* * *
Cadel sent a signal and waited exactly 15 minutes, but Van didn’t show up. That meant, in other words, a situation where Van couldn’t see the signal or a situation where he couldn’t find it even after seeing it. Both were bad assumptions.
Eventually, the two resumed exploring the forest. This time, instead of splitting up and scattering, they chose to move together.
“Lumen, you’re really Lumen, right?”
“I’ve been next to you the whole time, so how can I be fake?”
“It’s because you’ve never been affected by illusion magic. It’s so perfect.”
Staying on your toes and thoroughly exploring your surroundings while walking was never easy. And then there was the matter of whether or not the comrade next to you was an illusion or not. Cadel didn’t think it would be surprising if he had a nervous breakdown at any moment.
Lumen shook his head in disbelief at Cadel, then grinned mischievously.
“If you’re feeling anxious, hold my hand and go. They can’t change the hand you’re holding into a fake one, right?”
“I think it’s a good idea. Give me your hand.”
Lumen paused at the unexpectedly simple acceptance, perhaps purely meant to tease. But Cadel was serious. It was more terrible for him to have the comrade next to him become an illusion in an instant than the act of holding hands with a man. It was like walking into a haunted house at an amusement park and finding yourself hugging your normally cursing and teasing friend to get through the crisis.
Finally, Cadel, who snatched one of Lumen’s hands and even laced his fingers, breathed a sigh of relief.
“Never leave my side. Understand?”
“……You’re bold, Leader.”
“Don’t talk nonsense. Understand?”
Lumen looked down at their clasped hands and smirked. As traumatized as Cadel was by the death of the illusion Van, he didn’t mind doing this.
And thus they walked like that for quite a while.
A flash of recognition flashed through Lumen’s eyes, which had been relaxed the entire time, in contrast to Cadel’s grim expression. He pulled on their interlocked hands to stop Cadel from walking, and then slowly loosened his fingers.
“Get behind me, Leader.”
“I let you go, and now you’re back on your own? What the hell was wrong with you humans?”
It was Aiden who appeared in front of them. He glared at Cadel with his arms crossed with a sullen look on his face, then turned his gaze to Lumen, who stood in his way.
“I haven’t seen him. A new subordinate?”
“This is the first time I see fairies. Leader, is he the one that used hallucination magic to torment you?”
Lumen gestured toward Aiden while holding the handle of his sword. Cadel quietly shook his head.
‘Aiden’s the first one you’ve met? Not bad.’
If he had met Lydon from the beginning, a fierce fight would have started immediately without any preparation. It would have been hard for Lumen to find a way to deal with the fairies.
But Aiden would be a piece of cake.
“Hmm, can I kill him then?”
Lumen licked his lips and asked. He had the arrogant attitude that he would slice the little fairy to pieces in a heartbeat if given the green light, and it seemed to irritate Aiden, causing his cute little face to turn a variety of shades of red.
“Who is killing whom? You human? me?”
“Are fairy languages a little different from humans? Why can’t you understand it at once, little thing?”
When Lumen, who smiled lightly, glanced at Cadel as if asking for permission, Cadel briefly rolled his eyes. From a long-term perspective, it would be better to subdue him without killing him, but it reminded Cadel of the past when he was swept away by their hallucination magic.
“Just cut off one wing.”
The corner of Lumen’s mouth quirked upward at the clear answer.
“You’re making me do something difficult.”
Blue eyes followed Aiden’s movements. Aiden couldn’t stand the idea of being treated like an insignificant power that they could kill him if wanted to, so he let out an odd sound and stretched out his hands.
“Don’t get cocky you humans!”
With that, seven ice spears shot out at once, along with a vast amount of mana that was hard to believe coming from such a small figure. They were aimed precisely at Lumen.
But before the ice spears could reach him, Lumen’s new form disappeared leaving behind a blurry afterimage. In place of the missing Lumen, Cadel, who was hidden behind, was exposed to the attack range. As if he had expected it, Cadel naturally opened a fire barrier to block the attack. Ice spears that touched the hot flames shattered and scattered.
Aiden, who was rolling his round eyes to locate Lumen, quickly turned around. There, he saw Lumen, whom he did not know when he had moved, with his sword half-sheathed.
“You little rat bastard……!”
Aiden was about to launch his next attack directly at Lumen. However, before the magic in his hand could be fired, his small body tilted sharply once.
Stunned by the unbalanced sensation of flight he’d never experienced before, Aiden spurred his wings, but his body continued to tilt. Lumen smirked at the panicked Aiden and pointed downward.
“Don’t you think you dropped something?”
Aiden’s gaze, not yet letting go of his guard, flicked to the direction Lumen had pointed, and there it was.
A single, familiar wing, dancing and falling as softly as a fallen leaf.
Translucent wing as dainty as the body. Upon discovering it, Aiden’s eyes and mouth widened. Almost reflexively, he descended towards the wing and grabbed it as it fell to the floor.
“This, this, this is…… ridiculous…….”
“Don’t worry. I’ll cut one more and make it the same for both sides.”
One of the four wings fell off. Aiden couldn’t even figure out at what point he was attacked. What the hell was with this speed?
Aiden, still in shock, clutching the severed wing in his arms, suddenly began to fly.
He must retreat! Unless he could fly properly, this fight was at a disadvantage. He’d been attacked first, so he could call on his kin for help. Revenge would come later—
“Where are you going?”
But before he even dreamed of a complete escape.
A fierce wind raged around Aiden. A wind that made it impossible to move forward or backward. All he could do was stand there, pinned down by the force of the wind as it squeezed his body.
Cadel approached the distressed Aiden. He poked a cool face at the fairy he had trapped and said crookedly.
“I told you. Your friends in hiding, either you’re going to drag them out or make them stay put. Do you think I’m kidding?”
“You, you filthy human bastard……! You dare to touch a fairy in the Forest of Enchantment and think you can walk away unscathed!”
“I captured you so that I could survive.”
Aiden’s face turned pensive as he spoke irritably. Cadel glanced at Aiden, trapped in the [Wind Prison], and the one wing he held so dearly, and then stepped back with a quick click of his tongue.
“I don’t want to talk any more, so I’ll ask you one question. Do you know where my subordinate you created as an illusion is?”
“Why, why would I…….”
“I see you do. Tell me. Where is he?”
“Do you think I’m stupid? How do I know what you’ll do to me if I tell you?”
A sigh came out. Cadel exhaled as deeply as it came out, then thought vaguely. No matter how this played out, his chances of getting Aiden to join the mercenary corps were zero.
“This spell that trapped you is called a wind prison. It’s a binding spell that uses wind pressure to trap a target…… If I reduce the binding range to the limit, you will not be able to withstand the wind pressure and will explode and die.”
“How about it? Do you have any idea what I’m going to do to you if you don’t obey me?”
Once again, hiccups came out of Aiden’s mouth.