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Chapter 8 – Jessica and the Hope of the Capital
“A group of vampires has been spotted 2 kilometres behind us. Class Seven, prepare to chant!”
“Class Three is to shelter and treat the wounded. If anything happens, use my name!”
Under the President’s leadership, the other students and I have been repelling vampires and directing the citizens to shelter. All of them were terrified. After all, friends they chatted happily with, and even beloved family members suddenly bore their fangs and attacked.
People with skill wielded their prided weapons against the vampires, but the tide of the battle wasn’t to our favour. Not only did vampires have the numerical advantage, but their physical abilities were strengthened too, which made things that much more difficult. Had it not been for the effort the students put into fighting, and the President’s skilled instructions, we would probably have been overwhelmed in no time.
I’m just a novice with no real experience, but President rounded up students like me to hold the frontlines.
We were at a huge numerical disadvantage, and needed more fighters.
It was my first time. My first real battle.
At the beginning, my legs trembled and I was stiff with tension. But when my mana ran dry, I would drink a potion, and continued to jump back onto the battlefield. I was determined to keep going.
I repeated this over and over again.
While I was preparing for the next wave of attacks, the President came over.
“Nichol-kun, are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m a lot calmer now than I was in the beginning.”
“You don’t need to overdo it. Even if potions recover stamina and mana, there’s no helping mental exhaustion.”
“Thank you very much for the concern. But really, I’m fine.”
“This type of exhaustion is one that can go unnoticed. Just listen to me, and take a small break.”
At his half-forceful suggestion, I ended up nodding along.
I wanted to keep going, but it’s true that I was exhausted. Taking him up on his suggestion, I decided to rest in the base. We set up simple beds in the base, so we could take naps, and have simple meals too.
Entering the base, I looked around. Everyone looked incredibly weary.
It was hard to blame them.
Our absolute guardian Remilia-sama was absent…
The unending battles buried our hope with despair.
I sat down on a bed, closed my eyes, and had a light rest.
Ahh… I wonder what’s going to happen to me.
There was the problem with Edim and Lyris, and above all, there was the enormous pressure from the demons.
A race with mana reserves and physical strength incomparable to humans.
Could we even win against them?
People who could beat them…
Adventurers? The Public Safety Force? Or if not, Demon Hunting Specialists?
Hmm, it’s just my intuition, but I think that even if they could defeat the small fry, people like that wouldn’t be able to beat the real demons. Is the world going to be taken over by demons at this rate?
I didn’t know if it was because of the accumulated fatigue, but my mind was filled with negativity.
Ah-!? Speaking of which, there was a person who beat the demons. Strong enough to overturn common sense.
I wonder what Tilea-san was up to right now. Did she find Timu-chan?
Tilea-san, what a mysterious person…
She said that she was just a normal chef, but it didn’t look that way at all. With that unbelievable power, I couldn’t imagine anybody being a match for her, demon or not.
Honestly, who on earth was she?
She said that she wasn’t a hero’s descendant.
Then could it be that she was a demon? ――Hmm, but I didn’t get a negative aura from her. Should I call her simple? Or perhaps pure? The aura around her was warm and bright. She was the complete opposite of Arcyune, who was like a bundle of negativity.
I know! Tilea-san!
If it’s Tilea-san, who was bright like the sun, it would definitely be possible to clear this depressing mood.
I should go find her!
I stood up from my bed, and was about to head straight for the exit when suddenly, happy cheers broke out all around me.
“REMILIA-SAMA HAS RETURNEDDDDD!”
“Ohh, we’re saved!”
“If Remilia-sama is here, the demons are nothing to be afraid of!”
Thank goodness. With this, everybody’s morale would shoot up.
“I am sorry everybody. My absence caused you trouble. I completely fell for the enemy trap.”
Saying so, Remilia-sama bowed to everybody in the base with a frustrated expression and her lip between her teeth. It was probably mortifying for her to have fallen into a trap set by the enemy.
“It isn’t your fault, Remilia-sama. We are the ones responsible for not seeing though it.”
“No, in the end, I was the one who passed the decision. I hope you will let me take responsibility through my actions.”
“Understood. With you here, we can turn this situation around.”
“Umu. I will be counting on you all for your support!”
“”Understood! Please leave it to us!””
Remilia-sama’s words naturally caused the Public Safety Force to smile with joy, and the members from the guild did so as well. While everybody was being inspired by each other’s morale, the Student President approached her.
“Remilia-sama. I am Muvordelly, the President of the Magic Academy Student Council. I am truly relieved by your safe return.”
“Oohh, so you’re that rumoured prodigy. I have heard a lot about you. It seems that in my absence you kept everybody together. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart.”
“I’m unworthy of your words.”
“I am not simply flattering you. I expect much from you in the future. Continue exerting yourself.”
“Thank you very much. Also, about the demons you were chasing. The current crisis――”
“Indeed. In retrospect, they had a tendency to abstain from engaging in battle. It seems they truly were a diversion.”
“I see. The enemy leader is quite a schemer, isn’t he.”
“Umu. Continue to take care so that you do not end up manipulated as well. First I need to confirm the situation. How goes the battle? How are things at the moment?”
“The garrison in the fort down south has been annihilated. I believe that we should consider the area to have fallen to the demons already. As for the garrisons in the east, west and north, they’ve been building up bases and protecting their respective areas like we of the Academy have. As for the Public Safety Force and Adventurers Guild, their members have been sheltering escaping citizens, as well as working to destroy the vampires. Only, every frontline has just been barely holding on, and the battle has continued to be a desperate struggle.”
“I see. I understand the situation now. Well done. You can leave the rest to me.”
“Yes. I’ll return the command of every group to you. For now I’m going to go let them all know about your return.”
“I see. I’ll be counting on you.”
“Well then, everybody capable of fighting, follow me! It’s time to clean up the vampires!”
People from the Guild and Safety Force cheered at her commands, and everybody’s morale reached their peaks.
“W-, Why if it isn’t My Lord, the King. What brings you to such a place as――”
At the sudden appearance of His Lordship, the King, everybody knelt on the spot.
“Be at ease, Remilia. I have already played my cards.”
“Oohh. And may I ask, what cards might those be?” she immediately questioned.
His Lordship was well known for his intelligence and ability. Because of that, everybody else seemed to be waiting expectantly as well.
“The elimination of the vampires shall be left to Decarabia[Demon Destroying Pentragram].”
“Please excuse my words, but what is Decarabia[Demon Destroying Pentragram]?”
“A secret institution of the Royal Capital. From this moment, the Public Safety Force shall defer to their command. I have already relayed this to all members of Decarabia[Demon Destroying Pentragram].”
“H-, However, something like this, and so suddenly is――”
“Remilia. There is no room for argument. I have already decided, and will not accept objections. Do you understand!”
Remilia-sama and everyone else were visibly shocked about this unheard of organisation. Had I not already heard of them, I’d have reacted the same way.
Lyris-chan, just who on earth are you…?
After His Lordship left the area, a man in priest’s clothing appeared before us. He looked about forty, and had a large build and sharp gaze. And he was equipped just like Lyris-chan and Vera-san were.
“I’m Gaban Alec. The King has probably explained already that you lot are under my command. I’ll have you listen obediently from now on.”
“W-, What was that!? I’ve never even heard of Decarabia[Demon Destroying Pentragram]. Even if the King said so, why do we need to listen to your commands!”
“Yeah, yeah. Our leader is Remilia-sama!”
It began with the Public Safety Force, but soon the members of the Adventurers Guild, and then students of our Academy began erupting in complaint as well.
“Hmm. I have no time to deal with your meaningless pride. From this moment on, all those who refuse to obey me shall be treated as rebels against the king, and punished accordingly.”
“S-, So cowardly.”
“Everyone, it is as Alec-dono says. If you disobey the King’s orders, it cannot be helped if they label you a traitor. From this moment on, we will abide by Alec-dono’s instructions.”
Remilia-sama stepped in front of the blatantly unhappy group, and said that with prudence. Because of everybody’s trust in her, just her few words were enough to deal with the complaints.
“Your name was Remilia, wasn’t it. Well said. I’ll have you guys evacuate the citizens, and protect them from vampire attacks during the process.”
“Yessir. We will abide by your instructions, however, I would like to inform you that the demons that my team gave chase to have likely returned to the capital. I had my subordinates keep a lookout, but I fear that they will take action before long. If it happens, I believe it may be best if I tagged along.”
“No need. You have no idea of their battle power. It is impossible to defeat them in a frontal confrontation. Only we of Decarabia[Demon Destroying Pentragram] can kill them.”
“H-, However, would it not be better if you had more fighting power with you?”
“Enough. You lot lack the strength. At best you would just slow us down.”
“W-, What did you say to her! We Safety Force members protect the capital, and you’re going to insult us, huh!”
“Yeah! No matter who you are, that’s absolutely unforgivable!”
“Stop it, everyone! Alec-dono, please desist with your provocations! And moreover, if you are going to say that much, I would like to see proof of your strength. Though I, Remilia, am unworthy, I shall be your opponent!”
Remilia-sama drew her sword and swung it before his eyes.
“Honestly, this Public Safety Force is nothing but a short-tempered bunch with no real ability. Not only that, a bunch of novices are even calling themselves ‘Court Wizard’. And the best part is that a bunch of brats from school are mistaking a battlefield for a fucking festival!”
“YOU BASTARD! TAKE THAT BACK! Remilia-sama, pay his words no need, and please cut him down. It’s no big deal. The King will forgive us if he realises how weak this man is.”
“Exactly. In fact, Remilia-sama need not even go herself. I will――”
Aahh, why did this happen!
To defeat the demons we need to throw away our differences and unite. But instead these people were busy fighting amongst themselves. Even though at best of times, there was still a huge difference in ability between demons and humans…
These people wouldn’t do.
I decided to sneak out of the encampment and go look for Tilea-san.
I would bet the future of the Capital on her.
Tilea-san? Tilea-san, where did you go?
While shouting, I searched the Capital for her. But no matter how long I searched, all I found were evacuees and vampires.
There were so many people. It might be impossible to find her.
Mm~mmn, I couldn’t give up. Tilea-san was the hope of the Capital.
With renewed resolve, I continued to look for Tilea-san. While calling her name, I checked inside buildings, outside, and all around for her. On the way, I was attacked by vampires, but I somehow managed to fight them off with magic.
Mn!? I think I heard my name…
I decided to listen carefully.
“Jessica-chan? Jessica-chan, where are you? If you’re there, please say something!”
It was Tilea-san’s voice!
Thank goodness. I’d finally found her! And if she was looking for me, did that mean she had found Timu-chan?
“Jessica-chan, I’m so sorry. Hic-, have the vampires already gotten youu?”
“Tilea-saaaan! It’s Jessica! I’m here!”
I shouted as loud as I could in her direction, and waved my hands. It looked like she spotted me too, and she began running my way.
After we made sure of each other’s safety, for a while we just hugged.
“Jessica-chan. Thank goodness. Thank goodness you’re still safe.”
“I should be the one saying ‘thank goodness’. You found Timu-chan, right?”
According to Tilea-san, Timu-chan is under the protection of the Public Safety Force. And after the relief of Timu-chan’s safety, she remembered that she left me alone, and came looking for me. Even though we only met last night, she worried so much about me. It kind of makes me happy. She kept apologising again and again for forgetting me, but I told her there wasn’t anything to apologise for.
I mean, anybody would prioritise their beloved sister over a stranger. I could tell just how much she cared about her.
“Hahh~ But I’m really so glad that I found you, Jessica-chan. All that’s left is to meet up with Timu, and then wait out this mess.”
“Eh-? You aren’t going to fight the demons, Tilea-san?”
“Uu~ It’s true that I know their weakness but… I’m still just a regular person. I think we should leave the rest to the Public Safety Force.”
“There’s no way that you’re a regular person! Please, rise to the occasion. For the future of the Capital.”
“E-, Even if you say that… No, y-, you’re right. As a citizen of this country, I have to let the Safety Force know about the weaknesses.”
“N-, No, that’s not what I meant. You see, I want you to take the lead and――”
“Wha-!? E-, Edim!”
“Heh? Edim, you say?”
“I’m here to avenge Arcyune-sama. DIEEEEEEEE!”
T-, This was bad. Edim was trying to suck Tilea-san’s blood. I needed to stop her, but I was too far.
I-, It’s no good. I won’t make it.
I saw her fangs close in on Tilea-san’s neck.
Aah-, Tilea-san was going to be controlled by the vampires.
This was the end. If Tilea-san became a vampire, there wouldn’t be any way left to stop them.
Just as I was stricken by despair,
“Jessica-chan, is this person your friend?”
“Eh-, w-, why? Ah-, yes, she’s my friend but, u-, umm, Tilea-san, don’t you feel anything? I mean, look, your neck is――”
“Huh? UWAH! Vampire! Ah-, I-, did I get bitten? Aaahh… Jessica-chan, before I turn into a monster, you have to throw the kukan―― Hm? It doesn’t hurt, though?”
“W-, Why? Why won’t my fangs pierce!?”
Edim was trying to thrust her fangs into Tilea-san’s neck, but it was like she was being blocked by some thick wall. Could it be a mana eddy?
“Huhu, I see.”
“Edim, was it? I’ll tell you why your fangs didn’t pierce me.”
“W-, Why! Tell me why!”
“You see, it’s not that you couldn’t bite me. It’s that you subconsciously didn’t want to. That inner conflict is proof that you still have a human heart, Edim.”
“Impossible! That’s impossible! I’ve offered my heart to Arcyune-sama, to the demon race. Watch me!”
Angered by Tilea-san’s words, Edim swooped in and tried biting her neck here and there. But it didn’t seem to work at all.
“It won’t work. You don’t want to become a monster in front of your best friend. It’s because you secretly feel that way, right?”
“Eh-, is that true, Edim?”
“Haha, idiocy! You two have pissed me off. I’ll suck every drop dry.”
“Huhu, even if you say that, your heart is being honest. Have you sucked even a drop of my blood all this time? Come on, Jessica. You say something too. You need to make her remember your friendship.”
“D-, DON’T MAKE FUN OF MEE! DIEEE! W-, Why won’t it work. Who on earth are you…”
Edim became even more vicious, and tried biting down again. But her teeth couldn’t pierce Tilea-san’s skin, and the only effect was the sounds of collisions resounding throughout the area.
Tilea-san said that Edim was hesitating because she still had her heart as a human, but no matter how I saw it, it was just because Tilea-san was too solid.
I heard a scream. It looks like Edim’s tooth had finally fallen out. To think that her skin was harder than a vampire’s fang…
Haha, Tilea-san, you’re just too amazing.
“It looks like you’re finally being honest with yourself.”
“No, no, Tilea-san. Look down. Down. It’s because Edim’s tooth fell out.”
“Down? It’s true. There’s a tooth, isn’t there. Meaning… I see! So Edim’s finally free from the vampire’s curse!”
“Eh-? Tilea-san, I think that’s a little off.”
“No, no. I see this kind of thing all the time in manga and anime. Jessica-chan, isn’t that great? It looks like your best friend has become a human again.”
Mahn Gahh? Anni Meh? What’s that?
As usual, I had no idea what she was saying, but that aside, was it true that Edim was back to normal?
If something like that was true, could there be anything happier? But it was probably another one of her misunderstandings. Still, looking at Edim cry after having her tooth broken really was pitiful. No matter what she’d become, it still hurt to see my best friend sad like this.
“Uuu-, ah.. Uuukuh-… mai toofsh… mai faeng… uuu, thish is too much…”
“You don’t have to cry. Jessica-chan forgives you, you know. You were just being manipulated by the demons. Don’t blame yourself so much.”
“I… I hafsh no idea what yoor shaying… Uu, mai fang…”
Aahh, Tilea-san’s misunderstandings are endless.
“Yeah, you’re right. We should give her some time to herself. She’s probably filled with self-loathing right now. But I’m sure that with time, she’ll recover.”
“R-, Right. Tilea-san, thank you very much for stopping Edim.”
“What are you saying! I didn’t do a thing. Edim was freed from the curse because of her own strength, and the power of your friendship.”
“I-, I see.”
Anyway, I hope Edim would stay put like this. No matter what happened in-between, the end result was that Tilea-san stopped Edim from her violence. She really was so amazing.
“Tilea-san, about what I was talking about before. Please defeat the de――”
“O-, Oh no. Jessica-chan, hide over here.”
“What’s the matter, all of a sudden?”
“Look! Some kind of red monster thing is wandering about.”
“Y-, You’re right. And in huge numbers too… Are they… demons?”
“I’m sure they are. Hurry, before they find us… let’s hide in that ruin over there!”
“Y-, Yes. But if you would just fight them head on-”
“What are you saying! There’s just too many of them. I might have picked up a few kukanomi, but after I run out of them, all I have left is the cross.”
“I-, I see… Hahh… But…”
“Anyway, we need to go inside.”
Tilea-san urged me into the ruin.”
“FU HA HA HA HA! Gentlemen, it looks like another guest has come.”
“Here’s to hoping that the new ones have a bit more skill than the last.”
A number of demons were waiting inside the ruin.
I turned around and was about to leave, but,
“Aahh, wait a moment. Even if you leave, only a boring end awaits you.”
“Jessica-chan, we should do as they say. For now, just keep your guard up. Here, I’ll give you a kukanomi.”
After accepting a kukanomi from Tilea-san, we turned to face them.
“Nice spirit. Had you still tried to run, I would have killed you on the spot.”
“You’re still going to kill us even if we don’t run, right? Well? What now? A battle?”
“Now, now, calm down. I am one of the Four Knights of the Malferands[Greatest Demons], Horus, the Wisdom General and my units governs over the wisdom of the Malferands[Greatest Demons]. I wish to play a game with you.”
“Indeed. But no mere game. A game of life and death. Of course, being a game, the possibility of death exists for us as well.”
“W-, Why would you do something with no merits for yourself?”
“It’s obvious that in a fight you would have no chance of winning. We fought with some humans earlier, but it was so one-sided that I lost interest. So I thought that we would give you humans a chance as well. But my subordinates and I are the unit known for its wisdom. As such, we will overwhelm you not with battle, but with wit.”
“I see. A bit of a time-killer for you demons, huh. Could you let me talk with Jessica for a little?”
“Very well. Come up with whatever strategies you want. Just make sure not to think of escaping or attacking us by surprise. If you ruin our game, we will show you no mercy.”
A threat from Horus. But if you looked at it another way, as long as we played their game, we would be safe from death for a while. We began to discuss the offer.
“Jessica-chan, this is our chance. Even if we have the kukanomi and cross, there are just too many variables in a battle and we can’t tell how things will go. But a game is a matter of the mind. It’s possible to outplay them. Let’s decrease their numbers through the game first!”
“B-, But, we have no idea what kind of game they――”
“Jessica-chan. It’s true that there’s a possibility that they’ll try to cheat somehow. There’s also the chance that they’ll attack us in a rage if they start to lose. That’s why while I play, I want you to keep a close eye as the lookout. If anything happens, use the kukanomi to give me a moment to get ready for battle as well.”
“Tilea-san, that kind of strategy hinges on the assumption that we’ll win the game. But there’s no proof that we will.”
“Haven’t I said this before? I’m in possession of some special knowledge. I’ve read all sorts of things, like Akagin or Kaijin the Gambler. Because of that, I don’t have any blind spots. By now, none of their plans are anything more than cute tricks to me. Poker, mahjong, I’m ready for anything.”
“Umm, I really do think it would be better if you just fought normally, but…”
“Huhu, Jessica-chan, games are my number one specialty, you know?”
Aahh, Tilea-san is running wild again. I have to stop her somehow! I absolutely can’t let her use her head.
“Are your discussions finished?”
“Yes. Im going to show you just how deep human intellect flows.”
“Ku ku. Very interesting. Then show me what you have.”
At the orders of Horus, the Wisdom General, his subordinates came down to face us. I had no idea what kind of game we’d to be playing, but a battle in Tilea-san’s number one weakness was already beginning.