56 Egg Thief

There was no way I could win in a head-on fight with two Rocs. Not at least until I had reached Qi Condensing stage and was capable of true flight and not the pale imitation, I was capable of. I could use the terrain to my advantage, but a careful study of the surrounding landscape revealed nothing really suitable, nothing that would give me enough cover as protection.

Rocs had amazing vision, so I would need a blot hole, something like the spirit mine, but it was too far away to use from here. The only advantage I had was the disadvantage their size afforded them when they were not in flight. They were designed for aerial combat, capable of immense bursts of speed, agile enough to avoid any natural predators they might encounter, and were gifted with a prodigious endurance that allowed them to stalk prey or escape enemies even if they had to fight or flee for hours.

Their sense of smell was also heightened. They could smell fresh kills, newly spilled blood, carrion if even the slightest breeze carried the scent. Their beaks and claws were designed for ripping and biting. Razor-sharp they could eviscerate a beast or snap the spine when diving and attacking an unaware animal.

As if these natural defenses and weapons weren't deadly enough, the Roc was gifted with a unique trait they developed as they formed their beast core. The animals were able to mesmerize anything that locked gazes with them. Those unlucky or stupid enough to meet a Roc's gaze would find they could no longer control their bodies. They would stiffen up, becoming rock hard, and locked in position until the Roc's gaze was blocked or they were killed.

It was a defense mechanism that evolved because they were so ungainly while on the ground. It allowed them parity with some of the more fearsome creatures they may come across, and the ability allowed the hen to protect her eggs while the male was out hunting. Too often beast tamers have been lost to misadventure stumbling across a nest only to greet the gaze of a Roc and be forced to stand there until the mate returned and ended their lives and careers, forever.

Nature usually found a way to create balance. The Roc's vision and ability to mesmerize with their gaze gave them a decided advantage against almost any foe. During the day. But at night, they were at a disadvantage; they had no night vision. One of the reasons they made nests of stone was to use the gravel as a warning. They could respond to the sound's pebbles made, almost a type of echolocation ability similar to bats, quickly.

The eggs they laid had a phosphorescent coating, a golden hue that wasn't overly bright, but was just enough to allow the parents to monitor and track each egg. Tamer's Hall had discussed Roc farming, and the only way to be successful, if you weren't strong enough to confront them head-on, was to use stealth and approach them under the cover of darkness. The night was the safest time to approach, someone with enough speed or stealth might be able to raid a Roc nest of egg or juvenile and escape.

I had found the nest at the height of noon, the sun directly over. Scouting the area and finding the best approach had taken a few hours, once I was satisfied that my chances for success were high, I left the area, not wanting to risk exposure. The rest of the day was spent back at the spirit stone cave, cultivating.

It was only with dusk, when the sun was at its weakest, that I ventured back out. Approaching the Roc nest and the area I'd chosen as my starting point. Because it was not full night, I attempted to make myself as unobtrusive as possible, worried that the lack of cover would alert the animals to my presence.

I double and triple checked the path I planned on using. Trying to etch each stone, every place that I could safely step into my memory. My night vision was leagues better than the Rocs, but still, nothing when compared to a true nocturnal animal. I would be able to see, in shades of shadow, obstructions visible as I moved, but only if they were large.

What would make my attempt at raiding the nest possible was my Qi perception. I could extend that perception a hundred yards. The detail and information that I was able to process with each pulse allowed me to perceive even the small bits of gravel and debris that littered the ground. Without this talent, I would have to abandon this chance, speed was my highest priority, and in the dark of night, my perception made that possible.

Neither Roc ventured out from the nest as I waited patiently, the Eoraptor corpses providing enough meat for the next day or so before the male would need to hunt. As full night fell, the shadows engulfed the depression they had used to conceal their nest until it was lost to sight.

I waited a few more hours waiting for the brightest of the moons to pass. The moon, or rather moons on a planet the size of Shijie formed a ring. An unbroken scattering of rocks, comets, asteroids, and moons that had shattered and been torn apart, these extraterrestrial bodies were trapped as satellites. I'm not sure why they remained in orbit instead of crashing into the planet, pulled by that prodigious gravity of the planet, but they didn't.

They formed a series of concentric rings, that was luminous, bands of color served as the demarcation between different elements. Most of the rings were comprised of ice. And like rain falling when the sun was shining, these ice particles formed a rainbow of colors that served to form bands that reflected the different wavelengths of light. The sight was more glorious than the aurora borealis.

Flowing Water Sect was located in the southern hemisphere of the planet. We were far enough south that we had an unobstructed view of the rings that had formed, able to see each band of reflected light clearly. I planned to make my move after Aes, the planets largest moon had passed from view. It would be the darkest part of the night, and the safest time for me to approach the nest.

A few clouds gathered, encouraged by my water and air elemental Qi to form, I used the cloud banks to further obscure light. Once I was satisfied it was time, I burst forward. My plan was simple enough. I was going to trust in my improved memory and use [Lightning's Rush] placing my feet to propel me forward as quickly as possible on those bits of rock and resting spots I'd identified.

I had to trust that my enlightenment into the Dao of movement would prove to be correct and that a body in motion, stayed in motion. Newton's First Law of Motion had only been an esoteric concept for me until enlightenment, but now it was an idea that I was banking my success on.

As I moved, my feet found purchase. Occasionally though, I would misstep or remember a sequence incorrectly, it was in these instances that my understanding of the Dao was most helpful. My motion and movements carrying me forward even when mistakes were made, my body adjusting and surrounding to the energy contained, each step adding to that pool of contained energy.

When my foot failed to find purchase or I began to fall, I could use the Dao to correct my path, change my trajectory, and regain my foothold towards the course I'd set. All of this was done at a speed that had eclipsed any past use of [Lightning's Rush].

My scramble up the side of the nest, and into the jaws of the Rocs that had woken squawking in confusion was a fleeting moment. I had primed my Qi so that when I reached forth and touched the nearest egg, it immediately transitioned into my storage device Beast Hall had allowed me to requisition for living creatures. I hadn't been sure if the nest contained eggs or juvenile Rocs. This would have been for nothing if the animals were beyond a certain age. But eggs could be hatched, and the chicks imprinted, allowing me to claim the animal as my spirit companion.

The theft complete, I continued to embrace the [Dao of Movement], never having slowed or stopped, trusting that my feet would find purchase and my run through and out the other side of the nest. Leaping and extorting my body to move even faster as the screams of anger that followed my theft added a burst of endorphins.

I continued my run, racing down the side of the mountain, and past the farming community. My mission complete, I thought now a good time to leave the valley and head back to the Sect. I had gained much more than I had thought possible by accepting this quest. Solving the mission, the herbs I gathered, and the Eoraptor eggs would earn me contribution points.

But it was the Roc egg and the claiming of a spirit stone mine that was the true rewards. I hadn't expected to find an animal that I could bond with, let alone one as formidable as a Roc. It would take time to nurture, but that Roc would grow to be both a formidable hunting partner and a method of transportation.

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