"My liege, do you intend to tag along we explore the volcano?"
The captain of the exploratory party who was standing at the side saw Joshua suddenly stopped talking and said nothing else. Then Joshua just stared at the red stone in his hand. The captain could not help but ask, "So are we going to depart now? Or should we regroup first?"
This tall, strong northern warrior who looked at least two meters tall had originally carried a huge kit with him. However, because of the long wait, he had to put the large kit onto the ground. From the gap by the opening of the package, one could see that the bag pack was filled with various magic-enhanced equipment for detecting the veins and the purity of the ore. There were also some exploration tools in that bag pack.
"Of course, but not now."
Joshua nodded his head. Then he took his eyes off the blood stone of the Ancient Dragon that he held in his hand and glanced the surroundings around him. He found that there were not many tall plants covering the area around the hills by the sides of the volcano. Only some shrubs and small trees were present. The ground was also covered with molten rocks which had numerous faint cracks.
There were a total of four expedition members in the simple and humble camp, each with Upper Silver-tier strength. They were a party of five if they counted Roland the holy knight as one of them. The captain of the party would be the tall and strong warrior. Meanwhile, the other expedition members consisted of an archer and an infiltratoralso known as a thief. Even so, they had never committed any theft for their official work. Instead, they were professionals in doing reconnaissance work and stealth missions.
The last member of the party was from a rare race, a hobbit mage. He had two large and bright eyes, furry hands and feet, and half the height of an average person. Well, if it wasn't for the obvious staff that he was holding, the warrior would have been very close to completely ignoring him already.
This hobbit did not look as active as the others of his own race though. After noticing Joshua's gaze, he silently bowed to the warrior as a sign of respect.
These people had finally noticed the presence of the silver-haired girl and black-haired young man who were standing right behind Joshua. However, they did not have a single doubt in their hearts. As the members of the expedition party who required the ability to see and observe the most, every single one of them knew that the young man and the girl were not ordinary beings at all. Well, they did notice that the two of them barely even panted after tagging along tagging along with their baron all the way from Black Forest Fortress, through the hills, to their current location. These two must be some sort of extraordinary existence at all. At least they would not have to worry about these two.
Having determined the line-up of the expedition party, Joshua seemed to have sensed something. He glanced back at the direction where Dark Forest Fortress was located and he nodded his head.
"Just wait for a little while more. My warhorse is arriving soon."
None of them really understood why Joshua said to wait for the arrival of his horse. Well, anyone should know that this was a hilly area around the volcano. There were also a lot of potholes along the area. Some places may even have rapid hot fountains gushing out. People who were trying to cross the area would definitely need to be extra careful. So how could it be possible for anyone to bring along their warhorses then?
It was not long before they realized their misjudgment.
Because of the slight quake that trembled across the surface of the ground, the infiltrator and the archer sensed that something was approaching them at high speed. They quickly looked towards the direction where the movement was coming from just to discover that there was a dragon-blooded horse approaching towards them from afar rapidly. The dust and sand that were stirred into the air by its hooves could already be seen from afar. With a warning from the archer, the remaining members of the expedition party instantly turned their heads over to take a good look at what was approaching them. After that, they were shocked to the point that they had to take in a cold breath when they saw the magnificently huge body of the horse.
Meanwhile, Roland who had never seen Black was also caught off guard.
This Gold-tier half-dragon was the warhorse that Joshua had spoken of?
What kind of joke is that?! Whose warhorse would look so big, to begin with? Can't he just say it's a mount then?! Its body mass is as huge as a small cottage already. It is an existence that is larger than most daemons already!
As Black was approaching, its huge size became even more obvious now. Under the circumstance where it had sufficient food supply, creature had grown up to nine meters tall. Its height had already reached the height of a three-story building now! How about its length? Well, if its tail was included in its length, then Black should be over twenty meters long! Traces of elemental fire visible to the naked eye were surging around it. With a swagger of its slender body, the warhorse actually brought out a ring of fire surrounding its body while it was present in the middle of a volcanic area where elemental energy was extremely dense.
Although the horse inherited the bloodline of the Smelting Black Dragon, Black still loved to run on land. Along with the thunder-like stampings of its hooves. The huge beast had arrived before the campsite. After that, it neighed loudly in front of its master. A slight pressure was spreading out from it, as many black shadows were instantly flying out from the forest in the surroundings. There was no telling of those shadows were birds or bats.
"That's pretty fast."
Completely ignoring the neighing of Black which carried some degree of dragon's mist, Joshua went forward and patted the lower front leg of his mount. He then nodded in satisfaction. "It seems that I've made the right choice to have ask the people from the academy to teleport you over here from Mount Nissa."
Since they had determined from the beginning that they were heading over to the volcanic region, so why would the warrior not think of bringing Black which had inherited the bloodline of the Smelting Black Dragon then? Of course he would want to bring the horse along. Though this half-dragon being which could control elemental power could not evade all dangers, it could at least improve everyone's safety to a whole new level. However, this fellow was usually stocked in the bottom of the palm print lake by the snowy mountain. So it would require teleportation for the horse to get over here.
"Fortunately, this fellow knows how to clean itself after it grew bigger."
Standing right behind Joshua, Ying who had been taking care of Black muttered in a low voice. This little girl seemed to be imagining that she was grooming the huge horse as he was holding onto a small brush. After having that picture in her head, she could not help but shudder.
In the meantime, Ling was also muttering to himself as he was filled with grievances, "The larger it gets, the more it eats. It's already a big expenditure just to keep it fed Why must it grow so large! It's already good enough for one horse to be ridden by one person! What use can it be growing so big?!"
In the meantime, Joshua also turned his head around and spoke gently to everyone who was still in shock, "Bring all of your things and bags and put them on Black's back. We should get moving."
"Yes, my liege!"
In fact, based on the experience of the expedition party, they should have seen monsters with this type of mass before. So they should not be too alarmed and stunned. However, Black's dragon might was different from other ordinary draconic beasts. It had a rugged ancient air around it. Furthermore, the dense fire elemental energy was surrounding its body like its armor, causing the others to marvel at the power of this beast.
None of the individuals present were procrastinating at all. Even when they were amazed by Black's exterior tough shell and heart that was pumping with golden lava right before Black's chest, that expedition party had begun departing towards the cave that led to the mysterious region on the second minute after the order had been issued by the warrior.
The terrain around Great Ajax was complex and inconstant. There were hills, basin areas, woods, and rock piles all over the places. The ecosystem of the daemons also varied according to the different environments they were in. A few decades ago, except for the Gold-tier champions from the four territories in the North who would travel to the border of this place to hunt, this area had always forbidden area for the humans. There were poisonous steams that would gush out of the ground uncertainly, boiling fountains, and even lava that would gush out from the holes across the ground. All these factors would greatly hamper the progress of anyone's exploration in that area. Not to mention that the daemons that were living in those environments were extremely dangerous.
Right before Roland, an Upper, also the strongest Gold in the newest generation in the world joined this ordinary expedition party, the party could only explore the hills by the side of the volcano. They did not even dare to approach the woods at the foot of the volcano. So needless to say that they would even think about getting up to the hills. Because of that, they were the first to discover the cave at the foot of the hill that was rather obvious.
But now, under influence of Black's dragon might, even the sound of its footsteps was echoing back and forth across the areas of the mountains. Hence, none of the daemons were brave enough to reveal themselves before the party. Furthermore, the gigantic body of half-dragon had no problem at all across any form of terrain. It would be like an ordinary walk for it to go through the countless obstacles on the ground. It could even easily cross the lava-filled terrains.
Shortly afterward, Joshua and the party arrived before the cave at the foot of the Great Ajax Volcano.
In between the undulating hills and rocks, there was a piece of large-scale rock covered with obvious red marks. Meanwhile, there was also a small and dense forest where the trees had yellowish-brown leaves growing on the large rock itself. Right after the forest, there was the cave that connected straight to the deep area of the volcano. That cave looked extremely big. The cave was over thirty meters tall. Meanwhile, the walls in the cave looked bizarrely smooth. There were even signs of potterypottery that seemed to be made out of high temperature.
As they arrived at their destination, the expedition party took their bags and things off Black's back as they took out their instruments and equipmentFor instance, magic-enhanced poison mask, primary elemental resistance amulets, retractable long ropes, and a variety of other equipment that could deal with all sorts of unexpected incidents.
"Is it necessary?"
The holy knight passed a mask to Joshua. However, Joshua just looked at the holy knight quietly as he declined Roland's offer regretfully. "Of course I know you don't need this But this has nothing to do with strength. This is to preserve as much strength and stamina as you can. Also, this is for you to experience life. You should give it a try at least!"
Well, it was because he had experienced it before and he did not want to experience that one more time.
Joshua shook his head. How could he be not familiar with those equipment? In the previous life, when he and his party went to some dangerous areas to expedite the wastelands, his entire party went prepared with that sort of equipment. He had the luxury of using these sorts of Empire-style poison mask for a while. The results were really good. However, it would cause breathing difficulties when the person wearing it exercises. Having the Combat Aura of a Gold tier protecting his body, he would not be punishing himself by wearing one of those masks.
In the meantime, Ying and Ling were both Divine Armaments. Truth be told, regardless of whether it was their breathing or their heartbeats, those were just merely aesthetics that made them look and function like a human. They could just cease breathing anytime they wanted to. Naturally, they would not need to wear those masks.
After getting ready to move, all of them, including Black set foot into the cave.
Compared to the underground tunnel excavated by the dwarves, this volcanic cave was much more spacious. Also, it had more branches. This was just a few hundred meters into the cave. There were many cracks and openings leading to other places on the wall. However, because they had already visited this place once before this, the expedition party did not show the slightest hesitation as they were moving forward. They just went along the tunnel with the widest diameter. It did not take long before they traveled hundreds of meters deep into the cave.
Along the road, there was no accident or incident happening at all. Other than the temperature getting higher eventually, they did not even encounter a single daemon. That was all thanks to the oppressively powerful dragon might that Black was emitting. Joshua could even sense that a group of Silver-tier Metal Drill Mole-Rat that was initially hanging around at the forefront of the cave. However, after they had sensed the presence of Black's dragon might, they immediately trembled and fled back into a hidden area of the cave, vanished.
As for Joshua's powerful senses, he could even see with his mind clearly that the group of mole-rats consisted of thirty seven. They were dragging the necks of their families as they were attempting to flee in between the cracks of the cave, their feelings intensifying. The fully grown male mole-rats were digging insanely right at the front while the fully grown female mole-rats were leading their young, following from behind as they were squeaking as if they were hurrying the male mole-rats to dig faster.
In the face of the presence on the top of the natural food chain, even as Silver-tier daemons, they were still fleeing like ordinary animals that were scared sh*tless.
Time passed. Everyone continued on with their journey deeper into the volcano in silence.
"We're not far from the place now."
Through the mask, a dull voice came out. The warrior who was leading at the front wiped away the sweats on his forehead. The temperature in the surroundings had reached as high as seventy-five degrees Celsius. The rich fire elemental energy in the surroundings even formed some little sparks, illuminating the road in front of them. Because he had protection from his Combat Aura and his Beginner's Immunity Skin, Joshua seemed quite jovial at the moment. "My liege, in our previous visit here, I could even see the fire elemental energy naturally gathering and forming into magic crystals. Although they were the size of grains of rice, that should be enough to prove that the density of the elemental energy here is thick."
In the meantime, Joshua who did not experience any abnormal changes in his body and did not even sweat a little, had noticed that. He looked at the walls of the cave around him. Numerous light particles were seen reflecting around. There were also signs and traces of fire elemental energy slowly condensing. Then Joshua said fervently, " If this goes on for some hundreds of years, this place will become a small-scale fire crystal mine."
This was not a common scenario though. The warrior felt that he was truly lucky to be able to witness such a marvelous scene.
Just as they were talking among themselves, the expedition party had arrived at the end of the cave, their final destination.
It was a vast, underground cavern of at least two or three square kilometers.