The ceiling was open and the monsters poked their heads through it. Garuel looked up at them with an ethereal expression.
“They’re finally here.”
He had already realized that there was a battle going on outside, with deafening shouts and screams and the thick smell of blood. It was strange not to know.
But he didn’t take action. Instead, he helped stabilize the villagers who were seizing as a side effect of the monsterization. Healing alone, away from combat, was a far cry from a competent Knight Order Commander, but Garuel was unperturbed.
‘It’s better to remain an incompetent commander than to use unholy power and humiliate my men.’
As soon as a certain amount of light magic was used, or a small wound was inflicted on the body, ‘that power’ was unleashed. It was an insulting power, a consuming force that rotted him to the core.
That was why he didn’t want to use ‘that power’. The only time he was allowed to use it was to save lives.
Not him, of course. He thought he would be more useful to the world if he were dead.
The result was this. Pushing his men to the battlefield, he himself unleashed ‘that power’ and healed the villagers. And by the time he judged that their condition had stabilized to some extent.
The monsters found the garrison and swarmed in, clawing at the building’s exterior walls.
“If I fight here, the power will be unlocked.”
Garuel rested his hand on the scabbard of his sword and stared at the monsters clinging to the edge of the shattered ceiling. Unlike their violent appearance, which had caused the ground to tremble, they did not rush to attack, but merely eyed him as he stood at the center of the fallen villagers.
That was more offensive than anything else.
‘It’s annoying that it’s so obvious what they’re thinking. I’ll just kill them all, and then I’ll be dead, and I won’t have to worry about the aftermath anyway. Well, my men who still rely on me might wander off for a while, but they’re strong, and they’ll sort themselves out in time.’
Garuel’s face was grim as he considered a dangerous thought. He sighed deeply, recognizing that he couldn’t spend all his time keeping the monsters at bay forever. Slowly, he pulled down the blindfold that covered his left eye.
In the exposed left eye, there was no sclera. Where the sclera should have been, there was an eerie inky blackness. It was a reverse eye, with the same purple iris as the right eye.
Eyes that were ominous to behold. Garuel dabbed at his left eye and spoke to the monsters that had gathered, still watching him.
“Is it weird that humans have these things? I get that you’re confused, but don’t be confused about whether I’m an ally or not. It makes me feel dirty.”
Good. It was decided. He didn’t plan to live long anyway, and once the Knight Order was independent, he would find a desolate place to die, because he believed it was the most fitting end to a life spent betraying his faith.
After fighting for quite some time, the monsters finally made it inside the village. It was obvious that the Twilight Knight Order was struggling.
And if the fight was at a level where the Twilight Knight Order struggled, it wouldn’t be too strange if he died.
With that conclusion, a dark purple, almost black, aura pulsed from the left side of Garuel’s body, an oddly shaped aura that curled at the ends, more ominous than mystical, giving off an eerie aura more befitting of a demon than a holy knight.
Shifting the sword to his left hand instead of his usual right, he straightened the blade.
‘I’ll kill them all, and everyone else will take care of the rest.’
Thinking about what happens after you die will only make you hesitate.
It was when Garuel was going to hunt the monsters surrounding the garrison in earnest.
With a sudden burst of heat, a barrier of fire was created that obscured the open ceiling.
* * *
Cadel and Lumen hurried to the temporary garrison. The first thing they saw was a gaping hole in the ceiling, a huddle of monsters above it, and a purple aura rising from inside the hole.
Upon discovering the aura, Cadel generated a barrier of fire that covered the ceiling.
“Lumen! Take care of the monsters around here!”
Startled by the sudden flame, the creature rolled away, only to be cut down by Lumen’s sword aura. In the midst of the monsters’ helpless fall, Cadel knocked on the door of the garrison, protected by the Holy Knight Order’s mana.
“Sir Garuel! Are you inside?”
A questioning voice came from beyond the door. Cadel glanced behind him anxiously and raised his voice.
“Are you all done?”
“Well, the villagers are all asleep―”
“Are you sure you’re all done?”
It was a question that anyone else might have heard and thought ‘What the hell do you want to ask me?’, but knowing the power of Garuel, it was the best Cadel could do. As if vaguely sensing it, Garuel spoke after a short silence.
“Yes. I’m all done.”
Upon hearing the definite answer, Cadel took a few steps back from the door. Mana was condensed in the bent hand.
“Then I’m going in!”
“What? You’re coming in?”
There was no time to explain the situation one by one. ‘It’ was coming.
Without hesitation, he blew the door open, revealing a dazed Garuel. Cadel called for Lumen, who had taken care of the monsters outside, and hurried inside. Then, before Garuel could ask anything, he found an empty seat and sat down.
“I’m going to build a barrier to protect the garrison, but I can’t protect it from the impact, so I need you to protect the villagers from being blown away.”
“Sir Cadel, what are you saying all of the sudden…….”
“My subordinate is going to use some power.”
With that, Cadel closed his eyes tightly.
Beginning with the makeshift garrison, the monsters that crossed the fallen barrier destroyed the village indiscriminately. Countless giant trolls trampled homes, and ogres tilled the ground.
The numbers were too big to know where to start, and the locations were arbitrary. And they weren’t going after the core anymore. They weren’t looking for Lumen, they were just focused on wreaking havoc in the village.
That fact amplified Cadel’s anxiety. What could be more important than retaking the core? What had changed their priorities?
But even those concerns were swallowed up by the ‘it’ that followed.