A Journey to the Capital
Editors: Joker, Speedphoenix
“Alright, I think that’s just about everything. I’ll see you guys soon,” I said to the dungeon’s residents. All five of its more humanoid members were lined up right in front of the cave outside. “I should be back in less than a week this time.”
The reason they’d assembled so early in the morning was to see the hero and I off; a full night had passed since her arrival, so she was nice and rested.
“Stay safe!” said one little girl. “And come back soon, okay?”
“Really really soon!” chirped the other.
“You can count on it.” I gave each a pat on the head and a smile.
“Yuki.” The next person to step forward was Lefi.
I turned towards her, only to have my cheeks suddenly pinched and ruthlessly stretched to their limits before I could so much as finish a sentence.
“Listen well, Yuki. I shan’t be there to keep an eye on you this time. That means not that you should find yourself enamoured by some human woman and dally in your return. You must come straight home once you have completed the task that you set out to accomplish. Have I made myself clear?”
She used the grip she had on my poor cheeks to keep me looking straight at her as she spoke. And as such, I couldn’t help but notice the fact that she was smiling in an awfully intimidating manner.
“Fweah, aye gnowe.”
Only after I agreed did Lefi let go of my cheeks.
“Splendid. I am glad that we were able to ascertain that we have come to an understanding.”
“Thanks Lefi,” I said. “I guess I’ll take you up on that offer then. I leave my home, my heart, and everyone’s safety in your capable hands.”
“Rest assured. I shall see to it that all is well.”
“Yeah. I know. I won’t even be the slightest bit worried with you around.”
And so, I finished up my conversation with Lefi, exchanged a few words with the maids, and turned around to face the hero.
“I do apologize, my lady, but we must make haste,” I said. “I have prepared the perfect carriage for such an occasion. Right this way, my lady.”
“Why did you suddenly start talking like some sort of butler? And, by carriage, did you mean that huge wolf?”
“Verily, my lady.” I completely ignored her first question and answered only the second.
I hopped on top of Fenrir before giving him a few light pats on the back. “Sorry Rir. I know it’s a bit far, but I’m going to need you to take us all the way to the capital.”
We didn’t have the time to just sit around given the kingdom’s… circumstances. And the wolf was more or less the best vehicle a man could ask for. Hell, Rir’s so fast that he may as well be a Super Express Bullet Train.
Fortunately, Lefi was staying home this time, so Rir didn’t need to hang around and keep watch. We actually had the opportunity to board him and ride him all the way to the capital.
The ever-reliable wolf nodded to acknowledge the command and braced himself for departure. I once again turned towards the hero, who had completely frozen over while gazing in the wolf’s direction, and beckoned her over. “Well? What are you waiting for? Hurry up and get on.”
“I-I think I’ll just wwaaaaaaaah!?”
I grabbed the hesitant hero’s arm with a grin and wrenched her onto the wolf before she could refuse.
“Alright Rir, all passengers have boarded. Full speed ahead!”
“Huh? Wait! Hold oooooooooooooooooooooooon!”
The hero squealed in an unexpectedly adorable manner as she was exposed to a sudden burst of speed. Her screams almost seemed to trail behind us as we quickly made our way through the forest.
A massive rampart lay in front of me, extending as far as the eye could see. A great number of soldiers were pacing around atop of it, moving back and forth at regular intervals. They remained vigilant, and would occasionally stop to look around despite the fact that their surroundings were illuminated almost entirely by moonlight and moonlight alone. The outside wasn’t the only thing they surveyed. The troops would often direct their gazes into the city that the giant stone wall had been constructed to protect.
The sole entrance to the stone fortress was a single, solid looking gate. The metal it was constructed of looked so thick that it wouldn’t let even a soul slip through. Like the rampart, the gate was heavily guarded; a group of stern-looking men stood in front of it.
A grand total of two pairs of eyes was focused on the fortress. They observed it from within a forest that lay a bit further away.
“Ugh… my back is totally killing me.” The owner of the first pair, the hero, voiced a complaint as she rubbed the backside of her waist.
“Yeah, well it was either this or we take at least three entire days to get here,” I said with a shrug.
Rir had pretty much made a beeline from the dungeon to the capital, taking only a few breaks along the way. And as a result, we’d arrived in Alshir, the capital city, the exact same day we left. Normally, travelling such a distance in less than a day was flat out impossible. But Rir belonged to a species of which legends were sung. He was far outside the realm of what one could consider normal.
One could say that the load on his back had been substantial. He had carried both me and the hero simultaneously. By all means, we should have slowed him down. The extra weight should have forced him to move at a pace far inferior to his best. And it would have, had we been a pair of fully armoured knights. But alas, that wasn’t the case. My magical inventory allowed me to carry nothing more than the clothes on my back. And the hero barely weighed anything at all; she was a dainty little thing; I could lift her with one arm with ease. And although she herself was technically a knight, she wasn’t the type that wore heavy metal plates to fortify her defences. As such, Rir was able to maintain a pace that matched that of your standard sedan.
To him, covering the distance between our home and the capital had been a breeze. It hadn’t even begun to eat into the Fenrir’s near unlimited stamina.
“I guess…” responded the hero. She still didn’t seem all that sold on the Rir Express. “Wait. How come you seem like you’re totally fine?”
“Oh, you know,” I shrugged. “I’m already used to it. In fact, I ride Rir around pretty much all the time.”
And ‘cause I’m hooked on thrills and whatnot.
Speaking of Rir, the wolf was no longer anywhere in sight. As much as I would’ve liked to, I knew that there was no way for us to get him into the city without causing a fuss. And as such, I’d told him to shrink down, hide somewhere in the forest, and await further orders.
“So uh, any idea how we’re supposed to get inside?” I turned towards the hero and used a thumb to point to the wall at my back.
We obviously couldn’t just waltz right up to the gate and say hello. While one would normally expect to be shown a fair amount of hospitality for such an approach, the current circumstances made it far more likely for such an action to be met with the sharp end of a spear.
“Hmm… Dunno…” The hero frowned.
“…You were planning to return to the capital after paying me a visit, weren’t you? Shouldn’t you, y’know, know how you’re supposed to get back in?”
I narrowed my eyes and gave the girl an unamused stare, to which she responded by spouting off a series of excuses.
“I was! And I totally knew what I was supposed to do, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be this well guarded! Look over there.” She pointed towards what looked to be the entrance to a sort of sewage system attached to a part of the wall. It was fairly well hidden, obscured by a series of tall trees. The sewer seemed to have a freshly installed iron grate covering the exit. Moreover, there were several guards positioned around it. “I was supposed to use an item to make myself invisible and then sneak back through there so I could rendezvous with the church’s knights, but it doesn’t really look like we can get through anymore…”
Oh. So they found out about the security hole she was going to use and patched it. Makes sense.
“Alright, just making sure. You do have plans for what you’re supposed to do after you get back inside, right?”
“I-I think so.”
“Alright, then I guess we’re getting over the wall my way,” I said. “Excuse me for a moment.”
I grabbed her and tucked her under one of my arms as I spoke.
“Huh!? Wait! H-Hold on!”
“Oh shut it already.”
I heaved an exasperated sigh as I activated Stealth. Stealth was, fortunately, able to extend its effects to anything I touched. That aspect of its effect was what stopped my clothes from walking around by themselves. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be able to find anything to do with the skill besides maybe a few niche little things like freaking people out. Walking clothes does seem like something out of some sort of horror movie, after all.
“I said be quiet dammit. They’ll notice us if you keep up all the noise.”
I materialized both pairs of wings after confirming that the stealth skill had activated before giving them a good old flap and diving into the starry night sky. The ground almost seemed to shrink in an instant as we rose. And soon, we began to see much more of our surroundings than we had before.
The hero’s response to the sudden change was to scream in terror.
“God damn it Nell! I told you to keep quiet!”
“I-I know, but it’s not like I could help it!”
The guards began shuffling around and making a big fuss the moment the hero’s cry filled the night.
“I think I just heard something!” said one.
“It came from somewhere up above us! Someone get some lights up in the sky!” added another.
“See? What’d I tell you?” Although they were aware that something was there, they hadn’t actually seen us, so I decided there wasn’t any harm in continuing as planned.
And so, I succeeded in infiltrating the kingdom’s capital with a certain terrified hero held under my arm all the way.
Editor’s note (Joker): *when the lights come up, it’s not Joker sitting in his usual chair. Instead, a catgirl with short blue hair is sitting there* U-um.. Joker onii-chan is still running away from that scary moth, so I’m going to be hosting this… um… session… thing. Onii-chan calls me Nirvash. It’s a pleasure to meet all of you. *she bows her head politely* Um… I don’t really know what onii-chan talks about here, but I know he checks his mail bag for letters. *she ducks under the table, murmuring “Nisho, nisho nisho” as she digs around, coming out with the letter bag* Um… it looks like there are five letters in here. So thank you kx onii-chan, Tup onii-chan, Zehd Cashew onii-chan, Yarsh Naidoo onii-chan, and spare onii-chan. *she bows her head and smiles brightly* Um… hopefully Joker onii-chan gets away from that scary moth and will be able to talk to you all again. I miss him, and I hope you all do to. If you have a question you want to ask him, put it in the comments with the hashtag #AskJoker, or if you want to ask me a question….I don’t know if anyone would…. You can put #AskNirvash and I’ll answer. *she smiles again* Thank you for reading!