Chapter 33 — Battle
Giving their best was crucial for adventurers even when taking on the weakest of monsters; not everyone could shrug off the deaths of their teammates as if nothing had happened after all.
For this very reason, the head guard gathered the best of his men to exterminate the ankhegs. Soran briefly glanced at them, realizing they were all warriors who were Grade 2 or above. Warrior was the easiest profession to train in, considering the only requirements were a sufficient amount of meat and repeated training in skills. Other professions, especially spellcasters, required a lot of resources to level up and advance to the next grade. With that said, becoming a Grade 3 warrior was not an easy task either.
"Spread out! Lift the shields!" Soran took command of the subjugation group and ordered the men in a low voice, "Look out for movements underground. Ankhegs produce a weird noise before launching their attacks.
"Maintain a minimum distance of five steps from one another!
"Don't try to take the acid spray attacks head on. Dodge them whenever possible. Stay away from each other to leave room for dodging.
"Forget the crossbows. Unless you're a sharpshooter, crossbows are pretty ineffective against ankhegs.
"Don't attack their backs. Aim for their stomachs, which have the least defence, and be aware of their sharp claws and the thorns on their bodies.
"They also have great strength, so be mobile and don't receive their attacks unless there are no other options. Ankhegs reach up to five meters tall when standing, so protect your heads from their downward rushing attacks.
"Their jaws can tear apart trees, so you don't want to get bitten by them. If they target you, immediately roll to the front and enter their blind spot."
Soran issued one order after another. The guards were startled at first but then began to respect him; it was the respect one felt toward the strong. One's strength was not limited to physical strength; intelligence and experience also played a major role. There were plenty of occasions where experience and intelligence were more useful than brute force.
Soran finally felt the feeling of adventuring after a long time. There were basically no monsters which could threaten his life back in the game after he entered the Realm of Legends. It truly had been a while since he took part in this type of battle.
The key point for taking on ankhegs was to avoid their bites and acidic spray attacks; the reason to avoid them was rather self-explanatory. As they were arthropods, ankhegs had blind spots when attacking. One example was that they could not bite targets within a roughly one-meter radius. Furthermore, they had limited movement as half of their ten-meter-long bodies remained buried underground. It would be fine to just be aware of the six to twelve wailing legs and their jaws.
In fact, there was a much easier way to handle the situation. The mistress, being a daughter of a Northern witch, could simply use spells and achieve great results, but spellcasters rarely engaged in combat willingly. They had to save their spells for crucial moments as there was a daily limit to spells, thus the main forces of adventuring were warriors.
Under normal circumstances, spellcasters would use ranged support weapons such as light crossbows, short bows, and slingshots as their main weapons, with some of them opting for staves or quarterstaves. Whatever was fine as long as they did not hit friendlies anyway. It was only when they encountered large numbers of enemies or monster bosses that they would unreservedly cast spells.
A Grade 2 wizard could only cast a dozen or so spells in a day. They had great firepower, but their sustainability was extremely poor.
"Off your horses!"
Before reaching the area where they previously encountered the ankhegs, Soran told the guards to get off their horses and walk on foot. He laid down and stuck his ear to the ground, then said to the others, "Stomp your feet!
"Try to keep the same rhythm and stomp as hard as you can. Pay attention to your surroundings as you do so!"
Ankhegs had Tremorsense, thus they were very sensitive to vibrations and sounds from the surface. Stomping the ground was the easiest way to enrage and flush them out.
As Soran had anticipated, the ground lightly shook and bulged up soon after.
"They're beneath us," Soran yelled and began retreating.
He was unfit to fight head on as his wounds were still recovering, but he could still deal the final blow to the ankhegs when necessary.
The head guard growled, his muscles swelling up. The Northern barbarian's Rage was a very special skill; since Northern barbarians trained their bodies in extreme cold, the skill had no after effects even though it placed a huge burden on their bodies. The only drawback would be its limited duration.
Beastmen berserkers and barbarians could use their Rage ability for fifteen to thirty minutes. During that period of time, their stamina and explosive power would be multiplied several times, turning them into killing machines.
On the other hand, Northern barbarians could only use Rage for several minutes. The profession Northern Barbarian was classified as an advanced warrior profession and did not belong to the barbarian branch despite its name.
The ground creaked as an ankheg suddenly appeared from beneath the ground. It sprayed its acid at the nearest guard, but he managed to roll and dodge a large portion of the attack, albeit slightly panickedly. He covered his body with a shield just in time to block the remaining acid heading for his torso. His shield was corroded, but he did not suffer any injuries.
The head guard held his longsword up and charged in, joined by the other nearby guards. The five of them constantly moved around while encircling the ankheg, with the rest of the guards waiting for the other ankhegs to show themselves.
The ankhegs did not appear all at once, but were waiting for the opportunity to attack those who were left out instead.
"Dammit!" Soran suddenly panicked.
He took a shield and began running forward; the ankhegs had set their sights on him. As he was keeping his distance from the battlefield, the ankhegs had deemed him as a left out individual.
An ankheg appeared behind Soran and began spraying acid. He dodged the incoming attack by a hair's width by rolling, his 20 Dexterity saving him at the very last moment. Using the shield in his hands, Soran blocked the acid, which splattered everywhere after the blob landed on the ground.
The last ankheg showed itself as well.
Due to the sudden action which broke out near Soran, the other guards were briefly distracted, and one of them was struck by acid. The acid dissolved a large chunk of meat on the guard's arm, but he still managed to keep his cool and decided to brutally chop his own arm off in an instant. Grinding his teeth in pain, he bandaged the wound quickly.
The arm fell onto the ground, and not long after all that remained was a piece of white bone.
"Castro!" Another guard yelled and wanted to rush over to help his injured comrade.
"Stay focused! I'm fine!" The guard who just cut his arm off yelled in response and stopped his co-worker from approaching. He retreated toward the back and shouted, "Kill them first!"
Getting injured was a common occurrence for warriors, thus their ability to endure pain was exceptional. That said, Soran evaluated the injured guard highly as not many could keep their cool after chopping one of their arms off. Perhaps the harsh cold in the North helped them develop their guts and steely nerves, and the injured guard was no exception. He was most likely a retired soldier too, as only those who were used to life and death situations could be so decisive.
"Attack their lower limbs!"
Now that he had been targeted by the ankhegs, Soran could no longer hold back. He unsheathed his curved sword and drifted around the ankhegs, slashing at their defenceless stomachs whenever the opportunity arose. It was impossible for him to run up the ankhegs and attack their heads due to the reduced mobility caused by his thigh injury. That was a dangerous move which could only be performed when he was in peak condition; doing so while injured was a silly move which would place his life in great danger.
"Die!" A deep growl resounded through the area.
The head guard took the chance and leapt up, imitating Soran's previous move. He stabbed the longsword through the slit on the ankheg's shell and struck its brain. With a loud thud, the ankheg dropped dead onto the ground.
With one ankheg down, the pressure on the guards lessened in an instant. Soran took the opportunity to take his leave from the battlefield, waiting for the chance to land the killing blow.
The chance came fairly soon.
Soran took a deep breath and accelerated while one of the ankhegs was about to bite its target. He leapt up into the air and slashed the ankheg's head from the side, creating a gaping wound with dark green fluid gushing out of it. The ankheg shivered and froze, then fell to the ground and remained motionless.
When the guards were about to finish off the last ankheg, the heavily injured monster screeched out of the blue and began retreating into the soil; it was trying to escape.
Without any sign of hesitation, Soran calmed his breath and yelled, "Pass me a javelin!"
A nearby guard tossed a longspear toward Soran who caught the weapon and pointed the spearhead downward. With a great leap four to five meters high, he yelled as he stabbed the ground while holding onto the longspear with both hands.
Dark green blood burst from beneath the ground. The earth shook, and a high-pitched screech could be heard. Soran held onto the longspear, driving it further downward bit by bit. Finally, the ground no longer trembled, and the battle was over.
(Profession Details—Northern Barbarians: They trained their bodies in ice cold water, granting them a unique Rage ability. As the cold suppressed their strength, they could not increase their physical abilities as much as common barbarians. On the other hand, they would not burn through their stamina when using the skill and would also retain their reasoning and rationale unlike berserkers and barbarians. This granted them decent combat power after activating the skill. Rage: +2 Strength, +1 Constitution.)
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