Chapter 2 – How to socialize with Elves

Chapter 2 – How to socialize with Elves

Proofreaders: Dreen, TheDarkLink, Rooker

There are many differences between a game and real life, even if you’re living that real life in a fantasy world. In a game, rain is mostly just annoying, limiting your visual range. But on the other hand, it can make a game world more believable and beautiful.

In real life, you get wet. Even after using oiled coats with hoods, you’ll get wet if you’re not careful. Your clothes will rub against your skin, you feel cold all the time, your nose starts running, and you feel unpleasant.

By the way, I’m half-naked.

Why? Because Kyou-san didn’t have a coat for rainy weather.

So she demanded me to hand over mine, but I declined. Then she got Rine on her side, who looked at me puppy-eyed again, forcing me to give Kyou-san my coat. In the end, I did. At least it was worth a WP.

Since wet clothes aren’t very comfortable and they’ll be soaked in no time by this heavy rain, I removed my armor and most of my clothes, put them in the backpack and just went on. The cold is draining my SP continually, but at least Kyou-san casts [Stamina] at me a few times. But do you know what would be better? A rain coat!

It’s cold and wet. And lonely.

We left the mountains and the terrain is more of a hillside. There is little vegetation, but you could run into something hidden behind a raise.

“Phew…” I deactivate the [Track]-skill. I used it before to get a picture of the monsters around here, but the tracks are washed away. And it’s highly improbable that monsters will attack in this weather.

…I take that back, I just heard some snarling. I use the [Pitch]-skill, it’s ahead of us. Seems like they’re attacking someone. I can hear wood shatter, a man’s yell and other indicators of an attack.

Well, not exactly my problem.

“Did you hear it?” Come on, Rine. It’s raining and you don’t have the [Perception]-ability, so you shouldn’t hear anything at all!

“No?” I shoot a glance to Kyou-san. ‘Don’t let her do this.’

‘Understood.’ “Rine-chan, I’m sure, you just misheard it.”

“Are you sure? This sounds like someone is in trouble.” She looks at me, as if she wants to check it out together.

No. Way. “Rine, it may be a monster influencing your mind. So don’t do what it wants you to!”

“If it’s a monster, I need to slay it!” Ah, didn’t consider her heroic impulses. The only answer I can muster is a facepalm.

‘Idiot’. Kyou-san sighs.

Rine charges right in and I follow her, retrieving my spear from the backpack.

It’s just behind the hill.

In front of us, hard to see because of the rain, is a covered wagon on a muddy road, being attacked by five mobs. The monsters are formed like beetles, but have the scales of a fish, a pair of muscular arms and the face of a shark. What are these mobs even called? Sharkbeetles? At least they’re only as large as big dogs.

Surrounded by them is a single humanoid shadow, it’s the yelling guy from before. The man is wearing a hooded cloak as well and he wields a saber. He’s not bad at fighting, dancing between the sharkbeetles, always attacking the ones which want to take a bite from the already damaged wagon.

I don’t need to get into details here. Rine comes, death flourishes and I help a bit, starting with a [Speedthrust] into the opponents. In the end, there are only five monsters. Nothing to be afraid of.

But Rine’s totally drenched now, in blood and water, since fighting while keeping the cloak shut is nigh impossible.

Same goes for the man, who has black, long hair and a beard. Black hair? But he’s clearly not Asian. So there are people like that, huh? In Feuerberg, most people had bright hair, like blonde, dark blonde, light brown, or red. I guess he’s from another country.

“Thank you, I thought we would be doomed. I’m a merchant. The name is Correo.” Sounds Italian to me. Yes, I guess the complexion would be also similar. “And how is your name, brave barbarian?”

Is he talking to me? “Barbarian? That’s quite rude.”

“I apologize, I jumped into conclusions after seeing your attire and your combat skills.”

Ah. I guess being half-naked automatically makes me a barbarian. I better check, if I got the option to choose the [Barbarian]-class… As I expected, it’s not that simple.

I’m being sarcastic, you know?

“I’m Kenta.” I leave out my last name. I would rather use a false name, but Rine will never be able to hold a secret identity, be it her own or mine: “That’s Rine. And somewhere should be another one, Kyou.” Kyou-san didn’t follow us into battle, so she may be still a few meters away, hidden by the heavy rain.

“But strange, Kenta. An unusual name, this attire and an actual skill, everything would point to a barbarian. Or a hero. Ah, I see.” Did he see through me, even though I have a poker face? Or did he read Rine’s?

“Ken, it would help, if you hide your enmity. Good Greetings, I’m Kyou.” Kyou stands beside me now and smiles at that Correo-guy in her fake friendly manner.

“Well, in his shoes I would be careful too, so I don’t mind. And it must be fate to meet you, since I’m a special kind of merchant, you know. But please, let me first confirm if my daughter is alright.”

“Sure…”

Correo looks into the covered wagon. “Ogra, are you alright?”

The voice of a young girl is answering, elementary school age, I think: “I’m good, papá.”

“Ah, thanks to the gods. Please bear a bit with it, I have to talk to our saviors.”

“Papá, your eyes are shining. Are they customers?”

“Maybe, my dear. Maybe.”

Ah, so he’s a greedy merchant. I’m OK with it.

Looking at the faces of Kyou-san and Rine, both couldn’t follow the conversation. I guess Rine’s ears are only keen when it comes to detecting monsters to kill and people to save. Well, damage occurred, let’s roll with it for now.

“Dear custo- erm, I mean, life-saviors. A bit further down the road is an inn, let us travel as a group and I will buy you a meal.” Ah, he totally wanted to call us ‘customers’.

“We’ll discuss that.” I sign my companions, that I want to talk to them in private and they follow me a few meters. “Something is not right. He’s alone with his daughter, even though he seems to be able to defend himself, why should he be here?”

Kyou’s speaking openly. “He’s a merchant. I’ m sure he cut the costs of bodyguards. And only one wagon, he may be poor.”

Rine is even simpler. “We saved his life, so he’s simply grateful.”

“Less grateful than opportunistic, Rine. He already sees us as customers. I don’t like it.”

“Ken, he’s just trying to get a profit. That makes him predictable.”

“And merchants in the Wildlands are often not well-guarded, Kenta, since there are only a few bandits here. The scaleetles are only that active in rain, otherwise, they wouldn’t come near a trading route.”

“So they are called scaleetles? And what about other bandits, like human ones? Are they that rare?”

“If you camp outside the trading routes, it gets too dangerous, so only a few dare to do so.”

“Phew.” I mistrust that Correo-guy, but the others want to accept his offer. We return and I say: “Throw a coat in and fine.”

“Go into the wagon, each of you. I will give you mine after we arrived at the inn, but for now, I need it to drive.”

This is definitely a trap! I use about every [Perception]-skill, but I can’t detect anything wrong, which only supports my theory.

Rine just goes in. “Hello, I’m Rine.”

“Hallo. My name is Ogra.”

Dammit, Rine!

Kyou-san also enters the wagon. “My name is Kyou. Nice to meet you.”

I follow them irritated. The inside is cramped with crates and between them is a single, little girl. She has black hair like her father and dark eyes. She might be around ten years old, her hair is tied into twin tails, a rather childish hairstyle.

She looks at me with the innocent eyes of a child: “And who are you, sir?”

“Kenta. Get lost.” She reminds me of the little girls, who used to slander about me. I hate kids!

Kyou-san is rolling her eyes, Rine is tilting her head, but Ogra just smiled innocently. “Don’t worry, sir. We won’t get lost.”

“Ah, that’s what he was talking about.” Rine, you’re on the same level as that pipsqueak.

“Phew.” I just give up and stay alerted, in case that this Correo-guy will betray us.

“What was that, sir?” Ignore. “Are you tired? Do you feel unwell? Why don’t you have any clothes on?” Just ignore it. It will stop, if it’s tired.

Or if someone like Kyou-san starts a conversation with that pipsqueak. “Ogra-chan, may I ask you a few things?”

“Sure.”

“What kind of merchant is your father?”

“A merchant, who deals with heroes.”

…What!?

What kind of merchant would specialize in trading with heroes!? Are there so many of them? Well, Correo only has this one wagon and his daughter is helping out. But that’s too much of a coincidence.

“So a hero-merchant, right? What are you doing here?” Kyou-san is asking the right questions, using a kid to find about its parent’s business. Evil. I like it!

“Papá and I were in Feuerberg, since there are supposed to be new heroes there, but when we came to Esse, none of them were there anymore.”

This seems almost believable, but why didn’t he travel to the border to Daemonicus, the demon realm? Kyou-san catches my glimpse and responds to it. “So why didn’t he follow them?”

“Nobody wanted us to know, where the heroes are. We only knew that they were ordered to fulfill a special mission.” Was that catching Rine?

“What kind of mission might that be?” The girl in question sucks at reading between the lines.

“We don’t know, but papá decided to travel back. He hopes to find more clues in Aroahenn.”

“The elves?” Rine seems to be in wonder.

“Aroahenn? What’s that?” I have to ask myself, to get some information.

Even if means asking that brat. “The forest-city of the elves. They know everything about heroes.”

“They do?”

“Yes, but only few may enter. The elves are dangerous and have magic wards and such. But maybe papá, who also knows a lot of heroes, may enter their forest!”

This girl doesn’t seem to know much. So it comes down to ask Correo directly later. But there are other things to learn. “Rine, pipsqueak, what do you know about elves?” They may differ from the ones from games, so I have to be open-minded here.

“Sir, did you just called me pipsqueak? My name is Ogra.”

“Just shut up. Wait, don’t, tell me. Now! You too, Rine!”

““You’re mean!”” Both of them are pouting.

“Rine, tell me.” But I already educated the princess a bit.

“Erm… Elves are the young folk.”

“Young? They aren’t immortal?” Wouldn’t you call an immortal race the ‘old folk’, normally?

“They might. There are no old elves, as far as my family knows.”

So they stop aging? Well, it’s still in line with my basic knowledge. So because all of them look young, they’re called the ‘young folk’, huh? “Anything else? Are they bound to nature?”

“I think? Sorry, we don’t know much about them.”

Useless princess. Maybe a question she might rather know. “Good at magic?” Militaristic potential.

“Definitely. Elves are very skilled, every one of them is supposed to be able to use magic. They know spells, we can’t even think of.”

Kyou-san interferes: “So they know about curses?”

…could this be? The flag to another route?

“I think so. The elves know much and are capable of powerful magic. Why do you ask?”

I facepalm. Rine really forgot that we’re cursed! Girl, please! Stay focused!

So it really comes down to a talk with Correo. If he doesn’t stab us in the back, he may be a really good source of information.

Let’s push our luck.

 

―○●○―

 

We’re inside a run down inn. There are several ones at the trading routes of the Wildlands, they’re big, not well kept and the quality of food and drink is something I fail to express in words. Kyou-san is cooking much better, but oh well, it’s not me, who paid these overpriced meals.

Even though it’s outside Feuerberg, all we can see here are humans. But according to Rine, there are few other races but humans, who would even try to make something work in the Wildlands, especially this close to Feuerberg. I guess humans are actually quite tough, compared to others.

But seriously, most of the people here look no better than bandits. There are sleazy-looking merchants, furious-looking guards, poor-looking vagabonds, about every cliché of bad people is in here. Good thing that we keep our money in the backpacks and they’re only usable for us.

And in the midst of all this are we, five humans, who are targeted by stares. Well, Kyou-san and Rine mostly. But some are looking at me, wondering if I come from the south, same goes for Kyou-san. But nobody is that intruding to ask us this directly, they’re just wondering, while I can hear every word via [Pitch].

I better turn my attention to the people in front of me.

Correo and pipsqueak are sitting opposite of us. The girl is already at her third serving, while her father is drinking wine with a light meal. Today’s special is grout. Or something which was mashed into one.

I stir my grout listlessly, while exchanging looks with Kyou-san. Since her [Persuasion] is way higher than mine she should lead the conversation, but she’s reluctant. ‘Serious, do it already, or do I have to!? Remember the ss’rak!’

‘Don’t remind me.’ In the end, she gives in. “So, Correo. You wanted to talk with us.”

“That’s right. You have to know, that there are quite a few heroes in this world.”

“How many. And you know that we’re from another world?”

“I don’t know the exact number, but across the races are hundreds.” Hundreds? So being a hero is not as special as I thought. Well, if we count every hero of any race, this number shouldn’t be as shocking, Feuerberg has summoned 30 with us. But Correo added another thing: “And every hero is from another world.”

Wait, that’s a new information. If this is right, then there have to be more worlds than the two we know, since the patriarch I dueled against was also a hero. Is that the reason, why he seemed to be that different? What kind of world did he live in?

A few theories spring into my mind, but the conversation goes on. Kyou-san just keeps it fluent.

“I see. Ogra-chan told us, you’re a merchant, specialized in heroes?”

“Ah, my daughter…” Correo scratches his beard, like he was just caught. “Well, she’s not off, but not right, either. I’m a relic trader.”

“Relic?” Kyou-san asked the question, I had myself.

“You already know magical items?” Like Rine’s sword or the cursed ring. “You know, there are some, which can only be used by heroes or only be used on them, for some reasons. A simple would be this.” He takes a manacle from his breast pocket and put it on. “So you’re a [Scout], you’re a [Cook] and what do we have here? [Princess Knight]? Never heard of that class.”

This manacle is able to see what classes we’ve currently selected? “May I have it?” I wanted to hold back, but that’s too interesting!

“For 2 million Newgold, it’s quite precious, so I won’t lend it.” Money-grubber. Even though I was thinking about stealing it for a moment. Or two.

Kyou-san thrusts her finger into my side under the table, and continues without letting it show: “Are all relics that expensive?”

“Most. But heroes tends to be rich and those who fight them as well. One of the main reasons for these prices is the fact, that relics can’t be reproduced, even by the best artificers. They’re gifts from the gods.”

“And what would be an inexpensive one?”

“This ring, which becomes warm, if one hero meets another of a higher level.” He seems to know some things about the hero-system. Well, he claims to be a merchant, who trades with heroes.

“Please, no rings.” Kyou-san rejected the offer, before the price even comes up. Even though it would indeed be a useful item, I feel the same.

“So you’re no potential customers?” Correo’s eagerness flows down a drain. “This is… unfortunate.” You mean, we’re poor beyond comparison and you’re regretting buying us a meal. We saved your life, money-grubber!

“Papá, the poor folk want to know about elves.” Sorry, that you have usury prices!

“Ah, I see, I see. You know, I’m also dealing with information. About the elves… ten thousand.”

Kyou-san keeps her smile. “Three. We already know a lot about them, so your information is less valuable for us.”

“Three thousand? How can I feed my little girl that way, you see how much she eats!” And so the haggling began.

In the end, we paid 6.159 Newgold, most of it in valuables.

“The elves. Elves are also called the ‘young folk’, since no human so far even saw an old elf. Some people think of them as immortal, but at least it’s known, that elves can live hundreds of years and can be killed due violence. They avoid contact with humans and the few encounters between humans and elves weren’t that favorable for us. It’s common, that elves are bad omens, which should never be angered. If a human thinks in days and years, an elf thinks in terms of decades and centuries. Elves did take retributions for actions long forgotten on the descendants of the ones, who incited it.”

Similar to the elves in games so far.

“The nearest settlement of elves is in Aroahenn, northwest from here. I can show you a map… Here it is. And we’re here. So it’s quite a distance away from the trading routes, I also thought of visiting them, but for that, I need to hire some bodyguards first. The reason for visiting them is… the elves of Aroahenn are a insiders’ tip for relic merchants, since they’re investigating heroes and have some really powerful and rare relics.”

“What kind?”

“One of them would be one, which can let you deselect a class.”

“!” Kyou-san seems to be surprised and even I’m quite interested. Not that I need to delete one of my classes, but if there is an item like that, I may be more open to trying out new classes.

For Kyou-san, she’s surely eager to get out of her support-only role. Then she might select an actually useful class for combat and if the curse is broken on the way, she can rejoin her friends without a worry. Which would be a good thing for me as well.

Correo continues. “But Aroahenn is quite well-guarded by magical wards, so getting in is nearly impossible. You have to be invited by the elves and the elven guards around the forest-city aren’t the welcoming kind.”

“What about the abilities of elves?” I take over the talk, since Kyou-san seems to be euphoric by the news. She even giggles so softly, that only I’m able to hear it.

“Good senses, masterful archers, powerful magic.”

“Would they know about curses?”

“If not them, who else?”

Then Correo begins his talk about history and other things, but they aren’t essential for now. We got the map as a gift, even though it’s more like a sketch, which is not that accurate.

“I see. Thanks for the information. Excuse us for a bit, we need to talk about what we learned. If we have further questions, we’ll let you know.”

We move into one of the two rooms Correo got us. It’s supposed to be used by the girls, since we couldn’t possibly declare, how exactly we’re related to.

“So, the elves.” I scratch my chin. “Seems to be better than nothing.”

Kyou-san is not even trying to hide her excitement. “I think visiting the elves is a wonderful idea. I can get rid of the [Healer]-class and there is a chance to break that curse!”

And for some reason, Rine is the cautious one. “The elves are dangerous. But I think, we can deal with it together.”

Well, we got a consent. “So nobody is opposed. Then the next question: Who’s for leaving right now, getting a head start, before that Correo-guy might do something?”

“Me.” Kyou-san raises her hand.

“Mn? What’s with Correo?” Rine cocks her head.

“I don’t like him, Rine. That should be enough.”

“OK.”

“So nobody opposed to that, either. We got his coat, we got his map, let’s climb down the window and run into the rain!”

 

―○●○―

 

Correo is sitting in his room and is using a spyglass. This spyglass allows him to observe people even through walls, as long as he knows the face and the target is within a range of a hundred meters (almost 330 ft).

“They left.” He says it to the girl, who is called Ogra.

“Master, I don’t like that guy. He’s looking at me suspiciously and called me ‘pipsqueak’!” She’s sulking like the little girl she currently appears to be.

“This only means, our disguise worked. Be proud of my cover, slave.”

Yes, instead of being father and daughter, their real relationship is that between master and slave. She’s magically bound to him, unable to deny his commands. She’s his bodyguard, his servant, and his pretend daughter at the same time.

“But you’re right, those three are different from the ones we met before. The man is distrusting, the black haired girl calculating and the blonde one seems to be from a different world than the other two. But her swordsmanship is quite good.”

“Quite good? Seriously, Master, it would be problematic, if I have to protect you while fighting that one. She might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but her battle instincts are keen. The moment I directed the slightest killing intent, her hand was already at her sword. I would probably overpower her, but if I have to defend you at the same time… krrrrk!” The girl called Ogra strokes with a finger over her throat. She has a mad smile on her face, maybe she would actually enjoy fighting the blonde one.

“Your tongue is slipping again.”

“! Sorry, Master!”

Correo is a man, who dislikes the vulgar. He’s also someone who works for those who benefit him the most. Currently, he’s serving someone with a keen interest in the new heroes and who wants to get the elven relics.

So using the heroes to infiltrate the city of Aroahenn seems to be viable. They can show their strength, while being in conflict with the elves. And the moment they enter the city, the plan will come to fruition.

 

―○●○―

 

When you’re in a fantasy world, you can’t cut the traveling time. So if you need five days to get to a location, you have to be prepared to walk five days, sleeping outside five days, killing monsters attacking you for five days and so on.

Lucky for you, I’m the one who needs to endure it. For you, it’s a simple: ‘Five days later’. Bastard!

“So this is the forest of Aroahenn.” I already crumpled the map Correo gave us and burned it. Why? Because I hate that guy! And it wasn’t that accurate either. So I needed to do something to get rid of this irritation.

“Ken, now that we’re here, we have to talk.”

“Talk about what?”

“Your face.”

“Are you implying, that I’m ugly?”

“As a matter of fact, you are. So let’s cover it up unless we wanted to be shot by arrows.”

“Bi-”

*slap*

… … …

Did Rine just slap her hand on my mouth? Why? It’s Rine!

Wait, it’s Rine. So she won’t like me calling Kyou-san a bitch. The blonde girl looks at me with apologizing eyes, but it’s like she couldn’t help it. Well, it didn’t hurt much, she was just so fast in silencing me.

… Why is Kyou-san upping her thumb to her? When did that happen!? Kyou-san is manipulating Rine behind my back! And I did let it happen, even though it was so predictable! When!? How!?

“Ken, let me finish. Do you remember the lizardmen?”

Slowly, Rine removes her hand. “The ss’rak? Of course.”

“Do you remember how every single one of them, who saw you, tried to beat you up or to kill you?”

“Yes?”

“Since I don’t want to risk anything, I would feel much safer, if you cover your face and won’t say anything. Like ever again. But for some days would be sufficient for now.”

“You’re jok- You’re not.” Maybe there were some problems in the past, but it’s not like I wanted these things to escalate. I’m almost innocent!

Now Rine chimes in: “Kyou, Kenta isn’t ugly. He may not be handsome compared to some other men I know, but he’s not as bad as others.”

“His face may get a passing grade, but only if he would actually smile for a change. And I mean a heartfelt one and not one of his usual smirks.”

“That’s unfair, Kyou. Smiling is not his strong point.”

Rine, please stop. It’s a too pitiful display of a defense.

I rub my temple. “Kyou-san, I let you do the talking, but I won’t cover my face. We have neither a mask nor do I want to restrain my [Perception] by one bit. Even facial hair is supposed to help you to perceive your surrounding, by feeling the air currents.”

“That sounds stupid, but as long as you’re quiet, it’s sufficient.”

So we walk towards the trees, I’m a step ahead of the rest. “Wait. There is something. The air is… flickering a bit.” It seems like a TV, which tries to display a definition it’s not compatible with. You see things as they are, but it’s a bit blurred.

Without [Focus] and [Farsight] I may have missed it.

I take a pebble and throw it. It’s flicked away by that obviously magical barrier. I look for some more pebbles and repeated the process. “We knocked. Let’s wait.”

And it doesn’t take long until the barrier opens up a hole, large enough for us to enter.

This seems fishy, but do we have a choice?

So we enter and behind us, the barrier closes. Then suddenly, I see several creatures around us, pointing their arrows at us. Elves, eight of them.

Or are they?

The elves I saw in games and movies are beautiful humanoids. They have pointy ears, but otherwise, they look like slim humans. But how do I say… these ones look strange.

Pointy ears, check. Beautiful… their eyes are wide and their irises are two-colored, an inner and an outer ring. Green and yellow is the most common combination, but one has red and green and another one blue and gray. The pupils are long, a bit cat-like.

Their nasal bones are also long, their cheekbones on the high side and the heads rather large compared to the rest of their bodies. These are rather short, and instead of slim, they’re more skinny. Even though some of them look female, they have no breasts. Not even a bit.

Their hair is bright, most of them have of light green color, but there is also one with copper-colored hair, someone with bluish green hair, I can even see two of them, whose hair was yellow. Not blonde. Yellow.

Wait a minute, is there a bit of green in their skin color?

No, elves are not beautiful. They’re strange. Different. I look at them and I can’t help to think, that they’re an entirely different species. All these differences are subtle in nature, but they sum up to something inhumane. Maybe that’s why in Japan foreigners were considered as monsters centuries ago.

So unless these are the freaks, I suppose that there are no attractive, big-busted elven girls in this fantasy world. Again it proves me, that it’s not a game.

And it’s all summed up by their choice of clothes, which’s style is strange. And none of them wears footgear if you don’t count soleless cotton and leather laces.

The elves are calm. One of them slowly lowers the bow, his eyes has a combination of yellow-green, that’s a bit brighter than the rest. “Hands in the air.” We do as he said. “Before we begin with the standard procedure, there is one question we have to ask.”

Kyou-san stays calm and answers: “Ask.”

“It’s for the male one.”

Hey, that wasn’t discussed! I thought I would just stay beside Kyou-san and do nothing. The same Kyou-san is definitely displeased, but nods at me.

No chance, huh? “What is it?”

“Which one of these two do you pork?”

… …

… … …

… … … … What!?

I look at Kyou-san, who’s as speechless as I am and Rine, who’s cocking her head, not understanding what was just asked.

“Can you repeat the question?” I must have misheard it.

“Which one of these two females do you pork. Or screw. Wedge? You know, nighttime actions.”

Is he serious?

“Answer me, or we will turn you into a pincushion!” He lifts the bow and aims at me. The other elves are also aiming directly at me, instead of our general direction.

He… He IS serious!?

“Kenta has night action with Kyou, since they won’t let me join.”

… RINE!!!

I fall down to my knees, unable to support my weight with my weakening legs. Kyou-san is about to faint, rolling her eyes that much, that there is no iris to see.

The elves are laughing: “Oh, we have a playboy here. Well, not our problem, but the black-haired one, huh? I just lost a carving knife, bastard! You seemed like one, who would do blondes.”

Why is there a strange sound? Ah, I’m hitting my forehead repeatedly with both of my palms. Please, stop! I don’t even know, who am I addressing, but please, stop!

“After we got the answer of that important questions, let’s start the interrogation. Who are you and what do you want here?”

I want to answer, but I’m busy hurting myself. Kyou-san is also putting her faces in her hands in dismay. So we have only one party member left, who could answer.

“My name is Katarine von Stolzherz, this is Katsuragi Kenta, that is Momokawa Kyou and we’re heroes. We’re here to visit the elves.”

Suddenly, the air freezes. The elves, despite not changing their facial expressions, are looking at us with hostility and most of them draw their bows. “What did you call us?” The leader is obviously pissed. At least going by his voice, I can’t tell by his body language.

“Elves?” Rine is tilting her head.

“Aera’jos! Don’t-” Before the leader of the elves could interfere, an arrow is shot at Rine, but without breaking a sweat, she draws her sword and deflect it with a swift motion.

Rine, you’re too overpowered, being able to do that! Even most of the elves’ mouths are agape! It’s only slightly, maybe elves just don’t have much facial expression in general?

“Please, Mr. Elf. I’m sorry if I have offended you.” She does a curtsy and apologizes. Even though the hostility remained, it calmed a bit.

The leader answers, still a bit in shock about Rine’s display of overprowess “Katarine, I’m sorry for Aere’jos. But you have to know, that ‘elf’ is a word used by humans, which is like an insult to us. If we called humans constantly ‘dumans’, you would be also feel insulted.”

“I see… so how do you call yourself?”

“Alfar. Singular alfr.”

“Sorry, Mr. Alfr.”

“We’re the Ljos, which means ‘The ones who lives in the light’ in common tongue. If you refer us as ‘high-elves’ or ‘light-elves’ we’ll kill you.”

“OK.”

Hey, isn’t Rine quite capable of taking over negotiations? She already starts to befriend them! Well, her [Persuasion]-value is high, after all.

“My name is Oro’hekk, by the way. I’m the leader of the guards. Katarine, there is another important question, I have to ask you.”

“What is it?”

“What are these things on her chest? They seem to be bouncy and needless.”

“On Kyou’s chest? … Ah, her breasts? Human women do have those.”

“Do you have these ‘breasts’ as well?”

“Yes. You can’t see mine since I’m wearing armor.”

“Ah, so what do you do with these?”

“…” She’s fidgeting. “Adult stuff.”

““““““““Wo-Ho-Ho-Hooooooo!”””””””” All alfar are celebrating this news in a choir. But at least they’re lowering their bows, to pump their fist into the air.

What a bunch of pubescent brats! Every one of them is looking like they could be around our age, despite being disfigured, so yes, you may have only one thing in your head at that age. But seriously!

Oro’hekk continued: “Well if we consider everything, I think that you may pass after the last test. We need to see if your story about being heroes is true. Is there any evidence?”

Rine is looking at me. Kyou-san is still squirming, unable to respond. I think I can hear a quiet mix of whining, curses and strange noises from her.

I stand up and see, how an alfr girl is humping her waist. It’s not the least bit sexy, but very annoying. “Do you know class-change?”

“Yes.” Oro’hekk is totally relaxed, but his ears are waving a bit. What does that mean?

Nevermind. “Then watch.” I select the [Pikeman]-class and my muscles grow. “One.” Then I select the [Student]-class, my muscle mass decrease and my belly grows. “Two.” Then [Scout] again. “Three.”

Oro’hekk put his bow into the quiver on his waist. “That is quite a display. Even though I don’t know, which class makes your belly bloats.” I want to hit him! “Aera’jos”, Oro’hekk turns to the one, who just shot at Rine: “As punishment, you will run ahead and inform Ara’ainn about the coming heroes. She will be delighted.”

Aera’jos complains about being degraded to a messenger, but Oro’hekk only insisted and Aera’jos complies. Well, Oro’hekk called himself the leader of the guards, of course, he outranks that Aera’jos-guy.

The bowstring-happy alfr runs deeper into the forest and we follow Oro’hekk and the rest of the alfar at a slower pace.

―○●○―

After the magical wards comes a labyrinth made out trees and bushes. Is this me or did we passed the same trees several times? Even though the way the branches are growing differs, the bark pattern seems to be the same. And I feel observed. By something hostile.

“We’re here.” Oro’hekk declares this while showing us a perfect panorama of the middle of nowhere. Seriously, some trees, scrubs and nothing else.

As I expected. “So this is the part, where you try to kill us?”

Oro’hekk blinks in disbelief: “What are you talking about?”

“You brought us deep into the forest, only-“

“Ken.”

“-only so that there will be no chance-”

“Ken.”

“-will be no chance, that we-”

“Ken!”

“Stop interrupting me!”

“Stop being a moron and look up.” Kyou-san points to the treetops. And there is something strange, the branches of several trees have formed like a basket, merging several crowns to something, which resembles a dome. Between the branches are sometimes big holes, which are covered up by leafs.

Is this a building? Are these windows and doors?

“Close your mouth, insects are flying in.” Kyou-san makes a sardonic remark.

Oro’hekk simply snickers and asks: “Any questions left?”

“…” This is shameful. “Yes, how are we supposed to get in?”

“Ah, humans. Almost forgot.” Oro’hekk steps forward. Addressing the tree he spoke.  “We like to enter you, would you be so kind to help us?”

And the tree lowers a humongous branch, which acts like a small bridge to the leaf-covered hole, which is supposedly a door.

Moving trees. This… is actually quite fantasy-like. But I don’t like it. I get the feeling, that every tree inside this forest might become my enemy.

“Kenta, look! It’s moving by being asked, this is unbelievable!” Rine’s eyes are sparkling. She’s  so simple.

Kyou-san narrows her eyes, maybe she’s thinking the same as I am. Then she whispers with a shake of her head: “Don’t think about it.”

We cross the bridge and enters the building. It’s… a mess.

Books, papers, and scrolls are scattered through the whole room and on all furniture, most of them seem to contain countless lists of numbers and quite a few of them are covered in dust.

The room in general, is dusty and unkempt. I can smell old leftovers, reminding me of my own room in Japan after a gaming marathon.

Some space was made, obviously just now, since I can still see the things which were thrown aside to free some sitting accommodation. On one of these seats is the guy, who was sent here by Oro’hekk.

I’ve already forgotten his name.

Well, let’s hope that this won’t be important anymore.

“Where is Ara’ainn?” Oro’hekk asked the alfr.

“Back in what’s left of the kitchen. After a hard negotiation, she’s preparing drinks.”

“…”

Hey, why are you silent?

And why am I hearing some strange noises from a room further inside this wooden building?

Steps are approaching, accompanied by clattering. Someone is carrying dishes, I think. And finally with a thud, that someone falls to the ground, the dishes fall to the ground and break.

Seriously, what’s going on!?

“…Ah.” I can hear the voice of a girl, who seems to wonder what just happens. “I fell asleep.”

I throw a glance at Kyou-san, who doesn’t have the [Pitch]-skill and therefore can only hear faint, strange sounds without knowing what’s going on. Same for Rine, whose head is tilted.

Then I redirected the glance to Oro’hekk, who explains with a shrug: “She’s rarely sleeps, so sometimes she falls asleep while standing. Or walking. Or eating. Or about every other form of activity.” Why are you so calm about it!?

Who is she, and why do we have to meet her!?

“Aera’jos, please help her.”

“Why do I have to?”

“Because I’ll put fleas in your bed, if you don’t.”

“I hate you!”

But that Aera’jos-guy does what the other alfr asked him to do. Actually, he seems even a bit eager about it. Strange.

We seat ourselves and after around two minutes, finally we can see that Ara’ainn-san-girl.

The way she’s looking… is about the same for me as the other alfar. High cheekbones, long, pointy ears, wide dark green dark blue eyes, and hair white as snow. I think, that she looks like a girl around my age, but it’s hard to call her pretty. At least from a human’s standpoint.

But even though she’s supposed to be so tired, that she even falls asleep while walking, she doesn’t have bags under her eyes. But I think the points of her ears are a bit sacked.

“Welcome to my research facility, I’m the one in charge, Ara’ainn.”

Kyou-san and I are looking at Rine, so she can take over the conversation. But she’s looking at me, for some reason, so I try to push the burden to Kyou-san, who sighs and does what she’s originally supposed to do. “I’m Momokawa Kyou, that’s Katsuragi Kenta and finally, this is Rine-chan.”

“At least your names sounds hero-like. All of you are humans?”

“Yes.”

“And all of you are heroes?”

“Yes.”

“Then…” Without any sort of sign, Ara’ainn-san’s upper body lost all of it’s tension. Before it could fall, I catch her by her shoulders. I was the first to notice, since I got the [Focus]-skill.

Ara’ainn-san is blinking several times, while the alfar are drawing their weapons, that Aera’jos-guy already had an arrow drawn on his string. Hey, I just helped her!

A bit of life comes back to the girl, I just caught. “Oro’hekk and everyone else, he just caught me, when I fell asleep.” The alfr-girl sighs and looks me into the eyes. “Hm… you’re quite a specimen. Did you catch me, to win a bit of my favor?”

I avert my eyes. …She got me. That’s exactly what I would do and why I did so.

Even someone like me wants to befriend as many alfar as possible, after witnessing only the tip of the iceberg of their defense mechanisms.

Oro’hekk makes a gesture, and the guards lower their weapons. “Sorry, Ara’ainn, we thought he was going to rape you.”

…What!? Hey, doing it with an alfar would probably feel like bestiality! They’re an entirely different species! Does anyone getting off, doing it with apes!?

“Sorry, Kenta-kun,” Ara’ainn-san explains. “In alfar literature, there are a number of pieces about humans raping alfar women.”

… …

…We have these in my world as well. I kinda feel guilty.

And some humans actually perform bestiality, after all.

“I have a question.” It’s a very important one to me. “Why are you ‘-kun’ing me?”

“…” She’s sleeping again.

I let her drop to the floor.

Oro’hekk is the first one to act this time: “Everyone, drop your weapons until he drops his pants!”

This… is the worst.

After an hour, Ara’ainn-san awakens and her ear-points are a bit higher now. She sends the other alfar outside, being confident about being able to protect herself.

“I slept an hour, what a disgrace.” Ara’ainn-san seems to be crestfallen. “Before we start, I’m sorry for them.” She means the other alfar, who take their jobs as guards actually seriously.

Well, they seem to be young, but… “How old are they?”

“Oro’hekk just turned 648. The others are around three hundred. I’m 144 years old, by the way. Ah, not surprised. Are you knowing about our lifespans due to the stories of this world or your own?”

“So you know about us being from another world… Well, we heard, that Aroahenn has a lot of knowledge about heroes.”

“That’s me. I’m the one, who gathered it all. Me, Ara’ainn, the hero-sage.”

“Never heard of you.”

“…ignorant.”

“You…”

“Ken, keep quiet! And Ara’ainn-san, please don’t provoke him. He’s badly educated and we just got him housebroken.”

Anger is welling up, but I keep quiet. “Bitch.” Almost.

Slap.

Rine slapped my mouth shut again!

“Well done, Rine.” And Kyou-san is encouraging her!

“Sorry, Kenta, but Kyou told me to do this if you call any of us names.”

I’m about to throw another insult, but who knows what Rine will do, if I keep doing that?

Dammit! I’m oppressed by my wives!

Oh shit, I have wives!

“It seems like Kenta-kun is hurting.” Ara’ainn-san steps closer to me and take a deep look into my face. “In the heart, that is.”

“Ignore him.”

“I can’t because it’s funny.”

I want to hit someone. Each of this girls would do fine! Except for Rine, she can fight back. And Kyou-san, she got Rine on her side. And Ara’ainn-san, since there are several of her companions just outside and making them my enemy would most likely be deadly.

I’m out of girls to hit! I hate it!

“Kenta-kun.” Ara’ainn-san is looking at me apologizing. “I’m sorry, I got carried away. Everything has a certain order. So let me re-introduce myself: Ara’ainn, the hero-sage of Aroahenn. The alfar hero of knowledge.”

… So Ara’ainn-san is a hero as well? Or is it just a title? “So you’re from another world, too?” If she’s a hero, she has to.

“Yes, I’m from a place called Ljos on the planet Alfarheim.”

Rine is excited: “You’re from another world, too? Just like Kenta and Kyou!”

Ara’ainn-san’s look changes. It’s just a bit, but a small smile is forming on her face. But somehow I got bad vibes from it.

“Rine!” I put my hand on her head, forcing her face to my direction: “Do you know, what you just implied?”

“Don’t be hasty, Kenta-kun. Just let me talk to Rine-san and everything will be fine.” Ara’ainn-san eyes are sparkling, but it’s different from Rine’s sparks of excitement. These are the eye-sparks of a vulture, who just found prey.

Kyou-san sighs. “Keep it down, seriously.” She’s like the voice of reason. A very annoyed voice of reason who bears an unsaid threat in her tone. “Ara’ainn-san, you too.” Even the alfr is taken aback by Kyou-san’s tone. “Since you’re about to throw off the order again, let me get some points straight.”

Ara’ainn-san leans back. “Do so.”

“You’re Ara’ainn-san, the hero-sage and a hero, plus the boss of this research facility, right?”

“Right.”

“And you research heroes, right?”

“Right.”

“We have some questions regarding that and we like to get the knowledge of the el-” She corrects herself, after a warning look of Ara’ainn-san. “-alfar about curses. We can pay you.”

“I don’t want any money. I want to know everything about heroes!” Ara’ainn-san has a strange vibe to her. But somehow I can empathize with it.

She hates being in this world. I’m sure of it. And she wants to escape it. The same as me.

“Phew. Why are you studying heroes? Aren’t there other ways to return home?”

Ara’ainn-san seems to be surprised, that I was able to read her, but she remains calm. “Because I can’t figure them out. There are wars, there are gods, who interfere in them, so far it’s strange enough but somewhat reasonable. But why heroes from other worlds? If there is a system for exceptional beings, why won’t the gods imply the system to people of this world? The heroes have to be the key to these mysteries. And solving it will probably solve my dilemma as well.”

Kyou-san and I exchange looks.

I already had my doubts, but cast them aside for now, to pursuit the power needed to make my own decisions.

Kyou-san asked herself these questions when she was left behind in Esse, while she went through her own sufferings. She didn’t reach a conclusion.

Rine wasn’t originally even able to become a hero, but now she’s one due to the curse. If she can, why can’t others?

There have to be logical reasons for it, but we know too little.

Ara’ainn-san has researched heroes and got a vast amount of knowledge about them. Enough to call her the hero-sage. As long as it’s not a self-proclaimed title.

Kyou-san nods to me, telling me, that she knows what to do. “Ara’ainn-san, we have several secrets, but we can’t give you them for free. What we want are only two things: The most important thing would be the alfar knowledge about curses. The secondary objective would be the use of the relic, which can delete a class.”

“The first one is easy, but the relic… Even if you just want to use it, it’s a bit complicated. So what do I get for exchange?”

“This one.”

… …

Kyou-san, why are you pointing at me?

“…to keep?” Ara’ainn-san asks in a tone, that I don’t like.

“For now only for investigations, after we got the information about curses, you may keep him.”

She’s serious, right? “Doesn’t my opinion matter!?”

“Deal.”

“Sold.”

It doesn’t.

“Kenta, I think you were just sold.”

“Rine, I was.”

“Selling Ken for something actually useful is a bargain.”

“You can’t sell Kenta!”

Ah, Rine. You’re like a beacon of hope, easing the pain of my soul.

Kyou-san is looking at Rine as if she just declared, that you have put trash on an altar to worship it.

“Kyou, are you looking at me, as if I proclaimed, to worship waste on a shrine?”

“Sorry Rine-chan, I never considered, that anyone would actually stand for that thing if given a choice.”

“Rine-san, Kyou-san, can I consider Kenta-kun as an ugly specimen of your race?”

“Yes/No.” Both answered at the same time. Of course, Rine is the one, who denied me being ugly.

“Hm…” Ara’ainn-san is looking at my face. “Maybe he’s cute? Hard to tell… So we might consider him as ‘not handsome’?”

“At least/Maybe.” Rine, please! Don’t falter!

“How about you, Kenta-kun? Do you consider yourself as handsome.” Ara’ainn-san is looking deep into my eyes. She doesn’t want to tease me, she’s seriously curious.

I avert my eyes. “…no.” And speak the truth. “I’m not ugly, but…” I’m a bit round, my face isn’t that pretty and my eyes might be a bit mean-looking. But openly admitting it is hurting me!

“Don’t worry, Kenta-kun. For me, you’re fine.”

I hear undertones in her voice that fill it with a deep thirst for knowledge and implies: ‘I’m fine for research as a lab rat’, but it’s still more support than I got from my own party members.

“Hm!” With a pouting face, Rine is putting her arms around my neck. “I like Kenta the way he is.”

You gain 2 WP.
Even when facing despair, a single declaration of love can lighten your heart, making the world brighter again. Throw a hug in, and the happiness is perfect.

These pop-ups… I close it without hesitation.

Ara’ainn-san is watching us in suspect. Why? Does she know?

No, of course not.

But alfar have probably good senses, it seems, so she may have seen, that all of us were reacting at the same time to something. And decided to not ask us about it.

Wait, that’s not it! Her body is swaying, I think she’s about to fall asleep again. So maybe she was just looking at us like that, because her vision is blurring, while she fights sleep.

“Ara’ainn-san, may I make a suggestion?” I may make use of it to strike a bargain. “We trade information. We about us and the hero-system and you will let us see the writings of curses of your people. And everything else will be negotiated after one side runs dry.”

This is reasonable and since she’s sleepy, she might not realize, that this would make us into kinda equals, instead of beggars.

“You’re trying to manipulate me, right?” Ah, she’s keen on the uptake. “But I don’t care. Be my guests, since we’re still outside of the actual village, I can do what I want. Stay a few days and tell me everything about you.”

“Are you all OK with that?” Unlike a certain other person, I ask the concerned people about their opinions!

“Sounds acceptable.”

“It’s OK.”

And so we became the guests of Ara’ainn-san.

Ara'ainn character design (Chapter 2-2)

Ara’ainn character design (Chapter 2-2)

 

―○●○―

 

Kyou-san wakes up beside me, so I decided to do the same. I awake from my [Dormurnal]-state and everything I perceive during that time hammers on me, and I got the chance to rationally think about a scene which occurred then: For some reason, Rine decided to walk up to us and after about ten minutes, she went back to sleep.

Creepy.

“You’re awake?” Kyou-san asks me while yawning.

“Obviously.”

Currently, we’re in a guest room, which was used as a storage room. A lot of useless stuff is here, mostly papers, which are made of fallen leaves. Alfar and trees have a strange relationship to each other. At least that’s what I believe.

This whole building was made for Ara’ainn-san and her research, she lives and sleeps here as well, just two rooms apart. There is a big hall for experiments, three studies, a kitchen, a living room, a bath, a toilet (which means you shit into a hole on a seat and everything falls down to the roots of the tree) and several storerooms.

And since Ara’ainn-san just keeps on piling, almost all space was used. Or rather misused.

Our room has three beds, made out of leaves and branches, like almost everything here. And it’s all alive and can move if Ara’ainn-san asks it to do so. So if she wants us dead, she can just ask our beds to crush us, while we sleep.

That’s why I used [Dormurnal] for this very first night. Well, there is little reason to not use it, it just has the demerit of not feeling well during sleep and especially when you leave that dream-like state. But as long as it keeps me alive, I’m OK with it.

Kyou-san does her morning routine, washing her face, checking her clothes, and she throws me out of the room to change. It’s like this every day.

And I’m sure that when she calls me back in, she’ll be back to her usual beautiful self. But for now I just stand in front of the ‘door’.

“Good morning.”

My head is quickly turning to the direction of the voice. It’s Ara’ainn-san. Why didn’t I hear her? “Do you have the [Stealth]-ability?”

“No.” She smiles slightly, but her smile is different from Rine’s or Kyou-san’s. It’s a smile of knowing about things you don’t. A bit arrogant. And it doesn’t even reach her cheeks, her eyebrows are also not moving at all. “So you have [Perception], otherwise it wouldn’t irritate you so much.”

“Phew. At least you act the hero-sage part.”

“I did it most of my life. Why are you waiting outside the room?”

“So the girls may change.”

“And I thought you were engaged in a beddable relationship.”

I hit my forehead with both of my palms, feeling a mix of embarrassment and frustration: “Why are you el- alfar like that!?”

“I don’t know about the others, but for me, humans are a species who always think about sexual intercourse.”

“How do you come to that conclusion!?”

“They’re in heat all year long, can be impregnated at an age of only 13 years, have strange interests like sex with animals, toys, and other things, I can’t even talk about without blushing, and if they can’t find someone to mate, they do it by themselves. That’s strange.”

I better not ask how alfar’s sexual biology works. “The way you’re talking about it, really makes me doubt that there is anything that can make you blush.”

“Oh, there are quite some things. But because of these facts, it’s commonly a prejudice against humans, that they’re only thinking about sex.”

“So your pals only wanted to make fun of us, huh?”

“Most likely.” A small smile which annoys me.

“So let me make it clear: There is no such relationship between us.”

“So you’re into animals?”

“#?+!” Making a sound, which couldn’t be expressed in letters, I grab her shoulders.

Ara’ainn-san calmly looks at my hands and my face. Then she inhales deeply to do this: “HELP, HE’S GOING TO RAPE ME!”

The leaves, which acts like a door, are pushed aside and suddenly, fingers are grabbing my eye sockets from behind. With a violent jolt, my head is pulled back and I look at the angry face of Kyou-san, the still drowsy Rine just behind her.

Kyou-san is turning her head back to the blonde girl. “Rine-chan?”

“Yes?”

“Punch him.”

“*yawn* OK.” Rine is even easier to manipulate when she’s still sleepy.

A hard punch and some explanations later, this misunderstanding could be get rid of.

I somehow get the idea, why alfar are called the ‘young folk’. They’re forever stuck in puberty! I mean, Ara’ainn-san is supposed to be 144 years old and still finds amusement in acting like this! Same for Oro’hekk.

By the way, Kyou-san didn’t apologize for jumping to conclusions. How harsh can you be, girl!?

After this, in a negative way, exciting morning, we wanted to eat breakfast. But we couldn’t. Rine and I are speechless at the sight we saw after we entered the kitchen.

“Ara’ainn-san?” Kyou-san’s face is distorted in a mix between a friendly smile and a furious grimace. “Why are these squirrels living in your kitchen?” Yes, there are animals here, which resembles squirrels. They’re spotted like pandas, otherwise almost perfect squirrels.

“Call me ‘Ara’.”

“Ara-san? Why are there squirrels living in your kitchen?” Without even hesitation, Kyou-san adapted her question.

Ara’ainn-san fold her arms and closes her eyes. “Because I chased the crows away.”

“And what was before that? Rats?”

“Kyou-san, do you have the [Divination]-ability?”

“Ara-san, when was the last time, you cleaned your kitchen?”

“Personally? I never have.”

“How many years have you lived here?”

“I moved in about a hundred years ago. Sometimes I travel around for new information, so the actual number of years I’ve lived here is less.”

“Did someone else clean that place for you?”

“Yes, sometimes a helpful soul cleans here.”

“You’re the worst.”

I must agree. After seeing a sight like this, I can only feel sympathy for anyone, whoever cleaned that place up.

Calling it dirty is too much of a compliment. Somehow it gives the impression, that it was never clean to begin with, so there is no exact step to dirty.

The wooden walls, made from the trees, are coated with a thick layer of dirt, grease, and things, I can only recognize as leftovers. There are even some spider, insect and lizard corpses, who couldn’t escape the sticky surface and died a horrible dead of starvation.

If there was ever a floor, I can’t see any signs of it. It died, crushed by leaps of things, I can’t even describe. Part of it seems to be leftovers and dishes, but the dishes, made of wood, started to sprout, growing branches and leaves. Shouldn’t the wood of a dish be dead!? I hope it’s an alfar-thing, since seeing something like this as a result of not tidying up is quite disturbing.

In these heaps live about ten families of panda-squirrels, which looks at us as if we threatened  their territory. And they’re quite intimidating.

“Be careful everyone,” Ara’ainn-san warns us. “I was not able to reconquer the kitchen, so if we want to do something here, we have to negotiate with the squirrels.”

I can’t hold back: “Ara’ainn-san, what level do you have?”

“I’m mostly about studies, so my level doesn’t represent my experience. I’m level 50.”

Only a bit above mine. “So you, as a level 50 hero, are unable to get your kitchen back? What are these? Weresquirrels?”

“Squirrels with an unusual pattern and some history. They’re also the epitome of evil.”

“…What did they do?”

“After I chased them out the first time, they attacked me in my sleep and…” Ara’ainn-san shivers. “…no single alfr could be a match for them.”

I want to know but don’t.

“Phew…” So we have to negotiate with squirrels!? “Rine?”

“Yes?”

“Please talk to them.” Rine has the [Animal Ken]-ability and its [Whisperer]-skill. With this, she’s able to converse with normal animals with words and gesture and understands answers. It’s not really talking, but similar.

“And what should I say?”

“That they either give us the kitchen back or we will force them to.” I will never surrender to squirrels! My pride may be crushed on a regular basis, but I won’t back down here!

“I would feel bad if we need to kill them. They’re cute.”

“Rine, cuteness is a survival strategy of certain animals. So don’t be tricked by them! Every animal that’s cute, use its cuteness to survive, not to please you. It’s a coward’s tactic!” I would also use it if I was cute.

But I’m not.

Rine clenches her fist. “I see. I’ll do my best!”

Ara’ainn-san’s ears straighten, Kyou-san rolls her eyes. How foolish, if you want to take something, be prepared to use force for it! And there are only few greater forces than Rine!

She enters the room and engages the squirrels in conversation: “Erm, hello squirrels. This is the kitchen of Ara’ainn, so would you be so kind and leave?” She smiles and smiling to squirrels, makes that girl really look the fantasy princess part. I think, I saw some anime once, where princesses were able to talk to forest critters. “If you don’t, this may become ugly. Please?” Rine cocks her head and I can feel a wave of persuasiveness coming from her.

The squirrels look at her, eyes wide open. And without a warning, they attacked, jumping towards Rine in packs. Or at least some of them.

Because Rine drew her blade faster than thought and killed three squirrels in a single strike, before they could even jump. Then she evades the first pouncing pack with a quick turn, elbows the fore-jumper of the second pack, right into the rest, causing them to scatter like bowling pins, while her sword thrusts at a third pack, which is now transformed into mince meat. While doing so, she steps back and crushes the pack she evaded before with her feet.

The squirrels who were about to attack as a second wave, go googly-eyed, not being able to comprehend how so many of them were murdered in less than a moment.

Even Ara’ainn is obviously impressed and confused, her ears are twitching and her eyes are wide open. Kyou-san is looking at the spectacle as if she’s watching TV. Well, I’m amazed by it as well.

After that moment of shock, the remaining squirrels flee in a mad rush. Yes, that’s the appropriated reaction, you damn squirrels!

For some reason, Rine is taking something like a fork from one of the heaps, binds a handkerchief around its handle and stick it right back: “This kitchen is claimed in the name of Kenta.”

 

You gain 1 WP.
Isn’t she just adorable?

 

WP-system, let me ask you a question: Do you have seen the display right before that gesture? It’s hard to call anything adorable in this context!

Ara’ainn-san is shaking her head as if she’s unsure what to make out of it.

Kyou-san, on the other hand, giggles slightly. So she’s really amused by this? Or is she snickering about how dorky Rine looks? “Rine-chan, before we can claim that kitchen, we need to tidy up. Ara-san, you too. And Ken, just hold a bag.”

So the rest of the morning is spent by making the kitchen usable.

 

―○●○―

 

Afternoon. After a late breakfast, Ara’ainn-san has arranged, that the scripts regarding curses are brought to her house so that Kyou-san and Rine can read through them. There is no curse-specialist in Aroa’henn, but it’s a place where the knowledge of the alfar gathered, so there may be some hints.

The reasons I won’t be helping them are two. First, I still can’t read the alphabet of this world. Someone has to teach me. Second, Ara’ainn-san declared that one of us will be interviewed each afternoon from today onward, and since we couldn’t send Rine in for safety reasons, it was either me or Kyou-san. And that gal promptly proposed me.

So now Ara’ainn-san and I are sitting in one of her studies and after we freed a chair from a uncountable amount of books, we’re about to start.

“So, Kenta-kun, are there any questions before we start?”

“Why are you ‘-kun’ing me?”

“Seems familiar.”

“Last time I asked, you fell asleep.”

“I see. So any other questions?”

“Answer the first one, dammit!”

“Kenta-kun, the moment I answer that question, I’ll have to explain two hours of Alfr Speech, so I don’t want to waste much time. Let’s say it’s the result of the fact, that both of us actually used to speak different languages and now you understand the most appropriate term, even though it’s not a literal translation.”

“Hah!?”

“Has your world different languages?”

“Yes?”

“Then try to translate a sentence in a foreign language and then translate it back into your mother tongue and you might get an idea.”

“Ah.” This is comprehensible. “Can’t you call me something else?”

“Of course, Kenta-tan.”

“-tan!?”

“Well, you’re younger, so I have to use either the term of someone younger, but adult, or a child still growing up.”

Is the difference in Alfr Speech so great, that it transcribe into such extremes!?

“Is there a way to not use a -suffix?”

Ara’ainn-san frowns as if she’s not hearing right. “…seriously, those strange sentences can only happen, when talking about languages. I keep it simple: Stop asking or I’ll choose an embarrassing nickname for you!”

“…please don’t.”

“By the way, you may call me Ara. No need for honorific, both of us are heroes.”

“How does calling you by your name is an honorific?” I mean, she’s called ‘Ara’ainn’, that’s her name.

“Stop asking these questions, it gives me headaches. Just do it or I’ll call you Kennickle!”

…How!? How could you get to a strange nickname like that!? “Ara-san!” Just keep it at a basic level and don’t think about it.

“What a pity, I liked Kennickle. But let’s keep civil about it. Kenta-kun, if you ever ask anything regarding languages without me initiating that conversation, I’ll call you Kennickle-tan!”

“…I somehow get the feeling, you’ll really do. Phew, alright, alright.”

“Phew? What’s that?”

“Don’t point that out!”

Ara’ainn- … Ara-san rubs her ear and speaks with a calm voice. “Alright. We’ll start.” She takes a quill pen and a paper from the desk and is about to write. “Name, species, age, and classes in order, please.”

“Katsuragi Kenta, human, 16 years old, [Student], [Scout] and [Pikeman].”

“Next, homeland, mother tongue, date of transfer to this world, the place you were transferred to and who were the ones, that summoned you?” …is she already finished writing? She didn’t even need a bit of a pause, before asking me her next questions! Her quill is moving at an amazing speed.

“Japan, Japanese, date of transfer… don’t know anymore, about three months ago. Then?”

Ara-san’s ears are waving in impatience. “Place you were transferred to and who summoned you.”

“Esse in Feuerberg and do you mean the clergy or which god?”

“Clergy… I see. Reason?”

“To defeat the devil king.”

“Is it congruent to the reason, the god asked you to come?”

“Yes.”

“And the reward is a single perfect wish?”

“Yes.”

“I see, I see.” Ara-san is nodding to herself.

“What about you?”

“Huh?”

“Isn’t it a bit one-sided to only ask me?”

“Why would you want to know about me?”

“Because I don’t like the fact, that you learn that much about me while I don’t know anything about you.”

“Ah, I see. Well, Ara’ainn, Ljos alfr, 144 years old, [Accountant], [Druid], [Bookie], and [Acrobat]. I lived in Ivaslarihenn, Alfar Speech is my mother tongue and I was summoned on the 4th Firemount in 1681, Alfarmeet, in Aroahenn. I was summoned by the passed Elder Ohul’asar for stealing the knowledge of the God Datien. If I do that, I may be granted a single, perfect wish.”

“So heroes may have different quests?”

“Yes. But before we go into details, I like to get an overview about you, so I may skim it and remember everything when rereading it at a later point, without going through the whole text. So let’s stick with fast questions for now.”

“…OK.” Well, she’s efficient. Actually, I like it.

“Next question, do you know the identity of the god, which brought you into this world?”

“No. And you?”

“For me, it’s Elmli, goddess of knowledge of education. Never heard of her before being transferred, but she was already established in Aroahenn. Next: Did you ever met any other gods?”

“…yes.”

With a sudden movement, Ara-san is leaning forward me. If she had breasts, they would surely jiggle by that abrupt movement. But she doesn’t and her appearance isn’t appealing at all, so this pose won’t work. “What’s its name? Appearance? Tell me everything!”

I guess, she never found a hero, who had an encounter with a god. “Muaotef, with a bunch of titles.”

“Muaotef? From the northern islands? Bringer of Decay, Flame of the Earth, sometimes called the Great One?”

“Didn’t know about the islands, but these titles sound familiar.”

“How did he look?”

I try to picture Muaotef in my mind, his great body, the red and gold scales the… my body is trembling. Stay still!

“Oh… OHH!!!” Ara-san’s eyes are hungry again. “So meeting a god in person can have such effects.” She seems to regret what she’s about to say: “We’ll change the topic for now. Let me hear your story, from the beginning.” Yes, she is efficient.

“What about yours?”

“We’ll trade. For every moment of you, I’ll tell you an interesting moment of me.”

This seems to become a long session.

 

―○●○―

 

Nighttime. I left out important details, but now Ara-san has a rough idea, what I’ve been through. I left out important details, like the nuptial details of the curse, and I lied about Rine’s origin, but the more I told Ara-san, the more she told me about herself.

She was an accountant back in her world and was one of a hundred randomly selected Ljos-alfar from the whole planet, so much unlike my and Kyou-san’s case. These summoned heroes had different ages, different occupations, different continents, there was no common trait despite them being Ljos-alfar from Alfarheim.

Like our teachers and some of the students, she decided to make herself useful instead of fighting. And her way of being useful was to analyze the hero-system. For now, it’s still mainly in the information-gathering phase, she has the stats of all alfr-heroes who were at Aroa’henn at several points in time, their skills and about everything they could provide her. Her data concerning non-alfr heroes are sparse, but she did her best to cover it up as good as possible.

She also gathers and evaluate myths from this world concerning heroes and asked everyone to help her in this undertaking. And it seems, there is a lot of it. Comparing myths with each other, with actual data, she did all of that and more.

She’s just like me when I research character builds in the internet, using several wiki-pages and my own brain to make the most fun character.

“Ken, why are you smirking?” Kyou-san is in her pajamas and brushing her hair.

“Am I?” In fact, I am.

“Stop it, it creeps me out and I want to sleep.” Kyou-san is in a bad mood since she couldn’t find anything useful in the collections of writings the alfar brought here so far. But it’s only the first day of research.

Rine, who helped her, is still in a good mood. Since both of them are using [Divine Magic], they’re the ones who most likely can figure out how to break the curse. Seems to be priest-business.

“Kenta, I like your smile. It may look a bit devious, sinister and untrustworthy, but I can still feel the joy you’re feeling.” If it wasn’t for her pure smile while saying it, I would be sure that she’s trying to insult me. “May I sleep next to you today?”

“No.”

Maybe she’s more scheming than I thought. Trying to put me in a good mood to get her way. But seriously, it’s pre-school level.

So all of us went to sleep. Just to be sure, I still use [Dormurnal].

… … …

Waddling. Several. Strange.

I decided to wake up and only slightly open my eyes, relying on my [Darksight].

Panda-squirrels! They’re entering the room through the branches and leaves, that should act as doors and windows, like they own this place.

The air is filled with bloodthirst. There are about fifty of them. And all of them surround Rine’s bed. One of them is giving the call to attack…

I turn around to Kyou-san’s side and close my eyes. I try to blend out the sounds of the massacre, which is currently occurring.

You don’t attack Rine while she’s sleeping.

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