Evade the Hero and Flee! 182 #21. The Stories of Others (1)>
#1 Their circumstance: A certain Elf’s circumstance
“How long are we supposed to be in here?”
“I don’t know.”
Currently, we were stuck inside a way-too brilliantly decorated room. So gorgeous was the décor that I was beginning to feel rather out of place.
Just where did it start to go wrong, though? No, before all that, why were Hill and I even confined to this room in the first place?
I asked Hill. “What about the Order’s response?”
“Our opponent this time is a poor match, unfortunately.”
Hill was a saint from one of the religious orders, and I was an Elf performing the duty of a High Elf – an existence that could be referred to as the anchor of the Elf race.
Anyone daring to confine us like this would naturally subject themselves to an incredible level of diplomatic pressure. Only a lunatic would deal with such pressure head-on.
And as bad luck would have it, Hill and I got kidnapped by one such lunatic capable of utterly ignoring all those diplomatic pressure. No, wait, she was actually capable of kidnapping us and then exerting pressure on the other party.
“Please excuse me.”
A maid knocked on the door, silently slipped inside, then quickly cleaned the room.
It had already been over a month. And during that time, Hill and I did nothing but just lounge around and receive treatment fit for nobility.
“Just how long are we supposed to stay like this, I wonder…”
The room was so gorgeous that it made us very uncomfortable. Being stuck in such a room meant that there was not a whole lot we could do besides sigh every now and then.
Sir hero suddenly told us we needed to run away, so we tried to flee from the Neidon Kingdom through a small hole in the royal castle wall.
But when we emerged on the other side, what waited for us were the princess of the Neidon Kingdom, Vera, and countless soldiers accompanying her!
Their sudden appearance knocked our senses out cold, resulting in our unceremonious capture. By the time we regained some of our wits, Sir hero was about to get captured himself.
Right at that critical moment, a lone woman appeared out of nowhere, and, as if to make a mockery out of all those countless soldiers, she escaped from the cordon with us two and Sir hero in tow. It didn’t end there, though, as she left us here and took Sir hero somewhere else afterwards.
Aaaand that’s how we got ‘imprisoned’ within the Karuan Empire.
“Well, I’m still unsure about whether to call this an imprisonment or not…”
“I agree. It’s too vague.”
It certainly was an imprisonment of sorts – imprisonment where we were forbidden from leaving the city. In other words, we were allowed to do whatever we pleased within the city limits.
We could go on a stroll. We could also contact people at the Order of Nature. Didn’t matter what we did, the ones monitoring us didn’t try to stop or hinder us.
The Neidon Kingdom did something roughly similar, but they weren’t as open about it as the Karuan Empire.
Including the maid that took care of cleaning the room and bringing our meals and snacks, we’d always have around six people proclaiming to be our escorts tailing us whenever we went outside.
They had the common decency of not following us into the toilet or the bath, but… Those locations didn’t have any windows, to begin with, making it impossible for us to slip away unnoticed anyway.
Should I say, as expected of the empire? Even resorting to magic tools operated only through magic stones for ventilation purposes!
I had a sneaking suspicion that the upkeep cost for this building alone would be higher than my home village’s living cost for one month.
Our issue with this situation was… Did this building boast perfect security worthy of such cost?
“Hill, are you confident in sticking close to me if I try to force my way out of this place?”
“Nope, not at all. But please be honest, are you confident in breaking through without anyone’s help?”
Every single soldier guarding us nearby was stronger than me. Even if I didn’t possess the combat ability ranked in the highest echelons of the Elvish society, I was still evaluated to be one of the higher-rated combatants. Yet we were monitored by individuals that even I found very challenging to beat. And there were at least six of them, to boot.
Judging from their lackadaisical behaviour so far, there must’ve been quite a lot of hidden agents around us.
Hill sighed. “We need to escape first so that Sir hero can also make his escape…”
“Nope. The way I see it, even if we managed to slip away from this place, Sir hero will not be so successful in his attempts.”
All the ‘agents’ here told me that they were still trainees not yet fit for active duty. People so strong that even I’d have trouble winning against were merely trainees? Although difficult to believe, their revelation was unfortunately pretty close to being the truth.
Their leader seemed to be acquainted with Sir hero. Her name was Mirua, and she seemed like Sir hero’s classmate. But the chasm between my skills and that, uh, kid’s skills seemed unbridgeable to my eyes.
If the difference between us was around two, maybe three times, then I’d have figured out at least a small part of her true capability. But as I was now, I couldn’t discern even the smallest fragment of this kid named Mirua’s true strength.
I wonder, if we brushed past each other in the street, would I have ever thought that this kid was an incredible warrior? Maybe I’d have seen her as just a regular girl found practically everywhere. Probably?
The thing was, every agent I saw in passing while being led into this place looked like Mirua the Kid’s underling, so there was that…
“So, this was why people keep harping on and on about empire this and empire that.”
Most of the time, your skills were honed through ‘experience’. Starting from the obvious one, like how many actual battles you’ve been through, to how many times you’ve been swinging that sword around every day…
…Experiences that your body and soul memorised.
‘Experience’ was the only method available for unremarkable, normal people to utterly humiliate geniuses. And it was also one of the reasons why other races were stronger than humans.
Humans, on average, couldn’t live past one hundred years. But both Elves and dwarves could live up to three hundred years, five hundred if they were the long-living kind. Such a gap in lifespan was a wall no human could overcome.
Yet… that wall had crumbled down oh-so easily.
An elder dragon that had lived for twenty thousand years was defeated by a human that had only lived for two decades or so. I’ve been alive for around fifty years, yet I was losing to soldiers that had lived for only twenty years or so.
The one commonality in all these people was the simple fact that they were born and raised in the Karuan Empire. The one true hegemony of the continent, a powerhouse nation that not even the alliance of ten kingdoms could defeat!
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Hill interjected just then and calmed me down when I began shuddering in terror. I had finally glimpsed the nonsensical level of the empire’s true strength, so there was no helping it!
“There’s a fairly large Order of Nature temple in the empire. And I used to be a citizen of the empire, too. So, please believe me when I say this… These people are abnormal.”
If I was asked who would most likely lie among all the lifeforms in this world, then without any hesitation whatsoever, I’d choose humans.
That’s how much I distrusted humans. It was not for nothing that an Elvish idiom of, ‘You can believe an Orc, but you must never trust a human’s words’ came into existence!
But I could trust what Hill was telling me. As the saint of a religious order, he understood very well the weight of each and every word he spoke. Out of every human I met so far, I’d say he was easily the most trustworthy one.
Honestly speaking, I could never trust Sir hero, but I certainly could believe Hill.
Hill continued on. “If agents of such unbelievable skill levels were overflowing in the empire, then never mind emerging as the victor in the last great war, this nation would’ve conquered the entire continent by now.”
“Well, you have a point there.”
The empire might have enjoyed an overwhelming victory in the last great war, but that didn’t mean everything was smooth sailing. It did taste some defeats here and there. A few renowned commanders of the empire were killed in action, and they lost several small and large-scale skirmishes, too.
Even so, the empire emerged victorious. That’s because it never suffered a defeat that might have destabilised the overall balance of the war. And perhaps more importantly, a certain military unit managed to win consecutive battles, thereby tilting the balance in the empire’s favour… Mm?
“Could it be…?”
“Yes, your guess is probably right on the money.”
Even if Elves refrained from participating in human wars, we obviously had heard about the last war, which happened to be big enough in scale to earn the modifier of ‘great’.
No, wait. During the great war, the forest where Elves called home was set on fire and preying on the ensuing confusion, a raid had been performed on us Elves. That prompted us to finally interfere in human society.
That’s why I knew as well as anyone the identity of the strongest military unit boasting the unbroken win streak in the great war.
…I knew to whom this unit belonged.
“Why would the unit belonging to that crazy b*tch do this to us?!”
Atia Nel Karuan.
Within the borders of the empire, she was referred to as the Ironblood Sovereign and also the Undefeated Empress. But in other nations, she absolutely monopolised every imaginable modifier associated with the term ‘witch’, such as the ‘Cold-blooded’ Witch, the ‘Insane’ Witch, the ‘Bloodthirsty’ Witch, etc., etc…
Born as the eldest daughter of the imperial family, her life before and during the first phase of the great war could only be described as quiet and uninteresting. But then, she suddenly jumped in with both feet.
She searched for the defeated warriors and brought them under her wings to reinforce the military, and, during the great war itself, she utterly destroyed two kingdoms and trampled on three other kingdoms until they could never rise up again.
Why was the unit belonging to such a witch imprisoning us? No, more specifically, why were they imprisoning Sir hero?!
“Could it be… because of Sir hero’s…?”
According to Hill’s explanation, the reason for our hasty departure from the Neidon Kingdom were because Princess Vera fell head over heels with our Sir hero, and he felt his chastity being threatened by her!
Hill butted in just then. “I don’t think that’s the reason.”
“But… would there be another reason besides that one?”
“Even so, it’s still a bit…”
“I mean, come on now. Sir hero is supposed to be a son of an important aristocrat affiliated with the Karuan Empire, right? Yes, he’s a son of the Raina ducal family! What could be the reason for someone like that to leave his home and become a hero?!”
All sorts of possibilities and scenarios formed in my head before vanishing into the ether, starting from utterly nonsensical imaginations to some that made me go, ‘Huh? That kinda sounds plausible, doesn’t it?’
“Maybe… Who knows? Sir hero could’ve made her highness fall in love without realising it, and unable to forget about him, she decided to kidnap him in order to…!”
“Seriously, I can’t listen to this drivel anymore.”
“Who goes there!”
Just as I began mouthing off the most likely scenario out of all my imaginations, a voice of some man suddenly rose up from right next to us.
“What the hell? Just what kind of a flower field do you need to stumble around to come up with such a crazy imagining? Do Elves get high, too? Ah, wait. Now that I think about it, drugs were extracted from plants, weren’t they? Elves love all things green, they say. I’m guessing that green bit meant that kind of green, huh?”
“Who are you?”
This intruder insulted Elves just now but, before I could rebuke him for his rude words, I needed to ascertain our opponent’s identity first.
Honestly, my willpower was already at its limit trying to not tremble in fright, you see!
“Me? I’m the unit leader’s underling.”
The intruder nonchalantly threw that revelation out there, but it still managed to utterly shock us.
The only ‘unit leader’ we knew was Mirua, the girl who took Sir hero away to who knows where. Which meant that this intruder was most likely her underling.
And that also meant…
‘…Just how strong is this guy?!’
The moment my eyes landed on this man, I instinctively felt the difference in the gap in our strengths. It felt like this man gave off the impression of a dark, foreboding aura tightly bunched up together, like some kind of a devil.
If it was as simple as the dark-aura-in-a-bundle kind of a deal, I’d have attacked right away. But it was not. This man also emitted a completely different aura, hidden beneath the wall of this dark aura.
It was none other than the divine aura, quite similar to Hill’s! And Hill was the saint of the Order of Nature! To think that this man of darkness emitted such sacred aura of divine nature?!
I even got a feeling that I should be bowing my head and reverentially looking up at the rude intruder.
“Could you be a holy man from the demon race?”
“No, that’s not it.”
“Your friend’s right. I’m a human, see?”
Hill replied before the intruder could. Did that mean Hill knew who this man was?
Hill began explaining. “A god from another world… Among the ranks of summoners, someone managed to summon a god from another world.”
“A deity-level summoner, you say?”
Although the god was from another world, it was still a god. And someone capable of summoning such a being…?
Rather obviously, such a summoning was absolutely impossible to pull off if you didn’t have the aptitude and excellent talent for it.
Deity-level summoners were divided into three phases, and the first phase involved the summoner borrowing a portion of the god’s powers. The second phase was about borrowing the god’s weapon, and the third phase was either summoning the god itself to this world or having the god take possession of your actual physical body.
However, this man didn’t seem to be in any of the three phases. The aura he emitted seemed like it’d be the third phase, but the ‘content’ was a human, not a god.
I didn’t know how this was possible, but that person was undoubtedly a human being. A human that happened to emit an unmistakably sacred aura.
“Well… Originally, we wouldn’t have a reason to meet like this, but… Now that we’re here, I should at least introduce myself, eh?” The man lowered his head slightly as a greeting while looking like he had no choice in the matter. “I’m Rissen, team leader of the Kidnap Ast Squad, 4th division.”
“Kidnap what squad??”
For a moment there, I thought I misheard what this man was saying.
What did he say the name of the imperial princess’s exclusive unit was, again? You know, the one called the strongest in the strongest nation on the continent?
It’s the… Kidnap Squad???
“Is it really the Kidnap Squad?”
“Yup, it sure is.”
He definitely said something very weird just now. But we had nothing to retort with when he looked at us as if we were the weird ones here.
This was weird. Very, very weird!
“What, do you find something is weird?”
“W-well, that is…”
The silent pressure began crushing down on me. This… This is like, you don’t want me to reply that it is bloody weird, isn’t it?!
“N-nothing… is… weird here…”
I barely managed to squeak out a reply through my trembling lips, prompting the man to grin in satisfaction.
But then, he said something else. “You know, I did find ‘that’ a bit weird, though.”
“Your daydreaming just now. You said that Her Highness was in love with someone, didn’t you?”
I had a slip of the tongue just then, didn’t I?
No matter what people labelled her with, she was still an Imperial Princess of the strongest nation on the continent, a symbol of victory in the last great war. Just what madness drove me to say such a blasphemous thing towards someone like that??
Maybe I really did lose my mind just now?
“It was a slip of the tongue on my part. Forgive me.”
The wisest course of action after making a mistake was to apologise as soon as possible.
Out of all the human nations, the empire maintained the friendliest relationship with the Elves. I simply couldn’t afford to destroy that relationship with my slip of the tongue.
Thankfully, the man named Rissen readily accepted my apology. “Indeed, you had a slip-up. That’s all. I mean, if it was only merely a hero, then none of us would be working our asses off like this, you know.”
…Why did his comeback deviate in a rather weird direction, again?!
“Do you have annnny idea how much we invested in capturing the professor from our former academy?! How dare you compare him to some measly little hero!”
T-this pressure that forbade me from replying at all!
By the way, I still can’t understand what you’re saying!!!
“W-wait… Could it be that your aim is not our hero, but Sir Sage… no, I mean Sir hero’s teacher?”
Unlike me that failed to understand this man’s muttering, Hill seemed to have figured something out by now.
“Correct. Your hero’s teacher is indeed our target. And Her Highness’s target, too.”
Hill continued on with his questions. “I must ask you this for clarification, but… It’s concerning the scenario my colleague here, Selena the Elf, came up with. Was she right all along?”
Hill had crossed the line there. What he said just now could become even more problematic than how I tried to romantically tie up the hero and the Imperial Princess!
“Ng, you’re correct again.”
Too bad for me, or fortunately for us, my expectation was wide off the mark.
And from that day on, I got to experience something rather mystical where all my expectations needed to be thrown out the window.