Chapter 66- Before the Battle
TN: Sorry for this lull of no chapters but I work full time now and got settled with that. Mainly tling on weekends now.
「Thanks for waiting.」
We waited for the report in one of the rooms in the reception hall, and the Knights returned.
However, for some reason, Mercedia and Chester had returned with even more people than before. A female knight with almond eyes and a male priest with a distinct mustache were accompanying them.
「This is my first time talking to you. I am the Knight Captain, Mildred Culver.」
「I am the interrogator, Derek Bodger.」
「It is a pleasure. I am Theodore Gartner.」
Mildred was the Knight Captain, and Derek, who had a kaiser mustache, was the interrogator, huh?
「First, here is an explanation of the contents of the interrogation.」
It appeared that Derek had been in charge of Fernand’s and Jasper’s Magic Interrogation.
To summarize their story, two Adventurers had accompanied them into the Twilight Forest. They had stayed at a cheap hotel near the port in the Western District.
「According to them, they had not known Jasper for long, but they hit it off well with each other at a bar. They do not appear to be close, though. It seems that they had ideas similar to Jasper’s about… earning money from searching for the Knights. That was how they became more acquainted with one another.」
After separating from his former companions, Jasper probably relied on those guys, since their thoughts were similar.
「His accomplices… are another matter.」
「Those guys were thugs from the Western District who had known Jasper for a long time, and they don’t seem to be Adventurers.」
Derek answered while stroking his kaiser mustache.
「Fernand, who also came from the Western District, learned of Jasper because he is a man who is willing to do anything for money.」
I see. I guess it was easy for them to get acquainted, since they were so similar.
This had led to them being employed by Fernand, and Greg had taken advantage of this to make use of them.
「Well, this was the information we were able to obtain from those guys. What I am more interested in, is the reason you are paying so much attention to such trivial fellow, if you don’t mind me asking.」
Jasper didn’t trust them enough to involve himself with the captured group, but I couldn’t tell how much they knew about it. The interrogators would probably be able to find out whether they had been tricked, or if they had cooperated willingly.
That was pretty much what I could think of. That being said, it was possible that the soldiers might head out to look for those two tomorrow.
However… that must not happen.
「Put simply, I suspect that those two are Demons.」
Everyone in the room was surprised.
「Do you have a reason for that??」
「I can’t say for sure, but it is a little worrisome. This is after the Demon investigation into the Moonlight Shrine’s seal, and Fernand said that the Adventurers were burned when they touched the door… so I connected the dots.」
Even if they weren’t a Demon, if someone’s spy failed, they would send another one.
「Come to think of it… that’s right. Although I’ve also touched that door, I was not burned.」
Mercedia agreed, sounding impressed.
「It is possible that the Door changed, but going to the Twilight Forest to check on it isn’t the best idea, right? Besides, Jasper and Fernand have been caught, and if those two realize this, they will probably run away.」
「However… if those guys are Demons, it would be dangerous to bring them in for questioning since they could be strong, right?」
Chester let out a groan.
Correct. This would be the same case as Demon Lynette. In the worst possible case, there would be two of them.
「What should we do?」
Mercedia asked Chester.
Although she asked for a plan, if the Demons were open for discussions, we could possibly reach a resolution.
The answer could be narrowed down once we knew how those guys felt about humans.
「Isn’t it better to form an elite group that can oppose the demons and have them step in once we close off the surroundings to minimise casualties? In any case, since Fernand cooperated with them, further investigation is required.」
I hate beating around the bush. If they were just hired Adventures who didn’t know anything… then it would be fine to doubt them and then apologize afterwards. In the first place, that conversation would make anyone feel suspicious, and as long as it was investigated, it was difficult to be falsely charged. Besides, a thorough investigation of the client and the selection of companions was part of an Adventurer’s job.
「This is still… a rough outline.」
Although the Knights gave sardonic smiles, they did not object, and Mildred happily chuckled.
「It would be an opportunity for the Flying Dragons unit, if our opponents turn out to be demons… but there is a problem.」
Chester had a sour expression.
「Since Greg’s faction received an investigation, the morale of the Flying Dragons unit is at its lowest point, right?」
It was pretty expensive to maintain each generation of the Flying Dragons. Greg had probably gained power by respecting the nobles, rather than doing his duty as a Knight. Now that Greg, who had been leaching off of the Flying Dragon unit, had been arrested, he had left them in a deficit, throwing the unit into chaos. The Flying Dragons probably couldn’t block off traffic or help with an evacuation.
「An elite group, you say? Moving as a unit is difficult.」
Mildred folded his arms after saying that.
「Either way, I’ll go. This is a personal affair, not the group’s concern.」
If I were to hesitate after knowing that a Demon might appear, nothing would have changed from that time with mother. I would dive into this headfirst and smash them if anything happened.
「… To summarise, we will select a few of the best soldiers from the Flying Dragon unit and, with Theodore-dono, we shall attack the suspected Demons.」
「I won’t mind that.」
「Hmm. Then later on, I will see His Majesty for his opinion and carry out the plan afterwards. We will finish the preparations by dawn.」
Dawn, hm? There was still time.
「Although you helped out with the evacuations, could you help the orphanage as well?」
I thought the orphanage would be fine, since it was quite far from the port, but this was only a precaution.
「The orphanage in the Western District? Understood, I’ll be sure to do what I can.」
「What about Theodore-dono? Will you wait here until time’s up?」
After Mercedia asked that, I thought for a moment.
「I’m worried about those at my home. I need to relay this matter, so I’ll head off now.」
Even if I wanted stayed, I should have a proper talk with Grace and the girls.
The previous Demon that I fought caused them worry, but it was not like I would suddenly fight like last time.
When I returned home, everyone greeted me with a ‘welcome back’ and a smile.
Sheila and Irmhild appeared to be on standby at the house as well.
「How was it?」
「Greg’s faction and Fernand were captured, however–」
「We might face a Demon. There are two suspicious Adventurers and we’ve decided to head to the Western District tomorrow morning, but–」
I told everyone about the things that had been decided today.
When they heard about the Western District, Sheila and Irmhild knitted their eyebrows.
「I heard they evacuated the places near the port, and the orphanage appears to be some distance away from it. Even so, I took the initiative and asked if the Knights could also do the same for the orphanage.」
「… Thank you.」
The girls’ expressions softened slightly.
「At any rate, Irmhild’s and my home is close to the port.」
「Well… for today, it would be best if you don’t return home.」
Although these two consented, their expressions hadn’t changed much.
Grace and Ashley felt the same as well. When I shifted my focus to them, a worried expression came to their face without even needing me to ask them.
「… Since our opponent will be a Demon, I can’t allow myself to ask everyone to follow me like I did in the Labyrinth. This is a personal issue.」
They looked at each other for a while, and Ashley was the first to speak.
「To be honest with you, I wanted us to go… together.」
That’s right. Especially in Ashley’s case, since Demons were her nemeses.
「But… with how I am now, I will surely be a hindrance for you. My role wouldn’t be facing the Demon and fighting… but whenever a person I value is injured, I’ll cast Healing Magic as many times as possible… and…」
She ended weakly after she finished speaking. She was probably asking herself whether that was fine or not.
From my point of view, her resolution was correct.
She said that she wanted to go together no matter what, but she would end up causing trouble.
What Ashley said just now was probably what she had been thinking about while we were exploring the Labyrinth.
She rarely stepped in front, and Ashley’s role required her to be able to heal whenever and maintain that ability. Whenever she engaged in close combat, her only solution was to use her long mace.
So– after softly patting Ashley’s hair, I answered her.
「… Yeah. You’re probably correct about this. That’s why, you should step forward and fight.」
Ashley tilted her head and smiled.
I shifted my eyes towards Grace.
While looking directly at me, she asked:
「Have I… become a hindrance?」
I shook my head.
Currently, out of all of my companions, only Grace was able to deal with Demons. Grace also had a reason to fight Demons.
「I think Grace will be able to fight them. I will prepare a method so you can fight for five minutes.」
「Thank you… Theo.」
Me fighting the Demons was fine. I would undoubtedly crush them.
However, to be brutally honest, I hated it when people important to me fought Demons. This was coming from my point of view, and surely, if you looked at it from theirs, it would be the same. Forcing my opinion onto them one-sidedly was selfish.
However, I understood the pain of not being able to do anything but watch.
That was why Grace wanted to fight, and if there was a method to do so, she wouldn’t refuse. This was probably a form of trust. Since Grace was related to Mother, she had decided to fight Demons.
「…Thank you, Theo. Umm, about the sealing ring.」
After releasing the sealing ring, Grace smiled and embraced me.
「Ashley-sama as well.」
Grace pulled Ashley in. I was now being embraced by both of them.
They felt soft and warm, and their scent tickled my nostrils.
Grace gently kissed my cheek. When I looked at her in surprise, she happily smiled at me.
Ashley, who saw this, touched her lips against my cheek nervously.
After that, she put some strength into her embrace.
After some time…they separated from me. The faces of those two…were red.
Sheila coughed lightly, and I realized that everyone’s faces were red. The atmosphere became oddly relaxed.
「Umm, if Ashley-sama is enduring it, then we need to endure it too.」
Irmhild tried to change the topic, and Sheila quickly nodded.
「T-that’s right. I’m happy that everyone has been waiting for us.」
「I know, We will wait for your triumphant return.」
With that, Sheila gave me a smile.
「Now, let’s have dinner, shall we? Everyone has been waiting for Theodore-sama to return, you know?」
After saying that, Ashley swiftly ran towards the kitchen.
… At any rate, even if it was just on the cheeks, that fired me up. For the moment, I was glad that I had returned home.
The peopled I wanted to protect. The reason I sought power. The reason I fought Demons. I felt that I had reconfirmed… everything.
I wouldn’t let Demons steal anything else from me.