Chapter 62 – Hammer Time (3)
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A single skeleton stood in the middle of the boss room, waiting for James. It was slightly larger than the other skeletons, and its bones were thicker. It was holding a shield in its left hand, a small, rusted metal buckler.

James’ brow furrowed. Why was it holding only a shield, and not a sword along with it? He wasn’t complaining, since that meant less danger for him, but it was still weird.

The monster in front of him was almost what James imagined a “skeleton warrior” from fantasy games would be. Except, it was missing a sword.

The feeling of disgust that he felt right now was much larger compared to when he was fighting the weaker skeletons. This was a miniboss monster, so it was tier 2. As a higher level monster, the magic energy it radiated was higher too.

“If you think about it, if a skeleton is a pile of bones animated by magic, all of its qualities, like its strength and speed, must be related to its magic power. Although, I bet the bones do matter as well.”

The doors slammed shut behind James. Only one of them would leave this room alive.

“Wait, actually, the skeleton’s already dead. Also, even if the skeleton won, it probably wouldn't even leave this room. I take back what I said.”

The skeleton didn’t respond, and instead tried to kill him. It ran towards James with its shield.

“That shield is what I am most worried about. It doesn’t have a weapon, but that hunk of metal will hurt if it hits me.”

James held his hammer ready and slightly lowered his balance. This would make his stance a bit more steady, which was what he wanted. He waited for the skeleton to come to him, ready to respond to its attack.

At the last moment, the skeleton shifted, and threw a punch with its shield hand. The attack was aimed in a way so that James would be hit with the blunt face of the shield.

“It’s much faster than the other skeletons!” James couldn’t help but think that, even if it was obvious.

He reacted to the skeleton, swinging his hammer at the shield.

Ping! As the head of the hammer met the shield, a sharp sound rang out.

James was confused. “What? Why did it attack like that? That’s probably the worst way to fight with a buckler!”

He couldn’t see behind the buckler, but he was pretty sure he must have cracked the hand or wrist bones of the skeleton. There was no way that a thin buckler, which was held with the hand, could have distributed or softened the impact by much. It wouldn’t have been much different than trying to punch the hammer.

The skeleton didn’t let go of the bucker, and even went in for another attack. This time, the rim of the shield was aimed towards James. This attack was much more dangerous. James reflexively dodged, and the shield barely missed him. But, the skeleton unleashed a follow-up attack, clawing at him with its other hand. James swung his hammer, expecting it to smash the finger bones. 

The hammer and bony hand collided, but the hand didn’t break. James saw a few fractures open on the finger bones, but no other damage. His eyes widened.

In the moment that James paused due to surprise, the skeleton swung its shield at James, backhanding him with the flat surface. They were close together and the skeleton had an awkward angle, so it didn’t have much time to build up momentum. However, the blow still sent James stumbling back. The recoil made the skeleton drop its shield.

The skeleton tried to take advantage of the fact that it had just wounded James, but it no longer had the shield in hand. James tried to ignore the pain in his side and swung his hammer almost blindly, and finally snapped off a few of its fingers.

The skeleton seemed to realize that it had to use the shield to deal with the hammer, so it retreated. While it retrieved its shield, James drank a potion, and felt his bruised ribs start healing.

“Shit! It’s really fucking sturdy! No wonder it was willing to make that first attack! I’d have to swing pretty hard to damage it even a little.”

One good thing for James was that the skeleton didn’t seem to be able to regenerate destroyed bones. The broken fingers it had just received remained as they were.

“It has the shield, but doesn’t seem to know how to use it effectively. It even dropped it.” James could try and slowly, but that would be hard. He’d have to land a critical hit in order to even crack the skeleton’s bones, and he would be the only one getting tired. Skeletons didn’t get fatigued, so a battle of attrition was probably the worst option.

But, could James finish the battle quickly? A blow that would eliminate a weaker skeleton might not stop this boss monster. 

James made up his mind. He launched himself at the skeleton first, waving his hammer menacingly. The skeleton saw this, and raised its buckler. When the shield met the hammer, James was pushed back slightly.

The skeleton did the natural thing and tried to attack with its free hand. James saw this ducked under the swing, releasing the pressure on the shield. The skeleton was evidently not prepared for this, as it stumbled forward, closer to James, who moved forward and grabbed the arm bone of the skeleton.

“Got you,” James thought.

James was weaker than the skeleton, so he wasn’t actually able to hold the skeleton in place. However, he was able to temporarily stop the skeleton, and that was all he needed.

“HEEGAH!”

James let out a hoarse cry that sounded like a horse dying as he swung his hammer in a horizontal arc, with every single ounce of strength he could possibly muster.

His hammer collided with the side of the skeleton’s skull, punched a solid hole through it, and left a spider web of cracks.

The damage was too much for the skeleton. A mass of magical energy flew out of the holes and cracks in its skull, and by the time half a second passed, the skeleton had run out of magic power and it had stopped moving.

James saw that the skeleton was dead (or at least as dead as a dead skeleton could be). He didn’t release a cry of victory, or celebrate in any other way. Instead, he dropped his hammer, doubled over from pain, and kneeled on the ground, clutching his arm.

“GAAH!!”

 [Congratulations! You have cleared the 3rd floor! You will gain +1 stat point in each category!]

“SHIT! IT FUCKING HURTS!“

James’ strength stat was much higher than his defense stat. What he’d just done was use as much strength as he possibly could - so much that his weak body couldn’t handle it. His tendons were pulled and muscles were torn.

It was only then that James realized that the pain he felt when he took the latent potential pill was partially mitigated. He’d been smacked into trees and had overexerted nearly every muscle in his body; it was definitely the worst pain he’d felt in his entire life. However, the pain he was experiencing now didn’t lose out to the pain he felt during that time.

His sense of pain was probably dulled as a side effect of taking the pill. Back then, even if almost all of the muscles in his body were ripped, he was able to move and fight. 

Of course, adrenaline was probably also a factor - back then, his life was at stake. Currently, James had cleared the 3rd floor and was in no danger, so he had the leeway to stop and cry.

With great difficulty, James pulled out a medium grade potion with his good hand - the first one he’d ever used. A single one cost 100 points, 10 times as much as a low grade potion. However, James didn’t really mind. 100 points was less than a night’s worth of grinding on the 2nd floor

The effect of the medium potion was incredible. James felt a surge of heat flow throughout his body. His nearly destroyed arm was healed almost instantly.

“I think the medium grade was overkill. But if this is a medium grade potion, I’m afraid of what the high grade potions can do.”

James hoped he’d never get injured badly enough to need to use a high tier potion.

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