Chapter 67: A Specialisation in Defence; Growth of a Follower Spirit
Chrome proceeded further into the hole, going deeper and deeper. Syrup walked by his side, matching his steps.
“Guess I might as well check deeper. It’s not like it matters if I die.”
Chrome focused his attention towards the surrounding walls. The hole itself was in terrible shape, on the brink of crumbling to pieces. All the more evidence that it hadn’t been formed through human interference.
“We’re under a tomb. You think there might be undead?”
Chrome, at the very least, expected as much. His predictions were proven to be remarkably on point as he ventured a bit further, as the very instant he moved to enter a new area a group of skeletons began to crawl out of the earth. They wielded a wide array of battered lances and old, rusty swords, none of them giving the impression that they were particularly powerful. They utilised a common strategy that saw constant use by the monstrous riff-raff; overwhelming the enemy and dulling their responsive faculties.
Syrup assisted Chrome against the onslaught, noticeably lightening his burden, and Chrome finally managed to cull the skeletons down to their last numbers.
“Would you look at that, Syrup? Your level went up.”
Chrome offered Syrup a potion meant to countermeasure the loss of HP, and took the chance to look over what new skills his companion had acquired.
“So you learned Cover, huh? Looks pretty similar to the Great Shield skill.”
Maple was usually averse to the idea of involving Syrup in battle, which, in turn, hadn’t resulted in much opportunity that would contribute to a higher level. Acting in tandem with Chrome, however, had made it all the more simple to do just that. By the time Syrup went back under Maple’s care, the latter would undoubtedly bear witness to a whole new slew of skills, and the former would be much stronger than before.
“You know, I do owe her one for letting me take you along. Might as well level you up.”
Chrome, now completely devoted to Syrup’s support, went even further down the path. He allowed Syrup to land the final blow on whatever monsters came to block their path, and gradually, the creature began to evolve its capabilities even further.
“Hm? Did you get another one?”
Once the two had gone through a good number of encounters, Chrome decided to inspect Syrup and found that it had gained two more skills.
Mother Nature: Gives the power to raise the earth and allow vines and shrubbery to sprout. Can be used as both offence and defence.
Spirit Cannon: Can only be utilised when enlarged. Ranged attack. Fires straight ahead.
“Who knows, you might even be stronger than me now. Oh, boy… What I wouldn’t do to have a partner of my own.”
They moved on, encountering even more foes along the way until Chrome finally reached the furthest, deepest area. He was met with an enormous gate, one that likely served as the entrance to some boss room.
“The dungeon took a while to get through, but the monsters haven’t been worth talking about so far… Can we do this?”
Chrome, having come to the conclusion that he wasn’t dealing with some incredibly taxing high-difficulty dungeon, entered the room. He noted that it was rather large, just the right size to contain Syrup’s form upon turning into a giant.
Chrome and Syrup had barely set a foot into the room when a skeletal pile at its very end began rising at a sluggish pace. It was quite different from the skeletons they had encountered thus far. The ornamented armour it wore and the longsword it wielded had, though splendid and extravagant, clearly succumbed to the wear of time. A pair of blue-white flames, almost akin to wandering human souls, glowed brightly in sockets that should have been void of anything.
“Phew… This is the first time I take on a boss solo. Oh, right… I’m not alone, am I?”
Chrome allowed Syrup to assume titanic size, then barked an order, mind set on taking first blood.
Astonishingly thick vines stretched out from the earth surrounding Syrup and charged towards the boss, but every last one of them found its path obstructed by some glowing wall of bluish white that encapsulated the boss in its entirety.
“We have to find a way to break through that before we do anything else.”
Chrome rushed in the boss’s immediate direction, leaving Syrup behind to guard his rear. The boss returned Chrome’s sentiment, drawing closer towards him.
Chrome’s attack, though it had been stopped dead by the boss creature’s defensive walls, had served a purpose. He had meant to test whether inflicting direct damage would be sufficient to shatter the defences.
His greatshield repelled the lashing longsword, and he further slashed in an attempt to damage the protective field. However, seeing as how this wasn’t usually work meant to be undertaken by someone in the shield class, he found great difficulty in breaking through. It was also worth considering that Chrome’s equipment, if exposed to more damage than it could handle, might completely break on him, and if the weight behind the boss creature’s assault was any indication, then he had to avoid any prolonged, extended exchanges at all costs.
Chrome, his instincts screaming at him that thing were bound to go South, altered his position and made sure that Syrup and the boss were connected by a straight line before he screamed.
“Syrup! Spirit Cannon!”
A pure white laser beam shot from Syrup’s maw. Chrome, having had the foresight to test it once on their path already, already had a clear grasp of the timing and range behind the attack. He jumped aside, successful in his evasion.
“How’d ya like that?!”
When the light vanished, a shattering noise made itself known. The barrier had been destroyed. That wasn’t to say that all complications had been put aside, of course. The boss, its bones clattering against each other, impaled the ground beneath with its longsword, and skeletons began bursting en masse from the corners of the rectangular room.
Had Chrome been on his own, he would have, in all likelihood, fallen prey to the overwhelming hordes. But as it so happened, he was with Syrup. Leaving most of the skeletons to Syrup’s mercy, Chrome was perfectly capable of giving the boss his undivided attention. While he made a note to keep an eye on Syrup’s HP levels, he nevertheless managed to inflict damage upon the boss. With Syrup’s occasional assisting manoeuvre, the damage was made only greater.
As long as he could avoid being hit by the boss itself, then he could stand to make it through whatever the mob skeletons could dish out if he relied on his Battle Healing. He just had to wait for the right opportunity to deal with them, and strike whenever the boss grew more lax in its own attacks. With his penchant for standing steady, Chrome had given himself the upper hand.
It was simple enough for his hit to make contact, especially since the boss had no shield of its own – a fact that Chrome considered to be a true blessing. He seized the moment as the boss recoiled from the sheer force, dealing another blow.
“Guess it just doesn’t have that much HP… Hup!”
Well aware that focusing purely on the offensive could result in being on the receiving end of a powerful counter, Chrome made a moderate effort to stave off its attacks. Still, he had managed to bring down the boss’s health to nearly half of what it had been. He had Syrup to thank for that. As it turned out, Syrup’s Mother Nature made for quite the formidable well of potential damage. When it came to mind that Syrup was the one dealing with all the swarming skeletons, it became all the more apparent just how distant victory would have been if not for the being’s presence.
“Seriously though, I’ve gotta thank Maple for this later…! Blazing Slash!”
His shortblade, now draped in a shroud of fire made a diagonal slash across the boss’s body. He had finally managed to whittle down its HP to exactly half of its total.
The skeleton moved to its original location, calling for the swarming skeletons. The skeletons crumbled away where they stood, and pure black spirit-like things left them and wandered towards the boss. The skeletons that had been crawling out from the corners joined them in their cessation.
An aura spilled out of the boss in waves, black as tar, and birthed the form of an enormous skeletal entity. In one hand, it wielded a sword so great in length that it could easily span at least a third of the room they were in, and in the other, it clutched an axe.
“Your other form, huh? Well, guess what? Maple’s way more terrifying than that. I think you could stand to learn from her example, don’t you?”
Chrome prepared his greatshield, undistracted by his own speech. His fight against the boss had finally entered its second phase.