Under the Capital Tortoluse, several “Legacies of the past” had been discovered; vast ruins that were said to have lead the magic civilization of Grandahl to maturation. After exploration and investigation of these ruins had been completed, they had been opened for use in training exercises. Some experienced Adventurers had also been given permission to explore here.
All the hidden rooms that had been found in these ruins had been investigated thoroughly, but there had been some incidents in which a long sleeping trap was activated by some kind of stimulation and opened up passage to a new corridor or hidden room. In these special places, one could find objects which were the “Heritage of the Ancient Civilization”, and whoever discovered them could keep them in his possession. Therefore, there were a lot of Adventures who descended into the dungeon of the capital, in which monsters dropped less items as compared to other dungeon, for the express purpose of hunting for treasure.
Proceeding further inside from the area designated for training was area that was still unexplored, closed to all but authorized personnel. There was no knowing what kind of traps or monsters were lurking in the unexplored areas, so a specialized unit explored these areas slowly, making sure they were all safe.
In a slightly open room that was in a section of one of these unexplored areas, a masked man with magician-like appearance watched the hostage lying at his feet, waiting for a report from his subordinates. The hostage, who had been breathing in a regular rhythm, suddenly showed a slightly unnatural movement.
“If you’ve woken up, act normally. Even if you pretend to be asleep, no convenient opportunities will present themselves.”
Sayaka slowly looked up at the masked man, who was saying that even if she got an opportunity, there was nothing she could do and was laughing.
“Where is this…?”
“The unexplored area in the underground ruins. If you move around in this place without a plan, you’ll get lost and never can get out. So, you’d better behave.”
One year ago, Sayaka had woken up in darkness on stairs made of stone with nothing but the formal clothes she was wearing, confused. She was supposed to have been on a plane that had crashed into the sea. As she was running around trying to get away from a white monster that looked like a jellyfish, she had been found and rescued by a battalion of soldiers of the army of Grandahl who had been on a training exercise.
This time, she had left the research building block to go for shopping with her two guards and then yet again had awoken in this place. She had no idea what was going on.
“You seem pretty calm.”
“…I’m just confused and don’t know what is going on.”
She tried to get up, but her hands wouldn’t move and she realized that her hands were tied behind her back. She put some strength into her abdomen and sat up, finding the two who had been serving as her guards collapsed nearby.
Looking at the two who were not moving at all, she was worried for a second, but it seemed that they were breathing. She couldn’t see any wounds on them and figuring out that they were just unconsciousness, she was relieved.
Begin surprised and taken aback, then suddenly shining, then darkening, then finally relaxing. The masked man was amusedly watching the frequently changing expressions matching with the internal mental state of Sayaka. Still watching her expression, he told her not to worry, as Prince Layos would be coming for her soon. Of course, at that time, we’ll have him die, he thought to himself.
“We left him a letter to come alone if he wanted to save you.”
“Wait, that won’t work.” That request was far too unreasonable. There was no way the First Prince of a country would jump into danger all alone just to save a girl that he was a little bit interested in who had no value or connections. Even if he wanted, no one would let him.
Saying that, Sayaka shrugged her shoulders. “There’s no meaning in kidnapping someone like me.”
“Is that so? We wrote in the letter that if he tells anyone else or ignores or request, we will deliver your body to him every day, one piece at a time.”
The masked man squatted behind Sayaka, and gently stroked his finger from her slender arms to the tips of her fingers. A chill ran up Sayaka’s back.
“Such pretty fingers. Including your toes, they’d last us at least twenty days, won’t they?”
The gentle and cool sensation of the black gloves traveled from neck to her cheeks, finally stopping on her ear lobe.
“What a cute ear.”
He lifted her chin upwards and towards himself and lightly pinched her nose with his thumbs.
“The nose is a little small.”
His fingers came down to her mouth, and his fingers tickled her upper lip and lower lip in circles.
“Should I send the lips together with tongue?”
And then, caressing her neck, his hand dropped down towards her chest. Sayaka, who had been frozen, suddenly returned to herself and shook herself free.
Under the gaze of the man that looked like he was playing with a toy, Sayaka grew cold. This man could play with lives of others very easily. In this presence surrounded with death, Sayaka felt that she was being gazed at from all around, perhaps because of her uneasy feelings and began to shiver.
The masked man turned around and from the depths of the shadow in the corner by the wall, a shape with black clothes seemed to seep out. Sayaka’s breath caught in her throat. The masked man received some kind of report from him, and turned towards Sayaka, grinning broadly. He told her that Prince Layos was heading this way.
At the same time, Kou reached the laboratory to report to the Professor about the impressions of the Gawiik party about the New Magic Wheel. He was very surprised to see that neither Sayaka nor Prince Layos were present. Sarta told him that Sayaka had left in the morning with her guards to go shopping and had not returned yet.
The Prince also hadn’t showed his face, so they must have met on the way and were probably loitering somewhere. That’s what she said.
“I see. Well then, I think I’ll go meet Prince Rozeth first.”
“If Prince Layos comes around, I’ll let him know about the Dark Alliance.”
“Yeah, I’ll leave it up to you.” Springing off his chair, Kou left the laboratory and headed towards the Royal Palace.
At the same time Kou was visiting Prince Rozeth’s secret relaxation place, Prince Suaro sat in his private room on the first level of Royal Palace, reading a letter that his attendant had apparently picked up in the garden with a raised eyebrow.
“…What is this?”
The boy attendant that had picked up the letter had been astonished upon reading the contents of the letter, because the contents of the letter were what they were he thought that he had to tell someone, and panicking, he took it to his own master. And now, seeing the baffled look on Prince Suaro’s face, he began to worry if this wasn’t someone’s idea of a prank.
“Ah, um, Suaro-sama.”
“I’m going to see the person responsible for the escorts.”
“Ah, um, but…it might just be a prank.”
“We’ll confirm it just in case. You go and check Professor Andagi’s laboratory.”
Sending the boy to check Sayaka’s safety at the laboratory, Prince Suaro headed towards the post where the Royal Palace’s escort guards were stationed.
Kou was at the secret place of relaxation, getting a detailed explanation of the Dark Alliance from Prince Rozeth. At first, Prince Rozeth had been startled when the name “Dark Alliance” had come up, but as he had already confirmed that Kou was not the child he looked like, he dug into the subject and started explaining like usual.
Although it was usually considered an underground organization that Adventurers who had lost their way and became criminal joined, it had a long history of specializing in the dirty work that took place in the shadows of the conflicts between those in power. Wherever people of power flourished, the underground organization could be found. They had a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It’s an organization that doesn’t really get involved in the lives of the general public, but for the rulers who govern the people and the country, it is an indispensable organization.”
How to use them, make them obey, and build good relations with them. To expect a one-sided subordination from them was impossible and history had proven that trying to tame them would only get your head chomped off, but make them your allies and they could prove useful. The rulers that had been successful in dealing with them had all reached glory. Light and shadow were two faces on the same coin.
“Well, there are exceptions, like King Leozeos, that have reached glory without relying on them.”
Kou learned that Count Bamist had pretended not to see the documents that had records of people high up in the palace dealing with the Dark Alliance because it was not really a strange thing. Of course, they were dealings that had been carried out in secret, so there was danger in carelessly revealing them.
So instead of the fact that people were dealing with that Dark Alliance, it was more important to know what kind of deals were taking place, and exactly who was requesting what.
The documents that he had received only mentioned who had paid what amount at what time, and to get detailed information about the dealings, you’d have to find out directly from the Dark Alliance itself, but since no one even knew that location of their headquarters, there was nothing to be done.
“And here I was thinking that when the uproar at the Royal Palace had died down, I could talk with Princess Elrose again.”
“Is that why you brought up the Dark Alliance? There certainly are people from the nobility in Grandahl that are making use of the Dark Alliance.”
As they were talking about such things, someone entered the clearing. It was the Rozeth’s escort, who usually hid in shadows of the grass and erased his presence. The plain looking man that at first glance seemed like an ordinary guard, who was usually stationed some ways away observing Prince Rozeth and the people around, walked up to him and whispered something in his ear. An unusually stiff expression came over Rozeth’s face.
“Hmm…it seems like a problem has occurred.”
At around the same time, in the corridors of the Royal Palace, groups of noblemen and noblewomen could be seen standing around, chatting. Among them, you could also see the young women that had harassed Sayaka the other day. They were talking about a certain rumor that had been spreading all around the Royal Palace.
The rumor was that Sayaka had been kidnapped by someone and Prince Layos had went to rescue her all alone from a very dangerous part of the dungeon.
“It’s about that girl again.”
“But I’ve heard that this time the target is Layos-sama.”
“Then, it really is connected to the incident concerning Elrose-sama…! Eh?”
They turned to look in surprise at Prince Suaro as he walked briskly through the corridor, the deep lines on his forehead and difficult expression on his face surrounding him with an aura that was very hard to approach.
Following closely behind were his escort guards, who also had difficult expressions on their faces and were giving off a feeling of nervousness, and the attendant boy who had become the start of everything, who was also seemed unable to calm down.
To confirm the authenticity of the letter they had found, reports from guards patrolling all around the Royal Palace had been gathered on the orders of Prince Suaro, but they had been unable to locate either Prince Layos or Sayaka, thus confirming the fact that both of them were not inside the Royal Palace.
On top of that, the map marking the place in the underground ruins that Prince Layos had been called to was discovered in his private room, and at the same time, information about this incident was leaked all over the Palace. Someone was intentionally getting hold of the information and leaking it. That was what Prince Suaro had deduced.
“What is their aim…?”
“Why has the one who kidnapped the girl to lure out Big Brother, after causing all these incidents, now moving to make them all public?”
There was no way for the guards following him to reply to his musings. Prince Suaro was trying to find out the goal of the one who was causing all these incidents, factoring the fact that this incident was also related to the attack on Princess Elrose.
This wasn’t a runaway incident that had escalated from the conflict between the supporters from both sides. No, he was certain that all these incidents were caused with the intention of fulfilling some other goal.
“This is the plan of someone aiming to use the conflict between me and Big Brother for their own purposes…I guess I’ll have Faze look into it.”
Prince Suaro decided that it wasn’t so farfetched that Prince Layos would be assassinated during this incident, and to find out the identity of the one behind these incidents quickly, he decided to entrust the job to the reliable and trustworthy masked man (Faze). Right now, he was investigating Prince Rozeth and his surroundings.
“As soon as he comes back, tell him to wait for me in my private room. I’m going to go and meet Father.” He said to his guards and the boy attendant in front of the huge gates that separated the Royal Palace district and the Royal Castle, and then went through the gates to the highest level, accompanied by guards in white armor. The knights who accompanied him up till now exchanged glances with the boy attendant, and then shrugging lightly, headed towards his private room.
An uncertain amount of time after Prince Layos had descended into the dungeon, the Gawiik party, after hearing everything from Kou, rendezvoused with the Golden Sword Dragons that had mobilized to rescue Prince Layos and Sayaka in front of the entrance of the dungeon. Duplicates of the map that had been found in Prince Layos’s private room were distributed among the Gawiik party’s members.
A search and rescue unit had also been formed from among the knights of the Grandahl army, but because of their structure as an organization, their actions were restrained. Compared to that, the Adventurers could take action without any orders from above and so had a lot more freedom, and they were also more agile because of their smaller numbers.
Throwing a backward glance at the knights that were only just beginning to line up, the Gawiik party and the Golden Sword Dragons descended into the dungeon with speed of a compact and fast scouting unit.
“Any possibility this map is fake?”
“It is a possibility, yes, but right now we have no way or time to confirm it.”
“I guess we have no choice but to advance.”
“Pyuri pyriiii~!” I’m going on ahead! Kou said to the members of both parties as they were standing around discussing their plan in a circle with the map between them, and flew of into the dungeon from the shoulder of Karen, where he had been perched in bird form and had been peeking at the map. “There is no scout better than him in this situation.” The members of the Gawiik party said expectantly.
There was someone who was observing all this from the shadows. One of black robed men that was hiding in the shadows near the entrance of the dungeon and observing the movements of the rescue teams reported to his comrades using the “Opposing Far Voices” that both the Gawiik Party and the Golden Sword Dragons had entered the unexplored part of the dungeon. Soon after the knights also descended the stairs, and to make sure that he remained hidden while reporting on the size and composition of their unit, he headed deeper into the shadows.
“– The plan is progressing according to schedule. –”
“– Roger, keep on monitoring their movements. –”
After receiving the report from his subordinate posted at the entrance, the masked man nodded satisfactorily. He turned to the worried Sayaka and gave a her a smile that although was devoid of any maliciousness, was also devoid of any compassion. Sensing that everything was going according to their plan, Sayaka became even more worried.
The black robed man that had been posted at the entrance was fully concentrating on staying hidden from the knights that were flooding the entrance of the dungeon, and did not realize that the Gawiik party and the Golden Sword Dragons had split up after progressing a bit down the corridor.
The Gawiik party that had gotten their hands on the New Magic Wheel before the official announcement decided to test out their mobility.
“We’re going ahead!”
“Sorry; We’ll leave it to you!”
The Gawiik party accelerated along the corridors of the unexplored area of the dungeon in pairs, with a total of three rows. Karen, who was part of the vanguard, fired arrows with light sources attached to them. Lef also casted light magic from the rear and lit up the surroundings to make sure that traveling in the New Magic Wheels was as safe as possible. The Golden Sword Dragons followed them at a run.
While the search and rescue unit were starting their advance into the unexplored part of the dungeon, Prince Suaro was standing in front of the throne of King Leozeos in the top most level of the Royal Palace and was explaining to him the events that had been occurring lately.
“Some of them have put forward their opinions that this is all you doing, you know?”
“Surely you jest.”
As Prince Suaro ignored King Leozeos attempt at humor and pressed forward with the matter at hand, Leozeos shrugged his shoulders and said “He’s such a serious chap as usual.” As the conversation went on, King Leozeos, while sitting on his throne, hinted that the current secret maneuvering happening in the Royal Palace were all happening because of the influence of an exterior country.
“Is that…Na’Hatome again?”
“Ho. So you had guessed as much as well.”
“That country is still targeting our Kingdom, there is no way that they would let such a delicious opportunity such as the conflict between me and Big Brother go by.”
“I see. So, your recent actions have all been in according to this information.”
It was clear that Prince Suaro was gathering supporters and strengthening his base because he had his eyes set on becoming the next heir to the throne, causing the Layos faction to retaliate, and making the neutral faction worried that this power struggle would cause harm to the country. Such was the general viewpoint among those living in the Royal Palace.
“…Aren’t you going to denounce it?”
“Un? Denounce what?”
“The fact that I’m disregarding Big Brother and strengthening my own base by gathering more supporters in the Royal Palace.”
“Hahahah! That was pretty direct.”
King Leozeos smiled a teasing smile towards Prince Suaro, who was looked straight at him without wavering. Nihihi!~
“I know that you care a lot about Layos.”
“Ch!” Suaro’s eyes opened up just a bit, and he showed signs of agitated.
There was a certain secret about the birth of Prince Layos and Prince Suaro. Both had been born on the same day, one at dawn, and one in the early morning. The one who had been born before had actually been Prince Suaro.
At the time, the ones who had been present for delivery of Elishuwon and Liiza consulted among themselves and announced Layos, the son of the Queen as the First Prince. The child Liiza had given birth to was treated as the Second Prince because he was the child of a concubine and this fact remained a secret until both had become ten years of age.
Leozeos, who had been away at the time due to the war with Na’Hatome, only learned of this fact after the birth of the Prince Rozeth.
Leozeos had considering announcing this and making the correction, but both Princes were already very much grown up, and in light of their current relationship, if the truth was revealed it would just cause chaos within the Palace. Liiza also requested him, so he decided to let it be, which had led up to the present day.
“Layos is a pretty clumsy fellow, isn’t he?”
“Although some of it is on purpose because he knows that his intentions have been found out.”
The rash Adventurer activities of Layos that made him seem uninterested in succeeding the throne. Suaro thought that maybe it was because Layos was being considerate of his “Big Brother Suaro” who was supposed to have been next in line to succeed the throne. Layos was willing to give up the right to the throne to Suaro.
Actually, Suaro was always worried Prince Layos, and spent every day trying to support him. He also decided that if it became clear that Sayaka had such a background that the King would like her, it would become a plus for Layos’s standing. The staging of a “conflict” was just a means to gather all the people opposing Layos in one place.
It was part of defense that he was preparing against the people who would eventually find out or had already found out about the secret of their birth and would use this information for all kinds of ploys.
“If he learns that you have no intention to take over the throne, he might just set off on a journey.”
“I have no intention of letting Layos let go of his right to the throne.”
For that purpose as well, he had to find the mastermind behind the incidents happening around the Royal Palace and stop the assassination of Prince Layos, but the situation was looking grim. Thinking of what would happen if, on the off chance that Prince Layos was assassinated in this incident, Suaro had come to King Leozeos to confirm his intentions.
Having all his intentions and actions been interpreted correctly, Suaro could do nothing but be impressed.
“Well, don’t worry about it too much. That guy won’t break too easily. And about the rat that has infiltrated the castle, Aira and the others are currently working on it.”
“Is that…Wait, is Rozeth also involved in all of this?”
“Fufufu. Even your “attendant” didn’t notice his movements? In fact, he has been investigating here and there ever since that girl appeared.”
“Wha…Wait, then does that mean…!?”
Suaro had been sure that Sayaka had been sent to the “house of Butterflies” because of the movements of Faze, which had thus caused the chaos caused in the Royal Palace because of the conflicts between the two factions to simmer down a bit, but know it seemed that King Leozeos also had a hand in sending Sayaka to the House of Butterflies.
The mother of the Third Prince Rozeth was the former butterfly and current concubine, “Aira the Golden Butterfly”. She was close friends with the woman who was serving as the current owner of the House of Butterflies, Madam Salina.
The Second Princess Suwida was currently in the care of Madam Salina, and several spies had been dispatched from the Royal Palace who served as her bodyguards while acting as employees of the House of Butterflies. In fact, the House of Butterflies was an intelligence center outside the Royal Palace that had direct contact with the Royal Palace. Of course, there were few who knew of this fact.
“I guess that really was the best place to keep that girl safe.”
“I never imagined that Andagi would take over as her guardian.”
A part of King Leozeos’s plan to find out the mastermind behind the events happening in the Royal Palace was to make the existence known as Kou encounter the Third Prince Rozeth and the First Princess Elrose. He had heard about the ability of Kou to “read people’s minds” from Professor Andagi and the plan was to see if anyone showed any suspicious movements after the encounter.
If there were any people who wanted to take advantage of the conflict between Prince Suaro and Prince Layos, instead of agitating the followers of either factions who had already decided their loyalty and were unified, forming a third “faction” from among their own close people and controlling them would be far easier.
The Third Prince who was normally under everyone’s radar correctly predicted that the little sisters of the Second Prince would be targeted in some way, and using Sarta, had Kou get closer to her.
The fact that they had tried to directly harm her was a bit unexpected, but it did tell them that the mastermind had a pressing need to cause some kind of chaos, and that the time for something big was close. King Leozeos offered his opinion on the matter.
“Making the guards stand some distance away might have been a bit too much.” Although he had heard of Kou’s impressive feats, that he had almost single handedly taken down most of Layos’s handpicked elite party and won the tournament, so he hadn’t been too worried.
“Causing a huge ruckus and the time for something big…Could be that the incident happening right now is also a part of that?”
“Most probably. After the incident with Elrose, the security at the Royal Palace got beefed up, didn’t it? They can’t move around as freely anymore and are probably panicking.”
In case these intruders were backed up by a foreign enemy, they were keeping an eye on the situation around the borders, and also on the movements of Na’Hatome.
“To cause this many incidents, a large number of spies and collaborators are needed. What about the possibility of traitor?”
“Ahh, I’m letting Tormerge handle that. It seems that Rozeth came into possession of some very interesting documents, and the identification of the mastermind is only a matter of time now.”
Prime Minister Tormerge was investigating those who seemed to want to fan the flames of the conflict between the two Princes. From among those who were pretending to be a neutral party and acting worried about the conflict while bringing it up again and again, he had been able to pinpoint some people who were either being led astray by the members of the Dark Alliance or were intentionally working for them.
Actually, they had received a document from Kou via Rozeth which Kou had obtained in the town of Curacall. It had a list of all the people that were frequently doing dealings with the Dark Alliance.
The little dealings were very subtle, and the clever part was how little the total amount of dealings were. The people who were just sitting and stressing that something should be done about the conflict between the two princes would look like they were far from trying to cause chaos, instead, it would seem like their actions were because of worry for their country. They would gather and mix in with people who really were worried about their country, and from there, they wouldn’t let anyone feel that anything was wrong.
The origin of a lot of the bribes that had been distributed among the nobles as part of this deal was written in this list, and from there they could find the agents of the Dark Alliance that had infiltrated into the Royal Palace and apprehend them. The “attendant” named Faze who was working for Suaro right now had just been identified in this way.
“D-Don’t tell me…Faze is also working with the conspirators–”
“No, your attendant is in the clear. That one has left the Alliance behind.”
It seemed like the extraordinary agents of the Dark Alliance were given a mask and were allowed to call themselves by a special Dark Name. This was like the medals the Adventurers Guild gave out. It seemed Faze was a former agent that had honestly been interested in Prince Suaro’s viewpoint, and cutting all ties with the Alliance, he had shown up to work as a subordinate for Prince Suaro.
“It seems like there were two masked agents dispatched by the Dark Alliance. One of them left the country a few days ago.”
“And the other one?”
“His current location is unknown. His Dark Name is “Judge”.”
In one corner of the underground ruins, a small, dimly lit room opened to a corridor. Inside the room, a small lamp placed near the center of the room lit up the two guards on the ground and Sayaka, who had her hands tied behind her back, from behind.
“I see you’re safe.”
Sayaka was usually mindful of their positions and called his name with an honorific, but the situation being what it was, she called him by just his name, just like she used to when they first met. Layos was secretly very happy. Holding his drawn “Wind Severer” in one hand, he slowly approached her. From the shadows of the wall several figures seeped out.
And then, before he knew it, a masked man was standing besides Sayaka.
“See, didn’t he come alone?”
“You bastard…take your hands off Sayaka.” The masked man let go of Sayaka’s hair with an exaggerated motion of his hand saying “Oh my”, and taking a few steps towards Layos, introduced himself in a very gentle manner.
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Prince. My Dark Name is Judge. Ah, there’s no need to get familiar with each, although I’m honored that you took the time to visit us,–”
As he took out a dagger specialized for assassination from inside his jacket, the black figures surrounding them also readied their daggers.
“–seeing as this will be the place where you will sleeping for eternity.”
Saying that, Judge pointed the dagger to Sayaka’s neck.
“Of course, I’d really appreciate it if you let go of that magic sword.”
“Don’t behave like a spoiled brat, you shit.” Layos got into a fighting position with the vacuum covered “Wind Severer”, and letting out bloodlust, looked at the assassins. “My life is not as cheap as you lot. If you lay a hand on Sayaka, none of you will be leaving here alive.”
“Even if we promise to let this girl and those two over live?”
“Fu~ Do you really think I’d trust you?”
As Layos took a step forward, his eyes determined, it became clear that these kinds of negotiations wouldn’t work on him. Having determined as much, Judge tried to signal to his subordinates hiding in the shadows. Although he was outnumbered many to one, they couldn’t completely avoid any losses if they fought him normally but they all specialized in assassination, and had a last resort.
A trump card that had not even given the Warrior and Fighter a chance to retaliate, and they were two of the more skilled members of Layos’s party…
A single small bird divided into the space filled bloodlust and tension.
As Kou reached the room where Prince Layos was facing off with the assassins first, he understood the situation and moved to free the two who had been serving as Sayaka’s guards. The Fighter and the Warrior had a small, round magical device attacked around their necks which was splitting off their consciousness from their body, making them sleep like the dead.
Kou saw a few blobs of magic floating about the arches near the walls where the two were laid. He knew immediately that these were people using illusion magic to hide themselves, just like he had seen that Shadow Artist use in the fight against Varow’s party.
“Just a bird, huh?”
Making certain that it was just a messenger bird from the Gawiik party, Judge laughed and turned his attention back to Layos. He was about to give a signal to his subordinates that had hidden themselves to pounce on Layos, when suddenly he panicked seeing the Fighter and the Warrior, who were supposed to have been unconscious, wake up.
Thinking that the magical device that had been keeping them unconscious had come undone, he urged the subordinates that had been standing on guard near them to check.
“Don’t tell me, that bird from earlier!”
But then, something even more unbelievable happened. The bird flew up towards the ceiling of the room. In the next instant, a composite body appeared from nowhere and landed with a crash. The Fighter and Warrior had woken up, and sensing a disturbance in the surroundings, rushed over to Sayaka to protect her. The invisible black robed men that moved to attack them were sent flying from a few attacks by the composite body.
“Wha…somehow, I missed the sight of the golem.”
“Kukuku, you came at just the right time, Kou.”
“Vuowaaa!” I’ve come to help~
Judge was completely frozen for a moment because so many unexpected things had happened in succession. Layos took this chance to charge forward and slash at him. Judge barely dodged the attack and hid himself with illusion magic. Layos slashed the empty space where he had disappeared a few times, and then rushed over to Sayaka.
“Sorry for the wait, are you hurt?”
Sayaka was tongue tied, and her face had a very complicated expression on her face. Layos untied her ropes, and turned around to face the black robed men. Having received weapons from Kou, the Fighter and Warrior also got in a defensive position to protect Layos and Sayaka.
The two had failed earlier because the attacker had hidden their movements using illusion magic, and then snuck up on Sayaka to put the magical device on her, making her faint. As they had been distracted by this, the attackers put the same device on them too, knocking them unconscious.
If they had been in a defensive position, even if the attackers used illusion magic, as soon as they got within range, they’d be able to sense their presence. It had been a surprise attack using the very person they were guarding.
“Can you fight?”
“I wouldn’t say that I’m in top condition, but I can still move my body.”
“Fighting an invisible enemy with just these numbers is gonna be a bit tough.”
“I want to recover some dignity that I lost by not living up to the Prince’s expectation here but…If they use ranged attacks on us it’ll be troublesome.”
The black robes made themselves invisible one by one. The agents of the Dark Alliance mainly consisted of Shadow Artists, and all of them could use illusion magic.
Adventures like Litoinaize from Varow’s party who were Shadow Artists were rare, but due to the nature of their work, among the people who called themselves assassins, this was one of the most adequate and basic jobs.
‘Things have gotten a bit off schedule, but the plan remains unchanged. As soon as we can assassinate Prince Layos, our mission will be complete.’
Just as the Warrior had feared, he gave orders to his subordinates over the “Opposing Far Voices” to pacify the targets using their mini bow guns from the cover of their illusion magic. To make sure to avoid friendly fire, they changed their formation from an encircled formation to a straight-line formation on one side.
However, to Kou who could see their magic, their movements were very clear. It was very hard for him to use his magical weapon when surrounded, on top of shielding Layos and Sayaka and the rest. However, if they were all lined up in one direction, it was very easy to target them.
Rushing in front of Layos and the others, Kou took out the upgraded magical weapon from his dimensional storage. “Oh, it’s that weapon.” The Fighter raised one eyebrow after getting a glimpse of the familiar weapon.
Thinking of the loud sounds and reverb it would create if that weapon was fired in this closed space, Sayaka tightly covered her ears with her hands and steeled herself.
Bullets were fired almost simultaneously from the multiple muzzles. What had been more of a DonDonDonDon firing sound before, was now more of Vuuuuuu motor-like sound. Because of the improvements in not only power but also speed made to the magical weapon due to the development of the magic rifle, it was now closer to the image of the original weapon that Kou had in mind.
“– Wha-What is this!? –”
“– Captain! The illusion barrier is being broken! –”
The incredible number of bullets put a huge strain on the barrier, and the illusion spells were dispelled one after the other. In one fell swoop, the continuous fire from the magical weapon revealed the front of the black robes that had been standing ready with their bow guns.
And this wasn’t the only thing that was going wrong with Judge’s meticulous plan.
Just as he decided that this was no time to be worrying about losses and was about to give the order for an all-out attack to subjugate the targets with sheer numbers, an arrow with a light source attached to it flew past his face, grazing his cheek, and struck one of his subordinates. The Gawiik party had arrived on the scene.
Judge panicked even more because they had arrived too fast. The path from here to the entrance had no monsters, but it was still far enough that walking normally would take at least more than one minute. Not even a minute had passed since he had heard from his subordinate at the entrance.
He had left a lot of time between Prince Layos entering the dungeon and the attendant of Prince Suaro finding the letter. Even if they mobilized immediately after finding the letter, there was no way they could have made in time to stop the assassination of Prince Layos.
If they had used horses it would have been a different story, but on the way here there were a lot of narrow corridors and stairs. It was a not a place horses could enter easily and he had received no such report either. The best outcome would have been the assassination of Prince Layos without any witnesses, and his body being found on the same day. Judge realized that his plan had utterly failed.
The members of the Gawiik party cut through the ranks of the confused black robes. Karen and Lef took up positions and supported the rest from corners of the room, while Daido and Mandel and protected them. Gawiik and Reaper ran to where Prince Layos and the others were standing.
“Are you unharmed?”
“Yes. It saves me a lot of trouble that you came. But, how did you find this place?”
“Prince Suaro’s attendant picked up a threatening letter addressed to you, and he found out after a bit of investigating.”
Gawiik told him how they had jumped on their Magic Wheels and rushed over after a map had been found in his private room, and how the Golden Sword Dragons and the knights from the army were on their way as well.
“Threatening letter? But I have the letter and the map right here…?”
As Layos took out the letter and map from his pocket and showed it to him, Gawiik was lost for words. The two exchanged a quiet glance.
“Looks like there’s more to this than is apparent.”
Saying this, both turned their attention to the one leading the black robes.
“Kuh. To think that situation would degrade this much…ch.”
Shadow Artists, who were based on casting magic did not have much direct fighting power and were not suited for close combat. Before, they could have a chance of winning by using their sheer numbers, but their most effective magic, illusion magic was in tatters because of the attacks from the magical weapon.
On top of that, Lef and Karen had secured the two back corners of the room, and Gawiik and Layos were standing near the opposite wall, so the black robes were sandwiched between the two. Their illusion magic taken away by Kou’s magic weapon, the black robes were falling fast trying to fight a close quarters combat.
“Ch! Capture the masked man! Don’t let him get away!”
Judge tried to escape this situation using the only way out, but as soon as he stepped into the corridor he froze.
“Prince! You’re safe!”
“You came at just the right time! Capture that man!”
It was the elite party, wearing glamourous armor and holding weapons that had special magic effects applied to them, looking more like a part of a parade than a search team in the dungeon. Of course, they were not just all show; they possessed considerable strength. Judge, the masked man, was quickly subdued by the Golden Sword Dragons who had arrived a bit late.
The group that had rescued Sayaka and the others waited for the knights to arrive, and then handing off the black robes to them, left the room behind and headed for the surface.
“The Prince shouldn’t be fighting on the frontlines~”
“I don’t want to give up the role of saving you to anyone else.”
Layos began his usual advances on her on the way back, saying things like how he’d never give up the role of saving her from danger, and how he’d always be at her side. Knowing that when they got back to the Royal Palace he would be very busy with things related to this incident, the members of the Gawiik and Golden Sword Dragons parties watched over them with light-hearted feelings and let him flirt in ease.
Kou felt Sayaka’s heart beginning to move. Just a little bit, she wanted to believe in the actions and words of Layos. He remembered a phrase fit for such situations.
“All is well after the rain comes and fair weather ends.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
It was mixture of various things.