Evade the Hero and Flee! 179 #20. This World Doesn’t Want to Leave Me Alone (8)>
#5 Their circumstance: a certain team leader’s circumstances
My head tilted this way and that.
Even a hum came out of my mouth, too.
What could this mean, though?
“Are you sure this is the right place?”
“Yes, ma’am. It is.”
No matter how much I tilted my head, there was no clear answer forthcoming. That’s why I asked a subordinate of mine standing next to me, but it sounded like he was thinking roughly the same as me.
“But, this is a dead-end, though?”
“But, we need to go even further, right?”
Even as the subordinate diligently replied to me, the magic tool in his hand continued to emit faint light that floated towards the far-off distance.
However, what stood tall in front of our eyes was a massive fortress wall. Which was called the last bulwark located in humanity’s ‘last city.’
“But, why is it called the last bulwark? Shouldn’t this place be the first?”
“I think it’s supposed to mean that, once this place is overrun, that will be the end for us, ma’am.”
“Hmm. But demons had broken through plenty of times before this thing was built, and we’re still all alive, aren’t we?”
“Ma’am, saying stuff like that in this place will get you stabbed in the back…”
I could only groan while witnessing my subordinate scan our surroundings in panic. “Of course I’ve already soundproofed our spot.”
Eh-whew! We’ve been doing this for how many years now?
It’s only obvious that someone might overhear you during a field operation, you know? That’s why it’s the basic of all basics to cast soundproofing magic first, you know?
According to my instructor, birds would overhear you during the day but at night, birds and even rats would eavesdrop on you. He was trying to teach me that the more secretive your discussion was, the more people would be listening in. Probably.
That’s why soundproofing was absolutely essential. On top of that, I kept talking to my subordinate in a natural manner to not rouse any suspicions, too.
“Eh-whew. To think that I need to catch my instructor with this kind of subordinates.”
For a moment there, I recalled the infinite word combo my instructor taught me in the past, but right now, I was too busy. It’s too bad, but I didn’t think I could use it at the moment.
“This development isn’t good.”
“What’s our encirclement situation like?”
“With the Neidon Kingdom as the centre, we’ve completed the encirclement net encompassing the surrounding kingdoms about three days ago.”
“However, we haven’t found anyone yet, right?”
A team leader was supposed to quickly come to a decision.
What were the odds of the instructor slipping through our net and escaping from here? What about the odds of him crossing this fortress wall and entering the demon continent?
Without a doubt, the odds were pretty low for both of those options. No, I’d say that it’s completely impossible. Even attempting to do either of the two was sheer insanity.
But when I added the special modifier called ‘our instructor’ in front of the options, it kinda felt like they were doable, after all.
“For now, let’s go back.”
“…Going back, ma’am?”
“Then, what? You wanna cross this?”
The subordinate sneaked a glance at the massive fortress wall.
“Oh, so you wanna wait for him here, then?”
The subordinate’s gaze shifted over to the magic tool in his hand next.
The tool’s blinking light was still slowly floating forward, further away from us bit by bit.
“Besides, you think you can deal with Her Highness’s rage when the time comes?”
“N-nope! Let’s quickly return, ma’am!”
If only Ria was here. She would’ve understood me instantly, you know.
But my smart and capable adjutant had been kidnapped (?) for now, so I chose to bring with me whoever I could find, but he was below my expectations.
‘Once this operation is over, I better speak to Her Highness and train the newbies a bit more.’
“In any case, let’s hurry back home.”
This subordinate of mine might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he still was a talented individual.
We leisurely left the city and headed to a location with little to no foot traffic. Then, we used magic to teleport to my unit, currently on standby in the nearest location possible without stirring up international trouble.
Magic meant to transport people to different locations ate up a ton of magic energy, but we always received a ton of the highest grade magic stones from Her Highness, so teleporting around like this was not a problem for us.
“What happened, ma’am?”
Around twenty agents looked at me and began throwing several urgent questions.
I softly smiled and did my best to take care of their curiosity. “Well, we’re all screwed.”
It kinda felt like the atmosphere froze up instantly, but too bad, something else was far more urgent right now.
“Is the preparation for opening the portal complete? We need to return to the imperial court as soon as possible.”
The arduous path home began from that moment on.
A series of short-range portal magic…
Continuously teleporting to the nearest unit until we reached one of the large cities in the empire was, honestly speaking, very tiring and taxing to one’s body.
Sustained exposure to a massive amount of magic energy would cause a severe magical power sickness, while the continuous spatial movement would induce motion (spatial) sickness, too.
These two types of travel sickness rumbled on inside my body, but I was not about to throw up the 24 specialty dishes of the City Alliance I finally managed to eat.
“Ma’am, are you… feeling alright?”
My complexion must’ve looked bad because the subordinates were worried about me. Too bad, we were in an emergency situation that could get us fired in the blink of an eye.
There’s no way I’ll let go of this fantastic job that allowed me to eat as much as I wanted!
I did my utmost best not to lose this best-ever job in my life, and eventually, I managed to travel half of the continent in less than a day.
“Mm? Is that you, Team Leader Mirua?”
“H-hey, I told you I’m not an uncle yet…”
This magician uncle I was staring at was already thirty years old, but by relying on the flimsy excuse of him still being a bachelor, he kept arguing that he wasn’t an uncle.
“…Thirty. Years. Old.”
Just as the uncle clutched at his chest and began coughing and wheezing away, I ignored him and searched for anyone that looked a bit more normal than him.
“…There’s no one?”
Everyone present here fell under the label of ‘old bachelor’.
Oh, well. I guess this situation couldn’t be helped.
Her Highness’s army was indeed the best workplace, and others were envious of us being the strongest, but it was also sadly unsuitable for marriages.
That’s because, the moment you choose to get married, Her Highness and Big Sister Reia would show up in the wedding venue to watch the proceedings from start to finish.
As an aside, Her Highness would be all smiles as she stared at the newlyweds, while Big Sister Reia would glare at them nonstop.
The esteemed children of noble families collapsing from the assault of those gazes continued to occur. Because of this, not many weddings were held lately, which made me sad.
I mean, the food found at weddings are all so tasty, you know…
“No, wait. That’s not it.”
Never mind the wedding food, I might not even get to eat regular foods at this rate.
“Uncle, it’s an emergency situation.”
“How big of an emergency are we talking about?”
“Mm… How about, Her Highness will be in a constant state of rage for the next month or so?”
“You should’ve said that from the beginning!”
My surroundings instantly descended to utter pandemonium.
Several people were urgently running around while a few others were calling various places with the communication magic tools. Someone even tripped and fell on their face. Heck, someone was even saying, “It’ll be another late night today, then~”, too.
Watching them doing their own things made me go…
This feeling of nausea was rushing in.
“Hey, you! Stop! Don’t puke in here!”
“Don’t look down on me, uncle. I’ll never throw up all the food I… Wuu-euph!”
“Can’t you see that it’s already beyond your control?!”
The uncle used the body strengthening magic on himself to easily pick me up, then hurriedly began running towards the nearest bathroom.
However, a human body was meant to follow the human will!
I barely managed to hold my vomit in. Then, while being carried on the uncle’s back, I triumphantly returned to…
“I’m sorry, uncle.”
“Don’t puke on my clothes!!!”
In the end, I had to leave behind the traces of my defeat on the uncle’s robe, which he was still paying instalments for.
It seemed that I needed to reimburse him later on through the occupational hazard pay scheme.
“What happened on the field, Team Leader Mirua?”
And so, the meeting went underway after my innards settled down somewhat through the brave sacrifice of the magician uncle.
The seat of honour during the meeting was occupied by Big Sis Reia. Every agent with the status of team leader or higher currently present in the imperial court also gathered for the meeting.
I began briefing them. “It seems that the instructor has fled to somewhere very far away.”
“Urgh… Does that mean we lost him?”
Big Sis Reia furrowed her brow deeply.
Her Highness hadn’t arrived yet, and once she heard about the news of the instructor slipping out of our grasp, she’d no doubt become very sad. That’s why Big Sis Reia was making such a face.
However, that wasn’t the real issue here.
“Although he managed to flee, a couple of agents still managed to stick onto him. However, their current location is…”
“Where are they?!”
Big Sis Reia slammed her fist on the desk, hard.
Her sudden burst of energy forced me to inadvertently blurt out the location right away. “It’s in the demon continent.”
“The magic tool picked up the response coming from somewhere beyond the place called the final city, ma’am. Unfortunately, we were not able to confirm whether he did cross the border or not.”
“The demon… continent, you say?”
When I nodded in affirmation, everyone began looking around as dazed expressions floated up on their faces. They were trying to make sure that they didn’t hear me wrong just now.
“Is something like that even possible?”
“Who knows. The signal is coming from the collar, isn’t it? It’s possible that he had tied the collar on a bird or something then sent it flying that way.”
“Or, he could have sent that agent named Ria alone into the demon continent…”
“Hey, dude. That’s not something a human being would do in good conscience, you know? You think he’d force someone to enter the demon continent alone?”
“You moron! We’re talking about Ast here. That Ast! If it’s him, then yes, he’s completely capable of doing so!”
“What’s this? You’re saying something nonsensical, but the moment you brought up that name, I began thinking that it’s totally possible with him!”
“Indeed, our opponent is none other than Ast, the son of the evil god that even scammed a great demon!”
“You’re right. He has the previous form of bringing a nation down to its knees with nothing but his glib tongue. If it’s him, then it wouldn’t be strange to see him pull out all sorts of underhanded tricks!”
The atmosphere in the meeting venue heated up a lot, but despite that, I still found the reason for the fiery exchange a bit strange.
Everyone present seemed to agree that those possibilities were unrealistic, yet they changed their tunes as soon as our instructor’s name was brought up. They were now saying that the possibility was all too real. Oh, before I forget, I did come to the same conclusion as them.
It sounded like these people had suffered a lot at the hands of our instructor, too.
“I see. For sure, if it’s Sir Ast… If it’s him, then he’s fully capable of forcing a person into the demon continent to slip away by himself.”
“Where could he possibly be by now, then…? Wait, could he still be hiding somewhere in Ruibella the City Alliance?”
“That’s definitely a possibility.”
“Indeed. He could have even infiltrated back into the empire, too.”
“Right. He’s disappeared somewhere up in the northern region, so he could be hiding among His Highness the First Imperial Prince’s faction.”
“No, that will be too much of a stretch. Even in His Highness’s faction, there must be quite a few people who’d grit their teeth at the mere mention of Ast’s name. It’ll be too dicey. It doesn’t suit Ast’s personality.”
“But, he could be aiming exactly for that.”
“Mm, now that you mention it, that also sounds logical.”
All sorts of guesses began flying around now. We were working hard to determine the escapee’s flight path but said paths were gradually getting higher in number instead.
“No, wait. The demon continent option is still available, too. We can’t ignore the possibility that he really did step foot into the demon race’s territory!”
“You’re right. That man is fully capable of scamming even the demons!”
“He could scam a demon and establish a slave contract, then start living a cosy little life in the demon continent for all we know.”
“That’s a crazy notion, but the real crazy thing is our current situation since we can’t even dismiss that notion as something crazy!”
This meeting was supposed to help us narrow down our instructor’s possible escape path, but in the end, we concluded that from now on, we had to scour the demon continent AND the human continent, too.
“Hold on, everyone! At this rate, Her Highness might really start the continental war, you know!”
“Well, we don’t have a choice but to do that if we were to perform our investigation inside the demon continent, Dame Reia.”
“Even though we work for the empire, we can’t extend our influence into the demon race, after all.”
“Right. The demon continent is out of our reach, isn’t it.”
I noticed other team leaders nodding away, so I nodded along with them. But this happened just then.
“We think it’s out of our reach, and that’s precisely why he’ll go there. Ast would surely do something like that.”
Her Highness opened the door and stepped into the meeting venue. Big Sis Reia yielded the seat of honour right away.
“I’ve heard the gist of it on the way. So, the response was coming from somewhere in the demon continent, you say?”
“Yes, Your Highness.” I nodded while being subjected to the Imperial Princess’s gaze.
She closed her eyes and didn’t say anything for a while. She must’ve been thinking about something.
She finally spoke up a short while later, but her eyes remained closed. “Team Leader Mirua. How many of our agents are currently stationed in Ruibella the City Alliance?”
“The total number of agents are three hundred, Your Highness. As for the deployment status, five agents form one team, and one team is deployed per city. Teams consisting of three agents are monitoring various main roads, ma’am.”
“Temporary bases consisting of around twenty agents have been set up to activate teleportation magic, ma’am. Without running into any issues, we were able to set up three such bases near the City Alliance.”
“Is that so?” Her Highness finished listening to my report and opened her eyes about three minutes of silence later. “Very well. This is what we will do.”
“Yes, Your Highness!”
Everyone began paying utmost attention to Her Highness’s lips. But that’s because what our duties were would be decided by what she chose to say now.
“For the time being, each team leader will continue to monitor the zones you’ve been assigned to. To make sure that not even a rat can slip through.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Maintaining status quo? It seemed that Her Highness wanted to observe the situation first.
“However, I shall assign Team Leader Mirua with a new solo mission.”
Uhm, this doesn’t sound good.
The instructor once told me that no solo mission in history was what you’d refer to as ‘normal’ by any stretch of the imagination.
Sure, that mission to infiltrate Marsis a few years ago was pretty enjoyable, but now…
“You’ll have to enter the demon continent and acquire intel for us, Mirua.”
My foreboding was never wrong. Not even once.
The demon continent, Your Highness? How was I even supposed to go there, though?
“B-but, Your Highness…”
“It’ll be alright. I have a plan, you see.”
Her Highness told me to wait, then vacated her seat. And a short while later…
“Here you go. With this, you can do it.”
While smiling away, Her Highness put a headband sporting demon-like horns on my head.
“You can do it, can’t you?”
She continued to smile while asking me a question that nearly made me swear like a sailor. However, she was my boss, an Imperial Princess of this empire.
Which meant my answer was already set in stone, more or less.
And so, the meeting came to an end there. Other agents looked at me with eyes of pity while orderly leaving the venue, but Big Sis Reia remained right until the end.
She patted me on the shoulder and tried to comfort me somehow. “Treat this as an opportunity to sample the demon race’s unique regional cuisines. I’ll also contact the treasury so that you can take lots of money with you, too!”
Her comforting words managed to undo this sadness and frustration welling up in my heart.
She was right. Since things had come to this…! Let’s think of this as me going on a journey to find new cuisines in the mysterious demon continent!
However, the moment I thought that, a question suddenly popped up in my head.
“By the way, big sis?”
“Will the empire’s currency even be accepted in the demon continent?”
“Uh? It won’t?”
Big Sis Reia just stood there, her eyes blinking away absentmindedly. And witnessing her response left me speechless in turn.
“W-well, I’ll get you gold, instead. How about that?”
And so, that’s how I got to travel to the demon continent.