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Beetle Sludge

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His heart stops beating for a moment, and then it starts again.

It takes him a moment longer to realise he’s still alive. The green glow fades, and instead the black gaze of the chimera swallows him. Something’s throttling him: his reserves, his magical power – but his life, his physical body, is more or less intact.

Why?

He realises it a moment later when the devil beetles approach. He doesn’t raise an arm to stop them – he can’t; not quite yet – but they vanish into dust before they even reach him. His fingers twitch on the trigger but he doesn’t fire, not yet. He’s not sure he can fire. His arm is burning, and his weapon feels cold and empty in his grip.

But the devil beetles are crumbling, scattering, and the chimera is staring at him, as though waiting for something. Waiting for him, obviously.

But for what?

Something’s up. Something’s wrong, and it’s not just a miracle survival, a miracle miss from point blank range. He knows that.

He still feels the surge of foreign power almost too late to catch it.