“ — Oi, what’s going on!?”
Shortly after Daniel woke up, he realized he was tied up.
“We should be asking you that. Why were you following us?”
“Wha -!? You noticed us!?”
“So you admit you were following us.”
Daniel couldn’t look me in the eye. That’s as good as admitting his guilt.
Remy looked shocked after witnessing this. I know they’re from the same town.
There’s no point in prolonging this. I just need to ask them directly.
“Why are you here? Were you planning on killing us?”
“W-What are you saying!? I’d never do that!”
“Then why were you trying to attack us when the Garu Bear noticed us?”
“That was just a misunderstanding.”
They all looked as if they were genuinely unsure as to why we attacked them.
“If this really was a misunderstanding, what are you doing here?”
“We were just…trying to save you when the Garu Bear attacked.”
“…ha? Save us? You mean protect Remy?”
“Not just Remy but all of you as well.”
I wasn’t expecting him to say that. I really can’t believe it, so I turned to Sophia who nodded to tell me he wasn’t lying.
So…this guy is just really a good person.
“Hey, Daniel, why did you get involved with me in the first place?”
“I already told you. I won’t allow anyone to buy their way to the top, but nobody ever listens.”
“And why did you say something like that to Sarah?”
“…something like what?”
“You were going to force Sarah to stay with you overnight.”
At first, I wanted to take Daniel on his word, but since he said something like that, I thought he was a bad person.
“If you were to cause problems, Sarah-chan would be held responsible. So, I wanted to keep her away from you.”
“Then why say anything about staying overnight? Why not just say that from the start?”
“That’s because I….”
Daniel mumbled something I couldn’t make out.
Remy, who had now recovered from her shock, said, “Daniel-san can be awkward, but he really cares about Sarah-chan. After all, they’re childhood friends.”
“Childhood friends…? How old is Daniel?”
Even if Sarah is much older than she looks, there’s no chance Daniel is young enough to be her childhood friend, but Remy told me he’s actually twenty-one. Seriously? I thought he was at least in his thirties.
However…twenty-one and eighteen aren’t that far apart.
This guy really is just a good person.
…eh? But Sophia is the one that took Daniel down. She should’ve been able to tell that Daniel didn’t plan on hurting us.
“No, that’s not why I did it.”
…I didn’t even say anything yet.
“Umm, onii-chan, anyone that mocks you is my enemy. I’ll never let an enemy get near you.”
She could tell he didn’t mean me any harm but still thought of him as an enemy. It’s nice that she wants to protect me, but I’d rather she try to find a more peaceful resolution.
“Hey, nii-chan, if this misunderstanding has been resolved, can you untie us?”
I untied them and apologized to Daniel for thinking he was a bad guy.
…well, if Daniel didn’t mislead me so much, I never would’ve thought that. Still, I did feel bad about Sophia throwing him.
“So, what are you going to do now? Are you still planning on following us?”
I asked Daniel this as he was removing all of the rope on him.
Even if he wasn’t planning to harm us, I don’t like the idea of someone following us, so I’d rather they go back.
“Don’t worry. We’ve already caused you enough trouble. We’ll go back to town — I know I have no right to do this, but I have a request.”
“…what is it?”
“Sarah treats Remy like a sister. So Remy is kind of like a little sister to me.”
…I wasn’t sure why he was telling me this at first…. But I can tell he doesn’t want to see Remy put in danger.
“Are you trying to say you don’t want us to take Remy with us?”
“Yes, but I know neither you nor Remy will listen. So I want you to prove your strength to me.”
“Yeah. That surprise attack earlier was impressive, but it won’t be enough to handle a Lyk Skull Bear. Prove to me that you have enough strength to protect everyone.”
“I’m fine with that but…didn’t you see our camp?”
Alice said they were following us for a few days. We’ve been building the same campsite every night so I would assume he has.
Or is something like that normal for adventurers.
“Right, that hut certainly was surprising. However, magic takes time to cast and you won’t find it as useful with a Lyk Skull Bear right in front of you.”
…I see. I remember Patrick’s black magic taking forever to cast.
I always compare my own ability to Alice and it makes me feel like I can’t even compare…. However, it seems that other magic users in this world are comparable to Patrick. I’m a little relieved.
“In other words, you want me to prove that I can fight?”
“That’s right. One-on-one, just you and me. We’ll use swords wrapped in cloth. The first one to land a blow is the victor. I hope that sword hanging from your waist isn’t just for show; take it out.”
…oh, so he thinks I’m a swordsman. I was just planning on showing him I could use magic and no chant.
Well, this could still work out. I’ve practiced fighting using a blade with Elsa and Sophia. It could be good to see how I compare to a rank B adventurer.
If I really deserve to be rank A, I should have no problem defeating a rank B adventurer like Daniel.
Sara does know about my skill with spirit magic.
If it’s just going to be a fight using swords, Daniel most likely will be stronger than me. Sophia was able to take him down easily, but I don’t think she counts as a normal person. I may lose if I get careless.
So, I’ll have to defeat Daniel without using spirit magic. I called Alice over to make some preparations.
And shortly after —
“Sorry for the wait. I’m ready when you are.”
I had my normal longsword in my right hand and Alice’s rapier in my left. Both of them were wrapped in cloth.
“Two swords…is this a joke to you?”
“Hmm, who knows.”
Two swords aren’t guaranteed to be stronger.
You have to be both strong and dexterous to wield two swords effectively in combat. There’s little chance anyone could dual wield for the first time and win a fight.
But I was just smiling back at Daniel. I lowered my posture and readied myself.
“Haa~, come at me so I can show you how pointless two blades are.”
Daniel held out his long sword and tried to provoke me into attacking, but I remained still.
Once Daniel had grown tired of waiting, he spoke again.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you going to attack? If you won’t come to me –”
He’s going to attack.
In an instant, Daniel switched his focus from defense to attack. I threw the rapier at Daniel the moment he started moving.
Daniel was surprised but managed to deflect the rapier. However, I started running towards him the moment I threw the rapier and was now directly in front of him. I thrust my longsword towards his throat.
“…this is my win.”
A moment of silence followed.
“No way! This isn’t your win! Who the hell throws a sword so suddenly!?”
“Even if you say that, you even said it was a ridiculous idea to fight with two swords.”
“Well, why else would you have two!?”
“Obviously, it was to surprise you and get a quick win.”
“Don’t joke with me! A surprise attack like that isn’t allowed!”
“I know you lost but don’t embarrass yourself. Isn’t it basic knowledge to attack your opponent when their guard is down?”
When your opponent is more skilled than you, you have to take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. This is a basic strategy. Of course, Sophia taught me this.
“Are you an idiot!? I told you to show me the skills necessary to fight against a Lyk Skull Bear! Do you think something like that will work against a bear!?”
“– It would work.”
Sophia spoke up for me. When Daniel heard her he turned to face her.
“No, no, no, little girl, there’s no chance an attack like that would work against a beast.”
“Why not? Animals are intelligent. If they have intelligence, it’s possible to exploit that intelligence.”
“No, like I said….”
“It would work, wouldn’t it?”
Sophia stared blankly at Daniel as he tried to argue.
But she did seem a little angry…. I wonder if that’s because Daniel criticized her technique that I used to win. Her cold stare never left Daniel.
When Daniel couldn’t take it anymore, he turned back to me with a cold bead of sweat dripping down the side of his face.
“A-A-Anyway, we have to fight again!”
He thrust his finger at me but he seemed a bit reluctant.
Maybe he thinks I’m a coward for using a trick to beat him the first time, but a skilled swordsman shouldn’t be defeated by a simple trick. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed by his skill.
Perhaps an adventurer’s rank isn’t solely determined by their fighting ability.
“Don’t you think it’s pointless to fight again? A good adventurer should know when he’s outmatched.”
“Shut up! As if I could leave Remy to a guy that enters a forest dressed like that!”
Alice is wearing an off-shoulder top and a mini skirt while Sophia is wearing a gothic dress. I’m wearing something that could be called casual wear. We definitely look out of place in a forest.
As I was thinking this, the roar of a Garu Bear echoed out through the forest — except, this roar was different, more powerful.
“J-Just now, that was the roar of a Lyk Skull Bear! I remember hearing one when I was a child!”
Remy screamed out in terror. The moment Sophia heard this she ran in the direction of the roar.
I tried to run after her but Alice grabbed my arm.
“I’ll go after her. Leon, you need to bring everyone else and protect them.”
Alice ran after Sophia.
It’s difficult for me not to follow, but I realize Alice has heightened senses. I decided to let Alice follow after Sophia and the Lyk Skull Bear.
However, we can’t afford to relax.
“Remy, we have to go after them. Can you run?”
“Y-Yes…. I’ll be fine.”
The fear caused by that roar had a terrible effect on her. She said she’s okay but I doubt it. It might take her some time to recover.
What should I do — Daniel then stepped forward as Remy’s guard.
“You go after those girls. I’ll stay back and protect Remy. We’ll catch up with you.”
I’m worried about Alice and Sophia and Daniel seems capable enough…. I looked at Remy to see if she was okay with this.
“Please, don’t worry about me. I’ll catch up with you soon!”
“…all right. I’ll go ahead, catch up with us when you can. I’ll leave a trail — nevermind, we won’t need one.”
There’s a clear path that Alice has left through the forest. She didn’t hesitate to clear anything in her way as she chased after Sophia.
I ran down Alice’s path. I couldn’t get over how surreal it was seeing a road with no trees or plants going through the forest. I said this before but Alice really didn’t hold back.
While thinking she didn’t show any self-restraint, as usual, I followed down her path. After a couple minutes, I spotted Alice and Sophia in a small clearing.
And, there was a Lyk Skull Bear.
A gargantuan Garu Bear with a golden coat lying motionless on the ground. This was my first time seeing one, but the golden fur was a dead giveaway.
But, Alice was off to the side. Max and Melissa were standing over the bear.
I want that to be the case but it doesn’t look like the bear has been hurt. I’m guessing Max managed to capture it.
That means…we won’t be able to get the liver. I was scared to look at Sophia.
Sophia was trembling and looking down at the ground. Alice was hugging her in an attempt to calm her down.
I want to comfort her as well, but I know there are things I need to do first. I walked over to Max.
“Yo, I didn’t expect to see you here. You actually entered the forest.”
Max saw me approaching and gave a slight wave.
“Yeah, but it looks like we were a bit late.”
“Yep. It’s unfortunate for you but we managed to catch it alive.”
“Looks like it. But how are you planning on bringing such a large creature back?”
“It won’t be a problem. We have this.”
Max took out a large collar big enough to fit around the bear’s neck.
The collar was engraved with symbols similar to those used to bind slaves to a slave contract. I don’t know how powerful the effect will be but it seems it’s strong enough to return the bear back to town.
“…hey, I’ll ask you once more, would you be willing to give up the Lyk Skull Bear?”
“Didn’t I tell you before? We can’t do that.”
“Would a thousand gold coins change your mind?”
“Oi, oi, a thousand gold…. Are you serious?”
Max and Melissa were lost for words after hearing my offer. But this reaction isn’t unwarranted. A commoner that’s well off could live on a salary of five gold coins, so this is two hundred times that amount.
To be honest, I don’t want to use money to solve all of my problems, but if I miss out on this chance, we may not have another.
If we had time, we could wait until another Lyk Skull Bear is found, but based on the letter Claire sent me, it’s unlikely Elyse will be able to live that long.
— Whatever happens with the Lyk Skull Bear here, decides whether Elyse will live or die.
“If you hand over the bear, I’ll do everything in my power to repay you. So, will you give us the bear?”
I gave them a deep bow.
“…let me just as you this: why are you so desperate?”
“It’s for Sophia, someone I consider dear to me…. We need the liver to save her mother.”
“You’re trying to save someone…?”
Max appeared troubled after hearing my words, but after exchanging a silent glance with Melissa, he turned back to face me….
“…I’m sorry, but we really can’t.”
A few brief words were all it took to crush any hope I had left.
“…why? Do you think I can’t pay that much?”
“That’s not what I’m saying. I can tell you have money just by look at your clothes.”
“Then why refuse? I was told you’re trying to buy back your family members. Wouldn’t a thousand gold be enough to do that?”
“Yes, if we had a thousand gold, we’d be able to buy back all of them. I’d be lying if I said your offer isn’t tempting….”
“We already told you, this was a request from our benefactor. He saved our father. Even if you offered us thousands of gold, we’d have to decline.”
In the back of my mind, I thought I could get anything I wanted with enough money. I never thought they’d decline.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“…what do you mean?”
“You won’t be able to get the liver now. So…are you going to give up? Or…are you going to kill us and take it? There would be no witnesses.”
Why would I ever do that — but I couldn’t say that. There are no other options left to save Elyse.
This is the only choice if I want to get the liver. I have to decide if I’m willing to commit a crime to save Elyse or allow her to die.
I was staring at Sophia, wondering what I should do. The next moment, Sophia was stabbing Max with a dagger. This was the future I was predicting if Sophia got desperate.
Fortunately, Sophia was remaining silent in Alice’s arms. For now, it seems that Sophia isn’t going to attack.
…I promised Sophia that I’d save her mother. I stand by my promises.
I promised to save Elyse and even though I have a chance to do that, I’m hesitating…. It’s as good as breaking my promise…. Sophia will surely hate me.
What’s the right answer?
After thinking it over, I made up my mind.