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Chapter 16: Selva’s Assassin

Selva's Assassin

... Inside Lorphys' royal castle.

Its walls contained the room of Selva's second prince, [Dario Selva].

In his vast room, his chewed on the nail of his thumb, as he walked in circles.

A knight he had brought along as a guard from Selva cautioned him.

"Your highness, I'm not sure what to say about that behavior. We've sent documents on the current affairs to the country, so all that is left for us is to await orders."

Dario yelled at the knight.

"Cut the crap! As if you can understand how I feel! How oh miserable me was sent and sent back from both Galleria and Rusworth! I'm my brother's spare, I am. And yet finally comes the chance for me to hold a territory of my own! Yet that brat... that damn braaaatt!!"

After taking a flower vase in hand, and slamming it against the wall, Dario took some deep breathes, and sat down.

Second son. Living in a corner of his house as his brother's spare. Yet his brother up and matured without problems, so he was sent off to some foreign land to go get some children.

The countries of the war maiden, Galleria and Rusworth's princesses weren't interested, and he was sent to the small nation of Lorphys.

"... Once I became king, I planned to become a vassal nation at once! If Selva joined with Zayin, they'd have enough power to oppose Galleria and Rusworth..."

As the country held a border with the two constantly at intense war with one another, Selva had a need to augment its national power.

Linking hands with Zayin, the deal was to let them do the plunder they wanted oh so badly, and have Selva rule over Loyphys' land afterwards.

An exhausted Lorphys would have no choice but to rely on Selva. A deal with Zayin had already been exchanged under the table, and Selva would act as an intermediary to end the war... that was the scenario.

"That brat! Because of him, they're going to turn their backs to me again!"

The knight let out a sigh before speaking to Dario.

"They're moving in a way that conceals their whereabouts, but it's impossible for them to get away. They will never reach fort Noinyl."

On those words, Dario.

"Then bring me his head at once! Because of a single boy, the entirety of Selva is facing a crisis! Why do you look so care-free!?"

Dario took out his rage on the knight that was there to guard him, but his head was full with how he was going to break the deadlock.

He had reported to the country, but the fact he wanted to achieve victory on his own no matter what may have been a result of his panic.

"Women, and an old man... They'll be taken care of at once."

The knight who was sure Lyle's group hadn't left showed off his leisure. Because there hadn't been a single report of them leaving the city...

-

-

-

Lorphys' castle town.

Walking together with Miranda, I confirmed the presences approaching us.

They were blatantly showing hostility, and even though it was still so bright out, they were keeping a fixed distance from us.

I tried using [Real Spec] to get some information on them, but there was too much info coming in to filter down.

When I held my head, Miranda entwined her arms around my own.

"Are you alright? You look pale."

Hearing that, I shook my head.

"They're coming. Six in number. Two groups of three, to be more precise. They're watching us for now."

"You can understand that much?"

I continued walking beside her.

"I've recently become able to. But I'm not used to using it."

Miranda nodded a number of times, before sending a glance around. The six immediately took some distance, and Miranda rested her eyes on a food stall.

"Lyle, I want to eat that."

"That? Sure, why not. We were never able to sightsee. So which one do you want?"

The atmosphere indicated the coming war, and the people walking around looked somewhat anxious. All I could hear was rumors of the war.

After buying some food from the stall, perhaps they had dropped their guard, as they had closed the distance again.

Miranda also sense the hostility. She took a bite, and asked me.

"Think they'll attack us here?"

I'm sure they were following us to find out Aura-san, and the others' whereabouts. They likely thought we were continuing our stay, and that they had yet to leave.

"It'll probably happen if we return to the inn. I did think this would happen, but... it seems this one's from Selva alone."

The only ones chasing us were from Selva. Lorphys wasn't showing any moves on the surface.

From the Jewel, the Third spoke.

[It's possible he doesn't have too many sympathizers in Lorphys. Well, there's only one pureblood princess, and if they're choosing her a partner, they'll give in at a Selvian prince, I guess. ]

If you want to look at the surrounding situation, Zayin didn't have royalty. A little further away were the countries of Galleria and Rusworth, but it seems they were governed by women. The reports didn't say anything about them having children.

The Fourth spoke.

[But they do seem a short-tempered bunch. Even so, if they had worked with Lorphys to attack us now, things would have gone quite favorably for us after recapturing Zayin.]

If they were going to attack, they might as well send Lorphys as well, it seems.

The Fifth as well.

[Because we'll be able to smoke out those aiding Selva here. Well, if they won't show their tails, then so be it.]

After taking a bite of the sweet from the stall, I spoke to Miranda.

"Want to walk through the town some more?"

There, she spoke a little disinterestedly.

"While being watched by such dangerous folks? If it's a date, I don't really mind."

I gave a bitter smile.

"A date with so many chaperons? Now I have to wonder about that."

And we continued walking through Lorphys. When noon came around, we ate our lunch, and started walking again. As we rested, and the sun started to fall, fewer people walked the streets.

And it was then that the pursuers made their move.

-

-

-

After we purposefully entered a narrow alleyway, the six sent a team of three ahead to get the drop on us.

On the map in my head, the form of them hurrying forward to trap us was actually relatively interesting.

(This isn't their home turf, so they're a little lost.)

When me and Miranda raised our pace, we purposely ended up at a dead end.

"Here we are."

I raised my hand, and used magic.

"Fire bullet."

The ball of fire shot into the sky, before being sucked into the sky tinged with orange and purple.

The area around us was a bit spacious, but it was something of a garbage dump.

When I looked at the entrance, I saw the three knights that had gone out of their way to chase us.

Their outfits gave off an adventurer-esque feeling.

They looked a little tired, but I could tell they were doing their part not to show it. They had spent several hours of their day keeping watch over us, and at the end, they were lured in. There's no helping their fatigue.

"... You are Lyle and Miranda, correct? I'll have you lead us to Zayin's Holy Maiden."

Drawing their swords they started walking closer.

I spoke.

"The three that climbed onto the roofs haven't gotten here yet, you know? I do recommend waiting just a little longer before you attack."

The leader-ish man didn't show any signs of distress. It was a bit sad.

"So you're a Skillholder. If it's Support-type, then I fear you not in battle. We're two men and one woman. And our comrades will soon be here."

I felt a swelling in the leader-ish man's Mana. His body suddenly expanded, and his coat was ripper apart.

With his muscles bulging this much, it was as if he had become a mass of muscle in itself.

Miranda opened her mouth.

"Uwah, so there are these sorts of Skills as well."

He was grinning, and his tone was gruffer than before.

"A support Skill will never be able to beat a Vanguard Skillholder such as myself. Kill the man. Extract the Holy Maiden's location from the woman, then do whatever you want."

His eyes were bloodshot, and he was highly excited.

The two subordinate-like ones took some distance from the leader-ish man. But perhaps he didn't like that, as he ended up smacking one of them.

They collided with the wall, fell onto the floor, and stopped moving. They stopped drawing breath.

The Seventh spoke.

[An increase in power, and a loss of self-control? Hmm, that would be the [Berserk] Skill, perhaps? But who the hell chooses someone like that to pursue people?]

Fed-up as he was, he gave commentary in quite a calm voice.

The leader-ish man.

"Answer!"

"Y-yes sir!"

After his subordinate barked an answer, he turned, and came at me. I stopped Miranda as she moved to stand in front of me, and drew my sabre.

His body was big enough to make the sword in his hand look puny, but I went up regardless.

I didn't use a Skill.

I dodged the slash he lowered, and cut at my opponent's arm. What I had swung with an intent to lop it off only made a shallow cut with a bit of blood.

"You sure are hard."

"What do you plan to do by getting so close to me, fool!"

He tried to grab me with his left hand, so I discarded my sabre, and grabbed that arm. After it let out a conspicuous grating sound, the leader-ish man's belligerent smile started to warp.

Skill... [Limit Burst]... The First's second stage Skill.

"... No one said I only had one Skill."

"B-bastard!"

As he raised his right sword hand, I tripped him up. I took my eyes off of him as he fell, to see the remaining enemy was already bound up by Miranda's threads.

And seeing I was looking away, he tried to thrust out his blade. I took a half-step to the side to avoid it.

Pulling out my reserve sabre, I stuck it into his head, and looked at the sky. After a few flashes of light, down came May in quilin form.

So I sheathed the sabre, collected up the one I'd dropped, and looked at Miranda.

"What shall we do now?"

The man on the ground was making a pale expression as he looked at us. But he kept his mouth closed, and glared.

After May landed on the ground.

"The three up top... I kinda ended up defeating them, but was that bad?"

Hearing that, I.

"Then I'll have to leave a message with this guy. 'Your Highness, your treatment of us brings a tear to my eye.' Could you pass that on?"

He was looking at the ground mortifyingly.

"Who can say. Just who's this highness you're talking about?"

In his last bit of resistance, the man tried to play dumb.

Whether he passed it on, or not, I didn't really care.

The fact that we fought here was the important part. Of course, none of our opponents, had anything to let one determine they were assassins of Selva. But with this, I knew how that country saw us.

I looked at Miranda.

"Will the strings come undone?"

"They'll disappear after a while. Though he may be like that a couple of hours."

After sending another glance at the man rolling across the floor, I ushered Miranda onto May's back. I hopped on after her, and May kicked off into the sky.

Lorphys' sky was growing dark, and I doubt there were many to confirm May's form. Even if there were, it would hold little meaning.

As we rapidly gained distance from the fortress, May explained the situation.

"People from the area are gathering at the fort. Around two hundred at the moment? And Zayin has still yet to move."

Hearing that, the Fourth sounded like he'd thought up a question.

[Still? By our plan, it was dubious whether you'd make it in time for the battle. What's taking them so long?]

To that opinion, the Third.

[... You properly let some get away, right? Come to think of it, it was a single knight that ran, right?]

The Fifth.

[Maybe he was attacked by monsters along the way. But in that case, you've some leisure. I don't want to waste too much time, though.]

There was much to worry about. It was going well, but food and equipment. Maintaining all that with our party alone was the limit.

The Seventh spoke.

[Perhaps they're preparing to send in more forces that anticipated. Around a hundred attackers... with strategic value in mind, I thought they would move around a thousand troops at most.]

The Third anticipated something.

[Even if he returned safely, there's no telling that the knight reported the numbers accurately. It may be the case that they're moving quite the forces there.]

The Fifth issued me some orders.

[Lyle, look at enemy movements on the way back. You may be pushing May, but confirm the terrain while you're at it.]

I spoke to May.

"May, can you fly a bit more? I want to confirm the enemy movements on the way back."

There, May.

"More? Not that I mind."

She seemed quite tired. Miranda put her arms around my stomach from behind, and raised her voice.

"Lyle, what are you thinking?"

I to her.

"No, rather than thinking..."

-

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-

... Within the temple... rather a castle of Zayin's capital, the knight captain received the report.

He wore ceremonious armor, and was just about to head to the front lines when the notice had come in.

"You... you should have just sought aid from some other fortress out there!"

The one who threw the report papers back at the battered knight was a man named [Armand Benard]. The knight captain in his mid-forties was one of the proponents of the war.

The knight shook as he explained the situation.

"I hadn't the slightest idea where the enemy had laid their hands! They suddenly attacked the fortress with five hundred men, and staying in the area without being discovered was an impossible feat! In order to bring this report back, I frantically raced on my horse!"

A vexed Armand found it quite strange that the knight before his eyes wasn't wearing any armor.

"Without any equipment? You're not going to say you ran away, are you!?"

"I lost it in a battle with a monster! Even so, I desperately came all the way..."

Because of the continuous angry screams from the captain's office, the news was heard outside. Taking a consecrated virgin along, a single young girl entered the room.

Her long silver hair was done in ringlets. She wore the uniform of a Holy Maiden over her body, and her emerald eyes took in the knight captain.

"Armand, what is the meaning of this? Did you not dispose of Aura and Thelma who fled?"

Armand put a knee on the ground, and the worn-out knight did the same.

"N-no, this is but an unreliable piece of information."

[Remis Zayin]... As the current Holy Maiden, she was aware of the rumors going through the country.

"There was a rumor that Aura evaded my assassination, and gathered soldiers in Beim to stand against us, was there not?"

"W-without any evidence, it can only be a rumor."

Remis spoke in a fed-up tone.

"Oh she definitely did it alright. From what I heard, the rumors said a hundred. But five hundred soldiers, you say? Does that not mean she's found someone to back her? We cannot leave her be like this, right?"

Captain Armand wanted to go off to the front line, and take charge of his troops at once. He had waited oh so long for this day to come.

(Little girl. A decoration should just act like a decoration. But I truly cannot leave them as they are... if we're mobilizing troops, it will be a thousand to two thousand. But if that fails...)

Close to twenty thousand troops were moving.

There were mercenary brigades as well, so a precise count was still uncertain. However, not all of them were soldiers capable of battle. There were support squadrons for the rear. The current state of affairs held around fifteen to fourteen thousand capable of battle.

(At the very least, it'll be harder to push back Lorphys. And who should I send? The mercenaries lowered their down payments with the prospects of plunder, so I can't think they'd move for internal affairs.)

Even Armand hesitated to give them free reign to plunder.

But in that case, how many soldiers could they send?

(Should I leave them be? But I can't think they'll make too grand a move...)

As Armand frantically thought it out, Remis spoke.

"Yes, that's enough. I will give an order. Send three thousand troops."

"Three thousand!? That is excessive force. Here, we should send a thousand to test the waters, and root them there. Even if they took a fortress from us, they shouldn't be able to move from it. After we've returned, we can deal with them at our leisure!"

But Remis was irritated.

"Even whilst there are rumors that I fear Aura's little rise? What's more, when the common knowledge is that they have a hundred, you want it to appear to the people that we fear such a number?"

Armand panicked.

(What's the meaning of this. Why did such rumors... the rumors are spreading too fast since that one brought the information back. Could it be there really is a mole? No, we banished all Thelma's allies to the remote lands without fail. I see, so they're purposely leaking it!)

The fact that wasn't strange at all was Zayin's current state.

(Since they can't be in the temple, the probability of them having infiltrated the city is high. But with so many mercenaries going back and forth, finding them will be... who shall I send? If one of our allies really was to be a mole... in this case, I should be the one going.)

Putting off punishing the knight to a later date, Armand stood.

"Understood. I will take three thousand elite soldiers and head for Fort Noinyl at once."

Three thousand. With that number, Normand thought it possible to beat down the five hundred men the knight told tales of.

Remis was surprised at the sudden change in Armand's behavior.

(I'm doubtful as to whether there's really five hundred. There's the possibility he reported less as more. But even if they're lesser in number, three thousand will be able to take them down.)

Armand couldn't trust most of the knight's report. And as the enemy wouldn't leave the fortress, he thought to crush them with numbers.

There, Remis.

"Of course you aren't. In the first place, your job is to be my guard."

The Divine Knights. Their original duty was to be the Holy Maiden's guard. Her shield. But while calling itself a theocracy, it was a country that had repeated pillage and plunder and war with its surroundings.

That role had been reduced to a public stance.

In truth, Armand's House had been a knight house for generations, and besides the fact they didn't exactly call themselves nobles, they differed not from the other countries out there.

"Oh Holy Maiden, aren't you the one who said it was important? I will personally take command, and raise a festival of blood upon that rebellious lot."

After Armand pressed forth his own way, he called out to the knight.

"Come. I'd like to hear the specifics. Well then, Holy Maiden, I must beg your pardon."

(Hmm, we can find any number of replacements for you, girly.)

If Remis was to be killed, then the assassinating Aura wouldn't be able to gain the support of the people. Armand knew that, and thought that it didn't really mattered if Remis dropped dead.

Walking off, Armand looked at her with annoyed eyes...