223 Chapter 169: Is this the Ruler of the Territory? Part 1
For the rest of the morning the group followed Joshua's aura sense as they hunted down more of the stronger praying mantises deeper into the forest. The fights weren't always as easy as the first time around since they occasionally ran into more than one at a time, but it seemed like these stronger ones tended to stay alone for the most part. The most they had ever come across at once was a pair of praying mantises that were busy eating some centipedes that they had apparently hunted down. One of the praying Mantises was a bit larger than the other and when Joshua observed it he noticed that it had an extra star for potential and another level showing that it was a bit stronger than its partner.
Lilly was basically salivating when she saw the more powerful praying mantis and the group quickly got to work on taking the pair of future town guardians down. The fight took longer since the stronger one seemed to be able to put up more of a struggle even though it was the one that they had attacked first. They split the two of them up with a flash bang and Tank knocked the larger one away from its partner. The more experienced one however seemed to have honed its instincts from several fights over its life span as it avoided Tank being able to pin it down and nearly slashed out one of Tank's eyes. Luckily the large turtle tilted its head out of the way in time and the sharp scythe like front leg simply grated across his shell.
Cinder came over and helped web up the praying mantis from behind and slowed down its movements with her ice fog. Eventually they were able to pin the big guy down in time for Lilly to tame it after the rest of the group had already taken care of the other one. A few moments later and there were two more praying mantises in Lilly's soul realm and she was smiling happily at finding an even stronger one. It still had the same skills as the others, but its stats were definitely higher.
They continued to go through similar fights until they had ended up taming twelve of the creatures in total. Apparently a dozen was more appealing to Lilly than just ten. Of course the guys mocked Joshua for being a push over once again, but they would have done the exact same thing if they were in his position. Besides now they'd be able to have three of the creatures at every gate if necessary to protect the town. These were the first creatures that Lilly had tamed that had the ability to fly to some extent even if it wasn't for long distances. It would definitely give them an advantage in protecting the town, but they'd have to make sure they didn't fly to close to the mountain range since that area was home to several powerful bird like creatures that would love some praying mantis for a meal.
When they had finished their taming spree the group finally decided to get back on track and head towards the entrance of the Grand Canyon. From where they were on the map generated by the system they knew that they were getting close to the entrance, but from what Tank had said earlier they also knew that there was a powerful creature in that direction as well. They didn't know how strong, but if the small fries in the area were these powerful praying mantises that they had been taming then the big guy should be something on another level. Especially since it seemed like Tank was correct and there was no dungeon in the territory. They had long since passed the center of the forest and Joshua wasn't able to sense any type of dungeon like structure with his aura pulse. All he ended up doing was attracting the attention of a few praying mantises that they had to be sneaky to avoid on their way out of the area. Taking on several of the stronger praying mantises was not a good idea for their smaller group.
Since they knew that there was no dungeon there wasn't really much reason for them to stay in the area for much longer so they just kept going forward until they started to reach an area where the forest around them started to change. At first it was just little things like the fact that they were no longer seeing any more Praying Mantises around them, but then it became more obvious as several trees seemed to be cut down to the point that there was nothing, but stumps left over in remains. When Joshua got this far in, both he and Tank seemed to get the same feeling from up ahead. It felt like they were walking in on the territory of a powerful creature. The area was suffocating with its aura and that was the most likely reason that none of the other creatures even attempted to come over into the area.
From that point on Joshua signaled for the rest of the group to be on high alert as they moved forward. They were no longer going to be able to take on any enemies buy surprise with an attack from above since the trees had been deliberately cut down. It seemed like whatever creature they were about to face was relatively smart since it knew that its size would only make having so many trees around a hindrance in the end. It got to the point that even the low brush had been cut away and the only thing to even try to hide in was the slightly tall grass that came up to being just above Joshua's knees. They could probably try to crawl forward, but at this point it wouldn't matter since it would be easy to sense them coming for any creature. They were the only other sources of aura or mana in the area so it was easy to pin point their location.
After marching past the last few tree stumps that had been cut away they finally made it into a large open clearing where the grass had been cut so low that they could easily see their own feet and there was not a single tree stump in sight. Whatever lived in the space had torn them out root and all ages ago. With nothing to block their view of the area that they were walking into it was easy to inspect the area. The first thing they noticed was the entrance to the canyon in the distance on the other side of the clearing. There wasn't anything else in the way so it was pretty easy to see, but the next thing they noticed was a rather large indention in the grass near the center of the clearing that showed signs of something having been laying their recently.
Before the group could check out anything else though, both Joshua and Tank had noticed something approaching. Since they were out in the open and there was no possible way for them to hide Tank and Cinder both simply grew to a larger size in preparation for a hard fight. Tank grew to nearly five stories tall, but didn't go any further so that he didn't take up to much space in the clearing. There was still enough room for the group to move around easily if need be, but Tank could go bigger in a pinch. Cinder on the other hand grew to her full size and had already gotten to work laying out traps to use in the upcoming fight and setting up web along the tree stumps in the distance. It would make her faster if she got the chance to run along it, but she couldn't get the full effect of her webs with their being nothing in the area to hang them from.
The noise was getting closer and Joshua was starting to make out what it actually was. It sounded like extremely fast wing beats like that from a bug or a humming bird. When he turned to look towards the forest they had just come from he could see a rather large figure flying above the trees and coming for the clearing that they were all standing in with no place to go. The figure had something rather big held in its mouth and being supported by its two massive front legs. As it got closer they were able to make out what it was holding. It was actually carrying a dead praying mantis that was the size of the bulkier ones from the inner most part of the forest.
The creature this beast was treating as food was at least four stories tall, yet judging by the way it easily carried it along even when flying they could all tell that the beast must have been even bigger. It zoomed over head of them and landed at the part of the clearing that was in front of the entrance to the canyon. Its body weight shook the entire clearing a bit as it dropped its prey on to the ground and turned to look at the intruders in its territory. The aura it was giving off was quite powerful, but even so Joshua had the feeling that it didn't quite align to the aura of whatever originally stayed in this clearing. Even at its massive size where it towered over Tank and stood at nearly seven stories high while looking down on them it still wasn't big enough to feel in the large indention that took up a large part of the center of the clearing. The thought of there being something even more powerful around the corner did not sit well with Joshua.
The creature that was now glaring at the group was clearly of the same type as the rest of the praying mantises in the area. The major difference besides the size though was its darker green color to its exoskeleton and it having larger front legs with scythe like blades on them that had a red tinge to them as if it was pumping blood through them. It had its wings spread out a bit which would probably make it move much faster if needed and they had no way of taking the advantage in the upcoming fight. When Joshua observed the creature he noticed that it had five stars by its title of Evolved Praying Mantis and it was level seventy which made it the highest possible level in the area that they would normally come across.
"Well this guys on the rather big side, but he doesn't seemed to have a heightened intelligence of any kind." Tank said with his rumbling voice. The group didn't particularly mind talking aloud with that confirmed and there was no way for them to ambush the creature anyways with it being busy glaring right at them. "Its aura is rather strong though so be incredibly careful while taking it on."
"Tank is it just me or does this creatures aura not match up with the aura of the creature that rules over the area. It doesn't feel quite the same to me." Joshua asked confusing the rest of the group, but Tank seemed to understand what he was getting at as the large turtle nodded in response.
"You are correct, there is something different between the two auras and the one that we were feeling from earlier actually felt a little familiar to me, but I haven't felt that from this creature." Tank explained, but before they could continue the conversation the group realized that the giant praying mantis was done scoping them out. The large beast raised up to its full height and started to flutter its wings quickly causing a gust of wind to surge up in the clearing. It glared down on them as it slightly hovered above the ground before letting out a loud shrill shriek that filled the entire forest and agitated everyone's hearing.
Joshua could see that the shriek was so powerful that it actually seemed to be taking effect on some of the people in his group, but because his will stat was so high especially since he had flared his aura shroud the moment the beast had flown into the air, he was able to overcome it himself. The giant creature flew over at a surprising speed that nearly looked as fast as shunpo skill as it was about to tear into Amy and Adrian who were still getting over the confusion, but Joshua blinked into its path just in time to block the blow.
The force of the attack sent Joshua soaring back as his rock steady skill wasn't able to hold out against the blow under the circumstances. As Joshua picked himself up and looked at Tank and Cinder fending off the creature he knew that this was going to be a tough fight.