Andal checked if there were any other people around. He nodded to say it was all right and took a step forward.
“I’ll lead the way.”
Because of his magic, the tunnel was now widened. Andal took a step in. Priesia, Nainiae followed with Riley who was being dragged by Nainiae on the blanket. Andal checked them in that order and said,
“Please stay right behind me, Priestess. I would like you to defend us and cleanse the epidemic. Nainiae, you…”
Andal looked at Riley who was snoring on the blanket. Andal ground his teeth and said,
“You tend to Riley.”
Earlier, when they were still at the cave, Nainiae proposed it would be better to resolve this by themselves without Riley. Andal thought about this and felt regret inside. He sighed as he went down the tunnel.
“A bastard like him is a friend… Ugh.”
Having heard his voice, Nainiae flinched. She looked at Riley who was being dragged along with the blanket and whispered,
“Young Master, it is downhill from here.”
Because Riley was lying on the blanket, Nainiae warned that his body might get tilted. Nainiae carefully pulled the blanket and walked into the crater.
“Do you know how long it has been?”
Andal was leading the way. Priesia asked how long it has been since Andal met the epidemic man. Andal tilted his head to the side and thought about the time. He said,
“I think it’s been about a week.”
Having heard him, Nainiae asked,
“If it has been that long, then he must have turned to ashes by your flame by now… Isn’t that right?”
Nainiae was well aware of the flame that Andal controlled. She thought the epidemic man must have died, so she asked. Andal shook his head and said,
“No. that bastard is probably alive. I am certain of it.”
As if the dead pitch black soil in the tunnel was the proof, Andal looked at the tunnel and shared more information about the man he met.
“I used wind magic to chop off his head. I used ice magic to shatter his entire body. I burned his body with flame magic. Despite all that, he was fine. I don’t know what kind of trickery he is using, but no matter how many times I killed him, he kept coming back to life. He continued to generate epidemic.”
With looks of disbelief on their faces, Nainiae and Priesia asked,
“Kept on coming back…”
“… to life?”
Andal nodded and said,
“That’s right. He was one odd fella. He didn’t have an ounce of fighting spirit in his eyes, yet… He kept provoking me by saying ‘kill me’ over and over.”
Andal’s explanation was identical to the rumor that Nainiae heard from Reitri. She put her fist below her chin and started to think hard.
“What’s funny is that, although I killed him as he requested… he kept on coming back to life and spewing out epidemic.”
Andal was thinking about the man who kept coming back to life and charging at him. Unlike the usual, the look on Andal’s face was serious and heavy.
Priesia asked and Andal nodded as he said,
“I can bet my heart.”
Andal added that he never managed to find a way to kill the epidemic man and got infected in the end by the poison. Andal turned to look at Priesia.
“I utilized all methods that I could carry out, but the bastard still didn’t die. That’s why I think the answer lies in the holy power.”
Andal mumbled that Priesia might be able to cleanse that man as well since she successfully cleansed the rotten land of the Karuta Desert. Andal turned his head because he smelled the stench from the front.
“… Is it the bastard?”
He could smell the stench before, but the smell suddenly became much stronger. This was why.
“Ah, ugh… What’s this smell?”
As a proof of this sudden change, Riley cringed his face big time and got up from the blanket. He started to let out his frustration.
“Ms. Priesia, please be ready.”
It seemed Andal found no reason to tease Riley who was expressing his annoyance from the back. Instead, with a serious face, Andal told Priesia to get ready.
Dragons were said to be without equals among all other beings, yet a dragon was asking her to be ready with a serious face.
Priesia thought that things probably won’t go smoothly. She gulped, gathered her two hands, assumed a prayer position and started to gather the holy power.
The tunnel they were going down was very long. They could not see the end of it.
They speculated that it was dug by the epidemic man himself. In this narrow tunnel, a beast-like voice echoed through.
‘What was that?’
Nainiae was creeped out by the voice from deep inside the tunnel. She stiffened her shoulders and looked to the front.
Riley also thought the roar sounded unusual. He stopped yawning and started to stare at the front.
The cry was getting closer. Andal had a light sphere floating, and he sent it to the front.
A man with pitch-black skin made an appearance.
He looked like an extremely agitated beast. He was exuding purple light from his eyes. There was a flame burning on the man’s right arm. It appeared to be the flame Andal had cast.
“As I thought… He was still alive.”
The epidemic man was glaring toward Andal. With his eyes facing the man, Andal turned his own eyes red and started to raise up mana.
“This time, I’ll definitely end your life.”
The epidemic man looked at the light sphere. Mistaking it as an enemy, the man swung his right hand.
Other than being able to exude light, the light sphere didn’t have a solid physical presence, so the man’s arm just swung through empty air. The problem was that the man’s arm struck the tunnel’s wall.
It seemed the arm swing carried incredible strength. Along with explosive sound, the ceiling above the man crumbled down and crushed him.
“What was that?”
It was such a thoughtless behavior. It was hard to assume that it was done by a human being, so Andal cringed and muttered. Meanwhile, from the pile of rubbles where the man just got buried, black smokes started to come out at an explosive rate.
“Kuk. Is it the epidemic? Priestess!”
Priesia was shocked to see the black smoke rushing toward them. She quickly raised her hand to the front and used the holy power.
“Mr. Andal, please take a step back.”
The smoke was spreading faster than she hoped, so she pulled Andal back. She put strength in her hand that was now saturated in golden light and gritted her teeth.
‘It worked. I’m certain of it… Although it was heavier than any epidemic I had seen so far, it is not overwhelming.’
Priesia cleansed all of the smoke and said,
“From now on, we will approach the bastard from a distance. When I give you the signal, please get close and deal a blow to him. Can you do it?”
Priesia had used her holy power countless times in the past. However, it was a little different this time.
It was not to save someone. This time, it was to kill someone.
“Please be ready.”
Andal was planning on using blink, a close range teleportation magic, to get close to the man and fall back. Now, he glanced at what the man was up to. The epidemic man was buried under the rubbles.
Under the rubbles, he was generating smoke. He fiddled with his fingers, and then…
Along with a beastly roar, he jumped out of the rubbles.
Sensing that now was the chance, Andal held Priesia by the waist and used blink to close the distance at an instant.
It seemed the man had lost his mind. Unlike the last time Andal met him, the purple human wasn’t even saying things about wanting to be killed. Andal cringed.
‘His condition is a little weird?’
Unlike before, Andal could not see the man’s eyes. There was just purple light being poured out from where his eyes would be. Facing the man, Andal thought something was off. Meanwhile, Priestess put her hand toward the epidemic man.
It seemed just touching him was enough. Priesia shouted that it was enough. Andal used the blink again and put distance between them and the epidemic man.
It seemed the man was finding her touch unpleasant. The man swung his arm with all of his might. However, he failed at striking the target.
Andal’s blink magic was quicker.
“I’ll cleanse him immediately.”
With her light touch, she left a mark at the man. She started to pour in her holy power through the mark.
“Kuuu. Kuuuu! Kuuuu…”
Unable to withstand her holy power, the purple human fell on his knees. With both of his hands, he started to scratch the part that was marked by Priesia.
“… Is it working?”
The holy power seemed to be working. The man’s pitch-black skin started to regain its original color. Andal mumbled, thinking he saw potential in their current strategy.
Unlike Andal, Riley was still watching the man with a serious look on his face. Riley even got up all the way from the blanket and stood next to Nainiae.
“Nainiae, give me a sword.”
Nainiae was watching the man with a serious look on her face as well. She brought out a sword that Riley had used before and handed it to him.
“… It worked! I think it is working!”
It seemed Priesia had no moment to spare to take a look at what Nainiae and Riley were doing. Priesia continued to send her holy power to the man without taking her eyes off from him. Andal carefully nodded.
“That’s good. At this rate…”
“… Guuu. Uuuuu!”
Earlier, due to the holy power, the man faltered and got on his knees. Now, the man shook his body as he got up. Andal furrowed his brows.
Andal was not intending to just sit back and watch the man get up. He raised his right hand and used a gravity magic. The man’s knee plummeted on the ground again.
“How? It definitely was working?”
The man was being cleansed by the holy power. However, the man was still exuding the epidemic and struggling. Watching the epidemic man, Priesia mumbled in disbelief.
Priesia had no idea when Riley came next to her. Having heard his voice, she flinched her shoulders and then sighed.
“W… What is it?”
“Layer this sword with holy power. You can do it, right?”
“Hurry up. There isn’t much time.”
“However… If I do that, then I’ll have to stop pouring the holy power in that man. I cannot do both at the same time.”
Priesia shook her head as she broke cold sweat. Riley cringed and warned her,
“In that case, just stop what you are doing. Pour in holy power into the sword first. I won’t ask twice. We don’t have time.”
Priesia panicked. She didn’t know what to do, so she turned to look at Andal.
Andal was watching his friend. Andal said,
“I’ll buy us time.”
Having heard what Andal said, Priesia bit her lips and withdrew the holy power she was using on the purple human. Instead, she started to layer Riley’s sword with holy power.
Andal had no idea what kind of monstrous power was being used, but the man was fighting off Andal’s gravity magic. It looked like the man was about to charge in again. Watching this, Andal gritted his teeth and surrounded the bastard with a barrier.
“How long will it take?”
When Priesia said her words, Riley opened his eyes big and immediately threw the sword to the front.
It was sword-throw technique that he could use skillfully since his past life.
The sword was layered with Riley’s mana and Priesia’s holy power. It flew toward the target while scattering golden light, and the sword pierced through both the Andal’s barrier and the man’s throat.
With his neck pierced, the man stopped moving. His body started to twitch as if he was having a seizure.
“… Kuk. Huuuk. Kek. Kuuuurk!”
“As I thought…”
With his neck pierced, the man was on his knees and shaking. Riley looked at the man, clicked his tongue and crumpled his face.
“We need to fall back.”
“We need to fall back.”
Not just Riley, but Nainiae, who was watching the situation from the back, also said they should retreat. Andal and Priesia tilted their heads to the side, wondering why they should.
“Fall back? What do you mean?”
“Isn’t this resolved now?”
Immediately after Priesia asked, the man’s pierced neck… started to regenerate rapidly.
It looked as if the time was flowing in reverse direction. Looking at the flesh rapidly regenerating, Andal cringed just like Riley.
“What is this? Does this mean even the holy power won’t be enough?”
“Holy power is the right answer. No, it was the right answer.”
Nainiae mumbled as she opened a dimensional portal to the back. Riley scratched the back of his head and added,
“Of all places, what are the odds of running into that here.”
Andal had no way of knowing what Riley and Nainiae were talking about. He got frustrated.
“What is it? What are you talking about?”
Nainiae opened a portal that led to Andal’s cave. She explained instead of Riley.
“There is only one way to kill that thing.”
Of the memories from Riley’s past, Nainiae thought of one horrifying instance. She retreated to where the portal was open and continued,
“We are saying that we cannot kill it here. First… Let us retreat. We have no other option at the moment.”