Curse Rebound – Execution
In the Imperial Capital lies the Imperial Palace, the home of the Imperial family and the seat of national power. It was in such a place that Emperor Albert met with a man whose entire body bar his face and hands were covered in a robe typically worn by magicians.
“Then, are the magical preparations complete?”
“Yes. There were no issues. Using this magic, the Crown Princesses may be delivered to His Imperial Majesty at any time.”
The man who stood in the centre of the magical sigil was in the employ of the Imperial family… In other words, the Imperial court magician.
Acquiescing to all of the Emperor’s demands whilst retaining an air of respectability amongst the nobles of the court… In other words, a lackey who takes care of the dirty work behind the scenes.
“Proceeding this way, there will be no need for His Imperial Majesty to have to travel himself, not to mention it may be difficult to gain entry to the Kingdom.”
“Yes, quite right. In other words, this magic shall send the subjects to a designated point, correct?”
Although he hardly thinks that’s the way to talk about a blood related daughter, the court magician realizes that saying something would only draw the Emperor’s ire, so he bit his tongue and nodded an affirmative.
The Empire and the Kingdom had been on speaking terms during the reign of the previous Emperor, but when Albert ascended to the throne and his tyranny began things changed. At the continental conference held once every four years, where every nation other than the Land of Demons participates, Albert made several ill-advised remarks on his first attendance as Emperor and increased tensions between the two nations.
“After all, compared to our nation, they are such an insignificant little place.”
Words spoken about the Kingdom, the conference’s hosts.
Although he didn’t intend for anyone to hear his mutterings, his words didn’t escape the ears of the ‘Black Lion King’.
The talks ended in a sour mood not long after that, with trade relations between the two countries suddenly worsening hugely, becoming fraught with protectionism and tariffs.
That said, detection magic that can cover an entire country has not yet been developed on this continent and there just isn’t enough manpower in the different countries able to be dedicated to finding people who have come illegally from abroad, so it has been very hard to actually enforce border control laws.
In fact, it isn’t unusual for someone seeking refuge from another country simply end up becoming residents there.
“I have men on standby ready to retrieve my daughter. After you’ve cast your sorcery, they shall retrieve them from the collection point.”
“Once I cast the magic, there is none but me who can interfere with it. There are some rumours about that adventurer defeating a dragon king, but those stories only come from those base adventurers themselves… It’s nothing but nonsense. How can you cut such high and noble magic with a mere sword?”
“Very true. However, the task you undertake will bring two heirs to the throne back to the Empire. I trust there won’t be any mistakes?”
As the Emperor looked down on him, the court magician rubbed his nose and said, of course, there wouldn’t be any. After all, how could such imbeciles fighting with primitive weaponry hope to do anything against his arcane knowledge?
The Imperial court magician who looked down not just on adventurers but also the nearby soldiers for that reason, chuckled to himself as he remembered the reward the Prince had promised him.
When that mother tries to take her children back, he will simply ensnare her with magic and make her his own.
According to the rumours, that woman had looks that were almost otherworldly, the thought of making such a peerless beauty a slave set his heart racing.
“I shall now begin. ――――《Remote・Supplement》”
The sigil beneath him shines as he chants. The devil’s hand looms darkly over the peaceful lives of that family.
In that remote town, the training square of the local adventurer’s guild is busy again today.
Usually, the only voices that can be heard are the yells and cries of mock battle, but today cheers can be heard blended into the din.
Even the adventurers practising with bows and slings turn to look at the training scene taking place, in the centre of the training square ringed by a crowd of adventurers a young brown haired magical knight with a mace and shield faces off against a white-haired swordswoman wielding a wooden sword.
“Well then, if you would.”
The young man couldn’t stop sweating as Shirley stood perfectly composed in front of him――――Kyle, wielding the equipment he had bought with his reward from the Dragon War, slowly approached Shirley with his shield raised.
In reality, Kyle doesn’t really have the skill to judge when his opponent is leaving themselves open. What’s more, it’s obvious to him that the moment he attacks, he will receive a completely decisive riposte.
Even if it’s training and he’d likely be allowed to make the first attack, as a teenage boy he’s still worried about embarrassing himself in front of this many people.
(Well, I know I don’t want to look silly, but I think she’s the same.)
He doesn’t take his eyes of Shirley, but he knows that Sophie and Tio are also watching the practice.
Although her daughters had always been popular at the inn they stayed in, they had become a sensation with the whole guild after the feast and Kyle can sympathize with the mother who wants to restore a bit of her dignity.
(But… I’ll still take you on――――！)
Aware of the excitement of the adventurers watching their mock battle, he closed the distance between himself and Shirley until she was in range, then shifted his weight using the muscles in his right foot.
He leapt and swung the mace down on her with his right hand. Even though it was just a mock battle, he put all his strength and peed into that blow… But, like a river stream diverted by a rock, his blow missed Shirley by a few centimetres.
He kept swinging the mace, but Shirley’s light footsteps made him feel like he was trying to hit a leaf dancing in the wind.
After she casually knocked aside his mace with her wooden sword, Kyle barely defended against her counter with his shield.
Shirley’s body is said to be able to move at a speed that is unthinkable for a normal human being and although Kyle has barely been able to keep up so far… She slowly increases the tempo.
“Wa… Ugh, aaah….! W-woah!”
Even if her blows are gentle, the sword that’s flashing in front of Kyle’s eyes is moving so fast that it looks like there’s two of them.
Now that he’s relying on pure instinct to stay in the fight instead of tactics or skill, it’s obvious that he’s beginning to get overwhelmed… But, even through his panic, he notices something.
(Is that… a gap?)
In the briefest of moments between her strikes, her side is vulnerable. Could this possibly be his chance, if he swung the mace right now?
Thinking about that, Kyle tensed his muscled, but then for some reason, he hesitated. The sudden hesitation proved costly and with a sigh, Shirley swept Kyle’s legs out from under him.
“Really, you’re just…”
She held the wooden sword to the neck of the rookie adventurer on the ground. “Oooooh…!” a short cheer went up from the adventurers watching.
“Even though I gave you such an opening, why did you hesitate like that?”
“That’s… That’s because, uh… Wait, you did it on purpose!?”
During duels between people, there are many techniques where one can feign an opening and manipulate an opponent’s attacks.
It seems that Kyle didn’t get caught in Shirley’s trap because of his hesitation, but for the purposes of this training battle, it was still a failure.
“Although adventurers will sometimes fight against humans, the overwhelming majority of enemies you face will be monsters. Since monsters are fundamentally different to us, duelling skills don’t matter at all. You need to focus on just reading the opponent’s moves and delivering a blow when they leave a gap like that.”
Between people, a glancing hit can lead to death… But even if you pierce a monster’s chest sometimes its heart may be in another place, monsters aren’t just abnormal in regards to their physical strength.
The ideal is a single killing blow. If a fight becomes prolonged your opponent will only gain more and more of an advantage, one shouldn’t overlook an opportunity to attack.
“I was wondering ever since your first attack, but were you hesitating to attack another person even though it’s just a mock battle? If you do something like that on the battlefield, you’ll be the first one to die, Kyle.”
“No, that’s not it… The thing is… Um…”
I don’t want to hurt you… Is the feeling that welled up in his chest.
It’s possible that’s what he was thinking back during the battle, maybe he was even holding back.
Of course, he doesn’t have the grounds to say such a cool thing as he’s lying flat on his back. If anything, given the difference in ability, she should be the one saying that.
As Kyle daydreamed of being able to actually say something like that… Shirley tilted her head in confusion.
“Anyways… Duelling is all about reading your opponent. If you come across a bandit or a heretic mage and act like that, you wouldn’t defeat them even if you had a thousand attempts. …Asterios, how is it going on your side?”
“Hm… There are still many things to worry about.”
The silver tag of an A-rank hung around the neck of the minotaur adventurer as Asterios rested his battle-axe on his shoulder, looking at the two young adventurers who were gasping in exhaustion in front of him.
“The goddess has blessed us with a bright and beautiful day, but seems to have left the future of these two children in darkness.”
As if praying for a similarly bright future for those children, Asterios rose his hands in supplication. If it wasn’t obvious by the robes he was wearing, one could definitely identify him as a priest by the bell he wore around his neck, engraved with the symbol of the Goddess.
“T-this is impossible…! What can I even do as an archer if all my arrows disappear…!?”
“Is this part of the training…? We’ve got to stop him before he chants.”
“It’s a practical form of training. If they need to chant to use such simple magic, then you must move to interrupt them.”
Facing off against this godly adventurer was the half-elf whose height made her indistinguishable from a hobbit, with maroon coloured hair and bright golden eyes, she was the magical bow archer called Leia.
The other one was a youth with black hair and black eyes, a rare combination in this part of the world, wearing little armour along with a toolbelt and wielding a dagger, this was the scout called Cudd.
“Anyways…! If you don’t go out and take the fight to him, I can’t do anything from the back you know…!”
“Shaddup…! I’m not used to being on the front line either! Don’t be so damn demanding…!”
“Oh, despite how you look you still have the strength to argue? Then, let’s continue the training.”
“We will start up again as well. Now, please get back to your feet.”
As Leia and Cudd’s training resumed despite both of them gasping for air, Kyle and Shirley squared off again.
Ever since the Dragon War, there have been a lot more chances for Shirley to train and adventure with the rookie training party she had accompanied to defeat the Ancient Dragon, and recently Shirley has been getting involved regularly at the training square.
She also became interested in applying as a trainer for the training facility meant to open here next year, Shirley was worried that it would eat up too much of the time she would rather spend with her daughters.
“Let’s end it here for today.”
“If you’re too sore to get out of bed tomorrow, don’t force yourself on an adventure.”
Shirley and Asterios, who hadn’t broken a sweat during the entire training session, turned their backs on the three rookie adventurers sprawled out on the ground. Even in spite of the bronze tag hanging around his neck, with all those moans and groans he’s making Kyle might be misidentified as a zombie again.
“Yes, just now. I hope that wasn’t too boring?”
After finishing her business with the guild, Shirley gently pets the heads of Sophie and Tio who had run over to her.
“Mm. It was fun to watch.”
“Is that so?”
“Then, we should go home now! We’re having stew today, right?”
“You don’t need to hurry so much, I still need to buy the ingredien-”
At that time, only Shirley could see the black mist descending on the peaceful scene.
It ignored all the other adventurers and moved to swallow Sophie and Tio in its darkness――――
It’s instantly cut and dispersed like a cloud.
Wielding a sword summoned using imagination alchemy, the Demonic White Sword had cut through the essence of the magic and then instantly had the sword disappear. There wasn’t anyone nearby whose eyes were good enough to notice those three lightning fast movements.
“Mama? What’s wrong?”
“…No, it’s nothing.”
Shirley couldn’t help but let it show on her face.
The black mist just now was a magic that Shirley only saw because of her ability to see ‘everything’.
She doesn’t know what kind of spell or curse it was, the only thing that matters is that it was definitely aiming for Sophie and Tio.
(Who would dare…!?)
Shirley suddenly felt that long-suppressed hatred bubbling up to the surface for the first time since her daughters were born.
‘The Demonic White Sword’, it was time for her to truly earn that ominous name.
Meanwhile, in the Imperial Palace. Blood painted the walls of the court magician’s study.
“O-oi!? What’s wrong!?”
The court magician’s torso had been sliced in half and blood sprayed like a fountain as he toppled over dead, meanwhile Albert could only collapse to the floor and back away by dragging his rear end on the ground.
“It… It failed…? Argh, utterly useless!”
Albert threw insults at the dead man. Although calling it a failure is right in a sense, it misses what really happened.
Since ancient times, when curses have been identified by skilled magicians they have been able to be nullified, but the true horror lies in the fact that these curses can also be rebounded to their caster in this way.
Sometimes the effect is only as bad as losing consciousness, but when the magic is especially strong it can reduce the rebound target to a pile of flesh.
However, for a curse rebound to produce a clean slash like that… It was unheard of.
“My word, what a colossal waste of time this was. Next time I’ll have to hire a much more powerful mage.”
Not noticing the abnormality, Albert leaves to prepare for his next attempt.
He didn’t notice it at all. The slash that had cut the court magician in half had been delivered by a swordswoman whose swordplay existed outside of the laws of nature.
He had looked down on her. To him, all that business he’d heard about with the dragon were just exaggerated rumours.
And he was too foolish to even know what he had truly done now.
――Oh leader of the nation, why have you poked the bear?
ʕノ•ᴥ•ʔノ ︵ ┻━┻