Gang of Yuusha Chapter 11
– 11 – Unmounted, Yet Still a Dragoon
About three minutes had passed.
His powerful legs had become masses of severity.
The summoned beast facing him, which had taken a shape similar to a mud doll, was being whittled away in small pieces as it brought its boulder-like fist down.
He was attacking its torso in his attempts to destroy it.
Estimating the remaining time until the effect of the potion was cut off, Shouji got his breathing under control.
Spinning his body, revolving in the wind he released consecutive high-speed kicks.
As its flank was removed, the giant lost its balance.
Judging that it would collapse in just a few seconds, he tread a series of steps and moved past its side.
Shouji faced Holly, who was controlling the magic, and with the sound of the wind cutting he made a single leap towards her.
He swung the fist he had stored, but was unconcernedly intercepted by something.
His protruding fist felt a sneaking resistance.
Something unseen had coiled around his hand.
This was bad, he was in battle yet his physical condition was suddenly turning for the worse. His legs felt strangely heavy. It felt like invisible chains had tied around his body. His condition seemed similar to a cold infection.
As he wiped his sweat he noticed that his forehead was feverish. Even when he took a deep breath he still felt shortness of breath.
The magical bulwark surrounding Holly, that eerie sludgy mass, could both expand and solidify. It could turn to mist and by absorbing water it could turn mud like.
Its shape made it look like an amoeba flying around.
By winding and floating it could do its work as a barrier.
"My erosion barrier, Micro Field, makes use of miniscule particles in the air. The microbes summoned from the rotting world are both my shield and my sword. Normally it would not have been strange for you to have collapsed with your body ravaged by disease."
"A magician's poison, huh."
So that was why the effect of the Perfect potion seemed so sparse.
With just perfect recovery effects it could not sterilize the propagating bacteria. Its only purpose was to repair injuries.
The collapsed giant wriggled flabbily and returned to the shape of three hunting dogs.
Repulsing the seemingly invulnerable and freely transforming summons was difficult.
The damage did not permeate them, and no matter how fine the pieces he broke them up into were, they always restored themselves.
Wide-area extermination and waiting for the opponent to ruin himself was Holly's combat style.
It was a plain way of fighting, but her A-class ranking was not undeserved.
"You guys sure have gone overboard here. It looks like there won't be a place here for me to work at from tomorrow."
Having found some composure during the fight, she was able to take a look at the exploded factory, and she listlessly turned her face towards the neighbouring facility, which was covered in flames. Destroyed metal fittings and pipes were dispersed on the floor in the area, and the chemical liquids flowing from the plumbing oozed to the ground and released offensive smells.
"And so, you decided to give your all for a workplace that won't exist tomorrow?"
"Even if I have lost my employment I still have my sense of duty. Your group will not be forgiven. I will never consent to let villains like you escape as is."
"Is that so?"
In the space between the two people facing off, sparks were playing in the wind.
Shouji controlled his exhalation and faced his knee towards his opponent while lowering his stance.
The effects of the potion were running out.
He had a grasp on the effective time with his internal clock. There was no possibility for time extensions.
In that case… should he?
Throwing away the foolish thought that had entered his mind in an instant, he jumped towards the ground like a swimmer's starting jump. With his hands planted in the ground he brought his legs over his head and swung forward with great force. Violently twisting his body he started to do front handsprings.
Gathering rotational momentum like a gyroscope, he charged towards her.
After spinning about three times he dropped his heel in a kick from vertically above Holly's head.
The blow was intense, but this time the magical barrier did not just turn it aside. It had completely stopped it.
"You have moves like a gymnastics athlete… I could fall in love with that beautiful agility."
Using the impact as his point of torque he jumped back up and as he was falling he released a series of kicks. The throat, the torso, the nether regions, after attacking these spots he leapt aside.
As he landed he grasped his hands into fists and remade his stance. Even after those strikes Holly showed no indication of collapsing.
It was not worth being surprised. Everything had been defended against by the magical bulwark.
He felt the vertigo. He paid it no attention but a headache that felt like someone had hammered a nail into his brain refused to settle down. He also felt nausea crowding his stomach. His gastric juices flower upwards continuously and he had to keep swallowing to keep them down.
Hand-to-hand techniques were at a disadvantage against magic techniques.
It was something he knew from the start.
One of his knees struck the ground with a thump. The effects of the potion had ended.
The ‘something’ that had been surging through his muscles had disappeared to places unknown.
The blessing of the minute light that had engulfed his body had returned to nothingness.
The increase of his basic abilities had ended.
There were no more potions available to him. The one he had been keeping had been broken by the hunting dogs.
They had aimed for precisely the correct spot. He had used his hidden flask of Perfect potion as well.
"Could I get you to capitulate? I am showing respect for you, who's name I do not know, and your way of fighting."
Her urging voice truly did contain respect. And just a slight bit of expectation.
Spitting out his deep breath Shouji undid his stance with closed eyes.
His arms fell to his sides. The movement of his body stopped and he simply stood there.
Thinking she could finally take a break, Holly showed an expression of joy on her face for just a moment, but in Shouji's eyes a penetrating and cold will for battle was preserved.
"For potions to not be available during wartime has happened to me a lot."
The burning anger he had felt towards his disgrace had passed away.
His glacial bloodlust advanced in force on his opponent who believed she had won.
"This was because amongst combat supplies, potions were a great luxury. And I needed enormous amounts of supplies. Thus, the first thing I tried was drinking the blood of a magical beast near a farming community. It was just a whimsical subjugation mission. It had eyeballs all over its body, its hairless skin was a muddy yellow color, it was a monster where you really couldn't tell what was legs and what was arms. The blood smelled of earth and tasted acrid. It didn't have much effect, but in a pinch it did just a little."
"I had been thinking that you had a weird ability… Are you a returning soldier?"
Having been trained to take lives in war, it happened occasionally that such people drowned in their work.
In her comment on Shouji's social position she showed no sympathy, and Shouji continued.
"The next thing I drank was the blood of enemy magicians that I killed. This showed quite the effect… luckily, when I literally bit onto the enemy's windpipe my comrades stopped me. It was against the prisoner of war regulations and everyone had become frightened."
"Quite the disgusting tale."
"The liquid I decided on in the end was what worked the best. The time I did that, everyone called me a Dragoon. An old-fashioned, presumptuous and lame name if you ask me. Its original meaning is a rifleman on horseback, but when I downed this liquid I must have appeared to have been surrounded by a blaze. Therefore I am a Dragoon."
The moment his speech ended Holly became lost for words.
Her opponent acted in a manner where it seemed he had been drowned in his own madness and decided to commit suicide.
Shouji bit down with force on his stuck out tongue. The outer tip fell to the ground.
From the root of his tongue massive hemorrhaging occurred. Blood vomited forth. By the power of will his mouth closed quickly, but fresh blood continued to drip from the corners of his mouth.
His eyes squirmed and glared at her. Once again they had turned to a deep crimson.
From the whirling flame in the back the presence of violence increased remarkably.
All at once his injured body began mending. Bruises and bleeding disappeared and returned to skin with proper complexion.
His fists were solidified, his legs spread slightly, strength was being accumulated.
The surging power became apparent. Turbulence blew roughly through the air. Shouji's black hair started pointing in the opposite direction of gravity.
The roar that made the ground rumble shook Holly's heart.
The damp wind from the sky was pushed back. In their meeting the weather became disordered.
In the sky innumerable yellow lines were born, flashes of lightning weaved through the rifts between the leaden clouds.
"This is the thing… that really works. This feeling of going off the deep end if I screw up. It’s to die for."
The spontaneous wind gained force.
The air currents bundled together and rang the machinery buildings like wind chimes.
Instinctually realizing the danger Holly turned pale and took a single step backwards. It was a sign of escaping behavior, flustered she left her life in the hands of her summons.
Without a moment's delay Shouji closed the distance. Before Holly's eyes was a clenched fist coiled in divine wind. There had been no hint of the start of his movement. It was so ridiculously fast that it seemed like teleportation.
Holly manifested her Micro Field but it was easily destroyed like brittle candy artwork.
By reflex she crossed her arms in front of her. Her guarding arms were crushed and sank into her chest, her sternum had cracked in pieces as well. The impact pushed her body out and she was blown directly backwards.
Unable to keep up with the situation, the soles of Holly's feet scraped against the ground as she crashed into the wall of a machine building. The strike to her back drove all of the air from her lungs.
In her crumbling consciousness she spurred her summons on, but Shouji erased the three magical beasts without taking more than a second. Shaking his body slightly, without letting it be known whether he punched or kicked, he assaulted their cores, the microbes adhering to the mud, with sufficient violent suppression to unmistakably cause them to die out.
This time they were not restored. The flabby wreckage that had scattered simply contracted slightly.
Holly was completely unmoving, the approaching man grabbed her collar and lifted her without resistance from her.
The bones and flesh on her arms had been torn to pieces and she was bleeding severely.
No matter how you looked at it, she had become unable to continue fighting.
The suddenly falling rain-soaked the two figures.
Water flowed down Shouji's cheeks to his chin and dripped from there.
He gazed at Holly in his grasp and asked.
"Stop playing around… I only just got serious… Are you done already?"
He raised his voice, but the protective barrier, Micro Field, that had settled in the air around them, dispersed.
The magical germs also seemed to disappear. The sense of discomfort in his body disappeared and he was recovered.
Showing his trump card had been a revenge for being taken lightly, but it appeared that he had jumped the gun.
The effect of the ‘Dragon Energy Arts’, which were awoken by activating the magical power components stagnating in his blood through self-wounding, was still present. It had a pseudo-effect similar to that of drinking multiple supreme quality potions, and it was an underhanded trick to deceive his God-given ability.
The compensation he would have to pay was heavy, and the strain on his body was severe.
If done poorly he would have to stay in bed for a while, and even walking would become difficult.
If it truly went terribly wrong, then he would bite the dust.
"Well, against just an A-class magician's level… this should be about right."
He put his hand on her throat to finish her off, but as he was about to gather his strength he changed his mind.
Being miffed at a barely alive battered ‘dust cloth’ felt absurd to him.
Then again, he had shown his face because he intended to kill her. There was no reason to let her live.
The was none, but ending the matter after releasing his full strength yet not completely spending it, left him unsatisfied.
For the battle obsessed Shouji, this left him dejected.
"Guess I'll bring her."
He nimbly slung her over his shoulder.
Holly, who was in a hopeless situation, seemed to be conscious but did not move at all.
Footsteps rang out and from the darkness a figure was revealed. Doldo came running with a drawn expression.
As the meat of his stomach flabbily swung, he ran frantically.
Looking from the front it looked sort of idiotic and th tension left Shouji’s body. He stifled a laugh. He somehow managed to hold it in.
Doldo stopped up and looked at Holly on Shouji's shoulder and the blood flowing down his neck at the same time, and rummaged around in his pocket.
"… T, take it."
In his hand was a potion in a brass bottle.
It had two ring-shaped handles, the neck was thin and the waist was thick.
"Hey, isn't this a large quantity type High potion? How'd you get this?"
They could be found on the market, but unlike Middle potions the High potions were very expensive amongst the recovery type potions.
Even at wholesale price a single bottle was fifty thousand Iidol, ordinary people could not easily obtain them.
Doldo rubbed his finger beneath his round nose.
"They were just there. When we stole the 'Deep Manastone Purified Water'… Ehehe"
"A guy without oversights. Thanks, it'll help."
"Aah ah, there's one for that girl as well."
"For this fellow too?"
From a different pocket Doldo brought out another High potion. On his face was a worry free expression.
"Well. She's so pitiable. Also, if we treat her you won't have to carry her."
"No, this girl has a pretty nice face. I figured I could sell her to a brothel or something."
As he downed the High potion he had received he said some random stuff. He did not have that intention originally, but after he said it he felt that it was not such a bad idea.
"That's no good, Quik. No good at all. For example, if your precious mama… was sold away, how would you feel?"
"I see, refreshed… My ass! The hell are you on about?"
"My mother was… not a good mother. But I understand what you are saying, Doldo. I'm not gonna sell this woman."
Pretending calmness Shouji turned his eyes towards their escape direction.
Doldo was deeply relieved and a bit bashful.
He had a kindness that Shouji did not himself possess. Shouji was not able to look it in the eyes.
He was a bit jealous. And for some reason also sad.
They could not be immersed in sentiment forever.
Turning to urge Doldo on for the sake of their escape, he mysteriously saw Doldo lying on the ground.
He was bent down on the cold stone floor darkened by the drizzling rain.
From his abdomen dark red blood flowed onto the ground.
The High potion in his hand tumbled to the ground.
The small sound of the brass flask rolling struck his ears clearly. The contents flowed out of the mouth of the flask.
The face-down collapsed Doldo did not move at all.
But he had been talking energetically just a second ago.
With a feeling of cold water running down his back, he called out to him.
"… Don't move! You there!"
The footsteps of a large number of people rang out on the ground.
Shaking off the falling sparks, the soldiers formed up and aimed their rifles in a half-rising posture.
Appearing from the shadows of the buildings and from the road they became a dense formation of dark blue military uniforms. They had the attitudes of a crowd of stone statues.
"The invaders are you guys, huh?"
"You bastards… Those uniforms, the navy… Why are you here?"
A representative stepped forwards.
The aged strict face had the majesty of someone used to giving orders.
The shining golden epaulets he proudly wore interested Shouji.
His ranking… Shouji had no knowledge of the navy, but he could tell that he held a high rank. He had a position where he could have anyone shot to death with lead bullets by simply rising his hand in judgement.
Running his eyes over the shadows of the enemies, Shouji quickly counted their numbers.
Five, seven, ten, twenty, thirty, it kept rising. Could he kill them all? If his chances were fifty-fifty he would go for it. But there was no guarantee that this was all of them. He could not disregard the possibility of reinforcements.
Indecision tied up his body. The chance for sudden reversal in this predicament was fatally insufficient.
"I have no need to answer. Go ahead and release that honorable lady."
"This beauty has a prior engagement to dance with me."
"Do you not realize that it's over already? Do you not want to extend your life a bit?"
The elder commander affectedly indicated the surroundings. His intent was to let the opponent know the numbers of his soldiers.
With a faint smile on his face Shouji put his hand on Holly's throat.
"In that case, it makes no difference if I kill this woman."
It was a voice of sharp restraint. Shouji found that strange. Sure there was a hostage, but it was not like he could not open fire at all.
He must be carrying the knight's code in his heart, but for the sake of the mission surely he could set it aside and look the other way. That was the modus operandi of the military forces that Shouji knew of.
Shouji guessed and with a gruesome smile he grumbled.
"I see, this woman has that sort of value… Step back."
"Did you truly think we would retreat?"
"Well, not retreating was what I expected, anyway."
If the navy retreated that would be a blot on their name.
It was an entirely different matter from the presence or absence of a hostage.
Not allowing anyone to look down on them was a trait shared both by hooligans and the military.
"Give medical treatment to the fat man at my feet."
"Why should we?"
"If you have a hostage you can make demands. Surely that is natural."
"All of your comrades have been apprehended. You are all that is left."
"Is that so… Thanks for the heads up. I feel the fighting spirit welling up."
"On our side is over a hundred men of courage."
"It means that if you resist you will die."
"I don't fear dying. But I do have an interest in increasing the number of people I bring down with me."
"Stop the lunatic act. And put an end your bluffing. Just now you already told us that you wanted to save the friend at your feet. You want to avoid annihilation, do you not?"
A calm commander. Well then, what should I do? If all it took was taking off the head of the snake then I could be done in three seconds.
But that would not end the matter.
The 'Dragon Energy Arts' had seven minutes of effect left.
Immediately eliminating everyone on the spot was impossible.
There was no need to challenge the impossible, and he would also call a pass on struggling pointlessly.
After the effect of the 'Dragon Energy Arts' ended, maybe he should make an attempt at a second activation.
He had never done it twice in a short time. It lacked reliability.
But what good would capitulation do him? They could all go together to the guillotine for a happy end?
Shouji stored power in his legs, and with a single leap he flew to the building's second floor. The soldiers let out sounds of admiration. The commander was also dumbfounded.
Struck by the rainfall falling in the darkness, Shouji looked down on the soldiers from the scorched roof.
With ghastliness in his bloodshot eyes and a cold-hearted expression clinging to his face he declared.
"I take this oath. If a single one of my comrades dies, I will rip out the innards of all you bastards."
Shouji leapt into the dark night.
Still carrying Holly who was unconscious from exhaustion and injury.
The commander's throat bobbed as he swallowed his saliva.
"What a monstrous person… All hands, after him! Split up and get him!"