Chapter 71: Battling a cyclopto... cyclopentapus?

<All in favour of killing it?> Dave asks.

 

Jacob signs ‘Aye,’ with a raised thumb and Kaitlynn punches forward, meaning ‘Yeah!’

 

‘Let’s fry this overgrown calamari,’ Alec enthuses with his middle finger.

 

‘Wrong animal, I believe,’ I add with a wiggle of my pinkie, unable to resist the dig, ‘but yeah, let’s kill the ugly bastard.’

 

The beast responds to this provocation with a low, rumbling, anger-filled roar that shakes my entire body and leaves my muscles momentarily paralyzed. It heaves its massive body forward with three of its thick tentacles and stretches the remaining two out into the small connected chamber we’re in, specifically towards me and Alec.

 

Caught off-guard—and just regaining the use of my limbs—I have no time to reform my tail and can only muster a jet of Hydrum to push myself away as we scatter.

 

The bastard still manages to grasp me by the ankle, and starts reeling me in.

 

My heart beats in my throat as I approach its single, angry eye. The wheels in my head are turning, however. Though getting surprised by your opponent is a terrible way to start off any battle, he couldn’t have picked worse people to grasp.

 

It flashes through my head that his choice was probably based on the fact that Alec called it an overgrown calamari and I an ugly bastard. Whoops.

 

I’m still preparing when Alec proves my point. Although the beast’s grasp on him is firmer, he’s left with enough wiggle room to stab it with the trident and unleash a mighty current into the beast’s orange flesh.

 

The beast contorts painfully as electricity leaks out of him on all sides, including into me. Thankfully it’s but a weak current, so I just grit my teeth and maintain my focus.

 

The beast retracts the tentacle around Alec with a snap, which sends the blond boy spinning around his own axis for a few seconds.

 

My Focus Crystal flashes purple as I convert nearly 10 Onkh of Qi to a full 50 Onkh of Toxic Energy. The flash draws its attention to me, so I quickly touch the Focus Crystal to the tentacle around my ankle. Directed by my will, a flood of hungry purple tendrils spreads out rapidly under the beast’s skin, causing it to visibly wilt.

 

This tentacle is snapped back as well, and the creature even backs away from me, however, it’s too little too late.

 

50 Onkh is almost twice my own Tolerance Limit, and I have a Toxic Energy Tolerance of more than 40%. Even for a creature this size, that much Toxic Energy should have a serious effect on its Strength, Agility and start eating away at its Lavi. Especially since its use of Vibration Energy earlier suggests that its Ya—

 

Two of its tentacles suddenly grip the Infused one, and rip it off, right before my brave purple tendrils can invade its main body.

 

My eye and eye-crystal bulge to the point where I fear I’m about to pull an Alec.

 

That cheating bastard! That was nearly all the Qi I had left!

 

The beast settles its single, blood-shot eye on me and snarls, showing off the scary, beaked mouth underneath its main body.

 

<Emma, keep it distracted,> Dave’s hurried voice enters my head, <everyone else, hide somewhere and attack at range!>

 

I exhale right before the creature lets out another enraged roar. The vibrations punch into me, temporarily locking up my muscles. It takes all my Willpower, but I manage to maintain control over my exhaled Hydrum and reform my tail.

 

The creature rears up and catapults itself towards me once more, stretching out two tentacles in my direction. Thick blue blood and sparkling green flecks of Lavi spew from its stump, leaving a trail of swirling colour in the Hydrum as it attempts to rush me.

 

I regain control over my body just in time, shoot to the side with a mighty kick from both of my legs, and dodge its grasping tentacles.

 

I swim around it in a wide arc, followed by its single, bloodshot eye.

 

An arrow comes out of somewhere and sinks into the flesh next to its remaining eye with a dull thud.

 

The beast barely reacts, striking out with a tentacle in an attempt to grab me instead.

 

A wave of vibrations from Kaitlynn hits it, but it barely shudders. Damn, looks like it has pretty high Vibration Tolerance. So much for her last shot.

 

I need to find a way Infuse its main body, but if it gets it tentacles on me, I’ll probably be eaten.

 

An octopus eating a human, that’s the wrong way around, you know?!

 

But before I can Infuse it, there’s something else I need. I reach into my pocket, take out my Qi Pearl, and swallow it. Some fishy tasting Hydrum goes down with it, but that can’t really be avoided right now.

 

The Pearl immediately dissolves into a burst of cold Yin Qi in my stomach, filling up my meridians and overflowing.

 

I glance at my Status Bar.

Damn, my maximum Qi capacity only went up by two! Probably because half of the pearl’s energy was spent refilling my Qi. Man, this investment better pay off.

 

For that to happen though, I’m going to need an opportunity.

 

I dodge another attempted grapple with a quick change in direction, and seek out a slightly less annoying one-eyed freak. <Yo Alec, can you stun this bastard for me?>

 

<I’m out of Qi,> comes the reply almost immediately.

 

<Swallow your pearl, dumbass!>

 

<Ah, that’s right!> he exclaims happily inside my head. Too happily.

 

I narrow my eyes. <Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find another one for you to use in tandem with a Stardrop later.>

 

Alec’s reply comes in the form of an angry bolt of lightning, which strikes the beast from behind.

 

Taking my cue, I swoop in close and raise my Qi-filled Focus Crystal in front of me.

 

But the stun lasts way too short. The beast’s tentacles suddenly sweep towards me, and I barely manage twist out the way as I curse internally.

 

How the hell am I supposed to kill this thing?!

 

I have to Infuse it to do any real kind of damage, but if it grabs me I’m done for. I may be able to get it to give up another tentacle, but then what? If only I could Infuse it from... a distance.

 

My eyes widen, and even as I swim around the giant octopus, I manage to stick my spear back underneath my backpack and retrieve the blowpipe I keep under there.

 

I widen my circle around the beast and attempt to reabsorb some of the Qi inside my Focus Crystal. To my surprise, I’m actually somewhat successful.

 

Once the blue glow from my Focus Crystal has dimmed considerably, I take a Toxic dart from the pouch I had Alec sew onto the side of my backpack and hold it in the same hand as the crystal.

 

I turn the remaining Qi into Toxic Energy, and attempt to Infuse about 5 Onkh of it into the dart. I manage to squeeze in only about 3; seems like the maximum capacity of a small wooden dart like this isn’t that high.

 

I dart in back closer to the octopus.

 

In my absence, it has shifted its attention to the source of arrows its skin is by now bristling with. Some blue blood oozes out near the arrows, showing that they are having some effect, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to really damage it. The blood and Lavi flowing from the stump have decreased as well.

 

More importantly, two tentacles are rolling out towards Dave, who is frantically withdrawing further into a small side-cave.

 

I come to a halt near the giant creature, raise my blowpipe, and with a powerful jet of Hydrum, unleash its deadly payload.

 

The Infused dart shoots forward powerfully and embeds itself into the beast’s skin. Nice!

 

Now it’s just a question of time until the Toxic Energy makes its way in. After all, Hydrum is very resistant to absorbing Toxic Energy, so it has nowhere else to go.

 

The beast doesn’t react however, stubbornly moving closer to the cave Dave resides in, so I quickly prepare and shoot another. And another.

 

React, damnit! I know they’re tiny, but these things are dangerous to you, you know?!

 

Another burst of lightning strikes it from behind, and it finally roars angrily. The vibrations punch into me again; I clench my teeth and endure it.

 

The beast turns, finds me, and once again attempts to rush me. I quickly reform my tail and flee.

 

To think I’d ever be relieved to be chased by a giant octopus...

 

However, I can’t just let it chase me around all day. Even if I could—my legs are getting pretty tired—three little Toxic darts aren’t going to be enough to bring this thing to its knees.

 

Not that it has those, but you know what I mean.

 

I fill another dart with Toxic Energy and stick it in my blowpipe. Now comes the hard part. I turn to take aim, and, while maintaining control over my tail, use Breath Control to launch it.

 

The dart shoots forward and embeds itself below the beast’s eye. Success!

 

However, my triumph comes at a price; in the short moment I’m distracted by my success, my tail disintegrates mid-kick.

 

A large tentacle sweeps towards my legs, but I reform my tail in the nick of time and shoot ahead.

 

I swear I felt the tip brush my toe.

 

Still, that’s only four darts.

 

After increasing the distance a little more, I steel my resolve and grab another dart...

 

 

Sixteen darts later, I run out of darts, and the thing is still merrily chasing me.

 

I glance at my status bar.

That was only about half my Qi. I need more darts!

 

At the same time, however, my legs are burning. I don’t think I could keep doing this for much longer, even if I had more darts.

 

Maybe I could Infuse some of Dave’s arrows?

 

No. The damn thing would be upon us in no time, and I doubt they could hold all of the Toxic Energy I could generate at once.

 

My spear would do the trick, but going in to stab it would be suicidal.

 

I could attempt to throw it but, I haven’t the Strength or skill to do that underhydrum.

 

Wait, a throwing Skill, that’s it!

 

I look around frantically. Alec is still hiding underneath the giant shell I spotted him under earlier, Kaitlynn up high between the stalactites, and Dave is near the entrance of his little cave, readying another arrow for when we pass by again. Meanwhile Jacob—

 

Jacob is about to leave through one of the doors.

 

My eyes widen and I shift directions towards him. I cast my tether farther than ever before, with all the desperate force of a drowning man throwing a grappling hook onto a ship.

 

I connect. <JACOB, WAIT!>

 

He stiffens, one foot in the opening. He turns around and looks at me guiltily, eyes widening when he sees the giant octopus chasing me in his direction.

 

‘I’m sorry, Emma,’ he signs rapidly, ‘but there’s nothing I can do. I’m dead weight in this fight.’

 

<There is something you can do, no, need to do,> I send back frantically, as the distance between us shrinks. <You have to use Increase Momentum on my spear!>

 

His eyes dart to the opening he still has one foot inside of and back to me and the horror behind me.

 

He shakes his head. ‘I’m sorry Emma, I can’t; I haven’t broken through to the second level of that Skill yet. I have to go now.’

 

No, damnit!

 

A sombre finality sets into his shoulders as he moves further into the opening before he glances back to look me in the eye one last time. As he does, it feels like something inside me pops, like a bottle uncorking.

 

What comes pouring out of me is, <Jacob... please!>

 

To my surprise, it works.

 

Jacob’s eyes widen, and his face slackens. He blinks, once, before gritting his teeth and stepping back out.

 

Right around this time, I reach him with a giant octopus hot on my heels.

 

I flood my spear with all the Toxic Energy I can muster, a full 50 Onkh worth, and hand it to Jacob, careful to maintain control over the Toxic Energy for as long as I can, so it doesn’t leak into him.

 

Jacob unceremoniously drops his sword and shield, and grasps my spear, not knowing or not caring about its deadly payload.

 

He turns to face the rapidly approaching giant octopus and blanches.

 

<You can do it, Jacob,> I send on a whim, or perhaps instinctively. <I believe in you!>

 

A bit of colour returns to his cheeks. Jacob’s face twists into a snarl as he heaves the spear forward. A flash of yellow punctuates his motion, and suddenly my spear shoots forward.

 

It embeds itself dead centre into the giant octopus’s remaining eye.

 

I reform my tail and kick, pushing a dazed Jacob towards his door as I swim past him. <Go!>

 

I’m pretty sure I see him pass through the door before the blinded beast slams into where we were just standing.

 

It screeches, the powerful Vibration Energy rattling my bones, and shaving off some more Lavi.

 

But I can tell this isn’t a war-cry; it’s a death rattle. After all, objective meaning works both ways.

 

I swim a safe distance away and watch it thrash around angrily as its orange skin slowly turns a little purple around the edges.

 

Dave, Kaitlynn, and Alec join me one by one to watch the spectacle.

 

Slowly, its thrashing becomes weaker, and its skin starts to shrivel a little.

 

‘It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?’ Kaitlynn signs. ‘Can’t we end it a little quicker?’

 

I shrug. ‘I’m out of Qi, and either way, I’m not going near that thing until I can’t see a speck of Lavi remaining in its body.’

 

‘I’m out too,’ Alec signs. ‘Also, not sure if it would be suffering less if I start administering shock therapy.’

 

‘I tried Radiation on it earlier,’ Dave signs, ‘but the little bit that made it through the Hydrum seemed to burn away as much Toxic Energy as it did Lavi, so I stopped after Emma started using the darts.’

 

I blink.

 

Huh. I hadn’t considered that. Right, Radiation and Toxic Energy are supposed to be a pair of Yin-Yang opposites. So much for using them together. Though I guess using Radiation first and then switching to Toxic Energy should work since Radiation has an instantaneous effect, and Toxic Energy a slow one.

 

We chat idly for a bit.

 

‘Hey, I was wondering,’ I sign at some point, ‘where does all the Hydrum go?’

 

‘There’s a strong flow into one of the side caves,’ Dave signs in return. ‘Tremorsense tells me there’s another large grating there.’

 

I nod. Makes sense.

 

A little later, the beast finally stops moving and a notification pops up in front of me.

 

 

Wait, what?

 

 

Author's Note:

Sorry for posting so late today, it's a hectic time of the year with Sinterklaas in the land. (Dutch folk tradition, basis for Santa Claus, look it up. ^^)

 

Anyway, thanks for reading! And click here to vote!

 

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©2018 by H.C. Mills