The White Twins Versus the Imperial Grandmaster
As his outreached arm was burned away in an instant, Gran fell the ground writhing in pain as the shock of the wound smashed through his nerves up to his brain. Tio was stunned only for a brief moment by just what her small familiar had done, regaining her senses and looking for the pocket watch she had dropped, but realized that it was sitting in the grass right next to where Gran was. What would happen if she approached him now, especially since that arm of his is regenerating with a truly frightening speed?
The only outcome she could see is a vision of her small body being swatted into the ground by his giant arm once it had healed.
“Tch…! Sophie, this way.”
There’s nothing she could do about it now, she decided, taking the hand of her older sister who was still in shock and running deeper into the forest. The last time something like this happened, when Shirley’s former servant Rudolph attempted to kidnap the twins alongside a retinue of knights, they were helpless to respond, but with that experience under her belt she wasn’t going to let them be caught a second time, so Tio was able to keep calm.
It was hardly the kind of level-headedness you would expect in this situation from the usually sleepy and sloppy ten-year-old girl.
“W-W-W-W-W-Who was that!?”
“I don’t know… I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s another creep from the Empire. Although he’s a little different from the kind of men mum was warning us about.”
“He’s definitely different from what mama was saying!? What kind of pervert looks like that!?”
There are tears in Sophie’s eyes, but she blinks them back as she tries to regain her cool, calming down a little bit as she talked back to Tio. They might not know who Gran is, but they definitely remembered the face of Alice, the woman half-buried in his body.
What they really wanted to do was run back to town, but that would involve having to get past Gran. The only choice they had was to go deeper into the forest to try and find a wider route to get around him, meaning going past the boundaries of the city where the adults had always told them never to go. In other words, they hadn’t ever been there before.
“….Sorry. I ran this way to try and throw him off, but we might end up getting lost.”
“I-It’s okay! There aren’t any clouds today so we can know what direction the town is in if we keep an eye on the shadows!”
Tio’s eyes widened. She knew her older sister was clever, but she had no idea she knew about something like that.
“But, even if we don’t get lost and get back to the city by the time it gets dark… What about that guy? Is he a monster? What do we do…?”
For now, getting a distance between themselves and whatever that thing was took first priority. Luckily, compared to that oversized deformity they’re running from, it’s relatively easy for those lithe young girls to move around and stay hidden in this dense forest. Even if they’re inexperienced, the two of them had in a way been raised on all the adventurer’s stories they had overheard over the years, so the girls had a shrewdness that belied their young age.
“If it’s as powerful as it looks, it might be able to break down the trees in its way, it’ll be a problem if it can smell us.”
“T-That’s right! Beryl and Rubeus can do something, can’t they!? That beam before was amazing!”
It’s hard to imagine from just how silly those birds look and act on a daily basis, but if those two small familiars had done so much damage to Gran in an instant, it might be possible for them to defeat him. She looked in the sky above her for them with great expectations but was met with empty air.
“Uh… Huh? Where are Beryl and Rubeus? D-Did they get stuck somewhere? Then, if we resummon them…”
“That’s wrong. Sophie, look.”
“Huh…. Wait, uwaaaaaaah!? There’s something white on your head!?”
Tio pointed at the crest of her head with a finger. As Sophie stared at the top of her younger sister’s head she saw it, nestled in that white hair was an equally white bird. It was Rubeus who, despite having some strange air of satisfaction around it, had lost all colour in its feathers.
“By the way, Sophie, Beryl is on your head too.”
“Uwaaah!? I-It’s true! I didn’t notice at all!?”
She finally realized it when she touched a hand to her head. Beryl had become a ghostly shade of white, though it also had that same smug atmosphere as if it were smiling.
“M-Maybe it’s their magical power? I think Rubeus and Beryl’s colours are coming back just a little bit, they must be recovering by merging with our magic paths again.”
“I don’t really get it, but do you mean like the first time we met them?”
Thinking about it, Tio couldn’t see a way for the two birds to beat Gran like this. Gran’s recovery speed was definitely something out of the ordinary, so even if the birds could cause him a lot of damage with their magic, it wouldn’t amount to much if they had to recover from it every time.
“Then, I guess the only thing we can do is try and get around him and back into town, right?”
“Mm. The adventurers back there should be able to do something about it.”
But, just as they were about to decide on it, the two of them had the exact same image flash through their minds.
It was a scene where Sophie and Tio had safely returned to the town. However, after chasing them through the forest, Gran would suddenly be let loose in the streets. Even if adventurers did eventually arrive to stop him, what would happen to the townsfolk in the meantime?
They saw images of Lisa, Chelsea and Mira, not to mention Martha…
“W-What’s with these weird visions again…!?”
“…But, isn’t that what would actually happen if we return to town like this?”
This wasn’t the first time they had seen a strange vision like that in their mind’s eye before. They were far too vivid to be called daydreams or simply images conjured out of their worried state of mind and considering how things were going, there was a high chance that such a vision could come true.
“What can we do… There’s no way we can go back like this…”
The mere thought of losing their friends and surrogate grandmother roots them to the spot. When they turned back towards the depths of the forest, another image floated in their mind, as if telling them what to do.
It wasn’t a vision of despair or a prophecy of grief. It was simply a strange ‘something’ that seemed to be leading the girls. There’s no guarantee in following it, it may really have just ended up being an illusion.
So, what should they do? They heard a bestial sound that came tearing through the trees some way behind them, as if to help them make up their minds. Sophie and Tio looked at each other and nodded.
“Mm. I got it.”
The white twins believed in their instincts and ran deeper into the forest. They weren’t going to escape, it was time to fight back.
As the smoke from the limbs that had been burned away slowly cleared and Gran made sure his regrown arm was in working order, there was no trace of that sadistic grin he had worn earlier, only an expression of boiling anger as he stared in the direction that the twins had disappeared into the forest.
“Those damned giíiiiiirls….! To think that they would give me a wound like this…!”
Gran, who had descended into this forest from the sky after flying between the Empire and the Kingdom’s frontier town looked down at himself… He was still convinced of his goals. After finding out where Shirley was, he would kill her without fail, whilst also bringing back the two daughters of Albert as a prize in order to smooth over any hard feelings there may be between the two of them after this incident.
――――Can I still win if I challenge her like this?
Even though he was supposed to have attained an unassailable amount of power, he still was nearly completely defeated by Lumiliana. What chance did he have against a swordswoman who far exceeded Lumiliana, then?
Of course, Gran didn’t want to accept a fact like that at all. But, Gran still possessed a conniving instinct and, after happening across Sophie and Tio, he had hatched a plan at that time.
“That’s it! To absolutely make sure of it, wouldn’t it be better to have a hostage to ensure that Shirley can’t escape! It may be unavoidable to hurt the girls just a little bit to make sure they can’t run away either, but a slight stain on my chivalry is a worthy sacrifice!”
Although he told himself it was to stop Shirley escaping, in truth he wanted a hostage to hold Shirley in place so that he could one-sidedly attack her. It was the evilest possible choice, deeply rooted in his instinctual fear of Shirley. A decision made partly because of the influence of the magical weapon clouding his mind and also in part due to Gran’s already palpable sense of arrogance.
Even if Sophie and Tio may be resourceful, those little girls had no real training whatsoever. There was no way they could resist Gran, who had become an unconscionable monster, nor was there any way they could escape. That was just the obvious truth.
In that way, Gran had tried to grab the twins by stretching out his excess limbs from behind them. Once he had secured these hostages, he grinned madly at the horrible things that he would do to them in front of Shirley’s eyes, but somehow the two of them both jumped to the side and avoided his monstrous hands.
He had been shocked at that, but had eventually tried to take them again. They might have had good instincts to avoid his surprise attack once, but they couldn’t withstand his physical power. But contrary to his expectations, the two girls weren’t alone.
The two birds had flown out of nowhere to flap in the air between him and those children, and with their magic had blown away one of his arms, Sophie and Tio then escaped in the confusion. Whilst he had twisted this way and that in agony, the two of them had completely disappeared into the trees.
“I-I won’t forgive you…! Why is it always these damned women and children insulting me…..!”
It wasn’t just his anger at those insolent children, Gran hated the idea of anyone being able to resist him as he felt the power of Dáinsleif coursing through his body.
“These two are the offspring of Shirley after all, the monster who tortured Alice and cursed me as well… Like mother, like daughter…!”
As if suddenly recognizing a scent on the air, Gran turned his nose in the direction that the girls had fled in. As he licked the blade fused with his right arm with a sadistic smile, his eyes were clouded over with intense blood lust.
“Since it’s come to this… It shouldn’t be a problem if I cut off an arm or leg here or there.”
In talking about mutilating the heirs to Empire’s throne, Gran made a truly reprehensible remark both as a knight and as an Imperial nobleman. There wasn’t a single hint in his voice that he was joking. That man who was already in the process of becoming a pariah back home vowed to return the humiliation the girls had already inflicted on him.
“So where did those little girls get off to? Shit, there are trees everywhere… Annoying!!”
Of course, those girls had plenty of places to hide. In this forest where the trees grew thick, there was any number of places where two children could have hidden. Gran couldn’t locate them straight away, but it wasn’t as if he was looking blindly into the woods either.
“This smell… Kukuku, they’re over that way…!”
Along with his misshapen body, his five senses had also been incredibly enhanced. It might not be as strong as a dog’s, but it’s close enough that he can follow the scent of the two girls and two birds that he had encountered just before.
He had a hard time pinpointing exactly where they were, but those hateful girls and birds that had caused him such a grievous wound were definitely nearby. Taking the shortest route to the source of the smell, smashing through the trees on his way, he sighted the backs of the two girls who were still running to escape.
“I found you, brats!!”
The demonic hands of the heinous knight reached out towards those young girls once again. Although Gran was approaching at a speed that far exceeded an average man’s sprint… Suddenly, his whole view had completely turned upside-down.
“Wha…. What the!?”
Gran’s eyes darted back and forth in bewilderment at this sudden change. Around his ankle was a loop of vine, tightened further by his own weight.
To clear away the bushes, Tio had taken a small hatchet with her into the forest. Using a thick piece of vine tied around a flexible tree, it was a cliché trap, but still very effective.
Sophie had thought up the snare that Gran now dangled from and Tio had put it all together, the knight meanwhile looked like a caught pig as he dangled upside down. The Grandmaster of the Imperial Knights, reduced to a mere dumb animal caught in a trap? He couldn’t even fathom the reality of it as he dangled there in stunned silence, but the twins didn’t miss the opportunity.
“Now’s our chance.”
Running up to Gran, Sophie and Tio dumped the contents in the huge leaf they held between the two of them, a fine red paste. That deformed man burst into a horrendous coughing fit. Then, suddenly, he began to feel a strong burning sensation in his mouth, nose and eyes…
“Gy….. GYUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!?!? W-What is this!? It burns! It BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURNS!!”
Sores began to fill his mouth, blood filled his nose and his eyes watered fiercely. The reason? The red paste was a mixture of habanero and chilli peppers that grew all over this forest. Sophie and Tio, with the help of Beryl and Rubeus who had recovered enough of their strength to fly, gathered as many as they could and had flung the ground-up contents into Gran’s face. Regardless of his ability to regenerate, that fearsomely hot concoction had coated the insides of his nose and mouth, as well as getting into the corners of his eyes, that scorching heat wouldn’t go away any time soon.
“W-we did it! Mission success!”
“Mmm. Let’s escape and get the next one ready.”
As the Grandmaster suffered indescribable pain upside down in the ten-year-olds’ trap, the twins exchanged a quick high five to celebrate their success before dashing back into the trees, the two spirit birds atop their heads.