TNG Vol. 1 Chapter 2 – Part 8
Shin found Hillk grass in the heart of the forest. He had now 29: one more and the request was complete.
His focus renewed, he searched the surroundings carefully. As he did, he noticed a mark moving strangely on the map.
Shin’s interest was attracted by the mark, moving in ways he had never seen before. Wanting to see what that was about, he followed the map towards the enemy.
After a few minutes he arrived close to the marker, so he peered at it from behind a tree.
When Shin saw the enemy, he became speechless. He stood there, staring.
Before him, there was indeed a Skullface Jack.
It was twice as large as the Pawns, a figure of just bones, but over 3 mel tall.
It was also wearing armor, arm guards, leg guards, and a helmet. Its left hand wielded a 1-mel sized round shield, its right one a 2-mel long broadsword.
The Jack’s weapon and armor were all black and all looked well taken care of. Completely different from the rusted gauntlets, armor, and weapons Pawns had.
Where a human would have their eyes, ashen purple flames burned bright. Black smoke, which could be aptly described as an aura of negativity, enveloped the monster’s whole body.
It was like a military commander of dead spirits from hell. That was the Jack-grade Skullface.
The denizens of this world would probably be taken by fear if they laid eyes on one.
That was not the reason, however, why Shin turned silent or stood there staring at the monster. For a maxed out player like him, Skullface Jacks were small fry.
The reason behind Shin’s reaction was “Why is a Skullface breakdancing…?”
Let us take a moment and think.
Undead-type monsters possess a strong hatred for all things living. Their goal is to bring as many of them as possible to their side, the land of the dead.
Their horrifying appearance casts terror into people’s hearts, they attack continuously with bodies that do not know fatigue, raining death wherever they roam.
That was how undead-type monsters were in THE NEW GATE, and Skullfaces were a classic example of such a category.
They were absolutely not monsters that would hide in the depths of a forest to breakdance.
“This is…too surreal. Did you want to dance this much?”
Shin’s words contained a tinge of compassion.
He even felt a pang of indescribable guilt, like he had seen something that he shouldn’t have.
Only on the space around the Skullface there were no trees: from above, it would look like a hole had been opened in the forest. The cause was obvious: the Skullface was breakdancing with its armor, sword, and shield on: its sword cut down the trees, the shield swept away the grass, the armor created a hole in the ground.
One could wonder if it was necessary to dance while equipping armor, but that was what the monster was doing, so there was no point.
Shin’s thoughts were then stopped by a faint noise.
A sound like dripping liquid reached his ears. He looked in the direction of the source and saw a single large tree, then the red liquid on the trunk.
Shin looked back to the Skullface and observed it more closely.
Its broadsword hissing through the air, the armor covering its bones, the grass-sweeping shield…all of them were spattered in blood.
Shin looked a bit to the side and saw the corpse of monsters, split in two. They had probably come too close and had been slaughtered without hesitation.
So this was the rumored Skullface appearing in the northern forest. The wounded adventurers…
It was not possible to be sure just from the blood dripping from the monster’s blade. The probability that this Skullface attacked the adventurers, however, was definitely high.
The previously confused Shin regained his focus. His expression became sharp, as did the atmosphere around him.
“This is no time to space out.”
First, he gathered information on his foe. It would be dangerous to treat the situation lightly like in the game. The Skullface, while dancing, was knocking down 30-cemel thick trees, after all. It would be foolish to let your guard down.
According to 【Analyze X】, the Skullface’s level was 359. It was far higher than a Jack or even a Queen, almost in King territory.
“Let’s try this first.”
Shin drew his katana and looked for the right timing. The instant the Skullface showed its back to him, he approached the monster in a quick step, while still crouching.
With the momentum of the step-in, Shin swung his blade. He didn’t use skills, simply slashing the monster’s defenseless back.
Skullfaces are generally strong against cutting attacks, but attacking them from behind would be enough to cause considerable damage.
Such expectations, however, were betrayed.
Just before Shin’s blade collided with the monster’s body, the Skullface planted its left arm into the ground and accelerated its rotation, as if it had felt an attack was coming.
It then parried the blade with the round shield and made a sweeping motion with its broadsword, as a counterattack.
Shin, still using the momentum of the slash, passed next to the Skullface and moved away from the sweep.
Shin had good reason to be surprised.
A smooth, flowing defense and counterattack with the sword. A response that was unthinkable in the game era.
Considering the burden on muscles and joints, they were movements impossible to perform for human beings. Movements that probably only a Skullface could perform, thanks to its muscular power -despite being all bones- and the freedom of its movements, unhindered by actual joints.
Shin couldn’t hide his surprise at the enemy’s unimaginable offensive power.
“What the heck was that…those weren’t the movements of a Skullface…”
It was already strange enough that it was breakdancing, but that wasn’t the only suspicious thing.
There was also the weapon it wielded.
A large, two-handed broadsword that humans could barely wield with both hands. Its handle was decorated gorgeously, the blade shone with a silver light, blue lines streaking at its center.
It was probably made in magic steel, a material stronger than iron, combined with mithril, a material that responded well to magic. A fierce light covered the blade. It was a weapon not fitting an undead monster at all, that’s for sure.
Additionally, the white light stood for the 『Light』 element. Its design too made it look fitting for the weapon to be called a holy sword. Another attribute that did not fit an undead monster at all.
“I suppose I should think of it as a unique monster.”
Shin raised his level of alertness.
Unique monsters often had attributes and abilities different from normal ones. Shin had never heard, however, of monsters carrying weapons of elements they were weak to, like the light sword-wielding undead before him.
Shin was carefully examining the Skullface, who too seemed to consider Shin a powerful enemy: it stood on the ground with its two legs, held the shield slightly forward and held its sword back, its guard up.
Those were clearly movements of someone well versed in the art of the sword, very different from a monster that knew nothing but to charge at its foes.
“Looks like that dance wasn’t just you messing around, huh!!”
Shin attacked the Skullface again.
He took one step forward, like before, and unsheathed his blade. His target was the monster’s left leg.
The unleashed strike targeted the Skullface’s left leg.
The Skullface reacted to the attack and tried to parry with its left hand’s shield, but because of the difference between its body and the shield’s size, it couldn’t make it in time.
The next instant, with a sound of grinding metal, Shin leapt backwards.
The Skullface, understanding that it couldn’t defend itself, aimed to at least trade blows and attacked with its broadsword.
Shin judged it risky to stop the attack coming from behind and opted to dodge.
One moment later, the monster’s broadsword swung down on the ground, a blow powerful enough to cleave the ground for 3 mel longer than the sword’s own extension. It was probably a boost provided by magic.
“The weapon it wields is Rare grade…or maybe even Unique? This is really abnormal.”
For Shin it wasn’t especially high offensive power, but it wasn’t a weapon that low-level monsters used to wield.
The Skullface, without regard for Shin’s suspicions, continued to attack with its broadsword.
Its left ankle had been severed by Shin’s previous attack.
For Skullface, unaware of pain, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem. It stabbed the dangling ankle on the ground to close in on Shin and unleashed a savage sweeping attack.
Shin approached the Skullface himself and activated the Katana-type Martial skill 【Blade Evasion】. He struck the opponent’s blade near the handle with his katana and parried the sweep.
The monster’s torso was now wide open: Shin followed with the Katana-type Martial skill 【Blade Breaker】.
The katana, powered with a skill that inflicted normal damage to opponents resistant to blade attacks, crushed the Skullface’s armor and damaged its torso.
…or at least, that was what it was supposed to do.
“Are you kidding me!?”
Again, Shin had good reason to be surprised.
Seconds before Shin’s attack collided, the Skullface nimbly stepped back and away from the katana’s path.
Shin’s attack nicked its armor and damaged it, but barely affected the monster’s body.
The monster had moved as it perfectly knew that a powerful attack would follow after its offensive had been dodged.
Shin was still holding back, that was true, but it was still shocking that the monster could keep up with his movements so well.
The Skullface emitted an animal-like roar. A spiteful voice unpleasant to anyone who heard it.
Even Shin frowned, hearing the monster’s scream from such close distance. It did not have any added effects, but all loud sounds can cause fear in living beings.
He focused on his body and limbs, which were about to freeze, and jumped away.
The Skullface’s HP gauge had barely decreased.
Skullfaces barely sustained damage unless their core was struck. Shin’s last attack just hit its armor, so it hadn’t inflicted considerable damage.
“Sheesh…did I have to encounter a monster this weird so soon?”
Shin mumbled to himself, half surprised and half impressed by the Skullface’s movements.
He glanced at his weapon and noticed that its blade was cracked, the tip missing.
Weapons and armor had durability points; if they were reduced to zero they couldn’t be used anymore, a setting often present in video games.
In reality, however, decrease of durability meant that the weapon or armor was unusable, so it was impossible to just keep using them until they broke.
The durability of Shin’s Kazuuchi had already gone below 30%.
It was probably due to the Skullface’s high level and the power of its weapon: when Shin had blocked the monster’s attack, his katana must have suffered damage.
“I guess I can only do one last good attack with this. Might as well try!”
The surroundings of Shin and the Skullface were devastated already by the monster’s breakdance. Shin then thought that he could get a bit more serious here, and took a stance.
His left leg stepped forward, as he leaned slightly. He held the katana lower than his hips, pointing backward.
Shin then whispered.
“【Limiter Off】 ”
Thanks to these words, Shin’s formerly suppressed abilities were liberated.
Even a complete beginner in terms of fighting could have felt how Shin’s atmosphere changed.
His grip on the katana grew stronger, the handle creaked in response.
The Skullface too probably noticed the change and emitted a low roar. It held its shield even more forward than before, taking a defensive stance.
Shin, again impressed by the Skullface’s movements, put more strength in.
A sharp exhalation, a step in at full power, the katana turned into a flash.
An acceleration so sudden that not even after-images could be formed, followed by a single strike by the raised blade.
With speed above what the eye can register, Shin appeared in front of the Skullface. Two distinct metallic sounds accompanied him.
Then, two changes took place.
One, Shin’s katana completely shattered, leaving only the handle behind.
The second was the Skullface’s broadsword being blown away, flying away into the distance.
The first metallic sound had been produced when Shin, with one single strike, cut apart the Skullface’s shield, armor, and core, the monster’s heart.
The second sound reverberated when Shin’s katana struck the monster’s broadsword, which apparently still had high durability: it did not shatter or break, but left the Skullface’s grip and disappeared in the skies.
Its core sliced in half and HP gauge depleted, the Skullface turned into a mere pile of bones and collapsed. It was difficult to think that the figure now on the ground had fought fiercely until moments ago.
“It didn’t hold, after all.”
Shin looked at the Kazuuchi, now just a handle, and sighed.
He had focused a fair bit of power into the blow, but it was still far from being his full strength.
Due to the aftershocks of Shin’s attack, the trees behind the Skullface crumbled down too. Shin, however, was completely unimpressed as he put back the handle in the item box.
“That sword looked sturdy enough, though.”
Shin then looked towards the direction the Skullface’s broadsword disappeared to, only to see a clear blue sky, which offered no hints of the weapon’s whereabouts.
He didn’t think it would be blown away that much and hoped it wouldn’t hit anyone on its way down, at least.
“…time to go back.”
Shin could finally relax, but did not feel like going back to look for Hillk grass. He found a gem among the monster’s remains, so he just picked it up and left.
Shin passed through the forest, heading towards the gate, thinking that he should report about the Skullface to the guild.
He did not have the faintest idea that the flying broadsword was already causing a commotion in the kingdom.