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Chapter 3

Everything for Divine Blessings

The three of us returned to the cottage first for a simple lunch. That done, we changed into traveling attire before departing the village.

Sant Durant’s wall at our backs, we ventured into unpathed forest—a bit of a tough walk.

There was a bit of technique to moving over terrain hindered by vines, tree roots, and rotten leaves.

“After taking it easy for a while, a more challenging walk is kind of fun. It really gives things a sense of adventure.”

Rit’s Spirit Scout blessing was well-suited to an environment like this, so she stood at the lead, searching for signs of the ogrekin.

“There’s still no sign of them,” she remarked.

“Maybe that logger really was imagining things… Sorry, I might have gotten us involved in nothing.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. A mistake would be preferable to actual monsters.” Rit’s voice was chipper.

Ruti nodded. “She’s right. Plus, it’s fun to go on a hike with you.” She ducked to avoid a spiderweb. “Such a big web for such a little spider.”

Back in the day when we were still on the Hero’s journey, she would have brushed such a thing aside without consideration. These days, Ruti seemed to carry an interest for all the creatures living in the wild.

It was as if she was making up for all the time that the world had been dull and gray to her while she was forced to save it. Now everything was bright.

Rit suddenly came to a halt.


“Hm? Did you find something?” I moved up beside her.

“Look at this.”

“Hmm. Tracks… Looks like Ginny didn’t imagine things.”

“Mhm. They’re definitely ogrekin footprints, but…” Consternation was plain on Rit’s face as she continued. “It’s clear they were trying to disguise their tracks.”

“You’re right. They’re trying to erase evidence of their presence.”

That meant they were moving while attempting to remain unnoticed.

Adventurers did it all the time. Particularly when spying on a monster nest.

“Normal ogrekin don’t do anything like that, though.”

“True. It’s hard to imagine creatures that wouldn’t think to swing a stick erasing their tracks.”

We’d been right to look into this.

“Maybe we should start investigating a bit more seriously,” I suggested.



Time to get serious.

We picked up our speed and did a quick survey of the land surrounding the village. Doing so revealed evidence of disguised ogrekin footprints that spanned a broad area. That ruled out any chance of this being a single unusual ogrekin with a habit of erasing its tracks.

“Based on the number of prints, I’d guess there’s around thirty of them.”

Things were a lot more serious than first believed.

Ordinarily, ogrekin struck immediately if they wanted to attack a settlement. They didn’t spare a thought for what kind of resistance they’d meet. Yet these ones were taking careful observations, and of such a small village.

These aren’t normal ogrekin.

We headed back to Sant Durant.

“Mr. Red!”

Armed and armored villagers were waiting for us. Since they couldn’t rely on Zoltan’s protection, they’d developed a healthy sense for impending danger.

“The situation’s changed. It would be best to gather everyone in the village and have them take shelter together.”


The people looked to one another, confusion plain on their faces.

It wasn’t going to be easy to convince them just how dangerous the predicament was, as Sant Durant had known peace for so long. Their confusion and disbelief were to be expected.

Now then, how should I explain things to get them to understand…?

However, my concerns turned out to be unnecessary.

“Got it. We’ll gather everyone and get them to safety. There’s no house large enough for the whole village, so we will have to break up the people among the homes around the main plaza. Will that be all right?”

“That should be fine. Those buildings are close enough for someone to shout if there’s an issue. And if something happens to one home, those in the others should recognize it soon enough.”

“All right, everyone, let’s get the word out!”


The villagers were set to the task quickly.

The evacuation and sheltering proceeded apace, and the owners of the houses that would be the shelters quickly agreed to cooperate.

Even in the old days, when we fought the demon lord’s army and had the Hero’s reputation at our disposal, getting everyone to trust us swiftly enough to prevent any damage was difficult.

Hopefully, this would mean things could be resolved without any injuries or deaths. I explained the situation to the villagers and put together a plan to protect Sant Durant.

“I think it will be all right, but you should prepare yourselves to lose some livestock and crops. We’ll prioritize protecting citizens above everything else.”

“We understand. The most important thing is that everyone survives.”

“Rit and I will search for the ogrekin lair and put them down. My sister will remain in the village to handle defense, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“That girl who cut a tree with a twig? That’s reassuring. Thank you… Please be careful.”

“We’ll be all right. Leave it to us,” I answered reassuringly.

Rit and I departed Sant Durant again at close to four in the afternoon.

The sky had abruptly grown cloudy, and it started to rain.

“Weather really changes quickly out in the mountains.”

“At least it’s not still winter.”

Rit and I both pulled up our coat hoods.

“Over here.” Rit was following more tracks. Thanks to her, we were able to move through the forest without losing the trail.

“They’re pretty good at hiding their path. If this weren’t a forest, I might have lost them.”

“These ogrekin are that capable? We really can’t afford to get careless, then.”

Ordinary ogrekin wouldn’t have posed a threat, but monsters had blessings like any other living creatures, and they could grow strong by killing.

It was incredibly rare for a monster to be born with a powerful blessing, but there were a few known exceptions.

I once slayed a rampaging frost troll with a Weapon Master blessing. It had wielded a sword in its mouth.

“I’d like to finish this quick, since Van the Hero’s nearby. If we don’t solve this soon, word will reach Zoltan, and Van might be compelled by his Divine Blessing to come help.”

“That would be bad. We’ll have to make sure we end this now.”

Rit touched the hilt of one of the shotels at her waist. Her trusty swords were decorated with griffon feathers. They weren’t ancient, legendary magic weapons that had rested in some forgotten crypt but the product of Loggervian craftsmanship.

No matter what enemy we faced, I knew I could count on Rit to watch my back.

“Over here.”

“Got it.”

We pressed deeper into the forest, Rit leading the way.

“You know,” Rit muttered as she focused on the ground where she was walking. “I was surprised how cooperative the villagers were.”

“Me too. I’m glad they decided to trust us and take shelter. Protecting a settlement of scattered people would have been challenging, even for Ruti. She’d never lose, of course, but she can’t be in two places at once. Had there been two attacks on opposite ends of Sant Durant, someone would’ve been injured.”

Ruti was the strongest person in the world, but she was only one girl.

It took courage to immediately leave your home and fields to take shelter. The people of Sant Durant were brave.

“It’s all because you saved Kate.” Rit smiled. “It might have been random chance, but that operation won them all over. And because they trust you, we can solve this ogrekin issue without any casualties. Your sword and mine may be what slay the monster, but it’s Red the apothecary’s kindness that truly rescued the village.”

Rit sounded happy. She was so glad that I had the confidence of Sant Durant, it nearly seemed as though she thought it was her, not me.

Regardless, I was happy to see her so pleased.

I’d long since quit the life of a knight, but at the very least, I wanted to be a man Rit could be proud of.

We stopped talking and focused on tracking. After a while, the wind’s direction changed.

“I see.”

It had to do with the lay of the land.

The breeze didn’t flow toward the village in this part of the woods. It hid the stench that accompanied ogrekin.

“We’re close.”


Rit and I drew our swords and kept on guard.

“Using a place like this to hide…they’re pretty smart.”

“This is feeling less and less like ogrekin. Maybe they’re different monsters that came down from the Wall at the End of the World.”

Rit’s expression transformed, and she became Rit the hero again. It was yet another absolutely stunning side to her.

“Heh-heh. I like how you look while taking it easy on vacation, but I also enjoy how cool you look right before a fight.”

“I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

We both sensed something ahead and went silent, switching to hand signals for communication.

Peering through the trees, I spotted a bunch of ogrekin hiding from the rain under the forest canopy.

It looks like there are two different kinds.

One part of the group was composed of standard ogrekin, the sort found in the mountains around Zoltan.

The others appeared no different save that they had larger heads and right arms.

Some sort of mutation, maybe?

I did my best to discern their blessings, but…

“…I don’t know.”

Perhaps because they were aberrant, I couldn’t determine blessings from their movements. Initially, they seemed like Soldiers, but I noticed aspects of Sorcerer and Adept blessings as well.

This was the first time I’d ever seen such a thing, and it gave me a creepy feeling. Still, there was nothing for it but to fight while staying wary.


I gave Rit the signal and immediately leaped out.

Using Lightning Speed, I got a quick slash in on one of the mutant ogrekin.


Its giant body collapsed.

“Guess they still go down without too much trouble.”

Its reaction speed and endurance evidently weren’t good enough to deal with my first strike.

“Guooooooo!!!” one ogrekin roared, and there was a clear divide in their reactions.

The ordinary ones fell into a panic at the sudden attack, flailing both arms as they charged at me.

“These ones are textbook!”

Rit jumped out after me, slashing at the monsters’ backs.

That sent the creatures into further disarray, and a few ran into each other.


“Looks like those strange ones are going to be a problem.”

The mutant ogrekin had distanced themselves from Rit and me and formed a simple line, observing warily.

Their behavior was unlike any ogrekin I’d ever encountered.

“They’re holding weapons!” Rit shouted.

Indeed, the mutants held metallic shapes in their overdeveloped right arms. The objects shone peculiarly.

“Those are clockwork parts from ancient elf ruins!”

“They went into an ancient elf ruin?!”

The mutants were wielding clockwork parts from those that guarded those ancient structures as clubs.

“Be careful, Rit!”

“Yeah! I’ve got a bad feeling about those things.”

Cautious or not, there was no telling what the mutants might do if we kept waiting.

I raised my bronze sword and dashed forward. One of the abnormal ogrekin brought its massive right arm down.



The attack was aimed at my sword instead of my head. Surprised, I lowered my weapon and dodged, slashing the inside of the monster’s thigh before moving away.


The mutant howled in rage at the pain, but it did not pursue me rashly. Instead, it watched for an opening.

Simple though the attack was, the ogrekin had tried to separate me from my weapon. That was a tactic born of thought, not mindless violence.

“Red!” Rit called. The mutant right in front of me formed a seal with its left hand.


Before I could stop it, two ordinary ogrekin attacked me from the right and left. It only took a moment to slay them, but that was enough for the mutant to complete its spell.


A monster that should not have been capable of understanding human speech spoke the magic’s name, and the spell surrounded me with light.

The mutant’s face twisted into a smile. However, I didn’t pass out, instead splitting the creature’s large head in two.

“Their spells seem to be of average strength—not enough to be a threat to either of us.”

The spell and fighting tactics both came as a surprise, but neither was especially powerful. Still, the might of each technique felt disparate when compared to the mutants’ overall power.

I’d never felt this way about an enemy before.

“…I’ll save the observations for later. They’re strange, but they’re hardly invincible! Follow my lead, Rit!”

“Got it!”

Rit and I worked in combination, felling our opponents one after another.


The ogrekin’s arm quivered as it loosed Martial Art: Multi-Slash.

This fundamental technique added a second attack after a slight pause following the first. It was both powerful and versatile. However, the ogrekin mutant’s weapon was a poor fit for the ability. A hunk of gears not intentionally designed to be a weapon couldn’t make full use of the Martial Art’s attack speed.

The ogrekin’s consecutive swipes were little more than a vague waving motion. I deflected the pair of blows and ran my sword through the monster’s neck.


When I pulled my blade free, blood came pouring out.

The ogrekin dropped its weapon, and, clutching at its throat in vain, it collapsed.

“Hahhh, that’s all of them.”

“Good work.”

It wasn’t a particularly difficult fight, but they were creepy opponents to deal with.

The source of that unease stemmed from the mutants’ identical blessings. It resembled how Divine Blessings were uniform across a single species of demon.

Rit didn’t stow her swords, keeping them ready while scanning to make sure none of the ogrekin were playing dead. Meanwhile, I investigated the body of the last mutant ogrekin I killed.

“This really is from the ancient elf ruins in the mountains.”

I picked up the monster’s improvised weapon. It was a heavy makeshift club, not something a normal person would be able to handle.

“Did they go into the ancient elf ruins? Ruti broke the elevator, so normal monsters shouldn’t have been able to enter. Maybe there was another entrance?”

I hadn’t gone to the site since everything that happened with Ares.

Perhaps I should investigate when I have the time.

“Hmm? What’s this?”

The dead mutant had a mark on its neck resembling a tattoo. However, it hadn’t been made with normal ink but, rather, an unknown substance.

“Is this ancient elf script?”

There were two lines of characters.

I couldn’t understand all of it, but the symbols looked familiar.

“Red! All of the other mutants have the same thing on their necks, too!”

“All of them? Hmm. I know I’ve seen this before, but where?”

“I feel like I’ve read the first line somewhere as well…”

“You too?”

“I never really studied the ancient elf language, so I don’t think it was in a book.”


Rit and I stared at the text, cocking our heads as we tried to remember.

“No luck. For now, let’s make a copy on a piece of paper and head back to the village. I doubt there was a second ogrekin group that attacked Sant Durant, but we should remain alert tonight to be safe. Although, if there are any left, they’ll probably run after seeing what became of their comrades.”

“Hmmm, where have I seen this before?”

Rit knit her brow, still hoping to recall why she was familiar with part of the marking.

Why did this happen while Van the Hero is in Zoltan?

It was probably just a coincidence, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was something more sinister.

“Demis,” I muttered.

After returning to the village, we stayed on lookout until daybreak, but there was no further trouble.

It was probably safe to say that the ogrekin menace had passed.

“Thank you all so much!”

After I accepted the villagers’ gratitude, they decided to hold a banquet for us in two days to celebrate.

“You didn’t just save Kate’s life; you even saved all of Sant Durant from danger! The village owes all of you a great debt!” After the old woman who was the village elder said as much, many locals came by to offer their appreciation.

“There’s not much a small settlement like ours has to offer, but if there is anything you might need during your stay, please let us know.”

“I’m grateful, but we’ve already received so much, so we’re fine.”

Lots of people had given us something made in their own home as thanks. Food, spices, alcohol, oil, candles, soap, all sorts of accessories, clothes, hemp rope, a salve for stiff shoulders, a backscratcher, notes from children…

The small storage space in the cottage was liable to burst soon.

Finally, we managed to get away from the crowd.

“We’re back!” Rit said as she stepped through the cottage’s front door.

“We’re back,” Ruti echoed as she did the same.

What had started as a little stroll had turned into quite a big outing.

“Mmmh. It was fun,” Rit remarked as she stretched.

I’m glad she thought so, at least.

“I think it’s time for a bath! We went for a walk, trained with the kids, explored the woods, fought a bunch of ogrekin, and stood guard until morning without sleeping… I’m all sticky with sweat!”

“Yeah, I guess we did get a bit dirty. It was a good choice to change into outdoor clothes.”

Ordinary ogrekin were simple enough to beat without getting any blood on our garments, but the mutants had proved to be trickier. Rit and I both ended up with a fair bit of crimson staining our attire.

I want to wash up as soon as possible.

“There’s no water system here like in Zoltan, so we’ll have to gather it from the well first.”

Nobles typically patronized these cottages, and they brought a servant to fetch water for them. Warming the bath also required maintaining heat in the boiler outside by keeping it stocked with firewood.

All of that was too much work, so we hadn’t used the bath since arriving. Today, however, I really felt like taking a proper soak.

“Guess that means I’ve got one more job to handle. I’ll get the bath ready, so you two take it easy.”

I started to head for the well, but Ruti grabbed my sleeve.

“No can do. You worked really hard. Relax today.”

“Eh? You know I have Immunity to Fatigue from mastery of the Endurance skill. Sure, I don’t like feeling this dirty and my head is a little foggy from being up all night, but none of us are feeling at our best right now, and someone’s got to do this.”

“You being tired isn’t the point.”

Ruti had a serious look on her face. She stared me in the eyes as she continued. “You worked hard, so I want to take care of you.” Tugging on my sleeve, she added, “Rest, Big Brother.”

“…Okay. I appreciate it, Ruti.”

“Mhm. Thanks for everything you did.”

Ruti smiled and squeezed one of my hands in both of hers.

“You’re always cool, Big Brother.”

With that, Ruti left to handle bath preparations.

“You look pleased, Red.” Rit was grinning.

“Of course I am. I’m a happy guy, having such a kind little sister.”

“Heh-heh. Now that she’s free from the Hero, Ruti has become a really nice girl. It’s a little ironic, but she feels a lot more like how I’d expect the Hero to be now that she isn’t being forced into it by Demis.”

“Yeah. Her Divine Blessing pushed her to do all that stuff before, never leaving room for her personal decisions. Courage and kindness don’t come from a blessing. They’re born from the heart.”

Ruti was becoming more charming by the day.

Seeing how she grew over time was a joy. It constantly reminded me how glad I was that she was finally free from the Hero.

“Now then, we should get changed while Ruti’s preparing the bath.”

“True, lounging around the cottage with bloody clothes will make cleaning up a hassle.”

I grimaced when I looked at my dirty outfit.

That I got so filthy was indication that I needed more training.

“Wait, Rit! Why are you stripping?!”

Upon looking up, I saw Rit removing her attire and getting down to her underwear.

“I mean, what part of getting changed did you not understand? You hurry up and strip, too.”

“Fine, but I could’ve used a moment to prepare my heart…!”

“Shouldn’t you be used to it by now?” Rit laughed, but her face flushed. “Hurry up. I’m going to soak our clothes in the laundry bucket. You getting embarrassed is making me feel embarrassed, too!” Rit put her hands on her hips as she spoke, now standing in only her underwear.

Her breasts really are big…

“Or would you prefer I take off your clothes for you?” Rit probably imagined that sounding a lot more seductive, but she was so embarrassed that it didn’t come out quite right… It was still cute, though.

Seeing her like that helped me collect myself.

“It’s okay. I’ll take them off now.”

I stripped down to my underwear as well.


She was covering her eyes with both hands. “I need a moment to ready my heart.”

“You’re the one who told me to do this.”

This was what made her so adorable.

I couldn’t keep from laughing.

At first, she scolded me for it, but she quickly burst into giggles, too.

Laughing together drove home that the fighting was done and we were back to our slow life.

I was glad to have Rit and Ruti in my life.

“Ha-ha. I’ll go take care of the laundry.”

Once the laughter died down, we were finally ready to take care of our clothes.

The wash bucket is beside the well, if I remember right.

I picked up the clothes on the floor, and a piece of paper fell out.

“Ah, I almost forgot.”


“The copy I made of those two lines on the necks of those ogrekin.”

“Oh yeah, that text that was so familiar!”

Wearing only undergarments, Rit sidled up to me and peered at the copy. Although we slept in the same bed in Zoltan, it still made my heart skip a beat.

“Yeah, I’ve definitely seen it before.” Rit sounded frustrated.

“You only remember the first line, and both of them look familiar to me…,” I said.


We both racked our brains as we headed for the well.

Maybe we should ask Ruti?

“Hey, Ruti, can I ask you something?”

“What is it, Big Brother?”

My little sister was fetching water from the well…clad only in underwear.

She was working the rope and leaning over in such a way that her butt stuck out. The pose was a bit problematic with her so exposed.


“I knew it. I had a feeling you’d take your clothes off.” The corners of Ruti’s mouth quirked up slightly—her signature, suggestive smile.

“I filled the laundry bucket, so all you need to do is let your clothes soak.”

“O-oh… Good job, Ruti. That’s my little sister for you.”


Feeling a bit dumbfounded, Rit and I dropped our outfits into the pail.

Ruti had folded up her attire beside the bucket beforehand, so I added it in, too.

Her clothes have a nice feel.

“So, what was it you wanted to ask me?”

“Ah, it’s about this.” I handed Ruti the memo. “There was ancient elf script on the the necks of those ogrekin, and it looked familiar. Do you recognize any of it?”

Ruti nodded. “Mhm. I’ve seen the first line before. I remember everything with you. It matches the ancient elf writing engraved in the gem beast we fought at the Wall at the End of the World.”

“The gem beast! That’s it!”

The fearsome, giant turtle-like monster that absorbed magic. That fearsome being created by the ancient elves that went against the world’s fundamental logic and possessed multiple blessings. Even Ruti had struggled against such a powerful enemy.

The etching on its shell matched the first line of the transcribed tattoo.

Rit looked shocked. “What does that mean? Is there some connection between those mutant ogrekin and the gem beast?”

“…There’s certainly a reason to think that. I couldn’t tell what blessing those ogrekin had, but if they had several like the gem beast, that would explain it.”

That weird feeling that they were Soldiers, Sorcerers, and Adepts all at once.

Multiple blessings gave reason to why they moved like low-level creatures yet possessed power above that station.

“Their possessing three Divine Blessings makes it all clear.”

“Why were the ancient elves making monsters like ogrekin?” Rit wondered.

“This is all just a theory, but…”

I paused for a moment and accessed my Guide blessing. My level was very high, so I couldn’t hope to increase it fighting the weak enemies around Zoltan.

“For how easily those ogrekin went down, I can feel that my blessing has grown a little. Most likely, defeating one of those ogrekin advanced your blessing by the equivalent of three normal ones.”

“And you think that’s why the ancient elves made them?”

“Yeah. They might have been fodder to strengthen Divine Blessings.”

Ogrekin were said to be the descendants of offspring born of humans and ogres. But ogres and humans couldn’t produce children together. At least, not under normal circumstances.

“At this point, I’m just speculating, but… Ogrekin as a species could have originated through some unknown technology for the express purpose of enhancing blessings.”

“There are a lot of mysteries surrounding the ancient elves, but if so, they sound pretty terrible,” Rit commented.

“Well… There are a lot of nasty traps in ancient elven ruins, after all.”


Rit nodded aggressively. Evidently, she’d had a few harrowing experiences in ancient elven structures herself.

Her gestures were adorable, and I couldn’t help but crack a grin.

Suddenly, the last piece fell into place, and I remembered. “Right, the ancient elven ruins!”

“Wh-what are you shouting for?”

“The second line! I recall where I’ve seen it!” Talking about the ruins had jogged my memory. “This was written inside the structure below that mountain.”

“The place I investigated,” Ruti stated, sounding intrigued.

I’d seen the second line in the same complex where we’d fought Shisandan during the False Prophet incident.

“Hero Administration Bureau,” I said.

“Hero Administration Bureau?” Rit parroted.

“There was a wood elf clay sign beside these markings, and it read HERO ADMINISTRATION BUREAU.”

“An organization that manages the Hero…?” Ruti looked perplexed.

She knew better than anyone just how extreme the Hero’s strength was and how harsh its impulses were. It had to be difficult to exert any amount of control over that blessing.

Those ogrekin were probably monsters created for that organization.

Honestly, this revelation gave us a lot to think about, but…

“Ahh. I feel better now.”

…Grinning, I decided to switch gears.

“Not being able to remember was so annoying. Now I can finally relax with a nice bath.”

“…You’re right. A soak is more important for now.”

There was no point dwelling on it all anymore.

We were on vacation until Van left Zoltan.

There would always be time to investigate and satisfy our curiosity once things had calmed down. Worrying was a waste.

“This should be enough water. I’ll get the bath heated quickly, so wait a moment.”

Rinsing off and getting clean are more important.

After getting out of the bath, I cooked some eggs for quick and simple sandwiches.

I made black tea to drink using some leaves I’d brought from Zoltan.

After staying up all night, I thought a nap sounded nice and suggested as much for when we were done eating.

“Nice idea. Maybe we should all rest lined up together,” Rit replied.

“With Big Brother in the middle,” Ruti added.

The bath had left us all warm and comfortable.

I bet some rest would really hit the spot right now.

“You know, you hardly ever slept while we were fighting the demon lord’s army.” Rit looked pleased. “I remember you fighting for three straight days, only to sleep for three hours at most. Then you’d wake up and be fine to march on to the next destination. It was kind of amazing, but I was always a little worried you’d collapse from the stress of it.”

“I can remember plenty of occasions when you threw a blanket over me and ordered that I get more rest.”

“Ugh… That’s embarrassing to remember. Sorry. It was tough to be honest about my feelings back then.”

“I could tell you were worried about me. Thanks.”

“Ugh… Eh-heh-heh…” Rit blushed and smirked.

Ruti’s head suddenly perked up. “Mister Crawly Wawly is here.” My sister stood and opened the window. And no sooner had she done so than a spider seated upon a pigeon came gliding into the cottage.

“Welcome back, Mister Crawly Wawly.”

The spider raised his front leg in greeting.

“It’s a message from Tisse.” Ruti took the memo tied to Mister Crawly Wawly’s leg and handed it to me.

Has something happened? I quickly scanned the contents of the missive.

“Hmm, it seems Van has successfully carried the Vendidad out to sea.”

“They actually carried that gigantic ship? Wow!” Rit exclaimed.

I’d understood how it could be accomplished in theory using a Behemoth Ring and enough elixirs, but it was still a surprise to learn it had been accomplished.

“It’s almost difficult to accept that they managed it,” I said.

Ruti nodded, seemingly impressed. “Mhm. That’s amazing. Even I couldn’t carry it.”

“This means our vacation is nearly over, right? If they have the Vendidad, there’s not much reason for them to hang around in Zoltan.” Rit looked a little bit disappointed.

“No, apparently not,” I corrected.


“According to Tisse, the Hero’s party plans to slay the hill giant Dundach before they leave.”

Rit’s eyes went wide in confusion. “Why?”

Dundach was a monster occupying a portion of Zoltan territory together with some other hill giants.

A grant of title and lordship over the territory occupied by the giants had been offered to anyone who could defeat them, but the bounty had gone unclaimed all this time.

That was due in part to Dundach being too strong for most of Zoltan’s adventurers. Plus, after scaring off those who lived in the region before them, the giants hadn’t caused any further trouble, preferring to keep to themselves and use the stolen castle as a base.

Considering the usual Zoltan laziness, no further incidents meant no great urgency to reclaim the keep.

The castle was pretty far from Zoltan proper, and the area controlled by the giants was a wasteland with no one to rule. Most people saw little point in becoming ruler of a place like that.

“Why would a Hero passing through take a detour to defeat some unimportant monsters out in the middle of nowhere?” Rit asked.

“The Hero can’t abandon people in need…but Zoltan’s hardly in danger.” Even the former Hero puzzled over it.

We’d slain the ogrekin because of an unusual development—a new type of monster. A change like that could upset the established order and cause significant damage.

It was a skilled adventurer’s duty when investigating to observe such events and nip them in the bud before any harm came of them. However, Dundach hadn’t rocked the boat much, at least not from what I’d heard. I couldn’t understand the reason for going after the giant.

“Does Tisse’s message give any explanation?”

“No, but it mentions that she’s accompanying the Hero’s party as a guide.”

“She is?!”

That was a rather bold thing for her to do.

As she was Zoltan’s top adventurer, perhaps it was expected that she’d be chosen to assist the Hero and his companions.

Escarlata was the only one in Van’s group who’d recognize Tisse. A cardinal should’ve had no reason to associate with a hired killer in the past.

“Bold, but effective. Way to go, Tisse.” Ruti must have been impressed, for she complimented her best friend’s decision to tag along. “…I’m worried about her, though.”

“Yeah, there’s no telling what sort of person Van is,” I agreed. “And traveling with the Hero is always dangerous.”

Should Van come to view Tisse as an enemy…

That girl was one of the strongest people in the world, but her chances of escaping a Hero with overwhelming strength like Ruti’s were slim.

It was troubling.

“If we get involved, her risk will be for nothing. Standing idly by isn’t a great feeling, but all we can do is wait,” I said.

Ruti looked frustrated but nodded. “I know.” Turning to the spider who’d delivered the message, she looked him right in the eyes. “Mister Crawly Wawly, if Tisse is ever in danger, come find me. I don’t care whether she’s up against the church or the Hero. I won’t allow anyone to hurt my best friend.”

Mister Crawly Wawly hopped happily in response to Ruti’s declaration.

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