Chapter 39: On Our Way

Mirellia closed her eyes tiredly as the carriage taking her back to Melromarc ran full speed on the trail.

"So, what do you have to say this time? This is a declaration of war! Siltvelt is not going to let things go this time! We're going to war!"

Mirellia calmly glared at the representative of the Lion tribe, Jaralis, who was fuming as he slammed the letter in his hand on the table in front of her.

"You seem to be so eager to go to war against Melromarc, Lord Jaralis. Too eager, in fact. Is it because of the oh-so-honorable reason you said before, or is it because you have an ulterior motive behind it? Is it actually that you want this war to happen?"

The lion beastman roared. "How dare you-?!"

The royal woman stood up from her chair. "If you read this closely, you will see that it wasn't sent by any official representative of Melromarc. I am the official ruler of the country, and right now, I'm here, standing in front of all of you, and I do not approve of this in any way. It means that this – hm, how should I say, a so-called ultimatum, is that what you call it? – has no more value than a piece of toilet paper. Whatever the Church of the Three Heroes did, and is doing right now, does NOT represent the will of Melromarc. They're just a bunch of filthy fanatics who foolishly thought that they could act all high and mighty because I wasn't there."

Jaralis roared. "You, or the Church of the Three Heroes, it doesn't matter! Now they're hunting our God like a dog! We cannot let this continue!"

"Oh, but it does matter, Lord Jaralis," Mirellia's sharp eyes shot a cold glare at the lion beastman. "The Church of the Three Heroes happens to be one of the targets that Sir Shield Hero is helping us to get rid of. And now they have revealed themselves. I think all of you have known that I've been trying to get rid of that corrupt religion for quite a while, and now the opportunity has come. It's Melromarc's time to clean up the filth within our country. There's no reason for any country to meddle in our domestic business."

She pressed deliberately on the word "any", and everyone in the room understood immediately what she meant by that. And judging from Jaralis' expression, he didn't seem happy at all about that.

"And how are you going to do that?" the representative of the aotatsu tribe looked at her dubiously. "From what we heard, they have taken over the country already. You don't even have an army now to command. What can you even do against them?"

"And you already forgot who I, as well as Melromarc, am allying with," the Queen of Melromarc chuckled dryly. "Unlike what you think, I'm still keeping close contact with the Sword, Shield and Spear Heroes, and they are more than ready to help us take down those insurgents. Right now, I believe they're on the way to return to Melromarc. I'm going to meet up with them in a week to discuss strategy. Besides…"

The temperature of the chamber suddenly dropped in an instant, as if someone had just dropped it into a gigantic ice cellar. Icicles started forming in every corner of the room, and even Jaralis couldn't help but trembling as the death glare of the woman in front of him bore dagger on his face.

"…did you really think that a few thousand soldiers would stand a chance against me?"

No one in the room could even utter a word. Maybe because they couldn't find any word to say, or maybe because they were too scared to open their mouths. Siltvelt's High Council might despise humans, but even they could understand why the woman in front of them was known as the most powerful Ice Witch in history.

Mirellia turned around and walked out of the room. But before leaving, she glanced over her shoulder at the High Council of Siltvelt, who were still staring at her leaving back in shock.

"A month. I swear in the name of the Queen of Melromarc that this nuisance is going to be resolved in a month. If not… you're free to do anything you want. But I can say for sure… that you won't have the chance to do that."

That was the reason she was in the carriage, rushing full speed to Melromarc like she was doing right now. If there were anything Mirellia was excellent in, it would be bluffing without even a blink of an eye. She could lie easily and effortlessly and still made her words so believable no one would doubt them. However, lies, after all, are just lies. They're going to collapse as soon as someone pointed out a fact that contradicts them. The only way to prevent that from happening is to make the lies the actual truth, as quickly as possible.

Two hours passed in silence, just like that, except for the noise of the carriage running on the trail. Only a little more before they could see Melromarc's border…

Suddenly Mirellia's eyes hardened. She waved her hand, and a barrier made of ice appeared on the road right in front of the carriage. The carriage swerved dangerously and fell on its side as the filolials pulling it stopped abruptly and shrieked in fear, right before a fireball collided with the ice wall and exploded violently.

Mirellia climbed out of the carriage. Her eyes narrowed as she saw what was going on.

There were Shadows, or ones that were similar, on the branches of the trees in front of her. Lots of them, in fact. All of them were demi-humans. And it was so obvious what they wanted to do.

The two Shadows who were with her stepped in front of her protectively with their weapons drawn. But Mirellia waved her hand to signal for them to stand down.

"Your Majesty…"

Mirellia shot a glare at the Shadows on the trees. There was a darkness that sent absolute chill into the spines of everyone there in her eyes.

"I guess," she said in a deathly cold voice, "that you really need a proof of why I'm called the strongest Ice Witch in history, don't you, Siltvelt?"

"So, what do you need us here for, Naofumi?"

The three carriages carrying the Heroes and their companions were running full speed on the trail leading to the mountain range in the west of Zeltoble, where they would have to cross to return to Melromarc. The mountain range was pretty far away from Zeltoble Harbor, so Captain Fargus had portaled all of them to a small town nearby where they could easily reach there without wasting too much time. EMIYA had wanted to rent some bulls or horses to pull the carriages, but Naofumi's three filolial girls had been so excited about the idea of pulling carriages running into the night, so after a heated argument, he had to give up and let the three girls pull the carriages, under the control of the three sailors, subordinates of Captain Fargus.

Strange thing was, before they departed, Naofumi had insisted on the Heroes sharing the same carriage. It was a weirdly specific request from the Shield Hero, and EMIYA deduced that there must be something important that the younger man wanted all of them to know without being eavesdropped.

Therefore, the Sword, Spear and Axe Heroes, as well as Yuki, who stubbornly refused to leave her Papa no matter what anyone said, were now sitting in the same carriage with the Shield Hero, with all their eyes focusing on him.

Naofumi looked at EMIYA. "Shirou-san. Do you know that it's possible for the Weapons to acquire strengthening methods from others?"

EMIYA blinked. This was the first time he had heard about this. He glanced at Motoyasu, but the Spear Hero looked as confused as him.

"What do you mean?"

Naofumi glanced at Captain Fargus next to him. "When I was with Captain Fargus on the monster island, he asked me why I didn't strengthen myself with the Shield's ability. Of course I didn't know anything like that; no one told me what to do at all. So I asked him how I could strengthen myself, and he told me that I could… strengthen my muscles?"

"That's right!" The Axe Hero flexed his right arm, showing off his strong and big bicep. "Thanks to that I could gain this much power and these beautiful things! Muscles are very important!"

"Anyway," Naofumi butted in again, "when he explained what it was to me, a window popped up and said that the strengthening method had been added. So, could it be that the other Legendary Weapons also have that function?"

"That's impossible!" Motoyasu protested immediately. "I've never heard about anything like that!"

"But I'm telling the truth!" Naofumi shot back.

"Bullshit!" Motoyasu yelled back. "If there is really something like that, why doesn't I have it? The Legendary Weapons are of a higher rank than the Seven Star Weapons; if the Seven Star Weapons have something like that, why doesn't my Spear have it?"

EMIYA pondered. That did seem to be a bit too convenient to be true. However, he didn't think Captain Fargus had any reason to lie to Naofumi about a method of strengthening his Weapon, especially since EMIYA himself had something like that, too.

He turned to Fargus. "Capt', can you explain it more clearly? Have to say that I've never heard about that uh… muscular enhancement before."

The Axe Hero stared at EMIYA. "What? You don't know about it even though you have all those muscles? Damn…"

When EMIYA raised an eyebrow at him, he rolled his eyes. "All right, all right… So, there is something called Muscle Points. You will gain points as you do muscle exercises, and you can use those points to enhance the muscles of your body parts!"

Motoyasu stared at the pirate captain. "That… that's ridiculous! It's no different from normal muscle training, isn't it?!"

Captain Fargus' eyebrows twitched. "So you think muscle training is useless, brat?"

"Hey, hey, hey!" EMIYA decided to defuse the bomb before it could blow up. "Physical training is a perfectly valid way to get stronger. I don't have such a method, either, but maybe it's just because each weapon has a different way to power up. There's no reason not to believe him…"

A sudden chime from the Legendary Sword cut EMIYA's words short. A notice popped up in front of him.


Muscle Enhancement

Muscle Points are earned when the Hero goes through battles and physical trainings. These points can be used to strengthen the muscles in different parts of the Hero's body permanently, specifically the arms, the legs, the back, the chest and the abdomen. This will increase the corresponding battle parameters. Resetting the allocated points is possible with a 3-day cooldown interval.

"Huh, it's here," the Sword Hero blinked. "So what Fargus and Naofumi said was true after all."

Motoyasu gaped. "What… but… how?"

"Maybe we have to believe in it for it to be unlocked?" Naofumi guessed. "It appeared when Shirou-san said there was no reason not to believe Captain, after all."

"Then there is an easy way to confirm that," EMIYA nodded. "Naofumi, my Legendary Sword has three methods of strengthening. First, the weapons you copy have different rarities, ranging from Poor to Legendary. The higher the rarity is, the stronger the weapon is. Second, you can improve the rarity of your weapons after you 'master' them, meaning using them a certain number of times, by reforging them with money and can also be improved by using them multiple times, too, until you master them, at which point you can use them with any weapon that you have, except for unique skills of special weapons. Third, with each level you will gain three Level Points, which you can use to rank up your parameters through a process called Alteration of the Soul."

Captain Fargus whistled. "That's a lot."

"That's a lie!" Motoyasu protested. "I've never even heard of those!"

EMIYA ignored Motoyasu. He looked straight into Naofumi's eyes. "Do you believe me, Naofumi?"

The Shield Hero hesitated. Then, his eyes hardened, and he nodded.

"Yes, I believe you, Shirou-san."

As soon as the words left Naofumi's mouth, three pop-up windows appeared in front of his eyes, showing that the three strengthening methods were unlocked. Hastily, he opened the weapon menu to the Shield of the Round Table, and was startled when he saw the new additions that had just been added to the status of the shield.

[Name: Shield of the Round Table - Quality: Poor - Base Defense: 500]

[Abilities unlocked. Equip bonus: Defense +300, skill: Poison Immunity (MAX), Curse Immunity (MAX), Curse Nullification (MAX), Attack Reflection (High), Hate Reaction, Wide-Area Protection.]

[Unique Skill: Lord Camelot – Level 1 (1/200)]


[Proficiency: 1%]

[Unlocked under special conditions - UNLOCKED]

The rarity of the Shield of the Round Table was listed as Poor, and yet it was already so incredibly powerful. He didn't believe that such a strong weapon could have that low of a rarity, but then again, it could also mean that the weapon still had a lot of potential to unlock.

"It… it works," he breathed. "It actually works."

"I got them unlocked over here, too," Captain Fargus nodded. "It seems you don't actually need to declare that you believe it, just wholeheartedly believing in the information in your mind is enough."

Everyone turned towards Motoyasu. The Spear Hero still looked astonished and shocked, but it seemed this time he couldn't deny it anymore, with the proof being right in front of his eyes. He sighed in defeat.

"Okay, okay… now I believe. It seems that each weapon has their own methods of strengthening…"

And with those words, the methods of strengthening were unlocked for Motoyasu, too. He took a deep breath and said.

"Then… I guess I should also share my methods, I say… My Legendary Spear also has three strengthening methods. First is pretty similar to Shirou-san's, which is the mastery of weapons with repeated usage of the weapon forms. Second, you can use different types of ore which are compatible to each weapon form to power up them. There is no limit to this method, but there is a failure chance which increases with each successful tempering. Usually with normal weapons, failure of tempering would destroy them, but since the Legendary Spear is unbreakable, we can attempt this as many times as we want, as long as we have enough ores. Third, and the most important, is spirit enchantment; you can use the Spear to absorb pieces of monster souls or items, and use them to imbue your weapon with special powers. Stats can also be increased using this method, too."

The unlocking screens appeared in front of the three other Heroes once again, signaling the unlock of the new strengthening methods. Naofumi exclaimed in awe.

"I can't believe it. I knew that this Shield is a powerful thing, but to think that it still has so much potential to unlock…. We now have a big advantage against that Legendary Weapon Replica of the Church! There's no way that son of a bitch could know about these strengthening methods!"

So that's why Zelretch wanted me to unite the Heroes… EMIYA thought. If we work together, it's entirely possible that we might be able to become strong enough to fight against even godlike beings with all these ways to strengthen ourselves.

"Hey, how about you, Naofumi?" Motoyasu suddenly said. "We already shared you our strengthening methods; I think it's time for you to share us yours, I say!"

Naofumi looked at the Shield in his hand. "I… don't have any, besides what you've just given me. The Legendary Shield literally doesn't have any strengthening method… or maybe it doesn't want to show me. I don't know…"

"Or maybe you're just selfish and don't want to share," said the Spear Hero dryly.

Naofumi bristled. "You-!"

EMIYA shook his head. "Don't say that, Motoyasu. The fact that he brought us this information is more than enough contribution already. Without you we would never be able to figure it out on our own. Thanks, Naofumi."

The Shield Hero gave him a hesitant but grateful smile. Motoyasu just huffed unhappily.

"All right," EMIYA opened his inventory and pulled out from there a piece of iron ore. "We still have some time before we arrive, so we need to try those improvements and strengthen ourselves as much as possible. We need all the power we can have against that Griffin King and against what we're going to face in Melromarc."

Meanwhile, in the carriage where Raphtalia and Keel, as well as Sadeena, Larsazusa, Fohl and Atla were sitting…

"My two little girls have both grown up into beautiful ladies themselves," Sadeena swooned happily at her two fellow Lurolonians. "Big sis is so happy for you two…"

Raphtalia beamed at the compliment. Keel, however, squirmed uncomfortably.

"I hate this body," she complained while rubbing her full breasts with her hands, making Fohl blush heavily. "It feels so weird. Even moving feels so weird. It's just like I'm not myself anymore."

Sadeena's eyes gleamed. "Oh, but you have what a lot of girls would even kill to have, Keel-chan. Now that I'm here… I'm going to help you with everything I have to get you used to it, heehee… and maybe even teach you how to use it for good things…"

Keel squeaked in fear.

"By the way, Sadeena-neesan…" Raphtalia raised her voice. "What did you do after our village was destroyed in the Wave? How did you end up in Zeltoble?"

The atmosphere in the carriage suddenly went sullen. The peppy expression on Sadeena's face disappeared, replaced by a melancholic frown.

"I… didn't return in time," finally, after a while, she said in a choked voice. "When I finally returned, the whole village was already in ruins. I couldn't find anyone… I knew immediately who did this, but I couldn't do anything. I… didn't want to live anymore. I didn't know what to do anymore. I just wandered around… aimlessly…"

She took a deep breath and continued. "Then I heard the news. The slaves of Lurolona Village were going to be sold to Zeltoble. Hope ignited in my heart again, and I moved to Zeltoble, with the hope of finding and saving everyone. And I did find them… but…"


Sadeena sighed. "When I arrived, everyone was already enslaved. I couldn't do anything, as they were sold to Zeltoble completely legally. Therefore, the only thing I could do was to stay here and do everything I could to get the money to buy all of them back. I have been working as a mercenary, while at the same time fighting in tournaments, even ones in the underground colosseums… anything I could do to get money."

"Then why didn't you fight in the Grand Tournament earlier?" Fohl asked curiously. "The prize was incredibly high; I think it would be more than enough for you to buy hundreds of slaves, no matter how expensive, right?"

Sadeena chuckled. "True that… but at that time I was in a mercenary mission. And even if I were free back then, I wouldn't stand a chance against Captain Fargus. It's better doing what I know I have a chance to succeed in than charging headfirst into something I know I wouldn't even have a hint of a chance. Not to mention… even if I could somehow beat him, there's no way I would be able to win against someone like the Sword Hero, right?"

Suddenly she smiled brightly. "Captain Fargus was a really big help, though. Even though he didn't know that I knew, I found out that he'd been helping me put pressure on the slave traders to ease up my burden somewhat, behind my back. And he'd promised to take care of the children I managed to buy off while I go with you guys."

Raphtalia held the older woman's hand. "Don't worry, Sadeena-neesan," she smiled gently. "After this, we're going to get everyone back. And then we will rebuild our village, stronger than ever. I promise."

Sadeena looked at her little sister figure with a smile. Then suddenly, her eyes hardened.

"Oh, by the way, Raphtalia-chan. During the time I was here, I've heard something about the Shield Hero taking in a demi-human slave and messing up the whole royal family of Melromarc. That slave…", her eyes narrowed at these words, "…doesn't happen to be you, does it, Raphtalia-chan?"

Raphtalia blinked. "Well, I guess that's me, but…"

Sadeena's hand in Raphtalia's suddenly squeezed the younger woman's hand so tight it started to hurt. Her face now had a cold fury instead of the warm smile from before. And with a quick movement, she pulled the girl's shirt open, startling the raccoon girl as it revealed the slave crest on her chest.

"That son of a bitch…" she growled menacingly. "I should have known…"

Raphtalia's face paled. She understood almost immediately what the older woman was talking about. If she didn't do anything, there's going to be a bloodbath for sure.

"Sadeena-neesan, wait!" she frantically pulled the older woman's arm. "I am indeed Naofumi-sama's slave… but it isn't as bad as you think! It's not like what you usually see with normal slaves!"

Sadeena's eyes narrowed. "Explain."

Raphtalia sighed. She took a deep breath and started talking…

"So that's how it was…" Sadeena sighed after hearing Raphtalia's story. "I didn't know something like that could even happen…"

"Mm," the raccoon girl nodded. "He might look a bit rough, but Naofumi-sama is actually a very great man. Had it not been for him, I might have died back then. And Keel-chan too…"

Sadeena's eyes turned toward Keel. The dog girl nodded.

"Yeah… I was sold to a bastard, together with Rifana-chan. Do you remember her, Sadeena-neesan? The weasel girl who was our childhood friend? Shield Bubba came to us when we were at the bottom of despair, and saved me from that bastard… but… it was too late for Rifana-chan…"

The voice of the dog girl broke. "If only I had been a little stronger back then… If I had been able to stood up to that bastard… Rifana-chan wouldn't have had to…"

Raphtalia put her hand on Keel's shoulder and pulled her into a hug. For a while, the only noise that could be heard in the carriage was the dog girl's light sobbing. Then Larsazusa broke the silence.

"But isn't that really nice? I mean, that slave crest as a sign of their bond, lasting till death do them part? It's just so romantic!"

Then she frowned when she saw Fohl's eyes. "Wh-what's with that expression, boy?"

The hakuko boy deadpanned. "Ah, nothing. It's just no one could ever think that such words could ever escape your mouth, Larsazusa-san."

It seemed that the boy had somehow managed to learn the sharp tongue of his Master, too. The panda lady pouted.

"Hey, I'm a girl too, you know. Even I know what is romantic! It sounds just like a wedding vow to me!"

Suddenly Raphtalia did a spit take. Her face started heating up. "W-w-wedding?!"

Sadeena pondered. "Hmm… when you say it like that, I guess it does make sense. However, I would prefer them having a proper wedding instead… At least before he could make her pregnant, I guess… considering how nicely she talked about him, it's possible that she already is…"

Raphtalia squeaked, her face was beet red now. "Sadeena-neesan!? There's no way I can be pregnant! Well, I mean, we already held hand before, but we haven't kissed yet! There's no way I can be pregnant!"

Suddenly the whole carriage was covered in a deathly silence. Almost every eye in the carriage, even those of Fohl and, well, Atla if she could actually see, was staring at Raphtalia as if she had just said something really blasphemous.

"What," the single word escaped Larsazusa's mouth with an utter expression of disbelief on her face.

"Eh? Is there something wrong?" asked Keel obliviously. She was the only one in the carriage except for Raphtalia who didn't understand what was going on. "Isn't a girl getting pregnant when she kisses a boy?"

A chorused groan echoed around the carriage. Fohl stared at the two girls of Team Naofumi as if each of them had just grown a second head. "What the hell? You mean you don't know how babies are made?! Even Atla knows that!"

Sadeena groaned while facepalming. "I completely forgot that no adult in our village gave their children The Talk when they were still kids…"

And to Fohl's utter dismay, the rest of the journey was spent on delivering a very awkward lesson of sex education to Raphtalia and Keel.

How in the world did things turn this way?!

A choking silence filled the carriage of the last members of the group.

Everyone looked really stressed, but each of their heads was filled with different thoughts.

The young human members of Team EMIYA were trembling. It was understandable; they might have been used to killing monsters now, but none of them had ever experienced the terror of a war before. Talking big is very easy, but walking into a war, where killing people, real, living people, is unavoidable…

Wyndia wasn't saying anything, either. But different from her teammates, she wasn't afraid or stressed. In her mind right now, there was only rage and vengeance.

She didn't remember much about her childhood. Her peaceful days living with her adopted father had quelled down the painful memories of her past a lot, but after seeing that light magic from before, those memories suddenly rushed back and exploded into a raging flame in her heart.

She had learned and loved magic for a long time, but this was the first time she felt such a desire. The desire to use magic to attack, to kill. To murder.

Her hands squeezed around the shaft of her staff unconsciously.

"You all need to relax. It's not good to be so stiff before going into a fight, you know."

The youngsters' heads turned toward Eclair, who had just spoken up. Welt bit his lip bitterly.

"How can I relax? We're walking into a war. We… we're going to have to kill people. I… I don't know anymore. I just can't think of myself shooting at a person. I'm… scared."

Not only Welt, but Tersia and Farrie also shared the same look. Eclair understood what they were thinking. She sighed.

"I understand you. It's going to be very difficult indeed, but then, after doing it a few times, it's not going to be hard anymore."

Even though she said that, her face didn't look pleased at all.

Tersia looked at Eclair curiously. "You must have killed a lot before, Eclair-san."

The knight lady nodded. "Yeah… well, when you work in a position like I did, it's kinda unavoidable, isn't it? Killing… for the sake of your country… On the battlefield, it's either kill or be killed. Everyone in front of you is an enemy. They're going to try to kill you either way."

Then she shook her head. "Just don't let yourself get used to it. Killing people is not something that you should be doing everyday. No matter what reason, there's no honor in killing another person. And in no situation should you let yourself enjoy it. If you enjoy killing other sentient beings, you're just going to become a psychopath, no more, no less."

"Even if that person is an evil bastard who murdered your family and ruined your whole life?"

Eclair looked at Wyndia, who had just said those words a little bit more harshly than necessary. She nodded at the dog girl with a completely serious face.

"Especially if that person is an evil bastard who murdered your family and ruined your whole life."

She added upon seeing the girl's face. "I understand that the Church made you suffer, Wyndia-chan. My family was also killed, and my village was destroyed by the hand of the Church, too. I want to kill them more than anyone would. But we are the ones who stand on the side of justice. We cannot pay evil unto evil. If we go and do to them what they did to us, wouldn't we just be the same as them?"

Wyndia glared at Eclair. It was obvious that the words of the knight lady didn't convince her at all. How could making the people who had ruined her life pay with their own lives be the wrong thing to do?

"Then what you mean is I shouldn't seek revenge?" she said angrily, and Eclair shook her head.

"I've never said that. What I'm saying here is, do not let vengeance cloud your mind. Once you kill someone, there's no turning back for you. Think carefully about what you're going to do so that you won't regret it in the future."

Then she looked at the sky outside. "Besides, killing someone isn't always the best way to punish them. Sometimes, there are things that are much, much worse than even death."

Those last words of Eclair sent chill into the spines of the youngsters.

The carriage returned to silence again. For a while, the only sound they could hear was the wheels hitting the dirt outside. Then, to break the choking atmosphere, Tersia turned toward the only person in the carriage who hadn't said a word since the beginning of the journey.

"How about you, Elena-san? You don't seem to be stressed at all. Could it be that you're used to… well, you know…"

Elena yawned and stretched her back. She looked just like a lazy cat doing that; in fact, Tersia wouldn't be surprised if cat ears popped out of the top of her head right now.

"I just don't see anything worth panicking about." she said while shaking her head back and forth. "Why should I be afraid if it is already clear that we're going to win in the end?"

Those nonchalant words took everyone aback. "How do you even know that?" Tersia pressed. Elena just shrugged.

"There are too many things that is in favor of us here I don't even know how we could probably lose. Sure, they might have that powerful weapon and a lot of troops, but then what? We have three like that on our side, and it's more than certain that not all of those soldiers they have under their control really wanted to be on their side. You already heard that Shadow from before. The fact that they're hunting down people who opposes them right now is the concrete proof. If they've really managed to get the support of the whole country, there's no reason for them to do that at all. But the more they do that, the worse it would be for them. A tyrant fears most the people he oppresses, because he knows that among his victims, there is sure to be one who rises against him and strikes back. But if he uses force to suppress them, it will just give birth to more people who would rise against him. And the more unrest the country has under their reign, the more likely they would collapse as soon as a small spark of revolution ignites anywhere in the country.

"Besides," she added with another yawn, "they have that bitch with them. No matter how competent you might be, if you side with her, you're not going to win. That bitch can find a way to ruin even the most perfect and simplest plan. As long as she's still with them, there's no doubt that we will win."

Seeing the others' faces, she snorted. "You don't know her like I do. That bitch of a princess was just like, born to make things miserable for people. You've already seen how much better Motoyasu-sama had become after finally being able to separate from her. That Pope didn't understand anything; believe me, not us, not Her Majesty, it would be her who would ruin everything for him."

The five other people in the carriage stared at the girl. Those reasonings were completely absurd, yet at the same time, they had such a sound logic behind them that none of them could say a word to rebut.

Sure, she might be older than Welt, Tersia and Farrie, but those words that had just came out of her mouth were wise beyond her years. They sounded like the words of an old philosopher instead of a twenty-year-old young woman.

"If you had already known that beforehand, why did you join Motoyasu's party?" Tersia tilted her head in confusion. Elena just shrugged.

"At that time it looked like the best choice. That bitch has power in her hand, and Motoyasu-sama had the favor of the royal family. He had fame, he had money, he was the most popular Hero. And I want to have an easy life. I don't want to fight. Should have picked the Sword Hero instead…"

"You call that… thing a bitch, but you're even more bitchy than her," Wyndia growled out while glaring at her. Elena ignored her.

"But we're going to war here," Eclair pressed. "If you don't want to fight, what are you going to do when we arrive at the battlefield?"

"Then I will just avoid fighting," said Elena simply.

Everyone stared at the young woman. "But you still helped Motoyasu before," Welt pointed out. "You tried to fight Glass to protect Motoyasu during the Wave, didn't you?"

Elena shrugged again. "At least he's shown that he could become better. I'm realistic, but I still have my own moral, you know. If someone does something good for me, and that person is decent, I will return the favor. I'm never going to betray someone I decided to work with like that bitch does. Unlike her, I know what is right and what is wrong. But asking me to run into a fight to the death against other people and get myself killed? No thank you."

The other people in the carriage couldn't find any word to say. Honestly, the way she talked just made everyone want to punch her in the face. However, at the same time, they understood clearly what she meant.

The girl named Elena Haven might look like a lazy, apathetic person at the first glance, but she turned out to be incredibly smart and cunning for a person of her age. And she was also dangerously pragmatic. She would rather choose to protect her own life before worrying about the end of the world. However, at the same time, she was also an honorable person who would risk her life to fight for the people who treated her right. In the end, she was not an immoral bitch who would be ready to backstab them when she decided it was convenient for her.

In other word, she was a complete wild card. It was impossible to predict what she was going to do. Someone like that is always better to have as an ally than as an enemy.

Elena yawned. She lay down on the side of the carriage. "I'm gonna sleep. Please wake me up when we arrive."

Farrie shook her head. "Why do we always have to associate with such weird people?"

"What's wrong with you guys?"

Naofumi raised an eyebrow as he saw Raphtalia's group coming down from their carriage. His two team members, for some reason, looked mortified and a bit green, while the others shared the same awkward expression on their own faces. Seeing him, Raphtalia's face went beet red in an instant, and she hid behind Sadeena's back with a squeak.

EMIYA looked up. They had finally arrived at the mountain range; in his estimation, this should be equal in height to, or maybe a little bit higher than, Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain of Japan. It should take about ten hours to climb up to the summit, and maybe a little bit less to get down from there. If everything goes according to plan, they will be able to reach the other side and cross Melromarc's border in about a day.

Captain Fargus walked toward him. The Axe Hero said as he offered him a handshake. "I think this is where we must part way for now. Sorry for not being able to escort you further, Brother Sword."

EMIYA took the hand the pirate captain was offering him. "Don't worry, Capt'. If anything, we're the ones who need to thank you for everything you've done for us here. We're gonna be fine from here."

The Axe Hero grinned. He patted the Sword Hero's shoulder. "Teach that bastard Pope a lesson for me, will ya? And take care of the kids, too. They need you."

EMIYA nodded. "I will."

Captain Fargus gathered his three subordinates, and brandishing the Seven Star Axe, the four of them disappeared in a flash of light.

It was still pretty dark. And going up there right now, in the middle of the night like this, was not very wise. EMIYA looked at his companions.

"We're going to have some rest for now. We will depart at dawn, so let's use this time to recover our energy a bit. A big fight is coming, and we cannot let ourselves be distracted."

While everyone was busy preparing their sleeping places, EMIYA looked at the sky.

He didn't know what might be waiting for them. But they had gone too far to retreat now. There's no turning back. The only thing they could do now was to push forward and do the best they could… and hope for the best to come.