Gang of Yuusha Chapter 12
– 12 – Encircled in the Dark Night
He stood at the wash basin and shaved his beard with a razor.
Humming to himself, he washed his face, rinsing off the remaining shaving cream on his chin.
Next he took a cold shower. He put his arms through the clean clothes. From the hanger closet he had brought a set of plain trousers and a black-coated vest that the armed guards wore.
He closed the buttons one by one from the top, and with a clean tug he fastened his belt.
He turned in front of the mirror. The size was spot on.
He exited the dressing room. At the rear entrance the corpses of the marines, who had launched an assault last night, formed a blockade against the door, but Shouji passed them by without emotion.
The wooden house, which served as the guards' break cabin, had a napping room and a hall. Other than those it only had a passageway from the shower rooms to the entranceway, but it was a comforting place.
It was great because it was placed up against the outer wall that ran along the sea-side. There was not much need to pay attention to the rear.
He took a dirk from the hands of a marine who was left dead in the corner of the corridor and pulled it from its sheath.
With a metallic sound the silver gleam of the blade sparkled. He gazed at the blade for a while, and having warmed himself with the candle on the table he sliced a piece of rye bread he had gotten from a basket.
Having gotten it into easy to eat slices, he spread the gooey raspberry jam from the provisions on it.
"Don't ignore me."
"Good morning. How are you feeling? Truly a delightful morning. By the way, do you like jam?"
Holly, who had both her hands tied to a post, was left sitting on the floor unable to move.
Maybe because she could not calm down after Shouji had continually killed the invaders during the battle last night, clouds under her eyes were the proof of insomnia.
"You're inhuman! Cruel and heartless!"
"What a surprise. This is made from bloodberries from the north. Astonishingly delicious."
Shouji placed his arm on the back of the chair, threw his legs on the table and relaxingly munched on the bread.
He enjoyed the lightly bursting sensation of the berry seeds. Hurriedly licking the jam that had trickled onto his fingertips, the delicacy made him nod his head slightly.
"This house is completely encircled! Don't think you can get away!"
"I wish I had some butter. It's delicious. If possible, it would be great if it was made from concentrated goat's milk."
"God is watching. Your sins, that is!"
"This is just my pet theory, but humans surely receive relief from no one and there is no going to heaven. Humanity is after all sinful in all things. Ah, almighty God above, please grant your aid."
He poured apple juice, that he had gotten from the cooler beneath the floor, into a tankard.
He squatted in front of the tied-up Holly and presented the tankard in a 'you want a drink?' gesture, but all he received was a strong glare.
"What are you after? Money?"
"Money. Apart from that, what reason could I have to come to this place? Surely you didn't think this was somehow my hobby."
"Someone as inhuman as you should just take the money over there and disappear somewhere."
His eyes followed her gaze. At the location Holly had indicated, the bag containing the Atomic potions and several million iidol was lying on the floor with its closing knot untied.
It was purely by coincident that he had been able to recover the bag that Doldo had left behind. It was just some loose change but he held on to it, it might be possible for him to escape this place alone.
It would probably not be that difficult.
"Can't do it. My buddies have been caught by the navy. Until I save them I have absolutely no intentions of running."
"So friendship does exist amongst villains. What a surprise."
"Good on you, you learned something. Therefore I have only one option available."
"I sincerely hope that you are talking about surrender."
"Cutting your neck with this knife and drinking your blood. Fortunately, you're quite the magician. If I drink a large quantity I should have the advantage in a battle of extermination with the navy. Your magic power will become my violence."
The dirk madly spun as it was thrown into the air. He caught the weapon in a backhand grip.
With a single throw Holly's head would be divorced from her body.
Understanding this, Holly pulled in her chin and trembled.
"I am unable to consent to that. I utterly disapprove. Okay, I will tell you honestly. I don't want to die in such a manner."
"Sadly, without another plan there's nothing for it. Like if perhaps you were highborn or such… without such circumstances I have no choice but to kill. I pay respect to nobles, so maybe I wouldn't have to kill you."
"Okay, I will confess. My father is a count."
Unaware of the situation, the pure and naive Holly immediately fell into Shouji's trap.
In a hollow voice she added, strictly speaking I am the third daughter, but at that point the volume of her voice was restrained.
Shouji purposely kept his eyes down on the silver blade and did not turn his head towards Holly.
"Hmm… I find myself not quite trusting that."
"He is ‘Timber Pile Hally’. He amended the agricultural land laws. He consigned the larger part of our country's nationally owned forests to the people. He also served as minister of agriculture for two terms."
"I read about him in the regional news paper. He didn't consign the forests to private businesses but to public organizations in which his relatives had stakes. The land was not opened for bidding… He is not quite the type of politician I like. Haluritt S. Detromics, was it?"
"In reverse I would like to ask what type of politician you do like, but first I will present proof. Look at my belt. There is a coat of arms."
As he peeped at it, he saw a one-eyed lion was shaped in silver on it.
Shouji was unable to make the distinction, but she did not seem to be lying.
"However, I would have never thought that Hally's kid would work as a factory's defense magician."
"Those of noble standing have their own general culture, one of these is sending excellent youths into the 'wilds'. My skill as a magician stands above the rest and my published treatises have received recognition. Therefore I have been allowed liberty to do as I will, for a while. Here I can receive wages without having to do anything, and I can do my research without being pulled down by my rivals at the magicians' organization."
"Thank you. Err…?"
"Holly. I specifically remember giving my name before our fight."
"Holly, in return for kindly telling me this I will speak honestly. I hate the nobility to death, I am thinking that if I feel like it I might go and kill your avaricious father as well."
Holly, who had a forefinger suddenly thrust before her, immediately realized that she had been tricked and groaned with an unpleasant face.
"… Rebellious traitor."
"I pay respect to our king. I love my country, I have completed my military service and I can recite the national anthem up to and including the third verse. Are you able to do that without messing up a single word? I bet you can't."
"Surely I have the right to know the name of this villain with such confidence in his singing ability."
"I am Quik. Still, how about some apple juice, Holly? It's stolen goods though… it will still slake your thirst. Of course, you have the choice of not drinking it for moral reasons."
As the tankard was put to her lips she opened her mouth slightly.
With the sound of swallowing, the amber liquid entered the back of her throat, and as she reached the point where she thought she had had enough, she pulled back. Drops sprang from her lips.
She coughed, so maybe something had gotten in her windpipe.
"Ahem… So, what do you intend to do?"
"I intend to negotiate. Attempting to solve everything with violence is something only a savage would do, after all."
Holly looked at Shouji with an undescribable expression on her face, but as she was about to give her retort the man in question slid the window's shutters to the side.
Putting his back against the wall by the window and making sure he did not expose his head, he released a large voice.
"Heeey! You incompetent morons who have crawled onto land! Are you listening?!"
The besieging navy had surrounded the guard-room cabin at a fixed distance.
The weather was unfortunately cloudy. Here and there the remains of last night's rain formed small puddles. The embers of the conflagration were mostly extinguished, but what remained were half-destroyed soot-covered buildings.
The marines looked like drowned rats but were building walls in sequence without losing discipline.
The rear of the cabin Shouji was hidden in was up against the stone walls, but even beyond the walls the marines had formed an escape-prevention ambush at the cliff side.
Having gotten tired of bare handed fighting Shouji had plundered an automatic weapon from a soldier. He had let the elite unit attack during the night in an attempt to rescue the hostage, but he was cautious since there appeared to be no reaction from the other side.
"We can hear you just fine! You rotten, gutter rat bastard!"
The commander had discarded all efforts at dignity, due to the effects of lack of sleep and rage, and replied foul-mouthedly in the megaphone.
"Thank you for so utterly entertaining me last night! You don't need to thank me for sending every single one of them on a one way trip to heaven!"
"You filthy trash! Those were my soldiers! Drop dead quickly!"
"Quickly bring my buddies in front of me! Prove that they are unharmed!"
"We killed them long ago!"
"If that is true then I will immediately toss this young girl's freshly severed head out to you! Ahhh-ah your superior officer, Sir Admiral Sandorion Slash, would surely be overjoyed to be shamed in high society! Goodbye Sir Captain, congratulations on your retirement ceremony!"
"Goddamnit! That fucker, I will absolutely beat him to death!"
In a fit of rage the on-site commander, imperially appointed Captain Kaiser, struck both of his fists against his thighs, giving clear indication of his wrath.
As long as the hostage was not a nobleman he could have given the order to open fire, turning everything inside the cabin into pieces of flesh before rushing in.
The secret plan aimed at the hours of sleep had ended in failure as well. He had lost five of the navy's elites, those with the grade of 'S' in personal hand-to-hand combat techniques. This alone was a great loss.
The sarcastic enemy was a combat pro.
His identity was unknown, but his ability was undeniable. It was obvious that he was a veteran of many battles.
He would have to create counter-measures with that in mind.
Kaiser turned his eyes to the man with the all too serious face, his own adjutant. The action must have appeared as an urging for suggestions since the stubborn mouth opened.
"Captain. There is after all just one enemy. I will draft a diversion plan."
"Quiet. Bring out the hoodlums. Let us show him reality and make him cool his head."
The adjutant showed a discontent face for just a moment and then it returned to expressionlessnes. He gave salute and parted the crowd as he left.
The soldiers wanted to take firm action. Such an atmosphere could be felt acutely on the skin. That's right. This matter would end if they just dealt with one man. What are we doing dragging our feet. It was only natural for these thoughts to be prevalent.
But, if a noble's blood relative was sacrificed then the one to carry the responsiblity was the on-site commander.
His actions here would be presented in a hearing and he would be impeached.
There was the danger that if luck was not on his side it might end as that well-informed villain had said, and he would be stripped of his command.
Even if it was just a single sacrifice, a failure was a failure. It would have been one thing if it was during war-time. But in this time of recession, occupational military personnel were abundant. There would surely be no lack of captain candidates who would want to join a coastal patrol warship.
He was not so conceited as to believe that he was irreplaceable.
"Tsk… Why do I have to do this ridiculous job…"
In the first place he had been displeased with this time’s plan.
This potion factory, under direct control of the military authorities, was producing alchemical materials which could be put to use as magical weaponry. Preservation and protection had been one of his duties but everything was all too late after the senseless use of explosives.
He was also supposed to secretly recover the special medicine called Atomic potion from the robbers.
This was not a job for a navy vessel which just happened to be navigating close by.
It should have just been left to the specially appointed military police, but his replacement was nowhere in sight. Those idiots were astonishingly slothful. The rescue of mere liquids must have felt far from glory to them.
The daughter of a count was the only thing of any value. If he could free her in complete physical health then his position would be unassailable.
That was all he could wish for.
"Hey, on your knees."
Here were the hostages in the navy's possession. Doldo, Bando and Stark were poked in their backs by the soldier's bayonets, and were forced to their knees with their hands tied behind their backs.
The bags covering their heads were torn off. They were gagged and on their faces were the signs of being beaten.
Blood had run from their scratches and coagulated on their skin, the gravel and mud on their clothes clearly showed that they had been rolling on the ground.
Doldo, who had been shot in the chest, was pale-faced. With low-grade recovery medication only his external wounds had been closed. Only in his blood soaked clothes was a hole visible.
"How about it! They're alive!"
"Board them on a carriage! Let us escape from this place! Then I will release this young woman!"
"Understood! It will take time to prepare, so wait up!"
For the time being he should make this a battle of persistence.
His opponent would absolutely show a gap in his guard. This tense situation would not last for long. His side was able to resupply, but his enemy was isolated.
"If he asks for food, we'll feed him poison."
He could just feed the antidote to the noble. Deciding this, Kaiser glared at the cabin while folding his arms.
"A test of endurance… Bring it on."
Shouji was self-conscious of his hurting body and moved his palms around.
The transmitted feelings of his nerves were dull, the muscles in his arms and legs were worn out. In the core of his body remained feelings of sluggishness.
He would need time to recover before he could once again use the 'Dragoon Martial Arts' to do a forceful breakthrough. He also had no potions on hand. He had no choice but to rely on natural healing.
He felt bad for his buddies, but they would have to endure.
If a suitable time came, he would bring whoever he could back with him.
"Quik, I have a proposal…"
"In the interest of killing time, go ahead."
Sitting on the chair, Shouji looked down on Holly.
He crossed his legs and closed his eyes. Being completely still would bring him the most rest.
"How about releasing me and returning the stolen goods? Then your partners will receive a reduction in penalty, and I will promise to defend them against the crime of robbery."
"And as for me?"
"You would be the principal offender. In any case, you have committed mass murder. There would be no room for negotiation or defense. But with your abilities escaping should be possible.
"Not at all a bad idea."
The plan placed his buddies in first priority and reduced risks to the greatest degree.
"Nevertheless, I refuse. All of us are criminals with previous convictions. We get sympathy from nobody, we receive jeers from all, and we are existences kicked around be everyone. The judge will absolutely not lend an ear to the words of a young girl like you. You would be seen as nothing else than a young lady of high birth who is inexperienced in worldly matters and is trying to satisfy a trifling conscience. No doubt."
"Why can you decide that?"
"And like that they would go to prison for ten years. Without money they would receive no treatment for illness, and during their penal servitude they would die off in order of lowest physical strength. Guys who could be saved with just one or two pills would be forced to spill tears of regret and mutter in delirium as they die miserably."
"Sooner or later… the treatment of prisoners would be bettered."
"I have no intentions of complaining my discontent to the world. We simply have no intentions of ever returning to that place. Nor do we have a wish to change country. I will simply live like myself. Negotiations are over, clever Holly. Thank you for the enjoyable discussion."
The conversation was interrupted and Shouji rested with his eyes closed.
Holly, who had been silenced in her failed attempt to persuade Shouji, fidgeted as she applied friction to the knot and the post, she was trying to unfasten the bindings on both of her hands but it did not go well.
The stalemate continued, the morning ended, midday revolved past and once again it became evening.
As if struck by water everything was silent, smoke from damp fires lingered over the encirclement.
The low red flames created long slender shadows. Whispering voices of the soldiers could indistinctly be heard.
"What is it?"
Even with his eyes closed Shouji appeared to be awake.
Without turning on the lights, he continued to sit, as if dead, on the chair in the darkness of the room.
The captive, Holly's, nervousness had not lasted long. Her hair and skin were greasy and the sweaty stickiness of her underwear and shirt was awful. She desperately wanted to return, even if only a moment sooner.
"Please. Let me go to the toilet soon. I am dying here."
Shouji opened one of his eyes, and then closed it. No indications of movement followed.
"I understand. Please let me just chant a single spell. I swear that it will not adversely influence you in any way."
Holly took the lack of response as tacit consent and quickly chanted a single summoning spell.
It was an elementary level summoning spell which pulled a water spirit from the other world, by her orders the basketball sized sphere of water enveloped her body and washed every nook and cranny.
Lastly it glued itself to her lower parts and she did her business, the dirty water then flew out of the window towards the sea.
"Phew… Quik. My hands are hurting. Please loosen the ropes."
"Holly. You need the self-awareness of a hostage. This is important."
"I want to wear clothes as well. My body has grown cold, this is humiliating, and I don't think your eyes are enjoying the sight either."
"Unfortunately so. You will find no sympathy from me."
"I have a question. The injuries I received in our battle are healed. Why?"
A short silence passed.
Shouji opened both his eyes and turned his head, his gaze went to the lights outside the window.
"Doldo said to treat your wounds. Therefore I did so."
"Your friends do not appear to be as inhuman as you are."
"They're all good guys. I want to save them."
"And for that purpose you intend to kill me, Quik… To take my blood. Please tell me your true motives."
"Indeed." Having more cards in hand was favourable to him. "That was my intention."
"And that is the reason why you have been avoiding looking me in the eyes. Inside of your head I am already murdered."
For the first time Shouji gazed into Holly's brown eyes.
Her resolute countenance crumbled abruptly. In her teary eyes emotions welled up.
As sharpness blended into her eyes her pale lips shook, driven by impulse she snapped out at him throwing her body forwards, but the ropes pulled on her.
"If you're going to do it, then get it over with. In any case it's not like you're going to hesitate!"
"There is another alternative available."
"What did you say… tell me, cold-blooded man."
"It's a fairly common technique, snatching power through sexual intercourse is possible."
"… Wh, no, you're kidding. That… but… are you sane?"
Attempting to ascertain the authenticity of his words, the dumbfounded Holly held her following words back. Shouji stayed silent as he cupped his face in his hands and had an uninterested expression on his face.
He said no urging words and made no vulgar attempts at temptation, and thus, before long, Holly realized that the burden of choice had come to rest in her hands.
Shame flared up and she hung her head and grit her teeth. The rage-filled gaze she turned towards him required quite the amount of willpower.
"If you have the guts then do it. You spineless coward of a bastard."