Interlude 4 – Meanwhile

Working with Doug was weird. Not bad, really, just weird. The old dude just had a really different way of doing things than the old man did.

Adrien briefly considered that maybe he needed better ways of describing the older guys teaching him and his friends, before deciding “screw it”. It wasn’t like he’d get confused or anything, so whatever.

Point was, Doug had a very different way of going through temples, which he saw pretty much the instant they all stepped through the steel double doors forming the entrance in the giant square-shaped building with a huge dome on top of it, nestled like a bird’s egg in some cave in a tiny area just outside Hulthemia, but still in some calder-thingy. 

Anyways, for one thing, Doug talked. A lot. 

Not in the sense that he just constantly rambled about whatever. Instead, he took every opportunity ever to turn things into a lesson, whether it was about the common attack patterns of new monsters–mostly these weird not-golem things called ‘automatons’ and a whole lot of demon spiders–that they faced, or if something loosely connected to the history of some location, he revelled at the opportunity to teach them all about it.

Adrien was somewhat thankful for the lessons, actually. Most of the stuff he talked about wasn’t taught at the public school he went to back in Luceneva. For one, he didn’t know that Dragon Lords were descended from Eternal Dragons–which he didn’t even know were a thing before then–which were basically the direct descendants/creations of two big gods, while most Dragons were actually ascended drakes, making them fundamentally different. 

Kinda put Galinori’s persistence in a different light now. 

…Huh. If the old man got with her for some reason, would their kids be demigods? 

…Actually, imagining that was scary, so off with that thought. 

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Adrien focused back on the fancy steel temple covered in gears and weird pumps doing…something as the old dude was finishing his lesson on Divica, which would be the last of the lands they were going to travel to before finishing his ‘Temple Quest’. It would be interesting going there, since it was the place where nearly all high elves in Estus lived. They apparently had a reputation for being ‘holier than thou’ all the time, but he wanted to see them for himself. 

“Now then, I hope you are all well rested!” Cutting into his thoughts, Doug clapped his hands together and addressed the team with a wide. “Given your apparent track record, as told to me by many of you at varying different points, there will most likely be a general behind this vault door!” Still grinning, he gestured at the huge, circular door taken up the end of the room. Kinda reminded Adrien of the one in the Forest Temple, but way bigger and more metally. “And if they’re anything like the last one, we’ll be in for quite the difficult time!” 

Wow, he was really enthusiastic about this.

“That’ll mostly depend on how many there are. With how many mages we have right now, we can keep attacking the general from multiple angles and make it difficult for then to retaliate,” suggested Syl as she studied the door, a giant lock spread across the whole door to keep it shut, “But if they have a bunch of allies, then we’ll have to compensate for their presence…”

Adrien nodded, already trying to visualize what Syl was describing. She’d actually been really helpful ever since she’d joined up, so he was super willing to go along with whatever she came up with. Turned out, having an enchanter/conjurer on their team was a great boost to everyone, especially since she could actually use those weird crystals they got from the Wind Temple.

“Well, all of the Generals we’ve fought wanted to fight Teach in specific, so they’ll be caught off guard by him not being here,” Sue brought up, holding one of her fingers in a lecturing/suggesting thing like the old man and Doug both would do. 

Oh yeah, thinking of, Sue’s gauntlets were one of those things Syl enhanced, using the red crystal they got. Now her icy gauntlets could be fiery at a moment’s notice, which really fucked with the automatons they fought earlier. Adrien also had a pretty easy time with them since, for one thing, Iginia could cut through them really easily, but another thing was that the yellow crystal they got went right into his shield, meaning it electrified/electrocuted anything that tried to hit it. 

Apparently that also really fucked up the autos, doing something weird with the ‘dynamos’ inside them. Adrien wasn’t totally sure what that was, but it sounded like their heart.

“Or they’ll rush right for us and we’ll be screwed,” Serge replied, like a dick. He also got a crystal, a grey-green one that controlled wind. It went into his bow instead of his arrows, so now he had an even faster shooting time.

“Why wouldn’t they go for Mr. Douglas?” Mask asked, tilting their head, their new metal mask glinting fancily in the light. They also got an enhancement, that one with the light blue crystal, which Syl put into their water knife. Now they had an ice knife. 

…Yeah, that one was kinda basic. It did do some pretty fancy stuff with ice-water and blasts of snow, so that was cool.

“He’s not Teach’s student, remember?” Serge said, still dickishly. Not unpleasantly, just in that ‘I know I’m being a jerk and I find it fun’ kinda way. “We’re the closest they’ll get as substitutes.”

“Then we’ll just kick their asses too!” Ria declared, grinning wide. Adrien was actually pretty glad she and Soph seemed to be adjusting really well to Syl being around. Three magic users, not counting Doug who was kinda ridiculous, seemed like too much for one group, but the older elf was actually able to give them a lot of good pointers on their own fields, while still sticking to her own fancy conjuration stuff. 

Sure, those two only got a couple “consolation shirts” from the Wind Temple–weird white shirts with “I beat the Wind Temple and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” printed on them; he didn’t really get it but Soph found it funny, so eh–but Syl’s help seemed to make up for it.

“Good enthusiasm!” Doug exclaimed, grinning too as he clapped his hands together again. “Now, are there any objections?” Adrien blinked in surprise, same as everyone except for Syl, who sighed. “If not, let’s begin!”

Doug clapped his hands together and turned towards the door, then snapped his fingers. The key they grabbed from that giant, armored, one-eyed spider demon, which’d also been on fire, but with, like, blue flames; they weren’t hot anything though, just weirdly cold.

…They fought a lot of weird monsters. 

Anyways, the key popped in from whatever ‘pocket’ Doug was holding it in and floated up to the lock, slamming home into it and twisting. The lock popped right off its chains and all of them crashed down to the floor, before Douglas placed a hand on the door and rolled it into…wherever big wheel doors went into. 

Staring out into the huge boss room, Adrien did his best to glance around it from the outside. As far as he could tell, there wasn’t anything visible that would indicate there was an enemy waiting inside. Emphasis on visible because the room was nearly pitch-black. He could vaguely make out some dim lights in it, kinda curving like the room was circular, but they seemed to be covered by something…

Feeling Sophia’s magic was over him, he brought up his shield, ready to defend from any attack. 

“Go in slowly. Syl, Ria, prepare an attack in case anything rushes us,” Doug commanded, glancing to the offensive mages in the party, before he also seemed to focus for a moment, his staff lighting up to illuminate the entrance in. Definitely a circular room, one with a high ceiling. Glancing at Sue, Adrien nodded at her, before the two of them slowly made their way inside.

As they did, a small chittering sound came from above them, along with several rapid taps echoing around the room. Looking around, Adrien realized why it was so dim in there. Along the walls of the room, where artificial light would normally come from, were mounds of some white thread, covering them and only letting a small area around them to be lit up by what light could peek through. 

Edging his way to one of the mounds, Adrien heard more rapid tapping echoing out. As he arrived at the mound, he slowly brought his sword against it, aiming to cut the thread and give them more light. 

And then Iginia was yanked right out of his grasp by some kinda-”Gah!” 

Something leapt on his back, pinning him to the ground before jumping off of him. Some sticky–ah dammit, they were webs–wrapped around him, a cord at his legs yanking him up-

“Calm down.” Doug’s voice suddenly sounded in his ear, low and calm. “Don’t worry, no one is going to be hurt.” And then his voice took on a slightly mischievous tone. “And I really want to see where they’re going with this.”

…So that was definitely different. Adrien could vaguely hear what sounded like Syl groaning in irritation before some more skittering could be heard around the room, along with a few surprised yelps and squeaks as the rest of his team were probably also grabbed by whatever spider monster was in there with them. 

Well, at least Doug probably wouldn’t let something bad happen to them. Blood was kinda rushing to his head though-

And then he was dropped to the floor again. Good news, webs were surprisingly soft and blunted the impact of the floor. Half-bad news, they dropped Sue on top of him. Half-also-good news, they dropped Sue on him.

“Heya,” he greeted his girlfriend with a grin, though it was a little muffled by the webs. Judging by the half-annoyed, half-amused grunt she made, she did hear him though.

“Ohohohohohohohoh~!” And then somebody started laughing. Looking around as best he could, which was a little tricky since he was on his back, Adrien searched for the source of the voice until some lights sudden shown down from the ceiling and he flinched at the sight of a grossly huge white spider right above him. “To think you impudent whelps would try to face Lord Valondrac again when you so easily walk into the spider’s web~!” 

Adrien blinked at the voice coming from above him, then suddenly felt a tug on his back, pulling him up into a sitting position. And there was a lady sticking out of the spider. Huh.

The upper-half of a lady, actually. It wasn’t a regular lady either. She was ridiculously pale for one thing, sorta like the spider parts, and she had an extra pair of red eyes above her normal set. Well, normal two-eyed set. Whatever that’s called. Binocular?

Anyways, she had four eyes, not counting the eight on her spider half, which was a little weird looking since they were on the flat ‘head’ of the spider, but where her crotch would normally be. But it wasn’t exactly normal for her, right? Point was, four on top, eight below, peeking through some veil-skirt thing she was wearing there, so…twelve.

No, wait, the eyes on top had double pupils…so…Sixteen? Wait, no…

Pushing that question to the side, he decided to focus on the white gown the spider-lady–arachne, that was it–had on, its folds and ruffles looking ridiculously fancy and designed to fit her spider half too, so each leg had its own ruffles. She actually looked like a fancy noble, black ribbons and buttons placed all over her gown to contrast the white, and she even had some more black ribbons with small jewels on them braided through her long hair–

One of her legs stabbed right into the ground in front of him, cutting off his train of thought completely.

“Now then, which one of you had the gall to believe he could speak to Lord Valondrac as if she was some street hussy!?” the lady demanded, a black-gloved hand pressing between her kinda big chest. And then her words sunk in and Adrien could think only one thing.

…Of course. 

Stalking around, the arachne moved from tied up person to person, muttering under her breath ‘no, no, no’ as she looked over everyone. Adrien tried to follow her path as she walked, helped out by how the cones of light were staying on her. She did pause at Mask and had them take off their mask, then seemed a little surprised when she noticed they were a slime.

Once she finished her circuit and arrived back at Douglas, who was sitting up in the center of their pile with a little smile, she once again laughed. 

“Oh hohohoho~! So you must be the trash who believed his pathetic existence was even worthy of being in the presence talking of Lord Valondrac! Who believed he could speak to her as though she was the equal of some lowborn trash! Who had the sheer gall to-!”

“Never met her.” 

All of her eyes blinked, and she straightened back up, frowning. “…To think you would try to lie to save your life. Though really, what would I expect from someone who would use such a cheap trick to catch my lord off guard and rob her of her rightful victory!” 

“Is that what happened? I was under the impression that Jules proposed to her after she tried to kill him-Ow.” Doug blinked, then looked back at Sue, who shrugged her sorries. “Why did you kick me?”

“Teach said to if you called him Jules.”

“…Well that’s petty-” Doug paused as the arachne suddenly yanked him up, glaring right into his eyes. “…Yes? Can I help you, young lady?”

“…You’re not blond.”

The light seemed to glint off Doug’s bald head for a moment. “Very observant of you to notice! I also have far darker skin, glasses, no mustache, and far more tattoos than he does, and I’m also a mage rather than a swordsman and blacksmith, and he’s a tad bulkier-”

“If you’re not Goldforge, then where is he?

“Hammering away at his sword, most likely.” A second passed, and Doug cracked a grin. “Innuendos aside, no, I’m not Julius, though I am Douglas Yew, master of the arcane, researcher of the unknown, gentleman bachelor currently not looking. Would I suffice as a substitute, perhaps?”

The arachne continued to stare at him for a sec, before dropping him and pressing a hand to her forehead. “Oh for Bleak’s sake! I spend days getting set up, timing my moments, practicing my ambushes, and the bloody moron doesn’t even show up!?”

She groaned, then suddenly pulled a fan out of…somewhere and started fanning herself. “Really, this is ridiculous! You all understand I am a lady of great importance, do you not? Do you truly think I do not have better things to do than to entertain a myriad of hatchlings and a wizened fop??”

“And yet, here you are,” Serge drawled, still laying on the floor.

“Ugh, and now the rabble things it can talk to me.” The lady sneered in disgust, covering her mouth with her fan. It was black with little white skulls on it. Kinda weird, but sure, okay then.

“Well, we’re all that’s here at the moment,” Doug spoke up, sounding cheerful again as he sat up, “So, would you care to introduce yourself? We can go first, if you want. As I said, I’m Douglas Yew, arcanist.”

There was a pause, then Adrien decided to speak up as the arachne raised an eyebrow. Eye? White, eye…thingy. Screw it, eyebrow. “Uh, Adrien Dro.” The light suddenly shone down on him and he blinked at the brightness. “…Chosen hero?”

“Alright, so we’re doing this…Sue Orc-Kicker.” Oh, she was using that? Also, the light switched to her there. “Puncher of faces.”

“U-Uh…S-Sophia Rama, um…healer?” Now to her. “And, uh, outworlder. I-Indian-American? I’m, um, not sure how much…n-n-next, please.”

“Sergio Fin, merchant’s son, archer, people annoyer, go fuck yourself.” The arachne narrowed her eyes.

“Maria Loren! Kick-ass caster looking forward to burning your face!” Hell yeah! Maria’s looked super bright in the light, her teeth glinting.

“…Mask? Mask, uh…Rain…Bow. Yeah, Mask Rainbow…sure?” Mask looked at them. Probably. It was a little hard to tell. “Which sounds better? Rain or Rainbow?”

“Mask Rain?” 

“You know you don’t need a last name, right?” 

“R-Rainbow’s good.” 

“Nah, go for Rain. You can act like you’re going to make it rain masks.”

“See, I was gonna say Rainbow, but that’s a good point.”

“Okay! Mask Rain, I guess! Uh, rogue? And knife collector!”

And then everyone stared at Syl, even the arachne. She blinked, then sighed. “Sylsa. Sylsa Greenfall-”

“Woah, wait, you’re a Greenfall?” Maria blinked, then tilted her head. “Huhhhh…I guess I kinda see the-”

“Loren, be silent. Greenfall is still speaking.” And now the arachne was lecturing them. Okay then.

“…” Syl sighed again, looking tired. “Sylsa Greenfall, Mister Yew’s apprentice. Conjurer, enchanter, and person who really wants to go back to the inn now.”

The arachne politely clapped, a smirk on her face. “Well, I never expected to find such a delightful comedy troupe acting in the place of heroes here! Perhaps today will not be entirely wasted? Ah, but where are my own manners~?”

And then music was playing. Violins and trumpets and some other things with strings? Adrien blinked as the lights spread out and then there was an entire orchestra of spider demons playing instruments along the far wall, led by a giant spider in a tophat and tuxedo who was conducting them. More lights flashed on, illuminating the arachne, and Adrien could kinda see they were also manned by spiders, but ones in…bowler hats?

“Reviled guests of the newly conquered and claimed Metal Temple, you have the honor here of meeting the esteemed Lady of Bleakclaw Manor and Mountain,” began the arachne, her hand on her chest again as she gestured at her captives with her fan, “Darling of the Woodcourt Coterie, and noble subordinate and general of our now and future Lord of the World, the lovely Ariel Leicester!” She smirked as her minions on the walls started clapping, her lower half bowing along with her upper half.

“Bravo, bravo! What a wonderful introduction!” Doug shouted, full on beaming. Adrien was starting to wonder if the old dude had some things going weird in his head.

“At least one of you knows class when you see it.” Continuing to walk around, Ariel snapped her fingers, causing some of those purple demon spiders to come rushing toward them, pulling everyone into a line, with Doug in the center and Adrien on his right side. Though Sue was next to Adrien, so he was still a little happy about that. “But, that won’t save you. Now, I’m only going to explain this once!” She held up a finger. “I only want three things-” Three fingers. “-to make sure my lord’s plan succeeds, to ensure that all of you will no longer be thorns in her side, and to kill the whelp who thinks he can talk to her as an equal. 

“And with all of you trapped, and the hero without his sword, the first two have already been accomplished!” As she grinned, Adrien noticed Iginia was perched up on a web-pedestal by the spiders still playing the music, though it was more low and menacing than the bombastic stuff earlier. “So all that remains is the final of those wants. So you have one of two choices. Give me your mentor, and live. Or refuse, and die.” 

“Or we escape, beat you and your lackeys up, and claim the metal core for ourselves,” Doug replied, still grinning, “Sue, Ria, Syl, would you kindly show Lady Leicester why it’s a terrible idea to wrap your captives in flammable bindings?” Oh, so that’s where he was going with this.

“Gladly!” Maria shouted with a huge grin. And then she full on burst into flames, the fire completely searing away the webs around her, Mask and Soph. Thankfully, Soph put up a shield around herself and Mask was just fireproof, so that was all good. 

Sue and Syl, meanwhile, just used the fiery enchantments on their own stuff to rip their way out of their webbing, and Adrien couldn’t help but grin as Ariel leapt back, a huge scowl on her face as she stood on the far wall.

Maria whooped as she stood up and sent a massive blast of fire at the spider-orchestra, sending demons scurrying as they tried to dodge the flames.

“Oh fantastic! Fire mages! Why not!” Ariel yelled sarcastically, then started glaring at her panicking minions. “Ludwig, control your damn summons! Cuthbert, Reginald, handle the whelps! And the rest of you, save the damn instruments! Those are more important than your lives, you worthless hellspawn!”

Ludwig, the conductor, raised his…face legs–pincers?–whatever those are called, and they started glowing, causing the purple spiders to pause in their tracks and start retrieving the instruments, at least until Sue punched the big guy in the back and sent him crashing into the wall behind his boss with a shocked “GYAH!”.

Adrien was on the move too, jumping on demon after demon and smacking a few with his shield to send them crashing to the ground, twitching. The two bowler hat spiders suddenly jumped from their lights, aiming right for Adrien, only to go down in a tangle of vines as Serge shot them both with those sprout arrows he got from the Forest Temple, which Adrien honestly kinda forgot about so hey, nice.

Adrien landed by where his sword was propped up, but it was all wrapped up in webs, so that was going to be a pain in the ass–And then Mask landed beside him.

“Oh, hey!” Adrien grinned, glanced at the trail of twitching and stabbed demons left in their wake, then looked back at Mask. “You have anything to get through webs?”

“I have knives.”

“Knives work.” They really did. Turns out the water-ice knife cut through webs super easily and made them really brittle too, so good! 

Adrien grinned as he grabbed Iginia, the sword humming in his hand. Nice to have her back. Though it didn’t seem like he’d get to use her much. 

The demon spiders were all either stabbed, smashed, or currently getting seared to a crisp by a cackling Maria, who was using pillars of flame coming from her feet to keep herself in the air. 

Which, wow. She’d definitely had some fun blasting the autos and other demons through the temple, but she was really going for it right now. Guess the experience at the Fire Temple really made her want to charge head first into mastering fire? Serge and Soph were just staring at this point, watching her burn right through all of the demons. 

None of the mortal spiders though, who were either wrapped up in vines on the floor or just unconscious and twitching on the floor. Sue definitely hit that Ludwig dude really hard…Wait, where was-

And then a gigantic spider dropped from the ceiling. A gigantic, silver spider, even bigger than the mini-boss they fought for the key. Its body was weirdly segmented at its joints and across it skin, steam constantly coming off of it, and there were…gears? Some kinda gears and more metal bits between those spaces.

“Well damn! Ha! Is that really a full automaton?!” And Douglas was standing next him now, still smiling super wide. Huh.

“Ohohohohoho~!” And there was that laugh again, coming from the huge spider–Oh, Ariel was on top of it, grinning at all of them. “Feast your eyes, peasants, upon the sheer glory of Lord Valondrac’s military might!”

“…An even bigger spider?” Mask asked, tilting their head again.

“NO! This is no ordinary demon, you ignorant whelp! This is the greatest achievement of our chief designer, Sieda the Mechanist! Gaze upon its beauty and despair, you hapless fools!” Ariel started laughing again as her spider rear back and roared, a huge plume of steam to erupting from its mouth.

“Well, isn’t that interesting. An Autorachnid Colossus, let’s call it.” Doug turned his grin to Adrien, the lights glinting off his glasses. “So how will you deal with it, junior?”

Huh. Guess he was hanging back…definitely different than the old man then. Adrien turned to stare at the spider, the colossus, again, then nodded.

“SCATTER!” he shouted, and everyone immediately started moving aside from Doug. “SUE, MASK, JOINTS! RIA, FACE!”

“Wha-” Ariel yelped as Maria immediately turned all her fire on the silver spider, blasting a ton of flame all over its front, though it reacted by charging her surprisingly fast. Thing could move, that was bad. 

“SOPH, CORRAL!” Couldn’t break through a shield though, and Adrien sent some mental thanks to Syl and Doug for showing Soph how to make bigger and better shields. A wall of hard light slammed into place in front of the colossus and it smashed face first into it, its bladed face legs–pedipalps, that was it–crumpling into its face. Soph did wince though, her staff shaking a little with the effort of holding the shield in place.

“Gah, no! You stupid thing, back up!” Ariel yanked her right hand back and Adrien could briefly see some silver threads on her fingers when the colossus reared back, barely regaining its footing when Sue jumped and smashed down on the top joints of one leg while Mask stabbed straight into the joints on another one. 

The water-ice knife seemed pretty good for that, actually, doing something to fuck up its gears. “SUE, MASK, ICE!”

Sue immediately switched her gauntlets to the right element and got right to work jumping onto another massive leg and smashing into its joints too, matched by Mask.

“Think the noble spider up there left herself vulnerable?” Serge muttered, running up to Adrien as they both circled the colossus, looking for openings.

“Doubt it. We haven’t even seen what she can do yet-” And on cue, Ariel snarled and sent a blast of pure black lightning at Sue with her left hand. Adrien winced as it smashed against Sue’s raised gauntlets and nearly blasted her off the leg, then sighed relief as she stayed on, easily shaking off the bolt.

“Mage. Well fuck me, I guess. No way she doesn’t have some shield up…”

“Those joints don’t. You have any ice arrows?”

“Nope.”

“…How good are the plant ones?”

Serge blinked, then smirked, showing his teeth. “Guess we’ll see, huh?” He stopped in place, nocked three green-tipped arrows and sent them straight into an opening on the colossus’s body. Immediately, its body started erupting with vines, bursting out through the seams along it.

“GAH! STUPID-YOU LITTLE BASTARD!” Ariel whirled and sent a blast of lightning at Serge. Adrien stepped right in front of it and caught it on his shield, the whole thing crackling and shuddering for a moment before an even bigger blast of lightning erupted back at the wide-eyed arachne. 

She swung her arm and smashed the bolt apart, but that gave Mask plenty of time to keeping stabbing into more joints, helped by Maria blasting torrents of water all over the colossus. It was making the room pretty humid, but was also wrecking whatever internal stuff the colossus had in it, so goods and bads there.

“Anything I should do?” Oh, right, Syl. Who was standing next to him now. Adrien paused for a moment, considering. 

“You can do that fancy glowing blade thing, right?”

“That is something I can do, yes.”

“Any chance you could shove them through the joints Mask and Sue have wrecked?”

“…I could do something like that, yeah.”

Syl took a step forward, muttering something rapidly under her breath. She pointed to eight spots up in the air, above each of the wrecked and twitching limbs, then clapped her hands together. In an instant, eight glowing, see-through nails formed up in the air and shot straight down, stabbing straight through every joint and pinning the colossus to the ground.

“Holy shit.” Serge stared at the pinned and whirring machine, then at Syl. “Can you always do that!?”

“Eh? Oh, u-uh…I mean, it’s a little tricky to do, but, um, sort of? The nails do give me a migraine though.”

“…So in exchange for making giant nails, you get headaches?”

“In exchange for migraines and decades of training, I can make giant nails, yes.”

“…Yeah, alright, won’t complain.”

While those two talked, Adrien ran up the wrecked front of the colossus and jumped up, landing in front of Ariel, who was tugging on her silver threads with a hate-filled scowl. 

“It’s over Lester!” Adrien shouted, pointing his sword at her. “You lost!”

“It’s Leicester, you idiot!”

“…I…I don’t hear the difference. Point is, surrender!”

“Interesting proposal, but allow me to offer a rebuttal. GO FUCK YOUR MOTHER’S THICK-”

And then the colossus started whistling. Adrien blinked, glanced at the steaming and glowing automaton, then immediately ran and tackled Ariel. “GAH! WHAT-”

Both of them crashed to the floor right as the massive spider glowed completely white, beams of light stabbing out from its body–And then all of it instantly crumbled into a glowing ball in the palm of Doug’s hand. 

“Ha ha! Brilliant! Brilliant kids, that was fantastic!” Doug cackled cheerfully, a massive smile on his face as the ball seemed to blossom, orange and yellow flickering off of it until it all swirled down into a tiny point, puffing away in a little flash of smoke and ash. “You certainly have the makings of a fine field tactician, Adrien!” 

“Oh, um, thanks?” Adrien grinned a little awkwardly at Doug, then stared down at Ariel as he stood and placed the tip of his sword against her neck. “Are you ready to surrender?” 

Her upper eyes refused to meet his gaze and her lower ones seemed to flicker around frantically, looking around the room. It definitely looked like she’d given up, but her entire body started to shake as everyone slowly surrounded her. 

“…Well, what’s yo-mph!” Adrien stumbled back as Ariel suddenly spat a mass of webs right in his face. “Mphm!” 

Backing away from her and clutching at his face, he did his best to try and figure out what was happening while his vision was blocked. While he couldn’t see, he could still hear, and he was hearing what he thought was Ariel jumping around the room, based on some taps against the stone, while several loud thuds could be heard around the room, one after the other, along with the yells from his team. Maybe they were getting webbed up again-

Before Adrien could continue his thoughts, a pair of hands gently grabbed and stopped him in place. A hand suddenly pressed against his face, and the webs hardened. It felt a little cold, but Adrien was all too happy to have them broken off his face, and he was even happier to see Sue holding those webs in her icy gauntlet.

“…Hey there?” Adrien greeted again, smiling sheepishly. 

Letting out a semi-amused huff, Sue patted his head. “Hey there yourself.” Then practically lifted and turned him around to see what was happening. 

“Oh, hey, fight’s over?” Ariel was on the ground again, her human-half pretty free, if soaked, but her spider-half had all of its legs tied up and bound together by a bunch of vines.

“Yup! We’re all good here!” Maria said, grinning and giving them a thumbs up. “And I actually caught the bad guy!”

“So she’s going to be smug about that for a while,” Sue muttered, still smiling.

“Heh. Hey, at least it’s ov-” And then Ariel’s spider-half shrunk down into her body, two human legs springing from where her body used to be and she leapt to her new, clawed feet with a snarl of pure rage.

Then she was right in front of Adrien, her sharp black teeth bared in a hateful rictus, her gloved hand burning with black flame as she swung it like a claw and he lifted his shield just in time. Her fingers dug into the shield, but the enchantment kicked in, then suddenly she was screaming, twitching and howling as electricity coursed through her body until Sue punched her straight in the face, finally sending the arachne right down into the ground with a rough crack.

“…Okay. Didn’t get her. My bad.”

“Ya think?” Maria rubbed her head sheepishly as Sue frowned at her, before Sergio walked over and kicked Ariel in the side. 

“…Hey Soph, think you could heal her?”

“H-Huh? Uh…sure? But, um…why?”

“I don’t think she’s getting up after that, and hey, Gold-teach still wants to bang her boss, right? Probably wrecks his chances if we let her die.”

“Wow, that’s a really fucked up reason to save someone’s life,” Maria pointed out.

“And? Still saving it.”

“He has a point.”

“Mask, no, no he doesn’t.”

“On a more rational point,” Syl spoke up, walking over to Ariel and crouching down by her, her hand glowing a gray-blue and orange as some chains start to wrap around the unconscious arachne, “We could get some info out of her. Also, Mr. Goldforge asked us to keep fatalities to a minimum, so saving her would be what he’d want, aside from Sergio’s…suggestion. And finally, morally speaking, letting someone die when we could help them is bad no matter what.”

“I dunno about that one. I mean, what if some murderer is hanging off of a cliff? Do we have an obligation to help them?”

“Well yeah. They’re still a person.”

Serge frowned. “Yeah, but they’re also a murderer. So, bad.”

“Didn’t we murder a bunch of demons in the Water Temple?” Mask asked.

“No, we killed them, that’s different. If it’s in combat, it’s not murder.”

“But a guy hanging off a cliff isn’t in combat,” Syl pointed out.

“It could’ve been combat!”

“Or he could’ve tripped off a cliff. Either explain the complete situation or acknowledge that your argument is flawed.”

“Does it even really count if their demons?” Maria was frowning, tilting her head in thought. “They just poof back into hell when they die here, don’t they?”

“Why are we even arguing this? I agreed that we should heal her.”

“Because you’re wrong and shut up.”

Adrien blinked as the debate continued and Soph finally wandered over to Ariel and started healing her injuries. At least kinda. So she wouldn’t die, at least.

“…So what happened to the rest of the spiders?” Sue suddenly asked, frowning as she looked around the room.

“Huh? Oh…well, shit. Maybe they teleported out like the other bosses?” Adrien frowned too, then paused as a thought hit him. “Uh, where’s the old dude?”

“BUH NUH NUH NUH NUUUUUH!” And then both of them paused and looked over at the far wall, where Douglas was holding a gray sphere over his head, his glasses completely fogged up from the humidity. “WE GOT THE METAL TEMPLE CORE!”

“…Huh. So both of our teachers are crazy weirdos.”

“Honestly, I think the old man might be less crazy.”

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