“Oh my god.”
Those were the first words out of my mouth when I saw Durandal’s new master. After a year of tracking Durandal down with Gae Bulg’s sometimes faulty sense of smell, cutting down dozens upon dozens of ferocious beasts, and living a lifestyle more suited to a vagrant than a prince, we finally caught up to the culprit who allegedly caused Bryant’s death and claimed Durandal as his, no, her own. A beastkin with docile traits. How did she manage to overpower Bryant and his entourage to claim Durandal? I’d understand if she were a lion or a wolf or even a crow, but a squirrel? And what was she doing? Dismembering a group of mercenaries while singing a song about food?
“…You look familiar. Have I met you before?” The beastkin lowered the skull that was in her hands and placed it on the ground. Half of a rune was engraved on it. A rune of focus, perhaps?
“Lan.” Gae Bulg’s rough voice drew my attention away from the macabre sight of the squirrelkin girl covered in blood and gore. “The sword in her hand. It’s Durandal’s weapon body.”
The squirrelkin girl’s tail stiffened. No, her whole body stiffened. She slowly stood up and brushed aside the dead mercenaries with the sword in her hand. “Who are you?”
“I am Lan Ravenwood. I believe you killed my brother.” It seems like a fight is inevitable. I didn’t want to clash with Durandal’s new owner, but she doesn’t seem like the type of person to communicate through words. Her body’s drenched in blood, and there are corpses by her feet. I don’t have to be paranoid to know she’s going to try to kill me as well, especially since Gae Bulg mentioned Durandal’s name.
“Lan Ravenwood? Your brother? I have no idea what you’re talking about. None at all. Nope.” The squirrelkin girl shook her head repeatedly. “I think you have the wrong person. And what was that bit about Durandal? This sword? This is just a cheap iron sword I bought from a street vendor in Wilderness Town. If this were Durandal, the legendary sword of the Godking, would I be using it to dismantle spirit beasts?”
Oi. Spirit beasts? You’re not dismantling spirit beasts at all. “Those are humans.”
“Huh? These things?” The squirrelkin girl bent over and picked up the skull she was engraving. “This is a spirit beast. Well, it was a spirit beast. It’s just a corpse now.”
Was she serious? Delusional? Or did she think I was a fool? “What kind of spirit beasts are those? I’ve never seen any with a skeletal structure like that.”
“A super-duper rare species of monkey! They imitate humans, but they’re actually beasts in disguise!” The squirrelkin girl nodded her head. “It’s very dangerous in the southern pass. There’s even crows that pretend to be human to lure you to your death.”
That was true. The first time I heard one of those crows speak, I really thought a little girl was dying. “Then … disregarding the spirit beasts.” I glanced at Gae Bulg. His eyes were red and saliva dripped from his partially open mouth. “Are you sure that’s Durandal?”
“I will never forget his scent,” Gae Bulg said and reached into his bag. He opened his mouth wide and roared in a voice I never heard from him before. “Durandal! Come out here and face me like a man! I demand a rematch!”
The squirrelkin girl and Gae Bulg stared at each other. The squirrelkin girl cleared her throat and asked me, “Is your companion right in the head? I know wolfkin men are a bit challenged up there”—she pointed at her skull—“but isn’t it obvious that there’s no one else here?”
I frowned at her. “Roland’s Authentic Ice Cream Shop.”
The squirrelkin girl flinched.
“So it really was you.” As I thought. Gae Bulg’s nose was on point. She was trying to deceive us.
“N-no. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I only flinched because you spoke in a really intimidating manner!”
“With the authority bestowed to me by the king, I, Lan Ravenwood, declare you a criminal and put you under arrest!” I can’t believe she had me fooled even if it was for a brief moment. I’m embarrassed. How can I proclaim to be paranoid if I almost trust the words of a stranger no matter how persuasive they are? “Gae! Help me subdue her.”
“Don’t underestimate me! I, Snow Flopsy, will never yield to the likes of you!” the squirrelkin girl shouted out her name before dashing towards us. “Breaking Blaaaaade!”
Weak! A spear will always beat a sword! It’s a simple matter of distance and force! “Path of the Spear: Piercing Thrust!” I concentrated my qi into the tip of my spear and followed the blue trajectory painted out in front of my eyes. There was no way I was going to lose to a beastkin as a mid-ranked spirit warrior! I’ll pretend to aim for the tip of her sword and dive down to pierce her thigh. Even the most skilled generals can’t evade my feints! “Huh?”
Snow Flopsy used her sword tip to follow my spear, positioning her blade in front of her leg. How sharp was her dynamic vision? But that didn’t matter. “Pierce through, Gae Bulg!” Even if her blade is blocking my spear from stabbing her leg, she has no leverage to stop my force. My spearhead struck the side of her blade and pierced…, eh, stopped? She blocked my strike?
The muscles on the squirrelkin girl’s arm bulged as veins popped up on the surface of her skin. She gritted her teeth. “Ten, ton, swing!”
I held onto my spear and pushed against her blade as she lifted her arms, but it didn’t do anything. I was lifted off the ground and blown backwards. Her sword didn’t touch me, but the pressure against my spear and the resulting gust of air managed to throw me above the surrounding treetops.
“Lan!” Gae Bulg shouted from down below, but he faded into mist as his spirit body left the allowable range of his weapon body. How far was I going to be launched? Snow Flopsy…, I’ll remember this.