Many people stood on the city walls with Neia, watching the battle unfold.
While many people of them were had been swayed to the Sorcerer King’s side after being rescued by him, they were not the only ones here.
There were priests and paladins here as well. Neia could not see Remedios from where she was standing, but she was close enough that Neia could hear her speak.
The only members of the command staff who were not here were Gustav and Caspond.
Everyone watching the battle was silent — no, it was simply because there were no words to describe the battle.
They should have known this.
The members of Blue Rose had said that Jaldabaoth’s difficulty rating was above 200. In other words, this was like fighting a huge dragon in the form of a human. Just fighting said battle in the land of men would lead to a great tragedy.
They ought to have been grateful that only a single city district was destroyed. Many houses were on fire and white plumes of smoke reached to the sky, but the total casualties were almost nil.
While watching the battle, she had seen cyclones, blazes, strokes of lightning and other tremendous manifestations of power that were beyond man’s knowledge running wild. Each of these discharges of energy could have easily taken countless lives.
What had truly moved Neia’s heart was the ball of white light that she had seen twice.
It was power which consumed everything and made it disappear without a trace. It felt like something good to Neia, although she could not confirm whether it was truly the work of divine might. The incredible devastation she saw in the wake of the light’s disappearance frightened her, but her admiration of its great power had won out in the end.
It seems the fighting is still going on. I can’t believe the battle still isn’t over after using all those spells… Jaldabaoth is really strong.
She had heard about it, and she had even seen it with her own eyes. Yet, Neia’s thinking had still been too naive. That naivete was now thoroughly eradicated.
The king she served — though only temporarily, and only within the Holy Kingdom — was fighting. She felt that searing his heroic visage into her eyes was only natural as part of her squire’s duties, which was why Neia was keeping watch from here. Yet, if she could–
–Neia tightly squeezed the bow she was carrying.
If one looked closely, they would see several other shapes battling the Sorcerer King in addition to Jaldabaoth. Those were the maid demons, who were rated at difficulty 150. Neia could not do anything but admire the Sorcerer King’s power for fighting so many powerful adversaries at once without giving ground.
It was at this moment that Neia finally realized something about herself. She envied the people of the Sorcerous Kingdom — those people who were protected by justice. How happy they must be to live in a country ruled by such a being.
“Weakness is a sin, so one must become strong, or humbly accept justice similar to that of His Majesty.”
It was at this moment that Neia voiced the words she had been mulling over all this time. The way she repeated it several times sounded very much like a prayer.
Suddenly, there was a large explosion as a meteor fell.
It threw the carcasses of buildings high into the air, and they rained back down to the earth amidst a shower of gravel and sand.
“Captain… isn’t Jaldabaoth… too powerful?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“The Sorcerer King — His Majesty is also incredibly strong. If he becomes an enemy of our nation… what will we do?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
She could hear Remedios talking to three paladins.
The paladins asking her questions had probably not seen how Remedios had ended up being toyed with like a child even after unleashing the holy sword’s power and stabbing Jaldabaoth in the back.
Ahh, maybe they didn’t see it. Still, anyone who saw that fight would understand. Both the Sorcerer King and Jaldabaoth were unimaginably powerful. Still, it was too late to think about things like that now. No–
If His Majesty could take this country under his rule, we would not have to suffer demihuman invasions again.
Neia was startled at how perfect that idea was, and even a little afraid.
Merging with the Holy Kingdom… if he were a frightening tyrant, even I wouldn’t think about it. But the Sorcerer King isn’t like that. He is justice. In that case… I ought to gather people who feel the same way as me!
Neia pondered the matter.
Many people had come to respect and idolize the Sorcerer King. There were those who were drawn to his overwhelming power, those who were grateful for being freed from suffering, those who hated the demihumans and who were glad that he had taken revenge on their behalf, and many such others.
From them she would select those people who had always been praying for the peace of this country, and then let them hear her words.
Neia knew that she was still young and lacked life experience. However, adults with good sense could stop Neia if they felt that her judgement was in error.
Let’s start by looking among my subordinates in the archery unit.
There were people among them who had lost their loved ones and harbored hate in their hearts. It might be better to try persuading them, because Neia could understand how they felt.
As she pondered this, she heard a doom as an exceptionally large explosion rang out.
After that, far in the distance, a tall building began to collapse.
The Sorcerer King would not have destroyed that building for no reason. Neia narrowed her eyes to try and see what was going on, but she could not tell what was happening in the building as it collapsed amidst billowing clouds of dust.
It was followed by a massive stroke of lightning from the sky.
It would seem he was working towards some objective here, as she had expected.
After a while, all manner of spells wrecked the city, and the situation repeated itself.
Neia was uneasy.
That they were incredible spells went without saying, but could the Sorcerer King’s mana really hold out?
Neia shook her head and banished the fear and unease from her heart.
It’ll be fine! The Sorcerer King must have taken all this into account! He’s already wasted so much mana on this country, but even so–
Still, hypothetically, if Jaldabaoth won, there would be no salvation for this world, only despair. What should she do if that happened?
Your Majesty, I’m counting on you!
And then, two shapes soared into the sky, as though Neia’s wish had gotten through.
The first to ascend trailed darkness in his wake, while the one pursuing him flapped his crimson wings and left a streak of fire behind him.
The fact that the maids were not pursuing them meant one thing — the Sorcerer King had defeated those difficulty 150 monsters among monsters while battling Jaldabaoth.
Neia was so moved that she shivered.
His Majesty is more powerful than Jaldabaoth!
Indeed. There was no need to think anything else.
In turn, the maids were far weaker than Jaldabaoth, who was a notch below the Sorcerer King. That was why he could defeat them while fighting Jaldabaoth.
Neia struggled to contain her delight. As she carefully engraved the greatness of the person she respected into her eyes, she was so filled with joy that it seemed like it would explode out of her.
Neia’s heart pounded, to the point where it almost hurt.
They were all watching a scene that would one day be enshrined in a heroic saga.
–No, that’s not right.
It would seem they were going to fight again in the air.
Crimson spheres and glowing spheres blossomed in the sky.
Each of these spells could probably destroy an entire city district by themselves, and they were hurling them at each other in wild flurries. However, they looked kind of cute from a distance.
Even so, that was an exchange of power within a realm that mankind could never reach.
As she looked out the corner of her eyes, she saw the people lining the city walls gulping as they saw all this. It would seem that they understood as well. They watched the aerial battle in silence, with earnest looks on their faces.
Someone put his hands together in prayer, and the people beside him followed suit — and soon almost everyone on the city walls had their hands together as they looked to the sky.
It felt like they were at worship.
…This is mythology…
Neia did not know how much time had passed, but eventually — there was a commotion among the people.
Before everyone’s eyes, one of the shapes in the sky fell towards the east — and then it vanished.
The battle was over.
As everyone watched closely, the remaining shape slowly descended. Neia’s vision was better than most, and so she saw it first. It shocked her so much that she covered her mouth.
When the others saw the crimson fire, the city walls were silent. However, nobody tried to flee. Everyone who had seen the battle knew that there was no point in running.
With a flap of his fiery wings, the victor (Jaldabaoth) showed himself.
Though he was the victor in name, he was a tragic sight.
His entire body was covered in electrical scorch marks. Half his face seemed to have been crushed, and his deep wounds oozed fresh blood. Perhaps it was due to its temperature, but the blood sizzled as it touched the city walls, and the sound did not stop for a moment.
The way he looked was a better testament to the intensity of their battle than words could ever be.
A weighty, yet somewhat pained voice echoed across the city walls, as though to wipe away Neia’s muttering.
“…What a mighty opponent. He was one of the strongest I faced since Momon. I underestimated him. How foolish. Leading the demihumans nearly became meaningless. However — yes, however, he is dead.”
Neia could not believe this. Therefore, she cried out:
Jaldabaoth turned his intact eye toward Neia, but she did not budge despite being bathed in the gaze of a creature from a completely different order of life. The intense emotions within her heart left no room for fear to enter.
“I am not lying.”
“His Majesty is very bad at jokes… so you’re lying, right?”
“I am not lying.”
The words Jaldabaoth had repeated hit Neia hard enough to shatter her soul.
The world seemed to shake under her feet.
Neia instantly understood why the Sorcerer King had lost to Jaldabaoth. There was no need to even think about it.
It was simply because this country lacked Blue Rose’s Evileye and Darkness’ Nabe, the two magic casters who could hold the maid demons in check.
No, there was another reason apart from that.
“If that undead had been in top condition, I might have been defeated instead. But to think he actually expended his mana for the sake of humans like you — truly, he was a fool who did not know his priorities. For that, I thank you.”
I knew it, weakness truly is a sin!
Neia was certain that she was correct.
“For that I shall reward you. The reward shall be your lives.”
“…What does that mean?”
Jaldabaoth snorted in delight at the question from an unknown source.
“I’m saying that I will spare you, at least for now.”
Someone sighed in relief, but Neia was furious.
“Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! It’s all a pack of lies! Everything you say is a lie! Who would believe what a devil says!?”
“It seems you are unable to accept reality. Are you mad, human? Pitiful.” Jaldabaoth pointed to Neia. “Disapp… I see,” and then he immediately withdrew the finger.
“What’s wrong! Jaldabaoth!”
“You intend to provoke me and thus prove I am lying? …Is losing your life worth that much? I cannot understand it, but it seems to be the case.”
Neia’s teeth creaked as she clenched them.
Jaldabaoth had to be lying.
He had to be a liar, the kind who would tell a ridiculous lie like the Sorcerer King was dead.
“I will not allow it. Your lives have been saved. Now then, I will return for now. I must recover from these wounds. During that time, you may weep your tears of despair.”
As Jaldabaoth was about to take off with a flap of his wings, Neia’s hands moved with a mind of their own.
She readied her bow — and let loose a shot.
She had fired at him from the back, without giving him any warning of her shot.
However, Jaldabaoth immediately turned and seized the arrow. Despite his terrible wounds, he was still very agile.
Jaldabaoth turned to face Neia, and then his eyes went to Neia’s bow, the Ultimate Shootingstar Super. After that, his wrath-twisted feature changed slightly.
“Ohh!? Ah! What an incredible weapon this is! I haven’t seen a weapon like this in so long! That was close, it almost finished me off!”
Jaldabaoth gesticulated wildly with his limbs as he said that. He seemed composed, but also quite anxious.
“What kind of weapon is this! How was it made?”
“As if I’d tell you!”
What on earth is he thinking? Neia’s mind boiled over with scorching hate.
How could she tell this liar what she had learned from the Sorcerer King?
“How could I tell a liar like you!?”
“Muu, ah, don’t, don’t tell me, was it made by runecraft?”
Naia’s heart lurched for a moment as he hit the nail on the head. Although she had managed to calm down a little, as her broken heart recalled the compassionate figure of the Sorcerer King once more, her anger reawakened.
Neia screamed like she had abandoned everything else, and Jaldabaoth groaned. Taking that as an opening, Neia fired again.
Her next target was his feet, which were hard for the hands to reach.
This time, Jaldabaoth frantically moved his feet to avoid the arrow.
He’s wary of it! Maybe this bow could–!
There could only be one reason why Jaldabaoth had so desperately evaded her shot when he had been indifferent to being stabbed in the back by the holy sword. What else could it be if not that this bow could harm him.
Neia’s heart filled with regret as her eyes filled with tears.
She realized that she should have joined that battle even if she would have perished swiftly, if it was possible that she could strike him with the Ultimate Shootingstar Super. She should have taken part, even if it was just to be a shield. If she had, then maybe–
Neia launched another arrow.
Jaldabaoth moved his head. The arrow missed and flew off to parts unknown.
“Hit, damn you!”
She fired again.
But none of her shots found their mark. Despite his size and his severe wounds, he had still evaded Neia’s attacks with startling ease.
Neia fired another arrow to shut Jaldabaoth up.
However, it too missed.
Why, why isn’t anyone attacking?
She could understand their inability to strike Jaldabaoth because he was airborne. However, even so, how could they simply let the lying demon who had killed the most merciful Sorcerer King go free?
“..Muu. Well, eh, I guess it can’t be helped… no? [Greater Teleportation].”
Jaldabaoth suddenly vanished.
“Get back here!!!”
Neia looked around.
All she saw were the wide-eyed faces of people who were shocked by what Neia had done. Jaldabaoth was nowhere in sight.
“Motherfucker! He ran away!”
“Calm down!” Remedios shouted.
The angry cry of a mighty being could exert a pressure of its own, and normally it would have brought Neia back to her senses or even made her freeze up. However, it did little more than annoy Neia right now.
“How can I calm down!?”
“Squire Neia Baraja! Did you borrow that weapon from the Sorcerer King? Why was he so interested in it?”
“Don’t ask me irrelevant questions like that! More importantly, we need to find His Majesty! I saw him fall to the east! We need to send out a rescue party!”
“Surely he must be dead.”
“How could he be dead!? How could His Majesty die!?”
Neia instinctively grabbed Remedios, but Remedios easily swept her aside and Neia fell to the ground.
“Are you calmer now? Nobody could survive a fall from that height.”
“Calm? You actually believe that demon’s words? Captain, did you sell your soul to him!?”
Remedios’ expression changed, and then it twisted.
“Squire! Damn you, there are things you can and can’t say!”
She grabbed Neia’s collar with tremendous force, and Neia found it hard to breathe.
“You two! Cool it! Cool it right now!”
The paladins, priests, soldiers and so on hurriedly made their way between Neia and Remedios, pulling them apart.
Neia panted heavily as she shouted:
“We need to send out a team to rescue His Majesty!”
“We can’t waste our resources on that!”
“How dare you call it a waste!”
Neia wanted to go up and punch Remedios, but the people between them stopped her.
“I’ve got nothing to say to you!” Having cooled down a little, Neia addressed the people holding her.
“Could you let go of me? There’s something I have to do.”
“Where are you going !?”
In response to that question, Neia looked at Remedios with an utterly incredulous expression on her face.
“What kind of eyes are those!? Is that how a squire should look at a paladin!?”
Hmph, Neia snorted.
“First, I will be asking His Highness the Prince to organize a rescue party for the Sorcerer King. After that, I will go straight to the Sorcerous Kingdom and tell them exactly what happened to His Majesty, and then I will ask for aid for His Majesty.”
Given the circumstances, nothing good would come of going to the Sorcerous Kingdom. Even so, she was still the Sorcerer King’s squire, and she had to complete her duty.
Neia was unsure if she could safely reach the Sorcerous Kingdom from here, but she had to go, even if it meant her death.
“Ohhh, if you’re going to the Sorcerous Kingdom, let me go with you, Baraja-san!”
The person who spoke was an ex-soldier, who had retired and become a hunter. He had been lauded for his archery and had joined Neia’s unit.
“Don’t worry about me, I’m old enough as it is, I don’t have much longer left.”
From his tone, she knew that he understood what sort of fate awaited him even if they reached the Sorcerous Kingdom safely.
“Hey, Neia-chan. Don’t forget me!”
“You too, Codina-san!?”
“I’ll go too. Not for you, but if it’s for the Sorcerer King then it can’t be helped.”
All the skilled people in Neia’s unit stepped forward, one after the other. With their help, it might be possible for them to reach the Sorcerous Kingdom safely. However–
“Thank you very much. But everyone, could you join the rescue party?”
“What are you saying? You were all gathered to rescue the Holy Kingdom and the suffering people from the clutches of that demon, weren’t you? Where are your priorities!?”
“What are you saying, Captain!? Could anything be more important than rescuing His Majesty!?”
“Of course! Right now, at this very moment, how many people of the Holy Kingdom do you think there are living in the hell the demihumans made for them!? Could anything be more important than rescuing them!?”
“Of course! That’s–”
“–What on earth are you doing!? What’s all this shouting for!?”
The argument immediately stopped when the interloper showed up. It was Caspond.
“Captain Custodio, should you not have returned immediately? Where is His Majesty? What about Jaldabaoth? What happened? Could somebody please explain?”
Caspond sounded like he had lost his bearings, and his voice echoed loudly in the miserable silence.
The meeting room was very cramped, with paladins, priests, nobles who had been prisoners until recently and honorary paladins who had been summoned here. That said, there were no better rooms for them to use, since Jaldabaoth had destroyed the one which Caspond had previously used.
Caspond had called an emergency meeting after receiving a report from a paladin, and he had instructed all key personnel to gather in this room.
After everyone had assembled, Caspond and Remedios entered with quick strides.
Everyone bowed as the prince entered. Neia was one of them, because she held no grudges against Caspond.
Caspond stood in front of everyone and began to speak.
“Thank you all for coming here. I wish to discuss our future actions.
Although it was supposed to be a discussion, there was only one thing Neia had to do, and she was certain that it was the right thing to do. Just as Neia was about to speak, Caspond raised his hand to stop her.
“I’m sure everyone has concerns of their own, but I pray you will hear me out first.
Caspond looked out at everyone gathered here.
“I believe many people have witnessed the extent to which Jaldabaoth’s strength exceeds ourimagination… yes. While I regret to say this, we must accept the fact that nobody in this country can triumph over him.”
Several people frowned in silence, then peeked at Remedios, who had been hailed as the strongest in the Holy Kingdom. After learning that she agreed with Caspond’s opinion, hints of fear and disappointment appeared on their faces.
“However, it is too early to give in to despair. If we cannot defeat him, then we will derail his plans in some other way and make him give up on trying to conquer the Holy Kingdom. We will not drive him out directly, but indirectly. Caspond waited several seconds for his words to sink in, and then spoke his conclusion. “What we will do is slaughter all the demihumans he leads.”
“Why are we doing that?
Caspond saw someone asking a question and nodded to them.
“In the past, Jaldabaoth made trouble in the Kingdom. Back then, he fought a certain warrior in a duel, and then he lost and ran away. At that time, he led an army of demons, but not an army of demihumans. In other words, he came to lead the demihuman army after losing to that warrior.”
Caspond looked around, as if to see if everyone understood.
“In other words, he is using the demihuman army as meat shields to avoid being forced into a one-on-one battle with that warrior. Didn’t Jaldabaoth say something like that when he defeated His Majesty? Something about leading the demihuman army almost becoming meaningless, or something.”
It made sense.
Back then, it had made no sense, but after hearing that explanation, it was hard to think of any other reason.
“In other words, the demihuman army is like armor and stamina for when he fights that warrior again. What will Jaldabaoth do if he loses the demihuman army? Will he remain stripped of his armor and stamina? When that warrior might appear in front of him again at any moment? Or perhaps — would he choose to flee?”
“I see… then do you intend to abandon this city, defeat the southern demihuman army, and then join forces with the South to drive out the demihumans?”
After a certain priest asked his question, a certain rescued noble answered him.”
“That would be good. Thanks to the Sorcerer King’s power, almost 40’000 demihumans have been wiped out. The demihumans have lost a great deal of their fighting strength, no? The remainder ought to be staring down the South. If we rally all the people this city has rescued for an all-out attack and strike them from the back in a pincer attack, we ought to be able to rout the demihuman army. That way, we will be able to join up with the Southern forces and take back our land.
“–I propose the opposite. We will take back the closest major city on the west, which is the northern stronghold of Kalinsha.”
“Why is that, may I ask?”
“He’s right. All the major cities to the west such as Kalinsha, Prart, Rimun and the capital of Hoburns will be very hard to take. Many lives will be lost. Why don’t we fight the southern demihumans instead? Would destroying the demihumans’ fighting power not fit more with your plans, Prince-denka?”
“I see. All of your concerns are valid. I am grateful for the fact that many of the people present here are wise. However, is that an action which everyone can understand?”
There were baffled looks on the faces of many of the people here.
“How about this? Going to the south implies that we will be abandoning — though it is only temporary, we are still abandoning them — all the imprisoned people that we will not rescue as a result. Can the masses — can the people understand that?”
“That, that… but that makes more sense, there’ll be a higher chance of saving them, no?
“You’re a baron, I believe?”
Caspond turned to look at the middle-aged man who had asked the question.
“Y-yes. I believe we met once, Prince-denka.”
“Ahh, just so. Now, have all the people of your domain been rescued?”
“Ah, no, not yet. I was imprisoned when I took the field beside Her Majesty, so I don’t know about my domain…”
“I see. So when you join up with the Southern forces and take back the North, people might say you fled to the South.”
The nobleman’s face froze up.
When one thought calmly about it, the nobleman was right. However, there was no guarantee that everyone — especially those who were writhing in agony — would be able to see the sense in what the nobleman had said. It was possible that there would be people who would say “why didn’t you save us earlier, our families were slaughtered by the demihumans” and turn the blades of their hatred on the nobles. Neia had seen such people before.
However, nobody had said that in the prison camps which the Sorcerer King had liberated. Given his overwhelmingly potent magic — which could sometimes wreck city walls in a single blast — and the fact that he was the king of another nation, nobody would dare anger him for personal reasons.
“Also, I had been intending to speak to the landholders one-on-one after this. In this case, we might as well do it now.”
“…We are all exhausted. In contrast, what will the nobles of the South do? In particular, what will the other nobles do about nobles who have abandoned their fiefs?
The sticky scent of politics and privileges began to fill the air.
While it sounded unbelievable to Neia, was this what the nobles wanted? They nodded repeatedly.
“Prince-denka. Our domains…”
“I want you to pretend that you did not hear what comes next. That is because I cannot guarantee you anything. However, the privileges of the Southern nobles will probably increase all of a sudden. That is why you must pick the best methods for post-war conditions.”
“A moment please!”
One of the paladins called out to him.
“How can we shed more of the people’s blood for courtly disputes!?”
“Indeed! Indeed!” The priest called Siliaco shouted in a voice which was said to have been trained for volume. “What’s important is how to save more people!”
“…Driving out the demihumans doesn’t mean it’s all over, you know? If the South takes all the advantages, then we’ll have a hard time refusing the demands of the Southern nobles. And there’s no guarantee that they won’t impose heavy taxes on the exhausted people.”
“…Now that the Holy Queen is dead, it would be very bad if the next Holy King were to be chosen by the Southern nobles. However, if we can show concrete results with our strength, then at least…”
There were two factions in the room now.
The nobles’ faction and the paladins and priests’ faction.
Both sides were at odds. Speaking of Remedios, the paladins were trying to spoonfeed her a simplified version of what the Prince had said.
Neia was not part of either faction. She simply followed the flow of the conversation in silence. That was because Neia had already made up her mind about what she would be doing, so it did not matter what conclusion they reached in the end. Rather she wanted to bring up her own suggestion and set out as soon as possible.
That said, talking about irrelevant things here will only ruin the mood, and people who might have helped me won’t come to my aid…
Shortly after listening to numerous boring topics, she decided to toss the ball back to Caspond once both sides had worn themselves out with arguing.
“The Prince-denka brought up this topic. Perhaps we should let him finish speaking?”
“Ahh. Like I said earlier, I intend to take back Kalinsha. This is also militarily advantageous. In truth, this city is far too cramped, and much of it has already been destroyed. Living here is difficult, so I would like to have a larger, more solid home base. In addition, by taking back a major city, we’ll have an advantage when dealing with the Southern nobles. Also, Kalinsha was meant to stop enemy advances, so it ought to have military stores, assuming they haven’t been moved out yet.”
“…I approve the proposal to secure a better base.”
“Ahhh, I’m a little uneasy about the sanitation of a city like this. Many people are shivering from the cold too.”
However, they went on to say, “we need to avoid large numbers of deaths”.
“Indeed. That is why it is the best time to attack the enemy strongholds. After all, Jaldabaoth cannot take action now.”
There was no telling how long Jaldabaoth’s wounds would take to heal, but surely he would recover before the demihuman army was completely defeated.
In addition, it was very unlikely that he would show his face before making a complete recovery. After knowing of the existence of a powerful warrior like Momon, he would surely take the possibility of Momon showing up into consideration before taking action. Therefore, if he acted, it would not happen before he was almost completely recovered.
That said, no matter how many forces they had, the Holy Kingdom would be at a loss once Jaldabaoth took the field. Therefore they had to take the fortress now.
So that was it. After listening to that agreeable explanation, Neia expressed her approval as well.
“–In that case, it seems the only thing you are unhappy with is the number of people who must die for this. Can I take that to mean that you will give me your support if I can minimize the number of deaths?”
Everyone present nodded, with the exception of Remedios. Neia did not mind either way, but after considering the flow of the conversation, she realised that it would be bad if only one person was not nodding, and so she nodded with everyone else.
As for Remedios, several people looked at her face and saw that she did not seem to have any special reasons, so they chose to ignore her.
“It’s decided then. We will discuss the details of retaking Kalinsha afterwards. Now then — our next item.”
Caspond sighed loudly and then turned to Neia.
“This concerns the death of the Sorcerer King.”
“Prince-denka, I sincerely apologize, but I hope you will amend that statement immediately. The Sorcerer King’s death remains in question. That was simply what Jaldabaoth told us. It would be foolish to take a demon’s words at face value.”
Neia eyed Remedios and continued, “I think it it more likely that he is trying to deceive us.”
“In that case, why has he not come back? He can cast teleportation spells, can’t he?”
“Perhaps he was immobilized by his wounds, perhaps he’s out of mana, there could be many reasons for it.”
Remedios did not ask any further.
“That’s true. That’s why I’d like to hear from all of you. What do you think we should do?”
“There’s no point in asking what we should do!” Neia shouted, forcing the words out like she was trying to strain them out through her teeth. “…I think we should dispatch a rescue party and relay this news to the Sorcerous Kingdom at the same time. If possible, I would like to be the messenger.”
“I see. That’s what you think, Squire Baraja. How about the others?”
As Caspon looked up and down the gathered people, one of the nobles spoke up.
“I have a question. While the Sorcerer King was supposed to have gone down in the east, considering we will be mounting a rescue operation in demihuman-controlled territory, would it not be better to wait until we have some concrete intelligence before…”
“It’ll be too late by then,” Neia immediately shot back. “The more we delay, the more His Majesty will be exposed to danger. I suggest we make our rescue as soon as possible.”
The majority agreed with Neia’s opinion. What she said made perfect sense.
“In that case, we ought to send out a search party at the same time as the envoys to the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
“…I have something I would like to confirm with you, since you have the role of His Majesty’s squire. Do you think the Sorcerer King told the people of his country that he was coming to the Holy Kingdom?”
Neia began to think.
“I apologize, but I am not sure. However, I feel it would not be strange for him to have told the people of the Sorcerous Kingdom, because there were times when he returned to his country with teleportation spells.”
“In that case, I feel you should not send an envoy to the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
Neia glared at the noble who had done nothing but naysay. The noble retreated two steps and his face went pale under that glare. The people around that noble also backed away from him.
“No, ah, please calm down and listen. That, uh, that is because it will bring trouble. Wait! Please calm down and listen to me. When you think about it normally, the possibility exists that the Sorcerous Kingdom’s undead armies would take revenge on us, am I wrong? And revenge would be one thing; they might annex the Holy Kingdom as well. And… ah, why is that? Who’s to say the Sorcerer King was not aiming for that all along?”
“Excuse me!” Neia was so angry that she actually felt dizzy. “In that case, permit me to ask a question of my own! If His Majesty returned to his country by teleportation, what will he think of the Holy Kingdom, who knew what happened but said nothing?”
Everyone she could see nodded in agreement. Amidst all this, Remedios spoke.
“Well, it can’t be helped then, can it? Our country doesn’t have the luxury of doing that now. We’ll apologize after everything is over.”
“Even if you–”
Neia was so worked up that she was about to shout, and then she heard the sound of clapping from beside her. She looked over, and saw that it was Caspond. Since the Prince wanted to speak, all Neia could do was remain silent.
“Squire Baraja. Allow me to pick the people who will go to the Sorcerous Kingdom. How about that? After all, if we send over a mere squire as a messenger, won’t the other country think we’re making fun of them?”
“That, that is as you say…”
His explanation made perfect sense. Under normal circumstances, they would surely pick a country’s ambassador over a squire who had borrowed a magic bow from the Sorcerer King. However, would he really send out an envoy? She found that part hard to believe. Even so, it would be very bad to show that she did not trust the Prince’s words.
“I am glad that you understand.”
“In that case, please allow me to lead several people to the east.”
“Indeed. I would very much like to send you as well, but we still do not know where the Sorcerer King fell. He might be ten kilometers away or a hundred. If things go badly, he might have fallen into the Abelion Hills, which Jaldabaoth controls. Even if I allowed you to go to such a desolate place, would you have any means of finding the Sorcerer King?
Neia could not answer him.
Finding where the demihumans lived in unfamiliar terrain was an impossible task. She could easily imagine the scouting team meeting with difficulty and being wiped out.
“Surviving in the hills, slipping past demihuman observation and gathering information,” Caspond counted off on his fingers. If you go there without preparing, you will simply be killing yourself indirectly, and what good is a rescue party that ends in failure?”
“Then, then do you have another way!?”
How could there be? As she thought about that question, it was easily answered. Neia’s eyes went wide in surprise, and then Caspond adjusted himself before telling Neia the answer.
“All you need is to find someone who knows the hills.”
Neia blinked, and Caspond smiled to her.
“Listen. All we need to do is to take a demihuman captive and have him lead the way. Would it not be safer to order a demihuman to act as your guide?”
Indeed, that was the case. Humans would be taking an absurd risk in entering that land. However, it would be a different matter if they had guides.
However, there were also problems with it which could not be ignored.
If they simply threatened a demihuman prisoner into showing them the way, then if the prisoner was willing to take them with him, the searching party would be going to their deaths. The Orcs she had met earlier seemed like the type who did not care about whether they lived or died.
They would need trustworthy demihumans, but where would they find those?
What could she do to make a demihuman act as a reliable guide?
Neia racked her brains, but when she thought of demihumans, she could only think of them coming at her murderously, and she could not imagine them accepting an offer to turn their coats.
No, the Orcs and the Grand King Buser felt like humans — I see, take their relatives hostage… no, if we could take a king like Buser prisoner, his tribe would probably obey us.
Or on the other hand, the angered tribe might put up stiff resistance. Besides, how would they capture a mighty demihuman king like Buser–
As Neia wandered aimlessly in a mental labyrinth, chasing an answer she could not find, the room’s door swung open and a paladin barged in.
He panted heavily and looked around the interior of the room, but he approached Caspond instead of Remedios.
Perhaps he did not want others to hear what news he had. He brought the Prince to a corner of the room and whispered in his ear, but Neia’s keen hearing picked up snatches of their exchange. Among them, the last piece of information piqued her interest.
He had said “maid demons”.
“Gentlemen, something urgent has come up, Unfortunately, the meeting will end here. I hope you will begin working on ways to take back Kalinsha. Also, Captain Custodio, come with me.”