While it wasn’t moving in a straight line, it seemed to be heading in his direction. The dust cloud was getting bigger, and he could now see several shadows moving inside of it. By then, it was only a few dozen meters away.
After the group within the dust cloud turned a few times, they came straight towards him. Unfortunately, it seemed like he was in their path.
“Woah, woah…don’t come this way!”
Taketo put his hands on the ground and got to his feet. While his legs nearly gave in, he managed to start running. However, the group was getting closer and closer to him. Sand and grass were kicked up into the air, and the footsteps sounded like the beating of drums.
Shit. He was frantic. He had to outrun them. He had to get out of their path as soon as possible. There would be no survival if he was trampled.
He had assumed that they were cars or some kind of tank at first, but on closer inspection, they were nothing of the sort. They were more agile and more numerous as they ran.
Yes, they were now close enough for him to see them clearly.
“Wh-what the hell is that…!!!”
Taketo ran as fast as he could. The thing that ran in the lead was a horse that was the size of a thoroughbred. But there was something different about its head. No, it wasn’t a horse. There was no horse that was like that.
The lower half of the horse was that of a horse. An incredible muscular horse. As for the head, it was that of a great eagle with a curved, yellow beak. There were even giant wings on its back. Was it a griffon?
The griffon dashed forward at a maddening speed, its four hoofs stomping the ground loudly. And just behind it, there were several other horses as well. These seemed to be ordinary horses, and they carried riders who were covered in fur. They whipped the horses mercilessly, urging them on.
(Woah! Woah! What is this! What the hell! I’m going to be trampled…!)
Taketo’s arms and legs were moving desperately. He did not think it was possible to move any faster. But he was only human. And there was no way for him to beat the speed of a four-legged animal at full gallop. And before he knew it, the griffon was right at his back.
If only he could move out of its path. However, it was too late for that. The giant hooves were right behind him now. The stomping of the horses sounded like machine gun fire.
Overtaken by panic, Taketo’s foot got caught in the grass, and he stumbled.
(Shit…I’m going to get trampled…!)
He fell heavily to the ground. Taketo immediately curled up and tried to protect his head with his arms. Then he shut his eyes tightly.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it would mean nothing when he was under those huge hooves. Immediately after, he felt successive and violent shakes, and then something passed him by.
Once the sounds were gone, Taketo put his hands on the ground and raised his face.
(Good. I wasn’t stepped on…)
He sighed with relief and turned towards the group that had passed him by. The sight was most unexpected.
The griffon that had been running with its feet so steadily over the dirt a moment ago, seemed to have lost its balance, as it had been thrown to the side and slammed into the ground. It was now neighing loudly. That’s when the riders covered in fur dismounted their horses and approached it. They started to throw nets and ropes over the creature. In no time at all, the griffon was tied up and unable to move.
The griffon had been bound up right before his eyes.
(…Could it be…)
He hadn’t escaped being trampled by the griffon due to luck.
(It was because that griffon did everything that it could to avoid hitting me. And that was why it lost its balance…)
It was because of him that the griffon fell, and was caught by the pursuers. Such were the thoughts that came to him. He felt sorry for the beast, and a horrible feeling began to well up in his chest. What were these people going to do with the griffon? Were they going to kill it?
As he stared at the scene in stunned silence, one of the riders noticed him. The person pointed and began to shout angrily. But Taketo had no idea what he was saying. It was a language that he’d never heard before. That being said, the anger in his voice was unmistakable.
Just up until a moment ago, he had meant to ask for help if he saw a local. However, the current situation was not very promising. He couldn’t ask for help now. If anything, one of the riders was now aiming at Taketo with a bow. There was nothing friendly about the way they looked at him. They would not help. He had to run, or they would kill him. But he was in a vast field of grass. Where could he go?
(You have to be kidding me! As if I could run from pursuers on horseback in a place like this!)
There was no time to feel sorry for the griffon. It was his turn to be hunted down.