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Translator: Smaturin Editor: Nefarian
「…Very well then.」
Zaitlead sighed and thrust his greatsword into the earth. This battle between heroes ended with Yunis and Aur as victors through strategy. Or so anyone who was present would have thought.
「In that case, I will no longer hold back.」
Zaitlead said, his face wore a beastly smile.
In the next instant, Yunis' body had been slammed to the ground.
A small crater formed from the impact, and dust and debris was flying all around them.
Zaitlead growled loudly and with one hand, grabbed Yunis by both of her legs and as if wielding a whip, repeatedly smashed her into the ground. With every swing the earth shattered, the dirt lifted, and the bed of stone scattered with blooded fragments.
At that moment, Aur could not move so much as a finger. It was not because he was frozen by fear or shock. It was because Zaitlead's movements were much too quick. It even surpa.s.sed the speed at which Yunis had moved earlier.
「A Hero is someone who dominates the world and forces it to yield.」
Zaitlead said as Yunis hung from his arm. She was limp as if dead; blood dripped profusely from her head.
「Magic only for trickery and theft is not on my level. But I will give you credit for pus.h.i.+ng me into getting serious.」
To Zaitlead, the greatsword was not a weapon, but a shackle. If he had a weapon with a lot of weight, the output of power could not exceed its weight. If it was a weapon with great hardness, the power it could output would not exceed that hardness.
It was in both of his fists that a power that far surpa.s.sed any superficial cursed blade was contained. For him, they were the ultimate weapons.
「As a reward, I will grant you a painless death.」
Zaitlead said as he took a step forward towards Aur. Yunis tightly grabbed his leg with her blood-soaked arms.
「You're still conscious…I would expect no less from you.」
Zaitlead untangled her arms and once again swung her into the ground.
In spite of it all, Yunis continued to desperately cling to his leg. For the first time, Zaitlead's face contorted in irritation.
「I suppose it is also the nature of Heroes, to not be allowed a peaceful death.」
Yunis would die if his attacks continued any further. However, she wouldn't let go unless she… no, even if she died, her arms would not let go. While Zaitlead was ordered to bring her home, dead or alive, it was, of course, preferable to bring her back alive if he could. He clicked his tongue in annoyance and glared at Aur.
「I'll grant you your life for a little while longer. Until then, enjoy this brief moment you have.」
Zaitlead picked up Yunis along with his sword and strode back to his camp, in the same measured way that he had first come.
The casualties for Aur's army were nearly 300. The opposing enemies casualties were 1,500.
While the numbers may have painted this first battle as a triumph, it came to a close with an enormous loss.
「…So you were defeated.」
The king asked with a note of mirth in his voice.
「We had antic.i.p.ated an ambush, but not the pitfall and the dropping of boulders. …Yes, you can call it a defeat.」
Zaitlead reported as he knelt before his father.
It was not like Wolf, using tactics to fight with fewer numbers would be a 『handicap』 to him. Wolf could easily crush his enemies should he decide to fight in full force. For him to attain the weapon of strategy which was his weakness, would only make him more powerful. While different in scale, the father and son were doing the same thing.
But even then, it had been a long time since someone who could defeat Wolf had appeared. This event that hadn't occurred in years, filled him with expectation; he questioned his son.
「You said that you met the Demon Lord. What did you think?」
「He is puny. …He is no match for a king.」
Wolf growled in satisfaction at Zailead's instant reply.
「As our early information related, his fighting ability appears to be nearly nonexistent. And in intelligence and resourcefulness, I would say that woman, Ca.s.s is his superior.」
「And what of his army of monsters?」
「They are a bigger threat than the weak soldiers from Figuria. But they are no match for our army, if we faced them head-on.」
Wolf visibly lost interest at Zaitlead's answer.
「Yunis is currently undergoing treatment as well as the unbinding of the curse.」
Wolf said without interest.
「We will have her slay the Demon King when she awakens.」
Zaitlead raised his head in surprise at Wolf's words, he looked up at the face of his father, his master, the king.
「And if she takes the side of the Demon Lord once again, kill her.」
The king said without changing his expression, in the same plain tone a farm owner orders the slaughtering of cattle.
「You know it as well. What makes a Hero.」
The rough face of Zaitlead, that usually lacked any expression, twisted ever so slightly as he tried to object, but the grave voice of Wolf cut him off.
「Do not allow such an insignificant thing as the life or death of another to affect you. You surpa.s.s even me with your skill with the sword. But if you remain soft, it will be the end of you.」
「…I will keep that in mind.」
Zaitlead received his father the king's words with some resentment as he left the king's room. He continued with his long stride through the palace and opened the door of Yunis' room.
Yunis was sitting up in her bed, her entire body was covered in bandages.
I am sorry. How are you feeling? Are you better?
He swallowed down all the words that came to his mind and instead addressed the prime minister beside her.
「Were you able to lift the curse?」
「Yes. Without any complications. She was subjected to some odd suggestions as well, so I had those removed as well.」
Prime minister Toscan made an exaggerated bow.
「Yunis. You have received an order.」
Zaitlead informed his sister in an expressionless voice.
「Kill the Demon Lord, Aur.」
「In the event of your failure, I will cut off your head.」
「…That is all.」
Yunis nodded, Zaitlead turned on his heels and exited the room.
「I am fine, Toscan.」
Yunis smiled cheerfully at the worried prime minister.
「Even I understand it well. What a true Hero is. And my mind is now clear thanks to the breaking of the curses and suggestions as well.」
Yunis clenched her fists. She understood now, with the curses and suggestions gone. How Aur had really been seeing her.
「These wounds will surely be healed after three days. …I will go and finish this once and for all.」
「May the fortunes of war go with you…」
Toscan could do nothing but pray.
「I have returned.」
His wife, Hilda, took Zaitlead's mantle and sword belt as she greeted him with her usual smile.
「You seem tired.」
Zaitlead sat heavily on the sofa and closed his eyes. He had driven his beloved younger sister into the jaws of death, and could not even send her off with a kind word. There was no end to the remorse he felt, but still, they could not change the way they lived their lives. That is what it meant to be a Hero.
Without speaking, without hearing, Hilda quietly wrapped her arms around Zaitlead's head. She was an average girl with no skills with the sword or gift for sorcery. But her existence had the power to heal Zaitlead more than anything.
There should be nothing to fear. Yunis would kill Aur and return triumphant. While she may not be a match for Zaitlead, she was still the daughter of a hero. Surely she would have no trouble defeating one shrewd little sorcerer.
Yet even while he tightly held his wife in his arms, his fear would not fade.