Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
We tried to spend the night in a ruined house a good distance away from the castle.
I stood guard while the others slept. The lights in the castle were still lit, allowing me to see the magical weapons surrounding it. The creatures increased in number the closer one got to the castle, and it looked like they were looking for us.
I detected something moving outside, which I peered at through a crack in the window.
「Huh, he isn’t here either…? Where’d he go…!?」
Rodje grumbled to herself as she dutifully closed the door of a ruined house. As long as the reason why she had not returned to us was unclear, we would settle on the assumption that she was with Van now.
「If he’s anywhere in this city, then he has to be here! Why does this human give me nothing but trouble?」
She furiously kicked a pillar, then suddenly fell silent, clutching her foot.
This elf has no sense of danger, I thought. As always.
「I know you’re somewhere! Come out, wherever you are!」
She, too, seemed to be part of the manhunt. I decided that I could meet her as long as the location of the other three remained a secret. Even if she was hostile, what could she do to me?
I left our nest and activated my skill, thinning my presence and making a large detour before returning to where Rodje was.
「You’re a little noisy for this time of day.」
「I-It’s you!」, exclaimed the elf.
She pointed her finger at me and hurried over. I detected no hostility, so I allowed her to get close.
「Looking for me?」
「Yes! Yes, I am! But more importantly, Lylael-sama has…!」
Though it was hard to tell in the dark, fear seemed to be written all over her face. Pouting, she looked pleadingly into my eyes.
「Van dug up a magical weapon. Some kind of gun, and, and…」
「Calm down, or I won’t understand a word of what you’re saying. What happened to Lyla?」
「She was struck by the gun and hasn’t woken up!」
Took a hit? Lyla, of all people? I was skeptical, to say the least. But it was a magical weapon — something which Lyla knew nothing about. Was it really that powerful?
「You came to bring Lylael-sama back, didn’t you?」, she cried. 「I have a working relationship with Van, but I devote myself solely to Lylael-sama! Still, I… I couldn’t help her…」
She started bawling. I could sense how upset she felt being unable to help her master who she loved so much. The latter, on top of that, could very well be gone forever.
「It’ll be fine. Tell me more — I need an idea of what we’re up against.」
Her expression brightened a little.
It was the same castle we had taken during the war, so I knew my way around it. What was new, however, was the magical armada. Rodje described the weapons she knew about.
There was the canine ‘Gun-Dog’. A large, humanoid ‘Boulder Soldier’. The ‘Gun’ that had hurt Lyla. Though there was one more, the elf explained that nobody knew how to use it at present.
「W-Will we be okay? He’s a difficult opponent for both Lylael-sama and myself…」
「Who are you talking to?」
We’re running out of time, I thought. I was about to head towards the castle, but a voice called out to me.
「Off to the toilet on your own again?」
Almeria, Elvi and Orlando appeared from the ruined house.
「Are we simply weighing you down, Roland? Please have some faith in us.」
Orlando rushed over to Rodje and gave her a big hug.
「It’s been a while, San-chan.」
As the elves caught up with each other, Elvi checked her equipment. Almeria simply stood there, raring to go.
「We overheard your conversation」, said the princess. 「Even if you had gone alone, we’d have hurried after you.」
「Yeah」, agreed Elvi. 「I’d rather lose than be taken for excess baggage by you, Roland.」
「Do as you like. I won’t protect either of you.」
The two ladies looked at each other and smiled.
「Never thought a day on which I’d hear that would come.」
「All that painful training has paid off.」
「We’re no longer the people you wish to protect.」
I gave no reply.
「And the two of you?」, I said at last.
「I’m coming!」, said Rodje.
「So is Orla」, said the other elf.
A team of five, we would charge at the castle once more — even though the lineup was different from the one before.
Nobody came close to Almeria when it came to crowd control. It was something we had known for a long time now, but we were nevertheless reminded about it as the princess swept the road to the castle free of patrolling ‘Gun-Dogs’ with ‘Indignation’.
「Ahahaha. Cannon fodder!」
「Don’t go too far ahead, Almeria.」
Elvi brought up her shield without need for instruction, activating her skill to draw all incoming attacks toward her. While the enemies were distracted, Orlando sent them flying with a swing of her massive sword. She seemed to have given up trying to destroy them completely.
Rodje had, using traditional elven techniques, fashioned a bow out of magicka and was now using it to fire magical arrows.
「Aim for the belly」, I said.
One of her arrows ricocheted off the ground, piercing a ‘Gun-Dog’ from below.
「Wow, you landed a hit.」
「Looking for a scrap, eh?」
「I’m praising you」, I lied through my teeth.
She simply accepted it. It was still nighttime, so there was little risk of humans getting caught in the crossfire. With Elvi to distract the enemies, Almeria to nuke them and the two elves to take the rest of the trash out, all I had to do was sit and watch as one-to-one combat was my specialty. I was confident that they could work together with clearly-defined roles.
Thanks to Almeria, there was no need to sneak into the castle. We simply blew the front door open.
「That’s the second time she’s said that, Roland. I think Al wants to be praised.」
「As expected of you, Almeria! Mighty fine for a Heroine!」
That had given her an additional boost of confidence.
When we began climbing the somewhat familiar steps, we noticed an elf standing on the floor above.
「What are you doing, Onee-chan?」
「I don’t remember having an elf for a young sister.」
「She’s not talking to you, Almeria.」
Rodje jostled her way to the front.
「We’re here to save Lylael-sama, Marion. There’s no time to waste, so please let us through.」
「No way. His orders are absolute. You know that, right?」, replied Marion. 「Huh… Orlando’s here too?」
「You’re alive, Marion? How…?」
Frustrated, Rodje squinted.
「Van approached me and told me that he could ‘Resurrect’ her in return for my cooperation. Those who have been ‘Resurrected’ see their creator — Van — as their master, however.」
There were other ways to reach the second floor, of course. But taking the stairs was the closest option.
「Please leave this to me」, said Rodje, assuming a battle stance. 「My weakness is the cause of all this.」
Orlando followed, ready to fight.
「Marion died that day」, she said. 「The dead do not return. You are a mirage. And I will not let San-chan handle this alone.」
Just then, a large humanoid soldier appeared in the entrance from which we had entered. It was two storeys tall and had long arms dangling by its side. As with the ‘Gun-Dog’, three red pupils glowed in the slit that presumably granted it vision.
「Go on, Roland. The rest, too.」
「I must stand and fight. I’ll leave Lylael-sama to you, human.」
I nodded and charged up the stairs.
「That won’t do. Master will be mad at me.」
My skill was all it took to sneak past the reanimated elf. Taking advantage of her confusion, Almeria and Elvi hurried after me.