Editors: PervySageChuck, Nate, Skythewood
There was a disturbance at Italica’s main gate.
Usually, the traffic here would be flowing briskly, and between the merchants and the taxmen they had to deal with, the area would be very lively. However, that bustle was nowhere to be seen today. A pile of wood and furniture blocked the main gate, denying all who would enter.
On top of the city wall, which was three stories tall, the sentries were lining up and pointing their crossbows at them.
They had even installed a polybolos, which could release multiple bolts in sequence.
In addition, they had many things that were difficult to imagine as weapons. For instance, there were steaming cauldrons, suspended over fires.
If it were located by a river or on a mountain top, one might think it was a cookpot for a witch. But on top of a city wall, there was no way to think it was there to prepare food.
“I hope they don’t decide to give us a bath…”
Kurata, who was driving the HMV, muttered those words. Itami thought, they can’t hear you. In variety TV shows, the “bath” in question was little more than a harmless prop, but in reality, it was a horrible device on par with chemical weapons.
Dying from being scalded to death by hot water would be a long and painful way to go.
Being scalded by hot water over much of the body would cause the formation of full-body blisters and a consequent loss of body fluids, leading to dehydration. If that was not enough to kill a person, the loss of skin would also invite infection. The dead tissues would then rot and lead to sepsis, plunging the victim into terrible pain. Even if they somehow survived, they would bear the scars and agony for life.
If he had known that this was not water, but rather molten lead, Itami would have ordered an immediate retreat because he was keenly aware of the stories where people tried to kill themselves by self-immolating, but somehow managed to survive after incredible suffering.
Italica’s defenders used weapons that were quite different from those of Itami and his colleagues. They were sharp, or hot, and at a glance one could call them “implements for murder”.
The term “killing intent” came up often in TV serials, light novels, or manga, but Itami had never felt that sort of thing during his life in modern society. Perhaps one could only sense these things after becoming a martial arts master. What he could feel, right now, was a sense of pain or heat whenever he looked at those things. In addition to the caution coming from the defenders, he could feel eyes filled with murderous intent fixed on them.
“Friend or foe?! If you are a friend, then come out!”
Although he didn’t know the meaning of those words being shouted from above him, he could tell from their tone. He whispered to Lelei, “Doesn’t sound like a welcome. Should we try another city?”
“The people in the town look very busy too, so it looks like we can’t discuss things with them properly. Although I don’t know what they’ll be fighting against, I don’t want to be involved in it. Frankly speaking, my safety and yours is my top priority. What do you think?”
“Yeah, they’re dying to have us in there.”
As Kurata grumbled from the passenger seat, Sergeant Major Kuwabara said over the wireless, “If they don’t move, we don’t move”. The two of them had their rifles in hand and carefully aimed them outside.
However, Lelei used her usual blank expression and steady voice to say, “Rejected”.
“But we can’t get in while they’re like this.”
“There are other entrances. Italica is a plains city. There will be gates on the north, south, east and west. There’s no way that there’s no other way in.”
“Itami, you wait first. I’ll go over there to talk to them.”
With that, Lelei made to stand. However, Tuka immediately stopped her and told her to wait.
Tuka, like Itami, wanted to know why they had to go to this town.
Although she wasn’t afraid like Itami was, when one thought about it, there was no benefit to getting involved with a town under siege. There was a chance they might be pulled into the conflict… well, if they entered the town, they would definitely be involved.
Lelei replied to her: “It’s not a question of entering the town, but I want to let them know we’re not enemies. If we leave like this, they will think we’re part of the enemy forces. If we come back in the future, or go to other towns, that news will spread. It’ll be inconvenient.”
“However, are you going to pull these people into it because of us?”
Tuka gestured to Itami, Kurokawa and the others as she spoke.
“They helped us without asking for repayment. Shouldn’t we keep them out of danger?”
“That’s why I’m going. We’ve received a lot of kindness from Itami and the others, so I don’t want them to think that Itami and the rest are enemies.”
“Are you doing this for Itami?”
“Yes. After all, he and the others own this special riding carriage.”
Tuka had to nod as she heard this.
“It’ll be fine. We’ll just say we came to do business and that we’re confirming the situation.”
“I understand. However, I can’t let you go alone. You need protection from arrows.”
As Tuka said that, she began chanting a spell in the language of the fairies.
Almost immediately, they could feel the motion of the wind.
And so, Lelei, Tuka and Rory exited the vehicle.
“Itami, you should wait here.”
After repeating that line, the three of them slowly approached the main gate.
The points of the sentries’ crossbow bolts tracked them as they approached.
As Itami saw this, he felt uneasy even though they had told him to wait. His mind was filled with thoughts like, “As a man, as a soldier, as a human being,” and so on.
All he could do was watch.
Though Itami appeared to be frozen in fear, what he felt was actually pride, or something similar.
Of course, most adults would not say “it’s my honour”, but would deceive themselves with words like “the mission” or “our duty”. However, Itami had always been very honest in this aspect, and he quietly said, “I hate scary things, but I hate losing face too…”
After clucking his tongue loudly, he left his Type 64 rifle in the vehicle, carefully secured the heavy No. 2 bulletproof vest on his body, and got out of the HMV.
By the way, they were all equipped like the troops in Iraq.
He had a pistol strapped to his thigh, but he left his rifle behind because he did not want to appear threatening by carrying a weapon-like object.
“I’m going over too. Frankly speaking, I have to go. Let me go.”
“Nobody’s stopping you, are they?”
After freezing for a few seconds, Itami said, “Sergeant-Major Kuwabara, I’ll leave the rest to you. If anything happens, come over and help”. With that, he jogged over to Lelei and the others.
Piña was forced to make a decision.
She had no basis for her decision, but she had to decide anyway. This would be a big gamble.
“Gray, what should we do?”
Even the experienced Gray could not answer Piña’s question. Nobody could guarantee the outcome, and under these conditions, the need to make a big decision like this turned into an immense source of stress. This was called the “Chains of Commanding”.
The soldiers gripped their weapons, awaiting Piña’s decision.
The bowmen’s hands trembled as they drew their strings taut.
The farmers waited with their metal farming implements.
The sword-bearing soldiers, the people of Italica, all their lives rested on her decisions.
To begin with, would the Apostle of Emroy, Rory Mercury, as well as an Elf and a mage, actually join a group of bandits?
The answer… was “no”. She wanted it to be “no”.
As for why… well, if they had been part of the bandits from the start, they would have taken part in the first attack and Italica would have fallen long ago.
However, Rory and the others might not have been with the bandits from the beginning. They might have been waiting for the right time to join in. She could not conclude that they were not part of the bandits just because they did not take part in the first attack.
And if they were not part of the bandits, then why had Rory and the others come to Italica? Why had they come to a town under siege?
She should just deny them entry, but that might turn them into enemies.
Piña wanted Rory and friends on her side. After all, the townspeople and soldiers would be certain of victory with an Apostle of Emroy, an Elf and a mage on their side.
She sensed that she lacked the leadership skills to make her men certain of their victory.
Although she wasn’t sure why Rory and the others had come, if she could talk them into joining, then she could tell the residents, “Help is here!”
No, there was no time for long discussions. She had to make them her allies.
Either that, or forbid them entry. She had two choices.
As Piña was thinking of what to do, the sound of knocking came from the outside of the gate.
She held her breath.
Then, Piña gulped, and made a decision. She would use her imposing demeanor to pin down the other party and drag them over to her side.
The thrice-bolted gate was forcefully and powerfully thrust open.
“You’re here at last!”
After feeling a dull thudding sensation through her hands, Piña saw Rory, the Elf girl, and the mage looking at a man who was collapsed in front of the door.
His eyes had rolled up in his head and he had lost consciousness.
Immediately, the three of them stared coldly at Piña.
“Could it be… that… that was my fault?”
The white-clad mage, the black-clad priestess, and the blonde, blue-eyed Elf nodded as one.
Rory and Lelei knew it was just an accident, so they did not blame Piña, but instead they went to help the unconscious Itami.
Itami was a big guy, and he was wearing a heavy suit of armor. With the help of the others, they managed to drag him into town. Then, they thought of removing his clothes to help him breathe.
First, they should remove the thing on his head. After that, they wanted to take his shirt off, but what they thought was a cloth shirt turned out to have metal plates in it. The shirt was mysterious in more than just its appearance, and they had no idea where to start. They decided to try and loosen his collar.
Rory put Itami’s head in her lap, while Tuka took a water canteen from his belt.
The sentries and townspeople gathered round to ask, “What’s going on?”
Piña choked up and could not answer.
Lelei used all the knowledge she had to begin diagnosing Itami.
She peeled his eyelids open to check on his eyeballs, then looked at his nose, ears and mouth to check for bleeding or injury, palpated his face and head to see if there were any hidden injuries, and after making sure he was all right she breathed a sigh of relief.
After that, she finally looked at Piña with accusing eyes.
“What were you trying to do?!”
However, the first to speak was not Lelei, but Tuka.
As she poured the canteen’s water on Itami’s head, she scolded Piña for opening the door so forcefully when she knew someone was on the other side.
She even went so far as to say rude things like “Dumber than a Goblin”, but Piña knew that it was her fault for being careless, so she remained silent, an apologetic expression on her face. She looked nothing like an Imperial Princess now.
When people got angry, the people around them would either get excited or become even calmer. Lelei was now very calm, and she seemed to have realized she was now in Italica.
With a glance, she realized the exit was shut and the bolt was in place. The guards and the townspeople had gathered around them.
She couldn’t help glancing at Rory… but the black-clad priestess simply smiled in amusement.
Itami recovered consciousness after a while.
“Owie,” he said as he rubbed his chin, while opening his eyes. It was then that he realized the face of Rory, the black-clad priestess, now filled his field of vision.
Her black hair grazed across Itami’s face. It was a little prickly.
She looked very young, but her expression was like a mature woman who was very experienced with playing around. He couldn’t tell if she was joking with him or being serious. Her hands held Itami’s head and moved it to her thigh. There was a bewitching beauty in her black pupils.
“Ara~ he’s awake.”
The words came from this world, but he could understand them easily. Plus, Rory’s voice was like the tinkling of silver bells, and pleased his ears.
“Do you remember everything?”
The door that had suddenly flung open smashed into his face and jaw, and everything had gone black. It would seem he had passed out for a while.
As he opened his eyes further, behind Rory’s face… a lot of people were looking at Itami, and he saw Lelei’s worried face.
Suddenly, he heard Tuka scolding someone angrily.
He had been furiously studying this world’s language, but now he did not need a translator to understand the words around him. The language center in his brain must have made certain connections, probably caused by being bashed in the head.
The No.2 bulletproof vest was heavy, so Itami only managed to rise with great effort.
For some reason, his upper body was soaked.
As Tuka was halfway through her scolding, she seemed to realize Itami had gotten up and she asked, “Are you alright?”
“Yup. I’ve let you see an embarrassing side of me.”
Itami pulled up the zipper on his shirt and did up the buttons of his bulletproof vest.
After that, he retrieved his helmet from Lelei and tidied his messed-up gear.
He heard Sergeant-Major Kuwabara trying to reach him, and pressed the switch on his lower chest.
“Lieutenant, are you okay? I was worried.”
“Kind of, yeah. I passed out for a bit.”
“If you had waited any longer, I would have ordered our guys to burst in.”
Being able to avoid an unnecessary battle was a form of good fortune. It would be terrible if they left behind casualties because if this. Kuwabara had waited so long because such thoughts were on his mind. The need to rescue a captured comrade and the need to avoid a needless fire fight. It was hard for him to decide which to prioritize.
“I’ll contact you again once I figure out what’s going on. Stand by for now.”
“All right then, who’s going to tell me what’s going on?”
Itami was addressing the people around him.
Rory looked at Tuka, Tuka looked at Lelei, Lelei looked at Piña, and Piña looked pleadingly to everyone around her. In the end, they all looked away, uneasy looks on their faces.
Was it lukewarm or confused…? Well, the best word for their mood at that moment might be “leisurely”.
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