Chapter 57:

The Boys' Battle IV

Sword Quest

Mel hugged Selmy’s frail body, tears welling up. “I told you not to come, you idiot,” he said, voice quivering.

“It’s okay,” she responded, nuzzling her own crying face in his chest. “I had to make sure you were okay, too.”

He shook his head with a thin smile and looked back to see the twins still fighting two Red Wolves, their attacks growing slower with each movement. In front of him, Suguille had drawn another blade and clashed with both Tess and her brother, Ango.

The two kept a frenetic pace, attacking at angles that kept the tall man on his toes; but he stood his ground with a fierce stance and took advantage of his long limbs with crushing counter-strikes that forced the two to dodge and disengage.

“Can you walk?” Mel asked, helping the distressed Selmy to her feet.

“I hurt my ankle when I landed, but I think I’m okay,” she answered in a pitiful voice, grimacing as her struggle to stand was obviously greater than she was letting on.

“Then let’s move over and stay out of the way, okay?” he responded, taking her arm over his shoulder and escorting her to the edge of the trees she’d emerged from while recovering his bow and dagger.

Upon setting her down against a tree trunk, he glanced back to the dirt mound, and his eyes grew wide.

There his friend was, scaling the cliffside just above the dirt mound. Soon he would come around the corner at the point where the cliffside and dirt mound met, where Tess’ blast had made a steep slope out of a completely vertical cliffside.

His heart pounded with anticipation—he knew what he had to do. His only concern was the man named Suguille, as well as Selmy—who could no longer escape on her own. So, he watched the fighting rage, mind racing with the decision he had to make.

Suguille’s vigor proved enough to push the two siblings back several times, but their pure skill with the blade began to give them the edge in the fight. Their technical precision and tricky angles eventually outmaneuvered the man, and they scored several slashing wounds on his sides.

After landing their blows, they bounced out of danger as Suguille fired back with vicious outward swings of both blades. He made no attempt to clutch at his wounds, instead staring down his opponents with indignation verging on obsessive enmity, his teeth gritted so hard they seeped with blood.

Upon seeing this, Mel stood up. “They have things under control here, so just stay put until I’m back with the sword, okay?”

“O—okay, please just be careful,” Selmy answered, tears filling her eyes once more.

“Don’t worry about me,” Mel responded firmly before turning and running in the opposite direction. The twins’ opponents attempted to converge on him, but the two girls responded, displaying a great deal of effort to cut them off and hold them back with their small frames. He looked back at them and nodded silently, before heading in full sprint up the avalanched dirt mound, dropping his bow at the base.

“Do you really think this is enough?” Suguille growled at Tess, lips curled in anger. “Do you think you can step foot into a real war, against real soldiers, and win with nothing but your will?”

“You’re in no position to be acting tough, pal,” Tess quipped as she glared back at him. “The tables have turned on you people, now.”

“No, no, no… no, no, no, no, no,” he spat, taking slow steps forward and raising his left arm. “All these kids are going to die, alongside you—you’ll see what happens when you barge in on matters of war!”

Tess and Ango frowned while a thick mist began to rise in a circle around the man. Their vision immediately ahead blocked, they took a defensive stance and stepped back cautiously.

“Tess, be careful!” Selmy shouted; but her warning came too late as a silver light flashed through the mist. Like a spear, the man flew through the misty air, cutting the distance between him and Tess in an instant.

“Sis!” Ango cried, diving in between Tess and Suguille just as Tess flung the last vial she’d been holding in her fingers, forward. It contacted Ango’s rapier just as he and the airborne Suguille collided.

A low boom resounded as another explosion burst right in the middle of the three combatants. Mel, who was already climbing up the cliffside in a bounding run, looked back in a panic as Tess and Ango were flung violently in different directions and left to lie, lifeless, in the dirt.

Dammit, Tess… you’ve got to be okay.

You’ve got to stay alive... and protect Selmy!

I trust you!

The anguished boy turned his back on the scene and continued climbing desperately up the steep cliffside slope, unable to see the man called Suguille rising to his feet as the smoke began to clear.