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600 – Swamp Siege
I yank on the apophis’s [Human-Faced Tongue], reeling it in towards me. It flaps its wings, doing its best to regain control in the air. It seems it has realised that it can’t beat me in a contest of strength, and is preparing to launch a counter.

I create a [Mirage] of myself to obscure my position. This should make it harder for it to land its counter. I’ll hit it with a direct claw attack the moment it becomes defenceless as it tries to attack my illusion.

Once I’ve pulled it in close enough, I let go its tongue and swipe my claws toward its head. My claws scrape just barely in front of its head. It used its wings to fly backwards and dodge my attack.

I should have an overwhelming advantage in this clash. And yet, the apophis outpredicted me.

It should have been lead astray by the [Mirage]! It saw straight through it, even though it was the first time I’ve used [Mirage] against it.

Ah, that reminds me, it has the [Heat Perception] skill. That was probably how it knew my exact location without relying on vision.

The death carriers also have [Heat Perception], but they totally fell for [Mirage] earlier. That was probably why I wasn’t as wary of the apophis’s [Heat Perception].

Even with the same skill, the effectiveness varies depending on the user. There’s also a difference in skill level. As a Magic Beast King, the apophis probably has much more battlefield experience than the death carriers. I should have considered the possibility of it seeing through my illusions and thought of some countermeasures.

The apophis’s fangs sink into my forefoot as it swings past. Pain spreads throughout my leg, and I feel a faint nausea.

At the same time, a black light expands out from the centre of the apophis. My body suddenly becomes heavier, and I suddenly jerk down, my balance breaking.


It’s using [Gravity]! It’s trying to drag me down into its home ground.

Seeing me lose my balance, the apophis lunges at my head.

D-don’t underestimate me! Pulling backwards, I sweep my foreleg towards it in a flash of claws. I carve through its abdomen. Scattering blood, the apophis falls to the swamp.

I quickly release a [Dimension Claw] to try and finish it off. But, the apophis wraps itself in black light, suddenly accelerating its descent and allowing it to escape to the swamp surface.

『Y-you did it, master-dono!』

Treant rejoices from my back. I shake my head.

『…I wanted to finish it off there. It got away.』

The poison from [Pure Bite] was driving my senses crazy, and my balance had been broken by [Gravity]. As a result, I was unable to put all my strength into my attack, and the apophis was able to get away.

It launched a counterattack in order to escape from its tongue being grabbed. On top of that, it used [Gravity] to complete its swift escape. It took much damage than me in this exchange, but I definitely fell behind in terms of tactics. I have an overwhelming advantage in stats, but it was one step above me in making best use of its skills.

『From now on, it knows that it can’t win by fighting normally. It’ll be even more cautious than before, which is a problem for us.』

It probably won’t even use [Human-Faced Tongue] on me again. It knows it’d just get caught again. From now on it’ll hide in the swamp and take a more careful approach.

As a result, I won’t have any way of dealing a decisive blow. I’d have to get closer to the swamp if I wanted to fight it directly, but doing that would put Aro and the treant in danger. Do I have no choice but to leave them somewhere safe for a while…?

If we don’t defeat the apophis, we’d have to put treant’s levelling on hold. It’s hard to imagine that dropping him into the swamp would be at all safe under these circumstances.

A magenta human face pokes out of the swamp. It’s the apophis’s [Human-Faced Tongue].

It’s probably sticking a relatively expendable part of its body out to do some reconnaissance. As I thought, the damage to its main body is considerable, so it’s acting cautiously.

A number of death carriers are also waiting in the area around the [Human-Faced Tongue]. If I were to try diving into the middle of them, they’d hit me with a barrage of ranged attacks.

『This has gotten a bit bothersome…』

Defeating the death carriers first would make things easier, but that would be putting the cart before the horse for treant’s levelling. If I was by myself I could dive straight in and shrug off the death carriers’ attacks. I suppose the only option really is leaving Aro and the treant somewhere safe for a little while.

Suddenly, an idea strikes me. The only reason I can’t drop treant right now is because the apophis lurking in the swamp makes collecting him safely too difficult.

In other words, there’s no problem if we take out the apophis by dropping him.

I don’t think it should be too hard. While metalised as a result of [Statue], treant should be able to withstand the attacks of the death carriers without issue.

Besides, the apophis is already weakened. It’s an attacker type, and is poorly equipped for defence. It’s A+ rank, but as long as he can hit it, even treant should be able to defeat it.

It’s certain that the main body is hiding nearby that fake head, so just dropping treant in a straight line might go surprisingly well. Even if the apophis doesn’t entirely die, as long as some damage is dealt it shouldn’t be hard for me to quickly finish it off.

『Master-dono… What is it? You seem to be thinking about something…』

Treant asks me.

『I’ve thought of a way to raise your level all at once.』

I reply, staring at the apophis’s [Human-Faced Tongue].


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