|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3427 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1589 words|
Bandit and I successfully snuck into the Haunted Lands together with our parties. After the fight in Strom, we realized just how much stronger the demons are compared to us, and we knew he had to get better. The war would never end if all we did was drive the enemy away when they entered our land. We would have to reach the enemy’s stronghold one day, and take the Demon King’s head from there. We decided to explore the Haunted Lands a bit as a first experience, but it was a far harsher place than we expected.
There were far fewer cities and towns. We had not expected much, but it was still shocking how little populated it was. There were incredibly few people compared to human countries, which also meant there was a weaker economy. On the other hand, there was an overwhelming presence of monsters. Monsters essentially obeyed demons, so that did not bother them…but it was troublesome for us. Even though we had come here to train, it was annoying that we could not even rest for an entire hour without being attacked. It was so constant that we could not even sleep at first. But thanks to that we improved quickly, and now we were able to rest well.
We could obtain materials worth high prices in the guild, but there were no merchants or craftsmen who wanted them here, making them essentially worthless. We were not planning on settling here either, and we had no use for them ourselves. So instead of increasing the load of our baggage, we just discarded it all.
Not to mention that even if we found merchants or craftsmen, we had no intention of interacting with demons, so we did not even think about it.
The reports of multiple Demon Kings governing the Haunted Lands seemed to be true, as we found various barriers dividing their territories. Sometimes while we visited one of the few cities, groups of armed demons with monsters that followed them would look at us with a glint in their eyes, excited to spot intruders.
Maybe I just stood out too much with my golden scales, but we were attacked no less than three times, by the end of which I was almost certain I would not make it out alive. Even the lowest ranks of demon soldiers possessed incredible strength, so being careless around them meant almost instant death. I felt like it was a miracle we survived this long without a single casualty. But that also gave us plenty of experience.
Many months passed like that, and eventually we became strong enough that we could easily defeat the demons that gave us so much trouble in the start.
“…Phew, that’s the last one of them.”
“Nice work. I think this is a good spot to take a break from training.”
I end the life of the monster attacking us, known as a Chimera, which had the body of a lion, a goat’s head, and a snake head for a tail. As I took a breath after that, Bandit spoke to me. It felt a bit narcissistic thinking of it, but after all these fights, I felt like we had gotten far stronger than when we started. I had gotten far more skilled with the spear and sword, my hits carried far more power, I could run much faster, and more than anything, I felt like I could remain calm and collected much more easily. The magic of Barius’ hero’s party, led by Bandit, had also gotten better, and could heal serious wounds almost instantly. We had gotten this far without any offensive magic, just with healing magic and potions, so maybe we had gotten exceedingly lucky as well.
I took my spear out from the Chimera’s body, shaking the blood on the tip off. This was a different spear from my initial one, I had looted this one from a demon we defeated. The wear on our weapons had gotten awful in just a short time, so our current equipment had been sourced from all over the place and looked mismatched. I rested the spear on my shoulder and turned to look at Bandit.
“Leaving our countries unattended for too long isn’t ideal either. We don’t really know what is happening over there since the incident in Strom. Let’s return through the route we agreed on.”
“At least I hope we have chipped away at the demons’ strength after fighting here all this time.”
“Yeah, but we can’t stay here forever.”
Our countries were a long distance away from the Haunted Lands. It could easily take upwards of two months to get there by foot. If we headed back now, our trip would be around six months long by the time we got back.
“Bordaule is the closest, so let’s head there first. I’m sure it’ll be faster if we get on a carriage there.”
Everyone nodded, hearing Bandit’s suggestion. Bordaule was also the country where Lapis lived. I was curious to see how my newly obtained strength compared to hers, but maybe it was best to just go greet her this time around. Such were my thoughts as we headed out of the Haunted Lands.
It took us some time, but we successfully left the dangerous Haunted Lands and entered Bordaule. There we learned some shocking news. There had been an insurrection, followed by a civil war, which had claimed many lives, and there were still people unaccounted for. We heard that on the first floor of an inn near the Haunted Lands, so I quickly approached a nearby drunkard to ask him some questions.
“Is that story true? Just what happened to cause that?”
I pressed him to talk, his face turning pale for a different reason than the alcohol he ingested, and he quickly updated me on what happened.
“So the older brother Stied, and the younger prince Magna…I guess he’s king now… Anyway, there was some conflict between the two. Magna won in the end, but apparently a lot of people died in the capital and around there.”
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None of us had expected that would happen during our absence. An insurrection… And they suspected that Leble had been behind Stied’s actions. I never liked their emperor, but I had not expected he would go this far.
“I think it’s best if we hurry back home then. I’d really like to check up on Lapis, but I’d hate to know something was happening in our countries too.”
“Yes, you’re right Bandit. There’s a chance some conflict is brewing in our countries too. We should hurry home.”
The next day we got horses and took the east highway, heading to our home countries. Some time later Bandit’s party took a turn to head to their country, and after promising to meet each other again, I headed to Versis. At first we took various breaks, before speeding as fast as we could, which resulted in our horses breaking down.
“Annero?! I’m glad to see you safe, sir!”
A guard ran out from the garrison near the palace’s gates, his eyes round at seeing us. There had been no news about us since we left to help Strom, so it made sense. We had returned unannounced after being away for nearly a year, so anyone would be surprised.
“I heard what happened in Bordaule. Could I see His Majesty as soon as possible?”
“Of course, please wait a moment.”
I was led to a waiting room, and after a short time I was taken to the audience hall. I felt bad taking the king’s valuable time like this, but I had to make sure I stopped any attempts of the enemy trying to infiltrate my country.
The king was sitting at the other end of the audience hall, and he looked a bit more aged than before. His red scales that once shone like crimson fire looked dull, and his body seemed to have less vigor than before. I really wanted to know what had happened, but I could not ask that here in the audience room where everyone was watching.
“It’s been a while, Annero. I’m glad you’re safe.”
“I’m sorry for not saying anything in so long, Your Majesty. Please excuse my rudeness for not contacting you sooner.”
He smiled awkwardly hearing my question, before answering.
“It’s fine. Your mind never had any space for anything outside your training. I wasn’t expecting that to change. But more importantly, what’s the occasion today? You didn’t come all this way just to see my face, did you?”
“About that…are you aware of the insurrection that happened in Bordaule?”
“Of course. When such a large country is in crisis, it’s always hard to tell how that will affect smaller countries like ours. I’m aware of all details of the conflict, and how they’re recovering.”
“Are you also aware of Leble’s supposed influence behind the scenes as well then?”
I could tell the mood in the audience hall changed the moment I asked that. The ministers and officials all averted their eyes, and the king stopped smiling, frowning instead.
“…I’m sure this might be news to you, as you were away for so long, but Leble actually requested our aid. They said they wanted our cooperation to defeat Bordaule, since they’re colluding with the old hero Brave, who now goes under the name Lapis, and are using the demons to take over the world…allegedly.”