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Chapter 71: Counterplan Meeting
“Alright then, let’s get this counterplan meeting started.”
“Right, got it.”
“You can count on me.”
“Um… Should I really be here?”
Once I’d made my proclamation, each and every one of the counterplan members responded with a varied volley of answers. And since it was absolutely no exaggeration to call Tena the voice of reason for this place, yes. She really had to be here.
“But before we can begin…”
“Let’s start by introducing ourselves.”
Since the members that had come to gather here were mostly made up of individuals that weren’t all too familiar with one another, I really wanted to start it all off by having each of them have a solid grasp of the others’ profiles.
“We’ll take turns, clockwise. Each of you can tell us their name and position, then you can tell the others which weapons or skills you specialise in.”
Having said my part, I turned the purple-haired girl sitting to my left at the round table. I stared at her for a bit.
“O-Oh, do I start?! Well, um… My name’s Orlaine. The Holy Goddess gave me the Holy Bow, and I’ve been a Hero ever since. I’ve been directly ordered by the Holy Goddess to cooperate with you all. I’m pretty skilled at marksmanship, and I can use Light Magic.”
“Currently, she’s without her bow. She’s working as a carpenter’s apprentice and is considering a change in occupation.”
With the apparent lack of information, I simply felt the need to add something from the sidelines.
“No I’m not! I’d never change jobs! And that reminds me, would you please give me back my bow?! For this plan, at least?! I can’t really fight without it, you know…”
She had a point. With her bow gone, it would be a stretch to say that she was even at half her full battle potential. I take the Holy Bow out of the item box. That was when Orlaine’s line of sight became completely glued to my hands.
When I passed the Holy Bow from my right to my left some times over to verify my suspicion, I could see Orlaine’s gaze following it intently, moving as it did.
It was a little fun to watch.
“You’re sure you won’t just run away when I give it back?”
“O-Of course I won’t! Anyone who’d call themselves a Hero would never toss a promise aside once they’ve made it!”
“But you did think about running away just a little bit, right?”
“Just a little bit – No, no that’s not true! I never thought that, ever! Please stop confusing me!”
Well, the construction work for this mansion wasn’t really a piece of cake. If she had wanted to run away, then I really wouldn’t have blamed her for it. Well, whichever the case, the worth her battle skills could bring to the table were a matter of course. I thought it best to give her back her bow, at least for now.
“Here you go.”
“Aaah, thank you so much!”
The second I held the Holy Bow out to her, she practically snatched it out of my hands and hugged it close, seeming almost adamant to never let go of it again. It was like looking at some beast that was hell-bent on protecting its child.
Looking at her like this made the prospect of taking the thing back once the matter had been settled seem all the more heart-breaking…
Once I’d spent enough time looking over her with warmth creeping into my eyes, I let my gaze fly to the next person in line.
“I’m next, am I? My name is Leonora Romaliel. I’m the daughter of his Majesty, the current Demon Lord. I was sent here by the will of the Dark Goddess. I’m skilled at hand-to-hand combat, as well as Fire Magic and Dark Magic.”
“She’s always holding her favourite doll close, and that earned her the nickname ‘Doll Princess’.”
I had no doubts that there were at least a few people curious about the doll on her lap, so I thought I’d be nice enough to add a little to her introduction.
“It’s not my favourite, and I’m most certainly not keeping it close by choice! Which reminds me… Get it away from me already!”
While I wasn’t sure I could say the same for the ‘divine me’, there was little I myself could do about it.
“Hold on, are you Mr. Eligore’s daughter?”
Having found a point of interest in her introduction, Orlaine came at her with her own questions.
“Hm? Yes, that I am… I see. If I recall, you were one of the members that accompanied either his Majesty or Lenarve when they took up the challenge of capturing a dungeon.”
“Oh yes, they helped me out a lot back then. Is Mr. Eligore doing alright?”
If my memory wasn’t too far off, Orlaine joined Leonora’s father during the Three Gods War and helped him take on dungeons for the sake of conquest. While most circumstances would paint Heroes and Demon Lords as sworn enemies with no love lost between them, I’d heard that the cultural integration with demons had already spread plenty of roots. In conclusion, there hadn’t been much animosity, if any at all.
But all those nuances aside, she should probably have been a little more careful with the way she looked at a certain part of Leonora’s body like a foe of her father’s would. There was a huge dissonance between this and whatever constituted a calm meeting.
I should have mentioned that Orlaine’s body type was on the slender side. That put her in the same boat I was in.
“Honestly, he’s doing so well it’s worrying. He just keeps complaining that he never managed to conquer that dungeon. He’s even entertained the idea of deferring his position to me just so that he can try to challenge it again. I’m doing my best to rein him in.”
Uncle, I really didn’t expect you to be this much of a sore loser.
Still, Leonora’s presence among us meant that there wasn’t anyone left to keep him in check. If she didn’t hurry on back, then it might just have been possible that his abdication of the throne to her would become certain the minuted she got back home.
I briefly played with the idea of telling Leonora just what her absence entailed, but the realised that the conquest of the Evil God Idol was much more pressing and needed our full attention. So I just deliberately swallowed what I had to say, deciding to keep quiet.
My eyes wandered to the third person in line. The blonde young man clad in he most luxurious priestly robes responded to my gaze with an understanding nod mingled with great reverence.
“My name is Harvin, devout servant of the Divine Lady Anri. I am most humbled to carry the role of Pope to these, the religious lands of Lady Anri the Divine. By her will, I have been instructed to join you in the fray of battle. I specialise in any form of close combat that involves staves. Wile I am incapable of using sorcery, I have received Lady Anri’s divine protection. There is nothing for me to fear.”……………………….Continue on Page 2
Once he had said his piece – amazingly in just a single breath – he decided to affix his gaze to me. For what reason, I couldn’t say. His eyes glittered and glowed, almost as if he had high expectations for me.
It could just be that he was expecting me to add something to his introduction, just like I’d done with Orlaine and Leonora.
Well… Just what should I say…?
“He’s a little reckless sometimes, so be careful.”
Just as I was about to question myself whether this was really enough, the Jolly Pope gave a happy nod in my direction.
Seriously? He was fine with that?
“U-Um… Mr. Harvin? Did you just say you were the Pope…?”
Having heard his entire introduction, Orlaine couldn’t help but pull a totally nonplussed expression as she timidly attempted to prod further.
Wait, how’d it go again?
Orlaine had been pushed around a lot by the Jolly Pope… Pardon, I meant to say that she’d been assigned a carpentry job for the sake of supervision. Did she really have any questions left to ask him?
“Oh, that’s right. I never did tell you, did I? Indeed, I am none other than the Pope of the Holy Lands of the Divine Lady, Anri.”
So you never even told them, huh?
Orlaine’s features went beyond stiff. Well, she had just found out that the man she had been talking to with the utmost casualty was actually the head of state. Surprise was unavoidable. And besides, it wasn’t exactly easy to grasp that the head of state himself would be working on the construction of a single mansion. Being left completely in the dark until someone decided to shed some light was, again, entirely warranted.
While I did feel a twinge of sympathy for her plight, I thought it would be much better for everyone of them to work out the issues between them on their own terms and decided not to interfere.
“A-And… This Lady Anri you keep talking about…?”
Orlaine threw yet another question the Pope’s way, her eyes flitting to me every now and again.
Since she hadn’t been properly clued in just yet, it wasn’t unthinkable for her to misconstrue what he had said. All the more so when I considered that any kind of explanation had been cut short when they’d been requested to make this building. It wouldn’t have been easy to imagine that the deity with the title of an Evil God and I were, while one and the same, entirely different entities.
Since he had the habit of addressing me the same way he would address my more divine counterpart, I had to admit that even I tended to become confused.
Well, there was nothing else we could do. It was better for me to follow that up.
“It might be a little hard to understand, since the two of us have the same name… But he just means that he received the orders of the deity that’s worshipped here.”
“Oh, so that’s what he meant…”
Since she’d taken it well enough, I decided to move on. The fourth member in line is, of course, the blonde young girl that was my own attendant.
“Oh, right. I’m Tena. I’m Lady Anri’s attendant. I don’t have much experience in fighting, but Leonora was kind enough to teach me some Dark Magic.”
“She’s been showing signs of changing ‘cliques’.”
Despite my supplementation, Tena cocked her head to the side, not even close to catching on to what I meant. Orlaine, on the other hand, seemed to do just that when she realised just where I was looking. She proceeded to look at Tena’s bust with disbelief.
With her astoundingly rapid growth, a sort of backlash from the time her growth had been halted when she had been an Apostle, it now appeared that she was well on her way to catching up with Orlaine, despite the latter technically being a few years her senior.
Well, there was no catching up. Tena most definitely had the bigger chest. She was nowhere near the same level as Leonora’s own ‘monstrous’ class of endowment, but the fact that she had much room for development was a threat in and of itself.
What about me, I hear you ask? Don’t bother asking.
“Wha–?! S-Sorry! Nothing, it’s nothing!”
Tena, who may or may not have picked up on the red-hot glare directed her way, spoke up with a lost tone that was enough to snap Orlaine back to her senses, whereupon she profusely apologised.
It really seemed that the poor girl had some deep-rooted complexes.
“And finally, there’s me. The chairman to this countermeasure meeting. My name is Anri. I’m not much good at direct combat either, but I do know how to use Dark Magic.”
Well, the issue wasn’t really that I had no skill in battle. I just never really had the chance to garner any experience in battle just yet.
“What about your occupation?”
Hmph. Of course they’d zoom in on that one. Even though I’d gone out of my way to omit it by not saying anything. But now that they had asked, I really wasn’t sure how to respond. After all, I didn’t really have any sort of official occupation, and whatever social status I did have was fuzzy at best.
There was no way around it. It was best to answer truthfully.
“… I’m don’t have one.”
The stares of those around me grew warm with pity.
◆ ◆ ◆
Well, with all the introductions out of the way, it was about time for us to start the meeting.
On top of the round table we all surrounded, I unfurled a map. On that map was a red line that sketched out the route the Evil God Idol would take. The line itself stretched all the way from the central Holy Lands to the far reaches of the continent’s Northwest, its path forming an ellipse.
“Currently, the Idol is in the Demon Territories. It should head back here from there, and it’s more than likely that it’ll arrive by tomorrow.”
Paying close attention to my words, the Pope fished a doll about the size of a human palm from his chest pocket and placed it were the Evil God Idol was thought to be.
… The thought then crossed my mind that I needed to have a word with him later……………………Continue on Page 3
For one thing, I needed to ask him just why he’d taken the time to prepare a doll modelled after me. While I was at it, I’d probably ask just why he could take it out of his pocket like it was no big deal. I probably had enough questions on my mind to pester him for the better part of an hour.
“Tomorrow’s our chance. The day it returns. I want to stop the Idol at all costs.”
“Excuse me, may I?”
Leonora was the one who asked for the right to speak, her hand raised slightly.
“What is it, Leonora?”
“Well, on the subject of holding it back… Just how do we plan to do that? Can I just assume that we’re going to destroy it?”
“I object! Destroying an Idol of Lady Anri is nothing short of unspeakable!”
Just as I was about to give Leonora her answer, a voice emanating from her left cut me short.
“We really aren’t in a position to say that, are we?!”
“But, you see…”
A verbal assault broke out between Leonora as she pressed the matter of its destruction and the Pope, who was vehemently opposed to the idea.
Orlaine’s opinion on the matter appeared to be more in line with Leonora’s, while Tena just looked as if she was caught in the middle of it all.
That was when I couldn’t shake the feeling that the percentage of muscle-heads in our group might have been a bit overwhelming.
Leonora was, well, a given. And from what little I’d seen of Orlaine’s mannerisms during the recent dungeon conquest, she seemed to be the same type. While I wasn’t all too sure if it was right to consider the Pope’s behaviour to just as meat-headed, he certainly didn’t seem to bother with more than superficial planning.
Oh no, only Tena was reliable in that regard.
“What about you, Anri?!”
“What do you think, Lady Anri?!”
I really wished they wouldn’t approach me in stereo like that. But anyways, my opinion on everything was…
“This plan should prioritise capture.”
“Oh! Everything I’ expect of you and more, Lady Anri!”
Leonora’s expression was dissatisfied, while the Pope’s was all smiles and sunshine.
“But why? Please don’t tell me that you’re just against destroying the thing.”
“No, that’s not it. There’s a much more simple reason.”
“What kind of… Simple reason?”
Tena was the one to raise the question, her head titled to the side. I gave her a nod and responded.
“Well, just how were you planning on destroying it?”
With a clump of metal that massive, I strongly doubted that mere mortal hands would be enough to destroy it. Had it been a simple bronze statue, then there wouldn’t be an issue. But the fact of the matter was that it had been altered, transfigured into an unknown metal through the blessings it received.
While there was no certain way of determining its defensive capability, it was logical enough to assume that it wouldn’t, at the very least, be more brittle than it used to be.
My piece presented, Leonora and Orlaine let out simultaneous groans upon understanding what I wanted to say.
“Well… I know, why don’t we just borrow that Black Dragon again? The dungeon boss?”
She had a point. Throwing something huge at a huge enemy wasn’t a bad train of thought. Unfortunately, it went without saying that it was impossible.
“Rejected. It might have enough power to shatter it to pieces, but just how much land around them do you think would be burned away?”
Vuni might have been able to use his breath attack from a high altitude and completely overwhelm the competition, but it was certain that their surroundings would take immense damage. If we were to consider that the Idol would have endurance as massive as its size would allow it to, just how much damage was needed was even harder to picture.
“You have a point there…”
“But won’t that mean that capturing it might be just as difficult?”
I couldn’t help but feel weak, hearing that. It was a strong argument. Capturing an Evil God Idol that was already hard enough to destroy was a challenge in a league of its own.
“Capture… Do you mean as in… catching it in a huge pit of sorts?”
Seated beside me, Tena offered her own suggestion. A pit, huh? It was a simple plan, certainly, but it just might have been the most appropriate.
“As long as we’re running out of time to prepare, there really isn’t much else we can do.”
“The only problem is if we can even make that sort of hole by tomorrow…”
“Oh, you can just leave that to me. If I assign a troop of followers to the task, I’m sure they’ll make it in time.”
With the pressing issue of time on our minds, being just a tad forceful by sending out waves and waves of people might be the only solution. Adding that to our train of thought, the Pope’s plan of mobilising the followers was our optimal answer to the issue.
“Please do that. One more thing. If that plan does fail, then we’ll just resort to full-on destruction.”
“Didn’t we just say how that’d be difficult?”
That much was true, we had just discussed that. But it was always best to have the second best plan as a backup in case the first went awry, wasn’t it?
“Destroying it completely might be out of the question. But if we can manage to, say, hurt its legs and slow its movements, we might lessen the damage.”
“I see. That makes sense.”
“Hm, that settles that. So we’re agreed?”
Taking in what I had to say, Leonora turned the Pope, who had until recently been so strongly against the destruction of the Idol.
“Urgh… If Lady Anri says so, then I suppose we don’t have a choice.”
While my suggestion was little more than a supplementary plan, a backup in case the first failed, even he had to concede, albeit with a hint of reluctance.
“Alright then. Everyone, make your preparations.”
“Just leave it to me.”
“Of course, Lady Anri.”