“Damn it, damn it, damn ittt!!”
Attack as Johann might, the darkness only danced gracefully in the air. The hunter’s eyes could see through any disguise and capture any prey no matter how fast, yet Johann struggled to keep up with the afterimages left in the wake of the Mask. Meanwhile, the mask playfully touched the debris, and from them, conjured a single sword.
“Arrrgh! Just how much more do you intend to humiliate me!!?”
By this point, the sight of the Mask mimicking alchemy was no longer a surprise, but the fact that he transmuted a sword using only the material from the wall of a mere mansion and easily sliced through the silverganth blade that Johann himself transmuted and drew with the skills of the Swordsman of Sound was just too unfair.
No matter how high the skill level, the difference in material alone should have made his sword superior, and yet because of how they wielded their swords and because of the gap in their abilities, his supposedly superior sword lost just like that.
The Mask couldn’t have made it more obvious how easy of a time he was having as he relentlessly toyed with, taunted, disparaged, and humiliated Johann.
With Johann’s sword now turned into a broken stick, he threw it away and charged recklessly at the Mask. In response, the undefeated Mask also threw away his sword and extended his left arm to meet Johann head-on, the impact of their collision so intense that Johann actually staggered, feeling as though he had collided with a mountain, while the mask himself remained unfazed.
Johann desperately tried to push forward, but his feet just kept slipping fruitlessly against the floor, and the outstretched left arm of the mask remained immovable.
“If I just had your brain, I could—!!”
His eyes showed that he already knew that he’d lost.
It was curious if he couldn’t see reality, or was refusing to acknowledge it, or merely had no intentions of stopping, but regardless, his desperation at this point only appeared comical.
Or at least that’s what the Mask seemed to say as he mocked his frantic efforts.
『Ku ku ku… To think that even someone with the eyes of an A Rank could be fooled to this extent, how very human of you indeed. 』
It might have just been someone’s imagination, but it actually sounded as though the Mask was envious of him.
Regardless, such worries quickly disappeared, for the time for such idle thoughts quickly vanished.
In the blink of an eye, so much so that it was stupefying—the conclusion was reached.
The eye of the hunter beheld nothing.
The sonic sword reached nothing.
The wits of the sorcerer failed.
The flesh of the warrior succumbed.
The speed of the thief fell behind.
The King of Alchemy failed to keep standing.
Everything was turned into dust, and all that was left on the ground were the five cylindrical cases.
On the wall was Johann, nailed there with swords as though in a crucifixion.
“Ku, ka ka ka… To think that my decades… Would to some stunted brat… Be crushed by a lump of mud that has nothing but power… Ku ka ka, even jokes should have a limit.”
That which he acquired by sinking into depravity all for the sake of his goal crumbled just like that.
It was so funny that Johann himself couldn’t help but laugh like a broken man.
But of course, with all of his abilities sealed, including even his ability to transfer his soul, all he could do now was that: laugh.
“Fu… Not really. You brought this onto yourself.”
The boy took off his mask and let out a tired breath as he approached Johann.
The fight seemed over, but what Johann didn’t know was just how terrifying the menace hidden behind the boy’s smile was.
“Me? Just what are you talking about?”
Johann’s body was nailed by the very swords he himself had made, while his face was covered in the blood of his flesh and soul.
“A Discussion on the Faults of
“Hmph, well I suppose it’s too late to be denying it now against an S Rank like you.”
Lilisha let out a voice of surprise from behind, while Johann acted as though it didn’t matter.
He knew that denying was futile in the face of this boy.
Though only temporarily, Johann was still a man that managed to reach A-, so he could infer just how overwhelming the eyes of an S Rank must be and so didn’t even feel like resisting.
In fact, being able to infer actually made him fearful of the boy to some extent.
The boy could see through that but feigned ignorance and continued.
“When Princess Filia passed, and you went mad in an attempt to bring her back, you were no longer anything but a thorn to Earthgant’s royal palace.”
“A royal member that broke the taboo, abandoned his humanity, increased our enemies, and made a mess of the government… Don’t tell me… And since he’s here, then the death must have been faked too…”
The princess considered and speculated the truth, and before long, she reached the truth.
“As insightful as I’d expect… Yes, an assassination plot had been devised. But you saw through it and came up with a plan to take advantage of it. You published that forbidden book to keep the attention off of you, and true enough, the upper echelons came to be too preoccupied on how to respond to the circulation of the forbidden book.
They were responsible for assassinating you in the first place, so they didn’t bother doing a proper autopsy when they buried you; hence, they were completely unaware that the person they’d buried was in fact just a sophisticated puppet you had devised,” Shinichi said.
“You speak as though you were there,” Johann said.
“I, I never heard anything like that, though,” Lilisha said.
“Indeed, at the time, only the royal that succeeded the throne was informed of the matter,” Shinichi said.
“…Then why do you know about it? Though I guess it’s a bit too late to be asking that,” Lilisha said.
Shinichi just laughed evilly before turning back to look at Johann.
“After that you tried to gets others interested in the field to foster it from different perspectives and through different scholars. It was just a hunch, but you felt you might be able to find a clue to resurrection by doing that, and in so doing, led to an unexpected turn of events.”
“What did I do?”
“You saved my life.”
For a moment, Johann seemed unable to understand what he’d been told, and a look of confusion surfaced on him.
Then the boy smiled as though he wanted to see that and continued.
“Skipping the details, it truly was a miracle, salvation born from malice. Had that book not been published, I would not have been saved by them on that fateful day, and even if I had survived due to some other factor, I would never have come to possess such an unfair power. The world is connected indeed.”
Shinichi intentionally made a thousand-mile look as though in reminisce.
The girls listening from behind were curious about the details, but at the same time, they couldn’t help but be impressed by how good he was at exasperating people even in such moments, causing them to let out a chuckle.
“Know and be glad, King Johan. The reason I am here now is you, so thank you.”
──How does it feel, you old brat? This is the result you brought about yourself.
He didn’t say those words out loud, but he indirectly conveyed them, and in a sense, that was actually even worse.
Those words of gratitude that he gave resounded in Johann’s ears as nothing more than polite mockery, turning Johann’s expression, that had once been filled with resignation, to contort with seething anger, twitching and spamming uncontrollably.
The boy basically told him that something he once did on a whim was the reason that he was now in such dire straits.
“So consider this as my thanks.”
After watching the changes in his expression with amusement, the boy brought up his main point, his gratitude.
But while he might be smiling, no color could be seen in his eyes. Were there anything at all, it would be the anticipation of what was about to come.
“Tada! It’s time for a surprise quiz! Well then, King Johann, question number one! Do you remember what your beloved daughter, Princess Filia, was good at?”
The boy’s seemingly joyful expression contained a wicked arc that could make even demons flee in fear. Compared to this, everything before was not a smile, and even Johan felt a shiver run through him.
After all, that crescent moon was basically saying, “now the real show begins.”