“What is the meaning of this?”
Making an expression of disbelief, Mira looked at her own hands which literally passed through the the black box.
“It’s just what it looks to be. Even though everything turned into reality, the rules that were in place are still valid. Items like this Cosmetic Box which couldn’t be transferred to others, still can’t and items like your Master Key which have set owner can be passed to someone, but it’s impossible to take them by force.”
“You’re saying there is no other way but to get a Cosmetic Box on my own?”
Moving her face close to the box that is supposed to be there, Mira squinted.
“Exactly. But as you already know, we’re in a hopeless situation when it comes to premium items.”
“This can’t be…”
After the two exchanged words, Mira fell onto the sofa face first. An emotion resembling resignation took control of her head and she finally began to think at full power what excuse to make for her current state.
“Are there no exceptions?”
Turning just her head, Mira clung onto the sliver of hope.
“These thirty years I haven’t heard of a single one.”
“This can’t be…"
This answer which had a historical basis to it, had easily shattered her remaining hope. Lying down on the sofa, Mira recalled her past manly appearance and closed her eyes to escape into the world of delusions.
“I wish I could do something for you, but it’s as you see.”
“Do you really think so? I’m sure yer laughing at me on the inside.”
Mira’s appearance idling on the sofa and thinking in negatives made her look like a sulking child.
“Oh no, of course not. It’s not like you forgot about this country in those two days, have you? Protected by you all, this country was able to stand equal to others. I would never laugh at you...right?”
Solomon glanced at Mira’s appearance on the sofa and nearly burst into laughing, so he erased his expression in order to bear it.
However, Mira did not miss how the edges of his mouth trembled slightly.
“See? I knew it.”
“Sorry, sorry. But I’m serious about my feelings of wanting to help.”
While saying so, Solomon looked at Mira with his usual soft smile. She responded glaring at him with a pouty look on her face.
“Oh, by the way. Did you know that our important pillars, Sages are missing?”
Solomon averted his gaze and tried changing the topic.
He was talking about Arkite Kingdom’s greatest incident where all Elders have disappeared within a year since Danbulf’s disappearance.
“Mm-hm, I heard from Graya. Apparently everyone disappeared at the same time. However, I also heard that Luminaria returned twenty years ago, so I stopped by the towers.”
“I see, so that’s why you went to the towers. Well, if you know that much then I’ll put it shortly, what do you think would happen to this country without the strongest shield that you guys were?”
Solomon asked a question as if this was a quiz. He was smiling, but there was a shadow on his face.
She could easily imagine it. Mira squinted a little and stroked her chin with a finger, then while still lying down she started to deliberate.
By using the shield that were the Nine Sages and by avoiding offensive wars, Arkite Kingdom was able to avoid friction with other countries. Because the lands were fertile and rich and the king was not greedy, there was no need to steal lands of others and the kingdom could focus on defense, thanks to which it also became possible to establish trade with other countries.
However, the country lost those pillars.
The official announcement was made after Luminaria had returned twenty years ago, but even if she was one of the Nine Sages, she was unable to bear the burden of the entire country.
As a result, the amount of interventions by other countries who wished to claim the profitable lands have increased, and while it did not turn into a full-blown war, the multiple small skirmishes have gradually fatigued the country.
That was the situation Arkite Kingdom was currently in. Even if it was just one, if another of the Nine Sages returned it would grant the country an unfathomable influence. Even more so if it was Danbulf the Army, who was famous to be top among the Nine Sages when it came to group battles.
“This is my opinion as the king, but you are this country’s hero. Your existence alone has an enormous influence, but we can’t grandly spread the news that you turned into a loli, can we.”
Mira had introduced herself as the Sage’s disciple for a similar reason, but for her own sake, so she was unable to refute now..
“You are the same person so your skill did not change, but the impression you give is completely different. It might not have been a problem if you looked like this right from the start, but your image which deeply rooted itself into this country is that of an old and experienced spellcaster who had appearance which was truly fitting a Sage’s title.”
Hearing Solomon praise her image of a perfect man, Mira’s mood improved, she affirmed what he said and posing, looked at Solomon happily.
“Right? Even now I can assert that he was my greatest masterpiece.”
“And what do you think would happen to that hero’s image if it was known that he turned into a girl like this?”
Told so, Mira imagined it. A respected character like the two whom she based Danbulf’s name off, being turned into a young girl.
Muttering that, Mira completely understood the situation she was in.
“That’s how it is. Personally I would love to announce that Danbulf has returned to the country, but because of this we can’t make this appearance of yours public. After all, normal people don’t know about Cosmetic Box.”
“Hmm-mm, how about just announcing it and saying there’s a reason Danbulf can’t show himself?”
Mira made an expression as if it was a great idea and corrected her posture on the sofa.
“That would be difficult. It’s a hero’s return after thirty years, the country would have to host a grand party to celebrate and it wouldn’t work without the main guest. Also, once everything calms down, other countries would definitely send reconnaissance.”
The great idea was discarded. At the same time Mira fell onto the sofa like a discarded doll and started to roll over on it. According to Solomon, a party and celebration would be an inevitable course of events if Danbulf returned after thirty years. Spies seeking to confirm whether it was true or not would come, too, and if they found out that Danbulf was not there, Arkite would lose trust.
However, from the moment Solomon met Mira, he had no intention of announcing Danbulf’s return. There was a more important issue, to relay it, Solomon approached the sofa Mira was lying on.
As he stood by her side, hidden behind Solomon’s smile was a serious look in his eyes, Mira corrected her sitting posture and looked up suspiciously.
It was at that moment, the corridor turned noisy and they heard Reinard and Joachim’s voices. After walking next to the door, Solomon opened it to check what was going on and there, he saw communications officer in charge of national defense.
Using completely different voice from when he was talking with Mira, Solomon spoke calmly and in low tone to the communications officer. Reinard and Joachim saluted and moved to the sides. The communications officer, albeit surprised at Solomon standing next to the door, saluted and read the message aloud.
“An emergency report arrived from Benedict Fort. A herd of monsters has been discovered heading Northwest. The number of monsters is estimated to be two hundred, furthermore, it is comprised of over thirty different species.”
After relaying the report, the communications officer took a step back. He must have been really hurrying as his shoulders were shaking which showed just how urgent this was. Reinard and Joachim were clearly disturbed by this happening.
“Benedict Fort is already within the country’s boundaries, isn’t it. Are you saying that the border guards missed a herd of monsters this big?!”
“It’s too fast for another herd to appear just a day after the last one. Furthermore, it’s the first time a herd has been comprised of over thirty different species. This is worrying.”
While Reinard was irritated, Joachim had calmly analysed the situation despite the concern on his face.
“Another herd after just a day, with mixed species… Hmm, wait for a moment here.”
After turning over the report’s content in his head, Solomon came up with something and returned inside the room, closing the doors behind himself. The communications officer received his words, then corrected his posture standing on attention.
Solomon must have noticed something, or thought something up. Joachim did not miss the faint smile Solomon made at such times.
“I want to ask something of you.”
Once the doors were closed he immediately turned towards the sofa where Mira was lying and pricking up her ears to listen, then spoke.
“Mm, I’m kinda tired after all that carriage travel, though.”
Guessing what was the content of Solomon’s request based on the content of the report, Mira started massaging her calves in overly-dramatized manner.
“Please do it, it can be only you!”
“Then it can’t be helped, leave it to me!”
When he said this in dramatic manner, Mira responded in the same way. There, Solomon put up a happy smile on his face.
“It’s been a while since we did this exchange. It feels really nostalgic.”
“For me, it’s been just about a week since last time, when you asked me to come with you to get the materials needed to make the Hell Gate’s Shield.”
“Ahh, we did go together, yeah. The Hell Gate’s Shield, right. In the end, materials didn’t drop anyway.”
Refusing once, pleading, agreeing. This flow of conversation was a staple between the two when they wanted to ask something of each other. From Solomon’s perspective, it was the first exchange like that since thirty years, so he closed his eyes and laughed happily at the nostalgia.
“That aside, it’s urgent matter, isn’t it. What do I do?”
“Oh sorry, sorry, umm....”
With Mira’s brief comment, Solomon put a lid on the emotions that overflowed one after another and made a crisp expression. Then looking straight at Mira, he recalled one of the summoning abilities Sage Danbulf had.
“By the way, do you have elemental Magic-Sealing Stones?”
“Mm-hm, I’m fully equipped with all types.”
She responded as if it was natural to have them on her.
The Magic-Sealing Stones that Solomon mentioned were made from gemstones that had the characteristic of being able to contain special power, and were imbued with one. These Magic-Sealing Stones were mainly found in the wild, but Danbulf was able to craft them with the Energy-Refining techniques he had created.
Energy-Refining was a technology to extract various elemental powers, buffs and similar, then fuse and affix them. It was a crafting technology also capable of removing powers dwelling in gemstones and affixing them into equipment to improve it, or do just the opposite and remove the power from equipment and imbue it onto gemstones.
“I see, I see. Yup, I’m really glad you came.”
While he said so, Solomon made a smile that mixed in both the happiness caused by the return of a friend, and at his calculations as a the king. Mira knew this expression of his well and it made her relieved to see that Solomon she knew did not change.
“Well then, I’ll explain details as we move so take care of it.”
“Mm-hm, roger that.”
Solomon opened the door vigorously, then after taking a glance at the three’s surprised expressions he grinned and gave them several orders. The communications officer saluted and ran off, Reinard too, had received an order and left the place in order to fulfill it.
“I had them prepare a special vehicle, use it to get to the location.”
Then, Solomon prompted Mira to come over with his hand, said “take her there" towards Joachim.
Answered Joachim and saluted with an elegant gesture, then bowed towards Mira as well.
“I’ll be off then.”
“Yeah, I leave it to you.”
Mira and Solomon briefly exchanged words. To Joachim, it sounded like their voices were full of trust unthinkable of someone who just met for the first time. He recalled Solomon’s words he faintly heard from beyond the door.
『”It can only be you!”』
Most likely still misunderstanding the situation, Joachim guided Mira to where the special vehicle was prepared.
Arkite Castle’s basement, in there, was an exclusive garage for special carriages and other vehicles. After being guided there, Mira stood in front of a fairly modern, matte car frame. The entirety of it was reinforced with metal, exception being a very peculiar barrel on top of it the car. It looked just like an actual armored vehicle. Apparently, this was the special vehicle Solomon spoke about.
“He sure let his hobbies go wild.”
“I quite like it.”
Having a feeling that she saw this kind of vehicle somewhere before, Mira muttered, which was caught up by the coachman-turned-driver, who was Galet.
“To think we would meet again so fast.”
“Oh, no. It’s an honor.”
Squinting, Mira looked to the side at Galet who, a little embarrassed, opened the vehicle’s thick door.
“Please come in, Mira-sama.”
The inside of the vehicle was split into front and back seats just like a civilian car and had heavy sofas placed inside.
Mira knocked on the heavy armor on outside of the armored vehicle and then entered inside to sit down on the soft sofa.
Aside from sofas, the inside was very simply built with leather and wooden boards, but she did not feel it was too bad.
“Hooh, the inside is quite comfortable, unlike the outside suggests.”
“Out of necessity, that is.”
Galet answered with a bitter smile, while Mira bounced on the sofa to check the elasticity. Soon enough she would realize the reason behind this bitter smile.
The armored vehicle departed from Arkite Castle with a strong momentum and started driving in the direction of where the monster herd in the report was located, rushing straight through the toughened road that passed through the plain.
(“That Solomon, he even made something like this, hmm.”)
Releasing her sight from the scenery which flowed at speed beyond comparison with one seen from the long-distance carriage, she turn it toward Galet who was in the front row. Sitting on the driver’s seat, in front of a messy mass of various devices, he manipulated the handle in good mood.
“Mm, it looks really heavy, but drives quite fast.”
The armored vehicle’s windshield was short vertically but wide horizontally and all that could be seen through it was filled with the plains and a forest. Beyond that, there was an unnatural, large white pillar aiming protruding toward the sky.
“Of course it does, it’s crystallization of magic engineering.”
Galet’s voice was very lively when he answered her, although he was facing forward, there was no doubt he had a wide smile on his face.
Hearing an unknown term, Mira asked a question resulting in Galet becoming even more lively as he started explaining.
“Indeed, it’s amazing. It uses power dwelling inside Magic-Sealing Stones to control a device made of various metal parts, is what I heard.”
“Hooh...it uses Magic-Sealing Stones, huh.”
“Yes. This armored jeep was completed just recently, which means that it has been equipped with all the newest technology. However, because of that, the fuel consumption is very intense and it was used only once for a test.”
As he said all this, Galet’s voice further grew in excitement.
“However, just earlier I was told I can use it as I like and received a large number of Magic-Sealing Stones, then was ordered to use this Armored Jeep to deliver Mira-sama as fast as possible to the place of destination! Thank you very much!”
He turned swiftly to say his thanks, then immediately turned back to look forward.
Due to disappearance of the creator of the Energy-Refining technology, Danbulf, there no was no longer anyone remaining who understood the fundamental reasoning behind it, and the technology advancement has practically been stalled. As a result, the production of Magic-Sealing Stones was unable to keep up with the demand, and they have become very valuable items.
And yet, a great many of them were used to deliver Mira. Galet was surprised at the treatment the Sage’s disciple received, but was also greatly thankful.
(“Mm, I see. So that’s why he asked about them...")
Mira recalled how Solomon asked her about Magic-Sealing Stones. In other words, he splurged the moment he found a prospect for stable production. In fact, this was not some special treatment of hers, but an actual test of the armored jeep which has been used only once so far, coupled with quick delivery of Mira to the target location.
The driver, Galet, loved various vehicles more than anyone. This was also of the majority of the reason why he had been made the vice-commander of Combat Vehicle Division. The armored jeep was Galet’s favorite vehicle and being able to drive it without restrictions, he continued to throw Magic-Sealing Stones into the device.
The armored jeep’s performance was far beyond Mira’s imagination, one of its characteristics was the entire vehicle’s strengthening which used the power of Magic-Sealing Stones. It would not even budge if it rammed into some monsters, and driving at full speed did not put any strain on the car itself.
But that was not the case for what was inside it.
“This shaking...can’t you do something about it?!”
Mira screamed as she tumbled on the sofa. This was caused by the fact that the vehicle started driving straight through the middle of the plain.
The armored jeep, which had all the newest technology gathered into its creation, was equipped with the newest communication device allowing it to make and take calls. Thanks to that, they received the newest information which said that the monster herd was heading straight for some particular location. It was not a place humans lived in, instead being having plains and forest. The only characteristic thing about it, was an extremely tall white pillar in a flower field shooting toward the heavens.
Therefore, predicting their goal, the armored jeep was able to head straight for it. The plain full of bumps and holes caused the vehicle to shake horribly and even send it flying sometimes. Every time that happened, Mira was also sent into the air to be later caught by a soft sofa. This was the reason why Galet made a bitter smile before, when he said that the sofa was a necessity.
“I can see the flower field, we’ll reach it soon!”
To Galet who was in perfect spirits now, there was no word “stop" as Armored Jeep cut across the plain.
“Hmm-mm...I can see...a flower...field…"
Being bounced up and down on the sofa as if she was participating in some trampoline-involving sport, Mira imagined a different kind of a flower field.
After they climbed a hill filled with vivid greens, the armored jeep leaped along with all the momentum into the air. Feeling a floating sensation, Galet let out a shout of joy.
Ahead of the hill, there was a gentle slope beyond which a sparse forest of even deeper green color had spread, inside of which in the distance, there was a neat circular space with a flower field. Standing in the middle of the flower field like a guardian sword, was a pure white pillar.
Mira corrected her posture on the seat and straining her eyes she stared through the windshield.
“This looks like bingo.”
The white pillar standing there had twice the height of the Silver Towers, and from the forest in its surroundings crowded a group which headed straight for the pillar. Since it was still quite far away, Mira was unable to tell what species were there, but she could tell that the chaotic group was certainly monsters.
“Still, based on the distance it seems like they will reach it first.”
The monster herd was far, far closer to the pillar than the two and it was not a distance that could be recovered even with armored jeep’s speed.
“It can’t be helped, hurry there as quickly as possible.”
“As you order!”
Answered Galet and threw in three Magic-Sealing Stones at once into the motor device. The heart of the armored jeep, device responsible for converting the Magic-Sealing Stones’ power into motor power had started to let out a high-pitched sound, making Mira’s expression twitch as changed her order to “hurry, but drive safely".
Getting off the gentle slope, the jeep rushed through the sparse forest pushing aside thick grasses and sparsely growing trees. Then, a few minutes later they approached close enough to be able to see details of the monster herd.
While doing her best not to look at Galet who held the handle with a strange look in his eyes, Mira captured the sight of monsters trampling carelessly over the flower bed, and then.
“What is going on there…"
The moment they reached it, the monster herd that until now only aimed for their destination, has brandished their weapons and started killing each other. While this herd was comprised of mixed monsters, there were also several monsters of the same species among them. However, that did not appear to matter to them, as monsters just attacked the one that was closest to them.
“What are they doing…?! I’ll hurry!”
There were monsters that preyed on other monsters, however, there were no species that devoured its own kind. Moreover, if this was related to preying on others, they would not move together like that in the first place.
(“Is there something they’re fighting over in there? Or, can it be…")
Regardless of what was their goal, it was certain that they were still in the middle of acting towards it. Feeling an unknown anxiety, Mira rolled on the sofa.
Once the armored jeep stopped right before the flower field, a single girl opened the door with such strength that it seemed it would break, and jumped outside.
“A Lesser Demon… I knew it, so this guy was responsible for it.”
Among the monsters there was one distorted existence, a Lesser Demon of the demon race stood there, with wounds all over him.
The monsters who continued to kill each other in no time decreased in numbers and finally, when there was just one left, the Lesser Demon cut off his head.
“What an annoying voice.”
In the corner of the flower field, the demon let out an insane cackling laughter. Mira glared at him and immediately summoned a Dark Knight.
The black knight who appeared, rushed forward while scattering monster bodies on his way, then in no time he split the Lesser Demon in half. That moment, something that looked like a black fog spewed from the wound and was blown towards the sky. However, it had dispersed soon after, as if melting in the air. Beneath it, the Lesser Demon’s body which was added to the large number of corpses, could be seen to have retained a smile of delight.
“What a horrible sight this is.”
Once he caught up, Galet took a look around and said so. Flowers, which had originally spread everywhere in the sight were now polluted by blood and blackened. Like a defiled maiden, flowers fell fallen over powerlessly, but there were places still remaining where flowers remained untouched. Mostly the outer part of the circle was devastated, and about half of the entire field including the center has been untouched by a single droplet of blood.
“Well then, I guess we should go back, mm? Oh, but we need to deal with corpses before that.”
If it was a game, monsters would have naturally disappeared, but Mira recalled what happened right after she came to this world. That is knights burning the goblin corpses that her Dark Knight had slaughtered.
“That’s true. At this rate, there would be a lot of ghouls appearing.”
After taking a glance at the countless monsters lying on the ground, Galet said “I’ll go get it" and ran off towards the armored jeep.
Once he returned after a moment, he was holding two small bags.
“First let’s gather them all together. Mira-sama, could you please put this on monsters’ bodies?”
He said and extended a hand with one of the bags to her.
"...Hmm, and what is this?”
Inside the bag she received, there was white powder. Just as she was told, Mira had pinched some of it and put it over a monster and asked.
“It’s Hamelin Ash. Ah, a small pinch between two fingers is enough.”
After saying so, Galet ran in a trot over the flower field and started to put ash over monsters.
In the end, Mira decided to ask what did this ash do at a later time, and imitating Galet, started to spread it.
The work was done in about ten minutes, after which the two stood next to the armored jeep.
“Now, let’s quickly finish this and head back.”
While saying so, Galet moved a little forward and placed a square stone on the ground. And once he came back, a little abnormal sight entered Mira’s vision. The dead monsters started getting up.
Although Mira put her guard up for a moment, seeing Galet act calmly, she realized the meaning behind the name of the ash from earlier, convinced.
Without any signs of life in their eyes, the monsters headed for the stone, gathering mechanically, and lied down one on top of another.
After a few minutes the monster corpses formed a pile.
“Let’s burn them now. Mira-sama, please stand back.”
Galet said so quickly and jumped on top of the armored jeep and turned the cannon installed on it toward the mountain of corpses.
“Put in a flame Magic-Sealing Stone and...here, this must be it. Well then, I’m firing!”
An instant after he manipulated something, a thundering roar spread and a stream of light was sucked into the mountain of corpses, resulting in a pillar of flames that rose up into the sky as if to pierce the heavens.
“This is...a splendid flame, mm.”
Mira muttered as she stood in front of the flame which scattered ash all around, and when she turned towards Galet, she smiled wryly when saw him make a refreshed expression.
With the herd dealt with and as the armored jeep left the flower field, Mira peeked into the rear windshield. What flashed through her head, was the appearance of the Lesser Demon which was already covered in wounds, the smile he showed at the very end. Demons often guided low rank monsters, and Mira suspected that this herd was brought there by that Lesser Demon.
“Hmm-mm…? Wasn’t it whiter before?”
The white pillar stood there disregarding all the turmoil that happened beneath it. However, to Mira it looked as if it had blackened a little, as if it drank the monsters’ blood.