"Oh, it's here!" whispered Kurdak as he discarded the honey bottle and eyed his target.
When Leguna saw the huge beast, he was so terrified he froze. Even though he thought he was mentally prepared, he didn't think it would be this huge.
The bear's brown coat emanated a bloody crimson sheen when the moonlight touched it. The bear had limbs as thick as a man's waist and its paws, as large as a face, had five razor-sharp talons. The bear looked around with its terrifying fist-sized eyes.
When he saw it, Leguna no longer doubted what Kurdak had told him. It was definitely not something he could take on. At that moment, even he worried for Kurdak's safety.
Can he really withstand the assault of such a horrifying creature?
Kurdak's expression turned gloomy as he said in a low voice, "Your trap should work fine, right?"
"Of course!" said Leguna confidently, believing the trap-laying method in the book would definitely be able to help the party complete the mission.
The bear began searching all over for the honey. Given that even Leguna drooled over it, it was no surprise the bear considered it a delicacy as well.
It gradually approached.
"Wait for it," Leguna began his countdown excitedly, "Three... Two..."
Roar! The bear's loud bellowing interrupted the countdown. It had managed to fall into the trap ahead of his prediction.
Speechless, Leguna couldn't help but curse at it in his mind for not following his script.
"Did the trap fail?" Kurdak asked as he looked at Leguna's expression attentively before he took another look at the bear.
"Aren't you a rather capable one?"
"Why of course. I made the silver-needle-firing trap according to the notebook and even tested it when I was done. It could even pierce a trunk as thick as your waist!" boasted Leguna.
"Alright, you definitely contributed well to the mission," said Kurdak, relieved.
Raising his heavy shield and axe, he roared and charged at the bear.
As a fiend, the crimsonblood bear's humongous frame gave it staggering vitality. But, tough as it was, it was still classified as a low-ranked fiend because of its low intelligence, more or less comparable to normal animals. The true high-ranked fiends were those with high intelligence -- some were even better schemers than humans!
A high-ranked fiend would definitely not fall into Leguna's trap. Perhaps, it might even fake being hit. However, the bear didn't even bother to look around and followed the honey's scent. Yet, before it even got a taste, countless gleaming silver needles flew its way, causing it to lose its vision instantly and sending searing pain down its nerves.
The moment Kurdak charged, Vera and Cyranos revealed themselves. They stood stably on the branches and began firing at the gigantic lifeform in the distance.
Cyranos had gone to the Hammer of Flame to buy 60 armor-piercing arrows specifically to use against the bear. They cost him twelve gold coins, and that was after the shop's dwarven owner gave them a decent discount.
Apart from armor-piercing arrows, Vera bought some poison from the Association for use against fiends. It was said that they were concocted by the mysterious alchemists with the effect of crippling the biological processes of even the biggest beasts. It was ineffective against humans! However, it cost quite a lot, with Vera and Cyranos only buying one bottle respectively, each of which cost five gold coins.
Fortunately, Arikos had given them 200 gold coins to spend. As the party had enough funds to run on, Kurdak allowed them to spend that kind of sum for the mission. If they didn't receive that kind of money, Kurdak would've sulked for a good portion of the day for the money spent. Even so, he resolved to strip every piece of useful material from the huge beast the moment he finished it off.
Kurdak dodged around the bear's frenzied attacks. While he was armed with a heavy mithril armor and carried a heavy axe and shield, thanks to Vera's hellish luggage-carrying 'training', Kurdak was as agile as a monkey. The bear's attacks even seemed slow from his eyes.
Thanks to Vera and Cyranos's constant barrage, the effect of the poison began to work. Kurdak also started striking low at the soft underbelly of the bear. Even though his strikes weren't too effective, Kurdak was in no rush as they had planned to wear the bear down slowly in the first place.
Burp! A heaven-shattering sound of a burp rang out near the bear's ears.
Just a couple of moments prior, Leguna looked anxiously at the fight. But, when he realized Kurdak wasn't hit even once as he circled around the bear, he began to relax and estimate how much longer it would take for it to be toppled.
At that very moment, Leguna felt a pocket of air well up from his stomach and pass through his thorax. Not thinking much of it, he let out a resounding burp.
While the bear was already blinded, it still possessed its sense of smell and hearing. Leguna's burp caught its attention. It didn't help that the smell of honey was something the bear yearned for but didn't manage to taste, further inciting its anger. The crimsonblood bear abandoned Kurdak and rushed in Leguna's direction.
As the fiend approached, he found both his legs paralyzed from fear. At that moment, he deeply regretted drinking so much honey just moments earlier. Even though Leguna tried to turn and run, a primal fear welled up within him and caused him to lose control of his faculties.
The huge bear's paw arced straight for Leguna at a breakneck speed. The severely angered state of the beast gave it a sudden boost in agility. The moment he saw the paw approach and despaired, he felt a force pull him backwards. The claw only managed to trace a thin wound on his left cheek. It didn't injure him horribly. Kurdak had managed to arrive in the nick of time.
Slap! The moment Kurdak caught him, he gave him a slap across the face without hesitation.
"Darn it, that was all it took to stun you? Can you move? Get the hell in the corner over there! This isn't child's play. We're doing a mercenary mission! People die from this line of work! Scram!" roared Kurdak.
The moment he turned to face the bear once more, its paw was already just a meter from his waist.
At the next moment, Kurdak's near-hundred-kilogram body was smacked flying like a leaf in the air. He smashed against the trunk of a tree and slump, unmoving.
"Boss!" cried Leguna in the most heart-rending manner.
He rushed to Kurdak, whose life seemed to be an uncertainty. Vera also gasped before she began to jump about and fire, harassing the bear while she headed in Kurdak's direction.
The bear rushed towards Leguna again, following the sound of his cry, but it suddenly felt a weight on its back.
Cyranos had taken note of the situation's urgency and tossed his bow aside before he jumped on the bear's back. He clenched the bear's hair to keep him from being shaken off. The bear let out a petrifying roar.
Cyranos's expression didn't change, however. He clasped tightly on the bear's fur and made his climb towards its head. Holding onto the fur at the bear's head with his left hand, he drew the dagger sheathed on his right boot with his right hand. The dagger looked to be magnificently crafted and it also let out a yellowish magical glow.
It was an enchanted weapon! Leguna had long heard about the value of such items from Soram at the odd job department. After reading Wayerliss's notebook, he also found that enchanted equipment were true rarities.
Leguna himself had spent more than 200 gold coins with Vera while purchasing his gear. Back then, he was already surprised at the amount he spent. Yet, he knew that all the gear he owned wouldn't be able to compare to Cyranos's dagger in value.
Any piece of equipment would rise tens or hundreds of times in value after receiving an enchantment, especially weapons. The one in Cyranos's hand was at the very least worth a thousand gold coins.
Actually, Cyranos had bought it using his long-time savings from his mercenary life. That item was the magnum opus of the dwarf who owned the Hammer of Flame.
After the dagger's completion, the dwarf spent a huge sum and had an alchemist enchant his dagger. After some consideration, he decided that a fire-based enchantment would be most fitting as not only could it increase its damage capability, it could also unleash a flame barrier to resist an enemy's flame-based attacks.
Due to the astronomical price, it remained on the shelves of the Hammer of Flame for a whole year without anyone asking about it, much to the dwarf's dismay. But when he found that Cyranos looked extremely interested in it, he sold it for 700 gold coins on behalf of the long patronage of Kurdak's party.
But even so, Cyranos had to borrow a hundred gold coins each from Vera and Kurdak to be able to afford it.
After that, the dagger did prove its worth on numerous occasions. Cyranos had managed to cheat death a number of times thanks to the dagger and he treasured it as his most precious belonging.
And in the heat of battle, Cyranos thrust the dagger savagely at the crimsonblood bear's carotid artery.
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