After feeling the surge of experience feel his body Joshua could tell that he wasn't that far away from leveling up once again. He was starting to realize how much harder it would be for them to actually level up going forward considering the fact that a sub-boss wasn't giving them enough to level up on its own any more even with the bonus experience for the level difference and the first time entering the dungeon. He put those thoughts aside as he threw the sub-boss's body into his inventory before examining the room once again. The place didn't have any other entrance or exit outside of the one they had come through so he expected the way forward to probably be inside of the large cave area that the sub-boss had come out of.
"Well that was a lot easier than I was expecting." Lilly said as she walked over to Joshua. Soon Tank and Cinder had both shrunk down to a more manageable size and had made their way over as well. "It was rather straight forward and too easy to enrage if you asked me. One little attack from Cinder and it was like it completely forgot Tank was even there in the first place."
"Yes, it was strong physically and could even push me back quite a bit if given the time, but I'd probably be able to outsmart it on my own let alone with all of you around as well. It wasn't going to be much of a challenge however you looked at it." Tank said getting a nod from Cinder.
"Yeah, it seems that most of these prairie dogs are that way. The only problem I can see coming from them is the fact that they have fairly high stats. When we get to the boss for this dungeon we can expect it to have far higher stats than normal bosses even if it isn't on the smart side." Joshua said as he started heading for the large cave in the wall. "Besides I'm looking forward to see what Naomi thinks of these teeth that we keep getting from these things. They seemed to be almost as strong and durable as my scale blade. Hell I'd be afraid to hit it head on with my scale blade in case it gets dinged up, those things are even tougher than the Ant Queen's armor."
"True, I'd rather not let one of the larger ones get the time to bite into my shell, it could possibly chew through it if given the oppurtunity." Tank said as he chuckled a bit. "Besides that their shrieking is even more annoying. I'm glad I don't have amazing hearing like some animals that could be a really big problem."
Soon the group got to the entrance of the cave and unlike the rest of the room the place was extremely dark and unlit, so Cinder started to glow a bit so they could get a good view of what was inside. They could see a few torches that lined the walls and weren't lit so Cinder sent over some small fireballs and lit up the entire area. Now that they had a good view Joshua was able to make out what was up ahead and he sighed in frustration when he saw another large gate blocking their way. Luckily this time there didn't seem to be any key pieces or anything along those lines that they needed to be able to open the gate and make their way forward. Instead this time there was a large pedestal placed out in front of the gate with a small raised platform in front of it. Joshua walked over to read what it said before paying any more attention to the gate itself.
[Congratulations on making it this far into the dungeon. There are only a few things left ahead, but this would be a good point to take a rest if you need it. The portion up ahead cannot be stopped the moment you step passed the gate. Prepare yourself for any more fights ahead and make sure to eat since there will be no more breaks for a while. Good luck in your explorations!]
"Well do you think we should take another break?" Lilly asked as she turned to look at Joshua for a moment with a small smile on her face.
"We should take a small break and have something to eat. Although the boss fight itself wasn't all that tiring we don't know when we'll be given another chance to take a break and get some rest again. I'd rather not burn us out before we even get to the real boss of this dungeon because we couldn't listen to a warning that was put right in front of our face." Joshua said as he scratched his beard a little bit in thought. They may have just taken a break and it was still early in the morning since the time to travel to the boss and the fight itself only took half an hour or so, but he wanted them all to be in tip top shape for whatever came next.
They didn't take out their tents or anything, but they did take out some food and set down for a rest. This time they didn't have to feed all of Lilly's pets that were in her soul realm since they had just recently done so, but the pets that fought alongside her all got something to eat just in case they didn't get any decent breaks up ahead. Joshua made sure to eat more than enough to get his fill of food as well then they all headed back over to the pedestal. Joshua looked to each of them to see if they were ready and got a silent nod in return then he stood on the raised platform with one foot and pressed down. As he pushed it down he could hear the gears of the gate in front of them start to move and watched as it slowly opened in a similar manner as the last gate they had to open to enter the place.
When the gate was fully opened Joshua got off the platform and it started to slowly close once again. They all rushed to get inside as quickly as possible and made it just in time. Then they saw that ahead of them was just another long pathway and they started to walk forward. That's when the gate behind them slammed shut and they started to hear a clicking sound that continued on giving them all a bad feeling. It was a timer and that usually meant they needed to move in a hurry. Lilly put Tank back into her soul realm along with Flutter and then she hopped on to Cinder's back as they started running down the path with Joshua leading the way.
Soon Joshua could hear slamming sounds from behind and he knew right away that they were in a similar situation as the stairs back in the ant hill. This time around it was a straight path, but that didn't make much of a difference. If he knew how dungeons worked then he knew that up ahead there was probably going to be creatures that tried to get in their way and within a few minutes he was proven right as a couple of prairie dogs dug into the ground and started charging directly towards them. Joshua knew they were on a time limit so instead of waiting for them he leaped forward and smashed his scale blade into the ground while sending out an aura blast. The attack knocked both of the creatures out of the ground and Cinder went for one while Jade jumped out of Joshua's shadow and went for the other. Lilly summoned Tank and had him stay small enough to sit on her head just so that he would get the experience from the fight and so he could help out from time to time if they ended up needing it in the end.
It didn't take long for them to finish off the creatures and then they started rushing forward once again. At first all they came across were groups of two prairie dogs at a time, but that changed as the path grew bigger and larger groups started to block their progress. If they were under more leisurely circumstances it wouldn't have really mattered all that much to them since all it really meant was more experience, but with the distant thumping sound coming from behind them the tension of the situation was on full blast and that was a problem. At first Joshua thought it would be similar to the Ant Hill and it would be a timed test that would just push them forward, but after the first couple of hours of the same thing over and over again Joshua knew that was no longer the case.
There was a reason why the message left on the pedestal told them to get some rest before attempting this and it wasn't because the creatures they were facing were challenging or even because of the tension from the path behind them slowly being destroyed. No the reason was because this was clearly a challenge of endurance. One hour of this sort of situation was tiring for most groups. Two hours pushing things, but after five hours of constantly fighting their way forward while having to keep pace ahead of the collapsing pathway behind them Joshua knew that this dungeon was meant for higher level adventurers.
Level fifty was the point where adventurers gained a sub job that made them even stronger even if it was by a small margin, at the same time the eight level difference would also give a lot of stats to most explorers especially if they trained to their full potential. Their stats would be enough to handle the pressure of the situation, and they'd most likely have skills to help out as well. On the other hand the average level forty adventurer would be struggling to fend off the prairie dogs and would be panicking with the collapse of the path behind them. In the end it would probably force them to do something stupid. Of course most level forty adventurers probably would have been destroyed by the large rock covered prairie dog anyways.
Joshua and Lilly on the other hand were far stronger than most explorers of the same level as them and it showed with how well they were keeping ahead of the trap. They continued to push forward while taking occasional small breaks whenever Cinder or Joshua got tired. Joshua had to make sure to not waste his aura when doing so since this was the first time he was being forced to fight continuously for such a long period of time. After the twelve hour mark Joshua noticed that the path was starting to change a bit as if they were reaching a new area that was different from the rest of the dungeon. He was hoping that whatever was up ahead would include the final boss. At this point they had spent nearly four days in the dungeon and it was by far the longest experience he had ever had with one personally.
After a few more minutes of racing forward they finally saw a large gate blocking their path with several of the prairie dogs standing in their way. This time it seemed like Cinder was tired of fighting the creatures as she shrieked loudly and shot a blast of smoldering smoke that covered the entire area. They could hear the screaming of the burning creatures but Cinder wasn't done just yet. She then constantly sent fireballs into the smoke in the direction of where the screams were coming from and soon they couldn't hear anymore screaming.
As the smoke cleared Joshua rushed forward and noticed that all of the prairie dogs were severely burnt as they laid dead on the floor looking back towards them. Joshua could feel that he leveled up finally from the fight and he smiled a bit at that. Even with all the time they had spent in the dungeon fighting all over the place they had only leveled up three times by this point and had reached level forty-three. He feared how long it would take him to level up once they reached level fifty and even more so when they reached level hundred.
On one of the bodies he found a key and he quickly pulled it off of the creature before putting all of the bodies into his inventory. He then rushed to the gate and placed the key in the opening. With one twist it started to open and the thumping sounds behind them came to a halt. They quickly made their way to the other side of the gate before collapsing into a heap. Although Joshua really wanted to finish the dungeon he couldn't help but close his eyes for a moment after the twelve hour nonstop fighting. He was covered in sweat, low on aura, and on the verge of passing out. "Let's get some rest, we'll check what comes next after a quick break." He said before laying down right there on the floor.