* * *
It was 30 minutes later that the traces of the demon were found.
“The smell is getting worse.”
“That means he’s not far away.”
Crouching by the side of the road, Cadel looked at the rotting bush as if it had been eaten. Green mucus formed on the clumped blades of grass.
‘There’s purple liquid mixed in here and there. It’s the blood of the demon. The discharge of blood-mixed mucus means that he’s not in very good condition.’
Sure. If the demon was in good shape, he could have just gone on a rampage without using [Ally Multiplication]. Even in the game, the only time enemies used [Ally Multiplication] was after they’d lost some HP points.
‘At least he’s not in perfect condition. That alone takes some of the pressure off us. Not a bad sign so far.’
Cadel made a wincing sound as he rose to his feet. He patted his back and narrowed his eyes. The enemy’s less-than-perfect condition was a good sign, but that was also the case with Cadel.
‘I rode the horse all the way to the village, and I could count on one hand the times that I stayed at an inn properly. My stamina is still miserable.’
After coming to Baskin Village, he couldn’t sleep properly. Insomnia was quite a blow to Cadel, an ineffective magician.
‘If I had the time, I’d do a rebuild, but……. I don’t have time for that either.’
Lives were at stake. Cadel couldn’t afford to be slow. He had to squeeze it out, even if it was a little hard.
After following the trail they finally found, the forest road finally came to an end. Instead, they found themselves in a wide-open wilderness, with nothing but large boulders and rolling thorny vines dotting the unorganized landscape.
‘There’s no way he’s hiding in such an open area. I need to look a little further.’
There was no end to the wilderness in sight. If they had to cross it, they would be farther away from the village than they had expected. Even if reinforcements were to come this way, it would take a long time.
Lydon halted in front of Cadel, who made a grunting sound, and began to stare off into the distance, somewhere beyond the wilderness.
“……What’s wrong? What do you see?”
There was no reply. Lydon’s gaze remained fixed on one spot. Persistently, as if weighing something.
At this point, he was getting antsy. As Cadel was about to prod Lydon again when he realized something was amiss, Lydon tilted his head at an angle.
“I’m much weaker than I was in the forest, aren’t I?”
“You’re saying something obvious all of a sudden.”
“How weak do you think I am?”
“I think you’re terribly weak. Maybe half of your original power.”
Lydon’s seal of ability took away more than half his mana. On top of that, even the buffs of infinite mana and chantless spells were gone. He was absurdly weakened. As if he wasn’t satisfied with that flat answer, Lydon, who had been staring at the other side with a frown on his face, grabbed Cadel’s wrist.
“Then it won’t work.”
“I think it would be impossible for the two of us.”
The moment Cadel was about to say what the hell was impossible.
With the sound of something burning, a wall of ice rose before Cadel’s eyes. Even more surprising than the sudden appearance of the ice wall was the green mucus that oozed down the center of the wall.
The wall of ice melted along with the flowing mucus. Cadel’s face hardened.
Ranged attacks with toxic mucus, defensive summons with [Ally Multiplication]. Overall, if the demon was a fiend with a fraudulent skill set that gave a shit about balance.
Beyond the ice wall that melted in the blink of an eye, from the edge of the wilderness, a puddle close to a swamp was bubbling. Cadel drew in a deep breath as he spotted a head rising slowly in it.
‘Sure. It’s Ergo.’
Black hair that hung in tangles like it hadn’t been washed in weeks. Translucent mucus over pale skin. Long, gaping eyes and sharp teeth beneath twisted lips.
The identity of the demon, which Cadel had already guessed to some extent, came to a conclusion as soon as they met face to face.
[Ergo, the Devil of Corrosion]
This was the body of the undisguised creature. Cadel felt as sick to his stomach as he had when he first saw the ‘head feature’.
“Cadel, that guy is strong.”
At that, Lydon clicked his tongue and began to mumble something in disdain.
A chant for magic spell. Fired a beat too late, the ice spear hurtled toward the swamp, the clear ice piercing Ergo’s skull just as it was emerging.
The mucus that had filled the swamp rose and spread like a barrier. Lydon’s ice spear melted through the barrier with ridiculous ease.
Next to Lydon, who shrugged his shoulders as he had expected it, Cadel rolled his head calmly.
‘Lydon has been living as a chantless magician all his life. It must be difficult to perfect the timing of the attack right now.’
It was okay. Cadel never intended to make Lydon a power in the first place. Lydon had done his part when they found Ergo.
‘……The ring is working fine.’
After leaving the village, a red thread was connected to the ring. It was a thread that only the wearer could see, so Ergo didn’t notice. That was enough. From the beginning, this ring was an indicator to guide reinforcements to the demon.
Cadel’s goal wasn’t to drag the crippled Lydon to find the demon and defeat him.
‘Lumen will bring in reinforcements somehow, but until then, we need to keep Ergo tied down. There’s no point in attacking unnecessarily. We’ll bide our time with minimal offense and maximum defense.’
Even if Lumen couldn’t bring back Garuel Monzasi, there was no way the White Kingdom wouldn’t lend a hand. Cadel already tracked down the demon, counting on their support. In order to hide Lydon’s identity and drastically reduce the time it took to track down and defeat the demon, this was the best option.
So, Cadel had to be flexible to prevent Ergo from escaping and to avoid being killed at his hands.
“Tsk tsk……. An unpleasant human stench…… And an unexpectedly sweet scent.”
Ergo let out a sickening chuckle as his upper body finally emerged. He strode leisurely through the swamp, pulling his legs out in one swift motion, and Cadel shuddered in disgust at the mucus dripping from his body.
“Meeting a fairy in a place like this. I’m excited.”
His torn eyes folded bizarrely. Cadel, condensing the mana in his hand, dragged Lydon behind him.
“Ahaha! Did you hear what that demon was saying? What excited, it’s disgusting to get excited with such a look!”
“Come here, Lydon. Don’t step up.”
“Hmm? We’re going to fight?”
“We’ll stall for time until reinforcements arrive.”
Embers crackled in his hand. With a light flick of his fingertips, six fireballs formed behind him. The fireballs gathered in a semicircle, enveloping Cadel.
‘Let’s check his condition first.’
Even if the goal was to stall for time, once they were in battle, nothing could be wasted. With the flame in his hand, Cadel stretched out his index finger and pointed at Ergo.
One of the loaded fireballs went off with a rumbling cannonball sound.
A dull explosion shook the earth. A haze of smoke rose up and obstructed his vision, but when Cadel lightly waved his hand, the wind blew and the cramped smoke was pushed away at once.
“Nasty human……. Attacking without greeting, what rude behavior.”
Cadel’s eyes narrowed. There was not a single scratch left on Ergo’s body. The fireball had been deflected by the mucus that had risen into the air and spread out like a barrier. Having done its job, the mucus poured down and was absorbed back into the swamp.
Ergo grinned wickedly.
“If you want to live, run. I’m not interested in you. I just want to taste the…… fairy next to you. He smells very, very ecstatic…….”
A long tongue licked across bloodless lips. Gray pupils flashed between hands that swept the mucus that coated his face like a pervert.
There was a bubbling sound from the swamp beneath his feet. The moment Cadel, who instinctively sensed danger, opened a barrier of fire in front of him.
Dozens of globs of mucus flew up from the surface of the swamp. A heavy weight was felt on the barrier, and soon the barrier vibrated precariously with a strong recoil. The deflected glob of mucus hit the dirt with a loud thud.
Smoke billowed from the ground where the mucus touched, along with a sizzling sound.
‘If just only one of these hits, it will be a one-way ticket to hell……?’
Even in the game, Cadel had to carry a poison debuff for the entire playthrough for a single flat hit, so if he got hit in the face by this mucus ball in real life.
……He would become a human basalt and die.
Quickly jumping to conclusions, Cadel created a wind barrier instead of a fire barrier.
‘His basic attacks are all made of mucus, making it impossible to fight unless I maintain a barrier.’
If so, a transparent wind barrier was far preferable to a fire barrier that made it difficult to see. Cadel generated a wind barrier that enveloped both himself and Lydon. Lydon, sensing the mana enveloping him, gave a small laugh.
“Are you protecting me, Cadel?”
“Didn’t you hear what that pervert was saying? He wants to taste you.”
“Ahaha! That’s right, that’s right. Teach him a lesson, Cadel! Tear him into a thousand pieces and kill him!”
Did Lydon remember that they needed to stall for time? Cadel turned away from Lydon, who was cheering fervently like a cheerleader, and focused on the swamp behind Ergo.
All of Ergo’s attacks, including his first appearance, were made through that swamp.
‘Is the swamp itself a giant magic circle, with a collection of magic formulas and mana that can be used flexibly? If that is possible, his body will definitely be easier to move. He’s just throwing the prepared magic spells, so there’s no need for a chant.’
If so, get rid of that swamp.
With a simple conclusion, the five loaded fireballs behind Cadel were fired at once..
Anticipating the attack, Ergo raised his mucus. A bolt of lightning pierced the swamp in a surprising burst of fireballs.
A blinding flash obscured Ergo’s vision. He turned his head to follow the sharp echo, and into his field of vision came a blue current that covered the surface of the swamp.
A strange laugh, like boiling phlegm, mingled with the acrid smoke.
‘Ergo’s mana must be suppressed.’
First, cast a simultaneous spell to get Ergo’s attention, then let the electric current that struck the swamp safely contain Cadel’s mana. That was Cadel’s plan, to cut off Ergo’s mana from the swamp and drastically reduce his strategic options.
“A three-attribute magician? You’re pretty good for a human. But no matter how hard you try, you’re still human. An empty vessel that makes loud noise, no more, no less.”
With Ergo’s sinister grin, the mucus in the swamp began to bubble and rise.
Cadel’s brow cracked as he focused his power on the current. It could not be suppressed. The mana contained in the swamp was far greater than he had thought.
The electric current that had barely been spread out was ripped apart, and the mucus in the swamp became a huge pillar and gushed out at once. The mucus pillar boasted a height of well over 10m. The pillar, which boasted a magnificent appearance, soon began to change its shape with a squeaky sound.
The mucus pillar, which freely distorted like clay, gradually took shape. Cadel’s mouth fell open as he watched.
It was a human hand. A huge palm hung on top of a wrist towering high like a tower, showing off its magnificent prowess with mucus pouring down like a waterfall.
“Did you think that a mere human child could overcome the mana of this body? Tsk tsk…… It’s funny, very funny.”
Cadel bit his lip at the slow mockery.
As Cadel had in mind beforehand, Ergo’s personality was cautious and calculated. He was different from the usual enemies. Although he was confident in his abilities, he was never conceited. He knew how the opponent was attacking him and grasped the enemy’s tactics in many ways.
In other words, there were as many preparations as the number of cases identified.
‘……I don’t know how long I can hold on.’
This was a foe that could not be overpowered by knowing a few tricks of the trade. For Cadel, who had been fighting with the privilege of being a transmigrator, it was a tough matchup.
The hand moved. The spread palm fell in the exact direction where Cadel and Lydon were with a threatening speed that did not match the massive body. In an instant, a thick shadow fell over them.
Reflexively snatching Lydon’s wrist, Cadel raced to the other side of the shadow. The mucus pounded roughly on the barrier that enveloped them like a rainstorm.
“Ahaha! Run, run!”
Did he know that his life was in danger? Excited, Lydon yanked his wrist out of Cadel’s grasp and started running vigorously, pushing Cadel’s back.
However, it still seemed difficult to get out of the absurdly huge shadow. It was unknown whether the barrier could withstand the impact or not.
Cadel, who grieved at this, sped up and cast [Path of the Wind]. Suddenly, a strong wind enveloped them both, and at the same time, the palm that touched the ground grazed Cadel’s head.
“Haha! It’s thrilling!”
It was only a fraction of a second. Cadel, who had fallen on the ground with Lydon, stumbled along the heavy vibrations that rattled the ground. The palm, which had narrowly missed, fumbled to reorganize its shocked shape.
Cadel immediately stood up in a panic, and Ergo said to him.
“Your chance to escape is over. I will kill you and claim the fairy. Biting into the crispy wings, savoring the savory pancreas……. It reminds me of a feast from hundreds of years ago. Hungry…… I’m hungry…….”
Cadel, who witnessed the scene where Ergo stuck out his tongue like a pervert and licked his dirty forearm, made a sour expression. Everything he did or said was disgusting.
Next to Cadel, who so openly expressed his disgust, Lydon’s mouth, which was humming with joy, twitched briefly. Lydon quietly rolled his eyes for a while. He sighed with an unsuitably cautious face, then muttered in a dry voice.
“I’ll just have to kill him.”