Peel Off the Pretense
Numerous bolts flew through the air as a violent wind rose up from the ground. The fight with the Phantom Thief had fallen into a deadlock as he skipped and danced through the air as if he were playing with the three adventurers.
“My word! You are being an extreme bother getting in my way like this! Bit players like you three are minor roles and should quickly exit the stage.”
“Who you calling a bit player! …….《Rock Spear • Rise》!”
Rock Spear, a spell that shoots a lance made entirely of rock from the ground, tore through the dirt towards Crowley’s chest, but it was helpless against a bizarre foe who could freely move through the air. After escaping higher up into the air where the spell couldn’t reach him, the Phantom Thief shot off a number of light bullets back down towards Cudd.
Obviously it was a spell without a chant. It was a counterattack from a long distance away that left little room to breathe. Cudd managed to slip away thanks to the agility he’d built up in all his training to become a scout, but still, there were too many bullets raining down. Kyle ran up the rock spear jutting from the ground and jumped up to where Crowley floated hoping to try and save his companion before he was cornered.
“I can respect savage valour…….but you’re too immature.”
With no need to prioritize Cudd in the first place, Crowley simply turned his aim on Kyle instead. The stream of light bullets rushed towards the young adventurer who had no way of escaping up in the air.
“Don’t do anything too crazy!!”
An iron bolt engraved with a magic rune shot through one or two of the light bullets before exploding in the air. However, the swarm of Crowley’s bullets persisted through the smoke. Far more than what a shield or mace could guard against.
Just before he was riddled with bullets, Kyle activated the spell Airforce, creating a wall of wind that beat squarely on his back.
Originally this spell is a basic defensive wind spell meant to push back against enemy attacks by creating a strong headwind. But by aiming it at himself instead, he was pushed upwards as if being blown away.
“Ouch~!? I-I caught him!!”
“Ku…….! Yo-, Please release me.”
“N-No way! Cudd!”
Avoidance by rapid acceleration. A couple of the light bullets were direct hits, but Kyle clenched his teeth and endured the pain as he rocketed towards the Phantom Thief.
Unable to figure out when exactly to swing his mace, Kyle instead grabbed Crowley’s clothes and hung off his back as they both floated in mid-air.
With Crowley’s altitude falling after the addition of another body’s worth of weight, an exchange of a single name rang through the air.
“Muu……..Grrrrrrrr! It can’t be helped.”
“Hah!? Darn it!”
The spell Clay Python sent out huge, snake-like rock that slithered across the soil like a winding, muddy stream straight towards Crowley and Kyle. Before the magic could seal both men together however, Crowley used teleportation magic to break away.
Leaving Kyle behind, he retook his advantageous position up high, basically looking down upon the three adventurers as they crawled around the ground.
But the sky belonged to the blue and red sacred birds Beryl and Rubeus. The two birds released a max power beam that tore through Crowley.
Yet still, he managed to maintain an altitude a stone throw’s way from off the ground…….but it’s obvious just by looking at him that the need to restore himself immediately every time he’s injured like that is taking up an extraordinary amount of magic power and physical strength.
“Kuu…..! Unbelievable, to be pushed so far by a bunch of kids who haven’t been alive for 20 years yet…….!”
Between Kyle’s party and the Phantom Thief, the former was coming out ahead in this battle. Crowley came into this fight already exhausted to the point that all of his strongest spells might as well be sealed while these three adventurers still had plenty of energy to spend. Even so, this was a fight Crowley could easily win by climbing up high enough in the air where their bolts and magic couldn’t reach him before one-sidedly raining magic down on their heads.
However, the two sacred birds made this strategy an impossibility. A fully mobile turret boasting extreme firepower that can freely fly through the air…….that can replenish its ammunition with mana hanging in the air.
Teleportation magic can move him two meters in any direction…….but it can only be used a couple of times. Crowley’s steadily weakening magic power and labored breathing were slowly giving Kyle’s party hope that they could win this.
“Are we actually going to win this……..!? If we actually bring him down, we’ll definitely get promoted!!”
Leia’s encouragement picked up everyone’s morale even more. Obviously they couldn’t let their guards down, but it was hard to stop their quickening heartbeats.
And seeing those three in such high spirits caused Crowley to grind his teeth.
“…….how optimistic…….hmph! From a pretend little girl…….! An old hag playing at a little girl even with those two huge, evil things hanging off your chest……..!”
“Oi, what the hell? Who you calling an old hag? And who looks like a little girl? Wait, how do you even know that!? Did you see them!?”
“…….it’s not like I wanted to……..!”
“So you did see them!? You’re a dirty peeper!”
The number and speed of iron bolts flying through the air increased proportionally to Leia’s rage. But while Crowley was busy insulting Leia some more while dodging her attacks, Kyle began feeling a bit anxious over the Phantom Thief’s current state.
(What is……? Was he just…….pretending to be a gentleman character……..?)
There can be benefits to displaying a gentlemanly tone and attitude coupled with a certain level of ability. It can impart a level of indescribable horror when intimidating someone weaker than you.
However regardless of ability, tone, or attitude…..a bit of the person’s true personality will always leak through. Something that only becomes worse as they’re driven into a corner and the pretense is peeled away.
(And…..it sounded like he corrected himself before……..)
Kyle noticed that Crowley’s tone had changed somewhat from when he first arrived. But just as he was thinking so, Crowley opened his mouth and spoke with a low level of anger and irritation that fell to the ground below him and crawled across the dirt.
“……..hmph! …….I have enjoyed this considerably, but I am afraid I do not have all the time in the world to play with you lot. Let us end the show here.”
He’s clearly acting differently from before…….but unlike the last time his mask cracked, Crowley cleared his throat and held out both his hands as five giant magic circles manifested at his back.
The more impatient he gets, the more his voice changes……..but the party didn’t have the leeway to notice that now. Those five complex and mysterious magic circles were exuding so much magic power that it burned their skin. Having an idea of what was coming from the books he’d read, Kyle unintentionally screamed.
《Brionac》…….a spell capable of shooting out five highly concentrated beams of light. Once unleashed, the five beams of light travel at the speed of light, easily cutting through the thickest iron walls and are impossible to dodge unless you have future vision like Shirley’s.
In addition to the massive amount of mana it costs to activate, the spell is outrageously complex to execute, so there are few people in the world who can handle it. The spell currently floating behind Crowley’s back looked more and more like the description in the book Kyle read, so the thought popped into his head. But that doesn’t mean he understood the full picture.
He wasn’t wrong to feel despair. Five beams of light aimed by the spell’s user that is sure to bring instant death…….and Crowley had his bombardment prepped and ready for his three young opponents.
“He’s not only able to use beginner magic like us!?”
“Oi……..where did he get this kind of power!?”
“I will praise you three for pushing me back this far, but I always keep a trump card up my sleeve.”
He must have been accumulating magic power all this time without any of them realizing. They’ve noticed now, but it’s already too late. Beryl and Rubeus are still exhausted from the earlier beams of energy they shot off, and Kyle could tell from how the air trembled around him that his barrier wasn’t going to be able to stop what was coming.
“This is the end. Once I’ve rid myself of you, it will be easy for me to pick up those three beautiful girls.”
The five magic circles grew more radiantly bright. Since things had already progressed so far, the three decided to brace themselves.
“――――Over there!! It’s the Phantom Thief!!”
At the same time, a blaring siren echoed off the castle walls as the sound of countless heavy boots kicking off the ground approached.
“Good……..very good. Close combat, the clashing of spirits, how long has it been?”
The fierce battle between the white and black warriors finally reached the day before the Summer Solstice Festival.
A moment of silence had fallen, interrupting the violent showering of sparks that had continued on for several dozens of hours. A tension crackled between the two warriors as the both of them stood behind one of the countless felled trees just waiting for the other to make a move.
(However, there are times where it looks as if her arms go strangely numb. Most likely some kind of physical deformity……and yet, she’s no less formidable.)
Marion had no idea why, but the trembling in Shirley’s arms from the withdrawal symptoms had only grown more frequent and more pronounced as time went on.
If it were an ordinary person, they would have already been rendered unable to fight…….and yet even in that condition, Shirley altered her swordsmanship in time with her muscle spasms, throwing in a mix of one or two blades with her attacks.
(A martial artist worthy of respect who perseveres despite their condition.)
Only a third-rate warrior would bring up some kind of physical weakness as an excuse during a battle to the death. Marion has been fighting all his life and has been forced to battle under unfavorable circumstances time and time again. Both physically and mentally.
Nonetheless, just how many people had he seen use excuses as a shield, showing resignation in their eyes and completely giving up on victory and survival? As magic and magic tools have become more advanced, they became easier to use and easier to rely on. It led to a severe decline in the number of people the Black Saintly Spear would call true warriors, and it disappointed him to no end.
(Not that there’s anything wrong with primarily using magic.)
For Marion, a true battle is where two warriors fighting spirits boil over, each of them doing whatever it takes to snatch victory away from their opponent. That was when he felt the most joy in his life.
But that can’t be found from a strong opponent who has completely lost hope. There is nothing to be gained from someone who would think they have no hope of winning simply because of a disadvantageous position, a large gap in power, or poor compatibility.
A warrior has to be someone who would try in desperation to rip out their enemies throat with their teeth if need be in order to take victory. A person’s strength is important, but what Marion wanted from his opponents more than anything were guts.
(The conditions for victory for her and me are different. I want to tear through you while you want to return to your daughters……..and yet, the Demonic White Sword deserves the highest honor!)
A woman who can sharpen an ice cold blade of murderous intent instead of just throwing her life away behind a tree despite the disadvantage for a sword against a spear, despite the difference in physical strength, despite the crippling illness she has been struggling against for days is a woman worth honoring even in death.
Marion pointed the tip of his black lance towards the wall of fallen trees. Once a warrior has reached a certain level, it becomes easy to guess an opponent’s position even without being able to directly see them.
Just as Shirley can pick out a specific person by their presence, Marion could understand an opponent’s behavior by their presence. This detection ability of his told him that his enemy had her blade at her side, ready to cut through the fallen tree in front of her.
“Now…….come, and fight!”
He wouldn’t wait. It would be foolish to give Shirley time to prepare when she is capable of using magic.
The Black Saintly Spear poured all his energy and soul into defeating his enemy. In an instant he closed the gap between them, creating a shockwave with his thrust that blew away the fallen trees collected nearby.