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    Chapter 6: Confronting the Tyrant

    Sunny was off to face against a Nightmare Creature. And not any creature, at that, but one of the fifth category — a dreaded, fearsome tyrant. The odds of survival were so low that anyone would have laughed in his face if he were to ever suggest attempting to fight it. If they weren't an Awakened two or three ranks above the creature, of course.

    Which Sunny certainly wasn't.

    And yet, he had to deal with this Mountain King somehow to avoid an even more miserable death. The ridiculous degree to which the odds were stacked against him from the very beginning of this delayed execution had gotten old a long time ago, so he didn't have any more energy to think about it. What was there to fear, after all? He was already as good as dead. It's not like he could get any deader.

    So why worry?

    On the other side of the bonfire, things were turning from bad to worse. Most of the slaves were already dead. A few soldiers were still desperately trying to fight the monster, but it was clear that they weren't going to last long. Right in front of Sunny's eyes, the tyrant picked up a dead slave, dragging the chain up with him, and opened its terrifying maw wide. With one crushing bite, the slave's body was torn in half, leaving only bloodied stumps inside the shackles.

    Mountain King's five indifferent, milky eyes stared into the distance as he chewed, streams of blood flowing down its chin.

    Seeing that the creature's upper arms were busy, one of the soldiers screamed and lunged forward, brandishing his long spear. Without turning its head, the tyrant extended one of its shorter lower arms, caught the soldier's head in an iron grip and squeezed, crushing the poor man's skull like a soap bubble. A moment later, the headless body was tossed over the cliff and disappeared into the abyss below.

    Shifty doubled over, puking his guts out. Then he shakily rose to his feet and glared at Sunny.

    "Well? We've taken a look, now what?"

    Sunny did not answer, pensively observing the tyrant with his head slightly tilted to one side. Shifty stared at him some more, then turned to Scholar.

    "I'm telling you, old man, the boy is sick in the head. How the hell can he be so calm?!"

    "Shhhh! Lower your voice, fool!"

    Blood drained from Shifty's face as he slapped himself, covering his mouth with both hands. Then he cast a fearful look in the direction of the tyrant.

    Luckily, the abomination was too busy feasting on the slaves — lucky ones who were already dead and unlucky ones who were still alive — to pay them any attention. Shifty slowly exhaled.

    Sunny was preoccupied with thinking, measuring his chances of survival.

    'How do I get rid of that thing?'

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    He didn't have any special powers, nor did he have an army ready to bury the tyrant under a mountain of bodies. He didn't even have a weapon to at least scratch the damn bastard.

    Sunny moved his gaze and looked past the creature, into the endless darkness of the moonless sky. As he was watching the night, a bright flash streaked in the air and collided with one of the tyrant's arms, bursting into a rain of sparks. The young soldier — Sunny's heroic liberator — had just tossed a burning piece of wood at the monster and was now defiantly raising his sword.

    "Face me, devil!"

    'A distraction! Just what I needed!'

    Because there was no way for Sunny to kill the Mountain King with his own two hands, he had decided to enlist some help. A human wouldn't be up to the task, so instead, he was planning to use a force of nature.

    'Since I can't do the bastard in myself, let's make gravity do it for me.'

    He was in the middle of thinking over the details of the plan when the young hero's foolish bravado presented an opportunity. Now everything depended on how long the pompous idiot would manage to stay alive.

    "Come with me!" Sunny said as he started running toward the far end of the stone platform, where the heavy wagon was perched dangerously close to the edge of the cliff.

    Shifty and Scholar shared a dubious look, but then followed, perhaps confusing his calmness with confidence, or maybe divine inspiration. After all, it was a widely known fact that crazy people were often favored by the gods.

    Behind them, Hero nimbly ducked under the tyrant's claws, slashing it with the sword. The sharp edge slid ineffectively across the dirty fur, not living even a scratch on the creature's flash. In the next second, the tyrant moved with frightening speed, throwing all four of his hands in the direction of its new, irritating foe.

    But Sunny had no way of knowing. He was running with all his speed, getting closer and closer to the wagon. Once there, he hurriedly looked around, checking if there were any larvae close by, and moved to its rear wheels.

    The wagon was left at the upper end of the stone platform, where it narrowed and turned back into the road. It was turned sideways to block the wind, with its front facing the mountain wall and its back facing the cliff. There were two large wooden wedges placed under the rear wheels to prevent the wagon from rolling backward. Sunny turned to his companions and pointed at the wedges.

    "When I tell you, remove both of them. Then push. Understand?"

    "What? Why?"

    Shifty stared at him with a dumbfounded expression on his face. Scholar just looked at the wedges, and then at the tyrant.

    Hero, miraculously, was still alive. He was weaving between the creature's limbs, always just half a second away from being completely eviscerated. From time to time, his sword flashed in the air, but to no avail: Mountain King's fur was too thick, and his skin too tough to be harmed by mundane weapons. There was a hint of apprehension on the young warrior's face.

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    All the other soldiers, as far as Sunny could see, were already dead. So he really needed that one to live a little bit longer.

    'Don't die yet!' he thought.

    To Shifty, he simply said:

    "You'll see."

    The next moment, Sunny was running again, trying to follow the chain from the brace where it was affixed to the wagon. The thing he was searching for was hard to notice due to all the bodies, blood and viscera littering the stone platform, but for once, luck was on his side. A short amount of time later, he had found what he needed — the torn end of the chain.

    Finding the nearest set of shackles, complete with a horribly disfigured body of a slave locked in them, Sunny plopped down on his knees and started to fumble with the key.

    There was a muffled scream, and with a sideways glance, he noticed Hero flying through the air, finally caught by one of the tyrant's strikes. Incredibly, the young soldier managed to land on his feet, sliding several meters across the stones. All of his limbs were still in place; there were no terrible wounds on his body, either. Without skipping a bit, Hero rolled forward, picking up his sword from where it fell on the ground, and then rolled once more, this time sideways, narrowly avoiding a heavy stomp from the creature's foot.

    "Rolling?! Who the hell rolls around in this situation?!"

    Without any more time to waste, Sunny finally managed to unlock the shackles. Shaking the dead slave out of them, he then promptly locked them once again, this time around the chain itself — ending up with a makeshift slipknot and a loop.

    Now everything depended on his resolve, hand-to-eye coordination… and luck.

    Turning to Shifty and Scholar, who were still waiting by the wagon, he screamed:


    Then, picking up a sizable length of chain, Sunny stood up and faced the tyrant.

    Hero spared him half a glance. His eyes lingered on the chain for a moment and then quickly followed it to the wagon. Then, without showing a hint of emotion, the young warrior doubled his efforts, drawing the creature's attention away from Sunny.

    'So he's smart, too? What a scam!'

    Clearing his head of all unnecessary thoughts, Sunny concentrated on the weight of the chain in his hands, the distance between him and the tyrant, and his target.

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    Time seemed to slow down a bit.

    'Please, don't miss!'

    Gathering all of his strength, Sunny spun and threw the chain in the air, as though a fisherman casting his net. The loop opened as it flew, closing in on the position of the fight between Hero and the tyrant.

    Sunny's plan was to place the loop on the ground close enough to them that, once one of the tyrant's feet landed in the trap, he could pull on the chain and tighten it around the monster's ankle.

    But his plan… failed spectacularly.

    Which is to say, it was literally a spectacle.

    In the last moment, Mountain King suddenly flinched back, and instead of falling on the ground, the chain loop landed perfectly around its neck. A second later it tightened, acting as an iron noose.

    Sunny froze for a moment, not believing his eyes. And then clenched his fists, holding himself back from triumphantly shaking them in the air.

    'YES!' he screamed inwardly.

    Moments later, the wagon would roll off the cliff, pulling the tyrant down with it. Sunny looked back to make sure, and instantly turned even paler than he usually was.

    Shifty and Scholar did manage to remove the wedges from under the wagon's wheels and were now desperately pushing it to the edge of the road. However, the wagon was rolling slowly… very slowly. Much slower than Sunny had anticipated.

    He turned to the tyrant, panicking. The creature, surprised by the sudden weight pressing down on its neck, was already raising its hands to tear the chain apart.

    Sunny's eyes widened.

    In the next second, Hero crashed into one of the tyrant's legs, throwing it off balance — and buying them some time. Sunny was already running to the wagon, cursing loudly in his mind. Reaching it, he threw himself onto the damp wood alongside Shifty and Scholar, pushing with all the strength left in his rather small, but terribly beaten and enormously exhausted body.

    'Roll! Roll, you creaky piece of shit!'

    The wagon sped up a little, but was still rather slow in reaching the cliff's edge.

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    At the same time, the tyrant finally managed to get a hold of the chain tied around its neck, ready to free itself.

    Now whether they lived or not was just a question of which thing would happen first.

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