Hebe (Dungeon) POV
The prey was dead. It did not take long for it to happen either. Only two of the eleven statue golems were even needed to do the job. Is this all there was to her prey? Is this what she was so deeply anticipating? It was funny since Hebe did not know why she felt the need to kill all intruders and absorb them as nutrients for her pale-white pearl core.
"I guess its just my instincts?" Hebe muttered quietly to herself as she enjoyed the sensation of her core being bathed in the mana of a Novice realm warrior. Her pale-white pearl core got the final push it needed and grew by about a tenth of a cm, from a diameter of 18 cm to a diameter of 19 cm. Only then did she find it a bit odd how fast her core had grown from 10 cm to 18 cm from just absorbing the ambient magic emitted by her elder sister, Morrigan.
"Elder sister really is awesome!" Hebe exclaimed quietly. Apparently a little more than two days, total, of absorbing Morrigan's emitted ambient magic directly into her core was equal to about ten times the mana that she could absorb from a Novice realm prey.
"I wonder what will happen when my core gets to 20 cm? What is rank 2 like?" Hebe wondered out loud. She could feel that her expanding core would cross some threshold at a diameter of 20 cm, changing her existence somehow. She felt regretful that stronger prey had not yet been attracted to her domain, as her foreign memories told her that there were eight approximate realms of power that such beings could possess: Apprentice, Novice, Adept, Master, Archmage/Champion/Hero, Sacred, Demigod, and God.
The being that her foreign memories belonged to was also of the monster race, and monsters grew by devouring energy (in the form of magic, as well as flesh and blood). Since the amount of energy devoured was mainly dependent on how long the monster lived, as time-rather than luck- was the primary factor that determined how much and how well a being could eat/absorb, monsters' realms of power were typically determined by their age. 100 years was Apprentice realm, 300 years was Novice realm, 500 years was Adept realm, 700 years was Master realm, 1, 000 years was Archmage/Champion/Hero, 10, 000 years was Sacred realm, 50, 000 years was Demigod realm, 100, 000 years was God realm. Additionally, unlike the other races, monsters' power was not as uniform, with different monster species having varying power levels and starting off at separate realms of power, monster species like true dragons often starting at Demigod realm while monsters like Basilisks start off at Master realm. Therefore, while Hebe did not know the precise difference between each of the realms for the other races, such as Humankind, she still hoped that stronger prey would come and die, catapulting her to the heavens with one step. Otherwise it would likely take a very long time for Hebe to gain the power that she needed to allow Morrigan to return and to keep her by Hebe's side.
Even though Dungeon's were ranked a bit differently, having 9 realms of power that did not necessarily correspond to that of all other beings, just going from a rank 1 Basic dungeon to a rank 2 Simple dungeon would have taken consuming 100 prey of the Novice realm level without Morrigan's help. Moreover, Hebe's foreign memories were pretty vague about dungeon growth and power levels and she was forced to rely on her dungeon instincts to understand he possible transformations.
"How long will it take for me to get to 20 cm and become rank 2? How long will it take to be strong enough for elder sister?" Hebe whispered, frustrated. All she could do was wait. Hebe immediately immersed herself in her foreign sea of memories, searching for useful information and reaping as many 'feelings' that she could to fuel her future magical endeavors. The 'intents' of magic, or their formations, formulas, incantations, knowledge, that was needed was a problem as she no longer had Morrigan to teach her but she was confident that the sea of foreign memories would provide that as well. Plus, Hebe could always absorb knowledge directly from the dead bodies that she absorbed using her innate Creation magic.
It took two and a half weeks before Hebe saw any other prey. This time the prey was prepared. A large party of twelve prey stepped onto Hebe's green jade staircase, one by one, and was instantly detected by her. The leading prey was cloaked in black and radiated waves of magical energy that were far stronger than her previous Novice realm prey, while the eleven following behind were of the same approximate level of magical energy and were clearly also Novice realm prey.
"Could that prey be of the Adept realm?" Hebe quietly muttered. She would only be able to tell once the strong prey fought with her monsters. Her foreign memories could differentiate the various races realms of power when they fought. Apparently the monster queen who originally possessed her foreign memories had been ancient to the point that she had witnessed all of the other eight races prowess in full over time as they pursued her and her horde in the sea or as she and her horde invaded various lands.
A few minutes later all twelve preys had ascended Hebe's staircase and had entered her grand temple. At the orders of the leading strong prey the eleven subordinate preys spread out in the audience chamber, admiring Hebe's beauty with many positive remarks and warily inspecting her statue golems. Unfortunately for them, these preys did not share her last preys luck and her tile traps, which shifted randomly across the several hundred meter space of the audience chamber at unpredictable times, were activated. Hebe's mural on the ceiling that showcased a starry sky and a radiant moon, the opposite of the blocked daytime scene that lay outside the grand temple, suddenly fired out destructive rays of magic from a small cluster of stars. One female prey, a mage by the look of the staff in her hands, tried to deflect the magic ray of starlight but failed due to its stunning speed. The prey that had been targeted was temporarily bound in place by pressure magic and died a tragic death in moments.
"William!" shouted out the mage female prey, with anguish.
"Stop spreading out! There are traps here, why didn't you detect them Raymond!?" the strong prey leader asked, with a rumbling voice.
"How can I possibly detect them, given the insane levels of magic this whole place is giving off!? Not to mention the fact that I think the floor is shifting," Raymond grumpily responded.
"Shifting?" the strong prey leader asked, in his gravelly voice.
"Yes, its entirely possible-" Raymond was interrupted by a blast of magic from the human mage statue golem that was closest to the entrance. The distracted Raymon had his head blown to pieces directly.
"Get into formation! Be careful of traps!" the strong prey leader commanded, pulling out a large black axe that was somehow hidden beneath the folds of his black cloak. The surviving nine preys rushed to get into a strange formation, looked like a crudely drawn flame from a higher vantage point. During their frantic movements, another tile trap was triggered but this time, the mage female prey managed to push the victim out of the way with a swift point of her staff and a cast wave of magic.
"This place has to be a dungeon! Traps, insane levels of magic, monsters...We've hit the jackpot!" exclaimed one wiry male prey, excitedly. The other nine preys around him became enthusiastic at his comment and chattered on excitedly as well.
"Here they come! Stop jabbering and get brace yourselves, this is going to be difficult," the strong prey leader said grimly, his gravelly voice solemn. The other preys instantly calmed down and held their respective weapons firmly in their hands. The mage female prey chanted an incantation and the crude flame formation came to life forming a red barrier around all ten preys and focusing its power on the mage. Hebe curiously probed the formation with her senses and felt out its mysteries as the battle between her monsters and the preys began, focusing on it intently in an attempt to learn as much as possible before they died. The two dead bodies had already been absorbed by her, their energies invigorating Hebe's consciousness and nourishing her growing core.
The first few minutes of the battle was quite orderly and precise, as all ten preys made their power and professionalism known. They could attack from within the crude flame formation while attacks that they received as they steadily progressed deeper into the audience chamber were shielded by its red barrier. Even the tile traps that they activated did nothing to the group as the destructive beams of magic starlight merely rippled the flame barrier by a bit. The human mage statue golem was held off by the mage female prey using the gathered power of the crude flame formation and the other nine preys easily worked together to hold off the increasing waves of statue golems that 'awoke' as they passed by. Swords flashed to and fro and sword wind cut through the air with shrill screams as several thousand kilos (10^3 kg) of strength was staunchly displayed by eight of the preys.
"Adept realm!" Hebe quietly exclaimed, briefly distracted from examining the crude flame formation by the strong prey leader when he finally made his move to combat her roaring giant statue golem. The giant had uttered a real, deafening roar, its carved steams of frost becoming real, as it had bounded over to assault the group of preys with its gleaming mace. Its mace had split the air with tremendous force as the 15 meter tall giant statue golem had swung down with a strength of hundreds of thousands of kilos (10^5 kg). Hebe noticed that the cloaked strong prey was an Adept realm warrior when his large black ax swung up with identical power and clashed with the giant's mace with a thunderous boom, loud enough to shatter the eardrums of ordinary people and kill them off directly with sound alone. The collision sent waves of force rippling across the barrier of the crude flame formation.
The fight ramped up to another level as the dwarf statue golem wielding a hammer with a strength of tens of thousands of kilos (10^4) and the elven woman statue golem wielding a magic bow with strength identical to the humans at several thousand kilos (10^3) began to coordinate with the giant statue golem as the tank.
The eleven woman statue golem that was acting as a ranged combatant along with the human mage statue golem began sniping at the ten preys whenever the giant statue golem collided, mace to axe, with the adept realm prey- making use of the resulting shock waves and the shaken preys to strike through the barrier of the crude flame formation and at the preys with more force. Due to the magic penetrating nature of the arrows fired from the elven woman statue golem's magic bow, the arrows that she had been firing had always been able to pass through the flame barrier but they had been weakened considerably as compared to then, when she used the ripples of the barrier produced by the shock waves to maneuver past its weak points.
The dwarf statue golem also coordinated with the strikes of the giant statue golem to strengthen its blows as well. It burst out with increased power, temporarily overdrawing from its core-weakening it at an even more prodigious rate, when the shock waves rippled out across the flame barrier. This made the eight preys that it was fighting against less relaxed, as they were forced to deal with more of its superior force.
"The formation can't hold!" the mage female prey shouted amidst the controlled chaos of the battle. "Prepare to fight, 'unclad'!"
The mage female prey, to Hebe's great frustration, broke the already collapsing crude flame formation, that could not handle the being besieged by three such monsters, with a chant. Additionally, the unfocused power of the lingering formation was gathered completely by the mage female prey as she cast out one last magic with a shout. A beam of revolving fire, far more complex than the previously simple bolts and waves of magic that the mage female prey had been casting to contend against and slowly destroy Hebe's human mage statue golem, tore through the air with a piercing screech. The revolving fire tore a hole directly through the place where a human would have their heart located, destroying the human mage statue golem's core and killing the golem. The mage female prey collapsed unconscious on the ground, exhausted, with all traces of magic gone from her body.
"Scatter! Get back alive if you can," the strong prey leader desperately shouted amidst his brutal combat, scooping the mage female prey from the ground. He saw another three statue golem's, 'awakened' and heading their way. Hebe's enchanting winged fae woman statue golem began to cast spells with its magic sword that fiercely tore through the air and accurately landed on the bodies of the eight weaker preys. The spiky furred magical creature statue golem directly turned one of the eight weaker preys into a pincushion as it leaped towards a second victim. The feline eyed demon statue golem had a wide smile on its handsome face as it used it supple spear to increase the pressure on the six preys still fighting the dwarf statue golem.
Meanwhile, the Adept realm prey scrambled to duck and weave around the giant statue golem's gargantuan body and huge mace as he ran deeper into the audience chamber with the unconscious mage female prey slung over his shoulder. As the giant pursued the adept realm prey, it breathed frost magic on his body to slow him down, which he countered with magically hardened flesh. Hebe looked on with rising anticipation as the adept realm prey struggled to sprint to the throne at the far end of the audience chamber. The strong prey leader was being zapped continuously by magic beams of starlight from triggered tile traps, that he had to hold off with swings of his black ax, in addition to everything else. When he swiftly passed by the beastman and three struggling monsters (monarch of the skies, leviathan of the sea, titan of the earth) statue golems and was then chased by those four statue golems as well, Hebe was practically bursting with joy.
"Meteor dash!" the Adept realm prey rumbled out, loudly. His form blurred as flame flowed out from behind his body. The Adept realm prey really did look like a meteor as he flashed across the remaining distance with explosive force, even as he sustained further injuries in the process. At that point, only the monarch of the skies monster could keep up with the adept realm prey's swift movements.
"Where is it!?" the Adept realm prey said, as he desperately looked around the throne for something. His cloak had long since been torn by then, revealing stunningly handsome features, and blunt wounds dotted his ragged, bleeding body like small craters. Strangely enough, even as he simply stood there searching frantically, his body could be seen slowly healing its serious injuries with its last remaining magic.
"There!" the Adept realm prey exclaimed upon noticing the fountain towering behind the humongous, magnificent throne, that largely hid the fountain from sight. A screech sounded from right above the adept realm prey and Hebe silently cheered. The monarch of the skies monster had dived down towards the magic-deficient strong prey leader and reached for his head with its glaringly sharp talons! In the split second before the Adept realm prey was torn to pieces, his extremely honed warrior instincts kicked in and he rolled on the ground with the unconscious mage female prey towards the fountain behind the throne. The monarch of the skies monster pulled up with a severed arm, holding a black ax, in its talons grip.
"Aaah!" the Adept realm prey deliciously screamed in agony, with his gravely voice bellowing pain and hatred. Hebe was shocked that he was still alive but she was confident that he would die very soon, as all of his other prey subordinates (minus the mage he was still carrying) had been doing so far. Hebe enjoyed a pleasant buzz from the streams of mana that had been infusing her core non stop from the dead and absorbed weaker preys, that the Adept realm prey left behind.
"Die! Die! Die!" Hebe fiercely whispered as she rode the pleasant high. Her core slowly grew towards its benchmark of 20 cm in diameter as it received more nourishment.
The Adept ream prey acted swiftly and decisively, despite his great agonizing pain, and sprang from his roll at the edge of the towering fountain. His eyes barely registered the indistinct female figure carved from luminescent silver stone, that faintly reminded one of a radiant full moon. He awkwardly set down the unconscious mage female prey from his shoulders to the marble floor and grasped two objects from a small bag attached to his pants on his hip, a cube carved with many strange small symbols and script and a ruby ring. The cube began glowing with a blazing red light that covered the Adept realm prey, and the unconscious mage female prey at his feet, in a thin film. Concurrently, the Adept realm prey somehow stored the glowing water pooling at the indistinct woman fountain's feet, presumably in the ruby ring. The monarch of the skies had dropped the strong prey's severed arm and dove back towards the Adept realm prey once more by the time the blazing red light of the cube had covered them in a thin film. The last of the remaining subordinate preys was also killed and the four other statue golems, that the Adept realm prey had outpaced, had finally caught up. The four instantly proceeded to attack the Adept realm prey from four different directions.
"What!? Where did my preys go!?" Hebe screamed out moments later. The cube had flashed once, blindingly and the two fallen preys had disappeared. The monarch of the skies monster had its attack land on thin air, while the four other attacking statue golems' collective attacks shattered the marble floor that could handle millions of kilos (10^6 kg) of strength.
"Hmph!" Hebe then sounded indifferently, as she was somewhat appeased by the last infusion of mana into her core from the tenth Novice realm prey that she had absorbed. Her pale-white pearl core reached 20 cm in diameter! Hebe fell into a hibernative state as she finally crossed the threshold of energy needed to evolve from a rank 1 Basic dungeon to a rank 2 Simple dungeon. Her grand temple closed its doors for the first time, hiding what was happening within from the outside world, even more fully than the shroud that usually covered the entrance.