Demon General Rajas (2nd half)
Translators: Shuvi, Skythewood
Edited by: Someone else (who messed up the formating)
Part 5 <The part that follows right after WN chapter 24>
“— Suimei was used as bait!?”
After Rofuri went out to perform sentry duties against any Mazoku that might follow, Reiji’s roar erupted in the vicinity that turned quiet.
— No need to worry. Gregory started his long speech with that opening line, stunning Reiji who couldn’t believe what he heard, pressing forward as if he was going to grab him by the collar.
He didn’t show a shred of respect. This intense expression of the man known as a hero scared Gregory.
“Is that true!?”
“Y-Yes! It is just as I said.”
Reiji was too shocked to say anything. This was no joking matter, and must be the truth.
As Reiji bit his lips and was about to grab Gregory by his shirt.
Titania who had been at a loss all this while stepped in to restrain Reiji.
“P-Please calm down, Reiji-sama!”
“Gregory isn’t done yet, please let him finish his story…”
Titania had a point. Like she said, Gregory only got to the part about ‘Suimei-dono would be the bait so there shouldn’t be much danger on this end’.
… Seeing Reiji accept her counsel, Titania patted her chest and sighed in relief. Next, Titania who had always been gentle used an unexpectedly stern gaze and voice to command Gregory:
“Gregory, tell us everything with not a single bit of falsehood. Can you do that?”
“... By your will.”
Gregory knelt as he answered the princess. Maybe he was intimidated by her piercing gaze as sweat wetted his forehead and he started his tale again.
“... I heard about this when we met our contact person earlier. According to him, the Mazoku sent an army to the borders of Aster in order to kill the hero. They used Suimei-dono as bait in order to save the hero-dono from that army”
At this moment, Reiji whose expression was gloomy started questioning Gregory.
“You mentioned that Suimei is used as bait, how exactly? Did they ask Suimei to act as a decoy…”
“No. Suimei-dono doesn’t know about this.”
Everyone already expected Gregory to say that, but to pull this off would be rather difficult in reality. Since Suimei was acting as bait without knowing about it himself, a question arises.
“... So how did they make Suimei the bait? Wouldn’t Mehter be attacked?”
“Yes, about that, the plan was enacted to match Suimei-dono’s departure from Mehter…”
“Match his departure?”
“Hmm? Hmm? W-Why? Suimei-kun never said he wanted to leave the capital?”
Yes, when they left the castle, Suimei only told them he wanted to live outside the castle. Mizuki question was only natural, since it contradicted what happened when they left Mehter.
“A-After we set off from Mehter, there was news about Suimei searching for a caravan escort assignment through the adventurer’s guild.”
“Suimei visited the adventurer’s guild?”
“Yes. According to intel, Suimei seemed to have become a member of the Twilight Pavilion. From this, it could be speculated that he planned to leave Mehter all along… The nobles who knew about this and is related to the Demon King subjugation campaign used Suimei to…”
So he was exploited. But this led to more questions. What was Suimei trying to do, he turned down the journey with Reiji and company for the sake of safety in the first place. But despite that, he registered in the adventurer’s guild and accepted a caravan escort request. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t have a plan.
“Suimei-kun, what happened…? It’s dangerous to leave the city, he should know that.”
“I don’t know. But I think Suimei must have acted after thinking it through.”
Seeing that unease was wavering In Mizuki’s eyes, Reiji asked Gregory once again:
“Forget it. The reason why Suimei could become the bait is clear. But why did the nobles did that? They didn’t need to go out of their way and use Suimei as the decoy.”
That’s right, with the Mazoku invading with an army and their allies having limited manpower, the only option was to escape. Since running away would be good enough, there wasn’t any reason to use Suimei as bait.
“Hero-dono, there is a large Mazoku army heading our way. They might be slow because of their scale, but they are still Mazoku after all. No matter how slow they are marching, the area they can cover is on a different level from the march of a human army. In order to avoid the possibility of the hero being captured, Lord Hardias…”
“So it’s Duke Hardias!?”
Because Titania’s voice was filled with surprise, Gregory lowered his head timidly.
Who is this Duke Hardias, I think I heard his name a long while ago.
Reiji tried searching his memories, but came up empty.
“Sorry Tia, but who is Duke Hardias?”
“... Duke Hardias is one of the handful of grand noble in Aster, he had been appointed by father to plan the defence against the Demon King invasion. However…”
“And the matter of Suimei becoming the bait?”
In response, Titania nodded heavily even though she didn’t have any proof. Gregory who knew the situation said:
“...Yes. Like I explained, This is the decision Duke Hardias and some of the nobles made on their own. And of course, they have no doubts about the power of the hero Reiji, but they judged that it was still too early to face the opposing army directly, even with the help of supporting troops. That’s why they came up with this plan.”
“... But even so, this is not a reason to forcibly make Suimei the bait, isn’t that right?”
“With regards to that, it still isn’t clear why the Mazoku can sense the existence of the hero. The Mazoku who were captured by Hardias’ men only said they were here to kill the hero, and nothing more, but even so…. Pardon me, but I can’t confirm the reason with you either, maybe Suimei who was also summoned can disrupt the eyes of the enemy more easily… That’s why false information was leaked to the Mazoku, diverting them to target the caravan Suimei-dono was traveling with.”
This method might be effective too. Their group have not engaged the Mazoku army as of now, which was definitely related to them knowing the existence of the hero, but was unable to pinpoint his location.
Assuming that the Mazoku could sense the summoning of the hero through some means, no matter how accurate that method was, there was value in launching a preemptive attack. They only knew the rough position of the hero and they still eagerly march their army that way. This meant they reckon that they had a good chance of defeating the hero.
In that case, a piece of information was necessary. That was the timing of the hero summoning.
“... The truth might have been exposed to the Mazoku when we announced to the whole world about our journey. But from the attacks so far— Is that possible?”
“That’s right, it’s hard to think of it that way. Like Mizuki said, the Mazoku is moving too fast.”
Therefore, someone amongst the Mazoku sensed the hero summoning before the news broke out.
“How did Duke Hardias leak the false information to the Mazoku…? He couldn’t have an acquaintance in the Mazoku right? How did he manage that?”
“A-According to the contact person, soldiers were sent to Charlotte as messengers to spread the word to those who didn’t know about the Mazoku that the hero was hidden in the caravan heading towards Kurand.”
“I-In that case, could it be…”
Terrible thoughts swirled in her mind as Mizuki’s voice started to tremble. She seemed to have grasped the meaning behind Gregory’s words accurately. The face of the young girl turned pale with unease. Gregory answered with an expression that was a mix of bitterness and regret to the young girl:
“... If the soldiers who only know the false information were captured, they will be interrogated and spill what their mission was. However, if the soldiers were fed false information from the very start, they will only divulge false information no matter how they much they get interrogated. If the Mazoku fall for it, then the plan would be a success. That’s why the proposal passed through in no time…”
“For such a thing to…”
“This is too much…”
This incident shocked the two girls badly. Titania covered her mouth and was dumbstruck, while Mizuki looked as if she was on the verge of tears.
In front of the two girls, Reiji shouted angrily at Gregory:
“... Using human like this… I-Isn’t that going overboard!? What do they think lives are!?”
“T-The life of hero-dono cannot be compared to the life of soldiers. If we lose the hero who can save tens of thousands of people for the sake of a dozen or so soldiers, it would not be worth it.”
“Has Suimei been sacrificed because of such logic…!”
“The people in the caravan are also unrelated to this. But…”
Gregory became quiet as he listened to Reiji lose his temper and shout, and Mizuki groan. He must have his own thoughts about using the lives of soldiers in such a way.
Reiji calmed down after venting for a while, and tried his best to calm down and said:
“... Is there no other way?”
“When I learned about this, the Mazoku army was already halfway across the territory of Charlotte, and pressing on to the mountainous region of the border. It is too late to do anything about it at this point…”
“Since you already knew, why didn’t you say anything!”
“T-This can’t be helped! I was ordered not to reveal this before the time comes, as a knight, I don’t have the authority to ignore this order… And when I knew about it, it was already…”
“T-Then… Suimei-kun is…”
“... He has probably made contact with the Mazoku. According to the misinformation we spread, we only mentioned that Suimei-dono didn’t have any outstanding features, wore strange clothes, and the approximate position of the caravan. There are no guarantees, but if they search the one who matches such conditions…”
“B-But! If he ran off somewhere to hide…”
“That would be difficult. It seems that the claws of the Mazoku even reached the inside of the Neruferian Empire. This means the Mazoku army was really large in scale. Since there already is a specific target zone, I think they will comb the area thoroughly. In that case, the caravan that didn’t know anything will…”
When they heard Gregory’s speculations, everyone had a complicated expression. They were all dumbstruck, probably because of sadness, depression, or both. Both Mizuki and Titania probably felt that Suimei who didn’t possess any power will be safe. Even Reiji was starting to feel this way.
At this moment, Titania spoke again.
“... Our national defence, no, what about the defences for Mehter and Kurand?”
“That’s right… Now that you mention that!”
Titania’s words snapped Reiji back to reality. What happened to Suimei filled his entire head, so he didn’t thought about this part. If the Mazoku was targetting Suimei, that meant the country had been invaded by the Mazoku. There was no reason for them to stop their invasion after taking out the caravan. Thinking logically, that meant the city in the vicinity would be exposed to danger.
“Yes. For the defences of Kurand, the local mecenaries and Mage guild had already started recruiting people who could fight, the adventurer’s guilds are also gathering their elites in secret. As for Mehter, the knights and Mage corps are selecting and gathering trained personnel, and are organizing them into units.”
“If they could deal with it so smoothly, then why did they use Suimei as bait…”
“There isn’t enough time to organize the units. To ensure there was time to issue orders and mobilize the units in Kurand, sacrificing Suimei-dono and the caravan was the only way…”
So there was no other way. In other to save the many, they had to discard the few. The logic was correct, but wasn’t it too much for the people who didn’t want to be sacrificed?
The idea that Suimei was in the dark about this made Reiji really anxious.
Mizuki who was beside Reiji was blinking tears away from the corner of her eyes because of this cruel blow.
“This is too much, this is really too much…”
Her moan and tears were definitely her true feelings. She had the tenacity to take part in the Demon King subjugation campaign, but she was still a girl... The kingdom summoned them to seek their help, but treated those who didn’t help in such a way. When she heard about this, Mizuki couldn’t help sobbing in sorrow.
It was the same for Titania. She lowered her head with her face a mixture of regret, pain and depression. This happened right after befriending them.
Once again, Gregory kneeled onto the ground.
“My most sincere apologies!”
What’s the use of apologizing like this. It wouldn’t change the fact that Suimei was in danger. Reiji couldn’t find the words to respond, even his wrath had burnt out. The only thing left was a melancholy he couldn’t shake away. The figure of the middle-age knight with his forehead on the ground was right in front of him. What was he thinking when he made this apology? Was he just making a show of apology with a look of absolute sincerity, but he was actually suppressing a smile in his heart?
How could he find out his true intentions? As Reiji was thinking about things that made him hate himself.
Reiji felt inspiration struck like lightning.
Is that so. Thinking it through calmly, it was easy to understand.
Mizuki looked at Reiji who seemed to have understood something—
“That’s enough, Gregory-san.”
He put his hands on Gregory’s shoulders, ending his long apology. That’s right, there was no need to apologize. Or rather, he should be thankful to Gregory. Because—
“Gregory-san. When we asked about this, you should have been told not to divulge everything. You must have been ordered to tell us the Mazoku is in the vicinity, and guide us to some other place.”
Titania and Gregory were dumbstruck, and Mizuki asked immediately:
“Reiji-kun, what is the matter?”
“If Gregory-san was really an underling of that noble Hardias, he wouldn’t need to tell us about Suimei in the first place. Gregory-san just needed to let us keep running away, and not tell us something that would make us distrust him.”
Mizuki’s mutter of comprehension was soft, but it was clearer than any other sound in the vicinity.
Earning distrust. That’s right, the words did seem strange when she thought about it. If he told them the truth about Suimei’s situation, it would definitely earn their ire. If he understood that, then he wouldn’t have done so. If it was the underlings of the ones who planned this, they would definitely hide the facts about Suimei.
But Gregory still told them all of this, probably because there was something in his heart that couldn’t be twisted. And because of this sense of justice, he couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“I am very sorry. I only realize this now. I am truly sorry for shouting at you without thinking properly.”
Gregory’s voice started choking as Reiji lower his head and conveyed his thoughts clearly.
Seeing him like this, Titania also said:
“Gregory, my sincere apologies. I didn’t trust you until I heard what Reiji said.”
Gregory lowered his head deeply when he heard that.
And as if he was confessing a sin, he slowly said:
“... I couldn’t do it. Tricking the people who had nothing to do with this world but was summoned to defeat the Demon King, and even accepted this duty. However, pretending not to know anything when their friend is in danger, is inhumane…”
Gregory who opened his heart to the others lowered his head once more.
“My deep apologies. I couldn’t do anything.”
“That’s enough. Enough. Because—”
That’s right, if anyone was to be blamed, it was all his own fault. Reiji was the only one who was summoned, but his two friends were dragged in. He even ignored his friend’s advice, which led to this. Hence—
Titania asked as Reiji got up and turned his back.
But Reiji didn’t turn back, so Titania called out to him anxiously again.
“W-Where do you want to go, Reiji-sama?”
“...Do you even need to ask? I’m going to rescue Suimei now.”
“How can that be, what do you want to do by going there now!?”
“H-Hero-dono! I understand how you feel, but you wouldn’t make it even if you go now! There are no horses now either!”
“There is another horse. Rofuri’s horse.”
“Y-You are right Reiji, but there’s nothing you can do even if you go now! Even if you make it, there is still an army of Mazoku there. You will just be throwing your life away!”
Reiji couldn’t refute Titania’s counsel. What she said was true, there was no doubt about it. Titania stopped him again:
“Reiji-sama, please reconsider this. If anything happened to Reiji-sama, Then who will defeat Nakshatra?”
Yes, just like Titania said, Since he accepted their request and came here, that meant he was already the hero. Forgetting that and running amok because of his emotions and losing his life, was in a way betraying them.
— Even so, there were some things he couldn’t accept.
“I don’t want to abandon Suimei. Suimei is my friend, so…”
He was gritting his teeth from regret and clenching his fist, but Reiji didn’t give up, he still want to help his friend. Just like Mizuki, Suimei was his irreplaceable friend. That’s why he didn’t want to lose him. It might already be too late, but he didn’t want to just stand idly by.
Titania looked at him with a worried gaze. From her eyes, it was clear she was in a dilemma between subjugating the Demon King and her own feelings. She probably didn’t know what to do.
Shifting Titania out of his sight, Reiji turned towards Mizuki.
“I-I want to…”
“Mizuki! Let’s go! To help Suimei!”
Grabbing Mizuki’s shoulders, Reiji urged the young girl. Urging her strongly to help their friend, because he believed that if it was her, she will definitely agree.
When he noticed, Mizuki was trembling a little.
From her deep black eyes, Reiji could tell that Mizuki was trembling from fear.
That’s right, this young girl entered the battlefield for the first time just now. Her first fight, facing off against the Mazoku for the first time. Back then, Reiji felt her fear during the battle. If that was the case, was it really fine to force this young girl to take on the Mazoku army with him?
No, it’s definitely not fine. It’s not fine pushing such a burden on a trembling young girl at all.
At this instant, the term ‘being full of oneself’ floated in his mind. Thinking back about how everyone else thought, he looked around him again, and saw doubt in everyone’s faces.
“... I am sorry, Mizuki.”
He turned his back to the voice calling out to him after apologizing. Even now, he still didn’t want to give up. So—
“Just me alone would be fine, everyone please wait in a safe place. Rofuri-san!”
Reiji shouted at Rofuri who was just returning from a patrol some distance away. Rofuri who didn’t know what was happening tilted his head as he rode over.
“Yes? How may I serve, Reiji-sama?”
“Lend me your horse.”
“Hmm? Alright, no problem, what are you…”
As Rofuri dismounted, the voice of two people echoed out as if they were trying to cut him off.
“Please wait, Reiji-sama!”
The cries came from behind Reiji. At this moment, Reiji—
Suimei who left the caravan to chase after Lefille was walking in the forest as he track the traces of the girl’s magic presence. He couldn’t catch up immediately probably because Lefille left rather swiftly in order to not trouble the caravan. It wasn’t strange for the girl who left according to Galeo’s wishes without any complains to act this way.
As he strolled in the forest in search of Lefille, Suimei looked up at the forest canopy obscuring his view of the cloudy sky and thought:
This place is completely untamed. Wild beasts or monsters from a fantasy world will probably show up...
Suimei stopped for a moment to rest and leaned against the tree before him. He drank about a mouthful of water from his canteen, and sighed. It was a given that there were monsters here. The forest of this different world was obviously much more dangerous than the world he came from.
I actually entered a place like this by my own will, ara…
He probably felt that it was strange, or that this was a foolish action. But even if Suimei asked himself that, he couldn’t get an answer anyway as his doubt started to expand in his mind. At this moment, right before he moistened his throat with water again, Suimei asked nonchalantly.
“— I am sorry for making you so tense, but please spare me from your blade.”
These words were directed at the killing intent behind him that was filled with nervousness.
Suimei’s calm voice echoed in the serene forest. Shortly after, the noise of grass being trampled could be heard, and a certain familiar voice that was filled with bafflement entered his ears.
“... Suimei-kun? Why are you here?”
“Well, as you can see, I came here for you.”
Looking back, the figure of Lefille with the tip of her sword drooping down was right behind her. Because Suimei had a weak sense of presence, Lefille thought he was a beast that was stalking her, and was planning to cleave him along with the tree he was leaning on in half.
“You chased after me…? That’s too reckless, it is dangerous to stay with me alright? Why did you do that?”
“Well, it’s because leaving you alone is too dangerous. I am very concerned.”
“D-Don’t worry. I can manage on my own. You are just butting into my affairs unnecessarily.”
“You can deal with the danger by yourself?”
That’s how proud and headstrong Lefille was. Suimei made an accusation with a sarcastic smile:
“Pardon me for being blunt, but do you have enough food and water?”
“Ugh… Well, that…”
“Is that so?”
Lefille was dumbstruck as she averted her gaze awkwardly. As the girl before Suimei was being force to admit her defeat, Lefille thought of a retort and turned back to her usual serious expression.
“But you are not carrying any luggage too right? Someone who didn’t even prepare his own provision is not qualified—”
“Are you still going to say that after seeing this?”
As if he was trying to break her serious expression, Suimei said casually as he took out a luggage bag from the briefcase he was carrying, even though it was much larger than the briefcase.
“... To tell me off…”
“What was that about being qualified? Are you saying the amount of provision I prepared is not qualified?”
Before Suimei who seemed rather arrogant, Lefille was shocked.
The amount was definitely up to standard. Suimei’s student briefcase made use of magic to expand its capacity. Even the combination of Kabbalah and Alchemy could only increase the capacity to that of a 150 litre foreign made luggage bag.
“... What is this weird magic item?”
“Calling it weird, how mean… Anyway, you can’t say I am an unnecessary busybody now, right?”
“That might be so… Suimei-kun, do you really think it is fine to stay with me?”
“What can I do if I say I am regretting it very much?”
“Erm… I am sorry.”
“Not at all. If I will regret it immediately, I wouldn’t have come. Don’t worry about it.”
Facing Lefille who was lowering her head with a gloomy expression, Suimei answered as if he was joking. That’s right, he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t worried about how Lefille felt, it was impossible for him to regret this.
Even though he said that, Lefille still couldn’t accept the way Suimei cut off his retreat path without anything to gain.
“But I am being targeted by the Mazoku you know?”
“If that is so…”
If that is so, how should I put it? Lefille understood she was in the weaker position, and couldn’t make such high handed speech. Looking at Lefille who was caught in anxiety, Suimei spoke:
“Lefille, you think it would be better if I stayed with the caravan and leave you alone?”
Suimei raised a different question to Lefille who couldn’t answer. Peering through the forest canopy, the sky was cloudy just like the gloomy atmosphere between them. Suimei said calmly as if he was asking the question to the sky.
“— Hey, tell me the truth Lefille, which side do you think is better?”
“What do you mean…”
“For you, would you rather I come here or stay with the caravan?”
“D-Do you even need to ask!? Staying with the caravan is better! That’s what you should do!”
Lefille made a face that seemed a little angry, and answered as if she was confirming something. Was she angry because she was not believed, or was she just putting on a strong front? Suimei pointed at Lefille and dealt the final blow.
“Then, can you swear to Alshuna that you are not lying?”
“What!? That is…”
“How about it?”
“... You really are a mean man.”
After Lefille sighed in resignation, Suimei asked again:
“Well then, how do you feel about it?”
“Ahhh, it’s great here if you can come. But—”
“In that case, isn’t it fine?”
“Nothing, there is no need to debate whether this is a wise choice. It’s fine if we feel like it, so let’s stop the topic here. This is the smoother way of dealing with it, right?”
Suimei looked at Lefille who turned silent after hearing something unexpected.
It’s true. Even if they discuss this further, what could they achieve? The best way of doing things couldn’t be found if you don’t search for it. Just arriving at the answer and saying it out would be enough. No matter how much she argued, the sorrow and pain in her heart wouldn’t fade.
That’s why he didn’t want to continue arguing about it. No matter how much they argue, the conclusion wouldn’t change. Hence, Suimei interrupted what Lefille wanted to say.
“... What? You still have some complaints?”
“No. Everything is as you said in the beginning.”
Her voice was more cheerful than earlier. She didn’t accept it outright, but she still rolled with it.
Suimei scratched his head and sighed. From the perspective of a third party, his choice right now wasn’t correct. Doing this would only give him disadvantages. But the decision on whether this action was right had to be made by the person himself. If the subject thought that it was correct, it wouldn’t be a big deal even if it wasn’t the best or wisest choice.
— And brooding too much about the pros and cons at this point would be rather shameful.
“I’m sorry, Suimei-kun.”
“Why do you need to apologize?”
“It’s probably my fault that the Mazoku came. That’s why...”
“Ahhh, what that bulky Mazoku said? But at that time, it seemed like it was the first time he remembered you though. No matter how I see it, I don’t think he was targeting you from the very beginning.”
Suimei objected to her apology. That was just excessive self reproach on herself. What Rajas said was fragmented, and there was a part about blaming Lefille that didn’t make sense. The adventurers all blamed her for the appearance of Rajas but, if you think about it carefully, it had no relation to her. The Mazoku came looking for a different person and encountered Lefille coincidentally would be a more convincing story. It just happened that everyone panicked and didn’t recover from the shock of being attacked by the Mazoku, and an easy target to cast the blame on just happened to be nearby. It was a result of a series of unfortunate coincidence.
Not everyone could keep their cool and judgement, without someone like that around, being forced into a corner will result in this happening most of the time.
However, Lefille didn’t seem convinced.
“However, they actually divert some of their forces into Aster when they were still in a standoff with Thoria and various other western nations. That could only mean...”
“What, you think the Mazoku diverted some of their forces just for you? You seem awfully confident in your own power.”
“Wa, I’m speaking seriously though? Don’t make fun of me please!”
“Heh heh, my bad my bad. True, Lefille is strong.”
Suimei apologized for his joke and flattered Lefille’s strength. But Lefille responded in a sharp tone with an unhappy expression for some reason.
“... It feels as if I am being toyed around like a fool.”
“No such thing. Didn’t Lefille cleave the opponent I had a hard time fighting in two easily?”
That was Suimei’s true feelings in the battle a little ago. But, Lefille still had something on her mind. There was a word or two she wanted to say. But Suimei ignored that and continued what he was saying.
“So… that’s right, that tough Mazoku, that thing he said about Lefille being the survivor of Noshias… If I remember right, Noshias was…”
Only having inquired a bit about the expression, he was cut off by Lefille’s weary voice.
“...You’re unfamiliar about the culture of this region, yet you know about it.”
“Ahh… well yeahh…”
Suimei thought about it a little, and made a vague response. That reminded him about what his background was suppose to be. Being unfamiliar with common knowledge but having knowledge about international affairs, it was only natural if others found him weird.
Suimei nagged to himself in his head, and Lefille who seemed to have resigned slowly spoke.
“Ah… that's right, it’s as he said, I’m a survivor of Noshias.”
Lefille revealed her identity she had been hiding all along. She sounded out her confession, and explaining that she was the survivor of the country destroyed by the Mazoku. One couldn’t help empathizing with her when listening to her sorrowful voice.
“True, that nation lies on the boundary between the realm of humans and the Mazoku territory, so they were the first to be attacked.”
“You know a lot.”
“...Well, it was a serious event.”
It was the reason why Reiji and they were summoned to this world, how could he forget.
Lefille returned to the topic and affirmed in a forlorn voice.
“...Ahh, since ancient times, Noshias was the barrier keeping out the Mazoku. But it fell in less than a month.”
“I heard from someone that it was an army of a million.”
“A million troops… I don’t know where you heard that but was it true? We haven’t seen that number of living beings, so we can’t be sure.”
Her response was calm and collected. But that roundabout way of putting it seemed to be implying something.
To Suimei who couldn’t fully grasp what she said, Lefille’s eyes turned sharp, as if she was watching a black and white film.
“It was an ocean. From one end of the horizon to the next, the Mazoku was like an ocean, forming an army of uncountable numbers, attacking us from across the border.”
The look that Lefille just had, that impression. Suimei vaguely imagined that, a swallowing noise ringing out, living things advancing like a tsunami, what in the world could it be? The horizon disappearing, and that side being flooded with by a group without human morals. It would be equal to nature’s wrath, nay, a greater wickedness since individually they all had purpose. If that were to attack, could humans bear it? As that thought rushed in his head, suddenly Lefille…
“What I saw at the northernmost fortress was, that scene. At that time, I didn’t only experience just that much.”
“Only that, it was a matter where you were driven with no margin to spare.”
“Ahh, it’s as you said, we tried with everything we had. We shot at the advancing Mazoku in front of our eyes.”
“So, did that tough Mazoku at that time…”
To Suimei’s vague question, Lefille returned a nod of affirmation.
“Rajas. He was after that. After collecting the survivors and retreating, he was left with the task of fighting. It’s also as you heard previously, He seemed to be one of the seven Demon Generals.”
“I guess, he was saying something like that.”
To Lefille’s words, he remembered Rajas’ speech; He said he was one of the beings entrusted with an army by Nakshatra.
“Seven of them huh”
“Ahh, that time also, in the midst of the fight, I remember I heard him say that. I also don’t understand in detail but he boasted that the seven armies were divided into three regiments.”
“Three. And considering that there could be over one million then, if they join together what do we do...”
It was getting increasingly unpleasant of a talk.
He hadn’t experienced something like that, but Suimei’s tone hinted that he’d had his share of hardships. By simply multiplying one million by three, there would be three times the numbers. But if Lefille’s story is to be completely believed, then it can’t be thought of so simply. With such a number and the Mazoku being non-humans, pushing this burden onto the handful of summoned heroes was asking for the impossible. Suimei himself was also in this world but, as expected if the world was hoping on the heroes to defeat them then the future is doubtful.
“So, at that time, the me who fought Rajas, my legs and hands couldn’t face his power. The army was also in disarray, and after that, I, at that female Mazoku…”
There was an unfamiliar word in what Lefille just said. Suimei casually asked concerning that.
“Female Mazoku? Is there such a thing?”
“No.. it’s nothing. So then…The reason why Noshias was the first to be targeted, was probably not just because of its geographical location.”
That was the core of the story hinted at by splitting and coming here with the army. Moreover, without saying so, Suimei who knew a bit about it also had that belief.
“The spirit right?”
“Ahh, it’s about the power Lefille has. It’s what they call it from where I’m from. Spirit.”
“Are there other people who have a power like mine in the east?”
“Uhh, not quite like Lefille’s, but I guess they are in the same category.”
Suimei didn’t quite know what to call it himself, but Lefille was even more confused. Of course. Most likely, this world had a different definition of spirits compared to the other world. This world, like the other world, the power of humans were much weaker than that of nature and mysterious origin. First of all, without the foundational knowledge gained from the research of multiple magic, the information this world had of spirits were pitifully limited. Hence, they probably didn’t understand what kind of an existence spirits were.
Lefille paused, trying to digest and understand what Suimei said, but in the end, without an answer, continued back on topic.
“I don’t really know what to call it, but it’s as you said, we call upon spirits. My country, since long ago, called upon that power in response to the Mazoku.”
“That reminds me, you said that your swordsmanship was also handed down over generations, is that also?”
“Aa. My ancestors were an existence that was born between spirits and humans. In order for humans to resist the Mazoku, the goddess Alshuna arranged it. This swordsmanship was also born then, and it has helped the heroes who have called on that power as well.”
To the unexpected mention of the word in Lefille’s story, Suimei muttered quietly. It couldn’t be, Lefille’s ancestors were the ones who became the power of the called upon heroes long ago. And now, instead of being with the heroes, the descendants were with him, what kind of twisted karma is that? One can’t help but think that some unknown entity is toying with them.
Thereupon, Lefille’s facial expression showed loneliness and sadness.
“I also thought that I wanted to protect people, to save people. But ultimately, that dream ended. And now I’m in this sorry state.”
Saying that, Lefille cast her eyes down dejectedly. After running away from her homeland, becoming an adventurer, being constantly slandered, she tasted loneliness. On top of that personal history, her dreary heart called for help. Yearning and yearning for that unfulfilled dream, her last face was one of a girl betrayed by reality. That, was certainly there. The wish to protect, the wish to save others, nothing but pure honest craving, denying any ill will, that unreasonable wish that was snatched away, she had that kind of heartbreaking face.
She had power. That’s why, she made the best of it. For someone. But, she couldn’t do anything no matter what. Like she was trying to get some kind of recompense. Nay, if she did it, even now she, to that sense...
“Hey, Lefille. Mazoku… what in the world are they?”
Despite the look in her eyes saying she wanted to get away from the topic, Lefille suddenly answered the question.
“Hm huh. To be honest, I don’t really know. Most likely, there’s nobody in the world who really knows about them. Aside from the little in stories handed down from since long ago, there’s probably no way to get information about the Mazoku.”
“And that “little in stories?”“
“In those olden days, the evil god that fought with Alshuna… was what was said before. That evil god who boasted of enormous power, in the end was driven to the dimensional threshold by Alshuna, the elements, and the spirits.”
Suimei agreed. It concurred with what he’d learned during a previous trip. In general he remembered the story, most likely her calling it the space between worlds is what the exterior world is called here, the other world is at the cavity at that threshold, the world’s edge. Seeing Suimei nod in affirmation, Lefille continued.
“It was said that the Mazoku were the servants of that evil god. Accepting the evil god’s divine blessing, in the chaos of just the strife and death, they filled this world.”
Chaos, an incredible term came up. No, it was already an incredible topic when the evil god is involved. In the end, the result of the devil worship, had the same intention as the evil gods of the outer worlds. Then, next is...
“You said divine protection but, then the origin of that power of the Mazoku is the evil god?”
“Ahh, that reminds me, I have a feeling that that theory does also exist. I also don’t remember well but…”
“What’s wrong? Suimei-kun”
“Mazoku… what they are. I have my own theory.”
“Fumu. Your thinking eh? Interesting.”
“Do you want to hear it?”
“Yeah because as it is I do have an interest in it”
...is what she said but what he was thinking was pretty admirable. Lefille was laughing with sheer admiration. However, that face was honestly an interest from the heart, and showed her anticipation. The possibility that he arrived at the truth was improbable. Anyway, about that.
Now then, first...
“Listen, first is, from the definition of the evil god in your story.”
Suimei had come into contact with what was known as devils or spirits in his original world. They basically exist in the outer world, a theoretical existence that possessed power similar to that of legends. They could be summoned with spells, given a name and its existence defined. After that, they will appear in the world as devils or spirits.
The spirits defined in the original world were vague without a fixed appearance, just an information like existence. And god— the god here referring to a higher level of existence than spirits— was not just a vague existence like spirits, but a powerful body of information with a will of their own.
In other words the evil god is…
“... The evil god exists in the gaps between dimensions, which is the outer world, and its goal is to fill the world with chaos. Even now, it is watching this place closely from the outer world, hoping to accomplish its goal. But that thing’s existence is bounded there, and can’t interfere with this world directly like the times of the ancient goddess war. In its place, the Mazoku that serve the evil god inherit its will, and are bestowed with the powers of the evil god they worship, squirming in the dark to fill the world with chaos.”
“Well… it’s a cliched story but, that’s the script if you think about our earlier conversation. Things started during the beginning of the world, when the seed of future strife was planted… oops”
Whether everything about the Mazoku was like that, he didn’t know but, noticing his digression, he went back on topic.
“For practical problems that’s fine but, concerning that puppet Mazoku… that’s it. In the first place his specifications are different, because his body’s strength is different than humans, they followed a different evolutionary path than living beings, or it’s the case that the evil god designed them. Whichever one it is, I don’t know for sure. That’s the impression I got from the story before.”
“That’s a quite interesting conjecture.”
“Thanks. If it’s the case with divine protection then, then I expect that most of their power is the evil god’s. The black energy coming from the Mazoku is that.”
To the concluding Suimei, Lefille slipped in a question.
“...? That’s not a characteristic of the Mazoku?”
“That’s right. It’s not a power that those living creatures carry naturally. The power inconsistent with the world and nature is not produced by that world, it’s the truth that it’s definitely not produced. Nobody would deliberately be harmful to themselves right? The world is the same. That’s why it is useful to depend on existences that cannot exist in the world. This power that runs contrary to the logic of this world can only exist because of the influence of something not of this world. For example, what’s that thing called...”
“Evil god huh.”
“Returning to the conversation, that’s how it is. At the point in time where the Mazoku could use that power, the evil god’s existence was proved. That talk was a pain though.”
Yes, the talk about the Mazoku resulted in a discussion about the evil god. That said, it took a great amount of trouble to arrive at that. Anyhow…
“Then, Alshuna is an existence facing the evil god so, this world’s humans and demi-humans, from the root of that belief are enemies to the evil god. That’s why he tries to kill the living things that don’t match his feelings.”
Suimei was holding firm to that belief, and Lefille looked like she was scrutinizing the contents of that discussion, narrowing her eyes. In that face there was some kind of agitation. Choosing the right time, Suimei fired a single word.
“So? Is there another theory you can get from that story?”
“True. That does work in the story. That’s the first time I’ve heard that argument with the evil god and the Mazoku. Based on the current argument, if I rethink the things I said, the legends become plausible.”
“It was a pretty interesting argument right?”
“Yeah. Surprising. You’ve thought about it considerably. Amazing, Suimei-kun”
To the girl nodding sincerely, Suimei added in a supplement.
“Incidentally, that humans are able to fight with the Mazoku is because they have Alshuna’s divine blessing I think. Excluding Lefille, generally they carry the power of resistances for that purpose. The element hostile to the evil god obviously falls under that category, so sorcerer’s magic also has that effect.”
“Yes. That’s why at the time when I was fighting the Mazoku, with the exception of magic that don’t use the elements as an intermediary, physical attacks also were ineffective. Because humans have their faith deeply intertwined with their lives, that power dwells within them. On top of that, the magic of this world is strongly linked to Alshuna and the spirits, the elements also have that power in them, giving them a big effect against the Mazoku. Sorcerers, through that magic with that subtle power, are able to defeat Mazoku. However, on the other hand, there is nobody born in this world like me, who don’t have that relation to the element, are expected to have their power become weak.”
“By the way I’d like to ask, when we fought with the Mazoku earlier, did beginner mage’s magic have effect on the Mazoku?
After asking, Lefille thought for a bit, with knit brows she said in a far off voice.
“Well, the people who showed effectiveness and didn’t were scattered but…”
The sorcerers that were effective were, even if they weren’t using magic from long ago, they perceived a revelation, and they had a connection to the elements so they had effect. People who weren’t effective that was the first time they’d felt that revelation, so their connection to the element was weak and they couldn’t defeat the Mazoku. Is that not it?”
“Ahh, to go that far is…”
“Assuming that, is the story. Well, I think I’m probably right.”
There were few simple parts so it wasn’t definite, but he believed in it. Taking into account that Lefille was still piecing things together, generally this response is to be expected.
At any rate the answer came out. Because the Mazoku have the evil god’s blessing, basically they have resistances so only the magic here is effective.
However, if that power’s source was made to be established in the Mazoku’s current form, they are an existence of the underworld, so if you use that class, that magic will show effect.
That magic had effect after all for Suimei, his thoughts until now were because of what happened then.
“Just who are you?”
That casual inquiry came out was because of the talk until now right. Rather than doubting his true character, she was simply really wondering what it is. To her question, Suimei gave no response.
“Now then. Or maybe I should put it, isn’t it about time to find a place to rest?”
In the darkening forest, Lefille gazed at the deep blue sky while agreeing. Shrugging her shoulders dejectedly, something was amiss, or was it just imagination? With that girl, Suimei once again began to walk.
That night after meeting up with Lefille in the forest. Suimei immersed himself in the clear night sky, gazing at the stars of this different world from a boulder with a great view by himself.
“It should be that direction, and…”
With the dark purple darkness as the background, the beautiful stars were spread across the heavens. Looking at the night sky that definitely could not be seen in the polluted modern world, Suimei was divining the correct direction through Astrology. He wasn’t familiar with the stars in this different world, but he had stayed in this world for quite some time now, and he had gazed upon the night skies numerous times. He understood the position of the moon and the stars, and could make out the basics such as directions.
(Even if I use them, it’s only about this much eh...)
One of the things that kept him from calming down after coming to this world was still troubling him. That’s right, as stated before, even if he is able to, Suimei can only divinate this much from the stars in this world. Certainly, by observing the star’s spectrum - referring to the rays of light emitted by the stars here - and analyzing them using magic, he could determine which stars had which type of attributes, and it would be possible to utilize them in spells. But the divination that was synonymous with Astrology was done by using the radiance of the most effective stars, which harbours the name of the stars and their meaning, and utilizing the influence of the stars in the most efficient manner. As it was not possible to do this, he couldn’t use Astrology to its full potential.
The spell Meteor drop would be a good example. In his original world, as long as the conditions for time and location were fulfilled, it boasted of atrocious magic power. But in this world where he couldn’t draw out the powers of mysteries, the best he could do would be less than half the maximum power under normal conditions. With the powerful spells he depended on greatly in combat becoming like this, Suimei couldn’t help sighing depressedly.
After finishing his conversation with Lefille about the Mazoku, Suimei and Lefille walked into the depth of the forest to search for a place to make camp.
They encountered a pack of wolves on the way there, but they didn’t run into any monsters, and found a water source, and a cave that could keep the cold and humidity away.
The sun had already set half way by then as the day slowly becomes the night. The two of them prepared as fast as possible, and after eating dinner, it was already this late.
Watching the stars, Suimei thought about what would happen hereafter, but he had not decided his course of action yet. Running here because of his emotions was one thing, but what should he do from hence forth? Taking everything into consideration, fighting with the Mazoku called Rajas is probably unavoidable but…
“He said that he’d bring along his comrades huh.”
He thought about the demon general Rajas with his huge body, and one of the things he said.
Rajas told Lefille nonchalantly that he will bring his minions along. Suimei didn’t think it would be in the hundreds of thousands like Lefille said, but it was true that they were making some kind of military maneuver. They probably have to steel themselves to fight a large number of enemies.
Therefore, Suimei was vexed that meteor drop couldn’t be used. Although it wouldn’t be effective unless he used a special kind of spell, just like that time when he used Ashurbanipal’s Flame, he would be able to forcefully overwhelm the Mazoku with brute power. He felt disheartened his powerful wide area attack won’t be at full power.
As Suimei was sighing in lamentation.
When did she come out from the cave? In Suimei’s vision, the beautiful figure of Lefille who was dressed in a knight’s attire headed off somewhere. Lefille walked unsteadily as if she was sleepwalking, heading into the depths of the forest like a puppet controlled by strings.
… Where was she going this late in the night without even a weapon? Suimei couldn’t fathom what the swordswoman was thinking. After eating dinner, she said she was tired and retired early. With the fight against the Mazoku, the dispute with the caravan and dealing with the pack of wolves, she should have accumulated a lot of fatigue. That should be so, but what was she trying to do now?
“If I remember correctly, that way is…”That’s right, the place Lefille was going to was the water source. It was a somewhat high place that had a brook and could have a small waterfall. However, the cave they currently were in already had enough water so there was no need to go over there right?
There was an uneasy feeling in the air. Suimei rubbed the back of his neck, feeling an uneasy premonition.
Lefille and that shaky way of walking, it didn’t seem normal. Moreover, she wasn’t carrying a weapon that normally would be necessary in the forest. Something was happening. In that case, it’s better to chase after her. With that thought in mind, Suimei jumped off the boulder and chased after Lefille into the forest.
Cutting through the thickets and weaving between the trees, he delved into the forest. Soon, he arrived at the water source. As he was about to step out of the bushes in front of the water source to search for the girl, he slipped on something like a piece of cloth.
It was a close call. If he hadn’t noticed, then like the time when he was summoned to this world, he would have fallen on his ass. To ascertain what he just stepped on, Suimei picked it up and spread it out. And realized what it was.
Suimei made a confused sound unconsciously and his mind blanked. With a stupid looking face that anyone would have seeing that, he held it up and realized it was… clothes. The things that people wear, that you put on… in short, clothes. What’s more, they were clothes that Suimei found familiar. He had seen these just a little ago when he was on the boulder, the knight clothes Lefille was wearing.
“Uhh.. wait a sec… this is…”
Confused and flustered, Suimei stammered to himself, unable to form proper sentences because of that thing spread out before him. Confusion and panic made him even more anxious, making Suimei stutter even more. After looking carefully, he affirmed that women’s underwear were also there. In other words, Lefille currently is not wearing her clothes and underwear, meaning that…
“That girl is naked right now…”
After a bit, Suimei grasped the situation completely and fell into a dull state. He knew exactly what the clothes and underwear meant on the ground meant. Suimei processed it in his mind as if it was in a way the procedure to summon devils. So, without any extraneous intentions, he glanced over towards a certain direction, as if he was guided by invisible strings. And just as he thought, there was a stark naked Lefille over by the waterside.
Suimei cried out in his head while suppressing his emotions. Of course, those emotions were those of shame. The feeling of unease that made his neck felt strange earlier, he wondered why he felt that way back then. Suimei was filled with regrets for allowing his emotions to lead him to this place.
Even though it was a misunderstanding, but from the perspective of a third party, it would seem like he came here with the intend to peek on a girl bathing. If someone was to see him right now, he would definitely be labeled a pervert.
No, instead of that, he should...
“No, don’t look Suimei. You can’t look! Well truthfully I kinda want to see but… that's not it! Just forget everything. Forget everything, me! Just forget it all and turn back…”
That’s right, with a red face, Suimei was denying something in his head. With his ability to think calmly being completely gone, Suimei fell into confusion.
He doesn’t have any plans to watch carefully and burn this scene deeply into his eyes. Suimei couldn’t deal with these kinds of situation as most of his head was devoted to magic. Together with his serious character, terms like large and bountiful, exceptional figure, beautiful proportions had been purged from his mind as if these terms were sworn enemies.
At that time, Suimei suddenly heard a voice.
The air quivered and Suimei breathed weakly. Forgetting about situation, he let out a sound in surprise. Just now, to his ears, he thought he heard something indicating distress. Something like moaning or gasping, like the voice of a girl in pain or someone burning up with a fever.
Is this not merely a bath? Remembering the gasping, Suimei looked once more. Glancing in that direction, he saw Lefille leaning on a boulder near the water’s edge. Looking closely, there was a strange look in her eyes. Rather than bathing, she appeared unconscious and suffering in the water. Why was she groaning? What was making her wheeze in anguish? At that time, Suimei saw it. On her abdomen, there was an ominous tattoo that seemed to be encroaching onto the girl.
Unaffected, he realized what was going on the moment he saw the tattoo. Her raised arm, her sudden voice, the eyes that saw her, his own conveniently bashful heart, all of it vanished with astonishment.
As soon as he realized this, all the superfluous things he had thought up until now vanished. Why? As he got a hold of himself, instead of the confidence that he could deal with it, his heart sank with helpless thoughts, that here as well, there were girls in pain because of a curse.
A curse. Yes, a curse. It is the first time he had seen one like that, but he probably wasn’t wrong. The tattoo on Lefille’s abdomen was proof of it. The dark red overlapping lines were blemishing her white beautiful skin. Another world’s curse. Whenever the tattoo pulsed because of magic, Lefille’s moan grew in intensity, and her body squirmed from the pain.
Then who, with what intention, would have done such a curse?
In Suimei’s mouth was an overwhelming bitterness. This was the feeling of someone who knew curses very well. An embodiment of hatred from Suimei, as someone who had deep dealings with someone who cursed others, and someone who was cursed.
That’s right, there was a time when Suimei wished that he could break a curse. The girl that suffered in grief because of the ruinous curse was there. That’s why he studied curses for a time in order to break them. He couldn’t forgive the existence of such an unreasonable misfortune in this world.
Therefore, what was happening to the girl in front of his eyes was painful to watch to him as well. That impure movement, it was intolerable.
That’s a curse huh. It’s vulgar. And against a young girl, how heretical.
Sorrow. That noble girl imprisoned by the curse and compelled to perform such obscene acts. There was no other way to describe this other than sadness.
Why did the curse have to dirty pure girls?
Why was the curse burned onto girls?
Why did curses always make girls cry in anguish
Fuelled by fury, Suimei’s heart burned with anger. And with those thoughts, he approached the rock where the girl was.
As if he wanted to just talk to her, Suimei gently tapped the shoulders of the girl panting in pain.
Lefille looked up with blurry eyes, probably recovering her consciousness a little.
The face that was lifted because of the voice still showed signs of the curse’s influence and was red with confusion.
Lefille finally realized someone was calling out to her, and made a sound that she was aware. But as she stared into the eyes of the man who had a wavering look of pity, the girl’s pupils reflect despair like never before.
As they looked at each other, Lefille’s face gradually became twisted. Why are you here. Why are you looking? I didn’t want anybody to see my disgraceful sight. Lefille’s pained expression seemed to be screaming.
However, even after noticing another person’s presence, she didn’t stop as if her actions were forced by an unseen power. Because of the curse’s fever, she had no control over her body and she continued to rub herself against the rock to relieve the fever a little.
Yes, from the perspective of a third party, it was a seductive action as if she couldn’t help soothing the fire within her.
“No... please, don't look… please…”
Lefille’s faint voice now was not because of the painful fever. It was a plea from a girl in pain, who didn’t want anyone to see her indecent side.
After some time, the curse’s effect seemed to fade, and she calmed down. To Lefille, who was on the ground putting on the knights clothes he had brought, Suimei quietly asked about the curse.
“Is it a curse?”
He asked to confirm. And as expected, Lefille nodded without looking at him. When Suimei was about to ask again, Lefille who was lowering her head with depressed eyes suddenly said:
“... I am someone related to the royal family of Noshias… No, Noshias is gone, I should say that I was someone related to them.”
Lefille looked down and sighed. It was a sigh as if she was mocking herself, as the girl continued her monologue depressedly. Lefille then continued:
“The Noshias royal family— as a branch family, the bloodline of spiritual power run in my clan. Because I was born with powerful spiritual powers, I was raised with the goal of protecting Noshias from early on. Day after day, I practiced my swordsmanship and ways to use my spiritual powers just to protect my homeland from the Mazoku that would attack from the north.”
Lefille then turned towards Suimei to confirm something.
“In the day, I told you that Noshias was defeated by the Mazoku right?”
“Back then… about half a year ago, the northernmost fortress entrusted to us was stamped out by the hordes of Mazoku. And I was separated with the comrades that fought alongside me. By the time we fought at the capital, there were only a few people left.”
It was a harsh memory, and her voice oozed with pain. And yet, Lefille, as if she had to talk, continued on.
“The Mazoku’s attack was terrifyingly fast. There wasn’t even time for the citizens to escape out of the country. The Mazoku controlled the majority of the country in no time. By that point, we had almost no means to resist. Normally, a summoning for a hero would also be done, but it was too late. They could only call on my power, but my strength was futile against the Mazoku army. Due to the overwhelming differences in numbers and resources, our army renowned for being elite was also crushed. In the end, in order to show the Mazoku our resolve, the people of Noshias chose to defend the city until the very end.”
Making a last stand. In the first place, there was no option to run. Because of the pride of the northern people, they wouldn’t yield to the Mazoku, and struggled to the end to not let the Mazoku do as they wanted.
“While everyone else was preparing for the last time, I was given a different task. I wasn’t allowed to die in the siege because of the spirit’s power. The spirit’s power could not be allowed to die out, and so, I was not permitted to fight until the end at the castle. As a result of this power, my father, my mother, my friends, everyone that was important to me, I had to run and abandon it all.”
This must have been the greatest regret in her life, and Lefille’s shoulders hung with regret.
Suimei was born in modern Japan, and would firstly be happy about being alive in such a situation. But for the people of this world who live for the sake of battle and took pride in the duty passed down by their ancestors, this situation was probably unbearable. For someone who was bestowed with more spiritual powers than power, this was even more true.
“It was in the middle of that. I got cursed. While escaping to other countries, I fought with the Mazoku, and then…”
“It’s that guy…?”
“...No, not Rajas. The one who cursed me was a female Mazoku commanding Rajas and the army. That Mazoku seemed to specialize in curses. What her intention was, I don’t know, but in that fight where I was fighting with everything on the line, she cursed me as if it was child's play. It feels as if insects creep onto me, and I have to comfort myself in that indecent way.”
That was everything. Lefille who was bound helplessly. Regarding the curse, that was the whole story. Her feelings of revenge, the matter of the curse, she had a lot of things weighing down on her.
At that point, Suimei suddenly noticed something about Lefille’s curse and what had happened earlier.
“Could it be, that at the inn and …”
“Ahh, you remembered. That’s right. That night, I also searched for a place with water like this too. In the morning, when I woke up, I tried to avoid others and ran back to the inn. After that, it’s as you remember, I ran into you.”
Suimei continued asking.
“Do you know what causes the curse to activate?”
“When I utilize a lot of the spirit’s power, it becomes like this. Earlier I did the guild request for the subjugation of the monsters, and that's why.”
“And the cure to the curse?”
“I tried. I couldn’t do anything as I am not a mage, but even a prestigious priest from the Church of Salvation couldn’t do anything.”
Then, has she always been this way? Without a cure, without a way to suppress the curse, having to unconsciously deal with the curse without being found.
As if confirming it, Lefille stayed silent in despair, and then after a while, quietly laughed as if debasing herself.
“Fucking laugh at me. At this girl. At the one with this vile curse. This...this…”
Saying that, Lefille grabbed Suimei by the collar. The girl holding him by the collar and laughing at herself. Unable to stand the truth, she forced herself to laugh in order to cast away her sorry state, but her stare was full of despair.
“It’s funny isn’t it! Held captive by the spirit’s power, me who had to abandon the people who fought to the end, it’s divine punishment! “I want to protect everyone with this power,” what bullshit. Right?!? Not in this story. Being cursed, living in disgrace because I can’t die…”
Divine punishment huh. That self condemnation, surely that absurdity is just the lamentation of the heart. Why can she laugh at that. In this world, where such pain is a common occurrence, why laugh? In those tears of despair, there was nothing funny.
“But this power protected Lefille before.”
“I… That’s true… I was, protected by it.”
“That’s the truth. So don’t look down on yourself too much.”
“But I ran. I still ran, even though I don’t want to abandon anyone.”
Suimei cast his eyes downwards, and the girl who couldn’t suppress her sobbing let go of Suimei’s collar.
Finally, Lefille’s shoulders trembled and she said:
“After my homeland is destroyed, to be left and cursed to sooth my wretched self in that way. Is there anything more miserable than this…”
Her homeland and people close to her were lost, and she was inflicted with this shameful curse on top of that. There was nothing more terrible for a woman. The sight of her tugged at his heart, and Suimei grabbed the shoulders of the tearing Lefille.
“Lefille. I’m sorry, I’m going to be a bit rude.”
And then, removing her soaked jacket, he exposed her naked skin.
Lefille probably sensed danger when she was touched. Tightly closing her eyes, she made a stiff sound. The powerful swordswoman who fought the Mazoku bravely was nowhere to be found. Ignoring the girl who was frightened of men, he touched the cursed mark on her skin.
What he had used was an analysis magic. He materialized a small version of the cursed mark on Lefille’s body onto his hand, and studied its composition. From the magic circle spreading out from his palm, the information of the spell structure flowed into his mind. Because of the actions it forced her to do, it was not a natural curse. As for classification, it was something similar to Sympathetic Magic. Suimei understood that much, but even for him who had modern magical knowledge, he couldn’t figure out the cure.
While grinding his teeth, Suimei infused some magic into his hand to apply a relieving magic.
For a bit, Lefille’s pained voice became calmer and soothed. After the girl’s breathing became steady, Suimei asked:
“How is the burning sensation?”
“Ahh… it’s considerably better… That was...?”
“A magic of mine that reduces the effect of the curse. With this it’s a bit better right?”
“Is that so. Up until now nobody could do something like that...”
A voice of relief. Yet, this made Suimei feel a sense of guilt . In the end, while he could interfere with the curse, that was only a temporary solution.
“Sorry. While I can temporarily weaken the curse, I don’t have a way to get rid of it. This curse wasn’t just simply casted onto Lefille’s body. That’s why, until we find the caster or the medium used to cast it, the curse won’t be broken.”
Saying that, Suimei bowed his head in disappointment.
The curse cast on Lefille was one utilizing Sympathetic magic. Sympathetic magic, along with contact magic, was a way of classifying curses as popularized by England’s anthropologist and occultist, James George Frazer. He believes that there were invisible connections between objects that had similar shape on the theoretical level, an idea grounded on mutual influence. Using this mysterious connection one could achieve the amplification of curses.
This type used an imitation of a person, such as a doll or a photo, to cast the spell on a person. A cursed doll in Japan and voodoo doll from Haiti were such examples. His findings indicate that the curse on Lefille probably belonged to this category. As it wasn’t known what the medium was, or what the relationship the one who was cursed had with this medium, it was difficult to break such a spell.
“Sorry, this is everything I can do.”
“...It’s fine. Thanks.”
Suimei realized his helplessness only when he faced a curse he couldn’t undo. As she watched Suimei who apologized with such feelings, Lefille made a smile while holding back her pain.
After a while, drop by drop, tears flowed down Lefille’s face. In the forest in the middle of nowhere, like when the rain begins, her tears fell.
Only Lefille knew how it felt. As an outsider, Suimei had a sympathetic expression with his mouth open, as if he was trying to say something. But, there probably were nothing he could say. No matter how much he thought, he wasn’t qualified to wipe away her tears of despair and give her solace.
To Lefille who looked as if she would cry endlessly, Suimei could not utter a word.
A few days after the night when Suimei found out Lefille’s curse. Being vigilant of dangerous beasts and monsters, especially the Mazokus, the two of them watch their surroundings carefully and had yet to exit the forest.
And so today, the two of them also had a simple lunch after following the river to a slightly open space.
The food from the magic bag and river water cleanse by magic were laid out. Lefille chewed on a hard piece of bread and pointed at a certain bottle.
“Suimei-Kun, can you please pass me the honey?”
Suimei passed the bottle of honey to Lefille, who spread it on her bread while thanking him.”
Facing the girl who was biting into her bread once again, Suimei said:
“Hmm, this bread is hard. Suimei-kun, it would be better to soak it in water when you eat it.”
“Ahh, I know, I wasn’t talking about that.”
“Don’t worry, the honey is quite sweet, mixing in a bit of water won’t affect its taste.”
Suimei-kun shut his mouth as Lefille kept talking about her own thing. After the incident that day, she had been this way. She must be thinking of something, intentionally avoiding meaningful conversation with others. She kept interrupting Suimei, so the two didn’t have a proper conversation.
As expected, she became like this after that incident...
Yes, after her secret was found out, it wasn’t strange for Lefille finding it hard to face Suimei.
“... What is it, Suimei-kun? If it is about food, I don’t need any more alright? I have enough, or do you want me to take something for you?”
“No, not that… there’s honey on your cheeks.”
Lefille yelped in surprise when she heard Suimei, and wiped her cheeks hard, and glared at Suimei with accusatory eyes.
“C-Can’t you tell me earlier… Why is there honey…”
“Ahh, actually there isn’t any on your cheeks.”
Suimei replied nonchalantly, and Lefille stood up in anger.
“W-Why you! Are you toying with me!?”
“Sort of. Because of someone, we couldn’t talk properly, so I thought this was a good chance.”
“Ughh… This is…”
“... Hey Lefille. We are moving together, so we need to communicate more alright? Didn’t you say this before? If we could talk harmoniously, our teamwork will become better.”
Her attitude that was like an act earlier changed all of a sudden, and the girl lowered her head in sorrow, with melancholy in her eyes. But there wasn’t anything to gain in maintaining this status quo.
“Erm… How should I put this. I know things are awkward after that incident. I feel a bit embarrassed too, it might be a little difficult, but we should do our best to better our relationship.”
“That’s enough, Suimei-kun. I am thankful for your concern, but please don’t bother with me.”
Suimei showed a lonely expression. Her effort in repairing their relationship had been shattered by her rejection.
“This is a good opportunity, so I will make this clear. You shouldn’t be here with me.”
“... Shouldn’t be with you is…”
“If you are involved with me, you will suffer misfortune too. So keep your relations with me to the bare minimum.”
Lefille fell silent after saying her piece, her eyes filled with sadness as she thought about something. No, the people she failed to protect must be reflected in her eyes. Seeing the wavering sorrow in Lefille’s eyes, Suimei could feel the pain she was suffering.
“Everyone related to me are no longer of this world. So if you continue to be with me, you will be killed by Rajas or the Mazoku one day. I am tired of seeing people dying because of me. So—”
“Don’t decide my future of being killed by Mazoku for me.”
“No, it’s inevitable. Mazoku are powerful beings, not an existence that could be dealt with easily. And if things go badly, I will definitely abandon you. In order to preserve the powers of the spirits, I had to abandon everyone close to me and flee, I have enough of that already.”
Suimei fell silent with a serious face. Lefille lowered her eyes and said with a pleading expression:
I know that I am being willful. But can you promise me this? After exiting the forest, we will go our separate ways. Please.”
“That’s too hasty. I don’t think I need to decide on an answer so early right?”
“Even if you say that—”
Just when Lefille was lowering her head because of what Suimei said.
Rustling sound could be heard from the bushes behind them.
Lefille whirled around while calling out a warning, and Suimei did the same in with a grunt. From behind they could sense a vague presence like that of a wandering spirit, was its identity a wild dog or jackals? Monsters or Mazoku?
Preparing for a possible assault, Suimei raised his alertness to the maximum. Instantly, the atmosphere grew tense as if it was filled with thorns. However, it was something that completely betrayed their expectations.
What came out of the bushes, was a heavily injured person.
The appearance of that unexpected person filled Suimei and Lefille were surprised. What appeared was a man dressed like an adventurer. With an unsteady gait, blank eyes, torn clothes with blood everywhere, his body was full of lacerations and burns. All that could be heard was a dying whisper and wheezing as faint as the wind.
Severely wounded, he came here like that. Because of the wounds his consciousness was fading. Lefille rushed up to him.
"Hang in there!"
"Ahh, gu… you..."
"What the hell happened?"
"The Mazoku… we came across them… in the mountains."
They only caught a couple of words from his speech. As Lefille’s face turned grave, Suimei noticed something and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Hey. Lefille. This man."
"What about him?"
"He was an adventurer from that time."
"That time? Oh…"
She suddenly raised her voice in realization. Lefille must have also realized. Because of the numerous wounds and the excessive bleeding, she didn’t notice at first, but it was the guard who was the loudest at the time when she was kicked out of the caravan group.
Did he run all the way here alone after he was attacked by the Mazoku? Or did he come for help? It could be for either purpose, but regardless, it will terrible leaving him like this.
Suimei gathered mana in his palms and gave instructions to Lefille.
"Lefille. Put him down. I’ll use healing magic."
Lefille hesitated for a moment, but understood the gravity of the situation and laid the man down onto the ground as per Suimei’s instructions.
The girl who was walking an earnest path didn’t seem to harbour any resentment.
To those words, Suimei nodded and started casting healing magic on the man. If he wasn’t on the verge of death, his method should be able to heal him. For physical wounds, spirit magic was effective. Negative symptoms from the excessive lost of blood couldn’t be avoided, but that could be cured with restorative magic too.
Under the adventurer was a magic formation of the same color as the magic coming from Suimei’s hand. With a faintly rising emerald color, the adventurer’s wound gradually closed up.
At that point, Suimei stopped.
Halfway through treatment, Suimei silently looked at the adventurer and put down the hand supplying the treatment.
To that, Lefille was visibly bewildered. As far as she could tell, he had abandoned the treatment halfway through. To Suimei who had lowered his hand, Lefille raised her voice in urgency.
"Suimei-kun! What happened? Why did you stop?!?"
"...It’s impossible. The Astral Body has been irreversibly exhausted. No matter how much we heal this man, it’s useless."
Can’t be done. Can’t be cured. Impossible to heal. However, to Lefille who had just seen the wounds close, this explanation probably wouldn’t make any sense.
Having seen the physical wounds heal, it was natural for Lefille to doubt this explanation.
"D-Didn’t you see that? Weren’t his wounds just healed? That doesn’t seem meaningless. So why?..."
"The wounds did close. However…"
He should be able to be healed, is what she wanted him to say. But Suimei, with a bitter face while grinding his teeth, interrupted those words with a shake of his head.
Lefille who saw that had a face filled with questions.
Lefille’s disappointment was painful. A sense of helplessness was probably tumbling around in her heart. Even if the other person was someone she’d hated before, the bitterness Lefille felt wouldn’t stop.
Lefille, however, was suspicious that Suimei had stopped for another reason.
"Suimei-kun. It can’t be that you stopped treatment because this man was the one who kicked me out of the group? Don’t look down on me. I don’t care what happened back then. So hurry up and continue the treatment!"
"It’s no good. It’s true that it’s as Lefille saw, I can heal the wounds. However, it’s also as I said. The astral body, in other words, the soul and its vessel, the psyche shell, has been worn away. No matter how much he is treated, he won’t survive for long."
"What… it can’t be…"
Watching the man whose life would disappear like fly, Lefille had no words. To her, Suimei regretfully added on.
"No matter how much he is treated, nothing can be done about another person’s soul."
"...Is it really impossible?"
"Under the proper conditions, there might be a one in ten thousand chance that it can be done. However, we have no time for that. Even if we were to prepare for it right now, his body wouldn’t be able to last."
After hearing Suimei’s diagnosis, Lefille bit her lips, her neck and shoulders slouched. No matter who it was, it was disheartening to see someone who was about to die. If the Mazoku was the cause of this, the feeling would be more intense and suffocating for the girl who swore to fight the Mazoku.
… The two of them fell into sadness. The man then turned towards Lefille.
“T-The others… Are under attack, by the Mazoku.”
“There are survivors!?”
“Don’t… Know. But, maybe…”
“There might be someone who is still alive!?”
But there wasn’t any response to the girl’s query.
To get as much air into his lungs as possible, the adventurer dressed man gasped his lips desperately, and couldn’t even make a sound. Seeing him like this, Lefille seemed to have thought of something and asked quietly:
“... Are the others on the mountain?”
Was there any meaning to this question? The girl sounded too calm, it might even cause others to misunderstand that she was being cold. In reply to this question that might give others the chill, the man nodded slowly.
The next instant, the man stopped breathing.
Lefille made an inhuman noise when the man died, while Suimei lowered his face.
… And finally, the kneeling Lefille stood and turned her back towards Suimei. The direction she was facing—
“... Hey, Lefille?”
Suimei asked, but Lefille kept her back towards him for some reason, and uttered words of apology.
“I am sorry, Suimei-kun.”
“Sorry about what, what are you going to do? Why are you facing that way?”
“Do you even need to ask…”
Isn’t that obvious— No, it was indeed something anyone could work out. Because right now, she was facing in a direction of a road they had never taken before.
In the end, Lefille seemed to have made up her mind. She turned towards Suimei, and stated her resolve with determination.
“Suimei-kun, I will be rescuing the people from the caravan.”
“Rescue them? Are you serious?”
“Yes, I have no plans on making jokes.”
“You are going even though you don’t even know where exactly the caravan is!?”
“They are probably along the mountain path. Even if they deviate from the route, it wouldn’t be for too far.”
“But there was no way of telling if they are still alive!”
“That’s right. But someone might still be alive. That’s why—”
That’s why she was going, in order help them, and performed a rescue that could only be said to be reckless. However, she mustn’t, she absolutely mustn’t go there, because—
“Do you understand!? This is the trap of the Mazoku to lure you over!”
“A trap, huh?”
“Yes! They are a bunch that assault people without a second thought! Will they allow someone who is heavily injured to run away!? If you go, you will definitely find Rajas waiting for you!”
That’s correct, this is a trap. An evil trap to bait Lefille, with the knowledge that she will rush over to save the caravan. They allowed this man on the verge of death to escape because they knew how Lefille will react after meeting him.
It was a coincidence that this adventurer came to this place in the secluded forest, but the chances that he was released as bait was high. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find Rajas waiting for Lefille when she rushed over to rescue the caravan.
However, Lefille didn’t listen to what Suimei said, the girl answered in a calm tone.
“What do you mean by probably… You should know this is true, Lefille!”
“Yes, that’s true. It’s like you said. I understand how reckless this is.”
“In that case…!!”
“However!! ... Even so, I still want to save everyone! Because of me, everyone is in danger! All because of me! That’s why!”
Lefille’s emotions burst forth as she faced Suimei who couldn’t accept her actions. It was probably the anxiety that had been accumulating in her heart all this while. Her feelings of wanting to help others and the thinking that she had to go were conveyed in her words. But she was just beating herself up too much over this.
“Like I told you, it’s not Lefille’s fault…”
“No, this is my fault. You said it just now right? This man only appeared here because of the trap the Mazoku laid out for me. Rajas only did this because I hid my tracks.”
“That… But even if you go, you will just die in vain!”
That was the truth. The opponent’s ambush wasn’t something so simple. It was a plan made in mind for the enemy that would be coming. For the one who jumps in, it would definitely be at a disadvantage.
That’s why Suimei refuse to give in, and tried to talk Lefille, whose back was towards him, out of this.
“Lefille! Think over it carefully! Calm down and think it through!”
But Lefille didn’t turn back—
“Lefille!! Come back!! You know in your heart it’s true!”
“Lefille!! Didn’t you say you mustn’t die!? To keep the power of the spirits from dying out! In that case—”
When Suimei was saying that, Lefille who was enduring silently spoke.
“What do you…”
“What do you understand about me!!”
The girl yelled from the bottom of her heart to stop Suimei. She then poured out the feelings in her heart like a torrent.
“You are telling me to pretend I didn’t see that even after all that!? I abandoned the people most dear to me! Even my closest family! Even so, you still want me to throw the people who got into danger because of me away!?”
Lefille’s words reverberated in Suimei’s ears and heart.
Is this thought and feelings weighing down her heart all this while? No one could help her from the pain, no one could save her. She couldn’t restrain her thoughts and screamed, because she earnestly wished to save these people. If that was so, what would Suimei have to do to calm her out of control emotions?
“So I just need to keep running!? Keep ignoring others and leave them to die!? Because I have to cherish my own life!? My thinking resulted in people losing their lives! This kind of thing… I have enough of this!”
Lefille seemed to be roaring at the mercilessness of the world. It was the cry of a girl who couldn’t vent all this while. That’s right, because she had been betraying her emotions, her self reproach became even more painful. It was even more so, if the feelings she had been going against was the right one. Because of her strong conviction, her self reproach was even more unbearable.
And then, tears came out from the corner of Lefille’s eyes after her emotions burst forth.
The tears were filled with sorrow and suffering. It was the crystallization of a girl imprisoned by her responsibility and obligations.
… And finally, she calmed down and her breathing became steady. Lefille apologized for losing her composure and turned back once more. Without looking back, she bidded farewell as if it was forever.
“... I am sorry, Suimei-kun. It was for a short time, but I have been in your care.”
“Lefille!? Don’t go!! Wait!!”
The voice persuading her to stay didn’t reach the girl, and disappeared futilely into the air. Lefille ignored Suimei’s restraint, and started running with abnormal speed along the way they came with her crimson spirit powers.
“Hey. She really left…”
The mutters of Suimei who was left behind echoed in the forest. His voice couldn’t reach Lefille anymore.
He halted his legs chasing her, and lowered his outreached arm. Suimei stood stiffly on the spot.
She left just like that, to help those who cursed and chased her away. And also to forge ahead in the path she believes to be just.
This fact made Suimei grit his teeth.
Was it fine for her to go like this? To a battle alone, where only despair waits.
Then chase her, Suimei thought. But if he went too, his life would be endangered. And of course, he would need to fight that Mazoku Rajas and his minions. It would be a brutal fight, and he might even die.
But he mustn’t die, He had his reasons. Suimei had to fulfill his father’s wish, and realize the ideal of the Association. He had already sworn to do so. Even if the one who made him swore was no longer amongst the living, even if this was decided one sidedly, an oath was still an oath. Once decided, he won’t give up until he fulfilled the promise. But would things be fine like this? If he accepted this, and use the excuse that he had things he needed to accomplish, he could move on and walk on his safe route. Could he ignore the battle that would be breaking out soon? And leave the girl to walk the path without salvation?
— The topic of his research was to save those who couldn’t find salvation. If he abandoned someone like that so he could continue his research, wouldn’t that be putting the cart before the horse?
He saw the contradiction in his introspection, and that voice echoed in his mind.
When did he start fearing death so much? When did he start to fear the unknown, and hesitate in stepping forward? When did he become so weak and cowardly, like those without power?
And so, he thought about it carefully. What was the power he possessed. He had been working hard to learn magic that surpass all the powerful mages since he was young. Didn’t the mystic exist in order to solve all the problems in the world? Wasn’t this the power that existed in order to not leave anyone who couldn’t reach salvation behind?
… The dilemma in his heart was wavering. But he arrived at this only answer a bit late. No, this only truth. Even though his heart was in conflict, the alarm in his head kept ringing. He wanted to put his own plans, victory, and defeat onto a scale and weigh them. But—
— It was for this reason that he swore an oath on that day.
“That’s right, Yakagi Suimei, you are a mage of the Association. As a mage, going against the ideals you decided on is wrong…”
He was talking to himself, as if he wanted to stop his thoughts from freezing up, a ritual to return his goal back into his heart.
And at this moment, something new happened.
Closing his mouth shut, Suimei’s eyes turned cold and sharp.
There was the presence of someone standing up from behind him. With a corrupt aura like those of a Mazoku, it walked towards him like a ghost. Something that didn’t show any signs of life was suddenly filled with vigour and ferociousness.
— So this was why the healing magic didn’t work well…
This revealed the mystery of the body behind Suimei. The reason why the Astral body was damaged so unnaturally. It was impossible to exhaust the Astral body through normal physical attacks. Even a lethal attack wouldn’t diminish the volume of an Astral body. The power of one’s psyche would be weakened if one was injured, but that would just make the psyche more frail, but won’t damage the soul.
Hence, the adventurer suffered attacks in addition to the external injuries he had. In the beginning, he didn’t know the Astral body was harmed because of an attack that was effective against the soul, or because if it was damage due to corrosion of the soul. It was undoubtedly the latter this time.
This must be a trap for the careless Lefille.
“— All of this.”
Behind Suimei who was thinking about chasing the girl who shed tears of suffering due to her self reproach, the walking dead was approaching.
Running. Yes, she was running with all her might. Not stopping even when her legs start to hurt. Just the fact that there was someone waiting for her made Lefille ran alone back the path she came as fast as she could.
Tapping into the extraordinary powers in her body, Lefille relied on the glowing crimson blessing of the goddess and ran. Going through the forest she broke the branches forcefully, and ran as if she was crushing the earth under her feet. Even when images of the worst case scenario flashes in her mind, she didn’t give up on the possibility of the people waiting for her was still there.
When she was almost halfway up the hill, the girl stopped and looked back.
She should only be able to see the cloudy, gloomy sky, and unnatural noises made by the branches, which made the atmosphere even more eerie— But reflected in her eyes were something that appeared on her path here suddenly.
That’s right, there were countless bodies paving the path she came. The remains of the Mazoku blocking the way of the girl going to the people waiting for her.
In order to kill Lefille, the Demon General Rajas probably gathered all his lackeys in the vicinity. If she arrived later by a quarter of an hour or so, the forest and hills in a 10 mile radius would be flooded by the Mazoku. It would be impossible to escape then.
Rajas was probably in the area too.
That thing who took everyone precious to Lefille, making people she cherished suffer in death. He even extended his claws to people unrelated to her. That merciless thing was waiting there eagerly.
As if making humans suffer was the only thing he took joy in. That evil being was probably sneering there.
Voices that Lefille shouldn’t be able to hear reached her. They were asking her to save them, begging for salvation. It was the voices of the people she couldn’t save, even though she hears their pleas.
That’s why she couldn’t leave it alone, in order to avoid that tragedy again.
Lefille acknowledged the burning fury in her heart, and at this moment.
— Don’t go! Lefille!
Suddenly, the remnants of her memory resounded in her ears. The voices she shouldn’t be able to hear again, made her heart burned by wrath waver.
That voice grasped her heart tightly, and the girl couldn’t suppress her memories that flowed out. Something important seemed to be glimmering in her heart, a sense of lost she wanted to ignore still lingered.
That’s right, the one who stopped Lefille, whose abilities was beyond human. The incredible young man she was just getting familiar with who restrained her from running off. His name is Yakagi Suimei. She met him in Mehter, the capital of Astel. A mage who was a bit weird.
Aside from his black hair which was a rare sight in this region, he didn’t have any other features, a young man who looked as if he will disappear into the wind at any moment. If she had to list one thing unique about him, that would be his gentle eyes. Although he wore clothings that wasn’t any different from others, he still had an exotic feel about him. No, the aura about him couldn’t be described so simply with words. He was a mage unlike any other the girl had seen before.
He claimed to be a traveler making his way to Nelferia, but he was unfamiliar with the common sense of this world for some reason. Recently, she found out he possessed exceptional and shocking knowledge.
Simply put, his personality was warm and kind. As a mage, he should be lofty and reserved, but his actions and words felt naive in all sorts of ways, and his character was far from being cold.
That day, when he parted with the caravan and chased after Lefille, it was easy to deduce that was how his personality was. He would definitely be in danger if he followed her, but Suimei still did that without any regret. He always has her best interest in heart, and even brushed off Lefille’s words asking him to stop, and soothe her heart tired from all her setbacks. That was why she could more or less grasp his character.
And that wasn’t the only part of his character she grasped.
That night when the curse from the Mazoku activated, he gently embraced Lefille despite her shameful actions.
That’s right. Back then I was—
— Yes, she was fearful back then.
She felt the young man who noticed something was wrong and came to her was scary.
No matter how kind and gentle he was, he was still a man. If he saw how she was and that she was doing something shameful, there was no telling what he would do to her.
The instant his arms embraced her, her heart was filled with fear towards the young boy who was worried about her and wanted to help.
In the end, Lefille saw the emotions in his eyes were opposite of the fear she felt, and didn’t have a shred of violence.
In his eyes were the light of sympathy and empathy. Normally, he should feel that her shameful appearance was disgusting. But despite that, his hands that touched her back then were so gentle. He didn’t lose his head to his base desires that would stem naturally. The hands touching her skin were trembling silently because of his anger towards the curse.
She groaned to his touch, and when she realized it, she heard his apologies for not being of use. It was a weak and depressed voice, lamenting his incompetence in breaking the curse.
He had no obligation to undo the curse in the first place, and didn’t need to apologize. But even so, he still apologized as if he was to blame.
And when the time came for their abrupt farewell, what he said was words of restraint for her sake. His actions done for her safety had no chance of being malicious.
That’s why it’s fine now. Because of the way he was, Lefille didn’t want him to encounter any more danger. His figure shouldn’t be around her, the one who could only head down the path of destruction.
If he could just hide in the forest obediently, it would be over soon. She might defeat Rajas, or pass on vexingly in Rajas’ hands, it would be over soon.
That’s right, there was nothing that would please her more than him being safe.
— Even if she couldn’t see his cheerful smile ever again.
Even if his voice that tried to stopped her echoed in her ears.
Even if the last expression she saw on his face was a mixture of sadness and anxiety.
She knew that her choice was just hopeless wilfullness. All that talk about helping those who abandoned her, was a form of betrayal to the feelings of the one who came to help her alone despite without hesitation. A girl like her had no value in being saved.
But even so, even if things were like this—
“This is fine. This is…”
She found it hard to hold back the tears welling up, it was a warmth that welled up like a tide from the innermost depths of her heart. It was filled with sorrow and anguish, the pain of having no choice but to bear such a fate. If she could meet that young man in another way, she wouldn’t have such an ending? When he followed her, when he chatted with her while enduring with the awkwardness, when he tried to stop her from going. She felt so happy during each of these moments.
That’s why emotions she never felt before spilled forth when she reminiscence those times. It wasn’t the sadness of a cherished person passing on, or the sorrow of missing a home that was already gone. It was a pain that gripped at her heart, her reluctance to part with him.
But she didn’t want to run anymore. She didn’t want to see anyone else die. Being helpless while someone besides her was being tormented, she had enough of such things.
That’s why, she wiped away the warm thoughts falling from the corner of her eyes away, and ran with all her might.
Cleaving through the things that were in her way, Lefille finally reach this place.
If she focused on her senses, she could detect the presence of multiple humans and Mazoku. She could already sense the strange atmosphere of this place from the depth of the forest, and Lefille cut through everything blocking her path and dashed out.
It was an open plain where the vegetation growth seemed unnatural. It was almost dusk, but the air was still heavy as she took in the scene before her eyes — A terrible hell.
The first thing that assaulted Lefille who gave a prayer for having made it in time as she cleave through the trees and dash out, was the mind numbing smell of blood and gore. And the reason behind the bloody smell appeared in her clear eyes. It made her doubt if she had stumbled onto an execution site.
Are these Rajas’ minions? Several Mazoku covered in dark demonic aura was rampaging. Some of the people were busy running for their lives, while others were covered in wounds and lying in a pool of blood, probably dead from the Mazoku’s attacks. Admist the chaos, roars, wails and screeching laughter could be heard.
This scene Lefille witnessed before and didn’t want to ever see again filled her with rage.
Allowing her emotions to drive her body, Lefille slashed at the Mazoku besides her.
The Mazoku couldn’t react in time to Lefille’s sudden attack.
The vertical slash that glowed with a crimson glow. Dirt and the death throes of the Mazoku were blown away by her large sword, sending the Mazoku flying in two pieces.
Be it the struggling survivors or the Mazoku that far outnumbers them, all their eyes fell on her. In order to confirm what was happening, everyone watched the interloper who finally arrived after much hardship.
One of them noticed.
It wasn’t a question asking who the young girl was, but an exclamation because he found someone familiar.
She wasn’t too late, there were still survivors. There were still people surrounded by Mazoku, waiting for rescue. People who resisting death in a hopeless situation.
Yes, she made it. In order to protect those hoping for a miracle.
The girl came to help them, in response to their pleas. That should be the case but—
“Why the hell are you here!?”
What greeted her was the merciless voice of rage.
Her movement turned stiff because of the sudden hostility and disgust. Why was she treated with such ill meaning words even though she ran here because everyone was in danger.
It was a voice that came from another place. The low tone voice came from a middle aged man, the caravan leader Galeo. He only survived this long because he was a merchant not involved in the fighting. But his voice was trembling with rage. His eyes were filled with hate directed at Lefille. Those eyes seemed to be saying the culprit was right there.
“Didn’t I tell you to leave the caravan? The Mazoku attacked because you are here.”
“T-That might be so, but now isn’t the time to talk about that…”
That’s right. Right now, they were on the verge of falling to the Mazoku’s attack. Such meaningless talk should be saved for later, this wasn’t a safe place to talk.
But contrary to Lefille’s thinking, the people around her replied.
“Meaningless talks…? Isn’t this why we got attacked by the Mazoku!?”
Lefille didn’t have any grounds to address the accusation. It was her fault that the Mazoku was here, so the girl could only endure these cruel words.
As Lefille kept the Mazoku at bay while taking the unreasonable outburst she couldn’t deny, the bloody faced man who shouted at the beginning showed a surprised expression.
“Wait… You, why do you know we are being attacked?”
“One of the adventurers escorting the caravan told me about the attack, so…”
“You say he told you… You mean he somehow found you even though he didn’t know where you were?”
Lefille nodded, and the escort pressed on:
“How did you come here so fast?”
“I told you now is not the time to talk about this—”
Lefille reminded him, but the escort ignored her.
Escort didn’t leave any room for negotiation and the air was tense. It made the ghastly aura about his bloody body even more eerie. But why was this happening? They should know the urgency of the matter, why were they bothering with such trivial details?
This is bad, we have to strengthen our defences, Lefille thought. Her concentration was disrupted because of the conversation. But when she shut her mouth and surveyed the surroundings, she saw that the Mazokus were sneering.
They were like bystanders watching an ugly internal discord.
Why didn’t the Mazoku showed any signs of attacking?
Why didn’t they attack everyone? The insidious laughter sent a chill through Lefille’s body. If they want to kill the caravan off, now would be the best chance to do that, so why did they stop their bloodied claws? A strange atmosphere hanged in the air. This was a matter of life and death, so why did they ignore this point, and insist on acting out such a poorly scripted drama?
“Hey, are you listening!?”
Just when Lefille was baffled by this situation, the escort suddenly shouted at her.
““— Tch!! That doesn’t matter!! Regroup now and escape!!”
“Escape? Where can we run to!? There’s Mazoku everywhere here! Anything we do will be futile!”
“That might be so… But if we talk so defenselessly…”
“Don’t try to hide it.”
“—I’m not hiding anything!”
“... You don’t want to tell us. Am I right?”
“You don’t dare to tell us the truth!! You have been loitering around us all this while! That’s why you can make it here so fast! Isn’t it!?”
That’s that true. She used the power of the spirits in the forest and rushed here from far away. She wasn’t in the vicinity. But how should she explain. There wasn’t any use in saying them—
“That’s why we were attacked right!? Because you didn’t leave and is just in the area, so we were attacked!”
“No! That’s not true!”
“Not true!? If not, how did you get here so fast!?”
So that’s why he was so furious. An indescribable resentment assaulted her. Following that, she was showered by grudgeful gazes.
Do they really want to push the blame onto me so much? Humans who were on the verge of death will vent their negative emotions at others arbitrary. That’s how much of a failure the creature known as man was.
“Ms Grakis, because of you…”
As if she was being punched repeatedly, the impact of the accusations made the girl shake her head.
These baseless rumours pushing all the responsibility onto her gave Lefille the illusion that the world was spinning around her. Hostility and censure robbed her of her balance.
Why are they blaming me. Why must they curse and swear in a place like this. I came for the sake of everyone. Even though I am risking my life in this godforsaken place to save everyone.
Even though she did this for everyone, and even rejected the gentle hands of that young man—
“Why… I am here to save everyone…”
“Shut up! It’s all your fault! We only encounter such a thing because of you!!”
The accusations and swearings were like a curse. Isn’t there any exception, does everyone think it’s my fault? Lefille only came here in the hope that everyone was safe, but she still had to endure their loathe and curses.
The swearing from everyone tumbled in the girl’s head, when a painful roar erupted.
Shifting her gaze to the origin of the sound, Lefille saw an arm as thick as a log protruding out of a chest of one of the escort. That was definitely an arm of a Mazoku.
The escort was killed by this piercing blow and fell limp forward. Appearing behind him was—
“You are finally here, Swordswoman of Noshias.”
“——、Rajas!! You bastard!!”
“You are overbearing as usual. What, you are that eager to take my head?”
Her killing intent was directed at Rajas who was mocking her. There wasn’t anything else to say, wasn’t this obvious? Because this bastard who was an incarnation of destruction and violence took everything important from her. Without a doubt, her hostility and murderous urge was pointed at him. Yes, because of this rage—
“It’s all your fault, you… you did all of this!”
Because of the tragedy happening before her once again, she couldn’t suppress her emotions anymore. These words spilled forth because of her intense emotions. But it wasn’t clear how Rajas interpret her feelings, as he looked around him and laughed deviously as if he was waiting for these very words.
“What are you saying, this is your fault, woman of Noshias. These bunch of people only meet with misfortune because you are here, right?”
Rajas smiled sinisterly, as if he was anticipating something. It was true that Lefille was part of the reason, but Rajas who created this mess was definitely not qualified to say this.
But Rajas was sneering. Looking at the group behind Lefille as if he was watching fools.
When Lefille realized why Rajas said that, it was already too late.
The gaze of the group stung her back. When she noticed it and turned back, all of them were glaring at her wrathfully.
“So it is because of you…”
“I-If you are not here…”
“It’s all your fault…”
Those weren’t sounds of humans anymore. What came out of their mouth seemed to be the congregation of hate filled with malice.
The words of denial came out of her mouth unconsciously.
“N-No! Listen to me, it’s not like this!”
“Shut up! You bitch! You are the source of all evil!”
The survivors started swearing at her. When she realized it, even the calm Mr Galeo was also cursing at her. Hatred poured down at her from all sides.
Why didn’t they trust her who came forth to help them, but side with the devil? They should realize something was off if they think about it a little. Why were they blinded by the words and sights in front of them, and fail to see the true nature of things—
“... No, it’s not my fault! I didn’t want anyone to get hurt…”
Shut up. It’s all your fault. It’s because of you. Because you are here. The Mazoku said so too. Murderer. Death god.
The voices that entered her ears kept blaming her and made it her fault.
“I-I’m not wrong!! Why, why can’t everyone understand!?”
Lefille screamed with all her might. Maybe this was the emotions she had been suppressing in her heart. Rajas who saw this scene laughed heartily.
“Fuhahah! You humans are so dumb! When something happens, you only know how to curse, swear and demean others! After peeling away the exterior, you are beings that are uglier than maggots!”
After enjoying this happiness, Rajas turned to the Mazoku around him—
“— Do it”
He ordered the massacre.
His words made her heart that was wounded by the accusations strengthen. Even though her face was wet with her vexed and painful tears, she endured it and gritted her teeth.
Lefille won’t let him do as he pleased. As she was thinking that—
Even though her heart took a step forward, Lefille’s body did not respond. Her power that allowed her to run and leap was not conveyed to her legs, her usual swiftness was gone. Her feet weren’t moving as well as she imagined.
Her movement dulled. There wasn’t any doubt that she had slowed down.
As for the reason, it’s because of the gaze of the crowd that made her unable to move. Yes, it wasn’t from Rajas or the Mazoku around her, but because of her fellow humans. Their accusations bounded her.
And her dulled movement had fatal consequences.
“Ah, ah ah! Ahhhh!”
“I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die! Ah, ah, ah—!”
“Don’t come! Don’t come here! Don’t ahhhhhh— Ughh!?”
The people around her were slaughtered by the Mazoku helplessly. Be it the escort that blamed her, the adventurers that swore at her, Galeo who glared at her with hatred or the other merchants.
When the Mazoku attacked the last person, her body finally recovers.
It was too late. Even though her head knows that, her heart refused to stop.
Cleaving through the back of the Mazoku who was blocking her view of the last person, she looked down. On the ground was a person dyed red with the blood of the Mazoku and her own blood.
It was a girl. When she took the request at the guild, she was a mage in the monster subjugation team. The one closest to her in the group, someone she think of as a friend—
Lefille knelt down and held the girl.
The girl groaned in pain. And reached a trembling hand turned red by her blood to Lefille. She uttered these words between her soft gasping breathes.
“... If… you…”
“If only...you weren’t here…”
In the end, she died after muttering words akin to a curse. She left behind a bloody mark around Lefille’s neck with both of her hands, and a corpse that had nothing to do with the term ‘RIP in peace’. Reflected in Lefille’s eyes was a face twisted with hatred. As if Lefille was her mortal enemy, and in the last moment of her life, she vented her grudge and curses at Lefille.
… Lefille’s arms and shoulders that were holding her fell weakly.