Half a day later outside the fort.....
Harold who sitting under a tree, is instructing the twenty volunteers. They salute and go to different direction around the fort. He then turns to me.
“Erwin, will you go to scout?” (Harold)
“No. I will prepare here. Have you told them to check what I asked before?” (Erwin)
“Yes. From the old hunter we know that they have changed their guards about three times. Each group stands guard for around six hours. This evening is the last confirmation.” (Harold)
“Then we already know our window. At midnight I will go in.” (Erwin)
“Our scouts will tell you when they are changing. Be careful.” (Harold)
“I will. I entrust Mary in your care.” (Erwin)
“Hey. I am not a kid.” (Mary)
“I know. I know.” (Erwin)
I avert my eyes from Mary who is glaring and look around the small camp. There is a small group of people nearby. They are preparing multiple torches. Yuni is helping them. I can also see Ken, Frank and other youths.
The torches are attached to trees here and there. The plan is to use them to cover our retreat. If they are lit in the middle of the night, they will give out an impression of a lot of people. Everyone is busy moving about.
I look down to my bag. Taking out mags, I start to check them again. I pull out box of bullets and mag loader, then start reloading the empty mags.
I will only bring my rifle, sidearm and a sword. As little as possible to infiltrate the fort but still numerous enough to protect my life.
The fort has an approximately eighty to ninety people. The bandits who retreated yesterday also gathered here. They arrived in the morning. I prepare four mags for my rifle and five mags for sidearm. Then I sharpen my sword.
“How do we fight them? There are only twenty of us.” (Mary)
“There will be more coming in. Mostly mercenaries. We will have around thirty people by then. Besides, we don’t need to fight them all. We are rescue team. Exterminating them will take more time.” (Harold)
“I see. I want to go in faster. I am worried for Alice.” (Mary)
“Calm down. We can’t rescue anyone that way. Though I hate it as well, we are short in man and fighting power.” (Harold)
“I can use my magic.” (Mary)
“Then you get exposed and have to run from the village? You have to watch yourself as well.” (Erwin)
I say to her as I put in the leftover mags, loader and the box of bullets back into my bag. I put in the box first, then I try to fit in the loader. Lastly, I put in the mags.
“Then you will just leave her until tonight? What will happen to her? How scared she will be in there?” (Mary)
I flinch but keep silent. There is no way I can answer them. Harold sighs while he is watching. He seems to have seen something, then he shakes his head. I close my bag and put it aside together with my weapons.
“I will take a rest first. Wake me up later.” (Erwin)
I walk to a tree and jump up. After I find a suitable branch, I close my eyes while leaning on the trunk.
“How can he be like that? So indifferent.” (Mary)
Mary is fuming at the sight of Erwin being too indifferent. He should be more worried. Does he really not care about Alishia? She kicks a stone away.
“Let him be.” (Harold)
“Hmm? What do you mean?” (Mary)
Harold shakes his head and turns back to the map he is holding. Mary, being left out, walks around the camp. She looks at Erwin a distance away, sleeping. She suppresses her irritations and worries.
The camp is quiet. Although there are many people here, they all work in silence. There aren’t any tents or bonfires since they are not going to stay for even a night. A lot of torches have been placed on trees.
Mary watches them work. She wants to help but she doesn’t know how to. She has never done anything like preparing torches, sharpening swords, or the like. All because she is used to magic and have no need for them.
Want a fire? Magic. Want water? Magic. Want light? Magic. She has been too comfortable that she can’t help with anything now that her magic is sealed. Her hard life in her village seems like a dream for her now.
After watching them for awhile, she starts to get bored. She unconsciously walks to the stone where Erwin sat on just now. When she walks near the stone, she kicks on something on the ground. She looks down on it.
An empty mag is quietly lying there. She looks around but there is no other thing. The mag is the only thing nearby. She crouches down to look at it.
“Why is this thing here?” (Mary)
Mary picks it up and walks to the stone once again. She is looking at the mag while thinking. Soon, she sits down on the stone. Opening Erwin’s bag, she puts the mag in.
Afterward, she sits on the stone and waits for the night to come.
I open my eyes to the large moon high in the sky. The sky is clear and a lot of stars brighten it up even more. It is not a good weather for infiltration as the guards will have a clear view of everything around them.
‘Though that poses little threat to me.’
I open up the bracelet system and check the clock and battery. The time is ten p.m., two hours before infiltration. Looking at the battery percentage, I can use the camouflage for nearly two hours straight.
I smile a bit and think of the infiltration. I will have to go alone inside that compound.
“What are you smiling at? A creepy one at that.”
I look down. There under the tree stands Mary who is a lot different since this evening. She is much more calmer now.
“Nothing. I am just thinking of how to get inside.” (Erwin)
Mary looks up to the sky and says, “It’s not a good weather, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I can still get inside with camouflage though so it’s fine however it is.” (Erwin)
“Need my help? I can cause wind to blow heavily for a while. That should distract them and might even blow off their torches.” (Mary)
“Won’t people know you can use magic then?” (Erwin)
“They will know if the wind is infused with mana. However, I can still use other way to cause wind to blow.” (Mary)
“Basic Science. Wind blows from colder place to hotter place. From higher pressure to lower pressure. I will just raise the temperature of the ground at one place and lower the temperature of the ground on the opposite side.” (Mary)
“The same concept of wind blows from the sea in the morning and then it blows back to sea in the night. The concept used by fishermen to sail into the sea when they are using a sail instead of engine.” (Erwin)
Mary smiles. Her confidence infects me as I feel myself more calmer. However, even if it helps...
“So.... How far do you have to go so other villagers won’t feel your magic?” (Erwin)
“Erm... Don’t worry about it. I will be fine.” (Mary)
“How far?” (Erwin)
“Not far.” (Mary)
I jump down the tree and stare into her eyes. Mary diverts her eyes away, unwilling to meet my gaze. She takes a step back. I take a step forward.
“How far?” (Erwin)
Pressured, Mary eventually gives up after a long silence.
“About half an hour away. I have thought about it as the wind mustn’t be too strong or you can’t climb it nor too weak so the guards can just ignore them. Also due to Harold’s strategy, I have to go farther thus the wind will go weaker.” (Mary)
Half an hour to go there. Coming and going will be an hour and she has to go to two places for the wind to work out. Well, if she only got one side hotter, the wind will blow from all directions and weak. She will have to travel between two places for two hours.
“Nope. You stay here.” (Erwin)
“I want to help!” (Mary)
“It’s in the middle of the night so it’s dangerous for a girl to go out alone.” (Erwin)
“Then, escort me.” (Mary)
“Will I have enough time to reach the fort when the wind is still blowing and you’re back here?” (Erwin)
“I remember that ground loses their heat quickly. So will it be enough?” (Erwin)
“I can just make it hotter.” (Mary)
“So it can’t hold out that long? You just changed your plan from maintaining it there to make it hotter, right?” (Erwin)
“Er... Yes.” (Mary)
“That’s a no. Stay here.” (Erwin)
“But! I want to help!” (Mary)
“No but! Argh! Where was the timid girl who always listen to me went to?” (Erwin)
“You always listen to me before. However, this morning and even now, you are so obstinate. Tell me. Is this your true personality?” (Erwin)
“It’s because you’re my good friend. I am only timid around strangers... At least that’s what my mentor and close friends told me. Do I really that timid?” (Mary)
I suddenly have an urge to just prostate on the spot. So I was just treated as a stranger before. No, maybe just a degree of friend but not close. Good thing it improved though.
No. No. Now is not the time to think about it.
“We will take care of that later. Just stay here tonight. No need to help me. It’s too dangerous.” (Erwin)
“Hey... Can you two keep your voices down while flirting? The others are jealous.”
Following Yuni’s voices, Mary and I look around. Yuni is slightly away from us and she smiles wryly. Faraway under trees countless cold gazes are directed to me.
Harold is sitting on a stone beside Yuni. He looks on with a wide smile on his face. I get a shiver looking at him.
“If I have to say, I will say that you are quite timid just like what your mentor and friends said.” (Yuni)
“Err... Okay?” (Mary)
“See? Your timidness comes out. I need to improve my relationship with you.” (Yuni)
Saying so, Yuni grabs Mary and pulls her to a stone slab faraway. She sits down with Mary on her laps. Yuni hums along with Mary not knowing what to do to escape.
“That takes care of her huh? Now then. Erwin, prepare to rescue Alishia.” (Harold)
I smiles wryly and looks over to Mary. She looks back with a resignation in her eyes. I wave at her and walk to where my bag is.
Taking up my weapons and fitting it on my suit, I confirm my equipment. There mustn’t be anything that will hit each other and cause noises. There mustn’t be anything that will reflect lights and expose my position.
I tighten up the suits and look over to the fort.
Inside the fort.....
“Welcome, honorable nobles. Please come this way.” (Yaza)
“Ah. Knight Yaza. I heard that you get your hands on a nice girl.”
“Yes, Sire. I have recently got her. I will show her to honorable nobles soon.” (Yaza)
“No need to hurry. I want to check some other stuffs first.”
“Certainly. I will prepare the documents. Please wait in the study. If you need anything, just tell this subordinate of mine.” (Yaza)
“Hahaha. Good maid.”
“Yeah. A nice maid.”
“Let’s go to the study now.”
A group of young men with extravagant clothes walk into the study with a few maids in tow. Yaza walks to his room and touches his cupboard at a certain place. Soon, a small compartment opens up.
Yaza takes out the scrolls from within. After checking quite a lot of them, he takes some scrolls and put the rest back in. He walks slowly back to the study.
Along the way, he passes a small room. He peeks in through a small window-like opening on the door. Inside the room is a young girl with a beautiful golden hair. She is crying at the corner.
“Hey, little girl. You just wait there. Soon there will come someone to bring you out. You better wipe off those tears. Hehehe.” (Yaza)
Yaza waltzes off while laughing.
[An hour remaining until the start of the rescue mission....]