“There’s no mistaking it. That’s not something humans are capable of… it must be a soldier in the Demon King’s army. There have been many casualties among peddlers so far… but never was it this bad.”
With a grim look on his face, the one who spoke was the young leader of the group.
The important members of the group were gathered in front of the crackling bonfire that had been lit to keep monsters away.
A few men were digging up a huge pit nearby. It was to bury the dismembered corpses. We had no means to cremate or bring them back home with us. There was no way merchants who travel far from towns could be laid to rest in a proper manner. Gustav and Co. were well aware of that, but it is the thought that counts.
“Our group is one of the supply lines. Romberg may be a stronghold, but it is a barren land. They couldn’t possibly continue to fight without supplies being delivered to them periodically. I reckon that is what the demons are targeting.”
Rainel. That is the name of the Demon King; Romberg is keeping in check. He seems to have an army of beasts under his command.
That woman appeared human. She even smelled human, but then again, Albertus also smelled human while in her human form. If she was capable of bringing about that tragedy, one that did not let but a scream escape anyone’s lips, she must be quite strong.
The leaders of individual merchant companies, mercenaries and guards were all discussing the matter with a grim expression on their faces.
I was resting near the bonfire as I listened intently.
“It’ll take us a week to get to Romberg even if we make haste. If their intention is to stop the supplies from reaching its destination, then they are sure to attack again.”
“… We have no choice but to fight back.”
Apparently, that woman was not affiliated to any company in the group. However, the group was a large one, so even if a stranger were in their midst, it would be normal to assume that they belonged to one of the other companies.
Moreover, though moving in a large group ensured a certain degree of safety, it also meant that time taken to reach the destination became longer. Even if we were to discard the supplies we were carrying, I doubt we could all reach Romberg alive.
“It’s hard to imagine that the mercenaries who were pros in their field were unable to raise any kind of alarm. It’s likely… they were caught off guard. The enemies aren’t large in number, but I don’t think it’s the work of one being.”
Senri spoke from her experience as a Death Knight and as an expert in fighting monsters. Everyone listened carefully to the only one who fought the woman, as well as saved the lives of two of the mercenaries.
Even I am capable of wiping out Gustav and Co. But, clashing head-on, I would end up giving them the time to at least raise an alarm.
There were five mercenaries in the company. Although it could vary depending on their capabilities, one would need at most five minutes to take them all down.
The mercenaries employed by the group are by no means weak.
That said, they are only humans. Because they are human, they are easy to fall apart in a surprise attack. It is also possible that they had let their guard down since the enemy had the appearance of a woman.
Now that Senri mentioned it, if that woman really was a soldier in the Demon King’s army, then it is quite likely that she was not acting alone. It would be absurd to attack a huge group without knowing its head count. I am not an expert at gleaning information from such situations, but there was logic behind Senri’s words.
It also made sense that the enemy was not large in number. There is the fact that the Demon King’s army was not as big as that of humans, as there would be no need to launch a surprise attack if they could overpower us through numbers.
“Do we… stand a chance, Miss Senri?”
The leader of the group looked at Senri. Senri looked down at me and I cried out softly.
I will help them. They were very good to me, so it is the least I could do. My nose is capable of detecting a surprise attack from far away.
Senri spoke earnestly as she patted my head.
“Baron can detect any attacks. He was the one who noticed that the woman earlier was an enemy.”
“… Well, if that’s true, what an incredibly brilliant dog! That would make him way more efficient than a mere hound dog. … Where did you get him?”
“… I fed him once but he grew attached to me and followed me along.”
Senri held out a finger and I lapped at it without reservation.
It was high praise. Senri cast an exasperated look at me as I wagged my tail proudly. Her cold gaze seemed to question my pride as a human.
“Moreover, I can use magic to scan my surroundings. Combining that with Baron’s sense of smell, we should be able to defend ourselves during any surprise attack.”
Senri’s words left the mercenaries speechless. The mages in the group looked at her suspiciously.
Everyone was already aware of the excellent command she had over her sword. Being capable of casting recovery spells on top of that was already pretty amazing, but if she could also perform detection magic, then that would make her more efficient than any mediocre mage.
The leader voiced everyone’s thoughts a little reluctantly.
“Umm… Miss Senri, just what is your identity? You’ve saved us a number of times, so it’s okay if you’d rather not tell us, but it’s hard to imagine your skills as those belonging to a simple mercenary.”
Senri hesitated. We are on the run. We were supposed to lay low as much as we could, but Senri’s name was already known. Because my father had prepared a fake identity only for me.
Everyone had their eyes on her. We had already attracted attention to ourselves. Senri straightened her shoulders and spoke fluidly.
She did not try to appear modest.
“I… was a member of the Order of Death Knights. For certain reasons I can’t say, I’m now travelling around with my dog. I’d like for this to be kept a secret.”
The leader’s eyes almost popped out of his head. Seldom does anyone come across Death Knights. Any other mercenary claiming to be one might have been met with reprehension, but Senri had an unworldly air about her.
And thus, from that day forth, we came to be known as “The former Death Knight aka. Mysterious Goddess of Victory and dog”.
Apparently the news of Senri being a former Death Knight had more impact than a dog capable of detecting surprise attacks.
☠ ☠ ☠
Since then, the group changed the way they operated. In the state of emergency, we could not turn a blind eye to their troubles or worry about our identities being kept a secret.
At night when the group stopped to rest, comfort was sacrificed as the civilians were clustered together, with the guards surrounding them in protection.
The children had grown quiet in the tense atmosphere. I stayed quiet as well.
We were attacked every night. The woman was not involved after the first attack, but beasts that were obviously not just ordinary wild animals, attacked the camp and injured several people.
Thinking back, that woman may have meant to infiltrate the group. Even a large group could easily be taken apart from the inside.
Senri was a jack of all trades as she healed people, traced and fought off monsters.
Her detection magic was done using her positive energy. She changed the form of energy to cast a net of thin wires which she then used to detect any movements.
I employed my sense of smell to detect enemies while she did not. Though her range was not as wide as mine, it was clearly more efficient. It put me in an awkward position. Every time Senri used her detection skill, I felt a little queasy.
The woman was quite far away, but her scent kept following us. It was proof that we were still being targeted.
I wonder how our enemies precisely sense our location from far away. Perhaps, they were also tracking our scent like me.
And so, it was the fifth night. We had almost reached Romberg when the leader summoned everyone.
“It’s time we settled this. We need to wipe them out. The situation would only worsen if we continue to receive these attacks. We’ve managed to keep them at bay until now, but we aren’t completely exhausted.”
There were both truth and lies mixed in his words. It is true that we are not exhausted, but it was at a stage where it could be ignored. If safety was our priority, then we should not be the ones to make the first move.
However, I assume the leader has also taken the near future into concern.
The group is quite large. Hence, we were able to get back on our feet after the first attack.
Had Gustav and Co. been travelling alone, then I am sure they would have been wiped out without a trace and disappeared into nothing.
Moreover, ours was not the only group that was carrying supplies to Romberg.
“At the very least, we need to hunt down the demon that looks like a woman while she’s still in the vicinity. She’s sure to cut off the supply route if left unchecked.”
“… That one is quite formidable.”
“But you can defeat her. Right, Miss Senri?”
The leader who had completely become Senri’s fan in the past couple of days, smiled at Senri.
Well it is certainly not a bad idea. The monsters that have been attacking us everyday have been successfully defended against by proper coordination among the mercenaries.
Though everyone in Gustav and Co. perished, the group still had plenty of mercenaries left.
The woman was not close by. We would need to seek her out in order to kill her. Even if we were to lead an offensive with Senri, there were still enough people left to guard the group. We had more room to plan things with all the carriages having gathered in one place.
The leader spoke in a grim tone.
“Humanoid demons are rare. That woman should be the keystone of this attack.”
“… What do you think, Baron? “
She needs to be killed… if possible. Of course I have my concerns, but worrying does not solve a thing.
There is no saying what the opponents are scheming by attacking us every night. But the leader is right in saying that the situation could only worsen if this kept up.
High returns require high risks. So, though this may not be a part of our duty, knowing Senri, she would not be able to refuse. Naturally, I would comply as well.
“… Okay. I’ll help.”
“You have my gratitude. Miss Senri.”
And thus, we put our plan into motion.