Cotton-elka Line of Defense – Part 06

The defensive battle in the village of Cotton-elka had changed. Instead of fighting in the woods where visibility was poor, the battle was taking place on the plains near the village. The Four Eastern Stars had taken command. Under Selyse’s instructions, the adventurers, who had signed up for the escort commission, were cutting the tall grass and burning them down. Spotting the monsters as quickly as possible was important, and the forest monsters’ nature made them reluctant to come out in the open. The goal was also to urge them not to come to the village.

“Three Lost Men and two Treants coming from ten o’ clock.”

However, their countermeasure only served to temporarily allay their worries. The monsters advanced anyway. The weaker ones had stopped coming, and only those ranked E and higher headed for Cotton-elka. Sara searched for the enemies, and as soon as she spotted them, she immediately informed Selyse. Selyse then decided which combatants to deploy depending on the number of foes, crushing them steadily.

The party Wild Horn, adventurers who came on a kill commission, were no longer complaining, instead quietly following instructions. The adventurers that were here to escort the villagers were not able to do their jobs because the villagers decided to stay in the village, so they joined the fight for the time being.

Monster swarms attacked every two hours at first, but by dawn the attacks came once every hour. Everyone sensed that the frequency had increased. And then, at nightfall, the earth rumbled, and a roar erupted from afar. When they heard it, the expression on Selyse’s face changed. The calm smile that she always wore was gone, replaced by a grave look.

If that monster comes, even Selyse and her team would have a difficult time dealing with it, Paula thought. She barely had any sleep.

“Pia, Priscilla,” Paula called when she found her friends.

Though Pia wanted to offer help as much as possible to Selyse, going out to the edge of the village every time monsters showed up, she was not once asked to join the fight.

Priscilla, on the other hand, was asked to intercept every now and then, partly because her arrows were effective at keeping the monsters at bay, and partly because there were no other adventurers who could use a bow. Pia was not happy about that. She wanted to be useful to Selyse, whom she admired so much, yet only Priscila was asked to fight.

Oh, Pia… She really doesn’t get it, Paula thought. We’re just starting out as adventurers. Attacking from long range is one thing, but close-combat is out of the question. They just don’t want you to get hurt. I can’t really say that to her, though.

Pia didn’t seem to see the obvious. What’s more, she was unaware that her goal had shifted from helping the village to wanting Selyse to acknowledge her.

“What’s up?” Pia asked. “Oh, I’m fine. It’s just a scratch.”

She indeed had a scratch on her arm, wrapped in a bandage. Priscilla noticed that Paula’s eyes were on the bandage, and she gave a small shake of her head, telling her there was nothing to worry about.

Is she pretending to be hurt, so Selyse would show her concern?

Paula sighed inwardly. “The monsters seem to be appearing more and more frequently now.”

“Hmm? Yeah, I guess so. But don’t worry! We have the Four Eastern Stars here, led by Lady Selyse!” There was only Selyse in her eyes now.

“We need to do something soon,” Paula said.

“What? Are you saying that Lady Selyse is gonna lose to those weaklings? I don’t care if you’re my friend. You better watch—”

“That’s not what I’m saying. They have to be on guard at night, and they fight during the day. They can’t keep doing that forever.”

Pia groaned. “I suppose you have a point. I don’t want to see Lady Selyse sleep-deprived either.”

That’s not the issue! Paula held back the urge to shout.

“I think we should evacuate the village while we still can,” Paula suggested.

“You’re probably right,” Pia readily agreed.

Relieved, Paula made her way to the village chief’s house together with Pia and Priscilla.

“Priscilla, what about your father?” Paula asked.

“Monsters already destroyed our house.”

“What?! What happened to your father?!”

Priscilla’s mother was already dead, and her father made a living by hunting in the forest alone. Their house was located in the woods, on the outskirts of the village.

“He abandoned the house. We missed him while he headed for Leather-elka.”

“I see. Don’t scare me like that.”

Priscilla laughed. “Believe me. I was way more shocked when I saw our destroyed house.”

It was apparently just Priscilla’s way of making a joke.

It’s not funny! Not under these circumstances!

Paula’s gaze darted to the church—her home. She could see the back of the house, and the door was slightly open. Hmm? Paula could’ve sworn she closed the door when she left. Her father shouldn’t be out yet so early in the morning either.

“Perfect. My father’s right here,” Pia said. “Let’s go.”

Pia’s father, the village chief, was in the square in front of the church. Paula shifted her focus to the man. Their conversation would determine the fate of the village.

“Hey, Dad!” Pia called.

The village chief turned around with a frown. His hairline was receding, and he had a long, wavy brown beard that ran from his ear to his chin. He would have exuded dignity if he had a heavier build, but the village’s financial situation made it impossible for him to gain weight.

“Oh, it’s you,” the man said.

“We should evacuate,” Pia said. “Please gather the villagers.”

Paula couldn’t believe her friend’s bluntness.

No! That’s not how you do it! There’s no way he’ll agree now. You know that, don’t you?! These people are stubborn. They won’t even make anything else besides dry tomatoes, even if we’re broke!

Now that she thought about it, Paula and her friends decided to become adventurers partly because they had grown tired of these people’s stubbornness. At how they didn’t make any effort to change their situation.

“And here I thought you’d become a little bit smarter outside the village,” the village chief said. “But instead you came back with a foul mouth. Now you want to abandon the village? The world must be ending.”

“Yes, it is. You know there’s a lot of monsters coming, right? We have to get out of here.”

“What? Where did all that confidence from yesterday go? You said we’d be fine with you around, and that Lady Selyse would get rid of all the monsters. So you were all just big talk? Is that what you’re saying?”

Paula’s head was starting to hurt. Why did you say that, Pia?! We can’t possibly kill all those monsters! Was it Miss Selyse?! Was it because of her that you thought that was possible?!

The village chief did not try to hide his displeasure. “Not even just big talk. More like a barefaced lie. My daughter, whom I thought abandoned the village, returned a bigmouth. How sad.”

“O-Of course not! Lady Selyse is not gonna lose to some monsters! But if you stay here, you’d just be a burden.”

“Is that so? I thought Miss Selyse was a noble adventurer who came to protect us, but apparently she only cares about glory and sees us as nothing but a burden.”

“What did you say?! I don’t care if you’re my father. You take that back!”

“Stop! Let’s pause for a bit, okay?” Paula cut in. “Please listen, chief. This dungeon problem will not be ending soon. We can’t continue fighting a never-ending battle.”

“I thought killing monsters is a profitable venture. All these adventurers ever talk about is how much money they make by killing monsters in a dungeon. Why not just call for adventurers who want to make money?”

“About that…”

The village chief had a point. However, the royal capital’s Adventurers’ Guild had decided to ignore the Forest of Deception. Pond’s Adventurers’ Guild instead used part of its budget to send the party Wild Horn.

“No other adventurers are coming,” Paula said. “The government and the army won’t make a move. You should know that.”

“…I do.”

The village chief turned his eyes away, looking increasingly bitter. Cotton-elka was a remote village with a small population, whose only product was dried tomatoes. The money they earned each year was insignificant, and yet they continued to pay taxes to the kingdom. Compared to neighboring countries, taxes in the Kingdom of Ponsonia were high, at 55%. When life was hard, they sent young villagers to work in other cities—often they never returned—and somehow managed to survive.

Despite all that, the government did not come to their rescue when the village was facing a crisis. The village chief was more frustrated than anyone else. He was fully aware that evacuating was the better option.

“How can we abandon the fields that our grandfathers and grandmothers, and their grandfathers and grandmothers, cultivated? We’re tomato farmers. This is all we can do.”

They couldn’t convince him. The village chief quickly returned to his house.

He knows, but he’s decided to stay. The villagers know that if they stay, they will die. If the chief says they should evacuate, they will prepare to evacuate. But that’s not good enough. Evacuate, and then what? With no money, all that awaits them is death. That’s why he doesn’t tell them to evacuate. Not saying anything is the same as telling them to die here.

Paula realized just how short-sighted she was. Her hands were aching from squeezing them too tight.

“What’s his problem?” Pia grumbled. “I can’t believe he would bad-mouth Lady Selyse like that. Well, I’m not dying in this place.”

“Pia!” Paula grabbed her arms. “How… How could you say that?!”

“Paula… Th-That hurts…”

“Your father’s upset! You can see that, can’t you?! The Pia I knew watched her father closely. She knew what kind of work he was doing.”


“We have to face reality. We can’t turn our eyes away from this village. We have to think about what we, as adventurers, can do for this place.”

Priscilla held Paula’s hand. “You’re grabbing her wound.”


Her hand was on the bandage. Paula quickly let go. She could feel some sort of liquid falling. She realized she was crying.

“I-I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just going to cool my head.”

“Paula, wait!” Pia called. “Paula!”

Paula ran to the church’s back door and into her room.

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