“It’s supposed to be a training, but this…munch munch…is definitely not one…”
While eating the apple on his hand, Zed, who was currently sitting on a branch of a tall tree, frowned and sighed. He was feeling quite depressed seeing the scene that unfolded before him.
“[Holy Slash]! [Holy Slash]! [Holy Slash]!”
Two hundred meters away, was Tooru, [Holy Slash]-ing three Magical Beasts in front of him. Even though the Magical Beasts were supposed to be High Grade from their humongous appearances, in front of Tooru’s [Holy Slash], they each still died in one hit, severed into two.
“That thing is indeed the legendary weapon…” Zed sighed again when he looked at the golden sword on Tooru’s hand. However, when he looked at the other three who stood behind Tooru, Zed sighed even heavier.
Behind Tooru, were Erina, Lucy, and Riria, making a triangle formation with Erina as the vanguard. Holding their weapons, the three were vigilantly looking at the three dead Magical Beasts in front of Tooru.
“At this rate, this won’t be a training anymore, even less a test…” Zed frowned. “In the end, they are only looking…”
Half a day had passed since Tooru and the others walked into the forest, and just like what Zed had said, all the girls had done were only watching Tooru fighting the Magical Beasts. Well, to be more precise, it was not that the girl didn’t want to do anything, it was just the Magical Beasts that came were already killed by Tooru before they could do anything.
“sigh… should I add the number then?”
Baiting Magical Beasts in this forest was an easy task for Zed’s [Mana Web]. Even when he didn’t use it, two or three Magical Beasts would still swarm at Tooru and the girls like what had happened just now; after all, this is the forest under the Magical Beast Mountain Range.
“No, it won’t change anything. He will just slash through them again,” Zed grumbled. “But…now that I think about it, is this even going to make them stronger?”
Zed fell silent, but then, he immediately shook his head while saying, “Stop. If I ponder about this, then it’s my loss.” Zed nodded his head. “If I say that it will make them stronger, then it will.”
Zed looked at the four again. “If it doesn’t, then it means that the training is not hard enough.”
His lips then slowly turned into a wicked grin before he finally said, “So, let’s make it harder~”
“Let’s make a camp here.”
Tooru sheathed his sword as he looked around the small patch of grass in front of him. The sun had already set. They had been walking through the forest for more than 10 hours. Even though it was tiring, if they didn’t do it like this, then they wouldn’t be able to arrive at the Passage of Death in a mere two months.
Feeling tired, Riria let her bottom fell freely onto the grass below her. “Finally… rest time…”
“We still have to collect branches for campfire Ri-chan,” Lucy reminded her as she casted [Heal] on Riria’s trembling feet.
“Eeeeeh? But Riri is already tireeeeed….”
But Erina then suddenly said, “No, we better not make any campfire, it will lure the Magical Beasts closer.”
“R-Really?” asked Lucy.
Erina nodded, and then said with a serious face, “Yes, it will. Commander took us for training into this forest once a month, so I am fairly accustomed to this place. This forest is ‘The Forest of Magical Beasts’. It is brimming with countless Magical Beasts inside, the deeper we go, the more of them we will have to face, so we better not provoke them thoughtlessly.”
“If it’s that dangerous, then, should we just keep moving?” asked Lucy. “Is it really safe here?”
“Safe?” Hearing Lucy’s question, Erina who is a knight tilted her head in confusion. “Won’t we take turn to watch over the camp to make sure that it will be safe?”
“Eh?” Lucy also tilted her head. “Take turn?”
“Don’t you guys take turn to sleep so one of you can watch over at night?” asked Erina again.
Tooru, Lucy, and Riria shook their head, they always slept until morning after they ate their dinner.
“Eh? Isn’t that dangerous? Didn’t you guys get attacked by magical beasts at night?”
The three then shook their head again.
“Don’t the Magical Beasts sleep at night?” asked Tooru.
“Hmmm… no, Riri don’t think so,” answered Riria. “Riri’s parent told Riri that there are lots of Magical Beasts that likes to roam at night.”
“Really? Then, why have none of them ever attacked us?” Tooru felt confused.
“Isn’t that because Zed was guarding us?” said Lucy.
“Oh, right! He always sleeps the last, right?” said Tooru. “…wait…” Tooru creased his brows. “Now that I think about it, does he even sleep at all?”
Lucy and Riria were dumbfounded as they realized that it was quite strange as well. Before they slept, they saw that Zed was awake, and after they woke up, they saw that Zed was already awake as well.
“Doesn’t that mean that he usually sleeps at day?” Erina suddenly said.
Hearing that, the other three actually wanted to believe that it was true, but they knew that it was not so. Although Zed loved napping on the carriage roof when it was daytime, it was not for long, usually just an hour or two. Moreover, back when it was still only Tooru and Lucy who traveled together with Zed, they saw that Zed never slept at daytime, maybe not even at night…
As Tooru and Lucy told the other two about this, the expression on their faces slowly turned stranger and stranger. Only now did they realize that…
“Is he even a human?” asked Erina.
“Well, he said that he is… but he never sleeps…” said Riria.
“He kills enemies in one hit…” said Tooru.
“He fights Magical Beasts for 10 years…” said Lucy.
The four fell silent as they looked at each other. They knew too few about Zed; even though he did already tell them, excluding Erina, about his past, it was only a small part of it.
“Let’s… just forget about it,” said Tooru as he shook his head. “We can just ask him later, maybe he will tell us, who knows?”
“Un… Tooru is right,” said Lucy as she nodded her head. “After all, we still have to make a camp for tonight.”
“Then, I will watch over our camp for tonight, you guys can just sleep after dinner,“ said Erina.
“No, let’s take turn,” said Tooru as he sat down and leant on a tree. ”I will sleep now, so please wake me up later, Erina.”
“Okay.” Erina nodded her head. “I will wake you up if I feel sleepy.”
“Don’t be reluctant about it,” said Tooru. “You also need to sleep, we have been walking quite far today, so I know that you are tired as well.”
Erina nodded her head again. “Un, I understand.”
“I will sleep then…”
“Tooru! Don’t sleep yet! Let’s eat dinner first! Riri is hungry!”
“Hmm? Hahaha, okay…”
The four laughed together as they took out breads and dried meats from their Storage Bracelet for dinner. And after their bellies were filled, without making tents, the three started to sleep under the blankets, Lucy with Riria, and Tooru alone. As for Erina, she just sat there near the three, carefully looking at the surroundings for any sign of Magical Beast. But when midnight came, as she couldn’t hold her tiredness and drowsiness anymore, Erina then woke Tooru up.
After Erina slept, Tooru then started to watch over the camp. At the beginning, it was okay; there were no signs of Magical Beast at all, but then, as hours passed, Tooru, who was bored and tired, began to feel sleepy again. And although he tried to keep himself awake, after one more hours, he finally couldn’t fight his drowsiness, and fell asleep.
And at this moment, from the darkness of the forest, a pair of sharp blue eyes suddenly appeared, gazing at the sleeping four…
“He… fell asleep… And here I thought that I need to wait for a few more days before I can do this…”
The owner of the eyes then walked closer to Tooru. And while looking at the sleeping Hero in front of him, a wicked smile slowly arose on his face. Then he proceeded with his plan.
After a while, he finally finished.
“Fufufu, I can’t wait for tomorrow…”
After saying that, he quietly vanished into the darkness.
yawn… Lucy yawned as she slowly woke up from her sleep. While rubbing her eyes, she then tried to look at her surroundings. But, it was too bright. ‘Did I oversleep? Why no one woke me up?’ thought Lucy as she looked around.
“Eh? Tooru?!” Lucy was startled as she saw that Tooru was sleeping. “And Erina too?!” And looking at Erina who was asleep as well, she was even more surprised. After all, it meant that no one had been watching over the camp when they were asleep.
Lucy immediately stood up and looked all around. And only after she saw that none of them had been hurt, and there were no signs of Magical Beasts around, could she finally let out a sigh of relief. Then, she walked to Tooru’s side.
“Tooru, wake up…”
“Hmmm? Lucy? Is it time for breakfast?” Tooru mumbled half asleep.
“N, No, well, it actually is… J-Just wake up first!!” said Lucy as she shook Tooru’s body.
“Hmm? Eh?!” Tooru, who just woke up, immediately looked left and right. “Did I fall asleep?”
“Un.” Lucy nodded. “You were asleep when I woke up.”
“R-Really? Then what about the others? Did we get attacked?”
Lucy shook her head and said, “No… we are all okay, don’t worry.”
Hearing that, Tooru was relieved. But then, his face turned gloomier as he said, “Sorry that I fell asleep.”
“Stop it, after all, it’s our first time doing something like this. We just have to be thankful that none of us were hurt,” Lucy said to him, ”Let’s wake the others up. We don’t know when the Magical Beasts will attack us anymore.”
Tooru nodded and started to walk to where Erina was. As for Lucy, she went to wake Riria up.
“Ri-chan…wake up…” said Lucy slowly while shaking Riria’s body.
Unfortunately, Riria was quite the heavy-sleeper. If there was no smell of breakfast, she just wouldn’t wake up.
Lucy, who naturally knew about this, felt helpless. After all, they couldn’t cook breakfast in a dangerous place like this. So, all that Lucy could do, was to shake Riria’s body even harder as she helplessly begged her, “Riii-chaaaan… waaake up pleaseee…”
“Nn…5…more…minutes…” Riria murmured slowly.
-uuup…?” Lucy immediately turned her head. “What was that?” she asked.
Nearby, Tooru and Erina who just woke up were also looking at the direction of the voice.
“That sounded like a roar,” said Tooru. “Is it a Magical Beast?”
“Un, I think so.” Erina nodded as she readied her spear.
“Ri-chan! Wake up, wake up, wake up!” Lucy panickly shook Riria’s body, trying to wake her up.
But the girl in question, just kept sleeping like a log while mumbling, “Nn…10 more minutes…ehehehe…roasted meat-chan…don’t run….”
CRACK CRACK CRACK
As the three turned their head, they saw a gigantic Magical Beast, slowly walking out from the deep dark forest while breaking apart the nearby trees and trampling them into pieces. It was a Buffalo, 3-meters tall with its length extending for more than 5 meter. And on the side of its huge head, were a pair of 2-meters long and sharp horns; a stab from it, could certainly kill a grown-up really easily. From its brown-colored fur and its pair of blazing golden eyes, one could see that this Magical Beast was from the Earth Element, which was renowned for its size, toughness, and vitality. And even though a Buffalo should be a herbivore, this vicious looking animal in front of them was definitely not one; after all, what kind of herbivore had a row of teeth which was solely composed from sharp canines that were smeared with bloods.
But nonetheless, it was not the first time that they met something like this. Beside Riria, the other three had fought Magical Beasts many times before, Erina with the other Knights, and Tooru with Lucy and Zed. Well, Lucy was still scared everytime they appeared though. So at the moment, the one who could still keep their calm, were only the Hero and the talented knight.
“Erina, protect Lucy and Riria. I will take care of this,” said Tooru. With his mana fully regenerated overnight, Tooru could already release around twenty or thirty [Holy Slash] that should be able to split a Magical Beast this size into two.
“Okay, I will leave it to you, Tooru,” said Erina as she slowly walked backwards to where Lucy and Riria were. Not only did she believe in the power of the Hero and the Holy Sword, she also believed in the power of her friend, so instead of helping Tooru to kill the Magical Beast, she would just protect the others in his stead so he could concentrate on his battle.
The gigantic Buffalo snarled as its eyes glared straight at Tooru. It seemed like the Buffalo was feeling insulted to see that only one of its preys was going to fight. After all, it was a High Grade Magical Beast who had lived for a far longer time than the puny humans in front of it, so it was quite prideful to boot. Stomping its humongous front foot onto the ground, the Buffalo then readied itself to charge at Tooru.
But Tooru, who had already fought many times against these kinds of Magical Beasts, knew that he couldn’t let them attack him first. So, without wasting anymore time, he immediately moved his right hand to his waist and unsheathed the Holy Sw-Eh?
“Where is it?!”
Tooru looked down to his left and saw that his hand was actually grabbing at nothing. The Holy Sword that should had been there, was gone without a trace, together with its scabbard. Thinking that maybe he had forgot and put it on his right side, Tooru immediately turned his head to the right, but alas, it was not there either.
“Eh? Eh? Wh-Where is it?!”
In panic, Tooru immediately searched the ground around him, maybe the sword fell down when he slept.
Erina’s shout was suddenly heard from behind.
“Hm? AAAAH!!!” Tooru, who lifted his head to look forward, immediately did a barrel roll to the side to dodge the Buffalo’s horn; if he had been late for just a split second, maybe his body would already have a huge hole piercing through it. “That was close…” said Tooru while sitting on the ground, panting.
“Tooru! Are you okay?” Lucy asked, “What happened?”
Seeing that the Holy Sword was really nowhere to be seen, Tooru gritted his teeth and dejectedly said, “The Holy Sword is gone, I lost it.”
“”What?!”” Lucy and Erina were shocked.
“How is that- Tooru! Careful!!” Erina suddenly shouted as the Buffalo was already running at Tooru again. Well, after all, why should it wait?
“Aaah!” Tooru immediately rolled his body on the ground, avoiding the Buffalo that wanted to trample him to death.
“Tooru!!” Erina shouted as she lost sight of Tooru when the oversized Buffalo ran past him.
“pant…pant… I am okay!!” Tooru shouted as he quickly stood up. But even though he said that, he still didn’t know what he should do. After all, he never fought without the Holy Sword before.
But then, Erina suddenly threw something at him. “Tooru! Catch it!!”
“E-Eh?” Tooru clumsily caught it with both hands and looked at it; it was actually a sword, sheathed in its scabbard. He then immediately unsheathed it and pointed it towards the Buffalo.
And the gigantic yellow Buffalo, seeing that the man in front of it was now wielding a weapon, immediately stopped itself and began to observe calmly.
Seeing that, Erina hurriedly gave out commands, “Tooru, retreat slowly… and Lucy, wake Riria up… we need her help…”
Tooru silently nodded as he slowly began to walk backwards to where Erina was standing while still pointing his sword at the Buffalo.
And Lucy, “O-Okay! Ri-chan! Wake up!!” She hurriedly shook Riria’s body, but it was to no avail. And seeing that, Lucy then gritted her teeth and lifted her hand upwards. Then, she closed her eyes and said, “Ri,Ri-chan, I am sorry!!”
“Ouch!! Wha-What happened!! Ouch! Ouch! Stop Stop!! Riri is awake!! Ouch!!”
“Lucy! Stop it! We don’t have time to play!!” shouted Erina as she saw that Lucy was still slapping Riria with her eyes closed.
“E-Eh! I am sorry!!”
“Get ready!! It’s going to charge at us!”
As Tooru shouted, the Buffalo was already starting to charge. Brandishing it’s overwhelmingly sharp horns, it ran towards the four.
“Wait! Why are you Moo-ing now when you roared back then?!” Tooru said.
“Doesn’t matter!!” shouted Erina as she kicked Tooru’s side so he could avoid the Buffalo’s horn.
But, because the two had avoided it, the Buffalo ran straight to the place where Riria and Lucy was at, and then…
“Lucy!! Riria!!!” Tooru shouted in panic when he saw that the tree, where the two girls were at, was already broken into pieces by the Buffalo.
“We, we are okay… cough… cough…” Lucy was sitting a few meters away from the tree, with Riria on her bosom. On the split moment when the Buffalo was closing at them, Riria had somehow managed to push Lucy and herself away.
Seeing that, Tooru let out a sigh of relief.
But the Buffalo, on the contrary, seeing that its attacks were being avoided time and time again, was bellowing angrily. It was enraged and furious.
“Erina, what should we do?” asked Tooru.
“This…” Erina was also confused. Normally, fighting a High Grade Magical Beast was only something that a dozen of highly-trained soldiers will be able to accomplish. She herself could kill a Low Grade Magical Beast alone, and maybe fight to a standstill with a Medium Grade one. But to fight a High Grade Magical Beast like this? She was not confident in the slightest. So, after considering it carefully, she gripped her spear tighter and said, “Take… Lucy and Riria out of here. I will try to halt it…”
“What?!” Tooru was startled.
“No!!” Lucy shook her head.
“What are you talking about Eri-chan?!” Riria shouted in disbelief.
“We don’t have anymore choice!!” Erina shouted. Even though she, too, didn’t want to die, she knew that the safety of the Hero and its companions was more important.
But then, “No… You take the two away from here, Erina… I will be the one to halt it…” Tooru said.
“What?!” Erina couldn’t believe what she just heard. “ That’s ridi-“
But Tooru just cut her off, “Without the Holy Sword, I can’t protect them even if we manage to flee, but you can…” It was true, without the Holy Sword, Tooru was not even as strong as a normal knight. Fortunately, he still had the Mithril Armor, it was a Protective Magical Tool that would certainly be able to help him to buy time.
“But that’s…” Erina was getting even more confused. Although what he said what certainly the best possible solution, but Tooru was still the Hero, she couldn’t just sacrifice him like this; after all, the Humanity’s fate depended on him.
“Tooru!! No!” Lucy shouted. “We can’t let you do this. You are the Hero! The whole humanity is depending on you!! I-I will halt the magical beast! You guys run!”
“No!” Tooru shouted, “You can’t do that! I can’t let-“
Suddenly, Riria cut him off, saying, “R-Riri is the oldest, so Riri will be the one to halt the stupid buffalo! Erina should take Tooru and Lucy away in the meantime…” Riria immediately stood up and took out a small knife from her waist. Her bow was still inside Lucy’s Storage Bracelet, so all she could use to fight the Buffalo was this small knife that was not much longer than her own hand. And although she tried to look brave, her feet were still trembling in fright.
And seeing Lucy and Riria, Erina was no longer confused, she had made up her mind. “No… Tooru, you have to protect the two of them. No matter what, you are still the Hero, so protect them…”
“Tooru…” Erina suddenly cut him off. Then she looked straight into his eyes, smiled, and said, “The time I spent with you, Lucy, and Riria… Although it was short, it was really fun…” Then she ran, while gripping her spear, straight to where the Magical Beast was standing.
And seeing that its prey had finally stopped dodging and now actually ran straight to it, the furious Buffalo was really happy. It brandished its prided horns and stomped his foot to the ground. Then it ran, straight to Erina.
Both the Magical Beast and the Human, were roaring as they ran to kill each other. One with its horn, and the other with her spear.
Tooru, Riria, and Lucy shouted as they stared at Erina who was running with full speed straight to the Magical Beast. Tears slowly trickled down from Lucy’s and Riria’s eyes as they remembered the time they spent together with her, the time they ate together, trained together, took a bath together, and the time they chatted together before sleeping.
Then, they clashed, a human girl against a gigantic Magical Beast…
Tooru, Lucy, and Riria closed their eyes, scared to see what the result would be.
But then, suddenly, “Goddamnit… I told you guys to train… not to make a drama like this…” a familiar voice was heard.
And hearing it, the three immediately opened their eyes and stared straight at where the voice was coming from.
And there, Zed was standing above the huge Buffalo, holding Erina in one hand and… the Holy Sword on the other.
The Buffalo, feeling that something was standing on top of its body, bellowed angrily as it wanted to shake them off.
But, before it managed to do that, Zed then shouted and stomped its back. “Shut up!” he said.
The Buffalo suddenly fell onto its knees as it felt like something was crushing him from above.
And then, Zed threw Erina down to the ground, while saying, “I just took the Holy Sword for a few hours and you guys already tried to run away. I should have just tied you guys up and took you all home. So disappointing…”
“B-But, why did you take the Holy Sword?” asked Tooru.
But Zed just ignored him and kept mumbling, “You guys come here to train, right? And what do I see? An overslept ranger, a panickly healer, a confused knight, and a Hero that is useless without his sword. And you all want to come with me to kill the Demon Emperor? Dream on!”
Hearing that, Tooru, Lucy, Riria, and Erina silently casted their gaze downwards. They couldn’t say anything in return, because everything that Zed had said were right.
“You guys have two knights, one healer, and one ranger. And when you see a Magical Beast, all you think was running? You kidding me?” Zed was actually surprised as well. At first, he had taken the Holy Sword only to make the training slightly harder, but he never thought that he would see a scene where the four would try to sacrifice their ownselves so the other three could run away, and even when one already did, the others were still stupidly staring and were not running.
“We are going to kill the Demon Emperor for god sake… this puny thing shouldn’t even give you guys a hard time…” Zed stared down at the ‘puny’ High Grade Magical Beast below him.
“Shut up!” Zed angrily stomped at the pitiful Buffalo again and again.
Moo! Moo!! Moooo….
After he was satisfied, Zed then looked at the four again. He sighed, “Go back home. I will go to the Demon Continent alone…”
The four immediately tried to protest. But Zed then glared at them, and they all fell silent.
After a while, Zed said, “Fine, I indeed promise you. Two months, just like before, I will wait for you at the Passage of Death in two months. If you aren’t there by then, I will leave, not even going to search for your corpses…” Then, he turned his back and slowly walked down.
Tooru, Lucy, Riria, and Erina didn’t say anything. They were petrified by his glare. Even the Buffalo below Zed, didn’t move an inch as he slowly walked down, afraid that he would kill it the moment it did. And after it felt that Zed was not on top of its back anymore, the Buffalo immediately stood up and ran away without even looking back. Its instinct that had been trained for countless years knew that the man, who gave out that chilling killing intent, was not someone that it could fight.
And Zed, who was holding the Holy Sword on his hand, without turning his back, coldly said, “Two months…” Then, he disappeared.
“Tooru… what are we going to do now?” asked Lucy.
“I…” Tooru pondered as he gazed at the distant mountain range. After a while, he then said, “I will go.”
“But, won’t it be dangerous?”
“Yes, that’s exactly why I should go…” said Tooru. “Zed was right, I relied too much on the Holy Sword. Without it, I can do nothing. That’s why, I should train myself here.”
“Then, I will go with you,” said Lucy.
“Okay.” Tooru nodded. He didn’t try to stop Lucy; after all, she was the one who was with him the longest, he knew how much she had pushed herself to get stronger, thus, he also knew how she would felt if she was told to go home, it would be the same as him, disappointed and dejected to the point of death.
“Riri will go too!” Riria suddenly shouted. “Riri will go kill the one who caused Riri’s parent’s death! Even if Riri dies in the progress, Riri has no regret!”
“Okay,” said Lucy. “But don’t oversleep again…” Lucy knew how much her parents meant for Riria, so she also didn’t try to stop her.
“R-Riri will try…”
Tooru just smiled wryly as he saw that. After all, he had accidentally fallen asleep last night, which was the cause of the Holy Sword to get stolen. If he didn’t fell asleep, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Then he looked at Erina, and asked, “What about you, Erina?”
“I… am the one who put you guys in this situation, so I should take the responsibility,” Erina said.
“No.” Tooru shook his head. “There is nothing that you have to take responsibility for. Sooner or later, knowing how Zed is, he would still put us through something like this, maybe even worse. So, just tell us how you really felt…”
“I… will still go.” Erina looked straight into Tooru’s eyes. “I want to get stronger, even stronger than Zed, so I have to go!”
“Un!” Tooru nodded his head. “Me too!”
A roar was suddenly heard nearby. And slowly, a red colored tiger walked out from the forest, glaring at the four humans before it. But, contrary to its expectation, the four of them were not afraid in the slightest. There was even something in their eyes that made the tiger felt somehow scared.
“Lucy! Riria! Erina! I want to become stronger! Will you help me?!” shouted Tooru excitedly as he looked at the tiger.
“Yes!” Lucy readied her staff.
“Of course! Lucy, give me my bow!” shouted Riria.
“Let’s kill this cat!!” shouted Erina while brandishing her spear.
“Then, let’s go!!!”
Thus, began the real deathly training for the four of them. How it would turn out, even Zed himself didn’t have the slightest idea.
Hello my beloved readers! Long time no see, a month to be exact! I apologize for the ‘really’ late story, but nothing I could do about that, I just don’t want the quality to drop… I hope you guys won’t be angry :3
Well, thanks for reading, and let’s hope that the next chapter won’t be as late as this one…