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Noel looked around at the ice shards scattered around the area and stood there in admiration.
“T-that’s too strong…! Even a bunch of soldiers couldn’t match her, but as expected of the disciples of the Headhunter and the Claw Saint…!
“That’s brilliant, both of you!”
After defeating all the dolls, the four of them stood in front of the ice wall.
“Come on, let’s break down this wall and rescue Flora-san!”
“Yeah. Let’s go, Tito!”
Luna and Tito braced themselves against the ice wall and kneaded their strength.
The ice shards began to move at their feet.
In the blink of an eye, they all came together and once again formed an ice doll.
Furthermore, cold air spread from the ice wall through the floor.
The ice dolls that got the cold air became more ferocious.
“Was the attack too weak…!”
“This time, I’ll put an end to it! [Claw Concert]!”
Tito slashes at them with her claws, but the ice quickly gathers and returns to its original form.
“I-it is no good! No matter how many times I slash it, it always returns to its original form…!”
“This one, too…!”
Luna also attacked another one, but it regenerated right after she cut it.
Moreover, with each regeneration, the toughness of its body is increasing.
“It’s hard…!? Our attacks are getting more and more ineffective…!”
“Don’t tell me it got stronger with the power of the curse…!”
“Certainly, we defeated all of them! What’s with that ice doll?”
Luna and Tito struggled against the increasingly stronger enemies, but they destroyed them.
Then, all the pieces gathered and combined to form a giant doll that could reach the ceiling.
The ice giant slowly raises its arms.
“Kuh….! What a power…!”
Tito’s face contorts as she catches the swinging arm.
The arm that was about to crush Tito was slashed down by Luna.
The ice arm falls from halfway and crashes to the ground, shattering into pieces.
The shattered ice gathers like a magnet and returns to the form of an arm again.
“This one regenerates, too…!”
The ice giants stormed around, trying to crush the two.
But the ice is so hard that it repels the attacks, and even if they cut it down, it regenerates immediately.
“Kuh, this hardness is more than Mithril Boar…!”
“Besides, it’s getting stronger with each regeneration! Could it be that as long as the ice spirit’s cursed power exists, it will regenerate indefinitely…?”
“Then I guess we’d better solve the ice spirit first! If we don’t break through that wall of ice while the giant is still standing…”
“B-but if the wall that is trapping Flora-san is also the power of the ice spirit’s curse, it may be sturdier than the ice giant…!”
At that moment, Noel’s voice rang out.
“Please wait! I have brought this baby for this moment!”
Lexia’s face lit up when she saw the long barrel of the gun Noel held up.
“Magic gun…! Oh, I see. Now it’s time for it!”
“Yes! It took me a little time to assemble it, but I’m going to go all out! Luna-san, Tito-san, get back!”
The ice giant, aware of the deadly energy emitted from the magic gun, rushed at Noel.
“Watch out, Noel──!”
Before Luna and Tito could get in to save her.
“I’m going to blow up the entire giant at once! Fire!”
A scorching beam of light shoots out from the muzzle, piercing through the giant’s torso.
The ice giant rattles and falls to the ground with a tremendous impact.
The magic bullet that penetrated the giant further hit the ice wall behind it and exploded! The thick ice shattered.
“Wha──It penetrated that giant! What kind of crazy power is that…?”
“It even broke through the ice wall…! Noel-san, that’s amazing…!”
“I designed it with physical and magic-resistant monsters in mind! Theoretically, even the walls with magic protection should shatter!”
After the ice wall shattered, Flora, trapped in the ice throne, was stunned and wide-eyed.
Noel tried to run up to her.
But Flora shook her head, pale.
“No, Noel… please, don’t come…! Don’t come…!”
In response to Flora’s trepidation, a tremendous blizzard blew from the throne.
“Kuh? This is… What’s this blizzard…!?”
“Ugh…! Even though I’m wearing a magic tool that prevents blizzards… my lungs are going to freeze…!”
The ice and snow, which even exceeded the protection of the magic tool, caused Noel to show a look of anguish.
“T-the power of the curse is getting stronger than before…!”
“Lexia, Breath of Light!”
Lexia nodded at Luna’s shout and at that moment.
Crack, crack, crack…!
Sharp icicles appeared above Luna and Tito’s heads.
Lexia turned pale.
“Look out! Get away from there!”
“Kuh, I can’t breathe…”
“No, I can’t move…!”
Luna and Tito are pinned down by the blizzard, and icicles are raining down on them──
“What are you doing to my Luna and Tito─────────!”
The moment Lexia shouted, a transparent wave was released from her body.
“T-this power…!? Gu-gugu… Guahh…!”
As soon as the wave motion engulfed Flora, she writhed, and the blizzard and icicles disappeared.
“This is the Breath of Light…!”
“Good Lexia, keep pulling the ice spirit off!”
Flora screamed and suffered in the clear light that resembled winter sunlight──and then her appearance changed.
“T-this little lass!”
A cracked rage gushed from Flora’s mouth. Her ice blue eyes, like Noel’s, turned a dark blue like a frozen lake, and her gray hair turned pure white.
“Nee-san! ──No, no, you can’t be the ice spirit…?”
“Curse you, curse you, curse you! Using such a strange technique! Do you think you can use such a weak technique on me?”
The ice chains binding Flora shattered, and Flora──or rather, the ice spirit──rose to its feet.
A tremendous blizzard burst from its body and scattered Lexia’s waves.
“N-no way… Lexia’s Breath of Light was broken…!”
“No, it wasn’t; it was repelled by the power of the curse…!”
“This powerless human being! I will use my power to kill you with my curse!”
The ice spirit held up its hand, and the ice and snow swirled and attacked Lexia.
Lexia quickly blocked it with her arm, but her arm was instantly covered in ice.
Looking down at the pale Lexia, the ice spirit let out a loud, triumphant laugh.
“Haha, hahaha! My curse has been engraved on your body! You seem to have some kind of strange power, but you can’t use it anymore…! The ice will slowly eat into you and eventually freeze your organs. You will die frozen in fear…!”
Noel stared at the figure that had borrowed Flora’s body.
“You are the ice spirit that has taken over my sister and is wreaking havoc in the Romel Empire…!”
“Ku, fufu. I am the evil mystery that has lived since ancient times. Ruler of death and ice.”
“Now return my sister and lift the curse on Lexia-san!”
“Fufu, fufufu… I see, you are this woman’s sister. Unfortunately, I can’t give her back to you. This body is very comfortable. Soon I shall become whole, and it will be mine forever.”
“That kind of thing… I won’t let you; I won’t let you do that…!”
Lexia raises her voice on behalf of Noel, who grits her teeth.
“Hmm, what bravado, you powerless, pathetic lass. I thought I would eat your gut little by little, but it’s too much trouble. I’ll turn you all into ice sculptures.”
The ice spirit looked down at the four of them with a cold gaze and held out its hand to them──
“Ara, are you going to finish us off so easily…!”
Lexia smiled wryly as she shivered in the crawling cold air.
“This ice curse you put on me… is going to kill me eventually, isn’t it? I wonder if you are so unsure of your own strength that you can’t even wait for that…? Or are you afraid of this helpless, pathetic little girl…?”
“…Hou. How can you still talk like that when you are under the influence of my curse?”
The ice spirit squinted coldly and then licked its tongue with a twisted mouth.
“Kuku, kukuku… I could kill you at will, but I’ve changed my mind. I’ll imprint my true power and fear in your eyes. I’ll save the real fun for the end.”
A whirlwind of blizzard snow rises up from under the ice spirit’s feet.
“To become my perfect body, I need a large number of sacrifices along with the light of the full moon. On the coming night of the full moon, I will first feed on the blood of the abominable imperial family and the people of the Imperial Capital. Witness with your own eyes the end of the human world. You can look forward to the time when the power of my curse will lay waste to all… If you can survive until then, that is! Haha, hahaha!”
Creak, creak, creak…!
A wall of ice regenerates, separating Lexia and the others from the ice spirit.
“! Wait! Fire!”
Noel loaded and released a magic bullet, but this time it only slightly pierced the surface of the ice wall.
“N-no way, the magic bullet was repelled! Nee-san…! Nee-san!”
The ice wall clouded over, obscuring Flora’s figure and the throne.
Noel’s cries echoed emptily in the cold silence.
Soon after, the ice wall became completely clouded, and at the same time, Lexia collapsed.
“Lexia, hold on!”
Noel came to her senses and rushed to Lexia, holding her hand with a tearful look on her face.
“Lexia-san! I’m sorry; if I hadn’t gotten you all involved, this wouldn’t have happened…!”
“Hah, hah… no, it’s not Noel’s fault… we decided to fight the ice spirit! Don’t worry; I can handle this kind of curse… I can handle it with my spirit…!”
Lexia smiled fearlessly at Noel, who clung to her.
The ice curse, however, is gradually growing roots aimed at Lexia’s heart.
“Kuh, I always told you not to be reckless…!”
“But I managed to get through, didn’t I…?”
Luna placed her hand on Lexia’s arm to warm it, but when she saw that the ice showed no sign of melting, she furrowed her brow.
“This ice can’t just be warmed…! Tito, is there a way to break the ice curse in the ancient book that Schleimann-sama entrusted to you?”
“Y-yes, I’m looking for it now…!”
Tito was frantically flipping through the ancient book she had taken out of her backpack when she suddenly leaned forward and said.
“There it is! It says that if it is an early curse, the progress can be stopped with medicine! And the ingredients are right here…!”
Tito indicated a page with the names and pictures of the ingredients.
Noel’s expression turned grim as she peeked at it.
“Is it [Fire Ring Grass]?”
“Do you know it, Noel?”
“It is a rare medicinal herb that grows wild only in the northern part of the Romel Empire. It is not available in the markets and is rarely found.”
“I see… then, let’s send Lexia back to the imperial capital and leave immediately. We’ll just have to search everywhere for the native habitat of the Fire Ring Grass…”
“Wait a minute! This herb can be found somewhere at…”
Tito looked at the picture of the Fire Ring Grass as if she were devouring it, but then her eyes widened.
“Yes…! I saw it when I was little! It grew in the forest in my home village!”
“Yes! I will go and get it!”
“But are you alright, Tito?”
Luna called out to her in a concerned tone.
Tito was at a loss for words. The days of being treated like a slave and the frightened faces of the villagers passed through Tito’s mind. Then, she also remembers her only friend, a girl named Emma, whom she had hurt while trying to protect her from the monsters.
“(The truth is, I’m a little scared… but if I don’t go, Lexia-san will…!)”
She looked at Lexia, who was in pain and squeezed her shaking hands.
“(Don’t worry, I’m not the same as I was then…!)”
Tito took a deep breath and was about to open her mouth when.
The silence was broken by Lexia’s bright voice.
“Well then, let’s all go…!”
“Good grief, I knew you’d say that. …As for me, I’d like you to rest easy.”
Luna shrugged her shoulders while Lexia endured the curse and puffed out her chest.
“It’s to break my curse, and besides, I can’t let Tito go alone…! Don’t worry, Tito, we’re here for you…!”
Luna and Noel nodded to Lexia, who was closing one eye to endure the pain.
Tears welled up in Tito’s eyes as she was gently pushed back by her warm smile.
The four of them left the rocky cave and once again took the dog-drawn sled toward Tito’s hometown.
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