Her body rode the wind out of the battlefield, she felt as if she was freed from the despair the moment she passed the entrance.
In the end, in that world she didn’t even have the leeway to look back at, the battle raged on even now.
There was the dry sound of freezing air as well as the sound of steel shattering ice, and there was also the sound of a blunt weapon tearing through the air along with the occasional ‘Hyoeh’s and ‘Fuah’s as someone dodged while making strange noises.
The battle wasn’t over.
Even though Felt had run away, leaving it all behind.
“What the heck am I thinking? Isn’t it lucky that I was able to escape?”
If she had stayed there, she would be dead, that was obvious.
Felt didn’t have the slightest change against a woman who could bring Rom down with one blow. It was the same for the silver-haired elf, she probably wouldn’t be able to match Elsa now that she had lost her spirit’s support.
As for Subaru, it was completely obvious that he was worthless.
Once could tell at a glance that he was just an ordinary fellow, and he hadn’t the slightest hint of combat experience. His lovely fingers suggested that he had never held a weapon, and his unmarred hair and skin probably meant he had never been injured.
In other words, he had lived a sheltered life. His social status was such that he didn’t need to think of combat.
He did bring that absurdly expensive meteor, so this way of thinking made sense.
She should just think of it as him getting his just deserts. Ignorant of the ways of the world and possessing just a little chivalrous spirit, he ended up trying to do more than he could. She should just laugh at his recklessness.
“Right, keep running. I can’t stay in this town anymore. There’s people that terrifying. Before they find me, before it’s too late to run away, I need to, quickly…”
Even within the slums, she had to choose a route known only to those who stayed here. Narrow and tiny, it was like a path for animals, but it was an ideal escape route.
Considering her agility and small frame, she didn’t think there was anyone who would be able to capture her here. If she was to prioritize her life, this was the ideal method.
After all, Subaru who was probably dead by now had tried to act cool by letting her escape, so if she ran away successfully, he could at least rest in peace. That much was obvious.
It was obvious, but,
“―Someone, isn’t anyone there?!”
Even though her brain told her she should choose the narrow path, her legs took her to the slum’s main road which connected to the main street. Her expression was one of panic and she was out of breath, even her line of sight was unsteady.
Sighting a rundown shack, she ran up the wall and stood atop it, she then sent spittle flying as she screamed.
It wasn’t just anyone that she needed.
She needed someone who had the power to face that murderer―Elsa.
If anyone would do, she had already seen several figures as she ran here. But Felt was by no means someone well-liked around here.
Especially now that she was in trouble, Rom was probably the only one around here who would help her.
If she just left Rom like this, he would die.
Even Subaru who had helped Felt escape was probably fighting for his life right now.
It was a strange feeling. Without understanding why, she desperately rubbed her eyes that were on the verge of tears.
Setting Rom aside, what was so bad about some guy she just met dying? He seemed to have had a good upbringing, spoke a lot of nonsense, and to call him inconsiderate was putting it lightly.
But when Elsa’s words almost made her cry, he got angry for her, and even now he was sacrificing himself so she could escape.
She didn’t understand what she was feeling. However, because she was feeling it, Felt’s heart urged her to run.
She had felt something in response to his actions. Because of this feeling that wouldn’t stop heating up, Felt continued to run, desperately wanting to scream.
And then, once she had run through many, many streets―
“Understood. I shall help you.”
She encountered a young man like a crimson inferno, and changed fate.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
“That’s right, Subaru. It’s been very long, has it? Sorry to be late.”
The tall figure turned its head toward Subaru who was still on the ground―Reinhard’s faint smile seemed apologetic.
Even though he had ripped through the roof and dropped about five meters, this didn’t seem to have had any effect on him as he casually walked forward. His movements were refined even as he cleared the dust, Subaru felt that he was now somewhat different from when they had faced Tonchinkan, he felt that he was getting a glimpse at Reinhard’s true nature.
Reinhard looked forward with his guard up, at the beautiful woman in black clothes whose hostility was directed at him. His blue eyes suddenly narrowed as if remembering something,
“Black hair and black clothes. And a curved blade characteristic of the north. ― With those characteristics, there’s no mistaking it. You’re the ‘Bowel Hunter’, yes?”
“What’s with that super disturbing nickname…”
“It was given to her due to her distinctive method of killing. She’s a rather infamous criminal who is known to be dangerous even in the capital. It is also said that she’s just a simple mercenary, though.”
Reinhard sincerely responded to Subaru’s mutter, and set his clear blue eyes on Elsa. His gaze caused her to stir,
“Reinhard― Yes, the knight among knights. From the line of sword saints. Incredible, to think I’d encounter such interesting opponents, I suppose I’ll have to thank my employer.
“There’s a number of things I’d like to ask you. I recommend you surrender.”
“You think a starving predator could resist a splendid steak dripping blood?”
She seductively licked her lips with her red tongue and looked at Reinhard with an ecstatic expression.
Receiving her gaze, he scratched his cheek as if troubled, “I suppose not.”.
“No choice. Subaru, step back a bit. Get the old man somewhere safe if you can. It’d be a great help if you could stay by that person’s side after that.”
“Understood… She’s a monster of a woman, so don’t let your guard down.”
“Fortunately, hunting monsters happens to be my specialty.”
With these promising words, Reinhard advanced, completely calm.
He did not even reach for the sword at his hip, he approached her barehanded.
His composure made Subaru gulp, but what happened once the battle started shocked him even more.
Exhaling sharply, Elsa brandished the knife in her hand, aiming for his neck.
She was no longer holding back like she was against Subaru, the flash of silver killed the air itself as it rushed toward Reinhard’s slender neck. Reinhard seemed completely defenseless against this. Forget drawing his sword to block, he did not even attempt to dodge.
As the blade swung toward him, Subaru saw a vision of Reinhard’s head being torn off. There would be a spray of blood, and Reinhard’s head would fall later like in a manga.
That was the scene he saw. But―
“I’d prefer not to be too violent against a female opponent, but…”
Reinhard said these gentlemanly words in a somewhat lower tone. Then,
With force that shattered the ground and created a shockwave, his kick sent Elsa flying.
The shockwave even reached Subaru, who was rendered speechless by the wind..
It looked like a normal front kick, and yet it held such power that the wind from the shockwave shook the entire building. Having received a direct hit, Elsa’s body flew like a leaf until she sprang off the wall to reduce the impact and landed as if tumbling onto the ground. Ever her expression was one of astonishment.
“Woawoahwoah, seriously… What’s with that?”
He had used the term ‘off the charts’ many times until now, but right now, for the time Subaru believed that he had been using it all wrong.
The term surely existed just to describe the man standing before him.
Compared to him, running like the wind, swinging a club like a twig, transcendent battle sense, and magical power boasting overwhelming quantity, all of these were completely overshadowed.
“You’re as good as the rumors say… No, you’re even better.”
“I’m not sure I can live up to your expectations.”
“Will you not use the sword at your hip? I would love to experience its legendary sharpness.”
Elsa recklessly pointed at Reinhard’s sword, she wanted to face him at his best.
But Reinhard shook his head in response,
“This sword can only be drawn when it is necessary. That it has not left its sheath means this is not one of those times.”
“It seems I’m being looked down upon.”
“I find this judgement rather troubling as well. Therefore―”
Reinhard suddenly averted his gaze and looked around the loot house. He then found a worn down two handed sword among some loot that had been placed against the wall, but were now strewn about the ground.
He flipped up the handle with his foot and easily caught it as it spun, he then lightly swung it as if testing it,
“I shall face you with this. Are you dissatisfied?”
“―Not at all. Aah, wonderful. Simply wonderful. Please, do entertain me!”
As Reinhard held the sword, Elsa took the initiative by spinning her body to the side.
Immediately after, she threw several knives as she spun. There were four of them, thrown near simultaneously. She had been holding back when she aimed for Felt.
These blades thrown at different heights weren’t as fast as Not-Satella’s ice, but the difference in their trajectories would make it difficult to dodge. In other words, he had to deflect them, but,
“Of course, I’ll take advantage of that opening.”
Elsa’s body leaped like a wind-up toy. She flipped as if using the ceiling as footing, and then sprang back down aiming for Reinhard.
A two stage attack, even if he managed to deflect the knives he would still have to deal with Elsa’s attack.
There were four attacks and another one right behind them, in response Reinhard raised his sword before him,
“Sorry, but― Projectiles won’t reach me.”
Immediately after he whispered this, Subaru saw a sight that defied the laws of physics.
The knives that were going to plunge straight into Reinhard’s body―Their trajectories suddenly changed, they missed his body and hit the wall harmlessly.
He hadn’t used any special magic, nor had he swung his sword faster than the eye could follow. He had essentially faced her first attack completely defenseless, this was an unfathomable spectacle, an absurd sight.
“The divine protection of arrow avoidance―!”
“I was granted it at birth, you see… Please don’t think of it as unfair.”
The knives completely failed to impede him, so their next exchange turned into a direct confrontation.
Elsa’s slash had all the speed from her leap, and Reinhard was prepared to take it by swinging his sword directly upward.
Even though it was an exchange of an instant, Subaru could see everything in slow motion.
Perhaps that was because Reinhard’s movements were perfectly refined, his every action seemed to possess divine skill that was almost magical.
He was holding some crude sword he found in a warehouse in the slums, but in his hands it shone like a legendary sword spoken of for generations.
His swordplay truly seemed to push the sword to the limit of what it could do.
Reinhard’s blade hit its mark, the base of Elsa’s kukri knife―Even though it was a clash between steel, that absurd cutting power easily dispossessed Elsa of her blade.
Flipping by placing her hand on the ground, Elsa was left speechless by the fate of the weapon she held.
With the blade sliced off, all she had left was the handle, and as for the blade,
“Now that you’ve lost your weapons, I recommend you surrender.”
Reinhard held it in its hand as he turned around, lowering his sword.
Reinhard threw it with a flick of his wrist, and it did not even look as it pierced the wall with a sharp sound. Even Subaru could hear Elsa gulp.
“This guy’s seriously out of this world. Even I can’t find the energy to crack jokes about this.”
This impression leaked out of Subaru as if he was being squeezed, he then excitedly distanced himself from the battle.
He approached Rom’s fallen body, and somehow managed to drag him near the wall.
“Old man, Rom. Hey, baldy, listen here, are you still alive?”
“Uu… Who’s… Bald…”
“You, obviously. As if it’d be anyone else. My only goals in life are to never go bald or become fat. From my perspective, you’re a great example of what not to do.”
Though frail, at least he was able to respond, Subaru struck his forehead and heaved a sigh of relief.
Setting aside the severe damage to his head, the old man was probably alright. His memory might end up getting a little worse, but that would be a small price to pay to keep his life.
“Is that person alright?”
As Subaru relaxed, Not-Satella called out while running over to him.
With her long silver hair flowing behind her, she analyzed Rom’s injuries, she then whispered, ‘I’ll have to heal this’ as a faint blue glow emanated from her hands.
“Hey now, this old man’s one of the people responsible for your insignia’s theft, you know?”
“That’s the reason. Once I heal him up, he’ll have to repay that favor by answering my questions. He definitely won’t lie to someone who has saved his life. This too is for my sake.”
Perhaps she needed to make such long winded excuses to justify her actions.
Smiling wryly at her roundabout nature, Subaru redirected his gaze to the battle.
Elsa was on her knees, he couldn’t see her expression but it seemed that Reinhard had concluded that she had lost the will to fight. Lowering the hand holding his worn out blade, he approached Elsa with his guard down.
This was probably because he was confident in his superiority, but conceit always led to the worst outcomes. Alarm bells went off within Subaru, and the moment before Elsa moved as if leaping,
“She’s got another one, Reinhard!”
The knife she drew from her waist sliced off a bit of Reinhard’s bangs as he leaned backward.
Now that her surprise attack had failed, she turned to Subaru,
“That was rather sharp of you.”
“I’ve experienced it first hand, after all!”
He flipped her off with pride that barely even counted as pride, but Elsa seemed to think he was talking nonsense and simply ignored him.
“However, I have more than just two fangs… Shall we start over?”
“Will you be satisfied if I dispossess you of all your weapons?”
“If I lose my fangs, I shall use my claws. If I lose my claws, I shall use my teeth. If I lose my teeth, I shall use my bones. And if I lose my bones, I shall use my life― That is what it means to lust for battle.”
“Well then, I’ll have to shatter that declaration of yours.”
Pulling out a third knife from her waist, Elsa took a two blade stance as she once again rushed him.
Blade met blade, the clash of steel caused sparks to fly. With the force against one blade, Elsa swung the blade in her other arm.
The curved blade was aimed at Reinhard’s neck, but his long leg shot up into her arm, ensuring it wouldn’t reach him. Elsa used the momentum to withdraw and leap off the wall up to the ceiling. She then kicked off the ceiling to reach another wall.
In a manner befitting the ‘spider woman’ insult Subaru had lobbed at her, her movements around the room defied gravity and prevented Reinhard from going on the offensive.
She would freely attack from any direction and immediately withdraw, and Reinhard was completely focused on intercepting her attacks, not moving a single step from where he stood. However, it didn’t seem like there would ever be an end to this.
“Don’t tell me even Reinhard can’t finish her off…”
Elsa’s inhuman skill was now at an entirely different level from when she was wielding a single blade.
It was like a boss character reaching their second phase. She had ascended to a higher realm.
And even Reinhard who was facing her possessed his powerful divine protection (Subaru didn’t really understand much about this stuff, though) and his supreme combat ability, he too had transcended the realm of humanity.
It truly was a battle between Gods. But even so, it did seem to Subaru that Reinhard was superior in terms of ability, however,
“… He’s being considerate of us.”
Not-Satella whispered as she healed Rom, as if answering Subaru’s doubts.
She sent a sidelong glance at Subaru when he went ‘Eh?’ and bit her lip restlessly,
“I’m using the spirit arts right now, so he can’t fight seriously. At the very least, until I finish healing this person…”
“What’s the connection there?”
“If he were truly intent on fighting, all the mana in the atmosphere would turn away from me.― I’m almost done here. When I give the signal, call out to him.”
Her explanation didn’t quite hit the mark, but since she was relying on him, Subaru accepted despite his confusion.
The blue glow continued to heal the blow to Rom’s head, and a cut that had been bleeding slightly. His wounds and the traces of blood on him gradually disappeared, and Satella sighed deeply as Subaru looked on in admiration.
After wiping off the scar tissue with some cloth, there was no longer any sign of the blow that had knocked him unconscious. As Subaru gasped at her magnificence, she tapped his shoulder.
“Leave it to me.― Reinhard! I don’t really get it, but do your thing!”
Subaru announced the completion of Rom’s treatment to Reinhard who was still on the defensive.
Reinhard glanced at him for a moment. When his eyes met Subaru’s, he gave a slight nod.
“―What are you going to show me?”
“The swordplay of the Astrea family―”
Elsa asked this mid-leap, and Reinhard’s answer was short and stern.
―Immediately after, Subaru felt the space within the loot house warp.