A standoff. That word was ill-fitted and lacking for the current situation of both smiling. Hifumi recognized Origa’s strength. He didn’t harbor the slightest negative feelings towards her having wounded his left wrist just now. On the contrary, he was delighted.
“Not bad.” Glancing at his bloody wrist, Hifumi laughed.
He had blocked all the wind blades, but the bleeding from his first wound had increased.
“…Are you not going to use a magic potion?” (Origa)
“I have only two left. Besides, I can’t leisurely take care of it with you as my opponent.” (Hifumi)
“Ah…i-it’s an honor.” (Origa)
Origa believed that to be a slightly exaggerated assessment, but for Hifumi that was a relatively serious evaluation.
She restrained her opponent by manipulating invisible blades while nimbly moving with her small body. On top of that, she could even handle close combat by striking and slashing an enemy with her iron-ribbed fan.
I haven’t taught her group combat and throwing techniques almost at all, but even without her being able to use those, it doesn’t limit her. At the very least it’s much more troublesome to take on Origa alone than fighting several hundreds of demon soldiers, Hifumi assessed.
“You have forged yourself well. This seems…to be something to look forward to.” (Hifumi)
“Please savor it to your heart’s content.” (Origa)
Before Origa finished speaking, Hifumi swung his left hand towards behind him. The black hand, which swayed feebly, erased a wind spell that had flown at him after taking a big detour.
Origa, who closed the distance faster than walking but slower than running from the front at the same time, slashed her fan diagonally from the shoulder at Hifumi’s knee without showing any discomposure at the surprise attack having failed.
Avoiding the slash by nimbly pulling back his leg, Hifumi then attempted to step down on the fan with that foot.
However, Origa forced a kick, averting Hifumi’s foot. Having trampled down on the ground as a result, Hifumi slashed with the katana, which had dangled in his right hand, as if scooping up.
Origa let the blade slide off the top part of her opened fan, causing sparks to scatter.
Pushing each other’s weapons, both took some distance. Hifumi exhaled deeply through his faintly opened mouth.
Origa heaved her shoulders a bit, and took two deep breaths, calming her heart.
This time it was Hifumi who attacked. With his katana lowered, he plunged straight at Origa as she had done moment’s ago. But, there was a remarkable difference in their force.
Due to the pressure approaching her with an overwhelming strength that excelled even a gale, Origa was reflexively on the verge of escaping backwards.
However, at this point she wouldn’t be allowed to turn around and run away. If she were to hurt his fondness for her by acting pathetic here…what if she were to be denied to sleep together with him for that very reason?
Wiping that frightening image of a possible future from her mind, Origa stepped forward. Moreover, she pushed her own back with wind magic.
Both clashed silently. The katana and the fan exchanged blows once again. Chipped-off fragments of the fan were sent flying. But for some reason all of them flew towards Hifumi. One fragment cut Hifumi’s cheek open.
“Wind magic, huh? That’s quite skilful.” (Hifumi)
“It’s a result of your kind teaching, Hifumi-sama.” (Origa)
“Hearing that makes me happy.” (Hifumi)
Contrary to Hifumi who had been suppressing her with his katana in one hand, Origa held him at bay with her fan in both hands while performing feints with magic.
Origa, who had the advantage in regards to the number of moves at hand, was about to distract Hifumi with magic once more, but Hifumi moved first.
Noticing that she had been tripped up after lowering her eyes as she had apparently lost her strength in her knees all of a sudden, Origa curled up her body swiftly, and ground her teeth while getting out of the katana’s range. Focusing on distracting her opponent, she had neglected to watch out what was happening at her feet.
At this rate I can’t bring it to a close.
She splashed water, which she had created with magic, at Hifumi, who mercilessly stepped in and thrust his katana at her, and took some distance in the meantime.
During the long training sessions with Hifumi, Origa had naturally been able to learn of his combat distance. If she confronted him while keeping a distance of more than four steps, she could use magic before any approaching attack.
Properly fixing her stance, she opened the fan. Breathing out such a hot breath that it seemed as though her innards were on fire, she fixedly stared at Hifumi.
Her husband in front of her had lowered the katana in his right hand and was shedding blood from his left, and yet he looked at his wife with a calm expression. No hesitation or fatigue was visible on his face. He was simply staring directly at his opponent. No, Origa knew after being taught by Hifumi. Hifumi sensed and saw the air flow and the happenings around him, and not just his opponent.
In that case, Origa began to manipulate the wind. She poured mana into the magic-wand substitute, her knife, which was affixed to her arm, and transformed it into a phenomenon.
Hifumi seemed to have sensitively noticed that the air around him had changed. He lowered his waist slightly, getting ready to move at any time.
Hifumi was closely observing Origa. It’s because he couldn’t read the changes from her movements. Origa wanted to enjoy the state of their looks entwining with each other much longer, but she had to hurry.
“I had the privilege to talk about various things with you.” (Origa)
“That’s true. Well, if you say that it’s only natural, you’re correct, but above all, you wanted me. And I wanted you to become stronger.” (Hifumi)
“Our training, our work, and our nightlife. And I was even allowed to hear various things about the time when we were separated. While spending such an irreplaceable time, you made only one mistake, Hifumi-sama.” (Origa)
And then Origa breathed in very deeply, opened her mouth, turned it forward, and caused her throat to tremble strongly.
In an instant, Hifumi noticed the true nature of the attack. He threw away his katana and blocked his ears. But, he couldn’t put any strength into his left hand, resulting in his left ear not being plugged completely.
The voice, which had turned into a shock wave rather than a sound, was amplified by wind magic as it assailed Hifumi’s ear. Although it had a certain extent of directionality, the surrounding knights and monsters fainted, and even Origa, the source, shed blood from both ears as her eardrums had been torn.
However, that wasn’t the end of the attack.
Origa started to fiercely run towards Hifumi who was firmly standing despite shedding blood from his left ear and looking somewhat lightheaded.
Origa could see him picking up his katana and raising it overhead. However, she didn’t stop. She readied her fan, and stepped in without dropping her speed, no, while putting even more power into it.
Within the battlefield ruled by silence, the fan in her right hand took flight.
The aim was his left hand.
Hifumi wasn’t in a perfect state. The possibility of her being cut was high, but he should be slower than usual.
While warning herself to not hesitate, she mowed her fan sideways, targeting Hifumi’s left wrist with a speed being as fast as she could muster.
Suddenly Viine appeared at the edge of Origa’s field of vision. As visible from her long ear’s bleeding, she had apparently been hit by the shockwave. And yet, with a somewhat unsteady gait, she earnestly came running while shedding tears.
“Stop!”, seemed to be what she was shouting, but Origa couldn’t hear it. Very likely Hifumi hadn’t heard it either.
Viine jumped like that, trying to cling to Hifumi. At the same time, Origa’s fan severed Hifumi’s left wrist. And Hifumi’s katana pierced through Origa’s collar into her back.
Just like that Hifumi tumbled over in the shape of two women clinging to him at full force.
It took mere seconds until a thick magic barrier sprung forth around them.
“…Why didn’t you kill me?” Origa asked while sticking to Hifumi with her ear pressed against his chest.
However, no answer came back. On the contrary, she couldn’t hear with her ears either.
Once Origa raised her body while smiling bitterly, Hifumi pulled out his katana at the same time. A feeling of passion rather than the pain made the core of her body tremble.
Origa sat down in order to suppress her agitation while blushing, and just like her, Hifumi raised his body. Viine had fainted while clinging to his waist.
Origa didn’t hear him, but Hifumi murmured something, and no sooner than taking out two magic potions, he opened one and thrust it into Viine’s mouth.
Once he pulled it out when it had decreased by around half, Viine choked and had the liquid run out of her nose and mouth while rolling around, just to clash against the magic barrier.
Meanwhile Hifumi drained down the remaining liquid in the magic potion. It apparently healed the wounds at his face and arm, but it didn’t regrow his left hand. However, Hifumi didn’t show an inkling of minding that.
And then he offered the remaining potion to Origa.
She couldn’t talk well because her ears weren’t working, but Origa was bit by bit talking about something along the lines of having no qualification to be together with Hifumi as the one who lost while twisting her face because of the pain of her body and heart.
“Good god, why are you such pain only at such weird times.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi, who inserted his left arm beneath Origa’s armpit, pulled her up with all his strength, brought his face close in a pose as if hugging her, unplugged the magic potion with one hand, and poured the contents into his mouth.
Due to the sudden kiss, Origa’s body froze for an instant, but she immediately accepted him.
As her shoulder and back wounds got healed and once she became able to hear again, Origa tried to separate her mouth, seemingly feeling embarrassed by the wet sounds audible between the two. But, she gave up on it and clung to Hifumi just like that.
“M-Master, are you alright?” (Viine)
When Viine, who had apparently revived, clung to Hifumi, the kiss finally came to an end. And then Hifumi lowered his fist on Viine’s head.
“Stupid rabbit, you interrupted our precious fight…oh, it started, huh?” (Hifumi)
“Kyaa! What’s this!?” (Viine)
While sighing, Hifumi answered to Viine, who was embracing him once again, “It’s the sealing. That damn Imeraria had fully aimed for that moment.”
Contrary to his words, Hifumi was laughing.
Slowly the petrification started at the feet of the three.
They were standing with Origa and Viine snuggling up to Hifumi from both his sides.
At this point, their legs up to their knees had already transformed into white, shining stone.
“A-Are we going to be okay…?” (Viine)
Hifumi laughed off Viine who was frightened and anxious. Origa’s face was tinged with dissatisfaction.
“Viine, did you get cold feet at this point in time? Origa, do you plan to turn into a statue with such an expression?” (Hifumi)
As he was talking about this and that with the two women, Imeraria, accompanied by Sabnak, and Alyssa showed up.
“Is it fine now?”
“Yes, the magic has been already invoked. No one can stop it. …Even if I were to be killed.” (Imeraria)
Hifumi extended his right hand towards Imeraria who was smiling as if to provoke him while standing in front of him. He gently placed his hand on the head of Imeraria, whose body became stiff.
“Well, considering it’s you, you did well.” (Hifumi)
“You didn’t have any capable personnel. It was a good choice to get involved with the demons. If it had been just you and your retainers, it should have been impossible to gain enough time.” (Hifumi)
Imeraria was surprised by the sudden evaluation. Alyssa bent herself forward from the side.
“Hifumi-san! I want to talk with you once more, after all!” (Alyssa)
“There’s not much time left anymore. What is it?” (Hifumi)
“I will properly protect the territory! So that you can return to that mansion again if you come back, Hifumi-san!” (Alyssa)
“Okay, I leave it to you.” (Hifumi)
“And, and…” (Alyssa)
“Why!?” Imeraria raised a scream-like voice from behind Alyssa who was searching for her next words.
“Why, now that it has come to this, such, such…” (Imeraria)
“I felt like the seeds I sowed so that this world would come to my liking had budded. The one in the center of it all was you. That’s it. You worked well for me. Gathering information, doing the spade work, assembling the necessary pawns, and changing your actions while forming an estimate how you can win. All of it are things no one in this world did or could do.” (Hifumi)
“If I were to assess you sternly, it would still be a failing grade for a long time to come, though,” Hifumi added.
He had already petrified up to his waist. Hifumi knitted his eyebrows due to the uncomfortable feeling of being unable to move his body freely.
“You had the preparedness to get your revenge against me. That made you grow. And I taught Alyssa and you what will be necessary for the humans to survive in this world, where humans, elves, dwarves, and demons are all jumbled together, from now on.” (Hifumi)
Imeraria looked down and swung her fists while Hifumi was talking.
“I will likely come back sooner or later. I don’t know whether it will be several tens or hundreds of years in the future. I don’t know what kind of world it will be at that time. But if there’s a wish, I only pray that it won’t be filled with fools who don’t know how to fight. …Otherwise, there won’t be any fun in killin’ them.” (Hifumi)
“A person like you…!” Imeria slapped Hifumi’s cheek with her palm.
Hifumi resigned himself and received it without dodging. Something like a powerless attack of her didn’t cause any significant pain, though.
“That’s it. It’s fine like that. Bear in mind that your hated opponent will revive one day. And tell the child to not shirk on its preparations for the coming battles…mmh?” (Hifumi)
Imeraria trembled once more due to Hifumi’s words. However, her face as she looked up at him was smiling.
“Hifumi-sama, your biggest flaw is that you can’t understand the feelings of women.” (Imeraria)
Saying so, she put her arms around his neck and brought her face close.
“There’s no way that a woman would go this far on hatred alone, is there?” (Imeraria)
Before Hifumi could object, she forcibly kissed him.
“Me too!” (Alyssa)
The instant Imeraria separated from him, Alyssa jumped at him as well, and roughly pressed her lips on his. Rather than kissing, it was an innocent act similar to a pet licking her owner.
“Ah, geez! Cut it out!”
Hifumi, who got rid of Alyssa with a headbutt, looked at Imeraria once more.
“Anyway, feel free to tell the future generations about us what you like. Alyssa, you can also do as you like since you’re the feudal lord now.” (Hifumi)
“Yes, I shall leave plenty of slander about you behind, Hifumi-sama.” (Imeraria)
“I will develop the territory properly!” (Alyssa)
The two expressed their discontent at Hifumi irresponsibly replying with “Yeah, yeah,” but Hifumi didn’t listen to them anymore.
It’s because Origa, who was close to him, asked him to put his hand around her waist, and Viine demanded the same as well. As he made sure to hug the two with both arms, Origa brought her face close.
“Hifumi-sama…no, dear. Why didn’t you kill me? If you had stabbed a little bit to the left at that time, I would have died. …I can’t believe that you’d make such a blunder, dear.” (Origa)
Hifumi shook his head at Origa, who looked up to him with a serious look, “I don’t kill unborn children. I felt the presence of a baby in your belly. That’s all.”
“Eh? What’s with that? Is that true? Congratulations, madam!” (Viine)
In exchange for Origa, who blushed and froze while looking up to Hifumi, Viine got all excited by herself.
“Origa, do you intend to become stone with such an expression? Laugh. That’s what suits my wife the most.” (Hifumi)
“…Yes, dear.” (Origa)
The petrification slowly advanced from their neck to their chin. The two, who stared at him while smiling, and the one, who was embracing them while brightly smiling, fully turned into stone statues.
According to the books which Imeraria had deciphered, their time had already stopped. Without thinking anything, their consciousness would likely return next when someone removed the seal.
Imeraria, who had crumbled down at Hifumi’s feet as if clinging to them, hid her face and burst into tears.
Without being able to stop that, Sabnak simply waited. No, he also shed tears. He didn’t know whether it was out of sadness or not, but at the very least this spelled a parting with people with whom he shared some time together. It would have been great if we had talked more without any restraints, he now regretted.
And, Alyssa also cried loudly while standing stock still. Her crying voice didn’t cease echoing across the plaza until the sun went down on that day.
The scuffle in front of the royal castle, which was called pandemonium and an unprecedented calamity, took the lives of many demons, and even the human side had to pay a heavy toll. In the end, the soldiers and knights, who had survived, all fainted, spelling the end of the battle.
However, this was a fact which was recorded only in the documents sleeping in the forbidden treasury of the royal castle. The news, which were spread to the populace, were different.
“The Hero of the Slender Sword magnificently held back the demons in a struggle to the death, and got sealed together with his wife and attendant due to a curse.”
A new pedestal was built in the center of the plaza, and the statue of Hifumi and the others was enshrined there. Only 『Portrait of the Hero』 was inscribed on a lithograph embedded in the pedestal without mentioning any details about him. It was decided to entrust the rest to the people spinning their gossip.
However, Imeraria had one sentence carved into a part that was separate from the lithograph.
『The slaughterer summoned by Imeraria sleeps here. You must not wake the calamity.』