Near the entrance of the imperial capital, on the lid of Fáfnir―――
Draped in Ragin’s blue armor, Ann lunges at Joker with a massive sword in her hand.
From every direction, Joker unleashes black tendrils.
They rush towards Ann.
But she doesn’t even flinch.
In fact, the moment they touch her armor, all the black tendrils evaporate.
The blue armor enveloping Ann — that’s Ragin’s power.
It’s a ludicrous ability that without hesitation erases any magic aimed at her, any spell she touches.
An absolute defense against magic users.
This has significantly enhanced Ann’s tactics.
Originally, Ann was a creature specialized in close combat.
She had no long-range attack methods other than her “acid”.
So, what she was most wary of was being assaulted from afar by long-range magic.
But now, wrapped in Ragin’s armor, that concern has vanished.
Unless someone possesses power greater than Earth or Gwyve, it’s impossible to hurt Ann.
That’s why she swings her sword without hesitation.
Her offensive move, no longer needing to worry about defense, is quicker and sharper than before.
Ann’s sword grazes Joker’s left arm.
「—Tch! You’re a tough one」
But Joker is no slouch either.
He immediately discerns the properties of the armor and sword Ann wears.
「From the looks of it, a decrease in magic… no, a “nullification”? This is my first time seeing such a thing. That’s totally unfair! It’s cheating, downright cheating!」
Joker is aware of those with a unique ability called “Magic Drain”, but witnessing “nullification” with his own eyes is a first.
Moreover, he had never heard of a “weapon” possessing such a unique ability.
「Both the weapon and armor are insanely powerful. Who the heck made such a thing? Only alchemy of King-class could make that possible. Which means the one who could create this is—」
His thoughts are cut short.
Ann’s slash brushes past his cheek.
A crack appears on his white mask.
「—Damn! I don’t have the luxury of getting lost in my thoughts!」
Joker raises his right hand to the sky.
A black mist concentrates, forming a baton.
「Pretty cool, huh? This is my weapon.」
『Is that so?』
Ann’s sword clashes with Joker’s baton.
Even when Joker’s baton directly hits Ann’s sword, it doesn’t vanish.
『It doesn’t disappear…? No, wait―――』
Upon closer inspection, smoke rises from the part where it’s engaged with the magic blade.
There’s no doubt that baton was crafted through magic, but its density is off the charts.
At least dense enough to withstand a direct slash from Ann.
Joker twirls the baton, like a circus performer.
「Don’t underestimate me. In ‘that dungeon’, even if I’m called the ‘weakest’, I’m still part of the divine disaster class. I’m not easily surpassed by other monsters.」
『Divine disaster…? I see what you mean now.』
No wonder the magic power I felt was so overwhelming.
He is a divine disaster monster, just like Jibru.
Deep down, Ann chuckles at her continued luck of facing higher-ranked opponents.
But from Joker’s tone, it seems there might be more monsters of the divine calamity rank.
Now’s not the time to ponder on that.
Joker creates distance from Ann and leaps.
Using the black mist, he forms footholds and dashes about in the sky, seemingly trying to get behind her.
Or perhaps not.
Upon closer observation, the black mist, serving as a platform, acts like a trampoline, contracting and expanding.
With each move, Joker’s speed increases, capitalizing on the momentum.
『―――Kuh, he’s too fast!』
She can’t capture his movements with her eyes alone.
So she activates her magic sense.
His movements are linear.
She senses his presence and directs her attack that way.
Ann swings her sword behind her.
Yet, her slash finds only air.
Joker isn’t there.
「Where are you looking? I’m right here.」
Right beside her.
Joker, with terrifying speed, closes in on Ann.
She couldn’t react in time.
It wasn’t that her magic sense had failed or that Joker had feigned his attack.
Simply put, Joker was just faster.
Overwhelmingly so compared to Ann’s reaction time.
The baton slams into her side.
The destructive force of the black baton, accelerated by its tremendous speed, was immense.
A tremendous shock ripples through her.
The aftershock causes nearby structures to tremble and crumble.
Ragin’s armor, which took such damage,
『…the armor… crack…』
Unable to withstand Joker’s assault, a portion of the armor shows a fracture and crumbles.
A twisted grin appears beneath Joker’s clown mask.
『It seems the ‘nullification’ has its limits. And against pure destruction not involving magic, it’s just like regular armor.』
Ann grinds her teeth inwardly.
Joker leaps again, using the black mist platform to gain even more speed.
He launches another attack on Ann.
―――I can’t dodge.
The baton crashes into Ann’s shoulder.
Her shoulder shatters.
「Not just nullification; your pure defense is impressive too. To take two hits from ‘this’ and still hold on. But it’s just a matter of time!」
He doesn’t let up.
Accelerating again, aiming for Ann.
This time, her heart.
One more strike to finish her.
The end seemed evident.
Or so he thought.
A voice rings out.
Matching his movements perfectly, a sword, black as an ant, comes slashing down in an overhead arc, aimed right at him.
『What’s wrong? You seem in disbelief. Surprised, are you?』
Ann chuckles, as if sensing Joker’s confusion.
While his expression remains hidden behind a mask, she’s right on the mark.
She should have been getting beaten just moments ago.
『Indeed, your speed is overwhelming. I can’t track it with my eyes, and I can’t react in time.』
But, she continues,
『Your movements, while swift, are linear and predictable. And your emotions? They’re quite transparent.』
First, a blow to the side, then to the shoulder.
If Joker could land two clean hits so easily, it’s a given he’d aim for a finishing blow next.
Ann’s prediction was spot-on.
Furthermore, she adds,
『After taking a hit twice, I can adapt enough to land a counter like that.』
「N-no, that doesn’t make sense….」
No matter how you slice it, ‘adapting’ after only two attacks is preposterous.
What’s the deal with this black ant?
This isn’t good.
Definitely not good.
Without launching another attack, the black ant, Ann, approaches.
「…Alright then, how about this?」
Joker twirls his baton.
His next move.
From within the black mist, countless copies of Joker emerge.
『An illusion…? No, this is—!』
The myriad Jokers launch their assault on Ann.
Their batons slam into her.
With the impact, her gauntlet shatters.
『This isn’t an illusion?!』
The sensation is clear and undeniable.
Not something an illusion could produce.
「Fufufu, these guys are quite tangible. Though, maintaining the barrier now, I can’t produce too many of them!」
Due to a significant portion of his power being used to sustain the barrier, he can’t manifest a large number of clones.
Still, there are over a hundred tangible duplicates.
From the mist, countless black tendrils emerge.
『Damn! There’s too many of them』
Countless tendrils and the numerous Jokers simultaneously pounce on Ann.
A torrential onslaught of fierce attacks.
Crackling sounds emanate as her armor is steadily, but surely, shattered.
I can’t bear it.
I can’t fend them all off!
「Ahahaha! Numbers always win in battle! How does it feel, lone Imperial Ant? Being just one against so many? To fight alone against such odds?」
As Joker’s taunting words intensify, so does his assault.
Still, the fact that Ann, by herself, stands against them is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
She is, indeed, a single entity against a swarm.
But that’s precisely why Joker can’t stand her.
「You’re truly infuriating. Even as a swarm monster, you’re striving for individual strength. That’s just… perverse.」
Joker’s disgust is palpable in his voice.
He’s nauseated by Ann’s strength, which goes against the very essence of monsters.
Every monster has its unique trait―――its individuality.
Just as the Earth Dragon consumes endlessly to grow, representing the “Gluttony” trait, and just as Joker himself lures and traps people with his “Mist,” the Killer Ants should amplify their strength through numbers, representing the “Swarm.”
A particular Black Ant Queen he once revered possessed the power of the “Ultimate Swarm.”
That’s why he can’t bear it.
Even though they’re of the same species, even though they share a similar appearance, she denies the existence of the revered Black Ant.
His cherished memories are tarnished.
There’s no way he can tolerate that.
「―――Disappear from my sight, imposter!」
With a loud rumble, even more of the black mist appears around Joker, giving birth to countless clones.
It’s the pinnacle of his power, even while maintaining the barrier.
He’s unleashing everything to eradicate the Black Ant before him.
『Gaah… Damn, he’s troublesome.』
From her end, the situation grows increasingly dire.
To start, maintaining Ragin’s blue armor consumes a considerable amount of her physical and mental energy.
She had to activate it once to break through the barrier, and now, after the second time, Ann’s stamina and mental strength are severely drained.
A prolonged battle would be overwhelmingly against her.
She’d prefer to swiftly end this, but these pesky clones stand in her way.
（If only I could expand my slashes, like with the Leviathan or the Earth Dragon Sword…）
The Magic Sword Ridill, unlike the Earth Dragon’s sword, can’t have its power amplified by magic.
Moreover, in her current state with the armor activated, the surrounding magic dissipates, rendering her unable to use the Leviathan or the Earth Dragon Sword.
She must rely purely on her swordsmanship.
Indeed, this Magic Sword Ridill is quite a stubborn blade.
―――Can’t you master it?
For a fleeting moment, it feels like she hears the voice of that brave knight, the previous owner of the sword.
A smirk forms in Ann’s heart.
Yes, of course, I can.
I’ll prove it.
Her grip on the Magic Sword Ridill tightens.
She takes a deep breath, centering her focus.
Joker stares at Ann, puzzled, as she freezes in place.
「Given up already? If so, let me end this quickly.」
With a snap of his fingers, the black tendrils and Joker’s clones charge at her, all at once.
In Joker’s mind, Ann is crushed, reduced to a pitiful lump of flesh.
That’s what he anticipates.
But reality deviates.
With fluid grace, Ann slips through the spaces between the clones and tendrils, slashing as she goes.
Those slashed disappear.
A dumbfounded exclamation escapes Joker.
With the elegance of willows swaying in the breeze and leaves dancing in the air, Ann swiftly cuts down one clone after another with minimal effort and movement.
「Wha-what’s going on?」
Joker’s confusion is palpable, watching Ann’s movements as if witnessing a magician’s act.
『True, as you said, I am a monster that thrives in numbers. Without partnering with someone else, I might be seen as the ‘weakest’ of monsters, incapable of a proper fight.』
Dependent on others, needing to join hands to survive, incapable of standing against adversaries without multiplying— that’s the irrefutable nature of the Killer Ant.
『However, you’re overlooking one thing.』
Ann deftly cuts down the mass-produced Joker clones, her gaze fixed on the Joker’s main body.
『I’m not fighting alone here.』
Echoing her words, the blue armor she dons glows brilliantly.
Yes, there’s another ally on this battlefield.
The brave knight who once dueled fiercely with Ann, entrusting her with his weapon in the end.
His soul’s “experience” exists within Ann.
The memories of his battles, his accumulated martial skills, they’re all within her.
『Martial Art: Bewitching Dance』
This technique involves movements that are minimal yet precise.
Her elegant steps resemble a dance, captivating anyone who watches.
And those who get lost in its beauty will find their lives taken in the next moment.
Countless tendrils rise to block Ann’s path.
『Martial Art: Willow Blade.』
Ann runs her blade along the sides of the numerous tendrils.
Their trajectories shift, causing them to collide and entangle with each other, rendering them ineffective.
『The main threat is the clones. The black tendrils are more of a diversion to scatter my focus rather than direct attacks.』
Her assessment is spot on.
Seeing Ann confidently focusing on the clones, Joker internally curses.
（Damn, she’s seeing right through my strategy. I could overpower her with numbers, but increasing them further would jeopardize maintaining the barrier…）
From one direction, ten clones simultaneously charge at Ann.
『Martial Art: Transparent Slash.』
One of the clones is sliced down.
The strike also affects the surrounding clones.
It’s a transparent slash infused with the characteristics of a piercing strike.
Joker grits his teeth in frustration.
This is getting hard.
This black ant is stronger than I expected.
To defeat her, I’d have to divert resources from the barrier. But I can’t do that.
If the barrier weakens, the Divine Catastrophe Dragon King and the Sage alongside the Witch would surely launch their attack.
And that would be the end of us.
「In that case—――」
With a snap of his fingers, Joker makes all the clones and tendrils dissipate into mist.
『What are you planning?』
「Creating more clones won’t make a difference at this point. So, I’ll have to resort to my trump card.」
With that, Joker begins twirling his baton.
「”Feast on dreams, beast of illusions! Lure those with hope into the world of ephemera.”」
From the baton, a vast black mist pours out.
———This is bad.
Instinctively, Ann senses the imminent danger.
She reflexively kicks off the ground, aiming to strike Joker before his spell fully activates. But she’s too late.
The emerging black mist transforms into the shape of a beast.
「―――”Summon: Black Baku!”」
The Baku, a mythical creature said to devour dreams, now stands before her.
Formed from the mist, this massive black Baku opens its gaping maw and swallows Ann whole.
———Where am I?
The scenery around her shifts.
Rugged rock walls.
A dim glow from magic stones.
Am I inside a dungeon?
But weren’t I just in the imperial capital moments ago?
From somewhere, a mocking laughter echoes.
As she looks around, she spots the next generation of Killer Ant Queens, laughing at her from a distance.
Mocking her as a shut-in.
Laughing at her for lacking the courage to step outside.
Ridiculing her for being a stain on the name of Killer Ants, refusing to see reality.
Every single one of them is laughing at her pitiful state.
—――Stop it. Stop looking at me like that. Stop looking at me with those eyes.
At that moment, Ann realizes something’s off with her own body.
She’s back to her form before her evolution, the lowest rank, just an ordinary Killer Ant.
What’s going on?
Confused, Ann watches as another ant approaches her.
It’s her mother.
The queen of the Killer Ants.
As Ann’s mother draws closer, there’s a hint of sadness in her eyes, but mostly, unmistakable disdain.
With a single, cutting word, Ann’s mother speaks.
With that, Ann is violently expelled from the nest.
She no longer has a place here.
The scene shifts.
Ann is back in her original form.
The Imperial Ant form.
Shifting her gaze, she finds her comrades are there.
Elibel is there. Una, Dos, Tres, Pururu… all of them.
They’re all laughing.
———Let me join you.
Ann approaches Elibel and the others, a smile forming on her face.
But the looks they give her are ones of utter disdain.
『What are you still doing here, Ann? Just disappear already.』
Why are they saying this?
As Ann tries to get closer, Elibel’s words, dripping with disgust, stop her.
『Really, Ann, you’re so useless. Thanks to your idiotic leadership, our dungeon was on the brink of collapse. You should die to take responsibility.」
What are they talking about?
Ann has no memory of this.
Why are they saying such things?
Next, she turns her gaze to Una and the others.
Una, who always admired her, smiles broadly and then scoffs.
『I truly wonder why I ever looked up to someone like you. Such a pathetic and foolish being. It’s so ridiculous, it’s laughable.』
『Go away! Get out of our sight! Do you even know how many golems died because of you?』
Why? Why are they saying this?
What did I do?
Pururu won’t even look at me.
Elja stares with eyes filled with hatred.
Stop. Stop looking at me like that.
Don’t reject me.
Looking up, Heleb stares down at her.
As if she were a mere insect.
『I’m nullifying our agreement. Pitiful bug. Never show your face before me again.』
My head… it hurts.
What is this?
Next, the next-generation queen ants appear.
One after another, they shower Ann with jeers and laughter.
―――We are the ones born to be by his side.
―――Only we belong by his side.
―――We’re the only ones worthy of being by his side.
―――You have no place here.
Why are they taking my place?
I vowed to be his sword, to be his shield.
―――Even if Lord Earth doesn’t recognize me…
Just being by his side was enough for me―――
Ann crumples to the ground, clutching her head.
How long had I been doing that?
『What are you doing here, Ann?』
Looking up, Earth stands there.
The lord she has always admired and loved.
Wobbly, Ann tries to approach Earth, to touch him.
She reaches out.
But Earth pushes her hand away, clearly rejecting her.
Earth’s voice is cold.
『Get out of our dungeon. You have no place here.』
Stop, don’t say it.
『You’re no longer ‘needed’ by me. I ‘don’t need’ you. You are not—my subordinate. Get out of my sight—’now’.』
Please no, please no, please no, please no, please no, please no, please no, please no, please no, please no
I BEG YOU PLEASE
DON’T LEAVE ME―――
In a deep abyss of despair, Ann plummets.
「And that’s how it goes, ‘The Black Baku’ shows its victims their most dreaded ‘nightmares.’」
Facing the motionless, unharmed Ann, Joker says…
「The terrifying aspect of this spell is its instantaneity. There’s a time lag in ‘nullification.’ But this spell concludes before ‘nullification’ can be triggered. So, ‘nullification’ becomes pointless. Though, it does consume a lot of magical energy—but hey!」
With a swift spin, Joker hurls his baton at Ann.
She doesn’t defend or evade; she just crumples to the ground.
Her arm twists unnaturally.
Yet, Ann doesn’t grimace or writhe in pain.
She just remains downed.
「And once trapped in the ‘nightmare,’ even after the spell fades, the victim continues to suffer… just like you now.」
Step by step, Joker approaches Ann.
「This is the true power of my ‘Dream Mist’. Impressive, isn’t it? A mere imposter like you made a disaster monster like me get serious.」
Joker claps in mock appreciation.
「Although, my words probably aren’t reaching you now…」
The fallen Ann mutters incoherently, barely responding.
「Well then… it’s time to end this.」
The tip of his baton sharpens menacingly.
Without hesitation, Joker swings his baton down at Ann.
There’s a sharp clang as something deflects his baton.
「…What are you trying to do?」
Standing there is a strikingly beautiful woman.
She wears revealing attire that emphasizes her feminine curves.
Her long silver hair flows freely, and she dons an eyepatch over her left eye.
But what’s most captivating is the vividly red spear she holds in her hand.
The God Killing Spear, Gungnir.
A legendary weapon known to have once pierced and vanquished even the catastrophic monsters.
Joker’s question goes unanswered by her.
Instead, she silently readies her lance.
「Answer me―――the World Piercer, Beldi Raven!」
The most formidable adventurer, who once waged a fierce battle against Ann, now stands defiantly before Joker.
Sub29: Hey there! If you enjoy the content and want to stay updated with all the latest, make sure to follow my channel on WhatsApp! Click here to follow
October 2023 Patron: GoatBeards