Chapter 852 – Running Rings About the Place

“Have you seriously been running this entire time?”

“Yep-Yep! I don’t feel right unless my legs are moving. You feel the same, yeah? You have to move! Standing still is like dying, I can’t stand it! Being still is just  – “

“Enough! No matter how fast you talk, I don’t have enough time to sit around and get chattered to death!”

I shake my head slowly. Vibrant has been evolving into more and more of a speed demon to the point where it’s getting hard to interact with her in a normal way. When every inch of her has been mutated with speed in mind, including her brain, it’s only to be expected I suppose. It just goes to show how extreme a monster can get if they allow one aspect or concept to completely take over their evolutionary path. I have no idea how fast she’ll get before she’s done, but I imagine it’s going to be pretty damn fast. If she keeps going like this all the way to tier eight or something, I doubt most monsters would even be able to see her. Especially since her Dash Skill reached rank six.

“So, you’ve done your job then? No reinforcements have reached the city, none have left?”

“That’s right! I’ve been sure to check that no demons have been able to climb up the pillar and none have climbed down! No prob!”

“What about those flying disc things? Have any of those left, any of them arrived?”

“Oh sure-sure! Heaps! But there’s nothing I can do about those, right?”

“No, there isn’t. You were supposed to keep track of where they went and where they came from though…”

“Whoops! Haha! I forgot about that!”


“If you don’t mind me breaking in, Eldest, I have kept track of the information that you are asking about,” a nearby general spoke up.

“Yay! Thanks Emilia. I know I could count on you to keep track of this stuff. I don’t have the patience, or the time. Hah! Isn’t that hilarious, you’d think I’d have more time than anyone due to being so fast but I’m always thinking about going fast or running which means that I guess I’m always going fast either in my brain or with my legs or both! I suppose I’m just not thinking about anything that’s all that important. Ha! Hey Crin-Crin!”

The dazzling rush of machine gun pheromones from Vibrant finally subsides when Crinis extends a few tentacles to start tickling and poking the big soldier and the two are rapidly caught up in a game of tag with Vibrant vanishing from my sight as she dashes from place to place as Crinis pops tentacles up through shadows created by the ever-present demon larvae.

“So you’ve been tracking the comings and goings?”

“That’s right, Eldest. I have all of our observations recorded on a scent tablet as well.”

“Good work general,” I approve, “any particular point of interest? Any one location where more discs have gone than others?”

“I think so,” she wavers her antennae a little to show uncertainty. “The traffic seems rather spread and we aren’t sure if Orpule is dispersing forces that will converge on our city closer to the date or if they’re gathering allies.”

“They could just be hunting,” I suggest, “squeezing out some extra levels before the conflict.”

“This is also true.”

“Alright then, show me what you have recorded, and I’ll have a quick think.”

She gestures to a nearby soldier who is carrying packs slung over her back, one of which contains the tablet. After drawing it out, I flick my antennae across the surface rapidly. There’s been quite a bit of movement from the city, looks like they aren’t willing to sit back and wait for us, which is fine. The more forces they send out of the city, the more we can hunt them down before the time runs out. Battling in the field is perfectly acceptable according to their traditions, so there’s no foul. Gweheheheh.

They’ve sent groups out on discs in pretty much every direction, but slightly more to the west. It’s possible they have a staging ground of some kind out that way, or perhaps the best hunting grounds are found over there.

“Okay then, we have a destination. I’m going to head west. Keep up the good work general!”

[Come on Crinis, time to go.]

[Yes, Master…]

[I’ll make sure you get time to play with Vibrant after this assault on Orpule is done. I know you two haven’t gotten to see each other much.]

[Thank you Master!] 

The two of them are friends from way back. I can still remember mini-Crinis and hatchling Vibrant getting up to hijinks. It’s a shame that they don’t get to hang out more. In fact, this is one of the few times that Crinis has shown a willingness to do something other than what I’ve told her to do, which I definitely need to encourage! Tiny is a bit more likely to act independent, but when he does it’s only to fight, eat or sleep… which I don’t feel like I need to encourage at all.

[Time to hit the road gang.]

[There are no roads here,] Al points out.

[It’s an expression. I just mean, it’s time for us to run.]

[I will not be running. I have no legs.]

[I know that! Let’s just get going!]

Getting our legs moving, or wings, or however the heck Al moves, we rush onwards in our chosen direction, leaving Orpule behind us in the distance. The vast Plains of Leng open up, with the endless carpet of demons rolling out before us.

[You have any idea what they might be looking for out this way, Al?] I ask the flaming eye.

[I cannot be sure. My knowledge of the area around Orpule is… lacking.]

And it’s bugging him, I can tell.

[Well, maybe you’ll learn something on this trip.]

As we run, we make sure we annihilate any tier four or above demon we come across, falling upon the hapless monsters with ruthless aggression, absorbing the experience and consuming the Biomass. Despite being lower tier than me, it’s clear that demons provide more Biomass than prey from the second stratum did. With the stomach mutations that I have, I get a reasonable income from just picking on tier fours. Quite the side benefit.

As we travel the remarkable terrain of the third stratum continues to roll by. It’s not as if the plains are completely flat, don’t let me give that impression, there are huge pillars and mounds of stone the thrust upwards a mighty way without ever coming close to touching the roof. These too are covered in demons, the constantly shifting surface almost makes them seem alive.

After a solid hour of travel, we find ourselves poised in front of another cleft in the ground, one that emits heat like a boiling cauldron.

[Not another demon crack!? I bet they’ve gotten down there again, haven’t they? Creeping around in the tunnels filled with powerful demons and ghosts. Gah!]

[You’ve been down one of theses before?] Sarah asks as she eyes the opening in the ground with a wary eye. [And did you say ghosts?]

[They are not ‘ghosts’,] Al huffs, [they are ghasts. The lingering obsession of demons that has fused with ambient mana.]

[So that’s a ghost,] Sarah and I say at the same time.

I sigh.

[Well Sarah, we’re going to be putting your enchanted cooling system to the test. Things get a little spicy down there. And by spicy, I mean boiling hot.]

The giant bear droops.

[Probably beats all this running,] she says. [I’m not built for endurance. Let’s just get to it.]

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