Moving with extreme caution I move away from the lake. I'm fair game out here and there are many monsters who would love a slice of this delectable pie.
In the war for survival stealth is still my most powerful weapon.
I've been able to gather quite a bit of Biomass, probably more than usual for a creature of my level, by operating as a scavenger, picking up the rewards when others have done the dirty work, but unfortunately this doesn't work very well for XP.
With the exception of the completely bizarre battle between the Dragon Wolf pack and the centipedes, I've had to carefully pick and choose my prey in order to get XP and that remains the case.
It would be nice if, on this trip I can successfully carry out a hunt on my own and defeat my opponent one on one.
I need the confidence as much as the XP, I won't be able to stumble across wounded opponents forever.
Keeping myself as hidden as possible I dart from cover to cover, keeping all of my senses sharp.
After that last stomach full I've returned to full HP and my antennae is showing no signs of the extensive damage it endured during my last fight, thankfully my leg had healed long ago.
This forest really is strange, it feels like every time I turn a corner I see something weird I hadn't seen before, like this bright orange fern looking thing. The tip of every branch has a thin tendril of an almost weblike materiel hanging down to the ground.
Won't be touching those!
Out of curiosity I flip a stone using my mandibles towards that plant but nothing happens. My wariness doesn't totally dissipate though. It's possible the plant will only react when something organic touches it.
Instead of standing about eyeing off a fern I keep moving.
I come across a few different creatures as I move in the general direction I saw the hunters leave in, a large pack of small, ape like creatures were congregating around a particularly large tree. I give those guys a wide berth.
If only I had the support of more of my kind! Seeing these large groups of smaller monsters really gets me down for some reason.
I also saw a few Dragon Wolf cubs on the prowl, yet another group I couldn't take on.
Feeling a bit stifled by my inability to find something I can fight I decide to do something I wasn't able to do before.
Climb a tree to scout around!
Finding a nice looking tree I use my claws and the potency of my Grip skill to swiftly make my way up and have a look about.
Ohhhh. I can see so much further now! Behold the power of my improved eyes!
I can see a hill in the distance and there are a few shapes on it, possibly tents? This could be the camp of the five hunters…
I shall investigate!
With my destination in mind I continue to snoop about while making my way towards that distant camp.
I don't want to start any combat whilst those hunters are about, if they come over to investigate I'm going to be really dead, really fast.
Eventually I make my way to the foot of the hill and start to take things very slowly, darting from cover to cover and avoiding any sound or sign of monsters.
About half way up I can make out the shape of the human hunters at the top of the hill. They appear to sitting in a circular shape on stones and bits of wood they've put together as chairs. Possibly they are sitting around a fire pit or cookpot?
I can see three separate tents arranged in a semicircle around their seating area, a few large back packs are strewn about the place along with some monster remains they've been able to hold onto somehow.
A line has been strung across two poles and at first I think they are hanging their clothes from it but when I stare a little harder I realise they are monster hides hung up to dry.
Clearly this group is here to hunt monsters and take cores and materials back to the surface for profit.
I settle into a good position and decide to watch them.
Now that I've identified where camp is I have a crazy idea forming in my mind.
Patience is a virtue to the monster, this is almost the first instruction in my creed.
After a few hours the humans stand and begin to gather equipment, preparing to head out once more. As I watch they strap on their armour, check the edge on their blades and banter back and forth.
Then something interesting happens, as a group they step out of the camp and once they are about ten metres away they all pause whilst the mage concentrates and prepares her staff. Once again she focuses for an extended period, runes appearing and rotating around the head of her staff before she taps the foot of the staff against the ground.
Immediately a few stones I hadn't noticed before flare around the outskirts of the camp glow brightly for just a moment before dimming again.
Once this has been completed the group moves away from the camp, heading towards the lake once more.
It seems they are just farming the lake, ambushing the unsuspecting monsters who have gathered, then returning here to wait until the lake has gathered together the monsters once again.
Fairly efficient way to slay monsters I suppose.
Just to be sure I shadow the group until I'm certain they are heading towards the lake, then I double back and head towards their camp.
You guys must have harvested a lot of monster cores eh?
Be a shame if something were to …. Happen to them…..
I'm very wary of the spell that was cast as they left however. I'm sure that if I walked towards their camp an alarm would go off or I'd be melted on the spot or something equally horrible.
There is no way I'm walking over that barrier.
I'm willing to try going *under* it though.
Behold! The power of Level 5 dig!
Working furiously, I start to dig with all of my might. I probably have a little over hour if we account the time to travel to the lake and back, as well the time to fight and scavenge. Plenty of time to dig myself a small tunnel.
My mandibles work at lightning speed, empowered by my Dig skill I can shift a surprising amount of dirt with each chomp and it isn't long until I'm dug under the magic boundary and into the camp.
Curious, but aware that I don't' have that much time I start to poke my nose into the tents to inspect the stuff. More bags and goods meet my eyes, it appears the mage and another member of the group are sharing one of these tents together.
I can see some food supplies stored in a bag but that isn't what I'm looking for. Using my mandibles I grab the bags one my one and try to shake them open, like an angry dog.
I don't' have hands! How am I supposed to open them?!
After ten minutes of shaking and tearing at their bags I manage to find what I'm looking for. Buried in the bottom of one back was a smaller leather sack sealed with a drawstring pulled tight.
Not tight enough to stop these chompers!
After I puncture a whole in the bag the precious wealth spills out in front my eyes.
[Compatible monster core detected. Would you like to reinforce your core or reconstitute a monster?]
Nice monster cores you have here guys… As they say finders keepers!
They have over twenty monster cores here in this bag and I start absorbing them one after another. After I take my fourth one Gandalf throws water on my burning joy.
[Monster core has reached capacity for your current stage of evolution].
There are still seventeen monster cores left here! How could you do this to me! Despite running out of time I can't help but agonise over the incredible bounty before me.
Eventually, I push the cores together using my claws and try to scoop up as many as possible in my mandibles. Due to how cumbersome my jaws are and how small the cores are, I'm only able to grab four.
Although my heart is bleeding it will have to do.
Like a thief in the night I scamper away with my treasure, crawling through my tunnel and then running down the hill and back into the forest.
I don't go too far until I find a particularly large tree and dig a deep hole in an area shielded by the exposed roots. Inside I bury my pirates gold and carefully conceal my handiwork.
Hopefully I'll be able to come back for these after I've evolved…
Good thing I can't smile, otherwise my face would hurt. What a haul! Thanks, you stupid humans!