As I rush over to the fortress gate as fast as I can with Simon on my back, Nell comes out to greet me. She’s waving her hand like mad, trying to catch my attention over the great number of students. She collapsed from using up all her mana not long ago; is she alright to be doing that?
「Kurono! Is Simon safe?」
Will, who is standing next to Nell, sees Simon on my back and shouts his question towards me.
I can’t laugh at him for making a big fuss about it. Right after Nell took care of the monster army, Will came to me and asked me to rescue Simon.
『Radiance Exile』is a healing spell. The only things that it eliminated on contact with its purifying light were the parasites; the monsters themselves were unaffected. Therefore, he had doubts about the safety of Simon, who was trapped inside that tiny tower.
Infested by a parasite or not, there’s no reason a monster wouldn’t attack prey right before its eyes.
If I’d arrived earlier, I wouldn’t have any regrets. But even so –
「Yeah, he’s just asleep, his life isn’t in any danger.」
「Oh... UOOOOH! SIMON!」
「Don’t wake him up, he definitely needs some rest.」
Letting out a waterfall of tears, Will practically leaps onto Simon and buries his face into his back. I get that you’re happy, but at least let me put him down gently first.
「Nell, judging from your appearance, it seems your mana has recovered.」
「Yes, I drank a Hi-Potion to restore my mana, so I am fine now.」
Not just a potion, but a Hi-Potion. As expected, Rank 5 adventurers carry some good things with them.
「I’m sorry to ask you so soon after what you’ve already done, but can you please heal my friend Simon?」
Giving Will a quick glance, I whisper in Nell’s ear so that only she can hear me.
「He was attacked by a Morjura. I got him to drink an antidote, but just in case, is it possible for you to help him recover properly?」
I’m sure Nell immediately realizes what it means when I say that he was attacked by a Morjura. She gives a gasp in response, but quickly hardens her expression and gives me a reply.
「Yes, please leave it to me.」
「Oh, if Princess Nell takes a look at him, I can rest assured! FAAHAHAHA!」
Will lets out a loud laugh, drowning out my「thanks」to Nell. I never thought that I would find this laughter to be calming... No, this isn’t the time to space out.
「Are you serious?! Isn’t that the Greed-Gore?!」
「Damn it, what the hell are Wing Road doing?!」
「I-it’s over, there’s no way we can beat something like that...」
The tops of the fortress’s walls are noisy with the students’ shouts and screams.
That’s right, the danger hasn’t passed yet. No, this is where the truly desperate situation begins.
I turn to look back to see a large black body beyond the open fortress gate.
The Rank 5 monster that I’ve been searching for, the Greed-Gore, has finally appeared before me.
「Will, it’ll be great if you guys can back me up. But it’s best if the students don’t go out to the front.」
The Greed-Gore lets out a growl as it takes a step that shakes the whole ground, approaching this place.
It’s freaking massive. It’s the biggest monster I’ve ever faced. It’s like a moving mountain of stone.
「Right now, I am the great general who leads this group of elite young people who bear the future of Spada’s military. Leave the command of your backup to me! And... Fu, for you who bears the title of Nightmare Berserker, the students would no doubt be nothing but a burden to you, no matter how splendid they are. Indeed, none should approach the combat of the mad warrior!」
No, there’s no danger of me mistaking my allies for enemies and cutting them down, I was just saying that because it’s dangerous for them to face the Greed-Gore directly... Well, whatever.
「Kurono-kun! Umm, please don’t push yourself too hard, okay?」
I can’t turn back to Nell, who is behind me, to give her a reply. The reason is, that’s something I can’t promise.
「... Nell, give me a Boost.」
With just those words, I rush out through the fortress gate. Leaving behind Nell’s elegant chanting, Will’s loud laughter and the cheers of the students who seem to be placing their expectations on me, I head straight forwards to challenge the Greed-Gore – the second trial.
The Greed-Gore is furious. Its precious army has been eradicated. Now it cannot spend its time in idleness.
It knows who has caused this. Right before the parasites were eliminated by that white light, it clearly saw that person in the visual information that was relayed via the monsters’ eyes.
It was a female with wings that was not a human, nor a bird, nor a Harpy. That female is dangerous. No matter how tedious it is, she must be eliminated immediately. The Greed-Gore has decided to leave the re-infestation of the monsters until later; even if it has to fight alone, time is of the essence.
Even going so far as to use underground movement that is its fastest method of travel, the Greed-Gore has brought itself all the way out here to the『nest of humans.』
In front of it, it can see the female from the visual information that it received. There is not a single obstacle between her and the Greed-Gore. Therefore, it simply takes a step forward.
「Bullet Arts – Full Burst!」
Something a little harder than the falling raindrops hits the Greed-Gore’s body. On top of its already thick, rock-like carapace, there is a layer of armor made of densely-packed iron sand. Its ability to sense impacts on its body is dulled to the point that it would barely notice even if a Dortoth rammed into it with full power.
「Ah, shit, it’s too hard!」
There’s something small and black wandering around its feet. It seems that this is the source of the intermittent sandstorm-like phenomenon, but even after the Greed-Gore realizes this, it forgets about it a moment later. Its target is not black, but white –
「How about over here!」
At that moment, one of those rock-hard projectiles flies directly towards its eye.
Though the majority of its defense is as tough as an iron wall, its eyes are still unprotected. Sand or rocks hitting it will hurt. It must block it.
The Greed-Gore comes to a decision - it definitely has the time to do so.
As it perceives the black pebble, time stops – or at least, it appears to. In reality, everything around it simply appears to be moving very, very slowly.
This is one of its lightning-element Characteristic Abilities,『Mental Concentration.』
Its primary effect is to greatly speed up its thought processes and reaction time. This is also accompanied by a sharp increase in the rate at which its nervous system relays information, and its actual physical ability and speed of movement are also enhanced. However, its body is not strengthened, so if it moves too quickly, it will put a strain on its body. Of course, it instinctively knows the limits of its own body.
And right now, its instincts are telling it,「this is not a problem.」Now it must simply deal with the situation.
The black object flying towards the Greed-Gore’s eye seems to have been traveling at a considerable speed; even in this world where everything has come to a stop, it is clearly still moving. The raindrops falling through the air are almost completely stationary, so that means that this object is moving far faster than the terminal velocity of raindrops.
It must avoid a direct hit against its eye. This is very simple to achieve. Thanks to the increased speed of the Greed-Gore’s thought processes, there is no need for a large reaction such as taking an evasive maneuver.
Indeed, all it needs to do is shut its eyelid.
And then it releases the『Mental Concentration.』Time begins to flow normally once more.
「Is it a coincidence – no, can it see the bullet?!」
The Greed-Gore’s eyeball is soft, but its eyelid is still hard. It is not as tough as its back or its tail, but it still has its thick, sand-covered skin, as well as the layer of iron sand for additional defense.
However, it is growing tired of this black thing; it has become quite irritating. It must be crushed.
Instead of taking another step forward, the Greed-Gore simply slams its raised leg into the ground with all its power. With this single stomping attack, the enormous monster causes an earthquake and a landslide simultaneously.
The pure, physical destructive power exerted by the sole of its foot is enough to shake the entirety of the Iskia Hills. And the earth-element Characteristic Ability causes a tsunami of earth and sand that swallows everything around it.
The black thing around its legs is too small, so it doesn’t bother trying to aim. It was not able to crush it directly, but the violent shockwave of earth has succeeded in sending it flying away.
Now that it has taken care of the nuisance, the Greed-Gore continues onwards.
It closes in on the nest of its prey in front of it. It is a human nest protected by vertical, rectangular masses of stone, but it is fragile enough that the Greed-Gore can knock it down in one attack by throwing its body against it.
As long as that white female does not use those wings on her back to fly away and escape, she will be crushed easily. No, the Greed-Gore should crush her using its jaws, just to be sure.
Its target is now right in front of it.
「Fiiire – !」
At that moment, the rain that fills the air is once again joined by miscellaneous projectiles.
Pointed bits of metal that humans and some monsters like to use, balls of fire, icicles, wind – their attacks are greatly varied. Though the Greed-Gore cannot tell the attacks apart at all, it does know that the elements and magical attacks that humans use can be different from one another.
But it matters not, as none of these attacks can penetrate this overwhelming defense, no matter what element they are. The Greed-Gore pays them no heed whatsoever.
However, it is irritating.
Ah, how bothersome, how troublesome. It wants to send everything flying with a single attack – with its sloth-like instincts telling it that, the Greed-Gore stops its footsteps.
「Nice! Its movements have stopped; keep firing – !」
The male standing next to that female lets out an incredibly loud cry. Judging from the fact that the attacks continue to fire in response to that voice, it could possibly be the leader of this group of humans, but the Greed-Gore’s instincts tell it otherwise. They tell it,「there is no way that such a weak-looking human could be their leader.」
After less than a second’s hesitation, the Greed-Gore begins concentrating its mind and mana to sweep away this troublesome group of humans.
First, with a rumbling noise, it inhales deeply. As its lungs expand to their maximum capacity, it finishes taking in the mana floating around in the air.
At the same time, it uses its ability that is of both the lightning and earth elements to quickly manipulate the iron sand from around its legs, creating stake-like objects which thrust themselves into the ground. The reason for this is that the claws of its feet will be insufficient to keep its body anchored in this position.
With this, preparations for release are in their final stage. Purple lightning is already crackling at the Greed-Gore’s mouth.
Now all it needs to do is decide on its target and spit everything out in one attack.
「– It’s a Breath! Block it, Nell!」
Yes, she must block the Greed-Gore’s greatest, most powerful, most lethal move – the『Plasma Breath.』