"A-a-a-a-are you sure that's a lizard?!" stammered Leguna as he looked at the gigantic thing not far away.
Even though the passage of time was hard to notice in the caverns, based on the times they dined, they had been traveling for approximately a day. Now, Daver had finally brought them to the nest of the crystalback snowlizard.
These past few days of adventures had made Leguna marvel at the mystery and vastness of the world. He had originally thought caves were just small holes used for shelter from the rain and wind that might have a couple of beasts within.
However, this trip had greatly expanded his horizons. He didn't think caves could actually have such complicated structures. Within were beasts and fiends all over. It could be said that the caves had their own ecosystem not inferior to the forests one bit. Currently, he had encountered the cavern's apex predator, one which ruled the food chain: their target, the crystalback snowlizard. But when he finally saw how the lizard looked, he couldn't help but gasp, involuntarily taking in a breath of cold air.
That's a lizard? That's a freaking lizard?! Has anyone ever seen a lizard more than a meter tall, or longer than ten?! Has anyone ever seen a lizard that gives off an aura like that of a dragon?! Has anyone ever seen a lizard whose breath forms crystals of ice?! Never?! Well, I finally have! We want to kill that?! Ha... Haha… Hahaha!
Oh Daver, you're insane! If you really want to die that much, Annelotte will do it for you if you just touch her butt. Why did you have to come all the way here and make trouble for this humongous lizard?!
Are you trying to warm up before dying? That's what you want, why'd you have to drag us into it? I still have a lot I want to see! I don't want to end up lizard droppings with you!
Not knowing about Leguna's fervent internal cursing, Daver calmly nodded.
"Yes. This is the one."
"Don't try to look calm! Your voice is chattering! You're afraid of it too, right?!" exclaimed Leguna, already at the point of jumping up and down repeatedly.
"Well, to be honest, I do feel a little afraid of something like that. But I wouldn't come unprepared, naturally," said Daver as he took out two violet-bluish spell scrolls from his dimensional pocket.
"What're those?" asked Annelotte, alert. She could smell the danger coming from the magical waves.
"These are scrolls of the level seven spell, Death's Finger."
Daver adopted the least threatening pose he could as he spoke. He had realized Annelotte's insecurity and tried his best to show that he had no hostile intentions.
Annelotte lightly nodded and became silent again. While Death's Finger was a level seven spell, it was considered one of the spells with the greatest focused destructive potential outside of mythical spells.
Given that Daver was a magus of the 12th stratum, he wasn't capable of making spell scrolls containing Death's Finger. He must've spent a huge amount of money on them at the inner circle of Eye of Arcana. It was apparent that Daver was dead set on obtaining that fiend core.
"Such a scary scroll must've cost thousands of gold. Is getting the core really worth it?" asked Leguna.
He'd gotten to know from Wayerliss's notebook how precious level seven spell scrolls were. He didn't think Daver would be such an extravagant person, given how he took out two scrolls so casually.
"Naturally. The crystalback snowlizard's core has always been priceless. Two Death's Finger scrolls don't come anywhere close to matching it. Also, if I am able to make my breakthrough using the fiend core, I'd be able to make these scrolls myself. I'd have no shortage of these then," replied Daver.
He was right in that the worth of a strong magus was far beyond appraisal.
"Kuger, I'll count on you guys. You are all family elites, I promise you the family will greatly reward you if we succeed. Even if any of you die, the family will take care of your family until your next generation grows up," said Daver solemnly.
"Young Master, what are you saying? We used to be criminals. What kind of future awaited slaves like us if not for the master? The family gave us clothes, food, and dignity; all things a human ought to have. Now it's our turn to repay our debts to the family."
Kuger smiled relaxedly as if he was really going to face just a lizard.
So they were originally slaves as well, thought Leguna with a start.
Those attendants were probably brought over as slaves when they were teenagers and purchased by Daver's father when he noticed their affinity for impetus.
Leguna, who'd had a similar experience, changed his opinion of the attendants quite substantially. Before, he felt they were merely Daver's goons, at his beck and call. He didn't think they had their own share of hardships. He finally realized most people could only see what was on the surface and make attributions to them, thinking they understood the people they were judging well. But in reality, how much did they really know about them?
Daver didn't linger on the sentimentality. He nodded solemnly before he announced the battle plan.
The original plan was really crude and simple. Kuger and the other three warriors would first hold the crystalback snowlizard back while he waited for the perfect opportunity to deal the killing blow by unleashing the two Death's Finger spells contained in the scrolls. Now that Annelotte and Leguna had joined their group, though, he had to make some adjustments to certain parts of the plan. Most centered around Annelotte. Daver handed her one of the Death's Finger scrolls, mainly because level seven spells were beyond his abilities in the first place. Even using the scrolls themselves came with great risks. If he lost control of his magic, it could cause an energy explosion. In the best case, he would be heavily injured. In the worst, he would suffer magic blowback and his stratum would fall. There was also a chance he could die.
It was already that dangerous to use one of the scrolls, not to speak of using two. So, he decided to trust Annelotte and hand her one. Even though Annelotte's magic stratum was one lower than his, he believed controlling the magic of a level seven spell scroll wasn't a big deal for Annelotte. Annelotte herself didn't have any objections to the arrangement.
She accepted the scroll and replied, "Got it," coldly.
Leguna, who wasn't the least bit informed about magic, didn't know about the risks involved. Otherwise, he definitely would've tried to think of a way to convince Annelotte against accepting the scroll, even if he knew she wouldn't necessarily listen to him.
"Alright, let's begin. The beast is getting rather impatient as well," said Daver as he began to dictate enhancement spells on all of them.
He wasn't wrong; the crystalback snowlizard had already discovered their presence. However, it didn't rush over roaring like the great snowfiends had. Instead, it was checking them out as a predator would its prey. Fiends that made it to the crystalback snowlizard's level would have a certain level of intelligence. It was their most-threatening trait.
Under Daver's instructions, Kuger and the other attendants rushed forward without any hesitation. Holding shields in their left hands and one-handed axes in their right, they incited their impetus to the highest state they could.
Given how ridiculously tough a fiend of that size was, they knew they couldn't count on slowly grinding it down. The only chance they had was to wait for Daver and Annelotte to unleash their terrifying spells and slay it.
That was why the time the battle would last wasn't long. With their impetus at full force, they would either gift the gigantic lizard a swift death or run out of impetus and end up lizard droppings.
Daver and Annelotte followed behind closely. Only Leguna seemed a little hesitant.
The humongous lizard made his stomach churn sickly. But when he saw Annelotte had already gone forward, he felt blood rush to his head. Gritting his teeth, he held his longsword ready and joined the battle. He didn't dare to use Flameblade as its reach was far too short.
"Down there! Its back is its natural armor. The parts near its belly and throat are weaker! Try to get it to stand upright! My attacks will only effective then!" shouted Daver in between his dictations.
"You make it sound easy! How do we get it upright? Do we hold it up?" mumbled Leguna.
His attention was diverted slightly when he spoke and the long tail of the crystalback snowlizard cracked against his back like a whip. It sent him flying into a corner.
When he landed, he spat out a mouthful of blood. Given that his constitution wasn't as strong as the attendants', and his non-defensive-oriented gear, the strike felt like a basin-sized hammer smashing against his back. All the air in his lungs was expelled. But, as it had been just a passing, it didn't contain much force. His innards were only slightly injured. At the very least, his bones weren't fractured.
Even so, the strike put him out of commission for a few moments. When he came to again, he realized the longsword in his hand had been ruined; its blade was chipped so badly it looked like a saw.
"What kind of junk is this?! It's supposed to be made of mithril! Muller that sneaky dwarven merchant!" cursed Leguna as he flung the longsword to the ground. Actually, it wasn't that Muller's products were of bad quality. Instead, Leguna's attack had landed on the snowlizard's back, the fiend's toughest part. The sword getting chipped was the only reasonable outcome.
Leguna looked around and noticed a skeleton not far away. Beside it lay a gleaming longsword. It must've been an adventurer once. Leguna wasn't bothered by the corpse and ran forward to take the sword.
It was a one-handed longsword of elegant design. The sword was four centimeters broad and a little longer than a meter. Apart from a blood-letting fuller, there were also some very intricate engravings that seemed to serve only as decorations. The top of the hilt was encrusted with a large, but dull-looking, rock of unknown material. Leguna held the weapon only to find it was really easy to wield and also had a really suitable weight.
As the strongest of the attendants, Kuger took the helm when it came to fighting the lizard. Currently, he had suffered heavy injuries from the frost breath of the crystalback snowlizard, as was apparent from the ice crystals all over his face and hair. He looked just like a pathetic and laughable snowman.
However, Leguna found that he wasn't able to laugh in the slightest. The meat shield knew there was little chance he would last much longer, so he discarded his shield and used all his remaining energy to raise the lizard to expose its weakness. Now that Kuger was unprotected, he became the fiend's main target. It rained consecutive blows on Kuger with its tail, yet the man merely grit his teeth without budging in the slightest. But if anyone was close enough, they would see the blood leaking out of the corners of Kuger's mouth.
 Editor's note: This is an actual neural bias called the fundamental attribution error, where people think that others' behavior reflects their character, and their own behavior is because of outside causes. See Wikipedia (opens in new tab) for more info.
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