Our high-speed carriage made its way into Emghis’ domain.
The journey here was a lengthy one, spanning several days. It’s been such a pleasant experience that I don’t feel tired in the slightest, however. This thing’s a step above the carriages nobles use, too—it was custom-built and used by the royal family, which is nothing to scoff at.
True comfort comes only after spending boatloads of money on it, I suppose.
I didn’t feel a single shake or hear any noise. Having this great of a ride was a first for me, honestly.
And Laura, next to me, was so relaxed…
…that she fell into a deep sleep, still seated.
“This carriage is incredible.”
“Sure is! It’s my prized possession, a one of a kind!” Lihilt chirped back, grinning.
Lihilt, Laura, and I were the only ones in the compartment. Lihilt’s accompanying servants were sitting on the outside seats, out of sight.
Lihilt merrily went on, “Not only did I get an entire territory, I even scored a Transportator and a high-speed carriage made for royalty on top of that! I seriously can’t thank you enough, Albert! I mean it!”
“Yes, you! Everything we accomplished at Marsh Glicia was all thanks to you! I was just rewarded in your steed! I’ll never forget my debt to you, Albert!”
“…Hahaha,” I laughed awkwardly. It makes me feel pretty bashful when he puts it that way. “Don’t mention it. All I ask is that you be a good lord and treat your country and people well.”
“I’ll do my best!”
“Yeah, do… You are gonna be a duke, aren’t you, Lihilt?”
“You got me there, ahahaha! Hearing that from someone else is pretty embarrasing! You’re looking at a future duke, I tell you! And once I am, I’ll repay you in full, you hear me?”
“I wouldn’t make any promises if I were you, but sure, I’ll be waiting.”
“But knowing you, Albert, you might just be King by the time I become a duke!”
“…I doubt that,” I said, shaking my head.
I already have my hands full being a pretend marquis—being the king of an entire country is out of the question.
“Lihilt, don’t you think saying a mere noble could become King is a little… disrespectful?“
“Huh, oh, I, uh…!!” Lihilt began panicking. “Sorry! Albert, that one didn’t count! Pretend you didn’t hear anything, alright?!”
I smiled a little after seeing Lihilt’s silly reaction.
Our conversation ended, so I began gazing out the window to the side.
We were currently passing through a narrow impasse surrounded by towering cliffs on both sides.
The cliffs were slanted in a way that it was still climbable if you really tried, but it’d still be a fairly challenging task.
The surface was covered in softish-looking mud and small rocks.
As far as the eye could see were the same boring cliffs, which didn’t make for the most exciting view.
Once I eventually lost interest…
…I heard a strange noise from outside the carriage.
Upon which the driver screamed.
“…Hweh?” Laura opened her eyes.
The noise must’ve woken her up. She shook her head with an absent-minded expression.
Lihilt opened the carriage window and called to the driver sitting up front, “What’s going on?”
I could hear the alarm in the coachman’s voice. “A b-buh-boulder, there’s a b-b-boulder!”
“A boulder?” Lihilt repeated in monotone.
Then all of a sudden, from the opened window, I saw a huge ball of hardened mud and gravel sail past the front of the horses at breakneck speed.
It didn’t seem as solid as an actual boulder, but given its sheer mass and velocity, getting hit by one would spell serious trouble.
“WHAT THE HELL!?!?”
Both the horses and coachmen flew into a panic. Any remaining control was lost, and the carriage swayed left and right.
We clung to the carriage and withstood the impact.
Save for a certain someone, that is.
Laura, who’d just woken up, lost her footing—”WAAAAAH!”—and fell to the floor, landing flat on her face.
“A-Are you alright, Laura?!”
“M-my nose…” she groaned, holding her hand against her nose and shakily getting back up.
The carriage shook violently once more.
“EEEEEEEEEK!” Laura tumbled to the ground, crashing into a seat. “Owowowowow! W-W-W-What the heck’s going on?!”
The carriage stopped shaking as much, so I used the opportunity to look out the window. “!?”
The next moment, I watched as a bunch of sandstone came barreling down the cliff, heading straight toward the carriage’s flank—and standing above the cliff, were the silhouettes of people.
The mysterious figures picked up the fist-sized rocks at their feet and sent them rolling down the cliff. Like snowballs, the rocks amassed mud and sediment as they cascaded down, eventually growing into even larger rocks.
…How the hell are they doing that?
I didn’t have the time to dwell on it, though.
“Looks like we’re under attack.”
I held out my right hand and said the magic words: “Magic Arrow.”
A white arrow erupted from my hand, destroying a nearby boulder in a single shot.
“Nice shot, Albert!” Lihilt complimented me.
More rocks came pouring down one after the other. Our only saving grace was that the speed of our carriage made hitting us difficult.
“There aren’t any rocks coming from this side!” Lihilt exclaimed after opening the other window.
So they’re only attacking from one side, huh…
We should be able to get through this in one piece, then.
“I’ll intercept any rocks coming our way with Magic Arrow.”
I leaned out the window. “Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow.”
I fired multiple Magic Arrows in a row, blowing the oncoming boulders to pieces.
After doing that for a while…
…I heard a peculiar noise from nearby. I looked over and saw that an arrow had pierced the side of the carriage.
Upon tracing back the arrow’s trajectory, I noticed several men standing on the cliff, their bows at the ready.
I moved my body back into the compartment. “They have bows!”
Laura immediately swung into action. “Wind Curtain!”
A thin sheet of arrow-reflecting wind enveloped the carriage.
“Good going, Laura!” I said. I leaned out the window again and destroyed boulder after boulder. “Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow.”
Then, I heard another scream. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
“What’s the matter?!” Lihilt asked.
In response, one of the coachmen pointed and yelled, “THE FRONT! LOOK AT THE FRONT!”
Sitting smack dab in the middle of the impasse and blocking the way was a row of boulders.
We’d be screwed if our carriage ran head-first into that.
“Can we not stop the carriage?!” Lihilt exclaimed.
“No, not a chance! The horses are too startled! And even if they weren’t, a high-speed carriage can’t just come to a sudden stop!”
I raised my voice and spoke over the coachman, “Just charge straight at it.”
I leaned out the window and pointed my right hand forward. “Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow, Magic Arrow.”
My Magic Arrows descended upon all the boulders blocking the road, blowing them up with a deafening boom.
“I can always count on you, Albert!” Lihilt said, clapping his hands. “FORGET WHAT I SAID EARLIER! KEEP GOING BOYS, FULL STEAM AHEAD!”
Without anything to block our way, the carriage blazed through the road at full pelt. Our attackers chose not to pursue us. I doubt they expected us to make it through their blockade.
Our carriage eventually made it past the impasse. The cliffs cleared up, giving us much more visibility.
I checked if we were being pursued after all, and sure enough, we weren’t.
Laura, Lihilt, and I exchanged a tense look.
The three of us all let out a sigh of relief.
Lihilt lifelessly sank into his seat. “Wow… I was convinced I wasn’t gonna make it out alive there… You really pulled through for us, Albert!”
“Thank you, Albert!”
Lihilt and Laura bowed their heads at me.
“I’m, uh… just glad everyone’s alright,” I said with a nod. I then changed the topic in embarrassment, “What was that all about? Were those bandits or something?”
“Hmm… While that is a possibility… this is the main route that connects my domain with the Count’s…” he trailed off, tilting his head in puzzlement. “But that’s strange in itself…”
“Something catch your mind?”
“Yeah… The Count communicated with me when we’d be visiting, which means he should’ve had this place secure and safeguarded. Yet those boulder-rolling bandits were ready and waiting for us… Strange, don’t you think?”
“Damn!” Lihilt raised his voice in annoyance. “I bet that Count didn’t actually care that we were visiting, so he cut corners in security! Screw that bastard old man!”
“…Or maybe…” Laura said in a dark tone, “…they were acting on the Count’s behalf?”
This one took a while. I’m off tuesday/wednesday so ill post then and work on chapters throughout the week.