Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability - Chapter 95
95 An “Out in the Open” Ambush
Lumian meticulously wrapped his left hand in layers of white bandages. He gathered his supplies: Fallen Mercury, his iron-black axe, gray amber perfume, biscuits, cheese, bloodied mutton chops, rope for traps, and a bag of cooled boiled water. Slipping his shotgun over his shoulder, he left his semi-subterranean dwelling.
Through the thin gray fog, he ventured into a barren wasteland, riddled with cracks. He entered the dreamlike ruins and strode toward the clearing where the flaming monster often lurked.
Hearing a distant noise, Lumian veered towards a path he anticipated the creature would take, arriving at a natural trap he’d discovered earlier.
A deep pit lay beside the road, with collapsed walls to the front and left. Stacked rocks bordered the right side, and behind it, a mostly collapsed house loomed.
Such a trap was difficult to spot. Lumian had found it only after scouring the area multiple times.
He crouched behind the pit, tossing in a few sharpened wooden stakes. He covered it with a rope net he’d woven earlier and camouflaged it with soil.
With the simple trap set, he placed his bait: two blood-soaked lamb chops, half on solid ground and half suspended above the pit.
Lumian stepped back, assessing the precarious balance. He retreated into the mostly collapsed house, perching himself on the remains of an outer wall.
He adjusted his position to watch the trap without being seen by passing monsters.
Next, he took out the gray amber perfume and sprayed it on the wall.
A delicate, sweet scent wafted through the air, carried by sporadic gusts of wind that blew through the ruins.
The fragrance clung to the wall and to Lumian.
Without hesitation, he leaped away, looping back to the path where the flaming monster would appear, positioning himself closer to its hunting grounds.
Once more, he changed direction, crossing the path and entering the ruins of a building opposite.
Reaching the rear of the crumbling structure, he stopped, leaned against the wall, and waited.
As with his strategy against the shotgun monster, Lumian never expected his trap to fool the flaming monster or wound it severely.
These decoys and alarms targeted the creature’s keen senses, observation, and behavior.
Only a Hunter knew how to exploit a Hunter’s strengths!
Of course, all this relied on the target operating primarily on instinct, its intelligence limited to combat.
Leaning against the wall, Lumian gripped Fallen Mercury in his bandaged left hand, tearing off the pitch-black cloth shrouding its surface.
He couldn’t know how long it would take for the flaming monster to arrive; all he could do was be patient.
Patience was his strong suit—a remnant from his vagrant days.
Time crawled by. Unseen by Lumian, a charred, flame-tinged monster entered the path.
After walking over 20 meters, its nose twitched.
It detected the faint scent of blood.
The monster didn’t immediately turn. As it continued, it surreptitiously scanned the source of the smell.
Passing the collapsed wall, the bloody lamb chops caught its eye.
Tempting food, but the flaming monster resisted its instincts, not devouring the bait.
It pressed on, slowing its pace.
Soon, an unusual fragrance filled its nostrils.
It instantly deduced the meat was a trap and a Hunter lay in ambush nearby.
This Hunter seemed different from the one who had previously observed it while invisible. It lacked sufficient knowledge of Hunters and hadn’t masked its scent beforehand.
Taking a few more steps, the flaming monster used the fragrance and subtle footprints to pinpoint the enemy hiding on the outer wall of the building behind the trap.
Feigning ignorance, it increased its distance by another seven to eight meters.
Suddenly, it whirled around, its scarlet flames rapidly condensing into a fireball tinged with white.
With a flick of its right palm, the fireball hurtled towards Lumian’s ‘ambush’ location, collapsing the outer wall and causing the house to shudder.
Hearing the explosion from a distance, Lumian abandoned his hiding spot, darting into the clearing, his movements a wild, distorted dance.
The explosion was like a signal flare, a stark reminder for him to swiftly ready the second phase of the trap.
Lumian and Aurore had devised this intricate plan, luring their prey into sending out their own signal flares.
In the midst of his mesmerizing dance, Lumian detected the hazy forms of the mouth-orifice monster, the shotgun monster, and the skinless monster.
By then, the flaming monster had already approached the collapsed wall, searching for any trace of its enemy.
Lumian danced for another ten to twenty seconds, his movements growing more intense. He drew out the ritual silver dagger with his right hand, making a small incision on his left wrist.
A single drop of blood emerged, congealing into a tiny sphere.
Lumian stepped forward, pivoted, and snatched up the blood droplet, aiming it at the mouth-orifice monster.
He uttered the word in ancient Hermes, his voice barely above a whisper.
At that moment, the flaming monster had discovered the faint footprints Lumian had left behind. Catching a whiff of a subtle scent, it started tracking him.
Quickly shouting his follow-up command, Lumian watched as the mouth-orifice monster swallowed the blood droplet from the tip of the silver dagger and entered his body.
A wave of madness, bloodlust, cruel intent, and ravenous hunger washed over him.
Lumian fought back the discomfort, hastily bandaging his insignificant wound with a white strip he’d brought along.
Next, he popped a piece of cheese into his mouth, chewing and swallowing to make sure the residual gray amber scent on his body would mask any other mingled odors.
Throughout this process, Lumian sprinted to the edge of the road and halted at an inconspicuous spot.
He clenched his jaw tight and spun around, carefully retracing his steps along his previous path.
Relying on a Hunter’s observation skills and Dancer’s exaggerated flexibility, Lumian made sure to leave only faint footprints and no additional marks.
It wasn’t long before he reached the center of the road and stopped.
Maintaining his invisibility, Lumian remained in plain sight on the road.
He waited, using shallow Cogitation and constant suspension to suppress any thoughts of attacking the flaming monster, a rudimentary way to disrupt its danger premonition.
His inspiration came from a Hunter’s keen self-awareness.
Aurore had once written about the tactic of retracing one’s footsteps to lie in ambush mid-road in a novel.
After seven or eight seconds, the flaming monster’s pitch-black form appeared in Lumian’s sight. Utilizing his uncanny flexibility, he twisted his body to observe the approaching target.
The flaming monster followed the faint footprints and scent left behind by its enemy. Uninterrupted, it continued its pursuit.
Once back on the main road, it sniffed the air, unsurprised to detect a mild fragrance.
It instinctively lowered its head and found the inconspicuous footprints.
But it found no trace of traps in the vicinity.
Without hesitation, the flaming monster tracked the footprints to the other side of the road.
The charred face and displaced eyeballs loomed larger and clearer in Lumian’s sight.
Holding his breath, Lumian didn’t disrupt his Cogitation again, striving to empty his mind.
Five meters, three meters, one meter… He lunged at the target, raising the Fallen Mercury in his left hand for a swift slash!
He didn’t wait to close the gap further, fearing that it would trigger the prey’s danger sense and prompt evasive maneuvers.
The flaming monster suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of danger.
Without thinking, it leaped to the side.
Simultaneously, its vision captured Lumian’s figure, attacking with a pewter-black dirk in his bandaged left hand.
They were so close that despite the flaming monster’s reaction, evasion was impossible. Lumian collided with it.
With a tearing sound, Fallen Mercury’s sharp blade sank into the flaming monster’s right chest.
The fate extracted from Noodle Man infiltrated the target’s body as an illusory mercury bead.
Meanwhile, a river of countless intricate mercury symbols briefly surfaced. Some of the destinies rapidly converged towards the pewter-black blade.
Lumian didn’t bother selecting the destiny to exchange, letting Fallen Mercury do as it wished.
The monster’s flames erupted.
The forceful shockwave hurled Lumian and his Fallen Mercury away. Crimson flames ignited his clothes and scorched his facial skin.
Lumian bore the searing pain, twisting his waist midair to alter his trajectory.
As soon as he landed, he sprang to his feet and fled.
However, unable to re-enter the Invisibility state until the flames were extinguished, he remained visible.
Despite his serpentine sprint, Lumian was still knocked off his feet by the fireball’s aftershock. His back throbbed with numbing pain.
He struggled to his feet, scrambling away from the path and into the ruins where he had been hiding before.
The flaming monster pursued Lumian, who was unable to turn invisible once more.