Elania gasped in surprise. The cavern that had been silent for days came to life before her eyes. Mounds of what she had assumed were stone-covered moss got onto their legs, letting out a strange “Garooo” sound that echoed everywhere. They each showed up as [Ralfot] and were actually some type of quadruped covered in moss. Was the moss part of their skin or did it grow on them as a symbiote? On a few, the moss was getting quite long and she wondered if that made them into something like an underground sheep-cow.
Then something drew her attention to the ceiling, and she looked in amazement at the several wispy creatures floating there. They looked like jelly-fish but somehow were able to float in the air. The [Jellv] seemed to have some way of directing their movement and assembled to the brightest patches of glow moss, packing themselves as close as possible.
Shadow patterns began to form on the ground in the cavern, and as the Jellies moved in large groups, those patterns moved across the floor, adding another visual effect to all the luminescent flora.
'They don't have levels, and that seems to separate them from the people I’ve seen so far. Although I'm not sure I'd classify the Bone Demon as a person.'
Elania noticed smaller, less visible creatures as well. A small pack of scaled creatures about the size of rabbits came up from hidden burrows to hunt down and nibble on the [Fenicia's Fungal Growth] and the ground moss. The sheer number of them had her wondering if the people here had the same sayings for [Elnats] as people on Earth did for rabbits.
As she continued to watch all the creatures emerge and go about their business of... well, most of them seemed to be looking for food, she wondered about how they had all stayed hidden for so long.
Had her [Demonic Aura] made them all hide because they thought she was a dangerous predator? If these small creatures were so capable of hiding like that, then Elania didn’t even want to think about how the real predators in the caverns would be like. She doubted a human could have hidden for that long without making some noise, even if it was in their sleep!
[You have gained a level in Identify!]
Oh! That'd be useful. Maybe it would show more information. Much to Elania's dismay, there didn't seem to be any changes with a single level. 'I've been cheated!'
Even bugs and other insects came out, although they didn't seem attracted to her mercifully. She hated gnats, mosquitoes, and pretty much every type of insect that could fly. The biggest example she spotted was the small cloud that followed the Ralfots.
‘Another thing they have in common with cows. The creatures are a lot less aggressive than I’d expected.'
Looking down at her makeshift spear, she frowned. Should she try to hunt something? She wasn't hungry, and the thought of killing things to eat them when she didn't need food to survive didn't sit well with her. But what if she ran out of ‘Power’? She could absorb a demon's ‘Power,’ but what if that didn’t apply to other things? She needed to know.
Elania watched the creatures for a while longer before finally making up her mind. Since the Ralfots were too large, she'd go for one of the Elnats.
As she made her way down the roof, heading deeper into the cavern, she wondered if she should try to be sneaky about it. Maybe she'd learn a new skill? Trying it out, she picked her way around the rises and dips in the rock carefully, trying to keep out of view of her prey as she moved.
Arriving just one bend away, she sat down against a boulder for a moment. Disappointment at not earning any 'stealth' skill gnawed at her, and her heart was pounding faster than it had any right to do so. The approach hadn't been difficult at all, so it was definitely her nerves. She had never hunted anything before. She was a genuine city-girl.
The thought had her bite the inside of her bottom lip as the idea brought back memories she had struggled to keep locked down. She had been camping with her family, and she even remembered her father suggesting they go hunting once, just in case she ever wanted or needed to at some point.
'No time to think about that, Elania. No need to break down into tears right now, either.'
Taking a deep breath, she tightened her hold on the makeshift spear and quietly slid around the rock. She hadn't planned out what she intended to do, and she thought to throw the spear at one when they started to run. She had decided to try and get as close as possible before that happened, though.
The Elnats were still in the same group as earlier, each one spread out a few feet from the others, nibbling on moss and fungus. If they had been furry, she'd have called them cute. They looked more like grumpy lizards, though.
Inching closer, she got the feeling they already knew she was there. When one turned its head, and a single black bead of an eye fixated on her, she almost broke into a sprint. The thing didn't rush or stop its nibbling, though, and she continued her slow approach.
She got closer and closer with slight disbelief forming since the things weren't dashing off. As the distance closed to the last few yards, the thought that even she might be able to hit one with a thrown spear flittered by as she took the last steps. All of the little creatures had one of their eyes fixed on her, but none had moved.
Elania was at a loss and her plan was in disarray. She was close enough to simply stab the one she had approached, but it only moved slightly to get to a bit of moss that was out of reach.
'It wouldn't be right.'
Plan discarded, she crouched down, looking at the [Elnat] closer. The small animal didn't seem alarmed at all, and Elania impulsively scooped up some moss and held it out to the thing's nose cautiously. Her gesture was rewarded a few moments later when its tongue licked out, and then it moved closer to the moss Elania had offered. A stupidly pleased grin appeared on her face. "You're pretty much tame, aren't you?"
'Not everything is trying to kill me, at least.'
After feeding her new friend, she decided to explore the rest of the cavern. As she levered herself up, a strange musty odor reached her along with a sound she hadn't heard before.
Her head snapped in the direction of the sound, and her eyes widened as she took in the newcomer.
[ ???? - Mushroohum - Level 17]
'A mushroom man!' was her first thought. The resemblance was unmistakable as the human figure's head ended in the classical shape of a mushroom, and his skin seemed to have been made of wood. It was carrying a spear and shield, with some type of belt with other implements hanging off it. That was its only attire, though, and she guessed it worked fine considering the thing didn’t appear to have any genitalia. She was almost sure that ???? was a given name, or maybe a class. After seeing the Elnats and Ralfots, she was certain it indicated intelligence.
He seemed agitated, and although he didn't look very agile, he was striding toward her, aiming his spear at her. It continued to make the "Glua-Glaa!" sound repeatedly in a higher and higher tone.
As Elania took a step back, a sudden shriek erupted from below and realized she had stepped on the Elnat she had fed. 'Oh, that's why they are so tame.' She had almost hunted and ate someone's pet!
The Elnat seemed unharmed, but suddenly they all bolted away from her. Before she could try to communicate or explain, the Mushroom Man made a decision. Watching in horror, it pulled the spear back and then launched it at her like a javelin.
It was well aimed, but the distance meant she had just enough time to throw herself out of the way.
[You have gained a level in Dodging!]
Unfortunately, that didn't seem to suffice, or it didn't understand her because it continued its attempts to shout at her. At least, it had stopped approaching her.
That was until a second one showed up. Then a third, and fourth. Suddenly there were Mushroom Men all over, carrying spears and more than ready to come after her.
“I’m really sorry!”
She decided to retreat. As she rounded the last boulder she had hid behind before reaching the Elnats, a loud clack sounded near her head. One of them had thrown another spear, and it had bounced off the rock.