Locke bent his body down and slashed at the right leg of the crocodile where the humanoid creature had attacked before. It was still stained with the blackness of rot. Locke had focused his attacks near the right side of the neck where he had slashed earlier.
The crocodile was furious that Locke's attacks always managed to connect. The bloodstained ground and its weakened voice were proof of that.
Not interested in continuing the dance, Locke jumped some seven metres into the air thanks to Falconim's boost and reached the tallest point of the cave. Then, he leveraged gravity and layered impetus onto his sword, piercing it down into the crocodile's head before it could react. There was no roar nor struggle as the life faded from the crocodile's eyes, turning it dead-grey. The crocodile collapsed seemingly unwillingly, beating up a dust cloud.
Locke didn't relax once the crocodile was defeated, instead scanning his environment for other creatures. Once he was sure that they were alone, he sat down and took a rest. He seldom picked mid-level major monsters like that on his missions as he chose targets on the same level as he was as a matter of principle. However, the defences and power of the crocodile were far more than he had expected. If not for the humanoid creature draining the crocodile in the previous battle, he wouldn't have had such an easy time taking it down.
Though, it wasn't like it was effortless on his part. His armour had suffered some damage; this was usually only possible with the strength of a high-rank Knecht's impetus, yet the crocodile was able to do it with brute force. That aside, it was a major monster capable of using some magic, such as the frost blast from before, but it was so draining that it was only able to unleash it thrice. Normal major monsters usually had more than a single magical trick up their sleeves, so this crocodile probably progressed in a mon-magic direction. Perhaps it grew stronger by focusing on physical abilities as well, which explained its amazing recovery and defensive abilities.
Irene, who had been hiding by the wayside, finally had a chance to pop out. She checked her surroundings for danger before tiptoeing towards him, though she still seemed hesitant about approaching the gnarly carcass of the crocodile.
"Not bad! I didn't think you'd be this strong," she said, patting Locke on the shoulder as if she was trying to shake off the fear.
Locke ignored her compliment. This mission itself had a false description. The danger level wasn't something knights on her level could handle. After recovering somewhat, he went to check his spoils.
"Help me gather a few of those shattered ice pieces," Locke said as he pointed at the broken humanoid sculpture.
Even though she wasn't really willing to, she was compelled by his demanding tone of voice to comply. She knew the ice pieces were actually parts of the humanoid creature from before. Though, a knight like her wouldn't let petty feelings of disgust stop her from doing her job. While she couldn't really help Locke in a fight with her power, she could at least do some errands like these, which Locke found rather helpful.
Meanwhile, he went to the swamp to pick the three red herbs. Though he had learned about some useful materials in his classes, it was his first time seeing things like these. If the humanoid creature dared risk its life for them, they were probably worth quite a bit. He took out three boxes from his spatial ring and stored them within.
Ever since he started doing missions, he began carrying empty wooden boxes like these for the magical herbs he would find during major monster-hunting missions. Somehow, they liked to make their nests near these herbs.
Once he collected them, he harvested the scales from the crocodile and knocked off a few of its larger teeth as well. He had long learned the value of major monster parts fetched. After digging out the blue crystal core from its head and removing its four claws, he left the rest that wasn't going to be worth much to make the best use of the limited storage of his spatial ring.
He didn't touch its meat at all. Thanks to the frost that leaked out of the carcass, the meat froze over and he wasn't able to chip it with a couple slashes. As for the blood, he did collect some of it. while he didn't know how useful it could be, the blood of a mid-level major monster could probably be good material for Angelina's experiments.
When they were done, they left the cave. He didn't really spend much time exploring it. The giant crocodile was enough to take quite a toll out of him and he wasn't sure if he would even be able to retreat in time if he ran into other threats. Naturally, Irene agreed with their decision to leave. They weren't capable of fully exploring the cave at their level.
It was evening by the time they left. They both rode back to her family's domain on horseback.
The mission had been posted by the lord of the domain after ten of his miners vanished a week after entering the cavernous mines within, so it was likely nobody really knew what had happened inside. It could've been a monster attack or a cave-in, so all Locke had to do was to write a plausible report to conclude the mission. Any further investigation into the matter could be carried out by the locals.