“So … I just climb on?” Ilya’s dad asked with a frown. He glanced at Ilya Number Two’s grandmother before raising an eyebrow at me. What? Mrs. Wuffletush is very friendly; ignore the blood on her claws and chin. Those were simple misunderstandings. “Like … like she’s a horse?”
“No, like she’s a squirrel. Just hop onto the back.” I forced Puppers back into my socks because he was taking up space. “You too, Grandma.”
“What, what about us?” one of the demons asked. Behind Ilya’s dad, there was a group of about eight people. There was no way Mrs. Wuffletush could carry them all without looking super awkward. And my mount has to look fabulous all the time!
“No space, sorry.”
“I have money!” the demon said. “Please, take me with you. What if the predator comes back? I’ll die.”
“Mm. I guess there’s some more space now.” Looking fabulous means nothing if you’re poor! “All of your belongings—that’s the price for a ride on a predator. When are you ever going to get another chance like this?”
And with eight new interspacial rings tucked away in a safe place, Mrs. Wuffletush took off with ten more passengers on her back. They didn’t slow her down a single bit, and we made it back to the coliseum without an issue. But…. “How do we open the space?”
“You just jump in,” Ilya’s dad said. We were in the seating area, facing the empty arena. How were the spectators able to spectate us before? Maybe a scrying orb like the one Ilya and I had in that inn back in the desolate mountains? “A portal will automatically open if you jump above the space.”
“Let’s go, Mrs. Wuffletush.” Now that I think about it, how does Mrs. Wuffletush understand our language? I thought people avoided her since she killed things. There weren’t even any descriptions of the predator’s appearance. Maybe she’s a genius who picked up the language during the short time she was in the city? That must be it. And people say squirrels are stupid. Hah.
“There’s another predator!” someone shouted the instant we appeared inside the coliseum’s space.
Ilya stood up. “No, wait! That’s just Lucia.”
“I brought your dad back, Ilya.” I motioned for Mrs. Wuffletush to shake, and the passengers fell off like fleas. “I’m going to go back out to find the other predators. You stay here to protect them, Mrs. Wuffletush. Also, Ilya, come over here for a second.”
“Yes, Lucia?” Ilya asked as she approached me.
I bent down and whispered into her ear, “Use Mrs. Wuffletush and extort everyone here of their interspacial rings. It’s a protection tax! If they disagree, force them outside. Oh, and say it was the man in the sky’s idea, so the people don’t hate me.”
“I’m serious! If I come back and you don’t have as many interspacial rings as there are people here, then I’m going to tell your dad about those books you keep underneath your bed.”
Ilya’s eyes widened as her face turned red. “Lucia!”
“That’s right! I know about them. Now hurry up and extort them; I won’t be gone for long.” Leaving Ilya behind, I … don’t know how to leave this area. “Uh, how do I get out?”
“Close your eyes, place your hands on your hips, and spin around five times while chanting, ‘I’m gullible,’ ten times in a single breath.”
“I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible, I’m gullible.” Who made that stupid way of exiting the area? The world’s spinning, but at least I’m outside. Now, if I were a predator, which way would I run? Ooh, something smells nice over there. That way it is!
How far does the predator’s qi and mana canceling effects extend? I still can’t run with my Armor of Slaughter to boost my speed. At least I’m still plenty fast without it. Ah, there’s screaming in the distance. Please, lord, let the predator be a male!
The shout was cut off by a scream just as I turned a corner. A woman was lying underneath a giant black squirrel—well, half of her was. The other half was impaled on the squirrel’s claws. Her head turned to the side, and she stared at me. One arm rose weakly into the air, then fell uselessly to her side as her eyes glazed over. The predator turned its head, dropping the woman at the same time. It snarled at me as its tail stiffened. Male? Female? I can’t tell from here.
“Hey, cute little fella.” Maybe if I use sweet words, it won’t run away from me. “I have some acorn stew. Want some?”
The predator screeched and lunged at me as I took out a barrel. Its front leg went wide as it swiped at me, its claws cutting straight through a wall as if it didn’t exist. Great! It didn’t run! I stepped forward and caught the squirrel’s leg by its wrist, or is it ankle? Well, it doesn’t matter because I caught it! “Qiless Breaking Throw!”
The predator screamed as its back crashed into the ground. Darn, no p****. Well, another female wouldn’t hurt. I pinned the predator’s front legs with one hand and wrangled its hind legs together with my own legs and tail. I should save the taming portion for later; for now, I’ll just keep it tied up with…. A regular rope won’t work, huh? Not while it’s awake, at least. Then I’ll knock it out! Ah, but first I should extort the people around it. “Ah, it’s so strong! I can’t hold on much longer!”
The people around me shivered. There were only ten of them or so who were still alive. The dead ones were already being looted by … Durandal? How come I didn’t notice him come out?
“Wait, you can’t?” Durandal asked with a strange expression on his face. “I thought predators were easy for you to wrangle.”
“Are you robbing the dead?”
“Waste not, want not,” Durandal said with a nod. “Roland taught me that along with where and how to search a corpse in an efficient manner.”
“Oh. Carry on then.” The survivors were looking at me as if I had two heads. I’m not strange! “Ah! My strength, it’s running out!” I coughed. “But if I’m given interspacial rings or precious jewelry, I’ll be able to hold on long enough for all of you to run away.”
“I-isn’t this extortion?” one of the survivors asked.
“Ah! One of the predator’s legs got free!” Stop scratching me, dammit! These funds will definitely trickle down to you in the future!
“Here!” someone shouted and threw an interspacial ring at me. Durandal caught it and checked it before nodding.
“There’s still around nine more of you,” Durandal said. “I’m sure nine interspacial rings will definitely give my master the strength to hold on.”
“You two are perfect for each other,” Puppers said from my socks. “This is unbelievable. I’m ashamed to associate with you two.”
“Stop slacking and loot the corpses as well,” Durandal said and reached into my socks, pulling Puppers out like he was a piece of laundry in a basket. “There’s a lot we have to do and not a lot of time. Hop to it.”