Rockwall Lou – V7 Chapter 3

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑

(3)

Above, Tenku indicated the direction and distance of the target, and a chariot drawn by four horses raced through the wilderness road. The driver, Paulun, sighed as he peered through the driver’s window.

The atmosphere inside the carriage was heavy.

From time to time, Battsu would only look out of the window, clicking his tongue. Fuuri was naturally quiet, and Ozma, who usually prattled on about nothing with a grin, was now just sitting expressionlessly.

“What are we doing?”

Paulun couldn’t help but mutter.

The purpose of the mysterious group called “Star Guardian” is probably the same as theirs: to eliminate the “Blue Demon Beast.” Otherwise, they wouldn’t be entering the “wilderness” at this time. Given that they kidnapped the princess, they might know more specifically about the power she possesses.

That was the conclusion Paulun had drawn from the limited information.

The clear demotivation of the Hero Squad members was due to a young wizard named Luo.

The most concerning was Battsu.

The self-proclaimed strongest young man was soundly defeated by a boy of the same lineage but much younger. Moreover, the princess he had taken a liking to seemed to have willingly followed the boy.

“It’s serious, isn’t it?”

Moreover, what was eerie was the captain, Ozma.

The primary role of the Black Neck Squad was information gathering and base raids. Guarding a target is not their specialty. Protecting a showcased princess is just a burden. While it might be best to say the princess died in an accident along the journey, Ozma seemed determined to get her back.

Even though he shouldn’t have any loyalty to the country or the royal family, what could he be thinking?

Paulun realized he knew nothing about his superior.

Age, residence, hobbies, preferences.

And even the characteristics of his magic.

After the princess was kidnapped, to rescue a subordinate entwined in rock by Luo, Ozma used a magic that manipulates rock.

Wasn’t Ozma’s “Man-eater” ability supposed to entangle the target with tentacles and dissolve it?

“Hey!”

Paulun, who had been lost in thought, was startled.

Tenku was suddenly on top of the carriage roof. They clung firmly to the edge of the roof with sharp talons.

“The road ahead is blocked by a giant “burnable caterpillar.”

“Oh, that’s troublesome.”

It’s a relatively docile demon beast, but it’s tough and has strong vitality. Attacking it recklessly will make it go wild and uncontrollable.

“No, that’s not the case.”

Rumor has it that Luo created an underground path and slipped under the “burnable caterpillar.”

“I thought it was a trap, but I could pass through easily.”

“He’s not aware that we’re following him, right?”

“No, that brat noticed me. I’m sure of it.”

Tenku tilted his head in confusion.

There was no answer to the mystery.

Luo’s assigned task was to protect Tweney and the carriage. He was aware of Tenku but ignored him since he did not attack the carriage. Nobody asked, so he didn’t even report.

“Can we catch up?”

“That’s not a problem. They have a hippohorses, and if they have to fight a demon beast, they’ll be slowed down.”

But when you catch up, what do you plan to do?

Are you going to fight the ‘Star Guardian’ or outsmart them?

Or, will you cooperate and defeat the ‘Blue Demon Beast’?

“Well, that’s the plan. Even if there’s a huge obstacle ahead, keep moving forward. See ya.”

As Tenku was about to fly away, Paulun called him back.

“Wait! Since you’ve come back, at least take a break.”

“I don’t like it. The air inside the carriage feels suffocating.”

At that moment, tentacle-like objects flew out of the coach window. Several wrapped around Tenku’s legs. One end of a tentacle formed an eye, while another transformed into something resembling a mouth.

[Tenku]

“Gah!”

The tentacle observed and spoke. Though the pronunciation was slightly unclear, it was the voice of Ozma, the boss.

[Wasn’t I ordered to report directly?]

Tenku looked up resentfully at the sky, scratched his head, and sighed.

Introduced by the Wilderness Guild leader Mipp, Norancho had invited a peculiar guest.

They were three restless old women.

“So, Guild leader, who are they?”

“Er, well. . . . . .”

Mipp answered nervously.

“They’re informants. They have the information that you’ve been looking for.”

Ever since a horde of demon beasts appeared from the ‘wilderness’, Norancho had been asking the residents for information on the ‘Horned Lion’ and ‘Great Red Wave’. His aim was to grasp the current situation and formulate a strategy. However, after the Hero Squad arrived with the princess, they unintentionally collaborated in defeating the ‘Blue Demon Beast’. To be honest, he had nearly forgotten about it.

“Oh, right.”

One of the three old women, looking quite anxious, asked.

“Um, is the ‘Black Neck Squad’ here?”

“Huh? Oh, you mean the Hero Squad. Ahem! They have an important mission and aren’t here right now.”

The old women looked at each other and took a deep breath.

“See, I told you.”

“Just as Maasa-chan said.”

“The previously noisy city guards have now become quiet.”

The three introduced themselves as Sumi, Nura, and Morin. They were skilled dismantlers.

“If you leave it to us, even a spiky spider will be swiftly handled.”

“You see, youngsters these days don’t want to take on difficult jobs that don’t pay well.”

“It’s quite lamentable. Trust is something earned through roundabout ways.”

The old women complained and nodded in agreement.

“What was it again?”

“That’s right, that. If we don’t dismantle the demon beasts, people won’t have food.”

“In other words, for this city, we are. . . . . .”

The old women leaned in closer and grinned mischievously.

“Indispensable!”

Norancho was made to admit it.

“I, uh, am truly grateful for your work.”

Norancho assumed that they would want a reward in return for their services.

“Of course, I don’t expect to get the information for free. In these times, supplies might be more valuable than money. Would you prefer wheat, or perhaps wine?”

The old women suddenly became angry.

“Oh, what are you talking about?”

“Especially in times like these, each individual should discern and fulfill their role!”

“If you have surplus wheat, give it to a mother with a baby!”

It was a valid point. Norancho had to straighten his back and apologize.

“Yes, you’re right. I apologize. But you all must have come to report about the perplexing and severe situation. Is there anything you desire?”

“Something desired? I wonder if there’s anything. . . . . .”

“What are you saying, Sumi-san? This is our chance.”

“Right, let’s ask now. That thing, that one. Look, it’s ours.”

The old women leaned in and smiled mischievously.

“A guarantee of safety!”

While the knights are on their journey of trials, those left in the city of Arche also have roles. To fulfill this duty, Sumi, Nura, and Morin advised the newly appointed representative, Maasa.

We’ll persuade the governor.

If the kidnapper of the princess carelessly appears, they will likely be arrested and interrogated. Maasa insisted on going, but was unusually overruled by logic.

Theresa has been unwell lately and, being elderly, needs recuperation. As the representative of “Star Guardian”, Maasa has the role of passing knowledge to future generations. She also has a daughter, Crozet. In this regard, we are more expendable. Plus, we can’t let the transport team, which consists only of men, look good all the time!

Reluctantly, Maasa agreed, but she carefully determined the timing of Black Neck Squad’s absence and considered negotiation methods.

First, we need to enlist the help of Mipp, the wilderness guild leader.

Frequent stakeholder meetings are held in the office, and every time, Mipp is called. By contacting Mipp directly to meet with the governor, unforeseen situations can be avoided.

Next, we emphasize our value.

The dismantler is the lifeline of this city. If we lose three individuals responsible for removing the demon beast’s poison, there will be a disruption in the food supply. Only a true fool would recklessly take a life.

Lastly, we demand safety in exchange for information.

It’s unclear how effective this will be, but the more influential someone is, the more likely they are to keep their word. Additionally, preparing in advance can help suppress impulsive reactions.

“It’s problematic, “Star Guardian”. Abducting the princess? The authorities are in an uproar right now!”

Mipp, secretly brought to a house by the wall by Crozet, earnestly recommended turning themselves in. However, when asked by the exhausted-looking Theresa to relay a message to the governor, he was at a loss for words.

“Mipp, if you say we’re guilty, we’ll pay with our lives. But before that, can you listen to my final request?”

Having known each other since their early days and being a person of deep compassion, Mipp couldn’t refuse. Thus, Sumi, Nura, and Morin got the opportunity to speak directly to Norancho.

“Hmph, a guarantee of safety? Very well. Even if you all are criminals, I won’t hold you accountable for the crime. Speak.”

Although Norancho hadn’t placed any significant expectations, he casually accepted the conditions. However, as he listened to the old women talk about the “coventant”, he began to look more thoughtful.

“In other words, are you all the survivors of the Mail Cult, and dare I say, members of the “Star Guardian” who abducted the princess?”

After giving Mipp, who appeared to be in awe, a stern look, Norancho sighed.

In terms of credibility, Ozma, who holds the king’s decree, would likely have the upper hand. But regarding believability, the stories of the old women seem more logical and convincing.

Nonetheless, with only this much information, a judgment can’t be made. Norancho smirked maliciously.

“If I return the royal kidnapper as they are, I would be held accountable. I promise to ensure your safety, but you’ll be detained until the inquiry is over.”

The old women weren’t intimidated.

“Oh dear, you’re so young and yet so stubborn.”

“The barrier is already gone. The demon beasts will attack any moment!”

“Exactly. If you wish to fulfill your duty.”

All three of them commanded in unison.

“Fortify your defenses at once!”

A few days later, just as the old women had foretold, a horde of demon beasts appeared out of nowhere and surrounded the city of Arche.

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