Yuguru Great Forest.
It is the largest forest located on the western side of the Faudo Continent.
Within this vast forest, various plants thrive, and it can be said that it has the highest number and variety of monsters on the continent.
Moreover, the forest is abundant with plants that serve as ingredients for various spiritual medicines and potions, as well as monsters that can be used as materials for weapons. Because of this, adventurers flock to this forest.
Most of the monsters inhabiting the forest are lowest-class, lower-class, or intermediate-class monsters. Unless one makes a big mistake, it can be quite a good hunting ground.
There are four types of monsters that one must be careful of in this forest.
These are the four types.
They are mostly advanced-class or General-class monsters, and even skilled adventurers cannot recklessly engage with them.
Red Monkeys and Lesser Fenrirs are monsters that act in groups. If you encounter even one of them, it is common sense among adventurers to immediately retreat.
Of course, one should not underestimate the solitary Dead Snake or the dangerous Gluttony Spider.
Dead Snake is a cunning monster that can blend its massive body seamlessly with the background like camouflage and silently approach its prey. As for Gluttony Spider, it is said to be a dangerous monster to the extent that once you are caught by its venom, there is little chance of survival.
However, all of these monsters reside deep within the Yuguru Great Forest, so as long as you don’t venture too far, you won’t encounter them.
These four species form the top of the ecosystem, sustaining the food chain in the Yuguru Great Forest.
That has been the prevailing theory up until now.
However, that prevailing theory would soon be overturned.
The first one to notice the anomaly was the Dead Snake.
The snake, as usual, roamed the forest in search of prey.
And then, it spotted a Killer Ant.
That’s what the snake thought.
After all, the Killer Ant in front of it was not only larger than the usual ones, but also had a different density of magical power.
It seemed like a truly satisfying meal.
Normally, the snake would ignore small fry like the Killer Ant, but with such a large specimen, it had no complaints.
―――――Time to eat.
It said so in its mind, quietly but with tremendous speed, launching itself at the prey while blending into the background.
However, its wide-open mouth didn’t swallow anything.
With a clattering sound, its mouth sliced through the air.
The snake felt puzzled and surveyed its surroundings.
And there, right nearby, was the Killer Ant from before.
The lowest-class Killer Ant avoided my attack?
Furthermore, to make matters worse, the Killer Ant in front of it didn’t run away. Instead, it confronted the snake with a threatening posture.
The pride of the snake, as a strong being, was deeply wounded.
I’ll eat it as soon as I finished toying with it.
That’s what the snake thought just then.
The presence of Killer Ants in the surroundings was increasing.
The Dead Snake, like a regular snake, could identify its surroundings through pit organs, which sensed heat. However, in the case of the Dead Snake, it had an additional ability to sense magical power, making its sensing capabilities top-notch even in the Yuguru Great Forest.
That sensing ability sense the incoming Killer Ants.
What’s going on?
Why did they suddenly increase in number?
The opponent is just a Killer Ant. Were they hiding in the ground?
But even if that can prevent heat detection, it shouldn’t be able to prevent magical power detection.
Yet, unmistakably, the presence of Killer Ants was increasing one after another from underground.
―――――Can it even erase the magical power fluctuations along with the presence?
When the snake realized it, it was too late.
The snake was surrounded by dozens of Killer Ants.
Each one of them, just like the one before, had a dense magical power.
But that was not the end of it.
『――――So, this is one aspect of the apex of this forest, the ‘Dead Snake.’ Truly, it is a magnificent wielder of magical power.』
A shiver ran down its spine.
It looked in that direction.
And saw the figure.
――――――What is that?
It’s not a Killer Ant.
Not only its appearance, but more importantly, what is this immense magical power?
That creature holds two swords in its hands.
I felt tremendous magical power from that sword as well.
I am the apex of this forest.
Never yet I lose in a one-on-one battle.
The snake found itself attacking the monster in front of it.
―――――If I don’t kill, I’ll be killed!
That’s what it thought.
Surging with magical power, making its body supple like a spring, the snake lunged at the creature with tremendous speed.
『Persuasion seems… difficult, it seems. Well, then.』
With a twist of its body, the black ant-like creature easily dodged its assault.
I couldn’t believe it.
That there was a creature capable of easily evading my full-speed charge.
『――――Compared to the thrust of that female adventurer’s spear, you’re much slower.』
Even the Red Monkey, the Lesser Fenrir, and the Gluttony Spider couldn’t dodge my full-speed charge.
『Let’s have you stay quiet for a while.』
And then, the black ant-like creature sank its fangs into the snake’s body.
Overwhelmed by the intense pain, the snake lost consciousness.
At that moment, the snake finally understood.
This black ant is a predator.
It’s something that devours us.
The snake prepared itself for death.
However, it was still alive.
The snake found itself lying in a clearing in front of a cave.
What’s even more surprising is that next to it, there were the Lesser Fenrirs and the Gluttony Spider.
They were quiet.
However, the Red Monkeys were the only one making a fuss.
It seems like they were all defeated in a group.
There’s a large monkey screaming and making a ruckus.
Ah, that idiotic monkey must be the leader.
Lacking intelligence, it foolishly controls the group with its strength alone.
『Are you awake now?』
A thought transmission came through.
It looked and saw the black ant-like creature from before standing there.
The snake wondered.
―――Why didn’t you kill me?
The black ant-like creature answered.
『We have no intention of fighting or annihilating you. I simply thought it would be nice if we could borrow your power.』
The snake asked a question.
――――For what purpose?
The black ant-like creature replied.
『For my master. To protect him.』
Protecting a master?
Is there a creature powerful enough to be followed by a creature with such strength?
The snake became interested.
In this black ant-like creature and its master.
――――Can I meet that master of yours?
The snake inquired.
The black ant-like creature answered.
『Yes, he will be here soon. The Lesser Fenrir has promised to cooperate, but the Red Monkey and the Gluttony Spider insist on meeting him and refuse to submit.』
I see, the snake thought.
The Lesser Fenrir strongly inherits the characteristics of dogs.
It is their nature to follow the strong.
If this black ant-like creature or its master possesses such strength, the Lesser Fenrir would willingly follow.
As for the Red Monkey… Looking at it now, only the large one making a fuss.
The rest of its group trembles, unable to hide their fear.
That idiotic monkey must find it hard to believe that there exists a being stronger than itself.
Even in this situation, its audacity to make a fuss is somewhat impressive.
The Gluttony Spider is also a formidable creature.
The fact that it is here is a miracle, given its fierce nature.
The only thing it know is, the food chain of either devouring or being devoured.
If it was to follow someone, it would have to be an extraordinary monster.
I’m sure it’s here only because it’s considering devouring us at the first opportunity.
Regardless, the snake decided to observe quietly.
Apparently, the so-called “master” will be arriving soon.
The snake patiently waited, quietly observing the cave, wondering what kind of creature this master could be.
And then, after a while―――
It felt like the depths of the cave were illuminated.
It seemed that the supposed master from the other side had arrived.
And at that moment…
The snake trembled in horror.
An unimaginable, vast amount of magical power.
An overwhelming pressure beyond comprehension.
――――――What is this?!
The magical power was incredibly abnormal.
It felt as if being submerged in a massive turbid current.
Unable to move, it was only an overwhelming sense of fear that surged from the dense magical power.
A power difference so great that one would instantly resign themselves to death.
In the face of such a stark disparity.
Upon closer observation, the other monsters had also fallen silent.
Even the monkey that had been making a commotion earlier sealed its mouth and trembled in fear.
Their expressions clearly displayed fear and regret.
The snake couldn’t tear its gaze away from the cave.
Everyone, trembling in fear, instinctively hid their bodies within the thickets.
Hiding was all they could manage. The thought of “escaping” didn’t even cross their minds.
And then, the embodiment of overwhelming terror slowly emerged from within the cave.
The person in question was feeling nervous as he encountered unfamiliar monsters in an unfamiliar land.