~~An Unmarked Day During the First Month, Ninety-Fourth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
After sending some boorish-voice-messages to Melchi from Tūs, Pochi and I continued on our way to Beilanea.
Heading south from Royal Capital Regalia for two days, we had first arrived at Radeata, located midway between Regalia and Beilanea.
We had rested in Radeata for one night, so we should have reached Beilanea by the night of the fifteenth… yes, should have.
But as the night encroached, just when I thought we were only a few hours away from Beilanea, Pochi’s nose detected an anomaly in the air.
“Master, it’s Lina!”
“You can smell her?”
“Yes, and also… the stench of blood…”
“…Just from Lina?”
“Bruce, too. Chances are, Betty and Blazer are also with him.”
Which means they must have sustained major injuries while out hunting. We’ve got to hurry!
“Go, Pochi! I choose you!”
I hopped on Pochi’s back and tried to contact Lina, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t invoke the Telepathic Call magecraft.
“Huh? Why’d the tele not connect?”
“Did you already forget, Master? You’ve put a magecraft effect on your sensory nerves to jam telepathic communication!”
Ah, now that she mentioned it… So that’s why no one’s been calling me lately.
“…Did you actually forget that, sir?”
“I might have forgotten that, yes!”
“Hah, I feel so sorry for Lina now, sir…”
“Hmm? Did you say something?”
“Just hurry and call her, sir! Don’t just sit there like a damned fool!”
Bah, what in the world is she so angry about this time?
“Rise, A-rise, Restriction Cancel!”
[“Lina! Lina! Can you hear me!?”]
“Master! How’s it look, sir!?”
“Damn it, this is bad! I’m sure my voice reached her just fine, but for whatever reason, she can’t answer! Pochi, activate booster!”
“Wait, there’s something like that equipped on me!? Let’s hurry and turn it on, sir!”
“No! It’s called placebo!”
“You damned liar!”
Right as Pochi cursed at me, her running speed dropped drastically.
“Huh, the effect’s wore out already. Rise, A-rise, All Up! Hurry, Pochi!”
I applied one of Tūs’ original support magic spells onto Pochi.
Now back to her wind-shredding speed, Pochi howled aggressively as she ran in the direction of Lina’s scent.
It didn’t take long after that for Pochi to detect the scent of a few others – this time, of my dearly missed classmates.
“Hornel’s here, too?”
“Yes – Idéa and Midors are also with him! And another acquaintance of ours, I think… but I don’t quite recognize the smell! Oh, no…!”
“Everyone’s in trouble!”
“Can you make it in time!?”
“Of course! Breaking my limits!”
“…I see them!”
“We need to be there as soon as possible! I’m going all out!”
Having said that, Pochi gritted her teeth and held her breath as she almost instantaneously accelerated to the top speed.
What entered my eyes were Hornel and his team, all collapsed on the ground. Surrounding them were… bandits!
“Rise, A-rise, A-rise-”
But then Pochi decided to tackle the apparently-magically-constructed wall of dirt before us head-on.
I clung to Pochi as the wall crumbled, and was bathed from head to toe by the dirt and sand in the wind.
It’s bitter as all hell! -Oops, now’s not the time. I’ve got to sweep up the guys around Hornel’s group first. So I fired balls of condensed arcane energy at the four men, instantly depleting their MP.
That was a spell that forced consumption of arcane energy, the Magic Drain. With this excellent spell, one could deal with warrior opponents quite well if they used it in appropriate timings.
The four men, with their MP completely drained, lost their consciousnesses and crashed down where they stood. That was a special case symptom incurred by losing a great amount of MP at once, as opposed to slowly consuming it throughout the day. With that done, I would say there was one less thing to immediately worry about.
Pochi didn’t stop there, running on straight ahead… and passing through the crowd of countless enemies.
“Hey, you just ran past him!”
“Well, it’s not my fault, sir! Wasn’t this your idea of showing off, Master!?”
“I mean, I won’t deny it, but everyone’s in trouble, so I wanna do… that!”
Wasn’t that Maüs? Oh, I see, so the Laughing Foxes are at it again…
Betty, her face looking incredibly pale. That’s got to be neurotoxin… and judging from the specific symptoms, it had been made from the toxicant of Easter Frogs, a monster found in the eastern regions.
Blazer and Bruce… looked healthy enough. Their bloody snot bubble swelled up and burst, like that was supposed to be some kind of joke routine.
And Lina was practically crying a waterfall. Her thigh was bleeding, and her face… also incredibly pale, like Betty.
Curses, he dared to lay his hands on my excellent pupil… I’ll never forgive him!
“Watch out, y’all… we’re gonna do the thing!”
“Yeah, that thing!”
“Y-you… from back then!”
“Maüs, is I remember correctly? I see you haven’t mended your ways! Have you no shame!?”
“You’re even more pathetic than my Master, I say! …Oh, now I feel so sorry for him, Master!”
Ah, Pochi, you know me so well…
“Shut up! Take another step, and your friends’ heads will come right off their bodies!”
“You’re sounding cheap as hell, you know that!? I know you’re pretty strong, so try getting a decent vocabulary to go with it, too!”
“I feel so sorry for you, thief!”
“…Ugh, looks like you’ll never stop talking like that unless someone dies for real. Hey!”
Maüs ordered for Bruce to be executed, and the thief behind Bruce promptly brandished his blade.
Pochi grinned, signaling me to take action.
The Laughing Foxes members, all at once, were taken aback.
“Uh – I haven’t prepared it yet, though!?”
“You’re kidding, right!?”
“Yeah, I’m kidding! Rise! Title Lock! Code: Laughing Foxes!”
That very moment, Maüs dropped Lina onto the ground, then the other members, one after another, dropped their weapons and were frozen in place.
Maüs’ expression warped as he struggled harder to fight the petrification.
“Gah-!? Wh-what’s… this…?”
“I call it a binding barrier spell. I’ve confirmed far beforehand that you are all members of the Laughing Foxes, so I’ve made it so that the spell targets only those with the title.”
“What the… hell… that’s ridiculous…!”
“And I’ve planned it so that Pochi can help out every one of us while I’m talking to you here.”
“Yes, I am! …Wait, I’m supposed to carry everyone!?”
But you didn’t do anything but clap your paws! Damn it!
“”No, we’ll be fine.””
“Ooh, it’s the bloody snot bubble duo!”
“What the hell did you just call me!?”
I called out Bloody Snot A and Bloody Snot B, prompting them to wipe their noses and regaining their respectable Blazer and Bruce images.
Bruce didn’t seem to be hurt, but Blazer seemed to have taken quite a hit. The nerve toxin, most likely. The damage wouldn’t be major in the long run, but how did he counteract it so quickly?
“The antidote I hid in my cheek sure came in handy this time.”
“Dude, you’ve prepared something like that, too!?”
“Being well-prepared results in no worries, my friend.”
…Blazer’s as serious as ever, I see. I still could learn a thing or two from him, but concealing antidote within my own body is a bit too risky for my taste. I would end up being poisoned instead if I consumed it accidentally, after all.
Oh, I’ve got to help Lina’s crew! Let’s see, the ones who were poisoned… Lina, Betty, Hornel, Idéa, Midors… wait, is that Egd!? Okay, so a total of six.
“Rise, Recover Count 6 & Remote Control!”
With all five of my right fingers and one left finger, I sent six Spell Circles flying off.
Controlling their moves, I first sent two of them to Lina and Betty, stopping them on top of their heads.
“One of your weird spells again?”
“It’s called a split invocation. With this, I can invoke several different spells at once. And – Rise!”
After sending the last Circle to Hornel, who was located farthest from me, I supplied them with the necessary arcane energy for invocation.
Everyone had their bodies enveloped in yellow light, which then quickly faded away. Bruce and Blazer proceeded to finish off the members of the Laughing Foxes, just as they had done at the Labyrinth of No Return. I’ll never get used to seeing people’s deaths, will I…
Suddenly, two warm, gentle hands clung to my back.
The sobbing voice from just below my shoulder height was the voice Pochi and I recognized the best.
“A… ah… Sir Asley…”
“H-hey there, Lina. It’s good to see you’re safe.”
“I… I… heard your voice all along…”
Lina’s voice turned hoarse as she clung to the mantle on my back, covering her face with it. She wasn’t gripping me hard, but it felt as if a movement restriction far worse than Title Lock had been put on me.
Seeking assistance, I glanced at Pochi, but all she did was wink back before running to Betty instead. Bruce and Blazer didn’t seem to be in the mood to play along, either.
Damn it, you guys just had to ignore me now of all times…
For now, I could only heal Lina a little more with the recovery magic that had been activated at her feet.
“Uh – I didn’t recognize you at first, you know. You’ve gotten quite beautiful, Lina.”
“And I heard you’ve become the Student Council President. Congratulations.”
“That’s what I’d expect from the Silent Witch. Sir Gaston gave you that nickname, right?”
“Uh, I think it’s about time you let go, Lina?”
Now she’s gripping my mantle even more tightly.
Just when I thought she’d never let go for quite a while, a certain young man’s shout suggested to me otherwise.
“AAAAAHHHHH!? Miss Lina is crying!!!???”
Well, that might have been closer to a scream.
“Villain! What have you done to- guh!!”
And there he goes, lifted away by Bruce and Blazer… that was Egd, without a doubt. He sure grew quite big over the year. At a glance, his statistics shouldn’t be that far from Betty’s level, too?
Even from a distance, I saw that Hornel and Midors have changed quite a bit, too. Looking quite bright, even in this dark outdoors.
In one way or another, Idéa looks nicer now.
…Yeah, everyone’s grown up.
And now, back to what’s important… when will Lina let go of me, if ever?
Precisely because of her not letting me go anywhere, I had to use Title Lock of Maüs and his crew again… several times.