"What do you plan on doing now?"
Seregia and I were hiding on the mountainside, watching the summoning process proceed at the top of the mountain.
I had departed from the fort only five days ago and had arrived here six days after entering the stage.
And right before my very eyes, I saw the scene of a demon killing other demons.
"What exactly are they doing over there?"
"It seems to be a living sacrifice for the summoning ceremony."
I didn't know that this Demon King summoning thing involved living sacrifices.
It was entirely reasonable, cause of the Demons having a quick reproduction rate.
But it was pretty uncomfortable to watch.
I had killed around the same amount of demons that they're using as living sacrifices, so it's not something that I of all people should say.
It was ironic.
"I don't believe that it's usually this kind of ceremony. However…"
"They may be rushing the ceremony because of you, Warrior."
There is some truth in that.
The condition for clearing the 26th floor stage was to defeat the Demon King.
When you start the stage, the Demon King wouldn't have been completely summoned yet, so the clear conditions would usually be to defeat the Demon King or to interfere with the summoning ritual.
However, the fact that the clear conditions showed up as defeating the Demon King may mean that no matter when I got here, the Demon King would be summoned without fail.
"However such a haphazard method will certainly have side effects."
"What kind of side effects?"
"For example, the summoned object may be unable to fully cross over, or it may restrict the Demon King. Those kind of side effects."
It may be a modification for someone like me who discarded the holy sword and rushed here as fast as I could.
You didn't have to.
"You seem to know quite a bit."
I hadn't expected Seregia to know about something like a summoning ceremony.
"It's on the level of common sense."
After the brief explanation, Seregia called me again.
"Warrior, I asked you this before. No, I had already asked you this several times on the way here, but what do you plan on doing now?" Seregia asked, sounding slightly annoyed.
I was really surprised about her annoyance.
An ominous mana surged wildly at the site of the living sacrifices.
Furthermore, the Demon King will be summoned here soon.
Yet, Seregia didn't feel fear or dread. Instead, she was concerned about the fact that I was ignoring her.
Does she have a few extra lives or something?
"I wonder. Shall we wait a little? It looks like the ceremony will wrap up soon. Now that it's already like this, let's wait a little longer, and then take down the Demon King."
Seregia responded with rapidly changing expressions.
Her expressions changed constantly from this to that; Seregia looked to be pondering something and after sighing, said, "Fine. Do you as wish."
Rather than say 'ok, I understand', she seemed to have resigned herself.
I took out some beef jerky from my inventory.
"Would you like some?"
Seregia took the beef jerky as if it were the obvious thing to do.
How could she be so calm?
It was strange.
"It is strange," Seregia said, chewing on the beef jerky.
I was shocked for a moment; Seregia’s sudden response made it seem like she could hear what I was thinking..
"I can't believe you thought of eating beef jerky in a place like this. The enemy will swarm us if they notice us. Aren't you worried at all?"
You're the one who's eating the beef jerky.
"Honestly, our enemies have already noticed us," I said.
"A few of them have already noticed that we're hiding here," I said.
Hearing this, Seregia furrowed her eyebrows.
"Should we run away? Or should we prepare for battle?"
"You just need to eat the beef jerky. It seems like they won't move an inch because of the summoning ceremony. As long as we don't provoke them, nothing should happen."
If I fight, it'll definitely cause enough of a disturbance to disrupt the summoning ceremony.
Our enemies knew that fact well.
They also knew that they wouldn't be able to stop me, nor would they be able to catch me.
If I decide to act, enemies from all sides will probably attack me. But if they don't, the battle will end as they watch.
I was bored since I was sitting still, just chewing on beef jerky.
It would be nice if I could swing my sword.
For the past few days, Seregia had taught me swordplay.
Seregia had said that she couldn't reveal to me her own style of swordsmanship. However, she said that there wasn't much of a problem if she observed my swordsmanship and gave me tips or pointed out flaws.
Therefore, on the way here, I would demonstrate my style of swordsmanship in order to get some advice.
When she inspected my swordsmanship, she didn't actually teach me but discussed it with me.
She would grasp the intent behind each of my movements, one by one, and told me to figure out how to better accomplish the goal behind the action.
Seregia was definitely the most knowledgeable person on the subject of swordsmanship that I had ever met.
She was especially talented in the theoretical side of things.
Seregia scrutinized and interpreted my sword techniques one by one, as if she were solving a math problem.
She dissected my strokes breath by breath and pondered on whether there was anything I could improve on.
This had been a helpful experience for me, since it had been the first time I had ever analyzed my formless swordsmanship.
That's why I didn't feel like coming here together with her was a waste of my time.
The words came out before my mind had even processed them, probably because I was bored.
I didn't really have anything to say, so I just started off by calling her.
What should I say?
"What will you do, Lady Seregia, when I defeat the Demon King?"
"I'm curious as to why you ask, Warrior. Are you asking me what I'll do after you defeat the Demon King and I barely survive?"
"No. I'm talking about when you return to the capital."
"I'll disappear or I'll prepare for my exile."
"… I'm sorry?"
"It'd definitely be a great ending if you defeat the Demon King and safely return. They'll probably ignore the minor mistakes I've committed because of it. Even so…"
"It'll really become troublesome. You're an outsider Warrior, while I'm affiliated with the royal family. When the news spreads that we defeated the Demon King by ourselves, it'll become a great story. Rather than be a spectacle, it'd be better to get the reward and disappear."
I watched as the expressionless Seregia spoke, but as per usual, I couldn't tell whether she was being serious or if she was joking.
I briefly displayed a vacant expression, but then I felt mana starting to run amok from the top of the mountain.
"Just as you wanted, it seems like the Demon King is being summoned, Warrior. Hm… this is… a little… serious. I had expected it, but…"
Just as Seregia said, it was indeed quite severe.
On the mountaintop, the space above the altar ripped apart, and out came an entity with a seriously nonsensical amount of mana.
Rather than a single entity, it felt like nature itself was moving.
It was like if you compressed a huge mountain of mana into a walking three-meter-tall person.
The Demon King was slightly shorter than three meters.
He had giant bat wings behind his back, and an ominous energy lingered within the glare of his red eyes.
There was one other thing that was peculiar. That guy had already noticed me.
When the summoning ceremony was completed, and the Demon King had fully crossed over to this world, he looked like he would immediately dash over to me.
His fighting spirit and his killing intent plainly revealed his desire.
I stood up.
I transformed one of my Thousand Arms into a long sword and grasped it in my right hand. I transformed my other Thousand Arms into a dagger and strapped it onto my belt.
As I stretched my body, I asked Seregia, "What are my chances against the Demon King?"
"It looks like you have around a 2% chance."
You're too stingy.
I wanted to fly over to the Demon King, who was yet to be fully summoned, but Seregia spoke from behind me.
"Warrior. If at all possible, please don't die."
If at all possible.
As always, she chose some new words.
"Yes. Please don't move and wait here, Lady Seregia. I'll put on a good show for you."
* * * * * *
I could accurately measure my enemy's strength.
Indomitable was a skill that would increase my strength based on how strong my opponent is. With this skill's effect, I could easily tell gauge my opponent's strength.
Right now, my Indomitable skill was enhancing my strength more than ever before.
What's worse, that buff was constantly getting stronger.
I felt an empowering feeling surge within my body, and at the same time, I felt a feeling of satisfaction.
After the Godmother from the 19th floor, this is my strongest foe yet.
After the 20th floor, most of the enemies that appeared fought while relying on their overwhelming numbers.
This was probably because they were stages that required 5 or 10 people parties, rather than solo play.
However, the 26th floor required a party of 25.
They call it party play, but with 25 party members it's more like a raid.
Also, there was an adversary that the group of 25 challengers had to defeat in order to clear the stage. That single entity was right in front of me.
There was no way I wouldn't be excited.
I activated my Talaria's Wings and soared into the sky, watching the Demon King's summoning.
As soon as the Demon King's summoning was complete, and he had fully crossed over to this world, he roared at the sky.
I didn't hear it.
A loud noise had definitely rung in my ears, but I couldn't hear the exact sound.
Next, the Demon King, who had screamed into the sky, watched me.
Then, he yelled again.
Simultaneously, the Demon King discharged a black energy at me.
Is it a type of magic attack?
I enveloped my long sword in mana and hurled it forward.
It instantly flew onward.
The Demon King's magic and my mana clashed right before my eyes and exploded.
I used the flight ability of Talaria's Wings and fluttered the wings.
Talara's Wing's doesn’t “fly” by physically fluttering the wings.
They just work.
Although there had been an explosion, I ignored it and maintained my speed, flying forward.
Due to the explosion, I was hit by a sizable wave of fire, and was shaken because of the swirling mana.
As soon as I made it out of the explosion radius, I used my magic.
When compared to the Demon King's magic, it was a weak, trifling magic.
The Demon King didn't even need to evade it and raised his hand, negligently defending against it.
The Wind Arrow was deflected with the back of his hand and was helplessly destroyed.
That was all it needed to do.
I targeted the Demon King's chest right under his raised arm.
I had continuously used this skill in the past, and I had never found its strength lacking: Blink Slash.
I slashed downwards with the added speed of my blink, and the Demon King’s body spurted blood.
However, that was it.
I had precisely cut through the left side of his chest, but my attack had ended with only a little bit of blood flowing from his sturdy body.
I had already attacked, so now it was the Demon King's turn.
The Demon King's eyes shined red.
I urgently turned, and escaped to the periphery of the Demon King's sight.
The Demon King immediately shot a beam where I had been standing.
After I dodged the beam, I had closed the distance in order to counterattack, but the Demon King's attack wasn't finished.
I had narrowly dodged the Demon King's fist that was enveloped with black energy.
As soon as I dodged his fist, magic flew at me.
If I dodged his magic, he would attack with his arms or his legs next.
Without any warning, he would either shoot beams out of his eyes or use his magic, so it was extremely difficult to take back the initiative to attack.
The Demon King just kept on attacking me continuously.
He definitely had greater mana and stamina than me, and I would lose the fight if it kept going on like this.
I dodged the unexpected spear-like objects that shot out from behind me.
Behind the Demon King's back, a tail unexpectedly shot out like a spear. I dodged the Demon King's tail attack and the Demon King used magic again.
A black magic flew right toward my face.
If I dodge this, I give up my opportunity to attack to the Demon King.
I transformed the Thousand Arms in my right hand and altered my long sword into an explosion sword.
[PR Note: This explosion sword thing is more like a flaming sword that causes explosions when the blade comes into contact with the enemy/other blades. It is further explained later in the text.
And rather than unreasonably trying to dodge the magic, I quickly shielded myself with Talaria's Wings and let the magic collide.
Before I could even see the strength of his magic, I blinked from my position.
I prevented myself from flying backwards from the magic by using Blink's effect to erase the kinetic energy.
The force of the magic would've certainly crushed my body.
However, in exchange, I took advantage of the opening between the Demon King's attacks.
I pierced the Demon King's chest with the explosion sword that I had transformed the Thousands Arms into.
It was like I was cutting through metal rather than flesh; the sword couldn't pierce deeply into the Demon King's chest.
It could pierce a depth as deep as the length of a single finger.
However, that much was enough.
I had figured out more of the Thousand Arms transformations through Park Jung Ah's help. One of them was the explosion sword.
The explosion sword, as the name might imply, explodes.
The blade of the explosion sword lodged in the Demon King's chest, exploded.
The force of the explosion sword's explosion wasn't that great.
The fire probably wouldn't do any damage to the Demon King's heart.
However, the only thing that I had wanted from the explosion sword was to deepen the already-open wound in the Demon King's chest.
And the explosion sword had delivered on my expectations.
Next, the Demon King’s attack flew towards me.
His right hand, enclosed with a blackish-red energy, flew towards me.
His forearm, and even his nails were covered in that heinous energy.
I can't evade this.
I had stabbed the Demon King with my explosion sword and detonated the blade, but I had used up more time than the gap allocated.
I went for that unreasonable attack even though it hadn't been my turn to attack. Rather, it had been the Demon King's turn.
From the start, the time that I had to attack was too short.
Along with that, I had sustained a lot of injuries from his magic attacks in order to create that opportunity.
I have to make a decision.
Right now, the Demon King's attacks are flying towards me by the moment.
From the start, it was an unfavorable fight.
The difference is huge in our fundamental stats.
Even though I had attacked the Demon King in the same spot several times, he wasn't really damaged much.
But the single attack that I had endured was a severe wound.
There's also a difference between the range of our attacks.
I had to continuously close in on him in order to attack, even if it was risky.
However, there was something even more fatal than that: the order of our attacks. The Demon King could attack whenever.
If the Demon King started to attack, he wouldn't give me an opportunity to counterattack.
Through his magic, his beam, his wings, his tail, or other methods of attack that he hasn't shown yet, he dictates the flow of battle by ceaselessly attacking me.
However, when I attack, he would have several opportunities to counterattack.
I have to make a decision.
Amongst the things that I had gained from discussing swordsmanship with Seregia, the most valuable had definitely been this.
A new idea.
Seregia's swordsmanship was based on theory.
It was delicate and systematic, but it also had its fair share of weaknesses.
Amongst those, there was a fatal weakness.
Since it focused so much on theory, it would underperform in a real fight.
For example, sacrificing an arm in order to secure temporary dominance or in order to secure an advantageous space or position.
It's a method that someone would come up with from a desk.
It sounded like crap, but Seregia had insisted that this could theoretically work.
[TL and PR Note: The next part is kind of like a list. There wasn’t really a good way to rephrase these in complete sentences without heavily adjusting the style, so there are only minor edits in the following section.]
Even if you give up an arm, if you maintain your mobility, and occupy a superior position.
And you can perfectly ignore the enemy's attack and the pain. And if you have the mental capacity to continue the battle.
And if you have the ability to judge when it's right to give up an arm for the sake of getting an upper hand in the battle.
Lastly, if you have the skills to apply all this so that the chance that you've painstakingly made doesn't go to waste.
I made my decision.
Scarlet blood spurted out and my right shoulder flew up into the air.
In exchange, I got another chance to attack.