“I want to ask you one thing.” (Laboras)
While grasping the haft of the knife tightly, Laboras asks without drawing the blade out.
“Why did you come to this forest?” (Laboras)
“I heard that the demon race is deep within this forest. I came to visit them.” (Hifumi)
“You plan to meet the demons, huh?” (Laboras)
“That’s what I said.” (Hifumi)
Hearing Hifumi’s reply, Laboras swiftly draws his knife.
“That means there’s even less reason to let you leave this place alive.” (Laboras)
While having a stance of aiming at the eyes with his katana, Hifumi doesn’t move.
“The demons are dangerous. I don’t know what you intend to do, but even though we are imprisoning them on behalf of this world, you are only bringing unnecessary turmoil.” (Laboras)
Laboras kept his left hand free to use magic while holding the knife in a backhand grip in his right hand.
The five elves who saw that change, similarly set up their bows and knives.
“Get out of my sight, you weakling who want to escape! The ones who are to stay here are only the elves who have the resolve to protect this forest and world.” (Laboras)
Having started to retreat bit-by-bit, the elves stopped their feet.
Hifumi is also waiting to see which choice they will make.
“For me… impossible.”
“For me as well.”
One after the other two elves ran away, however the remaining three elven youths readied their weapons.
“The actors have assembled. Let’s begin?” (Hifumi)
“Don’t talk such crap!” (Laboras)
The beginning was a magic attack by Laboras.
Several tens of fist-sized pellets which had sharpened points assault Hifumi in succession at a speed similar to a machine-gun.
Taking a stance with his legs in a L-shape, Hifumi evades those while using the katana as support to shift their trajectory.
Although Hifumi dashed forward swiftly and greeted with a thrust, Laboras roughly repelled it with his knife.
Laboras drives his free left hand into Hifumi’s abdomen with the momentum of the swung knife.
Kicking the ground at the moment of being hit, Hifumi who became unsteady used the force of being struck to take some distance.
Once again they face each other at the same distance.
Due to the sudden close combat, the surrounding elves are unable to give cover or to do anything else. Even though they have readied their spells and arrows, they have no choice but to watch attentively.
“You are quick and you are even able to hit me, huh?” (Hifumi)
Hifumi fixed his stance once again.
The hit abdomen is painful to the extent that I can at least expect a bruise though it’s unlikely to have reached as far as my internal organs.
“An incompetent person who completely relies on magic isn’t fit to act as mediator between men. It seems that you avoided it skilfully just now, but next time that won’t work.” (Laboras)
Changing his hold of the knife to an overhand grip, Laboras takes a stance of curling up his back.
Holding out the knife he held in his right hand, his left hand supports in a style of enabling him to release magic at any time.
“It’s a different stance. However, it looks like you are familiar with it.” (Hifumi)
“Indeed. This is an elven technique we have fostered in this forest. It’s at a different level in skill, weaponry and magic in comparison to you lowly humans.” (Laboras)
Making sure to slide his feet, Laboras slowly closes the distance.
Hifumi doesn’t miss the instant Laboras shifted his sight.
A wind spell burst open underfoot the spot where Hifumi moved away from with a single step.
“… Avoided, huh?” (Laboras)
“Don’t leak such easily detectable signs. It’s a kill-joy.” (Hifumi)
“Humph… do it!” (Laboras)
Upon Laboras’ command arrows and spells attack Hifumi all at once.
Their speed is much faster than that of the elves who attacked Hifumi a while ago. The power is higher as well.
Hifumi avoids them by shifting his body and repelling them with his katana, but in a style of matching the saturation attack, Laboras adds attacks with his knife and wedge-shaped stones with a perfect timing.
“You are doing nothing but avoiding!” (Laboras)
Laboras increases the speed by stacking up even more attacks.
Hifumi, who knocked aside the thrust out knife among those blows with his bare hand, turned around and ran off.
“Are you running away?” (Laboras)
“Certainly not.” (Hifumi)
Swinging his arm which was wounded by the knife, Hifumi steals the sight of an elf with his blood.
The elf, who tried to fire an arrow, faltered only for an instant due to his abruptly dyed red field of vision. That became this man’s final moment.
Alongside the wooden bow he grasped in his hands, his body was was bisected into two parts at the waist in a flash.
“It’s only vaguely, but…” (Hifumi)
As result of their companion being killed by the opponent who was showered with a saturation attack, they unintentionally cease their attacks.
“The style of the archery is harder to grasp than the magic. No, it’s the other way around. I reached the point where I can somehow understand the magic.” (Hifumi)
While saying that, he struck the wind spell approaching from behind with the hilt of the katana and scattered it.
“… You bastard, are you really a human…?” (Laboras)
Due to the subdued voice of Laboras who spilled drops of sweat, Hifumi answered with a smile,
“That’s obvious. You, me, you guys will die if we are cut by a blade. We are normal people. Just like him.” (Hifumi)
He points at the corpse which had its body split in two.
“That’s probably why we get thrilled by killing each other, because starting over is not possible.” (Hifumi)
Without minding his injured left hand, Hifumi grasps the katana tightly with both hands and assumes a hachisou* stance. (T/N: google 八相 to see pictures. I explained it in some chapter beforehand but I forgot where and can’t be bothered to check through over 100 chapters. :p)
“I will kill you here by all means.” (Laboras)
“I see. Do your best.” (Hifumi)
Once again the magic attacks concentrated on Hifumi who muttered that as if it was someone else’s problem.
Different to before, Hifumi lets the spells go past while running around as he pleases. He slips through the spaces between the lined-up elves just like a whirlwind.
The elves in all directions raise screams and collapse in fountains of blood.
While being hindered by their brethren making them unable to take aim, three more got killed.
Suddenly noticing something, Hifumi pushed the back of an elf.
The elf didn’t comprehend what was done to him for an instant, but once he lowered his look due to an intense impact, he saw a large wedged stone piercing into his own chest.
Once the dead elf collapsed without even understanding the reason, Hifumi’s smiling face was reflected in the sight of Laboras who released the spell.
An elf, surprised by the friendly fire, shifted his attention from Hifumi to Laboras and was instantly killed by the katana stabbing directly into his heart.
Laboras fires one stone after the other at Hifumi with magic while including his companion, who got skewered, in the line of fire.
While pulling out the katana, Hifumi, who decided to use the corpse as shield and kicked it flying, dashed in an extremely forward-bent posture, as if falling, by drawing out the power of his knees.
He doesn’t head towards Laboras, but to another elf.
Although he tries to face Hifumi with magic in panic and fright, he is too slow.
As he tried to finish him with a reversed diagonal shoulder slash, Hifumi fell onto his back this time.
At the moment the elf felt relieved with a “I’m saved,” his entire body was riddled with holes by the stone bullets, similar to finely sharpened shells, fired by Laboras.
“Don’t sweep away my prey from the side.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi pouted at Laboras who clicked his tongue due to Hifumi avoiding his shots.
Laboras doesn’t reply.
Facing Hifumi who stopped his feet, he approaches him with the knife in his hand while roaring.
Similar to his strong body, which doesn’t suit the image of elves, his knife is also thick and solid.
In contrast to that, his attacks are precise without any gaps.
“You are quite skilled.” (Hifumi)
The thrusts are accurately aiming at the vital spots and the blended-in slashes are swung in order to close possible escape routes. Hifumi, who deals with those while handling the spells from the surroundings, is slowly retreating while getting more and more small gashes.
However, Hifumi doesn’t take the initiative.
And, Hifumi has a composed expression.
“Fast. But, those attacks are too straightforward.” (Hifumi)
At that moment, the elves including Laboras saw something unbelievable.
The katana wielded by Hifumi counters all of the knife thrusts with its point. The thrust are met with thrusts.
Countless sparks violently revolved between those two.
“I can’t believe that you are doing this!” (Laboras)
Although Laboras frantically raises the speed of his thrusts, Hifumi calmly follows up on that.
“Easily readable attacks won’t work.” (Hifumi)
The tempo accelerates accompanied by creaking metallic sounds.
“Guh, this!” (Laboras)
“That won’t do.” (Hifumi)
Laboras, who grew impatient, unleashes a thrust entrusting the weight of his entire body into it with a force to break through Hifumi’s defence.
However, Hifumi passes alongside the flank of Laboras who pitched forward without meeting the attack.
Laboras stumbled a step or two forwards as the impact he expected was missing. His knee was stepped on by Hifumi from the side.
Losing his balance, Laboras forcibly twisted his body without collapsing obediently and swung his knife.
But, his outstretched arm is sent flying after getting cut by the katana.
“Damn iiitt!” (Laboras)
“Shut up.” (Hifumi)
The throat of Laboras, who raised a scream after having lost an arm, is torn open by the blade which pierced into it in a smooth and unhindered motion.
Laboras, who spilled hot blood from his mouth and throat, died while glaring at Hifumi.
There still one young elven man alive.
Throwing away the bow he held in his hands, the elf just bows while only breathing out from his mouth as he is puzzled whether he should beg and what kind of words he should use.
Hifumi approaches the elf, who fell to his knees, while holding the katana in his hand.
“I-I give up…”
“You had a chance to choose.” (Hifumi)
“Therefore this is nothing but the outcome of your choice”, Hifumi swung his katana downwards.
Once Zanga raised her face due to the sound of the sound of the wooden door being lifted, the bloodstained Hifumi stood there.
“… Did you come to kill me?” (Zanga)
Puuse and Shiku are nestling close to Zanga on both her sides.
“If you still believe that you want to die, I won’t mind.” (Hifumi)
The knife, thrown by Hifumi, pierces into the ashes of the sunken hearth.
“This is… Laboras’ knife.” (Zanga)
Intently staring at the knife which she had sometimes carefully maintained, Zanga had seen it several times in the past.
“Laboras is dead… so, do you yearn to exact your revenge upon the elves who were hostile towards you?” (Zanga)
Puuse’s and Shiku’s bodies stiffened.
“Not really.” (Hifumi)
“… You aren’t angry? This elf village attacked you, didn’t it?” (Zanga)
“I will kill if I’m challenged. If that doesn’t happen, I have no hobby of going out of my way to kill weaklings either. Rather than that, I prefer to go visit the demon race. I will have you guide me there at noon after I got some sleep.” (Hifumi)
When Hifumi turned on his heel, Zanga extended a hand in panic.
“P-Please wait.” (Zanga)
Zanga, who got up vigorously, is supported by Puuse.
“I heard from Shiku. He told me that you discovered something about the final moment’s of an elf.” (Zanga)
“About that, huh?” (Hifumi)
Hifumi explained what he told the elves from before.
Explaining the accumulation of something that entered their bodies and the way it changes by slowly hardening from the extremities of the body, Puuse’s face turns pale. But, Zanga listened while nodding.
“… Finally I’m able to understand, the reason for my strangely long life.” (Zanga)
Zanga tosses a twig into the fire of the sunken hearth which was about to vanish and blows at it with a “Fuu~” Politer than usual, she lowers her body softly.
“I didn’t go outside much since I was small. I didn’t get too close to the forest either because I was scared. If that “something” from the forests’ trees is the reason, then I can understand why my transformation has been slow. Now that I think about it, I have a feeling that those, who spent a lot of time in the forest, died early as well. However, even if I say that now, it cannot be helped anymore.” (Zanga)
Zanga shed tears while talking.
She only weeps while enduring the pain with a dishevelled expression.
“While living with the blessing of the forest and being called the people of the forest, we were getting killed by that very forest… It can’t be something that empty… Grandma…” (Zanga)
What kind of emotions did her grandmother, she ended up abandoning in her childhood, bear, I wonder?
Her mental state, which was burdened with the despair of having abandoned her and the despair of her grandmother not having had a peaceful death; just how heartbreaking was it? I’m not even able to imagine it.
Looking at Shiku and Puuse who is uneasily calling out to her, Zanga roughly wiped away her tears with a cloth at her side.
“Hii hi… I ended up showing you something embarrassing. Human-san, I have a single request.” (Zanga)
Standing up, Zanga bowed towards Hifumi who is looking down on her expressionlessly.
“Since I will recruit those who want to leave this village, can you please take us, including me as well, to some other place?” (Zanga)
The shocked Puuse raises her voice, but Zanga remains in a state of bowing.
“As leader of the elves of this village I only want to popularize this attempt. One day the elves will be imprisoned by this forest. No, they already are, I think.” (Zanga)
“Didn’t I tell you that I’m going to the demons?” (Hifumi)
“It’s fine if it’s after you come back from there. Also, gathering the interested people of the village will take time. I know that I’m making an unreasonable request, but I will do anything for it.” (Zanga)
“That’s my duty as leader”, Zanga looked at Hifumi.
“Aren’t elves good at magic though?” (Hifumi)
Zanga laughed with a “Hya Hya” due to the sudden question.
“They are. It’s my strong point. Puuse is quite skilled at healing magic, too.” (Zanga)
“Is that something which you were taught by another race?” (Hifumi)
“I don’t think so. It might be possible… No, I guess there’s no other choice but to do it, if that’s your wish, human-san.” (Zanga)
Hearing her answer, Hifumi placed a hand on his chin and groaned.
“… If that’s the case, I will have you do it.” (Hifumi)
“Further talks are after I come back”, leaving those words behind, Hifumi went away.
“Zanga-sama, I will accompany you. … I have also become scared of this forest’s scenery…” (Puuse)
“Are you sure? It’s not like you have to force yourself to leave the forest since you are still young.” (Zanga)
Puuse softly shook her head while smiling.
“It’s my way of thanking you for teaching me magic, Zanga-sama. Even though that method will be some kind of challenge, something like not helping you is impossible for me.” (Puuse)
“I-I will help as well! … Magic is difficult, but…” (Shiku)
Stroking Shiku’s head, Zanga murmured a “Thank you.”
“Somehow it got exciting, didn’t it?” (Zanga)
Although my brethren got killed, I guess I’m truly cruel, Zanga thought within her mind.