Jake shifted the form of Eternal Hunger a few times, from a dagger to a sword, to a two-handed blade, and even into a spear and an exact replica of the old Scimitar of Eternal Hunger. He had also transformed it into a bow or, at the least, the body of one, which was effectively just a curved stick.
The problem was that the metal had low flexibility, and while Jake could make some changes to the form to make it better, he couldn’t make a string. He also couldn’t really see it be useful as all of its power was in hitting things with it.
In the end, he settled on a shape similar to the Nanoblade as he had used these last few days. In the other hand, he wielded the Bloodfeast Dagger from the Auction, getting a good feel for both of the weapons.
“Yeah, this is good,” Jake muttered to himself as he made them both disappear to take out his bow.
Jake had no intentions of taking the following hunt too lightly. The last two Queen’s Guards had shown these termites were not to be trifled with, and he had a feeling the ones in the area ahead were even stronger.
So, for now, he pushed everything related to Soul Rituals to the back of his mind as he ventured forth into the hive. With his high perception, sphere, and Sense of the Malefic Viper, he sensed the path forward, feeling intense mana density not far ahead. He even got some responses from his boots, alerting him to earth-bound natural treasures.
He had a feeling what was up ahead, considering termites called Queen’s Guard had guarded it. During the fight, Jake had retreated from where he had originally encountered the guards, and he was now making his way down the tunnel, scouting ahead.
Soon, he came to a mound of dirt blocking the path. He placed his hand on it and felt it was enchanted to keep it stable and isolating. It didn’t really work that well as a barrier, though, as Jake channeled arcane mana into it, seeing it slowly break apart as it eroded and turned to nothingness, forcing a new tunnel into existence.
Jake walked forward through it until he came out the other side, and the moment he did, he felt the influx of mana. He had just entered another overtaken biodome that was now filled with a slime-like substance on every surface.
White eggs lined the walls and edges of the biodome, as he on the far side saw a massive form rise to regard him. It looked like a regular termite with its huge mandibles and six legs, but its backside was absolutely humongous. Before he even Identified it, he knew what he was looking at.
[Isoptera Queen – lvl 191]
Three other figures suddenly unburrowed from the ground between Jake and the Queen, having been alerted to his presence when he broke through the wall. All of them with wings on their backs and powerful bodies. Unless you counted the eggs, there were no other living things within the dome than those three, the Queen, and Jake.
[Isoptera Queen’s Guard – lvl 185]
[Isoptera Queen’s Guard – lvl 184]
[Isoptera Queen’s Guard – lvl 179]
More Queen’s Guards, huh, Jake thought as neither party moved right away. The biodome was large, at least a few kilometers across, and Jake counted thousands of eggs, each one likely containing E-grades or perhaps even weak D-grades. It was hard to tell as not all eggs were the same, with some having far more resources invested in them. The mana density had been for them to grow faster, and he felt several natural treasures spread throughout, like valuable metals, rocks, a few herbs, as well as a lot of cores taken from killed prey. All to assist the next generation. Moreover, he had a feeling this entire biodome was like a big Nurturing Ritual circle.
The entire dome was cut off with no exits or entrances besides the one Jake had just made, likely to keep this mana trapped.
Jake, standing there with his bow, suddenly smiled. “You know, I just remembered my grandfather once complained about getting termites in his barn… he invested so much in pesticides and whatnot, but when they got into the house, he was forced to disinfect the place to get rid of them. They used poison gas on the entire house by enclosing it and then pumping it in. Fumigation or something, I think they called it. Not a bad tactic, don’t you agree? Ah, but I will mix in some more, let’s say, explosive methods.”
With those words, he fired a blast of arcane mana down the tunnel he had just made and entered from, making the unstable structure collapse, effectively sealing off the only exit of the biodome, or perhaps more accurately, egg chamber.
His act of aggression became the impetus for the termites to attack. In less than a second, two truck-sized termites were at either side, but Jake had already taken a step forward to avoid their blow, leaving a trail of arcane energy and poison mist as Arcane Awakening had activated on the balanced 30% along with two wings springing from his back. The third termite attempted to smash him with its large leg, but Jake avoided it as he went straight for the Queen.
The Queen was far larger than the guards, being as large as a two or three-story house. It regarded him as he fired an arrow towards it. A barrier sprung up between Jake and the Queen, making the arrow explode along with the barrier itself.
Jake reacted by stepping down on a platform and appearing to the side of the huge termite where he shot again. The arrow split into seven as they all impacted the massive body of the Queen, making the insect screech out in anger. Jake felt the poison infect the termite, but it quickly was challenged by some kind of cleansing magic. He also saw the wounds he had just inflicted begin to heal at a rapid pace with energy glowing around them.
It’s a healer, Jake confirmed, having already had a feeling that was the case from the barriers.
Meanwhile, the Guards were more classical warriors. Jake was once more made to dodge as they attacked. Their movements were fast as he vaulted over one, kicking the air as he released an arcane explosion to send him flying backward while spinning in the air, firing two more arrows off.
More explosions rocked the cavern as Jake tried to stay on the move, pumping out poison. Jake was fully aware it wasn’t that effective against any of the stronger termites, but those weren’t the ones he was aiming for anyway.
Because when Jake began blanketing everything in poison mist, it was indiscriminate, including the thousands of eggs. The Queen made a loud screeching sound in rage as all the eggs got covered by faint golden barriers keeping his mist out.
Jake just grinned as he kept kiting and occasionally fired an arrow at the Guards, knowing that he was forcing the Queen to consume obscene amounts of mana to try and protect the eggs. He had already confirmed early on that these insects were not the smartest, but the Queen did seem to hold some level of intelligence and emotions as he heard evident anger in the screech.
The arena was not to his advantage when it came to archery, but it was beneficial when using all his poison and explosive arcane attacks. To up the potency of his attack, Jake even took out the Bloodfeast Dagger and cut his own arms to spray blood on the protective barriers.
This proved very effective as the Queen had clearly not been prepared, and instantly a dozen of the basketball-sized eggs were splashed as the barriers were eroded. The outer shells instantly disappeared and out crawled some non-fully formed termites that died in seconds.
Immediately, Jake felt the killing intent focused on him. “That really made you mad, huh?”
A golden aura spread throughout the cavern as the ground beneath his feet began moving. Jake knew it was the Guards using their earth magic, and it appeared that the Queen was spreading an aura that empowered them further.
Deciding to fuck with the Queen’s concentration, Jake went ham. Pride activated as dozens of arcane orbs and bolts appeared and were flung all over, exploding close to a hundred eggs that the Queen failed to protect in time. Jake fired another salvo but found that one blocked as the Queen upped the intensity of the barriers. All fine by him, as that just meant more mana consumed.
Spikes of earth shot up beneath him, but he just stomped down and sent a wave of destructive arcane mana through the ground, breaking much of the mana the termites had activated. He then turned and stormed straight for one of the Guards, bow still drawn.
It tried to chomp down on him as Jake began drawing his bow. He stepped down and teleported beneath the large body of the Guard as he fully drew the string. Jake felt time slow down as he began channeling Arcane Powershot, and just before the Guard could move away, he released the string, firing the arrow straight up at the abdomen of the termite.
An arcane explosion rocked the cavern as the Guard was sent flying up as it smashed into the ceiling, leaving a large crack on the reinforced stone. There was now a large hole of sizzling arcane energy where Jake's arrow had hit, with a good bit of poison mixed in for good measure.
The Queen reacted by using healing magic, but all that did was give Jake the opportunity to fire off a Splitting Arrow towards one side of the cavern, blowing up over a hundred eggs again. Once more, the Queen reacted with an angry screech, and Jake believed he had found a good tactic… until the insects switched tactics.
He felt the change as the two unhurt Guards suddenly began almost burning with energy as vein-like cracks of golden energy appeared all over their bodies. The damaged Guard also reacted soon after, and when Jake saw the Queen, he understood.
Given up on the eggs… or at least decided that killing me is more important than this batch.
Jake was still smirking as his danger sense reacted, forcing him to swiftly dodge back as a pair of mandibles tried to make Jake into two Jakes. The speed of the insects had increased significantly, and when he felt the movement of mana beneath his feet, he knew that they had also gotten stronger.
Huge spears of earth flew towards him from the ceiling, as literal pillars shot up from the ground, trying to impale him and impede his path. The two undamaged Guards were the ones who stayed in melee as they chased Jake with the damaged one using magic.
He tried firing a few arrows but found them all blocked by barriers, and what little he did get through was healed as the Queen now completely ignored the eggs. Jake saw many of them melt from the poison mist, and even if it was the Queen’s choice, her rage at what was happening couldn’t be more apparent.
For a moment, Jake felt like he was on the backfoot. But he also knew it was not like he couldn’t change it at will. His opponents were strong, nearly at the peak of D-grade… but honestly, Jake had beaten worse. He had come into this fight with full resources and a far more stable mind than before, so he decided to get serious and see what he was now capable of after getting a few levels.
The two Guards closed in on him as walls of soil rose to limit his movement, mixed in with magical barriers. Just before they managed to close their mandibles around Jake’s body, they were both blasted back by an explosion of pure arcane energy as Jake’s body began glowing with power; Arcane Awakening now fully activated.
Jake had not even moved as he began channeling his Arcane Powershot. The two Guards closed in on him again but were once more repelled by a second arcane explosion as Jake fired his shot. The Queen tried to defend but was struck and blasted away, smashing into the back wall.
Once again, Jake dodged away as the Guards refused to give up. However, the game had changed, with Jake now going full power.
Eternal Hunger appeared together with his dagger as he engaged one of the Guards, tearing into it with two poisoned weapons. With every slash, it had its energy drained, and it was at a time like this that Eternal Hunger showed its true power.
Even the golden aura that boosted the Guard was consumed by the blade as it indiscriminately ate anything it hit. Healing energy injected into the Guard was also merely something to be consumed. The only thing not consumed was the energy Jake himself had injected, meaning his poison had free reign as the energy normally used to fight it off also had to contend with the powerful curse.
Oh, and a final thing. Eternal Hunger specified it was all attacks made with the weapon that drained energy, and the system counted poison attacks made with the sword as attacks, meaning all his poison injected with a sword blow also had an extra energy-draining effect. It wasn’t much, but everything counted.
Naturally, the curse also activated when Jake extended the blade with any skill or magical effect, so he could safely coat it in arcane energy without losing any effectiveness. This meant when Jake shattered the outer carapace of the termite’s head and plunged his sword through it with Descending Dark Fang, he also got a good deal of energy restored.
It struggled but wasn’t dead as the two other Guards attacked him, including the still slightly injured one. Jake responded as he tossed Bloodfeast Dagger into the air and opened his palm towards one of them, firing out a massive blast of pure arcane mana as he stood his ground and blocked the blow of the other. He was pushed back, but with a string of mana, easily retrieved the dagger and went on the offensive again.
He kept switching targets, not really finishing one off right away as, frankly, there was no reason to. The Queen was struggling to keep them alive, just slowly tiring itself out. It seemed like the insect did not have any real offensive powers itself, as all its strengths revolved around healing, creating eggs, and protecting those eggs – all the healer powers likely related to the protection of the hive.
Another reason he did not finish them off was due to Jake still experimenting. One area he was experimenting in was with his new quiver. He had theorized that since he had control of the inner space, he could do some fancy things with it outside of just storing poisoned arrows long-term, and that theory turned out to be correct.
Jake blasted away a termite as he vaulted back, fishing out an arrow from his quiver. It was far larger than any he had shot prior, seeming to be made out of white wood. It looked almost fragile at first glance, but it was far more powerful than any arcane arrow.
What Jake had learned was that as he had control of the quiver, he could summon arrows directly into it. It worked with his Arcane Arrows, but he didn’t really have to do it with them due to how the skill worked. He only used it with those if he wanted to store poisoned versions.
No, where this truly came into play was with his still most powerful attack: Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter. Back when he got it in late E-grade, it had required all his attention and focus to summon it, but now? Now, he could focus on summoning it even while fighting others. It took far longer, around five minutes, but the result was just the same.
Arcane Powershot channeled with slowed down time, as Jake activated Gaze of the Apex Hunter on both Guards coming at him as he launched the arrow towards the one he damaged early on in the fight. Just before releasing the string, Pride activated again and shot a barrage of arcane bolts towards the same target.
Still frozen by Gaze, it failed to react. Arcane bolts shattered the barrier made by the Queen to try and save the Guard as the arrow impacted the winged termite and sank into its body. A pure rush of pure damage entered its body as it was blasted back, leaving a trail of blood.
Before it could get up, Jake activated Mark of The Avaricious Arcane Hunter on it, making it light up in a flash as he got a kill notification.
The Queen and one remaining Guard able to move regarded him as Jake just took out his melee weapons again, spinning them in his hands as he smiled and charged the last Guard able to fight properly. It tried to resist, but Jake cut at it and severed a leg, leaving it unable to move, just like the one where he had stabbed the head.
Still trying in vain to heal them all and protect them with barriers, the Queen struggled. Jake changed his target as he once more switched to his bow and began bombarding the Queen with stable arcane arrows, shattering its barriers over and over again, leaving more and more wounds.
The plan had been for him to wait five minutes and then finish off another Guard with it, but it turned out he didn’t even need to. Both of them began glowing more than ever before as they charged him. The Queen then summoned an almost solid-looking barrier around herself as the termites flanked Jake.
“How original,” Jake muttered as the two Guards blew themselves up.
An explosion enveloped the biodome as every single egg that somehow survived till now was reduced to nothing. All the natural treasures were blasted into the walls or broke, as the Queen’s shield cracked but held.
As everything subsided, the Queen lowered the shield, clearly exhausted… too exhausted to react when a fully scaled figure leaped over and smashed a blade through her head.
Jake’s body was burned and damaged in many places but was not truly hurt. An arcane barrier, the passive shield of his Arcane Awakening, and his Scales of the Malefic Viper. All of these separately would make Jake incredibly durable, and together, they gave Jake a formidable shield against any magical attacks, allowing him to more or less shrug off the suicide attack of two insects more than forty levels above himself.
With no Guards alive, Jake began tearing apart the Queen as he fed Eternal Hunger. At its final moment, before the massive insect died, a new kind of screech was released.
He at first thought nothing of it until he faintly detected movement. Lots of movement. Hundreds of insects within the range of the Queen had been alarmed to his presence and were now rushing towards him, trying to swarm him.
Jake just chuckled as he lowered Arcane Awakening to 30%, still not experiencing the period of weakness as long as he kept it active, as he prepared for a bit of a prolonged fight. If it had been a month ago, Jake would maybe have been a bit scared, but if there was one thing Eternal Hunger offered, it was sustainability and endurance.
Come one, come all, Jake smirked as arcane magic began burning around him as one of the sealed-off entrances to the biodome was broken down, and the swarm entered Jake’s fumigation chamber.