This was not going very well. After the second demon came along, not only were there twice as many ways for me to get hit, but I also had to split my attention. This led to a drop in overall efficiency. I wasn't just dividing my damage across two different sources. It was less efficient than that, at least from the sanitation lamp.
The nice thing about suction is it works from all directions. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite be as effective for each demon. Still, I was able to do significant damage to both just by being in their proximity. However, this wasn't going to last.
I begged my processor to come up with some ideas as I dodged and pivoted around their ankles. I started trying things that shouldn't work. I started spraying them with my cleaning solution more and more. It didn't seem to have any noticeable effect, but I got a number floating up in my vision every time I did. And if that was consuming energy or measuring something important, why not keep doing it?
Occasionally when I would get close enough, I'd grab a little piece off of them with my arm. It didn't seem to be very effective, but it was something. I even got close enough to touch one of them with my mop. It had no effect. I didn't even get a number in my vision, but it was worth a shot. The margin for error between me and their strikes was getting smaller and smaller every second. Soon enough, they started to force me into a corner.
While the lesser demons had worked together, usually by holding hands, they weren't very good at strategy. These demons, though, were significantly smarter. They actually seemed to understand basic tactics. They would come at me together in two different directions, timing their motions to coordinate with each other rather than attacking randomly. Several times I actually tried to escape, trying to lead them away from the door with Beatrice behind it. However, they quickly learned to have one drop to the floor to block my path. The other would use that as an opportunity to get a free shot in.
Well, at least their continued proximity to me did damage them. It was likely that they were going to get a lucky hit in before I managed to wear them down, though. My models predicted now that I would only have a one in 100 chance of rolling away without any damage. That was an improvement from the beginning of the fight, so perhaps they hadn't played it perfectly. As long as I made perfect moves and they continued to make mistakes, there was a chance that the odds of success would grow. But it was still incredibly risky.
After I sprayed the ankles of one demon for maybe the fifth time, I picked up a slight color change in the dirt there. It seemed to be less flexible, too, based on the creature's movements. This gave me an idea, and I focused on targeting that particular spot again and again. After about a dozen sprays, I noticed that part of the foot was quite waterlogged. I tried shining my sanitation lamp on it. Aside from some fumes coming off of it, nothing else happened.
Well, it was more liquid than solid now. Maybe my mop could help. I set up the next couple of maneuvers predicting what the demons would do so that I could get within mop range of that spot. I waited, sacrificing potential damage to try this out. I touched the spot with my mop when I got a chance, and the whole section of the beast's foot disappeared. My mop was soaked with muddy water, so I brought it back inside and wrang it out.
Looking at the composition of my foe, I noticed that I had just taken out a considerable fraction of the demon's total mass. Also, while it seemed to be able to shift shape and fill in thinner areas, this sudden damage still threw the demon off balance as it was suddenly missing a large portion of its foot. It started to topple over. With this new tactic and the demon out of position, my model increased my chance of success from one out of 100 to 58 out of 100. And that was assuming that both parties made optimal moves every single chance they got. I was pretty sure I could maintain optimal moves. These demons, while smart, had definitely not so far. I was confident this chance would increase even further, especially if I took advantage of this new opening.
With some fancy maneuvering, I managed to sneak past the temporarily incapacitated demon and try for a better position where I was no longer surrounded on both sides. This was starting to go my way.
Bee stuck her head out the doorway again. They weren't right in front of the door anymore, so she had to stick her head a little bit farther than before and look around. The battle was still going on in the hall back towards where they had come. This was perfect. She didn't have a lot of equipment with her to make anything too fancy, but there was a bucket and a barrel of water. It was salt water that was intended to be used for potions, but it might help hinder the earth demons. And even helping out a little would be great.
For one, she would get some experience from it and be able to assist her master. Though Void looked like it needed even less assistance than when she had last checked. It ran circles around these demons, keeping them bunched together. It seemed to be able to time its movements perfectly so that the demons would get in each other's way. It was truly a master class on combat.
The sight reminded her of one time when a royal guard troop had passed through town escorting some important noble. While they rested, one of them had come over to the group of kids scraping in the mud with sticks, pretending to be warriors. The guard had challenged them all to come and hit him with their sticks, and he skillfully wove between the blows without ever drawing his own sword. As a result, all the kids ended up smacking each other or tumbling in the mud harmlessly. All this without laying a hand on them.
To her master, these earth demons likely seemed like children. Still, that didn't mean it wouldn't appreciate the gesture of help. Neither of the combatants had noticed her open the door, so she tried her best to remain stealthy. Tiptoeing up behind one with a bucket of salt water, she quickly twisted her body and flung the bucket at the smaller demon's back. Its body instantly stiffened and solidified, darkening as the liquid soaked in. That got its attention. It turned around to roar at her while the other tried to swat at Void.
But she was already sprinting back towards the storeroom door. Bee slipped through the crack and slammed it behind her. She hoped her master could take advantage of the opening.
Going back to the barrel, she grabbed another bucket, cracked the door open, and waited for the next opportunity.
I watched Beatrice repeat the stunt with the water bucket. I wasn't sure if she'd seen my spray bottle move earlier to get out of the tight situation, but this would provide me some opportunity. Luckily this time, the water arced low enough that I could reach the affected areas with my mop. The previous one had struck too high up on the demon. Still, it did seem to limit its combat capabilities by a tiny bit, even if I couldn't take full advantage with my mop.
I started positioning myself to optimize this opportunity. My models of the earth demon took this new weakness into account, and within a handful of seconds, I was behind this demon with my mop out. I turned sharply, the tassels cutting a swath through its limb. In an instant, an entire section of wet demon crumpled into the cloth strips.
When I turned my vacuum on that much-reduced demon, it quickly disintegrated. Soon I was facing a single demon that was already much diminished from this extended tussle with me. Having lost its ally, this one proved a minor threat. It was slightly smarter than the one that I had vanquished. This is the one that came upon us after I was already in combat, so perhaps opportunity-seeking was in its nature. Either way, it tried to run. It wouldn't make it far.
It only took a second to chase down. With a few repeated sprays to the ankle, I was able to remove the supporting joint long enough for it to topple over. As it fell, I pounced and was able to rip a large chunk off of the prone form. Soon it was bite-sized enough to be finished off quickly. Large numbers again floated through my vision. I waited for a voice to tell me if I had reached a new level. But nothing came.
That was too bad. I figured that I would be getting close to another milestone by fighting three of these large demons. After how useful some of these last upgrades were, I was quite looking forward to the next advancement.
Oh well. I rolled over to the door Beatrice was behind and knocked on it with my arm. I gave a reassuring beep to let her know it was safe to come out.
It took a couple of seconds, but soon she poked her head out and looked around. Seeing no demons, Beatrice took a step out. She had apparently packed up all the stuff she wanted, as her bundle was much larger than before. I wished I had better conveyed my appreciation for her assistance. She shaved almost 7 minutes and 38 seconds off the fight time. And drastically reduced the risk of me getting damaged again.
Luckily she had an idea of what she wanted to do next. "Master, can we address the food situation? The pantry seems to be out of commission, but I remembered that we have gardens and livestock outside. I figured the livestock might be gone by now since it's been several weeks, but the gardens might be okay?"
Of course, we could. I beeped in the affirmative. I wasn't sure what gardens or livestock were, but if they were related to food, that was good enough for me. I knew that Beatrice needed to consume that regularly. And with the damage done by the demons in our absence, it made sense that it was more of a scarce resource.
Beatrice just nodded and led the way. It wasn't until we started down the hallway towards the stairs I started to get concerned. Where were these gardens? I don't remember anything downstairs except for the catacombs and a few small side chambers. When she stopped at the stairs to look at me and made to pick me up, I got a little concerned. I let her pick me up and carry me down, but I was getting a bad feeling about this.
My bad feeling was confirmed when Beatrice started opening the large doors at the base of the stairs. The last time we went through these doors to the outside, things hadn't gone very well. I shuddered at the memory. The image of an endless dirt landscape still haunted me. But I was different now. Stronger. Surely I could handle something like this? I felt my mind was clearer, and I understood a lot more things for sure, but still. The prospect was daunting. I wasn't sure if I was ready to face that again.
Eventually, she got the doors open and stepped outside. Should I follow? I edged around the door slightly so I could see. It was as I remembered. A wide area of incredibly dirty stone stretched out for about 30 to 40 ft in all directions. Straight ahead, some stairs led down to a gentle slope to the right and left; beyond that was an almost carpet-like green surface. However, as lush as the carpet seemed, it was a trap. My sensors indicated that just below the surface was the thickest layer of dirt, soil, and grime I had ever encountered. It made the castle hallways, caked as they were in sandy debris, look absolutely spotless by comparison.
I'll admit, I trembled a bit. I didn't think I was quite ready to clean out here. Maybe… Maybe I could wait here. Just while Beatrice went to go check on her "gardens."
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Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.