Joshua and Lilly collected the six dead ant bodies to create some space in the room before their opponent would arrive. The place was already a little cramped for Tank so Joshua knew that the sub-boss couldn't be any bigger than Tank was at the moment. Even so since it was a sub-boss class beast it would definitely be on the stronger side in comparison to regular creatures. Tank and Cinder both seemed to be itching for a stronger challenge as they glared in the direction of the cave. Tank was already absorbing the moisture in the air to prepare for a strong attack while Cinder was busy creating all sorts of web around the surroundings to hinder the enemy's movements.
After a few moments the thudding steps from the cave grew louder and a dark shadow could be seen coming into the dim light of the room. From the size of the shadow Joshua could see the creature was as large as Tank in his current size which meant it was at least twice the size of the previous ant soldiers that they had just killed. Of course this wasn't much of a surprise, but when the creature finally came into the light where Joshua could get a good view of it he took notice of the large difference between this ant and the previous ones they had faced up to this point.
This ant had a large metal sheen to its exoskeleton which was far thicker than any of the other ants they had come across. Its legs were also armored in a way that was similar to Cinder. The Exoskeleton of its legs were more than thick enough to keep Joshua from being able to cut them off easily. The ant's pincers were far larger than its counterparts and Tank would have to be extremely careful around them since they could dig into the openings on his shell if he wasn't careful in his approach. Joshua also took notice of the fact that the ant's saliva was melting parts of the floor whenever it walked passed. This creature was clearly built to take a beating while latching onto its opponent up close and dealing high damage with its pincers along with slow damage with the acid from its mouth.
Joshua used the system's observe ability to see if he could find any more information about the creature and saw that it was level thirty-five with four stars next to its name. It was called an ant general and Joshua got the feeling that it wasn't the only one of its kind. He frowned at that thought because it could lead to some trouble in the future, but he focused on the creature in front of him instead of what could happen later on. The large ant glared at both Tank and Cinder for a moment before letting a deep screech to show off its strength. Its aura poured over the area, but everyone was able to easily shrug it off. Tank and Cinder were able to use their own aura in a similar fashion so the threat wasn't all that intimidating towards them and they either roared or screeched back in challenge. Lilly was currently synchronized to Tank so her will stat was more than high enough to get over the creatures killing intent.
Joshua on the other hand just shrugged it off like it was nothing as he let his aura shroud flow around him and pointed his scale blade toward the enraged creature. The large ant screeched once again before charging toward Tank head on with its pincers opening wide preparing to clamp onto his neck. Of course Tank wasn't going to have any of that as he shot a few bubble traps in the path of the large ant. They weren't strong enough to do any real damage to the armored creature, but it was more than enough to blind it for a split second. Its pincer missed and clashed into Tank's shell right to the side of his head. Tank used the opportunity to clamp down fiercely on the ants bulked up shoulder, but the metal like plating of its exoskeleton made it impossible for Tank to get a good grip to hold it in place for very long.
Cinder used the small frame of time that the ant was trapped to charge over and attack its side with her long legs. Surprisingly they just clanked off its metal hide, but the force was enough to send the ant skidding away a few feet. She followed it up by sending a few fireballs that slammed into the ant general all over its bodies causing small explosions. The large creature screamed in irritation at the attack, but other than that it didn't seemed harmed in the slightest after the smoke cleared. The spots where it was hit seemed to be tinged red from the heat, but that was quickly fading as the ant prepared to charge over and attack Tank once again. Apparently it was dead set on taking Tank out of the picture first since it seemed to be the most threatening in its eyes.
The ant was slowed down quite a bit since it fell into the webs that Cinder had set up while being shoved from the explosions. Even so it pushed through and raced towards Tank in another large clash that made the entire room shake dramatically. Tank was clever and turned his shell to make sure the pincers wouldn't hurt him before the two massive creatures were once locked again in combat. A red glow seemed to fall over both Tank and Cinder and Joshua could see Tank grow in strength once again. He turned to Lilly and saw her smiling as she channeled a torrent spell to push the large ant off track and give Tank some help. Apparently she had used the frenzy ability to give Tank and Cinder some extra help and it was working well. Tank was able to use the extra strength to lift the ant up into the air.
Lilly used that opportunity to blast it in the chest and send it skirting back off balance, while Tank followed up with his own torrent completely knocking it on to its back in to an exposed position. Sadly its armor plating was all over its body so even with it being on its back it was impossible for them to do any large amount of damage. Cinder tried to pierce it with her legs again, but they simply clanked off its metal like body. She hopped back and covered the large ant completely in smoldering smoke that was improved by fire magic and the thing screamed while being hidden by the smoke. Cinder quickly ran back along the webbing she had set up at blinding speed to get away from the creature and watch alongside Joshua and the rest.
The entire time Joshua had avoided charging in himself since there was no way his attacks would do any real damage if Cinder couldn't actually pierce it. Her strength was higher than his and her claws were sharper than his scale blade. Even with aura he doubted his attacks would do much more than leave small trails as if he were scraping a car with a key or something. He watched as the smoke cloud disappeared and saw that the ant had gotten back onto its feet and was glaring in their direction. Its body was steaming in some places with large red spots that showed the metal like armor was heavily heated from Cinder's attack. The only problem was that it was clearly not enough as its body started to cool down in those spots rather quickly. Apparently the ant had some type of ability that allowed it to cool down its body rapidly.
"We can't keep doing this Joshua." Tank said gaining everyone's attention. "This fight will drag on and the other groups will be able to catch up the longer it does. All of our attacks can't get past that armor."
"The only thing that seems to be doing any sort of damage to it is Cinder's flame attacks, but even that seems to come up short." Lilly said with a frown.
"Well the gimmick to this creature seems to be its armor and its ability to cool it down at a decent pace. That keeps the armor from getting to hot and becoming useless, but all of Cinders flame attack are to short and explosive or long and sporadic. We need to keep it under constant heat for a long time so that its cooling ability can't keep up." Joshua explained.
"Even if we do that will we be able to do enough damage to it to kill it?" Lilly asked.
"We can if we're able to keep its armor hot the entire time. It'll be like working to shape metal at that point. My blows will bend its exoskeleton in a way that it won't be able to heal from it." Joshua said before turning to look at both Tank and Cinder. He smiled as he thought of a bright idea. "If Cinder's sporadic flames can't keep up the heat long enough then how about we surround it in steam for a while."
Lilly thought about it for a moment before she smiled brightly. "If we fill the area with a constant steam it won't be able to cool its body down fast enough."
"Yep, Cinder and Tank need to use their abilities to constantly surround the creature in steam. Lilly you synchronize with Cinder and hit that thing with fireballs as much as possible, we'll slowly heat that thing up and the steam will keep it from being able to cool down. Then I'll go in and get to work hammering away at it." Joshua explained.
"Will you be able to handle the steam yourself?" Tank asked.
"As long as I'm in the aura shroud it'll feel more like a hot sauna to me than anything else. I'll be fine, now let's get this done so the other groups don't catch up to us." Joshua said before standing to the side as the ant looked as though it was about to charge over after its armor had completely cooled down. Tank quickly sent a large torrent of water over that wasn't quite as powerful as the usual one, but would last for a long time instead. Cinder followed up using her flame magic to spit a long line of fire towards the torrent. It was more focused than her smoldering smoke ability and the moment it came in contact with the water steam started to fill the room. Joshua and Lilly could feel the heat even from where they stood so they knew the ant was feeling the effects far worse being so close to the initial point of attack. Lilly was fine since she was synchronized with Cinder and Joshua was sweating a bit, but his shroud blocked off most of the heat.
Lilly nodded towards Joshua before sending in fire balls towards the ant causing it to screech in pain. Joshua charged into the steam and smashed his scale blade into one of its pincers to force it backwards and keep it in the steam. The heat was greater, but Joshua was still holding up fine. The ant on the other hand not so much. Its entire body was starting to become a brighter and brighter red color while some spots where Lilly hit it with her fire balls were even worse off. Joshua took this opportunity to dash around its body and smash his scale blade into any of those spots like a hammer. The blows caused it to shriek or wail. Each time the armor would bend in word and Joshua could see blood coming out of the creature's mouth as its insides were being crushed by its own armor.
The large ant tried to retaliate, but even moving around was a great pain in its heated condition and Joshua smashed its legs causing them to bend awkwardly. The large ant fell over no longer able to hold up its own weight do to the injuries and its bent up legs. On its last leg of life Joshua moved over to its head and smashed its skull in several times until it was warped to the point where the armor fractured and blood and pus were coming out of its skull. Joshua felt a large surge in strength as the ant died and noticed he gained a level as the steam started to disappear. He smiled towards his group and looked towards the path ahead. He could feel a massive aura coming from the direction and he knew the real boss would be coming up soon.