Before leaving, I explained my future plans only to Suou Kayako.
When she finished listening……
[I have a question for you, Sogou-san. If you’re heading for a battlefield in the west, then your opponents aren’t monsters————]
[I’ll go with you.]
Unexpectedly, my eyes relaxed at her words.
Thereupon, a smile forms on my lips……
Both from joy and rejection……
[You can’t, Suou-san…… I’m glad you feel that way, but this is something I’ve decided to do on my own.]
[Besides, I know I can leave relieved knowing that everyone here has you. Just like how I can rely on you at that time.]
[That time back at the Anti-Demon White Castle.]
[Hey, Suou-san…… There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you.]
[What is it?]
[I think Suou-san could have been in a group with higher-ranked Heroes. Why did you join my group?]
[Because this is Sogou-san’s group.]
[It seems that you don’t remember.]
Kayako quietly lowered her gaze.
[I’m not good at talking to people. I’m not good at socializing with others. That’s why I’m always alone, but I don’t mind. People around me don’t mind either. I am just that kind of girl. I will always just be “that girl” in class. My grades and athletics are just above average. But I don’t stand out, hidden from those in the upper caste. It may look like I’m not good at talking, but it’s not like I don’t talk to others at all. I don’t speak ill of people, nor do I harm them at all. There are no negative points about me that stand out. Therefore, I’m unlikely to be the target of bullying or ridicule. I’m just one of the people among the many drawn in a picture. That’s the kind of person I am. There’s no obstacle to my school life. As a result, I was left alone. I’m sure it will stay that way until graduation.]
“Is what I was thinking————” Kayako added in the end.
Her usual cold voice somehow felt like it was dyed with colors.
[But Sogou-san talked to such a me a lot.]
[T- That…… is just natural, isn’t it?]
[I can understand if you say…… that it’s your duty as the Class President. However, even Class Presidents normally wouldn’t talk to me that often. I have always been blunt and indifferent. And so, little by little, my relationship with them would usually naturally disappear. The existence of air-like mobs doesn’t hold for long after all.]
Kayako’s cheeks were unusually slightly flushed red.
[The Sogou-san back then had no “intentions” in mind. You didn’t just want to show off your kindness by talking to the loner kids in class, or weren’t feeling any sort of elation by acting in such a way. I was surprised.]
[As the Class President, you couldn’t leave the loner children alone. That, I understand. However, Sogou-san only had good intentions. That isn’t normal. That’s why————, ……I thought I could trust you. That’s why I chose this group where the person I trust belongs.]
[Is that so…… Umm, thank you, Suou-san. For thinking of me that way….. Fufu. Then, as the Class President…… Am I making myself clear?]
This might be the first time I’ve seen Kayako with such a serious expression on her face.
[Make sure to come back safely, okay?]
[I will also fulfill the role you’ve given me. Also, no matter what happens on the battlefield in the west———– I will be here. No matter what happens, I will always be on Sogou-san’s side. To the end, unconditionally.]
[Thank you…… Suou-san.]
[……However, I do have some concerns. I’m a little worried about the current Sogou-san. It feels like you’re a little different than usual.]
After being a little at a loss for words about what she said, I responded.
[Thank you for worrying about me…… but I’m fine. I have the power now…… Yes, the power to save everyone. I don’t want to leave anyone behind…… and I will do my best to achieve that. That’s all there is to it.]
[Sogou-san’s wish. Everyone’s return to our world.]
[That’s why, I won’t let anyone else die. I’ll make sure of it.]
[That’s why, it’s useless for me to stop you.]
[I understand. I trust you, Sogou-san. However, you definitely shouldn’t push yourself too hard. Take care of yourself.]
[Also, Suou-san, in case something happens———–]
[I know what to do in that situation too.]
[……Thank you. I’ll leave the matters here to you then, Suou-san.]
[You can count on me.]
Thereupon, Kayako spoke.
[When all of this has finally ended…… I have something I want to tell you. Something very, very important.]
I’m currently riding a magic horse.
Magic horses have a tremendous speed of movement compared to normal horses, making them very valuable.
The Goddess said that this isn’t the time to be stingy with magic horses anymore.
Before I left, just as she mentioned to me earlier, the Goddess also left Alion on a magic horse.
It seemed that the Goddess was now heading off to do something important.
She has already left the Alion’s royal capital.
Meanwhile, I rode along the road in the evening glow, heading towards the battlefield in the west.
For Kayako’s sake……
I will definitely return alive.
I didn’t want to get everyone involved.
I couldn’t send them off to a war against humans.
If someone has to dirty their hands, just me alone is enough.
This too is unmistakably my true feelings.
More than anything else————-
I don’t want everyone to see me in a state no different from a demon.
Perhaps, that may have indeed been the main reason why I wanted them to stay.
With these emotions lingering in my heart, I further increased the speed of the magic horse.
<Cattleya Stramius POV>
The Mira Empire rebelled against the Goddess who leads Alion Kingdom.
Rumors are circulating that the Fly King Squadron is on that Mira’s side.
(We’ve already made arrangements in case this happens…… but tread upon your own path, Seras. Your Lord is now the Fly King.)
The Goddess seems to be a dangerous existence.
But now, as their Queen, my priority must be for the good of my own country.
In order to protect my country, the option of refusing this mission doesn’t exist.
(It’s a rough world, isn’t it…… No, speaking of this world being rough, most of all————)
Our Neia’s army was now heading west with Bakuos, to reinforce Alion’s army led by Duke Polarie.
Alion’s army is currently under the pursuit of Mira’s army.
Our army is finally approaching that army———–
But around that time, I received a report.
A swarm of Golden-eyed monsters blocked the main road.
Had they crawled out from some underground ruins?
Or perhaps, did they emerge from the Golden Demon Zone?
And worst of all……
(Human-Faceds…… Moreover, there were two mixed in among them……)
One by one, the vanguard units were getting slaughtered.
Faced with all these events, a nearby Holy Knight spoke.
[Your Majesty, the Queen! W- What should we do!?]
I looked at the carnage occurring in the distance.
[……Retreat. Let’s find a way around them. It would be impossible to deal with two Human-Faceds of those sizes.]
At that moment, Gus Thornfield descended with his black dragon.
[I agree with you, Your Majesty, the Queen.]
Several more black dragons descended with their dragon knights.
Thereupon, I commanded my troops.
[Hurry and retreat.]
Controlling everyone’s actions at the moment isn’t possible, so I gave directions of retreat.
[Machia will lead the retreat.]
Meanwhile, I also gathered the surrounding Holy Knights and started to retreat.
As for Gus, he looked back at the monsters and spoke with a displeased tone.
[At their speed…… They’re going to catch up to us sooner or later.]
[……Yes, we will need to buy ourselves some time.]
[I wouldn’t have minded carrying some of the group on our black dragons…… but Bakuos’ black dragons will carry only their designated riders for fear of being used after capture.]
[I am aware of that.]
It was then that one of the Captains turned around and brought his horse near.
[Cattleya-sama, we will hold the rear.]
Thinking about this for a moment……
[Can I ask you that? You would have to give up your life though.]
[Fufufu, Cattleya-sama, you have been crowned Queen…… With you as our Queen, our Neia’s future is bright. In that case, we will no longer fear death. Everyone in my troop is prepared for it. All that remains…… is that we ask you to take care of our remaining families.]
[As your Queen, I swear to you that I will do my duty. ……Thank you.]
[Come, let’s hurry up———— Gather up, men!]
Thereupon, Neia’s soldier responded with a great cheer.
One after another, they turned around and charged in the opposite direction.
[Gus-sama, I will also be going with them!]
Coming forward with a powerful voice was one of Bakuos’ dragon knights.
[Wouldn’t it be good to have at least one person with a bird’s eye view of the battle from the sky?]
At his words, Gus bit his lip.
[……Are you fine with that?]
[However, you must promise me that I will be the only Dragon Knight left here! That’s my condition! Hahaha! If more of our Dragon Knights die here, our Black Dragon Knights really will be in danger of annihilation!]
[————–, ……I’m sorry.]
[Wait right there! I will not let you and Neia be the only ones acting cool here!]
Thereupon, Bakuos’ soldiers also came forward.
[If history speaks about how Bakuos was left with only one Dragon Knight in this battle, this will be a great shame to the future generations! Allow our troops the honor of holding the rear!]
[Now, Gus-sama! Please proceed onwards along with her Majesty, the Queen of Neia! Don’t let our sacrifices go to waste! Well then————- Neia’s soldiers, let’s see who can hold out against them the longest!]
With his call, the black dragon and the Bakuos’ soldiers turned around and followed Neia’s soldiers who were guarding our rear.
After the nearby Gus looked at them depart one last time……
[It’s hard to believe that those are the same Bakuos soldiers who laid waste to our country.]
[I’m ashamed to say it, but our country is prone to change along with the wind. As a result, we’re unable to go along with the flow of the situation. After the death of the Five Dragon Warriors…… the death of Civit-sama and the further damage caused by the previous Grand Invasion…… We can’t exactly make excuses. It is a fact that our country has invaded your country……]
[You’re seriously saying all that? What I said just now was just playful sarcasm.]
“Now then……”, I changed the subject.
[We must send out a magical war pigeon to Duke Polarie. If we don’t change course even after our retreat, we may run into those Human-Faceds and its group of monsters again.]
[I will use a black dragon as a messenger. I think it would be good to send out a magical war pigeon just in case.]
[We must also consider our detour.]
[……That being the case, I’m more worried about time.]
[The Brilliant Squadron…… is stronger than we expected. To think that they would be this formidable even though they weren’t being led by the Mad Emperor or his two brothers. From what I’ve heard, the next heads of the three Elected Imperial Households who lead the army seem to be too excellent at fighting beyond their reputation. They must be one of those who hide their claws. Moreover, our side no longer has a significant force.]
[Not significant enough that the Goddess would rely on us.]
[……I hope we can make it in time to meet up with Duke Polarie.]
From our position, we will advance in the path off the main road and head south.
From there, we avoided our original route and headed west again to meet up with Duke Polarie.
Naturally, the speed of our horses will slow down once we trod off the main road.
It seemed difficult for us to make it in time to support Duke Polarie.
As I tried to weigh reality and duty in my mind, Gus spoke passionately.
[I know It’s difficult, but we can’t abandon Duke Polarie……! He was my comrade in arms in that battle…… Same goes for the soldiers he led!]
[That’s very kind of you, Gus-dono. ……Well, I understand how you feel.]
While making my horse continue running forward, I looked behind us, thinking of those who were prepared to give up their own lives for our sake……
[……Good grief. You’re so kind, you and the others———– Even that boy too.]
Gus, turning to the direction I was looking, looked bitter.
[Half of the monsters have shaken off the rear units and are still chasing after us……]
[It would appear so.]
At this rate, they will catch up with us.
[With a situation like this, we may have to make one more sacrifice.]
[………………….That isn’t something I don’t like to happen, but it doesn’t seem like we have any other choice.]
Thinking about it again, I’m no different from the others.
I can certainly string up strategies.
To that extent, I intend to cultivate my judgment capabilities.
I can also come up with some tactics.
However, faced with this situation……
[In the end, without power…… There are just some things one can’t win against no matter how hard you strategize…… Especially……]
The shouts of the soldiers coming from a distance resound in my ears.
And along with those shouts…… were a scream unlike that from a human.
I could see a huge shadow———– A Human-Faced.
That is misfortune given form, a walking calamity.
Beings that were originally not something that a person can win against in a direct battle.
They can’t be conquered without the help of exceptional beings.
Only those who were beyond ordinary can stand up against them.
For example, people like the Goddess or “Humanity’s Strongest”————–
[……? What’s going on?]
The retreating army split open a path.
As for the reason why————-
The answer was soon revealed.
Riding on a horse, in comes Alion’s female Hero.
Ayaka on horseback, galloping through the wind, glances my way.
Upon realizing her arrival, I immediately swapped plans.
[The Human-Faceds are over there! As you can see, there are two of them!]
[I will defeat them———-!]
At her brief response, I felt my body tremble.
Those words, how clearly they were spoken……
It was so clear that I could feel them resound within me.
Without hesitation, the Hero declared as such.
Not even a hint of doubt faced with a being that would normally equate to one’s death———–
She only said that she would defeat the enemy.
She knew that her enemy was Human-Faceds.
However, how many people can say such a thing faced against them?
Those words filled me with belief.
That if it’s her———– She could do it.
Not letting this opportunity get away, I directed the retreating army and had them stop moving.
Thereupon, her long black hair fluttering in the wind, Ayaka calmly spoke.
Above Ayaka’s head, a huge silver fluid manifested in midair.
The fluid then started splitting apart and transformed one after another.
It transformed into a multitude of weapons.
The large number of weapons then floated around Ayaka’s horse.
And Ayaka’s charge made her look like she was leading them.
It was a spectacular and magnificent sight.
It was like a painting cut out of a legendary epic.
Ayaka, with her floating silver weapons in tow———- leapt.
Drawing a silver sword from among the floating weapons……
She unleashed an overhead swing at one of the Human-Faced.
Watching her attack from afar, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
What especially caught my attention was the movement of the Human-Faced just before it was cut in half by Ayaka’s huge sword……
Is such a thing even possible?
That’s not possible……
For such a humongous Human-Faced to have reacted like that……
No, there’s no way…… I must have been mistaken.
That shouldn’t be the case.
……There’s no way a Human-Faced would actually be frightened and try to run away from her……
The next day————–
The allied forces of Neia and Bakuos that greeted Ayaka Sogou safely joined up with the retreating mixed forces that were under the lead of Duke Polarie.
In this way, temporarily changing their name to Anti-Mira Allied Forces, at the break of dawn the next day————– It was decided that they would confront Mira’s army, which had been pursuing Duke Polarie.