Translator: Kell | Editor: Weasalopes
The Serpent of the Fort
「That is one impressive tower… Looks more like a fort, though.」
The first Root that Hikaru visited was enclosed by a cylindrical-shaped structure built by stacking quarried rocks on top of each other. It was no doubt man-made.
Hikaru was surprised. He assumed that other than incomplete Roots, everything else would be like the one north of Lands Harvest, made of egg-like material.
「Judging by the artificial look, someone actually built this… Most likely Koukimaru. I wonder how they built this, though. It looks incredible.」
All of a sudden, construction technology crossed Hikaru’s mind. He brushed it off, as now was not the time.
The fort looked old, its surface covered in ivy. Just like the “egg”, it didn’t have an entrance. Fortunately, the stones weren’t exactly smoothed out, so he could climb up. He could scale it easily too with three points on Strength.
There might not be any way to get in from the top, but I can figure it out when I get up there, Hikaru thought as he started scaling the wall as though bouldering.
「That reminds me, I always thought bouldering is something I’ll never do, but it’s quite fun if you have the strength to do it.」
It was a tranquil forest, with birds chirping on the trees. Hikaru could sense intense mana from inside the fort, but there were no guards around like the Stone Golems.
Perhaps that’s why he let his guard down. Hikaru made it to the top in no time at all. The roof is made of different material, huh?
The floor was sinking.
「What the hell?!」
The floor made a sound as it wriggled. As it swirled around, a rift formed, and the whole floor revealed itself to be a gigantic serpent.
「What in the world?! 」
Before he fell, Hikaru reached for the wall and activated his Gravity Balancer, allowing his body to float in the air for a moment, and used the opportunity to cling to the wall.
That was close, he thought. The tremendous mana he sensed from the dragon stone prevented him from noticing a living creature on top of it. Actually, he barely sensed any mana from the serpent. At least, until now.
Amidst the cloud of dust, the gigantic serpent looked up, its body coiled around a stone pedestal where a huge dragon stone sat. No light came from the stone; the moss around it prevented any from escaping.
The serpent’s head looked to be more than a hundred kilos. Its body was covered in dust. Perhaps it was in a state of apparent death all these years. The creature was basically in sleep mode while waiting for an intruder, consuming the least amount of calorie to survive.
「Unlike the Stone Golems which were magic items, this one’s an actual living organism. Yet it follows its orders unconditionally.」
It wasn’t exactly surprising. Hikaru just didn’t think that a giant serpent would use itself as a lid to cover the structure. Mana was gradually leaking out from the serpent, its body powering on. Its eyes were fixed at Hikaru. As luck would have it, Hikaru was under direct sunlight. Once an enemy was aware of him, his Stealth would not work.
「I’m outta here.」
Best to escape know before it starts moving, Hikaru thought as he started climbing back up. He managed to scale the walls in no time a while ago, but now it felt like he moved too slow. There was a ten-meter distance between him and the serpent, not close enough for it to get to him right away.
Or so he thought.
Mana had not yet spread throughout the serpent’s body, but as soon as it sensed that Hikaru was escaping, it shrank back and lunged forward at an incredible speed, mouth wide open. Hikaru quickly pushed himself off of the wall and into the air. The serpent’s body passed through where he was a second earlier, scraping off the wall.
The wind pressure from the serpent’s sudden climb pushed Hikaru to the wall, and he used both his hands and feet to land safely. The impact sent a shock throughout his body, but he somehow managed to hold on.
How should I kill it? If I use my revolver on it, the dragon stone might also blow up. Going by what happened last time, there’s not much space in here for me to not get caught up in the explosion.
Looking down from above, the serpent appeared confused. For a split-second, it lost sight of Hikaru, allowing his Stealth to take effect once more. The only reason he could hide himself even in this broad daylight was because of his maxed out Stealth stats and the additional boost from his Soul Board’s Soul Blaze. I think I’ll be fine if I stay still…
The serpent opened its mouth wide and started shooting purple liquid. It was venom, no doubt. Hikaru couldn’t escape upwards.
Should I jump to the side? If I expose myself, it’ll know where I am and I’m dead. It’ll devour me for sure. If I can’t jump… It still doesn’t know my exact location. That’s why it’s shooting venom over a wide area.
The serpent stuck its long tongue out before slowly winding its body along the inner walls of the fort. After completely blocking the ceiling, its head dangled downwards, and the serpent closed its eyes.
Darkness enveloped the fort. Silence fell as clouds of dust settled.
That was close…
Hikaru was still in the same spot. He didn’t move even as venom rained down. As expected from an optimal hunter in the wild, the serpent understood the behavior of living creatures.
Any prey would try to run away in that situation even if the venom didn’t hit them directly, giving a snake the opportunity to catch them. Put it another way, if you didn’t move, the snake would think that no one was there. It wouldn’t try for a second or third assault.
It didn’t look like the bigger balls of venom would hit him, and he thought his coat would protect him from little sprays. So he stayed still. As he guessed, the splashes of venom didn’t even melt; the venom simply trickled down.
Let’s get down from here.
The serpent was returning to its hibernation mode. Feeling for the wall, Hikaru descended slowly.
The darkness impeded his vision. He sensed the serpent blocking the ceiling with Mana Detection, but there was enough space on the ground to get down to. He took a deep breath as he landed.
Then he felt a sharp pain on his left thumb. He was careless. While he didn’t get hit directly, a drop running down the wall came in contact with his finger. Even though he was wearing gloves, he felt a burning sensation that gradually turned into immense pain.
It penetrated through even with only little contact!
As he didn’t know how potent the venom was, he needed to deal with his finger as soon as possible. He just had to believe that the palpitation wasn’t because of the venom.
Hikaru quickly took action. He poured water from the flask on his waist. Even with his Stealth on, he had to be careful the water didn’t make too much sound.
Is the pain only coming from my thumb? Really? Yeah, no doubt about it. Is the venom spreading throughout my whole body through my thumb? I don’t know. But the tingling sensation doesn’t feel like it’s subsiding.
Hikaru was sweating buckets. He needed to remove the venom at once. He reached for his waist and realized his Dagger of Strength wasn’t there. He left it behind before going down the wall. Without much of a choice, Hikaru drew his wakizashi. Fortunately, the jet-black blade didn’t emit any light, despite the mana it held.
He was well aware of the sweat drenching his body even though he couldn’t see. Hikaru took out a towel from his pocket and shoved it into his mouth.
Let’s do this.
He then pressed the wakizashi on his thumb and cut it off. After a burning sensation, a chill followed, along with a sharp pain. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he managed to keep his teeth clenched, preventing any sound from escaping his mouth.
His left hand burned. The wet sensation must be blood. In any case, this should stop the venom from spreading.
The healing magic contained within one of the revolver’s bullets should heal the wound, but he couldn’t use it here. Casting a spell always produced light, something that couldn’t be concealed even with Stealth. Experience taught him that.
My blunder cost a lot. But I also learned from it. Now the problem is what do I do from here?
He had to kill the serpent first. A blast of fire magic should destroy both the serpent and the dragon stone, but he’d get caught in it as well.
Hikaru removed the towel from his mouth, and in the darkness, managed to wrap it around his left hand. He just needed to stop the bleeding for the time being.
I need to climb the wall to kill it. But there’s a chance the dragon stone will explode if I used fire magic on it. There’s a ten-meter distance between us. I do have a way to kill it, but there’s a catch.
Hikaru opened his Soul Board. It didn’t emit any light, but he knew the words displayed on the screen. He poured all his remaining three points on Power Burst.