* * *
No life force was felt in the tornado. Cadel’s flame burned everything, consumed everything.
With a ragged breath, Cadel slowly lowered his arms. The tornado and flames scattered into the air, dissipating as the mana was withdrawn.
In the afterglow of intense heat, there was nothing left. Only grayish-white ash blew in the wind.
“Sir Cadel! You’re amazing. To repel that demon so overwhelmingly…….”
Modeleine came up to him, beaming, and praised him. It was a sincere compliment, but Cadel was not pleased at all.
Cadel’s gaze never left the spot where Ergo was standing.
‘Apparently, he’s dead…….’
His hand trembled as he wiped away the blood from his nose. Carefully gazing into the void, Cadel was in disbelief.
「Time remaining 07 : 53 : 21」
“Sir Cadel? Is something wrong…….”
Why didn’t the countdown end? The system window that said the quest was completed also did not come up.
Sure enough, Ergo was dead, burned to a crisp with no flesh or guts left.
While the confused Cadel stood still, Garuel, who had ordered the disarming of the Holy Swordsmanship, walked to the spot where the tornado had stood a moment ago.
From a distance, the only sign of the demon was the ash that whipped through the air, a perfect fire that left no doubt in the eyes.
But as he made his way to the center of the wreckage, something caught at his feet. A purple crystal the size of a fist. Garuel stooped to pick it up.
After thinking about something for a moment, he walked over to Cadel with the crystal.
“I apologize for blowing out the candle before you could bask in your victory, but I picked up something ominous. Any guesses?”
Garuel’s eyes bent softly as Cadel took the object obediently. Cadel gave him an unappreciative glance before looking down at the object in his hand.
“It remained in the demon’s burnt place. Seeing that it didn’t melt even with that great fire magic, it’s certain that it’s unusual.”
Garuel emphasized the ‘great fire magic’ and took out a flask of alcohol. After finding him, Modeleine immediately tried to snatch the flask, but it was impossible to overcome Garuel’s grip.
“Commander! How many times have I told you that if you’re going to drink, do it where no one is looking!”
“Give it up, Modeleine. I’ve already been found out. I might as well make myself comfortable while I’m at it. Don’t you think so, Sir Cadel?”
“Ah……! Sir, Sir Cadel! Commander is not usually like this, he’s just been through a lot lately……. Th, that’s right! This isn’t alcohol, it’s an elixir with special powers!”
With Modeleine’s pathetic excuses out of earshot, Cadel glared deathly at the crystal in his hand.
‘Apparently, the fragment that Lumen found in Ergo’s clone came off from here.’
So was this a type of magic stone? Was Ergo carrying a magic stone inside of him?
But even the best magic stones would break down from constant exposure to too much shock and heat. Cadel rubbed the smooth surface of the crystal.
‘Not a single scratch on it.’
He felt an inexplicable heaviness. As Garuel said, it was certain that this was an unusual item.
Rummaging in his pocket for the shard Lumen had given him, Cadel compared the two side by side. As expected, they were similar in color and texture, as well as their sheer shape. The only difference was the size.
Cadel pondered for a moment, crystals in each hand. Suddenly, his cautious gaze flashed.
‘……Now that I think about it, there’s something a little unique about the way the game plays out when I successfully defeat Ergo.’
This was a boss that Cadel struggled to beat, so the feeling of victory was significant, and he, who would normally click skip right away to check the reward, watched the video that followed for a very short time.
Of course, the experience was fleeting and he hit the skip button shortly afterward, so he didn’t know the details.
‘A shattering of a gem. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that before.’
Ergo let out a final roar, and the gem rose into the air. Black smoke leaked from the cracks in the shattered gem, and soon the shards were reduced to dust and scattered into the air.
He didn’t remember the exact color of the gem, but Cadel thought it was something dark like this.
‘Is this that gem, and if so, what is it? If I killed Ergo the same way, why does the gem break in the game and stay intact here?’
Running a hand through his hair in annoyance, Cadel chewed on the inside of his mouth.
‘It was a crystal that both the clone and the main body had. ……Think. Think of Ergo’s skills.’
It was clear that the stone was connected to Ergo’s death. But he didn’t know how. The corners of Cadel’s eyes twitched briefly as his brow furrowed and his mind raced.
A regenerative skill that triggered when Ergo was reduced to 1% HP.
‘It was a skill that healed Ergo’s blood barrel by 70% if you failed to break the protective barrier within the time limit. ……Don’t tell me.’
Cadel’s eyes, looking down at the crystals, shook mercilessly.
“This is the core……?”
Cadel gulped. Cold sweat ran down his back.
“Did you find anything? From the look on your face, I’m guessing it’s something bad.”
Approaching lazily, Garuel tapped the crystal against the bottom of the flask. Cadel’s hard gaze met his impassive face.
“It’s his heart.”
“If we don’t break this in time, the demon will be resurrected.”
At the quiet assertion, Garuel and even Modeleine opened their mouths. Cadel’s hand tightened around the core.
‘A core that hasn’t been scratched by fire magic at full power. How the hell…… am I supposed to break this?’
The more diligent he progressed, the farther away the exit was. The pressure of time decreasing by the second. Cadel’s eyes, which were full of confidence of victory, blurred.
* * *
Before he even got the sense of accomplishment of getting rid of the clone.
The body of the clone melted down in an instant like a piece of ice exposed to heat.
Van blew out a ragged breath and squinted one eye. He’d taken Cadel’s advice and parried most of the attacks with his sword, but there were still marks of mucus all over his body.
“Did Commander take care of the main body…….”
It was frustrating not to be able to quickly dispose of the clone and join him, but it was a bad idea to hold Cadel’s ankle, so in this way, Cadel could fight comfortably.
“It’s a shame, because if I had a little more time, I could have killed it for sure.”
With a brief click of his tongue, Van summoned the red aura that enveloped his entire body. His red eyes, which had flashed ominously with the fading aura, returned to their original color.
As he silently sheathed his greatsword behind his back and contemplated returning to Cadel, a single purple splinter entered his field of vision in the smoke of evaporated mucus.
Stooping, he picked up the shard. His eyes were sharp as he examined the fingernail-sized shard.
‘I’m getting a weird vibe.’
He didn’t know exactly what it was, but his animal instincts vaguely grasped the essence of the shard. After debating whether or not to crush it, Van shoved it into his pocket.
“I’ll have to show it to Commander first.”
It was a surprisingly good item, so the commander might need it. Van nodded lightly and moved on.
He returned to Cadel, and it didn’t take him long to realize that he was half right and half wrong.