Tiny speckles of sunlight shone down through colossal trees, shedding sparse illumination on the ground below, where William, Dong Xin, and Yu Li were currently walking. Around them were tangles of roots and bushes, though these did not cover the entirety of the ground. There were also relatively bare spots just covered by twigs and fallen leaves.
William looked at the trees around him. They had wide trunks, like redwoods or sequoias. Some of them were big enough that it might take a half dozen or more people to wrap their arms around the trunk. However, unlike what William remembered of redwoods, these trees were not so tall, generally reaching a few dozen feet, but not too much more than that. They also had massive limbs closer to the ground. From that perspective, they were more like massive oaks.
The light was a bit dim, but he had long gotten used to it. He thought that the sound of the wind blowing through the trees was rather relaxing. Other than that, it was silent. There were no birds chirping, or sounds of other animals. It was not that the sound of birds had suddenly stopped. Dong Xin would have noticed that. Instead, the sounds had gradually lessened. That happened occasionally, so it wasn’t startling.
Then, from the shadowy treetops, a figure pounced. It was behind and above William, and had the element of surprise. It move almost silently through the air, but its strength and speed also carried with them power. A figure somewhat resembling a panther landed almost on top of William. However, it did not manage to crush and maul him, as the staff in William’s hand moved to stop it, fending it off in the same manner a spear would impale charging horses. William himself was surprised… and while Dong Xin had just barely managed to react, he hadn’t been able to do anything. However the staff, Chris, had moved on his own to block the attack. Since he wasn’t supported by any strength other than his own, he merely managed to repel the creature away, seemingly unharmed.
Then, more figures leaped down toward Dong Xin and Yu Li. Dong Xin had already had a few moments to react, however, so he managed to avoid the one aiming for him, as well as blocking for Yu Li. William, meanwhile, faced off against the strange creature in front of him. It resembled a black panther, but mostly in aesthetic. Its skin was really more of a dark purple-blue, and it had six almost stick-thin legs beneath it, though all were equipped with vicious claws. Its emaciated ribcage showed, and its body only tapered off even thinner, until where its back connected to its hips and rear legs, it appeared to be little more than a spine. From its front shoulders, where there were already four limbs placed onto the ground, two more strange, long tentacles extended. William had heard about these beasts. Some legends called them night cats. Sometimes they were called demon panthers. William had another name for them, but it didn’t really matter. He had been hoping they were just legends, but sadly had discovered that was not the case, even before this attack.
Fierce battle broke out. Dong Xin fended off two of the night cats while Yu Li started to cast a spell. William faced off against the one that had leaped at him, striking out with his staff. He thought his hit was going to connect solidly… but struck nothing but air. Then he remembered. He thought it was the poor light levels at first, but could now tell this was not the case. In front of him were two figures, half-overlapping. It was as if he was drunk, not that William got drunk often. However, it was a good analogy for the blurry form that he now saw. The figure of the night cat shifted, seeming to swirl around and through itself. Only one image was real, but unfortunately the night cats didn’t stay still long enough for which one it was to become clear. Instead, the one facing William swung the tentacle appendages on its back like whips. William moved to deflect them with his staff, but it was hard to tell what their actual trajectory was. Fortunately, Chris shifted his movements slightly, allowing him to strike them away. However, at the same time, the night cat ran at William, swiping at his side. Once again, he blocked with Chris.
Dong Xin, meanwhile, appeared to be nearly as ephemeral as his opponents. However, instead of a distortion of light like they seemed to have around them, he was just moving very quickly. His staff whirled around, deflecting attacks from both of his opponents. In addition, in the moments when one tried to attack Yu Li, he would strike with his staff. It wouldn’t necessarily hit soundly since it was hard to judge the proper distance, but that night cat still had to slightly dodge, stopping its attacks. The other one would often take the chance to strike at Dong Xin, but he had a layer of earthen armor protecting him, which allowed him to withstand lesser blows. As for more powerful attacks, they fortunately took a bit more time to wind up, and he was able to dodge them.
William was having trouble with his opponent. Although he could defend himself adequately, he wasn’t having much luck with striking his opponents. Though Chris would redirect his attacks, they were weaker than when he and Chris were directly working together. Although the night cats appeared to be all skin and bones… it didn’t seem that they were weak in any way. In fact, based on what he knew, William thought these were perfectly healthy specimens, even though they looked emaciated. Their hide was annoyingly tough, and since he couldn’t get a solid blow in, he hadn’t done any discernable damage. Fortunately, Chris kept guiding him to block the attacks. In fact, Chris always pulled in the right direction. At first, William wasn’t sure, but as time went on he was more sure of this. It only took another moment to realize why. Chris didn’t have eyes. He wasn’t looking at his opponent. He was sensing them… and that seemed to work.
William concentrated. He didn’t have the ability to sense the exact location and form of his opponent. The only sensing technique he’d learned was Soul Perception. However, what that did tell him was where his opponent’s center was. He struck out… and Chris didn’t have to re-aim his attack. He knocked back the night cat… but it was obviously not too injured yet. They were certainly a lot tougher than they looked.