86 Character Through Comba
It wasn't long before Zoey and Viridi left the cave they had been staying in and started making their way back to the surface. When the canyon they were in had caved in, they had been dropped down into an underground network of catacomb-like caves. These caves were labyrinth of tunnels that went in every direction seemingly without rhyme or reason. The cavein caused by the Heavy Stone Lizards had dropped a large portion of the upper area down onto the lower caves, so it wouldn't be that easy to get out of here thanks to the mess that has been caused as a result.
On top of that, the entire area was crawling with Heavy Stone Lizards. The caves and tunnels around them had no doubt been created by these creatures as part of their natural habitat. Somehow, Zoey and Viridi had to find their way out through all that mess. Thankfully though, Zoey had the advantage of her mapping interface. She hadn't much cause to use it until now, but a situation like this would be where it truly shined.
The map gave them several different paths out of the tunnel network, so Zoey picked one that led in the direction of Sand Pit and the two of them headed out. Not long after they begin moving they encountered their first Heavy Stone Lizard. Once it saw them, the creature instantly used its gravity ability to try and pin them down just like before. But this time both Zoey and Viridi had the advantage of the Gravity rune. Once activated, the Gravity rune completely counteracted the opposing gravity from the Heavy Stone Lizard. Before the creature had a chance to send its Stone Spears at them, Zoey activated her Crystal Claw and sent a Shadow Blade at the creature killing it instantly.
This encounter went far better than their first one with these creatures had gone, but it had been only a Rank 2 Heavy Stone Lizard so that was to be expected. Zoey collected the essence stone and they continued onwards. They encountered a few more of the lizards on the way and managed to dispatch them in a similarly fast manner. Their Shadow Blades seemed to be very effective against the stoney skin of the creatures.
It was all going well until the two of them exited a tunnel and found themselves in a large cavern. They hadn't detected anything up until they reached this cavern, but once they got to it they found themselves face-to-face with the leader of the Flame Scorpion mercenary company, Doris.
Doris was just as surprised to see them as they were to see him, and the three of them stood there looking at each other for a good minute before anyone reacted.
"You must be Athena's friend, huh?" Doris asked while scratching his head. "I don't remember seeing the big cat before... But I do remember your mask. Hey, you wouldn't mind going around or two with me would you? I've been itching for a good brawl and the lizards down here are pretty dumb."
Doris flexed his muscles as Zoey raised eyebrow at him behind her mask. This fellow had an interesting way of greeting people, but Zoey was actually quite interested if she could hold her own against this over-muscled Vekt. She remembered Athena saying that the mercenary leaders were around Rank 5 in strength. Fighting a Rank 5 as a Rank 4 was probably not a good idea, but it would let her test her strength, and she had Viridi as a backup if needed.
"Sure I'll go a round," Zoey said as she walked over to face Doris. "How do you want to do this?"
Doris shrugged and said, "Use whatever you got as long as it's not lethal. I don't want to die just yet and I'm sure Athena that would kill me if I got you hurt! All I want is an old-fashioned test of strength!"
Doris flexed again with his upper arms as he drew his two big greatswords with his lower arms. Zoey would have to be careful of that extra pair... Viridi sat down at the edge of the open area to watch the fun as Zoey and Doris squared off, her intelligent eyes watching everything with great interest.
Despite the strange turn of events, Zoey was actually quite excited and eager to get started.
As soon as they were both ready, she activated her Dark Star Vision and charged at Doris with everything she had, pushing her newfound strength to its limit.
Even though he was ready for it, Doris barely had time to raise his two greatswords and guard against Zoey's strike before her knife clashed into his blades with a shower of Sparks. He quickly recovered and used his strength to push Zoey away, easily pushing her small form out of striking range.
Doris then quickly went on the attack, charging forwards and swinging his blades at Zoey. Zoey quickly realized that despite his size Doris was actually incredibly fast! The two greatswords that we're almost as tall as her seemed like small twigs to him and he swung them with incredible speed.
Thanks to her Dark Star Vision Zoey was able to predict their trajectory and avoid the edges with millimeters to spare, ducking below the two blades as they crossed overhead. As she ducked she launched a kick at Doris's leading leg, forcing him to step back to avoid the strike. Zoey quickly made use of the opportunity by leaping at Doris and swinging with her knife at his left side.
He deflected her strike and swang at her with the other greatsword. To him it seemed as if Zoey's right side was completely unprotected, however in the last moment Zoey brought forth her Crystal Claw and stopped is incoming sword with a sizzling crash of steel against her magical claw.
Zoey found herself smiling as she saw the shock reflected on his face after she blocked his heavy greatsword. He clearly had thought the victory was his. Before he could recover, Zoey planted both of her feet in the center of his chest plate with all of her strength, kicking him back. Doris was sent staggering back, but his two free arms managed to grab Zoey's legs as he fell backwards, pulling Zoey with him.
As Doris landed on his back, He instantly found Zoey's Crystal Claw and her knife at his neck. Clearly it was Zoey's victory! It was only a moment later Zoey realized that both of Doris's greatswords were poised at the back of her neck! She had not realized as she was being pulled down that he was already positioning his plades just like she was positioning hers!
There was a moment of silence as both of them waited to see what the other would do, their eyes locked, waiting for the other to concede...
Then Doris started laughing. Zoey raised her eyebrows in surprise as she retracted her weapons and stepped back from the laughing Vekt. Doris just kept on laughing heartily for a good minute before finally sitting up and grinning at her.
"That was probably one of the first times I have been beaten that fast! Not even Athena put me down that quickly when we fought!" Doris said with a grin as he got up and dusted himself off before respectfully bowing to Zoey.
"As a warrior, you have my respect," he said seriously as he straightened up. "Through battle I have understood your character and I find you agreeable."
He finished with a grin and offered one of his big hands to her. Zoey grabbed and shook his hand without hesitation. This big, muscled-up Vekt may look scary, but he was actually a pretty swell dude. A bit on the strange side no doubt, but Zoey could look past all that.
"By the way, I still don't know either of your names," Doris said as he sheathed his blades.
"I'm Zoey, and that's Viridi. Zoey replied with a nod in greeting.
"Well Zoey, Viridi, it's nice to know you. I'd hate to fight both of you at once, so remind me never to piss you off. I'm going to head deeper into the caves so I'll see you around." Doris waved over his shoulder as he marched away into the caves.
Zoey could only shake her head in bemusement as she watched him go. What a strange fellow... He was no doubt going down there to find something to fight.
After that strange little encounter, Zoey and Viridi continued on their way. The surface was not far away.