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    “Heh.”

    As Ralyza exhaled, he swung his arm, and cone-shaped ice pillars flew toward Cain. Cain cloaked his sword in the wind which shattered the ice pillars into pieces. Then, without giving him a moment to breathe, the demon continued launching repeated attacks with more ice pillars. However, Cain mowed them all down.

    The battle continued for a while, and the room was quickly enveloped in a cold mist.

    “Haha, not yet!”

    Ralyza’s ice pillars became sharper and faster with each attack, as if he still had plenty of reserves. It was clear that he was toying with them.

    On the other hand, Cain was on the defensive, and Rinda realized it was probably because he was trying to protect him. He bit his lip in frustration.

    “Cain, don’t worry about me! I’m the one he’s after, and he won’t really kill me!”

    To Rinda’s surprise, it was not Cain who responded to his statement, but Ralyza.

    “Well, of course, I won’t kill you. I wouldn’t mind taking one of your limbs, though.”

    “That’s enough! I won’t let you hurt him!”

    Cain remained still in front of Rinda and knocked down the icy pillars that sprouted from the ground as if stabbing them. Rinda stared back defiantly, trying to summon all his strength.

    “Oh, you’re such a bother. You cast a teleportation-proof spell on this incubus, didn’t you?”

    Ralyza scowled at Cain as he mentioned the incubus, referring to Rinda. Teleportation-proof likely meant that Rinda was currently unable to use teleportation magic.

    “Of course, I did. You seem like a nasty piece of work. I thought you might try to cast teleportation magic in front of me and snatch Rinda away. Looks like I was right, scary-looking old man, huh?”

    “Don’t get too cocky, you pitiful excuse for a human being.”

    It seemed that thanks to Cain, Rinda had not been abducted by Ralyza. Rinda clung to Cain’s uniform, grateful for his protection.

    Ralyza exhaled sharply, and a freezing gust of air shot out from his mouth. The cold air sharpened into needle-like points and formed a swarm that attacked Cain. However, midway through, the swarm split into two, with one part heading towards Rinda.

    “Ugh… Waaah!”

    In front of Rinda, who instinctively shielded his face with both hands, the swarm of needles was blown away by a small gust of wind. It was Cain’s wind magic. Rinda gasped and looked at Cain, noticing that several streaks of red blood were flowing from his right arm and dripping onto the floor.

    “Cain!”

    Rinda screamed in alarm. He had sacrificed his magical energy to protect him, which meant he couldn’t fully defend himself.

    “It’s just a scratch, so don’t worr—”

    “Oh, really? Are you okay? How about this? And this? What about this one?”

    To reassure Rinda, Cain turned around and smiled, but at the same time, a multitude of sharp ice needles attacked him in large numbers. Moreover, Ralyza simultaneously created multiple swarms and assaulted Cain from all directions.

    Cain quickly bent his body and thrust his sword into the floor with a loud thud. Strong winds surged from the floor, filling the entire room. Rinda, to avoid being blown away by the raging wind, tightly wrapped his tail around his waist and closed his eyes instinctively.

    “Rinda, are you alright?”

    When the wind finally subsided, Rinda opened his eyes. The ice needles had disappeared, but it seemed that Cain couldn’t block all the attacks, as he had small cuts all over his body.

    Even so, Rinda nodded tearfully as he looked at Cain standing in front of him without moving.

    “Yeah, I’m fine…”

    “Enough of this. How about you hand that over?” Ralyza said, his cold gaze fixed on Rinda, while he pointed his chin towards him. “If you don’t hand him over, I’ll make sure you suffer before killing you in an instant.”

    “What if I say I won’t hand Rinda over?”

    “In that case, I’ll make you suffer slowly before killing you. How about I freeze each of your limbs one by one and crush them in front of you?”

    “You’re one sadistic demon, aren’t you?”

    Cain spoke with disdain as he pulled his sword from the floor and made a slashing motion in the air. A sharp gust of wind transformed into a blade and attacked Ralyza. Ralyza wrapped himself in his spread wings to shield himself. In that moment, Cain grabbed Rinda’s arm and half-forced him to stand.

    “Let’s go!”

    “Yeah, okay!”

    Cain pulled Rinda’s hand, aiming for the entrance of the room. The door was right there, but the distance felt endlessly far. Nevertheless, with Cain leading him, they tried to reach the door—right at that moment.

    “Don’t let them escape!”

    With Ralyza’s command, the shattered door froze and rapidly became covered in ice.

    “Damn it!”

    Cain clicked his tongue and prepared his sword to break the ice. However, before he could do so, an incredibly cold blast enveloped Rinda and Cain.

    Cain immediately hugged Rinda to his chest to protect him from the cold.

    “Ugh!”

    A groan escaped them as they were enveloped in the cutting cold. Despite being wrapped in Cain’s arms, it felt like their feet might freeze.

    “Such a hassle… Truly a hassle,”

    Colder than the cold air was the voice that echoed from behind Rinda and Cain.

    “Just freeze them both.”

    “Seriously… Are you going to freeze him too?”

    Cain managed to speak while trying to catch his breath. However, Ralyza showed no concern and instead responded with apparent delight.

    “You won’t freeze yourself, will you?”

    Cain fell silent at Ralyza’s words. It was true, that was the plan.

    “Even if you freeze first, I can retrieve him by myself. It doesn’t matter if he’s slightly injured.”

    It seemed Ralyza planned to freeze both of them and then capture Rinda after Cain had died. He had devised this plan after observing Cain’s actions, knowing that he would never allow Rinda to be harmed.

    All he had to do now was freeze and watch. For Ralyza, it was the perfect spectacle.

    “Grr…!”

    “Cain!”

    Cain, still holding onto Rinda, sank to his knees while Rinda shivered uncontrollably from the cold. Rinda looked up at Cain, who had turned as white as snow, with ice clinging to the tips of his hair and eyelashes.

    “Cain! Cain!”

    Rinda struggled desperately to break free from his grip, but Cain’s arms showed no sign of letting go. He held Rinda firmly in his embrace.

    “Cain! No! You’ll… you’ll die!” Rinda exclaimed, shivering in the cold. Yet, there was a faint warmth in the areas where Cain touched him. He was using his magic to protect him.

    “How pathetic. The valiant knight who came to rescue you is about to be frozen right before your eyes,” Ralyza mocked, floating above them and looking down at the two freezing figures near the door.

    “It’s a shame,” he continued, his laughter contrasting with his words. “If only you had decided to fight me instead, it would have been an even match. Oh, what a pity.”

    His shoulders shrugged, seemingly indifferent despite his words. his face bore only a wicked smile.

    “You demon,” Rinda said, his voice trembling.

    “Make sure to watch as that knight dies. Don’t forget that this knight’s death is on you.”

    Ralyza chuckled softly as he spoke to Rinda. It wasn’t the cold that made Rinda shiver but the realization that, if things continued this way, Cain would be killed because of him.

    “Cain, let go! If I go to him, maybe I can still do something… I’ll tell him to spare you, so please, let me go… Cain!”

    Rinda’s desperate plea was met with a swift kick from Cain.

    “Fool! Don’t listen to him! Only listen to me!”

    Cain’s face was pale, frozen almost, as he spoke each word as if chewing on them.

    “It’s okay… It’ll be okay, so don’t give up…”

    Cain’s eyelashes were frozen, making it hard for him to fully open his eyes. Yet, even with his eyes only slightly open, Cain’s gaze hadn’t lost its intensity.

    “Cain…”

    Rinda could feel Cain’s warmth emanating from his arms, his back, his chest—everywhere he touched him. He was comforting him, encouraging him, more concerned about uplifting his spirits than protecting himself. Feeling that warmth and understanding his feelings through their skin-to-skin contact, Rinda’s heart swelled with emotion.

    But then, a stronger wave of cold enveloped them, and Cain let out a groan.

    “Cain!”

    Rinda couldn’t help but cry out. Cain pulled him closer, as if he were the one seeking solace now.

    “I’ll tell you something… good…”

    He leaned down, resting his head against his shoulder. In the warmth of their embrace, Cain whispered to Rinda.

    “Cain…? Cain!?”

    Cain’s breathing had become noticeably shallow, almost as if it might stop any moment now. Rinda tightened his grip around him.

    “I…on my way here…received a message from headquarters.”

    “Cain, don’t talk anymore! Cain…! Just let me go…!”

    Rinda held onto Cain, feeling his strength slowly fading away.

    “The… team… from headquarters…they’ve…made it…safely.”

    “Cain!”

    “Which means…everything’s…okay…”

    “Cain! Cain!”

    Rinda desperately called out his name, but Cain’s consciousness was slipping away. If he lost consciousness now, death would likely be the only thing waiting for him. Tears streamed down Rinda’s face, freezing as they fell, and his eyes and cheeks throbbed with pain.

    “When that man dies, I’ll take you out of his arms,” a voice echoed from beyond Cain. It was a cold, mocking voice, taunting and cruel.

    “Yes, how about losing your virginity right in front of his lifeless body? We’ll make sure your every moan is clearly audible. Fufu, just thinking about it gets me excited.”

    Ralyza’s words sent shivers down Rinda’s spine, and he closed his eyes. He knew Ralyza would carry out his threats without hesitation. In front of Cain’s lifeless body, he would violate Rinda to humiliate him.

    “Don’t listen…to him…”

    “Cain…”

    Rinda’s trembling ears picked up on Cain’s faint voice.

    “I’m… alright… he’s… coming…”

    “Cain, he’s coming…? Cain!”

    Rinda could barely make out more than half of what Cain was saying with his nearly frozen lips. He pressed his own ears against Cain’s mouth, desperately trying to hear what he was saying, to understand his message.

    “Rind…a…”

    “Cain! Cain!”

    Rinda screamed with all his might, trying to pull Cain’s fading consciousness back.

    And then, it happened.

    Goooo!

    The room, frozen just moments ago, was suddenly engulfed in an astonishing heat.

    “What… is this?”

    Ralyza, who had maintained his composure, stumbled in the hot gust that swept through the air. The heat showed no sign of subsiding and swirled around the room like a scorching tornado. The room warmed up in an instant, and even Rinda and Cain’s skin, which had been as cold as ice, felt the returning warmth.

    Rinda felt as if he had been revived in an instant and exhaled a rough breath. The cold had made it difficult to breathe properly.

    In Cain’s arms, he moved his head without knowing the current situation.

    “W-What’s happening…?”

    Cain’s arms tightened around him, a strength he hadn’t felt before coursing through them. It was powerful, brimming with energy.

    “What the hell! You were almost dead!”

    Then, with a sudden movement, Cain turned towards the entrance of the room, and Rinda, following his gaze, looked in that direction as well.

    Inside the room, now completely free of ice, a tall figure entered, kicking the door open.

    Nii…”

    As Rinda saw the person and recognized them, tears welled up in his eyes.

    “Sorry, I’m late.”

    There stood Fang, clad in the tattered uniform of a holy knight, brandishing his sword.

    “Brother…!”

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