107 Chapter 53: Swarms are a Pain to Deal With
For the rest of their first couple of days in the new area Joshua and Lilly hunted down and fought groups of beetles for most of the day. It was annoying to find ones that weren't already fighting other groups of people, but they were able to hunt them down at a fairly decent pace in comparison to other groups that seemed to struggle against just one of the creatures. In the end they were able to level up twice over the two day period of hunting the beetles down on the fringe of the forest and at the moment they were still getting full potential out of their leveling.
The only problem was the fact that it would be impossible to maintain that pace while fighting the beetles on the fringe of the forest. There were several problems that would get in the way. First off they wouldn't be able to kill nearly enough of the beetles to keep up with their leveling since there were other people hunting in the same area and the beetles tended to stay in small groups or alone unlike other insects. Secondly with each level they gained it became harder to continue to level up against the same opponents. It took killing ten of the beetles just to gain one level and over fifty to gain the next one. Going forward it would become nearly impossible to actually find enough beetles to kill to level up within a week let alone a day.
So now they were going to have to find another way to keep their pace of leveling and that meant they were most likely going to have to go deeper into the forest to take on stronger opponents. This would not only gain them more experience in a literal sense, but would also help them fight stronger opponents that would help fill out there potential. It would be more dangerous, but without any actual danger involved they weren't going to actually grow in strength. Stats weren't everything and if they didn't learn how to fight stronger opponents then when they were forced to fight more complex enemies in the future they wouldn't be able to handle it.
That was a problem that Joshua had taken notice of from a lot of groups in the area. Several of them were so busy trying to find the perfect way to fight these simple beetles instead of actually taking on more challenging foes even when they were exploring the forest in large groups. For Lilly and Joshua they were pretty much splitting the experience between three people since all of Lilly's pets counted as one person in the party. These other groups though were splitting their experience from somewhere between eight people to up to twelve when it came to larger parties.
The rate at which they would gain experience would be abysmal in comparison and they were all already level thirty and up. It would probably take them a couple of weeks just to gain one level if Joshua had to guess and even then they might not get the full potential of that level since their fights pretty much came down to tanks up front blocking, healers keeping the tanks together and healing any detrimental status effects, and lastly damage dealers attacking from a safe distance or whenever given the chance to attack up close until the beetle eventually died. It wasn't much of a challenge and the system would definitely treat it that way. In the end they would either be forced to train alone in the hub world for months to gain all the potential of their levels and waste a lot of money in the process that they probably didn't have or forever be stuck as a level thirty fighter that only had the potential of someone around level fifteen that had maxed out on stats.
Joshua wasn't going to let Lilly and himself fall into that sort of situation so tonight they were going to get some rest and tomorrow they were going to head further into the forest to find a new challenge to face. It might be dangerous, but if they wanted to reach the top then they'd have to take that risk. "What are you thinking about?" Lilly's voice brought Joshua out of his contemplating as she handed him a bowl filled with stew they had made from some rabbit meat they had saved up.
"Just thinking about our next goal." Joshua replied as he took the bowl. "Starting tomorrow were going to have to take on more challenging opponents if we want to keep up the pace we've had so far. We should move further in the forest, at least then we will be able to find higher level opponents that might have more stars."
"Hmm, I think so as well. At this point Tank can take on three beetles alone let alone with us helping out. Soon things will be too easy for us to get anything out of it, but I don't think we're quite ready for a dungeon yet." Lilly said with a frown. That's when the rumbling voice of Tank filled the surroundings as he looked up from his meal to join the conversation.
"A dungeon would be a bit much at your current level. Although you can fight opponents of higher strength than your own that has a limit. I'm sure whatever dungeon is in this area will have beast that are far too powerful for me to hold off at my current strength." Tank said getting a nod from the both of them.
"That's not surprising. If it's anything like the last dungeon then the sub boss like monsters inside will at least be level thirty-five with four stars. That's a bit out of our league at the moment. Even though these beetles are simple minded their aura charge attacks are strong enough to nearly crush me if I don't use aura hardening. I highly doubt the creatures in the dungeon won't be able to out do that. Plus they probably have more tricks up their sleeves." Joshua mumbled out. "No, for now we need to just go further into the forest and fight stronger opponents. Besides maybe we can find another good companion for you before we go into the dungeon anyways."
"That would be great, Tank can't do everything himself and Mr. Hoppy doesn't really match up all that well against these opponents at the moment. His acid just kind of falls of the exoskeleton of these bugs." Lilly said frowning in thought.
"Anyways let's get some rest, tomorrow should be interesting." Joshua said with an excited look as he finished his meal. They made sure to have one of the three of them, either Joshua, Lilly, or Tank watching for any enemies as the rest slept. Even though the tool from the system worked well in keeping creatures from approaching the camp if another group lead beast over it might not be as effective.
The next morning they had a nice breakfast before cleaning up camp and heading out. Joshua used his aura pulse to find a path where they could avoid weaker beetles as they made their way further into the forest along with avoiding other people that were searching the area. After a while he started to notice fewer people around and the beetles that he sensed with his aura pulse were starting to go up in level a bit. He even found a two star beetle that was a little bigger than the others, but there was already a group of people fighting it. He stopped and watched the battle from afar for a bit to see if it was worth hunting down two star beetles, but in the end he was gravely disappointed.
The beetle put up a decent fight against the group, but it was clearly only a little stronger than the rest of its brethren. It took far more attacks to put down, but its move set was still the same and it was as simple minded as the others. If anything he was disappointed even more in the group that was facing it. It took eight people nearly twenty minutes to put the thing down and they looked as if they were tired out for the day after the battle. Joshua shook his head before going further into the forest.
Eventually Joshua came across a high ridge that let him see the forest below. It was a brilliant view and he could hear all sorts of skirmishes and fighting going on around the place. He also got a clearer view of the towering mountain off in the distance that seemed to be filled with all sorts of holes. Now that he looked at it, it looked more like a giant ant hill than a mountain. That would be something to keep in mind. Before he could finish checking out the surroundings he suddenly heard screaming coming from down below followed by what sounded like a buzzing sound.
"What was that?" Lilly said with a frown. Joshua used his aura pulse as far as he could to see if he could find whatever group that seemed to be in distress. Near the edge of the aura pulse he found a group of five people struggling to hold off what looked like a swarm of bee like creatures. The tank out front was doing his best to keep his party members safe, but there were clearly way too many enemies for him to hold them off. Even he seemed to be in horrible shape with his skin turning a tinted green color from the barrage of poison stings. His armor and shield had dents in it from the dog sized bee stings that were pushing him further and further back.
The rest of the party tried to help him out as much as possible, but they weren't doing so good themselves. The healer was at the back and was rather obvious to tell apart from the others based off of her gear. She had a white rope that made her sort of look like a priest of sorts and used a staff to channel her magic. She was constantly draining her mana to keep their knight out front from falling apart from the barrage of attacks. Though at the rate things were going he would soon succumb to the poison even with her efforts. A little ahead of her was another girl that wore red robes that hid most of her body, but based off of the way she was holding her shoulder that was now impaled with a large knife sized stinger in it. Joshua was sure she was the one that let out the scream from earlier. She tried to help out with fire ball attacks, but her spells seemed to be more geared towards single target and the swarm was her worse nightmare.
The other two members of the group were two guys that were out front trying to help out their tank to the best of their ability. One was using a long spear to poke off any bees that tried to get past the Knights line of defense while the other had a pair of daggers and a crossbow strung across his back. He would shoot from afar trying to thin out the numbers, but would go in and stab any of the knocked down bees to help out as much as possible. The group was far more coordinated than any of the others he had seen fighting in the forest, but with well over thirty or so bees starting to overwhelm the knight soon they would be killed.
"Let's go before they die." Lilly said a bit panicked as she noticed the concerned look on Joshua's face.
"Sure, try to do as much damage as possible from a distance while healing them up. Tank and I will take the front lines." Joshua explained before using his scarf to float down the ridge to get their as quickly as possible. Lilly followed behind with her cloak and after the two landed Joshua dashed ahead with his aura cloak at full strength. He knew Lilly could catch up soon while following behind on her lizard, but someone could die before she got there at the rate things were going.
When he got close enough to the point where he could see the fight with his eyes he heard another loud grunt come from the knight as one of the bees smashed into his shied from the side knocking it out of his hands leaving him only with his sword to try to defend against five bees charging in at once. Joshua charged his scale blade with an aura blast and sent it on ahead of him hoping it would make it in time. Just as the five stingers were about to land the blast sliced through the bees that were closest to it and knocked the rest back. The wind that came with the attack scattered and disoriented the swarm a bit.
Using that opportunity Joshua charged in front of the now kneeling knight and held up his scale blade ready to defend the group. "Get back and get your shield to protect the others. I've got this." Joshua said. The man looked surprise, but quickly nodded before doing what Joshua told him. This time ten more bees charged in while the rest seemed like they were going to try to go around him, but Joshua used his new skill from his last dungeon run. The heroic shout not only helped break all the others out of any sort of status effect they currently had that could be disadvantageous, but it also lured all the bees right to him.
With all of the enemies racing to attack him he used his aura hardening to help defend against the attacks. With such high vitality the stings didn't even pierce his shroud. These bees weren't exactly strong on their own and simply used numbers to overwhelm their opponents, but Joshua was a nightmare for such opponents. His shroud was the perfect counter and now with so many of them bunched up together Joshua charged another aura blast, but this time followed it up with an echo strike. The results was the immediate death of all the creatures within a range of ten feet in front of him while the rest were badly hurt. Before they could do anything a torrent of water came crashing in from behind Joshua and killed off the remaining few surviving bees.
Joshua let out a held breath and turned around to see the shocked looks of the people who he had just saved, but soon they were replaced with tired smiles. He was just glad he could make it in time.