1. Never Let Them Die

It had been awhile after the rain of magical spears had concluded the battle. Immediately, Dustin tried to reach the other part of the battlefield. However, a dark elf crawled out of the ground.

He was grievously wounded.

It was obvious to everyone that he was dying and could barely move. Dustin doubted that he’d be able to put up a fight.

Hyi… Hyi…”

Even if left unattended, it was doubtful that he would become a threat. Nevertheless, Dustin pointed the tip of his spear towards Austri, about to seal his fate.

At that moment—

Out of nowhere, a white-robed figure descended in front of Austri.

The robe was long enough to conceal his figure entirely. The figure was also wearing a deep hood. Whether or not it was a human, it was difficult to tell. Much else of its gender.

Regardless, Dustin narrowed the gap with his full acceleration. Then, he proceeded to launch his magic spear towards the white figure.

The tip of the spear slipped through without any resistance.

He immediately understood that it was an illusion magic. Then, with another stab of the magic spear, he swept away at the empty space.

This time, the sensation of gouging into flesh was transmitted to the spear. Droplets of blood were scattered. From the void, the bloodstained figure appeared.

Upon catching a glimpse of the face under the hood, Dustin firmly carved it to his memory.

Guuh…!”

While groaning in anguish, the woman in the white robe began radiating a brilliant light. The light proceeded to envelop Austri, as well.

He tried to chase after them, to no avail. After the light had subsided, only traces of bloodshed were left. Both Austri and the woman in white had disappeared without a trace.

 

“—I intended to mortally wound them. However, considering that as a white wizard, she’s competent enough to be appointed as a hero’s party member, the injury must’ve been healed.”

As soon as he finished talking, Dustin exhaled briefly.

The man was unreadable as always. However, judging from his current expression, I had an impression that he was feeling awkward, or close to it.

“Luke, since the hero Falcon was remodeled into an artificial demon with a dragon, is there a possibility of Blanc and the others receiving the same treatment?” (Dustin)

“Will you stop talking in a roundabout way? If you were asking about the possibility, then of course the answer will be ‘yes.’ Besides, you only saw her face, didn’t you?” (Travis)

There was no way such a possibility didn’t occur to someone like Dustin. Otherwise, in his life of subjugating the Demon King, he would’ve perished since long ago.

“Actually, what if it’s the other way around? Is there any possibility of Blanc joining the Demon King without having undergone transmutation or brainwashing?”

“Your sharp wit is one of your strong suits.”

“Well, thank you. I’m glad that you think I have other skills besides [Repair].”

While Travis and I exchanged sarcastic remarks with the casualness of greeting, we examined the possibility presented by Dustin.

If, like the hero Falcon, Blanc had been transformed into a demon and was manipulated, then it was a sad case.

But, if she did it under her own volition, then the story was different.

“In conclusion, I think that there are many possibilities.”

Without waiting for Dustin’s responses, I went on.

“If Noire’s testimony is accurate, Blanc would’ve been the third to be taken out of prison after the hero Falcon. What if she was forced to bear witness to the horrible fates of her allies? If it were me, and I was threatened to suffer the same fate unless I complied, I’d soon just relent.”

In the first place, most human beings would break down upon receiving such a threat.

Unless they had a very strong determination or a sense of duty, they’d rather choose to retain their humanity, even if it required them to obey the Demon King.

“Alright, that’s enough about it.”

“Then, it’s my turn. What business do you have with me?”

Asked by Travis, Dustin turned around and switched topics.

“During the aftermath of the battle, the remains of the Demon Lord Nordri and the siege golem were brought into the Hollow Bottom Fortress.”

“I’m aware. What of it?”

“They were destroyed beyond recognition. Part of the fortress also suffered some damage.”

In the unexpected words of Dustin, both Travis and I were rendered speechless.

Ignoring our astonishment, Dustin continued to reveal more information.

“The culprit isn’t a man—but something else. Inside the rocks that constructed the siege golem, there were multiple clay dolls. Unlike the ones I fought, they were a high-performance, carefully crafted bunch.”

“Hey, wait a minute… Dustin, I haven’t heard of any of this. In the first place, how did you know about it?”

Travis’ confusion was to be expected.

With the intention of asking for further details, I sent Dustin a look.

“I already knew since the start. At the discretion of the knights, I was told to not divulge the information temporarily to prevent unnecessary confusion. Unfortunately, because I was present at the scene, I was forced to cooperate in suppressing them. Then, at the end, they forced me to play the role of a messenger to you.”

His answer convinced me.

Based on my personal experience, the Golden Fang Knights was indeed discreet with their information, especially the ones that were related to the military.

Aside from the pros and cons of secrecy, something felt amiss with the way they handled this case.

“With that in mind, Travis, the knights have a request for your party.”

“Finally, we’re getting to the main subject. What do they need?”

“In the aftermath of the attack, a clay doll had escaped. Although, calling it a mud golem will be more appropriate. Anyway, it seems to be hiding in either the dungeon or the surrounding area. Therefore, the knights would like you to assist with the security in secret.”

“…Is it the kind of direct request that doesn’t go through the guild? Unless there’s a further discussion with the other party, we’d like to avoid undertaking such an irresponsible thing.”

Travis’ expression twisted in displeasure.

The basic policy of the Adventurer’s Guild was to not accept requests that’d appoint a specific individual or party. The reason for it was to ensure better work allocation for the adventurers. Otherwise, the work would be focused on famous adventurers.

To avoid that, there were people who’d commission an adventurer directly, albeit most adventurers would reject it.

After all, if any mishaps were to occur, the guild wouldn’t be able to provide any support, since the quest didn’t go through them. As a result, said adventurer would have to solve everything himself.

“It’s not a direct request. Just consider it as a normal request, albeit a roundabout one. By tomorrow morning, several requests will be posted under the discretion of the knights. Of course, some details wouldn’t be included. All those requests will then be entrusted to your party…”

“This is outrageous—! In the first place, I dislike that tight-lipped attitude—! Do you realize that you’re hiding dangerous information from the public—!? I refuse to accept such a request—!”

I fully agreed with Travis’ words.

After all, the knights’ intention didn’t align with the common sense of the adventurers. The adventurers placed importance on sharing dangerous information, even more so if it threatened the safety of Green Hollow Town residents.

“Now that I’m aware of it, I’ll spread the information to everyone. It might be risk for you, but I won’t give this up. …Hold on, did you purposefully bring it up in anticipation of my reaction?”

“Of course. I was sure that you’d refuse. I have no intention of explaining the situation. However, I also thought that it’d suit me better if the facts were to be widely known.”

…As I thought, Dustin had no intention of helping the Golden Fang Knights to hide the information.

Knowing that Travis would absolutely refuse to do so, and in fact, do the opposite, Dustin dared to disclose the message from the knights.

The reason why he didn’t refuse to mediate the message was because of his loyalty to the Golden Fang Knights. Or perhaps, it was his way of getting back at them.

I felt that both were possible.

“This conclude my business. As to how to handle the information I gave you, it’s up to you. Haven’t you been an adventurer for fifteen years? Then, whether to consult the knights or the guild, I shall let you decide for yourselves.”

Dustin deftly held both of his spears in one hand, before opening the door with the other. However, as he was about to leave, he suddenly stopped and turned around.

Instead of Travis, his ghostly expression was clearly directed at me.

“As of the present, it’s no longer possible to say that everything’s safe. If you’re aware of your own weakness, do something about it. Wasn’t your party defeated easily by Nordri? In the end, you are just a bunch of children pretending to be bodyguards. Aren’t you way too unreliable?”

“—Wait, Dustin.”

I stood up from the chair and tried to stop Dustin.

“I’m fine with how blatant you are. About my weakness, I won’t deny it. At the same time, I’m also aware that this is just how you are as a person.”

“…”

“—But I won’t have you insulting any of my friends. If you don’t intend to retract those words, why don’t I make it so that your magic spears will break after a single swing? Once that happen, not even [Repair] can save them.”

Terribly impatient, Travis stood up. His intention to break in immediately if something were to happen was conveyed

However, our staring match ended with Dustin relenting rather easily.

“Alright, I take my words back. I promise to refrain from mentioning it in the future. Then, let me rephrase my word of advice.”

While turning his back on me, Dustin threw me his last piece of advice.

“If you have a feeling for someone, never let them die. Whatever that feeling is, that one loss may cost you everything.”

“…I’ll keep that in mind.”

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