Io Federation - 8th ward Cassiopeia - Resistance base.
From his office on the second floor, emperor Dante was gazing at the lively chatter of his subordinates down below.
"How are you felling?"
He turned back towards staff officer Tsekhman. The man was an experienced soldier who have been serving in the Io Resistance Army since it was founded. Even though he was already over 50 years old, his trained and tanned body looked as tough as a steel.
"How am I feeling? Do I look fine to you?"
"Falling into such a pathetic state by inhaling these poisonous pollens of the elven forest, and remaining unconscious for three days. My body still feels heavy. And just standing makes my knees about to give away."
It has been two days since his release from the elven forest. On the night before yesterday, while remaining unconscious, he was brought to the base in their military cars. And yesterday he came back to his senses. Though the same could be said about Tsekhman.
"What about you?"
"I'm asking how you are feeling."
Hearing these words from his Commander, the grey-haired soldier blankly stared with his mouth half opened, as if confused.
"What is it? Is it so strange for me to ask about my subordinate's state of health?"
"O-of course not. I'm thankful for your concern, Your Majesty."
"You should answer like that from the very beginning."
He turned away from the old soldier. And for a short while, they remained silent. Only the sound of the seconds ticking away echoed in the room, from the clock in the corner...
"Is he a destined hero?" TL Note: I honestly not sure how to TL
"My credo is to never fight a battle that cannot be won. After all, it is a waste of time, people and resources."
Tsekhman wondered what was the meaning behind these words: By [battle], did he mean their fight against the sidhes? After pondering for a short while, staff officer Tsekhman carefully said:
"Your Majesty is an excellent commander. But this time it is Jeanne-dono's win. That's all there is to it, I think."
"That's right. It was unlike me to make such a blunder."
TL Note: I highly doubt it.
He gritted his teeth with loath.
"It would seem I bared my fangs against the wrong opponent."
"Staff officer, I thought this world had no hero for the mankind. So I set up my course on leading Resistance armies across the world, starting from Io."
"Then how about it? We've been knocked out for 4 days. And when we came back to our senses, that man, Jeanne, already got us truce with the sidhes."
Going to the elven forest in order to rescue the emperor, and even achieving truce. Being so sudden it seemed unbelievable. Whether it was a proof of that person's own excellence, or his subordinates. Dante had no idea.
"That guy, did he already depart?"
"Yes. This morning, he took a few subordinates with him and ventured into the elven forest. It would seem they are returning this night."
There was a matter of signing a treaty with the elven elder. It was the first cease-fire agreement between humans and sidhes. According to the emperor's secret plan, he was the one who was supposed to do the honours himself.
But if one would ask if he planned to compete for this important duty, the answer would be no. He had no will to compete any longer. As his previous words stated: his main credo was to never fight a battle that he cannot win.
"It is my first time seeing the [real thing]. A hero who is favoured by the world's fate."
"I'm willing to step down if he is the one to change the state of affairs in this hopeless world. The only thing that irritates me is that I'm not going to be at the center of this stage."
Light Knight Jeanne... He wondered if Jeanne was the one who is destined to free them of the tyranny of the four races.
"This time, even though it is vexing for me, Light Knight, it is your victory."
"Staff officer. Say nothing about our talk today to that guy."
"I'll take your words to a heart."
Taking a seat in his own chair, the emperor glared at the bowing subordinate in silence.
Ancient forest. The dwelling forest of the elves was filled with silence. Two days before...
One would expect the fall of the Angel Palace to cause serious troubles in the forest, but in reality almost no debris reached the surface.
"Did thee understand a bit wherefore our forest is considered a sacred place?"
While walking through an animal trail. The elven girl, who was wearing her seven layered garments, proudly pointed above their heads. Towards the ancient tree...
Its thick and solid branches and leaves had caught the wreckage falling from the sky. The elven village sustained no damage, and Kai and co. were able to escape quickly enough. This is what happened the day before yesterday.
"The birds were caught by surprise, but they should return soon enough."
"We sheltered them in our village. Some require treatment after all."
As she answered, the elven girl made a wry smile mixed with a sigh.
"I cannot tell thee all the details, but elves were able to preserve relations with angels. The same goes for dwarves and fairies."
"Understood. That's more than enough."
"...Once we pass through these bushes, we'll reach the elven village. But before that, Kai."
Reiren, who was ahead of him, stopped. And it came to his mind that it was the first time for this elf to address him using something other than [you].
"I have one question. That girl, called Rinne, is not human."
He couldn't trick her. Elves had a strong sense of magic, and dwarves had a strong sense of smell. He had already resolved himself for the secret to be discovered once they enter the elven village.
"At first, I thought she was a spy from a different race. Like Qubiley, spy of another race that transformed into human. But it seems to be slightly different. That girl is quite attached to thee."
"Yeah. I'm certain you can trust her."
"I understand, then I shall not pry any more into this matter."
"Is that ok?"
"Getting burned by poking our noses into fire for no reason once again would not be something that Alfreyja-dono would wish. I'm pretty interested to hear about that girl's fight against Raphael-dono, but... I'll stop asking questions."
The elf shrugged.
TL TODO: Honestly a bit unsure how author mean it
"And also just saying but I find the idea of constantly remaining in debt to humans quite unpleasant... Allow me to thank thee this time. But this is the first and last time I bow my head to the enemy race."
"There is no need for that. After all we had a deal."
They had rescued the elven elder in exchange for freeing commander Dante. And that's all he did.
"Thee stopped Alfreyja-dono. That wasn't included in our contract."
"And last, I'm not sure what Alfreyja-dono, when he regained his sanity, meant by these words about leaving things to thee... But his words were filled with certain strength."
During his last moments... Before turning into dust and disappearing, heaven lord Alfreyja said these words towards Kai:
[I ask you, break the cycle of hatred in this world...!]
Who would think...
The sidhes hero would ask for a favour.
It was an obscure message. Same as Reiren, he couldn't completely understand the meaning behind it. Even so, at that moment, he felt that both he and Alfreyja shared something in common that transcended them being enemies.
自分と主天は、敵味方を越えた共通の意識で繫がっていたように思う Might need to improve wording here.
The elf coughed.
"I didn't talk about it to my companions in the village. If someone came to know that an elf bowed in gratitude to a human, it would cause quite an uproar. I also have to consider my position."
Reiren said in a slightly awkward manner.
"Not a word about it, got it?"
"Understood. Not planning to talk about it."
"Good, good, attaboy! Let us go to the village then. This way."
Feeling relieved the elf relaxed and started walking. Towards the elven village...
Two enormous ancient trees were standing towering over the village's entrance like a gate. And there he could spot two girls.
"Ah, Kai, you're back. Come, come!"
Rinne was vigorously waving her hand. And nearby was Jeanne, standing calm in her usual knight armour.
"You're late, Kai. Rinne was worried."
"My bad. I was just looking around for remains of the angel palace, but Reiren was quite eager to show me around."
"H-hey! Do not say unnecessary things!"
Blushing elf exclaimed in response.
"Enough of that. What about that human? Did he return already?"
"Yesterday. I just got a message from my subordinate."
In Jeanne's hand was a radio device. She was likely talking over it before Kai's return.
TL Note: A bit unclear phrase
"I heard that at the present moment he is docile. Just this time he also had to endure it. The drugs he had been given, should wear off later."
"Was it elven medicine?"
Commander aide Qubiley had been putting elven enhancement drug into his meals little by little. This drug was able to enhance your mind during battle, but continuously taking the medicine would make you behave violently. And in fact it was likely that Dante's violent outbursts were due to taking it every day.
There was a talk of Dante being violent since birth...
That's why his subordinates never noticed when it became worse.
It was exactly opposite of Alfreyja. Because the sidhes hero was known as a gentle and calm person, his change was could be sensed by other angels and elves.
"That's right, speaking of medicine..."
Dante wasn't the only one taking elven medicine. Remembering the battle day before yesterday, Kai addressed the Commander, who was dressed as a man.
"Jeanne, how is your wound? This morning, you mentioned it was still in pain."
"It is all right. In the morning I was worried since the pain remained, but today I was able to walk in the forest just fine."
The knight, who was pretending to be a man, placed her hand on armour. Armour, that covered Jeanne's body, was solid metal, but despite that she was left with a terrible sharp cutting wound, which was going from her back to side. By the fallen angel's sword.
The wound was from when she had protected Reiren. And in fact, after escaping from the angel palace, Jeanne was so exhausted that she couldn't make even a single step.
"The scar completely vanished. I was really surprised by the level of elven medicine."
"But of course."
Reiren puffed up with pride.
"I was the one to make it. If I wouldn't be able to make this much, I wouldn't be given a shrine maiden role. Jeanne, thee ought to show me a great appreciation."
"But I got injured protecting you though?"
"Mu, T-this is... Oh well, that's right. Guess we're even."
The elf winced at Jeanne's sigh.
"Ah yes, Jeanne, there is one question I'd like to clarify."
The elf was standing still, watching the knight. But she wasn't looking only at her face, instead she watched her whole body as if examining from toe to head.
"Day before yesterday, I've been nursing thee, so I took thy armour off and undressed thee."
Before answering, Kai was certain she did take a glance towards him. She was likely at loss of words, since besides her was Kai.
"Thou art female?"
"Like any living organism then. I have no confidence when it comes to distinguishing male and female among humans. Therefore I was thinking thee art man, but once I looked at thee without clothes. And, oh my..."
"Do not say!?"
A hysteric scream escaped knight's throat.
"W-what are you saying all of the sudden... R-right. Look, I'm using my natural voice. Do you get it? Elves got good ears, so you should understand this way."
"Oh, indeed now I see."
Reiren, who was wiggling her ears skilfully, answered.
"Why are thee pretending to be a male?"
"It is necessary for putting my plan into action. I cannot tell details to an enemy race, but pretending to be a man is convenient for the commander's role."
"Huh. This is certainly an unknown concept for elves."
"I see... But although I'm indeed a woman, but gender doesn't really matter. For a commander, you ought to treat subordinates the same regardless whether they are male or female."
As one would expect, Jeanne gave a response of a model Commander. But, while Jeanne was absorbed in her talk, she didn't notice. While she was in the middle of explaining it, Rinne crept towards her from behind.
"Kya!? W-what is it, Rinne?"
Rinne hugged Jeanne from behind and wasn't intending to separate at all. Moreover she started putting more strength into her clinging.
"Jeannya, it is bad to lie. I know the truth after all."
"Eh. Ehm, by lie..."
"Jeannya is aiming for Kai!"
"This again!? I told you it is a misunderstanding, Rinne, could you please stop clinging?"
"No way, I'm not leaving you."
Rinne was completely glued to Jeanne. From Kai's point of view it looked like two lovely girls are messing around, but apparently the persons themselves were deadly serious.
"Hou, Rinne, by [aiming for Kai] thee mean?"
"You know, Jeannya immediately tries get alone together with Kai, as soon as I take my eyes off. That's why it is dangerous to not standing a watch."
"That's a false accusation!? I'm always conducting myself as a commander when talking to Kai!"
"...Jeanne, so it is like that..."
The elven shrine maiden's eyes were sparkling.
"Thee considers Kai to become thy husband in future. What, even though thee were preaching not discriminating by gender, thy eyes are already set to catch a prey?"
"Why did it turn into something like that..."
A scream spread through the elven forest.
"K-Kai, this is not true. This... It is not my intention..."
"Anyway, three of you."
Jeanne, Rinne who was clinging to her from behind, and also Reiren, who was teasing her. He forced his way into the conversation of three girls of different races.
Let's pretend I didn't hear the story just now - Deciding so, Kai pointed towards the elven village's entrance.
"Aren't we making the elven elder wait?"
The knight coughed to clear her throat.
"We're going to to have an important discussion between our races. This is not a time for us playing around here."
"Jeannya, your face is red."
"Let me go!"
Jeanne moved forward as if running away from Rinne. Where the ancient tree stood in place of the village's gates. Two elven guards were standing in the middle, but this time the appearance of humans didn't put them on guard. One of the reasons was the presence of Reiren, who was accompanying them, but the more important reason was likely the fact that they were the ones who freed the elven elder from the angel palace.
"If it is a ceasefire agreement, then there is nothing to worry about."
The elven shrine maiden called out to Jeanne from behind.
"Yesterday, I had checked the elder's intentions. Otherwise I wouldn't be leisurely spending time here. Thee did the same, didn't thee?"
"..Yeah, we've discussed it with Io Resistance."
Looking at Jeanne, who answered like that, there was no Farin by her side. As being responsible for negotiations with sidhes, Farin has been finalizing details of the agreement in the village.
"And then, Kai. As we've been discussing yesterday. Our elders want to talk with thee. I imagine thee have an idea about what."
"Yeah, it is fine. I, too, have something to ask."
"Well then, follow me."
Overtaking Jeanne, Reiren started walking towards the village's center.
One year ceasefire agreement - [Io Resistance and Sidhes promise to perform no acts of aggression towards each other's territories.]
The majority of the country territory shall remain in possession of the sidhes as it is. On the other hand only 8th ward Cassiopeia, where Io Resistance has its base, at the very least will be held by them.
Elves have Qubiley on their side...
If the sidhes feel like it, they can attack Resistance's positions at any time.
With the truce, the anxiety about this situation should disappear for Io Resistance. And the same could be said about the sidhes, who right now want to avoid fighting with humans. They had no wish to be targeted by spirits and cryptids while being exhausted from crushing the Io Resistance army. Coincidentally, both sides had the same wish.
"That's right, Kai. Are thee not forgetting something important, not related to the ceasefire agreement? It is regarding Alfreyja-dono."
"I'm not revealing it, I understand."
Io Resistance were not aware about details of Alfreyja's situation. In order to talk about heaven lord Alfreyja's sudden change, they'd have to mention the rasterizer monster. But no one would believe in stories about such a monster. Therefore, the fact that Alfreyja disappeared wasn't revealed to Io Resistance.
This secret was shared only by six people who infiltrated the angel palace. Kai, Rinne, Jeanne. Farin, Saki and Ashlan.
At the elven village's plaza. When Kai arrived there, he could see gathered there Farin, Saki and Ashlan, in discussion with the elder. And up in the tree...
"Forgive me, thee might be worried about it, but this matter concerns all sidhes. And that's why many are curious about it."
Elves, dwarves, fairies and angels. All were lined up and sitting on branches of the ancient tree, as if surrounding the whole plaza. It was quite a view. Even though they had gathered to sign a ceasefire agreement, with such a number of them above their head, it could be certainly felt as threatening.
"How wonderful for you to come."
Said the elven elder. Her clothes looked like vines wrapping around. And from the human perspective, her outward appearance was that of a girl, similar in age to Jeanne. Besides her Kai could also spot the archangel, who had fought against Rinne.
"Regarding the ceasefire, we've already reached a conclusion with this human."
The elder glanced towards Farin. Despite being surrounded by many sidhes, she remained calm.
"We do not have a habit of keeping records in paper. Everyone here shall be witness to this agreement."
The elder looked up at sidhes.
"From now on for the duration of year, humans shall not trespass this forest. And so we shall not trespass humans city. That should be all right, human commander Jeanne?"
"No problem. Io Resistance also gave their consent."
"Very well, make certain to not break this agreement."
These words were aimed at humans. And at the same time, towards their brethren up on the tree.
"However, my goal here is not re-affirm our agreement. I've prepared this place so that I could talk with you directly."
"Yeah, I too have something to ask."
In response to these words Kai replied back with a small nod.
"Just saying it in advance, but I told you everything about rasterizer the day before yesterday."
"As I recall, first it attacked the demon's hero. And next was the sidhe's hero... As for the latter, I myself witnessed everything with my own eyes from the very beginning."
With a meek look on her face, elven elder made a stiff expression with her mouth.
"It was about ten years ago when that thing was brought by Alfreyja-dono as his new subordinate. Isn't that right, Raphael-dono?"
"Correct, and it is what brought us unwanted troubles."
The giant angel responded with an unpleasant look on his face.
"As everyone knows, it happened 10 years ago, when that hero appeared along Io borders."
The one who asked it was Jeanne. This was another piece of information that neither Kai or Rinne had heard about.
"Cryptids hero [Fang King] Rath=IE. That beast crossed the border alone without any subordinate. In order to restrain him, our leader had to head out to face him. As result, thanks to Alfreyja-sama Rath=IE had to return back."
Heaven Lord Alfreyja forced another race hero to withdraw. But, the archangel, who was telling this story, was wearing a heavy expression.
"But, thinking about it now there were signs at that time already. When Alfreyja-sama headed out to meet that guy, rather than to make him withdraw..."
"Conspire with him. Or rather I think he wanted to discuss something."
The elven elder continued her words with a dark expression.
"When they met face to face, they both just laughed... It was unthinkable for enemies. What's more the enemy was the one who crossed our border in an act of aggression. And at around that time, the monster called rasterizer appeared."
"That's right, rather than with us, his brethren, our leader spent more time with that rasterizer. Still, who would think..."
That mixed race monster rasterizer wasn't Heaven Lord's subordinate.
Was it pretending to be his subordinate in order to monitor Alfreyja?
Even at the time with Vanessa. It would be impossible to appear with such timing if Vanessa wouldn't be under its monitoring.
Monster that was monitoring the heroes. But the question was what was the reason behind its monitoring. And what's more: what are the conditions to change its goal from [monitoring] to [attacking].
There were only two heroes left.
Cryptids hero [Fang King] Rath=IE.
Spirits hero [Spirit Sovereign] Rikugen Kyouko.
If Vanessa's words are to be believed, then the culprit behind [World Reincarnation] ought to be among the remaining two. However... It made Kai to wonder: if the culprit is one of the heroes, then what would be the goal of the rasterizer monster?
It is only a hunch from our battle with Alfreyja.
We still do not know true identity of the rasterizer, but I doubt it is intending to restore the world back.
It was hero monitoring race [rasterizer]. But there was one more strange thing.
[I ask you, break the cycle of hatred in this world...!]
Kai noticed something more in these words: If the ringleader was among four heroes, why didn't Alfreyja bring the name of concrete hero.
Vanessa said: [The one behind this world is someone among four heroes.]
Alfreyja said: [Break the cycle of hatred in this world.]
The words of Vanessa and Alfreyja were contradictory to each other. The chill that he felt reaching his neck, made Kai reflexively hold his breath.
It was supposed to take just a bit more... Just finding the culprit among the two remaining heroes. Although he thought that the culprit was indeed among remaining heroes, he had an uncanny feeling that he was walking through never-ending darkness.
"Finding the one behind world reincarnation, and the true colours of rasterizer..."
He exhaled and clenched his fists. His goal was to [to return his world back]. But in order to do that he had to solve even more problems. The first was to find the one behind world reincarnation. And then find out how rasterizer is related to it. Then...
"There is one thing I want to ask, human commander."
The elven elder looked towards Jeanne.
"You intend to continue your expedition. In order to expand human territories, you're planning to challenge both spirits and cryptids. Am I right?"
It was indeed as the elven elder said. Jeanne's goal was now in far away lands. Among two remaining countries.
Western country Schultz, which was under cryptid's domination.
Southern country Yurun, which was under spirit's domination.
It could be either of them, and she was yet to decide where to head. Though if they'd want to investigate the reason behind Alfreyja's sudden change, then it would be the west where the Fang King was. But it wasn't something they could tell to their enemies.
"I'm sorry, but I cannot tell you."
"I understand. You're planning to leave Io and considering possibility of the sidhes breaking the ceasefire agreement. Something among these lines?"
Jeanne remained silent. She wasn't planning to deny it. After all it was exactly as the elder had said. Thanks to the elven spy Qubiley, they were aware of Io Resistance's state of affairs. They had no way to counter, if the sidhes would decide to attack.
"I want to ask you something too. Why are my plans of such interest to you?"
"We wish our representative to accompany you."
Jeanne, and Farin also, both raised their eyebrows. And Rinne, who was besides Kai and up until now was uninterested, had dumbfounded look.
"...I'd like to hear the details."
"We never forget wrongdoings against our comrades. We wish to know what happened with Alfreyja-dono."
The reason behind Heaven Lord Alfreyja's change. The one who holds the answer to this puzzle was none other than the cryptids hero Rath=IE. And the sidhes wanted to learn more about it.
"Whether it is spirits or cryptids. We have enough knowledge about both. If we accompany you, we'll offer the knowledge to you."
"Rewarding us for allowing to accompany us? But still..."
Jeanne's hesitation had an obvious reason. There was no instances of elves accompanying human forces in past. And neither did Kai remember even hero Sid to lead other races.
"Whether it is south or west. Regardless of your destination you ought to traverse through Io territories. Obviously it means traversing our forest and grasslands."
"Don't you think it might be slightly too hard for you humans to travel?"
"...I understand. It is as you said, we did have a guide."
Jeanne made a bitter smile. Compared to Urza, the sidhes territories covered almost all of Io. It would be essential for them to have a guide if they'd be traversing through this thick forest.
"I'd like to ask for your help."
"Fumu. That is quite merciless, elder."
The one who interjected was the elven shrine maiden Reiren.
"The one among us who is going to travel alongside humans is going to become something akin a hostage? I wonder who would undertake the role of sacrifice to be killed by humans, if we're to break the ceasefire agreement?"
"You'll be the one."
"I see, it is me. Well then it cannot be helped... eh?"
"You shall accompany them. I decided it right now."
"Wait a minute!?"
Elven girl jumped.
"Wait, wait, wait. What is the meaning of this, elder? I h-heard nothing of it!"
"Didn't I say I decided it right now?"
"But why me!"
Elven leader pointed at the screaming girl.
"You haven't left that human Kai's side for some time now, haven't you?"
"I thought that during our talks with the humans you would quickly join my side, yet you stood by his side all this time."
"That's right! It makes me curious too!"
Seeing the opportunity, Rinne voiced her agreement.
"That elf here is a sly fox. Standing next to Kai is only for me. Could it be... First Jeannya, now you're the next to aim for Kai!"
ED Note: Go for it, Rinne! Fight to claim back your rightful place!
"It is a misunderstanding!?"
The person in question's long ears were dyed red.
"Until now I've been just guiding him. That's why I've been by his side..."
"It is decided then. I leave this important task to you."
"Do not say such an absurd thing with a smile...!?"
The lovely scream of the shrine maide echoed throughout the elven village.