Chapter 63 – Little Baldy
He was currently watching a Metal-eating Ant lair. Thousands of densely-packed Metal-eating Ants were currently busy drilling in and out of the sand dunes.
These fellows had appeared in his area half a month ago and had destroyed a small town outpost just a few days ago. Presently, even with the strength of the empire they wouldn't easily provoke this kind of mutated insect army before them. This applied especially for military squadron type Metal-eating Ant armies.
Jieter, in his deep, low voice, reported the core information of his current situation over the communications. "Their numbers are greater than predicted. Just based on what's seen on the surface, there are probably over three thousand of them. This obstruction clearing plan is unachievable with this battle scorpion squad alone. Requesting assistance!"
After hanging up his communications, Jieter's expression turned ugly. As one of the elite squadrons within the Atacama Wilderness District, they were unexpectedly resigned to being unable to finish his mission. Furthermore, they had to request support. This would be considered completely inglorious for soldiers of the Tutankhamun Empire.
The recent behaviour of mutant ant colonies has been slightly strange as they usually traveled in large forces. Although grass no longer grew wherever they appeared, it was still very easy to deduce their movement paths. Yet, ant colonies now sent out small groups that hunted in all directions. This led to an inability to properly predict their actions.
According to the elders of the empire, this was likely due to the influence caused by dimension energy promoting the shifting of continental plates. Of the mutated organisms, ants were the most sensitive to changes that were likely to produce further mutations.
Jieter's team began to complain incessantly. Facing this group of dangerous monsters while beneath a very hot day just wasn't a joyful matter.
"Shut it!" berated Jieter with an unhappy low voice. This group better not attract the attention of those monsters with that mumbling.
"Captain!" the team member 'disobediently' exclaimed.
Jieter's eyebrows jumped.
He followed the direction of his teammate's finger. It had been pointing at a group of yellow sand closeby. A human form was walking steadily there.
This humanoid was a little short, sunlight reflecting and sparkling off that bald head of his. On his back was a gigantic rectangular box made of unknown materials… but it looked exactly like a coffin.
It was common for travellers to carry oddly shaped luggage through the desert, even if this thing was somewhat larger than usual. The odd thing about this, however, was that the baldy's path put him right in the direction of the Metal-eating Ant lair!
"Dammit, where did this fucker come from! Can't he see that large group of squirming Metal-eating Ants!?" Jieter cursed, wishing he could take out his gun and shoot this idiot down right this instant. He didn't dare open fire, however. Within the desert, such an open area, the ring of a bowstring would be enough to draw their attention, nevermind gunfire.
He didn't care if this traveller wanted to seek his own death. Instead, he was afraid that the man would inadvertently alert the Metal-eating Ants. Ants possessed intelligence and were the natural enemies of humans. If they discovered humans within their vicinity, then they would definitely erupt and act to get rid of them. They would even scour the area for tens of kilometers in this desert. Thus, when factoring their current distance from the ants, his group wouldn't have a chance of escaping!
Without commenting further, Jieter immediately ordered his group to retreat. There was nothing more important than staying alive. As for that unlucky baldy, well, he could imagine the Metal-eating ants lunging at him, creating a bloody scene.
From the look of this traveller, he was moving at a leisurely pace, step by step, leaving imprints in the sand. Yet, his movement speed was unexpectedly quite fast. Unknowingly, he had soon walked right into the colony of ants!
"This fellow…" muttered Jieter, dumbfounded. Even his teammates were dazed, unable to move away.
Miraculously, it seemed that the Metal-eating ants didn't notice the intruder as they kept at digging their lair. It was as if the baldy were invisible to their eyes. At this moment, the little baldy was striding right beside them, yet the ants that were the size of small calves continued to move around hurriedly…
Doing such a thing in front of creatures built for slaughter like a Metal-eating Ant was tantamount to suicide. After mutated organisms underwent an evolution, their detection and sensory abilities also developed further. Abilities that usually allowed one to go undetected among humans, such as stealth and camouflage, were ineffective against Metal-eating Ants.
Jieter rubbed his eyes, then checked the binocular function of his skylink… As he thought, this wasn't an illusion…
After regaining his clarity of mind, he continued to stare at the baldy. When the baldy's facial features became clearer, he could deduce that he wasn't even twenty years of age. That delicate appearance gave one a feeling of being soft-spoken and timid. His skin was slightly dark, which made it a striking contrast to that shiningly bald head… and he was barefoot. He wore tattered rags, which wasn't bad for this temperature…
The most unique part of his appearance was still that gigantic box on his back. And that thing wasn't a simple box!
Atop this boundless, glaring, dazzling desert, that coffin was completely covered in ancient runes that sparkled with a dull blue glow. That light made it impossible for others to neglect it!
"What a weird thing…" mumbled Jieter. He'd never before heard of such a unique individual, but this was definitely a big event. Just the information he'd already obtained was valuable beyond belief!
That short little baldy continued to move forward, yet a problem suddenly sprung up. He'd already entered the center of the Metal-eating Ant lair and innumerable Metal-eating Ants blocked his path. Even if they couldn't see him, it wasn't as if he was going to step over them, right?
Everyone watching him couldn't resist gulping down their saliva. This bastard has a chance of getting ripped to pieces at any moment. Maybe this fellow was just blind?
Jieter and the others stared with eyes wide open. They watched unblinkingly, seemingly anticipating the moment when the baldy would alarm the colony of Metal-eating Ants.
Contrary to their thoughts, however, the little baldy didn't slow down and didn't step over the ant colony. The ant colony that never receded seemed to split apart whenever they came into contact with him. It was akin to the horde parting before him like water. A path was created, one fit for a single person. This little baldy followed this path step by step, continuously moving forward.
This was the strongest mutant ant army in the world! The enemy of all living creatures! It actually opened a path for this fellow!
"Slap me," Jieter ordered his subordinates. One of his subordinates was very obedient and immediately gave Jieter a crisp slap.
Jieter rubbed his face, his head immediately becoming clear. Fuck, this isn't a fucking illusion! I need to immediately report this to the higher ups!
… wait, who was it that just hit this old man?
That solitary traveller in the distance left behind a lonely form as he continued on, disappearing into the endless, uninterrupted world of sand!