Azhure: Well now, I thought of combining this with the previous Sub-Chapter but turns out this Sub-Chapter was even longer, much longer than usual.
“…M-My daughter!” Allister, the duke of Illyer, screamed hysterically, dropping his noble speech pattern. “She’s gone!”
In the celebratory mood from the triumph over the bandits, smoke suddenly appeared in the midst of it and when it cleared, the eldest daughter of Illyer, Irene, was missing.
“The scum who caused this smoke must’ve abducted her!” Oswald deduced before turning to the other knights. “Men!” he struck his hand to the knights in a commanding aura. “To your horses! The kidnapper couldn’t have gone far yet!”
“Well hold your horses!” Joshua shouted, pun definitely not intended. “What’re you all gonna do with these guys then?” he motioned to all the surrendered bandits, “and the duke?” then to Allister.
“Hey!” Layla, the spirit Irene named, in turn, shouted. “It’s my lady being kidnapped!”
“Which is why we will rescue her,” Ronald explained to her. “We have our means of locating her and we can go faster than horses.”
“Then do it,” Allister swiftly said, demanding even as his daughter was on the line. “Bring my daughter back.”
“Yeah well, we both can’t leave either, the bandits might make a break for it.” Joshua turned to Ronald. “So Ronald, you go. I’ll hold down the fort.”
“Got it.” Ronald donned his mask back on before turning his body around and bent over.
Then, hearing the familiar foreign sound, motes of red, similar to the barrier art, burst behind Ronald’s back, launching him into the air.
Damn it! I got to get out of here, fast.
In the forest along the great pond Kirash, a black-garbed figure ran amongst the trees while carrying an unconscious noblewoman on his shoulder, cursing internally along the way.
The assassination attempt failed again, the figure thought in frustration. Lord Van was even sure of this plan, he will not be pleased by the turn of events when I report to him.
After all, prince Van had hired hundreds of those lowlifes with a generous sum and even supplied them hardly-sought talismans to guarantee their stand against the Illyers’ elite knights. To make sure they didn’t compete against each other in killing the duke first, his lord offered an equal reward regardless of who did it high enough to make them behave.
My prince even went as far as to draw up every plan of attack regardless of where the duke went! the figure grunted internally. All they have to do is follow it and even the duke’s knights won’t be able to deal with hundreds of bandits in succession, yet they still messed up!
Of course, he can’t blame those lowly barbarians for failing spectacularly. After all, he himself was sent by his prince to observe them and knew firsthand just how they failed.
To think the duke would hire Spirit Mercenaries… Fire ones even, the figure thought. Well, they say a cornered rat will fight back, he must be very desperate to hire them.
When the bandits threw the fire talisman and began attacking the duke, they, fire and ice Spirit Mercenaries showed up out of nowhere and interfered; killing over half of the bandits by combusting them into flames or freezing them neck down then slitting their defenseless throats afterwards.
Didn’t know fire and ice spirit arts could do that, the figure noted, recalling that surreal sight. And the time of their arrival is as if they were onto them…
“…we were chasing them.”
…Right, they did say they were chasing them.
Setting aside the context of those mercenaries chasing those bandits, it brought the figure’s mind to the next problem.
“…it’s not just the two of us…”
They immediately surrendered after hearing it. Cowards, the figure scoffed in his mind. But considering the other bandits never showed up, it’s likely to be true and with how powerful those two are, I’m not taking any chances either.
Hence the path the figure was running to the nearest pondside port straight to the capital had no bandit camps nearby, so there was little chance of running into those mercenaries.
Then there are the two mercenaries themselves.
“…so it is you! Mister Bell, mister Ruze…”
While circumstances prevented the figure from knowing the identities of all the Spirit Mercenaries, the duke at least just can’t not give those mercenaries his formal gratitude for saving his hide and blurted out two of their names.
But to think the supposed heir of Bell Conglomerate is a fire spirit art user, the figure grimaced, ignoring the other mercenary.
There were many mysteries regarding that merchant company that made residence in Illyer’s city, especially where the main branch was and its leader, Alan Bell, not even his prince can uncover them and there he saw one of them unraveled through Alan’s son, Ronald.
That would explain the failed attempt using that maid. That merchant company must have a lot of connections to mingle with the water and ice territory, the figure thought, assuming the Conglomerate really came from the fire territory as there was a branch there.
And it made a lot more sense. When aristocrats falter in the inter-territory scene, merchants, whose purpose was to search for profit, pick up the slack.
That means, the duke didn’t just sign an alliance with some merchant company that thrived off of his city out of desperation, he had signed an alliance with a band of international Spirit Mercenaries with the company as a front! the figure panicked upon that conclusion.
At any rate, my prince needs to know this, he thought. This merchant company is more than it meets the eye. They are not to be trifled with! Especially that Ronald Bell!
With the crucial information to be passed to prince Van determined, the figure silently readjusted the load he was carrying on his shoulder as he was about to drop her. The cleavage of this woman actually made it harder for me to carry her properly! he annoyingly berated.
But at least it’s one part of my prince’s plan completed, the figure consoled to himself. And the plan was quite simple, kill the duke and kidnap her daughter for extra leverage against the rest of the Illyers.
While he couldn’t finish the former (damn barrier), the figure at least did the latter, throwing out the smoke talisman after he deemed the idle chatter between the duke and Bell yield no more useful information than knocking out and abduct the duke’s daughter in the confusion.
My prince always said to strike at every opportunity, the figure mused. Though that also made me stuck in the wilderness watching those barbarians for months on end. At least my prince kept me up to date.
And because of that, the figure liked to think of himself as a close ally of his prince – he wouldn’t keep information such as the failed previous assassination attempt from him otherwise. But it also meant he had to put up with some of the more troublesome commands from his prince like what he was doing now.
Well, whatever it is, once I get to the boat back to the capital and report to my prince, the figure thought calmly. I need a drink after-
“..!” Interrupting his line of thoughts, the figure heard a sound coming behind his head. It was like a blast of spirit arts yet completely foreign at the same time.
Don’t tell me who I think it is!
…he knew just where it came from…
…ever since the Spirit Mercenaries flew into the grassy plains, massacring the bandits who have yet to enter the fiery wall with their daggers and spirit arts. It was a miracle they didn’t spot him hiding on top of a lone tree.
Damn it! the figure cursed. How did he find me!?
Peering his head back, the figure saw the brown-robed figure, Ronald Bell, soaring above the trees and he does not like it one bit.
There’s the forest, Ronald observed, looking at the sea(shore? pond side?) of trees over the distance covering the edges of the part of the pond. How did the spy even get here so fast while carrying Irene?
Thanks to the Transporter Room operators locating Irene and her kidnapper, Ronald knew where to go.
It’s a good thing Joshua contacted the operators after the duke screamed like a girl, Ronald thought. Even the knights were panicking but I guess it’s the first time a member of their house gets kidnapped.
With his eyes on the forest, Ronald noticed something. I don’t remember operators spotting a bandit camp there, so no one else but me is nearby to intercept.
And the implications of it were either it’s coincidental, just being the spy’s escape route, or the spy knew no Court Wizards will be there.
“…it’s not just the two of us…”
“…so it is you! Mister Bell, mister Ruze…”
If it’s the latter then the spy must have watched us fight, saw our faces, and heard our names, Ronald thought. It’s already bad enough for the bandits to know, but at least they won’t be able to tell anyone about it. I have to catch the guy before he exposes us to Van!
And so, Ronald pressed forward.
But in the meantime, seeing as no enemy could shoot him down while using [Eject], Ronald decided to contemplate about the discussion he had with the duke, namely…
“There will always be the unaccounted…”
True, no plans survive first contact with the enemy and no amount of planning can cover everything. No matter what, there will always be a problem in every Court Wizards’ mission.
And you can’t waste too many resources when you’re an organization watching over many worlds either, Ronald mused. Pretty much the whole point of the second Rule.
So really, what the duke tried to console to him and Joshua was that they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves for every setback due to unpreparedness and incompetence since there always be one and every failure does not mean the end.
Because of our shortcomings, Emilia…
And even though they vowed to be better than themselves, from the assassins in the breakfast and this mission, they still haven’t improved.
But I can’t blame the duke for not knowing. Had the duke known, he would probably make a different approach to cheer them up, but he didn’t and Ronald can’t fault him for it.
And then there’s…
“Now cheer up… You have done a…”
“…I mean, congratulations are in order.”
…Yeah, let’s not. Well, Ronald has a vague idea of what the duke was going to blurt out and he does not want to think about it.
Especially when he had reached his target.
Emotion suppression on.
Along a convenient road under the shore of trees, Ronald saw a black-garbed figure, the spy/kidnapper, running along it with Irene slumped on their shoulder.
With the second [Eject], the figure turned around with an expression of irritation plastered on his unmasked face. In retaliation, the figure rummaged his cloak to reveal three knives between his fingers and threw them at Ronald.
Of course, it didn’t stop Ronald as he ordered [Barrier] memorized to have the exact flat dimensions of his body with his hand stretching forward for the position.
CHINK CHINK CHINK
Ronald could follow it up with a dropkick on the spy but said spy was a professional as he unmounted his hostage in front of him and immediately brandished a knife to her neck, forcing Ronald to land a few distances across them.
“Don’t come any closer, Ronald Bell!” the spy spat his name, knowing it from the fact that Joshua’s just too tall, gripping the unconscious Irene on her waist tightly while inching the knife closer to her throat. “Try your fire spirit arts and she’ll burn with me!”
True, if Ronald simply used the classic [Burn], Irene will get caught in the fire too. However, that will not impede Court Wizards who can modify their Orders to suit the current need, something Ronald and Joshua were apathetic to do.
Irony aside, however, Ronald still needed to do something about the knife before anything.
I can’t think of anything else, Ronald calmly thought, though what he was thinking betrayed that as he had no other cards to play. I will have to risk it.
And either way, the spy has to be eliminated in order to save the hostage, much to Ronald’s displeasure as the spy could be interrogated and that…
“Hey!” the spy barked as Ronald slowly approached him and he backing away, dragging Irene. “I said don’t come any closer!”
But Ronald did not heed his threat as he formulated his Order.
I order you, attach to left foot of black-cloaked man…
“I said don’t come any closer!”
…form cover body inside of black cloak of black-cloaked man…
“Are you deaf!? Don’t come any closer or this wench will get it!”
…transfer heat to inside only, oxidize…
“I’m serious! I’ll kill her if you take another step!”
…thus is my Order. [Burn]
“Fine! You ask-”
With a smooth sound, the moment Ronald finished his Order the face of the black-cloaked figure was covered in red…
…as he burst into flames.
“Wha…? A-Aaah!” the spy screamed as his body burned in agony, ever so slightly slackening his knife and hold on the unharmed hostage.
And in quick succession Ronald manifested his Cherished Armament to his hand, bending down…
…and launched himself forward.
Voice: Soo~! What happened to the extra-long Sub-Chapter!?
Azhure: Well, the last section is supposed to be Irene waking up to see Ronald which I decided to split it into the next Sub-Chapter for further development. Don’t want to rush it.
Voice: Geez…! Just how long will’ya keep us in Chapter 5!?
Azhure: As long as I need to.