Grimgal Of Ashes And Illusion / Grimgal of Ashes and Illusion Vol 2 Chapter 11

LEVEL 2: Everything is Precious, Nothing is Replaceable

Chapter 11: Leave this to Me

Aren’t I awesome?

Fuck yes. I’m such a badass. I’m the man, bigger than Jesus. Wait, who’s Jesus? Um, the Black God? Skulheill? Whatever, doesn’t matter. I’m still the shit.

‘Cause I’m not dead yet.

Ranta huffed a heavy sigh. Even for the genius of Lord Ranta, however, this might have been a bit too much to chew. Maybe he was even… finished? Everything… kind of looked that way. Sort of. Like it was THE END. Maybe.

It’s not as if the thought failed to cross his mind.

He started to shit himself. Except not really. Okay, maybe he did. Just a little.

But the most important thing was that he was still alive. It was a miracle. Ranta was able to do what no one else could. Nothing’s wrong with boasting about it. He felt like complimenting the hell out of himself. Every intelligent being in the world should be complimenting the crap out of Lord Ranta.

“…Ain’t that right, Zodiak?” Ranta asked, turning to the purple-blackish demon floating by his face.

Demons were servants of the Black God Skulheill, summoned by using the Dread Knight magic spell [DARK INVITATION]. A demon’s appearance changed depending on the number of Vices a Dread Knight has amassed, and Ranta’s demon resembled a headless human torso, with two pits in the chest area for eyes, below which was a great slit of a mouth.

{Nope, nope, nope nope nope, not at all, nope nope…} the demon hissed.

Zodiak’s mouth rippled when he talked and his voice sounded like numerous children whispering as one. Until Ranta had gotten used to it, it had been quite disturbing—and even now that some time had passed, it was still enough to give him goosebumps.

“Fine. It’s still better having you here than being alone…”

{Wimp, wimp, wimp… wimp imp… wimp wimp wimp… imp imp… imp imp imp imp imp…}

“Oy. You changed it to ‘imp’ at the end.”

{Imp, imp, imp… Eeeehehehehehe… imp… hehehe… imp imp imp…}

“Quit it already.” Ranta raised a hand to give the demon a good smack, but as soon as he did, Zodiak floated up and out of reach.

{Eeeehehehe… ehehehe… ehehehe… imp imp imp… eeeehehehe…}

“God damn it, why? Zodiak…” Ranta hugged his knees to his chest and pretended to cry. But Zodiak failed to respond to the bait, so Ranta gave up and said instead, “Whatever. I can’t believe I made it back to the fourth stratum…”

Yes, Ranta was no longer on the smithy-like fifth stratum; he had made it back to the fourth stratum, the agricultural sector. How the hell he managed to make it out of that god-awful mess… even he had no idea. He had let Mogzo go up the ladder first and then it was run, run, run for his life until he came across a different sink well by chance.

He recalled kicking down a number of kobolds as he climbed up the rope ladder, but some fifth stratum kobolds managed to follow him up regardless. Luckily, on the fourth stratum, a gate to one of the animal pens had been left open. When Ranta dove into it, the pigrats inside panicked and made a mad rush for the exit, confusing his pursuers.

It wasn’t a perfect plan, but Ranta thought it was better than nothing. After that, he weaved his way in and out of pigrat and pigworm pens and threw the pursuing kobolds off his trail little by little, until the last one was out of sight. And now here he was. In a pigworm pen, surrounded by pigworms.

Just Ranta, Zodiak, and a mass of the creatures.

“Wait… what if…”

He poked one of the pigworms. No response. So then he patted it with the palm of his hand. Still nothing.

“Nice. Awesome.”

If that was the case, then… he tried giving its thick skin a sharp pinch. The pigworm glared at Ranta with black, droopy eyes that were half buried in its body and made a noise like gufuu gufuu at him.

“D-don’t be mad…”

Gufuu! Gufuu!

“Whoa—wait, quit it already! Don’t… rub yourself against my face! Eww…”

Bufuu… bufufu… gufuu!

“No, don’t—lick… gross… And what the hell is up with your tongue? Feels like fricking sandpaper…”

Fuu… gufuu… fuufuu… fuu… fuu…

The pigworm started to nestle up to him. Ranta tried to shove it away, but couldn’t. It was very strong. He couldn’t get himself away. Suddenly, the pigworm wrapped itself around him, and when Ranta twisted and turned to throw it off, it clung on even tighter. But when he tried staying still, the pigworm calmed down with him.

“Seriously…? This thing’s getting itself comfortable on me… what the hell…”

{Imp imp imp… keehehehe… imp imp imp… keehehehe… imp!}

“Quit making fun of me, Zodiak!”

{Die! Die now, die now! Be taken by Lord Skulheill! Taken taken taken!}

“Don’t say scary things like that…”

{Wimp… wimp wimp wimp… eeehehehehe… imp imp imp imp imp!}

“Still imp at the end there, huh…”

He wasn’t alone. He had Zodiak with him and the pigworm that had taking a liking to him… But he was very alone. Alone and with no help coming.

“This thing stinks… gross…”

It was no use trying to deny it so he might as well say it: The pigworm smelled like layered shit and piss. Being inside the pigworm pen was worse than beyond disgusting, but if he left, he risked getting caught by one of the elders on patrol. If it was a one-on-one fight against an elder, Ranta was pretty sure he could do it. He could win. He was powerful enough.

But he was fatigued, too. He didn’t want to waste his strength. If he went all out, he could easily take down one, maybe two elders, but he felt like taking a break now. Even a fearless, dauntless Dread Knight needed a break once in a while.

The plan would be to rest, recover his strength, and then get moving.

“Gotta get outta here on my own…”

Mogzo. Yume. Shihoru. Mary… Haruhiro. Everyone’s faces suddenly appeared in his mind’s eye. No… they weren’t coming. Or rather, he couldn’t bring himself to believe that they’d come back for him.

Ranta gave a short, humorless laugh. “…Because I already know. You guys hate me. I’ve known all along.”

But why? Why does everyone hate me? No one could recall their pasts, so he didn’t understand the reason at all. Maybe it was because he just couldn’t kiss ass and pretend to like it. It made him sick to even think about being nice to people or to be considerate of them. And to say something that he didn’t think was true… he wouldn’t do it even if someone threatened to pull his teeth out.

And even if he did think something was true, there were still loads of times he left his thoughts unsaid. He supposed his behavior would piss some people off. He was never unaware of that; now and then, the thought crossed his mind. There’s no way it wouldn’t have.

But even though he knew, he couldn’t stop himself. And why did he have to try to stop? He was just being himself, after all. Going as far as being some Mr. Nice Guy, just to trick people into liking him, was out of the question. He didn’t want people to like him because of a fake persona.

And he was fine with not being liked. If people wanted to hate him, then fine. Haters were going to hate. Those who understood him would accept him, or so Ranta thought. And there had to be a few people out there who understood his… his what? His value? Something like that.

People who would accept him, and give credit where credit was due, they had to be out there too. So it was fine. Those who didn’t understand him can just go on not understanding. But even so, weren’t they all companions? Ranta was part of the team too.

In his own way, he had been contributing to the team this entire time, and he intended to continue. He believed that, sooner or later, the others would understand that. They would come to understand Lord Ranta’s value. And once they acknowledged his importance, their attitudes towards him would change.

Ranta realized that they hadn’t gotten to that point yet. Not enough time had passed. Then he went and did that… the “you guys go on ahead, leave this to me” thing.

“But that’s…”

Yes. Anyone would have done it, if the chance came. It was the natural course of action, for a man. There was no choice but to do it. A man who didn’t do it couldn’t be considered a man. Even if they were a girl, they might have done it. If Ranta were a girl, he knew he would probably still do it.

He just wished that… the chance had come a little later. After his companions realized just how awesome he was. It would have been so badass, if the chance to do THAT came only after they had fully and unquestionably realized how indispensable he was to the team. Haruhiro, that eeediot, would have been crying his eyes out. Mogzo would have bawled. And the girls, every one of them would have fallen in love with him.

There’s no way we can leave our precious Lord Ranta behind! they would say. Everyone, we have to save him! they would say. That’s how things would have been for sure.

But it was too soon. The time had come too soon.

“Which means that I’m way ahead of the times…?”

Or am I wrong? Ranta thought to himself, heaving a deep sigh. But no, he couldn’t count on everyone coming. No one would be coming to save him. He had to find a way out of here on his own.

{Die! Keehehehehe! Die imp! Die die die! Keehehehehe… imp imp imp!}

The demon’s bad attitude cut Ranta right to the heart. His Dread Knight guild master had once said, “A demon is a mirror of its summoner. It resembles the Dread Knight that calls it.”

You’ve got to be fucking joking, was what Ranta wanted to scream, but his master, Cidney Agguro, was goddamn terrifying. His master wasn’t here now, but Ranta was sure that if he ever doubted his master’s words, he would still be killed on the spot. That was how scary the man was.

“Which I guess means that I still have enough left in me to be raging at him now,” Ranta muttered as a smile graced his face.

I can do this, I’ll be fine, Ranta told himself. You’ll see, Haruhiro. I’ll make it out of here on my own. Then after you’re done being surprised, you can fall to your knees before me…

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