The Black Demon King 474

Chapter 25: Days of Lies

Fruits of Training

 

 

Two shrine maidens faced each other in a corner of the vast garden of Avalon’s royal castle.

 

“So, it’s been about a week since we’ve resumed training… It’s about time you can reliably pull off this technique at least once.”

 

The one who was talking to the other one as if she was a master of martial arts teaching her disciple was Belkrozen, the shrine maiden who governed the “Fire Shrine”, one of the Pandora Temples.

 

Despite her very young appearance, to say that the aura she was giving off wasn’t particularly a dignified one would be a bit of a stretch, as she was standing proudly with her hands on her hips, wearing an impeccably pure red and white shrine maiden outfit.

 

Before Belkrozen’s crimson eyes, which glittered with an unyielding spirit, stood another shrine maiden, with the same lustrous black hair as hers fluttering in the wind.

 

“Yes, Lady Bell. Thank you for training me!”

 

It was none other than Avalon’s beautiful first princess, Nell Julius Elrod, who was wearing a hakama as red as fresh blood over her pure white clothes.

 

Her shrine maiden garment enveloped her entire body in the same way the average Priest class’ vestment would, but rather than giving off the impression of a gentle healer, she looked more like a brave warrior who is willing to defeat the enemy. She had a tight and gallant look.

 

In addition to her unusual outfit, she had a large ponytail behind her head so that it wouldn’t interfere with her strenuous movements, which could be one of the reasons why she was giving a completely different impression from her usual looks.

 

Nell and Belkrozen were facing each other in a wide snowy field, with a clear view of the hill where the “Fire Shrine” was built. The two black-haired shrine maidens may look like sisters when seen side by side, but their age difference would make it more appropriate to pair them as mother and daughter, or even grandmother and granddaughter.

 

“Hmph, come!”

 

She wasn’t doing a fighting stance. However, Nell could feel that Belkrozen was ready for battle.

 

“…Here I go.”

 

Nell vanished after leaving behind those muttered words. Or at least that’s what it would have looked like from the perspective of someone looking at them, had there been anyone in the first place.

 

Still, the image of Nell as she ran across the snowy field was clearly reflected on Belkrozen’s crimson eyes.

 

The ability to run at such high speeds so that the average eye could not follow one’s movements was typical of movement-enhancing martial arts such as “Air Walker”. Though Nell’s “Air Walker” resembled more of an enhanced version of hayagake, which is an ancient Jujitsu technique.

 

After taking a short but deep breath, Nell rushed in a straight line using her “Air Walker”. Then, she suddenly changed course about halfway, turning exactly 90 degrees to the left. To the average observer, she would have seemed as if she had just vanished.

 

Such a display was a result of Nell’s ability to instantly accelerate to her top speed from her first step, and her breaking power, which allowed her to both run smoothly even on a snowy surface without slipping and change course suddenly. It was a maneuver that wouldn’t be possible without being able to use “Air Walker.”

 

However, the degree of perfection at which Nell executed her “Air Walker”, which surpassed even that of her master, wasn’t just because she had completely mastered this martial art.

 

“Sure enough, with those wings, its effect will be doubled.”

 

Nell’s “Air Walker” wasn’t just affecting both of her legs, but also the pair of large white wings that grew from her back.

 

Her wings, which were shaped exclusively for flying, would take in an otherwise unbearable amount of wind and then use it to propel her body forward. Her instant acceleration the moment he broke into a dash could have been due to a single flap of those large wings.

 

Then, once she started running, her large wings would have taken in the incoming wind again and again, giving her even more acceleration.

 

And her sudden shift to the left was also thanks to them. No matter how much of an expert of martial arts someone is, a single misstep could result in a broken foot due to the incredible amount of load on them required to perform such a sudden move at that speed.

 

As if bouncing off an invisible wall, the wings slammed against the incoming current of air to generate the energy needed to make a swift turn. The load on Nell’s feet was less than half as a result. Her body was naturally carried towards her desired direction, almost as if she had surrendered herself to the wind.

 

By the time Belkrozen found herself impressed by how having wings could bring out the most one could possibly while using “Air Walker”, Nell was already preparing to deliver a blow on her blind spot.

 

The heel of her right palm was approaching Belkrozen at an amazing speed.

 

“Hmph, too soft!”

 

This would mean a checkmate against the average opponent. Despite Nell’s slender arms, there was spine-freezing magical power swirling around the heel of her right palm. Getting hit with that would destroy any vital organ that gets its way.

 

Belkrozen, however, bent her upper body slightly forward while looking at Nell with a sidelong glance. That alone was enough to avoid her attack.

 

At the same time, she slightly stuck out her left foot to the front. As a result, Nell’s legs were caught by the sudden obstacle as they approached at a super high speed.

 

“–!”

 

Just like Belkrozen had planned, Nell was unable to handle it and got her own feet tangled up. Her body was swiftly thrown out of balance as her ankle hit the unexpected obstacle, and as a result, she ended up being sent flying forward with all the momentum she had accumulated.

 

Right after Belkrozen saw Nell making almost a full frontal flip as she flew forward and the thought that all she still should be able to fall safely crossed her mind –something unexpected happened.

 

“Hmm!?”

 

Belkrozen felt her right hand being grabbed.

 

By whom? None other than Nell. The same Nell who was supposed to have been about to fall after tripping on Belkrozen’s ankle.

 

“Whoa–!!”

 

Her field of vision suddenly became blurry. Before she knew what hit her, Belkrozen was rolling on the snow with the same force a snowball would have after rolling all the way down from the top of the Asvel Mountains.

 

Nell had managed to pull a successful throw on Belkrozen as she fell forward. Perhaps she had deliberately allowed herself to get caught on Belkrozen’s ankle to make her drop her guard long enough to grab her hand.

 

Despite Nell’s severe counterattack, Belkrozen was able to fall perfectly safely. Her thoughts about being able to fall safely ended up applying to herself instead.

 

Belkrozen’s small body rolled a couple of times on the snow, but quickly regained her posture, sending snow flying as she stopped the momentum that had thrown her in the first place with both of her legs.

 

And when she raised her head, Nell was nowhere to be found.

 

There was nothing but a large snowy field that resembled an empty plot of land. There was nowhere to hide either. Therefore…

 

“Above!?”

 

With the sun shining directly above the heavens in the south, Nell fluttered her white wings before coming crashing down like a meteor. She was swooping down on Belkrozen headfirst, and was now holding out both of her hands like spears instead of just her right hand.

 

The feeling of the magical power surging from Nell’s open palms sent a chill down Belkrozen’s spine, not metaphorically, but literally.

 

“First Form – Wash Away!”

 

Belkrozen’s raised hands overlapped with the two heels of the palms that seemed to be intent on crushing the crown of her head. Her own little white hands, however, had now transformed into a lizardfolk-like shape, complete with black scales completely covering their backs and vicious claws sprouting from her fingertips.

 

It was as if she had equipped herself with gloves made from dragon scales. However, they were unmistakably Belkrozen’s own two hands.

 

Although her now rugged hands were covered in jet-black scales, they were still able to convey the magical power controlling effects of her “First Form – Wash Away” just as well as ever, and as a result, Belkrozen managed to brilliantly parry Nell’s terrifying blow.

 

Nell’s palms, which ran across Belkrozen’s body from top to bottom, couldn’t unleash their hidden power until they reached the snowy ground.

 

At the moment of impact, ripples spread across the snowy field. As if it were the surface of the water, the snow formed concentric waves that spread out from the point of impact one after another.

 

After the ripples of snow subsided, a brief moment of silence came –then the ground burst open.

 

Snow was scattered all over the clear blue sky as if a geyser had just erupted. It then became a tornado-like cylinder that trapped Nell and Belcrosen inside, reaching a height of a dozen meters.

 

“Hmph!”

 

Before the bursting snow tower disappeared into the wind, Belkrozen launched her next attack. This time, it wasn’t a cheap trick like sticking out her foot to cause her opponent to trip on it and fall, but an actual blow with genuine offensive power.

 

Even so, attacking with those draconic hands –which were equipped with such sharp claws– as if they were spears would be far too much for a sparring session, and unleashing them against Nell could cause a fatal injury. So instead she pushed the heels of her palms forward in the same ancient Jujitsu style as Nell.

 

A terrifying aura of magical power, a mixture of red and black, swirled in her palms. Since Nell had both of her hands stuck into the ground, Belkrozen’s attack, which had more than enough power to render anyone unconscious with a mere touch, reached her virtually defenseless head.

 

“…First Form – Wash Away”

 

Nell’s white wings got in the way as Belkrozen’s vicious palms were on the verge of exploding violently into her temporal region.

 

It hadn’t been an act of desperation. The sensation that the heels of her palms were being swept away the moment they came in contact with those delicate, soft, pure white feathers was enough for her to understand what had happened. The same “First Form – Wash Away” Belkrozen used earlier was also active on Nell’s white wings.

 

But Belkrozen didn’t even have time to spare on the thought that Nell actually could use her wings with such dexterity.

 

That’s because now that her attack had been parried, she was about to get hit by Nell’s counterattack.

 

“First Style – Burst”

 

Nell straightened up almost as if she had been flipped back into an upright position and lunged with her palms stretched out once again.

 

These heels of the palms were the basic offensive technique in ancient Jujitsu. One could say that both techniques formed the perfect pair, with “First Form – Wash away” as the defensive technique and “First Style – Burst” as the offensive one.

 

Nell’s “First Style – Blast” faithfully reproduced the technique passed on by her teacher, Belkrozen.

 

In short, it was nothing more than a display of the effect of internal destruction by pouring the magical power contained in her palms into the opponent’s body and causing it to explode from the inside.

 

Taking such an attack head-on would probably cause even Belkrozen to faint.

 

Feeling a sense of impending crisis, Belkrozen chose to take the attack with her hands, which were still protected by scales that boasted a hardness that sets them apart from other creatures. There was no time to try to parry using her “First Form – Wash Away”.

 

“–Mmrgh!”

 

Belkrozen found herself rolling on the snowy ground once again with a shock so intense that made her groan instinctively.

 

To kill the momentum she had been subject to, all she had to do was to keep rolling until she stopped, but Belkrozen was far more concerned about an eventual follow up attack by Nell. If she were to come flying at her with that speed, Belkrozen would surely end up experiencing pain for the first time in a long time.

 

Belkrozen quickly stood up, splattering snow all over as if a swarm of Ice Elementals had suddenly appeared in the snowy mountains, and remained alert.

 

The first thing she had to do was to find Nell –and there she was. Strangely enough, she hadn’t moved an inch after that last attack on Belkrozen.

 

“I concede defeat, Lady Bell. I can’t fight any longer.”

 

She wasn’t just surrendering all of a sudden.

 

Nell, who no longer was in a fighting stance, had broken her right arm, which had been put slightly to the front as she thrusted with the heels of her palms to unleash that devastating attack on Belkrozen. Both her right wrist and elbow were crushed, and her forearm had bent sharply in an unnatural way.

 

That injury was living proof of what could happen to anyone attacking Belkrozen’s draconic hands directly.

 

“Hmm… Still, that was quite a display of skill, Nell.”

 

“Ehehe, thank you.”

 

Rather than mere flattery, Belkrozen’s words were of genuine praise. But how did Nell receive them?

 

With a princess smile that would instantly captivate any onlooker, Nell raised her broken right arm.

 

“‘Heal’.”

 

The intermediate healing spell was cast without any prior chanting. The moment its pale white light flashed in the affected area, Nell’s right arm was completely healed.

 

Rather than the spell having a tremendous amount of regenerative power, it was Nell’s own natural talent for healing magic that allowed her to recover to that extent.

 

“It’s already lunch time. Shall we return to the shrine?”

 

“Yes, let’s.”

 

After bowing to each other to mark the end of their sparring session, Nell began to walk gracefully on the snow as both her shrine maiden vestments and black hair waved around matching her pace. Belkrozen’s face had a bitter smile painted on her face as she gazed at her beautiful figure seen from behind, which could cause anyone to agree with whatever she said, be it as a princess representing her country or as a shrine maiden who served God.

 

“To think she’s managed to do this much… She completely surpassed my expectations.”

 

Lowering her gaze, she stared at her hands, still partially covered in those black scales.

 

As they had been hit directly by Nell’s “First Style – Blast”, some of the black scales had come off the back of Belkrozen’s hands. Fresh blood dripped from both her palms and the spots on the back of her hands where the scales had come off.

 

“If I teach her all the way to the Third Style, I won’t be able to stand fighting against her while in this human form.”

 

The black scales that Nell smashed weren’t simple scales. Those belonging to lizardfolk were, of course, incomparably sturdier than those covering the bodies of wild ground dragons and flying dragons.

 

Black dragon scales. They were a symbol of absolute defense possessed by the strongest race that reigned at the top of the many different creatures that inhabited this world.

 

Their power while in human form was insignificant compared to that, but they were still much sturdier than the scales and carapaces of any monster.

 

“And I’m afraid that I won’t be able to teach her any more ancient Jujitsu techniques if I have to spar with her in my dragon form.”

 

The true form of Belkrozen, who has been a shrine maiden for 250 years, wasn’t that of a human being, but that of a black dragon.

 

Her skill and knowledge of ancient Jujitsu was up to the same basic level that was once mastered by all the knights of the ancient Elrod Empire. One could argue that any mysteries and secrets of ancient Jujitsu beyond that were now completely lost since Belkrozen herself didn’t know about them.

 

That’s why she couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

 

Because the girl named Nell Julius Elrod was incredibly talented, even more than any of the many members of the Avalon royal family she has taught in her life, and even more than her brother Nero, who was deemed by many as a natural genius.

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