Nie Yan and the others walked along the trail that cut through the marsh and advanced south. As dusk encroached, the scenery around them gradually grew darker. They encountered few players enroute to the dungeon, so much of the journey was uneventful and even somewhat bleak.
After several minutes, Nie Yan and company arrived at a checkpoint in the middle of the trail. Just ahead were two watchtowers, one erected on each side of the path, and stationed in each of them was a crossbow-carrying NPC guard.
“Beyond this point is the King Manticore’s territory. This is a forbidden area, so please turn back,” one of the guards called out.
“We’re adventures who wish to proceed to Agmota. We’re seeking to slay the King Manticore and retrieves its eye in order to treat Mayor Monda’s poison,” Nie Yan replied in a tone that was standard for advancing the quest.
“So it was like this… Brave adventures, the King Manticore is a dangerous and vile creature. I advise you to bring items that can cure paralysis,” forewarned the guard. “The mayor’s life is at stake, so I hope your mission ends in success!” The two guards allowed Nie Yan and the rest of the team to pass.
As soon as he stepped past the watchtowers, the entire team was transported inside the instance.
On arrival, an intense stench of blood and decay assaulted their noses as it freely permeated the air. Numerous corpses scattered the bog; some were fresh while others had completely rotted away, leaving only skeletal remains behind. The temperature plummeted, steeply, turning the atmosphere to one of cold and gloom. Suffice to say, the environment inside the dungeon was noticeably different from the one outside.
Signs of death could be seen everywhere across this long stretch of marsh.
Ahead of Nie Yan and the team was a small den. Manticores usually gathered in prides, so their dens often contained ten to several dozen individuals. Some were tasked with hunting prey, and others stayed behind to rear the young. Prides were headed by an Alpha Manticore, a Leader-class monster, while the rest of the pride consisted of females and the young. Manticores were monsters possessing the head and body of a lion and a scorpion’s poisonous tail. If struck by the stinger at the end of their tails, the player would become poisoned and lose a certain amount of health each second. Furthermore, there was also a chance of paralysis. Therefore, if the player didn’t bring Anti-Paralysis Potions, they would end up maimed to death before the poison had any meaningful effect.
For the most part, as long as the team’s Fighters made sure to cure their paralysis as soon they were inflicted with it, no problems should arise.
“How many Manticores do you think are in that den?”
“I already investigated. They number around sixteen,” Nie Yan replied. Since he was already at the front of the group, he had taken the initiative to survey their surroundings.
“Sixteen!? Oh my God!”
“When we ran it on Easy or Normal, the most we’d ever get was a group of five or six…”
All of the team members wore expressions of dismay. Manticores, with their high health, were notoriously difficult to deal with. This held even truer for the Alpha Manticore who was several times more powerful than their normal counterparts. Even on lower difficulties, they often faced great peril whenever they encountered a group of five or six Manticores. If they were careless for even a moment, their team would end up surrounded and killed.
Yet that den had sixteen of them! Even if they had received a ten percent stat boost, it was still impossible for them to deal with so many Manticores.
Nie Yan activated Transcendent Insight to examine the pride.
Alpha Manticore (Leader): Level 3
Manticore: Level 3
Although only one of the Manticores was a Leader-class monster, since Nie Yan and the team had entered the dungeon on Specialist, even the common mobs would have their health, defense, and other stats increased significantly, so if all of those Manticores came charging over, the team would undoubtedly end up wiping in an instant.
“The Manticores move as a group. Do you have any plans?” asked Sleepy Fox after he turned to Nie Yan. He had to admit, Nie Yan’s use of the crossbow in Treant Forest was ingenius, but that kind of tactic might not necessarily work against these Manticores.
The slow witted Treants simply weren’t on the same level as Manticores.
“If I entrusted this task to you, how would you deal with this?” replied Nie Yan with a question of his own.
Sleepy Fox wrinkled his brows. He wasn’t willing to show weakness in front of Nie Yan, so after pondering for a moment, he replied, “I’ve got an idea.”
Despite there being so many Manticores, he actually thought up a plan? It seems I’ve been underestimating him.
“Oh? How do you plan on clearing the den? Let’s go with your plan first, and I’ll follow along. Just tell me what I need to do,” Nie Yan replied before retreating to the side. He was trying to think of a way to gain the team’s trust. Otherwise, players might not follow his instructions correctly during tense situations. If that were to frequently occur, they’d have no hope of overcoming the King Manticore.
In the event Sleepy Fox’s plan failed to subjugate the Manticore and he acted afterwards, the team would naturally be more willing to accept his orders. On the flipside, if Sleepy Fox did actually succeed, he would be saved the effort of doing the work himself.
“Alright.” Sleepy Fox thought for a while, then began arranging the members into formation. The foe was a pride of sixteen Manticores, so naturally, he was still somewhat nervous. After he was done, he faced Nie Yan and said, “None of my teammates are comparable to you, so I’ll have to trouble you with aggroing the Manticores.“
Nie Yan inspected Sleepy Fox’s arrangements. The formation took advantage of the boulders and trees in the vicinity by positioning the frontliners in a chokepoint. The Mages were safe, as they occupied the high ground. The Priests were well-hidden and stood in relatively safe spots in the rear, while the Paladins were positioned directly behind the frontliners, ready to provide assistance at any time.
It appeared Sleepy Fox did have some skill in arranging his troops. The current formation was capable of dealing enormous amounts of damage.
“Are you confident we can succeed?” Nie Yan asked in a worried tone. Although the formation was formidable, in a direct confrontation, the end result would still be their defeat. Why was he so sure that this formation would hold up against so many Manticores at once? Unless… maybe he had a hidden card of some sort? If so, Nie Yan was curious to see. After all, this was Holy Empire’s elite team. How could they not have a few tricks up their sleeves?
Sleepy Fox gave a confident nod.
“Alright, I’ll aggro them over,” Nie Yan replied. He then drew closer to the den, with crossbow in hand, and found a suitable vantage point to shoot from.「Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!」Several bolts fired from the crossbow. Two bolts struck trees at the far rear of the den, and a split second later, the third bolt landed on the Manticore closest to them.
The third bolt aggroed three Manticores over to Nie Yan while the rest of the pride was momentarily distracted by the sounds in the rear. However, after noticing three of their members charging in the opposite direction, they also stormed towards him.
“Not bad!” Sleepy Fox hardly held back on his praise. Nie Yan’s movements were swift and agile, he had sharp senses, and he possessed techniques that were extremely unique and innovative.
Sleepy Fox inwardly schemed. If he were to offer, would Nie Yan be willing to join his guild? Once Nie Yan became his subordinate, he would definitely receive a prominent position in Holy Empire. However, after getting more familiar with him, he vaguely sensed Nie Yan wasn’t the sort of person who would agree to lodge under another person’s roof. In other words, Nie Yan probably preferred to lead instead of being led.
When Nie Yan returned, the three Manticores also followed.
“Violent Waves, block them!” Sleepy Fox ordered. Violent Waves Rampant Surge was the number one Fighter in Holy Empire, his role being the team’s main tank. In the previous timeline, he was also considered a remarkable player. However, he and the other outstanding members were mostly overshadowed by the brilliance of their guild leader. One had to know, when Sleepy Fox retrieved the Chapter of Courage, he had eventually reached the apex and obtained the entire Holy Viridian set. From then on, only a scarce few players were able to rival him. As a consequence, many of the outstanding members serving under him ended up being overlooked. However, without an elite team supporting him in the shadows, how could a player like Sleepy Fox grow to be so powerful?