Chapter 3 – The Desired Playstyle
One week after Kazaya had gone shopping with Chihiro.
As usual, Kazaya was once again exploring islands on Grimveria.
Chihiro, who accompanied him, had also become very proficient at moving around and using her weapon.
“Tsugami-kun! Dodge to your right!”
Kazaya jumped aside as instructed, and an arrow of light sped past him. There were several demonic beasts called 『Gran Goblins』 in front of them. These creatures were also known as a higher-rank version of the Class Goblins with differently colored skin.
The arrow pierced one of the goblins and exploded. The fragments of the arrow rained down on the surrounding goblins, and they collapsed at the same time.
This was a new ability of Chihiro’s Divine Works. While each individual attack was not very powerful, it had the ability to scatter and damage all enemies within a limited area.
“Well done, Senpai! You beat them all by yourself!”
Kazaya praised Chihiro, and she gave him a thumbs-up.
“I can’t fall behind either… Take this, foul demonic beast. Fear my power and begone!”
Kazaya faced off against a different monster that had appeared in the surroundings along with the Gran Goblins and swung a demonic sword imbued with the power of the wind. The wind pressure sliced the demonic beast to ribbons and brought it down.
“…….An unworthy opponent.”
There were eight enemies in total including the Grand Goblins, so Kazaya and Chihiro each stored four of them in their Insect Cages. Immediately after, a light-hearted sound rang out. It was the notification for a level-up.
However, it was not for Chihiro, but for Kazaya.
“Congratulations, Tsugami-kun. Your stylish playstyle is also in top form!”
“Thank you, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t pay too much attention to that….”
He just couldn’t seem to shake that habit. Kazaya turned his face away in embarrassment.
“……Alright then, how about we take a break?”
Kazaya and Chihiro were currently on Island #4. It was an island with many rocky hills, making it a prime location for mining stone that was used to build houses and pave roads. It was also a good place to find metal ore that could be used to make tools and armor for Visitors.
They had come over to this island because a carpenter had left a job request for Kazaya at Bado’s inn. Kazaya had accepted that request while also considering that it would be good training for Chihiro.
“Here you go.”
Kazaya accepted what Chihiro offered him. It was a packed meal that they had purchased at the Spring Bell Inn for eating during their trip.
The meal consisted of large portions of chicken, several varieties of cheese, and slices of a vegetable similar to cucumbers that served as an accent, sandwiched between thick slices of bread. This was one of Bado’s specialties, and it was apparently quite popular in Grimveria.
He sat down on a nearby boulder and bit into the sandwich. The taste of chicken seasoned with pepper spread throughout his mouth, and he found it to be very delicious.
Kazaya made a sound while looking at his level display screen as he ate his lunch.
“What’s the matter, Tsugami-kun?”
Chihiro asked him while drinking black tea from a bottle.
“Ah, it’s nothing. I leveled up earlier, right? I can learn a new skill after leveling up once more… but it looks like I’ll have to defeat around ten island bosses to get there.”
Chihiro silently mouthed the phrase “ten island bosses” and showed a shocked expression.
“That is quite the number. It sounds difficult.”
“That’s right. The ability of my Divine Works 『Demonic Sword』 is very useful, but on the other hand, the number of skills I can use is quite low. A new skill is guaranteed make my Divine Works more powerful, so I want to obtain it.”
“Aren’t there any good ways to go about it?”
“Well, sure… but even so, I’m not sure it will work out.”
While struggling to decide on what to do, Kazaya stuffed the last piece of bread into his mouth.
“Putting that aside, it looks like you’ve become quite strong, Senpai. Defeating a band of Class Goblins by yourself is considered to be amazing, and yet you managed to defeat demonic beasts of an even higher level by yourself.”
“Fufu, thank you. It’s all because of your excellent guidance, Tsugami-kun.”
Chihiro replied while smiling, and then suddenly looked downwards.
“But… now that I have come this far, I guess I can’t spend time with you anymore, Tsugami-kun.”
“Eh? Why is that?”
“Those monsters from earlier, they’re called goblins, right? You told me earlier that a Visitor is considered to be experienced if they can defeat the goblins on their own. Doesn’t that mean that we are nearly done with the lessons and you won’t be teaching me for much longer?”
“……Ah. T-That’s right.”
Kazaya scratched his cheek as he realized that he had completely forgotten about that.
“I’d feel guilty if I forced you to accompany me for any longer, Tsugami-kun. You originally preferred to work alone, right? You don’t need to worry about me anymore. Thanks for all that you have done for me so far.”
Chihiro said that with a smile, but her expression was tinged with loneliness. It was so slight that Kazaya only noticed it because he had spent a lot of time with her recently.
Chihiro was very good at keeping her emotions in check. She was probably suppressing her real feelings. Kazaya started to think while looking at Chihiro.
(…Hmm? What is this feeling?)
A certain thought occurred to Kazaya. Or rather, it was something that had been at the back of his mind for a long time.
(I see… So that’s how it is.)
He finally realized it, and he was able to accept it.
Kazaya whispered that. He then looked into her eyes and steeled his resolve.
However, he was not able to finish his sentence. At that exact moment, a sound different from the one used to indicate a level-up rang out.
Should this be considered good timing or bad timing? Kazaya smiled bitterly.
“Try opening your status screen.”
Following his advice, Chihiro moved her finger through the air. Kazaya mirrored her action.
Apart from the three numbers that were usually displayed on the status screen, there was now some text on the screen as well.
『This is an important announcement from Grimveria! Starting now, the amount of exp that is earned by defeating regular demonic beasts will be increased for two days! What’s more, defeating bosses will net you twice the usual exp! Don’t miss this opportunity to go hunting and collect plenty of raw materials and food!』
After reading the text carefully, Chihiro turned to look at Kazaya.
“……What’s with this overly enthusiastic and cheerful tone?”
“It sounds like an event from an online social game. Or rather, that’s exactly what it is.”
Kazaya closed the display screen and started to explain.
“The goddess sends messages like this once in a while to rekindle the Visitors’ enthusiasm for exploring islands. Most of them are just about defeating demonic beasts, but sometimes you can even get an unconditional level up or a rare skill that suits your Divine Works in exchange for obtaining some rare materials.”
“Oh? Looks like the goddess comes up with a lot of interesting things.”
Most likely, she wanted to end the current stalemate and increase the number of conquered islands.
That was what the goddess Grimveria wanted from the Visitors, after all.
“Still, double the the experience points, huh? Since you want to raise your level, isn’t this perfect for you, Tsugami-kun?”
“……Yes. That’s right.”
Kazaya nodded in agreement. It was almost as though the goddess was supporting his growth.
“Senpai, there is something I would like your help with.”
From his tone, Chihiro must have sensed that he was being serious. Her expression stiffened slightly.
“A lot of people have asked me about this, and I always wanted to take up this challenge as well. You’ve gotten pretty good at fighting as well, Senpai, and now the goddess has given us a Divination. I think that now is the best time to go through with this.”
“What are you planning to do?”
“Would you be willing to… go on an expedition to an uncharted island with me?”
Chihiro tilted her head slightly to one side.
“Uncharted island… hmm? Wait, didn’t the old man at the Exchange say something about that to you a while ago?”
“That’s right. I didn’t tell you anything about them back then because I thought that you wouldn’t need that information for quite a while yet, but I will explain it to you know.”
Kazaya reached into his pocket and pulled out his map. He then spread it out on a flat rock that was nearby. Chihiro came closer while holding her sandwich in one hand.
“As I’ve told you before, Grimveria has a number of islands. Broadly speaking, the islands can be divided into two categories; 『Conquered』 and 『Unconquered』.”
“Conquered… Are those the islands that we have been visiting so far?”
“Conquered islands are those where the boss has already been defeated once and a large part of the island has been explored. However, there are islands that have not been conquered… Which means that the island boss has not been defeated even once.”
“Why is that?”
“There are a number of reasons, but the most important one is that the boss is simply too strong and no one is equal to the task. There are a lot of islands that have already been conquered and there is no danger of running out of food or materials in the near future, so there is no problem even if we avoid the uncharted islands for now. That is why those islands have been ignored for a long time.”
“How long, exactly?”
“I don’t know the details because I only came to this world for the first time a few months ago, but it is likely that no one has attempted to visit one for a very long time. There are probably some islands that have not been visited since the Visitors first started to appear in this world.”
“……And you want to challenge something like that, Tsugami-kun?”
Chihiro looked at his face for confirmation, and Kazaya nodded.
“I told you this when we first met, didn’t I? That my dream was to explore every inch of this world without leaving anything out. This is the first step towards that goal. Conquering an uncharted island, that is.”
After saying that, Kazaya spoke in a tone of caution.
“However, the islands have remained unconquered despite the number of Visitors who are present in this world. It should be obvious that the level of difficulty will be far higher than anything else you have experienced. What’s more, because the islands have been left alone for so long, we don’t have any information about the bosses. To be frank, our chances of victory are slim.”
“So that’s why you haven’t attempted to explore them until now.”
“That’s right. If I was still alone like I was back then, I might have once again given up. I would have given excuses like wanting to raise my skill just a little bit higher before trying. But I’m not alone anymore. You’re here with me, Senpai.”
Kazaya looked directly at Chihiro and continued to speak.
“If you are willing to help me, Senpai, I think we can make this work. No, I will definitely make it work.”
“But I heard that you preferred to work alone….”
“That’s right. But after seeing you fight earlier… I just felt like asking for your help.”
Kazaya said that in a slightly bashful tone, and even Chihiro started to blush.
“A-Ahem. Even so, no matter how much my level has gone up recently, I am still lacking experience.”
“That’s fine. You have a good sense for battle, Senpai. When it comes to action games, the most important things are reflexes, split-second judgment, and the ability to keep your cool under any circumstances. From what I have seen so far, you possess all those attributes, Senpai.”
After declaring that, Kazaya unwaveringly bowed his head.
“Please help me. You will probably experience some scary and dangerous things, but I would like your help.”
Chihiro replied without missing a beat.
“R-Really!? Are you sure you don’t want to give it some thought!?”
Her behavior was so unexpected that Kazaya was thrown for a loop.
“What are you talking about? You have been granting my wishes all this time, Tsugami-kun. If there’s a way for me to repay you, then I am the one who should be begging you to let me help! ….Also, It makes me happy that you decided to ask.”
Chihiro held Kazaya’s hand and smiled.
“You have been alone all this time, and the first person you picked to go on an adventure alongside you is me, right? It is an honor, and definitely something worth doing. Let us do it, Tsugami-kun. If there is anything that I can do… I will do my best to make your dream come true!”
“……Thank you, Senpai.”
Kazaya covered Chihiro’s hand with his own and felt his chest grow warm. He was glad that he decided to say it. He truly thought that.
“In that case, see you in this world again after school tomorrow.”
“Yes. It’s time to kick off the expedition to the uncharted island!”
After exchanging those words, Kazaya and Chihiro nodded to each other.
The day of the expedition started off with clear weather. It was as though the world of Grimveria itself was supporting their endeavor. Kazaya was in high spirits as he boarded a ship along with Chihiro.
The ferryman opened his eyes wide in surprise when Kazaya told him that that they wanted to go to 『Island #10』.
“Island #10!? Sure, the uncharted islands might have raw materials and foodstuffs that the other islands don’t have. It might make the merchants happy, but that’s a dangerous place.”
“Yes, I know. Please take us there.”
Seeing Kazaya bow his head and request that, the ferryman stared at him silently for a while and eventually nodded.
“Alright. Since the 『Lightning-quick wielder of the Demonic Sword』 said that, I guess there is some hope. I’ll take you to the island.”
The ferryman instructed his fellow crewmates, and the ship began to move.
The ship cut through the blue ocean while being pushed forwards by the salty air for slightly more than an hour.
Before long, a small island covered with dense foliage came into view.
“Senpai, that is Island #10…. It is a place that no one has managed to conquer yet.”
Kazaya said that while almost trembling, but not due to fear. It was due to his near-uncontrollable curiosity. It was similar to the sense of excitement that a person playing an RPG would feel when they obtained a boat and set out for a new continent. What was waiting for them over there, and what would happen once they reached the shore? Just thinking about those things made his heart beat faster.
“What is this feeling? I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the same feeling as when I first came to this world.”
Chihiro smiled broadly. Perhaps she felt the same way.
Eventually, the ship arrived at Island #10. The two of them disembarked and walked up the beach.
In front of them lay a dense jungle that looked similar to the depths of the Amazon rainforest. The entire island was covered with tall trees. They could hear the cries of mysterious animals coming from various directions.
“Uwaah, this is unsettling. It feels like there might be lions living in there.”
Chihiro gulped while looking up at the trees of the jungle. As expected, even she was experiencing an indescribable sense of unease.
“Lions don’t live in dense jungles, Senpai.”
“I-I knew that already. In that case, how about sparrows?”
“Even if there were sparrows in there, why would that be a problem!?”
Kazaya retorted, and Chihiro stuck her tongue out at him. Thanks the the usual banter, Kazaya felt more at ease. He thought that Chihiro had intentionally spoken frivolously for exactly that reason, but…
“If you turn ‘jungle’ into ‘jingle’, it feels more like a foreign festival, right?”
When he heard her mutter that to herself, he realized that she was just talking without thinking.
“……There’s no telling what might happen. Let’s be careful.”
Kazaya said that and started walking, and Chihiro followed him.
Kazaya summoned a demonic sword to clear away the undergrowth in their path. The dense vegetation around them blocked the sunlight and plunged their surroundings into deep darkness. It was difficult to see more than a few feet ahead. At this rate, they could be ambushed at any time.
Chihiro let out an inquisitive sound. When Kazaya looked around, he saw that Chihiro had stopped walking as if she had discovered something. When he followed her line of sight, he saw a small creature sitting under a tree a short distance away.
If you had to compare it to an animal from Earth, it looked a lot like a rabbit. It had long ears, fluffy white fur, and red eyes. However, it had two tails and a sharp horn growing out of its forehead.
“It’s so cute! Is that a demonic beast too?”
That was probably the case, but even Kazaya had never seen anything like it before. It appeared to be a creature that did not live on the other islands. The rabbit—or whatever it was—was staring intently at them. However, Kazaya could not sense and hostility from it. If anything, he felt that it just stopped to take a look because it was curious about them.
“What are you called?”
Chihiro bent down and talked to the creature. However the rabbit look-alike just tilted its head to one side.
“It’s not going to answer you, Senpai. It is a demonic beast, after all.”
“You can’t know that for sure! It wouldn’t be strange if there were demonic beasts that were capable of communicating with us!”
That was certainly plausible. It was possible that he had just not met any demonic beasts of that kind so far, and there was a chance that the other uncharted islands might have intelligent demonic beasts as well.
“Come here~ I won’t hurt you or anything. I definitely won’t do anything to you, so just come over here for a little while~ I’m not lying, I really won’t do anything to you~”
Chihiro looked at the rabbit look-alike and beckoned towards it. However, it did not come any closer to her.
“What you just said sounded like something a villain would say.”
Kazaya said that, but it didn’t look like the rabbit look-alike was wary of them. It was just sitting there with its nose twitching, as if it was expecting something.
“Should we try to get closer to it instead?”
“That’s dangerous. Demonic beasts basically consider humans to be their enemies. It might be a trap.”
“That might be true, but… something so small couldn’t possibly do anything dangerous.”
Kazaya scratched his head while thinking that she had a point, and Chihiro slowly approached the rabbit look-alike. It took a step back at first, but it didn’t look like it was going to run away.
In fact, once Chihiro reached its side and cautiously stretched her hand out towards it, it meekly allowed itself to be patted.
“Look, it’s perfectly safe. It’s friendly. So cute—!”
“I guess you were right.”
Kazaya felt let down as he had been standing ready with a Demonic sword just in case something happened.
(Was I overthinking it? I assumed that all demonic beasts were ferocious, but maybe there are exceptions…?)
He might need to change the way he looked at demonic beasts in the future. Just as he was thinking that…
All of a sudden, he sensed the presence of something massive just behind the rabbit look-alike. It was something that Kazaya was only able to sense due to his extensive experience in fighting against demonic beasts; an overwhelming killing intent that sent shivers down his spine.
“This is…. !?”
Kazaya was struck dumb when he took his eyes off the rabbit look-alike and looked above it.
He saw a beast that towered over them. Its body was completely covered in needle-like bristles, and it had arms like logs with claws that resembled knives. It had bloodshot, red eyes and sharp fangs set in irregular intervals were visible inside its open mouth. It looked like a cross between a porcupine and a bear. This was yet another demonic beast that he had never seen before.
He had not noticed its approach because of the dark surroundings.
“Senpai! Get away from there!”
Kazaya hurriedly shouted directions, turned around, and started to run.
The demonic beast swung one of its arms and easily gouged furrows in the ground where the two of them had been standing just an instant ago.
Clumps of dirt and dust were sent flying into the air, and the demonic beast roared in frustration as its prey avoided its attack.
However, what was surprising was not just the power behind that attack.
While expelling air from its mouth, the porcupine-bear swung its tail like a whip.
The rabbit look-alike they had seen earlier was attached to the end of that sharp tail. That didn’t mean that the rabbit look-alike was clinging to its tail or anything.
“The creature from earlier… is growing out of that thing’s tail!?”
Chihiro shouted in a confused voice. She was right. The tail of the demonic beast and the rump of the rabbit look-alike were fused together. In other words, the rabbit look-alike was a part of the porcupine-bear’s body.
“……I see. So it was a fake bait.”
After realizing that, Kazaya ground his teeth.
He had heard that monkfish that dwelt in the depths of the ocean would use the shining light that was attached to their foreheads to lure their prey, and assault them from under the sand when the prey had let down its guard.
This porcupine-bear had done the same thing.
“I can’t forgive this demonic beast for using something so cute as bait. It’s time for your punishment!”
Chihiro arched her fine eyebrows and summoned her own Divine Works. She nocked an arrow of light and shot it out. The arrow flew true and scored a direct hit on the porcupine-bear. It faltered for a second, but immediately recovered its posture.
Not only that, it faced Kazaya and immediately charged towards them.
“Senpai, dodge to the right!”
After saying that, Kazaya rolled to his left. Without missing a beat, he raised his demonic sword and jumped in to attack.
“Ferocious beast, I swear by the title of Visitor, I will deliver your just punishment!”
The instant before his sword pierced the porcupine-bear, a shrill sound rang out.
The porcupine-bear had swung its tail and used it as a shield. It felt as hard as steel.
“Your defence is not bad. It looks like you are quite capable after all!”
The porcupine-bear swung its tail at him the moment he landed, so he jumped backwards to gain some distance. Although he had the Protective Barrier, it would not do to reduce its durability needlessly.
(The most effective way to deal with an enemy like this is to crush it with overwhelming force or to choose a method that doesn’t require physical contact, but……)
However, the porcupine-bear was freely swinging its tail around and preventing him from getting close to it. Rushing in blindly would be counterproductive. In that case, his options were limited.
“Senpai, use your 『Fragmentation Arrow』. But fire it a little ahead of the target.”
He was talking about the exploding arrow she had used the other day, one of the skills of her Divine Works.
For a second, Chihiro looked like she didn’t under what he was saying, but she immediately nodded. She probably believed that he wouldn’t say something like that for no reason.
“Please fire on my signal!”
The instant Chihiro raised her bow, Kazaya broke into a sprint. The porcupine-bear roared and raised its paw to strike down the foolish opponent who had dared to jump within its reach.
An arrow flew forward with great speed and struck the ground immediately in front of him. The instant it touched the ground, it exploded and turned into shards. However, because it had not struck the enemy, all it did was to open up a hole in the ground and kick up a large amount of dust.
However, that was exactly what Kazaya had been waiting for.
Due to the thick dust hanging in the air, the porcupine-bear had lost sight of him. Taking advantage of that opening, Kazaya moved to the creature’s flank and shouted.
“Ye weapon clad in freezing storms, appear in my hand—Hailstorm King!”
The porcupine-bear figured out his location from the sound of his voice and swung its tail down at him. The attack hit his Protective Barrier and bounced off, but taking a single attack of that caliber was not a big deal.
Kazaya gripped the sword that had appeared and pointed its slender blade at the giant creature before him. A cold wind blew around his surroundings, and the porcupine-bear’s body was frozen solid instantly. Without hesitating for even a second, Kazaya dispelled the weapon he was currently holding and summoned a different weapon.
“Ye heavenly weapon that cuts through all of creation, appear in my hand—Azure Sky King!”
He grabbed the sword that was longer than he was tall with both hands.
“Return your soul to the heavens!”
He swung the sword down from overhead in one swift strike. Due the fact that it was frozen solid, the porcupine-bear could not make a single move to avoid it and just shattered into pieces.
They had succeeded in killing the enemy. Kazaya released his pent-up breath and stood up straight.
“You did it!”
Chihiro called out to him while coming closer.
“Yeah. Still, I’ve never seen a demonic beast like this before. It was really quite a shock. Just what I would expect from an uncharted island.”
Kazaya started to think while taking out his Insect Cage to store the remnants of the porcupine-bear.
(I managed to defeat it, but smashing it to pieces after freezing it doesn’t leave behind much in the way of raw materials… Besides, it was a new demonic beast that no one has ever seen before, maybe I should start thinking of a more efficient way to capture things.)
While he was thinking about things like that, Chihiro asked him a question.
“By the way, what is this demonic beast called?”
“Hmm? Ah, it doesn’t have a name. Not yet, at least.”
“I see. But all the other demonic beasts we’ve encountered until now had names, right?”
“Ah. Those are names that were arbitrarily decided by the Visitors who first encountered and defeated them. The names get circulated in places like taverns, and eventually everyone starts calling them by those names.”
That was the reason why the demonic beasts had names like 『Orc』 and 『Slime』, words that would commonly appear in manga or games from Earth.
“Oh? In that case, it should be fine for us to give this one a name, right? What do you think of something like ‘Porcupine-Bear Tarou’!?”
Upon hearing that name, Kazaya’s knees nearly gave way.
“Umm… It might become a name that everyone uses, so let’s try to think of a cooler name, okay?”
“Eeehh? I thought that was a pretty cool name, though. In that case, how about something like Bear Spears Mauzer Growls?”
“It’s too long and overblown! Why is always such extremes with you…”
The image of Gori-san suddenly darted through his mind.
“All you do is complain. In that case, why don’t you give it a name!?”
“……Fine. How about 『Spears Bear』?”
“Oh? It’s nice and simple. A Spears Bear, or a Spebear for short!”
“No, there’s no need to shorten it.”
Kazaya once again started walking after shaking his head.
It was not just the demonic beasts that were unfamiliar. The island was filled with flora and fauna that Kazaya had never seen before on any of the other islands.
“Hey, Tsugami-kun, do you think this is edible?”
Chihiro was holding out a fruit that looked like a lemon. However it was covered in green spots that made it look like it was diseased.
“……It looks poisonous, don’t you think?”
“Really? But you know what they say, the worse it looks, the better it tastes! It might be okay!”
“Going by that logic, even poisonous toadstools should be fine to eat.”
They were all colored gaudily in red and white, after all.
“Huh…. I guess you have a point. Yep. Eating it is probably a bad idea.. But if I eat it and it turns out ot be okay, I would be a pioneer. I’m going to eat it. I’m going to eat it, Tsugami-kun!”
“There’s no point in trying to be a pioneer if you end up dead! I’ll just put it away in my Insect Cage for now.”
Kazaya sucked the lemon-like fruit into his Insect Cage to keep Chihiro from eating it.
“Ah, in that case, how about that fruit, Tsugami-kun?”
“That one looks even scarier. It looks like a cross between a mango, an eggplant, and a pineapple. I don’t even want to think about how it tastes.”
“That’s why I said that we should become pioneers in the field of fruit! That’s something only we can do since we came to an uncharted island!”
“And what if we end up poisoning ourselves? I don’t want that!”
“Hmph. Such a pity. Tsugami-kun, you are lacking the mentality of an explorer….. Oh, look at that plant. Doesn’t it look like the Tokyo Skytree?”
“Ah, you’re right. It looks exactly like the Skytree. That’s not something you see everyday, so let’s take a picture.”
The two of them had a lot of fun exploring the unknown island that was full of things they had never seen before.
“Still, where do you think the boss of this island is? We haven’t found the slightest hint of its location so far.”
“You’re right. On the other islands, the boss would usually be found roughly at the center of the island, so that’s why I’m heading to the center of this island as well.”
Kazaya thought that it would be nice to have a hint of some sort, when he heard a loud noise.
“……Hmm? What was that?”
It was coming from the direction that they were headed in. Kazaya glanced at Chihiro and the two of them nodded to each other silently, and he picked up the pace.
After moving through the thick undergrowth, they came across a sight that they had not expected.
“Hell yeah, let’s do thiiiiisss!”
The man who was carrying a large rucksack and let out a yell that sounded like it would reverberate throughout the island was was none other than Souya Tohru. His raised arm was covered in a shell of steel, and his fist was clenched. In front of him was a demonic beast that looked like a rhinoceros.
The demonic beast had a large number of horns that looked like double-edged swords growing out of its forehead. It snorted and kicked the ground multiple times before suddenly charging. In response, Tohru faced it head on.
He leaned forward, pulled back his fist, and nailed the demonic beast squarely in the face with a punch.
“Haaaaaa! Take this! 『Great Ironclad Smash』!”
After he yelled that, his fist began to emit a large amount of light. The next second, a loud sound similar to that of an excavator breaking through dense bedrock reverberated throughout the surroundings, and a giant spear of light ripped through the demonic beast’s body.
The rhinoceros-like demonic beast’s eyes rolled up in its head and it collapsed.
“……Amazing. Is that Souya-kun’s Divine Works?”
“That’s right. His Divine Works is called 『Bomb Lance』. A spear bursts out from the tip of that gauntlet-like weapon and takes down the target. Have you heard of a tool called a nail gun that is used by carpenters? This is something like a scaled-up version of that.”
After explaining that to Chihiro, Kazaya called out to Tohru who was storing the remains of the rhinoceros-like demonic beast in his Insect Cage.
“So you came here as well, Souya.”
Hearing that, Tohru looked in their direction and approached them with a wave and a smile.
“Kazaya! So you ended up coming here as well? Were you baited by the double exp campaign?”
“Pretty much. Still, it’s surprising that we picked the same island.”
As there were other uncharted islands besides the one they were currently standing on, Kazaya felt a strange sense of fate.
“By the way, I didn’t come here alone!”
Saying that, Tohru pointed behind him and turned around as though he was inviting them to follow.
Kazaya glanced at Chihiro and she nodded in agreement. After confirming that, Kazaya followed Tohru.
He had a faint inkling of who Tohru was talking about, and when they reached a clearing, he saw a familiar person there.
As he had expected, Kotobuki Izumi was standing there with her hands in her pockets.
The demonic beast that Izumi was fighting against looked like an insect that was twice her size. It had a polished carapace that had a speckled pattern on it, and a small head with a pair of pincers that looked strong enough to cut through anything. It looked a lot like the long-horned beetle that lived on Earth.
The demonic beast moved towards her with a rustling sound, but Izumi didn’t so much as bat an eyelid. She just stood there with a provocative smile.
“Isn’t Kotobuki-san in danger?”
Chihiro asked Kazaya in a low voice, but he just shook his head.
“She’ll be fine. Kotobuki is one of Grimveria’s veteran Visitors, after all.”
As if to prove Kazaya’s words….
Izumi slightly straightened her body and raised her hand against the demonic beast that was about to trap her in its pincers.
“—Go on, then.”
She snapped her fingers, causing a dry sound. The next instant, the insect-like demonic beast was securely wrapped in multiple layers of vines that came shooting out of nowhere. At the same time, they felt a vibration in the ground beneath their feet and something appeared from the shadows.
The thing that appeared was covered in leaves and moss, and it looked to be around ten meters tall. It was a giant humanoid that looked like a tree. It had probably been crouching in the shadows and hiding until now.
The giant approached the demonic beast that Izumi pointed at and wordlessly raised its fist.
In the next instant, a low sound reverberated through the surroundings. The demonic beast was easily crushed by the giant, like a child killing an insect.
After Izumi confirmed that the demonic beast had been crushed, she pulled out her Insect Cage while speaking.
“Good work, you can rest now.”
Hearing that, the giant knelt down and became motionless. It looked like a robot that had its power source turned off.
“This is in a completely different category from the two of us, Tsugami-kun. What exactly is her Divine Works?”
Chihiro asked in a slightly shocked tone.
“Her Divine Works is called 『Puppet』. She can freely control any inorganic matter or plants that she touches. As you can see from that giant, she can even change the shape of trees and boulders to a certain extent to suit her needs. It’s a very useful ability.”
As Kazaya explained that to Chihiro, Izumi turned in their direction.
“Oh? So you came as well, Kazaya.”
“Yeah. I didn’t expect both you and Souya to come to the same place as well, Kotobuki. I guess we think alike.”
Hearing Kazaya say that, Izumi did not bother to hide the look of disgust on her face.
“Having the same idea as you is one thing, but I don’t want to be told that I had the same idea as Tohru. Just thinking about that is annoying.”
“You can say that, but we ended up having the same idea after all! No matter what you say, the two of us always end up in the same place!”
Tohru walked closer to Izumi and slapped her on the back several times.
“Hey, don’t touch me so casually! The two of us just can’t seem to get rid of each other, that’s all!”
“Hahaha! My bad, my bad!”
Tohru let out an exaggerated laugh with no sign of remorse on his face.
“I wonder if I should seriously send him flying for once. Using my giant.”
“Divine Works don’t work against other Visitors. They are only useful against demonic beasts.”
“I know that!”
Kazaya decided to give her a warning just in case, and Izumi snapped at him. He had apparently said something unnecessary.
“By the way, if you and Tohru are here to defeat the boss as well, I can’t afford to be careless. Putting Tohru aside for the moment, I get the feeling you’ll defeat the boss before me if I let down my guard, Kazaya.”
“Hahaha! If you let down your guard, I will surpass you as well!”
Izumi grimaced and covered her ears after Tohru yelled that in a loud voice.
“Geez, how many times do I have to tell you to control your volume when you speak!? What are you, a broken TV?”
“Hahahaha! A broken TV, she said! Hahahahaha!”
“It wasn’t that funny! Are you making fun of me!?”
“Hahahaha! No, I’m not! A broken TV, hahahahahaha! Hahahahaha!”
“Stop laughing already!”
Izumi kicked Tohru’s shin, but it didn’t seem to affect him at all.
“Anyway, the friendly banter ends here. After this, it’s going to be a race to see who can defeat the boss first.”
Izumi said that with her hands on her hips, and Tohru smacked his fist into his palm.
“That sounds good! So we’re rivals, huh!? Waaaaaaah! I’m getting fired up!”
“That’s good, you can just go ahead and burn.”
“Hahaha! I won’t turn into charcoal! I will live along with the flames foreveeeer!”
“What the heck is wrong with this guy’s brain…… Anyway!”
After showing a stumped expression for a second, Izumi recovered her poise.
“I will be the one to defeat this island’s boss! That has already been decided!”
“Hey Kotobuki, do you know the location of this island’s boss?”
Izumi looked at Kazaya with an exasperated expression when he asked her that.
“Look here, Kazaya. I just said that we are rivals. What makes you think that I would hand over information to a person who is competing against me?”
“I think it’s around five kilometers north of here. I looked over the whole island from an elevated position and saw that there was an abnormally large cave over there. That’s probably its nest.”
However, Tohru gave Kazaya the information without hesitating.
“Why the heck did you tell him that so easily!? Are you an idiot!? Are you actually an idiot!?”
Izumi stretched her hands out, grabbed Tohru’s collar, and started shaking him.
“Hahaha! I already gave you the information earlier, Izumi! It wouldn’t be fair if we kept it a secret only from Kazaya!”
“Aargh, this is why I hate people who are into sports! Damn idiots with their concept of fair play!”
After stamping her feet in frustration, Izumi glared at Kazaya with a sharp gaze.
“Fine! So now we’re all at the same starting line! The competition starts now!”
“Sure, that sounds interesting. I’ll take you up on that challenge.”
Kazaya said as he thumped his chest, and Chihiro, who was standing beside him, also nodded.
“That’s right. We won’t lose to the two of you!”
Hearing that, the corners of Izumi’s mouth lifted up into grin.
“Just you wait and see. I’m going to defeat the boss for sure. Wake up, Golem!”
The tree giant stood up after hearing Izumi’s command. Izumi stepped on the hand that the giant held out and climbed up to its shoulder.
“Ah! That looks nice. I want one too!”
Chihiro said that as she looked at the giant. Kazaya also silently agreed with her. The otherworld fantasy feeling of that sight made him feel jealous.
Izumi waved her hand, and the giant started to walk with slow but large strides.
“Alright. I guess I should go as well. See you later, Kazaya!”
After adjusting his rucksack, Tohru also energetically walked away.
“Alright! We can’t lose to them either! Hip hip! Let’s go!”
“Eh!? What about the ‘hurray’? Senpai, what about the ‘hurray’!? It doesn’t feel right if you leave that out!”
After the two of them had left, Kazaya and Chihiro also set out for the location where they would likely find the boss while talking about one thing or another.
The person who initially had an overwhelming lead in this impromptu race to the boss was Izumi. The giant she was riding on was like a moving fortress, after all.
The giant easily cut a swathe through even the tallest trees that blocked its path and forcefully tore through the annoying underbrush. The strides of the giant were already a lot larger than a person’s, so the gap between Izumi and others only continued to widen.
“Oh, come on. Isn’t Kotobuki-san’s Divine Works kind of unfair?”
“That’s true. But Divine Works are random, after all. There’s no way to choose what Divine Works you get.”
After replying to Chihiro, Kazaya let out a small sigh. There was currently no way to tell what criteria the goddess looked at while assigning the Divine Works to the Visitors.
“Hahahaha! That’s the way, Golem, keep moving forward! I’m going to write a novel based on this adventure and submit it to the Rookie of the Year contest!”
Obeying Izumi who was sitting on its shoulder and pointing forwards, the golem continued to run forward in the lead.
However, Izumi was not able to get carried away any for much longer.
It happened after they covered a few kilometers. Kazaya and the others who were making their way towards the boss while fighting against the demonic beasts suddenly heard a thunderous roar and ran forwards while wondering what had happened.
Once they arrived at the location, they saw that the golem had fallen over.
“Aah, seriously! Pull yourself together!”
After being scolded severely by Izumi, the golem stood up while rubbing its head.
The opponent that was giving Izumi a hard time was readily apparent.
“Uwaah… That’s harsh.”
Kazaya said that while looking at the 『wall』 that was in front of them. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t really a wall. It was a mountain of stone that seemed to stretch out endlessly to the left and the right. The peak of the mountain wasn’t all that high up, but it looked steep and difficult to climb.
Izumi’s golem started to climb up the rock face, but it looked like it was having a hard time. Although it was able to perform simple tasks like walking and attacking enemies without too much trouble, it apparently had difficulty with more complicated movements.
“Hahaha! Looks like your Divine Works is not perfect, Izumi!”
Hearing Tohru say that while laughing at the base of the mountain, Izumi replied angrily from above. However, as if to prove his words, the golem lost its footing and slowly slid back down to the ground.
“Ok, I guess I’ll go on ahead. Later, Kazaya!”
Saying that, Tohru put down his rucksack and took something out of it. It was rod-shaped and had a pointed tip, a tool that was known as an ice axe. After that, he took out a rope from the rucksack and wrapped it around his waist. He then swung the other end of the rope that had a hook attached to it, and energetically threw it upwards where the hook securely dug into the rock. After confirming that, Tohru used the ice axe to skilfully start climbing the mountain.
“Uwaah, Souya-kun looks really experienced at that. Is he really a high school student?”
Chihiro looked up at Tohru with an impressed expression, and Kazaya nodded.
“Apart from his club activities, he told me that he also goes bouldering as a hobby. I think he must have experienced climbs like this several times.”
Tohru was indeed heading towards the peak of the mountain at an astonishing pace. He had overtaken Izumi’s struggling golem in the blink of an eye.
“Well then… We can’t afford to sit around idle either. But how should we do this? I have never climbed anything like this before. I can promise you that there is a greater than ninety percent chance that I will fall down.”
“Promising me that doesn’t make me feel any better. I have never climbed anything this steep, but I have been in similar situations before. I’ll do something about it… Ye endless chain that restrains for all of eternity, appear in my hand—Snakebite King!”
Kazaya gripped the demonic sword that he had summoned and pointed it upward.
The next instant, the blade started to extend like a living thing. After extending for quite a distance, the tip of the blade bent slightly and dug into the surface of the mountain. Seeing that, Chihiro’s eyes sparkled.
“Oh! So this is what you meant back then when you said that it could be used in different ways!”
After tugging on the sword several times to make sure it was firmly attached, Kazaya placed one foot against the rock face.
“However, we can’t go all the way to the top in one go like we are taking an elevator. If we tried that, the tip of the sword would probably break off because of the weight. We have no choice but to climb up by ourselves while slowly reducing the length of the sword. Here, Senpai, hold the sword along with me.”
Chihiro nodded and gripped the hilt of the sword. The two of them started climbing the mountain while holding the sword in one hand and using their other hand to grip handholds on the rock face.
Thanks to the sword, the two of them felt like they had the help of a rope that was being pulled up by someone above them. That made it easier than climbing up normally, but it didn’t change the fact that it was still a difficult climb.
In addition, since Chihiro was still relatively new to being a Visitor, their progress was painfully slow.
However, Kazaya was not doing much better. Despite having some experience in such things, it was by no means something he could do easily. His strength and stamina were higher than usual thanks to the goddess’s blessing, but climbing such a steep mountain was understandably taxing.
Tohru had climbed so far up that he had disappeared from their sight long ago, and despite the fact that Izumi’s golem was lagging behind him, she had climbed up high enough that her golem looked tiny. Kazaya and Chihiro were in last place.
“Ughh… This is bad. At this rate, we might lose to the two of them.”
Chihiro whispered in an anxious tone. Kazaya replied in breathless voice.
“At this point in time, it certainly looks that way. However, the two of us have one big advantage over them.”
“The fact that we are not alone.”
While smiling, Kazaya reached out and gripped the next protrusion on the side of the mountain.
“The two of us are here together, Senpai. I am sure that we will eventually come to the understand the significance of the fact that we are exploring this island as a team. So it’s fine. We will definitely make up for this delay!”
“……That’s right! Nicely put, Tsugami-kun!”
Chihiro’s lips relaxed into a slight smile after hearing Kazaya’s confident words.
One step at a time. Slowly, but surely. Kazaya and Chihiro single-mindedly made their way towards the peak of the mountain. Eventually, after a certain amount of time….
“……Yeah! We made it!”
Kazaya gripped a rock at the peak and pulled himself up.
He turned back and extended his hand towards Chihiro. After she gripped his hand, he energetically pulled her up.
Feeling the sense of accomplishment that came from reaching the peak, Chihiro put her hand on her chest.
“We did it… I felt a little scared, but it was a lot of fun!”
“I know what you mean. This is the true charm of Grimveria.”
Kazaya let out a breath and looked forwards.
The top of the mountain had a rugged surface with many rocks, and there was a cave some distance away.
“Oh no, it looks like the two of them have gone ahead of us.”
“We should hurry up as well.”
Chihiro said that after looking around their surroundings. Kazaya replied to her and started walking quickly. However, when they had almost reached their destination, they ran into something unexpected.
Tohru and Izumi came out of the cave all of a sudden. For a second, Kazaya was worried that they had defeated the boss already, but something seemed off.
The two of them seemed to be in a great hurry as they ran towards him while waving their hands.
“It’s no good! Kazaya, it’s no good! Don’t go in there!”
“That guy was insane! This is impossible! We need to rethink our strategy!”
Kazaya furrowed his eyebrows after seeing how much the two of them were panicking despite being experienced Visitors.
“What’s wrong? What did you see?”
“No wonder this island is uncharted. I’ve never seen anything else like that boss. I mean…”
In the middle of Tohru’s sentence, they heard a piercing cry.
At the same time, something burst out through the cave entrance.
Seeing that, Chihiro let out a scared cry that was unlike her.
“This is… the boss of Island #10?”
Kazaya’s eyes were wide open in surprise.
The creature’s giant body was covered in a hard carapace. It was long enough to encircle the mountain area surrounding the cave, and it had an innumerable number of short legs. The body of the creature had two red orbs that looked like jewels, and in front of those were a pair of fangs. It crawled on the ground and rushed towards them at a terrifying speed.
Comparing it to a creature from their own world, it was basically……
“N-No! Not a centipede! Anything but that……!”
Chihiro crouched down and covered her face. That’s right. The demonic beast in front of them was a gigantic centipede.
“That thing is not just an ordinary centipede!”
Izumi touched the ground and called forth a golem made of stone. She tried to intercept the monster, but it let out another ear-splitting cry.
The moment it did that, something astonishing happened.
Izumi’s golem turned into sand and crumbled in the blink of an eye.
“Dammit, this really is impossible! Be careful, Kazaya. This boss……”
Tohru charged towards the giant centipede and raised his arm. The moment his fist made contact with the monster’s body, he activated his Divine Works and a large amount of light started to flow out of his fist. However, when the creature let out a cry once again, the light disappeared.
“……This boss has the ability to nullify our Divine Works!”
The giant centipede shook its head and sent Tohru flying. He didn’t take any direct damage thanks to his Protective Barrier, but he rolled across the ground multiple times before crashing into a nearby boulder.
“As expected of an uncharted island…. How interesting. If the enemy is strong, that just makes it all the more worth defeating!”
Kazaya created a basic demonic sword that didn’t have any abilities, and gripped it strongly.
(I’d like to get rid of that ability that nullifies Divine Works, but I have no idea where to start.)
Assuming that the creature was somehow using its voice to cancel their skills, he still had no idea how to defend against something like that. Maybe he just needed to lop off its head, but if it managed to cancel his ability before he could do that, he would be a sitting duck for a counterattack.
“For starters, let’s try out different methods of fighting it. Senpai, I’ll draw its attention so please attack it while it is distracted…”
Kazaya stopped speaking before completing his sentence. Chihiro was still in the same state as before, crouched down and trembling. There wasn’t a shred of her usual courageous self to be seen.
“I-I’m sorry. Not centipedes… I just can’t handle centipedes….”
Ah, that was right. Kazaya remembered the story he had heard from her back then and let out a sigh.
“Understood. I’ll try and do something about it by myself!”
“Eh? B-But, Tsugami-kun….”
“I am the one who invited you on this adventure, Senpai. You don’t need to force yourself.”
Kazaya turned to face the giant demonic beast and stared at it.
“Alright then, bring it on. My demonic sword will cut through your evil ways!”
Kazaya dashed forward while feeling the adrenaline rush that came with the impending battle. He avoided the attack that had been aimed at him, jumped up, and swung his sword down. However, the sword broke into pieces while letting out a ringing sound. The carapace-like material that covered the enemy was uncommonly hard.
“In that case, how about this? Ye heavenly weapon that cuts through all of creation, appear in my hand—Azure Sky King!”
Kazaya used both hands to grip the greatsword that he had summoned. He then swung it through the air without missing a beat.
The tip of the sword left a large scratch on the body of the enemy.
“See that? No matter how strong your armor is, it is no match for my sword! I’ll just continue like this and….!”
Kazaya decided to use the momentum of his last attack and go on the offensive, but as soon as the giant centipede turned to stare at him, he felt a bad premonition run through his entire body.
Sure enough, the creature let out a piercing cry and caused his greatsword to vanish.
He tried to immediately summon another demonic sword, but before he could do that, he received a powerful headbutt from the creature and was forcefully sent flying backwards.
He managed to somehow land on his feet, but when he checked the condition of his Protective Barrier, he was shocked. The gauge had been reduced by roughly half of the total value. If he took another attack like the previous one, he would be forcefully removed from the battle and returned to the start point.
“Dammit, looks like I can’t make any careless moves.”
Kazaya made to stand up while muttering that under his breath, but he suddenly felt his hair stand on end.
Faster than he could react, the giant centipede had closed the distance and was right in front of him.
He hurriedly summoned the demonic sword of wind and sent a shockwave flying towards the creature. The sudden attack caused the creature to bend backwards, but it immediately fixed its posture and rushed towards him once again. And then came the creature’s special ability; the power to nullify Divine Works. Kazaya’s next move would not make it in time.
“Kazaya, watch out!”
Izumi’s shout rang out, and Kazaya put his arm up to defend against the creature’s fangs that were bearing down on him.
However, just before he received the attack, he saw the creature’s face engulfed in an explosion.
The giant centipede was sent flying, and it fell to the ground.
“G-Get away from Tsugami-kun! You monster!”
Chihiro was standing with her bow held in her hand. Although her face was still pale, her gaze had recovered its usual strength. Kazaya understood that he had been saved thanks to the arrow that she had fired at the creature.
“S-Senpai, I thought you couldn’t handle centipedes?”
“O-Of course I can’t handle them! To be honest, I still feel like crouching down and avoiding reality. I want to turn around, run back to the city as quickly as I can, and eat the delicious sweets that Bado-san makes to my heart’s content!”
“There’s such a thing as being too honest!!”
“I know! But you know what!? I can’t bear to do that!”
Despite the fact that her knees were trembling, Chihiro spoke in a determined tone.
“You are very important to me, Tsugami-kun. Ever since I came to this world, you have given me a lot of things. So now it’s my turn! After you finally chose me to be your partner… If I run away from this fight, I won’t be able to forgive myself!”
She summoned an arrow and pulled back the bowstring.
“If it is for the sake of making your dream come true, I don’t care if the enemy is a centipede or a demon, bring it on! You bastard!”
The giant centipede lifted itself off the ground, faced Chihiro, and opened its mouth.
Kazaya predicted that it was going to use that cry again, but then he suddenly realized something.
Just before it let out the cry, the two jewels on its body shined briefly.
The next moment, the arrow that Chihiro had released vanished before hitting its target.
…So that was it. Kazaya figured out the trick behind the creature’s ability. It was not the creature’s cry that nullified their Divine Works. That was probably a feint to distract them from the real source.
“Senpai! Aim for the jewels on its body! Time your attack to coincide with the instant they shine!”
“Eh!? O-Okay, I understand!”
Despite his terse instructions, she probably understood that he had a plan of some sort. Chihiro raised her bow and faced the giant centipede as it rushed towards her. She nocked an arrow and aimed carefully.
The creature tried to use its nullifying ability against her once again, so Kazaya shouted out.
“What are you looking at, insect!? Your opponent is over here! Ye who aspires to mow down sins with all-consuming hellfire, appear in my hand—Scorching King!”
Kazaya stabbed the sword that was wrapped in flames into the ground, causing the ground below the centipede to turn into magma. The giant centipede started to burn, releasing a foul smell. The creature writhed in pain and switched its target to Kazaya, intending to get rid of the nuisance first.
Chihiro immediately shot her arrow. The arrow let out a flash of light like a falling meteor and split into two while it was moving towards its target. This was one of Chihiro’s skills. The two arrows perfectly skewered the two jewels that were attached to the giant centipede’s body.
The creature let out a shriek and then cried out several times.
However, Kazaya’s demonic sword showed no signs of disappearing. It looked like his guess had worked out after all.
“Ye heavenly weapon that cuts through all of creation, appear in my hand—Azure Sky King!”
Kazaya summoned the greatsword and rushed towards the enemy.
He ran up the body of the giant centipede that was writhing in pain, jumped up, and raised his weapon.
“….My sword will shatter that soul of yours!”
He forcefully swung the sword downwards. The moment his sword made contact with the creature’s head, he pushed down on the blade with all his weight and cut straight through the creature’s body.
Once Kazaya landed on the ground, he pulled the sword free.
As soon as he did that, the giant centipede’s body split into two pieces and the separate halves crashed to the ground in opposite directions with a dull sound. The creature did not rise again.
“……I beat it.”
Kazaya stood there with a blank look on his face as thought he was unable to believe that he had actually done it, but before long the delight started to slowly show on his face. As soon as that delight reached the maximum point…
“I defeated the boss of the uncharted islaaaaaaand!!”
He raised both his hands in a triumphant pose.
He promptly pulled out his Insect Cage and sucked up the remnants of the giant centipede.
After he finished collecting everything, he heard Chihiro call out to him and turned around.
She ran up to him and hugged him tightly.
“You did it! You actually did it, Tsugami-kun! Congratulations!”
Her voice was filled with happiness and she hugged him even tighter.
“A-Ah, yes. It’s all thanks to you, Senpai.”
“Not at all, it’s because of your hard work! I’m so glad I was able to help, Tsugami-kun!”
Chihiro spoke in a relieved tone.
“I always wanted to be able to help you, the person who taught me the meaning of happiness and fun.”
Kazaya felt a warm feeling rising up within his chest. He raised his arm and hugged Chihiro back.
“……Senpai, I want to thank you too. I’m glad you were here with me.”
“Fufu, you should be grateful.”
Chihiro smiled at him and replied in a low voice. At that moment, a loud sound suddenly began to play above their heads.
“I leveled up.”
“Oh no… I-I did it again.”
That sound seemed to make Chihiro come to her senses, as she said that and moved away from him. Her cheeks were red. Kazaya also cleared his throat to hide his embarrassment.
“……Alright. I got a new skill!”
Kazaya looked at his level-up notification and clenched his fist, and Chihiro clapped loudly.
“Ah dammit…. So Kazaya ended up winning! But I definitely won’t lose next time!”
Tohru looked up at the sky and lamented his loss, but he immediately turned a challenging gaze upon Kazaya. Kazaya also responded with a fearless smile.
“Sure. Bring it on. I’ll win next time as well.”
“I won’t lose either! Prepare yourself!”
Izumi crossed her arms and spoke in a huffy tone. At that moment, Chihiro asked a question.
“…..Ah, that’s right. What is your new skill, Tsugami-kun?”
Just as Kazaya was about to answer Chihiro’s question…
The ground beneath their feet rumbled and they heard a loud roar.
“…..Oi, oi. Oi, oi, oi.”
Tohru stood up with an understandably agitated look on his face.
“Hey. This is some sort of a mistake, right? Right!?”
Izumi also had an aghast expression as she covered her mouth. However, reality was cruel indeed.
Making a disgusting sound while crawling on the ground, 『that thing』 was closing in on them.
It was another giant centipede.
“I didn’t hear anything about there being two bosses!!”
Tohru let out a wail, but of course the giant centipede did not take his feelings into consideration. It displayed its animosity by rearing its head and letting out an ear-splitting cry.
“After we think that the last boss has been defeated, another one appears, huh? Stuff like this is typical of role playing games.”
Kazaya said that while remaining calm.
“…..W-What should we do? Tsugami-kun, should we deal with it the same way as the previous one?”
Chihiro looked to Kazaya for confirmation, but he shook his head.
“There is no need for that. I’ll finish this quickly.”
Kazaya faced the giant creature with his right hand stretched out to the side.
“Ye weapon clad in freezing storms, appear in my hand—Hailstorm King!”
He gripped the thin blade that had appeared with his right hand, and continued to speak.
“Equal Excitation. Ye bringer of storms, appear in my hand—Razor Wind King!”
As soon as he said that, a different sword appeared in his left hand.
“Dual swords!? Kazaya, is that…?”
Tohru asked that, and Kazaya smiled.
“That’s right. This is my new power!”
Using two types of demonic swords at the same time. Kazaya used the skill that he had just obtained a little while ago and raised his voice.
“By the Ice Emperor’s verdict, thou art sentenced to a prison of eternal ice! Twin Demonic Swords—Roaring Blizzard!”
Kazaya crossed the swords and swung them down as one. The temperature of the surroundings dropped sharply, and the giant creature let out a howl. The roaring wind and the ice that were created by Kazaya’s swords mixed together and headed towards the enemy in the form of a violent, ice-laden tornado.
After taking that attack of freezing wind, the giant centipede turned into an ice sculpture without even having the chance to make its jewels shine.
“Senpai, use the Fragmentation Arrow!”
Hearing Kazaya’s order, Chihiro seemed to snap out of a daze. She nodded and let her arrow fly.
The arrow left a track of light behind it as it flew towards the giant centipede, struck its target, and exploded. The fragments of ice rained down onto the ground and melted in the blink of an eye. The only things left behind were the pitiful fragments of the demonic beast’s body.
“……Oof, it looks like I overdid it a little. I can’t seem to adjust the power output properly just yet.”
Kazaya said that after letting out a breath, and then a thought ran through his mind.
(I wonder if ‘Roaring Blizzard’ was really okay…I wish I could have thought of a cooler name…)
At that time, a cheerful sound rang out. Chihiro immediately checked her level and muttered.
“It went up by five levels all at once….”
“Well, it was the boss of an uncharted island after all, and then there’s also the increased exp campaign.”
“H-Hey! What the heck was that!? Isn’t that way too dangerous!?”
While Kazaya replied to Chihiro with a smile, Izumi spoke up in an agitated tone.
“By summoning two demonic swords at once, it looks like the power of each sword is doubled and I can use that to fire off an attack. The two powers will be mixed together, so I will need to carefully select what swords I want to use.”
“What the hell! That’s so unfair! There’s no way to beat that!”
“There’s no point in telling me that….”
Izumi complained while stamping her foot, and Kazaya replied while looking troubled.
“Ah dammit, I can’t afford to waste any more time. If I don’t level up quickly and learn some new skills, all the uncharted islands will get cleared while I’m lagging behind! See you guys later, I’m heading back home!”
Izumi gripped her Teleportation Stone and vanished without a sound.
“Well then, I should probably head back as well. See you around, Kazaya!”
Tohru duplicated Izumi’s actions and vanished as well.
“……I guess the two of us should go back too, Senpai.”
Kazaya called out to Chihiro who was sucking up the second giant centipede into her Insect Cage, and she turned around to look at him.
“Sure! By the way… You’re really amazing, Tsugami-kun. We struggled so much against that demonic beast, and yet you were able to beat it easily after gaining a single level. The truth is that you could have defeated them somehow even if I wasn’t here this time, right?”
Rather than sounding discouraged, it felt like she was teasing him. With that being the case, he could have also replied in a joking manner. However, Kazaya still decided to reply to her seriously.
“That’s not true. I would have beaten if you weren’t here, Senpai. Most likely, all three of us would have been beaten and forcefully sent back to the Capital.”
Kazaya looked directly into Chihiro’s eyes.
“Didn’t I tell you earlier? The time would come when we would understand the significance of being here together. It turned out just as I had predicted. We only won because of your help, Senpai.”
“……Yeah, that’s true.”
“I pretty much always play solo when I’m gaming, but going on an adventure along with someone else was unexpectedly a lot of fun. After spending time with you, I understood that very well, Senpai.”
Saying that, Kazaya smiled.
“You said that I taught you the meaning of having fun, Senpai, but at the same time, you taught me how to have a different kind of fun as well. So I’ll be counting on you in the future as well.”
Kazaya held out his hand, and Chihiro stared at his outstretched hand in wonder.
“Eh…. You mean…?”
“That’s right. If you’re okay with it, I would like to continue going on adventures with you, Senpai. Not as a trainer and a trainee, but as partners.”
“A-Are you sure? About having me as a partner.”
“More like, I wouldn’t want anyone other than you, Senpai.”
Kazaya honestly said the thing that had been on his mind all along.
“I want to stay with you forever, Senpai. As long as you are by my side… I can enjoy Grimveria much more than the time I spent adventuring alone. That is what I have come to feel. So… What do you say?”
Chihiro’s cheeks turned scarlet as she continued to stare at the hand that he extended towards her.
Walking hand in hand as equals, and deepening their bonds… That was something she had never experienced before. However, before long, her expression changed.
Beautiful and elegant, but also pure and free of concern.
“I will be counting on you as well, Tsugami-kun! I would love to have you as my partner!”
Chihiro gave Kazaya the best possible smile while taking his hand.
“T-Thank you. I was scared for a minute there, I thought you were going to refuse.”
Seeing Kazaya pat his chest in relief, Chihiro smiled once again.
“There’s no way I would refuse! I have been waiting for you say those words to me all this time, after all!”
Kazaya turned red and scratched his head after hearing that.
“……Ah, that’s right. The jewels on those demonic beasts from earlier were really pretty, how about using two of them to make a pair of pendants, Senpai?”
“Umm, as a memento for the first time the two of us cleared an uncharted island together… Ah, but they were attached to a centipede, so you wouldn’t like that, right? I’m sorry, just forget about it.”
Kazaya scratched his head while thinking that he had been careless.
“Not at all! Let’s do that, Tsugami-kun! They would be a proof of our bond… right?”
Chihiro gave him a wide smile.
“Eh? Aah, that’s right.”
Kazaya felt embarrassed after hearing Chihiro’s happy reply.
“……Sorry. I said that without thinking, and now I’m feeling embarrassed as well.”
Seeing Kazaya’s reaction, Chihiro pressed her hand against her mouth and turned her face away.
“N-No, not at all!”
“I-It’s fine! Also, what I said earlier about you being important to me and stuff, that was just something I said on the spur of the moment so forget about it! It really doesn’t mean anything, okay!?”
Chihiro’s face was still red as she emphasised that point.
(I can’t believe that it didn’t mean anything when you show a reaction like that, Senpai….)
Kazaya felt his cheeks growing warmer and he looked downwards.
(C-Can I really hope for this? Can I really hope for a dazzling everyday life with you, Senpai!?)
Kazaya worried about that as he struggled to rein in his heart that was beating wildly.