On the following day, it was finally time for the demon hunt. They estimated that the demons would reach the village before evening, so they have to take refuge and prepare for battle before then.
Maxim and the knights had just left this morning. His knights and some of the most skilled villagers will take a detour to sneak behind the demon army and hopefully lure the B-rank demons to somewhere away from the village to defeat them.
“Well, Sir Ruth, we will be heading out.”
“I will be waiting for your safe return.”
Completely different from yesterday, Maxim had his natural overwhelming dignified aura as he left Ruth with a smile bigger than usual before heading out of the inn. However, the adjutant, who was following behind Maxim, had a faraway look in his eyes and ominously said, “I wonder if this is the end of the Calafanti family line.” While Ruth was slightly curious about that, the rest of the knights were looking at Ruth and Maxim with facial expressions tinged with what seemed like relief and bewilderment so he wasn’t able to ask anyone about it. Ruth thought to himself that he would just ask when they return.
As Ruth watched the villagers seeing Maxim and the knights off from afar, he returned inside and noticed Jio in the lobby.
“Jio, will you be okay today?”
“Yes, yes. I will be just fine, I have thoroughly heard about how it will go. More importantly, my apologies. It was so comfortable here, I ended up staying until the very last day.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about that. But, if you ever feel like you are in danger, please run away at full speed. Focus on protecting your own life first.”
As Ruth finished saying that, Jio raised his white eyebrows and lightly swung his cane.
“Haha, do not worry. Despite how I look, I’m quite capable.”
“I know, I know. I will run away if I am in danger, so be at ease.”
Jio slowly shook his head to pacify Ruth’s worries. It didn’t seem like he was particularly afraid of the demon hunt. It might just be that he was already more or less used to seeing demons because of the journey to this village, but Ruth believed that he still had to take care of himself because of his age.
Just past noon, everyone gathered around the village chief in the center of the village square and at the same time they were dismissed, everyone respectively went to their assigned positions. Rossa, along with the villagers responsible for being on the offense and Father as their healer, headed to the watchtower while Ruth and Celine approached the people gathered in the corner of the village square.
The ones gathered there were the women, children, the elderly, the injured, and anyone who didn’t have the means to fight against the demons.
“Everyone, please stick together, we will now be departing.”
They were walking with an armed man in the frontline and they got farther away from the village as they headed towards a small shrine along a mountain. Formerly it was said that it was a place where villagers could take refuge if there’s ever a forest fire and so they always kept it well maintained. In the case of the demon hunt as well, villagers who didn’t have battle magic would hide in here instead of being left behind in the village.
Ruth, who was walking at the end of the line, didn’t carry his bow and arrow today and instead switched it out for the iron knife he received from Maxim a few days ago. As they approached the shrine, Bard came up to Ruth.
“Hey, Ruth. Are you going to go back to the village and fight the demons after you finish taking us to the shrine!?”
Unlike a few days ago, Ruth was too embarrassed to reply to Bard’s glittering eyes full of expectation. Ruth knew that Bard was anticipating for him to take part in the battle, but he couldn’t come up with a good reply. The reason for that being--
“I’m responsible for guarding the shrine. That’s why I won’t be fighting the demons.”
“I was here last year too, don’t you remember?”
“Not at all.”
“I-Is that so…”
On the day of the demon hunt, Ruth’s responsibility as a guard was to safely protect the people who are hiding under the shrine. Ever since he began participating in the demon hunt at the age of thirteen, Ruth has always been assigned the duty as the guard without fail. Though there have also been other people besides Ruth, most of them are younger than him and it’s never the same people for more than a year. It looked like it was everyone’s initial position in the demon hunt.
“You’re so powerful though! You can definitely beat those demons!”
Bard seemed terribly dissatisfied, but Ruth felt a smile creeping up when he saw that. Even though Bard ignored him enough to forget he even existed before, he knew that Bard now has complete trust in his skills.
(Somehow, it’s a great feeling.)
After yesterday's errand, Bard changed his perception of Ruth. Ruth became worried whether it was okay to immediately trust people this easily, but it didn’t change the fact that he was happy that despite how prejudiced Bard had been, he had taken a liking to Ruth.
“Thanks. But Bard, being a guard is also really important too. When it comes down to it, I have to put my life on the line to make everyone escape safely. I’m taking on the village’s most essential position.”
“That’s what Alec told me.”
“Big brother Alec did?”
Bard was instantly convinced when he said that. As expected, Alec’s influence was as strong as ever.
Both of them talked while they were walking for a while and before long, they arrived at the shrine. It was a shrine deeply grounded on the slope of the mountain with a two-meter door attached to it. It was built so the inside would allow a handful of people to pass through the nights and there were already blankets and food. If anything happened, they could stay here for a few days.
The person leading the group checked the inside of the shrine to assure their safety and let the villagers enter one by one afterwards. Then the armed villagers soon returned through the path they came and left the rest up to Ruth and the others. They planned on participating in the demon hunt right after.
“Well, I’ll leave the rest to the guards.”
They called out to a boy who was still learning how to hunt and another young man who was a year younger than Ruth, and all three of them went to their respective positions. Though, while he said that, the entrance was in one spot so they just stood in a line in front of the shrine.
After Ruth and the others settled down at their spots, they finally heard the sound of a high-pitched whistle.
Ruth’s heartbeat quickened at the whistle signalling the demon’s invasion.
Every year, these few hours felt the longest. They had no other choice but to wait for someone to notify them of the demon hunt’s end.
Before long, the sun began to set and the sky was dyed red. It had been a few hours after the whistle was blown, it was usually time for someone from the village to announce the end of the hunt. Perhaps feeling the same way, the two boys who were standing guard with Ruth had nervousness written all over their face.
Just as Ruth was about to tell them not to strain themselves--
An intense pressure reverberated through the air from afar. The moment Ruth heard that a bad feeling went through his entire body. It was like bugs were crawling all over him. Thoughts about how he didn’t want to stay here any longer ran through his mind.
“What... is happening?”
The boy standing next to him crouched down and the young man on the opposite side began shaking. When he saw their unusual behavior, Ruth pulled the two immobile guards towards him and opened the door to the shrine.
“NO! HELP ME!”
The interior of the ten meter wide room was filled with panic. The children were crying, the adults were also frightened, and some even began praying.
The one who came out from the inside of the shrine was his pale-faced, yet still his usual, mother, Celine.
“I don’t know, after I felt some strange presence out of nowhere, the children started crying and everyone began shaking in fear. Was there any sort of message from the village?”
“Nothing came, but… this…”
Ruth has heard of this phenomenon many times in the past when he was learning how to hunt. Referred to as the demon’s roar, the weak ones would faint just by hearing that sound--
Then, from the opened shrine door, they heard the sound of a horse approaching from afar. They stepped outside of the door and a single person was on horseback as it headed straight towards the shrine.
When Ruth took out his knife, the horse stopped right before it crashed into him and the person riding on the horse fell and nearly rolled over.
The messenger who got down from the horse was Daniel. While Daniel looked deathly pale, Ruth extended his arms to him as he ran towards Ruth and clung onto him.
“Bad news? Did something happen in the village?”
“...A completely unexpected baal broke through the barricade and entered the village!”
A baal-- three meters tall demon that walked on two feet, had three eyes, long arms that reached to its feet and also had a thorned tail. It had a hardening ability that wouldn’t let any ordinary weapon even lay a scratch on it. It ate humans and it was the strongest demon on this land.
The demon from a week ago that he wasn’t able to drive out appeared in Ruth’s mind and a cold bead of sweat rolled down from his forehead.
MARY: Please support the author by buying the novels here and let me know if you see any mistakes! Buckle up everyone, the plot in this arc is going to be getting pretty intense σ(≧ε≦ｏ) Bring on the badass Ruth scenes!!