As a human-bodied, pig-faced Iberian Orc, Boo Boo was around 4 meters tall with plenty of fat covering powerful muscles. While he was collecting yellow fruits from the branches overhead, he spotted a familiar face swinging a fishing pole at a nearby stream. Several rectangular frames made from thin chains were displayed in midair, so she may have been using some kind of tricky Magic to read the fishes’ movements.
She was staring at the water with an extremely serious look on her face and muttering something under her breath.
“No matter what you do, a small face wins out. So is perspective the key to it all? If I make double peace signs in front of the camera like this and then pull my head back…like this? Eureka! This is the equation for victory! It’s gotta be this angle. Heh heh heh…”
“Boo. What are you doing, Armelina? Why are you sitting on that big box?”
As Boo Boo had pointed out, the green Fighter Priest was using a large locked treasure chest as a chair. She sprang upwards, still in her sitting position, and her face was beet red.
“Y-you saw that!? No, um, I had way too much to drink yesterday and it’s still affecting me. Man, that turmeric really doesn’t work. I might be in trouble soon. Ow, ow, ow! The hangover is still lingering in the core of my head…”
“What does all that mean?”
Treasure chests did not grow in the mountains or forest, so she would have had to lug it all the way out here. That would have been simple enough for Armelina whose physical specialization allowed her to swing around metal balls and giant hammers.
“Well, I have my reasons… What about you, Boo Boo? Are you out searching for food again?”
“I thought I would get some Wild Cow milk today.”
He claimed to be after cow milk, but Boo Boo was gathering yellow fruits the size of human heads. Armelina tilted her head and grimaced at the lingering hangover, but the answer presented itself soon thereafter.
The sounds of snapping branches told her something quite large was approaching. Sensing danger, the Fighter Priest threw out her fishing pole and got up from the treasure chest.
“Armelina, Wild Cows are pretty unruly, so you need to be careful. The females have curly horns, but let your guard down and they’ll send you flying with a single jab.”
“Eh? Even someone as large as you?”
“But don’t worry. They’re obedient if you give them some Tipsy Fruit.”
The Iberian Orc was exactly right.
A giant mammal the size of a light car arrived as it knocked over trees, but Boo Boo tossed the yellow fruit to the ground. When it caught scent of them and began chewing on them, it grew unsteady and then collapsed on its side.
Boo Boo picked up what he had set down next to him: a wooden bucket like one might drop into a well.
“It won’t struggle now. The trick is to milk them while they’re like this.”
“Uh, um, ummmm…”
As Armelina watched, he used his giant hands to casually grab the giant udders. He squeezed out the milk with surprisingly practiced hand. He seemed to have used a fruit that grew alcoholic through natural fermentation, but that was not the point to the brightly blushing Fighter Priest.
“Y-you can’t do that, Boo Boo! Y-you can’t treat a girl like this. Do it at a tavern and you’ll be crossing a pretty serious line!”
“Boo? What’s a tavern? Some tricky star???”
“Th-that’s kind of scary. Who knows what could have happened to me if I’d kept drinking until I passed out yesterday. I need to show more self-restraint… Mutter, mutter…”
Boo Boo only looked puzzled as he completed his work, tore off a green leaf, and held it near the Wild Cow’s nose. The giant mammal blinked, got back up, and staggered off into the forest.
“Boo Boo, what was that?”
“Oh, that was Wide Awake Mint to sober it up. If I left it there, a Werewolf or something would’ve eaten it, so I make a point of helping it recover.”
Armelina groaned and came to a stop.
After a while, she averted her gaze and spoke quietly, as if making a confession.
“Sorry, Boo Boo. Do you have any more of that leaf?”
She tapped her index fingers together and mumbled the question, but the conversation was cut short by a high-pitched cry that was more of a “meh” than a “moo”. They looked down and saw 3 calves too young for their fur pattern to have grown in. They were rubbing against Boo Boo’s feet.
“I think these are Wild Cow babies. They were left behind.”
“Weren’t they probably drawn to you by the scent of the milk you took, Boo Boo?”
Unsure what to do, Boo Boo’s hands wandered through the air, but the hungry calves would not leave his side. Even after the sobering mint, the mother cow had not recovered enough to notice their absence and return, so they would become seriously separated before long.
“Boo, I guess I have to take them back to their herd.”
“Eh? You know where their home is? Didn’t you say they’re wild?”
“Don’t underestimate my nose. I can sniff out Jewel Truffles and Tree Hollow Honey, so finding their mom will be easy.”
But then wild killer intent prickled at the back of his neck.
The entire forest shook. The frightened calves kept near Boo Boo and Armelina as the surrounding trees were toppled by a small hill of a creature. The monster looked like a complex hybrid of a lion, a snake, and a goat. Armelina looked up at it and grabbed her metal staff of a Shining Weapon.
“A Chimaera? And this one’s huge!!”
They were omnivores, but when they were upset, they were known to torment their prey to cheer themselves up. They had no fangs, so their prey was not granted a quick death and they especially liked to target large herbivores. Was it after the drunk mother? If so, it might try to use the screams of her children.
Boo Boo responded by placing the milk bucket down on the black dirt and glanced down at the calves that continued to weakly tremble and call for their mother with “moos” and “mehs”.
“Armelina. Keep an eye on this. Don’t let the calves drink it.”
“Hold on. What are you doing, Boo Boo?”
“Boo. You can’t help taking lives to eat, but that’s not what he’s doing.”
He grabbed the giant Shining Weapon at his waist that could be mistaken for a log or a steel beam, lightly spun it around, and held it out toward the Chimaera’s nose. Having borrowed some milk, that man among men made an announcement while protecting the calves.
“You chose the wrong time to hunt. That’s my prey. I won’t let you have it.”
Wide Awake Mint seemed to have some effect on hangovers. Armelina was feeling a lot better and Boo Boo asked her a question while holding his large bucket in one hand.
“What are you doing here, Armelina?”
“Well, the treasury I use in the inn town is having some trouble. They’re swapping out all of the locks, so they can’t look after my valuables until that’s done. That’s why I just visited the depths of the Labyrinth and grabbed a tricky-to-open treasure chest.”
Humans could use the Gates to freely travel between Earth and Ground’s Nir, but anything other than humans was much harder to transport. And since they had to return to Earth periodically to avoid the mental and physical problems brought on by a long stay, they would have to let go of the treasure they were leaving in Ground’s Nir.
“But just the chest’s lock isn’t enough to put my mind at ease. Can I bury it near your house, Boo Boo? I doubt anyone’s going to go to the trouble of digging holes there. Not human or wild beast.”
“I don’t mind at all. Everyone has their secret treasures.”
That last comment made her very curious, but she was distracted when Boo Boo picked up the treasure chest with his empty hand.
“I’ll carry that.”
“Oh, you’re such a gentleman, Boo Boo. Not many guys are willing to sound so pretentious around me.”
“Boo? What’s a gentleman???”
They continued chatting on the way to Boo Boo’s leaf house partway up the mountain.
“I asked Beatrice and Filinion to get some Sour Grapes, so they should be back soon. If you put some sour fruit juice in the milk bucket, it solidifies and keeps longer, which is convenient. It’s really yummy if you put it in a leather bag water bottle and cool it in the river.”
“Oh, so is it like cream cheese? I really like no-bake cheesecake.”
“It makes a lot and it lasts a long time, so we can all eat some.”
The conversation had taken an unexpectedly gourmet turn, but Armelina’s main task was burying the treasure chest full of her personal items. She said bye to Boo Boo as he entered his leaf house and she started searching for a good spot outside.
(In the field, I guess? The dirt looks soft, so it would probably be easy to bury something there.)
“Uuh, there’s a Break News stabbed into the field!?”
It was Ileana, the greatest of the Mandragoras. That brown woman was known as a perverted carrot by the Fairy Queen and she was buried up to the bottom of her chest as if relaxing in a sand bath.
Armelina was not going to bury the treasure chest where anyone could see her, so she had no choice but to head past the leaf house and to the opposite side of the field.
This area got little sun and had large stones lying around. It may have been where Boo Boo had gathered all the roots and stones that were in the way when preparing his field.
(But if it isn’t popular, it’s perfect for hiding something.)
Armelina placed the treasure chest on the ground and checked the lock just to be sure. She was mostly known for constantly swinging around heavy maces and balls on chains, but her specialty in physical movement also scaled down to the micro-level and allowed her to do detailed work like picking locks.
She pulled a few icepick-like tools from her bright green priest outfit with a large slit up the sides. She followed the guidance of some Magic light to slip them into the gap between the lid and box instead of into the keyhole. After feeling a solid sensation like she was catching at it with metal fingernails, she stuck an L-shaped tool into the keyhole and twisted it like a lever.
It easily opened like she had used a real key.
“Curse these master keys for working so well. This is why I can’t completely trust the locks.”
The Fighter Priest lamented her own skill.
Incidentally, the chest was not full of strange treasure or secret documents.
It contained a fluffy rabbit doll, a cat keychain, a chick mug, etc.
Armelina recalled the Nun in the inn town who had helped make Mixing requests until recently.
“Yeah, I definitely can’t let anyone see this…”
Nevertheless, she heard some rustling from the bushes behind her. Her shoulders jumped, and she practically tackled the treasure chest of secrets to slam it shut before turning around.
“Wh-who’s there!? Is it Boo Boo? Or Beatrice!? You’ve got it all wrong! This is important reference materials for my research of cultural customs! Okay, fine! I’ll pay you five Medium Obsidian Gears! Goddammit! Have I really done this to myself again so soon after the selfie practice!?”
The civil servant found herself in as pathetic a crisis as someone who tried to project their presentation on the conference room wall and instead displayed an image from their private collection, but she was surprised to find that it was not the Iberian Orc or the red Holy Swordswoman watching her.
Something else entirely stood from the bushes while apologetically scratching its head.
“Sorry. I saw everything.”
“Gnyaaahhh!? A talking skeletoooon!!”
On the roof of Boo Boo’s leaf house, half of a Bucket Ostrich Egg was placed upside down to form a ceiling and a stick was used to prop up one side as an entrance.
The humidity was trapped inside, creating a Fairy sauna.
Such saunas were used as secret discussion spots. It was technically used to get people to spill the beans by preventing someone from thinking too much. Otherwise they could dodge the issue forever after they were summoned…or that was how their culture did things, anyway.
However, the egg sauna was currently occupied by Meridiana, who lived at the leaf house without permission, and her little sister Alice. They had turned themselves into cabbage rolls by wrapping beautifying Super Sweet Leaves around themselves like bath towels.
Meridiana’s leaf was red and Alice’s was yellow. Bigger leaves were better for cooking, but they searched out smaller ones to wrap around their bodies. And how the leaves were heated changed their sweetness, so anyone who knew what they were doing would set adjust the heating for their skin and personal preferences. The leaves were hand-shaped, so it was a little tricky to wrap them up like a cabbage roll.
That was why Meridiana had a single leaf wrapped around her like a standard bath towel while Alice had two less-sweet leaves pasted together, one on the front and one on the back. The trick was to cut holes in the back for their wings.
The older sister leaned forward and peered up at her little sister’s expression. She did not seem to notice the sweat gathering in her large cleavage.
“Honestly, I went to the trouble of setting this up and that’s what you want to talk about, Alice?”
“I-I swear I saw it!”
The heated leaves had absorbed plenty of moisture, so they were plastered to the Fairies’ skin and the skin’s color faintly showed through. Alice had thought she had recently started growing some curves, but seeing Meridiana with a Crystal Acorn cap on forced her to rethink that.
“You’re afraid of ghosts?” Meridiana sounded skeptical. “At your age???”
With thin ivy tying her purple hair into twintails, Alice’s face grew red for reasons other than the sauna.
There were undead beings in Ground’s Nir, such as Will-o’-the-Wisps and Zombies, but a lot of people questioned if they had any connection to previously living individuals. It was thought they were simply a species that looked like that.
“That’s not what I said! It was a Skeleton! A proper Nonhuman!”
“If it’s a proper species, then just ignore it.”
“That’s not the point! Uuuh, those undead types are scary in a different way. What I’m saying is…”
The sisters had colorful leaves wrapped around their bodies at the moment, but Meridiana recalled her younger sister’s normal outfit. Since she wore twintails despite having short hair, her purple head looked like a candy wrapper and she wore a short, almost violet-colored dress with a wide open back. The skirt was cut along either side in an attempt at sexiness, but her body had not quite developed enough to match. Alice was still quite childish as she desperately asked for advice about her ghost story, but then the voice of the leaf house’s owner rang up from below.
“Yummy! This chicken is yummy! Even the bones are yummy!”
“Ah, ahh! You can’t, Boo Boo! You’re not supposed to eat the bones when you have fried chicken!”
“Fish bones are small and pointy, so they prickle, but chicken ones are fine. They’re nice and crunchy! Yummy bones!!”
The mood was entirely ruined.
Perhaps because the sauna was keeping her from thinking, one of the two with soaked leaves clinging to their bodies let out a yell. It was Alice with her 4 thin dragonfly-like wings.
“Curse that pig-face! This is an important discussion and he’s ruining everything!!”
“Stop that, Alice! You mustn’t speak that way about the person who rescued all Fairies without asking for anything in return! And it’s only because we’re in Boo Boo’s territory that we can relax in this sauna on a roof when we’re so far down on the food chain. How can you be so ungrateful!?”
Alice shrank down after her older sister scolded her.
But as she rubbed her sweaty thighs together and fidgeted, she did not seem to have accepted her sister’s argument.
“You didn’t used to be like this. You never come home anymore, so why don’t you just go ahead and marry that Iberian Orc!?”
“Bff! U-um, Alice, uh, I think that would be skipping, well, several steps, and it would only make things really complicated with Beatrice and Lady Sutriona. Blush, blush. Eh heh heh…!!”
“Uuh, uuh!! I hope you get caught by the Skeleton and turned into bones! Wahhhhh!!”
Alice refused to listen and flew out of the egg sauna while still only protected by the yellow leaves plastered to the front and back of her body.
“Ahh! That girl forgot her clothes! And what does she mean ‘turned into bones’!?”
Meridiana had no choice but to leave the sauna, wash off the sweat, dry herself off with a large piece of cotton fluff, put on her clothes, and head out in search of her little sister. But then…
When she looked down form the leaf house’s roof, she noticed a guest approaching Boo Boo’s house.
“There really is a Skeleton guest?”
“Yeah, sorry, sorry! The mountain’s really changed in the short time I’ve been gone. I had no idea someone had a house here. I wasn’t trying to spy or anything!! (But I can’t deny it was entertaining.)”
The leaf house’s visitor was a complete skeleton. He removed his cowboy hat with a large red jewel on it and scratched his smooth head as he made excuses. He of course had no lungs or vocal cords. Armelina had joined Beatrice and Filinion and none of them knew how he was producing his voice.
And since he was only bones, he apparently could not eat or drink. He had not touched the Fruit Steamed Bun that Boo Boo gave him, so it was now in the stomach of the White Witch who had snatched it up with both arms.
“You are very rude.”
“Ih’m ambidehtroush. Gulp. When we have a hot pot, I’ll dual-wield chopsticks to swipe all the meat in crab mode.”
“You’re kind of proving his point, cow.”
Beatrice’s scolding fell on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, Boo Boo curiously viewed the bone man. He was afraid of ghosts, but a Skeleton with a physical body was apparently not a problem. Perhaps anything was fine as long as he could speak with it.
“Hm? Oh, this? It’s a Skill we Skeletons can use. To put it in a way humans can understand, I guess it’s like psychokinesis. The bones vibrate to produce the voice. I don’t have any muscles or cartilage, so how did you think I was holding the bones together and walking around?”
Whatever the case, he was an incredibly cheerful corpse. He would pick up on their questions and answer them before they even asked them. He could hold a proper conversation, they could communicate with him, and they could tell what he was going to do next, so he did not seem at all like a horror movie monster.
He cracked his neck joint(?) as he continued.
“Tselika’s hideout – or her treasure storehouse, I guess it really is – should be around here somewhere, but I wonder how she’s doing. Ground’s Nir can seem large, but it’s actually pretty small. I thought I’d run across her if I just wandered around, but maybe I should leave a note on the door. After gathering such a large collection, she must check on that treasure periodically.”
“…!? Did you say Tselika!?”
The red Holy Swordswoman felt all her hair bristling. Tselika was the pure white demon who had bound the star student Gruagach with Shining Weapon armor and a blood and herb oil mixture, sent shockwaves through both the real world and Ground’s Nir, and continued to live in hiding on Earth despite being a Ground’s Nir-born Succubus. She was a symbol of undeniable defeat for Beatrice, who was the representative member of the level cap adventurers who were the strongest of the humans.
Just once, Tselika had wanted to see the cherry blossoms with her dead beloved.
That was the only desire in her heart as that true calamity had made an enemy of two worlds and still grasped victory. That demon lord’s rank had been increased to that of a Break News, a paradox with a soul.
“That’s right.” But the Skeleton cheerfully confirmed what he had said. “Tselika’s my wife. Although a beauty like that’s wasted on a worthless guy like me.”
“Well, that was certainly something.”
After an encounter that was like a storm blowing through, the Skeleton had left and red Holy Swordswoman Beatrice breathed a heavy sigh.
He should have been someone from the distance past, someone who only existed in people’s memories. And yet he had broken right through those bitter feelings and appeared in person. It was a reminder that this was a different world where Earth’s laws did not apply.
What would Tselika have done if this Skeleton had arrived just a little sooner? Her feelings for her beloved had left her so attached to Earth that they could never be reunited now. It could only be called one of destiny’s ironies.
Meanwhile, the skeleton had been carefree:
“Well, my wife was always quick to jump to conclusions. And once she’d jumped to her conclusion, she’d charge straight down that path with the force of a battering ram. Sorry about all that. She looks like a proper lady, but she gets downright terrifying when she’s mad. I know that all too well from that time she suspected I was cheating on her. Anyway, as long as I know she’s doing well, nothing else matters. I’ve got a limitless amount of time, so I’m sure I’ll bump into her eventually as I wander around. Ah hah hah hah!!”
Filinion, the White Witch with fluffy blonde hair and glasses, must have felt exhaustion bearing down on her shoulders just from remembering what had happened because she curled up her back a little.
“It’s like he looks at things on an entirely different scale from us. I really don’t want to imagine what they were like when they were in full lovey-dovey mode. They’d have to be like the eye of the storm…”
“By the way,” cut in Armelina. “Why are we working so hard to get Boo Boo to take a bath?”
This was the result of one thing leading to another.
First of all, there was a river near Boo Boo’s house. A hot spring apparently ran by directly below, so digging into the dirt on the riverbank produced hot water which could be mixed with the river water to make a bath at one’s preferred temperature. Fairy Queen Sutriona had taken quite a liking to it.
But Boo Boo was not a bath-taker. That may have been normal enough for a wild animal, but Beatrice was not going to accept that. If Nonhumans had to be categorized as either people or animals, she wanted to place them on the “people” side of things. Also, she wanted him to take a bath to rid him of as much of his bestial smell as possible. But she also wanted to flirt with him without anyone interfering.
Then Beatrice had been treating Boo Boo to some fried food since he was still not all that accustomed to using fire and had never eaten any. That led to the comment that Meridiana and Alice had overheard about him eating the chicken bones. (Technically, it was a Snack Chicken from Ground’s Nir.)
On top of all that, the oil used for frying could be made into soap.
After seeing Object X for the first time in his life, Boo Boo had naturally asked his knowledgeable friend about it like he always did.
“Boo. Beatrice, what is that tool used for?”
Now that she was outside in only a bath towel, Beatrice triumphantly clenched her fist. The bath towel itself was easily made from the gigantic sandbag-like cocoon of the Large Deceptive Silkworm. They were sold in the inn town for people visiting the hot springs in the northern mountains.
“Perfect! My intellect wins this round!! So c’mon, Boo Boo, I’ll teach you everything you need to know. I’ll cover your entire body in bubbles. Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!”
When the tearful Iberian Orc was shoved into the hot spring made by digging up the dirt and guiding the hot water and river water together, most of the water splashed out, but Beatrice did not care. As threatened, she made an all-out attack with soap and a large washing leaf. The bursting white bubbles both covered Boo Boo and splashed onto her own cheeks, dripped down from her chin, slipped down into the cleavage between her barely-above-average breasts, and…well, it was an interesting sight, but she was too busy laughing to notice.
Armelina stared into the distance as she helped out while wearing a headband around her forehead as well as some bath clothes just like Beatrice. Hers was a two-piece, with one piece wrapped around her chest and the other around her hips, and her skin was flushed from the steam.
“Now this is scary. Is this what a girl is willing to do when she falls madly in love? I feel like I’m watching someone start out at practicing tarot and end up handing over every yen they own to rely on the divine. It’s such a slippery slope you can’t even see the individual steps along the way.”
“Well, I’m willing to help if it will get rid of that stench. Actually, why do you have such trouble with baths, Boo Boo? Do you not like getting wet?”
“Boo. When I stay in the bath too long, my nose gets all damp and my mind dulls over. The way I zone out feels dangerous.”
“Um, so do you get overheated too easily? Then what about a cold bath?”
“He’d obviously catch cold then. Get it together, Filinion! Then his nose would get stuffed up and he would zone out just the same.”
“C’mon, that’s why we decided on a hot bath.”
Filinion laughed while showing off her bright skin. Instead of a towel, she wore something like a hairpin carved from wood and bath clothes that looked a like a juban (and did an impressive job of revealing her curves when wet).
“And what’s with all those different kinds of body oil? I know they don’t have that much variety in the inn town.”
“Ho ho ho. That’s the privilege of being a Mixer, Armelina. I have sensitive skin, so I can’t just scrub away like we can with Boo Boo.”
“Then can you use one of your fancy recovery potions to do something about Beatrice who has way too much dopamine pumping through her veins? I doubt just letting her smell a Wide Awake Mint would bring her back to her senses. She’s probably planning to keep Boo Boo soaking in the hot spring for 2 or 3 days.”
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Beatrice was beginning to see the truth of the world at the center of her own mini-universe, but she seemed to have failed to see the contents of her partner’s heart.
“B-boo!! I can’t stand it anymore! If I soak any longer, my nose will get runny, my mind will dull over, and my eyes will get all spinny!!”
Soaking wet Beatrice came back to her senses and cried out, but it was too late. Boo Boo grabbed his loincloth which was sitting nearby, escaped the hot spring, and fled into the deep forest.
In her two-piece bath clothes, (flaaaat) Armelina rubbed her temple.
“See, didn’t I tell you?”
“Oh, no! Boo Boo will catch cold like this!”
“Please put some clothes on before you chase after him! Is everyone here a nudist!?”
As they argued, the three of them summoned their Percentage-type Magic, which took the form of their armor and clothing, below their bath clothes. Beatrice removed her bath towel as if it burst off from within.
“Okay, which way did Boo Boo go?”
“As big as he is, we’ll find him soon enough no matter where he went.”
Having carelessly fled into the deep forest without her clothes, the palm-sized Fairy named Alice crafted herself a makeshift dress from some handy leaves and sticky mushroom hyphae. As a teenage girl, she felt the need to accessorize it with some small fruits.
Fairy work was frighteningly detailed and quick.
She tried it on and then made some adjustments to the size and fit. The way it adhered to her chest and caught when she twisted her hips was especially important. If she misread those parts, it could all fall apart as soon as she made any serious movements.
Her vision was blurred by tears. She knew it was rude, but she sniffled.
The clothes of course did not really matter. The only thing on her mind was the incident with her older sister Meridiana. Why was Meridiana so obsessed with that Iberian Orc? Did she really not intend to come home? It was true that Iberian Orc had saved both Alice’s older sister and all of the Fairies. She was thankful for that. When her older sister had said she was offering her life up to that 1000-meter dragon, no one in the village had stopped her. Neither had Alice, the sister who shared her blood. She found it amazing that Boo Boo had faced and repelled the Thousand Dragon on his own to rescue Meridiana. It made him sound like a character from a picture book.
But these were two different things.
If her older sister was not returning home, hadn’t she just changed to whom she was sacrificing herself?
Alice was so busy thinking about it all that she grew careless of her surroundings.
At first, she thought something had grabbed the 4 wings on her back and tugged on them. But that was not what had happened.
It was a Ground Spider web that almost seemed to vanish into the air.
“No, this stupid thing…”
It was the same as a landmine: You had to watch out for it before stepping on it. Once you stepped on it, it was too late. Alice knew that, but she still swung her arms and legs around on reflex. Each movement only got the tiny Fairy further caught in the net-like web, pinning her in place.
And the vibrations on the taut threads summoned the web’s maker.
A far-too-giant spider appeared from behind the nearby tree trunk where it was lying in wait.
She could not even cry like before. Her throat had gone entirely dry, but she still screamed at the top of her lungs. However, the world functioned on the principle of survival of the fittest, so Ground’s Nir also had a cruel food chain. There was nothing she could do. Even if Meridiana came swooping in now, there was nothing she could do either.
“Boo! Boo!! I can’t think straight!!”
There was no time for surprise. The entire tree trunk snapped. The foundation that supported the Ground Spider, held up the web, and captured Alice utterly collapsed.
“Mumble, mumble. Beatrice shouldn’t be able to find me here. Squeal. I need to go wait this out in the Cave of Tears. I only go there when sad things happen, but I’ll have to break that rule now.”
He had not even noticed.
Alice had been rescued. She was caught on Boo Boo’s head along with the spider web, but she finally realized this was no time to zone out.
(My enemy! He is my sworn enemy!! He’s the bad guy who stole my sister!!)
She tried to fly away, but her 4 thin dragonfly wings were still tangled in the spider web and refused to function. The web got caught on another branch and she found herself dangling upside-down.
“I’ll gather a few Drawing Stones. Then I won’t be bored in the cave.”
Boo Boo remained oblivious to the end and he left while muttering encouragement to himself.
Left behind as the upside-down Hanged Man, Alice held the skirt of her leaf dress and screamed.
“Wahhhh! He’s mean in everything he does! Stupid sister-stealing Boo Boo!!”
“Now, I think you’re pushing it a little with that complaint. Well, perhaps you’re just distracting yourself from the fact that you couldn’t save your sister yourself.”
It happened suddenly.
Someone rudely commented on Alice’s heartfelt lament.
“Eh? Wah! Gyaaaaahh!? U-Un-Undead! Why is a Skeleton here!?”
She jumped in shock despite dangling upside-down and that only got her further tangled in the spider web. The web wrapped tightly around her and squeezed at her budding breasts. As the upside-down Fairy began spinning around and around, the cowboy hat skeleton spoke up in exasperation.
“I’d be more worried about the spider web than your questions. It would be a disaster if you tugged too hard and tore your wings off, wouldn’t it?’
“Tremble tremble tremble.”
“You only just realized that was possible? Here, I’ll use some of the Sap Oil dripping from the trees around here. Get that on the spider web and it’ll peel right off, so don’t move. We don’t want to damage your wings, so let’s take it nice and slow.”
Despite the frightening possibilities he hinted at, he used his bony fingers to gently rub at Alice’s leaf dress and easily removed the spider web. But he only made it look easy. If Alice was alone, she might have forced them off and badly hurt her 4 wings.
The bone man spoke as he watched the tiny Fairy lick her index finger and quickly care for her thin wings.
“Now, since you spoke all your concerns aloud, let me give you some advice. Your sister’s life belongs to her, so you need to let her do what she wants with it. No one’s forcing her to do this and she isn’t being a nuisance to anyone, right? Besides, the desire to repay a debt is a sign that she still has unresolved feelings inside her, right? Force her back now and I guarantee you that you won’t have your ‘usual sister’ back. You’ll have an entirely different person who is irritated year-round by the regrets you didn’t let her deal with.”
“Who do you think you are!? A bunch of bones doesn’t get to pretend he understands my sister!!”
“Oh, you’ve got a mouth on you. If you ask me, you don’t need to be the same species as someone to talk about them. My wife isn’t human, but no one can list off her good points better than me. Not even Tselika herself.”
“I don’t care about some old man’s memories!”
“That’s taking it too far, you brat! Besides, Fairies are an eternally growing species, so you don’t have a lifespan! You might look cute, but I bet you’ve lived several times as long as me!”
“I-I was told to watch out for old men who readily call you cute…”
“Calling you cute was enough to shake you? Now I’m really worried for you!!”
Alice fluttered cautiously around the Skeleton for a while, but she finally started back toward Fairy territory.
The Fairy village was normally hidden away among trees that were especially old and large even for this thick forest, but she heard a great cacophony from there now.
The Fairies had been so late in thanking Boo Boo that their plans for finally doing so had only grown bigger and bigger.
But palm-sized Alice pouted her lips, used her 4 wings to hover in place, and tilted her head.
“Hmm. Will this really repay our debt to him?”
When Beatrice pursued Boo Boo into the deep forest, she was taken aback by the scene that appeared before her far too suddenly.
“Th-that’s strange. I was here just a week ago and this definitely wasn’t here!”
The thick forest was cut off by a large fence and there was an arch-shaped sign at what looked like a front gate. Inside, a mine cart rail snaked around, a tower rose toward the heavens, and something like a giant water wheel spun above the ground.
White Witch Filinion pushed at the left side of her glasses.
“The way they’re all made of wood is frightening, but isn’t that mine cart rail a roller coaster, isn’t that tower a freefall ride, and isn’t that giant water wheel a Ferris wheel?”
“And look what it says on the arch at the main entrance…”
“B-Boo Boo Land?”
It was all utterly incomprehensible, but the gray pig face next to the text did indeed look like that Iberian Orc. Through the arch was a plaza with a fountain in the middle and that fountain was decorated with a giant pig-faced monument. In fact, the pillar of water erupted from the top of the pig face like a whale.
There were food stands on either side of the plaza, but they were far too large for the palm-sized Fairies. In fact, they were too large even for human-sized Beatrice. They seemed to be serving skewers of Master Rabbit and Sliced Fish dunked in tubs of yogurt sauce and allowed to ferment, but that may have been the perfect feast for an Iberian Orc. The smell of fermentation was powerful even from a distance, so it may have been a way of inducing the state of “nearly rotten” which he would consider the most delicious. The Fairy that lived at the leaf house had taken part in Boo Boo’s birthday party, so they may have done their research.
Bewildered, Beatrice and the other two tilted their heads, but then a small light fluttered in front of them.
Meridiana may have taken a cold bath because her hair was wet.
“Oh, is this where you were?”
Her shyness was still going strong, so the tiny Fairy smiled at them but still kept out of arm’s reach. That seemed to be something of a habit, so she could not help it. The look on her face made it clear she was not displeased to see them.
“I was stopping by to deliver the dress my little sister Alice left behind. I was relieved to find she made it back to the village on her own.”
“So what’s the deal with all this?”
“Please, come in. It’s already 90% complete.”
They stepped through the main entrance’s arch and felt like they had yet again stepped into another world. Small lights were flitting around, so the entire village of Fairies seemed to be hard at work. Since Meridiana could construct Boo Boo-sized furniture in a single night, they were clearly very good at this sort of thing.
As they continued to tilt their heads, a gray pig costume walked past. It was not exactly delightful when they realized it had to be filled with palm-sized Fairies.
“For a better idea of how this came about, it would probably be best to ask the elder. Lady Morgan!”
The Fairy flew off to hand this off to someone more important than her. Beatrice and the others followed and were guided to something like a lampshade made from flower petals.
A bathtub even smaller than a bento box sat inside and Morgan had stripped off her clothes to soak in the sticky pink liquid filling it. It seemed to be more about sterilization than bathing, so she occasionally scooped it up in her hands and dumped it over her head.
“Oh, there you are. You sure do like baths, Lady Morgan.”
“Mh? If we have guests, you need to inform me sooner, Meridiana. I apologize for forcing you to see this.”
Upon noticing the humans, Morgan left the tub and let her Fairy attendants dry her. She was known as an elder, but her skin was smooth and spotless as the liquid was wiped away from her back and butt. Her attendants then dressed her in her underwear and orange dress.
“I will redo the process later. We must take every precaution before weaving Ground Spider silk. Otherwise we get tangled in the sticky threads.”
As she spoke, she checked some kind of readings on the rectangular window-like displays that appeared around her. Instead of Magic, this was a combination of light-reflecting pollens.
“We are in the middle of our work, so I ask that you forgive our poor manners. I might be the elder, but even I must work up a sweat to put a smile on Sir Boo Boo’s face!”
The first one to sigh was a fellow Fairy: Meridiana.
“See? Silly, isn’t it? But this kind of festive mood gathers more support for her, so we all tend to get carried away.”
“Mh… Lady Sutriona put me in charge and I am the only Fairy capable enclosing the four spirits’ blessing in objects, so that is no way to speak about me, Meridiana. Surely you understand our rules. Rudeness of that caliber must be punished by a full body soaking in Tree Hollow Honey.”
“But Boo Boo spends half his day searching for food, so it’s hard for him to even prepare a day off for something like this…”
“That’s why I’m much cleverer for repaying him over time in a way that doesn’t interfere with his lifestyle. My help is much more useful to him. Heh heh heh.”
“(Min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min, min!!)”
“Gyahh!? Shut up! Just because you don’t have an argument is no reason to deafen me by rubbing your cicada wings together, Lady Morgan!!”
“(Jii jii) …Pipe down. I did not say anything.”
The elder childishly puffed out her cheeks as she ended her cicada chirping attack. Feeling worn down (from being caught in that bizarre argument), Beatrice finally managed to get a word in edgewise.
“Umm, so what exactly are you trying to do here?”
The Holy Swordswoman got right to the point, so Morgan answered while fanning her body with her hand to cool herself after the bath.
“It is simple. A fair bit of time has passed since the Thousand Dragon incident, but we have not yet been blessed with an opportunity to properly thank Sir Boo Boo. Ours is a culture of repaying debts, so it would damage our dignity to delay any longer. Sir Boo Boo appears to have enough food and he has no real fixation on weapons or tools. …That is why we decided to fulfill a demand that is not normally a part of his life.”
“That isn’t normally a part of his life?”
“Yes. Namely, entertainment. We have constructed the truly stylish Boo Boo Land!!!!!”
She crossed her arms and gathered strength in her gut to make her announcement in as booming a voice as she could manage, but Beatrice’s group was unsure how to react.
“I-I’m surprised you even know what an amusement park is.”
“Oh, that. Lady Sutriona says that studying humans is the best way to learn about methods of killing time. We will not underestimate you humans. And since our queen will often shirk her duti-…”
“…Ahem. And since she will often leave to observe the human inn town, she has learned much about your culture. By borrowing some of that knowledge, it is entirely possible for us to construct the amusement park of a foreign land.”
Morgan made it sound obvious, but it was actually quite impressive. It may have been even more impressive than the amusement parks humans made from steel and electricity. If everything, including the power sources, was entirely Ground’s Nir-made, then how were the roller coaster and freefall ride moving? Were they using “springs” made from plant vines or animal hairs? Or were they using the natural power of wind or water? It felt like seeing the large siege weapons used to chuck giant rocks at castles in ancient times, so Beatrice was kind of excited.
(I don’t see any metal screws or nails at all. If this entire amusement park is made from cleverly arranged wood, then their construction techniques might even outdo our human ones.)
“Wait, wait, wait, wait.”
Beatrice was impressed by the Fairies’ presentation, but someone else interrupted.
It was Filinion, the glasses cow who understood nothing of romance.
“Um, are you saying this was like a game of telephone passing from the humans to Sutriona, from Sutriona to Morgan, and from Morgan to the rest of the Fairies? And even Sutriona at the second link has never actually seen a real amusement park?”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Could this be…um, extremely dangerous?”
Still unsure what she was getting at, Beatrice tilted her head along with the Fairies.
She was instantly snapped back into reality when she heard something incredibly heavy crashing into the ground.
“Wh-what? Did a shooting star hit!?”
“Hmm, I think that was more like a microbus falling from a 10-story building…”
Armelina must have been able to link actual physics equations to the sound of destruction, and then the humans hesitantly looked behind them.
Dust was billowing out a few dozen meters away. It was at the bottom of the tower rising toward the heavens…so had there been an accident at the freefall ride?
“H-hey!? Is everyone okay!? Was anyone hurt!?”
“Please wait, Beatrice. Shouldn’t all the Fairies be more concerned about this?”
Beatrice noticed it now that the White Witch pointed it out. There was a lot of noise around them, but none of it had a tense or tragic edge to it. It was more like the atmosphere on the eve of a festival when everyone was trying to enjoy themselves.
“But it is strange.” Elder Morgan sounded curious as she floated near Beatrice’s shoulder. “Why do humans enjoy things like that? Well, if it’s meant to be fun, it only makes sense to pull out all the stops.”
“No, wait, what are you saying?”
The Holy Swordswoman frantically tried to correct the Fairy, but…
“A freefall. I have heard the point is to enjoy the foolhardy thrill of putting yourself in danger and supposedly the riders usually scream. But perhaps ours still pales in comparison to the originals in your world.”
“You there! Make that roller coaster more thrilling. It is supposed to make it feel like you are flying, so it makes no sense to have a continuous track from beginning to end. Remove sections in the middle for about three jumps. That feeling of flying is sure to make Sir Boo Boo rejoice.”
“(Beatrice, Beatrice! Please stop staring into the distance! They keep pushing to make this more interesting and with zero safety regulations! And isn’t this turning into something like the end of a slaughter house? They’re building contraptions that will automatically do that to Boo Boo!)”
“And it makes no sense for the Ferris wheel to move so slowly. Start at 20 rotations per beat. If that still isn’t enough, we can always spin it faster!”
“(O-oh, dear. The game of telephone messed things up so badly they have no idea what an amusement park is supposed to look like! And on top of that, they can fly around with those wings on their back, so they have no fear of heights or speed, do they? Send Boo Boo into this pop world of fancy, cartoonish characters and he’ll be torn to pieces!!)”
The Fairies were acting out of pure naïveté.
As they wiped the sweat from their brows they spoke with pure smiles on their faces.
“Oh, I can already imagine the delight on Sir Boo Boo’s face!!
Later while Beatrice was exchanging information regarding the Labyrinth at the inn town, she decided to do some research on the Skeleton while she was at it. She assumed it would be hard asking about someone whose face and name were unknown, but she received results with surprising ease.
That was thanks to Tselika.
She had sent shockwaves through two worlds, so a lot of people had researched her information to either track her down or determine how she committed her crime. That had also revealed some information on her partner.
“I’m not sure if I should call this amazing or absurd…”
At a relatively cheap restaurant, Filinion sounded half-exasperated as she stuck her spoon into a single-portion vegetable hotpot.
“It turns out he was one of the earliest Labyrinth explorers and he was the very person who laid the first stone for the pavement we take for granted here in the inn town.”
Armelina grimaced a bit at the great wave of girliness wafting over from the colorfully green vegetable hotpot, so she ordered a potato and sausage pot-au-feu instead.
“When they carelessly dug up a dragon egg while building the inn town, he supposedly protected his allies by driving off the furious mother dragon in single combat. And afterwards, he insisted the badly wounded mother dragon had done nothing wrong, carried her to an unexplored body of water deep in the mountains known as the Womb Pot, and healed her wounds there. …Who can say how much of it’s true, though.”
The story said that egg had hatched into the Thousand Dragon, so none of it sounded very credible.
“They say he was powerful enough to slay a dragon yet he was not a human supremacist and he was the key figure in creating a Guild for both humans and Nonhumans.” Beatrice sighed quietly as she finished her thought. “Given what happened with Tselika, that part sounds true.”
She thought of the Sage as someone like Einstein or da Vinci whose intellect would not seem behind the times even if they time traveled to the present. Meanwhile, that Skeleton was the opposite: he was a martial genius. No matter what cutting-edge tactics or optimized wartime propaganda were used against him, they lost their shine against his charisma. He was that kind of fierce commander.
Why had he built the inn town? Because it was easier to have a base.
Why had he dueled the mother dragon? Because he had not wanted his enemies or allies to get hurt.
Why had he created the combined Guild? Because then everyone could smile together.
His path seemed childish, but there was no hint of hesitation there. Every age had to be full of trickery and intrigue, but he stomped through it all with the logic of a child. Every foe that faced him had to have been smiling as they wielded their swords. It had all ended in his defeat and Tselika’s rampage, but how had his last moments really played out? Perhaps it was his complete and under lack of complaint or regret that his survivor had been unable to accept.
…And now he had cheerfully shown up at Boo Boo’s leaf house as bones, so the world really was an odd place. If Tselika learned of this, she might just find a way to punch him.
While the dangerous and deadly Boo Boo Land amusement park was under construction, the Iberian Orc seemed to have detected a unique scent.
When Beatrice’s group visited, he spoke to them in his leaf house.
“B-boo… I can’t seem to relax. I feel uneasy, like you’re still plotting something.”
“I’m not letting my head go all fuzzy! I’ll never ever ever get near one of those hot springs again!”
“I’ll make it work!! I swear I will!!”
Exploration of the Labyrinth had stalled lately. Water Gate 22 was full of countless intersecting waterways and you would end up destroying your allies if you did not properly understand the system behind the many switches and water gates. Not long before, Beatrice’s switch had dumped Boo Boo into a giant water source. As the Holy Swordswoman had clasped her hands and apologized, a bucket of water had been dumped right on her head. The system was apparently more complex than Switch A always opening Water Gate A, so they had to start by hitting all the switches en masse to gather data on the random number calculations. And no one wanted to be the guinea pig.
Fluffy blond -haired glasses Filinion sighed in exasperation.
“Hmm. I think this might have something to do with fundamental compatibility.”’
“Ho ho? How convenient for you. Can we get a comment from today’s negative MVP who nearly drowned us all when she pressed a floor switch with that giant ass that often goes unnoticed thanks to those giant boobs?”
“I-I already apologized for that! How was I supposed to know there was a switch right next to the Banana Octopus sneaking along the floor! Who would expect a switch on the floor there!?”
“We will never forget exactly where that Banana Octopus got caught on your body when you slipped and fell right on your ass. Isn’t that right, fatty butter boobs girl?”
“Do I need to bring out a memory-erasing potion, Beatrice!?”
Armelina spoke up while keeping some mental distance from the other two to avoid a similar punishment from the annoying cow.
“Well, Beatrice is a poor match when it comes to water and Boo Boo is a little too cautious when it comes to water. Is the hot spring incident still affecting you? You’ve seen that Water Gate 22’s waterways aren’t hot, right?”
“Boo… I don’t think you need to soak in water to polish your body. If you cover yourself with fine sand and then rub a rock over it, you’ll be nice and shiny!”
“Boo Boo, most people would liken that to sandpaper or a file.”
Beatrice tried to correct his mistake, but then the less-than-bright (despite wearing glasses) cow said something entirely unnecessary.
“But if you’ve always lived in the natural world, anywhere warmer than body temperature probably would seem weird.”
“Come to think of it, Boo Boo doesn’t worry much about clothes and doesn’t use a blanket when he sleeps.”
“…Huh? Does that mean he’s a terrible match for Beatrice, the strongest fire user?”
Beatrice then shouted “I’ll kill you, cow!!!!!!” in a voice most girls would have avoided in front of a gentleman.
Someone chuckled as they listened to the conversation.
It was the undead type of Nonhuman who had started visiting the leaf house on occasion: the Skeleton wearing a cowboy hat with a large red stone on it.
“A water gate floor, huh? That really takes me back. You use different names, but it’s possible similar structures are appearing and disappearing as time goes by.”
“Hm? You dealt with this in your era too???”
“Well, something similar. When I was a human, it was a blast furnace area instead of a waterway one. Whenever someone flipped a switch, it was complete pandemonium, so we started fighting amongst ourselves and ignoring the Gimmicks and Traps! Hah hah!!”
“Ugh. Am I the only one that doesn’t see anything about that to laugh about?”
Beatrice’s group was delving into the Labyrinth to fight back against the Pieces that would bring negative technological revolutions to the real world and to free the Iberian Orc souls saved as data in Boo Boo’s giant Shining Weapon.
They had enough reason to hurry, but they could not rush and get themselves killed. They felt bad saying so in front of the Skeleton who was still living(?) as he saw fit, but they could not take this so lightly.
And as her thoughts turned to him, another “living legend” came to mind, causing Beatrice to narrow her eyes.
A certain name came to anyone’s lips when they thought deeply about Magic. No matter your starting point, you would always end up at that person.
“…The Sage, huh?”
“They’re the person who led to Magic being introduced to the world and to the construction of the first Gate. Some say they were actually the very first Piece. I wonder if they would be able to reach the bottom of the Labyrinth without issue…”
They were seen as an unreachable figure in the sky and yet also someone people expected could do actual work on the ground. They were a genius a lot like Einstein or da Vinci. If they had been born in a different age or somehow arrived in the present, would they be mocked as behind-the-times? No, it was the rest of the world that would have trouble keeping up. The world had spent so much time growing beyond them, but would anyone be able to understand what those geniuses were saying? Their intellect completely ignored the flow of time. That was how Beatrice viewed the Sage.
And even though she had not really noticed it until now, the incident from the other day had thrown off her sense of equilibrium.
Tselika had rampaged through Tokyo and ignored all else on her way to Ebisu.
The demon had only wished to see some cherry blossoms, but Beatrice had suspected she was after the Ministry of Defense Technology Laboratory where the Sage or someone who could contact them was rumored to be.
What if Tselika really had gone to the Ministry of Defense Technology Laboratory?
Or what if Beatrice had had enough time to take a detour there?
It was only a hypothetical, but she could not help but think about how that might have sent the world in a different direction altogether.
She heard snoring. Boo Boo was nodding off while still sitting. This always happened when he sensed them starting on an even somewhat complicated subject. But they could continue speaking just fine as long as his snoring did not reach catastrophic levels.
Beatrice smiled bitterly as she continued.
“Come to think of it, you were active in an era before ours, right?”
“Well, it can be hard to tell since my wife and I are hardly typical, but we got started quite a long time ago. Does the Cuban Missile Crisis mean anything to ladies as young as you? It’s said the Sage suddenly released a thesis on Magic onto the internet, but there was actually a lot going on below the surface before that. We were those who knew about Magic before it was made public. That’s just how the world works. An exciting and thrilling concert tour across the US will be rehearsed for weeks and weeks in advance.”
“Wait. Are you saying…?”
“I was asking if you were from an older era, but are you saying you were part of it before the network was made public? Are you saying you actually met the Sage?”
“Well… I was from the Western group. The Eastern group seems to have stolen the tech and used it for themselves. But it didn’t all come from the Sage. It was complete chaos at the time. We might steal the tech the Eastern group improved after stealing it from us and then we might find everything we’d stolen was a bluff.”
Beatrice’s group exchanged a glance and then looked back to the Skeleton. This man truly was at the same level as Tselika and he was proving to be an unexpected living(?) witness. This information source was incredibly valuable.
In the present, no one knew if the Sage was an individual or a group, but he had seen them. He had seen them in person before they had been blotted out by falsehoods and legends.
If they could contact the Sage, they might be able to skip 3 steps and cut right through the dark clouds spreading from the attack on the Iberian Orc village that was still causing Boo Boo to suffer. They might be able to bring his friends and family back.
“H-hey! So you really do know the Sage? Then will you tell is any little bit you can!? We have a pressing reason and we can tell you what it is!!”
“Hmm…” groaned the Skeleton as he crossed his bone arms and tilted his skull.
If Beatrice and the others had been just a little calmer, they would have noticed the nuance to his voice.
He seemed to be cutting off something instead of responding to the question.
Only Boo Boo seemed to sense something invisible there, causing him to wake up.
Only the Iberian Orc who lived in the wild and thus faced death just to acquire a single meal.
“That’s somewhat…no, that’s definitely something you shouldn’t pursue.”
Beatrice had no idea what had happened. The red jewel glowed and a white storm tore apart the entire scene as it filled her vision from right to left.
By the time she realized that storm was a colossal axe, it was far too late to dodge.
That meant there was another reason she was still alive.
Namely, Boo Boo.
He interfered by throwing a heavy kick toward the giant axe and the Skeleton’s gut(?).
A heavy, reverberating impact sounded a moment later. The Skeleton broke through the leaf house’s wall and continued flying outside.
Something surged out and flew through the air.
It was Boo Boo’s house, which was essentially a tent made from large tropical leaves. It had been destroyed, and not just because Boo Boo had kicked the Skeleton through it. The white whirlwind that was the gigantic axe had already sliced through it from outside.
She knew that.
She understood that.
The destruction of the home had fully permeated her mind.
And Holy Swordswoman Beatrice exploded in red.
It was like the mists of illusion had cleared away. Boo Boo’s house fell apart and was crushed flatly into the ground.
Beyond that, they were surrounded by a white calamity.
Countless skeletal figures covered everything around them like a white ocean.
None of them stood tall like the main Skeleton. It was impossible to count how many people’s remains were present. Skulls, ribs, sterna, spines, humeri, radii, ulnae, femora, tibiae, fibulae, and other bones were mixed together in a sea of bones that scraped together with a sound like grinding teeth. The noise suggested that even slightly touching one would tear through their soft flesh like a crude stone blade. Some areas rose, surged, and spiraled unnaturally, but none of it maintained a normal form. It was like the stormy sea covered in countless tornadoes.
And a single Skeleton stood up from that rough sea.
What had that giant axe been made of and where had it come from?
The answer was in his right hand.
“This is for your own good. Give up on contacting the Sage. That way leads only to despair.”
Several spines had been gathered together to form a grip, countless skulls were gathered like grapes to provide weight to the head, and countless ribs jutted out like sharp teeth in place of a blade. That single blasphemous attack had taken an axe-like silhouette by bringing together dozens of human remains. The weapon was taller than him and it was the end result of much sinister infighting.
The man had no skin or muscle on his face, but he seemed to be smiling as he showed off the symbol of his negative accomplishments.
“Oh, c’mon. You’ve never heard of this here? It’s part of my wife’s collection and it’s also the key to her treasure storehouse in the back of the Cave of Tears.”
He used a bony finger to tap at the large red stone on his cowboy hat.
“It wasn’t created for that purpose, though. She used to be quite mischievous, you see. The key and everything else in her treasure storehouse are stolen.”
Someone audibly gulped.
It took Beatrice a moment to realize it was her.
“It began as the pinnacle of alchemy and could turn base metals into precious metals. It’s true power was obscured by that symbolism and it’s true value lies in the eternal life provided for its bearer. You might know it as the Philosopher’s Stone, but some refer to it as the Sage’s Stone instead.”
In this case, the fairy tales were irrelevant.
The Sage. He had spoken that name. In fact, he was receiving direct benefit from that name.
“That’s why I know very well how fearsome the Sage is. I built a town from scratch and fought a dragon, but the Sage alone was too much for me. Once you contact them, you will find a true despair without even death as an escape. If you don’t want to end up like this, then back off.”
The sea of bones pulled the cowboy hat low over his eyes and gave them some advice.
“And this is a good opportunity. I’ll be retrieving anything that might lead someone to the Sage. That’s all I’ll do this time. I’ll let you go free. Yes…for now, I’ll be taking the gigantic Shining Weapon that Iberian Orc has. Hand it over and I won’t take your lives.”
Beatrice did not understand anything that was happening.
Who or what was the Sage? How was this Skeleton connected to the Sage? Why would he not let them approach the Sage? Was there a secret there which forced this Skeleton to transform like this?
But the biggest question of all was one she had to answer no matter what.
“Why would you bring up Boo Boo’s Shining Weapon now?”
“This precious Shining Weapon holds the digitized souls of his friends and family. At the same time, it’s the weapon used to attack his village that was given to him by one of those behind the attack. …Why would you want it? I thought you were trying to erase all information leading to the Sage!?”
“Oops.” The Skeleton made a show of reaching for the top of his cowboy hat and replied without actually answering the question. “Oh, I think you already know the answer to that.”
There was no sound. But the silver-and-red-haired girl definitely saw Boo Boo’s face distort like a child on the verge of tears.
Her blood boiled. Upon reaching the answer, the Holy Swordswoman stopped even trying to control her fire.
“So it was them? You’re saying the owner of that Shining Weapon and the one who purged the Iberian Orc village…was the Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaage!!!???”
They were surrounded on all sides by a sea of bones. The Skeleton towering up in the center rested a giant bone axe on his shoulder.
Even the cries of a nearby friend sounded distant to her now.
She was single-mindedly focused on murdering this man.
She bit her lip, immediately drew her Shining Weapon rapier, and roared.
She went with a simple and surefire attack. As soon as she made a horizontal swing of her rapier, flames surged toward the bone man like fresh blood flowing out of a wound in the world itself. At 2000 degrees Celsius, they could melt pure iron. The firepower rivalled that of a crematory furnace, it grew to several dozen meters across, and it flew in straight line like a water gun.
Any who were swallowed up by this attack of rage would be burned and incinerated until nothing remained.
“Yeah, sorry about this.”
“Even a bone body would be destroyed in flames hotter than a cremation, but you need to be more careful. The smoke made from burning human remains isn’t very good for you. You might have 100% Fire Resistance, but what about your buddies?”
There was no hint of pain or fear in his voice.
Could he even feel pain without any nerves? He might be just fine and he might have been putting on a brave face. However, Beatrice did not have time to find out which it was.
At this rate, he would push back.
Once he was in range, he would use his bone axe to lop off her head.
“Like I’ll let you!” roared Armelina.
She activated her Shining Weapon metal rod and summoned a giant steel fist to the end. It was a simple physical attack. She slammed it into the cowboy Skeleton with the dreadful speed and mass of a head-on collision with a car.
It was truly like an iron fist.
It was like the battering ram wielded by several people to break down a mansion’s front door during a raid. The solid sound was just like several bowling pins being knocked away. Instead of a specific part of his body, the entire Skeleton shattered.
“Hah hah hah.”
Armelina watched in shock as the Skeleton laughed. The cowboy hat skull had shattered and every one of his joints had fallen apart.
Nevertheless, a portion of the white sea rose up like nails gathered by magnetism. A headless skeleton stood there. It finally picked up a new skull from the ground and attached it to its neck. The terribly skinny bone fingers grabbed the cowboy hat and placed it on its smooth white head.
And it spoke with the exact same voice as before.
“Is this really so surprising? I never had any organs or blood. I had no heart or brain. Did you honestly think killing and shattering me would stop me?”
“Burn you…or break you…and you can just put yourself back together!?”
“Filinion, what about your Mixing!?”
“I can’t think of any official ingredient Lists that use the human body. I can’t erase him by using him as a Mixing ingredient!”
“Just so you know, poisoning, electrocuting, and drowning me are all meaningless. They’re not very exciting, but bones are pretty damn amazing.”
“No, that can’t be true. You’re different from normal Skeletons!”
“Oh, you want a unique name for me?”
He thought for a moment.
That unique being had the discretion of a human and the life(?) force of a monster.
“Then you can call me Skull Wave. For now, anyway.”
There was no apparent solution.
No amount of attacking would end it.
Boo Boo and Armelina used their great strength to part the bone sea with his log or steel beam of a Shining Weapon and her steel ball on a chain. However, that did not solve the fundamental problem. They could create a small opening in the sea, but the gap was quickly filled by more bones pushing in like they were challenging the actual ocean.
Beatrice regretted triggering this fruitless conflict.
She felt like she had called in an enemy they were poorly matched for and forced it onto the others.
“Beatrice, use a shockwave! Use your flames to hit them with a different Element!”
“Boo! This is just like fighting the lifeless Gimmicks in the Labyrinth. Beatrice, there’s nothing to fear! Be a leader!!”
Those words brought clarity back to Beatrice’s blank mind.
She adjusted her grip on the rapier.
“Understood, Boo Boo, Armelina! You help too, Filinion. Mix the potions I tell you to!”
“Th-that’s fine, but I can’t make anything other than recovery potions!”
“We can combine multiple recovery potions by rapidly heating them. Create a powerful acid, and you can dissolve human bone!!”
“Wait, seriously!? That’s not playing fair!!”
The Skeleton…no, Skull Wave shouted hysterically, but there was a note of enjoyment in his voice.
A chill ran down Beatrice’s spine in response.
“But,” he said.
The bone axe multiplied.
It was already taller than he was, but now there were 6 more of them for a total of 7. Beatrice briefly thought it was moving so quickly she was seeing afterimages, but that was wrong.
It really had multiplied in number.
Skull Wave now had enough bone arms to hold the 6 extra giant axes. They were attached to his shoulder blades and spine, ignoring the concept of joints altogether.
“I have no nerves to be severed and no blood to be spilled. I can link my body together with no concern for normal human movement.”
He swung them. Fiercely. The axes danced every which way as something like a storm of guillotines. The pure difference in numbers shattered the teamwork of the Holy Swordswoman’s group. They had to wholly focus on defense to stay alive.
Even with three level cap adventurers and an Iberian Orc, they could barely hold their ground.
“Hah hah. Incredible! I’m reaching rotation speeds of 700 rpm! These guillotine-class blades are spinning faster than a juicer and you’re still fighting back with a single rapier, level cap girl!?”
“Hmm, this isn’t just the speed support from your AGI. Oh, I get it. Your 100% Fire Resistance means flames and heat can’t hurt you, so you’re supporting the movements of your arms and legs with explosive blasts. What were you so afraid of that you had to put together this countermeasure? Bullets? Bomb shrapnel?”
“I can tell even without a Shining Weapon or Magic. It’s a matter of experience.”
He had seen right through it. Not just her next move, but how she was using her Magic and why she had developed that usage. This was undoubtedly a human intelligence that knew Magic well.
“Well, it won’t last long either way. In just a few minutes, your muscles, cartilage, and joints will be crying out in pain. It’s only a prototype technique.”
Once its secrets were revealed, a secret method was nothing of the sort. He would take advantage of it soon enough.
“Filinion. Give up on the Mixing. How many recovery potions do you have!?”
“A-a few. But we can’t recombine them into an acid!”
“Armelina, Boo Boo. This is going to hurt, but we have recovery potions and it’ll save our lives, so it’s all for the best, right!?”
“Wait, explain what you’re about to-…bgweh!?”
Armelina’s response was cut off by an explosion. Beatrice activated her Magic and caused a large explosion at their feet. But this was not meant to part the bone ocean that would occasionally swell up like a whirlwind. The incredible shockwave was meant to blast them backwards.
They were surrounded on all sides, but the bone ocean was not consistently thick. The thickest portion was directly ahead where the Skeleton stood. Sending more bones there left the other parts thinner.
If they flew over the bone ocean like an artillery shell and left the range of the flying axes, they could escape. The blow slammed against their own bodies, but Filinion had recovery potions.
But it did not all go as planned.
“Didn’t I tell you?”
An odd sound burst out. The great number of bones gathered into a single being. As the Skeleton’s mass grew, the great axes he held also grew longer and heavier.
Beatrice’s group had earned a few dozen meters, but even that distance was swallowed up.
“Your restricted fighting styles don’t apply to me!!”
White shooting stars dropped down along curving paths, like they were drawing out half-moons. Beatrice was helpless as they focused on her.
But a moment later…
“Tch. Boo Boo! Use this as a stepping stone!!”
Armelina changed her priest’s staff into a hexagonal rod. It was taller than she was and she swung it to provide stable ground below Boo Boo’s airborne feet.
Just before the shooting stars caught the Holy Swordswoman’s head, his giant form twisted around.
He cleanly placed all his weight in his giant Shining Weapon and struck the white shooting stars and silver tornado head-on.
The gigantic axes shattered. Boo Boo could not negate the momentum, so he broke several trees and rolled along the ground.
Nevertheless, they escaped the white sea.
“Are you okay, Boo Boo!?”
“You should worry about yourself, Beatrice. I’m worried about Armelina too.”
“This is no time to be gentlemanly. It throws me off balance. More importantly, fall back. We can’t let them surround us again now that we’ve escaped!”
The forest rustled. No, it was the sea of human bones covering the ground below the trees.
The Skeleton wore a cowboy hat with a large red jewel on it. He was Skull Wave and he most likely had a direct connection to the Sage.
Fluffy blonde haired glasses Filinion gulped as she watched it.
“But where are we supposed to run to? Ground’s Nir isn’t all that big an island.”
They did not have time to answer.
As the white rushed in, Beatrice’s level cap group and even Boo Boo immediately chose to retreat.
Wearing a cowboy hat with an ominously glowing large red jewel on it, the Skeleton acted like he was sighing as a white sea followed behind him. But since he had no lungs or diaphragm, it was only an empty motion.
“The Sage, huh? That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time.”
He used something other than his throat to vibrate the air and took a step out from the shredded and collapsed leaf house to enter the thick forest.
“Oh? What’s a Soviet ghost doing here? Are you done guarding the tomb of the Enter Kosmos?”
She was a plant Break News and the greatest of the Mandragoras. That monster wielded killer soundwaves and could infinitely reproduce, but she was now gently yawning while buried in the field up to just below her chest.
“Honestly, how is it you still reek of sweat as nothing but bones? Don’t I have a right to complain when you ruin this perfect hot spring spa I’d found? Telling me not to would be asking too much.”
“Hmm. So you’d taken a liking to this place, had you?”
“Not just me. A lot of people find it a comfortable place. And you destroyed it for your own purposes. Now, can that empty head of yours comprehend how poor an excuse ‘I didn’t know’ is?”
“You’re really going to fight me?” That skull would certainly have been smiling if it had skin and muscles. “Hey. Your infinite reproduction isn’t as convenient as it looks. After all, plants subsist off of photosynthesis. Once the soil is out of nutrients, you’re done.”
“You’re no different. It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t know what your body is made of.”
“True enough. It would be like moths flying into the flame for the both of us. …But, Miss Plant, which do you think is stronger: nature’s life force or human greed?”
“On the planet I come from, human greed wins every time. We know we’re wrapping the noose around our own necks, but we can’t stop overfishing and overdeveloping. Your cosmonaut might have called it a blue planet, but it’s actually full of dry-colored bald mountains and deserts. Let’s hope Ground’s Nir doesn’t turn out the same way.”
His tone was peaceful, but it was enough to silence one of the Break News.
The strength of plants was based in the fact that they were the foundation of the food chain and those higher up the chain would die if they were wiped out. In a long-term battle, sucking all nutrients from the soil was a simple but effective method.
But what if the predator did not care about consequences? What if they were doing everything they could to ignore the inevitable outcome of starving and drying up in a land of bald mountains and deserts? What if they only focused on destroying and consuming all of the blessings before them?
That was beyond what Ileana could deal with.
“What are you trying to do with a desire powerful enough to consume the entire world?”
“I dunno. It’s true humans are foolish and sinful enough creatures to ignore a known future, but they’re also stupidly kindhearted. They might know the land is drying up, but they’ll still seek water for their starving young child whose lips are dry and cracked.”
“I can’t let them meet the Sage. Even my empty head knows meeting that person will not make anyone happy.”
Overwhelming endurance and unbelievable destructive power. Concluding they would gain nothing by facing him head-on, Boo Boo and the others kept their distance, but where were they to run to?
“Dammit, since Nonhumans like Boo Boo can’t leave through the Gate, we can’t Sign Out to escape to Earth.”
“Pant, pant. Yes, we can’t exactly, pant, leave Boo Boo all alone here. Pant.”
“But it’s true Ground’s Nir isn’t that large. So the sky? If we could contact the Thousand Dragon…”
They held a strategy meeting while fleeing through the deep forest, but Boo Boo had not said much of anything.
Armelina cried out oddly as she searched the blue sky for a giant dragon. Something large flew by overhead. But could the Holy Swordswomen and the others comprehend that a white explosion had occurred several hundred meters behind them and now the giant axes made from dried human remains were raining down all around them in hundreds if not thousands of pieces?
Only one thing filled their mind.
“Skull Wave!? He’s already making his next move!?”
“E-eek! How many of them are there!? If those Skeletons appear all over the place, we’ll be surrounded in no time!”
“Is it really that convenient? He’s an individual, not a group. He might have tons of resources, but it’s always just the one Skeleton that stands up, right?”
Even if that was correct, the threat was still there. They did not know which of the piles of bones would become Skull Wave, so they had to remain wary of them all.
“…He’s chasing us,” groaned Beatrice as she looked back while running. “The conscious command tower is passing from bone pile to bone pile to catch up, so watch out!”
They could indeed see a distant figure catching up. A skull wearing a cowboy hat was tossed from pile to pile. Sometimes, just the hat was thrown through the air like a UFO or frisbee before being placed on another skull.
This was faster than running on his own legs and any arrangement of bones would function as Skull Wave. The bone puzzle approached as a truly cruel pursuer.
“It looks like targeting that hat would be worth trying! Toh!”
Armelina used her metal ball and Beatrice her flames to target the cowboy hat skull while they ran, but it skillfully danced out of the way.
The girls did not look pleased. They were doing everything they could to escape, but he had approached enough that their Magic could reach and hit him.
“Running out in the open isn’t enough. He’ll just surround us. We need to use some kind of natural fortress like a cliff or a cave to give him only one route in. Even if he has a million Skeletons, he can only fight with one at a time if the gap is only big enough for one. Just like the Labyrinth passageways, we can rack up the damage in no time while he’s slowed down!!”
“Pant, pant. B-but is there anywhere like that around here, you map moron!?”
As they argued, Beatrice gave a hysterical cry.
She saw something through the trees up ahead: a giant round monument modeled after a gray pig face. She also saw a roller coaster mine cart track, a freefall tower, and a giant water wheel Ferris wheel.
The artificial structures looked out of place this deep in the woods. And she could sum it all up with a single name:
“Boo Boo Land?”
The Fairies had secretly built that amusement park to thank Boo Boo. However, it was based on hearsay on top of hearsay, so they failed to grasp the point of the rides, skipped any sort of safety standards, and created murder rides with no malicious intent.
The exhausted White Witch’s glasses were fogged up from her own heat and she could barely see through them, but she pointlessly pushed at them all the same.
“M-maybe we can escape to there! The fence will block the Skeletons’ movements and we might be able to wipe them all out with clever application of the murder rides!!”
“So it’s a trap action game? No, a tower defense game? Either way, it sounds like fun!”
They did not need a tricky way to lure him in without letting him know what they were trying to do. Skull Wave was pursuing them, so he would follow them wherever they went.
They saw their way out.
But then something unexpected happened.
Boo Boo came to a sudden stop instead of following them.
“What is it, Boo Boo? Hurry!”
But the Holy Swordswoman’s prompting did not get the Iberian Orc to move. He shook his head on the spot.
“I can’t go there.”
He continued before Beatrice could ask why not.
“He’s after my Shining Weapon. If I go in there, it will drag someone else into this. No, it’s not just that. I’ve already gotten you three involved. We should have split up so he would only go after me…”
Beatrice felt the blood rush to her head, but then she remembered something: Skull Wave had destroyed Boo Boo’s leaf house.
That tragedy might have still been stuck in his head. He may have been in more pain than he let on. And so he was strongly reluctant to expose others to a similar shock. If that was the alternative, he would face Skull Wave alone.
Beatrice finally realized why he had been so silent.
What about her? Could she let this happen? To her, the Fairies’ Boo Boo Land was backwards and comedic. It did not function as a proper amusement park. But at the same time, they had to have put a lot of thought into how they would express their heartfelt thanks. These were tools meant to produce smiles, so could she really use them for combat and destruction, make a mess of the place, and leave only rubble behind just to protect her life?
Had she already forgotten her intense rage after Boo Boo’s birthday party had been ruined?
Her suggestion would work against them.
She knew that, but she accepted that and prepared her heart to speak.
“What’s this? Are you letting some completely misguided worries hold you back, our hero?”
A graceful female voice reached them.
They all looked up and saw a small light on a tree branch. A palm-sized Fairy sat there. Her long lime hair was worn back, she wore an orange dress over her curvy body, and two thin wings grew from her back.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Sir Boo Boo. I am Morgan, the elder who has been left in charge of the Fairies during Lady Sutriona’s absence.”
The small light fluttered down.
She did not hesitate to approach the 4 meter Iberian Orc’s face.
“If you would forgive me for being so forward, I believe you are mistaken about something. Our one and only desire is to be useful to you so we might repay you. You are afraid of destroying Boo Boo Land? You feel bad using it for something other than its intended purpose? You are looking at this entirely wrong. Anything that would assist our hero is best. How you use it is a trivial matter, so long as it is of some use to you. It was built to serve you, so why should you be driven out in fear of using it incorrectly? Are you trying to insult our expression of gratitude?”
The bone sea had to be approaching from behind as they spoke. They did not really have time to stand around like this.
But they all waited on the tiny words from Boo Boo who looked like a small child left behind in an unfamiliar city.
Finally, Boo Boo forced some words from his throat while hanging his head so he did not have to look even the small Fairy in the eye.
“But he’s after me, this has nothing to do with anyone else, and I’ll bring trouble wherever I go.”
“We don’t know how to defeat Skull Wave, joining forces won’t necessarily give us a way, and we might all go down together.”
“How is that a problem?”
“How can you say that? Nothing good will come of working with me here…”
The elder pulled down on something like a thread from a spider web that hung nearby.
A giant bucket fell on Boo Boo’s head.
“Hmph. This weapon was personally instilled with blessings by the Fairy elder. Let the happiness permeate your being. And is that what you were worried about?”
The tiny elder crossed her arms, scoffed, and spat out her words. At the same time, she spoke like a mother gently stroking her child’s head when they had had a bad dream.
“The answer is obvious: everyone here wants to see you smile. Just like you reached out to help Meridiana even though you did not benefit in the slightest.”
Boo Boo could not move.
“…This will be a lot of trouble for you.”
“It might go way, way beyond the point of no return.”
Something approached from overhead.
It was a giant axe made from countless bones.
But Boo Boo no longer hesitated. As he looked back, he swung his giant Shining Weapon like a whirlwind and shattered the falling axe.
And he spoke briefly.
As the countless bones lost their cohesion and rained down separately, Morgan remained motionless despite almost certainly being one of the targets. Her arms remained crossed such that they lifted her breasts and she did not even blink.
“That is the hero we have longed for.”
Only after whispering that did she flutter away.
“Now, allow me to introduce you to our castle. The time to repay you is at hand.”
Followed by a white sea that swirled and rose up unnaturally in places, the cowboy hat Skeleton known as Skull Wave looked up at the writing on the arched entrance in shock.
“Boo Boo Land?”
It was hard to tell if that meant he was popular or not.
A small light fluttered over.
It was Alice, the palm-sized Fairy in a violet dress.
“It’s dangerous in here! We’re prepared for you, so turning around now would be the wise choice!! Grr, grr!!”
“Oh, it’s the little lady. How are your wings? They don’t hurt, do they? As long as the base is fine, you should be able to soothe them with ointment.”
“Have you made up with your sister yet? I know it’s embarrassing, but you should find a way sooner rather than later. As time passes, you might just miss the right timing. I’ve screwed that up more than enough times when fighting with my wife.”
“But thanks for the warning. I know it can’t be easy trapped between your village’s decision and your personal feelings. But sometimes a man can’t stop for fear of injury. Don’t worry about me. Bye.”
He looked away from the Fairy and continued on.
The front gate was a double door of logs tied together with vines, and it was shut. They seemed to have started a tower defense game.
After going through the motions of sighing, he lightly tapped the ground with the bottom of the axe he held.
Immediately, the air could be heard splitting. 30 or 40 identical axes flew from the white sea behind him. As the giant blades rotated through the air and landed inside the park, they may have been reminiscent of frisbees or UFOs.
Of course, no matter how many bones there were, only one Skeleton could stand up. He was only establishing supply points in case something unexpected occurred.
(The preparations are complete. …It’s time I got going too.)
By the time he held down the cowboy hat with a hand and thought that, it was all over.
An explosion burst out.
In just an instant, the log gate was blown to smithereens and splinters sprayed inwards like when a sake bottle was hit horizontally by a bullet.
This was hardly surprising since Skull Wave had 20 arms attached to his back and each one held an axe taller than he was. And since he was using psychokinesis to move, the different parts did not actually need to be attached. He could freely remake himself with no concern for trivial things like “joints”. Each axe weighed more than 30 kg and they were each released with enough force to reach 2400 rpm. It was a lot like combining 10 giant battering rams and firing them using a low-speed-rotation Gatling gun.
(Oh, that ain’t good. I’m using the real world’s filth to sum things up in this fantasy world. I guess I’m still more human than I thought.)
His arms of different lengths and thicknesses spread out behind him like a giant flower as he stepped through the unrecognizable remains of the gate. If their individual power was insufficient, they would get help from the terrain and structures. A makeshift log barricade zigzagged across the plaza in front of him. They had likely been planning to slow him down with the barricade while they used a dense hail of projectiles to wipe out the bones. They may have planned to directly attack using the movable barricades as shields.
That was the correct choice, but it would not help much when he could break right through the walls and fences.
He faced a round pond and a giant pig-faced monument. A pillar of water came from the top of the monument, so it was apparently meant to be a fountain. He was surrounded by a roller coaster mine cart track and he also saw a freefall tower and Ferris wheel further in the distance.
He easily destroyed the zigzagging barrier.
The bones approached either side of the plaza to avoid the fountain and they stopped once they reached the food stands. The yogurt-soaked skewers were still sitting out, but he decided to leave them be.
(I’m oddly hesitant to let that go to waste. Not that I can eat anything these days.)
With the white sea behind him, Skull Wave heard the roaring of the wind.
Immediately thereafter, a 12-wheeled section of carts ignored the track and filled his vision.
His human knowledge had worked against him here. He had assumed a roller coaster had to follow its track and that nothing else was even an option, so he was slow to react when the carts dynamically derailed.
But this was not a fatal blow for Skull Wave. As previously stated, his axes had the same force as a 10-battering-ram Gatling gun. No matter how many carts were sent his way, he could intercept them with a head-on rush and obliterate them in order like a never-ending pencil sharpener.
However, it did turn his full attention in that direction.
And that allowed something to target him from the side.
A shrill voice called out from above as if timing something.
The Skeleton looked to the side while continuing to tear apart the flying roller coaster.
This time it was a swing ship.
The giant swing was modeled after a pirate ship, but its supports had been removed from the ground so its great mass could be sent his way.
His bones were shattered in an instant. It was as refreshing a sight as a strike in bowling, but that was not going to end his life.
(Although I technically don’t even have a life.)
The skull wearing the cowboy hat flew in a parabolic arc, was caught by another bone arm, and was attached to a new neck.
That was all it took for Skull Wave to activate once more.
It was the same no matter how often it happened. The white sea was like hundreds if not thousands of plain jigsaw puzzles mixed together. With that many pieces to work with, he could be remade any number of times, so there was no end in sight.
…Or so he thought.
At first the Skeleton was only confused.
“That’s what you were after? Dammit!!”
Armelina was in charge as she looked down across Boo Boo Land from the top of the freefall tower that stood several dozen meters tall.
She could freely wield Magic such as fire or ice, but as a Fighter Priest, she instead pursued physical maces and metal balls on chains. So she viewed the scene through the bubble-like film filling a rectangular frame made from necklace-thin chains. This displayed the results of all sorts of calculations: potential energy, kinetic energy, gravity, pendulum motion, combining and separating vectors, etc. The frame displayed curves of light to visualize the next movements of the roller coaster, swing ship, and other massive rides.
(Of course, this is only good for something slow enough to visualize. It won’t help with Elkiad’s bullets or Boo Boo when he goes all out.)
“Derail the water ride at 300% power, drop the freefall to crush the Skeleton, and then close inner gates 5, 6, and 7! Use the haunted house’s glowing pollen holograms to divert Skull Wave’s aim and send the coffee cup carrying Boo Boo away to the other side! Keep the ride spinning to guide him toward the Ferris wheel!!”
As the palm-sized Fairies flitted around to obey her instructions, the rides flew along the curves shown in light on her frame and stabbed into the bone sea.
Of course, Skull Wave was a bone puzzle who could remake himself as many times as he needed to. A simple impact was not going to win this.
But Armelina and the others had something else planned.
Morgan sounded impressed as she floated by the Fighter Priest’s side.
“You’ve split them up quite well.”
“Yeah. No matter how far his white sea spreads, there’s only ever the one bone puzzle in the hat. So if we separate the cowboy hat from the surrounding white sea, the commands can’t reach them anymore. We can crush them with the roller coaster, create a wall with the remains of the swing ship, and shut them inside the inner gates. We might not be able to fill in the whole sea, but a puddle is a different matter.”
Skull Wave had thrown in several bone axes to create supply points in advance. That was somewhat frightening, but that was really all he could do. The individual bones could not get up on their own to create a great army.
“Now, then. I hope they’re doing their job down on the ground too.”
In this tower defense game, they had to protect Boo Boo…or rather, his Shining Weapon. Beatrice was his bodyguard in case Skull Wave got close and Filinion was their healer. Skull Wave had the power to break through walls and gates, so they could not stay in one place and had to continue running around the park to stay safe.
(You can break through the walls and gates, but you’re alone. The Fairies will prepare more and more new walls to divide you further and further until you can’t retrieve any of the bones you scattered around!)
But it proved very true that there was no safe place in the park.
Armelina noticed something and cried out just as a giant white axe spun through the air and attacked the freefall tower. The cowboy hat owner had noticed her there and thrown it. When she saw more and more of the flying disks approaching, she jumped onto a cart she had waiting nearby. It had been designed for Boo Boo’s size, but a human could apparently use it by attaching something like a child seat to the side. …The only problem was that it had never been tested before.
“I will now drop you as planned,” announced Morgan as she flew nearby.
“I don’t like the sound of that!!”
The Fairies had created this literal freefall ride from their misunderstanding of human entertainment. The only brakes were the metal staff Armelina held in both hands.
Metal teeth jutted out from the staff like a giant rake and sparks flew as they dug into the side of the tower.
(Oh, no! I can’t slow down enough!)
“Boo!! Jump, Armelina!!”
Relying on the voice heard just before landing, Armelina twisted her wrist. The metal teeth were already digging deep into the tower side, but now they caught and were repelled like the needle skipping across an old record, sending the Fighter Priest out from the safety bar and into the air.
A chill ran through her spine and even her heart, but the expected heavy impact never came.
Boo Boo had extended his powerful arms and used his spring-like muscles to catch her while allowing the impact to escape.
She breathed a sigh of relief and scratched her cheek.
“You damn gentleman. This is my first time being princess carried, you know?”
“Wahhhh! You stole his first time!?”
Beatrice burst into tears nearby, but they did not have time for that. The white mass was approaching fast.
“Now! Launch the trampoline cannon!!”
“Time for the rotating wooden horse attack. Gooo!!”
Shrill cheers sounded as plant vines or animal tendons were released with enough tension to throw a large boulder. Each time, a massive ride was released and the cowboy hat monster was shattered and scattered.
“Ah, ahhh, ahhhhh…”
But one Fairy in particular could not wholeheartedly rejoice at the sight: Alice. She knew that Skeleton too well. Exchanging words and emotions meant too much.
The Skeleton was destroyed over and over, but each time, the scattered bones would gather together and he would stand back up. That bizarre monster would not let anyone worry about him. His white sea had been separated out by ride wreckage and inner gates, so it was more like a small pond now.
What would happen once it was gone?
What if the cowboy hat was stolen? What if the large red jewel in it was broken?
Alice could not just watch. She fluttered down in her violet dress to meet Skull Wave who was putting himself back together for the umpteenth time.
“Oh, it’s the little lady. What brings you here to see your enemy?”
“A-are you stupid!? You should have run away and recovered your numbers before you ended up like this!”
“Maybe so.” The Skeleton put his cowboy hat back on. “But there are some things in this world you can’t put off until later. Some people charge into the Labyrinth to save a cornered rookie and end up getting themselves killed. When you hear about that later on, you might come up with some clever ideas like throwing rocks from a distance to distract the powerful enemy or calculating out the shortest route to the stairs in advance so you can escape right away. But I’m not going to pretend I’m smarter than them. They probably couldn’t think straight in the moment. They saw the rookie covered in sweat and trapped at a dead end, and they couldn’t put it off until later, even if that meant ignoring their own safety. So their choice was a noble one, even if that didn’t play out in the results.”