Chapter 55:

The Boys' Battle II

Sword Quest

Mel chased after the group of Shlanks who rushed toward the bottom of the slope where their leader had fallen, the Red Wolves in tow. Seeing the others following behind him without a word of hesitation, he thought about how to handle the change of pace.

Tch… damn Shlanks weren’t much help in the end…

The Red Wolves will take advantage of this to go up the slope.

Any moment now, Cedric could come out from the top.

If they climb up there, looks like there’s only Quentle to get through.

What do I do? I can’t cut them off like this…

Should I let them have their shot, and trust him to surrender?

No, there’s no way he will.

Should I just trust Hastor to take it from him?

At that moment, another small white object soared over their heads from the trees to the right. Mel watched with wide eyes as it hit the ground in front of the Red Wolves, and white powder exploded into their midst.

Chaos ensued as the area lost all visibility, and several shadows moved swiftly throughout the thick fog. Mel simply squatted down in a defensive posture, waiting for the fog to clear while several loud cries sounded around him.

The last cry, that of a young woman’s, stole all of Mel’s attention.


He yelled out, running blindly in the direction the cry had come from. Before he could reach it, he collided with someone running in the opposite direction. The red-clad man tried to take advantage of the entanglement by holding Mel still, thrusting his short blade toward his side. Mel saw the attack but could not react in time, so he merely braced himself for impact.

Just as the blade began to sink into his skin, the man was grabbed by his neck and slung backward. The weight behind the throw was so heavy it slammed his head into the dirt, knocking him unconscious.

At that moment, the smoke began to clear, and the twins appeared in front of him, both retrieving ropes from around the man’s neck.

“Thanks,” Mel said through gritted teeth, clutching his wounded side. The girls nodded at him before looking ahead, where several meters away stood the captain of the Red Wolves—the same man he’d spoken with previously.

Now, the sight of him made Mel’s blood boil, and he could no longer keep the same calm he’d possessed earlier. This was due to the person he was holding up by the throat, sword readied by her neck.

“Let her go, you scum, or this whole deal is off and you won’t make it out of here alive,” Mel demanded, glaring viciously at the man. He couldn’t bring himself to look in the eyes of the girl who had come to support him, who was coughing through reddened cheeks as she struggled against the man in vain.

“Do you really think you’re in a position to give me orders, boy?” The man named Suguille snarled. “You and these girls, without that other man, serve no threat to me, even if I were alone.”

At that, Mel glanced over at the surroundings. Three Red Wolves were approaching from their backside. Behind them, the other Red Wolves along with Berd and Farum were climbing up the steep dirt mound in Quentle’s direction, while the Shlanks tended to their unconscious leader. It seemed the twins had neutralized two of the Red Wolves during the confusion, while Selmy attempted to surprise Suguille but failed.

Mel shared glances with the twins, who immediately understood and moved to face the three men behind him, while he glared desperately at Selmy’s struggling face.

This is why I told you!


Why, Selmy… why did you have to come!

How can I worry about Cedric now? I have to figure this out.

Nothing else matters.

Three against four, with a hostage…

He’s right. There’s no way.

The twins are nowhere near Hastor’s level.

And he’ll kill Selmy without any hesitation…

There really isn’t any choice…

Taking a deep breath, Mel stepped forward. “We can still achieve a mutual victory here, if you’ll please just let her go right now.”

“Not a chance, kid,” the man responded, tightening his grip around her throat. “You made the move against me with this lass—I’m not giving you another opportunity.”

Watching Selmy struggle even harder to breathe, Mel nearly lost his senses and leapt at the man. Somehow, he was able to catch himself, biting his lip so hard he drew blood.

Well, at least if this all works out, I’ll be remembered just as well as an Heir…

“Fine then, take me instead!” he blurted out without hesitation, dropping his bow and dagger while stepping forward. “You can trust they won’t act against you any further if I’m dead.”

The twins glanced at him and Selmy through wide eyes but did not speak up. Instead, they looked at each other, biting their lips as they lowered their guard.

Only two paces away, Mel walked with a frozen grimace, avoiding the gaze of Selmy who was furiously protesting his decision, tears streaming down her shaking face.

“I’m sorry, Selmy. It’s not your fault. I’m just taking responsibility.”

“I’ll honor that wish of yours, then,” Suguille said with a sneer. Without loosening his grip on Selmy’s throat, he raised his blade and struck down—

“No, you won’t!”

—where another blade met it, deflecting it off its path to Mel’s neck.

The woman’s long black hair flashed as she lunged, barely deflecting the blade in time with her rapier.

“Tess!” Mel stammered, his jaw agape. The slender woman collided with him in the same motion as her diving deflection. She deftly rolled through her dive, wasting no time in making her next move. Springing up, she quickly located the group going up the dirt mound and reared her right arm back.

With a low roar, she heaved a small black object toward the group. A powerful force behind it, the object soared over the heads of the climbing group, and into the topmost edge of the cliff that connected with the forested area above. The group watched in shock as a loud bang resounded and the wall of the cliff exploded into yet another avalanche of dirt.

While the dirt fell relentlessly toward Berd’s group, Suguille poised himself to strike, this time turning his blade toward Selmy. Mel, who had fallen back, lunged forward desperately, knowing he was out of reach.

Suddenly, Suguille cocked his head to his right, in the direction Tess had come from. In one movement, he threw Selmy to the side, and was just able to defend against a loaded strike aimed at his neck.

The curly-headed Ango, having gained all Suguille’s attention, hopped back before engaging from a different angle. His rapier was much thinner than the man’s short sword, but his technical prowess was made clear as he danced around, attacking Suguille at various angles with swift one-handed strikes.

“You bastards just signed your own death warrants,” Suguille hissed, regaining his posture while defending against Ango’s relentless attacks.

“You’re not laying another hand on anyone, scum,” Tess barked as she charged toward him. Reaching into her cloak again, she shouted “Ango!” before slinging a small vial at the feet of the two combatants.

Ango responded to her command, diving to his left just as the vial struck earth and exploded. Though a smaller conflagration of flames than before, the explosion was enough to blow Suguille backward into the dirt.

The man struggled back to his feet in a daze, having avoided serious damage from the blast. Tess and Ango jumped on the opportunity and charged at him from either side.

“Tess, we need him alive!” Mel shouted as he dropped to his knees and embraced Selmy’s crying face.

“I don’t give a damn what you’re trying to accomplish, Mel,” Tess responded firmly, baring her own rapier down on the recovering Suguille. “We’re here to protect our students from these cowardly invaders, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do!”