Extra chapter thanks to BP, RA, JH, GS and JY! Thank you for the support~
After having an early breakfast at the『Red Jewel Inn』, which was untouched by the fire, Gecko and his group left the city of Slanzewi before the sun rose.
“Three days later, Hullwill; and three days after that, we’ll arrive at the border town of Red Post.”
“If all goes well, right?”
Ra said as he recalled the map in his head, and Ryo answered.
“Ryo, don’t say such ominous things …”
Ra frowned and replied.
Last night, Ra was stopped by Sue from sneaking out of the inn, which allowed him to move with Gecko’s group during the midnight turmoil so it didn’t become an issue.
If he hadn’t been caught by Sue at that time … there was no knowing what could have happened.
Therefore, the Swordsman Ra was grateful and gave the dessert fruit from his breakfast to Scout Sue … or that was the official record of 『Switchback』.
Actually, he gave it to Sue while crying tears of gratitude.
“The path from Slanzawi to the border town of Red Post is part of the East Highway. It’s one of the most important highways in the Kingdom, so I don’t think anything weird will happen … Yeah, I’m sure. It won’t happen … It shouldn’t happen … I hope it doesn’t happen.”
Ra’s wishes became softer and softer towards the end.
The first day after leaving Slanzawi passed without incident.
And the morning of the second day.
Ryo suddenly sprung to action just as they were about to reach the planned location to take a lunch break.
“Ra-san, enemies are coming from the front. I will inform Max-san.”
Then, without waiting for Ra’s reaction, Ryo ran to the front of the wagon train.
The leading carriage had Gecko in the coachman’s seat with a young Water-Attribute Magician subordinate, and Max and four others walking around the carriage as guards.
“Max-san, from the front, a group with the three people we caught in Slanzawi is coming.”
“What do you mean, Ryo-san?”
Max was surprised while Gecko threw a question back at Ryo.
“When we released the three people, a transmitter … um, I secretly planted water that I could detect when approaching in their navels. Now it is reacting and the signal is coming from the front. The speed is quite slow … Yeah, it’s about the same speed as this caravan.”
“Gecko-san, they might be masquerading as a caravan or something like that. It’s a common thief’s trick.”
“Yes, that’s right. I see. Let’s pretend to take a break on the riverbank there because it’s easier to deal with them there than while we pass each other.”
When Gecko said so, the caravan went down to the riverbank under Max’s command.
Gecko’s men and carriages gathered in the center, and the escorts sat quietly around, pretending to be resting.
“<Ice Wall 10-layer package>”
Ryo sat around Gecko and his men and surrounded them with an ice wall first before anything happened.
By now, Gecko and his subordinates were accustomed to the experience of being surrounded by ice walls after so many times.
“Ten people are approaching, including the three.”
Ryo whispered to Max, who was in command nearby.
Max returned to where he would be at the forefront to give detailed instructions.
Twenty minutes after the Gecko’s party descended to the riverbank, a group of ten people passed by.
There were four in the coachman’s seats and four escorts.
(That means there are two people in the carriage …)
Ryo thought to himself as he tried to not lose sight of the ten people … but refrained from looking directly at them.
Just as they were about to pass by … the expression of the person sitting in the coachman’s seat of the leading carriage showed how they felt about the target descending to the riverbank and getting the drop on them.
Of course, that was probably partly Ryo’s imagination.
However, he certainly clicked his tongue.
Ryo did hear those words.
At the same time as those words were spoken, the four coachmen threw something between themselves and Gecko’s group by the river.
The thrown objects rolled on the ground and spewed out white smoke.
“Poison … can’t be, they are there too. It’s a smokescreen!”
After Ryo determined that, he activated his usual magic in such cases.
An instant downpour hit the area and then left immediately.
The rain washed the smoke floating in the air down to the ground and flowed away.
Attacks in the cover of smoke were instantly invalidated.
But by that time, the assailants had already jumped out of the carriage and were running towards the riverbank.
“Wha …. the smoke was extinguished in an instant.”
The assailant leader, Sharfi, was surprised.
The smoke was a special item they made that creates a fairly thick smokescreen even outdoors, and was a kind of sure-fire attack method that they used frequently.
But it was invalidated by the sudden rain.
However, as long as they were running, they couldn’t pull back.
Meanwhile, the battle had begun.
“Gecko is … over there!”
Sharfi looked around the crowd and saw Gecko’s face almost instantly.
Then, he held the spear in his right hand up and threw it with all his might.
However, the spear he threw bounced off by something invisible before reaching Gecko.
“Barrier? Damn it.”
Then Sharfi ran towards Gecko.
Of course, no escort team would overlook that.
Swords were thrust at Sharfi from the side as he ran toward Gecko.
However, Sharfi did not stop running, and while dodging the swords, he slashed the outstretched arms.
In one corner of his field of vision, he could see his subordinates being knocked down one after another.
(What is the strength of this escort? It is completely different from the report!)
Gecko’s caravan was attacked several times by other units before reaching the City of Rune.
As a result, five escorts were killed.
The report at that time did not indicate that they were as strong as this.
It was the elite escorts led by Max and the 『Switchback』 led by Ra who were defeating Sharfi’s subordinates one after another.
Aside from Max, 『Switchback』 was from the City of Rune, so it was unavoidable that they weren’t mentioned in the report.
Finally, Sharfi reached a distance of less than 20 meters from Gecko.
There, he pulled out a volleyball-sized bag that was hung on his waist with his right hand and pressed the ignition that he held in his left hand against the cord extending from the bag.
Then he threw the bag at Gecko.
Even if there was a <Physical Barrier>, it would definitely be destroyed with that special 『Explosion bag』.
“This is specially made. You have to die. Don’t hate me for this.”
Sharfi abandoned running away, crossed his hands, took a position to protect his face from the explosion, and watched over the whereabouts of the 『Explosion bag』.
The 『Explosion bag』 did not stray from the target and drew a parabola toward Gecko … but before it hit the wall the spear struck, it was encased in ice and fell to the ground.
An exasperated sound leaked from Sharfi’s mouth.
The fire on the attached fuse of the ice-encased 『Explosion bag』 was extinguished and it rolled to the ground.
Sharfi kneeled and held his head.
However, he immediately raised his head and shouted loudly.
“Surrender! I surrender!”
Then, he threw the knife on his waist to the ground, threw away the ignition he had in his left hand, and raised both hands to show that he had no intention of resisting.
Scout Gun, who was approaching Sharfi from behind, asked.
“Yes, I surrender. I won’t resist. If it saves my life, I’ll also provide useful information for Gecko.”
As expected, Gun couldn’t decide what to do at that point.
By then, all assailants except Sharfi had died.
The attack failed and he begged for his life to cling to hope … it was not impossible.
“<Ice Wall 10-layer package>”
Along with that voice, a clear ice wall was created around Sharfi.
“I’ll create a wall for the time being, so even if he self-destructs, the damage will not reach us. Don’t worry.”
Of course, it was Ryo.
He announced to the people around him with a loud voice that could be heard by Sharfi.
“Haha …. Ice Magician, that’s quite nasty.”
“I don’t want to be told that by an assassin.”
Ryo returned the poisonous words to Sharfi.
Max and Ra gathered around them.
“Our bad, all your subordinates were already killed by the time you surrendered.”
“Oh … they were useful, but it can’t be helped. Thanks to their sacrifice, I was able to get closer to throw the 『Explosion bag』. Well, I couldn’t even do any damage though.”
When Ra told him ruthlessly, Sharfi shook his head and replied.
While they were talking, Ryo was looking at the ice-encased 『Explosion bag』 that was lying on the ground.
(This is … he called it an Explosion bag, so I guess it explodes … I extinguished the fire on the fuse-like thing that was attached to it but … there’s no knowing what can happen so let’s leave it as it is.)
With that in mind, he handed it to Ra while it was still frozen.
“It’s encased in ice, so it’s okay. It won’t explode.”
Ra was asking why Ryo was handing it to him while Ryo replied without answering the question at all.
They were not on the same wavelengths.
“Yup, it’s okay. Believe me.”
“But then, why are you stepping back, Ryo …”
Meanwhile, Max was glaring at Sharfi without saying anything.
After a while, Gecko came to them.
“Ah, thank you all for your hard work. Those who were injured are being treated now. Fortunately, nobody died or suffered serious injuries, and we can treat the rest with just potions alone.”
Then Gecko saw Sharfi in the ice wall.
“So you are the leader of the assailants who surrendered?”
Gecko looked down at Sharfi without changing his expression, and Sharfi, who was kneeling on the ground, replied by looking closely at Gecko’s face.
“You came at us with the intent of dying, but you’re surrendering in the end? I can’t believe that.”
Gecko questioned him indifferently with the same expression.
“Well … you can say that … But it’s impossible to kill you no matter what? Moreover, all my subordinates were killed so after failing this attack, I have no future other than dying. I can accept dying for a mission, but I’d rather not die a dog’s death.”
Gecko muttered just one word, as if he was thinking about something.
And one minute later.
“Well, that’s fine. I can’t trust you entirely, but I’ll accept that explanation for the time being …”
Gecko paused once there and then continued.
“However, even if a bandit surrenders, he would be killed on the spot anyway?”
“I know, but I’m an assassin, not a bandit. I have the information you want. I’m ready to provide that information if you can help me.”
“For example, what kind of information?”
“If you can help me, I will give it to you.”
Gecko continued after tilting his head a little.
“But I won’t be able to tell if the information you have would help me … Ryo-san, I can’t trust this Sharfi-san after all, so please encase him in ice.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Ryo then started chanting.
“Heaven’s consent, Earth’s consent, Creator of all things that fills the heaven and the earth, Sparkling Queen of Ice, for the fool who goes against you …”
“Wa-wait, wait a minute!”
“Lay down your coffin, grant them permanent sleep …”
“I said wait! I’ll tell you why we performed sabotage in Slanzewi!”
When Sharfi shouted, Gecko finally put out one hand in front of Ryo and stopped his chanting.
“Please speak within 30 seconds.”
“Yes, okay. The destruction in Slanzawi was due to a request to make the eastern part of the Knightley Kingdom dysfunctional.”
Everyone, including Ryo, gulped.
It was part of a larger sabotage than they had imagined.
“The simple answer scores you high points. Does that mean that you guys caused the collapse of the Rho Bridge and the purpose was to damage the eastern part of the kingdom?”
“Yes, but that’s just the beginning, and it’s really just the first of a few years of planned works. I wasn’t informed of the bigger picture, so that’s all I can say about the request.”
Gecko, listening to Sharfi, sighed.
“Well, let Master McGrath know and sell a favor to him.”
Gecko said in a whispering voice.
“So what else?”
“Wait a minute. Guarantee my life first. Then I can give you a lot of other information. Anyway, I have nothing but my life left.”
“Fine. I guarantee your life with my name. Of course, if you do anything strange, that guarantee disappears in that instant. Understood?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Sharfi was relieved and nodded to Gecko’s words.
“This … is very hard to say, but I have one thing I wish to request.”
Sharfi had trouble speaking as he diverted his gaze from Gecko.
“Hey, you’re not in a position to negotiate!”
Max, who had been silent until then, screamed at Sharfi.
“No, I know! I know but … I have to stay alive for me to have any use to you, right? I will die at this rate.”
Only Max spoke out, but it surprised everyone there.
“『Cult』 … we call the organization I belonged to that, but we’re cursed so that we don’t betray that 『Cult』. The curse would kill us if we betray the organization.”
“So, if we want information, we have to break your curse.”
“That’s how it is.”
Sharfi nodded to Max.
“Even if you say that, just saying it’s a 『Curse』 isn’t helpful. Explain in detail.”
“I don’t know how it activates either. I don’t even know if it’s a curse or magic. They said that the 『Cult』guys were involved in alchemy.”
The word alchemy appeared in Sharfi’s explanation, and Ryo unintentionally exclaimed softly.
Recently, alchemy had rapidly established itself as a hobby in Ryo!
It may be natural that he reacted that way to the word 『Alchemy』.
“We have a tattooed emblem on our chest. A stone spear emanates from that emblem, pierces the chest, or rather the heart, and we die. I’ve encountered the scene twice, so I don’t think I’m wrong.”
After Sharfi’s explanation was over, no one spoke for a while.
It was Max who got the ball rolling.
“Either we erase the tattoo or peel off the whole skin?”
“Wa-wait! If you want to peel off my skin, get a high-ranking priest to treat me right away.”
“Did you surrender for that?”
“Oh … I won’t deny it.”
A fairly high-ranking priest would be needed to heal a large amount of peeled skin and muscle tissue to allow them to function normally.
There might only be one or two people at that level in a big city or a national capital … ordinary people won’t have the connections to ask for healing from them, and a considerable amount of donation would have to be given.
Even a low-ranked aristocrat would have difficulties requesting it.
“Of course, there won’t be any such priest in Hullwill, and if it’s the border town of Red Post …”
“Bishop Jariga of the Red Post has returned to the royal capital, so it’s impossible.”
Gecko replied to the words that leaked from Max’s mouth.
Upon hearing that, Sharfi seemed depressed as expected.
Naturally. If he didn’t remove it quickly, his life was at stake.
Even though he had no choice but to surrender, he would still end up dying from the tattoo all the same.
Gecko turned to Ryo, who had been thinking silently for the entire time, except for muttering ‘Alchemy!?’
“Ryo-san, is there a Water Magic that is just right for this case?”
It seemed that he did not expect such a convenient answer.
“Sure, there’s no magic that fits this situation … but there might be a way to do it. If there’s no other option, I can give it a try …”
The moment Ryo said that, the tone of Gecko’s voice went up by one note.
That alone made it clear to Ryo that Gecko wanted to save the assassin’s life, if possible.
He would try to use even a former assassin as a human resource … Ryo was impressed with the spirit of the merchant.
“Simply put, I can encase the heart itself with an ice film to prevent the spear from reaching it. The other method is to cover the tattoo itself with an ice film to prevent the spear from reaching the heart …”
Gecko accepted Ryo’s explanation and then nodded while diving into deep thought.
“Eh … uh … what is an ice film … won’t it be cold? Won’t my heart stop?”
Only one person, the test subject Sharfi, could not understand.
No, maybe he just didn’t want to understand …
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