Leaving the city for the forest, we had Porter transform, and raise its upper body.
Covering it with a cloth, and putting netting over that, we used mud and branches to get its outward appearance in order. Its head was closer to its left side, so we tried attaching on another head for balance, and it truly became something sinister.
With the needlessly handy Monica directing its appearance, and Clara- who’d gotten even better than me at operating- in the driver seat, we had put together a monster in no time.
Seeing Porter raise both its arms, me, Aria and Shannon applauded. Shannon probably just read the mood and applauded, and to be more precise, she could only see that we had covered Porter with something.
Monica put away her tools in the gap between her skirt and apron, sticking out her chest.
“How about that! No matter how you look at it, it resembles those strange lifeforms you call monsters. No, it’s more perfect than any of those lowly beasts!”
Aria stopped clapping.
“And so? We’ll attack Centralle’s forces using this road, and rescue the Margrave’s family, right? Then what?”
Aria emphasized the word rescue. It’s true that it sounded more decent than using words like kidnap, or abduct. Though we’d be doing the same thing.
I patted off the dirt that had stuck to my clothes during the work.
“My apologies, but we will be using them as negotiation pieces. We’ll be sending them right off to Faunbeux.”
Shannon tilted her head.
“What about negotiating with the Margrave?”
I looked up a Porter… monster version, before turning a smile to Shannon.
“Of course we’ll do that. But on favorable conditions, that is. We’ve a need to have some talks with Faunbeux as well, so I’ll be leaving them on hand for the time being.”
To obtain Faunbeux’s cooperation, we would need to prepare merit for the other side. And I could anticipate what they would ask for, to a certain extent.
I thought that plan would require more time to adjust, but I had gathered surrounding information, so I was able to finalize our policy.
Aria hesitated a little.
“Shouldn’t you return the hostages to the Margrave from the start to show your sincerity? From there, getting his cooperation isn’t…”
I shook my head.
“Sorry, but the Margrave will have to compromise. Otherwise Faunbeux won’t move. And the land the Walt House cut off from them… why don’t we return it?”
What Faunbeux desired… it should be their own soil torn away by the Walt House.
Within the Jewel. The Seventh spoke excitedly.
『Feudal Lords are lifeforms that can’t stand their territory being scraped away. There are times they’ll consent, and hand it over. And times they’ll divide it amongst relatives… but those that can laugh off what’s stolen are failures as lords. There is no value in taking such folk into our side.』
Milleia-san took over explanations.
『That’s precisely why the hostages. Negotiating with Faunbeux, and the Margrave as well. I can’t think he’ll obediently stand down, but family affection will take its seat at the negotiations table. If all goes well, we’ll be able to leave him to guide Faunbeux’s invasion, so we really should get the Margrave’s cooperation.』
Clara looked at me, as she pushed up her glasses.
“Um… Lyle-san? In that case, the Margrave won’t assist us, will he? His land stolen, and his family held hostage, you’ll leave much too bad an impression. There’s far too little in it for him to begin with.”
“It’s alright. I’ll prepare something he’d love to take a bite into.”
The Third spoke in a tone full of implications.
『It’s not like he said he’d only be taking land away. We’ll properly prepare it. Properly.』
After the preparations were in order, I stretched.
“Now then, a squad coming for the hostages has been spotted, so how about we wait?”
A messenger had already raced ahead to inform the Margrave of the unit’s approach. Time-wise, we’d be attacking a few days later.
“… Our number one priority is securing the hostages. Next comes defeating the enemy commander. Clara, I leave it to you.”
“It’s vital to whittle away the enemy war potential, after all.”
There was no necessity to annihilate them. No, while we were doing that, it would be terrible if reinforcements from the Margrave came. If we could preferentially take out the commander, it would be a huge success.
And we hid ourselves until the attack was to come.
A few days later.
Having received the hostages, the force from Centralle returned using a road going in and out of the forest.
They had spent a night at his castle, and immediately set on their way.
Before boarding Porter, I took Clara, and led her to a place separated from our other comrades.
“… It’s kinda, when I’m calmly using my Skill like this, I suddenly become embarrassed. It’s a lot easier when there’s some reason we have to rush.”
I grabbed Clara’s shoulders with my hands, and pressed her against a tree. When I looked down, and got my breath in order, Clara smiled.
“Come to think of it, you’ve gotten able to kiss easily whenever there’s some reason to it. From your point of view, are you just kissing us because there’s a need?”
If we were in a hurry, there was no problem, but if there was enough time, I couldn’t help but hesitate. No, it was necessary now, so we really should hurry, but we still had some time to spare.
“When we’re in a hurry, I don’t have the time to think, so… when I can stop and think over it, I start thinking of this and that…”
There, Clara approached me, grabbed my face with both hands, and kissed me. In my surprise, I had noticed she had removed her glasses, and closed her eyes.
After a while, she parted her mouth, and reapplied her glasses with both hands.
“… We’ve been linked. I can see the map, and the movements of the troops. Their responses are yellow, but… the ones we’re to rescue are at the very center. I’ll go get ready.”
Recovering the staff she had leaned against a tree, Clara walked off. I touched my lips, and followed behind.
When she turned, her face was just a little red.
“What is it, Lyle-san?”
After thinking a bit, I shook my head, said it was ‘nothing,’ and walked towards Porter beside her.
Inside Porter’s loading tray.
After fastening our bodies down with belts on Monica’s words, we commenced our attack on the dispatch from Centralle.
From their point of view, it was as if they were suddenly assaulted by a variant of monster they had never seen before.
Closing my eyes, I could see the scenes Clara saw.
Using Porter’s arms, she flung aside a single panicked knight. Truly thrown, the knight flew off his horse, and after hitting the ground, he had stopped moving.
Shannon, in the swaying Porter.
“Wait! Seriously, wait! I’ll throw up! I really will!”
Monica had her bite into a cloth.
“You’ll bite your tongue like that. And it’s alright if you throw up. It feels like you’re about to forget it, so I’ll throw it out, but I, Monica, am a maid.”
So what if you’re a maid? I wanted to say, but in this swaying vehicle, it was best not to carelessly open your mouth.
Clara skillfully operated Porter, having it do a single rotation near the center of the group.
From the two arms extended outwards, the surrounding soldiers were blown away.
One of the mounted knights moved to use magic, so from within the loading tray, I touched the wall, and used magic.
By the magic shield projected to block the knight’s blow, Porter escaped unscathed. Perhaps he thought it was a monster with magic resistance, as he hurriedly yelled for the surrounding soldiers to take their weapons in hand.
But the soldiers of Centralle hesitated to confront a monster they’d never seen or heard of before. I had heard they were an army that didn’t even fear death, but it seems perhaps not every soldiers was caught in such a state.
The spirit of the knights, however, was high.
When one held his weapons and tried to cut, Clara hit Porter’s arm against him. It was something of a slap, but at that scale, it wasn’t something that could be endured.
Shot into the air, and rolling into the air, left in a state bent in ways bodies shouldn’t be bent, the knight stopped moving.
After she couldn’t confirm any knights around, Clara instantly went to retrieve the carriage.
The soldiers that made a path whenever Porter moved. And a conspicuously extravagant carriage…
“… Clara, that’s not it. The ones riding aren’t a woman and child!”
When Clara grabbed the carriage and lifted it up, two knights fell out from within. They had taken off their armor, and drink and food had fallen out alongside them. When the two of them hit the ground, they looked around in a frenzy once they spotted us.
On their behinds, they looked up at Porter with eyes of fear.
“It’s the wagon! The wagon one behind! First, take…”
Take care of these two, and rescue the hostages. When I was about to issue those orders, the Third cut in.
『Lyle, leave those two be. That’s more convenient. Someone has to take responsibility for this mess. And let the horses run. It’ll buy some time.』
Believing in the Third’s judgement, I issued orders.
『Clara, release the horses! And once you retrieve the wagon, we’re retreating!』
Clara retrieved the wagon in both Porter’s hands, and went right into fleeing from the unit. It didn’t seem they were following, so we set Porter on a path right from Margrave Resno’s territory towards Faunbeux.
Of course, without using the roads.
“It’ll keep shaking for a while.”
Aria seemed relieved the shaking of battle had ended.
“But it won’t sway like it had before. More importantly…”
Aria turned her eyes to Shannon. With a pale face, biting into a rag, Shannon looked as if she would throw up at any moment. Monica handed a bag over to her.
“Please spit into that. It’s fine if it spills onto the floor, but if it spills onto my chicken, you won’t get off lightly. Well… I would love to clean up a filthy chicken too.”
I looked at her.
“I think you should learn a bit more prudence.”
… … The castle of the Margrave of Resno was flurried.
The unit of Centralle that returned seeking help.
Returning to the scene, it looked as if the carriage with the Resno House Crest on it had been slammed against the ground. It was in tatters.
The knights had immediately searched the area, but because the soldiers that went to get reinforcements hadn’t any horses, the message came late.
By the time the Margrave’s men were investigating, a considerable amount of time had gone by.
Before those in charge… the surviving two knights, Varius directed a glance filled with rage.
“Bastards… you ran back to me without protecting those you were charged to guard!? After acting so high and mighty, you let my precious family be stolen away by monsters!?”
Both knights boasted untrained bodies. One had let his expand enough it looked like his clothes would burst. The other was contrarily slender. Way too slender. The two untrained men had become knights on the status of their houses alone.
“Margrave! If you lay a hand on us, Centralle will…! C-Celes-sama won’t keep quiet!”
Hearing those words, Varius held down his right arm that was trying to pull his sword. He glared at the two knights with eyes full of malice.
“Two knights who failed their missions… I do hope Celes-sama finds it in her to give a damn!”
Letting off some sarcasm, Varius ordered his men to keep searching.
“Find them at all costs! 【Parselena】 and 【Blaeubeigh】… at whatever the cost, my grandson…”
Seeing Varius’ impatience, then men hurriedly formed an additional search party…
Having hurriedly left the Resno territory, we looked at the young boy resting on another’s lap in the loading tray.
With brown hair and green eyes, the boy who took after his mother was sound asleep. The one lending her lap as a pillow was the mother 【Parselena】… a woman with straight, long hair, and green eyes as well. It seems she was still in her early twenties, but she could pass for less.
Ignoring roads and the like to enter Faunbeux, we forced Porter across a wide river to enter the country.
While on the move, we had somehow managed to persuade the two, but they were still wary. Parselena-san had exhausted bearings, but she couldn’t bring herself to sleep before us.
I let out a sigh.
“If you don’t rest, it’ll be poison on your body. Even if that isn’t the case, isn’t that tension of yours wearing you out?”
Parselena-san gave thanks for my proposal.
“Thank you. But I do not trust your group. It is true you saved us from that unit of Centralle, but by that, you have brought trouble to the House of Resno. To be blunt, it was none of your business.”
Within the Jewel, Milleia-san laughed.
『Quite right, quite right. Nothing to say to that.』
I put a line I’d said a number of times to mouth.
“We mean you no harm. And I think Margrave Resno will be safe. Because the two of you aren’t anywhere near him.”
The Third spoke happily.
『I’m sure right around now, he’s writing a letter of complaint to Centralle. Centralle also faced some loss to their side, so I’m sure they won’t make any poor moves. Well, even if they did, that would make a gap to attack in itself.』
The Seventh was the same.
『If they oppose the Margrave, it will be all that much easier to take him in. Normally, both parties would have to compromise, but with this situation… and it also depends on what Celes decides.』
Parselena-san looked at me, gripping【Blaeubeigh】’s shoulders as if to protect him.
“Is that so… we aren’t going to be harmed, you say. Are you going to demand a ransom or so from the Resno House? I’d recommend you abstained. It is a Margrave House charged with the defense of the border. It isn’t as kind as you all seem to think.”
She gave off a calm air, but her expression was the epitome of severity. I’m sure she had much stress in these sudden changes of affairs. She was enduring quite well.
The Fifth, quietly.
『Mothers are strong, goes to show.』
Perhaps the picture overlapped with that of him and his own mother. I spoke to Monica.
“A blanket and a drink… prepare herb tea, and something easy to eat. I’ll tell Clara to drop her speed.”
After Monica nodded, and went into making it, Aria nursing a fallen Shannon asked me.
“You sure? Aren’t we pressed for time.”
I nodded, and spoke in a quiet voice.
“Better than collapsing. And it’s a bit hard on the eyes.”
Saying that, I headed for the front where Clara was stationed.