30. Journey West 02
“Eh? Lucky, your nametag’s grey.” It was rather dim in the cave. Plus the grey shade, the name floating above Bai XiaoYu’s head was nearly invisible. However, Below_The_Moon was an archer. An archer’s eyesight was much sharper than any other classes’.
“No way. The game thinks LuckyCat attacked Chief?”
“It must be.” However, even PvP matches between party members were considered the individual player’s problem. Otherwise, all party members will be notified that a player has been attacked by XXX of YYY party.
“So very weird. Chief, just how much HP got knocked off by LuckyCat?”
“Tch. That means it takes over 10,000 LuckyCats to kill Chief. What thick skin,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man mumbled with a pout.
“Pffft. 30 HP to deal 1 damage. Rather effective, Lucky.” CopperPlate had run over to join the crowd after he finished stabbing the two ants hanging on his legs to death.
“Lucky’s level is too low or else it might not just be 30.”
“Ah. Chief, your ‘hero saving the dam-’, no, ‘hero saving the cat-in-distress’ move is so touching! Do your arms hurt? Want me to heal you up?” lied I_Am_A_Poor_Man without a single blink at HereticKing’s full HP bar. His only fear was for the world to be at peace. (Party members could look at an estimate of each other’s health, but not the exact numbers.)
The entire party crowded around HereticKing and XiaoYu, chitter-chattering nonstop. Except for NonMeta who never liked to speak and Chrysanthemum who was sneakily laughing and scheming by the side.
HereticKing didn’t mind it at all. LuckyCat wasn’t heavy. No one would be harmed by a few more minutes of carrying him. Now that he thought of it, losing 1 HP in exchange for LuckyCat’s butt to avoid getting up close to the ground was quite worth it. Frankly, he wasn’t willing to see LuckyCat hurt at all.
XiaoYu was still doing his best to shrink back into his cloak. All of a sudden, he paused. Something’s wrong. He’s still being carried by HereticKing. But he didn’t feel at ease speaking up about it in the public chat channel, so he silently messaged the other, “Thanks. You can put me down. And I’m sorry.”
For the game to determine the action as a PvP intent meant the impact from his fall was quite forceful. While no one’s arms could get broken in-game and the pain sensitivity was lowered, catching a human being falling from the sky should’ve put a lot of pressure on the other’s arms.
“As long as you’re okay,” the other replied.
With a sweep of HereticKing’s gaze, his guild members quietly ducked to a side. The remaining CopperPlate was also pulled aside by NonMeta. Only then did HereticKing put XiaoYu down.
‘Hee-hee. Carried for 2 minutes and 15 seconds,’ Chrysanthemum mentally giggled as she counted down according to the in-game clock.
CopperPlate led the way while I_Am_A_Poor_Man directed from the back with his compass. They didn’t really want a full-on war with the ants. It was more efficient to avoid walking into any monsters at all. They would only fight when the way ahead was blocked off by a dense pack of mobs. They’d clear the area as fast as possible to prevent the ants further off from noticing the disturbance and crowd over.
The ants in the tunnels were all mutated. They’re not the kind in reality that could only be seen with a magnifying glass. Huge ants as big as a grown man’s foot allowed the group of humans to easily spot and avoid them.
As the pack of humans journeyed on, they began discussing about their upcoming meal. Except for XiaoYu and HereticKing, every party member used a gaming bed. That meant they had to log off for their dinner, resolve any bodily needs along the way, shower, or even tidy up their homes.
“We’ll all log off at 6 pm. Everyone, finish up anything that needs done and we’ll gather here at 7.30 pm. How about it?”
“Uh…Can I not log off?” asked XiaoYu as he meekly raised his hand. There’s nothing he needed to do if he logged off anyway. Furthermore, his pod wasn’t one of the top models in the market. Every time he logged off, he needed to wash off the sticky nutritional fluids or he’d feel uncomfortable. (The top models would automatically wash it off for the players and dry them off. It was absolutely not a washing machine!)
“While there shouldn’t be any aggressive monsters here, what if you accidentally bumped into some bugged or mutated variants?”
“I’ll stay behind with him.” HereticKing used a gaming pod. It didn’t matter whether he logged off or not.
“Then, we’ll leave Lil Lucky to you, Chief. If all goes well, we should pass by an egg nest before 6,” said I_Am_A_Poor_Man as he scoured through the large map of the ants’ tunnels he found.
Egg-type monsters were everybody’s favourite powerless monsters. The Ant Cave had an exceptional number of them. If one discovered a nest or a storage spot, they could go on slashing forever, provided, of course, they’re careful enough to avoid patrolling or working ants. Those ants bite after all.
On one hand, this arrangement allowed XiaoYu to gain some experience when he was bored waiting. On the other hand, this mean he could avoid the Queen Ant boss. She would never act rashly in the area her kids were growing up in.
“Ah. Why won’t the heavens send me a gaming pod too?” sighed Below_The_Moon. No one believed XiaoYu was using a gaming pod in the beginning. Even after I_Am_A_Poor_Man, it still felt rather unbelievable.
“Your salary from Chief isn’t that low. Go buy one yourself.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man wanted to knock Below_The_Moon’s head too with his tome. Unfortunately, an archer was very agile and dextrous. It ended up waving into thin air.
“I’m saving up for a wife,” said Below_The_Moon as he waggled his finger. After all, a gaming pod wasn’t that reliable yet. A model like XiaoYu’s would cost ten-thousands. The top models require millions. A salary worker like him can’t just waste money like that.
Billions and trillions of ants were scattered all over the cave. Occasionally, tiny aggressive bats would fly over their heads. These bats were the special characteristics of a cave. However, the caves in the lower level areas were as weak as mosquitoes. XiaoYu could kill them with a wave of his staff or wand, let along high-level players. How else can healers kill off these non-undead monsters? The Zombie and Jiangshi Caves would never be grinding zones otherwise.
“Hey, have you noticed there are less and less ants?” spoke CopperPlate from the front, waking the crowd behind him up from their chattering frenzy.
“No way…We’re that lucky?”
“No. It’s such a huge area and there’s only one boss. How can we bump into it?”
“Isn’t it nice to exercise before a meal? The queen would only be Level 80 on this floor anyway.”
“We don’t know how long this quest would take. It’s best to conserve on supplies.”
“Ice, Hailstorm. Moon, debuff traps. CopperPlate, catch the shield. NonMeta, cover your blades with this.” As HereticKing assigned everyone their tasks, he swiftly transferred his boss encounter shield over to CopperPlate (Level Limit: 85. +11 Alloy Shield with a Lion King card slotted. Boss card, Lion King: +20% defence against bosses. -50% defence against other enemies.) then threw a bottle of poison he’d made himself over to NonMeta. “Healers, pay attention to buffs and health. Poor, retreat 30 steps with XiaoYu and make sure he’s safe.”
“Oh.” While I_Am_A_Poor_Man had questions about the name, there was a major enemy closing in on them. He’ll ask once the problem’s resolved. “Lucky, follow me. Remember. Never ever go in the area 30 steps around the queen. It has a small AoE earthquake spell.”
“Okay.” XiaoYu didn’t like how he’s always a bystander during boss encounters, but he was just way under-levelled. He will be useful once he’s at a higher level.
In a blink of an eye, a giant queen ant appeared before their eyes. It dragged its huge metres-long and over a metre-wide abdomen behind it, surrounded by hundreds of soldier ants. They rapidly crawl towards the group of humans. Don’t be mistaken by the queen’s long poop-looking abdomen. When it moved, it was as fast as a player with speed buffs.
Unfortunately, before the queen got close to the players, explosions sounded off and a series of smoke wafted up into the air. The soldier ants began to slow down. Some drifted off into the walls and banged hard into them, as if they were blind. Some even began attacking other ants. This was the first batch of debuff traps Below_The_Moon had set up just now. Slow, Darkness and Confusion. They’re only effective against small monsters and the effects don’t last for long. All they’re used for was stalling the footsteps of the ant army.
Soon enough, the scrambled ants fell back into formation and began closing in on the humans. A few loud booms rang out once more. This time, they’d stepped on the second batch of explosive traps. The soldiers right on top of them were exploded to smithereens. All other soldiers were hurt one way or another. Even the Queen Ant lost a few health points to the explosions. She gave a loud roar and stomped. The ground around her shook. What a pity for her that Below_The_Moon had long since finished setting up the last batch of traps. After a quick retreat back to the group, the tiny earthquake couldn’t reach him at all.
Traps were only effective when the monsters weren’t close to the player themselves. Once they close in, it’d be up to the player’s own skills. The game was realistic, to an extent. Traps can injure party members. Thus, the last batch were high-tier debuff traps. (They last longer.) That way, the uncontrollable explosions won’t accidentally hurt any one of them.
Once the giant ant army fell into chaos again due to the last traps, the three close-combat classes in the party – CopperPlate, NonMeta and HereticKing – rushed in and started decimating all the average mobs.
CopperPlate was a tank. While he was 16 levels below HereticKing, his heath bar was already slightly above HereticKing’s. Hence, he tanked the queen. While HereticKing was a knight too, he was an Agility knight. He can only dodge. The area they were in wasn’t that big and he was afraid the boss would be accidentally led near XiaoYu. Thus, when he was handing out tasks before the battle, he immediately handed his shield over to CopperPlate. In the rush of the moment, CopperPlate didn’t think too much about it. He equipped the shield and charged towards the queen. If he’d known the shield was worth over a thousand crystals, he’d probably hop around in giddy about it first.
With three players hacking the ants close-up and Below_The_Moon’s arrows from far off, half of the army was demolished within 10 minutes. Still, as the saying goes, a swarm of ants can bite an elephant to death. The three players who’d tanked the attention of the entire army were all hurt.
“Scram.” Ice_For_Miles, who’d been chanting the whole time, had finally finished the chant for the greatest AoE ice spell – Hailstorm. Thousands and thousands of tiny ice arrows barrage down into the area. It’s guaranteed to tear all monsters within to shreds! Use Limit: Once a day.
The three players who were still fighting all dashed away from the monsters the moment they heard Ice_For_Miles. All of a sudden, the ants lost their targets. Only a few soldier ants reacted fast enough to chomp down tight on the fleeing humans.
The torrent of arrows lasted for two minutes. All soldier ants in the area were dead. A fifth of the Queen Ant’s health was lost.
All that’s left of the big ant army were a dozen or so soldiers who’d snuck away by luck. The area around the Queen Ant was all empty. (Minions spawned by Boss monsters do not drop gold or items, just experience.) I_Am_A_Poor_Man had already settled XiaoYu into his spot and had returned to share Chrysanthemum’s burden. He also used Holy Light to carefully attract a soldier ant to his side and left it to its munching. The aim was to prevent the queen from summoning any more. They don’t have a second Hailstorm to bash another army.
NonMeta covered his katars with the poison HereticKing gave and snuck his way around the queen. As soon as he reached her back, he jumped onto that humongous abdomen and stabbed down. A dangerous dark purple crept out from the wounds. Above the Queen Ant’s head, a serious of numbers began flashing by. -20. -30. -40…
The pain made the queen instinctively tilt her head up and let out a sharp cry. She flailed her abdomen around, trying hard to flail this “flea” off her body. At the same time, a pair of her scythe-like claws slashed and sliced at the two “flies” before her eyes. But all they hit were CopperPlate’s shield and HereticKing’s shadow.
It’s not hard to defeat the Queen Ant. Her own Attack stats weren’t that insane. It’s just the number of minions around her were. Other than those, they just need to be able to bear with her earthquake attack. She also had a cumbersome abdomen as her weak spot. They just need to aim for it the whole time and they’d quickly deplete all her HP. HereticKing’s and CopperPlate’s task was to block the attacks of the queen’s two scythes and attract her attention. NonMeta can then gouge out a few holes into her abdomen to speed up the creeping venom HereticKing made from the zombies.
“Shhhiiiik!” The queen gave a loud cry. An earthy yellow glow appeared around her body.
“Careful. She’s going to use her big earthquake attack.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man healed up the fragile Below_The_Moon and Ice_For_Miles with a wave and quickly retreated. The further away from the centre of the attack, the less damage one’d receive. All they need to do was to make sure they won’t die in one hit.
The two healers both threw a new Holy Wall at NonMeta and CopperPlate respectively. (For a certain period of time, it’d reduce a set percentage of physical and magical damage received. The reduction was determined by the spell proficiency. Cooldown Time: 5 minutes.) The two players then continued their retreat.
With the Queen Ant as the centre, the ground began rumbling and shaking. Except for XiaoYu who was standing outside her range of attack, everyone stumbled from the rolling earth and lost some health. The four players far away quickly steadied themselves, but the consequent tremors seemed to be alive and kept sucking away at their health. Fortunately, it wasn’t that damaging. The 10 to 50 HP drained away each second could be swiftly replenished by the two healers. Ice_For_Miles even backed up into XiaoYu’s healing range through coincidence. XiaoYu was throwing all his puny healing spells at Ice in an attempt to help relieve the two healers’ MP drain.
The three players who were almost on top of the centre of the earthquake were not doing as well, especially the two knights. Not only were the tremors depleting their HP, they were unable to block or dodge the queen’s two claws as they couldn’t steady themselves at all. Colourful streaks showed up one after the other on their bodies. NonMeta was still standing on top of the queen. He sunk his blades deep into the queen’s abdomen and used them to steady himself. Thus, he was much less affected by the earthquake than the two knights on the ground.
Time felt agonisingly slow in the 30 seconds of earthquake. When the earth finally calmed down once more, the healers dashed ahead to heal up the three players whose health had dropped below half by that point.
After the shocking but uneventful first earthquake, the party had a grasp on just how threatening the queen’s attacks were. As long as the queen didn’t go berserk during the last drops of her health, it’s just a matter of time before she was ground to dust.
After 30 minutes, reality proved the almighty game was on their side. The queen didn’t go berserk when her health dropped below 10%. Naturally, she gave out a woeful shriek. Dust whooshed by as she died in an explosion of drops.
“Swish!” Just as the crowd opened their eyes wide in anticipation of what strange and mystical items she’d drop, a sudden gust of wind blew above their heads. A black ball of shadow stepped on their heads and pounced on the pile of items. In an instant, everything disappeared.
Tiny! Lucky! Cat! Everyone who knew what that black ball really was grit their teeth and swallowed back the blood in their mouth as three black lines descended en masse down their foreheads.
“Um…I think I saw a golden sparkly crown,” said I_Am_A_Poor_Man as he mimed a pair of binoculars from the back.
“Not only that. There was a card,” HereticKing solemnly spat out. He was closest to the pile of drops, so he’d roughly seen what was in it.
“…” Everyone went silent.
“Aaah! Gods! Lucky, come give me a kiss! This is my first time getting a boss card drop,” shouted CopperPlate as he covered his head with his arms.
Bai XiaoYu’s face dropped into a great big 囧.
Seemed like a certain someone’s really, really lucky when they’re in a party.
The Ragnarok Online equivalent of the Queen Ant monster is Maya. However, it’s not clear whether the monster in this chapter really is half-human as the game version is.