Since Scarlet wasn't there, the KD Squadron didn't care to exchange pleasantries with the Wanderlust Team. After being on the road for two days, both teams were actually getting along quite well.
The KD Squadron was a senior exploration team in the Dimensional Hostel. Though they couldn't be compared to the top 10 exploration teams, they were elites too. They were the type who didn't like to mock the weak, but it was inevitable for them to have a slight sense of superiority. Nonetheless, since the three pretty ladies from the Wanderlust Team had been rather active and helpful along the way, the KD Squadron members were fine with this arrangement. Their entire team was made up of men. They didn't have any ulterior motives towards the ladies, but working with women made them feel better, especially as the ladies were easy on the eyes.
Thanks to the good weather and pleasant environment the past two days, it made one feel as if one was in heaven, looking at the natural environment and breathing in the fresh air. Vast and rich exotic vegetation could be seen throughout the entire world.
Whether it was Holy City citizens or Earth inhabitants, their love and desire to be close to nature had never changed. Nuclear radiation had led to environmental degradation on Earth, and it was hard to even catch a glimpse of sunlight there, let alone the natural environment. As for the Holy Land, other than specific secret realms, the Holy City that everyone lived in was a hierarchical and highly developed city. It was more developed than any other city that humans lived in. Perhaps the teachers had a nice environment, but it was an entirely different story for the Holy Disciples.
All kinds of beautiful flowers were blooming, and the air smelled sweet. A large area of greenery surrounded them, coupled with gentle breezes and warm sunlight. If not for the fact that they were riding on battle steeds and that the people around them constantly talked about battle stuff, Sharmie and the others felt bewitched by this beautiful fairy-tale world resembling paradise. It didn't feel like they were in a battle, but rather, it felt more like a vacation.
Not to mention women, who tended toward the emotional, even Wang Zhong and the others who were more practical were influenced by the environment. The air was teeming with energy fluctuations, and the elemental laws were abnormally strong there. It would be very pleasing to the eye if one could cultivate here. After all, this was a world that was more advanced than Earth's civilization by a level and a half. Just their foundation alone was way stronger than that of humans. It was no wonder that the Holy City waged a Holy Battle no matter what it took.
The comfortable and refreshing environment made the overall atmosphere between the two teams become better. However, this harmony and good mood only lasted for a short two days, gradually vanishing when they entered the swamp zone on the third day.
The Black Boulder Annular Swamp.
They were considered to have entered the Black Boulder mining area. The Black Boulder Energy Cave was located on the left side of the annular mountain range dozens of miles away. However, that annular mountain range was too steep and high up, and it was impossible to get there on their battle steeds. They could only take a detour through this swamp and attack from the back of the cave. This was the only way to get to their destination in their plan, but no one imagined it to be this hard to walk through this swamp.
Ever since they entered this zone, they could sense an uncomfortable and gloomy aura. The sunlight in the sky disappeared. Unlike the sunny sky earlier on, they appeared to have entered a zone filled with mist, where the air was bone-chilling. The swamp they were treading on was the most uncomfortable as traps were everywhere under the silt. The entire swamp zone was a moss swamp, one of the most lethal types of swamp. The surface of the swamp was covered in moss. One would never know where a trap was unless one stepped on it directly.
This caused the Torreya battle steeds that were very useful in the past two days to become a burden. It was impossible to get through this swamp zone while riding on the battle steeds. These battle steeds were only trained to be used in plains and mountainous areas. They had no experience traveling across swamps, and they were completely oblivious to the traps under their hooves. One had to stop and get one's battle steed out of a trap with every 10 steps. One had to move fast too since the silt in this swamp was highly corrosive. Torreya battle steeds were low-level Dimensional lifeforms. If their hooves were soaked inside the silt for a few seconds, they would be crippled even if they were pulled out afterwards.
They entered the swamp zone in the morning. It was evening now, and they had already lost seven battle steeds because of that. The KD Squadron had lost five while on the Wanderlust Team's side, Small Eyes and Feng's battle steeds had fallen prey to the traps. Their front hooves were corroded and became completely rotten. Having bonded with these battle steeds the past two days, it was torturous looking at their beloved battle steeds fall to the ground and whine painfully. Small Eyes ended their misery herself with tearful eyes. Everyone could only walk with their horses beside them and take note not to let the Torreya battle steeds fall prey to the traps. This caused the team's speed to be decreased further. The swamp zone appeared to be just a short three to four hundred miles across, but the journey seemed to be never-ending.
A battle steed had fallen into a trap again, and the team, which was already advancing very slowly, stopped once again. Kevin Dalton tightened his grip on his battle steed and looked behind. It was a battle steed belonging to his exploration team. The battle steed had sunk very deep into the silt, a small portion of its body buried in it.
Two Heroic Soul soldiers forcefully pulled out that battle steed from the silt. However, it was evident that it was too late. When the battle steed was yanked out, not only its legs but also a small part of its chest were a bloody mess. Its flesh had been totally corroded by the poisonous silt, and bones could be seen. One could even distinctly see its organs.
The Torreya battle steeds were well trained and wouldn't make a single sound normally. Despite that, when the battle steed was pulled out, it started whimpering in pain on the ground. If the corrosion was only to a small extent, an emergency first aid kit could save the battle steed. However, in this case, the battle steed was as good as dead. Sharmie, Small Eyes, and Feng couldn't bear to watch and turned around; a KD Squadron member sighed. In a swift movement, he cut off the battle steed's head.
"F*ck! What kind of damned place is this!"
Kevin Dalton couldn't help but curse out loud. They had been walking for almost a whole day in this swamp, but they had only covered a little more than fifty miles. According to their previous estimations, they would have to spend seven or eight days figuring out their way in this swamp. Also, only one day had passed, and they had lost eight battle steeds. If this continued, more than half of the sixty Torreya battle steeds that they had borrowed would be dead or injured by the time they crossed this swamp.
This was not a joking matter. It would be a trivial matter if they were delayed on the way back, but the key thing was, they had to compensate for the losses of the battle steeds! The equipment that were borrowed from the military supplies area had been registered and must be returned. Any losses must be compensated. Torreya battle steeds were very valuable. Even if this was a special situation in battle, after you submitted a detailed mission report on the losses, you would still have to pay at least half of the losses, which was really too much for them to handle. Perhaps they would have to spend half of their profits from this trip on compensating for the losses of the battle steeds.
They couldn't possibly carry on like this. Vice-captain Osha seemed to want to say something, but a buzzing sound suddenly rang from the shadows on the left side to the team.
Right after, four or five huge green compound eyes could be seen dashing out from the shadows, coupled with intense wing-flapping sounds.
Hum hum hum hum hum…
A nasty smell that made one feel like vomiting appeared. It came from a creature that was the same size as a Torreya battle steed as well as having long transparent wings and a very sharp mouthpart. It was a gigantic 'mosquito'.
Poison Kiss Thorn Bug!
Everyone's face fell instantly. This thing had earned a notorious reputation among the exploration teams recently. According to many eyewitnesses, if you hadn't seen an insect monster the size of a horse yet, this was your chance.
This thing ate everything! Anything that was raw or cooked, alive or dead, once it was pierced by their long, needle-like mouthpart, even Heroic Soul soldiers would be sucked dry instantly. That needle-like mouthpart was extremely sharp. According to eyewitness reports from the Holy City Army, the mouthpart could even penetrate a Hippogriff rider's black iron armor. The scarier thing was that there were barbs on the mouthpart. Once it pierced through a body, the barbs would expand and forcefully pull all the organs out along with it. They were also extraordinarily fast and agile.
To give rise to such a magnificent civilization, the Mizobudapi Phoenix World had also produced various monsters far beyond that of Earth.
Several Torreya battle steeds couldn't help but whinny in fear. Though they had gone through some training, ultimately, they were normal battle steeds, and this was their first time in battle. They hadn't seen such loud, scary, and bone-chilling creatures before.
Those seven or eight terrifying insects headed at them with immense power. Two dashed towards the battle steed which had just died, while the others targeted the two KD Squadron warriors that were at the back of the team dealing with the corpse of the battle steed.
They moved like the wind. When the buzzing sound rang, no one had any time to react before those creatures zoomed in front of those two warriors.
Those two people responded quickly. A rune cannon appeared in one's hand instantly, blasting in the direction of three Poison Kiss Thorn Bugs on his left. The other person moved so that he was back-to-back with his comrade. A long spear appeared in his hand as he stabbed fiercely at the compound eye of the Poison Kiss Thorn Bug in front.
After all, they were elites belonging to a 4th rank exploration team, so they had good teamwork and chemistry. The subconscious teamwork of the two people was effective as the Poison Kiss Thorn Bugs' attack formation was broken immediately by their counterattacks. At the same time, the other people had reacted, and endless attacks rained on the creatures around the two people at once, seeking to kill those bastard creatures that dared to sneak up on them.
However, those Poison Kiss Thorn Bugs flapped their wings and flew high upwards at the speed of wind. In the blink of an eye, they were out of the attack range of everyone on the ground, and the buzzing sound quickly went away.
Not to mention this muddy swamp, even if everyone was walking on flat ground, they couldn't catch up with flying creatures that were so fast.
"Dammit, we're so unlucky! Even these f*cking insects dare to attack us at this point in time!"
"F*ck you, don't run away if you have the guts!" Someone from the KD Squadron was pissed off and yelled at the insects. It had been a terrible day, making many of them vexed and irritated.
"Everyone in the exploration team area has been talking about how savage these creatures are, but they run away after a few scares!"
"No." Wang Zhong's face fell. "The battle steeds…!"
Everyone came back to their senses then. Not only the battle steed whose head was cut off by the KD Squadron warrior, another battle steed that was alive and helping its comrade was also gone. Those two big guys that weighed nearly a ton had been brought away by the Poison Kiss Thorn Bugs.
Everyone exchanged glances with each other.
This was… a battle tactic? That a Dimensional lifeform came up with? Insects the size of a horse actually knew f*cking decoy tactics?!
The existence of a bunch of horse-sized insects that knew battle tactics cast a huge shadow over this already gloomy swamp.
After traveling for a day, they had only reached the outer area of the swamp. Once they traveled further inside, who knew how many of such creatures there were going to be! This swamp seemed more and more odd to everyone, and more disgusting too.
"Let's head back!" Kevin Dalton didn't hesitate. "Since we've traveled this route before, it should take us less than a day to go back. We'll rest at the edges of this swamp zone tomorrow morning and attack from the front the day after!"
Many KD Squadron members cheered. Their captain's decision was extremely wise. Many people had already been complaining about today's choice of route. This was just a mining mission; why make things so complicated and play tricks like attacking from the back? It was as if they were attacking a city! That guy from the Wanderlust Team must really want to be in the limelight.
"Captain Kevin, this route is not easy, but the more difficult it is, the more unexpected our attack is," Wang Zhong said. He was still insisting on his idea as he didn't think that their enemies were idiots. He had read the information on the Black Boulder Energy Caves previously. It was a very important mining area, and it was far past the time for oversight on the enemy's side. It was never wrong to be more cautious.
"Really? Since you know that the enemy thinks this swamp to be a natural barrier, why do you think you can cross this swamp for sure?" Kevin Dalton said coldly. "You think you know this swamp better than the Mizobudapi people?"
"Nonetheless, at least the swamp is within our control," Feng said. "It is for sure that we will encounter difficulties, but this route allows us to retreat and attack at will. It is not too late to turn back if we really encounter an obstacle that we can't overcome. As you can see, our enemy doesn't care about the back of the cave. They will only set up numerous trap ambushes at the front of the cave. I don't think it's a wise choice to attack the cave from the front. Compared to the dangers of the swamp, aren't the Mizobudapi people more dangerous?" The Wanderlust Team was more in favor of Wang Zhong's judgment. Though this was an agonizing journey for them too, the impression that Wang Zhong left on them previously was too deep. One's power decided one's say in matters. With Wang Zhong's level of power, his judgment would definitely be better than theirs. Even if they didn't necessarily agree, they had to keep their opinions to themselves. This was a team, and not everyone could have a say in matters.
"You shut up! Everyone has been putting up with this swampy environment for a day. If we continue on like this, how much combat power will we have left when we reach the cave?" Beside them, vice-captain Osha had been unhappy to let an outsider have a say in this mission all this while. "Besides, it has only been one day in this swamp, and we have lost nine battle steeds. Do you know how much one Torreya battle steed is worth, country bumpkin? Will the Wanderlust Team pay for all the losses on this journey?" Osha laughed coldly.
"That's still better than putting everyone in danger. I think Wang Zhong is right to be cautious. Especially with the natural environment of this swamp, this attack will be even more unexpected." Oscar was a loyal supporter of Wang Zhong. "Also, we can send a few people to lead the battle steeds back to the edge of the swamp and wait. We can meet up after we finish the mission. This way, we won't suffer more losses."
"You make it sound so easy. This is the Mizobudapi people's territory. The edge of the swamp is flatland. What if our people get discovered by the enemy? Are you planning to leave our brothers and the battle steeds in the lurch and send a big gift to our enemy?"
"That's right. Also, is there really a need to be so cautious? Do you think the KD Squadron is like the Wanderlust Team?"
"We should have just attacked from the front! Why all the fuss over such a normal mission!"
The KD Squadron members started to chatter and make noise. Their relationship with the Wanderlust Team that seemed fine on the surface was as fragile as paper when profits were added into the equation. Once you fell prey to the dangers of this swamp, even beauties would become clay, and there was nothing nice about that.
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