Loren had heard the stories, but had never witnessed it himself. That was why he hadn’t been able to call up the memory right away.
He knew that it was already too late to say ‘Run!’, but he did anyway.
Loren didn’t know if the adventurers facing Tizona realized that it was directed at them or not. Because the moment he had recalled Tizona’s identity and shouted out the warning to them, he had also picked Lapis up and ran away.
Gula also had set off after them just one moment later, and at almost the same time, Tizona had opened her mouth.
“Burn. Ashes to ashes. Trashes to ashes.”
The words were spoken as if sung. As soon as they left her mouth, the adventurers burst into flames.
The red flames enveloped their whole bodies and, without a single scream or a single whiff of smoke or smell of burning flesh, the adventurers became piles of ash in the blink of an eye. Despite how violent the flames were, it didn’t spread.
The massacre was over too soon, and it had happened so seamlessly that no one was able to utter anything. Those presented could only turn their gazes towards the piles of ash lying on the floor.
The sole perpetrator, Tizona, slowly lowered her arms and looked around. After confirming that no one had anything to say, she slowly walked towards the wall, where Loren had escaped to with Lapis. Her expression was so indifferent that it was impossible to imagine she had just burned several people to death.
“You seem to know about me, don’t you?”
Tizona was coming closer and closer with a clacking of heels, and Loren found himself unable to answer her. He had the experience of imagining scenes after hearing stories about this before, but it was probably the first time that he saw the actual scene. It was so shocking that he was at a loss for words.
“Wha… what was just now?”
Gula, who had run to the wall like Loren, asked with dumbfounded words. Hearing her questions, Loren’s stiffened lips finally moved to say the following:
“That means you know me, don’t you? I also feel like I know you. Maybe we’ve met somewhere before?”
“I don’t know. At least, this should be the first time I’ve met you.”
“Then maybe it was on a battlefield. In that case, it’s very likely that only I saw you… Have you always used that greatsword?”
Tizona glanced at the greatsword on Loren’s back and asked.
Loren had used a similar sword during his mercenary days, but it had been a very ordinary steel sword, not entirely black like this one. That sword broke when he became an adventurer, so he bought this one as a replacement as per Lapis’ advice. Loren suspected that this sword was the reason why Tizona felt like she had met him before.
“No, I’ve just bought this one recently. The sword I used to use was… broken.”
“Was it similar to this one? A steel greatsword?”
“Yeah, you can say so.”
Loren had considered lying, but he wasn’t sure what Tizona would do if she knew she had been lied to. Rather than taking that risk, he believed it was better to just tell the truth.
“Is that so? Are you the mercenary called ‘Decapitating Wind’?”
“No, I’m not. Isn’t he the one said to be able to turn the tide of a battle by himself, and thus have a nickname, just like you? I’m not such a big shot.”
It felt like Loren already had a similar conversation before. Still being carried by Loren, Lapis watched him and Tizona. Loren looked very earnest, his face saying ‘I’m not lying’. Meanwhile, Tizona nodded multiple times as if she was satisfied.
“You really are ‘Decapitating Wind’. What are you doing here? I heard the mercenary company you belonged to was annihilated. Did you quit working as a mercenary?”
“That’s why I said I’m not him. My company was indeed annihilated, and I did quit being a mercenary, but I don’t have a nickname. I was just an ordinary mercenary.”
Loren kept insisting that it was not him. But Tizona already made conclusion and looked at him with an expression of understanding his need to deny the ‘truth’.
“Uhm, excuse me, but is it alright for me to say something?”
Feeling that the conversation was going nowhere, Lapis timidly said to Tizona from within Loren’s arms.
It seemed like Tizona hadn’t noticed Lapis’ existence until then. She turned towards her and nodded after a brief consideration.
“If Loren keeps insisting that he is not that mercenary, then maybe there really is some misunderstanding here?”
“That’s right… But he really is ‘Decapitating Wind’. I have no doubt about it.”
Tizona said with such confidence that Lapis wondered if it really was the truth. Loren didn’t look like he was lying, but it was possible that he himself didn’t know. Whatever the truth was, there was something Lapis felt like she had to say.
“Anyway, I’m not saying that those adventurers weren’t at fault since they did take up arms themselves, but I can’t help but think that there will be a lot of trouble if you kill people that easily.”
Hearing Lapis’ words, Tizona’s face stiffened at once. Just as Loren realized that she had killed them without much thought about consequences, Tizona turned her eyes towards the piles of ash on the floor and murmured:
“Is that bad?”
“Well, for adventurers, there’s a term about killing someone during quarrels… I myself did get quite serious in quarrels sometimes, but to kill others is… Have you done that, Loren?”
“I haven’t. Probably.”
Loren recalled having done rather terrible things during quarrels, like hurling his opponents away or strangling them. They might be unable to recover, but they probably hadn’t died, or so he thought.
“But I’m not an adventurer.”
If Tizona really was Hellfire Sword as Loren said, then she was a mercenary and not an adventurer. What Lapis had mentioned only applied for quarrels between adventurers; no one here knew what it would be like for quarrels with non-adventurers.
“In that case, would you mind coming with me? I’d like to have a talk with you.”
It was Ivy who suddenly cut in. The receptionist had a smile on her face, but her aura was terrifying somehow. She was keeping a tight hold on Tizona’s shoulder from behind.
Meanwhile, Tizona, who could easily resist Ivy if she wanted to, looked to have frozen. She looked towards Loren for help, but he immediately averted his eyes. Getting involved with Tizona or Ivy? Thanks, but no thanks. Loren didn’t want to get involved with either of them.
“Well then, let us go to the back. It won’t take too much of your time; it’ll end quickly and it won’t be painful at all, so please follow me obediently.”
“Follow you? Wait, Decapitating Wind! Help a fellow mercenary, will you?! Wait!”
“But didn’t I tell you?”
Tizona hadn’t lost a fight here, but she was letting Ivy drag her away by the shoulder. Lapis’ face indicated very clearly that she didn’t want to get involved, and Loren’s answer was very blunt:
“I don’t know you. I’ve already told you, I’m not the mercenary called ‘Decapitating Wind’, and I only know the name of ‘Hellfire Sword’ by rumors.”
Lapis felt like Loren wasn’t lying or trying to trick Tizona. She couldn’t tell if Tizona had told the truth or not, but rather than reflecting on it, distance themselves from her was a higher priority.
“Well then, let’s pretend that we didn’t see anything here. First of all, let’s look for some jobs to pay for Gula’s food expenses, shall we? Otherwise, at this rate we’ll end up on the street.”
“Does she really eat that much…?”
Loren looked dazed at Gula, to which she shyly scratched her head.
“Eh, there was a long period when I couldn’t eat anything, you know? And right after that I was eating a lot of strange stuff… So to stop eating an ordinary meal for a change became irresistible”
“I know how you feel, but it’s still no excuse to make us go bankrupt.”
“I know it’s rare, but it’ll be nice if we can find some high-paying jobs. It’s even better if Gula can take them on her own.”
“Lapis-chan, that’s too cruel…”
Gula began to butter up Lapis, who had just told her to earn the money for her food herself. Loren, who had never heard of any parties getting bankrupt due to food expenses, began to thoroughly investigate the jobs still left at the reception. The Tizona incident had completely vanished from his mind.
In the end, they couldn’t find any jobs with decent pay that day, so they decided to return to their inn and come back later for a fresh start. But the next day, when they came back only to have Ivy suddenly drag them into a backroom, and Loren was reminded of Tizona once more.