The Hero of Regression – The Talentless Boy Vows to Protect His Childhood Friend, the Female Hero, This Time Around – Chapter 60

𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐒𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲 𝟐

𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐒𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲 𝟐

“. . . . . .Huh?”

“I understand that Rest’s driven by emotions. However, your actions are too intricate for that alone.”

Someone losing their sanity in a fit of rage wouldn’t be able to carefully plan an attack on our barracks while we’re in a private discussion, turn our soldiers into pawns, and divide our forces by involving the entire town. It’s far too elaborate.

They would resort to more impulsive actions.

There’s only one reason this hasn’t happened.

It’s because a demon is controlling Rest’s emotions, holding the reins tight.

What emanated from the clashed swords was not mere brutality, but a frenzied conglomeration of raw emotions.

Envy, anger.

And surpassing them by far, sorrow and suffering.

This was by no means something implanted by the demon race.

It was the darkness that one human, known as Rest, carried within his heart.

If you’re human, to a greater or lesser extent, everyone harbors these ugly aspects within their hearts.

I, of course, have such parts as well.

“When I kept losing to Stella in the previous world, I was also filled with jealousy, perhaps not to the extent of Rest.”

During my journey of revenge, I wanted to kill the scumbags in every town who said it was Stella’s fault for not defeating the Demon King and ending their miserable lives.

In fact, I did get violent and actually punched a few.

Even when it comes to people like Ruberto-san, who are doing their best to protect humanity, and even gods, there’s a part of me deep inside that’s screaming, ‘How dare you put Stella in danger! I won’t forgive you!’

It’s certainly ugly.

But even so, these emotions are undoubtedly a part of my own heart.

They’re not something anyone else can trample on.

Forcing them out, manipulating them, and using them is absolutely unforgivable.

That’s why the demon that dared to exploit Rest’s emotions filled me with intense disgust.

“You despicable demon! Don’t use Rest’s body, techniques, and heart as you please!

Those belong to Rest! They’re for Rest and Rest alone! You have no right to use them!”

While brandishing my wooden sword, I roar.

“Rest!”

This time, I address not the demon, but the man whom I recognize as a future hero and my rival.

“How long will you let yourself be used by this demon? Are you really that weak?”

“I, I am. . . . . .”

“Your body and techniques were not honed for the likes of demons to use! Isn’t that right?”

“Uh, ugh!”

Rest suppressed his head and began to wriggle.

This was different from the tantrum it had thrown at me earlier, unable to defeat me.

I had an instinct that it was resisting.

However, such resistance from Rest was quickly overwhelmed by rage and the control of demons, and his eyes once again harbored a murderous intent towards me.

But just glimpsing the will to resist was enough.

“If you’re tangled up in the darkness of your heart and can’t do anything about it, let it all out here. I’ll be your opponent.”

With that, I brandished two wooden swords.

It’s the same as yesterday.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Engaging in combat with suffering comrades and family members, it’s a change of pace.

Anyway, judging from the feeling when I fought earlier, it’s going to be difficult to render Rest unable to fight with wooden swords.

No matter how intense a counter I deliver, Rest, who must have more demon power in them than anyone else, thanks to their regenerative abilities, would recover instantly.

I won’t lose, but I won’t win either.

In that case, it’s still possible to bet on the chance that I can appeal to Rest’s heart and make him break free from their control.

“Come, Rest.”

“Ah, aaaaaaaaah!!!”

With a cry of agony, Rest charges forward.

He unleashes a diagonal slash aimed at me.

Empowered by demon abilities, his movements are incomparably faster than they were yesterday.

However, perhaps due to emotional turmoil, or maybe because he can’t fully utilize the demon techniques, the precision of his moves is slightly inferior to yesterday’s.

I step back one pace, catching the diagonal slash with the wooden sword in my left hand, then use the momentum to rotate to the right, just outside his sword’s reach.

I then execute Flowing Blade with the wooden sword in my right hand.

My target is the right side of Rest’s head.

But Rest tries to block it with his disengaged right arm.

A viable defense against a wooden sword.

If it had been a real sword, the arm used to block would have been severed.

His initially equipped arm guards have been dislodged during our previous clash by Calamity Return, too.

Still, my attack isn’t halted by that.

Reading Rest’s movements, I adjust the trajectory of the wooden sword in my right hand before it’s blocked.

By bending my right knee, the wooden sword shifts its path, sliding above the arm used for defense and going below it.

First Strike Deformation 『Stream Flow』.

A second Flowing Blade attack that bypasses his guard.

Yet, Rest manages to counter this as well.

Rather, he forcibly withstands it, bracing himself.

The wooden sword did fracture the bones in his vulnerable flank, but it’s a minor injury that will regenerate soon.

After enduring that, Rest prepares to counter with the sword held in his left hand. . . . . .

“What?!”

He is sent tumbling to the ground.

My attack wasn’t over yet.

As I executed Stream Flow with my right hand, I was simultaneously aiming a thrust at his head with the wooden sword in my left hand.

Since I was in the midst of rotating, this was also a blow using Flowing Blade.

Named First Strike Deformation 『Double Point Stream Flow』.

A third Flowing Blade attack made possible only because of the dual-wield style.

Rest couldn’t withstand it as he was bracing for an attack from a different angle than expected.

The result is plain to see.

And then,

“Ah, ugh!”

I unleashed the thrust in combination with Heaven Shaker.

Against Rest, who’s enhanced by both demon and divine protection, the effect may be minor and soon recoverable, but it’s enough to stagger him for a few seconds.

In this fight, where the goal is not to kill but to duel to my satisfaction, this technique is just perfect.

“What’s wrong! Is that all you’ve got?!”

“Aaaaaaaaaah!!!”

Provoked, Rest charges in again.

He unleashes a flurry of ultra-fast thrusts, relying on his physical prowess and technique.

And now, his mouth begins to move along with his sword.

As he swings his sword, he begins to vent the pent-up darkness within his heart.

“I’m envious! I’m frustrated! Why are you so strong?!

Even though you don’t have divine protection! Even though you’re less talented than me! Even though you can’t confess to Stella-san, you coward!”

“Don’t call me a coward! That’s just a difference in effort, experience, and seasoning! If you’re frustrated, train harder until you’re willing to die for it!”

“Wha━?!”

I deflect his chain of thrusts with Distortion using my right-hand wooden sword while closing the gap, entering his sword’s reach, making it impossible for either of us to swing our swords. At this close range, I make a quick strike with the short wooden sword in my left hand.

I jab him in the solar plexus, causing him to lose his breath. While backing away, I employ a pulling technique.

Using the wooden sword in my right hand, I slam a Heaven Shaker into the side of his head.

From the force of the blow, Rest is once again sent flying.

“Ah, Aaaaaaaaah!!!”

But, Rest quickly got back on his feet.

He rushed forward, letting out a roar, without giving up.

“I’ve always hated myself! I hated being weak!

What’s wrong with wanting to change that?! What’s wrong with wanting to become stronger?!”

“Just getting physically stronger doesn’t mean anything if you lose your will and become a puppet for demons!

Is that why you’ve been honing your sword?!”

“Wha?!”

As if mimicking Ruberto-san’s Tenkyokuken, I parried the sword that was swung straight down from above with my Flowing Blade, and once again struck Rest’s head with a Heaven Shaker combined with Flowing Blade.

However, maybe because he’s gotten used to it after taking so many hits, Rest endured the Heaven Shaker with his physical resilience, and continued to cross swords with me.

“The reason I’ve honed my sword is jealousy!

I was tired of being compared to my grandfather and my brother! I was sick of being bad-mouthed as a failure!

That’s why I wanted to become strong and show them! That’s all it is!”

“Then, are you a person who can prove others wrong with your current state?!

Can you proudly show off that miserable self to others?!

Above all. . . . . . can you be proud of yourself in front of the woman you love?!”

“What?!”

At that moment, Rest’s movements became awkward and sluggish.

Seizing this opportunity, I relentlessly hammered him while shouting.

“You can’t, can you?! You can’t!

You can’t even be proud in front of the woman you love! You can only be a burden!

What’s the value in such power?! Just throw it away!”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up!”

Rest’s attacks became even more fierce.

He kept attacking, not caring if he got hurt in a counterattack.

He was probably aggravated because the truth hurts!

“You, who are loved by Stella-san! You, who are strong enough to stand beside Stella-san! You can’t understand my suffering!

You won’t understand the feelings of a weak person who’s gone crazy with jealousy and wants to cling to this power. . . . . .”

“I definitely understand!”

“What?!”

Rest choked on his breath when he heard my words, perhaps realizing that his argument was hard even for him to swallow.

“This is what you said earlier, right? I don’t have divine protection. I have far less talent than you.

I understand the feelings of the weak, who couldn’t even do anything, without going crazy with envy.

That’s even more true for you than for someone like me.”

I’ve never forgotten.

About the times when I was weak, when I couldn’t do anything, just a mere weakling.

So stupid as to lose the real Stella in the light of the hero, so dull as to not even try to know anything until everything was over, and so hopeless as to be consumed by the madness of revenge in utter despair and turn into a monster.

In that sense, I might not have the right to say anything to the current Rest.

This guy in front of me is a little like the old me.

Though there’s a difference between jealousy and hatred, we were both helplessly swayed by strong negative emotions, losing sight of our true desires and only being able to recklessly aim for short-term goals.

We’re so similar.

But that’s precisely why, because we were once the same. . . . . .

“It’s precisely because I’ve crawled up from there that I can say this.

Becoming physically strong, mastering techniques, all of that is meaningless.”

I gained power through hellish training and lived only for revenge, and all that was left afterwards was emptiness.

Naturally, because even though I avenged myself, I couldn’t fulfill my true desires.

In my previous world, I misused my power.

To be exact, by the time I had gained that power, it was already too late.

“Strength is only called so when it’s used to overcome difficulties and fulfill one’s true desires.

Visualize clearly what you want to be strong for, and strive for it without breaking, bending, or giving up.

That’s what it means to become strong.”

I’m saying similar words to Rest once again, as I did yesterday.

And then, I pose a question.

“So I’ll ask you again. What have you been honing your sword for?

To beat up your brother even if it means becoming a puppet for the demons?

Is that your true desire?”

“I, I am. . . . . .I am. . . . . .!”

Rest starts to clutch his head in agony again.

Tears begin to fall from his eyes.

“No, no no no no no no! I didn’t seek power for this!

I wanted to become a strong man who can be proud of himself!

A man who can proudly stand next to Stella-san!”

“. . . . . .Well, I’m not thrilled about that last part, but fine.

Seems like you’ve found your true desires again.”

So from now on, it’s a straightforward matter.

I put my wooden sword back at my waist and extend my hand to Rest.

“Come back, Rest. Break free from the demon’s puppet strings and return.”

“But, I did something unforgivable. . . . . .”

“True, being manipulated by demons doesn’t excuse the severity of what you’ve done.

But you might still be redeemable.”

There’s a basis for that.

“Because you haven’t killed anyone, have you?”

“Huh?!”

At my words, Rest himself looks shocked.

He seems to be unaware.

“Look around you.

There are plenty of people knocked out, maybe even maimed, but not a single one is dead.

It would be surprising if no one had died given the aftermath of our fights with heroes and Holy Warriors.”

“It, it’s just a coincidence. . . . . .”

“It’s not just here. The same thing happened on our way here.

And you deliberately kicked Doug-san, didn’t you?

It would’ve been much easier to cut him down instead.”

Could it be the same for Blade?

If Rest had prioritized killing over torturing, he might have succeeded.

As it stands, we successfully rescued Blade.

“Maybe you were resisting the demon’s control unconsciously, trying not to kill anyone.

If so, you can still turn back.

Or even if you can’t, come back anyway.

That would be the least you can do to make amends.”

“Ah. . . . . .ah. . . . . .”

Rest is shaking and crying, holding his head as if restraining something.

Then,

“Rest-kun!”

“Wha?! Stella-san. . . . . .”

It looks like Stella, who had been subduing some rampaging people, has arrived.

She’s still far away but is approaching us at a tremendous speed.

“Look, the girl we’re fond of is here. Show off in front of the woman you love.”

“!!”

Whether those words were the final push he needed, Rest drops his tightly gripped sword, and, with trembling hands, reaches out to grasp my extended hand.

Rest’s willpower is trying to overcome the demon’s control.

Since Stella is here, healing magic could immediately be used if needed.

But, the situation did not resolve there.

“Ahg?!”

Suddenly, Rest begins to agonize once more, clutching his head.

However, even from a distance, it’s clear that his torment this time is different, more severe than before.

Rest writhes in agony as if his head is about to split open.

At that moment, I definitely heard it.

The voice of the malevolent demon that was tormenting Rest.

『Haa, this is absolutely infuriating. Useless, incompetent, half-hearted.

I had at least some hopes for you, small as grains of sand. But you’ve even fallen short of my lowest expectations. How utterly inept you are.

This is why I dislike hybrids that are disposable.

At least fight until you die and give the heroes some trouble.』

“Ahhhhhhh!”

“?!”

Arrogant words that make my blood boil just by hearing them.

Suffocated by these words, the passion that should have been Rest’s driving force disappears from his eyes. He starts to look like the other soldiers, a beast devoid of reason.

In this state, Rest aims a clawed attack at my face.

“『Sky Rebellion』!”

“Gah?!”

I quickly unleash Sky Rebellion to shatter his arm, sending Rest flying backward from the impact.

However, his shattered arm quickly heals itself, and he lets out a beast-like roar as he immediately attempts another attack.

Has his regenerative speed increased?!

Is he being further corrupted by the demon’s power?!

It looks like persuasion is no longer an option.

But it’s still okay.

Stella is here, and the tide of battle has significantly changed.

With both of us, it shouldn’t be difficult to subdue Rest without killing him, and even to treat him during the battle.

There shouldn’t be any problems unless I’m defeated in the brief time before Stella joins the fight.

At that moment, the idea was not to close the distance and attack, but to defend against Rest’s attack.

It was certainly not a wrong choice.

Considering the circumstances and my fighting style, it was undoubtedly a solid and safe move.

But that supposedly sound decision led to tragedy.

“Oh, a demon, huh.”

Suddenly, a carefree voice, which seemed out of place in this battlefield, could be heard from above.

Without tension, without vigilance, yet carrying a faint fighting spirit in its tone.

It was as if a demon on a casual stroll had stumbled upon a human child by chance.

Just like when Demon Mantis had spotted me.

A voice resembling that of a predator facing insignificant foes, not worth being cautious about but better off dealt with.

It’s a voice I recognize.

The voice of a guy I met just recently, who immediately left a terrible impression.

I didn’t notice he had approached this closely.

Whether it was because most of my focus was on Rest in front of me, or he had no intention of attacking me, or he excels in stealth, or perhaps all of the above.

In any case, I missed his approaching presence.

The one who appears is a large man, about two meters tall, with well-defined muscles and shaggy gray hair.

Wolf-like ears and a tail protrude from his head and waist.

Fur covers his arms from the elbow and his legs from the knee.

He’s a beastfolk with sharp claws on his fingers and toes.

『Beast King』

An unexpected outsider appeared, having nothing to do with our fight.

He must have jumped from the top of a building; he descended rapidly and grabbed Rest’s head. . . . . .

“Ah. . . . . .”

With the impact of his landing and his strength, he slammed Rest’s skull into the ground, shattering it.


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