After find a good resting spot for Zubin, Blavi and Sanchez introduced themselves to Suzanna. The three scouts hadn’t made any discoveries, and that had worried Anfey. Everyone was chatting, but Anfey was sitting on the ground, deep in thought. Their food supplies could still last for a few days, but they needed to plan carefully where they would rest. If he was alone, it would have been easier. Now he needed to care for a whole group of people, and Anfey found that difficult. Only Christian and Zubin knew their futures would be hard, and one of them could not even move. Christian walked over slowly and sat down next to Anfey.
Whether it was unicorns or manticores, both would pose great danger to them. It was likely that there would be conflict whether they stayed or moved.
"You say manticores and unicorns are enemies?" Anfey called in a sudden stroke of inspiration. His call startled not only Christian, but also Suzanna.
"I said that," Suzanna replied. "Why?"
"If they fight, who would win?"
"The unicorn, of course," Suzanna said. "However, all high level magic beasts are sentient. Like people, they would not trespass on another magic beast’s territory. Their way of surviving is to avoid direct conflict."
"I thought you said they are enemies."
"That means while they would not shy away from a fight, they would not initiate one either. It is very unlikely they would run into each other in this forest, you know."
"Alright," Anfey said, nodding. "Christian, can you set up a magic shield to hide everyone’s surges?"
"I don’t have enough crystals," Christian replied.
"Don’t worry about the crystals. Can you do it?"
"Alright, just one thing left." Anfey turned to Suzanna. "Suzanna, I need you to do something dangerous."
"What is it?" Suzanna asked, her heart sinking. She still could not trust Anfey, and was very hostile towards him. Hearing that he had something dangerous for her, she thought that perhaps he was trying to make things difficult for her.
"This is my plan. Zubin saw two manticores, right? You go to its territory and kill the smaller one. I don’t think the bigger one would let you get away. You head out and send a signal. I will try to provoke the unicorn. Then we will hide and let the two fight."
"That’s one way to do it," Christian nodded. "If an angry unicorn and a crazed manticore meet, it would be a guaranteed fight."
"That’s what I’m thinking," Anfey said. "No matter who wins, the other would certainly be severely injured as well. It shouldn’t be hard then for us to kill it. Then we don’t have that constant threat over our heads."
Suzanna sighed in relief. She was the only one in the group who could manage to kill a manticore and escape another angry one. Anyone else would be torn to pieces. It seemed like Anfey wasn’t being unfair to her, and giving her the harder job.
"What do you think?" Anfey asked. Normally he would not ask for permission, but mostly his question was directed at Suzanna.
Everyone muttered to each other for a bit and nodded.
"Suzanna, I know you are very skillful, but this is still dangerous. What say you?"
"I’m good," Suzanna said. "When do we leave?"
"We are not in a hurry," Anfey said. "There are many things to be worked out. We don’t want any accidents."
"Accidents?" Suzanna asked.
"For example, if there are multiple manticores, what should you do? What if you are discovered before you can do anything? What if you get hurt? How will we find you? What if the fight is over before one of the animals could be seriously injured? Will we still strike then? We have to think through everything before actually doing anything, or people will get hurt."
"You’re right," Christian said, nodding.
Suzanna watched him, a hundred thoughts running through her head. She had always considered herself smart, but in that situation all she wanted to do was to run and find somewhere they could camp. Anfey, however, thought about how to get what they needed. Everyone knew about the manticores, but only Anfey thought of using it to fight the unicorn. Suzanna must admit she was very inferior to Anfey.
"Alright, everyone stay here. Blavi, I entrust everyone to you. Christian and Suzanna, come with me. Zubin, where did you encounter the manticores?"
"I’ll take you," Zubin said, pushing himself off of the ground.
"No, you should stay here," Anfey said, shaking his head.
"I’m already feeling much better," Zubin smiled bitterly. "Plus, it would be hard to describe where it was."
"Anfey, I can protect him. If anything happens, I will help Zubin escape and you and Suzanna can fight whatever is pursuing us."
"Alright," Anfey said after a moment of hesitation.
For those who were powerful, twenty miles was not a long way. After a short while, they were already standing in front of the nest of the manticores.
In front of them was a large cliff covered in vines. Ancient trees stood in front of the cliff, their trunks thick and twisted. In other parts of the forest, sounds of screeching and heavy breathing could be heard constantly, but here it was silent, as if there were no other living beings.
"Can’t see anything," Anfey said, frowning.
"Oh, the manticores will see you before you see them," Suzanna grinned.
"Let me," Christian said. "My eye of the sky cannot be detected by the manticore." He stepped forward and whispered a spell. A ball of gas gathered between his hands and began to condense, then the shadows of a few trees appeared within the gas.
Christian focused on the eye of the sky, and after two dozens images flashed through the gas, two manticores appeared.
It was Anfey’s first time seeing high level magic beasts. The manticore looked similar to a lion, its body was bright red, as were its eyes. It had thick limbs and sharp teeth the length of a man’s hand. Behind its body was a long, thick tail covered in shining scales, and ending in a sharp tip.
"A manticore does not have magic, but it is extremely strong. It can shatter the shell of a stone tortoise with a single slam," Suzanna said slowly. "See its tail? It can pierce most beasts’ bodies without any problem, and it has stupefying properties. It can freeze its enemy for a short time. Even if you are a swordsman, if that tail gets you, you’re dead. The manticore will tear you to pieces before you can properly recover."
"It’s that dangerous?" Anfey asked, shocked.
"Unicorns are even more dangerous," Suzanna said lightly. "Not only can they use serial lightning, unicorns are much faster than manticores. Its horn not only has purifying properties, but also stupefying, like the manticore’s tail. A manticore must come in contact with its target to harm it, but a unicorn doesn’t have to. If you are lucky, the unicorn won’t kill you before you can even see it. Unless you are scared and want me to take care of it."
"Thanks for your concern," Anfey said, smiling, "but I can handle it."
"No one’s concerned about you," Suzanna said angrily. "I just don’t want anyone to get hurt."
"Christian, can we keep our eyes on them? How long can you hold on to the magic?" Anfey turned to Christian and asked.
"I can hold it for an entire day, no problem."
"Great. Now we watch."