“You’re a Hero, too?”
Without waiting for the other, we first confirmed our Jobs first.
I was a Hero until I immediately became ‘Jobless’ after entering this place. What about the other side, then? His Job was Prince. Unlike a ‘Princess’ who became prettier according to the strength of their country, there were many factors when it came to a ‘Prince’ whose practical combat ability became stronger instead. To put it bluntly, a Prince of a superpower would be absurdly strong.
“Your Divinity is Z-rank…?”
“You’ve got two Z-rank Skills yourself.”
For starters, I observed the appearance of the prince. Different to the fresh-looking princes of fairy tales, he was a man who looked to be his middle thirties with a slightly grown, unkempt beard.
His outfit also was far from the standards of an ordinary prince, wearing a shining silver pair of briefs on top of a muscular body which resembled that of a bronze statue. It wasn’t an easy set of colors to pull off, yet even that strangely suited him.
My point of interest lay elsewhere, however—he should have been capable of natural recovery that left not a single scar with his level of ability, but his body was covered in countless traces of injuries.
“To have that level of Divinity despite being human and not angel…”
“Are you a higher education graduate?”
We continued to probe. Although it was a continuation of not answering the other’s question, I kept my focus sharp in order to gather even the smallest bit more information. Skills couldn’t be an absolute indicator of combat ability; however, that was only when there was a slight difference in strength.
The other party had two Z-rank Skills, and this held an extremely large implication as you needed to use your other Skills as offerings to break through the limit into the transcendental domain. In other words, this meant the prince had a record of sacrificing at least two times the number of Skills I had, and the amount of experiences he had was bound to be just as much. It could be dangerous if I were pitted up against him now.
‘Miss Trainee Teacher, who is this guy?’
Old generation Hero? This was definitely not referring to the previous Hero, since the Heroes I knew weren’t as strong as this prince—the Demon King’s penalty and just one Z-rank Vigor was enough to easily crush Pedonar, after all.
At that moment…
“Strange. It’s too different from the contents of the report I received.”
The prince stared at me like I was a monkey at a zoo.
“What, you punk?”
“… Even though I heard the current generation of Heroes were a ragtag bunch… that instead of sweating blood to improve their abilities, they only learnt the know-how of despicably attacking in numbers using the friendships and connections they built through drinking and playing around…”
His words trailed off, and then the prince took action. It was a surprise attack aimed to catch me off guard while I was focusing on his words.
The immediate problem was that…
He was outrageously speedy. It was my body that reacted first, rather than my head that was admiring his movements.
The prince’s right fist collided with my cross-arm block. I didn’t have the time to dodge or counter-attack from the outset; that’s how fast and strong the prince’s attack was.
“This is insane…!”
My mouth uttered curses despite myself; however, it seemed the situation wasn’t that different for the prince either. He looked at his broken right wrist with a frown.
The prince proceeded to speak as he indifferently set his broken wrist.
“The deflection effect of the general property of Divinity. Of all places, to meet in a room of training where all Skills are sealed…”
From an objective point of view, the prince was superior to me in terms of pure ability; however, the current environment had allowed me to escape from crisis. No, beyond that, it had become the key to my victory.
That was because…
Amidst this unexpected crisis of life and death, even as my heart trembled, I quickly analyzed the situation I was in. My opponent had no ‘Dark Energy’ or ‘Divinity’ in his Status, and neither did he have any special element weapons such as a Demon Sword or Holy Sword. He was utterly devoid of any methods at his disposal with which he could cause me damage.
‘No, that’s not necessarily the case.’
While I didn’t know the Z-rank effect of Vigor, I did know of its effects up to SSS-rank, which was it could be ignored as of now. The problem was the Z-rank Infiltration. This Skill was normally considered an auxiliary type of ability used to stealthily infiltrate restricted areas such as security facilities and bases; however, as its rank grew higher, the range of its use would become hugely magnified to cover things beyond locations and objects—it could allow access into the body of a living organism, slightly overlapping into the domain of the Skill ‘Piercing’.
“You are a certainly no common foe, but this must also be a part of training.
The prince chuckled as he gazed at me. The reason why he had yet to lose his composure likely had to do with the effect of Infiltration(Z).
“I think it’s going to be your funeral instead of training?”
This time I took the first move as I taunted the prince. Although he had two Z-rank Skills, Infiltration was an auxiliary type of Skill and not for pure combat. There could only be a limit to what it could do.
On the other hand, I had Master Mollang’s teachings. The sturdiness of my body had gone far beyond that of what could be classified as human, while Divinity was the strongest Skill that was considered a cheat. In short, my defensive ability utterly surpassed the prince’s offensive ability—if that wasn’t the case, I would have suffered defeat in the first clash. The prince, however, seemed to have not realized this yet.
I drew and swung the wooden club I had hung by my belt. I had initially planned on briefly using the club before tossing it away, after stealing it from the wooden dolls assigned in the Beginner’s Room, but the sensation of swinging it had turned out more satisfying than expected, and eventually it became strengthened by my holiness. This was obvious from how it had yet to break until now.
I heard the prince’s disdainful remark.
“I know that too!”
And immediately shooting back a retort, I directly swung the wooden club over. In response to this, the prince’s fist came flying towards the left of my chest, a mocking sneer on his lips.
“I know that too!”
My downwards strike aiming for the prince’s head landed on his left shoulder, while in contrast, the prince’s fist accurately struck the left of my chest.
I had taken the overwhelmingly greater loss when just looking at the situation; however, the result was different—the prince’s left arm hung limp as his shoulder broke, whereas I had suffered no more than the clothes on the left side of my chest being ripped along with a light bruise.
This time I made sure to land a hard blow on the head of the prince, who was bewildered with his eyes opened wide. The power behind my attack was weak, as it was a surprise attack, but it was enough to cause a concussion.
“I know that too!”
That my body was sturdy was something I knew very well.
One for you! And one for me too!
This was a way of fighting that I liked, and it was extremely effective against shameless cretins who used hit-and-run tactics using polished techniques or whatnot. And it worked against careless fellows like this prince as well.
Smack, Smack, Smack-Smack, Smack, Smack…!
Having judged victory to be within my grasp, I ceaselessly pursued the prince, who staggeringly tried to widen the distance however he could, and continued to corner him, blatantly aiming for his head only so that he couldn’t regain his senses. This was no sports competition where you had to abide by rules and etiquette—there was not a single person who would criticize you even if your opponent was rendered forever unable to recover.
The prince’s handsome face became smeared all over in ketchup. His previously tall nose had become humbled, while his somewhat thick lips had turned a deep red as if he was wearing lipstick, and his barely open eyes couldn’t find their focus.
Now, it was time to perfectly finish him.
‘You sure do make an uninteresting suggestion after popping out of nowhere. Will you take responsibility if he ends up escaping?’
While my words sounded smug as if I had all but won the fight, I still didn’t ease up my nerves.
This was because of the unknown phenomenon occurring before me.
‘Just why, why isn’t he dying? Why! Why!’
The prince’s body was in such a state that it wouldn’t be strange if he had already died long ago, yet he was persistently holding on. I had broken his neck several times, and yet the prince didn’t die. It couldn’t be that Vigor(Z) had such an effec-… Mm?
Right at that moment, five steel dolls that had dropped down from the training room’s pitch-dark ceiling came charging towards me, not reading the mood. If I ended up being caught in a melee, it was possible that I might let the prince slip out of my hands.
“That won’t do!”
I seized the prince’s neck in a powerful grip.
It was becoming pointless how many times I had already broken his neck; however, this time the result was slightly different. I maintained the strength of my grip, continuing to press down so that his broken spinal cord and torn muscles couldn’t regenerate.
The prince struggled with his limbs flailing about, his face become blue from the lack of air, but I continued to constrict his neck, and all the while doing so I used him like he were a blunt weapon.
The steel dolls struck by my makeshift weapon staggered; however, that was all. I would have smashed them to pieces had I been in my complete state, but even these dolls were enough of a threat in my current state of having my Level and Skills sealed.
Having to defeat these sorts of dolls as a pure Level 1 without a single Skill was unreasonable, but that had to be why this room was called the ‘Transcendent’s Room’. It meant that Skills of the transcendental domain were essential.
In the end, the prince’s neck was twisted off completely. As his head and body became completely separated, they went flying away in different directions. Afterwards, I turned my focus to the 5 steel dolls.
“Go to hell, the lot of you!”
The steel dolls, which endured like empty cans even when they were crushed, were tenacious, and I even became flared up seeing them launch pincer attacks in a cowardly fashion; however, my holiness proved no inferior to them.
As the power of my Divinity consecutively exploded inside the steel dolls, which possessed Dark Energy like demons, their steel bodies were shredded apart like tinfoil.
Of course, I couldn’t completely ignore their C-rank Dark Energy, since I couldn’t ignore or deflect their spear attacks using Divinity. But it wasn’t to the point of being a problem in the battle.
The final steel doll collapsed.
“Well… now then. Mm?”
Searching for the prince’s corpse, I became disconcerted. Where had the prince’s head, which I had tossed to that corner, disappeared to?
The answer: at the training room’s entrance.
“Hear me, Hero of this era!”
The prince, whom I had made sure to kill, thus shouted to me in a gallant voice, revived. His face that had become haggard, however, showed that he wasn’t fine.
“How did you come back to life?”
“This is that sort of place by nature.”
“… I see.”
I hadn’t known as I hadn’t died before.
“The humiliation you gave me… I will never forget it. If we meet again outside the Cave of Training, I will never let you of—Kuugh!?”
The prince let out a cry as he clutched at his waist in the midst of pointing his finger at me. The point between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae… I had broken that part of his spine plenty of times out of habit. Even the resurrection ability of this training ground apparently couldn’t do anything about chronic herniated discs. Or perhaps my technique was just that perfect!
The prince ran away towards the exit while limping with a hand supporting his waist, but I didn’t chase after his back. Or rather, it would be correct to say that I couldn’t do so.
“I’d certainly be at a disadvantage if I ran into him outside.”
The biggest reason why I was able to win was that the prince could only use ordinary attacks. When he completely recovered all his Skills upon leaving the Cave of Training, he would definitely possess Dark Energy or Divinity, and that would cause my advantage to disappear—I could truly end up dying.
As such, I turned around without regret. No more steel dolls appeared after I destroyed the initial 5, but instead…
The boss who guarded the room appeared, as expected. The boss charged at me menacingly while giving off the sounds of gold coins that I fancied.
Its Status was truly fear-inspiring.
It was also known as the golden doll. This boss seemed to have been deployed here so that no one could pass. The ranks of its Skills were excessive, and that it was also suspicious how its Job was Guardian. I let out a chuckle at this, however, because…
The boss stabbed at me with a golden sword, but ended up falling on its back. A boss that neither had Dark Energy nor Divinity included among its Skills, and didn’t even possess a convenient means to break through my defense was no different from a scarecrow.
However, the boss didn’t give up and continued to attack me. I would have been at a loss had it remained still instead, as I didn’t have a way to break through its SSS-rank Protect, but the boss drove itself to destruction of its own accord. Even the damage reduction effect of ‘Protect’ didn’t activate against Divinity’s deflection ability.
The boss monster that had been diligently slashing away at me using its golden sword collapsed in the end, and the entrance to the next room opened.
The name alone was full of implications.
Inside the room, there was an Elf instead of a doll.
“Welcome, Sir Hero!”
A female priest, whose entire appearance from head to foot exuded a sense of nobility, greeted me with a smile. Her first words highly grated grated on my nerves, however.
“Don’t play cute. I’ll kill you.”
A bunch of vicious-looking dolls had been deployed by the entrance, despite her welcoming greeting. Wasn’t she truly brazen-faced like a certain somebody?
“I’m not the one playing cut—Ahem. In any case, please come inside. I have something to show you, Sir Hero.”