Thanks to the covering fire of the Golem archer, we easily break through the horde of monsters closing in on Iskia Village.
It’s a strange Golem that’s colored like a panda and has rabbit ears attached to it for some reason, but there’s no doubt that he’s a considerably powerful archer.
The projectiles that he fires aren’t normal arrows; it’d be better to say they’re more like missiles that explode on impact.
He opened up holes in the enemy ranks and I just needed to head for those holes as fast as I could.
And so we’ve passed through the first wave of enemies, but the real challenge starts here. I need to leave the highway and break through into the Iskia Hills.
「Th-there are so many of them...」
We encounter an enormous group of monsters.
There are all kinds of them on the slopes of the hills, lined up like ants.
The renowned Centaurs and Silent Sheep of Iskia, Rank 1 monsters that I’m familiar with like Goblins and Slimes, and there are even Dortoths, Land Dragons and Morjuras. There are also a few big monsters scattered around that I’ve never seen before.
It really looks like every single monster in this dungeon has been brought out.
The sky has already grown lighter; even without the illumination of torches, I can clearly see this overwhelming view. Or rather, I’m forced to see it.
I’m moving in completely the opposite direction to the monsters; I’m headed deeper into the dungeon while they’re heading outside of it.
「They’re headed to Iskia Village, huh.」
Even though we passed through the village just a few moments ago, I can’t help but to worry as I see the danger closing in on it right before my eyes, but...
「The village will be fine.」
Nell whispers, as if she has sensed my unease.
「That red Orc is the leader of a Rank 5 party that is well-known in Spada. The Golem-san that protected us, the Cyclops-san and the Minotaur-san are all there, meaning they have all of their members gathered together. With them there, the village will not fall so easily.」
「I see. That’s a relief to hear.」
But now there’s something else I’m worried about.
「In that case, the fortress might be in even more danger.」
The Greed-Gore, the general of this monster army, might decide to unleash the monsters’ full power after having failed to initially crush both the village and the fortress.
Or in the worst case scenario, the fortress has already fallen to the monsters.
No, it’ll be fine, there’s no way that’s happened.
As far as I’ve seen, there are no people among the monsters.
The monsters are controlled by parasites. In that case, any defeated people would have been infested and added to the army rather than being eaten by the monsters.
Well, there’s no use thinking about things like that. Right now, I need to focus solely on getting to Iskia Fortress.
Fortunately there’s some distance between us and the monsters that are advancing towards us, and they’re not paying us any special attention as we ride across the slopes of the hills, either.
If we could just keep going and get through unnoticed, that’d be great, but...
「I guess it won’t be that easy after all.」
「Ah, the Centaurs are coming this way!」
As Nell said, there’s a group of monsters that’s broken away from the line of monsters and is heading straight for us. They’re unmistakably Centaurs.
The Centaurs that have separated themselves from the front of the army look like they’re coming here to deliberately block our path.
Given our relative positions, it seems impossible to go around them.
Well then, we have only one option – go straight through them.
「That’s their boss, huh.」
One of the Centaurs charging into battle has red-hair and seems to be the chieftain of their tribe. Both the horse-half and man-half of his body are larger than those around him.
He’s the only one to be equipped with magnificent metal armor to go with his spear, so there’s no doubt he’s their leader.
The Centaurs following him are wearing black wool armor, presumably made from the wool of the Silent Sheep, holding spears and bows in their hands.
These Centaurs that have matching equipment despite the fact that they’re wild monsters are the best among them, chosen for this task.
It seems that even when they’re affected by the parasite, their chain of command is unaffected. And I doubt their combat ability is affected, either.
This cavalry of creatures that are both man and horse in one is quite powerful, but –
「Nell, I’ll be relying on you for defensive support. The ones behind us are holding back, so it’ll be fine to keep it to a bare minimum.」
We can do it, with the two of us, we can definitely break through.
This is actually the first time Nell and I are fighting together, but strangely enough, I confidently believe this.
「Let’s go! HAAAH!」
I whip Merry with my tentacle-reins and we begin our decisive charge towards the group of Centaurs.
「كيكو هيروشي تلبية العديد من عناصر قوية –『Element Boost!』」
At the same time, Nell invokes her enhancement magic.
The fact that she can cast a spell just by singing an elegant melody shows how proficient she is at using magic.
Fiona’s like this as well; they’re really beautiful when they’re chanting their spells.
As I think these somewhat inappropriate thoughts, the magic takes its effect on me. The magical power flowing through my body doubles in size – no, maybe it’s better to say that it becomes thicker and more condensed – it feels something like that.
As its name suggests,『Element Boost』enhances magic of elements such as fire, ice or lightning.
Just how much could black magic be enhanced? It’s hard to say, but it’s enhancing fire-element magic this time, so it’s clear and simple.
「محامية مبكرة سريعة وعيه كلمة – Concentration Boost!」
Yet another enhancement spell. This one’s name is also self-explanatory; it increases concentration to improve magic use.
As well as simply increasing the speed at which spells can be cast, it enhances the processing of magical formulas in the mind, so it’s possible to cast multiple spells simultaneously.
I have no problem casting the black magic that I’m most comfortable with using, even on horseback.
A line of black bullets appears to enclose the area around Merry and I, silently waiting for my command to fire.
I’m casting a single spell to use the Bullet Arts, but thanks to the『Concentration Boost』, I can invoke yet another spell.
「Sword Arts –」
This is another black magic spell that I’m used to casting, but it’ll be a little different from now on.
「– Nameless Nine.」
The swords I summon aren’t matching low-quality longswords, but the nine cursed weapons I obtained the day before yesterday.
A longsword, a dagger, a rapier, a scimitar, a battle-axe, a tomahawk, a short lance, a halberd and a trident.
Their shapes are all different, but they are all jet-black, showing that they’re under my control.
Nine malicious voices resonate inside my head, talking over each other, but they are very quiet.
「Work hard for Goshuujin-sama, newcomers!」
The voice of the talkative Hitsugi-chan is far louder. Actually, she’s putting on an air as if to say that she’s their senpai; is she trying to be their cursed-maid-leader or something?
「يعمل من خلال سرعة القدم لتشغيل أسرع–『Speed High-Boost!』」
And then the last Boost.
Rather than the wind blowing in my favor, I begin moving at a speed that’s as if I myself have become the wind myself. With this additional acceleration support, we’re completely ready to make our charge.
The red-haired Centaur’s shouts are the command to attack.
As if to say that he will take us head on, he makes his charge as well.
Spears raised. Bows ready.
The bowstrings that look as if they’ve been made from plant vines creak as they are drawn back as far as possible, but before the cavalry archers let their arrows loose – I’ll take my shot first.
In my right hand are not Merry’s reins, but a machete with a shining crimson blade,『Wrath-pun’s Right Arm.』
A sphere containing black flames has been produced at its tip.
Because of the fire-attribute enhancement from both『Element Boost』and『Wrath-pun’s Right Arm』, it’s twice as powerful as when I tried it out at the academy’s training grounds.
That time, the explosion caught my target and the ones on either side of it, so it’ll be interesting to see how many Centaurs I’ll blow away with this.
The sphere launches with an eardrum-bursting roar.
With a momentary black flash, it flies in a straight line towards the herd of Centaurs.
Impact. Explosion. Flames.
My vision is filled with ominous black-and-red flames.
Nell’s surprise-filled voice reaches my ears.
What do you think of my magic, it’s flashy, right? I want to say something like that boastfully, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to be doing that.
The Centaurs’ war cries reverberate from the other side of the flames as they leap over the corpses of their fallen companions.
Due to either the courage they normally possessed or the effects of the parasite, these half-man half-horse creatures don’t falter in the slightest and continue forward to attack.
Without a moment’s delay, I invoke my next counterattack.
The black barrage that I unleash on the Centaurs doesn’t let any of them come close.
I used Grenade Burst with the aim of opening a hole in the enemy lines, and then Bullet Arts to intercept them at medium range.
Unfortunately, even with Nell’s support, it’s impossible for me to use the『Full Burst』that fires in every direction multiple times in quick succession.
Instead, I use –
In my left hand, I summon the still-unnamed prototype rifle. Fire is emitted from its twin barrels.
I ride straight into the gap opened by the Grenade Burst, firing blindly.
Merry’s legs do not falter even as we pass over the hollowed-out ground or the corpse fragments rolling around; they sink into the ground firmly and leap over the obstacles as we make our way through.
From this point, we won’t be able to avoid contact with the enemy.
I’m mowing down the enemies that are closing in on us with Gatling Burst, but its effective range is too short.
The sheer number of enemies reminds me of the battle of Alzas, but all the enemies here are cavalry, so it’s even worse.
As the smoke clears, the Centaurs charge through the gunfire, spears raised.
From here on, I have to defend myself at close range.
「Pierce them, Sword Arts!」
As if tired of waiting, the longsword that drove the handsome Elf to insanity flies in first.
This is the only weapon that’s not too different from the usual swords used in Sword Arts, but it’s still a cursed weapon after all.
It finds its mark, piercing through the forehead of a tough-looking Centaur.
As if to say that it hasn’t had enough blood, it pulls itself out of the Centaur’s head and dances towards the other Centaurs that were running alongside the first.
It acts even before I give it a target; it’s got a will of its own.
But that’s fine for now. My only ally is at my back and everything around us are enemies, enemies, enemies. It can go ahead and drink as much blood as it wants.
The weapons that I’ve called the『Nameless Nine』dance through the air, only partially controlled by my will.
The valiant Centaurs passing through the slashes of the nine weapons have no chance.
I face the enemies directly with my favorite cursed weapon,『Absolute Malice Hatchet「Neck Cutter.」』
The Centaurs’ spears have longer reach than a hatchet, but if I compensate for that with the blade of blood, there’s no problem.
With a crimson flash, I cut through a Centaur’s spear and straight through his entire body.
The weapon in my hand has already grown an enormous hatchet blade.
Straight after my first attack, I throw『Wrath-pun’s Right Arm』to join the weapons of the Sword Arts.
Though it’s preparing for the second and third attack, so it’s not actually joining the『Nameless Nine』in their independent attacks.
But even using all of my black magic simultaneously, I cannot easily overcome the difference in numbers.
My attacks have been one sided so far, but that stops now.
The Centaurs have begun firing their arrows.
「To think they’d shoot at me even though I’m engaged in melee combat.」
I don’t know if they are firing willingly, knowing that their allies will certainly be hit, but their arrows are already in the air.
I’m using all of my concentration to focus on attacking. I can’t afford to prepare a defense, and there’s no way we can avoid the arrows on horseback.
「منعت كيكو دوامات الرياح هيروشي الجماهير جدار كبير –『Air Wall Defan.』」
But I don’t need to worry; I’ve left the defense to Nell. And she’s answered my expectations.
A swirling, turbulent wall of wind wraps around us.
It completely throws off the trajectories of the arrows pouring down on us, not letting a single one through.
The torrent of arrows was fired knowing that there will be friendly fire. It rains down upon the Centaurs gathered around us, felling several dozen of them.
But as expected of the powerful Centaurs, even with one or two arrows piercing their bodies, as long as their vital organs haven’t been hit, they can vigorously continue running on their strong four legs with their spears raised.
「Kuh, what toughness...」
I inadvertently let out words of both admiration and frustration.
Compared to the human Crusader soldiers, monsters are ridiculously tough.
I have to use dozens of magic bullets to stop their bodies from moving, and if the cursed weapons miss the Centaurs’ vitals, they grasp onto the weapons with both hands and refuse to let go as their final act of resistance.
「–『Lux Armor Shield!』」
Once more, I fire a perfectly formed sphere.
Immediately afterwards, a spear being thrust at us from behind – no, a whole row of spears – is repelled by Nell’s defensive light magic.
The explosion blows away multiple centaurs again, but it’s less powerful compared to my first attack. It doesn’t deal enough damage to turn the tides.
Even after sustaining heavy casualties, the half-dead Centaurs are hot on our heels and closing in on us, slipping through the magic bullets and cursed weapons.
This is bad. At this rate, we’ll be overwhelmed by their numbers before we can pick enough of them off.
Thanks to the speed enhancement, we can move in a straight line faster than the Centaurs, but we can’t go at full speed while avoiding them to the left or right, so we can’t shake them off completely.
We can’t defeat them or escape from them unless we decrease their numbers further.
It doesn’t need to be said. We have to do our best to keep attacking while running as fast as we can. We have no choice, there’s no other option.
It’ll be close, but it’ll work out somehow. No, if we can’t even get through this, there’s no point in us going to the fortress as reinforcements!
As if shaking off my hesitation, I brandish my hatchet. I cut a Centaur closing in from the left in half.
After cutting him down, I get a clear view to my left.
Several dozen meters away, the red-haired boss is keeping pace with us.
I thought I’d blown him away with my first『Grenade Burst』, but I guess that red hair isn’t just for show. He has a high resistance to heat.
The steel armor that he probably stole from some adventurer has been blown away, but he lets out a ferocious war cry that tells me that he hasn’t taken any damage to his body. He holds up his incredibly long spear with his lean, strong arms.
He’s holding the spear in an underhand grip, with the front portion of its handle resting on his shoulder. He’s not coming to stab me directly; that’s the motion of throwing a spear.
And it’s not just a normal throw. I can feel the magical power intensifying around his arm and spear, even at this distance.
This is bad, I have to quickly counter-attack –
To prevent their boss’s all-out attack from being interrupted, the other Centaurs desperately flood in towards me.
「I will handle this!」
「I’ll leave it to you!」
I’ll rely on Nell to defend us from the Centaurs coming in from all directions. Meanwhile, I’ll kill the boss.
I stop firing Gatling Burst for a moment to aim the barrel of the gun at him.
Simon’s special, enhanced-penetration ammunition has been loaded in the gun, waiting for its time, and I fire it now. With normal magic bullets, I’d need several dozen of them to stop that boss’s movements, but with this, I need only one.
I have to stop him before he fires that javelin. As this intuitive alarm is ringing loudly inside my head –
「PLEASE MAKE IT IN TIIIIME!」
I pull the trigger.