『I'll stop here. If I go any further, I'll end up meeting with Gruldo.』
At a distance where the walls of Linecol were barely visible, Ilmera dropped off Kyle and Sildonia.
【"So, Gruldo is right ahead, huh."】
『Yes, I can sense him... He certainly does not seem to be in a normal state of mind... He should have noticed my presence yet there was no reaction from him.』
Ilmera's tone of voice was bitter.
Even though he knew that Gruldo was being used, he could not meet him. That was the law.
【"It must be hard to be bound by those laws."】
Kyle was not being sarcastic, he was genuinely sympathetic towards Ilmera's difficult position.
Therefore, even though his words were quite vexing, Ilmera did not deny them. Or rather, he could not deny them.
『Although it's frustrating for me to say this to a human being.... I'll be depending on you to save Gruldo. 』
【"You can count on me."】
As Kyle said so in a straightforward manner, Ilmera flapped his wings, flew high up in the sky, and left.
【"Well then, let's head that way!"】
Sildonia, who was riding on top of Kyle's shoulders, pointed her finger over his head towards the direction where they were both heading.
【"...Do I look like a horse to you?"】
Since Sildonia did not seem to intend to get off despite his complaints, Kyle just started running forward.
Sildonia's real body was only the jewel on Kyle's sword, her human body was nothing more than an illusory entity that took shape through magic. Although she could likely erase this phantom of hers, she did not do so because she was used to appearing that way.
Fortunately, she wasn't very heavy, so she did not make it difficult at all for Kyle to run.
【"I could already see a bit of what was going on when we were up in the sky, but it looks like that Guldo has rampaged all over the place."】
Said Silodnia, recalling the smoke that she had seen rising from here and there earlier.
【"Yeah, it smells like something's burning."】
Soon, they reached an area that seemed like it had been directly attacked by Gruldo.
【"...This looks pretty terrible."】
The trees had been mowed down, and the plants had been burnt to a crisp.
Since it had apparently rained the day before, there was a lot of moisture in the air and the soil, so it fortunately seemed like there was no need to worry about a fire.
Looking around, there were several wounded people groaning and rolling on the ground. They appeared to be adventurers.
Kyle helped up the adventurer who was closest to him. He felt like he had seen his face somewhere.
【"Hey, get a grip! What happened here?"】
Although his face was distorted in pain, the man still managed to open his eyes. He was Getsuga, whom Kyle had met back when he posted his 100.000 Gadru request at the "Dawn firedrake".
【"Ugh.... Y-you are... Kyle, aren't you?"】
【"Do you know each other?"】
Asked Sildonia, but Kyle only inclined his head in confusion.
【"Oh, you are... Sorry, I can't recall your name."】
Although Kyle did remember him by sight, the man had not left a deep impression on him. When he realized that his name had been forgotten, Getsuga tried to show a bitter smile, but the only thing his face displayed was the pain that he was feeling.
The surrounding adventurers had also suffered injuries, ranging from torn-off nails to severe burns, but, fortunately, it looked like no one was dead.
【"Were you attacked by Gul... by a dragon?"】
【"Yes... It was so sudden... the dragon appeared out of nowhere and attacked us... I didn't try to run away, I counterattacked, but I wasn't able to do anything..."】
Apparently, Gruldo had indiscriminately attacked all the adventurers that he could find in the environs of Linecol.
Getsuga surely was a renown adventurer, but unfortunately for him, his opponent had been a dragon.
【"I see... Sorry, but, I'll be leaving now. There is something I have to do."】
After confirming that Getsuga and his colleagues would manage to keep their lives, Kyle tried to leave.
【"Wait, where are you going? ...Don't tell me that you..."】
Seeing the direction where Kyle was heading, Getsuga could not hide his astonishment.
【"Well... I was thinking of doing a bit of dragon subjugation."】
As Kyle kept running forward, he sometimes heard ground-shaking roars which seemed to come from Gruldo.
Although he was hidden by a dense forest and couldn't be seen yet, Gruldo was breathing fire towards the sky as if to show his presence.
【"He's behaving in a showy manner, like he's trying to stand out... the person who's instructing him to do that should be nearby."】
Said Sildonia with a bitter expression on her face. That would have been credible has she not been riding on top of Kyle's shoulders, but right now, there was no solemnity to be felt from her.
【"So, what do you intend to do if this turns into a battle?"】
【"I've prepared a lot of magic healing medicine, and just for safety, I've prepared the gems too, so I should be okay... Or so I'd like to think."】
If the magic gems, in which he had put attack spells, were to turn out to be ineffective against Gruldo, then Kyle would have no other choice than to attack him directly.
Soon, Kyle reached the end of the dense forest, and was finally able to see Gruldo.
Although Gruldo looked almost the same as Ilmera, he gave off a different impression to Kyle.
While Kyle had been able to sense intelligence from Ilmera's eyes, there was no sign of that light of intellect in Gruldo's case. Moreover, Kyle could not feel any vigor from Gruldo's body, it was as if he was being moved by someone else.
Of course, his presence still felt fierce and terrific, but Kyle had met other dragons, and he could feel a difference, a sense of loneliness. This did not seem fitting of dragons, who were beings that stood tall over all the other species.
【"....Let's search for the Melra worshiper who's manipulating him."】
Kyle intended to look around while being careful not to enter Gruldo's field of vision, but he very quickly found what he was looking for.
The Melra worshiper was under the shade of a tree, but he did not seem to have any intention to hide himself seriously. He was standing in the open in a position from which he could see Gruldo.
That middle-aged man also located Kyle, and he approached him with a beaming smile on his face.
At first glance, this expression made him look like a good man who would not hurt a fly, but that smile sent an uncomfortable feeling down Kyle's spine, in a different sense than Targ's smile did.
The impression he gave Kyle reminded him of Bahrel, the Melra worshiper he had met in the capital of the Garugan empire, Luos.
【"Oh! You are sir Kyle, aren't you?! Nice to meet you! My name is Locfarl, I am a loyal worshiper of the goddess Melra! I'm glad we are able to meet like this, this must be thanks to goddess Melra's guidance."】
Locfarl was shedding tears while praying towards the heavens in gratitude.
【"You are right on time, what a relief. I was wondering what I was going to do when that strange demon barged in but..... As expected, it's just as his holiness said, you truly are destined to be the savior of those of the Melra faith, and consequently, of humanity!"】
While looking like he was drunk on something, Locfarl nodded his head up an down.
【"What do you mean I'm on time? What's your goal? What did you manipulate the dragon for?!"】
Kyle pulled out his sword and pointed it towards the Locfarl's neck, but Locfarl kept the smile on his face, showing absolutely no sign of being afraid.
【"Well, naturally, I mean that I was waiting for you, sir Kyle. As for what my purpose is and whatnot, well, it's all for your sake."】
Locfarl answered with a laugh, as if he was stating the obvious.
【"For my sake? What's that about?"】
【"Huh? ...Oh, in his instructions, his holiness did mention that you have yet to fully accept your own destiny, sir Kyle.... Was this what he meant?"】
Although there was still a bit of curiosity on his face, Locfarl nodded like he had convinced himself.
【"Yes, you are destined to become a hero, sir Kyle."】
Locfarl's sincere smile and his bottomless positivity gave Kyle a mysterious sense of dread.
【"Why? ...What kind of purpose is that? You're saying that 'holiness' guy of yours is trying to make me a hero? How am I related to all this? Answer me!"】
Kyle pushed his sword a little until it very slightly penetrated Locfarl's neck. But, even though a long thread of blood ran down his neck, Locfarl was not shaken at all and was still smiling.
【"Well, I do not know about that. Everything we're doing is under his holiness' guidance."】
【"...The way things are going, you and your companions are all going to die, you do know that, right?"】
【"Yes, his holiness said that all the believers in this area will be martyrs, but they'll be dying for the sake of the new human society that is coming."】
Locfarl was still smiling as he spoke of his assumption that he was going to discard his own life, as if that was a trifling matter.
【"Besides, you do not have to worry, even after I die, the hypnosis on the dragon will not be cancelled."】
Kyle felt shivers as he wondered how could Locfarl and the other Melra believers go as far as throwing away their own selves.
【"Oh, also, we've made the dragon attack many adventurers, so his infamy has already improved. And please be at ease, we are keeping the damage on human beings to a minimum. We will also compensate them for their injuries. That's only natural since they ended up getting dragged in this situation. "】
He seemed to be full of a distorted affection towards human beings. Excited, Locfarl kept the one-sided talk going.
【"It was never our intention to hurt humans... We were thinking of burning the whole nest of the dark long-ears, but then we came across a different dragon, so we changed the schedule in a hurry... Anyway, please go ahead and defeat that dragon. His movements have been weakened, so with your strength there should be no problem, sir Kyle. If you fight him in that location, there will be more eye-witnesses. Please win the honor of being a dragon slayer!"】
Certainly, Gruldo was positioned at the perfect spot for anyone on top of the town's walls to see, moreover, it was an open space where Kyle would be able to fight easily.
If the town's people were aware that a dragon had come, which was likely the case, then this area was probably the focus of their attention right now.
And Locfarl was saying that all of that was for Kyle's sake. For the sake of having Kyle defeat a dragon, in order to make him a dragon slayer.
【"Is something wrong? I heard that becoming a hero was always your goal, was it not?"】
"What are you hesitating for?" Added Locfarl, who was sincerely wondering what was going on.
【"It's not like I'm not willing to use others for the sake of my own objectives... But I have no intention to sacrifice anyone for those goals. And that includes dragons and dark elves."】
【"Huh? But... they're not human. Neither this dragon nor the dark long-ears. Why does it matter what happens to beings which aren't even human?"】
Asked Locfarl in pure wonder; to him, it was like society's fundamental common sense was being questioned.
【"It's no use talking to you anymore... Set Gruldo free immediately."】
Kyle figured that it would be useless even if he cut off Locfarl's arm and scooped out his eyeball, but he still pointed his sword at him once again.
【"That is your role, sir Kyle. Please defeat that dragon and then feel free to do as you wish with it."】
Locfarl pointed at Gruldo with his eyes sparkling with a child-like purity.
The conversation wasn't going anywhere. Or rather, Kyle felt like, even though they had both been talking to each other, they had not actually communicated at all.
【"Drop it, Kyle, it's useless."】
Sildonia, who had been silently listening to the conversation, interjected. There was no more time to waste.
Locfarl sent off Kyle with no change in his smile.
【"That subordinate won't binge... We had people like him in the Zares era, too."】
Said Sildonia with a displeased tone.