Fifteen days before Lotten's ruins completely collapsed...
"Keuaaahh!" A rabbit shaped demon three times the size of a human being screamed in agony.
Gawain leapt up and sliced open the giant rabbit's throat, avoiding the resulting fountain of blood. He checked his sword, making sure not a drop of blood remained on it, and jumped right into the large group of rabbits ahead of him.
Mirpa shouted at Gawain, who was slashing wildly at the giant rabbits in front of him. "You punk! I told you not to hack apart the precious catalysts!"
Gawain shrunk back at Mirpa's roar, and started stabbing the rabbits in their weak points to minimize the damage done to them.
"Yes, just like that! You should have hunted that way from the start."
"Haha, I'm sorry!"
Mirpa applauded, praising Gawain's quick and concise moves. "You’re different from when you first came to the demon territory."
Gawain was embarrassed by Mirpa's praise, even as he killed three giant rabbits in one stab each. "No, I still have a long way to go."
"No, even that old man Weger would be surprised. At first, even a magician like me could tell you were no good." Mirpa was also a Crow, so she knew some martial arts and was stronger than the average young Crow. In her view, Gawain's moves were completely different from the first time he’d fought a rhino demon. At the time, he’d broken his sword and felt awful about it.
"That- that's because I was still used to working with Mac back then, but I'm usually this good!" Gawain’s embarrassment was only growing.
Mirpa burst into laughter as Gawain slit the throats of five giant rabbits. He’d always received long range support from Mac, so it had to have been hard when that support suddenly disappeared.
"By the way, there are just too many demons gathering here,” Mirpa muttered as she fired thousands of magic bullets from her wand. Her magic annihilated the hundreds of giant rabbits that were rushing into the area.
Gawain looked at Mirpa, in awe at the scene. Even though he was used to fighting alone now, he was still a long way from killing hundreds of demons in a single blow. "Don’t they normally swarm like this?” he asked.
Mirpa put the demon corpses in her pocket space and answered, "They weren’t like this before, at least not when I was last in the demon territory."
In the past, Mirpa had visited the demon territory six times in total. One of those times had been not even thirty years after the Demon King’s death, before the territory had stabilized. The fact that the demons were now swarming toward the border of the capital was clearly strange. It was reminiscent of that confusing period, when the demon territory hadn’t been stabilized and its borders hadn’t been completely defined yet.
She could feel the fear in the giant rabbits, as if they were herbivores running away from scary predators.
"Then, doesn’t that mean there’s a problem?" Gawain asked with a worried expression.
Mirpa shrugged and laughed. "Well, whatever. That Doomstone guy is still here."
Upon hearing Mirpa's words, Gawain nodded, smiling without a trace of anxiety on his face. "I see. It’s true; there’s no reason to worry with my father present."
Never in their wildest dreams would they have considered that in about ten days, they would be sending a letter to the capital in William’s stead, requesting reinforcements via a messenger falcon.
* * *
Flam looked at the deep pile of collapsed stones with a look of admiration. "So, you’re saying the pile of stones in that deep cavity used to be the ruins the adventurers were going crazy for?"
I nodded at Flam. "That’s right. It's completely collapsed."
Flam and I were examining the collapsed ruins at the Lotten branch director’s order, to get a better grasp of the situation. What we found out was that the adventurers who had dreamt of making a fortune in the ruins had become like dogs chasing chickens.
Well, it isn’t my fault.
With my mind at peace, I appreciated the pile of stone that used to be the ruins. Setting aside the relics inside the ruins, the murals painted throughout the labyrinth and the records inscribed in the ancient language had been of immense archaeological value, so it was regrettable.
It's all because of that stupid curse magician disguised as a court magician, so let's curse at him instead.
Dane Walker was looking at the cavity with a troubled expression. I smiled and said, “It’s too bad. I know you were looking forward to it in the hope that the ruins might have contained some of the lost Holy tribe’s magic.”
He must have been tired from fighting on the border of life and death yesterday, but he followed us as an escort, as if nothing had happened. The director of the branch had probably sent us to the collapsed ruins knowing that Dane Walker would follow us.
Dane Walker was a little flustered as he spoke, feigning ignorance. "Huh? Uh, yeah. That's too bad...”
He was a man who couldn't lie. It hasn’t been long since he had crossed the wall and become a madosa, so he seemed to be poor at controlling his strength. He seemed to be in control on the surface, but his mana was leaking constantly. It was as if he were bragging, saying, ‘I’ve become a madosa!’
Well, it was a good enough achievement to brag about.
It would probably be a few more days before he could fully control his strength. I’d also had a hard time when I had just crossed the wall, because I couldn't control my mana.
In my hometown, people took it as a sign of wanting to spar if one suddenly erupted with martial aura or mana. Thanks to that, I’d been half forced to fight against most of the others back home.
I’d really thought I was going to die, because people had kept shouting "Let’s spar!" whenever I made eye contact. It had been as if a champion were constantly being challenged by a bunch of little children in the street.
Why did I have to have been born in a battle crazy place like that and gone through all these hardships…?
The most unfair thing at the time was that all the fighters had called me a true battle maniac who would fight against anyone. Just who was calling someone a battle maniac, anyway? Suddenly, the peace I had now felt so precious.
"Honestly, I shouldn't be thinking like this, but I'm relieved the ruins have collapsed,” Flam said quietly with an embarrassed expression.
I replied, “I agree! If the ruins hadn't collapsed, we probably would have worked overtime for another week.” It was terrible just thinking about it. Maybe I would have moved the magic stone myself later, even if the curse magician hadn't touched it.
Flam pondered for a bit and asked excitedly, "Then, isn't overtime over after today?"
I answered with a shrug, "Perhaps... Don’t you think we’ll still work overtime until tomorrow?”
Flam clearly looked disappointed at my answer and asked, sounding dispirited, "How come? I don't want to work that awful overtime anymore!"
"Me neither, but I'm sure we’ll have to, as long as the adventurers who don't want to believe that the ruins have collapsed keep loitering around here."
As he heard my words, Dane Walker apologized with a regretful expression. “As an adventurer, I’m sorry.”
Flam shook his head at Dane Walker's apology. "No, you're not the one who's being stubborn. How can you be the one to apologize?"
Then, someone appeared from behind and said, "That’s right. There’s no need for you to be sorry." It was the old man with a long white beard, who had entered the ruins with Dane Walker last night.
I hadn't realized it because I had been so busy trying to find my way out of the labyrinth, but this old man was a madosa.
"Director Kermin! Are you feeling alright?" I remembered that he’d been stabbed in the back, and Uncle Bloody's subordinate, Molk, had had to carry him out.
"Hahaha! I’m okay. I’m already this old; how can I afford to be ill too? You should take good care of your health now. That way, you'll be healthy even when you're old like me."
What do you mean healthy? You were suffering from a curse of weakness that was placed on the wound!
If I hadn't dispelled the curse when I handed over Dane Walker, he would have been suffering in bed for days.
"I'm glad that you’re feeling healthy." Dane Walker breathed a sigh of relief at Kermin’s hearty appearance.
Still, madosas seemed to have great powers of recovery. Even without the curse, it had been a pretty big wound, but he was already up and about. This old man was very energetic for his age.
"Who are these friends?" Kermin asked while looking at Flam and me.
Dane Walker introduced us. "These are the civil servants I'm escorting this time."
"Oh, those civil servants. Nice to meet you."
I could roughly guess the situation from Kermin’s gaze.
Dane Walker had probably been asked by Guild Director Glont to investigate or even to take some artifacts from the ruins, under the pretext of being our escort. Was Kermin the one he’d been asked to cooperate with?
That had to be it. There was no way Director Glont would just casually send a platinum plate adventurer as an escort for civil servants.
What had Dane Walker’s goal been? Was it the magic stone in the center of the ruins, like Malecia, or some other artifacts? Or was it the records from five hundred years ago, scattered across the labyrinth? My guess was that it had been the former.
After shaking hands with Flam and me, Kermin briefly walked away, taking Dane Walker with him.
"How should I say it... He’s a very energetic old man," Flam remarked.
I nodded at Flam’s sentiment. "I know."
They were whispering quietly a good distance from us, but unfortunately, my ears were better than those of others.
Dane Walker and Kermin discussed their concerns about what to do because things had gone awry, and why Malecia had come to the ruins with his subordinates... and then they talked about who the mysterious person in the white half-mask was.
I was busy eavesdropping on the conversation between Dane Walker and Kermin when a big man in an adventurer's guild uniform ran over, shouting something.
"Dano is coming this way," I said.
As I spoke, Flam looked around and saw a man in a black uniform approaching from afar. "Is that Dano? Your eyes must be really good to be able to recognize people from this distance."
"Eh, Flam, you’re just getting old.”
“Ehh, it's not that bad, though! My eyes are on the good side too.”
Flam and I chuckled at my joke. Before I knew it, Dano had crossed the long distance and was breathing heavily.
"Here, drink some water,” I said, handing him a bottle of water.
"Huuk, huuk! Thank you." Dano accepted the bottle and downed its contents, letting out a deep breath. "Hoo-ha! Damn, I've gotten out of shape from only doing paperwork in the office."
Despite his words, his muscular body was easily discernible even through his thick uniform.
Between Flam and Dano, it felt as if I’d become a small child, even though I was pretty tall compared to others my age.
"Why are you in such a rush?" Flam asked.
I also nodded and looked at Dano. Why was the guy who should have been getting slammed with work by adventurers over here?
Dano took two documents out of a chest pocket and handed them to Flam and me. "This is a return order from headquarters. We’re heading back immediately."
Flam rejoiced at Dano’s announcement. "Oh, we don't have to work overtime!?"
Still, the name of the official document in my hand was strange.
Dano smiled bitterly at Flam's reaction and replied, "Yes - starting now, we‘ll be soldiers heading to the demon territory as military officers in the reserve forces, under the banner of the adventurer’s guild."
The document had been labeled ‘Military Order.’Previous Chapter Next Chapter