Idle Talk 11 -- 3 Heroes, Fleeing The Kingdom ①
Rio is behaving strangely these days. When we talk it's like she doesn't listen to us and it used to be that when we discussed things she'd put forward some good ideas by herself but now it's always "Leonard said that..." or "Leonard thinks..."
Rio loves Leonard, of course and it's understandable she'd tend to agree with his ideas and opinions like you do with people you like but going this far, it's just wrong. Rather than someone being in love it's more like, well... a master-slave relationship? I can't help thinking along those lines.
I talked to Kanon about it and she agreed that Rio is behaving differently but, "she's a maiden in love for the first time and that's just how it is." was her opinion and she added that I shouldn't worry about it. However Kanon was also acting a bit strange at this time. It's starting to worry me.
Round about this time we went on a mission to hunt monsters in order to level up. The request we received from the Adventurers Guild was for the subjugation of a group of Orcs who had been seen several times near a village close to the Royal capital. As usual Leonard came up with a strategy to attack the Orcs we were hunting since he was knowledgeable about monsters, but this time round it didn't go the way he had planned.
The timing of Kanon's magic attack was a little bit off and because of that what should have been a straightforward subjugation got messy. We did succeed in dealing with all of the Orcs in the end of course, but it took more effort and time than it should have. Kanon was told off by the knights for this error. She knew he had got things wrong and took their words to heart.
"I made a mistake today. I'll just have to do it right next time." Kanon said so herself, obviously regretting what had happened. Even so... when Kanon, Rio and I were alone Rio started berating Kanon for her error.
"Why didn't you do what Leonard told you to?! Are you an idiot, Kanon?!" That was only the start of Rio's diatribe, she went on to call Kanon a half-wit and worse. She verbally humiliated Kanon, irrationally furious in a way that worried both Kanon and I. We three were friends and Rio shouldn't have used that sort of language speaking to either of us. I know I would never have spoken like that to either of them. After that incident Kanon finally started to agree with me that Rio was behaving strangely but we couldn't figure out a reason for her changed behaviour.
"I've got a feeling that she's getting stressed out, maybe." Kanon suggested.
"That could be it." I mused, "After all, suddenly arriving in this world from modern Japan was a real shock."
"Saying that Kaito, both you and I had the same experience but we're coping with it, aren't we?"
"Ummm, maybe Rio's a bit more sensitive than we are..." We told ourselves that Rio's recent outburst and her growing coldness towards us was due to the shock of what had happened to us but I wasn't sure, at least that it wasn't everything. There had to be something else we hadn't taken into account and I worried about it all day.
And then that evening... I overheard the knights talking among themselves, not realising I was within earshot around a corner.
"Rio is working out nicely, isn't she?" Louise said.
"Yeah. She listens to everything I say and she's totally obedient." Leonard said with a laugh.
"It's about time for Kaito and Kanon to wear a Bracelet of Slavery too." Louise said.
"I'll go first and get Kanon to wear her bracelet, I want to get my part over with as soon as possible." Aaron said. "After all once it's done it can't be reversed, a Bracelet of Slavery can only be removed by the master who put it on their slave."
"Then, after Kanon, all that's left is..." Leonard said suggestively.
"Kaito, yeah." Louise said. "When I fit a Bracelet of Slavery on that boy Kaito as well, we'll all get promoted." She laughed. "It's as good as done."
I held my breath as I listened to Louise, Leonard and Aaron gloating. After the three had left, I finally exhaled, I would have sworn they must have heard my heart pounding in my chest as I listened to their words. A Bracelet of Slavery? Just from that name, it had to be something magical that made the person who wears it obey like a slave... Did you really put something like that on Rio, Leonard? I finally realised the intention of this country. They intended to use all of us like slaves.
As soon as we were alone I told Kanon about what I had heard the knights talking about. She didn't believe me at first, but when we got the chance we covertly used Appraisal on the bracelet Rio wore so proudly.
[ Bracelet of Slavery ]
That's all we could see using Appraisal, maybe because our levels weren't that high yet but both of us confirmed it to each other and Kanon finally believed what I said. Something with a name like that couldn't be good.
"I think it's best we escape from this country, and soon." I said.
"I think so too, but what about Rio?" Kanon objected. "If what you heard is correct, Kaito, the only one that can remove it is Leonard since he put it on her. We can't take it off her."
"That's what he said... but maybe there is a way? I'll try and find out if there is, but we might run out of time."
"If Aaron offers me a bracelet like that there's no way I'm going to wear it." Kanon declared hotly.
"Of course. But if it does happen, try to refuse him in a way that doesn't make it obvious that you and I know it's a Bracelet of Slavery, Kanon." I answered.
Kanon thought hard. "I can maybe refuse to wear it once, but if I keep on saying no he's going to realise we know what the bracelet does. Aaron's not stupid after all."
"When it happens, do your best." I said. "Louise will try to get me to wear one too. I'll have to come up with my own plan to refuse to wear it when that happens. When I do though that's going to make them even more suspicious."
"Yes, if both of us refuse it, the game's up." Kanon agreed. "When Aaron does offer me the bracelet I'll have to be ready with an excuse... "
A few days after this discussion Kanon reported that Aaron, as expected, had offered her a Bracelet of Slavery, ostensibly as a gift that would enhance her magical powers, the same ploy Leonard had used on Rio. Kanon managed to talk him out of it but she knew he'd try again and the next time she would find it impossible to turn him down without making him suspicious.
"Kanon, I'm really sorry to say this but we're going to have to leave Rio behind when we escape." I hadn't come up with any way to free Rio from her Bracelet of Slavery and we couldn't take her with us while she still wore it, even if we forced her. We couldn't watch her all the time, she'd try and escape from us or maybe attack us or denounce us to the authorities. The Bracelet of Slavery might even allow Leonard to track her whereabouts, I didn't know but it was a possibility. Kanon and I could get away before we were forced to wear the Bracelets of Slavery ourselves but only if we escaped without her, and soon.
Kanon didn't have any ideas to help Rio either. She just said, "I understand." in a dull voice, her face revealing her anguish at leaving a good friend behind.
I discussed with Kanon where we should go after we escaped this country, emphasising we were short of time now. I had sneaked into the Royal library to look at the maps held there and investigated the nearby countries to find out what they were like. I eventually reckoned we should head for the neighboring Kingdom of Marbert as our best bet. I would really have preferred for us to go to the Erman Kingdom or the Leonhart Kingdom but they're too far away.
They call us Heroes but anyone who believes that makes us invincible is being stupid. We know perfectly well that some humans and many monsters are much stronger than us. If we tried to travel to the Erman Kingdom or Leonhart Kingdom and we met powerful monsters on the way that would be the end of us. Another factor was that the countries between here and the Erman Kingdom and Leonhart Kingdom were generally on friendly terms with the Kingdom of Leysehel, the country that had Summoned us as Heroes in the first place. When we escaped it was inevitable we'd be pursued, and if we were detained in one of those other countries it was likely we'd be sent back to the Kingdom of Leysehel as prisoners. For that reason it was probably best for us to immediately head for a country that wasn't on good terms with the Kingdom of Leysehel and that made the neighbouring Kingdom of Marbert our best bet.
The Kingdom of Leysehel and the Kingdom of Marbert were on the verge of declaring war on each other and fighting could break out at any time. If we were found in that country the bad relations between the two Kingdoms would mean it was very unlikely we'd be sent back, especially if they knew we were Heroes who'd be forced to fight against them.
Talking it over with Kanon we decided that, when we got the chance, we would escape and head for the Kingdom of Marbert. We made other preparations, cacheing food, changes of clothes to disguise us and other things. We would not regret leaving this country, but abandoning Rio was going to be hard.