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Chapter: 1


I… I hate this," Ryner Lute choked out. And he did. From the depths of his heart. Now, perhaps more than ever, he has messy dark hair and unmotivated eyes. His lanky body was sinking into a deep blue world.

It was a world without a sky. The lower he sank, the darker it got.

He was inside of the ocean.

Normally, someone in that situation would be freaking out. Ryner, however, crossed his arms slowly. "Hmm… I won’t be able to breathe for very much longer. Oh well… Wonder if I’ll die here? Why was I here in the first place?" He mumbled to himself.

Then he remembered the ship. Being on it and then being swept away by a storm.

"Ahh, a storm… Yeah, that’s pretty terrible."

He didn’t question it at all.

He was floating around in the ocean when a huge needle-like something-or-other appeared.

It was an attack… 

"Haah!? What? Why’s there a needle in the ocean?" Ryner screamed internally. He flapped his arms around, trying to dodge, but because he was in water… he wouldn’t be able to get out of the way in time.

H-he’d really die!

The sharpness pricked his neck. Fresh blood gurgled out.

"Gyaah!"

He felt it, but the pain was faint at best.

"Mm. You’re finally awake. But you’re a massive annoyance, screaming in the middle of the night like this. Is it the sound of you transforming into a beast so that you can kidnap women and children?"

So said the impressively expressionless woman in front of him. She looked as unfriendly as they got… and about as beautiful as they got, too. She had long blonde hair and almond-shaped blue eyes. Her delicate limbs were holding a longsword that she was holding up to Ryner’s neck.

It was a familiar scene… 

Ryner sighed. "I understand my dream now…"

"Mm. It’s because I’m here. You must have had a wonderful dream where a purehearted angel appeared before you."

"…No, it was more like a dream straight from hell… Like, waves were attacking me… And a needle was flying at me…"

"It’s punishment for your daily sins."

"No, the needle was definitely because of you!"

"Heheh. If I’d stabbed you, you would’ve jumped right up."

"No, I’d be dead!"

Their current banter was taking place in a fairly large inn outside of a port town called Toyrule in the Iyet Republic. Somehow or other, they’d made it here after nearly dying in an ocean storm on the way. But they survived that harsh trial. 

They were both exhausted after that, so they found an inn, ate their fill, and then went straight to bed. 

"I’m begging you," Ryner said to the swordswoman whose sword was hovering against his neck, "Can you just let me have some peace and quiet? I’m really tired."

Ryner’s words were in vain. She ignored them entirely. "I’m also tired past my limit. Your beast self is overwhelming me, helpless as I am, and—"

Here Ferris shook her head as if in true despair.

"—cutting those sharks to pieces as they make passes at my life during the storm was rough."

"My sympathy goes out to those sharks. But anyway. Why’d you come into my room to put me in danger in the middle of the night? You’re way worse than the sharks."  

Ferris sheathed her sword, an almost troubled expression on her face. "There was a presence here a moment ago. You didn’t notice it?"

"Huh? What’re you talking about?"

"One of your friends appeared in my room."

"Friends? The hell?"

"Mm. It was a beast. An army of twenty lustful men came for me and my property. No matter how tired you may be, there’s no way that you didn’t feel it."

Ryner tapped his fist to his open palm. "Ah, okay. Burglars. I’d obviously notice something like that. But I don’t really care as long as they’re not after me—"

There was a flash of light. Ryner went silent for a moment.

"…Auuh… S-sorry, I was in the wrong. But burglars can’t do anything to you, right?"

Ferris thrust her sword at him. "What do you think a fragile beauty such as myself should do about it?"

Ryner didn’t even open his eyes all the way when the sword was thrust at him. "My sympathy goes to the burglars," he said, exhausted.

---

Ferris threatened Ryner, so he reluctantly got up to investigate her room. Just as expected, hell itself was waiting for him.

All twenty of the poor burglars were knocked out cold on the floor, courtesy of Ferris. Some had their heads pounded into the wall. One was halfway through the window, dangling in the breeze as he tried to avoid certain death… 

Ryner had the feeling that the man who’d welcomed them into the inn and the owner were also collapsed somewhere in this mess… Ryner didn’t really care, though, so he chose to ignore that thought entirely.

Ryner looked to the self-proclaimed fragile beauty. "So what exactly do you want me to say here?"

"Mm. My room is dirty now, so we need to switch."

"Haah? Why the hell do I have to trade rooms with you! I’m seriously gonna k… yes, of course I’ll trade with you so that I don’t die… I’m sorry…"

Ferris once again sheathed her sword. "Hm. I knew that you’d do that for me. You and all of your comrades in arm who’d attack a sleeping woman should be together."

"I’m definitely gonna kill you someday…"

One of the men who was laying on the floor shot a disparaging glance at them. "You’re underestimating us, you bastards… After all, heheh, this inn’s owned by the great thief Koch Krook… This place belongs to our gang. Our don was in Runa for business, but he’s back starting today. We normally wouldn’t have guests then, but you guys have some bad luck. That woman’s crazy beautiful, so we’re plannin’ to give her to him as tribute. Heheh. Resisting’s futile. Give it up and do what we say."

So he said, despite the fact that he was presently collapsed on the floor.

Ryner completely ignored his threat. "Sounds like there’s no other guests since the head’s coming back. Why not use an empty room then? Alright, you. Go make a bed for her."

"Oh, alright, I will… wait!" The burglar said, losing his composure. "Noo! Were you even listening to me? Our leader’s going to be back any minute now! He’s a thousand times stronger than we are! Only the strong rise to the top here. And there’s assassins, too… They’re all part of the strongest faction in Iyet. Heheh. Us meeting marks your end… Nothing will save you now. Kehehe. You can’t run. We’ll catch you no matter where you go." He was brimming with confidence.

It sounded like things were pretty bad. Even so, Ryner’s only reaction was to say the bare minimum to show the burglar that he was kind of sort of listening. "Oh, really? That’s cool. Super scary. But I’m kinda tired, so how about you go to your rooms?"

"Uh, weren’t you listening to me…?" 

This time, Ferris was the one who spoke. "I’ll go to sleep as well. If I don’t, I may accidentally send a head flying out of drowsiness."

"Whoa… Uh, time for bed then! Don’t want you saying anything else dangerous. Then don’t wake up!"

They didn’t seem to care in the slightest that the burglar’s leader was coming soon. 

The receptionist was dumbfounded. "D-do you guys even understand what’s going…"

"Cut the chatter and make that bed," Ryner interrupted. 

"Uuh… yes, sir, right away," the receptionist said. 

And so he hurried out of the room, sniffling with tears threatening to spill out from his eyes.

---

Going back a little to the early afternoon, a merchant ship docked at Toyrule’s harbor. 

In that moment, the harbor was full of life. It’d been dead for a while because the pirates had stopped marine traffic for the most part, but now that they were gone, everyone’s ships were sailing once more.

"We finally made it!" Milk Callaud said as she ran down the gangway, her flaxen ponytail waving and her big eyes shining. She was filled with youthful excitement, but despite everything, this sixteen year old was chief of a group of Roland’s Taboo Hunters.

"Oh, don’t run, Chief Milk! You might fall, so be careful!" Her oldest subordinate, Luke, said. Though he was the oldest, he was still only twenty-five. 

Two boys who were only a little older than Milk followed.

"Let’s go, Lach! We have to make sure that Chief Milk doesn’t fall!"

"Say that all you want, but I know that you’re the happiest one here to get off that ship. Ships and the little rooms in them make you claustrophobic!" Lach said, then leapt off the boat with his body that had become weak from spending the past two days holed up in the ship. Then he looked back at Luke. "I’ll go with to make sure that those two don’t get hurt, Luke!"

Luke nodded. He smiled, happy. "Please do."

"Of course."

And so the three ran off together.

Luke watched them go, then sighed to himself. "Still, in chasing that Taboo Breaker Ryner, we’ve ended up in the remote country of Iyet… It’s an enigma because it’s surrounded by the sea and mountains, cutting it off from the rest of the continent. No one really knows what’s going on inside of it."

Lear, who was much more cool-headed than the two boys who’d followed Milk off the ship, answered. "True. It’s said that this country was founded by criminals who’d escaped from other countries, so crime is extremely common."

"Mm-hm. Well, there’s no helping it now that we’re here. But what if Chief Milk is corrupted by this environment?"

"No, Chief Milk wouldn’t…"

"Yeah. Of course our chief wouldn’t become a delinquent… Even so, this is a terrible place for a child to grow up in. We should leave as soon as we can."

Just then—

"Ah! You!" Milk said. "I saw that! You aren’t supposed to steal people’s wallets! Right, Lach? Moe?"

"Yes, Chief. You’re right. You caught him red-handed."

"You’re an asset to society, Chief Milk!"

"Eheheh."

The criminal naturally had something to say about that. "Y-you assholes! You tryin’ to get in our way? You got some nerve!"

Luke and Lear exchanged a look.

"See? Chief Milk will be fine, even in an unlawful country like this," Luke said. "She’s a good kid, after all…"

"Still, this isn’t good. I heard that the police and security personnel don’t intervene in cases like this. What if the criminal is part of a larger criminal syndicate?"

"O-our chief’s in danger!"

With that, Luke and Lear ran down towards the harbor.

A dozen men quickly surrounded Milk, Moe, and Lach, and more were still coming. Apparently they’d all been on the same ship that Milk and her team had just come off of. 

"You’ve never been to Iyet before, have you, Missy? I can tell by the way you’re pickin’ a fight with us. You really have some nerve telling us off over a wallet."

"Huh? I have a lot of nerve? Is that a compliment?" Milk asked, as if she was completely misunderstanding the situation. 

Moe nodded. "Exactly, Chief! Everyone loves you no matter where you go!"

"You’ve got it wrong!" One of the men said. "You tryin’ to make a fool outta us!?"

"Huh? Huh? Huh?"

Lach took a step forward as if to protect Milk, then rose his voice. "We’ll make a fool out of anyone who upsets our chief. Right, Moe?"

Moe crossed his arms. "Right. Underestimate us and we’ll show you what pain feels like."

Moe braced himself, his intent to fight clear. 

The men lost their calm for a moment, but quickly recovered. "Aah? You brats tryin’ to look cool? We’re part of a gang of bandits that’ll do it all, from robbery to assassinations. You understand all that?"

Lach smiled confidently. "Haah? You saying that you’re gonna kill us? Stop bragging and get to work, then."

"Oh, that’s pretty cool, Lach," Moe said happily. Then he postured for a fight. "It fires me up. It’s been a while since we did something like this, hasn’t it?"

"Don’t look down on us! C’mon, guys, get ‘em!"

By then, twenty men were surrounding them. They all attacked at once.

Lear’s body dropped into position, his arms tensed and his stance wide. His limbs seemed small for a confident stance like that. "Hah!" 

He kicked out full force, then followed it by slamming his palm out. Four men went flying from the combination of his attacks.

Then two men tried to grab him from the side. He punched them both, knocking them out cold. It didn’t matter how they tried to attack him. He had far more power than his small body might imply.

Moe, on the other hand, was ridiculous. He was agile, and used that speed of his to toy with his opponents. "Whoa! Take that! Oh, that was dangerous! Heh, this is fun~♪ We haven’t fought this many enemies since we were on the battlefield." He moved back and forth freely, and his opponents could hardly follow the tricky way he fought. 

They hadn’t practiced in a while, but they still punched, kicked, hit, and dodged as if they were in top condition. The thieves dropped, one by one. It was like a storm was wracking through their little gang. A simple, innocent storm… 

"Tch, these guys are experienced fighters," one of the men said. "Call the boss! Call him and the rest of our leaders! We can’t take these guys ourselves!"

"Yeah!"

With that several of the men moved to return to the ship. 

"Hm? Their boss is coming? Let’s get him. It’ll be fu…"

"Geez… It won’t be fun. What are you guys doing?"

Someone moved, far calmer than the men they were righting. He reached his hand out towards Lach… and grabbed him by his head. 

"Huh?"

Lach tried to react by removing his arm with his hands, but instead of freeing himself, he was carelessly dropped to the ground.

"Wha!? He’s strong… Just who—?"

He looked up at the man who’d dropped him. He was pushing his hair back, a troubled look on his face… 

"Lear!? Why’d you…"

Before he could finish speaking, a tall man captured Moe with terrific speed. Of course, Moe had been moving amazingly fast himself, so it was quite the feat. 

Luke sighed. "This is what happens when we leave you two alone… I’m always telling you to have fun with Milk, but look at you, having fun without her…"

He shook his head like the teacher of a misbehaving student might. 

Moe and Lach exchanged a look that said it all - ‘oops,’ and then they stuck their tongues out at each other.

Then Luke turned to Milk. "You shouldn’t encourage them, Chief…"

At some point, she’d tied a headband around her forehead and a sash around her shoulder. She’d been whistling up a storm while waving a fan around. 

"What on earth are you wearing?" Luke asked.

"Huh? Oh, well, Lach and Moe were fighting the bad guys, and I thought I better cheer them on, and in the last town we were at, I also bought pink pom poms, and—"

"Ahh, it’s okay. I understand, but really… Where exactly were you keeping those things?" Luke asked and sighed. He quickly regained his cool. "More importantly, Chief. It doesn’t matter how bad those people might be - we’re here in Iyet for work, and that work has nothing to do with serving justice to the people here. You too, Lach, Moe. Do you understand?"

Lach and Moe groaned in unison. "Auh…" 

Then Milk, Lach, and Moe all spoke at once: "I’m sorry."

Luke sighed once more before smiling. "As long as you guys understand," he said with a nod.

Heartwarming, wasn’t it?

Well… aside from all of the evildoers collapsed around them.

But anyway.

Luke spoke. "Let’s leave before this situation gets too out of—"

But then men approached them.

"Hm?"

They pulled swords on him, without giving Luke any time to speak. But Luke dodged them with a small, swift move to the side. 

"Hmm… If you’re trying to be quiet, then attacking someone with a sword is a poor way to go about it," Luke said. He sized his opponents up with calm eyes. They each had fierce expressions on their faces, far more than the men from before; but even among them, there was an older man whose gaze was far sharper. 

The several men who’d run away to get help before Luke entered the fray were there, too. They pointed to Luke.

"Right here, Don Krook. These are the ones who we got into a brawl with, and—"

The don raised an eyebrow. "And you’re telling me that these young'uns fought better than you guys?"

"Uh, no, well, umm… But these guys are excessively strong…" 

Krook nodded. "Seems so. Just now, hm, are they army men? Yep, that’s strong alright. Hey, you, boy with the white hair. Are you the leader of this bunch?"

Luke sighed. "See, Lach? Moe? This is because of what you guys just did. I can tell that this man is as strong as I am just by looking at him…" 

"Ggh… He’s as strong as you are?"

"He might be hard to take on even with two of us…"

"Understood," Lear said. "Shall we pull back for now?"

Milk was dejected by seeing the look on Luke’s face. Her voice came out as a little sad. "Um, so, Luke…"

"Hm? What is it, Chief Milk? I’m a bit busy at the moment…"

Milk lowered her head. "Um, I really am sorry for earlier. I was being a bad kid."

"Huh? Er, no, there’s no need to hang your head like that, Chief Milk… D-don’t tell me that what I said earlier made you upset? N-no, that’s not it, okay? I wasn’t upset with you," Luke said. He sounded like someone who felt that he’d failed as her teacher.

Milk shook her head up until he stopped talking. "But, but, I’m the chief, so I think that I’m the one who needs to take charge when things get dangerous! So I’ll beat the don up!"

She said it so easily.

""Huh?"" 

All of Milk’s subordinates made the same shocked sound. They wanted to stop her, but they were too late. She was already pointing at the don.

"You can probably tell just by looking at me, but Luke’s not the chief - I am! So I’ll be your opponent. Let’s settle this, if you have the nerve to!"

The don’s eyes widened. "Haah? You’ve gotta be joking, little la—"

"Let’s do this!" Milk interrupted. She didn’t give him any room to argue. Instead, she leapt right at him. She was unquestionably faster than Moe. "There!"

She struck harder than Lach. Her single attack on Krook was strong enough to make the men surrounding him stumble. 

"Wh-what’s up with her!?"

"We n-need to protect the don!"

The five men who moved to attack Milk were no joke, but—

Their efforts were in vain. 

Lear put them to shame by striking their vitals one by one. Once they were all on the ground, he turned to face Krook. "Tch, don’t underestimate us. Very well. We’ll take you on…" 

"We won’t forgive evildoers!"

Wham!

Krook somehow managed to protect himself. 

"There! Smack, bam, boom!"

"Whoaaa!"

They traded attacks, but in the end… 

"Hiyaah!"

Milk’s kick connected with Krook’s head. It sent him flying. 

"Shit," Krook muttered from where he lay on the ground. "I can’t believe that little girl…" 

Milk lightly pressed a finger to Krook’s brow. "So, anyway, Mr. Don. The truth is that I’m actually better at fighting with magic. If you want to keep going, then I’ll end up casting a few spells… So I’m kind of thinking that I’d like you to surrender now. Okay?"

Krook’s face warped with shock. "I-impossible… I can’t believe that you guys know magic on top of everything… Keh, hahaha. Ah, well. It’s my loss. Very well. From now on, you’ll be the don of the Krook Gang. It’s been sixty years that my grandfather owned this port… The strong rise to the top. That’s the single principle that I’ve lived by my whole life. Everyone, this girl will be the don from today forward. Call her ‘Dona!’"

""Aye! Pleasure to work with you, Dona!""

"Huh? Um, so that means that you won’t do bad things anymore, right?"

""As long as you don’t want us to!""

"Wow, how admirable! So you guys were good people all along!"

Lear watched Milk and the bandits’ exchange with a cool expression on his face. "I didn’t expect this outcome… She tamed the bandits like it was nothing. You can’t find this level of appeal anywhere else."

"I knew you could do it, Chief!" Moe said with shining eyes.

Luke’s smile was none other than the smile of a proud father. "Yeah. I’ve raised her well."

No, not really… 

But anyway.

"Donna, please stay the night at my inn," Krook said. "We’ll celebrate your victory. Our chef’s great, too."

"Huh? Really? Do you have candy too?"

"Of course."

"Yaay! ♪"

Milk was too cute. The bandits’ faces all broke out in smiles. "Our dona’s adorable."

"We have to protect her with our lives."

Lach was indignant. "Hey, the chief’s ours!"

And so Milk was surrounded by her subordinates - er, rather, surrounded by her great big gang of bandits, who welcomed her with open arms…

---

Anyway, back to that night.

Ryner was having another nightmare.

A massive needle moved to attack him… 

"…Not this again," Ryner muttered. He had exactly zero motivation to deal with this for a second time. If he opened his eyes even a little bit, he was sure that he’d be staring at Ferris’ sword a second time, too… 

Ryner sighed, lamenting his reality. "So what is it this time?"

"Mm. I was thinking that we should make the final blow on those dangerous beasts before they wake up."

"I’m seriously gonna fucking k…"

"Jokes aside, they’re here. The head of the bandits and their men. There are more than I’d imagined."

"Whaat?" Ryner’s eyes narrowed, then flicked to the door. "Oh, you’re right. They’re not bad at concealing their presences. There’s a few in particular that are really good at it. They’re not perfect, though. Are those the contracted assassins that the receptionist was talking about? They seem pretty strong."

Ferris nodded. "It’d be a pain to fight them in a small space like this."

"No, I think it’d be pretty easy for you…"

Ferris tilted her head. She suddenly looked sad. "Unfortunately, I am unable to fight as their opponent right now. So I’m counting on you."

"Haah?"

"Sorry. You’re the only one I can count on."

"…Wha? What’s that supposed to me. Are you not feeling good or something?"

"I’m tired." She said it so easily.

For a moment, Ryner was at a loss for words. Then, after a long moment, he finally made a small sound. "Huh?"

"Did you not hear me? I’m tired, so I don’t want to do it. You do it."

"…And you think I’m not tired?" 

"I don’t care."

"Ugh… I’m seriously gonna kill you… God, I’m even more done with you than usual! I’m tired too! And it’s giving me a short temper!"

"Mm. Don’t think that your sleepiness can win over mine," Ferris said.

"Uh, no, I’m definitely more tired than you are."

"Hmph. A normal person—" 

"Ugghhhh, just shut up!"

Eventually, their mutual stubbornness reached its peak.

""Fight!""

Ryner moved to draw a magic circle. Ferris unsheathed her sword.

And then, at the worst time imaginable, the door opened.

A well-built older man and the other bandits that the receptionist mentioned stepped into the room.

"Heheh. Time to pay the piper. Get ready!"

"Hm. Are these the ruffians who’re trying to take the inn over? I, Koch Krook, will—"

He never got the chance to finish what he was saying.

"I wish for thunder - Lightning Flash!"

Ryner’s spell exploded in the small room.

"Gyaaah!"It sent Krook and the receptionist flying.

Ferris skillfully avoided Ryner’s attack, her sword flashing once, then twice. That was enough for her to slice through the room’s ceiling and walls, leaving it to crumble. Someone screamed, but they were in the middle of a life-or-death battle, so they didn’t really pay attention to it. 

Ryner’s eyes followed the beautiful demon. "You’re actually trying to cut me up, aren’t you?"

"I’d be doing women everywhere a favor by getting rid of a sex fiend like you."

"Ah, that again. Get over here, then," Ryner said as he began a second, massive magic circle. 

Ferris, meanwhile, was still slicing her sword wherever she pleased. The room was being sliced up as though it was paper. That coupled with the fire, lightning, and explosions meant that it was being absolutely destroyed.

And amidst all of that destruction… 

"Our inn… Our i-inn… Our base is… ah, Dona! These guys are crazy. Please do something!"

"Huh? What, what? Aaahhhhhh Ryneeeeerrr! I~found~youuuuu~! And I won’t let you get away this time! Luke, Lach, Moe, Lear! Ryner’s been having fun with this pretty girl here and cheating on me! I’m gonna capture him, so cover me, okay! I wish for thunder—"

"Chief Milk! Why are you using that spell in a small room like—"

"D-Dona’s with them, huh…"

Crrraaaaash!

"Gyaaah!" The bandits shrieked.

"Oh! Luke, what do we do? The floor just brooookkeee!"

"Whoa?! You’re kidding… Th-the chief fell!? Lach, Moe, Lear, I’m going to go save her!"

"O-okay!"

But as they flurried about, a lethal sound echoed through the inn.

Such was the end of a glorious 180 year old inn.

---

It was a moonlit night, and a beautiful one at that.

The breeze was playing with a beautiful woman’s silky blonde hair. She was standing atop ruins. Atop destruction.

She was joined by a tired, slouching man with dark hair.

"It’s about time that we settle this," the beauty said, her face devoid of expression.

"Yeah."

There was a serious atmosphere between them. 

There, within the rubble… was something that both of them had fervently protected. Though they’d both protected it, only one of them could have it. 

"I’m doubtful," the man said.

The beauty’s face didn’t betray her feelings. "But betrayal is the truth of this world."

A gust of wind blew between them.

Then they began to move.

"I wish for—"

"Mm."

Their match was made in a moment - all it took was for them to cross past each other a single time.

"I knew it," the woman said. "Beautiful things always win. It’s the truth of this world…" 

"Can it!" The man yelled, then collapsed on himself. "Uuh, shit… I lost again…"

Then his breathing turned to that of sleep.

"Fool," the woman whispered as she sheathed her sword. Then she turned around. There it was - the thing that she’d risked her life to protect. Her eyes narrowed. "Finally…"

She combed a hand through her bangs, brushed the dirt off of herself, and approached it.

---

The following morning had Luke staring into the ruins, Milk unconscious in his arms. The ruins were made up of the bandit’s inn, or more specifically, a scene from hell. The bandits themselves were amongst the rubble, agony written into their faces. If Milk hadn’t fallen through the hole in the floor, there was no doubt in Luke’s mind that they would have met the same fate as the bandits… 

Luke’s subordinates were staring at the destruction, too.

"Hunting taboo breakers really is hard work…" 

Luke nodded with a heavy heart. 

To top everything up, there was something odd in the rubble and dust: a pristine bed, completely untouched by everything that had gone down last night. A peerless beauty slept on it, her small, sleeping breaths as cute as could be… 

It was almost as though she was an angel sent to save the world from destruction… or perhaps she was a demon who was merely poised as an angel.

But Luke and the others knew of her true form.

"A-alright. We’re running from the Taboo Breakers before the chief wakes up."

"But wh-where are we going?"

"Somewhere where they aren’t. Hurry!"

"Yes, sir!" All of the subordinates said.

Just to be clear, catching taboo breakers was their job. Did they understand that, though?

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