— 4 —
My powerless hand grabbed onto Golden Sakura.
That trembling hand was not so much gripping the knife, as it was only able to muster enough strength to barely wrap itself around the knife’s handle.
However, that was enough.
As long as I was deemed to be holding the knife, that was sufficient.
I was no longer able to utter any words, or even make a sound.
But that was not a problem.
Even without anyone hearing it, those words were sufficient.
That’s why, while holding on to Golden Sakura, I
yelledordered loudly in my mind.
Immediately, an unexplainable power surged through my dying body.
The hand that I couldn’t move anymore jerked, nimbly delivering a rapid stab into the air.
However, there weren’t any targets for the knife to stab into.
Thus, the stab cut through thin air, and the skill ended without hitting anything.
…Was what it seemed like.
But it had definitely caused a change.
The change was nowhere else but right inside of my body.
My wounds started to heal.
Energy started to fill my body.
I felt just like I had at the start of the battle, or maybe even better than that.
Merely one second had passed since I activated the skill.
My foot, which shouldn’t have been able to move anymore, once again planted itself on the ground.
However, what I saw after getting up was Ringo being helplessly blown away after receiving a sweeping blow from the Butcher.
While running towards her landing spot, I could feel the blood draining from my face.
If she ate a full-force attack from the Butcher…
I saw a shattered Heat Knife in Ringo’s hand while she was being blown away. It seemed that she narrowly blocked the Butcher’s attack with the knife.
In the game, there was a system where the damage received from an attack could be reduced by blocking it with a weapon, even though it wasn’t a shield.
I put my faith in Ringo being in one piece.
Connecting the short cancels of Step, Highstep, and Flash Step, I dashed towards her at maximum speed.
Catching up to the girl who was still flying through the air, I jumped up with a Jump…
…and activated a dark-elemental ninja sword skill, Shadow Snatch.
Pitch black claws caught Ringo in mid-air, slowing her momentum and at the same time curing her wounds.
Having lost its momentum, Ringo’s body started falling, but unfortunately, I couldn’t go catch her in my arms like the hero in a manga.
If I stopped my skill combo now, Ringo would fall to the ground and I wouldn’t be able to move due to the after-cast stun.
“Guh, Flash Step!”
I was starting to hit the limits of my stamina, but I pushed myself and connected into a Flash Step.
But rather than catching her, due to the effects of Flash Step it ended up more like me pushing her along with my body as we gained some distance from the Butcher.
Entangled, the two of us crashed into the ground.
But as a result, the after-cast stun was cancelled and, while concerned about Ringo, who had ended up beneath me, I speedily uprighted myself.
“Are you alright?”
When I opened my mouth to check on her, Ringo reacted with fervor.
With swiftness that I’d never seen from her before, she turned towards me.
Looking up at me, Ringo’s eyes were opened wide in disbelief.
From her reaction, it seemed likely that there weren’t any problems with her body.
“Sorry for leaving everything to you. But it’s alright now.”
It seemed I’d made her worry, so if possible, I wanted to explain everything to her, but there was no time for that. While we’d gained some distance, we were far from being in the safe area.
I deliberately pulled my gaze away from Ringo and quickly stood up.
Ringo’s anxious voice rang out behind me, but I answered without turning around.
“It’s okay, you can leave everything to me.”
The conditions were all there.
I had enough strength. My concentration was heightened, and I had a new weapon.
“I’ll defeat it.”
As if proving my determination, I took a step towards the Butcher.
After facing the King Butcher head-on, I was able to confirm my suspicions.
When bosses in Nekomimineko took damage, there was a type that got weaker and a type that tried to kill the player by unleashing its hidden powers. Luckily, the Butcher was the former type.
Compared to the start of the battle, its movements were clearly lacking luster. My desperate counter had not been pointless.
That said, I didn’t quite have an absolute advantage yet.
The bosses that got weaker as they’re closer to death frequently had high regenerative abilities, and the Butcher was undoubtedly going to be of the same case.
I needed to bring the battle to a close in one breath while I still held this advantage.
(But, with this Golden Sakura…)
I could adopt a fighting style impossible with Shiranui and execute it with more power than the Wakizashi could offer.
Due to its nature, many of the ninja sword skills could not be used until in very close range to the enemy, but against the current Butcher with its movements dulled due to damage, it wasn’t impossible to land a few hits.
(Not to mention…)
I had yet another ace up my sleeve.
I had the [Ring of Light I].
It was back when I visited the accessory shop in Ramlich with Train Girl.
There, I had bought one ring of each element, as well as a total of eight Ring of Light Is.
The Elemental Ring I series have an effect of reducing the power of the opposing element by 80%.
So, what happened when two of those rings were equipped?
In this game, elemental buffs/debuffs combined additively.
Which meant that two minus 80%s became minus 160%.
Furthermore, an elemental attack’s power was its base attack power times the multiplier.
Putting this all together…
What do you know, when you equipped two or more Ring of Light Is, your dark elemental attacks ended up healing what you hit.
Thus, how did I, on the verge of death, manage to recover in an instant?
Of course, the answer was in what I just explained.
Ninja sword skills were full of stealth and assassination type skills, and perhaps because of their dark image, many of those skills were dark-elemental.
To give an example, there was the dark-elemental multi-hit skill Shadow Snatch that I used moments ago.
There was also the bugged skill nicknamed “instant suicide” that also attacked the player due to a mistake in the skill’s target settings, Bloody Stab.
I’m sure you can already imagine what happened.
Bloody Stab was a dark-elemental skill, and it’s bugged to also attack the player when used. So when used while equipping two Ring of Light Is, amazingly, your HP would be healed by 60% of Bloody Stab’s attack power.
60% was nothing to look down on. Most physical attack-based characters weren’t able to derive an effect from using recovery magic.
In that sense, though it required using up both ring slots, being able to heal without using MP and at almost zero cost while scaling off physical power made Bloody Stab quite an excellent healing skill.
…Though, that was all when this was a game.
In this world, things were slightly different.
In the game, due to system restrictions, only two rings could be equipped, but in this world it became possible to wear ten rings.
And right now, seated on my fingers were all eight of the light-elemental rings I had bought.
The dark-elemental debuff was at 80% x 8 = 640%. Even subtracting the original 100% left 540%. The amount that Bloody Stab healed was more than five times its base attack power.
It’s no surprise that my HP would be completely healed in an instant.
Moreover, these two skills weren’t the only dark-elemental skills I had.
Facing us, the King Butcher stirred.
That was the signal for the start of the second battle between me and it.
That very moment, I used a skill and closed in on the Butcher.
I planned to make this quick.
The movements of the injured Butcher were undeniably duller compared to at the start of the battle.
I’d charge at it from the front and end this with one strike.
As I hardened my resolve, what came to meet me was the Butcher’s knife.
Alerted by my approach, it swung the giant clump of metal.
However, I had no intention of playing along with it.
I cancelled Step into Highstep.
With speed surpassing the Butcher’s expectations, I drew up to its giant body.
Yet the Butcher was able to adapt to that.
The knife in its hand immediately swung down towards me.
It was on a collision course!
(That’s still too slow!)
There, I kicked it up another notch!
This was, currently, my fastest movement combo.
While the Butcher at the start of the battle might have been able to deal with it, the injured Butcher was completely unable to keep up with this speed!
Just like that, I dashed towards its chest.
A giant something grazed past behind me, but power didn’t matter if it didn’t hit.
At the same time, the Butcher’s empty left hand flew towards me, trying to catch me.
But I had already…
…cancelled Flash Step and activated Jump, and had already leapt high off the ground.
Losing its target, the Butcher’s left hand swept thin air.
Launched into the sky, I came face to face with the Butcher, as it was still leaning forward due to the effects of its own attacks.
I was in extremely close proximity to the giant’s weakness and its vital point, its face!
(This, is the end!)
Staring straight at the Butcher’s face, warped by surprise, I activated the final skill!
It was, of course, a third dark-elemental ninja sword skill.
The thirteenth ninja sword skill, Assassin’s Rage.
As the thirteenth skill, this skill should’ve been a powerful skill, but for some reason, its damage had a negative multiplier attached to it and it became known as a landmine, since using it healed the opponent instead.
But, what if it’s activated with a negative dark-element multiplier?
Negative times negative, and it becomes positive.
Now what if it was unimaginably negative, like -540%?
The answer was obvious. It turned this skill, mockingly called the Sword of Life, into the strongest sword of death, or rather, a sword of certain death, capable of defeating even giants!
The dark blade that I swung with a shout ate into the white giant.
Black and white, the two that couldn’t coexist clashed fiercely, but the struggle was over in an instant.
The strike shrouded in darkness distorted the grotesque white face, then, finally…
Due to the skill’s effect, my body continued travelling forward after defeating the Butcher.
Bursting out of the giant’s backside, I landed on the ground without being able to even brace myself.
(Is it over?)
This time, it should’ve definitely been defeated, but unlike in the game, there wasn’t any fanfare or notices announcing the boss’s defeat, nor the dying screams of the giant.
But as I stood up and hurriedly turned around, I saw the giant’s body turning into particles of light bit by bit, dissolving into the air.
“It’s over… right?”
Still unable to believe the sudden conclusion, I muttered to myself.
I looked again at the place where the white giant’s body had been, but there were only its item drops left.
The King Butcher’s signature greatsword and one of the reasons the Butcher had been hunted so much, the unique weapon Butcher’s Knife, and a consumable item that raises the strength stat slightly, Power Seed.
That was all that was left at the place where the Butcher disappeared.
But there was no time for us to be spacing out.
“Wait! What’s the time!”
I looked at my watch.
The watch, which had managed to avoid being broken in the previous exchanges, showed a time of 3:59.
“Ringo! That boulder!”
I threw her the Golden Sakura while giving instructions, and Ringo immediately shot out lightning strikes at the large boulder the Butcher came out of.
It seemed Ringo understood what I meant, as she skillfully collapsed the top part of the boulder, aiming to use the rubble, but…
“Hurry up! It’s gonna…”
Time passed ruthlessly.
As the second hand pointed straight up, and light started gathering towards the spawn point inside the boulder…
The light was dispersed by the large amount of rocks falling down from above.
We nervously waited for a while, but there were no signs of a monster trying to burst out from inside the boulder.
It appeared that everything really was over.
Heaving a deep sigh, I sunk to the floor.
This time, things had been seriously dangerous.
The dangers up until now were never really out of my control, or rather, they all seemed to have had some kind of comical twist to them, but this time things were truly dangerous.
I could only say that I was lucky to have been able to make it out of this.
Well, of course, it wasn’t completely due to luck.
“Thanks Ringo, you saved me.”
Seeing Ringo walk towards me with shaky steps, perhaps still recoiling from the hit she took from the Butcher, I expressed the feelings in my heart.
Like covering up the spawn point at the end, today had been full of things that I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about without Ringo. This might have been the first time since coming to this world that I had been truly saved by someone else.
However, it seemed like Ringo had returned to her normal self now that the danger had passed.
Whether she had heard my words or not, she moved her head up and down ever so slightly that it wouldn’t have been possible to tell without concentrating.
Her face had also returned to her usual blank expression that made her seem mysterious while in reality was probably because she wasn’t thinking about anything at all.
For some reason, that felt deeply moving, as I continued inspecting Ringo’s face, but…
Hearing Ringo’s words, my gaze moved towards my chest.
There, something white was peeking out from the gaps of the ruined mithril armor.
It was my collar bone, exposed by the Butcher’s attack… no, of course not.
“Ah, ahhhh. I see. So that’s why. Haha, ahahahahaha!!”
When I realized what it was, I was hit with an uncontrollable urge to laugh.
Seeing me suddenly burst into laughter in front of her, Ringo tilted her head slightly, but I just couldn’t stop my outburst.
This must be the result of all the tension dissipating.
Taking advantage of Ringo not saying anything, I rolled around laughing for a while.
(Ah, man, I can’t believe it. This is why a game world is so interesting.)
Right after I had unleashed that fire counter.
While suffering from the after-cast stun, I had taken a direct hit from the butcher.
So how did I manage to survive, with my level and parameters all so much lower?
The answer was this.
(Who knew, you really can’t underestimate petty tricks.)
What saved my life, this thin white object peeking out from under the mithril armor, was the insurance I had kept set in the armor ever since I first visited the armor store.
It was a quest item that had been upgraded from an important item to a Key Item since it was being lost so frequently, and had gained the property of being indestructible.
–It was what I received from Old Tuto: the Mysterious Scrap of Paper.