“Are you guys ready?” I nodded to the goblins.
Three dark purple-scaled vipers were slithering a few meters away from us. Unlike the ones that Riihoku fought in the Hatchery, though, these were at least my height. Their scales were also a darker purple, and their fangs more prominent.
“Brings some memories, eh, Rihoku?” I gently patted Rihoku’s head, and he bobbed his head in response. “Okay, let’s go over the plan one last time. I’ll get their attention with Wind Cutter, hopefully deal some damage while at it, then Rihoku, you attack that one.” I pointed towards the weakest Three-fanged Viper, which was level 17. We were bamboozled. Shiki told me that an adult Three-fanged Viper was only around 13-15, yet the weakest was two levels above that already. The other two were a level higher. When I saw their level, I wanted to back out, but Shiki gave me his big, fat no. And so, there we were.
“Hopefully, Rihoku could land a killing blow. If we’re fighting five on two, we might have more chances of winning. You three, take on the one one the right side. Rihoku and I will take the one on the left. If Rihoku can’t kill the weakest, Rihoku and I will take a viper each. If you can’t kill it, make sure to survive until help comes.” I turned towards Shiki and Bria. “You’ll save us, right?”
“We’ll save you if your life is in dire need, my liege,” Shiki replied monotonously.
I sighed. Rather than them protecting me, it felt like I was their bodyguard.
I took a deep breath, then channeled mana to my fingertips. “Okay, let’s do this,” I whispered, convincing myself more than convincing the others.
With a swift move I practiced hundreds of times, I casted Wind Cutter towards the vipers as I ran. It hit the one in the right, but it barely made a scratch on its purple scales. As planned, six pairs of slitted irises turned towards me. I threw another one. This time, it hit the one at the back, causing it to tilt its head back. Did I manage to sneak some damage? I thought.
Certain that all their attention focused on me, evidenced by their quick advancement, I shouted, “Now!”
A faint black silhouette dashed for the viper at the back, and a few droplets of crimson sprayed. Rihoku’s attack was successful. However, the viper didn’t fall. There were three cuts on its back, but they were too shallow to be fatal.
Tsk. We’ll have to fight them separately. I drew Kiriwan and prepared to launch. Based on my memory, these vipers would usually lunge to attack. We have to avoid the fangs at all costs.
“Rihoku, finish it!” I shouted. Rihoku prepared to attack, but the viper on the right lunged at it, fangs bared. S***! I was about to help Rihoku when a stream of smoking, green liquid flashed in front of my face. Thanks to the reflexes Shiki drilled into my body, I managed to dodge it a hair’s breadth away. The liquid splattered on a nearby rock, quickly melting it. My eyes widened, shock and confusion mixing in my mind. What was that?! Those Three-fanged Vipers in the Hatchery didn’t have that attack! That’s cheating!
I gritted my teeth. Our chances of winning thinned from good to slim. There was no way we could win five and three with a secret ability, so I looked at the three trembling goblins wearing their deceased parents’ armors. “You three! Go and help Rihoku!”
Fear was evident on their face. It was valid. After all, I just told them to fight an opponent around three times their level. That’s basically pushing them down the grave. However, pity had no place at the moment, and their horrid appearances helped push that envelope. Plus, I figured they had to get strong one way or the other. Am I becoming similar to Shiki?
I shook that thought out of my head, and shouted again, “Hurry, now!”
As I say that, another stream of acid flew towards me. I jumped, easily dodging the attack. But just as I thought I was safe, the viper lunged at me while I was still in mid air. Damn it! That’s definitely cheating! You can’t be both a ranged and melee, only choose one!
I held Kiriwan in front of me, anticipating the viper’s attack. The fangs hit Kiriwan’s blade, defending me from serious damage. However, I wasn’t spared from the viper’s momentum and was sent a few feet back. Fortunately, we were in a wasteland with no rocks or trees to hit. I managed to regain my footing, but the viper wasn’t about to give me time to compose myself. It sprayed another stream of acid, which I easily dodged once more, then lunged at me again. This time, I figured its attack pattern.
Instead of waiting for the fangs to hit Kiriwan, I waited then stabbed it from the head downwards. Kiriwan’s tip pierced the scales and meat of the viper’s head, but I wasn’t strong enough to pierce its skull. However, my attack was enough to give the viper a scare and snap its jaw shut in an attempt to remove Kiriwan on its head. Kiriwan was stuck like an excalibur on its head, though. I figured it did manage to lodge itself into its skull. Seeing the opportunity, I grabbed it and rodeoed the viper
Since Kiriwan, my sole weapon, was stuck, I used a flurry of Wind Cutter to attack the viper’s head. Just as I was about to run out of mana, one Wind Cutter hit the viper’s eye. The viper let out a pained cry, a first during the entire battle. Then, it shot upwards, finally loosening Kiriwan. Losing my grip, I was falling two meters to the ground. But before I hit the ground, a sharp pain hit my chest. The next thing I knew, my Anycloth had a cut across the chest, and blood was painting it red.
The viper was slithering back to its companions, I was assuming still in pain. But with enough adrenaline pumping inside my blood streams, I wasn’t about to let it escape. I gripped Kiriwan, used Wind Walk, injected a bit of mana into it, and slashed. A wave of grayish slash cut the air and hit the viper’s back. Unlike the Wind Cutter, however, it managed to cut the scales and made a deep gash on the viper’s back. The viper let out another cry of pain.
Did I just use Cresent Slash? I mused. No, Shiki’s was more magnificent.
Seeing the writhing viper, I rushed towards it, intending to give it a finishing blow. As I got closer, the gash became more visible. I figured that if I wanted to kill the viper, I should hit the same place twice. I injected more mana into the blade again and attempted to repeat what I had just done, but Kiriwan only made a whooshing sound. There was no sharp blade of energy. Knowing I couldn’t count on that attack anymore, I jumped and stabbed Kiriwan directly into its spine, snapping it into two. A few more wriggling, and the viper finally went limp.
The adrenaline rush faded, and the pain hit me. S***!
I looked up to check how the others were faring. Rihoku’s viper was covered with cuts and gashes and was heavily bleeding. However, Rihoku wasn’t doing fairly well either. He also had a few cuts and two gaping holes on his right hind leg.
“Aim for the eyes, Rihoku!” I shouted, then the sharp pain hit me again.
Rihoku seemed to have heard me. He jumped and went for the eyes. Seeing Rihoku’s attack, the viper lunged to meet him in the air. In a moment, the battle ended. Rihoku clawed both of the viper’s eyes and bit its head.
I turned to the goblins. Unlike Rihoku, they weren’t even doing okay. The two weakest were laying covered in green blood. They were conscious, but they were barely holding on to their lives. The strongest, also covered in blood, was facing the unscathed viper. Actually, seeing them live was what surprised me. Originally, Rihoku and I was supposed to help them, but both of us were now incapacitated. The viper lunged, headbutting the goblin. The goblin was sent flying, and before it could land, the viper wrapped its tail around it. It’s going to eat it!
“Bria, Shiki, help us! We’re done for if you still continue to watch!” I pleaded, ignoring the pain.
Suddenly, a black wave sliced through the air and beheaded the viper. Then, my vision faded.
When I woke up, we were already back in the goblins’ caves. As soon as I opened my eyes, a window greeted me.
[Congratulations on leveling up! You are now level 16!]
I mindlessly closed it and put it aside for later. When I checked myself, I could see bloodied bandages underneath the Anycloth, but I couldn’t really feel any pain. When I asked Bria about it, she told me that she already gave everyone some potions, but she kept the bandages and the tear to make our alibi more believable. Apparently, I was knocked unconscious for a few hours. As she said, bandages with dried blood were also wrapped around Rihoku’s body.
As for the goblins, they were already up and about. The strongest still standing in front of the other two. However, I noticed something new with them. I looked above their head and checked their levels.
[Level 10] [Level 8] [Level 8]
They leveled up without killing a Three-fanged Viper? Then, I checked Rihoku’s level.
Killing those Three-fanged Vipers is worth it. I asked Bria and Shiki where the vipers were, to which they simply pointed outside the cave. We took the fangs and left the body for the goblins to feast on, then we went back to Castel.
As yesterday, we first stopped by the adventurer’s guild to claim our rewards, then went to the inn. This time, however, we were no longer short on shlings.
“Welcome,” the pubmaster greeted when the door swung open. “Oh, it’s you lot.”
“Yeah, it’s us,” I replied with a big grin on my lips.
“Two rooms for the night?” he asked.
“Yeah, and no need to cut some costs today. We really appreciate your kindness, Sir…” I looked at him expectantly, hoping that he’d catch my drift.
“Garr. The name’s Garr. Grub?” His smug expression somewhat softened a bit.
“Definitely. Give us each a meal, and please do give our wolf a good chunk of meat,” I asked with a bit of boasting, then handed Garr twenty pieces of shling.
“Oh ho. Big catch today, eh,” Garr replied while getting the shlings.
I smiled coyly. “Yeah, hehe. News sure travels fast here.”
The pubmaster laughed, the first time I heard it. “Castel is a small village, you see. Plus, injuries like yours are a common sight these days. Everyone’s busy for his arrival.”
“He?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“Yeah. Adam Fray, the Golden Sun.”
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.