Since battle was out of the question, there was only one possible plan left. I turned around and called out to Carpy and Gem. "Let's get the hell away from here!"
This battle was unwinnable; in chess terms, it was a checkmate. In reality, it was more like the other player flipped the board and smashed your face in. So the best option I had was to abandon the game and live to fight another day.
At least, that's what I told myself as I ran away from the screams behind me. Brave exorcists were fighting and dying in droves. I doubted most of them even knew that Uwabami had just gotten sober, and until now, it hadn't even been fighting for real.
The ground shook violently as an ear-splitting explosion shattered towering mountains, sending debris flying into the air and filling the sky with thick clouds of smoke and dust. The sheer force of the blast rippled through the landscape, rattling trees and cracking boulders, as the sound echoed for miles around, drowning out all other noise and bringing a momentary stillness to the chaos that ensued.
Carpy swiftly sprang into action, using his mastery of water to create a protective barrier that shielded us from the onslaught of debris. The barrage of rocks and boulders that rained down upon us was unrelenting, some weighing dozens of tons and testing the limits of his defensive abilities. Nevertheless, he persisted in holding the shield in place, straining against the force of the impact to keep us safe from harm.
"RETREAT!" bellowed the headmaster, his face turning purple as he surveyed the death and carnage surrounding him.
I couldn't even begin to imagine what he must be feeling. Many of the exorcists here had been raised in his school and taught by him. Seeing them die by the hundreds couldn’t be easy, even for the headmaster, who had seen countless battlefields.
But I was frozen in shock as a soaring boulder smashed into the headmaster's head while he was guiding one of the students. Before the impact, the bandage around the headmaster's head expanded and strained against the boulder. However, it was too weak to stop the whole thing, and it smashed into the old man.
With the commander all but done, the exorcists all turned to flee in different directions. Uwabami was strong, but it couldn't chase after every single one of them and had to choose a direction.
Yet instead of giving chase, Uwabami lay on the ground and started snoring. The Ultimate Class Demon who had caused such immense havoc not moments prior had just... fallen asleep.
Everyone, including myself, was shaken. Despite the chaos Uwabami had caused, in its eyes, we were like ants - the non-dangerous kind. Some clenched their fists, seeming ashamed of this realization, but still chose to run off and escape.
Ultimate Class demons mostly kept to themselves, and humans were so numerous that many of us assumed humanity was at the top. Now, the exorcists were starting to realize and feel how I had felt since the beginning; and fell under the heavy grasp of despair. We weren't special in any way, and to most demons, we were about as unique as ants were to us. While some ants were dangerous, they posed no threat to our entire species.
"This fucking snake!" Gem clenched his jaw so hard, it seemed his teeth could shatter. I quickly threw him onto a water bubble that Carpy created, and we retreated too.
My first skirmish in the war ended in absolute defeat.
Even though I had expected something like this, it still left a sour taste in my mouth. The first battle had gone horribly wrong.
In a situation like this, there was only one real option on the table - to find Agon and point him toward the enemy. Then he could win his battles through the power of plot armor and friendship. However, the main priority right now was finding Bets. The last thing I wanted on my mind while planning this strategy was worrying about him. Additionally, Bets was a smart guy who could help with the rougher details of the plan.
"Carpy, keep your senses open for Bets’ signature. If you sense him, let me know immediately," I ordered, and he nodded.
"I was also on the patrol team, and I know the general routes the teams usually go," Gem suddenly said. I turned toward him, and he continued. "The patrols don't usually go too far from the camp. After all, we're doing patrols to prevent demons from sneaking through."
Yeah, and that had worked out so well. They had missed the mountain-sized serpent just darting past them. Though I couldn’t fully blame the patrol teams for that one. While Uwabami was both a drunkard and a giant serpent, it could be quite sneaky when it wanted to be. Moreover, even if the patrols had found it, no one could have done anything about it.
As we journeyed through the rugged terrain, that could only be described as the outer fringes of the patrol routes. The sounds of distant explosions and gunfire echoed through the lands. Even from so far away, we could feel the ground trembling as the battle raged on in the distance. Uwabami seemed as restless as ever.
We traversed past tall trees and grassy hills before Carpy finally spoke up. "I sense him."
Then, he drew the water out of the grass around us, causing the vegetation to wither and forming an arrow pointing east.
"We need to hurry. His already weak life force seems to be fluttering. That usually means he is injured," Carpy informed us, and we immediately took off. The wind swished past our faces as we ran at top speeds.
Bets clutched at his side with blood seeping through his fingers, his head spinning as he struggled to stay awake. Every breath was laborious, and he could feel the world slipping away from him in moments of unconsciousness. Exhausted and weak, he fought to hold on to consciousness, but his body begged for rest.
After being viciously attacked by a demon, he had no choice but to take refuge within the confines of an old and big dried-up tree. Its insides were hollow, which made a good hiding place.
The smell of bird excrement and rotting wood filled his nostrils, making his stomach churn. He shivered, feeling the coldness of the bark against his skin as he tried to ignore the overwhelming sense of fear that threatened to consume him.
He still couldn't come to terms with his situation. All of a sudden, demons had attacked, and the earth shook due to some explosions in the distance. Which were likely made by the large snake that was bigger than a mountain. Though the monstrous beast was miles away, it had scared the exorcists all the way here.
As a non-combatant, Bets wasn't that valuable to any team, so he was left behind to be used as fodder for demons. While monsters feasted on their flesh, his 'teammates' would be running away.
This really brought into perspective how good the work under Kon was. As a team leader, Kon never abandoned anyone. The stuff they did was actually fulfilling, and he knew what needed to be done.
At least now, Bets had learned without a shadow of a doubt that most higher-ups had no fucking idea what they were doing. They had created a defensive line against an Ultimate Class demon…
That was incompetence at its peak. For an Ultimate Class demon, they should have been on the offensive and had someone with some strange special ability kill Shuten Doji. Someone like the Temperance Exorcist would have been better used rather than just being left to wander around.
Bets sighed; he had come to terms with death long ago. But he didn't want to die in a place like this. He had things he wanted to do before he died! Yet, no matter how hard he tried, his body was too tired to move out of the dry tree he had hidden himself in.
"He is here? How did he get himself in that tree bark?" Gem's voice came from the outside. Bets didn't move, and his happiness died down not even a second later. The most reasonable assumption would be that he was hallucinating.
Despite enjoying Gem's company as a friend, the guy was about as sharp as a bowling ball.
"Move aside," Kon's voice rang out. This time Bets really started gaining hope again. But this was a bit too convenient, Kon hadn't even entered the frontlines yet, and his cousin should still be looking for him.
"Carpy, try and use your water blades to cut the dry wood," Kon said, and next, Bets felt the tightness around him disappear.
He slumped out of the dry tree, and before his body could hit the ground, Gem grabbed and gently put him down.
"Holy shit! Look at that injury! I can see his intestines, and there's green puss around his cuts!" Gem exclaimed and backed off with a trembling voice.
"Don't worry, we're here," Kon reassured him and took out some vials of medicine and bandages. "Carpy, make him drink some water. Also, create small blades of water and cut some of the infected parts out. Just small parts, not the big ones; keep in mind that humans can't regenerate like demons."
Despite the rumblings and explosions in the distance for hours on end, Kon's hands were unshakable as he finished his sutures. "After this, we will go to a real doctor. Maybe get some real antibiotics."
"It feels like the explosions are getting closer," Gem said. "We should move out of here. Bets, can you move?"
It took all the power Bets had in him to shake his head. Kon then reassured him. "Don't worry about it-"
"Master, demons are closing in on us," Carpy notified them.