Chapter 1: Mystery of the Holy Land
A cylindrical ship slowly sailed past the dark sea bed, where no light fell.
This was the "Sea Dragon Ship" provided by Mother Sea.
The ship did not sail on water, instead it moved through the sea like a submarine.
Just a few hours ago, Saito and the others, who were being hunted down by the Elven navy, only managed to escape the "dragon's nest" because they got saved by Arie's party, who were chasing after Luctiana.
Arie, wanting to protect Luctiana who was sentenced to death by the Elven High Council, was preparing for the both of them to escape to the Kingdom of Gallia in self-exile. However, it was impossible to sneak into Halkeginia on their own. So, they planned to have Saito, who had good relations with the Gallian royalty, help them out by pulling some strings of his own.
In the dark rocking cabin, Saito never let go of Tiffania's hand as she lay on the bed. Her whole body was covered in bandages, and she was attached to Elven medical equipment. She suffered near-fatal injury when Fatima, from the "Steel-blooded Party", tried to kill her with a gun.
It had been some time after escaping from the "dragon's nest", but Tiffania still did not show any signs of waking up. She had just called out Saito's name over and over in her dreams. Every time Saito heard that, he would clench her hands tighter, and whisper to her,
"Tiffa, I'm so sorry... For not being able to protect you."
Saito looked after Tiffania by her side, while berating himself repeatedly.
It was all my fault that Tiffania got hurt by the gun. If I had thought about it more, I should have known that the cannon shots onto the water were just to distract them... I should have at least let Tiffa board the patrol boat before. Instead, I said horrible things to her, like her being in the way, and pushed her away. ...and then this happened.
Damn, what kind of Gandalfr am I? I can't even protect people important to me at the most crucial times... I've just got some power of my own, and I have become so conceited.
Saito raised his head, and glared at the other girl lying at the back of the cabin.
Having similar delicate features resembling Tiffania's, she was the culprit who shot Tiffania, Fatima. After Saito crushed her shoulder bone in a fit of rage, she fainted and was carried by Arie and the others to the boat.
The sleeping girl breathed steadily and carried a peaceful expression on her face.
Saito clenched his teeth in rage. He tried to calm the fire in his heart by inhaling deeply.
This person tried to kill Tiffania, causing her harm.
Rage erupted up in his heart, unable to forgive her for what she did.
If... If Tiffania was really killed by her that time... Saito, under the influence of rage, would have killed her in revenge.
However, no matter what, Tiffania was still alive. So he should just stop it. Killing her would just make Tiffania sad.
"...Saito, eh, Saito... are you there?"
However, she have not regained consciousness. From just now, she kept going in and out of dream state and shouting out for Saito.
"Don't be scared, I'll always be here. Because I am... Tiffania's familiar." "Saito..."
As if she had heard Saito and felt relieved, Tiffania began to sleep quietly while breathing steadily again.
Saito slowly released his hand from hers, and gave a small sigh.
While he was mumbling to himself, he felt the runes on his chest throb.
Now, Saito has new runes on his chest.
This was due to Tiffania, in a pinch, chanted the "Summon" spell while she was half-conscious. And to answer her summons, Saito was teleported before her.
"I felt so happy... that Saito, you were the one to answer my 'Summon' spell, and came to my side. This meant that where I belong... is by your side... and it also means that between Saito and me, there is a real connection..."
Saito had already became Louise's familiar, so it should have been impossible for the teleportation gate to appear before him again. But the longing that Tiffania had for Saito had surpassed the supposedly insurmountable laws of magic, and allowed Saito to be resummoned, and became a new familiar.
However, at the same time, several questions came up in Saito's mind.
Saito's right hand still had the runes of Gandalfr engraved on them...so it meant that he was still Louise's familiar, but now he was also Tiffania's familiar.
A double familiar contract...was this really possible?
And the power of the fourth familiar, what will it be?
Gandalfr can use any weapon, Windalfr can command any beast, Myozunitonirun can operate any magical object at her will.
"Then what can the fourth familiar do?"
His chest throbbed with pain, making Saito feel an uneasiness that he could not put into words.
"What kind of destiny will we face, after this?"
Through the cabin window, Saito stared out to the dark open sea. Where were they now?
Had they passed the borders of the country of elves?
"Louise and the others must be worried right now..."
Right now, she must be so nervous that her eyes has gone red, while desperately trying to find Saito who had gone missing.
Saito felt a pang of sadness as he thought of Louise, who he had left in D'Orneilles.
Louise, my cute love. Her smart twinkling eyes had a depth of its own. Her strawberry blond hair, her porcelain snow-white skin, and her flat chest... everything about her made me love her even more.
I want to meet Louise as soon as possible... I want to see her, and hug her tightly. Even though I had only been to the country of elves for a few days, my thoughts of her never faded.
Not only Louise, there was also Siesta, Tabitha, Kirche, Mr. Colbert, the Princess, Guiche, and Malicorne, and everyone in the Undine Knights... I wanted to meet everyone so much. Right. When I get back to Halkeginia, I have to report about the "holy land" to everyone.
As he thought about this important thing, Saito's head began to hurt.
The holy land was renowned to be the place where Founder Brimir first came upon. What the elves call "Shaitan's Door", according to the pope, had a magical device that could stop the 'Great Uprising'.
To regain control of the holy lands, the residents of Halkeginia have continuously waged war with the elves.
"The holy land is the dragon's nest, whether Mother Sea resided."
This, Saito believed in.
Gandalfr's "gun" was found not far from the holy land.
There were a lot of weapons from Earth in the dragon's nest. Rusty tanks, jets, guns, grenade launchers, and even the unbelievably huge nuclear submarine... even though it had sunk to the bottom of the sea, but six thousand years ago, that place must have been land.
However, was he really told everything?
He has always felt that the Pope and Julio was hiding something from him.
The rampant "wind stones" causing the 'Great Uprising', will destroy Halkeginia... This much was the truth, but Saito still had doubts about them that he could not put into words.
Maybe the pope had already knew the position of the "holy land" long ago.
"What did that place really contain?"
Mother Sea had always thought that the underwater cave was simply a normal trash site. If there really was some magical device there, Mother Sea would have known about it.
The secret behind the "Holy Land" that was gradually being unraveled, the new rune of the familiar carved on him, and the reason why the first Gandalfr Sasha killed Brimir...
If he did not solve the mystery of what really happened there six thousand years ago, he would not be able to save Halkeginia at all... Saito did not know why, but he had this feeling all along.
Maybe it was that the person who knew the most about what happened six thousand years ago, has been quiet for few hours now.
Saito spoke to the katana lying vertically on the side of the cabin.
"Hey, Derf, could you please wake up? There are many things that I want to ask you about."
However, Derflinger remained unresponsive. After the runes of the fourth familiar appeared on Saito's chest, Derflinger never responded to him at all. Saito was not able to tell if he was unconscious, or simply asleep.
"What's up with that. Is this thing really that bad?"
Saito got more and more uneasy. He lowered his head to look at the runes on his chest.
At this time, the sound of someone knocking rudely on the door echoed around the cabin.
"I'm coming in, barbarian."
The person who entered the cabin, was Arie, holding a breakfast plate.
Arie glanced at Saito, who was sitting on the floor, and then shifted his vision to Luctiana, who was lying on the bed beside Tiffania.
"How is she?"
Saito shook his head.
"She hasn't awoken, but she also doesn't seem to be uncomfortable anymore."
"Is that so."
Arie walked to the side of Luctiana's bed. He chewed his lip bitterly.
"If only I had some training in healing magic."
Luctiana's injuries were so serious that even the ancient magic of the elves could not heal her easily. Also, Arie and his party were elves with battle training, so they were not skilled in healing.
"How's the half-blood doing?"
"Tiffa keeps speaking in her dreams. Is this medical equipment really enough for her?"
"We have tried our best. But there's only emergency medical equipment on board this ship, so we should find a place with something more adequate as soon as possible."
Arie sat beside Saito and, with a straight face, gave him the breakfast plate filled with food.
"This breakfast was made by Idris. Eat."
On the plate, there were roasted meat, sliced onions and cabbages, sandwiched between a flat piece of bread, topped with a red sauce. Even though there was nothing like it in Halkeginia, Saito knew something very like it.
"It looks like a Shawarma burrito from Earth."
"Shawarma burrito? What's that?"
Arie looked surprised.
"I'm sorry, why don't you eat it instead, I have no appetite now."
Saito shook his head. To be honest, he was extremely hungry now. However, with Tiffania treading the borders of life and death, how could he allow himself to fill his stomach?
"No, you have to eat it even if you have force yourself to."
"I'll eat it later."
"We might have to fight with the sea marshals later, so if you're out of energy due to hunger that would be not be good for us."
"...All right, I understand, I'll eat it."
Under Arie's persuasion, Saito took the food that looked like a Shawarma burrito reluctantly.
Opening his mouth wide, he stuffed the whole thing into his mouth with abandon, downing it with gulps of water.
"G-guh...That was tasty!"
It was tasty. The Shawarma burrito was extremely tasty.
When he bit into the meat and cabbage, marinated with sweet spicy sauce, meat juices just exploded in his mouth. Sweet onions and fragrant spices gave off a rich aroma.
Maybe it was because his stomach got excited by the sudden entry of food, Saito's stomach began to rumble.
It was as if his body just remembered what hunger felt like.
"What a barbaric way of eating. No wonder you are called barbarians."
"Oh shut it. This is how we eat it on earth."
Saito retorted while licking the sauce off his fingers.
He breathed a sigh of relief after finishing breakfast. His nerves, previously stiff, loosened up, and his mood relaxed a little.
Saito stared at the darkness beyond the window, and asked Arie.
"Where are we now, approximately? Have we passed the border?"
"Not yet. This 'Sea Dragon Ship' is different from a military vessel, so it can't go as fast. Also the navy has already blockaded the shortest path."
"Are those guys still hunting us?"
"Of course. This is because you people are the devil, and we are traitors of the elves. The 'Steel-blooded Party' that is controlling the navy now wants to exterminate every devil even if they had to sacrifice themselves to do it. Of course they will hunt us down to the ends of the earth."
Arie took a glance at Fatima who was sleeping at the back of the cabin.
"Even though I originally thought of using her as a hostage when I brought her on board, to be honest, I'm not even sure if we can use her at all. They wouldn't even think twice about sacrificing the lives of their comrades to exterminate devils. That is the sort of organization they are."
Saito looked at the cabin ceiling uneasily.
"Then what should we do next?"
"We will stop by Eumenes, then we will proceed to Gallia on land."
"It's a town that lies on the far western edge of the desert, where barbarians and elves trade."
"Humans and elves? Is there such a place?"
This was what made Saito very surprised. He once thought that the snobbish elves would not give a damn to communicate with humans, so it was a little incredulous for him.
"But the High Council will never acknowledge it. There are places like that at the border, and Luctiana often goes there to research barbarians."
Arie's eyes turned to Luctiana.
"There are medical facilities in Eumenes, we shall heal those two there."
Just then, the ship suddenly rocked heavily, and the speed of the ship dropped.
"Shallar seems to be in a bad mood. I'll go take a look."
Arie then stood up. Shallar was the name of the sea dragon that is propelling the boat. It was the same dragon that Saito defeated in the canal just as they were escaping from Adyl.
"You get some sleep, be ready to fight at all times."
"It's alright. I have to be awake when Tiffa comes round."
"Humph, stubborn barbarian."
Arie shrugged indifferently.
Just then, a dreamy voice could be heard from the bed.
"...Um, uh, uh..."
Saito jolted and raised his head, surprised.
However, he immediately found out that, no, this was not Tiffa's sound at all!
"You... bunch of devils..."
Lustrous blond hair fluttered across his vision.
Fatima, who got up from bed, gave Saito a glare full of hatred with her jade green eyes.