“It’s starting to take shape.”
Shin was looking at the erupting light as it gathered and started to solidify. When it reached its complete form, Reforgerer would be born.
“If we can defeat the demon before it becomes the Divine Beast, we don’t even have to fight it, right?”
“I think it might work… From what I remember, it appeared and started rampaging immediately.”
Time had passed since Shin and the others first saw the pillar of light. In the game era footage he had seen, Reforgerer had appeared less than a minute after the pillar manifested, so he couldn’t deny the possibility of what Tiera said being true. However, it would be extremely difficult to pull off.
“There’s a cluster of presences. Let’s go there first.”
Shin’s group advanced straight into the holy area, heading towards the presences he had detected. As expected, he found Lymliss and the elf guards escorting her. They noticed Shin’s group approaching them but did not appear to recognize Shin’s group, as they had their weapons in hand, ready for battle.
Yuzuha and Kagerou were in their original forms — although Yuzuha’s was not complete —, so their large bodies and high levels would surely be intimidating. The guards probably noticed that Shin and the others were riding the beasts, but they couldn’t afford not being wary.
“We are not enemies!”
Tiera spoke on behalf of the group. Thanks to the authority of the priestess’ words, the elven warriors were reassured and put down their weapons.
“Lady Tiera, a light appeared from the World Tree…and I feel an unpleasant presence too.”
“It’s probably the cause of all this. We came to protect the World Tree…and we need the power of purification. It will be dangerous, but we need your help.”
There was no time to explain in detail what was going on. Lymliss, however, understood that the situation was truly dire, so she nodded with a stiff expression on her face. Despite the abnormal phenomenon, the World Tree was still alive. Lymliss could feel it too.
Some elves objected, saying it was too dangerous for her to go, but Lymliss convinced them saying that, if she didn’t go now, there would be no point in her being a priestess anymore, so they did not try to stop her.
Though the elite guards knew they could never fulfill the priestess’s critical role, they were experienced warriors and couldn’t help but feel restless before the appalling fear of the pillar of light.
“What do you plan to do?”
“Schnee, Yuzuha, and I will deal with the monster that will come pouring out. Meanwhile, I want you to purify the World Tree and get rid of as much impurity as possible. You might encounter demons, so Shibaid will go with you.”
“Understood. I will protect them, even if it costs my life.”
Shin was giving orders instead of Schnee, but no one interjected.
He had already removed all 【Limiter】 restrictions to be ready whenever Reforgerer appeared. The elite elves understood, through their instincts, rather than reason, who was the most powerful person present.
“I was thinking of making the residents in the area evacuate, but with the situation as it is…”
Fighting among elves had broken out throughout the city. It was impossible to make people evacuate in a situation like that. Reforgerer’s attack power also made it meaningless to just go a little farther away.
“If we take care of the cause, the manipulated people should turn back to normal.”
“I really hope they do.”
Shin’s group headed towards the World Tree, together with Lymliss and the elven elites. The gradually shaping light was relatively far from the World Tree. The reason was unknown, but it worked in their favor. After entrusting Lymliss to Shibaid, Shin, Schnee, and Yuzuha headed towards the light.
“Are we too late?”
Shin saw the light before them glow stronger. Then, as it quickly disappeared, a giant figure replaced it, exactly as he remembered.
—— Guardian Divine Beast – Reforgerer
【Analyze】 displayed Reforgerer’s data. The lack of a level display and the “Guardian” title before its name matched Shin’s memories.
In the same location as Reforgerer, Crissot’s presence appeared as well. As expected, he was the reason for the divine beast’s appearance. He might have become one with the divine beast or possessed by it, but, in any case, he was a very dangerous existence.
Reforgerer did not immediately start moving, so there was still some leeway for observation. Its head was covered by a smooth silver carapace, only showing its large mouth lined with snaggleteeth, clearly unsuited for eating. Its body was covered by a rough dark green, almost black, colored skin accompanied by two robust arms and an even more massive set of legs.
Its tail, about as long as its body, was also covered in the same armored hide and appeared very flexible. The tip, about 10 mel long, was covered in an extremely sturdy-looking shell. The guardian also had crystal-like minerals growing from its back, which it could use to fire searing hot beams.
Once Reforgerer received a certain amount of damage, the crystals would turn into rainbow-colored wings, which could also restore its HP and were very sturdy to boot. A player armed with a large sledgehammer had tried to smash them to prevent the monster from restoring its HP, but was blown back without even managing to crack them, or so Shin remembered.
“It’s a bit smaller than normal?”
“That might not be its complete form. Based on what you told us, it was not summoned in a legitimate way.”
“Kuu! There’s a mix of miasma in its aura!”
The monster before them was clearly smaller than what Shin remembered. Looking at it from the side, Shin also noticed that its back was not lined with as many crystals as he recalled, they were missing here and there.
Yuzuha’s observation also corroborated Schnee’s hypothesis. A sort of black aura enveloped the monster, one it did not have before: miasma. It might be the reason why Reforgerer had not moved yet.
Reforgerer was not moving, but there were monsters sticking to its arms: a large shelled spider with a human-like upper body and a horse-like beast with two tiger heads.
As 【Analyze】 showed, they were both demons.
Shin wondered what they were trying to do, when Reforgerer finally moved. It started closing its paws, clutching the demons. They both tried breath attacks or blowing strings to resist, but Reforgerer’s scales repelled everything.
“If he still retains his feelings as a parent, it won’t leave any demons alive, as they could target priestesses…I guess.”
The demons were crushed to death in the divine beast’s paws, with a squelch-like sound. They were probably Crissot’s former allies.
We’d be lucky if it’s weaker than normal, since it was summoned in an irregular way… so thought Shin, but it did not look like his hopes would come true. As he considered starting the offensive, he felt a horrifying chill down his spine. Reforgerer’s gaze had turned towards them.
Shin could tell. The eyeless Reforgerer was looking right at them.
“Behind me, all of you!!”
Shin noticed a faint bluish-white glow seep out of Reforgerer’s closed mouth and stood in front of Schnee and Yuzuha before thinking. Shibaid did the same, shouting as he stood in front of the group. They prepared the『Great Shell Shield of Collision』, activated a defensive barrier and another protection skill.
Reforgerer’s beam struck as soon as the double protection was set up. The transparent white beam of light filled the distance between them instantly.
The double barriers created by Shin and Shibaid provided a small delay to the beam before shattering.
“Even if it’s smaller, it’s as strong as before!?”
“What incredible power…!”
Shin and Shibaid shouted as they held the 『Great Shell Shield of Collision』 against the beam. The beam was wider than the shield, but it was Ancient-grade gear: it managed to scatter the beam and prevent it from hitting those behind the shield.
However, as a blacksmith, Shin could tell that the shield’s endurance was gradually decreasing. The 『Great Shell Shield of Collision』 had been powered up since the game era, but it still wasn’t enough. If the elves were targeted, they wouldn’t be able to defend themselves.
“What in the world…”
“How can you fight with such a monster…?”
Thanks to Shin and Shibaid’s defense, the whole group was unscathed. However, the scattered heat and pressure of the beam caused explosions wherever it landed. Although weakened, the beam’s damage was enough to dispel any optimistic outlook of the situation.
The elven warriors were especially surprised, as the weakened blasts were more than enough to blow whole houses away. Some of them lost the will to fight because of the overwhelming power of Reforgerer’s beams.
“Kuu, its attacks are mixed with miasma too!”
Shin and Shibaid were too focused on parrying the beam to notice, but Yuzuha, behind them, could tell. Miasma had been released together with the beam, as if enveloping it. Considering that the miasma might be boosting the beam’s power, it might be even more dangerous than the game era’s Reforgerer.
“This position is bad. It shouldn’t be able to fire beams like that often. I’ll draw its attention while going to the other side! Tiera, you guys, go to the World Tree!”
Shin shouted so that Schnee and the rest could hear. With Lanapacea behind them, they couldn’t simply dodge the monster’s attacks. If they let the beams through, the whole country would turn into a sea of flames. In the worst-case scenario, it might even hit the World Tree. They definitely could not fight it there.
Shin thought that the most effective strategy at present was for Tiera and the other priestesses to purify the World Tree while they acted as decoys.
The beam started weakening and vanished after about one minute. The ground in front and around them had changed completely. Behind them, the ground remained intact. Before, the ground was demolished and completely liquified, even boiling here and there.
“I’m going ahead!! Shibaid, I leave Tiera to you!!”
Shin kicked the ground and leaped high in the air, Shibaid’s reply trailing behind him. The melting ground shattered and scattered. He could now freely travel through the air, so he jumped as high as Reforgerer’s eye level and headed straight towards its head. The guardian’s head moved to follow his movements.
“You can see, can’t you.”
In the game era, he never had the luxury to observe it in detail. As the players scattered to avoid its beams, he never felt the guardian’s eyes on him so clearly.
“There’s more than Crissot’s will at play here.”
The beam would have struck down Tiera too, if Shin and Shibaid didn’t block it. Crissot’s will to protect Tiera was possibly mixed with the demon’s will to slaughter humans and Reforgerer’s original will to attack humanity.
A black shadow darted into the edge of Shin’s field of view. He quickly sidestepped and the large mass flew by. It was a Reforgerer’s tail, as fast as whiplash and much more powerful than a hammer.
In the past it was enough to crush any “tank” player, without a chance to block it. Scouts or rear guard players would be killed instantly if it just brushed by them.
He was worried about Schnee and the others, but the equipment he gave them was reinforced as much as possible. At the very least, they shouldn’t be killed instantly.
“I’m not the same as last time we fought!!”
Shin’s grip on 『Moonless』 tightened as he closed in on the monster. Before, approaching Reforgerer was a feat in itself. Aside from its gigantic frame, the divine beast was also extremely fast. Its movement was not too quick, but its arms and tail moved as if they were separated from its body.
Without any restrictions on his movements, Shin could avoid them in the three-dimensional plane, easily slipping up close to the beast. His target was its neck, as tall and as large as a building.
Shin knew well about Reforgerer’s healing capabilities. However, it was still a living creature. If its neck was cut off, it couldn’t move again so quickly.
Shin’s 『Moonless』 emitted a grinding sound. Shin’s powerful grip, without【Limiter】, was making it wail. Even so, Shin did not relax his arms. He could not hold anything back against this opponent: he knew that, in the worst case, he would throw away the weapon.
The light shining on the tip of his blade was as blazing hot as Reforgerer’s beam. Stone or flesh, living or not, he would cut through it all. With such strong conviction in his heart, Shin activated a skill.
Katana and Flame combination skill 【Shiden – Blaze Divide】
A white-hot slash arced in the air, as if it could cut the very atmosphere. The blade sliced through the scales and cut the monster’s flesh. But, it was not deep enough to slice the monster’s neck. The technique was powerful enough, as it cut open a much wider slice than the arc drawn by 『Moonless』. Even then, it only managed to sever about one-third of Reforgerer’s neck.
The guardian’s beast’s scales were very sturdy, but its flesh was extremely tough as well, so Shin’s slash did not go as deep as he expected.
Shin had unleashed the skill aiming to cut cleanly through the guardian’s neck: if the opponent wasn’t Reforgerer, the slash would have surely reached as far as the forest in the distance.
“You’re seriously tough.”
The response Shin felt through 『Moonless』 was the heaviest he had ever felt. He managed to draw the blade out, but, if he didn’t give it his all, it may have remained stuck in the monster’s flesh. Many players had lost their weapons in such a way.
“But I can still cut you.”
Shin managed to damage Reforgerer more than their previous encounter. In the past, he needed multiple attacks just to destroy the scales, so he felt more confident in his ability to fight it. Such confidence, however, created an opening.
“Shin!! Above you!!”
Shin heard Schnee’s almost shrieking voice and looked upwards. He was located close to Reforgerer’s neck, so above him there would be…its head, naturally. Its mouth, ready to fire another searing hot beam. Blue and white lights leaked from Reforgerer’s mouth.
Shin was right next to the divine beast’s neck, so he was not in danger of being hit, but he knew that without Schnee or anyone telling him.
Claws came from the right and the tail from the left, centering on Shin’s position. If he was caught between them, he didn’t know what would become of him, even as he was now. If he jumped away, however, he might end up in the beam’s course.
Shin thus decided to jump diagonally forward. If he slipped by next to its neck, he would not risk being hit by any attack.
Shin planned to stick next to the monster’s neck and climb it. If he reached its back, he risked being hit by the crystals’ beams this time. Because he knew that, his response was delayed.
Beam attacks from the mouth and back, claw and tail attacks. Shin focused too much on them and neglected to consider attacks from other sources.
The scales covering Reforgerer’s body started glowing in unison. The power and heat were low, but it was undoubtedly a beam attack. Thanks to his high stats and defensive gear, Shin did not receive any damage.
But, that was not the problem.
Shin had gained the ability to move freely in midair, but in the end he always leapt: he could not float or fly. He could parry attacks from above, but could not stay in place while being attacked from other directions.
Shin quickly shot a fireball in the direction he was blown to, using the explosion’s shockwave as a buffer, to prevent Reforgerer from putting more distance between them. His position was just outside the range of the guardian’s beams.
I can dodge them here.
So thought Shin, an instant before his field of view was engulfed in white light.