“Huh… hah…”

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Taking a deep breath, I regulate my respiration before observing the gate at the end of the passage and the monster looming in front of it so as to overcome my present predicament.

The gate seems to be comprised of the same kind of material as the cube here, and it appears to be a hinged double door.
Moreover, the air surrounding the place feels somehow different.

Yeah… Until I arrived here, each of the doors I noticed was watertight and constructed of the same material as the walls in the area, yet all of a sudden there is a hinged double door composed of a non-uniform material.
It may be safe to assume that it is a special door, even if it isn’t.

And also, the monster guarding it is a frog with numerous arrowheads on its back… no, if compared to the size of Beyta’s corpse, the monster itself is a little over two meters tall, and considering that both the tip and its return are distinctly visible from this distance, it would be more correct to say that it is a harpoon. 

In any case, that fellow is not even paying attention to Beyta’s corpse, but is constantly moving the two black mole-like objects on the part of its head.

“!?”

“Gego.”

Our eyes have just locked on to each other.
Intuitively, at the moment I sense this, I am running out to conceal myself in the shadow of another side of the cube, in addition to withdrawing my head into the shadow of the cube while losing my posture.

Right as I surge into the shadow of the cube, a high-speed harpoon pierces through the place where my head was only an instant ago and plunges into the wall at the end of its path vigorously.

I intuitively grasp the situation that Beyta was shot in the head with this harpoon.

Along with this, I recognize a red thread at the base of the harpoon, which instills a sense of foreboding in me, just as I did when I first laid eyes on it.

“Gegogego.”

“…”

When I duck down to the other side of the cube, there is an even banging crash accompanied by the croaking of a frog from where the harpoon has penetrated, confirming my bad premonition.

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I have to hold my breath.
I desperately remind myself in my head to hold my breath.

I vaguely understand what has occurred.
The frog must have utilized the harpoon and string that were stuck in the wall to propel it towards me.

But that is not the end of it.

“Ugh!?”

The innumerable harpoons on the frog’s back are fired all at once, driving the harpoons into the surrounding walls, the ceiling, and the floor, and along with them, air vibrations that are no longer recognizable as sound but rather as shock waves sweep over my body.

Had I remained hidden in the same spot or in an unobstructed position between me and the frog, I doubt… even my corpse would be left.

“That is…”

As the harpoon is pulled from the wall and retrieved into the frog’s body, the damage to the wall is repaired in parallel.

And while the harpoon is being withdrawn, what I fleetingly glimpse is a glowing red crystal on the frog’s back.

Oh, that’s right.
I have forgotten that I have heard about this before.
Every monster’s body contains a red crystal somewhere, and that crystal functions as the heart and brain of the monster.

Once the crystal is destroyed or ripped out of the body, the monster will die.

“…Damn it!”

In my head, I rack my brain to determine if I could pull the crystal out of the frog’s body or destroy it, but I swiftly realize that it is impossible.

Pulling it out? There is no way to get close enough before that barrage of harpoons.
I would be reduced to minced meat in a split second.

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Destroy it? By aiming the sling during the brief moment after the harpoon is fired? All I can envision is a future where I’m caught in a drawn-back harpoon that ends up killing me.

Even though I know it won’t make the situation any better, I involuntarily swear in my head.

I swear at myself who has no means of overcoming the situation, at myself who lacks the power to avenge Beyta, at the frog residing there, at the creator of this maze, at the gods who did not empower me to fight, at the gods who did not even lend me a helping hand in this situation, including those who I have never even laid eyes on in the first place.
I vent my wrath, casting away the faith I have built up until now, and growing even angrier that in the end, nothing will change despite all of this.

“If I had more power… if I had more power…”

Something is tearing in my head, and with it, I can feel the strength leaving my body.

It is likely that I who have abandoned my faith have caused the God to grow weary of me, and is lifting the power they have bestowed upon me.

How ironic that I would seek power only to lose it, but perhaps the despair of being abandoned by God is the reason why I feel like my head is starting to become more clear.

And when I decide to do what I can do, I attempt to rise up to take action but…

[Stop it.
A mere human being, no matter how hard you strive, is no match for them, nor even come close.]

“!?”

But before I can do so, a mysterious voice resonates from somewhere, causing me to tense myself up at the sound of the voice.

Yet at the same time, I strain my neck to find the owner of the voice.

[I am over here, over here.]

“What!?”

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I look in the direction of the voice.

There, a small eight-legged lizard with pristine white scales lies before me.

For the briefest second, I thought for sure that the lizard might be a new kind of monster, but I quickly reject that idea based on the presence emanating from their body and the fact that they had called out to me.

On the contrary, the presence exuding from that body is undoubtedly that of a figure associated with Gods, despite the subtle differences in the details.

[Now, to meet someone who needs the power of the Gods but has discarded faith, and a God who needs faith yet has lost their followers, in a place like this, a maze, is another strange fate, but for now, let us be thankful for this strange fate and let me pose a question to you.]

The lizard dexterously moves their eight legs to my feet and glares fixedly into my face with their silver right eye and light blue left eye.

[O human.
Do you desire power?]

“…”

I slowly ruminate over the words of the lizard in my head, and then fix my gaze squarely on the lizard’s face.

“I desire it.
But I don’t like the idea of you simply bestowing power on me like the other Gods and then taking it away at your pleasure.
If you grant me power, swear to me that you will continue to do so until the day I die.”

[That’s a remarkably conceited, self-serving, and irreverent statement, O human.
Not many fools have gone so far as to say that about God.
But I have a fondness for it.
Hence, I will say it.
Very well! My power is yours alone until the day you die! And you, swear it! That you will continue to fight monsters and those who control them until they are eradicated!!]

“Fine.
I’ll take you up on it.”

I lightly bite my fingertips with my teeth, cutting the skin and letting the blood ooze out.

The lizard, on the other hand, scratches themself to produce a piece of scale and thrusts it towards me.

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“My name is Whiteice Akira.
I am human.
What’s yours?”

[I am Ys.
The Ice Basilisk, as called by the humans.]

Ys licks the blood from my fingertips, and I scoop up and lick a piece of Ys’s scale from my finger.

This contract, in which we exchange parts of ourselves and mutually declare each other’s names, is one of the deepest, ancient, and strongest contracts passed down in this world between Gods and humans.

It is a contract that binds us to each other so profoundly that even if we wanted to break it, the bond is unbreakable.

“[Our contract is established].”

After the contract is concluded, Ys and I are enveloped in light.

——————

A/N:

The basilisk has eight legs and a crowned head.

Ys is not a basilisk but an ice basilisk, so it is different in many ways.

T/N:

Ys in Japanese has the same pronunciation as Ice with only a subtle difference.

Whiteice Akira name in the raw is 白氷アキラ.
A literal meaning of 白氷 is basically ice that is white in color.
Whiteice Akira and Ys are the two protagonists of this novel.

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