Chapter 3 – The Hero’s Daughter and Her Comrades
Even though they were wearing earmuffs, the air at their current high altitude was so cold that her skin felt like it was being ripped to shreds. Seen through a layer of dense air, the mountain range in the distance looked as blue as the sky.
“Do you see the twin peaks directly in front of us? The pilgrimage road into the Ruins of Oodem begins at the base of those mountains. We’ll have to walk from there.”
“Ugh… No way…”
Shouko grimaced after hearing the explanation from Gaius, one of Baskelgarde’s Magitech Knights.
“Can’t we just keep flying like this until we reach our destination?”
“Oodem is home to several of Baskelgarde’s indigenous northern tribes who consider it a holy land. The place is also a natural fortress. We will only be able to fly on the scelephant until we reach the Knights Division’s command post village at the base of the mountains.”
“Ah… Yeah, in that case, we’ll have to be careful about what we do. Ugh, it’s so cold.”
Shivering in spite of her thick clothes, Shouko patted the scaly back of the scelephant, Hana-chan, through a gap in the saddle.
“Still, don’t you think it’s amazing? I didn’t know Hana-chan had this kind of stamina. We’ve been ignoring the checkpoints and flying nonstop for almost three hours ever since we left Holstro.”
“This scelephant is a fine specimen. I wish I could put it to work in the Holstro Battalion. Either the person who raised it had good skills, or it grew up in an environment with plentiful food.”
“Sounds like you’d do just fine even if you changed careers, Hana-chan. What a good girl.”
Even though there was no way it understood what Shouko was saying, Hana-chan raised a muffled cry as if it was embarrassed and slowly started to descend.
“By the way, Yasu-kun, how are you feeling?”
“……Hana-chan. Let’s descend as slowly as we can, okay?”
“Hahaha! I can’t believe that the Saint of Galedeite, the Hero of the new generation, gets sick from riding a scelephant!”
“What does… being a Saint… have to do with motion sickness… Ughhh……”
Ever since they had entered the mountainous territory, Hana-chan had started to sway significantly while flying. It might have been due to the uneven wind currents in the area. Yasuo, who had not had any problems until then, suddenly found himself struggling desperately to avoid regurgitating the contents of his stomach. However, he was close to reaching his limit.
As Shouko said earlier, Hana-chan had been flying for close to three hours.
They had needed to stop at several checkpoints during their travel from Galedeite to Holstro, so they had not flown continuously for more than an hour at any given time. Because of that, Yasuo had not experienced any problems.
However, flying for a long distance at an altitude barely low enough to let them withstand it without any barriers, and moreover in a region that was prone to bad weather, was a different story. For the first time, Yasuo realized that he could get ‘Hana-chan sick’.
Since Yasuo’s maternal grandparents lived in Sapporo City in Hokkaido, he had flown on an airplane several times during visits and yet he never got airsick even once. However, it looked like flying on a living creature was quite different.
At that moment, another scelephant that was smaller than Hana-chan flew over to their side and kept pace with them.
“Are those twin peaks the main gate into Oodem!?”
Diana was holding the reins, and Feigreid was riding with her. Gaius nodded upon hearing Diana’s question and replied,
“Major Krone, please go ahead and begin your descent before us, as we discussed earlier!”
“Understood. Ah, I can see the sign indicating the landing zone already. Shouko, do you see those three bonfires arranged in the shape of a triangle!?”
“It’s fine! I see it! That’s the spot, right!?”
“We’re going on ahead. Second Lieutenant Feigreid, please hold on tight!”
After saying that, Diana guided her scelephant into a steep dive and started gliding towards the landing zone marked by the three bonfires.
“Alright Hana-chan, we’re going to take it slow. You wouldn’t like it if Yasu-kun lost control and threw up all over you, right?”
“I-I’m holding on, somehow… Ughhh…”
Surprisingly, the person who was gripping Hana-chan’s reins and guiding her to follow behind Diana was not Gaius, but Shouko.
Apparently, Shouko had an innate talent for riding scelephants, as seen by her ability to make Hana-chan—a scelephant not trained for military use—carry out some pretty crazy maneuvers during the fight against Balor’s Shii.
Gaius was astonished at how skilfully the girl who harbored the power of the Shii in her left eye was able to handle the reins, although he stayed alert to jump in and take over just in case anything went wrong.
When they had informed Leonid that they were leaving Holstro to go to the Ruins of Oodem where they assumed Hideo was located, he had given them his permission with the expected condition attached; they were to be accompanied by Magitech Knight Gaius.
On paper, their expedition was designated as a scouting mission to Oodem dispatched by Leonid. Gaius was the captain, and Yasuo and the others were ostensibly his subordinates. Since Hana-chan could only carry a maximum of four people at a time, they had taken the opportunity to borrow another scelephant from Leonid.
The reason why Yasuo and Shouko were riding on Hana-chan along with Gaius was simply to improve their relationship with him.
After they had traveled a fair distance from Holstro, Yasuo and Shouko had given Gaius a brief and yet completely honest account of everything that had happened until they reached Holstro without leaving anything out. It wasn’t clear if Gaius believed everything that they had said, but considering how he had allowed Shouko to take Hana-chan’s reins, Yasuo assumed that they had established a certain level of trust.
Gaius had looked a little surprised when Yasuo proposed to share information, but from Yasuo’s perspective, it was obvious that Gaius’s mission was to keep him and Shouko under observation.
That being the case, Yasuo thought that having an open discussion right from the start would be the best course of action, but his one miscalculation had been getting well and truly sick from riding on Hana-chan. Because of that, Shouko had done almost all of the talking during their journey here.
Shouko safely landed Hana-chan in the heliport-like space reserved for scelephants to land.
“Hey Yasu-kun, are you okay? Look, we’ve landed.”
“Yasuo, allow me to help you. Come this way.”
As Yasuo unsteadily attempted to climb down from the saddle, Shouko supported him from the top, and Feigreid supported him from the bottom.
“If not for Major Krone’s word on the subject, I wouldn’t have believed that Yasuo is actually the eldest son of the Hero Hideo.”
“As for me, I only believed that Yasu-kun’s father was actually the Hero after seeing the 8mm tapes at the museum.”
Shouko smiled wryly as Gaius muttered that to himself, and Gaius also nodded.
“I watched those 8mm tapes all the time as a child. I see, so they made that sort of impression on you.”
“Even though we have basically opposite standpoints, I completely understand how you feel. Are you ready, Yasu-kun? I’m letting go now.”
After scrambling ungracefully down Hana-chan’s side and reaching the ground, Yasuo took a few steps before falling on his backside. Unable to bear watching him any longer, Diana and Feigreid walked over to give him a hand. Seeing that scene, Shouko caught Gaius’s eye and laughed.
“Well, I get it. He really doesn’t look like someone who fits that description, right?”
“No, he doesn’t. I’m getting down first, I’ll give you a hand.”
Gaius nimbly dismounted from the saddle and stretched out a hand to help Shouko once he was on the ground.
“Speaking of deceiving appearances, you handled that scelephant like a seasoned veteran with years of training under their belt. Although you don’t look like one at all.”
“I was surprised too. It’s not like I have any experience with riding animals back in Japan, but for some reason, I’ve been able to get along well with Hana-chan ever since our time in Galedeite.”
Shouko patted the scales on Hana-chan’s flank happily.
“I think this ability probably comes from the Shii called Raia that is inside me. I wonder if Hana-chan would stop listening to me once Raia disappears. Man, that would suck.”
Gaius tensed slightly at that statement, and Shouko shrugged her shoulders.
“I think I understand just how difficult it is to control animals and make them do exactly what you want. I’m not going to believe that some untapped ability bloomed when I looked at Hana-chan in the eye and caused our hearts to connect. I’m not that optimistic.”
“No, I’m sorry. I was just surprised, that’s all.”
“I’ve been able to do a lot of stuff since coming to this world that I couldn’t do before, and almost all of it is because of the Shii’s power. Unlike Yasu-kun, I didn’t go through any magic or sorcery training in Japan, and I didn’t do any physical training either. All of my ancestors for several generations have been ordinary Japanese citizens with no connection to other worlds. It’s impossible to think that I awakened to all these new abilities for no reason right after coming to this world.”
Seeing Shouko say that dispassionately, Gaius forgot his own position and tried to console her.
“There’s no way to be certain. Perhaps you had the talent to ride scelephants all along, and didn’t realize because there aren’t any in Japan……”
“That would be depressing in its own way. Talk about wasted talent.”
Considering they had no idea how many chances Shouko would have to interact with scelephants in the future, it would have been fine even if she had never realized that talent.
“Still, I’m grateful you said that. I feel bad for saying this, but I thought you didn’t have a good impression of me or Yasu-kun. So I didn’t think you’d try and console me like that.”
“I suppose it’s only natural you feel that way, considering what happened before.”
Gaius was talking about what had happened when he met Yasuo and Shouko at the scelephant stables after they had surrendered to the Knights Division of Baskelgarde.
When he had first seen Yasuo and the others at the military museum, Gaius’s first impression had been that they were a group of scoundrels who were attempting to pull off a hybrid of two common scams; pretending to be the Hero Hideo, and pretending to bring a dead person back to life using the power of the Shii. Needless to say, it was the worst first impression that they could have made.
It was already common knowledge in every part of the world that the Shii took the form of people who had died in the past.
There were several irredeemable scoundrels in the world who called this phenomenon a “revival”. They would get an accomplice to wreathe themselves in artificial black flames created from a combination of sorcery and chemistry, proclaim them as a Shii, and then proceed to fleece people of their money and goods by showing off how they could resurrect a living person from the so-called ‘Shii’.
As a member of the Holstro Battalion that was tasked with keeping the law in the vicinity of the capital city of the Federation, Gaius had probably seen so many such cases that he was sick of them.
“The usual way to do it is to rub a mixture of soot and tallow from fire wolves into a great cloak or the sleeves of a shirt and then set fire to the outer layer. When it is set alight, the mixture undergoes a chemical reaction that produces a black flame. The color persists for only around thirty minutes, but… well, that’s more than enough to deceive weak-hearted people. After all, most people wouldn’t think that scam artists would go so far as to set themselves on fire just to cheat someone.”
“I guess scams work the same way no matter where you are.”
“You would think it would be obvious to everyone that dead people cannot come back to life.”
“……I suppose some people just want to cling to hope.”
“We can’t let them keep doing that. That’s why…”
Gaius suddenly glared at Shouko through narrowed eyes.
“We need to get rid of the root issue that gives them hope. I want the Shii inside you to disappear, even more earnestly than Yasuo does.”
Shouko understood where Gaius was coming from. In a way, it could be said that Raia’s current condition was a case of a dead person’s consciousness returning to the land of the living. If this fact got out, it would undeniably have an effect on public order. There was even a chance that people would lose their will to fight against the Shii entirely.
Also, even though Gaius didn’t put it into so many words, Shouko understood the real reason why he had accompanied them on this journey.
If, by some chance, there was danger of Shouko’s secret being exposed to the public…
“Thank you very much. I will interpret that as having gained a reliable ally.”
It wasn’t like Gaius was itching to take action against Shouko either. After all, even he had once been a boy who had looked up to the Hero.
“Let’s go. Diana-san and the others are waiting.”
“Hana-chan, go where this old man shows you, okay?”
A soldier wearing the uniform of Baskelgarde’s Knights Division, who was presumably guarding the path into Oodem, came out to meet Diana. Shouko saw Diana handing him the reins of the scelephant that she had been riding.
Shouko pulled the hood of her cloak down low to cover her eyes and handed Hana-chan’s reins over to Gaius.
“I can’t be the one to meet the guard and hand Hana-chan over, right?”
“……You’re right about that.”
Gaius nodded and walked away while pulling Hana-chan, who looked a little uneasy about leaving Shouko, behind him. Seeing that, Shouko deliberately pulled the hood even lower down over her face and sighed.
“……Yeah, I should have expected that. People have their own circumstances. Man, this is rough.”
Sighing once again, Shouko made her way towards Yasuo who had been guided by Feigreid to sit on a bench in a corner of the landing area and was apparently experiencing deep distress.
As for Yasuo himself;
“What’s wrong? Didn’t you get enough sleep last night?”
He was in such a bad state that he could not even reply to Feigreid’s question with the cliched answer about that being normal for a teenage boy his age. As expected, he could only sit there with his eyes cast downwards.