Marina Against May
… The group proceeding through the forest had a number of elves at the lead, as they headed for their destination point.
And from the adventurer parties, elves were selected to take the front in reconnaissance. The bow-wielding likely-male elves looked amongst themselves, and nodded at times, as they moved on.
They disarmed Miranda’s traps on the way, so the main force behind them could move forward.
What they saw was a fort-like base built for clearing the Labyrinth. Arriving at it, one headed back to inform the rest of their forces of a safe route.
The armed elves on standby confirmed the lookout Valkyries atop the walls.
“It’s as if they’re actually alive.”
“Their appearance, at least. Looking closely, they make some unnatural movements.”
“Don’t let it confuse you, young one.”
While the elves looked young, it seems, there were ones of considerable age among them as well.
And taking the main force along, their comrade elf returned.
“It’s going smooth. One slipped, and got a bone fracture, though.”
Hearing that, the elves shrugged their shoulders. From their point of view, it was simply impossible to lose your footing in a forest like that. It must have been a human or dwarf, or a gnome, or some other race.
“Well done. You’ll always find someone who falls out from the journey alone.”
When an elf belonging to the mercenary brigade said that, an adventurer party elf gave a, ‘is that how it is?’ as he tilted his head.
From behind came the mercenary brigade chief, and the adventurer party leader.
“How is it? Oh my, they sure are cautious.”
The cheerful chief looked up and admired the height of the walls.
“They even have lookouts. It’s a bit too showy for monster slaying, wouldn’t you say? It’s possible they figured out that we would be attacking.”
As the leader gave that cautious opinion, and the chief nodded. He nodded, and immediately prepared a countermeasure for this sort of thing.
“Our mages come in handy at a time like this. They like it flashy, you see.”
The leader nodded to that. A few mages walked up from behind, talked with the chief and took the elves and some guards along, as the positioned themselves to surround the fort.
After a while, an elf near the chief spoke.
“Chief, the signal came.”
“Good job. Now, let’s start with a bang!”
Right after, magic was fired from three points. Water akin to a flood came down on the fortress, to wash away its walls of earth. Cracks emerged in the walls, and after a portion crumbled, a number of rocks came flying at it.
On collision with the wall, both object and impact point crumbled, the lookouts were blown away, and a perfect point for penetration was created.
And finally, masses of flame came down on the enemy camp like rain. It blazed up, lighting the darkness so well, there was no need for any torches.
Before the mages skilled in large-scale magic, the leader muttered.
“For us, the places we can use magic are limited. On the contrary, we prefer high-output ones that don’t stand out much, but… I see, so you could use it like that.”
He admired the move of the mercenary brigade. For mages that fought in enclosed spaces, while it was called a specialized job, they required techniques to protect themselves. And rather than large-scale, they favored high outputs in a confined space. Accuracy was also important.
Otherwise, they would be hitting their allies as well.
The chief spoke.
“Now then, let’s get right to the march. Whoah.”
As he said that, he held up his hand to motion everyone to stop. From within the flames, a single young girl leapt out. Violet lightning raced around her body, and the glint in her eyes was sharp. The inferno to her back, she stood, and looked at they in the forest.
The leader spoke.
“She was in the documents. That girl is May. Sending her out so soon, is that how cautious they were?”
The chief spoke.
“Marina, your prey is out. If it turns out her corpse is a quilin’s, I’m expecting a share.”
Appearing behind the chief, Marina wore a coat, hand guards, and knee guards. Her hands were wrapped, and she smacked her left palm with her right hand’s fist.
“Do what you will. I only have interest in that girly alive.”
Saying that, Marina leapt out of the forest with incredible momentum, and May also kicked the ground, her fists thrust out towards Marina.
As the two of them collided, Marina was ever-so-slightly pushed back. Seeing that, the chief gave orders.
“We can at least station two to watch Marina’s fight. If it looks like she’s going to lose, report to me. If she defeats the enemy, secure the body. Leader-san, wanna split it fifty-fifty?”
Of course, the leader was privy to the high possibility May was a quilin. After thinking a little, he decided to nod.
“I’ll hand over the horns. But I won’t compromise on the rest.”
“Okay, okay, we can decide on the specifics later. Listen up, boys! It’s time for a joyous war!”
Adventurers emerged from the forest one by one, entering from the collapsed parts of the wall…
… May was being pushed back by Marina.
If they fought she would win, but a troublesome foe… that had been May’s internal evaluation of Marina. But it seems there was a need for her to revise that.
She kicked, but Maria crossed her arms to take it. It should have had enough output to send her flying through the air, but after looking into Marina’s eyes as she untangled her arms, May understood.
“It’s just as Novem said. Looks like you’re the opposite of me. Ma’am, while a human, you’re approaching the territory of the beasts.”
On May’s frank opinion, Marina swelled the muscle of her body, as her canines grew sharper. May noticed how her black hair was standing on end, but what had changed most was her eyes.
Her pupils had vertically become long and narrow.
“A trivial matter, girly… take off a human’s mask, and you’ll find a beast regardless.”
Marina’s Skill… Beast… bestowed a muscle enhancement alongside an atmosphere like that of a wild animal’s.
It wasn’t just muscle strengthening, it even increased the flexibility of her body. And made her even more belligerent.
Kicking the ground, Marina got in all the way to May’s chest, making May unleash a kick. Marina also kicked, purposely letting the forces contest.
There, Marina who had been losing in power until just before had come all the way to being called equal.
“That was too blatant!”
May thrust her fist, while Marina caught it on her palm.
The fist let off a grating sound, as Marina used it to hurl May into the air. The direction she was thrown was towards the forest, in the opposite direction of the base.
Before she hit a tree, May corrected her posture, and moved as if to land on the bark with both feet.
The impact made it sway, but before May could raise her face, she instantly sensed that Marina was before her.
Marina launched a kick, and when it was avoided, she hit the tree, and snapped it whole.
That tree that wasn’t dead wood scattered splinters and leaves as it fell.
“… Amazing. What stage of your Skill are you on?”
May asked what stage she was on, and Marina answered quite honestly.
“Still the first one. You’re a quilin, aren’t you? I hope you’ll let me get to the last one.”
Seeing Marina’s grin and laugh, May thought.
(You get these sorts of irregulars from time to time. Truly troubling.)
Lightning raced around May’s surroundings, in an attempt to knock Marina off her feet with magic. But Marina continued her offense without paying it any mind.
The bolts burned her coat, and scorched her skin. And yet, Marina was smiling.
In regards to Marina’s roundhouse, followed by a backspin kick, May retreated back, and extended a horn from her right hand.
May didn’t have the intent to triumph in hand-to-hand combat, so she tried to cut down her foe at once.
“This will be going against Novem’s orders, but you’re dangerous, so I’ll end this.”
On those words, Marina raised a delighted laugh of a voice.
“How interesting, girly! If you’re going to end it… I welcome it!”
May swiped with the blade-like horn of a quilin, but Marina took it with her arm guards. It had power behind it. And the edge was guaranteed.
Her quilin horn was her weapon, yet Marina had blocked it. As May opened her eyes wide in surprise, Marina struck her, and sent her hurdling backwards.
Her back struck a tree, and she fell onto the ground.
“In the Labyrinth, I got my hands on some incredibly hard, but crazy-heavy metal. These happen to be my favorite. Because they’re sturdy, and they don’t break. But as expected of a quilin. You dented them.”
The guards that had never been damaged no matter how much use she put in, had been blessed with their first mark. With the repeated Labyrinth subjugations over her life, Marina had prepared her own equipment.
She wasn’t an adventurer with nothing but skill.
May stood, shook her head, and looked at Marina.
(Her burned skin is already healed? And looking closely, there aren’t any holes in the clothing under her coat.)
There was no way normal clothing could withstand May’s electric discharge.
May revised her mental register again. The gold hair behind her ears parted, and horns grew in. They extended backwards.
As her two golden horns emerged, Marina looked quite excited.
“Very nice. Let’s both show off our trump cards. I can’t wait to see how much you’re hiding!”
Saying that, Marina spread her feet, and let off a groan as if enduring something. What May heard was something as if a beast was trying to intimidate her.
Marina’s muscle swelled, and the visible portions… her arms received a coat of fur, becoming like those of an actual beast.
A lycanthrope. To sum it up in a word, that was her form. As her hair grew thicker, May spoke openheartedly.
“You’ve gotten hairy, ma’am.”
Hearing May’s joke, it didn’t seem she had taken it well. At this point, it was already as if she had sacrificed her mental capacity to grow wilder.
Marina rushed along the ground. In an instant, May also released her magic, and focused on strengthening her own body. They locked hands, and when it came to a contest of power, the small-built May looked like she was clearly at a disadvantage. And in truth, she was losing in strength.
“It’s true your power increased, but it isn’t good to get so excited you lose the ability to think. Your previous form was still more of a threat!”
Head-butting to make Marina falter, May sent a kick into her stomach. But as if she were kicking the trunk of a great tree, Marina didn’t move.
Her weight had also increased from before. What had seemed to be pure expansion had even gained density, it seems.
May was shocked. Looking at Marina’s state, she noticed the difference.
“In pure physical ability alone, you can rival mine. You’re wonderful enough to warrant shock, ma’am.”
It was a world where every human, more or less, would use Mana to enhance their bodies. In such a world, with just the power of pure muscle, fighting on equal terms with what was called a divine beast made for quite a threat.
Grasping May’s ankle, Marina slammed May right into the ground. The place she hit was gouged out, forming a crater.
And blood gushed out of the quilin’s mouth…
… At the attacked base, the Valkyries were loaded onto a horse-drawn cart.
There were swords and spears stuck into their bodies, and once rendered immobile, the adventurers stripped off their equipment, looking at their fleshy torsos, and laughing.
“Oy, they were made quite elaborately!”
“Wouldn’t these sell to those with those sorts of hobbies?”
“Then don’t soil them. You break it, you buy it.”
The guffawing adventurers of the mercenary brigade violently loaded another Valkyrie onto the cart.
The mercenary brigade chief looked over his prided sword that had chipped while fighting them.
“Che, if you get through their flesh, it chips. Even when this baby could easily cut through bone. What troublesome ones.”
Kicking the Valkyrie lying in front of him, he flipped it over, so it faced upwards. It had a spear pierced into its body, and from it, a red liquid flowed.
Its limbs were made of metal, So it had been defeated by blows aimed to the torso. While she had been wearing armor, the slightest gap had been enough for them.
The adventurer party, on the other hand, had carefully taken off the armaments of the Valkyries they collected, and sorted the parts on their cart.
The leader looked over the chief and his men.
“Make sure you handle the material you strip off with care.”
There, the chief broke into laughter.
“Sorry for that! Our rear-support will cleanly do it later. Well, if there are this many, it doesn’t matter if one or two is broken. But they’re wearing quite the nice equipment.”
The Valkyries’ main body were one thing, but in regards to their equipment, thinking over how much he could make if he sold it off, the chief couldn’t stop his laughter.
He knew that Lyle’s party had paid a fortune to get them made, and he knew there were merchants around who wanted to buy them off.
“It’s a huge harvest this time. But they really are cautious, these folks.”
The attacked base was small in scale, and there was another base further down. All was well if he could earn there as well, said the mercenary brigade chief.
“All he did was divide our places for income, but… I’ll be damned, it looks like that kid really was skilled in war. He divided his forces, and minimized his losses here.”
But the leader’s reaction was a little different.
“My thoughts exactly. But our weapon expenditure was harsh. There are some who have even used up their spares.”
The chief looked around, and spied his members taking the Valkyries’ weapons in hand, and testing their feel.
“Let’s have them send some more then. Sending these guys to the back, and having them bring more weapons along on their return will be a huge help to all of us. The problem is… Marina is still weighing on my mind. You think she’ll be alright?”
A report hadn’t come in, so he was anxious, but the resistance was weaker than he had anticipated. And by collecting the mountain of treasure known as the Valkyries, neither the leader nor the chief had noticed it.
That besides the Valkyries, there hadn’t been any of those called the mains of Lyle’s party.
The leader spoke.
“I’ll send some men to verify it. If it looks grim, then we’d best make haste.”
The chief agreed.
“Then send my men. You lot, quit playing around, and head off to the next hunting ground already!”
The men of the mercenary brigade, and the temporary hired adventurer party seemed to be in quite some festive spirits…