TALES OF OBSCURA

Written by Benit149

This story is both an original tale and homage to Namco's Tales of... video game series, which I have always enjoyed playing. Any characters and/or concepts that do not exist in the actual games belong to me. Those that do occur in the games belong to Namco and all related affiliates. I claim no ownership to Namco's characters, but do claim my own original characters.

Chapter 1: Train Wreck

It was a perfect day in Hieizou, a country located on the planet Sephira. Fluffy clouds shaped the heavens with their bizarre, marshmellowy forms, and a gentle warm breeze blew across the land. The only thing detracting from this serenity was the toot of an oncoming train in the distance.

About 500 meters away from the stretching tracks, an 18-year-old girl named Krile Shizumori walked alone. She didn't appear happy since she always bore a stoic frown, but she actually preferred the quiet surroundings over dealing with people. It didn't mean that she was an antisocial type either – on the contrary, she had no problem dealing in a business manner with others. It was just easier to deal with self-imposed solitude over people acting unpredictably.

Krile had short chestnut brown hair that reached to her shoulders, tied back with a cute ribbon as blue as her calm eyes. She wore a red dress trimmed with buckles and belts, outfitted with a scabbard which housed her prized sword. Her black legwear reached up to her thighs and she wore old, worn red shoes. If it weren't for her bored expression, she would have been adorable.

Krile hiked alone northbound to the next country; Sumizome. She didn't have a destination in mind, but anything was better than poking around for dead leads here any further. This girl was on a journey to find her sister, who went missing last year. It was a tragic event that occurred to them, but she suppressed the memories and focused on her mission. Whether her sister was alive or dead didn't really matter; she just wanted to find her and bring closure.

So far, she failed to find any sign of her missing sibling for the past year, so perhaps she could have fled to a different country. Hence the northward journey across a huge stretch of lonely train tracks. By now one would wonder why Krile wasn't using the train. The answer was simple; she loved nature. Sure, she couldn't do anything about mankind's evolving technological advances from potentially ruining the ecologic balance, but she figured she could at least distance herself from it and not contribute to mankind's 'evolution'. If it meant others calling her a maniac for not taking the fastest method of travel possible, so be it. She was happy. What else could a person ask for?

So there she was, walking along and minding her own business. It was late afternoon when Krile heard the train's tooting in the distance. It grew louder with each second, so the traveler edged herself further away from the tracks to stay safe.

Best to stay a distance away lest I become another sorry statistic.

It was true; people died on these tracks more regularly than she cared to know. The casualties were either daredevils looking for a thrill, suicidal types wanting a fast, painless death, or just plain stupid people not obeying the rules. Krile preferred life over death, so she kept to the distance and watched the roaring cars rush by past her. The soft breeze was momentarily replaced by a horrible torrent of artificial wind.

Five minutes later, the rushing breezes died down and she figured things would return to natural silence as always.

At the same time, many passengers on the train minded their own business while reading books, staring outside, or chatting with each other. One man, Melvin Dengon, watched Hieizou's lush landscape zoom by with a bored look on his face. Compared to the rest of the people aboard, he was clearly not from this country, and several others couldn't help but glance at him briefly.

Melvin was a tall and built young man with such long lavender hair that it bordered on ridiculous. It reached the back of his knees – and he planned to grow it even longer. His skin was a deep tan color, he bore pointy elf ears, and his eyes were entirely black save for purple irises. Melvin didn't wear a shirt, but his muscularly defined arms were entirely covered in bandages and leather gloves to hide some nasty scars, and he had intricate tattoos running along his right cheek, neck, and right side of his upper torso. To finish his hodgepodge ensemble, he wore hakama pants, belts and sandals, and bore two scabbards for twin axes which he kept to the side.

The fighter was heading north for Sumizome, but had to stop in the final town Rizutani to pass clearance. It was a boring protocol, but he had to follow it strictly, especially since he was a foreigner. On top of that, the final car in this particular train carried an important official, so security would be even tighter than usual. Surprisingly, no one really knew who this 'official' was, so all of the employees had to stay quiet.

What a pain in the ass. This is why I can't stand 'important' people – everyone yaps about being treated equally, and yet these people always get treated 'more equally'. If they didn't have money, they would be going through the same headaches as the rest of us. Damn bastards...

Melvin grumbled countless times during the trip for the same reason. The passing scenery was getting dull, but he knew he was almost at Rizutani. Just then, he spotted something small and red in the green landscape. It zipped by so fast that if he blinked, he would have missed it.

What the-? Was that a person?

Meanwhile in the train's last car, the 'official' in question, who preferred to just be called Galbard, stretched his arms and lounged back boredly. It had been 12 straight hours of traveling north from Hieizou's capital city Fuyukin, and after that it would take even longer to return to Sumizome's capital.

"I know the Queen insists that I return as soon as possible, but do these rides have to be so tedious?" he moaned.

His partner Bunyan Mochi muttered, "Sir, they've done their best to accommodate you. There's only so much you can do in such confined quarters."

"I'm not all gung ho about the fancy stuff, but they should have more stuff to do. I already finished my studies of Hieizou, finished that trilogy novel series and beat a few puzzles."

"It's another 10 minutes to Rizutani. We can do lots of sightseeing when we get there."

Galbard leaned back again and struggled to find a way to pass the time. He was an attractive and well-groomed fellow in his early 20s with short white hair and blue eyes, appearing like an ideal Prince Charming to unsuspecting girls – that's if they didn't see him lazing around like an impatient child. His outfit cleverly doubled as official garments and as an archer's uniform, since he was well-versed as a marksman.

Bunyan was a surprisingly cherub-faced man with tousled red hair, brown eyes and a large rounded nose. His short stature and slightly pointed ears indicated that he was a dwarf. No one would guess that this unassuming guy would be capable of high-class combat, but he was one of the best knights in Sumizome. So good, in fact, that he had been appointed Galbard's retainer for almost 10 years.

"You know they say that the final minutes of a trip are always the longest," Galbard uttered after a few quiet seconds.

"Yeah? Well 'they' say too much. Take a quick nap or something. I can't stand this complaining."

"I am not complaining."

"Yes, you are," Bunyan retorted. "Keep that up and someone will think you're a spoiled brat."

"Oh yeah? Who?"

"Well-"

Way on the opposite side of the same train tracks that Krile walked along, two more females no older than Krile ventured across the vast open plains on their way to Rizutani. They were a pair of sisters from Eikimi, a country further northwest to Sumizome, who were in Hieizou to fulfill an important duty. Now that they were finished, they headed back north while stopping in hamlets along the way to provide medical aid – the younger sister was proficient with healing magic, and the older was so skilled with knives that she could perform incisions with her eyes closed (figuratively speaking, that is).

After caring for the last patient the previous evening, the sisters slept until dawn and bid farewell to the grateful villagers before heading to Rizutani. This was their last stop before departing from Hieizou proper. The elder sibling yawned and rubbed her eyes numerous times, and her sister nudged her shoulder in annoyance.

"Hey, Milei. Stop doing that. You're making me tired as well," she whined.

"Don't give me that, Misha. It was your bright idea to walk to Rizutani rather than take the train. It's too late to be crying for mercy," Milei snapped unenthusiastically.

"Can't we just sit down for a few minutes?"

"No! We've already 'sat down' five times! If it wasn't for that, we'd be in town already!"

"But-"

"I don't want to hear it! My patience is running thin!"

The cranky Milei glared away and straightened herself up to set an example for her sluggish sister. Milei had raven black hair that reached to her back and wore an intricate hairband with feathers in it. She wore a fairly standard thief's bodysuit and vest, although her choice of colours left a few things desired; an orange bodysuit underneath yellow shorts and vest, brown leather boots and gloves, and black accents.

Misha, on the other hand, was more well-groomed and appropriate with her mage outfit. She had shorter silver hair that fanned up into a wing-like style, her bangs adorned with a gem and feathers that had cooler purple and blue colours. She wore a blue vest and a white dress with rainbow-like stripes of yellow, blue and purple. Her socks were sorely mismatched, however; one reached up to her thigh, while the other barely went past her ankle.

Apparently, poor fashion sense ran in the family.

Misha continued to complain, "Then can I at least have some water? I finished mine a long time ago, and I was doing my best to hold on..."

"Ugh. You're impossible, you know that?" Milei shook her head, but willingly gave her canteen away. "Every single time we hit the road, it's the same thing over and over again. I only follow along with your whimsical ideas to keep you quiet. Maybe now you'll listen to common sense for a change instead of – HEY!"

Misha was too busy drinking the entire canteen to care what Milei was ranting about.

"Don't finish it all off! We've still got an hour before we hit Rizutani, and there isn't anywhere to refill! Hey, stop it already, you spoiled brat!

"Ahhh!" the healer sighed in relief. "That hit the spot!"

Milei grabbed her bottle and realized it was completely empty. "Oh, for crying out loud! Why do I even bother!"

These six people led separate lives, hailed from different nations, lived in diverse castes, and possessed vastly unique personalities and abilities. Nothing on Sephira could have possibly connected them together until that fateful afternoon. But once that connection was created, it formed an inseparable bond that no trial, disaster or tragedy could sever. The seconds ticked away until their ordinary lives would be over, and they would step into the realm of Sephira's hidden, extraordinary world of secrets and conspiracies.

All it took for the legend known as 'Tales of Obscura' to begin was one well-timed explosion...

BOOM!

The engineer's car exploded without warning in a brilliant blast of heat and fire!

Krile jumped from the sudden explosion ahead of her. She was very hard to surprise anymore, but this was something else. She couldn't think coherently for a few moments as she watched the scene in horror.

The cars directly behind the exploded one derailed and skidded everywhere across the field, scratching the green landscape like scraping skin when falling on concrete. She noticed people flying out the windows and being thrown about to their deaths. Or were they already dead? It was impossible to tell. The crippled train continued scraping down the slight hill as the traveler instinctively took chase after it. She passed by the smouldering section of tracks where the explosion occurred, seeing nothing but twisted metal and burning timber.

This is bad. I can't get medical aid way out here like this.

With that grim thought, Krile kept running towards the wreckage. The cabooses finally stopped skidding and came to rest just before a dense forest. Smoke billowed out everywhere. The stench of death befouled the area as she came across the occasional bodies. Upon closer inspection of these people, she found them all to be dead. No one could have survived such a violent whiplash and crash to the ground. Thankfully, Krile didn't recognize any of them as her sister. She spent a brief moment praying for their souls before venturing towards the fiery wreck.

What a disaster. Am I really going to find anyone alive?

She cast aside her doubts. If there was even a glimmer of hope for one person, she didn't want to snuff it out with her uncertainties. She began crawling and tripping over the steel cars, peeking inside for any signs of life. So far, everyone closest to the explosion was dead (and in more gruesome ways than she wished she knew). Any ordinary person would have run in fear from this wretched place, but Krile stayed objective enough to continue her search. She blanked out the noise of roaring flames as her vision almost turned sepia-like, which helped drown out the horror. It was like she was whisked away into a war soldier's worst memory.

As Krile ventured towards the rear cabs, she found most of the windows blown out from passengers being tossed out. The chances of her finding survivors dwindled with each car she passed. But then, finally, another noise besides fire and wind:

"Unnngh..."

Krile sharpened up and rushed to the cab second from the rear. She smashed a window open with her sword and discovered Melvin trying to unpin his leg from under a seat. When he spotted her, he cried out, "Y-You there! Get this damn thing off me!"

She didn't waste a second fulfilling the blunt but desperate request. She used her sword to cut into the seat, turning it into smaller manageable pieces that she could toss aside.

"Hey, don't cut me, lady!" he barked.

He just survived a train crash, yet winces at the thought of a tiny cut? I don't get it sometimes, Krile wondered as she removed the last pieces. He tried to move his left leg but howled in agony every time he tried.

"Gaaah! It's broken!"

"Calm down," she implored. "Panicking will make it worse. I'll help you outside."

She tried to help him move, but his constant nagging about the pain made it very difficult. Their contorted surroundings didn't help things. They had to take it nice and slow, but Melvin was hardly in the mood for 'nice and slow'.

"Arrrgh! Gah, be careful!" he complained, howling from the pain.

"I am. You need to stop being so excited," she commanded.

"Then don't move so fast, damn it!"

"A piece of the wreckage could fall on us again. You don't mind having your leg pinned a second time?"

"Ungh..."

Eventually they escaped and she slumped his arm over her shoulder, allowing him to use her as a crutch as they walked. Melvin stared at Krile's unusually calm face, which seemed to jog his memory for some reason. It was like he superimposed her face with someone else's, but it wasn't entirely clear.

"You..." he murmured.

"Hm?" she blinked.

"Have we met before?"

She stared at him for a moment, but nothing came to mind. "I'm afraid not. With those traveling clothes and dark elf race, I would remember someone like you immediately."

"Oh. Never mind then. More importantly, what's going on here?" Melvin wondered.

"There was an explosion in the engineer's cab," Krile explained frankly.

"An attack!"

"I don't know. It could have been an accident."

"But it happened at the engineer's car, right? That's where someone would want to attack!"

"I can't say anything for sure. Regardless, you only survived because you were so far away."

"Good Sephira-!"

She found a safe spot to sit him down so she could inspect his leg. It didn't appear distorted or broken since the chair that landed on it really wasn't all that heavy. The force of the impact could have done some damage though, like a fracture or break.

Krile told him, "Wait here. I'm going to find some branches so I can make a splint."

"Are you serious! There's no way that's going to work! We're not going to get help way out here for a long time!" Melvin barked.

"According to my map, Rizutani would have been ten minutes away by train, so it's an hour by foot. If I get you splinted right away, we can get there by nightfall. Better yet, rescuers could be on their way once they learn about the... accident."

"Guh! Damn it all! Like I have a choice in this."

"Good. I'll be right back."

With that, Krile proceeded to go into the forest when he stopped her and exclaimed, "Hold on! You didn't tell me your name!"

"Oh," she fumbled, forgetting the most basic rule of communication. "Krile Shizumori."

Krile? Melvin paused, noting how unusual a name it was.

"What's wrong this time?" she grumbled, noticing his questioning expression.

"I-It's nothing. Heh heh heh..."

She huffed and hurried to find some branches. Melvin sat there and stared at the train wreckage in utter disbelief for a long while. Now having seen the scale of destruction, he truly felt blessed to be alive. But that wonder was soon replaced with curiosity as he rubbed his head and tried to remember where he heard of a 'Krile' before. This bewilderment distracted him from the destruction of the train wreck.

I know I've heard that name before. Was there someone else I met with that name? It must've been a long time ago or else I'd remember better. It definitely doesn't belong to any of the callgirls I play around with. Then there was her face - so calm and relaxed even through all of this. I know I've met someone like that before too, and they acted so weird. It'd be really funny if that person's name was Krile too.

Melvin sat there dumbly, as if connecting puzzle pieces together one by one in his mind. He smirked dumbly when he realized something.

No way. A calm-mannered girl named Krile... Now I remember. I've met someone like that before, and it was here in Hieizou ages ago. I don't have any proof, but there's no doubt about it – that person and this woman are one and the same. I met her a long time ago when I was a kid, but I can't remember for what. What was I doing in Hieizou back then? Why did I meet Krile before?

The dark elf scratched his head furiously, frustrated that he couldn't recall more clearly.

Aaagh, I'm looking into this too much! I should just buck up and ask-

"Are you okay?"

"BAH!" Melvin jerked his entire body, irritating his damaged leg even more. Krile stood behind him carrying a small bundle of twigs. He didn't hear her approach behind him whatsoever, so his bizarre visual hand gestures were quite a sight to her.

"Dammit, don't scare me like that! I thought I was going to die!" he complained.

"That's not funny."

"I wasn't trying to be-! Oh, whatever! You got back fast."

"Did you expect me to be there for hours? We're in a hurry," she replied while kneeling next to him and preparing the splint. She removed some belts from both of their clothing, as well as the ribbon in her hair, to use as binding. Finally, the damaged leg was stabilized enough for him to wobble on with her assistance.

"Ungh. Not perfect, but it'll do," Melvin groaned.

"Let's get moving. Let me know if you're in too much pain to move," Krile said.

"You're not going to find more survivors?"

"I don't think there's anyone else, although I didn't check the final car yet..."

"Go should take a look, just to be sure. I heard there was someone important in there."

"Are you okay with that? We can't dawdle around."

"It hurts like hell, but I'll still be alive when you get back!"

"Understood," Krile nodded and jogged ahead to the final car.

"Ugh..." Bunyan grunted, regaining consciousness first and shoving debris off himself. He found Galbard next to him passed out cold from head trauma. The dwarf shook him and called out to him several times. Fortunately, the unconscious man was breathing.

"Galbard! Galbard, wake up! Are you okay!"

"Oooh..." the young official woke up and rubbed his head. "Bunyan, what just happened?"

"I think we got derailed somehow."

"Derailed?" Galbard grew concerned, thinking of so many horrible outcomes at once. The migraine he suffered didn't help at all.

"Are you all right?" Bunyan asked.

"It could have been worse. But this train is known for being accident-free for decades. Why would it derail all of a sudden? On top of that, I think I heard some kind of explosion ahead."

The knight shook his head. "Maybe the engineer's car had a malfunction. Anyway, we need to get out of here, sir."

"Agreed. How are you doing, by the way?"

"I'm okay," Bunyan nodded, flexing his limbs to prove his point. He took a peek out of the broken windows and briefly witnessed the real carnage outside. His rosy cheeks blanched with fright as he immediately averted his eyes from the gruesome spectacle. He gulped, "We better not go out that way."

"Lots of dead passengers?" Galbard asked with a hard frown. "I can't imagine anyone ahead of us surviving."

"Don't put it that way! Come on, we'll go out this w-"

The two men paused when they heard a faint sound growing closer to them. It was a distinct reverberation that could only match with one thing; galloping horse hooves. They listened intently while trying to figure out how many equestrians there were. They couldn't tell for sure, but it was a lot. Furthermore, they seemed to be heading straight for the final car – the one that Bunyan and Galbard were in.

"I don't like this," Bunyan gritted his teeth while clutching his poleaxe. "No one responds that quickly to a freak accident."

"Maybe it's because I'm here," Galbard said. Others in his position of high authority would start cursing themselves for being constantly targeted, but this was a fact of life for him. He was the type to deal with these types of inner demons rather than idly sit by. He specifically chose Bunyan as his bodyguard because the dwarf never tried to interfere with this belief. They became close buddies as a result, and could trust each other in battle.

The knight suggested, "I'll go out and see them. If something happens, feel free to back me up."

"Sounds good," the official agreed while equipping his bow and arrow.

Milei and Misha watched the horse riders from a safe distance away from the wreckage. About 15 to 20 riders surrounded the area while several men approached the last caboose.

"Oh wow! What do you know? Help already arrived!" Misha exclaimed.

"What a coincidence," Milei replied, squinting to get a better view. "In fact, I find it suspect."

"Huh? How come?"

"Misha, nobody rides around on the plains anymore now that the train is popular. Why would there be so many of them at once here?"

"Maybe they're some type of club."

"I don't think so. This train is carrying a foreign official from Fuyukin back to Sumizome. Maybe they want to kidnap him for ransom!" the older sister realized. Her nosy nature got the better of her as she barrelled down the hillside.

"H-HEY! Wait for me, Sis!" Misha yelled.

Krile paused when she heard the galloping horse hooves as well. She knew she saw horse riders way down the opposite distance earlier, so she figured they had come along to help.

Excellent timing. I can get Melvin to Rizutani faster than I expected.

However, when she emerged from around a piece of wreckage, her relief turned into fear. For some instinctive reason, she had to hide from view. The horsemen in question bolted straight for the final car without any regard for the others, as if they had a purpose. Then from the final caboose, a fully armoured guard bashed through the damaged door and charged straight for the horsemen, wielding a polearm twice as big as him! To her shock, the equestrians brandished crossbows and started firing at him!

What-?

Krile remained as a hidden audience member to this spectacle. The horse riders weren't here to help anyone? In fact, the knight seemed suspiciously ready to battle them. She strained to see if there were any identifying signs she could pick up from their outfits to define them as members of a group. The first thing she noticed was that the assailants wore samurai armour native to Hieizou, but the guard wore armour more widely used in the northern country Sumizome.

Warriors from different countries battling each other? I know Hieizou has had difficult relations with Sumizome in the past, but we're mostly on good terms now. Yet these horsemen are definitely Lord Tadanori's men; their capes have his sigil. Then is someone in the train from Sumizome? Why would Tadanori want to attack a local train over a foreigner?

Nothing was making sense to her. She could only watch and hope things ended quickly. In the distance, five more horsemen joined this horribly one-sided battle, but the armoured knight maintained an impressive defence, refusing to move aside from the caboose door.

Krile shook her head in disbelief. No, this can't be an isolated incident. Tadanori's forces are too organized for chasing a common criminal. They responded to this incident far too quickly for my liking. Whoever is inside that car is very important to him, and they'll do whatever it takes to apprehend this person.

She was stuck deciding if she should help the knight or remain hidden for Melvin's safety. For all she knew, Tadanori's samurai could use the crippled dark elf as a hostage should she slip up. The armoured foreigner maintained a commendable battle, but some arrows broke through the steel plates and stuck out of him like quills. Fortunately (and fearfully), some shots bounced off his reinforced helmet. However, he was at his limit. A horseman used his own animal to bounce the guard away like a megaton punch, exposing the door for some samurai to rush.

Suddenly, two men yelped in agony and stumbled away. Krile was shocked; they had arrow quivers sticking out of their chests! One collapsed to his death while the other retreated. Someone had fired such deadly accurate shots from inside the car!

Another protector inside? I see, the 'mouse in a corner' strategy; the guard outside weakens them while the one inside finishes them off.

However, that plan didn't last long. A samurai slammed open the door and dragged the person outside, punching him in the stomach to knock him unconscious. Then he wrapped his arms behind his back with some rope before another samurai dragged the victim onto his horse. The armoured protector tried to get back up to help his master, but the other samurai beat him down relentlessly. Krile was at the limit of her patience, now wanting to help the fallen man. She almost extracted her sword from its sheath when...

"AQUA EDGE!"

A blob of water magic sailed through the air like a frisbee and splashed against a samurai and his steed, making the animal run around in uncontrollable fright and throwing the man off. Everyone glanced up the hill to find Misha and Milei rushing towards the battle.

"Damn it! Hold these intruders down here!" the samurai with his victim ordered, who seemed to be the leader of this vicious team. The remaining warriors let out a battle cry and unsheathed their swords to face these newcomers, giving the leader his opportunity to escape with Galbard. In total, seven troops remained, but the sisters didn't seem fazed by their odds. Misha opened a grimoire – a type of occult spell book popular with sorcerers – and recited another spell.

"Aqua Spiral!" she called out, slamming the book shut before a high-velocity orb of water exploded against a man's chest and sent him flying. Meanwhile, Milei opened a bag full of well-organized daggers and chucked one at another man. To his and Krile's surprise, it glowed bright white momentarily.

"Photon!" she yelled and the dagger turned into a mini-explosion of light that knocked her foe unconscious. Milei didn't spare a moment celebrating as she found her next target and pummelled him with a series of kicks and knife slashes. During this time, Bunyan recovered his senses and removed a couple of arrows out of his cracked armour. He saw the girls fighting on his behalf and mustered his courage, returning to battle another one of Tadanori's men.

Meanwhile, Melvin hobbled up to the stunned Krile and asked, "What's all that commotion?"

"I don't know, but things seem to be under control," she said. "Stay here. I'll provide assistance just to be sure."

"Hey, wait a minute now-!"

"I'll explain what I saw later."

With that inelegant explanation, Krile unsheathed her blade and dashed towards the battle. By now, things were wrapping up nicely for the unexpected team, but the final samurai proved to be troublesome. He could use magic as well – fire magic, to be specific. If he miscast his spells for any reason, he could set the surrounding forest ablaze. Judging from the frenzied look in his eyes, it didn't look like he cared at that much for environmental damage as long as he either won or died. All of his comrades were dead, which added to his panic as he increased the power in his Spiral Flare spell.

"That's crazy! Stop this right now!" Misha exclaimed to him desperately.

"Forget it! Use Splash on him, sis!" Milei yelled.

"There's not enough time, but I'll try!"

"'Trying' isn't going to be good enough!" Bunyan snarled, standing himself between the madman and his saviours. With some final power words, the samurai would unleash his vicious Spiral Flare magic and burn everyone into ashes, just as he hoped.

"Oh incandescent locus, annihilate the vulgar be-!"

"Painless End."

Krile uttered her attack name without any warning, jumped in from behind and slashed her blade deep across his back, interrupting the chant and killing him instantly. While the incantation did stop, the fire still roared over the dead man's palms and ignited the grass! Krile tried to stomp it out, but Bunyan tackled her aside!

"Oh pure and noble waters, grant them thy undefiled purity! Splash!" Misha finally finished her own chant and caused a brilliant blue bubble of liquid to appear above in the sky, which then burst open like a balloon and sprayed water over the blaze. It was enough to douse the fire before any more widespread damage could be done, leaving behind a choking billow of foul smoke. Everyone coughed from the piercing fumes and scrambled away.

"Whew! Not the best way to end things, but at least we averted a crisis," Milei commented. "I knew something was wrong - those were Tadanori's forces. What were they doing all the way out here?"

"Not for a good reason, I'll tell you that! Who was that person they kidnapped from you, sir?" the water sorceress asked.

Bunyan got off Krile and removed his helmet, groaning, "I... I can't say. I have to go after him."

"Not with injuries like those, Mr..."

"Bunyan Mochi."

"M-Mr. Mochi. Here, I'll heal you, then we'll talk," Misha replied and used a watery Heal spell to close his wounds.

Krile blinked, getting an idea from seeing her use curative magic. She said, "If you don't mind, there's someone from the train wreck who needs healing. I'd like to bring him over, if that's all right with you."

"Certainly."

She hurried back to where Melvin was and told him, "One of those sorceresses is a healer. We can get your leg treated here."

"You're kidding," the elf murmured in awe and stumbled while following her back to the group. The priestess inspected his leg and cast some curing spells on it until he no longer felt any pain.

"Oh, hell yeah! Back to normal! How can I repay you, Miss... uh?"

"My name's Misha. Misha Ei-"

Milei suddenly whipped her arms out and smacked Misha's face, then uttered, "Whoops, I was stretching and didn't see you there!"

"T-That was mean, Milei! What did you do that for!"

"Do what? I didn't do anything."

"Yes, you did! Right when I was introducing myself too!"

Melvin and Krile glanced at each other in confusion as the sisters bickered with each other. Bunyan sighed and interrupted the fracas with, "Listen, I appreciate your help, everyone. I really do. But I have to hurry and rescue my master from Tadanori's forces. The captors were heading towards Rizutani, and I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't hurry."

"Krile and I were on our way there too," Melvin said.

"As were my sister and I," Milei added.

"You're not suggesting you work with me? This is official business; innocent civilians shouldn't get themselves involved."

Misha frowned, "We already are, aren't we? We stopped these guys, but we failed to help your master. We should make up for it."

"In addition," Krile murmured, approaching Bunyan with an air of confidence and suspicion, "this appears to be a bigger incident than you let on, Mr. Mochi."

The others glanced at her in surprise as she explained, "If there were even a high-profile criminal on that train, Lord Tadanori would have sent about five men to apprehend him once it reached the station. What we saw today was pure overkill; the train exploded in a specific manner, and around twenty soldiers were sent to capture someone who could have died in the crash anyway. It seems to me like that disaster was designed to specifically spare your liege's life.

"Now if you continue on insisting we are uninvolved citizens, remember that there were over 100 people in those cars when the explosion went off. Innocent people. The type of people you don't want involved. I'm afraid it's too late for you to ask us to leave after I saw all of those mangled bodies, especially when they were alive just five minutes ago. Lord Tadanori murdered our fellow civilians to get to a foreign official. Do you understand what this means for Hieizou?"

Everyone grew dismally silent from Krile's cold and unfeeling logic. Bunyan couldn't find a reason to argue with it either.

"Now, let us ask you one more time, Mr. Mochi; who was the man that was taken away? He is the one at the center of this attack, and we deserve to know if we're to rescue him," Krile asked.

The knight sighed, but conceded, "All right. The man I'm working for is Galbardlaine Ul Voldaia Sumizome, crown prince and rightful heir of Sumizome's throne..."