Chapter 3 - The Rejected Daughter of Sin / "Child x Captive x Cacophonous"
A brief respite.
As soon as he stopped moving, Zenon threw three knives at him. He casually deflected two with his hand and left the third to Riko's movable armor protecting him.
"Hmm! Are you actually tired~? That's so rare!"
"Not my body, but if anything, I'm mentally tired. It feels like being forced to solve puzzles the whole time."
Pendragon shrugged and replied, looking at Ganon before him. She was covered in sweat, breathing slightly faster, but the precision of her movements remained unchanged. Slightly swaying, the sword tip waved back and forth.
"Houjyou... You've actually been training, haven't you? This isn't a level of skill achievable by someone who had neglected martial arts for years after deserting the Draconians."
"...Actually, I have been neglecting martial arts."
"Probably until recently? I also know that you have always been doing what you need to do, Onee-sama."
Saying that, Zenon took out new knives to hold between her fingers, preparing to throw them. Ganon glanced at her and sighed.
"Sigh... She was called Kokoro Pentangeli, right? After that incident with her, I started practicing a bit."
"Oh, that name sure brings back memories. I haven't heard from her for over six months already. Is she well? Or has she died?"
"Quite well, one could say."
The old friend was standing somewhere out of Zenon and Ganon's way when he spoke. Pendragon could not be certain but believed he was probably not lying. She was talented enough to be one of the «High Singles»—Since she was still alive, surely she would return to the dragon's path one day.
"So... After fighting Kokoro Pentangeli, did it make you remember something?"
"Remember... Remember something? Perhaps. Because I've neglected martial arts all this time, it felt surprisingly hard to perform when I picked up a sword again after so long. To be honest, the slightest misstep then and a irrevocable outcome might have resulted."
Between lethargic breaths, she continued:
"...Even though this sword style is clearly so utterly meaningless, the old man still taught it to me just in case. However—if that just-in-case really did arrive but I failed to do anything, now that would be truly meaningless... That's what occurred to me after the battle."
"Because now that Old Man Long is not around, you're the only one left who can use the Void Night Sword... Are you thinking it would be a shame to let it go to waste?"
"Roughly something like that."
Pendragon's lips curled in a grin while he simply thought to himself: "Honestly?" Indeed, it was one of the reasons, but he did not think that was all. He recalled the scenes he had seen many times in the past when she was learning the Void Night Sword from Long. He recalled her gaze at the time. The emotions in her gaze when she was looking at her master, who was old enough to be her father or even grandfather. Excitement, fear, admiration, a sense of mission to respond to his expectations, as well as—
(...Her taste for older men still hasn't changed, right? Oh my, what a shame.)
Well, whatever. No matter what the reason, now that she was seriously trying to stop him...
He decided to confirm again.
Seizing a gap in the conversation, Pendragon closed in with natural and smooth flowing motions. Ganon was completely unfazed by his sudden action. Controlling the timing of attacks was, in other words, "opportunity" which was within her realm of response.
"Granaury, shrink one millimeter."
The blade on the back of his right hand retracted slightly. Instantly, he could feel the blade's power growing more powerful. The shorter the distance to the enemy, the greater the power, this was Granaury's curse.
With multiplied power in Granaury's blade attached to his fist, Pendragon punched as hard as he could towards Ganon. She swiftly turned and made her body stumble clumsily as though she had snapped at the waist. But that clumsy movement was a uniquely correct choice for extending the time for which "instant death would occur unless this was done." The sword held in Ganon's hand was already making contact with Granaury. Considering the totality of Granaury's destructive power, it would not be surprising if that ordinary sword shattered instantly. However, through Ganon's meticulous shifting of her center of gravity and high-level techniques for inertial neutralization, Granaury was parried to the side as though sucked by her sword, drawn to a location different from where the attack was originally targeting—Achieving a similar effect as «Karma Speed» through pure skill alone.
Pendragon did not force a counterattack, allowing his fist to be deflected towards the ground. Then he deliberately allowed his fist to smash into the ground. The delivered impact caused the ground surface to explode. Amidst the cloud of dirt and dust, he made a flying kick. Riko's armor moved swiftly to reinforce his kick, increasing the armor's thickness to the point that the opponent might break their arm if she tried to block recklessly or attack his leg. However, Ganon evaded with a backflip, resulting in a fluttering of her skirt. Then the battle resumed.
"Haha~ Is that black lace? Nice panties. You've become a mature woman."
"Don't sneak a peek without permission. I'm charging you a fee now."
"No problem, I'll pay up. What forms of payment can I choose? ...Oh."
In the next second, a knife flew straight at his eyeball. After he dodged lightly, Zenon, the thrower of the knife, narrowed her eyes and glared at him, saying:
"How repulsive and nauseating, to hear comments about my family of such an obscene nature."
"As a businessman, I'm actually quite curious whether the price she demands is reasonable or not."
Zenon glared viciously at Gabriel. Pendragon laughed, his shoulders shaking lightly.
This felt so nostalgic.
Gabriel used to be ranked second in the Draconians. The Houjyou sisters, always following him loyally, were akin to his disciples. To be honest, starting way back—They were just like family.
But how far did this distinction extend? As Gabriel's best friend, best rival and competitor, what about Pendragon? After sparring with the sisters a few times as a way to pass time, he had started to chat with them like Gabriel. Despite their differences in power level, it was still a relationship allowing them to joke around with one another, spar and say whatever they wanted without reservation. The non-human ones also stood on the side, laughing together, frowning or pouting—Liz who used to be Gabriel's and Granaury who used to be Long's. The two of them were very similar in various ways. Deep friendship, birds of a feather—They were even alike in ways they should not. Hence, Liz's gaze remained focus on one person the whole time, whereas Granuary never stared.
Ahhh, perhaps it was not just the Houjyou sisters. In that space, perhaps there were brothers and sisters alike. Perhaps including himself, they were like a family—
(...It's all in the past, anyway. I can't keep reminiscing just because I miss it.)
Pendragon warned himself and shook his head lightly.
After a sigh, he renewed his focus on reality before his eyes.
"What should I say? I'm finally understanding what this is about. Using the earlier analogy, your dragonslayer sword won't kill me. You possess neither the intent nor the actual skill required to kill me. That's a fake trenchant blade, even if it carries the significance of being the one and only existence that can resist the strongest person."
"Kill you? Haha... Don't get alarmist on me, that goes without saying."
Sarcastically, exhaustedly, Ganon twisted the corners of her lips to say:
"Forget about killing, I am a goddess of healing, you know? Because I'm the school physician."
Pendragon laughed wryly in exasperation while whispering at the same time:
"Riko, concentrate on strengthening the springs on the legs. Prepare to jump."
"Tsk, no helping it..."
Centered around the legs, «Corpse Armor Rikongarowa»'s armor began to shift positions and rearrange itself. Through overlapping and rebounding, the armor strengthened the movements of the leg muscles. Then immediately, Pendragon jumped high up and backwards—
He landed on the roof of the Yachi house.
Gazing down at Ganon and the rest, he said:
"I guess by now, I've tired of playing with my old friends... There's really no more time to waste with you. You've also managed to fully achieve the task of buying time, right? I'll let you off this time. Dismissed."
They were ordinary humans after all without the supernatural powers of Wathes. In other words, Ganon and Zenon were physically unable to reach the roof in a single leap. He should have done this earlier—But he could not help immersing himself in the nostalgia of fighting them.
He was just about to jump again, intending to exit the house's premises in a single bound—
"Hey... Let's continue that cliched and embarrassing subject of the dragonslayer. If my sword cannot kill you—"
Those eyes of hers, looking up towards him—
They were filled with lethargy and drowsiness as always—However, they were also as sharp as fine needles.
"Max-kun, that's only because you aren't a dragon yet. Conversely... If you become a dragon, perhaps I will be able to kill you."
"Haha~ That would be more exciting. I'll look forward to it."
He did not look away.
After a long silence—
"...You still refuse to give up?"
"Of course. This is my only current goal. By obtaining Ningyouhara Kuroe, I will truly become the strongest dragon. That is what I live for and the way I've lived all this time—Having forsaken this way of life, you lot cannot stop me."
Finally, he saw wavering flash across the silent Ganon's eyes.
Pendragon applied force through his legs, breaking the Yachi house's roof underfoot as he took a leap.
Flying through midair, then came a feeling of descent.
Even if he were to become a true dragon, wings probably would not sprout out of his back.
He felt a bit disappointed about that.
In front of Zenon...
The older sister exhaled forcefully while her shoulders heaved up and down.
"Haha... Hear that? Zenon... Using his full power to make a young girl his property, to think that's the way to become a dragon? I knew it... It's too unseemly..."
Then her knees collapsed as though her legs suddenly lost strength.
"There, this is the least I could do."
While Zenon was rushing over in panic, the superintendent caught Ganon in his arms just as she was about to fall on the ground. Likewise, he was sighing beneath his gas mask.
"You should rest for a while. Right now... Even if you chase after him, it won't do any good."
"Yes~ ...Ahhh, honestly... So tired..."
At this moment, in a fluid manner that made one suspect how familiar she was with this, a long-haired woman (strictly speaking, perhaps "woman" was debatable) swiftly crawled out from under the eaves.
"I was being considerate by hiding and not get in your way, but it's time for me to enter the stage now. Although the living room is a wreck, the other parts of the house should be okay, so you can come in to rest."
"Thank you so much. Before that, the fallen knights here need to be taken care of first."
"Yes. As much as I don't want to involve others, I guess I must count on the help of some friends dealing in underground businesses~"
"I'll also use connections on my side."
Honatsu and the superintendent started to discuss how to clean up the aftermath. Zenon took Ganon from the superintendent's hands.
"Ow~ ...Even saying 'so tired' is tiring~ ...What should I do?"
"You can remain quiet and not say a single word. You can also go to sleep directly."
"Oh, really? Yay~ Today is a weekday, but I can skip work and take a nap, that's so awesome... Zzzzz..."
Ganon instantly leaned her entire weight on Zenon after closing her eyes and began to breathe smoothly and regularly.
She had been overexerting herself, probably. Facing off against the strongest man. Neither winning nor losing, a technique that relied excessively on deceit and obfuscation. Miraculously good fortune, combined with the opponent's complacence, carelessness, underestimation of his enemy... This result was obtained precisely by gathering all of these elements. This must not be forgotten.
While gazing at the face of her older sister sleeping as though in a coma, Zenon continued to ponder.
If she were to face him in battle next time...
Surely—The result was going to be different.
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