As soon as Sagan saw the monster — the SS-ranked Living Dead King — he drew his sword from the sheath on his waist.
The Living Dead King’s body swayed as it groaned.
Then the shaking gradually stabilized, until its movements looked more deliberate — a controlled vibration. An ominous wind sharted blowing around it.
Its groan turned into something… eccentric, causing Sagan’s face to warp in horror.
On the other hand, Asley was calm — and so was Pochi next to him.
They had already fought the Devil King once, after all; even the powerful Living Dead King was no enemy of theirs.
However, the one fighting this SS-Ranked monster this time was Sagan. This War Demon Emperor was talented — so much so that a former Holy Warrior considered him a genius — but he was still human.
The young man’s cold sweat turned greasy, and the look of horror on his face shifted to one of determination.
Sagan readied his sword and put one foot forward, and at the same time, the Living Dead King rushed forward.
[That thing’s actually skilled. It’s matching up its movements with Sagan’s, waiting to hit when he’s vulnerable. This is why humanoid monsters are so tricky — Sagan’s gotta be careful.]
As Asley expected, the monster moved in to attack, exploiting Sagan’s opening.
As Sagan pulled his leg back with the intention to stand his ground and counter, the Living Dead King leaped up.
Its method of attack was simple — smashing down with both its fists. Sagan guarded with his sword.
And as he groaned while holding his stance, his arms and legs bulked up.
“Ooh! Nice muscles!”
Asley’s strange monologue faded into the night, while Sagan dug his heels into the earth, standing his ground head-on against the Living Dead King’s attack.
Eventually, Sagan gritted his teeth and swung, knocking the monster away.
“Ngh… rock solid!”
Looking at the Living Dead King’s arms, which Sagan had defended against with the sharp edge of his sword, he saw that the cut was far too shallow.
After all, even if it was the size of a normal human, it still was an SS-Ranked monster.
“Let’s try this, then…”
[It’s gonna be fire magic… right?]
Both Asley and Sagan, through the latter’s defense against the physically powerful opponent, had seen the same clue to the winning solution.
Sagan, seeming to notice Asley’s tense gaze from behind him, grinned as he concentrated some arcane energy into his left fist.
“He’s switching to mainly using magic-based attacks… Good call.”
Asely muttered to himself, putting one hand under his chin as he observed Sagan’s actions.
Saga’s dominant hand was his left… but he still wielded his sword with his right. At his current level of ability, he had to rely on his better arm to use magic spells and magecraft that demanded attention to detail.
Sagan himself knew that as well. He took one deep breath to improve his concentration.
And as he started drawing, the Living Dead King closed in on him again, stepping from side to side.
Trying to keep up with such movements would only result in dizzyness, so Sagan opted to not look at it at all.
[Its movements are erratic, but by the time it’s close enough, it’ll be at one of my sides… No need to worry about where it is while it’s out of my sword’s range!]
As the Living Dead King appeared right in front of him in a low stance, Sagan sensed its split-second hostile intentions and parried its uppercut.
The powerful blow slightly bent the face of Sagan’s sword, but the impact was mitigated.
Its attack deflected, the monster’s body sprang up, and it attempted to shoot a kick at Sagan’s abdomen.
Sagan repositioned his sword, directing its shard edge ahead at the kick just before it landed. And then… he relaxed his right arm.
With his sword knocked back by the kick, Sagan let it draw an arc using his arm as the fulcrum, looping it back around to his opponent.
The Living Dead King now realized that the impact of its kick was coming back to hurt it — and it felt threatened.
The next moment, Sagan tensed up his right arm and clashed against the Living Dead King’s next attack — an instantaneous burst of strength achieved through a combination of grit and technical skill.
The subtle change in the Living Dead King’s eyes suggested that it was finally taking things seriously… and then it looked surprised.
Grit and technical skill… were not the only cards up Sagan’s sleeve.
The monster saw light in a corner of its eye.
It came not from Sagan’s attacking right hand… but his left.
The arcane energy concentration in that left hand was minuscule, but to the Living Dead King, it was a major obstacle.
Grit, technical skill… and magic — those were Sagan’s cards.
His sword was now going at the Living Dead King with more speed and power than before.
“Huh!? You’re not using fire magic!?”
“I know what I want to achieve, Leole Mask!”
The monster turned away in an attempt to avoid Sagan’s sword, but compared to the speed of Sagan’s spin attack… it was slower.
An impact echoed — of the distinctive metal-on-bone kind. It was so loud that Asley’s ears twitched, but he kept his eyes open to see how the clash unfolded.
The Living Dead King had folded its arms to block the blade, and succeeded… at an extremely crippling cost.
“I got you…!”
Sagan shouted out the pit of his stomach.
His sword was touching only one of the monster’s arms, which was only slightly scratched.
Its other arm, however…
The Living Dead King’s right arm fell to the ground.
Asley subconsciously let out a word of admiration.
“How was that, Leole Mask?”
[He WAS writing a fire spell in the beginning… But then he expanded the formula’s frame and added a whole new spell formula into it! In other words… he rewrote a spell’s formula while drawing up its Circle… Man, he’s really done it–]
Asley knew what this technique was.
He had already researched something similar before, but had abandoned it due to lack of success.
“Listen, Leole Mask… a Nation does not revolve around doing a single thing. Broadening our horizons… sometimes calls for heavy-handed methods. You WILL have your reward, Leole Mask… I will make sure of it, even if I must force things with my own two hands! HAHAHAHAHAHA!”
War Demon Emperor Sagan was laughing in the face of an opponent clearly much stronger than him.
Ingenuity was what was important — Asley knew that well. But as Sagan’s mentor, he had taught him something different.
Not just straightforward ingenuity… but the willingness to brute-force things through.
“…I can’t let myself be left behind.”
Sagan, able to tell without looking back that Asley’s eyes were sparkling with excitement, chuckled briefly before looking at the Living Dead King, whose face was once again warped in pain.
[I came here to teach him, and here I am, being taught something… So this is the real reason why I got sent to this era! You really got me this time, God…]
Asley, noticing that he had cracked a dry smile, shook his head.
He could not let Pochi see him making that face, since she was sure to comment on it.
[Wait a second… what’s Pochi up to? She hasn’t spoken a single word since we started…]
With that in mind, Asley turned to Pochi… and saw that she was looking at neither him nor Sagan… and not the Living Dead King, for that matter.
After all, she was facing away from all of them.
Asley, having been with Pochi for so long, immediately could tell that she was on high alert.
“Something’s approaching us…”
Pochi said, and only Asley next to her got the message — because the former did not want to distract Sagan from the fight at hand.
Asley divided some of his attention to the direction in which Pochi was facing, while keeping himself faced forward, so as to not alert Sagan with unnecessary signs.
Both Asley and Pochi could tell that this approaching presence was not all that strong.
[Just a few… wait, it’s just one.]
“It’s coming this way despite us and an SS-Ranked monster being here… Must be a VERY hungry creature… right, sir?”
Powerful arcane energy of various signatures drifted in the air. No one in their right mind would dare to even get close to this area.
Although inferior to both Asley and Pochi, the Sagan and the SS-Ranked Living Dead King were powerful in their own rights.
Asley’s energy could intimidate a fair bit, despite the cap being severely reduced.
And then there was Pochi, far more powerful than everyone and everything else around here.
“Well… that, or maybe it’s just stupid.”
Asley let out a dry chuckle, and at almost the same time, Pochi’s eyes widened with surprise.
“Wait, could that be–!?”
Pochi’s reaction caught Asley’s attention, prompting him to turn and look.
“Hah hah hah… hah!!”
A figure appeared, approaching with an uneven pace and drooling all over the ground.
Eventually, it revealed its form — its body dark red and gigantic. Its arcane energy aura suggested that it was somewhere between Ranks A and S in strength.
Still, Asley and Pochi were surprised. They both had a feeling… that they had once seen a creature that acted just like this.
They tilted their heads and pondered that feeling over.
And then a ray of moonlight shone through the dark clouds, giving them a good look… which prompted them to exclaim in realization,
With Pochi held forward her front paws in further surprise, and Asley cracking an ‘I knew it’ grin.
The creature’s face, uncaring of appearances due to just how hungry it was, resembled someone the two knew quite closely.
Then Sagan, noticing its arrival in a corner of his eye, muttered out its name…
“…Ah, it’s a King Wolf Garm.”