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 < Running Away from the Hero! 160 #19. Life is a continuous escape (1)>

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-Master, the dragon smackdown mission, start!

-Good work!

“And now, it’s time.” I turned around after receiving the metal bat’s report and loudly proclaimed to everyone. “We leave it in your capable hands, Sir Hero!”

“Do your best!”

“S-sure thing…”

The magicians participating in the expedition began injecting magical energy into the prepared magic circle.

As for the other combatants, they observed from the sidelines while raucously cheering for the hero.

Of course, said hero making a very stiff face was an open secret, but anyways…

“No need to be so tense, Sir Hero.”

“Yes, you can do it if it’s you!”

“Didn’t your teacher say it, Sir Hero? That dragon has a fatal weakness, doesn’t it!”

Yep, I did say something like that.

Every dragon had a reverse scale on its body somewhere, so if the hero manages to hit that, he could achieve victory today. That’s what I said.

Too bad, talking was cheap in this case. We were talking about a dragon’s reverse scale here, after all.

Just one single scale among many scales of a dragon.

A scale that has supposedly grown in the reverse direction to all the other scales! A spot that acts as both a weakness and a trigger that’d set off even the most placid dragon in pure rage when touched!

Yes, talking was very cheap in this case. Just how many scales did a dragon possess?

It’d be near impossible to find that one reverse scale in the dragon’s large body, even if the dragon in question was kind enough to sit still.

But here’s the thing, which dragon would remain perfectly still when a human had shown up to kill it?

Obviously, not a single one.

And our current opponent was an evil dragon that totally disregarded the commandments set by its fellow dragons!

There’s no freaking way it’d graciously wait for a human to freely attack it!

And that’s why our dear hero must’ve been feeling like a farm animal getting dragged into an abattoir right now.

“Sir Hero!”

“We pray that you best the insidious evil dragon!”

“The Order of Nature, hooray!”

“Sir Hero of Light, Sir Swinn, hooray!”

Unfortunately for him, though, the atmosphere was such that he couldn’t back out anymore.

If he dared to chicken out now, not just him but even the Order of Nature would be subjected to a torrent of criticism.

And if it’s that Goddess of Nature, there’s no way she’d take that lying down! She’d probably send down an oracle or something to prevent the hero from fleeing the scene.

Well, if he still tries to flee, then I could also just flee from here while everyone’s attention was razor-focused on him.

-Master, I’m almost done now~?

-Very good.

“It’s now, everyone!”

“N-no, hang on a sec…”

The bright light flashed briefly and the hero punk disappeared from our view.

What happened was that he had been teleported to an open field not too far from this location.

“Is the preparation complete?”

“Yes, Sir Sage! No one is permitted to approach the battle location so that Sir Hero won’t have to worry about collateral damage!”

“Even the traps we prepared are not magic-based, but physical! We heeded your advice that even a dragon would find it hard to detect traps without magical power.”

“In that case, I shall go ahead and rescue the princess.”

“Will it be fine by yourself, sir?”

“Of course.”

I nodded bravely and got ready to rescue the princess.

Thanks to the insidious hero’s nefarious scheme, my daughter had to stay in the royal castle as a hostage, meaning I couldn’t make a careless move here.

But things should get simpler for me with the excuse of rescuing the princess and returning to the castle.

Sure, invading a dragon’s lair for this purpose was an act of sheer insanity, but…

“It doesn’t apply to me.”

“You here, master?”

Dragons were creatures of magic.

Fitting for a lifeform at the peak of all things magic, a dragon could do pretty much anything they wanted using magic!

But just who am I?

I was the pinnacle of anti-magic, with my whole body akin to something like the famous Imagine Breaker!

I might not ‘erase’ magic like a certain fictional character, but it also doesn’t work on me, either. That’s just who I am!

“Hmm, let’s see…”

Long blue hair…

Fair complexion and smooth skin even for a northerner…

Seeing her breathe so shallowly and weakly, I couldn’t help but think that this beautiful woman embodied frailty itself.

“Well, she’s the princess, alright.”

“The evil dragon didn’t kidnap anyone else, so who else could it be, master~?”

The princess was lying on a rather flashy bed that didn’t suit the ambience of this dark cave. After taking a look at her state, I got down to work. “Now let’s see, over here and over here…”

“Ah! Shouldn’t that be a bit more to the side, master?”

“No, this is fine since the floor’s a bit tilted to the side.”

What I was installing at the moment was a one-time use teleportation gate.

Although it was a bit of a waste of resources to build a single-use item like this, this gate was an absolute necessity if I wanted to rescue the princess safely.

I could waltz right in without activating any of the dragon’s magic traps but our princess would surely end up triggering them all without fail.

If she got caught in one of those traps and died, then it’d be game over for everyone involved.

And that’s why the sorcerers and magicians of the royal court had to manufacture a tool like this… After I hounded them like crazy, of course!

Although, it kinda felt like they took a bit too long on a task that the imperial court magicians would’ve finished in a jiffy!

“Installation, complete!”

“In that case, dear older sis? I’ll see you a bit later, okie~?”

After the metal bat finished waving her hand at the princess, I led her outside the lair.

“Sir Sage!”

“Did you succeed, sir?”

When I emerged from the lair completely unscathed, the Neidon Kingdom’s archmage, Yulkelis gawked at me with eyes full of respect.

-Master, your cheating ways are affecting even this innocent uncle now…

-This is purely my ability, so I’m not cheating!

I acquired this… uh, ability, despite not being able to use any magic or the sword aura.

It is an ability, am I right? Right?

“Yes, it’s done.”

This renewed surge of unfairness welled up inside me, but I wasn’t some rookie who’d show that on my face.

“Thank you so much, Sir Sage.”

“Ah, aaah… Her Highness…”

While Yulkelis bowed slightly in my direction, Serel the lady-in-waiting was softly wiping away her tears of relief.

Judging from how other soldiers were also looking greatly relieved, it seemed that the princess’s daily conduct had been pretty exemplary.

-Master, what do you think would’ve happened if it was that Imperial Princess sister who keeps chasing you around?

-I guess everyone in the imperial court would start praying for the dragon’s happiness in the next life?

In all honesty, if it’s that imperial princess… She would have soloed the dragon raid, returned home, and ordered her underlings to go and procure the dragon carcass.

Then, she’d order the dragon’s meat and bones to be split up before selling them to the imperial court.

-But master, does that mean her daily conduct was… pretty good? Is that it?

-In a certain sense, sure…

Only a precious few sovereigns were trusted so deeply by their retainers.

A bond so profound that your underlings would willingly stay by your side even after all your wealth and power were gone? How many could claim to have formed such a bond?

Even among the many imperial princes and princesses, those able to claim such a bond could be counted in one hand.

-But master, didn’t you flee from the imperial princess sister~?

-I was working back then, that’s why.

I mean, don’t you know how scared I was of the imperial court?

It used to be great fun bullying Dame Reia but after my slip of the tongue regarding her last boyfriend, I couldn’t even get to enjoy that pastime anymore. And the Imperial Princess would start harassing me over the most trivial things if something ticked her off.

That’s not all – her harassment would go on to start a chain of events that culminated in me getting summoned before the imperial court to receive a peerage. I obviously tried to prevent my peerage from getting upgraded by sharing my achievements with my underlings, which in turn made them even more loyal to me…

And when those uselessly capable underlings of mine ended up sweeping up all the achievements and caused my peerage to get upgraded, I… I had to accept the title of Count while shedding tears of lament, didn’t I?

All thanks to that, just how much envy and jealousy of the others did I have to suffer through?

“Your Highness!”

While swimming in the reminiscence of the terrifying days I’ve spent in the imperial court, the princess’s lady-in-waiting, Serel’s urgent cry exploded out from a spot not too far from me.

It seemed that they had successfully rescued the princess through the temporary teleportation gate.

“Is she unharmed?”

“Yes. Other than the sleep magic cast on her, it seems that she’s not been harmed in any way.”

Several magicians rushed in and began cancelling the dragon’s magic.

It seemed that the dragon wasn’t serious about casting the sleep magic on the princess because she relatively quickly regained her consciousness after five magicians collapsed out of exhaustion.

“Where… am I…”

“Your Highness!”

“Is it… you, Serel?”

The princess’s soft, frail-sounding voice caused Serel, ever her loyal servant, to break down in a flood of tears. The princess seemed a bit overwhelmed by her surroundings but still gently patted Serel on her back to calm her down.

After the lady-in-waiting had calmed down, Yulkelis stepped up as the leader of the expedition and explained what happened so far, eventually recommending that the princess evacuate back to the royal castle for her safety. But then…

“No, I must not. Our brave Sir Hero is battling against the evil dragon to save my life even as we speak. I simply cannot forsake such courage just to ensure my safety!”

…She bloody announced in a forthright attitude that she must spectate on the dragon versus hero death match!

-You kidding me?! What about my perfect plan?!

-But master, I thought most of your so-called perfect plans end in abject failure…?

-N-no way that’s true! Hell no!

Thanks to the princess’s insistence, my perfect plan of taking her back to the castle, then fleeing the capital along with my daughter, was in danger of going down the drain.

“No, Your Highness! It’s too dangerous!”

“Your Highness, Sir Hero will definitely emerge victorious. That is why we recommend that…”

“Since his victory is already assured, I shall not back down from my position!”

What the hell is up with this forthright attitude?!

If you’re really a royal, shouldn’t you be saying things like, “Leave the lowly job of fighting to a commoner hero and let us evacuate to the castle!” and then, order your unwilling retainers to retreat from here? Isn’t that the usual course of action?!

“Your Highness, may I be permitted to speak?”

“Who are you, sir?”

That’s why she needed to be talked out of this.

An average royal would’ve thrown a fit while saying, “How dare a lowly commoner speak to me!” but she didn’t seem like your average royal at all. That’s why I chose to address her without holding back.

“Your Highness, this gentleman is Sir Naruan, a Grand Sage and the teacher of the Hero of Light, Sir Swinn.”

“Everything that has happened so far has unfolded according to Sir Grand Sage’s meticulous planning, Your Highness.”

“Yes. And it was Sir Grand Sage who bravely ventured into the dragon’s lair to ensure your safe escape, Your Highness!”

When the princess locked her gaze on me, her close aides began pouring out all sorts of praises reserved for me, starting from Yulkelis himself.

-M-master, you just evolved from a sage to a grand sage…

-Huh. To think that I’d become a Grand Sage overnight just because I rescued a princess.

Was it because I was referred to as the hero’s teacher, or because others called me the Grand Sage? If not, then maybe, it might have something to do with the revelation that I had saved her.

“This one is Vera rick Neidon, hailing from the kingdom of Neidon, sir.”

“Please call me Naruan, Your Highness.”

Judging from how courteously she bowed her head, yep, she was definitely an irregular, alright.

“The battle between my disciple, the Hero of the Light, and the evil dragon has been meticulously planned out, Your Highness. Introducing a variable at this stage could potentially endanger his life.”

My conscience was pricked by the idea of simply throwing that idiot in front of the dragon, so I begrudgingly had some traps installed for him.

As such… he should be able to look after himself, at the very least!

“That’s why I strongly recommend that you patiently wait for my disciple’s return back in the royal castle, Your Highness.”

Yes, and with me, too!

“No, Sir Grand Sage. I believe it’ll be fine. I cannot, in my good conscience, forsake the one who is risking his life for my sake.”

“Ah, aaaah… Your Highness, our princess…”

“As I thought, Her Highness is…”

Hey, listen here, you dolts. It’s all good and nice for you to be moved to tears by the princess. It’s also acceptable to sing praises of her, too. But there’s no way our hero can win against a dragon, you know? Let’s be realistic here!

“Your Highness, even if Sir Grand Sage has come up with a perfect plan, a dragon is the strongest lifeform in existence. A creature that a lone person cannot hope to best.”

As expected of a magician.

As expected of the top dog of a profession filled with geniuses, the archmage! Sir Yulkelis, I knew you’d see the reality as it is!

“That’s why, I, Yulkelis, will… sacrifice my life if Sir Hero finds himself in danger and protect him!”

That’s not iiiiit!

“Sir Yulkelis!”

“I am of the same opinion! I cannot abandon the brave hero who is fighting the evil dragon for the sake of our sovereign, Her Highness!”

“Yes, me too!”

That damn Yulkelis became the spark lighting up the fuse, prompting the number of suicidal idiots wanting to risk their lives to protect the hero to swell up in no time at all.

“Everyone…”

And to make matters worse, the princess began tearing up emotionally at this scene, too!

N-no! This can’t be! I know that it’s super fun to watch things burning down and people fighting each other, but this is different. You’ll only be signing your death warrant by trying to spectate on the mortal combat between a hero and a dragon!

“The dragon is bound to notice a large gathering of people showing up, Your Highness. Which could negatively interfere with my disciple’s fight as well. I understand all of your noble sentiments, but…”

I must stop this. I must stop this madness at all cost!

With how things are going, I’ll definitely get dragged into the ranks of these suicidal idiots, too!

“That’s why all of you must…”

“Yes, all of you must do as recommended and stay here. The Grand Sage, Sir Naruan will surely protect me while we are there.”

What on earth is this dumb little girl even spewing here?!

“Yes, if it is Sir Naruan accompanying you, we can rest easy!”

“Indeed, if it’s the Grand Sage who broke through the dragon’s lair without any injuries!”

“We shall leave it in your capable hands, Sir Naruan!”

I hadn’t said a single thing yet, but these damn idiots went ahead and decided it all by themselves.

“Of course. You can leave it to me.”

However, some said that with great risks come great rewards.

Showing her the scene of our hero being wrecked by the dragon should make it easier for me to convince her to safely evacuate back to the royal castle.

As for where we should stay and witness the fight, I figured that some distant hilly location with a full view of the hero’s epic struggle against the dragon should suffice.

“Allow me to accompany you!”

“Well, if it’s one more person…”

It’d not be such a bad idea to have another person when convincing the princess. Especially more so if that another person happens to be the princess’s closest confidante, her lady-in-waiting!

And so, we arrived in a location with a good view of the hero versus dragon fight. But when we got there, I was struck by a certain realisation.

“…Ah.”

That realisation was about the fatal flaw in my so-called perfect plan.

“Ah, ah…!”

“Oh, Sir Hero…!”

I glanced at the princess and her lady-in-waiting as the duo’s eyes sparkled so brightly, then turned my head to take in the spectacle of the hero’s battle against the almighty dragon.

-Diiiie, you evil dragon!

-Kuwaaaaahk!

…Which happened to be the spectacle of the evil dragon screaming and falling down at the hero’s sword strike!

Yes, that’s right!

If the hero manages to defeat the dragon, then… Then my entire plan would go down the drain, just like that!

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