Keeping one hand on the stone wall, Lily signalled to Iris, who was standing next to her within a narrow corridor leading between two rooms filled with grazing unicorns. Nodding, Iris pointed her right index finger at the unicorn closest to the entrance to their little corridor and fired a tiny shot of magic at the creature. It struck the monster’s right flank, leaving a spot of singed fur amidst the glossy white coat of the thing. Furious, the monster immediately whipped its head around, staring into the darkness of the corridor. Lowering its head, snorting, and levelling its horn, it took a few steps back, then broke into a swift dash, charging into the unlit passage.

As it passed through the entrance, its legs were swept out beneath it by the tripwire Lily had laid at the doorway, tangling its hooves, causing it to be thrown forward uncontrollably while whinnying. Lily casually pressed herself close against the wall, waited for the flying unicorn to skid past her, then quickly straddled it and broke off its horn with a satisfying snap. The moment she did, the unicorn’s body turned into black ash, crumbling away. She stood up and stowed the horn in her satchel, along with the others.

“…and that’s eight. We’re done. Good work, Iris.”

“Mm. That was fast.”

Lily had initially, in another part of the floor, tried tackling the unicorns head-on, but they kept running around and banding together and being generally annoying. In addition, if they died before their horn was removed, their horn vanished with them, so it was taking way too long to hunt the things with brute force. She had thought of this hunting method after seeing the narrow corridor that happened to be in the middle of two unicorn pastures. Fast, effective, relatively effortless.

Still, as she started heading to the room with the stairs down to the 17th floor, Lily looked around at the layout of the dungeon and whistled. She had been in the <<Tower of Saphiz>> for nigh on two days, but the structure of the thing still simultaneously impressed and confused her. As a tower, it was distinctly different from the endless stone walls of the <<Labyrinth of Azoria>>, though both had the same unnatural lighting. The tower’s walls and corridors were all made of stacked stone and brick, but what was intriguing were the rooms. The rooms were somehow all filled with nature and grass, which seemed to grow entirely naturally from a soil floor. It was a dungeon that seemed to make no sense, but it was also very ordered in its chaos. All the rooms with monsters were rooms that had this self-contained nature, while all the rooms and corridors without were those with stone and obviously manmade architecture.

While she mused, a bright flash suddenly illuminated the room she was in. All around her, she heard adventurers shouting and calling for retreat. As she watched, right in front of her, perfectly in the middle of the room, atop a hill covered grass amid a pastoral grassland, a ball of light materialised. The other adventurers in her room started running toward the entrance, but Lily stood her ground and watched the ball of light morph into a vaguely humanoid shape. Her face twisted into an anticipatory grin.

<<Random Spawn>>. The gimmick of this dungeon that caused random monsters from the more advanced floors to appear on the lower floors. She beckoned to Iris, who nodded and stepped back, drawing her shooters and taking aim at the sphere. Lily herself crouched into a low, tense stance. As she watched, the light formed itself and slowly began to fade, leaving a tall, translucent figure in knight-like plate armor. It was about the height of a well-built human male, wielding a kite shield in its left hand and a shortsword in its right. It was covered in a bluish-white glow, and stood stoicly atop the hill, unmoving.

The girls and the knight stared each other down for several seconds, neither side taking a step. Lily frowned. The thing and its movements were not registering on her <<Probe>>. This might be troublesome. As they watched, six ghostly, shimmering longswords, seemingly less corporeal than the shortsword in the knight’s hand, materialised midair above the knight’s head, angled toward them.


Struck by a feeling of unease, Lily shouted to Iris, before the two girls dashed out of the way, just as the swords came flying at them. The six longswords embedded themselves in the ground where the girls had stood, then vanished, as if they had never been there. Tens of longswords materialised all around the knight now, and they were sent flying in a circle around it, causing Lily and Iris to run circles around the monster to avoid them. As she ran, Iris fired off several shots at the knight, but none penetrated its armor, leaving chips and dents in its ghostly plate. After a while, the knight started to lessen its barrage against Lily, focusing its efforts on Iris. At the moment when the knight’s onslaught on Lily showed signs of waning, Lily prepared herself. Then, the instant a gap in the attacks appeared, Lily launched herself off the ground and at the knight, turning herself midair to deliver a sound roundhouse kick.

At the apex of her ascent, her metal foot reached the plate armor protecting the knight’s head… and passed right through, leaving her suspended midair, right in front of its shortsword.

“Are you- kh!”

Responding quickly, Lily fired the boosters on her arms to propel her out of range while mumbling the beginnings of a curse, but her utterance was cut off as the very tip of the shortsword carved a gash diagonally across her chest, catching her at the edge of its range. She landed on the ground in a crouched position and touched her chest, feeling the wetness of the blood leaking from her wound. She gingerly explored the area with her fingers, finding that the slash was deeper than she had thought, if the amount of blood was any indication. She would need medical attention. As she did so, however, a sharp pain suddenly erupted within her head, accompanied by a reverberating cracking sound.

Less than a second after Lily had landed, the knight had sent nine of its phantasmal longswords flying at her position. It was the first of these that had just struck her through the temple. To the observer, it would appear that she had a ghostly sword right through the middle of her head, but there were no wounds. She blinked and tried to get rid of the ringing in her head.

Crack. The second sword. The pain in her head erupted anew, amplified this time. Lily fell to one knee, groaning. Her thoughts were getting disrupted.

Crack. The third sword. It was like a thousand needles were being driven by a seamstress in and out the recesses of her brain. It was growing harder to think.

Crack. The fourth sword. Her mind was as glass, and it was being played upon by a drummer, with hammers for his tools. It was becoming nigh impossible to think.

Crack. The fifth sword. It was impossible to think.

Crack. The sixth sword. Lily could not think. She could barely feel.

Crack. The seventh sword. Lily could not feel.

Crack. The eighth sword.

Crack. The ninth sword. The world went black.

A/N: And here we see Lily’s second-greatest weakness: things that can’t be punched/kicked. For reference, her greatest weakness is probably Iris in cute clothing. Probably.