The sun was rising early in the distant port city of Magna.
──In the outskirts of the city, the place where Warren, after his meeting with the local influential people, proceeds in his carriage was less crowded but was in a good location with a panoramic view of the harbor city.
Magna, a port city still in the process of reconstruction, was bustling even at this hour.
Looking at the many boats and the smoke rising from the chimneys in the craftsmen’s district, their liveliness filled him with joy.
The escort knight spoke to Warren, who let out a sigh of exhaustion.
“Come to think of it──”
“This is the place, I believe,” he continued.
“This area was blocked off during the summer turmoil, wasn’t it?”
“Oya? I never heard of it.”
“The road was temporarily blocked off as a precaution because of the bodies of those who had been eaten alive by the monsters. I heard that Professor Oz and the rest of the people of Ist were also forced to stop at that time.”
“The body was discolored all over and could not be identified. …It was a truly heartbreaking incident.”
“──We must be careful that it will not happen again.”
The center of the port city was getting closer.
As the crowd became more crowded, Warren let out one more sigh.
After arriving at the docked ship, they departed just past noon.
The destination was the port of Kingsland, the royal capital of Ishtalika.
There was nothing of note happening on board, and the ship’s journey proceeded gracefully. Time passed slowly, and the port of the royal capital was just a stone’s throw away.
“We will be arriving at the capital soon, Your Excellency.”
Warren looked out the window and saw that the ship was already at the entrance to the port.
“I understand. Let’s go to the morgue for the last time.”
“Yes! I will show you the way!”
Slowly following the knight’s lead.
The sound of leather shoes on the cold floor echoed through the room for a few dozen seconds.
Arriving at the dock, the sound of the ship being anchored echoes through the air.
“Please stand guard outside.”
Separating from the knight, he stepped into the morgue.
Inside, there was only one stretcher.
The body of the “shadow” lying on the floor was so carefully handled and carried that it looked as if it would start moving at any moment.
Looking at the deep scar on his neck, Warren, who had given the order, felt pain in his heart and cast his eyes down.
“May they rest in peace under the spirits of our fallen heroes.”
To the knights who have been scattered throughout the long history and to the Lord. He prayed sincerely that they might find peace after death.
“Your Excellency, may I?”
“Is something wrong?”
“Professor Oz is here, and he would like to see you right now. He seemed to want to check on the corpse as it is, regarding the matter of the half-monster…”
Come to think of it; today was the day Oz was coming to the royal capital.
“It seems that he went to the trouble of preparing a ship and came all the way here.”
Warren replied with a hint from the knight’s voice and continued,
“No problem, I’ll be on my way.”
“Well, then, I’ll tell him that ── P-Professor Oz!
After the knight’s surprised voice.
“I’m sorry, I heard you were here.”
The door was opened, and Oz, dressed in white, stepped into the morgue.
“Professor Oz, I have heard so much about you.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you. Forgive my rudeness, but I have come here on urgent business.”
Then Warren said to the knight who was looking at him outside the door.
“You may leave now. I need to speak with Professor Oz.”
“Please do not open the door. …Even if there’s a commotion in this room.”
There is no need to make him leave. Why did Warren make the knight leave?
Having doubts, Oz turned his back on Warren.
“I see… I should say as expected of the Prime Minister.”
Then he mouthed the words and grinned.
“Professor Oz, this ship was working in secret. Even His Majesty does not know which ship was under disguise under my direction. The only people who know are those who can be counted on both hands.”
“Yes, I was aware of that.”
Hearing his immediate answer, Warren understood everything.
As he listened, Oz’s true identity and purpose became clearer.
“──Professor Oz, you are the Red Fox, aren’t you?”
“What do you say, so suddenly…?”
And Warren could guess his purpose for coming to this ship.
“The purpose of your visit to this ship is to take my life and also the corpse of the half-monster, isn’t it?”
“I have good reason to conclude that you are a Red Fox. But it doesn’t matter much now ── Professor Oz, why were you in Magna during the summer turmoil? According to the knight, you were stopped in your tracks due to a roadblock.”
This was what the knight told him before he left the port city of Magna today.
“Please don’t say that you went to buy materials for your research. I know that you have met and spoken with Ain-sama. It is hard to believe that you made two business trips in such a short period.”
“Yes, of course, it is too much of a stretch to say that you were the mastermind orchestrating the turmoil just because you were in the city. But it does seem somewhat related to the case of Viscount Sage that you were there when a monster similar to that attacked the city.”
Oz listened with a sly grin on his face as he was talked down.
“I’ve also just realized something about the mastermind behind Viscount Sage that Ain-sama told me about.”
He says nonchalantly as if he is trying to corner Oz.
“It was difficult to find out about the mastermind behind Viscount Sage. There were no traces and too little information. But if there was someone as puzzling as this, even I can easily guess it. After all, it was someone who had easy access to Viscount Sage and who had provided him with technology.”
And by the way, Warren said.
“The outburst at the Tower of Wisdom was also caused by someone, wouldn’t you say?”
“…It’s great of you to be able to see through that much, isn’t it? Kufufu… I was right to take the risk of coming to see you…!”
Oz put his hand on his forehead, smiled broadly, and then took out a book inside his white coat. He opened it and pressed his palm against it, and a number of dazzling light arrows began to float in the air.
“Your Excellency, the Prime Minister, are you sure it was good for you to be alone?”
“Yes, because this is for the best.”
He had thought about it and let the knight go, just in case.
“I am sorry, Prime Minister, but you are in the way of fulfilling my wish! His Highness must grow further! I must make him shine… more brightly than the out-of-control Arche──!”
Then the arrows of light arising from the book increase in dazzle.
A moment later, a stroke of light similar to the beam of light produced by the outburst of the Tower of Wisdom and pregnant with destructive power was about to be released.
When Oz realized, his entire body was covered in a bright red haze.
He could not move his body, even if he wanted to.
The hand that was pressing against the book was lifted up, and the book was dropped to the ground.
Appalled, he suddenly felt pain throughout his body and screamed.
“Gahh …ah… Aaaaaggghhhhh!?”
Eventually, he fell to his knees, leaving a large bead of sweat on his forehead.
Warren turned around, and Oz’s eyes widened as he saw the jewel clutched in Warren both hands.
“I have never even shown this to His Majesty. This is a powerful tool that uses the power of my magic stone to bind an opponent and take his life in the blink of an eye.”
It was a powerful magic tool that he had prepared for self-defense so that he could fight even if he were alone.
“Kufufufu… hahahahahahaha! You say such strange… things! Taking away life in the blink of an eye, you say? What a ridiculous lie! I live like this! I’m still… alive after all this!”
Warren’s forehead was also covered with large drops of sweat.
“However, magic stone, you say…? That’s strange… I heard that the Prime Minister is a pure human…!”
“Oh, I understand! Are you perhaps──”
“No need to waste your breath──! Good heavens…!”
“Such a shame….! It is such a shame! I didn’t expect our long-awaited reunion to turn out like this!”
Oz’s eyes glittered gold as he became breathless.
A whirlpool of magic power enveloped the supposedly solemn morgue. In the midst of the intermingling of each other’s thoughts, Oz was still fearless and smiling, despite the overwhelming odds against him.
“Just as you were on high alert! Of course, I am as well!”
The book that fell to the ground opened by itself and floated in the air. The same light as before was produced, but this time it did not emit a glow.
A black stone emerged from the light and flew toward the body of the “shadow.” It gouged out the corpse’s chest and bit into it with a sticky sound.
The dragging sound came from behind Warren, and he turned his gaze gently.
The body of the “shadow” that should have died stood up.
The chest was cracked open, and a black shadow appeared from within, invading the entire body. The muscles of the body swelled like balloons, just like the Wyvern that Viscount Sage had with him, and even the physical appearance of the body was affected by the change. Even its human-like head soon developed ferocious fangs and sharp horns, transforming into an appearance reminiscent of the ogre that once attacked the adventurer’s town of Baltic.
The cry was so shrill that it shook the entire ship, unlike all the previous disturbances.
The knight, who had remained silent up to this point, finally couldn’t resist and stepped in.
“This is… Your Excellency? What in the world is happening?”
“Stand back! Together with the other knights──”
The transformed “shadow” corpse went straight for the knight and snapped his neck. It was a quick enough event to be completed in the space of a blink of an eye, and the next target was, of course, Warren.
It closed the distance before Warren could work his new magic tool.
It grabbed him by the arm and wrestled him to the floor.
The jewel in his hand spilled out and rolled to the front of Oz.
“Hah… Hah… I never thought that you had prepared such a magic tool… How did you manage to prepare such a magic tool…?”
He stood up, though weakly, and found himself looking at the jewel.
“I understand. This is the one made by that abominable Elder Lich Misty, isn’t it? No wonder you were able to corner me. Oh, you don’t need to explain. I can pretty much guess. My lab coat was specially made to be completely impervious to outside influences, but with her magic tools, I was convinced. It’s easy to see why you couldn’t have taken my life in the blink of an eye.”
With these words, the body of the “shadow” let go of Warren’s hand.
Warren struggled to escape and reached into his pocket to retrieve another magic tool.
He was mercilessly stabbed through the chest.
A breath later, fresh blood flew through the air, wetting his surroundings with a tide of blood.
No words could be uttered.
Only his heavy breathing and a weak, panting voice echoed through the morgue.
“It is because it was in your chest.”
It was indeed in Warren’s chest.
A magic stone, glowing a faint, vermilion color.
“The magic of the same race tends to have a hard time communicating with other members of the same race. That’s probably the downside of it.”
“Ah… hah… ah…”
“Please don’t look at me with such fearful eyes. But, no wonder the Prime Minister was an obstacle. How abominable… to be disturbed in this way, as it was hundreds of years ago.”
Although he was worn out and his steps were heavy, Oz closed the distance between him and Warren. With a body that would collapse at any moment.
──Tap, tap, tap!
The sound of many footsteps coming from the corridor leading to the morgue.
“It’s a perfect time, isn’t it?”
The next moment, many knights rushed in.
Then Oz simultaneously flashed his eyes at the body and aimed the “shadow” body at him this time.
“Ugh…? S-someone… the corpse turned into a monster and suddenly…!”
He begged for help, fighting the impact of being slammed against the wall.
The bones of his entire body were struck. It was obvious without medical treatment that he had broken bones in several places. Although he wanted to complain about the unplanned damage, it was his own fault.
“Professor Oz! ──Your Excellency!”
“Everyone, draw your swords! It’s coming!”
“We’ll protect them both at once! Stay alert!”
From the knights’ point of view, Oz seemed to be only one of the victims.
The transformed corpse was undoubtedly strong, but it was not impossible to deal with if a number of knights were set up in an alert posture from the beginning. Therefore, the knights would win this battle.
“Let’s eliminate it!”
The battle began as soon as the knight who led the group spoke.
Warren, beside him, peeked through his hazy vision. He knew that he must be either dead or so badly wounded that he would be in a coma for a long time.
──And then he saw it.
The sight of Oz looking at his own devastation and secretly laughing.