People freed from the demon fortress lined up to get out of the hole.
Regardless of age or gender, they all looked worn out and exhausted.
"Do you recognize any of these names?"
"No, I don't."
"I don't remember them."
I go around showing my friends' names on a piece of paper.
Kaede and Frau were also asking the rest of the people.
I knew they were not going to be here.
There was no response to the guide needle either.
I hoped I had a clue at least.
"Master, please come quickly!"
Kaede called out to me and I ran out.
Could it be that she found them?
There was a woman from the rat tribe with her.
"Are you the man who knows Soara-Sama and Pione-Sama?"
"Then your name is Toru?"
"You know me!?"
The woman stared at me as if she was analyzing me.
"I'm surprised you came here. Soara-Sama used to say that someone called Toru would come to her rescue."
"And where are they now?"
"They probably managed to escape safely. I'm not sure where they went, but if Isabella is still with them, they should be in the west, that's where her hometown is."
She then told me in detail what had happened so far.
She told me that the two of them had organized a great escape plan a while back.
The charismatic Pione and Soara helped many people escape, which no one else could do.
Some were recaptured, but a large number of them managed to escape.
"Those two girls were a ray of hope for us. Please make sure they're okay."
"Of course I will. They are two important people to me."
At last, I finally got a solid lead.
It was a good decision to come here after all.
"Please reconsider our offer! It was thanks to the Manyu Brigade that we were able to accomplish this mission. I insist that you meet with our king and receive the reward you deserve."
"I am flattered, but I have something very important I need to do."
Director Nuch was trying to keep us from leaving.
Behind him stood the soldiers, their faces sad and tearful.
"Kaede-Chan is leaving!!!"
"Damn, I've never felt so much pain!
"I'm going to leave the army to go with you!"
"Don't be stupid, you'll only be a nuisance!"
"Frau-Chan! Frau-Chan, don't leave me!"
Well, apparently no one cares that I'm leaving.
I'm not upset, but it'd be nice to at least feel like I'd be missed.
I feel a little sad over this.
"Soldiers! Don't get depressed, we'll meet them again someday!"
"Yes! We'll speak of the legend of the Manyu Brigade on our travels."
After hearing the soldiers' responses, one of the soldiers waved a banner that said "Kaede the goddess of music".
These boys were enchanted with Kaede....
We separated from Galbaran's army and headed west through the Great Forest.
We took a break waiting for Kaede to finish scanning the area with her keen sense of smell for Soara and Pione's scent.
I was pensive as I looked at my fishing line dangling in the river.
"We found Luna. And now we know that Soara and Pione are alive. If we're lucky, we'll be able to find them soon. But I'm still worried about Nei, Marianne, Alusha and Lynn. I wish I knew where they are."
Kaede comes back with her arms full of fruits.
She seems to be much happier now. She was less cheerful before when we traveled with the army.
She said she wished to have some time alone with me.
"She went out with Panda to look for food. She was chasing a deer when I saw her just now. Fufufu..."
Kaede is in a great mood today.
She put the fruit near her backpack and ran to sit next to me.
"How's the fishing going?"
"Not so good. I haven't been able to get anything."
"Is bait a problem?"
"I guess. Maybe it's time to look for bigger worms."
The riverbank on a sunny day is warm and balmy.
The soothing sounds of the water and birds seem to ease my tired mind.
"Master, can I move a little closer?"
Kaede moved much closer to me.
She then sniffed my shoulder and rubbed her cheek against it.
She put her weight on me.
"My greatest happiness was meeting you, Master."
"I wouldn't be here either if it weren't for you. In fact, I had a dream not long ago."
"Was it about Lisa?"
"Yes, I kept reliving that day over and over again in my dreams. Even after I defeated Lisa and Sain, the nightmares kept coming. But lately, they've stopped completely."
I feel like the hole in my heart is filling up, little by little.
It's definitely thanks to my friends.
It's because of them that I was able to keep moving forward.
"Am I a source of support to you, Master?"
"You support me so much that I wouldn't want to be without you. You will always be with me, won't you?"
"Yes. I will not leave your side even in death."
Kaede said those words as she clung tightly to my arm.
Her eyes were moist, and my gaze was fixed on her pink, glossy lips.
Our lips were slowly getting closer.
"My Lord! Look what I found!"
Kaede and I quickly moved away.
Frau and Panda had returned.
Damn. If only she'd arrived a few minutes later....
"Frau-San, no lunch for you today!"
Kaede was so angry.
And frau was so shocked that she dropped the deer she was holding on the ground.
"Why don't you eat a little more slowly?"
"You never know when Kaede's mood will change again. I have to eat until I'm full while I can."
Frau was scarfing down her food.
Kaede's mood had finally improved, so she gave her permission to eat.
I feel bad for Frau. Kaede is a little out of control.
It's really weird that she got so angry at Frau, though.
I guess she was really looking forward to that kiss. Well, I must admit I was a little disappointed too.
And Kaede was still pouting beside me.
She's a little calmer now.
"Oh, by the way, I ran into a fairy while I was hunting."
"Yes. She told me there's a fairy colony in the Great Forest. So I asked the girl to show us around. If it's alright with you, my Lord, we can leave right away."
Now that I remember, I had heard about something like that back at the black market. Also, that forest is where the ancient Demon King Roswell lives.
"Soara and Pione might be there."
"I see. I didn't think of that."
"What do you think, Kaede?"
"I'll follow Master wherever he goes."
There was nothing more to say. We finished eating, gathered our things and headed for the land of the fairies.