139 – The First Stratum – The Watchdog’s and Hellfire’s Realm 1
「Theo will make a path, and after everyone runs through, I’ll catch up while carrying Theo.」
Scathach is also a lightning-type Hero, but he has a higher ranking Lesser Spirit so he can do a lot more things.
You need both talent and technique to handle Spirit Magic, so effort is essential.
Talent and effort. There are discussions about which is more important, but in the Spirit contractor’s case, both are important.
If you have talent but lack effort in developing your technique, the Spirit won’t teach you Spirit Magic.
If you shed blood, sweat, and tears with your effort but lack talent, the Spirit won’t teach you Spirit Magic.
Also, even with both talent and effort, if the Spirit’s ranking is low, it might not know a strong Spirit Magic to teach you.
If you rely on Spirit Magic, then talent, effort, and luck are essential.
Scathach has all of that.
The lightning element is derived from the wind element.
Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to the main Wind Spirit that Uncle Air made a contract with.
But among the Lesser Spirits, I think it is the closest in strength to it.
Naturally, Scathach uses lighting strikes, he can also move as fast as a thunder hammer by wreathing himself in thunder and lightning.
「I already knew you’d suggest that, so I have already prepared the way!」
Five from his right hand, another five from the left. A total of ten threads stretched out from his outstretched hands, each side linked in a complicated lattice, latching around the gate of the fake Demon King Castle.
With this, the Hellhounds cannot attack from either side, and the unfortunate individuals who happened to be caught in strings were dispatched by us.
Excluding Scathach and Theo, the plan is for fifteen of us to run and reach the gate, and then Scathach will carry Theo on his back and catch up with us to complete it.
「Well then, we’ll be going on ahead.」
「Why don’t we just beat up all the incoming enemies?」
Herv, or rather the Hero of the Cursed Sword Hervor, pursed her lips in boredom.
「In that case, we’ll open up the threads just enough for you and your party. Then you can go out there and play with the dogs.」
「Hah, you really get me, Scathach. Alright! Open those threads!」
「…It was sarcasm, you muscle-brained woman.」
I accidentally let out a laugh.
I understand both opinions.
Both are cool and are fine.
Herv’s style of「Charge and scatter’em!」 brings invigoration and excitement to the audience and makes them want to applaud.
A flashy Clear.
Scathach’s members pride themselves in excellently precise attacks and speed, surprising audiences with their speedy Clears.
An expedient Clear.
Both are fine. The important thing is that we choose the way we want to win.
Do whatever you want. The Hero’s job is to win.
What is needed in order to do that will change depending on your own and your allies’ abilities.
「What a boring guy… We can do a lot more, y’know?」
「Drop it. I thought we said that we would lead on this stratum?」
Hearing that, she stopped complaining, shrugged, and let out a sigh.
「Don’t get in the way, right? Do what you want.」
She said, and then gave up, but that wasn’t the whole reason.
If she thought that we couldn’t win with Scathach’s method, she would have ignored it.
Expressing that this isn’t her preferred method doesn’t mean that she is denying the other party.
She simply doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean it’s not good.
She seems to be acting as she pleases, but she actually has that kind of flexible thinking.
「Well, see ya later.」
I gave a small wave to Theo since we had been talking frequently up to this point.
「Fufu, I want to say「See you soon」, but I feel that saying that shall invite misfortune to occur so I shall NOT say it!」
You just did…
But I won’t say that to him. I already ran out, and it isn’t worth turning around to say it.
We ran in a formation where the Aerial party was the vanguard, followed by the Hervor party and my team, and then the three members from the Scathach party.
I think it would be better if either the Aerial party or the Hervor covered the rear but I think the remaining three members thought it would make it easier for Scathach and Theo to rejoin them.
If nothing bad happens, then I guess it shouldn’t be an issue.
But this is the Demon King Castle, after all.
We were all about halfway through the space created by the walls of woven threads.
That’s when it happened.
Several things happened at the same time, each person had to make a decision instantly.
I’ll go through the events one by one.
First, the threads were burned up.
I saw it for an instant, a fire elemental attack came from midair, burning the threads.
Two questions arose from this. Where did the sudden Fire Magic come from? How did the thread burn? The answers to both soon appeared in my mind.
The magic probably came from an invisible enemy. This means that attacking does not cancel the invisibility. Because we could see the magic attack, but we couldn’t see who fired it.
…They’re probably firing from a distance.
The threads burning up is also a mystery. Theo’s threads are resistant to magic, so a fireball like that just now shouldn’t have been able to burn it up.
But once again, something immediately came to my mind.
The Hellhounds. More precisely, the liquid that we thought they put on themselves in order to slip out of the threads.
It was probably flammable.
Among the fifteen dogs, eight of them slipped out of them and retreated. They had already coated the right amount on the threads.
When creating the path, the threads were first stored in the ring first. Could it have been at that moment when all the threads were soaked? I don’t know the mechanism behind the thread’s expansion and contraction, but I’m pretty sure they’re all connected.
The wall of threads soon changed into a path of flames. Because of the length of the path, extinguishing it is no easy task.
Out of all of us, Theo is the one in trouble. It’s gonna be a problem for him when the flames catch up to the user.
This is one of the problems.
The next is…
「Calm down, Ewan. We’re with you.」
It was the Gale Hero Ewan’s voice.
Uncle Air called out to the panicking Ewan.
His panicking can’t be helped.
The Invisible Slaughterer Glasya-Labolas appeared and swooped down from the air, aiming at Ewan, after all.
If a Floor Boss equivalent Monster has decided to make you its target, it’s not unreasonable to lose your cool.
Ewan immediately fired off three crescent-shaped wind blades, but they were all avoided in the air.
Maybe because he’s panicking, or maybe he can’t aim well. His power is considerable, though.
No matter how excellent of a result you get in the School, it’s all about practice, in the end.
I know that he’s excellent through his training so far, so in terms of ability, I know he has it.
People have emotions, and depending on these emotions, they may or may not be able to demonstrate their abilities.
The guy looked like he was trying not to drag down his seniors or something.
Well, the Frost Hero Bella was doing well in her first Clear until the Demon of Love Sitri got her.
But it’s not just those two, there are very few people who can fully demonstrate their abilities in their first real battle.
I’m sure Uncle Air knows all about that.
This is why I’ll leave this second problem to them.
The next is…
The usually calm and quiet Caleena calls out to her master, the Faceless Archer Suuri.
Several arrows could be seen suspended in midair, the group of three Scathach party members in the rear were being assaulted by Hellhounds.
Speaking of the rear, we already walked past those areas and weren’t attacked, and the sides were blocked by the walls of threads, there’s no way we could have been attacked from behind in the first place.
Rather than worrying about a hole in the thread wall, I think it’s highly likely that Glasya-Labolas was carrying enemies on his giant back and they jumped off of him.
…Wait a minute, how did Suuri know just now?
Unlike before, there aren’t any wet footprints left on the ground or anything.
Maybe he felt a disturbance, like he felt their Magical Energy slightly.
I guess I should say that that is to be expected of the 5th-ranked Hunter in the world. He’s not normal.
Caleena is a master of the bow, but she’s glaring at the empty sky with a grim expression on her face, unmoving. Or rather, she can’t move.
Because she simply can’t follow the movements of invisible Hellhounds.
And it doesn’t seem to be because of inexperience.
「Watch out, there’s more than just Hellhounds.」
This was clearly a plan thought up by someone. There’s a guy giving proper instructions in accordance with what is happening.
It’s probably a Beast Master. Is that what Suuri is saying, or is there another hidden threat?
I couldn’t confirm it. Anyway, this was problem number three.
The reason I couldn’t confirm it is because of the final problem.
「…Well this is a pain in the ass.」
Herv said. What we’re facing really is a pain, but if you consider our actual situation, her tone could be described as carefree.
The Hervor party, Fran and I were currently sinking.
The ground gave way like quicksand and we were being swallowed up by a swamp of sand.
This is a very Dungeon-esque trap, but this kind hasn’t been seen on this stratum on the Clear videos.
This must be new. I think there are other sand traps set elsewhere, but if they were set along the shortest route from the starting point to the fake Demon King Castle, then most speed-focused parties will step on them.
If it’s new, there’s no way to anticipate it.
What amazing timing.
Due to the quicksand, neither the Aerial party nor the three members of the Scathach party can retreat.
They have no choice but to confront each of their threats head-on.
To the left and right of us are our ally’s burning threads, they can’t simply be crossed.
And of course, since everyone has a threat before their eyes to deal with, no one can go and help out Theo.
I’m sure those two are being assaulted by Hellhounds right now.
This feeling of all four Hero parties about to be crushed is amazing.
If it was the usual first stratum, it would have been way too boring.
This doesn’t mean that the Clear level is low. It can’t be helped if the seventeen Adventurers are all first-class.
Dungeons are basically managed while thinking about how to best eliminate a party of five.
Suddenly changing from that to a Raid Battle format in such a short time and having everything function perfectly is just like the Demon King Castle.
It isn’t called Impregnable for nothing.
Four problems occurred at the same time.
Fran is looking at me.
Yeah, I know. We’re a two-person group, but even so, I’m the leader.
The difficulties we must face are given to me.
All I have to do is break through this, like an Adventurer.
What we should think about is not how to get out of this quicksand.
Instead, we should assume that we’ll break free and think about who we should lend a hand to.
I’ll leave Glasya-Labolas to the Aerial party.
Should we help the three-man Scathach party with the Hellhounds and the assumed Beast Master?
Should we help the other two with the burning thread and the oncoming Hellhounds?
Or perhaps the five sinking people in the Hervor party?
Who can do what, how will it work, and how will it play out?
All seventeen of us are now one group. Consider everyone as my allies, how should we Clear this stratum?
Think and then act.
If I can’t even do that, then there’s no way I can reach the Unyielding Hero.
First I will…