CH : 28 – DISCOVERY PART 4B
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DISCOVERY PART 4B

Day 427; 1140 (Morning)
Focus: 513

513 surveyed the surrounding area with more scrutiny after spotting the hanging mass from afar. It appeared to be some sort of visual trap set-up by the spiders to lure-in more prey from a distance, given how brazenly arranged everything was. Luckily, 513 was still quite a distance away, so he took his time investigating from the fringes.

As he looked closer at the large mass hanging idly from an elevation too distant from the ground to measure, he realized that whatever was trapped inside the mass’ cocoon-like shell was still alive. 

513: "Hmm…"

He mumbled as he weighed his options; he brainstormed ways to leverage this newfound information to use against the spiders.

While still in thought, he surveyed the local environment. 

On a nearby cluster of trees, remnants of an intense battle could be seen marked all-over the thick bark and frozen ground. It depicted a path of intense battle leading up to the cocoon; the splashes of crimson, the deep gouges, the impact craters, the broken quills, the torn pieces of plant debris -- all of it painted a picture of tragic desperation.

*CREAK*

The sound of a creaking branch drew 513’s attention back towards the direction of the cocoon. 

Another light breeze had blown past the silken sack, causing it to sway once more. As a result, muffled screams of panic and terror spilled-out from the cocoon. It came from the pitiable creature that had been trapped inside.

[Christ, I forgot these fuckers enjoyed watching their meals squirm in agony.] Thought 513. [Well, I suppose I’ll use it as a distraction when I decide to end it’s miserable life.]

Making-up his mind, he brought the heels of his feet together to form a right angle, stood-up firmly erect, then opened his mouth and announced the start of his hunt.

513: "Thank you, thank you! Now then, let's get started, shall we?"

He proclaimed, as-if performing for an audience.

With a deep, sweeping bow, he ended his grandiose message. Then, without hesitation, immediately took-out a shovel from his sled and started digging for rocks.

[I hope you enjoy my performance, Protector.] He smirked while thinking so.

◊◊◊◊◊◊

Day 427; 1142 (Morning)
Focus: False Arachne(s)

*CLACK* CLACK* *CLACK*

Hidden behind the shadows of several imposing trees, were five perfectly camouflaged False Arachnes; distinguishing marks on their battle-tested bodies had helped them blend in with the environment using little to no effort. The prey that they had currently set their eyes on, was a stocky, bipedal animal that their kin had come to call a Harkey -- “Harkey”, is the condensed version of a “hairless monkey”.

Although the Harkey was clad in armor, the troupe of spiders had a clear advantage in numbers. They could easily deploy skills in stealth and agility to creep closer to their target without being detected. So, that is exactly what they did.

The troupe of False Arachnes scattered into a horseshoe formation as they swiftly closed the distance between them and their prey. Their movements were quick and precise, creating minimal noise as they shuffled forward, leaping and dashing overhead in the trees and down below on the debris-filled ground. 

Once they had reached a distance ideal for setting a trap, they blended back into the environment, like expert chameleons.

As they lay in waiting, the troupe of spiders watched in confusion as the Harkey shouted something indistinguishable at their dangling bait, before performing a few odd movements. This caused the five monstrosities to question the Harkey’s sanity, but food was still food regardless of its mental state.

Eventually, their waiting paid-off as the Harkey resumed its journey towards where they hid. 

Looking at one another, the five False Arachnes nodded in unison and initiated their joint attack. Their formation was impeccable. With two of them approaching from the ground and three from the trees, they left little room for their prey to react or escape.

They all dashed forward. 

*BOOM* *BOOM* *BOOM*

The two on the ground kicked-up a cloud of dirt and debris as they explosively accelerated towards the Harkey; the three above created artificial thunderclaps as their movements between the trees caused the thick bark to crack and shear from the force they exerted.

They quickly closed-in.

...30 meters...

...20 meters...

...10 meters...

*THUNK* *THUNK* *THUD* 

*CRUNCH* *THUNK*

Before they could even react, a hail of small, dense projectiles punctured through their bodies as-if their tough exoskeletons was made of thin paper. 

In under a breath, the whole troupe lay collapsed on the ground, bleeding heavily from the small cavities punched into their heads. Unable to move, they lay there motionless as darkness invaded their eyes, clouding and blurring their vision.

In their final moments, they were graced with one final, poignant image -- an absent look from the Harkey, as he watched them slowly die a pitiful death.

There were a few reasons for their downfall. Being sentries tasked with patrolling the edges of False Arachne occupied territory, the five were not present during their leader Areikys’ crushing defeat. To make matters worse, Areikys had chosen not to disclose her loss with her own kin -- perhaps due to her pride or fear of being overthrown.

Due to this, the troupe of five selected the wrong opponent. Their prey, 513, was no ‘prey’ at all. He was a being that hunted their kind. 

It would have been better if they had run.

◊◊◊◊◊◊

Day 427; 1148 (Morning)
Focus: 513

513: "..."

After cleanly dispatching the five monstrosities in-front of him, 513 gazed at their limp bodies in confusion.

513: “...uh…”

He tried to state something useful, but even his mind was drawing a blank.

513: “Hmm…that was...unexpected.”

Finally coming to terms with what had just happened, he muttered words of surprise. 

[Truly unexpected…] He repeated internally.

Although he had planned to use the dug-up rocks as an initial volley against the spiders, he clearly did not foresee the devastation they would incur. 

The plan in his head was to use the rocks that he had diligently excavated from the ground, to distract the False Arachnes. In that moment of distraction, he intended to free the beast trapped inside the cocoon, so that the spiders would be forced to split their attention between him and the beast. During all that chaos, he would then swiftly cut-down the nearest of the five spiders with his short spear, before moving onto the others.

It was an ideal plan if it had gone his way.

513: “Well...shit. Were they really this weak?”

He inquired.

Shrugging his shoulders with uncertainty, he looked around the vicinity for a long stick. 

After poking the five bodies with the stick he had found nearby -- to make sure they were dead -- he picked-out one of the False Arachnes to use as a test dummy, then started his experiments. 

*THWAK* *THWAK* *THWAK*

513 performed the three powerful, low chopping kicks on the dead spider's legs, causing its carapace to dent and crack, but not shear.

Stepping back to get a better view of his handiwork, 513 spoke-out in surprise.

513: “Hmm...so, not weak…”

He admitted.

Although he hadn’t used his full strength, he had kicked the spider with enough force to pulverize several layers of dense fire-baked, clay bricks. In other words, each kick he had landed was like getting hit by a sledgehammer swung by a giant. With that said, even that amount of power wasn’t enough to fully destroy the spider’s leg.

[So why did they die so easily? Could it be the rocks?] He mused.

Taking-out one of the rocks he had stored inside a pouch attached to his utility belt, he carefully looked at it in his palm, then squeezed. The amount of force he exerted on the rock increased gradually until it crumbled in his hands.

513: “...okay…”

To his dismay, the rock was just an ordinary rock.

[Maybe the rocks shattered after impact and scrambled their insides?] He pondered. [Or maybe I can throw rocks like bullets…]

After a brief break from reality, he came back to his senses.

Finding no clear reason for why the rocks were so effective, he walked towards his sled, took hold of one the crystal coal torches he had secured on the back, and proceeded to light the spider carcasses on fire. He couldn't leave any evidence behind.

Smacking his lips in boredom, he opened his mouth to speak.

513: “Contemplating too much about these things won’t do me any good. This place is beyond reason anyway.”

He reassured himself.

After watching the bodies quickly burn into ash, 513 proceeded towards the cocoon. While on the way-over, he continued constructing his path back to basecamp.

Once there, he had a clear view of the False Arachnes’...craft. 

An almost imperceptible web of spider silk had been strung like a net between the trees where the cocoon had been staged. Most beasts would have been caught in the clever trap if they had paid little attention to their surroundings. This was also true for 513.

513: “Sneaky bastards.”

He mumbled to himself as he searched his sled for a few tools.

After procuring a crescent-shaped blade from the sled, he wrapped a thin, durable rope around its handle, then threw it towards the branch keeping the cocoon off the ground.

*CRACK*

As the blade cut through half of the branch, it broke in two; no longer having the strength to support the weight of the cocoon, the branch critically failed, causing the cocoon to fall.

*THUD*

While 513 busily reeled-in the crescent-shaped blade using the rope he had attached to it, the cocoon he aimed to dislodge from the diseased tree crashed into the hard ground with a weak thud. This caused 513 to further muse what was inside.

Taking his sword-spear out from the sled, he delicately cut-away the spider silk rope attached to the cocoon and retrieved it for his own use. He then carefully scored the outside of the cocoon with the tip of the spearhead. The scoring was just enough so that the beast inside could break itself free.

Waiting patiently, 513 stared at the wriggling mass from a distance as it slowly cracked open like an egg.

Out of it emerged a large Quillen Boar, severely withered from being starved and hung from a tree like a prize.

Rather than approach, 513 sized-up the beast. He was not in need of any additional food, as he had enough provisions to last over a month. So, rather than mercy-killing the beast -- like he had initially planned -- he took out a few slabs of meat from the provisions on his sled and tossed it over.

In truth, his reason for acting with such ‘good’ intentions was the Protector. The Protector watched his every move while he was inside of the forest, using the trees as a viewing port to spy on him.

[Maybe I’ll get some brownie points for this. Maybe even a five-star rating.] He amusedly thought to himself as he watched the confused, yet apprehensive Quillen Boar return his gaze.

[It must think I'm some sort of psychotic bastard...well…] 513's jumbled thoughts continued-on as he procured a bite-size piece of cured meat from his supply pack, and started eating. This was his attempt to show the Quillen Boar that he meant no harm.

After several failed attempts, he decided to put in one last effort to get the boar to eat. With nothing in his hands, he pointed at the slab of meat he had thrown at the Quillen Boar earlier, then pointed at the boar's mouth. He then made motions with his hands mimicking a large mouth chewing, before audibly gulping to mimic swallowing the meat.

[How about that?] He wondered while waiting for the boar to react.

After a prolonged stare-down filled with even more confusion, the withered Quillen Boar finally approached the slab of meat and started eating.

513: "Too much effort, next time I'll just mercy-kill."

He complained aloud while showing a satisfied look.

After packing-away his equipment back on the sled, he looked back at the Quillen Boar and gave it an awkward thumbs-up. Taking a few moments to process what he just did, he shook his head in disbelief, then resumed his journey, making sure the boar left the area without causing any issues.

---Chapter End

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