Now that the battle was over, Zoey made her way into the cavern, picking her way around smashed and crushed goblin corpses on the way. Once she got to the body of the Armafrost she wasted no time in extracting the essence stone from it. She was of course benefiting from the hard work of the goblins, but none of them had survived, so she would collect the rewards.
The essence stone from the Rank 2 Armafrost had a blue hue to it and she could see the two horns engraved just beneath its crystalline surface representing the Rank 2 nature of the beast. She now had the first essence stone out of the five she needed to achieve Rank 3. As she admired the stone, she felt a presence enter the cavern behind her. When she turned around, there was nothing there but dead goblins and dying torches.
She looked around carefully, sure she had detected something, but not sure what it was. Could it have been another Wing Shadow Bat? All the blood from the battle may have drawn the attention of one. The next second gave her an answer as an attack flew at her from the darkness of the cave with extreme speed. Zoey barely managed to get her null field activated before it hit her.
She responded to the attack by firing several shots in the direction it came from with her 9mm Custom. She didn't hit anything, but she was able to see a shadow fly across the ceiling of the cave as it avoided her shots. She fired more shots at it and was rewarded with several shadow blades thrown at her by the creature. Those magical shadow blades were clearly from a Wing Shadow Bat, and a strong one too, possibly a Rank 2. Zoey had considered how to best fight these creatures yesterday and realised that she already had an excellent counter for them. Her flash bombs would do the trick. For a Wing Shadow Bat that lived in the darkness of the caves the flash of light and sound from the flash bomb would be nearly lethal.
With her new plan in mind, she waited until she got another glimpse of the Wing Shadow Bat and more magical blades flew at her from the darkness. Dodging to the side, Zoey threw out her flash bomb and closed her eyes. A blinding flash illuminated the cavern and the bat screeched in pain as it was blinded mid flight. Disoriented, all it could do was flutter in a panic as it fell to the floor. Zoey didn't waste any time and finished it off with a single shot.
She happily collected the smooth black colored stone from the creature and stowed it away. Two Rank 2 essence stones were now in her hands, all she needed was three more. she left the bloody cavern behind and traveled deeper into the caves again, being careful not to stumble into any goblin patrols that started to become more frequent. There seemed to be some kind of underground village in the caves somewhere, but the goblins were of no use to her, so she simply avoided them.
As she descended deeper into the caves, the air began to get cooler. The temperature was steadily dropping the further down she went. Then Zoey came across a scene that she would remember for a long time.
She had just made her way around a bend in a cave tunnel when before her the entire area opened up to a humongous cavern. It was so huge Zoey could not make out the ceiling or the other end of the cave. There were large luminous mushroom trees that gave of a cool green bioluminescent light, giving the entire cavern an otherworldly feel. She could see a small stream that sprouted from the cavern wall and meandered off into the distance through the cavern. In the water of the stream she could see glowing fish swimming around.
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Zoey was amazed by the sight before her. Never had she considered that she would something like this when she came down into the caves. This area was an entire underground biome teeming with life. She could see some Armafrost wandering around peacefully grazing in the ferns and mushrooms as they went. It was a beautiful sight to see, and Zoey could not help but spend a few moments to take it all in.
She eventually made her way into the cavern. The Armafrost scattered when they detected her, but she did not mind. They were Rank 1 Armafrost and Zoey really did not want to disturb the peace of the area by shooting at them. For now, she simply traveled through the area, admiring the fish in the stream and the glowing mushrooms.
After she walked for around an hour she was finally able to see the end of the cavern and a a few more passages that led deeper. She took one last look at the beauty of the cavern before heading deeper into the caves. She had to continue the hunt for more Rank 2 Armafrost or Wing Shadow Bats. Luckily she seemed to be getting into a network of caves that were home to plenty of Armafrost. One of the first smaller caverns she entered after she left the big cavern had a Rank 2 Armafrost munching on some mushrooms in the corner.
Before the creature noticed her, Zoey took aim with her 9mm Custom and fired a shot aimed at the Armafrost's head. There was a resounding crack and a bellow as the round bounced off the icey carapace of the creature, leaving it dazed. Her 9mm slug did not have enough penetrating power to break the ice it seemed.
Before the Armafrost recovered, Zoey opened her interface and navigated to the Mk1 menu. She quickly selected the configuration that she had made before with her 9mm Custom and the Mk1 Prototype Armament and applied it. She pulled her modified weapon from the interface and the reinforced handgun gleamed with grim purpose as Zoey started to inject her magic energy into it. The array etched into the barrel lit up as Zoey aimed the heavy barrel at the still dazed Armafrost and squeezed the trigger...