Chapter 69: The seaweed is always greener...

Froggos pop out from all around us in response to the Priestess’ bellow. They’re not upon us yet, but they will be soon.

 

Shit, what do we do?

 

<Emma!>

 

I wince as Dave’s voice explodes into my head. His gaze meets mine from where he’s currently slowly sinking, slightly outside of the melee like me.

 

<There’s no way we can fight all of these, and I don’t think we’re supposed to; we need to get to the tunnel below us. I’m picking up vibrations from another strong flow!>

 

Right, Dave’s got Tremorsense now. He points down, and my eyes follow. About 100 feet below where we are now, the mouth of a tunnel gapes at us.

 

Its rim is littered with crude signs, displaying... dismembered froggos?

 

Are those warning signs for the froggos? That’s it!

 

I know what I need to do.

 

I extend my tether to Dave and quickly send, <Inform the others that we’re making a break for the tunnel below us; I’ll cause a distraction to give you all time.>

 

He nods. I break the tether, reform my tail, and focus my attention on the priestess.

 

So far, I’ve avoided any direct confrontations with the albino bitch, and was happy enough that she stayed out of the fight, but now...

 

I kick with as much force as my tail can handle and loop around, pretending to ready myself to head back into the fray, while ‘accidentally’ ending up behind the priestess. She eyes me warily as I speed along a trajectory that would send me right past her.

 

I change directions towards her at the last moment and swing my spear through the Hydrum’s drag at full force.

 

Her eyes go wide. She croaks in surprise as she brings the trident to bear in an effort to ward off my strike.

 

She’s just a little too slow, however; the momentum of my swing combined with that of my barrelling body is enough to force her trident back and allow the blade of my spear to bite deeply into her shoulder.

 

I’m not about to let this chance to finish her off go to waste either. In a flash, the glowing blue Qi I had readied inside of my Focus Crystal turns a deep shade of purple and pours into my spear. Halfway along the shaft, however, it meets resistance; Electric Energy from the trident is filling up my spear from the other side.

 

My Toxic Energy pushes past the Electric Energy, not forcing it to retreat or destroying it, but awkwardly coexisting, like step-siblings forced to live in the same house. When it reaches the point where spear meets flesh however, it’s like my Toxic Energy hits a barrier. For a split second, there is a stalemate. Then I manage to break through and cause a torrent of hungry purple tendrils to eagerly spread out beneath her pale skin.

 

That’s not to say it all goes in; as the amount of Toxic Energy in my spear lessens, so does the pressure with which I can push it forth, and the interfering Electric Energy from the trident is still only increasing. Still, I filled my Focus Crystal with a cool 8 Onkh of Qi which just converted to 40 Onkh of Toxic Energy. If even half of that makes it into her flesh—and I believe I’m about to hit that mark—she’s unlikely to live for much longer.

 

“How dare you—dirty ape!” she croaks, pushing me away enough to get the spear out of her flesh, before letting go of her trident with one hand to claw at me.

 

Her nails—which are surprisingly sharp for those of a frog—rake over the side of my face. Her nails barely miss my eye-crystal and instead settle for biting deeply into my cheek, leaving behind trails of hot pain.

 

Blood wells up from my face in an instant, clouding the Hydrum in front of my eye-crystal and thus partially blocking my vision.

 

Oh, it’s on now.

 

I also release one hand from my weapon and with it, sock her in the face. Something cracks under my fist, and she shrieks.

 

I flick a tether towards her, and send, <Stuff it, you skinny pale bitch!> Her eyes widen comically.

 

I grab the trident—my skin prickles where I touch it—and bring both of my feet to bear to push her away from it.

 

Unfortunately, she catches on to what I’m doing, and quickly grasps onto it with her second hand, and holds on with a still surprising amount of strength.

 

“That’s mine!” she croaks. “Get your filthy paws—”

 

I expel a powerful jet of Hydrum into her face, timing it to hit in perfect concurrence with another two-footed kick. The combination proves enough, and with an angry squeak, she’s forced to let go.

 

Seeing it this up-close leaves no doubt in my mind; at long last, I got my hands on Hoppy’s bloody trident. For a moment I bask in my victory. <Oh yeah, suck it!> I send to her, gloating.

 

The priestess’ face glows purple with anger by now. Or Toxic Energy, come to think of it. Either way, it’s definitely time to bail.

 

“THAT DIRTY APE STOLE THE HOLY ARTEFACT! AFTER HER!” the priestess bellows as I cut the tether and take off like a rocket.

 

The froggos which were previously headed for the fight, and even some who were in the fight, start chasing me like I’m about to score a touchdown.

 

Hey, I think I actually nailed that sports analogy! Go me.

 

This is, of course, exactly what I was gunning for. I sneak a peek at my friends as I dodge the, ehm, linebackers? As I glance, Dave executes a straggler with a well-placed arrow, and starts swimming down after the rest.

 

Nice! This might actually work.

 

A barrage of darts comes in from the side, several of which hit me and penetrate my armour. I reflexively stop one headed for my legs with the Hydrum I control around them.

 

I leave the darts where they are, even though they might slow me down a little; blood loss from the wounds is currently a bigger problem than the Toxic Energy slowly trickling into me. I’m already bleeding lightly in a few places, causing my net Lavi to be negative with Boost Physical on.

 

The froggos chasing me have lumped together in an angry mob, which I’m leading in a big circle. They’re good swimmers, but with how fast I’m going now, they simply can’t catch up.

 

Heh, I could keep this up for minutes!

 

“STUPIDHEADS! DON’T JUST FOLLOW HER: CUT HER OFF!”

 

After a moment of confusion, the froggos take to the priestess’ advice surprisingly well, spreading out instead of chasing after me in a single group.

 

Oh well, it’s been fun, but I think this is my cue to leave.

 

Not willing to wait for the net to spread out further, I dive down.

 

I nimbly evade two final froggos and catch up to my friends almost exactly at the entrance of the tunnel.

 

I look back over my shoulder. The froggos chasing me have paused, looks of fear on their faces.

 

Boom, a perfect play!

 

The priestess gurgles painfully. “My children...” she croaks softer, but still audibly. “I am... not going to make it.”

 

Heh, serves you right, you murderous—

 

“Whatever you do... make sure to avenge me!”

 

Come again? What kind of mother are you?!

 

The four dozen or so froggos remaining stiffen as one. Their stricken gazes turn to the priestess, then, murderously, to me.

 

You’ve gotta be friggin’ kidding me.

 

I turn tail and speed into the tunnel.

 

 

The good news is that the twists and turns of the tunnel help keep the froggos from overtaking us too quickly. The bad news is that they’re still gaining on us.

 

Glancing back and forth between my friends and the froggos, I find myself forced to make a very hard decision.

 

Gritting my teeth, I toss the trident towards Alec.

 

He catches it reflexively, before looking at me in surprise. <Emma...> his voice sounds in my head, <are you trying to shift their attention to me?!>

 

<Shut up, you idiot,> I send back, glaring at him. <That thing produces Electric Energy; I bet it’ll work well with Lightning Manipulation. Dump the spear and use it.>

 

He blinks, before letting go of his two-pronged spear and unleashing a thick arc of lightning via the trident at a Dartblower who was getting too close for comfort.

 

It strikes the froggo full in the chest, making it spasm, and leaving a nasty mark on its chest.

 

Alec stares at the trident in surprised appreciation for a second, before I grab the nape of his armour and start dragging him along to catch up with the rest.

 

Darts fly after us regardless, but a few turns later we exit into another large cave system. It’s a big cylindrical cave that goes down more or less straight, with man-sized holes in the walls all around us.

 

Is it just me, or is the Hydrum getting thicker? I feel like kicking is getting harder, and both my friends and the froggos seem to have gotten a tad slower as well.

 

Before I have time to think about this for more than a split second, Dave’s voice rings in my head, <Guys, be careful; Tremorsense tells me that those holes in the wall connect to a maze of tunnels, and they’re not empty. In fact, something’s coming!>

 

Just as he finishes speaking, the something in question appears from a tunnel beside us. It looks like a bright white axolotl roughly the size of a saltwater crocodile, and with bright I mean actually glowing, specifically with what seem like arcs of lightning travelling through its body, which seems semi-transparent when lit up from the inside.

 

For a moment, it freezes. Then, with a sweep from its tail, it shoots toward the nearest froggo. The froggo tries to dodge with a panicked squeak, but lightning arcs shoot forth from the axolotl’s external gills and cause the froggo to seize up. The axolotl then proceeds to headbutt him with a smack I can actually feel from my position 20 feet away.

 

Ouch.

 

<Everybody, there’s more of them coming,> Dave’s voice echoes inside my head, <try not to engage in any fights; save your Qi, and no matter what happens, keep moving down!>

 

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

 

The axolotl above us tries to flee when it discovers that there’s a whole lot more enraged froggos coming, but it’s not fast enough and quickly gets swarmed. Despite the flashes of lightning coming from the battle, it perishes far too soon.

 

Like Dave warned, three more axolotls appear in quick succession. Two of them start hissing angrily at the froggos, while one heads for Kaitlynn.

 

Not on my watch.

 

I swim towards it at full speed, but it’s just as fast as I am—if not faster—and reaches her before I reach it. 

 

Its external gills extend forward, lighting up as arcs of lightning gather on them, when Kaitlynn launches her own counterattack. Her crystal flashes red, and visible waves of Vibrational Energy are fired simultaneously with arcs of bluish-white lightning.

 

The attacks clash in the middle, and to my surprise, enter a kind of stalemate, apparently annihilating each other.

 

Of course, Electric and Vibration Energy are a pair of Yin-Yang opposites!

 

The axolotl has only a very short moment to look surprised before I slam into its side, jam my spear into its neck, and barely direct it away from smacking into Kaitlynn.

 

Unfortunately, my spear acts as a lightning rod. Electric Energy courses through it into my body, and I almost blackout from the pain.

 

When it ends, I groggily pull my spear out of the no longer luminescent axolotl and start swimming down again.

 

I glance at my status bar.

Oof, that discharge of Electric Energy burned like 20 Onkh of Lavi away in a single go! And I only recovered 1 Onkh of Qi since my last use of it... I better use it a little more sparingly.

 

Reluctantly, I turn off the second mode of Boost Physical. I don’t need it that badly right now, even if the Hydrum is getting thicker, because I have to stay with the rest anyway.

 

At least a lot of the froggos are still tied up fighting the axolotls, though some are swimming around them to try and catch up to us.

 

Dave shoots an arrow up and hits a Dartblower in the arm, before swimming on.

 

Jacob, who’s carrying heavier gear than the rest of us, swims only with his legs so he can keep his sword and shield ready at all times.

 

As we swim down further, more axolotls appear from the sides, often between us and the froggos. Two stay to fight the invading froggos, but three of them start chasing us.

 

Damn, this place is getting tricky. If we could’ve taken our time to pass through here, maybe made our way through the tunnels and fight them one or two at a time, that would’ve been a different story.

 

Dave shoots an arrow at one, and though it flinches and backs off for a moment, the arrow now embedded in the thing’s thick white flesh doesn’t appear to have done much damage.

 

Kaitlynn fires off another stream of Vibration Energy at one of them. This one hits, and the beast thrashes around violently. Its inner light dims, and it swims off, spooked.

 

Mmm. If Electric Energy inside of my spear can halt the flow of Toxic Energy, then I bet the opposite is also true. Though I’m pretty keen on not sticking my spear into what’s essentially a living, charged capacitor again, I can’t just sit on my laurels.

 

Determined to do my part, I pour 4 Onkh of Qi into my Focus Crystal and swim towards the third axolotl, which is rapidly approaching Alec. Alec seems very hesitant about whether or not to put his new toy to good use, but thankfully sees me coming in time, and lays off.

 

I approach the axolotl from the side, fast. I’m not sure how, but it notices and rolls in the Hydrum in an attempt to dodge.

 

Although my charge now passes it by, my spear doesn’t. I unleash a stream of Toxic Energy through my spear right as I use it to rake open the creature’s soft flesh. An electric current makes its way back through my spear, but it’s not nearly as potent as last time.

 

I glance at my status bar again.

Only 7 Onkh of Lavi lost or so. Much better. It still hurt like hell though.

 

With its internal lightning dimmed and tendrils of purple energy spreading from the cut in its belly, the creature unleashes one arc of lightning at Alec, before fleeing.

 

Two more axolotls show up and join the one that Dave shot earlier, in chasing us down. Above them, about half a dozen froggos appear, but they wait patiently, not willing to antagonize these Axolotl’s who are currently focused on us.

 

Just when I’m about to curse up a storm, a powerful shockwave hits me from behind.

 

 

Author's Note:

Thanks for reading! ^^

 

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©2018 by H.C. Mills