I normally say that I like Past Life Returner but I have not read it at all, not even the manhwa(comic). But this story is different, I love it. I...
The Black Demon King
Chapter 23: Holy Maiden of Helvetia
Episode 445 Prisoner of War
Shortly after I captured Linfeld and safely returned to the castle walls, the Crusaders suspended their attack and withdrew.
Their offensive had been fierce, and they appeared to have the military strength to continue the siege, but it really seemed that the reason why they decided to retreat was that Linfelt had been taken prisoner. I couldn’t tell if it was because Linfelt herself was important, or if it was only that her “Sanctuary” was essential for their strategy to take the fortress to succeed.
At any rate, the sun was still high up in the sky, but today, on the 20th of the Dark Month, the battle was over.
Although there were many sacrifices, it was still a good outcome, because we had succeeded in capturing the enemy general and rescuing our three allies. In fact, the moment I returned to the top of the castle walls using my Bind Arts, I was greeted by the enthusiastic cheers from the Spada army. Breaking through the enemy’s barriers and returning after a fierce battle was enough to boost the morale of the soldiers.
However, for me, it was more of a sorry excuse for me having caused a great deal of concern to my two colleagues.
“Jeez, Kurono… Kurono!”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine, Lily… I’m okay.”
Lily was throwing a tantrum on my lap as I sat on the bed. Was she mad at me because I had been too rash with my assault, was she happy that I came back safely, or both? Lily had been very clingy for a while now, as if she had had a terrible feeling.
When I returned to the castle walls, she was speaking calmly with the consciousness of an adult, but now that we had returned to the inn room and were more relaxed, she was putting on this show. Ah, but it heals my soul.
Until recently, it would have felt like a lie to think that I had been fighting right in the middle of the enemy camp. It was neither big nor luxurious, but being able to frolic about with a cute fairy on a clean bed like this made me feel like I was in paradise. There was no way I could have been killed in action with this waiting for me.
“Lily was very worried about you. She was very upset.”
“No, I was not upset! I was just waiting patiently in case I had to fly over to where Kurono was, in case he was in danger!”
Fiona sat in a chair opposite the bed and gracefully sipped hot tea. She seemed to show no concern for Lily’s counterargument.
“But I’m really sorry I couldn’t be there to support you.”
“Don’t worry about that. It would have been very dangerous for you to be flying around in that situation, Lily.”
I had somehow found my way to get to Linfelt, but that didn’t mean that the Crusaders were poorly defended. Rather, it should be said that the place right at the barrier’s borders was where they had the least amount of men. Right in the middle of it, where Linfelt was, the left and right sides formed a fairly strong defensive formation to prevent intrusions from the Spada army.
Now matter how skilled Lily was, if she had been flying about under those circumstances, she could have been shot down.
Even then, if I had been in danger, I’m sure she would have come to my rescue. And it must have been Fiona who kept Lily in check until the last minute.
“By the way, you seem to know about Linfelt, Fiona. Is she that famous in the republic?”
In the first place, the thing that made us settle for that seemingly reckless assault strategy had been Fiona’s information. I didn’t doubt it at that time, and it’s not that I’m not skeptical sometimes, but I thought it that her information had been quite precise.
“No, she was one of my classmates. But with that ability, it wouldn’t be strange to think that she’s quite famous in the republic by now.”
“A classmate… Back at the Magic School?”
“Yes. Her full name is Linfelt Aria Helvetia Bergunt.”
Aria was her name as given to her as a Saint, Helvetia was the name of her territory, and Bergunt was the name of her family. Fiona was speaking about her as the daughter of a noble family that Linfelt was.
“She wouldn’t speak openly about it at school, but she’s definitely the daughter of Count Bergunt.”
“So the daughter of the count of the Sinclair Republic is just boldly coming out to the battlefield?”
“I think that in this case it was precisely because his father, the count, who’s also the supreme commander of the Crusaders, was in charge. You’ve seen how powerful her “Sanctuary” is, but it would actually take a really strong push to have a siege strategy around Linfelt at its core put into practice.”
So it was a father trying to give his daughter a chance to shine in battle. I guess I wouldn’t take care if I was taken prisoner because of that.
I had already handed her over to the Spada army, leaving her entirely in their care. According to General Gesenburg of Baphomet, who took her directly from my hands, she would be treated with respect and protected as a valuable hostage.
With her high status in the Crusaders’ general ranks, Linfelt’s value was immeasurable. If this were medieval Europe, we could expect a high ransom, but since she is a powerful barrier user, we couldn’t afford to release her.
I didn’t know how they were planning to hold her, but being so used to war, the Spada Army wouldn’t do a poor job at that. They should also be able to extract some valuable information about the Crusaders from her.
Of course, there would be no need to worry about her escaping. They had special equipment to restrain strong warriors, magicians, or those with special blessings. This wasn’t some adventurer’s guild in the countryside, or a small fortress. This was Spada’s impregnable Galahad fortress. They had the best prison for helding the strongest enemies captive.
It’s unclear how they were keeping her locked up, but I believed there shouldn’t be any problems, as General Gesenburg assured me that not even the black dragon would be able to break out even if it went wild. Linfelt’s ability was specialized in defense, so she could even be locked in a normal cage without any problems.
Anyway, it was impossible to escape unless someone led her from the inside. With this, there would be no need to worry about a siege using her “Sanctuary”.
“And is this Count Bergunt famous?”
“He’s one of the leading aristocrats. He is one of the four counts of Sinclair, so it wouldn’t be strange for him to have his own Crusader army. Helvetia is a rich land, well-armed, and Count Bergund himself seems to be a very experienced warrior himself. He has several achievements under his belt, such as the suppression of heathen rebellions and the subjugation of various monsters.”
Heathen rebellions… I wondered if he had learned how to deal with warriors at that time.
“He seems to be no slouch, then.”
“Yeah. Perhaps he’s already planning his next frontal assault.”
“His daughter has been captured, so I’m sure he’s going to desperately set the dogs on us.”
“I wonder… Her black hair and black eyes make me doubt if she even is his real daughter. It wouldn’t be too farfetched to think that she has been brought into the count’s family because of her “Sanctuary” ability. He could very well forsake her, taking her capture as her own ineptitude.”
However, in that case, this situation would be a great opportunity for him to play the tragic father whose daughter, who fought bravely for God, fell victim to a sneaky devil’s trap, which would serve to boost the morale of his soldiers. That old count could play the fool and shed crocodile tears as he cried “My daughter was caught! How could this happen!?” Even if he asked such a thing, this was war, after all.
“Well, Fiona, I just want to confirm it at this point, but… Linfelt is a foreigner like me, right?”
“There have been some rumors, but I don’t really know much of the details. We weren’t that close.”
“Oh, I see. Well, do you at least know what she’s like?”
“Well, if I must say… There would always be a man at her service.”
I somehow knew that already. I was witness to that tearful parting scene she had with that handsome knight of hers.
“Whether she’s a foreigner or not, you would have done the same thing, Kurono. So I think it really doesn’t matter.”
“Thank you. I’ll take those as words of trust.”
As long as I kept on brandishing the blade of my trivial hometown, I could save myself the trouble of having to explain myself. Ah, what a wonderful thing is to be trusted.
Even though they can be a little gloomy, I don’t mind feeling these bonds of trust from my colleagues.
“Hey, hey, Kurono! Do that thing with me too! Grab me and take me hostage!”
Lily was in very high spirits. Did what I did to Linfelt look so enjoyable to her?
That had only been me acting like a villain, which I had to do in order to be able to nervously squeeze my way out of enemy lines… But, oh well, let’s play with Lily and heal our troubled hearts.
“Okaaay, then this Nightmare Berserker will take this cute little fairy hostage!”
I let out a weak “Oryah-!” and I wrapped my arms around Lily, who was still sitting on my lap.
“Kyaah~! I’ve been caught~!”
“You can’t escape!”
With a loud noise, Fiona hurriedly stood up, saying “What kind of nonsense…”
Oops, did we get too carried away? We wouldn’t want to incur Fiona’s rage, so we should–
“Please, release the fairy now. I’ll be your hostage in her stead.”
–stop? Or so I thought, but things took an unexpected turn.
“No~! You can’t do that, Fiona~!”
“It’s fine, I’m prepared to be overwhelmed by this despicable demon, both physically and mentally.”
“Kurono doesn’t need anyone other than me to play with.”
“Kurono would prefer to tie up a teenage-looking girl like me.”
“Ah… Then I’ll just transform!”
“Hey, wait a second, you two! This story is getting a little weird!”
The scariest thing about this was that this story was going on on the premise that I had the desire to tie up a girl.
The purpose of tying Linfeld was to restrain her. The fact that he was tied up in a tortoise-shell-knot which emphasized her body’s features was Hitsugi’s idea. I’m not a pervert or anything.
“It’s okay. No matter what kind of fetish Kurono has, I’ll never give up on him.”
“And even if Kurono has some weird perverted desires, I’ll accept him for who he is.”
This was getting more and more seriously dangerous. The two of them were dead-heated, hurling inflammatory words at each other. I wished Lily would casually return to the consciousness of an adult and stop refuting like a spoiled child.
Anyway, if I didn’t try to resolve this situation quickly, they would start treating me like some kind of pervert.
“Okay, I’m releasing the hostage right now. I’m sorry, my bad, I was messed up, I’m reflecting on it right now.”
Along my confession, I released Lily and placed her on top of the bed.
With this, the case of the kidnapping of the fairy by the Nightmare Berserker was resolved. It was an unpleasant event.
In that manner, we continued to engage in trivial conversation until Simon arrived at our room to discuss some important matters and other things.
“…I deeply apologize.”
A heavy apology echoed in the tent that served as the Crusaders’ headquarters. The officers who gathered there were silent, as if they were sinking to the bottom of a dark swamp.
Of course, the one who was feeling the gloomiest out of everyone else in the tent was none other than the knight that had cast his eyes downwards as he accepted his blame, Sebastian, who had failed to protect Linfeld in the worst possible way.
After a moment of silence, an explosion took place inside the tent.
“Y-You incompetent fool!!”
The one who exploded was his lord, and father of Linfelt, Count Bergunt.
His usual gentlemanly, laid-back, and graceful demeanor had completely receded, giving way to orcish yells. Still, the reason why he hadn’t smashed his fist against his desk was probably because of his upbringing.
“My Linfelt has been captured! And by none other than that blasted Devil of Alsaceeeeee!!”
Sebastian’s repeated words of apology were useless, as they were drowned into the Count’s rage.
“I have been looking out for you so far… And you betray my trust! But if there’s one thing I can’t forgive, is that you allowed my beloved daughter, Linfelt, to be humiliated by being taken as a prisoner!!”
Not only his aides and knights, but also to the maids who served in the count’s mansion all knew that Sebastian had been appointed to important posts by Count Bergunt starting from a young age.
There had been no complaints about his excellent literary and military prowess, his impeccable etiquette, and his loyal stance. To make matters worse, he had also been graced with good looks. More than anything, Sebastian had a history of perfectly fulfilling the roles given to him by the count, even before he was introduced to Linfelt.
From his role as a steward who managed his lord’s everyday necessities, he became his personal secretary, managing his schedule and supporting his everyday activities. He also served as a knight, guarding the mansion, doing escort missions, capturing criminals, defeating monsters, and so on. He had conducted each of those roles for the count with a performance that would be worthy of praise.
And that was why he had been appointed to guard Linfelt.
Having lost his only real son and heir in his fight against the heathens, Linfelt’s importance for the count was evident.
Alternatively, Count Bergund, who was not bound by old customs and was a fervent advocate of meritocracy, might have expected Sebastian to succeed him. If he had continued to meet the count’s demands and achieve results, he would one day be allowed to marry Linfelt.
It was only natural to assume that that was the true meaning behind leaving the care and escort of the young maiden Linfelt to a handsome young man of the same age.
But now, regardless of what the count’s plans for him had been, his trust in Sebastian has fallen not just to the ground, but to the bottom of Hell itself.
“You’re the only one who’s come back alive… I wonder if you could see the face of Linfelt, who must have cried in pain as she was caught by that devil!!”
It was clear to everyone that there was nothing that could be done about that situation.
The easiest way to rescue a hostage is to kill their captor. However, this had the precondition of being able to kill him instantly.
Was there anyone in the Crusaders who could boast that they could surely kill that devil, who made full use of his superhuman physical abilities and his terrifyingly black magic, without damaging the hostage, with a single blow? No one could have even wagered that Sebastian himself had such potential.
But even though everyone knew that, no one present would dare to defend Sebastian. Now the truth was useless.
“Enough. Go away.”
After both his brief badmouthing of Sebastian and mourning for his captive daughter, the count issued his command in a terribly cold voice.
“B-By your leave…”
Sebastian’s face was riddled with anxiety as he started to utter that. He could no longer show any sadness about his remorse, or any reaction to the rage behind the reprimand he was being subject to.
At times like these, it would be common to cry and ask for forgiveness, or to enthusiastically argue that there was nothing he could have done, but Sebastian didn’t seem to feel up to either.
As expected of Sebastian, his reaction was one that tried to avoid infuriating the count any further, while at the same not being so cold as to appear to show disregard. But underneath the cool mask he had turned his face into, there must have been a desire to rescue Linfeld and get revenge on that dastardly devil. It wasn’t hard to imagine him having the determination to feel that no matter how cruel the hardships that were sent his way, he would surely fulfill his desire, and redeem himself.
But unfortunately, it seemed that Sebastian had made a single mistake in his expectations.
“May you never show yourself before me, you pawn.”
With a flowing motion of the Mithril rapier on the count’s waist, he quickly stabbed Sebastian without any hesitation.
It was right at the moment when Sebastian had just turned away to leave. It was right in a complete blind spot, and yet, a flawlessly executed surprise attack.
The count’s aim had been perfect. When the vague sound of cutting through the air echoed, the faintly shining blade pierced the place where Sebastian’s heart was from the back.
The moment everyone noticed that Sebastian had been stabbed, the count had already pulled out his rapier with a light motion, and sheathed it back into its scabbard.
Sebastian’s eyes, which were opened wide in astonishment, desperately turned to the count.
Why? Why? No such words came out of his mouth. The moment his heart was pierced, Sebastian was swiftly taken to the road to the afterlife. He died instantly.
“Hmph. Clean up this mess.”
The body of the knight who fell down onto his own pool of blood was promptly disposed of. The knights who guarded the entrance to the tent quickly carried it outside and took it somewhere else. The count didn’t really care about where exactly they were going to take it.
The headquarters was quickly cleaned up in less than three minutes. As if he had forgotten about the man who had already been executed by his own hand, the expressionless count sat back calmly in his seat for military council.
The officers took their seats after the count, without being particularly instructed to do so. Arranged as usual, surrounding a large table with a pile of maps of Galahad Fortress spreaded over it and reports of the war situation.
After a deliberate glance at everyone’s seats, the count himself broke the ice.
“Tomorrow, we will launch an all-out attack to rescue Linfelt.”
A commotion stirred. But no one dared to give a clear opinion on the count’s decision.
“We will not take a single step back until she is rescued. We will not stop attacking even if it costs us every single one of our soldiers.”
His words were full of determination, with a hint of madness. Though his reaction, being that of a father whose sole daughter was captured by demons, might have only been natural.
He wasn’t joking or acting. Count Bergunt was being serious. Everyone present in the tent understood that perfectly.
At the same time, no one could hide their surprise at the fact that he was so enthusiastic about his daughter Linfelt. On the surface, she was supposed to be the count’s real, yet illegitimate child, but there was something more behind her existence. They all must have suspected that the count had actually groomed that sacred Origin Magic user and took her in as his daughter.
However, his reaction was more than enough to make them all feel that Linfelt was her real daughter, and that he must love her from the bottom of his heart.
But everyone had misunderstood the count’s true intentions.
“Your Excellency, with all due respect…”
In the awkward stillness and chaos, it was Baron Hermann, a fat middle-aged officer who always flattered the Count, who offered his opinion.
“I feel it would be a little impossible to do this tomorrow.”
Despite being expected to simply agree with the count, Baron Hermann had openly expressed his opposition. However, he seemed to have a deep bitterness engraved onto his face after having found himself to be the naysayer.
“Why!? I can’t stand the thought of Linfelt having to spend a single night in that demon’s clutches… If I can’t do it tomorrow, then when!?”
If the count had had a glass of his favorite wine with him, he would have flung it at the baron without blinking an eye.
“Please, try to calm yourself.”
“I am calm!”
“All I’m trying to say is that we should make the utmost preparations to save Linfelt with absolute certainty. I can understand the desire to rescue her as soon as possible. But the most important thing now is to not fail. If we send out our soldiers recklessly, you will not have any more children to succeed you.”
“Preparations, you say? Preparations? Such things will be ready as soon as I give the command! Linfelt has fallen into the hands of those demons, and all my soldiers are eagerly waiting to go to her rescue!”
r orders immediately. But the Ancient Golems, which are necessary to break through those large castle walls, can’t move through obedience. I’ve heard that it takes a few days to get them ready to be up and running.”
Not even the count himself could come up with a counterargument for that decisive point.
“I’m sure you also realized this from today’s battle. Those huge walls are just like a siege engine that is simply too hard for us to chew through by conventional means. No matter how strong us Crusaders may be, sending our men to those walls would be the same as throwing ourselves to the devil’s cauldron.”
The count knew that those castle walls wouldn’t budge an inch with shallow attacks.
One of the trump cards for their strategy was the Ancient Golems, siege weapons that had been borrowed from the suspicious secret organization called “White Sacrament” for that purpose.
And just as the count himself had wished it to, their strategy also relied on Linfelt’s “Sanctuary”.
The operation was about halfway completed, but the presence of only one man completely upset their plans. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Devil of Alsace had single-handedly repelled the Crusaders in today’s battle.
A strategy that relies on a single person’s abilities can also be hampered by a single enemy. A new lesson had been engraved in the war history of the Republic of Sinclair.
“Please be patient until all of our Ancient Golems are ready for battle!”
“Guh… But when I wonder how Linfelt is now faring in the hands of those demons… No, when I think of those horrifying tentacles that that devil unleashes… I…!!”
Count Bergund has witnessed the decisive moment of Linfelt’s capture. Behind the scenes, he had been watching the battle with the “Hawkeye” ability, which wasn’t taught to him by any magician, but that he had learned by himself.
The scene that came to his mind was the appearance of a beautiful girl getting obscenely tied up by black tentacles. Not just the count, but all the leaders, officers, and soldiers who were there, must have been overwhelmed by the devil’s assault that humiliated the sister of the Cross Church right in the middle of the enemy army.
How many maidens must have been ravaged by that man? The incident had been so bold and vivid that it evoked that thought.
“Your Excellency, according to the information obtained from Daedalus, while Spada is a demon country, I hear that it is cultural enough to protect highly ranked enemies as valuable hostages. No doubt Linfelt will be treated as such.”
Even in the republic, it was a well-known fact that the aristocrats captured by heathens were used to demand ransoms and trade conditions such as temporary withdrawal of soldiers and ceasefires. Though the count himself had no previous experience of such dealings with heathens, he had heard many stories about it and had met people who had actually been captured in the past.
No matter how bad these heathens were, they still had a human head over their shoulders that allowed them to assess whether a situation was profitable or not. As long as they understood that there was a clear benefit for them, they wouldn’t treat their prisoners without restraint.
“I won’t be so irresponsible so as to tell you not to worry, but there’s no need to be that pessimistic. Fortunately, Linfelt isn’t into much of the details of us Crusaders. If they use a magician to determine she’s telling the truth, she shouldn’t be pushed too hard into talking.”
In other words, she could be left with them for a few days without fear for her life or her chastity.
Linfelt might feel a little cramped locked in a cell, but it wouldn’t be worth it to send out unprepared soldiers just to resolve such a trivial dissatisfaction.
“Hmm… I’m sorry, Baron Hermann. I was too fired up by the situation. You are right. The most important thing is to make sure that Linfelt is rescued… Though I can’t help it… It still pains me to leave things like this…”
Some of those present clearly sighed in relief after hearing the count’s words. Apparently the count had managed to regain his composure.
“Now, let us dispatch Miss Dorothy so that she can work on those Ancient Golems, and to get us a report on how many days she will need for them to be up and running. In the meantime, we’ll have the soldiers take a good rest. As soon as the date is decided, we’ll distribute our rations to them generously. We’ll settle everything in the upcoming battle.”
In any case, the siege at this snowy mountain couldn’t continue for much longer. The Crusaders were challenged with a short-term decisive battle from the beginning. It almost seemed as if Count Bergunt’s declaration had come out just as planned.
There were no objections this time around.
“Your Excellency, we have an answer from Dorothy.”
The report was sent to the count the following morning.
“Okay. Let’s hear it.”
The count sat down at the headquarters. There were dark, swelling bags under his eyes. He seemed to be lacking sleep because of his daughter’s suffering, but his gaze still seemed sharp, and didn’t seem to feel tired.
“She said that she would need three days.”
Three days, the count murmured back for some reason.
The date was the 21st of the Dark Month. Taking that into account, the attack would start on the 24th.
The 24th of the Dark Month. It was the most special day of the year for the Cross Church. More precisely, it referred to the night from the 24th to the 25th.
“…Okay, we’ll launch an all-out attack on the 24th of the Dark Month. Hmm, after we’ve seized Galahad Fortress and rescued Linfelt, we shall celebrate the Holy Night there.”