There is a vast forest to the northwest of the town. In this sea of trees live many races such as elves, fairies, gnomes and the winged folk, many of whom share deep connections with adventurers since long ago.
The reason for this relationship is due to the lack of infrastructure, monsters roam unchecked in these woods. Although they often repel the monsters that assail their forest homes themselves, when the attacks become too frequent or too fierce, they rely on adventurers for aid.
Many humans have long since suggested that these races adapt to living in towns or walled cities instead, but the long-lived elves are loath to give up their long held forest kingdoms, the fairies and gnomes make their homes amongst the flowers and the winged folk perch atop the trees, none of them wishes to give that up to live in unfamiliar brick homes on cobbled streets.
That’s why, because of the rising temperatures, the adventurers will respond to the call to fight monsters here. But far from being solely dependent on adventurers, many people from these races becoming adventurers themselves, travelling the continent and gaining fame.
There is the highest ranked adventurer amongst all the winged folk, the S-Ranked《Eight-Span Owl》, as well as the first gnomish adventuring party in history, all S-Rank 《The Impish Masses》.
It’s a celebrated fact that adventurers who come from this forest have reached the highest echelons of the guild, a true reflection of the deep relationship between the Adventurers Guild and the Forest Kingdoms.
“There it is! The extermination target!”
And, in the middle of that sea of trees. About two leagues away from one of these demi-human towns, Cudd quickly sharpened the dagger in his right hand with a reddish-brown crystal, covered in magical sigils, then threw it.
The moment the crystal collided with the creature that had wrapped itself around a massive tree native to this forest, electricity exploded out of it with a loud zap.
Because of that ear-splitting scream, Leia, felt goosebumps run up her spine pointing her crossbow at the creature that had fallen to the forest floor as a corpse with its legs twitching and fluids running from its mouth.
“Ahhhh, geez! Between these and the giant bugs, haven’t we just been fighting really disgusting monsters lately!?”
This kind of weapon is quite unusual for an elf, but half her blood still belongs to that race gifted in the way of the bow. Iron bolts, carved with those runic characters, had pierced the flesh between the gaps in that jet black armoured carapace.
Even though it had been slowed down by the electric shock, she had managed to land three consecutive shots in its weak points one after another, a result of both her innate talent and hard work in training.
“The bolts are equipped with a paralysis rune… You’re up, Kyle!”
Kyle, equipped with mace and shield, rushed towards it.
“《Body・Strengthening 》… And even more, 《Flame・Impact・Reinforcement・Enhancement》!!”
After strengthening himself with a form of 《Physical Boost》, he chanted a four-part chant as he charged with a burst of explosive acceleration, his body covered with an aura of pale light and his mace a burning red.
Adding both fire and impact reinforcement to his own physical boost, Kyle called it 《Flame Smite》, his strongest attack.
A smell of burning flesh filled Kyle’s nose. Even though it had been a blow hard enough to complete shatter the head of a Giant Bear previously, this time it only made an impact on this creature.
“Gah… It’s so hard…!”
“Kyle, get back!”
Poison needles shot towards Kyle’s body, but before they could pierce him Kyle managed to put just enough space in between himself and the monster for Cudd to activate his magic, a barrier of rock formed by the spell 《Stone Wall》to protect his companion.
“That thing isn’t a normal centipede at all! When I hit its head, I thought I’d missed and hit a boulder or something!”
“What’s more, look at what those needles are doing to the ground… Melting it like that, it’s definitely some kind of toxin.”
“The paralysis is going to wear off as well… Jeez, just what is that bug?”
Its official name is a Giant Killer Centipede. Commonly called Hundred Legs, hunting down this brutal and heinous monster was the request that these three E-Ranked adventurers took on this time.
It’s a giant centipede about ten meters long, but it’s definitely not even close to the type of centipedes Kyle knew about, this was a monster that wouldn’t discriminate between livestock and human beings for its prey.
“I thought just hitting it once in the head would be enough, but all it did was leave a crack… I don’t know if I can do this.”
Its carapace that covered its entire body was also incredibly robust. Obviously, it’s not something that could be handled by normal people, so usually requests are sent out to adventurers to deal with it, but even they find it hard to get over their sense of revulsion.
“Ueeeehhh…! I really don’t want to have to touch that thing and look at the way its legs are twitching… I wish we could just run away right now.”
“It can’t be as bad as the time with the giant bugs, right…?”
“What are you two chatting about!?”
That hundred-legged centipede had its eyes fixed directly on those three people. Even though that worm-like head didn’t have any facial expressions to speak of, after having been attacked by the teamwork of those three, its killing intent was obvious.
“It’s coming! Alright, you two! It’s time for Plan B!”
“Leave it to me!”
Crawling. Galloping. At the speed, those hundred legs moved, it was like a charging warhorse. As it rushed straight towards them, a runaway force of nature that tore up the earth and any plants and trees in its straight path, the three of them leapt to the side at the very last moment.
“《Stone Wall・Three Sided・Deployment》!!”
It’s true of most creatures in the world that they’ll move in the direction that they’re facing. As Cudd used the magic he had cast before, 《Stone Wall》, a three-pronged barrier this time to put a wall in front of the centipede’s face and also to hem it in from the sides, Leia followed it up with a spell that summoned a torrential rain right over it, 《Rainfall》, so much so it was like a waterfall had opened up above it.
Without having to get his hands wet at all, the water around the hundred-legged monster froze solid as a tremendous gust of cold wind blasted from Kyle’s hand. It was elementary ice magic known as 《White Force》.
“Alriiiight, we did it!”
“Hit it now, before it breaks out!”
“Don’t forget to smash its feet as well so it can’t move!!”
The rookie adventurers assailed their frozen foe with mace, magic, daggers and bolts. At first glance, you might think that they’re going overboard to simply kill one bug, but if you asked them, there wasn’t any other way.
It might just be a bug, but they don’t estimate bugs anymore. Physical strength, speed, tenacity and robustness; They know just from seeing it that it’s a tough foe. Don’t ever underestimate an opponent, use everything at your disposal to completely obliterate them. That’s what they had learned from their seniors.
“Don’t let it move! Weaken it with magic as much as possible! We’ll win that way!”
“I know already! Stop ordering me around!”
As they kept on bickering in the heat of battle like they always do, Leia and Cudd drank potions and also used 《White Force》to keep the monster in place as much as possible. And then, slightly apart from those two people, the other member of the party thrust his hand towards the head of the entrapped centipede from atop the stone wall.
“《Full Roast・All At Once・Burn Away》!!”
As soon as he chanted those words, flames burst forward from his hand… Kyle’s 《Fireball》smashed into the centipede’s head, engulfing it in flames.
Even though it screamed and thrashed as much as it could in its icy stone prison, Kyle had no mercy as he continued casting fireballs.
Physical, close range attacks are ineffective, rather than just himself being underpowered… He understood that after he first struck that armour. The shell surrounding its head was so strong that he could only dent it.
So, they had no choice but to attack with both fire and ice, an insect’s weakness. Of course, if Asterios or Shirley were here then they would have sliced through the centipede as if tearing apart paper, but that’s not the case for these rookie adventurers.
It’s common knowledge for adventurers that if you give your opponent the ability to counter attack, you’re greatly increasing the risk to yourself. As if to demonstrate this, Kyle who thought he had a moment to breathe took a potion of magic recovery out of his bag and began to drink, when the unexpected happened.
The body of the hundred-legged monster began to shake violently, shockwaves pouring out from under it. Blown away by this intangible force, the adventurers are dumbfounded as they’re thrown to the ground.
“Kuh…. Oh no, it’s free…!”
Free from the shattered remnants of ice and stone, the centipede glared at them from the scorched ruins of its face. The adventurers got back to their feet quickly. But that massive centipede stormed straight at them with palpable rage.
It wasn’t unscathed from that concentrated attack, however. Because of the damage to its legs, it was unsteady in its approach, running into rocks and trees as it charged. And, if you looked closely, you could see that its black eyeballs had been carbonized by the fire, the poisonous needles that shot from its head burned away as well.
“Ah, nice work attacking its head, that saved us.”
“That said, how are we going to stop it?”
As it writhed around in blind anger, the centipede smashed through rocks and snapped trees. It’s apparent that approaching it to finish it off with close combat was a bad idea, but they were out of magical power and potions to attack it from a distance. Their mana replenishing potions had been smashed by the shockwave.
“Why don’t we try to squeeze out the potions that soaked into our bags? We should have time since that guy can’t see anything.”
“Then the problem is, who drinks it?”
The amount of magical power that would be restored would be insignificant. Since they would probably only get one spell out of it at most, they would have to choose wisely ――――
“…Kyle, we’re counting on you. Finish it in one go. This is our last chance, if we can’t kill it with this we’ll have to give up.”
Kyle’s body felt tense. If he can’t do this, they’ll fail the request. They would lose a lot of the trust they had earned as adventurers, so this attack could well decide the fate of the party.
Sitting next to Leia who squeezed out the potion into a surviving empty bottle, Kyle steadied his trembling hands and took a deep breath.
He thought of the back of that white swordswoman, who was both his ideal and his goal. As she stood there with a sword in hand, beautiful as a flower, she would forget him completely as she danced in battle, undaunted by the monsters that loomed over her.
In that way, he’d confront it as well. Even in a situation where the odds were against him, so long as he can keep looking towards the future, he’ll take another step forward.
On the way back from that ocean of trees to the frontier town, Cudd spoke to him with a half smile on his face.
“So, how long are you going to keep sulking?”
“Ah… Yeah, sorry…”
The request was completed successfully. Using the fires of flame smite, he had smashed through the scorched head of the killer centipede. After receiving thanks from the nearby village for their work, they had begun to make their way home towards the frontier town, but despite their victory, Kyle never seemed particularly cheerful about it.
“I mean, you were the one who finished off that giant centipede.”
“It worked out pretty good. One shot to the head of the exhausted enemy! It’s textbook, right?”
Kyle had only managed to crush their opponent’s head once it had been weakened and exhausted itself from thrashing around. It would have been difficult to land a long distance hit and he couldn’t approach it easily when it was writhing around so violently.
Instead of an awe-inspiring and agile attack that finished the battle in a dazzling way, Kyle could only instead end the fight with a measured strike that was far from the dream he yearned for.
He choose the safe and reliable option which made sense in a non-urgent situation. For many adventurers, the blow he struck would be something to celebrate and praise, but just completing the request in such a way left Kyle with a bad taste in his mouth, since it was so far from the ideal he sought after.
“Well, I mean, we don’t really have a way of just deciding things with one decisive blow right now.”
“That’s right, huh…? We have to rely on magic against tough opponents like that and there’s nothing we can do if we run out of magical energy and potions. Maybe it’s because someone’s dagger is too weak.”
“Because of shorty’s useless little bolts.”
” “…….Hah!?” ”
Right on cue with the verbal sparring. Cudd grabbed Leia by the scruff of her collar and was about to grab her head when Leia kicked Cudd hard in the shin, shouting at each other all the while.
“You’re just so bad in close quarters combat! Every time you fight next to Kyle, your daggers are like hitting monsters with twigs! So useless!”
“Shut up, what about your magic!? When you tried tied to cast fireball before, you barely left a mark on that tree! You’re more useless than a matchstick!”
“H-Hey!? Both of you, calm down!”
Kyle tried to get in between the two quarrelling people with his usual tone.
“Either way, if we don’t sort this out before the promotion examination we’ll be in trouble, it’ll be hard to find new party members too.”
In the adventurer’s guild, there will periodically be an examination board called to judge applications for promotion. For example, to ascend from E-Rank to D-Rank, the number of fulfilled requests as well as the character of the adventurer are considered.
Although it may seem like they have some problems with their personal lives when it comes to relationships, even though it’s quite a rigorous examination, the latter point shouldn’t be too much of a problem for them. What might be a problem is the party’s competence.
If they keep running into such deep trouble when fighting against tough enemies like this, it will leave a bad impression when it comes to their review. With two supporting members and one middle ground fighter, it can’t be denied that they lack firepower.
“It’s times like this that I wish Asterios-san were here.”
“It can’t really be helped.”
Asterios, who had guided this party when they had only just registered as adventurers, was currently not with them because he was instructing a new party of rookies that had registered during that summer. One of the reasons for that is because if a high-ranking adventurer carried the party constantly, it would also affect the promotion chances of Kyle and the rest negatively.
“…But man, it’s hot.”
“…I didn’t mind it so much in the forest because of all the shade from the trees, but walking in the fields like this is hell.”
“…Uuu, I wanna ride with Rangitz again… But I don’t have enough money to hire him.”
The three of them have their own troubles, but in this scorching heat, they’re having trouble collecting their thoughts at all. Riding on a dragon with the breeze whipping around you would be exhilarating, but none of them was particularly skilled at riding them, not to mention they couldn’t afford the rental fee even if they were.
“Let’s take a break in that small woods on the way back. There’s a lake there too.”
Between the massive ocean of trees and the frontier town, there are a woods surrounded by the plains, with a small lake in it. Since it’s so close by, they felt reinvigorated as they walked on, thinking that they could also refill their water canteens in the lake. Thanks to Shirley’s advice, none of them were close to suffering from heatstroke.
“W-We finally made it~”
“I can’t hold it in anymore, I wanna dive in!”
Even though they arrived at the lake shuffling along like zombies, the cool air generated by the wind running along the surface of the water felt heavenly.
Swimming is the most popular pastime in the summer months. Having had it with the oppressive rays of the sun, the three of them were about to jump into the lake without even taking off their clothes, when Kyle spotted something strange.
“Wait a moment, you two.”
“You want to jump in first or something!?”
Kyle pointed out towards the centre of the lake, where the depth is so high your feet won’t reach the bottom. They could see splashes all the way out there.
They were worried at first about some kind of underwater creature, maybe even a monster, but looking closely they could see a person’s hand sprouting up from the splashing.
“…..Are they drowning!?”
“We’ve got to help them quickly!”
They jumped into the lake still completely clothed and swam out towards the source of the panic in a hurry. The three of them are all strong swimmers since they usually spent their summers at springs or lakes as they grew up, but even though they’re all weighed down by their soaking clothing, Kyle pulls ahead of them all.
“Hey, are you ok…ay…?”
Leaving Cudd and Leia behind him, he raised the upper body of the person who was drowning above the surface of the water but froze up as he saw that familiar long white hair.
Her wet hair reflecting the gleam of the sun, her snow-white skin only standing out more because of the black swimsuit. As she looked up at him with those piercing eyes of red and blue, Kyle realized just who exactly it was that he was holding.
“…Eh? Kyle…? W-Why are you here…!?”
The woman he held in admiration, the impossibly beautiful Shirley. Her limbs were thin but supple. And, as he realized just where the soft sensation he felt being pressed against his chest was coming from, Kyle lost consciousness.
“Uwaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!? K-Kyle is…! Kyle is…….!!”
“His skin is turning blue!? Is he even breathing!?”
On that crystal clear lake, dyed by the colour of the blazing sun, the screams of those adventurers echoed into the summer sky.