The guild that found the bandit hideout decided to carry out the extermination operation three days later.
There were explanations from the guild and cooperation between the parties was set up.
That being said, under these hurried circumstances it's nothing terrific.
At most, it's one group storming the hideout from the east and another from the west.
Some parties are in charge of encircling the hideout and taking on the escaping bandits.
All in all, there are sixteen parties participating in the bandit extermination.
On the other side, we still don't know the exact number of bandits, partially because we don't want our moves to be noticed.
From the size of the hideout, they are assumed to be around thirty.
If they escape it's meaningless, but that being said, if we're not enough people, they'll turn the tables on us.
——it's quite a dangerous quest.
Still, they do a lot of damage on the roads and in the forests connecting Rinnal to the nearby cities. If nothing is done about them, it will become a hindrance to the citizen's everyday life.
Merchants wouldn't want to take these roads.
Following that, the town would decline.
You could very well say this situation is graver than it looks.
If you go to the royal capital, there seems to be not just the guild, but a proper knight order, but they move too slowly to be relied upon.
If you put in a request and go through all the required paperwork, they will come "some time" apparently, but frankly that's not good enough for the people.
"Hey, Shion. You sure about letting Alice participate?"
Before heading out for the operation, while checking our equipment at home, Uncle spoke up.
Shion, having looked at her own sword, thrust it into her sheath while turning around toward Uncle and clearly nodding.
"This is what she decided. As an adventurer."
"I know, but still..."
Uncle's face was full of worry as he looked at me.
... well, it's not like I don't understand how he feels.
I mean, so far I've done nothing but cause worries for them.
"Nichol-san, I'm just going to do what I can, so..."
... I'm not going to force my limits——
——is what I really wanted to continue with but nobody knows what's going to happen in the actual battlefield. I shut up.
"Uhh...huh. If it gets dangerous, think about yourself first and run away, ok, Alice-chan?"
That's a lie.
There's no way I can.
If it gets dangerous?
Our party obviously consists of Uncle, Shion-san, and myself.
Shion-san's group takes part somewhere else this time, so it's a party of family members only.
A situation where I, forming the backline of the party, is in danger... I don't even want to think about it.
"——alright, let's go."
I stiffly nodded at Shion-san's words.
Before leaving for the capital, I want to give something back to these people, if only just a little.
I can attack at range. I'm sure I can be of use in a party with Shion-san and Uncle who both use swords.
For the sake of the people in this town, too, I will strike the bandits.
I don't have to think about the opponents.
I can do that later just fine.
Seen off by Aunty, we began the operation————
The bandits' hideout is on the other side of town, opposite from the forest with the ruins. After leaving town, we advanced while staying clear of the road.
On the appointed day, we left early in the morning, but some parties had already headed out the evening before.
The groups left town at so different times from each other to get into position.
Whether it helps or not, the goal is to trick the bandits at least a little bit.
Because we're not many people, our party's goal is to take part in surrounding the hideout and take on the escaping bandits.
However, there's a good likelihood to run into a lookout or some bandits happening to be outside, so it cannot be called safe.
"We're almost there," Shion-san said while spreading a marked map and checking the surroundings.
Next to the river flowing continuing on to Rinnal, just outside the forest.
The operation begins when the sun has reached its peak.
With watches, it would be noon exactly.
And that time is soon.
"... I hope the people assaulting the hideout directly are fine."
"There's six groups of six veterans each. But we can only pray."
As expected, Shion-san was just as tense as myself.
Her eyes were attentively scouting our surroundings.
And Uncle, too, was leaning against a rock sized just right to sit upon, his eyes closed.
He might be listening for something.
As for myself, I couldn't rid myself of that bad feeling of foreboding assaulting me.
Our current mission was to wait, but I was restless if there wasn't something we should do.
I was restless in the truest sense of the word.
It wasn't the atmosphere to talk to Shion-san or Uncle, so for the moment I decided to calm down by changing the water in the canteen.
I went over to the river and submerged the canteen into it after dumping the old water.
By the way, the canteen is of course no bottle.
It's a leather bag.
While submerging the water bottle in the river, I inadvertently looked to the other bank, and noticed something unnatural about the shade of a rock; something was off.
The river was around ten meters wide, but I could see a big rock on the other side shine weirdly.
Was it some reflection?
No, these light particles...!?
I at once shouted to the others.
"Freezing breath, change to dancing blades——— Blizzard!!"
The man jumping out from behind the rock was singing his incantation.
The magic ice projectiles forming indeed turned into blades and poured towards us.
His target was———all of us!?
There is area of effect magic!?
From above our heads, icen blades rushed down like hail.
That's not something you can dodge.
To at least protect my head, I crossed my arms before my face.
Then I got skewered—— is the worst case I expected, but the shock I received was not that much of a worst case.
It was more along the lines of being hit my normal hail pebbles.
Of course, it still hurt.
But that was it.
At most, it might leave some bruises?
But looking at myself, I'm surrounded by something like a thin film of light.
Before the ice projectiles hit me, they hit the film of light and lose their power.
"So magic defense—— comes from Mind!"
Which means that the least injured in this place is me with my Mind 5.
On the other hand——
Especially Shion-san, she has Mind 0!
The moment the ice projectiles finally stopped, I turned around in horror.
Without a single scratch on her body, Shion-san drew her sword.
Not a scratch?
She dodged... all of them!!?
"Are you a monster!?"
"Why are you insulting me here? ... Pops, you alright?"
While glaring towards the opposite shore, Shion-san called out to Uncle.
"Yeah, this is nothing."
Uncle slowly got up with his shield.
An ice blade was sticking in his leg!
Uncle was laughing that it was nothing, but he wouldn't be able to move like that.
No, wait, the enemy on the other side of the river came first?
Without time to ponder, the situation evolved.
A group of people, probably bandits, came out of the forest.
Five people from the forest, a total of six with the man on the other side of the river!
They were a much more immediate danger than the man on the other side of the river.
Shion-san was rushing towards the bandit group.
Three of them had swords.
One mage on the other shore.
They had thought this through!
Thinking about cast time and cooldown as well as attack range, this was the optimal setup.
Supposing we didn't have anyone capable of ranged attacks, it would be onesided.
Before attacking the enemy, Shion-san gave me one look.
I clearly nodded at the signal in that look.
Shion-san made a small smile in return.
When I looked back to the other shore, the mage had just finished his cooldown and began casting anew.
Like I'd let you!
"You're slow! Split the heavens and become a ray of light, to strike my enemies——— Thunder!!!"
I instantly fired my magic.
One serious strike with chanting the incantation at that.
Seeing me invoke magic without any sign of generating mana beforehand, the mage on the other side of the river made a shocked face—— and fell, without any chance to dodge.
That probably meant I completely surpassed his magic defense.
The film of light made no change whatsoever.
The result gave made me shudder for a second—— but.
That could come later!
Stopping my thoughts, I rushed to Uncle's side.
"The wound... oh my god!"
Uncle was drenched in cold sweat and the blade of ice was still stuck in his left thigh.
This went beyond painful!
Even the blood flowing out was on the verge of freezing, this might lead to frostbite.
"H-hey, you're amazing, Alice-chan. Nice skills!"
Come on come one!
"That doesn't matter in the least!"
What should I do?
Even if I use heal, I think I should pull the ice blade out beforehand.
But won't he bleed out then?
But either way, like this he'll get frostbite.
"Give me that, please!"
I borrowed Uncle's swords and cut off a piece from my robe's skirt.
That made it a lot shorter, but that really didn't matter now.
I could use that in place of a tourniquet.
I tied it at the left leg's base with all my strength.
"Ghhh... I'm! Too weak...!"
Is this going to be enough?
If it's not really tight, it's pointless!
"I just need to tie this, right?"
Uncle laughed at me with his dandy face and tied the tourniquet once more himself.
"Y-yes! It's only for a short while, but make it as tight as you can!"
"Sure thing! Nnnngg!"
With his face contorting in pain, Uncle tightened the tourniquet.
"Sorry, please bear this!"
I grabbed the blade of ice and pulled it out in one go.
For that Uncle to cry like that, it must hurt a lot.
It makes me feel sorry.
But there's no point if I fail after all this.
After drawing out the ice blade and discarding it, I took a breath and willed the activation of another magic.
"Goddess of earth, grant compassion with your healing breath——Heal!!"
When I held my hands near the wound and chanted the magic, pale, white light enveloped it.
The wound which had had blood trickling out of it gradually closed.
However, the wound was deep.
Not something healing right away.
And you can keep the magic Heal active over time——I understood that right then.
You can probably decide to, depending on the wound.
However—— I felt how incredibly exhausting it was.
The mana inside my body was rapidly flowing out.
Now just that, my stamina was taken as well——or maybe I gave it to him?
Anyway, I quickly got dizzy.
Should I cancel it once and cast it once more?
No, Shion-san is still fighting, don't be so weak!
Show some spirit!
But I'm really collapsing now——on the verge of that, I somehow completely closed the wound.
"Haaaah... how is it? Do you think the leg will be alright?"
Uncle was touching the area the wound had been like he couldn't believe it.
"Looks like you're alright... thank god. Ah, please take off the tourniquet."
Uncle took it off and carefully got up.
Then raised his left leg a bit and stepped down.
"Hmm... it's a bit uncomfortable, so it's not completely recovered, but it's good enough."
Well, I'd be scared if it was already completely healed.
As relief overcame me, I noticed for the first time that I was too tired to even get up.
And like that, I went plop.
I let myself fall backward spreadeagled, as they call it.
Shion-san knuckled Uncle over the head.
"I've got one amazing little sister, don't I, Pops?"
After setting Uncle straight, Shion-san proceeded and tousled my hair, no holds barred.
"... if you put it like that, that should make her my daughter, too."
"You don't look at her like a daughter, stupid pops."
"N-nono! More importantly, the bandits?"
Stopping those two as they turned towards a weird topic, looked towards the forest.
"Eh? That is...?"
In the direction Shion-san was pointing were five falled bodies.
"......are you a monster?"
I'm never going against Onee-chan.
I secretly swore that to myself.
"For an ambush, they were way too prepared."
Next to the pondering Shion-san, I borrowed Uncle's cloak and wrapped it around my waist as a makeshift pareo to compensate for the shortened skirt.
"Didn't some of the guys who departed last night just get themselves captured and questioned?" Uncle suggested, but Shion-san was not convinced. Or so said her face.
Still, don't say such scary things so easily, Uncle.
"Doesn't feel right, but... I'm just surprised that this run-off-the-mill bandit group had a Mage."
Shion-san looked at the bandit collapsed on the other side of the river.
She tried getting a reaction out of him, but he didn't even twitch.
It's probably too real to be playing dead.
When he fell, his face ended up under water to begin with.
That nailed it.
Shion-san turned toward the bandits she defeated.
There's... no way she used the back of her sword, is there.
The traces of blood are obvious to see.
It's just... I'm calmer than I thought I would be.
Although I don't want to see them up close.
Still, I wonder if my feelings are just numbed for the moment.
"At any rate, it's fishy. What do you think, Shion? Go back to the relay point and report? Or should we wait a bit and see?"
It's obvious how much Uncle trusts Shion-san.
Well, so do I.
The bandits' hideout is a cave in a little cliff a bit into the forest.
But the forest is dense, and as it's away from the road, it's no place you'd just get close to.
Being just outside the forest as we are, we have no idea of the situation of the assault parties.
If we wait here, the escaping bandits will come to us. Maybe.
Or they might not.
"Well, the operation should've just begun, so waiting and seeing is probably the correct decision, but..."
While thinking, Shion let her eyes cautiously roam over the forest and the opposite shore.
Earlier I happened to find the enemy first, but fundamentally Shion-san never let her guard down.
"...when things smell fishy——"
"Trust your gut. Man, I've raised such a tomboy."
Uncle smiled wolfishly.
"Yeah, yeah, I am your daughter, Pops."
As the two reached an agreement, their eyes gathered on me.
"We are now going to check out the hideout. Alice, you go home."
I'd thought they were going to say that.
"Don't you think it's more dangerous to return alone?"
"No, I don't think it's more dangerous than getting closer to the hideout."
"How about returning together once? Nicholl-san isn't at his best."
"You've got me there."
Uncle grinned embarrassed and scratched his cheek.
"But, Alice-chan. We can't miss this chance at the bandit group."
The town itself might go on decline.
You can't just ignore that.
This request isn't fun and games.
I felt like I'd been hit by cold water.
"Hehe, don't make those eyes, Alice. You've done more than enough already."
I know myself that my displeasure is showing on my face.
Or rather, I'm worried about the two.
"Please, Alice-chan. Reporting that the situation is fishy is a fine job, too, you know?"
It's no good.
No matter what tantrum I throw, I can't convince those two.
"Alright, just as you said, we've got no idea what might happen on your way back. You realize that letting you go alone in spite of that is because we trust you that much?"
"You're unfair, putting it like that..."
I laughed, and Shion petted my head.
"You two be really careful, okay?"
"Gotcha. Can't keep showing you just my uncool sides, can I, Alice-chan."
I never particularly thought of Uncle as uncool, though.
"See you later, then"
After seeing the two off, I once more looked towards the bandits' corpses.
Looking at them on my own, they are scarier than before after all.
I forced my feelings in a different direction, turned my back towards the forest and started walking.
When I arrived at the relay point, I thought bingo.
The relay point was a simplistic hut built for travelers on the road to rest in.
I call it a hut, but everything's completely visible from the outside. Four wooden pillars holding a roof over a group of logs for chairs, that's all.
It's kinda of reminiscent of the open pavilions you can find in some parks.
What was strange is that the guild employee who was supposed to be on standby there was absent.
Looking around, there was nobody nearby either.
For the set relay point to be vacant is extremely unnatural considering the importance of this plan.
I checked the map I'd been given again, but I probably was in the right place.
I properly followed the landmarks according to the map and came here.
Following the road from here, the town wouldn't be that far away.
Thinking wouldn't change anything, so I could only go on all the way there and report directly in the guild.
"——Oy, little girl."
For a second I thought my heart would stop.
Turning around, and I really have no idea when she came, there stood a girl even smaller than myself.
I reflexively readied my rod, but as if to show she wouldn't do anything, the girl showed me her empty hands.
"W-hat is it? How did you..."
"... thou better refrain from returning to that city now. Thou will die."
"Timing when your warriors left earlier, a group of ruffians made for the city in return."
"Wh——at, are you saying..."
I reflexively looked in the direction of the town.
I was still a distance away so I couldn't be sure.
But... that was...!
"There was that sagacious darkelf... although she is a disgrace."
At that moment, I noticed the girl's special features for the first time.
Blond hair gathered in two pigtails.
Peeking out from that, pointed ears.
And eyes blue as the clear sky, no, more like the deep, blue sea.
"You... no way, an elf!?"
"Slow, aren't thou. Although one has no memories when one appeared in human habitation the last time."
Contrary to the girl's lovely appearance, there was nothing childish about the way she spoke.
"But time presses. One has to deal with the village's shame."
"You're trying to save the town?"
"Make no mistake. One is acting upon one's own issues. The human habitation is of no concern. ...but it might be saved along the way."
"... are you strong?"
Strong enough to take on a bandit group on your own?
"Hehe, for a little girl like thee to ask, time must have passed."
Time? What are you saying, you look younger than me.
But still, as an elf...
"One is Tillbell Aynshaura. They used to call me the Witch of Ice and Snow, once upon a time."
Puffing out the chest she clearly had less of than me, the girl answered my question.
"Never heard of it."
"... this is why the young ones these days are."
Maybe I had hurt her feelings, but the girl suddenly started towards the city without minding me any longer.
"... what? One said time is of the——whaa!?"
I grabbed the elf girl's hand and started running.
"That's why it's not the time to be walking!"
"But thou were holding one up!"
"Don't mind the small stuff!"
"And thou are completely ignoring one's warning!"
"There are times when one can't listen!"
Shion-san and Uncle are out.
The guild members are headed for the hideout.
I have no idea where they passed each other, but at the moment, the town is defenseless.
There is a militia, but it isn't that big.
It's just some rural town after all.
Who would protect Auntie?
Who would protect Eleanor-san and the others?
"... hey, little girl. What is thy name?"
"... this mana..."
The girl was staring at me with her blue eyes.
"Interesting. Alice! I especially allow thee to accompany one. Call one Till."
For some reason, the girl was happily laughing.
"Well thank you. But you——Till, you're really strong, aren't you?"
If she is just a young girl of the age she looks like and acting old, I'm committing complicity in murder here.
"Well, strong enough to not futilely waste stamina like thee."
Speaking of which, I had thought the little girl was keeping up well considering I was dragging her along.
"You're running... on top of the air!?"
The girl's feet didn't touch the ground.
And every step of this girl running through the air was long, like she was jumping. She was easily keeping up with me.
No, rather it was on a level where she was matching her pace to me.
"One cannot fly through the sky, but if it's temporarily running..."
Whenever she landed in mid-air, there was something like a wave of cold.
They say colder air is heavier, so it falls.
So by smashing the cold air towards the ground, she created a repellant force to use.... is that the explanation?
Either way, she was clearly exceptional.
"... I'll not think about it too deeply. If you're strong, that's good enough for me!"
"Yes, hurry. Before it is too late for both on both ends."
While running, I reflexively looked in the direction of the bandit hideout.
I can only believe.
I only have one body after all.
I strongly gripped the girl's——Till's hand and ran even faster.
Snow dancing in the Flames of War
My throat hurts.
Breathing is painful.
I don't have enough oxygen.
And if that wasn't enough, because of that I'm probably wasting breath to boot.
Feels like hyperventilation.
When doing strenuous activity for a long time, there comes a point where how you breathe out becomes important.
And currently I don't have the specs to run long distance to begin with.
It's pointless if I can't fight when I reach the city.
On the other hand——if I'm too late, it's pointless too.
So I desperately ran towards the town, going up in a blaze of fire.
"Hah, ha, ha..."
After reaching the gates, I stopped, supporting myself on my knees.
I was very well aware suddenly stopping like that is not good for myself, but I abided my screaming body which didn't want to move another step.
Crisis or not, I was at my limit.
"... no matter how much time passes, no matter where one goes, it ends up like this," Till muttered lonelily and let go of my hand.
"Wheeze, wheeze... Till?"
I felt like dying already, but Till only looked at me like some insect.
You're crushing my heart!
"Weakling. Come after taking a breaking. After this is over, I will drill thee until thou wish thou were dead."
I tried to call her to a stop, but Till only laid a finger on my mouth.
"One is not so weak to be worried about by one's disciple. Even if one retired long ago. Rest a bit before thou come. Is that well?"
With those words, Till ran through the air into town.
"Ha, ha... disciple?"
No, more importantly this endurance...
In an emergency, I cannot do anything with it!
Heal... would be pointless, wouldn't it.
Oh well, I can only remain here until I've caught enough breath to be able to walk again.
What's with this weakness, I'm not the world's strongest at all!
I allocated my Attributes and Skills as I saw fit, but putting that to use, or not, depends on me now.
But this body's unreliability pisses me off!
"O... kay... I'm fine..."
While breathing with heaving shoulders, I put one foot before the other.
I have to, protect Aunty.
In place of, Shion-san and Uncle—————
For a while even.
But after entering the town, that imagination changed into certainty.
The blood and the screams, the smell of burning buildings and "somethings" brought be to the edge of puking.
Robbing, killing, burning.
Is this something people are doing!!?
Cutting across the main street, I hurried home.
So far, I hadn't run into a bandit since entering the city.
There were some ice-encased corpses looking like bandits lying around, but it went without thinking who was behind those.
Whipping my screaming body forward, I hurried home.
Like that, I finally arrived.
It wasn't burning... but the door was open!
The anxiety almost crushed me.
My reasoning came up with all the bad scenarios.
I basically jumped inside—————
There were two people.
In the living room where I'd always laughed with Shion-san, Uncle and Aunty, in the living room where we'd bantered, there were two people.
One was a bandit in boorish clothes with a blood-stained... those round swords, a scimitar?
Anyway, he had a blood-stained weapon in his hand.
And the other————a figure lying on the floor that I knew well.
The world turned red before my eyes.
"What!? Amazing! There was such a beauty left!? Lucky!"
Seeing me, the bandit was delighted.
"———You're dead!! You animaaal!!"
With a single thought, I released magic against the bandit defenselessly coming towards me.
Without restraint, without regret, without mercy, only with clear intent to kill.
Even without the incantation, the effect is enough.
With one strike, I sent him to hell.
I didn't feel anything about it.
I wordlessly walked towards the fallen bandit———and stepped on his head.
What should I do?
What should I do!?
I haven't had enough.
I haven't killed enough!!
I want to tear him to shreds!!
My eyes fell onto the scimitar in the bandit's hands.
"...I'll cut you to pieces."
I grabbed the blood-stained scimitar and———
"...D... don't... do it. Alice... chan."
I dropped it.
Who gives a damn about murder weapons.
With all my power, I turned around.
"Don't get... swallowed up."
Even with blood flowing out of her chest, Aunty smiled at me with her never-changing warmth.
She was still alive!
"Run away... Alice... chan... cough."
Aunty had been stabbed in the chest.
Her heart... was probably alright, but it was in that area.
No, if her lungs overflowed with blood...!
"I won't run! I'll save you! As long as you're alive!"
This time, it's okay if you collapse.
"————Goddess of earth, grant compassion with your healing breath!!!"
I poured the miracle of healing into the stabbed chest.
One moment later, dizziness assaulted me.
The wound was too deep.
Uncles had been nothing in comparison.
I felt my mana and my stamina being drained to the bone.
Probably, Heal is lower class magic when it came to healing.
Mages don't specialize in healing, I can't help it.
That's right, I can't help it.
I can't help it.
But with "I can't help it" is not enough for Aunty's life!
They are the saviors that took me in, cared for me, made me family, without knowing a thing about me.
Uncle, Aunty, Shion-san.
Without this family, I'd definitely be dead by now.
Like I'd let some bandits do something to them!
"Oh? What's this? There were some women after all!"
Two new bandits came through the entrance.
This was the worst.
Cancel———yeah, like I can do that!
I'm fighting for every second here!
I have no time to spare to attacking!
"Please leave! Right now... I don't have the time to... deal with you!"
I was about to fall unconscious to begin with.
To remain conscious, I strongly bit my lip.
It hurt too much.
That taste of blood and the pain somehow bound me to reality.
"Hehe, now this is a good woman!"
"Hya, don't stay there, play with us!"
With vulgar laughs, they came closer.
What should I do!
I really don't have time to deal with you now!
"I'll take you on later, so please, leave us alone right now!"
I wanna die, really!
I should've learned Double Cast!
No, just how much has Cast Time Reduction saved me already?
And before that, right now I'm having my hands full with heal, there's no way I have room for Double Cast!
"Can't have that, missy——you're a Mage, right? That makes now our chance, doesn't it."
Damn those bandits, I'm out of options!
The bandits came closer and closer.
But of course, I had no intention of escaping.
Ahh... so these guys are going to make me their plaything
Such brutes are going to make me their plaything.
I can't even cry anymore...
One of the men's hands reached for me—————and was run through by a spear.
Screaming out pathetically, the bandit rolled over the floor."
In a panic, the other turned towards the entrance from where the spear had come flying.
I'd also confirmed.
The person who had thrown the spear from entrance.
"——Please refrain from touching Alice-sama."
Blond hair, green eyes.
That courteous manner of speech.
Those features you never forgot once you've seen them just once.
Why is she here?
No, now isn't the time to ask why, is there?
"I am late, Alice-sama. Here I come!"
No, Ilya hasn't fought before, has she!?
"You bitch! I'll hurt you for what you did!"
The unwounded bandit drew his scimitar and rushed at the unarmed Ilya.
I was in a predicament myself, but seeing others in trouble is bad for my heart!
When the bandit charging at her swung down his scimitar, Ilya glided forward, grabbed his arm and used his momentum to throw him.
The man moaned as he smashed into the floor.
Ilya had Agility 1.
But her movements——okay, they hadn't been that fast.
In the end, she had matched his timing and naturally slipped inside his reach.
"——I'll kill you, bitch!"
The bandit who had taken Ilya's spear to the hand went into a frenzy and slashed at her.
Ilya was still off-balance.
The scimitar cut into her.
That's what I thought.
I, and the bandit, too.
The bandit was surprised, and my mouth didn't close, either.
She had stopped the scimitar with one arm.
With her slender arm.
Had I done that, the arm would've been off.
While we were dumbfounded, Ilya glided forward and switched places with the bandit. Now in front of me, she picked up the dropped spear and skewered the bandit with it.
Seeing that, the thrown bandit ran for the door to escape, but that's where his life ended, too.
"What an eyesore," said the man with a look in his eyes so mean you'd take him for a bandit. Blackie.
With the daggers in both his hands, Blackie had cut down the bandit in an instant.
"Hah, I'd have a problem if you died on me."
Blackie didn't meet my eyes and looked away.
"Thank you... very much."
Is he a tsundere?
Nono, even if he is, does that mean I have to do something?
I don't want any men!
But I'm still thankful!
"Please, be safe!"
While thanking Ilya and Blackie, I focused on healing.
I wonder how long I've been at it now.
Mana and stamina have crossed the limit already.
It feels like the lacking mana is compensated for through stamina.
I'm on the verge of blacking out.
Whittling away my life, I'm saving Aunty's.
Without exaggerating, that's how it is.
"———cough, Alice... chan"
She made it!
Aunty still seemed far from her best, but compared to before, her smile was far more relaxed.
"Alice-chan, you're... so amazing..."
"She is alright, Alice-sama. I believe she just fell asleep."
On Ilya's prompt, I checked Aunty's condition.
Certainly, her expression was calm and her chest rising and falling.
She was breathing!
"I... saved her...?"
On the other hand, I was in blank amazement.
"Yes. As expected, Alice-sama!"
"I saved her..."
"Alice-sama's devotion and loveliness were very radiant to me."
However, they say people who don't treasure themselves cannot save others.
Strength left my body.
Not listening to my will any longer, my body crumbled to the floor.
I couldn't even speak anymore.
My consciousness became vague.
Did I... push myself too much...?
"Alice-sama! Oh no, you exhausted yourself too much!
Ilya embraced me.
I still couldn't move.
Ahh, too late, my consciousness———
"———Please excuse me, Alice-sama. You can scold me for this later!"
With those words, Ilya bent over me.
Ilya kissed me.
Only that fact filled my mind.
Ilya's beautiful face was flushed.
My thoughts couldn't catch up, so I let her do as she pleased.
Just, I felt something hot flow from Ilya's mouth into me and fill me throughout.
Energy welled up.
From the verge of unconsciousness I thought I almost wouldn't wake up from anymore, my consciousness stabilized, too.
As my consciousness stabilized, I couldn't help but wonder and wonder about the feeling of Ilya's lips.
Kisses... did they really feel this good...?
"Ha-a... once more, please excuse my behavior. Alice-sama."
For a moment, I thought it was too bad that Ilya had stopped kissing me and apologized.
Blackie's voice made me come to my senses.
My body was moving.
I pushed Ilya aside and stood up.
"H-how is the situation outside!? We have to hurry and beat those bandits!"
"Just have a look."
Blackie urged me to, so I quickly left the housed
For the moment, Ilya and Aunty were left inside.
When I came outside, everything had turned into a winter landscape.
The burning buildings had all been extinguished.
An impossible amount of sudden snow.
But it was gentle snow.
It stifled the fires and gently wrapped up the town.
It was doubtlessly snow, but touching the flakes falling from the sky, they were so very warm.
I instinctively recognized it as magic.
In the time I saved one person, Till had saved the whole town.
What a contrarian of a elf.
What amazing magic.
While watching the snow dancing in the air, I only had one thought.
We carried Aunty to bed and took a rest for a moment.
I couldn't carry her alone and show off, so I had Ilya help me.
I'd already checked her breathing before, but I did it once more to make sure.
"Hm... she's alright, isn't she," I murmured, as if to reassure myself.
"I believe she will be alright. That was a wonderful spell, Alice-sama."
Ilya sure acts normally—
Should I think of that as something like artificial respiration?
No, I'm sure it was something along those lines, but still.
What on earth has she...?
"Ilya, earlier... what exactly was that?"
"I am very sorry, Alice-sama."
"No, it's not like I'm angry, how should I say this, I feel like thanks to that I was able to get better?"
Oh Ilya, you're not even my slave yet but you're so polite to me already.
"That is, uhm..."
While avoiding me with her emerald eyes, Ilya hesitated.
I see, so she can't reveal her circumstances just like that, either. Just like me.
"Sorry, forget it. But you really did save me there. Thank you."
From the point she saved me from the bandits, actually.
Actually, Ilya is damn strong!
Isn't she stronger than me?
Well, I won't lose at ranged combat though!
"No, such praise is wasted on me."
"You're so stiff..."
Well, if I do manage to buy Ilya, our time together would increase and we'd could get closer or used to each other, I guess.
"By the way, how did you know where I was?"
"While I was fighting alongside the Firm's combat slaves, I spotted you running through the streets right away, Alice-sama... because you stand out."
Finding it somewhat hard to say, Ilya turned her face away.
...wait a sec.
"... did the bandits coming after me perhaps follow me?"
Ilya awkwardly nodded in affirmative.
The seeds that I sowed...
Nono, looking at it in hindsight, I also didn't have a moment to spare.
Come to think of it and looking at Ilya's arm, there was a cut after all.
Well, usually speaking stopping one slash from a scimitar with your arm wouldn't lead to just a little cut.
Her arm is so resilient I almost wanted to shout out "What exactly is your body made of?"
"Please show it to me."
"Ah, no, such conc-"
"Just do it."
I forcibly took Ilya's arm and laid my hand on the cut.
It wasn't such an exhausting wound.
Thus it closed right away
Actually, bruises are scary because of infections and so.
"Thank you... very much..."
"No, I wish I could do more for you."
To pay her back.
But it was mysterious.
I kept holding Ilya's arm like that and carefully stroked it a bit.
Her skin was so smooth.
It was soft, and you wouldn't call her muscular.
Or rather, her arm was delicate.
"Ah, I'm sorry! Curiosity got the better of me."
I let go of Ilya's arm as she gave me a troubled look.
What's the secret behind her Protection 5?
Something doesn't quite add up.
Is she not human?
From beyond the door, Blackie came in to check up on us.
"The Firm's combat slaves are looking after this house. Relax, they won't lose to some bandits."
My wonderment at why the Firm went so far must've shown on my face and been seen through by him.
Is there a merit for the Firm in protecting this town?
"In return, I'm going to take this one with me. It seems Bertrand is having a tough time on the meadows outside of town."
So Ilya alone is more important than the combat slaves outside?
That weird. Wouldn't that mean the price she's being sold for is too cheap?
Is there... something?
"Are bandits still left?"
"Nahh, you can probably say the bandits have been wiped from the town. The firm and the guys from the militia are making rounds to make sure."
Then what are they having a hard time with?
With the sharp look in his eyes grim as always, Blackie managed to squeeze out one phrase.
"———it's a dragon."
After reaching the large street, we could bodily feel its stature and roar even if we didn't want to.
The dragon was magnificently reigning over the meadows where I'd been attacked by a puppy in the very beginning.
"Tsk, it's already come that close."
As Blackie said, earlier I hadn't felt those roars or the tremors coming along with them.
No, had it even existed in the first place?
Had it suddenly appeared?
But as a reality, right now it was there. That phantasmal life form giving off an overwhelming pressure.
This may be a fantasy world, but I didn't expected meeting one quite this soon.
My experiences so far were plenty unreal already, but this takes the cake.
It's so huge I can't quite believe it exists in this world.
Had dinosaurs still been alive, it might've been different, but the biggest I've seen were the elephants in the zoo.
It's still ways away, but... isn't there something wrong with my sense of perspective?
It has the intensity of a moving house...
"We have to make Aunty and the people in the town evacuate!"
"——thou can leave that to the people who are supposed to deal with that"
I was talked to from the sky.
The one who landed next to me was Till.
Her way of movement is really too peculiar. She keeps surprising me, this girl...
But more importantly!
There was any number of things I wanted to say to her, but her eyes signaled me to shut up.
Uhh... she's only a little child, but somehow I can't oppose her.
"You bitch! Are you an elf!?"
Seeing Till, Blackie got furious.
Which reminds me, Till doesn't try to hide what she is.
Couldn't she easily hide those lovely, pointed ears if she wanted to?
She just has to let down her hair.
Well, the twintails are cute though.
I suppose Till doesn't care much about our circumstances.
At any rate, my ears aren't particularly pointed, I arbitrarily confirmed by touched them.
"Thou are noisy, black one. Can't thou understand now is not the time? Before barking, thou would better help with the evacuation."
With a jerk of her chin, Till called attention to the dragon.
And I completely agreed with her.
"Oy, Alice, right! We're going to talk about this later!"
But I only just met her, too—?
Even if we talk about her, nothing will come of it...
Blackie gathered the nearby people from the Firm and instructed them to help as many people escape as possible.
Actually it would be better for Aunty to rest, but I asked them to help her take refuge, too.
But seeing that dragon, I couldn't stop where I was.
And when we had finished giving some rough orders and it was finally time to do something about the dragon...
"——Oh my, oh my, having a little chat all together? How very relaxed of you."
Suddenly a voice came from the empty air.
"Teleportation magic? Thy ways are vulgar as always..."
"I don't appreciate you deprecating the legacy of the past... I am a researcher of the truth. There is nothing vulgar about it."
A little distance away from where we were gathered, a magic circle formed in mid-air.
It reminded of the magic circle seen at the Ruins in the forest.
Then the air warped——and a woman appeared.
"It's been a long time, hag of ice and snow."
"So thou dare come and show thy face, Libra."
Only Till responded like it was normal; Ilya and I, even Blackie were too taken aback to be able to move.
The woman had dark-brown skin and eyes red like dripping blood.
Her hair was silver, or rather, white.
Only, it was so glossy it didn't look white, and it was long.
That hair was gathered in a loose braid.
"So, just how many souls did thou use?"
Cold surged up from Till's body.
Her obvious anger made me swallow.
"Let's see. Less than I thought I would, I guess? All because of you, hag. That's why the dragon is half-assed, too."
I reflexively looked at the dragon that ominously made the earth rumble.
For the moment, the dragon was rampaging over the meadows outside town and it was probably the people from the Firm who were still fighting it, like Blackie had said.
Frankly I had no idea how to deal with it, and she called it half-assed.
But against something I was planless against... Till would?
"Thou really are a shame. It was one's failure to let thee live!"
"Ahaha, you're wrong, I'm a huge success! Thanks to you, hag, I'm revealing more and more of this world's truth!"
"Thou... what are thou searching? Why did thou come to a remote region such as this?"
"You're asking me? Ahaha, I've been itching to tell you, too! Having people who understand you listen is my greatest pleasure!"
Exposed to Till's cold anger, that abnormal woman continued laughing without concern.
She gave me the shivers.
"Right, right. I observed something! Just nearby, a little while ago there was a 'singularity'."
"A singularity, thou say?"
"Isn't it an old story? People being spirited away, or on the contrary people suddenly appearing? I want to solve that mystery! Don't you think it's negligent for anybody with wisdom to ignore that, hag? You do, don't you!"
Now I trembled.
"For that sake, thou guided those ruffians, gathered souls, summoned the dragon and ransacked this place, is that it?"
I didn't want to think of it.
I didn't want anything to occur to me.
"Hmm, I guess that's how it is? No matter where I go, there are stocks of more than enough souls. I also don't know how to find the singularity yet. So all I can do is repeat trial and error like always, right?"
"——Thou are garbage."
"Oh! Ahaha! I'm not so overconfident to slug it out with you directly, hag. Bye!"
The instant Till raised her hand, the woman called Libra opened a magic circle and jumped in.
"I was happy, I really was, hag! So happy to meet you, you're cute as ever. Now enjoy the dragon to your heart's content! It's made from the town's precious souls! And while it's half-assed, it's a special one summoned where a singularity happened!"
Her figure faded, so Till lowered her hand.
———but there was another person charging.
"YOU BITCH! YOU BIIIIIIITCH!!"
With a loud scream, Blackie jumped at the disappearing woman.
But his attack only futilely cut through air.
Till had already lowered her hand.
Of course it would've ended like this.
His back trembling with anger seemed smaller than usual.
"... one does not approve of thy methods. That is one's absolute truth."
Till's whisper seemed somewhat sad, but she immediately directed her eyes upwards, at the dragon.
"Alright, we're stopping that. Lend me thy help, Alice."
"...of course. We're going to stop it. That is... something that I have to stop."
I was balling my fists so hard the nails cut into my palms.
"...? Oh, well. The black one over there and——the dragon lass. Thou are going to help, too."
Ilya, who for some reason had hidden her presence so far as if to hide from Till, trembled.
Really, just how many circumstances does everyone here have?
Making Solt-san tremble with anger.
Making Ilya scared.
Making Till sad.
Most likely, they all had hidden pain, but we all worked together to stop the dragon.
No matter how we felt inside...
Right outside the town, you couldn't help but notice the dragon.
On the meadows lay corpses, corpses, corpses...
Members of the militia or the firm's combat slaves.
They fought with their lives and met that terrible end.
"Bertrand, fall back. We're somehow going to take care of the rest," Blackie shouted to Bertrand-san who was commanding the combat slaves.
Bertrand-san looked towards us, who had formed an impromptu party.
Only when his eyes fell on Till, they widened for just a moment, but he turned back to Blackie right away as if nothing had happened.
"Solt... Can you defeat it? That thing?"
A winged, four-legged reptile.
Not that I know if it can really be categorized as a reptile.
Anyways, it looks ferocious.
It had one horn and a mouth so wide it seemed it could swallow an elephant whole.
Its muscular body was covered with strong scaled that seemed to let no weapon pass.
The tail growing from its back gave felt like it could smash a house with one swipe.
That huge body was sometimes supported only on two legs and swung claws around that seemed like they could tear through metal.
And to begin with, it was just big.
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the difference in mass was also the difference in power.
There was no way it didn't scare you.
That was a dragon.
"If we don't do something, we're all going to die," Blackie replied easily and drew two daggers.
"You can talk... Miss. You're not going to fight, too, are you, Miss?"
"Bertrand-sama, I may not be up to it, but I have things I want to protect, too."
"Hmm. It may be bad style for an adult to fall back, but mistaking my role would be the height of foolishness. I shall take the combat slaves and help the evacuation."
Did he notice when to pull out because he was a merchant?
Both Bertrand-san and I had questions we wanted to ask the other, but now was not the time.
After the combat slaves completely disengaged from the dragon, Bertrand-san jauntily withdrew to the city.
The combat slaves mainly fought with bows, so their withdrawal was swift.
I had no idea how effective they were against the dragon, but they surely must have annoyed it.
And thus, only we were left in front of it.
I looked at us and the dragon.
When it laid its snake-like eyes on me, I got goosebumps.
Level 1 Ice Dragon
The enemy's Status floated in front of my eyes.
"An Ice Dragon... damn Libra, planning for one."
The deep blue scales were exactly right to call it an Ice Dragon.
But that being said...
"More importantly... Level 1?"
Somehow that makes me feel we can defeat it, am I imagining things?
"In the end, levels are nothing but an indicator how trained you are for your age. It's pointless to pay it too much heed."
What's that all about?
"Here it comes!"
Blackie's voice was strained.
After watching the situation for a while, the dragon finally made its move.
First, an attack with its tail.
It roared and swung around that deadly weapon thicker than a tree.
For the dragon, it might just have been testing the waters, but for us, it wasn't funny.
Getting hit by that mass would turn us into minced meat at once.
...not that I want to imagine that.
I jumped backwards right away.
Till escaped into the sky.
"Take that," Blackie ordered Ilya.
Don't be stupid!!
Ilya obediently stepped forward.
"——With this body, I shall become a shield for all. Ancient Field!"
Ilya's body was wrapped in green light.
"Hoh... so the lass was an ancient dragon."
In front of us, Ilya was hit by the tail that alone was more that just a few times her weight.
It was so overwhelming, I couldn't make a sound.
But the surprising thing happened then.
Ilya——stopped the tail.
The shining, green barrier... -like thing stopped the tail in place.
The wind pressure from the inertia born from suddenly stopping that massive attack almost blew me away.
Although the person who stopped that attack in the first place didn't even take one step back.
"But like this, that lass...," murmured Till, who had landed next to me, while staring at Blackie.
That Blackie on the other hand had taken Ilya stopping the attack for granted and already charged at the dragon.
He made use of the opening the dragon showed as its attack was stopped to slash at its abdomen.
Only a metallic sound rang out and there was no indication he had dealt the dragon any damage.
Blackie, who could be squashed under the dragon, promptly retreated behind Ilya.
I was annoyed.
"Split the heavens and become a ray of light, to strike my enemies! Thunder!"
Then how about magic?
My Thunder directly hit the dragon's huge body.
"GAHHH!" it screamed and writhed in agony.
It worked a bit?
"Hmm, Lightning attribute? So thou have a good affinity to it, Alice."
"Hey, don't just look on and do something, Till! You could easily defeat it, couldn't you?"
"Libra is behind this, she will surely have a countermeasure against one——but fine."
Like going up the stairs, Till took to the skies.
At the same time, her body gave off blue light.
"Third winter sending the world to demise, bring demonic ice to end it all———Fimbul!"
Being able to see that mana, it probably scared me the most of all of us.
Another order of magnitude, meant exactly this.
Earlier, Till had rained snow on the entire town. But it probably simply wasn't an option for Till to turn the whole town into ice.
The magic Till had chanted was fundamentally different from the low-class magic I was using.
Anyone can understand that.
But it wasn't just a difference in the magic, her basic mana was terrific, too.
And that's what I sensed.
That magic of Till's froze the air, brought a storm, became a blizzard of ice swords and assaulted the Ice Dragon.
It even froze exhaled air, an absolute zero not even allowing you to breathe.
If you take that attack, you won't get away for nothing.
I understood why she made me leave Shion-san's party and form one with her.
Get dragged into that, and you'll die.
No doubt about it.
I had overestimated that overwhelming firepower.
Had thought the fight was over.
But the Ice Dragon's body was wrapped in blue light which intercepted——no, absorbed Till's magic?
I even thought it grew even bigger, more ferocious after taking Till's magic.
No, it wasn't just my thinking, it really grew bigger!
"Hmm... special-made, is it," Till displeasedly muttered and landed.
The Ice Dragon, now reminiscent of Godzilla and the like, swung its arm as if to swipe us away like insects.
Ilya took it, but——!
Blood was flowing from Ilya's mouth!
"Dodge it, Ilya! Bearing those attacks is ridiculous!"
"I am very sorry, Alice-sama. I cannot move nimbly as everybody else. This is how I fight."
I see, Ilya's Agility... she's so strong, so I forgot, but that's the unchanging truth.
"Split the heavens and become a ray of light, to strike my enemies! Thunder!!"
My magic, unlike Till's, was not absorbed.
But how much damage I was actually dealing...
Blackie saw it as a chance and slashed at the dragon, but regretfully, his blades were warded off.
"Hm? Watch out!"
The Ice Dragon got on all fours and opened his mouth wide.
Only one thing came to mind.
"Its breath is coming! Step back, dragon lass!"
Standing in front of us, Ilya stared right down the dragon's throat.
"... I shall ward it off!"
"Thou one-sided fool!!"
From next to me, Till jumped to the very front——in front of Ilya.
That's not what magi do!
But even if we were to run, the dragon could just turn its head and catch them with the breath. I couldn't move from behind Ilya.
I unintentionally watched the events unfold.
"Line up with the kings of the underworld, become a inviolable gate and ward off assault——Icicle Garden!!"
Along with the end of Till's incantation, we were surrounded by a barrier of ice.
In the next moment, the Ice Dragon breathed out.
The ice barrier took the breath straight on.
It sounded like the ghastly, thunderous roar when the house you're holing up in is directly hit by a large hurricane.
No, maybe it would be better to say it sounded like a house directly hit by a hurricane and creaking like it was about to be torn to shreds any second?
Either way, its power was unmistakably terrible. Watching behind us, ice bullets repelled by the ice barrier rained down on the town.
It sent a shiver down my spine, but now I could only leave it to Bertrand-san.
Inside the uncomfortable barrier, I finally felt the fury outside pass.
The dragon finished breathing and got back up on two legs.
"...phew, so one could defend against it. Had it passed the barrier, we would have all died."
I felt Till had whispered something terrifying, but let's not mind that.
Ilya passed by her and placed herself at the front again.
Till exasperatedly shook her head.
"We have no idea how long the dragon lass will last. One shall enchant thy weapons to strengthen them, black one, so take that down already."
"——could you strengthen mine, too?" someone called from the side.
"Hey, Alice. Sheesh, why did you leave the party so suddenly? I was a little worried!"
"Ehm, as you can see..."
"I know, let me into the party again."
I invited Shion as told.
"How did you get here?"
"Inside the bandit hideout, there was a magic circle. It teleported us to the top of the hill."
So that's how the bandits got to the town without meeting anyone!
So it really was that Libra woman's doing!
"Hmm... one doesn't know who thou are, but we don't need rabble?"
"You sure talk big with that cute face!"
That's right, Till!
My Onee-chan is the strongest human there is!?
"Oy, cut the chatter. Don't we have work to do?"
"One knows and is already casting."
The arrival of an all too reliable ally made me regain my bearings.
With one less worry, my positive thinking came back.
Ehm... come to think of it, aren't I forgetting someone?
Oh, I guess I'm imagining things.
Fragments of Feelings
"Come, ice fairy, become my blade——Ice Enchant!"
With her left and right hand each, Till enchanted Shion-san's and Blackie's weapons.
...this is Double Cast, isn't it?
She just nonchalantly used Double Cast, didn't she?
"Oy, is it going to be okay with the Ice element?" Blackie asked the plausible thing.
Till just shrugged.
"Worry not, one only enchanted the strength of your weapons, one didn't give them the element. One understands that much. Though actually, if someone could enchant it with Lightning, matters would greatly differ..."
Yes, yes, I'm sorry, alright.
"... If I shoot Thunder at the weapons, it might stick! Sizzle sizzle! Let's try it, Onee-chan!"
"Yeah... let's not."
"Hah, as long as my blades work, I'll do this."
Without showing a shred of interest in me, Blackie headed for the Ice Dragon.
Well, Ilya's doing her best, so that's natural.
Yes, it's natural.
I'm not sulking or anything.
With a wry smile on her lips, Shion-san patted me on the head twice and shifted to attacking, too.
That's how you do it!
This difference in consideration, do you get this, Blackie?
"So, Till. Can I just keep attacking it with Thunder?"
Ilya's took the attacks of the raging Ice Dragon and created a safe area for Blackie and the rest of us.
Shion-san kept up fighting it in close quarters while dodging every single of its attacks.
Both of them had their lives on the line.
Not being able to do anything substantial vexed me and made me impatient.
"Hoh... Huge Boobs over there is good."
"Please don't ever call her that ever again."
"What are thou getting angry over? Oh, well, Alice! Currently, though are only able to cast that one spell?"
Lying wouldn't change anything about it.
And Heal was something else entirely
As I was, I couldn't use any high-class magic, or support magic, like Till could.
I was aware that I was useless.
"Hehe, thou are so cute."
"Nothing. Hey, Alice. Have thou ever learned magic from someone before?"
"No, I haven't."
I raised my level, finally learned my spells, and figured the rest out myself.
"One wouldn't say one won't be your mentor, thou know?"
Come to think of it, before entering the city, she may have said something similar.
Although I find it a little mysterious why she'd set her eyes on me...
But more importantly, people were fighting at the moment!
Impatience welled up inside me.
It wasn't the time to worry long.
"My mentor! Please become my mentor!"
"That is a commitment. Thou need to think well about whose disciple thou become. No matter how much in a hurry thou may be," Till smiled wickedly as she threatened me.
Still, I cannot think calmly in such a state of emergency.
——But I had thought it through.
I knew more than enough about Till's true power.
And moreover, although we hadn't known each other that long, I knew about her temperament, too.
"I would be proud to learn under a gentle person like Till."
"———Thou are embarrassing me," Till whispered and threw something to me.
I caught it in a hurry.
It was a silver bracelet with a mysteriously glowing, expensive-looking golden jewel.
"Thou are so shallow. Put it on."
I did wonder if it was alright, but obediently put it on anyway.
Not knowing if I should put it on the left of the right arm, I put it on the left one for the moment.
After I put it on my arm, it glowed lightly and tightened closely around my arm.
Like it was part of my body.
"...as one thought, thou could equip it."
"Uhm... this isn't the kind that I can't take off, is...?"
It fit so good to my body, I couldn't take it off no matter how much I pulled.
Don't tell me this was some cursed initiation!?
"That is called the Sylv Faeria. Well, it's the proof of being one's disciple. It raises the power of magic... or something like it."
"Eh? Is it alright for me to receive something so precious!?"
I thought in that case Till should use it herself.
But Till only laughed while watching the battle fold out.
"Thou may still not understand. The joy of watching others grow."
"Now, hurry it up. Chant that Thunder thou are so good with."
Till pushed my back and sent me off.
And then I had a sudden thought.
I spontaneously turned around and asked her.
"Till... you haven't fought seriously at all yet, have you?"
If Till seriously gave it her all, she wouldn't lose, would she?
That's what had come to me.
She just laughed at me and had apparently no intention to answer.
By adding Shion-san, the battle situation had turned around
The one-sided battle had reached an equilibrium.
By taking the front position in turn, they gave each other leisure space.
When Ilya was at the front, Shion-san repeated hit-and-run attacks while taking it moderately easily.
On the other hand, when Shion-san was at the front, she drew all attacks on herself and dodged them, lowering the burden on Ilya.
Ilya had been completely exhausted, but she seemed to be recovering to a degree.
I keenly felt the importance of switching out the tank when fighting against strong enemies.
And this time, Blackie's attacks cut open the Ice Dragon's stomach and dealt damage to it.
Blackie wasn't as fast as Shion-san or as hard as Ilya.
But, it seemed his attack power was higher than the two's.
If it was higher than Shion-san's, that meant... Strength 4?
With weapons in both his hands, his style seemed to imply it didn't need any defense. It felt somewhat risky...
Anyhow, the cooperation of the three was outstanding, and compensating for the fact that it was their first combat together, you could feel their overwhelming sense for the flow of battle.
The Ice Dragon on the other hand didn't even have time for another breath attack.
——but the lack of a decisive attack on our end was true as well.
I stroked the bracelet on my left arm.
I should be able to do it.
In this situation, Till wouldn't do anything meaningless.
Saving the town while acting indifferent, worrying about Ilya and taking the the breath head-on, and then——she'd even looked at that woman with sadness in her eyes.
"——Split the heavens and become a ray of light!"
I raised my left hand and started chanting.
The bracelet started glowing.
And then, the light took at clear shape in front of me.
A golden pentagram.
It was floating in front of my left hand that was activating the magic.
"To strike my enemies!"
I myself felt how tremendous the amount of mana was.
It was... being amplified. Or rather, the image of my mana which I hadn't been able to put to use myself was being poured into magic, leaving none behind, was closer.
With this power, that simple dragon was...!
A flash shot out from the pentagon.
From its appearance, it wasn't something you could call it low-class magic anymore.
If the magic I had shot so far had been a gun, this was a cannon.
The consumed amount of mana was enormous.
So far, I hadn't ever exhausted the mana inside my body with one Thunder.
But its impact was that much more tremendous, too———
Pierced by the lightning, the dragon writhed in pain like never before.
Having a living being the size of a house rage in front of you does have that great intensity, but...
But, we still hadn't defeated it?!
"...amazing," Shion-san looked at me with a smile.
Ilya's eyes were wide with surprise.
"But... repeating this..."
I couldn't shoot the next one right away.
Even though I thought that would end it.
Lately, I was fine ignoring the cooldown of a normal Thunder to a degree, but...
Not this one.
Would ten seconds cooldown be enough?
——But that thought really was too naive.
Like he had judged me to be the greatest threat, the Ice Dragon planted all fours on the ground and turned to me.
"Like I'll let you!"
Shion-san slashed at him, but the Ice Dragon didn't falter from the wounds.
Its big frame settled securely on the ground, it was unperturbed.
Blackie tried to cut down the dragon with the daggers in his hands, but even with furrows in its belly, the Ice Dragon didn't fall.
Does it let us cut its meat to break our back?
Seeing how it understood where the battle would be decided made me amazed at its instinct of the wild.
——Heyhey, do you want to kill me that much?
Will be you satisfied if you kill me?
Honestly, I——wonder how I feel about that
I'm scared to die.
I don't like pain.
Am I returning to nothing after I die?
I'm even scared to imagine it.
Although even that fear might be pointless because you might not understand anything after you die.
But right now, being scared is natural, that's a given.
——But, it might be unexpectedly easy, too.
"...I have no idea, do I."
The Ice Dragon opened its maw.
The breath was coming.
My own preparations?
I get the feeling I won't make it by just a little bit.
This dragon had killed members of the militia and combat slaves.
But in the end, it might just have reacted to danger, too.
Suddenly, my hatred for the dragon lessened.
Then who should I hate instead?
Or, after all...
———coming to this world half in fun, myself?
It's true that I hadn't ever imagined it would come to this.
A lot of townspeople must have died.
People bled to death, people burned to death, people crushed to death; I remembered those scenes.
I turned indifferent to it all.
And in front of my eyes, my judgement was finally prepared.
I thought my eyes met the dragon's.
I thought I'd died.
I inadvertently closed my eyes.
Inside the darkness.
I thoght "Oh?"
It took awfully long, so I opened my eyes.
In front me me, Ilya was stopping the breath.
Unlike Till's barrier earlier she was literally——shielding me with her body.
The blades of ice and the brutal cannon balls coming with the force of a blizzard.
She was stopping them with her body alone.
In that storm of destructive ice and snow, Ilya squeezed out words for me
While under attacks too overwhelming for her delicate body.
Once more, clearly.
"You tried to die——didn't!?"
I had nothing to answer to that frail voice.
Showing me her profile, Ilya glared at me while blood was trickling from her mouth.
"I won't allow you!! Because even I!!"
The courteous, mild-mannered Ilya was nowhere to be seen.
There was only a girl shouting the desire from the bottom of her heart.
"Because even I————want to live!!"
The dragon girl had said.
——I want to live.
Could there be another desire that pure?
Once more, I tried reaching my guilty conscience.
I tried to remember.
For a moment, I tried to think calmly.
"...haha, what's this."
I put my feelings of guilt on a scales.
"I also wanted to live..."
The moment I said it out loud, tears welled up.
"——Split the heavens and become a ray of light, to strike..."
Really, I don't hate the Ice Dragon.
If anything, it might be a victim, too.
Have you been born just now?
Did you want to live more?
Ahh, come to think of it, this is the place where I first took a life.
I recalled the memories from that time.
I also recalled my pledge from that time.
Yeah, I really am bad with that.
But still, I'm sorry. I also.
"My enemies! THUNDER!!"
The flash pierced the breath and enveloped the Ice Dragon.
And left a thundering roar on the beautiful meadows.
Three days had passed since the fight with the Ice Dragon.
To begin with the conclusion, the townspeople thanked me.
Because we repelled such a clear danger.
Apparently the militia had been wiped out.
The bandits who had remained at the hideout had been routed by Shion-san.
There seemed to have been a number of magi and there had been victims among the assault group, too.
Among them, the guild members attacking from a certain direction had been wiped out.
According to one member who had been nearby and luckily escaped, it had all been done by one dark-skinned woman...
Both that woman and the bandit group are gone now.
And while there had been damage to the town, it was along the way to regaining its peace.
I had gone around and checked if I couldn't help people.
It had been difficult, people being surprised by Heal and thanking me for it.
After all I may have been a reason for this whole mess. I really felt like running away.
But apparently only the priest in the single church and I can use Heal in this town.
...no, I'm certain Till can use it too, but asking that much of her would go too far.
Ostensibly, Till said she didn't want to get involved with humans.
Speaking of good news, Eleanor-san and her impertinent little brother Kal, as well as their family, were alright.
They cried when we met again inside the town. It was a bit overwhelming.
Anyhow, the more I was thanked, the more could I feel my smile cramp.
The three days passed in that fashion.
And in the third night, I was sitting on the bed, grasping my knees.
When depressed, why does that posture already make it a little better?
"Hey, I get why you're down, but really want to know: Why are you occupying my bed?"
Right, I was being depressed in my sister's room.
While sitting at her desk and writing a report for the guild, she had gotten tired of my ceaseless sighing and broached the topic.
"Don't mind those small things..."
"I really don't get whether you're depressed or not."
To begin with, does this time's incident have a causal relationship with me?
There's no information allowing a clear decision and I only have guesses.
But speaking from those guesses alone, you could say there is a causal relationship.
But it's also an endless like the question of the hen and the egg. It feels wrong for me to be depressed over it.
"Uncle and Aunty are?"
"I think Pops is still out, helping restore the town. But the fires went out pretty much right away and not many buildings were destroyed by magic, so I think they'll be done in no time."
With his hurt leg, Uncle hadn't participated in fighting the Ice Dragon and had gone help with the town's evacuation right away.
In the battle with the Ice Dragon, apparently there had been no human casualties from its deflected breath.
That's something to be grateful for.
"Mom was sewing something, I think. I did tell her to take it slowly, though."
"Is, that so."
Over the last three days, Aunty has recovered enough to live as usual.
Even if you close wounds with magic, it seems it takes time to recover the lost stamina.
But then, from the level of modern medicine in my former world, it was a miracle.
"——you know, thanks, Alice."
"But if I say so, you'll just feel down, won't you," Shion-san laughed and teased me.
"...how long are you going to keep doing paperwork? Aren't you going to sleep?"
"Ohoh, is this princess displeased? Wait, you're planning to sleep in my bed?"
"Right now, I desire human warmth."
It definitely wasn't anything to feel guilty over.
"Hehe, alright. Let's sleep."
"Wai-, so daring!"
"Why are you getting shy all of a sudden? You're so complicated..."
If I told her I said it just because, I think she'd hit me...
"Understood. Come at me!"
"Alice, are you really feeling down?"
Shion-san gave me a playful punch as she came to my side and we fell on the bed together.
Lying face-up, we watched the ceiling.
"... Onee-chan, you smell so good."
"Do I? I think you smell better though."
... that means my body and soul slowly diverge more and more, huh.
"Onee-chan, do you have someone you like?"
"Hehe, you're the age where you're interesting in love? You're such a maiden, Alice, having nightly talks about love."
"Somehow that take really annoys me..."
But Shion-san's pretty, and refreshing, and she has a good personality, and her breasts are big.
Her figure is nice, and she can fight, and she's gentle.
Just how amazing is she!?
"I've never really thought about it so far, I guess."
I'm sure if they heard this, a good portion of the men in town would cry.
"But lately, there's this person who I just can't get out of my mind."
"That little sister that makes so much work for you, you mean."
Even I can guess that much, yes, yes.
Ah, but with Shion-san around, I really calm down.
My frayed heart is also being somewhat healed by her.
At the same time, reluctance to part wells up.
The people in this house are family to me.
Shion-san is precious to me.
Once more, I realized that.
"Onee-chan, tomorrow... I'm leaving for the capital."
"... I see."
"You're not surprised."
"That's not quite true. But I somehow had that hunch."
"... I see."
I'd wanted to travel the world in the first place.
But right now, more than traveling, I want to move to a safer town than this, to a better protected town than this.
I no longer think it's fine for me to die, I can't.
But to stop disastrous incidents from happening as much as possible, I think it's better to move to a more secure town.
In the royal capital with its knight order, it should at least be more secure than here.
"Do you have a plan?"
"Yes, Till's going to look after me."
To begin with, since I became Till's disciple, we have to be together for training me.
"That elf missy, huh."
"She's an awfully good girl."
Good girl. I have no idea if that expression is fitting, but what should I do, it just fits her appearance too well.
"I see... it's going to get lonely."
My chest tightened.
"D――," I start, but then I swallow.
"I've really... been in your care, so I'll at least leave some money."
"I don't need it. By the way, how much do you have anyway?"
"Till lent me some money, as an advance for the necessities."
"Hee, so that girl has money?"
"Yes, she gave me a platinum coin."
As one would expect, that made Shion-san jump up in surprise.
Platinum coins were the highest coinage in this world and were worth a hundred times as much as gold coins.
Well, in other words they were worth just that, a hundred gold coins.
"I've already used forty gold coins though, on something personal."
"Just how wild is your spending..."
"I put a bag with fifty of the remaining coins in a drawer in your desk, Onee-chan."
"Heh, you're such a stupid. But I'll take it."
"I thought you'd say so. That's my Onee-chan!"
She really considered my mentality.
"I'm going to use it for getting the town back on track."
"Yes, I'll be happy if you use it for what you like."
I felt I had more or less said what I wanted to, so I rolled over to hide myself from Shion-san.
Behind my back, I felt Shion-san also lie down on the bed once more.
With nothing better to do, I touched the bracelet around my left arm.
I was uneasy about going to an unknown place, but the anticipation I had felt in the beginning was there, too.
My traveling companions could be trusted.
Currently, for her stay she had taken a room in an inn in this town.
Among the names I've heard in this world, hers is the first with a last name.
Is she a noble in elven society?
Or do elves have different customs altogether?
Unknown lands, unknown customs.
I can interest myself for everything in this world.
In truth, the world before my rebirth also had many unknown things left, so I'm very self-centered.
But I finally feIt fired up about something.
Although I hadn't just experienced good things, but a fair share of bad things, too, in such a short time.
Strangely, I don't feel the wish to return to my former world.
Just, in my former world I probably disappeared like I'd gone missing without in trace.
Like this, to my family over here, I can properly say goodbye before going on my trip.
Thinking about that, I at least want to tell my family in my former world that I'm doing fine.
And 'I'm going.'
At least that much.
While immersion myself in my thoughts before falling asleep, I was called to from behind.
The tone was unusually serious, but also gentle.
"Are you awake?"
"Turn this way for a second."
Even though I had in fact rolled over because sleeping while facing Shion-san's way isn't too good for my mental health.
If she wanted me to, there was nothing I could do.
I heavily rolled over and turned the other way――in other words, Shion-san's way.
For an instant I was hugged――and kissed.
"...on the forehead?"
On the forehead.
"Hmm? Did you want it on the lips?"
Seeing Shion-san's teasing smile up close, heat shot into my cheeks.
"S-surprise attacks are... bad for my heart..."
And what's with you anyway!?
Are you some handsome guy!?
I also want to do that!!
"Alice... no matter how far apart we are, you'll always be important to me."
"Yes... I also love you, Onee-chan."
"Hehe, that makes me happy."
Overcome with sudden emotion, I hugged Shion-san.
Shion-san gently stroked my hair, like she was comforting a child.
... if this feels the best in the world to me, can I still go back?
Mentally, I mean.
"... Onee-chan, you're unfair."
"You're too cool."
Like some time ago, she bumped her forehead against mine.
"Are you ready to leave?" Till on the coachman's seat asked my while yawning.
In the early morning, not many people were in front of the town gates. Only some farmers passed by.
Till had bought this carriage from the guild.
She really had money, this girl.
"Yes," I nodded, and Till pulled the bridles to give the sign to advance.
Till really can skillfully do anything, I was impressed.
I'd said my goodbyes to Uncle and Aunty.
I'd thought they'd scold me for suddenly breaking that to them so early in the morning, but I'd been wrong.
Apparently Aunty had somehow found out I'd go on a trip, so she'd even gotten me a coat, a change of clothes and a new Leather Robe.
She still wasn't in normal condition, but she'd already sewn those for me. Her powers of observation were amazing.
There's a limit to how much you should surprise people
I cried a little.
Uncle... he on the other hand cried rivers.
His snot ran, too.
It was a bit disgusting.
Seeing a man of such a good age cry himself to pieces does have something taxing...
But I really am grateful to him.
He's the very first person who taught me the ropes for living in this world.
I told them they didn't have to see me off. Otherwise I'd never be able to leave.
If they had in fact seen me off, my tears might not have stopped.
The girl next to me on the carriage's load tray as I watched the town grow smaller called out to me.
I turned around to her and found myself reflected in her clear, emerald eyes.
Her fluffy, fluttering blond hair was radiant in the morning sun.
"In place of your sister, I shall protect you, Alice-sama."
"Yep... because you're strong, Ilya, I have high hopes for you."
This was the extravagance I allowed myself in this town.
No, because I bought what I wanted for a price I acknowledged, you might not call it extravagant?
"Yes, this body is Alice-sama's shield. I shall flawlessly protect Milady from all trials and tribulations."
In fact, this girl is still full of things I don't know about her.
Not that I doubt her, but her loyalty to me is a mystery.
I looked into her eyes that had taken a somewhat gloomy expression."
"Make sure to protect yourself, too, okay? Ehm... that's an order."
She had expressed that pure desire to live to me, so I think I might not have needed to say it though.
Ilya had set on to say something but swallowed her words and instead gave that stiff reply.
Behind us, on the coachman's seat, Till let out a big yawn.
Ahh, all things considered, this is a nice weather.
I lay down on the load tray. The sky above was endlessly blue.