Chapter 14 - Difficulties
Vahn continued to scout the area around the marker for the goblins' village/nest. Over the course of three days, he had killed a total of 18 goblins in various different camps causing an increase in their security. Camps began hosting groups of 5-7 goblins instead of the original three. Vahn began to worry as he hadn't expected such a large goblin presence and his strategy to slowly whittle them down began to seem unfeasible
Once, when he tried to penetrate through the outer perimeter and scout the location of the Chief he ended up nearly getting killed by a group of patrolling goblins. Though he had avoided several groups up till that point, he was caught off-guard by sentries stationed in various elevated positions. When they had spotted him they raised a cry that caused the patrolling goblins in the vicinity to congregate towards his position.
He managed to fight his way out of the encirclement, but it wasn't without a cost. Due to the severity of his injuries, he was forced to eat both of his senzu beans during his retreat. Fortunately, he had acquired several crystals from slaying other goblins which allowed him to purchase an additional three as well as two new pieces of equipment.
'Handloomed Shadowsilk Tunic'
A tunic that was caringly woven using the silk produced by a special variant of silkworms nurtured in darkness among strong sources of Yin energy. Though it provides little defense, it greatly enhances stealth capabilities. It carries with it the creators' desire that the protector is kept from harm.
'Scout's Ghillie Mantle'
A special mantle constructed to emulate the varying types of foliage found within the different forested terrains. When the user remains idle they are almost indiscernible from their surroundings.
After recouping his supplies, Vahn made his way into the forest using his new equipment. As a means of countering the goblin patrols, he had purchased several anti-personnel mines which he had scattered along their patrol routes. After triggering many of the mines, the goblins ceased their patrolling and began to consolidate their forces towards the river. They had even begun to dig into the area near the treeline exposing the dirt and ground below.
Seeing the actions they had taken, Vahn was surprised at the intelligent actions they displayed. Compared to many of the monsters he had seen in the manga, which were mindless creatures that charged endlessly at the protagonist, these goblins displayed caution and tactics. They proved they were capable of adapting to different situations.
Vahn ended up refunding some of the mines, though he still buried the majority along the treeline for future use. The main reason he hadn't refunded them all was due to the fact the refund only gave 30% of the spent resources which caused him to abandon the idea.
It was on the eve of the fifth day that Vahn finally spotted the Chief. Unlike the majority of goblins who stood less than a meter in height, the Chief was nearly 1.5 meters and had the build of an average a.d.u.l.t. The leathery skin of his torso had scale-like protrusions embedded along the epidermal tissue. It had several horns studding its head with two much larger ones above both temples. It's lower body had bristle-like fur compared to the normal thick coat of other goblins. It's two most notable features, however, were its eyes and the staff he wielded...
Unlike the ferocious red eyes of normal goblins, the Chief possessed pale yellow eyes that showed signs of rationality and intelligence. He almost had a look of contempt as he ordered the other goblins in the area. Within its right hand, he held a staff that looked to be rigged back together after having been broken. Vahn could see the periodic glow of runes along the body of the staff, and the occasional spark coming from the crack near the top of the staff.
Vahn assumed the staff had been taken from an adventurer which implied the Chief was either able to cast magic or was strong enough on its own to fight against mages...
The 'village' which the Chief lived in was more of an encampment than anything. They had erected small huts almost as a mockery to humanity and civilized culture. Within the encampment were more than 100 normal goblins, as well as three larger ones which seemed to take turns guarding the Chief and enforcing its order. They were each wielding long flexible clubs which they used to periodically whip the smaller goblins to action.
The entire village seemed to have come alive as the goblins scuttled about building soil embankments as a makeshift wall around the encampment. Vahn could tell that the longer he waited, the more difficult it would be to engage the Chief. He knew going head-on would be impossible due to the large disparity in numbers, and there was a high chance even if he tried to attack from a distance the Chief would deploy it's troops while staying in the back.
The distance between the treeline and encampment was around 130m, but there was absolutely no cover in that entire gap. Though the open space would provide him an advantage in picking off any goblins within the area, he wouldn't be able to guarantee his accuracy without getting closer which would leave him exposed. The goblins seemed incapable of using bows, but it didn't stop them from throwing small stones with enough force to cause physical harm if they hit the right spot. It had been one of the more annoying things when dealing with the sentries mounted in trees.
He began toying with the idea of firing random arrows into the encampment and try to lure out small groups. Kiting them into the forest would give him the terrain advantage making it easy to secure some simple kills. Even if the goblins stopped their pursuit after triggering the mines he would be able to take advantage of their retreat. If he had more time he could slowly whittle them down and turn the engagement into a war of attrition.
He looked at the time remaining for the quest: 2D03H17M
Two days wasn't enough time to force them out of the encampment. There was also the chance they could start to cannibalize the weaker goblins, as they wouldn't disperse into dust unless a lethal strike was performed.
"Sis, do you have any ideas? I can't think of anything that would allow me to fight a group of one-hundred-plus goblins and survive. Not to mention I haven't even identified how strong the Chief himself is..."
(*I'm sorry Vahn, all present data indicates you will be unable to break into the encampment with your current status and equipment. If you had more Origin Points there may be a solution in the shop, but your current OP value is only 43. It would be difficult to acquire enough points within the next 50 hours that would give a meaningful advantage in the current situation.*)
"It's okay Sis," sighed Vahn. "I suppose I'll have to rely on myself to come up with a solution...please let me know if you think of anything though. At this point, anything could prove helpful."
(*Understood. I'll keep running simulations to try and find a solution as you take further action.*)
Nodding his head in affirmation, Vahn began to withdraw towards a secondary base camp he had established near the goblin encampment. It was in the same hollowed rotting tree where he engaged the first group of goblins. After the events of the first day, it had become an area the goblins proactively avoided.
Blocking off the area near the stumps entrance, Vahn began to rest while trying to come up with a solution to breaking the encampments defense and drawing the Chief out...
He began to mull over various ideas and strategies, even revisiting the idea of firing random shots just to reduce their numbers. Anything to change the status quo of the current situation would give him more options to make further plans. He also thought about trying to sneak near the encampment at night to bury some mines, but upon remembering the goblins possessed some degree of night vision he scrapped the idea.
As the light began to fade, Vahn started nodding off due to the excessive thoughts plaguing his mind. He was unable to find the solution and figured tackling the idea with a fresh mind would be the most optimal choice.
"First thing tomorrow morning I'll try to draw some of the goblins out of the encampment. If I'm lucky I'll be able to reduce their numbers below one-hundred..." he sighed at the thought there would still be more than eighty, including the Chief himself, remaining.
As he began to finally slip into unconsciousness, the last thought that passed through Vahn's mind was a method on how to break the embankments the goblins had been building up. As sleep claimed him, he released a small expectant smile.