A Dragon Hunter’s Essence
Fermus was giving us a lot of trouble. He had managed to ward off both our physical and magical attacks, and even made us pull out the doppelganger card. It’d caught him off guard the first time, but I wasn’t expecting it to work again.
To make matters worse, we’d just discovered that Fermus was capable of creating traps with his threads mid combat. It looked like we were going to have to somehow make his threads less difficult to deal with if we wanted to be able to come out on top.
We chose to cast several fire-based spells in an attempt to burn through Fermus’ threads and disable them. The four massive pillars of flames merged into a single, larger blast as they closed in on and assaulted the dragon hunter. The act of concentrating several weaker spells into a single, more powerful attack was a technique I’d actually ripped from the System Announcer; I was emulating what she had done back when we fought the lich. My imitation was still far from perfect, but it was still effective enough to merit going out of my way to attempt it.
We accounted for the fact that Fermus would attempt to dampen the flames by whipping his threads against them. We didn’t, however, account for him choosing to follow up the action by diving through the encroaching magical firestorm with his right arm extended.
I couldn’t comprehend his actions. I knew that he’d managed to reduce the attack’s power, but that didn’t change the fact that we’d thrown a total of four flame spells at him. Much to my surprise, he wasn’t swallowed up by the attacks. The flames had instead dispersed as they came into contact with his fist.
Looking more closely caused me to realize that he’d actually used his threads to create a layer of protection, one that kinda resembled a glove or gauntlet. The combination of his decently high leveled Flame Resistance skill and his flame-resistant threads more or less made him impervious to our attacks.
「You are aware that they call me a dragon hunter, right? I’ve got what you could call perfect countermeasures to dragonbreath and anything that resembles it.」
Fermus’ words caused me to realize that flames we just attacked him with kinda did resemble the breath-based attacks that dragons seemed to like launching. Fermus was obviously used to fighting scaly bastards, so our spells hadn’t actually ended up meaning jack shit to him.
Fire didn’t seem like it would work, so we switched gears and decided to attack him with a couple wind-based spells instead.
Fermus once again managed to remain unharmed, this time, by weaving his threads into a web-like net that ultimately caused the spells to change their trajectories.
It took seeing him remain unharmed for me to realize that I’d made a mistake and once again launched an attack that resembled the kind a dragon would. Some dragons could create sudden gusts of wind by flapping their wings, and others could breathe out breaths based in wind as opposed to fire.
The dragon hunter’s resistance to wind and fire effectively served to cripple our offenses. The only other two types of magic we had at a high enough level to damage someone as strong as him were lightning and space/time.
『Let’s try hitting him with some space/time stuff first.』
Attacking with space/time magic would’ve sounded like a good idea if not for the fact that the element didn’t actually have that many offensive spells. The only one that we could really make use of was the one called Dimensional Sword.
Given that, we decided to teleport several times in succession to close in on him before unleashing that exact spell.
Dimension Sword was a nifty little technique with its fair share of perks. It could pierce through any sort of defense and attack only its intended target. That said, it wasn’t a particularly good offensive ability because its strengths came with counterbalancing weaknesses. It didn’t do much damage, and was extremely difficult to use because of the way its targeting worked. That is, using it would allow one to identify a small preset zone in which it would actually function; the spell would completely fail to do anything at all if its target moved out of its area of effect by the time it activated.
Fermus was the type that seemed to sit still and intercept incoming attacks as opposed to straight up avoiding them, so I’d been fairly certain that we’d be able to hit him with it.
「I’ve seen that spell before. I know how it works.」
Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being the case. Fermus’ experience allowed him to identify our tactic and immediately react with a dodge.
「I’ve already accounted for something like that too.」
I tried digging a hole right under him in order to impede his ability to move, but he’d perfectly negated the action by spreading a net of threads underneath him and standing on top of it.
「And now, it’s my turn.」
「Kuh! Threads in the way.」
The threads that Fermus had set up above the stage all started to warp. They twisted together and became thin spears that came flying at us from all sides.
It was an attack that was extremely problematic to deal with. There were so many sharp edges assaulting us that I didn’t think we’d actually be able to keep track of them all. And that was bad, extremely bad. Fermus had laced the threads with his magical energy, so any that did actually end up hitting us would be powerful enough to sever a limb or two.
Fortunately, we managed to prevent the attacks from landing by deploying a barrier, but that didn’t change the fact that we had to stay as on guard as we possibly could.
『This isn’t working Fran. He hasn’t been losing any threads. It looks like he can make as many as he wants so long as he has the mana for it. We need to shift gears. The longer we let this drag on, the bigger a disadvantage we’ll have.』
（Nn! Got it!）
We’d already cut through, burned down, and flat out destroyed a large number of Fermus’ threads, but the volume he had on hand didn’t actually seem to be decreasing in any which way. I assumed that he was either using his Magic Thread Creation skill, or just abusing one of his weapons’ properties. Either way, the result was the same in the sense that targeting his threads wasn’t working. If anything, it seemed that our actions had only caused them to proliferate, as he could still control the ones we severed. The total number of threads within the barrier’s confines had actually increased, and as a result, his attacks had started becoming more varied in nature and form.
（Master, will use lightning magic.）
I knew that Fermus could disperse our lightning based spells if he manipulated his threads to do so, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they were actually ineffective. There had to be a limit to the amount of electrical energy he could handle at once. There was a chance we’d be able to totally end him if we bombarded him with spells that contained way more power than a mere Thunderbolt or two.
Black Lightning Advent was most likely capable of completely shattering his defenses, but I didn’t want to resort to it just yet. Using the skill would cause Fran to lose her awakened status, so I kinda wanted to hold onto it just in case. Moreover was the fact that it didn’t actually cover that much of an area. Most of Black Lightning Advent’s power was focused on its target, and its target alone.
The current circumstances seemed to indicate that we would be better off using attacks that covered a larger area.
I cast one of the spells we’d gotten the moment Lightning Magic had hit level 8. It, Thor’s Hammer, was a technique that had both high power and a decent size to it. It wasn’t big enough for it to be called a true AOE spell, but it at least served the purposes we needed it to given how small the arena was.
A massive magic circle spawned on top of the arena. From it descended a single, ultra thick thunderbolt. It was so powerful that it almost seemed to contain all the destructive force that one associated with the god of lightning and his mallet.
Fran was resistant to lightning, and I could just use Dimension Shift whenever, so Fermus should’ve been the only one to have taken any sort of damage.
But again, as hard as it was for me to believe, he didn’t.
The high leveled lightning based spell had dispersed upon touching the thin layer of thread he’d erected to counter it.
「My defenses can even block a thunder dragon’s attacks. Don’t expect to break it that easily.」
It seemed that Fermus was even capable of easily negating lightning based attacks. He’d compared our strike to a thunder dragon’s, but honestly, to me, that pretty much meant nothing at all. I’d never seen any thunder dragons nor heard anything of how powerful they tended to be.
「Thousand Thread Tsunami!」
Fermus’ threads almost seemed to form a massive tidal wave as they surged towards us.
There were many ways we could’ve gone about dealing with the attack. I immediately considered destroying it with either might or magic, but Fran had other ideas in mind.
『Sure thing! Dimension Gate!』
Fermus was surprised to see us move right past his wall of thread without paying it any mind. He immediately reacted by attempting to put a bit of distance between us, but it was already too late.
Fran had already gotten right next to him and cut a gaping hole in his torso.
『He subbed his body out for a fake!』
Stuff spilled from the dragon hunter’s open wound. I’d been expecting the stuff to be his blood and guts, but, it’d actually just been a series of strings.
The thing that we’d finally reached and cut down had been nothing but a puppet made of thread. He’d used the moment the tsunami had blocked our line of sight to create a puppet. He’d also used some sort of magic to disguise it and make it look almost exactly like him. I couldn’t help but be impressed by much he’d done in so little time.
We immediately cut the threads that assaulted us and searched for Fermus’ presence — only to find that he was right behind us.
We heard a whooshing sound as a few threads extended from Fermus’ hands and began moving to wrap themselves around Fran’s neck. There weren’t that many of them, but they were sharp enough to do more than just lop her head clean off.
Fran quickly ducked and avoided the vice before it decapitated her before switching to a reverse grip and thrusting me straight under her right armpit and stabbing at the man to her rear.
We caught him off guard, but he somehow managed to dodge the attack regardless by twisting his body to the side. He then followed through with the rotational movement and thrust the underside of his fist as he completed a full spin and once again sent a series of threads in Fran’s direction.
Fran cut them down and once again attacked Fermus, this time with a stab.
However, she still simply couldn’t hit him. His threads surged up from beneath her feet and bound them in order to momentarily stop her in her tracks. She probably would’ve lost her feet to the attack had our barrier not been up. The catgirl forcefully thrust me forward regardless, he narrowly managed to avoid my blade by bending backwards and moving under it as would someone doing the limbo.
It was a perfect dodge, but also an act that exposed him to damage. Fran twisted me around and immediately cleaved at his now open backside.
The moment he got hit, his body had started doing things that I could only gauge as physically impossible. I was sure that he hadn’t put any power into his limbs or anything like that, but he somehow just started moving off to the right. The acceleration was sudden, and almost seemed to come out of nowhere.
I had to take a second look to realize that he’d wrapped several threads around his own body and used them to drag it off to the side.
『It looks like we’ve finally got a confirmed hit in.』
We hadn’t managed to bisect him in a single strike, but we’d at least worked our way through to his internal organs. It was a bit unfortunate that his threads had managed to disperse the lightning-based Elemental Blade we had active, but we’d still manage to hurt him nonetheless.
「Gargh… Hundred Thread Tourniquet.」
『Holy shit, just how versatile are those god damn threads of his…?』
Fermus wrapped a series of threads along his bleeding midsection. Luckily, he didn’t seem capable of pulling off what a certain individual from H*nter x Hunt*r could in the sense that couldn’t repair his nerves by attaching them with threads, but, he was at least capable of closing his wound and stopping any bleeding.
Annoyingly enough, Fermus’ skills prevented him from feeling pain, which in turn meant that his wound wouldn’t really affect his ability to do battle given that it’d stopped bleeding. To make matters even worse, he was currently equipped with a Bracelet of HP Recovery as opposed to the Ring of Poison Nullification he was wearing yesterday, so he would eventually heal if we gave him enough time to do so.
Landing a hit had also increased Fermus’ awareness of the dangers of engaging us in close combat. Because of that, he’d retreated further than he usually did, and had started concentrating his magical energy into his fingertips.
「You’re really quite skilled. It seems I’ll have to rely on a tactic that deals a lesser degree of damage from afar. Ten Thousand Thread Technique— Cardinal Spirit Assault!」
All of Fermus’ threads simultaneously began moving to attack us. Each was imbued with one of the cardinal elements of water, fire, wind, and earth.
Not even the strongest of the threads could output more damage than a low tier spell, but, the sheer number of them combined with the limited space we had to move through made it so we couldn’t actually avoid taking damage.
We somehow managed to prevent ourselves from really getting caught in his attack by roasting and cutting at the incoming threads while also throwing the occasional heal and teleport into the mix. The issue, however, was that our mana was slowly starting to drain itself dry
However, the same could in fact be said for Fermus. The sheer scale of his attack both drained his stamina and mana.
In fact, it seemed like we would be able to outsustain him if we cancelled Brilliant Lightning Rush and stalled him out by constantly healing up.
Or so I thought. Something ended up happening before I could even bother pitching the plan to Fran.
『Shit! Greater Heal!』
Deep gashes had suddenly appeared in Fran’s legs. I healed them, but her arms ended up getting lopped off before she actually fully recovered.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on. The barrier I had up didn’t react to the attack. Fermus’s attacks somehow seemed to be passing right through our defenses.
I cast a spell that should’ve allowed us a moment to recuperate.
But, for some odd reason, it failed to do its job. A cut appeared on Fran’s cheek nonetheless. Fermus was clearly somehow circumventing both our barriers and Dimension Shift.
I turned up all my detection based skills in an attempt to figure out what was hitting us. Doing so allowed me to detect that some of his threads were actually passing through both our defenses and the others as they assaulted us. Their properties seemed rather similar to those of my Dimensional Sword spell.
That was when it finally clicked. He was making use of the Space/Time element that came with the Monarch Whale’s Beard War Threads he had equipped.
「No point in barrier.」
It was literally impossible for us to constantly identify and actively avoid all the space/time element threads when we were being assaulted by so many other similar-looking threads. Likewise, there was no point in us trying to buy time through the use of Dimension Shift.
I’d noticed that he hadn’t attacked us immediately after we’d teleported, and from that, recognized that it was possible that he couldn’t create the threads at a moment’s notice. However, I couldn’t say I was 100% sure that was actually the case.
I really had no idea whether or not he could. As a result, I couldn’t actually figure out if we’d ultimately be swallowed up by his threads the moment we teleported, I didn’t the time to brood about it any longer.
It was time to act.
（Master, using trump card!）
『Alright, go for it! We’ll have to gamble on it working if we want to win!』