It took a while for Zoey's eyes to adjust to the gloom of the cave once she descended, but once she adjusted, she could clearly see everything around her. She traveled deeper into the caves, keeping an eye on her map as she progressed. She made her way through a variety of caverns and small caves that had little evidence of previous travelers.
Eventually she came into a huge open cavern that had a chasm that split the room in half. The chasm was almost twenty meters wide and so deep she could not see the bottom. As she stood looking into the chasm's depths, she felt a faint trace of magic behind her. She instantly crouched and spun while activating her shield array and equipping her gun and knife under her poncho. She was on high alert, but there was nothing there.
She carefully examined her surroundings but was unable to spot anything. The strange sense of magic she had felt was gone as well, leaving her confused. Just as she was about to deactivate her shield array, something impacted the back of her neck, throwing her forwards. She rolled to the side and put her back up against a rock, her eyes darting around looking for her attacker. Had her shield array not been active she might not have survived the attack!
She could still not locate what had attacked her. There was no movement that she could see, and that was slightly unnerving. A second later she felt another magic pulse from her left and dodged to avoid the incoming attack, only to be struck from behind once again! There were two attackers and they were baiting her into reacting before they attacked! Thankfully her shield array was holding, but it would only take several more hits before it was useless. She needed to figure out what was hitting her.
Hoping to save her shield array for later, she crouched and waited until she detected another attack coming at her out of the dark before she moved to avoid it. As the attack sliced past her in the dark she deactivated her shield array and activated her null field. The second attack came in on the heels of the first just like before, but the predictability of it allowed her to angle her body so it only hit her shoulder instead of the back of her neck.
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She did this primarily to test the effectiveness of her null field so she knew what it could stop. When the magical attack impacted her shoulder, the null field pulsed and the attack was completely negated. There was no impact she could feel and no side effects left behind, just complete destruction of the attack. Whatever was attacking her did not seem to notice this as another pair of attacks came at her from the front and back in rapid succession. Zoey kept her null field active and didn't bother to dodge this time, instead focusing on locating her assailant.
She managed to spot some movement along the ceiling of the cavern as the magical attacks hit her and were simply neutralized by her null field again. Zoey instantly shut off her null field and raised her 9mm Custom with fluid grace as she locked on to her target. The cavern was briefly painted the vivid color of cold blue as she fire a magical Ice Venom slug. The supersonic crack echoed through the tunnels as the slug found its way to the target. There was a high pitched squeal, followed by a smaller winged animal falling from the ceiling of the cavern and landing limply on the ground.
Zoey had already spun around and located the second attacker on the opposite side that had fired another magical attack at her. A brief activation of her null field stopped any damage the attack might have done and the follow-up crack from her handgun dropped the creature with a squeal. Silence once again settled in the darkness as Zoey patiently waited to see if there were any more attackers waiting for her. Once she was certain there were none she approached one of the creatures that had attacked her.
What she found matched Nito's description of a Rank 1 Wing Shadow Bat. The magical attacks they had been sending at her must have been the dark element wing blade attacks this creature was known for. The creature was slightly bigger than a small dog, and looked like the vampire bats that she had seen back on Gaia. It had sharp teeth and claws and the leading edge of the creature's wings was a bony, knife-like edge that had a dark gleam.
Zoey collected the two essence stones from the creatures after she finished inspecting it and continued deeper into the cave network. She was attacked several more times by Rank 1 Wing Shadow Bats as she went, but now that she knew their attack methods and the fact that her null field made their attacks useless she was able to easily take down the ones she came across. That being said, they were quite the clever little hunters. They would always attack in groups of two or three, and would try to divert her attention before striking from the back. Even though she knew the pattern, she still found it hard to predict the angle of attack beforehand.
The real challenge came when an entire group of six attacked her all at once. The sheer barrage of attacks hitting her null field was draining her magic reserves fairly quickly and she was not able to find a gap where she could use her 9mm effectively. She managed to buy an opportunity by breaking line of sight with half of the bats and taking out two of them with a few quick shots. The rapid crack of the gun firing seemed to stun the other bats and send them into panic mode long enough for Zoey to finish them off one by one as they tried to shake off the disorientation. Seems like these bats could not handle the loud noise very well. Zoey thought that would come in handy if she ran into a Rank 2 Wing Shadow Bat down here.
By the end of the day Zoey had collected thirty Wing Shadow Bat essence stones in her inventory. She found a secluded hollow and settled in for the night. She needed to restore her magic as well. The constant attacks from the bats had left her quite drained.
Before she slept she fed the egg more of her blood and then slept cradling it in her arms, listening to the soft, but steady beating heart within.