Chapter 4-3

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Chapter 4, Part 3

For Dominica, there was no such thing as “naptime.”

A dragoon’s magic was the ability to alter the body. In other words, she was able to consciously control every aspect of her own body. Naturally, that included being able to manipulate required sleep time and depth of sleep. If she wanted to, she could make it so only sleeping one hour out of every day could wipe away her exhaustion. She could also sleep standing up, like cows and horses do.

Thanks to that, she didn’t dream. But that was okay.

“…It’s about time.”

From her closed window, she watched the morning light sink downwards.

Though she didn’t own a watch, she could guess the time accurately.

“All right, Dominica. Time for battle.”

With just the slightest bit of excitement, Dominica encouraged herself, then said a magic chant. A blue light surrounded her, and her regular cloth outfit dispersed, her armor now in its place.

Of course, in actuality her armor and clothing were just her bare skin in a transformed state. Though she had no semblance of human shame, wearing clothes had become a habit for her.

The saboteur boy had been surprised at the fact that she hadn’t used chants, but actually, she did use them. However, she had spoken them just by activating the vocal cords deep in her throat, so if she kept her mouth closed no one would be able to hear. This was also possible due to the dragoon magic that allowed her to freely control her own body.

“…Hmm?”

When she opened the door to leave the room, the door hit upon something.

Pushing on the door slightly and slowly this time, she walked out into the hallway and saw the projection device she’d used to display Lucie’s hologram lying there on the ground.

It seemed like that girl Chaika had kept her promise.

She was about to check to see if it still functioned—but then she shook her head.

If all went well, she wouldn’t even need it anymore. So there was no need to check on it.

Dominica pushed the projection device into the bedroom, walked out and shut the door.

“…Really, how confounding,” she muttered, and headed for the courtyard.

There, those three were supposed to be waiting.

The courtyard had been set as the meeting spot, but she had left the spot of the start of the battle itself up to their discretion.

It was all the same anyway.

In a world without her, everywhere really was the same. Everything was dyed the same color, everything was flat, everything appeared to her as contrived and futile.

That was why…

“Did I keep you waiting?” Dominica asked as she stepped into the courtyard.

“Nah, we just got here,” Tohru said, heavily armored.

However, only his knees, elbows, and shoulders were noticeably covered.

The torso, a crucial area, was left completely open, particularly the abdomen, though that was probably to prioritize ease of movement. A slip-guard would have been efficient enough to protect his organs, but because the center of the body was particularly solid, his movement definitely would have been hindered.

On the back of his waist were those dual short swords he seemed to favor. Two daggers in their scabbards, one for each arm, started at his wrists and came up to his elbows. Additionally, the vest on his chest had a number of throwing daggers strapped to it, probably doubling as more armor. No doubt, he was also wearing thin chainmail underneath it all.

In comparison, next to him Akari’s armor setup was considerably lighter.

She had a hammer in her hand, and it seemed like she had things hidden on her person here and there, but nothing as conspicuous as Tohru’s. She was most likely prioritizing ease of movement to the absolute maximum.

And then—

“I see. A wizard, huh?” Dominica nodded as she looked at Chaika’s enormous Gundo she was carrying.

I see…that certainly makes sense.

 

With the support of a specialist in long-range attacks and support attacks like a wizard, a saboteur excelling in close-combat attacks would be able to stand on the same ground as their enemy. A saboteur could also probably stall for time, allowing the wizard to cast their heavily time-dependent spells. As for Tohru prioritizing defense and offense and Akari prioritizing evasion, that difference was most likely so they would have all their bases covered no matter what fighting style Dominica decided to use.

For people calling themselves saboteurs, they were actually playing by the books. She was surprised.

To someone with years of experience on the battlefield like Dominica, it was even laughable.

But, she didn’t dislike it.

Perhaps they had actually taken Dominica’s offhand comment of “I want to stand on the battlefield once more” to heart, and had chosen to fight honestly for her sake.

But, this was no time to be appreciative.

If she was grateful here, it wouldn’t be a battlefield.

Her wish was to stand on the battlefield, so—

“Ready?”

“Anytime,” Tohru replied, but as if an afterthought had just come to mind, suddenly continued. “Oh, by the way, we’re really strong, so you might actually die.”

“Hmph.”

Dominica felt her lips curve upward.

Apparently, he had every intention of winning.

Good. Very good. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t be a battle. Dominica Scoda did not wish for a one-sided battle against an unmotivated opponent.

“Oh, and we couldn’t figure out where the remains were either, so that was quite the puzzle.”

“No need to worry about that,” Dominica said. “They’re inside the projection device.”

“…”

As she expected, Tohru’s group looked at each other, most likely in utter surprise.

To be honest, if Chaika had happened to spot them during her repairs, Dominica had thought it’d be okay to go ahead and let her have them.

It wasn’t like Dominica hated Chaika—or Tohru and Akari, for that matter. So there had been a point where she’d actually hesitated to have this battle for their lives all for the sake of her own selfishness. If they spotted the remains, grabbed them and took off running, Dominica understood that that was lucky for them in its own way.

“Guess it’s too late to take all this back now, huh?” he asked with a wry smile.

“There’s nothing to take back,” Dominica said, and raised her greatsword.

The sword was big enough to rival Dominica herself. This, too, was in actuality a piece of her armor—in other words, a piece of herself. If the blade dulled or broke, she could return it to its original form with magic. If it got knocked out of her hand, she could just create a new one that was exactly the same. To dragoon cavaliers, there was no such thing as “disarmament.”

“All right—let’s begin our fair fight.”

“Yeah, right. I’m a saboteur.”

So he said, but he unsheathed his dual shortswords and held them at the ready.

“Besides, this is a battlefield. Fair doesn’t mean shit here. All that matters is winning.”

“…I see, you’re exactly right.”

Dominica laughed, and took a step forward.

“Well then, here I go.”

***

A dragoon cavalier’s greatest weapon, aside from the defensive properties they received from their dragon, was their unpredictability.

 

In that sense, their strength shared something in common with the strength of saboteurs.

In other words—

“—!”

It was literally instantaneous.

The distance between them, about ten steps or so, was obliterated in the blink of an eye. Dominica, who at the start of the blink was a good distance away, had already appeared right in front of Tohru’s face and had raised her sword by the time the blink finished.

Absolutely insane stride.

She’d looked weighed down with her bulky armor and huge sword, but…it was unbelievable. She was even faster than Tohru or Akari’s speed when they were only wearing light armor. By being deceived by her appearance for a split second, he was now going to experience the feeling of a blade slicing through his skull.

“Tch…!”

Tohru leapt to his right—what would be Dominica’s left.

A greatsword’s destructive power was proportional to its weight. However, that meant its adaptability was poor. A blade of that size’s trajectory couldn’t be corrected in the middle of a downward swing, especially if the hand used was not the dominant one. In that case, the moment their own body intervened, a small opening would be created, dulling their movement—

“Naive!”

—or so it should have been.

Tohru never would have imagined that the blade would change directory mid-swing, heading towards him.

Nor did he expect for her to switch the hand supporting the blade from the left to the right.

It wasn’t a technique, or anything like it. She had just forced the trajectory to change with brute strength—a truly superhuman feat.

“—!?”

Two throwing daggers strapped to Tohru’s chest were destroyed in one go, their pieces flying. If they hadn’t been there, his chest would have been sliced right through horizontally, and he would have been finished just from the opening attack.

That speed, despite all that bulky armor and weaponry. And the sheer force of that attack, despite how fast it was.

It was common sense that when you raise your defense, you lose speed. And when you raise your speed, you lose attack power. But in the case of Dominica, none of that applied.

That armor she was wearing was most likely not only for defensive purposes. It probably behaved like a living creature of its own, or rather, possessed functions similar to muscles that allowed her to increase things like stride and attack power.

“You did well to avoid my ‘Mortal Stroke.’”

Dominica actually looked impressed as she gave a satisfied laugh, and then assumed her stance.

It was the most basic of fundamental stances—almost as if she were an amateur just learning the way of the sword.

However, her explosive speed and tremendous strength sealed up any possible openings. Within the “fundamental stance” lurked many possibilities; it was called such because it was the basis for a wide variety of techniques.

“‘Mortal Stroke’, huh…I see, in most cases an attack like that would definitely slay the enemy in one go,” Tohru groaned.

In the unluckiest cases, there were probably even those who had died without even realizing they had been killed.

That was just how swift and powerful Dominica’s attack was.

Obliterated in an instant, not to mention with one single blow.

“It’s like you’re made up of surprise attacks…”

“Surely you won’t call foul?”

“Of course not,” Tohru replied with a bold laugh…then he leapt to the side.

Because Dominica had once again closed the distance between them in an instant, swinging her sword down.

There was no time for banter between them.

Ka-thunk! There was a noise that sounded more like a large, blunt object—like a battering ram—had struck the ground rather than a sword. The sheer force of the impact created a long, deep fissure in the courtyard earth.

Countless debris flew through the air, obstructing each other’s path—

“—Ngh!”

Dominica let out a groan.

At the same time, a high-pitched metallic clank resounded amidst the cloud of dust.

It was the sound of a throwing dagger glancing off something and twirling through the air. Dominica had used her sword to block the dagger, which had been thrown in tandem with the dust cloud.

“Truly a saboteur! You do not hesitate, nor do you leave yourself open.”

“Right back at you.”

The cloud of dust cleared.

Dominica’s torso become visible—and a deeply embedded throwing dagger was protruding from a crack in her armor.

A number of throwing daggers were also lying at her feet. Since it had been impossible to precisely aim for his target amidst the dust, he recognized it was largely futile—but even so, he figured it’d be worth it if he could get even one of them to hit. However, it seemed like the dagger had unexpectedly hit a sweet spot.

“But, that won’t be enough,” Dominica said as she walked towards Tohru.

She didn’t seem any more lenient—but, suddenly the throwing dagger fell from the crack in her armor, almost like it had been pushed out, and clattered to the ground next to her feet.

There was no trace of pain or discomfort on her face, and no change in her gait. There wasn’t even any blood leaking out from the crack in her armor. If a normal human had had their abdomen pierced and didn’t suffer an instant death, they would at least have been rendered immobile…

“…I get it,” Tohru muttered, narrowing his eyes.

His gaze was fixed on Dominica’s abdomen, specifically the place where there should have been an open wound. It was just for an instant, but he had seen a blue light leaking from the area. Magic. Using her magic, she had transformed her “wounded” abdomen into an “unwounded” one.

“Now, if you had struck my head instead…” Dominica said, almost as though she found it unfortunate from the bottom of her heart.

“If I’d pierced your forehead, you would have died?”

“From just piercing it, doubtful. Swords and the like are too sharp. A precise strike to the brain would be enough to be able to heal.”

“I see, so that’s how it is,” said Tohru.

In the next instant—

“—Hmph.”

Dominica rested her sword on her shoulder, as if carrying it.

This seemed like an incredibly flippant action, but at that moment, a hammer tracing a perfect arc in the air towards back of Dominica’s head bounced off with a sharp noise like it had collided into something. Without even turning around, Dominica had intercepted the back attack.

“…”

Using the reversed momentum of the intercepted hammer, Akari spun around the opposite way and swung again, this time from the left, towards Dominica’s neck.

In response, Dominica—

“Hnn!”

Performed a backstep.

Or no—that wasn’t it.

Akari was trying to attack her from behind, so with Dominica’s back still facing Akari, Dominica had rammed right into her.

Dominica had already previously demonstrated her abnormal leg strength. Naturally, her ramming attack was also ridiculously powerful.

Akari, who only had light armor covering her already-light body, was blown away, crashing into one of the mansion’s windows.

“Guaah!?”

Smashing the glass and window frame, Akari tumbled into the mansion.

“Akari!” Chaika shouted.

The girl ran towards Akari’s location, readying her Gundo that was about the same height as her.

“Idiot! Don’t—”

Just use magic indiscriminately, is what he was going to say. However, those words never came out, due to a downward swing with intense force coming toward him.

“Tch—”

Immediately, Tohru threw several throwing daggers in quick succession, as if delivering a horizontal slice with a sword directly after unsheathing it. Normally this would cause the opponent to stop moving—they would need to solidify their footing in order to withstand the onslaught of deadly weapons heading towards them. That was what was supposed to happen, but…

“No way!?”

Tohru jumped backwards.

Dominica didn’t stop. Not even for a second.

Unlike his earlier daggers, every single one of the small blades found their mark this time, and true to their aim, headed right for the crack in Dominica’s armor as though they were being sucked in.

Yet Dominica remained unconcerned, and let the daggers pierce her.

There was no wavering in her cadence.

The situation as it was, there was no battle strategy he could adhere to. There was no point to baiting an opponent who didn’t care to get hurt.

“Boy, just who do you think you’re fighting?”

Dominica chased after the retreating Tohru with a ferocious laugh.

“Do you intend to make light of a dragoon’s defenses? Did you perhaps think that they were cute creatures who would just curl up in a ball while their enemies passed by?”

She possessed equal parts defense and offense, with most of her attributes focused on breaking through a single point.

In other words, she was lethal.

“Humans are quite inconvenient.” Dominica said as she swung her sword around.

In some respects, she was like a bull in a china shop: literally swinging her sword haphazardly and forcefully, without rhyme, reason, or technique. However, her unparalleled strength made every strike lethal. Tohru could only continue to dodge. If he was to carelessly block using a weapon here, not only would he lose the weapon, but most likely the use of his arm.

“You pierce their stomach, and they die. You slice their chest, and they die. You remove their head, and they die. They can even die from a mere blow to the head. Such fragile beings…and yet they’re so quick to throw themselves into battle.”

Dominica raised her sword high.

!

 

Before he knew it, Tohru realized he’d been cornered.

To his left was a stone. To his right was a flowerbed.

Thanks to these obstacles, if he leapt in either direction it would delay his leap by a second.

Then—

“Hup!”

Tohru leapt backwards.

From his encounters with it up till now, Tohru knew the span of Dominica’s weapon.

Realizing he would just make it by the skin of his teeth, he jumped.

“!?”

Crunch.

He had raised his left arm reflexively when he jumped, and a shock was now running up that arm.

Followed by an overflowing heat, and then finally—pain.

It was broken.

He didn’t even need to look at it to confirm. Dominica’s sword had shattered it, along with the dagger he’d attached to his arm.

If he hadn’t had that dagger there, and hadn’t been wearing his chainmail underneath—if that sword hadn’t been intercepted by the dagger and chainmail, Tohru’s arm would have probably went flying. There was no way he could have taken the attack.

“Ri…diculous…”

He had judged the distance, and confirmed he would dodge the attack. He’d taken Dominica’s speed into consideration, and determined that there was no way the attack would reach…

“—Hey, wait!?” Momentarily forgetting the pain in his arm, Tohru yelled, dumbstruck. “That’s…”

“I told you, didn’t I?”

Dominica looked almost shocked at his reaction.

“Just who do you think you’re fighting, boy?”

The sword in Dominica’s hand was clearly much longer than before.

While it wasn’t double the length, a few inches had been added onto it. This was how the blade was able to reach him and betray his calculations.

“This sword is also a product of dragoon magic. Therefore, it too can be ‘transformed.’ What need is there for a sword to always have fixed length, anyway?”

“Hey, wait…that’s…”

“Surely you aren’t going to say ‘unfair?’”

“…I take it back, then,” Tohru muttered as he jumped back for now. The impact of the landing caused pain to run up his arm.

“Guh…”

Not good. The pain was clouding his concentration.

Not to mention—in a wide area like this, he would absolutely fall prey to a sword that could shrink and extend as its user liked.

Tohru turned tail and raced into the mansion.

“Goddammit…to think she was such a bullshit opponent.”

Grumbling to himself, Tohru ran down the hallway.

Dominica was probably chasing him.

“Fine, then. Come and get me, dragoon cavalier,” he muttered as he ran through the mansion.

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