Lloyd looked up with determination as he held his left eye, which throbbed with intense pain. Then, suddenly, Lloyd’s body was supported by his son.
“Father! Are you alright?”
“Di-Dill!? Why are you here?”
“I’ll explain later! Since Varra-dono is accompanying us, let’s get out of here first!”
Hearing his son’s voice, who was supposed to be waiting for him in his beloved homeland of Ishtalika, made Lloyd feel as if he wanted to weep inside.
Lloyd did as he was told and sat up with Dill supporting him by the shoulders.
“I want you to go with Dill, too, Majolica-san. I’ll take care of this.”
“Even Ain-sama! W…why are you here?”
The crown prince was not allowed to come here. Knight morale may be on the upswing, but in the unlikely event that it was, Lloyd was not in the least bit in favor of this.
“Sorry, but I’ll explain later. The half-monsters have been neutralized to some extent. The knights alone have already enough to recover, so you don’t need to worry about that either. Therefore──”
Ain shifted his gaze from Lloyd and turned to Edward, who looked irritated.
“I’ll deal with that guy.”
Everyone was still unsatisfied with Ain’s decision to remain, but no one spoke a word, knowing that Ain would not break, so they followed his lead.
“It’s been a long time, Edward-san.”
It had been a long time since the meeting at Euro.
“Yes, it has been a long time. You’ve grown a lot since we last met.”
“…..You look more and more like that hateful man.”
What was he talking about?
He wondered about Edward’s mutterings, but before he could ask.
“Was that you who did that thing just now?”
Edward gazed uncomfortably at the roots that Ain had just put out.
“Yeah, I put it out.”
With a hateful gaze, he looked at the tree root that had interrupted him. He let out a voice of irritation when he nodded back.
“Oh well, I see──!”
He suddenly picked up his spear and thrust it at Ain’s neck.
“That’s a sudden attack. I thought you wanted to talk.”
“…Did you avoid it?”
“Is it not good?”
“No, no, it was not a bad idea at all. I was just surprised. To be honest, I was hoping this would kill you.”
Ain laughed as if he was troubled. If one were to use an analogy, he looked like a regular young man.
…But in the next moment, he unleashed a clear killing blow at Edward. In a blink of an eye, he disappeared from Edward’s sight, and by the time Edward noticed it, Ain was swinging the sword in front of his face.
The black sword sliced through a thin layer of skin, and fresh blood flew slightly in the air.
He was more surprised by the black sword in Ain’s hand than he was at the overwhelming speed of the sword.
“That sword is that armored bastard’s… No! It’s different! But why do you have that sword? That man! Why do you have the sword of that abominable king? Why do you have it in your hand?”
Edward touched the blood flowing from his cheek with his hand.
His face showed such sadness as if he was pleading for something. In other words, he seemed in awe of the existence he did not want to encounter.
He breathed heavily and repeated a futile attempt to get up with the spear in his hand.
“With that face! You look down on me? Oh, disgusting, disgusting, disgusting!”
Despite the ranting, the spear he wielded was still a skilled and magnificent one.
And Edward’s blow was heavy and fast. But Ain used every ounce of strength in his body to block it, again and again and again, further aggravating Edward’s nerves.
“I don’t like it.”
Suddenly, Edward’s movements stopped.
“I don’t like the swordsmanship you show me either. I wish you would gouge out your own eyes with your own fingers and die in the field.”
“Do you realize you’re talking nonsense?”
“Of course, I’m just saying.”
Emotional instability was not a word that could be used to describe the situation.
The transformation that Edward displayed time and again made it difficult for Ain to understand the man’s character.
Edward’s expression, as he spoke of the disturbing things, had such a good-natured smile on his face, like an old man handing ice cream to a child in a stall.
However, the thorn in his words and the murderous intent within them were not subdued.
“I wanted to kill you at any cost. Do you understand?”
While looking at Edward, Ain nodded and then clad himself in Dullahan’s gauntlet.
“Hahaha… why. How can you wear that hideous armor? It’s fascinating.”
Edward tilted his head at a deep angle and began pulling out a few strands of his hair as if to vent his exasperation.
“My lord has told me to stop, but I just can’t seem to shake off the hair-pulling habit. Whenever I feel a psychogenic burden, I end up pulling out my own hair.”
“When I comb my hair with my fingertips, I can feel the occasional split ends. When I feel it, I feel a sense of elation, like when I am with the woman I love.”
Ain silently looked at Edward as he spoke abruptly.
The unnerving words did not stop the goosebumps from rising on his skin.
“It cannot be compared to the pleasure of reaching the goal, but it is the same as a momentary pleasure.”
“Hah…I don’t like the way you’re acting right now, either. Why can’t you see that your condescending, superior tone of voice is irritating?”
His words were narrow and yet showed a glimpse of his unique sense of value.
Finally, he sighed heavily, moved his body into a crouch, and pushed his spear out toward Ain with a supple movement.
“I’m going to kill you, now more than ever.”
Ain blocked it with his sword, then looked at Edward’s face and replied.
“I plan to do the same.”
Then four black tentacles appear from his back, the illusory hands.
“Ahaha… that’s strange. I must have missed something.”
“You might have missed the power too──Red fox!”
The four illusory hands moved around as if they had a will of their own.
Everything stirred to attack Edward’s legs, torso, head, and over the spear eye, without exception.
“…As expected, you’re fast!”
A few tenths of a second too late, and he would have been decapitated. A sharp blow from Ain deviated from Edward’s neck…even though it made a cut around the collarbone area.
Edward moved so fast that he was fed up.
A quick counterattack struck Ain’s shoulder. Dullahan’s gauntlet blocked it, but it would have penetrated through ordinary armor.
“This is what a skilled fighter does.”
As soon as he finished, Edward threw his spear at Ain and took advantage of the opening to dive deeper into his chest. He pulled a knife from his slacks and plunged it into Ain’s chest──but Edward stopped moving.
“Thanks for teaching me. You’ve taught me some good tricks.”
Ain’s delivery sounded like that of a bad actor.
Edward wondered why he felt like he had been intentionally taken advantage of. He wondered why, and then he spotted something shimmering on Ain’s ear.
“The red jade of the earth…?”
Ain smiled wryly.
Then Edward noticed a presence looming behind him.
It was true that an opening had occurred, but Ain was moving on the assumption that it would happen.
Let him cut the flesh and break the bones──stepping in when Edward had fully stepped in, and he would not be able to escape from the illusory hands.
Dexterously moving his body, Edward desperately tried to move away from Ain’s vicinity. He thought about destroying the red jade of the earth, but there was no time for that.
At the same time he attacked, his own chest would be pierced, and he would just end up dying a dog’s death.
“No, I’m not going to let you dodge.”
A single illusory hand thrust deeply into Edward’s thigh.
Quickly turning his body, he pulled out his knife before the black sword could cut through his torso and slice through the illusory hand, thus escaping the danger. But the remnants of the deeply impaled illusory hand did not stop the blood from dripping.
When he was at a distance, he regained his breath and glared at Ain, who was facing him.
“Where’s your confidence from a moment ago, Red fox?”
“Hah…hah…I’ve never seen…a creature like you before…!”
Seeing Edward slowly gaining distance, Ain slowly and carefully moved forward step by step.
“I have never heard of a crown prince who is more powerful than a marshal, however!”
Only the sound of stamping on the ground echoes.
Around them, the two forces were still clashing, but the place where Ain and Edward stood was separated from them as if in a different world.
“…You are just like that man.”
Edward opened his mouth with a light-hearted chuckle.
“You are much like Gail, you know. You are a leader but in the vanguard, yet you have a strong presence. Even your appearance resembles his…!”
“…What’s the matter with you if you?”
“No, there’s nothing to it. I just don’t like it.”
Edward seemed to have finished catching his breath and stretched his back while holding his chest. The bright red blood flowed from his thighs, but he seemed unconcerned about it and laughed.
“Oh, now I remember. Come to think of it; my former daughter seems to be in good hands. …I’m sorry to have bothered you with it.”
“Former daughter? Of yours?”
“It’s Varra. Perhaps my second daughter, May, is also being taken care of as well? Well, it’s been so long since I’ve heard their names, I can’t remember.”
“They are your daughters? Are you lying?”
“What do you mean by lying about such a thing? However, they don’t mean much to me. You can dispose of them there. They have strong human traits and have no core or magic stone, so do as you please with them as mere human beings.”
“…You are a lowlife.”
Ain decided not to tell Varra what he had just heard, no matter what, and not to ask her if she wanted to meet with her father.
After hearing Beria’s story, his suspicions about Warren and Beria were slowly fading away, and even if Varra had red fox blood in her body, he was willing to trust her after their chance encounter in Ist and then her service to him in the castle.
“There are as many roles as there are people. Even if you deny it… you seem very calm, though. Why? It’s normal to be upset to find that a race you thought was your sworn enemy is among your own people.”
Edward was interested in Ain’s state of mind, although he was still looking as gaunt as ever.
He was not upset, but rather he was the first one to curse at Edward.
“Warren, and does the name Beria ring a bell?”
“I have no idea who these two are… Oh, I see…is that why you were so calm when you found out about Varra?”
It made sense. Edward smiled a lowly smile as if to say so.
“It was those two, wasn’t it? It seems that he was still very much attracted to the pixie, even now that he is the Prime Minister of Ishtalika. Fufu, their appearance has changed so much that I didn’t recognise them at all.”
Then Edward applauded with a weak hand.
Ain, who was displeased with his attitude and wanted to end the game by now, unconsciously moved his foot forward.
On the other hand, Edward gave a sneer, which stirred Ain’s irritation.
“Now, we’ve had a lot of fun talking, but this is where you will die.”
With that, he released miasma from the hem of his trousers.
“Even long ago, it was that man──Gail who was more of a hindrance than anyone else. And you are as much of a distraction as that man.”
The surrounding wind suddenly begins to gather around Edward.
Ain noticed that many eyes were on him before he realized it. The eyes that were staeing at him were half-monsters.
Their breathing was more ferocious than before, breathing in the miasma that Edward had created.
Soon, the ground began to rise irregularly in places.
At the same time, Edward created a large distance from Ain.
“Let me repeat it. You are here to die.”
He snapped his fingers after he finished.
Then, many half-monsters all jumped on Ain at once… but that’s not all. The half-monsters also emerged from the raised ground and formed an uncountable army.
The eyes of the half-monster that filled the surrounding area glowed suspiciously, creating a bizarre scene.
“Even you should have a hard time dealing with this number…!”
Ain, who had stopped and said nothing, was tormented by grief.
He looked at the magic stone embedded in the half-monsters that had appeared and mourned. The thought that all of them were the magic stones of the different races that were sacrificed in the Great War filled his heart with a sadness that was no less than rage.
Ain turned his eyes to Edward and held his black sword in the opposite hand.
Even as he did this, a large army of half-monsters pressed in.
But Ain was not confused and did not move. Even when the ground around him collapsed and he was completely isolated, he was not the least bit intimidated.
Edward, seeing this…
On the contrary, he was scared and unconsciously took another step back.
There were half-monsters that could be said to appear inexhaustibly and surrounded by them; Ain had no chance to win. Edward should have thought so, but for some reason, he felt he was being cornered.
“I will be there shortly.”
“Ha… hahaha! What a stupid──.”
There was no way he could do it in front of the almost inexhaustible half-monsters that were springing up.
When Edward falsely laughed at the boundary,
“──Don’t be so haughty, Red fox.”
Ain’s voice echoed throughout the battlefield.
He thrust his black sword into the ground, holding it in his opposite hand. Then a strong wind pressure rippled through the area for a moment.
At the same time, the surrounding ground froze.
The surface was beautiful, like polished crystal, but if you touched it, you would get frostbite in an instant.
Countless half-monsters were caught off their feet, and soon their entire bodies were frozen.
In addition, the half-monsters that were in the process of jumping on the surface──.
“This is… this power is…!”
Suddenly, they were pierced by thick, sharp icicles that arose from the ground, and many of them were buried in an instant.
“Why? How can you use the power of the… King of the Icefields?”
The name “King of the Icefields” was new to Ain, but he guessed that it was the Upashikamui.
Perhaps Edward understood the tremendous strength of this power. The ice that freezes instantly when touched was created by magic power and was different from normal ice.
“It’s impossible, impossible, impossible… why, how could that power be?”
“…Edward, I’m going to repeat it.”
As Edward said earlier.
“I’ll be right there shortly.”
As soon as Ain said it, he quickly closed the distance.
The ice dragon’s power was too draining to use it often, and now Ain was getting tired, too. Even so, he could close the distance in a fraction of a second to within a breath’s distance.
“Kuhahaha! Ahahaha! Why? Why do you have that power? I don’t understand it at all!”
“I don’t expect you to understand, and I don’t need you to!”
“Yes, from your point of view, I suppose you do! But I can’t help but be curious about it──Guahh…!?”
Edward was pierced through the shoulder by a black sword and then kicked in the body.
With his cheeks contorted, Edward desperately tried to avoid the attack, and eventually.
A bat-like half-monster appeared out of nowhere and blocked Ain’s view for a moment.
“I will retreat now. As much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t have a good enough chance against you.”
Edward averted his eyes from Ain and looked around as if searching for something.
“That pig in the wagon has been crushed, too, I suppose. Well, that’s okay.”
Then, Edward suddenly stopped. He vanished like mist, in the black smoke leaking from inside his clothes.
Ain couldn’t help but feel annoyed with himself, thinking that he could have taken his life in just a few more seconds.
Despite his certain victory, Ain’s face was distorted by the cloud that covered his mind, and his regret for not being able to finish him off grew.
“I won’t let him get away next time.”──he muttered to the sky in a determined voice.