The clouds covered the sky, drawing a curtain upon the moon and the stars, while the snow blanketed the path to the mines.
The mines, now an island in the night, was approached by malice from the forest. They numbered 30 and 2.
The 30 that made up the majority were dressed in black, making it easier to blend into the dark of the night. They carried on their backs what looked like knapsacks as they proceeded vigilantly.
As for the other two at the back, they were equipped in heavy armor and helmet, and could easily walk through the forest despite the two-handed great sword, called a Zweihander, on their backs.
Needless to be said, theirs was a group that couldn’t be more suspicious, and the moment they started for the forest, a carefree voice resounded.
『！ ！』 [Suspicious Group]
“Hi, test, test. Can you hear me? This is Ryouma Takebayashi. I’m speaking to you people that’s approaching from the forest. You’re here to kill me, right? Well, I won’t be running, so hurry up and come. I’m here.” [Ryouma]
Immediately after, a part of the pitch black abandoned mine gradually lit up.
That was none other than the open area once used for a subjugation mission, and the drop off point for the mined ores in the past. Presently, fire baskets arranged in a circle lit up the place, and at the center of that stood Ryouma.
There were still some distance between them, but a light source and a target close enough to be seen appeared. One of the men narrowed his eyes and calmly gave out orders. The black-clothed men simultaneously reached out for the box on their backs, and quickly activated the magic tool.
“There’s no point in hiding anymore…” [Ryouma]
Ryouma called out, but his voice was cut midway.
The mana wave released by the magic tool had negated the wind spell that allowed his voice to reach them.
Because of that, silence returned to the forest, but in the next moment, one of the black-clothed men gave out an order.
It was a brief order, but the black-clothed men obeyed nonetheless, and a part of them went ahead.
If there were traps in the path ahead, they would use even their lives to remove them, all so they could send the people behind them to their target as fast as possible. They came here with that much resolve, but unfortunately, it would all be in vain.
Because there were no traps and nothing that could be called ‘an obstacle’ met them. They reached Ryouma safe and sound. Moreover, Ryouma himself didn’t run away. He just stood there at the center of the fire baskets. There, where the snow were melted and the grass were trimmed, he stood with his katana drawn.
But that did little to calm the men, and in fact, they became even more vigilant.
“So you made it. You’re not actually welcome here, and this’ll probably fall on deaf ears, but I might as well ask. Do you have any intention of surrendering yourselves?” [Ryouma]
“What a stupid question. Do you not understand your situation?” [Intruder 1]
“I know you’re after my life. I was told to run if something happened, but… It would be problematic if you ended up going to the city, so I’ll be taking on all of you alone.” [Ryouma]
Those words were no different from a declaration of war.
Yet within that situation where a battle could break out anytime…
“Fuha! What a clown! Huh, Anija!” [Armored Otouto]
“Indeed, Otouto. Who would’ve thought he would actually choose to take us head on.” [Armored Anija]
“Wait, this might be a trap.” [Intruder 2]
The ones that laughed were the two men in armor. With a two-handed sword as big as they were,, they steadily walked forward. A black-clothed man nearby tried to stop them, but…
“We’re no amateurs ourselves, and dealing with the boy is our job.” [Armored Otouto]
“You guys just watch the back.” [Armored Anija]
At their behest, the black-clothed men backed off.
“Will only the two of you be fighting me?” [Ryouma]
“Fu… Apparently, you’ve been quite the hindrance, so they asked us to kill you if the trouble in the city were to let up even a little.” [Armored Otouto]
“The guys at the back prepare the stage, while the ones in the front make sure no one, nothing, gets in the way.” [Armored Anija]
“That’s a lot of effort for one kid. I take it that’s the reason why we can’t use magic too?” [Armored Otouto]
“I laughed at first too, but reality says otherwise.” [Armored Anija]
“Looks like this is going to be more fun than I thought, Anija. Just the fact he’s facing us head on shows he’s got guts… And it doesn’t look like he’s bluffing either. Interesting.” [Armored Otouto]
It was curious what Ryouma was thinking, but he let out a deep breath.
“It would’ve saved me a lot of effort if you were the sort to just jump at me because I’m a kid, though.” [Ryouma]
“We did our homework and gathered what we could about you. Even you know that there’s reason for people to be wary of you, right?” [Armored Anija]
When the older of the two said that, Ryouma made a troubled face.
“Ah… I’m sure there is, but I overdid it in so many ways that I’m not sure which exactly tripped your side. My magic is already sealed, so was it beating up those delinquent adventurers? But there’s no way something of that level would— Ah! Could it be? Did I mess up somewhere again?” [Ryouma] ”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but there’s no way some cocky kids would have been enough to get our attention.” [Armored Anija]
“You took out the bandits in the Forest of gana, right?” [Armored Otouto]
When the younger of the two said that, Ryouma realized it.
“Oh, so you’re with them?” [Ryouma]
“We’re not directly related. But it’s fairly common for people like us that need to hide from prying eyes to go to mountains that normal people won’t go to. To that end, there’s a black market information broker we use that’s connected to the Dark Guild. According to them, the bandits that approach the Forest of Gana have been disappearing recently.” [Armored Otouto]
“And since you lived in the Forest of Gana, and you collected the reward for those missing bandits, it’s only natural that you’d be the culprit. Moreover, you’re being exposed to such dense killing intent, and yet you’re acting as though nothing is wrong. Just from that, there’s no way you could be an amateur.” [Armored Anija]
Though the three of them were talking normally, they have also been releasing an intimidating aura this whole time.
So great was the pressure that they emanated that even the black-clothed figures, who’ve committed all sorts of crimes and gone through so many scenes of carnage, were getting chills.
If not for that, they would’ve likely attacked Ryouma already.
Although they were only tasked to clear the path, there was no reason for them not to attack when an opening showed iteslf.
“How strange. A child that hasn’t even lived a quarter of our age is giving me the impression of a fierce warrior.” [Armored Otouto]
“I’ve cut down too many people to count, but it’s the first time that a brat can stand before us with out swords drawn without crying. Before I kill you, tell me. Why are you facing us alone? Do you not fear us? Do you not fear death?” [Armored Anija]
“Hmm… I know it’s not the smartest choice, But before I knew it, I’ve been meddling in a lot of unnecessary places. I’ve failed a lot of times because of that and was even shunned, so I’ve thought of stopping a lot of times, but there’s just no helping it.
As for death, there’s no point in begging for my life in the face of beasts or nature, and I’ve been near both when I lived in the forest. And besides, I’ve already died once.” [Ryouma]
“You’ve died once?” [Armored Otouto]
“What are you even saying?” [Armored Anija]
Perhaps because they thought he was joking, or that he simply had no intention of answering seriously, the two brothers were displeased, but Ryouma added with a smile.
“Just take it as a figure of speech. It’s hard to explain, but I once lived a life worse than death. Now, however, I’m content. That’s why, in a different sense than before, I wouldn’t have any regrets even if I died now. And even if I did die, if I can go to where those gods are, then it might not be so bad.” [Ryouma]
Ryouma didn’t have the slightest bit of hesitation as he said that with a smile.
“But of course, the biggest reason is because I have no intention of dying here. I want to keep living in that city too, and I don’t want to make the people that looked after me sad.” [Ryouma]
“Unfortunately, that’s impossible. We accepted a job, so we can’t go back empty handed. If there were people you didn’t want to become sad, then you should have run with all your strength.” [Armored Otouto]
“No, if he wanted to avoid casualties in the city and among his friends, then this was the best decision he could’ve made.” [Armored Anija]
Yet despite being called a dead man, Ryouma’s smile remained.
“That’s only if you win. You went out of your way to bring magic tools just to seal my magic, but unfortunately for you, I’m actually better at the sword.” [Ryouma]
“In that case, you’ll just have to show us how good that sword of yours is. We’re professional killers, but we’re also known as, ‘the Siblings of Strong Swords’. [Armored Otouto]
“No one has ever fought us and lived.” [Armored Anija]
The siblings entered the ring where the grass was trimmed, and in the next moment, they quickly accelerated and took Ryouma from his sides.
Without any signal, a battle for their lives began.
1. Anija is just another form of aniki.
2. The Siblings of Strong Swords was written as 剛剣兄弟, and that first character means hard or strong or manly, so it could also be translated as Siblings of the Hard/Manly Sword or Hard/Manly Sword Siblings. Maybe Manly Sword Siblings sounds better? But I doubt a pair of hitmen would pick such a comical name.