Chapter 42: Prelude
We advanced further, and when several tens of minutes had passed—-
“…… Are you okay?”
Halfway through, Fiona stopped and looked down.
She was breathing with her hands on her neck and chest. Ren couldn’t tell what was wrong, but she looked terribly ill and was breathing repeatedly.
“I’m sorry. Maybe I’m just a little tired.”
She smiled bravely, but there were large drops of sweat on her forehead.
In fact, she herself thought the change in her physical condition was due to fatigue and could offer no further explanation.
She soon calmed down, even at that and tried to regain her composure and start walking.
That’s when it happened.
Ren stopped Fiona by extending his arm in front of her.
Standing there to protect Fiona, he stared intently at the trees growing in front of their sight.
Then, shortly afterwards.
“—- You two! You had us worried!
From behind a tree with snow on its branches, the werewolf …… Maidas appeared.
But Ren’s voice was hard and had a sense of caution in it.
Maidas, on the other hand, didn’t care. He approached Ren and Fiona with a look of sincere relief on his face.
But when he takes one step closer, Ren takes one step backwards.
He kept his distance, keeping his eyes on Maidas while trying to protect Fiona.
“What’s wrong all of a sudden?”
“Do I have to tell you why?”
“…..What are you talking about? Could it be that the rescue was delayed because of me and you’re thinking about it? If that’s the case, I’m truly sorry—-“
Before Maidas could finish, he was eating his words.
“How did you manage to get yourself a convenient merchant?”
Maidas paused and shrugged his shoulders in contemplation.
“I’m impressed. It seems that you’re a lot more clever than I imagined.”
“So the merchant is your collaborator, too?”
Maidas continued in a good mood, exposing his white canine teeth.
“It’s just a coincidence. The merchant happened to be looking for materials for a certain monster. When I found out, I contacted him and told him that the Adventurers’ Guild in Clausel had it.”
Ren, who had suspected a connection, spoke up immediately.
“—- You’re talking about the material of the steel-eating gargoyle, right?”
“This is interesting. How did you know?”
“How could I not know? You’ve confessed to it when you showed up like this.”
It’s very obvious.
“The steel-eating gargoyle was predicted to have changed residence because it ran out of food…… but you set it up so that the monster would come to the eastern forest, didn’t you?”
“Fufu, you are right.”
“The only reason you didn’t go to the Adventurer’s Guild yourself is because you wanted to watch and observe how well I could fight.”
“Hmm? No, you’re mistaken about that part.”
“Yes, that’s right. I had prepared the steel-eating gargoyles to kill you. I knew it was their turn.”
Apparently, Maidas is unaware of Ren’s battle with Jerukku. So he decided that two steel-eating gargoyles would be enough to do away with Ren.
Even though Ren had defeated Thief Wolfen single-handedly in the past.
“But you surprised me. I can’t tell you how many times I was angry at you back then because we had to modify our plan all over again….”
“Then why didn’t you just attack me from behind when I was fighting the steel eating gargoyles? Would have made your work easier.”
“Of course, I thought about that. But back then, there was a strange woman observing the fight too at that time. You see, she was dressed in luxurious vestments.”
“As far as I was concerned, I thought she was your escort sent by Marquis Ignat, or something. In the end I never found out who she was, but if she wasn’t, I should have put my hand on her then.”
He seemed to be on the lookout for an opportunity to sound off and take Ren’s life.
(That’s why he got me to come here, too.)
The steel-eating gargoyle material and the presence of the merchant who wanted it meshed well. Maidas used this information, as he himself had mentioned.
In order to take Ren’s life together with Fiona, who would be aiming for something else.
“So, you didn’t expect what happened on the suspension bridge, did you?”
“You’re right about that. How did you do it? That’s what made it so hard for us to find you.”
Well, I don’t know, Ren fearlessly shrugged his shoulders.
Maidas was also unaware of Fiona’s power. Thanks to him, we know one thing for sure.
(The current situation in the Baldor Mountains is not what Maidas had in mind.)
His goal was to take the lives of both Ren and Fiona.
He himself doesn’t seem to have the power to work on the dormant volcano in the Baldor Mountains and create an even more vicious column of fire.
In other words, there is a different mastermind than Maidas himself.
“It’s just like you said, adventurer-san, about them showing up along the way.”
“Yes. Be on your guard so that you can be ready for a fight at any moment.”
Before leaving for the day, Ren spoke to Fiona and told her to be on the lookout for Maidas and the others.
Therefore, Fiona was prepared for a fight.
Ren drew his iron magic sword and readied it.
Seeing Maidas approaching again, he put strength into his hand that held the iron sword.
“What happened to your partner? Is he still down?”
It was right after Ren asked.
Suddenly, from behind Ren the others showed up.
“Thanks for worrying about me.”
As soon as he noticed Kai emerging from the shadows, Ren changed his angle while protecting Fiona.
Kai then turned to Fiona and said.
“……By the way, the woman there. I don’t forgive my body for getting weird when I approached you, but that and the fact that you nursed me back to health made me curious about your power.”
「Tsu—so you too! 」
(As expected. So, the reason those guys were down was because of her.)
The only thing that Ren knows about Fiona’s power is that it can affect other people’s magic as well. In Kai’s terms, it was Fiona’s presence that caused him to contract that condition.
Of course, the same goes for the adventurers and merchants around her.
“I see. So you were trying to kill her before we got here.”
“That’s what happened. But somehow the power in my body was affected by her and I went crazy. That’s why I suddenly collapsed. —-“
“So now you were going to join up with Maidas and come after me?”
“Wow…… you really are a smart guy, aren’t you?”
—- But the story up to this point lacks the reason that Ren felt.
The reason for the attempt on Fiona’s life is unclear, and, let’s face it, it’s only with reference to the knowledge he had at the time of the game.
But Ren had other information at hand.
Rather, it was more meaningful to him, and contributed greatly to the prediction of the next development.
『Even so――――I guess it’s the heroic faction after all』
These are the words Ren muttered before leaving the fort.
Fiona said “No” to that and gave her reasons.
Naturally, it’s unlikely that the royalist faction would target Fiona. Even if there was a political dispute within the royalist faction, it would be too suicidal.
Then who and for what purpose?
When I thought about these questions, the knowledge that I had acquired before finally came in handy.
(Unlike the game, Fiona Ignat was alive, and there was a perfect situation to target her, and then I stepped in and changed things.)
Ren can also anticipate the significance of the target on himself.
By taking his life, they can have a great impact on Baron Clausel and Licia. It wouldn’t be surprising, for example, if these two become like Marquis Ignat in Legend of the Seven Heroes I.
Because that would eventually change Leomel’s fate drastically.
In other words.
(If this happens, it’s as good as knowing who these guys are.)
Kai drew his sword at the edge of Ren’s eyebrow-raised vision and said bluntly.
“So there’s a change of plans. We need to see what Fiona Ignat can do. —-“
Kai drew his sword and was about to attack Ren. Maidas also had his sword in one hand and his staff in the other.
But they both stopped moving.
Ren spoke up once more, hoping to get an answer to all his expectations.
“You guys have the mark of the Demon Lord’s cult engraved on your bodies. The power related to the Demon King has gone out of control because of her influence, and the magic of the people around her has gone out of control as well.”
As Ren said this, and both Kai and Maidas were at a loss for words at the same time.
I knew it, Ren nodded.
(The reason Maidas’s physical condition didn’t change is that he was wearing equipment that was highly resistant to magic.)
By the way, I can imagine that Kai is safe now because he changed his equipment.
(It’s the first time I’ve said that since I became Ren.)
Up until now, he had used words such as “plotting to revive the Demon King” and similar phrases.
This was probably because Ren himself didn’t want to say too much, unconsciously avoiding the deepening of the relationship between them as if it were a figure of speech.
“Hey, adventurer-san! That’s….!”
“I’ve only heard rumors about….. but that seems to be the case.”
The explanation to Fiona was vague.
“Rumors…. That kind of light content ……!”
“I’m sorry. Things have come up and I just couldn’t resist checking it out.”
To be honest, I wondered whether I should refrain from saying what I had just said.
If all I want to do is to show off my knowledge and feel good about surprising them, I should avoid it.
But for Ren, he couldn’t help but investigate who was causing such a commotion and for what purpose.
All in order to think about how he should behave himself for the future.
“Oh. It’s not just the girl. We’re gonna have to bring them both back.”
It’s going to be a fight anyway.
They wielded their power against Ren and Fiona, and they both resisted.
The confirmation of what they had just said wouldn’t have much of an effect.
“Don’t kill them, Kai.”
“I’ll take care of it. —- Let’s go!”
Kai stepped in vigorously and pointed his sword at Ren.
Naturally, Ren was also ready to counter it.
But you can tell just by looking at him. The man has a lot more physical strength than most of the adventurers in Clausel.
It was a hidden power that he had never shown before.
It was then
“What is wrong with me at a time like this?”
Fiona’s body trembled behind Ren, and she suddenly fell to her knees. She hugged her upper body with both arms and repeated irregular breathing busily.
“She’s only a young lady! It looks like her body has reached its limits!”
“Ah! It seems so!”
“I’m glad! Thanks to you, I’ll be able to fight more easily!”
How strong are these two? Before he could even think about it, Ren used the magic sword on his shield to protect them.
He looked at Fiona and then at the opposing duo.
Why? What happened?
Fiona finally collapsed on her side, repeating only painful breathing.
(……No way, her vessel cracked!)
Since she had participated in the final examinations, I’d assumed that her illness had been cured or in an equivalent state, but I wondered if, as a worst-case scenario, she had relapsed.
“I’m sorry! I can’t cut corners in this situation!”
“Let’s hear about this mysterious power later!”
The magic shield that Ren created shattered unexpectedly and easily.
The power of the duo is so strong. Even if there were two opponents, the impact was greater than that of the steel-eating gargoyles.
—– it was a bad situation.
In front of the undoubtedly influential duo, Ren was also exhausted from the long journey while protecting Fiona.
But Ren fought on without giving up.
While protecting both of them with his newly acquired magic shield, he swung his iron magic sword again and again.
With flashes of his sword, he fought almost evenly in this disadvantageous situation.
“Damn! That’s a very troublesome skill!”
“But it won’t last long!”
As the two said, Ren’s magical power would eventually run out if they continued to fight like this.
The two opponents also saw the lava flow in the area and avoided a prolonged battle here.
“Kai! Do it!”
His partner, Kai, stood a short distance away from Ren, his sword held in the upper stance, smiling wryly.
“Have you ever seen the art of warfare?—- Hey, hero-dono!”
Kai’s sword is clothed in white light.
Before long, the moment Maidas shattered Ren’s shield… Kai’s sword rushed forward and approached Ren.
Even though Ren held his iron magic sword to the side to block it, the light emitted by Kai’s sword took away Ren’s physical ability. It’s as if his powers, enhanced by her magic, are just there. Because of that, Ren’s defense almost collapsed.
There, even though Maidas’ pursuit reached him, Ren’s swordplay was slightly faster.
Ren continued, his hands shaking and panting from exhaustion.
“You…… is that the holy sword technique in the habit of the demon King……?”
“Huh? That’s boring. You knew that?”
Ren said with a fearless smile.
Holy sword skill—drop of lightyear.
A sword skill in which the sword’s magical power weakens the opponent’s magical defense and deals damage. It was easy to use, and I remember Ren being taken care of several times.
(At least a swordsman ……!)
The “Swordsman” is a standard of strength one level below the “Sword Saint.”
The light drop is only supposed to be used by a master swordsman, proving that Kai deserves to be a master swordsman.
Ren wiped the sweat from his cheeks as he thought that Kai was strong.
This is not a very good situation.
He didn’t want to be in a situation where his magic shield was shattered and he had to resort to warfare techniques.
(Think about it…… Ren Ashton!)
I know very well that the battle strategy of using the magic sword of the shield as it is, and creating a new shield as soon as it is shattered, will not last long.
But otherwise, I can’t protect Fiona.
That’s when I had to think of a way to fight using the wooden magic sword or my thief’s magic sword…… so I thought hard.
But it seemed like he was the only one. The other two guys didn’t seem to feel it, and they seemed almost certain of victory.
“Right now —-.”
“Don’t look away! Hero-dono!”
“Oh ho! If you’ve given up, you’d better say so!”
The two were about to close in on Ren once more.
Maidas, who was acting as the vanguard, will soon swing his sword down at Ren.
The …… tingling heat increased even more.
Even though Ren is forced to go on the defensive, he pays attention to the signs.
“It’s almost over—- I’ll let you sleep for a while!”
And it was at the same time as Kai roared like before.
It was a storm…… a wind of crimson-tinted flames.
It blew Kai’s body away, and as he sat on the snowy ground, he swore, “What the hell was that?”
But when he tried to stand up, he lost his composure.
A pillar of fire appeared at his feet and soared to pierce the sky.
Kai’s figure disappeared before he finished saying the words of doubt. He literally disappeared from this world.
There was nothing left after the pillar of fire.
“Kai …? Where did you go…?”
Maidas looked at Ren with a puzzled look on his face as Ren carried Fiona up to him without looking at her.
We can’t stay here. It wasn’t long after Ren, who calmly protected Fiona despite the sudden turn of events, left Maidas’ side.
Magma splashed vigorously from the surrounding earth.
Several pillars of fire from the depths of the magma reached into the sky and attacked Maidas immediately.
“This flame …… can’t be —-!”
Maidas noticed something and looked up with a startled expression.
He looked at Ren’s back, who was a step ahead of him, and tried to follow in his footsteps.
But his path was blocked by the flames, and scorching heat rushed in from all directions —- in front, back, left, and right.
The front runner, a minor player, a sideshow.
He mocked himself for the fact that he and Kai were only that good…..
He thinks while the flames engulf his entire body.
For example, even if he is a minion of the Demon King, he has no choice but to act as an undercard.
For instance, he thinks about the existence that he cannot deal with, that has left its name in the legends.
All becomes a haze and disappears from under his own hand.
He had no energy left to complain about how ridiculous the situation was.
Strangely enough, this makes him feel light-headed. Maidas finally came to the realization of Fiona’s power and laughed to himself.
“—- No wonder she lured the monsters and made everyone’s magic go haywire.”
The last thing he saw was an endless crimson.
The dazzling crimson color fills the entire field of vision, and he died before he had the chance to feel any pain or heat.
The pillar of fire was a crystal of heat that transcended human knowledge.