Meanwhile, outside the cave, the bandits decided to amuse themselves with a little friendly wagering while they waited.
"You think that little girl will make it out alive? I bet 50 coins that she doesn't." Bandit A had a deriding expression.
"Nah, she'll be fine, boss Dega gave her some monster repellant, remember? My money's on that she'll run out scared witless and fail boss Dega's test. That means we'll get to do whatever we want to her, heh heh." Bandit B seemed to be imagining something vulgar.
"Hey, why don't you trust the boss a little more? I guess I'll bet on the girlie, seeing as how none of you are doing so. But to make it fair, give me 1:3 odds if I win. Deal?" Bandit C wanted to make some money.
"Deal. No complaining when I take your money! I'll be waiting for your generous donation." Bandit B felt like his companion was quite an idiot. This was practically like taking money from a baby!
"Hah, we'll see who's laughing in the end. I think she's a smart one; no ordinary little girl could persuade boss Dega so easily like that." Bandit C had a better impression of Mia.
"Hmph, what would a pampered little noble brat know? She's probably going to pee her pants the moment she runs into the monsters down there." Bandit A was disdainful and considered nobles nothing more than all bluff.
"Me no pee pants anymore! Wahh! Oh, pretty butterfly!" Derek suddenly ruined the atmosphere and caused all the bandits to exchange awkward glances with each other as he immediately forgot about his embarrassment and went off chasing some random pretty butterfly that he saw in the air.
Dega didn't participate in his underlings' betting and had a more contemplative expression. Nymon had informed him about how Mia was able to evidently travel through the Clearlight Forest by herself without an escort. That meant she would likely be more than capable of handling the weak monsters down in the cave. The real question was whether she'd be able to handle the boss monster at the end. Although it was a weak boss monster among boss monsters, it was still significantly stronger than anything else down there.
Dega checked the sun and estimated the time. It had been approximately one hour since Mia entered the cave. He decided to go down the cave and see how she was doing. It was almost about the time that she would likely have reached the end of the cave, facing off against the boss at the end. Would he arrive only to clean up her corpse to send to Count Hart, or would he be able to see something that impressed him?
"Prove to me that you're not all talk," Dega muttered to himself as he entered the cave.
At this moment, back in the cave, Mia had retreated as she was currently strategizing on how to handle the giant bat.
The bat boss monster hadn't noticed her presence. However, Mia felt that it was basically guaranteed that it wouldn't be friendly enough to allow her to simply saunter up and walk away with the contents of that silver chest. Wouldn't that just put all so-called boss monsters to shame?
Since the giant bat hadn't noticed her presence yet, Mia saw no reason to rush into battle in a foolhardy fashion. She wanted to do a small experiment on the earlier smaller bats.
The giant bat appeared to simply be a larger version of the same species of bat monster. In that case, Mia wanted to try and see if she could find any particular weaknesses that the bat monsters might naturally possess. Although it was possible to simply use brute force and distract the bat horde, she doubted it would be so easy against a boss type monster.
Mia thought back to what she had learned in high school biology class. She recalled that bats used echolocation, the ability to detect their surroundings and sense prey by sound, in order to compensate for their poor eyesight. While many magical monsters in this world, such as slimes and dragons, were completely fantastical creatures, others were simply corrupted versions of perfectly ordinary animals.
Mia didn't have too much knowledge of how echolocation worked specifically, but she figured that since bats sensed their prey by sound, not vision, perhaps she would be able to interfere with their sensory systems? After all, the air was a medium for sound waves, and she already possessed the ability to hear sounds on the wind under her control or send her voice some distance farther than normal on the wind. She felt that it was worth a try to experiment against the weaker bat monsters first. It would never hurt to have too much information.
She backtracked slightly and went to a previous room where there were still many bats waiting for her. Mia tried summoning the strongest possible breeze she could muster and observed the bats' movements to see if they would be affected.
…All that happened was that she received a musty smell of bat guano right to her face. Meanwhile, the bats seemed to be completely unaffected by her gentle breeze as they swooped right down at her with no apparent problems. Mia supposed that it was too much to hope for after all, as such a light breeze had barely any strength to it. If only she could summon gales, whirlwinds, or use wind blades…
Mia shook off the bats flocking to her while also pinching her nose. If using the most "powerful" breeze she could summon didn't have any seeming affect, how about doing the opposite?
She envisioned stopping the airflow entirely and attempted to block off the airflow in this area. She doubted that she would be able to create a perfect vacuum, as that would be too much to hope for. Still, there were definitely future potential uses for being able to create air pockets. Would she be able to block off the sound waves, or at least part of them and interfere with the bats' echolocation systems?
As expected, no such total blockage of all sound occurred. Was it just her imagination, or did the bats' cacophonous screeching seem to become a few decibels lower?
The important thing was that the bats now seemed to be flapping about more chaotically than before, and some of the bats even crashed into each other. Mia took advantage of the opportunity to withdraw herself from the fray, unnoticed.
She returned to the passageway before the giant bat's room to think about what just happened. Was it some type of air refraction affecting the sound waves' transmissions? Mia was unsure, as she was no expert in wave mechanics or physics. Several years had passed already since she last attended high school, and she could only remember the basics. Who knew that such esoteric knowledge would actually come in useful for a real-world situation?
Besides, the laws of physics that she knew might not even fully apply. After all, everything that magic did went against the laws of physics. Perhaps the wind element she was using somehow magically interfered with the bats' echolocation sensory systems.
There was a lot more that she still wanted to test out later, as now wasn't the best time for magical experimentation. Mia felt that simply the power to control light breezes had plenty of unexplored potential, limited only by her imagination. Who said that gentle breezes would be unable to kill? She wasn't going to complain about receiving a weak cheat power or anything like that. A magic power was still a magic power, and far better than having nothing at all.
Mia mentally prepared herself and rested for a few minutes before heading to the confrontation with the boss bat monster. It was just like how games would always have a save and often times even a recovery area right before a fixed boss encounter. She wanted to be in her best condition.
Still, when she entered the final room of the cave and the giant bat monster took notice of her presence, Mia found herself unable to suppress her quickening heartbeat. Fighting large monsters from the comfort of her room on a computer screen was completely different from facing off against them in reality, after all.
Mia almost wanted to turn and flee when she saw the human-sized bat diving straight for her. She immediately tried out her new tactic – full suppression over the air, making it as still as possible!
Mia was someone who believed that trump cards were meant to be used, not saved. She personally disagreed with people who always saved their true abilities for last, or suddenly came out and said "Oh, just so you know, I am not left handed." If that person's enemy went all out right from the start, wouldn't that give the enemy a serious advantage?
It was the same with gun standoffs that she commonly saw on television. If it was up to her, she would simply shoot immediately without even wasting words. Talking too much was a weakness. Well, that was just her personal opinion. Who knew what she would really do if she found herself in such a situation?
Just for extra insurance, Mia dodged and rolled on the ground in order to dodge the swooping bat monster… which resulted in bat guano sticking all over her clothing and Whimsy. While grimacing, Mia swung her wooden sword and clouted the bat monster on the head.
Deadening the air seemed to have less of an effect on the boss bat monster compared to its smaller cousins. Still, there was some apparent effect, as it appeared to be flying shakily through the air now. Or, was that simply the effect of the blow on its head?
The boss bat monster still had too much of a size advantage on Mia, and she knew that it was unlikely that she could seriously damage a monster of its size. At most, it would do only a few HP points of damage. She didn't want to get into a battle of attrition with this boss that she could only do chip damage to. In fact, she was intending on taking a shortcut.
Who said that one was absolutely required to defeat the boss in order to obtain the treasure at the end of the path? While video games may have been hard coded in such fashions, Mia had no intention of "playing by the rules" here. Her only objective was to grab that silver chest at the end of the room. She personally felt that there was no need for her to fight and defeat this boss bat monster right now. All she needed to do was obtain the item inside and show it to Dega in order to obtain his assistance.
Mia envisioned a breeze blowing around the bat monster while maintaining the still air in the cavern. She then peeled Whimsy off of herself, canceling the Slime Armor, and letting Whimsy act on its own.
As she expected, Whimsy jumped up onto the bat monster, attracted by wherever the highest density of wind element mana was. Mia suddenly wondered if "eating", or absorbing wind mana or whatever it was that Whimsy did, was the only thing on its mind.
While Mia was mostly confident in Whimsy's high defenses, she was still somewhat worried and observed a few seconds to see if Whimsy would need any assistance from her. She saw the Wind Slime expanding its body and enveloping the bat monster, much like what Whimsy would do for her whenever she surrounded her own body with wind mana. However, the bat monster was a flying creature, and this inhibited its ability to fly. Soon, it crashed into the ground, continuously struggling against Whimsy.
This was all Mia needed. Whimsy could stall the bat monster for her with its high defenses while she ran over to pick up the treasure chest. It wasn't necessary to defeat the boss, after all. Nor did she count on Whimsy to actually deal any damage; slimes' attack power was simply too low. Some ten-plus seconds of time was all she needed.
When Mia reached the silver treasure chest and opened it up successfully, she heaved a sigh of relief. She had been worried that there would be some ridiculous setting like the treasure chest being magically locked and only opening up once the boss was defeated.
There was a small book inside, the title of which said "Rank C ice magic – Icicle Crash". Mia hurriedly put the book away in her pouch. It was now time to leave!
"Come, Whimsy, we're getting out of here!" Mia canceled the breeze swirling around the boss bat monster and summoned Whimsy back to her. She then ran off at her top speed, ignoring the bat monster's struggling and screeching behind her as it shakily flew back up.
Meanwhile, Dega had finally arrived at the end of the cave when Mia, who still had quite a bit of bat guano clinging to her clothes, ran straight into him.
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