Obediently, Revis led the group close to the spot where she had been when she had detected intruders before. Not far away from it, there was a pathetically shabby makeshift hut. It was clear that whoever had built it really had no clue about architecture at all. Thankfully, maybe by a stroke of luck, it was relatively sturdy, so even with the occasional slight tremors in the distance due to various monsters' movements, it still stood tall.
The captured tamer was the only one who was forced to walk all the way here, while Ais, Isaac and Finn enjoyed a comfortable ride on Titania's back. Mind you, it wasn't a slow one, because both the Demi Spirit and Revis could achieve speeds that normal adventurers would think of as incredible. But even though the air resistance battered them and any regular human being would have been injured by it, they could shrug it off without any problems.
Lots of odds and ends were kept in the hut, although they were mostly daily necessities and food. A few more sets of armour, weapons and clothes, most likely obtained from fallen adventurers or bought from the stores of Rivira, were stacked up in a corner. As for the Jewel Fetus that they were looking for, it was safely stowed away in one of the various bags that were used to store food. Underneath multiple layers of loafs of bread, there it was.
When Revis brought it in front of the others, Isaac nodded at Titania to accept it from the tamer's hands and hand it over to them. As was quite so often the case, once one acquired a cosy piece of furniture, one wouldn't really want to part from it unless it was necessary. And clearly, this minor matter didn't move the relaxedly reclining young man enough to rise to his feet.
After he had gotten his hands on the Jewel Fetus, Ais and Finn peeked at it curiously from the side as well. It was a seemingly perfectly round sphere with a diameter of about thirty centimeters. Its surface seemed similar to glass, but also vaguely reminiscent of an egg shell, and was dark green in colour. As its opacity wasn't high and the 'shell' was transparent, they could also observe its interior.
Hovering within a transparent fluid that filled up the entirety of the inside, resembling amniotic fluid, there was a 'baby' that was about twenty centimeters in size. It looked as if a human fetus had been crossed with a mandragora and had gotten blessed with tentacles atop its head that were eerily similar to the mythical Medusa's hair - thankfully, these ones weren't actually snakes. This being had its eyes closed as if in a deep slumber.
Usually, Isaac would mentally mock the naming sense of whoever had cursed the monsters roaming this dungeon with their currently used monikers, but this time, even he had to admit that the name for this 'baby' inside of what was basically an artificial w.o.m.b was appropriate. It looked like a fetus, and was encased in a shell that was jewel-like. It just fit.
Of course, he didn't only use his eyes to observe this being, he also utilized his Eyes of Hermes, a.k.a. his mana, to sense even more about this oddity. Sadly, he didn't come across anything particularly useful. Just like all living beings, the Jewel Fetus had mana as well as lifeforce coursing through it, but there was nothing else out of the ordinary. As always, he committed all the information that he had gathered to memory - the detailed body structure got saved in his mental archives. It was unlikely that it would ever be of importance, but he had stored even far, far less significant details. Simply for the sake of knowing them, with no other goals.
Because he had finished his examination, Isaac handed the Jewel Fetus to Ais, as she seemed like she wanted to take a closer look at it. The moment that she touched its shell, however, the unborn Demi Spirit's eyes suddenly opened widely, and it stared directly into hers, taking her aback.
With trace amounts of shock in her breathtaking facial features, she returned its gaze, unsure of what or who it was that she was looking at. She had observed that the fetus gave off the same feeling as Titania, so the story about her being born from one of these oddities definitely checked out.
A few seconds later, the Jewel Fetus closed its eyes again. Ais was left with a contemplative gaze, furrowing her brows slightly.
'This look it feels familiar. I'm sure that I've been subject to it before'
Seconds later, a frosty glare appeared in her eyes momentarily, before her expression softened and she shot a gaze at both Finn and Isaac.
"I'm certain that I've indirectly met whoever controls these Demi Spirits in the past, before I came to Orario. When I was still with my parents, this person seemed to have glared at me from a distance a few times, from far out of my field of view, just like a stalker. I don't know who they are, but I noticed that they only seemed to bother me when my father wasn't out adventuring. Those are all the clues that I have."
She didn't bother hiding anything, and tried her best to give the clearest and most concise information that she could, earning her an approving smile from Isaac. Finn was momentarily surprised that she would share this much with him, but soon happily accepted this fact. He - as well as Riveria, Gareth and Loki - was aware of her past to a certain degree. Still, it always felt nice when she opened up about it a bit more.
"I paid close attention, and the moment that the fetus' eyes opened, there was no change in its mana or the mana surrounding it. Not even its lifeforce had any odd movements. Either this method to gaze at you regardless of distance is also capable of perfectly masking its tracks that it would otherwise leave behind in both of these energies, or it simply doesn't utilize them at all. My best guess is that it's based on a Skill, as those seem to be capable of ignoring a lot of the fundamental laws of this world, to a certain degree."
Reliable as usual, Isaac already had a barebones theory at hand, which he also didn't bother holding back. After all, they were amongst friends. Well, with the exception of Revis, who was staring at him with palpable distress in her eyes. This only further confirmed his guess, however. Sadly, upon questioning her, she refused to spill the beans yet again.
With a resigned sigh, Ais stuffed the Jewel Fetus into her inventory and asked Revis to gather up a few tens of the various exotic monster species under her control, to enable Isaac to research them easily. Lots of them arrived in waves, each one only consisting of a single species. Of course, for a more realistic experience, she had Revis avoid controlling them, so that her beloved could observe their natural behaviour.
As the heartless research progressed, Titania put her hands over her ears and closed her eyes tightly, shivering uncontrollably. Her new master's brutal behaviour made her fear for her own safety, so she desperately wanted to avoid spectating any of it. Just imagining being sliced apart piece by piece, like these various flowers and caterpillars, almost gave her nightmares. Mind you, she wasn't a pure damsel, she had been devouring monsters and their magic stones herself before. Still, visualizing these various things happening to her own body left her in deep terror.
Amusingly enough, her Loyalty rose by 5, purely out of fear. She really, really didn't want to defy this young man.
Even though Finn was a bit appalled by Isaac's research, he didn't comment on it. Instead, he informed the two lovebirds about why he had gone out of his way to come here in the first place. This earned him the embarrassed apologies of the two, because neither of them had given much thought regarding the fact that they couldn't be contacted in any way should an emergency arise and both of them were unavailable.
In the back of his head, Isaac noted down that he would have to work on giving them ways to communicate with him sooner than originally planned. At the same time, he kept quiet about a certain detail. Technically, they would have been able to gain his attention, should they have attempted to kill his students. One of his alerts would have been triggered, summoning him to the scene. But, yeah he obviously wouldn't let this information slip. That would just lead to a hell of a lot of awkwardness the next time that something untowards happened. Maybe, one of the kids would even get seriously hurt.
All in all, there were six never-before-encountered monster species under Revis' control. Four of them had strength at Level 4, while the other two were at Level 5. With their tamer here to state their names, Isaac didn't even have to baptize their species or make random guesses.
The weakest of the bunch were the Virgas. They were the green caterpillars that Isaac had seen huge numbers of before. Compared to the purple ones, they were a little shorter, reaching only a length of barely ten meters. They had purple and red coloured patterns on their bodies, which looked both intriguing and a little disturbing, although they didn't actually form any distinct shapes or forms. All of their stats were at I-50 / 9,850, so they shouldn't have been any problem at all.
Well, that wasn't the case. From their heads, they could spew a purple corrosive acid that most of their bodies were filled to the brim with. Even the best metals and materials would slowly get eroded away, and physical attacks would leave one with only a grip left after a couple of swings of one's sword. Thankfully, Isaac had waited for them to attack him first, so after he had dodged the acid that they had spewed at him, he had been able to observe a huge chunk of the dungeon's floor falling victim to it, making him far more cautious. He had then switched to using small wind blades to damage them instead, and had avoided losing any of his equipment during the research.
The Virgas didn't seem to have any particular weak points, aside from their magic stones - just like all monsters. Aside from their dangerous acid, there was only one other thing that stood out about them. After they were killed, instead of leaving their magic stones behind, they would explode and obliterate that very loot in the process. Immediately, Isaac saw parallels to the Blades' suicide bomb mechanisms, but these monsters actually had this feature built into their very biological blueprint. Mind you, this hadn't been what he had judged to be most likely to be the case when he had first witnessed their post-death fireworks. Still, he was reasonably certain that whoever had chosen to create these monsters in this way had at least been partially inspired by Vli's fanatic followers.
By using wind blades to proficiently and safely cut out the magic stones from the Virgas' bodies, he was able to secure a few and scrutinize them without losing them to the explosions. They had a slightly green-yellowish tint to them, compared to the regular magic stones' purple one. Aside from the colour difference, at first glance, they didn't appear to be too dissimilar. As he hadn't even studied regular magic stones in detail yet, Isaac decided to store these weird ones in his inventory for now. He would take a closer look at them in the future.
Next in line were the Violas, who were primarily green coloured, man-eating flowers that towered twelve meters out of the ground. Just like the Virgas, parts of their bodies were also purple and red in colour. They were somewhat similar to icebergs, in that parts of their bodies - their roots, to be exact - were actually hidden underground. Compared to the Titanic's nemeses, however, those parts weren't actually that big. If their roots were included, their total size was twenty meters in height. As for their stats, all of them but Magic were at H-150 / 10,650.
They actually weren't much of a problem to deal with, they even had a weak point - their roots. Aside from their relatively resilient stems and their quick attacks, they felt quite average to face. That was, until a Magic was cast. When Isaac attempted to cut them with a wind blade made from his mana, the Violas that he had been facing entered a berserk state, which buffed all of its stats by about 50 percent. Apparently, they had the ability to sense any unnatural changes in the surrounding mana, and would then react violently to it. In essence, they were anti-mage monsters that regular adventurers would obliterate in mere moments. If the Virgas were especially effective against melee combatants due to their acid, then the Virgas would give the magical long range combatants a headache instead.
Just like normal monsters would, they left behind their magic stones and didn't explode upon death. As before, their magic stones were of a green-yellowish colour as well. This, alongside the colour palette of green, purple and red, was what all of these monster species had in common. With a smile and a merry whistling sound, Isaac put the Violas' corpses into his inventory, not intent on feeding the dungeon his prey.
The mostly purple caterpillars that he had seen when he had first come to this floor were called Vesios. Although they were about twice the size of the Virgas, and their stats were quite a bit higher, at E-450 / 13,050, they basically had no combat ability.
Yes, they could attempt to squash their opponents with their bodies, and they could spew a bilious green liquid from their mouths. Still, the fluid didn't deal any direct damage, and only slowly hardened into the same material that the wall that surrounded this area was made of. Unless one stood still and deliberately got encased by it, offering up no resistance at all, one wouldn't be in danger. But if one, for example, were to be asleep and got trapped by this material unknowingly, one would find oneself trapped like a fly in fossilized amber in a matter of minutes.
This 'amber' had a heat-insulating effect and was also relatively warm by itself, or even a little hot. But aside from this, the Vesios didn't offer up any interesting discoveries. Some of their corpses, as well as their magic stones, soon got stowed away into a certain diligent researcher's inventory.
To take a look at the Venenthes, Isaac actually had to go to the various pits that they resided in. While they could move slowly and awkwardly, they wouldn't be able to offer up much of a resistance in that state, and he wanted to face them at their best. So, followed by Ais and Finn atop Titania and Revis who got unceremoniously dragged along, he returned to the spots on this floor where he had seen the pitcher plant monsters after their arrival here. Back when he had first encountered one on the 18th floor, he had had to avoid it due to its superior speed and dangerous sound wave attacks. This time, however, he didn't have to have any reservations, even though these plants' stats were the highest of any of the Level 4 monsters down here, at A-800 / 15,850.
It was very easy for him to dodge the attacks of their tentacles, and even to withstand the sound waves that they shot at him. Admittedly, if he had a dangerously low Endurance, a couple of thousand stats beneath the Venenthes', then he would probably be heavily injured by them. But in his current state, where he restricted himself to the exact same stats, he only paused slightly upon coming into contact with the first sound wave. After testing how strong these attacks were, he never got hit by them again, as he could easily predict their trajectories. Even should he not have been able to do this, he could still just observe the slight distortion in the air along the attack's path, and dodge by relying on that information alone.
In an effort to come up with a foolproof strategy and while exploring the plants' weaknesses, he found out that should a Venenthes have its crown shaped appendage cut off, it would be incapable of attacking by using sound waves - it also wouldn't be able to regrow this part of its body. Aside from this, he found no other weakness. Even damaging the plants' 'eyes' didn't do anything, as they weren't actually eyes in the first place.
Still, there was one more thing to be noted: Just like the Violas, they would go berserk if they detected a change in the mana in their surroundings. This, however, could simply be avoided by not using Magic - it really wasn't a difficult problem to solve. As for mages, as long as they stayed outside of the range of their tentacles and sound waves, they could still easily obliterate them, as the pitcher plants were almost stationary.
The weaker of the two Level 5 monster species were the Visc.u.ms. They were, by far, the largest non-dungeon generated monsters on this floor, and similar to the Violas in that their roots were hidden underground. All in all, they reached a length of close to fifty meters and were mostly green in colour, just like all monster species here aside from the Vesios. They only consisted of a single stem, at whose end was a flower that looked a little like both a snake's head and a spear's tip, adorned by flower petals and a couple of two meter long tendrils.
They attacked just like the animal that they were reminiscent of, with quick, abrupt thrusts that threatened to either swallow or pierce their enemies. Their stems were also covered in a scale-like pattern, which made their extreme Endurance apparent. Of their stats, all but Magic reached up to D-500 / 28,250, which was at the same standard as the Valgang Dragons. One other thing that had to be mentioned was that they stank horribly, just like rotting corpses. Because of that, fighting them wasn't the most pleasant of experiences.
Sadly, after Isaac had figured out their attack patterns, they became nearly powerless to resist. While they could move relatively quickly below the surface, and attempted to escape in this manner, the tremors that they caused during their movements and the holes that they left behind were extremely easy to follow. They had one blatant weak point, their roots. If those were damaged, then they would automatically freeze up and be unable to fight back. Should one want to get rid of them quickly, then they would only have to calculate the exact spot where their roots were hidden, and attack there - easy-peasy.
Last, and strongest of them all, were the Titan Alms, whose stats - aside from Magic - could reach up to B-750 / 32,250, providing Isaac a miniscule bit of excelia upon slaying them. They were slightly smaller than Titania, and looked a lot like her. If one removed her humanoid part and the dress-like pattern along her monster half, that is. At the spot where Titania's woman half would be connected to the massive stem underneath, there was what looked to be a face with a massive mouth. Anything that they got their hands - or rather, tentacles - on, would be devoured. Their human-like features were just like those of the Treants, so the Titan Alms were probably created with them as a basis, and therefore their distant relatives.
They attacked by using their tentacles and would attempt to drag their prey into their mouths, eating them once their meals arrived at their doorsteps. Sadly, although their stats were quite high and they had dozens of dangerous 'limbs', Isaac could easily predict all of their movements and therefore evaded them nearly effortlessly. They were agile but simple muscleheads that were of no danger to him whatsoever.
Even though he tried to find some weak points of them that could be exploited, he ultimately didn't find any - it really didn't matter where they were attacked. Sure, cutting off their tentacles would make them far less threatening, but it didn't deal them any extra damage. Their 'faces' were the same as well. In the end, their only relative weaknesses were their Agility, which lagged behind their other stats very slightly, and their inability to use any Magic.
By the time that Isaac had successfully finished his research and after he put a couple of living specimens of all of the encountered species into his inventory, to preserve them just in case, the group noticed three other people appearing on the 59th floor - Gareth, Riveria and Tiona.
It didn't take long for them to meet up with each other, especially because Isaac had quickly led the group in their direction the very moment that they had entered the range of his Eyes of Hermes.
Before they could even exchange any greetings, Tiona shot at him like a ballistic missile, with a relieved and excited smile on her face upon seeing him unharmed. He couldn't help but show an awkward expression, but he eventually accepted the hug and patted her back a few times in apology. Due to his vast increase in stats, he only got slightly breathless due to the initial impact, but he could otherwise handle this emotional assault quite well. Still, he only allowed her to embrace him for a couple of seconds, before pressing his hand against her shoulder, making it clear that he wanted to separate from her.
He noticed the disappointed and sad look on her face, but only shook his head exasperatedly. Thankfully, she didn't try to stick close to him after he had given her such a clear sign, and she soon let go of him, only to give Ais, who had been sitting next to him, a hearty hug afterwards.
The new arrivals were extremely relieved that the two were fine, with Riveria checking Ais for any injuries from head to toe with a stern but loving gaze. Soon, they asked them about what had happened. After they were clued in, they then sent hostile and intrigued gazes at Revis, who was breaking out into an uncontrollable cold sweat. With even more formidable and monstrous opponents nearby, her chances of successfully trying, well, anything were now even more infinitely closer to zero percent. As for the silent Titania? She had calmed down slightly now that the horrible monster slaughter was over, and didn't panic too much when even more people were lounging on her body. After all, there was no need to go crazy, right? She would be safe as long as she performed her job well.
"What do you plan to do now?"
Hearing Riveria's concerned question, Isaac thought for a moment and discussed with Ais via the system for a bit, before nodding slightly and laying out their plans.
"It's not that late now, only shortly after 1 a.m., so I don't need to go back to my cell anytime soon. For now, I plan to put away anything of note in this area, and then I will fully explore the Glacier Territory beyond. After that, it would probably be unwise to challenge a new thematic zone, as I would have to return to the surface in the midst of it."
With a glance at his new servant, he continued.
"I think it will be better for you to go back quickly, to inform Loki and the others that everything is fine. Ais said that she will teleport you back, and accompany you in the Twilight Manor for now. I will continue alone and you can contact me by talking to her at any time. As for Titania here, I will be taking her with me for the time being. I can't bring her to my subordinates' base, after all, as she wouldn't be physically able to fit in there. Don't worry, though, I'll figure something out."
A frown reared its head on Riveria's face as she realized what he was implying.
"So you intend to go deeper without a bodyguard?"
Isaac couldn't help but sigh helplessly at her worries. Still, a part of him felt flattered at her motherly care.
"Yes. You really don't have to lose any sleep over my safety. Even should this body of mine be obliterated, I wouldn't die. And I have yet to encounter any real danger anyway. I can always escape, and bringing someone who can't teleport themselves along would only be a burden if we were to get into a tight situation and be separated by some distance. Don't forget, others need to be close to me for me to bring them along."
At the word 'burden', Tiona lowered her head slightly, clearly not too happy about being referred to as such. Still, she wasn't emotional enough to not be clearly aware of the fact that he was speaking the truth. Now that they were about equal in stats, it would be far faster for him to teleport away than to wait for her to run towards him and then do so. It just didn't feel too good to hear him say it.
Having felt the disheartened mood of the young Amazoness, Gareth cleared his throat and changed the topic.
"What about that lady over there? I believe you called her Revis, right? What do you plan to do with her?"
With a small smirk, Isaac exchanged glances with Ais.
"Do you want to do the honours, or should I?"
She gave him a small nod and an amused smile in reply, then she stood up from her comfortable seat. With unhurried steps, she walked toward Revis. The woman in question trembled a little, clearly fearful of what might be about to happen.
Then, before she could utter any panicked questions or attempt to futilely resist, Ais extended a finger, touched her and stored her in her inventory. Isaac wasn't the only one who had noticed her physical similarities to Valenoa, and until this last matter of interest was resolved, she wouldn't just kill this particular defenseless enemy.