A group of people arrives at the village, unaware that they are being observed by Shinji's <Magic Eye>. All of the men on horseback are armed.
The leader of the group, a young man in leather armor and leading a group of men with spears in their hands, is holding a big naginata sword in his hand. He looked about the same age as Shinji, with his black bangs cut short and his hair tied back in a bun, and was well-built. Seeing his face trembling with a mixture of anger and regret when he saw the devastation of the village, Shinji guessed that they were the protectors of the village.
Furthermore, the soldiers who follow him are not only people like the young man, but also beastmen. This suggests that the young man has a good understanding of other races. This made Shinji think that he was worthy of dialogue with him.
「A person I could try to talk to, I guess. Lila stays here and keeps a lookout with <Detection>. Lili and Lilu are her escorts. Then, Emily, Iris, and Freri will you come with me?」
「Yes. If anything happens, I'll let you know, Shinji-san.」
「Yes! I'll protect Shinji!」
「Senpai, I'll watch your back, desu」
「Yeah. Thank you. ...Then, let's go.」
While they are assigning roles, the youth and his companion are preparing to dismount and enter the village. Shinji and the others hurried out of the altar room to call out to them before they spread out.
However, they cannot expose themselves carelessly. After leaving the altar room, Shinji moves into the shadows of the building to avoid being seen by the young men, and calls out to them, using a magic spell to make his voice amplified.
『I'm sorry to call out to you all of a sudden』
「Who is it!?」
The young man and the others ready their weapons and look around them. Under normal circumstances, they would not be able to communicate with each other, but Shinji and the others have taken measures so that they can communicate with each other through "translation" magic. And now, being impressed by their quick movements, which clearly show their high level of skill, Shinji opens his mouth again.
『We are travelers who are searching for someone. We arrived at this village a little while ago and found it in such a mess. We were just about to leave when you came to us. We have no intention of hostility』
A black-haired young man named "Kuroumaru", a warrior in the service of Soukai country and the leader of the group, looks around as if searching for the source of the voice, but he cannot make out any human form and breaks out in a cold sweat. Though the voice speaks to him in a gentlemanly manner, he is not so foolish as to trust it alone.
「Kurou, do you know where the other man is?」
「No... But it might be in the village. And yet he gave up an opportunity to surprise us. I'm sure he has no intention of hostility」
「Yes. But we need to know who we're dealing with. They may not be from Tensho country, but they could be spies from another country.」
「That's true, all right. ...I get it! We don't want to fight with you for nothing! So, we'd like to discuss this face-to-face, please!」
After whispering with his adjutant, Kuroumaru's voice is tense, but Shinji is not surprised by this suggestion. Shinji knew that the proposal was within Shinji's expectations. That's why he asked to reduce the possibility of a sudden attack.
「I understand. I'll show myself now! All right... Emily, Iris, stay alert. If there's an emergency, we'll teleport back to the altar room, so Freri keeps that in mind.」
『Hmm, I know』
With that said, Shinji and the others appear from behind the building with Emily in the lead. They can recognize each other, yet face each other at a distance that they cannot close in a single breath.
From Shinji's point of view, Kuroumaru's and the other men of the Soukai country's equipment do not seem to be of very high quality. Although the leader Kuroumaru's naginata and leather armor were better, the spears and leather armor of the other were easily recognizable as a few bits of junk. For Shinji and the other adventurers, it was unthinkable that the equipment they had entrusted their lives to was of such poor quality.
Nonetheless, Shinji was relieved when he found the family crest on the leather armor of Kuroumaru, who stood in front of the group. According to his prior knowledge, the family crest belonged to the Soukai country is a relatively peaceful multi-racial country where people of many races live.
（That's good. There seems to be room to talk to them）
On the contrary, Kuroumaru and the others saw Shinji and the others as a well-dressed group of travelers. Their weapons, staffs, armor, and clothes were obviously of high quality and made to order.
Emily, Iris, and Freri were dressed in skirts that they had never seen before. So, for Kuromaru and the others, who are accustomed to wearing pants for both men and women, the fabric swayed as they walked, making them feel uncomfortable as if their underwear might be visible.
And what caught their attention more than anything else was the presence of Freri herself. She is obviously of a non-human species. Her feminine bulge, lovely and beautiful, standing alongside Shinji on an equal footing, shows that she is not a person related to Tenshou country, the human supremacist country, which does not make Kuroumaru and the others less cautious, but it does lower their hostility significantly.
（I've never seen these clothes before... So, where are they from? At least it's not from a nearby country. But then, I would say that traveling with only women is dangerous...）
Even though they are standing still, Shinji and the others are not open. The pressure from Emily, standing in the front row and holding a club as tall as she is, is especially strong. Kuroumaru does not feel confident that he can meet her head-on and win.
Meanwhile, Emily, as a fellow vanguard, also saw that Kuroumaru's strength was superior to the rest of the group. She does not expect to lose, but she recognizes that she will not be able to defeat him with a single blow.
「Once again. My name is Shinji, and I am managing the trip. I am traveling in search of people from faraway foreign lands.」
Despite the tense atmosphere, Shinji smiles and tries to continue his story. With the military advantage of Emily and an escape route, there is no need to be unnecessarily condescending.
「I am Kuroumaru. I am a general who leads soldiers of Soukai country. Still, a faraway land...? Well, I've never seen you dressed like that before. More importantly, this village was already here when you arrived...?」
「Yes. This was the situation... Do you have any doubts?」
「No, I know who did it. It was the reaper corps from Tenshou country. They say humanity is supreme and could enslave other races. And these units was the one that gathers slaves from all over the land. The reapers. They take young, good-looking children and are always on the lookout for them.」
Kuroumaru's words reminded Shinji of the small percentage of young people among the bodies he saw when he was looking around the village. If he was right, it would explain the devastation.
「I had heard about Tenshou country, but... it's terrible.」
「Yeah... Now, you mentioned that you are on a journey to look for someone, I wonder if that person is in our country. If so, I think I can help you.」
Kuroumaru's comment surprises his subordinates. Shinji was the same, though he did not show it. Whether he is a good person or not, or whether he has some other purpose in mind, is hard to say at this stage.
「Thank you for your kindness.」
「Don't mention it. Well then, if you have any trouble, you can visit me at the castle in Soukai. Mention my name and you'll get a meeting.」
「...Thank you. At that time, I would be grateful for your kindness.」
It was a rather forceful recommendation, but it was based on Kuroumaru's own intuition. His intuition told him that this was the person with whom he should somehow make a connection. Meanwhile, Shinji thought that the right to meet with a person of his status would be useful in case of emergency, so he bowed his head.
「If you continue on this northern road, you will eventually reach the castle town. Then, we will return to call people. We can't leave this village like this.」
「Okay. We'll make our move.」
「Please do so and have a safe trip. All riders, back to the castle!」
Shinji and the others watch as Kuroumaru and the others mount their horses and ride away from the village. And having successfully completed their first contact in the "World of Conflict", Shinji contemplates what to do next.
Human supremacy. All other races are slaves.
A multi-race country. Slaves are sinners.
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