──A few hours prior, deep in the woods to the northeast──

 

 

 

 

“Deep in this cave, there should be a sleeping monster.”

 

Mariella told the soldiers under her command.

Deep in the forest was a rocky mountain that led to another mountainous area, and at the foot of that mountain was a cave.

It was just as the Minister of Military Affairs, Zagran, had written in his letter.

If so, the sleeping monster must be deep within.

 

After failing in her attempt to retrieve the mysterious sword, Mariella returned to the town of Nosa.

After that, she prepared the necessary items for this search and came here with her direct subordinates.

 

“His Excellency Zagran is truly great.
Even though he is not here, his insight extends all the way to the border region.
We will investigate immediately.”

“We know the location of the cave.
At the very least, we should report it to Commander Isaac…….”

“No need.”

 

Mariella cut him off.

 

“We have been conducting military exercises in order to exhibit the strength of the Empire, but Princess Sophia and Isaac Mueller have decided to meet with the Demon Lord.
It is clear that the military exercises have failed to fulfil their purpose.
Consider us an independent unit, separate from those failures.”

“Yes….”

“Also, only the Great Dark Bear inhabits the depths in the cave.
It is a weak monster that repeats dormant sleep.
If we awaken it, we must defeat it.”

 

After tying their horses to a nearby tree, the soldiers began advancing towards the cave with Mariella at the forefront.

‘As soon as we locate the monster, we will return to Nosa.
Then, we’ll bring Princess Sophia to defeat the beast.’

This will fulfil the order issued by Zagran.

 

What was to be done with Princess Sophia and Isaac Mueller would be left to Zagran.

‘I should return to the capital as soon as possible, with only the achievements that Zagran wants.’

 

“I don’t know how the upper echelons in the capital will evaluate the meeting between Her Highness and the Demon Lord.
It would be better to pretend that I had nothing to do with it.
This investigation is an excuse for that…”

“Mariella-sama, I hear strange noises.”

 

Suddenly, one of the soldiers stopped.

 

“It’s not the sound of a bear.
It sounds like a large bug crawling.
Perhaps the monsters have noticed us approaching?”

“Oh? Are you going to chicken out?”

“That’s not it but…”

 

The soldier hesitated before speaking his thoughts.

 

“According to rumours, this happened with the monster Gargarossa as well… They found a new monster in the territory of the original monster.
It defeated the original monster and occupied its territory…”

 

The soldier paused for a moment.

 

“I am not siding with Isaac Mueller-sama, but I think it would be best if we returned to town and investigated this with a larger group.”

“I understand.
You cowards will have to remain here.”

“Mariella-sama!?”

“If there is a new species of monster, we should confirm its existence.
Even without knowing anything, you’re chickening out.
You should be ashamed of yourselves as soldiers of the Empire!”

 

 

 

Gurin!

 

 

 

As if in response to Mariela’s shout, a shattering sound rang out from the depths of the cave.

The soldiers reflexively readied their weapons.

Something was coming out of the cave, and it didn’t sound like the Great Dark Bear.

 

What they heard was a rustling sound, like the crawling of an insect, or perhaps the sound of an insect chewing on something.

 

As if awakening from a deep slumber, something sluggishly approached them.

 

“Prepare to attack!”

 

Mariella issued a command.

She had brought ten elite soldiers with her.

‘They should be able to defeat most monsters in the area.
Even if it is a new species of monsters…’

 

──── Guga-a!

 

With a crunch, a pitch-black bear appeared at the entrance to the cave.
However, only its fur could be seen.
The insides of the bear had already been devoured.

 

Gripping the black fur with its mouth was an insect-type monster.

It was gigantic, its head alone must have been approximately half the height of a man.

And then, from the cave, a body with countless legs emerged.

 

The body was several meters long, no, it must have been more than ten meters long.

Its movements were sluggish, perhaps because it had been sleeping.

 

However, when the monster spotted Mariella and the rest, it quickly raised its head.

It was as if a predator had awakened from hibernation and found its first prey after a long time.

 

“A new kind of… monster? It resembles a centipede!”

“Gugaaaaaaaaah!”

 

Perhaps displeased by Mariella’s voice, the giant centipede shook its head and howled.

That was when they realized that this monster was sensitive to sound.

 

Mariella couldn’t move.

This kind of situation had not been mentioned in Zagran’s instructions even slightly.

 

If it had been, such thoughts would have been running through her mind.

However, her body was completely frozen, unable to even speak.

She didn’t know what to do.

To fight or to flee – which would be her decision and which would have been Zagran’s?

 

 

Then, a second centipede also appeared.

Mariella’s frozen state was broken by a glare from its crimson eye.

 

“R-run! Now! Get to the Imperial capital- N-no, call the town of Nosa!”

 

Mariella slashed the cords that tied her horse and straddled it panickedly.

She mounted her horse and rushed it towards the exit of the forest.

The sounds she could hear suggested that her companions were following her.
She hoped all of them had made it, but there was no time to confirm.

 

 

“Goooooooooooooooooo!”

“Gugalaaaaah!”

 

 

The monsters chased after them.

It was only natural.
The monsters would not overlook prey served to them.

 

“Why did it end up like this!!?”

 

Mariella cursed Princess Sophia and Isaac.

If they had not done anything unnecessary, there would have been no need for her to come to investigate the monster alone.

If they had taken the time to investigate the sword carefully, and if it had truly been a holy sword, one swing could have slain that centipede.

 

“How dare you stand in the way of His Excellency! Isaac Mueller!”

“Mariella-sama, in front of you!”

“Eh?”

 

She had been lost so deep in her thoughts that she hadn’t been paying attention to what lay ahead.

She felt a jolt for a moment, before being launched into the air.

‘Come to think of it, we’re in the middle of a forest.
There are tree roots all over the ground and a river running through the forest.’

She had been so distracted by the monster behind her that she had forgotten.

 

“…… Your Excellency Zagran…… Please protect this Mariella…”

 

The impact knocked Mariela unconscious.

Her last thought was that she was wearing light armour and that it would probably prevent her from sinking in the river.

 

(As expected of His Excellency Zagran…… His judgment is impeccable.)

 

Thinking such, Mariella allowed her eyes to close.

 

 

 

 

 

── A few hours later (during Thor and Sophia’s talk)

 

 

 

 

“Someone’s coming!”

 

The pixies, who had disguised themselves as owls and had been dispatched on a scouting mission, noticed the approaching soldiers.

The four of them glanced towards each other and whispered in secret.

 

“That’s the Imperial cavalry, isn’t it?”

“They’re in shambles.”

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know.
Let’s ask Soleil and René!”

 

 

「「「「 Soleil! René! Come, come! 」」」」

 

 

Soleil and René arrived after a while.

Once they had confirmed that the surroundings were safe, they approached one of the cavalrymen, still riding his horse.

 

The cavalryman was clinging to his horse with his eyes closed.

He was without weapon or shield.
He must have dropped them somewhere.
Even his armor was coming off.

He was bleeding from his limbs and breathing heavily.

 

“What happened?”

“It looks like you’re injured.”

“…… Uh-uh.”

 

The soldier turned to Soleil and René, a vacant look in his eyes.

He didn’t even notice the peculiarity of an owl speaking.

 

“I am…… a subordinate of Mariella-sama.”

 

He said, his voice muffled.

 

“I was investigating…… the dormant monster with…… Mariella-sama, but something unexpected…… has happened…”

“Unexpected?”

“What happened?”

“We were told that the monster in the border region was just a bear – the Great Dark Bear,…… but it wasn’t the bear.
He was already dead,…… and in that place was a massive, long worm,…… Ah, ah!”

 

The cavalryman strengthened his grip on his horse and began to tremble.

 

“I don’t…… know anything about that thing! I didn’t know there was a monster like that,…… that thing,…… that thing!”

“Mr.
Horse, please take this man in that direction.”

“There are Imperial soldiers over there, please join them.”

 

Soleil and René approached the horse’s ear and urged it.

The horse ran in the direction of the Imperial Guard.

 

“This monster sounds dangerous.”

“Let’s make sure everything is safe, for our benefactor.
Soleil!”

 

The black and white owls flew up.

They searched in the direction from which the cavalryman arrived – and found it.

 

They caught sight of a massive shadow behind a rocky hill.

It was moving precisely in their direction, a cloud of dust rising in its wake.

 

“It’s a very large centipede, René.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a monster before, Soleil.”

 

They were certain that it was dangerous.

At this rate, the monster would either attack the town or rush towards the area in which the Empire and the Demon Territory were meeting.

 

“”We will go and inform our lord and Benefactor-sama.””

 

The two changed directions mid-air.

They flew in a straight line towards Thor and the rest.

Half a chapter this week.
It’s a long one.
Sorry for splitting it…

 

 

 

 

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