In preparation for the midterms on the next day, the students of Diaspell Royal Academy were heading off to the examination grounds inside the territory controlled by the Queen.
Due to the sheer distance they had to travel, they would be using carriages for transportation.
The exam was carried out by each class and the exam day for each of them had also been shifted by several days. This diminished the quarrels concerning the usage of the mock battle grounds that were used for self training and other things, and on top of that the roads would be completely blocked by carriages if all the students were to travel to the exam grounds at the same time, so this was to avoid those cases, or so he had heard.
They’d arrive on the exam grounds during the evening and after that it seemed that they would be recovering from the fatigue of the trip in the adjacent lodging accommodations that were prepared, until the day of the exam, which was tomorrow.
On the road…
“Oooh, a horse carriage, huh—!”
Hayate was honestly excited about the speed of the carriage that he would be getting on for the first time.
It had been like that when he had been on a date with Sherry in downtown Avenir, he himself enjoyed going to lands and places he didn’t know quite a lot. Even though the exams were tomorrow, he was getting completely excited about it.
Oh man, I’m really glad to take a ride in a carriage.
The inside of the carriage that Hayate was boarding was quite spacious, so contract beasts like his fellow passengers Aria’s Miming and Kiruru’s Black Beast, could ride along in the carriage. Contract beasts that were hard to deal with or had some kind of other circumstance were moved in exclusive use carriages.
But then, there were also contract beasts among them who hated to enter a cramped vehicle for who knows how many hours, and instead travelled alongside the carriages themselves. From the window, they were able to gaze at their figures in the scenery that kept passing by.
“Speaking of which, what kind of place is the testing area for the midterms?”
Without answering Hayate’s question, Sherry, sitting next to him, continued silently gazing at the landscape outside.
Is something wrong? Her expression’s strangely weary…
When Hayate tilted his head in puzzlement, Aria, in the seat opposite of him, raised a seemingly awkward ‘Ah…’.
“I get it. Hayate-kun has amnesia after all, right?”
She bent forward, and whispered into his ear:
“The exam grounds that are under the direct control of the Queen, you see, had actually been part of the Scharlachrot Family’s property. When they seized their possessions, they also took the opportunity to confiscated their land, you know?”
Noticing her verbal slip, she quickly covered her mouth.
Slowly, she took a sidelong glance at Sherry, but she seemed to take no notice, as her elbow was still resting on the window frame like before as she directed her gaze outside.
Whatever she was feeling about getting closer to the land she had once lived on… was impossible to tell from her blank facial expression.
As initially planned, the Rivaldi class arrived at the exam grounds as the sun was setting, so they immediately checked into the nearby lodging and had their rooms assigned.
Of course, Hayate was sharing a room with Sherry.
Therein they should rest up until the crucial exam tomorrow, which was drawing closer and closer, however…
“…Why are you pinning me down on the bed?”
“Why do you think I’m pinning you down on the bed?”
Sherry asked back while, fufufu, leaking a strange, lewd giggle.
Having changed completely from when they had still been on the carriage, she seemed to be really enjoying herself the moment they were alone again.
Just a moment ago, Sherry had been taking a bath. Hayate had also just finished his shower earlier. And so, as she had appeared out of the bath with nothing covering her body, he yelled at her, ‘Get into a bathrobe!’, and when he had turned his back on her—— she had suddenly thrown him on the bed and straddled herself over his back. They were in that kind of situation.
He could said to be lucky that he was lying face-down.
Why? As mentioned before, Sherry had completed her bath. She smelt great. On top of that… She probably wasn’t wearing a bathrobe either.
A terrifically soft sensation touched his back.
“Errrr, what are you planning to do here?”
Hayate asked while retaining his sanity as much as possible.
When Sherry placed her hand near his shoulder blade, he bent his body with a groan and she whispered so close that the breath tickled his ears.
“Lately I’ve been thinking that I should give a hard-working manservant a massage, you see.”
She whispered, as she assumed a position which was basically glued to his back, so that her butt, breath, and even her voluptuous breasts, were baring their fangs on his sanity. He broke out in a cold sweat from the mental strain and he couldn’t help his voice, that was more than feigning to be calm, to grow flat either.
“Well now, stay still. When you’re done counting the spots on the ceiling, I’ll be done too.”
“…Then this won’t end in this lifetime…”
He couldn’t possibly count the spots while lying face-down.
Sherry took a breath and put strength into her fingers that were applied against his hips.
One way or another, during the few hours on the carriage, his lower back had grown stiff as one might guess. And on top of that he had built up quite some fatigue from the daily training and work.
It was probably a service to easen up the stiffness and prepare him for tomorrow’s midterms.
Well, that would’ve been fine, but…
Every time Sherry did fine adjusting to her positioning to press the right acupuncture points, her butt pressed against his back, and each time she did, the chains holding his reasoning seemed to break off.
“Nnn… Pretty hard, aren’t you?”
“That’s, well, that happens when you do nothing but work and train pretty much all day, every day, right…”
“Really… hard. Are all boys like this, I wonder… Nnn…”
Do what you want, but please stop leaking those small moans every time you push the acupuncture points.
It makes my heart race.
“Have you still not made up your mind about me becoming your slave?”
What kind of timing do you have to bring that topic up again now?!
Or didn’t she rather choose this timing deliberately to shake Hayate’s composure? If that was the case, then it did have an immediate effect. His heart was already thumping and racing like crazy.
Well, I don’t really mind it… even I’m happy when a girl tells me she likes me face-to-face. Yeah, of course I’m happy. Being called a manservant by the one that likes me, having a collar attached to me, being restrained… well, those things distort the mood, but, well, I get the feeling that she wants her partner to be hers only. Liking somebody probably had many of such aspects.
However, to be told to do to her whatever he likes as his slave, and that as compensation, it worried him as expected.
“From your silence, it seems like you haven’t reached a decision… right?!”
While emphasizing the end of her sentence, Sherry pushed much harder on his acupuncture points than before.
Hayate shrieked at the pain that had gushed forth all of a sudden.
Hayate’s shriek was heard by Kiruru outside of the room.
To be more specific, just when she was standing in front of the door, about to knock.
“UGYA—! There’s th-GAAAAA! WAI-GAAAAAA!”
The shrieks that could be heard from inside sounded like screams of torture.
Well, in reality, it was just Hayate’s acupuncture points being roughly massaged, but Kiruru, standing outside, had no way of knowing this.
Kiruru didn’t have any special reason to visit Sherry’s room—— or more precisely, the room Hayate was in—— either.
But for some reason or another…
As she was waiting for tomorrow’s exam, her hands had started to shake again and… unfortunately not being able to find her childhood friend Aria, she had suddenly remembered the words that he had thrown at her several days ago, and now she was standing here.
Kiruru didn’t have many friends. You could say she had no friends at all, other than her childhood friend Aria.
She had been bad with words and weak to pressure since she was young, and a faint-hearted character to top it off.
And another unlucky thing—— even though she wanted to be seen as someone ordinary——
she possessed an extremely high amount of magical power, and she was endowed with good qualities for being a hexenritter.
If you were a genius of high birth, it was inevitable that you’d be burdened with high expectations—— which pained our faint-hearted girl.
However, she didn’t have the courage to betray those expectations either.
Fighting was scary. But if she didn’t maintain good results, she’d betray her parents. Every day during her student life at the academy she was in a dilemma between her own true feelings and the expectations of those around her, and she had always been filled with the desire to run away from it all.
That’s why, how to put it, she had the habit to frequently fall into delusions like, ‘I’m not here’.
Or, ‘One day I’ll suddenly be caught by a slave trader and be sold off to somewhere’.
Or, ‘One day I’ll suddenly lose my magical power, disappoint my parents, and be left alone in a corner of the house’.
Leaving the excessive negativity even in her delusions aside… the one thing that they seemed to share in common was that in all of them she was put in a position where she wasn’t required to do anything and could be at ease.
Even if she was snatched away by someone, deep inside her she thought that it’d be okay to part with everything.
She simply wished to be at ease.
To someone like her… Hayate had said, ‘It’s only natural to be afraid of fighting’. Those were words that no-one else had said to her before that day.
Hearing those words at that time – before the exam, her heart had become light, as if it had burst open. It had put her at ease.
So she wanted to visit him again like this, she wanted to be put at ease again.
And yet… when she thought that he was suffering, why did her heart throb like this?
——I… want to save him.
Not him save me, but I him.
It was the first time that she, who had been protected from everything without fail by her childhood friend, felt like this.
The breakfast on the following morning was a light one, so that it would not have an impact on the exam. Fighting on an empty or full stomach could impair their judgement and battle prowess.
After the meal they were provided with a bit of free time.
How to spend the free time varied from student to student.
Some did light exercises. Some simulated in their head how to brawl in the battle royale. Others checked up on the physical condition of their contract beasts. It differed from person to person what they did, but one thing all of them probably had in common – they were nervous.
At any rate, it was their first exam since they had enrolled into Diaspell Royal Academy.
It’d be weirder to not be nervous… but…
“You somewhat seem the same as usual, huh?”
“That so? I’m nervous nonetheless.”
Sherry, sitting proper next to Hayate, was elegantly having a taste of some tea. Her hands weren’t shaking, her expression the same as always.
With that, when Hayate was about to say that it had to be a lie about her being nervous…
He stopped himself.
Sherry’s expression was hard to read by nature. Something like her emotions clearly coming to the surface, like when she was insulted by Victoria, or during the date, it wasn’t to that extent, was it?
On the other hand, it wasn’t like she never showed her feelings.
She also had a strong determination to return her family, and exceedingly deep and warm kindness in reserve.
Her façade may appear calm, but it was too rash to conclude that she wasn’t nervous.
That’s why Hayate decided to say something else.
“Well, as long as you do all that you can, I’ll do the same. Let’s both keep at it until we’re through.”
However, Sherry twisted the corner of her mouth in discontent.
“With ‘keeping at it until we’re through’ you mean up to anywhere, right?”
A girl who didn’t know when to stop.
That much was a given when one was to speak of Sherry Scharlachrot.
…Which reminds me, will Kiruru be alright?
Hayate’s thoughts suddenly shifted in another direction.
To the girl who had told him that she was scared of fighting.
In the end, she didn’t come to him to receive any consultation related to the test.
Did she settle it by herself… it’s hard to imagine that with her personality, but what about now?
Hayate tried to indirectly look around for Kiruru… and there she was.
She was together with Aria and they seemed to be talking about something.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t hear their conversation from where he was.
However, although Kiruru’s expression seemed tense, it seemed to be the good kind of tense. Not nervousness from a fear of fighting, but more like she had steeled herself for the battle ahead.
Could it be that Aria had put her into a suitable condition while Hayate wasn’t looking?
Well, if that’s the case, then I’m glad.
For now, thanks to the concerns that I remembered having vanished, a load is taken off of my chest too.
Now all that was left to do was wait for the examination to begin.
When free time was over, they travelled another time. Though one might say that it wasn’t a long distance travel as the day before, it was only a small distance from the lodging to the actual testing grounds.
“Well then, I’ll explain the midterm examination from here on out.”
Lela said while standing in front of the students who were lined up in a row.
“First of all, the battlefield is the testing ground in front of you that spreads out five kilometers into every direction. The border of the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] is marked by a one meter wide red line, so you can hardly miss it. This should go without saying, but going outside of the premises is a foul.”
A five kilometre wide battlefield into each direction… that’s probably many times the size of the mock battle grounds, isn’t it? While he was about to calculate it, he gave up as it was too bothersome. Anyway, the size was befitting, he could understand that much.
“The rules that decide the winner are basically the same as in the mock battle. If a hexenritter faints or gives up, they’re defeated. Attacks on already defeated participants are strictly prohibited. By the way, the results are the same, no matter which way you lose. Hang in there as long as possible.”
While implicitly saying that if they were going to give up they should fight until their last, Lela continued her explanation.
“Next, we’ll give each of you one of these.”
When Lela said that, exam inspector teachers like her handed over lapel badges inserted with materia to the lined up students.
“Next. For you too, I guess.”
Hayate, too, received a lapel badge and fastened it to his uniform.
“That badge is charged with [Angelus] magic. From the signal that it sends out we can verify where inside the exam grounds you are, so don’t lose it. In an emergency, you can face the badge, call out, and thus converse with us.”
On that occasion, [Angelus] had a protection built in and didn’t let one get in contact with the other students. It couldn’t be used for anything but teacher/student contact.
“Besides the [Angelus] magic, the badge is also enchanted with magic to observe your [Parameters].”
With that magic, the exam inspectors could check up on the students’ emotional changes and their state of consciousness at all times during the battle. And so they’d know once one fainted, or namely whether they had lost or not in the battle royale. So the defeated ones would be promptly retrieved by the exam inspectors.
“What will happen if the badge, by any chance, is undone?”
“In that case, the signal itself will be lost. That’s why you must fasten it tightly. In case it’s lost, the person themselves has to search for it afterwards.”
Looking for a small badge in a testing area that spans five kilometres in every direction didn’t sound very appealing. Still, the signal should roughly tell where the spot is before it got lost, but…
Plus, supervision by the teachers on location and communication via the badge were more than enough for the mid terms, there was no observation via [Clairvoyance] as during [Eighth Big Walpurgis Night] tournaments. If they attempted to surveil all of the five kilometre in every direction battlefield, on top of a large scale device, they’d have immense expenses.
“Rest assured. If there’s someone who does things we can’t see and uses underhanded tricks, feel free to tell me. I’ll let that someone have nothing but liquid food for one year.”
…I think the spine muscles of everyone who had heard that serious tone of hers froze. And with that, if there was someone who planned to do some silly tricks, instead of redoubling their courage, they would be smart to acknowledge the rules.
When her brief explanation finished, Lela urged the red group, the first one to sit for the exam, to board the carriage. The students who had boarded the carriage were then all being blindfolded and brought to their respective, scattered about starting points.
“You’ll be notified of the start by [Angelus]. Once the battle royale starts, you’ll have to fight, fight, and fight until you’re the last man standing. That’s all.”
The place Hayate and Sherry were let out at seemed to be about midway up a hill.
According to Sherry, it was a starting spot on the southern edge of the testing grounds.
“Once it starts, should we go up on the hill or down?”
“Along the line is west… I wonder if downwards is fine. On top of the hill only about a few trees grow and we’ll be in plain sight for the most part. If the enemy comes, we’d be easy to spot.”
She probably knew of what’s on top of the hill because this was the former territory of the Scharlachrot. If that was the case, then she probably had been here back in her childhood.
[Is everyone done with their preparations?]
Lela’s voice echoed from the materia. The badge was of course fastened to the uniform’s collar, but the voice could be heard without a problem.
Sherry replied with a ‘Yes’. She was being asked about their present condition and if some kind of trouble had arisen, and she responded that there was none. Others responded in the same fashion.
[Well then, from here on the midterm examination of red group starts.]
With that, nothing more could be heard from the badge.
“…Eh? Has it begun already?”
“Seems like it, doesn’t it.”
Sherry nodded towards that extremely quick starting declaration with an also somewhat dumbfounded expression.
“Well, it’s fine. Let’s get moving promptly.”
First of all, Hayate and Sherry descended the hill as planned.
Measured from its base, the hill wasn’t all too high, so they could struggle down in an instant. When they had been looking from the top, it had seemed like some big rocks, but they were two or three meter big ones scattered all over the place. There were also crater at their feed, which left his mouth hanging wide open, each of them seemed to have a diameter of five to ten meters.
“Is this something that can happen naturally? Or was it made on purpose for the exam or practical training?”
He asked Sherry while peering into one of the craters.
“I wonder, do you remember the story about the Scharlachrot territory being attacked by demonic beasts in the old days?”
“Eh? Ah, yeah…”
“This is one of the battlegrounds from back then.”
“As you might expect, not all of this was like this in the beginning, but… that one giant—— they call it Cyclops now, probably left who knows how many holes that relentlessly tell the story at first sight behind.”
Sherry explained it indifferently and didn’t change her expression at all.
The effect of the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] didn’t manifest in battles with demonic beasts.
There had surely been people who lost their lives here.
Or namely the fiefs of the former Scharlachrot territory…
“It’s not as bad as in the artificial forest, but the view’s tricky, isn’t it?”
Hayate tried to softly divert the topic as if he wasn’t used to that kind of thing.
“…That’s right, isn’t it. When we looked down from above, there wasn’t anyone, but… just to be sure, shall we start up the [Rorschach]?”
[Rorschach] was a technique to extend the range to search for the enemy by deploying multiple [Hræsvelgrei]. It was something they had worked out during the intensive training with Kiruru and the others, and they called it differently in order to distinguish it from a simple [Hræsvelgrei].
Sherry dispersed dozens of ice lumps that were produced by magic into the vicinity.
[Rorschach]’s effective tracking range had an approximate radius of about 100 metres.
Even though it was like this, it was probably useless if you had a contract beast with tracking abilities. However, for the time being they didn’t have to worry about suffering a surprise attack.
On the other hand, in relation to long distance attacks outside of [Rorschach]’s range, they used Hayate’s kinetic vision that had improved through [Seele] to rely on. They had earnestly trained it with an opponent for ten days who was among the top class concerning high velocity attacks, namely the Black Beast’s lightning attacks. The fruits of that labor were being tested.
“Hey, you too hurry and draw it out.”
“Yeah, yeah—— Creation!”
…She made an embarrassing sounds as usual when he drew out [Seele].
Hayate’s hands gripped the flame sword.
Immediately, power flowed into him from the grip and his physical abilities overall increased exceptionally.
“What is it? Feeling uneasy again?”
“It’s fine, please concentrate now.”
“You’re probably right…”
Once Sherry had applied [Himmelsschritt] magic to herself, the two of them started to move out.
While Sherry looked out for surprise attacks from hidden enemies via [Rorschach], Hayate was watchful towards the outer range of [Rorschach] while they were running about one kilometer over the land that was covered in rocks and holes, when—— [Rorschach] reacted to an enemy.
“100 metres, front to the right!”
Receiving Sherry’s directions, Hayate immediately broke into a run.
As his leg strength had been heightened by [Seele], he could run 100 metres in less than five seconds. But there was a big rock obstacle in the way, so he put just a bit strength into his legs before it.
And lept over the large rock with one jump which topped his own height.
He swung his flame sword in the air.
Under his eyes was a girl that lead a big salamander.
The girl saw Hayate, who had suddenly appeared over her and raised her voice in surprise.
In her vicinity, the fragments of the [Hræsvelgrei] that she had destroyed immediately were falling down. Although she had destroyed the [Hræsvelgrei] for now, it looked like she hadn’t known what to do next—— This opening in that situation had been too lethal.
With the force of the fall, Hayate sliced his opponent in one strike.
The girl screamed and fainted.
He checked whether the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] was working properly, just to be sure. When he stripped off the collar of her uniform, the salamander raised a growl but luckily didn’t bite him, and he was able to confirm that she didn’t have a single wound on her body.
“Phew. That’s good.”
“What’s good, I wonder?”
Before he knew it, he heard a cold voice from Sherry who had been standing behind him and his heart almost stopped.
“W-What’s with that?! You startled me there.”
“So? Peering into the cleavage of a girl that’s not me, what’s ‘good’ there, I’d like to hear.”
It seemed like he’d get killed depending on the answer.
“I-I’m not guilty of anything here at all! I simply wanted to make sure that the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] worked properly and…”
“Hee—, that so? So you had to have a look at her breasts to confirm that.”
“That’s not it!”
“Are you displeased with mine?”
“I said, that you’re mistaken!”
“Even though you just touched them moments ago…”
“That was to take out [Seele]!”
“I wonder if you don’t just want to touch my cleavage, but also want to try and properly massage them?”
Hayate’s eyes were naturally sucked in by Sherry’s bountiful twin hills.
If he had to say whether he wanted to massage those or not… that’s, well, he is a man… So, once he was about to unintentionally nod, he shook his head in a fluster.
“No, now’s not the time or place to talk about that kinda stuff, right?!”
“That’s right, isn’t it.”
Maybe because she just wanted to tease him, Sherry dropped the subject, faced the badge, and reported that one of the competitors had been brought down.
[Hoo, you lowlives scored the first kill? How unexpected.]
Basically, other teachers and students shouldn’t be able to hear [Angelus], but Hayate and Sherry were a pair, so maybe taking that into consideration, he could also hear Lela’s voice coming from the badge.
“Does that mean the other students still aren’t fighting?”
[That’s correct. It might be their first battle royale, but when careful guys gather, on the start everyone’s devoting themselves to waiting and it easily ends in a stalemate.]
In short, there were many people just lying in wait for the enemy to make their first move.
It was a bit of a troublesome development for Hayate and Sherry, who were inferior in tracking the enemy and only good at close combat.
“So, where will we go next?”
“Let’s see… let’s head north and try to get to the center.”
“So we’re cutting through the forest?”
From Hayate and Sherry’s viewpoint, there was a forest spreading out in front of them to the north.
“No. First, we’ll head north-west. Once we go that way for a bit, we’ll reach the edge of the forest and lots of grass will be in sight; let’s progress through there.”
“Yeah, got it.”
They both resumed walking.
Just as she said, the woodland on their right side was interrupted after they trekked for a short while, and instead a field appeared with grass that was taller than their knees.
Changing their running direction, they ran hard through the grass now.
Some time ago there were a lot of blind spots because of big rocks and pitfalls, but here they were able to look into a considerably vast distance.
“Where will we end up if we keep advancing like this?”
“A small canyon.”
“And that’s the center of the exam area?”
“It’s a bit off, but it’s almost the center.”
On the occasion, when the chivalric order of the Queen and the national forces carried out their practice, they divided the field into half with the canyon as a central line to distinguish between a northern and southern maneuvering ground.
Soon, when that canyon started to show up in front of them…
Discovering the figure of a person suddenly emerging from inside the forest, Hayate instantly warned Sherry.
Both of them raised their guard, and carefully watched their opponent’s moves—— but…
“Isn’t that Aria and Kiruru?”
Their opponents that had appeared were people Hayate knew, so he lowered his sword.
“Yoo, Hayate-kun, Sherry-kun.”
Aria came waving her hand heartily.
Greeting them with such a carefree tone, Hayate felt more and more relieved.
“What business do you have here?”
Sherry tossed an extremely frank question.
“Kiruru’s the one with business here. I’m just a simple guide, you know?”
The Miming made a call in agreement with its master’s words.
Probably using her contract beast’s ability to find Hayate and Sherry, Kiruru had brought them with her.
But… for what?
Hayate and Sherry were waiting for an answer from Kiruru.
Kiruru dismounted from the Black Beast’s back, took one deep breath, and pointed at Sherry with an almost brave face she hadn’t been able to make up until now.
“I’ll wager Hayate-san, and challenge you to a duel!”
That had been sleeping in the depths of the canyon.
It stood more than ten metres tall. Its limbs and body were huge, so much so that they nearly covered the canyon floor.
The giant didn’t have a name.
Although it was true he had no name, the small humans had given him one.
Once, he had been called Giant Cyclops.
Hayate pondered over the words that had departed from Kiruru’s mouth.
“…Wait, A DUEL?!”
After several seconds of being a blockhead had passed, he finally understood the meaning, and so Hayate raised his voice in shock.
Nonetheless, Sherry kept her cool beside him.
“Betting Hayate on this, you want him too?”
“T-That’s right! And more than this, I can’t leave Hayate-san in the care of an awful person like you!”
“…But I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
Then Sherry shifted her gaze to Aria.
When she sensed that Sherry wanted an explanation, she replied with:
“I was told by Kiruru that last night Sherry-kun tortured Hayate-kun in cruel ways. Even if you’re his master, and even if he’s your contract beast, she can’t let her own fiancée suffer like that—— And thus it has come to this.”
Hayate tilted his head, not recalling suffering such a thing.
It couldn’t possible be that the shrieks he had raised at the time of yesterday’s massage were the cause of a misunderstanding, that couldn’t be in his wildest dreams.
“…Well, it’s fine. We’re in a battle royale here after all, we were going to fight anyway, so shall we do it here and now?”
“Ooi! Are you really fine with just accepting it like that?!”
“It’s more shameful to run from a duel like that, you know?”
Sherry declared smoothly.
“And… I’ve got to punish thieving cats that try to get their hands on my manservant, right?”
Even though there wasn’t any magic being used, the air got chilly for some reason and Hayate shuddered violently.
“Kiruru. In any way, it’d be better if you sto…”
He unintentionally got worried and advised her to surrender, but…
“No way! I’m going to protect Hayate-san!”
She turned a deaf ear.
Her expression was serious, but she also appeared to be intoxicated from the situation. Was she having delusions about something again…?
“Oi, Aria! You try and stop those two, too!”
“Nn~… Well, I don’t wanna hinder people’s romances, you know?”
And then she went and added more things:
“Up until now, Kiruru’s daydreaming had been nothing but a mere habit to escape from things, but it’s different this time. She’s not escaping, she came to me to fight. It wasn’t her usual ‘Save me’, it was a ‘I want you to help me out’. My own interest into Hayate-kun still hasn’t ceased, but… as her childhood friend, I can’t help but cooperate with her, right? Of course I can’t meddle with the duel.”
Aria took a step back, announcing her neutrality.
If it had come to this point, it seemed there was no way but fighting. At least the girls hadn’t stopped in accordance with Hayate’s pleading.
“If I win, you’ll set Hayate-san free. What does Sherry-san want in case she wins?”
“If I had more time, I could’ve come up with something, but well, it’s no problem if we just say that you’ll owe me a favor. If you return it some day in some form, that’d be wonderful.”
“The duel’s rules… well, you’ve challenged me in this kind of place, so would the mock battle rules be fine? Without the ‘off the premises’ rule.”
“I wouldn’t mind.”
“By the way, I did hear that your condition is to set Hayate free, but… as you see, in Hayate’s and my case, he’s the one who mainly fights. In other words, your opponent will be the one you want to set free, are you fine with that nonetheless, I wonder?”
“…Yes. But we’re using the mock battle rules, so bringing down no one but Sherry would fit the requirements, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah. Goes without saying.”
The duel conditions had been settled.
Sherry undid her [Rorschach].
Kiruru got on the Black Beast’s back again, that she had dismounted from before. She walked back about ten metres from her opponent, in similar fashion to a mock battle.
Hayate also released [Seele] at once.
He took a deep breath.
Partly because he had been dragged into a duel between those two, but mostly because they were in the middle of a battle royale now. Sooner or later, there would be a chance for them to fight against one another. Did she deliberately practice together with us just for this reason I wonder?
Aria had practiced together with them before too, and she had said it was so she could more easily observe this and that. Of course Hayate had thought so too.
Either way, since I’ve promised to protect Sherry’s dream, I’ve got to stick with her. I can’t go easy on this girl…
Hayate belatedly steeled his resolve too.
“Well then, I’ll give the starting signal. Is a cointoss fine?”
Aria took out a copper coin from her pocket and each of the three opposing people nodded respectively.
“——Here I go.”
She tossed the coin.
One second felt like many.
Even so the coin was being guided by gravity and would certainly drop——
The three of them moved at the same time.
Hayate drew [Seele] from Sherry’s cleavage, who endured by biting her lips and gasping. She then started to chant [Himmelsschritt].
In response, Kiruru took a big leap back together with the Black Beast, while ordering her contract beast to attack.
Lightning attacks. A beam which brought destruction with it, attacked Hayate and Sherry.
Hayate ripped that attack apart by a hair’s breadth.
Compared to their practice, the thunderbolt reached them very quickly. It was because they did not have to bend it around the various trees in the artificial forest.
If he had attempted to slice it with his usual timing, he would probably receive an unexpected shock.
At that moment, Sherry finished chanting.
Both of them came together, while keeping a reasonable distance from Kiruru.
They aimed at Sherry who was glued to Hayate’s back, but all of it was cut down or intercepted by the up-welling fire. In the event of close combat, they had also practiced to move around while he ensured that she was in a place that was easy to protect.
The fire and lightning exchange lasted for a short while and gradually Hayate’s attacks were nearly close enough to touch the Black Beast’s nose.
Tacit understanding. Comprehending its master’s intentions, the black animal changed its course and dashed into the woods.
Hayate and Sherry chased after them.
Compared to the artificial forest during the mock battles, the environment in a real forest was different after all. First of all, the ground was uneven. Then the trees weren’t equally spaced. And there were many protruding branches and bushes.
As expected of its keenness and nimbleness, the Black Beast advanced into the forest while dodging.
The pursuing Hayate cleared away the hindering leaves and branches and proceeded ahead.
Naturally, lightning attacks came flying at them from a place they were unable to see.
They had thoroughly practiced a situation like this in their training and were used to it. So much so, that the lightning attacks in the open space earlier had been much harder to deal with.
While Hayate was defending against the opponent’s attacks with the movements he was used to, Sherry mass produced [Hræsvelgrei] to complete [Rorschach].
Though, [Rorschach] was not fully automatic, and it was also magic that none but she could operate. To know the exact place Kiruru was at, they would first of all need to have a somewhat reliant prediction of a place where she seemed to be.
——Kiruru, who had practiced together with them, knew about [Rorschach]. Therefore, she didn’t only crook the lightning attacks to hit Hayate and Sherry, but she had learned a technique to not let them know about her position by making a longer detour through more forest areas than needed.
By that technique alone, they had been unable to to specify the origin of Kiruru’s attacks, and they had also lost during practice.
Sherry Scharlachrot’s perception excelled the opponent’s plan.
Her [Rorschach] was blinking to signify that it had discovered Kiruru’s position.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. The light of the [Rorschach], probably due to the [Hræsvelgrei] that had detected her being instantly destroyed, stopped blinking. Even so, when Sherry quickly manipulated the entire [Rorschach] from there on out, Kiruru’s position was again notified about by light.
While he chased Kiruru following Sherry’s directions, Hayate remembered how Sherry had told him she had seen through Kiruru’s ‘nature’ back during training.
Kiruru’s ‘nature’—— it was ‘cowardice’.
Well, if it was just that, then Hayate knew it too. He had often thought of her as something like a frail, small animal.
But Sherry’s perception was far more precise than his.
If it was about Kiruru’s nature, what to do when she moved, and how to move according to her anticipation of what Kiruru was doing—— She could read it all.
He had the impression that if she had been able to summon a normal contract beast, not Hayate, even if she would’ve become a normal hexenritter with that, as long as she had this perception, even if her abilities were already good, couldn’t she have become an absolutely, exceeding hexenritter? Her reading was incredible to that degree.
And—— As he refocused his mind on the task at hand, Hayate and Sherry were leaving the woodlands.
In front of the canyon was Kiruru, on top of the Black Beast.
Cold sweat was running down the girl’s face who had been cornered with her back towards the giant gap in the ground.
“It was probably a bit unfair to begin with, wasn’t it? Because I know the layout of this land better than you… but you were the one who challenged me to a duel in this very place today, so you couldn’t possibly have any complaints, could you?”
Kiruru gnawed her lips in frustration.
There was no place to run for her this time.
It was checkmate.
Although going in for the kill against this girl who had been cornered should be no problem… in the end he was a bit hesitant. If push came to shove and that was the only thing he could do then he would, but… to cut someone down without hesitation when no threat was present, Hayate was divided on what to do in that situation.
At that time, Sherry called out to her opponent again.
With a terribly cold gaze and voice…
“Is that all?”
“Is this all you have? Is this as far as your desires take you?”
As Kiruru sternly glared into her direction, Sherry sighed quietly.
“Aria-san wasted some unthinkable effort, didn’t she? Going out of her way to help out someone who ends up being a coward until the end like this. She’s pampering you too much as your childhood friend. She’s an idiot.”
“…Don’t make fun of Aria.”
“I’m not making fun of her. You did that yourself.”
“If you want to deny it no matter what——”
Sherry had been pointing directly at Kiruru for some time now so that she wouldn’t get done in suddenly, and continued,
“——then fight already.”
And told her that.
In regards to Kiruru, who had proposed the idea for a duel, she completely pretended to make her take revenge.
That Sherry… she may be playing the bad guy, but she… was urging Kiruru to fight.
While Kiruru had suggested the duel, she still hadn’t tried to fight with all she had.
Because she still wasn’t holding the real proof of her intention to fight in her hand – her weapon.
Her hands trembled as she grabbed hold of the Black Beast’s back.
This was the turning point in her decision.
Because it was Sherry, she didn’t have any intentions of waiting there too long it seemed. If Kiruru continued to stay silent in that state, it seemed she wouldn’t show any mercy in ending the duel right then and there.
At that time, those words naturally left Hayate’s mouth.
“Try to smile when you feel scared. If you do that naturally, courage will well up inside of you too.”
Kiruru’s looked puzzled.
After that… she slowly started to smile, looking embarrassed.
“If you’re going to say that, would it be okay if you went easy on me?”
“Going easy on you would be completely unjust… and rude.”
Because he was having a little pep talk with their battle opponent, Sherry gave Hayate a look that seemed to ask ‘Who’s team are you on?’, then she let out a sigh that said ‘Yare, yare, can’t be helped’.
Kiruru descended from the Black Beast’s back.
A whimper showing its worry for its master.
As she gently stroked its head, Kiruru said:
“Sorry for always relying on you. I’m fine now—— because I was able to find a reason to fight too.”
Then Kiruru stopped caressing the Black Beast’s head, stood on her own two feet, and faced Hayate and Sherry.
“CAST—— [VOLCANIC GAUNTLET]!”
The next instant, her [Magic Vessel] appeared on both of her arms.
The gauntlets, which had a lightning-like ornaments, covered her arms up to the elbow and scattered static into the atmosphere.
“Here I come.”
“Come at me.”
At the same time Sherry responded, Kiruru’s figure disappeared.
Relying on the cloud of dust that was whirling up as she moved, he perceived that she was taking a roundabout path to end up right behind Sherry almost instantly.
The lightning attack and the flame sword clashed.
Kiruru, regardless of them facing off at close range, vanished again in a flash of light.
A [Wand] that can turn her into lightning?!
Although the lightning attacks emitted from the Black Beast bent to a certain degree, they were nothing more than phenomenons that lacked a mind of their own. If they were blocked completely with the flame sword, they just vanished.
However, Kiruru had become one with the lightning, and it was vastly different. She defended against his attacks, dodged, feinted, or stopped and tried get behind him. Furthermore, she had hands and feet. She could kick and use her hands; four more ways to attack. It was way more difficult than merely being attacked by one beam.
To top it off, her constant attacks did not let up, not even for a moment.
Sherry also attacked the Black Beast with [Freezing] magic as it defended Kiruru, whilst being protected herself, but she couldn’t hit the nimble contract beast at all.
In the blink of an eye, Hayate and Sherry were forced onto the back foot, defending.
Luckily, Kiruru and the Black Beast’s teamwork was still lacking experience. She was using her [Wand] today for the first time. Her lack of practice was undeniable.
On the subject of her lack of experience, there was one more thing. The impression when she was wielding the [Wand]’s strength. Among her movements were many useless ones and it was somewhat linear. It was probably possible for her to shake off Hayate’s kinetic vision, if she would stop earlier to strike back.
“Hayate! Do exactly as I say——”
Sherry briefly conveyed her plan after she had seen through their enemy’s weak points.
Hayate decided on his own accord when to execute the plan she had provided him with and put it into effect.
Hayate let a flame gush out of [Seele] and produced a circular barrier.
Being encircled in a flame wall, Kiruru stopped in urgency. She wasn’t so experienced in using the lightning speed that she could smoothly dodge the obstacle which had suddenly appeared in front of her eyes.
Hayate, who had stopped her movements successfully, as well as skillfully leaving the Black Beast outside of the barrier, sped up in one go and closed the distance.
As Kiruru turned around, her both eyes seized Hayate, who was holding his flame sword aloft.
From there, maybe because she concluded that it was impossible to dodge—— she pulled out her [Volcanic Gauntlet] out of instinct, and her fist hit him at the speed of lightning.
The moment of impact.
In the next moment, after Hayate had swung his flame sword down and Kiruru had followed through with her punch, they had ended up with their backs to each other.
Hayate, who had received a heavy blow to his left shoulder, fell onto his knee due to the extreme pain.
Thanks to the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] there was no wound, otherwise his whole arm from his shoulder would’ve been blown off, but it still hurt like the protection hadn’t been there. It seemed that he wouldn’t be able to move his left arm for a while.
While Hayate grimaced in pain, he forced a smile nonetheless and talked to Kiruru’s back.
“Couldn’t you have gone a bit easier on me?”
“Don’t want to.”
An instant reply.
“Because Hayate-san wanted me to be serious.”
The moment Kiruru turned around to face Hayate, while she was standing languidly, both of her [Volcanic Gauntlets] had been smashed and dissolved into light particles.
Hayate had cut the gauntlets with his flame sword.
If the hexenritter and contract beast were in good health, they can draw the [Wand] out of the contract mark as many times as they wanted to, but…
“It’s my loss, isn’t it?”
Kiruru honestly acknowledged her loss.
Because she knew that if Hayate felt like it, he could cut her up too.
Then Sherry arrived.
“It’s our win, isn’t it?
Kiruru hid her face.
Like that, Sherry added more words to her.
“If Kiruru-san had gotten used to handling her [Wand] sooner, and worked on her teamwork with her contract beast, it would have likely turned out the other way.”
Sherry closed her eyes and made a small apology.
“I apologize for insulting you and calling you a coward——”
“——So forgive me.”
Why did Sherry declare her apology as an imperative?
Kiruru also seemed confused.
However, Sherry continued.
“If you do so, you won’t have a debt.”
If they’d win the duel, she’d get ‘one favor’—— under that condition Sherry had accepted the duel.
She said that she wanted to use that debt here and now.
To take back her words that had been meant to sort of motivate the opponent…
But this stubborn girl would surely say ‘An insult is an insult’ and that she had to do that.
She’s not the least bit flexible…
Hayate forced a smile again.
Of course, Kiruru forgave Sherry.
“——So what will Kiruru-san do now? Will you continue with the exam with no regard for the duel’s result?”
In response Sherry’s question, Kiruru shook her head.
“No, I’m somewhat exhausted already, I’ll retire together with Aria now and…”
As she said those words.
“I have found you at last.”
In reaction towards the raised voice, Hayate and the others turned around.
And there stood Victoria, leading on her lindworm, and three other hexenritter that had followed her… then Aria, who had a [Wand] sword pointed at her by the girls, stood up.
The Cyclops sleeping at the bottom of the canyon stirred.
A voice echoed in the giant’s mind.
“——Wake up. Your enemies are here, you lowlife.”
A green face.
The eyelid, that was closed slightly upward from the center… now, as if responding to something, began to open little by little.
Hayate and the others confronted the hexenritter lead by Victoria.
“What on Earth could your business be?”
“I really don’t need to spell it out do I?
Victoria’s business was obvious.
They were in the middle of a battle royale right now. There shouldn’t be any other reason besides fighting.
“Nonono! Wait, is that alright?! To team up together in something like a gang?!”
Hayate protested noisily.
“”It’s already been decided that it’s fine.””
Sherry and Victoria. Both unexpectedly answered in one voice, and Hayate was speechless. The people in question that had unfolded those words, seemed to both make a displeased face.
“…This is a battle royale. We have to beat everyone sooner or later, but it’s clever to join our hands on the way.”
Sherry continued to explain to the still perplexed Hayate.
“In fact, in last year’s [Brynhildr Cup], they tried to hinder the second championship of the consecutive champion Oltria by all of the other competitors teaming up against her. But they had the tables turned on them.”
Being told by everyone that this kind of thing was even acceptable in the contest that decided upon the continent’s strongest, he couldn’t complain.
“…Wait! Right! What are you going to do with Aria?! Isn’t she a hostage!”
Not giving up, Hayate pointed at the captured Aria, but…
“Ah, it’s fine if you ignore me. I was only threatened to guide them until here if I didn’t want to experience something painful. After this I’ll retire by myself like I wanted to, before I became a hostage—”
The person herself was talking quite indifferent about the matter.
“In that case, retire before you guide them!”
Then Aria chuckled a bit.
“It’s better than being ambushed by four people, right—”
Now he understood… one might see it that way. It was as if the scales fell from his eyes, for her to use her head so well while being threatened – Hayate admired Aria.
With her original composure having gone somewhere, Victoria, who had been lead on contrary to her belief, was in dismay.
“…H-Hmph! Of course I knew about that!”
And so she glossed over it with an attitude that could be nothing other than a bluff.
“And that’s why I only wanted to educate this plebeian of the horrors of a battle royale and by no means show cowardly behavior!”
“That’s why you thought a surprise attack was an elegant tactic?”
“You be quiet!”
“WAA—! WAI—! SENSEI, SENSEI! RETIRE! I RETIRE!”
Aria, who was seemingly pierced, panicked—— though it somewhat looked like acting—— and declared her retirement to Lela.
Attacks against a defeated hexenritter were banned, so the girls let out an annoyed ‘Ku—!’ and released Aria.
“Oh no— So scary—”
After she had been released, she nonchalantly walked over to Kiruru and the others.
But she had already retired, so they couldn’t expect any assistance from her, but…
Thanks to Aria’s cleverness, they couldn’t do a surprise attack, but the number of hexenritter facing off was still two against four. Furthermore, they contested against Victoria, who probably hadn’t fought once, whereas Hayate and the others had just ended a duel in which they had given their all. The difference in exhaustion was obvious.
“…At any rate, you’ve collected a surprising number of followers again, haven’t you?”
Sherry griefed, more in amazement than with sarcasm.
“Wh-What? You couldn’t possibly have a complaint? Just as I said myself, it is acceptable to ally with someone temporarily, you know!”
“That’s not it. This is a battle royale. Even though we must fight until only one remains, everyone has prepared companions. Won’t they fight each other at some point, I thought.”
“Have no worries. This alliance will only last until you and that plebeian are brought down. After that we agreed to have a showdown.”
“Such a scrupulous decision again. I wonder, how long ago did you plan this? You really are vindictive.”
“ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME?!”
Shouting in an angry voice, Victoria put up her [Tailworm].
“Now, at best you can show futile resis——”
Victoria’s voice was cut off by a roar that came from the ground.
Next, the earth tremored.
“W-What’s going on?!”
After being interrupted by that engulfing roar, Victoria looked around restlessly.
It came literally from the bottom of the earth—— clambered up the canyon walls, and appeared over the edge.
The first thing they saw were two gigantic hands, big enough to easily crush a human.
Next, it looked like it only had one eye in the center of its head. A big one. And supporting all this, two legs that looked like they could flatten a person in an instant.
Its skin was all green.
Its only clothing was a small, dirty loincloth.
It unleashed a wailing war cry.
A one-eyed giant. A one-eyed ogre.
A demonic beast that once attacked the Scharlachrot territory—— A Cyclops was before their eyes.
The pressure from this presence that they hadn’t felt before made their skin crawl.
“That couldn’t possibly be a Cyclops?! Why would it——”
Aria’s voice was erased by the roaring sounds of the giant’s feet moving.
It made the earth tremble by only walking.
The girls’ legs were paralyzed by the quaking ground.
One of Victoria’s distracted companions struck the tip of her spear into the ground.
In an instant, stone pillars emerged from the ground one-by-one, raising up a cloud of dust, and rushed towards the Cyclops in a straight line.
It was probably a [Wand] that could manipulate the earth. He thought that it was an extremely powerful attack, but——
The giant crushed all of the stone pillars instantly with a single kick.
It picked up the crushed stone pillars and threw them like balls, pelting the girls that were struggling to stand upright.
The screams of several people overlapped. There was also one who received a blow to the head by the ogre and fainted.
Hayate protected the three people that were near himself by clearing the fragments of the stone pillar away with his flame sword.
[OI! What’s happening over there?!]
From all badges Lela’s voice could be heard in an unusual tone.
Aria immediately shouted into her badge.
“It’s the Cyclops! It seems it was sleeping at the bottom of the canyon and has suddenly woken up for some reason! We need assistance from the chivalric order as soon as possible!”
[Cyclops?! How many?!]
[If that’s the case, survive until I arrive! Five minutes!]
Towards the end only noise was left and Lela stopped [Angelus].
The former country knight teacher would probably come running to them in five minutes as stated.
However, if that thing felt like it, it could turn them into mincemeat in one second. Was five minutes too long——?!
Shit—! Hayate cursed. It wasn’t really directed at anyone. Though if he had to choose, it was directed at that giant in front of his eyes.
“You guys! Get out of here quick! I’ll be the decoy!”
Hexenritter and contract beasts’ physical abilities weren’t ordinary, but the speed of a giant whose height easily exceeded a ten metres would no doubt be faster. Someone had to confine it.
Just about everything was only a momentary judgement, but Hayate had reflexively made the decision to protect them all; Victoria and the others included.
Victoria’s companions, who had already been intimidated, carried their fainted friend on their shoulders and started to run.
While giving them a sidelong glance, Hayate regripped his flame sword in just his right hand. He had no more strength left in his left. He was at a huge disadvantage, but he encouraged himself, aimed at the Cyclops, and broke into a run.
The giant eye turned into his direction.
The giant was thrown into a rage as if it had found his bitter enemy and raised its strong arm over its head.
There was no time to argue, as the Cyclops swung its giant fist, which was like a boulder, downward, aiming at Hayate.
It wasn’t possible for him to stop the blow with a sword that he only operated with his right arm.
The earth collapsed with a sound that he almost couldn’t believe.
The crater that I saw in the wasteland at the exam ground, was it really the doing of one of those guys, I wonder?!
A shiver ran down Hayate’s back.
The [Divine Protection of Valhalla] wouldn’t work with a demonic beast as his opponent. If he, by any chance, received a blow from that thing——
The Cyclops didn’t miss its chance, as Hayate’s judgement was clouded by fear.
When he came to his senses, above him he could see the the bottom of the giant foot approaching.
His body’s huge and fast?!
I’m dead—— He thought.
However, just before he had gotten crushed underfoot for sure, Hayate was grabbed by someone and pulled out of danger.
“Are you alright, Hayate-san?!”
The girl that was asking him had [Volcanic Gauntlets] equipped on both arms. Thanks to the speed boost the [Wand] brought about, she had saved Hayate by a hair’s breadth.
However, that wasn’t the problem.
He had told everyone to run. Why was Kiruru still here?
To make matters worse, it wasn’t just her.
“Just what do you think you are doing, trying to kill yourself without my permission, Hayate?”
Sherry said in her usual tone with her never-changing wicked tongue.
“You alright, Kiruru?”
Aria was also worried about her childhood friend again and helped her stand up.
Speaking about the Cyclops, it raised its crushing foot and tilted its head when it didn’t see Hayate’s smushed body underneath. It checked the sole. It appeared that Kiruru, who had saved him at the speed of light, couldn’t be perceived by him with just one eye.
They were alright for a short while now, it seemed, but who knew when it’d become aware of them again.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU GUYS RUN?!”
Hayate shouted by reflex.
“Is there a master who’d abandon their own manservant?”
When he was about to say, ‘DAMN IDIOT’, to her…
The Cyclops noticed them again.
Hayate readied his flame sword in just his right hand again.
At that time, a big air cutting sound was made and a long whip hit the giant hard in the face.
With its eye glaring, the giant turned to the girl standing at the other end of the whip—— Victoria.
That girl didn’t run either?!
He had thought that she had fled with her unconscious companion long ago.
Why was she still here?——
“I am a noble, you know! Things like being seized by fear in front of an opponent and fleeing are impossible for me!”
Victoria shouted in a resonant voice as if encouraging herself.
She barraged the Cyclops with the seemingly infinite range of her [Tailworm].
The Cyclops made an angered face.
It was an anguished expression from the accumulating damage—— No, it wasn’t, it was more like the hateful expression one made at an irritating fly.
The giant raised its fists overhead to try and clear away that fly.
Hayate hurriedly broke into a run. While running, he pointed the flame sword towards the Cyclops’ face and fired.
The giant didn’t even flinch as the heat passed in front of its eye.
But in the mere moment it had faltered, it swing its big-tree-like arm sideways.
Hayate kicked the ground with all he had and jumped.
He made sure to hug Victoria’s body to save her the same way Kiruru had saved him not long ago and jumped again—— with the giants arm immediately swinging below his toes.
Victoria still didn’t seem to have comprehended her current situation. Perhaps because she had tunnel-vision as she was concentrating on attacking, and hadn’t seen the giant’s movements. However, she witnessed the giant’s swinging fist flattening the earth and finally understood that her own attack hadn’t had any effect.
“Why did you save me…?”
“I don’t know! Out of reflex, I guess!”
Hayate replied while running and holding Victoria in his arms, he then prepared for the next attack and glared at the giant.
As he had her in a princess carry, Victoria’s face was close to Hayate’s when she looked at his serious expression, causing her face to uncontrollably turn rose-colored.
“H-How long do you intend to carry me! I’m fine already!”
“Is that so? Can you stand?”
“Of course I can!”
At last she was starting to struggle in his arms, so Hayate reluctantly let Victoria down.
When she stood with her two long legs on the ground, she started to wield [Tailworm] again.
“Lindis! Aim at its legs!”
The winged serpent coiled around the giant’s ankles with low-altitude flying and repeatedly sunk its fangs into it.
A strategy to pull it down from its legs?!—— Hayate understood her intentions and slashed at the other leg with his flame sword.
Plus, Kiruru and the Black Beast also came to assist.
They showered the giant with their lightning fast fists and thunderbolt attacks.
Hayate dodged the attacks and temporarily separated himself from the giant, Aria’s voice reached his ears.
“Miria has analyzed the Cyclops’ weakness! Aim at the eye!”
However, the one eye the giant had was ten meters above the ground. Although he was strengthened by [Seele], Hayate didn’t have the power to jump to those heights. It wasn’t impossible to hit it with a long distance flame attack, but…
“I’ll make you fly.”
Sherry had popped up beside Hayate and started applying [Himmelsschritt] magic on him.
“Only the person that applies [Himmelsschritt] can control it. You can wither fly in a straight line, or with a bit of a parabola, which will it be?”
In other words, Sherry would make Hayate’s body fly, but only she could control it.
“The shortest route please.”
To decide it with this one blow, Hayate grabbed the handle of his sword with both of his hands tightly. He ignored the pain in his left shoulder.
On Sherry’s mark, Hayate’s body was shot like a bullet.
Aim at that giant’s eye!
Controlling his posture in midair, Hayate raised a roar.
The angle and timing were perfect!
While drawing an arc with the sparks that were rampant from the tip of the sword, Hayate believed he was halfway to success.
Immediately following—— the Cyclops bared its fangs.
Without the time to even wonder what happened…
A tornado, that sprung forth from the giant’s center, swallowed Hayate and the others.
Since the time Lela had informed them that they had to ‘hold out for five minutes’, Sherry had continued to count the seconds. She had decided to start to use her head to the fullest while she wasn’t of use in the battle itself.
At the point Aria had informed Hayate about the opponent’s weak point, about 150 seconds had passed.
Two minutes left—— It would be a difficult situation to hold out until Lela’s arrival.
That’s why Sherry had changed tactics to kill their enemy. She believed that if it was Hayate’s [Seele], nothing would be impossible.
Immediately after Hayate had taken flight using [Himmelsschritt]—— Together with the Cyclops’ war cry, a tornado sprung forth from the earth with such power that the ground was ripped up and flung about.
A demonic beast had magic that people couldn’t compare to—— It utilised Grand magic.
I didn’t mean to forget it… but…
Sherry, who had been whirled up because of the violent wind attack and dropped onto the ground, ignored the dull pain that was tormenting her whole body, and continued to think.
When she moved her head left and right, she could confirm the fallen figures of Aria, Kiruru, Victoria, their contract beasts… and Hayate. All were gravely injured, but luckily no one had died.
The Cyclops raised a roar to declare its victory.
While ignoring that loud noise, Sherry asked herself further.
What did I miss?
Was my judgement off?
If she had been mistaken, then for what reason——
I think something… came to mind.
——Memories from her childhood resurrected in her head.
The calamity when the Scharlachrot territory had come under attack.
The disappearance of her mother, who she had loved dearly.
The life after it, which was filled with bitterness.
Of course, at the time when a herd of one-eyed ogres had attacked the Scharlachrot territory, Sherry had still been little, so she hadn’t left for the battlefield.
However, when she went through the documents, there was one striking thing.
Because she had reread the documents way too often, even though she had never actually been on this spot, she had seen the nightmare of giants running over villages many, many times over…
She couldn’t deny the possibility of her hatred growing stronger and stronger and hence clouding her judgement.
By merely moving a single finger, pain shot through her.
Sherry bit her lips so much that blood came out of them, and she forced herself to stand up.
——A little more than one minute until Lela would arrive.
There was still one more thing she could do.
Hayate, who had received the full brunt of the Cyclops’ Grand magic from close range, had been ravaged by the wind and was now lying on the ground like a rag.
At least the flame sword was still in his right hand, he tried to put his strength into it and stand up, but——
——Hayate’s right arm was covered in so much blood that it was dyed completely red.
And he saw that his contract was destructed, which added to his despair.
Maybe as a consequence that the contract mark had been destructed, the flame sword was nowhere to be found. Not feeling the power provided by [Seele], his whole body was heavy as if he had submerged in a swamp.
Again, the Cyclops roared.
How much longer until Lela would arrive? He didn’t know. But even if it was a matter of ten seconds, it was obvious that they’d be annihilated before that.
Hayate saw someone coming to him.
Despite being covered in wounds herself, she said that in her usual tone.
Hayate forcibly raised his body and tried but failed to stand up.
He fell to his knees and cold sweat run down his face like a waterfall… she gently put his face into her hands.
She called his name—— Sherry released her hands from Hayate’s face and with a smooth motion released his collar from his neck.
“With this, you’re not my manservant anymore.”
She said, as if she wanted to break the bond between them.
“Did you not hear me? I said there’s no need to fight for me anymore.”
Sherry threw away the collar that was the proof of him being her manservant.
As if she was abandoning Hayate himself.
At that, she turned her back on him.
“Schwartz-sensei will arrive in one more minute. That is why you’ll cowardly run as far away from here as possible.”
She threw in some more abusive words to stab him in the chest after she turned her back.
But Hayate realized.
That the girl in front of his eyes was filled with concern.
Forsaken by those cruel words—— she had tried to make it easy for him to abandon her.
She had turned her back—— to stand against the giant now and serve as the decoy herself.
The time of the mock battle resurfaced in his mind, when she had declared to give up, without hesitation, to save Hayate.
The girl in front of his eyes, in this kind of scene—— for this moment, she had the courage to fight in order to save everyone here except herself; it was something only an outrageously kind and noble person would do.
He remembered the time from when they had first met until now.
Hayate wasn’t her manservant anymore.
She had already said that it’d be fine not to fight for her sake.
If that was the case… he, who had lost the strength to fight… the reason to fight was her…!
——The destructed contract mark on his right hand pulsated powerfully.
Once more, like at the time of the mock battle, Hayate broke into a run to save the lonesome girl.
The giant, who had raised a victorious cry, suddenly noticed the girl who was approaching it.
“So, come at me!”
The girl crossed her arms and announced magnificently.
It couldn’t understand human language at all, but it was clear that it was extremely displeased by the attitude of the girl that was staring at it so arrogantly.
If seen from the large creatures point of view, she was just too small, and small creatures—— it raised its giant fist overhead.
To smash her body with one blow.
But for that girl, one boy came running.
She was surprised and turned around, the boy’s right hand extended towards her——
——The merciless fist of the Cyclops swung down at the two.
Taking the size of the giant’s fist into account, having to kill one or two didn’t make a difference. The Cyclops was sure that he’d kill them both and bellowed another war cry.
Something was weird.
What was it?
The fist had certainly swung down—— the feeling from there on was different from usual.
When it raised its fist to check whether there were two smashed bodies—— suddenly the Cyclops’ arm was engulfed in a roaring inferno and its arm was burnt up to the elbow in the blink of an eye.
A flame vortex had suddenly broken out and carbonized the giant’s arm in an instant.
From therein a man and a woman, together with a red, hot light, appeared.
The girl, that was embraced in the boy’s arm, called her partner’s name in blank amazement.
He had hugged her back with one arm and the other arm had changed its form from earlier—— his sword shined with a divine blazing light as he held it up.
“I finally understood… the true identity of what was ‘lacking’.”
The moment he had reached out to Sherry with his right hand on which the sword crest had reappeared, he was able to receive a large quantity of information like the time when he had first drawn [Seele] out.
…If one thought about it, Hayate kept calling this flame sword [Seele], but he didn’t know its specific name.
Moments ago, it had flown into him as if it insisted on it, the name of his [Seele] – and poetry that extolled it.
That is the sword that kills kings——
That is the sword that kills gods——
“——That is the sword that perishes worlds. Embererathem Sword [Lævateinn]… That’s its name.”
“…You used it without knowing its true name? I’m amazed.”
Sherry muttered in genuine astonishment.
After that, her eyes displayed anger.
“Why did you come to save me? Despite not being my manservant anymore.”
Towards such selfish behavior, Hayate made a bitter smile.
When I was the one who told you to run earlier, you didn’t run either…
That’s why he returned the same words to his partner than she used some time ago.
“There’s no master who would abandon their slave.”
Sherry’s eyes grew big as if dumbfounded.
Both of them locked eyes… but the giant, not being able to read the mood, cut in with a roar while he fell into another rage.
The Cyclops raised its leg to crush both of them underfoot in order to avenge its burned arm.
“…It’s just a giant…”
Perhaps it was because of the power that had just flowed into him from [Lævateinn], Hayate muttered with a voice that showed disgust like he never had before and casually wielded his sword.
Erupting from the tip of the flame sword as it traced through the air, in the blink of the eye raging flames grew and attacked the leg of the giant that was about to swoop down on them.
The giant’s leg was burnt off from the knee as if it had been completely eaten by the huge attack.
With a crash, the one-eyed ogre fell to the ground clumsily.
Without even giving it a glance, Hayate continued staring at Sherry.
“You’re my slave. I’m your manservant. I’m your master, so I’ve got the right to make everything of you mine. You’re my master, so you’ve got the right to use me to grant your every wish.”
He told her the same words that he had been told himself that day.
With that, he declared his approval of the master/servant contract that has been suggested before.
However, seemingly displeased, Sherry said:
“I’m using you to fulfill my dreams. If that’s the case, then for what will you use my ‘all you desire’?”
The answer to that question was obvious.
As for the truth, it was an answer that would’ve been alright even if he had said it a long time ago already. Now he had been driven into a corner, he reconfirmed her kindness and nobleness, and with that he was able to reveal the answer…
Even if I’m being asked that bluntly, there’s nothing I can do, huh…
What should I say to make up for all the time I’ve held off giving my answer, I wonder?
The contents of my reply was obvious. However Sherry is demanding me to use my own words, my own voice, to convey my feeling across to her. With that said, I can’t just give a simple reply to make up for everything. That being the case – the words she used to confess her love at the time, I replied should reply like this too:
“There can only be one reason a man wants a woman’s everything, right?”
Hearing Hayate’s reply, Sherry gave a short answer—— and smiled like an angel.
[Lævateinn]’s brightness intensified to bless the fact that they perfectly understood each other’s feelings.
To begin with, he now understood why [Seele]’s real name could flow into him—— or why he couldn’t know its real name until now—— he had to get over his hesitation.
[Lævateinn]’s strength kept increasing as much as Hayate and Sherry understood each other’s feelings. The perfect sword to wield for her sake.
And now, for her sake, the target that he should wield its edge for was——
The Cyclops tried to muster its remaining strength and channeled magical power as before in its remaining left hand.
“Let go for now.”
Hayate pulled Sherry behind his back.
The Grand magic of the wind, that had caused the tornado earlier, was thrown at Hayate.
Responding to the yell, [Lævateinn] produced a flame pillar.
The rising air current caused by the flames, pushed the Grand magic of the Cyclops into the atmosphere and scattered it.
For the first time, fear floated in the giant’s eye.
It clawed at the earth with its remaining hand, trying to retreat.
There wasn’t a reason to make an effort to run away.
“Your life isn’t even worth even a drop of the tears that have been spilled, but——”
He kicked the ground.
Flames overflowed from [Lævateinn]’s edge.
“——at least disappear from the earth without leaving even a speck of ash!”
The surviving demonic beast, that had overrun the Scharlachrot territory in the past, was being incinerated by the flames that spread from the wound which had sliced it in half with a single strike, and disappeared with not one speck of ash remaining in this world.
Translator notes and references