Gwen felt the expansive force of spatial distortion on her arm like a vicious vice rending her flesh and sinew.
If what Petra had said was accurate and the Dungeon's interior was more extensive than its exterior, shouldn't the spatial expansion affect their bodies as a whole? Why separate individuals? Then again, Gwen reminded herself— it wasn't as though the magical forces of this world followed any of the rational laws of earthly physics. Here was a place of pocket dimensions and one-Mage nuclear arsenals— a world where shark-rhinos swam through solid rock.
In addition to the dizzying disorientation, there was also a strange sensation of inertia and vertigo. Gwen's vision blurred, then with a loud WHOMP! The surrounding air cleared. There was a sensation of falling, then a SPLASH as she struck the ground.
Gwen landed on all fours into a salty pool of brackish plant matter padded thickly with silt. A generous dash of the foul-smelling liquid splashed against her chest, turning her blouse into a full-bodied camouflage. A portion of it entered her open mouth, making her gag.
A roving mass of spider legs skittered out from the space between two planes. Caliban stood two meters tall in its spider form in front of the mud-caked sorceress, its long legs effortlessly stabbing into the soft earth.
Quickly, she clambered onto her spider demon thing. Gwen had yet to see Caliban, now tier 4, prove his mettle against a Magical Beast of equal power. But considering its sterling performance against the tier 5 Wanka, she was fully confident in her Familiar's abilities. Comparatively, Ariel was too tiny to navigate the swamp, but Caliban's leggy form was perfect for wading through the murky byways and billabongs.
"Shaa! Shaa!" Caliban promised to keep watch.
With a thought, Gwen materialised the Decanter of Endless Water.
She changed the setting to lukewarm and poured the decanter over herself, washing away the mud and grime, clearing out the foul taste in her mouth. When enough of the disgusting substance fell away, she replaced the flask and produced a pink cube of inscribed crystal.
Gwen felt the marsh's foulness clear from her body, her dirty hair joyous at receiving the much-needed benediction. Her face as well, even her little nooks and crannies became cleansed of the intrusive, sticky muck.
In her hand, the light within the cube died. It would need another LDM to resume its function.
After praising the inventors of Magitech, she stowed the cube away and investigated her surroundings.
True to the words of Magister Paris, the terrain was a salt marsh. The tepid, foul-smelling water reached up to her knees, making travelling on foot trying. She no longer had her Water Walking Ring, which she had returned. Gunther's gift did not have secondary effects paired with its august primary function.
Gwen tried to orientate herself to no avail. In senior school, she, Elvia and Yue had failed orienteering.
The failure to discern directions made her paranoid and worried. Anxiously, her luminous eyes scanned the distance for details.
The Dungeon's horizon was an uncertain grey smog, made indistinct by the steamy mass of swamp gas that rose from the marsh intermittently. Troves of trees, spartan and stripped of leaves, distended from the water like rot-clad, bony fingers.
Beside her, Caliban paced here and there, testing the murk ahead. Gwen watched the spider-thing hover its cephalothorax over the water, its legs moving with the fluidity of hydraulic pistons in mechanical motion.
"Caliban, can you arch your body like so..." Gwen commanded.
Caliban heeded her communication. Gwen pushed against Caliban's leg joint, feeling the sockets of its limbs slightly depress as she saddled up on the spider's back, near the front where its head offered a seating platform. The netherworld spider's thorax carapace consisted of smooth pearlescent plates, affording her plenty of purchase. Beneath her buttocks, she could feel the pseudo organs pulsating inside Caliban's body, a shadowy mockery of the form the Lovecraftian-being had consumed.
Caliban then dug its legs into the marsh, moving in tandem by crossing its long spindly limbs asymmetrically. Behind them, Caliban's tail, a barbed thing resembling a whip with a pointed spear, wagged as Gwen sent a mental command to giddy-up.
"Hi-ho! Caliban! Away!" she announced to the air, and Caliban skittered forward, its body keeping a near-perfect gyroscopic plane via its four pairs of legs.
"Alright," Gwen commanded. "Let's head toward the grove over there, and see if we can get a better vantage on our whereabouts!"
Caliban stepped into an obfuscated snag beneath the brackish stream, immediately sending rider and beast both face-first into the water.
Gwen closed her mouth tightly as she struck the surface. Suffice it to say; it was going to be a long, wet day.
Fei Lin expanded his Shield before falling into the mud.
It was just as well that the saline water held mostly moss and decayed vegetation and not sharp bits of jagged stone or sharpened branches.
The junior Illusionist incanted just as the waters around him became displaced by the Shielding, disrupting the serene marsh's tranquillity.
Righting himself, Fei waited for the dark waters to return to calmness, then took in his surroundings.
He waited patiently for any curious creatures to visit the disturbance, watching out for other contestants who may have landed in the vicinity.
He was both relieved and disappointed after five minutes.
Okay, Fei told himself. Slow and steady.
As an Illusionist major, he could keep the Camouflage spell up near-indefinitely. There was a grove of trees in the distance, meaning he could Spider Climb his way up to get a better lay of the land.
Fei waited a minute more, then moved.
Gwen nestled herself comfortably into the second digit of Caliban's bulbous body, her feet caught between a crevice where soft purple tissue pulled and tugged as the creature moved.
Once Caliban got used to the terrain, her ride became much safer.
Unfortunately, whenever Caliban attempted to gain speed, a wave of muddy matter would splash over the pair. After half a kilometre and another Prestidigitation, Gwen resigned herself to the reality of marsh tramping and decided to change.
Gone were her cowgirl getup, replaced by a pair of water-proof trail shoes and a full-body nylon skin-suit. Her broad-brimmed hat was likewise stowed, for the sunlight in the swamp was sickly, and Gwen felt that she needed to watch for dangers both above and below. Her ponytail was tied and tied again, forming a tight knot that prevented gunk from catching in her hair.
She wondered how the others dealt with this. Were their clothes enchanted to repel dirt and water? Or perhaps they had means of walking across the water? Conversely, Gwen pondered thoughtfully. In this watery world, Richard must be having a field day.
"Hi-ho!" She knocked her heels against Caliban's sides, and they were on their way. She briefly fantasised about firing off a few Flashbangs into the sky to attract her teammates but decided against it. Lord knows what she could draw on in a place like this.
Thus engaged, Master and scorpion-spider rode through the swampy arena, splashing here and there as they made furious progress toward the tree-line of the elevated plateau.
When they came well within the grove's spell range, Gwen commanded Caliban to slow and watch for hostiles. As her Wildland survival skill was near non-existent, she had to trust that Caliban's vitality-sensing organs weren't just for show.
"Shaa!" Caliban moved gingerly toward the trees, then paused.
It waved its tail overhead, undulating its fleshy tip like a cobra's head.
Gwen felt a tiny sliver of vitality drain from her body, passing between herself and her familiar before inseminating itself into its obsidian interior.
A hooked barb shot out from the tail with a wet squelch, ejaculating itself across the span of six meters or so.
With a violent thunk, it embedded itself into a tree.
A camouflaged form on the tree began to writhe and turn as the barbed hook injected its payload of corrosive energy.
The indistinct form fell from the branch wetly and struck the water, then Caliban began to reel in its tail.
HOLY SHIT, AN ELF-SPIDER! Fei held his mouth to prevent himself from screaming.
He had just skirted half the circumference of the grove when he heard splashes, then hid quickly by shimmying up a tree and making himself scarce.
What the fuck was a Possessed-arachnid doing here? Since when did they cross habitats into the marsh? Fei tried to recall the Demi-human bestiary classes.
Dark Elves were underground Demi-humans that lived in massive cavern complexes. They belonged to a class of Demi-human sprites that worshipped the Gods of the Dark, creating a dangerous religion that worshipped nefarious schemes and the doctrine of might makes right. The Bestiary stated that when members of their society became condemned, they are forced to undergo a ritualistic form of torture that transmogrified the humanoid upper body onto a giant spider's base, creating an engine of cruelty and spite.
The spider-worshipping dwellers of the dark typically settled in areas with extensive underground networks, such as Borneo, Mexico, or the northern Black Zones of South America. So what the hell was one doing here in Hengsha?
Had the creature perhaps wandered into some naturally forming wormhole, connected by swirls of mana caught in an underground ley-line?
Fei forced himself to calm his nerves so that he could study the creature's weaknesses, as his elders had instructed him.
First, he counted the legs.
There were eight in total and a lashing tail. That didn't make sense—Spiders had eight legs but no tail. Scorpions had eight legs, two pincers, and a stinger.
What the hell was this thing, then?! Was this a rare spawn or a failed chimaera?
His eyes moved upward; there, the shape was more than pleasing.
There was something familiar about the female torso that extended from the front, which he couldn't quite place. The feminine silhouette reminded him of that Lightning Conjurer belle from the ferry. Still, this thing was a far cry from the gorgeous, electric-eyed sorceress, for prideful Lightning was antithetical to the baseness of this Negative-aligned monster.
Soon, the undoubtedly female creature began to move. Fei could see her contour even from this distance, marked by some dark membrane half-covered by drying mud. The female's form had a serpentine waist just above the spindly skittering legs. Her face was not discernible beneath the muck. Curiously, the Possessed wore its hair in a bun. More horrifically, where its hips joined the thorax, there was another mouth where several tentacles flailed, dripping grey goo as each "head" went about its business as though possessing minds of their own.
Fei shuddered. He instinctively knew that a Possessed-Spider such as this loved to eat its prey alive.
Still, that upper body— Was the Elf-Spider as intelligent as they say?
The creature didn't seem to be carrying any equipment as it stalked here and there, dodging invisible things as it approached.
Finally, it stopped just a few meters outside the grove.
Fei almost shat himself. Did it see him? He was well camouflaged!
Then, unexpectedly, its stinger tail moved to the fore and burst open with a wet clang, ejecting forth a pink blur that embedded itself half a meter from where Fei had hidden with a wet THUNK!
Fei's heart almost exploded; then, he saw with horrific, gut-wrenching horror that a pink barb had penetrated the middle of what appeared to be an amphibious creature about the size of a large dog.
Unlike him, the thing possessed natural camouflage. With a wet thump, it fell from the tree, writhing and screeching.
Fei felt bile rise in his throat as the beast was dragged kicking and screaming towards the Spider Elf, who lifted it from the water with its retraction mechanism. He could see now that the stinger's victim was a frog, a dangerous-looking thing with chitinous horns over its balloon-like eyes, its skin bustling with pustules that dripped venom.
The tail offered the twisting, dying creature to the female head, but the elfin face grimaced in disgust.
Then it happened.
It happened just as Fie thought it would.
The creature shoved the frog into its lower mouth, where a dozen pincer-claws began to strip it of its flesh while the frog croaked in despair.
Finally, Fei's life living in the greenhouse of academia caught up with him.
It was too much.
He had held back as much as he could, but no more.
Doubling over, Fei began to vomit controllably.
"Who's there!" Despite her failure at both spot and wilderness orienteering, she couldn't fail to spot a vomiting length of mangrove.
The choking and gagging sounds the tree made were undoubtedly familiar, for she had heard it many times before as a girl living in Forestville, where every Friday night up until two AM, the streets below their apartment was filled with the sound of NoMs purging the contents of their stomach.
Caliban flung away the foul-tasting frog below her and skittered into the grove, parking itself directly under the shivering tree.
"Show yourself," Gwen commanded, readying a Flashbang. "Who are you?"
A young man peeled himself from the tree and climbed down on all fours.
He had a soft, effeminate face that was womanly, an anorexic figure, and long hair worn at shoulder length. From a distance, it would be easy to mistake the silhouette for a skinny girl.
"You… can talk?" The young man visibly swallowed some of his ejecta. "Greetings, I am Fei Lin of the Huashan Clan of Lins."
"Do you know a Frederick Lin?" Gwen was caught off guard by the young man's impertinent challenge of her ability to speak and so followed up with the only thought that came to mind.
"Fu Lei? He's my cousin and fellow disciple," Fei replied.
"So, what are you doing here?" Gwen asked, dismounting from Caliban. "I am Gwen Song, by the way."
The young man's eyes bulged against his sockets. "How can you detach from your lower body?"
Gwen looked to Caliban, who shrugged with a "Shaa?" then turned back to the bewildered young Mage.
"I am human!" Gwen pointed to her legs. "I am a Conjurer, and that's my Familiar, Caliban."
"Of course, whatever you say." Fei nodded eagerly, inspecting her limbs to see if they were perhaps illusory or Transmuted.
"Look." Gwen felt a little annoyed. "I think we might have a misunderstanding."
"No, no. I believe you." Fei nodded eagerly, not coming any closer than necessary. "You're human, I know."
"Have you seen anyone else around?" She changed the topic.
"Just you and I," Fei replied automatically, then realised that he'd made a terrible mistake. "No! I mean, there are others! Around here! Close! Close enough to hear me scream!"
Gwen rolled her eyes, ignored the Mage, then hopped back onto Caliban, commanding it to scale one of the trees. Without apparent effort, Caliban's sword-like limbs tore into the branches, sending down a shower of broken wood and loose leaves as it went.
Fei stared, scarcely believing his eyes.
Meanwhile, Caliban perched itself comfortably across the branches of two trees, its spear-like limbs embedded into the sodden wood. From her new vantage point, Gwen could see a commotion in the distance.
A Sigil Flare she didn't recognise hovered over the horizon, setting the swamp gas aflame in hues of carmine and lilac, indicating a combat engagement.
The other directions seemed to contain nothing, at least for now.
With a command from its Master, Caliban hopped from the tree and landed below gracefully, using its long limbs to skitter from upper to lower branch while balancing Gwen on its back.
"Okay, there's combat that way," Gwen pointed out helpfully to the cautious Illusionist. "I am going to check it out. You coming?"
Fei's indecisiveness was written on his face.
"Suit yourself." Gwen turned from the junior Mage. If there was combat in the distance, it could very well involve one of her teammates. She didn't have the time to waste on this idiotic Lin and his fantasies.
Fei watched the spider girl skitter off into the distance.
If there was going to be combat, wouldn't it mean that potentially, his team could be a part of it too? If so, what would happen if the Spider-Conjurer barged in and assaulted them?
The young Illusionist scanned the empty skies.
Where were the Adjudicators? Were they watching somewhere? And if they were, would they just let this fiendish spider demon ravage its way through the swamp?
He looked toward his right, where the drained carcass of a frog the size of a hunting hound floated placidly on the surface of the dark water. Its skin was entirely shrivelled, deprived of all vitality.
It was Negative Drained, to death.
Fei gritted his teeth.
"Water Walk!" he invoked a Magic Item, then ran toward the direction the spider girl had gone.
Caliban crushed another of the frogspawn creatures in its maw as the fiend pistoned ahead with its sword-like legs, slicing through the marshland with the efficiency of a combine-harvester.
As they approached a waist-deep region covered with sedge, all manners of strange amphibian creatures began to flee from Caliban's wrath.
The sedan sized spider was relentless. As it made swift locomotion with its eight hind-limbs, its two forward "claws" stabbed downward with unerring accuracy, lifting from the water bits of fish, chunks of frog, and the occasional salamander.
All of which Gwen's monster fed into its maw without a moment's hesitation.
"Caliban! You glutton!" Gwen chided the nightmarish thing.
"Shaa! Shaa!" Caliban cooed, informing her of its joy.
While Caliban's thorax grew engorged, Gwen could feel a trickle of vitality feeding into her Astral Body, transforming into motes of Almudj's emerald mana. Was this what it was like to feast upon Magical Creatures? Gwen wanted to experiment some more, perhaps with a mega-fauna of some kind. If there were a way to keep her vitality up and Almudj's Essence happy, then she could be a Void Mage yet.
It took her fifteen odd minutes to reach the locale of glowing gas that surrounded an island plateau overgrown with thick, dark green vegetation.
"Wall of Stone!"
The commotions of combat within, mixed in with the tumult of incantations, involved a cacophony of explosions, skittering stones, an occasional grunt, and the sound of bodies splashing violently.
"Caliban, stay close and stay low. Get ready."
Gwen dismounted and proceeded on foot, stepping wetly onto the mossy mass of semi-solid bog. Her creature dug into the soft peat, following her discretely.
There was a clearing inside the grove, in the midst of which was a large tree much taller than the surrounding mangroves. Its extensive root system crawled across the moss floor, looking like serpentine sinews.
At the foot of the tree was a mass of skeletons, most of which were amphibian.
A group of young Mages were fighting what appeared to be a giant, red, leathery bullfrog.
A Frog-kin? Gwen wondered. Not quite. The creature did not appear terrestrial in origin. Imposingly, the xenos amphibian stood over two meters when it reared up on its hind legs; its arms, elongated and muscular, were armed with horrifically long claws. Its plated skin was a gleaming mess of red welts crisscrossed with festering boils. Its eyes were two amber dots gleaming with malice, utterly mad with glee that it had found prey.
As Gwen watched, a Firebolt fizzled against its skin. Innate magic resistance! Gwen marvelled. Whatever the Mages threw at the thing seems to slide from its thick hide.
By that same measure, the creature's natural weapons seemed incapable of penetrating the stone fortifications the defender's skilful Abjurer had affected. Its assault slid harmlessly across the stone Shields whenever it lashed out with alternatively howling frustration and hooting, gibbering joy.
Should she help? Gwen wondered. What was the etiquette? Unquestionably, her fellow "Humans" weren't in any danger— mayhap she should enjoy the show, or leave them be?
The party that fought the frog-thing consisted of five young men: one Abjurer, two Evokers, a Cleric, and another Gwen couldn't tell. From the fact that the Mage was throwing out harmless Magic Missiles, he was likely a Diviner.
She was just about to holler out and ask if they would like a hand when she spotted something moving atop the five-person party. There was a second bullfrog up in the foliage of the giant banyan tree!
"Oi, you guys! Ambush!" she immediately shouted. "Overhead!"
The Diviner immediately picked up on Gwen's warning. He must have used a Mass Message, for when the hulking frog-thing dropped down violently, it half-way kissed a Stone Shield that sent it careening away. Whether willfully or by accident, it barrel-rolled toward Gwen.
"Thanks, but watch out!" the Diviner shouted back, waving frantically.
Gwen waved back.
"Caliban, stop that thing—"
Without warning, the recovered murder frog leapt from where it had previously landed, then bull-rushed her with a single bound from its tree-trunk sized legs.
Its maw opened to reveal razor-sharp teeth as it cleared the space between them in a heartbeat. Gwen baulked; clearly, this creature did not survive by eating insects.
She willed her Familiar to defend her, invoking the skill that its spider form gained from consuming Wanka. Instantly, a portion of mana and vitality drained from her body.
"Cali!" Next came her battle cry, her voice rising above the clearing like a Valkyrie's death wail. "Onslaught, now!"
With a combination of Expeditious Retreat and Water Walking, Fei followed the spider girl.
He had again used Camouflage to hide, observing how the girl interacted with the Mages she encountered. If she were hostile, he would delay the girl and warn the others. If she was friendly, maybe they could travel together for a short while and look for their mutual companions.
When he thought of the girl's exquisite face, his heart fluttered.
And then, his brain reminded himself that she rode on a spider demon from the lowest depth of the underworld. After all, the drained carcasses "Gwen" and her pet left littered in their wake was evidence of the girl's malignancy.
How could anyone with such a capacity for violence be benign? Didn't his tutor say that such life-draining abominations were antithetical to the existence of life? Weren't the Undead that haunted China's northern border precisely the bane of their generation?
Wracked with indecision, he chose to watch in silence.
And then the fallen frog-demon turned to attack the girl.
It was demon-on-demon action, but Fei felt strangely worried as the Demi-human frog turned its aggression towards Gwen. With a single bound, the amphibian cleared the space and was almost within striking distance of her.
What would the Conjurer girl do?
Drain its life?
A soul-piercing wail penetrated Fei's eardrums like a dagger.
From behind the hazel-eyed sorceress, her spider Familiar launched itself toward the frog, catching it midair.
"Shaa! Shaa! SCREEEEEE!"
Fei Lin watched with heart-in-mouth as the creature pinned the frog with its spear-like tail into the ground, penetrating its rubbery hide as readily as if its magic-resistant hide were wet paper.
Below, the hulking red frog returned the favour by swiping its claws across the spider's abdomen, taking out a good chunk of purple-pink flesh near its soft belly, causing a cascade of ichor to shower the frog in bruised blood.
Then the scorpion-sword-spider transformed into a meat grinder.
Its limbs blurred, becoming a howling gale of stabbing blades and slicing forearms. The frog croaked and barked, making a desperate pitch of guttural horror as it fought back, confused as to why its prey wasn't dying.
"SCREEE! SCREEE! SCREEEEEE!"
The upper portion of the frog's torso was flayed away within a second, revealing the thick white bones that made up its skeleton. Still, the frog incredulously lived on, seeking to fight or flight.
Finally, two sword-limbs pinned the frog's arms into the ground, and then the scorpion-spider lifted its torso to reveal a second mouth.
"OH, MY MAO!" Fei again felt bile rising in his throat.
A dozen writhing tentacles, each with a lamprey's mouth, dug into the frog creature's exposed viscera and began to feed.
Unable to help himself, the mangrove tree vomited again.
Gwen didn't know what she had expected.
She knew that empowering Caliban made it more robust and resilient to magic and physical attacks and Hasted it as well, but never had she imagined just how aggressive her spiderling could become.
As such, when Caliban performed the full-monty in plain view of an adventuring party, Gwen realised that she had far underestimated Caliban's Lovecraftian charisma.
The remaining red-skinned frog stopped attacking the party, turned one-eighty, and fled the scene.
The other Mage party couldn't even be bothered giving chase. They just stared at Gwen as though they'd seen the loin-spawn of an Elder-horror devour a human-sized frog by vivisecting its top half and then eating it from the inside out while it writhed and begged for the sweet mercy of death.
How Gwen wished the whole scene was merely an illusion, but no. They could still smell the blood and guts of the frog-thing. Her spider-thing was still licking its fucking chops as though it had finished an entree and was expecting more.
If so, what was the main course? Gwen looked around. The Mages can't be the main.
The previously friendly Abjurer shifted his position to stand in front of his party protectively, facing Gwen head-on.
Oh God, Gwen groaned, cursing herself for letting her conceit get to her head. She had been so eager to see Caliban in action that she'd allowed the situation to escalate without fully considering the ramifications of Caliban's expressionist art on the public gallery.
"My name is Gwen Song! A member of the House of Song. My Grandfather is a director of the MSS!" She called out toward the team, hoping for the best. "This is my Familiar! He's harmless! A cutie really, like a pony!"
"Shaa!" Caliban helped out gleefully. "Shaa! Shaa!"
"Caliban, heel!" Gwen withdrew her mana and commanded Caliban to shirk backwards demurely. She couldn't help but notice a white-purple scar where its wound had been, healed by the vital force Caliban had taken from the frog-thing.
"Stay your distance!" the Abjurer called out.
Gwen stepped back.
Her Familiar did not follow but moved forward and nudged the corpse.
With its pincers, Caliban retrieved a jagged crystal the size of a fist. Within the core's uneven surface, potent motes of chaotic mana twisted and turned, glowing a dull shade of crimson.
Oh? Gwen felt her Kirin amulet glow warmly. A Creature Core, already?
Opposite, Hu Sheng and his teammates stared at the Spider Familiar's loot.
A Creature Core! And not just any Core either. A Dungeon Beast Core, a tier 4 Core of a beast that resisted low-level magic!
Instantly, the moment the Creature Core saw the light of day, the atmosphere of fear and suspicion changed. The fearful eyes of those within his grew bulbous with desire, their breaths quickening as they studied the lonesome, skinny sorceress.
Hu Sheng especially couldn't believe his luck. They had been here for two hours! Just two hours out of three days, and they had already found a Creature Core?
It was unbelievable. It was like stumbling upon an HDM mine! A core of this quality was worth at least 30 CCs, maybe more! More importantly, this was the core of a creature they had never seen before! Mao forbid! It could be something exceedingly rare. If so, could it be worth 50 CCs? More perhaps?
Hu Sheng eyed this "Gwen Song".
The sorceress was uncommonly pretty, but she was a gweilo, a foreigner. Could someone like that be related to a Committee member?
Likewise, was the girl that dangerous? Knowing his Spellcraft theory, commanding something with the stature of this spider beast must have its drawbacks. A limited range, perhaps, or a limited manifestation duration.
Looking at the girl now, Hu was sure he was right. The girl looked sickly, weak, like someone suffering from mana burn. Her complexion was ashen, indicating someone who was put out by the combat.
As birds die for feed— so men die for fortune, Hu convinced himself with an ancient proverb.
Where the girl seemed to him a Mage of impressive power a moment ago, all he could see now was a skinny Acolyte standing next to a spent spider-thing. Most importantly, Hu was in a well-formed, well-trained party, and the girl was alone.
Anyway, so what if the girl was related to a Colonel in the MSS?
Were they not likewise well-connected sons of notable Patriarchs in high places? Not to mention the unspoken rule of a Dungeon is might makes right. How stupid was the girl to try to frighten them with her family connections? How green? Here must be her first dive. Just look at the way she stood there, pretty as a picture, yet to meet up with her party, not worried at all while holding that precious Creature Core.
Hu sent out a Silent Message.
His teammates concurred.
The monster core was theirs. The girl merely got lucky. They were the ones who had spent all that time fighting the monster— they deserved it more than she did.
Hu stepped up.
He was the leader.
He made the call.
"Look here," he declared to the girl. "That Creature Core belongs to us. That was our kill you stole."
The girl met his gaze without so much as a twitch of her porcelain, impassive expression.
"Don't be shy now." Hu grinned. "Hand it over. No one wants to hurt a pretty girl, least of all gentlemen like us."