The duel between 「Evila」 and 「Gabranth」was set to take place at the beast continent . Normally, it should have been difficult for either party to travel to the other’s continent, but the 『Evila』 readily consented to it .
They were able to go there immediately because they had a method to do so . This method was provided by Hiiro, who had the ability to teleport people . Because the Beast King Leowald knew about this, he was not surprised by their method of transportation .
Both the duel location and method were decided by the beastmen . That being the case, if they still lost despite all that, they wouldn’t have the right to make any more complaints . Especially because they were the prideful beastmen . The Demon Lord Eveam took that into consideration as she let the beastmen decide the conditions of the duel .
【Beast Kingdom: Passion】 . Located to the east of it were the 【Valaaru Wilds】, the most expansive wilderness of the Beast Kingdom . And within that wilderness, a strange place existed .
There was a crater in that strange place, which seemed to have been created by some enormous object that fell from the sky . The radius of the crater was at least 200 metres . And it was that crater which was designated as the duelling location .
Furthermore, the conditions of the duel set by the Gabranth dictated that both sides would pick an equal number of people, who would then fight within the crater . There would be duels fought one-on-one, but also duels fought two-on-two or three-on-three as well .
One person from each side would be designated as the “King” . That person should be protected while the fight goes on . Of course, if that person were to fall in battle, it would mean a defeat for that side .
Spectators would watch from outside the crater . Of course, in the event that a spectator were to interfere with a duel, the side from which that spectator came from would lose the battle .
To be declared the victor, the opponent’s King had to admit defeat or be rendered incapable of combat . This system of duelling was originally used between the 『Gabranth』 in order to resolve the conflicts between beastmen where neither side was willing to give in .
The winner was awarded status and honour, while the loser would lose everything . This method of dueling was called 《Agasshi》 .
Eveam understood the location and the method for the duel from the letter . Because she let the other side determine the duel conditions there were no major issues; however, there was a slight problem .
If it were Hiiro’s magic, they would be able to arrive at the duel location in an instant . However, this only held true for places Hiiro had already visited .
Hiiro had gone to 【Passion】 before, but he had never been to the 【Valaaru Wilds】 . That’s why it would be convenient for Hiiro to go there at least once prior to the duel .
Thus, when Hiiro was told about the location, he said, “Then I’ll head off for a bit”, as though he were going for a stroll . After saying that, he instantly disappeared from the room .
Hiiro’s destination was 【Passion】 .
“Ugh, it’s as large as ever, huh . ” (Hiiro)
The town’s symbol was a large tree, the《Tree of Beginnings – Aragorn》 . The town spread around this tree with the castle at the centre . Moreover, unlike the towns made by humans, the entire town was made out of trees . Houses were carved out within trees to create living spaces for the citizens .
Within the country was a clear flowing stream , and there, small fishes could be seen swimming freely within . It was a dwelling suitable for the beastmen, who lived together harmoniously with nature .
The royal castle, which was appropriately called the 《King’s Tree》, was where the royal family lived . A large number of gigantic trees surrounded it, giving it the appearance of a fortress .
In the town, many merchants and travellers visited, offering up their prayers to the 《Tree of Beginnings – Aragorn》 . 『Founding Beast King』 Jingwald set the tree as a symbol and ever since the town was built, it had been worshipped as a sacred tree .
A large number of people gathered at the town’s yearly festival, the 《Origin Festival》 . In particular, there were many who would bring their children with them . They believed that during the festival, if the children climbed the 《Tree of Beginnings – Aragorn》 and offered up their prayers, they would be able to receive divine protection from it .
Their wish was for the children to grow up to be strong and fine adults; the 《Tree of Beginnings – Aragorn》 was used to perform rituals similar to Buddhist prayers . Of course, such blessings were limited only to the beastmen’s children . In the past, there had been a time when humans who were discovered trying to climb the tree had been executed .
As he looked up at the great tree, Hiiro uttered those words nostalgically . There were various reasons why he decided to come here .
The first was to have them guide him to the duel location . However, even without a guide, if he used the word『Seek』 he’d be able to find it on his own, so he figured that he’d be asking them to guide him there on the side, as he just happened to be passing by .
The second was that he wanted to see the Beast King one more time . Although they had met once in the past, during the conference he didn’t have much time and hence was unable to do much observing .
Moreover, he really wanted to try talking to the king who was willing to decide the future of his race using this kind of duelling method . If you had to describe him using one word, ‘idiot’ would be the most fitting, but Hiiro could not bring himself to hate such a person .
That feeling may simply have come from the fact that his first travelling companions had been beastmen . They were stupid, but honest . As for the king that ruled over such people, Hiiro felt that he was an idiot, but he couldn’t help but have a slightly good impression of such a king .
Lastly, he wanted to fulfill the promise he had made to those companions of his . Although he had honestly forgotten about it until now, he had judged that this was the perfect opportunity to fulfill his promise .
Naturally, those companions were Arnold and Muir . It had been over half a year since he had parted with them . Hiiro was slightly anticipating how much they had grown since then .
Since quite a bit of time had passed since the half-year mark, Hiiro resolved himself for the scolding that he was likely to receive . However, since he had taken the trouble to come all the way here, he figured that he should at least drop by to give them his greetings .
For the time being, Hiiro had used the 『Change』 word to transform into a beastman . Then, Hiiro walked over to Rarashik’s house .
He thought that Rarashik’s house would be as old and decrepit as before . However, unlike when he last saw it, while it couldn’t be said to be in the best condition, it had an ordinary door installed .
Hiiro then concluded that this was probably due to Arnold or Muir fixing things up . He opened the door and casually entered the house . But, there was nobody in the room .
Still, this had been the case before . Inside the house, there was a basement . Figuring that they would all be there, Hiiro was about to head over to the basement when his eyebrows twitched and he stopped moving .
“Hm? Who’s there?” (???)
A voice came from behind him . Turning around, he saw the white-robed figure of a little girl with long ears . In her hands was a bottle of alcohol . No doubt, this girl was Rarashik .
“Yo . ” (Hiiro)
“………could it be that you are……?” (Rarashik)
At first, she had looked at him as if he were a suspicious person, but soon gave a blank look as she stared at Hiiro .
“It’s been a while, Chibi-Usagi . ” (Hiiro)
After hearing that nickname, she became convinced that it truly was Hiiro .
“It’s you, b-brat?!” (Rarashik)
“Who else does it look like?” (Hiiro)
“N-no… it’s just that…eh? Seriously?” (Rarashik)
Still unable to believe what she saw, Rarashik became confused . She knew that Hiiro was going to be on the enemy’s side for the upcoming duel .
That was why Rarashik was confident that they would only meet on the day of the duel . However, Hiiro suddenly appeared in front of her, in her own house nonetheless . It couldn’t be helped that she was surprised .
“The others?” (Hiiro)
Hiiro asked while completely ignoring Rarashik’s panicked state .
“Eh? Ah, oh, so that’s it . You came here to see them?” (Rarashik)
“Yeah, seeing as I’m here already . ” (Hiiro)
For a short while, Rarashik’s eyes were blinking with surprise, but after letting out a deep sigh, she appeared to have calmed down as she gave a small giggle while smiling .
“I see, you came here to meet them . It is regretful, but they aren’t here right now . ” (Rarashik)
“They’re not?” (Hiiro)
“Yeah, Leo-sama… no, I mean, they’ve gone out hunting a certain monster due to a command from the Beast King . ” (Rarashik)
“A command from the Beast King?” (Hiiro)
Why Arnold and Muir would be sent by the Beast King to exterminate a demon was puzzling to Hiiro . He would understand if it were a mission from the guild, but instead it was a rare direct order from the country’s head .
“Yeah, it’s a test . ” (Rarashik)
“A test?” (Hiiro)
Rarashik then explained precisely why they were undergoing such a test .
“Hou, so Ossan and Chibi are also going to be appearing in the duel? Additionally, in order to win, they’ve taken upon a request directly from the king?” (Hiiro)
“Precisely . ” (Rarashik)
This was completely outside of Hiiro’s expectations . He didn’t think that they would also participate in the war . The reason being that in the previous war, both of them had absolutely zero desire to fight .
Even if it was said to be for the sake of the beastmen, they were not the kind of people who would voluntarily go to war . In particular, as Arnold had Muir to take care of, it was unthinkable that he would be interested in something like war .
However, upon hearing the details regarding their participation in the war from Rarashik, Hiiro was informed that their true intention was to meet him . When he heard that, he couldn’t help but become shocked .
“Well, the upcoming duel isn’t just a fight to the death after all . It’ll become a good experience for them, and they also said this, you know? That they wanted to show you how strong they’ve become . ” (Rarashik)
Hiiro glanced at Rarashik as she said this while grinning and let out a sigh .
“I see . Well, it’s their life . They can do what they want, and I don’t have any right to be telling them what to do with it after all . ” (Hiiro)
“Hohou, is that so . ” (Rarashik)
“If that is the case then it’s probably for the best that we didn’t end up meeting here . ” (Hiiro)
“… . . what do you mean?” (Rarashik)
“Right now I’m your enemy, right? At the very least, if they’ll be fighting while carrying the fate of the country on their shoulders, it’d be better if I didn’t meet them now, right?” (Hiiro)
There was a good chance that the resolve that they had finally built up would waver . And if he had to fight them anyways, he wanted to see their strength when they were fighting seriously .
“Fuu~n, well, you do have a point there . However, did you not think that this would happen?” (Rarashik)
In a flash, Rarashik instantly appeared behind Hiiro . She wrapped one of her thin arms around his neck while thrusting a scalpel-like blade to his throat with her other hand . Her movements truly were worthy of being said to have been executed with god-like speed .
“If I restrain you here, it might contribute to bringing the Gabranth one step closer to victory… . . perhaps?” (Rarashik)
“……… . . ” (Hiiro)
“And I also think those guys would want to meet you after all, kozou . ” (Rarashik)
“……… . . ” (Hiiro)
“Oh my? You might have been thinking that you’ve gotten stronger since the last time we met, but in spite of that, you still can’t handle my speed, or something like that, right? Nahaha!” (Rarashik)
She smiled happily, but–
“That’s right, I have gotten a bit stronger since then . ” (Hiiro)
Rarashik’s eyes went wide in surprise . That was because Hiiro’s voice came from behind her . When she turned around dumbfoundedly to check, Hiiro was leaning casually on the wall with his arms folded across his chest .
“H-How is that possible?” (Rarashik)
Rarashik looked back and forth between the Hiiro who hadn’t moved up until now and the Hiiro who was currently behind her .
When the Hiiro she had been restraining suddenly disappeared with a puff of smoke, Rarashik fell to the ground .
“O-ow…wha-what just happened?” (Rarashik)
“It’s just a clone . ” (Hiiro)
“A-A clone…you say… . ” (Rarashik)
Indeed, the moment Hiiro had entered the house, he had realized that someone was coming from behind him, and immediately used the words 『Shadow Clone』 /『影分身』 while hiding his presence with 『Transparent』 /『透明』 .
Incidentally, both of them were Set Words, so he was able to activate them instantly . Rarashik, who entered the house without knowing that, had been speaking to the clone all along .
“With this, I’ve returned the favoうr from before . ” (Hiiro)
Previously, she had taken his back like she did just now in a single instant, causing him to feel a chill down his spine . That was why he had decided that the next time they met, he would return the favour . However, having been able to completely outwit her, Hiiro involuntarily smiled .
“…Haha, seems like this is going to be an even more bothersome duel for the 『Gabranth』 than I thought it’d be . ” (Rarashik)
Having caught a glimpse of Hiiro’s true strength, it appeared that she was surprised with the extent of his growth .
“Fuu, that’s fine . No, it’s actually extremely mortifying that you managed to one-up me like that, but I’ll return the favor eventually . Did you just come to meet those guys?” (Rarashik)