The ogre’s sudden appearance compounded by the way it tossed Longmann through the air left the onlooking party of heroes rooted to their spots. That should come as no surprise: the simple display had made it out to be fairly powerful, and as Yuuto and Maho had yet to be fully desensitized to the sight of these monsters, it was fair to assume that they were now at the mercy of their shock and fear.
But even Mary, who was born and raised in this world as one of its inhabitants, had gone absolutely rigid. In her case, and unlike that of both Yuuto and Maho, the fear came from knowing rather than not. It was, after all, far from uncommon for the rumors of an ogre’s strength and cruelty to be passed around.
The ogre completely lacked any form of empathy that might have impelled it to let its unguarded prey escape. Its eyes locked on Mary, who stared back with her own wide open. It charged her way with heavy steps, its enormously broad club swinging down to meet her.
Mary didn’t have it in her to move a muscle. She’d never been suited for direct combat to begin with. If an enemy were to lunge at her at close range, she probably wouldn’t even have had the means to dodge.
As far as Laladi, who still clung to the Master’s side, was concerned, things couldn’t be better for them. She would have ripped the ogre to shreds had it come to attack her Master, but as it stood, the thing only concerned itself with the others present. She couldn’t care less.
At first glance, this sort of disposition might seem unusually callous considering they had only just teamed up with the Hero Party, but it should be stated that the members of Yelquchira, as varied as they were and prolonged in their acquaintance with one another, cooked up carefully detailed ways with which they might be rid of one another on an everyday basis. In conclusion, this wasn’t strange at all.
There was simply very little interest to be had in anyone but the Master and their own interests. Despite all of that, the young girl still took in the sight of the human that made his move.
Though he found himself in a situation where being rendered immobile by fear was entirely excusable, Yuuto had nevertheless moved to place himself between Mary and the ogre. His sword clashed against the club and all of the power that had been put into its swing, successfully warding off the attack.
Had he been as straightforward as Longmann was and simply intercepted the blow directly, he would have either been crushed to fine dust or knocked away into the distance. But, despite his clear inexperience, he still managed to offer a proper display of a Hero’s strength.
‘Phew… Heroes learn real quick. But if that speed doesn’t amount to too much, then Lala doesn’t have to keep an eye on them for long. No, then she can spend all the time she wants with Master…!’
The situation refused to slow to a halt, even as Laladi busied herself with increasing her hold on the Master and blushing. The ogre’s club having been successfully brushed away by Yuuto, it impacted wrathfully against the earth, missing its desired prey and conjuring a great cloud of dust.
“Mary! Go to Longmann and help him recover!”
“R-Right away! You have my thanks for rescuing me! Please, be careful!”
Mary was quick to follow Yuuto’s instructions and proceeded towards the direction Longmann had been thrown and thereby removed from the battlefront. Once she had made her leave, it sunk in that half the Hero Party had been cut off in a matter of seconds.
It was then that Laladi, once again observing them, came to the conclusion that none of them would pose any threat, neither to Yelquchira nor to the Master himself. While it was her who had been put ‘in charge’ of the heroes, so to speak, she now found no reason to even bother with them if that was the extent of their capabilities.
But, if there was one thing that showcased the mettle of Heroes, it was the almost preternatural speed with which they learned and grew. There was always the chance that they would advance by unprecedented bounds, even in the brief interval it took to temporarily avert one’s eyes from their doings, and so there was no way the duty of observation should be shirked.
“Master! I’d rather not bother you, but would you mind lending us a hand?!”
When Yuuto called out to the Master and requested his assistance, Laladi couldn’t help but feel affronted. There was a limit to how disrespectful one could be, and seeing it fit to use the master went well beyond that.
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She was amazingly close to giving them a piece of her mind then and there, but the Master wasted no time in his compliance. Presented with a turn of events she had though inconceivable, Laladi found herself unmoving for a good stretch of time.
‘W-Well, the Master IS kind, so…’
Laladi nodded, still stuck to the Master’s side. It was about then that she buried away the fact that her judgment had been rather different from his own.
She hadn’t spoken out loud and therefore didn’t think it would be too much of an issue. It was more the notion that she and the Master were in a disagreement over something that irked her to the point she couldn’t accept it.
The dusty cloud dispersed, and the ogre came into view once again.
Immediately, the power of Maho’s sorcery flew towards the ogre. If the ball made from earth were to hit its mark, there was no doubt it would deal a massive load of damage. The ogre, however, deftly knocked the projectile aside with its enormous club.
Maho stood there in utter disbelief. The girl was neither of this world nor particularly experienced, and it was more than apparent that the encounter with the ogre, who was far beyond any monster she had faced thus far, had left her reeling in shock. The ogre noticed this in an instant and charged towards Maho just as he had done with Mary, not moments earlier.
‘That’s it! Crush her dead!’
Laladi really didn’t care for anyone who wasn’t her Master, and now that the ogre had focused its attention to Maho, whose new take on him had turned her into her newest foe, she cared even less. Well, not quite. Seeing her die had, in fact, become preferable.
Her beloved Master, on the other hand, didn’t share her sentiment. He summoned an orb full of stiflingly dense, powerful magic, and cast it at the ogre.
The ogre made to knock the orb away, just as it had done with Maho’s magic, but its muscles tightened when it noticed the sheer, almost absurd power packed into it. It changed its strategy in the blink of an eye, instead opting to jump with the astounding strength residing in its legs. The Master’s magic bullet never hit the ogre, instead crashing into a cluster of trees and turning them into splinters before vanishing.
The ogre landed with a resounding thud that shook the earth, then turned a baleful eye to the Master, who simply stood there, smiling brightly. It had finally registered in the ogre’s mind that he was the biggest threat of the party.
That, however, was very quick to change. Laladi, her proximity to the Master unchanging, responded to the ogre in a manner that might have been deemed excessive, the glare she threw back at the creature steeped in her bloodlust.
Anyone who dared glare at her Master, she thought, ought to be turned into disjointed slabs of flesh… The ogre’s fate was, at that very instant, sealed.
“Y-You saved me. Thanks for that.”
Maho caught her breath and turned to look at the Master. He returned her look, as pleasant and kind in his demeanor as he had always been.
She felt her heart begin to race despite being in the midst of battle, and feeling a bit panicked; she turned back to the ogre. Meanwhile, Laladi stared at her with more than a little annoyance.
“Let’s do this!”
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Yuuto’s voiced was what first marked the rekindling of the battle. He adopted a lowered posture and rushed forward, moving around to flank the ogre. Its response was immediate, and it swung its club towards what it had deemed to be its prey.
Yuuto’s movements were nothing short of fluid as he twisted and wound his body to first dodge, then cut into the ogre.
“Wha– why’s it so hard…?!”
Despite his efforts, Yuuto’s attack did little damage beyond lacerating the ogre’s skin. Ogres had hides so abnormally tough that they could easily repel anything that wasn’t up to par.
The reason that Yuuto, who had been summoned from a much safer world, had even been able to gash the ogre’s skin was purely due to the power of the holy blade he wielded. Had he swung anything else, the damage would have likely rebounded to the weapon, or even to his own hand.
The ogre’s movements grew even faster, perhaps fuelled by the rage it felt at being cut. It took rapid, monstrous breaths through its nose and let its club loose again, blowing Yuuto away.
The angle of the club’s swing was much too direct and easily avoided, but the shock of the impact was enough to knock Yuuto onto his side. Seeing that its target was finally motionless, the ogre formed a ferocious grin. Yuuto, however, did likewise.
Only too late did the ogre notice that its other mark, Maho, was focusing her magic and letting it grow. Its own rage had blinded it, and it had been completely unaware of its own surroundings, never realizing that Maho had been gathering her strength for some time now.
The earth that the ogre pounded upon began to change with such malleability it was almost enough to merit some amusement. Then, with a speed far beyond what even the ogre that had successfully evaded the Master’s magic orb could react to, the ground morphed into gigantic thorns that veered towards their target. But even the thorns weren’t enough to pierce through the creature’s skin.
“It really is a tough one, isn’t it?! In that case, we should just get it to stop…!”
Given that Yuuto’s holy blade had done very little to actually harm the ogre, this kind of result was to be expected. Regardless, Maho chose to distance herself from the idea of letting her thorns skewer the monster in favor of letting them criss-cross in intricate and complex ways which impeded the ogre’s movements. Even the ogre, whose face had been split into a wide, barbaric grin at the attacks’ complete and utter lack of efficacy thus far, was taken aback.
It let out a staggering howl and turned a glare Maho’s way, a glare that boiled with such overwhelming anger that Maho couldn’t hold back a frightened yelp. Now, with the strength of her mind waning, she could no longer exert the proper control over her own magic.
And yet, there he was, his hand gently lightly placed atop her shoulder. The Master remained cheerful, not an ounce of the warmth in his smile slipping away even as the monster cast its raging look towards him, and he turned a gentle gaze down at Maho.
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At his side was Laladi, who had pressed her hands against her ears as if in protest of some bothersome drone. Seeing how unchanged these two were, Maho began to feel shame at the spell of fear she had gone through.
“Come on, where’s the point in being afraid of that weird old monster? It’s just annoying, that’s all. Just get rid of it already. It’s loud.”
Maho took what Laladi had told her in stride, interpreting them as the girl’s own special way of offering her encouragement. Laladi hadn’t actually meant to offer any such thing, of course. She had meant every word just the way she’d said it. If Maho proved incapable of defeating the beast, then she was all too ready to butcher it on her own.
“You there, you’ve been making nothing but noise for a while now!”
Her spirit restored, Maho shot another instance of her magic the ogre’s way. The ball of earth she summoned met the thorn-bound and largely immobilized ogre’s face, the impact direct and true.
While the impact was certainly powerful enough to kill the average man, the tough ogre did little more than throw back its head at the collision. Tough though it was, the same thing could not be said about its eyes. Maho’s attack was more than enough to damage the ogre’s right eye, so much so that it would no longer open.
The ogre let another glare wash over Maho, this time loading it with acrid resentment layered atop anger. The pure pressure almost forced her backward, but before it could do as much, she held on tightly to the Master’s clothing and found that she had stopped her retreat.
“Hey. Just what do you think you’re touching?”
She paid no mind to what Laladi had to say. In the past, Maho’s own timid nature would have never allowed her to proceed forward with the ogre’s powerful glower pushing at her. But now that she knew a method that would ensure its defeat, she had little choice but to do just that.
“Everything’s set and ready, Yuuto.”
Right at the endpoint of Maho’s directed gaze stood Yuuto, who had finally managed to recover from the damage that had sent him soaring. He held his holy sword in a proper stance and closed his eyes.
The holy sword began to shine, and powerful magic began to leak from the blade. Even the ogre’s gaze was drawn away from Maho and was now fixed on Yuuto instead.
“As I am now, this is the strongest technique I can perform.”
Yuuto raised the now glowing holy sword and opened his eyes. The light that wrapped itself around the weapon grew even more brilliant until it became so bright that the dark and murky surrounding forest was set aglow as if basked in pure sunlight.
The ogre began to writhe against its restraints, realizing the danger the light posed to its safety. Its mind was dead set on escape. That singular thought was the only thing that fuelled it to resist further until the earthen thorns that restrained it began crumbling away one after the other.
“Not a chance!”
Maho, however, wasn’t willing on making its escape an easy feat. Even more thorns began to grow, each bursting forth faster than the ogre could break another.
With each thorn the ogre managed to break through, two more stretched out of the earth and aimed for it. The ogre was visibly enraged at the thorns, frustrated by the way they reappeared even after its attempts at destruction.
“Take this, you monster!”
By the time the ogre finally realized what was going on, it was, once again, far too late. Yuuto swung his holy sword in a downward arc, and blinding particles of light spilled out and flooded forward.
The ogre, though completely engulfed and drowning in waves of pure light, never ceased its vile, malicious howls until it was all over.