Jiiteias Castle, about 6 days after Gio and the rest had left on that domain inspection tour.
This happened several hours before Sasara reached Gio’s group in the forest.
Claura Andel was enjoying a cup of tea in her own room in the castle. The eldest of the 4 dark elf sisters, Aruga, was reverently waiting on her.
“…… But still, to restore that amount of collapse in that short period of time. It truly illustrates how frightening the dwarves’ abilities are……”
It was yesterday that the 20 members of the Daroun clan had completed the task of restoring the mountain road that had been destroyed by a [Meteor].
Acting as the proxy of the castle lord, Gio, Claura had already cleared all the paperwork with Valbo and paid all costs in full.
However, letting them go back just like that would reflect badly on the castle’s reputation, so she also hosted a banquet for them at night.
It was quite a challenge entertaining 20 dwarves with enormous appetites for both wine and food, but she somehow managed to overcome it with the help of Mora and all the servants and dark elf sisters. Claura herself also successfully carried out her role as a hostess without any problems.
“Indeed. But Okugata-sama, I was more surprised at their voracious appetites.”
As usual, the dark elves are still calling Claura ‘Okugata-sama.’ Though Gio had given up and Claura never did proactively reject the title, it is clear for all to see that she and Gio are not in a marriage, both in the legal sense as well as the emotional sense. The dark elves are aware of this. However, they simply could not think of any other title more appropriate to express their reverence for this woman who can confidently speak on the same level with, and also represent, their lord Oluri, he whose very existence they can do nothing but bow down to.
A voice that approached a shriek heralded the end of this refined moment.
The youngest of the dark elves, Sasara, flew into the room.
“What is it that has happened?”
“I was on watch! Then I saw a large group of armed people coming our way!”
“ “……?!” ”
Gio’s authority over this castle and its surrounding land was acknowledged by both of the 2 representative forces in the area, the Carbanera Knight Order and the city of Lelis. The fact that an unknown group the scale of a troop is approaching such a castle without any prior communication is clearly unnatural. They could very well be coming here to assault the castle.
The elegant smile of a noble disappeared from Claura’s face, immediately replaced with the cool-headed eyes of a magician.
“Give me more details.”
“N-, they number around 30, and were carrying a flag with a bird that I’d never seen before as a crest. Also, they will reach us in about 30 minutes!”
The most childish of the 4 sisters is Sasara. However, she is a dark elf, and thus is capable of delivering a succinct report that covers only the most important facts.
Claura mentally confirmed all the forces present in the castle.
Mora. Sam and Anna. Zek the carpenter. The four dark elf sisters. The three former magic soldier trainee young boys and girl.
“…… Aruga, call everyone to gather in the central courtyard. Sasara, take Rashil and continue keeping an eye on them…… you’ve done well, but I’m entrusting you with this also, alright?”
“ “Understood, Okugata-sama!” ”
“We still do not know who they are. There is still a possibility that they are a friendly force. However, in anticipation of the worst case, Mora, take the dwarves and everyone else and standby inside the main tower.”
Claura rapidly gave out instructions to everyone who was gathered in the central courtyard.
“I will personally speak with them to confirm their intention. Gilma, stay with me as protection.”
The dark elf sisters reverently accepted those instructions, but there were some present who were dissatisfied.
“I, I’m sure I can help in some way!” (Mora)
“We can also fight!” (Log)
“We’d be more than happy to assist you!” (Valbo)
Mora, the former magic soldier trainee Log, and the dwarf Valbo all spoke up. However, Claura shook her head.
“The other side is a group of 30 fully armored soldiers. But with that said, it doesn’t look like they have any siege weapons, so they can’t easily infiltrate either. First of all, I will negotiate with them. After that, if we really have to fight…… I will need to borrow everyone’s strength.”
“…… U-, understood.”
“To think that the road we’d restored would bring such calamity……”
The young man and dwarf nod, then began moving towards the hall in the tower.
Claura then turned towards the defense tower above the main gate, with Gilma following behind. But at that moment……
Her hand was strongly grabbed from behind. It was Mora.
She knew that the female magician’s hand was shaking. As if hoping to quell that shaking, she clasps Claura’s hands with both of her own and brings it to her own chest.
“It, it’s going to be fine! There was surely just some misunderstanding…… And even if they are bad people…… Gio-san is surely going to return very soon!”
“…… You’re right, of course.”
So said Claura gently while placing her free hand on top of Mora’s head.
“Okugata-sama! They’re almost here!”
Having returned from scouting, Sasara went straight to the defense tower, where Claura was keeping watch.
“…… What bad taste these people have……”
“…… I’m of the same mind.”
Jiiteias Castle is located on a mountain. To prevent any enemies from sneaking up, the road up had been cleared of all trees and reduced to a narrow, open path.
On that path, heavily armored individuals wielding a large variety of weapons were gradually coming into view.
Their armor truly looked heavy. But instead of the usual plates of metal, their equipment had been painted with garish colors in a red theme, and were outfitted with sharp spikes and blades here and there. Even their helmets and faceguards were decorated with demon-like characteristics.
As a noble of Lelis accustomed to delicate and refreshing art, this esthetic sense was something that Claura absolutely could not approve of. Even Gilma, the dark elf at her side who rarely ever spoke, could not help but to agree.
“Exactly which family is this?”
While maintaining two columns, the group ascended the mountain path until they reached the open area in front of the castle gates, whereupon they formed ranks. At their head was a crimson standard.
On the standard was a large bird with wings outstretched in intimidation, drawn with vivid colors. As someone belonging to the family of a Count, Claura was familiar with the crests of all noble families and knight orders in both the Liuus Union and the Kingdom of Shulendal. But this one? This one she……
“Wait, a bird in flight? And also those vivid wings and tail…… Ah!”
A scene flashed inside Claura’s mind.
Ten years ago.
Upon the walls of Lelis, which was bearing the assaults of waves of Shadow Demons. Standing proudly among the standards of other knight orders and military forces, this one……
“That is the crest of the ‘War Tribe’!”
The first Bleed, which took place 500 years ago and has almost become legend, was purported to have been overcome in large part thanks to a superhuman that people called ‘Hero.’
However, afterwards the ‘Hero’ disappeared, no one knowing where to.
Among the nakama that were left behind was one who had received the title ‘Warrior of Darkness.’ Somehow, his descendants became bound with the eternal mission of fighting against Shadow Demons. They are the ones that call themselves ‘War Tribe.’
No one even knows their origin story anymore, but it is a fact that they are still fighting against Shadow Demons to this very day. Ten years ago, Claura had witnessed them firsthand fighting against the Shadow Demons that were assaulting Lelis.
But that aside, due to their worries about Demonists or for some other reason, they never show themselves unless if Shadow Demons are directly involved, and they never divulge their birthplace. As such, it is nigh impossible to come into contact with them any other time.
“…… And that is all I know about the War Tribe.”
“U—n, then we should be able to get along really well, shouldn’t we?”
“It’s still too early to tell.”
Claura was explaining to the two dark elves while looking down upon the lone warrior who was making his way to the castle gates with their standard bearer in tow.
When Sasara breathed a sigh of relief, it was Gilma who cautioned her. Claura nodded in agreement.
As the three looked on, the warrior and standard bearer stopped 10m away from the gate.
“…… Hya, he’s huge!”
“Isn’t he a Shadow Demon?”
Sasara could not be faulted for her surprise, as the man’s body was over 2m in height. Even through the countless number of spikes and blades covering his armor, his large, muscular body was still extremely obvious.
Due to the face mask carved in the form of a demon, his face could not be identified.
“I’m Leid. Head Warrior of the War Tribe. I’m here to see your castle lord, Gio Margils.”
The warrior’s grave voice rang out heavily.
“Leid? As in, the Shadow Demon Killer……?”
“Though we don’t know for sure if he is that Leid……”
Ignoring the dark elf sisters who were exchanging glances, Claura stepped towards the edge of the outlook platform.
“I am the chamberlain of this Jiiteias Castle, Claura Andel. Warriors of the War Tribe, know that this unannounced visit is the very epitome of rudeness! First withdraw your troops, then send an emissary. And then, and only then, can we converse like civilized people!”
So replied Claura with her magician’s staff in hand. At that, the ranks behind the warrior grew slightly astir.
“We offer our apologies for our rudeness. However, we also have circumstances of our own.”
“Exactly what manner of circumstance would that be?”
“We have suspicion that the castle lord Gio Margils may be a Demonist, or perhaps even a Shadow Demon himself. We wish to meet him to ascertain the validity of this suspicion.”
Claura’s shapely eyebrows shot up to the very limit of how high they could go.