Proofreader: Orion Dye
“Oh, out in the open?” Following the woman, I find myself in a back alley. It’s actually not that far away, but the contorted alleys and the loud noise from a nearby pigsty make it a rather private place.
“We’re almost there. Just a little further.” The smile of the woman is charming. She’s really something else, I can already imagine myself thrusting into her.
“We better hurry, I just can’t wait.” I quicken my pace. I’m now half a step behind her.
“Don’t be too impatient.”
“But I want to start right now!”
“Just a bit longer, alright?”
“No, let’s do it! Here and now!” I step forward and put my hand on her shoulder. Then I gently push her at a wall. “Don’t worry.” I lean forward.
My right hand slowly wanders to her stomach. Then with a fast thrust, I impale her. Literally. Using my knife.
I elbow her face once, then I pull back my knife and stab it sidewards into her neck. The girl is looking surprised at me, no wonder, I’m trying to murder her, but then she swings her arm.
Good thing that I keep my [Focus] on her, so I can see her movement the moment she initiates it and get some distance. Too bad that I have to leave the knife in her neck, but that’s not what’s important right now.
Evading the attack which is so strong that it creates an air current is.
“Ouch, bro!” The woman removes the knife from her neck, the wound closing already. “How did you know?” She slowly grows in size, two horns grow out of her temples, her skin reddens, and her eyes become fierce.
It’s the oni whom we’ve met twice so far. Third time’s the charm, I guess. No, it’s the fourth time already.
“Doesn’t matter.” She doesn’t need to know that it’s because of her voice. In Aroahenn something bugged me about it and, after meeting her here, it all adds up.
She’s not only Correo’s henchman but also acts as his daughter. I think she was called Ogra in that form? Is that her name? Doesn’t matter, because I’ll kill her this time.
The voice is not the same, but I have [Pitch], which gives me great insight into sounds. While her voice in her different forms has different prominent tones, there is always the same base voice behind it, almost impossible to perceive.
So if the girl, the oni, and the woman are all the same person, then it’s easy to conclude that she can shapechange. This would also fit into how she was able to trick Rine: The red bunny. Because she’s even commanding the squirrels, I wasn’t sure if she had controlled that particular bunny, or if she was the bunny before, especially with how obvious that color scheme was. Now I know. Her shapechanging makes her an even greater danger than I assumed her to be, and now it’s time to take her down.
I know that I’m no match for her in a fair fight. Well, she’s not dealing with Rine here: Fighting fair was never an option to begin with.
I don my hood. Not only for the minimal protection, but also for the mood.
“Doesn’t it cost too much?”
“Maybe. But Rine-chan, this is a day for us to enjoy. Also, don’t you think, that we should let ourselves go a bit?”
“That is to be expected when traveling.”
Kyou and I are talking about whether to visit a real beautician or instead just go for a haircut.
To be honest, my fingernails have some minor cracks, my skin has roughed up, and I should be taking care of my eyelashes. I’m currently not fit to be called a lady, but I kinda enjoy it. It’s the proof that I’m more than just a princess who can’t survive a day on her own. Even though I also like being dressed and prettied up. In fact, I’m sure Kenta would love me even more if I could show him myself in my royal gowns. I didn’t take any with me when I left the Wächter-fort because they need a lot of care and I had limited space inside my backpack. So I just put in a sturdy dress in case I need one.
“I have never understood how people can waste time and money on their appearance.”
“It’s because you’re an alfr, Arako. We humans have to take some minimum care of our bodies at least. Otherwise, we’d end up like Ken.”
“What about Kenta-kun?”
“Yes, what’s wrong with Kenta?” He may be a bit messy, but overall it’s not too bad. He uses his hands so much that there is always dirt under his fingernails, which aren’t taken care of at all. His hair may be unkempt, but on the other side, it’s too short to make much of a difference.
He’s also developed some bags under his eyes. Maybe he’s sleep deprived lately? I’m a bit worried about that. His clothes aren’t that well-kept either. Whenever it’s laundry time, he makes rushes the work and doesn’t mind some stains. When I learned sewing in Aroahenn, I got a lot of practice by mending Kenta’s clothes because he handles them so roughly.
Regardless, overall Kenta’s great. These are just some minor demerits that are tied to his slightly dangerous and busy life. In a sense, they’re medals of honor! He scouts ahead of us girls, always watches the perimeter, and is never afraid to get his hands dirty in fights. He works with Ara’s experiments, he takes his time to talk with me about strategy, he explains things that I don’t get, and he also strengthens his bonds with Kyou. He’s so busy doing all of that, and while he complains at times, he never stops with all his hard work.
What a wonderful husband I have!
Kyou hides her embarrassment by denying it, but I know that she’s also glad to have Dear as a husband, even though she makes it really hard for me to see it sometimes.
Like right now, when she looks at us as if we’re coming to a rabid churl’s defense, declaring that he’s harmless and pleasant to look at. “*sigh* Whatever, back to topic. We’ll just get the haircut.”
Kyou is very composed. She might not always be right, but she’s also not too stubborn. This time, she apparently complied for our sake. I must say though, she wasn’t that set on the beautician in the first place. I can see, how she has so many friends.
I hope Kenta has as much fun as I do today.
“Stop dodging!” With her bare fists, the oni tries to smash me into bits. Doesn’t matter, as she says, I dodge every strike she makes.
I think I need even less space to evade the attack entirely. About 30cm (almost 12 inches). That’s the range the air-current can get me, resulting in an indirect hit. Rine uses as little space as possible to avoid attacks, that’s why she got caught in them.
Analyzing a boss is standard procedure. I just treat the oni as a very annoying boss, which can cause havoc if you’re not careful. Good thing that she’s pretty dumb, otherwise she would mix up her attacks a bit more.
Using [Focus] also helps, giving me a clear image of her incoming attack. The oni hasn’t used her [Oni Fire]-attack so far. I can think of many reasons why. Mainly I think it has to do with the charging time of that skill.
Yes, she can use it without charging, but then it lacks the destructive power I saw in Aroahenn. I’m confident that avoiding it wouldn’t be a problem either.
Let’s try something new. Because of the oni’s regeneration, I want to make sure to get her with my first real attempt, overwhelming her so much, that she can neither respond nor escape. Her regeneration has a limit. But who knows what she will do if I challenge it by using half-hearted attempts. I don’t know if my SP will be enough to make it work.
[Distraction], the skill that will open a one-second window in the attention of the targets. While it’s a [Stealth]-skill, I have used it for defense more than once. Now I’ll use it for offense.
I have already prepared some items while following the oni, and put them into my belt pouch. Like this stink bomb, which I throw right into the oni’s face! “Whuaaaarks! It stinks, it stinks! My eyes are burning, my nose hurts! Pui, pui, pui!” I retreat into an alley and prepare my bow, together with my special something I asked Kyou-san to make.
The oni is flailing around, and not able to see properly. Splendid. “[Quadruple Shot!]” All four arrows pierce into the big body of the oni.
“Ouch!” Actually, I hoped for more than a mere ‘ouch’, but oh well. I observe the wounds, they’re closing, but only around the arrow shafts. The arrows aren’t pushed out of her body. Interesting.
She plucks one arrow after another from her body, the wounds close without a hitch.
Yet, I’m waiting for the secondary effect. Did it proc?
“Where are you!” With bloodshot eyes, the oni looks around, trying to find me. Seriously? You didn’t even notice from which direction the arrows had come?
Then the oni puts a hand on one of her former wounds, tapping it a bit and snorts. So much for poison, huh? Yes, I coated these arrows with some poison Kyou-san made in a hurry with some plants we had. Another consumable to use, but while it should have a numbing effect, it doesn’t seem to affect the oni much.
Stronger poisons might work though. In the unlikely case that I don’t end the oni here and now.
So if the poison won’t work, how can I get her?
I drink an SP-potion first. Dodging all these attacks and my skills used up enough to justify that. I can rely on pots, it’s the same strategy I had to use on the ss’rak patriarch, but I don’t want to burn through too many resources if I can help it. This mentality limits my options. Unless I get a vital, I won’t be able to deal much damage.
Ah, that’s possible. At least for now. I coat some more arrows with the poison. Even though it didn’t work before, the dosage might make the difference. “[Seeker]!” I aim for her lung. The arrow slightly changes course to hit my target. This one hits!
“Uarks!” The effect is obvious, the oni gags and coughs. “Kuh, kuh, kuh!”
While she’s still dealing with this: “[Seeker]!” Another one sunk into her body, this time I’ve aimed for the place that her bladder could be, right under her belly.
“Ouch!” Dammit, it’s too shallow.
Aiming for her face is also an option, but the head is moving and a rather small target. While my [Seeker] might recourse the arrow to it, there are still her arms to consider, which move around to guard her head and torso. “[Seeker]!” So I aim for her knee.
“Woaaaha!” With this, the oni falls on it. This looks like a perfect opportunity to charge in, but I’m a coward. Therefore, I aim for her shoulder. “[Seeker]!”
She lifts her hand and the arrow pierces into her palm. “Bro, you’re cruel!” She plucks the arrow and hurls it at me, who is standing right next to a house corner.
I throw myself behind the corner, make a roll, and use the momentum to stand up quickly. Without [Focus] I might be dead right now!
Carefully, I look around the corner. The arrows I sunk into the oni lie on the ground, the oni is nowhere to be seen. Dammit, it was just a few moments.
While using [Pitch] to hear through the pigsty sounds, I start to retreat further into the alleys. Looks like I entered the second phase of this boss fight.
“How about this one?” I show Rine-chan a leather helmet that has small holes at the side so that the ears are covered, while the wearer can still hear.
“Let me try it…” She puts it on. “Somehow this doesn’t feel right. I feel some weird pressure coming from the top.”
After both of us had our haircut, Arako declined one, we found an armory shop. Rine-chan wants to look for a helmet. To be honest, I insisted on it after seeing the armory shop.
Rine-chan told me that she broke her last helmet before she met Ken and me by throwing it at an incoming mountain-crawler while she was resting. It split, so she left it behind. Since then, she hasn’t gotten a replacement.
Rine-chan is a valuable friend, therefore I want her to have some proper protection.
Arako also thinks this is an important aspect, even though it seems like alfar don’t wear helmets in general. Seeing how her ears continuously move, it may be because of that.
Because it’s important, it’s money spent from the party funds. Let’s see if Ken will even notice it.
Still, choosing a helmet seems to be like picking clothes. There are a lot of things to consider. Like how good you can move your head, if it fits your head shape and maintenance of course. For some reason, whenever equipment is involved maintenance is a vital part. We’re traveling a lot, so having some fancy stuff that can’t be fixed by ourselves is merely a subpar option.
“How about this one, Katarine-san?” Arako shows an iron helmet with a leather cloth to cover the neck.
“Let’s see… It’s too heavy. I move my head a lot in combat, it would throw off my balance if I used one that’s too heavy.”
“I thought that the purpose of a helmet is protection.”
“That’s right, Ara, but the first goal is survival. I have to be able to fight at my best while being protected as well as possible.”
“I agree with Rine-chan, Arako.”
Arako starts whispering. I won’t ask about it because she might be mumbling to herself.
“What did you say, Ara?” Of course, Rine-chan doesn’t show that kind of restraint.
“Ah, I forgot how bad your hearing is.” That’s kinda insulting. “Come closer, both of you.” We do as she says and she repeats her whisper: “Even though you may be heroes, attacks on vitals are still nothing to laugh it. You don’t need to care too much about your body, but keep all of your vitals covered.” This certainly sounds like Ken. Or someone who reached some conclusions after researching the hero-system.
Not that she listens to her own advice, but Arako doesn’t have the [Armor]-ability in any class, so she might have decided not to use it after all. Also, I think that the frail Arako would have problems even moving while wearing armor. I mean, I tried to wear leather armor once and had to learn how heavy and sweaty it becomes after wearing it for an hour or so. [Armor] seems to bypass it, seeing how Ken moves in his hide armor all day long without issue.
My cloth armor might be not the best protection, but mobility is necessary too. At least I got a special one in Aroahenn. The material is sturdy and I think Arako’s dress is also made from it, or maybe even something better.
Though the other girl has her own ideas. “Ara, while I respect how much you know about heroes, fighting isn’t your forte. I’m only somewhat good at it, but I can tell that there is much more to it.” That’s Rine-chan. While she’s somewhat humble about her fighting skills, she’s able to beat Arako to a pulp with a broken arm. Literally. “So I want to decide which helmet to use by my standards. It’s me who will use it, after all.”
What presence… Sometimes it slips my mind that Rine-chan is a princess. She acts like a kouhai most of the time, a spirited girl who looks up to me, but this might be the first time, she has this kind of royal aura around her.
It’s intimidating and reminds me of her father and, to some degree, of the god Muaotef. The kind of intimidation which stems from knowing who you are, knowing that you’re someone who has something to say.
However, while Muaotef doesn’t recognize others as much more than dirt, Rine and her father don’t disrespect the other party. In a way, that’s even scarier. The inner strength that doesn’t even need other people to shine.
I think Arako also noticed it, her ears are going haywire. Her left eye narrows a bit, while I’m not sure what exactly she’s thinking or feeling right now, I do know that she’s surprised and unsure what to do.
Then she speaks: “Katarine-san, while I do respect your martial prowess and your opinion, I can’t accept this attitude when I gave you my suggestion. Especially after what you did last night.”
…this is not good.
“I’ll take my punishment for that. Choose whatever you think is fair. Even though I still have problems believing it, it’s what you and Kenta told me, so I trust you.” With this Rine-chan turns away and looks at some more helmets.
Arako also turns away, but she takes a look at the other customers, who try to avoid her. While an alfr’s face is hard to read, you have to be as oblivious to the mood as Ken to not notice how pissed she is.
Rine-chan is headstrong. Arako is self-opinionated.
They got along so good just now, but like so often happens, it only takes a moment, a little disagreement, to tear people apart.
…what a headache.
I think I might need to mediate between these two. Not now, but maybe at the next stop.
Considering both of their personalities, they might make up after a while, but both of them have a certain stubbornness.
…I guess in general this party is quite stubborn, including Ken and me.
Where is she? I use [Wild Eyes], which allows me to perceive spirits. I can sense some orange doves on the roof, the pigs in the pigsty, and the people working there, no oni though. The range of [Wild Eyes] isn’t much, so it may be because of that.
I don’t hear her either. Did she escape?
Maybe she is hiding and trying to sneak up on me. Who knows what she can do.
Of course, I could just let her go, but I don’t want to. Because she may ambush me, because it will give her more time, because I’m sick of making more and more enemies and want to cut them down a bit.
I already circumvented the alleys, and picked up my knife, but she’s nowhere to be seen. Also, my [Track]-skill doesn’t work properly. Maybe she transformed, and her tracks are now hidden by all the others.
Stay calm. I need another approach. There is more than one option, more than only one perspective. Ah, that’s it.
Slowly I climb up a roof and begin walking on it in a low position. The tiles are a bit slippery, something slick is there. Seriously, take better care of your roof!
There is a person!
A blonde, middle-aged woman, who wears some dirty apron. Maybe a housewife, or the oni in disguise.
I lift my bow. Maybe I should try to take a shot right next to her…
No, if she’s not the oni, then she will most likely run away and report it, then even if I leave the scene, all mercenaries within the city with bows might be investigated. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to properly enter Goldbrunn after all.
Nah, while it’s currently a hindrance, it’s still better than being questioned at the gates. I mean, how are a bunch of under-equipped teenagers even supposed to travel from one settlement to another?
Next time, I might stow the bow in the [Inventory], I also need to put my archery glove away then. Stop, think about this later, the oni comes first.
I follow the woman, trying to figure out whether she’s the oni or not. At least she doesn’t seem suspicious. Still, who knows wha-
She’s entering a house, but more importantly, on the small forecourt of that house stands a hutch. Inside it are bunnies. They are much more colorful than the ones at home and have some strange bent ears.
There is a red one as well.
I draw my bow and shoot it. “[Seeker]!” My arrow pierces through its body and… it has some last seizures before dying…
I think I just killed a regular, pet bunny….
…better retrieve the arrow, before questions are asked.
He killed it! Wow, how brutal, bro! And worrying! Because he has to know about the bunny form as well.
The oni is currently hiding right under the hutch in her bunny form, she tried to sneak into it, but then she heard the woman coming. For some reason, she didn’t catch bro getting closer, even with her bunny hearing. He has to be using some trick to be so quiet while walking.
Or maybe he’s just that good?
The oni has long been waiting for an opportunity to get bro, but her squirrel servants wouldn’t have been that helpful inside the city, so she let them guard the gates while she sneaked in as a bunny using a merchant’s cart. Then she had to spend some time actually finding one of them She used her woman form for that. Finally, she found bro, who was inside the whore neighborhood. She thought she was lucky, but now she realizes how much work bro actually is!
Fighting with Katakata is fun, but fighting bro is dangerous. The way he looks at her makes her feel uneasy, and he uses dirty tricks whenever he can. She admires it in a way, but she wants to kill him soooooo much, that she can’t really enjoy it.
Now her best tricks are seen through! Her shapeshifting is her ace, though she only has a few shapes to change into. Yet, for some reason, bro was able to see through her woman-disguise.
And now he shot a bunny!
Poor bunny! Shooting a cute bunny is a crime in itself, so murdering him will not only be satisfying and fun, but also kinda justified. Not that the oni even understands the concept of justice, but that’s beside the point!
Now bro jumps from the roof and comes closer. He hasn’t detected her so far. For some reason, he has some insight about her, so she has to overpower him fast before he can overwhelm her.
The oni is sure that he uses poison. While her regeneration also makes it hard to poison her, she still feels that slightly numbing feeling. She has never been poisoned to the degree that it was actually a handicap, but she doesn’t want to give bro any more chances.
He’s almost here. His eyes are fixed on the hutch. Most likely he is about to collect the arrow, so the oni just has to attack him, while he does. She will jump, transform, and smash him with the weight of a full grown oni!
Then she will crush him beneath her foot and everything will be over.
Bro puts his bow in his backpack. Then- “[Speedthrust]!” he pierces the bunny oni with his spear.
“Auwl!” He hit quite a few vitals at once! Being small has some demerits, but now the bunny is growing, losing its fur for a set of horns, sharp teeth, and a pretty scary face. Her horns stab into the hutch above her, and she rips it from them with her bare hands in order to throw it at bro.
He clenches his spear with one hand, while his other hand… oh no, not again! He’s putting a bomb in her body again!
*Burst* While her whole body is quite resilient against fire, the small explosion itself does some damage, and it’s right in her innards!
Bro was also hit by the explosion, but it propelled him away from her, while his hold on his weapon was firm enough to rip it out of the oni’s body.
It hurts! It hurts, it hurts, it hurts! She wants to kill, kill, kill! Kill him for doing it again! Her regeneration can still keep up, but the pain, the pain hurts!
“[Oni Fire]!” So she uses her youki more offensively!
“Third phase, huh?”
What is he even talking about?
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