~~First Day of the Sixth Month, Ninety-Sixth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
In the Resistance’s current hideout, somewhere within the War Demon Nation…
As Irene sat at her desk in the office, holding her aching head, a worried voice called out to her,
“Miss Irene, how have you been?”
Irene turned her head toward the voice, her face gloomy.
The one standing there was none other than Irene’s aide, who had joined the Resistance alongside her.
“I thought you were having difficulty with work, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
After looking at the pile of documents on the desk, Trace proceeded to say,
“Well, what’s on your mind?”
“…The old man’s hunting an SS-ranked monster tomorrow. He’s taking Lina and Hornel with him.”
“That sounds like a dangerous mission. But since this is Sir Gaston we’re talking about, there’s no need to worry, is there?”
“I wouldn’t be worrying IF it was just a normal monster hunt…”
Getting what Irene’s words implied, Trace pushed up her glasses.
“…Lady Ishtar is involved, I assume?”
Irene, as if to affirm that question, elaborated on her point,
“It just doesn’t smell right. I know it’s happened a lot before — Ishtar giving Gaston missions that he clearly hates. What’s different this time is that she’s having him LEAD the operation, not just do it. Since it’s an SS-ranked target, he has no choice but to take the elite unit.”
Trace, having listened to Irene’s whole explanation, felt her face tense up, as if she understood what it meant.
“…I see. And the issue is that Lady Ishtar approved of the unit’s participation?”
“Exactly. She’s obviously trying to off the whole brigade now. I mean, if it’s JUST a monster hunt, they should be able to win easily enough.”
“Are they looking to take advantage of Gaston’s absence to further their plot…? No–“
“–They have a chance at assassinating Gaston somewhere far away from the Royal Capital, that’s what.”
Irene’s conclusion caused Trace to feel cold sweat running down her back.
Then they both cast their eyes down — to try and figure out a way out of this mess.
“We’re too far from the Royal Capital. If we were to send reinforcements, it’d take us at least a week to reach them.”
“Right, and using the closest Teleportation Spell Circle wouldn’t help that much, either.”
“What if we wait for the Royal Capital Magic Guardians to start marching, then ask Sir Gaston to set up a new Teleportation Spell Circle somewhere, so we could appear there instantly?”
“I already asked him that… and he refused. Said he’ll take care of things his way, so we can just do whatever — yeah, I can just hope that he wasn’t just joking.”
Irene was obviously furious, but Trace — and just about anyone else — knew that she had good intentions.
“He’s also considerate of our situation — that’s quite in-character of him.”
“And that’s exactly why he needs to take the situation seriously!”
Irene slammed her hands on the desk, toppling some stacks of documents.
Trace proceeded to pick them up, staying silent.
[She understood the implications of what she’d been told, but still chose to take those words at face value and act accordingly. Oh, Miss Irene, you’re so adorable…]
Then, after gathering the documents and putting them back on the desk, she tried offering an alternative solution,
“Are any of our contacts in the area able to assist them instead?”
“None. Ishtar’s been keeping both Silver and Silver General busy. They probably still don’t even know what’s happening over here.”
“And Master Tūs?”
Upon hearing the word Tūs, Irene gritted her teeth, visibly enraged. Trace could not bring herself to elaborate on her point.
[Not even available for contact, I see…]
Irene heaved a deep sigh, and as if to follow her example, Trace also sighed, albeit too quietly to be noticed by the former.
“…Understood. I’ll come up with something.”
Irene suddenly leaned forward on her desk, her face shifting to a brilliant smile.
Trace, blushing lightly as Irene’s face got close to hers, adjusted her glasses to distract herself from the awkward feeling.
“Y-yes, leave it to me. I can try something… from an outsider’s perspective.”
Saying that, Trace sounded somewhat happy.
~~Far East Wasteland~~
A lone gigantic man stood motionless in the midst of a raging sandstorm.
He was drawing a Spell Circle. Arcane energy gathered at his fingertips, and the speed at which they moved was too great to follow with ordinary eyes.
And from the Circle emerged a gigantic boar, wrapped in a veil of light.
It was a creature feared by many adventurers — a virtually invincible killer of positive emotions.
The King Happy Killer.
“Tūs… how long’s it been since I last saw your face, huh?”
“Not that I wanna see yours, but you’re needed.”
“Yeah, I know, the contract — I’m not about to break that. Whatever. So what’s your problem?”
Bull understood that Tūs would have to be truly desperate to summon it out.
In response to the question, Tūs pointed up to the sky.
What the boar saw in its dark eyes was a peculiar, deep purple bird.
“Long time no see.”
The Violet Phoenix, overlooking the wasteland from the top of a cliff, greeted its old friend.
“Oh… It’s just you.”
Bull looked up and returned the greeting, then turned to its Master again.
“You want me to… work with the bird?”
“Gotta get things ready, or that little shit won’t let me hear the end of it.”
“That little shit… you mean that other apprentice you had for a while?”
With Bull pointing that out, Tūs immediately look greatly disgusted.
“If there’s ANOTHER guy like Asley… I’m sure as hell gonna run away to the other side of the world.”
“… Great, that’s about how I’d expect him to act toward someone who’d roasted him once. Is that why he doesn’t remember THAT happening? Heh…”
“What? You said something?”
“Nothing. Anyway… seeing that you’re having me work with the bird, we’ll be covering a lot of ground, right? The Familiar Contract won’t let me go too far away from you, you know.”
Asked so by Bull, Tūs groaned out of annoyance and turned to Shi’shichou, seemingly asking the Phoenix to explain things instead.
“Don’t worry. We’re not going anywhere too far.”
Getting that brief explanation, Bull turned to ask Tūs for elaboration,
“What? Why do you even need me, then? Is Shi’shichou getting too old to do stuff by itself or what?”
“This thing’s hard to do BECAUSE we’re all remnants of the old era. But you and Shi’shichou together… well, should be good enough.”
“The old era…! I see… so we’re looking for the three other Beasts? What are we going to do, dig for their bones?”
Bull closed its eyes, seemingly understanding the point.
Tūs scratched his head, causing a storm of dandruff to fly off his afro.
“Listen, just try to let them know that the Devil King’s coming back — don’t dig any deeper. Especially the tiger. Don’t know what’s the deal with him, but he’s been going on about his ‘broken heart’ since forever… Gah, he’s annoying.”
Bull took a step away to avoid the dandruff, and then said quietly,
“All right, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Then the boar looked up at Shi’shichou, prompting the latter to fly down and land on its back.
“Don’t dig your talons in.”
“Just keep your hooves on the smooth road.”
“Ugh, you never change…”
“What a pain in the ass.”
As Tūs fell asleep and started sleep-talking, the two others turned toward the north.
“So, who should we go to first?”
Bull asked Shi’shichou while running along the road.
“That old thing in the hard shell.”
“It’s called a Tortoise. You think he’s still alive?”
“If he’s not, we can offer him some flowers… and burn his body to ash with our fire breaths.”
“Excellent idea. Now I’m much more excited for this trip.”
Shi’shichou and Bull said together,
“”He’ll be shitty to deal with… BECAUSE he’s alive.””
And so the Violet Phoenix and Tūs’ Familiar Bull set out together on their journey to reunite the Heavenly Beasts.