༺ Subjugation Force (3) ༻
Next to the crackling bonfire, Eleanor and Iliya were silently staring at the ground.
Since it didn’t seem right to assign camping preparations to two major nobles, Eleanor and Iliya took it upon themselves to handle all the camping preparations despite their status.
“Tent, sleeping bags, preserved combat rations. Wow, this brings back memories…”
“…Have you done something like this before?”
“Many times. Not at the Campbell Barony though.”
Although Dowd uttered such an unclear explanation, his words didn’t seem to be a lie as the camping preparations were finished quickly and efficiently thanks to him.
After that, he disappeared with the Duke and Margrave to discuss ‘subjugation plans,’ leaving the two behind to stand watch.
‘What in the world did he even do in the past?’
He was someone with so many hidden talents that it was suspicious.
For example, this thing in particular was something that people in the military would learn.
‘…Come to think of it.’
In the first place, the reason why they had grown so friendly was because Iliya had forcibly squeezed herself into his life to find out what kind of person he was.
The reason behind that was because she suspected he had some kind of connection with the Tristan Household.
However, as time went on, she seemed to continue to stick around him more because of how genuine of a person he was rather than basing it on any ulterior motive, but still…
‘What is the relationship between these two?’
As she observed Eleanor poking at the bonfire, such a thought crossed her mind.
There was no doubt that they were close. Both of them were the first to depend on each other in emergencies, this fact was easily noticeable.
If that was the case…
Why did he…
‘Leave Iliya entirely in my hands. I’ll make sure you never regret such a choice.’
Why did he utter such words?
Iliya let out a fierce glare, barely managing to calm the rising heat that was reaching her ears.
‘…I-It’s not like I have any feelings for him yet or something!’
In any case, her ‘resentment’ towards the Tristan Duchy was still intact.
Despite the man frequently saying or doing things that touched her heart in uncomfortable ways, he was misunderstanding greatly if he thought she had fallen for him!
Until that part was resolved, she had no intention of receiving his feel–!
‘…Uh, wait a minute.’
Wasn’t that sound like she’d automatically accept him if that matter was resolved?
‘N-No, it’s not like that…!’
As she struggled to come up with an excuse for god knows who, Eleanor suddenly jumped up from her seat.
Seeing her trembling while holding a sword, it was evident that she was quite scared. It was fascinating to see her unchanged expression despite the situation though.
Iliya’s gaze also sharpened. The fact that the other person showed such a reaction clearly indicated that some sort of threat was near—
But, as soon as she saw what was facing the tip of Eleanor’s sword, her expression quickly went blank.
“…What are you doing to a bug?”
Eleanor looked down at the ground with an expression of disbelief.
There was an organism wriggling that was almost the size of a human palm.
“…This is a bug? Isn’t it the remains of a demonic creature?”
“Countryside bugs all look like this. Is it your first time seeing one?”
‘What kind of demonic land is the countryside?’
As Eleanor briefly entertained such a thought, Iliya walked over and casually picked up the creature.
A golden beetle. And a particularly large one at that.
“Ah, so nostalgic.”
“There were a lot of them in my hometown. We used to play around with them like this.”
With a wide smile, Iliya skillfully handled the bug.
It squirmed while it crawled along from her hand through her arm.
Seeing this, Eleanor tumbled backwards.
Even when the bug crawled up to her face, Iliya just laughed as if it tickled.
“Don’t get caught by a scary person and live a long, long life~”
After playing with it for a while, Iliya finally let the bug go and waved her hand with an amused expression.
“…Student Council President? What are you doing?”
Eleanor was curled up in the distance, almost as if she was trying to deny reality.
She held her drooped head while trembling and shaking so much that it looked like she had seen a ghost.
“Don’t come close, you monster…!”
‘Who was the one that cut people into pieces without changing her expression? What was she even on about?’
‘Wait, is she scared of bugs?’
After pondering such a thought, Iliya sat by the bonfire once again.
Still, it was a rare sight to see.
She could have never imagined this side of her since the other girl always exuded a stoic atmosphere and an expressionless face at the academy.
Besides, she seemed to be the type to break an evil spirit’s neck with her bare hands if one were to appear in front of her rather than being scared.
She gazed at Eleanor, who was carefully returning to the bonfire while squirming her toes.
If she had never approached the people of the Tristan Household because she always thought them as trash that were no better than Devils…
And, she would’ve never discovered this side of Eleanor.
That man was the reason behind this.
If it wasn’t for him, she would’ve never even considered interacting with Eleanor.
“Um, hey. President.”
The reason she called out to her so suddenly was probably because she had such thoughts.
It was a question that she would never ask under normal circumstances, but she had a strong intuition that if she didn’t bring it up now, there would never be another opportunity.
“President, do you have a bad relationship with the Duke?”
Eleanor’s eyebrows twitched at the question.
“…What’s your intention behind that question?”
“If you think I’m being intrusive, you don’t have to answer. However…”
While looking straight into Eleanor’s eyes, she continued.
“I got beaten up a lot of times while training with the Margrave since I was very young. So, I think he’s a bit scary, but still…”
“I can clearly feel that he is doing it for me. Just rushing over to help me when he should be busy is enough evidence to prove that.”
Major nobles were people whose every move could become a sensational piece of rumors.
Despite having representatives to handle affairs in their respective territories, the ultimate decision-maker was still themselves.
The fact that he ran over all the way here after just receiving a single letter was enough to convey how precious she was to him.
Moreover, they weren’t biologically related. Instead, they were just a foster family.
However, the relationship between Eleanor and Gideon was…
“…It feels like you consider him as an enemy.”
Gideon’s attitude towards Eleanor was terrifyingly constant.
It was almost as if he didn’t recognize Eleanor’s existence at all, as he showed no reaction regardless of whether she was nearby or not.
Eleanor’s attitude was somewhat similar.
Unlike Gideon, whenever she looked at him, an unmistakable animosity flowed from her eyes.
“It seemed strange. Is there any reason a child would glare at her parent like that?”
“You’re indeed being intrusive, Iliya Krisanax.”
Iliya nodded with a bitter smile.
“But, I can give you an answer.”
As Iliya stared at her with wide eyes, Eleanor continued in a composed voice.
“…If you want a reason, there are several.”
From the cruel training she underwent as a child to the relentless instillation of all the etiquettes a noble lady should uphold.
No matter how one looked at it, her memories were filled with experiences that made it difficult to like her father.
Nevertheless, when reflecting on her childhood memories…
Her relationship with her father was not bad. In fact, it was harmonious.
At least, until a certain period in time.
“However, if I had to choose the biggest reason…”
That memory was still vivid.
Iliya’s breath momentarily halted.
‘What did she say?’
“Killed? What does that mean…?”
“Just as it sounds. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.”
It was a summer day, the sunlight was glaring.
Inside her father’s study.
When young Eleanor ran over to her father with a big smile, wanting to show him something…
At this point, she couldn’t even remember what it was. Perhaps it was a drawing she wanted to boast about.
She smelled a stench of blood that flowed out of the door.
What she saw was her father, holding a blood-soaked sword. And on the ground…
Eleanor momentarily fell into silence and closed her eyes.
However, when she opened them again…
The voice that came out was still composed. Her expression remained unchanged.
“Is not my father. He’s nothing more than an enemy I will defeat one day.”
Iliya didn’t have a single chance to ask why such a thing happened or why he did what he did.
Even in the midst of saying those words, the animosity in Eleanor’s eyes and the chaos that dwelled, making all the hair on her body stand…
It was so terrifying that Iliya couldn’t even move.
“Is this enough of an answer?”
The frozen atmosphere settled heavily around them.
After such words, Eleanor was calmly rummaging the embers with an expressionless face.
Prior to this, Iliya had simply thought of her as an enemy.
But it seemed she harbored a far more complicated situation than she had initially believed.
It was to the extent that she wanted to delve a little deeper.
As Iliya contemplated this while gazing at the person across from her, Eleanor suddenly spoke.
“Since I’ve answered your question, may I ask one as well?”
“…Oh, um, yes?”
“You. How far have you gone with Dowd?”
‘Gone? What was she even saying…? What was ‘gone’ supposed to mean?’
“….What’s your intention behind that question?”
Eleanor stroked her chin and let out her breath through her nose.
“I’ve only gone as far as a hug.”
“Well, I guess I’ve half given up on expecting him to not freely frolic with other women. It’s in his nature, after all.”
Eleanor continued with a chilly voice.
And IIiya, who had been listening quietly, flinched at her words.
“I can’t distinguish between him playing with fire or him having ‘real’ intent. It’s a bit problematic if there’s another woman who went further than me. I might find it intolerable.”
“…What will you do if you can’t tolerate it?”
In turn, Eleanor fell silent, stroking her chin once again.
It seemed as if she hadn’t thought that far yet.
“Ah, I know…”
In no time, she seemed to have come up with a good idea, but…
“Maybe I should kill that woman?”
“Since I can’t exactly kill Dowd, don’t you think it’s a good idea?”
‘What was so ‘good’ about that?!’
‘What a crazy bitch!’
“Anyway, that’s why I asked how far you’ve gone with him. Seeing that Dowd made a promise to go this hometown with you before me, it roused my suspicio–”
“…W-Well, I haven’t even held hands with him!”
Her confession was as swift as lightning.
While it was a bit sad to say such things, if she wanted to survive this moment, she had no other choice.
Having heard that, Eleanor nodded quietly.
It seemed like she was satisfied with the answer.
“I’ll allow up to hand holding.”
“However, no hugging. Even I have only gotten that far. Understood?”
Even though Trisha, who had taken the lead and sent her all the way here, would probably sigh if she knew about this, Iliya just nodded for now.
Then again, she had to prioritize her survival first before she could even start considering competing with her or whatever.
After all, the Lady in front of her seemed more than ready to kill if Dowd got involved with another woman more than necessary.
Right when she was in such contemplation…
Two people suddenly fell from the sky.
It seemed like the more she stayed around this man, the more frequently she had experiences where people suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
She observed the two people who were sprawled on the ground with narrow eyes.
“That man, seriously! Does he think it’s enough if he gives a single coordinate and tells us to rush there?! I’ve been feeling this for a while, but he is unmatched when it comes to handling people roughly!”
“Big Sis, even while saying that, you did everything Dowd told you to do.”
“…Quiet down, Yuria.”
As the two people picked themselves up while muttering such complaints, Iliya’s eyes trembled in shock.
“Oh. Lady Tristan?”
As she dusted off her clothes, Lucia tilted her head.
Due to their position, they had passed each other several times in official settings, but they had never spoken to each other before.
As such, Eleanor, who knew how much of an important figure the Saintess was, couldn’t help but ask with a bewildered voice.
“What brings you here?”
“…Originally, I heard that Duke Tristan and Margrave Kendride were gathered here, so I came to mediate between them, but…”
Lucia scanned the camp.
Although it was necessary to directly see who was here to confirm her suspicions, considering it was the correct number of people, at the very least, it was certain that they were ‘camping together.’
In essence, it didn’t seem like an atmosphere for a life-and-death confrontation.
“…From the state of this place, it doesn’t seem like we need to do anything like that. It definitely feels like we were called out here because he wanted to assign another ta–”
“Where is Mr. Dowd?”
Yuria’s words abruptly cut off her sister.
It seemed like she didn’t care about anything else besides Dowd’s whereabouts.
Eleanor flinched at her words, but Yuria continued to look around without any concern.
Her hand was fondling the collar as if she was anxious.
“…I wish he could touch this a bit.”
“Or maybe grab it and toss me like he usually does…”
“…What kind of habit have you developed?”
As Lucia complained with an exhausted voice…
Iliya who was watching this scene suddenly felt a chill run down her spine as she swiftly turned her head.
Eleanor’s body was now beyond flinching and had started to tremble.
“…May I ask your name?”
At her words, Yuria turned her head towards Eleanor.
“I’m Yuria Greyhounder. Are you… Lady Tristan?”
“Pleased to meet you, Yuria Greyhounder. As you said, I am Eleanor Elinalise La Tristan.”
Her sentence itself was polite. However, for some reason, the chill Iliya felt just intensified.
“May I ask what relationship you have with Dowd Campbell…?”
Yuria tilted her head.
It seemed as if she was trying to figure out a good way to describe their relationship
“… He’s someone very important to me?”
Eleanor’s expression convulsed, almost as if it was cracking.
“Then, that collar is…?”
“Mr. Dowd put it on me.”
“I feel better when I have it on. Of course, it was the best when he grabbed the leash and dragged me arou—”
When she heard those words, a flashback of the recent conversation played in Illiya’s mind.
‘I can’t distinguish between him playing with fire or him having ‘real’ intent. It’s a bit problematic if there’s another woman who went further than me. I might find it intolerable.’
A woman who couldn’t even tolerate seeing that man hug another woman…
Had now met a girl who wore a collar, saying she enjoyed it when that man dragged her around by the leash.
A small contemplative sound escaped from Iliya.
‘…Mr. Dowd… aren’t you in big trouble?’
He really was.
“…I found it, but…”
I packed the magically engineered telescope as I said this.
A visible grey aura was sporadically flowing from the middle of the mountain.
“It seems much more difficult to subjugate than I thought.”
The fact that the demonic aura was noticeable, implied that the Devil’s Fragment had deeply fused with the demonic creature.
In other words, the difficulty level of the battle could have risen even higher than expected.
“It looks dangerous. WIthout a divine power specialist, we might have some trouble.”
Although Kraut said such words, instead of responding, I just descended from the tall rock with a faint smile.
“I’ve already called one over.”
They had probably arrived at the base camp by now.
‘Speaking of the base camp…’
There was a reason why Gideon and Kraut were the only ones I brought along this time.
[ Targets ‘Iliya’ and Eleanor’ are engaging in a sincere conversation. ]
[ The bond between these two characters has slightly deepened!! ]
[ Forming a party of members that has built bonds with each other provides various adjustments in ability! ]
‘That’s what I’m talking about.’
While progressing through side quests, events that formed a ‘bond’ between party members occasionally occur when they stick together. Especially if they were placed in the same ‘accommodations’ as each other.
Main Quests usually progressed quickly within a few days, while side quests tended to have a longer, winding path. It seemed that such a design was part of the game settings.
“Hey, Dweeb. Why haven’t you said anything since earlier?”
Kraut suddenly threw such words at Gideon, who was standing next to him in a daze.
Instead of answering, Gideon just gestured randomly with his hands in silence.
“…It’s none of your business, Barbarian.”
After cutting Kraut off with a blunt voice, Gideon turned around and walked away somewhere.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“…I’m going to hunt some demonic creatures nearby.”
Even though tomorrow was the day of the subjugation, he suddenly declared that he was going for an unnecessary battle. However, neither Kraut nor I tried to stop him.
After all, we both knew that he couldn’t rest easy unless he cut something.
With a slightly lower voice than before, Kraut gazed at me and spoke.
“You know his current state is serious, right?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And you’re scheming something to use that state of his?”
“…How did you know?”
“Look at this fucker not even trying to hide it.”
Kraut chuckled before replying.
“I can tell instantly. After all, you’re no fool, but you still chose to bring such an uncontrollable guy all the way here.”
With a sigh, he continued.
“Do you know about the curse related to that Dweeb’s household? If we make even the slightest mistake in our strategy, we could all die because of him.”
Of course I knew.
Improving the relationship between him and Eleanor was an essential step in freeing their household from the curse.
To achieve that, it was much better for Gideon to maintain his current state.
“…If you help me, it will be resolved a lot easier than you think.”
“Well, whatever. Since I’m already involved in your ploy, I’ll see what you can do. Do whatever you want. I’ll let you use me however you wish for now.”
Kraut turned to me with a smiling face.
However, his eyes were not smiling at all.
“If something goes wrong and Iliya gets hurt, I’m going to kill you, okay?”
I knew it.
This guy was a hopelessly doting father.
‘…Caliban would be pleased if he saw this.’
I pondered as such while looking at the amulet on my wrist.
The reason why this man was so devoted to Iliya was also because of a ‘promise’ he made with Caliban.
Well, the full story would unfold in Chapter 4 anyway, where the main focus of the story was Iliya.
As such, establishing a relationship with Kraut now would undoubtedly be helpful at that time.
“…That won’t happen, so let’s go back. We need to be well-rested for the subjugation tomorrow.”
With that, I turned around. Since all the tasks are finished,I just needed to finalize the plan.
Perhaps I could actually relax a bit tonig—
[ A moment of danger has been detected.]
[ Determined the situation as life-threatening. ]
[ Skill: Desperation raised to EX-Grade. ]
[ ! Alert ! ]
[ It is recommended to return to the camp immediately! ]
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