༺ The First Letter (69) ༻
God’s judgment struck down upon the earth.
The world shook as my eyes went blind and ears deaf. The earth exploded repeatedly, blasting the ground into pieces and catapulting clumps of dirt all over the place. And I, helpless against the impact, was sent rolling across the ground.
A high-pitched ringing echoed in my ears when a foreign sound I had never heard before ripped its way into my ears.
The indescribable sound was that of a scream – one that was much like the death throes of a dying beast. The anguished howls resounded out from the jaws of the wolf that were spread open to the point that it wouldn’t have been strange even if it snapped apart.
Its obsidian eyes swelled excessively from pain and looked like they were on the verge of bursting apart.
In such a state, the beast turned towards me as if in disbelief of what had just conspired. It was supposed to be an apex predator unaffected by magic. Taking that into consideration, it was no wonder that the beast, as cunning as it was, was unable to decipher what had just happened.
Thus, I smugly enlightened the beast with a victorious smirk.
“That…kugh… was a conductor, you damn mutt.”
It was a plan I had thought of when the ‘Judgment of Light’ raged down onto the ground for the first time. At that time, I had witnessed it. The sight of my hatchet crackling with electricity.
No matter how tough the wolf’s lightning resistance was, there was no way it would be unscathed if the lightning were to penetrate directly into its body.
The sword had dug into its brain through the gap between its horn and hide. It was quite literally a passageway for the lightning. When the lightning bolt struck the sword, the surge of electricity must have traveled through its veins while burning all its organs.
It was useless. Resistance was something that was only applicable to exterior surfaces such as leather or mucous membranes.
Even if the demonic wolf had the highest level of lightning resistance, it wouldn’t have been able to survive after having all its vital organs roasted by lightning.
The pained howls persisted for a while before subsiding with the crackling electricity. Shortly after, the colossal figure collapsed onto the ground.
A long time passed since the wolf’s eyes rolled into its head. It let out a dying moan as it struggled to take its final breaths, and a disgustingly long tongue hung limply from its mouth.
Senior Elsie who cast ‘Judgment of Light’ – Seria who was still coughing up blood while collapsed on the floor – Celine who finally managed to stagger her way over.
They all stared dubiously into the eyes of the dying beast.
I, too, was skeptical of its death, and all sorts of doubts surfaced in my mind.
‘Did we really win? Could it be that it’s just putting on a show to trick us into letting our guard down?’
Senior Elsie muttered with a blank look on her face. Her sapphire blue eyes clouded with doubt.
“…….We actually beat it? Really?”
She stood a distance away from us, but her voice resounded clearly in the silence of the glade.
The person closest to the body was me. I roughly tied up my bloody arm with torn pieces of clothing before slowly staggering toward it.
Despite being on the brink of death, the wolf managed to turn his eyes to face me. Although I didn’t know what it was thinking, I knew one thing for certain.
The demonic beast was no longer able to move. It was on its last breaths, merely waiting for its death. I was further assured as I moved to pull the sword from its forehead.
The beast’s body flinched and trembled as I pulled the sword, but that was all it could manage to do.
It was over.
Fatigue entered my body all at once, and all I wanted to do was to just sit down where I was standing.
However, as the leader, there was something I needed to do before anything else.
“…….We did it.”
My declaration was like a signal. Relief and happiness spread across everyone’s faces as Celine, who looked like she couldn’t believe what she just heard, joyously hopped over to my side.
Although she was injured, her excited voice made it seem as though she wasn’t in any pain.
“S-Seriously?! We actually did it? We really hunted down that monster?”
Senior Elsie shouted with a shriek that was closer to a shout of joy than one of denial.
“I-I know since I’ve participated in several demonic beast subjugations, but that level of strength isn’t normal! It’s likely that it was on the same level as named beasts, but you’re saying we actually beat it?!”
“Yes. Seems like we’ll easily win by a landslide.”
Seria’s face visibly brightened when she heard “win” leave my mouth.
No matter how skilled Senior Delphine was, it was impossible for another named-class beast to be in the forest. The fact that such a powerful beast existed in the woods was a problem in itself.
Yet, the fact stood that it was living in the forest and that we had brought it down. The judges had no choice but to accept it as our prey.
It was our win. Now, our only concern was how to drag this huge corpse back, but the final result of the Hunting Festival was set in stone.
No one died. Although Celine and Seria were injured, they were fairly minor considering what we had accomplished. If anything, I was the one with severe injuries.
My left arm had completely shattered. Even after wrapping it up, my nerves were constantly flaring up in intense pain that shot directly up to my head.
However, I was just glad that I managed to stop the bleeding. The amount of bandages we had was insufficient, so in the end, I had to tear off strips of my clothes to fully wrap my arm.
It wasn’t like I was going to die from it, but the Saintess’ previous warning constantly revolved in the back of my head.
I gloomily looked down at my mangled arm as I remembered her saying I might suffer from permanent aftereffects if I were to be severely injured again..
Every part of the human body had a role in properly wielding a sword, but the arms were especially important. Any aftereffects resulting from my mangled arm would serve as an obstacle to my future as a swordsman.
But there was nothing else I could have done in that scenario. I was determined and that desperation led me to subconsciously give up my arm.
If I hadn’t, someone from our side would have been killed by that monstrous wolf instead. Thinking back, it wasn’t just my life on the line. The lives of all my teammates were also at stake.
It sucked to think that it could potentially cost me my future as a swordsman, but I wasn’t too bitter about it. After all, for the cost of my arm, I was able to keep everyone alive and was even able to hunt a named demonic beast.
I gained more than I lost.
The corpse of a named-class beast was valuable material worth at least thousands to tens of thousands of gold. Even after splitting the profit, it was an amount that would let me live comfortably for a while.
But above all else, Seria was happy.
She staggered over to my side with twinkling eyes and clutched my clothes.
Seeing such an adorable sight, I failed to contain my laughter.
“What? Doesn’t feel real?”
“That… Uh, yes. I-I never thought we would actually win……..”
This moment must have been like a dream for her. Her eyes were packed with emotions as if she had just won an award that she hadn’t even dared to dream of attaining. She had finally proven herself–Proven her worth.
She, the illegitimate child of Yurdina, had triumphed over the rightful heir of the Yurdina family, Delphine Yurdina. Even if her victory was limited to only today, it was a memory that would remain within her for her entire life.
It was a satisfactory conclusion in many ways. As for the problem with my arm, well, it was something that would somehow work out if I begged the Saintess.
A crucial bit of information suddenly popped into my mind while I was carelessly enjoying the moment.
The letter mentioned a second attack after defeating the demonic beast.
The realization shook me like a bolt of lightning. My instincts that had loosened up instantly came alive, and I quickly scanned the surroundings using all my senses.
My hand cautiously moved towards my waist. The other members of the team, who were busy looking at the deceased beast, turned to me with bewildered eyes.
It was only then that I noticed it. I felt it in every fiber of my body.
Someone was lurking nearby.
The second I realized that fact, I sensed a flow of mana that I hadn’t noticed before. It felt like all the mana was converging in a single direction.
A shout erupted from my mouth as there was only a single possibility I could think of in that moment.
I immediately pushed Seria, who was the closest to me, away and threw myself to the side. Thanks to our hellish training, everyone managed to react promptly.
And right on cue, an icy blue chill hung over the sky and shards of ice started pelting the ground from above.
Celine and I somehow managed to dodge the sudden ambush by rolling across the ground. As for Seria and Senior Elsie, they were able to collect themselves even in the face of this abrupt situation and acted appropriately. Seria calmly raised her sword and parried away the ice while Senior Elsie started casting barrier magic over us. Although the barrier was weak due to being cast hastily, Senior Elsie quickly layered more barriers on top.
All the hair on my body stood on end as the sound of the ice stabbing into the earth pervaded the area. With that kind of weight and sharpness, it was all too easy to imagine how they would penetrate through the flesh of a human body.
The real problem, however, was that the ice didn’t simply strike the ground. Frost began to spread from each shard, coloring the ground and whatever it came in contact with, an icy blue.
I quickly scrambled to avoid the frost, but one of my feet got caught in the ice. I tried pulling away, but no matter how hard I pulled, I wasn’t able to free myself. When Celine saw me, she scurried over in surprise.
Light exploded from her scabbard, and with a loud crack, the ice shackles wrapped around my foot shattered.
Right as the shackles shattered, Celine tackled me and pushed both of us out of range of the frost. It was quick, decisive thinking that saved us from freezing over.
Everyone looked flustered by the sudden shift in situation. Senior Elsie, especially, was taken aback.
“W-what is this!”
A shrill scream left her mouth as she tried her best to block out the incoming attacks with her barrier, and although she successfully blocked the shards from stabbing her, she couldn’t do anything about the frost spreading across the ground.
I dashed over to save her when I saw ice shackles gradually forming around her feet, but at that moment, the sound of a sharp object ripping through the air entered my ears as a dagger flew straight toward us.
With the sound of steel colliding against each other, the dagger twirled away from us. There was a lot of power packed behind the dagger and I had barely managed to deflect it. At that moment, a thin man entered my sight.
I recognized his face – it was someone I had seen before. Yes, it was Senior Delphine’s…….
Before I could gather my thoughts, our blades clashed and sparks flew as I got pushed back. Unfortunately, I only had a single functional arm to hold my sword while the opponent held his with both arms.
A solid line traced through the air as his sword came flying in at a terrifying speed. I urgently tried to defend against his offensive, but I couldn’t defend properly with a single arm.
My body had already reached its limit. The grip on my sword loosened and simultaneously spelled my defeat.
I weakly swung my sword, but the man closed the distance before grabbing my arm and throwing me onto the ground. All I could feel was excruciating pain spreading all across my back.
Blood spurted from my mouth as I felt my intestines shake from the impact. The man’s swordsmanship was excellent, but his hand-to-hand skills were also impeccable. He had managed to take advantage of a small opening to land a critical hit.
“Ian Oppa! T-this skinny…….!”
Celine rushed over to strike the skinny man, but before she could get to us, a giant man with a hatchet blocked her way.
It was then that their names surfaced through my hazy consciousness.
The person who knocked me down was Fermin and the one holding off Celine was Olmar. That left Aisha as the one who cast the magic.
‘Then who’s taking on Seria?’
I searched for Seria, and when I found her, she was frozen still on the spot, looking fearfully at a corner of the forest glade.
I forcibly held onto my blurry vision and looked in the same direction.
She was there, standing proud with brilliant golden hair and eyes the color of blood.
“I have no choice but to admit it, Seria. I never thought you would be able to catch a beast like that……”
A haughty voice–That arrogant, confident attitude was recognizable from a mile away. Even as I was forcibly held under Senior Fermin, her name crawled its way through my lips.
“Del.. phine Yurdina…….”
The successor of the Yurdina family had appeared.
And in the worst way possible.
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