༺ The First Letter (70) ༻
“Del.. phine Yurdina……..”
My weak murmur did not reach Senior Delphine’s ears as she nonchalantly approached Seria.
Seria instinctively lowered her gaze and avoided eye contact as her body trembled ever-so-slightly.
“Don’t worry, you’ve proven your usefulness. As long as I’m the head of the household, you won’t be stripped of the Yurdina name.”
Senior Delphine acted as if Seria had hunted the beast on her behalf, but there was no way that was the case.
More than anything else, Seria wanted to overcome the trauma of the day Delphine had stolen away her sword along with everything else she had ever treasured. Her swordsmanship was for herself, and the same went for the demonic wolf she had slain.
And yet, Senior Delphine gave a relaxed smile as if Seria’s convictions were meaningless.
For her, as long as it was within the confines of the rules, nothing was off the table for the sake of victory. Perhaps that was what it meant to be a Yurdina.
Senior Delphine asked softly.
“Are you going to fight?”
Her attitude exuded confidence as if the results wouldn’t change no matter what Seria, whose eyes were trembling with fear, did.
At some point, even Celine had dropped her sword following an anguished scream. She had been disarmed and was on the ground with a hatchet lodged into her shoulder.
The moment that scene entered my sight, I started struggling fiercely to escape, but Senior Fermin’s frail but surprisingly strong body remained firm. Rather, he struck the back of my neck, causing my mind to go numb and my vision blurry.
I refused to faint. Senior Fermin looked rather surprised at how tenaciously I was holding on.
“Your mental strength is formidable, I admire it. You’re still enduring even though you must have lost a good amount of blood.”
I glared up at Senior Fermin while trying to control my ragged breathing. He was looking at my bloody left arm with eyes full of sympathy.
“It looks like you’re going to suffer from harsh symptoms if you don’t get treated soon. Normally, I would completely break your spirit but……….”
A pure white glow appeared on his hand. Then, as he delicately swept his hand over my left arm, the flesh slowly regenerated.
It was just basic first-aid treatment – a stopgap measure to stem the blood flow. Even so, there was only a single type of profession that could enact such miracles.
“You’re… a monk…?”
Senior Fermin nodded silently to the words I managed to spit out in between labored breaths.
I had thought that his hand-to-hand techniques were exceptional but it turned out that he was in fact a monk from the Holy Nation. Monks fought by strengthening their bodies with holy power, had iron-like skin, and possessed formidable fighting skills.
Had I known in advance, I wouldn’t have carelessly engaged him in close combat. However, I had been misled by the sword he carried around and his skilled swordsmanship that didn’t lack even when compared to swordsmen.
I was frustrated at being overpowered, but my frustration paled compared to the rage Seria felt when she saw us, her teammates, pinned down and injured. In fact, her eyes had gone frigid the moment I was taken down.
She chewed her lips as she gathered her resolve and held her sword after forcibly steadying her trembling arms.
Senior Delphine let out a chuckle and smiled as if she found our retaliation ridiculous. Then, she opened her mouth with benevolent eyes.
A blue aura burst forth like flames as the hazy, mirage-like mana traced numerous lines through the air.
It was the secret technique of the Yurdina family and Seria’s strongest move. The fact that she used it from the start reflected her desperation to triumph against her half-sister.
But, just one-
One move was all it took to break Seria’s Golden Lion.
The technique was shattered by a single, golden swing of a sword.
There weren’t any precursory movements that she would strike. No, I’m sure there was, but my eyes weren’t able to keep up with her speed. A single swing was enough to display the overwhelming difference in skill.
Before anyone could react, Senior Delphine kicked Seria on her solar plexus and sent her flying.
Seria had already accumulated injuries while fighting against the demonic beast, and seeing her breathlessly writhe on the ground, I immediately knew that Senior Delphine had kicked her with terrifying force.
It was an overwhelming loss. Despite being stronger than most, Seria wasn’t a match for Senior Delphine.
Senior Delphine sighed and sheathed her sword with a composed demeanor. She was so relaxed that it was as if she was merely out on a stroll.
She approached the dying beast without hesitation and marveled at it.
“Amazing, truly amazing. Even I would be reluctant to take on a demonic beast of this level singlehandedly, so how did you defeat it? I’m pleasantly surprised, Hatchet Lord… for lack of a better word, wouldn’t this be considered a ‘heaven-defying’ achievement?”
A handful of blood poured out of my mouth again as I coughed. Seeing this, Senior Fermin mouthed off some advice.
“Stay still, your injuries are severe. It’s over for you if you fall for her provocation. Recovery is only possible when you’re calm.”
What the hell was he blabbering about? I glanced at Senior Fermin, who sincerely looked worried for me, and forced my mouth open.
“C-coward… Keuk… It’s cowardly…..”
It was all I could squeeze out. As if waiting for my criticism, Senior Delphine smiled at me upon hearing my words.
“I told you, Hatchet Lord. You should use any means and methods at your disposal to secure the win. I didn’t want to do this either, but what could I do? It was obvious that this wolf would be the best prey in the festival.”
“H, how… c-could… to us…”
I was dumbfounded by her words and slowly looked over at my torso.
My gaze latched onto the dagger Senior Delphine had left us as if it were some sort of consolation prize. Little did I know that it meant that she was keeping us in check from the very beginning.
I swallowed back a resentful laugh.
This was all my fault. I hadn’t been vigilant enough. Regardless of what it was, it was still an object given by a competitor. I should have been careful and suspicious of it.
A sense of shame filled my entire being.
What about Seria, who worked tirelessly for this final opportunity to best her sister? What about Celine, who blindly followed me through a week of grueling training in hell? What about Senior Elsie, who I promised to win the championship?
“Hey, you vile bitch! That doesn’t mean you had to beat everyone to death! They were already injured!”
Senior Elsie screamed at Senior Delphine. At some point, Senior Aisha stood before Senior Elsie. Through some unknown means, she was preventing Senior Elsie from moving an inch.
When I made eye contact with Senior Aisha, she winked and held out the lollipop in her mouth in greeting.
However, Senior Delphine didn’t spare her fellow fourth year a single glance.
“Elsie, I’m impressed that you, a troublemaker with a penchant for excessive violence, would even say that. Truly remarkable….”
“T, that isn’t the same as this!”
Senior Elsie hollered back at Senior Delphine. She tried to protect us as much as she could, and tears of frustration could be seen forming in her sapphire-blue eyes.
And Celine still had a hatchet lodged in her shoulder.
I was becoming more and more breathless and my vision started to blur.
My vision dimmed as Senior Fermin’s worried voice flowed into my ears.
“Junior, are you alright? Junior? Junior?!”
Before long, Senior Fermin’s voice vanished and my world was only filled with darkness.
It was the moment all my senses ceased to function…
The world turned upside down.
Memories began flowing in. A woman lying on the floor, her features obscured. The only thing I could see clearly was her thin, bloodstained hand resting on my chest.
My arms started to shake and tears filled my eyes. For some unknown reason, I felt unbearable sorrow. I wanted to cry out and curl up on the floor in grief.
The woman in my arms was smiling weakly.
“……Please don’t forget.”
Forget what? I wanted to ask her, but I had no control over my body.
Just when the pale hand started slipping away, leaving a bloody handprint on my chest–
“I’ll make it so I don’t ever regret again.”
The man choked in immense anger and frustration.
Then, the world shattered once more when his fiery golden eyes met my own.
Then, my consciousness returned.
Delphine gazed indifferently at the dying beast. The wolf was still gasping for air. It was soon going to die on its own, but courtesy dictated that a hunter should kill their prey instead of letting it suffer.
With that simple thought in mind, she drew her sword. It was prey that had already been hunted down by her pitiful younger half-sister and the Hatchet Lord, who had been the first one to humiliate her.
She was disheartened by how effortless it was. It was beneficial to her that they had been injured while fighting the demonic beast, but she couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed.
It had been a while since she faced an opponent that could make her heart quiver in anticipation, but with the outcome set in stone, she no longer held any interest in them.
Her pride had even taken a hit. After all, at the end of the day, all she was doing was claiming credit for someone else’s hard work.
However, that was the law of the world she lived in. The strong plundered while the weak could only watch helplessly.
And right now, there was no one stronger than her. It was no different from a village losing its harvest to an invading army.
She could hear Elsie yapping and Fermin overreacting in the background, but it did little to dampen her spirit. Now, there was nothing that could change the final result.
Her sword rose high into the sky with a brilliant golden glow. Her aura was more than enough to put the helpless beast to rest.
But at that moment–
She heard a familiar scream from behind. She stopped to turn around, and right at that moment, a hatchet struck with a dull thud.
A hatchet had blown past her face, just barely missing her, and lodged itself into the beast’s neck in an unbelievable display of skill.
Blood gushed out and the beast let out its final breath.
However, Delphine wasn’t in the state of mind to care about the wolf.
She hadn’t been able to notice his movements.
Her blood-red eyes went blank. She couldn’t believe it. She wasn’t able to sense the hatchet up until the moment she turned around.
If the hatchet had been targeted at her, she would have met a horrific death without knowing what had killed her.
A chill went down her spine. It was a sensation that she, as the strong, had nearly forgotten.
Her crimson eyes crept towards a single spot.
In that spot was a man – panting and hunched over. His left arm was a bloody mess and his exhaustion was evident from his shallow breathing.
From the start, he lacked the skill to contest her in battle. Adding to the fact that he was injured, he simply wasn’t her match.
But even then, she struggled to turn away from those blazing golden eyes.
Delphine couldn’t understand the situation. Her blank eyes quickly took in her surroundings.
Fermin, who had been subduing him up until a moment ago, was rolling on the ground with both hands wrapped around his face. It was difficult to know what had occurred until the Hatchet Lord spat something out of his mouth.
It was a piece of flesh, and it was too clear who it came from.
When Delphine’s gaze returned to face the man, he had a smile plastered on his face.
“…….Let’s go for a round, miss exhibitionist.”
‘This crazy bastard’
Before she knew it, she found herself swearing to herself.
However, she could not conceal the fear in her eyes.
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