Chapter 14. The Hero and The Little Red Oni
Slucky had already finished all his duties by devouring Barkas’ bisected head, so I put him away for the time being.
Though the【Magical Beast’s Egg Blade】made a ton of noise when ejecting monsters, it was surprisingly quiet when doing the opposite; its petals silently enveloped the slime much in the same manner as would a carnivorous plant’s.
But then it happened; we were attacked.
11 different projectiles suddenly flew towards us.
（Can I even make it in time!?）
Our attackers had caught us completely off guard and seized the initiative
I immediately focused on the battle at hand and kicked myself into gear. My sharpened senses allowed me to determine that the objects flying towards us were throwing spears. Their tips were coated with a strange purple liquid, one I could only presume to be poison. 7 of the 11 were aimed at Minnalis, and the remaining 4 at me.
Minnalis managed to react to the attack, but would only be able to defend herself at best. She normally might have been able to do more than just that, but that was because the swords she usually practiced with were much easier to handle than the blunt weapon she’d used to crush Dot’s head.
The number of goblin-like creations in our vicinity totalled to 16. The 5 that hadn’t thrown their spears had quickly charged towards us to follow up their companions’ ranged attacks.
I was able to take in all that information in an instant, but just taking it in was by no means equivalent to processing or reacting to it. It was an issue that resulted from me retaining my processing speed, but no longer having a body with the specs to match it. The discrepancy forced me to realize that I wouldn’t be able to get away with holding back.
There were only 16 of them. I wouldn’t need to worry about being able to fight for a longer, sustained period of time.
Knowing that, I swiftly formed the【Soulblade of Origin】in my right hand, and the【Holy Sword of Vengeance】in my left while pouring as much mana as I could into all four of my limbs and surroundings. The former was for power, whereas the latter allowed me to get a better grasp of what was going on around me.
I undid the subconscious limiter that my brain placed on my body and kicked off at my absolute maximum speed while ignoring the fact that my muscles almost seemed to creak under the strain.
It all happened in an instant; the actions I pulled off and decisions I made ate up a cumulative span of less than a second. The feat was one that that demonstrated the fact that I truly deserved the title that claimed that I’d reached the Zenith of Technical Mastery, and that the fancy SSS I had decorating my status plate wasn’t just for show. As far as finesse went, I was literally the best of the best.
（It looks like she’ll be able to ward off the 2 coming straight at her. I should focus my efforts on handling the other 9 instead.）
The combination of the Haste skill and my magically reinforced legs allowed me to accelerate at a rate faster than my agility stat otherwise allowed.
I ignored the spears aimed towards me. They were accurately thrown so that they would’ve been unavoidable under any sort of normal circumstances. In other words, I didn’t need to mind them. The speed at which I moved immediately disqualified them from from doing any harm.
（Well, that’s four less I have to deal with.）
I wasn’t capable of maintaining my acceleration for anything beyond a fraction of a second. I’d snap my own limbs if I accidentally exerted too much force.
I cut up the three closest spears with the【Holy Sword of Vengeance】deflecting the final one
moving towards her right hand side by hitting it right on the tip with the【Soulblade of Origin.】
（Just three more.）
The spear I deflected spun out and collided with the remaining spears and caused a series of chain reactions that caused them to lose the forces that propelled them.
My timing had been perfect; I managed to turn all incoming projectiles into nonfactors right as the five monsters that’d been rushing us leapt out of the bushes and revealed themselves.
（Perfect. Looks like they’re Red Caps.）
Red Caps were a relatively small breed of goblin. They were known for two things. The first was the fact that their heads were red, and seemed to resemble hats. Apparently, this wasn’t an inborn trait, but rather one that resulted from the creatures rubbing their prey’s blood all over their skulls immediately following a successful hunt. The goblin subspecies’ second defining feature was that its members were good at coordinating with one another.
I span around on one foot and turned towards the two that’d appeared around Minnalis back right side and accelerated once more.
I let go of both my swords and grabbed the approaching goblins by their red, hat-like heads before using Sky Step to jump just shy of two meters into the air. I then whipped both Redcaps towards Minnalis’ left and caused them to be impaled upon their comrades’ spears, an act that immediately caused said comrades to stop in their tracks.
14 enemies remained; 11 were still in hiding, 1 was right by me, and 2 were frozen in place by Minnalis.
The two blades I let go of just a second earlier basically hadn’t moved, so I once again grabbed both and moved towards the Red Cap that happened to be right by me.
（Tsk. I’m only barely able to keep this up even though I’ve been keeping myself as under control as possible.）
My body was screaming despite only having been pushed to its limits for less than 5 seconds. I was walking a thin line, a tightrope, as outputting even the slightest bit more power could potentially lead to self-harm.
I wouldn’t have had to resort to this had I any more mana. I would’ve been able to pull out what one could actually call a trump card. But I couldn’t. Toying around with Barkas’ group had eaten up too much magical energy, so I instead ended up with a cheap knock off. I would’ve lost the ability to move had I not done a series of fine adjustments on the fly. Naturally, my method wasn’t perfect, so a dull pain had began coursing through my body as recompense.
It looked like tomorrow would be a day in which I suffered from muscle pains.
I was in a bad mood. These goblins had just happened to come along right when I was about to bask in the afterglow of a job well done.
I formed a cross with my blades as I slashed the red cap in order to vent my frustrations.
「Get rid of the two you see over there. I’ll take care of the ones still in hiding.」
The two Red Caps that Minnalis had by her had already failed their ambush, so I saw no reason for her to not be able to handle them now that it had come down to a head on fight. Thus, I dove into the forest without awaiting her answer.
None of the 11 remaining Red Caps had yet to move, they were still in their original positions as they had yet to figure out how to cope with the status quo.
I dispelled the【Holy Sword of Vengeance】and used my now free right hand to pull a pair of throwing knives out from within the Round Squirrel Pouch and promptly threw both at the two goblins to my right.
Several trees stood between the Red caps and I, so I wasn’t able to aim at their vitals. However, I did still manage to give both relatively deep injuries, as the knives stabbed one in the arm and the other in the leg.
The fast acting poison Minnalis had applied to the knives ahead of time caused both to scream in pain; they were doomed to die some time within the next 10 minutes, even if I simply left them be.
I threw the【Soulblade of Origin】straight into another one’s heart and listened to its death throes before putting it away and pulling out another set of Soulblades.【Flame Spider’s Leg Blade】was good in close combat, so I took it in my right and the【Emerald Crystal Blade】in my left.
I span in a counterclockwise direction and weaved through the trees in order to slaughter all remaining Red Caps. They were incapable of resisting me; I slit their throats, gouged their necks from behind, dug their brains out from within their eye sockets, and smashed their heads by slamming them into nearby tree trunks.
I swapped the【Emerald Crystal Blade】back out for the【Soulblade of Origin】and used it to overkill the Red Caps that tried to pull a fast one on me by hiding themselves within the bushes, cut most the remaining ones down, and even finally skewered the one trying to use its allies as meatshields as it attempted to escape.
「It looks like you’re the last.」
The last came at me suicidally, but I easily split it in half and brought an end to the Red Cap’s assault as a whole.
「Argghh, my arms hurt. I’m tired and sleepy. I don’t wanna move. I wanna go home. I wanna dive into my bed and roll around in it.」
I voiced my body’s desires and threw a bit of a tantrum.
I was still in a good mood because of what we did to Barkas and his companions. My flesh and blood body, however, failed to reflect my emotional status. It was in all sorts of pain as a result of me pushing myself harder than need be. I was also intoxicated as a result of using too much mana at once, and thus, I was unable to think with as much reason as I otherwise could’ve. I’d already drank an MP potion in order to restore my cognitive abilities, but it had yet to kick in.
「Why didn’t I realize that I could’ve just stopped going full throttle the moment I knocked all their spears away?」
Tomorrow was going to be a bad day. My muscles were going to ache, and both my joints and bones were going to be groaning in agony all day. I was completely exhausted despite only having exerted myself for a few seconds.
I mean, I went all out and stuff, but I hadn’t been serious, which in turn meant that it was possible for this pain of mine to get even worse than it was right now.
「Ugh, we should stop by a pharmacy and pick up some pain killers. Er, wait, I should be able to heal myself with the【Emerald Heartblade】once I get a bit more of my MP back. Man, it looks like MP’s going to be one of the things that holds me back the most. I should get the Meditation skill as soon as possible. It’ll he- wait.」
（Aw crap. It looks like I started talking to myself again. That’s a habit I really need to shake.）
I shook my head; I couldn’t believe myself. I’d already slipped up and started talking to myself again even though it’d only been a few days since Minnalis had warned me about me having a bad habit of going off and monologuing.
（I guess I better grab what I need to prove that we killed these Red Caps… Ugh… I really don’t want to. There’s like 16 of them. Bringing all these back would make us really stand out.）
Red Caps were pretty weak by themselves, but there was no way for a pair of brand new adventurers to defeat 16 of them. That was just way the hell out of scope.
We’d probably be able to bring back two or three without issue, as all that would do is cause people to assume that we happened to have trained ourselves up a bit before becoming adventurers. It wouldn’t make them suspect us to be anything more than just people with potential.
（Plus, it wasn’t like we were in any sort of financial distress. We had all the money we needed, the extra bit we’d get from the guild by showing them that we defeated a group of Red Caps this big wouldn’t be worth the attention we’d get. And if Minnalis asks, I’ll just insist that I didn’t just not want to bother.）
Minnalis had all the money management skills of a Japanese housewife, so I purposefully thought up an excuse that’d work to convince her. I even considered that she might tell me I could’ve just picked them up and saved them for later, and came up an excuse for that scenario too. Specifically, I decided I’d tell her that I just hadn’t thought of doing so at the time.
With that in mind, I grabbed the two nearest Red Caps and retrieved the body parts that’d allowed me to prove I killed them before heading back in Minnalis’ direction.
I saw strange sight upon my return to clearing Minnalis was situated in.
「Hey Minnalis, what exactly are you doing?」
Minnalis was, for some odd reason, sitting in seiza right in the clearing’s centre. The Red Caps she and I defeated lay nearby, but she was paying them no mind. It looked like she’d managed to handle the last two by effectively shredding their flesh to bits.
Her rabbit ears, which normally swayed to and fro, had instead fallen flat on her head.
I couldn’t exactly what she was saying to herself, but I managed to catch the word “behind” among a few others. She seemed to be feeling a bit under the weather.
「N-Nothing important, just reflecting on the fact that I accidentally let us get attacked despite being responsible for keeping watch over our surroundings because I was having a bit too much fun…」
「Oh, right, that. That sounds like a huge pain, so save it for when we get back to the inn. I just want to dive right into bed right about now.」
「Y-You’re not going to scold me?」
「Why would I? I only just barely noticed them because so I’m just as responsible as you are. I’ll be doing a bit of reflection myself later.」
「You’re not going to throw me away? Are you really going to let me stay as both your slave and accomplice, Goshujin-sama?」
「Huh? Why are you even considering that? Sure you messed up, but your mishap wasn’t bad enough to cause any real damage. Besides, I was already aware that you weren’t already skilled going into this whole accomplice thing, and decided to go through with it anyway, so I’m not going to throw you away because of a small mistake or two — not that the Holy Sword of Vengeance would allow me to do so in the first place.」
To be honest, Minnalis looked like she’d wanted me to scold her, but I couldn’t be bothered because I was way too exhausted, so I decided to just shelve the idea for the time being.
「You know, I think that the lack of MP is just getting to you in a different way than usual. Here, have another potion.」
I shoved an MP potion in Minnalis’ mouth. The action was a bit too sudden, and caught her completely off guard. The combination of her moistened eyes and the blue liquid leaking out the side of her mouth made her look a bit erotic. That in itself was something that normally would’ve gotten my heart pounding, but I was currently too tired to bother.
As the moment, I wanted nothing more than to find myself a futon to crawl into. However, I was unable to entertain the thought as I realized that I couldn’t just fall asleep in the middle of the forest of all places, so I decided to just force Minnalis back to the inn.
「Alright, get up. Let’s start heading back.」
And so, we finally got a move on.
「I know we planned elsewise, but let’s just tell the guild that we ended up getting seperated from that one noble kid that was supposed to be with us because we weren’t able to maintain full control over a combat situation or something.」
The original plan was for us to spray his surroundings with a poison that wouldn’t harm him, but would keep monsters away while also having him hallucinate in a state of unconsciousness so we could go and pick him up later. However, he’d pissed us off, and so, we’d gone and done something else instead. As of right now, I’d say he was currently probably off rotting somewhere with his body half liquified. I was pretty confident in the poison we had him ingest, as it was one that would feel on his mana in order to fuel a process that would eat away at his body and cause it to decompose.
「Oh come on, cheer up. We’ve still got things to do and places to be. We’re only going to be getting busier from here on out, so sharpen up.」
「Ah! Wha! Okay!」
I pat Minnalis on the head in an attempt to convince her to switch up her thoughts and direct her focus elsewhere.
「You don’t have the time to be feeling down about a mistake this minor. Barkas and his clowns only served to function as the opening act, and we’ve finally got our first main dish coming up ahead.」
I wasn’t sure if it was because I was still under the influence, or simply tired, but I wasn’t able to maintain full control over my own emotions.
The smile I’d been holding back finally showed itself on my face.
「Just imagining it is getting my blood pumped despite my exhaustion. I’d thought that killing Barkas would at least curb my appetite, but it wasn’t nearly enough.」
My eyes narrowed as my lips curved themselves upwards.
「I’ve been pretty high strung ever since we got here. I don’t mind you feeling down or wanting to reflect on your mistakes, but I want you to switch gears as quickly as you can. Isn’t getting stuck thinking yourself in circles just a waste of an opportunity? We might as well spend all our time thinking about how we can best get revenge on Yuumis while we’re here. Save all that self reflection for when we’re done.」
「And… I think that just about sums it up.」
We reported in to the guild not too long after arriving back in Elmia.
We told the buffed up, male receptionist that we were ambushed by a pair of Red Caps right around when the mage excused himself to “do his business,” and that we only managed managed to survive the ordeal because we heard the mage scream. His surprised shout had allowed us to take up arms and defeat the Red Caps as they attempted to abmush us. We also stated that we immediately retreated because we didn’t think it was safe for us to stay in the vicinity much longer.
「We heard the mage scream again right around when we were finishing up, so I don’t think he made it….」
「I see… Though it is rather unfortunate that you couldn’t help him, I do think you two made the right choice. Red Caps specialize in grouping up and planning ambushes, you may have lost your lives had you tried to save him.」
Naturally, we hadn’t said a word about Barkas or his crew.
「Are you really sure that you encountered a group of Red Caps that close to the forest’s edge though…?」
「We’re sure. I think this should work as proof that we beat them, right?」
I placed the body parts that served as proof of subjugation on the counter alongside several proofs from some of the goblin we’d defeated.
The receptionist examined all the proofs with a serious look on his face.
「It looks like you were right. This really is a piece off a Redcap’s head. Most Redcaps tend to stay around the base of the mountain, but smaller groups of 4-5 have been spotted near the forest’s entrance before.」
（Huh…? I’m pretty sure what we ran into wasn’t exactly what you’d be able to call a small group.）
After all, we’d encountered a whole 16 of them.
Monsters were known to occasionally stray from the forest from time to time, but, the ones we ran into didn’t really seem like lost strays that happened to wander outside their usual territory.
（Oh, right. Didn’t the demons start attacking coming and attacking people my first time through too? I could swear it happened right before Elmia got slammed by that massive army of undead.）
I recalled the time I visited Elmia prior to getting reset and remembered that I’d actually saved the city from a large group of the undead.
The reason that attack occurred was because of a demon gone rogue. It brainwashed a group of villagers and forced the local army to annihilate them. The mass killing had caused a buildup of negative magical energy, which unbeknownst to Elmia’s citizens, began taking over the corpses of monsters. These possessed monsters killed their still living counterparts, which bolstered their numbers. Having the cycle repeat itself over and over ultimately gave rise to an army.
I happened to recall that village in particular because it’d served as one of the places I hid in after having the world turned against me. The state it was in was nothing short of terrible. The land was stained with negative emotions and magical energy. It had degraded to such an extent that all that remained of its agricultural were a few, delicate purple and yellow flowers blooming amongst the rubble that made up the village’s remains.
（Back then, we were able to completely plow through all the undead because I was there alongside Yuumis, that bitch of a princess, Kars, the head knight, and a party of A ranked adventurers. I wonder how things’ll turn out this time around…）
That said, the undead army wouldn’t be attacking for another two months.
There also wasn’t any guarantee that Elmia would even last that long, as they were slated to be attacked not once but twice. In 10 days time, the city would be attacked by horde of Goblins, Red Caps, and boars. It would have to survive that onslaught if it even wished to consider the possibility of surviving the undead invasion. The only reason the city managed to survive the first of the two onslaughts the first time around was because there had, once again, just so happened to be an A ranked party in town.
Surviving the onslaught was what convinced the city to send people to scout the forest, which in turn provided them enough information to prepare themselves for the undead invasion to come. That is, they only discovered the impending danger because they had ordered investigations in the first incident’s aftermath. The Red Cap group Minnalis and I encountered was actually most likely an early sign of the chaos to come.
The receptionist finished checking over all the details he needed to and traded our proofs for cash as I got myself lost in thought.
「There won’t be any added bonuses for the Redcaps because they haven’t been designated for subjugation. You’ll only be getting the standard fee. The goblins, however, are, so you’ll be getting paid extra for those.」
We were given a bunch of coins.
「You two must be as skilled as most E ranked adventurers if you were able to remain unscathed despite encountering two Red Caps. The number may not sound impressive, but it really is. We’ll be able to raise your ranks if you just complete a few more requests for us, so keep it up, alright?」
「Sure thing, will do.」
「Oh and, one more thing. Barkas, Dot, and Terry may be a full fledged D ranked party, but they aren’t what we would call known for being well behaved. It’d be best for you to avoid getting involved with them if you can. We’re aware that you made a bet with them, but it should no longer count as valid given the circumstances. I suggest you just head on home and let us handle the aftermath.」
「We’d really appreciate that. Thanks.」
I responded to the guild’s receptionist in a rather grim tone of voice.
Minnalis and I both then politely thanked the buff, veteran adventurer before turning around and leaving.