Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
『You have to report back to your client afterwards, got it? If you don’t, you might as well not have done it.』
『It’s due procedure as an assassin.』
Just like that, Aimée had taught the young me what made a good assassin.
I had pondered extensively over how I would catch her by surprise. My attack had failed in the end, but I hadn’t let the big one get away just yet. The air seemed to have frozen into clumps. I took the time to pace myself, noting that I had pitifully little experience when it came to going head-on against a strong opponent.
But then again, neither did she.
Aimée ran towards me as she released a suffocating pressure. It weighed more heavily on me with each step she took. She casted ‘Indignation’ once again, but put a little too much oomph into it. Perhaps she hadn’t thought it would land.
It didn’t land, of course. I quickly leapt towards a cottage, clinging onto the underside of its roof. Aimée followed suit, landing on the same corner on the other side. So there’s a cooldown, I thought. But it is the greatest skill under the heavens, and the cooldown lasts for only a fraction of a second.
I reached a gap in the line of cottages, and decided that it was now do or die. Here goes —
Both of us probably sensed the outcome of this fight at the same time. She used a skill to harden herself, a skill which I knew too. I used ‘Faint Shadow’ again and again with each time she found me like a one-trick pony.
Remember what you told me, Aimée? To not evolve, but to go deeper? Well, I have.
But have you?
You may have already been well-versed in many different skills. Once you use a skill, I learn how to deal with it, and you pick another unseen skill to use. You also have a little time gap where you can decide the optimal course of action.
But I chose to go deeper, developing my one and only skill.
It’s all I had back then, and it’s all I have now.
It’s all I could rely on back then, and it’s all I can rely on now.
I may have been a hyena born with human teeth, but I spent my life sharpening them, believing in them.
It’s not something I can change, and it’s not something I can forget. It’s with me for life.
And it’s my way of life.
Aimée activated yet another unknown skill. Need I mention that I used ‘Faint Shadow’ once more? Her gaze shifted away slightly.
『Always abide by these golden rules — one, never shout when delivering an attack.』
『Two, never attack from the front. Use a feint if you have to.』
I attacked from the front.
I heard the sound of wind coming from my blind spot just as my right hand, the one holding the knife, was knocked away. A scimitar of some sort severed the same arm from my shoulder.
…so that’s what that skill does. I didn’t feel that much pain, possibly because of the adrenaline. Even if I did, it would do me no good to spell it out anyway.
『Three, the most important thing is to report back to your client alive. It won’t do to kill him and then die of your wounds after that. If the latter happens, it means that your plan has failed.』
Nope, dying on each other’s swords is the ideal outcome, even if it isn’t usually possible.
As far as I’m concerned, defeating Aimée isn’t the win condition. It’s to incapacitate her forever, through a fight with me or otherwise, and make sure that she will never be a threat to Almeria again.
To achieve that end, I’m more than willing to give up my life. That’s the win condition — keeping Almeria safe.
「My left hand’s working just fine.」
I started moving before I remembered that my right arm was gone and lost my balance. Aimée’s scimitar whirled through the air. This entire situation had been unexpected, even for me. I wondered if this was when we would both die. I noticed the silver lining in the cloud, however — my body had become lighter.
I activated ‘Faint Shadow’.
To an outsider, it might appear quaint, out-of-the-way, unremarkable, whatever. But for me, it’s the greatest skill under the heavens.
With reflexes ingrained into me through long hours of close combat training, I darted behind her back before her eyes could register my movements. Unable to find me, she used Almeria’s ‘Bulwark’.
Did you know that it’s effective only against frontal and lateral attacks, Aimée?
I channeled magicka into my left arm with ‘Magic Regus’.
My fingers finally pierced her ‘Bulwark’, shattering it into a million fragments. My arm continued past it like a fish through water, sinking into her and bursting out the other end.
Oh, right. The movements that led up to my final attack…
『Get within close proximity of your enemy and lie low. Once you think he’s lost sight of you, run behind him and… like that! How about you give it a go? Oh, ahaha… looks like you need more practice.』
…they’re movements that I’ve practiced thousands upon thousands of times.
I lived and breathed this technique — the very first technique she had ever taught me.