Author’s note/Anouncement (IMPORTANT):
Recently, I’ve commissioned an artist to do artwork for Arx Speculo! This includes character and weapon designs that will be featured in the illustrations of the book release (yes, we are getting a light novel release with changes to the story and extra side stories and illustrations). If you wish to see them and be notified about when chapters are uploaded, please join the Discord server. I’m quite active on there so if you see me then we can have a chat if I’m free~. On another note…
7 CHAPTERS REMAINING UNTIL THE END OF ARC/VOLUME 1 (webnovel edition)! After this chapter, there will be 6 more incoming within these next two weeks or so. Once all the chaps have been uploaded, I will be going through the story with my editor and changing up the plot slightly to make a much more exciting story, and to also direct a lot more focus to the motivations and backgrounds of Shun, Hiroshi, Amaya, Tsubaki, Hiroaki, and Haya.
Arc/Volume 2 of the series will start from the end of the revised edition of volume 1. In other words, it will be a continuation of the version of the story that will be released in the light novel. That being said, I plan to slowly release the light novel version of the story bit by bit a month after the story is on sale. However, I will not include the illustrations and the extra side stories online as it would be unfair to the people who buy the book if they didn’t get something special for their hard earned money. Of course, the extra content will not have any significant connection to the plot, so you will not be missing out on anything important, and while the illustrations won’t be available online, the character designs will always be up on the Discord if you want to see them.
Chapter 28: Hound of Actaeon
[USER INPUT CONFIRMED: MANA ROULETTE, INITIATING]
Before Akira could understand the clunky announcement in his ears, a shockwave spread out of Ten in all directions. Amaya and Hiroaki were knocked off their feet and tumbled to the ground. Akira noticed them getting back up from the edge of his vision, but he didn’t give a single thought to them, his attention stolen by the spinning chamber of the revolver in his hands.
[RESULTS OBTAINED, TRANSFORMATION COMMENCING]
The chamber came to a halt with those words, and the entire gun began glowing red, like a bomb going off in slow-motion. Akira closed his eyes, but the undeterred scarlet rays lit up his eyelids and pressed onto the irises underneath. He let go of Ten and raised both arms over his eyes.
[TRANSFORMATION COMPLETE: FIRE]
Within seconds, he realized that the light wasn’t simple. Based on the prickly feeling on his skin, excessive amounts of mana was being released by the Speculo. A few seconds passed when the prickly feeling began to subside, soon disappearing completely. Unable to bear his curiosity, he parted his eyelids.
The revolver was gone. In its place was a double-edged broadsword, sticking out of the ground. Black metal patterns ran from the base of the red-glowing blade all the way to its arrow-shaped head. The leather-wrapped handle had enough space for four hands to grasp. At the end was a black pommel with a glowing red jewel embedded at the center. If Akira had to describe the sword in one word, it would be “volcanic”.
“Beautiful,” Akira muttered.
The soft crimson glow of the blade seemed to invite Akira, urging its owner to claim what was his. It drew him in, pulling his hands to the hilt. However, just as he was about to curl his fingers around the handle, an arrow flew by, missing his hand by a few inches.
When that mutter entered his ears, he snapped back to attention. He turned in the direction the arrow had come from, facing the two who were now back on their feet. Amaya let loose another arrow, aimed at his chest.
Akira snatched the handle of the broadsword with one hand, tugging it out of the ground. The massive blade must have weighed 10 pounds, but it felt like paper to him. As the arrow flew towards him, he curled the fingers of his other hand around the handle. Raising it to his chest, he blocked the arrow with a dull clang. As the arrow fell to the ground, flames burst forth and crawled all over his body.
A yelp leaked out of his mouth, before his eyes shot up as if he’d discovered something peculiar. His entire body, save for his face, was engulfed in flames, but not a single burn appeared on his skin. Once his beating heart calmed, he took a closer look at the flames, which were an unusual scarlet color.
It’s like those flames Akane produced that one time using her chemistry set. Strontium something flames, right? How strange.
As he admired the curious element clothing his body, his fingertips reappeared from beneath the flames, and the rest of his body followed. The only indication that the flames had ever existed was that Akira’s entire body was now blanketed in the same glow that enveloped the blade.
Well then, I should quickly—woah!
Akira refocused on the duo in front of him, preparing a physical enhancement. To his surprise when he circulated the mana in his body, it rushed through his relays like a flood. Feeling the change in quality, Akira glanced at the sword in his hands, wondering if it was the cause.
As there was only one way of knowing for sure, he looked back up and honed his eyes on the archer and shieldman in front of him. Hiroaki’s wide eyes were reflected in his own, and he saw him raise his shield above his head, wooden spikes growing out the bottom.
“Let’s see what I can do!” With a yell, Akira put pressure into the bottom of his front foot and kicked off towards his opponents.
Akira felt like he’d become a legendary warrior of old, the kind that became Core Foundations for powerful Speculo. The air brushed against his body, ruffling his hair and tattered clothes. Each step he took cracked the ground as if he was a titan.
Hiroaki slammed his shield down onto the ground, and the ground began rumbling in a familiar manner. Multiple roots shot up out of the ground, all aimed at Akira. He leapt to the side and dodged them while swinging his blade.
“No way, he cut them?!”
Hiroaki’s jaw dropped and he widened his eyes, and Akira wore an identical look. None of his spells had even notched the roots earlier, but the blade went through the roots without any resistance, just like Yawaraki-Te cutting through leaves on a river. Once the vbroadsword fully swept through the roots, the cuts burst into flames and incinerated them, leaving a pile of ashes.
“Well, how about this then!”
All around them, multiple trees raised upwards, their roots pushed out of the ground. Multiple snapping noise filled the air as the roots came to life, writhing like snakes and breaking off from the trees. Once they were free of their giant bodies, the roots threw them at Akira.
Using Ten as a lever, Akira thrust it into the ground and vaulted over one tree. Then, he used his momentum to rotate his body and swung the broadsword in a circular motion to slice through another. As soon as he landed on the ground he dashed forwards in a low stance, letting a tree fly by overhead.
A few more meters.
Three trunks flew toward him all at once. Akira slammed his foot into the ground and skidded to a stop. As he decelerated, his instincts took over and he took one big swing at the incoming logs. Out of the broadsword’s edge burst a wave of flames which bisected the logs like a giant blade.
As the halves fell around him and shook the earth, a strange heat began building inside of his body, spreading inwards from his skin to his bones. A fire had started within his body. It drifted through his body, emitting a tender warmth which drove out the remaining flares of pain and soothed his burnt nerves.
It was a wondrous feeling, one that he could get drunk on. It was tender yet strong, soothing yet intense, and something that brought a firmness to his body.
“Haha… hahahahaha!” Despite his situation, he let out a boisterous life while cutting through another tree.
Ahhh… Sixteen years.
Sixteen years of dreams which gave hope only to snatch it away by morning. Sixteen years of vain wishes which never came to fruition. Sixteen years of yearning for something he would never have.
His bet had paid off. At last, his two hands gripped what he had been starved of his entire life: power.
Up until now, physical enhancement magic had been the closest thing he ever had. But that pitiful, fleeting teaspoon of strength that scattered after a brief usage was incomparable to this powder keg of explosive energy.
Akira jumped forwards, leaping through the sky. Once again, a tree flew towards him, but he sliced downwards with Ten, cutting it cleanly in half. From behind the tree, Hiroaki came into view, his eyes wide.
“Crap!” Hiroaki cried out. Out of the ground came multiple roots, creaking as they shot towards Akira from all angles. But they were few in number, as Hiroaki knew he’d depleted the roots closest to him.
“Useless!” Akira cried as he swung his broadsword in a circular motion horizontally. As the blade cut through the roots, it unleashed a wall of flames that incinerated the other incoming roots in an instant.
He kicked off the ground and shot forwards through the fire. Perhaps it was because of the red aura surrounding him, but he felt no heat. All obstacles gone, he continued forward until he was right in front of Hiroaki.
Hiroaki began speaking, but Akira swung Ten right into the shield, sending him flying before he could finish his sentence. Seeing Hiroaki’s feet leave the ground, he wore a wild grin. A single swing was capable of knocking someone off their feet.
Hiroaki hit a tree headfirst and crumpled to the ground. For a moment, Akira wondered if he had hit him with too much force, but he let out a small sigh of relief as he heard a groan.
Akira heard Amaya cry out as she rushed to her partner while preparing a quick Heal spell. He blinked momentarily as emotion finally tainted the girl’s monotone speech, but he shook it off.
“Do you really have time for that!”
Akira dashed forward and turned the handle in his grip, preparing to hurl the flat of the blade toward them. When Amaya swung around to face him, he was only 5 meters away from her. She raised her bow, arrow nocked, but it was too late: Akira was already mid-swing.
Hiroaki used his body to shove Amaya out of the way, taking on the broadsword. Akira raised his eyes upon seeing Hiroaki stand his ground and take the full force of the blow. He heard a familiar creaking noise and jumped back as several roots struck the place he had been standing in.
“Tch, so that’s what you did.”
Now that he was a few meters away, he saw the reason for Hiroaki’s sudden increase in defensive power. At his feet, there were several smaller roots all piled onto his forefoot, holding him down on the ground.
“Well, it’s crude but it works,” Hiroaki replied with a wry grin.
Amaya ran over and gripped his elbow. “Hiroaki! All right?”
“Yeah I’m fine. Would’ve been knocked out if it wasn’t for my defense boost.” Hiroaki patted Amaya on the head. “Anyways, let’s run for now.”
As soon as Akira heard Hiroaki’s words, he put his weight onto his front foot in order to jump forwards. As he leapt through the air at them, Amaya plucked her bowstring and his two targets vanished into thin air.
Swinging his sword downwards, Akira struck at the area the two had been standing in, but only a dust cloud rose up as the blade sank into the ground. With narrowed eyes, he looked around his surroundings.
“I’ll have to chase them, huh?” He sighed, a frown plastered on his face. “How annoying. Really annoying. But…”
As the dust settled, a pair of footprints appeared before him. With a grin, he lowered the sword to his side and ran after the trail.
“This doesn’t feel half bad.”