A Battle Within a Castle — Part 3
Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix, Joker
A silent frown sat upon Nell’s face as she moved through the castle.
“Are you worried about him?” Sensing that she wasn’t in the calmest of states, Carlotta turned to the girl beside her.
“Yeah. I am.” Nell hesitated for a moment before answering with a nod. “How could I not be? The man that attacked us, the man he’s fighting right now is an orichalcum class adventurer, isn’t he?”
Thinking of the masked individual currently locked in combat caused Carlotta to reflect on the operation as a whole. All in all, it was going smoothly, extremely smoothly. She had been prepared for much worse. She and the knights that accompanied her were in the midst of an assault on the country’s one and only royal castle. It would have, by all means, made sense for them to be given a “warm welcome.” And in fact, she had ironically experienced exactly that. Effectively speaking, she had yet to run into any hostile soldiers. More than half of those present within the castle’s walls had turned out to be allies still loyal to the king.
She had expected that there would indeed be loyalists, but she hadn’t thought that they would be so plentiful in number. The unexpectedly high headcount was something she had thought of as a fortunate miscalculation. She didn’t have to lose as many of her companions as she had thought.
The unexpected boon stemmed from the citizens’ assault on the castle’s front gate. The prince’s rebel faction had no choice but to suppress the armed revolt that Alshir’s people were currently engaged in. And as a result, the prince’s dogs, those that obeyed his every order and sought to put him on the throne, had exited the scene.
Of course, it was none other than Carlotta herself that had instigated the revolt in the first place. Not that she minded. Her thoughts on the matter were as follows: If a few well-phrased words can lead to my enemy’s defeat, then so be it. I’ll say them as many times as I need to.
As far as Carlotta was concerned, such an act was a given. She was the type of person to use every card in her hand in order to achieve victory. Her flexibility was, in fact, one of the two main reasons she had been appointed as the operation’s supreme commander in the first place. The other had been her strength, the sheer extent of her might.
Strangely enough, the king was already safe. The most difficult part of the mission was over with her troops knowing none of the hardship it entailed. The masked man, who was supposed to run off in pursuit of an enemy observer, had already gone ahead and rescued the king for reasons unknown.
And while that was wonderful news, it seemed that not all would go as smoothly as she had hoped. His Majesty had expressed interest in accompanying her and her squad for the remainder of their mission. And in fact, he had then proceeded to do exactly that. Honestly speaking, Carlotta found the ruler’s decision a royal pain in the ass. The fact that she had no choice but to comply gave her a massive headache. She wanted to scream at him and tell him to get to safety, but she couldn’t. His decision was firm and changing his mind had already proven extremely difficult. She and her knights had no choice but to escort him even at the cost of their own safety. It was likely that his decision would ultimately cause a number of her companions’ lives to be cut short. Literally.
Another one of Carlotta’s miscalculations was the appearance of the assailant that had the girl beside her as worried as she was. The Adventurers’ Guild had initially taken a hands-off approach to the entire political situation. And they were supposed to stay neutral. But evidently, they hadn’t.
“If the masked man is as strong as observation has led me to believe, then I think that he should at least be able to put up a fight.” Only after a fair bit of internal reflection did Carlotta finally reply. “And if the weapon he was carrying was the one he was most accustomed to, then what he said would be true. Ally reinforcements would only end up getting in his way.”
The massive sword was one that had caught Carlotta’s interest. Its curved, single-edged blade was beautiful enough to charm any that looked upon it. Its size provided as many disadvantages as it did advantages, one of which was its incompatibility with backup. She could easily imagine a scenario in which he accidentally split an ally in half whilst delivering a blow upon the foe before him.
There was literally no choice but to leave handling the assailant to their masked ally. Although she had relegated him to the role of dealing with the adventurer by his lonesome, Carlotta did still understand Nell’s concern.
His face was one that any Allysian warrior would recognize. He, the War Freak, was just that famous. Like all other orichalcum class adventurers, he was so powerful that he had a foot in the realm that only legendary heroes were ever allowed to tread. Not even the guild was able to do much to influence him. They couldn’t control him, and they definitely couldn’t expel him given that he was one of the strongest there was. His nickname stemmed from his abnormal lust for combat. He would show up on every battlefield he could, regardless of consequence or purpose. The War Freak may as well have been a walking ball of chaos.
There was a flash as the battle maniac’s blade drove itself towards me. I twisted my body to avoid it, and then returned fire by swinging Zaien. The many times we had crossed blades had informed him that my strikes were unnaturally heavy, so rather than taking the attack head on, he instead warded it off with a parry. My blade missed him and instead cleaved the earth to his side. Dirt and small rocks were scattered all over as the attack left a veritable hole in the ground below.
I tried to follow the attack with another, but was denied the opportunity. The pervert’s blade slithered towards the back of my neck and threatened to tear it off, so I leapt away from him to avoid the blow.
“Hahahaha!” He laughed heartily. “That’s some brute strength you got there! And your reactions are incredible! You sure are one hell of a catch.”
“Shut the fuck up and stop looking at me with that hideous face of yours, you goddamn creep!” The man was giving me goosebumps, so I started spitting abusive profanities at him while flipping him off with the hand I wasn’t using to wield my blade.
The man’s stats were high.
Class: Fiendish Swordsman
Sword Mastery VII
Martial Arts Mastery IV
Enemy Detection IV
Crisis Detection V
He Who Dances With Death
Like holy crap. This dude’s stronk. My stats were still a fair bit higher than his, but he had me completely outclassed in terms of swordplay. I didn’t have the liberty to check out his unique skills in detail given that we were mid-combat. But their names seem to imply that they’ll probably activate when he’s about to die or when it hits the 11th hour.
Fortunately, the many times we had clashed had proved that I was able to bulldoze through his technical skill with nothing but brute force. My body’s specs were the only reason I was still hanging on. I was convinced that I surely would have become a headless fountain of blood or just another corpse impaled on the end of his blade had my stats been even just a little bit lower. Thank god I’m a Demon Lord. Dungeon, I owe you big time. You’re the best.
As a resident of the Wicked Forest, I had many chances to engage in battle. I hunted all the time. But despite that, I rarely ever chose to challenge anything truly formidable. The reason was obvious. Unlike the pervert before me, I wasn’t the type that enjoyed putting my life on the line just to indulge in potential victory.
The purpose of hunting monsters was just to supply myself with DP, so there was no sense in putting myself at risk. And even when I did end up in danger, I wasn’t alone. Rir, my ever faithful companion, would always be by my side. Ughhhh. I just want to bury my face in Rir’s fluff and forget about all this fight to the death bullshit. I just want to keep rubbing my cheeks against his soft fuzzy fur while ignoring the fact that he’s looking at me and is all awkward and troubled over what he’s supposed to think or feel. God damn it. Why do I have to be stuck in a two man dance to the death with this creepy, perverted degenerate again? Fuck. This is all that stupid fucking prince’s fault. I swear to god I’m going to make sure I end him. Personally.
“Why do you have to be so cold?” The pervert frowned. “Can’t you see how head over heels I am for you right now?”
He stepped forward, into his range, and struck. I used Zaien to prevent the attack, but failed to catch the follow-up. I was too preoccupied and disturbed by him to see it, so I ended up eating a straight punch to the gut.
I groaned as a dull pain suddenly began to cloud my consciousness. But just as I was on the brink of losing myself to it, I caught his blade darting towards my heart out of the corner of my eye, so I forced myself to focus and twisted my upper body just enough to evade it.
“You can fuck right off!” I used the momentum from the twisting motion to deliver a reckless spin kick. My complete lack of a stance upon the attack’s inception seemed to have caught him off guard. The attack landed. My foot had flown right into his shoulder and sent him flying into the castle wall. “And drown while you’re at it!”
I then began channelling my magical energies and flung one of my signature water dragon spells at the pervert. Although the impact resulting from the kick had momentarily caused him to freeze up, he still managed to react to the dragon and leap out of its way. The serpent’s watery jaws ended up crashing into the wall and splashing all over, blocking the pervert’s line of sight.
And that was my chance. I had created the perfect opportunity to end the battle before either of my foe’s unique skills could kick in.
Because I had yet to stop channelling my mana.
I funnelled it into the blade of my sword and kicked off the ground with all the force I could muster. He couldn’t see. The obstruction delayed his ability to react, but he still managed to swing his sword just in time to intercept the blow. Or he would have, had I actually tried to land it. What I impaled was not him, but rather the ground in front of him. Fire began to swell from the ground below, dying our surroundings in a deep shade of red.
“What!?” The pervert shouted in surprise.
His surprise resulted from my blade’s magic circuit, a circuit I had asked Leila to craft for me. The circuit was the type that activated whenever mana was poured into it. It caused flames to spew from the weapon and light whatever it cut ablaze. The amount of fire it created changed depending on the amount of mana consumed. The massive flames that had shocked the pervert were the result of something somewhere in the middle of the road.
At first, I had thought to make my own magic circuits. But upon further consideration, I realized that there was no point. Leila was obviously much more familiar with them, so I had asked her to do it instead of slaving away at something that I was clearly bad at. She readily consented. Apparently, she had been looking for a chance to experiment with 3D magic circuits, as they were something along the lines of a new technology in a field that she had always studied. She proved herself extremely capable, as she was able to create the exact circuit I requested. And so, I inscribed it into my blade. Its name was Crimson Blaze. I think I’mma probably have her make the circuits I’ll put into Zaien’s other two slots as well. Though it’ll have to wait until after I think up something decent.
I let go of the blade and peered beyond the flames. The battle-crazed freak had been shaken by the sudden surge of heat, and again, his view had been obstructed. I used my magic eye to locate his heart, drew my magical handgun from its holster on my waist, took aim, and fired.
There was a whistle. And after a moment’s delay, it was followed by the sound of something bursting open.
Zaien’s flames waned. They began to die down, but then suddenly sprung to life once more, almost as if they’d been fanned by some sort of motion. Crisis Detection activated and filled my entire body with a sense of impending doom. It was coming from my side. There was something right beside my neck.
I looked, only to see the pervert standing right there. I had no idea when or how he’d gotten there, but there was a visible hole that went all the way through his side and came out the other end. Shit! That didn’t finish him!
“Hahahahaha!” Blood was spilling from his mouth. He was grievously wounded, but he laughed nonetheless. “You’re not bad! Not bad at all!”
And in that instant, his sword began to move. Straight towards my head.
Time almost seemed to slow to a standstill. The blade felt like it was approaching frame by frame. I could see it slowly drawing closer to my eyes. Fuck. I can’t dodge it.
The judgement I made almost seemed to trigger an instinctive action. The arm I had my gun in moved without me willing it to and positioned itself right between my face and the incoming blade.
I heard it right as time began to speed back up. The blade pierced my arm and caused a sharp pain to begin coursing through my nerves. It hurt so bad I wanted to break down and start crying like a child.
But because it pained me, I knew. I knew that I was still alive.
Impaling my arm had caused the blade to shift its course. And so, rather than skewering my brain, it had only skimmed the side of my skull.
I immediately shaped my other, empty hand like a blade and thrusted it straight into the man’s chest. The hard sensation of bone was soon followed by the raw, unpleasant feeling of running my hands through raw flesh.
My aim was true.
His heart had been annihilated.
Fresh blood scattered through the air like petals in the wind as my arm erupted from his back.
My opponent, who had finally stopped swinging his weapon, slowly looked down and confirmed that my arm had run him through before gradually turning his gaze up once more.
“That was… one hell of a… fun fight….” Blood spilled from his lips en masse, but he smiled regardless, content with the battle’s result.
His consciousness waned.
He had become one with the void.
The man fell to his knees and then onto the ground as I withdrew my bloodstained arm from within his chest.
“You probably should’ve grinded a bit more.” I looked down upon him and reciprocated his grin with a smirk. “It was still too early for you to challenge the likes of a Demon Lord.”
Editor’s note (Joker): Hey, guys! Joker here. Well, that certainly was a satisfying way to end this fight. Also, yes, I know that boss is saying that this guy isn’t the stereotypical ‘macho gay man’, but that’s what I thought of. I guess I read too many isekais… Sorry if I’m not completely up to snuff. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis in Final Fantasy XIV… from the time I started playing the game up until end game in Stormblood, I’ve been a Black Mage. But I tried out Samurai, and I find myself really loving Samurai…. Now, I don’t know what to level up in Shadowbringers, Black Mage or Samurai…. It’s rough… Um, anyway, we got two letters today, so thanks to zekkendo and kx for your questions. If you’ve got a question you want to ask, leave it below with the hashtag #AskJoker and I’ll answer it. See y’all in the next chapter…. *sigh* Black Mage or Samurai….?