Next day morning.
Rain that poured overnight stopped and El Search Party started moving again. They crossed a river and were climbing a hill when Add who was at the back of the group frowned.
No one spoke ever since breakfast. Elesis, Lu and Rena weren’t saying anything. Eve must have been wary of the three girls because she didn’t open her mouth as well. So only silence dwelled amongst them.
They were heading off to fight the demons but their atmosphere was as if it wouldn’t be strange for them fall out at any moment. Add couldn’t stand it anymore and threw a question towards Elesis who was walking ahead.
“Is it really fine to divide up our forces like this?”
Elesis answered as if she was waiting.
“We have to join up with Fire Priestess that protects the Temple of Fire, and hot spring will be a good foothold to head to the Grand Cavern. So we’re going for both objectives, didn’t I explain this yesterday?”
“What I mean is…..”
There was no way Elesis didn’t know Rena and Eve were hostile towards demons. Then wasn’t it correct to divide the teams in a way where there were no possible conflicts?
Add was frowning when Elesis suddenly started to walk backwards and walked shoulder to shoulder with Add. He looked at her blankly and she gave him a wink.
“This Add is quite considerate.”
“…..Don’t call me in a weird way. Although there’s might be no choice to.”
“Then what do want me to call you? Should I call you Add 2?”
“Just call me Add, although it might feel awkward.”
Elesis smiled quietly.
“Alright, I got it Add.”
“So what happened to trying to get them to talk last night?”
Well, there was no point in checking judging from this cold atmosphere where no one was talking.
“We tried to have a girls talk but girls crush happened instead.”
“……So you mean they just fought.”
According to Eve’s explanation, Rena and Lu’s relationship wasn’t something that was going to improve overnight. Also, Rena and Elesis seemed to have been travelling together for quite long.
“Why did you divide the teams like this?”
One who decided the teams was Elesis, and this team placement certainly had some kind of meaning.
“Big brother Raven will lead everyone well. Elsword and Ara will take care of the front line and Aisha, Chung and Ciel will support them. I think they are quite an ideal team.”
“……But teamwork on this side is a mess.”
To think there would come a day where he spoke about teamwork, my goodness. Add made a very long sigh internally but the words were already spoken.
“You couldn’t have divided the teams like this for no reason.”
“Final battle with Scar isn’t that far off. We have to work on our cooperation before then.”
Add who was at a loss for words stared at Elesis because of her calm answer. Elesis laughed slightly.
They were certainly talking but weren’t on the same page.
“……I didn’t ask this to make you laugh. Do you think that’s even possible? It looks like they are going to fight to the death at any moment.”
“But I heard that laughing solves most of the problems.”
Elesis said something strange then looked in front. More accurately, at Rena’s back.
“And although Big Sister Rena might be boiling up inside, she’s holding back for my sake right now. Eve is also keeping quiet because she respects Big Sister Rena’s decision.”
“……Don’t act like girl who likes to gossip.”
What was this? They were certainly heading to demons’ stronghold but conversation that was going back and forth was like gossiping teenagers.
“Think of it as a part of membership training. Red Knights always did something like this when a new member joined.”
Elesis said this then sighed.
“Just like Aisha said, it doesn’t seem everything is the same even though it’s a parallel universe. How was Big Sister Rena on your side?”
Did he even need to say? Add answered with whatever that came to his mind.
“She was a woman who almost never got angry, although she was scary if she did. She took care of others well. She had overly soft-hearted personality but had outstanding skills. She was easy to talk to and very friendly.”
“…..That’s Big Sister Rena from before.”
When Elesis spoke as if she was recalling a long gone past, Add asked.
“As I thought, so the reason Rena changed was because the Elf race is in danger of being exterminated after all?”
“Eve must have told you. Yes.”
Elesis continued to talk with a tone as if she was reminiscing about the past.
“Big Sister Rena almost never smiled ever since that day.”
“……Then shouldn’t you keep them separated even more? What are you planning?”
Telling someone who experienced her race driven almost to extinction and became so cold to strengthen her membership with a demon?
But Elesis let Add’s words pass and changed the topic.
“In Altera, Eve had King Nasod that was a key to resurrecting the Nasod civilization destroyed by demons.”
So what Eve said last night shortly must have been about this. Elesis spoke lightly as if she was sighing.
“And Elsword and I couldn’t do anything as Velder Kingdom was destroyed.”
“So Velder ended up like that……”
After listening carefully, the situation here was much more severe than the universe Add knew.
In Add’s universe, everything could be solved if D was defeated.
The problem was that D was too powerful…. But it wasn’t like there wasn’t any hope.
But in here, everything was destroyed. Elves were at the brink of extinction, revival of the Nasod civilization was foiled and Velder Kingdom was destroyed. Other places probably aren’t any better off.
Didn’t they say failing to stop Scar right now meant the destruction of entire Elrios?
“How strong is Scar?”
“He’s very strong. Even I almost got done in by him.”
He must be a formidable foe since even Elesis assured him. Add was overjoyed that 9 members of the El Search Party gathering was the strongest party ever…… but their enemies were also quite strong.
‘Situation here is severe as well…..’
Add swallowed a sigh then answered somewhat indifferently.
“Then we’ll have to do our best.”
“You’re not going to ask any more?”
Add closed his mouth when Elesis asked while smiling. Elesis would know better how severe the situation was than Add who was an outsider so she must have her own thoughts about dividing up the teams like this.
When Add didn’t answer, Elesis smiled vaguely as she shook her head.
“Of course, teamwork will be important in defeating Scar. Teamwork with not just you, but Lu and Ciel will be important. But that’s not all…..”
Elesis paused for a moment then spoke again.
“I want to think about what comes after as well.”
“Everything won’t be solved even after defeating all the demons. All that remains for us after are scorched ruins.”
What Elesis was talking about was after the war, that everything won’t go back to how they were even after the war with demons ends.
“Dead won’t return and destroyed kingdom won’t rebuild itself all of a sudden.”
“……Then what do you plan to do?”
Add had never thought about this kind of matter before. Defeat the demons then steal Eve’s core and go back to the past. This was everything for him up till now.
Elesis looked straightly ahead and spoke with a determined voice.
“We’ll still live on. We have to. Time doesn’t return after all.”
“We can’t always hold on to what was stolen and lost. We won’t be able to move forward if we continue to cling on to the once wonderful past. Even if it’s sad, even if it’s painful….. we have to pull ourselves together and move forward.”
Although Elesis was half speaking to herself, it was painful for Add to hear what she was saying.
It was completely opposite choice from Add who chose to jump over time.
Feelings of wanting to respond and refute surged up violently but Add struggled to hold himself back.
“We might have to make peace with the demons and discuss co-existence. When that time comes…I’m worried what will happen to Eve and Big Sister Rena.”
“Is that why you divided the teams this way?”
“It won’t be easy…..but won’t they become at least a bit more closer after fighting their hearts out then bathing together in a hot spring?”
Add had to say something because he was in awe by her questioning tone.
“Of course not. If it was something that easy to solve then it would have been solved last night already.”
“Yes, you’re right…..but I don’t want to just sit back and watch. Even if it might be useless, I want to do something, anything I can for them.”
“Because we’re all comrades.”
Add couldn’t speak as he looked at Elesis who was looking strongly determined. There were so many ways for him to point out and refute logically but he couldn’t. Doing such a thing would be empty.
She was so upright, righteous and blinding. How she already made up her mind, chose her path and paved the way with her sword looked truly beautiful.
“…..You are still the same.”
“Come to think of it, you said I was in your universe as well right? How was I there?”
You came flying like the wind and tried to chop off my head. In that moment, Rena who was walking ahead stopped walking and gave a hand signal.
Enemies were spotted.
El Search Party lied down flat on the ground and poked only their heads out to observe the situation over the hill.
Their enemies were mermaids. Rena counted their numbers and signalled with her hand. Twelve. There was some distance but they could be taken care of easily.
“Add, can you hold your breath for a bit?”
Add was thinking Elesis had something in mind but then got surprised when his body suddenly got lifted up. No, his body was flying.
Add who suddenly ended up flying quickly used his Dynamos to land safely. He had cold sweats and dizzy vision. It felt like he flew across about 20 meters.
His heart was beating rapidly almost to the point where it was going to burst out of his chest. Add was turning around to protest but paused. Mermaids were staring at Add blankly.
So he held his breath then got thrown into middle of enemies. Add felt dumfounded but was still preparing attack formulas when a voice came from behind him.
“Ah, don’t do that.”
Elesis frowned as she stopped Add. She didn’t just throw him, she also followed after throwing him.
“……Don’t do things like this from now on.”
Was she planning to draw their attention towards Add then clean them up after? Add anticipated Elesis could immediately clean up the situation so he stopped activating the Dynamos. Elesis didn’t answer right away and strangely trailed her words.
“Hmm, I’ll think about it….”
Elesis said this then held her sword backwards. Holding a giant sword backwards, was there an attack method like that? Add forgot that he was in middle of enemy lines and observed interestingly. Watching how this Elesis fought might help him when he goes back……
Elesis spoke towards mermaids that were extremely guarded because human male and female appeared one after another all of a sudden.
“We came to surrender. Here you go.”
It wasn’t just words, she was handing over her sword. It was a voluntary disarmament. Add blinked blankly at this scene that he hadn’t even imagined.
Mermaids that were also blinking came to their senses and quickly grabbed the weapon.
“Who are you?”
“You should all know about Elesis right? Here, take us.”
Add’s head became numb as he pressed on his forehead. It won’t even be a warmup for Elesis to swing her sword and clean up these mermaids. But she was disarming herself and surrendering?
Mermaids exchanged gazes with each other then stared sharply at the hill that Add and Elesis came down from.
“There might be more hiding. Go take a look!”
Four of them headed to the hill and the rest took out ropes and tightly tied Elesis’ wrists. Then they approached Add to tie his wrists as well.
Ah, I’m really at a loss for words. Add dropped an empty laugh but still let them tie him up. He could always untie them long as he had Dynamos.
Elesis must be doing this because she had some kind of plan.
“Explain properly later.”
Elesis grinned in response. Add was displeasingly looking at the rope tying his wrist when mermaids that went up the hill returned.
“There was no one up there.”
“I think there’s only these two.”
Rena, Eve and Lu must have realized the situation and hidden themselves quickly. Elesis grinned when a mermaid glared at her suspiciously.
“It’s tiresome to just stand here. Can you take us away quickly?”
“……We’ll take them to the Queen for now. Take them away!”
Five mermaids surrounded Add and Elesis and started to walk. Being surrounded by enemies, Add signed in frustration. Unlike Elesis’ sword, Add’s Dynamos must have not been conceived as a weapon so they didn’t get confiscated.
Elesis must have read Add’s discomfort because she opened her mouth.
“Enemies in the Ash Covered Village was a bit strange. Enemies weren’t demons and they returned to normal after the fight.”
She meant that this could be the same case.
“I think there must be some other reason. It would be better to talk to their leader directly.”
“……And is there any assurance that we’ll be safe through that process?”
Even Add himself could take care of the situation right now but it was a different story if they were taken to the enemy base. Elesis even gave up her sword.
“They won’t be able to harm me. Scar has me marked. Maybe I might get dragged right in front of Scar like this.”
“…..What about me?”
“Well…..you’ll probably be okay?”
What do you mean by probably? Add sighed from being caught up in Elesis’ unexpected action.
Then Elesis intrepidly hit Add’s back repeatedly.
“Don’t be so scared. I’ll protect you. Don’t worry!”
“Ow, it hurts. It hurts!”
Add frowned and was about to dodge Elesis’ hands but paused. Mermaids that were escorting them also looked back from the large noise and opened their eyes widely from surprise.
“Rope got untied!”
“How did she break free?!”
When mermaids raised their weapons in caution, Elesis looked down at the snapped rope and made a troubled smile.
“Ah, it must have been an old rope. Can you tie me up tightly with a new one?”
Elesis stretched out her wrists while smiling. Like a predator that was saying I might devour you all if you don’t tie me up quickly.
Above the hill.
Eve who was watching Add and Elesis be captured and get escorted away opened her mouth.
“Wouldn’t it be better to save them right now?”
“…..Elesis won’t do something like this without any thought. We did feel something was off when we fought in Ash Covered Village.”
Rena sighed as she shook her head.
“I think she was trying to find out the reason for that….. she should have at least told us something.”
Amongst the El Search Party, Rena and Elesis had fought together and cooperated with each other in battles the most. Elesis as the Red Knights captain and Rena as the leader of the Elf Assassination unit.
So they could grasp what each other was thinking without any words.
“So then what should we do now? Decide quickly.”
Rena closed her mouth at Lu’s words. Trying to talk…..made her emotions surge up and disoriented her thoughts.
Rena suppressed her twisting emotions and responded. This wasn’t the time to waste emotions on Lu.
“Let’s approach the hot springs without being seen and observe the situation. We can save Elesis and Add if they are in danger.”
“I got it. Please lead us there if you know this area well.”
To stop the extinction of the Elves, Rena learned how to recognise geographical features, stealth and methods to attack enemies with traps. She was also skilled in infiltration. Elesis must have trusted Rena’s skills and that must be why Elesis even disarmed herself and got captured on purpose.
When Rena wordlessly stood up, Lu narrowed her eyes.
“You must not like me quite a bit.”
Keep the conversation to minimum. Rena answered coldly then was about to turn around but Lu wasn’t done talking.
“I can understand why you don’t like me. No, saying that can I understand would be deceiving myself. It is true that demons invaded Elrios and caused countless amount of bloodshed, even though I lost my power and was dethroned, I’m still a demon. I don’t have any intention to deny this.”
Rena’s hand was grabbing her sword hilt. There was a limit to her suppressing her emotions.
She held back last night but she wasn’t confident that she will be able do so to today.
“I don’t have any intention to say that I’m different from other demons and avoid all the resentments. Doing so would be a reasonable choice….but its cowardly. Rather, I’ll welcome it as the lord of the Demon Realm.”
“……What a thing to say when I’m holding back here. Want me to fix your attitude?”
Rena’s face became even colder. Outstanding beauty was giving off such a cold aura but Lu still kept her composure.
“If you want to take your anger out on me, I’ll allow it. Come, beautiful Elf.”
“Rena, this isn’t the time.”
Eve tried to dissuade Rena but Lu refused instead.
“I refuse to put up with this false trust and false bonds any longer. If you resent me, if you want to kill me because I’m a demon, then come at me with an intention of killing me!”
“Stay back, Eve.”
Rena spoke sternly then turned her body towards Lu. Lu created giant magical gauntlets with her powers while smiling.
“Try your best. You might die otherwise.”
“…….That’s my line.”
Rena also drew her sword.