Long chitinous limbs slam into the stone ground, side by side with arms and legs that are fleshy and pale, and yet others that are covered in bloodied, matted fur. The rippling, roiling flesh of the beast nears little by little, dozens of different faces screaming in silent disgust clearer now in the glowing light.
It speeds up by the smallest fraction as it finally truly sees us, the very sensation of its gaze falls upon me with a skin crawling sensation that feels much like being thrown into a dumpster filled with old, soggy bread.
Its many hundreds of limbs trip over one another in a rush to shove onwards the undulating mass of tumorous flesh bound together by some sickly magic. A few limbs crack and break, but no matter how twisted and splintered they become, they continue the push.
Forcing down the retching that would consume me, I try to set aside the feeling of the stench drenching me, settling on my skin like a layer of thin oil that’s managed to invade the insides of my clothes.
Blinking through the tears that endlessly fill my eyes, I level my pistol at the beast, barely needing to aim as the creature fills the entire hall through which it squirms. The bullet lands in the centre of its mass, popping and frying a head-sized chunk of flesh that scatters the ground ahead of it.
It’s not enough to give the monster even a moment pause, even while it’s grasping limbs gather the charred flesh and greedily shove it into the dozens of salivating maws that cover the beast from end to end.
The beast’s feet pound and scrape, it’s mouths wheeze and moan, and from somewhere within its twisted flesh comes the offbeat pounding of a busted bass drum.
Blades of wind stir the air between us and it, before slicing through the spongey flesh, scattering brown blood and yellow puss, and leaving behind deep gashes that close over and scar in the passing of seconds.
If the beast felt even a twinge of pain, its unable to show it.
The air is growing thick and oily with the scents that drip from the flesh that rolls towards us, while my nose cannot grow any more offended, my eyes tear up, and the oils that fill the air invade every pore in my skin.
Nine out of ten of my multi-minds are gagging and retching just to keep the last one sane enough to focus on the fight that’s drawing nearer at the speed of an ever crumbling gallop.
“Kyra?” Vii asks, looking at me. “Can you kill it?”
“Maybe.” I reply, gagging on the thick, warm air, “But if it doesn’t work, I don’t have the mana for another shot.”
“I’ll play with it a little first, then.” Leai says, her smile showing sharp teeth. “Let’s see what’s inside this beasty.”
The green glow inside of her intensifies, as she stirs the mana inside of her and shapes it into magic. I cannot see the mana clearly with my limited mana senses, but even so I can tell that she’s using far more than I’d expected out of her.
I tighten the reigns on my own mana flow, pulling most of my mana into a singular vortex inside my chest, ready to be forced into my pistol the moment I need to fire. I need to be ready for the worst, so that I can pop this oversized tumour if it endangers any of my people.
It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that this beast tears apart and uses the flesh that it consumes to build out it’s body further. I refuse to let anyone I know become just another broken limb on this creature that even Satan would curse.
Leai faces it down with no weapons in hand as the magic she cast settles instead over her own body. She loosens the tentacles that run down her back as hair and holds out her hands, slowly moving around in circles. Glowing brighter still, she smiles at the beast before charging forwards.
Seia is first to follow, as ready as her sister, if a little more subtle. Vii and I race behind them, making an approach on the beast that’s now less than a dozen metres away.
Leai leaps forwards through the air, as if launched by a catapult. She spins at the last moment, kicking out with her legs and sending waves outwards through the flesh that bursts from the pressure. Just as fast as she leapt at the beast, she flies away, twisting through the air and landing with her back to us as she readies for another go.
The flesh that burst from her blow, spits vertically apart to reveal a long fleshy throat lined with raw flesh and organs, some still pulsing with false life. There are no teeth, not even an imitation, the wide maw not entirely unlike that of an old toothless grandpa a week after his death.
I take the chance to place a shot right down its throat but it just swallows the burnt flesh that bursts down into its gullet. A follow up shot by Vii, brightens the dark depths at the back of its throat with a fiery flash, revealing the flood of green goop racing out towards us.
The sickening bile flies out at us with enough force to easily bridge the distance. Vii flaps widely, sending a powerful blast of wind against it, stopping the flight of the green liquid, which splatters onto the ground between us and the beast.
The ground starts smoking around it and we all retreat a few metres to get away from the green haze that fills the air like a thickening fog. The beast itself doesn’t care and resumes it’s charge at us.
Vii huffs by my side, unsteady on her feet.
“Are you alright?” I ask.
“Yeah, it was just… a big spell.” She says, “There was mana packed into that bile. I expected it, and I put a lot of mana into the wind to counter it. I’m… it’s too much.”
“Even with your true talent?” I ask, gazing at the beast with increasing alarm. “Give me a moment.”
I pull out a small chunk of meat that I’d prepared just in case of a disaster like this. I push a little mana into it before forcing it into her mouth.
“Don’t try to eat it, just chew the mana out of it.” I say.
The beast continues to move closer, pushing through the gunk and green fog without hesitation. The limbs beneath it get stuck in the goop, but are ruthlessly torn free again and again as it stumbles on.
“Think it has any more?” I ask, as we wait for it to get a little further from the dangerous seeming gasses that spawned from its bile.
“If it does, it’s not using it. That spit could easily still reach us from there with the force that was behind it.” Vii says, “Maybe it’s trying to trick us? I don’t think so, but it could be.”
As it takes its first steps outside of the green gas, Leai leaps forwards into another attack. This time the kick is forceful enough to push the beast back a half dozen steps, right back into its own goo.
She promptly retreats back to us again, hopping from one leg to another.
“Dense.” She says, “Heavy liquid, maybe?”
“That’s unusual.” Seia replies, “Is it dangerous?”
“If I’m stupid enough to get caught.” She replies, “I’ve still got to show these girls that I’m worth having around. That I deserve this chance.”
“You don’t need to do this to prove yourself.” I say, “We need to do this because I don’t want that thing turning us into replacement parts.”
“Me neither.” Leai says before throwing herself at the beast as it continues its slow but insistent offensive against us.
This time she launches herself all the way up to the ceiling, which she kicks off of, before twisting around and whipping her tentacle-like hair down along the face of the beast. The force behind the blow is enough to split apart the beasts spongey body and cause the rippling flesh around the wound to pop and burst.
I’ll have to ask her what magic she’s using and what Skills these are. I’ve already stolen them, but now is not the time to open up my ever longer book of Skills.
For each attack that she lands, we retreat a few steps as the beast pushes us further back. The damage that we do to it healing so fast that it’s almost as if we’re achieving nothing at all.
I don’t have enough spare bullets to allow this to go on much longer. I’ve kept my crafters busy with too many other projects and now I’m seeing the results from my flat ammo pouch.
Vii is starting to blast with her wind magic again but it’s clearly not enough.
Seia has been standing watch, with sharp eyes and no attacks just yet, and I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing, but her sharp gaze focused on her sisters back assures me that she’s ready to act at any moment. I’d guess that this is the pairs usual formation, and that we’re just tacked on.
We’re not working together perfectly smoothly, that much is clear, but I don’t exactly know what to do about it. I barely even understand my own position in this formation, let alone ordering the others into the right place.
“Kyra! I’ll go in heavier this time, blast it after.” Leai says, leaping up and at the beast one more time. She pushes straight for it with a direct punch, but this time the beast is ready with a counter. The same giant mouth as the last time opens wide, and slams shut around the top of her.
I level my pistol, but I don’t know where to shoot without hitting her.
“I’ve got her.” Seia says, charging in. Her tentacles prying open the creature’s mouth to reveal the glowing green form of her sister. Vii and I move in closer as they struggle to pull free from the creature’s surprisingly firm grasp.
I tighten the vortex of mana inside my chest and aim my freshly loaded pistol at the body of the beast behind them, waiting for a good shot. I should’ve blasted the beast already, but I hesitated and let Leai get captured.
Seia successfully pulls most of her sister free, but her arms and face are still covered in some sort of black goop that’s stretching out, trying to keep a grasp on the beast’s newest prey.
“Get ready!” I shout, pushing a vortex of mana into the pistols barrel and firing.
The moment the shot is free, I turn around and grab Vii tight, ducking low, trusting in my amour to take the coming blast. A loud boom resounds behind me, as I feel my mana dip slightly drawn into the enchantments of my armour.
Unharmed, I turn to see the result of my attack.
Seai has successfully pulled her sister free, neither looking too much the worse for wear, with the black goo sliding off now that she’s escaped the beast’s mouth. They’re already steady on their feet with their arms raised and ready to fight, as they face the beast that nearly had them.
The beast, while hurting isn’t dead; it’s flesh while charred isn’t scattered. I can already see it slowly merging again, misshapen but somehow still whole, and recovering fast.
I, meanwhile, am out of mana. The others are too weak to manage a killing blow, and while it seems vulnerable now, I somehow doubt they can manage to kill it.
As the twins throw themselves at the beast, separating the flesh and trying to keep it from recovering, I look around for something to devour. Something to refill the tank, so to speak.
I take what looks to be a free hand from the ground, pulling the mana out of it, as it’s suddenly jerked away. I retain my grip on it and I’m nearly pulled from my feet for the effort, but a wind blade from Vii is enough to save me any further trouble.
The mana inside this flesh, is dense, and floods into me, filling me beyond my limits in moments as I try to crunch it into something that I can use. The process likely to still take minutes.
As I watch, the beast’s writhing body starts to tremble as it leaks black fluids that gather together into a lump atop the still mostly unharmed flesh at the back of the stilling monster. The lump of oily black liquid starts to spin and twist in itself, forming, dissolving, reforming hundreds of spikes that pierce all the flesh around it.
“The fuck is that?” I ask, lifting my pistol, ready to kill it the moment my mana is ready.
The dark mass snaps, a massive spike extending out as it stabs right for me. Leai leaps in front of me, blocking the black liquid with her arms. Seia steps in a moment later to tear the black liquid free of her sister again as it tries to grab her.
“Back.” She says, and I don’t hesitate to take her suggestion.
Successfully draining the last of the mana from the arm, I throw it aside and run back to get some distance. The beast doesn’t much like that.
Black limbs run all along the walls around us, and dozens of spikes lash out towards the twins and Vii who struggle to defend themselves. I’m not as fast.
While dodging away from one that stabs at my shoulder, another slams into my ankle. My armour drains the little mana in me reducing the power behind the attack but can’t stop it as the black fluid grips around my foot.
The ground slides under me, and while the others reach out for me, they’re all too slow. The stone grinds against my armour plating, before I’m lifted up and onto the fleshy body beside the black mass.
The mana is still crunching inside of me unable to be used, when finally, I’m fully within its grasp. The black liquid covers me and while the armour is able to keep it from directly touching me, it’s still able to pull at the mana inside me, that’s still not yet mine.
“Damn it.” I swear, while countering it with the same tactic. My head grows light, and I feel increasingly sick and dizzy. I’m not sure I have any usable mana inside me anymore, and I might just be dying from mana shock.
My head is still uncovered, and I can see the others trying to reach me, but hundreds of black limbs keep them at bay.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been held like this, and to be honest, I’m not having a very fun time of it. I focus on the mana still converting inside me, the part of me that is not yet mine. It shouldn’t be allowed.
It’s mine. It’s all mine.
More and more pressure builds inside me, changing the state of the mana, as the black liquid starts to regather it’s discarded flesh, and reknit itself, enveloping me inside of it’s body.
“Kyra! I’m coming!” Leai shouts as she gathers magic around herself racing for me. She slaps away the fleshy limbs reaching for her and tears apart the closing flesh that would bury me.
Seia and Vii support her as she charges. Their attacks dealing with the countless hundreds of fleshy masses that are reaching out to stop her.
Finally, my mana is mine.
“Watch out!” I shout, using the fire infusion technique that I’ve been training. The magic flows into the black flesh of the beast, concentrating on the limbs that wrap around me.
I conserve some of the remaining mana just to hope that it can feed the enchantments in my amour that’ll save me from my own fires.
The magic takes a moment to ignite, but when it does the black mass explodes violently, freeing me. Already I’ve drawn out enough mana to replace what I’ve lost, but it’ll be a few seconds before it’s ready to use.
Leai grabs me by the shoulder and throws me back towards the other two as she presses in on the black slime that’s still recoiling from my attack.
I lay on the ground watching as the others press the assault once more. Their attacks are not nearly as effective as mine, but it doesn’t cripple them nearly as badly to attack.
“Buy me a minute.” I say, focusing on consuming the mana as quickly as I can. I briefly note that my mana is lower than it’s been in a long time and I put up a memo in Chip to properly investigate how low my mana can go before killing me.
The others struggle to keep the beast from recovering, but they’re slowly being forced to retreat. Their attacks simply not doing enough damage to counter the creature’s strangely effective recovery.
They do, however, buy me enough time to ready my pistol and the mana I need to load it.
“Ready!” I shout, aiming for the black mass at the centre of the beast.
Vii pulls away first but the twins follow soon after covering each other with the kind of teamwork that can only be developed over many years.
“Firing.” I say, pulling the trigger and letting the bullet fly. The beast isn’t able to dodge or block, a few stray limbs try to intercept but fail to move quickly enough.
The bullet hits the black mass that makes up its main body, and shortly after explodes into a fiery ball of heat. The flames don’t last for long, but the damage is lasting.
“It’s a slime-like creature, this won’t be enough to kill it.” Seia says, watching the mass continue to writhe as the black liquid of its main body tries to pull itself together.
“Protect me, I’ll drain it’s mana. That should finish this.” I say, stepping over a long bug like leg and walking over to the still burning puddle that struggles to come alive.
“You can drain mana?” Leai asks, “That’s so cool!”
“I didn’t say? It’s how I got your collar out.” I reply, dipping my hand into the liquid mass and pulling the mana from it. There is more mana inside the creature than I can easily hold, so I take the opportunity to forcefully develop my mana form.
Why let this opportunity waste?
After some thought, I focus on my muscle and bone development, if something goes wrong with this armour it’ll be my only hope of moving. With that decided, I push all my mana into my muscle and keep on draining the dying slime at my feet.
It’s a little difficult to keep the mana restrained strictly to my muscles and bone, but I struggle on as I leak mana into the air. When the slime squirms at my feet, trying to form a spike from its body, I punch it with an infused fire punch. I never waste more than a few points of mana on each hit, but it’s still enough to splatter whatever limbs it forms.
“Stay down.” I say, sucking the life out of it. “You’ve lost. You’re food now buddy, just accept it and go down easy.”
“Oh, that’s why you like beast guts.” Leai says, watching me closely.
“Pretty much.” I say, feeling the sludge at my feet shivering as the last of its life fades.
The mana rushing through my muscles and bone splits again and again, the flow fraying and decaying.
Feeling out the many ways and places in which it frays allows me to understand better how to keep it from fraying any further. The mass of mana leaking out of me makes it easy to spot the worst leaks, and correct the flow, but it’ll still be quite some time before I perfect the flow.
Even so, I watch as my effective distribution climbs second by second.
“I think it’s dead.” I say, prodding the black puddle surrounded by the violently sundered flesh of its meat suit. “Want to grab some chunks of flesh to take with us? I could use the mana.”
“You want us to carry this around with us?” Leai asks, “Have you no sense of dignity, or smell?”
“Eh, mines dead at this point. Yours isn’t?” I ask, pulling as much as I can from the flesh while looking for a big chunk I can drag around behind me.
“No?” Leai replies. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’m fine.” I reply, deciding on a chunk and dragging it after me. The weight of it isn’t actually too bad so long as I’m investing in my still developing musculature.
“How long was I sitting there?” I ask, seeing just how much my muscle investment has changed.
“Half an hour,” Vii says, hopping to my side, “We were helping, keeping it from growing back and eating you up. Were you not paying attention?”
“Ah, sorry, I was too focused. It only felt a moment” I say, shaking my head and rubbing at my brow. “You know which way to go?”
“Yep, yep. Just follow me.” She replies “And please dump that thing.”
“In a second.” I say, pulling at the mana inside of it.
“Kyra.” She says a little more strictly.
“Fine,” I reply, pulling a cleansing stone from out of my pocket and activating it while holding the chunk of flesh close. Oils and puss run from the outside of the flesh, gathering into a sizeable puddle on the ground at my feet.
“It shouldn’t stink anymore.”
I throw the stone to Vii, who snatches it from the air. She looks at me doubtfully as uses it, before leading us away from the scattered flesh of the beast’s corpse.
I wonder if it can possibly smell worse when it starts rotting.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Skills & Stats
Current mana density: 620 units
-Mana surge movement
-Mana surge punch
-Reactive mana skin
-Infused delayed Casting
-Fire burst punch