[“H-hey, we got a connection, Pochi!”]
[“Hello! It’s good to know that you’re still alive, Sir Ryan! Sorry for my foolish Master’s sneezing in your head, sir – I knew something was up when he made a weird face, but I couldn’t stop him in time!”]
[“Wha- you’re one to talk, planning your after-dinner desserts for the next two weeks in your head, while I was trying to get a connection! Thank God those stuff didn’t get transmitted to Sir Ryan as well!”]
[“You speak as if your sneezing did any good, Master! My imaginations would have made Sir Ryan’s mouth water, at least! Am I right, Sir Ryan?!”]
[“It-it has been a while, you two… Looks like you are the same as ever… so that is a relief, at least…
The rapid-fire conversation taking place in Ryan’s head, especially from Pochi and her long-term plan of desserts, caused Ryan’s fighting spirit to plummet to the negative. Unbecoming of him, Ryan looked as if he was in trouble, all thanks to a combination of unneeded interruption and nostalgia. But then Asley and Pochi were silenced by the sound of exhaustion in Ryan’s mind.
[“…I can tell that you’re injured, sir. How are things over there?”]
[“W-we have a monster problem… they are attacking the town, seeming to have formed an army under some form of command. I don’t know whether Reid and Mana are still… well, no – I can still hear the battle going on. Reid is most likely still alive, I would say.”]
It had been quite a while since they had last talked, but Ryan took no time to say anything unnecessary.
At this time, Pochi was already taking bigger, heavier steps, kicking up clouds of dust from the ground. Lala, who had been running beside her, now fell farther and farther behind. She was panicking as well, for various reasons, but she soon shut up upon being warned by Tzar.
[“We’ll be there right away!”]
[“Thank you… But I’m afraid… you will not… make it in time…”]
Ryan calmly took in and responded to Asley’s words.
Seeing that Asley now took up his residence in Beilanea, it would have taken a few weeks for him to reach Faltown.
With death hanging around right in front of him now, he could not take those words well and rejoice in the fact that help would be coming. Moreover, perhaps due to him having used up his mental energy to maintain the Telepathic Call, the connection grew unstable, and before long, was cut off.
[“All things considered… you have been a great supporting pillar to me, sir…”]
Ryan looked up at the sky and felt the wind brush against his face, and as he reminisced of the time almost three years ago, when Asley he had first met Asley, a single drop of water ran down his cheek.
“Damn it, the link’s cut off! Pochi, how much longer?!”
“Three servings of Tropical Fruit Sunsmile Deluxe?!”
Pochi further raised her speed. Although she had already been running with all her strength, Pochi’s performance had been hindered by the pressure on her body, originating from her concern for the people in predicament. With Asley’s attempt at getting her to relax, Pochi was now dispelled of her worry, even if only on a surface level.
[“Oh-ho, he does give his Familiar the proper treatment when it counts, after all. Or no – perhaps this was their unique form of relationship, derived from their friendship and closeness of mind.”]
Tzar, sticking his heads outward from the sides of Lala’s face, spent his time analyzing Asley’s speech cues.
“T-that’s stupid fast! I don’t think I can handle any more than this, Sir Instructor!”
“”Then leave them. Sir Asley is most likely heading to the north gate, straight ahead of us. That is currently the only spot with a low density of monsters. Make use of that gap and leap onto the wall of the north gate, then head in the opposite direction of Pochi. If she already had a plan in mind, then you will not have to worry yourself with what to do accordingly.””
Asley, sitting on Pochi as she ran on ahead, started drawing a Spell Circle. He was preparing a big spell to open the path for Pochi.
“Rise, A-rise, Sharp Wind Asteriskos & Remote Control!”
The blades of wind, with speed greater than Pochi’s, streaked violently ahead in the form of green beams of light. Asley controlled each of their directions with the waving of his hands.
Tzar’s jaws practically dropped upon witnessing the whole process.
“”Wonderful. We never thought there was anyone in this world who could control such an advanced spell with such precision. With this, the attack will most likely leave the north gate untouched.””
One particular monster, seemingly the leader of the swarming Zombie Lords in front of the north gate, was cut up finely by the spell without even being noticed. The wind shredded the earth and wrenched open the way of Pochi’s advance, enabling her to run in a perfectly straight line all the way up to the gate itself.
“Pochi, you go to the east gate! Rise, All Up!”
Pochi leapt, and at the same time, Asley hopped off Pochi’s back, then both of them landed on top of the north gate. Pochi immediately turned left and ran along the top of the wall, heading to the east gate as she had been instructed. Following right behind them was Lala, also jumping up.
“”Hmm, well then… We shall stay here, and you, Lala, shall head to the west gate. Invoke the Scarecrow Mode.””
Tzar separated himself from Lala, landing in front of the north gate and then coiling his long, thin body.
Lala’s eyes, in response to Tzar’s instruction, transfigured from their pure, energetic color to a cold, lifeless one. That was none other than the color they had possessed when Asley had first met her. Lala, whose eyes now wore an inorganic color, said nothing more as she proceeded to run to the west gate.
One of Tzar’s heads trained on Lala, keeping an eye on her as she went away – and when she was out of sight, a certain loud sound originated from the direction of the east gate, echoing far and wide through the sky.
The east gate was torn down in a thunderous crash. Ryan, sword still in hand, had dried up all the tears he could shed, and was now gritting his teeth through all the injuries that he had sustained.
As ghastly as he was now, Ryan took a second to observe the monster army in front of him, then the deep cut in his flank, and proceeded to laugh. He knew that he did not have much time left in this world, yet he rushed on, shredding his way through the fearless, lifeless Zombie Lords in the front lines.
The Zombie Lords’ corroded bodies twitched and writhed on the ground, as if attempting to crawl despite all odds, yet in the end, they were being finished off by Ryan and his advantage of having the high ground. The display caused a great deal of hesitation to grab hold of the Goblin’s minds.
Now Ryan invoked Fortify Strength, Fortify Resilence, and Tempest, which he had refused to use outside of truly desperate circumstances. For a brief moment, his body was covered in a light of shining gold.
Ryan kept on swinging, without even flinching from the blood that gushed out his mouth, with his sword on the verge of shattering – the display distorted the Goblins’ expressions into one of true terror.
One swing after another, one cut after another, one shredded Zombie Lord after another.
Activating one of his special sword techniques, the Aerial Dancer, he had plunged head-first into the sea of monsters, to cut his way to the center, where the vitals of the army were. This was to draw their aggression away from the townspeople behind him, and instead onto himself. Completely surrounded by monsters, Ryan raised a prominent war cry. It was to be the last burst of energy of a man who now faced death. The last push of a man who has now given up on the road ahead, choosing instead to ensure that the others lived on.
A man, with images of monsters reflected in his eyes, was now the embodiment of terror itself. The unceasing war cry, and the unstoppable, abnormal speed, accompanied the ferocious blade as each swing unleashed a staggering wind pressure.
Monsters witnessed one of their death brethren after another scatter in all directions. The bout lasted a brief moment, but that moment was enough to exhaust the lives of many of them, and to make them feel as if it lasted an eternity.
But at the end of the day, as far as Ryan was concerned, that brief moment felt as brief as it actually was.
And when that moment was over, Ryan’s exhaustion caught up with him, causing him to fall to his knees. Although he exerted more of his strength, his legs no longer listened to his command. Ryan’s expression clouded up, as he held his cramped legs.
“Ngh… So this is as far as I go?!”
With the war cry of the monsters’ reinforcements, the terror he had previously induced in the monsters now turned into their bloodthirst. The Goblins rushed for him, yelling as if definitively assured of their victory – of Ryan’s death. And then-
“I’m sorry… everyone- bwah-?!”
Ryan, met with an intense, sudden impact on his body, let out a strange exclamation from his lungs.
[W-what… was I flung up… no, I’m flying…?]
Upon what was supposed to be a landing, Ryan felt another sudden impact on his body. It took a few moments, when the slight pain subsided, for him to open his eyes once more.
Filling his line of sight was the dark silhouette of a creature he was familiar with – a giant dog-wolf. It did not seem to be his imagination that a faint, sweet fragrance exuded from around the creature’s mouth.
Ryan’s body was being held gently in between its fangs.
Its handling was the silk-like delicate, its hold not even further damaging his already-tattered armor. Considering the fact that he was in its mouth, Ryan thought for a second that he was being eaten by a newly-arrived monster, but then the dog-wolf put Ryan back down on the ground.
“C-could you be…”
Ryan began to speak.
“Ha-huff huff huff huff… whew! F-finally got to breathe! Huff huff huff… Kah-! Huff… huff huff…… whew… whew. Ah, long time so see, Sir Ryan! You have quite a mild taste of blood on you right now, sir! A little sourer than my Master’s, so I think this is just right for the wild, big bad wolves to enjoy!”
“You are… Po… chi…”
Ryan, with his body already at its limit a long time ago, finally lost consciousness. Pochi smiled and turned to look at her surroundings, then back at Ryan again. Conscious or no, his was definitely the face of a veteran warrior who had just held back an army by himself.
Pochi licked once on Ryan’s face, while also taking care to not move his body too much.
He had lost quite a lot of blood, with Pochi sensing with her tongue that his body temperature was dropping rapidly.
“Oh, no… I need to get him to my Master, otherwise his condition will get dangerous…”
The monsters, initially dumbfounded by Pochi’s entrance, now realized that they were being ignored as they heard Pochi muttering things to herself. However, a majority of the Zombie Lords had already been disposed of by Ryan. So long as they don’t have a grasp on their new target’s strength, they wouldn’t be able to make any big moves. The Goblins in the forefront, with that in mind, kept a vigilant stare on Pochi. Shortly after, the earth behind them shook, signaling the arrival of reinforcements.
As soon as they linked up, bloodthirst began to spread among their ranks once more. And then, when the monsters’ morale reached the boiling point, they found themselves surrounded by a bluish-white light.
One of the Goblins, which had been laughing together with the ones around it, now saw traces of intense burning on the ground around it. The once-laughing Goblins around it were now nowhere in sight, nor the ones that had been raising war cries behind it.
The Goblin now knew what was up, as apparent from the grin on its face being wiped off in an instant, replaced with a cramped face of pure terror. All that had been caused by some sort of emission from the enemy in front of it.
“Whew, that must have gotten rid of the most of them!”
White smoke exuded from Pochi’s mouth and dispersed in the air.
She had unleashed a zenith-level breath attack. One that she had devised in the days she had spent training alongside Asley, the Pearl Breath.
In getting ‘The Fool’s Familiar’ title of hers removed, she had regained the full extent of her powers, and in turn, enabling a higher magnitude of enhancement from Asley’s fortification spells – now she was able to unleash attacks twice as powerful compared to her two years ago. Pochi’s breath attack of dazzling light, in disintegrating the swarms of monsters around the gate, had also erased what remained of the gate itself from existence.
“Now, time to clean up!”