41. What Lies Within
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Exrite led the group six around the vast chasm.

Between the deadly cliff and the giant trees, they tread on uneven soil as they approached the wall of fog far ahead. Even though the skies above them were clear from the enshrouding fog, the clouExrite led the group six around the vast chasm.

Between the deadly cliff and the giant trees, they tread on uneven soil as they approached the wall of fog far ahead. Even though the skies above them were clear from the enshrouding fog, the clouds were thick and covered the sun.

They were surrounded by an uneasy ambience. The sound of crackling leaves and branches melded with the rustling of their gear. None of them spoke a single world as they ventured steadfast towards the unknown.

Normally, Khaos would’ve been shaken to the core just being this close to the chasm. However, the world ahead devoured his attention and numbed his fears.

Soon, the giant trees became shorter, thinner and were split as if they had been hit by a violent storm. Lumbering logs lay stacked and embedded deep into the soil, jutting out like razor-sharp needles.

It spanned as far as the eye could see, with varying degrees of elevation and desolation. Whatever happened here was unlikely to be of natural origin, as Exrite believed. Once again, their attention was drawn back to the fog wall that now stood only a mere fifty metres away.

“See anything, Frosty?” Exrite calmly asked.

“Nothing at all. I haven’t caught a glimpse of a soul ever since we left.” She answered promptly as she surveyed her surroundings with the eyes of a hawk. “It’s suspicious. We’re not that far away from the main forest, are we?”

They couldn’t agree more. Within the desolated ‘forest’, there wasn’t a soul in sight, let alone any traces of life. Even the Colours – who could easily detect camouflaging creatures with ease – saw nothing out of the ordinary.

“Don’t rely on whatever that [Soul Sight] magic is. Like I said, not everything in this world has a soul. Although, please continue to have your eyes peeled. You’re supposed to be looking out for us, right?”

White firmly spoke from the front of the group.

“At least it’ll be useful in there.”

She referred to the role Exrite gave both Frosty and Uru just after they left the Biomechanical Gardens. Because of Frosty’s [Soul Sight] and Uru’s impeccable sight as a Demon, they were appointed to immediately alarm them if they happen to spot a creature or anything suspicious.

Given the nature of the fog, Exrite knew that it would probably be hard for anyone to see other than Frosty, who could perfectly see souls even in those conditions. 

However, it was as White said; not all creatures have souls.

Therefore, they needed to also rely on Uru’s eyes and their own wits.

“Hmm.” The Demon hummed, her eyes gold and black eyes fixated deep into the spiny forest. “Frosty, is there a limit on how far you can see souls?”

“Twenty to thirty metres. Any reason why you’re asking?”

“How crude. I’m just curious, that’s all.” Uru slowly glanced at the group and caught Frosty’s gaze before she stared back into the forest. “It’s shame that it’s not three hundred metres. You probably would’ve found them before I did.”

“Eh –? What do you mean?” Frosty scuffled her eyes into the same direction, finding nothing among the infestation of needle-like trees.

Even Exrite and the others wondered what Uru meant and immediately drew their eyes into the forest. They found nothing at all, and for a moment, the Colours thought it was a harmless ploy from the Demon. However –

“Lesser Ents. Among what’s left of those trees hides a plague of those inferior creatures. I don’t suppose you can tell them apart, but I can see them perfectly. Frosty, you were wondering why there isn’t any wildlife here – now there’s your answer.”

None of them had the vision to verify if this was true. No matter how hard they searched, they couldn’t tell the trees apart from the apparent Lesser Ents – which were unintelligent creatures that were drawn to destroyed forests like the one beside them.

Exrite – while he didn’t know what one looked like – read about them mimicking the appearance of the trees in forests they infest, and that one could only differentiate them by finding their ‘eye’.

Or – of course – a more rudimentary way of finding a Lesser Ent was if they were suddenly attacked by a nearby tree.

That aside, Ents in general were known to mostly inhabit the Vevillen region. Although considering how close the Shallows was to Vevillen, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them here as well.

“Ents, you say. They’re not going to follow us in, right?” Khaos warily asked.

“They won’t. Or rather – they can’t. With their roots entrenched so deeply into the soil, it’d be impossible for them to move.” She explained and curved her lips into a small smile. “They’re disgusting creatures. They’ll constrict you with their thick vines then drive them deep into your flesh and orifices before they suck you dry of your life.”

“And you’re not any different? As a Succubs, I mean?” Black interjected slyly as she glanced back at Uru over her shoulder.

“Hmm~ I wonder. My victims don’t scream, thrash or yell when I embrace them. I don’t just feed on perverted thoughts, mind you Black. I reach into their deepest, most sincere desires and bring them to life before feasting on it. Although –”

Uru lightly licked her lips and glanced at Exrite.

“– there have been a few that I’ve struggled to ensnare.”

Exrite ignored her with a sigh as Frosty’s brows furrowed in annoyance.

Once again, Black and White wondered what Exrite’s relationship with Uru was.

“So – they’re not much of a risk unless we waltz in there, huh.” Black scanned the desolate forest and observed where it met with the fog wall.

The trees became sparse as they went on, soon becoming nothing but hardened soil and rock that were riddled with fractures. The landscape was uneven, and even more so in the direction of where the forest once stood.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call this place a barren wasteland.

At only a mere ten metres away, the group became suspicious of the abrupt change in the landscape. It was far from hospitable, for no greenery –  let alone life – existed here.

There was now nothing in between them and the fog.

While they had no clue as to what laid in wait on the other side, they had no qualms in diving in head first, as Frosty nodded in confirmation that there wasn’t a soul in sight.

As Exrite pondered on the best way to keep the group close within the fog, Black shoved an arm inside to test the waters.

“Hmhm~ Would you look at that. It’s safe~” She hummed mischievously before briefly glancing at Exrite.

He wondered what that gaze was about and sighed.

“Try to stay close in there.”

“Isn’t that a given?” Black replied.

With the few hours they had left before nightfall, they could not afford to waste anymore time. Exrite mustered whatever strength he could into his legs and thrust himself forward into the fog.

The others were quick to follow his suit, as if they were his shadow. Immediately, a thick, opaque haze cluttered their vision in every direction. A greyish hue lingered all around them, limiting their vision to only a mere five metres.

But it was more than enough for the group to traverse comfortably. However, now they could only rely on their other senses and Frosty’s [Soul Sight].

Exrite firmly clasped his cobalt handgun as he led them forward into the unknown.

* * *

There was no way to tell if they were still headed in the same direction. The claustrophobic talons of the fog held them captive in a dimly lit spotlight as they traversed deeper and deeper.

A small orb of light followed them overhead, for the sun’s light could barely reach them in these depths.

The simple taps and rustles of their attires were the only ambience in this foreboding place. Exrite silently thanked that the fog didn’t completely enshroud them, less he’d find himself unable to control his fear of being constricted in tight places.

A colourless compass was soon taken out from Black’s deepest pocket, where she observed yet the same phenomenon from the main forest of the Shallows.

“Tch. We’re still being jammed by this [Dimensional Mist].” She spoke to no one in particular, slightly mused.

The arrows of the compass spun uncontrollably. Even the simple act of searching for ‘north’ or ‘south’ resulted in the same response. The [Dimensional Mist] made it impossible for the compass to detect any sense of direction.

However, at the thought of locating White, the arrow perfectly pointed at the pale-haired woman behind.

“This isn’t another realm, is it?” Exrite wondered after noticing the strange behaviour of Black’s compass.

In an instant, she shut it close and shoved it deeply into her pocket.

“Not at all. It’s not thick enough to send us anywhere, and it’s not like we’re submerged in it either.” She answered with a sidelong stare.

Indeed. The fog never came close to penetrating their five metres of vision. It seemed like there was an external force aiding them; or it was simply a mechanism of the fog.

Bizarrely, the path behind them was swallowed with every step they took.

The further they ventured in, the more uneasy they became. The ground soon grew uneven and jagged, then entered a shallow decline that roused questions and suspicion.

Exrite could only assume that they were in the right direction.

The cracked soil quickly turned into fragmented stone, which crackled and split underneath their heavy steps. Loose stones were kicked into the fog with a deafening rattle.

While the group conversed, they never tore their eyes away from their surroundings. All of their senses were honed and sharpened like blades. Then, as the ground suddenly levelled itself, a strange smell violated their nostrils.

“– Shit. It smells like a rotting carcass.” Black spat as she violently grimaced and waved a hand in front of her face.

“What the hell is that smell?” Khaos pinched his nose.

The stench was vile enough to make a grown man drop onto his knees and grovel. It was like a putrid concoction of liquid flesh, charred bones and something acidic. Exrite painfully grit his teeth, for the smell was oddly familiar.

Or rather – too familiar.

It was the same scent his flesh released when a powerful acid was poured onto during his decade of solitude.

He was sure that the smell was of the same origin.

But where was it?

In between grimaces, growls and coughs; the group pushed forward until the texture of the ground caught Exrite’s eye. Unlike the uneven cracks beforehand, it was much smoother here. However, there were many strange, deep holes embedded into the stone, as if something had drove a stake into it.

If anything, it looked like the footprints of a monster.

Before Exrite could voice his suspicions, Frosty suddenly choked on her breath and cupped her mouth as she spat out a mouthful of blood. For a moment, a sickly sweet taste danced on the tip of her tongue, sparking an immediate reaction to clamp her jaw shut.

As she painfully groaned and caught the attention of the others, she quickly redirected their eyes back to the fog. She thrust her arm and pointed somewhere to the side.

“Watch out! There’s something in the fog!”

Immediately, Exrite and Black pointed their handguns into the direction while Uru’s razor-sharp claws stuck out like an assortment of thin blades. They didn’t need to think twice to prime themselves for combat, for they could trust Frosty’s eyes.

“What’s in there sis –!? Wait, you’re bleeding again!?”

“Don’t worry about my tongue! We’ve got bigger problems! There’s a giant soul over there!” She swallowed a mouthful of blood as she caught sight of a large wandering soul.

Even at twenty metres away, it dominated her vision and glowed violently against the contrasting fog. With how loud their voices were, she was certain that it would pounce on them at any second.

But that was not the case. Upon grasping her ethereal scythe – which materialised from the thin air – the soul trailed off until it vanished entirely. The group stood their ground, asking Frosty for whatever other information she could offer as Exrite and Black quietly stroked the trigger of their handguns.

“It’s... gone?” Frosty muttered with a confused voice, allowing the others to slowly turn their attention back to the bloodied woman.

As she desperately wiped her mouth clean with her shoulder, the markings across Uru’s body began to glow through her suggestive clothing. In an instant, a purple magical circle formed behind her like wings as her lips curved devilishly.

“Ho. If you won’t attack it first, then let me do the honours. Although I doubt your weapons can navigate through the fog like my magic.”

Fours beams of purple light were fired blindly into the fog. However, these [Seekers] were expected to hit their target, even if they were completely enshrouded by an impenetrable fog.

Moments later, a quaking explosion sounded in the distance which was accompanied with an unnerving screech.

It seemed safe to believe that Uru’s [Seekers] had annihilated whatever that creature was.

However, Exrite wasn’t convinced.

“Frosty, did you catch its soul?” He simply asked.

“No. It’s still alive out there… argh – This damn fog!” She winced and gulped another mouthful of blood.

The scent of her sweet blood intrigued White as she intently stared into the distance.

“Not only is it alive, but I don’t think your magic even scathed it the slightest, Uru.” She claimed, resuming their venture into the fog. “I can’t smell any blood in that direction, but...”

She trailed off and looked back at Frosty.

“Frosty’s blood might be interrupting my senses. I haven't had a drop of blood since we left Saicry, so I’m rather parched right now. That aside, let’s tread carefully. Those cries didn’t sound like they came from an honest creature.”

Indeed. If the creature – according to Frosty and White – was alive, well and potentially uninjured; then it made no sense for it to screech as if it were its final death roes.

Unless, that creature was trying to mask its death and ambush them at another time.

That was the conclusion Exrite was certain of. After all, it was something he had personally used during his journey to Colight – both intentional and unintentionally.

Of course, he considered that it could’ve been a method of communicating danger, or a vile mixture of both.

However, he could not believe that such a cry was simply a call for help.

And as such – he drew his other handgun.

The group continued their journey forward. While the vile stench remained, the fog seemed to lessen as they progressed. The floor – while the same – was suddenly coated with a strange white substance.

It glued onto the soles of their boots and feet, but it did little to hinder their steadfast pace. Although, had Exrite been a more normal human with a weaker physique, then he would’ve been permanently trapped in place.

Soon, the once five metres of clearance became ten. Then, it became twenty.

The fog began to swiftly fade away with each passing minute until they finally arrived at a spacious clearing.

“… Where… are we?” Khaos muttered, his eyes scanning their surroundings in awe.

Black, towering pillars littered the vast space. Their size ranged from as small as an ordinary boulder to as large as a castle’s tower. They spanned hundreds of metres into the cloudy afternoon sky, and were wider than the massive trees of the Shallows.

Holes were bored into them, housing strange worm-like creatures and an assortment of overhanging bones that hung on thick thread like decoration. And among those bones, were cocoons of various sizes, shapes and forms.

But most notably; were the humanoid shaped ones.

Exrite wondered if they were human, but disregarded the thought after realising the possibility of them being either Demi-humans or Elves was far more likely. After all, their respective Racelands were adjacent to the Shallows.

They hung from the thread that spanned across each tower, and many more were crammed inside of the holes. A loud slurping and sloshing could be heard from inside them, sparking the group to immediately prime themselves as they monitored every fine movement they could.

On the other side of the clearing, was an impenetrable cliff-face that housed what appeared to be an altar of gears, similar to the one found in Farshard’s Chapel.

And like the altar, Exrite guessed that it would only activate in the presence of the Heart of Time.

“So – it’s an Octanid nest. Figures. I was wondering why the ground was so sticky.” Black hummed, amused by the distrubing overgrowth and stench. “Hmhm~ They’re starting to notice us. How cute. Looks like there’s a whole lot more younglings here. No adults, huh?”

“Y-you’re awfully calm about this. Look how many of them there are.” Khaos pointed out.

Indeed. There was at least a thousand of these worm-like creatures festering here. And that was only counting the ones that were partially visible inside the holes. But considering their size – which was only that of a human’s head – they posed a negligible threat.

However, Exrite had a bad feeling about this.

“Younglings? These inferior creatures are merely Mononids. They’re harmless, unless of course, you’re helplessly wrapped in their thread.” Uru haughtily informed. “This isn’t an Octanid nest, Colour – this is a nursery. Have a look~”

She pointed at a distant, stubby pillar where tens of wrapped humanoid figures laid with bloated abdomens. A bloodied mess of gore, bones and liquefied remains stained the pale thread that wrapped the other intact broodmothers.

The ones that weren’t so lucky had their bodies excavated from inside out by the worm-like creatures.

It was horrifying, and their lifeless eyes stared back at them as if begging for help – or to end them before they could suffer the inevitable fate of a broodmother. The sweet taste of their souls returned to Frosty as she clamped her teeth with enough force to shatter bone.

“There’s nothing you can do once you’ve been impregnated by them. No amount of [Healing] magic or hope can ever save you from such a terrible fate.” Uru licked her lips as she formed an explosive orb in her hand. “Now – let me feed on their desires before I grant them their ultimate respite. Consider this a favour. No – their salvation.”

“Wait… wait!” Frosty clasped onto Uru’s wrist. “Is there really no way to help them?” She asked, holding onto a sliver of hope.

It wasn’t just her who wanted need to save them. Khaos and partially Exrite wanted to help, but they knew that it was far too late. Given the size of their abdomen, it was only a matter of time before they would be met with an excruciating death.

And it was as Uru said – there was no possible way of saving them, unless one could tear open their bodies, excavate the eggs and heal them with powerful magic before they could bleed out.

But even then, surviving the ordeal was highly unlikely.

“Not even magic of the [Eighth Tier] is fast enough to heal their bodies. Believe me Frosty, this is the only method to save them –”

Before Uru could finish, a dry explosion reverberated through their bones. A light vapour left the tip of Black’s handgun as she pointed it in the direction of the broodmothers.

With a single shot, more than three had lost their heads, shoulders and parts of their upper torso. The festival of gore didn’t stop there, however. She shifted her aim slightly and fired once again before she nudged Exrite.

“Enough. Just fucking kill them and get it over and done with. We didn’t come here to save a bunch of broken Elves. If they weren’t so weak and naive, they wouldn’t have ended up like that in the first place.”

Black’s patience was beginning to wear thin.

With another few rounds of gunfire, the nest of broodmothers became nothing but a mound of shredded flesh that mixed and melded with the green fluids of the Mononids.

They echoed thoroughly in the vast space. The putrid smell amplified immensely and stung their noses and eyes, causing some to briefly cover their faces.

“Tch. What a waste of energy. Be glad that we’re even bothering to finish them off. And what’s with that face?”

“Their taste… I can’t fucking stand it.”

“Taste?” White raised a brow, wondering what Frosty meant as the watched the woman’s face painfully grimace. “Oh. That’s right. Not only are you able to see souls, but you can devour them as well.”

It was an interesting ability – one that intrigued White as she wondered what other gimmicks it held. Black however, couldn’t help but to snicker as they slowly began to move forward.

“Ahaha! You hated us for being weapons without a soul, yet you’re just like a walking grim reap –”

“Shut up.”

Frosty sharply growled.

Her grip on her giant scythe tightened as she stared at black with menacing eyes. Even if she knew that trying to fight Black was futile, she did not care. All she wanted was for Black to simply keep her mouth shut and to never utter those words again.

Black grinned at her, amused by Frosty’s aggressive reaction before she returned to shooting at every broodmother they came across. Whether it was an animal, humanoid or some other beast – none were spared.

Their only opposition were the harmless Mononids, which could only sluggishly crawl away from their meals before being reduced to mushy chunks. After a few more of the smaller pillars had been cleared, they were already a fifth of the way to the strange altar.

While Uru held a face riled with rage –for the Mononids had created a nest and blemished these sacred grounds – Exrite found it hard to believe that it was only the Mononids that resided in this place.

He couldn’t imagine that such a small creature could muster a horrific screech.

In addition, the Mononids were in no shape to capture and entrap prey. There had to be another creature here.

His eyes warily scanned their surroundings as he held his handguns close.

“Frosty. You said that the soul you saw in the fog was ‘giant’, right?”

“Much bigger than any of these... worms.”

Her voice was still sharp and aggressive.

“And compared to an Octanid?”

“Bigger. At least twice its size.”

“… I see...”

Odd. He didn’t know of a creature that was significantly larger than an Octanid. At first, the thought of a Fasipod – a mask-wearing centipede – came to mind. But then he remembered that Phase mentioned they were only found within the Hallowed Gardens of Western Six Point.

He turned to Uru, who trailed behind them with a glowing orb still spiralling in her open palm as she stared at the surrounding pillars in disgust.

“Uru, is it possible for an Octanid to grow any larger?”

“That’s impossible. Octanids don’t get any larger or smaller than they already are.”

She spoke without turning to Exrite, closing her palm which caused the destructive orb to seemingly vanish.

“Octanids only have two roles in a colony; they either fight and gather food, or they’re the builders of the nest. Essentially, Octanids are the working class of the Anid colonies.”

Surprise riddled Exrite. It was the first time he heard of the ‘Anids’. He was always under the impression that the Octanids were a species of their own. To hear that they were merely a branch underneath an umbrella race was fascinating.

“Anids… so Mononids eventually become Octanids, right?” Khaos too sounded intrigued, although his face was pale and rugged.

The merciless slaughter Black delivered reminded him of why he feared the Colours so much.

“Can you guys quit the useless trivia and help me out already? I don’t have unlimited energy, you know!” Black yelled before she directed a sidelong glance at Exrite. “Honestly, the sooner you get rid of your humanity, the more efficient you’ll be at accomplishing your goal. Needlessly caring for the well-being of the damned is nothing but false hope, and you know that damn well, don’t you Exrite~”

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help them Black.” Exrite sharply retorted, returning her gaze. “If none of us could hold onto even a sliver of hope, then how could we move forward? Even if it’s false hope, it’s still something to strive for… no matter how impossible it may be...”

He trailed off, his voice becoming soft as he stared at the blank eyes of the broodmothers.

“To be honest Black, I’d also kill them. But if I had the tools to save them – then why wouldn’t I?”

“If you had the tools, huh? Considering you’re the Maiden of Time, you’re not really making a good case for yourself. Tch. You know, I really can’t wait for the day you finally lose that humanity of yours.”

She cunningly grinned as her handgun released an array of dry explosions.

“Soon, you’ll be telling me ‘why should I use my tools to save anyone if it’s going to impede my goal. I should just eliminate them’, or something along those lines. Trust me Exrite, the longer you hold onto your humanity, the more you’ll fester into something hideous. After all, humans are full of disgusting emotions. Greed and hatred are just a few of the more revolting ones.”

With a sneer, she pulled her eyes away from Exrite and continued to murder the broodmothers and whatever dared to stand in their way. White also bared her single-edged blade – Moon’s Rhythm – and sliced any stray Mononids.

Exrite didn’t further respond. While he was certain that he wouldn’t succumb to the Eye of Despair, he couldn’t deny that there was still an inherent risk. For the most part, the manifestations were self-escapable, but after a certain point it was nothing but an endless rabbit hole with no way out.

In those times, he needed an external force to save him.

The thought of being plunged into despair was frightening.

“T-that aside –!” Khaos broke the tense silence with a hearty yet shaken voice. “So uh – Uru, do Mononids eventually become Octanids?”

“In essence, that’s correct. Although they have to undergo certain changes before they eventually become an Octanid.”

She explained the hierarchy of the Anid race in great detail. From what Exrite gathered, the Anids always began as a baby Mononid before they eventually became a Dinid where they’d grow into specific role.

They apparently fell into eight different species – ending with the Octanids.

However, there seemed to be more. Although how many exactly was something Uru was also unaware of. However, one thing was for sure.

They were far different from the eight lesser species. To the point where Uru could barely call them ‘inferior’ among the other more power creatures that resided in Eastern Six Point.

Exrite was mused, almost smiling to himself when he noticed that their names corresponded to the amount of legs the creature had. As much as he wanted to laugh, he refrained.

Now was not the time.

It wasn’t long until they reached the centre of the vast space. Frosty grew more sick by the second, prompting White to nonchalantly ask Frosty if she wanted her sense of taste temporarily removed.

At a furious nod and a pained face due to the many times she gnawed on her tongue, White pricked her finger and politely asked her to swallow the drop of blood.

“… You better not be trying to poison me.”

“Is that something you’d say to someone trying to help you?” White raised a brow. “Like I said – we’re comrades in arms. So long as you’re my ally, then there’s no point in betraying you.”

“Hmhm~ Besides, if White wanted to kill you then she’d do it in a more upfront way~” Black hummed.

Reluctantly, and with a face of disgust, Frosty allowed White to brush the small drop of blood against her lips. As the blood fused with her cut tongue, White’s eyes became a soft scarlet before suddenly –

“… it’s… gone? Wait, thank you White –!”

“Don’t mention it. We’re allies, aren’t we? Anyway, let’s stay focused. We still haven’t found that monster yet.”

Indeed. They had only found Mononids with no sight of anything else. As a result, their senses sharped as they grew closer to the altar of gears. For some reason, the creature hadn’t attacked them despite Black’s assault on their breeding grounds.

However, Uru was more interested in White.

“You’re not any ordinary Vampire, are you? I’ve never seen a Vampire use their blood in such a way.”

“For the record, I’m able to control my blood like it’s my own body. I don’t know if you’re aware, Succubus, but we Colours are an amalgamation of all thought and connotations of our respective colours. My race, secondary to being a weapon, just so happens to be a Vampire.”

Her explanation only served to further intrigue the Demon.

Truly, their group was filled with nothing but monsters and higher beings.

As Exrite curiously asked how she was able to block off Frosty’s sense of taste, the group were nearing the final stretch. So far, every brood nest that wasn’t deeply entrenched into the pillars were destroyed by Black.

The air towards the base of the cliff-side was thick with the putrid smell, however, the floor was no longer smothered with the sticky substance. Instead, it was pristine; untouched and untainted by the Mononids.

And as White explained what nerves and receptors were – a harrowing scream echoed from the direction of the largest pillar.

Immediately – and without warning; Frosty launched herself in that direction like a bullet. The impact of her departure cracked the ground as she desperately strove to save the single soul that cried for help.

“Shit! Frosty! Don’t run off on your own!” Exrite’s yell failed to reach her, and before he knew it, everyone was chasing after her.

Uru and White zoomed through the group, with Uru closely trailing behind Frosty who finally reached the pillar. With her scythe, she drove into the ground and used it to propel her forward with incredible momentum and air.

Hanging ten metres in the sky, she expected to see the surprised face of a humanoid below. However, the world was cruel and proved to her that no matter how fast she was – 

She could not save everyone.

“… no… way…?” Her voice trembled.

Shock riddled her face as her eyes quivered to the sight of a dozen Elves whose remains were splattered across the stone ground like spilt paint. Judging by their gear, they were likely adventurers or some sort of heavily armed expedition group.

To be utterly destroyed in one fell swoop was not something an Octanid could hope to achieve, especially with a group so heavily armed.

In the midst of her shock and brewing rage –

She failed to notice a shadow lingering on the walls of the pillar. It pounced in her direction with impossible speed for something of its size, and by the time she noticed it – there was nothing she could do.

However –

“FROSTY!”

Uru cried with everything she had as she suddenly swooped Frosty away from the path of the charging drill-like creature. It broke the air with its menacing size, and the speed boggled those who witnessed it just barely graze the duo.

It collided with the cliff-face, causing a landslide of boulders to crumble below. The massive creature fell with a quaking thud, cracking the ground below with its sheer size.

Immediately, the drill-like creature underwent a noisy transformation. The drill-head split into ten serrated legs that supported the giant body like a spider. However, this was no mere Octanid, for it was easily twice its size.

As Uru flew past the pillar with Frosty cradled closely in her arms, she stared in shock at the creature.

She knew exactly what it was.

“… I’ll kill it. I’ll kill it! Uru, put me down –!”

“Shush! You’re awfully rude for a Frostbitten. I expect a thanks for saving your life... Although…”

She spotted Khaos lagging behind the others with a face of utter disbelief. The group ran as fast as they could towards her direction as the creature continued to finalise its ear-splitting transformation.

A serious face formed on her face for once.

“… this may not be the best time to be humoured.”

She swiftly regrouped with the others, placing down the volatile Frosty while she immediately bared her claws.

“Frosty! Are-are you ok!? You didn’t get hit by that thing did you –!?”

“I’m fine, Exrite! I’m just… a little frustrated right now.”

“Aha! At least that’s all you came out with~ But it looks like your bother took more of a beating.” Black teased, refering to Khaos who approached with uneven steps.

“Keep it shut, Black. We don’t have the luxury of fooling around.” White warned her.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m aware. But what’s the point of being so straight laced? Isn’t it more exciting to fight unhindered? Good job by the way Frosty~ you found the creature we were looking for!”

“… shut up.” Frosty growled.

From the bottom of Exrite’s heart, he was wholeheartedly thankful that the gash across her forehead was the extent of Frosty’s injuries. Had it not been for Uru, then she would’ve most certainly been killed by that… Octanid?

It was certainly a spider-like creature, except that it only had a single, circular segment. The armour that encased it was a menacing pitch black, and it seemed like the black beads around its body were its eyes.

But what caught their attention the most were its legs.

Disregarding their needle-like structure and impossible sharpness; they were far more concerned about the number of legs it had.

Exrite held his breath.

“Hey, Uru. If that thing has ten legs, then what the fuck does that make it?”

Uru pointed her clawed hand at the creature. The lights across her body zipped straight to her right arm as a tiny orb began to swell at the tips of her claws.

Soon, the air surrounding it was engulfed with a blazing heatwave that rivalled the fury in Frosty’s crimson eyes.

Like Phase, this was an opponent worthy to receive one of her more… destructive magics.

Or rather – it was absolutely necessary.

Despite her stern face, one could find a devilish grin on her face as she announced the name of the ten-legged creature.

“That my dear Exrite, is a Decanid! Cease all your magic, for nothing under the [Ninth Tier] will penetrate through its carbodix armour!”

And with her teeth bared for the world to see – she fired a thin, pale beam straight at the Decanid.

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