The Hero of Regression – The Talentless Boy Vows to Protect His Childhood Friend, the Female Hero, This Time Around – Chapter 14

𝐂𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐩

𝐂𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐩

“The power of healing, which is but a fragment of divine strength, heal the wounded lamb. ━━『Cure』!”

Utilizing the newfound ability to grasp the rhythm of the Sword Saint Skeleton to some extent, I activate Healing Magic to mend the wounds.

With this, I can still continue to fight.

However, even though the wounds are healed, my stamina won’t recover, so long-term battles are likely impossible. Nevertheless, having gained some extra time is significant.

How much time had passed since the dance of the Sword Saint Skeleton began?

Probably not even 10 minutes.

However, due to the extremely rapid slashes being unleashed, the movements that would typically constitute a single dance track were long completed.

It was hard to distinguish between the end and beginning of each track because they seamlessly flowed into each other. Just when I thought I had identified a recurring pattern and was ready to counter-attack. . . . . .the Sword Saint Skeleton changed the actual music the moment I parried its assault and moved forward.

From a graceful dance to an intense one.

When the track changes, the rhythm and movements dramatically shift, rendering my previous reads useless.

Time to start over.

And then, once I manage to read that track, yet another one follows.

And if I read that too, another follows.

This cycle keeps repeating.

Enough is enough.

How many signature songs does this thing have?

At this point, I can’t help but think that its true profession isn’t swordsmanship but being a geisha.

If I keep up with these endless, unpredictable tracks, I’ll run out of stamina.

It’s risky, but I’ll have to make a move at some point.

Fortunately, not all of my previous reads are useless.

Its dance, even when the track changes, has similar movements at times.

I’m not familiar with dancing, but just like in swordsmanship, there must be some fundamental underlying forms.

Like the basics of how to grip a sword or angle the blade.

Recognizing these basics, I feel like I’ve slightly grasped the essence of its mysterious, unknown techniques.

Though minimal, I’ve acquired the ability to read its techniques.

Now’s my chance for a counterattack.

No choice but to go for it.

“Huh!”

Breaking free from a purely defensive stance, I forcefully advance using Distortion.

The moment I do, the Sword Saint Skeleton’s melody changes again.

It’s a sight I’ve lost count of.

But this time, I charge ahead regardless.

Attacks that I can’t read or parry cut into me, but I avoid fatal blows out of sheer willpower.

The Sword Saint Skeleton swings its dark sword overhead and then slashes horizontally, creating a beautiful black crescent blade.

The blade spirals toward me.

I use Distortion to move my blade along with the flow.

The slash is too fast to fully parry.

Therefore, I slightly alter its trajectory.

The angle of my blade glides the enemy’s slash away.

The force I add pushes the enemy’s blade outward.

Though it’s hard to resist the attack, it’s surprisingly easier to redirect it.

I go along with the flow of the dark slash and add force to the side, guiding the attack to where I intend.

Next, the enemy unleashes three crescent-shaped slashes aimed upward.

I don’t know what kind of trick it’s using, but the slashes rotate like boomerangs and arc down toward me.

Furthermore, before the boomerang slashes reach me, a new horizontal slash close to the ground is added.

A simultaneous attack from four slashes.

It’s as if I’ve leapt into the jaws of a beast, facing fangs approaching from above and below.

“Ha!”

First, I use Flowing Blade to leap diagonally forward and to the left, aligning my blade with the ground-hugging slash.

I deflect it to gain speed and then employ Distortion against the closest left slash.

The direction I deflect it toward is where the remaining two slashes are coming from.

The redirected left slash collides with the center and right slashes, causing all three to vanish in a chain reaction.

This is a skill fitting to be called an advanced form of Distortion.

“Second Strike Deformation━『Distortion Chain』!”

It’s a technique prepared for multiple simultaneous attacks.

My boast that there’s no attack I can’t defend against wasn’t for nothing.

Now, I’ve closed the distance to the Sword Saint Skeleton once again.

The next attack is. . . . . .somehow the Sword Saint Skeleton is spinning.

Darkness gushes from the black blade, swelling with each rotation, and is then fired at me as if being released.

Due to some mysterious movements resembling a prayer just before launching, the massive dark force takes the form of a giant black dragon.

This isn’t just some trick; it’s wholly in the realm of magic.

However, if that’s the case, I have a specific technique to intercept it.

“Third Strike━.”

This is a technique against magic, or rather, for counteracting wide-range attacks.

It’s a countermeasure for the only attack that can’t be defended against by Distortion.

Every attack of this kind has a flaw, or “gap,” somewhere.

Like a crack in a huge boulder, a weak point.

Spotting that gap in an instant is incredibly difficult, but once you’re able to find it, you can pierce and widen it by slashing through. Then, you can cut through anything—be it fire, water, or lightning.

Especially with something hastily created like magic, it’s highly effective because it has easily discernible flaws in the flow of magical energy.

Slash and disperse—The Third Strike.

Its name is. . . . . .

“『Slashing Sweep』!”

The third killing sword pierces the dark dragon’s forehead and breaks through.

The dark dragon, pierced at its flaw, has its magical energy disrupted and dissipates, vanishing.

Passing through its remains, I close in on the Sword Saint Skeleton.

Thanks to her using a time-consuming powerful move, I was able to close the distance in the meantime.

Now the Sword Saint Skeleton is just within reach.

Checkmate.

But, this is where the real fight begins.

The Sword Saint Skeleton stops dancing and swings her dark sword to intercept me as I dive into her personal space.

A downward slash from above. . . . . .or so it seemed, but she lets go of her dark sword mid-air, crossing both arms, and unleashes flying hand blades.

“Huh?!”

Unable to read that unexpected feint, I barely manage to dodge the flying hand blades with Distortion. The impact from the hand blades I couldn’t completely deflect propels me backward.

The damage is minimal.

My arms hurt quite a bit, but it’s nothing compared to when I used an incomplete Distortion against the Demon Mantis and broke.

More importantly, losing the distance I’d closed is a problem!

The moment I land, I roll backward to break my fall and convert the force of being blown away into forward momentum by springing off the ground with my legs.

By then, the Sword Saint Skeleton has already picked up her dropped dark sword and is mercilessly unleashing dark slashes towards me, who is off balance.

But, I won’t be done in by just that.

“『Rapid Current』!”

I also bend my body diagonally to dodge the diagonal slash that was swung down, and at the same time, I rotate my body backward while letting the sword follow the slash.

Just like when I deflected the slash crawling on the ground that came flying earlier, this time I use Rapid Current to accelerate forward.

Once again, I enter the personal space of the Sword Saint Skeleton.

“Ha!”

I swing my sword towards the Sword Saint Skeleton.

Aiming for her right ankle that I had successfully hit earlier.

With luck, I plan to shatter the cracked area completely, taking away one of her legs.

Of course, an unvaried attack like this won’t work on her.

The Sword Saint Skeleton easily dodges my attack by taking a step back and counterattacks with a swift slash after a feint.

But that’s also within my expectations.

This attack was a feint to draw out the Sword Saint Skeleton’s attack.

No one uses an attack they know won’t connect for anything other than as a feint.

I see through the feint and parry the Sword Saint Skeleton’s counterattack with Flowing Blade, then counterattack.

However, even that is easily defended against by Sword Saint Skeleton’s swordsmanship.

Undeterred, I jump, using the clashing swords as a fulcrum, and perform the Flowing Wheel technique to leap over the guard. Yet even that is calmly dodged.

Yes.

Closing the distance isn’t the end.

Even if I get past her dance, the Sword Saint Skeleton possesses unmatched close-combat skills with the Sword Saint’s ultimate techniques.

Unless I overcome this, there’s no chance for me to win.

If I can’t get past this, I don’t deserve to stand beside Stella.

That wall is just too high.

Even for someone with ordinary divine protection, it’s said that a talentless ordinary person like me can never win. Yet, the Sword Saint exists in a realm even beyond that.

Even the weakened shell of the Sword Saint standing before me has beaten me to a pulp over and over, cutting off my arms and legs time and time again. Despite that, I keep challenging him, barely able to give him minor injuries. It’s absurd how strong he is.

The old knight who is the current Sword Saint would be even stronger, and Stella, who has awakened and grown as a hero, would be stronger still.

The thought of facing the highest-ranking officers of the Demon King’s Army, the Four Heavenly Kings, or the Demon King at the peak of his power is just too daunting to even consider.

But still, I must overcome all of it.

I have no intention of knowing my place.

I have no plans to be sensible.

I’ve decided to stand beside the hero as a “Talentless Hero.”

I’ve decided to protect Stella this time.

If I can’t overcome this obstacle, what’s the point!

“Aaaaaaaaah!”

I swing my sword with unyielding fighting spirit.

Naturally, I’m aiming for a counter-attack with Flowing Blade.

To draw out her attacks, I aim at her broken ankle, her exposed wrists, and the nape of her neck, all unprotected by her kimono.

These are feints, but if my blade finds a gap in her bones, it’ll be a valid attack.

Even the Sword Saint Skeleton can’t ignore this.

Feints, bluffs, and real attacks interweave as the Sword Saint Skeleton and I engage in an intense battle.

The tide of the battle is finally even, thanks to the Sword Saint Skeleton favoring her cracked ankle.

As we continue to fight, both of us accumulate minor injuries.

However, the Sword Saint Skeleton, being dead, doesn’t feel pain or fatigue, whereas I, still alive, am slowing down due to blood loss and exhaustion.

The situation is even now, but the tide is gradually turning in favor of the Sword Saint Skeleton.

This is my usual losing pattern.

If I don’t do something drastic, I’ll end up retreating and getting scolded by Rin again today.

Isn’t there something, anything. . . . . .?!

“?”

Just when I was desperately brainstorming, the unexpected move came.

Well, “came” might not be the right word.

Because I didn’t intentionally do it.

Suddenly, the Sword Saint Skeleton’s posture broke.

Her right ankle, already cracked by my initial strike, couldn’t withstand the fierce battle any longer and finally shattered.

An opportunity has come out of the blue. . . . . .No, this chance has only come because I’ve been fighting desperately up till now.

The sensation ingrained in my body must have tried to exploit the exposed vulnerability.

The Sword Saint Skeleton swung her black sword with one arm, unleashing a sharp sweeping attack.

But that was a mistake.

Being careless against me is suicidal.

“『Flowing Blade』!”

I deflected the careless attack and, using the momentum of my Flowing Blade, cut off the wrist holding the black sword.

The black sword that had separated from its owner twirled in the air.

I did it.

That thought overwhelmed me, and for a split second, just a split second, I let my guard down.

Even though I knew she wasn’t the kind to be defeated so easily.

The Sword Saint Skeleton clenches her remaining left fist.

Ignoring the weapon she’d lost, she was solely focused on attacking me.

And then, the fist was unleashed.

An unarmed attack from the Sword Saint isn’t scary. . . . . .of course, that’s not true.

Indeed, without a sword or similar weapon, the Sword Saint can’t fully utilize her divine protection.

However, simply having divine protection related to martial arts means extraordinary physical abilities beyond that of an average person.

The fist unleashed with such physical abilities has destructive power that is more than sufficient against even an opponent of equal standing.

“Ugh?!”

Caught off guard, I managed to react to the attack using Distortion, but it was far from perfect. The force of the punch knocked my sword away.

Distortion isn’t the only technique that demands extreme precision from me.

Unless it’s a skill of that caliber, it won’t work against a vastly stronger opponent.

That’s why such lapses in focus are fatal.

I’m weak.

Not just physically, but mentally too. I still have a lot to improve on.

I reflect on this.

But for now, there are things to do before I dwell on my mistakes!

“Woooooo!”

Ignoring the pain in my arm and body, I reached for victory.

With Onryomaru knocked away, and both of us unarmed, there’s no way I can win.

But the key to victory is right there.

Will I grab it first, or will the Sword Saint Skeleton’s fist shatter me?

The final showdown.

In that match, I. . . . . .won.

“Aaaaaaa!”

Predicting the trajectory of the Sword Saint Skeleton’s fist, I dodged and grabbed it.

The black sword that was twirling in the air after being knocked from its owner’s hand.

My lifelong companion 『Kurotenmaru』 that I had wielded in my dreams.

I gripped it with all my strength and thrust it into the Sword Saint Skeleton’s torso, slipping through her fist.

The dark destructive force, more than compensating for my lack of strength, pierced through her kimono, and shattered the spine that was the core of her skeletal body.

“. . . . . .!”

The Sword Saint Skeleton’s body fell apart, severed in two.

An average skeleton would have turned to dust with such damage.

But, I took no chances and swung my black sword down upon the Sword Saint Skeleton’s chest.

At that moment.

A gentle woman’s face seemed to overlay the skeletal face of Sword Saint Skeleton, who was about to receive the killing blow.

It felt like she was smiling gently, as if to say, “You’ve passed.”

A sensation I’ve felt once before, even in my dreams.

Immediately after feeling that, Kurotenmaru destroyed the Sword Saint Skeleton. . . . . .and the lifeless formidable foe finally turned to dust and returned to the heavens.

“I won. . . . . .”

I, who had witnessed the end of a formidable enemy, savored the taste of the hard-fought victory.

It was a tough battle.

There were many flaws.

Half the victory was due to luck.

But the other half was a victory seized by undeniable skill.

Finally, I had reached the level where I could defeat even a shadow of a Holy Warrior.

And that filled me with immense pride.

“. . . . . .Yes!”

I struck a pose of triumph, filled with various emotions.

The journey is still long.

Even the initial hurdle of defeating that old knight is far off.

But today, I’ve definitely taken one firm step on the staircase that leads there.

I’m getting closer to where Stella is.

I’m happy.

So incredibly happy.

While savoring that joy, yet tightening my focus by learning from today’s mistakes, I retraced my steps through the labyrinth, testing out the loot I had acquired.

Maybe I’ll eat something delicious today, I thought.

. . . . . .Unsuspecting that, on the way back, I would encounter another battle.


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