The completely-serious, no-fooling-around Rank 5 quest that Fiona chose, ‘Lich Extermination,’ is finally approaching the final stages of completion. The month has changed from Blue Moon to the Month of Frozen Soil, the equivalent of November, and the date is the 10th. Precisely one month after the quest was accepted.
I get the feeling that this quest has taken a long time compared to the quests that we’ve done in the past, but considering that we’re trying to completely clear a Dungeon, this is normal. In fact, having taken only a month to come this far could probably be considered swift progress.
“We’re finally at the last floor, let’s not let our guard down and –”
A loud gunshot rings out, cutting off my words. Its echo is deafening in this dark, cramped corridor of the underground tomb.
“Zwei, you have to listen properly to what Kurono says,” says Lily.
“Sorry, my lord.” Lily’s servant, the Living Dead that she has named Zwei, apologizes to me as it bends its body forward in a right-angle-shaped bow.
Just like the first time I saw him when he was carrying a bed into the dormitory, he’s equipped with a smiley-face iron mask and a pitch-black surcoat. He loyally follows Lily’s commands, but he’s still creepy.
Incidentally, “My lord” refers not to Lily, but to me. I guess it’s been set that way because I’m the party leader. But when it suddenly called out to me like that, I was startled. Startled at the fact that it can talk.
“No, it’s fine,” I say. “Go back to keeping an eye out.”
“Yes, my lord.” Flipping its head back upright like a spring-loaded doll and pressing its right hand against the left side of its chest near its heart in a Spada-style salute, Zwei returns to stand in line with Ein and Drei, who are standing at attention.
At present, Lily has only summoned three of them, but this is the limit for this narrow Dungeon corridor.
“Sorry, Kurono, they’re not smart enough to be able to ‘read the mood’ yet,” says Lily, acting adultlike as she apologizes for her subordinate’s failure.
Of course, I’m not going to blame her or anything. “No, they’re functioning just fine as they are,” I tell her. “They’re bringing the enemies down properly in one hit, too.”
In the darkness of the corridor ahead, where the light of Lily’s luminescence and Fiona’s Torch doesn’t reach, at a distance that I wouldn’t be able to see without my exceptional night vision, there is a Skeleton Soldier lying on the ground with its head blown clean off. This is the result of the shot that interrupted my words earlier.
With this quest, we’re testing the performance of these Living Dead and, by making them use rifles, we’re also testing out the guns’ endurance in real combat.
The prototype rifle that Will used in Iskia did jam, and Simon was enthusiastic about refining the rifles to perfection.
Thus, all nine of the Living Dead are equipped with the improved version of the rifle. The prototype that Will had purchased and paid for in installments was a hundred thousand Klans; the price of nine rifles is enough to send half of my fight money from the Curse Carnival flying away, but the manufacturing costs are scheduled to decrease from now on.
All of the parts have been made at the Stratos Smithing Workshop up until now, but with this opportunity – in other words, with the great sum of money I have acquired thanks to the fight money and the reward for the battle of Iskia – work has begun on securing a way to mass-produce them.
It’s not enough to build a factory yet, but Regin-san talked to Mordred and it’s been decided that he’s going to borrow part of a large smithing factory owned by a company to manufacture the parts. Mordred himself has apparently shown interest in the weapons called guns, which can produce a certain amount of killing power without needing mana, so if the rifles can be perfected, full-blown mass-production could become a possibility later.
Of course, the development and production of other arms are already in the works. I wonder if machine guns are next. Simon was pretty fired up and had already started on the blueprints, too, saying something about being able to lay waste to monsters the next time a huge army of them appears.
“Alright, let’s press on,” I say. “We’ll defeat the Lich and clear the quest within the day.”
“Yes,” says Fiona in a monotonous voice.
“Yeah!” Lily yells, full of spirit.
Her three servants repeat her, “Yeah!” as a war cry, raising their fists into the air. Things have gotten pretty lively for the Element Masters.
And so, we press on through another of the corridors that we’ve become completely accustomed to seeing during the past month. We let the three servants stand at the front to deal with the small fry. Lily is in the middle, giving orders and support to the servants. Fiona and I are serving as the rear guard.
The only thing we need to be wary of is an Undead monster attack. Things are quite easy because there aren’t any traps in this Dungeon. That’s why this Dungeon, the Revival Catacombs, is normally Rank 3 when a monster like a Lich hasn’t appeared.
“By the way, Kurono-san, isn’t it almost lunchtime?” Fiona asks suddenly.
She is not wearing the white one-piece dress that I gave to her as a present, but her trademark adventurer equipment, the witch’s robe. She looks incredibly surreal with her beautiful white face illuminated by the dim light of her Torch, but that is put to waste by the small sound of her stomach’s growls acting as background music.
But I can’t make fun of the demands of Fiona’s stomach. And I’m starting to feel quite hungry myself.
Thanks to the relatively accurate biological clock I gained through the remodeling experiments as well as the sensation from the rather unreliable stomach-clock*, I can tell that it is past midday.
I’m reliant on my body’s senses because we can’t see the sky in an underground Dungeon like this, so it’s difficult to tell how fast time is flowing. I suppose I’ll buy a watch with the reward money from this quest once we return to Spada.
“You’re right,” I say. “I suppose it’s a good idea to have a meal before we charge into the Lich’s chamber – ah, Fiona, they’re coming from behind us.”
My ears pick up the sound of faint footsteps. My skin feels the presence of mana. And my intuition has been set off, too. Having a sharp sense for approaching enemies without relying on vision is an important ability for adventurers. When it comes to searching for and detecting enemies through bodily senses alone, I’m the sharpest in the party.
“According to the map, it seems that there is a small room up ahead, perfect to stop and rest at,” says Fiona.
“What? I said enemies are –”
“– Ignis Blast.”
My entire vision is instantly filled with crimson. With a thunderous roar, a storm of whirling heat sweeps down the narrow corridor without leaving any gaps to escape through, as if licking the walls.
In other words, Fiona has turned around and waved her wand, releasing an offensive spell.
The Skeletons that approached in single-file in this narrow corridor have probably been annihilated by this merciless, wide-area flame attack.
Now that the flames have died down, I can’t feel their presence anymore.
“Let us hurry and keep going, Kurono-san.”
That’s not cool, Fiona, even if you are wearing an elegant expression. It’s way too easy to see your ulterior motive of satisfying your hunger.
But still, Fiona’s magic is as flashy as usual. Even though I have three divine protections of the Demon King, I’m feeling a slight inferiority complex… No, leaving that aside, the thing I should pay attention to is the wand that she waved.
It’s the Custom Fireball that she has been using up until now, but it was born anew with our most recent visit to the Stratos Smithing Workshop.
Its name is now Spitfire.
Its design hasn’t changed much, but the notable difference is that there is a large, ruby-like gem attached to the tip. Unlike the Queen Beryl and the Wrath-pun’s Fist of Wrath, it’s an artificially-made magic stone of flames that isn’t rare as far as parts for staffs and wands go, but its performance is apparently incredible.
Fiona used the high-quality flame-element wand that she forunately happened to acquire during her training in Avalon, called the Ruby Bullet, as custom parts.
In other words, the Ruby Bullet’s highly-specialized flame-attribute abilities have been added to the already-exceptional performance of the Custom Fireball. Put simply, the Ignis Sagita that Fiona has been able to fire like a machine gun can now be fired as three-way split-shots; her casting performance has tripled.
If this thing releases its flames, there’s no doubt that its power to annihilate enemies overshadows my Gatling Burst. Not good, my sense of self-worth as a black magic user is steadily dwindling…
As I admire Fiona’s abilities and feel depressed about my own, Lily suddenly raises her voice as if in celebration.
“Ah, Kurono, I found the ‘boss chamber!’”
The ‘boss chamber’ she speaks of is the chamber with the boss in it; in other words, it’s the deepest part of the Dungeon.
Incidentally, the term ‘boss chamber’ isn’t adventurer slang, but something I let slip because I’m a Japanese person who still can’t get the RPG image out of my mind and now, Lily’s started copying the term. Well, it’s easy to understand so it doesn’t matter, but it might be a little embarrassing if other adventurers were to hear it.
“Yeah, this is definitely the boss chamber,” I say. “I feel the presence of a really murderous ambush.”
There’s a small tunnel at the end of the narrow corridor, and deep inside that tunnel, there’s an enormous set of heavy double doors. Ein and Zwei are already standing on either side of it; we’re completely ready to throw the doors open.
“It looks like they’ve strengthened their defenses with numbers. I guess we’ll have you summon all of your servants and make them go in first,” I tell Lily.
I’m sure the enemies have no intention of hiding, either. The doors are heavy, but I’m sure you wouldn’t need my sharp senses to feel the presence of countless enemies crawling about behind them. Well, their groaning is audible as well. The heavy, rough, nasal breathing is no doubt that of Undead Minotaurs.
“Yeah!” says Lily. “Well then, I’m going in with everything I have, okay? Muh, everyone, go!”
She shouts a solemn incantation that is the complete opposite of her adorable appearance, summoning the six servants stored in her Dimension of light.
Giants wearing the same black surcoats and metal masks appear simultaneously from the magic circle that has been drawn in the empty darkness.
“Kurono-san, it seems that everyone is preparing to charge in right now, but, umm, what about lunch?” asks Fiona.
“Well, we’ve found the boss chamber, so let’s eat after we defeat the Lich,” I say.
Please stop making that sad face, Fiona. I feel like I should yield to her silent pressure, but I’ll resist. I’m sure our enemies are ready and waiting on the other side, too.
“If things go as planned, it won’t even take ten minutes. Just hold out a little longer,” I say.
“Very well. Let us finish this as quickly as possible,” says Fiona.
Alright. Now that I’ve convinced the hungry witch, it’s time for the real challenge.
“– Order, Select, ‘Bad Standard.’” Lily, who has finished transforming into her juvenile form in order to go all-out against the Lich, gives these commands to her servants.
The nine servants standing in a row in front of Lily put their improved-version rifles onto their backs and draw their other weapons. They’re all different; none of them are the same.
Ein is holding a longsword. Zwei, a dagger. Drei, a rapier. Vier, a scimitar. Fünf, a tomahawk. Sechs, a battleaxe. Sieben, a spear. Acht, a halberd. Neun, a trident.
However, their weapons have something in common.
“Hmm, having all nine of them equipped with cursed weapons does make me a little uneasy,” says Lily with a slightly troubled expression on her face. As she says, all of the servants’ weapons are cursed weapons.
‘Bad Standard’ is, in short, the Nameless Nine that I have let her nine servants borrow.
I’ve used Eternity on the Blackening that lowers the effects of the curses, but the effects haven’t been reduced to zero. If the servants’ wills weaken, they’ll be taken over by madness in the blink of an eye.
The curses’ wills do not treat the Living Dead that hold the weapons, or the spell formula that controls their minds, as exceptions. From what I’ve heard, Safi had been using the Wrath-pun as a servant in the Iskia Hills after turning it into an Undead, but the Sloth-gil was able to quickly take complete control over it with a parasite. Serves her right – isn’t what I want to say. My point is, the fact that a servant moves on command just means that there’s plenty of possibility that control over them can be taken away.
However, Lily is only connected to them telepathically, so their effects won’t influence her. I don’t know whether that would be true if one of the servants was using the Absolute Grudge Hatchet ‘Neck Cutter’, but at the very least, it is certain that the Nameless won’t be a problem for her.
The fact that Lily, the caster, can completely control the spell formulas that the curses are trying to take over, means that it is possible to have her servants use them.
Also, for Necromancers, having control that cannot be defeated by curses or creating perfect control spell formulas drastically reduces the risk of encountering the greatest danger, the danger of having one’s servants ‘stolen’ by something else. Firm control equals reliable servants.
On top of that, there are benefits to having the servants being able to use the cursed weapons. Simply put, it doesn’t need to be said that the cursed weapons make the servants strong.
I can make the servants return the weapons to me if I need them, but, well, there’s no problem in just lending them out while we clear this Dungeon.
Lily produces a tennis-ball-sized diamond from somewhere. “I suppose I should use this just in case – obey my command, Diamond Heaven.”
The moment the servants gripped the cursed weapons, the red light glowing through the circular eye-holes of their metal masks grew brighter. This must be Lily’s way of dealing with that.
The faint white light coming from the jewel strongly captivates people's hearts.
As I have lower-middle-class like thoughts such as wondering just how much it would sell for, Lily is purely using this diamond as a Magic Item – no, as an Artifact.
Apparently, this Diamond Heaven holds the power to apply the Domination Status Effect to its targets. It’s quite risky to hold onto, since misusing it would warrant being arrested instantly.
According to Lily, the true value of this item is its ability that grants better telepathy access, allowing free control over the Homunculi. Thanks to this, the Homunculi have the strength, independence and learning ability needed to throw all of them into battle at once.
Well, I’m ignorant when it comes to modern magic, so I can’t understand a thing about Necromancy, which is even more advanced. I feel pathetic for not being able to think anything of it other than having a vague feeling that Lily is amazing.
“Okay, now everything is set,” says Lily, turning around with a bright smile. “Now then, Kurono, I’m ready when you are.”
The nine servants are standing silently behind her in front of the door, weapons at the ready. It’s just like an ojou-sama being surrounded by her bodyguards – no, that’s not right, Lily is –
“You give the signal, Lily,” I say. “We’ll leave the small-fry to you and head straight for the Lich. That’s all there is to it.”
“Understood,” says Lily. She turns back to her servants. “You heard that, didn’t you, servants? Your lord has requested that you do not let even a single small-fry approach him. Please don’t disappoint me.”
“Yes, My Princess!” Nine voices echo loudly in response to her words.
Indeed, it is fitting to call Lily a princess. The way she gives orders is so masterful it’s terrifying.
Thus, the nine knights charge into the large boss chamber to rise to their princess’s expectations.
I take a step forward as well so that I don’t fall behind. This is where the real deal begins.
“… This is where we, the Element Masters, test ourselves to see whether we have the power to kill an Apostle.”