In the 80th floor of Fáfnir, 『The Blue Knight’s Hall』―――
The sound of a sword strike echoes throughout the floor.
The slash released by the knight, Ragin, strikes my left arm.
Shoot, I’ve been cut!
I remember this from a year ago.
That time, too, Wald had cut my left arm, hadn’t he?
What is this?
Does everyone have a grudge against my left arm or something?
There’s no pain.
I wonder why, and look. My arm hadn’t been slashed, it had just deflected the sword.
We both let out surprised cries.
But, this is my chance.
While Ragin is taken aback, I put some distance between us.
I backpedal on all fours.
It’s surprisingly efficient.
Having put some distance between us, I look at my arm again.
Not a scratch.
It’s more than that. There’s not even a nick.
Wow, my body has become this sturdy, huh?
Throughout my molting, I’ve grown quite sturdy.
Hurrah for the growth phase.
It’s not like I’ve been tagging along with Elibel’s experiments under the guise of punishment for no reason.
Meanwhile, Ragin is carefully inspecting his sword.
He readies his sword with a click.
And then――once again, his figure blurs.
I hear Ragin’s voice from behind, followed by the sound of air being sliced.
The sensation of a sword hitting my tail.
But, it’s deflected.
―――I’m okay, it doesn’t hurt.
Not just my arm.
The surface of my body, my scales, they’ve all been reinforced.
Hurrah for the growth phase.
But this is really scary.
I twist my body and lash my tail at the knight.
With the momentum, my tail strikes his torso, which had been left wide open after his sword was deflected.
I got him! My attack landed!
Right now, I’m completely sober! And yet, I hit him!
I’m a bit happy.
Just like that, Ragin gets slammed into a wall.
The sound of the wall crumbling echoes.
「Guhh… I see… It’s a remarkable hardness, to withstand even my sword strikes,」
Ragin pulls his body out from the wall where it had been embedded, and looks my way.
He’s a little dusty, but seems unscathed.
That armor doesn’t just nullify magic, it seems to have a high physical defense too.
He brushes the dust off his armor, and looks at me.
「Such resilience to withstand even my sword strikes, and that earth-colored skin… I see! I understand, intruder! You must be the ‘Earth Dragon’!」
He points at me and announces, probably with a smug look under his helmet.
Wait, he hadn’t noticed!?
I’m left completely dumbfounded.
But, misunderstanding something, Ragin continues, now in high spirits.
「Fuhahaha, bullseye, right!? It’s useless to hide it from me. With my eyesight―――」
『No, I wasn’t trying to hide it or anything…』
『Like, didn’t you notice it until now?』
I mean, it’s pretty obvious from my appearance.
Oh, maybe he didn’t recognize me because I’m an extinct species?
Wait, what did he think I was until now?
An indescribable silence.
「It’s quiet, isn’t it?」
In the midst of that, only the white girl’s calm retort echoes throughout the floor.
Wait, the voice sounded distant.
When did the girl get off my back?
Where did she go?
When I look around the floor, she’s far off to the side, right next to the entrance.
She had quietly moved to a safe zone all by herself.
「Do your best, Mr Lizard!」
Instead of cheering me on, can’t she help me out?
Like the way she made a path earlier.
With my current speed, I don’t think I can get out of the floor quickly enough.
Most likely, if I try to escape, he’ll catch up right away.
「It’s impossible right now.」
A response comes back.
I don’t know why she can read my thoughts, but anyway, it’s impossible, huh? Okay.
「I’m not stingy.」
The white girl pouts, but I don’t care.
But, seriously, what should I do with this situation?
Is there any way I can get him to let me off the hook?
For a moment, I stiffen, distracted by my conversation with the girl.
Looking over, I see Ragin trembling slightly.
『Huh, what did you say? I couldn’t hear you.』
「I… Of course, I knew! I knew you were the Earth Dragon! Obviously, I knew from the moment I saw you! Do- Do you know who I am?! I am the proud Floor Master of the 80th floor of Fáfnir! There’s no way I wouldn’t have noticed!!!」
He’s shaking both hands and shouting.
Oh, I see…
Given his reaction, he probably expected me to have an “H-How did you know?!” kind of reaction when he identified me as an Earth Dragon.
「What a pathetic guy.」
The white girl has no reservations about voicing her thoughts.
Her words ring out clear, even from a distance, echoing loudly in the vast floor.
They probably reach the knight too.
「What’s with those pitying looks you’re giving me!!」
Ragin charges at me while shouting.
His voice seems to be trembling a bit.
Is he… crying under his helmet?
「I think he’s crying.」
This girl, she really has no filter.
But thanks to her, I’m able to calm down a bit.
I take a look at my opponent.
His attacks are more predictable now, unlike before.
I can see them clearly.
If it’s like this―――
A surprised voice leaks from under his helmet again.
I deflected his sword with my left hand as hard as I could.
And… I did it! Even without ingesting the white powder, I could do it!
Scary, scary, scary, scary, scary.
Deep breaths! Deep breaths!
Then, I swung my right fist towards my opponent.
I hit him!
Again, I hit him!
My attack landed!
My punching hand hurts! And also――――it’s scary.
Bouncing off, Ragin rolls and falls to the floor.
I keep taking shallow breaths.
Scary, scary, scary, scary, scary.
Painful, painful, painful, painful.
My right hand throbs painfully.
It’s a different kind of pain from what I feel during Elibel’s punishment.
Even if the opponent is a monster, this is what it feels like to “punch.”
It’s still scary. My knees are shaking.
No, my whole body is shaking. I feel like throwing up.
My stomach feels painfully tight.
I can’t do it anymore, I can’t do it anymore, I can’t do it.
I look at Ragin.
Please, fall with this last punch.
Please, don’t get up anymore.
「…Huff, quite the power. Seems like I was a bit careless.」
Ragin grumbles as he gets up.
There’s a small dent in the chest part of his armor.
But that’s all it seems to be.
Scary, scary, scary, scary.
「You’ve earned my praise for damaging my armor.」
『H-hey, can’t we just stop this now? Your sword can’t hurt me, so there’s no need for us to continue fighting, no?』
「Humu… indeed, it seems that my sword cannot inflict a single wound on you.」
With a click, Ragin places the hand not holding the sword to his neck.
Then, he sticks his own sword into the ground.
『Then, does that mean―――』
「Then, I simply need to change my approach.」
With a swift motion, Ragin takes a stance with his palm facing me.
What’s that stance?
It looks like a karate stance I’ve seen in my previous life.
「I’ll give you this, intruder. I respect your toughness and from here on out, I’ll be dealing with you using my full strength.」
His voice sounds different from before.
It has an enthusiastic tone.
Please stop, don’t use your full strength, I beg you.
I’ll prostrate myself, I’ll do anything.
「Here I go.」
Thud! Ragin starts to run.
He’s fast! Completely different from earlier.
I can’t keep up with my eyes!
Well, it has been like that from the start.
Before I know it, Ragin is right in front of me.
He places his palm on my chest akin to a Harite technique. (Sub29: The Harite technique is a sumo slap or a strike with an open hand. In the sumo wrestling’s world, the Harite is a very common fighting move.)
Just lightly pushing against me.
A chill runs through me.
This isn’t the playful atmosphere from before.
It seems that due to my half-baked attacks earlier, I’ve inadvertently invited his serious attack.
He places his palm against my abdomen, then pushes with all his might.
―――Thump!!! A sound resonates from within my body.
In my hazy consciousness, I swing my arm down.
It’s almost a reflexive action.
But there’s no way such a predictable attack will land.
As expected, he easily steps back to avoid it.
I cough, and blood spills from my mouth.
Huh? Wait? What?
It hurts a lot.
It hurts too much.
「Indeed, your scales and outer skin are formidable. But if that’s all, there are plenty of ways to deal with it. For example, a technique like this, that only “penetrates the impact” into the body.」
Blood drips from my mouth.
I desperately hold it back.
What’s with this guy? He was just acting so goofy…
Don’t get serious all of a sudden…
「This is called ‘Piercing Strike,’ a martial art from the land of Wano. It’s a technique that only inflicts the impact of a strike into the inside of the body. It’s perfect against someone like you.」
He’s probably smirking.
Although his voice is different from the earlier foolish one, it has the dignity of a floor master.
「Swordplay is not my only specialty. Body arts, spear techniques, archery. I have mastered all martial arts. I have plenty of ways to attack an unusually tough opponent like you.」
He readies himself again.
N-no…I need to avoid this…
But my body won’t move. It won’t listen to me.
My neck naturally turns towards the exit behind me.
If I could get out from here―――
「If you’re trying to escape, it’s futile. We floor masters don’t have restrictions on our movements. If we want to, we can go outside the floor.」
Ragin speaks as if to crush my hope.
Damn it, don’t say such things.
Thud! The sound of kicking the ground.
This time he’s behind me.
I can’t see him.
But, I can feel his hand on my back.
No, No, No, Wait, Wait, Wait!
I can’t dodge, it hits me square in the side.
The impact makes me stagger involuntarily.
It feels like my organs are being torn from the inside.
I feel like vomiting. And also, like crying.
It hurts. And it’s scary.
「What’s wrong, is that all you have?」
I hear the crunch of footsteps.
To me, it sounds like a countdown to death.
STOP, GET AWAY FROM ME!!!
I desperately release my breath attack.
Ragin doesn’t try to avoid it, he’s swallowed by the vortex of light.
A loud explosion and the ensuing cloud of dust.
「I told you. Magic is meaningless on this floor.」
Ragin comes out of the wall he’s been thrown into, making cracking noises.
My stalling didn’t work.
I just managed to push him a little further away.
I can’t escape even if I try.
I can’t move my body even if I try.
「It seems you’re out of moves.」
He sounds almost disappointed.
Be disappointed on your own.
Ah――――This is the end for me.
There’s nothing I can do.
Would he spare me if I beg for my life?
Would he help me if I plead desperately?
Those thoughts are the only things crossing my mind.
Ragin readies his palm again.
This is bad… If I take another hit like that, I’m probably going to die.
Because, my consciousness is already hazy.
I can’t even focus my vision.
「You’ll be okay, Mr Lizard.」
I hear the voice of the white girl in the distance.
What do you mean by that?
Don’t joke with me.
Just running away by yourself…
Don’t just watch, help me, please.
Out of sheer fear, I instinctively close my eyes.
That’s what I thought.
But, the attack never reach me.
I slowly open my closed eyes.
I couldn’t believe it.
Between me and Ragin, as if cutting into the space, a monster stood in front of me.
『―――For as long as I live. I will always be your sword and shield to protect you whenever and wherever you are.』
I know that monster.
Black, noble, and a monster who has been with me as my subordinate longer than any other.
Wielding two swords, its cloak billowing, it stands imposingly.
Ragin, his caution exposed, asks.
「…Who are you?」
The monster is―――
『Are you okay, Lord Earth?』
Ann was there.
Author: It was as if Ann was the protagonist…
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