We carried Aunty to bed and took a rest for a moment.
I couldn't carry her alone and show off, so I had Ilya help me.
I'd already checked her breathing before, but I did it once more to make sure.
"Hm... she's alright, isn't she," I murmured, as if to reassure myself.
"I believe she will be alright. That was a wonderful spell, Alice-sama."
Ilya sure acts normally—
Should I think of that as something like artificial respiration?
No, I'm sure it was something along those lines, but still.
What on earth has she...?
"Ilya, earlier... what exactly was that?"
"I am very sorry, Alice-sama."
"No, it's not like I'm angry, how should I say this, I feel like thanks to that I was able to get better?"
Oh Ilya, you're not even my slave yet but you're so polite to me already.
"That is, uhm..."
While avoiding me with her emerald eyes, Ilya hesitated.
I see, so she can't reveal her circumstances just like that, either. Just like me.
"Sorry, forget it. But you really did save me there. Thank you."
From the point she saved me from the bandits, actually.
Actually, Ilya is damn strong!
Isn't she stronger than me?
Well, I won't lose at ranged combat though!
"No, such praise is wasted on me."
"You're so stiff..."
Well, if I do manage to buy Ilya, our time together would increase and we'd could get closer or used to each other, I guess.
"By the way, how did you know where I was?"
"While I was fighting alongside the Firm's combat slaves, I spotted you running through the streets right away, Alice-sama... because you stand out."
Finding it somewhat hard to say, Ilya turned her face away.
...wait a sec.
"... did the bandits coming after me perhaps follow me?"
Ilya awkwardly nodded in affirmative.
The seeds that I sowed...
Nono, looking at it in hindsight, I also didn't have a moment to spare.
Come to think of it and looking at Ilya's arm, there was a cut after all.
Well, usually speaking stopping one slash from a scimitar with your arm wouldn't lead to just a little cut.
Her arm is so resilient I almost wanted to shout out "What exactly is your body made of?"
"Please show it to me."
"Ah, no, such conc-"
"Just do it."
I forcibly took Ilya's arm and laid my hand on the cut.
It wasn't such an exhausting wound.
Thus it closed right away
Actually, bruises are scary because of infections and so.
"Thank you... very much..."
"No, I wish I could do more for you."
To pay her back.
But it was mysterious.
I kept holding Ilya's arm like that and carefully stroked it a bit.
Her skin was so smooth.
It was soft, and you wouldn't call her muscular.
Or rather, her arm was delicate.
"Ah, I'm sorry! Curiosity got the better of me."
I let go of Ilya's arm as she gave me a troubled look.
What's the secret behind her Protection 5?
Something doesn't quite add up.
Is she not human?
From beyond the door, Blackie came in to check up on us.
"The Firm's combat slaves are looking after this house. Relax, they won't lose to some bandits."
My wonderment at why the Firm went so far must've shown on my face and been seen through by him.
Is there a merit for the Firm in protecting this town?
"In return, I'm going to take this one with me. It seems Bertrand is having a tough time on the meadows outside of town."
So Ilya alone is more important than the combat slaves outside?
That weird. Wouldn't that mean the price she's being sold for is too cheap?
Is there... something?
"Are bandits still left?"
"Nahh, you can probably say the bandits have been wiped from the town. The firm and the guys from the militia are making rounds to make sure."
Then what are they having a hard time with?
With the sharp look in his eyes grim as always, Blackie managed to squeeze out one phrase.
"———it's a dragon."
After reaching the large street, we could bodily feel its stature and roar even if we didn't want to.
The dragon was magnificently reigning over the meadows where I'd been attacked by a puppy in the very beginning.
"Tsk, it's already come that close."
As Blackie said, earlier I hadn't felt those roars or the tremors coming along with them.
No, had it even existed in the first place?
Had it suddenly appeared?
But as a reality, right now it was there. That phantasmal life form giving off an overwhelming pressure.
This may be a fantasy world, but I didn't expected meeting one quite this soon.
My experiences so far were plenty unreal already, but this takes the cake.
It's so huge I can't quite believe it exists in this world.
Had dinosaurs still been alive, it might've been different, but the biggest I've seen were the elephants in the zoo.
It's still ways away, but... isn't there something wrong with my sense of perspective?
It has the intensity of a moving house...
"We have to make Aunty and the people in the town evacuate!"
"——thou can leave that to the people who are supposed to deal with that"
I was talked to from the sky.
The one who landed next to me was Till.
Her way of movement is really too peculiar. She keeps surprising me, this girl...
But more importantly!
There was any number of things I wanted to say to her, but her eyes signaled me to shut up.
Uhh... she's only a little child, but somehow I can't oppose her.
"You bitch! Are you an elf!?"
Seeing Till, Blackie got furious.
Which reminds me, Till doesn't try to hide what she is.
Couldn't she easily hide those lovely, pointed ears if she wanted to?
She just has to let down her hair.
Well, the twintails are cute though.
I suppose Till doesn't care much about our circumstances.
At any rate, my ears aren't particularly pointed, I arbitrarily confirmed by touched them.
"Thou are noisy, black one. Can't thou understand now is not the time? Before barking, thou would better help with the evacuation."
With a jerk of her chin, Till called attention to the dragon.
And I completely agreed with her.
"Oy, Alice, right! We're going to talk about this later!"
But I only just met her, too—?
Even if we talk about her, nothing will come of it...
Blackie gathered the nearby people from the Firm and instructed them to help as many people escape as possible.
Actually it would be better for Aunty to rest, but I asked them to help her take refuge, too.
But seeing that dragon, I couldn't stop where I was.
And when we had finished giving some rough orders and it was finally time to do something about the dragon...
"——Oh my, oh my, having a little chat all together? How very relaxed of you."
Suddenly a voice came from the empty air.
"Teleportation magic? Thy ways are vulgar as always..."
"I don't appreciate you deprecating the legacy of the past... I am a researcher of the truth. There is nothing vulgar about it."
A little distance away from where we were gathered, a magic circle formed in mid-air.
It reminded of the magic circle seen at the Ruins in the forest.
Then the air warped——and a woman appeared.
"It's been a long time, hag of ice and snow."
"So thou dare come and show thy face, Libra."
Only Till responded like it was normal; Ilya and I, even Blackie were too taken aback to be able to move.
The woman had dark-brown skin and eyes red like dripping blood.
Her hair was silver, or rather, white.
Only, it was so glossy it didn't look white, and it was long.
That hair was gathered in a loose braid.
"So, just how many souls did thou use?"
Cold surged up from Till's body.
Her obvious anger made me swallow.
"Let's see. Less than I thought I would, I guess? All because of you, hag. That's why the dragon is half-assed, too."
I reflexively looked at the dragon that ominously made the earth rumble.
For the moment, the dragon was rampaging over the meadows outside town and it was probably the people from the Firm who were still fighting it, like Blackie had said.
Frankly I had no idea how to deal with it, and she called it half-assed.
But against something I was planless against... Till would?
"Thou really are a shame. It was one's failure to let thee live!"
"Ahaha, you're wrong, I'm a huge success! Thanks to you, hag, I'm revealing more and more of this world's truth!"
"Thou... what are thou searching? Why did thou come to a remote region such as this?"
"You're asking me? Ahaha, I've been itching to tell you, too! Having people who understand you listen is my greatest pleasure!"
Exposed to Till's cold anger, that abnormal woman continued laughing without concern.
She gave me the shivers.
"Right, right. I observed something! Just nearby, a little while ago there was a 'singularity'."
"A singularity, thou say?"
"Isn't it an old story? People being spirited away, or on the contrary people suddenly appearing? I want to solve that mystery! Don't you think it's negligent for anybody with wisdom to ignore that, hag? You do, don't you!"
Now I trembled.
"For that sake, thou guided those ruffians, gathered souls, summoned the dragon and ransacked this place, is that it?"
I didn't want to think of it.
I didn't want anything to occur to me.
"Hmm, I guess that's how it is? No matter where I go, there are stocks of more than enough souls. I also don't know how to find the singularity yet. So all I can do is repeat trial and error like always, right?"
"——Thou are garbage."
"Oh! Ahaha! I'm not so overconfident to slug it out with you directly, hag. Bye!"
The instant Till raised her hand, the woman called Libra opened a magic circle and jumped in.
"I was happy, I really was, hag! So happy to meet you, you're cute as ever. Now enjoy the dragon to your heart's content! It's made from the town's precious souls! And while it's half-assed, it's a special one summoned where a singularity happened!"
Her figure faded, so Till lowered her hand.
———but there was another person charging.
"YOU BITCH! YOU BIIIIIIITCH!!"
With a loud scream, Blackie jumped at the disappearing woman.
But his attack only futilely cut through air.
Till had already lowered her hand.
Of course it would've ended like this.
His back trembling with anger seemed smaller than usual.
"... one does not approve of thy methods. That is one's absolute truth."
Till's whisper seemed somewhat sad, but she immediately directed her eyes upwards, at the dragon.
"Alright, we're stopping that. Lend me thy help, Alice."
"...of course. We're going to stop it. That is... something that I have to stop."
I was balling my fists so hard the nails cut into my palms.
"...? Oh, well. The black one over there and——the dragon lass. Thou are going to help, too."
Ilya, who for some reason had hidden her presence so far as if to hide from Till, trembled.
Really, just how many circumstances does everyone here have?
Making Solt-san tremble with anger.
Making Ilya scared.
Making Till sad.
Most likely, they all had hidden pain, but we all worked together to stop the dragon.
No matter how we felt inside...