Chapter 3-3

Proofreader: Orion Dye

We’re sitting in a tavern to take a break and eat a bit. While the meals in an inn aren’t exactly bad, they aren’t good either. My order is bunny ragout with some sort of noodles, and salad as a side dish. Rine is eating pork cutlets with turnips, and Arako has fried mushrooms with salad.

The atmosphere between Arako and Rine-chan is a bit cold. They don’t even talk to each other. Sometimes they look at the other party, but then both of them exchange a glance and turn their heads somewhere else.

Today is my free day, so I want to have some peace. Even so, I don’t want to ignore both of them either, they are my friends after all. So I’ll try my best to make the two of them reconcile, since the reason why they’re fighting is stupid in the first place.

There is one topic they will agree on. It’s not a topic I enjoy talking about, but this time I had better endure. “What do you think Ken’s currently doing?” From here, I’ll be able to continue.

Arako answers. “He’s most likely farming outside the city.” Farming, a game term. Doing battles for XP, items, or something else, if I’m right. Looks like she picked it up from Ken.

“Why would you think that?”

“Because he is unsatisfied with the progress of this party.”

I check my XP. Still the same. “If he is doing so, he hasn’t started yet.”

“I see.” I… shouldn’t have said that. She seems to be offended. On the other hand, I feel like I grasped a bit of the actual problem.

“I think Kenta is walking around the city, still doing some work.”

No, Rine-chan, he certainly isn’t. My best guess is that he will visit a place that he doesn’t want us to be involved with. Maybe he’s visiting some rangers? Do they have secret meeting places so that they can share their knowledge?

Or is he trying to find the black market in order to buy some lethal poisons? That would explain why he needs an allowance. Not that he can openly talk about it while Rine-chan’s around.

I mean, he asked me before if I can produce something like that and I made him some medicine that numbs the body. It’s actually from a poisonous plant, so it’s something like a poison. But if he wants to try using some lethal stuff, I have not learned how to extract that from plants. So I’d need a new [Skill] from the [Compounding]-ability.

Well, in the end, “I think he’s doing something stupid again. I mean, chances are that he is getting involved in fights, pissing off the wrong people, and getting put in jail. That’s all that he can do, cause trouble for the rest of us!” With this, I’m the bad girl.

““No he won’t!”” Both Arako and Rine-chan, are replying the same way.

“Yes, he will.” Actually, I feel some sort of shiver run down my spine. What I was saying was supposed to be a lie to get both of them on the same page first but…

…call it womanly intuition, but I feel like I may actually be right.

No, he won’t, right?

“Kyou, Kenta is great! And I’ll tell you why!” So the lecture starts…

 

―○●○―

 

“[Oni Fire]! Stay… still! *Huff, huff, huff* And die!”

Yep, this oni is most likely the most annoying kind of opponent for me. The regeneration makes it next to impossible to fight her directly without running out of SP, and I don’t have the time to drink a pot while she’s trying to kill me.

By the way, I evade her fire blasts easily. My charging theory is correct: when she takes a deep breath, a more powerful blast comes out. If necessary, she can breathe in multiple times for an even stronger attack. Is it due to her lung volume, or because she somehow changes the air into something else, therefore using up less space?

Well, she can charge the [Oni Fire] without a noticeable mobility decrease, which makes it hard to disrupt. There is also a tiny little problem. Not for me, but for our surroundings, especially the buildings. Some have holes, three are in ruins, and the people are in a panic.

Actually, this works for me. Now I’m just trying to buy time because there are some special people here, who will really like seeing a demon here. That’s why I taunt her, to keep her occupied. “I don’t need to stay still. You just need to aim, n00b!”

Actually, she just needs to close the distance, because I have too much time to predict the attack, which makes evading it easy. To be honest, she tries her best. It’s just that I’m faster than her and I use it to my advantage. I’m practically kiting her, I’ve remembered her habits, and now I can easily see the pattern of her attacks and dodge. Especially since she’s not even trying to be subtle.

I just hope my SP will be enough.

Urgs, my MP are draining quickly as well. It’s mostly because I use [Wild Eyes] to get a feeling of where the people are around me so that I won’t provoke any shots that will kill people accidentally if I evade them.

I had to deactivate [Pitch] to save some SP, and with the noise around me and my eyes locked on the oni, I have little idea what’s going on around me. I can only sense spirits in a short range, and I’m not good at reading them yet. I may know where people around me roughly are, but that’s all.

““HOLD!”” Ah, finally some reinforcements. Guards?

No, better. Crusaders. Two whom I haven’t seen before. The guards are evacuating the people. Quite efficient.

“Foul creature, give up and we will grant you a mercifully quick death!”

“Man, you guys! Stop interfering! *Hiss!*” The oni is grimacing.

“Are you a ranger?” This question is for me. Well, I do have my hood on, so people who care can jump to that conclusion.

“Yes, but this fight is pure coincidence.”

“You still hold your own, would you mind helping us out?”

“Sure.”

“Bro! You little, slimy bastard!”

Well, my smirk right now is the worst for sure. Even the Crusaders are taken aback, but the real enemy is the oni.

Both Crusaders draw their weapons. One uses a mace, the other a sword. I also ready my spear.

The oni roars. “I’ll rip all of you apart, you puny-”

““[Exorcise]!”” Both Crusaders put one hand forward and shoot a cone of dim light. The moment it connects the oni is enveloped with white fire. So that’s Kyou-san’s spell, I’ve never seen it in action.

“IIIIIIIYAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Wow, that’s a cry of agony. Well, I’m merciful enough to kill-

The white fireball jumps forward, and the figure is warping. Is she changing her form again?

The Crusader with the sword steps forward and swings at the fireball, the other was just a heartbeat behind him: “[Exorcise]!” While the sword slashes at the oni, who is taken aback by the spell again.

“Ouch, no, ouch, it hurts, argh, argh!” I would take pity on her if she weren’t after my life. Ah, who am I kidding, I’ll be glad to get some XP out of her, no matter what the circumstance. So I’m gonna stab the fallen oni.

“[Oni Fire]!” Or I’m trying to! A weak flicker lefts the fireball, but it’s enough to cause me to avoid it. The white flames disperse and…

“Seriously!?” I can’t help but laugh. “[Exorcise] also cancels abilities, so is that your true form!? You pipsqueak!”

“SHUT UP!!!” Instead of a big oni, a small bunny, or a sexy woman, a girl is standing up, similar to her Ogra-form, but a little different. She looks pretty human, even counting in her red twintails. I mean, some people in this world just have those kinds of hair colors.

Her yellow eyes look like that of a beast and are framed by a thick black line, a bit like eyeshadow. She also has some inhuman traits: Her ears are slightly pointed, she has sharp teeth with two fangs, small horns grow out of her forehead, and she has a pronged nasal bone.

Seriously, she looks just like a good cosplayer.

Her clothes also changed, but this seems to be a side-effect of shapeshifting in general. Now she wears a short dress with a thin jacket over it, stockings, and boots. She doesn’t even have a belt or a pouch. Are there restrictions to her shapeshifting powers?

Well, no matter. Time for her to-

-jump with a crazy speed at one of the Crusaders, which the Crusader is fast enough to evade. These guys aren’t pushovers, but I think I’m still above them concerning mobility, or overall fighting strength. Not that I want to fight them in the first place.

“Ranger, don’t try to do too much. Reinforcements are on the way, just keep her from escaping.”

I like these guys! They’re organized, efficient, and capable. Why can’t be my party-members be like this?

So I just need to keep going for a while, and then the oni will fall. This seems doable, considering my remaining SP. I’ll probably leave the fighting to the two Crusaders mostly, but I want to see it through so that the oni will surely die.

I don’t want to take an SP-pot now and expose my hero-status. Yes, this Energy Brew, which I call SP-pot, can be drunk by non-heroes as well. In fact, the more wealthy people do just that, but they’re more like energy drinks. Just gulping one wouldn’t suddenly make all strain and fatigue go away.

I’ll just save my power instead and do some support here.

The sword-wielding Crusader begins to circle the chibi-oni, so they’re trying to flank her. On the other side, the oni attempts to smash the mace-wielder.

I’m sure that he’s got this covered. Nevertheless, I intercept by passing her while hitting with my spear-pole. This action throws her off, and she gets pummeled by the mace.

Good riddance.

“[Exorcise]!” Sword uses his spell again.

“OUUUUUUUUUU!!!” This is just like bullying. I kinda like it. This time though, the flames quickly disperse. “Hah! It doesn’t work! It doesn’t work anymore, so stop it!” She exclaims with a demanding tone, her face red with anger.

You know that your cries of pain belie that?

“Be careful, Palmward, this one seems to have some resistance!” So the spell is usually even more lethal? I guess it has weakened because she’s currently in her true form, so there is no dispel effect anymore.

Is there more to it?

Wait, why do I care, if she’s dead soon anyway?

“Now…” The oni stomps on the ground, it’s just hard earth, but there is a hole where her foot is now. “…I’ll show you my true power!” She deeply inhales, then she jumps into the air. It’s quite a distance, several meters.

…wait, she inhales a second time. “TAKE COVER!!!” I’m already running away.

“[ONI FIRE]!!!”

I can feel the heatwave on my back, and an explosion behind it. This [Oni Fire] one was on another level than the ones before. Still not as strong as the one she used to burn a tunnel through Aeolferelda, but she was buffed back then by that uncaring tree!

So this might be her best!

The explosion sweeps me from my feet, I try to change my fall into a roll, but instead I slide through the dirt road on my arm and shoulder. …and it hurts!

I take a look back, the oni just landed. “HAHAHAHAHAHA! Take- …that?”

““[Exorcise]!””

The two Crusaders are injured, but the moment they hear my warning they cast spells. [Resistance] and [Endure].

“YUAAAARGH! Stop it, stop it I said!” The face of the oni distorts. She certainly seems much closer to her giant form face-wise. “I’ll smash you to pieces!” The anger’s got her, and she’s charging one of the Crusaders again. They just need to use [Exorcise] one more time, then we can gang up on her and-

…I think they ran out of MP or whatever non-heroes have. They look drained, but discipline keeps them from faltering. The charged one braces himself and tries to take the hit, but the oni is still crazy strong, even as a pipsqueak.

“Phew… hey pipsqueak!”

“I-AM-NOT-A-PIPSQUEAK!!!” She changes targets. Obviously. “I AM AN ONI, PUNY!”

She moves faster than before, now that she’s small, but it doesn’t seem to have that much effect on her power. I have a hunch however. I lower my body while also charging at her. Instead of trying to stab her, I use my spear to trip her, she falls flat on her face and growls in displeasure.

My suspicion is right: Her weight has dropped. So while she still has arm strength, the power is most likely not anchored well, meaning that it might be surprisingly easy to deny her the use of all that raw power. I just need her to lose ground contact and avoid being grappled by her.

I can do that.

So the fight continues.

The oni tries her best to get me, but other than me, there are still the two Crusaders, one may be a bit injured, but is still capable of fighting. So it’s three versus one.

“[Oni Fire], [Oni Fire], [Oni Fire]!” The quick succession of her fiery breath makes it weak. The oni is more or less just trying to keep us away.

Nonetheless- “Huff, huff, huff…” Even I’m short of breath. My muscles groan, they want to rest. I can keep on pushing them, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the strain. However, I’m still a far cry away from being [Worn Out]. My previous experience has given me a feeling of what I can handle before everything breaks down, even though my SP are in the dangerous area where I might pass out at any time.

The Crusaders are also tired. It’s such a short fight, but the oni seems like a bottomless barrel of stamina.

“Good work, Palmward, Grenwill.” The reinforcements arrive. It’s just three guys, but one of them is undeniably the leader-type, a middle-aged man with brown, fleeting hair and a full beard. His green eyes sure look powerful and strong-willed. He turns to me. “I’m Captain Archibald Alchenain, commander of the Crusaders in Goldbrunn. You have my thanks for fighting with my-” He pauses.

His eyes seem to undress me, trying to get a peek under my hood. Is it because I’m Asian again? Come on!

Then he lifts his hand in my direction. “[Judgement]!”

…it hurts. How much it hurts? “UUUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” That much.

Character-design Oni

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