Joshua found himself running down an enormous spiral staircase with Lilly sitting on Cinders back as the large spider kept pace with him. They had to keep charging forward and every once in a while they would come across a large ant soldier that tried to slow them down, but with their combined might they were easily able to put down the annoyances and continued forward. The reason they were making such a mad dash forward was rather simple when you thought about it. The stairs that they were racing down were slowly, but surely rising from the ground and smashing into the ceiling above them. The pace wasn't fast, but it wasn't slow either. If they got stuck in a fight with an ant for too long or if they ran down the stairwell at to slow of a pace they'd be squished like bugs into the ceiling.
They first took notice of this occurrence a few minutes after they entered the door at the end of the bridge from before. They heard a large slamming sound from behind them and then they heard another one a few seconds later. That alone told Joshua it was time for them to get a move on. They rushed down the steps and killed anything that got in their way as quickly as possible. The situation was incredibly tense and the atmosphere suddenly felt more like a dungeon than anything he had come across up to that point. He could tell this was a test of sorts, groups that weren't able to handle the basic ant soldiers in a timely manner would end up being held back and squashed by the stairs beneath their feet. Either that or they had to have a way to travel past the ant soldiers in either a stealthy way or at a speed that wouldn't allow them to keep up.
All of those options were possible, but Joshua stuck to the tried and true method of simply killing them and moving on. It allowed them to gain experience for the fights ahead and Joshua could already tell that the amount of experience he was gaining from killing these simple ant soldiers was far greater than the ones he killed just outside of the ant hill. He wasn't close to leveling up again just yet, but he was well on his way and he was sure Lilly was too.
Soon the mad dash started to come to an end as Joshua saw two ants ahead guarding a door that was clearly the only way out of the death trap they were currently caught in. The ants weren't anything special and were the same as the other ant soldiers so Joshua and Cinder each took on one while Lilly gave support from on top of Cinders back. Joshua made quick work of his opponent as he weaved around its predictable attacks and sliced off a leg or two before going for its head. Without its legs it had lost a good amount of range in its movements, so all Joshua had to do was attack it from an angle where it couldn't turn its body towards him in a quick manner. He made sure to completely severe its head by using an aura blast while striking to force the skull clean off and its massive body fell over within seconds after its death.
Cinder on the other hand made even quicker work of her opponent by simply using her speed to get around it and her strength to pin it down while she and Lilly burnt it alive. Joshua rushed for the door and made his way through with both Lily and Cinder followed close behind. The room was rather small so Cinder had to shrink down to fit inside. On the far side of the room they saw another door that was barred off by stone pillars at the moment and outside of that the room was rather plain with nothing else to look for. Joshua could still hear the stairs that they had run down slamming into the ceiling behind them and when it finally got close to the door behind them he heard one last loud slam before things once again went quiet.
A loud clicking sound came from the ceiling and Joshua turned to watch as the pillars that had blocked off the door started to sink back into the floor and give them lee way into the path forward. "Well that was a hell of a way to force us forward." Joshua said with a chuckle as he caught his breath. Racing down stairs for nearly an hour straight while fighting off several ants that got in the way was definitely a tiring endeavor.
"It's a good thing we've gotten use to crazy traps like this thanks to those lizards at the start of the marsh dungeon." Lilly said before taking a deep breath. A small smile once again graced her face before she continued. "Although I have to say this one was a bit more terrifying. At least we could fend off the lizard for a little while, but being smashed into the ceiling is kind of a bad way to go."
"I don't even think my aura shroud could keep me alive for very long under that condition. Maybe Tank's shell could have held the stairs off if it came to that point, but it would have been hell trying to get out of that situation." Joshua said with a frown. He walked over towards the door and noticed a small skull like depiction on it. "I guess there must be a sub-boss of some sort up ahead, so we better be prepared for a tough fight going forward."
"Well hopefully it will be in a large room so that all my pets can help. I'm getting tired of all these cramped tunnels and paths." Lilly said with a pout causing Joshua to smile. He walked forward and pushed open the door to see what was on the other side. Luckily it was a far larger room and at the other side of it he could see a group of six ants guarding a large cave like entrance. These ants were all larger ant soldiers. Which meant they were stronger than all of the ones they had come across up to this point. When Joshua observed them he noticed they actually had four stars next to their names and they were all level thirty-four.
One thing Joshua noticed while looking towards the six ants was the fact that they weren't budging from their positions at the moment. They glared over at Joshua and Lilly's direction, but they didn't move towards them. "Do you think we should take a break before taking these things on?" Lilly asked breaking Joshua out of his thoughts. "I mean I highly doubt they're the only things we have to worry about fighting if we go forward right now.
"I don't think this is the time to be taking a break. I highly doubt we're the only people trying to clear the dungeon at the moment." Joshua said with a frown.
"Wait… really? I thought no one else could find the place?" Lilly asked in surprise.
"Sure they couldn't find the place before since most of them got driven off of the path by the ants whenever they got close, but now that they have a trail to follow and I'm sure they'll have no problem figuring out how to get to the entrance now. By the way that knight talked about the Raider's Guild members I'm sure they'll make their way inside after us and that will probably force the others to follow suit if they don't want to miss out on the chance to clear the dungeon. If we take a break then they'll all catch up and will have a close race on our hands." Joshua explained.
"Makes sense. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I was hoping things would be easy." Lilly said with a pout. "At least we have your crazy luck on our side though."
"Crazy luck?" Joshua asked a little skeptical.
"Oh come on you luck out in a lot of situations, easily finding hidden quest, finding the entrance to this dungeon when no one else could, finding amazing pets for me to tame. You luck out in a lot of ways Joshua." Lilly explained as she counted things off with her fingers.
"Well then I guess the hundred and one luck in my stats stands for something." Joshua said with a big grin. "Anyways go ahead and summon Tank so he can help us out with this fight. We don't want to waste too much time before getting to the boss. This dungeon feels more like a speed run then a slow exploration and I can bet you the other groups will be treating it the same way."
Lilly nodded before she summoned Tank who appeared crashing into the floor. He grew in size until he was about two stories tall which was about the maximum size that the room would allow him to. He still had some space to move around so two stories was more than enough and he was far bigger than the ants they were going to go up against. Cinder followed suit and grew in size as well so that she could take on the ants more efficiently. Joshua allowed his aura shroud to flow around him before he took his scale blade from off his back and prepared for the upcoming fight.
"Tank takes two, Cinder takes two, and I'll take two. Lilly you help support us from the back along with your other pets." Joshua explained getting nods from the others as he started to walk towards the group of ants. He felt the extra surge of strength from Flutter using her boost ability on him and he was completely ready to charge forward. Joshua took the lead as he charged in to take on the two ants towards the center. He started the fight by using his heroic shout to draw all the attention of the ants towards him. The ants let out angry screeches as they chomped their pincers together before charging towards him. He charged an aura blast into his sword and sent it crashing towards the two center ants knocking them back from the force of the blow. Of course the hard exoskeleton kept the attack from doing much damage from so far away, but it did exactly what Joshua expected and he continued to race towards the two knocked back ants.
The other four ants were about to charge straight into Joshua when they were suddenly attacked from both sides. Two of the ants were blasted away with a torrent of water that lifted them up off of their feet and sent them crashing into a wall. While another pair of ants were sent skittering back as they screeched in pain from a large wall of fire that appeared underneath them. With this all of the ants were split up perfectly and Joshua's group was able to get to work. Joshua rushed forward and immediately sliced the legs off of one of the ants. He twisted out of the way to avoid the other ants attempt to catch him with its pincers and used the close proximity to smash the dagger on his waist into one of its large eyes. The attacks sent both ants screeching backwards in pain.
The ant that lost the leg tried to catch him, but he leaped over its head onto its back and raced towards its back legs and slashed them both off before it could try to roll over and knock him off its back. With one ant unable to move properly anymore he leaped off its back and left it to squirm around on the floor for a bit while he went to handle its partner which was actually still a threat. The angered ant raced over towards Joshua and this time he held his scale blade with both hands before slamming it into the large ants face to knock it off its charge. He made sure to angle it in a way that he would be positioned on the ant's blind side after the collision and the moment it left its neck exposed Joshua coated his blade in aura before slicing down.
He cut halfway through the creature's neck before sending an aura blast through the blade and blowing its head off. He whistled a bit at the grisly scene before turning around and smashing the skull of the immobilized ant a few times until it died. When Joshua turned to look how the others were doing he saw Tank stomping an ant into the ground while the other one had already been killed do to a large amount of bubbles exploding on its body. They seemed a bit smaller so he assumed those came from Lilly. On the other side Cinder had pretty much cooked the two ants alive in their exoskeleton as they were burnt completely black.
Before Joshua could call out to them he heard loud footsteps coming from the cave up ahead. The sub boss was on its way.