Rowan and the others walked up the slope to join Tom and Harrison at the top. Upon arriving next to them, they looked over in the direction Tom had pointed. Sure enough, through the trees they could see a large blue devil beetle; just what they had come here for.
"Well what do you know, it's really there" said Rowan.
"Damn, I can't believe my hands got covered in all that sticky stuff for nothing" said Pike, annoyed at having been hit by the glue-like slime of the giant velvet worm earlier.
"Really? I was under the impression that this wasn't the first time your hands had been covered in sticky stuff though" said a smirking Lance.
"HAHAHAHAHA!" laughed Avery, while Pike's face dropped.
"What the fuck's that supposed to mean!"
"Hahahaha, I think you know well enough what it's supposed to mean Pike" said Avery heartily.
"Damn you Lance, we were all hit by it" said an aggrieved and angry Pike in a huff.
"Ah, actually, I wasn't hit by it" said Rowan as she raised her hand.
"Yeah, and I only had my foot stuck in it" said a still smiling Lance.
"Screw you. Avery was hit more than me and Ray was absolutely caked in the stuff. I'm sure it wasn't their first time experiencing such a thing either" said an indignant Pike.
Whereas Pike's face had suddenly dropped earlier, it was now the turn of Avery and Ray's faces.
Avery immediately stopped laughing upon hearing Pike's words. He had enjoyed laughing at Pike after Lance had made his witty remark, but now, in his anger, Pike had turned the heat towards him and Ray. He considered the insinuation Lance made against Pike funny, but, now Pike had made a similar accusation against him and even upped the ante.
"HAHAHAHAHAHA!" laughed Lance hysterically. He had only meant to make fun of Pike, to get him back for earlier in the day, but now, Pike's words had actually put all the others in dismay as well. Since they had all laughed at him earlier about having only ever killed a black maned cow before, he couldn't be happier about Pike's words.
Everyone present understood the meaning behind Pike's words. Rowan showed a face of disgust, Harrison gave a knowing smile, Lance had one of the largest smiles Tom had ever seen, Pike had recovered a bit after passing the attention away from himself, Tom was disinterested and all the others had sour expressions on their faces. Ray, the man who had been almost completely covered by the velvet worm's slime and had been stuck to the ground, was feeling especially demoralized and put down.
"I have never... Never, experienced something like that before" said Ray strainedly, emphasising that he'd never experienced what Pike insinuated before. He was almost unable to respond to Pike's comment because his throat kept closing from his heightened emotional state.
"Pike, Lance, I think that's enough out of both of you. We're here to do serious work, not lark around" said Avery in a serious voice, all traces of his previous amusement completely gone.
"Yes, we really should get a move one. If we wait any longer, our prey will end up walking off" said Harrison sternly, bringing the conversation to a close once and for all.
After this short exchange, everyone started leading their horses and the wagon towards where the blue devil beetle in the distance was. Thankfully it seemed to just be idling about at the top of the gorge and wasn't moving around very much.
Drawing up to about 50m away, everyone stopped and prepared to make their move.
"Alright, Tom, you'll have to stay behind again to watch the horses. Ray, stay with him. I'll need Harrison with me on this one" instructed Rowan.
"Ok" said Tom and Harrison.
Ray was a bit reluctant to stay behind with Tom; he wanted to be in on the action. Unfortunately for him, Tom wasn't really strong enough to make any difference against a mature blue devil beetle and someone had to watch the horses anyway, but, because Tom was relegated to watching the horses and would be away from the safety of the main group, someone would have to watch Tom.
Although Ray was a bit disappointed that he wasn't getting to participate in the battle against the blue devil beetle, he also understood that Rowan was only tagging along with them and that following her about wasn't his priority. He worked for Tom's father and his current mission was to keep Tom safe. Besides, he still had some of the hardened slime on him and it was restricting his movements a bit. He was only at the 7th level of body strengthening anyway and with his movement impeded, he probably wouldn't be able to help much with the blue devil beetle either.
While Rowan, Harrison and the others started making their way over to the blue devil beetle, Tom remained where he was and looked on. From his position, he could clearly see the appearance of the beetle. It was at least 5m long and 2m tall. It was also, like its name suggested, covered by a blue carapace, which had a shiny lustre to it.
Tom knew that since it was this size, it was a fully mature blue devil beetle and possessed physical strength exceeding the strength of an 8th level body strengthening warrior. Luckily, the insect type qi beasts found at insect gorge all tended to be on the weaker side, in terms of both physical strength and qi manipulation. This meant that the peak strength of the insect qi beasts found in insect gorge all tended to be lower than 10,000 jin. It also meant that they were unlikely to ever be able to store and use large amounts of qi. The giant velvet worm that Tom had seen earlier was actually an oddity in that regard. Nevertheless, even though their physical peak was lower than that of humans, they had other physical advantages that benefited them.
The blue devil beetle was one of the hardier qi beasts found in insect gorge. The reason for this was that it had an incredibly hard exoskeleton. Many other qi beasts would find it difficult to harm them. Even humans at the peak of body strengthening would be hard pressed to harm them. It would be easy to deal with a young blue devil beetle, but, it was a different story for a mature one. This was why, even though the blue devil beetle that Tom was watching could sense people approaching it, it wasn't particularly bothered about them at first. It was only when Rowan and the others had reached within a 20m radius of it that it finally reacted to their presence.
The blue devil beetle, sensing the people drawing close to it, perked up and turned to face them. It started moving its short but powerful mandibles in a defensive display, indicating that it was not to be messed with. Unfortunately for it, Rowan had no intention of letting it go. It was lucky of her to be able to find one this big and she wanted to harness this opportunity. After all, the shell of a mature blue devil beetle would be much better for the armour she wanted making than the shell from an immature one.
Moving forward in a spread out pattern, with her and Harrison at the centre, Rowan drew ever closer to her prey. When she was within 10m of it, it finally started to become nervous. Generally, because of its hard shell, there weren't many other beasts that would prey on it. That was why it knew that anything that approached it in the manner that Rowan and the guards were was either stupid or dangerous.
Rowan sprinted forward before it could react and landed a powerful blow on the top of its head with the hilt of her sword, followed by a punch to its face. However, despite her blows, the blue devil beetle was largely unharmed. Its head had been knocked down and rattled slightly by the overhead blow and the punch had forced it back several feet, but, on the whole it was still perfectly fine.
After Rowan had gotten her shots in at it, Lance threw his spear, aiming for its mouth. He was the weakest of the group and with its hard shell it would be difficult for any of them to harm it. Therefore, Lance tried to strike it in its mouth, where it would be vulnerable. Unfortunately for Lance, the blue devil beetle turned and Lance's forcefully thrown spear bounced off its shell, only leaving a faint mark.
"Shit" said Lance, having missed. Now he had to go and retrieve his spear, which happened to have fallen just to the side of the blue devil beetle.
"Stop screwing around Lance. That was never going to work" reprimanded Pike.
"I thought I'd at least give it a shot" responded Lance.
"Give it a rest you two. Focus on the task at hand" Avery shot over at them. He then ran over to the side of the blue devil beetle, which had started to move around and kept turning to face its different opponents.
Even if its physical strength was lower than his, Avery still had to be careful. With its hard shell and obvious weight advantage, getting rammed or trampled by it could still cause him injury.
Avery tried to stab his longsword into the side of the beetle, but, his thrust was stopped by its shell, barely puncturing it. He had caused some damage to the shell but it was only minimal and hadn't harmed the beetle.
After Avery attempted to stab it in the side, Rowan and Harrison approached from the front and the Bartholomew attacked from the side, aiming to swing his axe down on it. Recognising Rowan as the biggest threat, after having felt the force of her earlier blows, the blue devil beetle moved to the side and in doing so, slammed into Bartholomew and knocked him to the ground. Thankfully he wasn't too injured, just winded and slightly bruised.
Moving over Bartholomew, the blue devil beetle encountered Pike. Pike swung his glaive at the head of the beetle, but, like Avery, he only produced a light cut. This was more than the mark Lance had made because Pike was stronger than Lance; however, the damage done was still negligible.
The blue devil beetle, not fearing Pike, charged forward and attempted to bite him with its curved mandibles. Seeing the beetle charging forwards at him, Pike quickly made the decision to drop his weapon and free up his hands. This quick thinking on Pike's part was the correct decision to make in this situation. Even if he had the space or the time to raise his weapon and strike with it again, he wouldn't have been able to deal any significant damage to it and in the process would have prevented himself from defending his body.
The blue devil beetle charged forward at Pike, attempting to bite him, however, Pike was able grab the creature's mandibles and wrestle with it. The blue devil beetle was stronger and heavier than him so had started to push him back, but, at this moment, Rowan and Harrison both attacked it from the side.
Rowan went in for another punch, trying to disrupt its attack on Pike and also cause it some shock damage, however, Harrison was smarter and struck with his sword against one of the beetle's legs. Rowan was successful in knocking the beetle to the side and stopping its attack on Pike, who then let go of its mandibles, however, she wasn't able to cause it any noticeable damage. It only seemed slightly stunned before trying to move again. On the other hand, Harrison's sword slash produced the first real damage of the fight. His sword had bitten in noticeably into the beetle's leg and obviously wounded it.
"Aim for the legs!" shouted Harrison to the others.
"If we kill its movement, if won't matter if we can't break its shell"
Hearing Harrison's advice, everyone started to target the beetle's legs. They were still pretty hard but were one of the easiest parts of the beetle to damage. However, how could the blue devil beetle just let itself be immobilised and killed like that. It lifted up its elytra, the hard front wings, then unfurled its back wings and used them to start flying.
With the blue devil beetle's weight, it was unable to fly very well, only capable of lifting itself up from the ground by a meter of two and only for a short time at that. Be that as it may, the use of its wings gave it increased speed, manoeuvrability and forward thrust. As it started flapping its wings, it also pushed off from the ground and charged forward, knocking both Rowan and Harrison to the ground and escaping from the encirclement that it had found itself in.
50m away, Tom was still standing and watching with Ray and the horses.
"It's coming this way" he said matter of factly to Ray.
"Yeah, it is" Ray responded.
"Wait... YEAH, IT IS!"