"You guys are all here!" Rachel noticed Sophie in the distance and gave an enthusiastic wave.
Qiana's figure also appeared in the middle of the clearing as the quiet girl just hummed slightly in reply.
The four roommates had reunited, and Rachel hurriedly took them toward her small hut that she had been using for the last couple of weeks.
They exchanged stories along the way and Rachel was astonished when she heard about the fearsome triple headed elemental snake.
Sophie and Astrid had been battling squads, beasts and fleeing nonstop while she had just been fishing peacefully on the lake.
Even now there were no other students close to her base, so the area was still relatively safe to rest.
Sophie was immediately struck by how well constructed everything was.
Rachel had made chairs, beds, and various other pieces of furniture from the trees nearby and the gap between her base and the ones that Sophie constructed was quite large.
The location was very scenic, and the clear waters of the lake actually made the house seem like a vacation home.
[ 10 hours left candidates]
[ 3975 Students Remain. 3974 Students Remain]
Sophie constantly checked the reports on the barrier device and found that students were now rapidly being eliminated.
The competition was only going to get fiercer and fiercer as the hours ticked down.
Only ten hours remained, and it was impossible to be a bit nervous.
"We can't stay here for long," Qiana spoke up.
"This location may not have many students now but as the zone gets restricted, there are bound to be people who arrive at the lake."
"Rachel's base is too exposed," she explained.
Qiana did make a point and the others frowned as they tried to plan their next moves. The decreasing number of students put a great amount of pressure on them.
One wrong decision could make all the hard work of the previous weeks result in naught. Each person had different opinions over their next course of action.
Astrid voted that they should seek out other squads and eliminate them to drop the number of remaining students down to one thousand.
Rachel and Qiana disagreed and wanted to find a new safe location to just wait out the rest of the competition.
They turned to Sophie who was still mulling over the matter. Astrid's idea was too risky because fighting constantly would quickly deplete their qi reserves which would lead into a dangerous situation.
It should have been a straightforward decision to make but Sophie was torn between making the decision to hide and the bloodl.u.s.t bubbling beneath her skin.
Eventually common sense prevailed, and Sophie decided to follow the lead of Qiana and Rachel.
The trio began to discuss potential hideouts that could be camouflaged with trees or leaves while Astrid pouted in the background with a sulky expression.
Qiana had a decent knowledge of concealment formations so she was designated as the head constructor of the base.
Sophie did not know at the time, but their decision was nothing more than hopeless naivety.
Would the exam administrators really allow students to just hide and wait for the exam time to run out?
(Transport Ship 013- Monitoring Room)
"Hmm it's just a we predicted," an elderly examiner stood at the monitoring station with a barely concealed smirk.
"Several groups of students have stopped fighting and are now trying to conceal their presence from the other competitors."
The closer the time ticked towards the end of the competition meant that the candidates would no longer take any risks.
Most would just bunker down and wait out the duration of the exam, so it was up to the administrators to prevent this occurrence.
Sometimes students needed a little. well let's call it. motivation.
"Release the trackers," the elderly man ordered.
"Yes sir!" came the resounding reply from his subordinates.
Mysterious crates were carried to the transporter and beamed directly down to the exoplanet's surface.
Each crate had several holes to let in fresh air and aggressive rattling could be heard faintly from the outside.
[ Attention Students!]
[ Please check your barrier device and avoid hostile enemies]
[ 9 hours and 57 minutes remain 9 hours and 56 minutes remain]
The barrier device emitted a ringing noise and the girls hurriedly opened up the holographic map to see that the markings had changed from a green to red colour and shifted locations.
There were cl.u.s.ters of these red dots at different areas at the outer part of the zone but more kept appearing every second.
These red dots were rapidly spreading from the corners of the zone into the center while travelling in packs of ten.
None of the girls were sure of what these dots symbolised but the warning from the mechanical announcement meant that they would soon be facing a new type of enemies.
"We need to move now!" Qiana gazed at the map and shouted decisively. The speed of the red dots were faster than expected and it would not be long until they reached the lake shore.
The group quickly packed up their gear and ran towards the opposite direction of the red dots which was deeper inside the zone.
Sophie just had the terrible thought.
What if these creatures were herding them towards the central area?
(Exoplanet T-980 Unknown Location)
Several crates appeared inside a forested area and the lock outside the box was slowly unlocked with a mechanical click.
Noises of excitement was heard from inside one of the crates as a beast slithered outside and cautiously looked at its new surroundings.
The beast was a flesh glob of mass in the shape of a worm with razor sharp spines poking out of its body.
It was a low-level Insectoid race that was used a scout by their more intelligent Insectoid leaders.
Their individual strength was not particularly impressive, but their main strength was in their fearsome tracking and pack hunting.
More and more of these beasts slithered slowly out of their crates and joyfully relaxed in their newfound freedom.
One of the beasts sniffed the air a few times and caught the delicious scent of food coming from the distance.
It opened its enormous maw filled with dangerous looking teeth and started to dig a hole to travel underground.