69 Catching a Ride
The centipede tide took them over an hour to completely kill off. When they stopped to rest they had left a five kilometer stretch of dead insects behind in a gruesome trail of carnage.
"Man I hate those bugs. Why did it have to be centipedes?" Athena grumbled while they rested.
"Yeah, those things are pretty gross," Zoey agreed. "At least we are getting closer to the goal."
Indeed, they had gotten closer. The black line ahead of them had gotten slightly thicker, indicating they were making progress.
"I didn't know that Viridi could fire off attacks like that!" Athena admired, causing Viridi to puff out her chest in pride. "She's quite the companion, and it looks like she has room to grow too."
"I got lucky when I found her," Zoey responded with a smile.
After they were rested up, they continued on their way. Just as they started walking, another timer appeared in front of them and started to count down, this time from sixty minutes.
"Do you think it will be more insects?" Zoey asked as they walked.
"Could be. These dungeons are hard to predict. I've been through several and never seen the same setup twice, but they all seem to have the same formula. Every time it is some new location or trial that is designed to test the challenger in some way. Some dungeons are completely busted and extremely dangerous. This one seems to be only partially functioning as it is." Athena replied.
"What do you mean partially functioning?" Zoey asked after a moment. "It seems like it's working well enough."
Athena gestured to the empty landscape around them, "This was clearly intended to simulate various different environments as some kind of simulation, but whatever it is that controlled that part of the dungeon is probably broken. The enemy timer is busted too. We saw nothing for several hours then got a ten second timer before the centipedes showed up, and now the timer is an hour long," Athena shrugged. "My guess is that this dungeon should have put us through several different environments while facing a specific threat in that environment."
Zoey nodded, "I guess you've seen this type of area before?" She asked.
"Yup!" Athena replied, "I got a little out of control in a dungeon a while back and busted out of the environment and into an area like this. By looking around I was able to kind of figure out the way the dungeons worked somewhat. So far though, I have never seen one this busted... Maybe it is running out of power?" Athena mused.
"A little out of control?" Zoey asked raising an eyebrow. "That must have been a sight. Was it thanks to that Loxon fellow? He seems to have it out for you."
"That shifty bastard was actually involved!" Athena exclaimed, "It was a dungeon that his group found and I stumbled into after they had entered. That stupid fish had the balls to trade the dungeon core they recovered for me sleeping with him!"
Zoey snickered when Athena called the Sand Shark leader a fish. Somehow that fit him better than shark did.
Athena continued, "I was in a bad mood at the time so that kinda set me off and I blew the dungeon up. It's a shame he made it out of there.
"Hold on, what's a dungeon core? I've been through a dungeon, and I never saw anything like that," Zoey asked after Athena finished.
"A dungeon core you have to hunt for. You need a special tool first off, that can actually detect the core, and then you need to find and recover it. The problem is the tool that you need is only good to find a single core, then it's useless. on top of that most dungeons have guardians protecting the core, and the guardian is usually extremely strong." Athena flexed to show her point.
"So why is the core so valuable?" Zoey asked in confusion.
Athena grinned at Zoey, "Well, that's because it can break you through to the next rank no matter how strong or weak you are, and regardless of your heritage. The stronger someone gets, the harder it is to rank up, so dungeon cores become extremely valuable for higher rank ."
Zoey was surprised to hear that there was such a method to rank up. This world sure was mysterious. Soon enough they were near the end of the timer with only a few minutes to go, so they got prepared and waited to see what would be coming their way.
Just like before, the enemies appeared not far behind them and started to give chase. This time it was not insects, but raptors instead! There looked to be a few hundred of them and they were big and fast. The only advantage that Zoey and Athena had was the open ground, but if they got surrounded, it would spell trouble.
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The raptors caught up to them quickly and the fight began. The beasts had the tendency to attack from behind and not from the front, so they quickly realized that baiting the raptors into an attack and catching them off guard was the way to kill them. Viridi was in the sky as usual, but this time was focusing on protecting Zoey and Athena from attacks they did not see coming.
As Zoey send her knife through an attacking raptor's skull in an explosion of blood bone, she heard Athena yell nearby as she dispatched a raptor of her own with a ruthless strike to the neck.
"Keep the last two alive!" Zoey heard over the thundering sound of the raptors behind them. She did not know what Athena needed the last two raptors for, but only two would not be a threat to them. So she kept dispatching the oversized lizards with precision strikes from her knife while avoiding the snapping jaws of the ones that got close.
Eventually, after a drawn out running battle there were only two raptors left out of the several hundred that had been sent after them by the dungeon.
"What's your plan with these two?" Zoey yelled as she kept their attention away from Athena.
In response, Athena pulled out a whistle and blew on it, sending out a shrill sound that carried into the distance. As the sound faded, the two remaining raptors seemed to instantly calm down.
"Here boys!" Athena commanded loudly.
Zoey could only stare in admiration as the two raptors obediently approached Athena and let her place her hand on their heads.
After a moment of concentration, Athena looked up at Zoey and grinned as she patted the raptors next to her, "How do you like our new rides?"