* * *
“Wow, I’m so honored to meet the famous Scarlet Scales Mercenary. I hear the commander of the mercenary corps uses multi-attribute magic without chanting? I’ll take a look at it this time.”
Unlike the stiff Sorin or the jerk Dreyfe, Jeriel had a friendly side. Cadel also treated him in a gentle manner without any discrimination. Dreyfe felt his stomach twist at their casual conversation.
“Enough chit-chat, the mercenary corps clear the Red Men army. Once the mercenary corps are done with it, Jeriel will move to the magic circle, and I’ll take on the demon named Sellev.”
“You’re going to take on the demon on your own, Dreyfe? And you’re going to do it in front of the Scarlet Scales Mercenary?”
“Hmph, I can do this on my own. I could use some mercenary help.”
Dreyfe raised his voice to be heard and glanced at Cadel, but Cadel meekly accepted the offer without a reaction. He was only half-amused by Dreyfe’s rudeness.
“What is that ignorant guy doing, Commander? Shall we sneak up and stab him like it was a mistake?”
“I’m tempted to say yes.”
Perhaps Van was holding back his anger in his own way, he was revealing his bloody inner thoughts so that only Cadel could hear. If it had been in the past, this would have been enough for a collision to happen right away. It was so commendable that Cadel gently patted Van on the shoulder.
“But hang in there. I told you before, count to ten before you get mad.”
“I’ve already counted at least five times.”
“Good boy, good boy.”
Cadel’s soothing words softened the sharp glare Van had been sending at Dreyfe. That was enough for now.
‘My goal is not to be recognized by Dreyfe or the Guardian Knight Order. As long as I can raise my performance, it doesn’t matter whether I am bullied or persecuted.’
Successfully completing the given mission was Cadel’s primary goal. Everything else was secondary.
He turned to the two battalion captains who were discussing the sum of their advance.
“We don’t have a lot of time, so let’s get right to it, and I’ll try to make the path as straight as possible.”
Cadel didn’t even bother to listen to their answers.
The first to deploy was Lydon’s [Great Frozen Ground]. An ice spell with a greatly reduced range sliced between them and Sellev, shackling the monsters’ ankles. Next, Van’s [Thorns], which unleashed his Blood Flow Sword, swept across the ice, crushing the monsters’ bodies, and finally, Cadel’s [Fire Serpent Den]. Dozens of fire serpents slithered across the icy path, melting the ice and incinerating any of the monsters Van couldn’t handle.
At the end of the path, which was cleared in short order, was exactly where Sellev and her magic circle were. Any nearby monsters were bound by slippery ice and aura, unable to approach.
Pointing at the empty front, Cadel turned around and saw the bewildered faces of Jeriel and Dreyfe. Dreyfe, who belatedly became conscious of Cadel, immediately changed his complexion, but Jeriel was busy marveling at the path the mercenary corps had made for him.
“It’s even better than I’ve heard? An aura user and a fairy……. Your subordinates are quite skilled, but I must admit, I’m fascinated by you, Mercenary Commander. Such talent, if there were still the Lytos in the Empire, it would have been rumored that you were a magician who could rival them.”
“……Is that so?”
“Well, they’re all dead traitors now. It would be an insult to be compared.”
Following in Jeriel’s wake, Cadel tried to keep a straight face, his heart racing at the sudden mention of Lytos as if the slightest hint of suspicion would give away his identity.
Meanwhile, as she watched the five men stride fearlessly across the center of the battlefield, Sellev slowly collected the demonic energy she had been scattering over the magic circle.
How brave of them, to dare to put themselves in front of her, to attack head-on. With a light flick of her wrist, she murmured with an eerie smile.
“I’ve been wondering when you’d like to play. To come to visit me directly, it must have deepened the consideration of the new human world that I have not seen before.”
“Jeriel! I’m going to take her out, so get to work!”
The first step to dismantling the magic circle was to get the occupying demon out of the way. Running ahead of Jeriel, Dreyfe crossed his twin swords.
The X-shaped blade struck Sellev in the front. A preemptive strike to draw attention.
“Uhuh, a fistful distance.”
It was a simple attack, one that was easy to see through in Sellev’s eyes. She dismissed Dreyfe’s swordplay with a single word and stretched out her fist, aiming for the oncoming blade. But just before her fist touched the blade, Dreyfe’s figure vanished.
Sellev’s fists slammed into the air as the two powerless swords crashed to the ground, and then a heavy blow that felt like it had been waiting. She spun around quickly at the tingling pain that shot up her back. Dreyfe, who had disappeared before her eyes, had now taken up position behind her.
“Dare to set foot in the realm of the Empire despite being a demon. I don’t know how you came out, but I’ll seal you again.”
The twin swords were merely a decoy to distract Sellev’s attention. With a sure hit, Dreyfe leaped lightly and spread his hands, a faint yellow glow emanating from the bracelets on his wrists, and the twin swords, glowing together, returned to his hands as if drawn by magnetism.
Don’t give them a chance. Speed is everything in close combat. Gripping his swords tightly, Dreyfe was about to perform a combo sword strike.
“This body is very sensitive to the word ‘seal’. If you want to die gracefully, you better watch your mouth.”
Sellev’s vicious grip tightened on the crossed blades of the twin swords. Dreyfe’s eyes widened as the demonic energy wrapped around her fists spun ferociously, the blades refusing to budge no matter how hard he tried.
‘What monster power……!’
It wasn’t just that she was strong. Her body was like an impregnable fortress, oozing with a powerful, ethereal energy. The kind of overwhelming power that could take a lifetime of blows and not leave a scratch.
And shortly after that.
With a sharp crack, the twin swords broke. Holding the broken blades upside down, Sellev wasted no time in aiming for Dreyfe’s throat. The tip of the blade sliced through the air, leaving a half-circle afterimage.
Dreyfe, who managed to avoid the attack, gritted his teeth.
Just a single graze. A graze that would normally have left only a dent in his armor left a deep gash across his collarbone. It had penetrated the double shield of enchanted iron armor.
If it hit, it was instant death. Dreyfe’s complexion clouded in the face of such a ridiculous level of power. He had so confidently proclaimed that he would defeat the demon alone. And now, within minutes of the battle, his weapon broke.
‘If I’m caught by a hair, I’m dead. I can’t fight in melee. I’d rather use my sword energy.’
Dreyfe was not very confident in ranged combat, but he didn’t have much choice at this point. If he gave her a break, it would be hard to keep her attention.
With a flicker of yellowish sword energy, the broken blade rose up from the ground and took on the form of an intact sword. Quickly closing the distance, he sent a crossed sword energy toward Sellev.
Sellev walked forward little by little, throwing away the sword energy with her bare hands, without a slight change in expression.
“What lousy sword energy. As usual, swordsmen can’t keep up with me.”
It was a disastrous situation, with all the attacks coming to naught, but Dreyfe calmly kept his distance and backed off. He needed to get Sellev as far away from the magic circle as possible.
“Have you ever seen the look on a human’s face when he realizes that the martial arts he’s spent a lifetime cultivating are nothing more than a flame before the wind in the face of a natural powerhouse? It’s so damn ugly. And I…….”
Sellev was doing exactly what Dreyfe intended, moving away from the magic circle. But apart from that, another problem had come upon Dreyfe.
“I quite like that ugly face.”
Sellev’s movements were too fast. A body that was faster than the sword energy was pressuring him.
The wings of a High Demon and the leg strength of a monster were combined. The distance closed in an instant, and without hesitation, Sellev raised her fist. There was no time to dodge. Dreyfe reflexively raised his twin swords to block the attack, but he knew it wouldn’t do much good.
Fatal wounds, if he was lucky.
He summoned every ounce of strength in his body to avoid the worst of it, and that was when it happened.
A barrier of fire appeared, precisely blocking Sellev’s strike range.
“……Why aren’t magicians going extinct?”
A searing heat. Dreyfe’s gaze shifted quickly, his dark green eyes flickering slightly as he took on the appearance of the mercenary commander. He pressed his hood down so deeply that one might wonder if he could still see anything, but he was watching Dreyfe and Sellev in the distance.
“Was I in the way?”
He pretended not to know even though he clearly knew that he saved Dreyfe’s life. He had a nasty attitude, but Dreyfe wasn’t one who didn’t have enough common sense to build up his ego even in such an urgent situation. Dreyfe disapprovingly said, not missing the gap Cadel had made and getting out of Sellev’s range.
“If you have nothing better to do, why don’t you help me, Mercenary Commander?”
“But I have a lot of work to do?”
“Well, it’s hard to ignore when you look at me so earnestly.”
The soon-to-be-dead face was very refreshing. Cadel stifled the sneer that kept escaping him and looked back at his waiting subordinates.
“You protect Sir Jeriel. Lydon, if possible, join Sir Jeriel and help disarm the magic circle.”
“Yes, Commander. Leave the battle to that ignorance as much as possible. Okay?”
“Disarming magic circles is no fun. Can’t we just fight, darling?”
After sending his subordinates to Jeriel with appropriate care and disregard, Cadel focused his five senses on the battle between Dreyfe and Sellev.
At Van’s urging, Cadel wanted to avoid direct conflict with Sellev as much as possible.
‘My body is weak. A brushing of her fist and I will die.’
A one-on-one head-to-head fight was out of the question with the lanky magician’s body, so it was better to have Dreyfe who didn’t mind breaking a few bones to keep Sellev at bay and dealing damage whenever possible.
“Sir Dreyfe! Don’t think about defense, just fight!”
“What? You want me to get beaten to death?”
“Would I say that in this situation?”
How could he place his trust in that mercenary and leave him with defense? Borrowing and relying on power were completely different. Because of that, Dreyfe tried to insist on a passive combat method that focused on defense.
‘……It’s not like I can’t use it at all.’
Before Dreyfe had a chance to defend himself, a barrier of fire was being generated that blocked all of Sellev’s strikes. A barrier of minimal range, blocking exactly one fist. An instantaneous barrier that matched the timing and speed of Sellev’s attacks, protecting Dreyfe.
He was wondering how great it was to be a magician without the need to use chanting. It was great indeed. The feast of the barriers, which never stopped appearing, was completely unrealistic. It was almost as if he was surrounded by several magicians who were only looking out for him.
Eventually, Dreyfe had to admit it. The mercenary commander was as brilliant a magician as he’d been rumored to be.
Dreyfe reversed his earlier defensive stance and went for a more offensive move. The sword energy of his broken blade dug relentlessly into Sellev’s left arm.
‘She’s putting most of her weight on her right side, so she can draw strength to swing her left arm. Since she’s apparently a left-handed demon, I will break this arm first.’
A fighter’s entire body is a weapon, and a breakdown in any one area can tip the balance of power. Especially if it’s a dominant part. As long as he could make use of the barrier in front of him and attack, he had a chance.
‘The mercenary commander would have judged that as well.’
Dreyfe could tell by the fact that he was helping to defend without getting involved himself. As much as Dreyfe hated to admit it, this was the most they could do right now.
All that remains was to attack Sellev step by step and buy time to destroy the magic circle.
“Save the best for last……That was my creed. However, this won’t work. I can’t take this anymore.”
But Sellev betrayed Dreyfe’s wishful thinking. Her gaze, which had been on him the entire time, flickered with a murderous intent.
She couldn’t ignore this. How perfectly that human had blocked all of her attacks. He was slowly but surely getting on her nerves.
Cadel froze in his tracks as he realized that her murderous gaze was on him. Dreyfe hurried to get in her way, but before he could get a good swing in, Sellev lunged at Cadel.