Chapter 66: The End of the Battle
The meddling icy dome was no more, and as cold air flowed out, warm air flowed in.
The solidified thorns of blood and soil crumbled, and Nordri’s corpse fell to the ground.
But the noise of battle had not stopped, and the sparks made by fireballs as they hit their target flame bullets were still floating in the air.
Struggling to move my body, which was exhausted to its limit, I managed to get a look around.
Somehow, we were surrounded by several knights and soldiers, some of them holding their own weapons, while others had brought whatever farm tool they could find.
Looking again, I realized.
They had been trying to destroy the icy dome from the outside.
“Thank goodness! You’re okay!”
“Where is that dark elf…”
“Wait! Look over there! The leader of the Demon King’s Army is dead!”
Bewilderment turned into astonishment, and the worried screams turned into outcries of joy and praise.
But, right now, I didn’t have any energy left to respond.
After having used “Repair” continuously to heal the damage I had suffered, putting just enough energy into my feet to be able to stand up was all I could manage to do at this moment.
Now free from ice that had imprisoned her, Sakura rushing toward me.
“My apologies, I couldn’t be of much help…”
“What are you talking about? If you hadn’t been here, Sakura, I’d be dead by now.”
I looked down at Nordri’s corpse and remembered the events of the battle we just had.
Under normal circumstances, someone like him would’ve killed me 3 times already.
The first one would be right after the battle started.
If Sakura hadn’t bought some time before I could even pull out the scroll, I would’ve drawn my last breath right then and there.
The second time would be when he rushed at me and managed to destroy the scroll. His fist had come at me at such an incredible speed that my eyes failed to capture it.
If Nagi hadn’t crushed one of Nordri’s eyes before the battle, that single strike would probably have gone straight through my heart, killing me instantly.
And the third time would be right after my own ice barrier had been broken and I found myself anchored to the ground by his icy thorns.
If Nordri had not thought of tormenting Garnet and instead had gone straight to end me, I probably wouldn’t have been able to even put up a fight.
Moreover, if I think about what happened before Nordri deployed his icy dome, I had actually escaped death more than three times during our battle.
I had been constantly treading on thin ice during our entire battle.
I really, really wouldn’t want to go through anything like this ever again.
“Sakura, take care of Garnet. Take her to a safe place.”
I didn’t know if there was even a single place that could be called “safe” in this territory, but anything would be better than leaving the unconscious Garnet here.
“Everyone! Send word that the Demon Lord Nordri has been defeated! It’ll boost our allies’ morale while hurting that of our enemies!”
After receiving the command, the knights and soldiers scattered all over the territory.
By the time this information reached everywhere, the battle all over the territory would probably have settled down.
In this battle, Nordri was definitely the strongest force from the demon’s side.
After his defeat, if reinforcements had come rushing from Hollow Bottom Fortress, continuing the battle would result in wasteful losses.
—Just as I was pondering over these facts, a thunderous roar echoed from the other side of the territory, shaking the ground violently.
“I guess the fight over there has settled too…”
The sound we had just heard was from an attack released from one of Dustin’s two magic spears.
The silence that fell after that sound could only mean one thing.
“I feel bad for the supervisor… but I’m already at my limit…”)
I had used “Repair” to close all my injuries, but there was nothing I could to regain my lost stamina and blood.
As I apologized in my heart for not being able to use “Repair” on the equipment and our defensive walls, I collapsed onto the ground and drifted into unconsciousness.
Right after waking up, I was made aware that the battle had ended.
The Demon King’s army started to withdraw shortly after Nordri’s defeat.
The human encampment had not received any further damage and was able to escape danger.
The wreckage of the siege golem and Nordri’s remains were carried back to the Hollow Bottom Fortress, and were currently being analyzed by experts.
I understood the need to analyze the golem, but when I asked if there was really a need to analyze Nordri’s corpse, the answer they gave me was that they wanted to research whether there was some sort of special strengthening technique applied to him.
Now that they mentioned it, some of the Demon King’s forces had displayed the ability to fuse themselves with dragons during their fight against Falcon.
It wouldn’t be weird if there were to be some kind of secret in Nordri’s strength.
However… the report wasn’t only about the things that were going well.
Our plan to take over the demon’s mine was based on that encampment.
The main goal of this plan was to cut off the demon’s resource supply, but at the same time, it was expected to achieve several other goals.
To investigate what kind of resources they were mining, and using that as a base to determine the level of technology used by the Demon King’s army.
To take in the dwarves who were being forced to work in the mine as allies and gather valuable information from them.
And, if we were lucky, to use the mine ourselves and capture its resources.
Had those goals been accomplished, they would have brought a great advantage to our side.
Unfortunately, just as we sent out a scouting team to the mine, an explosion took place over the mine and a wide area around it.
Any related facilities of the mine were destroyed, leaving no clue behind.
Then, in a small valley just a little further away from the mine, our scouts found a place piled up with the corpses of murdered dwarves.
No doubt about it, they used scorched earth tactics, that is, to destroy any resources before the enemy has a chance to claim them for themselves and use them against you.
It wasn’t an unusual tactic, even in wars between humans.
If an enemy was about to take away a village with a wheat field, the locals would burn it down beforehand so that the enemy could not use that wheat.
It was something that normally happened during wars.
But not only that, they had also destroyed anything that could give us any kind of information, even going as far as to permanently shutting the mouths of the dwarves who had been forced to work in the mine.
The fact that the dwarves had been killed made it clear that they knew something that they shouldn’t have.
This report once again reminded me of how evil the Demon King’s army was.
I had received that report from the Golden Fang Knights during the night of the same day the battle had ended.
The knights praised me for the work I did in this battle, and words of me being worthy of receiving some kind of reward or honorable recognition were flung here and there.
But the actual decision regarding that would have to wait until receiving contacts from the knights’ headquarters, so there wasn’t anything definitive at the moment.
“We’re going to hold a feast to celebrate today’s victory now, how about it Mr. Luke?”
“Thank you for the offer, but I’ll pass. My friends have already returned home, and I’ve already ordered some dinner from Spring’s New Leaves.”
“Well then, maybe some other time. But really, Spring’s New Leaves is a great place. Their food is delicious and their poster girl is also very cu… Excuse me, that was improper for a knight.”
I left the Hollow Bottom fortress and returned to Green Hollow Town.
On the way, when I was about to go through the slope leading towards the fourth floor of the Sundial Forest, Garnet was there waiting for me alone.
“What’s this? Didn’t I say you could go on ahead?”
“I am your guard remember…? Well, I’m not one to say something like that huh? I heard everything from Sakura. It seems I passed out, and you ended up protecting me instead.”
Garnet’s expression turned gloomy, and her voice sounded more somber than I’ve ever heard before.
“I’m so pathetic I feel like crying. For someone whose only talent is to fight, to be unable to do that makes me nothing but a hindrance.”
I anxiously peeked at her face, wondering if she had really been crying. Garnet stared back at me with parched eyes.
“What is it?”
“…I’m not trying to cheer you up or anything, but even the greatest heroes can find themselves on the ground from time to time. All that happened back there was that you didn’t stand out as much this time around, while I did. Nothing else.”
I spontaneously placed my hand over Garnet’s blond hair and messed it up.
“Uwaah!? What are you doing!?”
“That depressed look on your face worries me. I was only able to move around with confidence during that battle because I know you’re always there.”
“…You’re one to talk. You almost left us back there.”
“To be honest, I was pretty scared back then, you know?”
I took my hand off Garnet’s head and began to walk my way back up the slope.
“Let’s hurry home and get some food. I’ve ordered some dinner from Sylvia, so I’m sure it’ll be lavish.”
As we made our way back to the White Wolf shop, Garnet kept on walking right behind me.
It was as if she didn’t want me to see her face.