Joshua was one of the first people up in the morning as everyone seemed to be preparing for the big day ahead. He made sure to help the people that actually had cooking sub-jobs out with making a meal to get everyone a buff early on in the expedition. He knew that his cooking couldn't give a buff since he didn't have the class for it, but he could help out here and there to make things go faster. It didn't take long for everyone to be able to get a quick meal and clean up their camp before moving over to the large town.
When they all arrived outside of the haze the first thing that Joshua noticed was the fact that the haze was far denser than it had been in any of the other towns that he had seen since the haze ever became a thing. The haze from back in the James Town territory was half as dense as the one he was now seeing right before him and that would have given him a large cause for concern if he didn't have Becca along for her echolocation ability. It would make it easy to find all of the loud creatures while making their way through the area without even having to waste any of his aura reserves.
"So are we sticking to the plan of Becca, Marcus, and Joshua going in to scout the place out?" Henry asked while looking at the members of the main group.
"I think that would be for the best. With such a large group involved in this operation it'll be best if we have a decent idea of what we'll be going up against going forward. Wouldn't want to accidently attract one of the stronger beast over to the support group around the edge of town because we didn't know its location." Joshua said with a shrug before turning to look at Natalie. "How far can your mental link reach into the haze? I know it's got good distance in any other situation."
"It's large enough to spread out over this entire town even with the haze so don't worry about it." Natalie said while looking over the large cloud of purple haze. "I'm guessing you want me to keep the link connected between you three?"
"That and I'd like for you to relay what's going on to everyone in the main group while we're in there. You should probably use Becca's vision as the main view point since my aura sense won't be able to pick up on any of the haze creatures." Joshua explained.
"No problem, just don't do anything too dangerous in there." Natalie replied while everyone else seemed to agree with her sentiment. Joshua nodded before looking over to Becca and Marcus to make sure they were ready to head into the haze. They both followed in beside him as he made his way into the purple cloud and disappeared from everyone's sight.
The first thing Joshua noticed when stepping into the haze was that his range of vision was only a few feet in front of him. If they were forced to fight a powerful creature under such circumstances he knew that they would be put in a tough spot from the get go. Luckily there were actual ways to thin out the haze if given a chance and Joshua knew a few of them. The first way was to kill as many of the smaller haze creatures as possible. The creatures would continue to respawn, but the haze would thin out more and more as that happened. With the large group killing several of the smaller creatures on the fringe of the town the haze would automatically start to thin out as it refills the number of creatures.
The other way to clear out haze in an even more efficient manor was to take out the sub-boss level beast. Those creatures were powerful on their own even if they weren't on the same scale as the boss level beast inside the haze. They would drain the haze around them while fighting you fairly quickly. That would force the haze to thin out and as long as they moved on to the boss soon after it wouldn't have time to refill itself from the source. Joshua kept all these ideas in mind as they made their way further into the haze to check things out.
Thanks to Becca using her echolocation ability they were able to avoid any of the creatures that were on the fringe of the haze just outside of the town. They wouldn't have been hard for Joshua to deal with, but at the same time any sort of fighting could easily cause a commotion and attract more haze creatures to their location. If enough of those creatures started to gather up around them then Joshua was certain that the sub-boss level creatures would make their way over and taking them on with just the three of them seemed like a horrible idea.
They waded around the creatures for a few minutes as they moved at a rather slow pace to make sure they didn't make too much noise until they could get to an area where they could climb up buildings to stay away from the haze creatures in the streets. Eventually the first building came within Becca's echolocation range, which was fed back through the mental link that Natalie had set up for both Joshua and Marcus. The first building was a bit nostalgic for Joshua since it ended up being a gas station that reminded him of the one he had been left at during the start of the first phase.
Once they got close enough to the gas station the first thing that Joshua noticed was a bunch of haze creatures that were shambling around the area. They moved at such a slow pace that they came through clear as day for Becca's echo sight. 'They seem to be all in the low seventies level wise.' Becca said through the mental link since she was the only one that could observe them at the moment.
'That's good, the large group should be able to handle the weaker ones without too much trouble if they're mostly around that level.' Joshua responded before his attention turned to two figures he was able to see that crashed through some of the food isles in the market section of the gas station. Since Becca also turned and focused on them as well their images became much clearer through the echolocation. When Joshua noticed their feminine figure even with all the glaring grotesque injuries he knew that they were zombies that had been brought back by the haze.
'Not good female zombies mean empowered zombies. It doesn't matter if they died in the first phase or as explorers, but I get the feeling they were victims of the first phase. They don't seem to have any gear or equipment on them.' Marcus said as he started to write down something in a booklet he had on hand while also looking at something from the system that he was fiddling with. "I'll mark and map out everything from now on, so Becca can just focus on leading the way while Josh protects us if anything goes wrong.'
The other two nodded as they started to edge their way around the gas station and head further into town. With Becca's echolocation Joshua was able to get a good idea of the town's structure. It was bigger than any of the other towns he had been to so far, but was also more compact with taller buildings. They wouldn't have any problem traveling by roof top if they needed to in the area, since the buildings were close enough together. With the grapple hooks it would be easy to even get across buildings of different heights, so there would be no issue moving from place to place while exploring the area. One building that stood out to Joshua was a rather large water tower that wasn't too far away from the gas station that they first came across.
The water tower stood high up over everything around it with the haze just reaching a little bit above it. Joshua wasn't sure if the thing was still filled with water, but if the large group ever got in trouble with too many of the creatures going after them at the same time, they could always bring the water tower down to flood them out if need be. It was a strategy he'd keep at the back of his mind to tell the others about later.
The other thing he noticed while moving through the town was the fact that there were a lot female zombies in the area. It reminded him of the fact that all of the zombies from the first phase had been forced to return to the town and city areas once the phase had ended. That meant that any zombies within a certain range of this town were all gathered here and stuck within the haze. Luckily from what he could see of all the male zombies around none of them had any explorer equipment on them. This meant they wouldn't have to deal with high level explorers zombies that could have all sorts of abilities and would instead only have to deal with first phase zombies.
With that at the back of their minds they headed to the nearest building and went inside to check around and see how many of the haze creatures were inside some of the buildings. Marcus and Becca both had no trouble whatsoever sneaking around since that was one of the highlights of their job abilities after all. Their footsteps were incredibly silent which made it easy for them to avoid causing any commotions once they entered a building. They easily stepped over random debris on the floors with expert precision which made things go smoothly. Joshua however had an ace up his sleeve to make sneaking around easier for him. He had his scarf to make his body near weightless so that all of the steps he took made no noise as long as he didn't put much pressure into them.
Moving through the store quietly made it so that they were able to avoid grabbing the attention of the haze creatures that were in the building. The creatures were actually making more noise than they were as they shambled into shelves or stumbled over glass. It made it easy for Joshua's group to pinpoint where the creatures were at exactly and sneak around them. Joshua realized this type of sneaking around wasn't going to be a possibility once they came through the area in a larger group of twenty-five people. Even if the rest of the guild was drawing a lot of attention away at the fringe of the town there would always be stragglers that would get in their way that they'd have to take out.
Joshua decided to take the lead just ahead of Becca once they got to the stairs that started to lead up the building. He knew even with her echolocation she could still be taken by surprise if one of the creatures decided to burst through a door on the way up. Luckily as they made their way up the stairs they didn't come across any of the creatures clinging to the walls or the ceiling. Every once in a while they would hear some noise come from one of the rooms they passed, but they kept slowly making their way to the top of the building.
Once they reached the roof things started to move at a quicker pace as they explored the town. They moved from roof top to roof top with Marcus focusing on mapping out the area and marking any buildings they passed over that seemed like advantageous areas for them to use against the haze creatures. Tall buildings that allowed them to have a high ground, large buildings that had lots of roof space that gave them room to set up to fight on, any sort of advantage he could find he would mark out as they moved around the town.
Even if they were making decent progress they still had to make sure not to draw any attention to themselves as they moved around the area and went deeper into the town. It had been well over two hours of them quietly exploring and marking out different portions of the town when they finally came across something that stood out. They found a rather large school building that seemed to be three stories high. It wasn't all that tall, but it took up a lot of area. However what they found resting inside the school building was what surprised them.