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「――Oi, wait! 」
Suddenly, a noise woke Minerva.
The panic voice was from Moore. When the link between her consciousness and her body finally caught up, Minerva was able to open her eyes slowly.
The first thing her eyes saw was the figure of the man who Rona called Al flying towards her. Before she had a chance to be agitated by the distance between her and the sword, the sword in his hands were swung, passing through the airspace above Minerva while ripping through the air.
There was a sound of something dropping onto the ground behind Minerva who was surprised.
Minerva reflexively turned around. It was a creature about forty centimeters long.
The pure white body was shaped like something made out of three spiraling ropes entwined together. The tail portion became one in a complicated entwinement but, the head portion were split into three, and with the middle where the mouth should be is a gaping hole, with multiple sharp ends lining up as teethes.
It was a single color of white without any fur. It looked soft to the touch, and looked more like a sleeping fetal of a beast. And such creature was split into halves by Ardis’s sword and stopped breathing.
The liquid leaking out of the jiggling body was rousing an instinctual disgust. Minerva immediately averted her gaze but, instantly hardened her expression and drew the short sword from the sheath beside her.
It’s not guaranteed that only one came. There might be more attacking if she wasn’t being careful.
「Fuwaa……. Sorry, Al. Also thanks……munya. 」
Rona was yawning and speaking sleepily, before curling up and returning into his sleep. Ardis as well sheathed his sword, indicating the danger had passed.
「To think that you can’t handle this much……」
Ardis sighed with an exhausted face.
「Don’t ask that from a child that had only started taking up a sword half a year ago. 」
Although Moore defended Minerva, Ardis had an expression of so what.
「Since you left the city, that kind of excuse is meaningless. No matter who, a weaker opponent is much preferred. If you can’t even defend yourself from these things, forget about it all. 」
Minerva painfully knew well how lacking her abilities are. Not being able to learn a single magic yet, even if she managed to swing a sword with her feeble arm, it can’t even be of help.
But now that she had made her resolve to become stronger, she wouldn’t be a cry baby, nor giving up on the future possibilities.
「Not now but……. I will definitely be stronger――」
Without sparing a thought to Minerva’s feeling after desperately managing to rebuke him, Ardis’s words easily overwhelmed her.
「There’s no meaning if it’s not now. Realize that it is now that your life is in danger. Unable to use magic, not able to sense presence, it’s impossible to live outside the city. My advice doesn’t mean harm, just return to a town and live peacefully without taking a sword. 」
「That’s……, I can’t do it. 」
Of course, Minerva didn’t wish to become a mercenary nor an explorer. It was out of her control this time, she didn’t step into this dangerous place as her wish.
She wasn’t frustrated on the part of not getting out of a city. After all, her occasions of actually venturing out of the capital in the first place as a duke’s daughter was countable with one hand.
But she wouldn’t ever give up taking a sword. For Minerva, the swordsmanship that Ardis taught was the only path for her to become strong. Even if she did manage to acquire sword magic in the future, the time where she would not take up a sword would probably never come.
Telling Minerva to give up on the sword now, is just telling her to give up becoming stronger. That’s why, she couldn’t accept it at all.
「Do you want to die that much? 」
「It’s not that I want to die. I just want to protect myself and those that are important to me. Is it wrong for me to wish for such strength? 」
「Not that it’s wrong. There’s a saying of 『Knowing your limits』. Someone who doesn’t know their limits will die in no time. Even if you had that sword――」
Ardis’s eyes were looking at Minerva’s sword.
「That’s something too much for you. I don’t know what kind of family you are from but, without the appropriate skills, even a treasure is set to rot. 」
「I know that much, that this sword doesn’t suit me. But even so, it’s a treasure my Shishou had given. Even if I’m not a suitable user now, eventually……」
「Shishou……, a Shishou you say. 」
Did he have a headache, after putting a hand on his head, Ardis continued.
「I heard from Rona your Shishou has the same name as me……」
An exhausted face that was seen many times on Ardis came about again.
「To give some girl like you this kind of sword, what an overprotective Shishou that is. He must be living a soft life. 」
「Please don’t insult my Shishou! 」
Having her Shishou judged, Minerva unintentionally became angry.
「I’m not insulting him. I’m just saying that he’s too soft. 」
「Shut up! I won’t allow anymore scorn! 」
Even if they are with the same name, even if Rona said they were both the real Ardis, there is a limit to what he can say. Above all, she wouldn’t forgive a person that didn’t understand anything for insulting her respected person.
「Allow or not, what are you going to do? 」
「Please stop, Ojou-sama! 」
Not able to endure the provoking Ardis, Minerva had swung the short sword disregarding Moore’s restraining attempt. The sharp slash that was unimaginable from someone with a slender body like her was aimed at the opponent’s sword handle under his waist.
Ardis didn’t bother avoiding it. He only stared and chased after the trajectory of the sword.
The sword that can be said swung with Minerva’s full force was deflected by an invisible wall before reaching Ardis. The numbing vibration that came through the sword as if hit a giant boulder almost made her drop it before she managed to grasp it again. And then a bulky hand overlapped hers.
Ardis right hand that invaded within a blink of an eye were holding Minerva’s hand along with the sword.
「What a laughing matter. Not being able to do anything towards someone who is unarmed in this distance. 」
Of course, Minerva had knew Ardis’s strength wasn’t normal.
The fact that he could easily take out the demonic being known as Nedulos that Moore couldn’t even cut with his big sword was something she acknowledged despite it being surreal. Of course, she didn’t expect her amateur sword could reach someone like that.
But at least by showing the trajectory, she wanted to prove the teachings she had received wasn’t useless.
「Oi, leave it at that. You’re being childish. 」
Moore at the side showed disagreement.
「Something like this must be said before she gets hurt――――What!? 」
Ardis who was sending a cold gaze towards Moore suddenly turned back towards the sword in Minerva’s hand in surprise.
「Eh, what!? 」
Minerva’s own sword robbed her sight with confusion.
The sword was shining in white. That wasn’t a normal light at all. It was enough to render the redness from the dying campfire into nothingness, and blind the entire surrounding in whiteness.
「What, what happened!? 」
Moore shouted in confusion. Rona who was sleeping beside Minerva stood up in silence.
「Uuu……, what is this? My head……, dream……, now……」
Ardis while his left hand supported his head collapsed on his knees.
Minerva who saw that figure swallowed her breath. Of all things, Ardis’s body had the same light as the sword.
The light encompassing Ardis was increasing in strength gradually, on the other hand, Minerva’s sword was losing its radiance. It was as if the light radiated by the sword was absorbed into Ardis’s body.
Even Minerva who was watching it happen stupefied couldn’t stay a spectator any longer. Suddenly, a great amount of emotions flowed into Minerva.
Even though she tried to resist against getting swallowed by something that is not hers, the great amount of information pinned her down, and her thoughts was starting to be imbued by someone else’s emotion.
That was someone’s memories.
That was someone’s emotions.
That was someone’s way of living.
A great amount of battles unfolded inside Minerva’s mind.
It was like a dream of warm memories, and at the same time, a nightmare full of despairs.
『Why worry, it’s just two more kids I have to feed. I still think I’m resourceful enough for that. 』
A big grin on a middle-aged man whose figure was like a veteran soldier on a battlefield. A warm feeling swelled up.
『You had already chosen to take up a sword alongside us, you’re one of us. Don’t behave like someone else and say you’re leaving us simply. 』
A person with one eye looked the other side seemingly embarrassed. It felt like something precious was handed over.
『Don’t think you can protect me forever. Even I……, I have something I want to protect. 』
A girl with black hair was staring with an honest gaze. He desperately held down the urge to embrace her.
『You’ve become strong. You were just a little brat that can swing a sword wildly before, but now you’re a magnificent swordsman. 』
A middle-age man said so happily. A sense of accomplishment and joy filled his chest.
『Someone like that is our employer. I can’t bear it too but, since we have the contract now, we can’t exactly do anything about it. 』
The middle-aged man was suppressing his killing intent and faked his calmness. The regret that filled him made him grind his teeth.
『Hah, finally that stupid woman general got a taste of it! Serves her right! 』
A huge number of comrades were cheering with a mug in their hand. It was a soothing feeling in his mind.
『Shit! What happened!? Oi, who was it!? 』
One of the comrades were yelling in panic. The feeling of losing an important comrade remained in his mind.
『It was certainly a pleasure seeing wild dogs suffering in the end. It was a good sample of data as well, I appreciate it. 』
A woman with crimson hair said despicable things with an elegant tone. Rage had filled his eyes, his head was heating up in pain.
『We tried to stop her too. But even so, she said she must go no matter what……』
The twins’ answers were strange and mysterious. A sudden overflow of fear and regrets that had never been felt before poured in.
『Are you going? …………I see, I understand. ……Don’t forget, you must return, whenever it might be. 』
The middle-aged man saw him off with an expression of understanding and enduring something. Together with a sorry feeling, he was filled with regrets of not being able to pay back anything to him.
『Cruel, so cruel………. She’s not dead……, but not alive at all 』
The voice coming from his feet felt like it was distant from another world. Even though he didn’t want to acknowledge it, his gaze couldn’t leave her figure.
Taking a step closer. A dry sound of a bone cracking on the sole of his feet was heard.
Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, grief.
Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, grief, regrets.
Sorrow, sorrow, grief, regrets, pain.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger, hatred.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger, hatred, hatred.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger, hatred, hatred, hatred.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger, hatred, hatred, hatred, hatred.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger, hatred, hatred, hatred, hatred, hatred.
Sorrow, grief, regrets, pain, self-blaming, anger, hatred, hatred, hatred, hatred, hatred, hatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatred hatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatredhatred.
『Are we leaving her like that? She’s too……pitiful like that』
The voice from his feet asked for his judgement.
He wanted to save her, but couldn’t. He didn’t want to lose her, but neither did he want to keep her in a living hell. Intense emotions and reasoning entangled.
His hands were trembling. Tears weren’t stopping.
He wanted to run away, but before that, he must make a decision. Asking for salvation in an unheard voice. Exactly because he knew that it is an empty wish, he must, with his own hands.
Ending――――the life of his loved.
It was painful.
His chest hurt.
His heart hurt.
His soul hurt.
Who was it?
Who was it that made him suffer in this pain?
Without asking anyone.
It was――, everything was because of that woman.
He will kill her.
He vowed so.
He will kill her after making her taste the same suffering.
No matter what kind of hand he must use.
He will chase after her in the entire world to kill her.
But even so, his loved will not return. The sin of ending his loved with his own hands will not disappear. Even so, he must kill.
Even if it meant losing his own life, betting his entire life.
――He vowed to kill her.
『Scraps! Don’t try to be smart with me! 』
Blown away by the woman and slammed into a wall.
No matter how fast he swung his sword, no matter how much mana he used, no matter what kind of attacks he formulated, his sword couldn’t reach that woman. Even as his hatred would overwhelm his feeling of being helpless and make him stand up again, his feelings could not affect the reality.
It was unreachable. He was short of a step.
Even if he was true to his hatred, that wasn’t capable of overturning the difference in their abilities.
『I’ve tried it out many times already but the detailed parts aren’t figured out yet. You might be sent to some strange place, so I apologize first. 』
『Don’t die out there, Ardis! 』
The younger twin started kneading mana, while the elder stood against the woman.
『That’s why, Ardis. For us too――――』
He couldn’t hear all of their words. The younger twin’s figure faded along with a smile, before everything was covered in whiteness.
Was it a dream, or an illusion, Minerva was churned and pulled along with the intense emotions that reached her.
As everything passed, the only thing left in Minerva without being washed away was regret, regrets, self-blaming, inpatient, and sorrow. And then the strong burning hatred that would never cool.
「Ojou-sama, are you alright!? 」
Moore’s voice that was just at her ear woke her up.
「Uuu……. W-What was that just now……? 」
There was the figure of Moore beside her, holding her up by her shoulders. It seems like he supported her before she fell, as she thanked him shortly.
「Thank you very much……」
The hazy thoughts calmed down, and she surveyed the surroundings.
Rona was looking at someone. It was Ardis who was confronted by Minerva just now on his knees.
「The light just now……」
A mutter was heard from Minerva. Realizing anew that the light just now wasn’t an illusion, the surreal event took her words away.