“There, how’s that!”
Inside the cave, Eunius used nothing more than his sword to take on the humanoid monsters with reptilian heads.
Perhaps they had made that cave their lair, as they were beginning to surround him with their horde.
In their hands they held axes, and shields called bucklers. From the monsters’ sizes, they might look like small bucklers, but if Eunius held one, it would be bigger than a full sized shield.
In such a perilous situation, surrounded by monsters, Eunius was laughing. Even in the cave, there were in a space vast enough for monsters to attack in a group, and he was able to swing about his large sword freely.
Meanwhile, one of the knights of Aleist’s platoon was illuminating the cave with magic.
Behind Eunius, Aleist took a stance with his two swords and used his shadow to impale approaching monsters. However, the monsters’ movements seemed accustomed to battle, and things weren’t going as well as they had been in the forest.
Changing his grip on his hilt, Eunius shrunk the swing of his sword to cut at the monster that had raised its large axe, but like that, all he could do was dig into his enemy’s skin.
With his sword wedged in, he used brute force to cut the rest of the way through, making tatters of his sword’s blade. It was a result of a battle just that intense, but Eunius wasn’t satisfied. While he was wasting time here, he got the feeling Rudel and Luecke were proceeding ahead.
In all actuality, when he heard from Keith that there was an opponent Rudel couldn’t beat, he began to panic. He couldn’t keep going like this.
(That guy will definitely surpass any opponent he’s lost to. Then what about me? Do I just rot away like this? If I wasn’t stationed to that blasted knight unit, would I have become stronger?)
He questioned himself as he swung his sword, but his movements had already begun to optimize themselves to his foes.
Focusing his attention on Eunius from behind, Aleist shouted out orders.
“Don’t let it ever come to one-on one! At worst mark them down with two, and if that’s impossible, send them around to me!”
Stopping a monster’s axe with two swords, Aleist extended out his left hand’s sword. The light scratch that would never inflict anything fatal spouted smoke… the monster spat a froth of blood as it collapsed.
“If it’s no good from the outside, then go at it from within. That’s how it usually works.”
As he retook his stance, the wary monsters took distance. It was disadvantageous that they couldn’t use powerful magic in the cave, but even so, there were ways to go about it.
Growing accustomed to his enemies’ movements, he freed some space for leisure as he moved to a point where he could keep an eye on Eunius.
(So genius really does exist.)
Looking at the man’s movements, he was already fighting completely differently from how he started out. He was making the optimum movements to defeat his foe.
While Eunius had a strong image as a sword genius, Aleist felt something different.
One of his own fiancées, he knew a former noble girl called Seli. She was a character from the game Aleist was aware of and held the position of an underclassman. What’s more, she possessed the established setting of being a genius with the sword.
But even to Aleist, who knew her wonderful talent when it came to blades, comparing her to Eunius, he was beginning to notice the difference.
While Seli was only a genius as far as swords went, he got the feeling Eunius held a fighting talent that went beyond that.
He learned proper swordplay, and be that as it may, he displayed flexible swordsmanship unimaginable from his appearance.
Just during this mission, when he fired blasts form his magic sword, he learned to ad a spin to them to increase their output. When he thought up shooting thrusts, it only took a few days before it was possible. Even now, against an opponent where it was difficult to compare raw power, he was shortening his cuts to get in and tear them apart.
In regards to the monsters that leapt at him from both sides, Aleist kept his attention on Eunius as he dealt with them.
Putting out a few dozen black hands from his shadow, he captured both monsters in midair and fastened them down. After preparing a fire magic sword in both hands, he did a revolution on the spot and sent the slash waves toward the monsters. The monsters were cut through, black arms and all. Rather than shooting the waves, it felt more like the blades had extended.
As Aleist’s flames strongly lit up the cave, Eunius had completed his battle as well.
Putting away his swords on his waist, Aleist looked at Eunius, raising and lowering his shoulders in breath as he thought.
(A future archduke has talent in the sword… but such a talent is pointless. So it’s because the man himself understood it that he had such a resigned personality?)
The Eunius from the game gave off a different impression from the current one. Right now, not wanting to lose to his friends, he recklessly swung his sword. He had clearly lost that personality where he had given up on something.
“Let’s rest a bit before we go on.”
As Aleist called over, Eunius sat on the spot and drank some water from the flask hung at his waist.
“Yeah, sorry for that. Making you mindful of me.”
“No, that’s fine. I can barely go on myself.”
Forwarding enemies onto Eunius and making sure he wasn’t attacked from behind was Aleist’s role.
“You got the knack for it around the end, right? That means I’ve caused you trouble. When you’re my guard, I’m sorry for giving out so many orders.”
Getting his breath in order, Eunius checked over his sword. He wanted to see if his weapon would hold out for the road ahead.
Aleist checked whether any of his subordinates were injured, and checked the luggage before looking deeper into the cave.
Saying he would just be a hindrance, Keith alone was on standby outside the cave. He had a dragon, so there was no need to worry about him, but as he was weak enough to declare it with such confidence, that was a reason for worry in itself.
“Even so, do you think Keith-san will be alright?”
It wasn’t just Eunius who looked at Aleist with worry. His subordinates, the human ones, in particular, looked anxiously over him.
“… I’m more worried for you, in various ways.”
In the deepest depths of the cave was a room where light streamed in through the ceiling.
There remained traces that a human once lived there and the door had been locked. Beyond the lock a dexterous subordinate had picked lay the dust-caked furniture.
“This is terrible.”
“… That it is.”
The numerous fixtures… especially the wooden ones had collapsed in form. While the pots and the like remained, atop what seemed to have once been a bed were the white skeletal remains of a human.
“It’s a miracle anything remains at all.”
For argument’s sake, one of Aleist’s subordinate muttered as she invoked a purification magic. It was a magic effective against undead monsters, but there didn’t seem to be any regrets lingering around.
As everyone searched the room, they found the holy sword all too easily.
It was just as Aleist knew it, the rusted holy sword just barely managed to hold its form. Even in the game, it was just an item that took up an inventory slot, and it didn’t have any particular scenario prepared for it. There was no way to mend it or return it to its glory.
It ended as such a tale, a joke, a cruel lesson that nothing was ever so easy.
But as he looked over the room, Aleist couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“The end of a hero? And he lay here a few hundred years unbeknownst to man?”
As Eunius muttered, the expressions of the subordinates in the room darkened a bit. Aleist surveyed the area and spotted a few books written in old lettering.
He handed it to one of his subordinates and she began to read aloud.
“This is considerably old. There are some words I don’t know either… this might predate the founding of Courtois.”
In order to search out the holy sword, Aleist had assembled all those he thought would be necessary. It was no coincidence. Originally, the ones here were supposed to mainly consist of romance-target characters, but he had gathered people capable of fulfilling the necessary roles.
“There are very few legible portions, so I’ll try to give a simple explanation. Do you want to hear it?”
The woman prepared a light with magic and began flipping through a book. As confirmation had been sought from him, Aleist nodded. Eunius seemed to want to hear as he folded his arms and took a seat.
“It seems the resident of this room lived in a country smaller than Courtois. It’s probably somewhere within Courtois’ current territory, but the name is too old for me to compare it to anything.”
According to her words, at the time, they were terribly afraid of giant monsters boasting four arms. In a situation where there weren’t any dragoons, they would always have heavy casualties each year.
In such an era, the lord of the room stood on his own.
The technical details of how he fought were either illegible or absent. And seeking out readable portions, the subordinate flipped to the final page.
“I think I can read… eh!?”
“N-no… it’s just, the name of the individual who wrote this book…”
As he looked at the surprised face of his subordinate, for some reason, she was looking between his own face and the skeletal master of the room.
“U-um… around the end, it’s written he entrusts the holy sword to whoever reaches this place, and apart from that, the only thing I can read is his name.”
“Hmm… so who is he? This lost hero?”
“… Hardie. It says right here, Aleist Hardie.”
“Hey, doesn’t that… creepy!”
“I’m just saying it as it is; ‘The hero is Aleist Hardie’.”
A surprised Aleist, and as he suddenly stood in fear, he found Eunius and his subordinates looking back and forth between himself and the skeleton. Aleist had no idea either, but apparently, the lord of the room was named Aleist Hardie.
Just feeling the slightest tug of fate cause a shiver to instantly run through the room.
The conversations suddenly turned towards Aleist’s past and his past life.
“Captain, I’m sure you’re the reincarnation of this hero!”
While his subordinate spoke with such excitement, Aleist could say with certainty that wasn’t the case as he thought over his next course of action.
“No, I was definitely not a hero in my past life, or rather, this is definitely a coincidence… (Sorry, my past life wasn’t a hero, it was just a bullied little kid.)”
While he desperately tried to change the subject, Eunius alone was nodding to himself.
“… They do say great men have a fondness for women. Isn’t it fine? It looks like Hero Aleist used two swords as well.”
“Two swords? I’m definitely using two swords right now, but that has nothing to do with it!”
While everyone made faces as if to say, this guy just doesn’t get it, Aleist tried his best to take control.
“A-anyways! Leaving him like this would be terrible, so let’s make a grave. I think this spot where the light touches will be nice! We’ll use the holy sword as a gravemar–”
“No, since you found it, then in accordance with his will, shouldn’t you be the one carrying it, Captain Aleist?”
“You’re right. While it’s rusty, his will says to entrust it to whoever visits this place. He has the same name, so I’m sure you were fated to inherit it from the start.”
As Eunius laughed and pat him on the shoulder, Aleist looked at the holy sword his subordinates brought to him. Before that sword that looked unusable beyond a reasonable doubt, he mulled over what he was supposed to do.
A few days later, the party of Aleist and Eunius dropped by the port town of Beretta.
After making a grave for the lord of the room, they made an offering from the supplies they brought along and left the cave.
From there, they rode Keith’s dragon on a journey through the sky.
“So this is the port town of Beretta.”
Seeing the sea for the first in quite a while, Aleist felt a little disappointed it was too cold to take a dip.
“From here on, I’m going to go report to the Major, but are you going to tag along? I think Rudel will be there as well.”
“Ah, then I’ll go with you.”
With Eunius linking arms with him, Aleist was forcibly pulled into accompanying them as well. He ordered his subordinate female knights to head to the inn they had planned for beforehand.
The place they made for was a spot that could be called the knight station. That station used by multiple brigades gave off a miscellaneous feel to Aleist, who worked in the capital. As Keith called out to the soldier on watch, the young soldier happily responded.
“Keith-san sure is the popular one.”
“Good for him. I wonder if Rudel’s alright.”
While Eunius looked around, worried for Rudel, the first ones to enter his eyes were Izumi and Millia.
The two of them approached Eunius, as he raised his right hand in greeting. They walked right up to Aleist and Eunius.
“I never thought you two would be coming. You look well.”
As Izumi looked surprised, Eunius flexed his bicep to make an appeal to his good health.
“Righto! There was a dragoon at our destination point, so we had him deliver up. Even so, he’s way too amazing and… huh? Where did that Keith guy go?”
“Oh? … You’re right. He’s gone.”
As no matter how hard they scanned the station, they couldn’t spot him, Izumi’s bearing took a sudden change. Her features that had been smiling to that point turned expressionless all at once.
“Keith… so he’s already back, that pervert.”
Aleist grew frightened and decided to strike up a conversation with Millia, who he hadn’t met in a while. He did feel sorry to use Izumi as a pretext, but it was hard to talk to her.
“H-hey, did something happen?”
“Who knows? It’s been going on since we came here, she just doesn’t get along with Lieutenant Elrond. When she’s so friendly with Bennet-san, it really is strange.”
Happy to finally be able to talk, in order to continue on the conversation, Aleist bit onto the name Millia put out.
“Is Bennet-san… a man?”
“No, she’s not. She’s a Major in the dragoons, and Rudel’s superior officer. She’s really cute, but…”
While Aleist was relieved, for some reason, he felt some anxiety at the face she made, as if something was difficult to say whenever she brought up that superior she called cute.
“I’ve been with Rudel alone lately.”
(A- as I thought…)
Feeling down, Aleist slumped his shoulders.
“Look, they’re back.”
Millia pointed towards the entrance and there, they confirmed the forms of Rudel, and Keith, who had disappeared not too long ago. His form as he draped his jacket over his shoulder and reluctantly gave a report didn’t look like the usual Keith.
But it seemed as if there was no one at the point Rudel and Keith directed their eyes.
“So where’s this Bennet fellow?”
Eunius also searched out Bennet, but he couldn’t find her. Izumi breathed out a sigh and gestured to look down.
When he heard of a Dragoon Major, Aleist had imagined a considerably large female knight, but over the station desk and shelves, he could just barely make out the form of a small girl.
“… I didn’t see it coming.”
So that’s what a major in the dragoons looks like, thought Aleist. Her appearance was that of a young girl with long, silver hair, of small build and slender frame, giving off a fleeting impression. But the voice they could hear was a militaresque one.
“Why did you take up five whole days? It was a mission that was supposed to end in three.”
“No, no, I’ve got a real deep reason here… right! In order to wash away my daily fatigue, I was taking an extended bath. Because a certain someone pushed an unreasonable mission onto me, my stress’s been building up, you know.”
“How brazen. You should’ve been able to complete it in two days with ease. If you were my subordinate, I’d have smacked you.”
“I’ll watch myself hereon. More importantly, Rudel, have you been well?”
“Yes. No problems on my side.”
“You don’t have to be so stiff. With our relationship–”
“It’s been a while, Lieutenant Elrond.”
“… Oh, you. It really has been so long, I didn’t notice you. So who were you again?”
The one who came between the three of them was Izumi.
She entered in as if to cut off Rudel and Keith and while her mouth was smiling, her eyes were not. The way she nonchalantly reached for the katana handing at her waist was terrifying.
“… What’s that supposed to be?”
While he sought confirmation with Millia, Millia shook her head. But Eunius alone seemed relieved. After looking at Rudel, he sent Aleist a look of pity.
“Rudel will be fine as long as he has Izumi. That leaves you as the problem.”
Unable to understand, Aleist and Millia tilted their heads in sync.
Around dinner, the inn Aleist’s platoon stayed at… the abandoned house was visited by Bennet with the food she had prepared.
Due to the number of people, she prepared the ingredients and held a barbecue in the yard. Bennet took charge of the area, cooking up meat, fish and vegetables.
“Is Bennet-san really that strong?”
“That’s a surprise.”
Seeing Aleist and Eunius’ surprised figures, Rudel began praising Bennet, growing happy as if he was praising himself.
“I can’t even stand against her. I can’t stand against Lieutenant Keith in aerial battles, and it looks like I’ve got a ways ahead of me.”
“Despite that, you look happy.”
Eunius grinned as he brought meat to his mouth, and Rudel nodded.
“Yeah, I mean I’ve got myself a goal to aim for. First off, I have to beat Major Bennet in a land battle!”
While Rudel happily informed them, behind him stood Bennet in her apron.
“You sure sound confident, Rudel. Have you forgotten how many times I’ve held you against the ground today?”
As Rudel turned in surprise, Bennet handed over their next plate of food. It seemed to be a stir-fry of fish and vegetables, but it included shrimp and shellfish as well. With it being for three men, while it was just one plate, it contained a large quantity.
After skillfully distributing it to the three, Bennet collected up the empty plates. While Rudel made a plea that he would clean them up, Bennet simply held up a hand.
“Talks with friends are important. I’ll overlook it for today.”
After saying just that, she returned to get back to cooking. With Izumi at the lead, the women were helping out, but they were frightened by her abilities.
“… That girl is perfect.”
“She’s usually a harsh and kind Major. I want to be like her someday.”
Reaching a hand for the new food, Rudel praised Bennet once more. There, Eunius asked him about Keith.
“Hey, putting that aside, what about Keith? Has he done anything to you?”
“The Lieutenant? No, nothing in particular. He’s a kind and reliable superior. Well, my direct superior is Major Bennet, but… ah!”
“So something happened!”
As Eunius made a worried face, Rudel began talking about what had happened before.
“No, he drops by the house an awful lot when I’m in the bath, and I feel sorry that I always seem to miss him, so I consulted with Izumi on the matter.”
“Hmm, timing is important, after all.”
Seeing Rudel agree with Aleist, Eunius put down his empty plate and rubbed his brow with a finger.
“And then Izumi came and told me I had to tell her whenever I’m going to take a bath. After that, Izumi was always keeping lookout in front of the bath. What do you think it means?”
“Isn’t she answering the door in your place? See, you can’t entertain a guest while you’re in the bath.”
“That’s wrong, dammit!”
Eunius’ scream was completely lost on the two.