Monday, September 18, 2023 @

Volume 2 Chapter 29 Stirring of Emotions

 Continuing to infuse magic power into my armor, I generate armor from within by wrapping my internal organs, bones, and muscles with magic power.

 In essence, it's armor that supports from the inside rather than the outside. While I normally engage in physical enhancement, this is on a different level. It requires extremely delicate manipulation of magic power and is meant exclusively for times when I need to endure attacks.

 In the past, I used to activate it in response to an opponent's attack for a brief moment, even while moving. But that was a skill I could only perform when I was actively involved in combat. Now, being away from battles, I can't manage it at all.

 The pain makes my head swim. My brain feels like it's shaking, and my thoughts refuse to unite. If I relax even a bit, it feels like I might lose consciousness any moment now.

 ...Come to think of it, that's how it used to be. Back when I was in Asteris, experiencing near-fainting from pain was a common occurrence.

 During such times, there was always a phrase that came to mind. Even though I completely forgot it in my everyday life, it vividly resurfaced in moments like these.

 My body was covered in dust, covered in bruises, and ached all over. I couldn't move a single finger, and the practice sword I had used lay nearby, beyond my grasp. As I repeated rough breaths and could only move my gaze, a silver-haired man squatted nearby. He shook the practice sword with his fingertips as he said,

 'Listen up, you brat. In the end, whether it's magic or swordsmanship, it all comes down to spirit. The one with the stronger spirit and determination wins.'

 Looking back on it now, it sounds like nonsense. If winning or losing in life were that simple, no one would bother with training. I retorted with such thoughts.

 'Of course. What I'm saying is a fundamental principle. It's not enough to be able to use any technique or magic. Techniques without a strong core won't work.'

 A core... What on earth does it take for something to have a core? While I had acquired some skills, I was always losing to the knights around me. Their attacks were heavy. No matter how many times I struck them with a practice sword, they wouldn't flinch.

 I must have lacked something essential. The man spun the practice sword around and pointed its tip directly at my chest—more precisely, at my heart.

 'You're oversimplifying things. This is the very foundation I'm talking about. No matter how skilled you are, if you don't have the spirit, your techniques won't cut it.'

 That was the teaching of my master. He had turned an amateur like me, who had absolutely no combat skills when I came to Asteris, into a warrior. He was a hopeless drunkard and a womanizer, but he was surprisingly strong.

 That's right; this competition was exactly the situation my master had talked about. Would Tarim's attacks have a core—or perhaps conviction? Would this person, who reveled in self-indulgence and used others solely for his desires, have attacks that resonated with me?

 I recalled Hinata's face as she fell. She had no connection to battles and had been enjoying her university life peacefully. There was no justification for her to be unfairly oppressed. The same applied to the people lying on the road right now. Everyone had the right to enjoy their tomorrows as a matter of course.

 My heart pounded. Magic power coursing through my entire body heated up, and it felt like my body was on fire. This was indeed the stirring of emotions. Magic power responded to it, throbbing with heat.

 Tarim, who continued to strike wildly, looked puzzled.

 "Are you... immortal?"

 No, of course I'm not immortal. There's no such thing as an immortal human being. In other words, there's only one answer.

 "'Your fists are just lukewarm.'"

 "Gah! Shut up and take it seriously!"

 Finally, irritation tinged Tarim's tone. It must have been unexpected that he couldn't defeat me. Certainly, with his magic, he should have been able to crush an average opponent instantly.

 But there was a reason he couldn't defeat me. I could endure because of it. Strike as much as you want.

 I rooted my legs into the ground like a giant tree, squeezed my muscles, and absorbed the impact. His wild punches gained even more force and rained down on me. No matter how heavy the rain, the emerald light wouldn't fade. Gray fists swung to crush everything, but the armor remained unbroken.

 Then, the moment finally arrived.

 From the gaps in his gray body, I could see the night sky, and streaks of light tore through it like shooting stars.

 And it wasn't just one; there were countless streaks of light.

 ——You did it, Kanami!

 It took Tarim a few moments to notice the anomaly.

 He abruptly stopped his barrage of punches and lifted his head, looking around as if searching for something in the distance.

 "...That's ridiculous."

 There was no mistaking this reaction. Kanami had achieved what she set out to do.

 Tarim grabbed my body with his arms, spitting saliva as he shouted,

 "You! What have you done to my clone!?"

 "'I didn't do anything. It's the power of the Guardian you underestimated.'"

 "A Guardian? Could it be that little girl!?"

 Surprising, isn't it? I had my doubts when I asked Kanami. She needed to locate all of the clones and parasites, then eliminate them simultaneously. After Tarim turned the Guardians against us and controlled Hinata, both Kanami and I expected that he would use hostages. If he tried to find the hostages, Tarim would have a backup plan. We needed to free everyone without alerting Tarim.

 Frankly, it was a reckless order. Even though I was supposed to keep Tarim occupied while Kanami worked, she had to face a Guardian, and I wasn't exactly brilliant. Due to a lack of time and people, our plan wasn't exactly sophisticated, but against an opponent who underestimated us, this should be enough to make an impact.

 Still, I didn't appreciate being used as a punching bag like that. If it weren't for me, they might have died.

 Tarim regenerated his abdomen and raised his face again, wearing a smile.

 "I'm surprised. I admit I never expected my clone to be defeated like this. But in the end, nothing has changed. You have no chance of defeating me."

 "'Forget that you couldn't land a single hit on me just a moment ago?'"

 "Yes, but I'm different now than I was a moment ago. Above all..."

 At that point, Tarim narrowed his eyes and glared at me.

 "Do you think you can fight me with those injuries?"


 Admittedly, my body was in terrible shape. While my armor appeared intact, the insides were screaming in agony from the repeated attacks. It wasn't just direct damage. My magic power was nearly limitless, but the concentration required to use it and the strain on my body were constant.

 But he didn't understand.

 As I said earlier, his attacks don't resonate to the core with me.

 I raised my right hand and spread my five fingers.

 Tarim stared at it with confusion.

 "What's this? Are you trying to stall?"

 "'Five seconds.'"


 What's wrong with him? Can't he understand this? He's not very perceptive.

 "'I'll crush you in five seconds. That's what I'm saying.'"

 The moment I said that, muscles bulged all over Tarim's body. Even thick veins appeared on his head, and magic power surged. His clenched fist tightened even more, and I could hear something breaking.

 "Are you telling me you'll defeat me, the Unstoppable, in five seconds?"


 It fell silent.

 Like the calm before a storm or the moment before a tsunami's waves recede, I could sense Tarim's anger simmering within him.

 "Don't get cocky, you inferior species!"

 With a swish of his tail, all three of his legs propelled Tarim forward. His body left an orange afterimage due to the friction heat. Just before he reached me, I yelled out, directing my voice toward Lisha, who was activating Sanctuary to ensure we wouldn't harm anyone else in the vicinity.

 "'Lisha! Cast Sanctuary around us! At full power!'"

 For a brief moment, Lisha looked anxious, but then she nodded.

 "Yes, Yuusuke-san!"

 Simultaneously with her response, Tarim arrived right in front of me. His four fists were already raised, and from them, immense heat and flames overflowed.

 He had evolved his punching technique, Myriad Transformations (KonsÄ“banka), further, specializing it in causing more destruction to people. It was a manifestation of murderous intent that could beat even giants to death.

 Without assuming a defensive posture, I held both arms by my waist and channeled my magic power. Without hesitation, a roaring blaze shot from his fists.

 "Explosive War Hammer!!"

 An iron hammer that could crush everything filled my field of vision, its power capable of grinding from head to torso. I had lost count of how many times I'd been struck. Each blow possessed the force to shatter even city walls. With the sound and impact, my sense of balance disappeared, and I couldn't even be sure if I was still standing.

 I was like a helpless scarecrow.

 "Hahahaha! Where did your boasting go? No sword in hand, utterly battered! Everything you do is futile! Utterly futile!"

 Shut up.

 I didn't need a sword, so I hadn't manifested one. I clenched my fists painfully and gritted my teeth.


 In my mind, I recalled Lisha continuing to perform her dance, Kanami successfully completing my request beyond expectations, and Hinata, who adored me with a smile.

 The stirring of emotions—anger welling up from the depths of my belly—transformed into emerald magic power, summoning a new surge of magic power that flowed into both arms, tracing spirals.

 He hurts many people for his own desires. If I let this continue, I have no idea how many more sacrifices there will be.

 That's why I'll finish this here and now. I don't care about his regeneration or evolution; if he wants to surpass me, give it his best shot.

 While enduring the pressure of his fists on my entire body, I took a step forward, raising my gaze to lock onto Tarim's single eye.

 ――I'll teach you the real way to throw a punch, rookie.

 "'Mika (Storm), Tiaaaaaaa (Fist)!!'"

 Magic was invoked, and my two arms transformed into a tempest.

 Thousands, tens of thousands, billions of fists, all bursting with emerald light, clashed with Tarim's fists.

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