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Skaaha led the remaining “Raven Army” to confront the new enemy, who suddenly appeared from behind. Around them, the battle had already begun. But Skaaha could not take a single step. Her mind went blank for a moment as she stared at the man in front of her.
Even so, her lips trembled as she desperately opened her mouth.
Skaaha glared at the white-haired man and shouted angrily,
“Stobel, I have waited so long to meet you!”
Stobel waved one hand in exasperation at the heat radiating from Skaaha.
“Are you still saying that, if it was the emperor, would you have killed him?”
“You are the only one left!”
“If you defy me that much, I’ll show you no mercy. Now that I’ve been exposed to a little ugliness, I’m not going to take it easy on you, okay?”
Stobel raised his right hand to the sky, and the Thunder Emperor appeared. In his left hand, wind swirled. Perhaps it is the Wind Emperor.
“As you wish. I will offer your head to the graves of your parents.”
“Hah, the Felzen royal family’s tomb is no longer a shadow of my former self.”
Skaaha gave an incoherent cry to Stobel, who snickered.
The ground caved in, unable to withstand the pressure.
“Ice Emperor! The time has come to fulfill my long-cherished wish!”
The response was a blast of absolute zero cold air that froze the space and enveloped the world in fog. White smoke began to flow beneath Skaaha’s feet as if visualizing the deadly atmosphere. The grass and flowers on the ground began to freeze.
“Stobel… are you ready?”
“Come at me. I will destroy your conceited power head-on.”
They clashed, spear and axe colliding, both with fine scratches on their skin. Each one is only a graze.
While Stobel recovered instantly, the number of fine scratches on Skaaha’s body grew countless. Fresh blood sprays from Skaaha’s fresh wounds with each collision.
Seeing Skaaha’s face contorted in pain, Stobel opened his mouth questioningly.
“…Are you on the verge of losing the blessing of the Ice Emperor? No, indeed, you are.”
Skaaha gritted his teeth in frustration as she was hit in the sore spot.
“And your leg, has it not healed from the wounds I inflicted on it two years ago?”
Two years ago, during the battle with Stobel, Skaaha was utterly defeated.
“Shut up. It has nothing to do with you.”
Everything Stobel said was right. The injury she sustained two years ago could never be fully healed.
This was synonymous with not being able to fulfill the contract with the Ice Emperor.
Therefore, she was on the verge of losing her blessings.
But the reason why the Ice Emperor was still with her was because he was fond of her. Until she got her revenge――he sympathized with Skaaha’s feelings.
“Pathetic… then you are no better than the Wind Emperor.”
“I am not like you! We have a bond between us!”
Stobel looked at Skaaha with disdain.
“Fuh, It must be more painful than you can imagine enduring the curse of a spirit in the flesh, right? Do you think you can win against me in that state?”
“I will win; even if this body perishes, I will kill you myself!”
Skaaha ran across the ground. As for Stobel, he looked smug and even had a smile on his face.
“Did you really think you could beat me with just that?”
Stobel snorted dismissively.
Skaaha’s attack was indeed sharp. However, they lacked destructive power.
With the Ice Emperor’s blessing gone, she has only the strength of an ordinary person who has mastered martial arts. But for Stobel, the match was so boring that he began to feel a little disappointed.
“You’re even weaker than you were two years ago, and you’re trying to be all cool about it.”
Skaaha’s determination gouged out the ground. She swung her spear in a circular motion and rotated it to compensate for her lack of power. Each blow, each strike was a killing spear strike. The strike was a spear strike that was both offensive and defensive, repelling Stobel’s attacks while the combined spear and pike scraped bits of flesh off of his body. However, his wounds closed instantly, and Skaaha’s fresh wounds only increased. In the course of the repeated attacks and defenses, it was impossible to inflict a fatal wound on Stobel, and Skaaha’s wounds only increased, and she was also losing a great deal of physical strength.
She no longer had the blessing of the Ice Emperor. So, even the smallest wound would be inflicted on her body.
But she continued to move forward. To avenge her dead parents, brothers, and sisters.
“You’re pathetic. Your spear cannot reach me.”
A thunderbolt and a wind blade struck Skaaha mercilessly. Even though her whole body was covered in wounds and blood, she did not consider it acceptable to fall down with wounds all over her body.
“Hah… hah… I’m not finished yet. There is nothing left for me.”
She has lost her country, her family, and the Ice Emperor she grew up with was leaving her.
There was nothing left for her.
That is why―she could not die without attaining her revenge.
“I am not afraid to die. I’d rather die than live on with the regret of not being able to kill you!”
Drawing on all her strength and the Ice Emperor’s power, Skaaha charged forward.
“Father, mother, brothers, and sisters… lend me your strength!”
“It looks like things are going well over there.”
Nameless looked at the place where the main camp of the “Raven Army” was located during the battle.
“You have the nerve to look away, don’t you?”
Hiro closed the distance, and with a single slash―the body of Nameless was cut in half.
But then something strange happened. Nameless’s corpse did not spurt out blood or overflow with guts; it disappeared before falling to the ground.
In the blink of an eye, however, Nameless appeared before his eyes, unharmed.
“Another miss, huh?”
Hiro looked around. He checked the number of Nameless and found that there were as many as ten of them.
It is not that Hiro’s eyes have gone crazy. On the contrary, he knew the cause of the strange phenomenon. It was caused by the staff held by Nameless.
It is an illusion that is close to reality―an ability that exists only to play tricks on the opponent.
“…It’s a useful ability.”
“Right? I like to slowly torment my opponents and then finish them off.”
“You sound as if you could finish me off right now.”
Hiro took down another one, but it was also a miss.
Nameless appeared next to him and leaned on his shoulder. His voice was shaking with joy.
“No way, I’m not that conceited, you know.”
He pulled out a kitchen knife that looked like something a housewife would use in cooking and stabbed it at Hiro.
But―it could not penetrate the Black Princess Camellia.
“Look, it’s in the way to kill you.”
Looking at the kitchen knife with a broken blade, Nameless looked at the Black Princess Camellia.
“Royalty….. That’s a relic from the old king, isn’t it?”
“You know it?”
“I’ve only heard a few stories about it.”
While he was conversing with Nameless, Hiro had killed nearly a dozen of his copies. However, Nameless’ numbers did not decrease but continued to increase.
Hiro slowed down his attack and let out a sigh of relief before focusing his eyes.
“…Well, then, to reward you, I’m going to get a little more serious.”
An unusually solemn air begins to overflow from his right eye.
In the left eye―the abyssal eye filled with enormous murderous intent shone brightly, and the wild golden light that was intricate in the depths of the eye caught the sight of Nameless.
Reaching out his hand to the azure sky, Hiro formed an eerie smile within his mask.
“You―do you know despair?”
With that single word, the sky became turbulent and swirled, and the ground shook and rumbled like a scream.
A vast torrent of power―that overpowered friend and foe alike.
“Cry out in pessimism, weep in disappointment, and enjoy despair.”
Darkness crawled on the ground.
Countless cracks create the space as the gale passes by.
Despair is spread throughout the world, and the abyss is born.
“Eat the souls of the dead―Dark Emperor.”
Sound disappeared from the world. Silence descends upon the ground as if the concept of sound had never existed in the first place.
Everything was painted with terror.
“My name is―the Black Dragon King.”
The sense of intimidation swelled, and a mysterious sense of oppression dominated the surroundings.
There was no way to escape the tyrannical silence.
In the midst of the fear that gripped everyone, Hiro held the Dark Emperor horizontally, seemingly aiming for the target.
“The one who invites all life equally to emptiness.”
――Death and Fear
Time stopped―no, only the sound of heartbeats resounded through the world.
All living things in the surrounding, have forgotten the ticking of time.
There were no exceptions. All were equally lured to the edge of death. All the living stopped moving in unison.
“Now―let’s see the performance of death.”
Like a god of death passing judgment on the guilty, Hiro put his hand on his mask and said,
――Dark Mirror in the Water of the Dead.
Jet-black jaws were manifested and fell into the world as if to spit out a curse.
The everlasting darkness that manifested on the ground began to crawl and erode the ground like a living creature. There was no one who could escape the darkness, and those Nameless illusions were swallowed up by it.
Unable to resist, their legs were caught and dragged into the darkness.
All that was left in front of Hiro was the view of the Third Army of Grantz and the “Raven Army,” who were still fighting the Six Kingdoms. There was no sign of Nameless among them.
“He escaped… or perhaps his main body was never here in the first place.”
Hiro looked behind him and saw a woman leap in front of him.
It was Luca, who was entrusted to deal with Lucia. Wrapped in dust, she was rolling on the ground as if being tossed about by a rough wave.
Luca bounced back up to her feet, blood dripping from her mouth.
“Gah, damn it… damn it…”
Even though she possessed the Five Destructive Holy Principle Swords, it was hard for her with only one arm to deal with Lucia, as she lacked vigor.
In fact, Lucia showed no signs of injury.
“Is it over?”
Lucia unfolded her fan and smiled triumphantly.
“N…Not yet. Just tell me where Hugin is.”
Lucia shook her head ruefully and turned a pitying glance at Luca.
“I don’t know. I’m also a human, a woman nonetheless. It’s unbearable to see her in such a pitiful state. Perhaps she had been sold, or perhaps she had been fed to the livestock.”
“I’ll kill you!”
As Luca was about to unleash her outrage, Hiro stood before her.
Luca shouted at him, and Hiro put his index finger to her mouth with a calm look on his face.
“Luca, be quiet.”
This intimidation made Luca look frightened. However, from Lucia’s position, she could not see Hiro’s expression, or perhaps she was just staring at his back as she tilted her head.
Hiro puts his hand on Luca’s shoulder and speaks the words as if admonishing her.
“I want you to leave the rest to me. Okay?”
After waiting for Luca to nod, Hiro turned to Lucia and smiled grandly.
“You’d better not insult my subordinate.”
“You want me to tell you exactly how it’s happening?”
“You―you’re talking too much.”
The hem of his white coat fluttered in the air.
Lucia managed to intercept it with her iron fan.
Next, a sharp blade with a precise trajectory aimed at Lucia’s vital point.
Lucia barely avoided it, but her skin was cut shallowly, and a small amount of blood dripped. She was not even given time to fight back. A raging attack struck Lucia.
Lucia’s reaction to Hiro’s attack was delayed by a second. Lucia prevented the attack with a shallow cut on her cheek, but her late reaction created a clear difference between the two. Lucia may have noticed a strange gap between the two, but there was nothing she could do about it; if she were not careful, she would be decapitated. But Lucia unfolded her iron fan while suffering countless wounds.
“Mandala, protect me.”
Nothing changed. Hiro then swings down on Lucia with the Dark Emperor. Lucia smiled and opened her arms to meet Hiro’s attack.
But the black sword failed to wound her.
Lucia smiled proudly as Hiro looked at her with an impressed look in his eyes.
“Fufu, how about it? Are you surprised?”
Lucia’s kick burst into Hiro’s cheek.
But―Hiro’s hand grabbed Lucia by the collar and offset her by slamming her to the ground with momentum. It was a brilliant move for a spur-of-the-moment action.
But Lucia was not damaged much, and she quickly got up and moved away from Hiro.
“A brilliant move, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work on me.”
She admired Hiro with surprise and brushed her sweat-stained bangs up depressingly.
Is that iron-ribbed fan the Five Destructive Holy Principle Swords?”
Hiro tilted his head as he looked at his own hand. At that time, the blade of the Dark Emperor must surely have hit Lucia.
“Fufu, that’s right, Mandala, one of the Five Destructive Holy Principle Swords given to me by the Fairy King.”
“I see, I don’t know what the ‘blessing’ is, but it sure looks like trouble.”
Hiro’s figure disappeared. Lucia braced herself but did not move from her spot.
“I’m going to try a few things.”
A high-speed attack―not the leisurely movements as before.
Lucia was hit by slashes in all directions.
“Hmph, it’s no use.”
Lucia accepted everything without even making a move to avoid it. Hiro danced with the Dark Emperor with the intention of cutting off her head. His sword blade aimed at her artery. The tip of his blade pierces the heart and slices through the small body. There was no struggle against each other. It was a one-sided massacre―but only if all attacks were successful.
Hiro stopped in his tracks at the complete lack of response and recalled his battle with Nameless.
In the case of Nameless, it was an illusionary technique, but Lucia seems to be a different system.
“Hey, is this a time to be thinking?”
The tip of her closed iron fan was pressed against Hiro’s chest.
The impact―tremendous pain exploded inside his body.
Hiro knelt on the ground and looked up at Lucia with a fresh feeling of pain that he hadn’t felt in a long time. She looked down at Hiro with an ecstatic expression.
“How is it? Are you awake now?”
“Yeah… Thanks to you and all that.”
When Hiro said that, he released the Dark Emperor.
The result was a slice across the cheek, but Hiro returned the attack with a flash of his hand.
Lucia evades with her head down. A few strands of her hair flew through the air.
“I see. I understand now.”
Hiro kicked Lucia’s hand as she was about to unfold the iron fan. Although it didn’t break her hand, it slowed her down. Hiro stepped forward and delivered a palm strike.
Lucia’s face contorted in intense pain as she took the blow to the abdomen, and Hiro did not relent but gave chase.
“It seems meaningless if you don’t open it up.”
Lucia caught the black sword with her iron fan and stared at Hiro while gritting her teeth.
The Mandala struck Hiro in the cheek but did not have a tremendous impact like before.
“Rather than offensive and defensive, I would say it was more like anti and defensive?”
There were several irregularities in Lucia’s behavior. No matter what the situation, she was busily repeating the opening and closing of the iron fan. It was the kind of behavior one would expect from a person who had lost her composure due to nervousness. But there was no way she was such a small-minded person. If this is the case, it can be connected as a condition for drawing out the power of the Five Destructive Holy Principle Swords.
“You noticed… in such a short time, huh?”
“The level of experience we’ve gone through is different, after all.”
The slow and rapid movements, as well as the strong drop-off in speed, put Lucia at his mercy.
“It may be, but I can’t lose.”
Lucia pushed open her iron fan.
“Let’s put an end to this charade.”
Hiro clutched Lucia’s chest and slammed her to the ground.
She immediately tried to get up, but the Dark Emperor was thrust into the ground right beside her cheek. Lucia, who was held down, struggled to get up, but Hiro’s arm strength was so extraordinary that he did not even flinch.
“First of all, if you don’t intend to do it seriously, may I ask you to talk about this matter?”
Hiro took out a sheet of letterhead from his pocket. It was delivered to him when he was stuck in the city.
“Hmm, can I assume that you are thinking positively about it?”
“It depends on the contents, but before that――”
Hiro looked up when he noticed a shadow fall overhead.
With bloodshot eyes, Luca looked down at them with her Vajra in her hand.
“What are you doing? Just kill that woman!”
“Wait, you didn’t tell Luca anything?”
Lucia sounded surprised, and Hiro nodded in response.
“In a sense, Luca is very honest about her emotions―it would be a problem if it were seen.”
“Hmm, but then it gets complicated――”
“What are you talking about…? If you don’t kill her, I’ll smash her head in for you.”
When Luca lifted the Vajra, Hiro held it back with his hand.
“She’s at the end of her rope. Let’s move on.”
Hiro moved away from Lucia and stood up, looking around.
The war was still going on.
The Third Army of Grantz had been pushed back, and there were only soldiers of the Six Kingdoms in the surroundings.
Even so―they were unaware of Hiro and the others.
It was a strange situation, but this must be the power of the Mandala in Lucia’s possession.
“I don’t want to hear any nonsense. But if not, let’s get down to business.”
Lucia got up, brushing the dust off her clothes.
“It’s not a bad deal for you, but first, I shall return her as a sign of trust.”
Lucia snapped her fingers, and the space opened up to reveal a woman bound with a rope.
Luca was the first to notice. She rushed to Hugin, who had fallen to the ground.
She immediately picked her up and checked if she was still alive.
“S-she’s alive; she’s alive!”
Luca reported to Hiro with a happy look on her face.
Hiro turned his eyes away from Luca, who was holding the unconscious Hugin and turned his attention to Lucia once again. She shrugged her shoulders as she fanned herself with her iron fan.
“I was a little rough with her, but I didn’t hurt her at all.”
“…Did you see this coming?”
“I’m not a fool. There are many ways to go about it. This was just an insurance policy.”
If Lucia’s story is to be believed, she must have created this situation with careful calculation. Even if Hugin’s true identity was known, she had expected to use it for something, and it was audacious of her to use it as a bargaining chip at such a last minute. However, since that decision gave them room to negotiate, it was hardly foolhardy. It seems that she has a stronger side than Hiro had imagined.
“I see… then let’s hear what you have to say.”
Hiro lowered his arm, looked away from Lucia, and turned his attention to the main camp of the Raven Army.