The Escape Path
We proceeded, keeping a distance that allowed us to see the walls. Eventually, we saw a gate that looked like a back entrance, smaller than the one we had seen earlier.
“The gate seems to be free of monsters.”
“Yes, but don’t panic, you never know where anything might be.”
I was so relieved that I was afraid of making a mistake by being careless. We approached the gate slowly and vigilantly. It seemed to be all right. I was careful to look behind us because there was an unobstructed path leading from the gate into the city.
Outside the gate, trees and weeds were so overgrown that it was difficult to see the far side of the road. Gently approaching the gate, we found a moat just outside, but the bridge to cross it seemed to have fallen down. The moat was dug deep, but it did not look like it was filled with water. It was a muddy swamp.
If we looked at the other side of the bank, we could see that the soil had been worn away on the left side of the bridge. Perhaps there were monsters coming to drink the water.
“There is no bridge…”
“It must have been dropped indeed…”
“What should we do… are the bridges down at the other gates too…?”
“The first large gate we saw may have been built quite sturdy, I didn’t look properly, but I think there was a path leading past the sleeping monster.”
There was only a small amount of water. We might be able to get down and cross this much if we tried hard enough…
…What to do.
Rustle … rustle …
It was when I was struggling with the problem. Suddenly, a monster came out of the grassy bushes. It was probably a hippopotamus-like creature like the one we had seen in the plaza. It seemed to have come to drink water or something, and it walked toward the bank of the moat with its heavy body and three pairs of legs, six legs in total. Its face certainly looked like a hippopotamus, but it also had three pairs of eyes, all six of them gawking and looking around in a sickening, unintegrated motion. One of those eyes caught sight of me and Kimishima.
Suddenly, the monster let out a high-pitched scream unbecoming of its body. Kimishima screamed and clung to me.
Without taking its eyes off of us, the monster descended down the slope and into the mud, and then tried to climb up on our side.
A moment’s hesitation. Should I cut him down and move forward…?
“Kimishima, get away from the moat! The moment it crosses over…”
As I put my left hand on my sword, I heard a rustling sound and saw another Hippo emerge from the bushes.
! ! !
No… I didn’t have enough magic power back to pull off two blows yet.
What we’re going to do!? The hippo’s foot was already scraping the bank. There was no more … escape. Damn. For the time being, I’m going to … take this one out.
The hippo monster climbed up while breaking the earth, so it was hard to see its face. In my impatience, I took a deep breath to calm my mind. With a swinging blow, there was no room for error.
I blew his head off with a single strike, not missing the moment its face appeared. But there was no time to bask in the afterglow.
“Let’s get out of here!”
I heard a grunt of “gaw” as the monster I had slain fell into the moat and must have landed on the next one that tried to climb up. We had to get as far away as possible before it came out. We needed to run as far away as possible before it got out. There was nothing in the pathway in front of us, so we unconsciously ran toward the city.
! ! !
Suddenly, I heard the roar of a monster from the left side. With a growing sense of foreboding, I looked to the side and saw several warthog monsters, the same as the one I had just slain while using the restroom, running toward me. They were so fierce. If we stopped, we would surely die. Kimishima and I just ran away.
Damn. Damn. The town’s monsters began to wake up to us running without a care in the world. This time, we saw the monsters ahead of us and hurriedly turned down the road. A bad premonition was growing in my mind.
“Can you still run? Hang in there.”
Even the voice that encouraged Kimishima would be ridden with feelings that had nothing to back them up. Damn. Wasn’t there anything we could do? Wasn’t there some kind of mutual cannibalism among the monsters? Couldn’t the surviving townspeople help us? I couldn’t help but think of … wishes that were more like dreams. This was no good. I desperately tried to shake off my fantasies.
Be realistic now. I had to come up with something exactly. Kimishima’s ivy? No. Not my Iaido either… Damn. Were those the only weapons we had? Was there somewhere we could escape to, where the demons wouldn’t come to us … an underground passage or something?
… The toilet?
…No way … Were the sewers maintained? Nope. Nobody could fit in that hole in the toilet with the stones…
“Kimishima! This way!”
My call to action seemed to have brought Kimishima to her senses as well. Although I did not know what would happen, we found a glimmer of hope in this hopeless situation, and our hearts turned to the front. Our breathing became more and more labored, but we gritted our teeth and kept running. The smell of blood began to mingle with our exhalations.
Although I was higher on the ladder than Kimishima, I was sure that Kimishima was more physically fit than I was, and I was sure that she had more time to spare. In fact, I was running as fast as I could, and Kimishima was following me. We were going to get away.
The number of monsters chasing from behind was increasing rapidly.
“There it is!”
Running at full speed, I slipped into the crater-like explosion center. As I recalled, there were two holes in it.
With a roar, a lion-like monster pounced at me. Switching directions, I drew my sword and managed to repel the claws. Ugh. The difference in strength between me and the monster was huge. I only managed to get it away from me, but my stance collapsed and I was blown away.
“It’s all right! Jump in first!”
Kimishima responded to my voice and turned toward me for a moment. Seeing me standing up again, she jumped into an open hole.
All right. This was it for Kimishima. This hole…
I immediately tried to follow, but it was too small for my body by any stretch of the imagination. Without missing my hesitation, a monster was coming toward me again. There were two holes. The other hole …
I made one move to escape. As I was about to head for the other hole, a Hippo monster rushed at me from the opposite side. I ran for the hole without a care.
I hear the sound of monsters colliding with monsters behind me. The hole could be reached …!
I jumped into the collapsed hole.
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