As Joshua started to trudge into the purple haze with Lilly and Cinder right behind him he turned on the party chat so that they could talk without making a lot of noise. Even though these creatures had probably grown stronger and learned quite a few new tricks he was still certain that they relied on their sense of smell and hearing more than anything to find their prey. Luckily for them Joshua was able to use his scarf to lighten his weight and made the sound of his footsteps almost nonexistent. Cinder on the other hand was as silent as ever even with her large size which made their approach through the haze all the better. They didn't have to worry about grabbing the attention of all the creatures on the fringe of the haze and would only need to worry about running into zombies.
Back in the first phase he had to rely completely on stealth to make his way through the haze while taking certain risk to distract the creatures when caught in a bind. This time around though he had his aura to sense where all of the creatures were and avoid them before they could take notice of them. Lilly also had the two pairs of rabbits to help hide their presence even more which made it basically impossible for the regular haze creatures to notice them and extremely difficult for the zombies to find them as well. All in all they had just about everything they needed to infiltrate this place effectively and Joshua took the lead as they made their way inside.
'Alright Lilly, there are a few things you should know about these creatures before we try to take on some of the bigger ones.' Joshua said through the party chat getting a nod from Lilly in return. 'These creatures are fairly stupid for the most part and rely completely on their instincts unless they are being ordered or controlled by the boss class haze creature.'
'So similar to how all the ants seemed to become more basic after then Ant Queen was killed?" Lilly asked.
'Fairly similar to that yes. The difference is that these creatures can reform right back as the haze itself can create them. So killing them is pointless unless we're trying to get past them or just grinding experience. Though I doubt the basic haze creatures give much experience at all. When it comes to these creatures make sure not to let them latch on to you, now we have ways to heal their infection with the rabbits, but in the past a bite from those things meant death.' Joshua explained.
'Alright, so those are the low class ones we have to worry about. What are the tougher creatures like then?' She asked while Joshua angled them away from a pair of roaming haze creatures that were sniffing at the air and shambling around. For the most part the creatures seemed spread thin which was a sign that the haze in the area wasn't all that thick. Of course Joshua expected things to get worse as they approached the center of town, but it would never get much worse than the first small town he went to during the first phase.
'The tougher creatures that we have to worry about are the zombies. Unlike the basic haze creatures the zombies come in two varieties. The regular zombies from the corpses of basic humans before the change. These zombies don't really have anything special about them outside of their senses being a bit heightened. So you have to be careful when around them since they tend to group up and swarm people once they've found them. The other type of zombies are from people that died in the haze and still have their abilities.' Joshua started to explain.
'I assume that means they could have any type of ability so they're probably fairly unpredictable.' Lilly said getting a nod of agreement from Joshua.
'They do, but they aren't very intelligent so they will use their powers in the most basic ways. If they had a control over earth or something along those lines they'd probably just use it to throw rocks at you instead of doing something actually interesting. In the end they aren't too much trouble when you think about it.' Joshua said. He noticed that they had just passed a sign that showed they were nearing the entrance to the town so he knew things were going to become more hectic soon.
'How can you tell the difference between them? I mean don't they all look like humans to a certain extent after all.'
'Well outside of seeing them use their abilities in some way the easiest way to tell is their gender. If they're female then they definitely have abilities. During the first phase all women that were still around had their abilities unlocked and the capability of leveling so if we run into any female zombies then they definitely have powers. On the other hand I can't say for sure when it comes to men. For a male zombie to have powers that would mean they would have had to die after the first phase ended and while out exploring in a haze covered area. That's highly unlikely considering most towns that have been explored have been taken over at this point. Well unless someone was stupid enough to adventure off into an area that was too much for them.' Joshua explained.
'Well then what's the plan? I'm sure we're not going to just charge in there like most guilds do. After your explanation from earlier I highly doubt you plan to go that route.' Lilly asked while Cinder started paying attention to their conversation. The large spider seemed to turn to look at Joshua questioningly just like her master.
'Nope we're going in stealthily and scouting out the area first hand. This town is small, but it is most likely different from the last one I had to go through. We need to find all the locations in the town that we can use to our advantage when we finally decide to lure out the boss. We also need to see if we can find a sub boss roaming around the area and take it down first. If it comes to the aid of the boss while we are trying to take it down then that could be a problem for us.' In the end we're going in quiet and only aiming for the big targets as much as possible. If certain weaker creatures get in our way then we take them out silently instead of with big flashy moves.' Joshua explained.
Lilly nodded at his words showing that she understood before pulling out her staff to be ready to help at any moment. Joshua on the other hand didn't bring out his scale blade like usual. The weapon was too big and one swing could tear apart some of these damaged buildings easily. He needed to be quiet and the loud blows from the scale blade would attract the attention of haze creatures from all directions. So this time around he was going to stick with his basic short sword and silenced gun as a combo. As long as he destroyed the heads of the creatures they wouldn't be able to regenerate at all from the haze. Of course over time the haze would just spawn more of them, but it would take a while and by then Joshua would have moved on to the next area.
Soon the pair got far enough into the town where they came across a gas station. It didn't surprise Joshua that a gas station was the first building they saw as they made their way into town. Most small towns seemed to be designed that way so that people that were just passing through could easily refuel and move on. Looking at the gas station made Joshua think for a moment of the obsolete nature of vehicles at the moment. For most people they could probably run at the speed of at least thirty miles an hour if they were on the slow side now days. Someone like Joshua could break seventy miles an hour if he truly pushed himself and when he used his aura blast to push forward occasionally, he eclipsed a hundred miles an hour easily. Joshua put those thoughts to the back of his mind as he finally saw his first group of creatures that were hanging out together.
In total there were over a dozen of the creatures shambling around the gas station with a couple of them being zombies. Joshua wasn't so worried since the two zombies were both male and seemed to be wearing torn up close from before the changes to the world. Anyone that would be counted as an explorer now days would at least have some form of protection on such as armor or robes. These two were just in a dirty torn up t-shirts and jeans. The group of zombies completely ignored them as they passed by since the rabbits were using their presence hiding abilities on everyone. The regular haze creatures had no chance of finding them and the zombies basically ignored them as long as they kept their distance.
As they made their way further into town Joshua was getting hit by a wave of nostalgia as he looked over the surroundings. It was so familiar to the sights he had seen at the end of the first phase with all the torn up buildings filled with the annoying haze creatures. This time around there weren't any signs of other people in the area though so there was a high chance that no one had bothered trying to take this town up to this point. Any blood that he could see around the place was clearly so old you could hardly tell that's what it was.
From time to time they had to stop and slow there pace as they moved around broken glass on the grown to avoid making any noise. It was fairly easy for Cinder since she could precisely use her legs to avoid anything, so Lilly was having an easy time of it. If Joshua came across something he needed to get past he'd just jump over it and glide with his scarf until he landed in a safe area. There were plenty of cars and broken electric poles and lamps that littered the street and got in the way from time to time, but they had no problem easily getting around it. Traversing the area wasn't too hard for them in the end and instead of heading straight for the center Joshua was circling the place and using the system map to mark places he saw that stood out. If they ended up fighting something that was large enough to move all around the town they needed to know their surroundings well enough.
Eventually they came across a small group of haze creatures that was shambling near a dead end of town with a couple of buildings nearby. At first Joshua was going to just walk by and leave them to their own devices, but then he had an idea of how he could thin out some of the creatures towards the center of town. After having made a full lap around the outskirts of town he pretty much finished his observations, but he knew it would be harder to do the same the further they went into the haze. The boss creature tended to keep more haze creatures and zombies the further you went into town and there was a high likely hood that some of the female zombies would be in that direction if there were any in the first place.
So they were going to need a distraction to lure a lot of the creatures out of the middle of town. He wasn't expecting it to lure the boss or even a sub-boss, but at least they could clear there path a little bit. So Joshua signaled Lilly and Cinder to stand back for a moment as he started to walk into the alleyway dragging his short sword along the wall to make as much noise as possible. It clearly irritated the creatures as they all shrieked at him as they started shuffling in his direction. Joshua observed them and noticed their levels were all over the place with them being either one or two star creatures. There levels ranged from thirty three all the way up to thirty six, so Joshua assumed the boss for the area was most likely going to be level forty. They were simply called abomination by the system and that nearly made him chuckle to himself if there wasn't all the tension from the upcoming battle.
When the creatures got close enough they immediately lunged towards Joshua at great speed while destroying the concrete underneath there feet. They were clearly far faster and stronger than they had been the last time he had seen some of these creatures and he could assume that would be the case when he went to a city as well. Joshua dodged the first pair and allowed them to crash behind him while he slashed off the head of the last one that flopped to the ground lifeless he quickly turned around and shot the other two in the back of the head with his gun killing them instantly. Although the creatures were much higher level the basic ones were still extremely fragile.
'Alright that should be enough noise to attract some attention let's get to the roof and start moving from there.' Joshua said turning to Lilly who nodded and had Cinder climb up the building. Joshua leaped after them and was prepared to move to the next part of his plan.