(Why… Is he alive?)
Sparks rose as swords clashed, the sound of their dance, resounding within the ring of grass, their lights blending with the fire basket’s.
When one of the black-clothed men saw the siblings move, he thought for sure that Ryouma was dead.
The siblings had taken him from both sides, and Ryouma couldn’t even react, but… He lived.
Not just that, he fought those two killers, and an intense exchange of swords began.
The Siblings of the Strong Sword used a two-handed sword as big as an adult. When the weight of their sword was coupled with their skill, the siblings could produce an attack with power befitting their title, ‘Strong Sword’. In exchange, the stroke of their attacks was much bigger than those of lighter swords’.
But by covering their whole body in ki, the siblings could elevate their physical abilities and strengthen their equipment, allowing them to execute movement seemingly impossible for their gear. By matching the timing of their attacks, they could cover for each other’s openings; hence, their sword was not the slow sort that could easily be dodged.
And yet their sword could not reach Ryouma.
Ryouma’s movements were so minute that – for a moment – the black-clothed man thought that ‘Ryouma couldn’t even react’, but in truth, he used the least amount of strength to evade the siblings’ attacks, and parried only those that could not be avoided. He would weave in between the attacks and would even fight back.
(There has to be a limit to how abnormal a person could be.)
All the people gathered here knew about the information on Ryouma and the prediction of his strength based off of that. That prediction – of course – included the possibility that Ryouma might know martial arts, but they believed that his strength lay in that magic he used to clear the snow or demolish the buildings, and perhaps, the ‘familiar magic’ that he demonstrated using slimes.
After all, he never hid his magic from anyone and used it all the time. Everyone also knew that he’s tamed a lot of slimes, and while the slimes might be weak individually, they believed they could prove a hindrance in large numbers.
Compared to that, there was little to no information about his martial arts. Other than suppressing a group of delinquent adventurers and some rumors, the threat his martial arts posed was nothing compared to his magic.
Besides, given Ryouma’s age, common sense dictated that it was impossible for his martial arts to be better than his magic.
His magic was good enough to presume that countless hours must’ve been spent to reach his level at his age. Such an impression would even be rare, and yet it was a common impression for the boy’s magic, so just how many could possibly look at him and believe that his martial arts would be even better?
In the end, was there even anyone – anyone at all – who could look at this 10 year-old boy and believe him to be equal a man that has trained for nearly 40 years?
They had not been lax in their preparations. They brought magic tools to seal his magic, brought the skilled Siblings of the Strong Sword, and even prepared support.
Not even half a minute had passed since their battle began. The older of the two siblings attacked, but he was the one that let out that groan. He jumped back first with his left hand on his face before his younger brother distanced himself from Ryouma too and followed him.
“It just grazed the metal fittings.” [Anija]
The older brother’s face guard had tilted because the fittings on the right side broke, so he decided to just tear it off altogether.
As the other fitting broke as well, the face of a man with scaled cheeks was revealed.
“Those scales… You’re a dragon newt?” [Ryouma]
“Unlike your acquaintance, I wasn’t born in a village, though. Is that blade really a slime?” [Anija]
“You know about Asagi-san and my slime katana too, I see you’ve done your homework.” [Ryouma]
Ryouma was using a slime as his weapon as usual. But this time around, he wasn’t using the Iron Slime but its evolution, Steel Slime. There weren’t any changes to its abilities, but it was more resistant to bending and breaking, both properties that made it better suited for a blade.
“We gathered information about anyone that might get in the way. As for your katana, the most we could find out was that you’re a ‘Slime Fanatic’ that would use slimes for anything.” [Otouto]
“You’ve received our swords for this long and yet haven’t been wounded even once. It appears we have no choice but to change our evaluation of you.” [Otouto]
As the two siblings raised their swords, the area around their swords shimmered faintly.
That was a phenomenon that occurred only when the amount and density of ki exceeded a certain level.
The haze-like shimmer that covered the weapon foretold of the vast amounts of ki behind their technique.
“Behold, the secret technique of the Strong-Sword Style!” [Anija]
“Wyvern Drop!!” [Otouto]
At the descent of the younger one’s sword, a blade rose from his kiai, boring the ground as it slashed out with a thunderous roar.
Ryouma quickly dodged to the side, but…
“Wyvern Drop!!” [Anija]
The older brother unleashed his attack; a blade without mercy, aiming precisely for that opening after a dodge.
「「！！」」 [Otouto and Anija]
They saw it. The sight of Ryouma raising his
But there would no time for rest, for the siblings were already on the move. Once again, their swords shimmered, and this time, both swords swung down simultaneously.
「「Secret Technique・“Wyvern Cross”！」」[Otouto and Anija]
With symmetrical movements, they unleashed their blades, and a pair of crossing blades attacked Ryouma. But Ryouma too held his sword in the high stance and swung down. In the next moment, a blade bigger than before cut at the point of intersection of those two blades to cancel them out.
“…Impressive. Though I can’t say I’m surprised that you can use martial arts.” [Anija]
“This might sound strange coming from your enemy, but… Your technique was just so cleanly executed that it made it easy to understand. It made for a good model.” [Ryouma]
When Ryouma nodded and even praised their technique, the older one’s face grew even grimmer. The younger brother likely had a similar expression beneath his face guard.
“Well done hiding that much skill until now.” [Anija]
“I never intended to hide it, though, I’m not that shrewd. It would be more apt to say that it atrophied instead.” [Ryouma]
“For better or worse, I had to do everything alone when I was in the forest, and there were no prying eyes then. So I could live freely without caring about anything. But the city exists in a society, and society has its rules.
Rules in the form of law, rules implied, there are all sorts… But regardless which rule it is, what place it is… Violence as a solution is frowned upon and would lead one being ejected from society. That’s why, though I might specialize in it, it is not a method I prefer. Of course, it’s also because it’s more efficient to work with slimes and magic.” [Ryouma]
“…I see where you’re coming from, but… It’s stupid. You are also someone that can be counted among the strong. For what end should you be moved by the drivel of the weak and seek to understand their thoughts?” [Anija]
“Everything in this world is decided by power. The weak can make as much noise as they want, but we can just cut them down anytime. Don’t you understand that?” [Otouto]
But Ryouma did understand.
“It’s not just violence… There’s authority, wealth, charisma, and the ability to negotiate as well. There are all sorts, but nothing can be gained without power. In a conflict, defeat means losing everything. It’s sad, but that’s reality. And I know that deep inside, the thought of being able to kill if I felt like it has supported me at times as well.
If I hadn’t met the duke’s family at the Forest of Gana… If the people I met in this city hadn’t accepted me… I know that at the very least, I wouldn’t have cooperated with the defense of this city. Perhaps, I might even be standing on ‘that side’ as well.
Truly, fortune is unpredictable. I just lucked out.” [Ryouma]
As Ryouma uttered those words one after another, the pressure that emanated from him grew heavier.
The siblings stepped forward in resopnse.
“I see. So having no eyewitness was actually better for you.” [Anija]
“You’re strong, no, you’re becoming stronger. That’s why we have to kill you here.” [Otouto]
The shimmer of their swords spread to their whole body.
They would not just stake their lives in this battle, no, they would take Ryouma down even if they had to sacrifice themselves, and to that end, they empowered themselves without regard for their consumption.
Indeed, they were seeing Ryouma in a new light, for this time, they were truly using everything they had.
As the light of the fire baskets reflected on their armor, the two siblings dropped the cheap tricks and fought with everything they had.
Against such strong swords, receiving their attack could only result in one’s weapon being cleaved along with one’s flesh, so Ryouma fully devoted his ki to his katana, without
He would contest them with the least movement and pure swordsmanship.
Both sides wanted an instant kill, and their battle grew intense with every clash.
As their spirits clashed and their shimmers blended, everything seemed to transform into a pillar that reached out for the heavens.
Alas, their battle could not continue for long, and the end came without notice.
The guard of the katana received the descending sword to parry it, and then its pommel struck out to penetrate the younger one’s armor. Of course, it wasn’t enough to be fatal or to incapacitate him.
But the pause it brought was enough to prove fatal. For the moment the siblings’ delicate dance ended, a big opening revealed itself.
The older one sent a sweeping attack from behind to reap Ryouma’s head, but the moment Ryouma would receive it, he relaxed his arms as they switched places, and then with gravity and momentum carrying his katana, he covered the body of the sword with his own to change its course, and as the sword passed before Ryouma’s chest, his katana rose to claim the older one’s arms.
Amidst fresh blood, the older one’s sword fell.
The younger one’s sword came for Ryouma’s neck, but it was a moment late, and the only end that awaited him was a reenactment of the previous scene. Blood poured out of the seams of his armor, and the arm swinging his strong sword limply fell.
“…Ha, ha ha… So, we lost.” [Anija]
“Looks, like it… Sorry, Anija.” [Otouto]
“Don’t worry, Otouto.” [Anija]
With more than half of their arms cut, blood poured out and sapped what was left of their strength. They let out a groan as they fell, but even as they were knelt, their fierce gaze never left Ryouma.
“…Wonderfully done, a strike to the vitals.” [Anija]
“…I want to struggle, but my arms won’t even budge. It’s actually refreshing.” [Otouto]
The shimmering pillar gradually waned; as their blood continued to pour out, the flame of their life flickered.
They mustered what was left of that flickering flame to ask.
“What happened to the ones in black?” [Anija]
“They ran as soon as you lost. And I was thinking they would be attacking as well.” [Ryouma]
Around that time, death throes resounded from the direction they ran.
Ryouma kept his attention on the siblings as he confirmed the situation of those men. They tried to run, but they got caught in the thorny weeds growing beneath the snow and were promptly swallowed into the ground.
“They got caught in my familiars’ trap just now.” [Ryouma]
“I… see. No wonder… We couldn’t find… any…” [Anija]
“So you… used them to… keep us from… running…” [Otouto]
With quivering voices, the siblings spoke in pauses.
「「Well done.」」 [Anija and Otouto]
Before finally bidding him those two words and collapsed.
Their heavy armor gave rise to a shrill sound that vanished into the mountains.
The snow fell.
As Ryouma nimbly swung his katana to rid it of the blood, silence returned to the abandoned mine’s evening.