TL note: sorry for disappearing again for weeks. Lately I’ve had a lot of deadlines looming on me and two weeks ago I had a splitting headache that lasted four days, so I’m currently struggling with catching up to the schedule I wanted to follow (guess who won’t be able to catch up to anything).
Next one will be New Game 37, but I don’t know when the chapter will be ready. I’ll try my best at least to make it worth the wait.
The phantom fox’s blizzard and the true form of the Charming goddess of wrath
There are two kind of “caves” in the Kingdom of Albein. The first one is a cave that’s been formed naturally, so a normal cave without class difficulty.
The other one is a “dungeon”, a cave counting at least two floors that have been formed artificially by humans, monsters or spirits.
The Water Cave is an underground dungeon made by a group of monsters that was abandoned when their ruler died. It is now owned by water spirits, which have changed the environment to fit their needs.
As the power of the spirits matured, other creatures found the dungeon to be a comfortable place and became attracted by it, while its former residents desperately tried to find a new place they could call home.
Still, some creatures, like the goblins, decided to stay and adapt to the new environment: their race could adjust to any kind of situation, that’s why ‘frozen goblins’ and ‘heat goblins’ exist. The process wasn’t always easy, and many ended up losing their lives, but once they adapted, their numbers increased sharply.
Frozen goblins live in the first floor of the Water Cave in groups that count dozens of them and they have a proclivity to attack adventurers due to their bold and aggressive temperament, but a C rank adventurer can manage to repel them. They pose no threat for a B rank one.
Even though goblins’ peculiarity is using poisonous attacks, the ones living in the Water Cave had nothing that could be turned into poison. Also, if they were to leave their dungeon to cause troubles or to remedy their lack of poison supplies, the adventurer’s guild would request several expeditions of at least C rank adventurers to take care of them.
Putting goblins aside, the others creatures of the first floor hardly attack people, so they can be ignored. Sometimes a frozen slime pops out of nowhere, but they don’t pose a threat, especially if we think that they’re served as a delicacy in the town nearby the lake east of the Water Cave.
Still, preparing them takes some time and they aren’t recommended as opponents for amateurs. Selling them yielded quite a few money, but without at least a B rank adventurer helping with the seizure, one could even face death.
Frozen slimes, as the name suggests, are slime enemies, so they seize their foe by incorporating them into their slimy body and eat their equipment by melting it. They usually don’t attack living creatures, since they only feed on inorganic matter, but it might be a problem if an adventurer ends up seized by one of them.
But if that was to happen anyway, bringing some salt with yourself will save you, since frozen slimes despise it for some reason and usually run away from it.
Salt isn’t the only option to get rid of them… but let’s leave the alternatives to your imagination. I strongly suggest the salt way, given that once the threat is gone you might not feel at your best (especially on a mental level).
Going further in the dungeon, the second floor is house of snow wolves, so it’s common to meet and fight them. They can use their Ice Breath ability, which can annihilate a C rank adventurer in the blink of an eye, and they usually hunt in packs of ten, so if they were to use it simultaneously, they would surely pose a deadly threat.
The best way to avoid that outcome is to attack them first and bring some down right away, so that their combined Ice Breath becomes only a threat and not a death flag. Probably only a team of B rank adventurers or stronger ones can handle them.
Once the snow wolves have been defeated, they flee and never attack the same target again. They usually run to nearby monsters to have some sort of defence against their former prey, so an average party of B rank adventurers shouldn’t chase them around too much.
Also, the wolves are smart, since their “allies” can be a handful even for A rank adventurers. That’s why the quests posted in the adventurer’s guild that ask to venture down to the Water Cave’s second floor and further specify that the ‘potential danger is for A rank adventurers and above’.
Since Silver Aquarius fetches their ice from there periodically, they make sure that those kind of accidents are very unlikely to happen. Unluckily, I can’t say they are impossible.
There will always be that infinitesimal chance that things take an unexpected turn no one wished for.
— Extract from Silver Aquarius’ documentation about the Water Cave dungeon —
“…I’m glad we’ve read about those slimes. They’re pretty bad news, ain’t they?”
“They shouldn’t be underestimated, Rigel. If you tamed one, it would come in handy when you have equipment to discard, though…”
“Lia, have you had a bad experience with slimes?”
“I-I haven’t personally. Long time ago, I was in an expedition with other people to eliminate some slimes, when… no, this isn’t the right place and time to talk about that.”
“Tell us next time, then… goblins are coming again!”
Aileen was at ease in the dim light of the cave. Her senses were so sharp that even Lia, a prideful demi-human whose strong point was detecting enemies, was surprised.
The goblins dug holes high in the walls to hide and get ready to attack unaware passersby. Their surprise attacks consisted in jumping on their targets while swinging down their clubs or short swords, or throwing them rocks.
Once in front of them, they were crushed one-sidedly: Aileen made them fly with her punches, Rigel avoided them and counter-attacked, McKinley fired fire arrows in the holes where they hid, and those who tried to jump on him were cut down by a single, precise slash of Lia’s sword.
The goblins who charged at the adventurer’s party by feet met the same doom.
Zect saw some goblin mages chanting a spell a little further in the cave right in front of them—their light wands illuminated the other goblins, casting their shadows around.
He couldn’t let that chance slip away.
The next moment, his magic affected all of the enemy shadows, and the goblins started to struggle to free themselves.
They could move the upper part of their body, but not the lower one—it was like their feet were sewed to the ground, were their shadow was cast.
“Lia, don’t go for the torches! Charge them from the front!”
Lia followed Aileen’s instructions, who was the only one grasping what Zect was doing, and cleared the path from the goblins that were popping out to defend the mages.
Their torches fell as they struggled to get free, but they were soon cut down.
Rigel picked up a torch, but Aileen extinguished its flame right away with a kick.
“Aww… Sis, why’d you kill the light like that?”
“’Cause it isn’t necessary. Your job… your magic messes with shadows, right, Zect?”
“Yes. I don’t think it was necessary for me to fight, but using magic shouldn’t have hindered your actions much, right?”
“Yeah, you’ve been very helpful. When goblins are about to die and get on a rampage, they might jump at their targets and hurt them.”
“Lia, I didn’t get what happened… what was it?”
“He cast a spell on the goblins’ shadows, binding them to the ground… right, Aileen?”
“Exactly. Grasping that in a battle means that you’re pretty good.”
Rigel let out an impressed sigh and McKinley puffed out his chest slightly. Lia gave a sidelong glance to them, then faced Zect.
“Would casting that same spell on the ice fox make her seizure easier?”
“I can easily cast it on goblins and those weaker than me, but casting it on something agile and smart like that is very hard.”
The demi-human shrugged her shoulders, understanding that it wouldn’t do.
It took him a lot of effort to bind something as strong as him, and that was the same for a single target stronger than him.
The ice fox was a SS rank monster, which was also very nimble and smart; a difficult target. The only member of their current party who would withstand that spell was Aileen, who steeled herself.
I can’t mess this up.
When they were about to enter the second layer, an icy wind blew past them carrying a lot of white cold particles that melted the moment they touched the party members’ skin.
“This is… snow…?”
“She stopped in the second layer…? Keep your guard up. Probably we’re about to…”
“No way… wasn’t it only one? What’s with that pack?!”
A very spacious room stretched in front of them, where numerous white four-legged beasts were slowly forming a huge pack.
Snow wolves… they were forming a circle around another creature, just like devotees worshipping their deity.
“That’s the ice fox… it’s commanding the wolves, isn’t she?”
“She became the dungeon boss, huh? I knew things could turn out this way… you three have to work hard too, then!”
“Yay! Sis, go for the ice fox! We’ll take care of the snow wolves!”
“If it gets too close to you, it’s gonna be hella tough… Lia, McKinley, I’m counting on you!”
“Okay. Be careful, you’re gonna suffer from frostbite if you get hit by her breath.”
Lia and Rigel unsheathed their swords and McKinley loaded a fire arrow on his arbalest.
“Three… Two… One… Go!”
Aileen sprinted onward followed by Zect, who cast his Shadow Bind on quite a lot of wolves and ended them all by throwing his slicer once. Meanwhile, those who jumped not to get trapped in his magic swooped down on Rigel and Lia as if they were swooping down on their prey.
“Damn, they’re quick! But…!”
With a flash, Rigel’s sword repelled a wolf as McKinley’s arrows hit their targets, setting some on fire, and Lia joined them by cutting down a couple of incoming beasts.
Once Aileen was sure that Rigel’s party had engaged the wolves, she lept high in the sky, toward the ice fox’s silhouette that emerged from the darkness.
Zect noticed that she was jumping way too high… then understood that she wanted to reach the ceiling.
The ice fox followed Aileen with her eyes, which let out a silver light, then a blizzard lashed out in the room and dimmed everyone’s vision. Aileen tried to defend her body with the flaming magic that was within her, and after kicking the ceiling with all of her strength, causing it to crack from the impact, she swooped down on her target.
“Superia hand-to-hand style’s secret technique—Olympus-rending kick1!”
The momentum she built with her action equalled the strength and the speed of a lighting, and crashing where the ice fox stood until a few moments before, she fractured the ground, creating a huge, deep hole.
She created that blizzard only to dim my vision?!
Aileen had goosebumps and a shiver run up her back while seeing Zect’s slicer flying in the air and cutting through the blizzard’s strongest wind—only a metallic sound rang from the other side before it came back.
The ice fox concealed her presence in the blizzard and moved away in the blink of an eye—for a mere moment she was visible again, then she looked as if she was dissolving into snow.
“As long as the blizzard is raging, we can’t count on our eyes to point where it is!”
“Yeah, I know it…!”
Zect already knew the ice fox, so he was probably already used to perceiving her presence like that, but even he couldn’t get close to it.
How can I seize it…?! There must be something I can do! Dick is counting on me…!
“B-Behind you! Get away!”
She jumped away just in time as a furious gust of wind, an Ice Breath that could’ve cast her into a pack of snow, lashed where she had been standing until now.
The attack aimed at her legs, the only part that granted a martial artist their mobility.
If the fight lasts too long and my body gets overcome by the cold, what would happen to me…?
That feeling had never haunted her before, but now Aileen was getting afraid of dying, and that fear was setting her heart ablaze.
“…Would you come to rescue us…? I guess it would be hard, huh…?”
Zect readied his slicer again. The ice fox would have let Aileen see her again to make the girl attack, so if he attacked in that moment… if he used his best attack repeteadly as a Shadow Chaser, sooner or later he’d have hit her.
“You don’t have to attack! I told you to leave it to me, didn’t I?!”
The man stopped his hand, puzzled from her words. No matter how stronger than him Aileen was, if she was hit by one of the ice fox’s attacks, she’d have frozen and wouldn’t have been able to avoid her next attack.
The strongest weren’t those with an unlimited supply of energy, but those who could fight without receiving much damage.
In the worst case scenario, the stronger would meet their doom no matter what. Even that was a potential outcome, but while Zect processed those thoughts, his movements stopped.
In front of him, Aileen’s red magic power wrapped her body like hellish flames as her peach-colored hair turned crimson and red light shone and scattered from her eyes.
That vision alone woke up a feeling that was slumbering in his heart since he was a child—fear.
As her flaming power swelled up and exploded from her, he understood that he should have kept his distance from her and stood still.
“…Are you… the Charming goddess of wrath… Aileen Superia?”
The ice stuck to her clothes evaporated, and she decided to take her heavy overcoat off, since she no longer needed it.
That girl just had too much power. He could see red lightnings running on and nearby her, which made chunks of snow evaporate at a single touch—it looked like snow wasn’t something allowed to be in her presence.
“Finally I can move freely. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
A soft smile cracked the face of her blood-curdling figure, and when he blinked his eyes, she had disappeared.
The ice fox cried loudly when it felt Aileen grabbing her tightly. With a gesture of her tail, the beast created and hurled countless ice blades to the demon, who needed no more than her free hand to shatter the attack.
Now only another SSS rank could have faced her up.
Still, the ice fox tried to resist—it struggled and let her vixen scream2 ring loudly; although it was a wild beast, it was now gumbling its life to protect its territory, the home she had chosen—but it was all for nothing.
With a single hit, Aileen’s bare hand smashed her collar.
As Rigel and Lia kept fending off snow wolves, McKinley loaded the paralysing dart on his arbalest and fired. The ice fox tried to struggle to free herself but her legs were stuck to the ground.
Zect had respected Aileen’s will and didn’t attack again, but he still used his spell Shadow Bind while the fox’s attention was robbed by that demon.
As the arrowhead stuck in the fox’s torso, the poison started to spread right away, and in a few moments the beast’s hostility vanished and she closed her eyes unmoving.
Aileen could have carried that small creature on her arms without breaking a sweat. She smiled bitterly while thinking that something that adorable could control a blizzard that powerful despite being on a rampage.
“I still have a long way to go… if I was afraid of a cute fox like this.”
Aileen had returned to her normal self—none of the others, except from Zect, had seen her demon-mode due to the blizzard.
“…No need to keep up my Shadow Bind, then.”
Zect said, and canceling his spell, she lay on the ground. Then, her shape started to change into a human’s in front of Aileen’s eyes. The fox’s fur grew back into snow-white skin, and the girl couldn’t help but comparing the morphing body, which looked small and slim, to Yuma’s.
Then, Aileen darted away to take the overcoat she had took off before and returned the next moment to cover the body on the ground.
“I-It’s a little girl…?”3
“Does she look like a young boy to you?”
He nonchalantly took off his coat to add another layer of clothes to the girl while Aileen looked in puzzlement at the sleeping child.
When Rigel’s party reached them, they let out surprised voices as they watched the ice fox’s true body.
It didn’t take more than a few instants to accept the current situation.
1 The original actually says “heaven-tearing mountain-rending kick”, so I thought “maybe I can convey this with a single, cool word” and then I remembered about Mount Olympus, so… well, I used that
3 Thing is that the fox’s gender is never specified by Zect. Since it’s never addressed directly, we could say he addresses her as “it”, but I thought that anyone would address a friend or a close person with their gender, so it would’ve been strange to let him address her with “they” all the time, given that as long as we know this fox is a girl. Tl;dr: I assumed her gender and I will change it if it’s necessary for plot. Sorry for “ruining” this cliché scene