* * *
‘1 second. There was 1 second left.’
His heart was still pounding. Cadel reflexively clutched his chest and drew in a ragged breath.
「Time remaining until the bond between body and soul ends : 00 hours 00 minutes 01 second」
It was the last system window he saw.
In the pitch-black nothingness, Cadel screamed at the top of his lungs for Garuel, for as far as he knew, Garuel was the only person capable of what the current system called ‘external intervention’.
It was obvious what would happen when the bond between body and soul ended.
If Garuel didn’t come in time, he died.
And he barely opened his eyes 1 second before he died. He thought he was going to die, but he managed to open his eyes.
He couldn’t describe the relief and joy he felt when the vivid blue sky filled his vision.
“This is getting more…… intense than I thought?”
And affection for the person who saved his life.
“Sir Garuel, it’s you after all……! Come here! I’ll give you a hug!”
“Umm…… Have you not come back to your senses yet?”
Cadel was drunk on the excitement of survival, pushing aside the memory that the Garuel in front of him was far worse than he’d expected.
All he saw now, both in game and in real life, was his favorite knight, the one who had gotten him out of trouble time and time again.
Cadel grabbed Garuel’s wrists, frustrated that he wasn’t quickly embracing him. He put his weight on his strong arms to raise his upper body, and in one swift motion, he wrapped his arms around Garuel’s neck.
This was more of a princess carry than a hug, wasn’t it? Garuel gave Cadel an awkward look as he wrapped his arms around his waist out of habit.
Until they parted ways, Cadel was cold and distant. He didn’t seem to like Garuel at all. Cadel seemed insanely happy to be back from the dead.
Cadel frantically ruffled Garuel’s hair, not at all embarrassed. He thought that he could die because of the other’s beauty.
Cadel had long since forgotten the terrible lewdness of their first meeting. He was just disappointed that he couldn’t recruit Garuel right away.
“Haha…… I like the aggressive attitude, but I’m sure you’ll get tired if you move around too much?”
“That’s right, yes. You’re right.”
Now, no matter what Garuel said or did, he was just lovely. Cadel felt like he had recovered the Tier 0* S-grade knight Garuel Monzasi, who saved his dying party and cleared the stage by all means.
*Tier 0: Incomparable top tier, solid high position
‘As expected, your performance is the best. I love you, Garuel.’
If he hadn’t trusted Garuel’s healing skills, he wouldn’t have been able to use [Soul Explosion]. He wouldn’t have risked his life with no insurance.
Because of Garuel, he was able to extinguish Ergo, and he was able to escape death. His heart swelled with excitement.
“Even though Sir Cadel’s ardent gratitude is something I like quite a bit.”
A long hug from the undetachable Cadel wasn’t a bad thing, and with a small smile, Garuel stood up from his seat, still supporting Cadel’s hips. Startled by the unannounced jolt, Cadel tightened the arm around Garuel’s neck.
Garuel patted Cadel’s buttocks, forcing him to wrap his legs around his waist, and looked around for the white horse that had been released nearby.
“I’ve got some things I’ve been putting on the back burner for your treatment, so I’ll have to get to them soon.”
“What do you mean you’ve been putting off?”
“I couldn’t stop the impact of the explosion. The barrier shattered, and the Knight Order and the mercenary corps were knocked unconscious.”
In his euphoria of survival, he didn’t ask, but he assumed they were safe. Panicked, Cadel jerked back to face Garuel, but Garuel pushed Cadel’s back gently into his original position.
“If they are unconscious, are they in serious condition?”
“Don’t worry, the worst is over, it’s just a mild concussion.”
Patting Cadel on the back to soothe him, Garuel soon spotted the white horse pacing nearby. He whistled to get the white horse’s attention and sat Cadel on its back as it approached.
He looked up at Cadel’s face, which was now filled with concern. He wondered how he could be back from the dead and still have time to worry about others.
His outstretched hand brushed Cadel’s cheek lightly. The corner of his mouth twitched upward at the soft touch, then he withdrew his hand, immediately climbing behind Cadel.
“You might want to wipe that soot off your face, you look like you just got pulled out of the fires of hell, and I don’t like the idea of my favorite face being covered up.”
“……Is it that messed up?”
Cadel rubbed his cheek with a sour expression and frowned when he saw the soot on his hand. His palm turned black after just a little rubbing. He had a vague idea of what it looked like.
“It’s kind of cute in its own way.”
Garuel rode the horse in the direction he had memorized beforehand, holding Cadel, who rubbed his face and muttered something, in his arms.
* * *
Memories after that were sparse.
Garuel escorted Cadel to the location of the fallen mercenary corps and the White Wave Knights Order, then left to request further assistance from the Kingdom. In the meantime, Cadel kept a watchful eye on his surroundings, checking on Van, Lumen, and Lydon.
And when Garuel returned with healers and guards. Only then did all the tension dissipate and Cadel fell unconscious.
A terrible fatigue came over him all at once. Refusing to appreciate the story altogether, Cadel fell into a deep sleep. A sleep that bordered on fainting.
He didn’t know how long he had been asleep, but the body that washed away the terrible fatigue was so refreshing.
Cadel stirred, stretching up and down. Soft bedding wrapped around his body and a faint floral scent lingered on the tip of his nose. The temperature was just right, and his mood lifted.
As he laid there in a dazed state of consciousness, a familiar voice tickled his ear.
“Cadel, how long are you going to sleep? I’m bored.”
His eyes snapped open at the sound of dreamy, muffled laughter. Turning quickly, he saw the radiant face of Lydon crouching over him.
Ly bent his eyes beautifully as if he was happy to see Cadel, who finally opened his eyes, and soon relaxed his arms supporting his upper body and came to crush Cadel.
“Hey……! I, can’t breathe!”
In an instant, Cadel was crushed by the massive man and struggled hard. The desperation was palpable as he struggled beneath Lydon, his arms and legs barely hanging out.
As if his efforts weren’t enough, Lydon rolled the bed once, holding Cadel, who kept hitting his back, tightly.
His helpless body bent to Lydon’s will, unable to resist. And now, lying on top of Lydon, he finally had some breathing room.
Cadel glared at Lydon, whose hands were wandering around as he hugged his waist. The cramped weight that weighed down his body had disappeared, but the hard muscles instead of the soft bed were annoying.
“What are you doing as soon as I wake up? It’s uncomfortable. Let go.”
“Do you know how bored I was while Cadel was sleeping? I waited patiently, so reward me.”
“You’re talking like I’m a prize. Are you a child? Forget it, just get smaller quickly.”
The current Lydon was a giant fairy, over 190cm. Cadel had passed out before he could infuse the pendant with his mana.
‘Let’s get him back to being a child before someone sees him.’
Waking up in bed, it must be an inn somewhere, and if any of the staff barged in, he’d be in trouble. Concerned, Cadel immediately snatched the necklace, but Lydon’s eyes caught his attention first.
“……Wait. Are they all better? Are you okay now?”
His pupils were back to their normal shape. Cadel reached out and ran his hand over his eyelid, and Lydon twitched his head slightly as if tickled.
“Yep! I recovered while Cadell slept.”
“While I was sleeping……. Lydon. By any chance, how long have I been asleep?”
“Four days? I slept for four days?”
Four days. He didn’t realize people could sleep that long just because they were tired.
As Cadel panicked that it had been longer than he thought, Lydon grumbled ‘Now do you know how bored I was?’.
“Hey, let me go.”
Cadel rolled over, pounding on Lydon’s arm that was wrapped tightly around his waist. Lydon released him obediently and rolled onto his back in a cocky pose.
“Where is this place? Inn…… is a bit of a stretch.”
He’d been teased by Lydon as soon as he’d woken up, so he was slow to look around. Cadel’s expression was unhappy as he looked around the room.
‘What’s so fancy?’
Not only was the size of the room out of the ordinary but the furnishings and décor were almost over the top. Gilded wallpaper, intricately embroidered carpets, light-filled windows, and snow-white curtains that flutter in the breeze.
If this was an inn, please let the Twilight Knight Order the one paying the bill. He looked back at Lydon, who was lying on the bed, munching on a cookie of unknown origin, and raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t know the details. Lumen will be here soon, so why don’t you ask him?”
“Lumen is coming?”
As soon as he asked back, he heard someone coming across the hallway.
‘Is it Lumen?’
He Lydon said Lumen was coming soon, so there was a good chance it was him. Wasn’t the timing right?
‘……But if not?’
But there was no guarantee that the approaching footsteps would be Lumen’s. It could be a staff member coming to clean the room.
Cadel’s gaze drifted to Lydon’s wings splayed out on the bed. Lydon was reaching for a new cookie, ignoring the giant wings on his back.
“You, give me the necklace quickly.”
“What ‘Huh’! I told you not to be caught!”
The footsteps grew closer, and Cadel snatched up Lydon’s necklace. The transformation was quick, and if he activated the artifact now, Lydon wouldn’t be seen.
But the moment he blew mana into the pendant.
Cadel’s eyes trembled. His lips parted slightly, and the necklace fell from his loosened grasp. Cadel stared down at his hands in disbelief.
At the same time, the owner of the footsteps opened the door.