118. Winners and Losers (5)
On top of the hill, Luis, with his body hidden in tall grass, was observing the distant capital. The city was protected by massive walls. Orcs with spears stood as sentries, along with ballistae mounted on top of the walls. They maintained a rigid formation, their hawk eyes looking for any trespasser.
The only entrance leading to the outside had two Ogres guarding it, watching everyone going in and out individually. Demons were allowed passage without trouble, but each resident human had their identification checked.
“…There’s no way to go in.”
“Can’t we just break through?”
Luis pressed his temple at Peter’s suggestion.
“Please think before speaking. Regardless of how strong you are, do you think you can handle that many Demons? It’ll be hard unless you’re a monster like Oskal.”
“…Then we’ll use magic.”
Aris, who was a magician, slammed her staff down. Her body gradually turned transparent.
“…That’s brilliant magic! If you had such a thing, say so earlier!”
Aris narrowed her eyes in response to Luis’s words.
“The mana consumption is huge. It’ll be hard for other magicians to last more than five minutes. I can do ten minutes by myself, and the limit for hiding both of you would be three minutes at most.”
“Three minutes? Isn’t that’s too short?”
Luis craned his neck and tried to inspect beyond the gate. The Orc sentries were patrolling various places in the city, but once they passed the gate and hid their faces, they might be able to approach the Demon Lord’s castle somehow.
“Then… should we go?”
Peter and Aris nodded in response to Luis’s words. Luis wore his mask and pulled up his hood. He then flung his horned bow across his back and inspected his arrows in the quiver across his waist and butt one last time.
Peter gripped his sword and turned to Aris, who gave him a nod. They hunched down and took their positions, ready to jump into action.
“We only have three minutes, so we need to make the best of it. We have to be clear in our communication.”
In response to Aris’s warning, Peter nodded. “Okay! Three minutes, right?”
“…Prepare to run with everything you got.”
As soon as Luis finished speaking, Aris cast her magic. Specks of light scattered across their bodies, making them transparent gradually. Then… they ran.
The trio dashed toward the gate with the Ogre sentries as if their lives depended on it. It was a considerable distance from the forest, but it wasn’t all that far away for the archer Luis and the Hero Peter. However…
“… Hah… Hah…”
Aris was already breathing roughly, as though she was exhausted from the excursion. She was a woman and her stamina, as well as the fact that she had just spent a considerable amount of mana, meant that it wasn’t easy to run with such vigor.
Peter grabbed Aris’s hand to support her. The Ogre sentries and the Goblins in front of them were scanning the Demons entering and inspecting the settled humans’ identification one by one. However, the trio ran past them like a breeze.
“…? What was that?”
A Goblin frowned and tilted his head. It felt like someone had run past them… but there was nothing… Only…
“…What is this smell? The smell… of humans?”
A faint scent lingered in the air, but seeing the human in front of him holding out his identification, he convinced himself that he was mistaken and continued to do his work.
Peter, Luis, and Aris quickly entered the alley after successfully infiltrating the capital.
Luis let out all the air he was holding in his lungs. Peter turned to Aris, gasping for fresh air, and asked with concern, “A-are you okay?”
“I-I am fine… Hah… T-thank you.”
A smile naturally formed on Peter due to her expression of gratitude.
“Once is not enough. It’s already like this entering the capital. The palace will be much harder. More than anything, if we enter that place, there won’t be anywhere to hide.”
“This can’t go on. Even if it’s too much, we have to buy more time. Aris, can you extend that transparency magic?”
Peter frowned at Luis’s words. “Luis, this is too much! Aris is already struggling!”
“Hard is hard, but we can’t help it. Aris is most important in capturing the Demon Lord. Without her magic, we can’t even enter the castle.”
Aris was strongly opposed to the idea of ‘capturing the Demon Lord’.
“I’ll do what I can.”
“…You should refuse at times like this.”
Although Luis had made the request himself, he scratched his head upon seeing Aris push herself.
After regaining their breaths and drawing their hoods, they headed toward the castle using the alleyway. Orc sentries would occasionally patrol even the alleyways, but they easily evaded them. However, once they reached the Demon Lord’s castle, they frowned.
“…I don’t think we can get in there?”
Luis looked at the solidly shut castle gate. ‘From the look of things, the gate won’t be opening any time soon. Then…’
Luis’s eyes turned to the walls.
In the end, he turned to Peter and Aris.
“You guys know how to scale walls?”
Before long, the sun set and night arrived in Hell. Luis fixed a rope to his arrow and had Aris enchant it with Sound Blocking magic. He then nocked it on his bow and stretched it full before loosening the string. With a twang, the arrow flew in the air, hit the wall, and bounced off.
“…Dear God! That’s Mythril on the arrow tip, yet it still bounced off? What is this wall made of?”
Nonetheless, the arrow was not completely useless. Luis aimed again and shot the same place repeatedly. Eventually, the arrowhead was embedded into the wall, fixing the rope. He then tugged the rope a few times before sweating anxiously.
“This… dangerous. Is this properly fixed? We might fall off while climbing if something goes wrong…”
In that case, even though it wouldn’t be an immediate death, they would still be injured, which would alarm the sentries.
“From this point on, we’re all dead if we make a mistake. Keep that in mind.”
Peter and Aris nodded before they started ascending. Luis expertly grounded his feet upon the castle wall and climbed up, but Peter tried to carry Aris while moving up the rope with his sheer strength. Once they reached the top of the wall, Aris cast the invisibility magic once again.
“…I’m beat. This is why I hate the graveyard shift.”
The Orc sentry scanned both sides with his helmeted head and yawned. Then, he walked a bit across the top of the wall and looked down. Something was swaying on the other side of the wall.
A rope was hung on the wall and swaying in the wind. Seeing this, the Orc sentry grew pale.
“Sound the wall!”
An instant later, the castle wall grew noisy.
The Goblin, Kulbo, had come out of the Merchant’s guild and entered the Demon Lord’s castle after a long time away. He was trying to get some sleep when the blaring sound of the bell surprised him. He jumped out of bed and grabbed one of the Musket style Magic guns.
He even forgot that he was still wearing his stars-decorated pajama and nightcap, hurrying out of his room in a panic. Outside, the Goblins in light armor were also agitated as they floundered with their muskets in hand.
“I-I’m not quite sure, but it seems like someone broke in!”
“W-what should we do?! Lord Kulbo!”
“What do you mean, what should we do!? Catch those sneaky bastards!”
Kulbo turned his gaze toward the side. The Orc sentries were wandering around outside the window, Gnolls wearing masks were running around the top of the castle, and Harpies were flying in the skies. They were all looking for the invaders, hoping that they’d be discovered.
“Just how did they break in? It couldn’t be those dumb Orcs loafing around, huh!?”
Kulbo complained loudly as he turned to the other side of the hallway. The Werewolves, their silver fur and long claws reflecting in the moonlight, were walking in with Worlf, the Apostle who commanded them.
“Worlf! Just what happened!?”
At Kulbo’s outburst, Worlf stared at him sharply with his golden eyes.
“It looks like there was an intruder.”
“I don’t have the exact details, only that there were signs of an intrusion.”
“What was it?”
“There was an arrowhead embedded into the wall with a rope attached to it. We’ve shut the gate for now and dispatched Ogres and Trolls, as well as spreading out the Orcs along the wall. Also, Gnolls are tracking them using their scent on the rope. If it’s the swift and stealthy Gnolls, they are the best at tracking intruders.”
Kulbo was rather surprised at his efficient response.
“Y-you’re taking care of things unexpectedly well?”
“We’re nocturnal, after all. But…” Worlf narrowed his eyes as he sniffed around. “…Human scent. It looks like there’s a magician with the intruders.”
Worlf swung his body and quickly swiped with his hand, slicing through the air. He grabbed something before shoving it to the wall. The hallway’s wall cracked, spiderwebs spreading around the point of impact.
Kulbo was surprised by his sudden actions. However, that was not the end. Something transparent took shape in Worlf’s hand after a while, shocking him again. A blonde, blue-eyed young man was caught in Worlf’s hand.
Peter groaned under the unhesitating assault. He bared his teeth at Worlf, who was glaring at him with his bestial eyes. Despite exerting all his strength, it was hard to shake off Worlf’s single hand.
‘This bastard… is strong! Could he be an Apostle…?’
“You have the gall to intrude upon the Demon Lord’s castle. However… you are on a different level than the average human.”
Worlf’s sharp claws shone as he held it against Peter’s neck.
“You bastard, what’s your identity? Are you a spy from the Lome Kingdom? Or perhaps a hero aiming for Her Highness…”
A swish sounded in the hallway. Then, an arrow was stuck into Worlf’s neck.
The silver-colored arrow tip all too easily pierced his hide and burned his white fur.
‘A silver arrow!?’
Under the threat of his critical weakness, Worlf quickly released Peter and retreated.
The Werewolves tried to protect him, but the next arrow pierced their bodies, forcing them to retreat. The empty space on the other side of the hallway, where there was nothing before, broke down, and a translucent shape took form. Soon, a man and a woman stood in the place where nothing existed. It was Luis and Aris who had been transparent moments ago.
Kulbo and the Goblins were shocked and alarmed. They raised their muskets in a panic.
“What!? Just who are you all!?”
Kulbo turned to Worlf.
He pulled out the arrows piercing his neck and arm and threw them onto the ground. Blood poured out from the wounds like a gurgling spring. It was the might of the silver arrows, which were a critical weakness of the Werewolf species.
“…Go to Her Highness. There might be others. Just in case, protect her with Lord Kuman and Lord Nordin Wood.”
“What?! B-but, what about you…!”
“Her Highness comes first.”
Worlf stood his ground and calmed his mind. He stared at Kulbo, who gripped his musket and nodded.
“U-understood! Wait a bit! I’ll bring reinforcements in a moment!”
Kulbo and the Goblins ran away frantically. Luis, seeing them, nocked another arrow while Aris gripped her staff.
“Quite bold. You’re planning on defending against silver arrows?”
Worlf frowned at Luis’s mockery.
“A mere silver arrow, I just have to knock them away with my claw.”
“Oh, yea? What about a Holy Sword, then?”
At Luis’s response, Worlf hurriedly turned around. A sword pierced his back and came out the other end, it’s shining edge stained with blood. Peter, who was behind him, had stabbed his back with a Holy Sword.
Worlf turned around and glared at Peter.
“…For someone called a Hero to be this cowardly.”
“It’s not up to you, Demons, to call others cowardly! Die, wolfman—”
Before Peter could finish, Worlf had already punched his face. Peter’s body rose into the air like a ragdoll and slammed into the cracked wall, causing it to collapse onto him.
“Next time, it might be best to just cut my body in half if you have the strength to speak, Hero.”
“…This bastard, Peter. He got done in by an Orc before the fortress… and he’s still so careless!”
Luis grit his teeth and shot another arrow. A rain of silver arrows pierced the Werewolves. However, some of them evaded swiftly or knocked the arrows away with their claws.
The Werewolves had regained their bearings by now. They swiped at Luis by climbing at the walls and ceiling, but Luis pulled out his dagger to parry their claws. The collision caused sparks to fly in the dimly lit hallway.
Luis clenched his jaw and retreated under the mighty strength of the Werewolves.
‘M-my hands are numb… Just their raw strength is so overwhelming. Is that why monsters are called monsters?’
“I-it hurts… Ungh…!”
Peter rose from the collapsed wall. Worlf swung his claw toward the downed Peter, who barely parried it with his Holy Sword.
‘It’s dangerous! At this rate, other soldiers will arrive!’
Luis surveyed the scene and shouted, “Aris!”
“…Everyone, step back.”
Luis retreated behind Aris while Peter darted into Kulbo’s room after pushing Worlf back.
By the time Worlf and the other Werewolves focused on Aris, her staff was already glowing brightly.
“…Turn to dust, Demons!”
After the light flashed… a deafening explosion followed.
— Ω —