5-8. Shadow Stalker
Satou's here. It's nice to have handy tools, but relying too much on it made you unable to notice the oddness with your own eyes, thus unthinkable mistake happens.
This happens in daily life, work and even in another world.
Just before Liza and Arisa's night watch duty is over, I see enemies on the map.
There are three monsters called Shadow Stalkers. Since I've never heard of it, I check their details. Level 12, it has [Physical Damage Halved], [Stamina Drain] as race specific skills, if I don't have any means to counter it they might become formidable enemies. It doesn't like they're undeads. Their speeds aren't that fast, but they would probably get here in 1 hour. The enemies probably have ran out of flying type monsters.
I'm arranging various things related to battle to be displayed from the menu.
And then I turn my view to my chest. I had thought that something has been pressuring my chest for a while but as it turn out, it's Pochi and Tama who climbed on my chest and stomach while letting out ,"Gude~", sounds, sleeping there lying on their bellies.
I place them on the sheet while being careful not to wake them, and get up.
"Ara? Master, are you doing yobai?"
"Are you having trouble sleeping? Master?"
Arisa, whose somehow being held on Liza's arms called me out. Liza is probably already sleepy, her voice is weak without power. I should let her sleep a little before the enemies get here.
"I'll change with you, so it's fine for you two to sleep."
"Is it okay? Isn't the next turn going to be Pochi and Tama?"
"I'll make the two do the watch duty together with Lulu in early morning."
Arisa ,whose free from Liza's hold is coming while saying, "Let me sleep on your laps~.", but I lift and roll her to beside Lulu. Arisa is probably tired too, without complaining she goes to sleep while using Lulu as a body pillow. Lulu's painful expression from being clung by Arisa is cute too. I'm almost taken over with wicked thought but I manage to forcibly shake it off.
I continue watching the map while adding twigs to the bonfire. It's still 50 minutes before the monsters arrive. Since back then, the monsters doesn't increase in number.
Mia who has woken up hands me a water bottle. After I receive it she sits beside me while I'm drinking the water.
A small voice comes out of Mia. It doesn't seem to be a monologue.
"Why am I protecting you from the magician?"
"As you can see, there's nothing deep to it."
Likely not satisfied with my answer, she falls silent.
"Looks like it, a lot of monsters did come out back in the afternoon."
"Mize and even the others... died."
Come to think of it, what's the relation between elves and the rat-men?
"The red-helmet(Mize)-san, do you know him from somewhere?"
Connecting the story from the few words of Mia, it seems that the red-helmet was saved by Mia's parent when he was dying and surrounded by goblins outside the forest 10 years ago. The red-helmet then stayed in Mia's parent house for a while while being taught together with Mia various things by Mia's parent, so they became acquainted.
It seems that the red helmet he was wearing was a mithril product given by Mia's parent. So it exists, mithril huh.
The reason the red-helmet called Mia princess, was probably because of this.
"Did you get attacked by the magician when you're visiting Mize-san's hometown together with him?"
After asking her in several angles, I understood the rough situation. Seems that Mia was abducted from her hometown on the forest by the magician, and held captive in a maze in a mountain. The magician then forcibly made her to be the "Master of Mazes" with a forced contract ceremony. Even if she's called master, she was nothing more than the proxy of the magician, she was forced to sit in the master room for half a day.
According to Mia, the maze's movement is weak, so she's probably some sort of a key or a catalyst.
"Did Mize-san come to help you on the maze?"
Mia denies while shaking her head. When I inquire for more details, it seems that she executed an emergency escape command on the Maze Core when there was a chance at the time the magician went back to his room. When I said "You know well", she said, "It's in elf language." Perhaps, she pushed something like a button written in elf language.
And then she escaped to the Rat-men village and reunited with the red-helmet there.
"The village was burnt because of my fault."
Mia painfully said so. I hold her shoulder and say, "It's not your fault." to console her. In times like this anyone would want to be comforted even if it's just merely words of consolation.
The subordinates of the magician who came to look for Mia seemed to have burned down the village as a lesson. Those subordinates got disposed by the red helmet and his friends in a counterattack, but there were some villagers who fell victims. Hence, it was hard for her to stay in the village, so the red helmet with his subordinates were going to escort Mia to meet the elf in Seryuu city.
And then, when they were going down the mountain--
"We were attacked."
"By the flying ants right?"
From then on, it's probably the same as we have seen.
Meanwhile, the shadow stalkers are stopping at the site where the flying ants were decimated by Arisa's uniques skills in the afternoon.
I should wake everyone soon.
I call Pochi while sending magic power to the Light Hot Plate.
Pochi who's sleeping with Tama curling up like a ball is reacting with her ears twitching. Pochi is getting up while rubbing her eyes and looking so sleepy.
"Not that, wake everyone up since I feel some presences from the forest."
Among these members, Pochi is the easiest to wake up. The one with the worst waking habit is Liza.
"It's not morning but wake up nodesu~."
She steps on Tama's stomach and knocks on Arisa's head with a whack. Lulu gets up hearing Pochi's voice.
"Liza wake up too nodesu."
Liza's body is swaying from the shaking but she's only groaning without waking up. Tama get on top of Liza's stomach to assist Pochi. However, while half-asleep, Liza catches the two and hugs them.
Looks like the two will be like that until Liza wakes up.
Arisa is coming to the bonfire while yawning with her mouth wide open. Lulu puts her hand in front of her mouth and begins yawning cutely. Where is this difference in girl power coming from?
"Fuwaah~ is it enemies?"
"They're still far, but there are three coming."
"Judging from the atmosphere, they're not powerful."
I teach her about the enemies' types and characteristics.
"They're not undead right? Then they're easy preys with mind magic."
When she gets to the bonfire and sees Mia who is sitting besides me, Arisa does an exaggerated gesture by opening her eyes wide while saying, "What a fearful girl!". Who is she imitating?
"Hey wait, you have me if you want to do it with someone!"
"Stop saying those stupid things. I was just hearing her rough situations."
"Then why is she clinging to your arm?"
Come to think of it, Mia is clinging to my right arm before I knew it. I thought we were separated after I activated the light hot plate earlier. Since I'm used to be hugged by Pochi and Tama, I didn't mind it.
Mia parts her hands after being pointed out by Arisa.
'"I didn't hug him."'
"She didn't hug me she says."
"That's a lie! I saw you separating just now."
'"It must be a mistake."'
"If you're an adult, don't fuss too much over it."
I receive a cup of tea from Lulu who's handing it. Am I thinking too much for seeing Mia who casually sits beside me after getting the tea?
"Liza, here nano desu."
"Nya, my tail hurts~."
Following the two, Liza has woken up.
I wonder if Pochi and Tama dislike tea, they're drinking plain boiled waters that Lulu had put. By the way, Tama can drink hot water just fine. She drank soup just fine too.
"Liza, it's about time to wake up."
I said so to her, and her loosened face began to rapidly tighten. After confirming me visually, to keep up her appearance, she greets me with composed face.
"G, good morning, master."
It's not morning though.
I should make them get ready soon.
"Enemies are closing in. Wash your face and keep awake."
Everyone begin the preparation, only Tama who keeps staring at the top of a tree. There aren't enemies there according to the radar.
"Is there something over there?"
"Those birds, weird~?"
There are around 20 owls nesting there. It's certainly a bit scary.
It seems that the shadow stalkers have noticed the bonfire, they're enclosing in to this camping ground. They're at the other side of the owls' tree.
The three beastkin girls are in charge of the middle. Arisa will deal with the enemis on the right. Me and Mia are left to deal with the enemies on the left. Lulu is taking refuge in the wagon for safety.
I'm hearing fluttering sounds from behind.
Is it the owl earlier?
I look back for a bit to confirm it.
It is really an owl from earlier. It has a single red head-feather as its characteristic. Since the place where the owl landed is the place where we buried the boar remain for dinner earlier, it's probably attracted to the smell.
I'm convinced with that and look back to the front.
Right at that time, a red dot indicating an enemy suddenly appears on the radar--- Furthermore, it's at point blank range.