She planted her feet, strongly grasped the haft of her beautiful weapon, and strongly flexed her magecraft.
It was easy as breathing, now. Breathe out, and leave the lungs flat and empty. As easily as that, she could flatten the curvature of space, making her as light and clear as a gas, floating across the surface of reality. Breathe in, expand the ribs, drop the diaphragm, inflate the lungs to maximum, and her whole body was as heavy as lead, existing as a strong and solid metal, implacable. Her boots dug down, crushing down into the sand, her footprints centimeters deep.
The spinning Halberd lost no speed as she cheated the [World] of Aincrad, maintaining the speed even as the mass increased, as she paid Prana to create momentum from nowhere. Like that, firmly gripped in her gauntlets, the blow of the halberd intercepted the blow of the Krab.
The Klaw of the [King Krab] bore down on her like the grille of a truck, and her treasured weapon swung out, hammering like an artillery blow.
She didn't lose. In a contest of inertia, the one that existed more heavily in the world was not the Krab as wide as a building, but one lone woman.
Her ears rang from the fierce blow, nearly deafening her. It had connected perfectly, a natural [Critical Hit]. She stepped forward, pressing her advantage.
"Following up!" She shouted, slamming a second attack straight down, shearing off the front leg of the Boss in front of her.
"Switching!" Yamata shouted down, matching her timing.
He dropped line a stone, slamming the Boss from above with an attack, before bouncing off and flipping back up into the air.
"Switch!" He shouted.
"Switching!" Came the shout from across her.
Agil. Leader of the Guild [Agil's Item Shop], who equipped a monstrous battleaxe that could challenge even her [Platina Halberd] as the heaviest weapon on the [Front Line].
He stepped forward to attack, but nearly stumbled as the Boss surged away from him at the same time, towards Lind.
Lind clicked her teeth in annoyance. In exchange for the Critical Hit, had she drawn too much aggro?
She stepped forward, parrying the Klaw that came for her.
A PM popped up in the corner of her vision. "Retreat!" She shouted. "To the bunkers!"
She stepped back once, but narrowed her eyes and stepped forward again to parry another Klaw. The blows of a Boss were so heavy… if she didn't step forward, inside the full swing, she would be overwhelmed.
Vaguely she saw Agil retreat away, his two men with him.
Her boy Shivata raised his hand towards her.
"I'll catch up!" She shouted back.
He hesitated for just an instant, before nodding firmly and darting away.
Right, now she just needed to create an opening. She raised her Halberd, gauging the Boss' body, and stepped forward, spinning her [Platina Halberd] around, a monstrously heavy blow crashing directly into the onrushing Klaw from the side. It wasn't a mere parry, but a full counter attack aimed at the limb that had come for her, shattering the Klaw.
The boss screeched in rage.
Good, while it was distracted. Lind turned, dashing forward to sprint towards the shelter.
But her instincts screamed, and she leaped to the side, as the other Klaw dug into where she'd been standing. Not fast enough.
She whipped back around, swinging her Halberd back into the attack.
"Switch!" She shouted, in instinct.
Ah. That's right. There was no one to switch with.
She grit her teeth instead, parrying the next blow.
And guarding against the one after that.
Wasn't this… pretty bad, actually?
She grimaced, her arms shaking, her fingertips numb, as she pressed forward, trying to seize control of the initiative.
She swung, attacking the Boss' main body.
The Klaw came down, smashing into her shoulder, forcing her to the ground. She lay, stunned, face down in the sand.
The Klaw came down again.
She gathered her arms, pushing herself up onto her elbows and knees.
She spat blood, struggling to roll over onto her side.
Her HP bar emptied out.
I I I
A purple curtain was closed in front of a stage. Jazz music played so softly that it was barely even audible. Dim lights shone against the curtain.
Slowly the curtain pulled apart, spreading open to reveal the bare hardwood of the stage, the painted backdrop an illustration of an alley somewhere in [Elvengrad], a crescent moon above the scene.
The music faded out and away, ending even as the lights subtly came up, more fully illuminating the empty stage.
Yes, that empty stage, that didn't have anyone standing on it. Perfectly flat and quiet, the music gone, the silence stretching on too long.
The curtains rustled, but it was just a breeze from the air conditioning blowing air around to maintain a comfortable condition for the audience that was presumably off-screen. If there was a studio audience, this is maybe when you would expect someone to cough exactly once, not loud, but breaking the silence.
That's right. An empty stage, with no one standing on it.
And with rapidly snapping fingers, the dang omake finally started-!
Entering from stage right, practically running as she cross-stepped one foot behind the other to rush onto the stage, was Sacchi. Wearing a black tankini, there was a white outline of a cat's head on it.
Quickly following behind her, maintaining the proper cross-leg hip sway even as she matched the first girl's pace, Argo was wearing the brown-and-yellow bikini with matching hat.
But we gotta keep up, as the third girl charged in. No, not just a girl, a fully developed woman, wearing the legendary chainmail bikini that showed off her curves and long legs, the guild-leader Lind. She was struggling to snap her fingers fast enough but that was gap moe in its own way!
"Gah!" Sacchi said, as she stumbled over her feet from rushing, spilling across the stage as she overshot her mark, laying on the floor.
A pause, the other two not snapping their fingers, as they stared down at the girl on the floor.
Maybe if you had been paying attention before and hadn't missed your cue, and maybe if you hadn't rushed to overcompensate, you wouldn't have fallen!
The pause was stretching on kind of long again. Oh geeze, are you okay Sacchi?
"100 col." Argo smoothly said.
Sacchi slowly pushed herself up, before turning and pouting at Argo. "Couldn't you have helped me up!?" She demanded, before making the classic back-slap of the tsukkomi. Obviously it was just in the air instead of connecting with Argo because Sacchi was still on the ground, but it was a relief that she was okay to incorporate it into her comedy routine.
"...Would you like a hand?" Lind finally asked.
Sacchi sighed morosely, before pushing herself off the ground. "Thanks, but I'm fine." She said, as she stood, brushing off her bare knees. Oi, you didn't skin yourself, right?
"Then why ask…?" Lind muttered.
Sacchi sighed again, and it sounded more resigned this time. "Well, nevermind." She looked up, and smiled with only a hint of teariness in her eyes.
"Welcome to the show [Alley Cat Alliance], where second-rate characters are recruited into a third-rate variety show!" Still wearing a watery smile, Sacchi blinked, exactly once.
If you're better rated than the show then why were you late!
"Ah." Lind said, surprised.
"Oh, what is it Lind?" Sacchi said.
"I forgot to take the laundry in. Can I be excused?" Lind replied.
Sacchi tilted her head to the side at a ten degree angle. "Couldn't you ask later?" Her head went to a twenty degree angle. "Wait, if it's a [VR Game] why is there even a mechanic for drying laundry?" Thirty degrees, and ugh it was coming off as unnatural instead of really setting up a three-beat structure. "And are we seriously just directly reusing that gag?" That wasn't the third joke!
A perfect beat as Lind considered that, crossing her arms under her bust.
"100 Col." Argo replied.
"So a funny thing happened on the way over." Sacchi said. Wait, that wasn't in the script. Is she going to ad-lib an explanation for why she was late? Don't just paper over that!
And why were you even late!
"After all, since it's been SIX YEARS, there's been a lot of time for funny things to happen, right?" Sacchi continued.
"Ah." Lind said, hand going up to cover her mouth.
"What is it, Lind?" Sacchi said, pouting because her anecdote was getting interrupted.
"I forgot to return the DVDs I rented." Lind said. "The late fees… for SIX YEARS…" Lind sighed in defeat as her shoulders slumped. "So expensive."
What's with that weird emphasis!?
"100 Col." Argo dryly replied.
I'm not paying!
"That's right." Sacchi said, sighing. "Complaining about us being late to a third-rate show, even though it's been SIX YEARS…."
It was a rhetorical question! You shouldn't be interacting with the narration, stick to the script and do the show! Besides, it hasn't been six years! Not quite yeeeet-!
Sacchi tapped her chin. "That's right… rather than SIX YEARS, how many months short are we?"
"100 Col." Argo said, smirking.
I'm not paying!
"Ah." Lind said.
"What did you forget this time, Lind?" Sacchi asked in a monotone.
"To update my fanfi-"
Hey! You're not this sassy in the story, at least stay in character even if we're talking directly across the fourth wall!
Lind slowly turned to face away from Sacchi, staring directly into the camera with her head tilted slightly back. Slowly, one eyebrow smoothly went up, as she looked down from an imperious angle. Ah, the Shaft Head Tilt ™. Nice.
"Kuh." Sacchi said, flinching back. "Is this the power of a Heroine?" Her shoulders tensed up. "Is this the power of Rule 63?"
It's a powerful combination, but Lind's character design here actually predates the Progressive Manga, so her appearance is a ripoff of a completely different 'Lind,' instead of being Rule 63.
"100 Col." Argo said, frowning.
Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to undercut your exposition.
"It's fine." Argo replied, although her tone contradicted her words. "Sensei does it all the time anyway."
"Argo…" Sacchi said. "I don't like being the senpai in this, but you know it's dangerous, right? To be the Second Girl."
Argo opened her mouth, and then closed it. "It's not really like that, and even if it was, he's not a siscon?"
"Argo." Lind interjected. "Could you defeat a lion?"
"Is that really where you want to go?" Argo challenged. "After all, I'm not the one that got Princess Saved from a Dark Knight, you know?"
Lind simply crossed her arms, looking away.
The conversation was going in a strange direction.
"It kind of is." Sacchi agreed, sighing. "But since you just let the audience stew on it for SIX
Hey! What the heck! You're seriously making that the gag you keep going back to for this segment!?
"100 Col." Argo replied.
I wasn't asking!
"Yes you were." Argo shot back.
It was a rhetorical question!
"Isn't it sad?" Sacchi asked morosely.
Now we're calling that back!?
"100 Col." Argo repeated.
A beat of silence. Then the three girls turned, tucking both hands against their left hip as they faced the back, before whipping forward, snapping their fingers as they pointed finger guns directly at the audience.
"Hey!" They chorused.
At least you properly brought it back to the script for the end! The jazz music swelled again on the outro, and the curtains swept closed, finishing the show.
"I think that went well." Lind said, talking in a hushed tone.
"I dunno." Argo whispered back. "It seemed kind of dumb."
"The scene hasn't finished yet!" Sacchi hissed.
"Eh?" Lind whispered, surprised.
"I know." Argo said at the same time.
Dang it…! That's it, fine, whatever! This omake is over!