An empty…what? Did he lose too much blood and is just rambling now?
The violent metallic sound of the monster's struggles filled the room and sent my legs into a nervous shiver.
“What is that thing…?” I asked anxiously.
“A Brancher, it’s a powerful creature that followed me down to the lowest floor in my attempts to flee from… a previous battle. Cough Cough!”
There’s no way…monsters are trapped to whatever floor they spawn from, if it followed him down here then it must be a… a Traveling Boss!
If the monster followed him down from a higher floor then it must be way stronger than what I could handle. Still, if he managed to get there he must be pretty strong himself, I mean just look at that gear he has…uh?”
I bent down to help him stand but as my hand touched his back I felt the warm sensation of blood curdle my fingertips. He must have seen the fear through my crimson eyes because at that moment he opened his robe to reveal his chest.
A massive hole stained with purple blood lay where his chest would be, dripping to the floor with constant droplets.
“I don’t know what to…what can I…I…”
“You really are a pathetic one; I bet you haven't seen much past these green hills, have you? No of course you haven't…your body wouldn’t allow it either way.”
So that’s how weak I am, so pathetic that I’m an eyesore to a dying old man.
“My name is Ellios, a resident of the world within the Tower. Not too long ago I was locked in a battle upon the highest floors of the Tower, that was until I received a fatal shot to the chest… I escaped down to the lowest floors where that Brancher chased after me…”
Humanity has only ever reached the 28th floor, to think that someone has climbed even higher than that is unthinkable. I’ve never heard anything like it; maybe it is something a human simply can’t do.
“Using the last reserve of my magic and strength I trapped the Brancher within this makeshift room only to be left without any means of destroying it…I used up the last reserve of my magic and am nearing my final breath. It’s pitiful to admit but I required a human's help, I required a human’s grace.”
Is he referring to the Grace we humans received upon entering the Tower? Why would a monster need my Grace, monsters don’t need a grace to be able to grow stronger or use magic.
“However now that I see you, I realize that you are an anomaly… I’ve never met a human within the Tower without a Grace.”
The staggering crashing of chains and fury from the monster became distant noise and eventually drowned out. All my senses froze and my vision became blurry, it felt as though my entire state of being were thrown through the loop.
He’s trying to say I don’t…I don’t have a Grace? Isn't that impossible, I’ve never heard of anything like that, there’s just no way!
“Everyone who enters the Tower receives a grace, I just haven't been pushing myself far enough to-”
The old man spoke sternly over me. “Have you grown stronger?”
His words cut through my chest sharper than any wound the Tower had inflicted me with so far. My breathing became heavy and felt as if the floor would swallow me whole.
He reached out to me with his index finger and placed it against my chest. He paused for a moment with his eyes glued to mine and then suddenly all the pain and anxiety fled my body as abruptly as it arrived.
I felt my senses grow sharper as if they were being guided back to my body's centre by a bright light.
“Do you wish to grow stronger?”
His cracked cheeks curved in as a smirk broke through his glare, “Then fight!”
Suddenly the intense snapping sound of breaking chains forced my attention across the room where the Brancher was. It had its right log-shaped arm raised into the air with one of the chains hanging loose off of it, as soon as the chain fell to the ground it began to crumble away like sand.
This is the first time I’m seeing magic up close before, for it to be breaking those chains so easily means this monster must be insanely strong.
I pulled out my sword and held it upright, directly in front of me. Knowing that I had to fight something that strong made my nerves even worse, my hands were shaking and I could barely hold my sword straight.
“Steel yourself. To overcome adversity one must be willing to sacrifice everything.”
His soothing tone brushed against my ears and calmed my restless hands. I could suddenly see the tip of my sword and aimed it straight ahead.
The last chain snapped from the ground, freeing the monster from its restraints completely. The two gleaming red spots on its block-shaped head were directed to me.
“You won’t need to kill it, just fight as if you were aiming to. All I need is 30 seconds…”
30 Seconds? I thought he didn’t have any magic left, what could he whip up in that time?! Even if he has something, I’m still vastly outmatched here. Higher-ranked monsters are always more powerful but compared to a regular person they kill someone with just a scratch…
“Are you still frightened?” Ellios asked with a curious expression.
“If what you said is true then…what do I have to lose?”
That response seemed a lot cooler out loud than it did in my head, even Ellios was surprised by it. I can’t turn back after saying something like that, now can I?
“I’ll probably die here but for some reason, I can’t help but get excited. I can fight with everything I have, even if it’s only for 30 seconds.”
The tingling sensation that rushed through my body as my heart raced made everything feel like a blur while simultaneously vividly clear. I’m not sure if it was nerves or adrenaline but my body was raring to go!
I darted forward with the sword lagging at my side, half way across the room the monster and I came close to crashing. At the very last second I dove forward and tucked my body into a ball as I rolled past its feet.
I could feel the overwhelming force that it was able to generate just by running; the air around it was being pushed out of the way from its stumpy feet.
My body just narrowly avoided being hit and I rolled across the ground on my sides, spinning out of control.
I guess…it really was just in my head. How can it create such heavy pressure just from running?!
The Brancher scanned around in confusion as to where I had vanished, unaware that I was standing behind it.
I slowly began to back away but the silence was cut short by the snapping sound of my foot stepping back on a twig.
As it jolted around its body let off an eerie creak that sent my body into a full staged panic.
Without telling my body to I dove to the side out of the way from a massive attack. My body has always been more aware than I was and would sometimes move before I thought to do so.
A large log went flying past my head, grazing against my cheek as I ducked to the side. The impact from the attack blew me away and sent me rolling across the dirt again.
I couldn't even see its arm coming, if I hadn’t moved out of the way as quickly then I would be smashed into a pancake right now.
Here it comes again!
I dove to the side to avoid another punch but my body wasn’t able to make it as far that time, the end of its arm was flat like a tree stump.
I felt the solid force of its stump crash into my rib and triggered a series of painful snaps as I went flying across the room.
A mouthful of blood burst from my mouth as I lay back into the dirt.
My vision became blurry, splitting the roof into double images and hazing everything together like what I heard drunken people often saw.
My hand instinctively rushed to my bruised rib as I shifted my body upright. Even a simple motion like moving my arm over my sides managed to upset my injuries and caused a second rush of pain to flood my body.
One, two, no everything feels broken- argh! I can’t move without feeling an overwhelming pain…huh?
My vision focused back into a solid image of the Brancher standing over me with both arms raised into the air. My heart was racing thinking about what the next move would be.
Move! For the love of…just move!
I rolled off to the side, forcing my body through the excruciating pain. Its arms crashed into the ground which created a crater in the spot from where I rolled away.
Between my double vision and ringing ears, I couldn't focus on where the monster was and struggled to gain my bearings. A multitude of hazy large wooden figures approached me as I lay in the dirt clutching to my side.
“Not…yet…I hav- haven't even given…my all yet!!” I picked up my sword from the ground and used it as a crutch to hold me up.
The constant snapping of already broken bones and the searing pain of burning wounds didn’t seem to stop me.
The Brancher wound back its arm to send out another destructive punch, filling the room with the sound of creaking and stretching roots.
“Like hell I’ll stand still!”
I rushed towards it with my body leaning forward, using the momentum of my body about to fall over to gain more speed. Just as the titanic fist flew towards me I leaped out onto its arm and stumbled forwards into a roll.
I didn’t care how pathetic I looked. How terrible I was moving or how slow I was running.
I don’t need a skill or even a grace to hit him; I’ll do it on my own!
I ran up his arm and stepped over his shoulder with my sword held up above my head.
My sword plunged into the monster's head and shattered on impact, unable to pierce through the tough wooden exterior.
The Brancher threw up its arms over its head with wild movements, smacking me off of its shoulders and through the air.
I felt the last reaming bones in my sides break into shards, knocking the life out of me. I could feel my grasp on consciousness slipping and my eyes grew heavy.
Suddenly an empathetic voice from Ellios filled my ears as my eyes slowly drifted shut.
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