~Chapter 56~ Part 3
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Okay, calm down, me! So I screwed up. Big deal; wouldn't be the first time it happened. I just have to rely on plan B. So, what is the first step…? Coming up with a B-plan, I suppose.

First things first, let's observe the situation. This might have been wishful thinking, but there was always a chance that things would proceed in an unforeseen direction where I didn't even need to fight the Chimera. Say, it was possible that it wasn't hostile, or that Rinne would take it down in a single strike, or that it would turn out to be a cute little girl who would call me Onii-chan. I mean, that last option would've been absolutely terrifying, but it was a trope, so it wasn't entirely off the table.

Anyhow, there were a number of scenarios where I could avoid fighting today. Ideally, I would have Mountain Girl do all the heavy lifting, but at this point I felt obligated in a way to put in at least token effort, so... maybe I could act as a distraction? I doubted I could do more than that without a weapon, but considering I've been serving as bait for so long, I had more than enough experience in the field.

With that line of considerations finished, the next order of business was observing the Chimera. It was a little hard to see due to the moody weather making dusk set in even earlier than usual, so I had to wait for a while before it got close enough for me to be able to take a good look. Once it did, I immediately let out a relieved sigh. Not a little girl. At least the worst-case scenario was avoided.

As for an actual description: this Chimera was considerably smaller than the one I encountered during the school incident; about as tall as I was and a little on the skinnier side, which incidentally still meant it was about as big and well-built as Brang. On the other hand, its shape was almost identical to the first one; or rather it was the mirror image of the school Chimera's initial appearance when it showed up in the courtyard.

Its dark red skin and black fur didn't exactly blend into the background, and its body was an odd mixture of simian and reptilian traits, with a quadrupedal gait that reminded me of a mountain gorilla and an elongated, crocodilian head. It had six glowing eyes, also in the same positions as his predecessor's, but most curiously, its whole head was also giving off a subtle magical glow. Back then I wasn't as experienced with this kind of thing, but I was still about ninety-eight-point-five percent sure the first creature didn't have a halo like that.

If I had to pinpoint another difference, it would have been the way it was moving. It just wasn't right. The first Chimera might have been an unnatural mishmash of animals, but it still moved just like that; an animal. You could tell that it was prowling, and when it noticed its prey (namely, me), it moved in for the chase like a real predator.

The creature in front of me looked the same, but moved very differently; sluggishly going through the motions like a tipsy office worker unsteadily hauling himself home after an especially hectic day at work. Not exactly the most flattering of comparisons, but it was quite accurate all the same. Furthermore, looking at it made me wonder just how the heck it managed to avoid being seen for so long. Even the Faun, who could turn invisible, slipped up in the past and had public notices about them in the park. This thing didn't even try to hide. It boggled the mind.

On another note, I was also surprised that I couldn't see any mini-Chimeras around. I told Brang and co. to try to smack down any they could find so that they wouldn't end up as a distraction at a critical moment, but I was pretty sure at least a few would escape their notice. They were either really good at their job, or one or two of those things are actually present, but lying low just to pop up at the most inopportune moment. I naturally took the second option to be a given, and mentally prepared accordingly.

What I couldn't prepare myself for was that the moment the Chimera got around fifteen or so meters close to us, my hunting partner suddenly let out a shrill cackle and burst through the bushes with her the purple shroud trailing behind her like a comet's tail.

"Shinsoku battō-jutsu!"

Before I could even call after her, she already made her way next to the Chimera and delivered a diagonal slash aimed at its neck. The brutish creature was apparently so taken aback by the screaming woman that suddenly popped up in front of its face that it didn't even attempt to dodge, or even block. The ominously glowing blade cut through the air with a sharp sound, followed by a meaty 'thunk' as it embedded itself into the creature's collarbone.

Unfortunately for Rinne, it only cut about a finger's width deep into the Chimera's tough hide, and for a second it looked more surprised than in pain. I'm not going to lie; after she hyped her sword and hunting credentials for so long, I expected a little more than a flesh wound from a surprise attack like that. Oh well, such is life.

I also knew that something like that would barely give a Chimera a pause, let alone kill it, so I instinctively called out to her.

"Watch out!"

When she heard my voice, Rinne let out another creepy laugh, following which she raised her voice and spoke up, her words eerily articulate and filled with a kind of languid magnetism.

"Hurry up, Leonard! The evanescent dance of life and death waits for no one! Come, and let us caper under the ever-fleeting pale moonlight and taste the sweet nectar of our hunt!"

… Okay, what just happened? Did those words really just came out of Mountain Girl's mouth? Did that mean she just broke character? If she did, then oh crap, because that usually meant things were getting serious.

On a related note, I couldn't help but wonder what the Chimera was thinking while it patiently waited for her to finish her piece. I didn't have to speculate for long though, as just half a moment after the thought crossed my mind, the creature ponderously raised its front leg and tried to hit Rinne with a backhanded swipe.

I instinctively wanted to call out again and warn her, but she was way ahead of me, and deftly got out of the way of the attack. In fact, she even had the time to do it by jumping high into the air, do a back-flip, and even an axel before landing. Because of this, my original warning turned into a mildly exasperated, "Just dodge out of the way like a normal person, will you?"

She completely ignored my words and instead she lunged forwards while shouting something along the lines of 'Sakurabana Ranbu!'. While yelling so, she dashed forth and delivered a shallow, vertical cut onto the Chimera's raised arm, following which she let go of her sword and allowed its momentum to carry it into the air. That was already pretty damn baffling, but then she lowered her stance, turned 360 degrees on her heel and raised both of her hands to her right ear, and as if it was the most natural thing in the world, her aggravating O katana (that was the technical term of her sword, by the way) landed in her open palms. Once she grabbed hold of her weapon, she immediately struck forth with a vicious stab that landed on the Chimera's abdomen.

This time it looked like a nice, deep wound, but I knew from experience that it wouldn't give it more than a pause. More importantly, the creature still had its arm raised after the missed pimp slap, and it wasn't hard to figure out what it would do next.

Now then, it was exactly at this moment that I caught up with Rinne, so I did the only sane thing in this situation and grabbed her by the waist. She momentarily stiffened under my touch, but I didn't care, as I immediately heaved hard and flung her to the side, and not a moment too soon, as the aforementioned arm was already in the process of descending upon her head.

She let go of her sword still embedded in the creature, either by surprise or on purpose for her next move, as the moment we were out of immediate harm's way, she grabbed hold of the billowing shroud attached to the hilt of her weapons and yanked it right out of its belly. It didn't end there though, as she proceeded to swing the whole sword around in a circle using said shroud.

"Tenka Daiwa Zan!"

I had many questions about that, such as why she was calling her attacks, or how the heck she planned to cut anything like that, without proper edge alignment, but then such thoughts were immediately overwritten by a sudden prickling sensation that told me to dodge right the hell away from where I was standing. My legs moved on their own to comply even before I could give them a conscious order, and before I knew it I was already rolling forward on the hard ground.

That still wasn't enough, so I stumbled even further forwards, and I only stopped when the sense of imminent danger subsided. I hastily rose to my feet and looked back, but couldn't see anything dangerous. On the other hand, I could most certainly hear something dangerous, and when I looked over there, I noticed one of the trees by the footpath began to tilt and then fall right onto the spot where I stood a few seconds ago.

I was startled by the loud cracking noise of the branches breaking, but once I collected my wits, I attempted to put the pieces together and figure out what exactly just happened. It didn't take long to form a hypothesis: Apparently, when Rinne swung her sword around in an orbit, she hit the tree, as professed by the clean horizontal cut on the still-standing stump. Considering we were talking about a tree that was about as thick as my waist, that meant her sword was really freaking sharp, so I had high expectations when I glanced over to the Chimera, only to immediately be let down.

At the moment, Onikiri was embedded about two fingers deep in the creature's shoulder, with Mountain Girl still holding onto the purple cloth on the other end. The same sword, the same strike, two completely different outcomes. Why though?

I naturally had an ideal. If I had to make an educated guess based on the evidence at hand, I would say that the thing giving the infuriating sword its unnatural sharpness wasn't the actual metal blade, but the ominously glowing magenta mist coming off of it. My gut said that it was probably the result of some kind of enchantment that gave it its terrifying cutting power. However, as the class rep pointed out on numerous occasions, Chimeras were really scary for all the supernatural folks because they were very resistant to magic. Well, that, plus the fact that they were unrelenting, regenerating murder monsters, but let's not split hairs.

That meant that, with the cutting enchantments nullified, Onikiri was exactly as dangerous to the hulking monstrosity in front of us as an ordinary sword. Some ancient evil-slaying sword, am I right? Now granted, Rinne still managed to land a couple of really solid wounds already, but I couldn't tell whether that was due to the blade, her fancy techniques, or just the Chimera pretending to be a punching bag.

As if it realized I just called it that, the eyes of the large creature focused on Rinne and it opened its mouth to let out a deafening roar. I instinctively braced myself, but to my further confusion, the Chimera only raised its arm again in the exact same motion it did the first time. It didn't try to bite, or to use its claws… Hell, even the way it was moving towards Mountain Girl felt more telegraphed than the bestial pounces the first one did when we fought… or rather when it tried to eat me and I was mostly running away, but again, splitting hairs is bad.

This was weird already, but then Rinne yanked her sword back into her hand and took up a stance, and…

"Sakurabana Ranbu!"

… Yep, it was the exact same move. She did the whole three-sixty twirl too, which incidentally took her just under the incoming backhanded slap, and then she once again stabbed forth. This verified two things: Rinne was indeed calling out her attacks, and the Chimera was acting really weird.

I couldn't do much about the former other than shaking my head in disapproval, but the latter was something that deserved closer scrutiny. The creature's movements, while not exactly mechanical, were somewhat stiff and had short delays in them every once in a while, as if it had to think hard before making certain moves.

"Hisho Taikakutachi!"

I ignored the way Rinne attacked by throwing her sword behind her back after a diagonal cut, only to catch it with her other hand, spin around in place, and slash down from the other direction.


On second thought, no. Let's not ignore that. What the actual hell was that!? To be fair, I'm no sword expert (though as far as I know, I might have used to be one, but that's neither here nor there), but even I could tell that randomly spinning around mid-combat, exposing your back to the opponent, and doing all that while also letting go of your weapon in the process was not exactly the most sensible of moves. It looked flashy and a tiny bit cool, but do you know what would have been even cooler? If after all that song and dance routine, she actually hit the hulking monstrosity in front of her!

I mean, the Chimera was huge and wide open! How hard could it be to hit it!? Well, by the looks of it, it had either its EVA or its LCK stat maxed, because Mountain Girl managed to whiff both the initial and the follow-up stroke! Oh, and now she was extensively flourishing her blade before she tried to parry an incoming fist. It naturally didn't work, as even though the edge bit into the flesh of the incoming arm, it did little to stop its momentum and Rinne was sent careening into the nearby bushes on the other side of the road.

Now then, since I finally got a little breather from her oh-so-practical swordsmanship, let's focus on my previous line of thoughts about the Chimera again. In short, it was really peculiar. Just now, it didn't even react to getting cut. In fact, it didn't acknowledge any of its injuries, did it? Sure, you could say that the first Chimera was also prone to under-reaction to, say, getting its arm bitten off, but it was still reacting. This one didn't even flinch from being skewered by a sword. Twice.

Also, while we were still at the differences, there was a startling lack of transformations. By now the Chimera should have shown at least some kind of physical change. Maybe longer limbs, or some kind of carapace on the arms to deflect cuts, or some other kind of adaptation fitting for the situation. For comparison, the first Chimera already had a silly whip-arm by this point, but I couldn't see anything even remotely similar to it this time.

Now put all of that together, and consider the fact that the thing's head was still glowing like an off-season Christmas tree, and it didn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that something suspicious was afoot. I was just about to formulate a plan for taking a closer look at that magical light show, but then my attention was grabbed by a small movement in the corner of my vision.

I glanced over, and saw Rinne jump back out of the shrubbery with a furious glint in her eyes, sword raised high as if she was about to declare that 'there could be only one', or some other similarly dramatic line. That wasn't what really drew my attention though, but the small, indistinct shape following in her wake.

"I knew it!" I exclaimed with a 50/50 mixture of exasperation and vindication, my legs automatically taking up the fake Phasing position. I rushed forth, though I technically didn't actually move forward at all, and I reappeared right next to the irate huntress. I caught a glimpse of her shocked expression, but didn't dwell on it, and instead I focused on the small creature leaping through the air behind her.

My right hand extended with a practiced motion and my fingers unceremoniously grasped onto a thin, lizard-like tail. For a moment I was even surprised how easy this was, but I figured all the Phasing training with Brang paid off. I'm not going to lie, I felt just a little smug at the moment. The Faun considered my training method of having them toss weapons into the air for me to catch after Phasing across the room to be odd and of little practical use, but look at this! I just caught a… thing.

Speaking of which, it was about time I took a closer look at the tiny creature in my hand. It was about the size of a common housecat, except scaly, with a rat-like head, and instead of front paws, it had something that reminded me of a praying mantis's graspers on steroids. Once its first shock over suddenly being caught and held upside down by its tail passed, it began to struggle and wave its forelegs around with a high-pitched screech.

"Whoa there!" I exclaimed by reflex as I waved the mini-Chimera around to keep it from clawing at my arm. I don't know if it was the screech, the words, or just my flailing around, but it made the big Chimera let out an anemic yet still loud roar that startled me for a moment. I glanced at it, and on a whim I swung the creature in my hand towards it.

I'm not going to claim it was thanks to my amazing aiming skills, but I managed to throw the tiny creature right into its gaping jaws. The big guy continued to roar, completely disregarding its flailing spawn in its mouth, and then it closed it without any fanfare, resulting in a crunching noise and a soft, "Ouch," from me.

"So that is why you were staying back," Rinne noted beside me as she did that thing where she flicked her sword to get the blood off or something. "I was almost certain your courage must have left you in face of an enduring opponent such as this, yet it appears you have predicted the emergence of threats outside my expectations instead. You have my sincerest gratitude."

"Err… You are welcome," I replied with a good amount of uncertainty. Somehow polite and well-spoken Rinne was even creepier than oddball chuuni Rinne, and the way she talked kept sending shivers down my spine. Because of all this, I weighed my options and decided that it was probably in my best interest to end this battle as soon as possible.

With that in mind, I faced the monster slowly lumbering towards us, with bits and pieces of its unfortunate spawn still hanging from its jaws, and as I did so, something finally clicked with me: I wasn't afraid of this thing. Now granted, I had access to free and unlimited teleportation to get out of harm's way, and the creature wasn't focused on me either, but the fact that I felt zero apprehension towards it was still odd, so I tried to analyze my feelings. I didn't stand still while doing so though, as I slowly began to circle the creature from the right. Rinne, as if following my lead, did the same from the other direction, and it took until the three of us formed a more or less straight line for me to finally put my finger on my source of incongruity: my danger sense wasn't giving me any signals.

Granted, it wasn't actually targeting me or attacking in my direction at the moment, but I could still vividly remember the last time I faced off against one of these things, and I had been feeling a constant sense of pressure when I was looking at it. It felt like I had its attention, and it had the potential to hurt and kill me, so my danger sense was constantly warning me to be wary of it. There was none of that this time. Did it mean that I was safe? I wouldn't go that far, but it was certainly a completely different experience.

In the meantime the Chimera seemingly vacillated about which one of us it should face, and eventually it decided to turn towards Mountain Girl, which incidentally also meant that it completely turned its back at me. This settled it. No creature, no matter how dumb, would obliviously expose its back to an aggressor. The fact that the still unchanged beast in front of me did so could only mean one of two things: it either completely disregarded my existence, or it didn't possess all of its faculties because of some kind of magical shenanigans. I was inclined towards the latter.

So, what would any self-respecting alleged Chimera-slayer do in this situation, with their opponent completely open and just asking for a backstab? Well, I wouldn't know, because I wasn't one, but I did have a plan in mind, and this guy just made it all the more hassle-free. Step one was to just wait for Rinne to make her move.

"Mumyō kansatsu ken!"

Oh, look. Another new attack with a fancy Japanese name. How very surprising.

This time she flourished her sword, and as she did so, the blade left behind a series of after images, following which she delivered a sequence of quick jabs at the Chimera's joints. The wounds were superficial at best, but the pause they gave to the thing was all I could ever ask for. I once again reflexively assumed the sham Phasing stance and then reappeared right on top of it. I raised my arm high, curled my fingers into a fist, and struck down onto the top of its skull.

Needless to say, that was all an act. I didn't want to break my knuckle, so I slowed my descending fist at the very last moment so that I only ended up lightly knocking on its head. There was no reaction whatsoever, but it was no biggie; I more or less expected as much. If it was a complex enchantment, like the curse on Emese, I had a feeling that surface contact wouldn't cut it. I had to go 'deeper', and thankfully I had the right tool for the job.

 With that decided, I immediately brandished my invisible Phantom Limb and plunged it right into the Chimera's skull. There was no resistance whatsoever, which was just a little surprising. The thing's magic resistance was strong enough to render even a magical sword capable of cutting through a mature tree like it was butter borderline useless, yet my mysterious extra appendage was completely unaffected. It was food for thought, but for later, as I made contact with whatever was giving off the magical halo, and my consciousness was immediately sucked in.

What I found was… odd. Granted, I didn't have a ton of experience with poking around in the metaphysical innards of living things, but after the customary wading through a syrupy river that tasted like turpentine mixed with all the songs of an entire death metal album being played at the same time, I found myself inside of a spacious cavern instead of the core of records I was expecting.

The 'place' itself was perfectly spherical, and there wasn't an opening on it anywhere. This normally would have made me wonder where I entered, but I was getting used to the un-intuitiveness of spaces like this, so I didn't let it bother me. Now, back to my environment. I looked around, at least as much as the concept was applicable, and if I had to pinpoint the most striking feature in this cavity, it was definitely the thing in the middle.

Let me try to describe it as best as I could: inside the center of the cavern, there was a comparatively small, white ball of light. It had two long strings connecting it to the opposite ends of the hollow affixing it in place, with countless thin, jointed 'legs' sprouting out of it and touching the walls. All in all, it reminded me of one of those long-legged cellar spiders, except with an absurd amount of limbs. I followed one of them and soon realized that when it touched the wall, it would ever so slightly change its shape. Then it would move and tap it elsewhere, which resulted in a different portion of it changing its form or texture.

After some consideration, I also tried to touch the wall of the cavern surrounding me. I gingerly reached out, wary of what might await me, but I made contact all the same. What I found was fairly unexpected. Instead of waves of fragmented images, sounds, and other sensory records, I was hit by a nauseating torrent of nothing. I shut the contact off, and it didn't take me long to realize what just happened and where I was. This place, this 'cavern', is where the records of the being were held, right until it died, leaving behind a hollow sphere; the negative imprint of its 'soul', so to speak.

But then what was the thing in the middle? I cautiously approached it and extended my invisible, intangible hand towards the white ball. What I found was yet another abnormal thing. It was very similar to an enchantment I could find on an artifact, but insanely complex; and this time, I didn't mean it in the over-engineered way seen on things like the dragon-slaying spear. No, this thing was the real deal.

I didn't know how much time I would have to 'read' it, so I tried to skim as much of its functions as I possibly could. From the looks of it, the whole, multi-layered enchantment was centered around an extremely extensive and complex series of if/or/then nodes with pathways forming an enormous, tree-like structure, with connections skipping between branches and routinely looping back to the base of the tree. Even as I observed them, I could see small bundles of light traveling down the lanes between the nodes. Some of them seemed to govern basic tasks, such as breathing, while other segments managed complex motoric functions and even decision making based on the state of and feedback from other nodes.

Long story short, the 'white spider' inside the cavern was pretty much a magical artificial intelligence puppeteering the body of the Chimera based on behavioral trees. Of course, this was a gross oversimplification of the simultaneously crude yet brilliant piece of magical engineering in front of my, but not an inaccurate one, and if I had a mouth, I would have most definitely whistled in approval.

I wondered; could I possibly gain control of the Chimera by taking control of this 'white spider'? I have detected a couple of anti-tampering mechanics, but nothing that would pose an insurmountable obstacle. I just needed some time. Unfortunately, I had less of that than I thought.

Before I knew it, I was abruptly thrown out of the metaphysical space of the hollow cavern, and after blinking a few times, I found myself staring at the sky on my back. It didn't take a genius to figure out that at some point the Chimera must have thrown me off its back, and once I got out of the range of my Phantom Limb, I was kicked back into boring old reality again. The fact that exiting this way felt pretty much like getting squeezed through the eye of a needle, and its ill effects on my poor brain, went without saying.

I tried to get my bearings first, but then my danger sense abruptly gave me the red alert signal, and so I forced my body to roll to the side, just in time to get out of the way of the enormous clawed fist descending towards the spot I occupied just a second ago. I kept rolling, and only stopped when I was well out of arm's reach. After a quick shake of my head, I did my best to rise to my feet, made slightly harder by how the world kept spinning even after I stopped.

I was just about to give up on the prospect and instead focus on catching my breath, but I received help from an unexpected source. As I looked up, I just noticed Rinne landing behind the flailing creature after doing another unnecessary axel, and then she dashed over to my side and offered me a hand.

"What have you done to the creature of the underworld?"

"What did it look like?" I asked back as I accepted her help and rose to my feet.

"It stopped moving for approximately four seconds," she answered right away. "After that, it became exceedingly aggressive and threw you off."

I observed the Chimera while listening to her explanation, and seeing how it was randomly roaring and pounding the ground without any rhyme or reason, I couldn't help but wonder if I might have accidentally tripped some kind of anti-tampering fail-safe. Oh well, there was no point in crying over spilled milk; I just had to clean up my mess, and everything would be perfectly fine.

"I think I can end this in one more attack."

My white lie made Mountain Girl nod in approval, and she asked me, "Do you require support?"

I took another look at the way the flailing creature, and then answered, "I would appreciate if you could stop its movements for a few seconds."

Rinne gave me another wordless nod, clenched her hand around the hilt of her sword, and she immediately rushed back into the fray. I was honestly a little dumbfounded. Was this the same person I had been forced to hang out with for the past week? Where are the cringy lines? Where are the condescending looks? And when the hell did she become so dependable? I had to wonder; was this the influence of her sword, or the lack thereof? Either way, I had to admit that reasonable Mountain Girl, as much as that sounded like an oxymoron, was pretty useful in this situation.

Anyhow, I let her get the attention of the Chimera again while I found my center, and once I was ready, I broke into a run and circled around the two of them from the left. Once I felt like I was in position, I gave her the signal, and she wordlessly raised her sword over her shoulder in response.

"O Mumyō kansatsu ken!"

Oh, I think that's the same one she used the last time. Neat. I waited for the target to stagger, and once the path of approach was clear, I once again fake-Phased right next to it. This time I decided to add some extra flair to my move, so instead of a fist, I stabbed towards its temple with just two fingers. It was for only show, as it was my Phantom Limb that did all the heavy lifting, and once it made contact I immediately dived into the space between spaces. This time the process of getting to the cavern was much smoother, and the moment I was back in front of the white spider, I plunged right into it.

I didn't know how much time I would have to do this, so I zeroed in on the more basic metabolic functions. In retrospect, that turned out to be a bad idea, as those nodes were bloody complicated, and I quickly realized that messing with them could easily result in irreparable damage to the body. Since I was running out of time, I decided to go after my second best bet and scoured the section of the behavioral tree for anything dealing with motorics. By tracing the branches back as far as possible, I ultimately found the bundle of nodes responsible for communicating between the decision-making nodes, the nodes responsible for interpreting sensory data, and the ones dealing with motor control.

I had no time to mess around, so I swiftly and decisively used my phantom limb to carve the whole section out of the tree. It was surprising, but throughout the entire process, the knowledgeable corner of my brain remained entirely silent. That meant that none of these nodes were 'plot-relevant' in any shape or form. I wasn't entirely sure I liked the sound of that, but it made my life easier, so I decided not to look the gift horse in the mouth and instead I retracted myself from the cavern.

Upon returning to my body, the first thing I noticed was that I was still standing in the same pose I was when I left, metaphorically speaking. Same for the Chimera, and even Rinne, though she probably did so for different reasons. Anyhow, I took a deep breath, and gently pushed on the head of the creature. The moment pressure was applied, its balance completely crumbled and it collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut (which was, to be fair, entirely accurate). My companion took a confused step back, but when she realized that the body was not moving, she finally relaxed and let her weapon down.

"Has this creature shuffled off its mortal coil?"

"Erm… Yes, it's very much dead," I stated just a tad forcefully as I assumed a slightly more casual posture as well.

"What kind of secret technique was that? I have never seen its like," she inquired as she took a step closer to me, and unsubtly observed my right hand.

"It's… a sure-kill move that I developed. It needs a lot of preparation, but if it hits a weak point, it's a one-hit kill," I lied like a champ with all the conviction I could manage at the moment.

"A truly terrifying technique, if there ever was one," Rinne noted with one gloved hand on her chin, and all of a sudden her lips widened into the creepy slasher smile I hoped I would never get to see again. "Let us proceed to spill the vile creature's blood and viscera!"

Aaaand here we go. Bye soft-spoken and reasonable Rinne, hi annoying chuuni Mountain Girl. I was really curious about what that was about, but I figured I should try and figure it out on another occasion.

"No. It's already dead."

"But Rinne wants to!" she whined as she waved her sword towards the 'corpse' on the ground. "Onikiri also says that you steal stage lights and that we deserve to see the woods run red with blood!"

"Just leave it alone, will you? We already killed the Chimera, and that's what's important. Come on, let's go."

"We must dispose of the body," she insisted as she carelessly waved her blade around, forcing me to take a step back. "Let Rinne at least mince it! Just a little bit!"

"You don't have to. It will dissolve like the small ones over time. Let's just leave it here and go." Mountain Girl was giving me a hurt look, and she even puffed out her cheeks in the most overdone display of sulking I have ever seen, so I decided to try and cajole her a little. "Come on, let's celebrate a successful hunt. I know a good gyros place nearby; it's my treat."

As expected, it only took a single mention of food for her to immediately re-wrap her sword and state, "Rinne also believes that celebrations are an important part of the hunt. Please lead the way, Leonard-san."

I was tempted to roll her eyes at her transparent gluttony, but I refrained and instead told her, "Let's do that, but first, we should clean ourselves up a little."

I pointed at the leaf stuck in her hair, probably even since her tumble in the bushes, and then I followed it up by pointing at the restroom by the end of the footpath. That was about all the encouragement she needed.

"Come, Leonard-san!"

"Go ahead. I still have to find something I dropped," I replied, and she did as I told without suspecting a thing. The moment she was out of earshot, I let out a pent up sigh and said, "[Transport the cadaver to our hidden fort. I shall be with you once I've seen this task to completion.]"

There was no answer, but I knew for sure that the message was received, so after sparing one last glance at 'remains' of the Chimera, I quietly followed after the gluttonous huntress, my mind already filled to the brim with ideas.