* * *
The barrier was closed.
Cadel slowly lowered his outstretched arm. The outside of the barrier was blurred and distorted, but he could see with his own eyes that Lumen and Van he’d sent flying had escaped safely.
That was it. That was enough. If he could save them, he didn’t care what happened to him—
‘Wow. Now what?’
—No, of course, there was no way he didn’t.
The barrier was closed, but Cadel did not stop running. He wondered if the barrier was shiny on the outside but flimsy and lacking in substance, and would collapse at the slightest pressure.
But of course, that happy ending didn’t happen.
In the first place, Cadel had no mana left and was in terrible shape. There was no way he could do any damage to the barrier if he couldn’t even throw a decent punch. He face-palmed in front of the barrier where the chill pierced his bones. The moment he was trying to keep his composure while trying to take care of such a complicated feeling.
“Ahaha! I was expecting an immediate attack, but a barrier? I didn’t see that coming. Don’t you think it’s a bit much?”
Anticipating that the fairies would attack right away, Lydon, who was protecting them from the air, came down to Cadel’s side. The shadow created by his height, which was excessively large for a fairy, approached, consuming all of Cadel’s torso.
“You’re gonna have to face the elders. What should I do? What to do? What do we do, Cadel?”
The corner of Lydon’s mouth twitched upward.
“Why don’t you make an excuse to the elders? It was your party who cut off Aiden’s wings, and they had already fled. Don’t be mean to you because you were left innocent…… Do you want to try? Cadel is cute, so it might work.”
Cadel stared hard at Lydon’s smiling face. Following the persistent gaze, Lydon’s head tilted.
‘I want to get out. I don’t want to die and get out safely. In this desperate situation…… Wouldn’t it be okay to try that method?’
That method was one of the countless plans Cadel had in mind before proposing the game to Lydon. It was also the plan with the lowest priority.
But he couldn’t afford to compromise his priorities now. His life depended solely on Lydon. As much as he resented it, he couldn’t help it. Lydon was the only one in this forest who could protect him from the fairies, and his slightest whim could return as a fatal death.
So, if he really wanted to hold on to his life here, this was the only way. Cadel, who convinced himself, swallowed dryly.
“Well, no matter what, as long as you stay by my side, you won’t die…….”
And then he grabbed Lydon by the collar and pulled him. Despite the almost non-existent force, Lydon was fairly compliant.
Curiosity and interest flickered over his red eyes. Just the right amount of emotion. Cadel pursed his lips in anticipation, meeting that emotion.
“Come out with me.”
“Come with me, let’s get out of this disgusting forest.”
When he spit it out, it sounded even crazier than he had imagined. But no matter how hard he thought about it, this was the best.
It was almost impossible to get out of this forest safely unless there were certain allies. He had neither the strength to fight against the fairies nor the cards to persuade them. The only possibility was that Lydon, who had the ability to be a born S-grade, was a recruitable knight.
So Cadel had to recruit him, make him his man. Lydon was the best hand, the best long shot, the best way to get out of this place. If he was to live, he had to have him.
“……Cadel is so funny. Everything you do, everything you say. It’s too much for my taste, so it’s scary.”
“Don’t you want to get out of here? You’re bored. You want to have fun. You can’t have fun if you’re stuck here forever. You know that better than anyone.”
“Hmm, unfortunately, it’s not that simple…….”
“I know. There’s a seal on you. The seal, I can break it. I can break it.”
As if this remark could not be passed lightly, Lydon’s eyes, which had been relaxed all along, trembled. It was an expression of how the hell did Cadel know that.
But Cadel had no intention of explaining. Even if he did, Lydon wouldn’t understand. He desperately persuaded Lydon, who showed his embarrassment for the first time, by holding on tighter to his collar.
“Have you ever seen the sea? Is there any good food in this dark forest? Is the only entertainment you have harassing the occasional human who comes by? Do you like being a lousy psychopath and ending your life like that? Is that what you want?”
“No, no matter what, I’m not in the position of…….”
“Just don’t be so naive! You want it, too. You think it’s unfair! Don’t you think it’s unreasonable that you’re destined to spend your whole life trapped in this little forest? There are so many wonderful things out there that you’ve never experienced. You’re just one step away from enjoying them, are you really going to give up so easily?”
Lydon’s uncharacteristic hesitation made him impatient. Cadel slammed the barrier beside him and looked at Lydon straight in the eye.
“I’ll show you the world, Lydon.”
Lydon’s eyes shook violently. An agitated glance scattered over Cadel’s face.
“I can do it. I can break the seal that restricts you, and make you free to live outside. That’s a crazy thing that only I can do. So―”
Let’s escape this place with me. It was the moment Cadel was about to say that.
― The sinner who defiled the sacred land of Pinhai. Pay for that heavy sin with unblessed blood.
A deep voice he had never heard before rang through Cadel’s head.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
At the same time, the atmosphere vibrated along with a regular sense of weight hitting the ground. Cadel was wary of his surroundings, clutching his head as the unfamiliar voice echoed around him, and Lydon pulled Cadel and hid him behind himself.
“Stay back for now, Cadel. The elder is too much for me to deal with.”
Did the elder finally appear? If so, the echoing voice must also be his trick.
‘And this vibration? Was that made by the elder?’
It couldn’t be. At best, the movement of a maximally humanoid fairy could not have elicited this much vibration.
Cadel ducked behind Lydon and carefully peeked his head over his shoulder, and what he saw was.
“This is crazy…….”
An army of ice giants, at least a dozen of them, towered over the ancient trees beside them, forming an orderly formation. The giants resembled golems, but their bodies were made of ice rather than stone. The chiseled ice sculptures were advancing from a distance, emitting an immense chill.
Cadel swallowed dryly as he noticed the misty breath dispersing along his breath.
‘Is he out of his mind? An 8-star magician can only summon one or two ice giants, let alone ten……. Just how strong is the elder?’
With a chill running down his spine, Cadel had to admit it. If it weren’t for the cheeky fairy who stood in front of him now, his life would have ended today.
“Give me that human, Lydon.”
And at the forefront of the imposing army of giants, there was an elder of the Fairy Tribe, as imposing as an ice giant.
In human form, the elder was the polar opposite of his pretty wings, his rugged appearance made up of bulging muscles and deep wrinkles that made him look more like a martial arts master from somewhere than a fairy. Lydon smiled brightly as if to welcome his arrival.
“Eungg, I don’t want to.”
An answer close to a whine. The elder’s face crumpled. The rugged features, coupled with the rugged expression, gave him a murderous air, but Lydon didn’t seem to mind.
“He’s my human, Mr. Melphis. I don’t want anyone to touch him.”
“He is a trespasser in the forest and a sinner who has harmed your own people. If you don’t give him up now―”
“No. He’s my human. Why are you all here? He’s mine, and you’ve come all this way to steal someone else’s precious thing? Why? Why? Because you’re bored? Or because…….”
Lydon’s gaze swept over the elder in front, the ice giants behind him, and the evenly distributed fairy warriors. Lydon, who quickly grasped their formation, tilted his head. A twinkle in his eyes flashed through his flowing hair.
“Because you want to die at my hands?”
In an instant, blood vessels popped on Elder Melphis’s forehead.
“Lydon! Don’t be so arrogant!”
“Ahaha! I don’t want to. I won’t give him to you, so why don’t you go back and stop wasting your time?”
“Aware of your position as a descendant of the Fairy King!”
Lydon clicked his tongue in annoyance at Melphis’s exasperation. It was a clear sign of disrespect, and Melphis’ voice rose in response.
“The human you seek to protect have harmed our kind. He has offended the pride of the fairy race! If you are a descendant of the Fairy King, do what is right!”
“Hmm, you mean Aiden’s wings? That’s dumb on Aiden’s part for letting his pride be cut off so easily.”
“Yes, Mr. Melphis.”
His expression was full of boredom that wouldn’t be strange if he immediately pricked his ears. Instead of the noisy Melphis, Lydon looked at the warriors beyond.
‘Ten intermediate and five advanced fighters. It’s a lot. Aiden, how many stories has that guy been talking about?’
Lydon muttered a curse at Aiden, who was probably relaxing comfortably by now, and turned his attention back to Melphis. His face was red as if it could explode at any moment.
“Grandpa, can you just let it slide? In the past, you let me off the hook no matter what I did. This time, just…… Why don’t you take it as a complaint?”
“You are no longer an immature child, Lydon. You are the heir to the throne of the Fairy King―”
“There is an unavoidable fate! Haha! What does that have to do with this? Don’t keep making me aware of my identity like that, Mr. Melphis!”
A glint flashed over Lydon’s eyes. A nervous chuckle escaped his lips, and he stretched out an arm.
An attack without warning. A slice of ice, more like a telephone pole than a spear, sliced through the air. Before anyone could stop it, the head of the standing ice giant was pierced.
Ice through ice. It was a warning, a provocation, a test of strength.
Lydon’s ice spear, lodged exactly between the giant’s eyes, began to rotate with a crackling sound. The moment when the giant, which had been attacked, staggered its massive body, and when Lydon bent his outstretched fingertips with strength.
“I’m in a bad mood…….”
The ice giant’s head shattered. Shards of its glassy skull scattered over the warriors below.
Shards of ice glittered and scattered, the giant’s body rapidly disintegrating along with its missing head. The faces of the warriors, unable to dodge the cold shards of ice, became contemplative. The overwhelming difference in their abilities, having slain one giant in an instant, crushed their fighting spirit.
Lydon looked at the warriors who had stiffened and at Melphis, whose blood veins were throbbing on his neck. And he turned around without hesitation.
Turning, he saw Cadel, who hadn’t breathed a word during the entire confrontation, looking up at him nervously.
“Did you hear that? This is the situation. Do you think you can fight?”
“I can’t fight. I don’t have a drop of mana left, thanks to someone.”
“Hmm, I guess that’s it then.”
Lydon lowers his eyes in regret. A mischievous grin spreads across his face as if to remind him of the last time they argued out loud, and he whispered quietly.
“Let’s run away.”
Lydon didn’t bother to ask for consent. He just wrapped his arms around the frozen Cadel’s waist and took off.