Under the cold weather with the sky full of twinkling stars, Roppu Nezaarand was leaning forward.
Timidly looking at the entrance of the underground corridor, he was eagerly waiting for Riku and Vrusto to come back. Since they had gone in there, a good amount of time have already passed. But even so, there were no changes to the residence where Charlotte is at, nor there were any signs of them coming back.
“Uu… I wonder if they are alright. Maybe… It might be good if I go in too? But it goes against the orders.”
Roppu was indecisive.
It would be weird if he were to go at the place Riku and Vrusto were invading. His hearing and leg strength were excelling even within the demon lord army. But he couldn´t follow after smell just like Vrusto could. There wouldn´t be any marks remaining so that he could reach to them and he didn´t feel like he would be able to follow after them by himself.
“I guess I should wait a little more so I can think about what to do.”
It was right at the moment he let out a sigh.
Suddenly, the ground shook. After a thundering sound similar to the one of an explosion, there was the sound of something crumbling down, both coming from the entrance of the underground corridor.
Roppu looked at the entrance in panic. But unfortunately, it was too dark, hence he couldn´t see anything. Guessing from the sound from before, it didn´t look like what crumbled down had actually been something around him.
But because something had crumbled down, there was a high chance that Riku and Vrusto were in danger. Unsteadily, he was giving a few steps back.
“T-this… I need to report it to lieutenant colonel Fostar!”
Roppu ran through the path they had took to come there before. This case was an “unexpected incident”, which was what Riku told him to be attentive to. Because they got involved in a problem, he needed to let a superior officer to be aware of it. Taking much less time than the amount they took when they were being guided by Kurumi before, Roppu got back to the inn.
And then… He became speechless of the scene happening in front of the inn. The stone floor there was dyed in blood. The air was filled with the smell of blood. Not having the composure to think of closing his nose, he could only be in shock from the tragedy that was in front of his eyes.
“W-what in the world…Happened.”
He muttered that in surprise. And right at that moment, the sound of footsteps were coming close to him from behind. Roppu turned back as if trying to protect himself from what would come, but it was already too late. That person had closed the distance between then enough to easily touch Roppu.
With cold eyes, the person looked at the trembling Roppu. And clenching the first that was holding that sword dripping blood…
At the underground corridor, there was a mountain of rubble.
Because of the shockwave of the explosion, part of the walls and the ceiling crumbled down. The corridor was now filled with dust and the smell of blood. The figure of Kurumi, who was at the center of the explosion, was no more to be seen. Only the knives she used were meaninglessly lying on the ground.
Vrusto crawled out of the pile of rubble that had accumulated on his back.
“Really, she was bluffing even at her last moments. Why would she blow up all of the sudden… Did she put something at her teeth for that?”
Vrusto mildly coughed. Through his whole body, many fragments of the rubble pierced him and the wounds made by that were bleeding. Demons were more resilient than humans, but if one was to directly receive an explosion, there would be danger of dying. Maybe because of lack of blood, his eyesight was slightly trembling. Vrusto clicked his tongue loudly.
“Hey, get a grip.”
After he got out of the rubble, he extended his hand to the place he was buried before. While complaining, he was drawing Riku out of the rubble. At that moment the white light of the explosion filled the whole place, using his sense of smell, he ran to where Riku was sent flying. Riku had a superhuman strength that was comparable to demons, but her body was still the body any human would have. Being caught by an explosion from very close, it wasn´t strange that she would be sent flying. For her to have her body intact was close to a miracle.
While slapping her cheek, Vrusto muttered.
“Hey, ojou-chan? Are you still alive?”
“…More or less.”
Riku opened her eyes slightly. Because Vrusto had protected her, she had less superficial wounds than expected. But even so, she was badly hurt. The moment she tried to pick up the halberd that was lying on the floor, pain went through her head.
Right at the center of her head, there was a ringing pain. Riku lightly pressed her right hand on her head. Touching it, she noticed that the back of her head was swelled. Perhaps when she was blown away by the explosion, she had violently hit her head on the wall. Maybe it was just the feeling, but she was slightly nauseous.
“Are you alright?”
“…If it is only this much, there is no problem.”
Picking up her halberd, she leaned on it like a staff. Then, as if she remembered something, she looked at Vrusto.
“Stupid, it´s my duty. Duty. My babysitting still continues.”
Vrusto had his usual tone, but he wasn´t hiding his complete exhaustion. Riku gave a wry smile.
“I´m already seventeen.”
“By me, you are still a brat… Now, what should we be doing, ojou-chan.”
Riku was whipping her head to work.
By how loud the sound of the explosion was, it was certain that the spiritualists noticed it. They should assume that soon they would investigate about it, and then get to where they are. If it was her usual self, she would have been able to immediately kill them all, but at her current condition, she was a bit anxious about fighting. If it was only one or two people, she would be able to win. However, if it was more than that… If there were more, she didn´t know whether she could do it.
Besides that, at this condition, fighting Rook Barusak was impossible.
Although with all the issues, he was someone she had lived under the same roof for seven years. Riku knew very well Rook´s talent. In order to confront the Barusak genius that would only appear once every one thousand years, she had to have her body condition in perfect state. He wasn´t a opponent that could be so easily defeated with her body being in such bad condition.
“It´s frustrating, but… We are pulling back.”
Riku and Vrusto started walking. The path they came from was blocked. Since it couldn´t be helped, they could only look for another way to the surface. No matter how much they walked, they couldn´t find the exit. Gradually, her headache worsened and the feeling of nausea welled up. Desperately bearing all this, she kept moving her feet.
How long has she been walking? By the time she didn´t know anymore how many times she had turned to another corridor, Vrusto stopped his feet. With a serious expression, his nose diligently moved.
“Sorry… Ojou-chan, keep walking straight to this way.”
“What´s the matter?”
“Ah… It´s just that it looks like I dropped something captain gave me to look after. I will go back pick it up in just a moment. Ojou-chan should just keep going forward. What, I will catch up right away.”
Giving a silly smile, Vrusto ran back to the way they came from. All happened very fast, so Riku could only keep standing still motionless, glaring at direction Vrusto went to.
After muttering that, she forced her weighting feet to turn back.
She didn´t hear anything about Leivein entrusting Vrusto with something. He most likely noticed with his nose the presence of spiritualists. If it was to become a fight against the spiritualists, then Riku, who was wounded, would only be a hassle.
For some reason, she didn´t have the feeling that Vrusto was using Riku as a bait so that he could run away to safety.
Vrusto was probably standing in the spiritualists way to buy time for Riku to run away. Perhaps this was just that he doing that for Riku to run away as an officer of higher ranking, and it being only the extension of his “babysitting”. She wasn´t able to get a grasp of Vrusto´s intentions, but at least, if she was at his place… She would choose to let Vrusto run away and go fight the spiritualists.
Slowly, little by little, Riku was getting back to the path they came from. And then, she had heard a deep sound of something clashing that had no comparison.
A thick voice full of anger and metallic sounds resounded from the depths of the corridor ahead. Tightly holding her halberd, she hurried her feet. It was clear that further at the next corridor, there was a battle happening. Running through the other side halfway, it was possible to see the death bodies of spiritualists at the ground. There were five, six spiritualists lying at the floor with blood flowing from them. There were some that were twitching, making one wonder if they were still breathing.
But there were others that were still standing. Three spiritualists pointed their swords to Vrusto, who was full of wounds. Vrusto was fighting against three spiritualists by himself. He had a spear stuck at his body and a sword pierced through from his back, but even so, he still held his sword tightly.
“Shit, this is a tough one. This savage demon!!”
“As if I would let you by that easily!!”
Wielding his sword, he charged to one of the spiritualists. But, maybe because of his wounds, comparing to how he usually was, his moves were dull. Being hit by the spear, his sword flew to the air. Losing the weapon he is skilled at, Vrusto was surrounded by the three spiritualists.
But even so, Vrusto kept fighting. Clenching his fists, he glared at the three spiritualists. Right at the moment he bended forward his back as to go break through the encirclement, he stopped moving right away. From where Riku was standing, she was able to notice that Vrusto´s nose moved.
“That´s the end! Demon!”
The spiritualists brandished their swords from three sides at Vrusto, which had stopped moving.
But Vrusto was showing a fearless smile.
“Stupid. The ones that are finished are you guys.”
Together with these words, mustering her strength, Riku kicked the ground. She leaped in direction of the spiritualists. And then, aiming for that defenseless back, she swung her halberd down.
While slashing at the back of that spiritualist, she muttered in a small voice. The spiritualist that was suddenly attacked had the expression of shock on his face. Riku cut off his torso, sending it flying.
“Wha? Another one!?”
By Riku´s intrusion, the spiritualists had their encirclement broken. As to protect Vrusto, she went to the front of the spiritualists.
“Hey, brat. You… Why didn´t you do as I told you?”
“…This is giving false reports to a superior officer. I hate lies.”
Saying that, she pressed her halberd down at the ground. In fact, just for her to keep standing, Riku was already giving her all. The intensity of her headache worsened; if she were to stop paying attention, she would have probably collapsed. But even so, Riku held her halberd.
“Anyhow, if I were to run away like that, they would have caught up. Besides, something like being chased by spiritualists… Just by that my nausea gets worse.”
Saying only that, she forced herself to move her body.
The spiritualists were taking distance from Riku, but Riku wouldn´t let them run away. Pressing the halberd at his bosom, Riku horizontally swung it. With the halberd deeply gorging at his belly, the spiritualists fell down on his back.
“Ho-how dare you! You red head!”
The remaining spiritualist shouted something, but what he shouted… Riku didn´t hear. From the pain and the nausea, Riku´s consciousness began to become hazy. After bending her body to deflect the sword that was thrust at her, aiming at the spiritualist´s head, she dropped down the big lump of metal her halberd was. With his scared expression, his head was crushed more easily than a fruit would. Liquid similar to the red juice of a watermelon poured upon Riku.
“With that… Would this be the end?”
At the that she muttered that, she had already went over her limits. Crumbling down, she sank in the sea of blood. With a splash, she fell to the ground. By that time, it had become difficult even to slightly move her finger.
Even so, Riku was mustering strength to somehow get up. She didn´t have the time to be lying down at such place. She needed to stand up as fast as possible, get out of that place together with Vrusto and meet with Roppu. And then, she needed to rethink of a plan to defeat Rook. Riku was forcefully trying to raise her eyelids.
As she did that, inside her vermillion colored world, she saw a pair of white shoes that particularly stood out.
“Thank goodness… You were still alive, Riku Barusak-sama.”
The woman wearing white clothes was looking down at Riku. Overall, her body was slim, and she felt like she was the purest thing Riku ever saw. The woman, who had her eyes closed, extended her hand to Riku. And then, she muttered in a way that seemed somehow apologetic.
“Nice to meet you. I am Shibira… I am your ally.”