|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 2545 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1208 words|
“Stay sharp! Don’t forget what Lapis told us!”
“Right! Together we’re stronger than anyone else! Let’s stay calm!”
She was right. Some time after I started training under Master Lapis, we had a practice match against her and got into a similar situation as now. Master moved so fast she seemed to vanish from in front of us, and neither Karin or I were able to follow with our swords. That’s when she had told us something.
“You’re just looking, you have to observe. If you only try to react to what your eyes see, you’ll never get anywhere. Instead, you should try to grasp the overall stance your opponent takes, reading their next movements ahead of time. Even breathing patterns and how their eyes move can tell you a lot.”
Her words were engraved in my mind. I had to calm down…keep my mind in check. If Master was so sure we could win, I had to believe her words. This was the first time we encountered an enemy faster than ourselves, so we were just a bit confused. We had to calm down if we wanted a chance at beating him. Taking a deep breath, I reaffirmed the grip on my sword. Karin beside me also seemed much more composed compared to moments earlier. We still had this!
“Try as much as you want! Weaklings like you would never be able to win against me!”
Ditoner stood still for a short moment before vanishing again. But this time I stayed calm, not wasting any movements as I slid to one side and perfectly evaded his sword.
Ditoner had absolute confidence in his skills, so seeing it evaded left him shocked. I used that opening to slash at his arm, leaving a small wound. Meanwhile, Karin was also on the move, coming against him from the other side. He probably thought he could continue toying with us like earlier, but we knew better. Rather than getting carried off by the heat and agitation of the battle, we had decided to stay calm and focus solely on killing him. He seemed to notice that change, which made him lose his composure instead, moving more predictably and in turn letting more of our attacks land.
“Guh! You little-!”
Ditoner looked around for any other demon to aid him, but there was no one capable of helping him left. Master’s wind magic had dismembered most of the monsters and demons around. The ones left alive were on the stronger side, but they were too busy trying to stay alive to have time to help Ditoner. In other words, he had no choice but to tackle this alone.
While none of our attacks was strong enough to threaten his life, we still inflicted many small wounds all over his body. We had obviously received our own share of wounds as well, being unable to dodge all attacks. We had been sent flying, received many cuts and had the breath knocked out of us over and over again. But we still were better off compared to Ditoner. Then again, we had two members in our vanguard, while he was alone. If we fought one on one, I would probably be in a much worse state.
“Dammit! Why do I even have to bother with grunts like you!”
His face was drenched in blood and sweat. His legs gave in and he fell on his knees, so Karin stepped in to deal the finishing blow, but his eyes had a glint to them, as if he had been waiting for her to do exactly that.
“Got you now!”
I had a very bad feeling about this so I tried to stop her, but she had already swung her sword down. As the blade neared his body, an instant before it made contact, his entire figure began emitting light. I instantly moved my hands over my eyes to protect myself, but the impact was much stronger than that, blasting my helpless body away.
My body rolled back on the ground before hitting Ciel and Diaria. When I finally stopped moving, I quickly stood up while biting away the pain. Near me, I saw Karin lying down, and at a rather considerable distance away stood Ditoner.
She seemed to be in a lot more pain than me, but she endured it and stood up. I was relieved to see she was conscious at least. Knowing Ditoner still had tricks under his sleeve, I held my sword ready, but I was still surprised when I looked at him. His entire body looked scorched, his armor gone and blood dripping down his legs and arms. One of his eyes appeared to have lost its vision as well, burst open as it was, and the weapons he once held had been blown away somewhere.
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“I can’t believe it…did he self-destruct?”
Ciel’s voice quivered as she spoke. Self-destruction? That made sense, he had focused all his magic power around him and made it explode the instant Karin was about to slay him! It was possible he could survive that way, albeit heavily injured. But still…I shuddered thinking of what could drive someone to attack without regard to his own safety. Ditoner’s eyes glared full of enmity against us, slowly opening his mouth.
“…I’ll make sure to never forget your faces. Next time it won’t end like this, I’ll fight with everything I’ve got from the start, so you better be ready.”
I could not let him escape! But thinking about it calmly, if I followed him then it was likely I would die. Thankfully Karin had stopped me before I carelessly darted after him.
An instant later Ditoner vanished inside the forest. Even if we followed now, we would not catch up to him. He was lighter on his feet than us, and inside the forest he had the advantage. Running after him was a careless and stupid idea.
“So he managed to get away.”
Master appeared behind us. I knew that if she really wanted to, she could very easily catch up to Ditoner, but she had decided to leave him entirely to us, even after this incident. I surveyed our surroundings, seeing them littered with monster and demon corpses. She had taken care of everyone else while we were focused on Ditoner…but that much was usual for her.
“I’m sorry Master. We let our victory slip away.”
“It’s alright. I know it’s frustrating to see him get away, but we’re all still in one piece so it wasn’t our defeat either. There will be another chance to fight him in the future, so make sure you win then.”
She patted my shoulder as I apologized. At the same time, as the adrenaline drained from my body, I realized just how much I was shaking. He was strong, too strong, easily toying with me even though I believed I was much stronger than in the past. We had been unable to defeat him, but fighting against a demon was still a valuable experience. My goal now was training to become strong enough to fight him alone next time.