All five attacks landed squarely on the fireball. However, only the first three had any effect. Since Cheng Yang’s stats were halved, his damage was too low to create a two-hit combo with one of the soldiers.
When the monster died, it flicked into smoke. The only indicators that it had ever existed were the Experience Fragments they earned and the slight smell of charcoal.
“That was an Aithne. They’re also known as fire spirits.” Cheng Yang explained, “They’re the most common monster in the Magma Wastes but don’t be fooled by their appearance. If they envelop you in their flames, there’s no hope for survival.”
Wang Yuan and the others were horrified. If Cheng Yang hadn’t been there to warn them about the monster’s true nature, they would have dismissed it as normal fire.
A new fire spirit would appear every few dozen meters the group traveled, either alone or in a pair. As a result, they all died without Enlai needing to do anything.
Even so, none of the soldiers dropped their guard. If even the environment could kill them in a few seconds, they didn’t want to test their luck against a surprise attack.
The path through the Magma Wastes was intricate. It would curve around and double back on itself routinely. There were also several paths through the sea of lava. Fortunately, there were enough landmarks to determine the group wasn’t walking in circles.
Even Cheng Yang was having trouble in this labyrinthian environment. Since the dungeon itself never reset, various groups set up signboards to stop people from getting lost in his previous life. So, finding the correct path was difficult.
Fortunately, there was an easy way to tell if an area had been visited: monsters would only spawn in new areas.
Even after walking two kilometers, there wasn’t an end to the cavern in sight—only rivers of lava dozens of meters wide and pools wide enough to encompass entire city blocks.
So far, the group had killed around fifty Aithne, including one at the Pinnacle-Grade level. However, in front of the group’s buffed firepower, it was still too fragile.
Since the number of Aithne that spawned was proportional to the nearby lava basins’ size, the group was able to plan and avoid getting overwhelmed.
After a couple more kilometers, Cheng Yang began to recognize some of the scenery. If he was correct, they’d only covered the first tenth of the dungeon. The total size was over three thousand square kilometers, so he had no way to tell for sure.
“Ah, of course.” Cheng Yang exclaimed. “Are any of you good at drawing?”
“I studied fashion design in college, my Lord.” Jiang Yang said, “So, although it’s not my main skill, I can draw well.”
“Fashion design…” Cheng Yang muttered, “That’s pretty much the same as cartography.”
“Ah…” Jiang Yang looked a little sheepish when he realized what Cheng Yang wanted to do. “I can try, but don’t expect anything amazing.”
“All right.” Cheng Yang sighed. “Try it out for now. If it’s not good, we’ll find someone better, and you’ll help them map out the areas we go through.”
Jiang Yang nodded.
Around the time they killed their hundredth fire spirit, a new type of monster appeared: a humanoid plume of fire known as the Ebo.
The Ebo weren’t much stronger than the Aithne, but they only appeared in groups of two or more. As a result, Enlai finally needed to do some work. If there were too many monsters for the soldiers to handle, he would decisively kill the others when they got too close.
Although Enlai was hurt in the process, the damage was negligible. There was also a Priest in the group keeping Enali in peak condition.
As the group progressed, Wang Yuan maintained a constant stream of conversation.
“My Lord, what kind of world do you think this is? The gods turned it into a game, but it feels so incomplete. Even if I could respawn, this game would be too dull to play. After weeks of training, I barely feel stronger. Take this dungeon, for example, even after three hours it’s so boring. There hasn’t been any real challenge!”
“Would you rather have been fighting with your life on the line since you entered?” Cheng Yang stared incredulously at Wang Yuan. “Isn’t it enough that you have the power to survive in most areas?”
“Of course not.” Wang Yuan said with the spirit of a true gamer. “Shouldn’t there be some world bosses somewhere that take hundreds to thousands of people to kill?”
“Isn’t this world harsh enough as is?” Cheng Yang asked with a sad smile. “I can assure you that monsters like that exist, but rather than exciting, meeting one means instant death. Pray, you never meet one.”
“But if I did want to fight one, where would it be?” Wang Yuan asked with eyes like saucers.
Cheng Yang sighed and ignored the question. Thankfully, all this chatter didn’t prevent Wang Yuan from killing the monsters that appeared.
Night and day meant nothing in the Magma Wastes, but Cheng Yang’s watch indicated that it was six in the afternoon. At this point, another new monster had appeared: the Arshi Tengri, a creature made from semi-hardened lava that looked like a demon wearing black plate armor.
All of them were Pinnacle-Grade monsters putting their average strength on par with Enlai. Although they were fearsome opponents, they died all the same.
Although the soldiers were frightened when they first appeared, they now felt confident enough to face a real Mature monster if they met one. If they did, it would be an honor few could brag about.
Despite being more powerful than the Ebo, since they only appeared in pairs, the Arshi Tengri were easier to deal with. It might seem odd, but this level of difficulty was to be expected. This was a test of skill, after all. The gods wouldn’t make it impossible to conquer the dungeon.
Three hours later, the group hit a stumbling block. The Arshi Tengri were starting to appear in groups of three or even four.
A trio strained the group but was bearable. If there were four, it was impossible to avoid injuries. It never reached a critical point, but Enlai wouldn’t stop complaining about singed fur and painful burns over the mental link with Cheng Yang.
Then, a massive cistern of lave entered their sight. It was no less than six hundred and sixty-six square kilometers in size with a large island in the middle. It was an awe-inspiring sight.
“My Lord, with a lake that huge, just how many monsters will we need to fight?” Jiang Yang asked with a pale face.