Chapter 4, Part 2
“No good! Cannot happen! Must turn back!”
“Shut up.” Akari continued to run with Chaika struggling under her arm. “Don’t make me go through the trouble of knocking you out.”
Chaika stopped struggling and shouting. She probably realized that Akari was dead serious.
Akari stopped running and let Chaika down.
After raising her voice to those three earlier, it was only the two of them moving around here. In this area there were a few shops lined up on the road, which meant it was common for it to be busy here during the daytime. At night, however, it was unsettlingly deserted, which made it easy to notice anyone’s presence, even if they were hiding.
This wasn’t a good situation to be in.
“Nii-sama said he would retrieve your precious coffin for you.”
“Yeah,” she nodded, frowning. “Though…you really should be more worried about him.”
“Those three might not all be using the same techniques, but if they’re all as skilled as the one throwing the needles, then it’ll be difficult for Nii-sama to escape from there. That’s not even taking into account the baggage he has…”
“Your coffin.” The crease in Akari’s brow deepened.
“…Understand.” Chaika nodded.
“Nii-sama…why on earth did you…?” she muttered. Though her expression was as stagnant as ever, her behavior was that of someone who refused to accept the situation in front of her.
She turned her head away like she was trying to avoid looking at her troubles, but eventually she faced Chaika again and spoke.
“You stay here.”
“I’ll go back to help Nii-sama.”
“I, go with.”
“No. You’ll just be a burden.”
Akari said without hesitation.
“Our job is already over. You’re no longer our client. Us continuing to travel with you up till now has all just been an extra service.”
Chaika looked like she had nothing to say to that.
It was understandable. Just a bit ago she herself had suggested the termination of their working relationship. What Akari was saying made sense.
Chaika pointed to Akari.
“Akari, retrieve Tohru. Me, retrieve coffin.”
“Like I said, that won’t work…”
“Helping Tohru, impossible for me. For you, possible.”
“…”This time it was Akari’s turn to be speechless.
Basically, what Chaika was suggesting was that she would take back the coffin, whereas Akari would take back Tohru. Though they would be accompanying each other, their objectives would be different.
And of course, if she was captured or even killed on the way back from retrieving her coffin, that would be Chaika’s problem and not Akari’s.
With that clear divide between the two, the saboteur Akari felt that it might not be impossible after all.
No, in fact, it was…
“We’ll have to resort to some dirty tactics.”Akari crossed her arms. “They would never expect us to go back there…”
Those three should have realized that Tohru had deliberately thrown that smoke bomb precisely to allow Chaika and Akari to make their escape.
But looking at it from the other side, that meant that they probably wouldn’t be counting on Chaika and Akari to come back. So if they went back there and did something like circling and sneaking around the back, they might actually be able to pull this off.
“Understood. We’ll do it.”
Chaika beamed at the nodding Akari.
* * *
The confrontation ended with Tohru being apprehended quickly.
As soon as he was about to make a run for it with the coffin, the cavalier Gillette and the giant had brandished their swords on both sides of Tohru, crossing them. The sensation of the blade on the nape of his neck told him that it would be futile to do anything but stay put.
Not to mention…
“Your swords appear to be comblades,” the giant said. He was easily keeping his massive sword in place with just one hand. “I’m also a comblade user.”
Comblade users were a pain to fight.
The blades communicated with their user through shared senses that would then be fed into energy, allowing the comblade to become a part of the user. Just by holding the sword, the highest equilibrium was achieved. In other words, in that moment the user and the sword became one living entity.
It was widely viewed as “the sword becoming part of the user”; however, you could also look at it from the reverse.
Namely, that “the user became part of the sword”.
Comblade users had no concept of “swinging a sword.”
That was because every one of their movements was a sword technique.
“Just give up. No matter how good you are with that comblade, you won’t be able to escape us three.”
Tohru glared at the giant for a bit, but then…
He lowered his shoulders and dropped his stance. Yet he did not let go of the coffin’s handles.
“I’ll ask you again,” Gillette began, his sword still thrust out.
Gillette’s sword didn’t seem to be a comblade, but that actually made it even more terrifying. It meant that he could use a regular sword at a comblade user’s level. He had heard that military-bred cavaliers learned how to grip a sword before they could even walk on their own two feet, and seeing this guy he certainly believed it.
“What is your connection to that girl?”
“Is she someone you know?”
“Right back at you. Is she someone you know?”
Tohru deliberately craned his neck to meet Gillette’s eyes.
The blade ever so slightly cut into his skin, and blood came trickling from his neck.
“That ‘someone’ you’re talking about is Chaika, right?”
“Of course,” Gillette nodded. “We are here for a just cause. We act because of a request from various nations across the world. Our actions are derived from an understanding of who we’re chasing after, and what that girl is chasing after.”
“We’re way different from you,” Vivi chimed in. “We uphold justice.”
“…An assassin upholding justice, huh?”
At Tohru’s words, Vivi’s glare became sharp, but she didn’t say anything further.
“Ah, whatever. I get it already. In this situation, there’s no way I can win. I’ll comply and hand it over. Okay?”
Slowly, Tohru bent downward and set Chaika’s coffin on the ground.
“Take your hands off it,” the giant ordered.
“Are you sure you want me to do that?” Tohru said. “This coffin has been rigged with an explosive. If you were to force it open, it could blow up. Carelessness could cause all of you to get blown sky-high. Do you really want that?”
The cavalier Gillette and the giant exchanged glances.
For a brief moment, they seemed to be pondering the situation. But then…
“All right then,” Gillette nodded. “Disarm whatever traps you have on it. Then, hand the object of our concern, the ‘remains’.”
Tohru thought hard.
So these guys knew that what Chaika wanted were those “remains”. Which meant that someone had told them for what purpose she was collecting them, and whose remains they actually were. Of course, if they were also being employed by someone, then it was possible they didn’t know the circumstances either—that would be the much more favorable outcome for Tohru.
Because that would mean they didn’t have the whole picture.
With his back to everyone’s stares, Tohru made a show of disarming the “trap” within the coffin. It went without saying that the stuff about the explosion had been a complete fabrication. However, to have something like that set up wasn’t an unusual tactic, especially for saboteurs. Tohru had already shown them that he used smoke bombs, so he thought explosives and such would probably be believable to them.
“This is what you guys are talking about, right?”
Tohru opened Chaika’s coffin, undid the string tying the thing in question to the inside, and took it out.
Inside the clear cylinder was a severed hand.
Tohru displayed it to the three, as if telling them to take a good look at it.
“Yes, that’s it exactly,” said Gillette, nodding enthusiastically.
After confirming that, Tohru broke into a wide grin.
“Oh. So this is it, huh?”
And then he threw it.
He threw the clear cylinder with the severed hand in the opposite direction, into the darkness of the night.
Instinctively, all three pairs of eyes went away from Tohru. Of course, neither of the men made any move to withdraw their swords, but their attention had been diverted while they were wielding them, and so they might as well have. On the backs of the gloves Tohru was wearing there was iron installed to repel blades. He knocked away the swords at his left and right and sunk downward, grabbed the coffin, and dashed away at lightning speed.
“Forget him! Grab the remains!” shouted the cavalier, chasing after the hand that Tohru had thrown. Vivi quickly followed him.
“You’re not going to go chase it?”
Tohru asked as he glared at the one person remaining, who went not in the direction of the severed hand, but in the other direction…namely, towards Tohru.
“Saboteurs aren’t careless,” said the giant, who was directly behind him. “You probably just threw a fake.”
“I’m not that skilled.”
“At any rate…” the giant said, “I’m not as nice as Gillette-dono.”
In the next instant, with a force that rent the sky, the giant’s comblade flew at him.
Tohru sank to the ground and was just barely able to dodge, but some of his hair was ripped off with the attack and it scattered through the air.
“To kill an enemy, you just need to get rid of their means of attack. I know how you fight.”
“What sound logic.”
Seeing that the comblade was about to make another overhead chop, Tohru forcefully lifted up the coffin he was holding and swung.
The giant couldn’t have expected Tohru to use the coffin as a weapon. Of course, he had dodged the attack, but such an unnatural dodge did disrupt his stance slightly.
With a sharp cry, Tohru threw the coffin just like that.
After all, he had no hope of winning if he continued to lug around extra baggage.
It was certainly true that to kill an enemy, you just needed to limit their means. With the cavalier Gillette and assassin Vivi away, it was just the giant left. Tohru probably had a fighting chance.
He heard a clunk behind him, and he knew that the coffin must have hit the wall or something. But he didn’t care about that…he unsheathed both swords and confronted the giant ahead of him.
“Hm.” A bold smile crossed the giant’s face. “Not bad for a brat.”
Tohru licked his lips.
In the next instant, the two of them moved almost simultaneously.
The giant swung first.
Tohru just barely defended by dodging it.
No matter how good the giant was with his sword, no matter how much arm strength he possessed, it didn’t change how heavy his sword actually was. And in addition to it being heavy, it was also rather long and wide, which made it especially hard to swing around.
So his trajectory was limited to begin with.
As long as all of his attacks were direct swings, then even without “Iron-Blood Transformation” Tohru would be able to dodge them easily.
The blade uselessly sailed over Tohru’s head.
The blade cut deeply into the wall of a nearby building with a dull sound.
It stuck in there!
Once he saw that, he was convinced. After something like that, the sword wouldn’t be able to be pulled out right away. The giant’s crude destructive power had turned against him. If it had been a weaker attack the sword would have just bounced off the wall.
Taking a single step forward, Tohru sent a double-bladed attack towards the giant’s chest. The pointed end of the right comblade was heading right for a vital spot. This would surely be the killing blow.
The attack didn’t pierce his flank. Instead, it only stabbed the air.
It was hard to believe that someone of the giant’s stature could have moved in such a way to actually dodge it, especially as quickly as he did.
He would have had to pull a frighteningly unnatural stance in the air.
It was impossible. Keeping in mind the giant’s position and the stance he was in, Tohru determined that there was no way he could have avoided his attack. No matter how flexible he was, that kind of movement was beyond the limits of what the human body could do. It was impossible for a human in a normal stance to turn his head all the way around, and in the first place he wouldn’t be able to jump immediately after that massive swing.
With a sharp laugh, the giant sent the heel of his boot down at Tohru from up above with all the force of a hammer.
For Tohru, whose posture was already compromised from dodging that last attack, it was impossible to avoid. He immediately used his left sword to block the heel, but that didn’t nullify the impact. The sword went flying from his hand and stuck into the wall of a nearby building.
Rather than stubbornly trying to stand back up, Tohru rolled away. He had to get some distance between him and the giant.
“…Wait, you didn’t…”
“I did.” The giant gave him a big grin.
The giant’s comblade was still stuck in the wall.
No, it wasn’t that it was stuck in the wall. The giant had made it get stuck in the wall.
Tohru could tell just by looking at it that that huge comblade was sturdy. Sturdy enough that it wouldn’t break even if the giant put his whole weight on it. In other words, he had stuck his sword into the wall to fix it in place, so that he could use it as leverage to launch himself into the air.
It wasn’t a technique a cavalier or a swordsman would use.
It didn’t fit the orthodox style of either of them.
This blunt way of using anything and everything in the area in combat was more in line with a mercenary…much closer in nature to a saboteur technique Tohru or Akari would use. It was a method of combat that any textbook cavalier would ridicule, calling it “cowardly and unfair” or “heresy.”
“Surely you, a saboteur, aren’t going to call that unfair?” the giant laughed as he pulled his sword out from the wall.
“I won’t,” Tohru said.
Unfairness was fine. Foul play was fine.
A saboteur’s pride was to bring victory to their client regardless of the methods used. In battle, there was no such thing as right or wrong.
Bam! The giant rushed towards Tohru, emitting a ground-rending sound as he kicked off.
It was a direct, sudden attack from the front.
This attack would have the force of his running speed combined with the giant’s muscle strength and the mass of his sword, not to mention the sheer force of his running speed made it difficult to judge the distance between them. On top of that, every fiber of his being was concentrated on this assault, and the amount of zeal he was pouring into it made it nothing less than deadly.
Simple though the trajectory might be, a sideways sweep from the front meant that it was impossible to dodge left, right, or down. And if he jumped without thinking, he would leave himself completely open.
Put simply, this attack was one to be feared.
“Surely you aren’t going to say that this is unfair!” Tohru shouted as he leapt into the air while spinning around. The giant’s slash went right under him.
Of course, if evading left, right, or down wasn’t an option, then obviously the only choice was up.
Letting out a short cry, Tohru brought his sword down on the giant’s head.
It was a technique that could split boulders in half, plus the fact that he had spun around his entire body meant that even more acceleration force would be applied, doubling the power of his attack.
“Foolish!” the giant yelled.
Sure, Tohru had avoided the sideways sweep. But that was all he had done. He had left himself in the air with nowhere to go, and so the giant, attacking from a different angle, released a vertical sweep upward. Regardless of the circumstances the giant’s straight swipe up was a shorter motion, and so it reached Tohru first.
Or at least, it should have.
The giant crumpled.
And it was in that moment that he probably finally realized what had happened.
A thin black string was tangled around his legs. The string led to the pommel of a sword—Tohru’s sword which had been knocked away earlier. The reason Tohru had deliberately spun in the air as he jumped was not to accelerate his attack, but to pull the string wound along the ground tight around the giant.
Tohru released an attack from overhead meant to knock down his opponent.
But for some reason, the giant raised his own left arm to block it.
…There was the unnatural sound of steel hitting against something.
Tohru’s attack hadn’t severed his arm; on the contrary it had been stopped at his thick muscles. The giant was probably wearing chain mail on the inside of his clothing. It was a common thing on the battlefield; it wasn’t like it was unfair.
Instead of following up any further, Tohru sent a kick at his chest to get some distance.
At the same time, he pulled in the rope, and the sword stuck in the wall came back to him.
The giant groaned as his left arm hung down loosely.
He was bleeding…probably because his muscles had been cut so deeply, he didn’t have any strength left in his arms. Both arms were stained red, and bright red blood was dripping from his fingers.
“Now then,” Tohru said, crossing his swords in a scissor-like shape. “You said that to kill an enemy you needed to get rid of their means, right?”
It was probably impossible for the giant to swing that huge comblade efficiently with only one arm.
Not to mention the quantity of blood he was losing—if Tohru didn’t give him an opportunity to stop the bleeding, even if he decided to spare him it was Tohru’s win.
The giant frowned, but he unconcernedly picked up his sword and assumed his stance.
“You’re still going to fight?”
“Of course. That’s the pride of a mercenary. Something a saboteur would know nothing of.”
With a sigh, Tohru lowered his blades.
And in the next moment…
There was a dull sound, and then the giant’s head wobbled.
He sunk down and hit the ground with an earth-shaking crash. Behind him were…
“Are you hurt, Nii-sama?”
“Tohru, came to rescue.”
It was Akari with her hammer in hand, with Chaika beside her.