Chapter 399 Investigation and Planning
There was a small cave one hundred and two meters below ground.
Two exits led to different areas of the underground world.
The walls on both sides glowed with a sinister light beneath the illumination of glowing moss. Drops of water fell from the ceiling of the tunnel, creating a constant dripping sound as they struck against the cold floor.
The sound didn't stop, yet silence and quiet still ruled the dark world of the underground.
Maintaining silence and hiding your body warmth was the best path to survival in this pitch-black world. However, this rule was broken today!
A goat that you would usually only find on the surface had been chained up to a rock in the center of the cave. The dark, cold environment caused the poor creature to shiver in fright. The massive wounds on its hind legs were still slowly bleeding.
The pungent odor of blood filled the entire tunnel.
The goat's trembling bleat echoed in this deathly silent world.
The goat anxiously cried as it rammed its horns against the pillar it was bound to. It wasn't until it sensed the commotion behind it that the goat stopped and looked around frantically.
A terrifying silhouette slowly approached from the darkness!
It was a Petrifying Lizard.
Its humongous body spanned five meters from head to tail and made it the indisputable predator of this area. Its sharp fangs further ensured that no prey could escape its bite. Along with its Petrification Beam, that had a range of three meters, the Petrifying Lizard was the uncontested 'janitor' of the underground!
The goat started to panic as the pair of glowing yellow eyes closed in from the darkness. It leaped and kicked the pillar with all its might. It was all in vain. In fact, its actions only caused the smell of its blood to spread even further and quicker through the tunnel.
The lizard was stopped by a strange runic array when it neared the goat. The lizard bit at the formation that had surfaced from the ground and tackled it several times. However, the array didn't even budge. The lizard was helplessly circling the array when it suddenly tensed its muscles. It lifted its nostrils and started smelling the air flowing through the tunnel.
Its sharp sense allowed it to pick up a familiar and terrifying scent mingled with the smell of blood.
Without any hesitation, the petrifying lizard turned and crawled back into the darkness.
A violent gust of wind blew across the tunnel not long after the disappearance of the lizard. A lithe black form lunged out of the tunnel and started to circle the stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave.
Finally, the black form landed on a flat platform jutting out of the stone wall and looked down from above upon everything in the cave.
The goat's legs had given way from fear of the strange atmosphere. The acrid smell of urine flowed from beneath its body.
The cave seemed utterly dark, but the black silhouette was able to see every single corner of the place with its night vision.
The cold ground, dark stone walls, and the flowing underground river; everything was all within its control.
It stood in the darkness, a flash of suspicion and animosity gleaming in its emerald eyes.
However, as a young manticore that had yet to come of age, it was still too immature.
It took in all of the scent coming from the goat. The smell of fresh blood unique to surface creatures stimulated the creature's senses. Saliva dripped from its mouth and corroded tiny holes in the rock platform.
The display before the manticore looked like a crude trap, no matter how it looked at the scene, but where were the enemies that had set the trap?
The young manticore suppressed its desire to feast and scanned around for any potential enemies nearby. However, it found no trace or smell of an outsider, even after taking a complete look at every corner of the cave.
Finally, the young manticore was no longer able to suppress its natural desire for fresh meat. It roared and pounced downwards, ferociously pinning the goat to the ground.
A short moment later, the cave resounded with the sound of the manticore savagely chewing the goat's flesh.
As a member of the monstrous underground creatures, the young manticore had no regard for table manners. The wild and savage way it ate its food was too horrendous to watch. The entirety of the ground was covered in blood as if this was a slaughterhouse.
Meanwhile, while the young manticore was still engrossed in its meal, ripples appeared across a shallow pond in the corner of the cave. Three human silhouettes emerged from below the water.
Gargamel mumbled under his breath.
As he whispered, the feasting manticore stumbled. Its massive body suddenly collapsed before it could unfold its wings and take off.
"Move faster," Greem instructed in a soft voice, "There's still another manticore cub nearby. We don't have much time!"
"Understood!" Gargamel let out a sinister laugh, "Extracting the venom from its tail won't take very long. I can assure you that he won't feel a thing afterward!"
Gargamel silently made his way towards the unconscious manticore.
There were still two hours before the sun rose. The adolescent manticores were slowly starting to return to the cave.
It was evident from their bulging stomachs that they had already engaged in a filling feast.
They held bloody prey in their sturdy hind legs as they dove into the cave. It was only when all the manticores had disappeared into the underground tunnel that the bats dared to return to the cave.
Greem, Gargamel, and Sabrina observed the entire process from the side. They returned to the camp with satisfactory results when daylight broke.
They hadn't killed anything on their first trip into the underground cave. Nor had the group kidnapped the manticore cub they had tricked either. All they had done was discreetly remove a bit of its flesh and venom. By the time the paralyzing drug wore off, and the manticore woke up from its deep sleep, Greem and the others had already erased all unnatural and abnormal signs around it.
The manticore cub wasn't a fully intelligent creature yet. The effect of the drug also caused it to forget everything that had happened. It returned to its den with doubts in its heart but none the wiser.
A potions master like Gargamel could use the venom taken from the manticore cub to concoct an anti-paralysis antidote that worked explicitly against their toxin. It might not be able to completely neutralize the paralyzing effects of an adolescent manticore's sting, but it was much better than having no antidote at all.
For several days afterward, Greem and Gargamel spent their nights in the cave and its winding tunnels.
They observed the manticore's habits and behaviors, and they even snuck into the manticores' den to get a complete picture of the geographical features there. All of this was to set the foundation for their plan to get rid of the creatures.
Finally, after much planning and speculation on Greem's part, they decided on the perfect extermination plan and the date it was to be carried out– the seventh day since their arrival at Plaguewood.
According to Greem's observation, this was a day where the adolescent manticores were all going out to hunt. It was the perfect time to carry out their plan.
And the ones to execute the plan were the members of the adventure party!
Love and the others finally agreed to take on one last risk when Greem tempted them with three hundred magical crystals.
Another beautiful night where the moon was bright and the stars were bright.
The sky had just turned dark, and once again the colony of bats swarmed out of the cave, forming into a shadowy cloud and dispersing into the woods after circling a few times.
The nine manticores showed up once again and went their way after splitting their duties amongst themselves!
Greem and his party of eight showed themselves once the manticores had left. They hurried into the depths of the cave.
Sabrina led the adventurers as they walked behind the adepts. In the meantime, Greem and Gargamel went ahead and rushed into the tunnel as fast as they could, heading straight for the manticore den.
Time was precious. Every second counted. They needed to set their trap up before the manticores realized something had happened back at home. Otherwise, they were going to get trapped in the cave by the returning manticores.
If they wanted to trick the pack of manticores and lure them into the trap, they first had to get the two manticore cubs under their control. That was why Greem and Gargamel were going ahead of the party. They used their magic and their spells to increase their movement speed and advanced towards the manticore den.
Unlike their sneaking around for the past couple of days, this time they intended to charge right into the tunnel.
Greem continuously threw out fireballs and blasted away the small underground creatures in his way as he barreled through the tunnel.
The massive fireball explosions quaked, and commotion spread throughout the cave. Greem was spared the trouble of finding the cubs. The two young manticores would follow the blasting sounds and seek the intruder.
The manticore cubs were only as powerful as pseudo-adepts. Still, while it might not be hard for Greem to beat them, it was going to be slightly tricky to capture them alive.
Greem entered a small cave. Five tunnels led in different directions in the cave. This place was one of the hubs of the underground labyrinth.
An ominous wind had blown down on him when he reached here. Two large silhouettes dived at him from above. They bared their white fangs as they bit at Greem's neck and shoulder.
Greem had already expected the ambush from the two manticore cubs. His Multi-Dimensional Scene Construction allowed him to see everything clearly. Greem's body only paused for an instant before he transported to another part of the cave with the use of his Fire Teleportation. Meanwhile, a massive Magma Fireball he left behind exploded right at the position he had been!
If Greem wanted to kill the two manticore cubs, he only needed to hit them directly with a Magma Fireball. That was more than sufficient to severely wound them. However, for the sake of capturing the beasts alive, Greem had to detonate the fireball before they were too close.
A violent explosion and shockwave blasted the two manticore cubs away. Wounds appeared all over their body. They cried in agony as they stumbled away from the fire.
The first thing to greet the disoriented manticores were the iron fists of the Roaring Monster.
Dong! Dong! Two muffled booms knocked the two manticore cubs neatly unconscious!