How many minutes had passed?
Perhaps even 10 minutes had passed.
Yet the duel didn’t seem anywhere close to concluding.
‘Damn it, damn it, damn it!’
Veins began to show on Ian’s forehead, along with a film of sweat covering his whole face.
His old body had reached its physical limit from the prolonged, intense combat.
‘I can’t waste any more time!’
It was for Riley’s safety.
And considering his condition, allowing the fight to drag on any longer would be dangerous.
‘The next strike... I’ll finish it with the next strike.’
Ian tightened his grip on his sword.
He was preparing himself for a perilous gamble.
If he lost, his life might be at risk, but there was no other choice.
‘No risk, no reward!’
Ian focused his gaze and dashed forward with a different stance than before.
The hooded man noticed Ian’s desperation, and reacted without any hesitation.
In the end, Ian’s decision turned out to be a mistake.
The enemy had already anticipated that move.
Ian’s sword parted the empty air, and the hooded man managed to slip through his defenses and attack from behind.
Would this be where his life ended?
Ian’s sweat dripped in the air.
At that moment, Ian felt as if the world had stopped.
Perhaps it was a flashback? Ian’s brain acknowledged his upcoming demise and began to show his past.
The days working as a mercenary...
Retiring and working in the Iphelleta House...
It was a life rife with danger and excitement.
‘Young master, forgive me...’
Ian apologised, for he would die before fulfilling his duty to Riley.
Ian had given up on his life.
A dagger flew from an unknown corner and drove itself into the hooded man’s shoulder.
The hooded man was startled.
That dagger just now belonged to his comrade.
Was there a traitor?
Even before that... How could a third party who could neither be seen nor detected manage to hit him with a dagger?
That was something even his superior could not do.
Ian did not miss the brief moment, and his eyes glinted with hope.
The deciding factor between a winner and a loser was paper-thin difference when it came to a duel between two masters.
That moment changed the flow of combat.
Ian’s sword sliced the hooded man’s neck.
The hooded man clutched his throat.
Blood spilled between his fingers, and he fell on his knees.
Then his chest slammed onto the ground lifeless.
“Huck, Hoo, Hoo....”
Ian, who had just escaped certain death began to rein in his wild breathing.
He wasn’t sure what had just occurred, but all that mattered was the objective that remained.
He had no time right now to think about the duel that had just taken place.
Ian ran through the corridor, driven by his worry for his lazy master.
A murmur could be heard from the corridor.
Riley was the one who made the uttering.
Riley looked down at his hand, with which he had just thrown something with full strength.
The result wasn’t what he had expected.
“Why did it miss?”
A knife throw.
That is what it would be called in normal circumstances, but what Riley had just performed was nothing short of a miracle.
“I was going for his heart...”
Riley’s blade throw had ricocheted from the wall...
He had calculated the angle for the throw so only the handle would hit the wall.
After that, it had indeed landed on his target, but not where he had wanted it. This was why Riley was not satisfied with the result.
“I guess that’s to be expected?”
The knife throw was his most used skill back in his previous life.
Although blessed with the sword, he lacked talent for any skills with range such as archery or magic. Therefore, this was one of his compromises to deal with such a disadvantage.
“This body is different from before, and quite a lot of time has passed.”
Riley stretched his hands open and closed as he spoke to himself.
If an average person had heard it, they would lose consciousness on the spot.
There was a possibility of ‘friendly fire’ if he were to miss, not even to mention the distance between him and the target.
Yet, Riley was confident.
That he would never hit Ian who was in combat, and that it would only hit the hooded man.
That was backed up by skill and experience equivalent to his confidence.
Although it was all gained in his previous life.
“Well, it was a dagger as well.”
Riley gazed under him.
The previous owner of the dagger and his companions were all on the ground with their mouths agape.
They were all dead.
‘Woops, too many useless thoughts.’
Riley rubbed his shoes on the carpet to remove the blood stains from them, realizing that Ian may enter at any moment if he were to stay idle.
It was to get rid of the proof.
If anyone from the mansion were to see Riley standing atop the corpses of assassins, or find any proof of his corresponding actions, his leisurely life would end at that moment.
That’s not what Riley wanted.
Riley cleared his throat to clear the atmosphere and quickly left the area.
At this moment, Ian remembered why the word ‘reassurance’ existed.
It was all thanks to the boy who was rounding the corner.
How thankful he was to meet the master who had irritated him so much before.
“What’s going on? You’re sweating quite a bit.”
“What? Did you go for a run?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Riley asked with a smirk and Ian shook his head with tears in his eyes.
Riley tilted his head in reaction to the old man’s face of salvation.
It were as if he didn’t know anything.
“Where have you been? Weren’t you at the gardens before?”
“Hm? Ah, about that...”
Riley flinched at the unexpected question, but Ian showed no signs of noticing it.
“I was in the bathroom, but why? Is something happening?”
Riley asked as if worried about the sweat-covered Ian.
Ian answered with a serious look on his face.
“The assassins have invaded the mansion.”
As Riley acted surprised, Ian nodded his head.
“Yes. It must be about that incident before.”
It concerned that situation that had taken place previously.
The discovery of the body of an assassin must have been the reason they had come to the mansion.
“The situation now is different from before. This time, staying alone is really dangerous.”
“This is...not a joke?”
“I am dead serious.”
Riley started to look around the area as if unable to believe it.
The mansion seemed too quiet, but there were occasional sword clashes that could be heard from afar.
It was the proof that Ian was speaking the truth.
“What in god’s name is happening...”
As Riley swallowed his spit, he quickly turned his head and asked Ian.
“Ian, what about Mother? Is she alright?”
That was the first thing he was worried about.
The rumor about his laziness might have been widespread, but his love for his mother was second to none.
Ian’s face relaxed at the boy’s concern.
“Sera is defending her. It should be alright, since she’s quite the energetic one.”
“Is that so? Ha, that’s good.”
Riley made a sigh of relief.
“We should reconvene with Sera now.”
Ian spoke after observing the corridors.
The bloodthirst in the mansion was getting thicker.
It was likely that Stein had finally entered combat.
Both Ryan and Lloyd must had been making use of their blades as well.
“Right now, we are the most vulnerable party in the entire mansion.”
Riley was the weakest within the Iphelleta House.
That’s why he had to be protected.
To protect the seed that had not yet sprouted.
One that he would watch the moment it bloomed with both his eyes.
As Ian steadied his resolve, he looked kindly towards Riley.
“I’ll take the lead. Make sure you stay right behind me, since we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
As Ian was about to move with his sword unsheathed, Riley raised his hand to stop him.
“Now that I think about it... I saw something weird in the toilet.”
“Maybe, it’s connected to the invaders in the mansion.”
Ian turned curious after hearing those words from the boy.
Ian had looked after Riley since he was an infant.
Maybe he was pointing to something special, just like his previous ‘hide and seek.’
That thought crossed his mind.
“I brought it with me just in case.”
Riley’s hand moved to his right pocket.
Just what had the boy discovered?
As Ian tried to speculate what it could be, the object was revealed.
“...Young master, that is...?”
Ian’s brows furrowed after laying his sights on the object in question.