Through An Onlooker’s Looking Glass
「Hey Dot! One of them’s heading over to you.」
A goblin dashed passed Barkas as he used his large two handed sword to slice another in half. The monster’s target was Terry, the mage that functioned as the party’s rear guard.
At first, it’d almost seemed as if the goblin would succeed in its assault, but it didn’t. Dot reacted to Barkas’ shout and managed to get in its way and fend it off before it could cause any harm.
「Your turn, Terry!」
Dot deflected the tree branch the goblin was using as a club and took a step back as he signaled one of his party’s other members to attack.
「I’m on it already! Stones of ice, freeze my foe,『Ice Bullet』!」
Terry immediately followed up Dot’s actions by firing off a series of ice-based projectiles at the goblin the moment the other man parted from it. As it was unable to avoid the attack, the goblin ended up croaking like a Frog before collapsing with a giant gaping hole in its chest. Naturally, Barkas hadn’t just been sitting around. He contributed to his team’s efforts by murdering a third goblin and thereby concluding the battle.
The three men then proceeded to cut off the goblins’ ears and gather them all up. To adventurers, goblin ears were items of value, as they served to provide evidence of and function as a counter for one’s kills.
Barkas’ group had already been out hunting for quite some time, but the sun had already long passed its peak. As one could expect, they’d gotten quite the haul. In fact, the three goblins they just killed had pushed them right into the double digits.
「We’ve got a pretty good haul, more than I was expecting. Might as well take a break and eat. Seems like it’s ’bout time anyways.」
「Man, Terry, you sure don’t got any stamina. Sucks to be you, but we’ll still have to keep on the move a bit longer. I scouted out a decent looking place a bit earlier in the day. S’just up ahead.」
Dot smirked at Terry as he lead the rest of his party members towards the clearing he discovered earlier in the day.
Upon arriving, the party’s members decided to just sit wherever. They grabbed their Lowest Grade Item Bag, and withdrew from it a few provisions: some black bread and several pieces of meat, both of which were of the dried variety.
「So why didn’t we just kill them the moment they stepped foot in the forest anyways? I mean, we’re just after the kid’s staff, right?」
「What are you, stupid? Use that goddamned head of yours and just think. There’s no harm in having them hunt a few goblins for us first. Two birds, one stone and all that, you know? Besides, we’d probably look real fishy if we didn’t at least hunt ourselves a good few goblins, y’know?」
Barkas poured a bit of water out from his canteen and onto his bread while also biting down on a piece of dried meat.
「We’d best not go too far. We’ll lose by default if we don’t get back by the end of the day. Not like we need to wander off anyways, plenty of monsters round these parts.」
「True. We have seen a good number of them.」
Terry nodded as he spoke.
「You must not know of the fact that there used to be a village round the foot of the tall ass mountain over there, but it got taken over by a rogue demon a few years back. At least that’s what people claimed when its residents tried to invade Erumia, the nearest town. Apparently what actually happened wazzat they’d been affected by some sort of curse and brainwashed. Shit caused them to totally lose their minds. They went berserk and attacked everything they saw. No one was able to figure out exactly how to fix ‘em, so the villiagers just ended up getting exterminated instead. Their whole settlement got wiped off the map. You’d think that’s where the story would normally end, but there’s more. There’s also that rumour as well, you know, the one that’s made it so that the only adventurers that ever come ’round these parts are the ones the guild decides to send by every once in a while? Yeah, that one. Thanks to all the flak, everyone pretty much stays the hell away. Makes it pretty damn easy to find monsters without really having to look around much.」
Barkas recalled a few of the things he’d heard and reiterated them to his companions.
「I see… But what did you mean by that rumour?」
Terry tilted his head in an expression of confusion as he took another bite of meat.
「Come on Terry. You should start paying less attention to all the fancy magic items you like, and more to the stuff people around you say. Cause like, you know those villagers we were just talking about? Everyone says that their souls wander and haunt the forest we’re in right now, and that running into one will get you one helluva curse. People’ve stopped coming here ever since.」
Dot’s explanation caused Terry to sigh.
「That’s bullshit. I’d believe you if you said that their undead corpses wandered around, but their souls? Seriously man? That’s gotta be bullshit.」
「There’s actually more to it than just the rumour. The only monsters that show up round these parts are goblins and green boars. There aren’t any areas of interest, and the village being gone means that there’s no actual point to hanging around much longer. An empty village isn’t one that’ll be hiring adventurers, y’know? The only reason you can find lots of monsters around is cause they’re all low ranking ones, so it basically ain’t good for anything other than newbies that’re lookin’ to gain experience. Even then, most don’t bother since there’s goblins and green boars in the forests near Erumia too.」
Terry nodded, as if expressing his approval of to Barkas’ logic.
「If anything, we should be glad they chose this of all places. Makes it way harder for people to figure out that we did them in.」
「Isn’t it about time for us to you know, do it now? I’ve eaten up more MP than expected cause we ended up fighting several times in a quick succession. Let’s just kill ’em once we’ve rested up. I want to see that slave girl cry already. We’ll have to kill her after, so let’s hurry it up already. I want me as fun time as possible.」
Terry laughed as any douchebag would while imagining what was to come.
「We’ll probably have to drag her off to some abandoned hunter’s cabin or something after we kill the two men. Can’t be getting busy when there’s monsters around if we really wanna have fun.」
「Don’t be forgetting about the staff, you hear? It is technically what we’re actually after, y’know?」
「「Yeah, yeah, we know.」」
「Well, least you guys know how to make it seem like you’ve got your priorities straight. I’m sure you you already know, but, kill the kid with the staff first. Catch him off guard if you can. They’re still fresh and inexperienced, so the rest of ‘em will probably lose it the moment we get one of ’em. After that, get the lanky one. Crush his feet, make it so he can’t use ’em. You can probably just leave him be if that works. No point killing him right there and then.」
「Huh? Why not just kill him?」
「Man, Dot, you sure aren’t good at using your head, are you?」
Terry gazed at Dot with what could only be described as a deliberate look of amazement.
「S’that supposed to be mean? I don’t get it.」
「「It means we’re going to make him watch us rape that rabbitgirl, you moron!」」
A pair of synchronized laughs rang through the clearing as Dot’s companions cackled to their hearts’ content.
「Yeah, I really don’t get you two. S’not something that turns me on, but whatever floats your boats.」
「You know what’d be just perfect? What if she betrayed her master and begged for us to let her live? That’d just be the god damned best.」
「Oh, oh. What about having her kill him? Imagine that.」
「I like it, but it might not be possible if he’s ordered her not to betray him.」
「Man, you guys sure are getting into this whole thing, not that I mind so long as you leave her nape unscathed.」
Dot did to Terry as Terry had done to him earlier and spoke in a bit of an exasperated tone whilst shrugging his shoulders. He remained silent thereafter because he’d added to the conversation all he intended to.
There was an inevitable bit of danger associated with not killing the lanky swordsman, but he was a fresh newbie that’d literally only just become an adventurer. Hence, all three figured that they need not be too careful so long as they killed the mage.
「Alright, sounds like a plan. Let’s finish eating so we can carry it out.」
Only then did Dot, the party’s scout, realize that something was amiss.
He raised his voice and desperately attempted to shout in order to warn his party of his sudden realization.
But he didn’t make it.
He didn’t manage to fulfill his duty as the team’s eyes and ears.
It’d been a pointless effort in the first place. He wouldn’t have been able to inform Terry or Barkas of the impending danger in time even if all three of them had been on high alert. That was just how fast it’d all happened. At first, Dot had thought that he’d only felt a gentle breeze, but his instincts immediately had alerted him that it was much more than just that.
A translucent, white smoke flooded their surroundings the moment the breeze passed by, and promptly dulled the men’s senses whilst depriving them of their ability to move; they collapsed and fell onto the forest’s undergrowth.
「We’ve… been hit with.. a paralyzing… poison…」
（Shit! Shit!! Did we get jumped by Paramoths? Damn it! Why the hell would monsters like them be in a place like this!? Wait, were their scales even capable of working this quick…!?）
The strange mist that assaulted the three vanished as quickly as it’d appeared. It almost seemed to have dispersed itself into their surroundings immediately after effecting them.
「Shi…t… My body… won….t lis…ten… to… me…」
「This is bad, Barka…s… I can’t… even lift… a finger…」
「Wait just a sec… I’ll help… you guys up as soon… as I take an antidote…」
Dot and Terry were just flat out down and out, but Barkas was still capable of a certain degree of action. None of the three knew exactly why this happened to be the case, but they presumed it was either something to do with Barkas’ superior stats or, more simply, his position at the time of the attack.
（God damn it! Come on Barkas. Move! Move…!）
The party’s leader cursed as he pushed his body to its limits in an attempt to to move. It took quite some time, but he did to eventually manage to stretch his right arm all the way over to the bag he had at his waist. He couldn’t help but feel frustrated and impatient; his hand felt like they were moving far too slowly. Even the act of grabbing the Potion of Detoxification he’d been looking for had taken ages in and of itself.
（Come on! Just a bit more!）
He slowly brought the potion up towards his face. The brute paid as much attention to his hands as he possibly could; he took extra care in order to ensure he didn’t drop his precious lifeline.
And then, after what felt like an eternity, he finally managed to bring the potion close enough to his face for it to actually be visible.
「Annnd cut. It’s a real shame but that’s all the time you’ve got.」
A foot stomped itself on Barkas’ hand and crushed both it and the potion that it’d been holding.
It went without saying that the person that’d stepped on him was none other than myself.
I ground my foot into his hand as if to let out all the frustration I’d been building up. In doing so, I caused the bottle to shatter, and its fragments to pierce his flesh. Blood flowed from within his body and began seeping out of his many newly created cuts.
「So, tell me. How does it feel to suddenly have all your hopes crushed right before they’re realized?」
「Right. I guess you are a little too preoccupied to answer.」
A few drops of the Potion of Detoxification managed to enter his bloodstream through the cuts on his hands, but it didn’t really matter. He take in enough of it to cure him of his paralysis. In fact, the little bit he did manage to absorb only served to harm him, as it woke up his nerves just enough for him to feel even more pain.
「How inconsiderate of you to steal a march on me and hog all the fun for yourself, Goshujin-sama.」
「Oh, whoops. My bad. These retards basically set me up perfectly, so I couldn’t really help myself.」
I lifted my foot off Barkas’ hand and shrugged my shoulders whilst speaking in a patronizing tone. Naturally, I made sure to stand right above him so he could better hear my snarky remark.
「I recognize… that… voice…」
His neck was stuck in its current position. He was unable to move, and therefore probably unable to see anything above our waistlines regardless of how hard he tried. However, as one would expect, he had yet to forget how our voices sounded, especially seeing as how he’d only just heard them a few hours back.
「What the.. hell are… you bastards doing….? Guuuahhhh!!」
「Shut up already, trash. You’re hurting my ears.」
Minnalis stomped on Barkas’ right hand in a manner much more merciless than my own.
「I stopped and listened for one second, only to hear that? Care to repeat yourself? Who were you going to rape in front of who? Shut that mouth of yours, and stop violating everything around you with the garbage that comes out of it, you filthy cockroach.」
「Guh… Gahh… Argghghhhh!!」
The extent of Minnalis’ anger was made apparent by the fact that she continued to grind Barkas’ fist into the ground with her foot as she spoke; she put so much force into the assault that I could hear his bones crack each time she twisted her sole. And if that wasn’t enough, the expression on her face functioned to more than convince me that she was as irritated as could possibly be.
「And what’s more, you wanted me to betray Goshujin-sama and beg for my life? Just how mad do you plan to make me? Well?」
「T-That was ju—-arghh!」
Barkas tried to say something, but Minnalis decided not to give him a chance to speak, and instead kicked him in the jaw to shut him up.
She then immediately stomped on the man’s left hand, which had coincidentally ended up in her vicinity following her attack.
「I won’t let you bastards get away with this…!」
Barkas was still incapable of movement despite the fact that him bleeding had led to the bit of the potion he’d ingested earlier to start circulating through his bloodstream. He did, however, regain his ability to speak.
「Oh? So what exactly do you piggies think you can actually do to us?」
「Urgghhh! Stop that! God dammiiiiiiiiitttt!!」
「Tell me, how’s your right hand feel? Does it hurt?」
「Stop! Just stop alright!! Guaaahhhhh!!」
Minnalis had moved from stepping on Barkas’ right hand to his left, so I took over the role and gave him a good stomp or two in order to milk a few extra screams out of him.
Only after a few laughs did I finally lift my foot and move on.
「Oh right, who was it that brought up having Minnalis kill me? Was it the third rate mage?」
Terry, like Barkas, was incredibly easy to read, he responded to the scornful way in which I glanced in his direction with a sharp glare.
「Yeah. You’re nothing but third rate. In fact, I’m honestly quite surprised you’ve survived for as long as you have with how weak you are.」
Terry flipped onto his face after I kicked him in the exact manner Minnalis had kicked Barkas earlier.
「Hey, tell me how you feel. Are you vexed? Mortified? How does it feel to be rolling around face first like a caterpillar after all that shit talk? Well? Say something goddammit.」
I laughed as I approached him and ripped his staff out of his hands before snapping it it right before his very eyes. He responded by sharpening his gaze even further, but I just ignored him and started kicking him while continuing to laugh and smile.
「Ple…ase… just… st…op…it…. Al…ready….」
Terry was surprisingly easy to break. It didn’t take more than just a few kicks to make him cave.
Breaking him had made feel really refreshed, so I turned around in order to check on Minnalis, who turned out to be in the middle of breaking Dot.
「Wow, you sure are useless. Aren’t you supposed to be a scout? What’s the point of you even existing if you can’t do your job and warn your party about an upcoming threat? You’re useless in battle too. You let one of your party members finish the monster off instead of doing the job yourself. You’re useless, a good for nothing. Do you know what people like you are called? Leeches, parasites. Oh wait, sorry. That must’ve been too complicated for you. There’s no way someone as useless as you could even understand the concept of a parasite.」
「Kh… Stop… that…」
Minnalis giggled as she mercilessly kicked Dot over and over. The aura of irritation around hadn’t waned in the slightest despite the fact that she was repeating the action whilst wearing a smile.
Dot started off with a rebellious look in his eyes, but it soon vanished as he lost to his sense of pain.
The punishment Minnalis had administered was overly harsh, but honestly quite deserved, especially when one took the topic the men had just discussed into consideration. It had literally done nothing but serve to add more fuel to the fire.
「You guys were just talking about how you were going to kill us. That, of course, means you understand that the opposite might happen, right? So, given that, are you ready to die?」
I laced the aura of bloodlust I was giving off with magical energy in order to activate the 『Magical Intimidation』skill. Its effects were immediately made apparent, as all three of their faces paled over in response. All three of the party’s members had still been looking down on us. They’d thought that they would’ve been able to kill us if they hadn’t been paralyzed ahead of time, but that thought was no more; my aura had obliterated it.
The only pillar of support they had remaining, all we still needed to break, was their shoddy sense of pride.
「W-We’re sorry! P-Please… don’t kill us…! Please!」
「No no no, we can’t be having you going there just yet.」
I interrupted Barkas and prevent him from saying another word.
「This is only just the opening act. We’re going to need a bit of data to reference for everything we do later on, so don’t be begging for your lives till after we’re done with the headliner. Ain’t that right, Minnalis?」
「Right it is, Goshujin-sama.」
Minaris nodded as she activated her『Phantom Flame Poison Demon』in order to create a poison capable of reproducing an effect similar to that of the anesthetics we had back in my world. It was much more powerful than the paralyzing mist she’d just created, and had the strength to not only immobilize the three men, but also rob them off any senses they had from the neck down. They could still see, hear, and speak even under its influence, but that was all. In other words, the poison was exactly like an anesthetic, save for the fact that it didn’t deprive those it affected of their consciousness.
The fluid took floated above Minnalis’ hand following its synthesis. Its colouration was that of a marbled mix of red and orange. Conveniently, there just so happened to be exactly three servings worth of the stuff.
「I think it should be about time for us to get started. Would you mind lending me a hand in administering it, Goshujin-sama?」
「W-What are you two d—gaaaaahh!」
I forced the men to open their mouths in order to allow Minnalis to pour the poison down each of their throats.
「It should kick in almost right away. It’s much stronger than the mist you inhaled earlier, so it should overwrite the other poison’s effects and allow you to talk again.」
The poison Minnalis had just created was extremely complex and ate up a lot of MP. As a result, she began suffering from Mana Intoxication, which in turn did the usual and made her start giving a more alluring air.
Her lips twisted up into a wide smile. It was a smile that was not only fearsome and dreadful, but also beautifully captivating.
「Kufufu. Please look forward to what’s to come. I’ll be giving you a glimpse of hell’s very depths.」
Minnalis’ smile transformed and became even lovelier as she spoke. The impurities within it disappeared, leaving not but an expression of heartfelt joy.