71 Part 2
Still, even after defeating him a second time, there was still something bothering her.
When on earth did he actually use that hidden form?
Does he usually wait for his opponents to show some sort of opening?
Shigure was becoming more and more wary of this Mr. Masked Man.
In the third match, the flow of the battle clearly changed.
Shigure was wielding her sword with all her might.
She was the most skilled amongst all adventurers.
But her usually calm and serene attacks were assaulted by a certain cloudiness.
The reason for that cloudiness was Mr. Masked Man’s footwork.
Up until now, he had been moving like a novice, but in this third match, he was actually moving in a pattern that was very similar to hers.
Her usual feeling of being in control of the match was being distorted by this clash between similar movement patterns.
And Mr. Masked Man began to grasp the flow of her sword.
More than that, he seemed to be absorbing it.
— He’s too quick!
Of course, it was impossible to use a short sword like a longsword.
No matter how much you try to imitate it.
However, Mr. Masked Man was adapting those patterns to his own type of weapon.
And all this while in the middle of a fight!
Using a short sword in the same way Shigure used her sword had a certain trickiness to it.
His two short swords may be rather rustic, but they were quickly beginning to carry his will.
That word almost escaped Shigure’s mouth.
— How amusing!
It was the first time she ever had a battle like this.
Shigure, who aimed to be the most skilled adventurer, was certainly drawn in by this man’s ability.
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Having fallen on his back, Haruki’s breath had gone coarse.
His muscles felt completely worn out after having pushed them so far.
Moreover, the tip of Shigure’s sword had come in contact with his body several times.
His entire body was in pain.
In the end, Haruki hadn’t been able to land a single hit on her.
— Just a little more…
It seemed he was about to catch onto something.
However, unlike his senses, his body would not respond at all.
It was just like back when he had just turned into an adult, during his track and field days, when he wanted to sprint with all of his might.
His head would issue the commands perfectly, but his body would do as it said.
As a result, he would fall on the ground.
Many things changed during his fights with Shigure.
But even with the moves he had learned in his previous fights, she was still able to nimbly dodge his attacks.
No matter how much he tried to imitate Shigure’s movements, she was always one step ahead.
He couldn’t see himself ever defeating Shigure.
However, he had this strange feeling that he was getting one step closer to it…
— Must be my imagination.
Haruki shook his head so as to shake that feeling away.
“Thank you very much. It was fun.”
“Oh, no, thank you!”
Haruki felt that he should be the one to be grateful.
He pushed himself into getting back on his feet.
He had learned a lot of new moves from Shigure.
Haruki was convinced that her matches with her were a huge boon compared to having fought any other kind of enemy.
The experience he had earned in these series of battles would certainly come in handy in the future.
With that, Shigure turned around.
Haruki was a bit fascinated by her mannerisms for a moment, but he quickly regained his composure.
“Umm, Shigure? You still can’t get back to Tokyo, right?”
“… Right. I still haven’t been to Chikaho yet.”
“Most of the advanced adventurers were talking about moving to retake Shinjuku, so I thought maybe you should join them?”
After hearing that, Shigure quickly stepped in front of Haruki and leaned over.
“… What was that?”
Haruki couldn’t find the words to respond to Shigure’s reaction.
It seemed that Shigure wasn’t aware of what had happened in Shinjuku.
She was a person of few facial expressions, but her inner thoughts could be seen by looking at her eyes.
“… I didn’t know.”
Shigure’s eyes wouldn’t stop moving.
She seemed to have gotten a bit impatient.
Almost as if to confirm Haruki’s suspicions, a cold sweat began to form on her forehead.
There had been certainly many opportunities for her to get information.
However, she didn’t know anything about the destruction of Shinjuku, probably due to her own personality.
Haruki guessed that Shigure probably had little interest in anything that wasn’t related to her honing her skills.
Even as Haruki spoke, he could almost see his words go in one ear and out the other.
Her teammates would surely be worried about her.
Haruki tried to talk Shigure into at least getting in touch with them.
“Matsatsugu seems to have been able to rescue Bacon. Perhaps you can catch a train to Shinjuku some other time.”
Shigure’s eyes looked upwards and to the right, and she seemed to be thinking about something.
“So what are you going to do next, Shigure?”
“… For now, I’ll go to Chikaho.”
“That was my original plan after all.”
“If Masatsugu is on the move, then it’s fine.”
— Of course. Little can go wrong when Masatsugu is in charge.
— But wouldn’t it be even better if Shigure was there to help as well?
Perhaps Haruki’s thoughts were all over his face.
Shigure shook her head.
“Masatsugu is an expert when it comes to monsters. I would play no role there.”
She declared that very clearly.
Shigure had defeated Masatsugu once in a practice match.
But defeating him in combat didn’t mean that she would be able to defeat a dungeon floor of a higher level than Masatsugu.
While Shigure excelled fighting against other people, Masatsugu was the strongest when it came to fighting against monsters.
Even when she was very strong, she could never defeat Masatsugu in a monster killing contest.
Still, Haruki couldn’t fully understand.
He couldn’t imagine a reason why an advanced adventurer like her would not be necessary for retaking Shinkuju.
And yet she herself said that she would play no role there.
Was there any reason that Haruki didn’t know about?
Or could it be that she simply wanted to go to Chikaho…?
At any rate, Haruki, as an intermediate adventurer, was in no position to keep pushing his opinion onto her.
He couldn’t do anything but keep his mouth shut.
After their conversation was over, Akane appeared and approached Haruki at the most perfect timing.
And there was a huge smile all over her face.
“I know you just got your ass handed to you, but do you have a moment, Air?”
“… Hey, Karen, do you want to get something to eat?”
“Don’t you ignore me! Hey! I’m talking to you!”
“I seem to be hearing stuff. It might be because I just had my ass handed to me.”
“Wahahahah! My bad. Listen, I’m sorry, okay? Just hear me out!”
When Haruki started ignoring her, Akane quickly apologized with tearful eyes.
Haruki knew all too well about the hardships of being ignored.
Perhaps for that reason, when he saw Akane cry, some painful memories rushed into Haruki’s mind, causing him to get tears welled up in his eyes as well.
— Why am I feeling sad about someone like her…?
“… So, what is it?”
“Hehe. I have a request for you, Air.”