The Grandmaster in the Twins’ Playground
In a mine rich with running veins of silver and gold, Shirley turned on her heel as the massive body fell to the ground behind her… And, with her back to that bejewelled dragon with its dazzling scales, she heard a story from that girl.
When the story was over, she didn’t say a word. But, her face had become hard as stone. In contrast to the blue eye that seemed to keep icy cold, the red eye burning with the flames of intense hatred betrayed the cool demeanour she tried to keep.
As if sensing an opportunity, the bejewelled dragon roused itself to its feet and lunged at Shirley, its gaping maw looking to swallow her whole. But without even turning around, Shirley simply swung the scabbard of her blade behind her, smashing every fang in that dragon’s mouth and rattling its brain around in its skull.
That dragon finally lost consciousness as it sunk back down into the ground. The dust thrown up by its fall is caught up in Shirley’s palpable magical energy, becoming a vortex around her body.
At the very same time, an enigmatic flash of magical energy shone in front of her eyes.
“Gaaagh!? KOFF…. Argh!? Y-You…Shitty braaaaaatsss…..!”
After a harrowing process of constantly having to regenerate the sores and blisters caused by that scorching red paste of chillies and habaneros, Gran finally managed to cut the vine that was holding him in place and got free.
The features of his face still sting, but he’s recovered enough that it won’t get in his way anymore. If anything, he didn’t feel the pain at all, the only thing on his mind was his burning anger at Sophie and Tio.
“T-To think that they would somehow manage to flee from the world’s greatest knight, but also humiliate me twice… Unforgivable! Absolutely unforgivable!”
Gran completely forgot about his whole purpose for being here as he vowed in his heart to kill those two young girls, purely to satisfy his pride. He’s lost both his dignity as a knight and as an adult.
…….Actually. Even if his consciousness and will is being affected by the grudges of the tortured souls trapped inside that magical blade, perhaps he never had any such dignities to begin with. His petulant anger was just that great.
“Where have you goooOOOOOOONE!?! Come out come out and PLAAAAAY!!”
As he smashed his massive arms around, breaking and uprooting the trees around him, his still recovering nose began to try and pinpoint the twins’ scent. No matter how big the forest may be, children can only run so far. He could almost hear their little footsteps. With his heightened senses, it was only a matter of time before he would find them, and sure enough…
“Wawawa!? He’s here!?”
“Muu… He already found us?”
As soon as Sophie and Tio saw those bloodshot eyes glaring at them, they turned and ran with their birds sticking tightly in their hair. For ten-year-old girls, they ran fast, but it was nothing compared to Gran’s new form.
Even worse, it seemed like luck was on Gran’s side. The girls ran where the thick branches and roots grew the largest, but they only came up against a dead end in the form of a gorge, with the land continuing far on the other side.
That should have been the end of them, there was no way they could escape him now… Except that Sophie and Tio kept on running, letting their momentum take them into a leap off the edge of the cliff. It wasn’t a distance that a child could ever hope to jump across, but the moment that their feet left the ground, Rubeus and Beryl who had recovered some of their energy poured all of their magical power into their wings, carrying the girls across the deep chasm as they stuck to their heads.
“How novel!! But don’t think that will be enough to escape meeeeeeeeeee!!”
This kind of gap was nothing to Gran, he would be able to make it over without even breaking his stride. But the moment he attempted to kick off the earth to jump at the edge of the gully, Gran’s feet slipped out from under him and he smashed into the ground.
But that huge body of his continued to slide and fell straight off the edge. As Gran wondered just what on earth he had slipped on, the answer splashed down on the heads of both himself and Alice.
It was called mulmel, a tree nut that contained a fluid so viscous it was like mucus. The contents of many nuts had just been dumped on top of Gran.
This was another one of Sophie’s traps. She thought of placing a number of opened mulmel nuts under a bed of leaves right in front of the gully. Gran realized he had been caught in yet another childish trick.
“Guh….!? A-Again!? SHIIIIIIIIIT!! YOU BRAAAAAAAAATS!!”
What’s worse, he was now stuck at the bottom of the cliff with no way out. As the thirty-year-old grandmaster screamed insults at the sound of those light footsteps atop the opposite cliff walking away, his rage could do nothing to dampen the spirits of the two girls who were celebrating yet another successful trap.
After some time, Gran managed to climb his way up the opposite cliff face, but after being humiliated now three times, he had begun to lose any sense of reason. Blood had rushed to his head completely turning it beet red and as his blood vessels throbbed so violently they looked like they might burst from his face, he screamed in anger.
“THESE SHITTTTTY BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATS!! HOW DARE YOU MOCK THE GREATEST KNIGHT IN THE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD!?!?”
Just who would call this abomination the greatest knight in the world? Unfortunately, there’s no one nearby with a cool enough head to tell him otherwise. Alice, meanwhile, is still unconscious, her body battered and bruised.
“Don’t think I’ll be satisfied just catching you…! To think that such vulgar scum like you would dare to do this to the head of the Wolff family…! I’ll cut off all your limbs and then torture you so much you won’t even be able to scream…! Then I’ll tell His Imperial Majesty and Alice everything you put me through, so that they’ll make you the playthings of the most depraved perverts in the Empire, your lives will be living hells…!”
As he murmured those disgusting threats under his breath, he began sniffing again for Sophie and Tio, the subjects of his wrath. A cat only has so many lives and they won’t be so lucky this time, Gran told himself, fantasizing about the things he would do to them.
” “One… Two… Threeeeee!!” ”
Suddenly, the voices of those girls rang out from right next to him. He reacted far too late, almost like a hunted animal, as the vine tied to two strong trees is pulled tight right in front of his feet as he ran through the forest at full speed.
As Gran flew through the air after tripping, he caught a glimpse of Sophie and Tio, jumping out from the bush they had hidden behind.
(I-Impossible!? How didn’t I smell them!?)
The answer came in the form of a massive palm leaf that was large enough a child could hide under it. They were the foliage of a tropical type of tree that grew in this forest called the Buffalo, that gave off a strong smell. Its scent was so strong that it could even throw off the noses of hunting monsters, making it invaluable to adventurers.
Tio realized that the only way that Gran could have kept finding them in this forest is through the use of smell, so Sophie used what she had learned from the adventurers to hide themselves using the buffalo leaves.
“We did it! It worked really well!”
As Gran rolled down what became a slope, his momentum kept him hurtling towards a myriad of rocks and small boulders. Gran smashed into them, his body crashing into the rocks and the back of his head thudding against a particularly rugged boulder.
No matter how strong his body may have become, the Grandmaster of the Imperial Knights, whose only qualification for that title was his family name, still felt the pain just as vividly as before. As he struggled desperately to protect himself from the jagged rocks and boulders, an unnatural looking hole suddenly appeared in his path.
Gran plunged headfirst into that hole. That hole had been torn out of the ground by Rubeus’ magic beam. It didn’t take long for Gran to notice the smell, a stench fouler than he had ever smelled in his life. If one were to describe it, first think of burnt toast, then add in the stink of curdled milk and spoiled seafood, then top it all off the horrible sensation of a rag soaked with urine being held against your nose.
“GGGGGGGGGGGGGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!? W-WHAT IS THIS SMELL!? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGH!?”
Gran fainted, but not before vomiting all over himself. That smell came from the fruit called an almomo, which was sometimes used to ward off monsters, but adventurers usually avoided using it if they could help it. Its juice smelled disgustingly sour and its flesh carried the scent of rotting flesh… And the twins had thrown as many as they could find in the bottom of that hole.
“…Hm? Wha… Where am I… What is this… Smell…!? I-IT STIIIIIIIIIIINKS!? GUUUAGHHHHhhhhhh!?”
The smell was so bad that it managed to rouse Alice, who after truly inhaling that stench, vomited down her front and lost consciousness again. The Imperial Grandmaster and the Empress, both of whom were engaged in an illicit affair, were now both stuck in a hole, unconscious and covered in vomit.
That said, it was still just stench. Gran, who managed to regain his consciousness quickly, clawed his way back out of the hole whilst holding back his nausea and began to move towards Sophie and Tio, his nose bleeding from his white-hot rage, but his suffering hadn’t ended just yet.
Dumping him off the side of a cliff using a bed of mumel nuts as a trap, using their spirit bird familiars to blast off one of his arms, being flung into an outcrop of rocks and headfirst into a pitfall… For all of Gran’s evil designs, Sophie and Tio had paid him in kind.
In the first place, this forest was popular with rookie adventurers to practice and use all sorts of plants and herbs, so there are many different useful kinds of flora growing throughout it. The fact that Sophie and Tio had grown up amongst so many adventurers was the biggest reason they were able to set up all of these traps as well as they did.
Gran’s complete lack of experience in the field as an Imperial knight also helped. After the strife that once ravaged the continent, leaders from all nations have since strived to keep the peace between them, so the only way that the armed forces of these countries, including the Imperial Knights, could keep sharp was through participating in war games. Of course, that also involved harsh training in the field, but the training doctrine of the Imperial knights has declined sharply in quality ever since Gran had become Grandmaster.
A knight should fight chivalrously one on one, sword against sword. He didn’t care to understand the realities of life or death combat, insisting on this type of training regimen in the comfort of the flatlands for his troops.
(How can this be!? I’m supposed to have supreme power!? Yet, I can’t catch two little girls!?)
But, this strange situation was quite easily explained by those facts. Sophie and Tio’s traps really were just on the level of childish tricks. If they were up against a single adventurer everything would have been seen through in an instant, but that wasn’t quite the case for Gran.
But that said, the fundamental abilities between Gran and those two weren’t something so easily bridged. The fact that Sophie and Tio’s plans had all gone perfectly against a monstrous opponent who could crush the two of them with a single blow, there was something more than luck at play here.
It was almost as if they could see into the future… That was the only thing that made sense to him.
“Haaaaa….! Haaaa….! There’s nowhere to run now, you brats….!”
Even so, Gran pressed forward. Gran pursued the twins up until they reached a true dead end, a sheer cliff face. As he walked towards him, his body covered in filth, mud and putrid smelling juices, he grinned sadistically.
He finally had them where he wanted them. Until now he had somehow been at the mercy of these two girls, but now they were at his mercy.
“Ha… Hahahahaha! Well, you somehow resisted me for quite some time, but you’re just little girls after all. You were never a match for me.”
“You looked really silly every time you got outmatched by our traps, though. So I don’t really know why you’re saying that.”
“S-Silence! T-That was just…! Right, I fell for them on purpose! So I could demonstrate the true difference in power between us!”
Although he said that, his panicked voice showed that Tio had hit the bullseye, as Gran desperately avoided the truth that he had thoughtlessly plunged into their childish traps over and over again.
“Ehh… That excuse is a little…”
“Mm. Don’t you feel embarrassed, saying stuff like that?”
As they looked at the Imperial Grandmaster who was the very picture of a worthless adult, the two girls from the next generation looked at him with almost bored looking eyes.
“What are you…? Why are you looking at me like that…? Don’t look at me… You commoners… How can women and children look at me like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis!?”
Gran had lived in a world dominated by men up until now. He was supposed to be a powerful man, the object of respect and admiration, so how could he be looked at like this by weak little girls? To try and protect his bruised ego, Gran raised his arms towards the girls, intending to smash them to pieces.
“Oh ho, what’s this? You can’t tell that those are the eyes of children who’ve lost interest in some dull toy?”
It happened in an instant. Someone appeared out of nowhere between Gran and the twins, a bewitchingly beautiful young girl with blonde hair reaching down to her feet and those bright red eyes the colour of freshly spilt blood, she twisted her mouth into a grin as she mocked the knight in front of her.
“Whether they’re one who abides by the laws of the land or one who seeks freedom to find their own path, children admire those who possess determination and force of will. Gran Wolff, you laughable and foolish knight… How could one who employs such an ill-gotten and half-tempered power on mere children ever be someone worthy of admiration?”
Before he could say her name, that little girl once again used that magic that she had made into her signature and Gran fell into a circle of golden light, completely disappearing from that forest in the frontier town.