|Author: Ryuusen Hirotsugu||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3835 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 2085 words|
The next morning after the night they spent in the Staircase to the Sky dungeon, Mira woke up at around 8 o’clock, greeted Heinrich who woke up earlier than her, then went to the small stream to wash her face. Once she was done with that, she returned to an already prepared breakfast.
It was still the same meat they had had the night before, but it was still good to eat.
(Quite a peculiar thing to have meat in the morning like this.)
Mira looked down at her body, and as she rubbed her stomach with her hands, she muttered to herself with a deeply emotive voice ‘That’s youth for you’.
After some delay, Heinrich also joined them in eating, chewing through it like a bear that was woken up in the middle of hibernation.
「Breakfast is the main source of energy for a day after all.」
By the time he was done eating, his sleepiness had also worn off, and his usual stern yet approachable appearance returned.
After that they put away their sleeping bags and camping items before heading towards the sixth floor.
「Alright, our goal is to arrive at the Abandoned City before the sunset. Also, starting from this floor, all the monsters are B rank, so don’t lower your guard.」
「I’m itching to go at them already.」
A cold wind crept down from upstairs. In the middle of the staircase, the multiple echoes from the wind layered on top of each other composing an eerie melody that resounded all around them.
But the three ignored it, knowing it was the wind blowing from upstairs, and continued with their climb.
Roughly one hour later they were on the next floor, and after wiping out the monsters in it, they continued with their ascent. Between the sixth and ninth floor, the number of monsters became considerably larger, and they also acted with better coordination between them. But there was still none that could stand on the Dark Knight’s path, and the outliers fell as they trembled in front of Heinrich’s blade or their roars were silenced by Gilbert’s arrows.
A calm hunter that slowly shaved down their backline, a warrior that had honed his skills past that of any high class adventurer, and the highest rank a magician could reach, a Wiseman. Those three together formed a group that could not be stopped by simple brute force. Especially when it concerned Mira, this was barely a distraction for her.
Roughly six hours passed like that since they left the fifth floor. They were getting really close to the tenth floor of the Staircase to the Sky.
The tenth floor was somewhat narrower than the floors they had encountered so far, and they could not see any monsters on it.
The floor was illuminated by lights that flickered like broken light bulbs, their cold light only reached certain places, giving the place the appearance of a puzzle where not all the pieces were visible at the same time.
That unsettling light was arranged all around the walls surrounding the floor, the flashes of light unable to reach the center of the floor, only showing deceiving outlines of it.
There was no sense of regularity to the flickering, each of the lights looking like they had been isolated from the rest.
「It was about time. Let’s make a battle plan first. Also, Mira, do you know about this boss?」
「Yes, I’m aware of it.」
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Sitting on the last step of the staircase, Gilbert asked Mira. She jumped down from the Dark Knight’s shoulder and sat on the step as well, replying while she stretched her legs.
To be exact though, rather than knowing about it, she had defeated it countless times.
「Then this will go smoothly. We have to wait until the boss starts moving before we try to do something to it. Once it does, it will cast down lightning to attack us. During that time we will take cover, and when it leaps downs to attack us that way, that’s when we knock it down. Does that sound good?」
「I’m already itching to fight it, but I have no objections.」
The plan Gilbert came up with was a sure-fire way to defeat the boss of the Staircase to the Sky. It’s lightning attack was really fast, but if they kept moving they would be able to dodge it. If none of its lightning hit them, the boss would attack from the air gliding down towards them, and that was their best chance at dealing damage to it.
This time however, there was someone present who could go above and beyond that method.
「No, there’s no need to take cover. I’ll head out to hit it straight on, you two can stay back and prepare yourselves.」
Mira spoke nonchalantly like that with a deadpan face, then bringing the Sweetberry ale she was just served to her lips, her cheeks loosening up feeling the bittersweet taste filling her mouth.
Hearing her, Gilbert recalled the pegasus and garuda she had summoned in the past. With that alone he was already impressed by Mira’s actual strength, so her current suggestion would probably be able to rival that of waiting until the boss was in mid-air.
「I see, you might be onto something there, and it will be faster too. We’ll go with your suggestion then.」
「Mhm, just trust in me.」
That concluded their strategy meeting, and after a short break Heinrich took the lead heading towards the center of the floor.
After one, two, and three steps.
The closer they got, the flickering surrounding them also accelerated.
While before they could only tell vague contours flashing there, now there was a better defined afterglow which gave the scene one more dimension.
And the thing standing in the darkness, was neither white or black, but a gray color.
As they drew even closer, its size became more obvious. The three of them turned their heads to look at it as it stood towering above them, around three times taller than Mira. A couple of steps more and they were inside the central area. As soon as they arrived there, the blinking became so rapid it seemed to be buzzing, and then it suddenly vanished leaving only a bright afterimage in their retinas.
Darkness filled everything. A disembodied voice permeated the air and darkness around them, and then a slight metallic clang rang out.
As if recently dead, or just sleeping, something resembling a surging presence was definitely there.
Darkness accentuates a person’s innate fears, and the flow of time gets jumbled up, making it hard to tell if a couple of minutes had passed, or just one, or maybe even just a couple of seconds. Then, as sudden as it had vanished, a white blueish light filled the floor.
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Having grown used to the dark environment from earlier, the bright flood of light attacked their defenseless eyes, piercing straight to their brains.
Heinrich narrowed his eyes as he kept them focused forwards. At the same time, Gilbert covered his eyes with one hand while the other reached for his quiver. Mira slowly opened her eyes she had closed until then, training them on the gatekeeper of the Abandoned City in the Sky.
In front of them stood an eerie stone statue in the shape of something between a scrawny goat and an old woman. One hand held a stone spear, the other a stone shield. Its back had wings like a bird’s growing out of it.
「Don’t lower your guard now.」
Saying that, Gilbert took a few steps back.
After that, a murmur like voices from a house late in the night escaped from the statue.
Next, its whole body began gradually trembling, then cracks ran through it, chunks of stone flying out. Under that gray layer, a lustrous black hide peeked out, spreading through the whole body like spots of ink soaking into a cloth.
The stone fragments rained one after another covering the ground like rough snow.
A large fragment that looked like a plate then fell to the ground, sending smaller fragments flying everywhere. That had been the layer covering its face.
After that, it opened its blue eyes that had remained closed until then, and roared loudly as if its throat was split open, the noise filling the whole floor and making their chests resound with it.
Once the roar was over, the stone armor that still covered its lower body burst open, and the boss of the Staircase to the Sky, Gargoyle Keeper spread its wings and leaped into the air.
「It’s just like we were told. Then, Mira, we’re counting on you.」
「Hmph, just ready yourselves as best as you can.」
Gilbert took a throwing arrow in his hand as his eyes attentively followed Gargoyle Keeper’s movements. Heinrich was also ready, holding his sword with both hands while the tip pointed towards his enemy.
The boss just kept soaring through the air as it flapped its wings.
As soon as it moved its hand with the stone spear clad in lighting, Mira herself began floating in the air.
Gilbert’s focused stare crumbled, his eyes opened wide like a fish’s. After all, this time she was not being aided by a pegasus or garuda, but it was just herself as if she had jumped up there. On his side, Heinrich stood with his mouth opened and showing no signs about closing it.
However, she seemed oblivious to their reactions, as she kept her eyes focused on Gargoyle Keeper while running through the air. Each of her steps led her higher up, closing in the distance between her and her opponent.
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Gargoyle Keeper switched its target to Mira who was almost besides it now, pointing the tip of its spear towards her.
A flash of light blinded their eyes, and a rumbling sound as if the whole floor was shaking resounded around them.
The lightning attack had been stronger than Heinrich had pictured, and while hearing a high pitched ringing noise remaining in his ear, he pulled himself back together.
Gilbert frowned as he tried to make out Mira’s figure somewhere. If a lightning like that hit her, she would end up with more than just a few scratches. He also began regretting he had not tried to talk her out of her idea more.
In the end though, his worries had been entirely unfounded.
A large white shield was floating in front of Mira. It looked like a an illusion floating there, but there were sparks coming out from the front side, as if showing proof of what had happened moments before,
For a moment it felt like time had stopped, only the fading echoes from the rumble earlier remaining in the air.
Everyone who was there, Gilbert, Heinrich, and even Gargoyle Keeper seemed entranced by that noise.
But there was just one person there who was already making the next move.
After confirming she had covered herself from the attack, Mira jumped over the shield, and without caring about her fluttering skirt, she stuck her feet to the shield. And that in the short span of time before the partially summoned Holy Knight would vanish again.
By the time Gilbert had grasped that much and was wondering what she was trying to accomplish, her figure vanished as if a scene from a film had been cut.
That had been due to the Sage Skill Ground Shrink. The only conditions to activate it were that the caster’s feet stood on something solid.
Having used the shield as a foothold, she headed straight towards Gargoyle Keeper’s chest. Then, from point blank, she shot her fist towards it. Her fist was clad in raging and stormy winds, an attack using Wind Clad.
Gargoyle Keeper was still busy retracting his arm with the stone spear after its attack, so it was unable to launch another lightning right after so it just tried to protect itself with the stone shield, but it was unable to fully cover itself.
The surface of the shield was chipped away as if by a plane as the blades of wind carved into it, eventually shattering. But having sacrificed its shield for it, Gargoyle Keeper frantically flapped its wing trying to escape Mira’s incoming fist, finally succeeding in going up and increasing the distance between them.