39.1 The Hero, Me, and Ruiseine
With a shout, I jump out from hiding behind the rock.
I can’t believe this. I get dizzy trying to comprehend the sight before me.
Although the bandits said they were threatened by the her, I absolutely thought that was a lie. Ristia would never do anything like that. As the hero, Ristia’s figure is famous nationwide. As such, there will be people with similar faces trying to impersonate him in order to cause trouble here and there.
I am someone very familiar with Risita. I thought I’d be able to identify the person as an imposter upon reaching their base. Yet, the one who appeared from the headquarters is undoubtedly the hero, Ristia.
I jump out and Ruiseine follows behind me. Mistral and the others remain hidden behind the rock.
Even though our appearance is abrupt, Ristia looked at us without being disturbed.
“My, my, I sensed presence of others out here, so came to see who’d pop out.”
Ristia lets out a sigh.
“Ristia, why are you in a place like this?”
Ristia raises an eyebrow at my question.
“What are you doing in a place like this?”
He returns my question.
Ristia would never do something bad. There’s definitely something wrong here.
I truly believe that, so I tell Ristia about yesterday’s incident. Ruiseine looks at the two of us with an uneasy expression from my side.
Ristia listens to my story in silence before saying, “I see, so those guys got caught that easily.”
His response is outside my expectations. I thought for sure that he would say, That’s wrong’.
“Hey, what do you mean by that?”
Ristia smiles. The cruelty filling his face is one I’ve never seen until today. “It’s just like said. Those people were acting under my command.”
Ruiseine and I swallow. She mutters to herself in a soft voice, “Something like that…”
“My, my, I should’ve had them act a bit more violently.”
“Wh-why did you make them to do something like that?”
I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. I keep on hoping that there’s been some sort of mistake, but Ristia responds to me with cold words.
“Fuun, for starters, I hated the dragon tribesmen. Not only do they live at Dragon’s Peak, their existence is a hindrance to a hero like me. The only strong being in this world should be me. Should these events strain the relation between the dragon tribesmen and humans, I’ll rejoice if the king deploys his forces on Dragon’s Peak.”
The malicious intentions lacing Ristia’s words jam my voice. “That is…”
Ruiseine’s lips quiver from surprise. “W-would Serisu-sama even approve such actions? Furthermore, I do not believe shrine maidens Kiri and Inea would support such an evil conspiracy. Where are they now?”
“Ah? They naturally comply with my sentiments. They’re inside the cave.”
A never before seen vulgar smirk floats across Ristia’s face as he points at the cave.
I stop Ruiseine who starts to head towards the cave. “Don’t go, Ruiseine. If Ristia is saying the truth……”
The hero’s party has dyed its hands with evil. Not just that, but Slatton and the others might be waiting inside the cave.
I don’t want to believe this. Even until now, my heart is still holding on to the feeling that something is definitely wrong here. But what if it’s true? I might need to confront Ristia.
Ristia is my best friend. At school, we’ve talked a lot of stuff and done many stupid things. Even though Slatton often teased me, we were on good terms. His brides were also very nice to me.
Still, I won’t forgive anyone who harms the dragon tribesmen.
My bride candidate is Mistral. She’s a dragon tribesmen. If this worsens the relationship between dragon tribesmen and humans, our engagement might be canceled. Some could say I am choosing a woman over my best friend, but that depends on the time and circumstances. I will choose a loveable woman over my conniving best friend.
“What’s wrong? If you want to confirm it, then just go inside the cave.”
“Absolutely don’t go, Ruiseine!”
“Why can’t I go? If I don’t, then what should I do?”
As I grab the cuffs of Ruiseine’s clothes, Ristia watches with a hint of great interest in his eyes.
“How about this? If you keep silent about what happened here, then I’ll overlook everything and you can leave immediately. But if you say anything…” With those words, Ristia draws the holy sword from his waist. Ruiseine and I falter over the scarlet flame it emits. “Well, it’ll be best if you decide now.”
Ruiseine and I exchange glances at Ristia’s words. A serious expression fills her face.
Ruiseine interrupts me with powerful conviction. “Ernea-kun, as a shrine maiden, there’s no way I can just let this pass.”
I see, Ruiseine also came to the same decided. If Ristia is really committing evil deeds, then they need to be righted and oppose. More than as Ristia’s close friend or childhood friend, she resolves herself to preform her duties as a shrine maiden.
“Un, I cannot just overlook this either.”
I nod and draw my spirit tree based wooden sword with my left hand from my right waist.
Ristia has enough composure that he can just watch us without doing anything. “What’s this? Are you planning to fight a hero? You have quite the guts.”
Ruiseine grips her naginata. “Whatever the reason might be, I will not ignore people who are committing crimes.”
I wonder if we have no choice but to fight, if we really can’t settle this through discussion. While I continue to have such thoughts, Ristia flashes a cruel smile.
“Fine, then let’s just do this. Both of you seem to think I’ve lagged behind you.” With those words, Ristia releases a fire attack without hesitation.
Ruiseine and I avoid it in a fluster.
This is no good. Ristia doesn’t want to discuss this. Thinking back about it, he didn’t even once try to have a proper conversation with us. Did he never intend to discuss anything with us since the beginning?
If Ristia wants to fight, then I have no choice but to fight. Ruiseine is a lot more determined than before, too.
I’ve come a decision. “Ristia, if that’s how you feel, I’ll comply.” With those words, I concentrate dragon spirit into my right hand and mold it into the shape of a spear.
Ristia immediately put himself on guard.
I raise my arm and throw my dragon spirit spear into the cave.
If we’re going to fight Ristia, then we need to be mindful of his comrades inside the cave. Therefore, I preemptively remove them first.
That mass of dragon spirit I threw is exactly like last night’s, except this time it’s in the shape of a spear. If this weakens them and makes them unable to move, it’ll help us out here in our battle against Ristia.
Mistral and the others still haven’t come out from behind the rock. While I’m positive they’ll save us if things become dangerous, right now, I want to do this with just Ruiseine. We’ll deal with our misbehaving friend ourselves.
Contrary to my expectations, Ristia stops mid-step in response to my attack.
A shadow is spreading underneath his feet. It takes the form of a circle. Only its edges shine with a light reminiscent of a crescent moon. A portion of that shadow is trapping Ristia.
Shadow of the crescent moon, a shrine maiden’s spell. Those caught by even a portion of the shadow loose their ability to move around. I’ve seen the shrine maidens use it several times on monsters whenever they appeared in the royal capital. Since I’ll also be caught by the spell if I enter the shadow, I’ll refine my dragon spirit without getting close to it.
Ristia, who has his ability to move about sealed, is rained down upon by arrows of light. This time, Ruiseine attacks with moonlight arrow. This is a strategy commonly used by shrine maidens.
Ruiseine continues her assault. As expected of a battle shrine maiden. When it comes into battle, their movements are fast.
Regardless, Ristia, with a daring smile on his face, crushes shadow of the crescent moon. With a sound similar to that of porciline cracking, the shadow underneath his feet shatters and vanishes. Afterwards, he cuts apart all of the moonlight arrows with his holy sword.
“How can that…!”
As Ruiseine falls into shock, Ristia appears before her and thrusts his holy sword into her chest.