The Angel of Ruin and Blade of Shadows – Part 02

The morning sun bathed the plains in its warm light.

The knights and soldiers of Einbiest’s army appeared considerably more fatigued than they had at the outset of the conflict. Treatment and healing magic struggled to keep up with the number of wounded. Soldiers, swathed in bandages and blankets, were sleeping all over the place.

Deputy Leader Jillarte mirrored their fatigue, her cloak smeared with dust and streaks of blood. She sat alone in her tent, staring intently at a map spread out across her desk. The map detailed the nearby terrain, the formation of the Knights Templar, their adversaries, and the arrangement of Einbiest’s forces. Pins marked the locations of previous engagements.

Her expression had been stern since the morning.

“Pardon me. Are you Deputy Leader Jillarte?” said a figure, appearing without a sound.

Jillarte sprang to her feet, her hand instinctively reaching for the sword at her side.

“Ah, wait, wait. I’m not a foe, just a messenger. Do you recognize this?”

The man presented something, eliciting yet another surprised reaction from Jillarte.

“That’s Silver Face’s weapon!”

“It is. Silver Face asked me to deliver a message.”

A mask covered the stranger’s mouth, and a deep hood concealed most of his features, leaving only the area around his eyes visible. Jillarte remained wary, but the man, Unken, casually took a seat.

“How did you manage to get here?”

“Well, if I came from the front, I’d likely be turned away, so I thought I’d arrive under the cover of darkness. But it took longer than expected, and now the sun is up.”

“…”

He made it sound so easy, but Einbiest’s Beastmen possessed sharper senses than humans. Jillarte found it difficult to trust a man who had slipped past all of them.

“Before we proceed, I’m rather parched from the journey. Do you have any tea? Water will suffice as well. Silver Face sure lacks respect for his seniors. Sending an old man like me on such a lengthy trek.”

“I do have some tea, though it might be a bit cold.”

Easing her guard, Jillarte poured a cup of tea from a pot. Unken removed his mask and sipped it with evident satisfaction. Observing him, Jillarte couldn’t help but feel a touch foolish for her initial wariness.

“Ahh, that hits the spot. I feel rejuvenated. Before I give the message, what’s your relationship with Silver Face?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean literally. He asked me to deliver a message, but to be honest, I’m a little worried about him getting involved in this conflict. That guy is no pushover, and he’s bound to achieve something significant sooner or later. He doesn’t need to risk his life like this.”

“W-Wait a moment. Is Silver Face in danger right now?”

“Maybe not exactly, but I still think he’s being reckless. At the same time, I also hold a peculiar hope that he might succeed.”

Jillarte wore a puzzled look.

Unken scratched his head. “I’m not sure I’m making any sense either. In any case, Silver Face is safe. He’s fighting for you people.”

“…Please, tell me more.”

Nodding, Unken informed Jillarte about the possibility of the Accursed Toxin descending upon Einbiest’s forces from the skies. With only a meager supply of antidote allocated to Einbiest, Silver Face had embarked on a mission to destroy the toxin manufacturing facility.

“I see… He’s doing it again.” Jillarte shut her eyes tight and pressed her clenched fist against her chest, as if in prayer.

Unken watched her with narrowed eyes. “You seem to have a special relationship with Silver Face.”

“What about you?”

“Me? Silver Face and I have a working relationship out of sheer convenience, nothing more.”

“Is that so? It doesn’t look that way to me, though.” Jillarte sensed a profound relationship between Silver Face and the old man.

“That said, my thoughts and feelings are a different matter altogether. I feel indebted to him, and at the same time, I’m worried about his rashness. I also can’t help but admire the way he leads his life—something I could never do. It’s complicated.”

“I feel the same way. I respect him. I owe him a great deal, but he won’t let me repay him. I find his stubbornness frustrating. He’s so reliable, yet acts the exact opposite most of the time. So crafty.”

Unken grunted. It wasn’t really that complicated, he thought. Her feelings could be summed up easily in one word: affection. But to say that out loud would be crude.

“Sir, may I have Silver Face’s weapon?”

“This? Sure, take it.”

“Thank you!”

Jillarte cheerfully accepted the black suntetsu. A rough piece of iron, it was hardly a suitable gift for a young woman.

“And thank you for the information. I’ll tell the Leader about this immediately.”

“Please do. That poison is far from humane… Oh, and thanks for the tea.”

Unken stood up, turned, and left. Soon, his presence vanished.

“What skill in eliminating his presence. I wonder if the Leader would notice him. All right, it’s time for me to take action as well.”

Holding the small suntetsu, Jillarte rose to her feet and headed to Gerhardt’s tent. They needed to discuss the new threat and come up with a strategy to break out of the deadlock.


The unassuming hotel’s dining hall offered only a simple breakfast of bread and fruit, so they requested some ham and cheese to ensure a nutritious meal.

As they sipped tea after the meal, Hikaru shared with Lavia the successful transport of the cure and explained the lingering threat of the Accursed Toxin until the factory itself was destroyed. Lavia had already been pondering the destruction of the factory herself, so it didn’t take much to convince her.

“I need your help,” Hikaru said.

“Say no more. I’ll go with you.”

That was all it took.

Hikaru had decided not to keep any secrets from Lavia and had openly discussed what needed to be done. He wouldn’t keep her away just because it was dangerous.

He had chosen to live in this world with her.

“Hikaru.”

“Hmm?”

Lavia smiled gently. “I’m glad you’re counting on me.”

However, he still felt awkward looking directly at her smile. He needed time to get used to it.


After a brief nap, Hikaru discussed the Accursed Toxin’s factory with Lavia. They already had information about its location from the Empire’s spies and Unken.

While Hikaru was occupied with his own tasks, Lavia had been gathering information in the city of Agiapole. The Adventurers Guild wasn’t very active, with hardly any skilled adventurers. Instead, there were a lot more Healers here compared to other cities. Among them were Church members who provided free healing services to the common people, and it was because of people like them that the luxurious lives of the Tower’s bigwigs didn’t incur that much ire from the commoners.

“All right, let’s go.”

Once their preparations were complete, Hikaru and Lavia left the hotel. Both of them were wearing hooded cloaks, but such attire was not uncommon for adventurers, so they did not attract undue attention.

The factory was located in the forested outskirts of Agiapole, outside the walls of the holy city. Activating their Stealth, they blended in with the crowd as they left. Although they wanted to use horses for the considerable distance to the factory, they opted to travel on foot to avoid drawing attention.

After a three-hour walk from the city, they veered off onto a path that branched from the main road. Wheel tracks indicated that carriages occasionally traveled this route, but there were no signs of anyone.

By the time they reached the entrance of the forest, the sun was setting. It was well into autumn, and although the days were getting shorter, it was still hotter here than Ponsonia’s capital.

“Phew… It’s so far,” Hikaru said.

“Considering it’s a factory that manufactures poison, they can’t place it within the city,” Lavia said. “There’s still a bit of time before the sun completely sets, but it’s already dark inside the forest.” She peered into the forest uneasily.

“The area around Agiapole has a mild climate, so vegetation thrives. Branches spread wide, blocking the sunlight. I don’t think it’ll be very bright even during the day. We’ll keep going anyway. Are you good?”

“Yeah. As long as I’m with you, there’s nothing to fear.” Lavia firmly held onto Hikaru’s arm.

It’s kinda hard to walk like this, but I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut.

Hikaru was confident that Lavia’s fire magic would be indispensable for their purpose of destroying the factory. He had nothing but gratitude for Lavia for coming along despite her fear of the dark woods.

“The last time we walked through a dark forest was when we were hunting for a Ravine Serpent,” Hikaru said.

Back then, it had been to lift the curse placed on Duke Nightblaze’s only son, Galeicrada. They had brought back plenty of snake blood to Brinkra the Frontier Sage.

“Speaking of which, Brinkra is also a Man Gnome, right?” Lavia said.

“Yeah. She told me how to lift the Purgatory Wedge. The Accursed Toxin combines poison and a similar type of curse…”

“Are Man Gnomes knowledgeable about curses?”

“No idea. Unken didn’t seem like it, and the Empire’s spies didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable either. Brinkra probably just learned from her master.”

“Ah, I see.”

Hikaru thought about the Man Gnome named Ranna that Unken had told him about. The Man Gnomes’ secret that she revealed to the Pope. Her research that involved taboo.

“Are Man Gnomes closely connected to the Church?” Hikaru wondered. “I can’t imagine why the Pope would suddenly take a liking to a banished one, otherwise.”

“Yeah… Not even nobles from Ponsonia could hope to meet the Pope of Bios.”

“In that case, it’s likely related to whatever Unken didn’t disclose. It doesn’t change what we have to do, though.”

After about another two-hour trek—thanks to Stealth, they didn’t encounter any monsters—Hikaru’s Mana Detection picked up multiple signatures.

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