On the day of the raid, Nira disguised everyone once again. While Diello and I only changed our hair color and appearance, Rick and his men, who would be engaging in direct combat, had transformed into stout, middle-aged men.
“The raid is about to begin!”
Of course, Rick’s bright smile didn’t disappear from his face as he said this.
Unbeknownst to the raiders of Alors, their location was quickly shared with us. It was only natural since we were already waiting near the supply route.
“They say the raid has begun.”
The informant, disguised as a calm, middle-aged mercenary, reported.
“The swamp will freeze soon.”
Diello looked down at the nearby area.
Even though the ground beneath our feet was also covered in mud, if we went a little further, a wide marsh that could swallow people whole spread out before us.
“I’ll melt the swamp once they get close enough.”
As Diello spread out his hand, fire suddenly flared up from his fingertips and then disappeared. And after some time, a chill began to be felt from afar.
The enemies had frozen the swamp sooner than expected.
“That was quick?”
“It seems that they noticed it was a trap.”
Diello said, looking troubled.
Well, since they had to destroy our supply wagons, they must have searched the Kin’s mercenary guild wagons. In addition, they would have realized that the things inside the wagons were cheap items that just took up space.
Beyond the swamp, which had frozen incredibly solidly, the sound of horseshoes began to be heard in a jumble. Those who were subtly controlling the water so as not to slip on the ice were approaching.
“They’re getting close, Diello.”
At my words, he looked at me.
Diello bent down slightly as if he was doing something light. However, the flames that bloomed from his fingertips weren’t light at all.
In an instant, flames shot up high and fell onto the ice.
As if it was not ice but oil, the fire spread rapidly.
My eyes widened.
I knew he was hiding his abilities, pretending to be weak… And I knew he was a strong head, but this was amazing. I couldn’t even imagine how large and freely he would be able to use his flames once he awakened with his Ferro’s help.
The flames that had spread across the ice in an instant gave off heat the next moment.
Just as I thought my face was going to burn, he stepped in front of me. At the same time, the white handkerchief in his hand unfurled. Just having a single layer of cloth on my face made the heat much less intense.
“…I should have realized that Krua wasn’t Argenta. I’m sorry.”
Saying this, Diello was seen slightly from the side of the handkerchief.
“Are you okay?”
The heat passed in an instant, and steam rose up.
It was clearly a powerful ability.
However, I couldn’t say anything for a moment. Even if it was only with informants and trustworthy people… wasn’t he trying to hide his abilities from me?
“I’m not a strong head. You won’t be able to stop Alors if you make a deal with me.”
When we first met, he had definitely said that. But when did he start being this powerful?
Was it when he skillfully burned away the poison with his purifying flames, or… before that, when he pierced the monster on the battlefield? I realized that he hadn’t been hiding his abilities from me for longer than I thought.
I called out to him softly, and he responded gently.
Despite his answer, he was still the same gentle person he had been when I first met him. Like the warm sunlight on a spring day, a person who was neither too hot nor unpleasantly warm.
“…Your flames are stronger than I thought.”
Although I knew it, they were even stronger than what I thought.
Diello froze at my words.
…Did he forget he was hiding it?
Just as I was about to raise an eyebrow, he let out a small laugh.
“I’m glad Krua is satisfied.”
His voice was the same as usual.
When the heat was gone, he put away the handkerchief. Still, I could hear screams coming from far away as if they were piercing my ears. It was the sound of people begging to be spared.
It would have been a lie if the sound didn’t instinctively scare me. Nevertheless, they were the ones who threatened Argenta. Hence, they would be ‘dealt with’ soon.
I pressed my lips into a firm line.
Since they were aiming for us, we had to strike back for sure. It was according to Argenta’s principle of ‘do it or don’t.’ It was better not to do it at all than to take revenge half-heartedly. Even though I was determined, I couldn’t help my body from trembling a little.
The sound of people struggling seemed to be heard more clearly.
Let’s not turn away.
Let’s not become weak in defeating the enemy.
‘…Because this is the kind of world I live in now.’
It was the only way to survive.
As I thought so, Diello gently wrapped his hand around my ear.
“Don’t try to listen to things you don’t want to hear.”
At those words, I opened my eyes wide.
As our eyes met, Diello smiled.
“You don’t have to inflict pain on yourself. I know how much the mistress of this family, Krua, cherishes Argenta.”
He also seemed to say that if there were those who didn’t realize it, he would punish them, so I shouldn’t pay attention to the harsh words. As I listened to his melodious voice, the other side of the swamp, where the steam had just flown away, became quiet.
“We need to retrieve the artifact.”
The enemy must have fallen into the swamp and must be in a difficult situation right now. No matter how much they were Alors, it was impossible to perfectly control water in a place where thick mud was mixed with water to this extent.
I released my ability. This time, it was my turn to handle the water.
I made the surface hard enough for people to walk on the water, enough so that people wouldn’t sink into the swamp. Of course, it would be difficult to maintain it for a long time since it was a wide area, though that was fine. Rick and his men would soon bring the artifact.
Soon, I could feel the water moving according to my will.
“You can go.”
At my words, Diello nodded to Rick. Although there was no visible change in the swamp, Rick stepped forward without hesitation.
There was a watery sound, but he did not sink into the swamp. Rick, who seemed surprised, quickly ran forward. In the meantime, Diello’s hand covered my ear again.
And soon after.
While the commotion beyond the forest seemed to be happening, it was muted by Diello’s hand.
After a while, Rick and his men appeared.
“The artifact has been retrieved, and there are no survivors.”
Rick uttered lightly.
Rick, who smiled refreshingly as if he had just finished a good workout, had blood splattered on his clothes. However, the artifact had been carefully cleaned in advance, so there was not a single drop of mud or blood on it.
“Krua, can I ask you for another favor?”
Diello asked, handing me the artifact. Fortunately, the artifact was easy to use with its button-type structure.
I held the artifact tightly.
Let’s not regret it once we start.
For the people who care about me, for my people. The Argenta people, who gave us a reassuring message, must be waiting for death. However, instead of death, I would give them herbs as a gift because I couldn’t give death to someone who believed in their master.
The swamp was also a place where a lot of water existed.
With newfound confidence, I reached out towards the swamp while pressing the artifact. As the artifact absorbed my magic power, it began to shimmer with a blue light. A refreshing sensation enveloped my body, and I released the power of Alors.
Following the blue light created by my hand, the water of the swamp quickly froze.
At that sight, Rick and his men opened their eyes wide in surprise.
Nira also looked back at me in surprise.
“…This ability is.”
Nira, in particular, had lost his water control ability, but he seemed to be more sensitive to the magic I had.
“How does it compare to the Pentas Alors?”
At my question, Diello looked back at me and then at Nira. Nira couldn’t speak for a moment, but he eventually opened his mouth slowly.
“…It’s definitely a powerful ability. Pentas Alors… no, it’s comparable to the Pentas Alors.”
I narrowed my eyes at those words.
As expected, my possession of Krua caused her abilities to skyrocket. Nevertheless, it still seemed that she couldn’t surpass Pentas Alors.
If I proceeded with the plan to harm Duke Alors and Pentas Alors, it meant that I would be the next strongest person. If I took Alors’ powers, I wouldn’t have to be threatened by them anymore.
I looked back at Diello with a relieved heart.
“Argenta will be safe.”
Diello smiled at my words.
“Yes, thanks to Krua.”
Argenta is lucky to have you, Krua.
I seemed to hear his voice saying that.
And soon, several informants on horseback quickly passed by us. They were carrying the herbs that Argenta in the northwest was desperately waiting for.
“Now we can clean up the supply route.”
As Diello spoke with a bright face, we walked side by side through the frozen swamp.
Up until then, we thought that things would end neatly like that.