Akane and Trevor are doing their best to try to convince everyone to give Liz another chance.
But in the end, it will all depend on Liz’s own hard work. So, we decided to escort the tailoring class just as planned.
And that’s why we were now in the forest of Muhle.
Lyanna was leading the tailoring class that also had Alice and Amy in it.
Lyanna Sensei…it feels more than just a little strange to say that. Though, looking at Lyanna, she may feel more awkward about it than me. Anyway, I, Lyanna Sensei’s former teacher, am acting as an escort for her current class. I actually feel a little bad for putting her in this position…I think I’ll buy her some sweets later to make up for this.
Anyway, the students of the tailoring class were taken into the forest by Lyanna to gather leaves from the mulberry trees. These leaves would be used to feed the silkworms that were being used by the tailoring class to make clothing.
By the way, this task is done twice a week. If we store the leaves in cold water, they usually can be kept fresh for up to a week. This area of the world is rather warm so it’s quite difficult to store anything for extended periods of time.
The rest of the escort team members are Captain Elsa and two other knights. Liz and I remained at the edge of the group.
Sophia was also with me; she also knew what we were planning.
“Ehehe~, I get to go on a walk with Leo onii-chan in the forest~”
I didn’t come here to play. Usually, there would be two knights escorting the class and watching the surrounding forests to find any potential threats. Right now, I’m one of these escorts and I’m — casually chatting with one of the students!?
“…h-hey, isn’t it better if I’m watching the surroundings?”
I asked Elsa as she was patrolling around the perimeter of the area the students were working in.
“Eh? Ah, Leo — san. You don’t need to be so tense. I’ll notice the moment any beast comes out of the forest. Besides, it’s rare for there to be any monsters attacking in this area.”
“But there are monsters in this forest, right?”
“There’s at least one monster that’s common in this region. It’s a small demon known as a Gulf. They’re extremely vigilant creatures that prefer to avoid large groups of humans, so we’d maybe only encounter them once a year, and considering this group is larger than normal, I think it would be extremely unlikely for us to encounter any today.”
…now it’s almost certain. We’re definitely going to get attacked today. Elsa was the one that raised the flag before that led to us being attacked by those bandits.
— By the way, those bandits have been working hard in our territory. Garret was the former village head turned bandit leader. It seems that he’s been leading his people well.
They’re still living as criminal slaves, but the conditions they’re living in are better than what they were when they were villagers in Crane’s territory.
The circumstances that led to them becoming bandits were really out of their control, so I’d like to release them as slaves if they continue to work hard. I’m afraid if we continue to treat them as slaves, the rest of the population will have trouble interacting with them.
“By the way, Sophia-san, when will our next meeting be?”
“Hmm~, let’s see. Are you busy two days from now, Elsa?”
“I’m free then. Let’s plan on doing it in two days.”
I noticed that Elsa and Sophia seem to be a lot closer than before.
“Since when have you two been so close?”
“Elsa is the adviser for the club I created.”
“Club? You mentioned that before. What does your club even do?”
“That’s — mou~, didn’t I say it was a secret?”
If Sophia won’t tell me, I’ll just have to ask Elsa.
“W-What is it?”
“I haven’t even said anything. *Stare*~~~~”
“I’m, umm, only teaching them basic swordsmanship.”
Her silence was finally broken. Elsa couldn’t withstand my constant stare attack.
“Swordsmanship? Like you’re training them to fight in battle?”
“No, to be exact –”
“Onii-chan, I told you it was a secret. Why are you still trying to find out?”
Sophia looked quite angry. I instinctively took a step back after seeing her like this.
“N-No, well…right! I’m your older brother, right? Then, it’s necessary for the older brother to know what his sister is doing, right?”
I have to reflect on my actions as an older brother.
Liz was looking for a chance to prove herself in front of the tailoring class, but that doesn’t seem like it will work out at this rate.
It would be easy to just ask Lyanna to allow Liz to join the class, but that wouldn’t allow Liz to prove she can be useful to the other students…but I think I can still manage somehow.
— Alright, should I try intervening on my own? I decided to try talking with Amy as she was busy working.
“Amy, how’s the leaf picking going?”
“Eh? Ah, Leo-kun. Well, umm…I’m about halfway done right now.”
“You’ve already collected so many, yet you’re only halfway done?”
“Yep. We completed the breeding ground for the silkworms; this led to a large increase in the silkworm population. We need to gather more leaves than usual, but I’m honestly not sure if we’ll have enough mulberry leaves if things continue like this.”
“Hmm, is that so?”
I already knew about this issue, but now I can use this to try to get the students to trust Liz a little more.
“If it’s too difficult for you on your own, maybe Liz can help you?”
Even if Amy thinks Liz is troublesome, she’s probably too kind to say that when the person she’s talking about is present.
Amy stared at me resentfully. It’s possible she’s already figured out my plan.
“I’m just asking you to let her help. She’d never cause you trouble on purpose. If she makes any mistakes, Liz and I will be the ones to take responsibility for it.”
“…ha~, I understand. I can believe your words, right Leo-kun?”
“Of course, leave it to me.”
Though, I’m not the one that needs to work hard. I walked over to Liz and explained the situation to her.
“They really need help gathering more leaves. All you need to do is collect leaves, and if you have any question just ask Amy. Don’t get stressed out and be as polite as you can.”
“…ah, of course!”
Liz nodded with great enthusiasm and took a step forward — before getting her foot caught on ivy and falling face first into the ground.
A moment of silence followed.
Liz slowly stood up and — was smiling.
“W-Well, I’ll be patrolling around the perimeter, so just do your best to help out.”
We split up and went to do our respective jobs.
As I was walking around on the edge of the clearing we were in, I was trying to keep an eye on Liz. When, suddenly, a slight pain ran down my side.
It wasn’t anything serious. It actually felt like someone was pinching me. There’s no doubt about it. I looked around to find Alice staring at me intently.
“I can sense something near us. We’re being surrounded.”
Uwaa, Elsa really did trigger a flag, didn’t she?”
Still, we have more guards here than usual. If what Elsa said is true, the Gulves should be really weak. We should be fine.
Or at least, that’s what I thought —
“There seems to be…twelve people. They’re positioning themselves all around us. They’re clearly not friendly.”
It took me a moment to fully understand her words.
“…huh? Y-You’re saying they’re not Gulves?”
“Yes, they’re definitely people, and I can tell they mean to harm us. This is just my guess, but…it seems they’re targeting the uniforms of the students or the students themselves. I can’t be sure.”
I finally understood the situation.
“…will we be able to manage with just your spirit magic?”
“I think it might be hard for me to target them accurately. There’s a lot of cover for them to utilize and the visibility in the forest is poor. Even knowing this, I should still be more than capable of suppressing them, and with the aid of everyone else we should be able to defeat them with relative ease.”
…she’s as reliable as ever.
“I’ll tell Elsa about the situation, and you should let Lyanna know so the students don’t panic.”
“Yes, nobody can panic. If they find out we know they’re here, they’ll attack immediately.”
I began walking over to Elsa as casually as possible.
“Elsa, can I speak to you for a moment?”
I interrupted the chat Sophia and Elsa were having.
“Leo onii-chan, are you still trying to find out about Sophia’s secret?”
“I’m sorry, Sophia, but this is a bit of an emergency.”
The moment I spoke I could see Elsa tense up.
“No, they appear to be bandits. Twelve in total. They have us surrounded.”
“ — Wha-!? …I understand. I’ll head out with another guard at once. However, if there are in fact twelve of them, I’m not sure we’ll be able to manage on our own.”
“Of course. Alice and I will provide support, but Alice won’t be able to neutralize them all like last time. Be careful.”
Elsa bowed to us before leaving.
“Onii-chan, what should Sophia do?”
“You need to find somewhere safe to go –”
I cut my words short after I noticed Sophia was holding daggers in both of her hands. I didn’t even notice she took them out.
“…hey, Sophia? What are you planning on doing?”
“Well, obviously I’m going to fight too. I’ve been training with Elsa for a while now, and I’m even able to beat her once out of every three times without even using my ability.”
Alice and I have continued working hard on our own, but we’ve never even trained with a sword. Yet, Sophia’s already able to defeat Elsa one out of three times….
Sophia is becoming even more amazing without me even noticing….
“Umm…then, please protect Liz. She’s the one most likely to panic and accidentally cause trouble.”
With Sophia’s ability and her ability with a blade, I can rest assured knowing Liz is safe.
“Alright, I understand. Then — onii-chan, you can’t get hurt, okay?”
“Thank you, I’ll be careful.”
I cautiously moved to thank Sophia. She left to find Liz and I turned in the direction I knew the thieves were.
If their goal is to either capture the students or take their uniforms, then they shouldn’t be planning on hurting any of the students. Once the enemies over there show their faces, Alice can take them out with a long range spell. I decided I should go elsewhere to help.
But, the moment I decided to do that —
The bandits all jumped out at once with their bows pointed at us.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.