The fourth round of the battle against the demons was already in full swing.
It was long past lunchtime, and the only thing distributed had been crumbly hardtack. If they were going to give out hard, dry bread like this, they should at least have given us soup to dip it in.
But the soldier in charge of distributing the supplies had only handed over the bread and quickly disappeared. Still, I couldn't leave my post, so I wouldn’t have been able to eat lunch if he hadn't come here to Warehouse 3 to deliver it.
In between scuffles with magicians who came to receive mana stones from Warehouse 3, I controlled the chirps to help wipe out the demons. As a result, the number of magicians coming for mana stones decreased significantly, and thus my work decreased. I felt as if I were controlling dozens of drones at once as I hunted demons with the chirps and scouted the area at the same time.
It was honestly a lot of effort and took a lot of time, because people mistook the chirps for demons and attacked them. Still, it was more comfortable than arguing with magicians who were on edge.
I saw that there was only one more group of demons coming to Warrant. In this situation, it seemed all the battles would be over before dinner.
When a good number of demons had been cleaned up, I began to retrieve the chirps, but suddenly felt a strong pulse of mana from far away. Instead, I sent the chirps I’d been recalling to investigate the source of the mana.
I hope it's not anything bothersome.
* * *
As Dane Walker flew through the air, he coughed up blood due to the backflow caused by excessive use of mana. "Uaack!"
"Are you all right?!" A magician, who was temporarily acting as the aide-de-camp, grabbed the falling Dane Walker and helped him up.
Dane Walker smiled bitterly as he wiped his bloody mouth with his sleeve. "Hahaha, it's killing me. I used a domain proclamation I’m not even good at."
The interim aide-de-camp shook his head as he saw Dane Walker's self-deprecating smile. "No, if it weren’t for Dane Walker-nim’s domain proclamation, we wouldn't have been able to buy this much time. It was a power so astonishing, it deserved to be called the magic of legend." No one there could refute his words.
Dane Walker's domain proclamation had created a space where lightning struck everywhere, as if it were the inside of a thundercloud, and reduced everything within ashes.
The magicians of the magician corps, including the interim aide-de-camp, had shuddered, saying that a domain proclamation wasn’t called the final and strongest magic of a magician for nothing.
However, Dane Walker, who was on the receiving end of the magician’s appreciation, shook his head with a troubled expression. "No, I'd say this was a failure."
The interim aide-de-camp was shocked. "The magic that created this spectacle was a failure?"
No matter where one looked, the entire area was covered in ash. The ground formerly covered in dry brown grass, and the mountain formerly covered in green coniferous trees, had turned black. Only the smell of smoke remained in the air.
Despite the incredulous look of the interim aide-de-camp, Dane Walker said calmly, "Yes, it was a failure."
Domain proclamation was a type of magic that created a controlled environment for the magician to work in. It wasn’t unreasonable to say that it had been a failure, because he had suffered internal injuries to the point of being unable to control his own body despite having been inside his own personal space.
Dane Walker’s breath was labored, and his persistent coughs kept bringing forth blood. "Haaa, haaa. Most of all, that monster doesn't seem to have taken any damage," he said, breathing roughly.
The interim aide-de-camp looked at the great demon in surprise. He looked up at the huge mass to the point that his neck hurt, shouting, "Kuooooooh!” However, his shout was drowned out by the great demon’s cries and went unheard.
With the demon’s cries reverberating through their bodies, the Red Dragon Knights and the magician corps summoned their mana to steady themselves in the air as they surrounded the great demon. Nevertheless, some of them were caught by the sound waves and blown away.
"There, there's no way you can beat this," someone murmured with a voice full of despair.
Dane Walker didn't hear the murmur, but it was easy to notice that everyone here had grown despondent. "We’re retreating," he said simply.
"What?" The interim aide-de-camp was surprised. It had only been a short time since they had received their orders. Although the great demon had moved much faster than expected, they had a responsibility to carry out their mission of delaying it as much as possible.
Dane Walker let out an exhausted breath and gave the aide-de-camp a signal flare. "We’re retreating. You already know that anything more is impossible. Everyone's been out of stamina and mana for a long time, and morale is at its worst. Rather than die a dog’s death like this, it's better to join the main unit and fight again after regrouping."
Seeing Dane Walker's determination, the interim aide-de-camp injected mana into the signal flare and shot it into the sky. It quickly flew up high and burst into a white flash. He infused his voice with mana and shouted, "All troops! Retreat!"
The Red Dragon Knights and the Magician Corps, who had been surrounding the great demon, flew away in unison to retreat upon hearing the interim aide-de-camp. Their doubts about retreating before completing the mission had been replaced by fear, and no one objected.
However, it wasn’t that easy to escape. Despite the great demon’s huge body and large, ponderous strides, it actually moved much more quickly than it appeared to.
Dane Walker felt conflicted about whether he would have to sacrifice some troops to delay it. But then, he decided that rather than being stunned and wiped out here, perhaps it would be better for the many to survive at the expense of the few.
He quickly steeled his resolve and moved away from the interim aide-de-camp, who was still helping him. "Go ahead. I'll join you later after delaying it."
If someone had to be sacrificed, it should be the one to make the decision. That was Dane Walker’s principle and the mindset he had learned from Glont, the person he looked up to.
"What are you talking about?!" the interim aide-de-camp shouted, flustered. To stay and try to delay the demon at this point was tantamount to choosing death.
"If we stay in this situation, we'll all die. Command of the Magician Corps will be handed over to you. Retreat with the Red Dragon Knights."
"What are you going to do alone?! Didn't you overdo it and receive a major wound?!”
Dane Walker smiled pleasantly at the interim aide-de-camp's attempt to dissuade him. "I’m a madosa. I won’t die easily. With only this much injury... I’ll just push a little more and rest in bed for a few months."
The interim aide-de-camp knew that he was bluffing. Still, beyond the smile, he saw Dane Walker’s eyes filled with determination, and couldn’t just tell him to stop. Instead, he said, "I'll stay, too. One platoon, including me, would buy us more time."
"That’s an order. Retreat," Dane Walker said firmly.
The aide-de-camp shook his head. "No, I'm not obligated to listen to your orders now that you’ve handed over the position to me. First platoon!"
"We will stay and fight to stall for time! Second platoon leader, lead the retreat!"
At the newly promoted interim leader’s command, the first platoon stopped flying and turned around. Then he said to Dane Walker, "Let's do our best, ahjussi. Oh, since you’re not the commander anymore, I can call you ahjussi, right?"
"Of course. Every man in the squad is an ahjussi."
"Aren’t you also an ahjussi associated with the adventurer's reserve force, not the Magician Corps?"
"Iyaa, I’m not just an ahjussi in the squad, but rather in the whole corps. Hahaha."
The interim leader checked on the retreating subordinates and smiled at Dane Walker. "These are the kind of men they are. Are you offended?"
"No... It’s reassuring." Dane Walker smiled and forced his mana beyond the limit. "When we get back to the capital, I'll buy you a cold beer."
* * *
For the first time in a while, I flew at full speed. "You damn ahjussi! Why are you saying you’re going to stay there?"
I’d felt an unusual pulse of mana, so I’d sent a chirp toward it. Over there, magicians in imperial uniforms and Red Dragon Knights were fighting against the Turtle Carrying a Mountain, a massive demon the size of Mt. Hanra.
The problem was that there was a certain Dane Walker among them… No, I would have just overlooked it if he was simply among them, but this ahjussi had volunteered to remain there. It would have been different if his condition had been normal, but it was frustrating to hear him say that while throwing up blood.
Actually, I'd only known Dane Walker for about three weeks, so I felt like a pushover going to save him. Tch, it seemed I’d become a pushover myself from hanging out with Lisbon.
Still, there was nothing more uncomfortable than a person I knew dying in a situation where I could have saved him.
Even though I’d arrived quickly, the scene was already disastrous. The forest had been burned down and blackened, and the corpses of dragons were scattered on the ground. If I remembered clearly, those were the dragons of the Red Dragon Knights that had been marching in Asterium.
Fortunately, human bodies weren’t visible, but I didn’t know whether they had just been retrieved in the retreat, or if they’d really miraculously survived.
I prayed for the latter if possible, and launched the magic I had been preparing on the way to the turtle. "Lightning that races across the sky!"
The turtle cried angrily when faced with a beam and thousands of magic bullets. "Kuaaao!"
Was a turtle supposed to cry like that? Well, turtles weren't usually that big, so never mind.
"Ooooh, did that hurt a lot? But considering all that, you seem fine…?" I muttered.
Only a single peak on the mountain it was carrying had collapsed, but the turtle didn't seem to have taken much damage. It didn’t seem to be called a great demon for no reason.
"Try taking this too! Divine punishment!" I cried. White lightning poured out of my magic wand, scorching the turtle's whole body. The trees growing on its mountain began to burn from my white lightning. However, the turtle's mana quickly put it out.
I kept scorching it with lightning and shouted at the magicians, who looked like a mess while fighting a battle for time. "What are you doing not escaping!?"
My roar caused Dane Walker to vomit blood and ask, "Who, who are you?!"
It would be normal for a madosa to see through the perception-disrupting magic and recognize me as the person from the ruins, but Dane Walker didn’t recognize me. He seemed to have squeezed out all his mana, right up to the brink of death.
"Is that important right now? Can't you judge the situation?” I asked.
The magician who was helping Dane Walker looked surprised and said, "I don't know who you are, but thank you. I won't forget this favor."
Dane Walker, aided by the magicians, began to retreat towards Warrant.
"Kuoooooo!” The turtle got angry and cried out as it emitted mana.
"Oh, maybe I shouldn't have stepped up?" I mused.
No matter how hard I looked at that turtle, it didn't look weak enough for me to catch it alone. In cases like these, running away was always the answer.Previous Chapter Next Chapter