Apocalypse Hunter Chapter 117: The Hive Part 3
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As soon he activated the wand, darkness poured out of the letters on the wand and swirled around the four, including Zin.
"We'll be able to resist the evil spirits to some extent with this," Zin whispered, and everyone nodded. Thanks to the protection spell, even if the evil spirits were to discover them, they would not be helpless.
All streets of the Hive were big enough for any mid- to large-sized monster, and there were just as many giant monsters.
All wasn't well just because they could fend off the spirits from of all of the monsters. The number of monsters was so large and varied that even the tentacle monsters were dismissed as a side problem.
A large monster walked in through a huge passageway. At the sound of its footsteps, many monsters, as well as ghosts, began to flee. The little monsters who ran away hid themselves in the cracks or fled into the tunnel, and the cave was empty in no time.
The reconnaissance team watched the monster with bated breath. The monster, whose flesh was falling off as if it were going to collapse at any minute, was huge and looked to be about fifteen meters tall. Its heavy arms and legs were decaying where exposed.
The monster, who seemed barely alive, banged its head into a huge rotting pool in the center of the cave.
-Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!
The huge monster was drinking the venom created by the monsters who could transmit poison just by touching.
And as it drank, the rotting flesh of the monster regenerated at a terrifying speed. The flesh was brought back, and the scales were reattached to it. When the monster, who soon regained its original figure, raised its head, Zin could not help but open his eyes wide when he saw it.
It was true that he had never seen a monster like that before, but the head was an exception.
"A dinosaur... Theropoda, at that..."
The largest of the monsters were dinosaur-type monsters, and each one was terribly dangerous as well.
And this one had the head of the most ferocious meat-eating dinosaur.
The threatening tail of the regenerated dinosaur had sharp scales, and the rotting eyes were now showing some of the brightness of life. Then, the monster lifted its thick tail and smacked it down on the ground.
A violent force, like an earthquake, struck the area.
And because of the vibrations, the tentacle monsters hanging from the ceiling began to fall to the ground. The theropod monster did not wait for them to fall off completely.
The head of the dinosaur swallowed a falling tentacle monster.
And a tentacle monster smacked by its tail was crushed to the ground, becoming a bloody pancake.
-Bam! Bam! Bam!
The dinosaur ran around madly, with incredible agility for a monster of such enormous size, and quickly devoured the tentacle monsters that had fallen on the ground.
- Chomp! Chomp!
The enhanced tentacles of the tentacle monster were crushed, unable to withstand more than the thousand teeth in the dinosaur's mouth. The dinosaur, who finished its feast in an instant, moved its huge body and slowly headed for another junction.
He didn't know the name of that monster, but it was definitely a dinosaur. And it looked more dangerous than any dinosaur monster he knew.
"That's enough to be a predator in this hell..."
The tentacle monsters with sound-sensitive reflexes being eaten helplessly was a chilling sight.
The Hive was a jungle of monsters with a totally different ecology, and at the same time, it was hell.
Thanks to the protection spell, the other three were able to remain calm, but apart from that, they spent the whole moment silent, even holding their breaths.
Even for Zin and Ramphil, the Hive was a breeding ground for grotesque monsters, and they could not be sure of their survival if they were to be attacked. Dinosaurs were one thing, but the biggest feature of the monsters here was...
"It's rare to see one of them with a symmetrical body."
Some had three arms, one leg, and the reverse was true for others. Most of the creatures had symmetrical organs around the spine. Living things had that structure because it was advantageous for survival.
Therefore, the subjects of the observation were those who didn't have symmetrical structures.
Of course, mollusks and ghosts were not affected by the body's composition, even if they are not symmetrical. In fact, the huge black slime they had just passed subsisted on lower-level monsters by spraying poison and sucking molten body fluids.
But if that kind of ecology was at work here, only the symmetrical monsters should have survived according to the law of the survival of the fittest. But that wasn't what the recon team was witnessing.
The fact that asymmetrical monsters, which are relatively vulnerable to predation, still existed was suggesting another perspective.
"Monsters are constantly being produced in the Hive...."
It meant that incomplete monsters were being made through breeding or through special means such as MCPs. Like a kind of solitude spell, monsters were continuously created, and generational shifts between monsters happened through survival of the fittest.
In fact, Taehone said that new monsters had been created there through crossbreeding of other species, so it wasn't so far-fetched.
"It's worse than I thought..."
The Hive was vast, and reconnaissance was not going to end in a day or two. The ghosts were driven off with spells, and the small monsters were destroyed quickly by Zin. The Hive was still but noisy with the murmur of monsters at the same time, so unless it was a gunshot, they could avoid attracting attention.
Yoohwan and Taehone also calmly wandered about, unlike in the past when they had fled frantically, allowing them to see the reality of the Hive a little more clearly.
It was impossible to bring the Hive down with four scouts, but it might be possible with a group of Dominators in exoskeleton suits. And with the demon-hunter named Zin's help, they could be safe from ghosts, which were the most problematic for them.
Yoohwan was glad that the uncertainty of the Hive's destruction plan was becoming more and more clear through the reconnaissance, and so was Taehone, who had previously been in a state of desperation.
But Zin's ideas were totally different.
There was something attached to a large tentacle monster, like a flock of flies. The flies were each the size of a bear, and they only looked small because they were stuck to a relatively gigantic monster. The four-legged creature crawled on the floor like a spider and then sunk its teeth into the body of the tentacle monster.
-Puck! P-Puck! Puck!
With its tentacles, the monster tried to get rid of the attacker that was clinging to its body, but the attacker avoided it quickly when the monster came at it. Almost as if it were a joke, it repeatedly thrust its head into the monster's torso.
Zin looked closely at the monster. Using its unusually long arms and legs, it crawled like a spider and it had large eyes with overlapping lids on its head.
Also, there was a sharp needle attached to its mouth.
The monster, which was a mixture of a mosquito, a fly and a spider, leapt up into the sky like a flea and thrust its needle into the body of the tentacle monster.
Even for a hunter who was used to strange things, it looked so horrible that Zin thought he might feel sick when he saw that strange monster.
Size didn't always mean victory.
With its fluid sucked out by the swarm of mosquitoes, the tentacle monster gradually shrank in size and was covered by numerous little monsters until only the limpid shell was left.
Dozens of mosquitoes had hunted the tentacle monster in no time, and each one of them floundered around with its bulging belly and went off somewhere. Some monsters worked in teams to hunt down monsters that could not be hunted.
Zin beckoned them to move while pointing to the area where the fight had taken place.
It was true that they were weird monsters... monsters that he had never seen anywhere.
But it was strange. Zin clenched his jaw and moved slowly. Since they could not tell where the Hive ended, they might have to create a safe zone and spend a few days there.
"Let's take a break."
Zin looked around and found a closed cave that had been covered up and had no tunnels around it. It was the perfect place to rest for a while because it was a dead end, and there would be no monsters. Each one of them took out something to eat and had a simple meal.
"It seems like this would be a very useful place for little monsters to hide in safety. Let's get some rest and move on quickly."
"My thinking exactly."
Such a perfectly sealed space would be an attractive space for other monsters as well. Therefore, it should only be used as a place to take a short break, rather than a continuous rest area.
But Ramphil's face was seriously hardened.
"... The place is too strange to be considered useful."
"What do you mean?"
Ramphil looked around the cave. There were a lot of breathing vines all over the Hive. That's what the Hive's herbivores ate.
"This space… it's too contrived."
In fact, the solitary cave was narrow at the entrance but wide on the inside. Thinking that it might be an artificially dug shelter by some monster, Yoohwan said, "If it's small enough to use this little space as a resting place, we could probably handle it, so…"
"No, that's not what I mean. I'm not just talking about here."
Ramphil pointed outside, to the huge cave.
"This huge underground space itself is so… It's too... too far-fetched."
What was the reason for such a huge underground plant? This would've required a large number of monsters. Why create such a space, and why such monsters?
Zin nodded as if he agreed with Ramphil.
"There's a reason why I want to take a break."
The whole group looked at Zin when he said they were taking a break not because they were tired but because there was a reason.
"I'm going to have to organize my thoughts. I think I understand what Ramphil is saying and I agree with him."
Zin, however, spoke slowly, as if he would speak his mind first.
"All the monsters here don't exist above. If most are things that I've never seen before… then, I'm sure I don't have to say more about that."
"However… Although I've never seen them before, I know of things like them."
"When you say similar..."
Because Zin had lived for a long time, he realized something when observing the monsters here.
"Look... Although they are very different from each other, these guys have their own characteristics. There's a lot of mix up, but..." Zin slowly shared what he had realized, "The monster with the tentacles, the ghosts, the dinosaurs, the ones with the black poison, the ones who suck body fluid..."
Zin did not say what he realized. But the two hunters who were veterans, and Ramphil, who had been traveling with Zin for a long time, knew what he meant.
"Those are the hallmarks of devils."
The monster with tentacles (aliens), the ghosts (phantoms), dinosaurs (dragons), the monsters with black poison (demons), and the blood-sucking monsters (vampires).
Although each had a bizarre shape and appearance, they each strangely possessed the characteristics of real devils, even the lowest-class monsters.
"And Ramphil, this is a contrived space, as you say. A huge space like this cannot be created by nature or monsters. Therefore… It's not really contrived. It's artificial."
When one considered the devils there, and where they were, the answer was obvious.
More than anyone, Ramphil knew it very well.
Ramphil was also recording the Hive's structure using a built-in biological computer.
And as he recorded it, he realized something strange.
As Zin looked at Ramphil, he began to speak slowly, as if he didn't want to admit it.
"The area we've patrolled so far is about 38 percent identical in structure to a Wargrave Fortress."
Fortresses around the world were usually built the same way.
Although there was variation depending on the function of the fortress, the main structure was the same. Although the overall composition had changed and different roads had been added after the monsters took over, Ramphil grew more and more certain of his hypothesis as he continued to scout the place.
Zin tore off the tentacles that covered the floor in layers.
-Eeek! Eeek! Eek!
A thick stream of biological trees was pulsating and screaming, but Zin didn't stop.
After ripping off several layers of grass wrapped around the floor, Zin showed everyone the dirty, rusty floor.
It was definitely an old, rusty, iron-plated floor. Ramphil bit his lips as his eyes confirmed his idea.
Pointing to the floor, Zin said, "The Hive seems like a facility where the Wargrave were studying devils."
Somehow, it was abandoned now, but there was no doubt about it.
The Central Asian Army Command, a dark arm of devil studies, was nearby, and chimera resembling devils were being seen in an underground facility that resembled a Fortress.
So, that was the only answer.
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