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Chapter 8: Daybreak Rondo 

While Alphonse was punching Hiroaki in the face, Rio and the others were being escorted to Liselotte’s mansion by the soldiers on hand. The sight of Liselotte bustling about the garden to give orders soon came into view. 

“Lady Liselotte, I have brought Sir Haruto and his two companions,” the soldier called, hurrying to report to Liselotte. 

“...Haruto, I can feel the unpleasant presence of monsters from that mansion.” Aishia muttered, staring directly at the mansion with a severe look. 

“Eh?” Rio followed her gaze, but there was only silence around the mansion. There was no sign of any commotion going on around there, and neither Liselotte nor those around her seemed particularly bothered. 

Liselotte came running over to Rio. “Sir Haruto, I’m glad to see you and your two companions are safe.” 

“Yes, somehow...” Rio replied in slight confusion. 

“I heard you stopped the monsters at the east gate until reinforcements could arrive. Thank you very much for that. Unfortunately, though I would still like to talk to you more, this is an emergency situation. You’ll be safe inside the mansion, so please come this way. I shall lead you.” Liselotte must have been in a rush, as she immediately tried to lead Rio and the girls to the mansion. 

“...Did any monsters sneak in here?” Rio asked with a serious look. 

“Are you referring to the humanoid monsters? I did hear that some managed to get into the city, but with your assistance, my attendants were able to put an end to them outside the ramparts. I haven’t received any reports from the soldiers patrolling the ramparts of anything otherwise, either...” Liselotte answered, looking at Rio’s expression curiously. 

“I... see.” Rio frowned with a troubled look. Even if he told her there were monsters in the mansion, she didn’t have any reason to believe him. There was no knowing if she’d believe him even if he explain Aishia’s background too. 

“...Is there something you are concerned with?” Liselotte asked, sensing something was up. 

“Yes, there seems to be a strange aura coming from the mansion. Is there anyone inside?” 

“The hero and Princess Flora have taken refuge inside, and their knights are guarding them. I’ll send a servant to confirm.” Just as Liselotte suggested that, a tremendous booming sound echoed from the mansion. 

“Kya?!” Celia and Liselotte couldn’t help but scream. 

“That’s...” Rio immediately directed his gaze at the source of the sound. A giant hole had opened in the wall of the second floor, and a torrent of water poured out from it. 

“W-What?!” Liselotte said in shock. At that very moment, a hooded Lucius came bursting out of the mansion’s front door in a rush. 

“Hahaha, coming through!” Kicking and struggling over his shoulder was none other than Flora. 

“Let go of me! Ah, there are monsters inside! Roanna, and the hero! Someone, please save them!” Flora said incoherently. She had been trying to escape the hold restraining her when she’d noticed the allies around her. 

“Didn’t I say I’d cut your legs off if you struggled?” Lucius hit the back of Flora’s legs with the side of his hand in a karate chop. Since Flora was being carried facing backwards, she mistook the sensation for a blade and let out a frightened squeak. 

Liselotte couldn’t understand why Flora was being carried like that, but she clearly sensed there was something bad about the situation and gave an order on the spot. “Someone apprehend that man!” 

“Nope! Too slow! The princess is mine! Try if you want, but you ain’t getting her back!” The speed with which Lucius was running was abnormal. He burst out of the estate grounds before the formation surrounding him was even completed. It was as though he was enjoying the chase. Meanwhile, Rio reacted to Lucius’ voice, eyes widening intensely. 

“Could that voice be...?” 

Rio’s heart thudded in his chest. It was similar to the low tone of the man’s voice that grated on his ears... A voice he would never forget. Rio wanted to run after him right away, but waves of pale black revenants were swarming out of the mansion’s front door. 

“Graaargh!” The revenants started attacking the people nearby indiscriminately, and pandemonium fell upon the garden in an instant. Furthermore, from the hole in the wall of the mansion appeared another, pitch black revenant — Alphonse. 

“Hmph.” Alphonse leapt down and glanced over the scene in the garden. He snorted. 

“Kshaaa!” One of the rampaging revenants suddenly attacked Rio’s group. 

Rio drew his sword in a flash, thrusting it through the heart of the approaching revenant. “Gwah?!” it cried out. 

“...The three of you should stand back.” Rio said to Celia and the others behind him as his eyes followed Lucius’ retreating back with an extremely frustrated expression. 

“Go, Haruto.” Aishia said. 


“You’re upset, no?” 

Rio’s eyes widened at how Aishia had seen through him. “But...” Rio frowned as he looked at Celia. There was a great number of revenants. In a battlefield this chaotic, there was a chance Celia could be in danger too. 

“No, Haruto,” Celia said in a cool voice. 

“...Cecilia?” Rio’s eyes widened slightly. 

“Remember what I said to you. You need to prioritize what you think is right — no, what your feelings tell you to do. Though we’re in opposite positions, it’s a similar situation to when you saved me, no? I don’t want you to make that face because of me. You look like you’re suffocating right now,” Celia said with a sad frown. 

“...Okay.” Rio nodded with quite the guilty look. He wanted to act purely for his own sake right now, but he was feeling extremely reluctant about it, wondering if this was something that could be forgiven. However, he was the one who had said a similar thing when he pushed Celia out of the marriage she didn’t want. 

“It’s my turn to save you this time. Well, I can’t do much compared to you, but... Terra Carcerem.” Celia suddenly crouched down and placed both her hands against the ground, chanting a spell. A magic circle immediately appeared on the surface, and the magic activated with practically no delay at all. 

A short distance away from them, the ground rose in four directions and completely enclosed some revenants running about in a prison made of earth. Like its name implied, Terra Carcerem was magic that created a prison of earth and enclosed the target within. 

“Wh...” Seeing that made Liselotte’s eyes widen in astonishment. The ability to activate magic with practically no delay was already worth a reaction of surprise, but to be able to enclose a target moving at high speed from a long distance with such ease could almost be considered godly. 

“Like I said, I can fight too.” Celia grinned at Rio. 

“Haruto, it’ll be fine. I’m here too. You can leave Cecilia to me,” Aishia stated flatly, shoving Rio’s back. 

“That’s right. Now go. You can still catch up from here, right?” Celia said, giving Rio firm words of encouragement. 

“...Right. Aishia, if you can, please look after Lady Liselotte too.” Rio nodded. 

“Yup, leave it to me.” Aishia nodded with determination. 

“Thanks. Lady Liselotte, please allow me to retrieve Princess Flora.” No sooner had Rio said those words, he had enhanced his entire body and started running at full speed. He drew his sword and activated his wind spirit arts through it, using a blast of wind to propel him forward and accelerate him more. 

“Wha...” Liselotte’s jaw dropped as she watched Rio leave. 


Once Rio had departed... 

“Cecilia, protect yourself and the other person with the magic that makes an essence barrier. I’m going to reduce their numbers,” Aishia ordered Celia behind her. 

“Got it. Magicae Murum,” Celia replied promptly. A magic circle appeared around Celia’s hand, forming a transparent barrier of magic essence. The barrier of essence formed a dome that stretched from the front of Celia all the way around to Liselotte behind her. 

“Wh...” Liselotte was once again shocked into widening her eyes. The Magicae Murum Celia had just used was that spectacular. 

She covered an area of 360 degrees around her in an instant?! And that earth prison earlier... Just how skilled at controlling essence is this person?! Who is she? Magicae Murum happened to be a magic where the caster’s essence amount greatly affected the size of the barrier formed. If one was skilled at controlling their essence, they could change the shape of the barrier freely to a certain degree, but forming a dome shape was particularly difficult. 

On top of that, it was also a feat to maintain the barrier formed, not to mention the fact that the larger the area of the barrier, the more essence was consumed in maintaining its strength. At the very least, none of Liselotte’s attendants could form an essence barrier at the same speed and shape as Celia, then maintain that through a real fight. 

That being said, she couldn’t afford to simply stew in her surprise. “Eh, ah... Will she be all right, unarmed like that?!” Liselotte snapped back to her senses at Aishia’s lack of weapon and questioned Celia in a panic. 

“It’ll be fine. She’s as strong as Haruto!” Celia stated with confidence. 

Once Aishia confirmed that Celia had established an essence barrier behind her — “Augendae Corporis,” she chanted. But she hadn’t used magic; because Aishia was a spirit, spell formulas couldn’t be embedded within her body to obtain magic. She’d used sorcery instead, using the bracelet artifact Rio lent her beforehand to use as a camouflage when fighting in front of other people. A magic circle immediately appeared around the bracelet, casting an enchantment of physical abilities on Aishia’s entire body. However, Aishia canceled the sorcery as soon as she activated it and instead casted her own spirit art to enhance her physical body. This way, it looked like she had used an artifact to enchant her physical abilities to everyone else. 

However, the capabilities of a magic physical ability enchantment and spirit arts physical body enhancement were vastly different. A physical body enhancement based on spirit arts strengthened not only the physical abilities, but the physical body too. That was why it could bring out abilities that surpassed the limits of a human body. 

“Grah!” Suddenly, a revenant leapt at Aishia, but she easily parried the revenant’s attack barehanded. 

“Gah?!” Aishia knocked the attacking revenant off balance and flung it at another nearby revenant with all her might. The other revenant was in the middle of pressuring Chloe, but — “Gragh?!” The body Aishia threw crashed into it, sending the two revenants rolling on the floor. 

“...Eh?” Chloe was completely bewildered by the sudden disappearance of the revenant in front of her. One beat later, she sighed in relief. Meanwhile, the revenants that Aishia had sent rolling were glaring at her with hatred and growling lowly. 

“Lend me that,” Aishia said to Chloe, holding out her hand. 

“Huh?” Chloe inclined her head blankly. The only object she was holding was a roughly two-meter-long short spear. Did Aishia really mean that? 

“Lend me the spear. You can fall back,” Aishia stated in a flat voice. 

“U-Umm...” Chloe was confused. 

“Chloe, lend it to her immediately! Fall back!” Liselotte commanded, showing her quick wit. 

Other than her attendants, there were barely any soldiers at the mansion right now who could face a revenant. Even then, many of those attendants had trouble with close ranged battles. This particularly applied to Chloe, who was still a novice that couldn’t take on a revenant alone. Liselotte had no choice but to believe the skillful martial arts she just witnessed and Celia’s statement that Aishia’s strength was on par with Haruto. 

“Y-Yes, my lady! Here you are!” Chloe immediately obeyed her master’s order and offered Aishia the spear she was holding. 

“Thank you. Tell the others to fall back too. I’ll do the rest,” Aishia said quietly before dashing off. 

“She’s so fast!” For a moment, it looked like Aishia had disappeared, making Chloe gaze in wonder. Before she knew it, Aishia was in a different location, closing in on a revenant from the side. 

“Gragh?!” The revenant didn’t notice Aishia’s approach and was swiftly slayed. 

“Whoa!” With the revenant fighting before them suddenly cut down, the several soldiers that were facing it together raised their voice in surprise. 

“Fall back,” Aishia said, closing in on the next revenant and slaying it. She continued to exterminate revenants one after another by coming up from behind and the side to surprise them. Everyone who was engaged in battle with the revenants were taken aback by that sight, their attention locked on Aishia’s fighting. 

Amazing. She really is as strong as Sir Haruto, isn’t she?! I wonder who would be stronger between her and Aria? First Sir Haruto, then this sorcerer girl... just who are these people? Liselotte’s shock and questions muddled together, making her eyes widen in amazement. 

“Gruuh!” The other revenants finally caught on to Aishia’s conspicuous actions and attention began to spread out to surround her. Surprise attacks would probably be less effective from here. 

“She’ll be okay, right?” Liselotte asked Celia worriedly. 

“...Let’s believe in her.” Despite her face clouding with concern, Celia nodded her head firmly. Isn’t that right, Aishia? 

It had been Aishia’s decision to make the others withdraw. They had distanced themselves from the revenants as ordered and were watching over Aishia’s fight. 

“...Mm?” Meanwhile, Alphonse — who had decided to overlook the battlefield from above — fixed his gaze on Aishia. He narrowed his eyes dubiously. He seemed to realize something, mouth twisting with a wicked grin. “That woman. From. The inn!” 

“Hey! Don’t kill. That woman!” Alphonse bellowed his order at the revenants. 

“I-It talked?!” Liselotte was dumbfounded by the sight of Alphonse speaking humanlike words. 

Celia nodded with her eyes wide, still maintaining the barrier of magic essence around them. “Y-Yes, it certainly seemed like that...” 

“Get her!” Alphonse ordered the revenants. 

“Gragh!” The pale black revenants all attacked Aishia at once. 


However, they couldn’t get near Aishia. She spun the short spear in circles, freely repelling the approaching revenants with the sharp spearhead. 

“Guh...” The revenants had tough skin, but even they could take damage from physically enhanced fighters and their deadly weapons. There was no way for them to block all the damage of Aishia and her spirit arts-enhanced body, swinging her spear. 

With light footsteps, Aishia slipped through the gaps between the revenants while brandishing her spear freely. Her movements were like a mystical dance. 

“Graagh, gah?!” The number of revenants was decreasing rapidly. 

“Next,” Aishia muttered each time she eliminated another revenant. The revenants couldn’t even lay a finger on her during her merciless and beautiful dance with the spear. 

“Gah! Enough! I’ll do it! You lot. Attack. The others!” Alphonse ran out of patience, bursting into a run with annoyance. He made a beeline towards Aishia, but she’d closed in on Alphonse before he realized it. 

“Shut up.” 

Beating him to a counterattack, she thrust the spear through Alphonse’s heart. However, being that he was a perfect specimen, Alphonse’s life didn’t end simply by having his heart pierced. 

“Guh, no... way... Wait!” Alphonse’s mouth twisted in a grin, pulling the spear out of his heart and hugging Aishia with all the strength he had. 

“What a nuisance.” Aishia quietly stepped backwards and slashed the spear sideways with all her might. Alphonse’s head immediately went flying. 

“...?” Alphonse was surprised at how the scenery suddenly changed, eyes widening in wonder. But when he spotted his headless body below him, he opened his mouth and spat out his final words. “Kuh... ngaah!” 


Meanwhile, as the battle between Aishia and Alphonse began, Rio was in hot pursuit of the fleeing Lucius. By using his wind spirit arts to forcefully accelerate his body, he left the estate in a matter of seconds. 

That man ran with his physical abilities enchanted. There should be traces of magic essence along the route he had taken. While normally such traces would be easily missed, Rio focused his mind and was able to detect those remnants. 

“Found it,” he said, leaping high into the air. 

“...Over there.” Far below his eyes, he spotted Lucius pushing his way forward while carrying Flora. His face wasn’t visible under the hood, but he was running straight along the rooftops. The time was already long past dawn, the rising sun shining blindingly behind the man’s back. 

He’s fast. It must not be a simple physical ability enhancement after all. If he keeps going that way, he’ll hit the outer wall of the city. Is he going to run into the forest to the west? 

At this rate, Lucius was probably under a minute away from leaving the city. Rio estimated the direction that Lucius was headed. 

I’ll catch up to him as soon as he leaves the city. He manipulated his wind spirit arts to accelerate himself as he descended. 


Less than a minute later, Rio caught up to Lucius past the wall, exactly as he had predicted. Lucius came to a sudden stop at an open piece of land near the city walls and turned to face Rio. 

“I didn’t expect anyone could catch up to me in that situation. Well, no... I was hopeful, but...” His tone was rather pleased. 

This voice really is... Rio clenched the fist holding his sword. Hearing it up close made it sound all the more familiar. 

“...Hey, what are you all silent for? Say something.” Lucius raised his brows in suspicion at Rio, who stood still and silently. 

“...How about you remove that hood first?” Rio ordered in a low and sharp voice. 

“Uh? Who do you think you’re talking to? Didn’t you come to save this princess?” Lucius purposefully lifted Flora off his shoulder and readjusted his hold on her, showing off his advantage of having a hostage. Being carried backwards meant that Flora was facing the forest. 

“Kya!” She seemed to be conscious, letting out a small shriek at having her position adjusted. 

Is Princess Flora in the way? No... After making his promise to Liselotte, he couldn’t simply abandon Flora like that. 

Better let him think she doesn’t have value as a hostage. Perfect. I’ll keep going with what I want, Rio thought, immediately discarding his hesitation. 

“The one I have business with is you,” he stated quietly. 

“...Huh?” Lucius cocked his head in suspicion. 

“You’re Lucius, aren’t you?” 

“...Oh?” When Rio called out his name, Lucius’ tone changed to one of deep curiosity. 

“Take off your hood,” Rio ordered. 

“Huh, I don’t like that. What would you do if I was the Lucius you think I am, anyway?” Lucius sneered, questioning Rio. 

“I’d kill you,” Rio stated with no hesitation whatsoever. 

“...Ha... Hahaha! That’s a funny thing to say. Hilarious!” Lucius laughed in honest delight. 

He’s young, Lucius thought. This must be the human contracted to that humanoid spirit, right? I don’t recognize him, but if he has a grudge against me, then we must have met somewhere before. He observed Rio’s face closely from under his hood, thinking calmly. 

“Fine, then.” Lucius said, stabbing his jet black sword into the ground. He then slowly proceeded to remove his hood, revealing his appearance. “Well? Am I the person you wanted me to be?” he asked with a wicked grin. 

“...Yeah. I’ve been searching for you all this time,” Rio confirmed in a coolly detached voice. 

“Oh? But you seem to be rather indifferent to that?” 

“No, that’s not true. I most definitely want to kill you,” Rio shook his head quietly. His tone was still as cold and detached as ever. 

“Hah, then you have to lay yourself bare more! You came here to avenge yourself, no?” Lucius said in a somewhat displeased manner. 

“I am laying myself bare. As long as I kill you, that’s all I need.” Rio replied solemnly. 

“Heh, is that so? Well, damn. You must be one boring bastard. But still... I’ll make sure to have my fun!” Lucius sighed in exasperation before grabbing his sword and attacking Rio while still carrying Flora. Rio responded immediately, evading Lucius’ attack. He attempted to land a counterattack on Lucius with his blade, but Lucius used Flora as a shield. 

“Guh...” Rio reflexively halted his sword in midair. 

“Ha! Nice reflex! Shall we go further?” Lucius said, this time swinging his sword at Rio. An exchange of blows began between the two of them; it was Rio’s first experience fighting in a battle with a hostage being held. 

This is difficult. 

It was a tougher fight than he imagined it would be. By carrying Flora, Lucius’ movements were restricted, but he had been similarly been able to restrict Rio’s attacks by using her as a shield. 

However, the same applied for Lucius. He wasn’t able to land any attacks on Rio because of how he was carrying Flora, causing them to end up in a complete stalemate. 

“Hahaha, is this princess important to you? Or do you just want to avoid getting innocent people involved in your revenge? Either way, you’re one naive bastard!” Lucius sneered as he crossed swords. Contrary to the cold way he was observing Rio, his emotions were beginning to fire up with excitement. 

There’ll be no end to this at this rate. I’ve pretty much figured out our difference in ability, but he’s a weird one. I wouldn’t have forgotten someone this strong. Lucius looked back on his memory, trying to identify the person before him. But no matter how much he looked at Rio’s face, he couldn’t remember. 

...No good, not happening. I can’t remember at all. Or rather, I don’t have any memory of meeting a guy like this... Which means I must have met him while he was still a bratty kid. Lucius clicked his tongue and thought about what would be the most interesting approach if that were the case. 

After a moment, Lucius backed away from Rio temporarily, lowering his sword. “Stop — I’m done with this. Fighting like this is no fun at all.” 

“...” Rio himself considered how Flora was currently in the way and lowered his sword. 

“It’s about time you told me your secret. Unfortunately, I’ve incurred a lot of enmity over my life, so I don’t bother remembering each and every face I deal with. But I’ve got an interest in you. Having you know me, while I have no idea who you are, isn’t fun at all,” Lucius said. 

“If you don’t remember, then it just means I wasn’t that important to you,” Rio replied, not bothering to answer properly. 

“Cut the bullshit. A sword hand like yours would definitely leave an impression in my memory,” Lucius provoked. 

“Ah, is that so?” But Rio still didn’t answer. He had no intention of earnestly giving away the information being sought while Flora was still a hostage. There was the fear that the moment he told him, Flora’s use as a hostage would be maximized. 

“...Tch, I hate stuck-up brats like you. How would you feel if I added this princess to the list of casualties?” Lucius clicked his tongue in annoyance and held his sword against the legs of Flora, who he was carrying. 

“Anh...” Flora’s body shook with a flinch. 

“I can’t imagine you’d harm her after going through all the trouble of abducting her,” Rio said unwaveringly to Lucius’ threat. 

“...Hah, you sure have guts. She is valuable negotiation material, after all. Well, whatever. If I have no recognition of you right now, that means I met you when you were still a brat, right?” Lucius could tell his threat had no effect and immediately changed his approach. 


“There you go with your silence again. But I’ll take your silence as agreement, yeah? I get a strange feeling when I look at your face, but I just can’t place it. You’re not from the kingdoms around here, right?” 

“...” Rio didn’t answer. 

Lucius frowned in annoyance. “Tch, you’re really getting on my nerves now. All right, let’s make a bargain. I’ll release this princess for now. In return, you tell me your identity, then have a one-on-one match with me. I’ll turn the tables on the avenger.” It was a rather advantageous condition for Rio, which Lucius had confidence in. 

As long as she’s within sight, I can still use her as a hostage without the hindrance. Which way it plays out comes after I confirm this guy’s origin. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fun. Lucius had confidence. Even if he had a serious match with Rio, he wouldn’t be the one to lose. His mouth was turned up in a fearless grin. 

“...” Rio stared fixedly at Lucius, doubt in his eyes. 

“Hey, hey. Aren’t you a bit too scared? Fine. How about this: if you accept my terms, I’ll let the princess go first,” Lucius offered, yet another beneficial condition to Rio. 

Rio hesitated for a moment, but soon nodded quietly. “...All right.” 

“Then it’s a done deal. Here ya go!” Lucius threw Flora roughly against the ground. 

“Ugh...” Flora let out a soft groan. 

“Yo, princess. Make sure you stand in the middle, where I can see you, yeah? Otherwise, more monsters might appear near you. Same goes for you. Don’t even think about approaching the princess.” Lucius gave a blunt warning to Flora before doing the same to Rio. 

“Auh...” Flora was wholly afraid. And yet, when she finally spotted Haruto, she was filled with surprise. She twisted her face tearfully. 

“Stand back a little more,” Rio said to Flora a little uncomfortably. 

“O-Okay.” Flora nodded earnestly, staggering away from the two of them. From that moment onward, Rio and Lucius’ relationship completely changed from that of a hostage rescue to an avenger and his target. 

“I stuck to my conditions. Now speak,” Lucius ordered sharply. 

“...It was over ten years ago. I lived in the capital of Beltrum Kingdom,” Rio said slowly. Telling him the answer could possibly reveal his past to Flora, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Rio had lived his whole life for this moment. 

He yearned for it. 

Even if it was an illogical act, he wanted to settle his feelings of his past by getting his revenge on the man before him. In order to do that, he had to make sure Lucius was aware of who he was before he killed him. 

“...Oh?” Lucius hummed with deep interest. That one sentence revealed a lot of information. Meanwhile, Flora’s eyes widened when she heard Rio had lived in the same land as her. 

“At that time, you had your eyes set on a certain parent and child,” Rio continued solemnly. His words finally made something dawn on Lucius. 

“Ha. Haha! Ha! I see, so your face was from Yagumo! Your hair color was so different, I couldn’t recall at all! Isn’t that right?!” Lucius laughed loudly, his expression exhilarated. 

“...” The flames of Rio’s quiet revenge burned within him as he watched Lucius silently. 

“Ha, no need to look at me so angrily. But I see, I see. So you’re alive. No, you stayed alive for me. That snotty, powerless brat.” Lucius quirked his lips in a sadistic grin. 

“It seems you remember now.” 

“Yeah, clear as day I do. I wanted to see you again too. After all, I spared the brat back then because I desired a moment like this.” 

“...” He really was an awful man, Rio thought, but he didn’t let that thought show on his face. The feelings Rio had for Lucius were no longer in the realms of hatred or disgust. 

That’s why all he had was a keen, detached desire to kill. He wasn’t pursuing a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment through his revenge. He didn’t need any other feelings to carry out his personal act of revenge. 

The moment he sought revenge, Rio’s sense of reason overwhelmed him and scolded him for lowering himself to the same level as the man before him. He didn’t want to live the same way as the person he condemned. 

That was the answer Rio had reached before his parents’ graves when he visited Yagumo. Rio had decided to move forward — to accept reality while reaching for the ideal. To try and remain pure while sometimes exposing the ugly side of himself. Even if such contradictory ideas made him a hypocrite, Rio would proceed down that path. 

That’s why it wasn’t logical. It wasn’t something like logic that drove Rio to kill Lucius... He just wanted to face his ugly self. 

“I’m glad to see you grew up exactly as I wanted. If that’s the case, then I’m finally getting excited too. This ain’t bad.” Lucius chuckled in delight. 

“...I’m also glad to see you were still the person I remember you as,” Rio stated quietly. 

“Hah, should I have reflected a little? Or maybe shown some regret?” Lucius questioned him in a provocative tone. 

“I’m not seeking any repentance or remorse from you at all.” Rio replied, not rising to Lucius’ bait. 

Tch, that’s no fun at all. He could show a little less composure. 

For Lucius, there was no greater pleasure than turning the tables on a would-be avenger. It was precisely because the other party acted on their emotions and instincts that he found joy in shutting them down with his own. The more intense his opponent’s feelings, the spicier his life was. 

...Which was why Lucius brought up the topic of Rio’s parents. “...Is that so? Come to think of it, I’d heard from Zen before. That Ayame was originally a princess from some kingdom.” 

“Eh?” Flora was being completely ignored, but she was listening to Rio’s conversation and understood the flow of the story. However, she was confused at the mention of royalty. 

“Ayame was a good woman. A good meal indeed. She kept trying to protect you right up until she died. Please don’t kill Rio, I beg you, she cried,” Lucius said, sneering with terrible cynicism. 

“...” Even Rio faintly furrowed his brow at that, tightening his grip on his sword. 

“E-Eh...?” Flora had no idea what was going on anymore. The man Haruto had called Lucius had brought up the name Rio. Yes, he had used the word “you” to refer to Haruto, then said Rio with certainty... Which meant the similarities Flora saw between Haruto and Rio weren’t just a figment of her imagination after all. But Haruto’s hair was grey, the woman who was apparently his mother was royalty, and had gone through something so terrible... 

Everything that was said had been so shocking, Flora’s mind had nearly gone blank. But the situation was changing with every moment, leaving Flora even further behind. 

“Hah! You’ve got a better look on your face now.” Lucius chuckled in satisfaction. 

“...Is that all you have to say, then?” Rio asked quietly. Speaking anymore than this would just ruin his mood more. He’d already confirmed the necessary information, which meant there was only one thing left to do. 

“Yeah, it’s been roughly ten years, after all. I’ll play with you again. Come at me.” Lucius’ mood was at its peak. He held his black sword ready in his right hand, pointing it at Rio provocatively. The signal for the start of the battle. 

Without the shackles of Flora, Rio could release all of his power now. 

“...Huh?” Rio disappeared from Lucius’ view, making him freeze momentarily. At the same time, he was aware of his own body feeling off balance. His left half was lighter, to be precise. Something was flying through the air. 

Rio was standing behind Lucius before he knew it, flicking his sword through the end of his swing. One beat later, something fell on the ground with a thump. 

“Eh!” Lucius became aware of the fact that that something was his own left arm. “Play by yourself,” Rio’s chilling voice echoed. 


“W-What?” Lucius watched his own left arm roll across the floor and widened his eyes in shock. At the same time, his many years of combat experience made him reflexively turn to swing his sword at Rio behind him. 

However, his slashing attack couldn’t reach Rio’s body; it sliced through the air in vain. Rio stepped back to increase the distance between them, watching Lucius with cold eyes. 

Impossible. I couldn’t react? Me, of all people...? Lucius forced down his shaken state and glared at Rio dangerously. He had definitely not lowered his guard and had made himself ready to respond to battle at any moment. 

And yet, he had been taken by surprise. If he hadn’t been holding his sword in front of him, it wouldn’t have been a wonder if his head had been flying instead. At the taste of death, which was something he hadn’t experienced in so long, Lucius felt an indescribable irritation run through him. 


But at the same time, his head was thinking calmly for the reason as to why he lost sight of Rio. 

“Tch?!” Rio closed in on him once more from head-on. This time, he was slower than before. He was still fast, but he was slow enough to respond to. 

Still, Lucius was forced to react with a missing left arm. He blocked the sword Rio held in both hands with his sword only in his right hand. 

“Guh...” Lucius sensed the overwhelming difference in physical strength and promptly took a step back to fend off the force. However, Rio reacted immediately and launched a counterattack. 

So fast! Just how much essence does he have?! And what is that ridiculous strength enhancement?! Lucius was shaken quite a bit by the fountain of magic essence he felt flowing from Rio’s body strengthening enhancement. 

“Gah?!” Rio’s leg stretched up like a sharp spear and struck Lucius precisely in the pit of his stomach. Lucius tried to jump back on the spur of the moment to weaken the force, but the abnormal amount of force sent him flying away. 


Even then, Lucius rolled on the floor in a skilled defensive form and promptly stood up again. 

Did he move with that ridiculous body enhancement the first time I lost sight of him? But he didn’t release as much essence just now. What’s the trick to it?! 

He tried to keep a level head. Rio was using wind spirit arts to accelerate his movements, but charging forward from head-on or moving around in tight spaces required him to control his acceleration to avoid collision. They were currently outside of the city, right by the woods. It was a tight space, but Lucius hadn’t been able to figure out anything in such a short exchange. 

In that time, Rio launched a counterattack. “Fuck you!” Lucius cursed. 

With unparalleled precision and speed, Rio attacked Lucius. His movements were filled with a calm and cold murderous intent. Lucius barely managed to sidestep Rio’s slash — Or so he thought, when suddenly the ground around Lucius rose like a spear, stabbing through his body. Lucius responded immediately and leaped towards the forest at his back. 

Moments later, countless balls of light appeared around Rio. Rio lightly held his hand out at Lucius and the balls of lights all drew complex trajectories as they flew towards him. 

“Tch!” Lucius clicked his tongue, shaking off the black bladed sword he had in his hand. A darkness rose from the blade and spread across the area, swallowing the balls of light closing in on him, Rio narrowed his eyes faintly at the sight before redirecting his hand at Lucius, who was still hovering midair. A cannonball-like shockwave shot out from his hand. The invisible blow struck Lucius’ body with accuracy. 

“I can see that, you know!” Lucius yelled, swinging his sword vertically downwards. Darkness rose from his sword once again, intercepting the shockwave. One beat later, Lucius landed on the ground. 

“It’s one thing after another...” The ground at his point of landing rose like a spear, protruding to stab through Lucius’ body once more. As Rio had scattered more balls of light in the skies above, that light was now falling down towards Lucius like rain. Lucius first swung his sword at the ground to deal with the attack coming at his feet; the slash of darkness cleanly sliced through the rising dirt spears. Next, Lucius tried to swing his sword at the light bullets in the sky, but the rain of light fell on Lucius at the same time he’d managed to swing his sword. 


The darkness of his blade swallowed part of the light, but it couldn’t eliminate all of the spheres. In fact, Rio fired even more of them, causing new light to rain continuously down on Lucius. The ground crumbled, creating a dust storm that rose around the older man. 

“H-Heh...” Lucius blended in with the dust and withdrew from the scene before anyone realized. However, he had taken several of the light shots and was completely worn down all over his body. The balls of light Rio fired were each low in power, but they had enough force to damage the body through any strengthening enhancements. The damage to Lucius’ internal organs was plentiful. 

On top of that, a large volume of blood was still pouring out of Lucius’ severed left arm; the blood loss was wearing him down, too. 

And yet, Rio fired even more balls of light at Lucius. 

“Tch!” Lucius clicked his tongue and forced his exhausted body to run in an attempt to evade the light. 

W-What... is this fight... Flora watched the battle in a daze. Unfolding before her was a battle that far surpassed what she knew. She had seen many advanced battles between renowned swordsmen and sorcerers in matches held before royalty, but this made those seem like child’s play. 

...It’s not magic. Is it some kind of artifact? Watching Rio’s combat left Flora with such questions. A long-ranged wave attack based on some form of sorcery was being used against Lucius right at this moment. 

“Guh...” Lucius’ escape did not last for long. The moment his body screamed in protest and slowed, countless balls of light struck him and sent him rolling across the ground. 

“Kkh... hnghh...” Lucius writhed, somehow managing to take a stance on one knee. 

Damn it, my internal organs and ribs are done for. And I’ve lost too much blood... If I don’t reattach my arm... Lucius glanced over at his own left arm. While it wouldn’t be of any use for a while, there was a way to reattach it instantly. 

“Kuh!” Rio spotted the direction of Lucius’ gaze and ran for it first, picking up the left arm that had been lying on the ground. He tossed it into the air and created an intensely raging fire that turned the left arm into ash. 

“Aah...!” The tremendous heat wave washed over Flora, making her let out a little scream and turn her face away, unable to bear the heat. 

“...Hah, you’re one nasty bastard.” Lucius glared at Rio with hatred. 

“Not as much as you. Let’s finish this soon,” Rio said, closing in on him. 

“Sure you don’t need to capture me alive?” Lucius asked in desperation. “Unfortunately, I received no such orders.” Rio shook his head without hesitation before accelerating, swinging his sword with the full intention to behead the heavily battered Lucius. 

“...Guh!” Lucius wrung out the last of his strength to avoid the slicing attack. However, Rio had seen through the fact Lucius still had energy left and thrust his knee straight into Lucius’ face. 

“Gah! Aaah!” 

His knee struck right where Lucius’ left eye was; Rio had felt a certain resistance. Lucius rolled across the floor, yelling uncouthly as he felt the greatest pain he’d been in since this battle began. 

He must have his physical body enhanced, because he really is unyielding. In order to end him for sure, I must... Rio pointed the tip of his sword right at where Lucius’ heart was, but Lucius shifted his body by the slightest amount, avoiding the direct stab to his heart. However, the sword pierced through his upper body. 

He was practically at death’s door. 

“Guh... hah...” Blood was pouring out of Lucius’ mouth. 

“Stubborn ass. I’ll just have to wipe any trace of you from this world,” Rio said, pouring magic essence into his sword. An intense heat radiated from his sword, melting Lucius’ flesh. 

“Guh...! Aaah!!” Lucius yelled, unable to endure the pain. The light of Rio’s blade grew stronger, expanding its area of effect to melt the rest of Lucius’ body. 

“But you still... need to... protect the princess, right...?!” Lucius yelled, using the final dregs of his power. Holding the pitch black sword in his right hand, a small amount of darkness flowed out of the tip. 

“No!” Rio reflexively withdrew his sword and moved to Flora in an instant, embracing her before leaping into the air. 

“Kya?!” Flora gave a small scream. The place she had been standing a short moment ago was covered in darkness, from which the tip of Lucius’ sword could be seen sticking out. If Rio hadn’t saved her, Flora would have been pierced through. 

“Hah, hah... hah...” Lucius endured the pain to give a wicked grin. He had lost his left arm, endured his left eye being crushed, and had large holes all throughout his body. Though he had enhanced his physical body, his wounds were so serious it was a wonder that he was still alive. 

“Uhm... Ah.” Flora realized that Rio had saved her and shuddered, shaking her body. She moved her hand in fear and flattened herself against Rio clingingly. 

He’s hanging on by a thread. Still holding Flora there, Rio slashed his sword down vertically. A slicing wind laced with essence immediately flew out of Rio’s sword, closing in on Lucius crawling about the ground. However, the wind slash passed through where Lucius was lying and dispersed into the forest behind him, cutting down several trees along the way. 

Lucius had changed locations at some point. “You’re late, damn it...” He raised his head and muttered resentfully upon spotting the figure through the blurry vision of his right eye. 

“What a mess this is. If only you didn’t have that bizarre desire to play.” Standing there was Reiss. Clad in his cloak with the hood covering his face, he held the severely wounded Lucius in his arms. 

“...I have business with that man.” Rio lowered Flora on the ground and addressed Reiss in a sharp voice. 

“Unfortunately, I have business with him too.” 

“I was here first.” 

“No, no, no. You want to kill him, right? That means I won’t be able to finish my business, no?” Reiss stated nonchalantly. 

“Then what will you do? Run away? Lucius, what about you? You going to run with your tail between your legs?” Rio taunted. 

“...Hey, Reiss... Let go! I have... to kill him!” Enraged, Lucius spat out blood. 

“Reiss?” Rio heard the name clearly. 

“...That’s something I cannot do. The moment you undo your physical body enchantment, you’ll die. Even if you keep up the enchantment, your body will only last a few more minutes. There is no other choice but to withdraw here.” Reiss sighed as he spoke to Lucius, when a large number of light spheres floated in the air around them. 

“Did you think I would let you run?” Rio poured a large amount of magic essence into his sword and called out to Reiss himself. 

“Well, I do have some confidence in running and hiding my presence, after all. But who knows, against an opponent like you. There’s no telling until I try...” Despite the casual tone of voice Reiss took on, he observed Rio cautiously with a sharp look from under his hood. The blade of Rio’s sword was glowing with a dazzling light. 

“...Here I go,” Reiss informed him with a chuckle. At the same time, Rio released a single blow to eliminate both men. 

Haruto, above you! Suddenly, Aishia’s voice echoed in Rio’s head. 

Rio turned his attention above him. “?!” 

A pitch black flash was falling down to where Rio and Flora stood. Rio promptly changed the direction his sword was aiming from Reiss to the flash in the sky above. 

“Guh?!” A tremendous shockwave blew all over the area. It was the clash of the attack Rio had released and the falling flash of light. 

“Ah! Aah...?!” Flora watched the spectacle in shock from behind Rio. 

“Hide behind me!” Rio ordered Flora in a frightening tone, and Flora moved behind Rio’s back in a panic. A few seconds passed like an eternity. 

“Haaah!” Rio pushed back the black flash of light. A dazzling ray of light tore through the sky. However... 

They’re gone. At some point, Reiss had disappeared carrying Lucius. He looked around, but there was no sign of their presences. Even if he tried to search for traces of magic essence with spirit arts, the fight until now had scattered essence all over the place. He had no choice but to give up. 

Rio looked up at the sky with a sharp glint in his eye. There, flying far in the skies to the west, he spotted a black dragon-like creature and immediately guessed that the attack just now had come from that. 

Did that man call it here? When he considered why it attacked in such a convenient way for Reiss and Lucius, he couldn’t help but feel suspicious. However, something like that hardly mattered to him right now. 

They got away... Shit. 

Rio grit his teeth with a shamed expression. With a wound that deep, there was a high chance he wouldn’t survive. He had what would have normally been a fatal wound, and even if he survived, his body was damaged too much to ever fight again. 

But it was unacceptable. That man would probably survive. Rio had no evidence, but he couldn’t help but feel like that man would survive. 

I’ll kill him. I’ll definitely find Lucius and kill him. As for Reiss... Rio felt a strong, bitter regret before he carved the name of the person who could hold a clue into his mind. 

“U-Umm...” Flora called out nervously from behind Rio. 

“...” Rio silently turned back. 

Despite being the one to call out, Flora didn’t know what to say, moving her mouth without saying whatever she was trying to say. 

“U-Umm... Sir R-Rio...” She grabbed onto Rio’s sleeve imploringly, whispering his name. 

“Yes.” Rio nodded with a guilty look without averting his gaze from Flora. 

Rio... That’s right. I’m Rio. He reconfirmed who he was in his mind. Starting today and from tomorrow onwards, Rio would live as Rio. Nothing from this experience would change that. Rio couldn’t become anyone other than Rio. 

He would continue to live the path of Rio from tomorrow onward, despite the fact that it was a long, fruitless path in a battle with not his future, but his past. 

However, a light shone on that gloomy road for him today, because he’d discovered that Lucius was alive. There was no need for pessimism. The empty road with no end he had been traveling on until now finally had a destination. There was no mistaking the path he had chosen. All that was left was to continue forward. 

Rio slowly looked up at the sky and watched the bright dawn sunlight lead to tomorrow. 


Meanwhile, far from Amande, in the underground of the Proxia Empire castle... 

“Hnnghahh...” Lucius rolled on the floor as he spewed a large volume of blood from his mouth. But it wasn’t just coming from his mouth — blood was also pouring from the area where his left arm was amputated. Furthermore, he had a large hole in his abdomen, which consequently covered his whole body in blood. 

Reiss looked down at Lucius with cold eyes. “Left eyeball ruptured, flesh gouged from abdomen to chest, left arm lost completely. In addition to the complex bone fractures throughout the whole body, the damage to your body is a little too severe. There’s no other choice.” He took out a giant gem from his chest pocket, its color a blood crimson. 

“The incident this time should be a good lesson for you. I can’t have you dying on me, after all. Allow me to save you,” Reiss said, pushing the gem into the missing section of Lucius’ abdomen. Immediately, the gem melted away with an oozing sound, being absorbed by Lucius’ abdomen. 

“Grah! F-Fuck! If — If I... had... my left arm... I could... have won!” Despite his face distorting with pain, Lucius bluffed insistently. 

“...You’d have regained the strength to speak as soon as the healing process began. However, I doubt the result would have been any different even if you had your left arm. Give up. There is no way for you to win against him right now,” Reiss stated firmly, his face extremely exasperated. 

“Guh...!” Humiliation and rage mixed in Lucius’ expression. 

“But I have things to reflect upon myself this time. It seems I underestimated his abilities a little too much. Honestly, I’m at a loss for what to do. We can only accept our defeat quietly this time. In the future, we’ll have to put a hold on facing him alone. It would be best to avoid interfering,” Reiss said. 

“W-What?!” Lucius’ expression was completely against it. 

However, Reiss didn’t lend an ear to Lucius’ complaints. “I won’t let you object. You were the weak one this time, after all.” 

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