Side Story 13
In the pouring rain, the Giant Lizard roars, its colossal body shaking violently.
The air around it trembles and nearby trees rustle.
Its roar causes accumulated droplets of water on the trees to fall, creating the illusion of a localized downpour.
Ann descends from Lesser Fenrir and looks up at the gargantuan creature.
It’s laughably large up close.
Its appearance resembles a bipedal lizard, but its size is nothing short of staggering.
Its height alone is approximately fifty Melds, and when you include the tail, wouldn’t it exceed a hundred Melds?
What kind of diet could possibly lead to this size?
The grasslands to the west is supposed to be nothing but grass.
Can one grow this large from eating grass?
Confronted by such a size, one can’t help but ponder such irrelevant thoughts.
But such trivial thoughts are swept away the moment she sees what lies at the Giant Lizard’s feet.
It’s a scene that could be called a tragedy.
Trees are knocked over.
Forest monsters are cruelly crushed underfoot.
And among them, Ann’s antlings have also met their demise.
Those forest monsters still breathing, are indiscriminately helping the injured.
They are already under Earth’s, or rather, Ann’s protection, living together in a symbiotic relationship.
There are no racial barriers here.
Gripping her sword, Ann’s hand tightens.
Contrary to the surging passion, her mind becomes colder and colder.
There is only one thing to think about.
That is―――how to kill this thing.
Ann quickly issues her orders.
『Antlings, tend to the injured monsters! Feru and the Lesser Fenrirs, come with me, we have a giant to deal with!』
『『『Sir, yes Sir!』』』
Using the network, she signals through the antlings nearby the four chiefs.
『Su, Mon, Taran, and all other monsters at advanced-class and above, gather at the southern area, district 13! We are under attack! The enemy is a Giant Lizard, an upper King level beast! We already have considerable damage! Hurry!』
She broadcasts the same message to the antlings in each region.
『Antlings around the perimeter, confirm whether there are any similar creatures in the vicinity! Don’t neglect your caution!』
She then sends a message to Elibel in the dungeon through the communication magic stone.
The message is the same as the one she had sent before leaving the dungeon.
『Elibel, how are the preparations———』
『Give me three more minutes! I’ll be ready then.』
Various sounds come over the line.
It seems Elibel had already been taking action before Ann’s communication.
As expected of Elibel.
She may usually be casual, but her response in emergencies is extraordinary.
Ann draws her sword.
The Earth Dragon Sword, the degraded version of the Sacred Sword Leviathan.
Her rapid orders might have been crude, but they should do for now.
The Giant Lizard stops its destructive activity and glares at them.
It seems to have been waiting.
Or was it simply wary and thus not moving.
Either way, it doesn’t matter.
The sound of the rain is particularly clear.
Ann and the Giant Lizard stare each other down.
The first one to move is Ann.
She pushes off the ground, trying to approach the Giant Lizard’s feet.
But, the Giant Lizard swings its tail to intercept her.
Its movement is slow, perhaps due to its massive body.
But, to Ann who is observing up close, it still feels plenty fast.
The giant tail, which cuts down the trees, is nothing less than a huge “wall.”
The ground that was mowed down is gouged, and nothing remains.
———Except for Ann.
Standing amidst the bare, muddy ground, Ann, now covered in mud, stands firm.
The Giant Lizard tilts its head, seeming puzzled.
It seems to wonder how she defended against its attack.
『What are you so surprised about?』
As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Ann speaks to the Giant Lizard.
In reality, she had simply ordered the antlings underground to dig a hole for her to evade.
But the Giant Lizard wouldn’t know that.
Ignoring its confusion, Ann once again kicks off the ground to get closer.
The Giant Lizard, putting its questions aside, tries to crush her under its foot this time.
『You made a mistake———Degraded Sacred Sword Leviathan, Maximum Extended Slash!!』
A large pillar of light appears from Ann’s left hand, piercing the Giant Lizard’s foot.
『It’s a great target, given its size.』
The Giant Lizard reels backward, unable to withstand the pain from its foot being pierced.
Behind the Giant Lizard are Feru, the Arc Fenrir, and his subordinates.
They sink their claws and fangs into its defenseless back with all their might.
The Giant Lizard uses its arm to shake them off.
However, in that moment, Ann delivers a frontal slash.
The Giant Lizard, bewildered, shakes its massive body in frustration, attempting to shake off Ann and the others.
『That’s some impressive size… our attacks seem to merely scratch it.』
At Ann’s musing, Feru replies,
『It was the same before your arrival, Lady Ann. No matter how much we attacked, we were unable to land a decisive blow against such a massive body, gradually putting us at a disadvantage…』
Regret seeped from Feru’s tone.
There was probably nothing more frustrating than being at a disadvantage despite being of the same King-class.
The slashes delivered by Ann and the fangs of Feru and his subordinates did indeed cause damage, but these were just minor scratches considering the Giant Lizard’s massive size.
The only real damage was probably from Ann’s Maximum Extended Slash Leviathan.
However, that wasn’t something that could be used multiple times.
The max-enhanced slashes were limited to maybe three or four times at most, and there was no guarantee that would be enough to defeat the opponent.
So, what could they do?
The answer was simple.
『Ah, Lady Ann…it’s preparing to release its breath.』
Upon hearing Feru’s warning, Ann looks up.
Indeed, the Giant Lizard was gathering magical energy in its mouth.
It seemed intent on deciding the outcome in one blow.
The immense magical power amassed within such a gargantuan body would undoubtedly become a terrifying force when released.
However, Ann remained unfazed.
『Don’t worry. We’re ready for it.』
『What!? What do you mean?』
The response came from behind Ann.
「Wow, the Giant Lizard is as huge as ever.」
A voice devoid of any tension echoed across the battlefield.
Both Feru and Ann turned around.
There stood Elibel.
『…Are we ready?』
The Giant Lizard notices the newly arrived enemy.
However, it didn’t care who it was.
It was almost ready to unleash its breath.
That would be the end of it. Or so it thought.
But it was too late to trigger it.
Because―――Ann and the others were ready before it.
「You’re such a fool. Had you used your breath from the start, you would have won. But then again, that’s why Ann and the others engaged in close combat to prevent that.」
Elibel mutters, almost to herself.
Right after that, a bluish-white light shines behind Ann and the others.
It’s the light of a teleportation gate.
Not just one, but countless gates, spilling light all around the Giant Lizard.
The Giant Lizard deepens its wariness.
But it was too late.
The transfer circles deployed all around had already been activated.
A bluish-white light envelops the battlefield.
And then――――a black wave emerges from within.
(Sub29: 蟻 = ant)
In droves, swarms, an army of ants large enough to submerge the forest spilled out from the countless teleportation gates.
It was akin to a flood of blackness.
The sight left not only the Giant Lizard, but even the forest’s monsters at a loss for words.
In a matter of seconds, the surroundings of the Giant Lizard were overwhelmed with Killer Ants.
But these were not the lowest-class of Killer Ants.
The ants born from Imperial Ant each possess intermediate-class abilities or higher.
Moreover, they live in a dungeon where a high concentration of magical power lingers all the time.
Depending on the individual, some have even grown beyond this.
The intimidation sound of their mandibles clashing, clashing again and again, was enough to instill fear, surpassing mere oppression.
The sheer number of ants overwhelmed the Giant Lizard, causing it to forget even about releasing its breath, it could only stand there, dumbfounded.
Then, at the pinnacle of the swarm, the Queen issued a single command.
That was the signal.
The black army that emerged surged towards the Giant Lizard one after another.
With the black tidal wave approaching, the Giant Lizard finally regained its composure and counterattacked the black ants.
But the momentum had completely reversed.
The Giant Lizard tried desperately to shake off the ants, but each individual ant worked together exquisitely. If they were about to be crushed, they retreated immediately. If the Giant Lizard tried to smash the ants clinging to its body, the ants adeptly dodged.
The swarm no longer resembled a group, but more of a single organism.
In fact, that was close to the truth.
Ann’s antlings are connected by a unique thought transmission, or network, allowing each one of them to share visual information, experiences, and memories. And this ability heightens the more of their kind are nearby.
It is the reason why Imperial Ants are called “swarm” monsters.
Each ant’s bite or acid can only scrape or slightly melt the Giant Lizard’s skin.
But what if there were hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? More?
The violence of overwhelming numbers.
The pinnacle of group warfare created by a perfect network.
This was a completely unknown threat to the Giant Lizard, which had always relied on its own strength.
The “individual” violence enacted by the Giant Lizard was returned in kind.
The violence of “numbers.”
This was now a one-sided slaughter.
The body of the Giant Lizard was gradually and rapidly damaged.
Scales peeled off, skin gouged out, flesh torn away.
Ann and Elibel watched the scene quietly.
Admittedly, Ann was continuously giving instructions to her antlings via the network.
「But Ann, you do think of some cruel things. This isn’t even a battle anymore, is it?」
『This monster instigated this. So, we simply respond accordingly.』
Ann responded indifferently.
At this sight, Feru involuntarily swallowed his breath.
「Roo… AAARRR…. ooOOAARRRRR….」
The Giant Lizard tried to cry out, but even that voice couldn’t come out properly.
That was because countless ants had swarmed into its mouth.
In this state, even if it tried to use its breath, the ants would clog it and cause a misfire within.
It was too late to try and crush them with its jaws.
Ants had already infiltrated to the point where it couldn’t fully open or close its mouth.
The gigantic body was dyed entirely in black.
Death was only a matter of time.
This was the true essence of the Imperial Ants.
Their inherent power as a disaster-designated species.
The threat of the army of monsters that once destroyed several nations, and all nations had to join hands and use their total power to annihilate.
That nightmare, after four hundred years, has once again revived on the stage of the Yuguru Great Forest.
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