“You want to help?”
Riku narrowed her eyes.
The demon that named herself as Kurumi was showing a gentle smile. That is, even though she had a halberd right next to her neck. If Riku wanted to, that girl would lose her head in one second.
But despite that, Kurumi was smiling. Whether it was the enemy, whether it was anyone else, there shouldn´t have been anybody that would show a smile to a blade full of killing intent. Perhaps it was because Kurumi was absolutely certain she wouldn´t lose her head, and also had the self-confidence and was carefree enough that she could act like that.
“Yes. I´m also a member of the demon lord army after all.”
Kurumi´s voice didn´t hold any hesitation. There were no signs of panic. For she to not have any changes at her face even though she was pressed on to this point, maybe being able to do such thing was the reason why she was able to keep up as a member of the intelligence division. Thinking like that, any suspicions would fade away.
But… Riku didn´t feel she should remove the halberd from her neck yet. Since Riku remained silent, in her stead, Vrusto spoke.
“Hey, why do you know our names? I can´t be helped for you to know ojou-chan´s name since she is a human, but I don´t think I´m such a famous person for that.”
While exposing his fangs, he was looking at the little Kurumi. Even though Vrusto, who could be said to be a beast , approached Kurumi, who in comparison would be a little animal, she didn´t falter at all. Without flinching from his intimidating air, Kurumi politely spoke.
“That is untrue, second lieutenant Asuteroid. I´ve heard that you were the one who taught military arts to captain Riku Barusak, who had got many achievements at the Myuuz castle battle. Sergeant major Roppu Nezaarand too. It is spoken of that you slipped through the enemies and were able to inform the fall of the fort. Perhaps you are not self-aware of that, but you are quite a famous person.”
“I-is that so?”
Vrusto scratched his head embarrassed. All the weariness he had before had dispersed and he got softened up.
Riku glared at Vrusto. Then, with all her strength, she hit Vrusto, who had a silly smile on his face, at his flank with her elbow. Twisting his face, Vrusto groaned from the pain and took distance from Riku.
“You brat! What are you doing!”
While rubbing the place she hit, Vrusto was glaring at Riku. Even so, Riku wasn´t feeling any ounce of guilt.
“It´s because you had a stupid face on. That´s all.”
“If you want to talk about stupidness, then shouldn´t it be this rabbit brat!?”
Ignoring Vrusto´s clamor, Riku turned her eyes back to Kurumi. With her adorable big eyes, Kurumi too was silently looking at Riku.
Kurumi was a demon. Her ears were genuine squirrel ears. It was clearly different from the costumes that were being used at the downtown. It wasn´t possible to think a demon would be allied to humans.
But Riku couldn´t trust Kurumi. She couldn´t put into words why she wasn´t able to trust her, but she really had the feeling that Kurumi was hiding something behind her smile.
Whether to trust her own instincts or to trust Kurumi. Riku had only those two choices.
But regardless what she would be going to do, the clock was ticking. By chance, it was possible that something would happen to Charlotte or that Rook Barusak would leave the town. She didn´t have time to waste on thinking.
“I beg you, captain. I´m from the intelligence division, so I can be of use for infiltration. I also investigated where Charlotte-sama is being held captive! But as expected, this time I´m a bit anxious in going there alone so… Please!”
Kurumi spoke trying to pursue the matter.
She still had her smile on, but it was possible to notice signs of desperation on her eyes. She couldn´t see then as eyes of a liar. And it was possible to understand her hesitation for infiltrating on the enemy´s place by herself. It was a possibility for her to run into the next head of the Barusak once she got close to Charlotte. By looking at Kurumi, it didn´t seem like she was very proficient in fighting. If she were to directly confront Rook, she would be killed in less than one second. That´s why she wanted to join them. Kurumi´s request wasn´t really absurd.
But Riku couldn´t decide over that. There was nothing strange about her situation, but she still had a bad feeling over it.
While Riku was still pondering about that, Roppu, who had been quiet behind her, timidly stepped forward.
“Err… Captain Barusak, I think it is fine to trust this person. It doesn´t seem like she is telling any lies.”
Riku muttered in a low voice.
Just as Roppu said, Kurumi didn´t seem to be lying. But there was something behind the scenes. Without doubt, she was hiding something. If it wasn´t for that case, she wouldn´t be smiling. Even so, she didn´t have the time to inquire Kurumi about that.
She was lost and didn´t know which choice she should choose. Then, Vrusto whispered next to her ear.
“Ojou-chan, let´s just say we go on with this guy´s proposal.”
“Go on with?”
Roli muttered in reaction. Then, Vrusto continued what he was talking in a lower voice.
“Yes. I will keep up following Charlotte-sama´s smell. If the place her smell is coming from and the place this squirrel girl is leading us to matches, then we can confirm she wasn´t lying. And if there is anything slightly off, then we can know she was trying to deceive us.”
The place the smell is coming from wouldn´t really change whatever it may happen, and so was reliable. If Kurumi wants to deceive them and brings them to a different place, then in this case, she can just kill her for being a traitor.
“I beg you!”
With her forehead to the ground, Kurumi persisted with her request. Giving off a big sigh, Riku made her resolve.
“I… Don´t want to kill my companions and get punished because of that. It will cause bad reputation to captain Leivein after all.”
Riku took the halberd off Kurumi´s neck. Even though Kurumi had been showing a smile, she was very tense after all. Kurumi let out a sigh out of relief.
“Thank you very much. I will do my best!”
“Don´t get the wrong idea. The moment it is clear you betrayed us, I will kill you.”
“Understood, captain. Now, please follow me.”
Kurumi nodded with a smile.
Being guided by Kurumi, Riku and the others were going through the city. After moving forward for some moment, the tumult of the main street started to get distant. They entered in a quiet residential area. As if everyone had gone out to the main street, there were no signs of human presence there. Riku, who got worried about it, whispered to Vrusto.
“Is it matching?”
“Yes, it is. What´s more, the smell is even stronger. If Charlotte-sama herself wasn´t here, then there wouldn´t be this much smell remaining.”
In the end, it seems Kurumi really knew where Charlotte was.
But Riku still felt a feeling as bad as the feeling of getting a fish bone stuck in the throat. The moment Kurumi turned her head to Riku and said “This way”, it couldn´t be helped for Riku to get concerned about the way she was gazing her. She wasn´t really well disposed about Riku. But even with that as the case, her gaze didn´t hold despise and was a weird gaze.
One word that could describe it would be “hostility”. The hostility her gaze held wasn´t spirited like the one given at the battlefield, and it was also different from the looks she would habitually receive at the barracks. It was a type of hostility that Riku had never felt until now.
She could only wonder what that was about.
While Riku was still thinking about that, Kurumi had stopped her feet.
Kurumi pointed to the mansion ahead. Its size wasn´t as big as Gortoberuk´s villa, but even so, it was a mansion big enough for it to feel out of the place from such a small city like Derufoi. There, there was a gatekeeper standing there, being vigilant to the surroundings.
“This is the mansion of the lord that governs Derufoi city. Charlotte-sama is locked in there.”
Riku turned her gaze to Vrusto. After Vrusto´s nose moved, he gave his positive.
“It´s just as she says… Charlotte-sama´s smell is coming from that residence.”
“Is that so… Now, how are we supposed to sneak in there?”
Kurumi pointed out an alley.
After going through the alley with vigilance, they stopped at a dead end. Getting close to the floor, which was covered with stone slabs, Kurumi started to examine it as if she was looking for something. And then, she took out one of the big slabs. At the place where the slab was, there was a hole that was barely big enough for a person to go through. If Riku was using her armor now, she might have not been able to go through. At the hole, there was a ladder, which went on very deeply through the ground. Riku looked at the hole, but she couldn´t see the bottom of it.
“There is a corridor underground that is connected to the residence. We can infiltrate there through here.”
“…Are you sure it really connects with that residence from earlier?”
To Riku´s question, Kurumi affirmatively nodded.
From here on, it might be difficult to rely on Vrusto´s nose. She was a bit worried about it, but she didn´t have the time to be hesitating.
“Sergeant major Nezaarand, for the moment, you stay here. In case anything happens, you should immediately retreat. Then, you should go after lieutenant colonel Fostar and follow her orders. Second lieutenant Vrusto should come with me. …Kurumi Shouru, I will rely on you to guide us.”
Kurumi put her foot onto the ladder and went down. Riku and Vrusto followed her afterwards. They went down the ladder that was cold and solid to the hands step by step. One could only wonder how far the ladder went on. Looking up, Riku saw Roppu looking at the hole with a worried face at the distance.
When they finally put down their feet to the ground, Roppu´s figure was only of a dot. Because it was underground, Riku thought that it would be so dark it wouldn´t be possible to see even an inch ahead, but it wasn´t the case. There was moss growing at the wall; they were giving off a faint light. Because of that, it was possible to see a few steps of distance ahead.
“Even though lightmoss is growing here… It is still very dark. Let me prepare some illumination.”
Right as Kurumi said that, she lighted up a lamp. The faint darkness of the underground corridor became bright in an instant. There was nobody there. She thought about the possibility of somebody laying an ambush here, but it seems that it wasn´t the case.
“Perhaps, could it be that… Captain is being suspicious of me?”
Kurumi asked worriedly. Then, Riku showed a wry smile. It seems her face had revealed her worries.
“I´m not being suspicious. I can just kill you if you betray us after all.”
“…That´s being suspicious.”
Vrusto muttered something, but Riku ignored it. Kurumi shrugged her shoulders to Riku´s answer.
“You are scared, aren´t you?”
“Does it look like that to you?”
“That´s right… This way.”
Kurumi kept advancing through the corridor.
The sound of their footsteps resounded in an illusory manner. Kurumi was at the front, guiding them, and glaring at her back was Riku. Behind Riku was Vrusto, which was taking care to protect the rearguard as he was walking. One could only wonder how much time passed then. They had been walking for about one hour, but Kurumi didn´t show any signs of stopping to walk. Without giving too much heed, Riku asked.
“Is it really this way?”
Riku intended to speak in a low voice, but even so, her voice echoed through the corridor. If there were any enemies hiding around, they would have immediately noticed Riku´s presence. But as if completely being indifferent to Riku´s worries, she smiled.
“It´s fine. There is no mistake.”
As if there were no problems, Kurumi turned her way to a different direction. Because how naturally Kurumi had done so, Riku became a bit less worried about it. And following after Kurumi, she also went the same way. And at that exact moment…
“That´s where you will die.”
The exact moment when she turned her way, the faintly dark corridor became overflowed with a very intense light. It was so bright that she had shut her eyes. Despite that, she wielded her halberd. But even so, the consequence of having her sight stolen were big. Right when she thought she felt killing intent from the direction the light came from, an arrow was already right in front of her eyes. She tried to avoid it, but she wasn´t in time. The arrow hit her arm.
Vrusto´s shout echoed. Drawing the sword at his waist, he ran next to Riku. While twisting her face in pain, she took out the arrow. The wound wasn´t as deep as she thought it was and wasn´t bleeding too much.
After giving a glance to the wound at her arm, she looked ahead. The light had completely faded away and the corridor had gone back to its faint darkness. Next to Kurumi, there was the figure of a little girl standing there. Her wheat colored hair was tied in braids. The little braided girl was glaring at Riku as if Riku was the one that had killed her parents. Guessing from how she was holding a bow, Riku assumed she was the one that had shot the arrow.
“What you did just now… Was that a flashbang? You can really do it, can´t you?”
Vrusto kicked the orb on the floor that was close to his feet. Riku started to slowly rotate her halberd.
“…Then, Kurumi Shouru is a traitor.”
“Traitor? I´m fighting for the future of the demons.”
Kurumi´s smile vanished from her face. What was behind her smiling mask was an expression that looked as sharp as a blade. Without any uncertainties, she was giving Riku a sharp look.
“That´s right. For the sake of the future Rook will build, I will swing my blade.”
As if she was some kind of illusionist, knives appeared between each of Kurumi´s fingers.
“A future spiritualists will build? Are you stupid?”
Vrusto barked in a low voice. Vrusto must be boiling with anger. His fur was standing up and he had his eyes open-wide.
“If that´s the case, then shouldn´t you stop the war already? Aren´t the spiritualists still attacking us?”
“It´s for the sake of having the minimum amount of blood spilled. For that purpose, I need you two to die.”
Kurumi wasn´t looking at Vrusto. She only kept glaring at Riku. It seems that at some point in time Riku got Kurumi to hold resentment over her. As she was trying to remember the time she had met Kurumi, Riku spoke.
“Oh, is it inconvenient for you to have me living?”
“That´s obvious. If Rook knew you survived… He would definitely become sad.”
Riku blurted in a off-toned voice. Just from the surprise, the halberd she was holding felt like it would fall down. Riku thought Kurumi had misspoken something, but it seems that wasn´t the case. With a serious face, Kurumi declared.
“That´s right. Because, his own sister he thought to be dead is killing her own people… killing spiritualists. Because of his love for his family, it will make him suffer to hold grudges to you…That´s why before he knows of your existence, we will kill you.”
“Rook got very sad because Selestinna was killed. If he knew it was his sister who did it, he would become even sadder. Rook is already full of pain. That´s why I won´t let you make him have more pain!”
Following Kurumi´s words, the braid little girl spoke. It seems that the little girl wanted to kill Riku as well. In the girl´s eyes, flames of anger were burning.
“…So they said. What should we do?”
Vrusto quietly asked. But Riku wasn´t able to answer that question.
Instead, Riku started to laugh in a loud voice. No matter how she would interpret it, all that was simply too funny. The two people glaring at her full of resentment and hatred were like two clowns dancing on sloppy moves.
“That guy is full of pain? Sad because I became his enemy? That´s why you will kill me before he knows I survived?”
“Y-yes, that´s right. What´s the problem with that!?”
“There is a problem. I will die from laughing so much.”*1
Riku didn´t miss how they gave one step back. Calmly, Riku was gradually closing the distance between them.
“First, about the female pig. If he has so much time to be sad, then he could have simply not let her go to war in first place.”
Riku put herself on his place and started to think. In a battle, if she were to survive, but Leivein were to die, rather than being sad over his death, she would blame herself. That would be because she wasn´t capable of protecting him. More than holding a grudge, she would regret of her own powerlessness.
“If he didn´t want her to die, it would have been better for him to keep her at a cage. All this is pretty much that his beloved bird he was raising got shot down by some hunter. The hunter was only properly doing his job. The bird simply wasn´t able to run away.”
“Selestinna-oneesan isn´t a bird!!”
The braid girl drew her sword. Infusing her power in the sword, it started to become enveloped with water. Even though she was young, her power as a spiritualist was already flourishing.
“Kurumi-oneechan, that person is weird. We definitely can´t let her meet Rook!”
“That´s right, Rebecca. We will tidy up this mess ourselves.”
Kurumi lightly patted the head of the braid girl she had just called Rebecca.
Riku noticed there was a ladder just a bit behind Kurumi and Rebecca. Somehow, she had the feeling that ladder would lead them to where Rook was. Riku leaned her halberd on her shoulder.
“Second lieutenant Vrusto. Let´s make them covered in blood.”
“Stupid. Even if you don´t tell me, I was planning on doing that.”
Vrusto already was wielding his sword.
His tone of voice was just like his usual, but even so, it still held a bit of anger. From Riku´s point of view, she noticed he was holding his sword with more strength than usual.
“Let´s get through this and get outta here, ojou-chan.”
“While carrying their heads, right?”
She couldn´t imagine Rook being sad if he knew she was alive. He probably would get angry instead. There was no way Rook, who was leading the “proper” life at the prestigious Barusak household, wouldn´t be thinking about the sister that was thrown away that kindly.*2 He would probably want her get a death penalty after how she killed that spiritualist head in cold blood and pointed her blade to her own family.
“Well then, shall we begin?”
For the sake of depriving Kurumi and that braided girl of their future and making Rook Barusak fall in despair.
Lowering down her stance, Riku slowly licked her lips.
1.”There is a problem. I will die from laughing so much.” (Puts glasses)*
It became like that by accident when I was translating… This was destiny! Even if it is not the literal meaning, who cares? 「え、ええそうよ。何がおかしいの！！」「おかしいわ。笑い死にそうよ」
2.I´m not sure how I´m supposed to translate this ->純粋培養<- word.