Episode 172

Yoru (1)
1 week ago
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Meanwhile, while Shiron was at the lair of the Fervent Dragon, the expeditionary force headquarters was thrown into chaos.

A deserter had appeared.

And not just any deserter, but one from a punishment unit given a special mission by the royal family.

Upon Victor’s return and hearing the report, the staff of the expeditionary force could not hide their shock and anger.

“There were only three administrators, and with nearly a hundred personnel under management, desertion was expected at some point. However, it became a problem that, on the very day the Emperor’s special mission was given, not only did desertion occur but also the killing of skilled knights.”

“A mere criminal has taken down the proud knights of the empire, you say?”

“To think there was a drinking party at such a critical time, even with the Emperor’s permission.”

“Who exactly was supervising?”

“Was it Captain Malleus?”

“It could have brought great disaster upon His Majesty. Let’s not dwell on assigning blame. But to think the deserter turned out to be a terrorist…”

Amidst the outburst of scolding,

Igor, despite clutching his throbbing head, could not blame the leaders of the expedition. Instead, he understood their sentiments and even wanted to join in their cursing.

As someone had mentioned, Natalia was a terrorist. Moreover, Natalia did not have the capability to desert under the watch of the knights.

Thus, her desertion was a coordinated effort by an external force.

Whether true or not, Igor concluded as much and immediately organized a pursuit team.

“Parasites…”

The expedition was not yet over, creating a likely void at the front line, but terrorism did not discriminate against time or place and did not hesitate to harm innocent civilians. Hence, it was possible that this menace could eventually reach here, to the border.

For that reason, Igor deemed it more important to deal with the deserter and her collaborators who were likely still nearby.


“Captain, the tracks split into two. Shall we divide the pursuit team?”

“…I have eyes, too. There’s no need for an explanation.”

At the forefront of the front line.

The pursuit team members frowned upon seeing the blatantly obvious footprints.

After a week of pursuit, they were close enough to directly see the footprints in the snow, but none of them truly welcomed this development.

‘Is this some kind of protest? Or… just a slight resistance?’

Yugen clenched his teeth and looked up.

Halved corpses were visible.

Their size was as large as a mansion, fallen at every path of the chase… Instinct warned that following any further would lead to death.

Though hastily assembled, the pursuit team consisted solely of skilled knights who could infuse their swords with Qi.

However, none among them could bisect a beast as large as a mansion.

Even more so, the one being pursued had managed to evade the pursuit for a week without rest. And that, with the burden known as Natalia.

‘What kind of monster is this…’

“The pursuit team will continue as is.”

Yugen tried not to focus on his trembling fingers, speaking in a calm voice.

“If we split our forces, we’re more likely to be the ones taken down.”

“But doesn’t it seem like the target is already exhausted? Considering the footprints split into two, it seems they also find it hard to shake off the pursuit team…”

“If you’re so confident, why don’t you take charge?”

“I apologize.”

“…I’m the captain. Don’t forget that.”

Yugen sighed deeply, turning his gaze to the subordinate bowing his head.

“How’s the footprint comparison going?”

“The one that didn’t change direction is the collaborator, and the one that did is presumed to be Natalia.”

“We’ll follow the collaborator. If everyone is ready, prepare to move.”

Yugen could have chosen to pursue Natalia, but he did not make such a soft choice.

Yugen was a knight loyal to the empire.

He was someone who couldn’t stand idly by while those disturbing the peace, supported by the empire, roamed freely. Ready to sacrifice himself, Yugen clenched and unclenched his trembling hand as he moved forward.


‘…Climbing up is always tough.’

Shiron dusted off his hands, looking down at the pitch-black abyss below. The blackness. He wondered how he managed to climb up from that distant place through a snowstorm.

‘For a week straight, through all-night searches and battles… carrying a load and even managing to climb a cliff.’

Shiron looked back at Latera, who was wrapped in his coat and clinging to his back. Despite having some method of becoming ethereal or whatever, she had been sticking to Shiron’s back since earlier, refusing to come down.

“You just thought of me as baggage, didn’t you?”

“…No. Of course not.”

“Lying isn’t good. I clearly read the hero’s mind just now and knew everything.”

Her being petulantly sullen was an added bonus. Latera, with a sulky pout, thumped on Shiron’s back. Thud- Thud- It seemed like a silly act for someone in her position, but Shiron didn’t bother to stop her.

“I’m going to stay like this.”

“It’ll be cold.”

“I’m a guardian angel. You shouldn’t think of me as a mere human child. Besides… the hero’s back is warm, so it’s fine.”

“…Alright, do as you wish.”

Shiron turned around and stepped towards the snowstorm. Latera, feeling frustrated, tightly gripped Shiron’s clothes.

‘I shouldn’t be doing this…’

Though she said not to think of her as a child, her tantrum just now was undeniably childish. Peeking into Shiron’s thoughts uninvited was another thing. Shiron was someone who extremely disliked being ‘seen through’ by anyone.

If she hadn’t assumed the appearance of the human most trusted by Demodras, she might have erupted in anger over the continuous probing and guesswork.

‘Why is she acting like this?’

Therefore…

The action Latera took just before was something she neither wanted nor should have done. However, for some reason, Latera felt an urge to act childishly and throw a tantrum.

Latera pondered the reason for her behavior. After walking for a while, she vaguely understood why.

‘Who is that woman, anyway? It’s disheartening not to be the second most trusted one, but she’s not even around the hero, is she?’

And the woman had a strangely sharp impression. She seemed somewhat similar to Lady Lucia, the reincarnation of Kyrie, but with black hair, black eyes, and judging by the size of her chest, clearly a different person.

Curious about the woman’s identity, Latera briefly opened a message window,

[I just want to sleep already.]

[It’s cold, I’m sleepy… this is really annoying.]

No clue about the woman’s identity was visible in the translucent window. Then, suddenly, Latera realized that Shiron had stopped walking.

“Hero?”

“Latera. Do that ethereal thing or whatever.”

“Huh?”

“Quickly.”

Urged by Shiron, Latera vanished into thin air without a retort. With Latera gone, Shiron sensed a huge presence from below the mountain range.

Shiron squinted, trying to figure out who or what the massive presence was. It was too far to clearly make out, but he could see a figure, red all over, approaching this way.

‘Glenn?’

Hoping it was so, Shiron took out a telescope to confirm who the red figure was.

The person seen through the telescope was, regrettably, not Glenn, but someone Shiron knew very well.

[Yoru, the Warrior of Silleya]

‘Why the hell is she here…’

As soon as he identified her, Shiron was puzzled. The episode on subduing the Fervent Dragon hadn’t even started yet.

Moreover, Demodras would repent and not cause the future earthquake… It was odd for Yoru to be near Demodras’s lair.

‘Because I met Demodras? Because I received his heart…’

Even as he pondered, Yoru was boldly approaching from afar.

Shiron ceased his pointless speculation and turned away. Earlier, when he had glimpsed Yoru through the telescope, it felt as though their gazes had locked.

No, it was certain.

The intense killing intent… or hostility radiating towards him confirmed that Yoru was indeed coming for him.

‘Is it because of my reputation? Talk about bad luck.’

His destination was Demodras’s lair.

Thanks to retracing his steps, he arrived swiftly.

The descent down the cliff was quick, and confronting Demodras, who was still in his polymorphed state, occurred in an instant.

“What’s the matter? I thought you had left. Why return here…”

“Only a few hours left.”

“Hmm?”

“How many hours remain until you can maintain that form?”

“About an hour left, but…”

“Really?”

Shiron suddenly removed his upper garments.

“Take out the heart.”

“To ask for the heart I just placed in… Did you change your mind?”

“No, I’m lending it to you.”

“…What do you mean?”

“I’m someone who repays his debts. I’m lending it to you until I’m sure you’re safe.”

Demodras couldn’t make sense of the nonsense the human before him was uttering, but he could discern whether he was lying. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he inquired solemnly,

“There’s something outside, isn’t there? Someone who wants to kill me.”

“I won’t let you die. Don’t look so grave.”

Shiron retrieved a dagger from his belongings and handed it to her.

“It won’t take long. There’s one of the safest places in the world nearby. Just until we get there.”

“Understood.”

Demodras, with a skeptical look, finally took the dagger.

The black blade was plunged towards his chest.

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