Meanwhile, Lumen had taken shelter from the raining beast. He was facing the challenge of a lifetime.
His speed down the road was almost too fast for eyes to follow, and as he maintained it, Lumen placed his hand on the hilt of his sword.
Dozens of slender afterimages etched themselves along the spot where he had passed. Flashes of light along the solid lines. He drew his drawn sword, and a sharp rippling sound rang out as a bluish sword energy was painted over the imprints.
It was a phenomenal attack that no one could easily react to. However, Lumen’s expression was not relaxed at all.
‘What the hell is that?’
Something was following him. Normally, there shouldn’t have been a monster chasing him, all bound by Lydon’s [Flower Blizzard]. But even in the midst of the carnage, there was a monster that dared to flee.
Kkii! Kkiiik! Kiiissh!
A monster the size of a dime raced toward Lumen with an annoying croak that sounded like scraping wings.
Bulging muscles that didn’t match its small frame, and a protruding belly to contrast. Bare, apricot-colored skin and large eyes that took up half its face.
This strange and unpleasant monster, which Lumen had never encountered in his life, was known as the ‘Baby Devil’. A disgusting race of monsters that usually worked for demons on delivery errands, feeding off of the humans and beasts they killed. Always working in tandem with the demons, they were a race that had largely disappeared since the sealing of the Demon Realm.
‘It’s dodging all my attacks.’
Its movements were so swift that he could hardly believe his eyes. Tremendous leg strength and speed running over the wall. The bulging eyes stared at Lumen without blinking.
It hadn’t fought back yet, but it was clear what it was after.
The core. Lumen had felt it since the legion of monsters, fallen from the sky, had charged at him at once, but the sensation of being targeted by monsters was not pleasant.
‘If I keep going, I’ll be blocked by the barrier. If I turn around, I’ll end up right back where Leader is. Then the evacuation will be for naught.’
Truly a dilemma. Since he did not know the identity of the monster that was fiercely pursuing him, it was ambiguous to start a battle recklessly.
‘It might just be fast, but it could be hiding something, and if I don’t counter it, it’ll take the core.’
The Knight Order outside the barrier, the mercenary corps in the center. All were fighting the monster legion to defend the core. Entrusted with the protection of such an important object, Lumen couldn’t afford to act rashly.
Even in the midst of careful consideration, the monster was gradually closing the distance while screaming. And then.
A large fireball streaks across the sky, accompanied by a deafening bang.
Before Lumen was evacuated, Cadel said ‘If I think it’s okay to join, I’ll fire a fireball’.
The signal was clear as day. Lumen immediately decided to make a comeback.
‘If it’s Leader, he can use magic to trap that mysterious creature.’
It was burdensome to fight alone. However, if the mercenary corps joined, there was no reason to avoid it.
Lumen then turned to face the direction of the fireball.
From the barrier close to him, an unearthly rupture sounded.
Reflexively turning his head, Lumen’s blue eyes flashed with a blinding shard of light.
* * *
Cadel’s steady gaze turned to the sky, where the barrier, which had held its shape except for the initial crack, was rapidly crumbling, untouched.
‘Has the Twilight Knight Order been defeated……?’
Cadel didn’t know how many monsters were swarming outside the barrier. But the fact that they couldn’t even muster the strength to keep the barrier up foreshadowed two ominous assumptions.
The final outburst, or annihilation.
Either they could no longer afford to fight while maintaining the barrier, or all the people who would maintain the barrier were dead.
Lydon descended with the falling shards of the barrier. He was still smiling, but his body was visibly weakened. Cadel helped the staggering Lydon to his feet.
“Wow, is this what it feels like to be drained of energy? It’s amazing. I’m groggy.”
“You’ve worked hard, Lydon. I’ll leave the wings intact, so from now on, hide as far away as possible.”
Aside from Lydon’s struggles, the situation was getting worse. It was only a matter of time before the barrier was completely broken, and there was no telling how many monsters would come from beyond. There was no way he could afford to protect Lydon in such a situation.
Because of this, Cadel wanted to send Lydon to a safe place.
“I don’t even have the strength to move my wings. Can Cadel pick me up and carry me?”
“Look at your size now.”
“Haha! Isn’t that right? Then I’ll just do this.”
With that, Lydon’s appearance changed. He had reverted to a pint-sized fairy, just as he had been when Cadel first encountered him in the Forest of Enchantment.
In the blink of an eye, he had shrunk to a tiny size, and he wiggled his way into Cadel’s robes.
“Where are you going? Aren’t you coming out right now?”
Van, watching from the sidelines, frowned, but Lydon shrugged it off.
“Then I’m going to get some sleep, wake me up when you’re done.”
Cadel checked Lydon in his pocket and shrugged.
“Well, if you’re not going to run away, this might as well be it. Just try not to get crushed.”
“Commander, I’ll just hold him for you.”
“Forget it, with the way you’re fighting, Lydon will be crushed.”
“That’s not bad either…….”
Leaving the muttering Van behind, Cadel looked around. The fallen barrier had already pierced the sky, and outside, clearly visible, was thick smoke and loud shouting. He couldn’t tell if it was the shouts of the Knight Order or the screams of the monsters.
‘……Why isn’t Lumen coming yet?’
Just after Van’s rampage had been stopped and Lydon’s magic had finished, Cadel threw a fireball, signaling Lumen to join them.
As far as he knew, not a single monster had escaped. If he was hiding somewhere safe, Lumen should have come running at the first sign of the fireball and revealed himself by now.
“Commander. If monsters from the outside attack, they will all try to attack Lumen.”
“I know. That’s why I’m sending a signal and waiting for him……. If he doesn’t come back, we need to go find him before the barrier is completely destroyed.”
“……Commander, please go alone.”
Go alone? Cadel looked up at Van in confusion, unable to grasp his intentions, and with a serious face, Van slung his greatsword over his shoulder.
“No ordinary attack is going to end this fight, it’s time for something big, something that will take out all the monsters that will gather here in one fell swoop, and I have just the thing.”
“What……. Do you even realize you almost went on a rampage just now?”
He managed to calm down the aura that was out of control. But to bring out the aura for genocide again?
He had to stop the rampage once, and now he had to do it twice? Besides, he couldn’t afford to pay attention to Van anymore. Lumen and the core were his priorities.
But before Cadel could say no. Van’s steady gaze stopped him.
“I know it looks reckless. You might think I’m going wild again over a troublesome subject, but Commander.”
There was conviction in those clear golden eyes. It was the momentum of one facing a tall wall, the confidence of one taking a giant step.
“I think I can do it now.”
His desire for greater power had reached Cadel.
‘……He’s about to embark on a full-blown Awakening Quest.’
The most Cadel could do for Van’s awakening was to give him a gentle nudge on the back as he was about to fall, and when he found his balance again, it was up to Van to break through the walls in front of him.
“Then do it.”
Cadel knew that right now, at this moment. He could see that Van was standing at a crucial crossroads that would determine his fate.
“……I will definitely succeed.”
It didn’t occur to him that Van would fail. Cadel was as confident in his growth as Van was.
Cadel patted Van on the shoulder as he made up his mind, then turned and walked away. Regardless of whether or not he believed in Van’s awakening, he had to find Lumen before the barrier fell and the remaining monsters swarmed in. He had to find Lumen, no matter what.
‘It’s not like it happened already.’
An ominous sense of foreboding overtook him as he walked faster and faster. Cadel was confident in Lumen’s abilities, so he entrusted him with the core. Cadel knew it couldn’t be taken away from Lumen, but somehow it didn’t feel right.
‘Please, stay in one piece.’
May he only be lost for a moment. In the scattered shards of light beneath the crumbling barrier, Cadel prayed fervently.