PART – 2
Lilia’s chest tightened, Kageha’s statement making her feel ashamed for believing in the demon so easily. If what he said was true, both of them would have qualified by this point. It was probably Solnada’s role to kill anyone who came along after being told that the test was over, and dispose of their corpses.
“I don’t want to make trivial talk with you. There’s only one thing that matters now. Only one thing.” Kageha stated coldly.
“Hohohoho! Let me ask you something. What is it that drives you to this point? The only thing ahead is… ‘death’, you know?” The two holes in the goat’s skull glowed as he asked.
A fool is not fit to be a covenantor. For they will be tricked, robbed, and made fools of. But telling that visitor this is not going to stop them.
“You stated my lord is weaker than yours.”
“…Isn’t it a fact that I was revived easily by my master? You, on the other hand, look rather damaged, don’t you?”
“Mhm, what is the point you are trying to make?” She said lowly, powered up by her desire to kill the goat in front of her. The intense pain she was feeling only increased her killing intent.
“Life and death do not matter to me. Even if I die, I’ll kill you. I can’t let you talk like that. You dared to degrade my master.”
Solnada shrugged as he shifted his weight to one of the spheres at his feet, freeing the other to attack.
“You can’t stop me.” Kageha declared while jumping from the branch.
“Hoho! Then, the results are invalid! Hell, the exam is postponed indefinitely! I’ll deal with you to the end!”
The two spheres of Kahan flew through the air at Kageha. Solnada also released a large number of small skeletal bugs from his sleeves.
“Sadly, most humans are very easy to deal with, unless close combat occurs.”
He used the surface of the water to predict where she would jump next, unleashing his bugs and silver balls towards that spot immediately.
Kageha used her speed to jump onto trunks and branches one after another to avoid his onslaught, but the trees she used as footholds were steadily being destroyed.
The power and speed of a deadly assassin were being tested.
If she lost her foothold, her chances of victory would become very slim.
And yet, Kageha’s fighting spirit did not diminish.
Crono’s words trickled back into her mind.
“–The sudden light you encounter when you’re in the dark can be awfully bright.”
A favor received in a moment of weakness feels overly warm. It paralyzes your emotions. It lingers in your mind with excessive value attached to it.
Perhaps she is the only one who could see it right now.
But she had a place waiting for her to return.
“I’ll do my best to make sure this place will always be able to welcome you, but I want you to think and look elsewhere. I didn’t lend a hand because I wanted you guys to have blind faith in me.” Saying so, Crono gave Kageha the freedom of choice.
“Ko! What I did was careless!”
She bit into the cutlass stuck in the tree and jumped behind Solnada. When she saw the target’s back, she recalled… Crono’s words and stopped.
The sphere that was at his feet flew towards Kageha.
He let a silver sphere stay at his feet, as a countermeasure if Zekage was used in a linear attack.
She quickly deflected the sphere with her cutlass and evaded it.
The cutlass bounced off into the trunk next to her, but if she had stayed where she was instead of evading the sphere, it would have been her end for sure.
‘Even if you take the rear, don’t be careless. Even if you lose your limbs, fight with your teeth.’
At the time of their reunion, the Lord took the trouble to appear behind her, pointing out her carelessness. He then trained her jaw, stating that if she was his shadow, then just like how his teeth were useful for him, her teeth would become useful for her too.
The words he had imparted occupied her mind as she flew around, looking for new ways to win.
‘…this is the first and last time……that I disagree with the Lord…’
What meaning did the light that did not shine when she needed it to have?
Why not be lured by the light that did shine when she needed it to?
The only thing that filled her memories since she could remember was her training herself to the point of death. She lost her village, lost her family, had her life threatened, fought loneliness, killed her pursuers, and was closer to death than she ever had been.
Emptiness, sorrow, anger… negative emotions were the only things that filled her.
What’s wrong with trusting the hand that rescued you from the depths of despair?
What was strange about seeing the Lord as her light?
Maybe the Lord didn’t understand, because reaching out was something not worth noting to him.
Maybe he didn’t understand how many he had saved.
That light that helped me make sense of the suffering I’ve been through… The feelings I have for the Lord, who helped me find meaning in my life, and has given me confidence for the future, can not be described in half-hearted words like gratitude or debt.
I feel no hesitation in dedicating the rest of my life to him.
I want to be a shadow of that light.
—That’s all I want.
Kageha fought fiercely with her abnormally broken arms that were barely attached.
The bugs and spheres scraped against her arms, causing more wounds to appear.
Blood splattered onto her shoulder and abdomen, but she still fought.
Lilia blamed herself for Kageha’s uncanny determination.
‘I’ve been pampered by Crono. I’ve dragged Kageha down. And I can’t even help myself because I’m not capable.’
She didn’t want that. She reached out from her trapped position in the swamp to the small sword thrown by Kageha that was stuck in the tree.
Lilia called out to Kageha and threw the branch the sword was stuck in. Kageha desperately needed a foothold, and the branch would allow her to jump from anywhere she was.
“Ack!” She caught the small sword and bit down firmly.
“[Kahan’s two spheres]. Hoho, the sword will shatter if you keep going, won’t it?”
Kahan’s two spheres flew perpendicular to the tree, straining Solnada’s legs with their rapid movement.
Solnada sent the spheres flying in a straight line.
But then, Kageha’s figure suddenly disappeared… and appeared on the side of the trunk, just above the water.
–the goat’s skull flew through the air.
At a speed that left even its shadow behind, the surface of the water splitting after a momentary delay.
“…Hmm, it’s healing up. I think I can do some recon now.” She moved both of her arms slowly, trying to confirm the severity of her current condition.
“Good… But if this is the second one, the one after that…”
Kageha and Lilia stopped for a moment, after advancing quite a bit by crossing the tree tops.
The stench of this swamp lingered on Lilia’s body, but she didn’t care about it anymore.
“Mhm… Hey, how’s it going?” Kageha inquired about the trophy Lilia was holding.
“Hoho. My master is incomparable to myself. More importantly, could you please hold… more securely?” The skull of a goat, held near Lilia’s chest, rambled.
Victory was barely obtained using a double strike that was only made possible thanks to Zekage.
Before he could regenerate, we bagged his torso and hung it above the tree. We carried his head along to show us the way.
“Unless you want to be reduced to bone dust in a mortar, you’ll have to provide more specific information.”
“You’re scaring me!”
Kageha threatened him with concrete information and specific torture methods, making Solnada feel a chill run down his spine.
“Gosh, to be specific… This place is already… or rather, this entire swamp is already Molly-sama’s domain. If Molly-sama wanted to, no matter where we hid in this swamp, she could turn us into dust at any moment with a simple magic spell.”
“In the first place, this swamp itself is a place that Molly-sama created.”
Lilia and Kageha both froze in horror.
Solnada stated that a single demon created the Cursed Wetlands. Solnada stated that no matter where you were in the swamp, you could be killed easily. What they heard really was a whole new realm beyond their expectations.
“…I’ve been defeated, so let me give you some advice. If you run, you die. If you run towards Molly-sama, you will die… But talking to Molly-sama may give you a better chance of survival… than running away. “
“If it weren’t for the fog, I’d be more suspicious about your statements…”
The mist healed Solnada’s wounds and kept track of any signs of movement.
If this mist was the result of the magic cast by the [Swamp Demon], then what Solnada stated was probably true to some extent. This made even Kageha hesitate to act rashly.
“One more thing. May I?”
“What? You will become bone dust if you enquire about the martial arts we were talking about earlier.”
Solnada was enjoying the conversation and had been listening to Lilia talk about her martial arts earlier.
“No, my lady. I just wanted to thank you for talking to me, and also give you some important information as appreciation.”
“You can tell me at-“
“We’re almost there, my lady.”
The ruler of the swamp spoke, positioned over the heart of the land.
Kageha, Lilia, and the bodiless Solnada stood in the shadow of a tree to the [Swamp Demon]’s right.
“I had a hunch you were there… You’re a mess, Solnada.”
“I have no regrets, honestly. I’m ready to accept whatever punishment you give me.”
“Haha! Is that so?”
Molly was in a good mood, which made Solnada feel uncomfortable.
It was true that he was personally satisfied with Kageha’s skill, but that was merely based on his standards.
From Molly’s point of view, they were probably like stones on the road.
“But now, we must deal with them one by one. You wait there.”
“…in order, master?”
Even Solnada had no idea of what his master was talking about.
“Oh, you noticed.” Molly was impressed by Kageha, who had looked up to the sky before anyone else.
From the sky above, a shadow swooped down to destroy the [Swamp Demon].
–A monster made out of blue mist.
It spewed out blades that looked like they were made out of mist, and had a huge physique that was incomparable to the form it donned before.
An aura of delirium surrounded it, rather than ferocity.
The faint reasoning that it had before was now gone, and the only thought that it allowed in it’s mind was to destroy Molly.
“Oh, my God…”
“Haha! You would think he’d have shriveled up by now, but he’s… bloated, isn’t he?”
The smell of death wafting from the fog monster’s mouth made the [Swamp Demon] laugh with amusement.
“Good! Good! Even though I was tied up, a little flailing took care of some of my steam. Now, I’ll take care of you once more.”
The screaming yell of Type 2 echoed across the Cursed Wetlands.
The second battle between the ruler of the swamp and the man-made monster was about to begin.
Among monsters, there were some that had certain characteristics.
These monsters feed on the flesh and blood of living creatures and harness their magical energy for themselves.
Individual differences were present among the magical energy that different races used.
The magical energy varied in quality, quantity, color, and so on.
Magical energy is something that is familiar only to the individual, and even if they were to forcefully harness someone else’s magical energy by some means, it would quickly dissipate.
One of the entities that had the ability to overturn this rule is – ‘Type-2’.
“…Huh, isn’t that nice. Excellent. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s not something a mere mortal should possess.”
It was an awful sight to behold.
The Type-2 was a scourge, who, assisted by the malice of Zancock, grew stronger every second.
“They were bickering about the future of the village, but… Hmm? What’s with this belt? I’ve never seen anything like it. Hanam-san, help me.”
Just now, the old man miraculously survived the attack of Type-2 and slashed at Zancock… but was easily beaten back.
Last night, a group of villagers had gathered in a snow-covered clearing to discuss something.
The old man narrowly survived the raid due to his good sword, but the villagers, who had only brought farming tools, could not defeat the soldiers… They scattered in tears.
It was a fine sword and belt, and Zancock was going to take it for himself.
“Ugh, Lieutenant. You said this would be the last place you would use as a base…There are too many corpses here…” Hanam, who had been unable to control his nausea in the first village, managed to hold it together here. He followed Zancock to assist him in his task of stripping the belt.
“Lieutenant, let’s just throw them in a corner house. It’ll take too much effort to dig a hole, or start a fire outdoors.” One of the soldiers suggested before Zancock could give any further commands.
“Hmm, I see. You do that. You’re in command.”
Zancock returned to his attempt at peeling the sword off.
“With this… We will be able to fight even the [Swamp Demon]. Hahaha, just wait and see…”
The old man who was on the brink of death had tears of remorse flowing from his eyes.
[TLN : This chapter was nearly a 1000 words above the author’s usual chapters! Sorry for the delay–]