“Just what…power is that…?”
Scoruas, still reeling from the kick he had received, whispered his astonishment while pulling up his body, scorched by lightning and flames.
“I’m wondering too. Do you know anything?”
While perceiving the energy from the other battle, Shin answered to Scoruas’ mumbled words.
As the lightning stopped, Shin kicked the ground and closed in on the demon.
His right hand wielded 『Moonless』, the left one the newly unsheathed 『Oboro Muramasa』. Its grade was superior ancient, similar to 『Moonless』. In this world, it was a masterpiece among katanas, regarded as a “sword of the gods”.
“ThiSs poWeErr…are yOu rEeAlly hUmaN?”
“Who knows? In any case, you’re going to die here, so you’re fine not knowing, right?”
Shin answered Scoruas while cutting through the octopus tentacles that stretched towards him.
The tentacles were hard enough that Legend-grade weapons would simply bounce off them, but, before Ancient-grade weapons, they were as helpless as regular octopus tentacles.
With 【Limit】 released, Shin’s muscular strength was unbound, which, coupled with the blades’ sharpness, sliced through the tentacles like a hot knife through butter.
“Here’s a little bonus too.”
After slashing 3 of the tentacles in half, Shin activated the Flame and Wind combination skill【Echo Bomb】.
What appeared was a ball of fire with a 1 mel diameter.
The balls of fire quickly became 10, then 20, then rained on Scoruas’ face.
“GwAAh?? nOT onLy pOweR, bUt MagIC toOo!? ”
Scoruas tried to parry the fireballs with his pincer-like arms.
The fireballs exploded as soon as they touched the pincers, thus inflicting damage to the monster’s shell. The compressed air within the fireballs was also carried by the blast, sending its vibrations to the enemy’s shell.
As the directed sound waves hit the shell, they gradually caused cracks to appear on its sturdy surface.
【Echo Bomb】was a skill that caused damage both by sound waves and explosions, useful for damaging a monsters’ hard skin and armor.
The endless flood of fireballs crushed Scoruas’ pincers and scales, which were starting to fall off.
Continuous casting of this skill was a feat that not even several magicians could perform, even when taking turns casting.
It only became possible when one managed to cast it without chanting, possessed enough magical power, and high enough stats.
“As expected of a Grand Duke, you’re pretty sturdy.”
This fierce attack would have turned a normal field boss to ashes, but Scoruas’ HP had barely decreased.
Protecting himself with his pincers helped too, although Scoruas’ defensive power was originally very high.
With his previous kick, Shin had planned to crush the demon’s organs. However, Scoruas’ stomach was now only slightly dented and had already recovered to the point that it couldn’t be said to have been sunk in.
Shin’s main priority had been to create distance between the two demons, but to withstand an overlimit kick showed that Scoruas’ defenses were quite impressive.
“The scales form a layered armor, I see.”
Shin formed his guess while looking at the scales still falling from the demon’s body. New scales were created where fallen ones used to be, hiding the demon’s skin from sight.
“Looks like I can’t just lock you down.”
The newly formed tentacles knocked down 【Echo Bomb】before Shin’s eyes.
The 3 tentacles, huge in comparison to the demon’s body, moved all around and hit all the fireballs, barely missing any.
The few fireballs left were blocked by the pincers.
The recovery ability probably extended to the whole body, as the demon’s lower body also began to move again.
“Not a chance.”
Shin, while keeping the magical skill active, rushed towards the horse legs that were trying to move.
The trunk-like legs were nothing more than a target for Shin. He closed in and swung his swords down, attempting to cut them off in one fell swoop.
The legs, however, noticed the sudden change before Shin could get close enough.
Octopus-like tentacles began sprouting from the horse legs’ surface.
Every tentacle was roughly 15 mels long and as thick as a big rope. The tips were armed with knife-like shells, but the most notable thing was their massive numbers. The octopus leg-like appendages, easily numbering over 100, chased after Shin just like tentacles hunting their prey.
“Quit sprouting bizarre stuff!”
“dO noT thINk I wIlL juSt SIT BaCK aNd do NOThINg!!”
Shin put some distance between him and the demon, all the while cutting down tentacles. After roughly 10 mels, the tentacles stopped their pursuit.
In their place, huge tentacles came crashing down on Shin’s head.
Shin swung『Moonless』and 『Oboro Muramasa』in a cross, which was enough to blow away 3 tentacles sprouting from Scoruas’ right arm.
The left arm’s pincer came on the offensive as well. It was not impossible to slash it, but if he remained in place he would have been thrown back.
As Shin jumped to dodge it, he felt a stronger gaze pointed towards him.
Shin faced upwards and found Scoruas, with his mouth wide open and pointed at Shin. A large amount of compressed water was already present inside the mouth.
It was highly pressurized water breath – a wide range attack sea-dwelling monsters excelled at.
But it could not be unleashed.
Kagerou had circled around the demon, jumped on its back and sank his claws on Scoruas’ head.
Returning to his original form, Kagerou had jumped while using【Hiding】, attacking Scoruas from his blind spot.
After Shin had kicked Scoruas away, Kagerou had hid on Shin’s shadow.
Streams of water burst through the gaps of the demon’s closed mouth. By forcing Scoruas’ mouth to close just before the shot, the breath attack was unleashed within the demon’s mouth.
The leaked waterstreams cracked open whatever ground they touched, proof that the attack’s power was not to be underestimated.
“YoU FiLThy BeASt..!!!”
Scoruas was now rampaging, trying to shake Kagerou off his back. He tried to reach around his back with his tentacles, but Kagerou had enveloped his whole body in lightning, thus burning the tentacles and preventing them from wrapping around him.
Scoruas was a rank 3 boss, but close to rank 4.
In comparison, the Gruefago -the ordinary monster version- was roughly in the middle of rank 3.
Kagerou, however, was a mutated species, and his rank was more or less the same as Scoruas’.
His physical abilities were more than enough to cause damage to the demon.
Kagerou, his battle instincts now completely released, unleashed a roar that boomed throughout the surroundings. His lightning-clad blow easily crushed Scoruas’ scales and sank into the demon’s flesh.
The divine beast then attacked the pincers’ base with his fangs, causing cracks to open on the monster’s carapace with a loud creaking sound.
“Kagerou! Get away!”
Schnee’s voice resounded through the battlefield.
Scoruas was freed from Kagerou’s attacks, but his relief was short-lived; seconds later, the demon was once again under attack.
Just as his attention was drawn to his back, crescent-moon-shaped blades of ice targeted him from the front. The blades were thin and almost invisible to the naked eye.
The blades were roughly 1 mel long: if they could be caught, they looked extremely fragile.
Scoruas tried to crush them with his tentacles, but felt that each blade was imbued with magical power; he then quickly jumped away while using his shell-clad left arm as a shield.
“My arM…is FReeZiNG…”
The ice blades did not cause much damage. Yet each spot they touched froze instantly, in a 2 mel radius.
The chilling air affected not only the surface, but also deep within the carapace, robbing Scoruas of his mobility.
“I apologize for being late.”
“We were all waiting for you.”
Because of his physical abilities, Shin always struck first. In this situation, separating the two demons was of the utmost priority, so it was not a real problem.
“It looks like they are struggling less than expected. They might really defeat the enemy before we join them”
“Fantastic news. That Adara demon wasn’t that strong, then?”
“It appears that Wilhelm’s spear and Tiera’s arrows had a greater effect than expected. They were much more powerful than I expect them to be.”
“That’s intriguing. We’ll have to ask them after we take care of this one.”
Shin and Schnee drew closer to Scoruas, all the while conversing in a perfectly usual manner.
“The tentacles always get in the way. It’ll be easier to use this too.”
“I’ll borrow it, then.”
Shin passed a card to Schnee, who materialized it.
What appeared in her left hand was a short sword with a transparent emerald-green blade and dainty decorations. The blade part was roughly 60 cemels long.
The name of this superior Ancient-class weapon was 『Suirentou – Kabutohana』.
“Here I come.”
Schnee’s silhouette vanished in thin air. Moving quickly and gracefully as if dancing, leaving after-images in one’s wake was a Kunoichi’s specialty. It was fruit of the combination of the movement-type martial skills 【Ground Shrink】and 【Mirage Dance】.
While the tentacles unsuccessfully tried to halt her advance, Schnee carved Scoruas’ front left leg with her blades. The weapons she wielded were both of Ancient grade; the carapace’s defense power was nothing before them.
At the same time, she had activated the Katana-type martial skill 【Pomegranate Burst】.
Scoruas’ front left leg, struck by a storm of blue and green slashes, had already lost half of its functionality.
“It won’t go like before this time!”
Shin was running towards the demon’s front right leg.
His attack was straight from the front; 『Moonless』and 『Oboro Muramasa』repeatedly unleashed cross-like slashes.
It was the Katana-type martial skill 【Brilliant Void Cross】.
The Light and Dark elemental blades felled the tentacles and carved cross-shaped scars on the demon’s body. Scoruas’ front right leg lost all of its functions roughly at the same time that the left one was crushed by Schnee.
“ThIS iS…ABsUrD…hOw coUld I…”
Because of the damage to the legs and Kagerou’s lightning attack received from behind, Scoruas was now slumped forward. Before his eyes stood Shin and Schnee, both with weapons at the ready.
“Let’s go with a combination attack.”
The magical power focusing in their weapons caused even the atmosphere to emit a sharp, grinding sound.
The concentration was so dense that all that Scoruas’ pupils could register was a violet and blue flashing light.
“ThIS lIGht iIIiiSS…!!!”
Scoruas could not finish his sentence before the slash reached its target.
Cooperation-exclusive skill 【Decapitation Spark】.
It was a crushingly heavy sword slash, coming from a gigantic blade-shaped energy, extending from 『Moonless』and 『Blue Moon』.
What they had unleashed was a single flash. A single cleave that cut through the arms Scoruas had raised to defend himself, his harder-than-steel carapace and layers of scales, as if they were nothing.
The blade descended as mercilessly as a real guillotine.
The skill, possessing power unimaginable in the game era, cut Scoruas’ head off in one fell swoop.
“Better safe than sorry.”
Shin and Schnee readied their blades before the skill ended.
Their opponent was a Grand Duke; even if its HP had become 0, they doubted it would just die like that.
Scoruas’ gigantic body was run through by sword slashes, which crossed in its center and divided the demon’s body in 4 parts.
It was defeated, without a shred of a doubt; after some time, the demon’s body turned into particles and started disappearing.
“How could I lose so easily…? Just who are you…?”
“You only have your head left, but you can still talk? Well, there’s no reason for me to tell you though.”
Scoruas’ sliced head had started speaking. It was a mystery where the voice came from, but its distorted tone had returned to a more human-like one.
“Someone who could subdue Schnee Raizar and a divine beast…haha, now I see, you are a hi—”
That was everything Scoruas managed to utter. It appeared he could not maintain his existence anymore; his head also turned into particles and disappeared.
Items such as jewels and metals were the only things left where Scoruas’ body had been.
“Demons drop items in this world?”
“The demon we defeated at the king’s castle did not drop anything, though.”
On closer inspection, the dropped gemstones were all Unique class. The metals too were rare kinds, such as Orichalcum and Mithril.
Shin assumed that the items the demon created within its body were expelled when the demon passed, thus appearing just as dropped items would.
They did not seem tainted by the miasma, but to be sure Shin purified them before converting them into cards and storing them in the item box.
“Well then, let’s rejoin the others.”
“It doesn’t look like they needed help after all.”
Adara was nowhere to be seen. While Scoruas was disappearing they perceived a large quantity of magical power and turned around, to find a deep red flash of light rising in the distance, signaling the conclusion of the conflict.
The effect suggested that 【Kagutsuchi】had been activated.
The group of 3 quickly started on their way back and re-joined with Shibaid’s entourage.
“You wrapped things up pretty quickly.”
“That’s my line, honestly. I thought your party would have needed more time, Shin.”
Shin’s words were answered by a disappointed-sounding Filma.
Based on the monsters’ shapes, Adara was much easier to fight than Scoruas. The latter would take longer to fight because of his many unpredictable attack patterns. Scoruas was also slightly higher than Adara in terms of level of ability.
If both groups stopped the enemy while continuously adding damage, normally Filma’s group would have finished their opponent sooner.
“We had the chance to power up a little, you see. Let’s talk more later.”
In order to regroup with Konig’s entourage, which had gone a safe distance from the battlefield, Shin materialized the carriage from a card.
A short while after the group’s carriage departed, Konig’s marker appeared on Shin’s map.
The 『Cloak of Hidden Threads』Konig was wearing was something Shin had lent him, so he would not be hidden from Shin’s sight.
Maybe because he had noticed the cloud of dust raised by the carriage headed in their direction, Konig had stopped moving.
Shin left the reins and waved in Konig’s direction, who unequipped his cloak.
“Apologies for the wait. We’re going back to Balmel, so please get on board.”
“I have a mountain of things I’d like to ask…but first I suppose I shall do so.”
Konig was carrying Hermie on his back. She had regained consciousness, but her expression was still somber.
“How do you feel?”
“I am fine, thank you. I humbly apologize for all the trouble I caused you.”
“No, we made some unexpected findings on our own, so please do not worry.”
If Hermie and Wilhelm hadn’t been kidnapped, Shin’s party would not have rushed to their location. In that case, Scoruas’ plan could have been successful.
For Hermie and the worried Lilishila it was an unfortunate turn of events, but Shin was glad they could crush the demons’ plans. Of course, he kept such an opinion to himself.
“We will depart right away.”
The group planned to head towards Balmel, then travel by sea to a town close to Sigurd, lastly reaching Sigurd with the carriage.
Reasons for this route were also that the carriage alone would have taken too much time and Vizzy’s dragons could not carry all of them.
It would have been possible if they rode separately, but they were not in a rush like before, so Shin decided not to reveal to Konig that they can ride dragons.
After they reached Balmel, Shin’s party went directly to check the ship’s timetable. They also had to stock up on food.
Konig also left to send a message to the Church.
Hermie, who was not feeling too well, stayed in the inn, with Wilhelm as her guard.
“I apologize to have you stay back for someone like me…”
Wilhelm’s brow furrowed after hearing such self-deprecating words. Hermie had spoken unusually belittling herself on the carriage as well.
In the beginning he thought she felt down for having been kidnapped, but even so, her voice and expression were far too dark. It felt as if she was rejecting everything about herself.
Wilhelm thought about what the reason could be.
“Did those bastards say something to you?”
Scoruas, Adara, the Summit Faction members. Those were the possible answers.
“I am….no, because of me, many people were sacrificed.”
“Now that you mention it, I seem to remember them saying something like that. But it’s nothing for you to worry about, is it?”
Wilhelm spoke lightly, as if it wasn’t anything important enough to be burdened by.
“That’s not…!! All those people, they..”
“I couldn’t save them either. Even Shin and the others didn’t make it in time. Also, you can’t fight. The moment they got caught by those bastards, it was obvious that they couldn’t be saved. They were doing that stuff even before kidnapping you too.”
Hermie couldn’t possibly be the reason why they were sacrificed.
“If you’ve got enough free time to think nonsense like “it was my fault” or whatever, think about what you can do from now on instead. There might be other people captured in that cave, after all.”
“Concerning that, Konig, who can command the Church’s knights, is contacting the Church. Once he knows the reason, His Holiness the Pope will surely authorize them to act…”
Hermie answered Wilhelm’s words. The destruction of one of the Summit Faction’s bases was surely advantageous for the Church. There was no reason to hesitate.
“Is there anything I could do…?”
“Who knows. They call you Holy Woman, though. I don’t know what you can or can’t do, but if you just say something, there are plenty people who can achieve something better, isn’t it?”
“Holy…Woman….am I really worthy of such a name…?”
“Hmm, well…before we talk about who’s worthy or not, I don’t even know why they call you that.”
Wilhelm knew that those called “Holy Women” existed, but did not know why that was.
Excluding Konig, among the current members the only ones that maybe knew were Schnee, Shibaid, and possibly Milt.
In answer to Wilhelm’s admission of not knowing the reason for that title, Hermie started talking in a feeble tone of voice.
At first, people found her creepy. Someone from the Church heard rumors about her and came to pick her up, she learnt how her power can help others. With time, they started referring to her as Holy Woman.
Hermie narrated her story, sometimes finding that the words died in her throat and wouldn’t come out.
“People treated you like a creep, and still you think about helping them, that’s really something.”
“If I was asked why I did, it would be difficult to give a clear answer. Maybe…I wanted to prove that even someone like me can be useful to others.”
“And isn’t that good enough? They call you Holy Woman because there are people that were saved by you, right?”
“Is what I did, right…?”
“That’s what they call a question with no answer. Maybe even if you weren’t there they would have gotten by somehow, or maybe an even worse tragedy would have happened. In the end, we can only do what we believe in.”
Wilhelm’s words might have sounded banal, but they were the truth. To know all consequences one’s actions could bring was something not even a Star Reader could do.
“Besides, a certain High Human said that even he can’t save everyone. In other words, it’s not possible even for a living legend. Just give up.”
During their serious conversation, Wilhelm mentioned it as if there was nothing they could do.
“A certain High Human…?”
“Once I was trained by Schnee Raizar, see, and she told me so.”
“Is…that so. All the more reason to do our best, then.”
It wasn’t clear if she had believed Wilhelm’s words or not, but she showed a different smile from before.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’s going to get busy now too. You better rest up while you can.”
“I will. You really are the person I was told about…”
“Huh? You were told about? By whom?”
Hermie’s words provoked a clearly annoyed look by Wilhelm.
“Let us just say that children watch the people around them more than we think.”
Wilhelm clicked his tongue, a grimace on his face. Seeing this, Hermie let out a chuckle.
The group would now cross the sea towards Sigurd.
To their ears then echoed a distant sneeze.