|Author: Firehead||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Hands of Vecna||English Source: Hands of Vecna|
|Editor(s): TpstT, Keii|
There were clues leading to the Archer left behind in various places. Libra felt suspicious as she followed the clues. As they led closer and closer to the Archer, Libra’s suspicions became convictions. There was no doubt about it…This trail was intentionally left behind. It was devised to such an extent that an ordinary person probably would not realize it, but if it was Libra, she would definitely put the pieces together.
She did not know his intentions, but it seemed that the other party was specifically looking for her. In that case, there was no other way. She would have to accept the invitation and ask him about his true intentions.
There were no signs of traps. After analyzing the terrain, temperature, and sound within a radius of several kilometers, she was certain that no traps had been set.
The Archer was an expert hunter. Although Libra would not lose at a long-range, the Archer’s true skills lay in the abundant knowledge of utilizing the terrain to set up traps. Furthermore, it was his role to compensate for offensive arcane magic which Ruphas was bad at. In fact, his favored form of attack was actually arcane magic, not arrows. Therefore, his reason for using an actual arrow was none other than to leave a clue.
However, Libra did not choose to return. If she chose to return now in order to call Ruphas and allowed the Archer to get away, everything they had done up to this point would go down the drain. If he seriously tried to get away, it would be difficult even for Libra to find him. Given his mobility, it would be easy for him to leave the capital while she was returning to Ruphas. Since the other party was practically inviting her, she might as well just follow through with it.
Having decided thus, Libra continued to follow the clues along with Karkinos. Faint footprints, traces of trampled grass, and body hair fallen in the undergrowth…Even with just a handful of such clues, Libra could accurately arrive at the destination. After searching for a while, she came to a dense forest. There were many objects to provide cover. This was the favored battlefield of the Archer.
“You have come, Libra.”
As she turned towards the sound of the voice, there was a young man standing there. It was the commentator for the hunting festival, a man named Chiron. However, this was just an illusion created by arcane magic. Seeing through the illusion, Libra called out his name without hesitation.
Hearing her response, the Archer—Sagittarius smiled in satisfaction and shook his arm. Then, the man vanished and was replaced by a half-man, half-horse magical beast. The lower body was a horse, while the upper body was a muscular man. This was the true form of Sagittarius.
His black hair was cut to a flattop, while thick eyebrows framed his sharp eyes which were hidden behind sunglasses. He had the dignity of a skilled hunter. With a cigar in his mouth and an unshaven beard, he looked to be in his late forties by human standards.
He was wearing a full-body robe. Libra knew it was an item which was created and given to him by Ruphas. Its effect was by no means great. It did not improve defense much and did not grant resistance to any attribute or abnormal status. However, it could change color to blend into the surroundings. It was a great equipment for stealth, but it was useless before Libra who could locate a creature by its breathing and heat signature.
“How unusual. For you to reveal yourself like this, when you rarely ever show yourself to others.”
“You once said, ‘To be the ideal hunter is to hunt the prey down before they realize they are being hunted.’…You almost never show yourself even to your allies. For someone who kills enemies from afar like a shadow, your current behavior is really puzzling.”
Although both Sagittarius and Libra were long-range attackers, there was a difference in their approaches. Libra’s approach was to seek and destroy. She was a slaughtering machine that chased down the enemy relentlessly, overwhelming him with massive firepower. In other words, despite being a long-range attacker, it was Libra’s style to proactively engage on her enemies without reservation. Her long-range attacks were not meant to fight the enemy at a distance, but rather to finish off a fleeing enemy or to cut off an escape route.
Sagittarius, on the other hand, was the opposite. His race—the centaur—was the perfect sniper who kept a distance from the enemy with its high mobility while continuously attacking the enemy from his blindspot.
Libra would start with a warning, letting the enemy recognize her so as to incite fear and pressure. However, Sagittarius would not do this. Without warning, he would take down a defenseless foe with one shot. He was basically an assassin. Libra was a professional combatant, but he was different. He was a professional killer.
Someone like him…Whenever he appeared before others, he would always disguise himself to hide his true form. Yet he was appearing like this now. This was what puzzled Libra. Did he appear like this because he did not feel threatened in the presence of comrades? No, if that was the case, he would have appeared before Ruphas directly. But since he did not do so, his appearance before Libra was unlikely to be a matter of “Come, let’s be comrades once more.”
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“…The current me have neither the right nor the face to appear before Ruphas-sama. That’s why I called for you.”
“I can assume from those words that you are undertaking an action that is unfavorable to the interest of the master.”
“It’s fine if you take it to mean that way. But first, I want you to listen to me.”
The eyes of Libra and Sagittarius met and sparks flew. Karkinos, who was completely left out and unable to intrude in this atmosphere, could only sit down and lean against a tree in boredom. After all, he was a person who could serve no other purpose besides being a shield.
“I’m currently working with Leon.”
“…With that traitor? Let me hear your reason.”
Before she even verified the truth, Libra was already holding a machine gun in her hands. The implication was that she would shoot depending on the answer. However, Sagittarius’ expression did not change. It was an iron mask comparable to a golem like Libra.
“There is almost no difference between beastkin and magical beasts, yet we centaurs are classified as magical beasts. Do you know why?”
“Because centaurs are not bipedal. The definition of humanoids in this world uses humans as a base form. While there could be some appendages like wings, humanoids are defined as creatures that can coexist with humans without being too different in shape. To be more precise, those who were created to resemble the goddess are labelled ‘humanoids’. Therefore, if one’s form deviates too much from the base form, it cannot be considered ‘humanoid.’ This is why you centaurs are not considered humanoids. Merfolk are classified as magical beasts for the same reason.”
“Indeed, but we centaurs do not abduct women like orcs and we do not actively attack people. We just live our lives quietly. Centaurs can coexist with humans. And yet we are viewed with hostility…merely because we are considered magical beasts.”
Centaurs were gentle and thoughtful magical beasts. In a way, their calm and intelligent nature made them more suitable to be considered a civilized race than some humanoids such as the beastkin. In fact, the elves honored them as sages of the forest.
They were intelligent, quiet, and gentle. Although there were rare exceptions like Sagittarius, centaurs were basically pacifistic creatures that posed no danger to anyone. However, they were seen with hostility by humanoids other than elves and were even attacked in certain situations. This was because the humanoids were taught to consider all magical beasts as dangerous in the current world.
“I’ve been thinking that I want to change the current world. And now I have a reason to do so.”
“So you’ve decided to side with Leon?”
“Yes. If he controls the world, the rights of the magical beasts will be improved. The situation of centaurs will be in a much better state than it is right now.”
“You have changed, Sagittarius. As I recall, you were not the type of person to care about such things.”
“I have certainly changed…After all, it has been two hundred years. I can’t be the kind of person I used to be anymore. Now…I have something that I want to protect.”
Leon was a deviant among the Twelve Heavenly Stars since he had the ambition to replace Ruphas and the Demon King as ruler of the world. If he took over the world, the rights of magical beasts would certainly improve. But in that scenario, what awaited was a future without wisdom or civilization, one in which only the fittest would survive. There would be days of nothing except killing and eating. The world would regress to what it was without the wisdom of the humanoids, filled with only beasts and dinosaurs. This was not the future envisioned by Ruphas.
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“Leon does not have the attributes of a king. At best, that man can be the leader of a mob. Have you gotten to the point where you can’t even see that anymore?”
“I know that. I’m planning to stand beside him and make up for the wisdom that he lacks.”
“No, you don’t get it. That man will not listen to your advice. Considering he lives only by his instinct and desires, that man’s nature is truly that of a magical beast.”
Libra pointed her machine gun at Sagittarius and then announced in an emotionless voice.
“Warning. It will be fine if you return to the master now. If you still side with Leon, you will be regarded as a threat and be eliminated.”
“I’m sorry, but I have already decided. If it’s for the sake of those children, I will do anything. Even if…I have to choose a road that opposes Ruphas-sama!”
Sagittarius roared and drew his bow. What was unleashed was not a real arrow, but an arcane magic composed of a burning red flame.
Sagittarius’ affiliated attribute was Wood, so normally he was not a terrifying opponent for Libra. However, the bow that Ruphas gave him two hundred years ago was troublesome! Its effect changed the attribute of the magic that was used. Its name was Kaus Media. It was the only bow in the world that could always strike at the target’s weakness. In other words, the absolute advantage that Libra had in this matchup was completely negated by the bow.
“Well then, Karkinos Barrier!”
Libra quickly grabbed the nearby Karkinos and used him to deflect the incoming magical arrow. Although Karkinos was useless except for being a shield, he was the best among the Twelve Heavenly Stars in terms of defense. Although the usage gave off a sense of wrongness, Libra harmlessly blocked Sagittarius’ first attack by using Karkinos as a shield.
“Hostile intentions towards master confirmed. This re-classifies Sagittarius as an enemy. Proceeding with elimination.”
She squeezed the trigger of the machine gun and fired a scattering of rounds. But Sagittarius quickly took cover among the trees, evading the incoming bullets. He had probably predicted this development.
Libra quickly changed her weapon from a machine gun to a rifle, grabbed Karkinos, and chased after Sagittarius. The alliance of Sagittarius and Leon was troubling. If he was not eliminated here, it would become an obstacle to her master. Libra charged forward, using Karkinos as a shield to block incoming magic fired from between the trees.
She used Karkinos to deflect the masses of flames flying overhead.
The water arrows shot from between the trees was blocked by Karkinos.
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He was used to step on the earthen spears coming forth from the ground. Karkinos was thrown to deflect the incoming metallic arrows.
“Oh my God!”
She recovered Karkinos and accelerated, shielding herself behind Karkinos as she charged towards the wall of fire that appeared ahead. And so she broke through the wall and emerged from the flames.
Karkinos screamed every time he encountered magic, even though it was a rare opportunity where he could play a role. Libra shut him up, told him to endure it, then aimed her rifle at Sagittarius.
And she fired. A continuous stream of homing bullets created by Ruphas shot at Sagittarius. Of course, she was not merely aiming straight at him. Some of them were fired to cause intentional ricochets, while others were fired to knock down the trees before Sagittarius to cut off his escape routes.
However, Sagittarius evaded all of the bullets and passed under a falling tree before it could block him. As expected of centaurs, which were proud of their leg power.
She wanted to use Astraea and finish this in one go, but it could not be used without Ruphas’ permission. In other words, in a situation where she could not contact Ruphas, she must eliminate Sagittarius with her own power. Libra passed the rifle to Karkinos and released the mechanism on her right arm.
“Skill selection. Unlock limiter on right arm. The Right Scale (Zubenelgenubi), release!”
As she made her declaration, her right arm changed into a cannon and she aimed it at Sagittarius, who was fleeing ahead. In Libra’s field of vision, his heat source was displayed, thereby ignoring the effects of Sagittarius’ camouflage robe. A circular marker overlapped with the words “Lock-on” on that spot.
“Accuracy sixty-two percent…Fire!”
The muzzle emitted violet electrical sparks. Upon firing, the recoil blew away the plants behind Libra. And a flash of light was released towards Sagittarius, blowing away all of the trees and obstacles in between.
However, Sagittarius dodged marginally and avoided a direct hit. Even so, the attack had opened the way to Sagittarius. Libra accelerated using the vernier thrusters on her back, becoming a bullet herself that sped towards Sagittarius.
And then, with her steel head, she bashed into Sagittarius’ face.
Image from Light Novel Volume 4