As long as there’s evidence, there’s no problem— that’s what Kimberly had said.
And right now, the irrefutable evidence he needed was charging towards him.
Well actually, it wasn’t evidence just yet. First they either had to capture him, or skilfully cajole the information out of him that would reveal the true mastermind behind the whole affair.
Letting him escape was fine, but at the very least they had to win. As long as Henri’s safety could be guaranteed, she could go public with her story.
“Stick by me, Henri.”
Raishin hid Henri behind her back, squaring off against the enemy.
The person who made the first move was the one opposite him.
He vanished in a flash. Losing sight of him unnerved Yaya slightly. Raishin was taken aback as well, but his afternoon exertions weren’t in vain. He quickly focused on searching for his opponent’s location, grasping it after a bit.
Yaya immediately raised her arms above her head. The butler appeared overhead, bringing his leg downward with power.
Raishin channelled his magic power to her. Yaya’s toughness increased instantaneously, enabling her to repel the man’s kick.
Almost immediately, the man vanished once again.
— Or rather, it wasn’t that he vanished, but he gave off the impression that he vanished.
His movements were fast. Additionally, the laws of inertia didn’t seem to apply to him. He was able to accelerate to maximum speed in an instant, and he could alter his trajectory to move at impossible angles.
Therefore, it was simply an illusion that he had vanished. Raishin realised he vanished into a blind spot.
In terms of close combat, he couldn’t afford to react to his opponent’s attack, given the man’s speed. Instead, he would have to read his movements and act on the assumption that his predictions were correct.
Or that was the plan, but now he realised dryly that the senses he was counting on were being confused by his movements.
Raishin began to break out in cold sweat. Unrest was building up inside him, urging him to flee. At the same time, he was acutely aware of Henri behind him, which was disrupting his focus. However, the enemy did not give him the luxury of time to sort himself out. Appearing from his right, he gave off the impression that he was charging over when he suddenly vanished, and attacked from Raishin’s left.
The man’s leg swung in an arc, coming diagonally downwards, crashing into Yaya like a hammer.
Yaya caught the blow, but the force of the impact caused her legs to buckle.
The strike was so heavy it caused the pavement stones to shatter.
Almost instantly, the man’s figure vanished. Because his senses couldn’t keep up with the man, all that was left was an afterimage burnt into Raishin’s retina. The man’s movement were almost like he was effortlessly gliding, disappearing again before reappearing behind Yaya.
He let a kick fly at Yaya’s back. Yaya’s body was able to endure the blow… but it meant that they still couldn’t read or catch his movements. If they couldn’t attack him, then they would never win!
(Feel it… Sense your opponent’s movements directly, and see through his actions…)
Raishin focused, sharpening his senses in an attempt to get used to their opponent’s movements.
However he realised it would take an excessive amount of time which they did not have the luxury of.
Having received a kick from directly below, Yaya’s body was lifted into the air.
While she was airborne, the man spun once to build up momentum, channelling the force generated into another kick that sent her flying.
Soaring through the air diagonally, Yaya crashed into a large tree.
He called out to her reflexively, but immediately regretted it.
This wasn’t the appropriate time to be worrying about Yaya. They were in a real battle. For the opponent at hand currently, victory wasn’t a matter of beating Yaya into submission— the goal was to kill Raishin.
By the time he realised what was going on, the man had already closed the distance between them.
The man’s kick was fast approaching. Pushing Henri away, Raishin dodged on sheer instinct alone. The leg swung at empty air as it finished its arc. Through sheer luck he had dodged the kick. However—
A split second later, he felt a severe weight on his abdomen.
His body was immediately lifted into the air. The fact that he had avoided a direct blow could be said to have been a miracle.
He was still being flung back. The scenery in front of him flowed past his eyes as he felt a strong wind blowing against his back.
There were several loud cracks as he felt his ribs fracture.
His nerves fired up all at once, causing waves of a sharp, burning pain to run through his brain.
He felt his consciousness fading. Just as his vision was being swallowed up by darkness—
He wasn’t sure if it was a dream, but he saw her figure.
A girl whose hair was a light shade of pink.
She was standing atop a branch of a tree by the roadside, looking down upon Raishin with eyes as cold as ice.
That girl who looked exactly like Nadeshiko, just like two peas in a pod—
In an instant, a flash of anger forced Raishin’s consciousness back into reality.
I can’t die yet.
I can’t die… until I kill Akabane Tenzen!
Turning in mid-air, he landed on the ground, coming face to face with his opponent.
However, his body was already at its limit. Pain wrecked his body, like his internal organs had been gouged out with a blade. He was coughing up a large volume of blood. Unable to stand, Raishin collapsed where he was.
Yaya was stunned. Their opponent wasn’t so generous as to spurn taking advantage of this opening.
He appeared directly above Yaya, spinning in air once, dropping a kick like lightning falling from the sky.
It was a move straight out of Yaya’s playbook. His heel landed squarely on Yaya’s head, causing her beautiful face to smash into the ground.
“— Oh dear, this isn’t good. The young master’s orders completely slipped my mind.”
Landing with a thud, he started walking slowly over towards Raishin.
“I may be skilled at the butler of the Granville family, but I won’t say I’m completely perfect. If I had to name a flaw, for example— I tend to make the occasional careless mistake— Mister Akabane, I was ordered to bring your head back.”
He could hear the footsteps coming to a halt near his ears.
“S-stop… Please stop…!”
Henri’s voice was shaking, but there was a hint of resoluteness in her voice.
Of course, the man ignored her. Raising his leg up, he held it above Raishin’s neck.
It looked like he was planning on crushing Raishin’s neck with his foot until it was severed from the rest of his body.
His mind in a haze, Raishin prepared himself for death. He could hear Henri’s screams—
With a crash, something large pierced the pavement, embedding itself into the ground.
Having narrowly avoided his leg being sliced off, the man leapt backwards.
Raishin opened his eyes to see a large sword whose tip was buried in the ground in front of him.
There was a dull gleam of steel. There was a robotic, inhuman face where the hilt was. Raishin was familiar with this polished blade and its thorny appearance.
There was a tap-tapping as the sound of crutches hitting the stone pavement could be heard. Someone was approaching them.
That someone came to a halt in front of Raishin, and began to speak.
“If I may say so myself, I am a tolerant person… However, there are three things in this world I cannot forgive. People who give me orders. People who defy me. And finally,”
There was a haughty tone in that voice.
“Bastards with bad manners who try to steal other people’s prey.”
Raishin spat out blood, just managing to get his name out.
There was no mistaking it. It was Frey’s younger brother, Loki. Sacred Blaze had arrived!
Yaya grabbed Henri, retreating behind Loki to where Raishin was.
Being lifted up by Yaya, Raishin watched over Loki’s battle while still in her arms.
Cherubim’s parts began to move, shifting from its large sword form to the form closer to a human’s shape. At the same time, the parts on its back that resemble wings shot out eight thorns.
The thorns were short swords. They moved like they had their own wills, heading straight for their target.
However, the man glided about in the air, easily dodging. With no wasted movements or inertia affecting him, he charged towards Loki.
As he aimed a kick at Loki, Cherubim moved to protect its master, using a blade to stop the kick. There was a heavy metallic clang, and the blade bent. The force of the kick was fearsome indeed!
Cherubim swung its blade in riposte to the kick. Furthermore, the eight short swords were dancing in the air.
Raishin clicked his tongue. Loki was really on another level from him. He was able to control the swords even while fighting in close combat with cherubim itself.
Even so though, the man was holding his own.
Spinning like a windmill, he kicked away every single one of the short swords. His speed and precision were shocking. As Raishin stared in bewilderment, the man suddenly crouched down, kicking up a pavement stone at his feet.
The stone chunk flew towards the two. Loki’s vision was disrupted, causing Cherubim’s movements to stop—
(He’s gonna get hit now!)
However, Loki was unfazed, using the blade to cleave the stone in two. After that—
He switched Cherubim’s form.
(He’s changing forms at a time like this…!?)
The large sword drew an arc in the air, flying straight down behind Loki’s back.
The blade’s sharpness, which could easily slice a rock in half, appeared to cut something.
(— Loki got him!)
The man’s suit was ripped into tatters. However, his chest was completely unharmed. He wasn’t even bleeding slightly.
On the other hand, the edge of Cherubim’s blade had been damaged, becoming flat.
Even Loki narrowed his eyes at this. Raishin was suddenly reminded of a past boast Loki had made. Supposedly, there wasn’t anything in existence that Cherubim couldn’t slice through. But now, it seems that there was an exception to his words.
The man laughed lightly. His shoulders were slowly heaving up and down. Was he breathing a little harder or was he just seeing things?
… It was no good. His vision was blurry and he couldn’t confirm his suspicions.
Yaya was wobbling slightly, and cold sweat was forming on Loki’s forehead.
The situation was unfavourable. At this rate…
Just as the seed of doubt began to sprout inside him,
“Woof!” “Woof! Woof!” “Woof!”
Several howls could be heard approaching them.
Quadruped beasts burst forth from the darkness.
Frey was riding atop a dog that was conspicuously bigger than the rest. The Garm types had arrived!
As she was afraid of dogs, Henri curled up into a ball, burying her head into her chest and covering it with her hands. On the other hand, the man made a snap judgement, turning his back on Loki and fleeing into the grove of trees.
And with that, he disappeared from their sights.
“… So he escaped, did he…?”
Loki had a bitter tinge in his voice as he muttered out loud. With the threat gone, Yaya sank down onto the floor. Sensing the presence of the approaching dogs, the tension rapidly dissipated from Raishin’s body.
Raishin had barely enough time to be surprised by the turn of events before his vision went completely black.