The sound of rushing water filled the area. A cool breeze lightly brushed against his cheek, his body shivered due to penetrating cold. There was a solid sensation against his face while a chill pierced his lower body. Hajime raised a groan as he woke up.
The pain ran through not just his head but also his entire body. Hajime furrowed his brows and propped his upper body up with both arms.
“Ow~ This is… I thought for sure I…”
Holding his unsteady head with his hand, he studied the vicinity while trying to recall what happened. The surrounding was dim, but thanks to the illumination of the green light stones, it was not like he couldn’t see anything. Before Hajime’s eyes was an underground river about five meter wide. His lower body was submerged in the river, and the upper body was caught between protruding rocks at the river bank.
“That’s right… the bridge… it collapsed”
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His groggy mind finally caught up with the events that had taken place. He realized the only reason he was still alive after such a fall was due to an amazing stroke of luck. During the fall he found many holes along the cliff wall, moreover, jet of water would occasionally spout from those holes. They were like a series of geysers. Hajime didn’t know how many times he had been blown away by those jets of water, slamming into the walls. In the end, he was pushed into a tunnel that resembled waterslide and was flushed to this place. It was an unbelievable miracle. However, when he was blown into the tunnel, Hajime hit his head and lost consciousness. It was unbelievable how such a miracle took place.
“Either way, I am still alive… Atchoo! …I-It’s so cold.”
He was submerged in the cold underground water this whole time, because of this his entire body was freezing. At this rate there was a possibility that he could catch hypothermia, so Hajime pulled himself out of the river immediately and took off his wet clothes while shivering uncontrollably. He only left undergarments on and wrung out his other clothing. Using his 【Transmutation】 skills, he started to carve a magic circle on the ground.
“Uuu… It’s so cold, it’s hard to concentrate like this.”
He wanted to use the 【Spark】 magic. This was a simple magic that even children could perform with a ten centimeter magic formation. However, not only did he not have magic stone that increased the magic’s efficiency, Hajime’s proficiency in magic was almost zero. So the only way to cast the spell was to draw a magic circle that was more than one meter in diameter with large amount of complex magic formulas. After about ten minutes, he finally completed the magic formation, then he activated it by pouring magic power into the magic circle with a chant.
“I seek thy fire,The power of light, Manifest thyself, 【Spark】 ……Uuu~ Why is there a need for such an exaggerated chant just to raise a fire~ So embarrassing~ Haa~”
The sighing seemed to have become a bit of a habit recently. Nevertheless, he still laid his clothes near the fist-sized flame invoked by him while bathing in its warmth.
“I wonder where is this… I should have fell a considerable distance… Will I be able to make it back?”
Warming himself next to the fire, he slowly calmed down, but then his heart gradually filled with anxiety. Tears began to accumulate in the corner of his eyes, he felt like he about to cry. When he realized he would fall apart if he started to cry now, he wiped his tears and slapped his cheeks with both hands.
“I can’t just do nothing, I must get back to the surface. There’s nothing to be afraid of, everything will work out.”
Hajime’s face became determined after he muttered some encouragement to himself, all the while staring into the flames.
After warming himself for twenty minutes, his clothes was almost completely dry, so he put them back on and set off. Hajime was not sure which level he fell into, but surely he was still in the Dungeon. It wouldn’t be strange to see magic beasts lurking around. Hajime was being very, very, very careful as he proceeded into a huge passage ahead.
The passage that Hajime entered felt more like a cave. Rather than a low-rise square passage, the passage had rocks and walls protruding in different places and winds around complicatedly. It was similar to the last room on the 20th floor. However, the size couldn’t even be compared. Even if the complicated passage was full of obstacles, it was still around twenty meter in diameter. Even the more narrow places were around ten meter in diameter, so it was considerably big. It was not an easy path to tread, however, there were a lot of hiding spots. Hajime advanced stealthily from cover to cover.
After traveling what seemed like a great distance, Hajime started to get tired. Just as he was about to stop for a break, he finally reached the first fork in the road. It was a huge crossroads. Hajime was hiding behind a boulder, wondering which path he should take.
Just as he was considering, he saw something moving from the corner of his eyes, and panicked, hiding his entire body behind the boulder. Poking his head out to observe the situation, Hajime saw a white furball hopping along the path straight ahead. It had long ears, and its outer appearance looked just like a rabbit. However, it was about as big as a mid-sized dog and its hind legs were well-developed. And the most important point was that, the “rabbit” had crimson lines that ran down its entire body like blood vessels. The lines pulsated like a thumping heart, making it look extremely creepy.
That was clearly a dangerous magic beast. So he decided it’s best to avoid it by going either left or right. Judging from the rabbit’s position, he should be able to avoid detection if he went to the right passage. Hajime held his breath and waited for the best opportunity. Then, the rabbit turned its back against Hajime and started to sniff at the ground. This is it! Hajime took this chance and attempted to dart.
In that split second, the rabbit seemed to have reacted to some noise, as it quickly straightened its back and stood up. Prickling its ears vigilantly, it peered over.
(Crap! D-Did it discover me? I-I should be fine, right?)
He quickly ducked back behind the rock and tried to calm his beating heart. While feeling that his heartbeat would be picked up by those keen ears, Hajime broke out in a cold sweat from head to toe.
However, the rabbit became vigilant for a different reason.
Along with the roar of the magic beast, a wolf-like magic beast with white fur sprung out from the shadow of a boulder and pounced at the rabbit. That white wolf had two tails and was about the size of a large dog. Just like the rabbit, the wolf had the same pulsating crimson lines all over its body. After that wolf jumped out from nowhere, another two Twin-Tailed Wolves sprang out from the back of other boulders.
Hajime peeked his head out from the shadow of the boulder to observe the situation. No matter how you look at it, it was the scene of wolves preying on rabbit-chan (though it was not cute enough to attach a -chan with it). Under the cover of the confusion, Hajime rose to his feet. However…
At the same time the cute cry was raised, the rabbit leapt into the air and turned around, using its thick hind-leg to perform a roundhouse kick on one of the Twin-Tailed Wolves.
The kick generated a sound that wouldn’t be thought possible from a kick. Rabbit-chan’s got a clean kick to the Twin-Tailed Wolf’s skull, as a result…
Along with a noise that was not at all loud and clear, the head of the Twin-Tailed Wolf twisted in a strange angle.
Hajime went stiff at that display. During this time, the rabbit used the centrifugal force from the roundhouse kick to increase its rotation speed in the air until it was upside-down. The rabbit stomped the air and fell towards the ground like a meteor, sending a powerful vertical spinning kick.
The second wolf’s head was pulverized without even getting the chance to give its final cry. Another two Twin-Tailed Wolves appeared at this time, jumping out the moment the rabbit landed. Hajime had no doubt that the rabbit would be defeated this time. But the rabbit did a handstand while rotating its legs at high speed like it was breakdancing. Both the Twin-Tailed Wolves that pounced at it were repelled towards the walls, because of the tornado-like spinning kicks. Along with the sound of splattered tomato, blood splashed on the walls and the wolves slowly slipped onto the ground, unmoving.
The last wolf tousled its tail as it growled. As a result, those tails started to discharge electricity. That was clearly the Twin-Tailed Wolf’s Unique Magic.
Along with the howl, the electric shock scattered all over the place with a pitter-patter. However, as the lightning strike approached at high-speed, the rabbit avoided it splendidly with zigzag movements. When the lightning finally dissipated, the rabbit closed the distance in a single breath and drove a high kick into the Twin-Tailed Wolf’s jaw. The kick sent the Twin-Tailed Wolf somersaulting, landing on the ground with a bang. The scruff of its neck had obviously snapped.
The bunny was like:
Letting out a victory cry? It pricked up its ears and raised its forelimbs just like that.
“……You must be kidding me, mamma mia……”
Hajime who was still scared stiff could only give a dry smile. This was really bad, the Skeleton Soldiers that gave the students a hard time looked nothing more than toys compared to this bunny. If it was just the attack power, this rabbit might even be stronger than the Behemoth.
Hajime knew it would be certain death if he was discovered, this fretting caused him to unconsciously step back. That was a wrong move.
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That noise echoed throughout the entire cave. Hajime had kicked a pebble near his feet as he took a step back. While abhorring himself for making such a clumsy mistake, Hajime’s forehead broke out into cold sweat. The Kicking Rabbit turned its head slowly like a robot that hadn’t been oiled in order confirm the origin of the noise —— Hajime came into the Kicking Rabbit’s line of sight.
It squinted its ruby-like eyes as soon as it caught sight of him, Hajime was frozen like a frog being caught in the stare of a snake. Emergency sirens telling him to run away with everything he had started to sound in the depths of his soul, but almost as if all the nerves in his body has been severed, he couldn’t move.
Before long, the Kicking Rabbit that only had its head turned rotated its entire body towards Hajime, its legs started to gather power.
Hajime instinctively knew what would happen next. The Kicking Rabbit released the power stored in its legs all at once, leaving afterimages in its wake as it dashed at him in a ludicrous speed.
By the time he noticed, Hajime had already leapt towards the side with all his might.
Soon after, the place where Hajime was at just a second ago was struck by the cannonball-like Kicking Rabbit. The ground exploded and left a huge crater as if it had been gouged out. Hajime was rolling on the ground with a rumble, then he stopped in a sitting position with his butt on the ground. He moved back while looking at the caved in ground with a pale face.
The Kicking Rabbit casually stood up, and once more, assaulted Hajime with the same explosive attack. Hajime quickly erected a rock wall with his transmutation, but the rock wall was effortlessly pierced through by the kick of the Kicking Rabbit. The rock wall in front of Hajime exploded, he lifted his left arm by reflex. The attack that should have crushed his face was blocked, but the collision sent him tumbling on the ground again. By the time he stopped rolling, he felt an immense pain coursing through his left arm.
When he looked at his left forearm, it was hanging and bent in an odd angle. Looks like the bone was completely crushed. Crouching in agony due to the pain, he desperately searched for the Kicking Rabbit. After the fierce attack earlier, the Kicking Rabbit still maintained an easygoing manner as it slowly walked over. Hajime felt that the Kicking Rabbit carried a mocking expression in its eyes, as if looking down on him. Looks like he had been completely toyed with.
Hajime could only look at it with an ugly expression and backed away on his butt. Before long, the Kicking Rabbit stopped in front of Hajime. It looked down on him, as if he was nothing more than a worm crawling on the ground. After which, as if showing off, it lifted one of its leg over the head.
(Will I…… die here……?)
Hajime was assaulted by despair, he renounced himself and looked up at the Kicking Rabbit’s foot with blank expression. And finally, the deadly kick was swung down with a swirl of tempest. Hajime tightly shut his eyes due to fear of the impending death.
However, no matter how much time had passed, the blow he expected never came. Hajime timidly opened his eyes, and the Kicking Rabbit’s foot was right before his eyes, stopping just a few inches away.
(Don’t tell me, it is still planning to toy with me?)
Just when Hajime gave up all hope, he noticed something strange. If he looked closely, the Kicking Rabbit seemed to be shivering in fear.
(W-What? Why is it shivering…… it seems to be scared of something……)
No, not “seems”, it was a fact, the Kicking Rabbit was petrified. It was because of the new magic beast that appeared when Hajime tried to run towards the right passage.
It was an enormous magic beast. The beast was about two meter tall, its sturdy frame covered in white fur. Just like all the other magic beasts, it also had pulsating crimson lines winding around its body. As an analogy, that beast was practically a bear, however, its long and thick arms that extended all the way down to its feet, had three sharp claws that were each about thirty centimeter long.
That Talon Bear had gotten close before he knew it, glancing hostilely at the Kicking Rabbit and Hajime. The surroundings was wrapped in silence.
Hajime stiffened more than ever, and even the Kicking Rabbit was also frozen stiff. No, it was more like it couldn’t move an inch. Just like how Hajime was frozen with fear earlier. It was frozen by the Talon Bear’s glare.
Starting to get annoyed of the situation, the Talon Bear let out a growl.
As if the Kicking Rabbit was roused from a dream, it quivered momentarily before it turned on its heel and ran away at top speed. Until a moment ago, it was using its hind legs to pulverize the enemies, but now it was used to flee. However, it was a failed attempt.
Using speed that didn’t match its size, the Talon Bear closed in on the Kicking Rabbit while brandishing those sharp claws. As expected of the clever Kicking Rabbit, it was able to dodge the attack by twisting its body. Hajime also confirmed with his eyes, the Talon Bear’s claw swept past and missed its target, it seemed like the Kicking Rabbit was not even scratched.
However…… The Kicking Rabbit’s body was cleaved in half when it finally landed, blood gushed out like a fountain, and two halves of its body fell in opposite directions.
Hajime was stunned. The powerful Kicking Rabbit didn’t even get a chance to counterattack, and was killed so easily. The reason why the Kicking Rabbit tucked its tail and ran, he finally understood. That Talon Bear was so powerful that rules might as well not exist, even if that Kicking Rabbit possessed skills on the level of martial experts, it still wouldn’t be that monster’s opponent.
The Talon Bear walked towards the Kicking Rabbit’s remains leisurely, using its sharp claws to skewer the corpse, it wolfed down with a gorging noise.
Hajime could not budge an inch. He was consumed by fear, furthermore, even while chewing on the Kicking Rabbit, the Talon Bear pinned down Hajime with its sharp eyes. Hajime was pierced by that glare.
The Talon Bear swallowed the whole Kicking Rabbit after just three mouthfuls. It growled as it turned towards Hajime. The beast’s eyes said it all, “You are next.”
Hajime started to panic when faced with the eyes of a predator.
While screamingly meaninglessly, Hajime had even forgotten about his broken left arm as he stood up and ran towards the opposite direction of the Talon Bear. However, even that Kicking Rabbit couldn’t get away, it was impossible for Hajime to be able to. With a howl of the wind, a powerful attack struck Hajime from his left, flinging him against the wall.
The blow had knocked all the air out of his lungs. While having a coughing fit, he slid down the wall with a crash. Hajime’s vision blurred from the impact, dazed, he looked towards the direction of the Talon Bear and noticed that the Talon Bear was chewing on something.
However, just what was it chewing on. The Kicking Rabbit had already been consumed, and for some reason, the arm it was eating looked awfully familiar. Hajime was in an incomprehensible confused state as he looked at his left arm that felt lighter for some reason. To be more precise, where his left arm was supposed to be……
Hajime tilted his head with an anguished expression, where did my left arm go? Why is it bleeding so much? His brain and heart refused to accept the situation. However, it was impossible to escape from reality forever. Hajime was roused from his semi-conscious state, the sharp pain bringing him back to reality.
Hajime’s shriek reverberated within the Dungeon, just now, everything below his left elbow had been cut off. That was because of the Talon Bear’s Unique Magic. The wind blades that were wrapped around the three claws could extend up to thirty centimeter and cut the target ahead of it. Considering that, simply losing one arm was very lucky. The Talon Bear might be toying with him, or Hajime was really just that lucky. It wouldn’t be weird even if his body was split in half like the Kicking Rabbit earlier.
After the Talon Bear finished snacking on Hajime’s arm, it drew closer to him unhurriedly. It didn’t have a patronizing expression like the Kicking Rabbit, it seemed like it couldn’t view Hajime as anything else but food.
The Talon Bear that gradually pressed in before his eyes extended its front paw towards Hajime. Maybe it was not planning to use its claws to slice him up, but rather swallow him whole.
“A-Ah… Khhh, Tr-【Transmutation】!”
With his face smeared in tears, mucus, and saliva due to the excessive pain, Hajime placed his right hand on the wall behind him to transmute. It was an involuntary reaction. He who was called incompetent, he who didn’t have any aptitude for magic, he who had an all around low specs, that was the only power Hajime possessed. It was a magic that was normally used to process swords, spears, and armors. Everyone from that class became a synergist without exception and were thought to be useless in combat. The methods that an otherworlder like Hajime came up with gave the knights quite a shock. In order to make himself helpful to his classmates, Hajime thought of multiple ways of using it. It was precisely because of this, that Hajime unconsciously became dependant on it even on the brink of death, paving the way for his survival as a result.
A hole that was about 50 cm high, 120 cm wide, and 2 m deep appeared on the wall behind him. Just before the Talon Bear’s sharp claws reached him, Hajime laid down and rolled into the hole.
With its prey escaping right before its very eyes, the Talon Bear was overwhelmed with rage.
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The beast unleashed its Unique Magic while letting out a roar, waving its crescent-like claws towards the cave Hajime entered. Along with a horrific destructive noise, the wall was shaved off by the bear’s powerful claws.
“Wuahhhhh——! Transmutation! Transmutation! Transmutatioooon!”
Along with the roar of the Talon Bear and scraping noise of the walls that were gradually getting closer, Hajime panicked and continuously used transmutation to delve deeper into the wall, hoping to put a little more distance from that monster. Without looking back, he just recklessly casted transmutation repeatedly, advancing by crawling on the ground. He had all but forgotten the pain from his left arm, his survival instinct ordering him to continuously use the only power he possessed.
Hajime didn’t know how far he had proceeded like this, but what he does was that he could no longer hear those horrifying sounds. In reality, he did not even progress that much. The effective range of each transmutation could only cover up to two meter (Which has doubled since his initial days). More importantly, the bleeding from his left hand was very serious, and he wouldn’t be able to last much longer. In fact, Hajime’s consciousness almost faded away due to the severe blood loss. Even so, he continued to struggle and advanced.
“Transmutation…… Transmutation…… Transmutation…… Transmutation……”
After several transmutations, the wall in front of him remains unchanged. His magic power exhausted before his body gave out. His hand that was pressed against the wall slid down wearily.
His head started to feel hazy, and just as Hajime was about to lose consciousness, he held his breath and used the last ounce of his strength to flip his body over. He aimlessly stared into the heavens, but all he saw was a blanket of darkness. This region was not illuminated by the Green Light Stones.
Hajime unconsciously recalled some of his past memories, it was another Revolving Lantern. His life flashed right before his eyes. From the nursery to elementary school, middle school, and then his high school days. All sorts of memories flooded his mind, and his final memory was…… The time he spent with Kaori in that room illuminated by the moonlight, and that smile on her face when they made the promise……
After remembering that beautiful sight, Hajime’s consciousness was engulfed by the darkness. Just before his consciousness completely faded away, he felt droplets of water dripping onto his cheek, as if someone was shedding tears for him.