Upon entering the city, the girl
Translators: Shuvi, Rockgollem
Editing: Deus ex-Machina
The time is around 10 days after the fight with Rajas. Suimei and Lefille had crossed the border into the Nelfaria empire and arrived at the capital Filas Filia.
While walking on the highway currently under maintenance, a bit after arriving Suimei looked towards his destination. With just a glance at Astel, one could see a unique and massive castle gate towering above the skies.
That castle gate had a height much taller than that of Metel, Kurant city and of incomparable circumference; one could tell the power of the Nelfaria Empire from it. The dimensions of the city were also nearly double that of Metel, and outside of the castle walls were many markets and hotels.
It was a place at the crossroads of three different countries, an important trade hub with roads leading to the east, west, and south. At any rate, it was an extremely prosperous area.
Well, Suimei was originally planning on staying a while in Kurant city but, there was reason for him coming all the way to Nelfaria. Of course, that was none other than Lefille Grakis.
Based on some premonition, they had come with a large number of military forces and were attacked in Astel territory. After defeating Rajas, Lefille, who had used too much of her spirit power, suddenly turned into a young girl like an elementary school student.
As a result, Lefille lost much of her fighting capability, and being unable to wield her large sword, she couldn’t go alone to Nelfaria.
Hence, Suimei ended up leaving Kurant city early and accompanying Lefille across the border.
Furthermore, there was the matter of her curse. During the trip, it manifested many times, and despite using restraint and control magic on it every time, the corruption could still not be purged.
Upon recalling that, Suimei blinked his eyes uncomfortably and his face was somewhat hot. It wasn’t really a bad thing but, evidently, he was thinking of something embarrassing.
If someone saw that situation… well it was only because she’d used so much magic but, he would definitely be called a lolicon. Lefille was technically older than himself, but even if it wasn’t so.
But, that said...
(Still, it comes down to this)
Seems there’s no alternative. After losing her combat power she can’t travel alone, and with that curse something bad is bound to happen. So he needed to stay with her until she returned to her original body and could either be released from or at least suppress the curse.
That mazoku thingy that cursed her… I need to take it down.
While staring at her, the thought started to take a proper shape from just a dim outline.
The female mazoku who was with Rajas. Sleep demon was it? In the other world, it would be a succubus type demon. It was known as evil spirit, well known in Europe, that seduces men in their dream and steal away their vitality. It was a being that gained form from a mere shadow due to projections of countless human desires. It seemed they were categorized as mazokus in this world.
To undo the curse, there was a need to eliminate her copies. After all, they had abilities of their own, albeit weaker, so it was decided to aim for them -- there was an effective process to it. If they destroyed the clones then afterwards the enemy wouldn’t be able to produce them again. If that’s the case then the source shouldn’t be aimed at first.
That’s right, he had come all the way up till now. Postponing his own returning to his original world, he wanted to give her his strength until the end.
“What’s wrong Suimei-kun?”
“Huh? Oh nothing really...”
“Fufu, could it be you’ve been entranced by my figure?”
With a mischievous expression Lefille did a little twirl right there. The little adornments on her children’s clothes fluttered in the wind, and she had a satisfied face. For her usually lady-like self, this was an unusual appearance.
That’s to say, pretty much.
“Seems you’re pretty happy about something.”
“Uh, well… yeah”
As Suimei laughed and remarked that, Lefille looked down with a red face. It was like a child who had a secret exposed. Well, if he had to say, she was happily wearing children’s clothes and hiding her embarrassment. The clothes she was wearing, of course, were not her knight’s clothes but clothes bought in Kurant city.
Originally his goal was to buy some easy to move in clothes in Nelfaria for him, but when he bought her clothes, he gave into the salesperson, and now Lefille was wearing some cute clothes. Lefille, to the end, was saying things like “You’re treating me like a child!” or “I’m an adult!” or “Cute clothes… th-theres no way I’d be intereste…”, but the shop assistant wouldn’t take any of that and in the end, put together a bunch of innocent clothes that they bought.
Glancing around at their whereabouts, Lefille inquired.
“Is that fine?”
“The shop assistant also said so but, it’s cute”
“Cute… even if you say that I’m not particularly overjoyed.”
That is what people would call “tsun” but, she walked with a skip. To be called cute, she was probably actually happy on the inside. It’s the same as how boys get pumped up with they’re called cool. As expected, anyone would be happy if they are praised. Seeing this was a heartwarming experience, although how much of it was because she’d become little, he didn’t know.
(Just talking with Lefille casually, it’s the usual Lefille huh)
While carrying a large sword on his back, Suimei looked over at Lefille. Because she had become small, she looked like she had become much more full of emotion in all respects. It’s not really that she had scarce emotions up until now, it’s just that compared to how quiet she was back then, her current childlike character stands out. With her body becoming small, maybe her mind was dragged to a childlike state with it, but there is no way to know for sure.
However, if this is the case, she displays an air appropriate for a child, like one trying to stand on their tiptoes. Well, isn’t that fine though?
While Suimei was thinking that, Lefille suddenly stopped, put on a serious look on her childlike face, and faced Suimei.
“Oh right. Come to think of it Suimei-kun, about my body becoming small…”
“Oh, I completely forgot about the explanation I was saying earlier.”
“I also forgot because of all the other things that were happening.”
As Suimei remembered, his facial expression and voice changed to a serious tone, contrasting to his attitude just a little ago. Because many things had happened up until now, he had completely forgotten about that talk.
Lefille had become little. Before they descended from the mountain, the talk about his guess on the matter.
Suimei’s eyebrows wrinkled and he put his hand on his chin as he began to explain his conclusions.
“Now then, where should I being… ah right. In the world I’m from, there is a line of thinking that the everything that people see are all just projections of the actual essence of the thing. The essence, from the idea view, is what the visible thing reflects, a sort of shadow of the idea. Or at least that’s how the idea theory goes...”
“So uhh… The things that I can see are…”
While nodding her head and muttering to herself, Lefille thought about the previous explanation. It’s hard to completely understand the general idea if you aren’t in that world after all. Now then, how to explain it simply…
“Well, for example. The Yakagi Suimei that Lefille currently is able to see is the one that is shown to you by the projection of the idea of Yakagi Suimei. The other things you are able to sense about me are also things from the information that it lets you recognize.”
“So the idea is the essence? In other words, what is visible and what is the essence are actually different, right?”
“You could say it that way”
“Then, if it’s as you say, and that what we see is what the idea allows us to see, then wouldn’t everyone see differently?”
“Well the idea can potentially contain many individual characteristics, so it can decide to show different appearances when we see it. That’s why, even in things that Lefille and I see as the same, there are parts that can’t be seen. Around us, the trees, rocks, and buildings aren’t the same as each other.”
“...I understand it for naturally created things, because all natural things have a spirit. But how do you explain that for manmade objects? Those are created for a particular purpose, so they don’t really have an encompassing idea right?”
“That’s true. In the case of human created objects, they aren’t consciously created with an idea. But when they are made, the person is thinking “do this” or “do that,” which attaches on many traits. It’s a bit of a stretch, but that breathes a soul into it. Well, that’s for things that physically exist but, the point is that general idea and shape are given by humans.”
“So pretty much, people create it with just an outward appearance, but in actuality an idea with various characteristics is also created, and added onto the outward appearance?”
To the enquiring Lefille, Suimei nodded in assent. It seemed she sort of grasped the concept.
Thereupon, Lefille gave an usually grim face and spoke.
“But then Suimei-kun. If we can be explained in that way, then aren’t we all sort of sad existences? Aren’t we no more than like people whose existences are as thin as paper, that can be interpreted arbitrarily and differently?”
As thin as paper, how fitting. It’s quite on point, surprisingly. I guess if it’s the first time one hears this kind of talk, that response is kind of to be expected.
“That’s right. The world we are in and the us in that world are paper thin existences. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, they’re all merely interpretations of the essence. Everything we see is in reality a sham, a deception..”
Seems she can’t accept that. No, isn’t that to be expected? Things that exist, that can be seen, and yourself, they’re concrete things that are here. Words with such existential futility, that deny your own self.
“Well, just believe in this for now. There’s no need to understand it in such depth.”
“You’re saying stupid things Suimei-kun. Isn’t this important concerning the matter of myself? There’s no way I can just overlook it.”
“Well if you say it that way… it’s all natural philosophy so personally I don’t think it’s particularly necessary but… so, what do you think?”
“Well uh, I guess I mostly understand it. But how does that have anything to do with me becoming small?”
To the inquiring Lefille, Suimei closed his eyes briefly and then opened them. Then…
“So far the theory is pretty simple. Existences can pretty much be summarized with that paper person type of idea. But for a child of a spirit and a human like you, Lefille, the theory becomes much more apparent. For a normal human, since the soul and body are tied together, when either is damaged severely it can lead to death. For Lefille, however, since you are primarily comprised of spirit, in addition to the body and soul the spirit is a component, and in some parts even without the spirit the body and soul continue on. Of course though, since the spirit is still part of the idea, and it becomes faint, you will change and your normal existence will also become faint.”
“The reflection of my essence that you and others can see, is losing its consistency as my existence fades. That’s why I’m becoming like this? So the spirit weakening doesn’t change the body and soul. But it’s not unusual that there would be some kind of fluctuation in appearance because the spirit is part of the idea that is projected.”
“Yeah. I think that’s why Lefille has taken on that form.”
Lefille’s body is currently incomplete because the spirit is not present. Therefore, the information is damaged, meaning that what is conveyed to other people will also surely be affected. However, to rid of features like the fatigued complexion, the bodily injuries, and the pale face, her body inevitably had to revert to that of a young girl.
Lefille folded her arms and groaned.
“Being able to understand all of this, your world must have been an unimaginable place. Well, just the fact that you’re from another world is surprising too.”
“Well this year has been the most unfortunate.”
Lefille showed a bitter smile to Suimei who had a disheartened face.
“To hold that much power and not be a hero that saves the world, I think that’s just being cynical really.”
“I don’t think it’s really all that amazing.”
“Well I only defeated a bunch of small fries, right? In that case for a magician it’s not really anything to brag about.”
“In this world there are also magicians that wish for the kind of power you had. Pretty much, I think you’re reaching for ideals that are too high.”
“...ideals huh. Well I guess so”
Suimei thought of the man that embodied his ideals. To just be able to reach his father’s toes, he had greater wishes and higher standards than others. Suimei’s aspirations in regards to his father were still strong.
Maybe she had guessed his thoughts, but Lefille approached and inquired.
“By the way, I’m curious. If it were your father, would he have been able to do the same?”
“Hmm? If it was father then he would have had no problems defeating them.”
To that question, Suimei thought for a bit. If it was his father then how would it have been. Of course it wasn’t a question of whether he could or not; that he could was a given. Rajas was strong and able, but when it came down to it, his father probably wouldn’t even have to move his eyebrow a millimeter.
“With a single fist he’d send him flying.”
“Wha... a fist??”
To the surprised Lefille, Suimei nodded.
His father was a magician, but he was incapacitated and stuck in a wheelchair. Without legs and his body disobeying himself, he would seem to be no match for Rajas. In the past he’d had a fighting style weaving close combat and magic, and had a stubborn forward facing disposition.
Yes, in battles he was dreadfully formidable. Even in his current condition in the wheelchair, he could fire barrages of magic, and in the time between casts he could evade attacks and slip into the cracks of his opponent’s defenses, delivering a thrust using his Shinden (TL: Skill name meaning Magnificent Lightning), rendering his opponent into dust.
And then, after using it, he would inevitably gaze at his hand and think.
...Well, my fist still hasn’t become weak yet.
“...he would be able to do it. It’s him after all. His strength is mindboggling.”
If it was father he’d be able to do it. If it was him, then the mazoku that took me quite some time to find the characteristics of, he would have used modern magic to immediately find an effective magic. To be honest, in addition to taking time, I’d been reduced to tatters, while father was strong and wouldn’t have had any problem. Although because his legs had gone lame, compared to when he could move freely, he wouldn’t be able to do it as easily as one could imagine.
“The mazoku general, that easily…?”
“Yeah. Really, how did he manage to become so strong? Well, I can’t ask him anymore…”
Yes, his father could no longer answer. He died. Before his very eyes. Halfway through his path in life, he’d handed over his legacy.
“How do I say it. I can tell your world was extraordinarily different.”
“It can’t be helped. My world and this world are in completely different states in terms of how far civilization has progressed. The development of technology is different, and people’s strength is also different. Lefille is an exception but…”
“In the end the one that defeated Rajas with one sword was an exception. Carrying a power that’s like the natural enemy of magicians.”
That amazed voice was from the mystery that is the heart. Even in the other world, Lefille’s spirit is an exception. With that, Suimei looked up at the blue sky and said.
“Someday, I’d like to become a magician like that…”
Arriving along the highway to Filas Filia, where many and diverse people came and went, the two of them finally reached the castle gate and lined up in queue for the city entrance inspection.
Looking up and down the castle walls and gate while shielding his eyes from the glaring sun, Suimei asked Lefille.
“It’s a little late, but what kind of place is the Nelfaria Empire?”
To that far too late question, Lefille frowned as if at a loss for words before replying.
“Really to only ask now? We’ve already been in imperial territory for quite a while. Shouldn’t you kind of already be able to tell?”
“To me everywhere kind of seems the same. If I had to say what’s different from Astel, there’s more people and a greater variety of things.”
Suimei shrugged his shoulders. He was a person from the modern age, and telling apart people here was hard. Maybe Lefille could tell a lot of differences between the interior designs and states of the cheap hotels they’d been staying in up until now, but for Suimei who had come from modern Japan, it was hard to tell the differences between things in this other world. At most he could tell the differences between the clothes people were wearing.
“Didn’t you do some research in the Astel library before we came?”
“I only have knowledge from books, so I’d like to hear Lefille’s impressions.”
“My impressions of the empire huh…”
Lefille thought for a while in response to Suimei’s words. The honest opinion of someone from this world. There wasn’t much to go on.
After a little, she nodded and then answered.
“Well, let’s see. In a sentence, I’d have to say the Nelfaria Empire is strong in terms of national power. Yes.”
Suimei took on a stiff smile.
“...ah. From the books it did certainly seem that way.”
“Right. Nelfaria’s wealth is famous. And their military power is by far the best compared to other countries.”
“But, it doesn’t really feel like it’s to that extent. Is something happening?”
Suimei asked about the doubt he had for quite some time.
Basically the empire was known as a place with many people and lots of influence. In addition, they seemed to constantly exert pressure on the surrounding countries. Yet, the empire also held alliances with countries that had different governing philosophies.
While it’s true that many other countries fell into the empire’s sphere of influence, it seemed to fit together almost too well.
Furthermore, to Suimei, the empire seemed similar to Imperial Japan, bearing a strongly similar image.
“Well that can’t be helped. At first the empire annexed the surrounding countries, but in the war several hundred years ago, they lost a lot of their national power. These days it seems to have calmed down,”
“Calmed down… it seems to be a country with a large ambition, yet even after hundreds of years nothing much has happened.”
“Well, at that time the empire was allied with three different countries, and because of the potential danger of a war, the other countries raised militaries of comparable strength.”
“So even after raising war potential, a war never broke out.”
“Yeah. One of the big reasons is because the hero summoning became a big topic.”
To Lefille’s unexpected words, Suimei put on a dubious face.
“Because of the hero summoning? What does that have to do with it?”
“They were summoned during the war in those days. The heroes.”
To Lefille’s explanation, Suimei’s confusion only deepened. Certainly during those days, the Hero summoning was carried out. The nation’s leaders and magicians guilds, due to the highest conference of the salvation church, recognized the hero summons, which for the first time, succeeded. However, how did a war cause a summoning?
As Suimei’s face distorted in deep thought, Lefille gave an answer.
“This is handed down through legends. At the time, the ruler of the Sadius union suddenly instated a dictatorial government and waged war against the surrounding countries, causing mass murderings.”
“Oi oi, mass murderings are dangerous. Why would he?”
“Who knows, the legends didn’t say that much. I don’t know either. Anyways, without discrimination and with great brutality, aiming for power he continued to wage war against everyone in the world, and most people sensed the impending danger.”
As Lefille spoke, Suimei remembered something in the corner of his mind. Yes, a while ago, the thing with the Astel prime minister Gless and that official Dorothea in the Twilight Pavilion. The story about the tyrant. At that time, 3 heroes were called from another world; it was the tale about the fall of the tyrant. However,
“So the heroes are summoned, and then the empire’s aggressive war was also affected...oh.”
“Yep, seems like you’ve noticed. In the war, against the aggressor nation, the fact that you can summon a hero to oppose them was proven. While the empire didn’t go as far as to conduct mass murder, if he tried to conquer the surrounding countries, then they would come to agreement, and then…”
“They would summon the heroes, and go after them.”
“Yes. The Nelfaria emperor at that time had seen the power of heroes and was considerably scared, thinking that he must not make enemies of the heroes.”
If it was to that extent, it couldn’t be helped. To scare the emperor who had that much power and influence over the rulers of other countries to that extent, the heroes must have had tremendous power.
“There’s that, but the hero summoning was also monumental.”
“Yes. To get the war power to defeat the mazoku and the demon king. Power equal to a whole country. Wouldn’t there be a lot of political manuevering to get that?”
“And because of that, there’s a lot of competition, and the large scale debate has prevented war from breaking out for a long time.”
”Well that said, two years ago around the time of the conflict between Astel and Shaldock, due to the contributions of the Astel Kingdom’s Princess Titania, Astel won.”
Titania’s contributions. To those unexpected words, Suimei’s eyes widened.
“Tia… oh Princess Titania. Yeah she had quite considerable contributions you know.”
“Really...that princess huh.”
With that, Suimei gave a huge sigh of amazement. It was unexpected. The Astel princess, Titania. She had vigor and was tidy, but for that princess that always walked closely behind Reiji to have furiously contributed on the battlefield, it was unimaginable. She didn’t seem to be as powerful as a mage as Felmenia; could she have been hiding it?
… that’s what he thought, but in contributing to the battlefield, there are many ways such as coming up with plans and policies.
(Iya, is it because Tia can fight that nobody said anything about her departure?)
At this time, Suimei remembered the matter before he’d left the castle.
When Reji and his party were paraded out in a line, the king, the prince, and the others at the castle showered them with praise, but Suimei couldn’t remember a single word of caution. In other words, did nobody have any words of worry for them? Did that mean they had that much confidence in the princess’ power?
“...the next person, come into the office.”
While thinking that, he heard a voice from the office. It seemed they were at the front of the line. Suimei and Lefille both ended their conversation and entered.
Entering, there were several people of the military police standing up in a cozy little room, inviting them in.
There, a young man who looked to be in charge of documents and tax collection raised his voice.
“Entering the city?”
Seeing the two of them both nod their heads, the man handed them the documents. They were to write down their names. Upon leaving Metel and entering Kurant, they had done the same thing so Suimei was already familiar with it.
“Then, please write your name here. Next, if you know your social status then please present… Oh oops right, about being able to write...”
To the calm Suimei and the tottering Lefille, the official changed what he was about to say and inquired such.
“Yes, she can write”
“Sorry about that. Then please write here. Next, please pay the city entrance tax as well as the passage toll and everything should be concluded.”
Suimei, after hearing the official’s polite words, started to enter in his name, while the official looked over at Lefille’s carefree smiling face. Does he like kids, does he have a nice character, Suimei is too nice, the official thought, and he stooped over by Lefille and lowered his gaze.
“Then, could you, miss, also fill out these forms?
Hearing that request, Lefille’s eyebrow twitched, and she suddenly made a serious and severe face.
“Official-dono. I am not a Miss. Correct yourself.”
“Ahaha. You’re right. Sorry sorry, Princess-sama.”
“What’s with that response! What kind of childish bullshit are you trying to spout?!?”
To the official’s response, Lefille stood up and shouted furiously. It was the same when they were shopping in Kurant city, upon being treated like a child she would have quite the reaction. To any trivial slip of the tongue she would always have this kind of adamant negation.
“...tch, Suimei-kun! Suimei-kun say something!”
What could he do to resolve this. There was no way that he could say “Truth is, this child fought with the mazoku and became little.” That kind of response was like what you’d hear in some comedy. Upon hearing Lefille, the official looked at Suimei and gave a wry smile.
“Heh, seems like she’s quite lively. Must be hard.”
“Ah, well… heh.”
In the end Suimei had dealt with the rest. Just when he thought it was over, Lefille came over with arms crossed.
“Suimei-kun! Why did you go along with what he said?”
“Iya… that was uhh…”
What he wanted to say was, ‘it can’t be helped, please deal with it.’ Thinking that, Suimei said bewilderingly to Lefille who was clinging to him.
“A child standing on her tiptoes like this. My little sister that I left behind was also like this so I understand.”
Nodding and grunting in affirmation, it was like he had experience. If you looked around, the other military police officers also had similar smiles due to Lefille’s actions; it was quite a warm and light atmosphere.
“Ku… I’ve had it. Hurry up and finish the paperwork so we can get out of here.”
Saying so, Lefille gave up and returned to her quiet self and went back to filling out the paperwork. But…
Somehow, while reaching out to the papers, Lefille let out a groan and braced herself. Even when Suimei asked what it was about, Lefille, as if grappling with something in her head, wouldn’t respond. She only raised her voice as if she was dealing with a difficult enemy.
“Ku, this sort of thing, this sort of thing!”
“Not yet! I can’t give up yet! My pride. I can’t throw it away!”
Lefille grandiosely declared such. For a while she continued on, until she realized something and sank down in despair.
“Kuh, my hands can’t reach the paper...”
With a sound, Lefille sniffled and said so tearfully. Reaching at the middle of the top of the desk, she seemed to be in quite the precarious situation, evidently having trouble writing. Was she really having that hard of a time?
Thereupon, the official came over to her side and gave her a chair.
“Here Missy. Please use this instead.”
To the official’s kind gesture, Lefille once again grew angry, but…
Eyeing the chair and then the desk, slowly she deflated. Eventually, in silence she depressedly climbed the chair and began to fill out the documents.
Her ponytail swaying back and forth slowly, one could see her sadness. In short, she didn’t want to acknowledge that she had become small. Suimei gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder while telling her “patience,” and she began to write on the paper using the feather pen.
After a little, around when they finished up the documents, suddenly the door from the inner side of the city opened and a girl entered.
Upon seeing her with a surprised look, the military police turned towards her and saluted.
“Second lieutenant Zandike!”
The official called out the rank of the girl. With slightly red tinted purple hair, somewhat sickly looking skin, a right eye with an eyepatch, and a drowsy looking left eye, she gave off an awfully unusual impression. She was wearing gothic lolita style military clothes with a coat and gloves.
To that girl that looked like she was from another world, Suimei raised his eyebrows a bit.
It was a novel appearance. In the other world he had seen many peculiarly clothed people but, it had been a while since he had seen such self-assertive clothes like these. That didn’t mean that it didn’t fit her though. It was precisely because it fit her that she seemed out of place.
Did Lefille have similar thoughts?
Apparently not. Upon seeing those excessive clothes, she let out her initial reaction.
While Lefille and Suimei were thinking about her clothes, the second lieutenant walked up to the official and spoke with a business-like icy voice.
“Yesterday’s name registration, I came to pick it up.”
With a clapping sound, the official stood ramrod straight and saluted. Then he took out a leather bound book from a drawer and handed it over. The girl took the book, quickly scanned it, and then clapped the book shut while saying “good work.”
... Is the Empire’s military system different than other countries? The way lower officers referred to higher ranking officers by their rank was reminiscent of modern military but, well, anyway. This girl. She looked to be 12 or 13, no more than a little above that. There weren’t many military personnel this young. She was definitely a child soldier.
Did she notice him looking at her? Her sleepy eyes turned and stared at Suimei.
“...to be looking at a soldier that much, is it unusual?”
“Iya, not that really.”
The strange thing wasn’t that. While Suimei was saying so, Lefille blurted out what they had both been thinking.
“Iya, for a soldier, you’re quite young.”
Thereupon, after hearing those words, the girl gave Lefille a sullen stare.
“From a child younger than me, I don’t want to hear that.”
“Wha!! I’m not a little kid!”
Suimei let out a big sigh. This matter again? It seemed like recently every time something was up, it would be this. He would have to give Lefille a good lecture after this.
Shortly after, the two girls gave glares as if they were saying “Why don’t we fight,” “I accept your challenge.”
And then, the two of them went out as if they were going to duel.
Could they actually be planning on fighting?
“Hey, wait Lefille”
“... Suimei-kun stop. I cannot back down from this fight.”
“Can’t back down huh, that’s not really the problem...tch”
Lefille didn’t hear him out in the end.
While scrutinizing each other through their gazes, the two of them circled around one another. Moving while crouched like sumo wrestlers, they moved wary of their opponent’s zone of control. After a while, Lefille saw a chance and leapt, and the other girl also matched her movements and lunged in. Just as everyone thought they would collide, the two of them suddenly stopped.
Their noses nearly touching, they glared at one another.
And then they sprung backwards, backing off, and repeated the same movements as before, but this time they seemed to have come to some sort of mutual understanding through their gazes.
--What could it be?
Lefille and the girl. They straightened their backs as if competing in something while continuing to glare at each other. It was supposedly a fight but there was no physical contact, could it be they were competing in height? Suimei tilted his head while ruminating like the others around him, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The two of them stood face to face, folded their arms around their chest, and repeated several undecipherable movements.
Finally, Suimei came to an answer and laughed amazedly.
(Ahh. They’re comparing their chest.)
Pretty much that was it. They had just begun comparing their appearances and relatively flat chests, which was, well, kind of obvious. To be honest, comparing was kind of amusing.
But what was with the tense atmosphere before and after they measured up against one another? It was almost incomprehensible. WIth the amount of force and vigor, was size that big of a plus? That said, after seeing the two of them, the conclusion was that that Lefille was the smaller one.
“So how is it? It seems I’m the more lady-like one.”
“Ku, to lose to a little girl in size”
As Lefille vexingly said that, it was as if the girl was trying to kick a dead horse in claiming superiority.
“Nope. Even if I appear this way, I’m not a little girl. You should call me onee-san. Got it?”
“I, Iya! If I could return to my original self!”
Adamantly shouting in denial of her loss, she was quite obstinate. While originally Lefille had a chest anyone would acknowledge, to bring that up now was a bit childish.
To Lefille’s words, the girl had a dubious expression and then nodded, as if she was thinking “original form? ...ah.”
“Wha, what is it?”
“Saying such empty dreams. Stop it. For someone of your age, it’s fairly normal to talk about things like that but, to only talk about something like that, sooner or later won’t you regret it?”
So pretty much eighth grader syndrome? (TL Note: When you pretend dream and imaginary stuff is real.) True for someone who doesn’t know the circumstances, it would certainly sound like that when someone brazenly talks that way.
The girl’s words stabbed into Lefille like a knife, and Lefille turned staggering while walking towards the couch.
“Suimei-kun. Give me a little bit of space.”
“Iya, I know how you feel”
“Please don’t comfort me. This pitiful self doesn’t deserve that much.”
Suimei smiled as he became sure of what was going on. Lefille slowly sat down, buried her face in her knee, and then didn’t move. It was as if she was getting absorbed into the darkness of mazoku. Or put simply, she seemed quite pitiful today.
Thereupon, the girl, as if all was normal, took a step towards Suimei.
“You, you don’t seem to be from one of the families around here, where from, did you come?”
“Ah, I’m from the west. The girl is the daughter of an acquaintance.”
“West huh. From Astel. Still west. Right?”
With questioning words and eyes, she was considering whether they were from Astel or its surroundings. Upon hearing Suimei’s answer, she closed her eyes briefly while saying “as I thought,” and then when she opened them her sleepy eyes had changed to those like a falcon as she glared at them.
“Se, second lieutenant?”
From Suimei’s mouth came a low sound while the official let out a bewildered voice.
Because he had said he’d come from an unallied country, was she suspicious of him being a spy? Letting out killing intent as well as magic power, the atmosphere became dangerous.
“For what reason, did you come here?”
“I don’t think there’s any need to answer that but...”
Upon Suimei saying that, the girl increased the magic power she emitted. For a normal person, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to have fainted.
“Se, second lieutenant! Calm down plea--hiii!”
“You’re in my way.”
With that, she gave him a death stare. The official stumbled and collided into the desk. For what reason could she be radiating so much hostility? The rest of the military police were standing stock still unmoving.
The depressed Lefille also tensed up with the dangerous atmosphere and ran over.
“What happened so suddenly?”
“Little kid, this has nothing to do with you. Quietly look away. Go.”
“Quietly... in this tense situation?”
“Yes. This is a matter of the empire with this potentially dangerous man”
Lefille drew a cold breath in response to the girl’s words; her current brave appearance completely contrasted to her earlier dejected self as she fired off a relentless tirade.
“Under what pretense are you creating hostility against people who have followed the Empire’s city entrance procedures? Regardless of what you say, giving such poor treatment reflects on how poorly trained the empire’s soldiers are.”
“What did you say?!?”
“What happened to ‘the imperial army will act more strictly and with integrity than any other country,’ Imperial Military Outline paragraph 12, clause 3? Can you say that your current actions are in accordance with that?”
In response, the girl’s face twisted into an unsavory scowl. What Lefille had just said was imperial doctrine. The girl glared daggers at Lefille for a while and then acquiesced in accordance to the regulations.
“...Fine. I will withdraw from here. However…”
Cutting off abruptly, she once again turned towards Suimei and sent a cold gaze.
“--This is the Empire. Any strange behaviors will be...”
To the girl’s coercive words, Suimei jokingly asked.
“And if we do something?”
“I’ll kill you.”
She replied without hesitation. Very coldly. Was that her normal tone of voice? He did provoke her, but for it to be this far? By Japan’s standards, she definitely seemed older than middle school age. To a girl like that who fired off those threats, Suimei had complicated feelings.
Now of course, he understood why pushing her with Japanese-like pride would anger her. In a different culture, ethics would be different, and the draft age would be different than modern times. Of course there would be differences between the civilizations of each world. She would see his pity for child soldiers as mere arrogance. That said, by no means was there any confirmation of the existence of child soldiers here.
For a moment, Suimei’s eyes flashed with pity, but they immediately returned to their original joking manner.
“Oh, what a scary little girl.”
“Little girl huh. If it’s that kid that says so, it’s acceptable. But you should watch what you say lest we end up in...a lawsuit. To the military court, that is.”
With a sullen look, the girl jabbed her index finger at the joking Suimei. The irritated voice that said such was, unexpectedly childish. Meanwhile, Lefille had eyes as if saying “You’re still talking…”
The girl said so, and then left into the city with the name registry.
“Fuu...kind of a bad omen before we enter the city huh.”
With the tense atmosphere gone, Suimei let out a sigh of relief, and the official also let out an even bigger breath.
“You guys should stop with the provocations. After all that’s Second Lieutenant Zandike.”
Suimei timidly scratched the back of his head, while Lefille started speaking as if she remembered something.
“I see. I remember hearing that name, is she Liliana Zandike?”
“You know her?”
“Her father is Rogue Zandike of the Seven Swords, a prominent magician in the Empire. Although young, I hear he is one of the twelve Yuuketsu of the Empire.” (TL Note: Yuuketsu seems to be a title with kanjis meaning skilled excellence.)
“Hee. If Mizuki heard she would be delighted.”
Seven swords, one of the twelve Yuuketsu. This was the kind of topic Mizuki liked; powerful people seemed to have associated titles. In Earth, there was also a similar thing that denoted powerful magicians and swordsmen; it seemed this world also had such a thing.
Agreeing with what Lefille said, the official nodded his head.
“Yes, you’re correct. That’s why I think not acting and talking like that would be in your interests.”
To his cautionary words, Suimei replied “I’ll keep that in mind”, and with that, the conversation was over.
The official turned towards the couch and said to Suimei and Lefille.
“I’ll do the final confirmations over there, so please wait a little bit.”
Suimei analyzed the remnants of the girl’s magic power, while Lefille sat down on the chair, swinging her legs to pass by the time. The next person in line was called by the military police, and they entered. While he presented the documents to the next travelers, they struck a conversation with him.
“Oi, did you hear? About the hero summoning in Astel.”
“Yes, Reiji-sama was it? Of course I’ve heard.”
Hearing the name of his friend Reiji, Suimei’s ears twitched. Lefille, who knew of Suimei’s circumstances, looked over at him.
(Suimei-kun. If I remember right…)
(Ah. I think they’re talking about my friend.)
Not many days had passed since they left on the journey yet it was already the talk of travelers. Since the traveler started the conversation with that, Suimei thought, did something happen? Keeping a calm face so that no one would suspect anything, Suimei listened as the two men continued.
“They were recognized by the guild as the highest rank, being the title holder of mastering all elements.”
“Ah, being able to use all the elements is amazing. The ruler of all.”
“Those two are wonderful. I’m a civil officer but I wish I could be like them.”
With that, Suimei couldn’t hold in his urge to laugh.
“Bu...ku ku… that’s why, stop that…”
Seeing Suimei stifle his laughter, Lefille gave him a strange look while the other men swallowed and then declared in an excited tone.
“--Anyway, recently Astel put together an extermination group to face the mazoku that attacked Kurant city.”
“What’s more, they defeated the mazoku general. If I remember right, Rajas was the name.”
The first to respond in surprise was Lefille.
“Oi oi… what’s the meaning of this.”
Suimei’s face turned into one of dubiousness.
The two men met gazes while the official said “Amazing. Even though they were just called recently they did something like that…” in wonder. They were surprised by a completely different aspect.
Somehow, something strange Suimei and Lefille didn’t know about happened .
A horse ran over the rain soaked ground. It was going fast enough that its hooves chopped up the mud as it splashed into the air. The mud splashes reflected the colors of the melancholic ashen skies.
It was a few days before Suimei and Lefille arrived at the Imperial capital, Filas Filia.
After Reiji had heard Suimei’s predicament from Gregory and hurriedly departed on a horse, he met up with Mizuki and Titania and crossed the Nelfaria-Astel country border, coming to the woodlands to the west of Kurant city.
Leaving the road, they went to the right into the expansive plains. Near the end, they came to a place where an evergreen forest went as far as the eye could see.
Her horse running parallel to Reiji, Titania held onto the reins tightly and turned to talk to him.
“It was fortunate we were able to borrow some horses along the way. If that wasn’t the case then we wouldn’t have been able to catch up to Reiji-sama.”
With a relieved look, Titania recounted some of the details up until their reunion.
Upon hearing Suimei’s crisis and learning of the truth, Reiji quickly set out alone. Titania and the others chased after him, going along the path they used to return to Astel, luckily being able to borrow horses on the way. Halfway along the road they came across Reiji resting his horse.
Turning towards her, Reiji said apologetically.
“Yes...but, are you fine Tia? With this, I’ve made you go along with my selfish desires.”
“It’s fine, considering you were dead set on going. If it’s like that then I can’t help but accompany you.”
“Sorry. This time it’s...”
Yes, this time he also had responsibility. Astel being attacked by the mazoku, and him arbitrarily taking off, he definitely was the cause. To those who he made come with him, he couldn’t pay back his indebtedness.
However, Titania, with a smile that said don’t worry about it, rode up to his side.
“No. The matter this time, it’s not Reiji-sama’s fault. The nobles of our country were the ones that tricked Suimei, and in the first place if we didn’t summon you here, such a thing would not have occurred. Furthermore, being part of the royal family, I am also obligated to help you. That’s why, there is nothing you should feel indebted for.”
“...Yes. Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about me. More importantly…”
Titania looked backwards while riding. Looking concernedly at the person behind them, what she meant was obvious. There, was the girl who had been caught up in this dangerous situation due to his selfish actions.
Unable to ride a horse yet, she clung to the female knight Luka. Still unfamiliar with battle and fear, she still came to a place with the mazoku army even after being told a second time of the danger.
Reiji was actually a little bit proud of her. However,
“Mizuki, don’t push yourself. If you think you can’t fight, then definitely fall back. Okay?”
What came from Mizuki’s mouth was the feeling of a girl asking ‘is that really okay?’ Knowing a friend is in danger and coming to help, and yet, withdrawing without doing anything. Her conscience was weighed down by the feelings of helplessness.
To the girl plagued with a sense of responsibility, Reiji and Titania both offered words of comfort.
“It’s fine if you don’t try to do more than you feel you can. It’s not just Suimei, if something happened to either of you, I would…”
Yes. If something happened then she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself, which is why she wanted Mizuki to stand down.
“That’s why, if we feel like it’s getting to be too much, can you retreat with Luka to a safe place?”
“...Alright. You too, don’t push yourself. Promise?”
To that gloomy face, Reiji told a lie to calm her down. Right now, that was the only lie. Of course. About being able to protect that promise, his confidence was because he wholeheartedly believed in it.
Upon seeing their conversation come to a conclusion, Titania came over and inquired.
“Reiji-sama. Do you have any plans after this?”
“Yeah. First we’ll check out where we think the mazoku are and wait and see. I don’t know how much time we have, but right now we don’t know where he is. After we figure out what their plans are we can go around and search where they might be hiding.”
Their top priority was to save Suimei. It would be impossible to directly challenge the mazoku, so there was no need to. Upon determining the situation they would go and search for them.
True, the chance of them coming across him and the mazoku was low but, even still.
“Fufufu, you can’t beat the mazoku?”
“What?!? Still, that would be impossible for me too.”
“Admitting it outrightly… Well, however it is, it seems you haven’t forgotten the situation. It was needless worry huh.”
“You were messing with me? You’re quite shrewd Tia… Well so what do you think?”
“Hmm well. Confirming the state of affairs and then moving is a good idea I think.”
After she said so, Reiji tried asking about something else.
“...Hey Tia. If I were to, say, cut and run right here, what would you do?”
“At that time I would go with you.”
“...I said it before Reiji. To accompany you is my duty. And if Reiji-sama is to fall, then so will I.”
Eyes turned ahead, what could she be looking at? It was as if she was staring at the difficulties that were to come. However, hearing her solemn determination, Reiji forgot his earlier words. In her voice was strength. Was it resolution? In the end, Titania wasn’t a just a girl who would blindly follow as she was told. One who would decide to follow him with resolution to the death when he has matters he must do. That was the girl with him.
“What seems to be the matter?”
“Iya, Tia is amazing. Someone like me couldn’t even compare.”
It seemed she couldn’t understand what he meant from his words. She curiously tilted her neck as she rode the horse. As the princess of a country, she seemed to have stronger resolve than he did. Before her resolution, his determination seemed to pick up somewhat. Seeing her figure, he became aware of his own weakness.
But right now, he didn’t have the time to think about that. Shaking off those thoughts, Reiji asked Titania.
“Tia, based on this plan, where do you think we should head to?”
“Yes, why don’t we head north from here. These woodlands west of Kurant city become thinner if you go north compared to south. In addition, it is more elevated as well, making it the most favorable location to confirm the situation.”
“Understood. Then let’s go.”
Reiji and the company made a detour to the north on horseback until they reached a mountainous area surrounded by forests.
Looking up, the sky was filled with dark clouds. The surroundings was gloomy as if predicting for the coming anxiety and uneasiness. Despite there being a forest, there was lack of life to it. Everything that existed there simply lay on top of dark shade and grey background.
Opposite to his hurried manner so far, he drove the horse forward carefully. Having caught wind of what was in front, he slowed down even more. Then a small squad of soldiers from Astel emerged to block the road ahead.
A man who looked like the squad leader shouted towards Reiji’s and the companions.
They pulled on the reign to avoid collision and stopped right in front. Sound of horse neighing spread throughout the forest. The man asked Reiji’s companions with a menacing face.
“Who are you! Answer now!”
As Reiji was about to explain obediently, the elderly knight Gregory, who had been riding behind strode forward and began to scold the soldiers.
“You fools! Do you know who you’re blocking the path of! The ones riding here are her highness Titania and the summoned hero, Reiji-sama! Show the proper respect!”
The soldiers immediately backed down at Gregory’s reprimand. After several fidgeting glances to confirm, the soldiers perhaps realized they had seen them before. The scenes in their memory and the person in front of their eyes matched, the soldiers knelt as if to make up for their previous rudeness and showed proper respect to Titania and Reiji.
“I, I apologize. Please forgive my rudeness.”
“It’s fine. You seem to be on guard duty. Are you from the Kurant city garrison?”
“Yes. We are in Duke Hadorius’ army.”
The soldier was honoured to answer Titania’s question. The moment they heard the answer, a strange atmosphere developed amongst Reiji’s party.
But whether Titania was used to hiding her expression or not, she did not appear taken back at all.
“So Duke Hadorius is there.”
“He is camped just ahead.”
“Guide me to him.”
The soldier answer “yes” and guided the way with other soldiers without even wiping the sweat off his brows.
The soldiers’ boots made the leaves rustle. Titania followed behind them. The horse that Luca rode, which had been following behind Reiji so far, leisurely approached him. Then Mizuki, who had been riding behind Luca, leaned over to Reiji and whispered.
“Reiji, if it’s Duke Hadorius.”
“Yeah, the noble who used Suimei as a bait. I didn’t expect him to be somewhere like here.”
“S, so we’re going to the place that person is at…..”
The mortal enemy who was waiting for them somewhere. When he squinted his eyes open, as if the mortal enemy was standing right in front, Mizuki seemed to freeze up with anxiety. They were about to meet the man who sent their friend into a trap. It was to be expected.
Reiji thought so, but Mizuki spoke sternly with a worried expression.
“.... Reiji, you can’t rush this. We might have Tia, but we don’t know what kind of backlash will happen by harming a noble.”
“Ah…. Yeah, I know. Thanks for worrying about me, Mizuki.”
Perhaps Mizuki was worried that he couldn’t hold himself back and pounce at the man. But there was no way that could happen. It must not happen. Even if he did not care what would happen to himself, Gregory, who gave that information, could be in danger. For Gregory, who gave him the information despite knowing the possible dangers, he needed to restrain himself.
Soon, amidst the Oak tree forest, there was a place with a group comprised of knights, soldiers and mages. There were not much room to stand around thanks to the uneven terrain and the muddy ground the rain created not too long ago, however they stood in formation nevertheless. How disciplined they must be.
At the centre of that place was a middle-aged man wearing pitch black armour who appeared to be the commander.
His age was around forties, or at least the same as Gregory, perhaps younger. He sported cleanly trimmed beard and a scar stretching from his forehead to the left cheek.
A tall man standing nearly two meters tall with sturdy build. His existence alone was overbearing enough to make people tense.
He was the kind of a person who made sure that people knew who the leader of the group was.
The squad that guided Reiji’s companions moved towards the formation to alert their arrival. They appeared to exchange several words back and forth with the man who appeared to be the commander. Then the man motioned with his hands to the densely packed knights and soldiers around him. Upon the man’s command, a path immediately opened up.
The man approached Reiji’s companions through the path. Without hesitation, he kneeled before Titania with all his martial aura and showed the gesture of subordination.
When Titania spoke “Rise, Duke Hadorius.”, the man --- Duke Hadorius, stood up.
“It has been a long time, your highness. The soiree several months ago was last when we’ve met.”
“It has been a long time indeed, Duke Hadorius. You still seem to have the fearsome aura around you.”
“Please, something like this is nothing but mere breeze for your highness. Pardon my overstepping, but your faithful subject, Lucas de Hadorius, wanted to provide your highness with cool wind to clear away the unpleasant rain….”
“That’s enough. You worry unnecessarily.”
The people gathered around Titania and Hadorius closed their mouth after hearing the conversation.
The cool, but hate-filled tone. Titania’s greetings and relentless choice of words were far from friendly as well. Perhaps she was sending a stare filled with contempt from atop of the horse.
There was a different kind of tension around the cold exchange of words. But Hadorius took it neither seriously nor jokingly with an expressionless face.
“You’re the same as ever, your highness--- The one who accompanied you there must be the summoned hero, Reiji Shana-sama?”
When Reiji answer, Hadorius looked over. It was the threatening glare of someone with arrogant eyes.
Was that what Titania called fearsome aura. Reiji stared back while thinking that with determination to not lose.
That man was the one who placed Suimei in danger. He was the man who never doubted his action and showed off arrogance. Reiji was angry at the man who committed unspeakable evil deeds, but suppressed his anger.
…. Soon, Hadorius closed his eyes and opened his mouth.
“I was late in greeting you, hero-sama. I am the one who oversees the western territory under his majesty’s command, Lucas de Hadorius. I heard the news that mazokus were invading and was on my way there with an army.”
Hadorius announced himself and his intentions arrogantly, and continued.
“Your highness Titania, and dear summoned hero. What takes you out here in place like this?”
Upon Hadorius’ question, Reiji gave the answer he had been preparing.
“..... The way mazokus have been acting up made me worry about Astel, so we hurried back from Nelfaria Empire.”
“Is that so. You even have the royal order as well, I apologize for inconveniencing you.”
“No, this is something that I, as a hero need to do as well.”
When Reiji replied in textbook manner, Titania asked Hadorius immediately.
“Duke Hadorius, are the mazokus ahead?”
“It seems so, your highness.”
“Then were you strategizing just moments ago?”
“Yes, your highness. I was planning on moving out as soon as the skirmishers returned.”
Skirmishers. It commonly referred to scouts. They were doing the work he had been planning to do himself. Hadorius probably already scouted the number of opponents and was starting to go on the offensive.
But feeling something was off, Reiji interjected himself into the conversation between Hadorius and Titania.
“This army seems… small for attacking mazokus.”
That was right. The army assembled here was strangely tiny. Roughly between a hundred to two hundred men. It was sorely lacking to attack an enemy numbering more than a thousand.
“Hero-sama, this is not the whole of my army. I have placed men to the north and south to attack from multiple directions and there are many more waiting in ambush around here. You do not need to be worried.”
“Is that so. It seems my worries were unfounded.”
“It would be right to discuss it with the soldiers over from the Metel’s side then advance, but after preparing for the battle and that storm, along with considering that Kurant City and Metel is currently divided, we could not afford any more delays. That is the situation. I ask you to understand this.”
Upon Hadorius’ reply, Reiji announced his planned course of action.
“We plan on attacking as well when the skirmishers come back.”
“Youth is a great thing. But it is fine to just watch the battle unfold.”
Hadorius replied. Whether Hadorius was mocking him, he could see the slightly raised corner of Hadorius’ lips with his two eyes.
“I refuse. How about the Duke watch? I am a hero. I simply do what I must do.”
“Huu, so be it. This Lucas cannot guess what kind of plan the hero-sama has in mind, but if you plan to attack head on, I shall accompany you until there.”
Hadorius wiped the rigid expression off his face and laughed heartily for the first time. Reiji’s body tensed up at those words. Did that man know why they were there?
He felt an urge to look back at Gregory but kept staring at Hadorius.
Then Hadorius stated “Please rest a bit until the skirmishers return.” he said and returned to his soldiers.
Was he simply walking away? His attitude towards the princess and the hero was extremely rude.
Titania squinted her eyes and spoke.
“He’s still the same.”
Both Reiji and Titania looked, no, stared down at Hadorius, who was walking away.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard Tia talk to someone like that. You don’t like that man?”
“It’s just as you’ve seen. I like that he does not try to curry favours, but I dislike his attitude of looking down on people.”
Her evaluation had a surprising side to it.
“.... Tia, you don’t like losing, do you?”
“Eh?! That… Rather than that, what did Reiji-sama think after meeting Duke Hadorius?”
“It was unexpected. For him to be that kind of man.”
Reiji spoke his honest feelings. Lucas de Hadorius. Since he was a man who pushes others into a trap with cowardly methods, there was an image of an evil and corrupt noble --- an image of morbidly overweight racoon, but the expectation had missed its mark.
Of course in a way that the actual person was much worse than expected.
“You thought he was going to be an intolerable coward, but he turned out to be even worse of a person than you’ve expected?”
“I wouldn’t take it that far… But Tia, you really don’t like that person.”
“I think it’s the same for you, Reiji-sama. Today is the first time you’ve used words like “that person”.”
When Titania pointed it out, Reiji thought so as well. Thinking back on it, he was using the word so naturally. He planned on being careful, but it seems the hatred came out either way.
At that moment, Mizuki asked Titania with a troubled expression.
“....Is, is that person fighting as well? That person’s a noble, right?”
“Duke Hadorius’ family is a famous martial family even within Astel. So Duke Hadorius is quite skilled.”
Was that so. From the uncommon pressure to the courage to fight in the frontline, and even his physical ability. There was no ground to doubt he was a martial man.
Meanwhile, Mizuki spoke something off topic with a sharp expression.
“Huh, he had a big scar on his face!”
“Yes, he got that scar from a battle a long time ago. I’ve never seen it myself, but they say he’s quite skilled.”
After Titania said that, she turned her horse around skillfully and faced everyone. Then while being careful not to be overheard.
“As you’ve seen from earlier, Duke Hadorius is not someone you can underestimate. Reiji-sama, Mizuki-sama, do not trust that man. And Luca, Lophry, assist them well.”
When Titania ordered them, the two knights immediately replied “Yes”.
“And Gregory. Follow me just as you’ve done so far.”
“But your highness….”
“Don’t worry. Even if Duke Hadorius tries to do something, I’m here. So rest easy.”
“.... Princess-sama… Thank you.”
Gregory bowed his head down after hearing the words of reassurance from Titania. For some reason, Lophry became emotional, started tearing up and Luca sent gazes of admiration towards Titania.
“Tia, you look cool today.”
“If you start liking her for that, it’s going to be a problem!”
When Reiji became flabbergasted at those words, Mizuki turned her face away. Luca, who was riding in front of Reiji, made similarly confused expression.
That was when a man looking like a soldier ran out from the forest with several other men. They must be the skirmishers. Looking at them heading towards where Hadorius was, Reiji and the companions headed to the centre of the army as well.
Hadorius asked the soldier who kneeled as soon as he arrived.
“What’s the status of the mazoku army?”
“Yes! I will report now! The mazoku army----”
“Yes! I will report now! The mazoku army----”
The soldier started reporting while gasping for air and without even wiping the sweat off his brow. The moment before the report began, everyone including Hadorius held their breath. Everyone drew the extent of mazoku army and what kind of mamonos they brought in their own head.
Then what the soldier announced immediately was...
“--- was wiped out…..”
That was the surprising truth.
“..... What, there was an army of over a thousand of them. But even before fighting, they were wiped out?”
Following Reiji’s voice, Hadorius’ surprised voice rang out.
When Reiji looked to his side, there was a man with a shocked expression. Perhaps even a man like Hadorius never expected to hear a report like that. Murmuring noises from around them could be heard as well.
“Are you certain?”
The soldier seem to have just realized her presence. He looked confused for a moment, but continued after being hurried along by Hadorius.
“It, it was unmistakeable. There was nothing but dead mazokus in the plain.”
“How can that be…”
Titania’s voice ladened heavy by the end of her sentence. It was not a bad news, but the mystery weighed too much. Everyone stood shocked and not knowing what to say.
Suddenly, Hadorius turned his head towards Titania as if he had an idea.
“Your highness, perhaps.”
“.... No, we were coming from the direction of Nelfarian Empire. It was opposite to the direction mazokus had shown up from, and moreover, why would we need to put up this kind of an act if we did do it?”
“.... I asked a short-sighted question.”
Hadorius admitted the folly of his question.
Hadorius thought that Reiji had annihilated the mazokus. Hadorius was a man of this world after all. Ergo, he found hope from heroes. It was not a stretch to think that since a hero was there.
It was not a theory Reiji could ever have thought of.
Titania hurried Hadorius, who seem to have sunk into deep contemplation.
“Duke Hadorius, let us go there first.”
“.... Yes, your highness. Let us.”
--- Reiji expected he would run into unbelievable things before he arrived at that place. Disgusting smell prodded his nose and something unknown heated the air. Reiji could feel chills going through his skin.
Did the others not feel it or did they not express it even though they knew? Everyone appeared to keep their cool besides the soldiers who were filled with nervousness. Hadorius appeared relaxed and Titania had a wary gaze.
In moments, he dropped his sight to below the horse. He rubbed his eyes wondering if the light refraction from the water drops that had fallen off leaves made it look red.
Soon, the trees disappeared and the plain appeared.
“..... This is.”
Sound of Hadorius’ voice and gulping. When Reiji’s group arrived at the place the skirmishers reported the mazokus to be at, there was a sight that made everyone doubt their eyes.
“What is this….”
Even Reiji could only sigh with fear filled expression at the scene that could not be described.
They had followed the skirmishers into a great plain with a mountain range visible at the edge of the horizon. Great fissures in the ground, ground that had melted at high temperature and then frozen again, gigantic iceberg, some unknown sinisterly dark swamp and countless remains of mazokus strewn about.
--- Just what had happened here. Below the shining ray of light peeking through altostratus clouds were ghastly uncommon scene and corpses. It was a distressing sight that could not possibly be a natural disaster.
Distressing was the correct choice of word. It was a ghastly sight that they could almost hear the mazokus’ singular cry before death if they put their ears to it. Even if they were the enemy, they could feel a slight bit of sympathy for those who died in such terrifying manner.
It was a place that could be compared to hell, but the hell had already passed.
Reiji, who had been following the skirmishers, knights and Duke Hadorius so far asked anybody he could get his hands on.
“This, this is a path….?”
The path in front of his eyes was split in half in a straight line. There was no blood, flesh, sign of being carved away or destruction. It was clean. As if something had taken this path, it was only split in a straight line. The road extended towards the foot of the mountain and there were corpses littered everywhere along the side of the road.
Mizuki, who had been following so far, murmured without a specific conversation partner.
“Remains of magic….?”
“There’s no mistake. This is definitely remains of a magic.”
Was she certain because she was confident? Mizuki looked at the unnatural ice and materials that weren’t burnt all the way with a fearful expression. She pointed at them and said they were the result of magic.
Titania exclaimed at Mizuki’s certainty.
“Mizuki, you noticed….”
“Yeah, it was faint, but there’s leftover mana and there’s signs of spells by the ice or burning things over there.”
“.... You’re right.”
When Reiji watched closely with all his concentration, he could feel the [trace]. He didn’t know until moments ago, but once he realized they contained magic diagrams, his thoughts became clear as if a fog had been lifted off.
But for a lingering fire or ice to have individual magical diagrams was incredible. The diagram, a fundamental for a magic, was only needed for a single moment to take down mazokus. And to be this detailed as well----
“Mizuki, this is...”
“The formations are so highly developed I don’t know what to say… It might not be the kind of magic we use.”
“That too, but to use this kind of high level spells so many times.”
--- It was not normal. Perhaps a large army destroyed the mazokus. That kind of absurd theory popped into Reiji’s head and disappeared immediately. Looking at the scene, it was impossible to think an army had clashed here. In a clash that big, there would be the dead from the other side as well. But there were none. Only the mazoku bodies covered the plains as far as the horizon stretched. It was fundamentally impossible to form a large army with only high class mages as well. The only conclusion was that this was an aftermath of something incredibly powerful having swept through here.
The horses continually neighed as they were sensitive to surrounding atmosphere. They reined the anxious horses and headed through the small path that had yet to dry, but it was Titania who spoke in surprised voice this time.
Following Titania, Duke Hadorius’ voice could be heard.
“Even a Behemoth….”
Reiji and the companions turned their head towards a voice that rang out like a groan. What lay there was the remains of a gigantic mamono.
“S, so big….”
Mizuki’s voice filled with either fear or surprise could be heard.
Its total length was about two hundred meters. It had thick and wrinkled skin that reminded of a black jeep. The limbs and horns were gigantic even for that huge body.
Its open bloodshot eyes inspired fear. Rather than fear deriving from strength, it was an ominous kind of feeling that chilled your spine.
But for whatever reason, due to the magical power that Mizuki mentioned, the creature’s body was half-buried at a slant in the ground.
“It’s a Special 2nd Class Demon Beast. To think even this kind of mamono was taken down.”
Titania revealed her shock even without explaining about the categorizations for mamono. She let out a flabbergasted sigh.
Seeming how they were more surprised to see this Behemoth than any other mazokus or mamono, it must be quite a formidable beast. The soldiers, Gregory and even Hadorius had a serious expression on their faces.
While everyone stood shocked, the soldier who was sent to scout ahead returned.
The way he staggered was not because he was tired, but because of the blood curdling sights all around him.
“R… reporting….. All the mazokus are annihilated. Their number is.”
The crowd had to wait while swallowing their dry saliva for the kneeling soldier’s next words.
Rather than making people wait, the soldier looked rather perplexed at what he was about to explain as well. That was when Hadorius urged the soldier on with a frozen expression.
“Yes! There’s roughly over ten thousand…..”
The time froze. Everyone gasped at the sound of ten thousand, which made them doubt their own ears.
When everybody came to their senses, Hadorius spoke with a shocked voice.
“T, ten thousand….?”
“B, but even if there were ten thousand mazokus, the number of corpses do not match.”
“I apologize, but considering the traces of mazoku and mamono movements and the area of the attack, I believe that number to be reasonable.”
Hadorius spoke with a harsh face after listening to the scout’s report.
“To think it’s not around a thousand….”
It was a hurried voice combined with shock. He had imagined what would have happened if he fought against that army. Even for a worst case scenario, that kind of number was beyond imagination.
When Titania looked at Hadorius, he corrected his expression.
“To mistake the size of mazokus. If they attacked Metel or Kurant City, it sends a chill down my back----.-”
“Just who do you think did this in this short amount of time. Do you have any guesses, Duke Hadorius?”
“.... I am unsure, but roughly about a week ago, there was a day when it thundered extraordinarily. I believe that was the day when the mazokus were destroyed.”
“.... I am unsure, but roughly about a week ago, there was a day when it thundered extraordinarily. I believe that was the day when the mazokus were destroyed.”
“The day when it thundered….”
On Titania’s murmur, Hadorius said in suspicious tone “The bishop from the Church of Saviour said the goddess was angry.”. Did this world think the will of the heaven manifested in the form of lightning as well?
But did goddess Arjuna really destroy them? No, there was no way that kind of miracle could happen. If it was possible, then there was no need for a hero in the first place.
The mystery deepened. They could guess when, but what happened remained unsolved.
Suddenly, Mizuki murmured with a worried expression.
“Is Suimei doing alright?”
“I wonder how he’s doing….”
Reiji became disturbed looking at Mizuki who had her head down in a worry.
How would Suimei be doing? It would be fortunate if mazokus were annihilated before he ran into them---
“A mazoku! There’s a survivor!”
Everyone turned around to the voice that came from the rear of the column. A soldier who was searching around the surrounding screamed out the report of a mazoku. Was it buried amongst the corpses or did it come from somewhere nearby? Several mazokus that appeared to be a remnant furiously closed the distance.
Everyone turned around to the voice that came from the rear of the column. A soldier who was searching around the surrounding screamed out the report of a mazoku. Was it buried amongst the corpses or did it come from somewhere nearby? Several mazokus that appeared to be a remnant furiously closed the distance.
The one who shouted first was Hadorius.
“---- They are approaching! Battle formations!”
He drew his sword from atop of a horse and commanded the soldiers. The soldiers immediately sprung to action upon the command. Soldiers carrying spear moved forward in a formation and mages started casting spells from behind them.
Continuing after Hadorius’ orders, Reiji looked at Luca.
“Luca-san, I trust Mizuki to you!”
“I’m going to fight. Mizuki and Luca, wait here. --- Hyaa!”
“I’m going to fight. Mizuki and Luca, wait here. --- Hyaa!”
“Tia, prepare a spell behind me! Let’s aim for the flank from the horseback!”
Reiji drew his sword as well after hurriedly shouting the words.
What he could see was the mazokus and soldiers who were prepared for the attack. Reiji drove his horse aiming for the flank. Following him was Titania, Lophry and Gregory. Hadorius continued to command his soldiers meanwhile.
By the time Reiji’s group’s horses caught up, the soldiers were already surrounding the mazokus. The soldiers carrying a spear kept the mazokus back while the mages poured on the magic. It was a battle that went the way Hadorius commanded and showed his excellent commanding skills. The soldiers were proficient and at this rate, they could contain the mazokus without any casualties.
It may have appeared that way, but the mazokus were determined. Their main army was destroyed and they stood as a suicide troop.
Suicide troop. You could only confirm their existence in wars. Even though the loss was apparent, some soldiers resigned themselves as dead and furiously attacked with single minded determination to kill as much enemy as possible. They did not fear death as what awaited them either way was death. The soldiers who accepted their death were strong and difficult to face.
There was even a saying not to fight the suicide troops. That was how dangerous they were in the battlefield.
The determination to throw their life away soon created a hole in the formation and the fence of soldiers collapsed.
The mazokus ran wild as if trying to take as many people with them to the death, and soldiers started to waver amidst the chaotic melee.
Hadorius rode in with his large black horse when he saw the situation. He cut down several mazokus in half while commanding the soldiers, but few slipped past right by him.
Towards Luca and Mizuki.
They broke through. By the time he thought this, it was already too late. Mazokus soared towards Mizuki in an instant. Even with Mizuki, it was two versus three. The number was unfavourable for Luca to be fighting while defending her.
As soon as he heard Titania, Gregory turned his horse around. But----
“Kuuh! Mizuki-sama, hold on.”
Luca tried to control the horse to escape, but the muddy ground held onto the horse’s hooves. Normally, mud were just trivial hindrance, but it was critical in situations like this. The horse couldn’t move right.
“Damn it--- Stain Scarlet!”
Reiji cursed while casting a fire magic. Titania joined in, but it couldn’t finish off the determined mazokus.
If it continues like this! It’s dangerous…..
The mazokus got closer to Mizuki and Mizuki towards mazokus as well.
He used magic, but mazokus still ran forward while covered in fire. She was way too far to go help. With an ominous feeling, a chill ran down his back.
That was when a white vine of flame flew in from the corner of the vision. Pure white flame. It surrounded the mazokus that were intent on attacking Mizuki and Luca.
The white flame spurted towards the air and turned the mazokus into ashes in a moment.
“This magic is?!”
Reiji and Titania’s voice were that of surprise and realization.
The moment they realized what that flame was and what it was for, a distant horse hoof beat could be heard. Someone was approaching on horse, and that speed was extraordinary. Did someone cast a spell on their horse. It was as fast as a comet.
When Titania confirmed the person who was now close enough to be seen clearly, she let out an excited scream.
“---- White Flame-sama!”
That was it. The person who was riding towards Reiji’s companions was the young royal magician, Felmenia Stingray.
Reiji shouted towards Felmenia.
“Teacher? How did you get here?!”
“Hero-sama! We’ll talk later! Remaining mazokus first!”
Upon Felmenia’s words, Reiji turned his horse around and charged towards the remaining mazokus.
When he rode by one and cut it in half with a single strike, Hadorius’ voice rang out again.
“Magicians, prepare for the second attack!”
It was a confident command. The soldiers showed extraordinary skill to surround the mazokus and the mazokus were promptly annihilated by magicians who were waiting.
Because of the magic that struck all at once, dust and smoke blurred the area. There were no more mazokus. Beyond the blurred areas, there were no signs of life.
Soon, Felmenia dismounted and approached.
“Princess-sama, Reiji-sama, and Mizuki sama. It has been a long time.”
Titania nodded with her eyes closed. Mizuki and Reiji responded.
“A long time, teacher.”
“Felmenia-san, thank you. I lived thanks to you.”
Felmenia simply stated “I was simply passing by. I’m glad you’re not harmed.” and held Mizuki’s hands softly. So Mizuki made a smile and conveyed her thanks once more.
After that, Felmenia exchanged several words with Hadorius and bowed her head. Did they know each other? There was no friendliness, nor hatred like Titania. It was simple business-like greeting.
Titania once again expressed her gratitude towards Felmenia.
“White Flame-sama, thank you. But what brings you here?”
“Hmm, his majesty decided to fire you from the position of Royal Magician?”
Felmenia calmly replied to Hadorius who had interjected himself into the conversation.
“Yes. Currently, rather than as a Royal Magician, I am acting directly under his majesty’s command.”
“His majesty’s command…”
It was beyond what Reiji expected. But there must be a reason for King Almadiaeus to give out direct orders. Which meant----
“Was it to help us?”
“Eh? No, it was something else….”
“T, there is a s, special situation…..”
“White Flame-sama. What is it?”
Felmenia mumbled at Titania’s words….. Rather than that, she looked unsettled. They didn’t know what, but was it something so difficult he could not even reply to the princess. It was a possibility since it was the king’s direct command.
That was when a soldier came running while gasping for air.
Everyone tensed for a moment thinking another group of mazokus appeared, but it was strange. For some reason, the soldier who came to report came out from the forest they were just in. There were no mazokus there.
“What is it?”
“The Empire’s third princess, Graziella Filas Reiseld just penetrated the border with an army!”
An alarming news. Titania’s face turned blue at the soldier’s report.
“What?! Princess Graziella?!”
“Yes! The princess broke through the border patrol by force, passed through Kurant City and is headed this way.”
“Yes! The princess broke through the border patrol by force, passed through Kurant City and is headed this way.”
“How could that be. Why.”
“--- Shouldn’t it be obvious? White Flame.”
Titania turned around in surprise at the voice that flew out.
A woman appeared from amidst the smoke.
“Reiji! Another person we don’t know appeared! What do we do!”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s anything we can do….”
No. There was nothing they could do. Reiji responded chidingly towards Mizuki who sensed ominous atmosphere and looked with nervous expression.
There was a woman riding a horse.
The person who appeared with a taunting voice from the fading smoke was a young woman wearing flashy medals and a coat hanging on her shoulder. Long blond hair with waves and the corner of her mouth raised in confidence. She had the special light of someone who was born to command others from above.
She was with a group wearing military clothes that could be either her comrades or subordinates.
But what bothered him the most was.
How did nobody notice even though she rode all the way here?
They were riding on top of horses just like his group. But there were no sounds of horse hooves. From this distance with horses, it was impossible.
As if Felmenia heard Reiji’s murmur, which was gripped in mystery, she answered.
“Reiji-sama the person over there is Nelfaria Empire’s third princess, Graziella Filas Reiseld. And she is referred as “Geo Maripex”, the strongest earth-type mage in the Empire. Hiding the sound of horse hooves is nothing for her.”
“But why would she go all the way to hide the sound….”
“I don’t know that far. It doesn’t look like she plans on attacking us though….”
Reiji and Felmenia frowned at Graziella’s entrance.
Then, Titania approached Graziella with a serious expression.
“It has been a long time, your highness Graziella.”
“It seems so Titania. I’m glad you’re doing well.”
Opposite to Titania, who was showing proper respects in greeting despite her anger, Graziella replied in an overbearing tone. Titania replied with an advice-filled tone as if she could not stand Graziella’s attitude.
“Your highness said it’s been a long time, but shouldn’t there be something you did before that?”
“Something? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Did something happen?”
“---- Even for an allied country, it is not a proper act to cross the border with an army unannounced. Do you have any explanation for this act?”
What came back at Titania’s sharp glare was Graziella’s mocking tone.
“Yeah, normally it would be something to apologize for. ---- But don’t you think we’re on the same boat?”
“..... What do you mean?”
“I don’t think it’s such a difficult concept that it needs to be explained.”
The kingdom’s princess’ and the empire’s princess’ gaze collided. Soon, Graziella snorted and.
“A mazoku army appeared in your country. You need to worry about possible effects it might have on neighboring country, but trying to take care of it without even letting us know doesn’t seem like the proper attitude of an allied country, don’t you think?”
“That is… because the mazokus advanced too quickly, we didn’t have the time.”
“You seem very prepared for not having enough time. Furthermore, you and Astel’s hero were in my country. To try to play it off as not having enough time, the princess of the Astel Kingdom is more thick skinned than I thought.”
Titania’s faced crinkled. Graziella appeared to be amused by Titania’s expression and laughed heartily.
“But you came to my country while the subjugation for demon king was ongoing. You probably didn’t know what was happening back home. So----”
“So you want us to remain silent about this incident? But you cannot justify having illegally entered with an armed group--”
“I learned that an allied nation is in danger and came to help in a hurry. It’s plenty justifiable. Are you perhaps planning on denying that as well?”
Graziella pressured on with even more overbearing tone than before. To come to help probably meant she planned on surprising the mazoku army from a flank. Considering the situation, that conclusion made sense.
But Titania still glared at Graziella with a pained expression.
“.... We will officially lodge a complaint about this incident at a later date.”
“Do what you will. But since this incident is due to the mazoku advance, wouldn’t the Sadias Alliance, Autonomous District and the Papacy be on our side?”
Graziella did not waver once. Who was the one truly thick skinned. Graziella spoke as if she did not care what advice Titania had to give. Then she turned her head to look at Reiji. The sharp gaze of the overbearing woman scanned him from top to bottom.
“Are you Astel’s summoned hero?”
“You don’t seem the friendly type.”
“This is just how I am.”
Reiji bowed lightly while replying.
She was not someone you could show openings to. He felt it and talked to her in business-fashion. Graziella stared at Reiji’s face as if she was feeling not too happy about it.
“You have a clean face.”
“I’m just saying it because you don’t have any scar on your face. I was wondering if you had nothing to do with fighting over in the other world. I’d say, somewhat unreliable for a man called a hero.”
To say something like that on a first meeting. Should it be called honesty? It was extremely rude.
Titania, who had been simply listening so far, came forward with an angry expression.
“Princess Graziella, do you not think you’re out of line to the hero who will save the world?”
“Fu, I was simply saying what I felt. Plus, this massacre, I don’t think your army could have done something like this.”
She looked at Titania with glowing eyes as soon as she said it.
“---- So, there were mazokus, correct? What happened to them?”
“.... I am uncertain. What did happen indeed? I do not know.”
Graziella frowned when Titania answered coldly. She did not know either. There was no way to explain and Titania probably did not wish to say it either. She was the type who did not like losing.
At that moment, Reiji looked at Hadorius, who had been worrying him. For some reason, he had been spectating in silence since the start. Considering his personality or stance, he would have gotten a word or two in, but he did not complain as Astel’s nobles and simply stood in silence since Graziella showed up. What was he thinking with his nonchalant attitude?
Or perhaps he was different from how Reiji had thought him to be. Still, he could not shake off the feeling of strangeness.
Just as Reiji sparked a doubt in his heart, something unnatural appeared.
They all felt the unnaturalness and turned to look.
Felmenia was the first one to look up at somewhere.
Could she ascertain the speed and direction so quickly. When they stared at something flying rapidly with long silver hair, Hadorius’ voice could be heard.
“Was there another remnant. But---”
“---- Stronger than mazokus from before.”
The one who finished Hadorius’ sentence was Reiji. They understood the seriousness of the situation and prepared for battle. The mazoku’s mana that could be felt was powerful. That was right. It was incomparable to any mazoku they had fought until now. And that mazoku was definitely headed to their direction.
As if determined to kill as many humans as possible like the mazokus from before.
It was coming. Nobody needed to say it out loud. In that moment, a thunder struck the ground in front of Reiji’s group and loud noise exploded out.
Dust laden with water drops rose in smoke. The mana disturbance settled down like morning dew and strong gust blew. It struck at their light body.
Soon, a mazoku standing over two meters tall appeared in their sight. A red skinned giant. Its thick arms and legs seem to announce all his body knew was strength.
“Humans… Did you already bring an army.”
“I, it’s big….”
Everyone held their breaths at the incredible aura that came out of the gigantic body. Someone spoke with fear-filled voice.
“Reiji-sama! Be careful!”
“I know. But, Tia…”
Reiji squinted his eyes at Titania’s warning.
He felt that mazoku was abnormal when it was flying over, but on closer inspection, it was covered in wounds. From the wounds all over its body, dark aura evaporated like steam. Its movement had no life to it. It was clear that it was weakened.
If a comparison could be made, it was like a leftover after a meal. As if it had just fought a fierce battle, no , it probably did just fight in one. This mazoku had definitely fought in this place.
It was weakened. But taking its mana and combined physical might into calculations, it was still a strong opponent for them.
Hadorius asked to the gigantic mazoku.
“You don’t seem to be a mere mazoku.”
“That’s right…. My name is Rajas. I am a Demon Chief who commands an army….”
When Demon Chief Rajas introduced itself, Titania and Graziella shouted.
“Ho-oh…. It seems your size isn’t the only thing you have.”
Amidst the waves of murmur, Hadorius carefully watched Rajas and questioned while being on guard.
“You seem to have gone through quite a fight. Who did you fight here?”
“Shut up. That’s not something the likes of you need to know….”
Rajas ignored Hadorius as if it was something unpleasant. The voice was also filled with pain from the wound, and resentment from the loss as well.
While they were talking, Rajas took a fighting stance. Was he planning to attack first.
Everyone raised their weapons having seen Rajas move. But feeling he could not miss this chance, Reiji asked Rajas.
“.... I have something to ask.”
“What is it?”
“Why do you attack humans?”
That was right. The reason why mazokus attack humans. Reiji wanted to know all along.
Rajas spat out the words as he scowled in discontent.
“It’s obvious. The order you have created is annoying. That is why humans must die.”
“Order humans have created? For something like that to annoy you… can’t other races residing in other places live as they wished?”
“No. Humans fester everywhere like maggots. There is nothing more angering than when they claim it’s order and prod around everywhere. So they must be wiped out.”
“Humans and mazokus are both living beings. What meaning is there to kill each other over such reason?”
This was the battle of words before a fight. He was not simply trying to say some flashy words. Being able to understand each other or being friends just by talking was a simple delusion made up by fools. There were those who could never accept the others.
Reiji understood well enough. But a fight without proper justification should not be fought. It did not mean to hold each other’s hands. It simply meant not interfering with each other.
Titania sent a worried gaze and Graziella simply snorted. He didn’t care what others thought, but wanted to hear the answer for this.
Then Rajas spoke with a suspecting look.
“..... So, are you are a hero?”
“If I am?”
“Ku…. kuku, is that so…. Speaking so arrogantly without fear…. But this is good. Now I can accomplish my objective.”
Rajas spoke delightfully despite not being able to hide that he was spent.
Graziella exploded in laughter when she saw Rajas.
“What, mazoku, are you sure your wounds don’t hurt anymore?”
“Is that something you should care about? I can’t go back like this. To make up for this failure, I will take your head, hero! I won’t show my back to the humans anymore!”
Following a mysterious pain filled shout, Rajas’ physical and magical power became stronger.
Reiji raised his sword. When Hadorius followed and raised his sword, the soldiers prepared as well. Mizuki retreated to the rear and Titania readied her magic from behind him. Felmenia stood her ground.
Meanwhile, whether Graziella decided to watch silently, she simply stood in place with her arms crossed. She seemed to be familiar with battles as her arrogant aura remained in place.
“Hey you, a question.”
“The time to play along with your questions is over, hero!!”
Rajas moved. Its gigantic two meter body flew at incredible speed towards Reiji.
It was a truly fearsome speed.
Reiji jumped as if responding. With incredible jumping ability he could not even imagine before coming to this world, he flew over Rajas and swung down the sword with all his might.
The sword struck Rajas’ fist along with the shout. Reiji did not loosen his grip on the sword despite feeling the shock of striking the fist. For a one handed attack to match the two handed attack with the summoned blessing. If this was how strong he was when spent, just how strong would he be on full strength. While midair, Rajas’ other arm came from the side. Understanding he was at a disadvantage, Reiji relaxed his grip on the sword and landed. The gigantic arm now changed its course to aim for Reiji’s head.
He didn’t watch for the movement. There was no time. What made him feel it was the extraordinary senses. Reiji landed with one hand in prone position and rolled. The hand that landed on the ground splattered mud and he blocked the mud with the sword to be careful they did not get into his eyes. And the moment he was about to swing his sword, Rajas smashed the ground with incredible force.
The ground shook. Reiji lost his balance just like that. At the same time, a gigantic body rushed in.
He realized it was too late to dodge. So rather than to waste effort, he braced for the impact with the sword pointed out. He flew back. The pain accompanied the landing. If not for his summoning’s blessing, his body would have been shattered. The rapid attack that did not even allow for a moment of respite helped raise the flag of victory in favour of Rajas. Soon, as if the frozen time started to move again, Mizuki’s screams could be heard.
“.... Don’t worry Mizuki. I’m fine.”
Pulsating pain burrowed through his body, but when he overcame and stood up, Rajas shouted with rage filled voice for some reason.
“Is this the power of a hero?! Something like that is the power to threaten the grand plans of us mazokus! To try to take us down with this kind of strength, there’s a limit to your arrogance!”
What was the nature of disappointment in his anger. He could almost mistake it as being compared to something.
Hadorius stood before Rajas who was about to attack again.
Despite the deafening sound, Hadorius simply stood off without a word. Hadorius easily made a fool of Rajas by dodging the fists that flew in like cannon shots. He was strong and fast enough to make people wonder if he was really middle-aged. He found a gap and accurately lunged at the large wound on Rajas’ chest with his sword.
Hadorius did not seem too pleased even though Rajas frowned in pain from being stabbed in the wound. He simply snorted as if it was easy and looked at Rajas with contempt. To face off against such a strong mazoku, he was truly a man of incredible skill.
“Kuuh! How dare a mere human-----”
Rajas swung his arms wildly as if chasing away an annoying fly. But Hadorius simply jumped back to a safe distance.
“Get out of the way----”
What rang out was a cold woman’s voice. That was right. The one who moved beyond all expectation was Graziella. Did she remain silent until now to look for an opportunity. She casted a spell as she leaped off the ground.
“---- Earth! You are the crystal of my fierceness! Smash with your force of fury! And become the tombstone judging the will to live! Crystal Raid!”
She completed the chant and the spell right in front of Rajas. Then Graziella struck the ground beneath with a force. Momentarily, the ground began to shake slightly then a boulder sprouted through the crack in the ground. A gigantic boulder came sprouting up like a quartz or a selenite. Upon Graziella’s hand motion, it rushed towards Rajas.
A sturdy magic that turned the edge of the rock into a sword. It pounced at Rajas--- just moments before, dark aura surrounded Rajas’ body.
…. The demon chief was buried in a mountain of rock. But the rocks shattered and Rajas stood unchanged from before.
“Ho-oh, no effect.”
Was that aura just now Rajas’ defense skill. There was no of new wound on that gigantic body. The magic that struck Rajas was ranked above intermediate. Its constitution was extraordinary to withstand such powerful attack.
But Graziella only looked slightly surprised that it did not work and there was no sign of being worried.
That was when it struck.
Rajas let out a roaring shout. It was a life snapping roar that seemed to draw strength by force from deep within self.
The dark energy that gathered around Rajas’ right hand expanded to cover everything nearby and exploded. The aftershock was closer to a wave mixed with dark energy.
When he re-checked the distance between him and Rajas, bitter saliva pooled in his mouth. Ten meters was too short of a distance to run. Its strength was not something that one could escape unscathed if hit. There were still paralyzing effect on the body. He still could not move. There was not enough time to use defense magic either.
Amidst blood chilling cold sensation, someone grabbed the arm that was paralyzed in anxiety.
“Reiji-sama! Watch out!”
When he blinked after hearing a voice coming from beside him, the scenery from just before was completely different than the scenery now. The warning that stimulated his brain was from Titania. Looking closely, he was hugging her while hanging from her.
He made sense of the situation in the brain. Did she snatch him, who couldn’t move, from the area of the effect of the attack.
When he checked, he was pretty far from Rajas. Did she use magic. It was a split second save.
“Damn it….. Even if I use all my strength, that’s all. Just how strong is that lightning.”
Rajas gasped for air. With hoarse voice, he continued to curse. It seemed more chagrinned than in pain. Its physical pain had been pushed out of mind by rage.
Soon, wave of mana from the surrounding could be felt. The power of magic expanded and the mages cast their spell all at once.
Various kinds of spells surrounded Rajas. Those magics were combinations of undeniable attributes like fire or thunder. Furthermore, because many powerful mages casted it at once, the magic was even more powerful than Graziella’s spell.
Still Rajas remained unharmed. The magic had no effect.
After checking it with her own eyes, Titania spoke in shocked tone.
“.... Just how strong is it.”
How strong was it indeed. In the end, only one who hurt it was Hadorius.
But Rajas still groaned. It had a mortal damage to start with. It was certain that its death was close.
“Don’t be discouraged! Keep pouring on the magic!”
The soldiers’ shout rang out with Hadorius’ command.
----- While everyone in Reiji’s companion was off fighting, Mizuki was the only one clenching her teeth in the rear.
Before the mazoku that was strong enough to smash ground, Reiji, Titania, the noble who put Suimei into a trap, and even the Empire’s princess who appeared out of nowhere was fighting. But only she was watching the situation while being protected by a knight who had accompanied her. The fact she had to tightly hold onto the back of the knight was so painful to her.
Even though her friends were in danger, the fact she couldn’t move in fear weighed down on her heart.
Before, when she was in danger, both Reiji and Suimei helped her. It was back when they were in the other world, but it only made herself more intolerable.
---- Why am I not doing anything.
When she knew Suimei was in danger, she was shaking, unable to move in fear. And now when Reiji and Titania were fighting desperately, she was shaking behind Luca. She was just waiting for all of it to pass by.
Was she going to stay like this. Even though she followed because she wanted to be a strength to someone precious to her, will she do nothing and continued to be protected. When that person is fighting a difficult battle against that gigantic mazoku, will she do nothing. Only those kinds of thoughts came to her.
No…. I can’t…. That’s….
No. It couldn’t. That would be denying her words and avoiding responsibility. It would be nothing but giving up being beside Reiji.
The girl who followed him along with her, Astel’s princess, Titania was fighting not only for Reiji but for countless others she knew nothing of.
Is there…. Is there nothing I can do….?
So she needed to do something that she could do. If she did nothing now, then she would continue to do nothing in the future. She would become an existence to be protected and someone who is not needed by anyone. The question towards self was a good start. Now she thought about what she could do with all her might.
That was right. What could she do.
For her--- for her, there was only magic. Only thing she learned on her own after coming to this world was magic. So only thing she could help with in battle was magic. But it couldn’t be an ordinary magic. Only a magic surpassing Graziella’s spell could defeat that giant mazoku.
The magic I can use is….
---- The icy hell that will announce the death of all breath of fire…..
Clear image and words that suddenly popped into her mind. An unknown voice rang inside the head and intuition confirmed her. This magic would work.
But she thought, why now. Or was it because it is now.
Even Titania and Felmenia said that magic was something that suddenly comes up in the head. She heard it was the case as well when Reiji first used his magic. This was definitely that.
But she couldn’t use it like this. Now she only needed the courage to stand at that place. She needed to squeeze that courage.
When she thought that, she had already dismounted from the horse.
“M, Mizuki-sama?! You can’t!”
When Luca and Reiji saw her walk towards danger, they tried to stop her. But she couldn’t stop: not for herself, not for being beside Reiji, and not for her friends including Reiji. Then she stood. In the middle of the battlefield. She could see Rajas’ back. It did not notice her because it was too busy standing off against the soldiers. If she poured on the magic at the undefended rear----.
“What is it…. Little girl.”
Before she could cast magic, Rajas turned around. Just meeting its gaze was enough to make freeze her body with mysterious chilling sensation. She could not move a finger. Was everyone fighting against something like this. How could they fight against something like this as if it was nothing. In front of such a being, any form of attack looked pitiful.
“What are you doing! Mizuki, get back!”
“Hmph, for some common girl to challenge me without fear---”
Titania’s and Rajas’ voice mixed around and rampaged in her head. She couldn’t understand what was being said. What she could see was a gigantic arm. Even if it just scratched her, she would be smashed. The thought of her being smashed to pieces by a log-like arm became bigger. She couldn’t move.
….. It was impossible. It was foolish to think all she needed was heart---- the courage to act.
What came was cold and harsh word. Something she did not want to hear. It was arrogant and cold word that thought her no different than a bug.
What she barely squeezed out was a tiny voice comparable to a bug’s breath. It couldn’t hear it. It wouldn’t listen even if it did hear. At this rate----.
When Mizuki was suppressed with its fierceness, Rajas suddenly let out a cry. The way it clutched the chest while roaring, that part---- no, something deeper was the cause. It was as if something was running wild within the body.
Then a blue lighting sprouted out from Rajas’ wounds and joints like a snake.
“Ugh, ah, gyaaaah! You still badger me even now!”
Was that for the lightning or for some other being. While the anger for what or who continued, the blue lighting kept gnawing at Rajas like a viper. Ringing sound of thunder. Sharp sound of sparks resonating by ear. Amidst all that, a faint and helpless cry. Rajas could not defend.
So Reiji moved again.
He could not miss this chance. As if determined to take it down before it could move again. Did his body recover? Reiji came out of Titania’s arms and quickly burrowed into Rajas. There was a thin rope of flame surrounding him, so she knew he used a strengthening magic. Rajas swung his arm to block it, but the arm bound by lightning was slow. The orichalcum sword swung in with a gale. At the same time, Rajas’ arm was still mid air.
Reiji’s shout shook the air. And the orichalcum sword found its mark in Rajas’ chest.
“Ku…. ah…. How stupid. Something like this…..”
Perhaps Rajas was surprised because it had been underestimating Reiji’s strike. It felt like a small needle that no one cared about piercing through the heart.
Meanwhile, Reiji remained silent after having stabbed Rajas in the chest.
Was he not letting go. As if he came into contact with the lighting after digging the blade into Rajas, Reiji left the sword in and back pedalled.
“Kuh, ugh….. If not for that man, I wouldn’t lose to something like you.”
“Is that man the one who is responsible for this scenery?”
“That’s right! That man wearing black who used magic I’ve seen for the first time and destroyed my army--- if not for that man! I would never lose to the likes of you!”
Rajas squeezed out his last strength to shout. For not being able to fight further due to the thunder and Reiji’s sword, acting as if he would at least leave a curse. Suddenly, Felmenia strided forward to Rajas.
Rajas groaned while asking the beautiful mage in white robe walking at surprisingly leisurely pace. Then Felmenia spoke in relaxed tone as though to reply to Rajas.
“Mazoku, I have one thing to ask you.”
“About the man wearing black you just mentioned.”
On Rajas’ face with sweat rolling down, sign of curiosity flashed for a bit.
As if being hesitant of the question, Felmenia closed her eyes for a moment before asking.
“Mazoku. That man wearing black. Did he call himself a magician?”
“---- You bitch!! You know about him?! You accursed little girl!!”
Rajas’ reaction after hearing Felmenia was abnormal. It was a beastly roar that did not care about how the enemy knew the man responsible.
Soon only breathing noise could be heard as if even cursing was too painful.
On the other hand, Felmenia’s amber eyes shined in admiration while murmuring.
“.... That’s how it was. It’s really him.”
“Answer…. How….. How do you…..”
“You said he was a magician. Then I have nothing more to say.”
“If, if not for that man…. Losing to something like you is…..”
Did he mean to say impossible? That was probably correct. Rajas was a strong opponent. If it was not already battered from a battle before and if not for that blue lightning, they would not have won. They would have collapsed under his superior physical might and attacks.
Soon blue lightning flowed out from inside the body and Rajas’ body glowed in a blue light. Even amidst of it, Rajas kept screaming out a name, but it was inaudible before the absolute might of the sound of dragon like thunder and lightning. Rajas’ body disappeared along with the powerful thunder noise, as if it could not hold against its power anymore.
The orichalcum sword that pierced Rajas fell on the ground with a clang as if announcing the end of the battle.
As Rajas was burnt to nothing by thunder, Titania called Mizuki’s name while rushing over to her.
Dumbfounded, Mizuki lost her strength and stayed unmoving. Unmoving. With just that, Rajas’ murderous intent and strength faded. Slowly lowering her trembling hand, Mizuki was visibly terrified.
Reiji also moved towards her, and bafflingly asked about the sudden situation.
“Mizuki! What a ridiculous thing to have done…”
“Sorry. I’ve, I’ve always been just watching from the sidelines. That’s why, I had to do something at any cost so…”
With a pale white face, Mizuki faced Reiji and said such a reckless reason. Then, looking at her own shaking hands, she silently fell into her own thoughts.
Titania squatted down as if to look at Mizuki in the eyes.
“Nevertheless. If you had messed up at any step, that mazoku Rajas would have killed you.”
“A spell came into my mind… so I thought with that I’d be able to deal with him. That’s why…”
She gave such a reason. And then, once more, she apologized to the two of them. In response, Reiji let out words of relief and embraced her.
“Thank god you’re safe…”
After a little, Hadorius finished reorganizing the troops and sent out scouts to the surroundings while Titania inquired of Felmenia.
“White flame-dono. There is something I would like to ask of you. Is that fine?”
To Titania’s polite words, Felmenia replied in affirmation. If there was anyone who would have anticipated something like what had happened, it would be her, and so Felmenia swallowed and listened to Titania’s question.
“White flame-dono. You asked about it earlier but, you chased this mazoku, so do you know the person that created this situation?”
Felmenia nodded in assent silently, acknowledging the guess of the people here.
“Say it, that man, what kind of person is he? Name?”
There, Graziella suddenly came over and spoke. Was she interested? No, there was no way she wasn’t. The hot headed girl butt into the conversation with a demanding tone but, Felmenia displayed a sullen expression that implied she could not answer.
“I am sorry. I cannot answer that question.”
“...What did you say?”
“This is a state secret. I cannot answer to princess Graziella.”
“That mazoku Rajas said the person you know annihilated all of these mazoku troops right? Even a fool would know this is a crucial matter. Knowing that, you say you cannot answer?”
Despite hearing Felmenia’s words, Graziella would not back down. Spitting out those words, she approached while giving off magic power. The atmosphere grew to a boiling point as she demanded an explanation.
However, Felmenia remained obstinate.
“Ha. Regardless of the situation, classified is classified. Even if we’re allied and there is joint sharing of mazoku knowledge, unless it is declassified I have no reason to reply.”
Graziella’s face grew contorted. As if she would raise her hand at any moment, she clicked her tongue. Felmenia had declared it as a state secret. To make them talk about state military matters, Felmenia and Hadorius would not permit it. Causing an incident here to get answers would be a serious matter.
Titania then spoke up instead.
“About that, am I included as well?”
Titania lowered her head as she spoke. Next, Hadorius also came up.
“Stingray-kyou. To not be able to tell Titania, is it an imperial command from His Majesty the King then?”
“About that, while reluctant, I also cannot speak for.”
From the denial, he understood. However, they were all immensely curious as to what it was, and Reiji gave a dubious frown. A person as strong as that, shouldn’t exist in the Astel Kingdom. Maybe he didn’t know of it, but for Hadorius and Titania to not know, he couldn’t accept it.
While Reiji was thinking, Hadorius looked to the right and then after pondering a bit, made a surprising announcement.
“Then, this mazoku and the troops. There is no problem if we give all credit to the hero.”
Of course the first person to show a surprised face was Reiji himself. Seeing his confusion, Hadorius curiously threw a question at him.
“What are you so surprised about?”
“Wouldn’t anyone be? I didn’t do it.”
“That’s true. However, giving the hero party credit will bring all kinds of advantages. Am I wrong?”
To Hadorius’ words, Reiji paused in his rejection. At that time, there was one more person who voiced her objection. Graziella.
“You, do you think I will allow that? We were also here and fought.”
Graziella knew the truth. In a loud voice, she protested giving the achievement to Reiji.
Thereupon, Hadorius politely replied, as if he had already prepared a response beforehand.
“Princess Graziella. If you let this by, then we promise to not protest your attack.”
“My attack, you said?”
“Am I wrong? After all, you brought your troops here.”
“You, you dare…”
“Wouldn’t you also be troubled by bad rumors? For us to overlook this, are we not doing you a favor?”
“...Do as you like.”
As Hadorius reiterated his sugar-coated malicious words, Graziella overlooked the matter. Titania may have also had something on her mind, as she looked at Hadorius with a mixture of surprise and suspicion, but Hadorius ignored her and continued as usual, starting to give commands to his subordinates.
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