As Ruth stared at him in shock, Jio’s eyebrows bobbed up and down while he faced the villagers in front of him and softly muttered to himself.

“So that idiot disciple’s magic can be helpful in these situations too.”

“What…”

“Everyone, I understand you're frightened because of the baal breaking into the village, but mindlessly panicking right now will do us no good. In fact, as Ruth said, we will be in danger if demons are attracted to the shrine. The people fighting in the village would never wish for that."

Everyone's gaze focused on Jio as he spoke and they regained composure. Not only had he shown something similar to Alec's magic but the stares aimed at Jio were full of trust, just as they would treat their respected village chief. It might be because those were the words of an experienced elder or maybe it was the effect of his true dignified temperament, nevertheless, everyone's attention was strangely drawn towards Jio, who stood in front of them. He was the one undoubtedly controlling the situation now.

"B-But, at this rate, the men fighting in the village will..."

Each person began to bring up their sons, brothers, little brothers, and grandchildren. All of their voices were filled with despair. They couldn't help but worry about the men that remained in the village.

"Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do. We either request the neighboring village for help or we wait for the surprise attack force to return..."

The neighboring villagers would have taken half a day to arrive there even with a fast horse. Just in case, the village chief sent a letter requesting that they'll lend their help when needed, but that’s only as an insurance and that they wouldn’t make it in time if something truly did happen.

In that case, all hopes were put on the surprise attack force, but they were fighting the demons at a place relatively far from the village. No one knew if the village could hold out against the baal’s attacks until the surprise attack force returned.

“Or we can send someone who can fight given a chance.”

The inside of the shrine became noisy at Jio’s suggestion. They couldn't understand what he was talking about. Ruth felt the same way and didn’t get what Jio was trying to say.

However, Jio ignored the noise and turned towards Ruth to grasp his hand.

“Ruth, you are the most capable person here.”

“H-Huh?”

“I will grant you a bit of power.”

As Ruth was bewildered by his words, Jio tapped his cane on the back of Ruth’s hand.

At that moment, it was as if heat originating from the back of his hand ran through Ruth’s entire body. That heat seeped through his skin and into the depths of his body and Ruth felt a power surge inside of him that he has never felt before.

Even though Ruth could also buff up his weapons, he couldn’t give buffs to people. However, it was certainly a strange feeling when Jio gave Ruth a power buff.

(...Ah, ouch.)

As Ruth let the sensation of power fill up his body to the brim, he felt pain from the back of his head as if something burst open. As though a hard glass was broken, his face twisted up from the impact of it and Jio furrowed his eyebrows.

“Hm? You…that title…”

“Huh?”

“...Nothing. Let's deal with that after everything is over.”

Jio turned back to everyone in the shrine again and lifted up Ruth’s hand.

“Currently, all of Ruth’s abilities have been enhanced. With this, he can become a big help to the villagers until the surprise attack force returns.”

As expected, Jio used a special sort of magic to strengthen Ruth’s abilities. As a result, Ruth felt an immense power he’s never felt before flowing through him.

“We will leave it to Ruth and patiently wait.”

However, all the people who were quietly watching Jio raised their trembling voices when they heard that.

“B-But, Ruth is...what can someone that weak even do…”

“Yeah, it’s Ruth after all. He doesn’t even look like he could hunt properly…”

“He’s the guy who’s always hiding behind Alec. What can he do?”

“Mister isn’t from this village so you don’t know anything!”

Celine and Bard objected to the comments around them, but perhaps it was because nearly everyone had a complaint, they eventually hung their head and fell silent. Even Marianne had an awkward expression and didn’t dare to make eye contact with Ruth. She must have had the same thoughts as them too. As far as the villagers know, Ruth was just an ‘unreliable young man’. Nothing could change their minds on this.

However, just as when the turmoil was reaching its peak, Jio tapped his cane on the ground. Another firm sound reverberated through the inside of the shrine and everyone ceased their clamour.

Jio forcefully let out a sigh.

“Indeed I am not from this village. But, there are things that ‘someone from outside of the village’ understands as well. There are things that you cannot see based on their appearance and if you are too absorbed with what normalcy is.”

And so, Jio stopped talking and calmly tapped his cane on the ground once more. At that moment, a chilly air spread throughout the shrine.

“...This young man is undoubtedly the most skilled person here. If anyone is interested, then they may take up the sword and go get eaten by the baal.”

The people who originally raised their voices at Jio went completely silent and had lost that energy.

Jio’s presence was nothing like that of an elder and he exuded a strong pressure that resembled a veteran fighter. Just by listening to that voice while being next to him was enough to make even Ruth break out in cold sweat. What the villagers in front of Jio are going through must be feeling ten times worse.

As Ruth thought that things would take a turn for the worse at this rate, he forced a smile and laughed before calling out to Jio.

“J-Jio...”

“What is it, Ruth?”

“Even if it’s a joke, please do not say ‘go get eaten by the baal’. It’s not funny. Everyone is already frightened enough.”

“...Is that so?”

When Ruth spoke up, the chilly air around Jio disappeared and his eyebrows bobbed up and down. Because of that, relieved sighs could be heard from the people around them. They were probably relieved when they heard Ruth refer to it as a ‘joke’, realizing that Jio wasn’t being serious. In reality, though, Ruth didn’t really know whether he was joking or not.

“Everyone, I may be unreliable, but I will do my best to hold out against the baal until the Royal Knights return. So, please, calm down and hide here. I’ll leave the rest to you two.”

Ruth called out to the remaining two boys in charge of defending the shrine and told them of his plans. He already wanted to go save the village in the first place, so there’s no reason not to after Jio’s support.

This time, there weren't any villagers who objected to it. In fact, the gazes they had towards Ruth were complicated, but he felt a slight bit of hope from them. Or it could be that they had just given up because Ruth was all they had.

“Ruth, I’m relying on you to help your father out. However, you must run away if you’re ever in danger.”

“Mm. I will do my best regardless.”

“Um…”

As Ruth was bidding his farewells with Celine, someone called out to him from behind. The one who spoke out first about her uneasiness over Ruth, Paria, was standing there.

“My dad, please…”

“...Mm. I know.”

“And my son…”

“My big brother too…”

Interrupting Paria, everyone else called out to Ruth.

Even though they were all scared out of their wits, everyone was still concerned about their family. Ruth felt a bit warm knowing how selfless they were.

“Jio, may I count on you if anything happens?”

“...I will do as much as I can.”

“We will be in your care. Daniel, I’m leaving the rest to you too…”

“Huh…”

Ruth lowered his head to Jio before running out of the shrine. Without a pause, he jumped off from the hill and headed straight towards the village.


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