LEVEL 2: Everything is Precious, Nothing is Replaceable
Groaning in pain, Ranta hugged his longsword against himself with his right arm and simultaneously pressed down on his injured left arm.
“Owww…” The word escaped his lips as he attempted to flex his left hand. No! He needed to stay absolutely silent.
He was hidden, as usual, in a pigworm pen… more precisely, he was actually hidden in a mass of pigworms. More precisely still, the pigworms were hiding him. They were all gathered in a corner of one of the pens, Ranta right in the middle of them, trying to keep his breathing quiet. He was alone. Completely and utterly alone.
Even Zodiak was no longer with him, as the time limit of the Dread Knight spell [DARK INVITATION] had run out. Demons could only be summoned for thirty minutes before they returned to their places at foot of Lord Skulheill and Ranta didn’t have the mental strength left to summon it again. The demon’s taunts had really left him dejected.
Even someone as awesome as Lord Ranta would be beyond dead tired after making such a graceful and elegant escape from what seemed, to him at least, to be a million and four kobolds. He was injured all over too; the wound on his left arm so deep that he could no longer move the limb. It was also hurting so badly that Ranta could no longer feel pain from any of his other numerous injuries. He didn’t even want to look at those or think about how much blood he must have lost.
His entire arm was pounding and, with each throb, blood left him in a steady stream. He didn’t realize that he had started to pant in shallow gasps.
“I’m gonna cry ~★ …” he said to himself in the cutest sounding tone he could manage, but even that failed to bring him a single quantum of solace.
Hot girls. Dancing naked. POR FAVOR. He wanted super-hot girls dancing naked for him. No, no… entirely naked wasn’t good. It would be better if they were somewhat clothed. Maybe wearing only panties or something. Mmm… Mary. Nah, Mary was so beautiful his imagination couldn’t generate anything appropriate. No, if anyone it had to be Shihoru. Because her boobs were humongous. Yes. Gigantic. Yume wasn’t bad either. Her boobs weren’t enormous but that’s okay. Her plain looks were more his type, anyway. Yes.
Hmm… but somehow, he wasn’t satisfied. It was all… too real. They were his companions and they were always together day in and day out. Were. Not anymore. Thinking about it that way depressed him a little.
But whatever, it’s fine… They weren’t coming. Of course they weren’t. Naturally they weren’t. There was no reason for them to, and he wasn’t expecting it either… right? He had to make it out of here on his own. Could he do it?
He had been highly confident about being able to make it a little while ago. He never doubted that he could. At the very least, he made himself believe it. But now… he didn’t know. His arm was hurting. It hurt so badly. At this rate, he wouldn’t be able to use it at all. And it wasn’t just that. Running or any sort of physical exertion sent waves of pain into the wound, causing him to groan out loud and grow lightheaded.
All attempts to block out the pain also failed.
Can’t do this. Can’t go any further than this. There’s no way out of here for me… NO! Ranta wanted to rid himself of those weakling thoughts. Rather than on the things he couldn’t do, he would focus just on the things he could.
Why had things turned out like this? Because he wanted to look cool. You first, he’d said to Mogzo. He wished he hadn’t now. He really did. Why did he go and do something like that? Maybe because he wanted to try it just once? Because it was a cool phrase he wanted to use just once? Was that really why?
No. That wasn’t it.
I just wanted to be accepted. Doing something self-sacrificing, or some phrase like that, would have made the others think he was awesome. Yeah, there was a little of that too. I’m me. Others are others. I don’t give a shit what others think of me, that was a lie.
Of course he wanted others to think well of him if possible. He wanted to be liked. He wanted others to care about him. And it wasn’t like he didn’t know how to get others to like him. It’s definitely by doing that. Right? Acting like a good guy. Doing stuff for everyone’s sake, being considerate of people and all. Even saying the right things at the right time if he was smart enough.
Heh. That was Manato. Not me. Ranta wasn’t Manato and couldn’t get near Manato either. And it was too late to start trying. No one thought well of him, no one liked him. And certainly no one cared about him.
But he was happy about that at least. The, “Mogzo, you first,” thing. If the others had been able to get away because of that, then maybe they were grateful to him. Maybe they would have said, “Thank you, Ranta, you saved us.” Man, in that moment back there, he was so damn cool.
That’s enough. Here at the end, it was nice to think about just the good things. Ranta had saved his companions and now he was going to die down here.
“Will you guys think about me once in a while?” Ranta whispered and as he did, the pigworms surrounding him started squealing and vigorously cuddling up to his face.
“Hey! No! I didn’t mean you guys! I meant my team, not you freaks!”
Just when he had worked himself into a sentimental mood, the pigworms had to ruin everything. Maybe that was a good thing though. But if he was going to die here, he really didn’t want to die by getting cuddled to death by pigworms. He wanted to die in a cooler way. Like going out fighting.
He shoved the pigworms aside and jumped over the fence out of the pen. A little while earlier—he wasn’t sure how much earlier, but the area had been full of kobolds, and was not anymore. It was completely quiet now.
“…did they give up?”
Cowards, Ranta grinned broadly. Maybe he would make it out of here after all. He tried giving his longsword a swing with only his right hand and though the motion caused his left arm a pang, the pain was bearable.
“No way I’m gonna die that easily, now that I think about it…”
A thought occurred to him as he strolled along, humming a tune. Did they really abandon me down here? Yeah, his team was all weaklings, but in principle, not bad people. They may have hated him, but they were all comrades and comrades wouldn’t abandon each other lightly, would they? Ranta had a feeling that real companions just didn’t do that to each other no matter how much they wanted to.
Maybe, just maybe, they were looking for him after all. It wasn’t out of the question.
“I hope you guys aren’t still down here though…” Ranta sighed. Because you guys are weaklings. It’s not like you to risk your lives for me. Doing stuff like that’s more for a manly man like me.
If one of the others ended up dying because they came back to look for him…
“Not frickin’ funny.” Chills went down Ranta’s spine just thinking about it. He shook himself off. No way. No goddamn way. He didn’t want to be indebted to them like that. No way. Stop that shit. If his voice could reach the others at the faraway place they probably were now, he would have told them not to think about him and just get themselves out of the mines quick as possible. Maybe not all the way back to Altana, but to wait near the exit somewhere.
“Ugh.” Ranta grunted as a sharp pain shot up his injured arm when he leaned against a fence rail. It was fine though. He was fine.
A pair of kobolds appeared from a turn up ahead. They weren’t looking his way now but it was just a matter of time before they did. He had no choice but to take the initiative first. Decision made, Ranta picked up his pace. He couldn’t really run because of his injured arm, so he slid his feet along the ground and approached the kobolds.
They turned towards him and in that moment, Ranta leapt in, using [ANGER THRUST]. But it wasn’t just the same old [ANGER THRUST] he always used. It was [ANGER THRUST] version two: [SILENT ANGER THRUST]. Ranta’s longsword pierced the target kobold’s throat perfectly center. It flailed about, but severed vocal chords prevented it from making a single sound.
Ranta swung his longsword low next, sweeping the other kobold’s feet out from under it. As it fell over, he stomped his foot hard into its head, instantly rendering it motionless. He crouched down, his arm hurting almost unbearably. The more he was determined to bear it down, however, the less intense the pain seemed to become.
After he finished collecting the talismans from the bodies, he nodded forcefully to himself.
“I’ll kill them all, one at a time.”