred and eighty degrees before landing on the peak. Without delay, Soran reloaded his enhanced crossbow and began firing. This time though, his target moved sideways to avoid the bolt. The bolt struck the rock behind the gnoll and bounced off.
Soran was not too surprised; he unsheathed his curved sword with a reverse grip and looked at the gnolls who were almost at the platform he previously occupied. He decisively charged toward the nearest gnoll.
It was a favourable terrain for Soran. He could shower them with crossbow bolts if they bunched up, and he could kill them one by one in melee combat if they didn't. At the very least, there was no room for the gnolls to surround him. It was a pity he did not have the ability Land's Stride, or else he could have toyed with the gnolls in the forest. It was a pleasurable thing for elves to jump from tree to tree while sniping their enemies with bows.
A gnoll warrior gave him around 300 Slaughter EXP; it would be enough for him to multiprofession if he killed around half of the pursuing gnolls.
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