The people of Leyfan fearfully called the forest the “Sacred Grounds”.
The Sacred Grounds……the name referred to a land where no human may trespass.
Arc, the grand general of Leyfan, and arrived at the Sacred Grounds just around the time that Rain had received the report that King Leygur was on the move.
The Sacred Grounds, located to the northwest of Leyfan, bordered Leyfan, Gardstein, and Zarmine.
Even Arc, who was not of Leyfan birth, could easily assume why the Sacred Grounds were called as such.
Simply put, it was because a dragon lived here.
And it was no ordinary dragon either.
It was a so-called ancient dragon, which stood at the peak of all dragons —which were roughly categorized into seven species. There was no proper name for the species, perhaps because there were so few of them or because people thought it was too arrogant to name beings that were so close to the divine. The term “ancient dragon” was simply a popular name used to reference them.
Still, no one who lived on the continent doubted that they were the strongest of all the draconic species or that they were the kings among kings that surpassed every other mythical beast. Unlike the daemons, who were said to have existed once long ago, ancient dragons were absolute beings that were to be regarded with awe and fear.
There were many legends that referenced them, but the most famous legend on the streets was undoubtedly “The Legend of the Dragon Slayer.” No proof or literature that supported the legend’s claims existed anymore, but deeply-rooted beliefs stated that “those who defeat a dragon in single combat will inherit all of its power.”
The legend’s authenticity aside, there was no doubt that the dragons it referenced pointed to the strongest mythical beasts. But no one had ever heard that Dragon Slayers truly existed outside of the bards’ songs——or so it was said.
Indeed, Arc, too, had once believed that Dragon Slayers didn’t exist.
——Until he had met him, that is.
“Well, guess it was my fault for thinkin’ that it was all just some legend as a kid.”
Arc said loudly to himself as his breaths turned white from the cold.
“Should’ve taken up this challenge sooner. All ya gotta do is take down a lizard. ……Well, whatever.”
He nodded curtly to himself and continued,
“I, the great Arc, will begin the second chapter of my heroic legends today!”
His voice was pointlessly loud.
His words sounded like something a kid general —not a fully grown adult— would say, but he was dead serious all the same. Before his eyes was a forest bristling with evergreens, and his spirit was burning brighter now that the so-called “Sacred Grounds” were right before his eyes. As proof, he didn’t feel even an ounce of the cold even though the cloudy skies looked like it would begin snowing at any moment now. Rather, his body even felt hot.
Kei and Ferris standing behind him, however, were of a different opinion altogether.
“It chills me all the way to the bone to hear you say that……in more ways than one. What was that about a second chapter? Surely, you meant to say you’re beginning the epilogue. I should’ve reserved a joint grave for us before we left. The gravestone would’ve said, “Here lies a bunch of idiots.””
Ferris cheerfully concurred when Kei, the delicate and effeminate man, gave his critique.
“The stuff that the Chief says is hilarious when it’s about someone else, but it’s not so funny when it you’re involved in whatever he’s saying. And it’s so, so cold!”
Spit flew out from Arc’s mouth as he spun around.
Arc ignored how Ferris jumped back and snapped,
“No one told ya to follow after me! Ya should’ve just stayed home and waited for me to make my golden return after I beat up that damn lizard! The hell did ya come after me for?!”
“……Because, regrettably, you happen to be the grand general of Leyfan.”
Kei, who was still wearing his sunglasses carved from black shadow stone even though the sun wasn’t out, snapped back. He fingered his red hair, which was tied behind him, nervously and his displeasure was readily apparent in his voice. He continued,
“listen up —normally, a grand general has no business venturing out to a place like this. But, it’s not like we could just let you come alone when you insisted on coming anyway! Besides, you want to kill a dragon? Aren’t you underestimating how the world works? You’re going to get crushed to death before you can even scream. Actually, just go and get yourself crushed and turn into a red stain on the earth —just die!”
Arc was rendered speechless by Kei’s thorny retort when Ferris cut in.
“Let me translate what Kei was really saying for you. “Arc……I’m worried about you and I don’t want to leave your side. I’m begging you, please don’t chase me away.””
Arc shivered. He continued,
“Q-quit coaxin’ like a purrin’ cat or something —it’s gross!”
“I quite agree. And besides, I never meant anything close to that!”
Ferris snickered as Arc and Kei finally seemed to agree on something for once. He was quite the attractive young man when he kept his mouth shut, but Ferris was the kind of man who never knew when to shut up.
“Ah, well, calm down, both of you. We’re already all the way here, so it’s not like the Chief will be satisfied until we see the dragon, right? It’s pretty pointless just standing here arguing in the cold, so let’s hurry up and get it over with.”
“Or so ya say, Ferris, but…”
Arc sounded fed up as he looked behind the three of them. There were a few dozen men and women standing around like they were blocking the way across a country road. Arc continued,
“are we takin’ that whole group with us too? The hell did ya bring them here for?”
Annoyed, Kei answered,
“I explained that to you already on our way here. They’re our supply unit. They’ll be carrying our food and equipment, among other things. Just pretend we’re on a long hike up a mountain. It’s only natural that we should be prepared, since we don’t know where in the forest the dragon is.”
“……That how it is? This is a forest, so I’m pretty damn sure it ain’t gonna be like climbin’ a mountain… And besides, these guys look weak as hell.”
Arc scowled as he looked to the group of rather feeble-looking men and women.
While it was true that a few of them were carrying some luggage, they were wearing civilian clothing and most looked like they weren’t suited for physical work. There were a few women among them who looked so delicate that they didn’t look like they’d be able to carry anything heavier than a spoon, and some of their number were even elderly.
Kei, however, readily replied,
“they’ll be fine. It doesn’t make all that much of a difference whether we have a few strong and burly men carry everything or if we divide everything up and have a larger group carry smaller portions.”
For some reason, Ferris looked like he’d burst out in laughter any moment now and he quickly looked away when his eyes met with Arc’s. Arc simply tried to move things along, figuring that Ferris was just strange and finding it too much of a bother to ask any more questions.
“……Well, whatever. Let’s just go. I wanna hurry it up and beat up that damn lizard already.”
Arc snorted and tried to turn toward the forest——but he was stopped again by a voice he had never heard before.
“You fools! Hold it right there!”
Arc turned back around nonchalantly to find several people running toward him while absolutely seething with rage. They made their way to him while he watched them blankly, and then they started yelling at him without so much as a greeting.
“What are you lot playing at?! Do you even understand where you are right now?!”
“You won’t be forgiven for disturbing the Divine Dragon!”
“This isn’t the kind of place where a human can just waltz in!”
……For once, the short-tempered Arc didn’t shout back.
It was because the group of people looked exceedingly strange in their shabby hemp clothes. Arc couldn’t quite decide if it was the tone of their voice or the look in their eyes that made them seem dangerous. In any event, he didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Arc had always been bad at dealing with people like them.
Even now, he stepped back while sweating as he turned to Kei and whispered,
“hey, the hell’s up with these guys? And what’s that about some Divine Dragon? Don’t they feel a bit dangerous to ya?”
“They really must be something else if even you’re saying that about them,”
Kei replied quietly before suddenly nodding to himself after recalling something. He turned to the group and, in his normal voice, said,
“I remember now. There were people who worship the ancient dragon as a god living in these parts. You people must be some of them.”
“We’re not the only ones. There are a lot of others who regard the Divine Dragon with awe and respect living in other places too. We just happened to be the ones who noticed you lot this time around.”
One man stepped up to represent his group. He was a man past his prime with greying hair, and he was also the man who had first cried out at Arc. His eyes were sharp, and it was clear that he was rather angry. He continued,
“you lot——especially that young man with the cloth around your head there, you’re looking at us like we’re dangerous or something, but don’t get us wrong. We aren’t a group of fanatics. We simply worship the Divine Dragon and respect him.”
Arc, who was terrible at reading the situation to begin with, naively asked,
“Wait, ya respect it……it’s just a mythical beast, ya know? It’s just a giant lizard.”
“You, you fool!”
The man grew red in the face and spat out so much spit that he could have put even Arc to shame. He continued,
“the Divine Dragon is practically a god! How dare you call him a lizard, when you’re nothing but another greedy human?! Don’t lump the Divine Dragon together with your ordinary, run-off-the-mill mythical beasts that only live off bestial instinct!”
“Wait……greedy? Ya know, I really hate that sorta thinkin’.”
Arc scratched at his cheek while looking troubled. He continued,
“mythical beasts are mythical beasts, and humans are humans, ain’t that right? There ain’t no point in tryin’ make it sound all nice like that. It’s not like we can understand ‘em. From my point of view, they’re just more enemies to be defeated.”
“You understand nothing. Listen up, the Divine Dragon is——hey!”
Arc turned his back on the man instead of hearing the latter out, and the man tried to chase after him. Arc turned around just once to stubbornly say,
“Don’t stop me. I’ll become a Dragon Slayer no matter what. I’ll beat up anyone who gets in my way!”
“A, a Dragon Slayer?! That’s why you’re here?! They may have existed in the past, but there aren’t any evil ancient dragons around anymore! Not only are you being reckless, but you’re setting out on a futile task!”
Arc widened his eyes a little upon hearing that. Still, he purposefully refrained from asking the older man what the latter had meant and obstinately walked toward the forest.
“……I really don’t care, so quit followin’ me. And don’t say I didn’t warn ya. Don’t start complainin’ if I end up hittin’ ya later!”
Kei stopped the man from running toward Arc.
“I understand how you feel, but he’s not the type of man who’ll listen to what others have to say. ……I’m terribly sorry, but please leave the rest to us. There’s no stopping him once he gets worked up like that.”
Kei signaled to the several dozen people he had brought along as porters with his eyes as he spoke. They understood what he was getting at and formed a human wall between Arc and the old man’s group so the latter couldn’t chase after him.
Then, Kei pat one of his subordinates behind him on the shoulder and quietly ordered,
“you need only stall them for a few hours. And whatever you do, don’t be rough with them.”
Kei and Ferris followed after Arc once Kei heard his subordinate’s answer. There were a few shouts and screams directed at their backs, but neither so much as looked behind.
“Hey, ya weren’t planin’ to be rough with them, were ya?”
Arc gaze Kei a side-eye with the latter caught up.
“……Don’t misjudge me. Do you really think I’d order something like that?”
“Then it’s fine. They might be a weird bunch, but I’d still feel bad for beatin’ them up outa nowhere,”
Arc confessed candidly as he walked on top of the fallen leaves on the ground. He’d already half-forgotten about the old man’s group from earlier. His head was filled only with the dragon he was soon to fight.
“But still, depending on how you look at it, I’m pretty sure that they’re the one’s with the right idea —not us. I mean, it’s normal for them to stop us,”
Ferris, who’d been idly tagging along, brought up the topic again.
Kei concurred with him immediately.
“Indeed. We’re the incorrigible fools here. Or rather, Arc is just an idiot.”
“Tch! Say whatever ya want. I don’t go changin’ my mind once I’ve made it!”
“……And he’s stubborn, too. Why must I work so hard for someone like him?”
Arc ignored Kei’s continued grumbling entirely as he hurried along. He wasn’t completely certain that he would find one of the strongest mythical beasts somewhere deep within this forest, but he was determined not to go home until he did.
And so, he proceeded deeper into the forest with Kei, Ferris, and a few dozen porters in tow.
——They had been walking for easily over an hour.
There were still patches of snow here and there and the forest was deathly silent —they didn’t even hear the chirping of wild birds, much less feel any trace of people. The three of them had walked along a few narrow paths that looked like they had been made by wild animals, but they hadn’t spotted a single mythical beast that could pose them any sort of harm yet.
The air was pure and chilly, and it did not smell at all like mulch despite the thickness of the forest around them. Tree branches covered up parts of the sky overhead, but they did not create a dark atmosphere.
The three of them had stamina to spare, but Ferris, perhaps because he had gotten tired of the boring forest scenery, suddenly said,
“Being a Dragon Slayer means you can use magic even without being a rune master, right?”
Arc nodded with a big grin. He continued,
“It’d be great to be able to use magic. And I’d wipe the smirk off that black-garbed bastard in no time!”
“I don’t think he’s the type of opponent who’d be done in just because you learned how to use magic.”
“What d’ya say?”
Ferris saw the look in Arc’s eyes and quickly changed the topic.
“Well, not that I really care that much about him anyway. Anyway, there’s a spell called Penetration that lets you see through things, right? I bet you could see women’s bodies through their clothes all you want with that kind of spell.”
Arc suddenly turned toward Ferris and stopped in his tracks. He continued,
“Ya should’ve told me earlier, Ferris~. Damnit, I just got real fired up right now!”
“Ahaha! I’m sure you did. I knew you’d get all fired up if I told you about this, Chief.”
“Ya bet! Aight, let’s make our way to the nearest town as soon as we beat up that damn lizard. And make sure that town has plenty of hot babes!”
Kei, who had been listening in with a raised eyebrow, suddenly exploded,
“You two should be ashamed of yourselves!”
Arc and Ferris exchanged glances.
“……Even if ya say that…”
“Right? I mean, this is just how men are.”
“You two are pathetic! Do you really think something like that will help you defeat a——what is it?”
One of the porters had suddenly run up to Kei. He was rather tense, and he quickly whispered something in Kei’s ear.
Tension ran through Kei’s visage when he heard the porter’s report. He continued,
“But……already? Are you sure you felt it?”
Arc irritably cut in. He continued,
“Quit hoggin’ the fun to yerself. Did something happen? And why’s he ignorin’ me, the grand general, and reporting directly to you? I’m gonna yell at ya.”
“……You’re already yelling. But nothing major happened. It’s just…”
Kei contemplated for a moment and said,
“A few people have sighted the dragon around here——according to the report.”
“Didn’t ya say something about feeling something?”
“……You’re imagining things.”
“Well whatever. But, ya know, here I’d thought the lizard lived way deeper in the forest.”
“That’s what I thought too. Regardless, their reports are credible.”
“How come yer trustin’ the porters so much? Yer hidin’ something from me, aren’t ya?”
“Both of you, quiet down!”
Ferris interjected with an uncharacteristic sharpness in his voice. He continued,
“……Don’t you hear anything? It, it’s like there’s a huge waterfall nearby or something. I hear something rumbling faintly.”
“Quit sproutin’ nonsense! We’re in a level forest, not the mountains, ya know? There’s no way there’s be a waterfall——”
Arc heard it too a moment later.
He was sure he could hear something……like a waterfall?
No, that probably wasn’t it. It sounded extremely solid, like thunder rumbling in the distance.
“Don’t tell me…”
Kei, who was normally the epitome of composure, sounded a little uneasy as he spoke. He continued,
“……Is this the sound of……a dragon breathing?”
Arc turned sharply to Kei.
“Are ya serious?! So there’s a dragon right around the corner?”
“H, how would I know?! But, they do say that ancient dragons are rather large even for a mythical beast. I wouldn’t be surprised if this noise really was the sound of a dragon breathing——wait, Arc, where are you going?!”
Arc, who had run ahead before Kei could finish, turned back and roared with laughter.
“Wahaha! Quite askin’ the obvious, Kei! I’m gonna go beat up that damn lizard, of course!”
“You, you idiot! The people from earlier hinted at it too, but some ancient dragons were known to attack humans on sight! We should at least gauge the enemy first before……ugh, I guess I was too late.”
Arc had vanished from view while Kei had been talking. He was remarkably fast.
He spotted Arc running in between the trees far ahead for just a moment.
“Ugh. We’ll have to follow him now that it’s come to this,”
Kei said grimly, and Ferris folded his hands behind the back of his head and replied with a cheer.
“Yeah, but it’s nothing new. I wonder how the mage unit is holding up? I hope we’ll run into this dragon of ours before they start running out of breath.”
Kei looked shocked as he turned to Ferris.
“Of course I did. I’m not the Chief, you know,”
Ferris said readily before he took off to chase after Arc. Naturally……Kei followed suit in a hurry, as did his subordinates who had been tailing them in secret.
Arc, who was running furiously, finally saw a light at the end of the coniferous forest that stretched out annoyingly before him.
He head directly toward the light. Then, he jumped into it without any hesitation whatsoever.
——His field of vision opened up.
A gentle light suddenly flooded his surroundings and informed Arc that he had reached his destination.
It was perhaps one kilometer long in diameter? He was standing in a circular clearing where, strangely enough, no pine nor Jura trees grew. But Arc couldn’t have cared less about such trivial details, and his gaze was focused solely on the large black mass directly before his eyes.
It was a giant creature covered in scales……its eyes were still closed, it had the largest head of any mythical creature he had ever seen before, and sharp fangs peeked through its mouth and cast a chilling light. It was about twenty meters long as it lay down in slumber. The wings folded against its back quivered slightly with every breath it took.
Arc was certain of this.
It’d be hard to mistake it for anything else. This is it—the strongest mythical beast!
“Usshaaaaa! Let’s do this, ya big fat lizard. I challenge ya to a duuuuel!”
Arc drew his longsword as he ran forward.
His enemy hadn’t moved yet, but its wings had stopped moving. The dragon had apparent woken up. It slowly opened its eyes and watched as Arc charged closer.
Its ruby eyes captured Arc precisely and narrowed.
Still, Arc was still overflowing with fighting spirit as he continued running forward and brandished his sword without hesitation.
Arc leapt high into the air when he was a few meters away from his enemy. His sword glistened under the sun, and he was about to bring it down on the unmoving dragon’s head——
But then, the dragon suddenly began moving.
That being said, all it did was look up at Arc falling down from directly above, and, just then, its crimson eyes flashed.
Arc was hit by an invisible force and sent flying.
All the dragon had done was flash its eyes, but Arc had been sent flying backward like he had been punched by something he couldn’t see.
He was sent back across the open field he had run across, and his tall frame slammed back against a thick pine tree.
Arc cried out in pain, and then he plummeted downward because he was still high up.
Kei had come running and was directly below, and he quickly foresaw the disaster that was about to occur.
Kei was about to move out of the way before he stopped in his tracks. ……He tried to catch Arc instead, admirably enough, but he failed and the two of them ended up being squashed against the earth.
Kei struggled as he tried to push off Arc’s hefty weight from off his body. Ungratefully, Arc tried to get back up——and pressed against Kei’s chest for a moment in the process.
“Huh? What was that? I felt something soft just now? Did ya stash a piece of bread up in there as a snack or something?”
“Shut it, and hurry up and get off me, you pervert!”
Kei was red with rage as he finally managed to push Arc off. He picked up his sunglasses, which had been knocked away from him, and swiftly put them back on.
“What were you thinking?! Who just runs in and charges a dragon like that——”
But Arc wasn’t listening.
He ignored the pain he was feeling from the blow he had just suffered and had charged at the dragon again.
“Argh, that idiot!”
The invisible force had beaten Arc back yet again just before Kei had cried out, as if it was agreeing with Kei’s assessment of him. Arc couldn’t even get close to the dragon this time before he was sent crashing into the same pine tree again.
He groaned as he shook his head. It only stood to reason. He had been sent flying by the invisible force not once, but twice. Even Arc couldn’t just shrug it off.
Kei made a quick decision as he watched.
“Now! Everyone, do as we planned! We already knew that the anti-magic field came with a barrier! Break through it in one blow!”
a large chorus of voices answered Kei from behind. Arc, who was still groaning in pain, watched as Kei’s “porters” began pouring out into the clearing. There were several dozen of then, and they were all wearing robes.
The obeyed Kei’s signaling and promptly began chanting a rune.
“What!? H, heyyyyy! Those guys were mages?!”
Arc, who had only just realized, wailed.
But he hadn’t quite recovered from the damage yet and couldn’t push himself back to his feet.
“Yes, they are. You probably weren’t aware of this, but they’re our kingdom’s secret mage unit. We’ll have them concentrate their spells on the dragon first, and then you can have the finishing blow.”
“But then I’d be breakin’ the rules of the DS legend! And it totally makes me look like a bad guy!”
“Can it. And what’s with this “DS legend” —stop abbreviating things for no reason! It’s obvious that those rules don’t matter. All we have to do is win.”
That being said, Kei didn’t actually have any proof as to whether such rules actually existed or not. Besides, Kei was skeptical about the whole “Dragon Slayer legend” to begin with. Kei could not help but remain dubious even after learning about Rain.
He cared far more about supporting, or rather, rescuing, Arc than he did about some unfathomable legend —everything else was but a trifle.
For now, I have to give my all to rescuing Arc!
That was all he was thinking about.
A shield covered over Kei’s allies, and the mages’ incantation was complete as they ignored Arc’s repeated wails of protest.
several voices cried out in chorus.
The spells, chanted by several rune masters in tandem, were in perfectly practiced harmony. They were aimed at the dragon’s flank —the largest target that would be the most difficult to miss. The spells combined in mid-air, formed a vortex while spewing out sparks, and charged at the dragon like a giant bluish-white lance.
Yet, their enemy didn’t move even still.
The dragon had its eyes open, so there was no doubt that it had seen what Kei and the others were up to. But it was so unconcerned that it almost seemed arrogant, and it simply narrowed its eyes and watched as the attack drew closer.
——The result was more than enough to drain the blood from Kei’s and the others’ faces.
A translucent barrier appeared around the dragon just before the attack hit and audibly absorbed the magical attack as it shined rainbow for a moment before vanishing.
There wasn’t even an afterglow.
The attack, made by so many mages and meant to break through the dragon’s barrier, had been completely absorbed.
Kei looked to the dragon, who still looked half-asleep, as his lips began to quiver.
“……Is this a joke? They’re our rune master unit, which trained in Layfan for generations. They’re said to have been our trump card for so many wars in the past. And yet even they couldn’t manage to break through?!”
Then, a solemn voice called out from somewhere as if it was responding to Kei’s question.
“Leave this place!”
“What? Who was that just now?”
Kei looked around restlessly before he suddenly froze stiff.
He had seen the dragon slowly get up from afar.
“It, it stood up!”
Kei and the others braced themselves, and Arc, whom Ferris had helped up, yelled, “Run, Kei!”
But it was already too late.
——The dragon attacked again.
The dragon opened its mouth ever so slightly. Then, it turned to the diffident group and let out a shockwave.
Kei screamed, and he, Arc, Ferris, and the mages who were maintaining a shield over everyone——calamity befell them all.
The magic shield was barely of more use than a thin sheet of paper would have been. The shockwave ripped through the shield in but an instant, and everyone was sent flying through the air.
They flew through the trees like scraps of paper. Some crashed into tree trunks like Arc had and groaned, while others landed on the earth face-first……they were all met with disaster, and no one managed to hold their ground.
——This is bad! We have to retreat!
Kei quickly came to a conclusion.
He had been opposed to this futile battle to begin with.
Arc, however, had not lost his fighting spirit yet. He hurt all over, but he had miraculously managed not to break any bones yet, and he actually found it convenient that the all the mages had been blown away.
He slammed back into yet another tree all things despite and ended up groaning on the ground for at least a good ten seconds or so, but he climbed back to his feet as soon as he was able.
He quickly surveyed his surroundings to make sure his comrades were still alive. Incidentally, the mage unit had been blown particularly far away, and all he could hear was their groaning.
In any event, Arc judged that no one had died before pointing at the ashen-faced Kei.
“Hey! Quit meddlin’ already. Ya’ll get yerself hurt.”
The astonishment on Kei’s face was quite the sight to behold.
He even forgot to readjust his sunglasses as he stared back at Arc.
“……You haven’t given up yet?!”
“Course not, ya idiot!”
Arc replied promptly. He continued,
“A real man never turns back on his word, ya hear?!”
“No, wait. It’s definitely better to turn back this time, yeah? Let’s just give up and go home, okay?”
Ferris, who had tumbled into two of his comrades, pleaded as he slowly got up. The look on his face was serious, despite the frivolous tone of his voice.
“Shut it! This fight ain’t over yet. I said I’d fight, so I’m gonna fight!”
Arc began running again before anyone could stop him. But, just then, the mysterious voice sounded yet again.
A strange noise rang through the air and was accompanied by a violent gush of wind.
Even Arc could not help but stop in his tracks.
——The thick trees suddenly began keeling over audibly —perhaps it was another one of the dragon’s attacks.
Arc panicked and dodged a tree branch falling his way. Upon a closer look, the branch had split just before hitting his head, and each part fell in a different direction.
Several dozen trees fell down, but only around Arc. He was able to enjoy a clear view of the clearing because of this. Naturally, he could see the dragon too. The notorious ancient dragon was staring directly back at Arc——and only at Arc.
No way……was that voice from just now the dragon? Arc thought before shaking the idea from his mind.
Arc had never heard of a talking mythical beast. Even if it was an ancient dragon, which stood at the very peak of all mythical beasts.
Arc ignored the warning and started running again. He heard Kei and Ferris yelling at him to stop from behind him, but he let their cries go in one ear and out the other.
“I’ll get ya this time, ya damn lizard!”
A moment later, Arc jumped up because he felt a clear wave of bloodlust. The grasses directly below him waved furiously just as he did. It had probably been another shockwave, and Arc had dodged it marvelously.
“Hah! Serves ya right——”
Arc was triumphant, but then his body was lifted up just as he landed.
“Wha, whoa! Hold up a bit! Ya can’t do that —I dodged! This ain’t fair! That’s playin’ dirty!”
He accused his enemy of being sly, but to no avail. An invisible force carried him several meters in the air and threw him back down to the earth at terrifying speeds.
He had been tossed around like he was just a fly.
The silver lining of the situation was that the earth and grass beneath him was soft. Arc retained his consciousness even as half his body was embedded into the ground.
Arc was exhausted, but he still somehow managed to sit up. But then, bluish with light began rumbling through the heavens far above him as if the gods were angry.
The thunder came a moment later. And it wasn’t anything to scoff at. The roar of thunder was so fierce that it sounded like the heavens were tearing apart, and lightning fell around Arc before he even had the chance to scream. Bolts of bluish-white lightning thick enough that Arc could wrap his arms around it danced around him and bore several large holes in the grassy field. It was so ferocious that even Arc could not help but hold down his head.
The stench of something burning wafted through the air, and vast quantities of dirt had been unearthed. The attack that the rune masters had unleased earlier seemed like a gentle spring breeze in comparison.
The attack was over as abruptly as it had begun. Arc was stunned to find that he was surrounded by the countless holes the lightning had drilled into the earth before he knew it. The lightning had avoided him completely and had only fallen around him.
Then, for some reason or another, Arc remembered that black-clad man (Rain, that is) casting the Meteor spell or whatever it was called. The aftermath of his spell had looked much worse than this, but it had undoubtedly been similar. And so, Arc grew indignant rather than afraid.
Arc sprang to his feet and yelled at the distant dragon.
“Hey! Quit cheatin’! Fight me fair and square, damnit!”
He was returned a prompt reply.
“Then tell me —what is this ‘fair and square’ that you speak of?”
It was the solemn voice from before.
The mysterious voice seemed to echo directly inside Arc’s head and certainly did not belong to a human.
“The powers that man calls Ekseed or magic are powers that one such a I was born with. Why do you censure me for using it, and why did you suddenly attack me?”
Arc was shocked.
He slowly lowered his arm and stared at the dragon that was towering like a small mountain. ……Piercingly.
“Ya……know how to talk?”
“What a senseless question. Even man is capable of speech……why do you think that we could not? Besides——”
The dragon sounded somewhat calmer as he continued.
“It is difficult for us to vocalize as man does, as our vocal cords differ in structure from yours. My voice is being projected directly into your heart.”
“Ehh……wait, so that’s how it is?”
Arc mumbled back as he blinked. Then, he staggered forward until he was directly before the dragon’s eyes. It wasn’t all that difficult to converse from far away since he could hear the dragon’s voice directly in his head, but it was still awkward.
Arc’s comrades finally caught up to him just then.
“Chief, are you still alive~?”
“Arc, we should withdraw for now, okay?”
Kei advised as he tried to take Arc’s arm, but Arc stopped him.
“Wait! I just learned something amazin’! This guy thinks and lives just like we do —I mighta been jumpin’ to conclusions before.”
The dragon snorted in apparent exasperation when he heard what Arc had said.
“For what purpose did you attack me? Are you one of the foolish rabble who were tempted by the legends of Dragon Slayers?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly why I’m here! Though I don’t know what ya mean by ‘rabble’…”
Arc failed to realize that Kei and Ferris had exchanged glances just then as he puffed out his chest. He continued,
“But still, I haven’t been tempted or anything, ya know? I just wanted power ‘cause I need it.”
“……But in the end, you are still just another fool.”
Arc could not help but feel like the dragon was yelling at him even though the dragon’s voice was coming directly from his heart.
“Hey, quit soundin’ so done with me…… I’m still pretty sure that killin’ off dragons is the best thing for the people.”
The dragon’s red eyes abruptly moved.
“I have never once wielded my power at man unless he challenged me first, and I have always planned to stay this way. For what reason do you believe——that defeating me will benefit mankind?”
Arc was being overwhelmed, for once.
All mythical beasts were enemies to mankind——was what Arc firmly believed, and so the dragon’s question had caught him quite off guard. He was as shocked as he would have been if the sun had risen from the west.
“Well, ya know……my mum back home always told me ever since I was a kid. That dragons attack people. And I’ve heard about little dragons maiming people loads of times.”
“Not all men are saints either, no? There are some men who do unspeakably cruel things.”
The dragon admonished Arc a little in response.
“It is absurd to compare those such as I to the likes of a mere little dragon, but very well. ……Then, will you judge all dragons on the basis of the few you’ve seen? Is man truly such a superficial creature?”
“And in truth, there are so few of my brethren who have willfully made man their enemy that their numbers can be counted. Most of my brethren live quietly away from man……as do I.”
Arc immediately regained his cheer.
“Alright, that’s it! Tell me where to find those bad dragons! I’ll go and beat ‘em up real quick!”
“……You are exasperating. You have just tasted a mere splinter of my power, and yet you still think you can defeat a dragon?”
Kei and Ferris both nodded furiously in concurrence.
“Exactly! You’re an idiot, just like what he——the dragon says, you stupid idiot!”
“Wow, even dragons know that you’re too mischievous for your own good, Chief. Ahaha!”
Arc snorted after spitting back at his comrades. He continued,
“I haven’t given it my all yet. I can’t give up just yet!”
“Why do you not believe that the fact that you could not even get near me, much less actually fight me head on, speak enough about the difference in strength between us? You would already be dead, had I been serious.”
Arc sulked and fell into complete silence. He had originally been a mercenary, so he already knew all too well that the dragon had a good point. His judgment was simply clouded because he still stubbornly thought, ‘I don’t wanna lose out to that guy Rain.’
The dragon looked to Arc in his silence and bobbed his head up and down. It was like he was nodding.
“……Hmm. I see there’s still some hope for you. In that case, allow me to ask. ——You are not a mage, are you? You seem to be a swordsman.”
Arc reflexively nodded back.
“In that case, there is no point in us fighting. Even if you miraculously managed to get close enough to me, your weapon of steel could not wound my body. You would barely leave a scratch even if you hit me directly, and such a trivial wound would heal itself in no time at all. Perhaps a sword imbued with magic would serve you better, but even then, you would not be able to deal any decisive wounds. In other words, you have absolutely no means of defeating me no matter what methods you use. Then again, no human could ever pose a threat to me.”
“That, that one’s a lie!”
Arc objected for the first time. He continued,
“I’ve met a Dragon Slayer already. So there’s at least one human who can beat ya.”
It was the dragon who fell silent this time.
A little while later, he asked, as if intrigued,
“Was this perhaps a man wearing mourning clothes?”
“Mournin’ clothes? I thought he wore all black ‘cause he just likes the color?”
“That is unlikely. His deathly silent eyes held a great sorrow within its depths. His were the eyes of a man who saw that which he should not have seen and had thus began walking a path from which he could never turn back. He was the first human I’d ever met who gave off such a heavy pressure…… Yes, that man. He was certainly an exception among men.”
Ferris cut in. He continued,
“Except for that first part, he kinda sounds like a completely different person…… Was his name ‘Rain’ by any chance, Gramps?”
Kei, and even Arc, were startled when Ferris nonchalantly called the strongest mythical beast “Gramps,” but the ancient dragon in question didn’t seem to mind.
“Indeed. Rain——that was his name. I have spoken with him once.”
“Did he come to beat ya too?! And ya probably did him good, yeah?”
Arc asked, oddly excitedly, and the ancient readily replied,
“No. He had simply come to ask me a question. There was a dragon going around attacking villages and killing people——he asked me if I knew where he was.”
“……So, did you stop him, Gramps?”
“I did not. I knew that he would leave in search of that dragon even if I tried to. Besides, I had felt his Ekseed and acknowledged his potential.”
The ancient dragon watched as the three humans exchanged looks and continued,
“no man had ever felled one of us before. It is a loathsome word to us……but no “Dragon Slayer” in the truest sense of the term had ever existed before him. Back then, I had thought——that he, perhaps, might be the first man to win the title.”
The dragon failed to see the surprise coloring Arc’s and the others’ faces as he continued down memory lane.
“Man did not know of this detestable law for a long, long time. It was a law that man should have never known, and it would have been for the best had it stayed that way. ……The “Legend of a Dragon Slayer” spoken among men was something disclosed to you only a few hundreds of years ago because one of my brethren had spoken of it. A friend of mine once fought foolish humans, who challenged him as a test of strength, frequently, and once, he gave them an oracle. “Humans. Only calamity will befall you if you should somehow manage to defeat me by some miracle. Give up on your folly,” he told them. He was admonishing them in his attempt to stop them. But my friend had underestimated man. Put another way, he had made light of how truly atrocious man could be.”
The dragon growled and snorted.
“One of the humans he admonished asked him what the calamity was. And so, my friend told him. And you foolish humans began challenging us more ferociously ever since. Though the fervor has died down somewhat as of late.”
“Calamity? I am familiar with the Legend of a Dragon Slayer……but what part of it is the purported calamity?”
Kei asked gingerly.
“Do you not think it a calamity? A Dragon Slayer must live forever past the natural lifespan of man and will gain inhuman power——this is a law passed by the King of Hades long ago back when Murgenia was first created, and I would not wish myself such a fate if I were human. It is all too clear that such power would disturb my fate. And besides……no, I will leave the rest unsaid.”
The dragon stopped telling his story mid-way through.
A moment later, Ferris casually said,
“huh? I’d be pretty happy about that deal, I think. I mean, who wouldn’t want that power. I’d be able to use magic and spells like Penetration to my heart’s content.”
“I cannot comprehend you, o youth. I do not understand you, but yours is likely the opinion that man would consider ‘normal’,”
a bitter voice echoed in their heads.
“We have always lived in solitude, and so we have not had the chance to learn much about the race called man. And this was what gave rise to tragedy.”
There was something grim in the dragon’s voice.
The three humans silently urged him to continue, so the dragon told them what the tragedy he was referring to was.
“More and more humans rose to challenge us after that senseless legend spread…… Decades and centuries had passed, but man never halted his reckless pursuit of power. This angered my friend, who had taught man about the law in the first place, and turned him against humanity for good.”
“Got it! I mean, I think I understand…… So it was this friend of yours, wasn’t it?”
Kei asked, somewhat excitedly.
Arc gave Kei a sideways glance and asked,
“what’cha talkin’ about?”
“I tried to tell you before. I did some research on ancient dragons before we came here. And I learned that, historically, there were hardly any ancient dragons who attacked people at all. But there were a few exceptions, of course. There was one in particular, and it——”
Kei looked to the dragon before him and corrected himself,
“I mean, and he was probably the dragon whom Sir Rain defeated. It was a few years ago, but there used to be a dragon who would go around attacking village after village and killed a lot of people. It was said that he dwelt in a forest far up north from here.”
“……Yes, this dragon of whom you speak was most likely my friend.”
There was pain in the dragon’s voice.
“I tried to stop him, but my friend had been burning in his fury against man for far too long and refused to heed my counsel. The last time I saw him, he said to me, “Man deserves to fall. And I will be the one to destroy them!” Perhaps he truly would have ended humanity had no one stopped him.”
“And ya mean to say that the guy who ended up stoppin’ him was that guy in black,”
Arc replied with a complicated look on his face.
Then, he asked the dragon the question he had most wanted to ask.
“Was that dragon strong?”
The dragon looked rather exasperated by Arc’s direct question……or so Arc thought.
“We do not care much about who is stronger or weaker amongst ourselves. But yes……at the very least, I do not know of any among our number who was stronger than my friend.”
“……He was stronger than ya?”
“I would have stopped him with my own strength if I could, had my power been greater than his,”
the dragon replied gently.
A silent wave of shock passed through the group. They hadn’t been able to beat the dragon before them even when they had teamed up against him……and the dragon hadn’t even been taking them seriously.
The ancient dragon failed to see how a shadow had fallen over their faces as he continued,
“Rain may have defeated my friend, but it was only natural that my friend faced retribution for all the human lives he had taken, and Rain himself probably would have died if he had not killed him first. And so, I do not detest Rain for what he has done. Like you, he, too, desired power, but the fact that he had no ill intentions for wanting it was as clear as day. ……But it is a shame. Even a man of his caliber failed to see how foolish it is to be enticed by power.”
“Why’s it foolish?”
Arc suddenly refuted.
“Technically speakin’, I’m his enemy, but it ain’t wrong for me to acknowledge that he’s strong. I mean, just think about it! Sunkwoll would’ve been destroyed long ago if he wasn’t strong. I mean, ya can’t protect a kingdom if yer all talk and no bite!”
The dragon looked inquisitive, so Arc read the mood, for once, and explained himself. He told the dragon what Rain was doing and what Rain’s station was.
“Hmmm……I see. He did not seem to be the type of man to fight for his country when I met him, but I suppose humans are quick to change.”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure he’s not fighting for his country,”
Ferris quickly refuted. He continued,
“he’s probably fighting for his princess. I mean, anyone would get more fired up in that situation, right?”
“……What’cha lookin’ at me for?”
“Nah, it’s nothing. Ahaha!”
“In any event…”
the dragon said as he looked to Arc.
“I can see why he would need power in that situation. Forgive me, youth. Perhaps I was being too narrowminded.”
Arc, who was honest to a fault and so single-minded that he could even be called simple, recoiled. He realized that he should be apologizing too, now that he thought things through more calmly.
“Don’t worry about it —I’m sorry too. I’d thought all mythical beasts were enemies of humanity. I didn’t know that there were mythical beasts like ya who were exceptions to that rule…… Er, my name’s Arc; what’s yers?”
“My name is much too difficult for humans to properly pronounce. Let’s see……you may call me Seraph, for simplicity’s sake.”
“Aight……then, Seraph. Let me apologize too. It was wrong of me to attack you like that. I’m really sorry about it……forgive me, yeah?”
Arc vigorously bowed his head.
Then, he realized that he was still holding his sword and quickly returned it to its sheath.
When the air around him took on the tone of relief, he asked, yet again,
“so… Are there any evil dragons around like there used to be? Let me know if there are.”
Everyone other than Arc sighed in exasperation.
Even the dragon made some kind of rumbling noise as he breathed out.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to tell you. All of my brethren living in these woods are gentle. But more importantly, do you still truly believe that you can defeat one of us? If you do, then you have surely exceeded the realm of recklessness.”
Before Arc could say anything, Ferris nonchalantly asked,
“does it still count if we fight a group battle like before? Because we might be able to figure something about if we attack with a unit of ten-thousand or so.”
The dragon stared deeply at Ferris with his gigantic eyes.
“Man has always been the most fragile and the most unnatural race since ages past. You cannot withstand the changing of seasons without wearing clothing, nor can you use magic without chanting a rune…… It is said that Varyus, the King of Hades, put this law in place because he pitied man for being so feeble. I cannot fathom the will of a god……but the law is what it is.”
Gently, Ferris urged him to continue.
“Uh, so, basically, we can’t cheat?”
“I don’t know what it is that you were expecting, but it would be for the best that you do not delude yourselves into thinking that you would be successful at besting me with a large army. In any event, you would not be granted the power you seek unless I conceded my defeat from the bottom of my heart.”
“Aww c’mon……you should’ve said that last part from the get go.”
Ferris looked truly dejected, though no one knew how sincere his disappointment was.
Arc, however, still refused to give up.
“But someone managed to do it, so I’m sure I’ll figure something out somehow!”
he stubbornly said.
He hadn’t given up at all.
“……While I will not say that it would be impossible for man, now that I know about Rain, it would still be impossible for you even if there were a thousand of you. Besides, there have only been two such abominable Dragon Slayers in all of history. Only two in this eternal stream of time…… Considering how slim your chances are, it would be for the best that you gave up on your endeavor.”
This dragon extermination mission had ended up as a series of surprising events for Arc and his crew.
The biggest surprise, however, came in what the dragon had just said. The dragon……did not seem to understand why they were so surprised, until Kei whispered,
“I’d like to ask —who is this second Dragon Slayer other than Sir Rain?”
“Did you not know? ……Rain is the first Dragon Slayer in all history, but there is a second who came after him. That second Dragon Slayer’s name is…”
The three men looked to each other upon hearing the Dragon Slayer’s name.
“Though, I hear that this Dragon Slayer’s circumstances were rather different from Rain’s,”
the dragon added, but the three men were so shocked that they did not hear him.
After a moment of silence, Kei finally spoke up and said,
“I’m not familiar with the name, but if I’m not mistaken, then this second Dragon Slayer of ours is…”
However, Kei broke off mid-sentence.
He had noticed that one of his trusted men had broken through the forest and was running toward him. Something serious had happened, judging by the look on his face.
“What is it? Did something happen to our homeland?”
Kei whispered, prompting Arc and Ferris to quickly look up.
As it was widely known, Claire was blind.
But that was only a physical affliction, and her blindness posed no problem to her daily life thanks to her Ekseed. She even liked to submerge herself in true darkness from time to time, without relying on her Ekseed, just to enjoy the sensation. ——That being said…
Letting her consciousness sink into the darkness did not come without its risks, even for Claire. She would end up remembering things that she did not have to remember at even the smallest slip.
……And it would come to her in vivid images.
The daemons and mythical beasts she had buried, her friends and family who had died unnatural deaths……those memories would rise from the darkness if she gave them even the slightest of openings.
Sometimes, the memories would bind to her body and make her mumble to herself.
Claire looked like she was someone else whenever that happened, and her voice changed as well. An unknowing third-party might even say that she was being possessed by something evil if they saw her.
Ironically, however, Claire’s comrades revered her even during those times. Apparently, they thought, “The Lady Suzurain is communing with a great, god-like being!” It was far from the truth, and Claire naturally refuted those rumors——or at least, she used to.
She had stopped aggressively putting down the rumors after her older sister, Talma, advised, “Just let the rumors be. It’ll only make everyone respect you more, Claire, so it’s not like it’ll harm anyone.”
……Claire’s mysterious and charismatic nature played no small part in keeping the organization she led together. And she was well-aware of this. Besides, there was also a large gap between her and the rest of the organization members in terms of ability as well.
In other words, Claire ruled the organization as a kind of supreme figure, and she had no clear aide or second-in-command. Claire had wanted her sister to fill the role, but Talma wasn’t interested in the slightest.
And so, Claire had decided, albeit reluctantly, that she would put up with being seen as some kind of holy figure. It was a good way to control the organization, after all.
Fortunately, however, Claire had some time to relax today.
She was wearing not her usual miko outfit but rather a plain dress as she enjoyed her tea.
She had holed herself in a room in the manor, their new base of operations, designated for meditation and was spending some time to herself.
That being said, the room was a small windowless room in the basement, but it didn’t really matter much to Claire whether she had a window or not. All she cared about was whether she could be at ease in it.
So many things had been happening as of late. It was fine to spend a day like this from time to time……or so she had thought when her feelings had settled down, for once, but, unfortunately, her time alone was cut short.
She quickly noticed his presence and called out to him before he knocked.
“It’s open, Mr. Roy——”
But the door opened before she could finish, and Roy stepped into the room.
Claire let out a soft sigh.
“……Ah. You were never the type of knock before you entered. I must say that I find this habit of yours quite problematic, as a girl. What were you going to do if I was in the middle of changing?”
“I wouldn’t do anything,”
said Roy, a man of fortitude, as he grinned while stroking his stubble. He continued,
“I’d welcome it, in fact. Saves me the trouble.”
“……Trouble? No, you don’t have to explain it to me.”
Roy, who had been about to explain himself in delight, listlessly put his hands back down.
“I consider myself to be rigid in my morals and conduct, all things despite, so I would ask you not to imagine such pointless things. Besides, I’m afraid you’re not quite my type,”
Claire continued coolly before brusquely offering Roy a seat.
“Have a seat. It’s difficult to converse while standing.”
“Well, I’m not exactly planning to talk for long.”
Despite what he had said, Roy promptly sat down while still wearing his travelling gear. He ogled Claire from across the table. His gaze would have been more than enough to send a weak-willed girl running to the nearest guard station, but Claire did not react to him in particular.
She simply looked toward him with her unfocused eyes and chided,
“You shouldn’t randomly look to other people with so much lust in your eyes. There are many women out there who will dislike that. ——In any event, what business brings you here?”
“……You really aren’t a very friendly woman, are you?”
Roy scowled, likely on purpose, as he leaned back heavily against his chair. He continued,
“it’s a woman’s job to turn men on, you know?”
“You’re a mercenary I hired with money, are you not? Why must I, your employer, flirt with you after I’ve already paid you a hefty sum?”
“Are you really seventeen?”
Roy was frowning for real this time.
“I am still sixteen. And I’ve only just turned sixteen recently,”
Claire correctly him primly as she swept the waterfall of her hair behind her back. She continued,
“so, what brings you here?”
“Alright, alright. I’m just here to let you know. I’m gonna go kill him now.”
“So you finally decided to act?”
Claire didn’t seem to be perturbed in the slightest by his unsettling words. The almond-shaped eyes beneath her long lashes seemed to be staring far off into the distance as per usual. She continued,
“……it would be nice if we finally made some progress now.”
“I don’t care about your progress or whatnot. But Rain will definitely die in the near future now that I’ve decided to act. I’ll promise you this.”
“……I hope you’ll be able to keep that promise.”
“I wasn’t expecting you of all people to say that.”
Roy furrowed his brows. He continued,
“I thought you were the only member of this cult who acknowledged my power.”
“We aren’t a cult……but no matter, let’s not argue this now. But yes, I know how strong you are. An unexpected string of events led me to witnessing your ability after all —it was a very strong trump card.”
“……Most people don’t understand it even if they see it. Though, I’ll admit that that you’re one enigmatic woman. No one else has ever seen through it before you,”
Roy said in irritation.
It had truly shocked him when Claire had understood the gist of his ability.
“Indeed, I know about your ability, Mr. Roy. And that’s exactly why I don’t think Mr. Rain will be able to counter it, but…”
“——But there are still all of Mr. Rain’s achievements up until now to consider. I am starting to believe we mustn’t be too optimistic about dealing with him. ……Even if you are rumored to be immortal.”
“Nonsense. How would he possibly counter it? If there was a way, I’d be the first to want to know.”
Roy barked a sinister laugh and looked to Claire. He continued,
“I know what you really want. You’re hoping that he and I do ourselves in together. You technically consider me an enemy too, after all. Though I don’t think the others have noticed this yet.”
“It’s a good thing they haven’t,”
Claire quietly replied. She continued,
“even I would have trouble keeping them under control if they did. We don’t have the means to deal with people like you. ——Especially during times like these.”
Roy snorted and looked like he wanted to spit on the ground. He probably would have, had Claire not been there.
……So instead, Roi suddenly leaned forward and grabbed Claire by the chin. Claire did not resist and allowed him to do as he pleased. He wasn’t being so rude that she needed to scold him……yet.
“Well aren’t you laying things out pretty straight, Princess? I’m starting to want to see what you look like when you cry.”
“And how would you make me cry, specifically? Would you challenge me to battle?”
“That’s not a bad idea either……but there are other things that men want from women. Right?”
“……Considering your age, I would believe that a woman more mature than I is better suited for you.”
“I suppose. But you’re fairly mature in both your looks and your attitude, so I wouldn’t mind either way. Besides, you’re a pretty good woman, personality aside. Though if I was being picky, I’d say that I’d like you more if you had a bit more volume on your chest and hips,”
Roy replied with all seriousness.
He was a very candid man to begin with, and he had no intention to hide his lust. He thought he’d take the opportunity to get rougher with her, since Claire wasn’t resisting. He moved his stubbled face closer to Claire’s.
“……I believe I’ve already turned you down. Like I said earlier, I am not one to simply throw myself at just anybody.”
She swiftly reached up and grabbed Roy by the wrist. Her hand was much too small to go all the way around his, and yet she removed his hand from her chin with extreme ease.
Roy scowled and sat back down in his chair as he cradled his wrist. There was a bruise in the shape of slender fingers coloring his flesh.
“Hey, that’s some crazy strength you’ve got there. My wrist would’ve broken if I wasn’t me. Are you a Dragon Slayer or something too?”
“Unfortunately, you’re quite far off the mark. I’ve never even seen a dragon before in my life,”
Claire refuted with a composed look on her face. She continued,
“If that’s all you had to say, then please leave. The next time we talk will be when I reward you for your services.”
“……Meaning, you want me to get rid of Rain as soon as possible.”
The outermost edges of Claire’s lips lifted ever so slightly in the lieu of a reply.
“Alright, whatever. It’s better to save the fun part for last anyway.”
The lust had been wiped clean off Roy’s face, perhaps because his mood had altered. The sour look returned to his mien, and he stood up without any lingering regrets as he continued,
“I’ll go kill him as soon as I get the chance. That should give you some peace of mind. But, you know——”
The smile vanished from Roy’s face as he glared at Claire.
“I’ll make you mine the next time we meet, whether for better or for worse. I absolutely loathe it when a woman makes light of me or turns me down.”
“I suppose that will mean that things may get a little violent the next time we meet.”
Claire’s reply was apathetic even still.
“Probably. But do you really think you’ll beat me, Princess? Your fanatical little pawns won’t be able to touch me even if they all attacked me at once. You’d be better off just screaming your little head off.”
“You needn’t worry over me. I can protect myself just fine.”
A smile swiftly broke across her slender face.
The limitless stare of her eyes pointed to Roy as Claire then whispered,
“I pray that things will never come to that, Mr. Roy. For you……if nothing else.”
Teeheehee……Claire laughed audibly. Hers was the same kind of laugh an adult made while watching an infant struggle vainly against them.
This time, Roy really did spit on the floor.
“Say that while you still can.”
He stood up and turned around no sooner than the words had left his mouth.
“Oh, yes, there was something I wanted to warn you about.”
“What is it?”
Roy replied irritably as he continued his way toward the door without so much as turning around.
Claire didn’t seem to mind as she replied,
“there is no such thing as absolute power in this world. Please do not forget this when you fight him. ……I look forward to hearing good news from you.”
The only answer she received was the door slamming shut.