Riku clicked her tongue.
Both Charlotte and the silver haired boy completely disappeared inside the crowd of people, making Riku lose her sight of them. But even so, there was no way they could have gone too far. If she go after them immediately, there is no mistake she will be able to find them in time. Riku started running after them in a hurry. Her instincts were telling that she mustn´t let the two of them be together. It was clear that that boy had connections to the spiritualists, and Charlotte, who led the Demon Lord army, was a person of the highest importance. If Charlotte´s identity was discovered, it wasn´t possible to expect what would happen then.
But as if meaning Riku wouldn´t be allowed to proceed, a escort kept standing in her way.
“Wait a second, what is all this about? Is it fine to leave the two of them alone?”
“Charlotte-sama must be thinking of something. Thinking much exalted thoughts that are unimaginable to us.”
The escort declared with a serious face. She got so angry over that declaration the blood in her head felt like it would start to boil. If she had her halberd at hands right now, perhaps she would have ended up cutting the escort´s head off. Alleviating that increasing rage by having a long breath of air, she glared at the escort.
“Exalted thoughts? Right… Let´s say it is just as you told me. If that´s the case, then whatever happens with all that, it is none of my responsibility.”
Declaring that, she had the feeling she took a weight off her shoulders. Turning away from the escort, she decided to go back to the inn.
The only person that blocked her way was the single man standing there. The rest all followed after Charlotte. Since that was the case, her duty was over. She was now going to enjoy her vacation without needing to escort someone or do anything else. But stopping her, the escort caught her arm.
“It seems that you don´t understand Charlotte-sama´s plan. Since it can´t be helped, come with me for a bit.”
The escort pointed to a coffee shop nearby. It was a stone built coffee shop that had a very calming ambience. There was a sign which had the word [Open] and the menu written on it.
“Sorry, but I´m not in a mood for that.”
“Well then, Riku Barusak… What is your rank?”
“…Right now I´m a captain.”
“I´m a lieutenant colonel. It seems my rank is higher than yours. Come with me. That´s an order.”
She didn´t have any options.
With the same feeling as if the escort that proclaimed to be a lieutenant coronel himself was dragging Riku, she unwillingly entered the coffee shop. As if he was already familiar with it, the lieutenant coronel ordered two coffee cups and sat down in an empty seat. Inside, it was moderately filled with people, and had even some people wearing costumes having fun talking among them. But there was nobody that minded the costumes. Rather, the waitress herself was wearing cat ears and had false fangs, having fun with her own costume.
…If it was that coffee shop, maybe even if she didn´t wear her hat, it would be fine. After she sat down on her chair, the lieutenant colonel cleared his throat.
“Umu, well then… Once again, let´s do self introductions. I am Keity Fostar. From the first army, which is led by Charlotte-sama, I serve as the lieutenant coronel of the imperial guards. I would like to show my thanks to captain Riku Barusak for undertaking this task.”
Lieutenant colonel Keity Fostar gave a bow with his head.
Riku ignored about half of what he said , but by what she heard, she suddenly had a bad presentiment. As expected, she hesitated to talk about it personally.
Lieutenant colonel Keity Fostar was a demon that had muscles worthy of the position of being an escort. His arm was thick and covered in tiger fur, but even so, by looking at them, it was very well possible to notice he was getting tense. No matter which angle one would look at him, it was clear he was a man.
Noticing Riku´s confusion, Lieutenant colonel Keity Forstar gave a wry smile.
“Yes, you too got the wrong idea. With this appearance, it can´t be helped I get mistaken so often, but I´m a woman. Since I´ve been born for as long as I´ve been living, it has been like that. Really… Originally, in the Fostar family, it´s very common for our physique to become like that. My mother, elders sister and little sister, all are often times called “macho women”. …Well, although they bring hell to those people.”
Keity told her story as if she was already fed up by telling it many times. But such a thing didn´t really matter. It was common to have women like Riku serving as soldiers in the Demon Lord army. As long as one was able to get achievements, whether it was a man or a woman didn´t matter. Even with that in mind, because Keity kept talking, Riku wasn´t able to get the opportunity to say anything.
“Did you know? Not long ago, I´ve been stopped from going to the women´s section of the bath. And also…”
“Thank you for waiting. Here is your coffee.”
As if to pour water onto Keity, who was tediously complaining about her problems of the disparity problems of her appearance, the waitress came with the coffee. The obsidian colored liquid was giving off steam. Finally, for the first time, Keity shut her mouth and started to blow her coffee to cool it down. In order to repress her gloomy mood, Riku did a long breath. And then, before Keity would start drinking the coffee, Riku hurriedly began to talk about the main question.
“Now… What kind of thoughts would Charlotte-sama be thinking?”
“Ah, yes. It was about that we came here to talk, wasn´t it.”
Apparently, Keity had forgotten about that somehow.
While scratching her head due to the embarrassment, she gave a quick look at the surroundings. And then, lowering her voice by one level, she started to talk.
“At the Derufoi city, there is an area that is prohibited for people to go in. Did you know?”
While putting a sugar cube in her coffee, Riku started to recall about the geography of the city.
On the map she was given in advance to coming the place, there was a big “X” symbol on a certain area. She didn´t think too deeply about that, but she assumed what Keity was talking was about that.
“More or less.”
“Then, it makes it more simple. In that area, there is a shrine. Making contact with the Shibira shrine located there was in fact one of Charlotte-sama´s secret objectives.”
“It´s the temple of the blind. The people that succeed that name, in exchange for not being able to see the reality, are able to see the future, or so it is said.”
Riku put one more sugar cube on her coffee. The white lump of sugar was slowly sinking down. Mixing it up with a spoon, she easily made the two sugar cubes dissolve in a short amount of time. Becoming scattered in small pieces inside the black liquid, it gradually melted into it. Looking at such scene, Riku felt a feeling that couldn´t really be described with words. Unconsciously, she picked up another sugar cube and added to the coffee.
Looking at how she was acting, Keity twisted her face.
“You don´t believe it, right? Look, it is said that the future the Shibira see are absolute. Knowing the future sooner can be useful for preparing for calamities that are going to happen.”
“And then, be manipulated by that decided future? …I don´t really like this sort of pre-decided kind of way of thinking.”
Defined future, unchangeable something… This could be said destiny was something that didn´t allow such things to change. But imposing that didn´t feel like a good thing to her. Just because she didn´t have talent, she was thrown away. Just because she was a human, she was always treated as a traitor. Was it really impossible to change things that were decided from the start? Inside her heart, resentment was accumulating. In order to wash it off, she drank her coffee.
“Lieutenant colonel Keity Fostar. Would you follow the future decided by somebody else?”
“But all of that is the truth. In fact, Charlotte-sama´s elder brother… It seems that because he ignored the Shibira´s predictions, he was defeated. That´s why this time, we need to make full use of it.”
“Is that, so?”
“That´s right. But the problem starts now… In order to enter that off limits area, unless you are royalty or a member of one of the spiritualists families, then you are not permitted inside. Shibira´s prophecies are an existence that carries a might which is of great influence after all.
Keity put milk to her coffee. On the black surface of the coffee, a white circle of milk was formed. Seeing how both of them were stirring their coffee, Riku asked Keity a question.
“If that is the case, then how are you planning on getting there?”
“Umu, what the plan was at first was to make use of the confusion of the festival and have one of us escorts to kidnap a Shibira. But having one less person would be a problem. Therefore, we assigned you to be her bodyguard.”*1
But they didn´t consider the possibility of a plan of having Charlotte getting friendly with a spiritualist. Now, whether it was because he was soft-hearted over her or because he had secret intentions, regardless of what it was, he had a liking to Charlotte without doubt. Using this to her advantage, rather than taking the risk of invading that area, she might be able to get to the Shibira by a legitimate method. That is why Charlotte purposely drove Riku away. Thinking about it to this point, Riku snorted.
“…That´s too naive.”
Riku couldn´t imagine that Charlotte thinking all of that and asking her to let her be alone together with that silver haired boy. She didn´t know the details, but the feelings contained at her gaze when she looked at the silver haired boy wasn´t the feeling of wanting to use him, nor some sort of acting to feign harmlessness. It was clearly a gaze of someone that had fallen in love.
Riku drank the remaining coffee at one go. The extreme sweetness completely overlapped the characteristic bitter taste. Maybe she put too many sugar cubes. Pondering about the sweetness, she drank the coffee up and stood from her seat.
“Thank´s for the treat, lieutenant colonel Keity Fostar. Now then, I will be taking my leave.”
“Wha-, are you going already? All my tasks were already done once I got you separated from Charlotte-sama. So, won´t you enjoy the coffee a bit more with me?”
Ignoring her offer, Riku left the coffee shop.
Right at that moment, the cold of the blowing wind pierced her skin. She buried her face on her muffler and put her hands on her pocket. Then, Riku started walking, having her posture bended a bit forward. Then, by the time she saw the signboard of the inn, the turmoil of the main street had already got distant. As she was thinking on how it was better for it to be this quiet, she saw there was a boy in front of the signboard standing as if he was waiting for someone. He was using a hat and was looking at the surroundings worriedly. Right when the boy noticed Riku´s figure, he enthusiastically smiled.
“First lieutenant Riku Barusak! No, captain!”
The boy… Roppu Nezaarand, full of energy, came running like the wind.
“Congratulations for the promotion.”
“Sergeant major Nezaarand, what´s the matter?”
“Y, yes! Actually, I received an order to be transferred to the captain´s squad and came to give my greetings. And also one more thing, which was to give you a letter to the captain.”
From his pouch, he took out one letter. The name of the sender wasn´t written on the white letter. Without even opening it, she just threw it inside her pouch.
“Err… Ah, yes. Captain, please take care of me from now on!”*2
“Yes. Likewise. Do your best.”
“Yes! I will give my all!! …By the way, captain Barusak… Uhh, is it fine if you don´t read the letter?”
With a face that showing his shyness, he asked her.
“I don´t feel like reading right now. By the way, who is that letter from? Would it be from lieutenant general Gortoberuk?”
“N, no. It is from lieutenant general Adlar. Since their army were stationed close by, I went there to give my greetings to the fourth army… And so, I was entrusted with giving captain this letter.”
“You should have told me sooner!”
Riku hurriedly took out the letter and opened it. It was the first time she received a letter from Leivein himself. Riku carefully unfolded the paper inside. On that paper, there were several lines of words elegantly written. Indeed, only several. But even if it was only this many, since they were written for her, she was very happy. But…
“…You´ve done a good job at the Myuuz castle. This time´s task you were assigned to is of great honor. Protect Charlotte-sama even at the cost of your life.” Is it?”
Riku feelings were a bit complicated right now. If it was for the sake of protecting the supreme commander of the Demon Lord army, she would put her life on stake; she was aware of the responsibility. But perhaps… If she had received this letter before she met Charlotte, maybe the feelings she was feeling right now would be different. Perhaps she would be a bit more eager to correspond to his expectations. But unfortunately, she had received the letter after finishing her escorting duty.
“I´m very much sorry… Captain Leivein, it will be difficult to meet these expectations.”
She didn´t have the confidence of being capable of throwing away her life in order to protect Charlotte. No, she didn´t want to protect her at all. No matter how much it was Leivein´s orders, only that was impossible. This Demon Lord substitute that would harbor attachment to a person that had connections to the spiritualists was just a detestable fool. Her heart wasn´t so big for her to care about it. Folding the letter carefully, she put it inside her pouch.
“Now that I think about it, where would Charlotte-sama be right now?”
“I don´t know. She should be having fun somewhere.”
And right as Riku said those words.
A single man was running through the main street. Many people were gathering, wondering what the man was screaming. Breathing heavily, once the gathered people were looking at him, he said with a loud voice.
“De-demons have appeared!! Just now, at the other side of the main street, the spiritualists were exterminating them!
Immediately, both Riku and Roppu looked at each other. Right now, the only demons that were at the town were Charlotte´s escorts and herself.
“Is this true?”
“It´s true! But they said there might be others.”
“What did you say!? Your are saying that there might be demons hiding in the town!?”
“Yes. They even left alive a little demon girl for getting information about that.”
In other words, Charlotte was captured and all her escorts were killed. Riku didn´t know until when Charlotte would be able to keep her mouth shut, but she was worried that she would let her existence being known to the enemy. Right now, would it be better to retreat together with Roppu or for her to go save Charlotte?
“Ca-captain. What should we do?”
Roppu was hiding behind Riku.*3 Even if Riku had red hair, she was still a human. She didn´t have to worry about being found as a demon. But if someone was to take away Roppu´s hat, his rabbit ears would reveal his identity. If he were to declare it was only a costume, it might still be fine, but if a spiritualist was to check it, he would notice Roppu was a demon without doubt. Maybe that´s the reason why Charlotte got exposed as a demon.
It was better for Riku to run away in this situation. Leivein ordered Riku to protect Charlotte, but Charlotte herself refused the protection. There was no need for Riku to go save her. But right when Riku took Roppu´s hand and was about to enter the inn…
“But for them to leave one demon alive as a prisioner… Who was the spiritualist that allowed that?”
“Don´t you know? It is that famous heir of the Barusak household.”
Due to the words that shouldn´t have been spoken, Riku stopped her feet.
“The ones that killed all the demons were that heir and some female spiritualists that came together with him. But when they were about to kill that last tiny demon, he stopped them.”
Riku´s memories were being brought back.
It was her younger brother who would coil around her feet when they were still young. From times to times, they would eat sweets and play together. The younger brother who started to talk more adult-like and started to invent strange things after he became four years old. The younger brother whose name was…
In accord to Riku´s memories, he had a silver hair that felt it was almost transparent.
And then, there was that silver haired spiritualist who got close to Charlotte. Noticing that, Riku whispered near Roppu´s ears.
“Sergeant major Roppu Nezaarand, with your speed, it is possible for you to get to where Vrusto is in one day, right?”
By being suddenly asked of something, Roppu got surprised. Quickly looking at the surroundings, when he confirmed that the attention of the people around weren´t at them, he whispered back in a low voice.
“It is possible. Since he also received a day off, right now he should be at the fourth army´s garrison… But, why are you asking me that?”
“Isn´t it obvious? With his nose, we will be able to find Charlotte.”
Riku had a smiling face.
It was fortunate that there were Charlotte´s luggage remaining at the inn. Following the smell, it should be possible to know where Charlotte is, and at the same time, it would be possible to determine where Rook Barusak is without mistake. To that feeling of finally reuniting with her younger brother she hadn´t met for ten years, there was no way Riku´s heart wouldn´t be dancing around.
And besides… With that, it would be possible for her to carry out Leivein´s task of protecting Charlotte.
“I can´t wait. To think I would be able to see Rook grown up.”
Riku was now thinking about what sort of things she should say when she meets him. On that face which was being illuminated by the sunset, she had an atrocious smile.
1.The way it is stated at the japanese one makes it feel like having one less soldiers is really really a big deal. Something like -1 soldier = insta death
2.Needed to add some words because otherwise it wouldn´t make any sense in english.
3.ロップは、リクの後ろに隠れるように回っていたwhy ->回っていた<- this? D: