It was only around an hour before they found the monster that could have gone with the tracks they had seen earlier. They couldn’t say for sure it was the same one, but it was a giant wolf.
It wasn’t particularly hard to spot, since it was almost twice as tall as a horse, and many times as big in total. Its muzzle was more than a meter long, and it didn’t seem like it would have trouble eating a human in a few bites. Not that Barrett and the others planned to give it that chance.
The gigantic wolf growled at the group, eyeing them like prey… but they were also here to hunt the wolf and other monsters like it. “Everyone spread out!” Brody ordered, “It’s a big one… it likely has a strength in the late second tier!”
Everyone separated by a few meters, but remained close enough that they could move to support each other once the wolf approached.
The wolf had no fear as it rushed toward Barrett. It leaped toward him, but he managed to duck under and roll past it. Though he didn’t have experience with that specific situation, Master Hykel had trained him to be ready for all sorts of situations.
The wolf merely paused for a moment before turning around to swipe at Barrett, and he swung his axe down at its passing paw even as he stepped back. Though his attack connected, it barely even scratched the tough, thick hide of the wolf.
The others gathered around the wolf to attack it from its flanks, though it didn’t exactly stay focused in one direction. It twisted and turned, swiping with its claws and biting with teeth longer than daggers. Barrett saw one member of the Southern Tiger School take a nasty hit from the claws, but he merely got knocked away. He would be bruised and perhaps have cracked ribs. His armor had some dents, but overall it wasn’t as dangerous as being crushed between the sharp teeth of the wolf.
Meanwhile, the wolf took damage of its own. Axes chopped into its hide, and though each it seemed inconsequential the fur of the wolf was becoming bloody.
Then Brody managed to catch it off balance and swept a leg out from under it. Barrett was near its head, and that gave him the chance to step in to attack its throat. With such a good opening, he went all out, swinging his axe downward toward the throat of the wolf that had fallen to its side. There was a sound like cutting cloth, only many time more. Blood spurted out over him as he managed a deep cut on one of its arteries. While previous hits went several inches into its hide, those weren’t enough to be considered deep. Here, he’d buried one head of the axe almost up to the hilt.
Barrett realized his axe was stuck after a quick tug, and he decided he would have to leave it. Just as he backed away, the wolf rolled over onto where he was, growling and snarling. “Everyone back up!” Brody ordered.
A dying animal was just as dangerous as not, or possibly even more dangerous. Each of them backed away in a different direction, and the wolf turned toward Barrett, seemingly intent on him… but its movements were shaky. It lunged forward several meters, but he merely dodged to the side. Then, the wolf collapsed.
Barrett saw a pool of blood where it had first fallen- several liters at least- and he could see a similar pool spreading in its new location.
Everyone remained away from the wolf for several minutes, until they were sure its giant chest was no longer drawing breath… and the flow of blood ceased.
Then Barrett finally went to retrieve his axe. He had to use both hands and press his foot against its jaw before his axe came out with a sound that was both a pop and a squelch. He could have used berserk energy to remove it more easily, but that would have lowered the durability of his axe. His new one was much better than his previous ones, but it could still only handle so much stress. It was better not to push it.
Barrett looked at the body of the wolf and thought it was a waste. Its hide was thick and durable, but they couldn’t possibly carry it with them for the rest of the training trip. It would be the size of a very large rug, and without proper curing it would likely go bad. Its meat wasn’t any good… but he’d heard that its liver and heart were quite nutritious.
The group spent some time retrieving a heart and liver nearly the size of a normal person’s torso, and found themselves covered in blood and viscera. They cleaned themselves off as much as they could, which mostly involved rubbing dirt and leaves and anything else they could find to reduce the unpleasantness. That would also reduce the smell until they could find a place to bathe.
After a week, Barrett and the rest had run into a number of other large beasts, though most of them weren’t as big as that wolf. Some of the others traveled in packs, which had required different tactics, but the danger wasn’t too serious. As long as they worked together they weren’t likely to die- that was why this location had been chosen. Of course, they were not entirely uninjured. All of them had bandages in one place or another, and some had cracked a rib… Though Barrett had mostly recovered from the minor injuries he got. After all, he recovered at over ten times the normal rate… and his injuries were usually lighter because his body was trained to be tougher. The Southern Tiger School also trained their bodily toughness, but it was to a less extreme degree.
Barrett could almost feel himself growing stronger, though not in terms of muscle or energy. Instead, it was the experience that came from many fights- and fighting many different sorts of enemies. He did think he was also somewhat physically stronger, more than just what would be expected from a regular week. Eating choice meat or organs from large beasts was quite beneficial to him and those from the Southern Tiger School.