Puffing her cheeks and displaying her discontent, Kay called out to Naga with a loud voice and tried to draw his attention and have him turn his horse’s neck.
“Ah, wait a moment, Naga-san!”
“What? Is there something bothering you?”
“That’s not what I mean. We’ve gone through the trouble of coming here, so can’t we at least enjoy a little swimming?”
“We didn’t come here to play, but…”
“That’s why, I’m telling you it’s just for a change of mood before we start our duties.”
“Ah, isn’t it fine? Naga-san, let’s swim together.”
Ixine expressed her consent.
“Umm, when it comes to swimming, there’s no witch better at it than I am.”
Nonoel lifted her hand.
“No, I don’t get why you’re boasting about being the best swimmer among us, Nono.”
“Eh? So it was no good?”
“No no, it’s not about that. I think it’s good to have Nono teach Naga-san since you’re most proficient in that.”
“Good grief. It can’t be helped, I guess.”
While saying so, Naga dismounted his horse. Nevertheless, he didn’t dislike it so much that he would complain.
Naga decided to see Nonoel, Kay, and Ixine off half-way from the Schweiz River where those 3 had been posted to keep watch. At the same time, he also decided to carry out some horse-riding practice.
Rather than him practicing by himself, teaching Ixine horse-riding was much more meaningful.
Descending from the great cliff towards the plain, Naga galloped on his horse while aiming upstream.
Kay was saddled on the back of Naga’s horse, whereas Nonoel sat behind Ixine.
Nonoel, who was extremely frightened, clung to Ixine’s lower back. On the other hand, Kay was, somewhat happily, glued to Naga’s back.
Running at full speed, Naga created some space between his and Ixine’s horse.
Continuing on like that, he called out to Kay, who was seated behind him.
“You, weren’t you fine riding behind Ixine the other day? Why did you decide to cling to me today? You’re not going to say that my riding skills are better than Ixine’s, right?”
“Of course not. But that’s not the reason. Somehow, it feels nostalgic, you see.”
“Ha? What? Riding on a horse?”
“Wrong, wrong. It’s not that. A man’s back, is what I mean.”
Kay snapped and struck Naga’s back with her right hand.
“I don’t get it. Speaking of which, stop hitting me with all your strength. It hurts.”
Today, Naga didn’t put his armor on. Since he was wearing a kimono with tight sleeves, which he had received from Harrigan and the rest, it felt quite painful for him when he was hit forcefully on his back.
“Ahaha, sorry, sorry.”
Kay withdrew her hand while laughing.
“Saying that a man’s back feels nostalgic….. Could it be that you’re talking about your father?”
Naga tried to ask this.
“Umm, well guess you could say so.”
“It’s been on my mind since before, but where and what are each of your fathers doing?”
“We don’t have a father.”
“W, What? It’s impossible for such an absurd thing to exist. Or could it be, that in case of the witches, children are born from just a mother?”
“Honestly, there’s no way for that.”
Ahaha – Kay laughed.
“That’s not it. Umm, perhaps it’s better to say we don’t have any fathers or brothers?”
“What’s the meaning…. of that?”
“Because explaining the story would take too long, I’ll tell you about it again on another occasion. You see, the witches basically know nothing about their fathers. They’re not informed about them. That’s why, it’s the same as saying they don’t exist.”
Naga didn’t understand the meaning behind Kay’s words, however, he understood her words were quite significant for the witches.
(Somehow, it’s become hard to ask them casually.)
Not being aware of Naga’s hesitant face, Kay continued her story.
“Therefore, nobody from the witches know their fathers, and so they have no memories about them. But you see, I’ve got some memories about my father.”
“Would that be…. his back?”
“Yes. Despite them being faint memories, should you say I remember them? It seems like he used to carry me on his back and walk with me. I’ve not the slightest idea about where or when he disappeared, but with just your large, warm back in front of my eyes, I can recall those times.”
“Because of that, it suddenly felt nostalgic when I saw Naga-san’s back. Hehe.”
Wearing an embarrassed grin on her face, Kay once again put her strength into her arms around Naga’s waist and glued her face to his back.
“Honestly, I’m not at the age to have a big daughter like you.”
Kay, who loosed her face from Naga’s back, again hit it with her right hand.
“Even though I was able to immerse myself in some nostalgic feelings, don’t say things like that. Aren’t you a kill-joy?”
“That’s why, I’m telling you not to hit me. Listen to me!”
“Ah, this, somehow feels like whipping a horse. Yes, doesn’t it give a sound similar to fw-chi?”
Since Kei, was carried away and wouldn’t stop hitting him, Naga became annoyed.
“S, Seriously, this girl. Hey, stop it!”
While messing around with each other, they finally reached their destination and Naga halted the horse.
“Hey, we are here, so get down.”
Kay made a displeased face, however, she wouldn’t complain any further and lightly descended from the horse.
Soon after, Ixine and Nonoel arrived on their horse.
Both banks of the river, where Naga and the rest had made a dam, turned into a rocky area. It was convenient for hiding one’s presence, and enemy soldiers would most likely not reach this far. Even if they were to do so, it would be easy to spot them as Nonoel and Kay would camp there and watch over the river.
“Ixine, hasn’t you horse-riding skill improved quite significantly?”
“I did it! I was praised by Naga-san!”
Sitting on her horse, Ixine clenched her right hand in victory.
Ixine, who was fired up, had on a leather-made and slender tube skirt similar to those found among equestrian tribes. On her feet, she wore a pair of shin high boots. Her outfit was unlike those commonly used by the witches, but nevertheless such an appearance was relatively fitting to Ixine’s tall stature.
“Well then, I’ll be heading back. Take good care of yourself while standing guard. Especially you, Kay. Don’t make any rash decisions, got it?”
“Ehh, you’re saying some cruel things there. I’m not the type of person who would act recklessly, you know?”
“Yes, I know. I was just kidding.”
“Well, having some refreshment and taking a breather are important as well, right?”
“True, true. It’s important, important.”
Being in high spirits, Kay dashed down toward the dry river bank. After that, Ixine and Nonoel followed.
Naga, too, sped his horse to a nearby rock using the reins and ran after the three witches.
As soon as he got down to the river bed with rocks scattered around, the three of the were already doing warm-up exercises.
Since Nonoel wore thin clothes on the assumption that her garments would get soaked, there was no particular need for her to change or take them off.
Unlike her, Ixine wore the tube skirt for horse-riding, so she had to take her clothes off in order to be able to swim. Her top as well was covered by a coat, which also needed to be taken off.
Once she took off her top and bottom, only a small breast wrap and a loincloth were left on her body. However, despite that risqué appearance of hers, Ixine still moved her body with composure. Tattoo-like, complex patterns that appeared on her whole body caught Naga’s attention.
And then, if one was to describe Kay,
She was doing gymnastics while being totally naked, with no loincloth or breast cover.
“What? Naga-san too, isn’t it better for you to properly warm-up before entering the water?”
Kay responded while bending her body left and right.
“That’s not what I mean. I’m asking: why are you naked?!”
Ceasing to move, she looked down on her body.
“A….Ah…oops, I forgot that we are together with Naga-san.”
Saying ‘oops’ lightly, Kay scratched her head without feeling shy or embarrassed.
“You’re not supposed to forget that! Speaking of which, at least put on your loincloth.”
“Ah no, that’s because I’ve always been taking off my clothes when playing in water with my friends. Recently, I’ve been told by Ais to value myself more, but…”
Kay said so while turning around, picking up her loincloth, and putting it on while squirming.
(That’s an amazing view, indeed. Are you really fine with changing yourself there, Kay? Speaking of which, should I really be watching, but…. well, since I was neither told to go away nor avert my eyes, let’s consider this as OK.)
“Wai, Kay, you’re way too bold!”
Rather, it was Ixine and Nonoel who became red-faced.
Both of them moved in front of Kay and stood with their arms spread as if trying to hinder Naga’s gaze.
Finally, understanding it was no good by their reaction, Naga shifted his gaze away.
Kay finished putting on her loincloth and chest cover, turned around and asked them both.
“Hm? What are you two doing?”
Ixine and Nonoel collapsed to their knees.
“Even though we were protecting you from Naga-san’s eyes.”
“Is that so? Thanks.”
“Kay, you’re too defenseless./…”
At Nonoel pointing out, Naga too, couldn’t help but to nod.
“Right. Shouldn’t you have some shame as well?”
“No you see, til now, there’s been nobody besides girls, so we have no custom of paying attention to that.”
“I wonder if I should consider you as being exceptional. Well, still if you insist that you want me to watch at all costs I won’t refuse to do so, but…”
“No no, as one would expect, I wouldn’t go that far.”
“In that case, you better pay more attention.”
“I’ll be careful from now on.”
“Indeed, you’re one easy-going fellow.”
Naga was astonished; Ixine and Nonoel started to laugh.
“Kay is that sort of a girl.”
“Isn’t she? Despite Kay-chan not minding other people’s sight like this, she also has good qualities.”
“Eh? I don’t feel like I’m being praised.”
As Kay spoke up with a slightly hysterical voice, Ixine waved her hands in denial.
“No, we weren’t particularly praising you.”
Naga was infected by the sound of their laughter and smiled broadly.
(Being so relaxed, overfamiliar, and positive toward other witches, indeed, Kay is an interesting fellow.)
Not being aware of Naga’s thoughts, Kay spoke up.
“Well then, let’s swim!”
After they enjoyed themselves in the water for a short time, the four of them came ashore and dressed themselves.
“Well, now that we have refreshed ourselves, shall we take up our posts? Even if I say so, it’s actually Nono who’s in charge of guarding.”
“I know, right?”
“We are relying on you, Nonoel.”
“Yesss, I’ll do my best.”
“Kay and Ixine too, do your best, okay?”
“Leave it to us.”
“You can count on me.”
“If anything happens, Ixine will run back on her horse.”
Like this, Nonoel, Kay, and Ixine took up the duty of watching for movements from the Kasandora Kingdom’s army near the Schweiz River.
The army in question would turn out to be Raibach’s company.
His company, which set up camp on the left side of the riverbank, was divided into 4 groups, so as to guard the river.
Gathering 2 platoons and 5 more people from the company headquarters, Raibach formed groups consisting of 25 people each, as units for tactical mobilization.
Assuming the witches came to this side of the river, there was no telling if they would only cross where the path was. Consequently, Raibach’s troops had to watch over a certain area. Still, there was also a limit to how well 100 soldiers could accomplish this task. With that, Raibach divided his company into 4 units, each placed at a set distance from one another and spread out along the river.
However, in all honesty, he really didn’t want to split his forces.
(Originally, it should’ve been 4-5 companies lined up along the river…. No, even with that amount it wouldn’t be enough. Still, to think that that youngster would only send my company for this dangerous post.)
Whenever Raibach tried to recall the prim looking face of General Guiscard, he couldn’t help himself from getting angry.
Even if they were told to temporarily observe the enemy, a unit that consisted of only 25 people could do very little. Providing they face a clan of the witches that had as many as 20 people, they would have practically the same numbers. 25 soldiers would stand no chance against 20 witches. Not to mention, they would probably be unable to even stall the witches until their allies arrived. As soon as they were attacked, they would just run away.
However, were they to move together as a company, they would only be able to watch over a single place. If that was the case, the enemy could choose a location freely and cross the river at any time.
(That youngster. Saying things like ‘hinder them at all costs’. If so, send us more soldiers! Well, even without hindering the witches, we should at least be able to report once we see them coming, but….)
Regardless of that, Raibach’s company, which was the only one appointed for guarding this wide area, was put in quite a dangerous situation.
(Indeed, recently I’ve been encountering nothing but bad omens since the time we attacked the witches’ fort. As I thought, nothing good comes from being involved with them. Rather, should I retire from the army? After all, I no longer have a family to support. I wonder if I could somehow…. afford living by myself. No, I still can’t be certain about that, I guess.)
Even if Raibach, who has been serving devotedly in the army since his youth, was to try his luck in some other jobs, he possessed no special skills whatsoever. If there was something he could take pride in, it would be his swordsmanship. Other things he could boast about were his military commanding ability and his eye trained for tactics, which he gained through experience, still…
(Guess those skills won’t come in handy if I change my occupation. Were I to make the best use of my swordsmanship, wouldn’t I be only able to serve as a guard for a caravan of merchants? Nevertheless, considering my age right now, it would still probably be quite harsh.)
Contemplating on his own future, Raibach could only let out a sigh.
“Captain. Captain Raibach.”
At his subordinate’s voice, Raibach came back to his senses.
“What? Did something happen?”
“No, it’s not that. I came here to inform you about the newly arrived army provisions.
“Again? Just how many days has it been since we came here?”
The adjutant replied seriously as Raibach spat out his question.
“We’ve been staying here for about 6-7 days, I think.”
(That bastard, Guiscard. In the end, he just wants us to stay here! Speaking of which, if you have time to send us that much food, at least provide us with reinforcements!)
“Have you already confirmed its contents?”
“Yes, it’s done. I’d like to ask for your signature.”
Taking the receipt and feather pen presented by the adjutant, Raibach quickly signed.
“Thank you very much for your efforts.”
Once he handed over the receipt, Raibach called out to the same man who was about to retreat.
The adjutant stopped and turned around.
“I’m going to take around 10 people with me and patrol the river(?).”
Since there was some distance between their units, it was decided that each of them would assign some people to walk along and patrol the riverbank. Raibach was the one who suggested this.
“Captain, you plan to go personally?”
“Yeah, for a change of pace.”
“Will it be alright? If something were to happen to you…”
It wasn’t unreasonable for the adjutant to worry about his superior.
Unlike in modern times, an army in this world had no distinct class system. If something were to happen to a commanding officer, there was a distinct possibility that it would cease to function. And if someone like the general in command, or a royal family member, was to be killed, it was possible for the entire army to desert.
One could say that the same applied for single units.
In the case that this occurred, there was also a vice-commanding officer in charge of every unit, however, the death of one’s commanding officer would cause quite a shock to the soldiers.
Still, Raibach replied with a buoyant look.
“We have a good insight into the surroundings, so it should be fine. Generally, this task is dangerous in itself. No matter where we go, the danger will still be the same.”
“That….might be true, but…”
“Don’t fret. I’m just doing it on a whim.”
(Saying that he wants to carry a patrol because of a whim, isn’t it a bit reckless of him to do so as a commanding officer?)
As an adjutant, it was only natural for him to think so. Nonetheless, it didn’t appear to be a matter big enough for him to strongly object.
Despite it being a hazardous duty, right now, no signs indicated that the witches would appear.
(I guess, the general’s caution about the possibility of the witches striking was a needless worry.)
The adjutant thought so.
Because the witches have been isolating themselves inside the black forest for several dozens of years, it wasn’t irrational.
“Understood. Then, please bring the 1st platoon along with you.”
“I’ll leave the camp in your care.”
Like that, Raibach led a single platoon and went for a patrol along the riverside.
Nonoel travelled through the river while submerged.
With water magic being her main strength, she could breathe by gathering air inside the water. At the same time, it was possible for her to expand the gathered air and wrap it around her skin, allowing Nonoel to maintain a steady body temperature.
Thanks to that, she could easily stay active for more than half an hour inside the water. And if it was just the submerging alone, even for a whole hour.
Since Nonoel was also able to refract the light from the water’s surface whenever she was diving, she could easily conceal her presence.
Capitalizing on that ability, she searched for any sign of Kasandora’s army from beneath the river’s surface.
Nonoel had already grasped that there were 4 units from Kasandora’s army dispatched along the river, with each of them having around 20 soldiers.
She was currently near the place where the path was intersected by the river, where there were footprints still visible. Nevertheless, the area didn’t appear to be heavily guarded.
(Guess it’s like this. It’s not like they have to walk near the path)
Despite there being some hills in the surroundings, the area was basically a plain with no wetlands or big forests.
It would be different in the case of a big unit, however, if one was to consider just a few people walking around, they could go anywhere and not just guard a fixed area.
Even so, there was a mountainous area ahead of the river. Since it was far more comfortable to walk on the path instead of covering the distance by crossing the mountains, Kasandora’s troops would usually walk this path and cross the river here.
After going downstream for a moment and confirming there was no particular change in the Kasandora Army’s troops, Nonoel prepared to swim back upstream, so as to return to where Kay and Ixine were hiding.
Being capable of controlling the water, she had no difficulty in swimming against the flow of the river.
Nonoel continued to move upstream while sometimes taking a peek above to observe her surroundings.
In the middle of doing so, she discovered a troop of only 10 people, who were walking on the river bank.
(Is it the usual patrol group…..? No, it’s not them?)
Among the troops that walked on top of the embankment upstream, Nonoel recognized one person wearing a different outfit from the rest.
(He’s wearing a more refined helmet and armor than the others. Could he be… a commanding officer?)
Back then, Nonoel did a meritorious deed by taking down a battalion commander as a result of her noticing the difference in the soldiers’ outfits. Therefore, it was just a natural course of action for her to recall that time.
(Why did a commanding officer go through the trouble of patrolling?)
Nonoel thought doubtfully.
(Is it a sign of them being about to launch some sort…. of new tactic? Or maybe, they are searching for a plausible location to cross so they can counterattack? The danger doesn’t seem to be imminent, but wouldn’t it be better if I made sure just in case?)
Thinking to check out the intentions of the newly discovered unit, she drew near the riverbank.
As soon as she approached a point where she was barely able to hide herself, Nonoel positioned her face right below the water surface while looking up at the shallows.
It was a posture where you would question whether or not her nose would stick out from the water’s surface.
Under normal circumstances, it would be easy to tell if something was hiding inside the water, even from a more distant place. However, as long as Nonoel was in control of light refraction, unless someone peered into the water right above her, there was no chance they would see her. On the other hand, she was able to observe the surroundings to a certain degree.
Ceasing her movements, Nonoel began to spy on the troop.
“There’s been nothing unusual taking place, right?”
The 1st platoon leader addressed Raibach.
“Well, I guess so. It would be nice if we can finish our duty just like this without any problems, but you see…”
“When do you think it will be over?”
A shade of concern appeared on the leader’s face.
Considering that it was possible for the witches to attack, his anxiety wasn’t unreasonable. Even Raibach felt uneasy. But, there was no way for him to display that in front of his subordinates.
“Well, it’s hard for me to tell as it depends on General Guiscard’s mood.”
Raibach answered in a casual manner.
“That’s because the witches might come, right?”
The platoon leader asked once more.
“That too, remains unclear to me. Til now, the witches have been staying inside the black forest. It’s difficult to imagine them leaving it today, tomorrow, or any time soon, but well….”
“Still” – Lowering his tone, the platoon leader said.
“Based on the fact that our troops suffered a big loss the other day, won’t the witches consider that….as an opportunity?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Raibach began to walk.
“I still don’t understand the witches’ reasoning.”
“Captain, where are you going?”
“I’ll wash my face a bit so as to keep myself awake.”
The platoon leader was taken aback, however,
(Despite being assigned to such a dangerous task, our captain is indeed a daredevil. As one would expect, he hasn’t worked his way up to become a captain for nothing. His battle experience is rich, and he’s also dealt with the witches. I think we might be able to return alive as long we have this person by our side.)
Being filled with admiration, the man thought that Raibach seemed reliable.
“Should I have someone accompany you?”
“I’ll be back quickly. More importantly, stay on guard and watch over the other side of the river properly. If you spot something, inform everyone with a loud voice and run back as fast as you can.”
Putting a wry smile on his face, the platoon leader saluted.
(Is somebody approaching?)
Nonoel lifted up her face close the water surface, which was hard to tell whether it was sticking it out or not.
Certainly, there was someone drawing close. What’s more, that person was coming towards her direction.
(Could it be that he sensed my presence? No, I don’t think that’s possible, still…)
It would be better if that person were to go straight along the embankment of the river stream, but instead, he walked diagonally across a sand bar.
Nonoel saw that and was a bit confused.
Despite thinking it shouldn’t be possible for her to be exposed, she had heard from Harrigan that there were rare instances in which experienced swordsmen would be able to grasp the witches’ hidden presence.
Could it be that this man….? – she thought.
Nevertheless, Nonoel was overthinking.
Considering it calmly, there was a high chance that this event was just coincidental. But Nonoel, who was still young and inexperienced in battle, panicked a bit, and as a result, assumed too much.
(If I move right now, it will place me in danger instead. Should I let this person pass?)
Even if the enemy was able to sense something doubtful for a moment, Nonoel didn’t think he would be able to confirm her position. Because of that, rather than running away, she deemed it was better to hold her breath silently in that place. Despite that, the person continued to approach the shallows in which she’d hidden herself.
(T, That person is walking as if he knows I’m here.)
While thinking so, Nonoel became a little restless.
(W, What should I do? Should I carry out a preemptive attack…? No, by doing so, I’ll reveal myself to other soldiers behind this person. If they learn about us spying on this place, it might affect our plan of capturing their fort. As expected, it’s better to let him pass…no, perhaps it’s better to flee?)
What should I do? – Nonoel couldn’t make up her mind.
At the same time, the man descended down to the riverbank.
“Good grief, isn’t today quite peaceful? It would be nice if such days could always continue like this.”
The soldier, who approached, looked around and said so with an easy-going attitude. Once he did so, he crouched down on the spot and extended both his hands toward the water’s surface.
His intention was to wash his face by scooping some water, but Nonoel felt confused and reacted reflexively.
(Was my location exposed?!)
Nonoel, who tried to counter attack, unconsciously loosened her control of the light refraction.
The sudden appearance of a person below the water surprised Raibach. Not to mention, it was a girl who wore thin clothes with lots of skin exposure.
“No, it isn’t a human, but, a witch!?”
Opening his eyes widely, Raibach stood up as if being flicked.
(He saw meee!)
Nonoel’s body reacted before she could think.
The moment he thought that the river surface became choppy, the water rose up. And then, stretched out just like tentacles, the water coiled around Raibach’s arms, body, and feet.
“Whhhhhhhat is thisssssssssss!?”
(This is bad. I don’t know what it is, but it feels incredibly bad!)
Having a frantic expression, Raibach tried to tear off the water tentacles, but unfortunately, he was unable to move. It was as though he was seized by steel, rather than water.
“What’s the matter, Captain?!”
Sensing something wrong, the platoon leader and his men tried to descend to the river bank. Raibach noticed that, turned his head and shouted.
“Don’t come, it’s a witch!”
With the word ‘witch’, they immediately stopped moving.
“What are you doing?! Quickly, run awa…”
Raibach’s body was suddenly pulled inside the water.
The next instance.
Leaving a small sound behind, Raibach vanished.
Naturally, his body was inside the water. Since Nonoel controlled light refraction with her magic, it looked as if Raibach disappeared. Or so they thought.
(W, was Captain kidnapped by the witches?)
The other soldiers ran up the embankment without a second glance and escaped at full speed.
Raibach, who was pulled inside the water, was struggling desperately. However, it was as if his body was restrained by huge invisible hands. He couldn’t move.
*Blub blub bluuuu-*
Raibach’s breath continued to turn into bubbles and float up.
(This is bad, I’m running out of breath….. Damn, really, nothing good comes from being involved with…Gahaa)
With a part of his consciousness fading away, Raibach awaited his death.
“What should we do, Kay-chan, Shi-chan?”
“No, I myself wonder about that.”
Looking down at the unconscious enemy soldier dragged ashore, Ixine and Kay bent their heads. The complex, tattoo-like patterns drawn on Ixine looked as though they were squirming on her skin.
Finally, Kay lifted up her head and said swiftly.
“Since its bothersome, shouldn’t we just kill him?”
Nonoel as well, nodded in agreement.
“Guess you’re right. 2-3 minutes should be enough for him to die if we leave him to soak. How about that?”
Smack – Kay faced toward Nonoel and hit her in a chopping manner.
“I was joking, Nono. Don’t take it that seriously.”
“Ah, is that, so?”
Nonoel tried to ask Ixine for an opinion by looking in her direction.
“Because we caught him, shall we take him back with us for the time being? In the first place, why did you capture this person? Nonoel, was there some sort of a motive?”
“Ah, no, that’s….. you see, I did it on the spur the moment and had no time to think ahead.”
Beginning from that time, Nonoel explained the whole story in general
“Really? So he isn’t just a soldier but a commanding officer of that troop? Now that you mention it, he’s certainly wearing a high-class armor, unlike those regular soldiers.”
Saying that, Kay nodded.
“If that’s the case” – Ixine raised her right hand.
“I wonder if he doesn’t know about that.”
“Yes? About what?”
“I’m talking about Fort Ein.”
“Wouldn’t Naga-san want to know about that? He said that if there’s detailed information about the fort, capturing it would be much easier.”
“Right? Speaking of which, it means that we’ve caught a fine prisoner, right? Does it mean I’ve once again made a glorious achievement?”
“You’re really singing your own praises, aren’t you, Nono? Well, there’s no doubt that it’s a great achievement, but getting your head gently stroked by Naga-san is indeed nice.”
Ehehe – Nonoel smiled timidly once Kei said so in a half joking manner.
“What? So you really want to be stroked by Naga-san? If that’s the case, you should have your chest stroked as well.”
“….That would be a bit troublesome. wouldn’t you say it’s still too early for…..”
“So the problem is age? Are you saying it’s fine when you become more mature?”
As Kay retorted, Ixine continued to speak.
“Are you saying you won’t be satisfied with just being caressed? Could it be that you want to be groped as well?”
“Uhmm, how should we bring this person with us?”
“Don’t try to dodge my question!” x2
(Nono…. I wonder if you were surprisingly this bold. No, rather than that.)
Kay turned her attention to the problem in front of their eyes.
“It appears to be quite difficult to carry him on one’s back, so…. by the way, when it comes to things like this, perhaps I could be of help, so… no. On second thought, let’s make him walk.”
As soon as Kay said so, Nonoel once again looked in Ixine’s direction.
“Will it do if we place him on the horse?”
“No, you see, I’d rather not have a human guy ride behind me.”
“….Guess you’re right.”
“Well then Nono, let’s wake him up.”
“I think it will be fastest for Kay to hit him two or three times on the cheek.”
“Eh? Are you fine with that?”
“Since he has lost his consciousness from drowning, giving him a shock should be the right thing to do.”
“Ah, that’s right. Well, fine.”
Kay said a small chant.
“Harden, harden. Become an unrivalled hardness. Oh Thee, become a body, become an embodiment of hardness.”
Her right hand which turned silver in color, was hardened.
“Pay attention so as not to overdo it. If you hit him too seriously, you will probably crush his cheekbones.”
“Got it. I’ll hit him gently, like brushing him, so don’t fret.”
“What type of a hitting method is that?!”
“No, I get what you want to say, but…”
Kay’s strengthened body was solid to the extent of repelling sharp swords. If she hit him in that state, the man would most likely not avoid bone fractures.
Ah, that’s right. – Kay said after lowering her raised hand.
“Nono, it will troublesome if this man wakes up and becomes violent.”
“Yes. I’ll restrain him.”
Once Nonoel chanted in a grumbling manner, she inserted her right hand into the river and ladled out some water.
Soon after the scooped water covered the man, turning into fine strings and wrapping around his wrists and ankles.
“This will do.”
“Then, shall we start?”
Raising her right hand once more, Kay grabbed the enemy soldier by his collar and lifted his upper body.
“Okay, wake up, wake upppp.”
Slap slap slap – she delivered repeated slaps to his cheeks.
Nonoel and Ixine looked at the man.
“Seems like he’s regaining consciousness.”
“He doesn’t have any broken cheekbones, right?”
Using her strengthened right hand, Kay tried to caress his cheeks.
“Hm, should be fine.”
A strange sensation, which was somewhat hard but warm, passed through his cheeks. And then,
“Hm, should be fine.”
Such a voice reverberated inside his head.
(What…. I haven’t died yet?)
Right after he opened his eyes slightly, Raibach coughed and choked repeatedly.
Despite him choking, Raibach somehow managed to open his eyes. As he did so, the faces of unfamiliar witches unfolded before him.
At his shout, Kay, who became surprised, released him unintentionally from her grasp, making his head fall straight down on top of a stone.
Folding his knees and arching his back, Raibach tried to hold the back of his head using his hands, but they wouldn’t move freely.
“Awawawawa, what the heck is this, awawaawawa, what’s happening, awawawaawa—”
Raibach attempted to move his body by kicking and struggling, but his limbs still wouldn’t regain their freedom. It felt as though his ankles and wrists were tightly bound by rope-like things.
“Are you in pain or in amazement? Decide which.”
Hearing a voice pouring from above his head, he looked up with teary eyes.
For a while, he and Kay stared at each other from close range.
Raibach screamed with a loud voice, making her lean backwards in astonishment.
Raibach tried to escape desperately, but it shouldn’t be possible with his limbs restrained. In the end, he would just tumble heavily onto the river bed.
With a stone from the river bed cutting into his body, he completely recovered his senses thanks to the pain.
Raibach stopped moving around and looked around his surrounding, trying to confirm the situation.
He was situated on a bank with the flowing stream most likely being the Schweiz River. Since the area was rocky and the river was narrow, unlike his previous location, there was no doubt about this one being upstream. And then, the ones looking down on him were three witches.
Conducting a quick survey from that little information, Raibach reached a conclusion.
(In other words, I was caught by the witches. Because of that, my body is tied up with their magic and thrown down on the river bed…… or so I think?)
As one would expect, Raibach, who had plenty of battle experience, could still judge a situation with composure, despite finding himself in peril.
Releasing all the strength in his body, Raibach fell on his back and observed the three witches, who looked down on him, once again.
(So these are…the witches? Looking closely, they seem to be different from what I’ve thought.)
The three girls in front his eyes appeared to be quite dissimilar from how they had been commonly portrayed as ‘vicious and inhuman’.
(Speaking of which, aren’t they just normal girls? Even if they can use magic, they look no different from normal girls.)
The figure of his long deceased daughter resurfaced in his mind.
(Were she to be alive, that girl too would probably be around this age and appearance.)
Being immersed in a sentiment that wasn’t appropriate to his situation, Raibach ceased any thought of putting up resistance or attempts of escaping.
“You’re, witches, right?”
Nonoel and Kay looked at each other’s face.
A moment later, Kay, who had returned her gaze to him, responded:
“Is that so? Well, guess that was an obvious thing. Still…..”
“Why are you asking such a question?”
“….You look different from what I had imagined.”
“What kind of imagination was that?”
“I’ve heard stories about you being atrocious, heinous, wicked, and brutal existences, which made me think you’re indeed fearsome in appearance. Like the ones with a mouth splitting til their ears, narrowed eyes, and protruding fangs.”
The three of them bent backward without realizing.
“It’s cruel, right?”
“Indeed, that’s cruel!”
“When I look at you from a close range like this, you certainly have unusual hair color and clothing. Still, your look is no different from that of normal girls.”
“Not just our looks but our insides too are similar to normal girls, you know?”
Raibach’s eyes stopped at Kay’s right hand.
“I guess, you can’t call that normal.”
“Ah, no, this is….”
She released her magic.
The metallic-like luster vanished and her skin color turned back to normal.
“What’s more, this is….”
Raibach tried to put up both his hands.
String-shaped cords, which couldn’t be torn off no matter how much strength he applied, coiled around his wrists.
“Is this magic as well?”
“Yes, that’s… true.”
“As one would expect, witches aren’t common beings, I guess.”
But, not feeling any disgust or contempt toward his tone of speaking, the three of them looked again at each other’s faces.
“Then, what do you plan to do with me from now on? If I’m going to be killed either way, it would be nice if you could do it using painless and instant methods, so as to ease my death, but well…”
“We won’t kill you!”
“Had we simply planned to kill you, we wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of catching you.”
“Is that so?”
Raibach breathed a big sigh.
“So I’ll be tormented to death? Indeed, a horrifying end.”
“We won’t be doing that either!”
“You mean it?”
“….No, there seems to be one person capable of that, but at least, we won’t do such things.”
“Then, what are you going do with me?”
“We thought about discussing that matter with Naga-san first, and so we wanted to bring you with us. Still…”
“Naga? Who’s that?”
“No, Naga-san is Naga-san. But the meaning behind his name appears to be ‘Dragon King’, you see?”
“Na….Naga?” [written as Dragon King]
Raibach widely opened his eyes, as if not believing the words he had just heard.
“Naga-san is a human guy and a member of our household. No, to begin with, it’s not clear to us whether or not we should call him ‘human’.”
(Oi, oi, what’s the meaning of that? Naga-san [Dragon King]… What’s wrong with the overfamiliarity in that name?)
“Yes, it was thanks to Naga-san’s tactics that we were able to repel 2000 of your soldiers.”
“There’s no reason for us to lie at this point.”
Raibach wasn’t directly involved with the battle, but he was still related to it since he led the supply troops. That’s why, he knew more than enough about his friendly troops suffering an utter defeat from the hands of ‘the witches who resorted to an unheard of style of fighting’.
(If there’s someone like the Dragon King, then certainly, it wouldn’t be strange for the witches to change their fighting style…. no, I still can’t believe it.)
“We are going to discuss your matter with Naga-san. It would be much appreciated if you could follow us obediently, but….”
“…….Will I become prey for the Dragon King? Am I going to be munched on by him starting from my head?”
“Ha? No no, what are you talking about? Naga-san won’t devour you. If they’re young girls, he would most likely do so, however….”
“Really? So the Dragon King prefers young human girls? Well, guess that’s understandable.”
Raibach felt a small relief inside his heart.
Therefore – While being unaware that he wasn’t understanding their conversation, Kay replied.
“Follow us obediently. If you decide to pick a fight or run away, I’ll have to bring you by force.”
Kay, who peered at his eyes, continued to speak.
“It would be quite bothersome, and you also probably don’t want to suffer, right?”
Raibach exhaled a sigh once again.
“Yeah, I’d hate that. Understood, I’ll follow along.”
Looking down on Raibach, who folded up his arms, Kay groaned lightly.
“What? Is something matter?”
“No, how should I say, I think you’re also different from what I had imagined about humans.”
At Kay’s words, Nonoel and Ixine slightly nodded.
“While we are at it, what kind of human did you picture me as?”
“Look. Don’t humans detest the witches just like snakes and scorpions? In that case, they wouldn’t even bother to lend an ear to us. Despite that, I thought it was strange for you to talk with us that conventionally.”
“Even among humans, there are different people.”
“Hmm, is that so?”
For some reason, Kay watched Raibach with a face showing curiosity.
“Ah, that’s right. What’s your name?”
“Me? I’m Raibach.”
“I see. My name is Kay. It’s fine for you to call me Kay for now.”
“O….Oh, you mean it?”
“And then, here’s Nonoel.”
Being pointed out, Nonoel moved swiftly behind Kay’s back as if trying to conceal herself. With only her face peeking through, she said with a small voice:
“This person here is Ixine.”
“Uhmm, I’m Ixine. Nice to meet you.”
“It’s Raibach. Please treat me well.”
“Well then, let’s not waste any more time on chit-chat. Ixine, gallop back first and inform Hari-nee and Naga-san.”
“Hm, that’s right. Got it. Then, I will return back ahead of you.”
Saying so, Ixine returned to the place where the horse was tied up.
Kay who saw Ixine off with her hand, finally turned around.
“Then, shall we go ahead, Raibach?”
(You’re going to address me without any honorifics? Well, it’s not like I’m in a position to complain since I’m your prisoner, but even if you’re witches, your girlish appearance and age give off a very bad feeling.)
“Can you stand up?”
“Hm? Yeah, more or less…”
Raibach cast down his gaze to the water strings that bound his ankles.
“Oh, is that so? Nonoel, you can remove them.”
Uhee? – Removing the bonds on his ankles, Raibach gave out a voice which could have equally been from astonishment or admiration.
Heave-ho – Raibach stood up and stuck out his bound wrists.
“I’m going to be like this…. for the whole time, right?”
“Well, I thought it would be nice if I wasn’t.”
“Then, you should give up and walk with us. If you try to escape, Nonoel will bind your ankles once more. Speaking of which, perhaps it would be better to constrain your neck too?”
“Yeah, I won’t. To begin with, I don’t think it’s even possible for me to run away from you.”
Nonoel, who heard their conversation, felt it was strange.
The fact that a human and witch could talk casually, judging from her common sense, was an unthinkable thing.
(No, well, it might be that Kay is just a bit eccentric among all of us. She would start talking even with Naga-san in an overfamiliar manner. However, I wouldn’t imagine for this human guy to talk this carefreely with us. I don’t think it’s due to Kay’s speaking style, but I’ve always believed all humans detest the witches.)
Raibach’s speech and conduct was an unexpected and refreshing experience that made Nonoel a little bit happy.
(Could it be it’s possible for both the witches and humans to understand each other……?)
Nonoel considered Naga as someone exceptional. Also, the fact that he fell from another dimension without being bound by this world’s ties of obligation, customs, or common sense was the reason he could give them a fair evaluation. This is what she thought. Nevertheless, looking at this man called Raibach, especially as somebody who wasn’t just an ordinary man, but an enemy soldier, Nonoel actually felt that not all the humans are hostile against the witches, or that they shun them.
(Could it be that such a day might come?)
She carried that wish inside her.
(No, I wonder about that. If I was to say such lines around Ane-sama, she would most likely chuckle at me saying it’s an empty dream, whereas Yuki would abuse me by saying ‘you traitor!’. Despite that…)
It may be that Naga’s evaluation wasn’t due to him coming from a different world, but instead due to his own viewpoint and way of thinking, just like this person, called Raibach.
While walking behind Raibach, who was led by Kay, Nonoel felt that their small light of hope had, yet again, shone a bit brighter.
With Naga supposedly being in the 1st fort, Ixine galloped while aiming for that place.
Kay and Nonoel, who were bringing Raibach with them, walked toward the 1st fort as well.
It wouldn’t take them long if they were to dash, but when it comes to taking along a prisoner, only walking was an option.
With Ais being forwarded by Harrigan after the latter had received a report from Ixine, the three of them linked up with Ais on their way and finally reached 1st fort just before the sunset.
Witnessing a small fort dyed in the color of the sunset and enclosed by a wooden fence in front of his eyes, Raibach had a strange feeling while reflecting on the few days he had spent here before.
(……So it’s here? Good grief. Somehow, it feels a bit nostalgic. I suffered a defeat by trying to attack this place, was demoted from being a company captain to a commander of the supply troops, and was then reinstated as a captain. Considering all of that, to think I’m here now as a prisoner of the witches. My life has changed drastically over the past few days, which makes me want to laugh.)
Once Ais and Kay talked with the witches on security, Naga and Harrigan appeared in front of them, having been brought by Ixine.
“Oi, Kay, so you managed to catch a soldier from Kasandora’s army?!”
“Ah, umm, actually it was Nonoel who did it, but…. Look, it’s this person I was talking about.”
Seeing Naga who came out of the fort, Raibach became surprised.
(So there was a man among the witc– wha, speaking of which, is this guy the rumored Dragon King? Rather than the Dragon King… he looks no different from a normal human. His attire is certainly unusual, but…… Not to mention, he gives off a distinct feeling from us.)
“Oh! So this guy is the captive?”
Naga walked straight toward Raibach.
Raibach was a bit taller in comparison with Naga.
(Watching him like this from a close range, as expected, his appearance is strange. His sword is inserted near his waist, and its shape itself is different too. Still, assuming he’s the Dragon King, he is indeed young.
Such was his first impression towards Naga.
On the other hand, Naga thought.
(I see. Certainly. it’s as they say. Despite him being brought along to a fort of the witches, this sort of composure doesn’t appear to be same as that of an ordinary soldier.)
Naga judged with a calm attitude.
“You…Your name…Wha…is called?”
There were some difficult to catch words, but Raibach understood.
(Is he talking with our language…? No, rather than talking, it feels as though his words are reverberating inside my head.)
“Umm, I’m Raibach. Raibach Lantier.”
“Is that so? My name is…… Naga.”
(Is he really the Dragon King? Or perhaps, he’s just referring to himself that way…?)
Naga who gave his name, talked to the witch next to him.
“I can’t ask him while standing, so how about we enter inside, Harrigan?”
The witch replied.
“I guess that’s the only option.”
(Huge, and by that I mean various things.)
Concealing his amazement inside his heart, Raibach ran his sight indirectly over Harrigan.
“Ah, Hari-nee, Yuuki isn’t here, right?”
Once Kay asked.
“Ah, that’s lucky. Were we to take this man in front of that girl, she would make a fuss while shouting ‘kill kill kill!’.”
Ahahaha – Harrigan laughed.
“If it’s her, she will most likely do so.”
“Oi oi, you, I don’t think it’s something to laugh about.”
Raibach retorted without thinking ahead.
“Hahaha, certainly… it isn’t a laughing matter… I guess.”
“You too! I told you it’s not something to laugh about!”
He also retorted at Naga.
Because Naga and Harrigan directed their sights at him, Raibach shrugged his shoulders in a hurry and turned his face away.
“Should we first let him rest inside a room? He must be tired from all the walking to this place.”
Raibach became astonished at Harrigan’s words.
(To think that the witches would be considerate about my fatigue. I thought they would put me into a room for interrogation without any arguing, but…. Or maybe they’re going to drive me into a dungeon?)
True – At Harrigan’s words, Kay nodded.
“Raibach, come this way.”
She showed him a building inside the fort.
“What’s that? That girl, Kay, has she already started to call him without honorifics? Certainly, she will try to be familiar with anyone when coming in contact. Well, guess that’s her main forte.”
As Naga muttered so, Ais nodded with a slightly glad expression.
“Well, shall we go too? I’m looking forward to what he has to offer.”
Naga, Ais, Nonoel, and Ixine reentered the fort.
Naga, Harrigan, Ais, Kay, Nonoel, and Ixine had gathered inside a single room of the residential building. Obviously, Raibach was also there.
Besides them, there were also other witches inside the fort, like the sisters Linna and Linne, Cu, and Harlequin, stationed at their posts.
Raibach was released from Nonoel’s water binding, however in turn, he had his wrists and waist tied up in ropes that were linked to Ais’ wrist.
By the time Nonoel released Raibach, Kay whispered silently into his ears.
“That Onee-san, you see-”
Kay pointed at Ais while speaking.
“Unlike her appearance, she’s incredibly scary, so you better not make her angry by any means. If she delivered a single hit to your body, you’d die from having all your bones smashed, or your internal organs ruptured. And if you’re hit in the head, it will blow up together with your neck, you know? I’m neither joking nor trying to threaten you, but giving you honest advice.”
Having an awfully loathsome face, Raibach nodded in agreement.
“Ugh… you mean it? Understood. I’ll pay attention to that, but…”
“You’re surprisingly kind, aren’t you?”
“Hm? Is that so?”
Kay, who tilted her head in wonder, turned her face back with a cheerful smile.
“Well, isn’t it fine? If you’re aware that I’m kind to you, you better repay it properly.”
(This girl…. Somehow, it feels like talking with my daughter’s friends. It makes me want to believe she isn’t a witch.)
At any rate, Raibach didn’t feel like running. Even if he tried, he would most likely not manage to do so from the witches. Were he to be caught, they would certainly kill him this time. Rather, it was much better to remain a prisoner.
What’s more, it didn’t seem like he had to worry about being tortured for the time being. And more than anything, being able to talk with the witches was, surprisingly for Raibach, somehow a little bit fun.
(I wonder if I could have talked like this, were my daughter still alive.)
Is what he thought.
(Then, speaking of which, I wonder what kind of questions I will have to answer. It’s not like I know anything of great value.)
Raibach, who felt a bit tense, was made to sit on a folding stool placed near the wall, and surrounded in a half-circle by the rest of the people. Naga sat was in front of him, whereas Harrigan was on Naga’s left, with Ixine being on the furthest left. Similarly, on his right side, Ais and Nonoel sat.
Naga began to speak.
“Well then, I’m not fancy of tedio….talks, so how about we go stra…to the point? Yo…., kno…something about Fort Ein, right?”
As one would expect, some words were hard to catch, but Raibach could still understand what he meant.
“I do possess the knowledge, but….”
“Do you als… know wha.. inside the fort?”
“Then how about, yo….tell me something about it, like its territory?”
“…..Why are you asking me such things?”
“I’m thin….about capturing that fort.”
Raibach became at loss for words, and the interrogation stopped for a while
Naga looked at him with a bit of a curious expression.
“What’s the matte…? Why are you tha…surprised?”
Being thrown a question, Raibach finally gained back his senses.
“Ummm…. Dragon King, I wonder if it’s fine for me to ask you something.
“I don’t mi…d”
“Is that so? If that’s the case. I’ve heard that there’s about 20 witches on this side, but is that true?”
“That would be Harrigan’s clan, you see. Since, this time, we have received a support from anot…household, the number has increased a bit. It would probably be aroun… 40, 50 people.”
“N, No, saying probably around, and on top of that, 40 to 50 people. Right now, there are as many as 300 guards stationed inside Fort Ein. Just how on Earth do you plan to capture it?”
“I wanted to consider that after I have ques…you for some information on the fort’s interior.”
“What are you talking about…. In the first place, do you think I’d leak out such information?”
Naga’s expression turned into an unexpected one.
“So yo…are not going to tell us?”
Once he was told so, Raibach responded in a yelling manner.
“Don’t be silly. I may look like a single person with no family or relatives, but I’ve got friends in that fort. Knowing that they might be killed, there’s no way for me to spill the beans. Don’t try to torture me or do anything similar to that, or I’ll pass you false details.”
Listening to his words and observing his expression, Naga made a decision in the end.
“This guy, isn’t he quite a formidable man? He looks to be someone worthy of being trusted.”
“It’s just reasonable for you to be concerned. But, you don’t have to go that far.”
“W, What do you mean?”
“We are thinking about capturing the fort without making any casualty among your soldiers.”
“Wha? You can’t be serious! Do you think I’d believe such nonsense?!”
Because Raibach lifted himself unintentionally Ais put herself on guard, however, Naga held her back and leaned forward. He fixed his eyes on Raibach’s face in front of him as if looking into it.
“You too, do you think I’m talking nonsense?”
Being seized by Naga’s gushing spirit coming from his whole body, and scorched by a strong-willed light dwelling inside his eyes, Raibach became unable to move.
(W, what’s, this bizarre force coming from this guy?)
“During the previous battle, we had to do things like that, otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to repel the human army. After all, it was 20 against 2000 people. Still, I was reluctant about using that method since there was a chance for the witches to die. For the sake of our future, I’d rather prevent as many sacrifices as possible.”
Was it due to Naga’s words being filled with vigor? Or perhaps, him getting used to conversing with Naga? Raibach became able to grasp his words clearly.
“F…Future? What do you mean by future? And why do you want to take over Fort Ein?”
“It’s the first step toward establishing the country of the witches.”
“The country of the witches? What do you intend to do once you’re done with that? You mean to say, that the witches are trying to rule over humanity?”
“No, I don’t. In the end, we want to create a world where humans and the witches can both coexist. This is what I mean to say.”
(Is this guy, a fool? There’s no way for such a thing to happen. Is he serious about that?)
Not trying to hide his thoughts of being utterly amazed, Raibach opened his eyes widely and gazed at Naga. Perhaps, there was a hue of contempt displaying in Naga’s expression, however it didn’t look like he was making fun of Raibach or bragging about anything.
If it was true, then he was honest. Naga was honestly talking about creating a new world.
Raibach could sense the magnitude of Naga’s caliber, the difference which separated him and that person.
(The Dragon King, who commands the witches, and me, who can’t even fulfill my duty as a Captain. Is it natural for there to be such a difference between us? Despite that, saying he wants to create a world where both humans and the witches can live together….)
What they both looked at was far too divergent.
As well as Naga’s range of vision.
And even their aims were contrasting with each other.
(If I were to say, unlike me, who can only think within my own scope as a captain, this man possesses an overhead view, just like a bird flying at the highest altitude, and can grasp every position and movement of his enemies and allies. Is this how it feels?)
Raibach, who had devoted himself to military service, suddenly thought that way.
“……Hey, you, Dragon King. Do you honestly believe it’s possible for you to create such a world?”
“Ha? No, obviously, we should be able to do so. That’s because I’m going to live together with the witches too, and I’m not a witch myself, you see. There’s nothing that should be impossible.”
“No, you’re most likely the Dragon King, rather than a human.”
“I may be holding a grandiose name like that, but I’m actually a human, or at least an existence that’s closer to a human than that of a witch. Still, it’s not like I feel any sort of inconvenience from that, you see.”
“You as well, haven’t you been walking together with them before reaching this place? Did you feel anything unpleasant? You were able to hold a conversation with them, right?”
Kay smiled at Raibach as soon as she noticed his glimpse.
He turned his face away in a hurry.
“….There was no such thing, but…”
“Right? Be it humans or the witches, both sides can understand with each other in a proper way. If that’s the case, then creating a world where they both can coexist isn’t far from reality, and we may be able to live together. Unless you see it for yourself, you shouldn’t decide on your own.”
At Naga’s words, Raibach kept silent.
Certainly, Kay, Nonoel, and Ixine, whom he had met before, were far removed from the human’s concept of ‘vicious and inhuman witches’. Rather, they appeared to be more like girls no matter how you looked at them. Were he not to consider these three as peculiar and extraordinary witches, Raibach felt he could agree with Naga to a certain point. And looking at the other witches, such as Harrigan and Ais, it was all the more reason for him to believe they weren’t extraordinary.
In addition to him being taught a biased belief, and their appearance being far different from what he had imagined before, Raibach became confused and perplexed.
“Then, shall we return back to our topic?”
“Eh? W, What was that again?”
“That’s why, I’m telling you we want to capture Fort Ein. Of course, without making any sacrifices on either sides. Furthermore, we need some information about its interior. So the talk was regarding whether or not you would provide us with any information.”
“I’m not fully sure about that myself, but even if you gain the information, it’s impossible to seize that fort with just 40-50 people.”
“Have you forgotten we were able to defeat 2000 people from your army, even though we weren’t supposed to win?”
“No wa….t, that’s true. In other words, this time do you have a secret plan as well?”
“I wouldn’t go so far so far as to call it a secret plan, but I think it’s feasible to do so since we have magic here.”
“If you attack using magic, there’s no way for you to avoid casualties!”
“Honestly, there won’t be any. As long we follow my plan, neither humans nor the witches should suffer casualties.”
“T, Then, how?”
“I can’t tell you much regarding our magic, but how about we assume there’s one that can immobilize people? If you use it, there will be no need to fight. With that, we can boldly march into the fort from the entrance and tie up the crippled soldiers.”
“Hm… does magic like this really exist?”
“Indeed. However, for that to happen, we have to decide on the right place. And to do so, it’s necessary for us to know, in advance, how it looks inside and where the guards are deployed. Because of that, we are questioning you.”
Naga, who finished talking while brimming with self-confidence, pierced Raibach with his gaze.
“If you don’t pass us the information and force us to use violent methods, both sides will suffer losses. However, there might be more on the human side. I’d rather avoid that scene this time.”
Naga’s promise about not creating any sacrifices among the guards was a pretext for him to quickly get hold of the fort with no injuries. Nonetheless, he wasn’t bothered with that.
“W….Will you let me think for a while?”
“Fine. Still, we don’t have all the time in the world. Give me a clear reply within the next couple of days.”
With that the interrogation concluded.
Rather than saying interrogation, if one was to say, the content of their talk was far closer to a conversation.
This experience provided Raibach with a huge impact.
Harrigan and Naga decided to confine him inside a small room.
“Is it okay to leave him without anyone watching? Even if he’s tied up, the walls in the room are just single-layered. Don’t you think he might be able to break through them? Shall I keep an eye on him?”
Once she expressed her concern, Naga uttered something unexpected.
“It’s okay. But, just to make sure, I’ll stay together with him in that room.”
“Eh? Are you sure?”
“In whichever case, there’s no way for me to sleep with you guys in the same room. Or perhaps, you’d prefer to sleep with me?”
“Ah no, as expected, that’s a bit—”
“That’s right. Were I to sleep in a separate room, we would be occupying 2 rooms. It will be much more efficient for me to sleep in the same one with that guy. I may be troubling you, but please prepare bedding for 2 people.”
“I don’t mind that, but, I wonder if he won’t start acting violently.”
“As long as his legs and arms are bound, there should be no problem. Even without it, that guy doesn’t seem to have any intention of running away.”
“You think so?”
“Yes. He doesn’t appear to have a strong grudge against the witches. Perhaps, him not having a family or relatives in Kasandora is also one of the main reasons for that. Well, if you still insist on helping, I won’t reject it, but…”
“Then, I shall assist you a bit. Is it fine, Harrigan-nee?”
“If you want to do so, then fine. However, don’t cause any commotion. Got it?”
“I’m not like Ais, who would do that when getting drunk.”
Ais cracked a smile.
“Well well. I wonder, what’s the meaning of that, Kay-chan?”
Ais’ face was smiling except for her eyes.
“Ah…. ummm, nothing in particular. Yes, not at all.”
Being aware of her sight, Kay’s forehead became covered in a cold sweat.
Still…- Ais, who was grinning, stared at Kay for a while; nevertheless, the latter soon shifted her gaze.
Ahead of her, there was Raibach sitting in the corner of the room.
“That’s a bit strange, isn’t it? I’ve always thought that every human would loath us and keep their distance. To think that such people still exist.”
That’s exactly what I think – As soon she uttered that with a small voice, Naga said so while nodding in agreement.
“Since there are guys like him among humans, perhaps our wish of creating a world for humans and the witches isn’t just a pipe dream?”
“True. I’ve got the feeling it’s fine to place our trust in what Naga-san says.”
“Oi, wait a moment. Ais, do you mean to say you haven’t been trusting in my words until now?”
”Eh? Honestly, I’ve been doing that all this time, you know?”
Naga made a pathetic expression.
“No, just now….”
Or, maybe not… – As he was about to say, he changed his mind.
“Whatever. I’ll be sleeping together with him in the same room, so fret not. I’ll let you know when he’s in the mood for speaking.”
“Yes, understood. But before that, let’s have dinner. I’ll make a portion for him as well. Kay, I’m going to call you once I’m done, so please bring it to him, okay?”
Naga and Kay brought Raibach into a plain-looking room that resembled a storage shed. Having done everything he had to do, Naga removed his sword from his waist belt, pushed away a mess on the floor into the corner, and spread out a quilt in an open space. Then, he sat on it and leaned his back against the wall.
Next to him, Kay also sat down.
Owing to the fact that Raibach was tied up in ropes and fastened to a pillar, they didn’t have to fear an attack by him, even if they decided to nod off.
Not being mindful of Raibach’s presence, Kay spoke to Naga.
“Naga-san, shall we continue our talk from earlier today?”
“Ah? What talk?”
“That’s why, I’m telling you it’s the talk about the witches not knowing their fathers.”
“Ahh, that’s right, you’ve mentioned about it before. Oops, my bad.”
Naga took a short glimpse at Raibach, and shook his head in agreement.
“Let’s do it on some other occasion. This may be not something a human should hear, right?”
“I guess so…. Still, if that’s the case,”
“Is there something that troubles you?”
“Not really, but I thought it would be nice to chat since we have some free time.”
“Free time? Seriously, you are…”
Naga put a wry smile on his face without realizing.
“I’ve got an idea. Naga-san, how about we wrestle with our arms? I may be not as strong as Ais, but I’m quite proud of my strength. Look, I’m an athletic type of person, you know? Therefore—”
Naga ran his eyes over Kay’s body without any reservation.
“You don’t really appear as such. Well, perhaps you do, but–”
“I was told something rude just now.”
“Then, Kay, my dear representative of athletes. Will you take me as your opponent?”
Naga lay on his belly and put his right elbow on the floor. Soon after that, Kay moved to his front and did the same thing.
They grasped each other’s right hand.
“Come at me anytime.”
“Three, two, one, goooo!”
It was a close-fought contest of strength, but
Naga’s hand was finally pushed down by Kay’s own.
“It’s a hundred years too early for you to win against me.”
“Fine by me, but you see, it won’t change much.”
While smiling wryly, Naga kept competing numerous times.
Raibach watched them both with a dumbfounded expression.
(Those guys. Could it be they’ve been ignoring me from the beginning? Or perhaps, they are trusting me? Whichever it is, they sure have some guts. As for me, just the fact that I’m inside a fort of the witches doesn’t let me rest at ease.)
Watching, with a sidelong glance, how Kay and Naga were enthusiastically competing with each other, Raibach exhaled a sigh.
(Good grief, I wonder what fate is going to await me. It doesn’t look like I’ll be killed any time soon, but If I continue to insist about not wanting to talk, they too will eventually lose their temper. Had I known about this, I’d have long resigned from the army and become a guard of some merchant caravan. Anyway, I don’t have any family left, so travelling from one place to another while doing precarious trades would also be worth considering, I guess.)
The appearance of Raibach’s deceased wife and daughter resurfaced in his mind.
He remembered his beautiful, gentle wife together with their good-natured and cute daughter.
About the time he first married his wife.
About Erina’s birth.
About the time she turned 2 years old.
About the time she turned 5 years old.
And then, 8 in age.
Back then, his wife was still healthy.
They lived a frugal life, but despite being fairly hungry and feeling little freedom, the three of them huddled together and lived happily.
Their joyful moments as a family floated one by one in his head, and then disappeared.
However, such a blissful scene wouldn’t last forever. Raibach knew that more than anyone as he tried not to recall his memories. But, once they started to overflow, it wasn’t easy to stop them.
It happened one day when his daughter was looking after his ill wife at home. Being overjoyed and full of spirit, Raibach returned back to his city after committing a meritorious deed. Nevertheless, by the time he arrived, the city had already become scorched earth.
Some savage tribe had decided to attack when the city’s garrison was short-handed.
Invading the city, they killed, burned, stole randomly, and then escaped.
It was over by the time Raibach’s assigned troop returned.
Raibach, who was at a loss for words, looked at the city that was no different from a burnt field.
He tried to search for his wife and daughter desperately, but could find no trace of them.
There were lots of scorched corpses, lying in burned houses and on the streets, all of which were hard to tell apart. For that reason, Raibach couldn’t manage to hold a mourning for his family in the end.
Provided they were taken away as a prize, it was possible they would still be alive, even as slaves. He wanted to think that way, however, with his wife being ill and his daughter still being a child, Raibach knew the chance of that was slim.
Even now, his body would tremble and his heart would throb whenever he thought back at his despair, hatred, and remorse from that day. His mind still haunted by his regret from that time.
Why didn’t the army increase the garrison stationed to defend against barbarians?
Why did it have to be his troop that left the city at that time?
Why did he aspire to join a mission troop?
To begin with, why did he enter into military service?
Why Why Why Why Why Why! Why! WHY!
Later, Raibach would contemplate on that repeatedly each day.
Having lost his hometown and his family, he wandered through borderlands, after which he was finally admitted into Kasandora’s army. Nevertheless, he later decided not to marry and remained a bachelor.
From his eyes that looked up at the bottom of the roof, a stream of tears spilled over.
(Good grief. If I can’t even protect my wife and my daughter, then becoming a soldier was meaningless.)
Rubbing his tears, Raibach released the strength from his body and lay down on his quilt.
Before anyone could notice, Naga and Kay, who had stopped arm wrestling, looked at him with a sidelong glance. However, in the end, they wouldn’t speak to him.