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Tiny, Crinis and I hauled ourselves out of our temporary respite home to join Morrelia on the surface.

[What happened to the survivors of Midum?] I queried.

[They're getting their stuff together and heading south as quick as their legs will carry them. It might take them awhile to get on the road though, they have almost the entire city to loot after all] Morrelia smirked.

[How much of that stuff is going to be useful? If they turn up with a mountain of vases and precious jewels they are going to be pretty damn useless when they get to the village. I don't think they even have currency there yet.]

[Oh I've no doubt there will be some idiots who prioritise valuables, but I think that most of them will be more sensible and bring things that will be actually useful. I'm expecting quite the interesting haul.]

Judging by the dangerous glint in Morrelias eyes there is assuredly something she knows that I don't. As long as it doesn't affect the colony in any way, then I don't really care what they get up to.

[So ] I prompted her, [what about this trail you found?]

[Oh, right. When I following you to this location I happened to notice that something had carved a path through the forest before doubling back and heading toward Liria. Judging by the tracks there is absolutely a big beastie in the mix.]

[Interesting] I mused out loud, [perhaps their core ran out of mana, forcing them to turn back to the city in order to recharge? It isn't as if they have a local guide to point them toward every little crack in the ground after all.]

Morrelia leaned toward me, interest pain on her face.

[So the mana on the surface is too thin for you? Is your core really that developed?]

My antennae waved self-consciously.

[What? Are you core shaming me? Yes, the mana on the surface is too thin for me and Tiny both. Is that so weird?]

She shrugged.

[You just don't seem to be large enough or evolved enough to have such a strong core. Most creatures from the first strata are able to run around on the surface if they break out of the Dungeon. There are powerful exceptions of course, I doubt Garralosh could last up here more than ten minutes.]

[Is she really just a first strata monster? Seems to me that the mother of those beasts would be too much of a big shot for the top layer of the Dungeon, surely?]

Morrelia paused for a moment before she looked at me oddly.

[You aren't wrong] she said finally, [she is way too strong to be as close to the surface as she has been. Mostly because she's been prevented from getting any lower.]

Something about her tone tells me that she won't be much more forthcoming on that topic, so I let the conversation lapse as we find the trail and start a high speed chase.

Thank goodness I managed to get a food a quick nap. Core aside, I needed the rest. There has been way too much running about up here! It shames my ant self to say it, but this is just too much damn work!

Morrelia is keeping a few things from me, specifically about the Dungeon and Garralosh, but I don't mind that too much. If someone spent their entire life fighting against monsters, it would be a little tough to turn around and trust one with all of your most precious secrets. Especially those pertaining to security.

How exactly would you prevent a powerful monster from moving around in the Dungeon? Sounds like some sort of nightmare. Couldn't they just dig? Thinking about the pathetic hands on the crocs, I don't they would be very effecting at digging actually. Sad for them, forever denied the true light of zen.

Once we are on the trail Morrelia transforms from a taciturn warrior to a wolf on the hunt. Her body language changes completely. Gone is the relaxed but wary stance, the watchful eyes flicking amongst the shadows, ever watchful for the slightest hint of a threat. Now her every muscle radiates focus and intent. Leaned forward as she runs, her eyes are alight with a hunger that wasn't there before, her lips peeled back to reveal too many teeth her entire expression has transformed to that of a beast. Her head jerks back and forth and she follows the tracks, seeking any sign of monsters having snuck off or others joining. So intense is her focus I think she could tell me exactly what monsters make up this group we're following.

If this is another one of Garralosh' big kids, then managing to fight one whilst they are potentially drained of mana and suffering on the surface is a perfect opportunity. We managed to beat one last time when they were on a full tank and we've powered up somewhat since then, not to mention we didn't have a murderous berserker with us at that time.

Run, run, run. I feel like I've well and truly covered my step count for the day but it doesn't end. Through the woods and then out into open farmland the chase continued. I'm interested to see that a significant number of farm animals remain on the surface, wandering here and there as they grazed on the grass. Most of the fences have been knocked down or have large holes in them where monsters have passed through, so the cattle and sheep and free to explore the world at large.

I suppose they mustn't give Biomass when consumed, otherwise the Monsters would have chowed down on these guys for sure. I wonder why they don't? Is Biomass an intrinsic property of a monster body?

Interesting to think about… someone smarter than me will have to work it out.

Our pace is fast and relentless. After four hours of solid running, by which time Tiny is seriously flagging, we start to catch glimpses of our quarry. A small pack of beasts, mostly offspring of Garralosh, with a few others types thrown into the mix for giggles. Sure enough, in the centre of the group, looming over the other monsters and emitting a suffocating pressure is a massive Croc, clearly the same size as the Garralosh Commander we fought in the Marsh Expanse.

As we draw closer to the enemy Morrelia gripped her weapons tightly and I swear that as we ran she began to growl under her breath. She appears to hate these more evolved Croca Beasts even more than she hates normal monsters. Which is a heck of a lot of hate.

[Looks like it might be a Garralosh Commander] I tell her, [Ever fought one of those before?]

She replied only with a shake of her head, her focus still laser-like on our quarry.

[Watch out for the two mouths, the flame attack from each is pretty deadly but the last one we killed had this wicked blue flame, crazy dangerous.]

The news that I'd fought one before seemed to shock Morrelia enough that she actually spoke back.

[You've fought one of those before?] she asked doubtfully.

[What? Why do you constantly underestimate my incredible power?! Not only did we fight one, we killed it and feasted on its sweet Biomass! Impressed?]

She shook her head, not to deny my achievement but more in puzzlement.

[They don't come up this close to the surface, ever. For one of them to be on the surface is beyond strange. Normally they stay close to their parent, reluctant to leave her side. If they are up here, does that mean that …]

[Big momma croc is up here as well?] I finished her thought.

A moment of silence falls over us as we contemplate what that could mean.

[If you see a mega crocodile …. Run] I advised.

I certainly would!

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RinoZ

Bio: Working older person with family who really likes webnovels and decided to write one. Here we are!

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