Translator(s): Yomigaeru Editor(s): Yuzuha Proofreader(s): Yomigaeru
Showing no indication that she’s bothered by the wound on her shoulder, Yuel quickly engages the Armor Ogre in combat. Like a bullet, she thrusts herself into the space between me and the Armor Ogre without hesitation.
A claw attack sweeps in from the side. A punch pulverizes a hardy tree. Even a glancing blow from one of the Armor Ogre’s tempestuous attacks could very well lead to death.
Yuel continues to evade them.
She isn’t just dodging. After I find an opportunity to treat her shoulder, she swings her knife at the Armor Ogre’s joints, tendons, and eyes. Aiming for the places where its skin is thin, she finds openings to get in a few strikes.
The monster that dealt her the grievous wound that put her out of commission in the past is standing before her. Not faltering for a single step, Yuel is fearlessly battling it.
She saved me. I was in a really bad spot. Having the young girl I sent to safety come to my rescue instead is beyond pitiful, but she got me out of that predicament.
…And yet. And yet, this is hopeless.
Yuel slashes at the Armor Ogre’s arm with a knife. However, the blade only etches faint lines.
Exercising her ability, Yuel stabs the Armor Ogre’s side with her knife. However, the blade merely splits the skin lightly before it’s stopped.
Yuel throws a knife at the Armor Ogre’s eye. But that too is blocked by the its arm.
Yuel’s attacks can’t pierce the Armor Ogre’s defenses.
I’ve realized that our offensive ability isn’t high enough. For Yuel, she can earn time, but she can’t defeat the Armor Ogre. Even if they keep fighting like this, it doesn’t seem like Yuel will win. Even supposing there were some possibility that she could pull out a win, it would no doubt be a protracted struggle.
And if she merely missteps once and gets her foot caught in the mud, or her fatigue reaches the limit, Yuel will easily be killed by the Armor Ogre. Above all, I absolutely can’t let that happen. It’s too dangerous for Yuel to challenge it in a drawn-out war.
What do we do?
Even at this point, do I take Yuel with me and run?
Nah, even if we try to run, there are those projectile stones. If we turn our backs, it’ll easily get us with those. If Yuel’s small body gets hit directly, there’s even the risk of instant death.
Let her keep fighting?
It’s hopeless, Yuel can’t deal a decisive blow on her own. She won’t get through that tough skin with her strength. Even at the joints, she can’t pierce that thin skin deep enough to draw blood. At best, her knife would likely only puncture things like its eyes.
Yuel is surely aiming for its eyes already, yet when she goes to attack, the Armor Ogre immediately protects them. Destroying both of its eyes would be ideal, but the Armor Ogre won’t allow its own weak point to be targeted so easily. Eating a single blow from the Armor Ogre could mean instant death. Even for the adept Yuel, getting past its guard and gouging out its eyes while still evading those attacks the entire time would most likely be a challenge.
We can’t get away, and Yuel can’t win. So what do we do?
…There is a way.
Perhaps Yuel has already come up with it even though I haven’t said anything to her. It’s something that simple.
「I should fight too.」
Rather than Yuel fighting on her own, the two of us should fight it together. If I shoulder the responsibility of dealing with the Armor Ogre’s attacks, Yuel won’t need to evade them. She can move freely and attack however she likes. In the openings created when I lure its attacks towards me, Yuel can aim for the Armor Ogre’s eyes.
If we do that, there’s a chance that even Yuel’s attacks will get through.
I’m afraid of sharp objects. I’m even more afraid of huge monsters. But Yuel could be defeated by the Armor Ogre’s brutal attacks at any moment. There’s no time to hesitate.
I grasp my mace and approach the Armor Ogre. Pinned down by Yuel, the Armor Ogre turns its eyes to me.
「M-Master! Y-You mustn’t! It’s dangerous! Please get back!」
Yuel cries out anxiously, but the Armor Ogre’s eyes are fixed firmly on my mace. From the Armor Ogre’s perspective, compared to Yuel’s knife that barely scratches its tough hide, my mace that caused it to limp (if only for a moment) should be the greater threat.
Just as I expected, the Armor Ogre turns away from Yuel to face me.
「Yuel, I’ll draw its attention. Find an opening to destroy its eyes!」
This is my first time fighting alongside Yuel. Although I’ve watched Yuel fight from the back, I’ve almost never gone up front to join the battle.
I stand in front of the Armor Ogre. In front of that giant body with those thick arms and those sharp, dimly gleaming claws. Just standing before it, I feel my instincts crying out “run away, run away” in alarm. It must look even bigger to Yuel with her short stature.
…There’s no way I can make Yuel continue to confront such a monster.
「B-But! What if Master…!?」
「Don’t be unreasonable, Yuel. Believe in me. Yuel’s master is not that soft!」
Well, it’s not like I have enough combat experience to earn her confidence. Even so, Yuel slowly gives me a small nod. Yuel herself may understand in her innermost thoughts that this is the only way. And I suppose she’s putting her faith in me.
It’s not particularly like I’m not going to duel it to the death. I’m just going to have Yuel attack it while I’m defending against one or two strikes. It’s good enough if I just create an opening from the Armor Ogre.
I brandish my mace.
My target is its right foot. I have no intention to neglect defense and go all-out on the attack. It’s mostly a feint, a strike with no power behind it. However, the Armor Ogre hastily raises its arm over its head, aiming at me.
…I guess that blow to its ankle must have really hurt.
I immediately bring the mace back and hold it out in front of me. In the first place, all I need to protect is my head.
The Armor Ogre delivers a blow using its physical strength. With terrific speed, the Armor Ogre’s claw comes at me.
But I must not falter. I must not close my eyes.
Pay attention. I’ve always been observing Yuel’s movements and they’re faster than this.
The Armor Ogre’s strike is certainly quick.
–But Yuel’s movements are absolutely much sharper than this.
I can undoubtedly follow it with my eyes. Then it’s fine if I just meet the Armor Ogre’s arm with this mace.
Violently, the sound of metal rings out.
With the screech of scraping metal, the Armor Ogre’s claw slides along the side of the mace. And its trajectory is deflected slightly. I feel a burning heat on the left side of my face.
I can’t feel my ear. I’m getting concerned about what might have just happened to it.
But it doesn’t hurt as much as that time my leg was bitten off by a Giant Ant. Besides, I’m still alive.
–Now’s the time. The instant it stretches out its arm, Yuel moves behind the Armor Ogre.
Brandishing her knife from behind its back, Yuel is observing the state I’m in on the verge of tears. I signal to her with my eyes.
A silver flash streaks in.
Something pops with a *buchuri* sound.
The Armor Ogre roars.
It shakes off Yuel, who’s no longer holding her knife.
And there it is — Yuel’s knife is thrust deep into the Armor Ogre’s right eye.
She did it. Yuel sure is excellent. I really must pet the hell out of her after this.
The Armor Ogre lets out a howl and glares at Yuel with its remaining left eye. It’s completely ignoring me. This time it’s furiously trying to smash Yuel.
Yuel is strong. I just created a momentary opening, and she precisely destroyed one of its vital points. There’s no mistaking that the Armor Ogre is being wary of Yuel.
But that’s not where you ought to be looking right now.
–I tighten my grip on the mace again.
The Armor Ogre is surely in a fervor right now attempting to dull its claws on Yuel. The handle of Yuel’s knife is sticking out of its right eye.
–I take a step towards the Armor Ogre.
Perhaps because its remaining eye is so bloodshot, the Armor Ogre doesn’t notice me at all. It’s focused on following Yuel’s movements as she avoids its attacks.
–I wind all the way back with my mace.
My eyes meet with Yuel’s as she continues to evade. She starts dodging further away from its attacks, leading it right in front of me.
–All of the muscles in my body flex.
Then, lashing out in vain at Yuel, the Armor Ogre passes in front of me. The handle of the knife sticks out of its right eye — and makes a perfect target for my mace.
I feel the slightest resistance from it forcefully plunging into the flesh.
At that moment, the Armor Ogre goes stiff. Its legs that were pursuing Yuel come to a stop.
–Looking at the Armor Ogre’s right eye, I see the end of the knife handle plunged deep into its eye socket. Looks like it’s not so solid behind the eyes.
Then, like a snapped thread, that giant body flops over. The Armor Ogre collapses onto the ground.
「…D-Did we do it?」
The Armor Ogre doesn’t move.
I try poking its foot from a distance with my mace, but once again there are no signs of movement.
…I-Is it really not going to move? I try lightly smacking the Armor Ogre’s body with the mace.
Even still, there are no signs of movement.
「Master! Are your wounds alright?」
Yuel immediately rushes over. Still concerned for my safety, she confirms the Armor Ogre’s condition, and exhales in relief. Looks like it really is dead.
Even the whites of its eyes are turned up, and its fingers don’t twitch in the slightest. Perhaps because the only obvious wound is its right eye, I’m still afraid that it’ll stand up even now, but there’s no doubt that it’s dead.
…We won. We held out.
All of my feelings of tension relax.
Then Yuel suddenly looks at my face in concern, and I notice that she’s looking at the left side in particular. She looks really worried, staring at… the vicinity of my ear.
When I try touching it with my hand to check… my entire left ear is gone.
Eh, what’s with this pain? It’s super painful.
「H-Heal! Heal! EX Heal!」
I instantly regenerate it, but I have the feeling I added another trauma to my heart. Why do I just keep getting all beaten up like this? No, considering I only paid a single ear for the Armor Ogre’s blow, I might’ve been lucky.
…Well, whatever. We’re finally safe.
Then, when I go to tell Yuel that we should head home, I notice.
Yuel is focused, ears twitching, on a single point in the forest.
Yuel mutters with a slight quiver to her voice.
In front of Yuel’s eyes… there’s a wolf. Ten-odd meters away, a familiar wolf monster is intently looking our way.
Then, that wolf… howls.
Still? It’s not over. Oh yeah, we defeated the brutal monster known as the Armor Ogre, but… we’re still not out of the woods yet.
That wolf. Just before we encountered the Armor Ogre, we were fighting the same type of monster.
Don’t tell me that instead of running away back then, they’ve been observing us this entire time? Aiming for the fisherman’s profit, huh.
–From the right and from the left, new howls rise up.
I start to hear rustling through the underbrush from in front, from behind, and all around us.
The energy drains from my body. This is hopeless. We… might not be able to get out of this. We’re completely surrounded.
The thicket sways, and a wolf’s head pops out right ahead of us. As more time passes, their number continues to increase. In the blink of an eye there are more than 10 of them, and that’s just the ones I can see.
The wolves don’t immediately rush at us. As if they’re cornering weakened prey, they slowly close in.
Yuel raises her knife… but the situation is grim. Even Yuel can’t handle this many.
The wolves howl again.
Then once again there’s the conspicuously loud sound of something else approaching. Fresh troops keep coming.
It’s probably too naive to hope for both of us to make it out of this alive anymore.
But… I at least want to allow Yuel to escape. Raising my mace, I gather mana into my voice to order Yuel to run away–
–and just before it comes out.
At the limits of my vision, tearing through the tangled vegetation, I see something come running in a straight line towards us.
Red hair, fluttering in the wind. A shield in one hand and a longsword in the other.
「Huff…. hahhh… hah… I-I made it, I made it in time!」
Then she wedges herself between me and the wolves and slays one that was just about to spring forward.
「Indeed, by a hair’s breadth.」
The blue-haired adventurer looses an arrow that pierces a wolf right between the eyes.
「Hhhh… *sniff*… Fireball!」
A giant ball of flame generated by the blonde-haired girl instantly burns up a wolf.
Then, shortly after, there are multiple metallic sounds. Knights are coming to assail the wolves.
–It’s the subjugation unit.
To my astonishment, in just a short time they exterminate the wolves one after another.
「H-Hey, you alive? You’re okay, right?」
It’s the red-haired girl in front of me. Ruruka greets me while patting down my body. Maybe it’s because my clothes are torn here and there, but it kinda tickles.
「…Thank goodness we made it in time. Sheesh, I really panicked when your reaction disappeared, y’know?」
Apparently I made her worry. She must have come in quite a hurry, with how out of breath she is. Her breathing is suitably ragged.
We’re saved. While we were fighting the Armor Ogre, we ended up moving pretty far from the riverbank, though. I didn’t expect that any help would come.
「Ah, you’re making a face like “How?”. Look, didn’t I tell you at the hospital? It’s because I was lost in the forest earlier. I told you, I properly prepared for a disaster.」
Ruruka laughs as she points to the earring on her right ear.
「This is a magic tool that comes in a set. Whoever’s wearing the right one can tell the location of the one wearing the left one, y’see. The truth is, I bought it so that if I wandered off I could use you as a beacon to get back to the subjugation unit, but it ended up working out the other way, huh. When your reaction suddenly disappeared I really panicked, you know?」
…Oh yeah, the earring I got from Ruruka was attached to my left ear, wasn’t it? With that blow from the Armor Ogre it must have disappeared somewhere along with the ear itself.
So that was the purpose of that item.
…Wasn’t it out of opposition to me and Yuel having matching bracelets? Out of jealousy? I thought it was that sort of thing. Even though I should be happy we were saved, my feelings are somewhat complicated.
「T-That’s… a designated subjugation target, Armor Ogre, isn’t it?」
A female knight raises her voice, one that sounds kinda familiar. Who is that? Oh, that’s right. It’s the female knight who came to the hospital earlier. Marietta. She was with the subjugation unit too.
「W-With just the two of you…? This monster couldn’t be subjugated that easily…」
Marietta expresses her disbelief.
「Master protected me.」
And Yuel replies immediately.
…If I had to say who was protected I feel like it would be me though. But perhaps Yuel sees it the other way around.
Marietta looks at me in amazement.
「Master defeated it with his mace!」
Yuel heaps the praise on me. I start to see some respect in Marietta’s eyes, too. It feels pretty good, though, so I won’t deny it.
「Ooooh, this monster sells well, you know? Like these claws. I’m concerned that they’re a little crusty, though.」
That would be the dried Slime Jelly. Please don’t worry about it.
「…Thank you for saving me.」
I hear a soft voice that’s barely a whisper. Looking over, there’s Fran with swollen, bloodshot eyes. Now that I think about it, Fran’s been sobbing this whole time. Sera is soothing her, but she seems to have an emotional personality whether it’s positive emotions or negative ones.
You wish to thank me. While you’re at it, I’d like you to share some of those thankful feelings with Sera-san over there and raise her opinion of me.
「U-Um, Shiki-san. Would you be willing to allow the knight brigade to take custody of those remains temporarily? As we must allow the client to confirm its condition. I think there will be reward money coming your way in the future, so please look forward to it.」
I feel slightly concerned leaving the crusty corpse in their custody, but it’s not an atmosphere where I can refuse. Well, precisely because it’s crusty, they probably can’t tell that it’s Slime Jelly. Even if they do figure it out, they shouldn’t go so far as to suspect the reason why I was carrying Slime Jelly on me.
「After a careful inspection of the condition of the raw material, if you wish, we can also buy it for a high price!」
…That’s what I’d like to believe.
Carrying Yuel sound asleep on my back, we walk through the forest. Before even 20 minutes have passed, we make it out of the forest. Spreading out before my eyes is a vast, gently sloping plain. Paved with a road. It’s the highway.
Together with a few knights and Ruruka’s group, we walk along the road. Unlike when we left, there are considerably fewer people. There’s only a few knights, one of the healers attached to the knight brigade, and Ruruka’s trio.
When I ask about what happened after I fell into the river, it seems the knight brigade split into two groups after that.
One group became the search party, consisting of Ruruka’s party who volunteered for it, a few knights including Marietta, and a single healer.
And the other group comprised the main force, with the rest of the knights, healers, and wizards. The main force apparently marched straight toward the city in order to escort the civilian healers. Also, it seems they had another reason to return to the city in a hurry.
As for the search party, they proceeded in a straight line toward the response from Ruruka’s earring, and they finally caught up with us this morning as we were up against the wolf monsters.
「Hahhhh, it’s broken. That earring.」
Suddenly, Ruruka mutters apathetically.
After we collect the Armor Ogre’s corpse, we also recover the earring which was an expensive magic tool, but mine was broken. It was split in half by the Armor Ogre’s claw.
Ruruka is really regretting that. Well, it was a fairly expensive magic tool.
…But there’s one thing I want to ask Ruruka about that magic tool no matter what.
「Hey Ruruka, that earring, you gave it to me right?」
「Yeah? That’s right, why?」
Ruruka answers with a quizzical expression.
「Even after this subjugation was over, you were going to let me keep it, right?」
「W-Well, that’s right.」
Ruruka’s voice slightly raises in pitch. Perhaps she’s already guessed what I want to say to her.
「…In other words, I wouldn’t have had any idea that that earring was a magic tool, and you’d be able to determine my whereabouts at any time?」
Ruruka immediately stiffens. There’s a brief silence.
Then Ruruka leans her whole body cutely and gives me a sweet smile. Her deception is completely exposed.
…I can pretty much imagine what she was thinking. I bet she was thinking of “accidentally” running into me when I’m eating at the tavern and sponging a meal off of me, or encountering me in the labyrinth and getting free treatment, things like that.
That was dangerous. That was truly dangerous. If that earring hadn’t been destroyed, and one day I slipped away from Yuel and Eris and visited the adult establishment recommended by Geyser, the odds that Ruruka would find out are fairly high. I wouldn’t have a shred of privacy.
She casually did something outrageous to me. Well, that’s also how we were saved, so it’s not like I’ll speak too harshly.
「L-Look, it’s just a little further to the city! Once we’re over that hill, we’ll be able to see it! 」
Ruruka blatantly tries to change the subject.
But I guess what she’s saying is true. We can finally go home. I spur on my tired body along the road. Then, at the summit of the gentle hill.
From that point, the high ramparts of the city of Merhatz come into view.
However, the cityscape that gives off the feel of a bygone era doesn’t enter my vision.
Because there’s something more eye-catching than that. Not even a hundred meters from the city, just a stone’s throw away.
Over there, there’s something one size larger than the one we subjugated. A Krankheit Turtle’s corpse is lying there.