Ttang... Ttang... Ttang… Amidst the smoky gray of dawn, a hammering sound rang out in the serene forest.
'It isn't a matter to worry about.' Mercedes shook her head in an effort to shake off her thoughts as she watched Grid sweat at dawn.
Why did Grid have Lorex's axe? Who dropped these sets of armor?
Yesterday, Mercedes witnessed Grid putting the red armor and the big axe into the furnace, and her imagination ran wild. The feelings in her heart became complicated. However, Mercedes knew that the doubts and anxiety stirring her mind were nothing. After all, the worst things she could imagine had all happened in the past.
Indeed, she wasn't in a position to feel angry or betrayed even if Grid turned out to be the Undefeated King's descendant, who had slaughtered the Red Knights during the war between the empire and Valhalla.
'The empire is a potential enemy of the Overgeared Kingdom.'
After all, the empire had the greatest potential to threaten the survival of the Overgeared Kingdom. It was the same even now. Mercedes couldn't blame Grid for his activities which caused enormous damage to the empire. From Grid's perspective, they were natural actions. Even if he did deserve to be blamed for it, Mercedes was now Grid's knight. She had to understand and embrace Grid's past, rather than hold it against him.
There was only one regrettable thing.
'If Lorex had known about the relationship between Grid and Piaro...'
Lorex might not have died. Maybe he would be serving Grid by Mercedes' side right now. Of course, this theory was meaningless. There were no if's in history.
'...It isn't a problem to raise a fuss about.'
Mercedes was trying to control her heart when her ears heard something. It was a strange sound that came from nearby.
Was it because she was too immersed in her thoughts? It was shameful that she had allowed something to approach in this empty area. The frustrated Mercedes jumped up while rotating at the same time, with her hand holding a sword naturally. Then her sword hit a solid barrier, and a sharp metallic sound entered Mercedes' ears.
Sensing the turmoil, Piaro immediately rose from his seat and was startled as he witnessed the sight before him. A huge cave cricket the size of a house was attacking Mercedes.
It belonged to an ancient species, creatures that had existed since the beginning. Having lost their homes as human societies developed and expanded, they had long since disappeared from the history of humanity. However, they were alive in the world tree's forest.
"Urgh!" Mercedes was on the defensive.
The creature had a total of eight legs. Two of them were relatively short front legs, and there were four sharp side legs that were used as a shield and weapon. This gave the creature a combat style that was beyond human comprehension. The hunting instincts imprinted on the organism that had survived for tens of thousands of years were beyond measure.
In the end, Mercedes spread her silver wings and flew into the air in an attempt to free herself from the attacks of the cave cricket. However, the cave cricket's long and resilient antennae detected Mercedes' movements in real time. The cave cricket raised its legs and hit Mercedes, causing her to cough up blood as she was blown away.
How could a noble knight possibly be hit by an insect?
However, Mercedes didn't have such arrogant thoughts. After all, the giant cave cricket was a monster that couldn't be defined as an insect.
Its outer shell was harder than a wyvern's scales, and its strength was higher than that of the bear-wolves in the daytime. Furthermore, its irregular attacks were hard to figure out. Therefore, the difficulty of this confrontation felt like it was on a higher ground. Mercedes wasn't dealing with an enemy that acted thoughtlessly based on instincts.
The ground began to sink. It was a phenomenon caused by the giant cave cricket bending its hind legs. As this continued on, the ground caved in around the place where the cave cricket was bending down. However, at this point, the cave cricket had already jumped high into the sky.
"Mercedes! Wake up!"
What was this giant leap? Mercedes was staring blankly at the cave cricket high in the sky when Piaro's shouts entered her ears.
The trees that Piaro had been pruning for a day grew rapidly. The branches which had been cut off were restored and covered with lush leaves. Thanks to the sudden growth of the huge trees, the cave cricket couldn't land on the ground and struggled among the trees. The giant branches were cut off by the front and side legs of the cave cricket and trampled on by its hind legs.
Mercedes quickly recovered from her blank state and focused sword energy on her swords, covering them with a white light that shook off the darkness. Meanwhile, Piaro was using Pounding Mortar without hesitation. Simultaneously, a huge object fell from the sky and landed on the body of the cave cricket.
"Pledge Sword!" Mercedes then rushed forward with her silver wings and stabbed the cave cricket's bulging belly several times. It was a collaboration of two legends who had past experiences of destroying great demons.
Their combined power wasn't enough to destroy the cave cricket. The cave cricket's weakness was that it was only active at night. Nevertheless, the strength of the cave cricket that had reigned as a supreme predator since the beginning was comparable to a monarch of hell.
"This thing..." Mercedes was stunned for a moment when she noticed the corpses of dozens of bear-wolves beyond the large trees that had been cut down due to the struggle. That was the cave cricket's trail, and now it was planning to feast on the small and adorable creatures called 'humans.'
As soon as she grasped the cave cricket's pure desire, Mercedes' insight started to detect its movements little by little. Piaro also thought of methods to deal with it. "Please restrain its actions fully. I have to clear a large field. Buy time for me while I am farming."
"Understood!" Mercedes responded vigorously while avoiding the frontal attack of the cave cricket. The ground shook every time the cave cricket's front legs struck it.
Meanwhile, the rock where Grid, the anvil, and the portable furnace were located shook like it was going to collapse. Nevertheless, Grid was solely focused on his work. From the moment of the cave cricket's emergence to the present, he hadn't shown a moment of agitation.
It might be an exaggeration to say that he didn't seem aware of the battle taking place. However, the amazing thing was that it wasn't an exaggeration. Grid was in a world of his own, one which consisted of him, his hammer, the anvil, the fire, and the metal.
'I feel it.'
The ogre bones were tempered into their ideal form, and all their potential power was pulled out, causing the black mithril's fighting energy to surge in response. Meanwhile, the rosar tin calmed down the ogre bones and the black mithril.
Ttang! Ttang! Ttang! Grid's hammering became more delicate as his concentration rose endlessly. The constant reoccurring effects of the Blacksmith's Patience and Blacksmith's Breath made Grid and the metal extremely robust. Finally...
Grid saw the end.
[You have completed the item production!]
[The blacksmith god is very surprised. He says that his skill has once again been overtaken by a human.]
[The other gods are laughing at the nervousness of the blacksmith god.]
[Affinity with the blacksmith god has decreased by 1.]
[If affinity with the blacksmith god reaches -10, any items made (above legendary rating) will be cursed.]
[Current affinity with the blacksmith god is -2.]
The full plate armor, which could look red or purple depending on the refraction of light, was completed. Its name was Hero King's Armor.
Mercedes' swords were burning with a silver flame-like energy. She couldn't afford to hold back her strength in front of an ancient predator that couldn't be included in any category with a human's common sense.
The cave cricket fought with sheer force. With the transcendent leap from those hind legs and the strength of a mountain, the fast and irregular attacks from the hard but flexible front legs, and the antennae and side legs that removed any blind spots… The cave cricket was like a creature born for battle, while Mercedes was a small soldier striking against an impregnable fortress.
The difference in power was great. Mercedes' body was wounded as she confronted the cave cricket with White Tiger's Attitude. Meanwhile, Piaro was still farming. 'Just a little longer!'
He needed to perfectly restrain the cave cricket in order to beat it. Having made this judgment, Piaro spent a great deal of time clearing the field and using Free Farming. Mercedes only needed to hold on for three more minutes. No, he prayed earnestly that she could hold on for two more minutes.
However, in Mercedes' eyes, two minutes seemed like an eternity. Her White Tiger's Attitude collapsed when the cave cricket's side legs, which had been used for defense, suddenly switched to offense. They breached Mercedes' defense perfectly and stabbed her in the sides.
As Grid was making her a new set of armor, Mercedes' leather armor hadn't been repaired. Therefore, it hadn't been working properly from the very beginning. It wasn't a set of armor but a rag.
Mercedes shook as the cave cricket's four side legs and two front legs poured down toward her like rain. Cracks started to form on the silver wings wrapped around Mercedes' body. Dozens of sharp hooks at the tips of the cave cricket's legs broke through and tore at the surface of the silver wings.
Although Mercedes endured it, she couldn't shake off the despair in her heart. 'How fleeting is my existence?'
She had worshipped heroes and trained for all her life. Praised as the strongest knight on the continent, she had eventually become a legendary knight. However, it would all be in vain in the end. The legend of humanity was just prey for an ancient species. The passing years, the resolutions in her heart, and her hopes for the future were all wishful thinking.
In the end, her silver wings fell down like glass. Amidst the glittering remnants, Mercedes held onto the White Tiger's Sword. The last mission on her mind was to protect her master's treasure. In order to buy some more time, Mercedes' blue hair gradually turned white as she wrapped sword energy around the sword. The white hair was like shimmering moonlight, and Mercedes boasted a radiant beauty in her last moments.
Then the cave cricket's front legs flew toward Mercedes' small face.
"XX monster, " rough cursing that Mercedes was hearing for the first time filled the air. "Why is an insect as strong as a great demon?"
It was Grid. He wore Lantier's Cloak, which was strong against physical attacks, and used Revolve on the cave cricket. Then he handed armor to Mercedes. "Put it on. From now on, you'll be able to exert your real skills."
There was a wide smile on Grid's face. It was because the name of the cave cricket before him was flashing gold! Grid was expecting a huge reward now.
"Noe! Randy! C-Can you Become the King of the Dead?"
Kyak kyak! Kya kya kyak!
Grid's party appeared in full swing in the field that Piaro was clearing.
Simultaneously, at the operations team at the S.A Group's headquarters:
"Maybe he will hunt it?"
"...It is crazy. Really crazy."
Yoon Nahee and the operations team monitoring the dozens of monitors in real time quietly blurted out these lines.
The giant cave cricket was a disaster-type monster that was supposed to play a role in reducing the number of elves along with the launch of the multiple species episode. However, it couldn't play its role due to the variables of Overgeared King Grid and Merchant King Kir.
In the end, it had become a raid target. Mercedes' presence was too big. No matter how legendary a knight she was, for her to be able to fight against the cave cricket...
'In this situation, if Grid meets Kir...'
Grid's nature meant he might rescue the elves and maintain their numbers. In that case, the dark elves episode was likely to be lost.
'The survivors of the 12 Te were going to fall under the temptation of Yatan to balance the power...'
How many times had this happened? It was difficult to remember how many times the scheduled story had been changed by a player.
"Will it be okay?" Yoon Nahee let out a laugh at her team's worries. "Have you forgotten the chairman's message? Satisfy is a world where the history is made by players. We don't have to feel concerned over this."
Yes, they could only silently watch. Who would become the final winner of this long history?