A monster stitched together in the mismatched form of a person… A monster man, should we say?
It must have a way to perceive vibrations in the earth like a bat or sense sources of heat like a snake, because without eyes to see or ears to hear, that monstrosity suddenly turned and closed the distance on Shirley using its innumerable human-like limbs to scuttle along the ground.
With a flurry of kicks, punches, palm strikes and chops coming from those flailing limbs, the speed and fury of its attack exceeded most monsters, let alone a human being. She thought it was strange before the battle had begun, but now Shirley realizes that this monster is completely different to the information she had been given.
(This attack speed is much more troublesome than the reports suggested.)
According to the three D-Rank adventurers who had managed to drive the monster into a corner before, it had long arms that it could only swing at a human-like speed.
But the monster in front of her is attacking so quickly, hand over foot, that it would be difficult for even a C-Rank adventurer to keep up with the assault, so Shirley was had to admit that this was a surprise.
(Is it evolving…? Or was it holding back…? It doesn’t just look strange, it acts strangely as well.)
It’s hard to imagine that a monster could so vastly change its biology in such a short time, likewise, it’s unthinkable that a monster would seek to hide its strength against opponents it should so easily beat.
In the wilderness, it is kill or be killed. Outside of the very highest ranking monsters, creatures will fight with all their might in battle as if their life depended on it because it so often did.
(But it isn’t strong enough to be an apex monster and it doesn’t seem to be intelligent either… Just what on earth are you?)
Then, as Shirley was leisurely thinking that, a new flurry of attacks came at her.
Lowering your guard like that was fatal in battle. That monster man felt an instinctual sense of victory as it plunged towards the woman who let her thoughts wander in the heat of combat.
However, after that quiet yet dismissive sound, all ten limbs that had flashed towards Shirley were cut in two with lightning speed, using curved swords that had suddenly appeared in those hands that had been empty a split second before.
The monster couldn’t even follow the shadow of the swing, let alone the swords themselves, and it wasn’t until those limbs lay in the grass that it felt the agonizing pain of the severance, whilst also realizing that the Demonic White Sword hadn’t let her guard down at all.
Flying forward with a single hard step into the earth. This time, it was Shirley who charged forward, attempting to slice through the monster’s veins at high speed, but the monster recovered quickly and opened its countless mouths, each of them with their own sets of perfectly white teeth, screeching at a cacophonous pitch.
The scream became supersonic waves that smashed into the trees and cut up the earth around Shirley, but to her, it was still just sound.
It may have burst the eardrums of a normal person, or at the very least the noise would have stopped them in their tracks, but the semi-immortal Shirley can rely on that supernatural regenerative ability instead of some physical or magical defense.
Even if the membranes in her ear are damaged, it takes less than a second to restore them to their original state, so it’s like they weren’t damaged at all. Without worrying about the sonic attack, she raised her curved sword with the intent to end the battle, but――――
Despite her having enough time to completely turn the monster into a thousand pieces of nondescript mincemeat, instead, she leapt backwards, throwing those curved blades into two of those innumerable mouths, piercing them straight through.
As she watched the monster scream and flail in pain, Shirley was quite surprised by what she saw as she held her hands over her ears.
Using her supernatural power, she had seen that there was a magical power to the explosive effect of the monster’s screams. She thought that maybe it was just a sonic ability from raising its voice to the maximum level, but it seems that’s not the case.
This was something far more dangerous. It’s a deathly wail that could damage the brain simply by hearing it. The high volume is merely to ensure that its victim hears it.
And so, this beast was a true threat to a semi-immortal being like Shirley. A semi-immortal comes about when a being’s body and soul is changed by an abnormal mental state… The influence of Shirley’s mind when controlling her body is far greater than a normal human being’s.
(I see… So this is a natural enemy against semi-immortals?)
Since it’s like this, she can’t attack thoughtlessly. As if she read Shirley’s intentions, the moment she summoned a new blade using her imagination alchemy, that ghastly collection of mouths all inhaled as one.
It seemed like that monster man was about to unleash its most deadly barrage of sound yet. Using up all of its magical energy, it will completely destroy the brain of its semi-immortal opponent… But, the moment it tried to let loose its final attack――――
“Well, you’re still much too slow.”
She moved many times faster than she had counter-attacked before.
This time, she didn’t even leave a shadow on the ground. Even if it had eyes with which to see, that monster would have had no chance of following Shirley’s speed, as every single gaping orifice on its body was perfectly stabbed by a rapier one after another in the blink of an eye.
Very few creatures in this world would be able to live on after such a blow and this strange magical beast was no exception to the rule, as blood streamed from that myriad of mouths, it fell to the ground with a death rattle.
“Fuu… Request complete.”
So long as all of its mouths were plugged up, she guessed rightly that it wouldn’t be able to use that heinous ability. Summoning rope and wood, she tied the monster to a duckboard and began hauling it, enhancing her strength with the magic 《High Rise》.
“Yes…. Hmph. As expected, it really is heavy.”
Since Shirley’s body is still quite delicate, there are limits to her strength even when she uses physical reinforcement magic. Although she regretted that she didn’t bring along someone like Asterios this time around, Shirley nonetheless managed to drag the creature outside of the forest then, after protecting the corpse with a monster repelling magical barrier, ran to the nearest village in order to borrow a cart.
After making contact with the guild using the village’s installed magical communication tool, Shirley asked for the dispatch of a dragon-drawn wagon to bring back the monster and hitched a ride to get back to the frontier town without delay.
She delivered the corpse to the guild and made her detailed report about her observations both before and during the battle, but when she saw that the sun had set and was preparing to go home ――――
“Ah, please just wait one moment, Shirley-san.”
Just what is it this time? If she didn’t leave straight away, she wouldn’t be able to cook a meal for her daughters, so right now her precious family time is being cut short.
Receiving such a harsh glare filled with those emotions, Yumina who had called out for her drew back a step, but this was a receptionist who had been hardened by years of dealing with the most brutish and unwashed of adventurers on a daily basis. Standing up to the pressure, she got straight to the point.
“T-There’s just one thing? A certain intermediary gave me a letter that is apparently for you, Shirley-san, and they were hoping for a quick reply.”
Shirley couldn’t hold back a frown. Although she’s being vague about the sender, from the way Yumina was talking about them it seems like someone important, who also didn’t want to be named.
“Where’s the letter?”
It looked like a plain and unassuming envelope at first glance. There’s no wax seal and no sender noted on the front… Instead, only a single sentence was written.
To the lady who loved a cup of lemon tea in the summer months.
(Someone who knows me from when I was a noble…?)
Although she hardly gets the opportunity to have such a luxurious drink now that she’s a commoner, and such a dainty thing would never be served in the rough and tumble guild, during her days as a noblewoman she always enjoyed a refreshing drink of lemon tea on a hot day.
She highly doubted that Albert would remember something like that and she had never been in any sort of relationship with her family where they would know or care about what she liked. Then, by process of elimination, the girl that Shirley doted on in those old times was the only answer.
When she opened up the envelope and began to read the letter inside, she still recognized the handwriting of that girl who was once to be her sister-in-law, but in reality had been something of a little sister already back then.
Perhaps the King had once again been the intermediary this time around. Although she expected that the letter would be full of highly confidential content, the majority of the letter were lines apologizing for so suddenly contacting Shirley and asking after her health, with the true subject only briefly being stated at the very foot of the letter.
Sister… Shirley-sama, do you happen to know anything about the magical sword of the Wolff family? If you do, I would deeply appreciate you telling me.
I’m not going to be angry if you call me ‘sister’… Shirley sighed when she saw the crossed out word, then thought about that particular sword.
The story of the two swords being handed down the lineages of the two foremost knightly families in the Empire is well known. There is Clarent, the elemental sword handed down through the House of Regnard, and also the treasured blade of the Wolff family. She doesn’t know the circumstances exactly, but not much is known about the latter sword.
Whilst the story about Clarent and its power was known even in this remote branch of the Adventurer’s Guild, the treasured blade of the Wolff family was shrouded in mystery even when she was in the Imperial court. She never even heard its true name.
According to some rumours, it’s a sword possessed by a demon. A blade that can make its wielder strong just by grasping it. Apart from swords that have the ability to cure the wounds of their wielders, Shirley had never heard of any magic swords that had abilities not reliant on the user’s own power… But, as she was going to use that thinking to dismiss the rumours of the sword granting a wielder power, she remembered something.
―――― Clarent is a prestigious and well-known blade. However, the sword held by the House of Wolff is only truly known to them, as well as the reigning Emperor and Empress. On the day that Albert and yourself accede the throne, I shall tell the both of you the truth.
The words of the previous emperor, Legrand, came to mind. But, just why did Philia send her such a letter…? There was only one answer she could think of.
(Gran Wolff is on a rampage?)
She remembered the face of a man she had not thought about in a long time. A man who lost his sense of chivalry, always trying to pin his faults to the actions of others. She remembered catching a glimpse of him during the Duel Ordained by the Goddess, his eyes had been clouded with a palpable sense of envy.
Was Gran committing some kind of evil with the sword? Perhaps this letter is actually a warning, telling her to be careful about Sophie and Tio?
(That said, all the rumours about the sword’s disturbing powers could just be speculation… Wait, now that I think about it…)
There was only one person she knew of that would know the truth about that blade and could tell Philia themselves.
After writing that person a letter and entrusting it to Yumina, Shirley quickly returned to the Deficit House.
It’s a little late to be cooking herself, so she had dinner in the Deficit House’s dining room, but at least she got to eat with Sophie and Tio. Thinking that it really was worth it to clear up the request as quickly as she did, Shirley blissfully spent quality time with her daughters, but her happy face became rigid the moment she entered their room.
“Mum, something amazing happened.”
“Since when could Beryl and Rubeus fly!?”
The two birds, which had only been chicks when she left this morning, now flew in circles over the heads of her daughters.