One of the Four Great Powers of mankind’s territory, the Canal Kingdom.
The Third Princess Celis exposed her father the King’s sins, and the civil war that started after overthrowing him still showed no signs of concluding.
The First Princess Narika had made Celis, who occupied Febris Castle of the capital city Elarc, out to be a traitor, and occasionally attacked her.
Up until now, they repeatedly withdrew without being able to destroy the defenses in front of the gate, but this time, the First Princess Army that appeared in Elarc at the same time as an invasion from the mysterious Mazoku, the Alva, had a different situation. They would preach to the citizens that were attacked by the Alva that 「if you follow First Princess Narika, the legitimate heir to the throne, then you will be saved by the God of Light Raidolg’s divine protection」, and made the demand of 「if there is anyone that wishes to follow our side, then hand them over」 to the Third Princess.
The Celis side accepted the First Princess Army’s demand and opened the east gate, and a portion of the citizens of Elarc ended up joining the First Princess Army. Of course, the Celis side had intended to obediently comply, but the First Princess Army had no way of knowing that.
Accompanied by the applicants, the First Princess Army departed from the capital city Elarc.
However, it wasn’t like they had headed directly towards the sub-capital city――to Kashnart, which First Princess Narika had designated as the temporary capital city. They drew near to several towns and villages on the way, made speeches there, gathered applicants, and made them travel together with them……that was the sequence that they repeated.
Moreover, using the reason of 「to defend against the cowardly Third Princess Army ambushing them」, they advanced through a complex route.
「Mu, there’s a village over there.」
「It’s not on the map……huh. Then I guess that means, it’s a newly made village.」
「Looks like it. Tsk……This all happened right before the maps were revised after all. There might be others.」
The knights at the lead of the First Princess Army muttered to each other about something.
What they had in their hands was a map of the Canal Kingdom. However, the revision work had been delayed due to the prolonged civil war, so parts that differed from reality had come out.
When the knights that were muttering to each other at the lead turned around, they shouted to the unit and to those accompanying them.
「Everyone, there is a village up ahead! We are thinking of borrowing that place for today to rest!」
Hearing that voice, several voices of relief leaked out.
There was quite a distance between Elarc and Kashnart, and there would be a considerable amount of fatigue when walking it with an ordinary person’s legs. Moreover, in cases of sleeping outdoors, since they would need to be vigilant of any wild animals, they wouldn’t be able to rest enough.
However, if it was at an assembly hall, which should be in a village, they could sleep in relief underneath a roof.
After following the knights and going to the village, a man who seemed to be someone of the village shouldering an axe called out to the knight at the lead.
「Oyaa, here are some people with some splendid equipment. And what kind of business might you have with a small village like this?」
「Umu. We are the Imperial Guard Chivalric Order assembled at the side of the legitimate heir to the throne, First Princess Narika-sama……and righteous citizens that are under our protection.」
Listening to the knight’s self-introduction, the villager went 「Right」 and nodded.
「So, what business do you have here?」
「We are in the middle of our sacred duty but, since the sun is about to set for today, we would like to request lodging for one night. Could you guide me to the Village Chief’s house?」
「Right. If it’s the Village Chief, he said something about going to a town to trade, and went with his family. He did tell us to do as we liked while he was absent, so I guess it should be fine.」
「Hou, to trade……」
「Yeah, he hasn’t been back for about three months now. He must be quite enthusiastic about the trading. Well, since he did pile up heaps of various things onto the carriage, so that can’t really be helped.」
He felt like he was about to say “Doesn’t that mean that he took the village’s assets and ran away”, but the knight firmly held it down.
Even if he were to say something unnecessary here, the village would only fall into chaos.
「Understood. Well then, we would like to use that Village Chief’s house, but is there a place where the others accompanying us can rest?」
「Right. There is an assembly hall.」
「That is fine. Also, we will pay compensation so we would like to ask for some food. And also that you gather the people in the village square……」
After the long deep talk between the knight and the village man, the people accompanying the First Princess Army were led to the village’s assembly hall. There wasn’t anything within the modestly built building. It was simply spacious. The accompanying people each established their own spots and started to lie down.
「……That talk from earlier, the village chief definitely ran away, didn’t he.」
Kain and Ein, who took up spots that were relatively close to the assembly hall entrance, whispered to each other about that sort of thing.
At the request of Second Princess Elia of the St. Altlis Kingdom, a major nation of mankind’s territory, and having ended up cooperating with Third Princess Celis of the Canal Kingdom, Adventurer Kain. And then, having ended up accompanying Kain with the order from Demon King Vermudol, intelligence operative of the Zadark Kingdom Ein.
The two of them took advantage of the earlier Elarc attack and slipped into the group of accompanying applicants to the First Princess Army.
In the First Princess Army that was currently staying in the village, there was neither the essential First Princess Narika, nor the Royal Court Magician Mazenda, who seems like the mastermind manipulating the civil war.
The one at the lead was a man who was the Vice-Captain Advisor of the Imperial Guard Chivalric Order called Zackritt.
Seeming to be quite devoted to Narika, he would preach Narika’s greatness at every opportunity.
Even now, Zackritt’s loud voice could be heard from the plaza outside of this assembly hall.
「……In other words, the Third Princess has deceived tens of thousands of people and usurped the position of power! Now is the time that the nation must be righteously governed under the legitimate heir to the throne, Narika-sama! Those who desire that, will be accepted at any time! 」
It was Zackritt’s prided speech.
In short, he was preaching in tears about how crafty Third Princess Celis was, and about how noble and wonderful First Princess Narika was and about how she was a tragic princess who was chased out of the capital city despite being the legitimate heir.
When Kain peeked outside from the assembly hall’s entrance, the villagers were gathered around Zackritt in the plaza.
Seeing as how there was an applause, maybe he had obtained their sympathy……or maybe, they made an applause for now since it was a knight’s speech. It was unclear as to which one it was, but it seemed that the speech meeting was done.
What followed and came wafting in from outside was the smell of a soup where something we boiled well. It was the emergency food that the knights negotiated for and had prepared.
Since they would have proper meals like this whenever they would stop by a village or town, and maybe because of that, there were no dropouts so far. This was also a part of the technique to grasp the hearts of the people. Since it would be the end if the people were made to have doubts such as “will they really save us……”, it could also be called a justified measure.
「Ahー, everyone. The meal has been made, so please come and have some.」
When the village man came to the assembly hall and said that, everyone streamed out into the plaza.
Even Ein and Kain followed suit so that they wouldn’t stand out.
However, they didn’t get in line for the emergency food. They sat down in a corner of the plaza, took out some dried sweet potato that they packed, and pacified their stomachs.
This wasn’t because they had a problem with the emergency food, but in order to defend against the so-called 「sympathy」. Just like there was the phrase 「eating from the same pot」, it was easy for feelings of fellowship to sprout when having a communal life.
So long as Kain’s group had a mission to carry out, carelessly harboring that sort of emotion would connect to their failure.
Since Kain in particular had a personality that made it easy for him to join others, Ein gave him warnings.
That Ein had vanished into the forest so that she wouldn’t be noticed by the First Princess Army group. It was in order to exchange information with her fellow intelligence operative that was nearby.
So that there wouldn’t be any unnecessary obstructions coming by, Kain casually moved to a location where he could hide Ein, and pretended to look up at the stars.
Catching the fact that Ein had erased her figure at the corner of his vision, Kain sat down at that spot.
When he turned his eyes to the plaza, those that had finished their meals were calmly having a deep talk with the knights.
When he saw them totally getting along with each other due to the communal life, Kain got a shiver.
Up until they left Elarc, they should have been split as 「the First Princess side」 and 「the Third Princess side」. Going even further, they were mostly in a relationship where they didn’t know each other.
However, as they were now, they were like people who had been close friends for a decade.
If this was the sympathy effect due to communal living, it couldn’t be described as anything but incredible.
「……Hey, what are you doing in a place like this?」
Suddenly, Kain was called out to.
Kain turned his gaze to that voice……and unconsciously, he gulped.
Muttering that, he immediately realized that he was wrong.
Long hair that had light waves in it. Beautiful eyes that seemed like jewels.
Her face resembled that of his young female friend that he hadn’t met for a long time now, Ykslaas.
However, unlike Ykslaas, the young girl in front of him had white hair, and her eyes shone in a gold color. Even her outfit, when compared to those clothes that were like a formal dress, she had a traveling outfit that was noticeably plainer, yet was tailored with good fabric.
That young girl, who wore what was probably a high-class item even among Traveler’s Robes, looked down at Kain while expressing a grin.
「Ys? Who is that? Your lover? Even though you’ve got such a cute girlfriend, you’re a pretty sinful guy, aren’t you?」
With a tone that reminded him of Ys, the young girl said that with a smile that was definitely a spitting image of Ys.
「May I, sit next to you?」
「Eh? Y, yeah.」
After Kain replied, the young girl gracefully sat down next to Kain. Even her actions closely resembled Ys.
「Hey, you’re somehow different from the other people, aren’t you.」
Hearing the young girl’s words, Kain reflexively asked that back.
「Yes, you’re different……Let’s see, I don’t know what it is but……I can feel power in your eyes.」
「……Do the other people not have power?」
「Yes, everyone else has eyes as if they had died. You understand, right? Those are eyes that have abandoned themselves.」
Indeed, Kain had certainly felt that as well, and Ein also talked about it.
The eyes of the people that went along with the First Princess Army from Elarc, were dead.
Tired from the long continuing civil war, they desired stability.
Seeking a reliable standard from someone other than themselves, they discover hope by obeying that.
For example, if it was the Third Princess before, it was now probably the First Princess.
By doing that and entrusting everything to another person’s ideals――by 「believing in them」 if it had to be put into better sounding words, they could push responsibility onto them. And in the end, they would remain ignorant of the fact that they had abandoned themselves.
「So, did you need something from me?」
「It is because you looked interesting. I was wondering what a person like you was doing in a place like this.」
「The same thing could be said about you, couldn’t it?」
When Kain returned with that, the young girl shrugged her shoulders.
「Pretty much. But that’s because I’m together with my family. You’re different, right?」
「……Yup. It’s because I’m a rootless person.」
Without using the word “Adventurer”, Kain purposely expressed it like that.
When he did, the young girl tilted her head.
「Rootless person……The point is that you’re a traveler that doesn’t have a set residence, right? You don’t look that way though.」
「You think so?」
「Yes. Those people……they’re more, like they have wild and blazing eyes. Your eyes, they have an intellectual look. It’s completely different.」
Kain really could see an image of Ys in the young girl.
She was also a person that would speak bluntly about the inner workings of a person like this.
「I’m sure that you have some sort of objective. Do you want to become a knight?」
Seeing Kain vaguely pass it off, the young girl’s interest deepened even further.
「For you, I definitely think you’re strong. If you go to Narika-sama’s side, you will definitely flourish.」
「I wonder about that……I think you’re overestimating me though.」
Seeing Kain repeatedly give indifferent responses, the young girl came closer while making a wry smile.
When Kain went a bit away from that young girl, the young girl made a dissatisfied looking face.
「……Hey. Your name, could you tell it to me?」
「Kain. It’s just Kain. And you?」
「Me? I’m……Lys. Nice to meet you, Kain.」
Lys took Kain’s hand and shook it.
「With this, we’re friends, right?」
When Kain was about to reply with something, Ein appeared from behind.
「What’s wrong, Kain……Who is, this woman.」
「Ara, an obstacle came in. See you later, Kain.」
After puzzledly seeing Lys off as she waved her hand and went off somewhere, Ein turned her gaze to Kain.
「……Were you hitting on her?」
「Then, another woman that you saved somewhere?」
「Ein, just what do you see me as with those eyes of yours……」
Being told that, Ein muttered 「Let’s see……」.
「A man that gets along with all women that he gets acquainted with……I suppose that’s about it?」
「……That isn’t true at all……」
「Not being self-aware is a problem, you know?」
Being told that, Kain breathed out a deep sigh, and Ein silently looked down at him as he did.
「So, in the end, who was that woman?」
「I don’t really know, but she was the one that came to talk to me. She said that my eyes were different from the other people.」
After Kain answered her, Ein stared at the direction that Lys vanished to.
「……Well, keep it in moderation.」
「I don’t know what you mean by that.」
「Shall I tell you about it in detail?」
「I’d like to decline.」
Immediately after Kain took his eyes off of Ein, *kon*, a tree nut hit his head.
When he looked up, what he saw was the figure of a black bird that stopped on a tree branch.
It was a Mazoku that was affiliated with the same Zadark Kingdom Intelligence Operative Unit as Ein, Zwei.
When Kain silently threw the tree nut back, the black bird nimbly avoided it and opened his wings as if to make fun of him.
「Guh! W, why you little!」
Ein lightly poked Kain’s head as he picked up a stone on the ground.
「Leave it at that. Honestly……why can’t you two get along.」
「I mean Ein. That guy, every time he……」
「I will tell him off. But……Let’s see, it might be good if you two punch it out somewhere at least once.」
In response to Kain who shouted that on reflex, Ein nodded with an “umu”.
「Punching it out is the best for getting a mutual understanding. For us, it’s a method to establish friendship that has continued from time immemorial.」
「……After we punch it out, do you think we’ll watch the sunset and get along?」
「We don’t have that sort of custom. But, if there is something similar over here, then that will make this talk go faster.」
As Kain scratched his cheek, Ein once again nodded.
「Once we can take a break in this case, it would be best for you two to do so. I am sure you will understand each other.」
「I wonder if we will……」
「Yeah, of course you will.」
In response to Ein who said that brimming with confidence, Kain gave a vague nod while making an expression that said that he wasn’t all that convinced.
「But if that’s the case, Ein, do you and I understand each other?」
「You and me? But, we haven’t punched it out, right?」
「Why is punching it out a prerequisite……」
As Kain breathed out a deep sigh, Ein made a face that said she found him incomprehensible.
「So, Kain. In the end, did that woman only come to talk about your eyes or whatever?」
「Erm……She said that we were friends.」
After Ein pondered for a bit from hearing that, she muttered some words.
「However, that face……」
「Yup, it resembled Ys.」
Ykslaas who introduced herself as the 「Demon King of Harmony」 and attacked the Dark Continent.
She was a young woman that was identified to have been used by the God of Life Philia, and who Demon King Vermudol had intervened with her Life Seed, which was said to be the core of an existence, and had released from that binding.
Kain didn’t know about those circumstances, but Ein also knew that he treated Ykslaas――that he treated Ys as one of his friends.
Ein naturally had a grasp of what she was doing now and where she was, but she hadn’t received permission to talk about that to Kain.
「……But, that isn’t Ys.」
It wasn’t just a few times that Kain was on the verge of talking about Ys. It was unclear as to what had happened between him and Ys, but going by his behavior just now, it was clear that he hadn’t forgotten her.
The vital Ykslaas herself looked over the chaos that was her memories of those days, and it seemed that she couldn’t recall the details, such as her conversational exchanges with Kain.
……Shouldn’t some sort of measure be taken for that?
Thinking that, Ein turned her gaze to the black bird that was perched on the tree branch.
The black bird vanished into the forest just like that……and in its place, a single mouse came along.
The mouse with awfully good fur climbed up the tree just like that, and started to stare down at Kain and Ein.
At the end of the gazes of those two who sank into silence, people were surrounding a bonfire in the plaza and were pleasantly chatting.
「Is it fine for you to not go over?」
「Same to you, Ein.」
「……I hate that sort of thing.」
It wasn’t that they were unsociable.
But, what was going on over there was warped. Just like the swaying fire that rose up from the kindling.
A cooperative illusion born from everyone doing the same thing. The distortion of something so artificial, could be seen in the eyes of those two.
「So they’re heading to the First Princess’s side like this……huh. By the time they arrive, they will probably be filled and overflowing with hope.」
That was baseless hope.
If it’s with these companions, it can be done. If it’s these people, I can believe them.
The journey to Kashnart, was a ritual to breed that sort of spirit.
「Even at the Adventurer’s school, they did something similar in order to foster a feeling of solidarity……but this, it’s already at the point of brainwashing.」
This ritual, it was performed in order to inspire an illusion of the First Princess Narika whom they had never even met.
Done brazenly through nonchalant spare moments in bits of conversation, or like in the speech from earlier.
Using every means possible, they would imprint the 「wonderful Princess Narika」, and at the same time, they would transplant the 「crafty Princess Celis」. By contrasting the two, their sense of values would gradually be repainted.
Calling it a transformation of their way of thinking was a nice sounding way of saying it, but in short, it was nothing more than brainwashing.
That something that would be quite understandable if one step were to be taken away from it, would be noticed by no one in the net known as a sense of unity. Even though one could be entangled in it before they knew it.
It were as if they were gently being served poison.
As Kain was thinking that sort of thing, suddenly, he heard a scream.
「It’s, it’s a Beastia! The Beastia have come!」
In the plaza that abruptly became noisy, the knights shouted so as to calm them down.
「It’s alright! We are here! Those evil Mazoku, will be cut down with this sword!」
Seeing the knights that shouted so clearly, Kain thought “they’re just like that traveling troupe of actors that I once saw……”.