“On top of that, I think she is a maid?”
They made bristling noise as they made their way through the bushes. The four people walked toward where Nainiae was.
Based on their voices, based on their appearances… The four appeared to be very young, unbecoming of the place they were in. Even if their ages were overestimated, they appeared to be around the age similar to Riley and Nainiae.
“Why is a maid here?”
The boys and girls each had either swords on their waists, bows or staffs. Having discovered the four, Nainiae glanced around at Riley, checked his mood, and asked on his behalf,
“Who might you all be?”
Having heard the question, a brown haired young man, who appeared to be the representative of the group, stepped forward and asked back,
“That’s our line. What business do you have in this place? This place is the territory of Andal, the infamous red dragon. By any chance… you are not going to say you got lost in your way, are you?”
The young man was narrowing his eyes and bringing his hand toward the sword on his back. Nainiae had dumbfounded look on her face. She turned to look at Riley on the back and checked how he felt about this.
Riley was also finding this to be ridiculous. With the gaze, he glanced at Nainiae and the four people. The four people were glaring at Riley and Nainiae as if they found the two to be suspicious. Riley, finding it to be such a bother, sighed.
‘Just handle it.’
Riley waved his right hand to deliver his thought to Nainiae. She nodded as if she understood and walked toward the four people.
The number of people that Riley felt through his senses was four. Also, the number of people who were staring at Riley and Nainiae suspiciously was also four.
‘Are these the humans that the Mister mentioned earlier?’
The four humans who are very good at running away, the people who the red bear guardian lost in middle of pursuit seemed to be these four.
Nainiae only kept silence. There was no response from her. The brown-haired young man drew the sword from his back and shouted,
“Hurry and spill it out! Who are you?”
“As you asked earlier, I’m just a maid, but… Isn’t it only polite to reveal your own identity first before asking the other person?”
“This will be the last time I’ll be speaking in respectful words. The four of you, where did you all come from?”
Nainiae thought about how could such young people could have followed her and Riley. She thought about all guardians she just met so far and furrowed her brows.
It was because she realized this happened because of her doing.
Using magic, one after another, Nainiae neutralized guardians who showed fangs against them. Because she was climbing like this, the four people were also able to get this far and meet Nainiae and Riley. This was her guess.
“We are Brave Heroes.”
Finding them to be such a bother, Riley was just going to ignore them and continue climbing. However, having heard what was just said, he perked up his ears and turned his head.
Nainiae also perked up her ears and tuned into what the brown-haired young man had to say.
“That’s right. We are here to eradicate Andal the red dragon, the one who is threatening our village’s peace!”
Peace and whatnot, eradicate and whatever… The young man didn’t look all that skilled, yet he was saying stuff like that. Riley steadily gazed upon their eyes. Dumbfounded, he shook his head and turned away.
“Ah! You there! Wait!”
Riley was about to resume climbing, and the brown-haired young man thought Riley was trying to run away. He started to point his finger at Riley.
To block the finger aimed toward Riley, Nainiae walked to the front of the young man. She glared at the four and said in low voice,
“Did you say you came here to eradicate Andal the red dragon?”
Because Nainiae was blocking his front… To be precise, because Nainiae came closer and he could clearly see her beauty, the brown-haired young man just had his jaw dropped vacantly. He responded half a tempo late,
“T… That’s right!”
“Just now, you said your village’s peace was threatened… Do you have any proof? I don’t believe such would have happened?”
Having heard the question, the brown-haired young man flinched his shoulders. However, refusing to lose, he talked back.
“It didn’t happen yet, but it will soon!”
“It hasn’t happened?”
Nainiae was trying to say that he should give straight answers. She questioned in cold tone of voice, and the young man’s face crumpled.
Looking at his crumpled face, Nainiae lightly sighed and said,
“Well, it’s fine. This is not the first time people talked about eradicating the dragon. Scales, claws, teeth, heart… Sticking all sorts of reasons up there as the reasons, there were a few instances where humans came by.”
Nainiae mumbled about the story as she twirled her long hair to the front right of her face with her finger.
“Well, I have caused inconveniences to other guardians, so perhaps I should handle this for the day?”
Twirling her hair, Nainiae mumbled quietly. Looking at the four people, she said,
“I am sorry, but now that I learned of your objective… I cannot allow you to climb any further.”
“That maid, it cannot be…”
“No. I am not exactly a guardian of this mountain, but…”
The four people were about to make strange assumptions about her, so Nainiae shook her head and said that was not the case. She blocked their path and explained,
“It’s just that…”
Nainiae swung her right hand with force, and ice walls with icicles formed to left and right of Nainiae. The walls were exuding cold energy.
“I… Ice walls?”
“She is a mage?”
The four people were quite surprised by her magic. They each drew their weapons and got ready for the battle.
“You just said you are all Brave Heroes. The words you spoke earlier… I do not like what you have done.”
Was she thinking about how Riley suffered in his past life? Nainiae was exuding atmosphere that was just as cold as the ice walls that were tightly packed next to her. She swung her hand once again.
The sound of someone gulping could be heard.
It was the brown-haired young man.
“I’ll warn you.”
Several hundred grey colored icicles appeared from the ice walls, and… They were aimed at the four boys and girls who were looking at Nainiae.
The icicles were like arrows on tightly drawn bows. It appeared as if they contained strong resentment toward the four people. The icicles looked like they would be launched and pierce the four targets as soon as Nainiae’s order came. The icicle arrows were all very real.
“Please, all of you, turn back now and go down the mountain.”
Several hundred icicle arrows were floating next to Nainiae. Watching her, the brown-haired young man appeared to be overwhelmed. His sword was shaking. With surprised look, he opened his mouth.
Due to the shock, they were petrified. Despite the warning, it seemed they were not intending to move at all. Having noticed this, Nainiae shot one of the arrows as a warning.
From where the boys and girls were, someone clicking the tongue could be heard.
Immediately after the icicle arrow was shot, a girl charged forward. Watching this, Nainiae floated a question mark on her face.
Afterwards, the arrow was deflected by the girl’s sword with a clashing sound.
‘She defected it?’
To save vacantly petrified young man, the dark-haired girl charged to the front and swung the sword. She quickly hid the sword behind her back and said,
“W… We understand!”
She deflected one, but there were still several hundred icicle arrows left. It seemed the girl who clicked her tongue earlier was scared as well. She was shaking as she lowered her head.
“We didn’t know our place. We are very young, so… We were being foolish. As you advised, we will turn back immediately and go down the mountain. Please forgive us.”
She dropped the sword and pleaded for forgiveness. Nainiae vacantly watched her and looked at the other three.
“P… Please forgive us!”
“We will never come back!”
The other three followed after the dark-haired girl and lowered their heads. They turned around and started to go back down without ever looking back.
“… Just now…”
Of the four, instead of the brown-haired young man who introduced the group as Brave Heroes, Nainiae was more bothered by the black-haired girl. Nainiae glared at her back and mumbled vacantly,
“That swordsmanship. I think I have…”
It was a warning shot, but the girl was concerned the brown-haired young man might get hurt by the icicle arrow, so she charged forward. Nainiae was thinking about her swordsmanship.
“I think I have seen it from somewhere?”
Nainiae disengaged the ice walls and icicle arrows. She held her chin and thought hard about this. In middle of it, she shook her head.
“It’s no time for this. I should follow after Young Master…”
To catch up to Riley who went ahead, she used magic.
It was the spell that she didn’t think about earlier. If she had, climbing the mountain would have been so much easier.
She used the magic that temporarily allowed her to fly. Her body floated up to the sky.
* * *
“… What? Where did you say you just came back from?”
“We were at the mountain where Andal the red dragon lives…”
“You must have a death wish.”
Inside an old worn-down house, in front of an old fire place, a woman with light purple hair was poking at the fire woods with kindling as she scolded the black-haired girl.
“Did you go there alone?”
It looked like she was currently receiving a punishment. She had her arms raised straight up. The girl shook her head lightly.
“Who did you go there with?”
“That is… There is a boy named Henson from the next village… There were lots of good rumors about him showing talent in his training to become a knight, so I wondered if he was the ‘Brave Hero’ we were looking for. That’s why…”
“Ugh, so you tempted him to go there.”
The light-purple haired woman was shifting the fire woods with the kindling. She sighed in frustration.
“If you are going to die, then you should die alone. If your blameless friend got tangled up and died together… then you will never be able to go to a good place after your death. Have I not told you this clearly before?”
The black-haired girl bit her lower lips. Feeling wronged, it seemed she had something to say.
“But, grandmother, you also told me this.”
“That there isn’t much time left.”
[TL: Please note the girl may not actually be biologically related to the woman. In Korean language, people call very elderly woman ‘grandmother’ even when they are not related to her.]
Having heard the girl muttering, the light-purple haired woman put the kindling down and walked to the girl.
It seemed she wanted to hear the girl’s response. The purple haired woman raised her hand toward the empty air and called the girl’s name again.
There was black blind on the woman’s eyes.”
Iril lowered her arms down. The woman was feeling up empty air because she could not see. Iril went to hold the woman’s hand.
“There you are.”
The woman’s light purple hair was incredibly fine. Her skin was pure white without any wrinkles. The woman’s appearance did not look old enough to warrant being called ‘grandmother’ by the girl. However… It seemed she was not in good condition. As if she was suffering from frostbite, her skin was cold.
“Grandmother, please stay next to the fire.”
It seemed Iril was worried about her skin, which could not be colder. However, the woman shook her head and faced toward where Iril was standing.
Looking at the woman’s blind, Iril said,
“With the time to say goodbye approaching, I know you are feeling anxious, but… I don’t want you to throw away your life like that.”
Iril was holding the woman’s hand. She bit her lower lips again as she held in tears.
“Still, you are… my last pupil.”
The woman slowly turned to face the fireplace.
Iril looked worried to hear that. She asked,
“But… But what if the Brave Hero never comes?”
“If that happens…”
She should not be able to see anything with the blind covering her eyes. However… she was directly looking at ‘a sword’ that was hidden inside the fireplace. As if she was muttering, she continued,
“… then that would be our fate.”