504 Bad Time to Leave (2)

“Be it my resolve or Anastasia’s—I’ll show it to you!”

The moment Ursula raised her hands, Anastasia’s four hands followed in unison. Then, the white mist that embodied the Drain skill began to converge, as if being sucked in.

She tried to use the same technique on Kuroe before, but it was interrupted by the noon bell. Since then, she never got the chance to use it. In other words, that was the first time for her to unleash it. Despite being a sudden production, Ursula was unfazed.

The principle of the technique itself was simple. Amass as much power as you could, before unleashing it.

As she drew over the edge, Ursula’s eye changed. She was about to unleash the power drain. Thanks to being quite accustomed to the use of magic, her eyes didn’t change that often. But usually, when you consume a lot of power, your eyes would change into demon-like, congested pupils, coupled with eerie purple eyes.

Whether or not the giant octopus had noticed that Ursula’s eyes were changing color, its head started wiggling—it was about to spit out a potent acid once again.

However, Ursula was faster.

“—Purge everything, White Breath!”

Akin to petals, Anastasia’s four palms gathered. At the center point, a pure white tornado was unleashed. ‘White Breath’ was its name. At the same time, it was also Ursula’s greatest technique, specializing in annihilation and destruction. By striking a single point with its intense swirling and drain ability, the magic skill focused on obliterating everything.

As a matter of course, the tornado had more absorption power than Anastasia’s four arms bundled together. It hit the giant octopus, who was on the verge of firing Acid Breath, with supernal momentum. The white torrent streamed into its mouth, opening a hole in its huge head.

“Kuh—!”

Having drained herself of power, Ursula was on the verge of collapsing. At the same time, the White Breath, which had been diverted from its line of fire, popped out to further scrape the head of the giant octopus from the inside.

The giant octopus, whose half of its head was sliced vertically, shook its four tentacles, before slowly tumbling into the ground as if sinking beneath the water.

“Ha… haa, haa… I-I’m beat—…”

At the same time as the giant octopus sank into the earth, the white stream cannon that pierced the void also dispersed. The sweat on her forehead, along with her laborious breathing, told just how exhausted Ursula was.

“Hey, Ursula, are you alright?”

“I’m alright, but right now… I can’t afford to cast anything other than barriers…”

“That was some fantastic magic! You can leave everything to us! For now, just rest!”

Somewhere in the distance, Ursula concentrated on maintaining the barrier to provide us vision. Having defeated the main target, a roar of cheers erupted in the distance. Despite still retaining her form, Anastasia began to flicker, before vanishing quietly like steam. As it was, it’d be impossible for her to attack with her arm.

Ursula’s support and offense would have to be temporarily suspended. However, the crusader army would likely continue to fight bravely, since their morale was boosted.

“The enemy has ceased its offense—! This is our opportunity—! Commence with the retreat—!”

“Retreat—! Retreat—! Hurry, get out of the church—!”

Along with Cliff’s declaration, the escape from the village was finally carried. More than 100 villagers began to form a line outside the church, while the soldiers secured the surrounding area. Many of them were equipped with torches that were stockpiled in the church. The flame shone brilliantly, as if to illuminate the pale darkness that blocked their way.

“Lady Ursula, let us take the lead. We’ll secure the path ahead.”

“Understood…”

Although Ursula was a little dizzy from fatigue, it didn’t affect her judgment. Besides, she could still afford to move. Cliff had divided the army into two units, the front and the rear. The front unit would focus on securing a retreat route, while the latter would serve as a guard. Considering that time was of an essence, Cliff probably considered concentrating his forces in the front. However, as a knight, he had the obligation to protect the people. As such, he refrained from forming a formation that may lead to sacrifice.

After contemplating that, Ursula joined the front along with Cliff, who made a loud clattering sound as he ran.

“Hey, there’re enemies from both directions…”

Just a few dozen meters past the plaza, wriggling green masses could be seen hampering the road.

Recognizing us as prey, one after another, they sprang out—be it from the back alleys, along the roofs of the houses, and even out of the windows. Apparently, they wouldn’t let us escape that easily. The flock of octopuses, which was revolting to look at, was visible thanks to the barrier that Ursula maintained. Albeit fortunate to not be ambushed from beyond the dense fog, the situation was far from good.

“We’ll have no choice but to break through—! Everyone, after me—!”

Cliff raised his halberd, which was covered with green blood, and boldly launched an onslaught. Thinking that she had to support them, Ursula tried to command Anastasia, to no avail.

“We’re so close…”

If Ursula were to remove the barrier, she should be able to at least move one of Anastasia’s arms. However, it’d be dangerous to advance without any vision. Albeit the road leading to the gate was wide, without vision, they’d be slowed down.

Ursula was fully aware that she had to maintain the status quo. Thus, she could only begrudgingly watch as the heavy-armored knights fought fiercely against the octopus.

After some time, she should’ve replenished enough magic to switch to the offense. However, during that short period of time, one by one, her allies began to collapse. Impatience swelled in Ursula’s delicate chest.

“—Not good! Stay back!”

At the same time as Cliff shouted, the sound of a collapsing building suddenly resounded. Debris rained down, both villagers and soldiers screamed. They were just one step away from being thrown into chaos.

“J, just now, what did…?”

When Ursula, who was lying down, looked up in fear, she saw long tentacles wriggling in the sky. It looked similar to the tail of a dragon. She immediately guessed that the giant claws at the tip had desecrated the roofs and the walls of the houses—

—It looked exactly like the huge tentacle of the giant octopus she had defeated earlier.

It was the second 10-meter octopus.

“Ah—”

Looming over a certain two-story store, a huge head could be seen. The giant octopus spread its four limbs and stood as if to straddle the highway. Its moss-covered, boulder-like, head leaned towards the villagers. Immediately, screams and prayers to God, mixed in with the feeling of trepidation due to fear of being crushed.

The giant octopus’ terrifying mouth opened right above them, like the entrance to the abyss. Then, the sound of intake that she heard just a moment ago resounded. The giant octopus was ready to fire its breath.

In the strong updraft that seemed to suck her entire body, Ursula’s silver hair, along with her monk attire, fluttered violently.

—We won’t make it.

That was all she could think about.

Reflexively, Ursula extended her hand, but only Anastasia’s right arm moved. Instead of grabbing the enemy, it merely reached towards the sky in vain.

Suddenly, her vision was dyed in ominous colors of black and red. It was so bright, she had to close her eyes. At the same time, she also covered her ears.

As if heaven and earth had been turned upside down, there was a roaring sound. A hot wind that scorched her skin blew through.

She didn’t know what happened. But as soon as she opened her eyes, she understood.

“—Kuroe!”

On the other side of the giant octopus that slowly crashed to the ground while being engulfed in black flames, right on top of the three-story roof, stood a majestic black knight.

“…Somehow, I managed to do it.”

Involuntarily, I muttered to myself beneath my helm.

That gigantic octopus was about to unleash a breath attack. Had there been a delay, Ursula and the others would’ve been annihilated.

Breathing in relief, I jumped down from the ledge to the street. With a thud, I felt a sinking impact as I landed. However, my sturdy body didn’t even falter.

“You did your best, Ursula. You held them off so that the villagers could withdraw.”

To be honest, I thought that they’d be incapacitated in the plaza. As such, I found the fact that they regained their composure to retreat in an orderly manner unexpected. Although they could be considered as lucky, there was no doubt that Ursula played a major role.

I stared at Ursula. She seemed slightly exhausted. She must had drawn out a lot of Anastasia’s power. While the Drain ability could certainly steal the opponent’s magical power, that didn’t necessarily mean that it’d also absorb their magical power. Instead, merely using the ability required a lot of concentration and mental prowess. As such, the more you fight, the more fatigue you’d accumulate.

As a reward, I’d like to pat her head, but since both of her hands were occupied with a halberd and a tower shield, I had no choice but to table that.

“T, that’s right, Priest Kuroe, I did my best…”

Ursula, who was a little bashful, seemed adorable. However, it wasn’t a situation in which I could just express my adoration towards her.

“Then, let us depart from the village at once. Just a little bit more, do your best.”

“Yes!”

“Now, then. Let’s leave the logistical support to Ursula. I’ll join the front line and secure a path.”

“Hey, aren’t you the Black Knight who was with Ryan!?”

The one who called out to me as I approached was Cliff, the captain of the heavy-armored knight. Apparently, thanks to him, the remaining crusader army was united, despite the barely standing chain of command.

Cliff, with his seven-triple glasses, looked more like a nervous bureaucrat than a knight. But I wondered if he was quite capable despite his appearance.

“Nice to meet you, the name’s Kuroe.”

I wasn’t suave enough to behave politely on the battlefield. He might think of me as rude, but whatever.

Inherently, they were all crusaders. As such, I had no obligation to show them courtesy.

“The explosion just now… it’s your doing, isn’t it? I could see it in the battle in front of the barrier.”

“That’s right. This will help us with the breakthrough. Let’s quickly escape from this village.”

“Thank you, you’re a formidable ally. Be it you and Lady Ursula—the 202nd Colony sure has a lot of great talents. After we’ve wrapped this up, would you join the crusade?”

“I’m sorry, but I despise gods—Sword Arts—Blast Blade—!”

Kicking aside Cliff’s outrageous invitation, I summoned a single sword. It wasn’t the one I attached to my waist, much less the one I grasped with the tentacles.

I had invoked my own shadow. Yes, it was the spatial dimension magic— ‘Shadow Gate’—which had returned after a long absence.

To disperse the horde of Gluttony Octo, a large number of swords were needed. For me, who didn’t possess Dual Eagle or The Greed, the most reliable long-range attack would be the Blast Blade. For the time being, everything was fine. As long as I had a weapon, I should be able to unleash a powerful attack to an extent.

Thus, Ursula informed me of the existence of the armory.

At first, I’d like to take as many weapons as I could with my tentacles, just like when I annihilated the crusaders that attacked the cultivation village. But when I tried it, it was to no avail. I couldn’t get enough weapons to conjure the Shadow Gate.

Sariel said that it’d take about three months for natural recovery. Certainly, three months had passed by now.

However, it seemed that it’d take a long time before the gate could expand to its original size. But even if it wasn’t the same size as it was in the early days, its ability to store swords should suffice. At the very least, I’d have enough ammunition to ensure our escape.

“—Blast.”

Then, we blew away the octopuses that gushed out endlessly in the street, before advancing.

The octopuses rushed in from all directions, but since the visibility was clear, I could shoot them with ease. I also didn’t have to worry too much about the remaining bullets. It was certainly easier than when I was fighting on the stone wall.

I knew that the only reason why there was no fog was thanks to Ursula’s ability. When I returned, I confirmed that the faint mist of the drain had spread out like a dome.

I was sure that Ursula saw the wind barrier and imitated it. At the same time, Ursula had mastered the power of the White Yaksha Princess, evidenced by how she could reproduce the barrier just by envisioning it. I’d have to praise her later.

With that in mind, I crushed the octopus that leaped from the right, blew up the octopus that creeped up from the left, before crushing the swarm that tried to jump from the roof. On top of that, Ursula seemed to have recovered a bit and began to fight off the wriggling octopuses with her drain arm.

There was no enemy who could escape both the barrage of explosive attacks that were unleashed one after another from the shadow, and Anastasia’s one-shot deadly arm. Most of the octopuses hindering the highway were beaten by just the two of them. Slowly but surely, the evacuation progressed.

“You truly are the owners of endless bravery…”

Cliff, who almost lost his role, said something. However, I mustn’t let my guard down. We could handle any number of small or medium octopuses just fine, but if more of those huge octopuses appeared again, the situation could be reversed at once.

For the first time, I saw several large creatures prowling in the village. They might had descended from places I couldn’t see.

As I learned from going to the armory, most of these octopuses seemed to be gathering in the food store. According to the document, Gluttony Octo was the ultimate omnivore that ate everything. However, in terms of taste, it had to be a legitimate food. I witnessed some of them clinging tightly to a warehouse full of wheat.

Their priority was easily-digested food, followed by mammals such as humans and livestock. Well, it should be obvious that the amount of food in the village was limited. As such, the readily-available prey would be the humans. As such, the threat level was that of ordinary monster—however…

“…There it is, the gate—!”

Fortunately, we arrived at the gate without any casualties.

At the gate was the figure of the previous guest. Not the church, but the villagers who ran straight here to get out of the village, along with the crusaders who were quick to escape. As of the present, nothing was left of them besides their remains, about to be octopus’ food.

“Let’s take care of them, Ursula.”

“Right away, Priest Kuroe.”

Ursula and I, who were ahead of the others, quickly took care of the small fry. They seemed to be preoccupied with corpse-scavenging. Therefore, our ambush was a success.

I blew some of them away, while the rest was wiped out by Ursula. Meanwhile, Cliff and the others took care of the fleeing monsters. Thus, the gate was secured.

“…Why is the gate closed?”

Right after seeing Sariel and Reki off, the gate was closed. Against the flying Gluttony Octo, the large gate, made of wood and iron, was rendered useless. The fact that it was tightly locked was as if to prevent the villagers themselves from escaping.

In fact, if they had escaped after the octopuses had run amok in the village, they wouldn’t be able to open the huge gate. As evidenced by how those who escaped earlier met their demise there, at the hands of the octopuses.

Of course, we had no intention of suffering the same fate.

Let’s just open it and make our exit—

“—Priest Kuroe, a huge one is approaching!”

“Two, no, there are three of them…!”

When I turned around, a shadow like a large tree slowly encroached from beyond the hazy fog, following the path we came from. One was walking straight along the road, while the other two were approaching over the roofs of houses lined up from left to right.

Even I would have a hard time to defeat all three of those giants at the same time.

“Priest Kuroe, let me do it.”

“Aren’t you about to run out of magic?”

“Most likely, after unleashing one of my skills, I won’t be able to maintain Anastasia.”

Then—”

“But if we get hit with their breath, we’ll be annihilated.”

Indeed. The most troublesome thing about the giant octopus was its acidic breath. No matter how I looked at it, it’d be impossible for me to defend these many people with my defensive magic, [Shield Diaz]. By the time the giant octopus released its breath, we’d be lucky if half of us survived.

Hence why, it’d be best to defeat them before they could perform the breath attack. In order to do so, there was no choice but to defeat them with haste.

However, we couldn’t afford to lose Ursula’s barrier. Even if we managed to leave the gate, we’d be stuck in their domain. I doubted we’d be able to escape successfully with zero visibility.

“Alright, I shall leave one of them to you. I’ll take care of the other two myself. Cliff, hurry up and open the gate!”

Despite knowing the risks, I chose to defeat all three at once. Or rather, in front of the approaching giant octopus, we had no choice but to defeat them.

“It looks like only the two of you are able to defeat them. I’m sorry, but I’ll leave them to you.”

“Priest Kuroe, I shall aim for the octopus on the right.”

With the consent of the two, I immediately began to act. The huge octopuses approached from all directions and had already stepped into the barrier.

—Binding Arts!”

Ursula would be in charge of the one on the right, while I dealt with the one on the left and on the back on the road. I shot at the left octopus first.

The black chain tentacle extended straight up the two-story roof, and after I hooked it on the edge, it carried my body upwards at once. I arrived at the top of the triangular roof without any problems. Despite this, I had to dedicate a certain amount of concentration to the binding art. Apparently, it was difficult for me to do the Vertical Limit by myself.

However, as of the present, there was no need to fight on a vertical wall. As long as I could aim at the head of the giant octopus, it was fine.

“—Sword Arts, Blade Storm!”

Taking a position on the top of the red brick triangular roof, I summoned red-hot black swords one after another from the Shadow Gate. If it was a joint-attack with Lily, I’d be able to operate more than 100 at the same time. But as it was, I’d only be able to do 30.

…Hitsugi and Lily, huh.

I felt sorry for my battle style, which was dependent on others.

Well, let’s put that aside for now.

“—Full Blast!”

Thirty Blast Blades rushed towards the giant octopus’ head, leaving trails of jet-black auras. With my accurate aim, not a single blade missed. Immediately after that, there was a huge explosion. Like a burning airship, the giant octopus fell silent as it was engulfed in a smoldering black flame.

Without paying too much attention to it, I moved on to the next target.

“Damn, it’s a breath attack, after all!”

A gust of wind swirled from its round mouth.

While I was able to defeat one of them, the giant octopus walking along the path was closing in on me. In two or three more steps, the giant octopus would reach the end of the evacuation line. If the breath were to be fired at such a short distance, everyone would become nothing more than mincemeat.

Less than 10 seconds left before the giant octopus would unleash its attack. I could see a poisonous purple mist trickling out from its mouth.

Uooooogh—!! Please make it in time—!!”

Despite the clattering of my heavy armor, I ran out to the roof. Luckily, due to my weight, the bricks only broke a little, instead of coming off.

I went straight ahead, breaking bricks with each step. Towards the three-story roof that stood in front of me, I jumped over the towering wall with a double jump. With that, I was able to come out just above the head of the huge octopus.

Below, I could see an eerie green head that wobbled unsteadily. In front of the gigantic monster that was dawning upon them, the villagers shrieked one after another.

But it’s okay—

—I made it in time.

“—Kuranagi.”

While jumping off the roof of the 3rd floor, I swung my halberd high and struck the giant octopus down with a single blow. With the help of the gravity, I could easily slice through the not-so-hard emerald green body surface, causing green bodily fluid to spray like a waterfall.

I slashed his head vertically over two meters. But that alone wasn’t enough to defeat him.

Then, I forcefully plunged the halberd into it. After falling for another meter, accompanied with the sound of tearing flesh, we somehow came to a stop.

Right now, I was clinging on the halberd that was stuck in its head. It was a good stance to deliver the finishing blow.

“Uuuooooooohhh—!!!”

I single handedly lifted my body, before jumping up.

Aiming at the deep gash where fresh green blood gushed out endlessly, I threw the large tower shield on my left hand into it.

Instead of a blade, it was a rectangular iron plate shield that didn’t have any sharp edge. Nevertheless, I used my strength to push it into the open wound.

After more than half of the shield was buried in its body, I let go and started free falling. Upon retrieving my halberd, I landed on the ground in less than a second.

Blast.”

Therefore, I blew up the tower shield that had undergone red heat blackening.

Naturally, the shield was larger than the sword, since it was a piece of armor made up of large amount of steel. Simply, the greater the amount of material, the greater the amount of magical power that could be enchanted with blackening. In other words, the explosive power hidden in it also increased in the same way as the amount of gunpowder was increased.

The shield, which caused a large explosion equal to dozens of Blast Blades, would’ve been the final blow to the giant octopus.

As its huge head slowly collapsed into a giant fireball, I returned to the front of the gate.

“—Ursula!?”

Ahead of my line of sight was Ursula, who stood in a daze. Meanwhile, Anastasia was nowhere in sight. Ursula seemed just as helpless as she looked.

In front of Ursula, was the giant octopus.

It stood over the building facing the highway. The top of its head had been slightly scraped off, while its movement was slow to the point that it was staggering. Despite seemingly about to fall at any moment, the monster wasn’t dead yet.

Is it a miscalculation?

Apparently, Ursula didn’t manage to one shot the enemy.

“Sword Arts!”

Even without sharp claws, the tentacles that were swung down could easily crush Ursula with just their weight.

Ursula, who had reached the limit of her strength, could only react by taking a step back with a pale face. There was no way she could block the attack from the giant octopus.

In order to somehow diver the trajectory, I threw the blackened sword at the last minute. Even with just one, if it hits, it’d explode. Besides, I was sure that it wouldn’t damage Ursula in the process.

Huh—!?”

However, the blow was blocked by an octopus that leaped out from the back alley. With the impact of the hit, the octopus exploded and died instantly. As a result of its sacrifice, the giant octopus was otherwise unharmed.

Thus, my plan was thwarted. Neither I nor anyone else could help Ursula.

I could attempt another sword art, but I wouldn’t make it in time—

“—Heeey!”

At that time, along with a high-spirited shout, there was a flash of silver.

With a single blow, the massive tentacle that was about to crush Ursula was cut in half and veered off course. With a thud, the bloody tentacle split the stone pavement of the highway.

Like a deeply-wounded snake, it writhed around. But in the next moment, the tentacles were completely sliced by a swift follow-up attack.

—Blast Blade!”

Without missing a chance to deliver the finishing blow to the giant octopus, he crushed its head. The giant octopus, who was already on the verge of death, had his head scorched by the explosions caused by several Blast Blades.

This time, it was completely dead.

“Ursula, are you okay!?”

After the third giant octopus had been taken care of, I ran straight towards Ursula, embracing her and confirming her safety.

“Ah, Priest Kuroe… I’m truly sorry, for not being able to defeat it…”

“That’s fine. More importantly, are you hurt?”

“N, no, I’m alright…”

Albeit seemingly truly exhausted, she was fine physically.

Before anything else, I have to confirm that she’s truly safe.

The next thing I should be concerned about was the person who saved Ursula at the last minute.

“Why are you here—no, I should’ve thanked you.”

When I turned around, there was a blonde, red-eyed girl bravely carrying a halberd.

“Thank you, Reki. Ursula is saved because of you.”

“Ehehe, thank you so much desu, Kuroe-sama! Apparently, Reki did the right thing, desu!”

More importantly, Reki should’ve already made her escape. However, the girl who stood in front of me was neither a dream nor an illusion. Certainly, the one who answered with a bright smile was the same, old, Reki.

“Then, why did you come back? Did the escape fail?”

No, no—! Everyone in the village should’ve managed to escape properly, desu—! Well, maybe—!”

According to my poor English skill, “maybe” seems to mean “probably.”

Albeit feeling a vague sense of unease in Reki’s reply, I didn’t have time to ask for the details.

“I’ll talk about the reckless return later. For now, let’s focus on escaping.”

“Yes, let’s go—!”

With an endlessly satisfied smile, Reki poised her halberd.

She must have truly returned on a whim… Her monastic clothes were in tatters, while her petite body was grazed with several lacerations seemingly caused by an octopus spearman.

However, just like when she helped Ursula earlier, it seemed that she still had enough power to fight.

There’s a white steam rising from her body, though? As if responding to her determination…

…Am I seeing things?

“Alright, the gate is open! Everyone, hurry and escape!”

Cliff had succeeded in opening the gate. The huge gate opened with a groaning sound.

…But the path leading from there was blocked by a pure white mist. Moreover, it was about to converge with a new wave of fog.

Yes, now that Ursula had released Anastasia, the barrier that dispelled the fog also vanished.

“Cliff—! Escort Ursula and go ahead—! She’s already at her limit—!”

“Leave her to me—! Kuroe, what are you going to do—!?”

“There’s no need to be so formal. Also, there are more of them.”

Along with the fog, a swarm of octopuses appeared from across the road, back alleys, and houses. They were trying to prevent us from escaping their feeding ground.

I thought that I had slayed most of them. However, it was as if they were endless.

How disgusting.

“Hurry up and go—!”

As the villagers started to move through the gate, the octopuses rushed towards me.

“Hey, Priest Kuroe, what are you waiting for?”

Standing right beside me, Reki glared at me with red, glaring, upturned eyes that burned with indomitable spirit.

“…That’s right. I’m sorry, Reki, but please lend me your strength.”

I knew how dangerous it was, but given the current situation, I had no choice but to ask.

Yes! Alright!”

Looking away from Reki’s dazzling smile, I glanced at the approaching army of octopuses.

“—Sword Arts: Blade Storm!”

“—Fire!”

Explosive black and red flames desecrated the entire frontline. In front of the raging blast storm, the enemy’s midline could only helplessly watch as their comrades got burned to death. Unfortunately, that was the end of the convenient skill. With the currently limited capacity of the Shadow Gate, I had reached the limit that was 100.

After that, with the weapon in hand, we had no choice but to fire Grenade Burst.

“Reki, don’t overexert yourself. We’ll fight while planning our escape.”

“I’ve done it before, so relax, desu—!”

While screaming confidently, Reki powerfully slashed off the three octopuses on the other side of the explosion.

As if she had already gotten used to the opponents, she effortlessly cut, pierced, and blew the octopus one after another to keep them at bay.

Despite currently experiencing ongoing battle against them, she was growing at an accelerated pace.

As I thought, what a genius she was.

“They’re coming from the gate, after me—Grenade Burst!”

“Roger—!”

Rolling with the blast behind him, Reki went through the gate and onto the street.

As the lords, we’d be the last to leave the village for the sake of fending off the enemy. I wanted to look to my right and left again to see if anyone had failed to escape, but the fog blocked my view.

Upon making up my mind, I kicked the gate with all my might to close it.

Gon—!

With a loud sound, the door slammed shut, shaking the stone walls. Right before the door had sealed shut, some tentacles slipped by. As a result, they got severed and were blown away, jumping around my feet like a freshly caught fish.

Yeah, disgusting…

Phew, it seems that we manage to buy them some time.” Said Reki while shrewdly latching a bolt on the gate

“They can fly. I’m sure that they’ll figure it out soon.”

Despite saying that, I could barely feel any presence around me. In fact, not a single octopus leaped out of the fog. Silence descended on the area.

Is it because their intelligence is so low that they can’t immediately think of how to cross the wall?

Or, is it because there’s almost no one outside the village?

“Let’s escape now.”

“Wait, Priest Kuroe! That, uhm, desu…”

I was about to turn on my heels when Reki’s anxious voice stopped me. However, there was no enemy in sight.

“What’s wrong, Reki?”

“Uh, uhm… Are you angry? That Reki came?”

Reki asked in shame. Apparently, she was aware that she had done a lot of unreasonable things.

Even so, the reason why she bothered to come all the way there… She was probably concerned about Ursula.

And here I was, feeling sure that they’re on bad terms.

As the realization dawned upon me, my recent anxiety vanished without a sight. I felt rather relieved.

“I’m not angry, just worried. You did a good job of helping Ursula. Still, it’s too reckless to just return like that.”

“I, I’m sorry… B, but did Reki, manage to be of help to you, Priest Kuroe?”

“What are you talking about? Together, we just eliminated the octopuses, didn’t we? You’re a much more reliable companion than the crusaders, Reki.”

“Eh, ehehe, that’s a relief, desu! Because Reki—”

—Most probably, Reki was on the verge of smiling.

However, her dazzling, sun-like, smile didn’t appear. Instead, her crimson eyes fluttered in shock.

A dull sound of tearing flesh. A flower of fresh blood which blossomed in the void.

“Ah, Priest Kuroe…—”

Reki was stabbed.

The sharp spear of the Gluttony Octo could be seen piercing through her chest. At a glance, I could tell that she had been stabbed from behind.

The enemies were invisible. From the other side of the pure white fog, only one, slender, tentacle could be seen extending towards Reki. Quiet enough so as to not be noticed, yet faster than a flying arrow. The attack was akin to that of a first-class assassin.

Reki extended her hand towards me, asking for help.

I reflexively reached out towards her, but it was futile—

“—Reki.”

My outstretched hand grasped the air in vain.

Reki’s body was instantly dragged by the tentacles, disappearing beyond the white darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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