༺ Engagement Ceremony (1) ༻
These entities were one of the strongest demi-humans, that would be at least semi-Grade 1 as soon as they became an adult. Even though they weren’t as intelligent as humans, their innate physical capabilities and magic resistance were incredibly high and were difficult foes for both knights and mages.
Fifty giants. Each and every one of them was semi-Grade 1 or above, and the captain was a monster who was definitely of semi-Unique Grade.
While holding off against the bombardment of large-scale spells from the Unique Grade demi-human, Marie, the captain relied on tools to also somewhat fend off Hua Ran’s fists.
The giant fell back after allowing a fist from Hua Ran to its jaws. After readjusting its jaws back into place, the giant let out an infuriated roar.
It was rare for Hua Ran to see enemies that survived after receiving a direct hit from her. She even wondered if she unconsciously held herself back or something.
<Blood Law – Crimson Bow>
While Hua Ran was gathering the eyes of the giants, Marie activated a grand spell to support her from the back. Countless arrows appeared in the air, and they were so densely packed that it looked like each of the giants would have to tank a few dozen of arrows with their bodies.
The giants relied on their innate magic resistance, shields, and the corpses of their fallen comrades to block the downpour of arrows.
It was then. One of the giants threw a harpoon at Marie without caring about the arrows landing on its body.
The harpoon flew forward, leaving behind a terrifying aftershock in its trajectory.
Doggo jumped towards the flying harpoon. He crashed into the harpoon and flew it away.
“Huu… It’s not easy. One or two would have been alright but it’s my first time going against so many of them at once.”
Marie, Hua Ran, and Doggo still couldn’t break through the wall of giants.
It had already been 5 minutes since Korin had been dragged away by the oxen monster. The consecutive deafening roars had died down but that made the girls even more worried than before.
They were incredibly frustrated, and decided to break through even if it meant pushing themselves.
“Hua Ran. Doggo and I will create a path… You…”
That was when everyone in the area noticed the appearance of something foreign.
An intense heat was threatening to melt their backs, and a dazzling light was breaking through the shadows of the Solar Eclipse.
The overwhelming presence of that thing made everyone turn around.
Even the living jiangshi with an Unbreakable Vajra Body was affected by the heat while the vampire, who should have overcome her weakness to sunlight, instinctively flinched from that radiant light.
In the blink of an eye, the ground started to boil and evaporate, and the giants were appalled by seeing the light and heat of the great Sun.
That was the pinnacle of untouchable greatness. Walking out of the crumbling and half-demolished castle of giants was the Champion of the Sun.
Like a god descending onto the ground, the knight walked with the Sun manifested behind his back, which entranced the giants, let alone the jiangshi and the vampire.
There was no mistaking it. That was the materialization of the myth and stories told down to the giants from times immemorial; and was the fundamental reason why they were locked up in the sky.
That was the proof of the magnificent Divinity belonging to the god, Airgetlam; the light which had been shining upon Paradise a long time ago.
The captain of the giants fell on its knees.
“That… is the divinity of the Sun. We cannot fight against it.”
The scene of the omnipotent being cleansing the world of its former wickedness was deeply engraved into their blood.
Despite the humiliation and their hatred, they couldn’t help but bow before the Sun. Feeling the humiliating memory rising up inside its blood, the boss of the giants obeyed just like its forefathers.
Following that, the rest of the giants kneeled at the same time. They trembled in fear, watching the Sun approaching them.
After putting the Sun in front of the giants to intimidate them, Korin leisurely walked towards the girls while locking his hands behind his back.
Marie dashed forward and gave him a hug, but Hua Ran didn’t tell him she was worried because she was too embarrassed to say that.
“Why are you in tatters again!? Every! Single time!”
“Are you guys alright?”
“Un… But what happened to you, Korin? And what is that thing that looks like the Sun?”
“It’s a long story. Let’s… go down first.”
They were done with everything they had to do on the floating island. All that was left was to go back.
“What about the giants?”
“They won’t be able to attack us as long as the Sun is here. It’s linked to their racial trauma.”
It was then. As soon as he said that, the Sun that had been threatening the giants got extinguished.
“Aiya~. That was a lot earlier than I thought.”
In the last iteration, there was a time when Korin had acquired the power of the Sun after overcoming it in a battle, and the same thing had happened back then.
This item was limited to boss fights. It was like a finisher attack that couldn’t be activated for long even with the ridiculous mana regeneration ability giving him a lot more mana than a normal player.
“…Should we kill him?”
As expected, the giants started a frightening discussion as soon as the Sun disappeared.
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
“Now’s the chance. We have to kill him now.”
They were quick at coming to a decision. Korin and the rest of his group immediately started sprinting to the oak tree that Dumnorix and Dun Scaith had used to climb up! They had to get down first and cut down the oak trees.
‘Hopefully we’ll be able to make it.’
Unless they were to jump down the oak tree, there was no guarantee that they would be able to run faster than the giants. Hua Ran and Marie might be able to outrun the giants, but there were two injured people on their side and Korin wasn’t well off either.
It was when they were desperately running to the tree.
“Hoho. Looks like this old man was a bit late to the party.”
Everyone halted their feet. For some reason, the group of giants, which weighed more than a thousand tonnes in total, couldn’t move their feet.
Their eyes turned towards one person.
His unkempt hair was extremely messy, and his martial uniform was so rugged that he appeared like a savage man living in the wild.
The strange old swordsman was carrying a massive sword that was much longer than his own height in his hand. The Twin Dragon Blades, that he had retrieved before anyone realized, was hanging on his waist along with two other demonic swords.
“…Don’t you think you are a bit too late, sir?”
“It was not easy climbing a tree with this old body of mine.”
Sword Emperor, Garrand Arden.
The previous head of the Arden Family; the one sitting at the pinnacle of the generation.
“It had quite a nice echo, the fight between my granddaughter and the Sword Fiend.”
He hadn’t witnessed the life-and-death fight between Alicia and the Sword Fiend, but just from hearing the echoes of the fight, he knew what kind of battle the two had gone through.
“Go, young man. I shall protect my granddaughter and will protect you as well while I am it.”
“Sure. Good luck.”
Korin accepted his help without any hesitation and started climbing down the oak tree.
The giants couldn’t do anything but blankly stand there watching them leave. They instinctively realized that the old monster in front of them wouldn’t let them go past him.
“A shame that I missed that fabulous sight. But I guess witnessing a world higher than Mt. Tai is worth the trouble.”
After a discussion, the giants came to a decision. Whoever it was that was trying to stop them didn’t matter. They had finally been freed from the restrictions of the Sun and were eager to advance into the wider world beneath.
That was why they slowly approached the one in front of them, despite the alarm bells of their instincts. The only future they could imagine was defeat but the slim chance that they might be able to come out on top pushed their feet further toward their aspiration for freedom.
“So. Although the Sword Fiend was still a bit inexperienced… she killed him, huh.”
The old man didn’t move, nor did the 5-meter-long greatsword he was holding with one of his hands. As if the giants in front of him weren’t even there, Garrand remained there looking at the traces of the fight between the two swordsmen.
He let out a hearty laughter which made the giants flinch. His laugh soon turned into an explosive laughter of utmost joy.
“I have surely slayed more than a hundred thousand beasts! Protected lands going far beyond the horizon! Saved millions of humans!
“Through all those battles, I had never ever seen anyone use the Heavenly Sword and yet here I am, seeing two of them in one day!
“Right. So my granddaughter was the one who survived, huh. Very good. Very good indeed…! Finally, a swordsman who can stand with me shoulder-to-shoulder has been born from my bloodline. How can this not be a pleasant surprise!”
His remarks were followed by a childish laughter that didn’t suit his age. None of the ones present could guess the types of emotions embedded in his rejoice.
“Go away you peasants. The path behind me is the staircase of the young ones heading to the future. How dare you filthy demons try to trespass with your dirty feet?”
The Sword Emperor’s arrogant declaration was met with a strong retaliation from the giants.
“I see. If you so desire to die to my sword… I will not stop you. Try your best though. I hope you can last half an hour.”
The mountain-crushing greatsword slashed through the air. It destroyed the ground and left a wound on the clouds.
With that came the end of the story of the floating island.
The desperate struggles of the unrelenting residents would soon breathe its last and the old man would leisurely climb down the tree…
“Senior. Cut the tree down please.”
“N, nn? Korin… Isn’t there someone still up there?”
“It’s fine. It’s fine. He’s totally useless and beyond help. Let him stay up there for about a year.”
“Umm… If you say so.”
– Kugugugugung! Kwang!
Unfortunately, not everything in the world had an elegant ending that some people might hope for.
Moonlight shone gently through the leaves as Alicia slowly opened her eyes.
Her entire body was in pain as if all of her bones had been crushed. The fact that she was alive like this… probably meant that she had returned alive from the floating island.
After coming to herself, she started wandering through the village of druids, looking for her older sister from a different mother who had blocked the blades of the Sword Fiend with her body to save her.
That was when she came across someone else.
On top of a large and ancient tree in the middle of the city of trees, a boy was gazing down at the world with a wide smile on his face.
She started climbing the tree to get to the boy, who casually asked a question after noticing her presence.
“Are you feeling alright?”
“No. Not really.”
Alicia had been looking only at the Sword Fiend and missed Korin’s fight despite it happening right in front of her, but could still assume that Korin must have had a hard fight as well.
“Looks like we both did okay,” said Alicia.
“We did great. Ugh…”
“Aht. Are you oka… Uahkk!”
She tried to support Korin, who was falling to the side, but ended up being pushed back by his weight. She was still standing on her feet, but was barely holding on.
“Y, you’re heavy.”
“I’m dead tired…”
On top of the moonlit tree, the boy and the girl supported each other to finally return to their original positions.
“Miss Lunia should be healed back up very soon. She’s a strong person and she also had an elixir so she should be okay.”
“Haa… that’s good.”
With this, Alicia realized firsthand just how dangerous and scary a life-and-death battle was. Seeing the unperturbed Korin, she wondered how many of these battles he must have gone through.
How big was the burden on his wide shoulders? All of his enemies were wicked and evil, and the weight weighing down on the shoulders of the boy her age appeared to be ridiculously heavy.
“What about you?” he asked.
Alicia nervously explained everything she went through.
She talked about how she felt joy at the fight against the Sword Fiend, as well as how she swallowed the monster as a sacrifice. She also talked about the strange experience of crossing the Domain inside the Domain.
“Must have been rough.”
“…I’m scared of me as a person.”
Alicia was a civilized human. She knew that cutting people was wrong. She also knew that smiling while cutting people was even more wrong.
After noticing her ‘true nature’, she had been busy trying to suppress and turn away from it.
But the fight against the Sword Fiend ended up releasing the beast lying dormant inside her. She was made to face her true nature and her instincts.
“I wanted to be normal though…”
Hearing her grumble about her wish to be normal, Korin scratched his cheek and opened his mouth with a nonchalant voice, as if her concerns were unwarranted.
“There are a bunch of strange people in the world. What is important is the choice you make.”
“Have a look at Senior Marie and Hua Ran. There are plenty of people that say they are dangerous, but what have they done wrong?”
“But… it’s true that I get bewitched by the sword, and the act of cutting people.”
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“Your mind and your conviction are much more important. You need to have more pride in the power you have.”
While aligning his hand with hers, Korin gave her a smile.
“If you really can’t handle it, you have me by your side. I can listen to you if you have concerns, and if you can’t fall asleep, we can have a little chat until you do. And if you’re feeling down, we can go grab some meat.”
Despite the playfulness of his tone of voice, the firm grip of his large hands was so reassuring to the girl that it was even hard to believe.
“Actually, when I first came to the Academy, I was planning on enjoying my campus life.”
“You looked like it.”
“But I have no time for that when I’m going around with you, Mr. Korin.”
“Nn… I wanted to pull an all-nighter playing around, take a nap during lessons, spend time on the roof for no reason, think about whether I should have tonkatsu or udon… Or you know, go to the city on the weekends, buy snacks, watch the recent shows, go shopping, have desserts at a nice cafe and go on a walk. All those normal things.”
“I can do that with you.”
“Hehe… That sounds good.”
Korin wasn’t sure why she was so happy, but she leaned her head on his shoulder with a bright smile on her face.
“It’ll be… very fun if we do that together.”
“It’s a promise okay? I’m… a strange person, so you need to look after me. You never know what will happen…”
“You’ll handle it well. I know it.”
“Hmph… You’re all talk every time.”
“If you can’t trust yourself, trust me. I can assure you. You won’t go the wrong way, and you’ll do everything fine. Everything will be okay.”
“Alright… I trust you.”
The night went on.
Realizing that the boy’s shoulders were very hard and wide, Alicia felt good, because it felt like she had gotten herself a very reliable ally.
While hoping… that he wouldn’t pick up her heartbeat that was going on a rampage for some reason, she continued watching the stars with him over the night.
That was when she suddenly remembered something.
‘It’s going to be… the engagement ceremony of Sister and Mr. Korin soon.’
After remembering that, she felt strange again.
It was a very unpleasant and annoying emotion. The identity of that emotion which tended to climb up time after time was…
She felt goosebumps appearing on her skin.
The scenes that she had seen during her illusion soared back up in piles.
Although the great turmoil of Findias was over, not everything was over just yet.
An earthquake was bound to be followed with an aftermath, and the great turmoil of the winter holiday was still just around the corner.
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