The gargoyle, which had been flapping around and above my head, opens its mouth with a snap.
Just as I thought it was about to let out a high-pitched yell, I felt a sharp pain, as if a needle had been inserted directly into the back of my ear.
Even my own screams are muffled by the terrible ringing in my ears. In the split second that I winced, I noticed that the Gargoyle has vanished from my sight.
Still, I sensed a huge three-dimensional object falling from above. In the nick of time, I jumped to the side and avoided being trampled. I immediately kicked the ground, “Phew!”, swinging down my mycelial sword.
The gargoyle raised its leg. Its claw clashed with my blade making a dull thud.
(I made it—) (Shuu)
The gargoyle forcefully pushes against the sword and jumps up again. Then, swinging its legs in the air, it releases three claws toward me. They smashed against the mycelial great shield but were not able to penetrate.
(Those are not claws, they are made of mycelium.) (Shuu)
As proof, the claws grew back on their feet. It seems that this is the true identity of the flying weapons that were hurled toward me.
While keeping its distance in the air, the gargoyle opens its mouth.
Again, sharp pain in my ear. My body flinches. Before I can even think about it, a follow-up attack comes hurtling toward me. This time, its body rushes forward. Still, it hits the [Hypha Great Shield], but the momentum blows me away, and I hit back first against a pillar. The air was knocked out of my lungs.
(Could this be—an Ultrasonic Attack?) (Shuu)
A directional sound-type attack? Even if it is nonlethal, it would be dangerous to become slower to react due to pain and losing focus.
The power of its attacks is also impressive. Even with the momentum of the descent, I was unable to repel it.
“Another round!” (Shuu)
A gray ball of mycelium is released from my fingertip. The [Smoke Screen Ball]. Boom! Smoke blocked our view of each other.
I hide behind a pillar and regulate my breathing. I calm my mind and plan my next move.
A chill runs down my spine. I throw out my great shield and roll to the side. In the nick of time, a huge body that had swooped down smashes against the pillar, making a dull thud.
(Seriously, even though I threw a smokescreen.) (Shuu)
(Oh, bats…they recognize their surroundings by echolocation or sound, right?) (Shuu)
(Then it’s useless. Rather, it’s a bad idea.) (Shuu)
Even though I have [Sensory Spores], the visibility was unnecessarily reduced. I had no choice but to leave the place and run further into the area.
Kicking a puddle. The whole floor of this area is flooded.
The Gargoyle is chasing me from behind. As soon as I caught sight of it in an unhindered view, pain strikes my ears again. My vision shakes.
The gargoyle dives once more towards me, who has been stopped in his tracks. It was a winning moment.
—A claw grazes the side of my head. But as it does so, I turned around and slashed my opponent’s flank.
The frightened gargoyle jumps up and moves away. Immediately, I released used [Burning Ball]. Three at once, they miss their target and hit a pillar.
(Did it get confused? I was able to counter its winning combo.) (Shuu)
With a faint grimace, [Healing Ball] are squished into my ears.
Mycelial balls with plenty of liquid, in place of earplugs. It doesn’t go so far as to completely block the mysterious ultrasonic attack, but it is effective enough to deal with the attack that follows.
(So—what to do next.) (Shuu)
My injuries are already healed. But the damage to the other side doesn’t seem to be serious either. From the feel of the blade, its skin is quite tough. From how it felt, it is almost like a stone. I have to do a full swing to cut through the flesh.
On the other hand, it is difficult to hit an opponent who is quick to react and move with [Burning Ball] or [Electric Ball] from a distance. The odds are not in my favor in a ranged battle.
(Then, the only way to win is by forcing it to a melee?) (Shuu)
Not to insult you, but if I can’t cut you down head-on, I’ll never reach the boss up here.
I crouched down. Putting strength into my legs, then I leaped up with [Enhanced Leaping Ability].
I kicked the pillar and changed direction. Flanking the gargoyle, a slash slightly grazes the Gargoyle’s thigh.
I then kicked the opposite pillar. This time, the gargoyle reacts in time. Its claws and my bladed intersect. No spark appeared as we pushed each other back.
I stuck my sword to the next pillar. Its claws fly towards me. I bring out my great shield to defend, then I used [Enhanced Leaping Ability], stepping on the pillar I leaped as it shatters.
The Gargoyle tries to dodge but is struck with the great shield. A dull crash echoed. One man and one gargoyle are tangled up in mid-air as they fall.
I braced myself by thrusting my sword against a pillar, and I halted my fall. Meanwhile, the gargoyle tumbled, crashing to the floor, water splashing everywhere.
He flicks at the sky with his left hand. Three yellow balls are released from his fingertips—the seventh Fungal Skill, [Electric Ball].
They are scattered haphazardly and fall in the direction opposite of one another. And then—”bam!” and a momentary flash of light spread out all over the floor.
That floor is flooded. Electricity moves across the water. The electrocuted gargoyle is making a silent scream. I was right, it seems that this monster is not made of stone, if it was made of stone, electricity would not be conducted.
Down on the floor, I closed the distance in a heartbeat. With a well-aimed downward swing, I slashed at its left wing, which was protecting its head.
The staggered gargoyle tries to fly away, but a single wing cannot lift it up. Blood splattered from the tip of the broken wing.
I immediately and quickly calm my breathing and readied my sword. I felt like I had done something reckless to the extent that Tamiko would later be furious with me, but somehow I managed to stop it from flying. All that remained was to finish it off as usual.
The gargoyle’s face, writhing in pain and staring up at me, still showed no sign of giving up. Even though it had suffered a deep wound and lost the advantage of being able to fly.
It released a shriek so loud that even past my earplugs, my eardrums were vibrating, and then it lunged charging with its whole body. The claws of both legs are outstretched, and the creature swings frantically.
The power of its attack momentarily overwhelmed him, but I defended myself with the great shield outstretched in my left hand. Like a martial artist, I skillfully handled the kick, then I took advantage of the opening to strike back with my sword. With a diagonal blow from its waist to the chest, the Gargoyle’s hard skin was ripped open and blood spurted out.
“Guu… Gaaaaah!” (Gargoyle)
Still, the gargoyle does not cower. It bares its fangs and leans in. Anger, resentment, and vindictiveness. It lunges forward as if to strike with raw emotion. The ferocity and pressure surpassed that of an ogre, the incessant onslaught as if it were trying to squeeze every bit of strength it has.
Sweating with cold sweat and having his skin and hair grazed countless times, I meet the onslaught head-on.
I blocked and dodged. A volley of counterattacks and then defense cycled on and on.
We stop, only to immediately attack each other. The dull thud of hitting each other echoed rhythmically. The puddle at our feet is stained with the color of our blood.
Its right wing and the left leg are torn off now completely unable to fly away.
Just as I think of another plan, I am attacked by a bite.
(This guy.) (Shuu)
It might be breathing heavily, covered in blood, but it’s still growling viciously in the back of its throat.
(Not ready to give up yet?) (Shuu)
The gargoyle opens its mouth. A close-range ultrasonic attack.
But I foresaw it and dodged to the side. I grit my teeth and endured the pain and dizziness of the attack.
With a shield bashing it, I knocked my opponent off balance and stabbed it diagonally from the flank through its chest.
Kyuu… A quiet breath escapes from the gargoyle’s mouth… I staggered and almost fell over, but I stomps onto the ground and hold on tightly.
“—I’m sorry.” (Shuu)
All of my body’s momentum is transmitted to my back, shoulders, and arms, and I swing down with all my might.
The blade goes through from the neck to the other side. The gargoyle’s body, which has been stabbed, falls into a puddle.
Seeing that the gargoyle is completely dead, I exhaled the heavy air that has been accumulating in the depths of my body. Staggering, I leaned against a pillar and my head bonked with a thud, having misjudged my action. It would have been embarrassing if anyone had seen me.
Tamiko rushes over to me. In the meantime, I’m going to go and pick out the mycelium ball stuck in my ear.
“Good job, squeak! Great, you did your best, squeak!” (Tamiko)
“Oh, you’re so honest about your praise.” (Shuu)
“But you did squeak your head.” (Tamiko)
“You saw that?” (Shuu)
We both sat down and looked at the corpse. The Gargoyle’s expression, with its tongue hanging out, has lost all the fiery ferocity it had earlier in the day. It was as if the grudge that had haunted the stone statue had been drained from it.
“…How many levels does this guy have in Tamiko’s eyes?” (Shuu)
“It’s about 55, squeak.” (Tamiko)
It seems that its actual level was slightly higher.
“It was very strong.” (Shuu)
“A warrior even on land, firing attacks that make your ears ring, it was really troublesome, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“Yeah, that’s right… I felt its tenacity until the end.” (Shuu)
Certainly, it was a troublesome opponent both in terms of compatibility and ability. I suffered only a few shallow wounds because I was just following the strategy to the end. If I was off with just one step, would I reach the same result?
And more than that, its ferocity blew up even more, even with one of its wings ripped. The will to fight that will not break no matter how much pain is experienced. And a killing intent that strikes single-mindedly in order to survive.
I should have been the one hunting it, but on the contrary, I was frightened.
“It was left alone in this place, in a place surrounded by enemies, but it definitely doesn’t want to die… So I guess that’s why it was able to survive to this day in hell like this.” (Shuu)
Where did this unwavering spirit come from?
I couldn’t believe it was mere survival instinct. I could sense a kind of strong will that other beasts did not have.
To be honest, I was afraid of it, but when it was over, I even felt a little respect for it.
(If I was in its position… I wonder if I would have fought so desperately?) (Shuu)
(Would I have been able to survive in such a hellish place alone for so many years?) (Shuu)
Tamiko is curiously looking up at me.
(If I was alone, if I didn’t have her, I would have…) (Shuu)
I don’t intend to say anything. It’s a little bit depressing.
So, I shook my head as if nothing was wrong, and patted Tamiko’s head.
“So, let’s get to it.” (Shuu)
“The sporangium of this guy. I’m going to have to make sure I get my hands on it and turn it into food for the future.” (Shuu)
“Abeshuu is looking forward to tomorrow, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“But you should reel yourself back, squeak. If you’re as clumsy as you were just now, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble again, squeak.” (Tamiko)
“So, you really saw that.” (Shuu)
Putting my hands together in front of the Gargoyle I open up its corpse. Chewing the bitter and sticky taste of victory. For our tomorrow.
“…I know it is an afterthought, but because of this guy.” (Shuu)
“Itadakimasu. I am thankful for this guy’s life. It’s a bit of an afterthought though.” (Shuu)
I clenched my fist tightly.
I am aware that it is a selfish thought. Still—there is something I got. The creature to whom I will be put to the test is right here, right now, just above us.
Three days after the battle with the Gargoyle.
It’s finally the day of the challenge to the boss.
The bag I have over my back is filled with water bottles, mushrooms, and wildflowers.
“Tamiko, are you ready?” (Shuu)
Tamiko is still anxious. I took a whole day off yesterday, but she was fidgeting and I repeatedly asked her to calm down. Even if I rubbed her with my fingers, the gloomy expression on her face didn’t clear up until the end.
“It’s all right. I’m just going to try to fight it and try to figure out what’s with it.” (Shuu)
“Abeshuu, you promised not to do anything rash, squeak, right?” (Tamiko)
“I promise. Let’s go.” (Shuu)
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