ZAP – Chapter 19-20: Eugene meets despair

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“C-Cerberus!!!!” 

Someone shouted.

There’s even those who raised screams and fell on their butts. 

—The watchdog of Hades, Cerberus. 

As its name states, it is a monster that’s normally in the world of the dead, in Hades. 

No, it is more of a monster that shows up in mythology. 

Despite having a giant body that far surpasses that of the Troll, it has agility that easily allows it to jump over us. 

It is devouring the Goblin King as prey.

For this monster, us humans must be like insects. 

“Run away, everyone!!” (Leona)

Leona gave those orders to the club members, and they all scattered in every direction as response. 

“Sumire, we are running away!!” (Eugene)

“O-Okay…” (Sumire)

I pulled the hand of Sumire who seemed like she didn’t understand the situation well here, and we ran inside the forest. 

No, even I myself don’t understand well what’s going on. 

Why is Cerberus on a lower floor like this one…?

“Eugene-kun, is that dog with 3 heads strong?!” (Sumire)

“That’s a beast of Gods! We absolutely can’t kill it!” (Eugene)

“Eh?! W-What do you mean by that?!” (Sumire)

Just when I was about to answer the question of Sumire.

“Gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh…!” 

I heard a scream that made my hair stand. 

—*Crack* *Crunch…*

I could hear the sound of bones cracking and something being eaten.

“Eh?” (Sumire)

I heard gulping. 

Sumire had a pale white face at my side.

“Ah?!” (Sumire)

The legs of Sumire tangled up and she fell.

“Sumire!” (Eugene)

I held Sumire in my arms and ran. 

“E-Eugene-kun…that just now…” (Sumire)

“Don’t think about it right now.” (Eugene)

I ran with all of my strength in order to create distance from the Cerberus. 

This horrible scenario continued.

—The God Trial of the 100th Floor has begun.

An inorganic voice rang in the 20th Floor.

“100th Floor…?” (Sumire)

I could hear the confused voice of Sumire, but I didn’t have the leeway to answer her question.

I am also as confused.

Why is the Angel Announcement of the 100th Floor echoing here…?

I looked around while running and searched for a place to hide.

Something…somewhere where we can hide ourselves…

There! 

There’s a giant tree with a hollowed area big enough for a person to hide. 

There’s the chance that monsters are hiding in it, but it is better than being outside. 

I jumped in while carrying Sumire. 

The hollowed area had just barely enough space for us two.

Nice! 

I had Sumire sit on the ground and immediately set a barrier on the entrance. 

—Barrier Magic: [Hide Location]. 

With this, we can’t be seen from the outside of the opening. 

Not only that, the opening itself shouldn’t be visible either.

…But can it deceive the nose of that Divine Beast, Cerberus? 

“E-Eugene-kun…” (Sumire)

“Wait. Be quiet.” (Eugene)

Sumire spoke uneasy, but I stopped her with my hand and perked up my ears. 

*…Rumble…Rumble…*

I heard the sound of footsteps. 

The ground shook lightly. 

*Hah…Hah…Hah…Hah…*

I hear the rough breathing of a beast. 

“Hiih!” (Sumire)

Sumire let out a short scream and hurriedly covered her mouth.

One of the heads of Cerberus slowly approached the opening where we were at. 

The giant eye the size of a human’s head was searching for prey. 

I felt like I made eye-contact with that black pupil, but we didn’t get noticed. 

It seems like the barrier is working. 

*Hah…Hah…Hah…Hah…*

The breathing of the beast was echoing in the cavity. 

Sumire is covering her mouth as if trying to stop her breathing. 

(………Move somewhere else already!) (Eugene)

I pleaded in my heart. 

It glared around the area of the barrier for a while, but it eventually left. 

W-We did it…

I sat in place.

“Hey…what was…that?” (Sumire)

I pulled the tearful Sumire closer to me by the shoulder. 

Sumire is trembling. 

No, I am also trembling. 

I slowly explained to Sumire in order to calm down my heart. 

“Sumire, you know that monsters are ranked according to their danger level in the Magic Academy, right?” (Eugene)

“Y-Yeah…I learned that from Rin-sensei…” (Sumire)

Sumire nodded.

When us explorers encounter monsters, we have to decide whether we fight or run away. 

Danger levels are set in order to judge that. 

Within that, the highest is Calamity Designation. 

This is set on monsters that have destroyed a settlement or might destroy one. 

A strong dragon would fall in that category. 

Ancient Dragons, who are said to have lived more than a thousand years, would be Calamity Designation without exception. 

Of course, I haven’t fought a monster like that before. 

Pops apparently has, but he understandably said ‘I wouldn’t go out of my way to fight a Calamity Designation monster’.

“Is Cerberus just now…a Calamity Designation monster?” (Sumire)

“…No.” (Eugene)

I grind my teeth as I answered. 

Yeah, the highest danger level of a monster is Calamity Designation. 

But Cerberus is not included in that category. 

That’s because it is a Divine Beast. 

“A Divine Beast is far above those Calamity Designation monsters…obviously. It is a mythological beast that has lived hundreds of thousands of years after all…” (Eugene)

“……” (Sumire)

Sumire made a face as if she can’t wrap her head around this. 

I myself think this might be some sort of bad dream. 

“Divine Beasts are…familiars from the Gods in the Divine Realm. It normally wouldn’t be in the Mortal Realm. It is a special being that only appears in the places called Last Dungeons…” (Eugene)

That’s right. You normally wouldn’t meet one. 

It only appears in set circumstances. 

“A beast set by the Holy Gods to appear in the God Trial every 100 Floors. That’s why there’s no way you would meet one in floors lower than the 100th Floor…that’s how it should have been.” (Eugene)

“…This is the 20th Floor though?” (Sumire)

Sumire mutters in a tearful tone. 

“Yeah…it is strange. I have never heard of something like this.” (Eugene)

Something impossible is happening here. 

Is this what Leona meant by the difficulty of the dungeon being weird? 

Even if so, this is crazy. 

What do you want explorers that just arrived to the 20th Floor to do by throwing them a Divine Beast?! 

Nothing will be resolved if we just get angry. 

Sumire is trembling profusely here.

I hugged Sumire from behind in order to calm her down.

Her trembling settled down bit by bit.

After a while, Sumire muttered.

“Eugene-kun, what do you mean by not being able to kill that monster…?” (Sumire)

“A Divine Beast is different from a monster. They have ‘infinite life’. That’s why you don’t defeat the beast of Gods. You have to use your intelligence and courage to overcome this and advance to the next floor… That’s the Trial of Gods. What’s set every 100th Floors is called a Discipline Beast.” (Eugene)

“…How do you overcome it?” (Sumire)

“I don’t know…” (Eugene)

I could only answer with that. 

My best record in the dungeon just got updated to the 19th Floor just now. 

I didn’t even imagine I would be fighting a 100th Floor beast. 

Sumire fell silent at my words. 

But she then speaks as if she couldn’t endure the silence.

“…T-The 3 headed beast of just now…is it strong?” (Sumire)

“Yeah, Cerberus is a famous Divine Beast.” (Eugene)

I spoke about the knowledge I have in my memories. 

“It is not set what Discipline Beast will be appearing. Floors like the 100th Floor or the 200th Floor normally have nothing in it contrary to other floors. A Discipline Beast is ‘summoned’ only when challengers appear. Cerberus has been summoned a number of times before, but…from what I know, there hasn’t been an explorer who has been able to get through Cerberus…in more than a hundred years…” (Eugene)

I noticed after saying it.

It is all bad news. 

“…N-No way.” (Sumire)

There’s quite a lot of difference in strength between the Discipline Beasts. 

We have been taught in the exploration classes in the academy that, if you are unlucky and Cerberus shows up, it would be better to give up obediently. 

“Are Leona-san and the others alright…?” (Sumire)

“I don’t know… It would be nice if they managed to escape.” (Eugene)

“What should we do from now on?” (Sumire)

“Now that things have come to this, we have no choice but to wait for the dungeon staff to come…” (Eugene)

This abnormal situation should be broadcasted in the Satellite System. 

I am sure they are moving to rescue us.

“Is the dungeon staff strong enough to defeat the beast just now?” (Sumire)

“Not at all… I think they will be making a request to high ranked adventurers that have cleared the 100th Floor.” (Eugene)

“I-I see! Then, there’s no need to worry!” (Sumire)

A bit of a smile returns to Sumire’s face. 

But there’s a worry. 

Explorers that have cleared the 100th Floor are called A Rank explorers, and their numbers are incredibly low. 

They are diving dungeons most of the time. 

Will they be able to get anyone? 

I directed my gaze at the explorer bag. 

I had no plans on camping to begin with, so I didn’t bring much rations. 

It would most likely only last half a day. 

Would it be able to last until rescue comes? 

Sumire and I lean on each other inside the cramped cavity of the tree as we wait for rescue. 

…Time is passing slowly. 

How much time has passed?

It might have been a few hours, or it may not have even been an hour yet. 

At that moment…

— “The Trial of Gods has ended. The challengers have been wiped out.”

The inorganic Angel Announcement rang in the 20th Floor. 

  • Chapter 20: Eugene steels himself

“………Eh?” 

The first one to raise their voice was Sumire. 

— The challengers have been wiped out.

The Angel Announcement of the Last Dungeon said this. 

But that’s wrong. 

Sumire and I are here.

However, the martial arts club and us are not an official united party. 

We were simply moving together as two separate parties. 

In that case…if the challengers only refer to the martial arts club…?

“W-Wiped out…? What about L-Leona-san…? N-No way…” (Sumire)

Sumire was trembling heavily here. 

I hugged Sumire without saying anything. 

(…What should we do? No, there’s no need to think. We have no choice but to stay hidden with Hide Location.) (Eugene)

The moment I decided this, the merciless voice rang again. 

— “Announcing new challengers inside the Territory.”

““?!””

Sumire and I shook. 

New challengers…?

There’s probably only us in the 20th Floor here. 

The Dungeon Admin knows that Sumire and I are present. 

— “If you are going to forfeit your challenge, retreat outside the Territory at once. In the case you are not outside the Territory, the Trial of Gods will automatically begin.” 

(…Oi oi, don’t joke around.) (Eugene)

This is the 20th Floor, Dungeon Admin!

Why are you doing the Trial of Gods as if nothing?! 

But I can’t complain to them in a loud voice. 

Cerberus is outside. 

In the first place, it was only assumed that Discipline Beasts only show in the 100th Floors because of past instances. 

It is not like there were such arrangements exchanged.

Also, the situation won’t get better even if we were to stay here. 

Sumire is trembling with a pale white face. 

I have to protect her. 

I am her guardian after all. 

…Resolve yourself, Eugene Santafield. 

“E-Eugene-kun…” (Sumire)

“Sumire, believe in me and stay here.” (Eugene)

“And what will you do, Eugene-kun?!” (Sumire)

“I will become bait.” (Eugene)

“T-That’s impossible! Even all those people from the martial arts club were wiped out!” (Sumire)

“It is okay. I have a plan.” (Eugene)

“B-But…” (Sumire)

“We don’t have the time. Please don’t move from here at all…please.” (Eugene)

I continue nailing that point and head to the exit of the cavity. 

There’s a time limit in the conditions to lose in the Trial of Gods.

I…have heard…that the Discipline Beast will return to where they came after a time limit.

This is so that you don’t just buy time mindlessly against the Discipline Beast.

It is apparently in order to give an opportunity for the next challenger.

Even if you lose because of a time out, it is not like you will lose your life. 

That said, who knows if I can buy time against Cerberus…

There’s no point wailing about this. 

Anyways, I have to buy time for the rescue of the dungeon staff, or the time limit of the Trial of Gods. 

There’s no other way. 

There’s the choice of staying hidden the whole time, but…the Dungeon Admin is aware of us. 

We are currently inside the Territory of the Divine Beast. 

If we just stay hidden there, we would eventually be found. 

If that happens, I wouldn’t be able to fight while protecting Sumire. 

We would both be killed.

“I am going now, Sumire.” (Eugene)

“Eugene-kun…” (Sumire)

“Is it okay to get your mana, Sumire?” (Eugene)

“Okay…” (Sumire)

I held the hand of Sumire that’s trembling slightly. 

—Mana Link.

I have Sumire share me her Red Mana.

A large amount of hot mana pours into me. 

“Hn…” (Sumire)

Sumire moans faintly. 

I might have taken a bit too much mana in one go.

“…Are you okay?” (Eugene)

“Yeah… Avenge Leona-san… No, survive at all cost, Eugene-kun.” (Sumire)

“Got it.” (Eugene)

Sumire looked up at me with tears in her eyes, forcefully making a smile, and then, I headed outside the cavity. 

After coming out, I layered more barriers to the entrance of the hollowed part. 

The only thing I have to do for sure is that Sumire is not found by Cerberus. 

I once again look around the 20th Floor. 

(…It is silent.) (Eugene)

There’s no cries of beasts, or the singing of birds. 

The 20th Floor is currently in the presence of the Divine Beast.

All living beings are kneeling. 

“Eugene Santafield challenges the Trial of Gods.” (Eugene)

I speak to the D Rank explorer badge. 

The inorganic voice of the Angel Announcement rang in the floor. 

— “The challenge of Eugene Santafield for the Trial of Gods has been accepted. Godspeed.” 

(So it has been…accepted, huh.) (Eugene)

I can’t turn back anymore. 

A white line spread around me. 

It is the Challenger Border. 

And this also becomes the mark of prey for the Divine Beast.

*Rumble…Rumble…*

The footsteps of Cerberus approach.

The legendary Divine Beast growled from its 3 heads as it looked down on me. 

The drumming of my chest is noisy. 

I don’t know if the trembling of my body was from fear or from anticipation.

(Pops…what should I do at a time like this?) (Eugene)

I asked my Pops, who is my sword master and goal, inside my heart. 

— “Smile. When in trouble, just smile away, Eugene. If you do, you will surely be able to manage somehow.”

The Pops in my memories is as half-assed as always. 

But he was always right. 

“Fuuh…” (Eugene)

I sighed. 

“Alright, let’s do this!” (Eugene)

I smiled boldly and took the Twin Heavenly Resonance stance. 

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