“What is it like…” I asked as we sat down in a small tavern apart from the inn.
After seeing Shao, I stopped what I was going to do and then waited for a bit. It wasn’t like I was extremely confident in leaving and taking on five knights. It was just that I felt like I had no other option. Since she was there during my moment of weakness, I’d at least talk to her before going.
“To kill?” she asked and then leaned back. “Scary. Painful. Unnerving. It makes you feel horrible like you want to die yourself.”
She chuckled. “You’re surprised? Did you think I would say it was pleasurable? That it turns me on?”
“No… it’s just…”
“I came from a world just like Master. I held those same values that determined public order. I fought because I needed to. I killed to survive. There was no other reason. In the beginning, I was told that anyone I killed would be brought back to life. It was only later that I noticed some of the ones I killed did not return to their cells. It took me a while to realize it was how popular they were that determined if they were resurrected or not.”
She shrugged. “In some ways, I appreciate it.”
“I’m not sure I would have killed the first if I had known. By the time I learned the truth, I was already familiar with death, and my soul had already been tainted with countless murders. It was only after all of that when murder became my close friend. Killing is easy, but you should know that.”
“What do you mean?”
“You destroy curses, right? You fight monsters. It’s scary. It’s painful. However, in many ways, it’s easy. You send your girls forward, they kill all the monsters, you heal them up, and then you collect money, honor, and glory.”
I frowned. “When you say it that way, it makes me sound like a bastard.”
She grimaced. “I only meant that killing has the same appeal. If you have a problem with someone else, you kill them. It’s quick. It’s simple. It resolves everything clean.”
When she said it that way, it actually did feel correct. If you had the strength, a socially awkward person like me could more easily get out of a situation by killing rather than by talking. Maybe that was why serial killers were often the socially awkward types. If you can’t express yourself properly, whether it be from anger or lust, then killing was a possible result. Isn’t war just a failure of communication at a country-wide level?
In this world where killing isn’t just encouraged but expected, that became even truer. Fighting monsters was an everyday occurrence in some places. You had to kill to eat, to protect the ones you love, and so-on. The fact that monsters could pop out of thin air and people could be resurrected only reinforced the idea that killing was the natural order of things.
Then, when it came to killing for real, for killing someone you knew wouldn’t be resurrected, it became easier. I could understand the power-hungry slippery slope that those Knights had likely experienced. I was starting to understand why they thought they could get away with raping a woman and murdering her. Why they could so callously send a sword into my back.
When I encountered the Bandits who only operated on the surface, I told myself that they always knew the people they killed would be resurrected. In that way, I didn’t find them as dangerous or threatening. However, how could they know? Losing everything might as well have been as bad as death to some of their victims. I had died once in this world, and I have lost everyone once in this world. From the view of someone who sees life as precious, I felt like I had a good understanding of that loss.
We had sat quietly in the room for a few minutes. I had been dwelling on her words for some time. At first, I had been the type to want to avoid killing at all costs. I was hardly a pacifist. I didn’t mind hunting, and I’d kill monsters, even those that appeared human if they threatened me. Now, real living people had threatened the ones I cared about. I needed to make a decision.
“So, what have you decided?” Shao asked.
I raised my eyes to meet hers. “Let’s go.”
“You’re taking the easy path then?” she asked.
“No…” I shook my head “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. That’s why I know I have to do it.”
Shao’s eyes flashed in confusion. “What does that mean?”
“When killing becomes easy… that’s when I know it’s the wrong choice.”
Shao blinked, but then a small smile started to form on her face, “Have my babies.”
The portal opened, and I jumped through.
“I-intruders!” There was a bang as a single man sitting around a small smokeless fire fell back.
The other four men had been sleeping, and he must have been the guard. Naturally, after fleeing like that, he never would have imagined me returning only a few hours later with a sword in my hand. I slammed my foot down on the head of the first man under my feet. He hadn’t even had a chance to get up before he passed out.
At that point, Shao slid through the portal behind me like the Shadow Knight she is, moving towards her enemies and attacking. A man’s throat was cut just as he began to sit up. She didn’t hesitate to toss her other knife at a third man, hitting him directly in the eye. Like that, 3 men were incapacitated, and the fight was even.
The man who had been on watch had managed to stand at this point and pull out his sword. I recognized that he was the one whose penis had touched me. He was the one who had assaulted Raissa directly. The other, who appeared to be the leader who had initially called for my death, had also managed to roll out of his bedding before either Shao or I could reach him.
I cast a fire spell, intending to just blind them for a second as I raced towards them. Regrettably, the men were well-trained and quickly covered their eyes while keeping their defensive posture. They also seemed to work together to protect themselves, keeping their back facing each other and the wall limiting the space they needed to defend.
I swung my swords several times, attempting to defeat the leader while Shao attacked the other man. Now that they were fully awake, I realized that they were not particularly weak at all. In fact, these were Knights, a job considered to be a second-tier fighting position. Their battle prowess was likely comparable to Lydia’s, even if they lacked her species-specific speed advantages.
A moment later, a third man, the one who she had stabbed in the eye, had managed to get the knife out and do a quick heal on his face. Although it looked awful, he was able to join the fray too, only temporarily stunned. With the one-eyed man defending against Shao, the third man was able to use magic, sending a dozen wind blades our direction. Compared to Celeste, these were child’s play, but it was only an aside to the Knight’s already existing combat skill.
“You must be the lord we’re here to assassinate!” the leader said, a mocking expression on his face.
“What of it?” I growled back, attacking him several more times with my moderate swordsmanship.
“Was that woman one of yours? She won’t admit it, but I fucked her good before you got there! She made such cute noises!”
“Don’t listen to him! He’s just trying to cause you to slip!” Shao shot back.
“Once I kill you, I’m going to fuck this pretty little thing too! I heard you have other girls too. I saw them when you entered the town. Pretty little things way better than you deserve. Where are they? Back in that little crap heap miner’s town? Hehe, once you die, even if you free them, Lord Reign will just enslave them. He promised them to the entire Knight’s corps. Don’t worry, we’ll treat them all well and good. They’ll forget all about your tiny dick!”
With two on one, Shao was at a disadvantage. With me fighting the leader, I had underestimated my own capacity as I was a one-on-one fighter. Had we not had the surprise on them, I realized that it was likely that Shao and I would have already been defeated. Suddenly, I was no longer worrying about whether I had it in me to kill them, and I was starting to fear that they might kill me!
“Hehe… I bet that one with the tiger tail is a real animal in bed. I think I’ll fuck her first.”
“Shut the fuck up!”
As much as I was trying to ignore him, the Knight was far more-foul mouthed than I had expected, and his constant yapping mouth was getting to me more and more. Furthermore, the two Knights working against Shao were quickly starting to overtake her too.
Shao was a Gladiator, but Knights were armored men who had true skill. They weren’t like the wild, animal movements she was used to. Furthermore, her strongest ability, the latent Demon Lord job, was blocked out, which also took away all of her strongest buffs and skills. At this point, she was distracted and she couldn’t offer me any support as I fell back more and more. Somehow, the tides had turned, and the two of us were pushed into a corner.
“Actually…” The leader grinned, a flourish taking my sword from my hand and sending it flying across the room. “I think I’m going to enjoy that short-haired one the first. I think they said she had an earth affinity? I might even let her ride on top!”
“Really.” Just as he raised his blade to bring it down, a spike shot through his back, bursting out the front like a chest-burster.
He managed to just turn around as the sword fell to the floor. Standing behind him was Terra.
“I’m a lot to handle… are you sure you wouldn’t break?”
As she said that, she slammed her foot into his balls. It was strong enough that there was a crunching sound as his pelvis shattered and his entire body flew up and hit the ceiling of the room. The last thing he felt as he died was his balls exploding. By the time he hit the floor, the mercy of death had already reached him.
“Masters only!” Nearly a hundred wind blades came spiraling at the backs of the knights as Celeste flew into the room.
As skilled as they were, they couldn’t fight on two fronts. As soon as one turned to defend the blades, Shao gained the upper hand. She cut down the one-eyed man, sending him knocking into the back of the other guy. This allowed several blades to chop at him. As he was still stumbling, Lydia jumped past and took his head.
In seconds, the knights who had almost defeated us were dead. However, I wasn’t rejoicing at all. I had failed to kill even a single one. In the end, it had been the girls who had bailed me out.
“You came…” I said, weakly.
“When Master didn’t return, we guessed where he was going, so we followed.”
Rather than go through a portal, they must have entered from the front, fought through the first level, and made it here just in time.
“I just wanted to protect you…” I said, feeling a bit awkward now. “From… this…”
As a Master, I had failed completely. Not only did they have to bloody their hands, but I came off as probably the most pathetic person possible.
“We wanted to protect Master too!” Lydia responded, a stubborn look on her face. “Master is always cool, so that’s why he must lean on us more!”
“You don’t need to worry,” Miki added. “I made the guards go to sleep. They don’t know we entered.”
I didn’t know what to say. At the end of it all, was I even needed?
While we were starting to calm down, the man I had kicked in the beginning had woken up. He had a broken nose, but otherwise he was fine. Biding his time playing dead, he had chosen the moment we relaxed to grab Shao, holding his dagger up to Shao’s neck. He had already backed into a corner.
“No one move! I’ll cut her throat!” he cursed while spitting out blood.
“Shao…” a sudden rising anger shot in me.
Had I been as decisive as she was, and killed this man upon entering the room, this wouldn’t have happened. It was my own failure that had put her in danger. Shao looked at me with a knowing look. It was a look that said she knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Put your sword up!” the knight bellowed. “In fact, why don’t you just kill yourself with it.”
“I trust you… Master.” Shao smiled, and then closed her eyes.
“Very well…” I lifted my sword up with both hands, the tip facing me.
It was a position that looked like I was about seppuku. The Knight’s eyes widened, and then he let out a laugh of disbelief.
“Haha… do it, or I’ll kill her.”
“As you wish…Switch Position!”
Shao’s eyes opened, and a smile formed on her lips. My eye’s never left Shao. Yet, suddenly we were on opposite sides of the room. I slammed my sword, missing my gut and thrusting it behind me. With all of my force. The knight let out a strangled sound, but I had aimed up, hitting is lung and heart along with way. He only now realized the person in his arms was me, not Shao. He died not knowing at all what just happened.
I let go of the sword, allowing the Knight to fall back with it. Shao suddenly ran forward and hugged me.
“See… No matter how hard it is, I knew Master would always do it for me.”
“You allowed yourself to be caught, right? You forced me to kill…”
She looked away, a frown on her face. I reached out and grabbed her chin. At one point, my feelings about her had been a bit mixed. They weren’t anymore.
“Thank you,” I said as I pulled her lips to mine.
“My hero…” she breathed as she kissed me enthusiastically, melting in my arms and becoming as demure as a purring kitten.
“Ah… I want to be saved by Master!” Celeste complained loudly.
“Eh… we killed them all! Quick, someone find a monster so Master can save us!”
“I’m going to wake the Knights outside! They’ll definitely threaten me so Master can save me!”
“Wait!” I broke off the kiss and ran to stop Miki from racing out the door.
It took a bit to settle the girls. In the end, I had to play rescue the damsel all night, with girls alternating between the damsel and the knight. The game made no sense because for some reason I had to kiss the knight and the maiden. I’m just glad they didn’t require that I penetrate the knight with my sword, or I’d have been so exhausted come morning we’d be able to make no progress in the dungeon.