As they moved closer Joshua made sure to stop the group when he felt they were too close to the target to move any further without getting its attention. With all the brush in the way there was no way they were going to be able to actually see the thing, but even so Joshua could sense the creature not too far away from them on the other side of the brush. The creature's aura was fairly large and was on par with what basically amounted to a sub-boss in their latest dungeons. That was saying a lot for something that just basically was a creature on the edge of the forest. Most of the time any beast near the edge of the territory was usually the weakest with the powerful taking control of the center of the area or the dungeon itself.
Joshua turned to look at the rest of the group after he stopped them all from rushing into the brush to see if they could get a view of the creature. He knew that if they ended up doing that then in all likelihood the beast would notice them and they'd be thrust into another fight without knowing what the full strength of the beast they were fighting could be. If this was a step up in territory then things would become more challenging since they didn't get to level up all that much in the last area. Tank and Cinder were far more powerful, but they were also enormous and would draw the attention of more beast in the area the moment they appeared. They needed to figure out as much as they could about these beast they were about to face before they went in head on.
Having made up his mind Joshua pointed upward and they all looked up to see a bunch of branches blocking their view. The y looked at him a bit confused so he decided to send them a message through the party chat. 'Let's climb up to those branches so we can get a better view of the creature we're about to face from above. We're already close enough as it is, we just need to get a clear path to see it.'
They all nodded at his words before leaping up as quietly as possible as they made their way up the tree. At this point they were all at a high enough level to where there stats were more than high enough to make it easy for them to do such a thing. A few leaps of jumping between trees and they were far enough up the tree to get to the branches and look down on the creatures in the area. These trees were fairly tall so it honestly didn't surprise Joshua when he found out that the creatures in this area would be fairly big as well. When he got up high enough to get a good look at the creature that they were stalking he gulped a bit at what he saw. The beast was rather large standing at nearly three stories tall even though it was one of the weaker ones in the area.
When Joshua used observe on it he was able to see that it had two stars next to its name and was only level sixty-six which meant that it was the lowest level possible in the area yet it still felt as powerful as a sub-boss. These creatures had to have been fairly powerful with a lot of potential to feel so strong even when it came to the weaker ones. The creature was called an evolved praying mantis and that was the main reason Joshua gulped in the first place when he first saw it. It looked exactly like a praying mantis from before the evolution except it was far larger with sharper sickles and a much bigger head that looked like it would have no problem swallowing Joshua whole if given the chance. Its body looked as though it was made for swift attacks instead of the more solid an unmovable bodies of the Ant Queen and sub-boss scorpion. This insect was clearly built to be able to move at a decent speed and if it was anything like its predecessors it would probably have extremely quick reflexes. It's exoskeleton still looked fairly tough so there was no way it would be taken down by just one or two quick hits so instead they'd have to wear it down without getting to close to those dangerous sickles that looked as if they were grabbed by them then they'd end up being cut in half well before the thing could try to eat them.
They didn't know if the creature had any added abilities that they should worry about, but usually the more basic forms of the beast they come across don't have any extra abilities. A sub-boss or a boss version of this creature could have all sorts of things that would make it stand apart from the rest, but this one definitely wasn't at that level even if it did feel powerful. 'Well what do you guys think?' Joshua asked through the party chat to get all of their attention.
'From what I can tell it seems to be alone, so as long as we don't go blowing up half the area we shouldn't expect to see more of them rushing over to join in the fight. It's still risky that we don't know all of the things that it can do, but we can use this one to test that out.' Aito said as his eyes seemed be sharper as if he was looking for any weakness on the beast even from this great distance.
'Well if it's anything like a normal Praying Mantis then we better watch out for its speed and reflexes with those front legs it has.' Adrian said getting everyone's attention. 'My soul beast is similar to these things after all so I expect them to have something similar to my own abilities if only at a much smaller scale. That still makes them extremely dangerous to deal with.' Adrian was right about that. If they had heightened reflexes and a penchant for aiming for weak spots then they could end up being incredibly troublesome. It would be facing a far larger version of Adrian's skill set in some regards although none of them expected the creature to be anywhere near as smart when it came to combat.
They all observed it for a while just to get a good judge of the beast actions as it wondered around in between some trees in the distance. It wasn't in a clearing so there wouldn't be all that much room for combat without the trees and brush getting in the way the entire time. That was unless they didn't decide to attack from above which seemed to be the best idea under the circumstances. The front liners could go in with a surprise attack from above before taking it head on from that point forward while the back liners all attacked from up in the trees constantly. It would make it so that the beast would be on the defensive for most of the fight hopefully.
'Well are you guys ready to go in for the attack?' Joshua asked through the party chat after they had all figured out how they planned on taking on the creature. His question was met with several nods before he smiled back. 'Well then I'll go in for the first strike with Adrian and Amy following close behind. The rest will attack from afar or buff the group when needed.'
After everything was set they moved in above the creature so that it wouldn't notice them as it was too busy picking through the brush below apparently looking for something to eat. Its large frame made it so that it had to bend over to effectively comb through the brush and that made it hard for the large insect to notice their approach. They all made certain to avoid causing too much noise in their approach until they all posted up in the positions they felt most comfortable with attacking the creature from. Aito was the furthest back as he took out a long range rifle to deal some heavy damage when given the chance. It wasn't a sniper rifle since they were a bit too close for that type of weapon, but it gave him plenty of space for the buff that Henry put on him to improve his damage to be even more effective.
Lilly stayed further back as she simply brought out Flutter along with Jade and Light who both went into Amy and Joshua respectively. For this fight she wasn't going to be doing much outside of letting her more small scale pets help out so she decided to sit back and empower Flutter's boost ability throughout the fight. It would make it so that the entire group would get a boost of thirty percent to all of their physical stats at the moment and that would definitely improve the power behind the front lines attacks.
Henry on the other hand was the closest to the front liners even if he was staying up in the trees. He was making sure that he was close enough to the front line fighters to add more buffs if needed while still staying out of reach of the giant bug. With everyone in position for the upcoming fight Joshua nodded before taking out his scale blade and diving towards the praying mantis that seemed to notice something was off. Joshua waited to the last moment to flare out his aura shroud so the creature wouldn't notice him and the instant that he did, it turned its head up in surprise.
The large monster seemed genuinely surprised by the intruders into its area and it moved its two scythe like front legs up in front of it to try to block Joshua's attack. Its reflexes were incredible considering how little time it had to actually make that movement before Joshua was going to smash his scale blade into its head. It blocked Joshua first attack, but not without its guard being knocked down and leavings its chest a bit exposed. Joshua took that opening and twisted in the air before cleaving the blade towards its chest and sending several cracks all over its exoskeleton from the force of the blow. Even so the creature was fine if not a little pissed off which proved that even if it was an offensive fighter at heart its exoskeleton was still hard to break through in one blow.
The surprise assault wasn't over quite yet as Amy slammed her fist into the side of the large creatures head and pressed the praying mantis further off balance and clearly confused it as it seemed to shake its head a bit after the blow. Then Adrian swooped in and cut at one of its front legs, but even his heavier swords seemed to clank off of them proving how powerful they were in comparison to the rest of the creature's exoskeleton. Adrian shifted plans on the fly and sliced another one of his blades along the creature's chest thus fracturing the spot Joshua had damaged even more and causing the large beast to take a few steps back.
Once it finished recovering from the unexpected situation it let out a loud screech and its killing intent filled the area before it charged forward. Its two front legs moved in a blur as they reached out trying to hit Joshua first since he was the first one to attack it along with the one to leave the most damage. Joshua took up a defensive stance quickly and blocked the two large front legs. The force of the blow pressured him into the ground a bit as the dirt beneath him cracked and splintered. Even so Joshua held his position and now the large beast had its two best weapons out of the way for the others to go in for the kill.
That was when an armor piercing round came flying from above and smashed into the large crack that Joshua and Adrian had created earlier. The bullet pierced through sending some of the creature's guts spilling out as it screeched in pain, but the rest of the group wasn't going to let up there. Amy jumped back into the air as she once again slammed an empowered fist into the side of the creatures head thus causing it to stumble back more, but before it could move its head away several tails came out of Amy's shadow and pierced into the praying mantis's eye tearing it out.
Adrian used the opportunity to cut through the creatures skinnier back legs and sent it tumbling to the ground before Joshua finished it off by piercing his scale blade through the big opening in the insect's chest. He then slashed down cutting as much of its guts out as possible before the insect finally stopped moving and they could all feel a small surge in experience.