The Asbel Mountain Range
A white world, as far as the eye can see. Fields of snow glittering sparklingly under the sunshine of early winter coming down from the clear skies. The contrast between the vibrant blue and the glistening white dazzling our eyes.
In Spada, autumn was coming to an end. But, I find myself a step ahead of the season, setting foot on a land of midwinter.
At the northernmost tip of Avalon laid the Asbel Mountain Range. It’s been two hours since our unexpected meeting with Wing Road at the Guild, and we are now in the Dungeon Area, where monsters could appear at any time.
“As expected, it’s quite cold…” (Kurono)
Even with bright sunshine and a clear weather, the temperature here is quite low. I don’t have a thermometer at hand, but I’m certain that it’s below zero degrees.
“Lily, aren’t you cold?” (Kurono)
“I’m okaaay.” (Lily)
Thus replied the White Punpun―not, but Lily who was wearing her usual White-pun robe pyjamas.
Rather than being strong against extreme temperatures, as magic beings, fairies aren’t influenced by them. Even if Lily is only a half-fairy, she still inherited half of that trait, making her quite strong against temperature variations when compared to a human. Even so, she felt like trying out her cold-resistant equipment.
With the rabbit ears of her hooded robe shaking, like a kindergartener looking forward to a trip, Lily walked spiritedly.
“Fiona, how are you doing?” (Kurono)
“No problem. I have experienced Dungeons in snowy mountains several times.” (Fiona)
As expected of Fiona, a veteran adventurer. She seems to have already been prepared with equipment for errands in cold regions, wearing some warm fluffy fur, thicker than her usual witch robe. Rather than a robe, it was a coat made of genuine fur.
Her feet equipment was also impeccable, instead of her usual loafers, she was wearing knee-high boots that seemed to be made of heavy leather. Strangely, her soles were always threading lightly above the snow, never sinking deeply in it.
The trick behind it was the effect of the Feather spell. This brittle foothold also served to exhibit the real worth of the Fairy Dancing Shoes, enchanted with the Feather spell, that Lily was wearing. It seemed that when it came to the highest class ones, those even allowed its wearer to do a hop, step and jump while walking on water.
Even if it didn’t go as far as that, it’s true that being able to walk unhindered over the fluffily piled-up powder snow was a really convenient effect to have. When I told Fiona that it would be nice if she wore that instead of the usual, she replied “I do not like wearing it very much, since it is awfully stuffy.”
Ah, that answer made me realize that Fiona’s also a girl.
Anyways, I was currently regretting being the only one without a pair of conveniently Feather-enchanted shoes to walk on this snowy mountain. I advanced while relying on my legs’ strength for the snowploughing.
“Is Kurono-san not cold?” (Fiona)
But, with only her gaze, Fiona also asked if I was fine with my usual equipment. Without need for any false bravado, I honestly answered “No problem.”
“Ah, it’s because I can endure quite a bit of cold and heat.” (Kurono)
Since my body is different from a normal person’s, it’s possible that I’ve been altered to not be affected by extreme temperatures to same degree as Lily.
In fact, I wasn’t cold even when the temperature was in the negative degrees. I felt a bit chilly at most.
“However, I am not sure if that still counts when you are wearing just an apprentice’s robe.” (Fiona)
Wow, I forgot to change into Diablo’s Embrace…
Once I changed clothes, the chill completely vanished. As expected from proper equipment, its cold-resistant function was also perfect. I gave the apprentice’s robe I just took off to Fiona, who folded it neatly and tucked it away inside her hat, and I felt quite embarrassed when she gave me a rather amazed look.
In this manner, besides my bit of carelessness, the first mountain climbing of the “Element Masters” smoothly advanced.
The cave we are aiming for, where the Lust-Rose dwells, isn’t located in the unexplored hinterlands of the mountain range, nor is it near the territory of Rank 5 monsters. It is located somewhere halfway up in the mountains.
However, there are other reasons as to why the Asbel Mountain Range is designated as Rank 5—Well, since this time they are irrelevant to us, let’s leave them aside.
Anyways, from the base of the mountain up to somewhere in the middle, strong Rank 3 monsters that shouldn’t represent any difficulty for mid-ranked adventurers may appear. I think that the mountain’s base is an ideal area for new adventurers.
The areas near the cave have a lot of people coming and going, which means that it has been mapped extensively. Luckily, we are not people without a sense of direction, we all know how to properly read a map, and we have an accurate map; so there’s no need for worry.
“If we keep advancing like this, we’ll reach the cave before sundown.” (Kurono)
“Wouldn’t that be difficult?” (Fiona)
My conjecture was immediately shot down, but there was nothing for me to question or refute to. I simply understood the reason and agreed with it.
“It’s a Dungeon, of course we were going to encounter monsters.” (Kurono)
“Oh no! There’s a presence!” (Lily)
That’s right, we are about to have our first encounter with a monster that lives in this mountain.
We are in a vantage point on a gentle slope. There’s only a dense overgrown conifer forest far ahead and no cover to hide behind while advancing. In addition, with these clear skies it’s unlikely for our vision of the surrounding area to get obscured, we can also immediately detect anything approaching us from the sky.
However, we are not seeing any signs of the enemy in our surroundings. Nevertheless, from the skin-piercing sensation of Freezing Magic I’m feeling, there’s no doubt that the enemy is close.
Where? Where is it coming from? ――At that moment, right in front of me, who’s walking as the vanguard, a spot in the ground of about five meters suddenly rose. Penetrating the thick layer of snow, the monster jumped out from underground ――Or so I thought, but what appeared there was really big snowman.
“Eh? What’s with this snowman?” (Kurono)
With a length of about two meters, it was a stubby man-shaped snow sculpture. Its head was big and round like a watermelon, the two dots and dented line in its face seemed to be something like its eyes and mouth.
And then, snowmen with the exact same design started appearing all around. Sprouting from the snow like bamboo shoots were ten, no, twenty ――thirty or more of them. I gave up counting, a cursory glance was enough to see that there were over a hundred of them.
“Those are Ice Elementals.” (Fiona)
As though it were not unusual, with no hesitation, Fiona correctly guessed their identity.
Elementals are a kind of exemplary magical creatures, born when spontaneously produced coloured magic gets lumped together. Their weak form is a swaying transparent orb floating in the air like some kind of jellyfish, when its magic density increases, it takes a clearer shape and turns into something like these snowmen. Obtaining a physical body by using a material with high affinity with its attribute.
The most famous examples are the naturally occurring undead and golems. Dark Elementals and Terra Elementals, born by possessing corpses and rocks, respectively.
Incidentally, even in ruins that became Dungeons, which are unsuitable for wildlife to inhabit in, the reason for so many monsters to still exist there is that the environment is densely filled with mana, naturally allowing large quantities of elementals to be generated. Because of this, similar to plankton, elementals are considered the lowest in the food chain.
But, as indispensable as elementals might be for the wild monsters’ environment, they are simply foes for adventurers.
Nevertheless, when it comes to a group as big as this one, it becomes quite troublesome even if they belong to Rank 1.
“What should we do, Kurono-san? Their pace seems to be slow, so I believe that we can simply leave.” (Fiona)
“Nah, these are just the perfect opponents to shoot at, so why not leave them to me?” (Kurono)
I’m sure a smug smile is showing on my face. Still, if you’re a man, you’ll never be without a grin!
“The Greed, machine gun form.” (Kurono)
From my deep black shadow extending on the surface of the pure white snow, appeared a jet-black heavy artillery weapon. Not even three seconds were needed for me to get in position, load it, and be ready to fire.
“Eat this, Burst!” (Kurono)
The six-barrelled gun started creaking once the high-speed rotation began, and the countless white shapes standing in front of the muzzle got pulverized by the spouting fire.
My pseudo-full metal jacket, which boasts the same hardness as a ball of lead, easily smashed through the elementals’ brittle snow bodies. With just one shot, arms were flying and legs were crumbing. And whenever a shot hit them in the middle, their bodies got teared into five.
It has the power to cause instant death with only one shot, and it’s capable of firing two thousand rounds per minute, achieving a firing speed equivalent to a real Gatling Gun.
There’s no way for the snowmen to be formed before this black storm of gunfire.
“Huff… Puff… How’s that?” (Kurono)
The annihilation was completed in an instant. Even when surrounding us on all four sides, just by shooting in a clockwise manner they crumbled one by one. These slow snowmen were no more than simple targets.
But, as my agitated breath shows, I’m actually pretty tired. As a matter of fact, it’s unclear whether I managed to shoot two thousand rounds per minute. The reload was too much to keep up with, I had to be fully focussed with all my might on producing the black magic bullets.
It might be better to drop the firing rate a bit. With that tremendous firing speed, there were too many stray shots.
Even so, until now, Gatling Burst has been showing a remarkable effect. It’s probable that, rather than using the Black Ballista Replica¸ this way the power and momentum is superior. As expected, having a personalized weapon is wonderfully effective.
“Kurono-san, you seem to be a little short of breath. Is it possible that you’re not feeling well?” (Fiona)
Just as I was feeling deeply moved by the wonderful performance of The Greed, this happens.
“No, wait, wait a minute. That’s what you’re saying after seeing such an intense attack?” (Kurono)
“Was it really that intense?” (Fiona)
Being asked again with a serious look, I got anxious. I have to calm down and have more confidence in myself.
“Yes, it was really intense.” (Kurono)
“Eh? But wasn’t it just the same as the usual Full Burst?” (Fiona)
“No! It was completely different! Wasn’t the fire power incredibly higher!?” (Kurono)
Fiona didn’t show any understanding at all for my desperate complaints. Damn it. If that’s case, the wise Lily will surely understand the difference!
Ah, it’s that hopeless pattern. Lily has a face of not understanding the gist of the conversation at all.
“Eh? Kurono-san, by any chance, could it be that you’re little sulky?” (Fiona)
I wonder if that was showing too much on my face. No, I was just in a bit of denial from the shock. I’ll just obediently accept it.
But I’ll definitively never sulk or pout.
“No way. Thinking properly about it, unlike with Simon, it was naïve on my part to expect gun amateurs like Lily and Fiona to understand the difference.” (Kurono)
“Mu, for some reason I feel like I’m being look down upon.” (Fiona)
“Lily is a woman that properly understands the difference!” (Lily)
“Oh well, please don’t get me wrong. I just wanted both of you to see and evaluate my flashy move.” (Kurono)
I’m now confident enough to boast about my “flashy move” before ‘Fiona of the Golden Sun’ and ‘Starfall Lily’.
Incidentally, it seems that just the right target to receive this move has appeared. This is quite convenient, as if Nature itself cooperated for my demonstration.
This time for sure, I’ll show them how cool it is. Enthusiastically, I adopted a posture for shooting from the hip and aimed The Greed’s muzzle downwards.
“Well then, let’s leave that big High Ice Elemental as a target for Kurono-san.” (Fiona)
“Kurono, do your best!” (Lily)
As if to drown Lily’s lovely cheer, while spouting snow in surging waves, Fiona’s so called High Ice Elemental showed up.
To describe its appearance in one word, it was a whale.
With a huge body of snow, similar to the Greed-Gore in size, it showed up on the snowy field as if it were emerging from the bottom of the sea. Its body was made in the same manner as the snowmen that I’d defeated just before, a simple structure of gathered snow that’s been hardened. But, as expected, just by being huge its presence was overwhelming.
It’s a relief that this guy appeared in the lower regions of the mountain, near the base. If it had appeared higher or closer the summit, the slightest of its movements would’ve washed away the area with a bursting avalanche.
We had no time to slack at all. The huge whale was furiously swimming up the slope to swallow us.
The surrounding snow surged as it rode on a large wave, pushing its way through in a charge that could only be described as incredible. Complementing that, it imitated a whale’s spouting, with ice spouting thunderously from its hill-sized back.
“If you can’t stop it in a single hit, it will collide with us.” (Fiona)
“No worries, one hit is enough―” (Kurono)
I answered Fiona’s warning in a flat tone with no sense of impending crisis at all, getting ready to blow away that huge thing.
First of all, Energy Charge. With my right hand on the handle and the left one on the fore grip, in order to pour the blackening to my heart’s content with the pseudo-lightning attribute produced by the Third Divine Protection.
I could feel that it smoothly integrated thanks to the magical conduits carved inside. Of course, that was the incorporated Sloth-Gil’s skull.
While it was alive, it used to take over other people’s bodies to slothfully pass the time, now it’s the moment for it to work its fullest.
Well, speaking of working, there’s someone else that also wants to go at it.
“It’s your turn, Hitsugi, Barrel Change! Lightning gun form” (Kurono)
“Yeeees! Leave it to me, master!” (Hitsugi)
As the cheerful reply resounded inside my head, several black chains gushed forth from the shadow made by the long Gatling Gun. After that, their ends turned into claws similar to a bird’s talon, demonstrating Hitsugi’s motivation with a rattle.
Thanks to the Second Divine Protection’s pseudo-earth attribute, shapes other than bullets had become easier to make than ever. The claws are not only solid, their operation is smooth, and the performance is magnificent.
“You remember the procedure?” (Kurono)
“Of course! Hitsugi’s a good girl that’s always prepared!” (Hitsugi)
I received a thorough explanation from Regin-san about exchanging gun barrels, Hitsugi was trained as well, so I could do it even while in combat were both my hands were occupied.
Originally, I was doubtful whether a curse had memory and learning ability, but, since Hitsugi herself said that it was possible, we decided to give it a try.
Now, show your master the results of your training!
“Err… well, this is, hmm… Eh…” (Hitsugi)
Despite the fretting soliloquy that leaked into my head, the procedure advanced somehow.
After detaching the barrel with the six muzzles, a long barrel of high calibre emerged from the shadow to replace it. The base is the same black as the Greed Metal, but, similar to lighting on a dark night, faint lines of sparkling purple lightning emerged from the sides of the barrel.
This is connected to the main part and―
“Kurono-san, since it seems that you’re taking your time, should I shoot it first?” (Fiona)
“J-just give me a second.” (Kurono)
Fiona readied herself with Spitfire for the interception. Could it be that she has no faith in my firepower―No, this is a party and she is taking that stance to give a proper follow-up. Certainly this is done with goodwill instead of nervousness.
“Kurono-san, not yet? (Fiona)
“Hey, Hitsugi, hurry up! At this rate my spotlight will―” (Kurono)
“I did it master! Ready to fire!” (Hitsugi)
Alright, you did it! Well done Hitsugi. The gun barrel was replaced splendidly, and I just finished charging up the lightning mana. All that’s left is to pull the trigger.
There’s no need to aim. Because the approaching snow whale already decreased the distance by 50 meters. There’s no way I’ll miss such a huge target even if I shoot without using a sight.
“―Plasma Blaster, fire!” (Kurono)
Like that, with a triumphant look on my face, I fired my best shot.