“Hey you, let’s take this outside.”
“Unnecessary, we’re already outside.”
Our surroundings turning into an empty lot as he spoke,
I realized that I’d made a mistake in picking a fight against him.
“… Sure then, why not. If that’s what you want, I will admit that you all are strong enough if you can defeat my three elites. This place is too confined, though.”
Saying that, Eldest led the three of us outside.
Swinging his hand after we moved outside, the surrounding trees began to rusle, moving away as though they had minds of their own and quickly left behind an open area. He manipulated the trees even more skillfully than Nina and didn’t even need an incantation to do it.
[Are you sure you want to move your weapons so far away?]
[It won’t be a problem. Evergreen, go play with him.]
[Yo, Pipsqueak. You’re planning on going against me head on with a body like that?]
He was small compared to Darg’s more than two meter tall muscular body.
[Do you know why Eldest said that it wouldn’t be a problem, despite moving the trees away?]
[Because it won’t change how you’re about to lose?]
Darg responded to the elf’s question in jest.
With a sound similar to crackling bones, Evergreen’s physique swelled up.
A number of muscles on his arms turned into thick, reddish-brown branches. Scale-like bark covered his body as it turned into a thick trunk.
[—it’s because we ourselves are the forest, Pipsqueak.]
He was around ten meters tall.
Having turned into a large tree, Evergreen literally looked down on Darg as he shook his leaves.
Looking up at him, Darg responded noncommittally, seemingly uninterested.
[Try not to die, alright?]
The giant tree’s branch rose, then slammed down on Darg.
Like that, he stood and allowed himself to be crushed.
Ai called out from my side.
However, we heard his usual banter come from beneath the shade of the elf’s leaves.
[This tree’s your body, yeah? If I wrecked it, would you die?]
[Nah. It’s just a temporary vessel. No need to worry about it.]
After answering, a crack began to travel along Evergreen’s body.
Darg spoke as the giant tree continued splitting in half.
[It’d suck if you wound up dying from that.]
Appearing from within the ruined tree, he fell to his knees.
[You still good for more?]
Hearing Darg’s question, Evergreen refused with a bitter smile.
[C’mon, who’s next? May as well send both of them, doesn’t matter to me.]
[Violet. You go next.]
Ignoring Darg, Eldest sent the next opponent forward.
This time, it was a petite elf.
[I will be your opponent.]
The elf named Violet spoke politely, holding her left hand out in front of her.
Following that, her body was covered in thorns in the blink of an eye, further turning into a shield and armor. From her hands grew the stem of a long rose she used to point at Darg with like a sword.
[I see, Violet, eh?]
Understanding, Darg nodded.
Violet roses appeared here and there amongst the thorns that made up her armor.
I thought that Evergreen and Violet were simply unusual names, but now I see that it’s referring to the magic they use. It should be the same with Ultramarine, she should have some leaf or flower colored ultramarine.
But assuming that’s the case, what about Nina?
Ultramarine called her Dropout… the one whose flowers drop and whose leaves fall out, if I recall?
But Nina can’t make dead trees move?
Even as I was thinking about that, Darg and Violet’s duel had begun.
Darg drew back and clicked his tongue. Fresh blood was dripping all along the area from his fist to his chest.
[Harder than it looks, seriously.]
Not even Darg’s attack would break the thorn armor that easily.
The thorns pierced his fists when he went to attack with them, so Violet was able to continue flicking away his attacks with her weapon, keeping him at bay.
[It will be dangerous if you continue bleeding. Please, resign.]
Violet pointed her weapon at Darg.
The only kind of magic Darg could use was strengthening magic.
If he were able to summon fire or snowstorms like me and Ai, it would have been easy to win against Violet.
He might not have bled so much if he had his crag blade, at least.
But that wasn’t the reason he was driven so far into a corner.
[How sweet of you. Guess I should apologize before this, then.]
Hearing Darg say that dismissively, Violet cocked her head to the side.
“I am quick. I am solid. I—”
It was an amazingly simple incantation.
Darg could only use magic that strengthened him.
That much was certain.
By by no means did that mean he was weak.
The single attack Darg used wasn’t a closed fist, but a fully stretched palm.
Sounding like a truck ran into her, Violet’s body—armor and all—got blasted back.
Continuing for a ways, she eventually crashed into a tree trunk at the edge of the of the open area and fell, unmoving.
[She didn’t die, right?]
Blood dripping from his palm, Darg grumbled.
[… I… surrender…]
Seeing Violet somehow manage to raise herself back up, Darg clapped his chest in relief.
“Bro would’ve beat me half to death if I killed a woman.”
Well, looks like Darg’s much better at not treating women as objects… I think?
He probably would have won a lot easier if it weren’t for his agreement with me.
[Send over the last one. Let’s hurry up and get this done with.]
Darg quickly paled upon seeing who stepped forward with a cold voice.
The third person was even smaller than the petite Violet.
Hair pinned up and shining gold due to the sun’s light making its way through the trees, her eyes were as clear a blue as a sacred spring’s water. She looked innocent, but not in a childish way. Her refreshing expression was filled with composure, with dignity.
She had a mysterious beauty, like some mythical goddess. Looking at her, I feel relaxed, my anxiety calming down—like I’d been living with her for decades.
“… Hey. Can I surrender?”
To be more precise, it was Nina.
Swords, spears, axes, hammers, scythes.
Various sorts of weapons made from wood lined up before Darg and threw themselves together at him all at once.
“Wait—I said wait! Please wait, Sis!”
Even though Darg was able to avoid the first, break the second, catch the third, deflect the fourth, and endure the fifth, they wooden weapons Nina continued to launch at him were never ending. Having to face that overwhelming assault head on, Darg wasn’t able to keep up and was pushed back.
Saying that, Darg fell to the ground.
I agree with him.
The one who remains after the leaves drop from their branches, after the flowers fall out.
In other words, Nina’s ability—[Dropout]—was to freely birth and grow plants.
I see, that’s definitely a fitting power for one called a princess.
I’m not sure whether she has that power because she’s a princess or she’s a princess because she has that power, though.
Either way, I can’t figure out why she’s opposing us.
“I guess I’m misunderstanding something though.”
Nina looked at me with cold eyes and spoke.
“Coming back to this forest, that was my decision. Don’t butt in.”
“That’s a lie.”
Unexpectedly, Nina was bad at lying.
She can’t forget where she grew up due to her amazing memory and her uneasy expression is saying that she didn’t return out of actually wanting to. Even I can understand that much.
“You’re pushing yourself for Ai’s sake, aren’t you?”
“… I’m not pushing myself to do anything.”
Responding in a pout, Nina diverted her eyes.
“You don’t care about me. You only ever think about Ai.”
“I do care!”
Nina’s very unusual response upset me, causing me to unintentionally raise my voice.
“That’s not what I mean! You should only care about what’s important—”
“You’re plenty important to me too, Nina!”
Nina’s mouth shut tight, glaring at me like she wanted to say something.
Enough. This fight is our win, admit defeat.”
Nina started to speak, but Eldest interrupted her.
However, Ai spoke up.
“I will fight.”
Hearing Nina’s unbelieving mutter, Ai looked at her and smiled.
“Because you are important to me, too.”
“… Is she insane?”
Eldest didn’t ask Ai that, but me.
He wouldn’t even recognize her enough to talk with her directly.
Among us, Ai was the only non-inborn Magus.
She was a genius when it came to magic.
Darg becoming a Magus was due to his naturally blessed physique.
He was only able to use self-strengthening magic due to his belief in his own strength.
Nina and I were similar to that as well, in a way.
I happened to be born a dragon. She happened to be born an elf.
Therefore, we were strong.
In that sense, Ai was the most talented among all of us here.
Perhaps the most talented was Nina.
Similar to how Darg was born so strong, Nina was a genius even among the elves.
Given that Evergreen and Violet are both obviously older than Nina, seeing as how her appearance hasn’t changed in more than ten years, they’re at least a century older.
Even so, Nina’s stronger than them. No matter what, that could only be called a genius.
Which is exactly the reason why.
“She… is strong.”
Ai was the best one suited to showing off the strength of the human race.
“… Give it a try, then.”
After closing his eyes for a moment, Eldest accepted it.
Ai and Nina confronted one another quietly.
“I won’t go easy on you.”
Ai nodded in response to Nina’s words, then smiled.
“Neither will I.”
I get the feeling that there are sparks flying in the air between the two of them.
Wasn’t Nina fighting for Ai’s sake?
“I won’t give you the chance to recite anything!”
As soon as Nina shouted that, innumerable trees shot up from the ground and reformed into weapons, the same as earlier.
No, she really isn’t holding back, just like she said.
The myriad of weapons she arrayed against Darg only appeared in front of him, but she’s surrounded Ai with them entirely. It was a complete lockdown, impossible to escape.
Ai, lacking the time for a drawn-out incantation, faced the weapons and pointed.
All that Ai recited was that short statement.
In the next moment, the duel was decided.
She sounded truly frustrated.
“—you improved, didn’t you…”
Everything around them was frozen, their surroundings a world of pure white.
“Hoh, hoh, hoh.”
Jack Frost’s voice echoed loudly against the frost.