It was such a repulsive sight that I felt nauseated. In order to help me bear the nausea, I held on to Claudia’s sleeve as she crouched next to me.
As if she was a lithe predator, Claudia had a low body posture that seemed like she was ready to pounce at any instant. Her sky blue eyes were glittering in the darkness.
……Claudia’s essence was that of a knight. She’s never personally talked with me about what exactly she does on the battlefield, but I know that she’s never strayed from her morals. Because of her chivalric code, she’s never killed any children whether they’re enemies or not, and unless I order an ambush specifically, she’ll only attack directly from the front as an honorable knight would do.
Although Claudia has her knight’s chivalry, I’m going to give her the order that this girl absolutely can’t be forgiven.
However, the only person with me currently is Claudia, and it’ll be troublesome for me if she rushes in recklessly without a plan. The enemy girl seemed quite vigilant, and she always moved with a minimum of three children around her. And since we don’t know the conditions for her to use that explosion magic, we can’t rush in due to the risk factor.
“……Can you bring Vanita here to me under the cover of darkness?”
In a low whisper, I gave a command to Claudia. I felt like we should act as quickly as possible. The children had pulled back close to the immediate vicinity of the mountain of rubble we were hiding in. I think that if we act now, that girl might not notice if we bring Vanita back to where we’re hiding.
Claudia didn’t make a single sound in the dim tunnel, as she used dexterous movements to ambush and drag one of the taller children back to where I was.
Claudia had gagged him in order for him to not shout out, and I whispered to the frightened Vanita that it was me, for him to calm down. Vanita relaxed his body after finding out that it was me. And when Claudia released her hand from his mouth, Vanita inquired “why are you here?” in a low voice.
“We came chasing after you guys.”
“There’s only two of you, how unreasonable…… Please, you should return while you still can. I want to help you guys…… But I don’t want to die here, in a place like this……”
At Vanita’s entreaty, Claudia and I looked at each other. He says he wants to help us, but he’s also saying for us to return while we still can.
“……That girl, Mefuri, I don’t know how, but she has the magic ability to explode us. Those explosions are powerful enough to blow up anything in close proximity. We still don’t want to die…… Please, I’m begging you, don’t fight Mefuri……”
“…………Eliza-dono, Vanita has bits and pieces of human flesh and blood stuck to his body.”
I was momentarily at a loss for words.
He’s begging me to not fight this girl named Mefuri, and in addition to that, Vanita was covered thickly in blood, and had the smell of burnt human flesh on his body, that probably came from the exploded girl. While the stench was disgusting and difficult to breathe through – my head actually got cooler and colder. It’s as if cold water was being poured through my brain and started freezing over, that’s how much it hurt.
……The scene that rushed with great momentum into my mind was my defensive battle at Ritox Plateau during the war with Rindarl, which happened less than a year ago. In order to prevent the enemies from invading through that chokepoint, I burned people alive, and threw child soldiers into the burning pit of impaled enemy prisoners.
My voice sounded ruthless and icy. Even though I was listening to my own voice, it felt so distant from me.
Rashiok who was breathing quietly and hiding himself in absolute darkness, obediently poked his face out towards me. Vanita was just about to scream at the sight so I gagged his mouth again with my hand this time, as I rubbed my face against Rashiok’s nose. It was a cold and damp feeling, it strangely matched my brain that felt like it was freezing over in cold rage.
“Can your wind magic handle the impact from that explosion?”
I asked intending to find out if he could protect us from the blast, but Rashiok responded with a low growl. It seems that it would be impossible.
After the loss of one of his wings, Rashiok was no longer able to fly in the air, and his wind magic was greatly weakened. His wind magic is only at the level of a slight breeze these days.
“Then, can your scales withstand the force of that explosion?”
Rashiok answered negatively again. Well, since that explosion could blow apart stone walls, this was to be expected.
“……Then, the last question. Is it possible for you to peel off those three children around her, faster than our prey can realize?”
Woof, he barked softly and affirmatively. Certainly. Good child, I told Rashiok as I stroked his head.
“What are you planning……?”
Witnessing my exchange with Rashiok, Vanita seemed dubious. His single leg made a slight sound as he adjusted his body. Behind him was Claudia, and as I expected, she had soundlessly unsheathed her sword.
“I’ve decided. I’m going to capture the escaped prisoners…… that’s my goal.”
“That’s impossible, stop it! We’ll all die…… Unn!?”
Vanita protested in a small voice and tried to grab me, but he was instantly knocked unconscious by Claudia.
“Have a rest here. Perhaps, this might even save you. -I’m sorry, but I have no time to spare. And if you have to die, it might as well be here.”
Just as I finished talking to the unconscious Vanita, a heavy sound came from above and small sandy fragments fell from the ceiling.
……That was the sound of horses. What’s more, it was several dozen, or even several hundred horses.
-If I calmly analyze this situation, if there’s such a movement within the fortress at this time, it could only mean that something must be happening on the battlefield. Causing unpredictable confusion to us would be advantageous for the enemy’s attack. Our scouts had already reported to us that their troops had moved out.
Going at a fast speed by horse, it’s half a day’s distance to the most frontline position from Fort Jugfena. Our royal army that barely just returned to the fort must be moving out again. This could only mean that – war had fully broken out again, after a lull of eight months.