… A majority of adventurers called first rate, through their own Skills, and ones brought about by Magic Tools, it was only natural to be a master of a number of Skills.
There were those that only polished a single powerful Skill, But they were a specialized profession, and a special exception. The adventurers on the run. Four including the leader, they made sure to avoid the group lying in wait for them, as they headed for Beim.
Starting with the Leader, through their own, or Magic Tool Skills, they were all using some form of body enhancement. The four held their weapons, and had discarded any other unnecessary baggage. By their strengthened body, their speed was much greater than any average man’s sprint.
They were all central members of the party. Leader, recon, front line, and magician; it was sheer luck they had all the bases covered. With good balance, if they pushed themselves, they’d be able to cut their way through a group to an extent. So thought the leader.
“Hurry. If we get passed this…”
The recon specialized adventurer running by his side clicked his tongue.
“… Che, Leader, we’re being chased. They’ve got a perfect grasp of our position. One pursuer.”
Informed that their pursuer had a precise grasp of their position, and a speed exceeding theirs, the leader was to make a decision on the spot.
“Are there any other on our trail?
“None. He’s moving individually. Perhaps he’s confident in his ability. It would be nice if he’s just a fool, but… whatever the case, he’s no ally.”
The front liner, a man with an iron lump of a sword reached his hand to its hilt.
“Oy, then before he catches up, shouldn’t we try to defeat him? It beats being attacked once we’re overtaken.”
He was a wild and rude man, but the words he said were right. It was hard to imagine their foe could exceed them in combat so easily. In the Labyrinth, for every monster several times the size of a human, there was a monster several times faster. The adventurers who fought against countless such foes.
It was only natural they were confident in their own abilities.
The magician man gave the frontliner’s opinion a push from the back.
“Rather than receiving a blast of magic from behind, waiting to intercept or defend is a safer option. We can put up countermeasures as we run, but that will bring out casualties.”
The leader spoke.
“… Everyone stop. Ready your weapons.”
Choosing to lie in wait, everyone stopped, and took their weapons in hand. The leader, his two prided swords… he took one in each hand, displaying a dual-wielding stance.
The recon specialist muttered a, ‘this is out of my expertise,’ as he confirmed their formation, took a crossbow off his back, and took a stance.
The front line man stood a little ahead of the leader, drawing his sword to lean it against his shoulder. The magician held up his staff, and started preparing magic.
Everyone secured their own space, and showed movements to watch for the one coming towards him.
The recon man informed everyone of the situation.
“He’s coming. On a knoll a little further in. Five, four three, two… he’s here!”
As if leaping from the knoll, seeing the single adventurer rush in, the recon specialist pulled the trigger of his crossbow. That expensive crossbow had a contraption to instantly load the next arrow.
Once the arrow was fired, the next one filled its slot. The magician shouted out.
A pale blue flash was fired at the enemy. It wasn’t focused on a single point, but a magic over a large area, swallowing up the swift enemy, and raising a dust cloud as it hit the ground. The four heard the explosion, and felt the tremor, but they didn’t let their guard down.
The recon man called out.
“Not yet! Here he comes!”
Firing another bolt, the four looked at the man who burst out of the smoke. Taking off his hood, before them was a blue-haired youth with blue eyes.
“So our foe is the general!”
The muscles of the large sword-toting front liner swelled, and with that sword in one hand, he leapt forward. The leader also stepped in to the front. But there, the unarmed youth grasped the blue gemstone at his chest with both his hands…
Avoiding the fired magic, I leapt out of the fumes, and found the adventurers I’d been chasing out there, waiting for me.
Gripping the Jewel as if to wrap both hands around it, I heard the Fifth’s voice from within it.
『It’s his first time showing off that one.』
After it let off a blue light, I was gripping a silver dagger in each hand. The Fourth’s daggers had revived in silver light.
The reason I went out of my way to follow them alone… it was to fight first-rate adventurers. The ancestors approved that I had enough skill for it.
Generally, no matter how strong a human foe, if you surrounded them, it would work out one way or another. Even if they were strengthened through Skills, once surrounded, it was difficult to get out unscathed. So how would one get through an encirclement unharmed?
I had a number of Skills for the occasion.
Among them, the one the Fourth had left…
Whispering the Skill name, the surrounding movements grew slower. It was a Skill I experienced within the Jewel, but using it here, it carved away at my Mana.
I thought over how I wouldn’t be able to use it for prolonged periods, as I avoided the attack of the man with the large sword who’d charged at me. It looked too showy, but even so, that swift blow lowered from above sucked in even the surrounding airspace with it, as it took a large bite out of the ground.
I moved to the side to avoid, but the sword instantly emerged from the ground, brushed towards me to send the dirt flying at me.
He was surely prepared for when he was avoided.
With simple enhancements, and other Skills to compensate for that, he was a considerably proficient vanguard, it seems. When I was moving so swiftly, it was amazing he was even able to react.
In the Labyrinth, he’d surely been a reliable adventurer who cut into the enemy on the front lines.
But the two daggers I’d tossed in that timespace stuck into that adventurer’s head and chest. From the adventurer who didn’t seem to know what had happened, I moved my eyes to the adventurers positioned behind him.
A dual-wielding man I presumed to be the leader, and behind him, an adventurer with a crossbow fired an arrow my way. But the most troublesome would be the magician.
When among allies, I doubt he would let out a spell with too large a scope, but even so, I had to crush him first.
I rushed forward, opened my hands, and manifested daggers in them. Twin daggers… that was the Fourth’s style, but it’s not as if he only carried around two of them.
A number of daggers appeared behind my back, drawing a circle as they each floated in space. If I willed them, they’d come to my hands.
As I passed by the presumed leader’s left, he swung the sword in his left hand. His reaction was fast, and I’m sure they were all adventurers above a set level.
Parrying it with a dagger, I went all the way to the magician, and pierced his chest, through the armor he was wearing.
The man with the crossbow to my side fired another arrow.
I slowly dodged the arrow that passed beside me, as I came at him with a dagger. When I got close enough, he turned his left hand to me.
It appeared he had a hidden weapon on his arm. I lopped his arm off contraption and all, piercing his heart through right after.
But at that point, the sluggish surrounding time began returning to normal.
The leader looked around at the surrounding situation in confusion. The man with the large sword had collapsed face-up, the magician and bowman’s chest pierced, as they spat blood and collapsed on the ground, unsure of what had happened to them.
The leader with a sword in each hand looked at me.
“What… what did you do!?”
The daggers stabbed into the adventurers returned to the line of blades drawing a circle behind my back.
The Third emitted his voice from within the Jewel.
『If you pushed yourself, you probably could’ve kept it up to the end, but… well, I guess that’s how it is. Lyle, you can’t let your guard down just because it’s come to one-on-one.』
Saying that, I gripped a dagger in each hand, and ran off towards the leader man. He likely didn’t think he would be able to get away, so he ran at me in kind.
The form of him freely manipulating his blades, unlike the Fourth’s style, where one side was kept on defense, was a style where both sides could switch back and forth between attack and guard. Closer to mine.
As I approached, a flash ran down his sword. Blocking the shockwave, I felt a numbness in my arms, so I tossed the daggers aside, and took some distance.
“Like I’d let you get away! As long as I can keep you close…!”
The enemy’s Skill, or the effect of a magic tool. Lightning was running down his two blades, forcing me to concentrate on avoiding the shockwaves he fired.
If I blocked them I’d go numb, so I took a dagger in hand and tossed it. But…
“Is that all you’ve got!?”
It was supposed to pierce into him. Using the Second’s Skill… Select… I had definitely set my aim on his vitals. But without stabbing into anything, it was as if the dagger slid off. He had moved his body a little to the side to redirect it down his full-plate armor.
But when the dagger slid, I saw some liquid-like something under it.
Using his swords to send electric discharges around, the leader closed the distance to get me in his range. The grass growing from the ground was scorched, and a portion of lush grass caught flame.
I tossed the daggers in both my hands, and when he swung his sword to knock them aside, his head was left wide open.
From my back holster, I drew my gun, and after putting a pause on my other Skills, I fired it.
That Magic Tool of a gun fired a powerful round that barreled towards him.
All six bullets stopped after sinking into the surface of his armor.
The output of the gun when used as a Magic Tool could even pierce monsters reknowned for their tough skin. No, it had enough force to blow them off. But it looked as if that force was sucked away.
“So you even have projectiles… but!”
The leader man stepped in, so I promptly leapt back. The lightning’s output had gradually been increasing, and the swords began to shine.
Even if I dodged, the discharges scorched the surface of my clothes, and let off a burnt scent.
“It’s your fault. That I’ve lost so many comrades and equipments… it’s you!”
It half looked as if he made a suicidal attack to slam his rage into me. As the surroundings baked, and the ground blackened, I threw one dagger after the next.
He repelled them, and slid them, and sent them all flying elsewhere.
“It’s futile! No matter how many times you repeat such attacks…”
“… Unfortunately, those daggers are a bit special.”
All of my daggers had stuck in somewhere around, and holding up my right hand, they rose, and turned their points towards the leader.
And as they flew at the leader one after another, he looked around at all the attacks coming at him, and discerned them.
But avoid them as he may, they rise again and attack. He was beginning to panic in the consecutive stream of attacks without an end in sight.
I prepared magic. I turned my right hand to my foe, bought time to activate it, and used my highest level spell.
With the leader man at the center, a large pillar of flame manifested, and drawing into the wind, it became a torrent of flame. The flames burst out, sending everything around them flying.
The daggers span around as a shield to protect me. I also used a shield of magic to endure the force, as a crater formed around me.
It had a high output, but it needed just as much preparations, so I needed to seal off my enemy’s movements.
At the center of the ground blown away, the leader man was on his knees. It looked as if he’d endured it, but his entire body was scalded. Half his face was in a horrid state.
“So you endured that?”
Unable to stand it anymore, he collapsed. There wasn’t any liquid on his surface. Whether it had burned away from the flames, or whether it was all an effect from a Skill. I hadn’t been able to discern it to the end.
But out of breath as he was, he spoke.
“Why. When you have so much power… why did the Guild target you? If they knew of you, they’d surely have chosen another means.”
It’s true, from an adventurer’s point of view, it would have been better if I’d been assassinated. In truth, that’s pretty much what it was. But from the Guild wasn’t able to assassinate me within Beim. My fame, and the circumstances wouldn’t permit it.
The leader before my eyes didn’t seem to understand that.
“After attacking someone’s comrades, are you giving an excuse once the tables turned?”
There, he burst into laughter.
“K-ku kuku, right. That’s right. The tables turned, that’s all. An end fitting of me. When they got around to calling me first-rate, I’d forgotten it. I was trash from the ground up… no matter how high I climb, I can’t change what makes me, huh… what will you do with our corpses?”
“We’ll present your heads. Setting an example.”
Hearing that, the adventurer laughed a little, ‘Then you should’ve kept me prettier. With burns this bad, that’s plain embarrassing,’ he even began to joke.
His eyes had lost their light, and perhaps he couldn’t move anymore, as his voice had grown faint.
“What is it?”
“There’s no helping if you strip off our possessions. We lost after all. Take the Magic Tools as well. I’ve done the same. But, this…”
He indicated a dagger mismatched for the hands of a first-rate adventurer.
“The man with the crossbow has one too. Please take his as well. It’s garbage that won’t net you any money, but it was precious to us… bury them. Anywhere is… fine… there are five in all.”
He retired his breath.
I took the dagger in hand, and found there wasn’t any trick or contraption to it. Drawing it from the hilt, I saw letters carved across. It was old, but well maintained, the letters spelling out the party’s name.
The Third looked at it.
『A memory with his comrades from when he first started out, is what it looks like? Good grief, he requests quite some bothersome things from an enemy. What will you do, Lyle?』
I looked around.
The adventurers blown about by my magic. The man with the large sword was blackened quite badly, but while the adventurer who’s arm I’d cut off had been blown off a distance, he wasn’t burnt.
“… I’ll collect them. Five in all? We’ll just have to look through the belongings the Valkyries collected a bit. They won’t make for any money regardless, and once we find them, I’ll bury them together.”
Milleia-san on my conduct.
『I don’t think you have to, you know? Well, it’s a problem of feelings, so just do what you want. Things are proceeding as anticipated, so a little whimsy won’t be a problem.』
It seems my actions were needless. But if it wouldn’t get in the way of anything, it should be fine. Take it the other way, and she was telling me not to do anything that got in the way of the plan.
The Seventh muttered reluctantly.
『Hmph, when they polished their technique so far, it’s because they remained adventurers forever that it came to this. If they took a military post at some house, there was surely another road.』
I shared that opinion. But it’s not like everyone could choose the ‘clever’ way of life. And I personally hadn’t chosen a clever one.
It wouldn’t be strange when I reached the same end as the adventurers collapsed around me.
… Lyle ran off, so Ludmilla uninterestedly sat herself down on a simple chair, and issued orders around.
If there were mercenaries or adventurers that made it out, they would warmly welcome the East Branch, and take care of the others. At times, they’d purposely let them get away and head for Beim.
Lyle had left command to her, but when the course of action was so set in stone, it was time for the commanders to feel bored.
“He could’ve taken me along. I wanted to see Lyle’s aptitude with these eyes of mine.”
The one looking at the queen as she said that and sighed, was Erhart. Damien and Maksim were accompanying other units, but to keep Erhart close at hand, he was assisting Lyle.
He thought he should at least work off the worth of the Magic Tool he received. From the start, by his contract to accompany them, he had accepted a considerable amount of money. Magic Tool collection fell under Lyle’s right, so it was something he felt a little awkward about.
In gaining wisdom as an adventurer, one came to have quite a grasp on the value of Magic Tools. And this one clearly had a value surpassing a thousand in gold. But Erhart wasn’t ignorant enough to simply honestly rejoice having received it.
Using this as a reason, would he request something outrageous from me? He was thinking.
“No, he said he’d be fine alone, so won’t he be fine alone? Rather, is it really alright for a queen like you to be here?”
On Erhart’s question, the surrounding knights and soldiers gave small nods of agreement. There, Ludmilla drew her sword, and pointed its tip at the base of his throat.
“Oy, even like this, I’m a queen. Given a bit of time, I’ll lose that status, but I’m royalty here. Pay mind to your tone. If we were anywhere official, I’d have just cut through your neck.”
“Y-yes! My apologies!”
When Erhart apologized, the extended long-sword shrunk to its original length. And Ludmilla looked quite unamused as she returned it to its scabbard.
“That was a joke, you know.”
(Not a single word of that sounded like one. I can’t find any fun in the jokes of the guys in power!)
As Erhart felt irritated inside, a single knight approached.
“Ludmilla-sama, a group we presume to be allies are coming from the forest. It seems they are forces of Galleria and Rusworth, and they are headed our way. The representative of those countries are there as well, and it seems they’ve said that they have business here.”
Ludmilla stood, and walked off with the sword over her shoulder.
“Galleria and Rusworth. The two Maidens of War? I heard they’d be coming, and I’d quite like to meet them. I’m curious what women of valor they may be.”
Hearing that, Erhart thought those women of valor may end up getting along with one another. But one of his comrades grabbed his arm, as if remembering something.
“Oy, this is bad! If I recall correctly, the representatives of Galleria and Rusworth are…!”
Erhart suddenly recalled. It’s true there were rumors spreading of Lyle seducing both of them on the battlefield. Breaking into a cold sweat, Erhart…
“… Hey, do you think the cat-fight of national leaders will be scary?”
Erhart and his comrades were thinking of how they had to flee this site by all means…