TLN: 100th chapter, yay!
—–Let’s leave the preparations of the war to my comrades.
Strategy to Loroka, commands to Laichi, trap creation to Gindo, and scouting to Zephyr and Mia.
Solje and Riel rode Byakuya, and Jean ran in wolf mode.
Jean’s nose had caught the scent of death from Arianrhod.
——At that time when she used her Authority on the old knight’s contract.
Jean caught the scent for sure, and they are now chasing it.
Where is it?
In that forest, the forest where it is said that the Bandit King has his treasure hidden.
——The wolf turned into a gale and runs while slipping by the trees.
The unicorn follows that, and the bow princess said that this looked like fox hunting.
Jean emphasises ‘I am a wolf’.
Last night’s violence must have become a trauma for him.
——The three brave warriors that are challenging the Zeruaga.
They were speeding through the forest where skeletons lurk.
Deflecting the skeletal hands coming from both sides with his dragon longsword.
Piercing the skeletons with arrows, destroying them with fangs, and sinking them into the ground with hoofs.
——Jean won’t waver, the old knight told him to live strong after all.
I will defeat Zeruaga Arianrhod!!
A big cave found opening from a cliff, at the deepest part of the forest.
That den of thieves where the light of magic flutters.
…That’s right, that’s the hideout of the Bandit King. Now the dwelling of Arianrhod.
“…This is quite the big cave.” (Riel)
“A natural formation that had the hands of people involved.” (Solje)
“This place…wasn’t found for 500 years?” (Riel)
“No, even if they found it, they would want to monopolize the treasure and wouldn’t tell anyone. Also, there must have been a lot of cases where they just turned into skeletons.” (Solje)
I said this while looking at the skulls of people that were by the feet of Byakuya.
“That’s how scary the greed of people is. Even in places where it is dangerous and they might die, if they hear there’s treasures in it, they will try to enter no matter the place.” (Solje)
‘Right?’, is what I ask the bones there, but maybe because I didn’t say it out loud, or because the bones around my legs don’t speak, I didn’t get an answer.
“…Greed is found in everyone regardless of race. Those bones over there are clearly a giant’s one… I don’t want to admit it, but there must be elf bones here as well.” (Riel)
“…I also would have wanted to concentrate on treasure hunting, but…let’s concentrate on Arianrhod slaying for now. Jean, is she here?” (Solje)
“Y-Yes!! She is!!” (Jean)
The wolf seems to be confident.
He did lead us to this dungeon in one go. Also…
“I see…well, she is going as far as inviting us with magic lights, so maybe we are being welcomed?” (Solje)
Are we really? The torches set around the walls of this dungeon were letting out blue fire, and thanks to that, it wasn’t dark inside.
Even without the magic of Riel or the light of Byakuya’s horn, we were able to get plenty enough light.
“…This dungeon is so well arranged to an unnerving extent.” (Riel)
Umu, indeed. The magic torches were set only a few meters apart from each other.
That’s one of the reasons it is strangely bright. You would normally think about the expenses and put them further apart, right? Even magic torches that pick the mana from nature to light up semi-permanently still need highly dense magic silver, you know? Setting them up around 10 meters of distance from each other wouldn’t be that problematic…
“Well, maybe it is just how the Bandit King likes it? He has the money he obtained from ransacking the whole world, and yet…he has a dark dungeon as a villa? If it were me, I would prioritize the residential feeling.” (Solje)
“If that’s how he was thinking about it, then I kind of understand.” (Riel)
“…Another possibility would be that…maybe it was necessary?” (Solje)
“Like what?” (Riel)
“I don’t know. But…I feel strangely cozy in this dungeon.” (Solje)
“Heeh, is it because you have dragon elements inside of you?” (Riel)
Hmm…maybe? I do feel like Ares and Zephyr would say they like this cave as well.
Is this a kind of place where the unholy can feel at peace? Well, a weirdo like me who can talk to undead clearly doesn’t have a normal opinion anyways.
Even so, this residential feeling…bothers me.
“…Is there anyone else aside from us?” (Solje)
“Right. For example; Mistral.” (Solje)
“…He is. Arianrhod’s presence was so strong that he was hidden by it.” (Jean)
“Jean, notice those kinds of things faster.” (Riel)
“I-I am sorry, Riel-neesan!! I will endeavour to do so from now on!” (Jean)
Since last night’s events, he is for some reason calling her nee-san <big sis>. The rankings inside of him must have changed at that time.
Putting aside ability, in terms of age, one is 21 and the other 17. Jean is actually the older one <wait, he is?!>. Haah, I wonder if this will be temporary? …Well, Riel is my legal wife, so in that sense, she is indeed in a position for Jean to respect.
Relying on the nose of the wolf that has no short amount of hardships, we proceed through the dungeon.
…But this really is one easy dungeon.
Is this really the place where the Bandit King hides his treasure? It certainly has an extravagant making to it. The torches are set generously, the path is made wide, and the ceiling is high. We were able to continue further in without the need to get off Byakuya.
Did the Bandit King, Yukris Zahart, have giants as comrades? …It isn’t really that strange, and maybe the person himself was a giant.
Also, we are using both my dragon eye and the nose of Jean, and yet, not only do we not find traps, we can’t even find traces of it. I really don’t feel like this is a place where treasure is hidden.
“…Could it be…” (Solje)
“What is it, Captain?” (Riel)
“…This place might have been used as a fort.” (Solje)
A pathway big enough to pass mounted… Wouldn’t it make sense if that’s the case?
“R-Right. I can tell with my nose. There’s several big caves here. They are complicated, but…the left and right ones here that have a hard curve look the same as the Imperial Army fortress we infiltrated once.” (Jean)
“Yeah, the pathways of a fortress are big…but have heavy curves.” (Solje)
“Curves? That sounds inconvenient.” (Riel)
“That’s right. Purposely so.” (Solje)
“What do you mean?” (Riel)
“They are made so that you can’t pass them quickly, and in curves…you can create blindspots. At the times when enemies attack, those kinds of points become advantages in defense.” (Solje)
“I see, my man knows a lot.” (Riel)
…Watching her reaction, I feel like Riel-chan asked while knowing. These kinds of small talks are essential to maintaining a bright atmosphere in a party.
“But this place is really silent… And I can’t feel hostility.” (Riel)
“Even if they were trying to catch us off guard, it is certainly strange…” (Solje)
A part dragon person like me would be able to live in a place like this. If I brought a bed, this would turn into a splendid vacation house. As a cave lover, I feel like I could have gotten along with Yukris Zahart.
No enemies, no traps.
We proceed through this bright and wide path.
At times there would be curved paths, and we pass them with caution…but nothing actually happened.
It isn’t bad, but it certainly throws us off.
Mistral, I am coming, you know? Just come out already and fight.
The moment I was about to complain about this…
I found a small girl.
A few tens of metres ahead, at a corner of the road, I saw a blonde haired girl of around 10 years old poking her head out and looking at us. Somewhat nervous.
“Oi! You, why are you at a place like this?!” (Solje)
Did she get scared by our voices, the girl pulled in her head and seemed to have gone deeper into the path.
“…Crap, I did shout pretty loud there.” (Solje)
“U-Uhm, Captain Solje, is something the matter?” (Riel)
“R-Right, Captain. I didn’t see anything.” (Jean)
“Impossible. There was a blonde haired girl of around 10 years old with a scared face there looking at us.” (Solje)
“D-D-D-Don’t go saying n-nonsense.” (Riel)
Riel-chan is trembling like crazy. What’s going on?
“Oi, you didn’t see her? You guys were watching on guard, right?” (Solje)
“…I-I-I didn’t see a-anything…!” (Riel)
“No way, the two of you didn’t catch her?” (Solje)
A hide-and-seek master? I thought that for an instant, but the chances are low. A pathway this bright, and we are talking about a little girl that can hide from the eyesight of an elf and beastkin.
There’s no way someone like that exists. Even Mia wouldn’t be able to pull that off after peeking her head out like that.
I reached a conclusion.
“…A ghost, huh.” (Solje)
“A-A-A-As if something like that exiiiiissttsss!” (Riel)
Riel’s fist hits my head.
“Ouch, what are you doing?” (Solje)
“I-It’s because you are talking n-nonsense!” (Riel)
“Nonsense, you say. You two didn’t see her and only I did, right?” (Solje)
“…T-True. The only one who could talk to the undead was Captain…” (Jean)
Right. I am the only weirdo here who could talk to Vashiri-jiisama.
“In other words, I…or more like, the dragon eye of Ares has the ability to perceive the supernatural.” (Solje)
“None! There’s none of that!!” (Riel)
Looks like the tsundere elf has gained another trait. There’s no need to be so scared, you know.
Aah, I am glad that Gindo or Sharon are not here. You would have gotten songs made from that, you know?
“…Riel-neesan, you aren’t good with ghosts, huh.” (Jean)
“S-S-Shut up!!” (Riel)
“Idiot, don’t try to shoot arrows!!” (Solje)
“As if I can allow a dog to make a fool of myself!! I am disciplining him!!” (Riel)
Why is it that you are okay with something gore like a Reis, and yet scared of a small blonde haired ghost girl?
“Anyways, I’ll be going for a bit.” (Solje)
I get down from the back of Byakuya. And then, offer my hand to my elf that is scared. As someone who walks the path of a knight, there’s no way I can leave her alone.
Riel who is on the verge of crying holds my hand.
I pull that hand and catch her falling body.
“Let’s confirm it. If I saw wrong, there’s no problem. But if there really is a small girl here…” (Solje)
“…We will of course save her.” (Riel)
I love the kindness Riel can display even at these moments.
“Jean, Byakuya; you guys come along too. This might be a plan of the enemy to separate us after all.” (Solje)
“I see, understood!” (Jean)
“Byakuya, you can enter there if you lower your head, right?” (Solje)
She is making an ‘understood!’ face.
Now then, if I didn’t see wrong…little ghost, just why are you here?
The Onii-chan inside of me is working.
Even if she is a ghost…as a man that has been born as a big brother, I must ask her.
Hey Cecil, Mia, this isn’t the wrong action as a big brother, right?
- Chapter 101
We silently walk that path.
This was clearly two sizes smaller than the previous path. But it is still big enough for Byakuya to squeeze in.
“Zahart might have seriously been a giant.” (Solje)
“Right? Even Byakuya can pass.” (Jean)
Yeah, Jean. But the torches are set further than in that previous path. It has gotten kinda dim…
What kind of design was this for? It doesn’t look to be for attack or defense.
Rather…it looks somewhat austere, or comfy.
Aah, I want to rely on the insight of Gandalla, or the knowledge of Loroka-sensei. But sadly to say, the average IQ of this party is low.
Riel, Jean, Byakuya, and I. We have two who are half-related to a horse and wolf, and my cute elf is sticking to my back with her eyes closed. I don’t think they have the leeway to think deeply right now.
Skeletons and zombies are okay, but a cute ghost girl is scary? Do I just generalize too much? I find it hard to empathize with scary things.
But the scared Riel is a fresh sight and it stirs my desire to protecc. I want to hug her…but right now I have to prioritize that girl.
“Wuuh…don’t move ahead without saying anything.” (Riel)
My elf gives out a request. I see, fine.
“…Jean, there’s no enemy presence, right?” (Solje)
“I feel none. I don’t feel hostility or the presence of a Zeruaga or Agarm eithet.” (Jean)
“Human presence?” (Solje)
“Sorry, I can’t tell.” (Jean)
“…That’s fine. It must be the power of Ares’s eye. It might have even been a lingering regret instead of a ghost.” (Solje)
“…Not a ghost, but a lingering regret? Uuh, that sounds ghost-like.” (Riel)
“…In the past, with this eye, I heard the voice of my little sister who was being burned by the enemy soldiers.” (Solje)
“Cecil Strauss; my little sister of 7 years old.” (Solje)
I am sorry it got gloomy. The hand of Riel that’s holding me grew tighter.
Thanks, your warmth gives me courage.
“The dragon eye of Ares can show me those kind of lingering regrets. He might be letting me read some kind of message he wants to tell me.” (Solje)
In that case…
“That girl wants to tell me something I should know, so she might have brought out her courage to meet me here, right?” (Solje)
“Then we have to go.” (Jean)
“Yeah, I am a siscon after all. I am soft on little sister-like people.” (Solje)
“…I don’t mind. You are currently doing what you should do.” (Riel)
And the brave bow princess separates from my back.
She is a strong woman.
And also a kind girl.
“…There’s the possibility that, instead of a big red haired eyepatched man, it would be easier for her to talk to me, right? You can come out! There’s no one here who would attack you!” (Riel)
The voice of Riel filled with affection and courage reverberated to the depths of the pathway.
But there was no response.
My dragon eye can’t find anything either…
“…Then, let’s go. She must be a shy girl.” (Solje)
And then, we fell silent and continued on.
The end was announced when we came out from the path to a slightly wide space.
There were graves there.
Many small graves. Dolls in dresses that girls would like, dried flowers, and an expired cake were all placed there?
…A bird toy that Gindo would probably like, and there’s also a dog plushie similar to Jean.
Rather than fear, what was there was sadness.
15 small graves had deaths engraved in each one of them.
——Aruna loved flowers. A kind girl. She saved a small dog that was wet on a rainy day. Even when she was hungry, she shared her last meal with that small puppy.
——Roy was good at making jokes. An intelligent boy. He can play the fool for the sake of someone else. Everyone was always by his side, and that’s why, even in the days when they would sleep below a bridge, everyone was by his side.
——Yuri wanted to become a knight. A hard worker. He trained in swordsmanship and was always diligent. But a bandit cut off your head.
——Dorothy was good at cooking. She always believed in the future. Her parents sold her to a slave trader for 300 ciel. She hung herself. You weren’t filthy at all.
——Fey, girl that holds the destiny of two bloods. Protected by your parents, you escaped to the forest once. You lived there alone…caught a cold, and slept while crying.
The deaths that were at the other gravestones had been worn out by the passing of time, so I couldn’t read them. Even so, I could tell. The children in these graves were all young, and were all people that experienced a tragic death…
“…Are the things written in these graves true…?” (Riel)
“Gravestone makers wouldn’t have engraved such sad lies…” (Solje)
“!! R-Right, I am sorry…!” (Riel)
Riel is crying.
They were not from fear, but from sadness. I pull her shoulder to my chest. There’s a lot of sad deaths in the world.
Tragic deaths are commonplace. They have been brought together in this place as if leaning on each other.
“…That Fey girl must have been a half-elf or something… I see, that’s why Mother…that’s why Arianrhod gave me the power…” (Jean)
“…Ah, sorry. The one who made these graves was…Zeruaga Arianrhod.” (Jean)
“…No way. B-But she is supposed to be an evil Zeruaga, right?” (Riel)
“Vashiri-jiisama and Mistral said it. Those two knights said that Arianrhod is a merciful one.” (Solje)
“…No way…” (Riel)
That’s what you wanted to tell me, right? …Brave Dorothy.
I take off my eyepatch and put full power on my dragon eye.
It may be dark, but I was able to see Dorothy again. On top of the small grave that has her death engraved… A blonde blue eyed girl was floating there.
“…Mother…gave us a bit of time…to us who had died…” (Dorothy)
“…She told us to play with everyone else. Gave us food, gave us toys. She loved us, there were smiles everywhere.” (Dorothy)
“…I see.” (Solje)
“She was kind. But…Mother played way too much with too many of us.” (Dorothy)
“…What happened to her?” (Solje)
“…Her heart split into two. The Scary Mother, and the Kind Mother. But she is actually a Kind Mother…” (Dorothy)
“Right, she is your mama after all.” (Solje)
“…Yeah! That’s why, King? Really strong King.” (Dorothy)
“What is it?” (Solje)
What is she asking of this Demon Lord? I will definitely hear out that wish of yours.
“…Please let Mother rest… She doesn’t have to save anyone while suffering herself. She already tried plenty hard enough.” (Dorothy)
“Right. She gave time to a whole lot of children.” (Solje)
“She is kind! And cool! That’s why, please end it, King!” (Dorothy)
“Leave it to me. I must have been led here to accomplish that.” (Solje)
I gave my best smile.
I am not used to putting out a face that’s popular to kids.
Even so…I am trying my best, okay?
Hey, Cecil, I practiced a whole lot with you, and it is now showing its fruits here.
My smile was able to make Dorothy, who has the same color of eyes as you, smile.
The brave Dorothy smiles and…slowly disappears.
She sings as she disappears.
“—I believe in the future even now!!” (Dorothy)
“—What a coincidence, Dorothy, me too.” (Solje)
That’s why I must not lose.
I want a good future. I want a world I can agree with.
I unsheathe my dragon longsword and grab it vertically.
A knight’s pledge.
The knights that you admired so much, a true knight, ain’t it cool?
“…For your sakes, I will provide eternal rest to your Mother.” (Solje)
Zeruaga Arianrhod…you are broken. You must be tired, right? …You don’t have to save anymore children.
My knight’s pledge finished, and all the presences from the gravestones disappeared.
Thanks to you, I feel like I am once again able to get closer to being a true knight.
“…Solje, were you talking to the children?” (Riel)
“Yeah, they were all splendid kids.” (Solje)
“…I see. Yeah, they must have been.” (Riel)
“…Captain, Mother must be tired. Too many children died, so she felt despair from that, and must have gone crazy from it.” (Jean)
“…If that can be called ‘salvation’, then this world is truly cruel.” (Solje)
“…I think…Arianrhod is kind. But that’s no good. I heard rumors from the towns…the rumors of birds.” (Jean)
“Birds? …I see, Arianrhod is…” (Solje)
“She must have killed the abused children…turned them into undead, and let them play in this forest. Probably even regular children… She has no distinction anymore.” (Jean)
“Is she beginning to break?” (Riel)
“Dorothy said that she has become a Scary Mother and Kind Mother. She asked me to please finish it.” (Solje)
“…I see, so you have received a request. Then…” (Riel)
“Yeah, as the Banjar Mercenaries…” (Jean)
“We have to fulfill it or it would dirty our name!!” (Solje)