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Practice made perfect.

Chopping heads was almost second nature to Basil by now. No sooner did Maya Elissalde fall to the ground than he charged at Tamura to finish him off. Plato repeatedly stabbed the false god in the back of his head, granting Basil an opening.

“Kick his ass, Partner!” Shellgirl shouted from the rear. “Cut him down like my prices!”

Shellgirl’s [Motivate] buffed your accuracy and critical hits chances for five minutes.

With pleasure.

Endowed with new strength, Basil struck Tamura with a vertical slice. His halberd cut through his shoulder and reached as low as the breast before being stopped by the false god’s steel-strong bones.

Critical hit! Supereffective hit!

He’s vulnerable to fire, Basil guessed. His weapon’s metal parts barely cut through the false god’s scales, but the flames produced by its Fire Rune incinerated the flesh underneath. Veins full of caustic purple blood poured boiling out of the wound. I should have brought a bottle of White Phosphorus.

Still, Tamura’s body was unnaturally resilient. Did he have damage reduction of some kind?

Tamura’s remaining snake head hissed and lunged at Basil the moment he removed his weapon for a second strike. He barely had time to dodge with a backstep. The reptile’s fangs hit the bridge with enough strength to shatter the stone.

An arrow surged at Basil’s head from his right side, forcing him to deflect the projectile. The priestess from before immediately attempted to flank him, her fists moving at incredible speed. Neria bull-rushed her and tossed her back with a push of her shield.

After dodging another projectile, Basil took a second to survey the chaotic melee. Tamura had summoned monsters all around the bridge: four gaunt satyr archers with pallid, diseased skin and bows of blackened wood stood atop the bridge’s railing. On the ground, two maddened female humanoids with fearsome fangs surrounded the disguised Vasi and Shellgirl. The latter had clouded herself in a cloak of water; her new Rainmantle Perk.

Fell Satyr
Level 18 [Demon/Beast]
Faction: Metal Olympus.
Maenad
Level 24 [Fairy]
Faction: Metal Olympus.

“Over here!” Little Nessia’s projection said, trying to catch the archers’ attention and distract them. In the meantime, Neria’s Basque shepherd howled to buff everyone.

[Brave Howl] buffed your Strength and Magic for five minutes!

Bugsy unleashed his fiery breath at the Maenads to keep them away from the disguised Vasi. The witch undid her bindings and removed the gag around her mouth to better cast spells. As for Neria’s doberman, she ran after her mistress to help her.

Unfortunately, the melee’s chaos gave Tamura enough time to recover. His remaining serpent head lunged at the invisible Plato and managed to pinpoint his position. The blow caused the cat to become visible again, right as his tiny body was sent flying beyond the bridge and into the river.

“Plato!” Basil snarled in panic. “Zach, catch him!”

“On it, sir!” a voice called from above.

Basil’s other hidden allies revealed themselves. Zachariel dived down from the sky to rescue Plato and waves spread from the wine Garonne as Rosemarine emerged from its depths. The tropidrake rose on her back legs and used the others to hold on to the bridge. She swiped a satyr off the bridge and attempted to squash another. The ground trembled from the blow.

Basil trusted his party to follow the battle strategy and focused on Tamura. Summoning his handgun from the inventory, he fired a volley at the false god while closing the gap between them. Bullets pierced the monster’s scales and drew corrosive blood. The field weakened the projectiles’ power, but they proved deadly nonetheless.

Supereffective hit!

Fire and frost. An idea crossed Basil’s mind. Of course Shinzō Tamura’s busted God-Field Perk created an advantageous terrain for him! It strengthened his powers and surely weakened the elements he was weak against!

By a simple deduction, Tamura feared Fire, Frost, and Lightning.

“Thiasus!” Tamura’s eyes shone and a new squad of satyrs appeared between Basil and him. His halberd cut them left and right, but their presence prevented him from catching up to the false god. “You there.”

“My lord?” a satyr asked.

Tamura’s remaining snake head bit his follower and swallowed him whole.

Basil halted his assault in shock at the sight. Tamura’s wounds healed in the span of seconds. His skull regenerated from Plato’s stab holes and his second snake head regrew like a hydra.

Dionysus-Orochi’s [Sin: Gluttony] Perk healed his HP/SP!

“Killing your own followers?” Basil spat as he cleaved a satyr’s head open. “Despicable to the end!”

“A hand that wavers cannot hope to rule,” Tamura replied coldly. Basil was starting to wonder if the man’s children might have good reason to despise him. “Bacchanal Mists!”

Tamura inhaled sharply and breathed out a pinkish fog. The cloud traveled across the bridge, carrying the sweet smell of grapes. Basil covered his mouth, yet he immediately felt weaker after inhaling the mist.

All buffs and magical effects disrupted! [Drunk] ailment resisted!

The mist did more than weaken Basil. It also stripped Vasi of her disguise. The witch regained her true appearance right when she blasted a satyr archer with a fireball, revealing the deception for all to see. Little Nessia’s projection was instantly dispelled. Rosemarine stumbled as if intoxicated, and as for Maya Elissalde…

“Maya? May—” Neria choked in surprise as her sister’s body transformed into a maenad. The humanoid monster leaped at the surprised officer, her claws cracking her riot shield. Tamura’s priestess immediately used the opportunity to kick her in the chest, making her stumble.

A fake? Basil thought in annoyance. Strange minds thought alike. Tamura didn’t intend to negotiate in good faith either.

“Mistress Neria!” Behind Basil, Neria’s Doberman rushed to her ally’s help. The dog leaped at the priestess and forced her to the ground. The beast’s fangs closed on the woman’s throat, tearing it out.

Tamura’s lips curled into a snarl upon seeing Vasi’s true face. “You tricked me!”

“So did you,” Basil replied as he finished off the last of the satyrs in his path. “The pot calling the kettle black.”

“Fool, now I have no reason to hold back.” Tamura floated above the bridge, light gathering in the mouths of his two pet serpents. “Saké Breath!”

Remembering his battle with Steamslime, Basil immediately ducked to the side. “Everybody get down!”

Tamura’s snake heads fired twin blasts across the bridge. Translucent, pressurized alcohol surged out of the maws at supersonic speed. Droplets cut through stone like paper.

Basil managed to dodge the twin streams of destruction by moving to the bridge’s edge, but not all of his allies were as quick. Neria avoided the attack and Bugsy burrowed into the bridge to escape the strike, but the back legs of Elissalde’s Doberman were vaporized by the stream alongside Tamura’s priestess. Shellgirl lifted her shell to protect Vasi and the Basque shepherd from the Saké breath, and surprisingly, it held firm. Basil thanked God for her new Water immunity.

Unfortunately, the attack had damaged the bridge. Basil could feel it shake under his feet. A few more attacks like this and the whole structure might collapse.

“Mistress…” the Doberman whined, her back legs severed at the knees. The poor dog crawled as blood poured out of her wounds. “It hurts…”

“Healer!” Basil shouted before he could even stand up. Unfortunately, Zach hadn’t reappeared yet and Rosemarine remained dizzy from the mist. Refusing to lose another ally in battle, Basil rushed to the Doberman’s side and summoned a healing potion from his inventory. “Here.”

No more Kuikuis on his watch.

“Thiasus,” Tamura said as Basil poured the healing potion down the Doberman’s throat. A team of maenads and satyrs materialized around the bridge to replace the dead.

Damn it, he was trying to overwhelm them through sheer numbers. “Shellgirl, Vasi!” Basil shouted. “Round them up!”

“Evil Eye,” the witch replied. The shadow of a colossal eye appeared above her head, its baleful glare cursing Tamura’s army.

All enemies will have their Luck debuffed for five minutes!

“Come at my wares, bastards!” Shellgirl opened her shell. The gold within glowed like the heart of the sun. “Look upon my wealth and despair! Discord Booty!”

The fires of greed burned in the eyes of many satyrs, their minds overtaken by the Madness ailment. The Luck debuff and Field effect drastically reduced their chances of resisting Shellgirl’s magic.

All of the satyrs failed to shrug off the effect.

“Mine!” one of them snarled before shooting at a maenad. “Mine!”

To Tamura’s horror, his low-level satyrs started fighting each other. The stronger Maenads remained unaffected, but Shellgirl had a weapon for them too.

“Draw Aggro! Draw Aggro!” Shellgirl targeted the Maenads with the Berserk ailment. “Ah, I’m sure you can’t even dent my shell!”

The maenads hissed in anger and charged at her, their eyes bloody with fury. Shellgirl retreated inside her shell and her enemies’ claws broke upon its surface. A few remained too maddened to focus on her and turned to attack Vasi instead.

“Bodyguard: Vasi,” Neria whispered as she regained her footing. Her Basque shepherd immediately started buffing her with howls. The officer teleported across the battlefield as a maenad threatened to tear the witch apart. Her cracked shield stopped all incoming attacks, protecting the frail spellcaster.

Perfect. Shellgirl focused enemy fire on herself while she remained safely within her shell. Rainmantle’s regenerative properties would keep her alive under the onslaught. As for Officer Elissalde, her bodyguard Perk—inherited from her Guard class—would allow her to teleport around the battlefield to protect her frailer allies.

“Stop this!” Tamura grunted. Yet his minions refused to obey him. They left the path clear for Basil to take a shot at their master. “Heed my words!”

“Your field is working against you,” Basil taunted Tamura. The Doberman’s knee wounds had closed, though her legs didn’t grow back. “Stay away until Zachariel returns.”

“I’m sorry, Master Bohen…” the poor animal said. “Let me help… Brave Howl!”

[Brave Howl] buffed your Strength and Magic for five minutes!

Basil opened fire at the false god with his handgun, the bullets drawing blood from the waist down.

“Where is my sister?” Neria snarled as she pushed back a maenad. “Where is she?!”

“I told you.” Tamura smirked cruelly. By now he floated five meters above the bridge, his snake heads shielding him from Basil’s bullets. “My three mouths consume with distinction… and this body turns the most hideous crimes into pleasure.”

Basil couldn’t see Neria’s face behind her helmet, but her knees weakened at the cruel words.

“Don’t listen to him, he’s trying to destabilize you!” Vasi shouted at her bodyguard. “Hasten!”

Neria’s body seemed to distort as the buff took effect. She quickly recovered from her shock and opened fire with her rifles at the maenads without breaking a sweat. The policewoman moved as fast as her own bullets, blocking attacks with her shield and retaliating with rifle shots in the same breath.

Since they could deal with the respawning minions, Basil would lead the assault on the boss. “Bugsy, Rosemarine, with me! He’s vulnerable to fire!”

“I’m coming, Boss!” Bugsy emerged from his hiding spot and crawled after Basil. “Agility Up!”

Basil expected Rosemarine to say as much, but to his surprise, his favorite tropidrake remained silent. He looked up at her in confusion. “Rosemarine?”

The tropidrake wavered from left to right like an uprooted tree.

“Mister, I feel…” Rosemarine belched. Her eyes rolled uncontrollably and her legs struggled to keep her standing straight. “I feel…”

God, please no, Basil prayed. Tamura’s mist had affected her in the worst possible way.

Rosemarine is [Drunk]! Her [Strength] and [Vitality] are buffed!

“I feel groovy!” Rosemarine roared, hands raised up in the air.

I hate ailments, Basil thought as Rosemarine slammed the bridge.

As he worried, the weakened structure faltered from the constant stress. Lamp lights fell into the wine river, alongside Neria’s Basque shepherd and a Shinto archway. Bugsy himself almost fell overboard and was barely hanging by a vine growing out of the stone.

“Rosemarine, calm down!” Basil tried to talk his dearest plant out of her drunken frenzy, to no avail. She kept hitting the bridge as if it were a drum, the shockwaves preventing Basil from aiming at Tamura. Worse, the false god was charging up another breath attack. “Rosemarine, bridges aren’t pianos! Stop it!”

“Mister, can you feel the beats?!” Rosemarine’s rhythm was primal, frenetic. “They hit hard, Mister!”

Thankfully, Zachariel chose this moment to reappear. He flew up from the Garonne and above the bridge, holding a whining Basque shepherd in one hand and a frightened Plato in the other. Considering his wine-drenched fur, the cat had suffered an unwelcome dive into the river.

“Let thy spirit be mended!” Zachariel’s wings glowed with holy light. His aura shone upon Rosemarine, dispelling the cloud of underage drinking that clouded her mind.

Rosemarine’s [Drunk] ailment has been lifted!

“Mister?” Rosemarine froze with her hands in the air. “Mister? I feel thirsty.”

“It’s okay, Rosemarine,” Basil reassured her. He pointed his handgun at Tamura. “Let’s blow him out of the skies.”

“Yes, Mister!” Rosemarine raised a hand and attempted to swipe Tamura like a fly.

Unfortunately, the false god turned one of his snake heads at her and the other at Zachariel. Two streams of Saké poured out of them. One blasted Rosemarine and tossed her back into the Garonne river in a catastrophic fall. Zachariel dodged the other by zigzagging in the skies.

Vasi, who could spellcast uninterrupted under Neria and Shellgirl’s protection, raised a hand at the false god. “Bruxa Murder!”

A cloud of smoke popped out of her hand, which swiftly assembled into a murder of bloodthirsty crows. The birds flocked to Tamura as Basil riddled him with bullets. The crows assaulted the false god from all sides, biting through his scales and leaving scar marks everywhere.

Having run out of bullets, Basil tossed his handgun aside. He threw his halberd at the flying Tamura like a flying axe with both hands.

Basil knew his weapon would connect before he even threw it. Apollyon had constantly moved around the battlefield in their battle, but Tamura kept floating in the same spot. The old man didn’t have the presence of mind to stay a mobile target at all times. The birds fully distracted him, so he focused entirely on them.

Tamura took the halberd straight to the face. The blade split his skull, shattered his mask, and showered him with blood. He fell onto the damaged bridge close to Basil’s position.

Amateur, Basil thought as he activated his Pèth cloak and swiftly transformed into a mighty werebear. No battle instincts to speak of.

Tamura had powerful abilities at his disposal, yet his tactics were simplistic and straightforward. If he had the presence of mind to simply blow up the bridge and let the river drown the party for him, he would have already won. Instead, he kept spamming the same abilities with little regard for tactics.

But then again, the old psycho had probably never fought once in his life. His high-level summons could handle most foes.

Tamura’s snake heads tore apart the crows as he landed on crumbled stone, only for Basil to immediately lunge at the false god. He stomped the man’s head with his bear paws, bit his throat, and mauled him savagely. His fangs and claws tore off scales after scales.

Yet even with a halberd stuck in his face, Tamura still breathed.

“Curse your cheat Field effect,” Basil grumbled as he pummeled the false god into the pavement. The stones cracked under his onslaught, a Shinto archway crumbling close to his location. “If you didn’t weaken my weapon, this would already—”

Tamura’s serpent heads bit Basil in the shoulders, making him roar in pain. His fur and enhanced werebear body softened the blow, but not by much.

[Poison] ailment resisted.

“You should be honored to have pushed me this far, Mr. Bohen,” Tamura rasped as he pushed Basil back. His broken mask revealed the bleeding, reptilian face underneath. “But you are no match for this avatar.”

“If I had a nickel for everyone who told me that, I would be wealthier than you,” Basil taunted him back. He bit one of the snake heads in an attempt to tear it off.

“But I will be the last.” Tamura’s eyes shone with purple light. “Slaughter your allies! Dionysian Mystery!”

A red veil covered Basil’s mind and blinded his eyes with fury.

[Berserk] ailment! [Dionysian Mystery] will buff Physical damage by 30% and let it pierce Physical Resistance as long as you remain in madness’s throes!

Everyone on the bridge turned into faceless goblins as Basil’s heart burned in his chest. Unyielding rage and undying hate possessed him. His thoughts were no longer his.

“You pathetic failure of a son,” said his mother’s voice, flowing out of a police goblin’s mouth. “Homeless, aimless, powerless. I’m ashamed of giving birth to you.”

The world became a blur, all voices silenced by Basil’s own roar. He wanted to tell that critter to shut up, but beast noises came out of his mouth.

He would silence it alright, with claws and fangs and death!

Abandoning the snake goblin he was mauling before, Basil recklessly charged at the greatest concentration of enemies. The police goblin who dared disrespect him was tossed backwards with a mighty blow. A goblin puppy bit him in the ankle, so he kicked it back.

“You screwed-up again, son,” a shellfish goblin said with his father’s voice. Another critter with a hat cast a spell on Basil, but he was too pissed to care. “Thought you could be better than me? Look at you. I hid in a bottle, you hid in a house! Blaming everyone but yourself for your failures to make it big!”

“Shut up!” Basil managed to snarl through his frothing mouth. He smashed the shell goblin again and again, yet she somehow weathered all his attacks. He bit and clawed and stomped, yet she wouldn’t stop mocking him with his own father’s voice. “Shut up!”

“A crusader? Don’t make me laugh. If you had what it takes to help people, you would have gotten your ass out of your sofa years ago. Your old man’s kindness was wasted on you.”

A cat goblin leaped on his back and tried to whisper more insults in Basil’s ear. So the werebear swiped the critter off his back and slammed it against the pavement to silence him. Even watching the warm blood pour out of the goblin’s wounds didn’t calm him. He raised a foot and prepared to stomp the corpse to oblivion.

“Let thy spirit be mended!”

A holy light dispelled the wrathful cloud over Basil’s mind.

When he regained his sanity, Plato lay limp at his feet.

Basil froze in shock as he struggled to process the sight around him: Neria on the ground, her shield broken next to her unconscious Basque shepherd; her maimed doberman whining in fear at her side; Shellgirl’s shell, covered in claw marks; Zachariel’s hand on his back; and worst of all, Plato’s small body struggling to breathe at his feet.

A System notification appeared, as if to taunt Basil over his terrible mistake.

Plato the Cait Sith lost one life. Six of them remain.

“Plato!” Basil stared at his cat in utter horror. His mind acted on autopilot. “Monster Cure!”

The werebeast transformation didn’t negate his Perks, but the healing light barely closed a few of Plato’s wounds. The cat had some ribs sticking out of his fur.

“Monster Cure!” Basil cast again. Damn it, did he… did he… “Neria, is she okay? Is she…”

“It’s all right, sir, I will take care of the wounded,” Zachariel said. The angel immediately applied a hand to Plato, a holy halo covering the cat. “The others need your help.”

“He’s right, Partner,” Shellgirl said as she emerged from her hideout. To Basil’s shock, she looked neither wounded nor furious with him. A veil of water quickly washed away the claw marks on her shell. “Look!”

Basil slowly turned his head.

Vasi and Bugsy were raining fire at Tamura. The former struggled to dodge a serpent head strike and the latter coiled around another. As for Rosemarine, she was slowly emerging back from the wine Garonne, dizzy and wounded.

Basil’s eyes set on Tamura. The bastard had removed the halberd from his head.

He was smiling to himself.

The fury came back in full force, and Basil didn’t need to go berserk this time.

“Wreck him!” Shellgirl shouted.

Shellgirl’s [Motivate] buffed your accuracy and critical hits chances for five minutes.

Basil roared and charged back into the fray. He ran on four legs like a real bear, frothing at the mouth. In an instant, he had crossed the length of the bridge. Vasi had the wisdom to jump out of his path, but Tamura didn’t see him coming quickly enough.

The false god’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh—”

Basil tackled him before he could finish his sentence. His claws closed on Tamura’s back and lifted him above the ground.

“Gaia’s Ven—AH!” Tamura hissed in pain as Basil tightened his grip.

“I’ll break you in two,” Basil rasped in a low, low voice. “Like a chocolate bar.”

With one snake head immobilized by Bugsy, Tamura used the other to bite Basil’s throat. The fangs closed on his neck, but the werebear didn’t even feel it.

Fury was one hell of a painkiller.

Harming Basil’s pets and friends was horrendous enough, but making him do the deed? He wouldn’t forgive it! If anything, the blood flowing from his neck only made Basil squeeze his prey tighter. He felt scales and bones bend under his pressure.

“You’ll die if you don’t release me! We’ll both perish!” Tamura panicked. His gaze morphed into an expression of utter fear. He raised his hands to push the werebear back, to no avail. “Let go of me!”

“Bugsy,” Vasi said, a magical flame burning in her palm. “Pull.”

The centimagma moved back with one of Tamura’s snakeheads still in the throes of his mandibles. Like a man quartered, the false god was pulled into two directions. Vasi joined in the fun by blasting the serpent biting Basil’s throat with a stream of fire, cutting it off.

Within seconds, Bugsy ripped out the other and left Tamura defenseless.

“Don’t like my bear hug, asshole?” Basil rasped. His throat hurt and he felt blood dripping inside, but he didn’t lighten his grip. “I thought your children didn’t give you enough? I’m giving you the love they never did. You should be happy about it.”

“Tele…” the false god struggled to form words. “Tele… po…”

Crack!

Critical hit!

Tamura’s back broke before Basil’s resolve. His body snapped in half like a kitkat bar, both halves falling at the werebear’s feet in a shower of corrupted blood. It melted with Basil’s own as it dripped down his throat.

“My body… can’t… teleport… what is happening…” Tamura crawled on the ground, unable to fly away. Bugsy, Basil, and Vasi formed a circle around him, while Rosemarine’s shadow loomed above them all. “How can this be… this body… it can’t lose…”

“I told you, you were shortchanged.” Basil immediately found a proper way to execute Tamura: the same way he killed his victims. “Rosemarine.”

His tropidrake looked at him with curious eyes.

“Snack time,” Basil confirmed.

Rosemarine remained speechless for a few seconds. The tropidrake’s tongue stuck out of her maw. Her eyes blinked in confusion. Basil always forbade her to eat humans and although it hurt him to say it, Tamura was still one under that reptilian shell.

But since he considered himself a god allowed to dine on his fellow man, he didn’t deserve any special treatment.

Upon realizing that he was serious, Rosemarine became outright giddy. “Finally! Thank you so much, Mister!”

“You…” Tamura looked up at death’s jaws with fear and despair. “You’ll let… a beast… eat me?”

“Her mouth too consumes indiscriminately,” Basil taunted him as Rosemarine opened her maw wide. “You shouldn’t have made me hit my cat.”

“I’ll… I’ll pay you! Billions! Anything!” Tamura’s horror turned to spite as his prayers fell on deaf ears. “Curse you, Anton! You lied to me! Curse—”

Rosemarine grabbed both halves of Tamura with her hand and stuffed them into her mouth.

Basil watched with dark satisfaction as the tropidrake chewed a god’s flesh, grinding bones and scales under her fangs. Then she swallowed Tamura whole, scoffed as the corpse traveled down her throat, and belched in triumph. The purple sky cackled with lightning as if to echo Tamura’s death and the dark energy clouds slowly started to dissipate.

Congratulations! Your party received 645,000 EXP (56,500 for you). You gained 3 levels (total 33).
Congratulations! Rosemarine absorbed the [Essence of Dionysus]! Rosemarine unlocked a unique metamorphosis (Minimum level required: 64)!

In the end, Shinzō Tamura did not die with dignity.

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About the author

Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending all his time writing tales and forbidden scrolls.

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