Chapter 158 – Footsteps


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“It ain’t a child’s invitation to play, thus…” (Vepar)

Due to reply brought back by Nyarl, Vepar curbed her eyebrows while feeling a headache.

“You didn’t hear or see anything besides what’s written in the letter, did you?” (Vepar)

“The fruits were delicious.” (Nyarl)

“… Got it, wait for further orders.” (Vepar)

Watching the retreating figure of Nyarl who returned to her partner Pheres with a *totete*, Vepar regretted that she made a mistake in her choice of personnel out of concern over an easily trustable outer appearance.

“Anyway, I wonder whether the beastmen’s side has no intention to make a move… at least it looks like you can’t call them belligerent.”

Once Vepar turns her sight to the front, the beastmen, including some elves, have prepared their weapons at the entrance towards the slums, and even in the city said to have only humans living there, the soldiers have lined up.
In contrast to the beastmen who seem to even have composure in their expressions brimming somewhat with confidence, the soldiers stood in loose ranks as they coweringly turned their looks at Vepar’s group and the beastmen.
They are giving me the creeps, Vepar thinks.
The side of the beastmen who seems to be close with the elves, should be more knowledgeable about the us demons than the humans. Thus, wouldn’t it be natural for the beastmen to be afraid of us?
I don’t know how accurate their intelligence about us is, but they have properly decided on the course of action and have likely finished their preparations as well.
And the humans, or at least the humans living in this country, probably have experienced being beaten up by the beastmen to a degree that they are unable to believe in their own strength. Since that memory is still fresh, they might be all the more scared of us demons with our unknown identity.

“Well then, what shall we do…?” (Vepar)

On top of being able to somewhat offset our numerical inferiority against the humans if we can form a friendship with the inhabitants of the slums which will also hasten the rallying of the beastmen, it would be convenient for obtaining information about the world during the time us demons were isolated, Vepar thought.
However, the representative of the beastmen didn’t fall in line with that way of thinking.

“She knows about the strength of the demons and yet has the confidence to protect the city, is what she’s indicating?” (Vepar)

She doesn’t understand the basis of that confidence and that’s scary for her.

“I considered crushing them in one go and then turn them into our subordinates, but I’d like a bit more information.” (Vepar)

She doesn’t want to fail, even in the worst case.

“Having said that, seeing that she easily turned me down, even discussing it… I dislike forcing our way without intelligence, but it can’t be helped.” (Vepar)

Vepar summoned a demon who commands an unit and gave him a mission.

“Well then, let’s teach the beastmen about us in detail.” (Vepar)

◆◇◆◇◆

The following early morning.
With a minority of 30 soldiers the demons attacked the city of Swordland.
Completely ignoring the slums, they surged into the humans’ city.
With just the battle in the morning, Swordland lost half of its soldiers and heavy losses appeared among the civilians, too. On the other hand, there’s no damage to the slums, where the beastmen live, at all.

“What’s this about!?” (Vepar)

Vepar’s face, which is evaluated as being beautiful, warped as she stamped her feet in frustration.

 

“Not having any means to protect the city, they abandoned the city all together!”

Vepar, who visited the slums once more with the intention to press the beastmen into allegiance after delivering serious damage to the humans’ side, stood right in the middle of the completely deserted city.
Did they sense the movements of the demons who prepared for battle during the night? The beastmen, including the elves, escaped the city before the chaos of the battle started to spread.

“That’s right, isn’t it…? If I think properly about it, they are basically a group who lives by creating settlements inside forests. There’s no reason for them to be that fixated about this place, is there?” (Vepar)

In order to not get involved in the war, the elves, who abandoned their forest, and those, who left the humans’ city, likely didn’t have a strong opposition against taking refuge in the forest.

“This time it’s my defeat… since I don’t want to incur losses, I will properly get my share.” (Vepar)

Among the humans who survived, Vepar executed those who had a high ranking positions among the people who were in the castle, and dropped the remaining personnel into to the status of slavery.
There wasn’t any particular harm towards the civilians, but their coming and going was severely restricted.

“This is the place of our, the demons’, comeback! We, who were outcasts, will show everyone proof in the battles from now on that we stand at the top of this world!” (Vepar)

Due to Vepar’s drama-like speech, the demons’ soldiers got excited and the humans were deprived of their willpower.
The name of the country called Swordland vanished at that moment.

☺☻☺

After the demons, who attacked Vichy, tore Vichy’s line of defence apart with magic attacks, they invaded Vichy by dispersing in small units.
Disguising at places where Vichy soldiers and civilians didn’t see them, they slipped in as spies. The plan succeeded. Those, who shook free from the pursuit of Vichy’s soldiers, safely changed into humans while pretending to have escaped the war, and were successful at infiltrating the other cities.
Even so, there was also the fact that splitting the forces increased the losses.

“What are these guys!? They aren’t humans, are they!?”

“Fuck! Why have I become this unskilled… gyaaaa!”

The demon, who screamed after being pierced very deeply with a knife by an opponent whom he burned to nothing with his special fireball in his right hand, died at the same time as his voice disappeared.
The demons, who had the impression “humans are weak” because of the first attack, trembled in fear when the reinforced soldiers approached them even while being injured.
Swift sword attacks and powerful spells aren’t able to make the reinforced soldiers flinch at all.
Due to the reinforced soldiers, who approached them directly without any tactics even when wounded, the demons slowly suffered losses as well.

“Aren’t you scared of dying!?”

“Hasn’t your brain been messed up? Humans are insane!”

Demons, who die after receiving attacks by Vichy’s soldiers while struggling with the reinforced soldiers emerge. Moreover those soldiers of Vichy get killed by the reinforced soldiers.
Because the demons and reinforced soldiers move about as they please, 3-way battlefields were created all over Vichy while also dragging the civilians into it.
And, the general of the demons, Bashim, can’t grasp the state of affairs either. On top of the battlefield being stretched out too far, reports about the situation didn’t reach him since the numbers of the single units were too low.
As his soldiers don’t return, he has no other choice but to believe that they infiltrated Vichy successfully. The fact of him not having established a means of communication invited an amplification of the losses. However, even that’s something Bashim isn’t aware of.
Of course he also didn’t know about the person, who can become another power just by himself, entering the field until the time of meeting him.

☺☻☺

“Hmm…” (Hifumi)

Tearing off the armour of the reinforced soldier he slew, Hifumi gazed at the chest of the opened-up enemy.
What was embedded there was a magic tool without a doubt. Guessing it from the soldiers having attacked him without feeling any pain, Hifumi was able to conclude that it’s the same item as the one he had seen until now.

“Did its movements became a bit better? Or is that an individual difference?” (Hifumi)

The corpses of three other reinforced soldiers, merchants, people who were apparently a family and three adventurer-like men, who were armed with leather armours and swords, are scattered in the surroundings.

“Without any discrimination, huh? Though that doesn’t really matter. But with this I won’t know who did them in, right? Well then, that means the enemy is unclear and the target of hatred isn’t set. How boring and stupid.” (Hifumi)

Sheathing his drawn katana, he chews a bread which was inside a carriage, with its horses dead, that had toppled over. The texture of the food still has dampness remaining.

“Mmh~… from relatively close-by? It hasn’t become overly dry.” (Hifumi)

They were probably attacked by the reinforced soldiers at the time when they ran away from the demons’ invasion. The adventurers were the escort? Or they might have been bandits who attacked the merchants.
At any rate, since all of them are dead, there’s no point in guessing.
Once he stuffed the remaining bread into his mouth with gusto, Hifumi removed the glove of his left hand and crammed it into his obi.

“Did they finally come?” (Hifumi)

Once he waved his left hand, two thirds of the ice spear, which came flying, was shaved off and it scattered after falling to the ground.

“W-What did you do?”

Even while realizing that it was repelled, the demon soldier, who fired the ice, doesn’t seem to know how it was done.

“Don’t mind it! A human isn’t capable of directly dealing with magic anyway!”

What attacked Hifumi next was a fireball, but with one swing of his pitch-black left hand, its centre was hollowed out and the rest vanished towards the ground while slowly swaying and turning into sparks.

“Let’s do something totally different. It will probably end up the same as with the other guys as well, won’t it?” (Hifumi)

Drawing the katana with his right hand, he provokes the demons with the left hand.
There are five demon soldiers. All of them hold swords and are capable of using magic at the same time.

“The likes of a human!”

Kicking the one, who came rushing at him, with a full-power front kick, caused the demon to roll back the ten-odd meters he ran.

“That’s no good. Even the humans have begun to learn fighting while using their heads. Leaving aside the lot from Vichy, if you are going to fight humans from now on, right… try scheming like Bennia did.” (Hifumi)

Apparently there was one among them who knew Bennia. Is he confused? He shows a strange expression.

“W-Why do you know her name…?”

“We had a relationship of fighting to the death against each other.” (Hifumi)

“Just like this”, Hifumi shortens the distance in one breath and approaches the demon he sent flying with a kick just now.

“As if I would let you!”

Evading the demon’s counter-attack of thrusting out his sword in order to stand up by turning around, Hifumi reaped the demon’s head with a sideways swing of his katana.

“I know, I know. You demons are good at magic.” (Hifumi)

He knocks down all the pebbles with his katana.

“Your bodies are somewhat sturdier than those of humans and you are powerful, too.” (Hifumi)

Once a demon appeared in front of him while holding a sword, he drags him into a power struggle between the swords’ guards by putting blade to blade.

“W-Why…?”

In contrast to the demon who tries pushing frantically with both hands while investing his entire body’s weight, Hifumi uses just his right hand. The demon’s sword, which is three times as thick, scratches against the blade of the Japanese sword with a creak.

“And, there’s no considerable difference between you and humans in the structure of your bodies.” (Hifumi)

Hifumi extends his left hand and pulls the obi which was coiled around the demon’s waist.

“Nuoo!?”

Being placed in a situation of having his body bent against his will, the demon becomes unable to use his sword. He has no other choice but to watch with wide-open eyes the katana approaching in front of him.

“Oops.” (Hifumi)

At the moment the pressure exerted became lax as Hifumi had to avoid a fireball which was thrown at him by another demon at that time, the demon separates from Hifumi by rolling on the ground after abandoning his sword.
They concentrated another barrage of pellets at the feet of Hifumi who tries to chase, and during that time another demon prepared their sword and stood in the way of Hifumi.

“Your teamwork is good.” (Hifumi)

“Well done, I’m pleased”, Hifumi nodded and crushed the fireball, which came flying at him, with his left hand.
A clutched left first with only two fingers standing up.

“I will kill two more and let the other two of you go.” (Hifumi)

“Eh?”

The instant he opened his eyes widely due to the sudden statement.
Hifumi’s intense thrust violently hit the blade of the sword he set up.

“Heavy!”

The demon who hit his head with his own sword, is confused while shedding blood from his forehead.
Kicking away the demon’s pivot leg, Hifumi pierces the heart of the demon who toppled over.

“The placement of the organs is the same as well… one more.” (Hifumi)

Pulling out the katana’s point from within the grey skin, he shakes off the blood clinging to it.

“D-Don’t come any closer!”

When one of the demons swung his arm, the ground under Hifumi’s feet burst open as if exploding.
Countless small rocks scatter in all directions and Hifumi vanishes within a cloud of dust.

“Let’s escape now!”

Once the man, who cast the spell, looks at the face of his comrade, the katana is piercing one of his eyeballs.
The one who is holding the katana is naturally Hifumi.

“It was an interesting attack. However, its output was too low.” (Hifumi)

There are several small holes in his hakama. Though only slightly, were his feet injured? Blood was trickling down on the ground beneath him.
Even so, there’s also the fact that he evaded getting directly hit by escaping to the front. For Hifumi ((those injuries)) are at a level that he can ignore them easily.

“Such a…”

In front of the scared demons, the body of their comrade, whose soul departed this world, was released from the katana by collapsing.

“Just as I announced, two are left. Since I’m letting you go, get moving!” (Hifumi)

Upon Hifumi’s order, the two demons turned around and started to sprint with all their might.
Weren’t humans weak?
Weren’t they supposed to be unable to decently cope with magic attacks?
Are the human groups we thoroughly overran in the wastelands different from the man who killed our comrades just now?

“What shall we do?”

While cursing at the troublesome reality, they head towards the forces with their leader.
Just like Bashim, who is their general, many of those in the higher ranks among the demons reach their positions because they can use unique magic. It’s the magic Bashim used at the time when he killed the messenger from Vichy.
Instantly creating a blade out of thin air, he sends it flying. No matter what opponent it might be, if they don’t know about it, it has a speed to a degree of being unavoidable. Even in the battle some time ago, it has easily killed the human general.
If we reach Bashim’s location, we will be able to kill that human.
They pretend to not hear the footsteps chasing them from behind.
We will be safe if we return to our forces.
They ran while embracing that belief.

 


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