They landed in a wide atrium.
“This was a laundry facility before it went out of business. The manager had an affair with one of the washerwomen, and ran away with her in the dead of night. The business was finished, but the building itself was too old and no one was willing to buy it. You can rest assured that no one’s here, and no one will care no matter how much of a mess we make.”
It was completely deserted, just like Nick said. All that was left was the witch cauldron-like big buckets used for cleaning, left behind gathering dust.
Even though two people had fallen from several meters, there was very little dust in the air. They also appeared to be unharmed.
“You’re pretty good.”
“This is nothing more than the basics of Stepping. Are you… Self-taught? In that case, I will give you a personal lesson.”
“Thanks but… Tianna! Karan!”
Chanting, growling, and an explosive roar echoed.
A shield made of ice blocked the hole from which the two entered. Tianna was hiding in the scaffolding where lights meant to illuminate the factory were hung, and at the same time, Karan sealed the entrance by chucking steel shelves and trolleys at it.
She took out her Dragon Bone Sword, and glared at Nargava from afar.
Nick’s plan was to draw him here to negate Stepping Man’s trademark in hopes to seal his escape. Learning Light Body and using the Fire Breath technique Karan talked about was nothing more than set-up for this moment. Nargava had a self-deprecating smile on his face, as he realized he had fallen into a trap.
“Very well done…So you’ve locked me in here…”
“Escape if you can.”
“I could… but at this point, it would be quicker to do you in.”
“Thanks for that, but there is one more person here.”
Following Nick’s words, the man hiding in the darkness showed himself.
“Sem… You’re the one that noticed it was me, weren’t you?”
“How about we stop playing dumb?”
Sem then responded with a sharpness in his eyes that could not be seen normally.
“Well then, answer me this. Why did you spread a plague? Your daughter died in the capital, not here, and it was a disease that killed her, not another person. Do you think you can get revenge by doing this?”
“Revenge… I guess it’s not that far off.”
Nargava chuckled. It was the first time anyone present had seen him laughing.
There was a nauseating breathing, characteristic from when people who do not usually laugh, laugh loudly.
The stench of madness that could be felt from it sent a shiver down Nick’s spine.
“If I can establish a treatment against the disease that killed my daughter, her death will not have been for nothing. It will turn it into a meaningful death, and will bring back our honor.”
“…Is that why?”
“That, you say?”
Nargava stared at Sem with his eyes wide open.
“Yes. Your daughter’s death should be lamented, and the criticism and lack of sympathy you received were deplorable, but how many lives have you taken because of this? Surely not just one or two.”
“I don’t care about those that can’t survive without reliance on others, or kids that do not even know their birth parents. Yes, compared to her…”
Nargava stared at Sem, but it did not seem like he was looking at the present.
“I… Was just a boring priest. Sem, I’ve never given any thought to saving others like you, not even once. When I was young. I was a knight that specialized in escorts, and I got sick of my life of being surrounded by ruffians and stinking of blood. One day, we just happened to save a high ranking priest, who enticed me to study and become a priest myself.
I spent a lot of time dealing with the politics of the temple and trying to rise up in the ranks as much as possible… I was such a small man.”
“So you were a knight? No wonder you’re so strong.”
“I knew a bit of healing magic, but it’s no like I became a priest because I had a strong backer. It was hard, and that’s why I wanted to climb as high as I could… but then, my daughter was born.”
Nargava’s voice had a kind tone to it when he said the word daughter.
“When she was a baby, when she first went to school… Those times will always be burned into my memory.
She was so smart, she would memorize scriptures and such in no time. She was good with magic too, and would heal a broken finger in seconds. Her carefree face was full of smiles, and no one could get seriously mad at her even when she pulled her pranks. No one was better, or more full of love.”
Nargava clenched his fists.
“It’s absurd! I’m not going to let her die for nothing!”
“…Is that why you bought that magic item and hid in the abandoned area?”
“Coming across this magic item was no more than a happy coincidence. I never intended to keep on living for long but… I couldn’t help but do what I had in mind. Think about it, the number of people that will be saved is much higher than the number of people that died for it. It’s simple math.”
“What do you mean you couldn’t help it!?”
“I know you only see trash when you look around this city! Even kids are all just idiots to you, compared to your daughter, but who can forgive someone as cruel as you, who thinks he’s god and goes around playing with their lives? Even Hale drew a line he couldn’t cross when he was tricking women! You don’t even have that!”
“Don’t lump me in with that small-time crook.”
“Then… Let’s end it here. If you feel no regret for your crimes, I don’t have anything else to say either.”
Nick and the others got ready to continue the fight.
“Very well. It seems you people are definitely capable enough… I apologize for thinking you were lowly bounty hunters.”
Nargava took a heavy breath, let all the air out of his lungs, and repeated.
It almost felt like his breathing was making the old building tremble.
“But… At this point, I cannot afford to hold back.”
There was a true sense of hostility coming from Nargava.
Up until this point he had been on the defensive, but he was finally baring his fangs. Nick could count on one hand the number of opponents he faced that were as strong as this man, and the level of intensity reminded him of when he used to spar with his master, Argus.
But the situation was different. Sparring with his master was done for the sake of preparing him to boldly face a real battle when it came. He was hit, kicked, knocked down, and defeated, but in a good way.
This time, however, it was not a fight for the sake of preparing for what tomorrow might have brought. His opponent was more than just a kidnapper, he was closer to a legendary plague spreading demon.
This was it. Nick could not afford to lose.
All of Survivors advanced, in response to Nick’s voice.