Rockwall Lou – V5 Chapter 9

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟗

(9)

Just before departing the royal capital, Tweney told Rayza about the events since being brought to the capital.

For a while, she was confined to her room. She was commanded by her father in the audience chamber to defeat the “Blue Demon Beast.” During the debut ceremony, flame magic, which likely manipulated people’s hearts, was used.

As Rayza listened to the story, her expression grew more stern.

“Your Highness, why not consult directly with your father? If it’s presumptuous, I’ll accompany you.”

She requested an audience but was refused. Upon hearing this, Rayza’s expression went blank.

“In that case, there’s no helping it. Let’s speak directly to someone who knows the situation.”

In the first town after leaving the royal capital, Soeto, it was discovered that the Captain of the Royal Guards, Ignis, had grievances against Ozma.

Rayza decided to win him over.

After that, Rayza met with Ozma several times, gathering bits of information.

However, nothing essential was uncovered.

“Your Highness, that wizard can’t be trusted. He’s undoubtedly hiding something significant. We might have to consider drastic measures after consulting with Ignis-sama.”

Tweney was perplexed. She didn’t want any discord. However, she couldn’t say anything to Rayza, who was acting on her behalf.

They reached their initial destination, the city of Caron. On the morning of departure, two wizards with malicious looks, Ozma and Battsu, appeared in Tweney’s room where she was eating breakfast alone.

As initially planned, only the Hero Squad and Tweney would proceed.

“Increasing numbers would burden the horses, and we’d need more food and water. Although it might inconvenience the princess, we hope for your understanding.”

“What happened to Rayza?”

Rayza was nowhere to be seen that morning.

Ozma responded with a poker face.

“The court lady is preparing to return to the royal capital. She seems busy, possibly compiling reports.”

Though troubled, Tweney consented. She understood the intention to minimize the number of companions, and she was reluctant to involve Rayza in further danger.

“However, let me see Rayza one last time. I wish to thank her.”

“She has duties. Please wait in this room until departure. We’ll provide a guard.”

With that, Ozma patted the young wizard’s shoulder.

“Take care of it, Battsu. Be polite.”

“Why do I have to?”

Battsu grumbled.

Tweney thought he seemed more like a watchdog than a guard.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

Ozma walked to the corner of the room and picked up a teddy bear sitting on the sofa. It was one of the furnishings prepared by the governor of Caron for the young princess.

“May I borrow this?”

From an outsider’s perspective, it was a strange sight.

“Now, Your Highness. This way, please. Be careful, it’s dark underfoot.”

A “maid” approached the luxurious carriage reserved for royalty. In her left hand, she held a lantern emitting a suspicious glow, and in her right, she dragged along a cute stuffed bear.

The Captain of the Royal Guards, who was waiting in front of the carriage door, respectfully bowed to the “stuffed bear”.

“From now on, we, the Royal Guards, will protect the princess. Please be at ease.”

Inside the garage attached to the lodging facility, it was dimly lit. The flickering flame of the maid’s lantern was reflected in the eyes of all the lined-up Royal Guards.

Without a word, the “maid”, along with the “stuffed bear”, boarded the carriage.

Ozma, also holding a lantern, bowed his head with a gentle smile on his lips.

“Then, Lord Ignis. Please lead the way as planned. We, the Hero Squad, will follow shortly.”

“Alright, leave it to me.”

The lavish carriage and thirty members of the Royal Guards spiritedly departed from the city of Caron.

After traveling for a while, Ignis suddenly came to his senses.

“Hmm?”

He was undoubtedly escorting the princess’s carriage with himself and the Royal Guards. The route was correct.

He shook his head, trying to recall a vague memory.

At the beginning of the journey, when they arrived in the city of Soeto, he was visited by a lady named Rayza.

She claimed this:

The princess doesn’t have holy power. At least, that’s what she claims. If so, there’s no need to bring the young princess to the dangerous “wilderness.”

If they want to demonstrate the majesty of the royal family and stabilize public sentiment, it should be sufficient to go to a secure city. After that, they should hide the princess in a secluded place.

Ignis couldn’t argue.

Furthermore, Rayza made a request.

From the midpoint of the journey, in the city of Caron, only the princess and the Hero Squad should act.

If they couldn’t hide the princess along the way, could she, at least, accompany them to take care of things?

Ignis was impressed and ashamed of himself.

He was only considering the reputation of the Royal Guards, and unsatisfied with his given task, he angrily confronted the wizard like a spoiled child. But this lady was genuinely concerned about the well-being of the one she serves.

However, regrettably, he wasn’t the one in charge on site and didn’t have the necessary information.

“Then, I will negotiate with Ozma-sama directly. However, from my position as a mere maid, I might not be taken seriously. Ignis-sama, could you please assist for the sake of the princess?”

With that in mind, Ignis agreed.

After that, he and Rayza met with Ozma multiple times. Gathering limited information, Rayza pointed out minute inconsistencies. Her eloquence was nothing short of impressive, but Ozma evasively dodged her points.

At this rate, they would be sent back to the royal capital.

Although it was somewhat forceful, Ignis decided to wrest the initiative from Ozma. Rayza actively agreed.

As soon as they arrived at the lodging facility in the city of Caron, Ignis led the Royal Guards to surround the wizards, and confronted them with a speech devised by Lady Rayza.

“If you say so, I guess there’s no choice.”

While wearing an unfocused smile, Ozma casually agreed to change the plan.

“No matter the form, we must overcome this challenge, for we have no future otherwise. We, the Hero Squad, will also cooperate with the Royal Guards. We will do so in our specialty roles as scouts and raiding parties.”

Deep down, Ignis despised this man.

But he managed to take the lead.

He won’t let him act freely anymore.

The luxurious carriage, accompanied by thirty Royal Guards, approached a road through the forest. The path was narrow and winding, and those following behind were out of sight. Were the wizards following them?

“Captain!”

One of the squad members raised a warning.

“Something’s off.”

“Report accurately.”

“A strange. . . . . .sound.”

Ignis signaled the unit to slow down.

In the quiet forest, a sound resembling flapping wings was heard. The noise grew louder and began to resemble the sound of pouring rain.

“There’s something behind those trees.”

Again, it wasn’t a precise report.

But even when Ignis checked, he couldn’t understand what it was.

It was a semi-spherical mass, as large as a grand mansion. The surface was covered in blue scales, and there were long needle-like protrusions on the top.

The sound of wings grew closer.

Ignis shouted.

“Stay alert! Something is coming!”

Emerging through the trees and appearing before the Royal Guards was a massive bee. It had blue and yellow stripes. Its large eyes emitted a red glow.

“It’s a demon beast!”

Had there been a demon beast hunter or a dismantler present, they might have described it as half the size of a human.

It might be considered a “small fry,” but the problem was their numbers.

From all directions and from the sky, more than a hundred massive bees surrounded the Royal Guards protecting the carriage.

Electric sparks ran through the wings of the massive bee.

“Captain, that’s a Thunder Sting Bee.”

“What?!”

Upon hearing his subordinate’s report, Ignis exclaimed in surprise.

He had never seen one, but he knew of them. Bees that stored the power of fallen lightning and wielded it around their bodies.

The number of bees kept increasing. It seemed they were emerging from the semi-spherical structure.

“Is that their nest? This is bad!”

A single Thunder Sting Bee attacked.

One of the squad members managed to block its sharp jaw, which looked capable of biting off a head, with his sword. The moment he did, a loud cracking sound was heard, and he was thrown off his horse. Another Thunder Sting Bee lunged at him. Thanks to his armor and helmet, its jaws and stinger couldn’t reach him. However, every time the bee’s wings lit up in a bluish-white glow, the squad member’s body convulsed violently.

“You beast.”

Enraged, Ignis dismounted from his horse and swung his sword. He successfully sliced through the head of the bee, but a sharp pain shot through his dominant arm. His arm went numb, unable to muster strength.

It’s said that lightning is drawn to metal. Metal armor is not a good match against this demon beast.

The Royal Guards were ambushed by a swarm of giant bees, plunging into chaos. Due to the lightning the bees emanated, those attacking also suffered damage. Being knocked off one’s horse and then attacked by multiple bees is a hopeless situation.

Why is there a demon beast here?

Ignis wondered, albeit a bit too late.

Hadn’t they chosen a route devoid of demon beasts based on aerial reconnaissance?

The one who chose was that wizard.

Why didn’t I object?

Why did I consent?

I don’t know.

Combat on horseback was disadvantageous. Whether taking hits or defending, the shock of the lightning would knock one off. But without a horse, one couldn’t escape.

“Ah, no!”

A young guardsman, surrounded by bees, wildly swung his sword in a daze. His sword grazed a bee’s wing, and he was thrown off his horse with a scream.

“Serlock!”

An inexperienced young lad, rumored to have recently found love. He scolded him numerous times during training for letting his guard down.

“P, Please, I don’t want to die.”

The promising young man, being crushed by several bees, reached out to the void.

Ignis pushed away the engulfing cold fear with sheer willpower.

He remembered there’s something more precious than life.

What’s my duty?

To protect Princess Tweney, believed to possess the power to repel the “Blue Demon Beast.”

“Those who’ve lost their horses, follow me! We’ll launch a direct assault on the demon beast’s nest!”

Draw the anger of the electrically-charged bees to us.

“The rest, protect the princess and escape the forest at full speed. Rally! Dedicate our loyalty to the royal family!”

Fire lit in the crumbling spirits of the Royal Guards.

Some dived at bees attached to carriages, both tumbling down together. Some spread their arms wide against the incoming bees, becoming human shields.

They didn’t know. Inside the carriage they so desperately protected was not the princess they should protect, but a maid with hollow eyes holding a glowing lantern, and a teddy bear.

Watching the carriage being chased by a swarm of giant bees, Ignis thought.

If Princess Tweney is saved, she too will be saved.

The young princess’s anxiety must be alleviated. With that sole intent, she confronted the mysterious wizard. Despite being just a maid, she never retreated, never showed fear.

A dignified presence.

Worthy of respect.

“Raaargh!”

Yelling loud enough to draw the attention of all the bees, Ignis charged at the enormous bee hive.

With all his might, he brought his sword down upon the hive’s glossy, scale-like surface.

Along with a metallic sound, the sword shattered.

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