At the bottom floor of the Rank 3 Dungeon known as the Revival Catacombs, there is a large, circular space resembling Spada’s Grand Coliseum.
Both of them are made of unrefined stone, but there are conspicuous, distasteful decorations all over this place. Pillars that are twisted like Baphomet’s horns, the iron fences with rusty, thorn-like points, the ominous Gargoyles, which are statues that are shaped like chimeras, and the list goes on… The melancholic atmosphere is extraordinary.
The one waiting in this place is the king that currently rules the Undead monsters of this Dungeon, the Lich.
His appearance is the same as a normal Skeleton, but the dark mana hidden within his body, no, within his evil soul, is remarkably greater than other Undead monsters. The reason Liches are generally the type of monsters that use magic to fight is because that is the best way to make use of their abundant supply of mana.
The Lich that was recently born in the Revival Catacombs is no exception; he is a mage-class monster that is holding a staff made of dull gold.
He is wearing a rusty crown, along with a robe and cape that are stained dark with blood. There is purple, flickering light burning in the eye sockets of his skull. His appearance is exactly the same as the illustrations published in the Guild’s monster list.
The appearance of Liches is well-known throughout the world and there are never any exceptions; it is simple for anyone to imagine what they look like – however, this makes no difference to the fact that Liches are monsters powerful enough to be crowned with the Rank 5 title.
Such a Lich is currently welcoming a certain party of adventurers with tremendous anger.
“There’s no mistake that this is the Lich, huh,” says a voice.
The ones that stand arrogantly before him, a king of death, is a man in black clothes, accompanied by a Fairy and a witch who serve him.
These three scattered the Undead monster army that was the final line of defense guarding this place with ease, as if they were walking through an unoccupied wasteland.
There were well over a hundred Skeleton Soldiers at the core of the army, with several dozen heavy monsters such as Minotaur Zombies and Cyclops Zombies as well. There were even the Lich’s Elite Zombies, which had been made by making Zombies out of the adventurers who had stepped foot into this place, capable of fighting with the same class and strength as they possessed while they were alive.
The Undead army was strong enough that it would be able to fight against even the Knights’ Order if they were to step foot in this place – or at least, it was supposed to be, but it seems that it was of no use in stopping these three.
Even now, the man is secretly giving orders to attack from behind – no, judging from the faint signs of telepathy, the one giving direct orders is likely the Fairy. In any case, the forceful way that the nine warriors who obey her are fighting prevents the Undead monsters from approaching.
The Lich’s irritation further increases with how disappointing his subordinates show themselves to be.
However, thinks the Lich, who possesses a high level of intelligence, if I defeat this party of adventurers and add them to my subordinates as Undead, I will gain fighting strength that will render the losses I have suffered in this battle trivial. Although I am in trouble, this is a chance for me.
Giving a dry laugh with his teeth clattering, the Lich raises his staff.
These three are strong, but not as powerful as he is. For the Lich, it is merely irritating that he has to take action himself. But that is all it is.
Once the Lich releases his prided, powerful spell of darkness, Death Force Blast, that will be the end.
“تدمير تبادل لاطلاق النار تبادل لاطلاق النار الظلام انتشار الظلام الأسود –”
Is it foolish for the mage-class Lich to begin reciting an incantation right in front of the enemy on his own? No, adventurers who have come this far would understand. They would understand that the Lich has a plan to fight and win, even if there is no frontline to defend the caster.
There are multiple lines of defense, not just one. They are not functions of the Dungeon, but traps that he has set up himself, among other things. Preparations to make a counter-attack are perfect.
This is a Dungeon, the Lich’s castle. The terrain advantage is his, and he has the brains to make use of it.
There is not even the smallest chance of defeat – so the Lich thinks, as he hears words that are perfectly normal to hear from an adventurer party, the order to attack. This is the last thing that he hears.
“Let’s go, Lily, Fiona – Formation Anti-Cross.”
“Welcome back, Kurono-kun. Congratulations on clearing the quest,” says Erina with a wonderful smile, congratulating me on my return and my success with the quest at the Adventurers’ Guild headquarters.
If it were an ordinary receptionist, these words would be a fixed phrase with no value, but hearing them from Erina, my friend, fills my heart with emotion.
Though according to Fiona, the moment I feel that emotion, I’ve already been fooled.
“Thanks,” I say. “I know it’s early, but I want you to show me the next quest.”
Leaving aside whether or not I’ll accept it right away, I want to set my eyes on an objective ahead of time.
Looking back on it, the Lich extermination was a great success. In fact, it wasn’t a tough battle at all; it was a one-sided game for us. I think it took less than five minutes to go from the beginning of battle to extracting the Imitation Heart, which had turned into a high-density mana crystal, from the Lich’s collapsed skull.
The Demon King Mia, the Fairy Queen Iris and the Black Witch Endymion. With the divine protections of these three, the formation Anti-Cross will live up to its name and bury the Apostles, the pawns of god – or at least, it’s supposed to.
I’ve fought the Seventh Apostle Sariel twice, but she was constantly going easy on me, and I’ve only seen a single somewhat-serious attack from the Eighth Apostle Ai. It’s still difficult to tell just how powerful an Apostle using their full strength will be.
But even so, I’ve finally acquired enough power that I am able to truly feel that I have a chance of beating them. I’ve made great progress.
In any case, if I can manifest power strong enough to kill an Apostle, there is no way I wouldn’t be able to defeat a Lich, one of the weaker among Rank 5 monsters.
But the coordinative strategy that we invented to use against the Apostles; no, it might be more appropriate to call it a battle formation. In any case, this Anti-Cross – it’s questionable as to whether we are using it to its full potential. We calculated that the maximum duration we could use the formation was fifteen minutes, but when we actually used it, it was so unstable that I don’t know whether it could have held for ten.
I haven’t mastered the use of my new divine protections, and neither have Lily or Fiona. This is the simple, yet fundamental problem.
If there had been two Liches, things might have been a little dangerous. After using the formation, all of us are drained of almost every bit of mana we have, so we become incapacitated afterwards.
The reason we’re using Lily’s servants is because we anticipated this happening. Their true role on the battlefield is to protect the three of us when we’re no longer capable of fighting. After seeing their performance during this quest, I feel at ease knowing that they can fulfil this role just fine.
It’s quite remarkable that they have the fighting strength and coordination to overwhelm Skeleton Soldiers and even hold their own against large enemies like Minotaur Zombies. If their abilities were to be converted into an adventurer Rank, even if you were to give them the lowest possible estimate, they would be at least Rank 3. Once they gain some more experience in battle and better equipment, they can probably become equivalent to Rank 4.
Is it them that are amazing for having such great hidden specs, or is it Lily that’s amazing?
Either way, we currently still need more training. We need to find our next practice opponents quickly.
“Say, Kurono-kun,” Erina says suddenly as I skim through the stack of request forms with details of Rank 5 quests written on them.
I wonder if there is a particular quest that she wants to recommend.
“Shall we go on a date?”
“… I’m sorry?”
I reflexively look up from the request form for the extermination of a pair of Salamanders. I’ve received a crazy proposal. However, my eyes see the smile of a charming, beautiful Elf. She’s smiling, but her eyes look quite serious.
“That witch interfered last time; if we don’t make an arrangement soon, you’ll go away on your quest and won’t be back for a while, right?” Erina says.
“No, that’s, well, true, but…” I mumble. “A date, you say, but it’s not like I’m really dating you now, right?”
“Jeez, your way of thinking is too rigid, Kurono-kun,” she says. “When a man and woman of a certain age enjoy themselves with just the two of them, that’s called a date. Even if the people going on the date cover it up by saying that they’re friends.”
Isn’t it Erina whose way of thinking is too rigid? Is this the standard definition in Spada?
No, but still, she is inviting me on a date, and I’m certainly not refusing her right now. Which means, in other words, she’s clearly acknowledging me as a member of the opposite sex and –
“Is this a honey trap?*” I ask.
“Is that what you’re calling it?! And don’t go back to using formal language!” Erina shouts.
I suppose I find it really concerning when someone makes a move on me in such a straight manner, if you know what I mean.
“Ah, sorry,” I say. “But leaving aside whether it can be called a date, I don’t mind going to eat or enjoy ourselves or go out somewhere with just the two of us.”
“Eh, no way, really?!”
“Yeah, we’re friends, right?”
“Yeah, we’ll start off as friends!”
It’s not really a honey trap, is it…? Anyway, I’m not against strengthening my personal friendship with Erina. Fiona is probably going to complain, but it should be fine as long as I’m prepared to make sure that I’m not being made use of one-sidedly. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
“So then, when are you free?” Erina asks. “I don’t mind going right now, you know?”
What about your work, I wonder. But I suppose one of the Guild’s objectives is to have friendly relations with Rank 5 adventurers. I suppose all kinds of things will be allowed if this reason is given.
One might think that it’s quite a fun system for Erina to be able to go and enjoy herself publicly while working, but if you think about it carefully, it’s easy to imagine her being forced to entertain adventurers that she doesn’t even like.
Is she just working to make me happy…? I’m not entirely without suspicion.
“Maybe not right now,” I reply. “I have to prepare for the next quest, and I have all kinds of other plans –”
Going and enjoying myself is all well and good, but I can’t do nothing but relax. Even if I have gained a good chance of success in defeating the Apostles, I definitely can’t let my guard down.
And just as I wonder what I should do, I casually flip the next request form near my hand –
“… Sorry, Erina. Sorry to say this so suddenly, but can the date wait until after my next quest is finished?”
Rather than being angry at me for changing my mind, Erina is wearing a sad expression. It pains my heart, but I can’t compromise. There are now circumstances that make me unable to compromise.
“I have to finish this quest as soon possible, no matter what,” I say, handing Erina a single request form. In other words, I’m accepting this quest.
Quest – Lust-Rose extermination
Reward: 20,000,000 Klans
Time limit: Until the arrival of spring
Contractor: Guild Master Jimmy of the Asbel Village’s Adventurers’ Guild
Contents of request: A Lust-Rose nest has opened in the Asbel Mountain Range this year. The Lust-Rose typically hides in its cavern and waits for its prey to rush inside. Because of this behavior, it does not cause any harm as long as nobody approaches it, so it is not a priority extermination target.
However, it was discovered thirty years ago and numerous people have since challenged it and never returned, so I wish for its extermination this year from the bottom of my heart.
“The Lust-Rose extermination?” says Erina, reading the form. “It’s a monster that I’ve never heard of. Are you really in that much of a hurry to defeat it?”
There is nothing that could possibly be more important except dealing with the Crusader army if it begins its advance.
“Yeah, I have to do this no matter what,” I say. “Please.”
“I see. It’s a pity, but I’ll wait. Come back as soon as you can, okay?”
And so, I face my fourth trial that holds the title of Lust.