Arifureta - Chapter 98
It was Shia who first noticed the commotion.
’’Isn't that someone being attacked ahead?’’
As usual, Yue was pressed up against Hajime. Kaori tried to get between them, the aura of her dragon pressed up against Yue's lightning aura. The result was that Hajime had to be careful driving and thus didn't have his attention on what was in front of him.
As Shia said, there appeared to be a caravan ahead with two groups, one attacking the other. As their vehicle approached, Hajime's ’’distance vision’’ allowed him to see two groups in the middle of a battle, one offending and the other defending. Shea's usamimis picked up the roar of battle before Hajime could see them.
’’They appear to be bandits. The bandits seem to outnumber the caravan guards over 40 to just 15. The difference in their combat potential is clear.’’ Hajime describes the situation to Yue and Kaori.
’’... Nn, the guards are putting up a good fight,’’ Yue adds.
’’They have a barrier spell surrounding the caravan, but it's not going to hold out. The bandits are trying to break the wall with magic.’’
’’But their defense is holding for the moment.’’
’’Having a barrier cover the entire caravan stretches it pretty thin. It will not endure long. They've bought themselves some time, but it won't hold.’’
It appears like the caravan faced a surprise attack. Numerous people within the barrier were crouched down with injuries, or worse dead. They had managed to take out a few bandits, but the bandits were still proportionally more. They had managed to erect a barrier, but once it failed the people of the caravan would undoubtedly meet a gruesome end.
Hajime's conversation was cut short as the barrier melted to nothingness. The bandits raised a shout and surged forward, breaking through the caravan's remaining defenses with vicious grins on their faces. The escort squadron fought back desperately, but they were outgunned. One person after another fell to injuries from the bandits.
Kaori had a determined expression on her face, she turned to Hajime and requested he help rescue them in a tone that suggested she was agitated.
’’Hajime-kun, please! Help them, if you can...’’
Hajime didn't respond, but accelerated his 4 wheeler instead. Since it was obvious the caravan would be wiped out if he didn't help, he had already decided he wanted to know their story. He wanted to say that to Kaori, but didn't.
The 4 wheeler chewed into the ground producing a ’’garri garri garri’’ sound as he accelerated with a vengeance, the car moving as if it was attached to a rocket engine.
’’Hajime-kun, thank you...’’
Kaori smiled happily as he began to take action. Hajime shrugged in response. Hajime was simply doing what he wanted to do. Yue tightened her seatbelt.
’’Oh, that, Hajime-kun? Isn't this a bit...’’
The feeling seemed to be ruined as the four wheeler continued to accelerate moment by moment. Although she asked him to help, she knew how cars worked on earth, and the speed he was charging at them didn't leave time to stop. Was he going to ram them with the 4 wheeler? Kaori could not help but think so.
With Haori concerned, Hajime responded clearly.
’’Don't they teach you to stomp the accelerator when you see a criminal in driving school?’’
’’Of course they wouldn't teach that. Don't twist the traffic laws to your discretion. Hey, Yue, don't agree with him, stop nodding!’’
While Kaori tsukkomi'd, Hajime ignored her, turning the vehicle towards the bandit sitting in the rear who appeared to be the leader. Hajime intended to kill the bandits by running them over without hesitation.
The bandit leader finally noticed the strange object approaching them leaving behind a cloud of dust. He issued instructions to nearby bandits, and they began to chant magic. To them, the 4 wheeler appeared to be some new kind of demon or monster. They would not have believed it was man-made, let alone operated by people.
Hajime poured magical power in to the four-wheeler, operating one of its many functions. A blade of approximately 1 meter protruded from the sides and roof. The bandits fired flame bullets at the vehicle, but they bounced harmlessly off the four-wheeler, so Hajime chose to ignore them and kept driving forward. Even though the flame bullets were striking the vehicle, its steadfast rush towards the bandits put sour expressions on their faces.
Dogoo! Baki! Squish!
Horror, despair, and embarrassment - those were the expressions on the bandit's faces as they collided with the hood of the 4-wheeler.
As bandits flung over the roof, the blade on top ripped them to shreds. Some tried to jump to the sides to avoid the blades and were blown away instead. At 80 km/h, anyone who was lucky enough to miss the blades ended up with shattered bones and ruptured organs.
The rear group of bandits were wiped out in a moment, leaving seven dead.
After taking out the rear bandits, Hajime spins the car, putting it into a drift. The area becomes a slaughtering ground as the 4 wheelers cuts into the bandits, leaving the surviving members of the caravan staring with stunned looks. Bandits and caravan guards in close combat suddenly stop to stare at the scene.
As the bandits and caravan guards eye them cautiously, Hajime turns to Kaori as she leans forward eagerly.
’’If they attack us without compassion, we must be willing to do the same. Do you understand?’’ Hajime explained to Kaori.
’’... yes, I understand.’’
Kaori understood that despite being kind, she wasn't allowed to heal or protect the people she would call enemies. If she did, she wouldn't be able to follow Hajime. She had made her resolve to be in his party. Hajime feared that Kaori would get in his way, but she gave him a resolute nod to alleviate his suspicions.
’’I won't get interfere. So do what you need to do.’’ Hajime sighed.
’’Yes.’’ Kaori let out a smile, getting out of the four wheeler and racing to the closest injured person. She was surprised that it turned out to be a young woman. The bandits who had regained their resolved immediately approached Kaori aggressively, their faces twisted in anger over the bandits the 4 wheeler had killed.
’’You whore! Die!’’ While raising an angry voice, one of the bandits brandished his long sword.
Kaori spared him a sideways glance and then brushed past while ignoring him. She continued at a full sprint towards the injured person while beginning her chant. A moment later there was a loud bang, and man's head exploded, easily ending his life.
Dopan! Dopan! Dopan! Dopan! Dopan! Dopan!
The wind continuously carried the sounds of death with each crack of thunder. Each explosion resulted in the destruction of another head in a spectacle of blood. It was overwhelmingly harsh. The more than 40 bandits were reduced to half their number in a matter of seconds.
In a panic at the unbelievable sight, a few of the bandits tried to grab Shia and the other girls in an attempt to gain a hostage. One of the guards tried to shout out to the girls to give them a warning, but his worries were pointless. Shia's superhuman growth was progressing quite nicely, and there were no openings in this combat rabbit!
Shia pulled out Doryukken from the treasure room, which appeared to the bandits like nothingness behind her. Passi! It made a satisfying sound as she swung it, the hammer stretching to size. As she swung, a circular white membrane formed on end. It was a wall of air which struck the upper bodies of three of the bandits, blowing them away in a single hit.
’’Oops! Too much blood!’’
Apparently, as they hadn't fought any small fries in a while, Shia had forgotten to restrain herself when fighting a weaker enemy. She had intended to just toss the enemy back, but with her absent-minded spirit, she had sent their upper bodies flying without the lower. The sudden splattering of blood causes Shia to back up several steps in surprise.
Yue and Tio spared Shia amazed looks, even though they were in the middle of decimating the other bandits with a storm of magic.
The remaining 10 bandits were unceremoniously shot by Hajime, death immediately following without time to plead for their lives. It was pure destruction without any forgiveness.
Kaori used the recovery magic restoration to heal numerous people at once scattered across the caravan. Regrettably, many of the caravan guards who had fallen earlier had already breathed their last breath. Even reproduction magic could not help bring them back from the dead.
As Hajime approached Kaori, a person raced up to her quickly. The stranger was small-statured, their face hidden with a hood, causing them to appear suspicious. However, Hajime knew this was the person who had kept the barrier up to desperately protect the caravan. None of the caravan guards got in Hajime's way as he approached them.
The hooded person threw out her hands and used her momentum to leap at Kaori while calling her name in a pretty voice. Kaori didn't hide her astonishment, muttering the name of the person in the process.
’’Lily (She'll be called Riri or Ririana in the next chapter on)? After all, it is Lily? That barrier looked familiar. I didn't think I'd find you in such a place, but I suspected...’’ It appeared Kaori recognized the hooded person as Lily.
- Rather, Liliana S.B. Heilig (Hairihi), the third princess of the Heilig (Hairihi) Kingdom was the person in the hood.
Liliana hugged Kaori with relief, offering a glimpse of her big, blue eyes and apparent beauty hidden by the hood. Her eyes squeezed shut as she began to cry, speaking to Kaori quietly between sobs.
’’I also did not think I'd find Kaori in this place. It is... good fortune. It seems that I haven't exhausted my luck yet.’’
’’Lily? What's wrong?’’
Kaori didn't quite get the meaning of Liliana's words, but she noticed something was off and pulled back. Liliana put a finger on Kaori's mouth, urging her not to use Liliana's name.
Apparently Liliana was alone and had managed to slip into the caravan to get this far. Kaori gave a sympathetic look as she tried to emphasize with the struggle the princess must have faced.
’’Kaori, are you guys done?’’ Hajime interrupted, oblivious to the mood.
Liliana gave Hajime a blank look. Suddenly, Liliana raised her voice and shouted ’’Hya!’’ Looking up at Hajime from within her hood, a light bulb seemed to go off in her head and she immediately began to greet Hajime.
’’It's Nagumo, isn't it? Long time no see. We had heard about your survival after the fall. The strength and ability to survive is worthy of respect. It was good you survived. While you were missing, Kaori was a wreck.’’
’’Wait, Lily, we're fine now.’’ Kaori spoke in a fluster.
’’I heard about how Kaori confessed to Hajime from Shizuku, but you'll have to tell me more about it later.’’
Liliana was teasing Kaori in a fun tone, smiling from the back of her hood. Kaori turned bright red from embarrassment.
The princess's smile must be very popular with the public. There was no doubt that if she aimed it at the young and old alike, they would fall for her. However, Hajime wasn't particularly moved by her smile.
Without reading the atmosphere at all, he eyed her suspiciously and demands,’’...And who exactly are you?’’
If Hajime didn't interrupt them, Liliana and Kaori would undoubtedly keep talking about the status of all the other students in the kingdom. Hajime didn't have the patience to be subtle. He wanted a direct answers.
Liliana was a princess with a great personality and who was loved by everyone she met. She was shocked to be addressed so improperly by a man who normally wouldn't even be worthy of meeting the princess, thus she let out a goofy voice involuntarily.
The panicked Kaori immediately tried to smooth out the situation on behalf of the dazed Liliana. She spoke in a low voice so no one else could hear them.
’’Hajime you... Princess! It's the Princess! It's the Heilig Kingdom Princess Leliana that you're speaking to!’’
’’Gusu (sobbing), you've forgotten me, haven't you? Gusu.’’ Leliana whined.
’’Lily! Don't cry because of that! Hajime-kun is kinda whatchamacallit. He's special. No one normal would forget Lily. So you don't need to cry!’’ Kaori attempted to smooth things out.
’’Hey, can you not say those rude things so casually?’’ Hajime sighed.
Since Liliana's watery eyes looked quite terrible, Kaori was desperate to comfort her. Hajime involuntarily tsukkomi'd, however Kaori gave him a dirt look that said ’’be quiet right now!’’ Meanwhile, Liliana was explaining ’’No, it's okay Kaori, it just hurt my pride a little...’’ Across the board, the conclusion from the conversation seemed to be that Hajime was wrong for having completely forgotten who Liliana was.
With the atmosphere already delicate, a man from the caravan approached them.
’’It's been a long time.... It looks like you're in good health...’’ the caravan leader stated.
’’From health drinks...’’ Hajime responds
’’Really? A health drink? A company that can make that must be a famous and wealthy company. Can you give me their name?’’
’’Oh-, no, nevermind. But how are you, Mottou?’’
’’Yeah, I'm glad you remember Mottou from the Yunker trading company. This is the second time you helped us out of a dangerous place. It looks like we were fated to meet again.’’ The man laughed and shook Hajime's hand.
It seemed like the leader of the caravan was the man they escorted to Fhu-ren from Brook town some time ago.
Hajime also remembered when his commercial spirit got the better of him and Hajime had to put him in his place. Hajime had learned a bit about human nature from the man named Mottou. Although it seemed like Mottou's commercial spirit hadn't declined in the slightest. He casually touched Hajime's ring of storage as he let go of his hand. His eye's weren't laughing, but seemed to ask ’’Are you sure you're not going to sell that soon?’’ Maybe it was just Hajime's imagination.
Shia explained to Kaori and Lily their relationship with Mottou.
’’A random person you met only once you can remember, but a princess?’’ Lily became even more depressed and Kaori struggled to comfort her in spite of the story she just heard.
As Mottou told it, they were heading to the Ankaji dukedom via Horuado. The plight of Ankaji had already been known, and as a merchant he was ready to head out there to earn a profit. It seemed that he had already been out there once and this was his second journey after a stop in the Imperial City. From the look on his face, it was clear they were making big profits.
Hajime explained that they were heading for the Sea of Trees after a stop in Huruado. Mottou begged them for an escort until they reached Horuado.
However, before Hajime could answer, Liliana put it a stop to it.
’’I'm sorry for interrupting you, Merchant. I must speak with you for a moment. Thank you for transporting me this far. I'm sorry for my selfish request, but I won't be joining you the rest of the way to Horuado.’’
’’Oh, you're not heading to Horuado anymore?’’
’’Yes, this point is fine. I will, of course, pay for the entire trip.’’
It seemed that Liliana was taking advantage of the caravan to make it to Horuado. Having met Hajime on the way, she no longer felt it was necessary. At the point, Hajime received a tap on his shoulder and Kaori whispered in his ear.
’’Don't be cruel to Lily anymore!’’ she gave a silent plea with her eyes.
’’Is that so? Well, it's been a pleasure. Don't worry about the money.’’ Mottou continued.
’’Huh? No... why?’’
Mottou had refused to receive money, which confused Liliana. The caravan had provided bed and food along with an escort. Coming from Mottou the merchant, those words seemed completely unexpected. Liliana gave Mottou a troubled smile.
’’Don't trouble yourself too much on it. But here's some advice. Typically, a caravan will charge extra passengers before they depart. To not have to pay before you leave typically suggests they're up to something, or don't plan to charge you in the first place. This is the latter.’’
’’Is that so...’’
’’I don't know what your circumstances are, but since you're traveling alone I assumed it was serious. During a crisis, if a merchant such as myself helps, then in the future the people of this country may find confidence with this merchant.’’
Liliana realized that Mottou knew her identity from the beginning. He pretended not to know her so he could help without drawing attention.
’’Then at least I should offer a token of my appreciation. Without your help, I never would have made it out of the Imperial City.’’
’’Heh... the thing you want most is often the most difficult purchase for a merchant, you know?’’
’’Eh?.... No, I don't know.’’ Liliana responded confused.
’’It's trust.’’ Mottou explained.
’’Yes, a business without trust can't thrive and never will makea profit. However, to help a young lady out in a serious situation, the Yunker Trading Company might become known as a company you can trust. Your fare will be paid no matter.’’
Liliana held a wry smile at the words he spoke. If you use money unreasonably, it's synonymous with a lack of trust. There were some contrary feelings welling up in Liliana. Eventually, she gave up on them and took Mottou's good will straight on.
’’Your trading company is truly worthy of relying on. This Heilig princess will never forget your kindness and dedication. Thank you!’’
’’Your words are wasted on this one.’’ Mottou bowed deeply with respect.
Then Mottou turned, leaving Liliana and Hajime on the spot as his caravan headed down the planned route to Horuado. He left in a manner of knowing that he'd receive his own heretic certification for aiding the princess. He had already received the information that the Ankaji dukedom had recovered thanks to Hajime. Hajime could only guess why he chose to help in this manner. He supposed Mottou would say he did It to ’’Earn favor for a better tomorrow’’, the slogan of a genuine merchant. (Translation note: It's implied that he never had planned to go to Ankaji, and had done it purely to help the princess, in order to get in good with the royal family, so to speak)
After Mottou had left, the remaining party headed off in the magic four wheeler while Liliana began to explain her story. Liliana's expression was full of tension and impatience which gave Hajime a foreboding feeling. Finally, she began to speak.
’’Aiko was kidnapped...’’
Hajime sensed that there was more to it than that.
To summarize Liliana's story:
Recently, the mood inside the Royal Palace seemed more uncomfortable than Liliana remembered.
The King committed himself to the Seikyo church more fervently than he had ever done in the past. The Prime minister and the other leaders also seemed to get caught up in his fervor, their belief strengthening unreasonably.
If it was just that... but there was also the fact that one after another, everyone seemed to fall in line with the church. Their collaboration was enhanced like never before. Leliana kept telling herself it was her imagination.
The discomfort didn't stop there. Everyone seemed oddly devoid of any ambition. She had attempted to talk with knights and soldier she knew, familiar faces, and they all responded properly, but their responses seemed mechanical. Maybe even something like an illness.
She even tried to consult with Meld, the one knight she had the most trust in, but he always was kept out of sight and busy. Liliana couldn't manage to catch him even once to talk.
Meanwhile, Aiko finally returned to the Imperial City with details on Ur town. Liliana seemed to have been present at the time. Suddenly, an abnormal demand was made. It was the call to make Hajime a heretic. Credited with saving Ur, the objections and opinions of Aiko, who boasted great name recognition and popularity as the ’’fertility goddess’’, were completely ignored.
The conclusion seemed unreasonable, and Liliana had been a fierce protestor, although her father didn't budge no matter what she said. His stubbornness seemed to border on obsession. Instead, Liliana herself was accused of having a lack of faith, and her father started to see her as an enemy, rather than a daughter.
Liliana pretended that they had convinced her, and then immediately made plans to run away. She wanted to discuss what was going on with Aiko first. Liliana knew that Aiko was planning to meet the rest of the students to discuss the events around Hajime fall at dinner, so she wanted to meet her beforehand and discuss her fears.
She had been approaching Aiko's room when she heard her arguing with another woman in the corridor. When she peeped around the corner, she saw Aiko unconscious and in the hands of a woman with silver hair wearing a church frock.
The woman made Liliana afraid, and she immediately dashed into a nearby hidden passage only known to the royal family.
Although the silver-haired woman had noticed and looked for her, she didn't notice the hidden passage itself and left Liliana in peace. Liliana was convinced that the silver haired woman was the mastermind behind all of this. That everything was connected and that she needed to tell someone.
However, since Aiko was ambushed, it stood to reason that the students were being watched. She also didn't know Meld's whereabouts. Then she remembered that one of the students, a dependable friend, wasn't in the capital. So she decided she had to find Kaori. She had heard the story that Kaori was with Nagumo Hajime. That means it wouldn't be just the two of them she could rely on. She escaped in a hidden passage way with the plan to head to the Ankaji dukedom.
Based on the news that Ankaji was recovering after a public emergency, in seemed like there was a high probability the person responsible was Hajime and company.
’’And after that, you know, I was allowed to travel with the caravan of the Yunker Trading Company. I did not think I'd get noticed, let alone find myself getting attacked by bandits, or that I'd be helped by Kaori... not even in my dreams... a little while ago did not... but... I... it was scary... the church... What is happening? The nun with that silver hair... my father...’’
Liliana hugged her body, trembling with fear. Rather than the talented princess she usually was, she just looked like a scared girl. Although that was no wonder. All the people she knew were turned into strangers, and she was afraid she'd be next.
Kaori hugged her tightly, trying to ease the fear that dug into Liliana's mind even a little.
While watching the scene, Hajime went through the events in his mind. Lilliana's story reminded him of the Merujine underwater ruins and the scene they had been shown in the end. The people had been built into a fervor with their belief in god. This was very truly a dangerous situation.
He didn't know if those visions were true. Could it be happening? No, rather they should get the god level magic quickly, and leave this world as soon as possible.
However, Hajime couldn't make the decision immediately, as he had to consider Aiko-sensei. Most likely, what Aiko was going to tell the students was true about their being brought to this world to fight for the god's amusement. They liked to use people as pawns, and her words would have put a wedge of suspicion that would have inconvenienced them. It seems Hajime's theory was spot on.
For them to decide to kidnap Aiko, it must have been Hajime's fault. They probably don't want to kill her, but the people who take pleasure in manipulating everyone like a hand puppet might decide to eventually make use of her.
Hajime was indebted to Aiko for the advice that she gave him. It's not as bad now that he is not alone.
For that reason...
’’We're going to help my teacher.’’
Hajime chose to save, rather than abandon the one that needed him.
With those words, Liliana raised her face in hope. She wore an expression of relief over the fact that he'd come back with her to the city. She had heard that he was indifferent towards his classmates in this world and she had feared he would have abandoned them. She expected that convincing him to go would be difficult.
’’You really will?’’
Liliana asked for confirmation, but Hajime only shrugged.
’’Please do not misunderstand. It's not because of your kingdom. It's for my teacher. She's been kidnapped because of me. I have to take responsibility.’’
Liliana was a little discouraged when she realized that Hajime had no plans to lend his force to the kingdom, but she had some hope that he'd change his mind on the way. Despite his harsh words, she still broke into an involuntary smile.
’’Well, in the process of helping my teacher, I might end up aiding the kingdom by accident.’’ He admitted.
’’.... Fufu, I hope that is the case. I thank you, Nagumo.’’
Since the woman who had kidnapped Aiko was wearing a frock of the church, and since the king was listening to the church to an abnormal degree, likely the church was the cause of all these problems. The church would likely get in Hajime's way, and they'd end up as his enemy. Helping Aiko and the fixing the kingdom seemed to be one and the same. By helping Aiko, Hajime would help Liliana.
Liliana shared a smile with Kaori, causing Hajime's mouth to distort a bit.
In addition to saving Aiko, Hajime had another purpose. It's the Kojiri (Spirit) magic in Kamiyama. From what they had heard from Miledi (armor-possessed prankster who gave them gravity magic), Kamiyama is also one of the seven major labyrinths. However, whether there is a large labyrinth entrance hidden by the church, Hajime had no clue. It was still worth a check although the church officials would likely get in his way.
So even though he had originally planned on going to the Sea of Trees, he now had a good reason to go for Kamiyama. And, in the process he'd rescue Aiko, with the likelihood of a fight with church very high. If he attacked the head temple, maybe that's all he'd need to get the Kojiro (Spirit) magic, or so he thought.
With regards to the silver-haired woman, Hajime mentioned that he thought he had seen a silver haired person in the visions given to them in the Meljeene Underwater Ruins. On the luxury liner, there was a woman in a hood who disappeared and they most certainly had silver hair. Hajime couldn't guess if it was the same person, the age was too different. However, there was a feeling from the beginning. Something to do with this woman with silver hair.
Hajime's fighting spirit burned. He would stop them, no matter who the other party was. He'll kill anyone who gets in his way. He puts on a ferocious smile like that of a wild wolf.
’’.... Hajime, nice.’’ Yue responded to his look.
’’Hajime... your face looks a little tight...’’
’’Thank you for showing me such a vicious look. You're making me wet!’’ Tio added.
The atmosphere between Hajime in the girls was anything but subtle, Liliana blushed at the sight.