After breaking through the wall the path in front of them was much smoother than all of the twist and turns they had faced to get to the entrance in the first place. The walls and ceiling that looked like they might collapse from before now seemed well structured with more than enough space for Tank and Cinder to walk through easily. It still wasn't nearly big enough for them to grow in size, but at least now they didn't have to feel like sardines trapped in a can. For a moment Joshua was thinking of using his aura pulse to search the area up ahead, but then he remembered the large amount of aura he could sense from before and he didn't want to alert any of the ants at the moment while they were this deep into the area. The ants may have been lackadaisical with all the explorers that searched the regular tunnels in the ant hill, but he doubted that would stay the same now that they had found the way to the real entrance to the dungeon.
"Lilly go ahead and put Tank away for now. We're going to be as stealthy as we can be for as long as possible. I don't know for sure what's exactly up ahead, but Tank will attract a lot of attention unlike Cinder who's better at hiding her presence." Joshua said getting a nod from the both of them. "Don't worry Tank, if things go to hell then you'll be the first one on the front line alongside me."
"Good, take care of her Joshua, I can sense a great amount of creatures up ahead. Even with how powerful we are it wouldn't be to surprising for us to be overpowered by sheer numbers if we're not careful going forward." Tank said before he glowed in a white light and disappeared into Lilly's soul realm. Joshua took his warning to heart since Tank was better at using his aura purely for sensing than Joshua was at the moment. It came with the experience of using aura for so long.
"Well let's be as quiet as possible. Cinder you should shrink down to a size just big enough to carry Lilly around for now. Until we have to fight our goal is to avoid grabbing any attention." Joshua turned to the large spider that nodded before shrinking down to a size where Joshua doubted he could actually ride on her back, but do to Lilly's smaller stature he wasn't surprised she was able to hop on and be comfortable. "Alright let's see what exactly these things have been hiding down here."
They quietly started to make their way down the hall way with Joshua taking the lead. This time around Cinder kept her glowing down to a minimum to avoid attracting any attention. At the moment there wasn't much light coming from the path, but off in the distance a small amount of light could be seen which suggested that these ants were able to create some sort of infrastructure up ahead. Joshua made sure to move forward carefully while avoiding kicking any rocks along the way that could make an echo in the quiet path. He also used his scarf to make his body light and avoid causing his usual heavy footsteps. Cinder on the other hand was able to use the precision of her eight legs to be as silent as possible. Even standing so close to her the only noise Joshua could hear coming from her direction was Lilly's quiet breathing.
Soon the path started opening up wider and wider and Joshua, knew this was a sign that they were about to reach whatever place they were looking for. Cinder stopped glowing since the light up ahead was bright enough to shine down the path and give them some vision. Joshua made sure to slow his pace so that when they eventually came to the end of the path they wouldn't rush out and grab the attention of every creature up ahead. When Joshua got close enough he actually got down on all fours and started to crawl forward to the edge so he could peak over and see what they were up against. The sight before him was as alarming as it was shocking.
Strode out in front of him was what looked like a large complex of structures made from the trees from the forest to hold all sorts of supplies. Of course in such an area there were literally thousands of ants that were crawling all over the place and moving things from place to place. They were crawling on the ceiling, over the structures, hell some of them even flew in the air above with wings as they moved from place to place at fairly high speeds. When Joshua observed the flying ants he noticed that they were still considered worker ants but were three stars instead of two like most of the other worker ants.
He noticed that the ceiling had this large stone like structure that reflected light into the surroundings making it easier to see the lay out of the place. All of the structures that the ants were building were to help divide up supplies and there was also one other major thing that Joshua took notice of. These ants were actually raising another large insect that seemed to be larger in stature, but quite a bit more docile as they stood in pins that were clearly made for them. When Joshua observed these creatures he got the name Aphid with three stars next to it. All of them were level thirty-four and they were minding their own business and simply munching away at the food laid out before them. On the other hand the ants would collect the sap like juice that the aphids produced which Joshua recalled was mostly sugar. It was a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship and Joshua was surprised it still held firm even after the evolution process.
These large beast would be quite dangerous, especially in the amount that were held in the area. Joshua admired the farm like structure that the ants had created for a moment before turning to wave Cinder and Lilly to come over. At the moment they were in a location that all the ants were busy ignoring so they could plan out how they were going to get past the area while scouting things from above. For now they would have to talk through party chat so they would make as little noise as possible, but that wasn't too big of a difference. He was sure Lilly could get the feeling across to Cinder so that the large spider would know their plan going forward.
'Alright this place might as well be its own little village and it's going to be impossible for us to get across by just fighting are way through.' Joshua said through the party chat getting a nod from Lilly in return. 'We'd be over run and even if we did actually make it all the way across we'd be out of energy and trapped. Who knows what's further along in the dungeon and wasting all our energy this early on would be stupid.'
'Yeah, from what I can see even Tank would have trouble with so many creatures attacking him at once. Especially those large things they're treating like cows.' Lilly said as she looked towards the aphids.
'Yeah those things might as well be considered a part of their fighting force if things go to hell.' Joshua said with a frown, but he put that idea to the back of his mind since he planned on avoiding that area all together in the end. 'Well our target is that large path all the way at the back.' Joshua said while pointing it out to Lilly. The area he was talking about was well guarded with several ants around and not a single structure in sight which would make it hard to actually get there without being seen let alone go through the path. Of course to make matters worse there was actually two larger ants that looked as if they were armored guarding the path. He couldn't observe them from so far away, but he was sure they were most likely the biggest threat in the entire room.
'How are we going to ever be able to cross it without alerting everything in the room?' Lilly asked, but Joshua frowned before responding.
'We aren't. We'll get as close as possible without alerting anything in the surroundings, but it will be impossible for us to get through that open area without being seen. Even your presence hiding ability can't hide you in a situation that's that obvious. Not with us running right towards them and the path they are guarding.' Joshua said with a sigh before turning to look at Lilly. 'When it gets to that point we'll have Tank hold the rest of the ants off while we take care of the two ants guarding the path. He can hold up for a while, but we won't have too much time.'
'I'm sure he will be fine. Especially with his shell protecting him.' Lilly said with a smile and Joshua simply nodded.
'Once we kill the guards we can move into the path and block it off once Tank comes through to keep all of these ants from following us. We don't want to be getting attacked from both sides for too long. It would be overwhelming.' Joshua said before pointing towards a trench like structure that was empty and went down into the town. 'We can use that to make it into town unnoticed up into the area where the ants congregate. Then we can use the building like structures to inch are way towards our goal without being seen as long as possible. Well you ready to do this?'
Lilly smiled before she summoned her two rabbits Mr. and Mrs. Floppy and handed one of them to Joshua. 'Alright then, I'll have them help hide our presence to make it easier for us to sneak over. I'll follow your lead Josh.' Joshua smiled before nodding and grabbing a hold of the rabbit. He could feel his aura being covered slightly and making it easier for him to hide as the little rabbit looked up at him while chewing away at a carrot that Lilly had given it.
Now with everything prepared Joshua made his way into the trench and lead the way with Lilly and Cinder following close behind. There were several trenches similar to the one he was traveling down, some had water flowing through them while others contained food. The one Joshua was climbing down must have been recently made, but he was sure it was going to connect to a network of similar trenches when he made it into the area filled with ants. That would give them a chance to hide as long as they held their breaths as they moved through the water.
Soon they made their way into the ant village and Joshua could hear several ants above them moving to and fro. They were all staying busy and that kept them from noticing his group moving down the trench all the way up to the aphid farm. They decided to head in that direction since there were less ants in the immediate area. Plus the aphids were calmer and less alert than the ants so it would be far easier sneaking by them than trying to get around several ants in the center of the area. The trench they were going down was finally being filled up with water and they had to hold their breaths as they swam passed the large aphids that ignored them and continued to drink the water. It was most likely do to the presence hiding ability of the rabbits that the large creatures didn't take notice of them as they swam past.
They then took the chance to go around the out skirts of the area as much as possible until they came to a point where the trench ended and they had to get out and hide behind a building structure that was on the side of the village closer to the path that was being guarded. Several ants in the area moved around carrying stuff from place to place and they even saw some flying ants that glided over the area, but failed to notice them.
Joshua took a deep breath before weaving his way through the buildings with Lilly following close behind and Cinder now sitting on her shoulder at the size of one of the rabbits. Her frame would have been too big to move around the area without bumping into stuff so she was forced to shrink even more. Soon the two of them reached the last building that stood across from the path with several ants moving by in front of them and the two guards keeping watch. Joshua observed them and saw that both guard ants were level thirty-five and had four stars next to their names which read Ant Soldiers. Now the only way forward was to fight.