Grimgal Of Ashes And Illusion / Grimgal of Ashes and Illusion Vol 1 Chapter 20

LEVEL 1: A Whisper, an Aria, a Prayer, an Awakening

Chapter 20: Not-Quite-Glories of the Goblin Slayers

They got up with the six o’clock morning bell and ate breakfast on the go, getting ready for the day. At eight o’clock, it was to Altana’s northern gate to meet with Mary, and then off towards Damroww’s Old Town. The map they were making of the area was still incomplete, so they worked it as they searched for goblins.

At their level now, they could take on groups of up to three—not without difficulty, but at least without it being overly risky. The exception was when this included a light and agile “evader” goblin. With those they had to be extra cautious. Also, from time to time they would encounter goblins wielding ranged weapons; usually crude short bows. But arrows shot from those had neither speed nor much piercing power, and so weren’t anything to be overly worried about.

Crossbows were what they had to be wary of. A well-placed shot from a crossbow meant instant death. Heavily armored goblins were also sometimes a problem, as some of them were very strong, making it a huge mistake to underestimate them.

The upper limit for their party was four goblins. Even so, they chose to pass up groups of four unless the fighting conditions were exceedingly favorable. Groups of five they pretended to not have even seen, and when goblins assembled in groups of six or more, the whole place was best considered goblin family territory—or clan territory, or whatever. These areas would be full of large groups and trying to take on one group was like walking into a den of not one pride of sleeping lions, but several.

Goblins that wandered around alone were usually poorly equipped and poorly armed, but sometimes they kept highly valuable items hidden in their pouches. No one would think to steal from the poor, so it was protecting their valuables by appearing to be poor, perhaps.

And once a day, every day, they went there.

Goblins could be categorized into two major types: the ones who stayed put, and the ones who roamed. They were the latter type.They could be found there only every so often. When Haruhiro and the others watched them from a distance, the urge to take action would be almost overwhelming. But they couldn’t. Now wasn’t the time. They had to be patient.

It’s not as if there was anything stopping them. At the moment, Haruhiro’s party was the only one operating in the Damroww Old Town area. With no other groups to take them out, they could take time building up their strength before they took on the offensive.

Lastly, though it wasn’t every day—when they returned to Altana, the team would head to Sherry’s Tavern. They didn’t really go for any specific purpose, but just to drink and talk. Mary never really said much, but she was a thousand times better than the overly boisterous, highly annoying Ranta.

Every time they were at Sherry’s, at least one or two other Crimson Moon members would approach to ridicule them with “Hey, Goblin Slayers,” or “How’s it going, Goblin Slayers,” or “Having fun in Damroww, Goblin Slayers?”

Ranta would always shoot back with a shut up! but Haruhiro knew if he got upset every time, the teasing would never end. And really, the nickname didn’t even bother Haruhiro that much; it wasn’t fancy and had a nice sort of ring to it.

The Goblin Slayers. Not bad. Not bad at all. They would become the best goblin slayers in all of Crimson Moon.

It was goblins the day after that, and goblins the day after that one too. Goblins, goblins, goblins, goblinsgoblinsgoblins. In the beginning, all the goblins looked the same, but after a while Haruhiro could start to tell individuals apart from each other. He noticed that the vast majority of those they encountered were male, with females hardly anywhere to be found.

According to Mary, the majority of the females were taken by high-ranking goblins as wives, dwelling in the newer parts of Damroww.

“Man, I want a harem like that for myself too…”

“I’d feel bad for female goblins if they were in your harem, Ranta,” said Haruhiro.

“Stupid Haruhiro!” Ranta barked. “Didn’t you know? Even goblins find me irresistible beyond irresistible beyond irresistible! Don’t insult Ranta, the Wandering Irresistible King!”

“Weird… for an Irresistible King, all the serving girls at the tavern sure have a way of thoroughly ignoring you when you flirt with them-yan,” Yume remarked.

“Er… Um… Well, even undefeatable generals can lose a battle once in a while…”

“Oh, I see that even the Irresistible King can be resisted-yan… even though Ranta’s the irresistible beyond irresistible beyond irresistible of Irresistible Kings,” Yume mused.

“Quit it with the ‘irresistible beyond irresistible’! You’re saying that ‘cause you just don’t get how irresistible I am ‘cause you’re a stupid booger! People who get it, get it!” Ranta turned to Mary angrily. “Mary! If you had no choice but to choose one of the three of us guys here, who would you pick? OF COURSE IT WOULD BE ME!”

“I would choose Mogzo,” came Mary’s smooth reply.

“What—!” Ranta squeaked.

“M-me?” Mogzo stared in wide-eyed disbelief, more astonished than embarrassed.

“Huh?” Haruhiro looked blankly from Mogzo to Mary several times.

Yume’s expression seemed to indicate that she was deep in thought while Shihoru blinked repeatedly, her eyes never leaving Mary.

“Oy! Oy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oy!” Ranta would have bitten his own tongue off if he’d oy-ed any faster. “What?! Why?! Mogzo over me? No way! Not possible!”

“He’s big and charming,” Mary said, calm and collected as ever.

“Size?! Size doesn’t matter! No way it can possibly matter… fuuuuuck… I just lost to goddamn Mogzo! What the fuck!”

“Too bad for you, Irresistible King,” Yume said.

“Quit rubbing it in and calling me Irresistible King, Bitsy Boobs!”

Haruhiro was shocked that he too had lost to Mogzo. So Mary wasn’t the type who cared about appearance alone. Maybe it was because she looked at her own gorgeously featured face in the mirror every day, so she didn’t seek the same level of beauty in others. But it wasn’t like either Ranta or Haruhiro were good-looking either, so looks probably didn’t factor in this particular case anyway.

Haruhiro’s looks and intellect were about as mediocre as mediocre could be, but he didn’t lack self-confidence when it came to fighting goblins. He fought them day after day after every single day. Careful not to get cocky, he told himself. He wasn’t like Renji or Manato, or even Mary, who all possessed… things he didn’t.

Before, when Manato was still alive, he had let Haruhiro play piggyback and get carried along. Now though, it was like Haruhiro was a wobbly legged toddler cum Goblin Slayer trying to walk on his own. For a nothing-more-than-mediocre guy like Haruhiro, overconfidence meant failure. Hell, he could fail even if he wasn’t overconfident. At the very least, he needed to be on his toes at all times.

As for money, on a good day they would earn about ten silvers overall, which meant he pocketed two. It seemed that Mary had permanent housing somewhere but Haruhiro and the others were still living in that cheap inn for Crimson Moon members. He kept the money he spent on food under twenty capas a day, and whatever remained, he used for himself or for the party.

There were two other things that necessitated a monetary investment, and those were equipment and skills. Haruhiro had purchased for himself a secondhand vest, protective waistband, and forearm and shin guards. All were crafted from hardened leather, light and flexible so as to not impede movement. The higher protection potential the leather gear gave was more a psychological boon than real physical protection, but a little more peace of mind during fights was important too.

As for his dagger, he had no intention of getting a new one yet. He had gotten used to the feel of his old one, and if he took it to a smithy, a knife sharpener would be able to put a new edge on it. Any extra money he had was better spent on helping Mogzo get his equipment.

Mogzo was attempting to piece together the thing he had wanted most: plate armor. In reality, proper plate armor was supposed to be custom forged for its wearer, but asking an armorer to make a set for him would cost more than ten golds at the very least. Of course that was an impossible sum, so Mogzo bought everything used and took them to a blacksmith to get the size adjusted. And even this cost several tens of silvers per piece.

So far, he had a breastplate and backplate, shoulder pauldrons, vambraces, and half-greaves that covered his shins to the top of his foot. All of those he wore over his chainmail. As for a helmet, he was still using the barbute from before. His blade, still the same bastard sword that his guild gave him, was getting quite worn down; it would have to be replaced soon.

Ranta had bought himself chainmail and, for some reason, wore his leather armor over it. Perhaps Ranta thought it was cool because it had Skulheill’s emblem on it. He had also gotten himself a helm shaped like an upside-down bucket, which apparently he liked, but was just plain weird to everyone else—this he wore to fights. He had also stumbled upon a sort of nice-looking longsword at the marketplace and bought it on impulse, which left him with utterly zero funds.

Stupid. Incredibly stupid thing to do, Haruhiro had thought.

Yume had gotten hardened leather armor for her upper and lower body, and Haruhiro had to admit, she wore it very well. She had also gotten herself a hooded cloak, which made her overall appearance very Hunter-like indeed.

The mage’s robes and hat Shihoru had received from her guild were so worn, tears were opening up all over the place, so she got herself a new set. Her staff remained without replacement, as shadow magic, unlike the other schools of magic, was not affected by the quality of the staff. In fact, shadow magic didn’t require a staff at all. Shihoru had also learned a new spell, [PHANTOM SLEEP].

Haruhiro had asked Master Barbara teach him [STEALTH WALK] and [SWAT], Mogzo had learned [WAR CRY], and Ranta had picked up [JUKE STAB] and [PROPEL LEAP]. Yume learned [SHARP SIGHT] which improved her accuracy with the bow and also let her avoid incoming attacks with a swiftness akin to pit rats. Mary was already heads and shoulders above everything else in terms of both ability and experience.

There was no doubt that their fighting potential as a party had gone up, but by how much?

They had found a band of five goblins in what was once a smithy on the west side of Damroww’s Old Town. The building was half crumbled and the roof was completely gone, but remains of the furnace, anvil, and other tools still remained. Haruhiro and the others had come to this place many times before; sometimes for a work break, other times to stop for lunch. Until now, they had never seen any goblins there.

It seemed that there was a large social gap between the goblins who lived in the new part of Damroww and those who loitered around Old Town. In the fights for supremacy that occurred between the upper class goblins, those who lost were no longer considered part of the group, and were banished. In other words, Old Town was where the exile goblins lurked.

Those five goblins occupying the abandoned smithy now must have been newcomers, freshly exiled. The first thing newcomers did was to find a place to live and, if the group was big enough, stake a territorial claim on the surrounding area. Haruhiro guessed that they might be intending to use what remained of the building as a base.

Haruhiro finished scouting the area and returned to where the others were waiting, a little ways away.

“Let’s try it,” Haruhiro proposed. “There’s five of them. One’s wearing chainmail and is armed with a crossbow. The others are equipped with leather armor. One has a spear, one’s got a short sword with a buckler, the other two have a hatchet and a sword. I think the crossbow goblin’s probably the leader. It’ll be a tough fight, but it might be a good chance to test ourselves…”

“Interesting…” Ranta licked his lips and rested a hand on the great helm lying next to him. “We should go for it. A few more and I’ll have over forty-one Vices. When I do, I can summon Zodiac in the afternoons too…” he said, chuckling softly.

Yume glared coldly at him. “Is Zodiac going to actually do anything for us then? Right now, he just super occasionally whispers stuff to our opponents to distract them, but that’s it. Super occasionally.”

“It surprises them, doesn’t it?! When he levels up, he’ll sorta yank on an opponent’s arm or leg too, now and then! He’ll hinder their movements… when he feels like it!”

Shihoru smiled wearily, as if tired of hearing the same thing over and over. “…Capricious as ever.”

“And uhh… one more thing. Yeah. He’ll only do it in the evenings. Before evening it’s, erm… what we were saying earlier. Whisper attacks and he’ll warn us if enemies are near and umm… Demon jokes. When he feels like it.”

Mary sneered. “Capricious is right.”

“Shut it!” Ranta put on his helm, switching on bucket mode. “You guys don’t know anything about Zodiac! And it doesn’t matter if you don’t because I’m the only one who truly understands him! Heh. The lonely life of a Dread Knight. Or is it lonesome life…”

“I-I’ll take as many of them at once as I can,” Mogzo said, nodding vigorously. “Two for sure. And if I have to, I’ll use [WARCRY] to intimidate them.”

Shihoru renewed her grip on her staff and gave a short nod. “I’ll use my magic and put one to sleep right at the start.”

“Good,” said Haruhiro, nodding. “Sleep the crossbow-goblin then, Shihoru. Taking that one down in one shot, or failing to, makes a huge difference.”

“I understand,” Shihoru replied. “Leave it to me.”

Yume spoke up. “Yume will attack with bow and arrow first, then close in and take on one.”

“I’ll keep on trying to get in position behind the goblins and kill any if I have the chance,” Haruhiro said. “And Mary…”

When Haruhiro met her gaze, Mary nodded to him. He noticed that she was quieter than before, but she also responded with a real answer whenever she was asked something, and she did her job properly.

She didn’t participate in fights in the way that Hayashi had described, but the shift in style was probably due to the massively disastrous ending of her time with her old party. Her attitude towards Haruhiro and the others was still lukewarm at best, but he believed now that they could trust her to do her job as a Priest. If she would only smile for them, maybe once every couple of days, he could ask for no more.

“Let’s do this,” Haruhiro looked at each of his companions in turn and put his right hand out for their prefight ritual.

Ranta, Mogzo, Yume, and Shihoru did the same, stacking their hands on top of Haruhiro’s. Finally, Mary added her hand over theirs as well.

They weren’t that far from the abandoned smithy, so Haruhiro kept his voice low and whispered, “Fight!” To which everyone else responded equally softly, “All or nothing!”

Haruhiro led the way with Yume and Shihoru, while Ranta, Mary, and Mogzo followed. Haruhiro crouched low and kept his knees limber, making no sound as he moved using [STEALTH WALK]. Yume and Shihoru were not Thieves, so they couldn’t imitate the technique even if they tried, but they placed their feet where Haruhiro had as they followed. The reduction in noise was still significant.

They moved from the shadows of the ruined building to directly under its cover, sliding along a crumbling fence and concealing themselves behind a large pile of rubble. They were within [PHANTOM SLEEP]’s casting range, about sixty-five feet away.

Only two of the walls on the smithy’s actual building still stood, and even those were full of holes. The remainder of the building had been reduced to nothing but rubble, so from their vantage point, they they could see four goblins, and thus four potential targets.

Haruhiro hand signaled Yume and Shihoru, who then poked their heads out of cover. Yume readied her bow and, closing her eyes, took a deep breath. When her eyelids fluttered open, [SHARP SIGHT] had been activated. From what Haruhiro understood, [SHARP SIGHT] was a skill that increased visual acuity using specialized eye movement and specialized perception.

In the meantime, Shihoru was already drawing an elemental glyph with her staff, chanting quietly, “Oom rel eckt krom dash.”

The shadow elemental, a black hazy ball, burst from the tip of the staff. This spell didn’t fire nearly as fast as [SHADOW ECHO], so it was easily dodged by enemies that saw it coming. It’ll be fine, Haruhiro told himself. It’ll hit.

And it did. The shadow elemental hit the crossbow-goblin directly in the face and seeped into its body through its ears, nose, and mouth. The goblin immediately began to sway unsteadily. The spear-goblin sitting against the wall noticed, and it jumped to its feet just as Yume made her shot.

The arrow buried itself in the goblin’s shoulder, sending it staggering back down.

“Mogzo, Ranta!” Haruhiro shouted.

Mogzo and Ranta rushed into the smithy ruins, yelling spirited battle cries at the top of their lungs. The crossbow-goblin was now prone on the ground, fast asleep. It was a much deeper sleep than the normal kind, but it would awaken if, say, given a hard kick. They had to finish the fight before its lackeys managed to rouse it.

Haruhiro and Yume followed behind Mogzo and Ranta. Mogzo, shouting “THANK YOU”, used [RAGE CLEAVE] on the hatchet-goblin, stunning it and making it stumble. Ranta attacked the sword-goblin with [ANGER THRUST], but missed.

Mogzo then rushed past the hatchet-goblin, who had not yet managed to recover, to attack the buckler-goblin. The buckler-goblin brought its shield up to block Mogzo’s attack as it retreated. Without a moment’s delay, Mogzo then turned back to the hatchet-goblin, slashing with his sword. Good to his word, he was taking on two goblins at the same time.

Ranta was fighting the sword-goblin, and Yume was rushing towards the spear-goblin that she had shot earlier. Haruhiro took a brief glance at Shihoru and Mary. Mary held her staff at the ready, watching the fight with such a deadly serious expression that it was scary. If any of the goblins attempted to get close to Shihoru, Haruhiro knew that Mary would protect her.

As a Mage, Shihoru had almost no armor, but if she knew that Mary would protect her in a pinch, she could fight confidently. But Haruhiro didn’t intend to let it come to the point where Mary was forced to intervene.

“Take them down!” Haruhiro confirmed the positions of both his companions and the enemy goblins once more, trying to determine which goblin he should focus on…

Him. The hatchet goblin. Neither walking nor running, Haruhiro crouched low and moved as if sliding along the ground. He wasn’t quite using the [STEALTH WALK] technique, but something close to it. Soon, he was in position directly at the hatchet goblin’s back.

It was in that moment.

Haruhiro saw a line of light and it was as if the goblin’s boney back was a zoomed-in photograph. It wasn’t really light, however, just something only describable as light; it was a colorless line that streaked to a single point at the hatchet-goblin’s back.

He had no idea what this line of light was. It didn’t appear every time, or even frequently for that matter, but recently, he had been seeing one every now and then. It disappeared just as fast as it came, but when it did appear, he knew. Without knowing why, without understanding how, he knew what do to. If he drove his dagger along the line of light to where it ended, his blade would slide into the flesh of his target like a hot knife through butter.

He knew the exact spot to stab, but before his brain could process that information and tell his body to move, his blade had already pierced the hatchet goblin, as if something had been guiding its tip. The hatchet-goblin let out a short groan and was dead before it even hit the ground.

The buckler-goblin backed up, perhaps unnerved after seeing its partner instantly killed. It had taken less than half a step back, but of course Mogzo took advantage of the opening. He brought his blade down on the buckler-goblin’s buckler with all his strength, stripping it off its arm; then he charged the now bucklerless buckler-goblin.

The bucklerless-goblin attacked with its sword immediately, but Mogzo didn’t even try to avoid it. He simply let his plate armor deflect the incoming blow, then returned the blow with one that knocked the bucklerless-goblin off its feet. He brought his sword up high and swung it down on the bucklerless-goblin’s head so hard that he cracked its skull wide open.

Three more to go.

“[PROPEL LEAP]!” Ranta stuck his tongue out and leaped backwards with a tremendous amount of force.

[PROPEL LEAP] was a specialized movement skill that allowed him to instantaneously put distance between himself and his opponent. The goblin chased after Ranta, as if sucked in by a vacuum, which was exactly what Ranta wanted. He grinned broadly and backed up a little more, then suddenly thrust his longsword forward, yelling “[JUKE STAB]!”

All of the goblin’s momentum was directed completely forward, making it impossible to dodge Ranta’s attack. Ranta’s longsword went straight into its throat and out the back of its neck. Laughing, he kicked the goblin off his blade, giving the sword a twist as he pulled it out.

The sound of Ranta’s wild laughter however, was half-drowned out by Shihoru’s incantation. “Oom rel eckt vel dash!”

[SHADOW ECHO]. A shadow elemental shot out from the tip of her staff and hit the spear-goblin square in the chest. Yume closed in on the spear-goblin, whose entire body was now quivering uncontrollably due to [SHADOW ECHO]’s ultrasonic sound waves.

Yume slapped away its spear with her kukri then followed up immediately with a vicious slash to the base of its neck. Her blade sank deep into it and it was unable to attack back, only shriek in rage. By the time its voice had fallen silent, its end already awaited, in the form of Mogzo.

Mogzo stepped in firmly, bringing his sword down on the spear goblin. “THANK YOU!”—and finished it in a single stroke.

“We can do this,” Haruhiro breathed, nodding. “We can definitely do this.”

“About time,” Ranta replied, making his way to the still sleeping crossbow-goblin. He raised his sword, grinning.

Haruhiro thought that perhaps one day, that smile would come to resemble the ones put on by cruel, cold-hearted villains, just like Ranta wanted; but it wasn’t today.

“But whatever,” Ranta continued. “This is The End. Not just for this goblin, but for them too.”

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