Survivors continued their conquest of the labyrinth.
They followed the pattern of defeating Blazing Birds or Salamanders, resting, and advancing. It was taking a toll on everyone except Nick, since he was used to mountain climbing.
However, good planning on Nick’s part and Sem’s healing magic meant that even though they were getting tired, they did not feel uncomfortable or discouraged. In fact, it was very encouraging seeing their goal, the peak of the mountain, becoming bigger and bigger as they advanced.
“There’s people that focus only on mountain type labyrinths. People call them mountain maniacs or mountain adventurers.”
Said Nick, and everyone snickered.
“I like this a lot actually. The view’s nice too.”
“I don’t hate it either, but I like the forest more.”
“That’s just because you can pick medicinal herbs. I don’t hate the idea of mountain climbing once in a while, but the fire magic energy is just too strong.”
“I have heard of writers and poets climbing mountains to get away from deadlines and editors. I have read it in a book as well.”
“At that point you might as well just become an adventurer.”
They continued walking while chatting. If one was prepared for the heat and had the power to defeat the monsters, Blazing Bird Peak was actually quite the picturesque mountain.
When they reached the half-way point, they came across a concave shaped open area. Even when looking from afar, it was obvious a monster was sleeping in the middle of it.
“That’s the midway boss. If you take one step in its territory it wakes up.
Karan repeated Nick’s words back at him.
“Labyrinths of this level have not only a boss at the end, but in the middle too. In the case of Blazing Bird Peak…”
“It’s the Bursting Hedgehog. I didn’t want to meet it here…”
Mumbled Tianna as she looked at the monster. The monster’s appearance could be described as a giant hedgehog, about the size of a bear. Its most noticeable feature were the needles the size of stakes on its back.
“Those needles shootout don’t they?”
“Oh… You knew that?”
“I’ve defeated one before.”
“By freezing it. That way it can’t shoot out its needles.”
“…That’s not going to work here.”
Said Nick, and Tianna meekly nodded.
“So… What do we do then?”
“First we need to deal with the needles, but keep in mind that its aiming is very imprecise.”
“But those needles explode, right?”
Asked Tianna, and Nick said yes.
That was the main characteristic of this monster, and its main attack.
Not only could it fire its needles, but they themselves exploded.
“Yes, and that’s why we can’t just barely avoid them, or we’ll be caught in the blast.”
“How strong are they?”
Asked Sem, and Nick answered with a sour expression.
“It can gouge out people’s flesh if they’re not prepared for it at all.”
“But we have the Sturdy buff and defensive equipment, so we just have to watch out and guard carefully. Also, be careful not to be blown away by the blasts.”
“And it always stops when it’s going to fire, so if we’re careful and pay attention, it’s not that hard to dodge.”
“Is it hard to guard with a sword?”
“The blasts have considerable force behind them. The sword will probably be fine, but I imagine it will have a big impact on you.”
“So yes then…”
Karan’s tail dangled dejectedly. She was strangely fixated on the idea of blocking strong attacks and counter-attacking.
“But the blast is still scary, even if we dodge the attacks. Don’t we need some kind of countermeasure?”
“We will rely on Sem’s Sturdy, but…”
“I will use it of course, but we should not be over-reliant on it. It’s not as strong as regular defensive magic.”
“How about I push the needles back with my wind magic, and we all hide behind Karan’s sword?”
“Will that work?”
“I can’t use ice magic here, but wind magic should be fine. I’ve been sitting back all this time, so it’s about time I actually do something.”
Tianna smiled confidently.
“A mainly defensive strategy sounds good too, but how about attacking quickly and defeating it before it can attack? It’s a waste for Karan to do nothing but defend.”
“So… I guess we have to choose if Karan is going to be a sword or a shield.”
Everyone’s eyes were focused on Karan.
“Hm… I dunno…?”
“Well, we’re going to take it down either way, as long as we remember to be careful about the needles. But we need a concrete plan, and we can’t jump in with just a vague idea of what to do.”
“You really should simply rely on my power. That would put an end to all this indecision.”
Everyone rejected Bond’s idea.
“We haven’t passed by anyone yet, but you never know when someone might show up. We can’t do anything that might lead to people finding out about you.”
“And your skill takes a lot out of the people using it. Why would we use it on a midway boss?”
Said Nick and Tianna, and the other two nodded.
“Oh come on. I am going to be the only one without a chance to shine!”
“Do you think Union is your time to shine…?”
“It’s when I shine the brightest.”
“I don’t think a bright light is all it takes for an adventurer to ‘shine’.”
Nick clapped his hands, and restarted the discussion.
Everyone had light smiles on their faces, while at the same time feeling tense.
After some discussion, Survivors ended up agreeing on a plan. They stepped inside the Bursting Hedgehog’s territory, who immediately opened its eyes and exposed its sharp canines.
The monster growled threateningly.
It was as tall as a person, but more than twice as wide. Its low and heavy voice echoed inside the concave area where it stood.
“Watch out for its strong needles, but…”
As Nick was saying this, the monster turned its back on him, before black, lustrous needles were fired at him.
“It can’t aim properly when its back is turned.”
Nick was right, and the needles fell far behind them.
At the same time, Tianna cast a spell.
Tianna’s staff created a fierce whirlwind.
It was not as strong as something like 《Gust》, but it still had the power to easily blow away a small animal. This time it was used to counter the blast, but it could also be used against poison mist, dust, flames, etc.
Sem cast a support spell.
The combination of the whirlwind and support magic completely sealed the monster’s first strike.
As a heavy dust cloud filled the hair, it seemed like a stalemate had begun… But that was not the case.
Karan sprinted towards the Bursting Hedgehog.
What made the Bursting Hedgehog frightening was not just the power of its explosive needles, but also how it was easily frightened. At first, it would carefully watch the enemy’s movements, and not fire its needles rampantly. But once it started being attacked heavily, it would go crazy trying to escape its predicament, even if its field of vision worsened and it risked getting caught in its own blasts.
Adventurers with a lot of confidence in their defensive capabilities could try to hold out until it ran out of needles, but only people with a lot of stamina could climb the mountain while carrying big shields or heavy armor.
Survivors did consider a defensive strategy centered around Karan, but agreed that a drawn out, exhaustive battle would not be the best option.
They decided a swift attack would be best to preserve their stamina.
As the dust settled, the Bursting Hedgehog saw what appeared to be the glint in the eye of a dragon.
The frightened monster turned its back and fired four or five needles at once.
One exploded close to Karan.
The air was filled with smoke once again.
The remaining needles pierced the ground at the same time, causing a thunderous roar.
“We anticipated that.”
The Bursting Hedgehog trembled.
When it turned around, it saw a child holding a sword.
Bond knew the monster would turn its back towards Karan, and attacked from the other side.
But Bond was not the only one moving while the monster focused on Karan.
“All good here.”
“It’s alright Nick.”
Karan not only used her sword as a shield, but was also covered by a deep green cloth.
This cloth was actually a tent that was popular with intermediary and advanced adventurers for its waterproof properties and flame retardancy.
Nick opened it when the blast was about to occur and held it around Karan, as the two crouched.
The blast had been completely blocked.
“Stop messing around with each other, the monster’s not down yet!”
“Shut up! We’re not!”
Meanwhile, Bond played with the monster with his sword.
He pushed it back as he blocked its fangs and repelled its claws, almost as if he were solving a chess problem.
And as the monster let out a listless sound, Bond jumped at its neck with the flash of a sword.