“Master! That way! Right! Right! Now left!”
Pochi shouted as she imitated Asley’s punches with her front legs.
“Philosoher Punch! Philosoher Punch! Philosoher Punch! ATATATATATATA!”
They were up against Hydras, nine-headed serpent monsters that were said to exist in ancient times.
Their powerful regenerative abilities enabled each of them to hold their own against Asley’s blows.
With there being twenty of these Hydras, Asley was outmatched.
But on the other hand, since the Hydras were so large, they could not attack efficiently against a relatively small target like Asley.
Pochi, on the other hand, was stuck in a loop of breaking free of the Doom Fragrance’s tendrils with her fire breaths only to be restrained again.
No one on either side could take a single step forward, or a single step back.
Asley and Pochi simply holding the line while finding a way to turn the tide of the fight.
Asley spun in the air, flipped his mantle, and kicked one of the Hydras in the neck to knock its whole body up into the air.
“We have an opening! Pochi!”
“What about the timing, sir?!”
In perfect sync with one another, Asley released a wave of arcane energy, and Pochi let out a Zenith Breath at his signal.
Asley’s release put him in a brief Ultimate Limit state, intimidating the Hydras with his powerful aura.
Taking advantage of this opening, he quickly drew up a Spell Circle.
“Rise! Monster Name Lock! Code: Hydra!”
Instantly, all the Hydras ceased all movement, as if time had stopped.
That still did not give Asley any breathing room, however. He had to immediately go back to help Pochi from the Doom Fragrance. Yet by the time he got to the latter, almost all of the Hydras had already begun to move again.
“Damn it! We’re not strong enough to take them yet! Hurry, Pochi! Gimme your hand!”
“BUT I ONLY HAVE FEET- WAIT, WHERE DID MY HANDS GO?! AHHHHH!!”
“DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A TIME TO JOKE AROUND?! C’MON, I’LL PULL YOU OUT!”
Asley grabbed Pochi’s right front leg and pulled. The Doom Fragrance’s tendrils were instantly torn off, each making a tree-cracking sound as they snapped apart.
…And Pochi flew deeper into the cave once Asley accidentally released her from his grip mid-pull.
“…W-well, she’s probably fine! Rise! Unyielding Bulwark!”
The Hydras, having regained their movement, attempted to pursue Asley, but their path was blocked by the invisible wall of light that the latter had put in between him and them.
The Hydras did not back down, charging at the wall until it started to crack. But they were not fast enough to do so, since this brief delay had given Asley more than enough time.
“I think it was something like… Rise, A-rise, A-rise! Zenith Inferno!”
The name was of a magecraft that summoned a scorching hellfire – a magecraft once used by Bathym, the self-proclaimed strongest Devil.
Asley invoked an imitation of it from memory, onto the other side of the Unyielding Bulwark, where the Hydras and the Doom Fragrance were stuck in.
The Doom Fragrance and all twenty Hydras let out scream-like voices as they were burned.
“Another one! Rise, A-rise, A-rise! Zenith Inferno!”
Asley invoked the magecraft again for good measure, an action enabled by the highly advanced technique of layered casting.
With this, the flame could be kept constantly burning, so as to ensure that the monsters were thoroughly reduced to ash.
“C’mon! Rise! Inferno: Count 10 & Remote Control!”
Adding even more to the heat with advanced-level fire spells, Asley’s field of vision was filled with light as bright as the sun.
Eventually, the magic and magecraft faded, and by the time the smell of burning hit Asley’s nose, the threat was nowhere to be seen.
“Whew… thank God the Hydras were stuck in the Doom Fragrance’s territory during the last part there… Huh? Where’s the bird-dog at?”
Asley heaved a sigh of relief… but then remembered one more important thing.
He scratched his head, and walked deeper into the cave, where Pochi must have flown off to.
“Oh, there she is… Hey, Pochi! You all right there?”
Asley, seeing a magnificent bump on Pochi’s head, shook her lightly.
“H-hey! Hang in there, Pochi!”
What followed was Pochi’s groaning-like voice…
“Mmmmmm, hmm-hm… I can’t take another bite…”
“Ugh, really, sleep-talking about food? …Now I know you’re fine, at least.”
“But I’mma bite anyway… Mmmmmm…”
“Hey, that’s my mantle you’re chewing on! Wake up, dammit!”
This time, Asley shook Pochi aggressively.
“Ah, Master! Good pudding!”
“The word you’re looking for is ‘morning’! Now get up!”
Although exasperated by Pochi’s first words upon waking up, Asley proceeded to take a look at the bump on Pochi’s head.
[Wait a second… With her Heavenly Beast powers, she shouldn’t have been injured this much from just that. Not even with my strength. There must have been some other factor that made this happen… HUH?!]
Asley considered the angle Pochi had flown off in, and concluded that she must have hit the ceiling. He looked up, and immediately doubted the dazzling sight that entered his eyes.
“W-what in blazes…”
Pochi, finally noticing as well that something was not normal, looked where Asley was staring at, and promptly covered her cheeks with her front paws.
“The ceiling… it’s red, sir…!”
[Not exactly – I can see trace amounts of color similar to iron ore. And only the red spots are radiating light…]
After a little deduction, Asley proceeded to say,
“…Aha, this must be the Drynium ore.”
“Ohh! Finally! Let’s get digging and get them back to town! …By the way, how are we supposed to mine them, sir? They look pretty solid…”
Pochi asked, genuinely wondering how they would go about it… while not forgetting to look cute with how she tilted her head.
“You telling me THIS is the biggest obstacle we’ve got to get past?”
In addition to the Hydras and Doom Fragrance, Asley and Pochi had had to fight many other monsters on their way here.
This new challenge they were facing, however, was so impregnable that everything else earlier today seemed like nothing now.
[Also, this place feels awfully familiar…?]
Asley tilted his head like Pochi and tried reaching back into his memory for an answer.
But just when he was about to remember, his Familiar interrupted his thoughts.
“Master! What about Gate Eater, sir?!”
“Oh! Nice idea!”
Helped out by Pochi’s idea for once, Asley’s expression brightened up.
And by this time, the question Asley had just moments ago had completely vanished from his mind.
“All right, this should be good. We took as much Drynium ore as we could without collapsing the ceiling, and packed them into the Storeroom… Garm should be satisfied.”
Asley, standing with his hands on his hips, let out a sigh.
Pochi glanced at Asley before looking again at where Gate Eater had cut off.
“This is quite a clean dig… It’s like you just created a long, straight room, don’t you think, sir?”
“Hmm, and this is how a randomly-made, irrelevant room gets considered ancient ruin thousands of years later, Pochi-doggo!”
“Ohh! This means we’re making history now, right, sir?!”
Asley started laughing heartily, and Pochi, seeing that, proceeded to do the same.
Their voices echoed again and again through the long, empty cave.
By the time the echoing stopped, Asley and Pochi had fallen silent, having laughed so hard and for so long that they now had trouble catching their breaths.
The pair struggled for a while to recover from their self-inflicted pains.
“Ahh… My chest hurts like hell…!”
“I thought I was gonna die, sir!”
“Now THIS is one thing magic won’t help with. Let’s be more careful from now on.”
“You can say that again, sir!”
Pochi crossed her front legs and puffed up with pride.
Alsey chuckled, and proceeded to set up a Teleportation Spell Circle on the ground.
The destination was, naturally, the town of Sodom.
Pochi, seeing the Circle shine with its activation signal, immediately hopped onto it and silently teleported away… while striking a Chappie Mask pose.
“Oh for God’s sake… is she even capable of not being hyperactive?”
Asley heaved a sigh and stepped onto the Teleportation Spell Circle, and while he waited, he looked at the place where he had just dug out of… and tilted his head again.
[Hmm… Why does this place seem awfully familiar…?]