Seizing and striking whoever is trying to escape.
It was that kind of magic.
“Our lifespan is approximately one year. The individual you called Al died four dracomonths ago. Around twenty days after he first spoke with you.”
Al… rather, the white mouse I’d believed to be Al, answered as such.
“In that case… the white mouse we’ve been talking to since then has been you?”
“Negative. That individual has also died. This is the first time I have talked with you.”
What I heard in response to my question shocked me. Be it the mouse’s appearance or its voice, I couldn’t tell it apart from Al at all… no, to be accurate, the way it spoke was different. The first white mouse, Al, spoke its words with an awkward intonation. I’d just thought it had grown more proficient at speaking.
“Do you intend to kill us?”
I nodded in response to this new Al. Even with everything, not even I am good-natured enough to forgive them. Above all, I don’t believe we can truly understand each other.
“That is troubling.”
The white mouse uttered the same words Al had once spoke.
“We have a transactional offer for you.”
However, the words that followed were quite different from what Al’s were.
“We have spare food. We propose exchanging it.”
“Spare? I thought you were stealing more of ours?”
“That is correct.”
Not breaking a sweat and with no sense of shame, the mouse nodded, causing me to let out a sigh.
Really, I couldn’t overlook this. I had to annihilate them right then and there.
“This is our spare food.”
However, what the mice brought out caused my eyes to grow wide.
“There are still a considerable number remaining. Will you enter negotiations?”
Hearing the mouse’s words, I bared my fangs. How many had they managed to capture? Invalids, children, elderly—all those who were too slow in escaping. It was already a wonder that Nina and Amata had been able to save the number they did before the mice’s assault.
“It’s okay, he’s still breathing.”
Nina, seeing Amaga, secretly whispered to me.
“… Alright. I will turn a blind eye to you all. Release everyone you have captive.”
“I have not yet presented my demands.”
The white mouse simply responded as such after hearing my anguished decision.
“… What? I said I would turn a blind eye to this though?”
“Affirmative. However—we have gained further negotiating material.”
It was already to late by the time I noticed. The rats that had been surrounding us flooded into the ice house. Did they notice their chance, seeing us get so distracted by Amaga?
“Return to your human form.”
I wouldn’t be able to take care of the mice all at once like this, it would cause the villagers to be affected as well.
Although I could attempt to cause their command to collapse by eliminating the white mouse, Al told me that he although was the only one of the mice able to talk to us, he couldn’t command them. That was probably the truth.
Assuming that to be the case, killing this white mouse would only serve to make negotiating impossible and increase the damage we sustain.
As I was told, I changed into my human form.
“So, what are your demands? Is it to provide food, like before?”
“Not only that. We also demand the elimination of the possibility of exterminating us.”
“Elimination of the possibility?”
“Murder the person who can be our enemy.”
Oh, so that’s all? I felt like laughing at that moment.
In other words, the mice were trying to domesticate humans.
“I take that to mean my death?”
If that were the case, I would just be in the way. Just as I thought that, though, the white mouse answered unexpectedly.
“We recognize that you are useful for efficiently providing us food. We cannot afford your elimination.”
“The eradication of the individuals called the Swordsaints. That is our demand.”
“Don’t screw with me!”
My bad feeling coming true, I yelled in response.
“There is no reason for me to accept a demand like that!”
“In that case, we will kill our spare food.”
Meanwhile, the white mouse didn’t panic and just responded indifferently.
Seeing me at a loss for words, Yuuki called my name to soothe me.
“The Swordsaints exist to defend the village. Although I am mortified at not being able to do so… I am willing to give my life.”
“… I feel the same.”
With a serious look, Amata spoke, continuing—
“If the choice is three people or the entire village, there is nothing to consider… please, stand back.”
Bowing his massive frame, Amata deeply lowered his head to me. Taking that as consent, the flocks of mice squirmed and writhed to surround them. Deciding to start with the one who appeared to be weaker, the wriggling black mass rose like a tsunami, attacking Yuuki.
“If I knew it would come to this… I wish I’d been less reserved in being with you.”
The instant I heard her say those words, I ran. However, she was too far and my legs were too slow. We were a mere several meters apart, but it may as well have been an ocean.
Every single mouse had its jaws open wide, exposing their fangs and saliva.
Although the world slowed as if time had stopped… I wouldn’t make it.
I couldn’t reach her.
I don’t care who, but please, anyone—lend me your power!
That prayer dominating my mind, an incantation burst unbidden from my mouth.
In that instant, my body left a sonic boom.
My surroundings became a torrent of shining stripes in my vision while my skin twisted as it fought against the immense wall of air and accelerated. In stark opposition to the blisteringly swift-moving scenery around me, my extremities felt like they were moving through thick molasses. Even so, I frantically gave it my all.
She’s—she’s the only one I can’t let go!
In the next moment, everything returned to normal and another explosive sound reverberated through the air.
The time that had been moving ever so slowly went back to flowing as it always did, the black mice blown away by the shock wave as my body rolled across the ground—
—with my arms embracing small girl, shielding her.
“Thank goodness… are you alright? Yuuki.”
She nodded, embarrassed.
Meanwhile, an intense pain assaulted my mind. Looking to its source, I saw my right leg broken partway up. I suppose this is from me moving with everything I have after using reinforcement magic.
If pressed, I’d say my reinforcement magic demonstrates the strength I have in my dragon form, the reason being that that is the strongest power I can imagine. Therefore, it doesn’t do so much when I use it in my dragon form. After all, my body weighs somewhere between five and six tons. Using that strength in the body of a human that’s maybe sixty kilos total is like strapping a rocket to a bike. Of course that’s how it would turn out.
“Does this mean that you do not accept our demand?”
I apologized. Not to the mouse, however, but to the villagers.
“It seems this girl is more important to me than I thought.”
I couldn’t help but think I just did something stupid. Now that my leg was broken, I couldn’t put up as much of a resistance. The majority of the villagers would likely be killed. No, depending on how many of them there were, there was even a chance that I myself not make it out safely.
“Mentor, if you say so, there’s nothing to be done about it.”
Saying that with his sword prepared before him, Amata looked refreshed.
“I’ll fight until this body of mine gives out… and I’m not the only one who feels like that.”
The villagers who were caught in the ice room also glared at the rats as they brandished whatever they were holding onto as weapons. Not one of them grumbled about my choice.
That’s when it happened. A very out of place laugh sprung up, echoing.
“Aren’t you embarrassed at having such a hard time against such teeny things, lizard?”
A husky voice and an arrogant manner of speech.
There’s only one person who’d talk to me like that.
“I came to save ya, Dropout!”
“… The village is finished.”
Hearing the elf’s—Ultramarine’s loud proclamation, Nina just covered her face and let out a groan.
Why are you in the village? Why did you come running along right now? Why are you so self-important sounding? To all of these questions swirling in my head, Ultramarine answered in her same tone as ever.
“… Wait, why did I?”
Nay, she didn’t answer.
“What…? What is going on?”
For the first time ever, the white mouse’s tone was tinged with emotion. It was perplexed. Perplexed at a truly incomprehensible situation. For it, a mass of rationality, Ultramarine who just goes wherever she felt like with gusto was an entirely incomprehensible existence.
Even I couldn’t really understand what she was trying to accomplish.
I could understand that she was here to help… I think. Probably.
But even with her here, she alone wouldn’t be able to stop the inevitable.
“Nina, is Ultramarine strong?”
Asking Nina just to make sure, she looked up to the sky in absolute denial of everything as she responded.
“… She’s incompetent.”
Yeah, I kind of got that feeling from her.
“Who’s incompetent!? Come on! I was even the first one here!”
Ultramarine heard Nina with her sharp ears and shouted at her.
… First one here?
Just as I questioned what I heard, various things happened simultaneously.
The mice that had surrounded the villagers in front of the ice house were suddenly penetrated with thorns that sprouted from the ground. A gigantic flame flew towards them with tremendous momentum, entirely incinerating them. A rock protruded from the ground, wrapping around Amata, who’d embraced Amaga, as if to protect them.
I doubted what my eyes were telling me.
“It looks like we made it in time.”
It was the voice of a man I hadn’t seen in a while, it lower than the last time I’d heard it.
It was Shig… as well as Violet, Luka, and Rin.
The students of my special classroom had assembled.