Climbing a mountain overgrown with trees was Eunius with Aleist’s defender platoon as his guards.
They hadn’t even gone halfway to their destination point, apart from the thick lines of foliage, there were numerous other problems.
“Why are you lot so slow!? I’m short of training here too, and yet you’re just that much slower? Are you messing with me?”
“W-wrong! It’s just, we’ve been doing nothing but cleaning every day, so…”
The cave they were searching for had an entrance halfway up the mountain. While they were heading straight for it, Aleist’s platoon was slow on their feet.
With all the beauties gathered together, Aleist’s platoon emphasized appearance over capability. On a side note, the demi-human ration was strangely high.
“Give me a break. I want to go and revere that holy sword thingy already… oh, we’ve got company.”
Eunius himself didn’t believe in the holy sword. But in the place the sword was said to lie, for some reason, powerful monsters would make their homes.
Ogres were the least of their worries, and apart from them, large monkey-like monsters and monsters that seemed to have been made from numerous animal parts put together wandered the land. To Eunius, rather than the holy sword, he was after the monsters that almost seemed to be protecting it.
Taking a stance with his special made greatsword, he directed its tip towards the monster that came out.
The footing was bad, and be that as it may, the movements of the platoon was worse. If there was a single thing going in their favor, it had to be the fact there was only one foe.
“I don’t believe those holy sword rumors, but it’s nice to see these things crawling all over the place. Looks like I can enjoy myself.”
“This is why you battle junkies are… everyone, get behind me.”
Aleist had his subordinates from his platoon step down as he drew the two swords at his waist and took a stance. They were both one-handed swords, but their hilts were fashioned a bit on the longer side. The blade portions were made just that much shorter.
“Why two swords again?”
“’Cuz I’ve got more on my plate these days. Using magic like Rudel and Luecke just doesn’t suit me.”
As the two of them conversed without looking at one another, the large monkey before their eyes raised a war cry as it leapt towards them. Its jumping ability would have instantly sent it towards the women behind Aleist, but along the way, it extended an arm towards a nearby branch and clung fast to the tree.
While the enemy showed such a pitiful sight, in the next instant, from Aleist’s shadow, several dozens of spears pierced through a spot it would pass through.
If it had continued on, it would have been impaled.
“Hmm, this one’s clever. It’s stronger than the previous one… Aleist, this one’s mine.”
Eunius looked at the enemy’s movements and thought back to the monster of the same race he had beaten not a moment ago. While its power and speed seemed around the same, at a glance, he could feel the enemy before him was smarter.
His face changing to a ferocious smile, Eunius used his magic sword to cut at the monster in the trees. The warping blade extended towards the monster, but skillfully leaping from tree to tree, the monkey managed to dodge it. The terrain was on the enemy’s side.
“I could just blow the whole area away, but that wouldn’t be interesting.”
“That’s the reason you won’t blow it away? No, I don’t quite know what to think about blowing away the landscape.”
“… And you’re one to talk. In that wilderness training in the fundamental curriculum, who was the first and last in academy history to blow the forest away with magic to clear a path?”
“Stop it! Don’t talk about that time!”
Leaving an embarrassed Aleist aside, Eunius pruned at the monster coming at him from above. With its long limbs and sturdy body, it was simply idiotic to try comparing it to a human.
Its fur was practically the monster’s armor. Even when cut by the magic sword, not only did the arm remained unsevered, it was barely even scratched. Perhaps it had grown its coat longer than the previous one, or perhaps this was a superior variant…
Eunius leapt back to take distance, changing his stance from slashes to one specialized in thrusts.
His face was the epitome of severity, and as if sensing that, the monster intimidated him, but it didn’t make any poor approaches.
A few seconds passed…
As both sides glared at one another, the first to move was the monster. After coiling up its large limbs, it used the recoil to spring towards Eunius. Seeing the monster that was practically flying parallel to the ground, Eunius’s mouth curved into a smile.
“Looks like you really weren’t any different from that last one. Just a little bit harder and a little more clever, but that’s about it.”
Eunius stepped in and lowered his stature to match the monster, thrusting out his sword at a range where its tip still wouldn’t reach.
A magic sword accompanied his blade, drawing the form of a sharp spiral as it enraptured the monster and caused it to spin while a large air hole opened up in its chest. After slamming into a large tree behind it, the monster slumped to the ground and Eunius put his sword away on his back.
“Alright… moving on, next!”
Aleist put his sword away, reverting his shadow to normal as he called over to his subordinates. His form was just a bit entertaining to Eunius.
(He’s properly acting as their commanding officer, that Aleist. But…)
Aleist held no ulterior motives, he was only doing the actions he usually would, but Eunius understood how that looked to his female subordinates.
When he was the one who fought, they were directing favorable eyes towards Aleist, but he didn’t notice anything of the sort.
(… It’s interesting, so I’ll keep quiet. It’ll make a nice story to bring back to the boys.)
Without informing Aleist he was subconsciously raising his subordinates’ affection points, Eunius set out for the next waypoint.
There were a number of places the holy sword was said to rest.
But those were along the same vein as buried treasure, and the people of this world did not hold them in high belief. A king of a few generations prior had once dispatched forces to a number of prominent points to try to find the holy sword, but the results were a disaster.
The sword was never found. Many people were invested, much funding was thrown down the drain. Therefore, the existence of the holy sword was thought of as something of a fairy tale.
Then came along Aleist with his knowledge of a game. He knew where exactly the item called the holy sword was supposed to be. He knew, and he led Eunius right to the site.
“Even so, who would’ve thought the holy sword was this deep in the mountains.”
“Isn’t that precisely why it’s so deep in the mountains?”
Eunius used a short sword to clear away the overgrown grass and tree branches as he made a path. Aleist similarly used a one-handed sword to move forward. Behind them, the women of the platoon walked with the supplies.
But Aleist was shouldering all the heavy luggage. In order to fight, Eunius was barely carrying anything.
More than that, they really couldn’t have Eunius carry anything.
“They should just put the important things away in the treasury.”
“Maybe they didn’t want it to be misused? Even so, I never thought you’d want the holy sword, Eunius.”
To be honest, Aleist didn’t want the holy sword. Knowing the truth, Aleist knew what sort of thing the holy sword was.
It had long since accomplished its role and lost its power, it was an article barely able to maintain its own shape. Its rusted hilt had already rotted through. He had seen the scene in his game, and it was not the sort of thing that could be used as a weapon.
Aleist knew this place as little more than a place to farm EXP.
(Once Eunius learns the truth, I’m sure he’ll accept it, and I have to hurry and get my own equipment together.)
From the depths of his memory, Aleist tried to recall the weapons he thought were necessary. But lately, that was starting to feel dubious.
The weapons he now held in his hands were the same, just because he possessed them, that didn’t mean he’d be able to use them immediately. The more powerful they were, the more cautious he would have to be when handling them. As he started to hold a perception that things were different from a game, Aleist had gotten around to thinking the weapons he was most accustomed to using were the best ones for him.
“We should camp around here today.”
After Eunius looked up at the sky and confirmed the position of the sun, he concluded any more would be dangerous and decided to search for a place to rest.
“It would be a real help if there was water around…”
Said Aleist as he directed a glance to one of his subordinates. The beast tribe female knight smiled as she pointed out the direction she smelled water.
“Captain, there’s a pond in that direction.”
After saying thanks to his subordinate who informed him with a smile, Aleist and co began moving in that direction. Normally, they would refrain from camping in such a dangerous place. But Aleist didn’t think they would get too many of these chances.
To Aleist who had a mild urge to get stronger, it was the perfect opportunity. He even began to wonder if Eunius was trying to cheer him up after Millia had gone away.
But once he approached the pond, his subordinate started acting strange.
As if she had suddenly lost confidence, his subordinate began to fidget. She said something quite intriguing.
“There’s someone at the waterfront. No, that’s not a person… huh? A person and a monster? But it’s much too quiet for that.”
Before his bewildered subordinate, Aleist explained the situation to Eunius.
“There’s something there. Perhaps a person is being attacked.”
“For real? Then I… no, that’s impossible. In that case, isn’t this your territory?”
“Leave it to me.”
Eunius was their guard target. What’s more, he wasn’t strong in covert operations. Not only was Aleist able to deal with most enemies, if he used his characteristic shadow, he’d be able to overcome an extent of trouble.
Determining that sending everyone to scout was dangerous, Aleist took the lead and went out. He knew that having his subordinates acting individually in such a place was much too risky.
Running ahead, Aleist made a path with his shadow, erasing his footsteps and ignoring the forest road as he headed for the point he had heard from his subordinate.
The fact it was growing dark only worked to his advantage, and as if hiding in the shadows, he approached his destination point. Around the pond, he was able to confirm the form of a large dragon drinking its water.
A dragon with blue, glassy scales, its beautiful wings were folded as it lapped at the pond. From the saddle and bag strapped to its back, he could instantly tell it belonged to a dragoon.
Aleist surveyed the area to find a single young man bathing in the cold. A young man of beautiful blue hair had stripped down to bask in the pond. His form was one that even Aleist had to admit looked cool.
… But it was there that Aleist was able to recall who it was he had discovered.
“It couldn’t be… Keith-san?”
The mutter that came from his lips was caught by his foe. As the dragon’s eyes fastened Aleist with its glare, Keith’s voice resounded through the trees.
“Who’s hiding over there?”
Showing his form, Aleist held up his hands to signal he had no hostile intent. He had never thought he would encounter Keith in a place like this.
As it was a romance-centric came, there were few male characters to be found, but Keith was undoubtedly an important individual. He wasn’t the type who would participate in battle, in the latter half of the game, he was a means of transportation across the land.
He was an individual who held the role of delivering the main cast to their destination.
That was Keith Elrond.
What’s more Keith was always kind to the main character, and a cool guy who never laid the slightest of hands on the women. Ever kind to the commoner main character, and if you asked him, he would transport you to any destination. Even with all he knew about the game, Aleist had no reason to be hostile.
“M-my apologies. I’m Aleist Hardie of the defenders. At present, I am in the area on a guard mission, and I have come to scout out the waterfront.”
“Aleist of the Hardie House… a pleasure to meet you, I’m Keith Elrond. Sorry, sorry. You surprised me a bit.”
Smiling as he rose from the pond, Keith was naked, but he didn’t seem mindful of that. On the contrary, he apologized for acting so surprised. While he thought the man was a bit strange, Aleist felt relieved he was still the same kind older brother character as he explained the situation.
He spoke of how he had come all the way here as Eunius’ guard, and even explained up to how they would be heading to the port town of Beretta afterward. After hearing him out, Keith put on undergarments and trousers, keeping his upper half bare as he offered a proposal.
“In that case, let me tag along. I finished my mission a bit early, you see. And Beretta is where I’ve been stationed. Once you’ve finished your business here, I can fly you straight to town.”
“That would be a huge help.”
They had made it part-way by carriage, but as the way back was dangerous, they planned to return to a nearby village on foot before taking another carriage from there.
Keith’s proposal was a spurt of good luck to Aleist.
“No, no, we’ve got to help each other out in our times of need. You can just call me Keith.”
“… And that’s how it is.”
“It’s a pleasure.”
At the waterfront, Eunius was introduced to the dragon and Keith.
While those around were relieved at a dragoon’s participation, they couldn’t help but be curious of Keith’s eyes.
His face was nice. His lineage splendid. But they couldn’t help but feel anxious. While he hit it off well with Aleist, for a while now, he hadn’t offered the slightest glance to any of the women.
With Aleist’s platoon that even made Eunius jealous before his eyes, he didn’t show any particular reaction.
(Doesn’t he envy Aleist as a man? Well, he’s from a Count House, so perhaps he has a fiancée, or he’s the devoted type like Rudel.)
But for that, he really looks like he’s having fun, thought Eunius.
“Even if I look like this, I’m unfit for battle. I’ve only got a bit of confidence in controlling my dragon. Well, as long as we have a dragon with us, most monsters should run away, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Everyone, just take it easy.”
Moving through an unfamiliar forest alone was difficult. Even if he had done wilderness training in his student days, that didn’t mean Eunius wasn’t tired. And since he had entered the forest, he had don’t quite a bit of combat.
Thankful that a dragon was on watch, he decided to be pampered by Keith’s words. But…
“.. Spinnith, am I really that untrustworthy?”
“… I know. It’s not like I’m some sort of wolf. I won’t do anything like that.”
“Yeah, we have to get to know each other better.”
“I’ve gotten used to it from watching Rudel, but it really looks like he’s just talking to himself.”
Aleist gave a bitter smile as he watched Keith talk with his dragon. As he recalled Rudel, Aleist started to reminisce.
“… No, I’m kinda starting to become nervous here.”
Feeling an anxiety he couldn’t put into words, for some reason, Eunius’ wild instinct was telling him this guy was dangerous. Eunius himself had a strong belief in his instinct.
He didn’t feel any hostility. But for some reason, he felt danger.
(Even so, Elrond… I get the feeling I’ve heard that name somewhere before.)
“Oh, you know Rudel? He and I were both dispatched to the same point. If you’re up to it, could you tell me some tales of the past?”
As Aleist brought up Rudel, Keith bit right on. But come so far, Keith placed a hand on Aleist’s shoulder. The girls who witnessed that scene seemed to sense something. Even more than the demihumans, the human knights reacted.
“C-captain Aleist, it’s already late, so why don’t we rest in preparation for tomorrow…”
“Eh? Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, Keith-san, it’ll have to be another time.”
“… Yeah, don’t worry about it.”
One of his subordinates sensed something and called it a day. But Eunius didn’t overlook… the form of Keith clicking his tongue, making sure the female knight wouldn’t see.
For only a moment, he directed eyes thirsting for blood at that knight.
(Ah, this guy is dangerous.)
Eunius mulled over whether to inform Aleist or not, and in conclusion…
(But it’s interesting, so I’ll leave it be.)
He decided to watch it unfold.