「I’ve found the Greed-Gore.」
Eight days after the battle to hold Iskia Fortress began, on the evening of the 28th of the Month of Platinum (Hakkin), Safiel’s servants finally find the Greed-Gore.
She used undead crows to search for the enemy while taking care to avoid detection by the airborne monsters, and even then, she still lost several of them. But today, she has finally achieved her goal.
「Really?! Where is it?!」
「Your voice is too loud.」
As Charlotte jumps up in excitement, Safiel gives her a warning with an expressionless face.
The two of them are meeting secretly at the end of a deserted hallway in the fortress, but there is no guarantee that they won’t be interrupted.
And this is a topic that should not be overheard by others.
「So, where is it?」
Charlotte lowers her voice to a whisper, and Safiel gives her a reply in an exasperated tone.
「Even if you ask me where it is, I can only tell you that it’s out in the Iskia Hills. It’s around halfway between this fortress and the village; I saw it lying around at the bank of a pond there.」
「Fufu, so it’s not out of our reach.」
If the Greed-Gore had already finished destroying Iskia Village and taken its army to the next village, she would have had no choice but to give up on exterminating it. But it seems that she didn’t need to worry about that.
「Are we going after it now?」
As if she believes that this would finally put an end to the gloomy fortress-defense strategy, Charlotte’s eyes begin shining.
Of course, it is not only Charlotte, but the rest of the students as well who are tired of this situation where they are holed up in the fortress.
Though it is fortunate that there haven’t been any large-scale assaults like there were on the first day, monsters have been attacking in moderate numbers, day and night, so they are constantly under tension.
Even so, they have managed to hold without suffering any casualties so far, but if the monsters attacked in earnest, the students would be in great danger.
The students are exhausted, both in body and mind.
「Well then, I’ll have this guide you there, so good luck.」
At Safiel’s unconcerned tone, Charlotte replies with a slightly anxious expression.
「Hey, is this really alright?」
「It’ll be fine, as long as you don’t push yourself too hard on your own.」
「I know. Even I have the skill to hide my presence, at least.」
As if sweeping away her own doubts, Charlotte turns on her heel with a flutter of her trademark red twin-tails.
「I’m making Raa-chan wait outside, so take her with you. I’ve set her up so she obeys your commands, Sharl.」
Charlotte looks back with a bewildered expression, and Safiel returns a cool gaze.
「I’m talking about Wrath-pun. It’s reassuring to have her with you, right?」
「Huh, so it’s Raa-chan.」
In response to her friend’s usual display of strange naming sense, Charlotte replies vaguely in a way that neither approves nor disapproves of the name, and –
「Thanks, I’ll use her well.」
With those words, Charlotte leaves.
Before dawn, yet another gunshot rings out across the walls of Iskia Fortress.
The bullet that was fired blows off the head of a Centaur that was foolish enough to approach.
From a window of one of the defensive towers, Simon watches the number of monster corpses surrounding the fortress increase by one.
The anxious sigh that he lets out from his small mouth shows that he feels no joy from killing a Rank 2 monster.
It would perhaps be appropriate to say that he is wearing an expression that seems to suggest that he is fed up with this.
He had the sense that he was contributing towards the defense when he was shooting down monsters during the large initial attack, but now, repetitively shooting down monster after monster was beginning to feel like a monotonous task.
「I think another ten of them will come out before someone takes over my shift...」
Mumbling absent-mindedly, Simon loads another round into his sniper rifle, the『Yata-Garasu Mk. II.』
The prototype rifle can hold up to five rounds, but this rifle has superior power and range, making it the obvious choice for sniping from this vantage point, even though its capacity is only a single round.
The『Yata Garasu』that played a great role in the battle of Alzas was improved at the Stratos Smithing Workshop for pure sniping. It shows none of the limitations of the original model, which was built in a hurry.
As a result, it is not a difficult task for Simon to shoot monsters within the range of the torches’ light. But it is still a task.
Simon cannot see particularly well in the dark, nor is he able to use magic to find the enemy. His role is simple, to shoot the monsters that approach.
Therefore, he has not had to remain on constant alert for the monsters hiding within the darkness.
Though the sun has not yet risen, the sky is growing slightly lighter and the usefulness of the magical torches is about to come to an end.
The thick clouds whose rain has been falling upon the fortress intermittently over the past few days are blanketing the sky again today.
Simon gets a strange feeling that today it will pour down heavily.
He unconsciously lets out a yawn.
It is likely because his fatigue has accumulated considerably, not because he is lazy.
It is not only Simon; the other students holed up in this defensive tower are the same.
Eddie was drowsily nodding off, while the serious Shenna was poking at him with her wand.
The dimness inside the defensive towers at the four corners of the fortress only makes them sleepier.
(I have to get a hold of myself; if we’re attacked now, we’ll be in trouble.)
He gives himself this warning and focuses his mind.
(But I wonder why the monsters aren’t making a strong attack. There are a lot of them wandering around as well, making for easy targets... Maybe the parasite can’t control them perfectly?)
Though he is an alchemist who is uninterested in fighting, standing at the front lines like this, he cannot help but to think about the enemy.
The fact that the Greed-Gore is using parasites to control the monster army has already been shared among all of the students.
However, the exact details of how the parasites control their hosts have not been explained.
Whether there is some kind of hidden intent behind the monsters’ half-baked attacks or whether their leader is just lazy is unknown.
Either way, this is allowing them to buy time and wait for reinforcements, so it is ultimately a blessing.
As Simon is thinking about this while looking out of the tower with vigilance –
Suddenly, a person’s shadow passes across his vision – or at least, he thinks it did.
He reflexively points the barrel of his rifle in that direction, but he sees nothing except the corpse of the Centaur that he shot moments earlier.
「It’s just my imagination... No, it can’t be.」
Thinking back on it, he gets the feeling that it was a girl. She passed through with speed and force, her long hair fluttering behind her.
(It might have been a person under the effects of the parasite.)
Even including the time they retreated from the initial encounter with the Greed-Gore, the students have not suffered a single casualty.
However, he heard that many of the teachers that fulfilled the role of the rear guard lost their lives.
But the possibility of them having become new hosts once captured by the monsters cannot be ruled out.
The students have been warned that this could happen to them.
That they should not hesitate to kill their friends if they are infected.
(No, our defense up until today has been successful, I’m sure it won’t come to that...)
As this thought crosses his mind –
A loud voice announces the enemy’s arrival, as if it were some kind of alarm clock set to go off at the break of dawn.
「They’re at the west gate this time!」
「Those of you with the vanguard, let’s hurry over there!」
The languid atmosphere that was hanging over them is swept away completely, suddenly replaced by the tense atmosphere of battle.
Even Eddy, who was dozing off just a moment earlier, is now in front of everyone else, longsword in hand.
「No, wait! Look, they’re coming this way as well –」
An Archer-class student with good eyesight points outside through one of the tower’s small windows.
His finger is pointed at the sun that is climbing over the gentle slope of the hills.
「Eh, wait, you’ve got to be kidding...」
An enormous army of monsters is standing there with the morning sun at their back.