Chapter 301: The Eve of Houou
“According to legend, it could turn into chains. It even changed into a flail.” (Queen)
“That’s really not that different, is it…?” (Naofumi)
I mean, they’re all blunt weapons.
The boundaries between the Seven Star weapons seem quite vague. I’m jealous.
“The greatest difference would be that the Whip can draw out the power of monsters.” (Queen)
A scene of the Queen whipping a monster and forcing it into submission floats in my mind.
Do you mean like that? The Queen in front of me… does she do that to Trash?
No, I really, really don’t care.
“The Hammer and Axe are similar as well.” (Naofumi)
It’s not like there are… no differences between a set of claws and gauntlets.
“Is that so?” (Queen)
So she wasn’t questioning it at all.
Since she was taught as such from the beginning, she doesn’t find it strange at all.
For now, let’s think of the difference between claws and gauntlets.
I look over at Firo, and noticed.
I see. The gauntlets are exclusive to hands, but claws can go on feet as well.
Having Firo accepted as a Hero would be troublesome, but I get the feeling that it would feel natural.
Thinking along that vein, Hammers and Axes are weapons you lower on enemies, but they have different purpose.
“I don’t think I’ve met any of the Seven Stars besides Trash.” (Naofumi)
“I heard that they will be participating in the Houou campaign, but we have been unable to make contact with them. They’re also quite busy, so we hope they’ll be able to arrive on time.” (Queen)
Will I finally see them? The Seven Star Heroes?
They were being managed by Faubley, right?
There’s Trash, and this Gauntlet here, so there should be five more in this world.
“By the way, how many otherworlders are among them?” (Naofumi)
“I believe that three of them were summoned.” (Queen)
That means two of them are of this world.
If I meet them, we should talk.
Like about what weapons they have, and how they strengthen them.
But perhaps only the Four Legendary Weapons adapt to strengthening. Should I ask Trash?
… No, I’ll leave him be.
I haven’t seen him wield his cane.
If he does step forward, perhaps, he will be KIA.
If that happens, I guess a new Cane Hero will be selected.
As I lost myself in thought, the slaves proceeded, and finally, it was Atlas’s turn.
She puts her hands on the gauntlet, and tries to pull it out, but… it doesn’t move an inch.
“I was no good.” (Atlas)
She easily gives up, and returns to my side.
I think she should try a little harder.
“I used my Chi to analyze it, but it appears that I am insufficient.” (Atlas)
“You can find out things like that?” (Naofumi)
“I see…” (Naofumi)
Next is Fohl.
He doesn’t seem particularly interested as he approaches it.
“Hmm? … Go for it, Onii-sama. If it’s you, you’ll definitely be able to pull it out!” (Atlas)
“Yeah! Gunununununu!” (Fohl) (TL: Sound of putting effort)
Suddenly overflowing with power, Fohl pulls with all his might.
As he puts his hand on the Gautlet, Atlas starts shouting.
“What was that?” (Naofumi)
It’s rare for Atlas to cheer on her brother like that.
There must be a reason.
“I felt something different from when I went up to it… but it may be my imagination. I thought Onii-sama would be able to pull it out, but that was disappointing.” (Atlas)
How cruel. It’s the carrot and the stick.
I think, as I watch over the rest of the procession, but no one could take it out.
They’ve started grabbing onto one another, and tried to yank it out as if it were a game of tug of war.
I was supposed to be watching them, but when I wasn’t paying attention, all of the slaves started working together to yank the glove from the stone.
For it to remain firm despite this. I guess it won’t move until it finds someone worthy.
Anyways, a new hero was not born that day.
Like that, the day ended.
Reinforcements from other countries poured in by the day, so our numbers are considerable.
Our luck came with the force from Silt Welt.
Their battle abilities seemed naturally high, and their movements were nice.
Tomorrow’s the day when Houou’s seal will break.
After attending a strategy meeting, I ran into Atlas and Firo.
“What? What’s up?” (Naofumi)
“What’s wrong?” (Raphtalia)
After talking with Raphtalia, something started bothering me about our troop deployment.
“Why are you letting Atlas be on the vanguard as well?” (Fohl)
“I must always be with Naofumi-sama.” (Atlas)
“… Fohl, do you want to be deployed with Atlas?” (NAofumi)
It will increase his motivation, and let him get a greater grasp of Atlas’s strength. But I guess he doesn’t want his sisters on the front lines, even if she’s beside him.
Well, I’m also going to be defending on the front-most line, but also, she won’t have much of a role in the back.
“Atlas, by that logic, you’ll have to be sent to the very front.” (Naofumi)
“Yep, that’s what I want.” (Atlas)
“No! Atlas needs to be deployed in a safer station.” (Fohl)
“Onii-sama? Then I would just be a tag-along. Would you be satisfied if you were deployed to the rear supports?” (Atlas)
Why is he already making the sound of defeat?
Even so, a problem with deployment, is it?
“Naofumi-sama, I’ve said it before, right? I want to become the Shield that protects you.” (Atlas)
“Well, you see…” (Naofuimi)
What do you want to do by taking my job?
And just how noisy will Fohl be if you do something like that?
“That’s why I compromised, and stationed you a little behind me, but if you want to be in front of me, then there’s no point in me being there. Raphtalia-, you understand that, right?” (Naofumi)
There’s a time and place for everything.
And if you try and protect me, the opponent this time is too strong.
I’d like this girl to learn some restraint.
“… Understood.” (Atlas)
Atlas reluctantly nods.
“Even so, I want to protect Naofumi-sama.” (Atlas)
“… I think this every time, but why are you so obstinate on trying to protect Naofumi-sama, Atlas-san? You seem strangely fixated on it.” (Raphtalia)
“I think the same. I believe… well, I don’t think I should be saying this, that unreliable guy over there, why must you try and protect him so?” (Fohl)
“Raphtalia-san and Onii-sama can’t understand it?” (Atlas)
Atlas furrows her brows in an irritated fashion.
“I can’t be spoiled by Naofumi-sama’s kindness forever. Just by imagining the sight of Naofumi-sama standing in front, and taking damage in place of everyone else… shatters my heart.” (Atlas)
I want to tell her not to deny my raison d’être, but a part of my heart finds affirmation in her words.
At the very least, her words don’t make me feel bad.
Even if she denies the existence of the Hero of the Shield.
“… No, I’m mincing words here. I want to be by his side, not as a party member of a Hero, but as the one next to the Human, Naofumi-sama.” (Atlas)
Not the Hero?
I don’t really get it, but it’s an Atlas-like explanation.
“What are you saying!?” (Raphtalia)
“Right Atlas!? Why this guy of all people!?” (Fohl)
Hmm? …Wait, wasn’t that a love confession just now?
I didn’t notice.
She says something similar every time, so I let it slide.
“I have been drawn to your deep-rooted kind nature. I don’t want you risking your life trying to protect everyone.” (Atlas)
You’ll say something like that to someone who can do nothing but defend?
“Ah, yes, yes. I understand that. I understand what you’re trying to say, but I’m a coward, you see. I’m leaving whatever I cannot do to everyone else. So in exchange, I’ll do what I can.” (Naofumi)
“Then, Naofumi-sama, if you were granted the power to slaughter enemies with your own hands, where would you stand on the battlefield?” (Atlas)
Fumu… If I could attack like a normal person, where would I stand?
An interesting question.
… In the end, I think I would still be at the front.
Though I don’t know if I would still be relying on slaves.
If, at that time, I had offensive capabilities, I would go level by myself without buying any slaves.
“Naofumi-sama, please remember. Please don’t believe that it’s… natural for you to get hurt. Your true nature is one where you are always devoting what you have to others… but if you continue like this, who will heal you? Who will devote themselves to you?” (Atlas)
Atlas directs a sad gaze to Raphtalia.
What’s she so bitter about?
“Naofumi-sama… if in a future battle, someone were to lose their life, please don’t blame yourself for it. Those that live off your protection, those who can only take from you are miserable and rotten. They’ll merely decay to nothingness, without even realizing their own corruption. I don’t… want to feel like that again.” (Atlas)
“… That’s right.” (Naofumi)
What she’s saying isn’t wrong.
Last time, and the time before that, and even before, there were many that died.
I want to save whoever I can, but I don’t deny what I can’t do.
But if Atlas continues agreeing with whatever I say, she’s sure to rot as well.
If you praise my every action, you’ll rot in a different way.
Is what I think, but this isn’t an atmosphere where I can voice such opinions, so I stay quiet.
“Onii-sama… I don’t want to be someone who does nothing but take from you anymore. Like you and Naofumi-sama, I want to protect everyone.” (Atlas)
“Atlas, do you know what you’re…” (Fohl)
“Onii-sama, aren’t you thinking that as long as I’m safe, it doesn’t matter who gets injured?” (Atlas)
Fohl is at a loss for words.
But there are some times when I think he cares for nothing but Atlas.
“I don’t want to see Onii-sama act like that. Oh… this isn’t something I should be saying. I’ll be on my way.” (Atlas)
And Atlas departed with a sorrowful expression.
What’s with this?
“I… Think of nothing but Atlas? Then the real reason I got angry whenever I saw Atlas clinging to that guy was…” (Fohl)
“What’s wrong?” (Naofumi)
I wave my hand at the dumbfound Fohl, when he comes to his senses, he returns a sullen face. Maintaining the same expression the entire time, he leaves the area.
“Should I keep the troop deployment as is?” (Naofumi)
Without answering my questions… those two left.
Really, what’s with everyone?
“Naofumi-sama’s kindness…” (Raphtalia)
Even Raphtalia’s brooding over something. Is there really a problem that needs everyone’s concern
The Next Day.
The blue hourglass icon in my field of vision enlarged.
There’s only 12 minutes left.
It’s something I’ve experienced time and time again, but my heart beats erratically.
Just like always… no, I just have to perform better than always. I understand it, but I can’t accustom myself to this feeling.
The people have already been evacuated. Left are the Heroes and their subordinates, and the allied armies.
It’s not a sudden development like with the Spirit Turtle, so evacuations proceeded without a hitch.
We made sure to give ample warning for people to stay away from this area.
The Queen and the other strategists are in the rear, and they’re the ones giving orders.
This is the battlefield of Heroes.
… Though Trash is still in the rear.
Right, right. Perhaps they were running late, but the other Seven Stars never came.
To not make it despite having all that time… how useless.
If I ever have the chance to meet them, I’d like to offer a complaint or two.
“It’s been a long time since we had a serious battle. We’ve done what we could. Everyone, we need to reduce casualties to a minimum, so fight to survive.” (Naofumi)
I stand at the front, and give an ultimatum.
With my order, the slaves and armies let out their voices as one.
Along with them are Ren and Motoyasu, Itsuki and Rishia.
… It’s been a long time.
Originally, we would constantly have to challenge these waves, but why did it take this long?
I earnestly ponder the thought as I direct my eyes to the location of Houou’s seal.
Based on prior investigation, halfway up the mountain was a temple with a stone monument that fit the bill.
A dubious statue of a distorted Houou.
We confirmed that the statue radiated its own heat.
By the way, through careful examination, the researchers were able to confirm that it would awaken by the time on the hourglass.
That’s where Houou will appear.
To make it easier to fight, we’re challenging it on a barren plain at the base of the mountain.
We’ve grasped for plenty means to fight it.
Like using the Gravity Field effects from the Spirit Turtle equipment to drop the higher one.
The problem is the skill’s range…. It’s relatively small, so we’ll need to test it on Houou to see if it’ll work or not.
I’ll have ride Firo or Gaelion, and board that Houou to see if it does anything.
And if I use a shield with Gravity Field while riding a flying opponent, it’s not like I’ll fly. I’ll fall.
Ren, Motoyasu and Itsuki have similar weapons, but we have no idea about the extent of their effects
“Let’s do our best.” (Raphtalia)
“Yep, let’s.” (Naofumi)
I nod at Raphtalia’s words.
And Atlas also called out to me.
“Around us, a blazing chi is… gathering. Naofumi-sama, please proceed with caution.” (Atlas)
“I understand.” (Naofumi)
The hourglass drops to three.
“This time, I’ll…”
“I’ll definitely do it this time.”
Ren, Itsuki and Motoyasu confirm their determinations, and tighten their grips on their weapons.
Ah… right. Beating Houou is just part of our job. Even if we do beat it, it’s not like our future fights will get any easier.
The four heroes are combining their powers. Why don’t we end this one without any death?
The last minute.
I concentrate, and chant magic.
「All Revelation Aura」!
I pour in my Magic and Chi, and make my area of effect as large as possible. I cast the super buff I used on Firo on everyone in the front line.
Like with Firo that time, we’re now a squad of super-humans.
Ping. A sound like breaking glass, one I’ve heard before, enters my ear.
Last I heard it, I received a huge impact.
A pillar of fire rises out of the mountain, and two large birds show themselves.
Their forms were exactly that depicted on the Mural. The two Houous.
A loud shriek echoes through the air.
It was the sound signaling the start of our battle with the beast.