Chapter 31 — Ankhegs
Ankhegs were insectoid monsters which lived in the southern regions. Their bodies were about five feet wide, and their body length could reach up to thirty feet. These creatures had Tremorsense and could detect even the slightest vibration within sixty feet. With huge jaws which could even tear apart trees, they would attack their prey with bites and crush them with their powerful jaws. Their bodies also produced strong acid as an alternate attacking method. They were basically huge insects with six to twelve legs, each armed with a sharp claw.
These gigantic insects could also perform a fatal acid spray attack once every day, killing their target right on the spot unless they had a strong acid immunity. An even more deadly feature of Ankhegs was that they mostly lived in groups of two to five and had an appetite for both fresh and rotten meat.
They were normally non-aggressive creatures which rarely went on the offense, but things were different when they were hunting for food. They would not stop attacking until they had secured their prey and filled their bellies.
As ankhegs lived in small packs, they seldom appeared in large numbers. Unless something abnormal occured, they rarely left the special environment in which they lived. Due to the fact that these insectoids preferred a warm climate with soft soil, the northern regions were unsuitable for them. As a result, the merchant guards who hailed from the North did not know anything about them.
"Let's leave this place for now!" Soran observed the surroundings and continued, "These monsters lurk underground. There’s no way for us to find them.
"Stick together! Ankhegs can detect our presence from our footsteps, and they tend to attack lone individuals."
As they were about to retreat, a message popped up in Soran's view:
"Ankheg Cluster (Grade 3)
Challenge Rating: Level 8 (Monster Level: 10), has the ability to spray strong acid
Highest and Lowest Attributes: 20 and 10 (Total Attribute Points: 80-90)
Specialty: Acid Spray, Corrosion Damage, Bite Attacks
The challenge rating of the ankheg cluster was even higher than the snake demon he met before, the reason being that they came and went like shadows as they lurked underground and appeared in groups.
They were once the nemesis of adventurers, having the ability to kill off several members of a small adventurer squad just with their initial acid spray attack.
In order to take on these monsters effectively, one had to have great Detect and Listen skills. If not, the skill Wilderness Survival would be required to discover their location and avoid their preemptive strikes.
Seeing Soran retreating with caution, the others seemed to realize the severity of the situation and began retreating while drawing their weapons.
"Normally, ankhegs rarely appear…" Soran continued to observe his surroundings while focusing his senses to detect changes underground.
"It can't be that the ankheg rampage has already begun?! Damn!
"Although I did kill these bugs, I never paid attention to when the rampaging started. I don't even remember who issued the quest…"
Within the same time period, various major incidents had occurred around the world. These included the skinning incidents, the upheaval of the Descendants of God, the migrations of the ancient red dragon and the giants, and many other incidents, which was why Soran did not pay much heed to puny quests like the ankheg rampage.
If one had to rate these incidents, the skinning incidents would be B rank while the upheaval of the Descendants of God would be A rank. The ancient red dragon incident was a special A-rank event, while insignificant things like the ankheg rampage could not even be rated as E rank. Considering such, most players did not even bother with these events unless they happened to be in the region when one took place.
Nonetheless, ankhegs were rare monsters which were deadly yet valuable. Ankheg shells were light and resilient; ankheg gear forged by highly skilled blacksmiths with over 300 Smithwork were one third the weight of full plate mail but were equivalent in the protection they offered.
In most places, a full set of ankheg armor could be sold for over 3000 Gold Derahls, while the raw materials could still fetch a price ranging from 600 to 800 Gold Derahls. It was worth noting though that only highly skilled blacksmiths would purchase the raw materials as others could not process the tough shells.
Ankheg shells could only be forged into armor through special enchantment techniques, thus such equipment was mostly tailor-made for customers who ordered it. If one could not find a skilled blacksmith who needed the shells after slaying an ankheg, they would have to settle for the large shell on its head and simply use it as a shield. It was a natural shield which did not require processing and had decent defensive power, as well as acid- and corrosion-resistant attributes. Killing an ankheg was more profitable than slaying a snake demon.
The ground suddenly shook, and a weird hissing sound could be heard. After Soran and the merchant guards retreated to the road, the side of the road bulged upward and revealed a ferocious, gigantic insectoid monster. The ankheg lunged toward one of their horses and snapped off its head with a powerful bite. Blood gushed out of the stump, and all that remained on the ground was a dead horse which had its body and head separated.
They really do have strong jaws! Soran thought as he swiftly hid behind a tall tree.
The acid spray attack which the ankhegs could use once every day was a fatal attack for low-grade professions; its power was equivalent to that of the spell Acid Arrow.
The guards instantly went behind cover as well while pulling out their crossbows.
The head guard yelled as he unsheathed the longsword on his back. His body seemed to have swelled up, and the veins on his arms began to pop out and wriggle like worms. Due to the over-congestion of blood, his skin reddened as he continued his battlecry. At the same time, one of the guards rolled forward, one hand holding a buckler to defend his torso while the other loaded a special bolt into his crossbow.
"Rage?!" Soran squinted at the guard leader and murmured, "A Northern barbarian?!"
The special bolt struck the ankheg and caused a small explosion, and the ankheg immediately turned its head toward the guard who fired the bolt. Apart from the explosive bolt, most of the other bolts bounced off the ankheg, with only a small portion of them hitting the body parts not covered by the shell. As mentioned before, the shell of an ankheg was akin to full plate mail armor, thus normal crossbow bolts were ineffective unless they hit critical parts of the monster.
The ankheg sprayed its strong acid, sending a green, gooey splash of acid at the exposed guard. The guard rolled back out of panic but was still hit by some of the acid. The acid easily ate its way through the buckler and the layer of leather armor, creating green smoke as it corroded the guard's arm. He growled in pain, but still managed to cut off the chunk of corroded flesh of his arm while clenching his teeth.
The guard leader with bloodshot eyes charged in with his sword held high, his bones crackling from the pressure. He closed the five-meter gap with a single leap through the air and hacked at the ankheg's head.
Clang! The sound of metal and shell striking one another broke out along with the ankheg’s pained screeches.
It shook its head as it attempted to body slam the head guard, but he turned aside and dodged the incoming fangs. With a backhand strike, the head guard counterattacked the ankheg and stabbed its back. The thin layer of newly exposed skin was easily torn apart, and a dark green fluid oozed out of the gaping wound.
A Grade 3 Northern barbarian; Soran could not believe that the head guard, who did not seem to be very talented, was actually Level 10 in his profession.
Soran gripped his curved sword and charged out from behind the tree, running alongside the ankheg to stay out of its vision. Now that the acid spray attack was used, it was a lot safer for Soran to engage the monster. As long as he avoided its jaws, he could take a few hits from its claws without suffering severe injuries.
How could he sit back and let Slaughter EXP slip through his fingers?
"Pass me a crossbow!" Soran shouted in a low voice.
The merchant guard nearby reacted quickly and tossed the crossbow he was holding to Soran. Loading the crossbow with a godly speed which produced afterimages, Soran shot the bolt at the jaws of the ankheg.
"Attack its mandible!"
He threw the crossbow aside after firing a shot and rushed at the ankheg with his curved sword. As he passed by the ankheg, Soran abruptly bent his knees and slid on the ground, opening a two-foot-long wound on the ankheg's stomach with a single slash.
The ankheg was still focused on the head guard, slashing its claws at the raging barbarian. It managed to land a hit on the head guard's chest, but the dangerous slash only left a bloody scratch as the leather armor stopped a lot of its force.
The head guard made a barbaric roar as he hacked at the ankheg with his longsword, cutting off the legs on one of its sides.
Soran flipped up with one hand in a swift and smooth motion after dashing past the ankheg. The ankheg was almost five meters tall despite having half of its body underground; that was almost as high as one story of a building. Using the ankheg's back as a foothold, he leapt into the air as his legs produced the explosive power to launch him up. Gripping the hilt of the curved sword with both hands and pointing the tip downward, he stabbed straight at the ankheg's head.
Dark green fluid gushed out from the wound. Some splashed onto Soran's arm, and he could feel a burning sensation.
The gigantic ankheg struggled as it shook its body, sending soil and mud everywhere, but Soran showed no mercy and simply held onto its head with his legs to maintain his balance. With a brutal expression, Soran pulled the sword out and stabbed its head once again, sending more blood splashing onto himself. His clothes had holes here and there as the acid corroded his shirt.
The ankheg fell down with a thud. It writhed and struggled, but it was all in vain as it eventually lay silent on the ground.
Soran released the sword from his hands and laid on the ground as well. He gasped for air while bearing the pain from his arms; his shoulder was slightly corroded by the acid and showed bloody spots.
"It's finally dead."
Soran took in a deep breath and stood up. It was only then that he realised the sharp thorns on the shell had scratched his thigh when he was mounting the ankheg's head, creating a half-foot wound with blood oozing out.
The battle was short; it was a bad move to let the battle drag on as the length of a battle could be the difference between life and death.
A merchant guard came over and gave the shaky Soran a hand, then applied medicinal ointment on his wounds while asking, "You okay? Take off your shirt for now!
"That was quite the strong acid, so we'll get Mistress to heal you up later!"
The battle ended with three casualties—one heavily injured and two lightly injured.
Soran calmed his breath then tore off a clean part of his shirt and used it as a bandage to tie his injured thigh up.
He then yelled, "Leave right now!
"Ankhegs live in groups! The battle just now must have alerted them!"
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