——Did my warning not make it in time?!
Talma had paled quite considerably, but she saw that the knight guarding Shelfa had transformed into Rain while she hesitated about whether or not she should jump into the fray herself.
“——Would you look at that! He’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve. To be honest, he’s really not bad at all! Looks like there wasn’t any need for me to come all the way out here to warn her.”
She let out a sigh before she realized that someone had their eyes on her.
She looked around to find that Gunter was looking at her with a sinister look in his eyes from the passages around the audience seats. She didn’t know how, but it looked like he’d suddenly found her.
Talma slipped into the confused crowd and promptly decided to withdraw.
……After all, there was nothing left for her to have to help with.
Rain complained at Shelfa, who had jumped into his arms, before he could stop himself.
“——Whoa! Hey, don’t jump at me like that with your sword drawn. You nearly skewered me with that right now, you know?”
He scowled as he admonished her fervently. He continued,
“my brilliant entrance would go down the drain if you did something like that. Plus, it’d be extremely not cool.”
“Oh, right. ——But you’re so mean, Rain! You could have told me if you were so close by! Then we could have talked lots.”
“Well……wouldn’t that have been kinda bad? Besides, you’d have let it show all over your face the moment I told you.”
“……Oh. You’re probably right.”
“Hey, you’re supposed to deny stuff like that!”
Rain hastily pulled Shelfa off of himself once they had finished their quiet exchange. For now, the audience would look at their situation favorably and say that “the Princess hugged him because she was so relieved that her life wasn’t in danger anymore,” but things could get bad quickly if it went on for any longer.
Then, the three assassins finally woke from their stupor when Rain pushed Shelfa protectively behind himself.
The first person to speak out was Kevin, the elderly rune master.
“What’s going on here?! I know I saw you with Magic Vision! You’re supposed to be at Cortecreas Castle!”
“……The people you were tracing so desperately were probably Leni and the others, who I’d cast an illusion on. You fell for that hook, line, and sinker,”
Rain said in mild annoyance as he cleaned out his ear with a finger, and Kevin made a face that almost looked like he was puffing out his cheeks.
“You, you’re calling that an illusion?!”
“Exactly. You didn’t notice because the difference between you and me as rune masters is like the difference between the heavens and the earth. Well, it’s only natural, so it’s not like you could help it——”
Then, he arrogantly delivered the final blow,
“you’re just not as good of a mage as you think you are. You should hurry about and retire and start gardening or something like a proper grandpa, I think.”
Bajeel stopped Kevin before the latter, who had turn blackish blue in fury, could step forward.
“Enough, don’t let him get to you! Look around us, Kevin! Can you find a way for us to escape with your magic?”
Both Kevin and Lester quickly began looking around.
The chaos in the audience had begun to die down at some point.
The knights under Rain and Ralphus’ command had poured out from everywhere at once and were calming the audience down.
The members of the audience, which should have been in a panic by now, were rapidly recovering their composure after the knights explained the situation to them. Not only that, but the knights had already surrounded the gates, the sole exit to the arena the assassins were standing in, and sealed off the assassins’ escape.
Incidentally, Arc had stood back up only to be dragged off to the side by Ferris, who had jumped down to the arena.
Kevin quickly grasped the situation, muttered few things bitterly under his breath, and looked up to the skies.
Then, Rain cut in again,
“I’m telling you that it’s no use. I won’t let you use levitation. The “mage unit” working under me will easily do you guys in if you take to the skies.”
Kevin glared at him with darkened eyes.
“Don’t get too full of yourself, fool! Who said anything about running?!”
“No, but you should really calm down, you know? I can more or less imagine what you’re trying to do. And all I’m doing is telling you that it won’t work.”
“Shut up! Eat this, Lightning!!”
Kevin shouted while pointing his gnarled staff at Rain.
A flash of blue-white lightning flooded the area and sent a torrent of light rushing toward Rain.
The spell was on a completely different level than the spell Abel had cast earlier and put the aged rune master’s long years of experience to show.
The eerie blue-white radiance blinded everyone in the area and the resulting thunder rumbled in their stomach more loudly than real thunder ever could.
……Incidentally, however, the thick bolt of lightning stopped right before it reached Rain’s body and was readily extinguished as if it had hit against a steel wall. Kevin opened his eyes wide in surprise.
No, upon a closer look, it wasn’t that the lightning had hit something and scattered. It had been absorbed by a rainbow-colored shield and was easily rendered powerless.
A vexed look filled Kevin’s face as though he had just remembered something annoying.
“How careless of me. To think that I’d forget about the anti-magic field. A Dragon Slayer, was it……? What a detestable opponent you are!”
“Haven’t I been telling you that it’s pointless from the very beginning? Half-assed magic wont work on me. You’re actually just putting yourself hard at work to replenish my energy supplies. You’d have more luck picking up a rock off the side of the road and throwing it at me.”
The other two moved simultaneously next, perhaps because Rain’s dissatisfied smile had irritated them.
Bajeel waved his arms widely and snapped his wrists like he was throwing something, while Lester took out a thick stack of paper and began throwing the pages in the air while muttering something under his breath.
Rain responded more to Bajeel’s movements.
He avoided something that glistened in the light and immediately leapt back.
He picked up Shelfa, who was right behind him, under his arm and jumped again. Then, a few strands of his black hair were cut off and danced in the air and a few shallow cuts appeared on his cheek and jacket while he was still in midair.
Rain nodded lightly as he landed.
“……Like I’d thought, you used steel wires to destroy the passageway. You’re pretty good at using petty tricks for someone so large.”
Before Bajeel could grow sullen at Rain’s extremely high-handed words, Shelfa asked,
“what are steel wires, Rain?”
“They’re pretty much what it says on the tin…… They’re also called steel strings. It’s a skill that uses strings that are as hard as steel as projectile weapons. Their merits are that they have a wider range than blades do and that you can control them at will, I guess?”
Rain drew his sword as he ended his explanation with, “I guess?”
His blade was drawn so fast that all anyone could see was an afterimage of light rending through the air.
He had intercepted a rush of countless razor-thin wires with an upward diagonal slash. Then, he brought his sword into a sweep from right to left.
“I can see them!”
Even Shelfa, standing behind him, could see countless pieces of something shiny had been cut and were falling to the ground.
“Then what about this?!”
This time, Bajeel maneuvered his gigantic frame so that his arms clawed down violently through the air. A mass of wires —multiple times that from the last attempt— rushed at Rain but were all intercepted by his magic sword without a single strand breaking through.
Meanwhile, the countless fuda papers that Lester had thrown had thoroughly covered the area.
They had danced down like a storm of paper and disappeared on the earth after flashing once.
Then, bluish-white magic circles began to form where the fuda papers had once been and began flickering like they were alive.
“Hehehe……I’ve definitely made at least several dozen portals now!”
He began roaring with laughter as he took over for Bajeel, who was gritting his teeth in frustration after having his steel wires get broken so easily.
“Too bad for you if you thought you caught us in your trap! Don’t you dare look down on me—I can summon multiple things at once! Watch and learn, I’ll summon a whole bunch of mythical beasts soon enough.”
“What do you mean, “a whole bunch”? Quit talking like a baby, you fool!”
Rain cut in with a sneer.
He instructed Shelfa to step a little farther back and put up a shield around her while he was at it. His biting censure continued even as he worked.
“The mythical beasts that a summoner of your level can summon can only get so strong. I don’t need the preface, so hurry up and call them! I’m not gonna stop you.”
The color of Lester’s face changed so quickly it was amusing. He made to wave his wand as his face twisted into an ugly scowl.
Bajeel stopped him just before he could.
“Wait, Lester! Kevin, you put your staff down too! ……Rain, was it. Would it be better if you listened to what we have to say before we fight?”
A crafty look crossed the giant’s face as he licked his fat lips. He continued,
“it looks like you’ve gone ahead and decided that we’re evil. But shouldn’t you wait until after hearing why we’re after that girl before making that judgement? I’m sure you’ll see who’s just once you listen to what we——”
“I don’t need to hear it,”
Rain interjected him curtly. He continued,
“don’t make light of me. I’ve already more or less understood the gist of your situation.”
Bajeel was taken off guard and opened his large eyes wide in surprise.
“You really understand our situation!? You’re not just bluffing, you bastard?!”
Rain heard Shelfa gulp behind him, so he gently reached out to her as if to say, “Hey, don’t worry about it.”
Shelfa grabbed on to his hand and clung to it like it was her lifeline.
He felt like he could feel her palpable relief from the other side of his own magical aura (the shield he had put up around her).
Still looking at the enemy, Rain said,
“is it really that strange? It’s not even like your moral cause is all that great to begin with, you know. If anything, it’s closer to a deep-rooted delusion.”
Rain curled the edges of his lips into a hateful sneer that made it clear that he understood both sides of the situation.
“He’s just a damned hypocrite!”
Kevin cut in again from afar. He continued,
“no human should be getting in our way if he really understands the situation!”
“Ha! I don’t want to hear it from a bunch of bastards who’re scuttling around trying to kill off a defenseless little girl. Besides, aren’t you guys mistaken about something? I’m not some kind of champion of justice or whatever. Actually, I despise bastards like you who think that you’re the only ones who are just.”
“Then just die knowing that you’ll be remembered in history for your evil!”
Kevin had been secretly chanting a rune in the meanwhile.
He waved his staff as he shouted, and a pitch-black aura quickly began spreading out from it.
“Out of the way, Bajeel! You’ll get caught up in it!”
Just as Bajeel leapt away sideways, more nimbly than his large frame would suggest, the black aura reached the ground he had been standing on, dyed it black, and continued to erode further into the surroundings.
(Is that……stone!? The earth is turning into stone!)
Shelfa finally realized what the black aura was from her place behind Rain. The area had begun petrifying after Kevin had waved his staff.
The black aura never lost momentum and quickly petrified the earth beneath Rain’s feet.
No, it had already run up his shoes and was gradually petrifying him from the ankle upward.
“Hoho! This is what you get for relying too heavily on your anti-magic field. Serves you right!”
Kevin sneered, and Bajeel and Lester began smiling with him.
Smart bursts of screams erupted from the audience as they belatedly realized what was going on.
Rain ignored both the audience and his own disastrous plight and suddenly asked,
“……I’ve been trying to tell you guys to surrender in a roundabout way all this time. But, I guess you guys just don’t want to? You won’t feel like surrendering until we actually fight, huh. Are you really that stupid?”
From his ankles to his knees——his voice suggested that he wasn’t the slightest bit perturbed even though he shouldn’t have been able to move now because of the petrification eroding into him.
“Hoho. You’re such a sore loser that it’s laughable,”
Kevin said smugly with the composure of a victor. He continued,
“it’s too late to ask your comrades to save you. That spell won’t stop until your body turns completely into stone.”
“Hmm? Yeah, I guess. But I really don’t know why you’re so proud about using a forbidden spell to curse people. This isn’t any decent petrification spell, now is it?”
Rain observed the petrification that had made it all the way up to his stomach like it wasn’t his problem. He continued,
“Curses come home to roost, you know——though I guess you’ve never heard that saying before. ……Actually, there’s no way you would have, huh.”
Rain muttered to himself as he remained stubbornly calm despite that he should have been in excruciating pain.
It was Shelfa, rather, who looked worried as she rubbed at the parts of him that had turned to stone with everything she had. Of course, all it did was assuage her own apprehensions.
Rain looked as unconcerned as ever, but then he suddenly looked up into the air and narrowed his eyes.
He stared fixedly at something far away and whispered,
“did you really think I wouldn’t notice? I can feel you, woman. Watching over the situation from afar at your leisure, are you?”
A glint appeared in his eyes after he had finished saying his puzzling words. He continued,
“I’ve got you……so you’re the leader, huh……I guess we finally meet.”
The magic inside his body began swelling just as he finished speaking.
Eventually, his entire being was covered with a magical aura and he began to shine.
“Why don’t you come at me yourself instead of just watching from afar?!!”
And with his sharp rebuke——
Rain’s entire being flashed brightly as a wave of power erupted from him.
——From somewhere far away from the amphitheater.
Something that sounded like the thunder that would herald the end of the world rumbled from somewhere behind him.
Roy ignored it and stopped in his tracks because he also felt an instantaneous wave of immense power.
He turned around in the middle of the hallway and quickly ran to the large hall used for ceremonies.
Claire, dressed in a miko outfit, was sitting down in the middle of a magic circle.
She was not sitting as prim and proper as she usually did, but was instead sitting with her bottom behind her closed knees in a girlish pose as her shoulders heaved.
“What’s up, Princess? I felt a scary strong power just now.”
“……I was born a commoner, and am therefore not a princess, Mr. Roy. I am simply the head of our organization,”
Claire replied sternly despite the fact that she was breathing heavily.
“You’re pretty much a princess as far the guys here are concerned. So anyway, what happened?”
Claire took one last deep breath before replying.
It was rather impressive that the look of exhaustion was erased from her countenance so quickly.
Then, the mysterious girl gracefully stood back up.
She gathered her radiant white hair in her hands and turned her unfocused eyes toward Roy.
“I received a greeting from our good friend Mr. Rain just now.”
“Oh……? A greeting, was it?”
Roy twisted his mouth into a laugh and took a look around the hall.
There had been nothing in the hall other than a small desk and chair because it was used primarily as a room for Claire to meditate in, but now the hall was a complete mess and there were cracks running along both the stone floor and the walls.
Moreover, the desk and chair had been reduced to splinters, and could now only be useful as firewood.
There was no mistake that a large amount of energy had exploded here.
“……He attacked you remotely, didn’t he? He probably caught hold of your Ekseed while you were tracing him magically with clairvoyance. Did I get it right?”
“You are —as expected of you, Mr. Roy. A sudden wave of pure magic poured into the hall. I did manage to defend myself……but it’s likely because he was going easy on me.”
The mature girl had returned to her usual composure and smiled lightly. She continued,
“I did cut off my magic as quickly as I could, but I didn’t make it in time before he attacked. I’d heard the reports from my sister and my comrades, and I had no intention of underestimating him. But I was still a little surprised. To think that he would follow my Ekseed back and launch a counterattack on top of realizing that I was using clairvoyance.”
She looked off to another direction with what as quite literally a distant look in her eyes and added,
“most people with that much power usually run wild in self-conceit. But, I could tell after brushing upon his Ekseed. It was unclouded. He had complete control over his power……he’s very strong.”
Claire let out a fleeting sigh.
And not only is he very strong, but he’s also very kind——Claire could figure as much after brushing upon Rain’s Ekseed, but chose to leave her findings unsaid.
After all, there was no point in saying it out load. But——
“It’s unfortunate that we must fight him as our enemy.”
“I really don’t care about his personality. But it’s pretty rare for you to praise someone like that.”
Claire was not moved my Roy’s sarcasm.
“I give recognition where it is due, do I not? The Unknown Genius is an apt moniker for him. To think that there existed a warrior who’s mastered both magic and Ekseed in this day and age.”
“Hmmm……a warrior whom even a girl of your caliber acknowledges… Guess I’ve hit the jackpot. With this Rain fellow, that is.”
Roy rubbed the stubble on his chin and grinned. He continued,
“I’ll go next if the three clowns don’t come back. ——I feel like I’ll be able to get the first proper fight I’ve had in a long while.”
“Indeed……I’m sure that even he’ll have no cards left to play if you’re his opponent. I should’ve had you go from the start,”
Claire whispered quietly and shook her head. She continued,
“he’s a bit too strong for Mr. Bajeel and the others. ……I’m worried about what happened after what I saw. I can’t use clairvoyance anymore.”
“Hell if I cared.”
Claire sighed softly at Roy’s predictable reply.
Then, her comrades came rushing into the hall after having heard the noise.
“Lady Claire! What was that noise just now?!”
“Whoa! W, why is the room in such a mess!? Roy, you bastard, what did you do to Lady Claire?!”
They were shocked and jumped to hasty conclusions.
A faint smile teased Claire’s lips as Roy snorted, and she finally shook her head and said,
“just so we’re all on the same page……this isn’t Roy’s handiwork. More importantly——”
The smile vanished completely from her face as she quietly ordered,
“prepare to relocate at once! We’ll need to move to another base. I have reason to believe that this place with be discovered soon.”
She saw how the black aura had stopped and began flowing backwards as soon as Rain had shouted.
It had been progressing like the murmuring of a small stream, but its vector had changed because of Rain’s magic and it was now flowing backwards with the force of a deluge.
The petrification that was crawling up Rain’s upper body was immediately dispelled, and even the ground at his feet began to return to normal. The petrification magic, which had been splintered ruthlessly by Rain’s overwhelming magic, reversed it’s flow with terrifying speed and closed in on Kevin instead.
Kevin paled in fear and shouted something before he was swallowed up by his own spell.
However, Rain cut off his flow of magic just before it hit and thrust out his palm toward the old man instead.
Once again, he let out a sharp cry.
The old mage was hit by an invisible wave of Ekseed and was thrown backward before crumpling to the ground.
Rain nonchalantly brushed back his hair.
“And that’s one new addition for the cellars~, I guess. ……Did you really think petrification magic would work on a rune master who’s far better than you?! Just because you added in a little curse, it doesn’t mean that your spells are any less useless. Learn your place!”
he declared loudly to make sure that Bajeel and Lester, who were helping their comrade back up, could hear.
Rain wasn’t particularly trying to get them to feel as sense of defeat, but was only trying to tell them, “You guys are hardly an opponent for me, so why don’t you just surrender already?”
……Though, as usual, he went a little overboard in his choice of words and they stood up with their faces flush with fury instead.
“Youuu! Don’t get too cocky, you greenhorn!!”
Bajeel’s body began swelling up as he yelled. The hair all over his body wriggled longer and both his height and width increased drastically.
The scent of a carnivorous beast’s body odor suddenly spread throughout the area.
Women began screaming from the audience, and the knights were desperately trying to calm them down.
“Lester, finish your summons while I fight! Summon as many as you can!”
“Leave it to me! We’ll take revenge for the old man!”
Lester watched his comrade transform out of the corner of his eye as he replied with determination. He continued his incantation from where he had left off and readied his wand.
“It won’t take long. Just hold out for a little bit, Bajeel!”
The voice that responded was not that of a human’s, but the howl of a beast.
A bestial roar caused the atmosphere to tremble and unrest spread quickly throughout the audience seats. Some people eventually started running away. The monstrous beast, at least twice as large as the servant that had attacked Cortecreas Castle previously, rushed for Rain while it was still in the process of transforming.
“Stand back a little, Shelfa.”
A spirited voice replied energetically to his calm instruction.
Then, a large wall of flesh closed in on him from up front.
Rain returned his sword to its sheath and purposefully stopped the charge with his bare hands.
His hands locked squarely with his opponent’s, who was now easily twice his height.
Bajeel smelled strongly like a wild beast. His muscles were still swelling up beneath the thick grey bristles that had grown all over his body.
Judging by the thickness of Bajeel’s arm and the size of his large frame, he could have easily sent two or three ogres flying with one hand.
Rain highhandedly stood firm against his opponent’s brute strength and whispered.
——In a voice that only Bajeel could hear.
“……I can tell even if you try to hide it, old man. You’re scared. That’s why you didn’t attack me even though I gave you so many chances. Am I wrong?”
Bajeel’s gigantic yellow eyes narrowed and he replied with a choppy and raspy voice that was difficult to catch.
“……Kevin was……right. You’re too full of yourself. Do you really think……that I’m scared of you?”
“You say that, but your strength failed you a little just now, you know? You’re not nearly as good as hiding your feelings as you think you are. Did you really think you could hide your feelings from me, especially when your Ekseed’s in such a mess? When I’m facing off against you right here?”
Rain could feel the tiny——truly tiny tremors that betrayed his enemy’s unrest.
Still, though Rain had pointed out Bajeel’s drop in power to persuade the latter (or so was his intent), it only led Bajeel to increase his strength.
The supple musculature of Rain’s arms began bulging as he squared off against the impressive mound of muscle that was trying to push him down. The sleeves of his jacket grew taut and looked like they would tear at any moment.
It was possible that the smelly old man wouldn’t be outdone by the ancient dragons he had once fought in the past in terms of brute strength. Still, Rain whispered,
“why don’t you calm down and think a little? You can’t beat me even if you came at me at full power in your best condition —so what makes you think you can beet me when you’re trembling in fear, huh?”
A dauntless glint shone in Rain’s eyes and he looked directly up at Bajeel.
And, just then, Rain was certain that he had seen the beastman’s eyes blink in timidity.
Bajeel suddenly raised his head, exposing his hairy throat, and howled so loudly that it seemed to echo all throughout the capital.
Members of the audience screamed for quite some time before Bajeel loudly wailed,
“I’m not scared of you! Who in hell would be scared of you, you bastaaaaaard?!”
The beast master snapped and suddenly pushed down against Rain with multiple times the strength he had been using up until now.
He suddenly swept at Rain’s legs while the latter grit his teeth to brace himself and tossed Rain into the air.
Then, with the ready ease of throwing down small coins, he slammed Rain back down to the earth.
A large cloud of dust rose up and the earth trembled. It was neither a joke nor a metaphor to say that Rain was half-buried into the ground. All despite that the soil had been more than hard enough that it shouldn’t have been so easy.
Rain scowled and fresh blood escaped his lips before a large foot immediately closed down on him from above.
Rain realized what was happening because the area around him had suddenly fallen under a shadow and promptly crossed his arms over his chest.
“Who’s scared of you?!! Who’s scared of youuuuu?!”
It was obvious that the beastman had completely snapped——and he stomped down heartily at Rain as a large volume of spit erupted from his mouth.
Then, he stomped again and again.
“Like hell I’m scared of you!” he repeated each time he stomped down at Rain.
He no longer seemed to care to check if Rain was still alive or not.
Shelfa saw through the veil of dust that Rain’s body had been completely buried in the earth.
He, he’s all right since he’s Rain, right? But, Rain betrayed Shelfa’s inner hopes and did not resurface immediately.
Bajeel finally stopped and the giant laughed like he had lost his mind.
He looked down at the deep, Rain-sized hole in the ground and said,
“S, see that, you fool?! Now you’re just a sack of bloody pulp!”
Shelfa tried to run up to where Rain was, unable to hold herself back any longer because of what Bajeel had said.
But, just then, a hand reached out from the hole at Bajeel’s feet and grabbed his hairy foot flesh and all.
Bajeel’s loud roar of laughter turned into a scream as the long and slender fingers dug into his ankle.
He instinctively crouched forward and reached down for his ankle before Rain abruptly let go.
Immediately, Rain’s legs danced out from the hole and scissored around Bajeel’s neck.
Then, Rain twisted his body into a backflip while still upside-down.
Bajeel’s gigantic frame was thrown cleanly into the air.
The beastman miserably fell to the ground head-first and caused the earth to rumble from the impact of his crash.
His wail echoed loudly like a grudge.
His weight as a beast master had proved to be his undoing. He took a great deal of damage because he hadn’t even been able to roll out of it. Bajeel clutched at his head and rolled around on the ground.
Meanwhile, Rain, the man who had supposedly just risen from his grave, climbed out of the hole like nothing had happened.
“Hey!! I bit my tongue because you started hitting me out of nowhere!”
He looked down at Bajeel, who was still in a lot of pain, as he spit out bloody phlegm.
That was essentially the only net damage Rain had taken.
He had barely gotten hurt, much less been turned into a bloody pulp.
Then, in a voice so calm it almost sounded sarcastic, he continued,
“even I probably would’ve died if this was ten years ago……but too bad for you. That was barely more than a massage for me as I am now.”
Then, he scowled heavily and added,
“but it pisses me off to get kicked around like that, so I’ll pay you back for this!”
Rain walked up to Bajeel, who was in the middle of trying to get back up, just as his words suggested that he would.
He grabbed one of Bajeel’s legs in his arms and suddenly began spinning the beastman around.
The screams that had filled the arena just moments ago had quieted down so abruptly that it was surreal.
But it was only natural, since Rain was easily spinning around the beastman, who was twice his height and at least four, five times his weight, in circles like the latter was a doll. Besides, the speed at which Rain was spinning him was something else.
He was going so fast that even Rain, at the center of the centrifuge, looked like nothing more than a black shadow. Everyone was staring at him in shock because of the unrealistic scene, which could not have possibly been brought about by human strength, before their eyes.
“L, let me goo! (will a full reverb effect)”
This time, his scream was plainly filled with fear.
Rain grinned as he continued spinning in a manner that would have put any dancer to shame.
“……Guess I can’t help it if you’re asking. Alright, go shed some skin and come back as a man among men!!”
Rain called out something incomprehensible as he suddenly let go.
Bajeel flew through the air too fast for the audience to see.
But everyone heard the noise he made when he crashed into the wall beside the gates. After all, he had hit it dead-on and had half-destroyed it, so it was only natural that it had made quite the fierce noise. Naturally, Bajeel, who was now buried under the rubble, did not get back up.
His beastification had also worn off and he was visibly turning back into a squalid man.
Rain nodded at Shelfa, who had come running up to him in relief, and scratched his chin.
He looked at the distant mountain of rubble and whispered,
“……Well, he’s probably not dead since being sturdy’s the only thing he’s good for. In any case, it’s too late to worry about him now.”
Shelfa did not respond to Rain’s words —were they kind or were they cruel?— and began touching Rain all over instead.
“More importantly, are you all right, Rain?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, of course. There’s no way that something like that could do anything to me.”
Then, he turned around and rested his eyes on Lester, who was standing dumbfounded.
“——Hey! You overfed lump of flesh over there!”
The fat summoner, who had been standing in shock with his mouth hanging open, returned to his senses when Rain called out to him.
He sluggishly turned his gaze to Rain.
“How about you do something intelligent like surrendering already? There’s no point in putting yourself through something unpleasant on purpose, is there? You look like rich boy who’s only ever known peace…… It’ll hurt if you get punched by me, you know? You understand that, right?”
Rain had meant to speak gen~tly and in a manner that even the slowest in the head could understand, but he unfortunately only managed to provoke his opponent’s ire.
A look of impertinence immediately returned to Lester’s face as he readjusted his slackened grip on his wand.
“Shut up! I can still save them as long as I’m still standing! And I’m almost done chanting too! So prepare yourself!?”
Lester waved his wanted and cried out, “Answer my summons!”
The magic circles, on the ground like puddles after a bout of heavy rain, stopped flickering as soon as the words had left his mouth and began shining gold at all once instead.
Then, a low growl filled the air. It sounded almost like the shrill caw of a bestial bird.
Most of the audience were still in their seats, and a chill ran up their backs as they heard the repulsive cry.
It was the kind of noise that would instinctively bring about fear in humans.
Just then, a completely calm and rather cheerful voice called out,
“Rain~~, long time no see~♪ You’ve become a lot more handsome since the last time I saw you.”
Rain and Shelfa turned around to find a girl with twin tails——in other words, Sylvia, with her butt sitting on the guardrails as she swung around her legs.
She was beaming and waving at them vigorously.
Like Rain, the tension in the air didn’t seem to affect her at all.
“Looks like a bunch of stuff’s about to come out, so how about it? Want me to help?”
“——I think you already know my answer,”
Rain said with a wry smile. He continued,
“but, let’s see. Can you make sure none of the summons jump at the audience?”
“Sure thing……! You’re just as stoic as ever, Rain. You really don’t have to hold back, you know?”
She giggled in apparent glee and added,
“anyway, I’ll be here watching the show, so do your best~”
She ended with a small note of encouragement that seemed to trail off with a heart at the end.
Rain waved lightly back at her in response as the summoned mythical beasts finally began appearing one after another.
Sayle, who had been watching over the audience carefully, said hoarsely when he saw the flood of mythical beasts that had been summoned.
Griffon had the body of a lion and the wings and head of a hawk. These terrifying mythical beasts were rising up out of each magic circle.
But that wasn’t the end of it —there was another type of mythical appearing into the fray.
“Hey, there are dragons too……amazing!”
Folnier responded to Sayle’s shout.
“What? Dragons? Those are dragons!?”
she asked excitedly as she pointed at the scale-covered monsters with crimson eyes.
……The fact that she wasn’t panicked at all marked her apart from the other screaming members of the audience.
“Oh, my apologies. They aren’t ancient dragons —the strongest mythical bests—, you know? Even I can tell that much with just one glace, and it’s not like someone could even summon an ancient dragon to begin with. Those are a species call little dragons, and they grow to be about five meters long. Plus, the only live for about a hundred years. ……That being said, they’re still strong enough that no human should be a match for them.”
Just one little dragon would pose a problem, and there were four of them. Between the dragons and the griffons, it looked like it’d be an uphill fight even if the army was mobilized.
Apparently, the summoner was rather skilled.
“Whoa, whoa! I wonder what Mr. Rain’s gonna do? It’s not really my problem, but I’m still a little worried,”
Sayle said as if it really wasn’t his problem, causing Folnier to frown.
She threw a glance at Sylvia and said,
“……looks like she’ll be protecting the audience with a shield.”
“Yup, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be safe here. ——Whoa, look at those teeth, amazing.”
“Stop being so impressed. Sayle and Junna —both of you come here for a bit.”
Folnier suddenly stood up and began walking toward the guardrail, that is, toward the audience passageway.
Sayle and Junna wondered if she meant to evacuate as they followed behind her.
But then, Folnier stopped at the guardrail and said something strange instead.
“Junna, go hug Sayle real tight.”
I’m sorry, what? But before Sayle could pose the question, Junna clung onto him in full smiles and joy. Evidently, his sister was too happy for the excuse to get a hug that she couldn’t have cared any less about why Folnier had told her to do it.
Sayle had no choice but to go along with the flow and hug her back as he was told.
“What is it all of a sudden, Your Majesty? What, waaaaait!”
He was suddenly pushed back by brute force.
Even a warrior of Sayle’s caliber had lost the chance to resist because he hadn’t thought even in his wildest dreams that this would happen. He tipped foolishly over the guardrail and plummeted downward.
Still, he managed to somersault in the air while still holding onto Junna and landed safely.
Just as he did, one nearby griffon and little dragon each turned to them and glared.
It needn’t be said that neither of them looked particularly friendly.
Sayle broke out into a sweat as his liege’s voice called down at him from above.
“There’s no way our empire can sit back an relax while Rain steals the show, is there? So you go out there and do your best too, Sayle!”
“What do you mean, “do your best too”?!”
he wailed back, but it was already far too late for that.
The mythical beasts had already barred their fangs and were drawing closer.
For the time being, he put down his sister and gulped as he readied his sword.
On the other hand, were Arc and Ferris.
Unlike Sayle, they were proactively trying to join in on the fight.
……Well, Arc was, at least.
He had already made a swift recovery from his concussion and was on the verge of jumping into the flock of monsters without knowing the details of the situation. His partner, Ferris, was desperately holding him back.
“Hey! Chief, you idiot!? I finally managed to pull you away from there and drag you into this corner, so why the hell are you trying to go back?!”
“——Huuh!? Yer the idiot, Ferris! Don’t ya see that crafty lookin’ guy in black over there?! We have to finish off these monsters real quick and rescue the Princess from him!”
Ferris could not hide the weariness in his voice as he pinned Arc’s arms behind his back and dragged him backward. He could not help but be jealous of the audience (or at least a few members of it) for running away as soon as things had started getting worse.
Truly, they were the smart ones.
“That guy in black in Rain! The Princess happily jumped in his arms just earlier, so I’m pretty sure of it! A lot of things happened while you blacked out, Chief!”
“Whaat, he’s Rain?!”
Arc began pulling harder. He continued,
“so he’s Rain?! Shit! How dare he take up the spotlight while I, the great Arc, was taking a little break?! Rain, Squall —I don’t care what his name is, but I’m gonna punch him in the face once I’m done with these guys!”
“Hey, can you wait a sec and remember what kind of position you’re in right now?! It’s already bad enough that we came here without telling Kei or Saya! ——Wait, argh, you goddammed idiot!”
But it was already too late.
Arc had finally shaken Ferris off and run off. He brandished his sword and charged at a little dragon that had its eyes on Rain. He was running wild without caring about the consequences, as per usual. Right as he was about to enter the mythical beast’s range, its large frame leapt high into the air with the sun to its back.
Arc swung up his sword up high while the mythical beast was still airborne but looking away with its back toward him.
——Then, he brought down his sword with brute strength and let it explode against the little dragon’s head.
“Divine Punishmeeent! Die, damniiiiiiiiiit!!”
The dragon immediately let out an angry roar (though this was only natural).
The dragon had shed a small amount of blood, just barely enough to get it wet, but was otherwise unharmed.
The little dragon was far easier to fight than an ancient dragon, but its scales were still thick and hard. If the little dragon had, for example, 10,000 HP, then Arc’s attack would have shaved off about 30. That was all the damage he had done, but——
……It was still the best way to get the attention of the weakest of the dragon species.
The little dragon turned around with unbelievable speed, ignoring Rain completely, and was now preparing to face off against Arc.
Woe is me, he thought earnestly.
Still, he never even considered running away alone, even in his lament.
“……Argh~. Please don’t let this be the day I make my journey to Hades.”
Then, Ferris, too, put his life on the line and charged at the dragon, which was five meters tall despite being called a little dragon.
……Meanwhile, he prayed that no other dragon or griffon would come his way.
After all, there was no way he could fight two of them at once.
——And as for Rain.
Rain gazed nonchalantly at Lester, who was busy laughing wildly, as he quickly confirmed the battles that were gradually beginning around him. He also checked how the monsters were distributed around the area.
“Argh~……what a pain in the ass. There’s quite a number of them, I’ll give you that.”
“Haha! Dumb~ass! This is what you get for feigning composure for no reason. Serves you right!”
Two nearby mythical beasts reacted to the rune that Lester had chanted just as he finished speaking and turned to Rain at the same time.
One drew in a deep breath while the other screeched out an eerie cry as they activated their magic and sent forth a wave of heat and light. The two mythical beasts coordinated together to attack Rain with a fiery breath and a heat ray.
A flood of white light and the heat from the breath attack enveloped the black-clad man.
The atmosphere began boiling and a heat haze began shimmering in the air.
The earth that was in the attack’s path was carbonized black.
……Otherwise, however, the results were rather lackluster.
Rain’s invisible field activated again and absorbed all of the attack’s energy. The mythical beasts were probably surprised by the absurd human too——as they both stepped back in surprise once they realized that their attacks had been completely nullified.
“……The likes of a little dragon can’t break through an ancient dragon’s field, you know? It’s like a baby trying to break apart a brick wall. They’re just that different in level.”
Lester, however, did not lose his composure even after seeing Rain speak so calmly.
“Ha! Talk while you still can! I just ordered all the mythical beasts to kill you! They’ll all be attacking you at once now. Why don’t we see just how long your anti-magic field can last? Besides, it’s not like it can nullify their fangs and claws too!?”
“You know……you really don’t get it, do you? All of these griffons and little dragons are basically about as dangerous as cute little puppies when you compare fighting them against fighting an ancient dragon.”
But you’re right, it’d be stupid to take them out one by one——he tried to continue, but then Shelfa suddenly glomped him.
“Whoa. What’s up……did you get scared?”
Shelfa beamed as she clung tightly to him.
“No. I simply thought that no one would notice if I hugged you since it’s so chaotic everywhere. You don’t mind, right?”
Rain groaned before he could stop himself.
“Jeez, you’re even more lax about this than I am. I don’t really think this is the time for this, you know~?”
“But I haven’t seen you in so long, Rain.”
I’m pretty sure it’s only been a few days……well, whatever.
Rain changed his mind about the matter as he pulled Shelfa closer.
Then, he slowly began chanting a rune.
His low and easy to hear incantation echoed all around them.
The first person to react to it was Sayle, who was something of a rune master himself, as he was clashing with a griffon with his back to the outer wall of the arena. He groaned even as he was in the middle of a fierce battle.
He knew what spell Rain was about to cast. It was a spell that Sayle himself would never be able to cast, and he was actually rather surprised that someone actually could even cast it——which he had learned about from a book.
And so, he was horrified.
Just then, his opponent —the griffon— suddenly withdrew. It wasn’t retreating; rather, it was probably responding to its summoner’s orders.
The golden eyes in its enlarged hawk-like head glistened as it swiftly turned around. Then, it twisted around its large frame and took off running with an air of composure.
Sayle wanted to take the opportunity to retreat back into the audience seats, but he couldn’t do that after hearing Rain’s incantation.
In any event, he called out to the girl who was sitting on the guardrail as she observed the battle.
He put his hands around his mouth and yelled,
“you’re related to him somehow, right? Please, stop him! You should know how reckless this spell is since you’re an expert in magic!”
“I’m actually the person who founded the study, not just any old expert.”
Sylvia smiled gracefully after she had made sure to correct Sayle. She continued,
“listen carefully to his rune, boy. It’s been altered quite drastically. ……It’ll be much fiercer than the spell that I originally devised, I think. No, I’ll guarantee it.”
I’m twenty-three, you know——Sayle decided to keep his discontent to himself since now wasn’t the time for it.
“Then that’s all the more reason why you should stop him!”
“It’ll be fine, since it’s Rain we’re talking about.”
Sylvia puffed out her chest a little in pride as though she was talking about her own child. She continued,
“he’s not the type of person to drown in the enormous amount of magic he has. I’m sure he’s confident that he won’t miss his mark. He’s even chanting a rune even though he doesn’t have to anymore, so I’m sure he’s exercising his due diligence.”
Sylvia happened to look up as she spoke and offhandedly attacked a griffon that was about to attack Rain from above.
“Hey you! Don’t interrupt Rain’s chanting——Lightning Sword!!”
……Sayle had no idea how she had managed to do it, but three “swords of light wrapped in lightning” burst forth from one swing of Sylvia’s arm and pierced through the griffon that had been trying to sneak up on Rain. The unfortunate griffon didn’t even have the time to cry out before it was charred black and plummeted to the ground.
A blue afterglow of electricity crackled through the air that the magical swords of light had passed through.
The other mythical beasts slowed down, perhaps because they were being wary of the magic.
Sayle gulped before he could stop himself, but he still didn’t give up his protest.
After all, there were lives on the line.
“He won’t miss his mark——that’s preposterous! That spell was originally meant to be used against armies of a thousand men or more, wasn’t it? And besides, I don’t know about you, but the ancient texts never mentioned anything about anyone being able to even use it!”
Sayle panicked, which was usual for him, and looked down to his sister.
“There’s no way anyone could exercise that much precise control over that spell. Right, Junna?!”
Junna looked up to her brother in worry and nodded repeatedly.
Though, she was mostly worried that Sayle would get hurt if he was caught up in the spell.
She furrowed her brows as if to prove the point.
“we should run, brother! Um, I think we’ll need to be at least two kilometers away,”
she whispered as she tugged at Sayle’s sleeve.
……We won’t make it in time. He’s already almost done chanting!
Sayle sensed an unbelievable amount of danger as an eerie wind began blowing around the arena.
In a state of despair, Sayle ran a few steps forward and called out directly to Rain.
“You have to stop this, Mr. Rain! Everyone will get caught up in it!”
He was worried that Rain hadn’t heard him, but his worries were proven wrong.
Rain, who had just finished chanting his long rune, turned Sayle and grinned.
He even waved as if to show that he understood.
——But then, he yelled back,
“don’t worry! I’ll make sure your grave’s made of the highest quality stone I can get my hands on!”
Ahhhhhh, he doesn’t get it at all!?
Then, Rain released an immense amount of energy with a sharp cry.
Sayle looked up at the heavens above before he could stop himself when he heard Rain’s voice.
As he’d expected, there were countless “somethings” flickering far up above the blue skies.
——And he heard the wind whistling like a shrill flute. It was too late now……not even the caster could stop the spell at this point. Sayle grabbed Junna by the hand and tried to run toward the gates.
But then, everyone, including Sayle, heard Rain’s next words.
“Nobody move a muscle! Everything’s going to be okay; I’ll cover you!”
Sayle and Junna were enveloped in a shield just as he registered that Rain had said something, and the first impact landed immediately afterward.
The earth was covered in a thunderous noise just as Sayle thought he had heard an eerie whistle from point-blank.
A great tremor rose up from his feet and shook his body around.
The siblings lost their balance and fell to the ground. Indeed, a meteor had just touched down.
It had turned into a ball of blazing heat due to the friction from its fall and enveloped the entire amphitheater in a whirlpool of tremors as it landed. Sayle was shaken, or perhaps it was better to say that he found himself suddenly airborne, as he scuttled on the ground with his sister in his arms.
Sayle grew a little defiant and nodded to himself.
I see, in this case it doesn’t make a difference if we moved or not. Probability-wise, it doesn’t really matter much whether we try to run away or stay still.
Then, the calamity that seemed to encompass both a great earthquake and a volcanic eruption at once continued.
They weren’t that large individually, but a countless number of meteors fell to the earth like rain.
The earth had never stopped jolting ever since the first meteor had struck. Sayle couldn’t hear himself screaming above the noise of the impacts, much less anyone else. He had no choice but to steel himself. The impacts continued one after another as the meteors fell from the heavens without pause and released massive amounts of energy like ripples.
It was like great destruction magics were exploding in succession.
The clouds of dust and pieces of rock that danced into the air and the invisible shockwaves that resulted from each impact——each meteor fell to the amphitheater like divine hammers and ravaged the earth. They were accompanied by the eerie timber of the whistling wind. Sayle was tossed around like he was being fried on a frypan as he held tight to his sister and occasionally rose a few dozen centimeters in the air.
But at least nothing had landed directly on the shield that protected them.
It really looked like the meteors’ trajectories were being control to a degree, as difficult as it was to believe.
Not a single one of them fell on the audience members, as though they were following set routes in the sky.
Well, real meteors would have absolutely ruined the entire area around them, so it looked like even that was under Rain’s control too. Perhaps the meteors weren’t really meteors but were actually some type of magical energy instead.
For some creepy reason, none of the meteors that landed in the amphitheater had hit anyone or even any of the mythical beasts.
Perhaps Sayle was just imagining it, but he was almost certain that there were shields surrounding the mythical beasts as they moved about in confusion too.
In any event, the mythical beasts were seized with fear and ran toward their magic circles nearby.
……In other words, they ignored their summoner’s orders and fled.
The onslaught of meteors stopped completely as soon as they had all disappeared.
Rain looked around his surroundings and nodded to himself.
……Everything had gone well, for the most part.
It was especially nice that the summoner had rolled his eyes back and fainted from fear toward the end. It saved Rain the effort. Lester was completely out cold and wasn’t any more dangerous than a puppy now.
There were many smallish craters littering the area, but that was inevitable.
Not even Rain could possibly hold back that much.
“Well, all’s well that ends well. You’re not hurt, are you, Shelfa?”
Shelfa was surprised, but she didn’t look particularly scared as she nodded back at him.
She was still clinging tightly to Rain, though, so he gently pried her off. She immediately looked sad for it, but it would have been bad if she had kept it up for much longer. Though, the audience looked like their souls had left their bodies and were mostly still motionless from shock, so perhaps no one would have really noticed that anything was going on.
It would probably take at least a minute or two for them to return to their senses.
——Or so Rain thought until someone suddenly starting yelling at him.
“Hey!! Hey youuuuu!”
Rain and Shelfa both turned toward the voice.
A large man with a bandana wrapped around his forehead was standing upright while jabbing a finger at Rain.
Rain checked to see if anyone was behind him before asking,
“……uh~, you talking to me?”
“The hell are ya lookin’ back for? There’s no one else here, dumbass!”
It was quite the greeting.
Rain didn’t get annoyed though, for once, because he figured that this was just how the guy normally talked.
Still, he did ask,
“……And who are you supposed to be?”
The large man opened his eyes wide.
Apparently, Rain not knowing his name had stirred up quite a storm of resentment in him.
“I’m Arc! At least remember my name, damnit!”
“Hell if I care about guys’ names! Besides, why do I need to remember your name?”
Rain replied calmly, but in truth, he remembered Arc’s name perfectly well and had already conducted a background search on him. He needed to know who Arc was not only because he had participated in the tournament, but also for his future plans.
Arc quickly walked up to him while going around the craters.
He walked right up to Rain with a slender boy in tow and suddenly starting to lay blame on him.
“Hey! What’cha gonna do about this, huh? It ain’t possible for me to fight the next match now! I was just about to win the tournament too, so what’cha gonna do about this?!”
No, I really don’t think you would’ve won, you know? Rain thought, but he refrained from saying it out loud and shrugged.
“Oh, so that’s what this is about.”
He didn’t need to look around to know that the arena was in shambles and that it would be impossible to have any more matches in it. ……Actually, it might not be able to use the amphitheater at all for the time being. It looked like it’d be hard just to walk around in. Rain continued,
“You say that, but… From what I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure that Sylvia would’ve been the overall victor, and the Sunkwoll royal family’s willing to take in anyone who made it into the main tournament if they’d like, so all’s well that ends well, no?”
“The hell’s that supposed to mean?! Man up and fight me, damnit!!”
“……How does that even make any sense?”
“Who the fuck cares?! Besides, my goal from the beginning was to fight you!”
He was quite the aggressive fellow.
Still, the way he added, “But no magic allowed!” as a condition to his proposed match showed that he was at least pretty thorough. His partner behind him was pulling him back by the sleeve, and Sayle was saying, “Um~, can we all just get along please?” from further behind.
They were about as effective as using a cup of water to combat a forest fire, however. Rather, Arc had already drawn his sword and slashed at Rain as soon as he had finished yelling.
Naturally, Rain wasn’t nice enough to simply stand there was wait for Arc to attack him.
He drew his magic sword so quickly that no one could see his hand move and met Arc’s blade.
He calmly pushed Arc back and said,
“……this isn’t all that funny for a joke, you know? I fight back five times harder when my opponent’s a guy.”
“Hah! Should be fun!”
Just as his words suggested, Arc smiled as though he was having so much fun he couldn’t help it.
Not only was he quick to pick a fight, but it looked like he actually liked fighting too.
“Quit talkin’ and hurry up and show me what ya got!”
Rain smiled a peerlessly brazen smile and replied,
“oh? Well look at you, picking a fight with me in such an obvious manner. Sure, I’m game. I make it a rule to fight every fight that’s thrown at me. Don’t complain even if you end up regretting this!”
His let his raw strength as a Dragon Slayer do the rest of the talking and pushed his opponent back from their state of locked swords with an explosion of power. Arc’s large frame was pushed back and readily sent flying.
He flew through the air in a parabola and fell down a few meters away. He had managed to land properly on his feet, but he still looked surprised nonetheless.
“Are you ready? Here I come!”
Rain black figure instantaneously disappeared from Shelfa’s, who was watching him from diagonally behind, view. She could not get used to this no matter how many times she experienced it. Rain could dash immediately to the outermost reaches of her vision in an instant, and her eyes could not keep up with him at all.
That was why it looked like Rain had simply vanished, though she knew better.
Shelfa realized what had happened the moment he disappeared and looked around in a panic.
——Rain was already standing in front of Arc.
Arc was spectacularly defending against Rain’s sword, which had come at him from above, half out of instinct. Incidentally, however, Rain’s speed-based attack had only been a faint, and he changed his sword’s trajectory like a magic spell and swung diagonally downward toward Arc’s shoulder.
But Arc was quite the formidable fighter too, though in his case he was moving mostly out of instinct, and he caught Rain’s blade by twisting his wrist. Which was fine and all, except that the tip of Rain’s magic sword had immediately jumped up again and swiped at Arc’s flank.
There was a difference in their respective reaction speeds, but Arc looked like he had managed to parry this attack as well.
However, Rain had planned for Arc to block this attack and he swiped at Arc’s lower body, which had collapsed a little in form because he hadn’t completely managed to prepare himself to block Rain’s sword, with his leg.
Rain abruptly changed his sword’s trajectory and attacked a third time when his opponent had no choice but to twist his abdomen away.
This was Rain’s true objective.
Arc, however, moved in a way that Rain had never expected. In other words, he tripped on some gravel that had happened to be by his feet and tumbled in a direction that caught Rain off guard.
——Rain’s surprise escaped him.
His body, however, reacted perfectly to his opponent’s unexpected behavior.
It normally wasn’t possible to stop a finishing blow mid-way through, but Rain somehow managed to stop his sword completely and quickly take his distance.
He had done this because Arc hadn’t simply fallen over but had also scythed at his feet with his sword even as he rolled out of it.
Rain scowled and purposefully waited for Arc to get up again.
“I ain’t done yet!”
Then, Arc’s large frame, large enough to fill up his shirt completely, charged at Rain like a stormy gale.
——Just then. Rain suddenly threw his magic sword high in the air diagonally behind him.
Then, he twisted his body and threw himself backward headfirst……and glanced back at Arc, who was standing dumbfounded because he couldn’t figure out what Rain was doing, as he did.
Rain’s shadowy figure backflipped, somehow knowing where the ground was flat even without looking, multiple times at breakneck speed. He had moved several meters back in the blink of an eye.
When he was done, he leapt high in the air, somersaulted twice, twisted his body, and landed back on his feet.
He then brought his right hand back without ever looking at it.
His magic sword, which he had thrown just earlier, landed perfectly in his hand hilt-first.
Arc, who had been standing around blankly, returned to his senses and barred his teeth.
“The helllll?! What’cha showin’ off for? Are ya tryin’ to show off how nimble ya are or somethin’?”
Rain smiled wryly.
“Don’t get me wrong. I moved away on purpose because I knew you wouldn’t stop even if I told you to. I have something to discuss with you.”
“Well I have nothin’ to say!”
Arc detoured around the craters that Rain and readily avoided while backflipping and closed in on him again.
“People like you who’re weirdly blessed with luck tend to crop up from time to time, huh. Backup’s coming at just the perfect time, and the way you tripped earlier was so conveniently spot-on that it’s hard to believe it was just a coincidence.”
Arc sneered as Rain muttered to himself.
“Backup? The hell are ya talkin’ about?! Luck has nothin’ to do with anythin’! I’ll show ya I can win no matter how much of a disadvantage I’ve got!”
“Hmph, good answer.”
Rain’s countenance twisted with fighting spirit.
His characteristically arrogant smile alighted his face as he declared,
“Very well. In that case, I’ll show you that there are some walls you can’t climb no matter how lucky you are!”
Rain raced toward Arc as his words lingered in the air.
His pitch-black afterimage chased after him as he stopped in front of a shallow crater, leapt high in the air, and attacked Arc from above. His magic sword left a pretty blue arc in the air and its blade blurred as it was swung down.
The violent clashing of two swords resounded through the air, followed quickly after by Arc’s groan.
His knee crumbled in on itself, unable to withstand the momentum and power behind Rain’s sword. Half a second later, the earth around him collapsed with a great bang.
Arc felt Rain’s inhuman power with his own body and instinctively drew back. Then, he swiftly circled around behind Rain——and yet. Rain accurately read where Arc’s presence was and reacted instantaneously without moving an inch.
Rain lowered his upper body and swiveled his tall frame around to unleash a calculated roundhouse kick behind him.
The kick landed cleanly on Arc, who had blocked it with his arm and had tried to avoid it by jumping away.
Moreover, Rain reacted to yet another presence without bothering to check if his kick had been successful or not.
His black figure moved a few steps to his side like a shadow followed by an afterimage——and he trust the magic sword in his right hand behind him over his shoulder while still looking forward.
Ferris’, who had erased his presence and tried to circle around to Rain’s blind spot, face stiffened up as his sword remained raised as he had left it. The tip of the radiant blue magic sword was pointed just a few centimeters away from his throat.
“Ugh! I know I had my presence erased just now!”
he wailed as he jumped away and took some distance in a panic.
“Unfortunately for you, I don’t have any blind spots. You can come at me from the front, or you can come at me from behind —it doesn’t matter to me.”
Ferris didn’t reply and moved himself next to Arc instead.
“We should retreat, Chief! I just realized……he has no openings at all. He’s really strong!”
“You dumbass! Wha’cha bein’ all pessimistic for, Ferris?! Our match ain’t over yet! And while I’m at it, quit interferin’!”
Rain cast a sidelong glace at their exchange as the corners of his lips curled up into a smile.
“I don’t mind if you come at me two-on-one. You can both come at me with all you’ve got!”
Arc swung up his sword with great vigor and made to run off again.
Just then, Rain looked up at a point in the sky much higher than where Arc was standing.
A shrill voice came calling down from above with great timing.
“Wait! I won’t let you kill Arc!!”
Arc, who had looked like he wouldn’t stop no matter what anyone said to him, suddenly stopped in his tracks and pitched forward.
Ferris looked up and facepalmed, and a few members of the audience began screaming again. There were even a few people who were pointing to the sky. Another little dragon had suddenly appeared and had caught everyone’s attention. Only, while it was still a little dragon, it was a type of sub-species that boasted giant wings called a winged dragon, or flying dragon, and there was a slender young man riding on its back.
The young man holding the dragon’s reins had pale white skin and long red hair —both of which were very uncommon.
Incidentally, he was also wearing sunglasses made of black shadow stone, making it difficult to see his face.
He probably looked like quite the gentleman without them.
Still, while he had been panicked for a moment at first, he now looked like he was in a terribly sour mood, perhaps because he had finally realized what was going on and how the match had come to be.
He landed while stirring up a cloud of dust, jumped off the dragon, and walked over briskly to where Arc was.
Then, he suddenly started yelling,
“I was so surprised when I saw you from up there! Stop making me worried for no reason, Arc! Think about your own position a little! And you even came here on one of our domesticated winged dragons, too. Where the hell did you even put it!?”
——Rain thought that Arc was rather bad at dealing with this man.
Arc’s prior vigor had shriveled away completely, and he was now flustered and trying to say something incoherently.
Unable to just stand there and watch, his comrade Ferris interjected,
“Um~……it’s okay, Kei. We made sure to have it stand by somewhere where it won’t be found easily near the border. I mean, it would’ve taken soo long to get here without one, so…”
“That’s not the issue here!”
Kei quickly shut him up.
Then, he took in a deep breath as if he was about to go off on a tirade of a million complaints, when——
Rain finally decided to cut in.
“Oh~? It’s one of Leyfan’s new dragoons in the flesh. ……And dragons are supposed to be pretty difficult to tame, too —great job.”
Rain looked Kei in the face, honestly impressed for a moment.
Kei’s anger quickly vanished from his face and he regained his composure in a moment’s notice.
He turned to Rain and gave off a cunning air that made him seem like a shrewd diplomat.
“……My apologies. It seems that we’ve caused you no small amount of trouble.”
Then, he furrowed his thin brows and continued,
“but……our dragoons were kept as a confidential matter until only very recently. How did you know about them? I tend to be rather careful about what rumors are spreading around our neighboring countries.”
Rain grinned as if to tell Kei not to worry about it.
Kei, on the other hand, looked speechless, as if he had seen a roadside pebble turn into a priceless jewel. It was easy to tell even though he was wearing sunglasses.
Rain, however, never stopped looking nonchalant about the entire deal. Still, he did glare back when the flying dragon that Kei had been riding turned its eyes to him.
It wouldn’t do to have a mythical beast of its level make light of him.
Kei saw how the dragon, which supposedly had a wild temperament, immediately looked away and observed Rain thoughtfully.
“It appears that you’re much more cunning than your appearance may suggest. ……I admit I was rather disappointed when you suddenly used magic earlier for no reason, though.”
“Oh yeah? And here I thought I was being pretty calculative about it and everything. Like say, for example——doesn’t it let you see with your own eyes that I’m someone you can rely on when push comes to shove?”
Then, he casually added,
“and, if you replace “me” with “a certain kingdom S”, then that’s all the better.”
Rain had spoken as readily as if he were simply whispering in the wind, but Kei saw through his intentions clearly.
Kei’s mouth was hanging agape —the very pose of being rendered speechless. It had only lasted for a moment, but he had been honestly surprised.
A short while later, he shook his head and said,
“You……are much sharper than the rumors say. You’re quick on the uptake……. Actually, I’m quite surprised by how much you know.”
“Yeah, people say that pretty often.”
Rain nonchalantly brushed back his hair before nodding in all seriousness.
“Though, in this case, I thought it was better than playing the fool,”
he readily continued.
Then, Arc, who had been left out of the conversation, finally lumbered forward.
“Hey! Quit goin’ on about somethin’ I don’t understand, Kei! I’m gonna beat the crap outa this guy no matter——whoa!”
The last “Whoa!” at the end of his sentence had not been a battle cry.
The man called Kei had pulled out a rod-shaped weapon out of nowhere and brought it down on the back of Arc’s head without a word.
It was quite the surprise attack.
Moreover, he had pulled no punches in his blow, leaving the hulking Arc clutching at his head and staggering on his feet.
Kei signaled to Ferris with his eyes, which Ferris promptly received and acted upon. Ferris quickly dragged Arc on top of the winged dragon. Their precise coordination made it obvious that they had taken similar actions multiple times previously. Kei, the man wearing the sunglasses, faced forward again once he had confirmed that Arc was taken care of.
He bowed to Rain and Shelfa, who was standing behind Rain, each as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
“There are too many eyes on us at present. It is not an adequate place to talk. Let us discuss worldly affairs at a later date.”
Rain nodded lightly.
Then, he stared fixedly at Kei and said,
“You’ve got a lot on your plate, don’t you?”
“……If you’re referring to Arc, then this is nothing unusual.”
“I was talking about you, actually. Well, whatever. I’m sure it’s a secret anyway.”
Kei swiftly raised his head at Rain’s idly spoken words.
He stared back at Rain through his sunglasses for quite some time.
However, he ultimately didn’t respond and turned to Shelfa and bowed politely instead.
“It seems that you have an excellent retainer at your side, Your Majesty. Thanks to him, I don’t believe that introductions will be necessary, but——”
He smiled wryly and continued,
“please pardon us for simply taking our leave after causing you such trouble, Your Majesty. I would like to extend a formal greeting when we next meet.”
Kei, too, turned around once Shelfa had silently nodded back in response.
He joined his comrades on the flying dragon’s back, and they danced into the skies.
Up high in the skies, Ferris let out a long sigh as he held onto the dragon with both of his hands.
The Sunkwoll royal capital, which was to say nothing of the amphitheater, was now but a speck on the ground.
Kei was holding onto the reins in the front, Arc was in the middle, and Ferris was at the back——and there was still room to spare even though the three of them were riding together.
“Man~, that was seriously dangerous back there. I’m pretty sure that guy’s the strongest warrior we’ve ever fought.”
Kei turned back and glared at him (or so Ferris felt), so Ferris beat him to the punch.
“First let me say that I did try to stop him. It was the Chief who didn’t listen.”
“……Relax, I’m not about to start complaining all over again. Besides, we needed to meet him eventually anyway. We’ll have to decide whether to officially form diplomatic relations with them once we get back home.”
“Was that confusing conversation you had with him earlier based on the premise that we’re going to form an alliance?”
Kei didn’t answer Ferris’ question outright, but he did reply in a roundabout fashion.
“……It looked like he was thinking along the same lines. We really can’t underestimate the man.”
“You know, I’m fine with an alliance and all…”
Ferris furrowed his brows and continued,
“but do you think the Chief’s going to agree to that? I mean, he didn’t get along with the guy at all. And besides…”
——He nearly got himself killed just now.
Ferris’ words melted into the sound of the dragon’s beating wings and disappeared.
He had noticed that there was a faint red line on Arc’s throat as the latter slept soundly like a log. It was only just a scratch, but there was no way that Arc would have gotten out of it unharmed if the man who had put it there had felt like doing more.
“There are some walls you can’t climb no matter how lucky you are……huh.”
“What are you talking about, Ferris?”
Kei followed Ferris’ line of sight and noticed “it” too.
The exchanged looks, and silence fell between them.
Eventually, Kei adjusted his sunglasses with a finger and sighed.
He whispered the words he had said earlier.
“We really……can’t underestimate the man.”
Noelle was floating far above the three generals from Layfan with her arms crossed.
She never spared the flying dragon below her a second glace and gazed solely that the amphitheater far, far below her. Eventually, she narrowed his almond eyes and abruptly began grinning.
“I flew over here because I felt a wave of power. ——So that’s Rain, I see. He saved me the effort of finding him.”
She shook her silver hair, which fell neatly at her shoulders, as her smile deepened. Her smile eventually grew into an outburst of laughter.
“Ahaha! A Dragon Slayer……I see, I see. He really is quite something……for a human, that is.”
Her laugher gradually faded, and she returned to the neutral expression she was wearing before. She gave off a chilly impression, perhaps due to the high bridge of her nose, so perfect she might as well have been a sculpture, or the whiteness of her skin that almost seemed translucent. She was just as attractive as was Shelfa but had none of the latter’s warmth.
Her countenance was as fierce as that of a goddess of war and her pride was evident for all to see.
“But a high-ranking daemon like me won’t go down as easily as an ancient dragon, you know? ……Hmm?”
Noelle, who had been observing Rain with her excellent visual prowess as a daemon, tilted her head quizzically to the side.
Did our eyes meet just now……or was that just my imagination?
“Well, whatever……if you can hear me, then you should enjoy what time you have left. ……I’ll be coming for you soon.”
Then, with a large flap of her jet-black wings, Noelle, too, flew off into the distance.