Chapter 374: Swarm Tactics
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Author's Corner: Thank you to Svessi for joining the Patreon!

After I had finished observing Lorek, I once again descended, though this time I went towards Fyor instead of the citadel. I was quick to discover that my avatar within the library had been destroyed, and so I immediately created a new one to replace it. Meanwhile, my main body was going for a ‘walk’ of sorts.

The area that I had descended to this time was the twentieth floor of Fyor, the giant cave system infested with giant insects, and also the single most dangerous place I was likely to find in any of the four worlds. The levels of the insects might pale in comparison to beings like Fafnir or the other disasters, but they had the numbers. If a giant swarm of the monsters from this level fought him… I wasn’t sure which side would win.

However, that’s what I was looking for. My battle with Fafnir made me come to a realization. It was something so obvious, yet I had taken so long to let it truly sink in. I was completely and blatantly overpowered. It was getting harder and harder for me to find a chance to fight against someone for combat training because they weren’t able to offer any sort of resistance.

Even with Tsubaki… if I used my full power, now that it had been upgraded, it was unlikely that she would be able to hurt me. And so, if I wanted to continue training myself, aside from just sitting on my throne and practicing skills, I needed to seek a different sort of challenge.

As I was thinking that, a section of stone beneath my feet cracked, and a large mandible shot out, grabbing at my leg. I had already sensed the insects lying in wait around me, so I didn’t panic. Instead, I just lifted that leg lightly and stomped down, hearing the cracking of the earth and the squelch of the insect beneath being crushed.

Aurivy, if this really starts to get too much for me, pull me out somewhere. I whispered in my mind as I took a deep breath, feeling how the swarm scurried through hidden tunnels just beyond the cave walls. Aside from that… give me the path to the next gate. I’ll be walking in that direction.

I felt a gentle nudging in the back of my mind, and began to walk forward, my hands idly crossed behind my back. I wasn’t using my world sight for this… no, I had the feeling that that level of detail might sicken me when used on the insects. I was purely using my normal senses built up from my energies growing stronger.

Even still, it was enough to sense the insects long before they attacked. I was able to feel a writhing mass charging from the other end of the cave, advancing towards me in a wave. Taking a deep breath, I looked towards them as they appeared. One hand came out from behind my back, my ki forming an orange-ish ball above my palm.

With a thrust of my hand, that ball turned into a wide blast that swept forward, through the swarm. I noticed after a moment that the blast hadn’t quite been wide enough to engulf all of the insects, and yet the cave still shook from the force of it, rocks falling from above as it pierced a thick hole through the other side. But, since the swarm had not been entirely killed, the survivors continued charging, disregarding their own lives.

It didn’t take long for them to surround me, but… they weren’t able to touch me. With the beginning fire ki wrapped around my body, they burned away as soon as they got too close. Still, it looked really creepy to see a mass of what seemed to be giant centipedes crawling all around me.

Guess I won’t be needed for this one, huh father? Leowynn asked from within me, a certain playful tone to her voice that hadn’t been there in a while.

Sorry, Leowynn. I need to do this. Just as I thought that, my eyes widened, and I felt a powerful presence flying through the  cave at a high speed. It pierced through the swarm, and even through my ki aura, leaving a thin cut along my skin.

I flexed my ki, and burnt away all of the insects that were surrounding me, turning abruptly to see what had attacked. Something that could pierce my aura like that would be far stronger than what this level would suggest. Which meant… this floor connected to another plane.

Bihena, I need you to quickly run a search for where that thing came from. There should be another ore like tidestone around here somewhere. It needs to be secured before something really bad comes through.

Already on it! Bihena’s reply came back barely a breath later, and I saw a thin hole within the cave wall behind me. Clearly, whatever had attacked had gone straight through, from one end of the cave to the other. However… that just wouldn’t do.

“Identify the creature that created that hole.” I spoke in the runic language, surprised to find that the grammar no longer sounded awkward to me, likely a result of the third tier. “Define creature as target. Teleport back to this position and restrain.”

My mana surged out, and very soon there was a figure frozen, suspended in the air in front of me. It looked like… a slightly oversized flea, if I was being perfectly honest. A level nine hundred flea, but still a flea… Its legs were uselessly kicking at the air, the force of each kick creating an irritating buzzing noise.

With my Planar Archivist title active, I was able to confirm that this flea came from the elemental plane. Sending it back there was… a pain, and so I bathed it in my beginning water ki. After a few long moments, it had stopped kicking, its health bar appearing and gradually fading away.

Bihena, did you find anything? I asked as I turned around, once more walking down the path towards the gate.

Yeah, it looks like it just now came through. It was a straight shot from where you found it back to the node. Looks like nothing had been able to activate the ore before now. I’ve identified the ore, though.

Thanks. Ryone, would you mind sealing them? Unlike the tidestones, a connection to the earth plane isn’t beneficial in any way… Resources won’t pass through them like with water, so it’s best to make sure that nothing happens.

After sending off that message, I received a brief confirmation from Ryone, and let out a mental sigh of relief. The node likely activated because of my ambient mana, so it was lucky that something came through when it did. I simply gave a firm nod of my head. Problem identified and resolved!

As I began walking through the cave again, I noticed that the bugs seemed to be focused mostly behind me now. They weren’t following anymore or attacking… Was I leaving the territory of this nest, or did they develop a sense of how strong I was? Given their apparent intellect, I was going to guess the former.

Sure enough, after roughly another ten minutes of walking, I found another group blocking my path. This one seemed to be made of worm-like insects that secreted acid… best not to let them get too close. I surrounded myself with beginning earth ki and began walking forward, letting my divinity leak into the surroundings.

The air seemed to condense into reflective shards that revolved around me, as if I were the center of an eruption of glass. When the worms detected my approach, they turned their ends… which I sincerely hoped were their mouths, and shot out a sickly green liquid. Most of it was caught by the revolving shards, while the rest continued to fly towards me, before falling off of my ki aura.

I gave a small sigh as I realized that this kind of training was just not going to help me… I needed to fight something that possessed both numbers and intelligence. And so, I increased my pace, roughly sixty chakra threads spreading out around me. With every step, I flashed forward dozens of meters.

When I appeared behind a worm, and stepped away again, their body seemed to shatter, cut into tiny pieces because of the revolving shards. I was now speeding forward, following the path that Aurivy had given me. After about three minutes, I had left the territory of the worms, and entered the domain of tunneling spiders. Ten minutes after that, and I was gone from their territory as well.

It took me roughly two hours like this, moving at my full speed, before I reached the end. For the last couple minutes, I noticed that the local infestation was getting bigger and bigger. And so… I didn’t even hesitate. The moment that I stepped into the cavern with the gate, I released an explosion of beginning fire ki. Shrill screeches could be heard as thousands of insects burnt away to nothing.

When it was done… the only things in the cave were myself and the gate… while a large portion of the tunnel itself seemed to have smoothed away, showing the radius of the explosion I let out. So, Dale… Aurivy spoke up as I walked to the gate. You made it to the gate… but you’re still too high level to activate it, right? Do you want me to send someone to do it for you?

I shook my head briefly. Not yet… I want to try a few things first. There might be a way around the level restriction, if I use my different abilities. If not… I could just go with her suggestion. But I at least wanted to try.

First, I lowered my own apparent power as much as possible, until I could feel the gravity of the floor pressing down heavily on me. However, even like that, the gate wouldn’t respond, so I quickly restored my own power. No point in hurting myself to get this done…

Next, I tried world sight, sending it through the gate like I had done with the tidestones. If I could see what was on the other side, then I could teleport there. But… once again, there was nothing. It felt as though the wall were… well, a solid wall, completely impassable.

Finally, I resorted to my last measure, conjuring a mirror with my divinity. “Show me what lies beyond this gate.” I commanded the mirror, feeling the energy from it pressing against the wall. At first, I felt as thought it might be giving way… until the mirror shattered.

However, I wasn’t upset that my methods were blocked. No… instead, I was actually happy. I was happy that I was completely unable to break through the gate, because that meant that other creatures should be unable to break through as well. Those monsters up at the higher floors, which still honestly frightened me, wouldn’t be able to crush the layer of stone that divided each floor.

“Okay, Rivy, you can send me someone.” I said with a small smile. I waited for a moment, before a golden mist appeared. Stepping out of that mist, I expected to see a heroc, maybe a dovah, as they were the two most common races on this floor. Instead… I saw a face I hadn’t been expecting. A face that made me happy I was no longer in the form of a halfling, and instead had changed back to my more comfortable human appearance.

“H-hello,  Keeper.” Thelsa spoke up, the mist vanishing behind her. “The… Goddess Aurivy said that you needed my help with something?”

I cleared my throat, trying to not sound at all awkward as I nodded. “Yes… I’d like you to activate this gate. I’ll meet you on the other side, and you can choose whether you’d like to explore from there or go back home.”

Thelsa blinked in surprise, nodding her head as she extended one hand, placing it against the surface of the gate. As the gate opened to let her through, I could hear the distant rumbling of a powerful storm. Either the next floor was experiencing a hurricane season or… Wind next, huh?

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