“Next, there are the potatoes…”

Karen didn’t give Haruki enough time to start making excuses.

“You can’t see them unless you get quite close to them. And if you don’t notice that they are there, they will shoot their bullets at you. And everything will be over.”

“Hmmm…”

Well, he couldn’t argue with that. He had realized it as they hunted together.

“In no way are they weak. They may not seem too strong by themselves, but depending on the person, you might not be able to do anything to retaliate.”

“…I see.”

He had a vague idea of what Karen was trying to say.

It wasn’t that monsters on the even-numbered floors were weak.

They were just special.

It really depended on whether you were a good fit or not.

If you were a good fit and were prepared, then they were incredibly easy to deal with.

“And so…”

Stay on your guard.

That’s what Karen wanted to say.

“Alright, I get it. Sorry.”

Haruki admitted that he was at fault.

Just a little.

He had let his guard down a little.

He level-grinded in Chikaho and became stronger.

There was no doubt about it.

However, he wasn’t so strong that he could enter a new floor with his guard down.

After all, maybe a monster that just happened to be a bad fit for him would show up here.

He had almost made a grave mistake.

With a renewed resolve, Haruki returned to exploring the dungeon.

After they had advanced a little, Haruki fell into a crouch.

“…Shh…”

He signed to Karen to stop.

Then he carefully looked ahead.

What appeared was a purple blob.

It had green leaves and purple veins.

And large, heavy fruits.

Its roots moved with skill as it walked on the ground.

It was a…

“…An eggplant!!!”

Just then, a fire lit in Haruki’s eyes.

The fires of a farmer during harvest season.

Then he felt a light kick in the pants and he returned to himself.

There was a single impressive eggplant in front of him now, and a stalk that was all cut up.

“What? Who did this?”

“You did?”

Karen was glaring at him.

No. No.

But he didn’t remember anything?

“Are you that happy to get an eggplant?”

“It’s a vegetable, you know? It’s rich in polyphenol, you know?”

Even before the stampede, Hokkaido production quantity of eggplants was the lowest in the entire country.

And so after the stampedes, it became a rare food item.

“Of course, I would be happy!”

Haruki was dumbfounded by how uninterested Karen was about it.

Pickled, boiled, grilled.

Deep-fried, tempura, fried with meat.

You could do anything with eggplant, and it would be delicious.

It was unforgivable blasphemy to defile such a delicious vegetable!

“Alright, I get it. But, could we keep going?”

“Yes, let’s hunt and move on!”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Wait!”

Karen was about to put the eggplant in the magic bag, but Haruki stopped her.

He had quickly grabbed her wrist.

“Uh…what!?”

“Don’t touch the eggplant without thinking.”

Eggplants had thorns on the stem.

And they were frighteningly sharp.

You would easily get pricked if you touched it.

And that was quite painful.

Just looking at the thorns was not enough to prepare you for the kind of pain you would experience.

Haruki had memories of an eggplant monster that charged towards him while using the eggplant as a shield.

It was like a shield-bash.

And if you were hit by the shield-bash, the thorns would get stuck inside of you.

“I think the thorns might have an ability that enhances the pain.”

“Oh, oh. I’ll be-be ca-careful then.”

Karen said as her cheeks flushed red.

The way she stuttered was painfully charming.

Could she tone it down a little?

For some reason, Rhea started to hit Haruki’s head with her leaves.

Please stop that soon.

My head will cave in.

They continued to look for eggplants as they made their way to the 7th floor.

On the way, he became so absorbed by it, that Karen attacked the back of his butt with her magic.

…Ouch.

“Maybe you should just be satisfied with what you can eat.”

“…Okay. Sorry.”

However, thanks to Karen, they were able to reach the boss room.

Had Haruki been left to his own devices, he would have spent the entire day gathering eggplants.

The 6th floor boss was a giant eggplant.

It had three eggplants as shields, meaning extra defense on all three sides.

And it was also quite fast.

If he didn’t keep moving, the shield-bash would hit him directly.

Haruki waited for his chance and then slashed at the eggplant.

He almost hit the vines.

But…

“…!”

The eggplant’s shield blocked his dagger.

It was so fast.

The shields covered so much area.

And just as the dagger touched the shield…

“…What!?”

Thorns shot out from the vines of the eggplant.

The cone-shaped thorns went straight towards Haruki.

So they shot out whenever you hit the eggplants!

Haruki quickly retreated.

At the same time, potato stones were fired, and they hit the thorns out of the air.

As they had been fired instantly, it was incredibly impressive.

Since Rhea had fought with him in Chikaho, she had also leveled up quite a lot.

Her abilities as fixed artillery had been raised.

“…Go!”

As Haruki stood back, a giant ball of magic rushed past him.

It slammed into the eggplant shields.

—It was Karen’s magic.

The boss pressed back with its shields.

However, there was a loud snap, and the eggplant shield was blown away.

The vines could not withstand the power of Karen’s magic.

“Good!”

Haruki saw his opportunity and rushed forward.

He wielded both daggers in his hands as he stabbed and slashed.

It did not take long for the boss to lose all of its leaves and become naked.

Then he slashed at the remaining stem.

In a second.

There was flickering.

The boss was then absorbed into the dungeon and the lights stopped blinking. In the end, two materials floated to the surface.

“An eggplant?”

It was a stone that looked like eggplants.

A milky white stone with purple mixed inside.

It reminded him of the jadeite cabbages in the National Palace Museum.

Haruki was mesmerized by its beauty.

“Is this a jewel? …Ah!”

As he stared at it, Rhea snatched it away from behind him.

And she wasted no time stashing it into the dirt.

Apparently, she liked it enough to put it into her treasure chest.

“…Rhea. You should say please first, okay?”

“(Hmph.)”

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

My body just moved by itself.

She seemed to say as she turned her nose away.

Haruki glared at Rhea obstinately.

After a while, Rhea gave in and lowered her head.

“Good.”

It would be fine if it was just him and Rhea.

He wouldn’t mind if she took the beautiful stone away from him.

However, Karen was there as well.

He had to be polite around his friends.

They had all defeated the boss together, so if you wanted something, they all had to discuss it.

“Sorry, Karen. I hope you don’t mind that she took the eggplant stone?”

“No, I don’t mind at all.”

Now that Karen had given her permission, Haruki petted Rhea’s leaves consoling, and then he picked up the other item that had dropped.

“…A vine?”

“It’s a vine.”

It was a vine that had been rolled up.

It looked more like hemp rope than vines.

But it was also very thin.

And the surface was smooth.

He had no idea what it could be used for.

He would have to have Akane appraise it later.

“This eggplant monster, it seems like it’s a good fit for people with ranged attacks.”

“That’s true. Not so good for advance guards like me, though.”

It reacted to Haruki’s attacks and shot thorns from its shield.

He hadn’t tested it, but the same thing would likely happen after a shield bash.

The eggplant could attack while it protected itself. It was a dangerous enemy.

Advance guards would have trouble.

However…

“It will be hard to fight it with ranged attacks too, you know?”

“Really?”

“It might be easy for you, because you use magic. But most Adventurers would have to use bows for ranged attacks.”

Only a very skilled archer would be able to hit the stems with an arrow.

On top of that, the eggplant stems were harder than those of a potato.

If you didn’t hit them perfectly in the middle, the arrow would just bounce right off.

So using ranged weapons didn’t automatically give you an advantage.

Perhaps this floor was just a really good hunting ground for magic users?

If it was, that would be super limiting…

“Maybe there is some trick I just have to figure out.”

“…There might be.”

The only enemy that really gave Haruki trouble was the boss with three shields.

The rest of the enemies were all easy.

So he didn’t think there was any point in giving the boss much thought.

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