「We’re going to get through the main gates in one movement, hold tight, Nell!」
Merry, my beloved pitch-black horse, hurtles down Spada’s main road with incredible vigor and flies out through the enormous main gates.
I can hear the guards shouting something at us, but I’ve got the princess riding behind me, so it’s probably fine to ignore them.
Well, as long as I haven’t been mistaken as a kidnapper... But I probably shouldn’t be thinking about that when I’m in such a hurry.
After we eventually get out of the crowded city of Spada, I change our course to the wide, well-maintained highway. From this point, I can have Merry truly fly at full speed.
With the feeling of a driver finally getting out of a packed street onto a motorway, I whip Merry to accelerate.
「You must run for goshuujin-sama’s sake!」
Incidentally, I’m using the tentacles of「Black Hair Curse『Coffin』」as reins.
I get the feeling that I heard the maid’s violent voice, but in any case, Merry lets out a spirited neigh and her powerful legs pick up the pace.
But this isn’t the only thing that speeds her up.
「Well then, Nell, I’ll leave it to you.」
Nell is riding behind me like Fiona did during our date.
I can feel her soft, warm body against my back, although right now, I feel not only that happy and embarrassing sensation, but –
「يعمل من خلال سرعة القدم لتشغيل أسرع」
With the elegant melody of her chant that sounds as if she’s singing, the thick presence of her mana envelops me – no, envelops Merry and I.
「– Speed High-Boost.」
Merry’s speed doubles, showing the effects of Nell’s completed spell.
I whisper without thinking, but I’m breaking out in a cold sweat at this increase in speed that has exceeded my expectations. Marie is just as fast as Merry, but if they were to race now, Merry would win easily.
I wonder how many kilometers per hour we’re doing, but unfortunately there’s no speedometer installed on the body of a horse, so from this sensation I can only say that we’re going「fast.」
Merry was running almost at full speed when we were on the main road, but even so, because I’m quite used to riding horses at this point, I had the composure and technique to be able to avoid running any pedestrians over.
However at the speed we’re traveling at now, going straight is the only option; I don’t have the confidence to be able to pull off any detailed maneuvers. In other words, if we had gone at this speed through the city, my class would definitely have changed to hit-and-runner.
Having Nell wait to use her speed boost until we were out on the highway was a good choice after all, no matter how much of a hurry we’re in.
「Fufu, thank you.」
That’s her reply to my comment that this is amazing. Nell whispers it into my ear with a slightly happy tone.
I feel a momentary chill run down my spine; she’s so close, to the point that I can feel her breathing.
But since we’re riding a horse running at this incredible speed, it’s only natural that she’s clinging onto me.
My black coat smells of blood slightly since I fought for my life at the Grand Coliseum not too long ago, and yet due to the danger of falling off the horse, there’s no other option but for Nell to just endure it and hold on tight.
That’s why I feel guilty that I’m feeling chills and my heart is beating fast, even though I’m supposed to be the one in charge of the horse. I’m really sorry, but this is the normal physiological reaction of any man.
My feelings of guilt intensify as I think about how pure Nell is despite the fact that she’s not a Fairy like Lily.
「No, I should be the one thanking you. At this rate, we’ll be able to reach Iskia Fortress way faster than I’d expected.」
Shaking off my inappropriate feelings, I gave her a serious response.
Nell is of the priest class, which means her specialty is not only healing, as she demonstrated on my right arm, but also supporting allies through enhancement spells.
And her Rank 5 title isn’t just for show. Nell is demonstrating right now that her enhancement spells are just as powerful as her healing.
The『Speed High-Boost』she cast is an intermediate-level enhancement spell, but I feel like it’s been executed at a level above that, so I think it’s exhibiting the effects of a high-level spell.
The same spell can have very different results depending on the skill of the caster. It’s the same as when Fiona uses her offensive spells.
Well, in Fiona’s case, it’s more like a spontaneous discharge of her excess mana while for Nell, her accurate control over her mana and elaborate spell formula is what produces a perfected spell. So it’s actually quite different.
「We’ll arrive within three – no, two days, I guess.」
「I’m sorry. You might have been able to get there faster if you were alone, Kurono-kun.」
Nell apologizes, and at the same time, for some reason, I get the feeling that her arms have tightened their grip around my waist.
「It’s true that I could have gone without sleep or rest if I were alone, but –」
My body has the endurance and stamina to go a week without eating or drinking. I wonder just how hard those masked guys were planning to have me work; I feel the urge to murder them rise up... Well, I’ll let it go for now.
「– Either way, Merry would need to rest, so I’m sure it’s much faster with you and your enhancement magic, Nell.」
「But I’m... well, heavy, so...」
What’s with that girly line?
I feel like an idiot for answering seriously. But she’s cute, so I have no choice but to forgive her.
「You’re not heavy enough to have to pay any attention to your weight.」
Lily, being a Fairy, doesn’t even need to be mentioned, but comparing Nell to Fiona, her figure is more... you know, glamorous; she definitely exceeds the standards of an average seventeen-year-old girl in Spada. Including the big wings on her back.
But I can’t say that. I can at least tell that that would be like stepping on an extra-large land mine.
「Yes... Since you said that, Kurono-kun, I won’t worry about it.」
Nell sounds a little happy; it seems I chose my reply well.
I feel her arms tightening around my waist again, but I’m sure it’s not because she’s secretly angry at me or anything.
She’s clinging onto me awfully tightly, but we are traveling quite fast, so it’s dangerous if she doesn’t, I suppose.
I feel bad for Nell, but we can’t slow down here. We’ll go at full speed like this until we get to Iskia!
「Mmm... Kurono-kun... Ufufu.」
It seems that Nell is looking after me, even in her dreams. Seriously, I’m no match for the devoted kindness of a princess.
If she weren’t here, I’d still be going down the highway with bloodshot eyes.
Not only that. Nell wields “magic” that will be effective against the army of monsters. Our strength in battle is much greater than if I had come alone.
「You ran well too, so thanks.」
Merry is sleeping as well.
Nell applied not only the speed enhancing magic but also fatigue recovery and load-lightening magic, so the journey isn’t taking too much of a toll on Merry.
If I was alone, I wouldn’t let Merry rest enough and she probably would have collapsed.
That’s how much I’m lacking composure right now.
「It’s alright, I’ll definitely make it in time... This time, for sure...」
Exactly one day has passed since we left Spada. It’s now the evening of the 27th of the Month of Platinum (Hakkin).
We’ve been riding almost all day and all night, and as a result, we’re about halfway to Iskia Village.
If we keep this pace up, we’ll arrive there in two more days, just as planned.
We’re completely ignoring the villages in between. Of course, we’re not resting in an inn right now; we’re camping outdoors in one of the thick forests that grow on both sides of the highway.
Merry is sleeping with her tired legs folded up under her, and Nell is leaning against Merry’s large body wrapped in a blanket, breathing quietly and occasionally mumbling sweet things in her sleep.
Of course, it’s my job to keep watch over them. At the same time, I’m using this resting time to make sure my equipment is all in order.
The right sleeve of『Diablo’s Embrace』is still torn; it’s going to need some more time to regenerate.
It wouldn’t look cool to go out to fight with my arm exposed, and I went out of my way to buy full-body armor to use in the fight against the Greed-Gore, so I’ve decided to wear that.
Though the crucial torso portion of it was left at the Stratos Smithing Workshop to repair the hole made by Ludora, so I’m not exactly fully equipped.
I’ve got a gauntlet not only for my right arm where my sleeve is missing, but also my left. I’ve equipped leg-guards on both of my legs as well, so my limbs are now protected.
Now that I have『Diablo’s Embrace』, a high-level magical robe, I’m more mobile equipping armor on only my limbs rather than the whole suit of armor, so this should be better for my overall combat performance.
This combination of equipment is probably the best I have available to me right now.
「There’s still a long time before the sun rises, huh.」
I did have to fight for my life during the『Curse Carnival』, so it’s not like I’m not feeling tired at all.
But in any case, we’ll arrive at Iskia Fortress by the day after tomorrow, and we’ll save Simon, Will and all the other academy students. I can sleep after I’m done with all of that.
I tell myself that, but in the end, there’s still a sense of unease lingering at the bottom of my heart.
I won’t make it in time, I’ll be too late – no, in the first place, will the Greed-Gore and its monster army be defeated just because I join the fight?
Lily and Fiona, my reliable companions, are not here right now.
Even my plan of defeating the Greed-Gore is a plan that I made based on the assumption that I would have those two with me. If I go to fight by myself, I have no options but to face it head-on...
Sitting here and thinking quietly like this, my uneasiness just keeps increasing.
「Even if that’s the case, even if I’m alone, I’ll make it happen. This is supposed to be my trial, right, Demon King Mia-chan?」
For the Greed-Gore to appear at this time where I don’t have my party members with me. It’s only natural for me to suspect that this is a god’s will.
Is this the trial that has been prepared for me by the Demon King? Or is this just a natural event caused by a series of coincidences? Either way, there’s no doubt that there’s a trial waiting for me with a second divine protection at the end of it.
The proof of that is that the crimson eye that was given to me by a god is glowing red.