15-Intermission 9. Divine Punishment Day, Front Line
"Captain! There's someone in a forest nearby!"
"Hm? Is it someone who hasn't taken refuge yet?"
I look through the Farsight Pipe after hearing my subordinate's report.
True enough, I could see a lizardkin and a catkin girls in the thicket near a forest.
They probably didn't hear about the evacuation order since they were living deep in the mountain.
I nod once and look at the surroundings.
Looks like there's no one else.
"No choice, let's go help them."
"Yes sire! Bring on additional two horses."
The adjutant gave an order following mine.
Four horsemen descended the hill, heading to the forest.
"Haa, the glorious Seventh Knight Company babysitting lost children."
"Careful with your mouth. This is a Royal Order just you know."
After receiving the notice about Divine Punishment, we, the Kingdom's Seventh Knight Company have been encamped at the southern mountains.
In order to evacuate the kingdom's populace and hold down the Monster Stampede here.
『Liza, knight people are coming~?』
『That appears to be the case.』
From afar, the lizardkin and catkin girls stopped plucking grass and looked at us.
They said something but we couldn't hear them from this distance.
They're probably frightened from a sudden appearance of fully armed knights.
"You must be people from a nearby village. By the Royal Order, the populace is too evacuate to a nearby town. You two also have to evacuate, however we cannot send guards just to escort you to the bottom. Wait in the encampment until the army carriage goes to the town."
I told the necessary info to the girls who couldn't say anything all out of surprise.
I don't know how much the ignorants are informed of, but we cannot take them away like criminals without telling them anything.
"It's at the pass over there."
I pointed at a mountain pass with a fort to show the lizardkin girl.
"If we go now, we should arrive just at the right time for meals."
"That's right, today we're having stew with meat."
"Hahaha, you'll get your shares too, eat and grow big."
I heard my subordinates talking with the catkin kid.
I saw the kid jumping in delight when she heard about the meat stew.
She must be very happy about the meat.
If they've been living deep in the mountain, I'm sure they never ate meat unless their village elder shared some from the hunters. I really understand the kid's joy.
"So what were you two doing in the forest?"
"Master asked us to pick some medicinal herbs."
Are these girls slaves?
However, they're wearing some good clothes for slaves.
Since there's probably no one eccentric enough to have a lizardkin as a love slave, these girls must be a kind of freed slaves.
There's many cases of freed slaves calling their former master, "Master", in the northern part of the kingdom.
"Looks like you haven't got much success in your herb gathering, however, we cannot allow you to go back to the forest now."
The lizardkin girl nodded unwillingly.
Judging from their small bags, they mustn't have gathered enough.
"What's this? Did you kidnap some demi-human kids?"
I heard a sarcastic voice when we entered the fort gate.
Four men wearing white armor.
If the one saying that was a member of the Knights, I would have dropped my fist on them, but I can't do that against these people.
"Shiga Eight Sword Candidates-sama have quite the imagination."
Their expressions turned sours when I emphasized the candidate part.
In order to fill the vacant seats, I heard they were holding selections to be a Shiga Eight Swords member among four candidates.
The loudest rumor said that those seats would be quickly filled once Viscount Pendragon and his companions who enliven the royal capital the other day returned.
That's why these guys went to this dangerous front line in order to raise a meritorious deed.
Since they currently only ever fought wolf packs and wyverns, they must be fretting now.
"You went out for a reconnaissance right? Did you meet any monster?"
"No, there was no monster around the forest, it was as if someone went ahead and swept them out."
"Hmph, you're useless."
Shiga Eight Swords candidatess went back into the fort after leaving an irritating line.
Although I've heard that the monsters around this area are culled out once a year, this is the first time it's been so monster less.
Lizardkin and catkin girls averted their eyes while looking awkward.
"No, it's nothing."
"Uy uy~. Tama doesn't know no overhunting~?"
Scolded by the lizardkin girl, the catkin girl made a strange move of hand moving over her lips.
It's probably some kind of charm handed down in this area.
Right after, the catkin girl's stomach growled and we went to the courtyard where the outdoor dining room was with smiles on our faces.
"Now, have a go at the Seventh Knight Company hodgepodge stew."
They've started distributing food at the encampment just as I guessed.
Since the inside of the fort is cramped, we, knights have arranged tables in the courtyard.
"Geh, today's meat is wyvern huh..."
I'm sorry for having raised the demi-human girls' expectation, but today's stew is an extremely rare miss in recent days.
Head chef Kozun of this fort is quite a skillful cook, but there's nothing that can be done with the hopelessly tough wyvern meat.
"This is good."
I heard those voices nearby.
I thought they were being considerate to us, but I realized that they were being honest when I saw their expressions.
Looks like they got an eating habit so horrible such that even this tough sinewy meat tasted good for them.
"Oy oy, you serious."
"This tough smelly meat, good?"
"It has been prepared quite thoroughly. The one who cooks this must hold everyone here dear."
The lizardkin girl had a way with words like she wasn't a freed slave.
"Hou, the girls brought by the Third Patrol sure said some good things."
"Ge geh, old man Kozun."
Head chef Kozun appeared.
Looks like he's loitering around in the courtyard after he's done with the cooking.
"Who's your old man. You brat."
"But ya know, no matter how thoroughly prepared it is, this gamey smell is just really bad."
"Try eating it along with this herb. It will weaken the smell."
"Ha? Like eating that grass will--geh, for real."
I tried the herb I got from the lizardkin girl.
As someone who grew up in a gourmet house, I couldn't say that this is tasty, however, it smells better now.
Now this isn't something not edible.
"But, y'know, wyvern is still wyvern."
One of my subordinates blurted out unnecessarily.
Even if that's the truth, you shouldn't have said it here.
"Then, go and fetch a better tasting animal or monster next time."
"I'll go get it for you if there's a wild boar around."
Someone reacts to the conversation between head chef Kozun and my subordinate.
The lizardkin and catkin girls.
"No wild boars~?"
"Right, I saw a Serpent Dragon (Naga) flying around, although it's a bit far away. That thing is tasty."
"Naga? If it's similar to snake, it should be good made into hodgepodge or stew."
"They're tastier grilled than stewed. The intestines are poisonous, please be careful."
"Hou, you sure know your stuff. Do you often eat them?"
"I-It's not too often."
Wait a minute.
She saw a Naga?
"Naga huh~, might as well have a taste on the legendary 『Feathered Serpent (Kukulcan)』."
"Is that good?"
"According to an old tale, it's so good that dragons scrambled for one and sank a continent."
"That sounds promising."
Fools, if a Feathered Serpent (Kukulcan) really comes out, all of us will be killed in an instant.
No, not that.
Now's not the time to retort that.
"Oy, you two. When did you saw that Naga?"
"From the summit of a mountain, we saw three of them in a mountain at the seaward side."
"I'm amazed you could see them."
"We have a Farsight Pipe."
Then it's understandable.
I said my thanks to the girls and went to the commander to report it.
I don't know what kind of talk was held between the fort commanders, but after a while, a birdman scout flew to the eastern sky.
"Gale Wolves have come out of the forest!"
A soldier at the watchtower shouted out loud.
"Those monsters came at last!"
"Lower the gate! We're sortieing out!"
"Please wait. Our order is to repulse the monsters from the fort--"
"Oh shut it. What's the point of a knight being holed up in a fort."
When the soldiers were busy trying to fortify the fort, Shiga Eight Swords candidates who couldn't read the mood made a racket, demanding for the gate to be opened.
Apparently, the fort commander intends to drive off these nuisances, as the candidates departed along with their accompanying holy knights.
"Even if they've got rotten personalities, their skills with swords are reliable."
The intense light of Magic Edge surging out of the candidates' swords could be seen even from here.
They skilfully cut off Gale Wolves that are faster than horses.
"Yes, it's dangerous to fight in an open space when monsters can come from the sky."
I saw a vague shape of something flapping wings.
That's the birdman sent out for reconnaissance.
The lizardkin girl pointed up, I looked up and saw thin black strings with clouds as the background.
The watch at the watchtower probably found it too.
He furiously beats the alarm bell, the fort's magic furnace growls.
A transparent magic wall enclosed the fort before long.
『Aye aye sir~』
『Yes, I understand. We will go to confirm it.』
I faintly heard the catkin and lizardkin girls' voices between the alarm bells.
Come to think of it, I forgot to evacuate those girls.
"This place will be full of danger. Evacuate underground while we still have time now."
After we've made sure that the catkin and lizardkin girls have left, we start the preparation to intercept the Nagas.
"Magic Cannons, fire the first and the third."
"First Magic Cannon, fire!"
"Third Magic Cannon, fire!"
The two Magic Cannons shot through the Nagas that were approaching the fort.
According to personnels who had Appraisal, they seemed to be weak level 10 monsters, but since they could spew flame like a dragon, they could bake us whole over the fort's magic wall if we were careless.
"There's no end to this."
We've killed more than 30 Nagas, but more of them are still coming.
We managed somehow since the monster's new reinforcement that came out from the other side of the mountain stopped all of a sudden, but this could get dangerous soon.
"Attention, all members! The Magic Furnace is nearing its limit. Don't waste the cannon balls! Use the Heavy Ballista and Bows along with them!"
Smoke of dangerous-looking color came out of the chimney that led to the Magic Furnace.
Looks like it's nearing its limit.
"Geh, those Shiga Eight Swords Candidates-sama are coming back."
I thought they came back to help us out, but instead they were being pursued by about 100 Gale Wolves and Hopping Bears, and even dangerous monsters like Rock Guns and Bombardment Frogs way behind them.
"I've had enough of this."
"Can't agree more."
We'd have been spared of future trouble if they were killed in action during the chase, but guys like them tend to greedily cling to their life and survive.
"Open the gate! Open the gate!!"
No one tried to open the gate, despite the demanding shouts of the Shiga Eight Swords candidate beyond.
Opening and closing the gate take time.
We cannot expose the whole fort to the risk of annihilation to save him alone.
We will have him to fight the monsters like his Holy Knights subordinates who died earlier.
"Plug your ears~?"
I heard the catkin girl's voice clearly in my ears.
I looked around, thinking that she might have jumped out of the shelter out of fear, but there were only soldiers around.
I had a bad feeling about it and blocked my ears with both my hands.
Right after, my body felt like it got beaten all over.
Soldiers who failed to plug their ears squirmed on the ground.
This is bad, we've got to intercept the monsters even if we're the only one left!
I slip into the magic archer seat and look for the enemy.
"What's going on?"
There is no monster, not even one?
"Fie, fie, fie~?"
I chased after the faint carefree voice and turned my sight there.
A golden colored ball jumped about amongst the crawling monsters on the ground, finishing them off one after another.
I know that.
That's the Golden Knight who appeared in the Royal Capital during the greater demon attack.
Golden Knights, the attendants of Hero Nanashi, have come to the rescue!
"Now's the time, pull the idiot in front of the gate in!"
By the fort commander's order, the gate opened and the Shiga Eight Sword candidate entered.
『Hurry up. A big one is coming.』
『Aye~? Bunshin no Jutsu~?』
The golden ball--the small Golden Knight split into many, and finished the monsters all at once.
A slightly taller Golden Knight is glaring at the south mountaintop with a white spear on their hand.
Huge enough that you can see it with naked eyes even from here.
It's too huge for a Naga.
Moreover, it has two heads.
『Be glad, Pink. That is the 『Feathered Serpent (Kukulcan)』.』
The small pink mantled Golden Knight is dancing and jumping for joy with folding fans-like things on their hands.
Don't tell me, they're going to fight that legendary monsters with just the two of them?
『I don't think we cannot beat it, but we have to be careful not to injure it badly and ruin the meat.』
『It pains me to do this, but let us call Master.』
I heard those voices intermittently.
The next moment, a door opened beside the two Golden Knights, and a white robed boy with purple hair appeared.
Hero Nanashi waved back at the cheers from the fort and then he went toward the huge enemy along with his two attendants.
There's not even speck of anxiety or fear oozing from him.
Truly a hero.
The soldiers and knights inside the fort stared at the back of Hero Nanashi like praying.
We are witnessing history in the making.
Let us watch over Hero Nanashi and Golden Knights' fierce battle against the legendary monster [Feathered Serpent (Kukulcan)] without missing even a sec.
That's the only thing the powerless like us could do.
The Feathered Serpent (Kukulcan) glared at Hero Nanashi and then flames overflew out of its two heads.
Kukulcan's heads disappeared.
The lifeless body of the falling Kukulcan also vanished.
What just happened?
"Fini~shed~, mission comple~te~?"
"The fight is over. We will be taking half of the Nagas and the Gale Wolf's bodies."
Two Golden Knights who appeared on the the fort's wall before anyone knew it said that to us.
"You're free to have the rest. It'll be bad if the meat get spoiled, make sure to drain the blood out as soon as possible."
No, wait a moment.
This wasn't a daily scene like worrying about spoiled meat or something was it?
What about the fierce battle?
What about witnessing history?
Somebody clapped my shoulder as I was getting confused.
It's the head chef Kozun.
"We narrowly escaped death huh."
Right, that's right.
The Golden Knights had disappeared when I looked up, and Hero Nanashi had also vanished from the battlefield.
I forgot to say my gratitude to our saviors.
"Let's get those meat and magic cores. This fort's emergency magic stones have decreased by half from the fight just now."
Together with head chef Kozun, I went outside the fort with dismantling tools.
Heaps of monsters were everywhere.
"Heroes are awesome."
"Yeah, with this much difference, I can't even feel envious."
I'm going to say my thanks the next time we meet.
That's why, let me be glad to have survived, and actually feel my life while eating some good meat at least for today.
I only realized that the lizardkinn and the catkin girls who should have evacuated underground had gone when I was going to call them for dinner.
I don't know where they've gone, but I'm sure they will be fine.
That's the hunch I have.
I'll treat them as many meals as my wallet allows the next time I see them again.
※ Next update is undecided (I'd like to post another update by the end of this month).
※ I'm planning to get back on schedule and start chapter 16 in July.