By dawn, Imina and Ellis have become the subject of the town's talks.
When they exited to the main street for breakfast, the school's students stared at them intently. Whenever they passed by them and met their gazes, they would look away. Whispers could be heard from afar. Imina was irritated by that and Ellis had uncomfortably tried to suppress the sides of her head hidden by her hair.
Although he felt they should rather go back to the inn, but the only open stalls were those for students in the town's main street and the guests apparently should get their meals in there. Since it couldn't be helped they went to purchase a light meal. Tea and bread, as well as boiled vegetables. When they sat down on a wooden chairs side by side at the store's front, even more gazes of students have gathered on them.
"...what a hassle."
Ellis sitting next to him smiled wryly.
"Did we do something strange?"
Yesterday, they indeed caused some trouble together with drill students, but was that a reason to attract this much attention?
"We aren't being glared at... are we?"
"I don't think we are."
He shook his head in response to the question she asked, uneasy.
There was no malice nor hostility in the gazes.
It seemed like pure interest——and strangely, it felt positive.
They were leaving the town in a few days, he wasn't really interested in it.
He bit the bread. It was freshly baked, but somehow bland.
"Yesterday, we missed the chance to buy nuts, have we."
"Yes... even though I wanted to bake some bread after a long time..."
"Let's go buy some ingredients later. We'll eat in the inn at noon."
Ellis' expression turned cheerful.
"Um, you see, I... I want to make a soup! One with a ox's tail!"
"I wonder if they sell those. There are only stalls here, I wonder where the market is."
"Also, garnish with herbs and potatoes!"
"Got it. I leave everything to you."
Excited, Ellis leaned forward, her chest turning warm.
When they were secluded in the mountains they didn't find too many ingredients. Of course, there were other things to enjoy that you couldn't find in the city, but from time to time she had made a sad expression.
A lot happened so I want to make some of Auntie's cooking, she said.
Ellis had learned Lilu's cooking and was influenced by her. All those four years she did that. In particular the sweet bread with walnuts kneaded in——his mother's, Lilu's speciality.
From time to time she would speak to herself.
——I want Imina to eat that bread forever.
——In Auntie's stead, I'll make it——.
Actually, Ellis was good at devising her own cooking too. Even if she doesn't force herself to reproduce Lilu's cooking, she herself had a good taste. But he couldn't tell her that yet.
That was because of the embarrassment and because he clearly yearned for memories of his family.
Instead, he reached out and strongly stroked her head.
"W-what happened? This is sudden."
"No, it's nothing."
The only one left together with Imina was this girl.
Betrayed by his best friend, his family killed, his home village buried by the forest——only Ellis remained by his side. She was concerned with Imina. Ellis discarded away the village of elves that was her birthplace, she discarded Endveils who were her family and snuggled up to Imina.
Not only she discarded everything, but also she gave him everything at the same time.
That's why Imina felt it was tragic and loved her dearly. Even if she was an elf, who are the enemies——no, precisely it was because she was an elf, yet she sided with him despite that.
"This tea is quite dull."
Since she looked inquisitive, he let go of her and changed the topic.
"Yes, I think it was brewed for a really short time. Probably because of the large amount of customers."
Ellis peeked into the cup and nodded.
Apparently, on the other side of the main street there was a dormitory for the students and they passed through this place to get to the campus at the top of the hill. On their way the students frequent café's and stalls for light meals. Since there wasn't much time for customers to stay, everyone hurried and this is how it turned in the end.
He thought and,
"Tea doesn't sell well in the morning. Especially that the nobles drink luxurious one in their own quarters. That's why the ones who order this are commoners like us, it's better for us that it's weak and cheap."
Abruptly, a single student——had entered their conversation.
Standing in front of the table, the student smiled to the two.
"Hi. Thanks for yesterday."
It was an easygoing, soft-haired boy.
Yesterday, he was one of the two together with that princess.
Certainly, his name was,
"Sashtal, was it?"
"Yeah. You remembered."
"H-hey, Sashtal! What are you doing, suddenly calling out to them..."
Rushing from behind him was a big man.
Age-wise he was about eighteen or nineteen. He might have looked that old only because of his large body size and in fact be younger than that. He had a common, rugged face and was visibly panicking.
"Well, isn't this fine. It's rude to stare at someone from the distance."
He was mismatched with small-bodied Sashtal who had nerves of steel.
"That might be so but... no, sorry, it was rude. I'm Fream, this guy's classmate."
"Imina. And this is Ellis."
Imina responded to the courtesy introducing them.
"Once again, nice to meet you."
However, honestly speaking Imina was glad they came to talk. He didn't have to hold back and could ask them whatever he wanted.
"By the way, is this' happening'... because I took down one of you?"
In presence of everyone he lightly pointed at the people staring,
"Ahh, I guess so."
Sashtal chuckled, nodded——and then,
"Still, don't misunderstand, they aren't interested in a bad way."
He raised his hand and shook in the air.
Fream took over the explanation.
"The guy who caused you trouble... rather, the guy who started a quarrel with this miss here is hated on the entire campus. Using the name of marquis house Kilishiaham he did these kind of things all the time. He pissed off everyone, but no one could openly go against him."
Well, in short, everyone was pleased that Imina had beat the hated rich guy who abused his money, was it.
Honestly, he hardly remembered anything about this man called Caskes. Imina couldn't care less about him. He only stunned the guy because he was being troublesome. Of course, if by chance were he to harm Ellis in any way, he would definitely start caring.
"Meh, my apologies. It's something we should have done. Normally, one of us, the Yusala students should have went and stopped him."
Fream said that with an apology,
"I don't mind."
But Imina just shrugged.
It wasn't like he did that for their sakes in the first place. Since that guy had picked a fight, Imina did it for their own convenience.
Also, Ellis wasn't as weak as to let such a fellow take her anywhere——.
"By the way, Imina."
Sashtal called out to him.
"What is it?"
Imina involuntarily turned vigilant.
"I wanted to ask, are you a mercenary?"
Sure enough, that was the question.
It was so straightforward that he smiled bitterly.
——Even though he asked leading questions in a roundabout manner yesterday, today he's unreserved, huh.
Bewildered by Imina's smile, Fream rebuked Sashtal.
"Hey, that's rude."
"Well, isn't it fine. Our Princess is interested in your strength... in fact, that blow you defeated Caskes with was superb."
——So he was there.
Well, who cares. Imina wasn't interested in it, so he brushed it off lightly.
"That's nothing big, a simple surprise attack."
"Ohh, speaking of which."
Then, Fream clapped his hands as if he remembered something.
"Speaking of the Representative, you, why did you do..."
He must have wanted to inquire about what led to that slap.
However, the question was,
"What about me?"
Interrupted by another voice that sounded from behind Imina.
"Oh, speak of the devil."
Fream faltered, Sashtal just shrugged.
Imina tilted his head puzzled and then looked behind to find a blonde girl with a light smile. She was very similar to his older sister——Uruha, but her expression had more of a noble atmosphere.
When greeted with a raised eyebrow, Milifica Yusala Astozellen made a bitter expression.
"Would you please stop with 'princess'? In here, I am one of the drill students myself."
"I'm not really a student here though. Normal citizens should pay respect to the princess."
"It didn't seem too respectful for my taste."
She made an appalled expression. However, she seemed to have fun somewhat. Her cheeks slightly relaxed.
"That henchman of yours... the one called Vint, he's not here is he. The other one had called out to me though."
"...really, what are you doing, Sashtal."
Astounded, Milifica heaved a sigh and,
"I came across them by chance so I came to say hi."
The frivolously smiling Sashtal.
She frowned and then looked back at Imina.
"In the first place, he isn't my henchman but an executive officer."
——In that case, I wonder if those girls behind you are your henchmen.
About five or six female students.
They peeked out from behind her with interest.
Imina's gaze must have been noticed as Milifica explained before he could ask.
"They're my friends from the same grade and class."
Female soldiers were not uncommon in Midgalz. Particularly, there were many women among the medics or involved in logistics——there were also ones involved in things like cooking and distribution. Although a small percentage of the whole, there were also those who stood on the frontlines armed with swords, there were also theories that female commanders increased morale of the army. This princess was exactly that. One day she'll probably become a general leading army.
Mostly, it is said that the royal family is very heroic and courageous.
Milifica's gaze then moved to Ellis.
"Good morning, how was the inn?"
"Ah, that's... good morning! Thank you, I slept well."
Suddenly being spoken to Ellis panicked, lower her head and blushed.
"Were meals to your taste?"
"Yes, they were delicious."
"Can I sit beside you? I have an interest in your person."
"Ah, ee? Y-yes..."
For some reason, it seems she took interest in Ellis.
"Yesterday we didn't have an opportunity to talk. ...no, even now we can't afford acting laid-back because of morning lectures either."
"Ah, umm, that's..."
Ellis started blundering.
It must've been either because she was spitting image of Uruha, or because she was from royal family.
With that said though, Ellis was also a princess, but mentioning that would be needless. Of course, they were absolutely unable to reveal their identities.
Confused, she looked at Imina who had responded with a nod.
"The princess wants to talk with you personally, try not to blunder."
It was just a detour on the way to school, at most it'll last for ten minutes. If there are any questions that pry too deeply he can always interrupt them. Also, he thought it was a good opportunity. Ellis was very reluctant to talk with other people because she was afraid of them finding out she was an elf. But to Imina——watching her fearful of it and timid was a little bit painful.
Real Ellis was a bright, cheerful girl who laughed very often.
"Were you travelling this entire time, just the two of you?"
"It must have been tough."
"No, um... nothing like that. Because Imina always protects me."
As Imina listened to the two's conversation, unexpectedly his shoulder was tapped from behind.
When he turned around, Milifica's classmates——the girls stared at him with great interest.
"What is it?"
With a sparkle in her eyes one of the girls asked bluntly.
"Heyhey, you, are you that girl's lover?"
At the same time, all others girls started talking coquettishly.
"Kyaa, you're immediately asking that?!"
"I mean, don't you all want to know?"
"So, how is it?"
"Hey, girls, don't raise such loud voices, it's unbecoming."
"Oh, how prim. But aren't you interested too?"
"Lucky guess it is, you're red up to your ears."
"Ahaha, how cutee!"
The girls let out shrill laughter, Imina involuntarily frowned.
He was taken aback deep within. What on earth is this. It's way too noisy.
It was a first sight for Imina who grew up in the countryside that had few children of the same age, he was honestly bewildered. Uruha spoke flippant things and when they were alone, Ellis too was quite talkative but——compared to that, to think having this many people would be this noisy.
Moreover, despite a very common topic their attitude was awfully elegant, causing him to feel discomfort as if someone poured water on him.
"You girls, cease that. Aren't you troubling him."
Unable to let this go unnoticed and coming to his help was Milifica. Everyone made an embarrassed expression and apologized, though there didn't seem to be a single speck of reflection on their actions.
"Heyhey, you, Ellis-san was it. How old are you?"
Their target had suddenly changed from Imina to Ellis.
"Eh? Um, that's... eighteen."
"Well, same age as lady Milifica."
"You're very beautiful. Your skin is white and your hair has a wonderful colour. I'm envious."
Just like an elf, with these words Ellis' lips stiffened. Her gaze was drawn and clung to Imina. But, that lasted only for a moment.
"It would be better not to use that compliment."
Milifica strictly admonished her classmates.
"Although it's an old compliment, we're currently at war with the elves."
Of course, that wasn't because she knew Ellis isn't a human. During yesterday's conversation——she has memorized the fact that they have come from Salaido. Probably she was being considerate, thinking that comparing her to elves who have destroyed their village would be unpleasant.
"You're right... it was thoughtless of me. I'm sorry, Ellis-san."
"N-no, it's nothing."
"But, you really are beautiful."
"Right? I ended up getting charmed by her beauty."
Once again, this place had become noisy and lively.
"...good grief, this place ended up really cheerful."
Fream stood up from beside Imina, who was excluded from the conversation.
Imina was put on the sidelines by the impetus of the women.
"Well, you can't help that. See, they wanted to learn more from that lady, rather than from a man."
And then next, Sashtal continued.
Pointing at Milifica, he smiled.
"Our Princess is quite popular."
"Looks like it."
She certainly had quite a lot believers. Dignified, as well endowed with both appearance and behaviour, her sword arm was also first class. On top of that, she was a daughter of royal family. If its for her sake, there definitely will be a lot of men and women who will threw their lives away. In case she stands on the battlefield, she'll definitely be a good commander.
"Speaking of which, I forgot to ask earlier because of the commotion but... you, are you really making a living as a mercenary?"
"No, it's not as to earn a living."
Imina shook his head in response to Fream's question.
"I was a volunteer on my way to Astozellen."
Astozellen great fortress.
At the feet of the Mi-Nou mountains towering over this place, about two hundred kilometres away——a great fortress was built facing Mi-Rea plains, it was a huge military base as large as an entire city.
It was important enough to be named with royal family's surname, the first line of defence of human race. In case it falls, the front will move further another four hundred kilometres until Fobiniolmus Cliff's castle.
At Astozellen, the battles of the army and the elves have continued back and forth for almost half a year now. The army is always understaffed so as long as there are applicants, they will be stationed to some troop.
"Hmm... do you have any experience with battles?"
"A several small ones. Nothing big as of yet."
It seemed like Imina relaxed unintentionally.
Unaware of it himself, he answered honestly.
"And combat with elves?"
"Hmm. Among elves, there are some who don't concern themselves with big battles and tend to play around by assaulting villages. I fought those, something like bandit extermination."
He subjugated magical beasts and demons, helping settlements and people like that.
"Where did you learn swordsmanship"
"Half of it was self-learned, the other half I learned from a retired female swordsman who lived in the mountains."
Imina had no idea whether what he learned from that woman can be called "swordsmanship", but in any case, she was extremely strong.
"Huh, I see."
Deeply impressed, Fream looked downwards and stroked his own chin.
"Honestly, I admire soldiers who work their way up to glory like you. I want to polish my skill with a sword and stand as a proud patriot. I dreamed of becoming a warrior since I was a child."
In response, Imina could only nod.
That was because he himself, had the same dream once.
However, what Fream said next had caused something to stir in his heart.
"Although I dreamed of becoming a soldier and entered the drill school to protect the country, honestly speaking, I was only reminded of what you call 'reality'. It's all noble folks who do it for prestige, we commoners are being looked at arrogantly by them when we're practising our sword skills. At least, I'd like to improve my swordsmanship, but those nobles are strong. Whether they're gifted or because they did it since kids, no matter how much I try I can't win against them who have more experience."
Becoming aware of the stir in his heart, he agreed with Fream.
"I'll graduate in less than two years. Sashtal too, as well as that representative lady there... we're all in the same grade. But, I've no idea how many of them are going to go to the battlefield. Those with superior results can become members of Royal Knights and get prestigious work in the imperial city. All the nobles care about is having a comfortable retirement free from care or becoming a general of the private armies of their family or relatives. In the end, very few seriously intend to fight."
And that, exactly that stir——was something that he felt in the back of his head ever since he arrived at this town.
Why are they acting so care-freely in here, he wondered.
It was wartime. The Great Astozellen Fortress that was the frontline was just a little bit further ahead, elves and the army are in the middle of killing each other. This was the drill city that's fostering future soldiers, they're candidates for officers who will bear the country's future.
And yet, the city's air was like peace itself, the students also seemed to feel the same. Not even slight urgency could be felt. Although everyone was most likely highly skilled with their magical swords, it made Imina wonder if they even understand what real combat is.
Looking at the situation of the war, the human side was extremely disadvantageous. It's been four years since aggression on Salaido, the Midgalz Empire had lost approximately twenty percent fo the country, there way no way as of now to recover the lost territory. At this rate what awaits humanity is steady destruction. And yet, it's like this.
They lacked sense of crisis——overwhelmingly so.
After all, for most, the battlefield was so far.
Although it was the country's territory, what was taken away from it was just the frontier, only a small area with a relatively low population. Since the elves are remaking the humans as demons and turn the lands into the forests, the rate of survival is very small. There was almost no chance to hear the voices of those burned out and therefore, the refugees didn't flow into the cities in large quantities.
The major cities responsible for the industry were unharmed. Not just that, there was a boom, special demands because of the war, people were living a safe and excessive lives in safe areas.
But if Astozellen was to fall, everyone will fall into distress all at once.
If the elves reach past the Mi-Nou mountains, there's a four hundred kilometres of mostly plains up until the Fobiniolmus Cliff's Castle. Without geographical advantage to stop them, there were hardly any big rivers on the continent——and very few lakes.
The Nahata plains that are the major producing area for wheat, Viligiana that was famous for horse training as well as College Town Elinamie. If those are lost there will be a major impact to the national economy. The price of wheat will soar, the transport and communication costs will be higher because of lack of horses and the academy research will grow stagnant. The impact of the aftermath will spread to all industries.
Surely, they don't realize that it might happen in the the future as near as tomorrow. Most likely, it wasn't just the students of this drill school, but also the majority of the country's population.
After all, they have never seen it.
How do those damned elves kill people, how people are killed.
How do they destroy human villages.
How do they turn the human land into part of the fairy kingdom——.
"By the way, Imina."
After Fream finished speaking, his line of sight had returned to Imina.
To him, Imina must have been an existence to admire.
He thought that becoming a soldier by raising one's skill was splendid.
That fighting for the country was something to be proud of.
That he was a soldier he has dreamed of since young.
Certainly, Imina too dreamed of that in the past. Becoming a soldier serving the country, protecting the homeland. But now, he himself——was not a person Fream should be looking up to.
And then Fream asked.
Strangely enough, it was a fundamental question for Imina.
"You, why do you want to become a soldier?"
Involuntarily, the ends of Imina's lips distorted.
Fream's expression changed.
The respect and familiarity on it had turned into puzzlement——and then to fear.
Not conscious of the smile he made, Imina answered.
In the end, it was just that.
To me, that's all there is.
"I just want to pierce the filthy elves' hearts with my sword."
It was nearly noon.
In the morning, the lectures were carried out in the drill school. In the surroundings there were signs of several people, shouts and sword clashes could be heard in the distance were accompanied by silence.
Caskes Kilishiaham was alone, detached from all that.
He could even feel the breathing of the students in the punishment rooms in the corner of the school building. If he felt like it, he could exchange words with his henchmen that were in arrest in the adjacent room.
However, Caskes couldn't afford to turn his attention to the outside world.
Far from that.
Since when was it that he started noticing the abnormalities in his body. Last night he was completely healthy. When he woke up in the morning and ate the tasteless breakfast there was nothing wrong either. When he noticed, he felt spaced out, his limbs were numb, his body feverish and chills wouldn't stop. When he realized his own condition, he ended up only being able to be conscious of his own pain.
His head felt heavy and he had a terrible headache, as if his head was being torn to pieces. Past numbness, his limbs started to feel tingle as if stabbed with needless. Along with rapid heartbeat, nausea spread from his abdomen to his entire body. Caskes had never experienced such symptoms up until now.
At first he cried out. He felt very bad and there was no one there, it felt painful. He called for help however he could. But even as he hit the door and complained, the only voices he could hear were those of his henchmen behind the wall. Call a doctor, I feel really bad too——they said. And so, Caskes learned he wasn't the only one whose condition turned poor.
He considered mass food poisoning. Or maybe, someone who had a grudge on them had dosed food with something. And there, with that thinking, he suddenly has become aware. Speaking of which, the gift cake and wine from last night, wasn't its taste really harsh and had left an odd after-taste.
Caskes thought it was because they were cheap. That commoners ate products of such low quality.
But, if that wasn't the case.
Sitting on the bed he held his belly and yelled in order to distract himself from the pain. He wondered what was happening to his bad friends who were trapped on his both sides. He long lost the allowance to pick up the sounds from the outside world.
Why wouldn't anyone come. Was he already an existence the drill school had given up on. Or maybe, he was poisoned after all. In that case, who rigged it. There must be some people who instructed those. Damn it. He had no idea who was it, but he'll never forgive them. In order to held down his anguish he desperately focused on resentment.
He crouched and moaned, not noticing the sound of the key opening the door.
However, as expected——he did know who entered the door.
"...so, how do you feel today."
Caskes turned his gaze towards the owner of the voice. He saw the loathsome face.
"Shishirii, you bas...tard..."
With the same expression he had when he brought in gift last night, smiling gently.
What did this thin glasses guy do to me?
He wanted to ask, but voice wouldn't come out. Instead, a growl like that of a beast has leaked.
Instructor Shishirii put his hand on his bony chin, leaned his thin torso slightly to the side and spoke in similar tone as when he did when looking at the map during the history lectures.
"Hmm... not bad."
Not bad, he said? Where is he even looking to spit something like that out.
"Feels slightly insecure because of the slow reaction time, but there's a passing grade."
"Aa.. woo... aguu..."
What the hell am I saying.
"A Corpse Seed of Origin. That's the thing you are now."
Seed of.. what? He said something Caskes couldn't understand.
"First, we plant a seed. When it sprouts from a body, it scatters spirit energy stored away in the embryo and the host's organism is subjected to organic necromancy. Under normal circumstances it happens after a few dozens of minutes after planting, but this time I tried adjusting the trigger time shifting it by half a day as part of experiment."
"The conscious... your ego is still remaining isn't it. I can't tell any longer from your appearance though."
"I-iii? Iiaa? A-a..ai,"
Conscious? Ego? I said, what are you...
"Instructor, since when have you become this talkative?"
A single human shape had appeared. From behind thin glasses.
"Oaa, ee, haa——"
It was Caskes' acquaintance.
They hardly ever spoke. That person was quite nasty after all. One year below Caskes in school, having excellent performance, good personality and very good appearance as a bonus. That person had popularity Caskes lacked, and above all, Caskes was one of the very few the figure spoke with as its real self——.
The figure identified itself with Caskes enough to speak honestly——wait, what did "identified" mean again.
It felt like he was forgetting something important.
His own roots, his own pride, something important.
"This is regrettable. As a scholar, it really pains me."
"Kuku... Instructor should have been a history teacher."
"Ohh, you're right. But, evocation is also splendid science. Let's leave it at that. Rather than silly long years of human history stacked up... mysterious and unknown crystallization of elven organic necromancy, is much more interesting."
"Is that so. Honestly speaking, for me, a human, it's something extremely dreadful."
"No, certainly it's as you say, it is dreadful. I wonder how does he feel like as of now."
What are those two saying for a while now?
Feels? I'm feeling what?
It's obviously great. My body is hot, I overflow with strength and I feel comfortable inside my head, ohh——I feel hungry. I want to eat something.
I want, to eat meat.
"Meh, it'll get dangerous soon."
Shishirii gave a single command and stepped backwards.
If you look leisurely for too long, you'll be eaten.
"How are the other punishment rooms?"
"Same as this, they should be complete by now."
"I see, well then, I'll go around unlocking them.."
"Please do. Still... it's quite sudden. Two months earlier than planned."
The figure laughed. With what was perhaps an expression that was never shown anyone, face distorted with cruelty.
And, it continued.
"It's a godsend. When I wondered what to do, such an opportunity had come and they were conveniently caught. Also, I was in the right mood."
"I felt like breaking something, is what it means."
"In short, a whim huh. ...well, I promised to match your timing by providing a method, so I won't complain. As long as I'm able to poke a hole in that large fortress it's fine by me. Still, it was fun, pretending to be human that is."
"It's a great help to hear that. With that said, I feel like it's about time to stop pretending."
"Yeah, you're right."
Instructor Shishirii——the man recognized by that name in the Yusala drill school until now had suddenly changed his tone of voice. From what was a polite tone, it changed into one arrogant and intimidating.
And next, he sighed deeply.
Something strange happened and his appearance started changing.
His bony cheeks were puffed out, his skin had become more moist, his limbs invigorated, his appearance was rejuvenated to that of a fifteen year old. His hair grew all at once and from white and ultramarine, it changed into silver.
And, both of his ears have turned pointed, like needles.
"Good grief, this is a sight I can't believe no matter how many times I see it."
The figure heaved a sigh of astonishment and awe.
The one who used to be Shishirii nodded proudly.
"Hmph, even among the same tribe there's no other who can change themselves and adapt as well as I do. Therefore, my evocation flourishes in glory along with my name. ...it's named 'Differ and Howl'."
In the end, his voice too, had turned into that of a youth in his mid-twenties.
"I'm filled with awe, instructor. No, isn't it about time I call you with the real name."
"I don't mind either way."
That elf laughed generously.
"Although, I don't think there's anyone who would call me Shishirii like this."
"That's true. Then... let's begin, my Lord Kuzan Endveil."
The figure smiled, after revising the name, they left the room.
"Nine Corpse Seeds to start with. It'll increase from now on. Neither this town, nor anything in the half-a-day's distance will last."
He muttered cynically,
"Ha, this small city isn't enough for me. However... this is for the clan and the Khan's sakes. It's what you call working in the shadows."
Then Kuzan stared into the distance somewhere.
The figure and the elf started walking together.
Behind them, what used to be Caskes Kilishiaham dived into the door with impetus.
"Oo... aa.. AA, OOOAA."
There was no longer any of the former him——the hooligan who boasted of being born in Marquis' household.
He was over two metres tall.
His skin was black as if he was dirty with mud and stiff like rock, muscles all over his body were abnormally developed.
Both his eyes sharp and slanted, his mouth looking like a big tear in his face, long fangs among serrated teeth. A mane covering him from his head to back, like a spiked wire.
What stood there, was a wicked demon.
A fierce and violent species called "Ogre".
Possibly, his nature as a human was what allowed him to become an ogre.
The Ogre growled loudly.
His former henchmen have come out of the punishment rooms together.
Three Ogres and five Trolls. Adding Caskes, there were nine of them.
They relied on the barely remaining memory of their human selves that was inside them, glared all over with uncontrollable appetite and lust before making their way to the students——no—to the classroom the food was in.
Milifica Yusala Astozellen thought of herself as of miserable for not being able to do her best during the lectures.
After a several dozens of minutes, lunch break would begin.
Military Research should have been one of her favourite lectures, but just today the instructor's words entered her ear and immediately left with the other.
No, actually it wasn't "just today". She couldn't sleep well last night either or concentrate on her assignments. When she returned to the student dormitory and restless, responded with half-hearted replies, she worried Vint and Sashtal.
She knew the reason for that. It was the two travellers she met by chance yesterday.
Especially the boy——Imina.
When she headed towards the main street after hearing students talk about a commotion, in the middle of it he suddenly grasped her both cheeks with his hand in a rude manner. For the time being she brought him to the campus to hear the entire story, but she also thought of confirming his ability that allowed him to take down Caskes with a single blow, causing her mischief to wake up. Using an excuse she had a match with him which resulted in her complete victory. However, it was suspicious. After they left Sashtal said that he had no intention of fighting right from the beginning.
Interest had sprung inside of her. At the same time, she realized her mood had turned restless.
In the morning, she saw him and wanted to call out, but for some reason rather than to the boy——she only spoke with the girl, Ellis. It was strangely difficult for her to talk with Imina.
Why was it, she wondered.
Was it anger for holding back during competition? Or maybe anticipation, wanting to see him serious? Certainly, she was craving for a good opponent. There were no longer any drill students on the campus who could defeat Milifica in swordsmanship. She was strong enough to take down the lecturers.
It might also be thirst for knowledge that has welled up in her, to know about his mysterious atmosphere. His birthplace was Salaido. Four years ago, it was the first village to be invaded by the elves. She was also curious about his dead elder sister he said was similar to her. To have forgotten himself and did such a thing after seeing her face, Milifica and his sister must have been like two peas in a pod.
Speaking of which——it was the first time in her life for a man to touch her skin.
Since Milifica came from royal family, she did receive a kiss on the back of her hand before. As for dancing——she was bad at it but——at that time she held hands with a man. Also during the matches when practising with a sword among a group of other students. However, that kind of thing didn't fall into the category of "touching the skin".
Touching the skin, is that kind of thing.
Even though she knew the circumstances, she felt irritated recalling it. At the same time, her cheeks turned hot with shame and somehow, she was unable to stop fidgeting.
He was the kind of man she never met before.
Milifica was born and raised as royalty, she was always respected and feared by others. There were those who flattered her to improve her mood, those who refrained and maintained their distance and those who showed excessive delight at her every movement——she was raised to live a life where that was natural.
Living as part of the royal family was stifling, so when she went to the drill school she decided to come in contact with others as a drill student herself. As a result, her life had somehow improved but not much has yet changed in its essence. Somehow she was pushed up to the position of representative and had served as the city's representative on the behalf of her uncle, ending up in stifling position again.
But Imina was different. He didn't fear her, he didn't honour her, he wouldn't even look at her in admiration. It didn't seem like he was any nervous speaking with her, not just that, he also spoke to her in a crude manner.
Although Sashtal was close to being rude, he did that on purpose. After acknowledging that Milifica wanted to live as a normal drill student, he intentionally kept his cool when speaking with her. In Imina's case, he couldn't care less about her right from the start. He probably didn't have any awareness that she was a special existence. As if, he was only looking at something else——something far away.
Milifica felt like ahead of his gaze, there was something she's been always looking for.
She was craving. She was unsatisfied from an early age. There was nothing specific she wanted. However, she didn't have enough. That's how she felt.
There wasn't enough of something. She wanted something. She had no idea what that is, but she knew that it was something she would never be able to get in the royal palace.
That's why she felt stifled living as part of royal family. She sought salvation in the swordsmanship women were unsuited for, but it didn't fill the vacant space in her heart completely. The war with elves had begun, she wished to stand on frontlines and fight, actually left the Imperial City using her uncle's connections to enter drill school——but still, she wasn't fulfilled.
Perhaps, Imina knew the identity of what she was craving for?
The thing Milifica was looking for ever since she was born. That, was surely, important enough to stop caring about the royal family she was part of.
As she thought, almost dreaming, abnormal noise had reached her ears.
It was the sound of the classroom's door opening.
The wooden door matched the frugal spirit of the school and wasn't decorated, but it was quite sturdy, it made a heavy and dull distinctive creaking sound when opening and closing. At times like the beginning of the lectures, it serves as a signal for the students' bustle to stop as the instructor entered.
However, it was the middle of a lecture now and there was no reason for the door to open. The lecturer who explained the formation of a troop of hundred equipped with magical swords had stopped moving and made a dubious expression.
The one who entered the classroom, was Milifica's friend.
The eldest son of the Marquis Household Culias, a fellow executive officer. The Culias' family was on friendly terms with Yusala Ducal household for a long time, so he grew up together with Milifica as childhood friends. Although, Culias household swore allegiance to Yusala that was a royal family, but Vint didn't follow in their example. He chased after Milifica to the drill school and thought of himself as of a vassal rather than a classmate, no matter how many times she reproached him he continued to call her per "Princess".
Vint breathed roughly, panicked, almost as if he was running just earlier.
The classroom was swallowed in silence.
Which was why Milifica stood up.
"What happened, Vint."
She was raised so that she takes initiative at times like these, but she wasn't aware of that herself.
"If you come over looking so pale, your dignity will be questioned."
As one of the executive officers, as the eldest son of a marquis household, he should maintain calm during any crisis. Once upset, a person can't act properly.
Even as he was chided, Vint's complexion remained pale.
He looked over the classroom for an instant, breathed in deeply and spoke with well-resounding voice.
"I'm sorry, Princess. However... this is horrible."
"Then, can you relay it here?"
She asked quietly. Whether it's something to speak in front of the public or not, Milifica trusted Vint in that aspect. he was intelligent and wouldn't make that kind of decision wrong.
"...yes. Immediately, I believe all students should learn of this."
"Very well. Say it then."
With graceful appearance and attitude, Vint was very popular among students. He had the power to attract and lead the others. That's why he definitely won't confuse students.
"Yes, my apologies."
He raised his left hand to his face, turned it outwards and stretched his finger stood straight on the floor——saluting according to Yusala drill's school method, he spoke solemnly.
"Just earlier, Instructor Shishirii... his body was found."
Hearing that——the atmosphere in the classroom froze.
These words felt unreal, everyone understood their meaning.
Even Milifica was perplexed.
Shishirii Fairthread was a middle-aged male instructor in charge of history.
Although he looked thin, was lacking dignity and gave off spineless impression, he was loved by the students for his meek and gentle personality.
She remembered passing by him in the hallway three days earlier. He smiled in response when she nodded to him. Back then it didn't seem like there was anything strange going on. In that case, possibly,
"I have discovered him myself. About a day has passed since his death."
As if to answer her silent question, Vint nodded and looked up at Milifica.
"...he was murdered."
With these words, it seemed like temperature in the classroom dropped.
The students' silence was finally broken.
"What does this mean...?"
"Shishirii-sensei was...? No way right?"
"Murdered, you mean he was killed? Why?"
Whispers could be heard all over. No wonder. This was a serious matter.
However, when the buzz in the classroom had changed into bustle,
The instructor who stood on the platform, Ella Moiip had restrained Vint.
He was a burly, middle-aged man.
"Vint Culias-kun. I am aware you're not one to come up with boring mischief but... this morning, I have met with Instructor Shishirii. Isn't it funny that his corpse was discovered a day after his death?"
Ella frowned with confusion and anger.
With the contradiction in the report pointed out, everyone was dumbfounded.
"It might be just that you have estimated the time that passed after his death wrongly... but certainly, your reputation as 'serious and honest student' might suffer drastically from that, you know?"
If this is a tasteless mischief, I won't forgive it, he meant.
But on the other hand, a different emotion had sprung up inside Milifica's chest.
It was, discomfort she felt towards Vint.
It wasn't about the time that elapsed since Shishirii's death, nor about mischief, rather than that——it was something only she, who spent a lot of time with him as childhood friends would notice.
In the first place, Shishirii Fairthread was an academic teacher who was involved in the historical research Culias household had invested in. Culias household was seeing to it and appointed him as an instructor together with Vint's admission. Vint ought to admire him ever since young.
And yet. Even though they were acquainted since he was young, a person he was close to was killed——why is it.
Why is Vint making such a refreshed expression.
When he rushed to the classroom he seemed panicked. Out of breath. But now he was calm and collected. He ignored Instructor Ella glaring straight in his face.
To think of it, wasn't that distraught attitude of his, acting?
"I see, your doubts are reasonable."
Vint smiled at the Instructor.
And next, while overlooking everyone, frozen and breathless,
"However, as you said, I'm not a man who would deal with petty mischief. Also, I wouldn't misjudge the elapsed time after someone's death. Instructor Shishirii being killed is an indisputable fact. He died yesterday and was discovered in the empty warehouse building in the south-west corner. ...of course, what you're saying is also correct. You certainly did meet Instructor Shishirii this morning."
Somehow, he looked triumphant.
"What are you..."
"Did you know? Elven organic necromancy can be also used for disguising themselves. They can change their bodies and take someone else's appearance. However, toying around with entire skeleton and physique as far as to even falsify one's age... among the fairy folk, only my best friend is capable of that."
Unable to bear it, Milifica cried out.
She understood the meaning of what he said.
Her heart turned cold.
Her subordinate, her best friend, her childhood friend. Vint Culias——she had completely misunderstood him. Moreover, this entire time since they were children, too.
"You, it can't be..."
"Instructor Ella, everyone."
Vint spoke loudly.
"I shall show you how did instructor Shishirii die. Look, just like this!"
Then he elegantly held his beloved sword he had by his waist, pulled it within a single breath and swung, towards Instructor Ella's neck right in front of him——brilliantly beheading him.
*clank*. The head fell to the ground soundly. Blood soundly sprayed upwards from Ella's neck and then his body fell to the ground. The splash of blood stained Vint's cheeks and classroom's walls, the students' screams resounded in the classrooms after a few seconds.
"Princess... ohh, my lovely, beloved Highness, Princess Milifica!"
Vint spread his arms exaggeratedly.
Tasting the screams of his classmates as if they were cheers, he looked towards the student seat in the centre——towards Milifica who stood there stunned and spoke with burning obsession in his eyes.
"I... Vint Culias, want to taste your despair!"
Screams have come not just from the classroom but could be also heard——that's right, from the outside.
It wasn't just cries of fear. There were roars that were like despair, squeezed out of people's throats, wails rejecting everything as if one wanted to escape into their shell, screams of those who couldn't understand what's happening in front of them, shrieks like the sound of pain itself, death throes played on the vocal cords when one's life ends. And mixed in it, was what wasn't that of humans, growls of magical beasts and demons.
Milifica didn't understand what was happening yet.
Still, she did understand what had started.
Sashtal Dei was reminded of the time when he put his head right into a tub with entrails.
It was an unpleasant memory from his childhood.
His father hunted down a big boar. It was something common in their home and young Sashtal was often made to help out, it was the same on that day. The blood was drained, it was put in boiling water and then shaved, skin removed and the abdomen was cut apart, while washing it all in the middle the meat was sorted. The unusable parts——hair and guts, as well as brain that's never eaten otherwise one shall invoke the punishment of the mountain god——all of it was thrown into a big wooden box for the sake of holding a memorial service and burying in the mountain. That was the entrails' tub.
It was in the middle of work. He stumbled and fell over with the remaining casual momentum, ending up sucked headlong into the tub. It was small enough so that an adult could raise it with both hands, but for a child it was quite a thing. Sashtal plunged into a messy blood bath with entrails, hair and bones of a beast, because of the terrible odour he fainted while vomiting whatever was in his stomach back then. Even now, more than a ten years later, it was stuck in his head as the most hideous memory in his entire life.
However, this happening now——was something that exceeded the horribleness of that tub.
After all, the blood and entrails scattered around here because of that commotion were not that of a single boar, but they were all those of humans. He didn't jump headlong into the tub with entrails and didn't dirty his body, just that one point might have been better.
However, were he to bathe in human entrails, he would grow insane by now.
The classroom was in a horrible state.
Torn apart corpses, corpses that no longer retain their original shape, fractions of corpses that still have their original shape. At a glance, he could see completely untouched lower body, he wondered where has the other part gone. There were about a dozen of people like that. Probably. He couldn't bring himself to count accurately.
His salvation was that there was no corpse of any of his friends. As far as he could see the faces, that is.
This wasn't Sashtal's class. It were the two adjacent ones, third and fourth graduating class. Why were they here, that's because they fled into here. Why did they remain here, that's because they were hiding in here.
When the demons and magical beasts attacked, Sashtal's classroom fell in just a few minutes. There were people who tried to bravely confront the enemy, but it could be seen that they were easily beaten by Orcs and then everyone lost their will to fight. They were torn into pieces, some died, some might have escaped.
It wasn't that he didn't try thinking of doing something. Sashtal was one of the executive officers, he was in the right position to organise the people. However, calming panicked allies and telling them to defeat a powerful enemy, doing both of these was impossible for him and his own strength.
Escaping was fine, but there were magical beasts and demons all over the place. As a result, he took temporary shelter, choosing the location where the monsters have already finished their slaughter. As a result, he cowered while suppressing nausea he felt because of the odour of human entrails.
Sashtal wasn't the only one left in the classroom.
There were other people who thought of doing the same, three people in total including himself. They muffled their breathing together. it wasn't just Sashtal.
"No more. No no nooo..."
One of them was a schoolgirl who hugged her head, her teeth chattering. Her eyes behind her round glasses displayed fear. Certainly, her name was Laimi Selea-Shutimeryl. The famous bookworm second year——one year below Sashtal. She always confined herself in the library and her performance was poor, because she indulged herself in reading even the books that were covered in dust completely, she was derided as "De-dusting Laimi".
"...compared to that girl, you're quite calm. I'm envious, Sashtal."
The other one said, losing all their mood and temper.
The other one was a man and Sashtal's classmate, they were acquainted. Fream Eiza. Normally, a reliable man with big physique had holed himself up in here as if tired.
Sashtal responded with a thin smile. It was dangerous to recklessly raise his voice, but the silence was also depressing. It should be fine to speak with each other by whispering.
"My head just didn't catch up yet, I'm pathetic."
"Still, that makes no difference, you've got nerves of steel compared to someone like me."
He wasn't as positive and had high enough self-evaluation to nod. Therefore, he only responded with a wry smile.
"But... I wonder what the hell happened."
The half-monologue of Fream's had left Sashtal at loss.
Sashtal snorted in self-mockery.
"I haven't the least idea what's happening either. Just..."
"What we call 'war' was much closer than we have imagined."
"You're right... yeah, it's just as you say."
They thought they would have entered the battlefield after graduating from the drill school, at earliest in the next year. But this——was far horribly different from what they thought "entering the battlefield" would be.
Right now, the humans were being invaded by elves, they were on the side that was being invaded.
Therefore, entering the battlefield was the exclusive privilege of the side invading. Those being invaded could only receive enemy on the battlefield. In other words, the place they were living in would turn into the battlefield.
The Great Astozellen Fortress was currently the line of defence, so this side of the fortress is safe right? That's a terrible misunderstanding. A mere illusion. In fact, aren't the demons and magical beasts all over the place?
A small group, at worst it could be even a raid of a troop led by a single elf.
They infiltrated in order to crush the drill school and kill the human resources that are to serve as future officers, aiming to weaken humans in a long-term. It was a very sensible strategy. It's far more stranger they haven't executed it yet.
"This is no joke, really."
"Yeah, not a joke at all. What are we doing, spacing out here."
And so——as Sashtal and Fream spoke like that and smiled at each other mockingly.
"Mm...? Hey, be silent for a second."
Sashtal's ears captured the sounds of footsteps coming from outside the classroom.
"What is it?"
It wasn't a demon nor oa magical beast. Demons were walking very noisily, magical beasts' steps crept very fast. He concentrated on his hearing. It was something human. Their number——was two.
But, they were slightly strange.
Normally, if one walked through the corridor in such a situation they would move timidly and quietly as not to be found by demons or magical beasts, terrified by the corpses lying around. And yet, the two's footsteps felt imposing. As if they owned the corridor they walked through. Or rather, as if to show off where they are.
The walking stopped. Right in front of this classroom.
After a moment, the door had opened with a heavy, creaking sound.
Laimi was startled. Fream gasped. Sashtal got up on his knee in alert and stretched his hands towards his weapon at his waist.
The ones coming in, weren't this school's students.
Although they met just yesterday, their faces were remaining deep in Sashtal's memory.
They were the travellers applying to be mercenaries——Imina and Ellis.
"Sashtal, huh. Also, Fream, was it? Great that you're all right."
Recognizing the red-haired acquaintance's face, although still grim, Sashtal smiled lightly.
"Is that girl all right?"
"Yeah, the three of us aren't hurt. ...why are you here?"
"When we were shopping in the city the students have came down the hill in a group. When I caught one and asked what happened, I was told demons and magical beasts appeared. So, I came."
"Heyhey, you serious?"
——"So, I came" he said?
He said that without any hesitation, but it was incredibly outrageous.
Normally, students would escape. The city's inhabitants should have evacuated as well. And yet, these two have come over with just the two of them despite not knowing how many monsters are roaming over here.
"You said you aren't hurt, can you stand?"
He briskly walked over. There was nothing in his footsteps that would imply they he was scared, after all. Also, whether its the ghastly sight of the corpses or the horrible smell that came from them, none of those changed his expressions.
And that wasn't just Imina, but also Ellis. Although she made a sad expression, as if mourning, she didn't look like she was intimidated, disgusted nor scared at all.
Sashtal trembled, from the bottom of his heart.
Once again he thought. These two are different.
They were overwhelmingly, decisively different from Sashtal and others.
The female student who was called out to——Laimi looked up at Imina and let out a quiet scream.
After Imina requested her to take his place, Ellis crouched in front of the girl instead of him.
"Are you hurt? It's all right now."
She gently stroked the girl's head and nodded to her. Involuntarily, Sashtal and Fream's nervousness was solved by her lovely smile and they felt at rest. As if a flower had bloomed in the middle of gruesome bloodbath.
However, Laimi still lightly shook her head.
Still frightened, her pale complexion didn't change. No, it had become worse than it was earlier.
She stretched her hands trembling, towards further behind Ellis, pointing with her finger towards the entrance to the classroom——.
"You...'re wr...ong. That... that! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
And let out an immediate scream.
Sashtal looked towards there and grit his teeth. He was careless. He should have expected this. Why did he loosen his vigilance. As long as they're careful they shouldn't have been found.
From the left-opened doors, monsters have sneaked in.
The pig demon——Orc. And, the little demon——Goblin.
One of those types each, total of two.
They were wandering around here and probably perceived the signs of human life.
He involuntarily cursed. Impatience ran through his entire body.
It was fortunate he didn't feel too scared. Perhaps because he was born in a hunter's house, or maybe perhaps because there were lots of bears in his home village——he was accustomed to standing in front of an enemy he can't match. Although, there was also possibility that he could have been paralysed completely.
Sashtal desperately forced his head to think. Now, what to do.
His body moved. For now let's fight, so he intended.
What about Fream. His eyes didn't lose their light yet. He stood up holding the magical spear he was carrying. It must have been impossible to move for the female student. In that case, if they include Imina and Ellis at lowest they'll have three people capable of fighting. They had numeric advantage over the opponent.
If they restrain the enemy and escape meanwhile, they might actually survive somehow——.
While continuing his wishful thinking, he put a hand on his magical sword's hilt.
The dagger he had by the waist. In his home village it was called a "Kukri", a warped blade that slightly mimicked a machete. It wasn't suitable for fighting a huge body. If anything, he'll take the Goblin on.
After thinking up to that point, he realized something.
Imina and Ellis——the two's attitude, they were awfully calm.
In front of two demons they displayed no agitation, fear, not even nervousness.
Even Ellis must have realized from the breathing of the monsters, but she didn't look back. She was disinterested in the crisis crawling from behind, instead she held the head of trembling Laimi and pat her back gently.
"Don't worry. I told you right? ...that it's all right now."
At the same time.
Imina took a step forward.
He held the sword hilt by the waist of the sword that was pointing behind him and unsheathed it. A one-handed swords for duelling——Falchion. It was thick, wide, and double-edged, Sashtal involuntarily gasped.
A magical sword, probably. But it felt different from the "magical swords" he knew.
First, the sword's guard connecting the hilt and the blade.
In most of the magical swords the engine was located there. The evocation engravings were placed in it for the sake of activating inorganic necromancy, the spirit energy tube loaded with highly concentrated spirit energy, trigger for activating the evocation——all of it was combined into one machine.
The engine part of a Juelamil method magical sword was big but had almost no limit when it came to amount of evocations that could be used, the engine of Eftal method magical sword had a limited amount of evocations but had a small engine instead. However, the sword held by Imina looked like it didn't have an engine in the first place. The sword guard had an original, old design, it was very small and simple. It made Sashtal think there was no mechanical parts used in it.
Instead, the blade was bizarre.
The colour of it was translucent red——deep crimson. Like fire, or rather, like blood.
Of course, it wasn't iron nor bronze. Is there a metal that has this kind of colour in the first place? The often-used Blazing Iron and Solar Ore don't have such vivid crimson colour. Rather, it looked more like jewellery, like ruby or red corals rather than a metal. Jewellery wasn't suitable for making a magical sword's blade. It was a material that blacksmiths at most be used for constructing a part of the blade's core.
The crimson blade had a complex pattern engraved on its surface.
Although it was reminiscent of engraved evocation, in fact it was more like a counterfeit. The engraved evocation was a circuit for providing fixed directivity for the spirit energy to circulate through, the route had to necessarily be looped, in other words, it had to have a shape of a constantly connected crest. However, the pattern engraved on Imina's sword wasn't like a crest——it was more like one of the tattoo's southern barbarians put on their bodies. If spirit energy flows into it, it will move in only one direction.
In other words, from the very top to the very bottom, it was outside of what Sashtal knew that defines a "magical sword".
However, to say it wasn't a magical sword, that it was just a normal weapon, that would be wrong too. It had a way too abnormal feel to it to be called just a weapon. There must have been a reason for looking like this. The meaning behind the material similar to blood and the bizarre pattern engraved on the blade's surface.
Imina raised his sword.
He entered the same stance he had when he faced in a match against Milifica. He moved half of his body and his left foot in front, moved the sword to the right and lowered it. It was a natural stance without any strength put in to it. Originally, it must have been a stance for using with a Falchion. Compared to when he used it with a wooden sword, it looked much more appropriate.
Sashtal realized he was staring and hurriedly stood up. He pulled out the Kukri and entered a stance. No matter how composed he was, no matter what kind of power his weapon had, Imina alone was definitely unable to take on two monsters at once. First of all, Sashtal must assist him, attract the attention of the monster Imina isn't dealing with at the moment——while he thought so, Sashtal's body was,
Unable to react to the enemy's first move.
The Goblin's hideous mouth was distorted with a grin and it abruptly moved.
Its aim wasn't Imina who moved in front, but the one who acted leisurely behind him——in other words, Sashtal. The monster with ugly blue skin curled up and leaped aiming with its sharply pointed claws and fangs.
The Goblin was more agile than a small monkey and the thirst of blood couldn't be read ahead of time. Sashtal was hunted in the woods ever since young age, it turned out that the demon wasn't just a beast, but more of a beast that had a human's common knowledge. Yeah, I'm dead, he thought. Ironically, from the experience he had as a hunter, he confidently believed he won't be able to avoid the attack.
What toppled his prediction, was Imina.
He read the Goblin's thirst for blood and the moment it would jump. Then, he moved one step to the side casually and raised his sword locating it in the middle of the Goblin's leaping trajectory. However, rather than as a blade he poised it with the flat side, supporting it with his left arm he used it as if it was a shield.
The Goblin's body collided with the crimson blade. The clash was the Goblin's loss, it had a low body weight and was agile instead. With a dull sound and an unpleasant scream it rebounded and rolled on the floor.
Instantly, Imina counter-attacked.
A truly lightning speed attack.
He stooped and kicked off the floor, chasing after the Goblin. The falchion was slightly retracted from Imina's body. There, Sashtal noticed that his sword started emitting light.
That's right——it was light. The falchion was dimly shining. It wasn't an illusion nor it reflected the light from the window. The blade released light, as if shooting fireflies.
That blade emitting a dim red phosphorescence had slashed from below and gouged Goblin's body.
The Goblin was simply, all-too-easily cut in two. The upper and lower body separated diagonally, then rolled two, three times while screaming its death throes that one couldn't bear to hear before dying in convulsions.
Sashtal couldn't believe his eyes.
No matter how small its body was, it was a demon. It's skin was hard and the mucles tough, it should have been tougher than any human living in the world. No——the robustness wasn't the strangest thing in the first place. Imina moved very quickly, he shouldn't be able to put in too much strength into that attack.
Speaking of which, the moment he slashed it looked like the light in his sword had disappeared.
So that was the trick.
Seeming angry after having a comrade killed, the Orc howled.
This one was a monster called a pig demon. It had an ugly and swollen body, a big pig nose and and stretched out face like a wild boar, one of its characteristics were that it was greedy for food and reproduction. With thick layer of fat under its green skin, a half-hearted slash wouldn't pass through it. Although sluggish, it was powerful. People feared it on par with the Ogres.
While moving roughly, its footsteps letting out blunt sounds, the Orc moved towards them. It swung its palm that made a human's arm look like a pencil horizontally, like a slap, to cleave down Imina's body.
"......!! Avoid it!"
Sashtal shouted involuntarily.
But, Imina did not avoid. Just like he did earlier he used the sword as a shield supporting it with his left arm and tried to receive the Orc's blow——they clashed. There was no way he could withstand that blow.
Like a piece of dead wood, his body was blown away.
He rammed into a line of desks lined up in a circle on top of a platform. The wood broke with a loud sound. Driven by agitation Sashtal ran over to him, wondering if he took the hit passively and endured the shock.
However, Imina who slowly got up and trampled over the broken desks,
Had a completely calm expression.
Trickling from his forehead, blood had flowed over his cheeks. He had abrasions on his elbows and knees. But it still weren't fatal injuries. He must have turned away the impact during the clash and absorbed it with the sword. It was an incredible feat.
"...hmph, it wasn't too bad."
Imina crudely wiped off the blood around his eyes and made a thin smile.
Smiling, he glimpsed at the falchion in his hand.
"Thanks to that, I accumulated quite a bit."
Compared to when he cut the Goblin earlier, his blade shone with much more intense light.
The brilliance was strong enough to cause light pain in Sashtal's retina. The blade left a faint afterglow at its trajectory when moving. Sashtal understood. He realized what was the characteristic of that magical sword.
All Imina did was necessary. He deliberately received the attack with his sword. The Goblin's charge, the Orc's slap and being blown away together with it.
And, he accumulated. The received shock was stored in the blade.
Did such evocation really exist——did such magical sword really exist.
Imina clenched his lips. Although the Orc snorted disgruntled and faced towards him from the front, he set up the sword emitting crimson light with just one hand.
Seeing that sight, Sashtal suddenly remembered something.
Yeah, that's right. Yesterday, haven't I said it myself.
After Milifica's match finished, he explained it with a smug look.
That Imina is a spitting image of an infamous insane big bear "Blackback" from his home village.
He assessed that the first blow he'll receive won't be fatal and after knowing that, he received it without avoiding. And from there, he calmly starts his counter-attack.
This guy truly uses that kind of fighting style——.
Imina rushed maintaining his body low. Passing by the Orc's body he cleaved at it.
The blade's flash clad in red light had continued to pass through the place it entered, the light turning into destructive force itself had bisected the Orc. The hard skin, thick fat and sturdy bones were helpless against it.
The demon cut in two simply fell to the floor.
After making sure the Orc was dead, Imina sheathed his sword again.
He overlooked the classroom that smelled with entrails once again, confirming there was no other survivors. Since there was no signs of people other than that of Sashtal's, he heaved a light sigh and turned around to them.
"How is it, can you stand?"
It was about twenty minutes since he entered the campus. He killed all the demons and magical beasts he found on the way not leaving a single one and it was the fourth time he helped survivors.
But, this time he found a few acquaintances.
Sashtal Dei of the executives and Fream with whom he spoke this morning. He didn't know the name of the remaining girl, but in any case——it seemed like they were all safe.
"Thanks, you saved us."
Sashtal thanked him on behalf of everyone.
"Not even exaggerating, you saved our lives. We owe you a huge debt."
"I don't mind."
Imina shook his head. For him, seeing acquaintances alive was good enough. Even if they have only met once, he didn't want to see a corpse of someone he knew. It was a really unpleasant thing.
He glanced at the tree.
Sashtal seemed like he wanted to say something. Fream made a difficult expression, lost in thoughts. Also, the girl who sobbed convulsively while being embraced by Ellis.
Imina noticed what could be seen in their pupils.
"I'll be proceeding ahead."
Turned with his back to them and looking towards the classroom's door, he said.
"There might be other survivors. Also... the one who released those monsters should be here."
"An elf...? In school, here?"
He unconsciously bit his lips.
That's right. An elf.
The demons and magical beasts are in the end, mere pawns.
Unless he cuts down the ringleader, this tragedy probably won't end——.
Once again he turned towards the three and asked.
"So, what are you guys going to do?"
"What will you do... is that something you ask people who're trembling in fear?"
As Sashtal scratched his head, Imina laughed in response.
"Let me rephrase it then, Sashtal Dei. Are you going to put up airs at a time like this, too?"
Sashtal made a bitter expression. It was right on target.
Therefore, Imina pursued it again.
"The ones I saved up until now were all completely terrified folks. But, at least you are different. You aren't frightened to the point where you can't move an inch either. Still, you didn't escape. You remained in the school. In other words you... have something you need to do in here, am I wrong?"
As if resigning himself, Sashtal raised both his hands.
"Good grief. And here I thought it might be easier to leave all to you."
"I don't mind if you do. If you are fine with that."
"That's great, is what I'd like to say, but I can't do that. Call it my pride."
"What about you?"
Imina asked Fream and the girl.
There was a moment of silence.
The one who spoke first, was Fream.
"...I probably won't be of any use. I'll hold you back."
He faced downwards in a gesture not fitting his posture, his voice trembled.
But, he clenched his fists tightly. Imina knew that the light that was in Fream's eyes when he looked as Imina fought didn't disappear.
Fream raised his face. Puffing his chest as hard as he could with bravado,
"But, despite that... is it fine?"
Sashtal nodded in response to the question.
There was no more hesitation in their pupils. No anxiety in their attitude.
The words they said no longer shook.
"This is already the battlefield and we are warriors. Just earlier we were apprentices in the drill school but... even if we are students, the moment we enter the battlefield we turn into warriors, don't we. If a comrade is fighting, would a warrior abandon them?"
Called a comrade by Fream, Sashtal silently hit his shoulder.
And, Imina glanced beside the two,
"M... my na...me is Laimi Selea-Shutimeryl."
The girl whose sobs subsided flared up and spoke.
"I... um, love books... I'm bad with speaking to people, and my practicals are terrible... so, everyone laughs at me as 'De-dusting Laimi'."
Sashtal and Fream were astounded by this sudden self-introduction.
But Imina wasn't surprised.
As if to encourage her, Ellis held her hand firmly.
The girl——Laimi, said.
"Just lady Milifica... the Representative, won't laugh at me. She praised me, that it's a splendid thing to love books. Learn more from the books and then, one day, get used to the battlefield and take command for the sake of saving the country, she encouraged me. That's why, I... I...!!"
As she seemed like she's going to cry again, Sashtal bowed his head to her.
"I also remembered you as 'De-dusting Laimi'. I sincerely apologize for that. Would you allow me to correct it?"
Both Sashtal and Fream, finally understood.
"You're a courageous student. I... we salute you."
Even though she was scared enough to cry, she didn't run away.
Certainly, she might have been unable to move. She might have trembled in despair. Nevertheless, it wasn't that she was unable to escape.
She did not try to escape.
And the reason for that was,
"How troublesome. Our representative definitely remained in here."
"If the general is fighting, the soldiers can't just escape, can they."
"I... don't want to end this as a laughingstock. I want lady Milifica to praise me again!"
It seemed like all of them felt the same.
As a representative, Sashtal stood in front of Imina.
"Sorry. We might be a bother to you, but..."
"I don't mind. If I really thought it's a bother, I wouldn't have asked what do you want to do."
Just as he said, he didn't expect them to be of help as part of fighting force.
It just overlapped. It overlapped with his memories.
With the Salaido from four years ago.
Just like it was here, when elves used demons and magical beasts to attack, Imina couldn't do anything. The villagers, the family, his important people——even though he wanted to save them, it did not come true.
If they save themselves by escaping, they will definitely regret it. Just like Imina's, their hearts will be wounded and they will suffer forever.
That's why if they want to come, he'll take them together with him.
Even if they are of no use, even if they hold him back.
Imina breathed in, smelling the same odour as the one from four years ago, he clenched his teeth.
He met Ellis' gaze——she nodded.
"Well then, let's go."
He prompted Sashtal and others who made thoughtful expressions and turned around on his heel towards the classroom's door.
They won't become like he did back then. He won't allow that.
He will protect them, and the people they hold dear.
And above all, there's something I need to do.