211. Monster Mindset
I called out to the pair of wolves before me. They spun around, growling dangerously as I approached them. I held my hands out placatingly.
“Do either of you know where I can find any Golems?”
They ignored the question, snarling and leaping at me. With a sigh, I dodged to the side, and created a Nebular bow.
“You guys are rude!”
I flipped over them as they leapt at me again. Wings spread open from my back, and I shot out into the air, nocking a Nebular Blazing Bolt. They looked up to face me as I bared my teeth.
“I’ll just have to find them some other way then.”
The Nebular Blazing Bolt exploded, blowing the monsters apart with ease. They hadn’t been that high-leveled. Barely at Level 90, yet somehow bold enough to attack me. I gained some experience— not enough to level up, of course. Not even close.
Then I took off, flying back above the tall trees to the clouded sky, and the sun began to rise.
The Rainforest of Monsters lived up to its name with how frequently it seemed to, well, rain in the forest. After the first storm passed, I thought there’d be a moment of peace and tranquility, with a damp moisture filling the air as insects and birds returned to fill the background with their incessant chirping and buzzing. While this was the case for a very brief moment, it didn’t last.
The mud-lake at the center of the commune gleamed brown with the crack of light shining down onto its surface. The water shimmered, still flowing, although less deep than when it was raining before. It seeped partially into the ground and dirt, melding together to create the soft floor which I trudged through, my feet sinking with each step.
A gaggle of Goblin children ran by me, making garbled noises as they poked each other with small sticks. I turned my head and watched them with keen interest. My attention seemed to loom over them, scaring them off. They ran, pointing at me, making sounds that were like screams. I tilted my head to the side as a Goblin adult grew angry at me, trying to attack me with a rock.
An Orc woman stopped him. She dragged him away, shoving him back, and turning to me. Crkrs approached me as I waved at her.
She sat down on the ground, a fist pressed onto the soft soil. With a huff, she peered at me. I blinked.
“I’ve only been here for a day. I mean, sure, it’s rained three times since I got here. But it’s only been a day, alright?”
Crkrs let out a harsh bark, and I glanced over to the side. The three Trolls of the commune sat in a circle, filling a small clearing of trees with their hulking sizes. They were all large, with some even bigger than the others. The [Mountain Troll] was the biggest of them all, sitting silently like he was some sort of small hill.
Dozens of Goblin children climbed his huge figure, playing with each other, being caught by the [Mountain Troll] if they fell. I smiled.
“Yep. He’s the one who told me to stay. I’ve just got to convince Mngrph to help me out somehow. And it’s not like I’m remaining idle, either. I’ve been going around the forest, searching the area. Still no signs of any Golems, though!”
I sighed, even as I spoke cheerfully. Sinking to my knees, I glanced up at the small opening among the canopy of trees above. It let in a dim light that kept the commune of monsters lit, although that meant that none of the glowy moss or fungi grew around here.
“I’m going to speak with that Gremlin again. I’ve brought back cool flowers, see?”
I held up a purple plant. It barely looked like a flower, but my [Identification] told me that it was a flower. The Orc woman gave me a dubious look, but I shrugged.
“I’ve got to try something, at least.”
I headed up to where Mngrph was, climbing the tree to his hut. I entered it, once again stalking past all the sick Goblin children. This commune really had a lot of Goblin children. There were Orc children too, but they numbered in a substantially fewer amount. I knocked on the doorway to his room before entering, pushing the big leaf that acted as a door.
“Mngrph? Hello. I brought you a gift!”
I expected to see the Gremlin working on some wicked concoction, stirring away at his pot, but he wasn’t there. I heard a loud and drawn out snort coming from the side. I spun around, claws raised, only to see him snoring in the corner of the room.
He jerked up, blinking. Rubbing at his eyes, he spoke lazily.
“Huh? What? Yes, I’m awake. Is someone dying?”
“Probably somewhere out there, yes? But I don’t think anyone is dying around here.”
“Aw. Then let me go back to sleep.”
I gave him a flat stare.
“Ugh, that’s weird.”
“What’s weird? That I have to sleep? Come on, if you had to spend every day knowing that you could randomly die of old age, you’d want to ignore it by sleeping too.”
I walked up to him, offering him the flower in my hand.
“Here. I have a gift for you.”
He narrowed his eyes, staring at it.
“An amethyst gembloom?”
“Yep! It looked rare, and I’m sure it’s something a [Shaman] like you would want, right?”
I beamed, waiting for him to excitedly take it. He wrinkled his nose and pushed it away.
“Gross. Why would I want that? It’s wholly inedible.”
“Can’t you use it to make a potion or something?”
I stared at him, the confusion evident on my face. Mngrph shook his head.
“Make a potion? What am I, an [Alchemist]? I’m a [Shaman]. That’s my Class.”
The intricacies that made the two Classes different was lost on me. I was also perplexed by how he had a Class and a Subspecies.
“Don’t monsters only have Subspecies? Why do you have a Class anyway?”
“Again, rude. And not all monsters are the same Species, Salvos. We’re not just a Species called monster. No, some of us— like us Goblins and Orcs and Trolls— get a Class when we hit Level 100. Just like you Demons.”
I shrugged, uncaring. I was more focused on the fact that my bribe didn’t work.
“Is there anything you’d want then? Food? I can get food for you.”
“Are you still trying to get me to help you? I told you, Salvos, you’ll have to give me a reason to help you. Now shoo, I want to go back to sleep.”
Scowling, I spun around and left the Gremlin alone.
I sat on the shoulder of the [Mountain Troll], throwing my hands in the air as I complained.
“I don’t get him! He’s being weird. I’m trying to be nice, but he just doesn’t care. He’s mean.”
The [Mountain Troll] didn’t say anything. He simply sat there, listening, and eating. While he didn’t have a mouth to speak with, he could still eat through his face. The lower half of his jaw could unhinge, and he’d crush his food into muck before shoveling it into a hole. Then he’d force it shut once more. It was like his skin and body was made out of rocks.
He turned his gaze towards a group of Goblin children, playing as they ran around him. I raised a brow and watched. The Goblin children poked each other with pointed sticks, drawing blood, screaming and hurting each other more than they played. Yet, no one stopped them. Even when one of the Goblins was beaten and ganged up on by the others.
“Why isn’t anyone stopping them?”
I glanced up, looking at the Orcs sitting on trees, bored and ignoring what was happening. Adult Goblins milled around, sometimes even attacking each other over minor nonverbal disagreements. They snarled and even threatened each other with weapons. It was only when it looked like it could be deadly, did others intervene.
It was just such a stark juxtaposition to Human society. Or even, Elf or Kobold society. They did things with law and order. You couldn’t just randomly assault a regular person walking down the street. But here, there were no laws. There was no order. There weren’t even streets to walk down.
I thought of a place. A familiar place, almost nostalgic in my mind. The skies were dyed with the color of Human blood, and the earth was a pure, untainted white to traverse. Yet, corpses and bodies littered every direction I went. They lay there, no different from rocks, just another sight to see on any other day.
That was what the Rainforest of Monsters reminded me of: the Netherworld. Where there was only one purpose. To live. Nothing more.
The monsters— no, the Orcs and Goblins and Trolls simply just lived with each other. They survived together, against the harsh environment of the Rainforest of Monsters. And it really was dangerous.
I heard a barking followed by some growling. At first, I thought it’d been the Orcs getting into a fight. But no, these were more aggressive. Louder. More bestial in nature.
Everyone in the commune immediately grew alert as a pack of wolves burst through a thicket of trees. These monsters looked familiar. I immediately recognized them as the same kind of monsters that I fought just earlier. They must’ve tracked me down, somehow.
[Shadow Horned Wolf - Lvl. 107]
[Shadow Horned Wolf - Lvl. 83]
[Shadow Horned Wolf - Lvl. 95]
“Um… it’s not my fault?”
I scratched the back of my head. And the highest-leveled [Shadow Horned Wolf] howled. They were hopelessly outnumbered, yet they charged. Goblin children tried to flee, only to be mauled down before they could get away in time. The Trolls shot to their feet, and the Orcs and Goblins leapt down from the tall trees, unleashing a barrage of powerful attacks at the wolves.
But these wolves were high-leveled too. They vanished, seeping into the shadows, moving along the darkness that shrouded over the entire forest. Then they leapt out, already biting at unsuspecting Orcs. They didn’t just move in the shadows. The shadows moved on their own too.
They shot out, like spiked tendrils looking to impale the Orcs and Goblins, killing more than a few lower-leveled ones before they could react. Crkrs leapt down from a tree, raising her club and smashing it into the ground. The earth exploded up into dust and debris, forcing a few [Shadow Horned Wolves] out of the darkness.
She thwacked those closest to her, breaking their bones, smashing them away as she snarled. The Orc woman led the charge back against the invading monsters. The [Mountain Troll] followed behind her, lumbering and slow in his movements, but somehow able to take on three Level 90 [Shadow Horned Wolves] at once.
Whether it was just because he was special or because Trolls were special, wasn’t something I knew. But he and the other Trolls were like a force of nature on the battlefield. I didn’t even see them use any Skills. They just ripped apart the [Shadow Horned Wolves] with ease, wading forward in spite of being bitten and stabbed by the shadows.
The Orcs and Goblins weren’t as invulnerable. Many of them— even the ones at higher levels— fell in battle to the [Shadow Horned Wolves]. I leapt down with a Nebular scythe, slicing one of the wolves in half before they could reach a Goblin child. I smiled, nodding at her.
She just made a weird sound, ignoring me completely. I paused.
“Come on, not even a thank you?”
I twirled around, catching another wolf with the tip of my scythe before it could pounce on me. In the background, I saw trees falling from the fighting. These gargantuan trees that rose to over hundreds of feet fell, splintering from strikes by the Orcs and Trolls and Goblins and Wolves. I expected the commune to fall apart too, but the ground beneath the area with the huts shone.
Mngrph floated out of his home, raising a wooden staff as a barrier formed around the commune, and everything stood strong. His voice bellowed.
“You dogs dare come to my territory? Begone or perish!”
Lightning zipped down from above, curving around through the hole at the treetops. These strikes didn’t just electrocute the [Shadow Horned Wolves]. They blasted apart the landscape. Everything outside of the commune burned or exploded.
I blinked. There was some kind of magic here that protected the commune. I watched as the Gremlin unleashed his [Shaman] magic on the wolves.
“I was resting peacefully and you damn puppies decided to interrupt my sleep? Die!”
Vines shot down from the branches and the earth, wrapping around the [Shadow Horned Wolves] before they could flee into the shadows. The vines slowly tangled and ripped apart the lower-leveled monsters, too tough to break free from for most of them. All except for one.
The leader of the pack— the highest-leveled wolf— vanished, disappearing not into the shadows, but creating a ball of darkness around itself. Mngrph narrowed his eyes, only to spin around as the wolf appeared at his back. It was accompanied by a dozen other shadow-like wolves, clones of its body that assailed the Gremlin from all sides.
Mngrph grunted as he swung his staff, lashing out with clawed hands, keeping the wolf back. He managed to kill each shadow clone one by one, but not without being bit on the shoulder by the real wolf. He screamed a Skill.
And everything around him burst into brambles. The wolf yelped as it was knocked away, covered in blood from the attack as its shadow clones were destroyed. It whimpered as it drew away from him, limping and hurt. The Gremlin glared.
“I’m not going to show you any mercy, you intolerable, little mutt.”
It growled, and pounced at him once more. But he flicked his staff. The earth shot out— a giant spike from the ground. And it fell, dead.
The fighting died down soon after, with the last of the [Shadow Horned Wolves] fleeing now that their leader was dead. I kicked one back, hefting my Nebular Scythe over my shoulder as I walked over the corpses and bodies of all kinds of monsters. I took in the aftermath. The [Mountain Troll] and Crkrs were still alive, which was a relief. But a lot of Goblin children lay dead. It was sad. I expected there to be a mourning, but… no one really cared.
Everyone tended to themselves. They licked their wounds or returned to what they were doing before the wolves came. I looked through my experience, seeing what I got for killing a few of these monsters.
Defeated [Shadow Horned Wolf - Lvl. 94]!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
Defeated [Shadow Horned Wolf - Lvl. 87]!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
It wasn’t much, but it would help with my next levels. For now, I stopped staring at the aftermath. I stopped gaping at the differences between how this commune worked and how Human society worked. I knew what had to be done. No one blamed me for bringing the [Shadow Horned Wolves] here. They probably didn’t even know I was responsible for it.
This was just another day to them. Getting attacked by other monster groups wasn’t uncommon. Not in a place literally called the Rainforest of Monsters. And I finally understood what needed to be done.
I stalked past a group of Goblin children. They were already back to playing and fighting with each other now that the wolves were gone. One of them looked like she was about to attack me, but a single glare sent her running back. I trudged up to Mngrph.
I spoke his name simply. He winces as he applied some ointment onto his injured shoulder.
“What is it this time—”
He paused right as I brought the scythe to his face. A few heads turned. The [Mountain Troll] stood up, and Crkrs shrunk back. I bared my teeth at him.
“You’ll tell me everything you know about the area around this commune, and where I’ll most likely be able to find a [Lux Golmi].”
The Gremlin stared at me, his lips pressed thinly together.
“And what will you do if I don’t?”
“Is that really a question?”
I tilted my head to the side, raising my Nebular Scythe.
“So, you’re threatening me.”
“I’m offering you a chance to save yourself from me.”
“Exactly what I said: threatening me.”
“You only have [Advanced Language Comprehension], don’t you? I’m the one with [Universal Language Comprehension]. I’m giving you something you want. You want to live, yes? Give me what I want, and I’ll leave you alone.”
Mngrph crossed his arms.
“I’m higher-leveled than you, Demon. And the moment you attack me, every Orc, Goblin, and Troll here will come for you. You will die.”
I glanced over to the side. Certainly, there was a soft growling coming from more than a single Orc within the vicinity. Flames wreathed around my body as I smirked.
“Maybe. But are you willing to test that theory out?”
That was the thing about these monsters. It was similar to the Netherworld. You lived to survive, even if you had to hurt or kill others. I wasn’t a wild Demon. I would never attack someone without a reason. But I had a reason now.
Mngrph knew something I wanted. He’d withhold it for whatever reason he could give, just because he couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want to help me. He was like me, really. Except, even I had a reason to help others sometimes. I didn’t live purely by necessity— maybe it was because I spent too much time in society, but I learned what it was like to make friends. To help others without always having a reason to do so. I wouldn’t act to my detriment, of course. However, I was more kind and willing to assist those in need than him.
The Gremlin didn’t make friends, living entirely for himself and only himself. The reason why he was even in a commune was for his own sake. He was selfish, entirely so, and I was going to press him for it. If I was going to deal with Humans like a Human, then I’d deal with monsters like a monster. My gaze bore into him as he stared defiantly back at me.
He closed his eyes. He slowly touched his shoulder, feeling the open wound. Then he sighed.
“Very well, you win. I’ll tell you what you want.”
I let my flames dissipate as the tension around the commune vanished.