To my eyes, there is nothing wrong with the tunnel ahead. More of the coral-like plant fronds crop up, along with a few specimens of stabbing fronds, which I'll provide my trademark service whenever I can. Visually, there's nothing wrong, the scene is peaceful, idyllic. One might even venture to say picturesque. My mana sense, however, paints a very different scene.

Threads of pure shadow cover the tunnel from top to bottom. As if the darkness itself had been woven into thick webs that cling to the walls, the ceiling and the floor for dozens of metres. Worst of all, in the centre of the mess sits the most horrific looking arachnid I've ever imagined. I look down on spiders for having two more legs than is necessary. I mean, you get to six legs, the perfect number, enjoyed by the majority of lifeforms on Earth and probably Pangera. You're at six, why the hell would you keep getting more? You've achieved leg nirvana, the goldilocks zone of legs! An organism would have to be diabolically stupid, or dipped in pure distilled evil to fail to recognise the holy nature of the insect.

So I hate spiders for that reason. Stupid or evil, I care not which. They all are horrible and deserve what comes to them. This spider has seen the wicked ways of its kind, witnessed them indulge in their cauldron of sin and thought itself: "What we have going on here? It's good stuff. I'm impressed, I dig the vibe. But check this crazy idea. What if we had… what if we were to have… more legs?"

I recoil in horror as the bloated beast reveals itself to my mind. Eight? No. Ten? No. Twelve? Not at all. Sixteen legs! Why?! In the name of all that is good and sacred in this world and all others, WHY?! That number of legs is completely superfluous! I cannot imagine any advantage to be gained by possessing this ridiculous number of legs. This creature I cannot allow to survive! I shall rend it to pieces and devour its legs with savage glee! Glee I tell you!

Facing off against the many-legged Taratect of legend, I won't back down. The webs will be a problem, but not one that I can't handle. They appear to be woven out of attributed mana, not actually physical or tangible in the normal sense. Luckily for me, my acid is the perfect tool for deconstructing this mess.

Foul creature of evil! Eat acid!

POW! POW! POW! POW!

[Hurr?!] Tiny grunts in confusion as I unleash acid into the seemingly normal tunnel. His expression changes quickly as tangles ropes of shadow begin to melt and fray into view.

We're going to have to do something for Tiny, he's going to struggle in this Strata if he can't see what he's doing. Crinis has none of these issues and is completely aware of what I'm doing.

[Why does it have so few limbs?] She asks with revulsion.

[… Wrong question Crinis. And I have less!?]


[You're different! You're perfect, Master!]

[Correct! Insect kind reigns supreme!]

POW! POW!

More acid flies out, chewing through the webs at a rapid clip. The many legged spider doesn't appear to enjoy the process of having its sweet home torn into shreds. From its position clinging to the top of the tunnel with its grotesque number of legs the spider descends and reaches out. Able to grip both sides off the tunnel at once its limbs seem to stretch forever as it begins to advance on us with a deadly grace.

Yuck! This just keeps getting worse! The creature is like a nightmare daddy long-legs of a spider! Each limb is metres long, thin and bent sharply at the joint. The details of the body are still hard to make out. It's bulbous and disgusting, I can say that much with certainty, but the rest is still hidden in darkness.
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Not for long!

POW! POW! POW!

Raising my business end up high, I aim forward and continue to deliver liquid justice toward the face of the creature. The more my acid chews through the web, the more the scattering droplets splash closer to the offending beast.

Unleashing a long guttural hiss, the spider bares its fangs at me and what a hideous maw it is. Not one set of fangs, oh no, just like everything else about this arachnid, it's decided to take things to extremes. It's mouth is nearly enough to rival that of Crinis, my dear murder sphere, in its sheer horrific-ness. Multiple sets of jaws make a ring of sharp grabbers that reach out, grasping at the air as if tasting me.

It seems as if you want to get closer to me, mister spider. I believe I can find it in my heart to grant your wish!

My sub-minds stir and begin to pump gravity mana into my mandibles. Their combined efforts are able to flood my jaws with energy in a few seconds, energy which I'm only too happy to reach out with towards our many legged friend.

YOINK!

I seize the spider and cause it to fall toward me, preparing the Omen Chomp Skill to deal fantastic and deadly damage to this offensive arachnid. However, the beast reacts with incredible speed, digging into the walls with its claws and defying the suddenly resistible call of my face hands.

Damn you spider! Do I really have to go in there and get you?!

POW! POW! POW!

I unleash further blasts of acid at the arachnid, trying to bait it out, but it proves to be surprisingly dextrous, dodging wildly and trying to remain ensconced within its tattered web. Maybe I'll try …

YOINK!

My mandibles glow bright with gravitation mana once more as I try to drag the spider out, but it resists once again, snatching at the walls with its many legs and straining against my pull. This damn spider! It wants me to chase it into what remains of its webs. I'm not going in there, who knows what crazy shadow web tricks it has going on in there! I also don't want to have to sit here and acid the webs away. The gross stuff extends for dozens of metres, I can't be bothered melting it all!

I feel Crinis stir on my back and I tip my front end upwards a little to get a better view. Perhaps frustrated by my lack of progress at extracting our webbed friend, she wants to take action. Her permanent tentacles wiggle back and forth as she concentrates and the darkness around her deepens, thickening until it almost appears solid. Her body ripples like the surface of a pond after you throw in a stone and a dozen limbs flash out of her main body and plunge into the shadow portal she created around herself.

The spider unleashes a shriek of surprise as its body is seized by Crinis. Actually no, she's not going for the body, she's going for the legs! Her tentacles lash out from the darkness and wind around each of the spider's legs in a flash, immobilising it in an instant. Furious, the spider opens its jaws wide and sink its fangs into one of the offending limbs.

[Tsk.] Crinis mutters, withdrawing the damaged tentacle before she extends others to wrap around it and carve it off.

[What the heck, Crinis?!]

[Poison.]

[Ah.]

The rest of the spiders legs begin to suffer much the same as Crinis' tentacles as her buzzing barbs begin to rend them from its body. With the spider momentarily incapacitated in this way, Tiny is finally able to make it out in the darkness. With a whoop of joy, he leaps forward, heedless of the webs, reaching his victim just as his fellow pet completes her dark work and de-legs the spider.

What follows is mercifully brief as Tiny electrifies his fists and smashes the spider's head into a fine paste. I feel like he was venting his frustration, much as I wanted to do. Ah well, nice job, Tiny.

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