It seemed that Nainiae was satisfied with Riley’s answer. She nodded and put away the doll she had made into the dimensional space. She bowed.
“In that case, I’ll be waiting.”
She believed that he would return. She had no doubt about it. She bowed, ending the conversation and returned to the mansion. Andal was vacantly staring at his pupil. He asked Riley,
“Are you guys scheming something behind my back?”
“Scheme? What scheme?”
“It is just that, just now…I felt something strange…that was unfamiliar to me?”
“Aren’t you going to go?”
As if he had enough, Riley packed his personal stuff and looked at Andal. Andal was furrowing his brows, finding all this suspicious. Still, he couldn’t help it. He moved his mana and prepared the teleportation spell.
“You guys are really not scheming anything, right?”
“Even if we were, would we tell you?”
“You are meticulous only in instances like these.”
Andal had casted an isolation barrier so that others in the mansion would not notice. From a distance, Nainiae saw them off. Andal waved at her and created a teleportation door.
The area beyond the gate was probably Ansyrium… It was a city that didn’t have a good relationship with Solia, so Riley had never been to the place before.
“You didn’t leave anything behind, did you?”
“There isn’t anything.”
In secret, Nainiae had left him Astroa’s leather bracelet. Riley wore the bracelet, tightened the belt for attaching the spare sword and lastly, he placed Salvation, his Holy Sword, on his waist. Riley walked toward the dimensional gate first.
* * *
From the mansion, Riley arrived in Ansyrium through the dimensional gate. Having heard Andal talking to him from the side, Riley moved his eyes to look at him.
“About that sword…”
Andal glanced at the sword that was hanging on Riley’s waist. He said that he had not seen the sword before and asked,
“Where did you get it?”
“What are you going to do by knowing about it?”
“It looks pretty nice, so I asked.”
Andal was quite focused on the Salvation. Riley could understand why. He wiggled his brows and said,
“I picked it up.”
“Picked it up?”
To be precise, he had received the Holy Sword, Salvation, from Inaril who had been keeping it safe all this time.
Although it was not certain if Andal was simply intrigued about the sword or tempted to have it…Andal kept on fiddling with his chin as he walked the streets of Ansyrium. He carefully asked,
“Riley, if it is all right with you…”
“I won’t let you.”
Riley didn’t even listen to the end of the proposal. He pulled his chin and smiled. Andal looked like a child who didn’t get to buy the toy he wanted. Andal crumpled his face.
“What the…How could you make the decision even before hearing what I had to say first?”
“I can already tell from just looking at your eyes.”
“What’s so obvious?”
“You have the same look you had when you were like this with Nainiae. If you are going to whine, then go find someone else. You claim to be a superior being who is beyond this world, but what nonsense… Considering what you are doing, you are on par with an armed robber.”
Riley didn’t even look at Andal. He just waved his hand at Andal. Meanwhile, Riley was looking at Ansyrium’s scenery. For reasons unknown, the place appeared to be rather empty. Riley found something odd and stiffened his face.
“Lizard… Lizard… You had been calling me that, now…you are calling me an armed robber? Hey, fine, you rascal. Did I ever ask you to give it to me?”
“It’s just, Kuhum! Right! I was just going to ask you to let me borrow it for a bit. I thought it was a pretty nice sword, so I was going to compare it to my other swords that are stuck in the depth of my cave, so…”
Riley was looking around the area and called his name. Andal stopped complaining and looked at Riley, wondering what this was about.
“The mood here, is it always like this?”
“Presence of people… The place is lacking of people’s presence?”
Having heard the question, Andal also looked around the area. He then explained the strangeness that Riley felt.
“No. Although this place is usually not as lively as Solia, it is not like the place should be devoid of people.”
While listening to Andal’s explanation, Riley quickly looked around the houses and streets he had passed through so far and the overall scenery around him. He thought it was strange that he had not run into a single person so far. Riley had a puzzled look on his face.
“I can see why you are finding this strange. The houses around here… Take a look. What color are they?”
Overall, the city had a dull atmosphere. Riley was observing the city carefully. Having heard Andal’s question, he realized that there were only gray and black colors. Riley muttered,
“By any chance…”
Andal nodded and said,
“It’s that bastard.”
Riley realized that Andal was talking about Epidemic, the purple human that they had run into the last time. Riley looked around the city again.
‘According to the merchants, it is a living disaster.’
Thinking about what Reitri had told him, Riley had a look of disbelief. The severity of the epidemic was far more serious than what he had seen in his past life.
‘It was not this serious in my past life.’
While Riley was thinking about this and muttering inside, Andal, who also started to look around the city, continued his explanation.
“I am not surprised that you didn’t notice. The most common color in Ansyrium is gray. However, all black color we are seeing here are…”
“Epidemic… is that what you are trying to say?”
The look on Riley’s face hardened even more.
The epidemic left black stains. Riley realized that what he could observe with his eyes was not all of them.
It seemed the city called Ansyrium had been absolutely devastated by this single individual. Let alone any presence, there wasn’t even any trace of people here.
“It’s all done by that one bastard.”
The Epidemic man didn’t just possess the power of epidemic. He also had immortality. Last time, they were not able to put an end to the man. Thinking about this, Riley crumpled his face.
“I had been wondering why there was no news from Ansyrium lately. Is this the reason?”
Andal nodded. He took a knee to bend his upper body. He picked up a black pebble that was rolling around in the ground. Andal said,
“I am not sure if I should call this a good thing, but that bastard’s trace ends here. I haven’t heard any other side suffering from epidemic.”
It was a repeat of the explanation he had already heard at the mansion. Riley nodded and started to walk again.
They walked and walked…
No matter where they walked, the visuals looked the same. Black colored epidemic drenched the entire city. It didn’t just make the city’s color look dull. A dark aura was circulating around the city.
“While we were investigating, we met that human child with a strange atmosphere. He knew that we are dragons and he had come to talk to us first, saying that he was looking for an old friend.”
Having heard Andal, Riley had an uncomfortable look on his face.
“An old friend huh…”
With the Demon Lord, Riley could not say that their relationship was a positive one. It was closer to being bad blood. Thinking about the demon from his past life, Riley mumbled. It seemed that he was still not sure about this.
‘It is too early to conclude that this bastard really is the Demon Lord from my past life. I still need to consider the possibility that this is just another trick by Helena.’
While Riley was muttering inside like that, Andal joined his kin members who were already inside Ansyrium, waiting for his arrival. Andal let them know: “we will handle it by ourselves,” and continued to walk.
“By the way, how long do we need to walk?”
“We are almost there.”
Andal was leading the way. Facing his back, Riley asked toward him. However, he felt someone’s gaze on him, so Riley stopped walking. He started to move his eyes around.
It was someone other than Andal’s kin. Presence of humans, something that they could not feel in the rotten city, could be felt.
There weren’t just one or two. It seemed there were at least 15 of them. Feeling their presence, Riley stopped walking. He slowly turned his body toward where the gazes were coming from.
“H… He saw us?!”
It was inside a rundown building. The windows were all shattered, so winds were blowing right into the building. There were three children in shambles inside. Their eyes met with Riley’s and they tumbled to lower their heads to hide.
Riley realized that the ones staring at them were children in hiding. Andal turned to look at Riley.
“What is it? You stopped all of the sudden?”
Riley was looking at the building with the children. Riley said,
“No, there are children…”
“I saw children.”
Andal followed what Riley did and stared at the building. He shrugged as if he understood something.
“They are abandoned ones.”
The children were in shambles. From how the children looked, Riley thought about the time he had met Nainiae for the first time. As if he could not be sure with just this, he asked Andal,
“What do humans say? Homeless?”
“That’s right, the homeless people.”
Andal explained that when the city was destroyed, the children who were abandoned by the higher ups of the Ansyrium city, saying that they were just burdens and the abandoned children were hiding in the buildings.
“Having special abilities or being one of the purple people… It is not like that, right?”
“… We are not.”
It was not Andal’s voice. Another young, frail voice responded to Riley’s question. Riley’s gaze was directed to the place where the voice had come from.
The one who responded to Riley’s question was a child in ragged clothing. The child had dark blue hair.
It was hard to tell the child’s gender based on the appearance. The child was a girl who Riley had never seen before. Wondering who this was, Riley furrowed his brows. The dark blue haired child asked,
“Mr. Andal, the red dragon, is this one ‘the greatest swordsman in the world’?”
“That’s right. As far as we know… there isn’t anyone in this world who knows how to handle swords better than him.”
Having heard Andal’s explanation, the dark blue haired child looked at Riley who was standing there vacantly. The girl lightly turned her body and started to walk.
“Well then, let’s go.”
The unidentified child who Riley had never seen before started to walk. Riley followed after Andal and asked quietly. Riley was asking for an explanation.
“What is this? Is this the kid?”
“No. She is not the one.”
Andal shook his head and then started to explain about the girl.
“I don’t know the detail either. I just know that she is quite close to the little one who asked us about his ‘Old Friend.’”
Having heard the explanation, Riley applied energy into his eyes to examine the child. He realized he was not sensing any energy from the child. Now, Riley looked like he was finding this even more suspicious.
‘I’m certain there is no mana or special energy coming from the kid?’
The child who was walking in front of them was really just an ordinary child.
“By any chance, have you considered the choice of taking that kid as the hostage and negotiating with the kid who came to talk to you? You said she is quite close to him, right?”
Riley asked in a quiet voice so the girl who was walking in front of them won’t be able to hear it. Andal crumpled his face and asked back,
“Do you think we didn’t think about that? Some of my kin members said it would be quicker to try a hostage situation. However, we are only guessing that she is close to him. Also… our lord was opposed to the idea.”
“Lord? That silver elf?”
“That’s right. She concluded that this is not something that could be solved by a hostage situation, although I think her emotions were leading her decision on this matter.”
“We are supposed to be the ones who maintain the balance. It would be wrong for us to initiate violence. That was her stance. Some of us said that we should not mind such things at the moment and press on instead because the balance will fall if we don’t fix this soon. However…They were overruled.”
Andal said he was also against the extreme measures. He continued to explain.
“So, I decided to bring you here. After the long discussion, we decided to bring you, a human who is a skilled swordsman and present you to the little one who recognized us. We are going to make a decision after that.”
It seemed they had arrived at where the so-called ‘little one’ was. The dark blue haired girl who was leading the way lightly lowered her head toward Andal and Riley to show her respect before taking her leave.
“… This place is?”
In front of Riley’s eyes, there was a large lake. Nearby, there was a young boy who was vacantly staring at a fishing pole. Riley had his mouth slightly open, but he closed his mouth.
Andal looked like he realized Riley’s mood had changed rapidly. Andal, who was standing next to Riley, said quietly,
“That’s the bastard.”
“It is the little one who recognized us first and came to talk to us. He is the one who is suspected of hiding the Epidemic man.”
Having heard Andal’s explanation, Riley observed the boy who was vacantly sitting on a small wooden chair. Riley confirmed that the boy’s appearance was significantly different from the Demon Lord that he had run into in his past life. However, Riley didn’t relax.
‘It is that bastard.’
It was because Riley could tell from the atmosphere.
‘This bastard was reincarnated in this place too.’
Riley was able to tell that the boy they were facing right now was the Demon Lord, who Riley had barely managed to make him fall in his past life.
“Hey, I brought him.”
Riley was keeping his mouth shut. Instead of him, Andal spoke.
The boy finally turned his head and looked at Andal and Riley.
“Ah, you are here.”
Perhaps he was sleepy. His eyes were half closed. When he turned to face Riley and Andal, he blinked his eyes. It seemed that the boy was glad to see Riley.
“Um? You…have the same face that you had in your past life?”
The child smiled refreshingly and asked Riley. Andal furrowed his brows, wondering what that was about.
Riley took a step toward the boy and asked,
“What is your name?”
Having heard the question, the boy turned his gaze toward the fishing pole again. The boy said in leisurely tone,
“This boy does not have a name.”
The fishing pole that the boy was looking at flinched.
“Still, if I am to borrow the name from my past life…”
The boy kept silent for a long time before finally opening his mouth.
“Call me that.”
Riley was certain that he was the one.