165 Welcome to the jungle!
The monster leaped towards the girl who was completely frozen without knowing what to do and barely managed to dodge its attack in time.
Ellie aimed at her own feet and created a platform of blue diamonds to push her out of the way of the jaguar. The feline beast noticed that its prey had escaped and turned around to try it one more time.
The two kept repeating this dance for a few more times which made it look like they were playing a game of tag with Ellie constantly leaping out of the large feline's trajectory every time it leaped towards her.
"DETRA!!! WHAT DO I DO!!??" Ellie shouted.
"Invite him for dinner so he can taste my new soup recipe. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD DO, YOU MORON?? KILL THE BLOODY ANIMAL SO WE CAN MOVE ON!!!" Detra shouted back.
"Kill it!!!?? But- But-"
The jaguar leaped towards Ellie one more time, but instead of trying to jump out of the way, she raised a wall of diamonds to keep her safe from the beast.
The monster tried to scratch the wall with its claws but it seemed like the diamonds were stronger. Ellie realized that she got some room to breathe started to calm down a little.
"These won't hold on for long by the way..." Detra commented.
"What...?" Ellie responded.
Suddenly, the jaguar's golden horn began to glow even stronger. After that, all the red spikes on its back began to glow as well, and before anyone noticed, an even bigger red jaguar made of energy appeared with the original beast inside of it.
The group just stared at it with their eyes and mouths wide open.
"This monster can create an energy avatar of himself, and the avatar is three times stronger than the original beast," Detra commented.
"WHAT!!??" X 3
The giant avatar raised its claws again and smashed Ellie's diamond wall into pieces like it was made of glass. The impact sent Ellie flying and she got knocked back against a tree.
"Ellie!!" Lilith and Marcus yelled at the same time. The two were about to rush to save her but Detra stood in front of them with her arms open.
"Stop!! She needed to do it herself!!"
"Are you crazy!!?? That thing is going to kill her!!!" Lilith screamed.
"Not if she fights back!!"
Ellie raised her head and spotted the beast about to stomp her. The girl created a small diamond platform beneath her and leaped out of the way just as she was about to get squashed.
The beast locked its eyes on her as it landed and already prepared itself to leap again, but Ellie acted faster and raised the diamonds beneath the giant red cat to punch the beast's stomach, the area where the actual jaguar was hiding in.
As the diamond collided with the avatar's body, the beast started to cry in pain from the impact and lost its focus, completely deforming its avatar of red energy. The green feline then fell on the ground a little agitated from the shock.
Detra observed the whole situation with her arms crossed and being generally pleased with her performance.
"What are you waiting for?? Kill it now!!" Detra shouted.
"Ah! R- Right!!" Ellie realized she had an opening and rushed to the side of the animal to finish the job. But as she approached it, the animal started to howl at the girl, which made her shake a little in fear.
The beast then leaped one more time as Ellie was distracted with its fangs in display and ready to swallow her.
"Aaaahhh!!!" the girl became frozen with fear and covered her face with both arms while closing her eyes.
Just as she was about to be devoured, Lilith and Marcus jumped in to impale the monster with their blades, successfully saving her at the last second.
The creature fell on the ground after being slain while Ellie fell on her knees with tears on her eyes, terrified over being almost killed.
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God..." Ellie kept whispering while shaking non-stop trying to hold herself.
Lilith rushed to her side and hugged her to confirm if she was ok, "Ellie!! Ellie, did he hurt you anywhere? Are you injured?"
"I'm... I'm..." Ellie was so shocked she could barely finish her sentence.
"Mmm... This might be harder than I thought..." Detra mumbled.
Marcus glared at her and grabbed the woman by the collar.
"Have you lost your mind?? That thing could have killed her!!!"
Detra just rolled her eyes, "Really? And here I thought he just wanted to give her a hug..."
"You think this is funny?? What if Ellie got hurt??"
"We have healing crystals with us, stop being a drama queen..." Detra moved his hands away from her and glared back at him, "If she can't even beat a random monster by herself then she will never be able to win against Mia! You are the ones who are treating this as a joke!!"
She then walked towards the still traumatized Ellie who was kneeling on the ground with Lilith by her side.
"The whole point of us coming here is to toughen her up!! Stop acting like this minor incident is a big deal and let's keep moving!"
"Minor incident!!??" Lilith yelled, "East, for crying out loud, she's nine years old!!! Is this really what your amazing plan was all along?? To just drop her in the middle of a fight against a monster and hope she survives??"
"That's exactly what my plan was, yeah" Detra admitted.
Detra bent her knees so that Ellie could look directly at her.
"For the next couple of days... Your job will be to fight like your life depended on it... You will fight, and fight, and fight, and keep fighting until there is nothing in this forest that can stand up to you..."
Ellie just kept looking at the blond woman with disbelief.
"You have the potential to be a great warrior... But you lack experience... You need to understand what it takes to actually win! And to do that, I need you to follow what I say!"
"So I'm going to ask you... Are you going to do your job, or not?"
Lilith could feel Ellie shaking in her arms. She could feel how terrified the girl was and how much she wanted to just quit this whole thing.
"Don't listen to her Ellie. Let's get out of here and come up with another plan. We don't need to risk ourselves inside this forest like this... Let's go back!" Lilith stated.
Ellie just looked at Lilith for a moment.
"Go back...?" she mumbled.
Ellie then began to see several images flashing on her eyes. Her parents acting like zombies, her grandmother being chocked by vines, her aunt's body being controlled by Mia, her entire city being overrun by demons and spirits.
"I... I can't go back..." Ellie whispered with teary eyes. She knew if she wanted to save her family, she needed to follow Detra.
The girl wiped her tears and looked at her aunt's housemaid with determined eyes.
"I'm sorry! I won't fail again!" she declared.
Detra released a small grin, "Good girl! Let's move on then!"
Lilith just stood there as Detra began to advance deeper inside the forest while Ellie followed right behind her.
Marcus approached her showing a bit of concern and a big frown on his face, "I don't like this..."
"...Me neither... " Lilith also was not enjoying the situation. She felt like the more time passed, the more Ellie was starting to change who she was, "But Ellie won't stop until she realizes how insane following Detra actually is... We need to stay by her side to keep her safe."
"If only she would listen to us..."
"..." Lilith sighed a little big lamenting how she couldn't get one little girl to choose her over a crazy former goddess, but stopped after realizing that now was not the time to feel sorry about herself, "Come on... we need to stay by her side..."
The group continued to advance through the forest.
Since they were still inside the ring of summoning magic, several monsters kept showing up out of nowhere and jumping on them to try and bite their heads off.
Jaguars with green skin and red spikes, wolves covered in metal that would launch them like projectiles, lizards with multiple heads that could breathe ice, and many more different types of monsters that they barely recognized, all origination from different corners of the world and being summoned to this forest due to its magic.
Every time it would happen, Detra would order Ellie to try and face the creatures by herself before getting completely frozen in fear and needing Marcus and Lilith to rescue her.
Sometimes she would get a couple of lucky hits in, managing to have her blue diamonds partially injure the beasts here and there, but she kept finding trouble in finishing them off for good which resulted in her getting hurt a lot in the process.
Lilith and Marcus kept trying to tell her to let them fight by her side, but the girl always yelled at them to let her try by on her own first.
Just like Detra wanted, the group kept fighting non-stop until the girl could no longer stand on her feet.
"East! We need a break!!" Lilith yelled.
"No, we need to keep moving! We are still very far from the time ring, we can't afford to waste a single moment here!" Detra replied.
"But Ellie is exhausted! She's barely awake!"
"I'm... Fine..." Ellie tried to tell, but her breathing was so heavy that just trying to speak was taking a lot of effort for her.
"No, you're not! Let's just calm down and rest a little!" Lilith affirmed.
Detra took another look at the young girl and realized that she was indeed in no state to keep moving, and if she couldn't keep fighting, then this whole experience would have no point.
"Very well... We can take a small break..." Detra agreed reluctantly.
Lilith laid a couple of blankets that were inside her backpack to allow the young girl to rest a little bit. Before they noticed, Ellie had completely fallen into sleep.
"What!? No, no, no! She can't sleep now!! we need to keep moving soon!!" Detra stated as she noticed the sleeping child snoring loudly.
"Back off!!" Lilith stated while placing herself between the two "Do not test me!"
"Ugh!! Fine... Let's just waste our valuable time like it was nothing... Not like the fate of the world is at stake or anything..." Detra murmured as she crossed her arms and moved away to sit on a tree root that was emerging out of the ground while holding a very annoyed expression.
Detra, Lilith, and Marcus all took this chance to rest as well before moving forward.
Lilith took a couple of magic crystals from her bag that had been infused with healing magic to treat Ellie's wounds while she continued to sleep.
Marcus grabbed some food to refill his lost stamina from all the fighting he did. It wasn't until he stopped for a moment that he noticed how hungry he was.
Detra kept glaring at them just waiting for the group to start moving again while trying to calculate how long it would take to reach the ring of time at this rate.
Before they noticed, the sun was already gone and the day had come to a close.
They now had six days until their fated battle with Mia.