『You sure you’re okay with letting them off?』
「Didn’t let off. Just gave time.」
『Well, alright, so long as that’s really what you wanted.』
Fran began walking around town immediately after leaving Blue Pride’s campsite. The mood she was in was nothing short of terrible.
Zefmate had been a pretty good guy. Fran had felt that she might’ve been able to get along with him despite their races, and by meeting him, she’d learned that not all Blue Catkin were scumbags. Coming to know that had caused her to really want to become his friend. However, the circumstances had made Fran’s desire extremely difficult to achieve. Zefmate had been an exception. None of his underlings shared his mentality, which in turn meant that the two could potentially end up at each other’s throats.
There was a chance Fran would have to kill Zefmate in the near future.
To Fran, Seren’s words had been nothing but offensive. They were so sick and twisted that they’d even gotten to my head, so I could only imagine the extent of the rage that dwelled within her. Neither of us could stand the attitude that most Blue Catkin had, and we probably would’ve murdered every single one present if Zefmate had been even a second later.
The things that’d been said to her continued plaguing her mind even now. They caused her darker emotions to swell and whirl around within. I hoped that she wouldn’t encounter anyone that’d piss her off, as she’d probably end up losing control if she was to be encouraged to attack them.
Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone stupid enough to do so given that her aura reflected her thoughts; she was emanating an air of pure danger, one that forced the people around us to look the other way.
She wandered around like that for about twenty minutes before suddenly turning heel right as she felt an incredible amount of magical energy burst out from behind her.
『I can sense the…』
Its source was Blue Pride’s campsite, but it was so potent that we could measure the extent of its power from all the way back in town.
Sensing it had caused Fran to immediately begin dashing, not away from, but towards it.
The only person capable of giving off that much pressure was the Beast Lord. There wasn’t anyone else that possessed such a ridiculous amount of strength. Moreover, we didn’t even need to be present to tell that he wasn’t just training; his magic was laced with bloodlust.
Something had happened.
Fran had no idea what we’d be able to accomplish by rushing over to Blue Pride’s campground, but continued to pump her legs as hard as she could regardless. It was something that couldn’t be helped given the circumstances. All we knew was that something had happened, something that involved both Zefmate, who Fran had a good impression of, and the Beast Lord, who she feared.
『Hey Fran, are you sure this is a good idea? I’m pretty sure you’re heading straight for the Beast Lord.』
Getting to Blue Pride’s campground took less than 2 minutes at Fran’s full speed.
『I knew it. The Beast Lord really was here.』
The first thing we saw upon arriving was the Beast Lord. He calmly stood smack in the middle of the camp, his body cloaked in golden flames. The second was Zefmate, collapsed on the ground, charred black, and clearly on the verge of death.
「This is what you get for defying me, idiot. Whatever, I’ve had enough of you. Just die already.」
The Beast Lord reached towards Zefmate with his flame covered right hand — an action that prompted Fran to react without the slightest bit of hesitation.
She went on the offense without so much as even waiting for me to reply; she drew me in her right, popped Deathgaze into her left, and shot towards the Beast Lord as would a bullet. The slashing attack that came out of the action was one as swift as the strike she’d used to assault Rynford; it was one that combined all her skills and knowledge, stealth-based skills included.
Rigdis, the Beast Lord, wasn’t all that proficient when it came to detection. Rather, he was, but his wasn’t nearly as skilled at it as we’d expected the average S ranker to be. That, in turn, made it difficult for him to pick up on Fran’s sneak attack.
Ambushing the Beast Lord was a much better choice than calling out to him. Rigdis could always just ignore her and end Zefmate anyways, so attacking was, in fact, the most reliable option to go with if we wanted to save Zefmate’s life. Besides, yelling at him to stop would mean announcing to him Fran’s presence, which in turn meant losing the opportunity to get an initial first strike in. All that, of course, was only valid under the assumption that we would end up having to fight the Beast Lord anyways.
It was a choice only made possible by the fact that Fran had already resolved herself to fight him. For that reason, her blade held not even the slightest shred of hesitation.
She ended up going for his neck in hopes of ending him right off the bat; her goal was to disable him in a single strike. She didn’t care about incurring the wrath of an entire country, nor did she give half a flying fuck about the international uproar that attacking the him would lead to. The only thing that she bothered considering was what she needed to do to save Zefmate’s life.
We didn’t have to worry about holding back, the Beast Lord’s Sacrificial Bracelet would prevent us from murdering him regardless of what we did to him. Though we were willing to engage the Beast Lord in combat, actually flat out killing him was something I wanted to avoid, as it’d put us a bit more than just neck deep in serious ass international shit. Attacking him was still a problem in and of itself, but, it was still a significant bit better than actually lopping his head off. You could say that we were only capable of going all out in our assault precisely because the Beast Lord happened to have a Sacrificial Bracelet on hand and equipped.
I was convinced that not even someone like the Beast Lord would be able to act if he was in a state terrible enough for him to actually need to pop a Sacrificial Bracelet, so I figured we’d be able to grab Zefmate and fall back before he managed to retaliate.
What Fran was doing was dangerous. That much, I understood. I knew that teleporting away and leaving Zefmate to die would’ve been in the interest of her safety.
But that wasn’t something the person in question herself would be able to accept. If I really had been totally concerned about nothing but Fran’s safety, I would’ve long advised her to take up a job less dangerous than adventuring. But I hadn’t. That was in part because I wanted to go out and see the world with her, but wanting to adventure wasn’t really why I’d chosen not to bother convincing her to change her mind. The other, more important reason was because I wanted to abide by her will. Fran wanted to be an adventurer, and that was that.
As Fran’s guardian, it was naturally important for me to try to keep her as safe as possible. That was simply what being someone’s guardian entailed.
But I wasn’t just her guardian, I was also her sword. Thus, I needed to do my utmost to fulfill her wishes, even if those wishes involved something as dangerous as jumping straight off a cliff.
As her sword, I’d already decided to follow right in her footsteps if she was to ever make that type of decision. And as her guardian, I’d decided to protect her to the best of my abilities regardless of what the consequences of her choices were.
In other words, my role was to support Fran in her decisions every step of way so long as it remained possible for me to do so.
The Black Catkin girl swung both her blades to form a cross the moment she closed in on the Beast Lord. His defenses were ridiculously high, but we figured we’d be able to pierce them so long as we focused everything we had on a single point. The two swords that closed in on the Beast Lord’s neck… failed to do anything to him at all.
Fran, both blades still drawn, stared at the uninjured Beast Lord with a look of bewilderment. She hadn’t felt any resistance when slashing at him, so she didn’t realize what’d happened until she looked down to my blade.
「Haah? Who the fuck are you?」
We’d successfully managed to stop the Beast Lord from slaying Zefmate, but Fran had fallen onto his radar as a result.
Fran lacked the composure to answer the Beast Lord’s question. She instead stared at the two hilts in her hands.
Both her swords had lost their blades. In fact, Deathgaze was flat out done for, as all its magical energy had already drained out from within it. Even the Black Cat’s Mantle, which happened to have gotten a bit singed, was acting abnormally. That is, it was repairing itself at a much slower rate than usual. You almost couldn’t actually tell that it actually worked based on visuals alone.
The catgirl didn’t understand what was going on.
But I did.
The reason Deathgaze and I had lost our blades was because we touched the golden flames that cloaked the Beast Lord’s body. We both basically evaporated the moment we did. The flames didn’t radiate any heat, but holy shit they were potent. The lack of consistency between the two facts was only made possible because the golden conflagration was born of a skill.
「Hah? Master? You’re this damned Blue Catkin’s disciple?」
『Calm down Fran, I’m fine. Don’t shout or throw a fuss. Just talk to me through telepathy, same as usual.』
Fortunately, my blade was the only thing that ended up getting burnt off, so I was still fine and not yet irreparable. Unfortunately, the magical flames had robbed me of so much mana that I no longer contained any more than Deathgaze normally did.
『Man, this is looking pretty bad…』
Attacking the Beast Lord had caused me to come to understand that his flames functioned as an automated self-defense mechanism. They were that powerful even when just left in full auto mode.
I couldn’t really see myself successfully fending them off in the case that he used them to attack.
「Oh come on kid. Answer me already. Don’t just sit there with your mouth shut.」
「Did… what to Zefmate?」
「Heh, responding to a question with another question? You ain’t got no manners, Black Catkin.」
Being taunted by the Beast Lord caused Fran to grind her teeth in anger, but she ultimately ended up suppressing it and asking him a question regardless.
「Tried to kill Zefmate. Why…?」
「The fuck? Is something wrong with your ears? Did you actually not hear me? Ah, well, whatever. Fine, I’ll talk. All I was doing was punishing a subordinate real quick.」
The Beast Lord’s word seemed to insinuate that Blue Pride worked under him, and that Zefmate had done something that’d gone against his orders. Was it because Zefmate was pro-black catkin? Did that mean that the Beast Lord was anti-black catkin?
「So I take it you’re siding with him? Even though you’re a Black Catkin?」
「Huh, alright. Hey, you’ve got a pretty interesting sword right there. Whole thing just instantly fixed itself.」
I managed to fix my blade by using Instant Regeneration, but that didn’t mean I’d actually be of much use from an offensive standpoint given the Golden Flames’ effects. It looked like we were going to have to end up falling back on magic.
The Beast Lord’s element was fire, so we would probably need to counter him with either water or ice/snow. We couldn’t afford to be stingy with our skill points, I needed to invest them right away so we could make the most of our situation.
「Will save now, Zefmate.」
「Hahahah! What is this? A Black Catkin and a Blue Catkin acting all buddy buddy? Man, that’s so funny it actually makes me kinda pity you guys!」
「Man, you’re still giving me that attitude? What a shame, I had some pretty high hopes for you. Alright girly, I’ll show you just how terrifying I, Rigdis Narasimha, the Beast Lord, can be. Lament the fact that you were stupid enough to oppose me!」
The golden flames that enveloped the Beast Lord’s body began to quiver and sway with a ferocious energy.
They were dangerous. It’d all be over if they so much as grazed us.
I got myself ready to teleport us out at a moment’s notice.
Fran and the Beast lord stared each other down, both ready to immediately attack the other.
But they were denied the chance to act.
「Your Majesty! What in God’s name are you doing?」
「Ugh… You again, Roche…?」
「How did this even happen? I only took my eyes off you for a second!」
A man I immediately recognized as the carriage’s coachman suddenly joined into the conversation and began chiding the Beast Lord in a reprimanding tone.
Race: Beastkin (White Curse Weasel/White Weasel Tribe)
Status Level: 62/99
Sole Sense: Lv 4
Digging: Lv 6
Espionage: Lv 8
Wind Magic: Lv 4
Bow Techniques: Lv 9
Bow Arts: MAX
Divine Bow Arts: MAX
Coachman: Lv 7
Vigilance: Lv 8
Presence Detection: MAX
Presence Isolation: Lv 7
Flexibility: Lv 4
Blink: Lv 8
Muffle: Lv 5
Resistance to Abnormal Status Conditions: Lv 4
Life Magic: Lv 3
Resistance to Mental Abnormalities: Lv 5
Shortsword Techniques: Lv 4
Shortsword Arts: Lv 5
Perfume Creation: Lv 8
Leap: Lv 6
Climbing: Lv 5
Knowledge of Poisons: Lv 8
Poison Magic: Lv 5
Earth Magic: Lv 7
Subterranean Stealth and Mobility: Lv 5
Fire Magic: Lv 5
Magic Resistance: Lv 3
Magic Detection: Lv 7
Shadow Slip: Lv 7
Trap Disarming: Lv 6
Trap Detection: Lv 8
Trap Creation: Lv 4
Enhanced Sense of Smell
Hell Tree Bow
Black Shadow Beast’s Leather Armour
Black Shadow Beast’s Stealth Shoes
Magic Shadow Steel Armguards
Black Stealth Spider’s Mantle
Ring of Dexterity
Bracelet of Storage
Roche was a sort of hunter, specifically the jack of all trades type that could use magic in tandem with more traditional scout-like skills.
「I really can’t believe you… Why are you fighting a Black Catkin of all things? Have you completely forgotten why we came here in the first place?」
「Blame it on her, not me. She’s the one that decided to side with Blue Pride.」
「That doesn’t mean you need to fight her, you muscle brain!」
「That’s enough for now, Roche. Lord Rig, I’ve captured every member of Blue Pride that happened to have a hand in the slave trade and disposed of those that resisted.」
Royce calmed Roche down while simultaneously reporting in.
Wait, did he just say he dealt with the everyone that had a hand in the slave trade? Uh… what?