We had to delay our escape for a few minutes until Crinis had come back to herself, but we didn't dare allow her the extra time to evolve right now, we needed her fighting strength to help us in the tunnels. If we managed to break free and make it to the surface then she could probably evolve whilst riding on my back if it came to it, but until then we needed her alert.
Once everyone was prepared we enacted our plan, such as it was. Bust out into the tunnel, kill everything we see, bust back into the escape tunnel, kill everything we see, break out to the surface in the church, kill everything we see.
There was a sort of simple elegance to the plan that quite appealed to me. At any rate, we were successful. Relying on the simplest and most direct methods, we chomped, stabbed, punched and tore limb from limb everything that came our way. We were lucky though, the seemingly bottomless horde of monsters that had been sent after us was nowhere to be seen. In fact, it felt as if the zombie monsters had done us a favour by killing the spawned monsters that had crowded the escape tunnel. We had to contend with far less monsters on the way out than we did on the way in. So that's a plus!
Things were a little less simple when we reached the surface.
I'd like to say that it was me who anticipated the ambush and foiled it with my brilliant tactics, a lie I don't even believe Crinis would have been able to swallow. It was unfortunate, but it Morrelia was the one who made us pause in our escape, not one hundred metres away from the surface entrance beneath the church.
[You know they'll have an ambush in place, right?] she asked as she eyed me askance.
[Of course] I lied.
She nodded to herself as if relieved. Not having a human face helped a lot when deceiving humans, I decided. My antennae had waggled like crazy as I'd spoken the obvious lie, my face, which was literally a part of my skeleton, had remained silky smooth.
My own pets were a little more wise to my deception. Crinis shifted uncomfortably on my back and Tiny looked at me with slack jawed astonishment. Stupid pets! Don't give the whole game away!
[So how do you think we should deal with it?] I prompted Morrelia, hoping to keep her distracted.
She rubbed her chiselled chin with one hand as she looked towards the exit and contemplated. Whoever her parents were, they had some serious jaw genes going on. Morrelia was a solid unit for a woman already but her jawline was so damn sharp it could probably cut steel.
[Do you think you could rustle up another one of those giant bomb things?] she asked.
I clacked my jaws with joy.
[You have slain level 22 Garralosh Commander]
[You have gained experience]
[You have reached level 32]
[You have reached level 33]
[You have reached level 34]
HA! None of your fancy tricks this time you idiot crocodile!
After charging up my Gravity Bomb to a ludicrous degree once more, I unleashed it at the entrance from a safe distance away, Morrelia helping to ensure that proper planning was executed for once in the deployment of this particular magic.
I aimed the spell to hit right next to the opening and it would appear the Garralosh Commander had been prowling right next the opening in the hopes of catching us the instant we exited the tunnel!
Internally I cackled with glee as we charged forward to expunge the remaining monsters that hadn't been caught in the blast. Taken aback by the devastating strike that had instantly killed the most powerful monster amongst them, they were completely unprepared for the savagery of our follow up assault. I took my time tormenting the weaker monsters and squeezed a couple of levels into Tearing Bite, allowing me to upgrade it to the next rank, Severing Bite (III).
This particular bite skill tree continued to be distasteful, specialising in separating monsters into parts. As an active skill it was even more horrifying, allowing me to slice off monsters limbs from range. Crinis' seemed delighted by the skill however, further evidence of the dark road on which she treaded.
After her evolution, who knows exactly what she will become?… I'm nervous. I'm kind of worried to even perform core surgery and manipulate the outcome, I'd inevitably have to ask her how she wanted it to go and I'm not sure I wanted to hear the outcome.
Speaking of evolution, that Gravity Bomb had helped push me closer than ever before to my next evolution, only six more levels and I'd be there.
Once we finished off the remaining monsters Morrelia kept watch so we would have the opportunity to chow down on the Commander. We didn't want to waste any time in the event that Garralosh herself came to collect the corpse as she did last time so I can't blame Morrelia for wanting to avert her eyes from this rapid feasting. It got messy, real quick.
The rewards were worth it though. The entire corpse hadn't quite been obliterated by the Gravity Bomb and we fell upon what remained with relish. I managed to obtain a hundred Biomass from the remains, as well as the greater prize.
[Compatible rare core detected, would you like to absorb or reconstitute the core?]
[Warning, absorption will take you beyond your current limit.]
Mu …. Muaha…. MUAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!
The core is MINE!
Filled with glee I rip out the core and hold it in my mandibles, triumphant. I have managed to retrieve it after all! Mother will have to accept it!
Not willing to wait around any longer we began to cut to the south as fast as we could. Us monsters had our cores recently topped off and I returned to my constant effort to absorb mana from the air using external mana manipulation in order to continually top off my core and increase my up time.
Even so, Morrelia and I made a point to veer to the east occasionally in order to try and keep tabs on Garralosh and its lizard handler, along with horde of thousands of monsters it was bringing along for the ride. We found them eventually, moving along the road that wound around the forest towards the south. Garralosh lumbered in the middle of the horde, easily visible even from a great distance, the Kaarmodo mage and its attendants not far behind.
Their marching speed isn't too hot, probably trying to maintain the mana in the cores of all the monsters who have them. If they don't find an entrance to the Dungeon on the way, they're going to have trouble, although I wager the lizard would be scrying for that as they travelled. I really needed to know more about scrying magic, and how the heck it worked. Morrelia wasn't sure but she thought it might be an extension of air magic. Still, beholding the sheer size of the horde arrayed against us, and the gargantuan dino of a Croc in the centre of the mass, brought home again just how difficult the upcoming struggle would be.
The colony could not afford to lose, we wouldn't be spared from the jaws of the foe, just as we would not spare the enemy if we were to emerge victorious. Unable to flee, it was backs to the wall time for my family. I would do everything in my power to ensure they came out the victor.
Mind buzzing furiously, we ran south.