96 Episode 96 "Operation "Hostage Exchange" by The Ki...

 The day before the hostage exchange...

The day before the hostage exchange was to take place.
 Princess Carol and I were talking in the castle of the Kittle Lord.

"I have a question for Princess Carol.
"Yes. What is it, sir? "My Lord of the Frontier.
You said you'd remonstrate with your brother Tonia Gurtra. But he has imprisoned Princess Sylvia's father and sister and is connected to the Ten Wise Masters.
"...... Yes. Right.
Is your brother the kind of man you want to talk to?

 When I said that, Princess Carol turned her head away.
 So I paused for a moment and then said.

"Care to make a bet? Princess Carol-Gurtra.
"A bet?
"Only if your brother is willing to trade hostages with you. If not, I want you to be the next "Grand Duke of Glutra.
"...... for me?
It's more convenient for me. You don't discriminate against subhumans, and you have the courage to come here to warn us of the danger. I think you are the right person to lead the people. If ...... His Majesty the Dragon Emperor were here, I think he would appoint you as the 'Gurutra Patriarch'.
"...... is a strange man. The King of the Frontier.

 Princess Carol smiled.

"Your words sound like the words of the Dragon Emperor.
"Have you ever spoken to the Dragon King?
"I've been playing ......, though.
I've been playing that game since I was a little girl, talking to the mural of the Dragon Emperor on the top floor of the Tower of the Tooth Castle and answering it myself. I've been playing that game since I was little. Isn't it funny?
...... Sourdough.
Why are you speaking in one language?
It's nothing. So, what did the princess say?
"...... I'll take the word of the King of the Frontier.

 Princess Carol rose from her seat and made the formal bow as the daughter of a lord.

If my brother Tonia wishes to harm Princess Sylvia or any of you, I will ...... remove him and take my place as Grand Duke of Gurtra. In the name of my great father and the Dragon Emperor, I promise you this.
"Thank you. Princess Carol. I'll help you as much as I can.

 The safety of the frontier depends on whether she or Tonia Gurtra is the keeper.
 And Princess Carol is trustworthy. She's a valuable asset.
 Returning her to Tonia Grutola would be too dangerous.

I'll take care of it myself now that I've gotten permission from the Gluthras.

"Lord of the Frontier. May I touch your hand?
"......? I don't mind.

 I did as I was told and held out my right hand.
 Princess Carol knelt down in front of me and took my hand as an offering - why?

"It's one of the drawings from the Dragon Emperor's mural.
On a mural?
Yes. It's of a trivial woman swearing allegiance to the Dragon Emperor.
Princess Carol?
It's a game. "The King of the Frontier.

 Princess Carol said, and touched the back of my hand with her lips.

"I've always wanted to try it. "I've always wanted to try it. Just play along and have a laugh.
"...... After all this time, Princess Carol does do some pretty crazy stuff, doesn't she?
Is that so?

 The princess flipped up the skirt of her dress and spun around.
 Then she looked into my face...

"I'm just doing what I want to do under the guidance of the Dragon Emperor.

 That's how he smiled.

 The next day (after the start of the hostage exchange), in the vicinity of the Castle of the Fangs, Shoma's point of view...

"The arrow with the red cloth is up. Brother.

I am now holding Lysette in my arms.
 I'm on my way to the Fang Castle in Gurutra with Lisette in my arms.

I can see the color of the arrows from this distance because I'm flying through the air with my "flying seeds awakened".
 By the way, yellow means "hostage exchange successfully completed".

 Kuro: "I'm in over my head, I need help.

"Tonia Gurtra is attacking us. But we'll figure it out.
"Yes. Two up means the enemy has moved their troops to attack us.
Then we don't need to be shy either.

 In the past, Tonia Gurtra had been holding Sylvia's father and sister captive.
 I thought he wouldn't just accept a hostage exchange.
 You've been moving your troops without question.

It's not as if ...... negotiations are going to work.

 We can't just let Princess Carol go back to the Gurator Territory.
 Let's keep her safe here.

Let's go, Lisette. We'll sneak into the Castle of Fangs and restore the magic circle. We'll use that as a base for Princess Carol and keep her safe.
"Yes, brother. Brother.

 Tonia-Gurtra's people use black magic of 'mind control'.
 I'm sure you're not the only one who has a problem with that.
 If you don't put up a ward to purify black magic, you'll be in danger.

The problem is, if we meet an enemy in the tower...

 I'll try to be as calm as possible.
 Our goal is not to fight.

 Lysette and I descended to the ground when we saw the Castle of the Fangs.
Sho's magic power was low, so he drank a "magic hot spring potion" to recover.
 When his magic power was at its maximum, he began his mission.

...... Then, let's turn invisible.
"......, I understand. I got it.

 Lysette and I drank the Invisibility Potion.
 Our bodies became transparent.
 The clothes I'm wearing are the "Transparent Clothes" made from the leaves and a little bark of the "Touka Tree".
 You can change your clothes in the shade of the tree and put them in the King's Vessel, a storage skill, and you're ready to go.

"......, Brother Shoma.
What's the matter, Lisette?
I'm not sure what's going on with this ...... outfit.
It's ...... made of leaves.

 It's not comfortable.
 It's not very comfortable, and it's shaped like a badly made camisole, so it's pretty unreliable.
 You can't wear ...... underwear to make it transparent.

"Let's make this quick. Lysette. Come here.
Yes, yes.

 Lysette and I linked hands (after two strikes).
 Then I hold Lysette's transparent body in my arms.

"Can I imitate Haruka just now?
Imitate Haruka?
"That girl, even when she's naked, will say, 'Hahaha. I'm sure you'll be happy to hear that.
...... I don't mind, but...
"So, then. I'm sorry.

 Lysette gave a small sob.
 Lysette sobbed softly and put her hands on me.

"Ha, ha, ha. I'm with my brother Shoma. ...... Ugh.
"Take it easy. Lisette.
Lysette has taken on the mission of infiltrating the Castle of the Fangs. I'm going to let go of all shame now. I will hug and cling to you. Let's get this operation started. Brother!
"...... Okay, okay.

 I spread my wings and rose.

 In front of me is the castle of the Grand Protectorate of Gurtra.
 There are soldiers patrolling on the castle walls. But they don't know we're there.

 I'm flying with as little wing movement as possible. There should be no wind noise.
 The tower we're after is .............

 There's a very large tower inside the city walls. It's a stone tower with a slight incline.
 According to the information, there are 14 levels inside, with a magic circle and a mural of the Dragon Emperor on the top floor.
 If we can get in from the roof, we can jump in at once and mess with the magic circle like we did in the Tower of Lingering Demons (now the True Zanshin Demon Castle)...

 From the looks of it, there are no windows on the top floor.
 There seems to be a window on the floor below that, but you can see ...... people.

 If you can get in, you'd better go to the roof, if not, you'd better go two floors down, the 12th.

"...... We'll head for the top of the tower at once. Hold on tight.
"...... Yes, sir.

 We became invisible and passed over the soldiers' heads.
 We went straight to the inside of the castle walls.

 There are also soldiers inside the castle grounds, but they are few. The stables are empty.
 It seems that most of the horses and soldiers have gone to the hostage exchange.
 We'd better do what we can while we still can.

 After all, there was no entrance to the roof.
 We had no choice but to enter the tower from the 12th floor.
 The window was blocked by a board, so we cut it with the "super hard long sword" and removed it.
 Then I understood the purpose of this level.

 This is a prison.
 The room we entered was about the size of a single hotel room.
 There is a bed against the wall, a small desk, and some crispy plates and cups.
There was even a jacket with the emblem of the "Grand Protector of Kittle" on it.

 Were Princess Sylvia's father and sister trapped on this floor?

"...... I hear footsteps. Brother.

 Lysette put her ear to the door and said.
 There is a small window at the top of the door.
 I moved the wings of my Shoshu Kakusei and stuck to the ceiling.
 I put my face close to the small window and looked out to see an old soldier with a white beard walking down the hallway.

 There were no other soldiers in sight at the moment.

I'm sure you'll be able to figure out how to get the best out of me." "...... I thought the Castle of the Fangs was controlled by a loyal retainer of the previous Grand Patriarch Gurtra.
"...... Yes. I heard that Princess Carol helped you to escape from the castle.

 Lysette and I nodded to each other (though we couldn't see each other's faces because we were invisible).
 Our goal is to activate the magic circle, not to fight.
 Let's neutralize the soldiers safely.

 We decide to go ahead with the plan.

 Soldier's point of view...

 Clang. Boom!

Who are you?

 The soldier on guard duty shouted.
 He grabbed his spear and turned his head towards the sound.

The twelfth level of the Castle of Fangs is a facility for keeping nobles locked up.
 In the past, it was used to imprison those who defied the Lord Keeper.

 Now, there is no one on this level. Until recently, Argos-Kittle and Mireina-Kittle of the Kittle Patriarchate were imprisoned here, but they were taken out for a "hostage exchange".
 No one else is supposed to be in this hierarchy. And yet .......

...... who's there!

 The guard soldier shouted into the corridor.
 There was no reply.
 He walks out with a key in his hand.

He walks off with the key in his hand. Please don't play games with me. ......

 Clang. Boom!

 The sound was coming from the door in front of me.
 The guards peered in through the small window, but there was no one there.

 What should I do?
 If there's a commotion, the general will come down from upstairs.
 I hate that guy. I don't understand why someone who doesn't belong to the Gurutra Lordship would be bothering him in the first place. I don't want to see him at all.

 I have to do something before the higher-ups find out.
 With that in mind, he pulled open the cell door.
 It's unlocked. It's an empty room to begin with.

...... Is anyone in there?

 The guard soldier pulled open the door and held his spear towards the room.

"There's no one in there. ......?

 The soldier looked around.
 Really, there is no one there.
 There was no one under the desk, no one under the bed. The sound has stopped.

"...... No! No! The window's open!

 The guards rushed to the window.
 The wooden door, which had been closed to keep the trapped people from jumping out, had been removed. The connection had been cut off and the window was now wide open.
 Why on earth?

 That's what he thought...

 The prison door slammed shut with a bang.
 The guards hurriedly turned the knob and pushed the door.

 It didn't budge.

"Why won't it open?

 The key was in the lock. The key is in his waistband.
 There was no way he could lock the door without using it.
 But the door doesn't budge. It's as if there's a wall in front of him.

"...... you didn't see anything. You didn't see anything. It's just a badly made door.

 Suddenly, a voice came from the hallway.
 You can't see him. But it's a calm voice.

"...... This was an accident. I need a moment of your time. Then I'll let you go.
"...... pretend you were forced to take the key and lock yourself in. That will protect your position. I've heard that you were a loyal servant of the last governor.

 Again, whispers and boisterous shouts came from behind the door.
 The soldier acting as a guard put his hand out of the small window and hit something like an invisible wall.
 That's what's blocking the door.

Are you one of the Ten Wise Men? Is Princess Carol safe? ......?
"Shiro bearded guard. Are you on Princess Carol's side?
"Yes, indeed.
I'll tell you what. Princess Carol is safe. I assure you.

 The guard's body relaxed.

 The voice seems to be on Princess Carol's side.
 Then we might as well believe .......

 After the guard changed to Tonia Gurtra and joined forces with the Ten Wise Men, the Gurtra Guard territory went crazy.
 The tax rate became higher, and tolls were set up at various points along the roads.
 Furthermore, they captured the governor and princess of a neighboring country and imprisoned them, something that should not have happened.

Please wait! If you've come here based on Princess Carol's information, I have something to tell you!
"...... Quiet.
"...... has changed the administrator of the Castle of Fangs. The previous manager was dismissed because he was held responsible for letting Princess Carol escape. General Kerga, a general under the Ten Wise Men, is now in charge of the castle. He is on the upper floor overlooking the castle.

 The soldier on guard whispered.

"Furthermore. In addition, most of the civilian and military officers of the Grand Protectorate of Gurtra are under the mental control of Kuro Magic. Everyone ...... really wants Princess Carol to be the Grand Protector. Neither the soldiers nor the people want to be ruled by ...... the Ten Sages. ......
"Okay. Thank you for the information.
"Hey, hey.
"...... Please help Princess Carol. ......

 No answer.
 The guard soldier sighed and decided to wait for things to end.

 Shoma's point of view...

 On this upper floor, there is a general (・・・・) under the command of the Ten Sages (・・・・・).
 I'd like to bet on whether you can get past him while invisible.

...... Lysette, hide behind me.
"...... Brother Shoma.

 Lysette and I are whispering to each other about our plans.
 I still have 100% of the dragon's magic left in me. I can use my dragon scales to block the enemy's attacks.

 Lysette can also be awakened as the Dragon General, but her awakening time is shorter than mine.
 I should be the shield here.

"It is the duty of a vassal to protect the king. Lysette will be your shield.
No, it is the duty of a brother to protect his sister-in-law.
......, brother.
My storage skill still has the soldier of will. We'll figure it out.

 We climbed the stairs leading to the 13th level while invisible.
 When we reached the halfway point we saw a large hall.

 The 13th level has pillars everywhere. However, there are no rooms.
 Each level is a great hall.

 There are weapons tied to the pillars. It was originally an armory.
 There are many windows in the walls. When the enemy invaded, they would hide here and shoot the enemy through the windows. It seems to be such a place.

"...... intruder.

 I heard voices.
 A large man was standing in the middle of the room.
 He was holding a long-handled axe in his hand. His body was clad in metal armor and a helmet.

"Show yourself! Show yourself! You are in the presence of Kelga, vassal of the Ten Wise Masters, who holds the rank of general!

 General Kelga is facing me and Lisette.
 He's not bluffing, he really knows.

"...... How did a vassal of the Ten Sages end up in the Castle of the Fangs?

 I asked.

"Haha. I know. To bring Princess Carol to the Ten Wise Men.

 General Kelga opened his mouth and smiled.
 He's a big man with a black beard around his mouth.
 He looked like a great warrior of the turbulent times.
 The only thing that bothers me is that his eyes are glowing red. The fact that he can see us seems to suggest that he has such skills.

"I have a request from Tonia Gurtra. I offer Princess Carol as a consort to Lord Balton, the Tenth Wise Man. In exchange, I ask that you take Lord Balton's daughter as your wife.

 General Kelga's lips quirked up in a smile.

"Tonia-Gurtra's wish will be granted, but ...... Princess Carol will not. She fled against the will of the Ten Wise Masters. She should be ...... treated as a servant. A servant who wears shackles and needs permission to speak.
...... is the worst.

 Don't talk about it with such glee. You're a grown man.

 Princess Carol was a good person.
 She knew it was dangerous to come to the Kittle Keep to give us information.
 And now she's wearing shackles and ...... asking for permission to talk to me. It's too bad.

My job is to look after the castle. My job is to manage the people in the castle, because I can see everything from here. But the black magic of mental control seems to be in effect now. They're obedient. Boring.

 General Kelga looks at the ground, his eyes glowing red.

"Princess Carol was hoping for a peaceful relationship with the Kittle Lord.

 I looked at him and said.

It's useless. Argos-Kitoru and Mireina-Kitoru are under black magic. They're already Tonia Gurtra's puppets! They're probably holding a dagger to their daughter's neck right now!
 ...... So, who are you?
I'm ......, a passerby, an enemy of the goddess.
"Enemy of the Goddess"?
I have business on the top floor of this tower. If you let me through, I won't be hostile.
Don't be ridiculous!

 He's pissed. Of course he is.

"It's been decided that Lord Balton, the Tenth Wise Man, will rule this Grand Protectorate. Not only that, but the neighboring territory of Kittle.
Are you controlling Argos-Kittle and Myrna-Kittle with ......?
I do not know. I don't know. I was taken in by the Ten Wise Masters.
What do you want with the Ten Wise Men? They're practically at the top of the country, aren't they? What more do you want?
I told you I don't know what the Great Sage is thinking, didn't I?
You're powerful enough to detect an invisible intruder.
This is my weapon. The palace is full of ghosts. The palace is full of ghosts, and fighting them has given me the ability to see the presence of souls.

 General Gerga smiled, his red eyes wide.

The Tenth Sage, Lord Balton, has given me the mission to rule the Grand Protectorate of Gurtra because of my power! It is my duty to live up to his expectations!

 You can't do this quietly.
 She's already stated that she's going to rule the Grand Protectorate of Gurtra.
 So Tonia-Gurtra is just being used. And if the soldiers are under the control of black magic, .......

 We can't let Princess Carol back in this place.
 She's a valuable asset who can accept subhumans as normal.

It doesn't matter what you do. By now, the mind-controlled Kittle Patriarchs will be attacking Princess Sylvia and the others!
"No, I've taken precautions against black magic.

 I said.
 No, I've taken precautions against black magic," I said. General Kelga stiffened, his mouth hanging open.

Maybe the mental control you had over the lord and his daughter is gone.

 That's what I'm trying to do.
 An invisible Haruka is hiding at the site of the hostage exchange.
 There are also a lot of "soldiers of will" who have been placed on the ground and covered with soil as her subordinates.
 Moreover, Haruka was flying an arrow that meant "I can deal with them normally".

 I'm sure they've completely subdued the enemy soldiers by now.

"But! Princess Carol is coming back this way! Tonia Gurtra has powerful wizards under her command!
"Princess Carol has a very powerful wizard as her bodyguard. If Tonia-Gurtra takes hostile action, I've told her to take Princess Carol and return to the Kitor Territory.
I'll come back to clean up before that. I'm just here to clean up before that. I just want our territorial neighbors to have as much peace as possible.
"Oh, my God!

 General Kelga barked.
 He raised his long-handled axe and kicked the floor. His huge body sprinted. It's surprisingly fast!

I'm not sure what to do.

 I flew backwards with Lisette in my arms.
 A moment later, General Kelga's axe passes by where I was.

 It's amazing.
 This guy seems to know exactly where I am.

My brother will not be harmed! Come, cleansing flame... 'Crail Flare'!

 Lysette's cleansing flames flew towards General Kelga.

"I see it! I see you!
I'm not sure what to do.

 The General Kelga flew straight to the side and avoided Lysette's flames.
 He's moving unusually fast. I'm not sure what to make of it.

"My ability is to see the presence of souls. And instantaneous power.

 General Kelga laughed.

 So this is the ability of a general under the Ten Sages.
 Judging from his age, he's not exactly a summoner of the goddess.
 Are there people of this caliber in this world? That's amazing. .......

"Lysette, take shelter! Purifying fire again!
"Yes, yes!

 I jumped backwards with Lysette in my arms.
 At the same time, Lysette unleashes the Crail Flare again. You can avoid it.

 There was a thud.
 The sound of my back hitting the wall.

"Hmm. Not much time left. Intruder.
At least let me see your face. Or you'll lose your head.

 General Kelga laughs.
 I've gone invisible.

...... Looks like you're not one to be trifled with.

 I held up my 'super hard' long sword.
 I'm not sure what to do, but I'm sure I'll be able to do it.

 The air rang with a bang.

"Oh! Intruder! You're quite powerful, aren't you? Then let's go head to head!
I'm looking forward to it. Come on.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

 With a long-handled axe in his hand, General Kelga rushes forward.

 It's as if a giant demon is closing in.
 With his power, he could easily shatter the outer wall of the tower.

 The mission is successful (・・・・・).

 In the face of the fearsome general, I...

"──── Hey!

 The "Soldier of Will" that had been pretending to be a wall behind me was stored in the "King's Vessel" and deployed at my feet.
 Then I jumped backwards through the wide open window.

"──── Huh?

 General Kelga, who was rushing forward at full speed, could not stop.
 He probably thought the wall was behind him and felt safe.
 In reality, he was sprinting towards the open window.

 And with that momentum, he leapt into the air...

"Here we go.

 I awakened the Flying Seed and plummeted.
 I also summoned the Soldier of Will.

 I use it as a ramp...


 Roll, roll, roll...


 I threw General Kelga into a cell one level down (12th floor).

 It's next to the room Lysette and I broke into.
 Before we came up to this floor, I opened the window of the next room to use it for our mission.

 That's why I was standing right in front of the window.
 Killing him or throwing him down would be a problem.
 I was going to lock him up as a source of information.
 He'd have to stay in jail for a while.

 I'll collect the long-handled axe he gave up with the King's Vessel, and block the window with the Soldier of Will.

"What? What? What? Huh?
"Well then.

 While General Kelga was rolling his eyes, I walked out the door of the prison.
 I closed the door and left the Soldier of Will outside.

"────". Geez!
"Let's make it two for soundproofing.

 I placed the second Soldier of Will in front of the door.
 It was quiet.

That was a tough opponent.

 That's why I stopped fighting.
 I can't take on a powerful general in a turbulent world when I still have work to do.

 The plan is simple.
 First, I blinded them with Lysette's "Crail Flare" and blocked the window with the "Soldier of Will" while moving between them.
 The reason I showed my face was to draw their attention to me.
 I then raised my voice and raised my sword to provoke them.
 All I had to do was rush General Kelga as hard as I could and drop him out the window.

 But I didn't expect him to see through my invisibility.
 I guess there are people with amazing abilities other than the official summoners of the Goddess. .......

I'll be careful next time. Yeah.
"Are you alright, brother?

 I looked up and saw Lysette coming up the stairs.
Invisibility has been lifted. She looks worried.

"Yeah. General Kelga was a ...... formidable opponent.
It was you who easily neutralized that formidable opponent, wasn't it?
No. If General Kelga had the ability to fly, he would have been in trouble.
No matter how strong the general is, he can't do anything in the sky. ......
I'm sure they'll take countermeasures next time. I'll think of a new plan.
We'll discuss it when we get back to the frontier. You too, Prim.

 While discussing this, Lizette and I headed to the top floor of the tower - between the magic circle and the mural.