|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mab||English Source: Re:Library|
The adventurers had assumed their task was solely reconnaissance and certainly hadn’t anticipated an ambush before noon. Caught completely off guard and without time to react, they were swiftly cut down by the lethal blades of the undead. Bruno’s escape was nothing short of miraculous, his life spared by sheer dumb luck alone.
Frantic and disoriented from his reckless sprint, sweat blurred Bruno’s vision. He tried to wipe it away but failed to notice the roots that would trip him, and he tumbled to the ground.
“I… I can’t run anymore…”
Gasping for air, Bruno wept. He must have run far enough; the danger had to be gone by now. He looked back, and to his horror, a sword-wielding skeleton was breaking through the grass, slowly advancing toward him.
Bruno’s instincts told him the undead’s eyes were fixed on him. He tried to flee, but another dark shadow blocked his way. Looking up through tear-clouded eyes, he locked gazes with the empty socket of a skull staring down at him.
A cry of despair left Bruno’s lips, and almost immediately, the skeleton behind him drove its sword vertically down into the boy’s heart.
I held out my favorite magic staff and bathed the skeletons in purifying light. They crumbled on the spot, turning to ashes.
“Vier, please keep an eye on Eren and Lana! Stay right there!”
“Y-, yes, Lady Jill.”
“Good luck, Lady Jill.”
We had ridden Vier’s back to reach this place—the familiar Tenebrae Nemus—but by the time we arrived, the tragedy had already unfolded.
A group of about 10 adventurers had been overwhelmed by some 15 skeletons, each bearing different weapons and armor. They had been caught by surprise, and I saw no signs of survivors. I couldn’t find Bruno either, leading me to question whether he had escaped, never joined the reconnaissance to begin with, or something worse…
These grim thoughts weighed on me as I continued my work, reducing the deceased to dust. Fortunately, the sun was still up, and the skeletons were moving slower than I expected. Their mediocre skills carried over from their previous lives were also a factor. They moved in erratic straight lines, attacking haphazardly—even striking their fellow skeletons without care. It was unsettling, but I managed to purify all the skeletons in the area without too much trouble.
“That’s our Lady Jill for you!”
Eren and Lana both applauded and praised me from behind Vier, though Lana seemed to be simply copying Eren’s gestures.
“I believe that’s everything. We must remain on guard, though. I’ll go and check for any survivors. Please watch my back.”
With caution, I began examining the bloodied bodies of the adventurers, only to find they were all dead.
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“It’s hopeless…” I sighed, offering a silent prayer for their souls.
“Umm… Bruno’s body isn’t here, right?”
Eren’s voice, thick with suppressed anxiety, reached my ears. I turned and offered a forced smile.
“It’s okay, I can’t find him here. Perhaps he never came here, or maybe he managed to run away.”
“…or he’s dying in some ditch somewhere, right?”
Eren’s eyes seemed to lose their light as she continued.
“I know. He’s such a hopeless fool. One day, his idiocy will be the death of him…I always knew that. But…to die before even becoming an adult like this, how big of an idiot can he be?”
A weighty silence settled over us. Vier and Lana hung their heads, sensing the mood.
“Really, he’s an idiot until the end, that Bruno.”
Eren’s words trailed off, carried by the wind across the meadow, closing the chapter on their relationship…
“—Excuse me for being an idiot,” a grunt sounded in response.
Suddenly, Bruno emerged from the tall underbrush, his face marred by fresh wounds, with a skeletal face behind him.
“Wha—?! 「Holy Light!」” I immediately attacked with my best purification light, but,
“Hou. You’ve become much stronger. Splendid, splendid. I am pleased to see you’ve been diligent in your studies.”
The massive halberd in his hand effortlessly deflected my purification light. That irritating, arrogant tone—I recognized it instantly.
“Indeed. It is I, Bartholomew, the palace knight of the great Crimson Empire, whose mighty name echoes through heaven and earth. It has been a while, Miss Jill. I am pleased to see you are well! Oh…if it isn’t Miss Eren and Miss Vier! I’m glad you two remain unchanged! That young lady there, we have not met. I am Bartholomew! The palace knight of—”
“Aah, um, Bartholomew?”
“…what could it be, Miss Jill?”
Bartholomew sounded slightly indignant, likely because I had interrupted him.
“You know the skeletons from this area?”
“Oh, them. One of them pursued my disciple here, so I dispatched it.”
Bartholomew nodded with self-satisfaction, but Bruno trembled next to him, his fear evident.
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“Were they acquaintances of yours?”
“Nay. Those that defy death are an eyesore.”1
“What the hell is he talking about?” was a question that lingered in all our minds. Commenting on it aloud seemed as though it would invite serious trouble, so I opted to keep my thoughts to myself.
“However, based on their equipment, I can’t say I’m unfamiliar with them.”
The giant armored Death Knight, standing over two mertes tall, pondered with his fingers on his chin.
“About six months ago, some bandits wanted to make the witch’s hut their stronghold. I lightly drove them away, but they fell to their own demise without me doing much of anything.”
His words were coarse, but his confession was clear: he’d killed them all.
“Rascals they may be, I couldn’t abandon them. I took them into the forest and mourned for them, but it seems the magic of Tenebrae Nemus turned them into undead. Such is the karmic fate of the wretched.”
…Really? You don’t think it’s your ominous presence that did it? Such a question also floated in my mind, but once again, I kept it to myself. Mainly because it seemed meaningless to ask.
“…I understand the general situation. We must inform the Adventurers Guild and arrange for someone to transport the bodies. Eren, could you go to the village and find help?”
“Understood. I’ll tell my dad, and enlist some help!” Eren quickly responded, then turned around with a soulless look on her face and struck Bruno, who had been standing idly. “What are you doing, Bruno?! I can’t explain anything if the witness isn’t with me. Stop dawdling around and come with me!”
“O-, oh, you, you’re right. Got it.” Bruno quickly regained his senses and followed Eren.
“Alright then. Bartholomew, could you watch this place while Lana and I ride Vier back to Consul? The smell of blood may attract demon beasts.”
“Umu, leave it to me.”
Bartholomew nodded, resting his halberd on his shoulder.
“We’ll be right back!”
Riding the rising Vier, I waved goodbye to Bartholomew, returning to Consul with a sigh in my heart. It was going to be trouble once I returned here; Bartholomew would undoubtedly want to haunt me again.