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Prey are tricky. They’ll do anything to survive. Why should I believe the words of prey? They fool each other, wouldn’t they fool me too? I’m not dumb. The prey said it’d give me more food than I’d get from eating it. But that’s dumb. All prey expire at the same time once they die. One dead prey, two dead prey, ten dead prey, all of them will feed me for a day. It’s better to have one guaranteed prey. Wasn’t there a saying? Better a prey in hand than ten at camp.

And I was right. The prey wanted to trick me, fleeing after I brought the others away, not waiting for me to come back. But I knew, knew how crafty prey were. It’d feel safe after I brought the others far away. But how could it know how far I was? Through sound. The louder a sound is, the closer it is. To trick the prey, it was simple. Louder sounds come from harder hits. To mimic me traveling further away without actually moving, I hit the arrow shooter and metal stick together softer and softer before stopping.

Prey see with their eyes, like others. To fool it completely, I guided the others behind it, out of its view. And once it felt safe, it came down. My first arrow missed. Hitting a target is difficult. Hitting a moving target is even more difficult. But the prey slowed down and turned around before yelling at me. I didn’t care about what it said; the words were meant to distract me. Once it was standing still, I fired again. The arrow flew off course, veering to the side of the prey. But the prey did something unthinkable. When I released, it jumped to the side to dodge. And the arrow lodged itself into the prey’s abdomen.

The prey groaned and clutched its stomach. The others behind me stumbled forward. The sound of footsteps echoed through the woods. “W-wait! Stop!” The prey gasped, climbing to its feet. “Didn’t we have a deal? You’ll get more food if you leave me alive!”

I nocked another arrow. It wasn’t likely to hit. But it was enough to frighten the prey. It ran—no, it tried to run. But it was bent over, hobbling with awkward steps, leaving droplets of blood behind for the others to follow. The others are sluggish, slow when the sun comes out. They’re sluggish after they eat too. Only when they’re hunting prey are they filled with vigor. The hobbling prey has no chance at escaping. It took off the bag it was wearing, increasing in speed by a tiny bit. But it wasn’t enough. The others stretched their arms towards it, the spikes tied to their wrists stabbing into flesh. Or not.

The spike didn’t plunge deeply. The prey’s clothes are thick, heavy. The arrows have a special property, penetrating despite being flimsy and small. The spikes on the prey are larger, heavier. But they aren’t as strong. Perhaps, for piercing flesh, smaller and lighter spikes are better. Or maybe it’s the feathers at the end of the arrow. The spikes don’t have feathers. The spikes don’t stab as deep. It could also be the speed. The arrows fly faster than the spikes move. There are many factors to test.

“Wait! Wait! Please!”

The prey’s on the ground. The others are swarming it, biting and stabbing. But their teeth can’t chew through. Only the spikes are hurting it. And just barely at that. The prey is wriggling, squirming while stabbing at the others. With what? Is that a flat metal spike? It’s lying on its back, grabbing the others’ hair with one hand, stabbing their eyes with the flat spike. Systematically killing the others near its torso. But the three others it killed are heavy. Their unmoving bodies pressing against its arms and chest, hindering its movements. And more others are coming to take their place.

This prey is surviving longer than all other prey I’ve seen. The armored clothes. The glossy dome protecting its head. Can it even be killed? The arrows can penetrate its clothes. But can it break through the dome? The others are in the way, covering it. I can’t shoot. If the arrows can’t break the dome, is the prey unkillable? Its brain will be left intact. No. The first prey I ate, it died without me eating its brain. What a waste. Then prey can die without injuring their brains. But others can’t. Others can live without bones, without stomachs, without anything except their brains.

The prey is still struggling, feebly. It wriggles, trying to get free. But the mass of others is too heavy. It can’t move its arms. Can’t stab with its flat metal spike. Can’t lift itself off the ground. I’m too small, too weak to even lift one other. There’s no way this prey can lift seven. Only its legs are still moving, kicking, flailing. But the strikes aren’t enough to kill others, not flexible enough to knock others off its chest and head. How long will it struggle? When will it die? The clothes it’s wearing, I want them. Clothes that can protect from bites, a dome that can protect from bites, a metal spike that stabs better than wooden spikes. Why haven’t I found something like this earlier?

But it makes sense. The more a prey has to protect itself with, the lower its chances of dying, the lower the chances of me discovering the things they use to protect themselves. What else do the prey have that I haven’t seen? The controllable metal hunks. The black box with the black finger. There’s a whole bagful of items that the prey brought. But I’ll check what’s inside after the prey dies. If it somehow escapes from this situation, I want to see. Struggle. Struggle more. Don’t you want to live? Show me something new. But the prey stopped. Is it dead? Maybe. Is it pretending to be dead? Maybe. The only way to actually tell is by smell. Dead things smell like rot. But the prey covered itself with that stink sauce earlier. The others are stabbing it with the spikes, trying to grab it to tear its flesh with their nails. But their nails can’t get past the clothes, like their teeth. It takes this many others to suppress one prey with armor. How many others would I need to suppress a whole camp of prey similar to this? It’s a scary thought.

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Virlyce

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