Chapter 178 Strongest Sage, Finds Traces
"...We should arrive at Testra Prairie soon."
A while after we left the town.
We reached the vicinity of Testra Prairie's entrance.
"It's really quiet here..."
"Yeah, so quiet it's creeping me out..."
There is indeed something abnormal at Testra Prairie.
We would have heard sounds from various monsters and small animals at an ordinary plain, but there's barely any sound here.
"...Do you recognize that?"
I point at the thing on the ground.
A long sword made of mithril.
The sword is broken at the base, but it doesn't look old.
It's probably been there less than a month.
"That's... Blue Blade Jin's sword!"
"Is he an adventurer?"
"Yeah! He's one of the adventurers who never came back from Testra Prairie!"
He got ambushed right after he arrived at the prairie.
Equipment that appear to be of adventurers are scattered around the area.
There's no body to be found, but there's no doubt that they've been wiped out.
"Looks like the last adventurer party was attacked here."
"...Yea. I don't see any monster that could do that... but it might be a good idea to watch your surroundings."
The examiner surveys the vicinity as he says that.
Fortunately the visibility is good thanks to this place being a prairie.
You can see quite far away as there's not a lot of tall grass.
We won't get easily ambushed as long as we're alert of our surroundings... is probably what the last adventurer party had in mind.
And the reason for their demise.
"Alma, have you noticed?"
I tried asking Alma here since Ruli must have noticed the monster's mana reaction, no doubt.
Alma replies while looking unsure.
"Ground... I think?"
"Correct. ...Everyone, stay where you are!"
I took some distance away from the four and activated 【Enforced Detection】.
A few seconds later.
The ground below me began to vibrate.
I've expected this.
The shaking is turning more violence, and right when the ground cracks, I jump slightly backward.
The next moment, a huge head of a six meter long snake jumped out of the ground.
I evaded that by a hair's breadth.
The snake angrily hissed to have its attack evaded.
However, the serpent seems to be fully aware that its forte is burrowing in the ground.
It didn't pursue me, instead it immediately turned around and tried to get inside the ground.
"I won't let you!"
I activated a magic to harden the soil as I trample the ground.
The serpent couldn't burrow well into the hardened soil and slowed down.
I swung my sword right there.
The magically reinforced sword easily slice off the serpent.
...Befitting of a creature with strong life force, the snake still moved about for a while, but it ceased before long as it could do nothing after getting cleanly cut in half.
"This monster was most likely the one that wiped out the adventurer party."
I pointed at the dead monster.
The most troublesome aspect of this monster was that you only had about a few seconds chance before getting attacked from the moment you realized its sign.
For those experienced in fighting, those few seconds should be good enough to take proper countermeasures... But for adventurers who never fought anything like this before, they will eat the ambush for sure.
"Aah. Doesn't matter how experienced of an adventurer you are, no way you could do anything when such a monster suddenly sprung out of the ground.... Heck, how were you guys able to perceive this monster's attack anyway?"
"We just detected its mana. Once you've gotten used to it, you can even detect monsters lurking in the ground."
"Monster mana...? Is that even detectable?"
"Yeah. Identifying the type of monster and stuff is quite hard, but simply finding them is simple. So long the opponents aren't concealing their mana, you won't get ambushed, almost guaranteed."
How well mana transmit over the soil changes depending on the places... and you can detect up to 100 meter below with the soil here.
Plenty enough distance to cope with ambushes.
"...I see, now I get the reason why Branch Head-sama said Mathias Party was monstrous. I woulda let you guys pass the test if it weren't for the standards."
The examiner looked at the monster I beat as he said that.
And naturally, Rank B Promotion Test has standards for passing, it can't be decided by the examiner alone.
Well, since the quest is about Testra Prairie Subjugation, let's do so.
For that, first we need to understand the situations here.
"Do you recognize this monster?"
I pointed at the dead serpent.
If my hypothesis is correct, this monster did not originally live here at Testra Prairie....
"No, never seen a monster like that."
Just as I thought.
This is the first time I've seen this monster too.
However, I could somehow guess how this monster came into being from the aura of its mana.
"Then have you ever seen a monster that looks similar to this, but smaller?"
"...Now that you mention it, it does look similar to a Venom Serpent."
The examiner pointed at the dead serpent.
"Venom Serpent... What kind of monster is that?"
"Right... Outwardly it looks pretty similar to this thing, but it doesn't burrow in the ground, and at most it's only 2 meter long. Oh and its poison is also effective on monsters."
...Poison that's effective on monsters huh.
Monsters don't tend to fight against other monsters, so there's only a few species that have that kind of poison.
And the serpent I just beat most likely had that poison.
There's no mistake about it judging from the mana.
"Let's have a small test."
I pulled off the fang of the dead serpent while luring a nearby wolf monster with 【Enforced Detection】.
And then I threw that fang on the wolf monster.
<TLN: If you're reading this novel at any other site than Sousetsuka .com you might be reading an unedited, uncorrected version of the novel.>
The fang shallowly graze the wolf and fell down on the ground.
Normally, such scratch would pose no problem to a monster.
However, the wolf plopped down and began to convulse.
The poison works as expected.
...There's no doubt.
"This thing is most likely a Venom Serpent."
I pointed at the dead serpent.
The examiner sent me a quizzical look when he heard that.
"Like I said before, Venom Serpents don't burrow, nor grow this big. It's clearly a different monster."
"Yeah. If they aren't strengthened."
There exist monsters that can strengthen other monsters.
Monsters strengthened by such monster may get bigger, or transform into something else.
"Umm... It kinda feels like there's a magic circle inside this monster... Maybe, that's the reason?"
"Well, that's the rough answer.... This is it."
I took out a magic stone from the serpent monster.
The magic stone is too small to be inside this huge serpent.
Magic stones this size are normally found on monsters that are just 1-2 meter big.
And something resembling a magic circle is carved inside the magic stone.
Unlike the magic circles humans used to create magic tools, the fact that this one made use of mana flow to alter the monster's state means that it's a type of natural magic circles.
"It really does look like a magic circle... But the formation is unlike anything we've been using, I can't read what it does..."
"Well, naturally occurring magic circles have peculiar constructions after all. I'll teach you about it if you're interested later.... From what I can gather, its effects are monster strengthening and behavioral pattern shift."
This magic circle seems to have overloaded the magic stone, it's been darkened with spreading cracks.
The serpent was probably going to die soon even without me doing anything.
"Behavioral pattern shift...?"
"Yeah. Like making monsters that don't ordinarily burrow to do so."
Monsters that's merely been strengthened should still be manageable with brute force.
But they could be hard to handle depending on the change of their behavioral pattern.
And the biggest problem of this kind of monsters is....
"This monster had a magic circle inside it, right? But then who put it inside?"
Iris muttered so before I could say it.
Yes. That's the problem here.
"The one who put a magic circle inside was... a monster. And most likely a parasite type at that."
"Yea. Among parasite monsters, there are those who strengthen its host and the surrounding monsters to protect itself."
"Surrounding monsters, you mean the one just now wasn't the boss..."
"Yeah. It's just a small fry. These kinds of monsters should be crawling all over this prairie right now."
The monster I killed earlier was just the very tip of an iceberg.
For even a mere ordinary snake monster to turn this big.
Since the parasite monster must have latched itself onto the strongest monster among them.... Seems like I could enjoy fighting the boss here.
"Monsters like this, crawling all over..."
"Sorry but can I go home now?"
The examiner attempted to go back after hearing what I said.
Being able to quickly decide when to escape is an important quality for adventurers, and running away here is the correct answer for an adventurer who cannot use 『Passive Detection』, but please try a bit harder for the sake of our rank up.
Let's try to amicably and peacefully persuade him here.
"I don't mind if you go back alone, but we can't save you if you get attacked along the way, yeah? By the way, there's another five serpent monsters like the one earlier around this area."
"...Okay. Let's push on."
Looks like he understands now.
Thus, we went deeper into the prairie.