Count Eldridge made his sudden appearance and beat them to the punch, but Hermes and the others delved into the labyrinth, just as planned.
Judging from the count’s demeanor, it was clear that he planned on taking all the credit for the rewards given after a labyrinth attack.
To prevent that from happening, all they needed to do was finish their attack before the count’s, plain and simple.
As an aside, attacking a labyrinth entailed defeating its strongest monster, the labyrinth master. They were the leader of all the monsters in said labyrinth, and they resided in the deepest part of most labyrinths.
If done, order would fall apart, and the monsters would fall into turmoil. As such, a window of safety could be secured until the next master was born.
To accomplish that, you needed to face the hordes of monsters along the way. They existed only to protect their master and got stronger the deeper you went.
The journey down had been going smooth—remarkably so, at that.
Needless to say, the reason for that was Hermes, who was expertly wielding his magic in the center.
“Herm. Let me just ask you again… Just how are you doing that? Is it generic magic?”
“That’s correct. More precisely, it’s enhanced generic magic. Some of the spells I’m using were developed by Master, and some I helped make.”
A wide variety of multi-colored spells flew from Hermes’ hands in all directions.
Each spell precisely pierced through the monsters. The way his spells efficiently annihilated all that came into contact with it without leaving a single trace behind could even be described as artistic in a sense.
“I’ve applied The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet to them. They aren’t at the same level of Bloodline Magic, but they are quite convenient.”
“This goes way beyond just convenient, you know…”
Just as the name would imply, he was using generic magic enhanced by The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet.
If we’re talking about power alone, it certainly wasn’t a match for Bloodline Magic.
However, it more than made up for that shortcoming through sheer numbers, and above all, spells came out much quicker due to not needing a chant.
By accurately striking the approaching monsters’ weak points through effective use of his magic, Hermes far exceeded what an unskilled user of Bloodline Magic could do, proving extremely useful in battle.
Most nobles pretty much only brute-forced their way through battles with their inborn magic—compared to them, Hermes’ way of using magic was far more efficient and elegant.
“Sure is smooth-sailing, huh.”
“That’s all thanks to the knights. I’m able to focus on attacking because you guys act as the frontline and stop the monsters from moving.”
“HAHAHA! With how fast that magic of yours is, I feel like you may not even need us!”
The you-know-who gung-ho knight spoke with a wry smile, but—
Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration?
Katia’s faith in them was well-justified; they were all individually exceptionally skilled, their coordination just as superb.
They left no openings as they protected Hermes and Katia from all directions, letting not a single monster get past them.
The only thing left was for Katia to point in the monsters’ direction, and for Hermes to aim in said direction thereafter.
They were the splitting image of a fortress equipped with walls, a control tower, and a cannon as they mowed down the monsters along the way with ease.
Breaking past the places which were filled to the brim with monsters until now with ease, they arrived at the deepest part of the labyrinth.
“So that’s… the master of this labyrinth, I suppose.”
“I believe the mana I’m feeling from it only proves that.”
Upon passing through a narrow path, what laid ahead was a spacious hall.
Enshrined there was a gigantic monster, which they watched from afar as they exchanged words.
The very first thing that jumped into their view was a shell.
It covered the monster hemispherically, and engraved upon it was an array of hexagonal patterns, with each and every one of them giving off a hard-looking, metallic shine.
Peeking through the shell’s opening was a reptilian face covered in scales just as tough. Its long, slim eyes gave off a red glimmer akin to blood; thereunder was its fiendishly shaped jaw along with its pointed fangs, which seemed to exist only for hunting prey.
“…The Tortoise Dragon. Called a god in ancient times, it’s recognized as being a fully-fledged member of the dragon species.”
“Are you well-versed in monsters as well, Herm?”
“Master frequently took me along with her for labyrinth attacks. Although, I only know about it, and I haven’t actually fought one.”
Hermes was frequently made to read up on literary texts, so at the very least, he knew about the appearance and names of most monsters.
Furthermore, Hermes could catch a glimpse of slight glitters and traces of mana located in a small room behind the tortoise.
Assuming that was the same ancient artifact from the rumors, then it only made sense that a dragon-class monster was protecting it.
“This isn’t good. I never would’ve expected a dragon-class, of all things, to be here.”
“It shall doubtlessly prove a formidable adversary. What shall we do, my lady?”
Katia momentarily pondered over the gung-ho knight’s words.
“…Let’s proceed. I’m worried about the count’s schemes, and above all, if a monster this powerful were to get out onto the surface—I couldn’t even begin to imagine just how much damage it would cause.”
“However, all of your lives are top-priority. If victory feels unlikely, then retreat immediately and ask Father for further instructions.”
Katia gave instructions typical of her personality, and they all rushed into the spacious hall simultaneously.
The Tortoise Dragon noticed immediately. It laid its blood-red pupils on Hermes and the others, recognizing them as hostile threats. Moments after—
Everybody there was completely dumbfounded.
They were careless. They had made an assumption based on its appearances, thinking:
—There’s no way that monster isn’t sluggish.
Completely betraying all of their expectations, the Tortoise Dragon leaped with agile and nimble movements, landing—
—with as much force as you’d expect from its looks.
In addition, the place where it landed was—
“This is bad, it blocked the entrance.”
If victory feels unlikely, then retreat immediately.
As if to mock Katia’s instructions, the tortoise managed to seal off their escape route and display how formidable it really was, all in one move.
In the blink of an eye, Hermes and the others found themselves fighting against a monster that was both far stronger and far more intelligent than they had expected.
They unsurprisingly started the battle with a considerable disadvantage.
The knights attempted to kick things off with their tried-and-tested strategy of guarding their two magicians, but they were already faced with problems.
Needless to say, it was due to the Tortoise Dragon’s sheer agility.
It wasn’t so fast that they couldn’t follow it with their eyes, but it was much more swift than any of the monsters that they had encountered in this labyrinth—if they made a single slip up, their formation would fall apart instantly.
Protecting Katia and Hermes was all the knights could manage; they didn’t have the leeway to create an opening for Hermes to fire magic.
And even when Hermes did manage to find a fleeting chance to fire magic at it—
“…That thing’s insanely tough.”
Such was Hermes’ reaction when he felt his enhanced generic magic strike the tortoise.
Hermes deliberately aimed for the tortoise’s neck, which wasn’t as heavily armored as the rest of its body. Regardless of that, it only amounted to a small cut’s worth of damage.
They might’ve had a chance at victory if he somehow managed to hit that same spot hundreds of times, but their opponent moved at ridiculously high speeds; to top it off, the neck was hard to accurately strike. It just wasn’t realistic.
Someone else seemed to be thinking the same. While defending against the tortoise’s attacks, the gung-ho knight made a proposal.
“Lady Katia! Sir Hermes’ magic is unable to inflict an effective blow! I request that you use Bloodline Magic!”
“But my magic is slow! I doubt it could hit this thing—”
“I’ll help. Chains of Blood, Alceram.”
Hermes quickly acted accordingly to the knight’s suggestion, cutting his own finger and sending blood flying at the Tortoise Dragon. His blood began shining for a split second; immediately after, it turned into red chains and coiled around the tortoise’s neck, binding it to the ground head-first.
“! Now I can—The Salvation of the Dead, Steria Tryvia!”
The Tortoise Dragon easily tore the chains off, but Hermes managed to create the biggest opening thus far.
Seizing the opportunity, Katia released her Bloodline Magic, which she chanted in advance.
A horde of spirits reigning from the realm of Hades formed into a gigantic cluster of mana and rushed at the tortoise.
Although Katia couldn’t use it to its fullest potential for reasons unknown, Bloodline Magic was still Bloodline Magic. It was immensely powerful and covered a massive area in a single shot, far surpassing Hermes’ magic. It was impossible for the Tortoise Dragon in its compromised position to avoid it—
or so they thought.
Katia muttered with a look of despair as she saw what became of her magic, which clearly should’ve gotten a direct hit.
“It’s already tough enough to begin with, and yet—you’re telling me it can even use Barrier Magic!?”
The Tortoise Dragon didn’t avoid it.
Instead, the countless layers of barriers affixed around the tortoise’s neck absorbed the blow, completely nullifying her magic.
Naturally, the main body wasn’t damaged in the slightest.
This was what made monsters monsters, differentiating them from your average beast.
Monster was another word for magical creature. They used mana as energy and were attracted to abundant sources of mana.
Furthermore—there existed monsters that used magic.
The magic that high-ranking monsters used could, at times, surpass even Bloodline Magic, similar to the barrier just now; as such, they were feared by the people. This was why nobles considered subjugating such monsters as one of the most pressing issues at any given time.
This monster had abnormally high agility and defensive capabilities; to top it off, it possessed Barrier Magic, making its defenses even more ironclad.
Furthermore, its defensive powers doubled as offensive powers as well. Utilizing its tail and forearms covered with hard scales, the tortoise mowed down the knights with cleave attacks carrying tremendous force. The knights were nearly incapacitated on multiple occasions, and they had their backs against the wall.
There’s no doubt about it. This monster is a formidable threat—we’ll need multiple households to work in tandem to subjugate it.
Not even Katia’s Bloodline Magic amounted to anything substantial. Deciding enough was enough, the gung-ho knight shouted.
“We’ll somehow keep this bastard at bay. Please use that opportunity to retreat with Sir Hermes!”
That could only mean one thing.
“There’s no way you’ll be able to pull that off! I can’t just abandon you all and flee—”
“You are not fleeing! You are leaving to request reinforcements! We have no choice but to pin our hopes on the reinforcements of other households! Spite him as we may, that includes Count Eldridge as well!”
He had a point. At the rate things were going, that was the most rational decision.
However, the only person they could expect immediate assistance from was Count Eldridge, who was somewhere in this labyrinth. Not to mention, he was the feudal lord of the neighboring fief—they had a general idea of how much he could actually contribute.
Judging from that, it was likely that they would lack the necessary forces to subjugate this monster, regardless of the count’s assistance.
In that case, let’s get help from outside the labyrin—no, that wouldn’t work. This labyrinth is located deep in the mountains—it’ll be impossible to return with reinforcements immediately.
The knights would, without a doubt, die in the meantime.
She refused to accept such a thing.
She couldn’t just abandon the people she was supposed to protect and flee.
That was one of the many duties that she assigned to herself ever since that fateful day.
“…Herm, I’m sorry for constantly relying on you.”
—she asked him for help.
Jurgen told Hermes to not recklessly recreate Bloodline Magic, but this wasn’t the time for that.
“Don’t you… have something? Out of all the Bloodline Magic you can use, isn’t there anything that would work against that thing?”
“…Out of all the Bloodline Magic I can use, I’m afraid there is no such thing.”
However, such was his answer.
The only thing that had a possibility of working was The Archer of Magic Bullets, Mistle Tina, but similarly to The Salvation of the Dead, Steria Tryvia, it was highly likely that it would be repelled by the tortoise’s Barrier Magic.
Hermes had a stockpile of several other Bloodline Magic, but they were all either non-direct attack type spells or couldn’t be used in this narrow cave, so none of them could land a decisive blow.
However, if he wasn’t limited to only Bloodline Magic, then—
“I have one attack that can break through that barrier.”
“But it’ll require more mana than what you have. I also need to chant it… If you could just stop it from moving for five seconds, then there’s a chance.”
That was an extremely difficult challenge against an opponent with such agility and toughness. Nevertheless—
“…Would that attack be able to kill it for sure?”
“At the very least, it’ll hit the tortoise hard enough for everyone to escape.”
Then, with a nod—
“Let’s do it. Betting it all on you is the best way for everyone to survive, I’m sure of it.”
After making that assertion, she conveyed her instructions to the knights.
…In that case, I need to meet her expectations.
For the past five years, Hermes had explored numerous labyrinths with Rose.
Now was the time to show why he did that; to show the fruits of his labor; to show the true potential of The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet.
Sorry for not posting for most of the week, was busy with irl stuff and wifi was down all day yesterday. At the very least I’m pretty confident in the quality of this chapter considering how much time I spent on it. I’ll post 1 magic arrow chapter for sure later today. See you guys then.