Chapter 7: Earth Spider

The Earth Spider is a monster with the shape of a spider, as its name suggests.

Of course, its similarity is only in shape. Everything about it, from its size, speed, and strength, is vastly different from the spiders you see in the wild.

It has eight crimson spots on its head that resemble eyes, eerily flickering on and off. Its gaping mouth is big enough to swallow a child whole, and its jagged teeth protruding from within are those of a man-eating monster.

Red body hair covers its head like a lion’s mane, with numerous protrusions sticking out from its forehead like horns. Its body is striped with black and yellow, resembling a tiger more than a spider.

It has the body of a demon and the face of a beast. Its body is easily over two meters long.

Eight legs extend from its long body, hard and knobby like metal armor, with black gleaming claws at their tips. If caught by them, a human body would be torn apart like a sheet of paper.

If it’s a spider monster, it’s almost certain to possess poison, and there’s a possibility it could spit out sticky threads to immobilize me.

As I faced the earth spider, I muttered softly.

“It’s about the same level as the King of Flies.”

To be honest, I’ve never fought an earth spider directly, so the evaluation of “the same level as the King of Flies” is just a gut feeling. But I don’t think I’m too far off the mark.

Five years ago – no, even just a few months ago, before I mastered soul equipment, it would have been an insurmountable opponent for me.

But that doesn’t mean I can easily win now. Judging from the way Gozu snapped at Gilmore when he mentioned the earth spider’s name in the great hall, it’s almost certain that it has a dangerous ability for soul equipment users.

They should have considered that the opponent might employ tactics like curses that drag the attacker down with them upon death, or possess a second form impervious to Kei, similar to some Soul Equipements.

As for the crucial Earth Spider, it was scratching the ground violently with its claws, repeatedly uttering an irritated “Shh!”.

Upon closer inspection, translucent ropes were seen wrapped around the Earth Spider’s body, with sparks flying occasionally as it struggled. It seemed to be a Kei technique that used to immobilize the Earth Spider.

From the Earth Spider’s movements, it was clear that the bindings were extremely unpleasant for it. After the bindings were released, it would undoubtedly unleash all the anger it had accumulated on me right before its eyes.

Compared to the original opponent, the Dragon Fang Soldier, that monster was not even worth mentioning. If they had gone through the trouble of capturing this monster for today, it could be said that it was a truly cunning plan befitting of the Berch family.

“Well, it’s a suitable opponent for a human who claims to have killed a dragon.”

I shrugged my shoulders lightly.

To tell the truth, I felt a bit let down. The earth spider was indeed a powerful monster, but I had expected them to prepare a more vicious opponent for me, since they knew I was coming a month ago.

They probably couldn’t prepare a dragon, but for example, they could have prepared a kijin girl of the same age as Suzume and said, “We will consider her head as proof of your strength!” I was prepared for something like that. If it was Gilmore, who had his two adopted children beaten by me and his family name tarnished, he would do something like that.

But when I opened the lid, all they had prepared was a mere monster. This made me look more evil than Gilmore.

As I thought about that, I crossed my arms and waited for the start.

I glanced around and saw that the Sword Saint and the others of the Mitsurugi family were already seated in a circle around me and the earth spider.

The trial was held in a circular arena. The feeling of facing a monster while being exposed to the eyes of many people was like that of a slave gladiator who had descended into the arena.

By the way, this arena had no walls, no fences, and no magic barriers. In other words, depending on the actions of me and the earth spider, the spectators could also be endangered – well, there was no one in this place who would care about that.

“Then, let the trial begin! Release the earth spider!”

Gilmore’s solemn voice echoed.

As soon as he said that, the ropes that bound the monster disappeared, and a vicious light lit up in its eight red eyes.

“Kyoo! Kyoo! Kyoo!”

The Earth Spider kicks the ground while emitting a scream that could be described as a roar or a curse.

Its upper and lower jaws open wide, revealing a mouth full of countless teeth. Earlier, I described it as being big enough to swallow a child whole, but I should correct myself. It could probably swallow an adult whole as well.

On the other hand, I stood there with my arms crossed, not even drawing my sword from my waist, completely defenseless against the Earth Spider approaching with all eight legs.

In the next moment, a sharp, hard sound echoed throughout the arena. It was the sound of the Earth Spider’s upper and lower jaws forcefully coming together, as if a giant guillotine blade had fallen.

If I had stayed there standing, my head, and even my heart, would have been bitten off.

Of course, I had no intention of becoming food for this monster, so I jumped backward to avoid it at the last moment.

In response, the Earth Spider immediately launches a counterattack. It seems to accurately perceive my movements with its eight eyes.

After its jaws, it attacked with its two front legs. It swung its sharp claws like sickles in all directions, trying to cut me into pieces.

I stepped back and dodged the powerful attacks that could tear me apart with just a grazing blow, dancing left and right with small steps. This was a precaution to prevent the Earth Spider from predicting my movements. Based on its earlier reaction, it seemed that this monster had excellent kinetic vision. I couldn’t afford to be careless, even in evading its attacks.

Furthermore, if I remained in the same place, my feet would get caught in the ground dug up by its claws, so I occasionally mixed in a backstep.

The guillotine-like claws passed by repeatedly right in front of my eyes and nose. Each time, a foul smell blew in my face, as if my nose was bending.

I didn’t know if it was the monster’s body odor or the body fluids of its prey that it had eaten before that had penetrated its skin, but either way, it was not pleasant to smell.

While my discomfort and that of the spider were different, it seems that the spider was equally uncomfortable as all its attacks were being dodged. Suddenly, the spider crouched down and then immediately leapt up.

It seemed that its intention was to crush me with its own body. When it leapt, it naturally exposed its vulnerable belly to me, but the monster seemed to have anticipated my intentions and simultaneously shot a white thread from its anus.

The thread spread out in the air like a fisherman’s net and covered me completely. If I had a sword, I could have cut it, but my black sword was still at my waist.

The airborne spider twisted its face as if it was laughing at my clumsiness. It seems to possess some degree of intelligence after all.

I smiled back at the earth spider with a grin. At the same time, I lifted the ban on using kei, which I had not used until now. I wrapped kei around both legs and jumped to the edge of the arena in one breath.

To the earth spider, it must have looked like my figure suddenly disappeared. It had lost sight of the enemy it had been able to capture well until now. Its eight eyes moved frantically to find me, but it didn’t notice me easily.

Of course, its appearance was full of openings, and if I hit it with a kei technique from a distance – something like Flying Strike – I would win easily.

That’s what I thought, but I didn’t even draw the sword at my waist.

As I stood still, I heard the murmurs of the warriors from outside the arena. Why didn’t he attack at such a good opportunity, why didn’t he use his soul equipment in the first place – that kind of voice.

The answer to that was simple: I had no intention of showing them my hand in front of everyone. I didn’t even want to show them basic kei techniques, let alone soul equipment.

This was true even for Gozu and Klimt, who I fought in Ishka. What they knew was me a month ago, not me now. I didn’t need to tell them how much I had grown in this month. Not to mention the other warriors – those who only knew me five years ago.

Well, they must have gotten some information from Claira, who they had taken hostage, but if they had taken that information seriously, they would have treated me a little better. The fact that I was being forced to fight an earth spider like this was a clear proof of the contempt that pervaded the Mitsurugi family.

I had no reason to enlighten such people.

“Well, I wonder how many of them can notice the Soul Eater dragon without seeing my soul equipment or kei techniques.”

The basics of the phantom blade style are cutting power and Perception. Perception, the ability to see through the opponent’s strength, is the most basic of basics for all warriors.

Therefore, even without using soul equipment, I could see through them to some extent by fighting like this.

But humans only see what they want to see, a truth that holds even if you replace ‘see’ with ‘observe’.

Pride, contempt, mockery. If you look through such emotions, you won’t be able to observe what you should.

Of course, there are some who can shake off such emotions and accurately see through my strength.

But that means accepting the reality that I, a weakling who couldn’t pass the trial five years ago, have gained more power than Gozu Shima, the third-ranked of the first flag, and came back.

In other words, most of the warriors would have to admit that they are weaker than me. I wonder how many of the Green Woods warriors can endure this humiliating recognition.

The commotion that enveloped the arena now was undoubtedly tinged with such confusion.

“You can agonize as much as you want.”

I chuckled and waved my hand at the earth spider, who had finally noticed me.

An obvious provocation.

The intelligent monster understood its meaning and roared with anger.

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