Chapter 4: The Duel
She buffed her with spells that increased her HP, her physical defense, her agility, and her wind attribute, as a countermeasure against the spinning whirlwind attack. The strategy this time did not require dealing a lot of damage. All she had to do was to quickly, and reliably, push the Veil Guardian off the edge of the cliff.
In order to accomplish that feat, they spent the past few days constantly practicing.
“But, this is just your intuition.”
In the end, Eri slapped Kasumi on her shoulder and laughed, trying to make her feel at ease.
“Even if we fail, that Jun guy will find one reason or another for us to continue being together on the island.”
“He would… huh?”
“So you shouldn’t be too tense about doing it.”
Kasumi nodded cheerfully and said “Yeah.” Though she felt very anxious about it, Eri’s genuine friendliness made her happy.
Turning her back towards Eri, who was to stand guard at the entrance, Kasumi approached the nearby temple.
At the top of the steps to the temple, there was a giant steel creature, approximately 5 meter tall.
Clad with heavy medieval knight-esque armor and holding a sword and shield, it stood guard, motionlessly…
When Kasumi was halfway up the stairs to the temple, it slowly started moving.
“Come here, Kasumi!”
Turning around, she realized that Eri had made it to the center of the open space and was gesturing to her with her hands. Kasumi turned her back to the creature and started running towards Eri.
The steel creature, taking swipes at the ground , appeared to be coming towards her from behind.
She looked behind her.
Before long, the Veil Guardian, a giant steel knight with a red name, was right behind Kasumi.
Before hearing Eri screaming, Kasumi rolled diagonally. Her heavy steel sword moved with her. The sword grazed the floor and scooped out a lot of sand and dirt, scattering dust everywhere.
Although Jun was watching her fight from a distance, it felt very different from when he was actually close to her. Moving agilely, as if its giant body weighed nothing, the Veil Guardian moved around her…
With clouds of dust blurring her vision, Kasumi lost track of her enemy’s movements in an instant.
“Go to the right!”
Believing Eri, without hesitating, she jumped towards the right.
In the next instant, the Veil Guardian’s thick sword cracked the ground where Kasumi had been into two pieces. Kasumi looked back while rolling.
The valley was right behind her.
She had been chased up to the cliff edge before she knew it.
She shivered. If it continued like this, she would be the one that would be pushed off the cliff.
It began using an upwards attack far stronger than she expected…
It made sense. After all, this guy was a raid level monster. They were real monsters, and were only supposed to be fought with organized groups of many people.
This was impossible. Kasumi’s heart was enveloped in the darkness of hopelessness. They couldn’t win. She couldn’t possibly rival such a monster. Even running away would be very difficult, not to mention landing hits…
“Hey, you… get off of Kasumi!”
Eri cast a stun spell. Though it really wasn’t very strong, for a brief moment, it was able to stop the Veil Guardian. The attack was interrupted.
Kasumi jumped. Readying her shortsword, she increased her speed by lowering her body.
Right, she wasn’t alone.
Eri was covering her. Jun was there too. In those two weeks, Kasumi had trained under him. Now, those movements that she learned were so deeply ingrained in her that performing them had become like second nature.
“The Veil Guardian’s standard attack pattern consists of a vertical swipe, and then horizontal swipes. Though the time in between each strike is very small, the horizontal strikes are always from right to left. … Since its huge shield is such a hindrance, it can’t do it the other way.”
Jun’s teachings flooded Kasumi’s mind.
The Veil Guardian, coming closer and closer to Kasumi, began its vertical swipe. She played this attack pattern over and over in her head. Kasumi avoided it and turned sideways in order to roll.
Jun had said earlier, “This time, when it moves near your shield, you should lunge at it and push it with your shield. Avoiding its attack will be very difficult. However, because you’ll be in that position, it’s quite possible.”
Kasumi thought before she moved. If she did not execute it perfectly, it would fail and she would be the one to be pushed off.
However, this action, done without proper focus, would only be able to overpower the monster back a bit.
Kasumi kept her right leg firm and bent towards the left using the force of her body weight. Kicking the ground with her left foot to generate momentum, she propelled herself towards the giant steel monster.
At that moment, the Veil Guardian’s posture was weakened greatly. While thrusting out her left foot and moving in order to push her enemy with her shield, she fell forward. Her center of gravity shifted from her left foot to her right foot. Timing…
Kasumi had set her trap. The moment her opponent became unable to do anything, she would take the chance to go for it.
She turned around quickly.
“When it turns the other way, it will use a spin attack. It will turn like a spinning top. A whirlwind will start from the golem’s center. Since its range is very big, it’s unavoidable. Though its damage is high, there will also be a long break during which it is vulnerable.”
Thus, her only chance was now. The moment when it shifted its body weight imperfectly towards its right leg.
Kasumi turned on automatic fighting mode and began her combo attack.
The shortsword’s combo attack consisted of five consecutive attacks. A horizontal slice, a stab, a vertical slice, a stab, and then finally a jump slice.
Among these five, the attacks up to the fourth were very quick and easy to perform. No other class could attack more quickly. What was necessary now was not attack power , but knockback.
“So, light warriors are the best fit for the job of pushing the Veil Guardian off the cliff. This strategy, Kasumi-san, can only be executed by you.”
This was something that only she herself could do.
Kasumi calmly unleashed her consecutive attacks. Horizontal slice, stab, vertical slice, stab. All four of those attacks connected and hit the Veil Guardian on its right leg. The giant steel creature’s body shook and with the knockback, it was pushed towards the cliff.
However, the chain broke there. The last attack, the jump slice, did not connect. It was because there was a big break before that attack.
Then, the Veil Guardian’s body started turning mightily. Kasumi’s body was hit by the whirlwind. With that, it turned towards Kasumi.
“The whirlwind does wind damage. It’ll hurt quite a bit. However, Eri’s defense buffs can help to reduce it to an extent. As long as you have a plan to counter it, it won’t be fatal”
“Kasumi, I’m coming!”
Eri timed her healing spells well. Kasumi’s HP was being healed just as it was being reduced.
The Veil Warrior, on the verge of being pushed over the cliff, started moving its sword around.
“If you push him towards the edge just a little bit more … he wouldn’t be able to take a single step. Though it might seem scary, just take some hits with your shield.”
Kasumi looked up at the gigantic monster. It seemed that she would be completely chopped up with just one hit. She nearly froze from fear. But…
(I will… believe in Jun-san!)
Holding her light shield above her head, she took the bigger-than-her steel creature’s hits head on. There was a loud thud with each hit. Her arm became numb .
Her HP bar dropped to 40% rapidly.
Even though she was defending, she took so much damage. Its attack power was surely astonishing…
(– Take it!)
Right, this is… a game.
Keeping in mind what Jun said, right now, she was a light warrior. However strong the hits were, only with a plenty of defense power and preparedness could one bear them.
Then, after taking one more hit, she would have a chance to counterattack.
Kasumi, screaming loudly, started attacking again. Automode, on. Initiate combo attack.
The first four attacks pushed the Veil Guardian closer and closer towards the edge.
“Kasumi, I’ll heal you!”
Eri sent some small heals her way. Since it was imperative to keep the back line’s enmity lower so that the monster would not start attacking them, she couldn’t use stronger spells. In spite of that, she was still able to heal almost 20% HP with one spell.
By all rights, Kasumi was using attacks that would provoke her target to attack her, so the Veil Guardian’s enmity for her had to go be increasing. However, now, every little bit of time was valuable. Her knockback gauntlets’ special ability, unusable in towns, among other places, needed some time. She would have to allow another attack through.
The Veil Guardian attacked. She blocked with her shield. This attack hurt more than the previous ones. Her HP went down to 30%.
However, Kasumi ignored the yellow warning message and countered fiercely.
Being healed by Eri, Kasumi’s HP recovered to 50% during her counterattack.
Then she took another three of its longsword attacks with her shield.
Her HP bar was almost completely empty.
Eri cried out, “Kasumi!”
Kasumi responded with a smile on her face, “It’s fine.”
At the last moment, Jun taught her to be mentally prepared.
“When things are getting difficult, smile. Smile widely.”
Those words echoed in her head.
Thus, Kasumi smiled. She smiled, with sweat on her face, the blood effect being shown , and dust all around in the air.
Then, she took a step.
Automode on. Initiate combo attack.
She began her attacks.
Horizontal slice, stab…
The Veil Guardian stepped back with each attack. Slowly moving backwards, the giant steel monster was only a little bit from being pushed off the cliff.
The Veil Guardian’s stance weakened.
The third attack, the vertical slice, hit it in the right place.
It brandished its sword.
“It’s not working!”
At once, Kasumi turned off her automatic attack mode and took a step. She dodged one of the Veil Guardian’s hits. Its next attack was the horizontal swipe. However, if she ended up avoiding that attack, she would be allowing her opponent to advance. So…
Once again, she turned automatic attack mode on and began the combo sequence.
The horizontal slice was blocked by its shield. She didn’t care. Now, her opponent’s legs were halfway off of the cliff.
One attack later. With only that one attack, the monster fell off the cliff.
At the same time…
(Ah, I’m going to die.)
Even if she died, she had won already…
Kasumi and the Veil Guardian, taking hits from each other, pushed each other back and forth.
Kasumi’s back was to the open area.
The Veil Guardian’s body began falling slowly. Its legs moved uncontrollably.
While watching the steel figure disappear as it continued to fall, Kasumi closed her eyes with a sense of satisfaction…
Many thoughts flooded her mind.
Thud. She fell onto the ground.
Opening her eyes, she muttered, “Huh? I didn’t die.. What?” Slanting her head, she looked at her HP bar. She still had more than half of her HP left.
She looked at the log.
[Eri cast a spell on Kasumi. HP recovering.]
She heard a voice nearby, “That Maximum Heal was just in time.”
When she lifted her head, she a smiling Eri.
“Maximum heal was not allowed…”
Considering the spell’s cast time, Eri had to have started to cast the spell before she and the Veil Guardian hit each other for the final time. If Kasumi had decided to play it safe, the Veil Guardian would be charging at Eri right about now.
Even so, she cast the spell.
“I guessed that you were going to do what you did. So, I, obligated to protect you unconditionally as the healer, decided to heal you.”
Kasumi thought, “Oh.”
Eri, smiling joyfully under the blue sky, surely believed in her.
If not for that, she would not be alive now.
(I … met somebody who believes in me, Sakuya-chan.)
Suddenly she remembered something Sakuya said.
When Sakuya was still with her…
She said, “Kasumi, it’s okay for you to rely on me as much as you need. So, say whatever you want to say. However, I’m disappointed. When you don’t open your mouth, I don’t know what you want. I think that’s bringing us to our limit.”
That was weird. Kasumi tilted her head. Wasn’t it obvious? If she doesn’t open her mouth, she wouldn’t communicate anything. Wasn’t that just something to be taken for granted?
However, Sakuya smiled bitterly and shook her head.
“It is. Even if you don’t say anything, your friends will still be thinking about you. There are friendships like that. Ones involving knowing what the other person is thinking: even if one person does not verbalize it, the other will end up understanding. That’s the kind of friendship I’m talking about.”
If there was ever a time when she had found friends like that, it would be now.
With a lonely smile, Sakuya said, “Should an opportunity to make one of those friendships arise, jump at it and get a firm grip on them. Never let go of them.”
At that time, Kasumi did not know at all why she looked so lonely. They had still just came to Sky World.
Now, she thought she might know.
Surely Kasumi was somebody with whom she could share her innermost feelings.
However, she ended up letting go of her . Then, that person ended up drifting away from her.
That was why.
After getting up, Kasumi hugged Eri tightly.
“What!? Huh!? What was that for!?”
“I won’t let go of you, Eri-chan. I’ll definitely never let you leave me.”
“Huh!? What do you mean!? I was never going to do that anyway!”
(Sakuya-chan, I’m fine. I found somebody who I can treasure.)
She wanted to bring Eri and Jun to Sakuya.
Imagining Sakuya’s face when that happens, Kasumi chuckled.