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Chapter 073 – The End of the Chief Warrior [B]
“Hm… welcome back, Hunty.”
In the forest at night, at the foot of the Rising Dragon Mountain, Leonhart turned towards the direction of the voice that called out to him.
Other people that had already gathered there instantly turned their eyes to Hunty as well. Everyone who had initially spread out to annihilate the humans were now gathered in this place. Hunty was the last of them to return.
Leonhart opened his mouth again to confirm with Hunty:
“Did you tell them properly?”
“I did as I was told. I told them that everyone in the forest died, including their leader… such was how I threatened them.”
“Well… thank you for your work.”
Hunty let out a hmm as a casual reply. Perhaps she was relieved to have finally finished her job. Hunty let out a big sigh as she closed her eyes and relaxed her posture. The mental pressure of having to fight and help her companions no longer weighed on her.
…I guess there’s no problem. I can trust Hunty’s quality of work.
Leonhart inwardly felt the satisfaction of completing his job. Although it wasn’t like the humans had completely withdrawn yet, it was only a matter of time. Most importantly, he didn’t anticipate any fighting would start again.
However, there was someone who poured cold water on his feelings. It was Galtia. He spoke up and asked Leonhart the following question:
“Why didn’t you kill them all, but let some go instead? Isn’t it safer to just kill them all? It’s less troublesome too.”
Leonhart glanced at Galtia, who was cheerily eating his meal and speaking with his mouth full. Leonhart plainly explained,
“If there were no survivors, nobody would know what happened here. If that happens, the forest will be invaded again. No news of victory is still different from news of complete defeat, after all. The reserve soldiers we let escape and return will have the responsibility of telling their nations about the hell they went through. ”
It was like a show of force. The soldiers would be a sign to the other party that the only reason those humans made it back was because the enemy let them.
Although it would seem scary if nobody survived, people wouldn’t know if it was the kalar who killed the humans, the majin who passed by, or just some random freaky phenomenon in the forest. Since humans were both foolish and arrogant, they would believe the answer they wanted to believe. They would be less cautious if they noticed an unrealistic phenomenon compared to a realistic one.
Moreover, those higher ups, who never experienced the threat of the Demon Army first hand, would only think something wrong had randomly happened, and would send more forces to invade the forest again. It was even more likely to happen if there was no one to testify against that.
Anyway, this demonstration should be enough to keep the humans away for a decade, or perhaps even more than that. The loss of the chief warrior would be a heavy hit. The kalar should be able to recover during that time, and if invaded again, the kalar should be able to repel the humans on their own without need of external help. They were a race who was stronger than humans, after all.
“Is that so? Man, you’ve got a pretty good head on your shoulders.” Galtia was satisfied after hearing Leonhart’s words, but Leonhart gave him a stern look and scolded him.
“…Rather, it would be the most effective if you could have handed them their commander’s head as well.”
“Ah-… sorry about that. I was angry then. I was starved as well.”
Everyone’s gaze focused on Galtia who awkwardly scratched his head. Kesselring in particular stared at him intensely, as if he was a mystery she was trying to decipher. Ssulal and Hunty seemed to decide that it wasn’t worth thinking about it any longer, and rolled their eyes. As for Carol… she only seemed to look at Galtia. Her gaze was actually chasing after a butterfly flying nearby.
“So, what are you going to do for today? It’s already late at night…”
Ssulal, who quickly looked away from Galtia, turned her gaze at Leonhart, and tried to move the conversation in another direction. He already prepared the answer for the question that he expected to come. It was a little hard to say but,
“…I’m thinking of climbing the mountain as it is… any objections?”
“Eh? You mean, right now?”
Such a question was asked because it was impractical to challenge the mountain at night. Leonhart did think it was weird to make such a decision, but there was a reason for why he still wanted to do so. He was reluctant to tell them the reason, since there was a chance Ssulal would dismiss it, but he tried anyway.
“Yeah. I can’t afford to make that dragon wait any longer, after all.”
There was a sense of duty in the words he said. It was his show of respect towards the opponent he promised to duel with. “He was honorable enough to let me temporarily leave to attend to… other matters. I want to repay that.”
However, Ssulal looked at him with unimpressed, half-lidded eyes.
“…You already made him wait for days, so the difference of a few hours is trivial.”
His chest hurt from the painful retort. He was ashamed that he was also a little convinced by Ssulal’s words.
Furthermore, everyone also spoke up,
“Eh-… I’m starving here… why don’t we take a break for a meal?”
“You wouldn’t normally think of climbing a mountain at night. Are you an idiot?”
“Leonhart-sama is actually choosing a dangerous method on purpose! I am impressed by your masochistic spirit!”
“…Well, I don’t mind if we set off at night though…”
Their complaints almost broke his heart. Kesselring’s somewhat supportive follow up resonated within his heart, though…
Although he felt the pain in his chest, Leonhart still tried to convince them.
“…It would be easy to just relax tonight. Even so, I shouldn’t spoil myself with such thoughts. I should go if I am able to.”
The period until now was only about treating his injuries and making sure he fulfilled the deal he made with Pale. He also only promised the dragon that he would leave just long enough to place Pale in a safe place, after all.
Therefore, since what needed to be done had been completed — he had to go. With that in mind, he spoke out.
“I promised him. — That’s why, please come with me.”
Perhaps it was selfish of him to say that. However, he wasn’t inconsiderate enough to say that he would go alone if he had to. If he did, they would have no choice but to follow him. Ssulal in particular would hate having to deal with that ultimatum, even if she would give in. It wasn’t good to take advantage of her kindness.
He gave the right to make the decision to Ssulal. Therefore, he said it in the form of a request instead.
Leonhart waited for her answer.
And Ssulal exhaled. Then, with an upturned gaze, as if to criticize him, she nodded.
“…Just for this one time, okay?”
He was given permission. At the same time, their surroundings also shifted.
Everyone was preparing to pack up and head out. Since the maou had announced her intentions, it was their duty to follow her decision. There was that reason, but it was more because everyone had already expected such an outcome was going to happen.
“It can’t be helped. I guess I’ll sample what the mountain has to offer instead. There should be quite a number of nocturnal prey out there.”
“Haah… well, it’s not like we can spend our night in the settlement, after all… we have no choice but to settle business quickly and return home after…”
“I was looking forward to preaching about Leonhart-sama’s heroic tales to the kalar, but since Leonhart-sama has already decided it can’t be helped!”
“…Now that I think about it, they were weirdly noisy when we were fighting earlier. I wonder if something happened in the settlement…”
…These people already expected that it would come to this, yet they still whined about it to me…
Leonhart felt a little unfairly attacked. However, nobody was actually upset, and it could be considered a fair price for his selfishness. That was why Leonhart obediently accepted it.
They already prepared for this. In that case, I have to come out victorious, then climb with them to the top of the mountain together.
As he thought about that,
A figure approached them.
The figure that ran toward them was a familiar kalar girl.
It was Pale. She was out of breath yet desperately screaming.
“Me-me too! I want to come along as well!!”
With that said, everyone looked at Pale, who had reached them and was now panting noisily while leaning heavily on her staff.
Then Kesselring called out to her.
“…Pale, aren’t you busy taking care of the post-war mess?”
“—Uh-!” Pale twitched as she heard that. Her expression twisted in embarrassment as she was called out about her duties.
However, her calmness quickly returned. Then hurriedly she added,
“Ye-yes. That’s why I’ve given them instructions about what to do about that! That’s why it should be okay, even if I leave them for a day…!”
She crossed her arms in front of her chest as she said so. Perhaps it was their imagination, but everyone somehow felt that Ssulal leaked out some hostility as she saw that. Everyone quickly prayed, Please let it be merely a figment of my imagination. 1
“That’s why,” said Pale as she proceeded to lower her head.
“Ple-please let me come with you…!”
“It’s only for a day,” she pleaded. Leonhart looked at Ssulal. His expression seemed to say, What’s the harm in it? It’s only for a day.
Ssulal then glanced at Pale and, looking tired all of a sudden, began to massage her forehead like she had a headache. She sighed loudly,
“…Okay. Just do what you like.”
Pale was astonished and raised her head to stare at Ssulal. When Ssulal nodded as confirmation, Pale proceeded to thank her enthusiastically,
“Tha-thank you very much! —well then, let’s go!”
Suddenly, Leonhart felt a slight pull. Pale pulled Leonhart’s arm towards her body and pushed her chest in his direction at the same time. The moment his elbow was caught in the comfortable sensation of the valley of her breasts, Ssulal opened her eyes wide and unleashed a strong killing intent.
“He-hey!! I did say to just do what you like, but that’s too bold of you, don’t you think?! Move away!!”
Ssulal’s words of resentment made everyone expect Pale to immediately leap away in fright, but Pale moved closer to Leonhart instead. She turned to Ssulal, and while pouting, said,
“…Wh-why must I do that-? I-I’m afraid of the mountain at night, so I only did this to have Leonhart-san protect me. It’s okay, right Leonhart-san?” 2
“Ah? No, well…”
Since she asked Leonhart’s confirmation with upturned eyes, Leonhart got dragged along by the momentum and nodded vaguely. Then Pale looked at Ssulal again with a smile,
“Leonhart-san gives his consent, so it should be okay, right? Fufuhn, well then, everyone may start walking ahead of us. My legs are not as fast, so I will walk slowly in the back, together with Leonhart-san.”
As Pale was slowly inching closer to Leonhart, everyone else was quickly backing away. It was because Ssulal was now smiling with a terrifying aura surrounding her.
“…Hee-h, I see-…. —It seems you want to die that much.”
“?! Oi, stop that, you fool!!”
Leonhart screamed desperately the moment he saw the magic circle that Ssulal deployed. Is she trying to blow me away as well?! panicked Leonhart.
Pale, who was still hanging onto his arm, did twitch for a moment when she said that, but she quickly pressed herself into Leonhart’s side and cried out,
“Kya, kyaa—! Leonhart-san, please protect me! If this goes on, Leonhart-san will get hurt as well!!”
Ssulal immediately stopped her magic after hearing that. Pale then immediately continued speaking as comfortably as a fish returning to water.
“Yo-you shouldn’t do that, okay? Leonhart-san just recently recovered from his wound, so you shouldn’t do such a terrible thing… So Leonhart-san, let’s go. Please embrace me.”
This time, she put her arms around his neck. What’s with her? Didn’t her personality change too drastically? thought Leonhart. In the face of Pale’s strange, sudden boldness, Leonhart could only stare blankly at her. He couldn’t respond at all.
As Ssulal saw him just standing there dumbfounded, she didn’t resort to magic, but instead rushed at him angrily,
“You… you said all you like…! Move away!!”
Ssulal swung her fist, so of course Leonhart proceeded to avoid it. Although it was a punch without proper stance, it was still a punch from the maou. Terrible things were likely to happen if one got hit by that. Leonhart could even feel the danger to his life emanating from that fist. Seeing that Leonhart avoided her attack, Ssulal shouted,
“Hey, Leonhart! Why are you avoiding that?!”
“I would end up with more than just a wound if that hit me! Anyway, calm down!”
“Kya-n! Leonhart-san, it’s scary-!”
“…! Like hell I can calm down in this situation-!”
Since Ssulal rushed at him, Leonhart proceeded to run away. As he ran towards the direction of the mountain, he heard Ssulal’s voice from behind.
“He-y! Wait up, Leonhart!! If you do that, I won’t be able to kill that woman!!”
“Don’t go for a kill to begin with, will you?!”
He continued to escape as Ssulal chased after him. Kesselring listened to their screams.
As she heard the exchange, she looked at Pale, and muttered,
“…Fuh, Pale. You’re getting stronger.”
“Is that really okay…?”
“Ah, so she wasn’t that kind of girl originally…”
It was so weird that even Galtia, who normally accepted everything that happened around him, spoke up in surprise. Standing beside a dejected Hunty, Carol waved her hand at Leonhart.
“Leonhart-sama-! Once you’re done with your chasing game, please let me join too-!!”
“Are you serious?!”
Leonhart was astonished by his apostle’s easygoing attitude. Just join, if you’re so eager to! was what he thought, but he would be in more danger if she did, so he quickly shut down any possibility of it happening. Looking at how disappointed Carol was, Leonhart had a cold sweat break out over his body.
…Please spare me from being injured again before my battle with Raizen…!
In the end, Ssulal continued to chase them for a while. Fortunately, Hunty felt the situation would drag on unnecessarily long if they let the trio run amok like this, so she took matters in her own hands. She caught Leonhart, pulled Pale away, and then joined with the rest of the party to persuade Ssulal into being satisfied with a vivid punishment that looked horrible, but wouldn’t endanger anyone’s lives.
Magic is scary, thought everyone as they witnessed Ssulal’s actions, and from that moment onwards, everyone vowed once again never to offend Ssulal.
Carol : “It’s a torture episode-!”
Ssulal : “…That one just can’t be helped. It’s an obvious punishment.”
Galtia : “I’m merely digesting food and feeding my mushi, though?”
Hunty : “…It feels scarier due to the lack of malice.”
Kesselring : “It’s not good to kill a character roughly just because they are a mob character.”
Pale : “I-I’m actually a mob character?!”
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