“… What the?”
A boy who they never saw before made an entrance. Kabal and other mercenaries were surprised as if they just saw a ghost.
“W… Who are you?”
The mercenaries had vacant looks on their faces for a moment. They took a few steps back from the boy and brought their hands toward their weapons. The boy started to look around them.
Of the mercenaries, he found one who was holding Nara on the waist. The boy stopped moving his gaze. He confirmed Nara in shambles and muttered inside,
‘Is he alive at least?’
He was a mess from the tip of the head to the end of the feet. Only his fingers, which were twisted out of shape, occasionally twitched lightly.
‘… Looks like he is still breathing.’
Basilisks could see the color of people’s aura. To find the rest of the ‘purple people,’ the boy still needed Nara.
“I asked who you are!”
It seemed the mercenaries could not stand the boy keeping silence for so long. They started to yell.
“Commander, what should we do?”
The mercenaries were asking their commander what to do about the boy who suddenly appeared.
“Should we kill him or capture him alive?”
They were talking about violent things loudly so the boy could hear. However, instead of cringing his face, he still had calm look. He was exuding violent mood.
While the strange atmosphere was continuing, Kabal handed the Priestess to a subordinate and raised his right hand.
Having noticed Kabal’s gesture, the mercenaries put away their hands from the weapons and started to glance around.
“Oh my… Who is this?”
Kabal suddenly walked toward the boy and leaned his face right on the boy’s face.
“Aren’t you a Young Master of Iphalleta Family in Solia?”
“It’s been a while? Right? Last time we met, it was during summer, right?”
Having heard the family name, the mercenaries started to mutter.
“If you are talking about Iphalleta, isn’t that the name of the Count who fought with our commander during the border skirmish last time?”
The mercenaries remembered the battle from the border skirmish. Having noticed the mood becoming even heavier, they even forgot to gulp. They just glanced at the boy and their commander.
“Well, about your father… I am sorry about that.”
“Uh huh. There is no need to make such a face! That place was a battle field… He should feel fortunate that it was an arm that got thrown off instead of his life! Well, you are still young, so you probably don’t understand this well.”
Kabal tilted the tip of his lips up and looked at his subordinates. The mercenaries had been quietly glancing around to figure out what Kabal and the boy were thinking. The mercenaries started to smile awkwardly after feeling Kabal’s gaze.
“So, what brings you here?”
Riley was crumpling his face as if he was displeased about something. Toward the boy, Kabal asked as he peeked a smile.
Still, he was not letting his guard down.
A moment ago, although Kabal didn’t feel anything, the boy suddenly appeared in middle of the mercenaries and talked to them. This move made Kabal weary.
“Young Master? Why don’t you say something?”
“Commander, could it be that he is choking in fear because he is still just a kid?”
“Ah ah. Indeed! After seeing the state that Nara bastard is in, anyone would be scared!”
The mercenaries were laughing. Standing in the middle, Riley was staring only at Kabal. Annoyed by the ruckus, Riley started to exude deadly aura.
It was as if the time stopped.
All Riley did was exuding his aura. However, the mercenaries were petrified as if they were frozen solid. They could only move their eyeballs.
It looked like they were wondering why they could not move and why they could not voice anything through their mouths.
Kabal was experiencing the same condition.
Of the Six Powers of otherworldly nature that should not exist, this was one of them…
Even Kabal, the one who possessed the Right Leg, could not help but be petrified. He was unable to continue his words.
Kabal’s subordinates were not able to figure this out because the power was so overwhelming. Still, the Young Master from the Iphalleta Family was exuding deadly aura.
‘He immobilized us using only his deadly aura?’
In disbelief, Kabal, while petrified, faced Riley’s cold eyes.
“One, two, three… If I kill you, would that be four?”
Riley muttered in low voice.
‘Did he say… four?’
Kabal started to digest what Riley just said.
“Last time, that bastard said there were six. After I catch the Friend Who Cannot Breathe, then there will be just one left.”
Listening to what Riley said, Kabal’s eyes started to become bloodshot.
“You… you bastard…”
In heavy, slow steps, Riley walked toward Kabal. All mercenaries started to glare at Riley.
It didn’t take many steps before Riley got to the front of Kabal. He slowly moved his right hand.
Riley’s hand was headed to the handle of the sword on his waist.
‘First, I’ll cut this bastard, and then…’
Holding the handle, drawing the sword, cutting Kabal’s arm, stomach, neck, or anywhere… Riley thought that’s what he should do.
‘If I cut him…’
Riley’s hand, which was headed to the sword handle, suddenly flinched and stopped.
His hand lightly shivered.
‘After cutting him with sword… what will happen?’
His sword handle was only a few inches away, but he was unable to draw the sword that was hanging on his waist.
‘Young Master, have I changed a lot?’
Before he grabbed the sword, he thought about Nainiae’s question.
It was because of the sword.
Riley had been swinging the sword throughout his past life and even in this life. He stopped his hand and thought about the reason why he wielded sword.
‘To begin with, why am I wielding a sword…’
In his regret filled past life, because of a sword, he was grinding away and then some for nothing. While he was at it… He swore that he will never hold a sword ever again and will never have hope that he would be able to save someone by wielding it… However…
To himself who swore never to wield a sword ever again, Riley asked why, and he found an answer soon.
‘Why? Isn’t that obvious? My father… My father lost his right arm because of this bastard. I can’t leave a bastard like Kabal be when he hurt my family. So, that’s why I…’
In his past life, due to his lack of attention, he lost all of his family. When Riley was born in to this new life, he swore that he will protect his family no matter what.
During last spring, when Oruli made Iris eat poisoned soup, he felt his heart sink. Unable to sit still, Riley picked up the sword.
‘Now is no different. It is the same. This bastard hurt my family. He is the bastard who took away my father’s arm. He is the bastard who hurt my family. To him… I should…’
Looking at Kabal in front of him, Riley, who had his hand just inches away from the sword handle, started to twitch his fingers again.
Thinking about what would result from this action, Riley feared about his current life ending up just like his past life, a life full of regrets.
‘Which one is it?’
Riley asked himself another question.
‘Do you want to rest easy? Do you want to continue swinging sword? Which one is it?’
He could not make up his mind.
Sometimes, he just lay down, saying he didn’t want to bother with the problems. In other times, he swung the sword, saying he won’t sit back and watch.
It was as if he was trapped in a maze. Riley could not make up his mind.
During this year’s spring, since when he saw his mother coughing blood after eating a poisoned soup and picked up a sword… Riley had not been able to make consistent decisions.
It was because he never quite decided clearly if he wanted to wield sword again or not.
It could be that he had a foolish desire left.
In his past life, he swung the sword to the very end and defeated the Demon Lord. However, his life ended before he could hear anyone telling him that he had done well or that he worked hard. It could be that he just wanted to hear some words of recognition as a reward.
Like a ghost with grudge or obsession…
Facing the question, he was not able to make a decision quickly. A phantom voice could be heard in his ear.
The voice was criticizing him. Listening to the voice, Riley was hesitating about holding the sword. It was around that time. Kabal, who was immobilized because of the deadly aura, started to move slowly.
Of the purple people, of the six parts, the power that he possessed was the monstrous strength. Last time, although Stein possessed superior skill, he still lost an arm because of Kabal’s ability.
Although Riley was restraining Kabal with his deadly aura, Kabal started to move his body using his monstrous strength alone. His face was completely red in fury. Kabal snorted toward Riley.
He was like a bull in a bull fighting arena. Not just his face, but the white parts of his eyes were bloodshot. Using his strength, he made a fist with his right hand and punched Riley’s stomach with it.
Riley was still organizing his thoughts about his past and his reasons for wielding the sword. Feeling the shock in his stomach, Riley crumpled his face.
Along with the shouting, Kabal swung his arm with all of his strength. Riley’s body was bent like a bow and got thrown off to the other side.
After Riley got thrown off to the distance by Kabal’s fist, the mercenaries, who were unable to move until now, plummeted on their butts and started to grasp for air.
“How did this happen?”
“C… Commander… was it you?”
Kabal omitted the answer to his subordinates’ questions. His face was still red. Leaving it be, he started to walk and said,
“Take good care of Nara and the Priestess and wait at the meeting site. It would be good to tie him up well. That kid Nara might be young, but he is better than you all when it comes to quick thinking, so you can never know what he might do.”
“Commander? What about you?”
“I’m going to completely finish off that rotten Young Master.”
Their commander was exuding murderous intent to the maximum. The mercenaries gulped and nodded.
“I warned you earlier, but it would be good for you to not touch the Priestess other than having her tied up. If you don’t want to receive the heaven’s punishment from me that is.”
Kabal turned his head and warned. Facing his violent eyes, the mercenaries’ faces turned pale. They repeatedly nodded and swore that they won’t touch her.
“… Get going.”
Kabal gestured with his chin. The mercenaries held unconscious Nara and Priestess on their waists and continued on their path.
“Well then… Now…”
Kabal watched his subordinates leaving. He looked to the direction where Riley was thrown off as he put his hand toward the hammer hanging behind his back.
“Shall I go greet our adorable Young Master who claimed to have come to avenge his father?”
Kabal tilted his head left to right to crack it. He haphazardly stopped the bleeding on the shoulder caused by Nara’s spear piercing it. He started to walk.
He was thrown off very far by Kabal’s monstrous strength. Kabal had to walk for a long time to get to Riley. He looked at Riley, who was unconscious, and snorted as he muttered.
“Hng. He’s alive?”
Riley was lying down as if he was buried under the sand. Riley had vacant look on his face, but he was definitely breathing.
“If you were dead, I was going to at least cut off your head and take it with me. This is fine too. Actually, this is better. I have a few things I wanted to ask you, Young Master.”
Kabal put his hand toward Riley and grabbed him by the collar to pick him up.
“It would be better to answer clearly.”
“I’ve heard that someone is meddling in our goal toward the life long wish. Is that someone… you?”
Riley was being shaken by Kabal who was holding him by the collar. However, Riley didn’t answer. Instead, he just had that blank look on his face.
Kabal had veins popping up on his forehead, thinking he was being ignored. He put the hammer down and swung his fist at Riley.
Riley was punched on the face by Kabal’s fist. Riley’s face was turned rapidly to the side.
Another punch struck Riley and made his upper body falter.
“Tell me, Young Master… If you do, I’ll spare your life.”
Breathing down on Riley, Kabal threatened him again. However, Riley still showed no response despite being grabbed and picked up by the collar or being punched.
Kabal hated being ignored. Unable to stand it anymore, he swung the arm that was holding Riley by the collar. He swung it big and shouted,
“You rotten brat!!”
Riley was swung around like a kite.
With that violent noise, his body was thrown to the ground.
Riley collided with the ground on his back. That kicked the air out of his lung. Riley cringed and moved his gaze.
The sand formed a large crater as if an explosion happened there. This was a good example that demonstrated Kabal’s monstrous power.
‘The scenery around Rorona earlier, what that also this bastard’s doing?”
Riley thought about how Nara must have fought this monster with ridiculous muscular strength. However, feeling the blunt shock in his stomach again, Riley cringed his face.
“I said tell me!!”
Kabal got on top of Riley and started to swing his fist at Riley’s face.
It seemed each punch he threw was carrying his monster strength. With the sound of each blow, the depth of the crater and the diameter was slowly increasing.
Riley’s face was completely swollen up. It was full of bruises and cuts. He looked horrible.
Even though his face was turning into a pulp, Riley was still just agonizing about his past and current life. He was not able to find a definite answer.
Sitting on Riley’s stomach, Kabal mercilessly swung his fists at Riley. Kabal realized that the boy’s head should have been turned into a pancake and then some by now. Instead, the boy was still breathing. Kabal could not hide the surprised look on his face.
‘What the? How come… he is still alive?’
He had absolutely no clue why the boy’s head was still attached and so was his breathing.
After taking a beating from him like this, even the great existence like the dragons would have fainted or died. However, Riley was holding out.
As if he was thinking hard about something, with vacant look on his face, Riley was looking up in the sky instead of Kabal without any response.
Kabal, still infuriated, got his ass up from Riley’s stomach. He raised his right leg.
Violent sounds could be heard. Kabal’s leg repeated the stumping motion, and it started to splatter blood.
It was Riley’s.
‘Hold the sword or not… Just what should I go along with? What are you trying to say?’
Half of him wanted to just rest. The other half of him wanted to avoid the phantom voice. His head was all jumbled up. It seemed Riley was suffering from the headache more than the pain from beaten up face. He moaned in pain. As the blood made his vision red, Riley furrowed his brows.
Riley’s mind was in chaos.
Ever since the nightmare last time, even now… His head and mind were being indecisive.
“You runt! You little!”
Kabal struck Riley on the face multiple times. He kicked and punched Riley’s face, but Riley was not losing consciousness. That made Kabal even more agitated.
Kabal shouted at the top of his lunge, enough to make his neck explode. Kabal stumped with his right leg again. This time, unlike the ‘puk’ sound, a different kind of crushing sound was heard.
Having heard the sound, Kabal thought it was finally done. He smiled victoriously and moved the leg again.
It sounded like Riley’s cheek bone was being crushed.
‘Well then, like this…’
‘If it is something I cannot find the conclusion, perhaps it would be best to just stop thinking… If I close my eyes like this, then maybe everything will end…’
Riley was muttering those thoughts in his head. It was at that moment.
“… Young Master!!”
A voice could be heard.
It was a delicate voice of a young girl. Kabal slowly turned his head and looked at the maid who appeared in the distance.
Wondering what a maid was doing here, Kabal stopped. Maid bit her lips lightly and started to run toward them.
“Now what is this…”
At first, because she was at quite a distance, he could only figure out her getup. Now, as she approached them, he was able to confirm her face. Surprised, Kabal wiggled his eyebrows.
Of all women he had ever saw throughout his mercenary life, she had the most outstanding beauty.
She was even more beautiful than famed bar maid who revived a dying pub.
She was more beautiful than renowned daughters of nobilities.
She was more astonishing than the Priestess of a Holy Temple.
Kabal even thought she might be a Goddess. With an adorable look on her face, she was running this way.
‘Well, I don’t know where this cake dropped from, but…’
Kabal decided to redirect his anger toward Riley at someone else. He licked his lips and turned toward the maid.
“Oh my? Are you this Young Master’s maid?”
With open arms, Kabal walked toward the maid. However, he blinked after feeling sudden wind.
In a blink of an eye, the maid disappeared.
‘What’s this? Was I imagining it? Was it a mirage?’
Kabal thought maybe he just saw a mirage because this was desert. He thought about when was the last time he drank any water. However, that was not a mirage.
It happened because Nainiae used magic and swapped the locations with Kabal.
He heard Nainiae’s voice from the back. Kabal turned his head to look. Having realized he got done in, Kabal crumpled his face.
After swapping the spots with Kabal, she held Riley in her arms. Looking at Riley’s face, which was a mess, she bit her lips again and asked,
“Why didn’t you fight back?”
She couldn’t know what happened exactly, but Nainiae knew well that Riley was not some weakling who would have been hurt like this one-sidedly.
Riley didn’t answer.
He didn’t want to tell someone about his troubled thoughts of his past life. He also just didn’t want to speak.
He didn’t want to be treated like a mentally ill person.
With no response, Nainiae glared at Riley’s face again.
His cheekbones were cracked. His skin was torn and messed up. However, she could still see the gleam in his eyes. She muttered quietly.
“… Is it because of your past life?”
There was something empty about Riley’s eyes. However, having heard the question, Riley’s eyes shook.
“What did you… just say?”
“Is it about the Holy Sword you wielded in your past life? Because you had to watch many people die as result of it… Because you fear the things of your past life might repeat… You were agonizing over them, weren’t you?”
Wondering how she could have known about his past life, Riley looked at Nainiae and muttered vacantly.
“You had been avoiding holding swords, but still… isn’t it true that you still want to wield it?”
She was not sobbing. She had serious look on her face as she started to shed tears. She looked at Riley directly and asked.
Although she was crying, her strong eyes were unwavering. It seemed she had agonized over this several ten thousand times in that brief moment and came to a decision.
“I thought hard about this all along. Ever since I learned about your past life, I wondered if I should tell you that I know or not.”
Nainiae briefly took a deep breath and continued,
“Until now, I couldn’t decide, so I couldn’t tell you. I was worried you might find it uncomfortable. However…”
Nainiae lowered her gaze and looked at Riley’s right hand.
His hand was shaking lightly. It would have been hard for anyone to notice without taking a close look.
“I thought that… I should definitely tell you now.”
Kabal, who switched places with Nainiae earlier, pounded at the barrier that Nainiae cast and muttered,
‘What is this? What are they talking about?’
Because of the barrier, he could not hear anything from the inside. Frustrated, Kabal picked up his hammer.
‘I don’t know what they are up to, but I can’t just sit back and watch.’
With intent to shatter the mage’s barrier as if it was nothing, Kabal wrapped himself in purple energy and raised the hammer up to the sky.
It seemed Nainiae was not interested at all about what Kabal was doing on her back. Nainiae continued in quiet voice,
“You told me once before. If I become afraid of being criticized after working hard to live up to others’ expectations… The solution is taking a step back. Instead of receiving expectations from people, it is better to watch from the back.”
Back then… Nainiae said she could not find the answer and said ‘I am not sure.’ Now, like a person who had the answer, she smiled lightly and said,
“I am a little different.”
She said the solution she found was a little different.
“I am not sure if what I found is the answer you had been seeking, but this is what I think.”
“As I thought… No matter what happens, no matter what the result is, just doing what I want keeps my heart at ease the most.”
Behind her, Kabal’s hammer was smashed on to the barrier. Nainiae had been talking calmly until now. However, she crumpled her face slightly. The sound of cracks developing on the barrier could be heard.
“It is so that I won’t have any regrets for the choices I made.”
Nainiae had been following Riley because she wanted to. She was giving a lecture to Riley at the moment, knowing she was in no position to do so, because she wanted to.
Just because she wanted to.
So she won’t regret it later… This was the answer that Nainiae found for the question from the last autumn.
“If you don’t want to draw the sword, then you don’t have to. If you want to wield it, then that’s fine too. You don’t have to be wondering around about it. It’s simple.”
Using wind magic, Nainiae dusted off the sand that was on Riley’s clothes and added the following with smile.
“Regardless of your decision, I respect you, Young Master.”
Nainiae was intending to be Riley’s sword if he chose not to draw the sword. If he decided to wield the sword, then she intended to reduce the burden of other people’s expectations in his place.
“I… I will do what I want to do.”
She was just a maid, yet she gave such lecture to the Young Master she served. If Sera or Ian knew this, they would have been shocked.
It was also possible that Riley might tell her off and say that he thinks she is an eyesore and should get lost.
Still, Nainiae was daring to think that she definitely won’t regret it.
It was because she chose on her own what she wanted to do.
The barrier was littered with cracks. Kabal thought it will take just one more hit to break the barrier. Along with the shouting, Kabal smashed the barrier with the hammer he raised up.
Nainiae was going to attack as soon as the barrier shattered. However, she opened her eyes big and stopped.
Kabal’s hammer fell.
To be precise, Kabal’s right arm fell to the ground.
Riley drew his sword.