* * *
Cadel’s encounter with Lumen was more of a coincidence, as he prioritized the safety of Lydon and figured finding Lumen would come later.
Hence the road to the temporary garrison of survivors. The red thread, shortening with each quick step, was never meant to be.
The pulsating red thread pointed to a man standing on the side of the road.
He stared down at something in his hand, then looked up.
His stiff posture gave him the appearance of being unharmed, but the trembling of the thread indicated that his condition was serious.
“……Leader. You’re here at just the right time.”
Up close, he was a sight to behold. His clothes were tattered and punctured here and there, and his skin was peeling away in patches to reveal raw, exposed red flesh.
But Lumen’s expression didn’t change, even though it must have been quite painful. Cadel was the only one who looked shocked.
“You look like…….”
“There was some fighting on the way to find Leader.”
Lumen looked at Lydon, who waved happily, supported by Cadel, and jabbed behind him.
As he followed his gaze, Cadel saw a flattened puddle of mucus. The area of the puddle was rapidly shrinking as the mucus evaporated.
‘Lumen must have met his clone. Crazy punk. How many clones did he have?’
Even when Ergo was not feeling well, he still managed to keep his enemies at bay by scattering his clone here and there. Cadel was afraid to find out the level of magic Ergo had achieved.
“He had the same face as the demon Sir Modeleine was fighting, but I don’t think he was real, because he died more easily than I expected.”
It took some trial and error, but Lumen stammered, then thrust something in Cadel’s direction. It was something he’d been holding in his hand the whole time.
“It came from the body of the demon I killed, and I tried everything I could…… but it wouldn’t break.”
Tiny crystal of purple color. From its grimy surface, Cadel suspect it was a fragment of something.
“What is it? A magic stone?”
“Something like that. If we can get rid of it with magic, we might as well, because it came from that.”
It might contain the mana that fueled his clone. If so, it would be best to destroy it now, just in case, but…… it was indestructible, even with Lumen’s power. Cadel didn’t think he could break it with a little bit of mana, so he had to take care of something more urgent for now.
“You said you were on your way to find me. Where is Sir Modeleine? And is the demon you were dealing with the main body?”
“Maybe. He’s of a different level of power, and things weren’t looking good until I got out of there, so we’d better move fast—”
Before he could finish his sentence, Cadel shoved Lydon into Lumen’s arms. Lumen reflexively gripped Lydon’s shoulders and made a face.
“What are you doing?”
“You take Lydon to the temporary garrison, I’m sure they’ve set aside a holy knight to protect the villagers, so go and treat those wounds first.”
Although he was standing there chatting as if nothing was wrong, Lumen had already consumed a lot of stamina. Without even knowing Ergo’s exact abilities, he killed him. Even if it was Lumen, it would be too much.
“……I’ll just move Lydon and join you straight away.”
“No. Take your time, and make sure you get the full treatment.”
“It doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t make combat uncomfortable.”
Still, Lumen was strangely stubborn. Cadel glared at Lumen, who insisted he didn’t need treatment, and then waved his right hand in the air. It was the hand on which he wore the ring.
“Your end of the red thread may be calm, but mine is not. It has been flailing around like a madman ever since.”
The red thread of the ring showed the wearer ‘the status of the other person’. It was natural Lumen didn’t know what his condition was. Lumen paused for a moment as if he hadn’t already realized that, and then removed the ring from his finger, forcing it into Cadel’s hand.
“I know my condition best, and I’m strong enough to fight.”
“Who says you can’t fight? I’m telling you to come back with your wounds healed so you can fight well.”
“In the meantime, if the demon goes on a rampage…….”
Cadel took a deep breath. He glanced at Lydon, who rolled his eyes annoyedly as if their argument was noisy, and looked at Lumen again.
Suddenly, he remembered what Lumen had said.
‘Maybe I’m not that dependable.’
Who the heck was not dependable? The one who was not dependable was Cadel himself.
It was a disgrace, really. He, the commander, was the one who went off on a wild goose chase and was found collapsed. It seemed that there was no choice but to embed his newly upgraded power deep into Lumen’s brain in order to raise his dignity.
Instead of persuading Lumen further, Cadel stretched out his finger and pointed to his face. And he said to the faltering Lumen.
“What I wanted in the Temple of Depollo was a rational, strong Lumen Dominic. Not the guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing and is acting like an idiot.”
“You too, the person you wanted on that day wouldn’t be the leader you’re afraid of collapsing at any moment, right?”
The finger that had been pointing at Lumen suddenly pressed hard against the wound on his cheek. A pained expression twisted in his eyes, and Cadel spoke firmly.
“Go, Lumen. What you’re worried about isn’t going to happen.”
When Lumen was healed and backed in one piece, Cadel would proudly greet him with a more presentable appearance than now.
No more indecency in front of his subordinates.