“I don’t think I can use the eye.”
It seemed Nainiae was ashamed to tell him this. She was unable to look at Riley in the eyes. Instead, she lowered her head and told him she couldn’t. Wondering why, Riley said,
“You don’t think you can use it? Why?”
She interlocked her fingers and didn’t know what to do. She responded in mosquito sized voice,
“About that, the pain is…”
Before they teleported here, when Nainiae used her right eye, she cringed in pain. Remembering this, Riley had troubled look on his face.
“You didn’t have pain like this before, right? Why is this happening all of sudden?”
Nainiae bit her lips and paused for a moment. It seemed she didn’t know why either. She shook her head as the answer.
‘Things just got difficult.’
Although it was the desert, perhaps because of the season, it was not so hot that Riley, who was weak against heat, would be struggling. However… the problem was that there was nothing around them.
‘We don’t even have a map.’
Riley thought hard about this. He casually turned his head and looked at Nainiae who still had her head lowered.
‘Um… Did you not like having your face changed that much? It seemed like she didn’t appear to be in good condition lately.’
Nainiae had gloomy look on her face. It seemed she was sorry that she could not be of help to Riley. However, the mood was far more low-spirited than the past.
‘Is something troubling her?’
Looking at Nainiae’s gloomy face, Riley thought hard about this. He then remembered what Sera said earlier and wiggled his eyebrows.
‘By any chance… puberty?’
Riley thought about the age of the maid he had been working with. With odd look on his face, he stared at Nainiae and corrected the thought.
‘No, that is not it?’
Sadly, the girl named Nainiae had grown up way before other girls of the same age.
After the experiments at the Magic Tower, which were filled with nothing but horrifying pain, she was abandoned by her mother and abandoned again by the homeless of Lower Solia. She was the girl who wished for her death more than living.
The idea of a girl like her being troubled with thoughts in puberty now was hard to believe.
Riley rested his fist on his waist and looked up the sky. He sighed briefly and made a proposal.
“It cannot be helped. It’s late now.”
Riley was pushing the sands away to make the ground flat. He looked at Nainiae and said,
“Let’s think after sleeping for a bit. We don’t have a map, so we can’t move right away. I had been rolling my brain around, but I can’t think of any good idea in particular, so…”
It was night in the desert. The desert sky was somehow tranquil and beautiful.
“It would be nice if something could be done about the floor.”
Riley closed one of his eyes and glanced at Nainiae. As if she understood it, she nodded right away and moved her hand to use magic.
“Please wait a moment.”
it seemed Nainiae decided that cleaning the sand would be difficult. Instead, she chose to create a transparent floor above the sand. She opened the dimensional space and started to bring out items useful for the stay.
“It is done. I placed a layer above the sand, so it will block the smell or poison. Would you like to… try sitting there?”
“On the layer?”
“Yes, on the layer.”
Nainiae added that the sand won’t get on even if he lay down or sat on it. She made a simple bonfire with her fire magic and asked,
“What do you think?”
Riley tried sitting on the layer that Nainiae made above the sand. He confirmed that the sand didn’t get on him and nodded.
“It’s not bad.”
Having heard his response, Nainiae relaxed her face a little from the gloomy look she had earlier. She raised the fire on the bonfire some more and asked Riley,
“Excuse me, Young Master. Are you hungry? It’s the dinner time, so if you would like…”
Riley shook his head and said he was not particularly hungry. Nainiae asked something else.
“Well then, a map… Should I go get it now? I think it is in Ms. Sera’s bag.”
“You are going to go search Sera’s bag? Now?”
Nainiae asked anxiously, wondering if it was not okay. Riley said,
“Do you know what you are saying? If you returned to the mansion, Sera will ask you to take her with you?”
Sera currently believed that Riley and Nainiae went to see the doctor who helped healing Nainiae. However, they were currently in pursuit of the purple people on this trip because of a different reason.
Since they were in pursuit of the purple people, Nainiae thought that something might happen to Sera if she came along. She vacantly opened her mouth.
In particular, because Sera had exceptional sense of smell, there was a chance that Sera could faint from the stench of the sand that was covered in poison. Nainiae also had to consider this factor.
“Are you going to bring Sera?”
Nainiae concluded that bring Sera here would not be a good idea. She shook her head and made a different proposal.
“In that case, I’ll go to Solia for a bit and come back. Maps are sold in Left Solia or the Main Plaza, so… If I bring a new map from there!”
“At this hour?”
Riley was enjoying the bonfire. He peeked a smile and asked. Nainiae opened her mouth vacantly once again.
“It’s very late. Even if there was a place that sold maps this late, since I already decided to sleep, let’s do it tomorrow… Starting tomorrow…”
Nainiae appeared to be anxious. Riley calmed her down and called her with his hand. He was trying to tell her she should sit down as well. With ashamed look on her face, she bent her knees.
‘We won’t lose him at least.’
Since the scars on her face disappeared, Nainiae no longer had any restrictions on using magic. Because he had her, Riley thought that it won’t be late even if they started looking tomorrow instead of right now. Riley plummeted and lay down.
“… Young Master.”
Riley interlocked the fingers and placed the hands behind his head as he lay down. Having heard Nainiae calling, he just moved his eyes and looked at her.
“What is it?”
Riley was thinking he should give her a lecture if she was going to talk about going somewhere or getting something and coming back again. Nainiae asked,
“Would you like me to lend you my lap?”
She asked carefully. Riley vacantly stared at Nainiae. He thought it was a very Nainiae’s kind of idea. He smiled and said,
“… In that case, shall I borrow your lap for a moment?”
Riley lay on Nainiae’s lap and closed his eyes gently.
When about two hours passed, Riley, who had his eyes closed, just could not fall asleep. He opened his eyes narrowly.
Because he was lying on Nainiae’s lap, he looked up toward Nainiae’s face. He saw that she was knocking her head and dozing off. Riley had a look on his face as he thought there was no way to stop Nainiae on this.
“… That’s right. Sleep. Sleep.”
To make sure Nainiae won’t wake up, Riley carefully raised his head. He looked around the empty desert scenery and sat next to Nainiae.
“You sure sleep soundly.”
Riley had been sitting there and staring at Nainiae’s face from the side for a long while. However, it looked like Nainiae was not going to wake up any time soon. He carefully brought his hand toward Nainiae’s clothes and pulled it.
He was going to pull at it lightly, but it seemed he pulled too hard. Nainiae’s upper body leaned a lot. Riley hurriedly raised his arm and gently supported her neck.
‘Is she awake?’
It seemed she was talking in her sleep. When she was tossing and turning, Riley thought she might wake up. However…
Fortunately, it seemed she was in pretty deep sleep, more so than Riley thought. She was still breathing like a baby and not opening her eyes.
“You startled me. Geez.”
He moved his arm and decided to switch the roles. He had Nainiae’s head on top of his lap. He looked like he just got over a big huddle. With relieved look on his face, Riley looked at Nainiae below.
‘Have I changed a lot?’
Nainiae no longer had the scars on right side of her face near the eye. Her look was definitely beautiful now. She was so beautiful that it was to the point where any boys of her age or young men would have fallen for her in the first sight.
Riley was concerned that it might be uncomfortable for Nainiae because his lap was hard. However… Nainiae was sleeping soundly. Looking at her face, Riley gently brushed away the hair on the front of her face. Riley vacantly muttered,
“I think you are the same as always. Why did you even bother asking?”
Riley looked at Nainiae below. There was no indecency in his face.
Riley felt that it was just the scars that were gone. He didn’t think her face changed significantly.
He always judged people by their hearts. He never measured people over their appearances before.
He never had in his past life, and he never had in this life as well.
‘What changed is…’
Riley thought about what he heard from Sera last time and glanced at the sword he had untied and placed next to him.
‘Yes. You suddenly fell asleep in the cave. Since then, you just never work up, you see? It seemed you also caught cold. You were boiling in fever. You have no idea how worried Nainiae and I were…’
‘Probably a little over a month.’
Riley was thinking about Sera saying he slept for a month.
He was dreaming.
He was not sure how long he was dreaming. However, since Sera said it was for a month, it was certain he dreamed for a long time.
The dream was about his past life.
The moments where he wielded the Holy Sword where he said he will swing it to save the people and swung it even when he was coughing blood… The moments where he was pointed fingers at and criticized and was told to not butt in to save people… Riley was watching himself in those moments in his dream.
‘I am probably the one who had changed.’
The mindset that he had when he was wielding a sword in his past life in comparison to the mindset he had now in this life… Riley was going over how much he changed.
* * *
It seemed the place used to be an oasis in the past. There were traces of people’s dwelling in the ruined village. The boy entered the village and asked as he tapped his shoulder with the spear he was holding in his hand.
“Ms. Priesia, is this the place?”
The girl who was called as Priesia slightly removed the hood she had to cover her head and nodded.
She pulled up the hood and revealed her beautiful face. The girl looked around the scenery slowly once again and muttered that this place was the source as she exuded white light from her hand.
It was Holy Power.
It was a unique power that was different from mana, and it was something only those devoted to a Holy Temple could use.
“Commander, this place… could this place really be cleansed?”
The boy took a step back to help her focus. The boy’s comrades carefully came to him and asked.
“She probably asked us because it is possible. We got help from Reitri merchant group too. Anyway, this is a good deed, so let’s definitely get it done.”
Nara quickly glanced at Rorona and Isen, his comrades, and looked at the girl who was focusing with her eyes closed.
Currently, there was a ginormous bounty on her. The beautiful girl had wrapped her body with Holy Power and was exuding mysterious atmosphere. She was the Priestess of Solia Holy Temple.
Having heard what Nara Basilisk, their young Commander, said, the mercenary group’s Isen looked around the desert scenery. He lightly lowered the mask that he had to cover his nose and mouth, but he cringed.
“Uuuk. I hope it works soon.”
The sand on the desert had the color changed to pitch black.
It had vertigo inducing level of stench. Also, the poison drenched on the sand was so strong that it would have worn off their shoes in a day if no special treatments were done.
“… Mr. Nara!”
Priesia had been focusing with her eyes closed. She suddenly hand gestured at him and asked him to come near her. Nara walked over to her.
“What is it?”
“I am sorry, but I think the cleansing work will take quite a bit of time. While I’m doing this, I would like you to… protect me, so…”
Having heard what she said, Nara tilted his head to the side. For now, he said he understood, and then he asked,
“In that case, how long will it take?”
“Not just the Karuta desert, but it seems the epidemic had spread to the forest at the end of the desert. I think it will take about… four to five hours.”
“F… Five hours?”
Through the travels, Nara had seen Priesia praying in occasions. He sent gaze of respect toward Priesia and rolled his tongue.
“We will be completely okay with protecting you, Priestess, but will you really be all right? You haven’t even had your breakfast yet?”
“During the fasting week, I had not had anything to eat for a whole week. It’s all right.”
Nara thought that she didn’t become the Priestess just because of her beautiful face. He renewed his resolve and nodded,
“Yes, leave it to us.”
“Thank you. I received a divine message a few days ago, but the message was a very troubling kind.”
“A divine message?”
“The message said that a leg is targeting me and walking toward me, so I should be careful. Nothing happened so far, but… I am still concerned, so…”
A leg is targeting the Priestess and is walking toward her? It was such a puzzling sentence. Nara tilted his head to the side and wondered. For now, he said he got it and nodded. He looked at his spear and said,
“Please do not worry. Please focus on the cleansing.”
There was the request from Priesia. Not only that, there was the request from the Reitri merchant group. Also, there was the fact that he could contribute to restoring the nature. Nara vowed that he would make this cleansing work a success.
“What did she say?”
After making Priesia feel safe, Nara returned to his comrades on the back. Having hard the question, he shrugged his shoulder and said,
“She said it will take about four to five hours.”
“F… Four hours?”
“She will be standing like that and pray through it, right? She is not even wearing a mask, and… she is barefooted…”
Watching Priesia starting the prayer right away, Rorona muttered as if she was impressed. She shook her head left and right.
‘Anyway, what’s a leg?’
Nara tilted his neck left and right and did a light stretch. He then started to ponder about the divine message that the Priestess mentioned earlier.
A leg is targeting the Priestess and walking toward her?
To figure out what this meant, he tilted his head side to side as he thought about things. To Nara’s back, sounds of steps on sand could be heard.
It was a little over ten people’s worth of steps. Nara turned his head, and his eyes had become sharp like a snake.
“Oh? Look who’s here?”
“Haha! It’s Nara?”
Of the ten people who were approaching, the man on the front was dragging a human-sized hammer on the sand and greeting as if he was glad to see Nara.