At the north side of Synclea kingdom capital's north side, there was a mysterious space formed from a branch that stretched from the donut shaped oasis surrounding the capital. The branch was drawing a great circle that joined into the main current once more, creating sandbank between it and the main current.
If it was seen from the sky, this sandbank between the branch and main stream that could be expressed as a "lump" created from a part of the circle had the size that was about the same like the sports ground of a school.
As a matter of fact, the expression of sports ground was to the point. That spot was the training ground of the soldiers adjacent to the capital.
Actually, even the next day after the unprecedented event of hero summoning and the emergency situation where the queen was ambushed and her life fell into danger, the soldiers were still working hard like usual at the training ground.
「Put your spirit into it! Are you guys making any effort huh! The formation change is too slow-. It should be possible to do it three seconds faster! Do it again!」
The one who motivated the soldiers doing formation change training with his angry yell that sounded like thunder was the soldier chief Donar.
Chief Donar's voice resounded really clearly. It was the voice characteristic of a commander that could reach the ally clearly in the battlefield.
At a slight distance away from the formation change training, a fierce training of one against one, or possibly one against many was being carried out, but even though the people there weren't the one being yelled at, the moment they heard the angry yell of the soldier chief, their expression became stricter and their spirit surged even further.
Also, at the place nearer to the river of the oasis, the art users were performing blessing art training with similar serious expression.
「Concentrate. But not at just one point. Concentrate toward the world. Earth, wind, heat, moisture……concentrate to everything that surround you. Your self is receiving blessing from the world, be aware of that strongly.」
Even though that voice had courteous demeanor and wasn't loud by any mean, it smoothly entered the ears and coached the art users. It was the voice of art user group's head art user──Rinden Stole.
He was a man at his forty with long rust colored hair that was tied behind. From a glance he looked like a really calm and gentlemanly attractive middle-aged man. But, perhaps it was just as expected from someone who was entrusted with a group same like Spenser and Donar. The zeal dwelling inside his eyes would make anyone instinctively gulped.
The truth was this Linden was the biological father of Lilin who was selected into the most elites of the royal guards that were led by Spenser. Both father and daughter were art user that overflowed with talent.
Ahead of Linden's gaze, the art users were joining their hands together in front of their mouth while wholeheartedly offering prayer that showed so much concentration vein emerged on their forehead. At the same time, the patterns painted somewhere on their body also shined radiantly.
Countless spears made from hardened sand protruded out from the ground like wave, whirlwind that hoisted up sand launched blades of wind and sand, sphere of light that perhaps was made from converged sunlight danced wildly, or oasis's water became whip that rampaged, all those were clearly the effects of their prayer.
Whether the soldiers or the art users, all of them possessed a definite passion.
While understanding that they couldn't be optimistic or anything about their situation by any means, even so they wouldn't draw back even by a step no matter what. Such definite passion that wouldn't even lose against the scorching desert was shown from their attitude.
「……This is amazing.」
Kouki's leaked out whisper slipped and vanish amidst the spirited roar of the soldiers.
In the eyes of Kouki who was observing from a spot where he wouldn't be a hindrance, there was a color that could be taken as envy or pain emerging.
Suddenly the figure of the queen who said to him that she wouldn't "run away" even when she was already at her limit crossed inside his mind. At the same time, the voice of a young but earnest princess who said "It's fine even if you abandon everything, so at least just my big sister" also resounded in his mind.
If a coexistence with the <Dark Being> was unacceptable, then there was no other path to save Moana except by Kouki's assistance.
Then, would he eradicate the <Dark Being> in that case?
Even though he didn't even know if the rejection of coexistence was really the consensus of all of them or not? In the first place, was someone like him who was burdened with deep mental damage just by killing one being could possibly do such thing? He could save Moana and others, wasn't such thinking itself was just his arrogance?
Then, should he escape while taking Moana with him just like Koone wished for?
Even though what gave hope of "perhaps" in this hopeless situation was his existence, yet he would abandon the people? Would he betray their hope, their expectation? Not to mention despite how such thing ran counter to Moana's wish? Even though it was a choice that might sacrifice the young Koone instead?
Then, would he take away only Moana and Koone, and also the people who were especially close to them?
How far the scope of that would reach? Only Spenser and others? Or else the servants that supported Moana in the palace too? Or perhaps all the people of the capital? Who would decide the size of the scope of the people that would be saved? How could someone like him could have the right to decide who would ride the Noah's ark……
Then, should he treat everything as never happened instead?
Ignored everything where he saw nothing, heard nothing, and knew nothing, and departed in a journey to search for the way to go home? Could he ask Moana and others to just think of him as someone nonexistent right from the beginning?
He wondered just what was right. He wondered what should he do to reach the best conclusion.
Aa, again, it felt like he was drowning inside water……
Furthermore, the drowning feeling wasn't like inside the forest spring where he was summoned, but like inside a swamp full of mud……
「Kouki-dono. What is your thought, abiut the training? If there is something that bothered you, then please give us a pointer without reservation.」
A voice suddenly called toward Kouki who was staring in a daze at the training while being stuck inside a crucible of dark thought like that.
When Kouki came back to his senses in surprise and moved his gaze, there was the figure of chief Donar right beside him without him noticing.
Kouki replied somewhat in fluster.
「N, no, the likes of me giving pointer is too……」
「You are being humble again. Kouki-dono is the hero-sama summoned by Foltina-sama. You don't need to feel even an ounce of reservation. I dare say that your advice might someday save their life.」
Kouki somehow felt gazes on him. When he directed his awareness there, several soldiers and art users were indirectly paying attention to the conversation between Donar and Kouki.
Their gazes weren't filled with anything like wariness of an outsider sticking their nose, but an expectation and curiosity toward the hero, hoping that perhaps they would be able to receive anything that could make them grow even just for a bit.
Yes, from them there was heavy feeling that was choking for the current Kouki.
While feeling conscious that he slightly leaked out strange breathing *hyuh*, Kouki took a breath, then replied with a wry smile.
「No, I really am unable to give any pointer or anything……. Rather, it's me who is affected by everyone's skill and zeal.」
「Oh, is that so! That is really something joyous to hear.」
Chief Donar smiled really happily hearing Kouki's words. The soldiers who seemed to be listening attentively were also vaguely showing pride from receiving the praise of the hero.
But, there, the head art user Linden who must be listening to the talk of chief Donar and Kouki asked a question with calm voice.
「Does the same opinion apply to us too?」
「Yes, of course. Or rather, in the first place I still don't really understand what blessing art is. Someone like me has no pointer or anything that I can say.」
Linden quietly narrowed his eyes toward Kouki whose wry smile deepened while answering that non-specialist like him was all the more unable to speak of anything about blessing art.
「I see, that's logical. However, I heard from my daughter that Kouki-san actually manipulated practical art for combat really skillfully. I assume that you have abundant experience of fighting, although the principle of our arts differ, but is there really nothing that you can perhaps comment about from that standpoint?」
From the eyes of Linden who was saying that while stroking his chin with one hand, a curiosity could be vaguely seen there. Perhaps he was simply interested for Kouki's advice, or rather at Kouki's impression and magic themselves.
「The blessing art is……a magic that seem to be extremely practical for combat. The blessing art that I had seen for real was only the art that manipulated wind and earth used by two royal guards, but the cooperation with the vanguard, the deployment speed, and the choice of art to match the situation, all of them made me went wide-eyed in surprise.」
「Hou. As a father, it's really make me happy that Lilin's skill is highly assessed so much like that.」
「Ahaha……. It was really amazing. However……that's right, if there is one thing that make me curious, it's about whether there is a blessing art that is specialized for defense or not?」
「Specialized for, defense?」
Linden went 'h~m' while stroking his chin with one hand. Perhaps it was his habit when he was thinking. He then opened his mouth.
「I think, it will be something like the stone wall that Neisan created……. Other than that, there are wall of squall or heat, and if the location is in this capital then the water of the oasis itself will become barrier. But, the "defense specialization" that Kouki-san talked about isn't something like that isn't it?」
「Yes. Because in the end something like that is "something that can also be used as defense". For example, there is something like that among the magic I used, I also had used it in front of Lilin-san before──<Light Severance>」
Kouki whispered his chanting and materialized a shining barrier midair. Right away, the training ground became noisy. Everyone temporarily stopped their training, or rather they were made to stop from focusing their stare at the shield of light.
Chief Donar and head art user Linden who saw the magic of another world for the first time opened their eyes wide altogether. But, the next instant they spoke 「Oo! This is!」 while scrambling to approach the barrier with great curiosity.
「Oo, it's not hot or cold! Even though this should be only light yet it's hard like this!」
「It's similar with blessing art of sunlight but……that art literally carry heat. But this is really only light……. Donar, please try to cut it a little.」
「Leave it to me.」
The sword of chief Donar that was swung halfheartedly was repelled back while making *gakin* sound. Just from that cheers of 「Ooo!」 were raised from the outsiders too this time.
「How about this then!?」
The soldier chief became a bit worked up. The head art user was also watching attentively with really excited look.
Chief Donar let out a slash that was sharper and heavier than before. The sword shined and drew a beautiful trail of sword slash in the air that could make someone instinctually be charmed. This time a small crack entered the Light Severance with a snap.
「Hou! Although it was done without reinforcement, I put about seventy percent of my strength into it. It's only cracked with that! What a marvelous barrier!」
「Yes, yes! It's extremely interesting! Just what kind of principle is behind it? The very light itself is possessing weight? No, however……」
The two middle-aged men were seriously excited. Even while feeling slightly creeped out against the soldier chief and head art user who were continuously approaching forcefully, Kouki answered with a troubled face.
「About the principle's detail, even I don't……. But, this is an art principle that is called magic, various phenomenon can be caused by using magic power, magic circle, and then chanting. The energy's property is different with blessing art, and the point where the very energy itself is materialized as art is different from blessing art, but I think the two's operation procedures are really similar.」
「H~m, really interesting. The very blessing power itself is used as protective wall or attack……. H~m, can that be replicated? H~m──」
Linden was thinking with a difficult expression like a researcher wracking his head in front of a difficult problem. On the other hand, chief Donar's really serious appearance was now looking like a child, staring at Kouki with sparkling gaze.
For some reason, recently the positivity level of middle-aged man and animal toward Kouki was raising up excessively.
While feeling a bad premonition for some reason, Kouki asked with his gaze 「What's the matter?」. Chief Donar then suggested immediately as though to say that he had been waiting for Kouki to ask.
「Kouki-dono. Let's do a mock battle!」
「Eh? What did you say?」
His heart that had no enthusiasm unconsciously caused a line like a deaf main character to appear. However, the chief Donar who seemed to have his soldier's soul lit up didn't pay any mind about that at all.
The feeling of wanting to see magic that was actually used practically in battle, and the curiosity toward Kouki's skill as swordsman that he heard from the story were coming out in his face. At the same time, 'Most thing could be understood by exchanging sword, exchanging sword is the quickest way' such feeling also showed through.
「……Ryutaro type exist in any world huh.」
「Hm? Did you say something?」
Kouki unconsciously whispered while recalling his best friend who boasted 'Anyway, I'll surely manage somehow if we exchange blows!'. Chief Donar tilted his head.
Kouki who wasn't motivated wracked his mind to somehow avoid doing mock battle. But, Linden who seemed to come back to reality from the sea of his thought before Kouki could think of anything then smilingly dealt an additional blow.
「Indeed, a mock battle will be the fastest way to have other people to know about Kouki-san better. Kouki-san, can I please ask you to do that?」
Even though he thought that this person was a researcher type, but unexpectedly head art user Linden was also in the active people faction. His words caused Kouki to unconsciously nod against his better judgment. The mini Kouki inside his heart yelled angrily 「You are swept by the flow, me!」, but it was already too late.
A spot was emptied right away while the audiences were clamoring.
His opponent of all thing was chief Donar and Linden at the same time.
「……Excuse me, the mock battle, is against the two of you?」
「Hahahah, don't mind it!」
「Fufufuh, please don't hold back!」
The opponents were the tops of each group that must be the strongest fighting force of Synclea kingdom. Furthermore, they had nice balance of a vanguard and rearguard.
There was no more doubt that these two middle-aged men were hobby friends with similar personality, but it seemed that it was also an undoubtable fact that they were considering the existence of Kouki as an opponent was at the level that ought to be faced by top class warriors.
Kouki spontaneously put his hand on his stomach. It felt like he was feeling throbbing pain. The surrounding was overflowing with expectation and curiosity, if he exposed something unsightly here, how much grief and disappointment would be created then……
In addition, it was a battle against people. Although it was a mock battle, for Kouki who had only experienced murder this was something that felt even harder. Hesitation and fear quickly assaulted him, it took a desperate effort for him to suppress his trembling and hyperventilation.
「? Kouki-dono? Are you not feeling well?」
It seemed even though he was hiding it, but a veteran warrior could somehow sensed Kouki's bad condition. Chief Donar asked him with a worried expression.
For a moment Kouki thought to answer 「Exactly!」, wondering if it wasn't still too late for him to excuse himself from this mock battle.
(But……if I cannot even do mock battle, then I……. Don't run, don't run me.)
He shook his head. He scolded his heart. Kouki made a small smile and answered 「There is no problem」.
Chief Donar looked slightly dubious, but he accepted it for the moment and pulled out his sword. Linden took several steps back.
「Then, I'm coming you know?」
A sudden gust blew instantly. No, more accurately it wasn't wind. A pressure that felt like that attacked Kouki. It was without a doubt the pressure from Donar. It wasn't pressure that was tilting at the negative side like killing intent. If he had to say then perhaps he should call it a pure fighting spirit.
It was too stern, it was too striking. Against that pressure of fighting intent that was heightened until the utmost limit, Kouki gulped unconsciously.
The disorder of his breathing might be seen through.
When he noticed, the soldier chief was right in front of him. At the same time a silver flash that approached to split him vertically into two was reflected in the corner of his sight.
It wasn't a movement with speed like Ground Shrinker. The chief's first movement was too natural that Kouki's awareness couldn't judge that he was being approached.
Even while feeling shaken against that terrifying technique, Kouki's body reflexively moved. He pulled back his right foot and shifted half his body behind while activating Ground Shrinker without going against his center of gravity that was tilting slightly behind.
The sword passed before his eyes, and next he backstepped in high speed to evade the pursuing attack that leaped at him like a living thing.
「──<Jaw of Earth>」
A prayer resounded. The ground below the retreating Kouki's left and right flowed and the sandy land opened a large mouth.
The earth was molded and a huge thing like a bear trap was materialized, it must be a blessing art for restraining the target. Even if for example Kouki could dodge it, it was created by moving the surrounding sand so the ground below crumbled and broke his balance.
It was a plain and small scale blessing art, but it was actually unpleasantly effective.
Perhaps having anticipated that, chief Donar charged forward. He understood Linden's intention perfectly. They were truly in harmony.
There wasn't really any problem if he cut it apart all together. The Jaw of Earth that was closing on him from left and right was bisected right into two by light element mid-level magic <Light Blade> that had its cutting power increased explosively.
Chief Donar who saw Kouki's holy sword that could even be said to be fantastically clad in light raised his voice spontaneously, but even then as expected from the soldier chief, he unleashed his attack without even the slightest pause or hesitation.
*gakin* A high pitched sound of clashing metals resounded. Kouki felt stunning impact spreading through his arm and the area around his eyes warped slightly.
It was a heavy attack. More than a mere physical strength.
The gaze of Kouki and chief Donar who was locking sword with each other met in very close range.
Chief Donar knitted his eyebrows dubiously. But, that too was only for an instant.
「──<Sword of Sandstorm>」
What was produced right after that was twelve sand disks rotating in high seed. They were deployed to surround the taqrget and assaulted violently from every direction, at the same time chief Donar leaped back at the only path of escape that was behind him.
The encirclement of the sand disks was tight, it didn't look like it could be broken out from. It was clear to see that the back of the target would be attacked using the opening when they dealt against one disk.
And so, Kouki escaped to above.
Five layers of shining barrier materialized. One was used as foothold, and the others became floating shields around Kouki and blocked the attack of the sandstorm disks.
Considering that Kouki leaping up to the air was convenient, the other sandstorm disks attacked. It was clear that Kouki was thought to be unable to move midair.
Of course, Kouki used <Heaven Severance> to dodge that so there was no problem.
He wasn't "flying", until the end he was only "jumping", but the movement method using barrier to consecutively leaped midair might looked like flying if seen from the side. The soldiers and art users observing the battle raised their cheers.
「Midair movement using barrier as foothold, is it……. I see, the way of using it like that is……」
Linden also opened his eyes wide at that blindspot. However, he was still attacking fiercely with the sandstorm disks even then.
The sandstorm disks that Kouki should have evaded already returned like a Frisbee. From among the four approaching disks, Kouki blocked two using <Heaven Severance>, while cutting down the other two using his sword.
Kouki saw below him chief Donar was preparing some kind of "vow", and Linden starting to pray another blessing art further while manipulating the sandstorm disks and inside his heard he made tsukkomi 「That's just too merciless!」.
And then, before he could be attacked by Linden with even more number, he directed one hand at Linden from midair and,
He fired a shockwave magic. *dou* Such heavy and painful sound resounded, at the same time Linden's front was blown away. Linden might got a bad premonition by the time Kouki directed his arm at him because he already entered into an evasive maneuver, so he only ended up getting blown away.
Using that opening, Kouki let flew wind blade and shot down the sandstorm disks while entrusting his body to acceleration by gravity and rapidly approached chief Donar.
「──<Soul of Strife>-」
Blessing power from vow strengthened the flesh of chief Donar.
Instantly, chief Donar whose body was faintly shining blocked the flying kick (the falling from the sky version) Kouki launched using the flat of his blade. He firmly withstood the kick even while sliding on the ground leaving behind foot track on the ground.
Along with a loud scream of fighting spirit, the sword was swung and Kouki was sent flying. Kouki adjusted his posture midair and landed. Chief Donar approached Kouki with a speed that was incomparable from before.
The sword flash that was unleashed looked blurry with many layers. That was how fast the sword was.
Kouki blocked, repelled, or parried the attacks, handling well the surging wave-like offense of the soldier chief.
(Kuh, what skill-. I can manage the speed and power somehow-. But, this skill……he is at the same level with Meld-san!)
The deceased knight order leader who once acted like the classmates' older brother and taught him the fundamental of battle against human. In the end, Kouki was unable to match his sword skill even when he was turned into puppet.
The cheers of the soldiers became even louder. Their chief was pushing back the hero who was summoned from another world. Pride and trust uplifted their heart as a soldier.
But, on the other hand,
(Kuh, he isn't thrown off balance even when I'm using body reinforcement. What solid defense-. No, the terrifying thing might actually be his reflex speed, and the specs of his body-)
Chief Donar was also astonished against Kouki who used pure reflex and body strength to react against him no matter what kind of technique he used.
Of course, because this was a mock battle, although Donar was serious, but he wasn't using his full strength. Chief Donar was also still leaving enough spare for his body reinforcement.
But, even so, looking at Kouki who in a glance wasn't using any reinforcement, against him who was unable to land a single hit even with the reinforcement was something vexing as a warrior.
A counterattack was unleashed toward chief Donar. The horizontal slash approaching his torso was blocked by chief Donar using his sword as shield. Donar had no intention at all of leaving opening, but it seemed that in this short time Kouki had obtained a slight "familiarity" against chief Donar's swordplay.
A stir occurred. The soldiers opened their eyes wide seeing the offense of chief Donar was stopped.
Kouki's counterattack was further──
That was how it supposed to be, but there the sword attack from the torso toward the neck became strangely dulled. Naturally, such sword attack wouldn't work against chief Donar, instead it was Kouki who received a tackle.
Seeing the opponent was instead stepping forward when his attack was midway toward the opponent's vital spot, Kouki's eyes opened wide while he leaped backward and rearranged his posture.
「Can you deal against this? ──<Earth of Fury>」
Earth and rocks became an avalanche that assaulted Kouki who was distanced from chief Donar. If Kouki was a bit further away then the scale of the attack was about five meter in length and width, but when the attack was deployed at close range it was like a giant tidal wave that covered his whole field of vision.
「tsu, this place is to be a sanctuary, god's enemy won't pass──<Sacred Severance>!」
Kouki's chanting was over at the same time when the avalanche swallowed him.
Kouki's figure became not visible and the surrounding was covered by cloud of sand.
「……He, head art user. You overdid it.」
「Using that in mock battle is……」
The art users were flustered. It seemed it was a powerful blessing art that wasn't really used for mock battle at least. Naturally the blessing art's force was adjusted to a degree, but perhaps although this was the hero-sama, he might get at least an injury……the art users were sending anxious looks with such thought.
But, their concern was needless.
「Hou, even that kind of barrier! Splendid!」
Linden spontaneously spoke a praise.
Inside the cleared up cloud of sand, Kouki was standing unharmed inside a shining half-sphere barrier.
The <Sacred Severance> also vanished at the same time when the sand cloud cleared. Chief Donar tried to charge at that timing but,
「──Sky Soaring Flash!」
A slash of light flew and blew up the ground below chief Donar. Chief Donar stumbled due to the impact and sand pebbles.
After staring still at the scar crated from the slash of light for a while, chief Donar showed a speechless expression. And then, he turned toward Linden who was doing the next prayer and told him to stop by making fist.
「……Kouki-dono. Let's stop this here. I have seen enough of Kouki-dono's magic and way of fighting. No, it's truly splendid! I never thought that we won't be able to land a hit even with the two of us!」
Chief Donar sheathed his sword while laughing cheerfully. Linded nodded deeply while stopping his prayer, and then cheers were raised simultaneously from all the soldiers and art users.
It seemed everyone was excited about the splendid mock battle where they were able to see unknown magic in that short but deep battle. They all were really excited that their leaders were unable to reproach them. Many mouths were saying out praise toward Kouki's fight.
「Err……thank you very much, for the mock battle.」
Kouki smiled wryly while sheathing his holy sword. He was a little bit puzzled because it felt like it started suddenly and also ended suddenly.
Chief Donar was conforming with the soldiers' feeling while giving order to them to train even more diligently so to not lose with the hero-dono, and then he slowly walked toward Kouki.
And then, with an expression that looked somewhat lost, as though he was worrying of what words he should use,
「……Kouki-dono. Kouki-dono is──」
Donar was about to say something, but he then held his tongue and looked around briefly. And then, he approached even nearer to say something in small volume.
At that moment,
「BAA──────NN!! This is your good neightbour-, maybe! Kooneee!」
「Nuwah!? Your highness-!?」
「Hiih!? Koone-sama again!?」
The soldier chief and hero jumped up while hugging each other harmoniously.
When they dropped their gaze, below them there was a little girl standing still in banzai position with unchanging wide smile. Really, what elusiveness she had there.
Although, Koone's smile was gradually changing into a wondering expression, and finally her expression turned complicated. While Kouki and chief Donar were tilting their head wondering what she was thinking, Koone was,
「……Koone don't have any prejudice. None at all but……Hero-sama and Donar are a bit……Koone feels like knowing something that cannot be known.」
Saying that, she stared alternately at Kouki and Donar with an upward gaze.
There the two noticed. The great shock caused Kouki and Donar to be still hugging each other. Both of them screamed 「GYAAAAAAAH」 together and jumped back. And then, they desperately appealed at Koone that she was making a terrible misunderstanding.
「……Koone understand. Yes, Koone really understand.」
Koone was showing the two an expression of kindness that they had never seen from her before. Chief Donar's face became demonic. Koone instantly changed the topic.
「Hero-sama, chief, as well as the head art user, please return to the palace right away.」
Koone's words that were spoken with a serious atmosphere made Kouki tilted his head while the expression of chief Donar and Linden turned grave.
They were immediately led to Moana's office right after they returned to palace.
Inside the office, other than Moana and Spenser, there was a grandpa who looked like he would croak anytime, the head civil official Bruitt Cube whose body was quaking continuously. His eyelids were mostly closed too, so it made one felt suspense that he might be falling anytime.
「Ojii-chan! I brought hero-sama and others here! Please praise Koone!」
After saying that, of all things to do Koone leaped on Bruitt's back.
Kouki raised his voice 「Ah」. 'What are you going to do if he got smashed up like glasswork with that', such thinking caused a hair-rising emotion to well up from inside.
But, Bruitt who seemed to detect Koone leaping at him waved his hand slowly, right at that moment Koone rotated once midair and her momentum was nullified, without pause she then landed on the ground lightly with her feet.
(I, I have seen that before this! That's the aikido technique Nagumo used when dodging Myuu-chan's tackle(hug)!)
This time Kouki shuddered from a different meaning. It was a movement that was exactly the same like the demon king-sama when he parried with one hand Myuu who was being playful with a force that was a bit unbecoming for a little girl.
It seemed the grandpa head civil official who looked like he would croak anytime was actually an aikido master.
Perhaps it was a usual sight because no one was paying any mind to it.
「Koone-sama. If gramps remember correctly, it should be a subordinate who I sent to call them here?」
Those were scolding words that implicitly called on her repeated willful sneakiness. From the gap of the eyelids that should be mostly closed with only thin opening, dangerous eyes were peeking out with a glare.
「The matter might be a race with time! Now, let's quickly move to the main topic! Let's do that!」
Koone changed the topic with all her might. And then, she turned the brunt of the matter to her big sister with all her might.
Moana was twitching from the stare of the eyes behind Bruitt's narrow eye slits while nodding at the correctness of Koone's words. She cleared her throat.
「The reason I asked all of you to gather here lies in the letter that arrived just now, carried by the messenger from Arcnet territory.」
After saying that, she fluttered a letter with its seal opened to show them.
「Your majesty. Where is the messenger?」
Linden titled his head in puzzlement seeing that the essential messenger who brought the letter here was not in attendance. Bruitt was the one who answered.
「He entrusted the letter and then fainted after giving a simple explanation of the situation. It seemed he rushed here with almost no rest at all. I have him rest in another room. It seemed he was running the whole time until here through a distance of two and half days in just one day.」
Linden hummed in amazement hearing about that extremely reckless journey. At the same time the graveness in his expression increased.
「In other words, some kind of emergency situation is happening in Arcnet?」
Chief Donar asked with a grave expression.
Arcnet territory was in the west territory where the desert cut off, it was a territory that was located the nearest to Synclea kingdom's capital. It was an important base on top of being the territory that carried food and other materials to the capital that became a battlefield, also Arcnet territory itself also possessed a vast grain-producing area. It was an important food supply center.
For a messenger to come from that Arcnet territory in emergency brought nothing but bad premonition.
Moana read aloud the content of the letter.
「According to Rothko's report, a part of the grain-producing region seem to dry up.」
「tsu, that's, however……」
Chief Donar who almost spoke 'impossoble' against his better judgment held his tongue in hurry.
In this world, when one heard the phenomenon of "dried up", they would link connect the event to the existence of miasma no matter what.
However, there should be no way for the <Dark Being> to invade at the west territory that was abundant with nature. After all monitoring force was placed at the desert area and the capital, at the northern sea and southern mountain range area to prevent that.
Message method using wind from blessing art was swift, and there was no report of any strangeness that had reached Moana yet, based from that it was difficult to think that the <Dark Being> managed to infiltrate.
But, in reality a phenomenon of crops drying out had occurred, from that it was the height of folly to discard the possibility easily.
The letter from feudal lord Rothko who was entrusted with Arcnet territory by Moana also reported that the existence of <Dark Being> wasn't confirmed.
Seeing chief Donar holding his tongue, Moana continued speaking.
「The cause is unknown. But, it seems that from some time ago there was the inclination that the growth of crops was slow, I receive the report with that gist. Thinking that perhaps the fertility of the land is decreasing, I consulted Bruitt and thought to dispatch Koone at the time when the weather change but……」
It became an event that wasn't at the level of fertility decreasing because of growing crops too much, that was how it was.
「We have to deal with this quickly and investigate the cause. Arcnet's grain-producing region becoming no good is also a problem that we cannot shut our eyes to, but more than that, if the cause made this case grow until where we lose Arcnet itself, that will be unacceptable.」
In a manner of speaking, it was like the front line base losing its food warehouse. Of course, as an insurance there were also other multiple territories that shouldered the role as relay point of the food supply that supported the capital.
Even in the case that Arcnet was crushed, the capital wouldn't go down.
It wouldn't, but. Even so the hard blow of the region that boasted the greatest efficiency getting crushed should at least shake the capital. That "shake" would become a certain opening.
And above all else, there wasn't even a shred of reason to leave alone the people behind them that they should protect.
「Yes, Onee-chan. It will be fine if Koone go and regenerate the dried up land right? Koone will also search for the cause while I'm at it!」
「Yeah, I'll count on you, Koone-ta──cough-, Koone. Save Arcnet.」
Koone put her hands on her waist and threw out her chest with a puff as though to say to leave it to her. Moana who almost broke into a slovenly wide smile seeing that cleared her throat and maintained her queen mode. Her gaze then moved around through chief Donar and others.
「This matter require urgency. I wish to say that it's impossible, but there is still the possibility of a few number of <Dark Being> infiltrating our rear.」
「We will share the information about Arcnet to the monitoring force of every places and all the neighboring territories, other than that it's best that we also send personnel to confirm directly.」
Chief Donar and Linden nodded together at the additional comment of Bruitt. In other words, they were told to select personnel that would be dispatched to every place from the soldier force and art user force.
「What about the guard for her highness? Will it be the royal guard?」
Commander Spenser nodded at the question of chief Donar.
「Yeah, I'll send the royal guard. From how the departure of her majesty to the spring was leaked, there is no way I can leave her majesty's side, but to replace me I'll organize an escort squad with the vice commander and Lilin to command it.」
The name of the royal guard's vice commander was Spike Haim. He was the personal pupil of commander Spenser, and also his adopted child. He was blessed with talent, and while he was still at the middle of his twenty, he was an able royal guard whose sword skill was said to be approaching Spenser.
And then, it went without saying about Lilin. She had the head of art user as her father, and she was a heroic woman who was chosen to be among the most elites of the royal guard in her age of sixteen. If an escort squad was organized from the elites of the royal guard's warrior with the command entrusted to these two who were top class as vanguard and rearguard, there would be a sense of security as suited the occasion.
Although, thinking about the case where Moana was attacked before this, there was still some uneasiness……
「In addition. Kouki. This is a personal request from me but……can I ask you to participate in the escort squad of Koone?」
「Eh? I, am?」
Kouki reflexively pointed at himself in shock. Moana nodded briskly at him.
「I dare say that this case is a disorder in the land's blessing power and not actually because <Dark Being> is penetrating in. Even if that is actually the case, they should be few in number. I believe that they could be dealt with just by the escort squad alone.」
「In the case that few <Dark Being> possess ability beyond our anticipation or they are especially strong, Kouki's battle ability, other world magic, and then above all Kouki's special characteristic of "mostly unaffected by miasma" will be extremely reassuring. Of course, it will be dangerous compared to stay inside the protection of the capital, so I will prioritize Kouki's will in this……what will you do?」
This was a wish from a big sister that thought of her little sister. Some degree of danger would exist no matter where he was. As for Kouki, he found it really hard to refuse, and he also didn't especially have any reason to refuse. However, what made him hesitated was whether it was right or not for him who was seen as hero to leave the capital.
To speak further, even though there was no way the soldiers and people of capital wouldn't be affected if the hero who was especially summoned left outside, but even knowing that Moana made a judgment that prioritized her little sister. Kouki felt a delicate out of place feeling about that.
Which option was right……?
Kouki felt troubled, but chief Donar suddenly opened his mouth.
「Your majesty, while this is presumptuous of me, it seems that Kouki-dono is a bit hesitant so I wish to express something.」
「……I don't mind.」
「Then. ……Is your majesty trying to have Kouki-dono leave this capital temporarily, for his sake?」
Hearing chief Donar pointing that out, Moana reflexively held her tongue. Kouki went「Eh?」 and stared at Moana in surprise.
「If I'm allowed to speak my opinion that I based from the mock battle that we did just now, then indeed, perhaps it's better if Kouki-dono leave the capital temporarily.」
「Wha-. Do, Donar-san. Di, did I do something that displease you?」
「No, that's not it at all, Kouki-dono. Rather, my apologize but it's a reason of happenstance.」
Kouki titled his head in puzzlement of what Donar wanted to say. From the expression of Moana that he saw from the edge of his sight, he understood that somehow Moana seemed to have the same thinking with what chief Donar wanted to say.
Chief Donar told the bewildered Kouki.
「Kouki-dono is……having a strong rejection toward fighting. Am I wrong?」
Kouki was at lost for words that his innermost thought was guessed correctly.
「At first, I thought that Kouki-dono was unable to adjust your attack well because you tried to stop your strike just before it hit due to it being a mock battle, but I noticed in the middle. For Kouki-dono swinging weapon at the opponent……is something that you reject from the bottom of your heart.」
Chief Donar's words paused for a moment was likely because what he wanted to really say was different. That was to say he wasn't going to say "reject" but「scared」.
「But, the existence of hero is already known in the capital, especially among the soldiers it is well known. The expectation toward Kouki-dono will rise whether you want it or not. ……For Kouki-dono who know about the current condition of our country, surely that must feel heavy.」
He couldn't say that it wasn't true. In fact, he felt it so heavy that he wanted to run away without worrying about his reputation or appearance.
「It seem that her majesty also has noticed already. Therefore, I'm thinking how about Kouki-dono temporarily leave the capital where the expectation toward you is rising regardless of your wish, and using this chance where there is a reason of guarding her highness that everyone can understand, you can look around at the safe territory at the rear. Perhaps, her majesty also has the same thinking like me?」
Kouki looked at Moana.
Moana also looked at Kouki and she lowered her eyebrows with a troubled look. Her expression told him more eloquently than anything of what she was thinking. That the words of chief Donar was correct.
「Ko, Koone object. Hero-sama is an important person, so we should have him safely stay in the capital with its solid protection.」
Koone who wished for Kouki to take her big sister and escaped when push came to shove hated it if Kouki left Moana's side. As though to say「This is a detestable flow of event!」, she tried to have Kouki stay in the capital with a plausible official reason.
Toward such Koone, Moana talked at her with a face not as a queen, but as a big sister.
「Koone. You understand right? Kouki don't have any duty or responsibility toward this world at all. And yet with him being at the capital, how will the voice that ask him for that will reach him? Last night, Koone talked with Kouki was in order to convey to him by yourself that there is no such thing, right?」
「Tha, that's right but……」
Koone was a blackly scheming little girl, but it seemed that she couldn't win against her big sister. Her gaze wandered around to search for words but finally she let out a sigh and said「Can't be helped」.
「Don't worry, it's only a distance of a day if you seriously dash to here. Don't think of this that seriously, Kouki, you can just observe the really amazing territory that is abundant with nature in this world that you arrived at with great pain. Rather, this is a request from me rather than my consideration to you. Kouki, take a look at our country without fail. I will lose face as a queen if you only know about the desert and the capital of my country.」
After saying such thing, Moana showed a mischievous smile.
She said thing like request, but no matter how he saw it this was her being considerate. For Kouki too, staying behind in the capital while wracking his brain so much, thinking worriedly with irresolute mind about question without answer was also something he didn't want to do.
And above all,
「Without even looking, hearing, and feeling it myself, I'm not going to find the answer huh…..」
Kouki recalled the words that Koone said to him yesterday before she gave him a tour of the capital, and he resolved himself.
「I understand. I will join the escort squad. ……I'm thinking of going to see more about other place and people of this world.」
「Yeah, please do that without fail. What kind of feeling Kouki have toward this world, and what kind of conclusion that you reach, I want you to tell me when the time come.」
「Yes, Moana-sama. ……I'm sorry, about various things. Also, to everyone too, thank you very much.」
Everyone inside the office gave a small smile at Kouki's word of thanks.
Three hours later. Thanks to the preparation that progressed with tremendous speed, Koone and her escort squad, as well as Kouki departed straight toward Arcnet territory where the strange phenomenon occurred.
AN: Thank you very much for reading this every time.
Thank you very much too for the thoughts, opinions, and reports about misspelling and omitted words.
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