“It’s a lot more well-maintained than I thought it would be.”
Despite being a mountain trail, the path leading to Oodem was a lot more forgiving than the name suggested and showed clear traces of human engineering. They hadn’t noticed it before because they had been flying, but it looked like the access routes to the highways that lead to the various nearby towns were in pretty good shape as well. The steep areas had steps made from stone or logs of wood to ease the passage, and gravel had been spread out on the flat areas.
Since the path took them through mountainous terrain, there were times when the rock faces to either side of the road rose up in a steep overhang, but surprisingly, there were even nets placed at such locations to prevent rockslides.
“Compared to the forest around Catalina-san’s house, this is almost like a leisurely hiking trail.”
“……More like a mountain road.”
The air was a little too thin to call it a hiking trail. For Yasuo, who had nothing to augment his flagging physical strength, the continuous uphill climb was starting to get rough. Even so, he had to admit that the place did not look nearly as dangerous as the phrase “ruins of an ancient civilization” had led him to believe.
Of course, the fact that his expectations were betrayed meant that—
“The Hero Hideo unlocked the full power of the Holy Sword in the ruins of Oodem. After the war against Demon King Kaul, this place became an actual holy site.”
—It was a given that there would be a reason like that behind it. Yasuo had already gotten used to it.
“Back when Hideo and his party traveled to Oodem, the mountain path itself existed, but it was nowhere near as well maintained. There were a lot of wild animals as well, and the mountains themselves had not been maintained, so I heard that they faced a lot of difficulty in getting through to Oodem. However, servicing the mountain road led to an increase in the number of pilgrims, which meant that the costs associated with the repairs were recovered in short order……”
“What is this, a World Heritage Site?”
After hearing an explanation that sounded like something he would hear on the news, Yasuo couldn’t resist smiling wryly even though he was already used to this sort of thing.
“Don’t act like this doesn’t concern you. If you carry out some great feat and word of that spreads throughout the land, something that you were involved with might get the same treatment and become a place of worship as part of the Saint’s legacy, you know?”
“If that happens, then Galedeite would be the first candidate to become a holy land.”
Yasuo felt a chill run down his spine for the first time in a while after hearing Feigreid say that.
The town of Galedeite already had a holy site with the ridiculous name of “Hideo Holy Sword River”. Although Yasuo’s feelings of wanting to bring peace to Ante Lande remained unchanged, if a “Yasuo something-or-another” came into being alongside the so-called “Hideo Holy Sword River”, it would shame the Kenzaki family for the rest of time.
It wasn’t clear if they understood how Yasuo was feeling or not, but…
“Hey, that sounds great. How about the broadcast tower that Balor destroyed? You could call it the ‘Yasuo Hymn Spire’ or something.”
“Shouko, that’s perfect!”
Shouko and Diana started saying whatever they wanted while ignoring him. The name was so absurd that his skin prickled with shame just by hearing it, but based on his experience so far, he couldn’t just let it go as a joke. Yasuo started to have vague thoughts about letting Diana or Feigreid take over in case he felt like he was about to achieve something big, which could only be chalked up to him feeling overly optimistic.
It was at that moment that it happened.
“I see, there’s definitely something strange going on. Everyone, stop.”
Gaius restrained the group with a tense voice, and everyone in the group looked at him.
“What’s wrong, Captain Gaius?”
Instead of answering Diana’s question, Gaius just pointed at the ground a short distance ahead.
Diana and Feigred instantly lowered their bodies and went on alert, and Yasuo and Shouko also took a somewhat similar position.
“The gravel on the path is in disarray. There are a lot of footprints as well.”
“From the looks of it, at least twenty people marched this way.”
Gaius nodded as if agreeing with Diana’s and Feigreid’s analysis.
“There weren’t any such traces until now. I didn’t hear anything about such a large group at the command post village at the base of the mountain either……”
“Does that mean there are intruders here?”
“I suppose… But if that’s the case, that doesn’t explain…”
After hearing Shouko’s question, Gaius started looking around restlessly.
“Gaius-san, doesn’t this look like the remains of a campfire?”
Yasuo alerted Gaius to the remains of a campfire that he spotted in a slight hollow on one side of the mountain road. Gaius’s frown deepened after seeing that, and Diana and Feigred also made grim expressions.
“What’s wrong, you three?”
“It’s strange. Something doesn’t seem right.”
“What’s so strange about it?”
“This is the path that leads to Oodem. It is always under observation by the country’s forces, so entering here from the sky is impossible, and there are no records or traces of such a group entering the path until now. And yet they left behind such obvious traces here without even attempting to hide anything. Look over there.”
Diana pointed at something near the remains of the campfire.
“Someone probably cooked and ate a fish. Look, there’s a discarded fish head here.”
“……It almost looks like they set up a camp and relaxed here.”
“That’s true. Yasuo, look over there.”
After looking at where Feigreid pointed, Yasuo saw multiple elongated depressions in the gravel.
“See how the gravel is depressed? Someone probably slept over here. This place is completely open and can be seen easily both from above and below, so it’s hard to believe that someone just lit a campfire here and went to sleep.”
After it was pointed out to him, even Yasuo could tell that several people had laid down on the ground here to sleep.
“Captain Gaius. Are there any important relics in Oodem that would attract treasure hunters?”
“No. In the first place, the ruins here aren’t the type to contain a treasure trove of gold or silver. Sure, the ruins here have historical significance and value, but I don’t think carrying off rocks or brick from this place would fetch any money elsewhere.”
“Maybe they are like terrorists looking to destroy an important religious landmark as a psychological attack?”
However, Yasuo’s question also received a frown from Gaius.
“If that were the case, they would definitely be careful to avoid detection. Only amateurs would leave behind traces like this. Look over there, all the footprints are clearly headed up the mountain.”
“And despite all of that, we’ve seen no trace of them until now… You’re right, it’s certainly strange.”
“Yeah. If we keep following this path, there is a high chance that we might run into this group. Major Krone and Second Lieutenant Feigreid, we’re going to keep moving at a slower pace without breaking formation. I’ll take point, with Yasuo and Shouko right behind me. The two of you can bring up the rear—”
While Gaius was giving soldier-like orders to Diana and Feigreid, Shouko, who had been loitering around near the remains of the campfire, suddenly rushed towards them with a pale face.
“Look at this!! You too, Diana-san!!”
Shouko held out something that looked like garbage, pinched in between her fingers. It was a little dirty because of the dirt and moisture, but both Yasuo and Diana went wide-eyed in shock when they saw it.
“Why is there such a thing in a place like this!?”
“What is the meaning of this!?”
“What’s wrong, you two?”
Feigreid was surprised by the degree to which Yasuo and Diana were flustered.
“What exactly is that?”
It looked like Gaius didn’t realize the significance of it either.
Even Shouko, who had been the first one to find it, was at a loss as to how to explain it. In the end, she chose to just say it plainly.
“……The wrapper of a soybean and kelp onigiri from Friend Mart.”
Both of the male Magitech Knights let out a confused sound at the same time. Although, speaking of confusion, Yasuo, Shouko, and Diana weren’t much better off.
“Like I said, it’s the wrapper of a soybean and kelp onigiri from Friend Mart! The 130 yen one!”
“What the heck is that!?”
“It’s something from Japan! It’ something that’s supposed to only exist in Japan! Neither me, Tatewaki-san, Diana, or my Dad brought something like this to Ante Lande!”
Yasuo stared intently at the remains of the campfire that had been set up sloppily and found something in the ashes.
It was the front cover of a magazine. It was made from glossy paper and had traces of color printing, and had apparently not burned up fully.
It was the front cover of a golf magazine.
“The people who were here…!”
At that moment, they head a low shout echoing through the mountains.
And then, the sound of an explosion.
It was a sound that people would normally never hear during their daily lives, but Yasuo and Shouko had already heard it several times before.
It was not a sound that occurred in nature. It was the sound of an explosion that accompanied battle.
“Diana! Feig-san! Gaius-san! Please go!!”
“I have no idea what’s going on…! But in the place where we heard the explosion coming from…”
Yasuo gripped the cover of the magazine that he had found in the remains of the campfire, and looked like he was about to be sick.
“The place where the explosion came from… There are innocent Japanese citizens there!!”