The entrance to the canyon was sloped down into what looked like a vast darkness since the light had trouble reaching all the way to the base of the canyon. The forest they had come from was lower than the prairie was in comparison to the canyon, but it was clear that they still had a long way to go for them to reach the floor of the canyon where things were most likely to get started. At first they were able to see sparse plant life along the walls of the canyon like occasional trees that had somehow decided to grow along the sides of the cliffs around them or vines that seemed to drape down further into the canyon. At first this was all they could see as they moved forward as quietly as possible while making sure to stay in a protective formation.
Joshua was at the front of the pack ready to take on the first challenge that appeared to get in their way. Jayce was a step behind him to step in and help at any moment while the Carsen Brothers stayed further back to jump in after the start of the fight. That gave them time to choose which beast they should take away from the group they faced and make things easier on Joshua. Abigail was at the back near all of the healers and ranged fighters ready to protect them at a moment's notice. The group made sure to keep close to each other as things grew darker and they started to hear little things in the distance. Things such as the flapping of wings that proved something with the ability to fly lived in this canyon. They could also hear scrunching sounds in the distance that echoed off of the large walls that towered over them. It was an extremely unsettling place to be, but they all still pushed forward prepared for whatever was to come.
'Well this is going to be a problem.' Henry said over the mental communication link that Natalie had set up between everyone. They had decided to put her abilities to use instead of using a party chat since it had more flexibility. It would make their communication seamless and quiet.
'What's going to be a problem?' Joshua asked without turning around as he stepped around a large rock that had apparently fallen from the cliffs above. Joshua could imagine how dangerous it would be for them if a rock slide occurred at some point and caused havoc all around them.
'The fact that we're losing light and fast. The further down we go the darker it gets and at some point we're going to have to use torches or lights to give us a view of our surroundings.' Henry said making everyone realize the problem.
'If that happens then we'll basically be advertising to all of the creatures around where we are. A big obvious light in this darker area is just asking for trouble. If the creatures we're up against stay down here in the darkness regularly then they most likely have night vision or a different way to find us in the dark.' Isabella said nearly absentmindedly as she seemed to be thinking over a solution to the problem.
'Well I can't use aura pulse down here unless we want to attract all of the monsters to our location. I can sense ahead quite a bit with my basic aura sense, but it's not as clear and we won't know exactly what we're up against if we rely on that.' Joshua explained as he did exactly what he said to see if he could find anything nearby. Outside of the aura coming off of the sparse plant life there wasn't much else for Joshua to notice, but he was certain that wouldn't be the case soon enough with the noises they were hearing in the distance.
'I think I have a solution to our problem.' Becca surprisingly spoke up to enter the conversation. Those who knew her well knew that she didn't talk much and mostly kept to herself unless there was something important that she planned to bring up. 'If we use a combination of my abilities along with Natalie's then we can all have a clear view of what's going on.'
Henry seemed to be the first one to understand what she was going after and nodded a bit before anyone else realized. 'She means we should combine her ability to use echolocation like a bat when she closes her eyes. If we combine that with Natalie's ability to send images of the surroundings to everyone through the mental link then we can have a good idea of what's going on around us even when it gets darker and harder to see.'
'It's a good idea, but even if we do that we won't be able to purely rely on it when it comes to combat.' Madalyn said warning everyone. 'Things will be way too chaotic to use that ability under those circumstances so we will need some light at that point.'
'Well we can go with Becca's idea while were moving through the area until we come across a fight. Then we'll have some decent light from one of Lilly's pets in my aura which should make most creatures go for me in the first place. It'll be a good way to keep these beast focused on the main tank after all.' Joshua explained getting everyone to agree as Natalie and Becca started to work together to send the images of the surroundings into everyone's minds.
It was a bit weird at first seeing everything in this weird black and white sonar like vision that seemed to flow over the surroundings. The images came in a constant stream that made it seem fairly close to what it would look like for Becca. It was still a little off, but it was more than enough for them to proceed forward without any issues for a while. Soon it was so dark when they reached the base of the canyon that the place was basically impossible to see without looking through the images that Natalie was constantly sending over. Joshua was able to use his aura sense a bit, but it was made for picking up on the aura within living objects surrounding him. He had trouble seeing any rocks in his way with just his aura sense.
It was when they reached this point that the flapping of wings that they had heard earlier became clearer and that put a pit in everyone's stomach as they could hear the approach of some unknown creatures nearby. It didn't take long for the creatures to be picked up by Becca's sight for everyone to see and they weren't exactly happy with the images they were getting. The creatures that were making all the noise were actually a massive group of bats that were hovering above the part of the canyon they were entering and landing along the walls as they looked down for food.
These bats were definitely not anything like a normal bat after all. Most of them were the size of a regular horse with giant wings to lift their bodies into the air. Then you had some of the larger ones that were even bigger and were closer to the size of elephants with giant wings. These bats were going to be an issue simply because there were at least a hundred of them with five of them being the elephant sized ones.
'Do you think there is any way we can sneak past the area?' Laura asked as she pulled out her sword preparing for a fight knowing full well that the odds of them getting by the place without one were fairly slim.
'Doubtful, these bats are preparing to go hunting for a meal once it gets completely dark. My best guess is they have a cave nearby that they sleep the mornings away in and have decided to come out to prepare to hunt for some food. They have just as much ability to see in this canyon as Becca does if not more and I highly doubt we can sneak by all of them.' Joshua said before he started to think of a plan to take on this large group. The only times he had ever felt so outnumbered before in the past was when he faced the swarm of bees, the trap filled with small lizards, the ant hoard, and most recently the mob of spirit beast that swarmed the platform. In all of those cases the enemies were either far weaker than his group or there were regulations to how combat would go in the fight. This time around that was clearly not the case.
When Joshua observed the smaller bats he saw that they were all two stars which most likely meant that they were on the weaker side of the creatures in the canyon in comparison to the rest. Even so they were still level seventy-six which meant they were extremely dangerous in the massive group they were currently in. The larger bats on the other hand were all three stars and level seventy-seven to prove that they were stronger than their counterparts. With the size difference they probably had other ways to fight as well, but they were still small in comparison to Tank or Cinder. The problem was the fact that all of these beast could fly and that would be hard to deal with in an effective manner.
'Alright the biggest issue we'll have against these creatures is the fact that they can fly so effortlessly in this environment. We'll need to focus on taking them out of the air if we want to have an easier time facing them. I think Cinder and Isabella will be perfect for this.' Joshua said with a small smile.
'I'm assuming you want us to make it colder so they have a harder time flying and staying in the air.' Isabella said while nodding at the idea.
'Yes eventually the combination of the two of you creating a cold environment will make it so that their thin wings will freeze up and it'll become too hard for them to stay airborne. While you guys are doing that I'll attract them to me and hold most of them off. The Carsen brothers will take three of the larger bats off of me while Jayce walls off any of the smaller ones that try to break passed me. Mages focus on taking down as many of the smaller ones as possible, same goes for other ranged fighters. Melee fighters try to help the tanks take down the big guys as quickly as possible.' Joshua explained the strategy before stepping forward to create some space between him and the rest of the group so that he had room to stop any of the bats from getting passed him in large amounts.
Joshua grabbed his scale blade from off of his back and took on a defensive position as Lilly allowed Light to jump into Joshua's aura. He let his aura shroud flare into being as he could feel it boost his strength along with other small boost from different things they had set up in the group. From Flutters boost ability empowering the entire group, to Henry's tactician boost that gave him a smaller boost in stats in comparison. He also had the boost gained from eating Aito's food from earlier and he had everything he would need to take the onslaught of these bats head on right away.
His aura along with Light using his abilities to brighten the area started to grab the attention of all of the bats up above them as they started to look over in his direction. At first they seemed to be a bit confused since the aura and light he was generating was blinding in the darkness and messed with their senses a bit, but once that settled down they started to lift up from off of the cliff and create a large swarm in the air above them. These bats were focused on him primarily since he was generating the annoying light, but if they had the same vision as Becca then they had most likely already noticed the group behind Joshua preparing to fight as well.
Joshua could see that was the case as some of the bats were angled so that they could fly past him and towards the others so Joshua decided to get things started with a heroic shout and get all of the attention on him from the get go.