Chapter 675 Before the Escape
A terrifying and bloody slaughter was still ongoing in the dark and narrow tunnel!
The druid that had transformed into a serpent opened his fanged mouth, biting and spitting poison at the swarm and dealing decent damage with every attack. The long tail dragging behind him was also frantically sweeping and waving about, slapping and smashing the pursuing horde into patches of meat paste.
Sadly, these insects didn't seem to understand death and continued to surge recklessly toward the druids from both sides of the tunnel. Even if they were crushed to death by the serpent the very next second, their only thought in the present was to lunge at the serpent and tear a piece of flesh out of its body.
Under the fearless assault of the swarm, the snake was soon covered in wounds, despite its sturdy body and fine scales. Countless fine cuts had appeared on its body.
The Flashing Gopher and Poison Arrow Toad sitting upon the serpent's body were also trying their best to exterminate the swarm assaulting them. Burning Fire spells and poison arrows caused countless casualties among the black beetles, burning the insects into charcoal and melting them into pungent slime.
An indescribably pungent odor filled the entire tunnel!
Finally, after cutting his way through the swarm and knocking down a wall of insects, the serpent succeeded in bringing its companions into that wide stone hall.
It was called a stone hall, but it was no more than a ten-meter-wide cave formed by erosion by underground water.
The changing of the underground stream's path left behind this damp and sinister stone hall.
This place was just as narrow as everywhere else underground, but it was much taller than the one-meter-tall worm tunnels.
The three druids quickly transformed into their human forms after rushing into the stone hall. They then raised their oaken staves and hurriedly cast Rejuvenation and Rapid Regeneration upon their bodies. Sadly, before they could treat the wounds on their bodies, the pursuing swarm dig their way into the cave through the tunnels and the cracks in the wall, once again throwing their insect bodies at the druids.
After a massive roar shook the entire underground labyrinth, one of the druids quickly transformed into a gigantic Earth Mauler. He unhesitatingly charged at the dense and terrifying swarm.
Of the two other druids, one transformed into a mighty Giant Raging Ape and turned to attack the swarm as well. The other quickly turned into a treant form and used a large area of thorns to trap the incoming insects. He then unleashed several green halos and enhanced his companions with all sorts of support nature magic.
Barkskin allowed the target's skin to become as tough as hundred-year-old bark and resisted weak piercing and slashing attacks.
Bramblethorn Armor formed a magical shield layer over the target's body composed of green vines and thorns. The shield could not only resist physical and elementium damage but could even reflect parts of the melee damage it took.
Nature's Blessing was a type of support nature magic that was most commonly used by the elves. It could raise all aspects of the target's attributes– Strength, Agility, Physique, and elementium resistance.
Revitalization provided the target with Stamina and Spirit regeneration, lasting for approximately one hundred and twenty seconds.
One couldn't look down upon the elves because of their slender and weak build, nor because their Strength and Physique were inferior to tough and muscular magical beasts. Even an ordinarily harmless rabbit could instantly become a ferocious lion when reinforced with all these layers of magic spells.
Thus, the three druids started a bloody battle to the death with the invading swarm in this crude stone hall that was no more than ten square meters.
The excessively narrow terrain gave neither side too much room to dodge or move. The only thing they could do was use their bodies of flesh and blood to endure the enemies' assault and retaliate with their most wicked attacks. Battle techniques and means of murder were inconsequential in such a scenario. The only useful things were strong physical defenses and ferocious offenses.
At first, the two tanking druids could still hold off against the wild strikes of the swarm with the protection of Barkskin and Bramblethorn Armor. However, when the green shield was scratched into shattered sparks by the hive, the Earth Mauler had no choice but to roar and cover himself with a layer of stone armor. The Giant Raging Ape also did something similar and covered his body with a yellow armor.
They had both chosen to transform into earth magical beasts that were known for their toughness. As such, they could still hold off the enemy for a bit longer through their abilities, even after losing their elementium protections.
The treant being protected by them in the middle was also now surrounded by hordes of beetles. He could only lift his wooden legs and stomp about as much as he could. His thick arms had also turned into long tree whips, violently lashing at the dense swarm.
Insect blood splashed everywhere as shells cracked and splintered.
The entire hall tremored and shook.
Hoarse battlecries filled the air, along with the sound of pounding fists and the deafening chittering and chattering.
The black tide of insects gradually covered the three towering silhouettes in the stone hall; it was difficult even to see them now. One only knew that they were still alive and stubbornly fighting by the occasional insect corpse that got flung across the room.
Just as the three druids were slipping up against the ferocious swarm, a few black silhouettes climbed up above them along the walls. The next second, an order was given as the six magical mantises split into three groups. They all lunged down from above and stabbed or slashed with their exceedingly sharp limbs at the bodies of the druids.
A pained, loud cry reverberated throughout the stone hall, spreading in every direction through the tunnels and the cracks between the rock layers.
A group of three druids was fighting its way forward in another underground tunnel.
Suddenly, they heard that low, gravelly roar of agony from the depths of the underground. A druid that had transformed into a jaguar lifted his head and betrayed an expression of immense shock and fury.
"It's Tor! Something's happened to his squad."
This druid had an extremely close relationship with Tor. His heart felt like it was boiling in oil when he heard the agonized cry of his friend, and tremendous anxiety and anger overtook him.
Despite how much he increased the speed at which he struck with his Shadow Claw, he was incapable of finishing off this group of several hundreds of insects. He was helpless in the face of this emergency.
The druid in the group that had transformed into a woodpecker calmly arranging its feathers had a sudden shift in expression. A dangerous and murderous light gleamed in the woodpecker's eyes. The bird leaped forward as its body rapidly started to swell and distort.
In the blink of an eye, he had transformed from a harmless woodpecker into a Firelion shrouded in magical flames.
His lithe and powerful body had just formed, and the surging fires had already burned the remaining beetles in the tunnel to a crisp. His intimidating lion's head turned back and shouted out, "Follow closely!" He then turned and charged into the distant darkness without looking back.
Along the way, the raging fires on his body occasionally stretched and shrunk, scorching the beetles that were continuously squeezing out of the cracks in the walls. The druid quickly leaped into the depths underground.
These scattered swarms of insects could not possibly stop the advance of such a powerful Second Grade firelion!
The two First Grade druids immediately followed after that scorching path of flame in joyful surprise, closely following behind the Second Grade druid master.
Just as the druid master quickly entered a new tunnel after a fork, the path he was previously in mysteriously collapsed.
The two First Grade druids stopped their feet in shock!
Before they could even figure out what it was that had happened, the chattering sound in the tunnel grew louder and louder. The dark, black swarm emerged from various tunnels, ditches, and cracks, trapping the druids in here. Behind the squirming swarm, four black shapes were also silently approaching.
A dozen seconds later, the death throes of two druids also rang out of this place– sorrowful and tragic cries!
Bug Adept Billis had to send out two intermediate First Grade magical mantises with every group as insurance for dealing with those beginner First Grade druids. Moreover, with the tide-like swarm, the druids that had their escape path cut off had no chance of fleeing!
Billis, who had found his ticket out of this sticky entrapment, would have trouble bringing such a tremendous number of insects with him.
To thoroughly squeeze every bit of utility out of the remaining twenty thousand insects, Billis didn't mind committing to such an extravagant and wild strategy!
The bug adept utilized his familiarity with the labyrinth and his comprehensive grasp of the battlefield at all times to toy with the enemy, working expertly with strategies such as isolating, cutting reinforcements, interventions, and fixed ambushes. Billis trapped all the druids in a sea of insects at the price of exhausting his swarm, then proceeded to lay traps and bait as he liked.
Once a First Grade druid was isolated, Billis would unhesitatingly strike out, even if he had to lose thousands of insects to accomplish his goal of killing the druid. He would either collapse the tunnel and separate the enemy or simply send out the swarm to stall the Second Grade druid. At any rate, those trapped First Grade druids couldn't dream of escaping unscathed once Billis found an opportunity to strike!
With the masterful use of the labyrinth's advantage and the rapid exhaustion of the swarm, the casualties to the druids underground started to rise exponentially.
The hidden Second Grade druids didn't seem to realize the severity of the issue at first. By the time they started to sense life auras vanishing quickly in succession, they could no longer hold back. All of them burst out with their full force!
At this point, the number of insects had also been drastically reduced from its initial twenty-one thousand to its currently meager four thousand.
Billis sensed the constant explosions of energy flux in the labyrinth and finally gave the order to retreat.
All surviving insects seemed to have gone mad at that instant, wildly throwing themselves at what remained of the druids. Bug Adept Billis used a secret tunnel to gather with five of his magical mantises as well as a thousand insects carefully picked out from the swarm in a spot underground.
The Burrower that had just hatched was laying here, taking large bites out of the druid corpses sent over by the insect army. It had only been half an hour, but its powers had improved tremendously. It had evolved from a young worm to a grown worm!
Billis hissed under his breath while cloaked in his black robes.
The Burrower–now thicker–started to crawl toward one side of the wall like a massive snail. The speed at which it moved was almost infuriatingly slow.
However, the moment its fat intestinal body touched the stone wall, its concentric formation of sharp teeth pierced the earth, and the Burrower started to suck. The rock layer that was meant to be even tougher than steel had a one and a half meter long tunnel dug out of it.
Don't judge the Burrower based solely on the fact that its entire body was made of flesh and fiber. It was important to note that Burrowers were the best option when dealing with earth and rock layers.
Much like a swimming fish tossed into the water, the initially fat and slow body of the Burrower suddenly turned agile. A smooth and wide tunnel appeared before Billis' eyes at a rate visible to the naked eye. The shaft was still quickly spreading forward.
Billis nodded in satisfaction as he lifted his leg and jumped onto a magical mantis. The mantis then dove into the tunnel with him upon it.
The other magical mantises quickly followed after, as the one thousand insects following at the very rear marched forward along with him while also trying their best to destroy the tunnels behind them.
As large clouds of dirt and sand collapsed from above, this tunnel that had just appeared was quickly covered and buried under thick sand and dirt.